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Preview: Bizwerk


I've been reading many books and magazines about business lately, and have become interested in creativity, innovation, ethics and trends in business, but such posts on my other site seemed out of place. Thus, Bizwerk!

Updated: 2012-04-15T17:11:30.084-07:00


Show not tell


"You can no longer tell people about your brand; you have to let them experience it."

- Esther Dyson

(via JD)

Two obvious secrets


A great observation on Seth Godin's blog:

The two obvious secrets of every service business

every one...

1. Take responsibility

2. Pay attention to detail

The thing that's so surprising is how little attention is paid to these two, how often we run into people (business to business or b2c) who are totally clueless about them.

You'd be stunned to see a hotel clerk stealing money from the till or a bartender smashing bottles or a management consultant drawing on the client's wall with a magic marker. But every single day, I encounter "that's not my job" or "our internet service is outsourced, it's their fault." More subtle but more important are all the little details left untended.

All the magazine ads in the world can't undo one lousy desk clerk.

All businesses are service business and experience is the product...

He says 'every one' at the beginning of the blurb, and he's right. I also think there are a lot of software products out there that don't understand that they aren't actually products, they are services -- and this is especially true of social software. Many companies launch their web "products" and then walk away, not understanding that after launch their job has just begun, requiring daily -- sometimes 24-hrs a day -- hands-on management and unflinchingly constant attention. Social software only works when the trolls and spammers are instantly squashed, good contributions rewarded, people listened to and provided with what they need.

Another thing: props to Seth and team who have built out Squidoo, which I have been following for a while. Have a look around; they're doing so many things right.

Mashup Camp


David Berlind is spearheading an 'unconference' initiative called 'Mashup Camp'. A lot of the so-called "Web 2.0" conferences have a traditional top-down talking head format, and he thinks that if all the hackers came, brought their laptops and hunkered down together for a few days, some great new things could be built, connections made, ideas spawned. I love it!

Watch the Mashup Camp site (nothing there yet) for future details.

Delicious and Digg


You can probably guess from the content here that this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time. :-)

Yes! Yahoo has acquired Flickr's sibling company (which you may have noticed, is now accessible using the domain as well). We're whooping it up on the inside, from which vantage point watching the evolution of Yahoo is the most fun.

People have been discussing the parallel plots of Digg and Delicious, including my pal Marc on the O'Reilly Radar blog. He posted this map from Alexa, which, after the Yahoo announcement has put Delicious up in the peaks. But prior to the announcement they were neck-and-neck. I've been watching this too, having some interest in it myself.


Delicious is designed to be completely about the links. You can add text if you want, but most people don't: they just save the link, giving it their implicit "vote" or "seal of approval". Their "popular" links on the right side of the page is a look into their database. Digg, on the other hand, is explicitly designed to promote a link, and the links that are Dugg float to the front page. The author provides a title and description and the links with merit, having been Dugg by various Diggers, it rises to the top -- and some of this has to do with how well the user "sold" the link, i.e., did they write an attention grabbing headline and description?

I like Digg, not least because they have a beautiful UI, with the lovely "124 Diggs" in the big square box, a UI innovation I've seen replicated on bunches of sites, including Flock. My question is how long Digg can sustain the quality. Watching Slashdot and Metafilter, two similar sites whose members contribute links and descriptions, and sustain comments, it seems as if there is a sweet spot where the # of contributors vs. # of commenters are maximizing quality. And there seems to be a hazard with attention inciting inanity -- people write comments on Slashdot just to say stuff like "It looks stupid, I'm not even going to try it" just to get their name or POV up there, and these tend to take over after a while, as the thoughtful contributors move elsewhere. Individual blogs tend to maintain quality, especially in comments, as there is one benevolent dictator to keep the rabble in line. In some respects, a community site such as Digg's real value will come from the ferocious defense of quality, the weeding out of "It looks stupid" comments and relentless suppression of spam.

Blog Archives and Living Ideas


I was having a conversation with Bob Baxley a few months ago about how the structure of Flickr makes it possible for people to continue to discover and view "old" photographs -- photographs that had been uploaded months or years before. These usually surface through tag surfing, or searches, or groups, or personal tag maps, or the feature on the explore page that shows the most interesting photos from a year before.

Usually, in a blog format, old photos, or old blog posts don't get a lot of a traffic. Most traffic is reserved for the most recent post, and regular readers of the blog are assumed to have already read what is in the archive. Blogs don't really accommodate *new* users -- who are arriving for the first time. The tag maps that people have been adding to their sites (see the one at the top of We make money not art) help with this problem, while simultaneously providing a snapshot of the interests of the blog authors.

If you know of any interesting blog designs that address this kind of issue, please post it in the comments.

Web 2.0 conference


My favorite moment at the Web 2.0 conference was recorded on my other blog, but there's been plenty of good stuff being presented and discussed. Yesterday a bunch of companies launched their sites, and they all bear some investigation:

Zvents built by Ethan Stock and team -- I met Ethan when he was working with a consulting company a few months ago, so I don't know how long they've been developing zvents. They had a really impressive "post to blog" event feature, which drew a lot of oohs and aahs from the audience.

Real Travel is a company that associates a social network with contributions from travellers on their experiences: where to go, where to eat, how to get there.

Rollyo was launched by Dave Pell, who made a lot of funny jokes and was generally very entertaining. It aggregates various sites into a "Searchroll" and searches just those. They did a superb job with the UED, and I'm impressed with their method of creating semi-celebrity "Searchrolls" to help people grok the product.

Bunchball has built a social platform for play. Flash developers can put their games onto the platform, and generate revenue from them. I'm on the Board of Advisors with Andrew Anker and have a lot of confidence in these guys and their vision.

Zimbra, and open source email client got a bunch of ooohs and ahhhs from the audience, as well as spontaneous bursts of applause. They demo'd an email that used the very best of all the web mashups: a date in an email would generate a pulldown menu of your calendar; an address, a map, and a Fedex tracking number the date, sender and status of the package. Phenomenal.

Today we've heard from Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo, Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Foundation, Jonathan Schwartz, CTO of Sun, and the list goes on. Mary Meeker is on now; she's showing us som fantastic stats. I want this deck.


I couldn't be happier to welcome Andy, Gordon and Leonard into the Yahoo! fold, with the recent acquisition of They are some of the web's most brilliant web developers and grok completely the newfangled web we're all in the process of building in this Brave New World. I'm thrilled that my new parent company is continuing to make smart moves along the paths of openness, community and personalized content, and these guys are right at the heart of it.

Congratulations abound, and this is just one of many, but cheers! Congratulations! My favorite comment is from Andy's Mom.

Emerging from this acquisition more discussion, from David Is Yahoo more Web 2.0 than Google?.

Google releases astonishingly bad Blog Search


The much anticipated Google Blog Search was released today, and now I understand why it was held back for so long. As I've heard, it was being developed for the past 3 years, and has been "on deck" for over a year. Evaluating blog search is hard (evaluating any kind of search is hard), but generally blog search optimizes for either freshness or relevance in actual blog posts, or toggles between the two. You can do that here, but Google blog search is apparently optimized for neither -- its stated purpose is finding blogs on a certain topic, and boy is it bad at that. But what it mostly it delivers is blog posts. Take my search for "celebrity". There's a small chunk at the top giving the "related blogs" to that search, but then the rest of it is classic keyword matching:

Related Blogs:
Celebrity Baby Blog - The only website devoted to celebrity babies (and their parents)!
Celebrity Baby Blog - The internet's only source dedicated to Celebrity Babies!
Hollywood Rag - Celebrity Ragazine -
Celebrity Calls -
{ KOREAN + celebrity } - Korean Entertainment @ LiveJournal

Oxfam Auction - grab celebrity seconds
5 hours ago by Katie
Oxfam's Suffolk division is due to hold a charity auction of various bits of celebrity jumble. It's being held on the 1st October in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Sk8 er-girl Avril Levigne (or Lasagne as the Bayraider gang prefer to call her) ... Shiny Shiny -

SNL Celebrity Jeopardy
1 hour ago by Best Week Ever
"Here's the entire collection of all 13 "Celebrity Jeopardy" episodes on Saturday Night Live. Enjoy!" Relive your favorite SNL Celebrity Jeopardy moments. I pose a conundrum to you, a riddle if you will. What's the difference between ... Best Week Ever Blog -

Celebrity Fit Club
8 Sep 2005 by Jeanne
The other night while exercising on my recumbent bike, I turned the basement TV set on and watched back-to-back reruns of Celebrity Fit Club on VH1. Talk about a motivator. There is something about watching washed-up celebrities trying ... Out and Back -

I can't see any reason to switch, Technorati's recently release Blog Finder has gone further down the road in the direction I want to go. It's not perfect, but you can see where it's going.

Decisions based on Intuition vs. Data


In today's Sunday New York Times, there is an article in the business section devoted to Sanford Weill, of Citigroup. There I find this quote:

He was largely intuitive and his deals didn't come from plotting, planning and study; they came from his own instincts and connections.

And in the eGang group this month, Barry Diller explained why he bought his first web company, he wasn't sure why, "It was nothing but instinct." In contrast, the biography of another self-made billionaire, Warren Buffett, starts with a description of how obsessed he is with numbers, with data, with information.

One of the questions a colleague of mine asks in job interviews is, On a scale of 1 to 10, do you make decisions based on data (1) or intuition (10). I liked this question. I answered 10. I make my decisions almost entirely based on intuition. Data, as I see it, can be molded to fit any agenda, and is based only on the past. Most decisions will impact only the future. Data is a good slave, but a poor master. And of course, there are decisions you have to make based entirely on data, i.e. this insurance policy provides the same coverage as that insurance policy, but is $500 cheaper.

The interview question is a bit of a trick question, however. It is more of a test of the person's ability to make decisions, to be decisive. The worst answer you can give is 5.

Glocalization and Web 2.0


Yes! We've all been circling around what "Web 2.0" really means, and I think Danah has gotten to the heart of it in her latest blog post. All this talk about read/write and user-generated content and people finding what pertains directly to them: she sums it up quite beautifully:

In business, glocalization usually refers to a sort of internationalization where a global product is adapted to fit the local norms of a particular region. Yet, in the social sciences, the term is often used to describe an active process where there's an ongoing negotiation between the local and the global (not simply a directed settling point). In other words, there is a global influence that is altered by local culture and re-inserted into the global in a constant cycle. Think of it as a complex tango with information constantly flowing between the global and the local, altered at each junction.

During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals. People manipulate given structures to meet their desires. We are faced with a digital environment that has collective values. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in search. For example, is there a best result to the query "breasts"? It's all about context, right? I might be looking for information on cancer, what are you looking for?

A global village assumes heterogeneous context and a hierarchical search assumes universals. Both are poor approximations of people's practices. We keep creating technological solutions to improve this situation. Reputation systems, folksonomy, recommendations. But these are all partial derivatives, not the equation itself. This is not to dismiss them though because they are important; they allow us to build on the variables and approximate the path of the equation with greater accuracy. But what is the equation we're trying to solve?

Slowly but surely consumers are being taught the value of open systems that the hackers intuitively understood 40 years ago.


Is this true? I hope so.

A VC posts about openness, and the hacker ethic of the 60s:

I've been reading Steven Levy's Hackers.

There is this great story where the hackers at the AI Lab at MIT are being forced to use a time sharing system on their beloved PDP-6 and they are in revolt.

So Ed Fredkin, who runs the lab, enlists Richard Greenblatt to create a new "hacker friendly" time sharing system. Richard enlists Ted Nelson and the two of them hack together a new time sharing sysem in "weeks of hard core hacking". They called this system ITS, for "incompatible time sharing system".

The reason for mentioning this is that ITS was completely open. It had no passwords. It was completely extendable. Anyone could add features to the system. It was designed specifically so that everyone could look at everyone else's work.

ITS was built in the late 1960s.

Almost 40 years later we are finally seeing the "hacker ethic" arrive in consumer software and services.

When we were trying to explain difference between Shutterfly and Flickr. When we were explaining the difference between Flickr and Shutterfly/Ofoto/Snapfish to users we often claimed that those services were "holding your information hostage" -- they were. Photo sharing was "free" -- but it was really a loss leader for photo finishing services. Photo sharing was the wide mouth of the funnel that led you to print your photos -- and that meant you could not access the high-res originals that you yourself had uploaded. These were kept away from you (and your friends and family) so they could charge you for prints.

People should own their own data, and interestingly, openness goes two ways. people own their own data, they are more willing to share their stuff. The examples that he gave in his post, the blog post, the public photos tagged with "Vietnam".

Wikitorial Failure


On the LA Times and the Wikitorial:

A quote, I thought was worth calling out:

It was doomed to fail, because communities can't be created by editorial structures - editorial structures must be created by communities.

This is a classic failing of old school media thinking. Sure, folks could build on top of the Times' editorials, but then again, why would they? The reason folks build stuff is to build it together, and to do that, they have to know one another, have a shared set of mores, have a conversation that is already going.

A far better approach would have been to create a platform for readers to create their own communities. Leaders will emerge, voices will break out, and conversations will get started. Then the community itself will have a sense of ownership of the media, and begin to moderate out the trolls. It's one thing for the LA Times to kill the trolls - that feels like censorship. It's another for the community itself to do it.

In Defense of Design Dictators


You don’t do good software design by committee. You do it best by having a dictator. From the user’s point of view, you must have a coherent design philosophy, and I don’t see how that could come about from open source software. The person who’s done it best is Steve Jobs, and he’s well-known for being a tyrant.

-- Don Norman

Surfacing Aging Content


One of the strengths of blogs is that the freshest content is at the top of the page. Indeed, it was this design convention above all others, that led to the blog explosion. I remember having conversations with other people who published zines and personal soap boxes circa 1998 about the importance of updating content at least once a week. Otherwise people wouldn't check back to the site. The other thing we did in those days was send an email announcement when we'd updated our sites, back before our inboxes were what they are now.

I was having a conversation with Bob Baxley the other day about the importance of surfacing aging content. A lot of really great content on blogs tends to languish unread once it's dropped off the front page. One of the things that happens with Flickr is that I notice when visiting my "new comments" page is that people are commenting on photos, adding them to their favorites, and viewing photos that are often more than a year old. And the reason for this is that people are finding the photos in ways other than my chronological photostream: they are finding them through tag searches, or when browsing group pools.

There are a bunch of blogs out there that append a list of their categories on the sidebar, like Common Craft, which I visited today. Tech Ronin not only links the categories on the side, she links them under each post, as well as tagging them and linking back to the Technorati tag page (and let me take this moment to congratulate Technorati on their new launch!). I'd be willing to bet the content on blogs with such link practices stays alive in ways that the content of mine do not. As blogs enter their teenage years, and many people have 6-7 years of posts, surfacing this stuff will be more important.

I'm also thinking a great thing to build would be a flexible blog post microformat that can delaminate blogs from their native domains and aggregate all posts by tag or category in an RSS reader.

Building Trust


The business of the future -- indeed the business of the present -- depends on a network of trust virtually devoid of personal histories and relationships.

Building Trust, by Fernando Flores & Robert Solomon

Niklas Luhmann says trust is a way of managing complexity, and that trust permits us to operate in an increasingly complex world -- especially in a global economy, and on the internet. I've often said that the reason that the internet is changing, and the reason that software such as Flickr is possible is that the psychology of the average internet user has changed. People have seen a lot of blogs, and perhaps have started one. They've joined social networking sites such as Friendster or My Space and have created an online digital identities for the first time. They've bought something on eBay, paid their taxes online, met someone on Nerve. They've gotten confident enough in the internet that they've been willing to contribute their own photographs and music and art. The main thing that has changed is that they trust the internet more, and when you trust, you are able to give.

Congratulations Technorati!


Congratulations to the team at Technorati, for their fantastic new beta release. Starting with the new logo treatment and extending to the new site features, I love how the new design really shows you all the stuff that Technorati is capable of in a single glance. It's an art to make things the complex simple, ask Mingus.

Well done, Derek & Co.!

They give you free juice at Google so you can actually get some work done


Like Paul, this was one of my favorite quotes from the surreal NY Times article on how much money everyone supposedly has out here.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founders of Google, were [at the party], so [Andreessen] was able to amuse himself by watching the valley's newest kings as they met their public.

The scene made him think of a study by a Duke University professor that has long fascinated him: monkeys were willing to forego substantial amounts of fruit juice (''That's like crack cocaine to monkeys,'' according to Andreessen) just to stare at a picture of one of their brood's alpha monkeys. ''There was this mob effect around Larry and Sergey,'' Andreessen recalled when we met for a late breakfast one morning at his favorite hangout in a strip mall near his Palo Alto office. ''The pair would try to move, but the crowd just surged with them.

The Very Worst


The Worst Web Application in the World. Stewart and I laughed out loud for the second blog post in a row as we read through this post. Thanks, Doug, for walking us through that little piece of hell.

Merlin's Web 1.0 Summit



I laughed out loud. The comments are great too.

Mixing oldbies and newbies


Old players and new players make the best teams, according to this article. I've read this somewhere else as well -- I think in The Wisdom of Crowds -- it's important, when building teams, to have some people who are new, who haven't drunk the Kool-Aid, who don't really understand what is going on.

In a paper to be published April 29 in the journal Science, Northwestern University researchers turned to a different type of team -- creative teams in the arts and sciences -- to determine a team's recipe for success. They discovered that the composition of a great team is the same whether you are working on Broadway or in economics.

The researchers studied data on Broadway musicals since 1877 as well as thousands of journal publications in four fields of science and found that successful teams had a diverse membership -- not of race and gender but of old blood and new. New team members clearly added creative spark and critical links to the experience of the entire industry. Unsuccessful teams were isolated from each other whereas the members of successful teams were interconnected, much like the Kevin Bacon game, across a giant cluster of artists or scientists.

"Do people go out of their way to collaborate with new people?" said Luís A. Nunes Amaral, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and the corresponding author on the paper. "Do they take this risk?

"We found that teams that achieved success -- by producing musicals on Broadway or publishing academic papers in good journals -- were fundamentally assembled in the same way, by bringing in some experienced people who had not worked together before. The unsuccessful teams repeated the same collaborations over and over again."

It's hard to say why this works. Perhaps the introduction of new practices and habits enlivens a group. Maybe a newbie, needing a lot of coaching and assimilation causes a group to better define itself and its objectives. Maybe people who frequently work with new people have a propensity for collaboration, or an innate social intelligence. (via Kottke.)

Donald Norman Defends Cheating


A great quote by Donald Norman snagged from Foe:

...In real life, asking others for help is not only permitted, it is encouraged. Why not rethink the entire purpose of our examination system? We should be encouraging students to learn how to use all possible resources to come up with effective answers to important problems. Students should be encouraged to ask others for help, and they should also be taught to give full credit to those others...

Consider this: in many ways, the behavior we call cheating in schools is exactly the behavior we desire in the real world. Think about it. What behavior do we call cheating in the school system? Asking others for help, copying answers, copying papers.

Most of these activities are better called networking or cooperative work...

In a system where copying is punished, the student feels compelled to lie. Suppose that copying were encouraged honest copying, where the source must be revealed. And suppose that both the copier and the originator of the material were rewarded, the originator for their contribution and the copier for knowing where to seek the information. This would reinforce the correct behaviors, minimize deceit, and encourage cooperativeness...

Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness


I'm enjoying the new O'Reilly Radar, blog, and am intrigued by this post by Tim on Non Obvious Relationship Awareness:

.... Jeff Jonas [is the] founder of System Research and Development (SRD), the data mining company that made its name in Las Vegas with a technology called NORA (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness) -- software that would alert casino security, for instance, that the dealer at table 11 once shared a phone number with the guy who is winning big at that same table....

His current focus is "anonymous entity resolution" -- the ability to share sensitive data without actually revealing it. That is, by using one-way hashes, you can look across various databases for a match without actually pooling all the data and making it available to all. As you can imagine, solving this problem is fairly critical to the government if they want "total information awareness" while maintaining citizen privacy and some semblance of civil liberties.

O'Reilly Radar also led me to this great post on Object-centred Sociality, with which, it is probably pointless to say, I very much agree. :) I'll have to check out The Practice Turn in ContemporaryTheory by Karin Knorr Cetina. I just ordered it.

Community Building


What does it take to be Flickricious? Sony might find out.

Absolutely, Mr. Sony, don't shut the PSP hackers down! This kind of hacking is the scrimshaw of the computer age, and if you suppress it, you'll lose a huge opportunity to connect meaningfully with people.

As for the question, with how many users does the meaningful commmunity activity begin, I'd have to say it doesnt matter how big the community is -- on Flickr we saw this kind of spontaneous participative creativity arising when there were only the first 300 or so users, and I've seen this happen in online groups as small as 10 -- and this on a mailing list.

These kinds of communities are not as "step out of the way and let the community do its thing" as the article would suggest. First the community has to come into existence, and while this looks easy, it's actually a very difficult thing to get going, as the many companies who have attempted to create online communities will attest.

In the beginning, the creators of the community space have to create the tone and attitude of the place, set the parameters of what is and what is not allowed, and participate heavily, engaging directly with other people, mercilessly kicking/banning trolls, creating a real sense of there being a there there. Friendster, and the banning of "Fakesters" is often used as an example of a misunderstanding of online community -- but I think this misunderstanding went back further, to the beginning. I was an early member of Friendster and, the first message I got was from the founder. "How do you like the service?" he asked, and not -- and this is really the crux of it -- "Pynchon! Man, how can you read that stuff! DeLillo is 10X better." or "ZEPPELIN ROX! Zoso is my *so* favorite album!!!" I'd filled out a profile. See what I mean?

Like Sasquatch


Paul Kedrosky, on his blog Infectious Greed (a must-read!) contemplates the difficulty VCs have in finding the Successful Serial Entreprenuers.

It is admittedly a guess, but my hunch is that for every ten entrepreneurs who has a seven-figure exit from their first venture only five or six bother to try again. And for every ten that has an eight- or nine-digit success the number of repeats falls even faster, rapidly heading towards one -- or, asymptotically, toward zero. (Granted these ratios change from country-to-country and era-to-era, but it is a good first approximation.)

Why the die-off in repeat entrepreneurs? Because frankly, even entrepreneurs are prone to saying no mas. Faced with the idea of 18-hour days and seven-day work weeks people are happy to sit on boards, advise other companies, travel, become venture capitalists, ski, fix their house, do angel investing, and so on. They don't feel as obliged as entrepreneurship dogma says they do to do it all again. After all, if they were more eager to do it again then it wouldn't be so darn hard as a venture capitalist to find more successful serial entrepreneurs -- they'd be everywhere, and they sure aren't.

As several people wrote in -- and I think this it's true -- the ones I know of are off funding their own companies far from the VCs rapacious grasp.


A story in the MIT Technology review about "which emerging technologies are the most important for their nations’ societies and economies, and to explain what makes these technolo­gies uniquely characteristic of their countries", What matters most depends on where you are.

Each country reveals its own preoccupations, usually born out of its peculiar history and current circumstances. Leave it to the Dutch, for example, to pour computer modeling resources into the management of water and soil—endeavors without which the Netherlands’ very existence would be imperiled. The United States has measured the value of R&D projects largely by their potential for adding to the nervous nation’s power to fight wars and defend against terrorist attack. In Germany, home of the world’s first superhighways and some of its most storied carmakers, it’s no surprise to see projects aimed at making driving safer and smarter.