Archive for October, 2007

My Favourite Blogs and Why

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Being a blogger, people always ask me which blogs I read. More specifically, some ask which are my favourites. Today I had a look at my feed reader and narrowed the list down to a handful. Let me preface by saying that I am biased to web 2.0 blogs that focus on analysis (rather than up-to-the-minute news). Furthermore, I tip my cap to those who choose to express personal opinion and take a clear stance on an issue. Simply regurgitating TechCrunch or Mashable news is lame. Providing a wishy-washy, unclear vantage point that tends to support both sides of a story or issue is lame as well. Having set the stage, here is my list:

Mathew Ingram’s Blog - This is perhaps my favourite blog of them all. Mathew Ingram is a technology reporter for the Globe & Mail - and it shows. His professional style, research, and compelling story lines are unmatched. Add to that a clever sense of humour, and Ingram has created an impressive style that cannot be found anywhere else.

Deep Jive Interests - DJI is all about web 2.0 and opinion. Tony Hung holds nothing back when he expresses his take on the new-web world. Frequently posting about social media, his honest, insightful style is truly unique.

Read/WriteWeb - All bias aside (I blog occasionally for R/WW), this blog provides high-quality, comprehensive start-up and trend analysis. The blog is the mastermind of Richard MacManus and takes on a more technical perspective when compared to other web 2.0 heavyweights.

Maple Leaf 2.0 - This Canadian web 2.0 gem is written my Mark Evans, a former writer at the National Post. His informative, yet quirky style produces a one-of-a-kind read for those looking to find out what is going on in the world of Canadian web 2.0 start-ups.

Solution Watch - Solution Watch is quite possibly provides the most complete, in-depth analysis of all web 2.0 blogs. It was one of the first to profile new companies and has remained very focused on this area. The only downfall is that posting is infrequent at best. Nevertheless, kudos to the author - Brian Benzinger.

Center Networks - Center Networks combines the best of analysis and news to churn out some really interesting articles. Allen Stern digs into issues and provides no-holds-barred opinions. Truly, CN is a good read.

At the end of the day, a blog is only as good as the writer. I have true admiration for all of the writers above. Their creativity and passion have sparked my enthusiasm on countless occasions and provided me with a new perspective.

Don’t be upset if I didn’t list your blog. I read a lot of feeds day to day. Perhaps I just missed it. Maybe I don’t even know about it yet… If you do take it to heart, be sure to e-mail your squabbles and death threats to aidanhenry (at) hotmail (dot) com:).

What are you favourite blogs and why? Are there any others out there that I should be reading?

Overdone Web 2.0 Design

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Do you ever arrive on a website and the feel just screams ‘web 2.0′? There is no need to read the text or delve further into the content - already, you are certain that you are dealing with a web 2.0 product/service.

It seems that some designers are now working in reverse in an attempt to leverage the whole web 2.0 phenomenon. Instead of focusing on the offering first, they are designing a lovely web 2.0 experience, then shaping the the service around the site. This is the opposite of what should be done.

Here are some obvious signs of a typical web 2.0 design:

  • Rounded corners
  • Big fonts
  • Bright colours
  • Faded backgrounds
  • BETA logos

I have no problem with the use of these design elements (apart from the BETA logo). What I do (often) have an issue with is the process by which the experience is created, as well as the mindset of the designer.

Usability needs to be the key issue. Focus needs to be placed on making the offering as easy and intuitive to use as possible. Aesthetic design is secondary. Nevertheless, the two must complement each other in order to maximize the end result.

Basically, I’m sick of the web 2.0 cloak. If a site is easier to navigate based on a historical web 1.0 design, then so be it. For that matter, I think we should drop the terms altogether and truly focus on the design itself. I think the net will be a better place if we can overcome this obstacle.

What’s The Next Hot Space?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Every hot Internet space goes through an evolution. There is an initial acceptance stage, followed by hyper-growth. Recent spaces that fit this description include micro-blogging, online video, and social bookmarking.

Buzz and exposure in these areas exceeds that of most other areas. Furthermore, acquisitions have taken center stage. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are the usual suspects, but traditional media companies (Fox, Viacom, etc…) are beginning to recognize that the web is going to play a vital role in the progression of media.

High valuations are also an indicator of a hot sector. They may reflect actual value, factoring in future growth and earnings, but often these stratospheric numbers are pulled out of the air by Kool-Aid drinking analysts.

So… back to the title of the post… what is the next hot space?

We’ve been hearing a lot about ’semantics’ and the ’semantic web’, but when is there truly going to be an app or service that regular people can use that leverages this technology? It’s been talked about for years now, but we have yet to see much progress (at least in my mind). New search engines Powerset and Hakia promise to revolutionize search using semantics - I guess time will tell.

Platforms and aggregators seem likely poised for success. They bank off raw data and information to create interesting, value-added services. The Facebook platform is a great example of this. Now, MySpace and Bebo have introduced similar platforms.

Perhaps, simple apps or feature-specific apps (think 37signals) will be the future. Keeping it simple and not over-crowding the offering with useless features is more complicated than it seems. Though this cannot be classified as a given space, it is more of a strategy that can be applied to any space.

To me, it seems that the most successful apps will either be more complicated or more simple than current services. This may seem like a generic statement that covers all bases, but I’ve been amazed (and unimpressed) with the majority of recent offerings.

What do you think the next hot space will be?

Facebook App Management

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Facebook new logoAre you sick of scrolling down seemingly endless Facebook profile pages? Are you sick of the clutter created by the app onslaught? I sure am. And I think it has to stop. The creation of the developer’s platform was a great idea, but the lack of regulation and management is what irks me.

Users continue to add countless apps (most of which they will probably never use). I, for one, will add the odd app, but only if I see value and plan on using it. If I’m just looking to try one out, I’ll add it, try it, then delete it immediately. I doubt this is process followed by most.

For this very reason, I am proposing a Facebook app management system. What does this mean? Well, it means useless clutter will be eliminated, page load time will decrease, and overall experience will improve.

Under the proposed system, apps that remain unused for 2+ months (or whatever default period of time) will automatically disappear from a given profile page. For obvious reasons, they can be re-added at a later point. A simple control panel would allow users to set their own inactivity period (2 months would be the default, for example). Having said that, users could still choose the “Never Delete” setting. This is essentially what Facebook is using right now.

I understand that some users enjoy the “Superpoke” function and other miscellaneous apps, while others try these apps, then never use them again. Subsequently, these space-eaters serve no purpose and provide no value to the profile owner or visitors. Displaying only the apps used frequently will improve the experience without creating any added hassle (automatic removal of idle apps) for the profile owner.

My Problem With Web 2.0

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I really like web 2.0 and social media, but I have a problem. The majority of people don’t know what the heck it is. This means that they are unable to use such technologies. Preaching to the web 2.0 ‘echo chamber’ is great, but it limits growth, thus decreasing potential revenues.

In my opinion, many start-ups with products/services focused solely around web 2.0 are hoping for a successful launch, widespread PR and exposure, then a quick sale to an Internet giant or media mogul. Long-term aspirations are questionable. Even more perplexing are web 2.0 services that aggregate other web 2.0 services.

Simplicity… usability… they’re all I ask for. God bless the companies that make web 2.0 usable. Making it easy for regular folk to harness and leverage the power of these technologies cannot be overstated. I’ve hit on this topic before, but I will continue to do so.

First of all, we need to take a look at the messaging. Web 2.0 is full of jargon. Let’s take a look at some popular web 2.0 terms that a majority of people have likely never heard of:

  • AJAX
  • Widgets
  • RSS 
  • Wikis
  • Mash-ups
  • Podcasting

… and the list goes on. Personally, these terms are second nature to me. But I understand that my parents and friends have no idea what they mean. This needs to change.

Secondly, there needs to be better education around how these technologies can or are being used. The intimidation factor plays a huge role here. Many shy away from web 2.0 due to the seemingly frightening nature of these terms. This is nothing more than an information inefficiency. Bridging the gap is the ultimate goal.

So what needs to be done? What’s the simple solution?

Easy-to-understand messaging and better education are key to the adoption of web 2.0 technologies.

Once this happens (and all the planets align), we can all delve further into this interweb of unlimited possibilities.

Note: For further analysis and commentary, please read this previous post: How Facebook Is Bringing Web 2.0 MainStream.