Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Digg Adds Features - Yearns To Be A Social Network

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Digg logoDigg is at it again. At midnight, they launched a whole new set of social features. The ultimate goal is to increase user participation and engagement. Why? According to Digg, only 15% - 20% of site visitors are registered users. In other words, the company is banking that a ’social network’ strategy will encourage participation.

So, what features have been added? Well, users can now:

  • Send “shouts” to specific Digg users. This is similar to the traditional link submission process, but only to a chosen subset of friends. 
  • Discuss stories or chat via a profile page message board. 
  • Post photos, personal info, a bio, and links, essentially creating an online identity.
  • Control their privacy settings.
  • View comment history.

Digg also outlined plans for the near future. The two major features mentioned included a dedicated image section, as well as a recommendation engine. The latter would suggest stories to read or potential Digg friends, based on user behaviour.

I look forward to seeing these new features in action. An image section has been a long time in the coming, and a recommendation engine would up the ‘cool’ factor (assuming it works well).

What’s eerie (to me) about these newest features is how closely they mimick those of Pownce - Kevin Rose’s other project. Sharing links with specific friends? Discussions threads? An extended profile? Privacy control? All of these features scream Pownce. Is this so-called Twitter competitor so revolutionary that Rose feels Digg needs to copy it? I have yet to make a decision on that. Who knows… if Pownce adds news submissions, they might as well amalgamate the two.

Here is a screenshot of the new Digg features, courtesy of BusinessWeek: Digg screenshot of social features. Also see Paris Lemon for added coverage.

Google Officially Launches PowerPoint Killer

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Google Docs logoGoogle officially launched its Microsoft PowerPoint killer. The cleverly named Presently is a very simple, slick presentation builder. The project appears to be the culmination of Google’s acquisition of Zenter earlier this year. Now, users of Google Docs can quickly and easily create a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or folder, essentially completing the office suite.

What do I think of the offering so far? Friggen sweet. I highly suggest everyone check it out. It’s a must for anyone looking to put together a stellar presentation. Here are some of the features that sold me:

  • Group-editing - numerous users can edit a given document, not just the creator.
  • Revision-viewing - the ability to view revisions allows you to revert back to previous editions.
  • One-click functionality - most features and functions are a single click away.
  • Slick, intuitive interface - all elements are well presented; this minimizes the learning curve. 
  • Web-based - presentations are saved on Google servers and can easily be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. 
  • Free - no money out of my pocket. 

If Google Docs really wants to make a solid impact in the ‘office’ space, it is going to have to crack the enterprise market. The company has made steps toward doing, most notably with a partnership with CapGemini last week. Nevertheless, I still think there are many doubts, hesitations, and concerns from the institutional side. Large corporations, organizations, and goverments will be difficult to penetrate, as they have historically used Microsoft. Such a dramatic change would not only present huge infrastructure changes, but it would also incur huge costs. Furthermore, education around the new system would be critical. In other words, I still think Microsoft can breathe safely for a *bit*. However, complacency will ultimately lead to failure, as we have witnessed over the years with this giant. Constant innovation is key.

[Google Presently screenshot via TechCrunch]

For more info, be sure to check out posts from Mashable and Read/WriteWeb.

Yahoo Launches Mash to Compete with Facebook

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Yahoo Mash logoOn Friday, Yahoo officially unveiled its newest entry into the social network space, Mash. Though there are many notable names in the space already, I’m certain that Mash is looking to compete head-to-head with Facebook in particular. Upon closer inspection of the feature set and interface, I think this can easily be confirmed.

Much of the buzz and PR created by Facebook can be attributed to two key components: the news feed and the developer platform. Yahoo took notice of this and incorporated similar features into Mash. “Pulse” is the term used to described Mash’s version of the news feed. In addition, users of this new social network can customize their profile with individual modules which are akin to Facebook apps. These drag-and-drop pieces can easily be moved around to create a personalized space. Yahoo plans to open up their platform to 3rd party developers in the coming months. Sound familiar?

Two deviations from Facebook include the ability to edit other people’s profile pages, as well as some level of layout customization. To be honest though, the interface itself isn’t overly appealing. It is quite bland. Don’t get me wrong - I love simplicity. But there is a difference between simplicty and elegance. Facebook has found that balance. Mash hasn’t. It looks to me like Yahoo has created a quick-and-dirty version of Facebook with future plans to refine the interface, improve the experience, and expand the feature set. Simply put, I think that Yahoo is still a bit pissed that they didn’t snap up Facebook. They wish they would have offered that extra bit and sealed the deal. Now, they are kicking themselves and trying to play catch-up.

Currently, the service is in (yes, you guessed it) BETA mode. In order to access or test the service, you must be invited by a friend or colleague. This marketing tactic is lame and played-out. I suggest heading over to InviteShare if you are in dire need to try out the new service.

TechCrunch has kindly posted some screenshots of the new service:

Overall, I was fairly disappointed by my initial analysis of the service. Nevertheless, I will hold back from making any firm conclusions until I actually test out the social network. I am unaware of how much Yahoo has allocated towards this project (both in terms of financial and human resources). By the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like enough.

Why Social Media Works

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Any website or service that is dependent upon its users for survival can be categorized as a ’social media’ player. User-generated content (UGC) has formed the basis for numerous successful for start-ups. Without users who submit content, these sites are essentially worthless. What’s Flickr without photos? What’s YouTube without videos?

Two of the best examples are Wikipedia and Craigslist - undoubtedly the web’s two most famous .org’s. Who submits the content? Who does all the work? The users. Sure, the company created the system that facilitates the processes, but this is only a tiny portion of the overall effort. Such a scenario is the reason why small operations can scale on a low budget. Once again though, if users stop contributing, the service is useless. Put in a different context, the company isn’t the content provider, but rather the distribution mechanism. This is the basis for social media.

What if everyone stopped submitting news headlines and interesting articles? We’d have no more Digg. What if everyone stopped uploading videos? We’d have no more YouTube. Worse yet, what if everyone stopped blogging? We’d be stuck with whatever content that traditional media subjects to us. What a pity that would be.

In a future post, we will explore how social media can backfire and work in a counter-productive fashion, potentially destroying the company altogether.

Web 2.0 Overload

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Is it just me or is web 2.0 suffering from a stagnant lapse? Don’t get me wrong - I love the concept of web 2.0 and social media. That definitely isn’t the problem. The lack of innovation and inferior business models are what bother me most. Add to that the fact that ideas are being ripped off and clones are abundant. Honestly, do we need another social bookmarking site or a generic video portal?

This lack of creativity and thought around business models is quite discouraging. A business plan full of buzz words and a flashy PowerPoint just don’t cut it anymore. What users really want is value; they want a service they can use. This seems obvious, but I can’t believe how many ridiculous ideas continue to be funded.

What about revenue models? We all know that a majority of start-ups are dependent upon Google ads as their key income generator. Truly, this is not a sustainable model. Unless a given property is able to generate millions of page views a month, then such a model is impractical. Creating a paid service isn’t difficult. Creating a truly compelling service and convincing the customer that it’s worth the price is the hard part. If there is a stunning value proposition for the end user, they will pay. One thing to keep in mind is the general trend that (almost) all Internet services eventually progress to free.

Having said all that, I am optimistic that the tables will turn. Despite all the clutter in the web 2.0 space, we have witnessed the growth of some remarkable start-ups over the past year, most notably Twitter. I refuse to use the term ‘bubble’ in this context, but I do believe that changes are in the pipeline. Funding will become more scarce and investors will become more selective. Hopefully this will weed out the crap and pave the way for innovative new ideas. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.