Screencasting with Yahoo! partners

An exciting part of my job is the exposure I get to startups that are doing new and interesting things. Last week, for example, Jeremy Zawodny and I sat with the Renkoo team while they walked through all the ways they are using Yahoo! technologies in their product.

We captured what was happening on screen and recorded the conversation using Camtasia. Then I edited it into 2 parts: the first is more of a demo and the second is a discussion of the technologies. I saved it as a video file, uploaded it to Yahoo! Video and finally posted it to the YDN blog this morning.

It’s nice co-marketing for us both. Yahoo! gets to show off how powerful its services can be, and Renkoo gets a nice platform through YDN to demonstrate the clever things they’ve done to a broad audience of peers.

Fun stuff.

You can watch the first part of the interview here.

How recommendations can isolate people

It’s curious to me that Findory is fading on us, perhaps slipping into oblivion. It’s not the only startup with a good idea to see the lights dimming through the window of opportunity. And it’s certainly not for a lack of insight or technical chops.


I love the idea of automatic learning and recommendations. But the application of that concept makes more sense in the context of an experience as opposed to an experience itself. Last.fm understands this and represents it more effectively than just about anything I’ve seen on the Internet yet.

Scott Karp faults Findory for failing to capture the serendipity of learning what you didn’t realize you needed to know…and, particularly, who else doesn’t know it yet.

“Perhaps the good old fashioned niche is as personalized as we need to get. TechMeme and Digg are highly niche sites, and thus are tailored to the specific interests of their users without getting so personalized as to break the bonds of community.”

Succeeding as a startup in online media is also part first-mover. It’s part aesthetics. It’s part who you know and who you adopt into your friends and family.

It’s also part editorial voice. I think Findory is an interesting mirror into my interests, but I’ve found that I’m not an interesting filter through which to view the world. There are probably few individuals who are. Similarly, what I liked most about Megite was seeing other people’s personalized news, not so much my own.

But there are many communities and concepts that filter the world of information in ways that are interesting and also matter in a particular context. The filter (or media brand) represents the community and gives meaning to the information. This is publishing 101 stuff, and it applies online as much as it does off.

Succeeding in online media is also part fashion. Findory never reached a critical mass of coolness. It’s hard to say what difference the fashion sense of the engineers and founders at startups makes in their ability to succeed, but decision-making at any company is driven at least in part by intuition, moreso at startups. Without keen intuition for market forces or at least your customers, your efforts will be out of synch with the world you live in.

Related to all this, I suspect the personalized My New York Times and similar publisher offerings are going to fail or at least prove lackluster for similar reasons. None of them are first-mover offerings. None of them are pretty or engaging. None of them provide a community filter that makes information relevant and interesting. They lose the editorial voice of their parent. They’re too hard to setup. And they just aren’t cool.

On the other hand, publishers can take the behavior data their readers are generating on the site and apply that in a way that surfaces interesting information or in fact connects them to similar people directly. TechMeme is a pureplay in this space, but it’s applicable at any media site. Greg Linden probably has great software to make that possible for all publishers’ sites.

I’m also curious to see how publishers pick up on socially engaging widgets like MyBlogLog and the new ways to build community within your domain. I like how Scott framed up the issue in this quote:

“Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different?”

Nice.

For my wishlist: a start page that learns

I had the pleasure of joining Rex Hammock for drinks last night in Potrero Hill while he was here for Macworld Expo.

Rex is tuned in to some interesting aspects of the online world, particularly through his site SmallBusiness.com which is becoming a useful and increasingly powerful wiki. I was amazed to hear that the contributions are no longer coming from his team. The community is making the site work and building it into a resource that matters.

We also talked about RSS and start pages. Rex shares my frustration that start pages are so dependent on custom configurations that the majority of the world will never do. Machine learning and recommendations technology is not new, and it seems like such an obvious direction for the start page to go…

Show me what the world looks like through a global lens, my networks' lenses and my own personal lens. Learn from both my explicit and implicit behaviors and then adjust.

Amazon knows how to use my shopping behavior to create compelling shopping experiences. Why can’t my news reading behavior be interpreted to create a better start page experience?

The Onion understands this, too:

Amazon Recommendations Understand Area Woman Better Than Husband

Pamela Meyers said that her husband, whose gift choices have never reflected any outward recognition of her desire to learn Spanish, nor of the fact that she looks terrible in orange, rarely, if ever, communicates with Meyers while away on any of his frequent business trips.

“I was having some tea from that Nebraska Cornhuskers mug Dean got me for Valentine’s Day, when a little emai from Amazon popped up out of the blue,” Meyer said. “Just completely out of the blue.”

“It was nice to know that on my birthday, someone or something was out there thinking about me, and what boxsed sets I wanted.”

The breakthrough that is MyBlogLog

There’s something very uncomfortable about seeing your face appear on another web site while you’re visiting it. That’s exactly why I think MyBlogLog is going to be a really big deal. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens now that it’s part of Yahoo!.

The quotable Paul Saffo visited Yahoo! last week and said this about technological breakthroughs: “It takes 20 years to have an overnight success.” That’s spot on in this case, too.

First there was email, and then we got instant messaging. The next online communication breakthrough was the social networking app. Now there’s distributed identity, another variation on personal expression and communication.

It’s a more explicit expression of implicit behavior, if that makes any sense.

And just like each predecessor in the social software space, resistence to the new paradigm will widen generational gaps for a time until the concept is adopted widely enough. Change like this is an ongoing theme in the evolution of the Internet.

I remember a time when it was uncomfortable to discover that marketers had my email address and sent things directly to my inbox. It was uncomfortable to know that friends and colleagues could see when I was online via IM and be able to ping me any time they wanted. It was uncomfortable to know that people were looking at, assessing, and deciding whether or not to mark me as a connection on social networking sites.

MyBlogLog now exposes access to another channel that was previously known only to me…my browsing history.

The numbers I’ve seen internally tell an amazing story, the classic hockey stick. But an even bigger indicator is the number of requests for connections that I’ve received since becoming a member. Many are people that have likely seen my face on web pages as I traverse across the Internet, not people who found me through a search or via another friend.

MyBlogLog makes the Internet feel like a huge party where you bump into random people that might be interesting and see friends that you didn’t know were in the same place as you. It’s weird. It’s awkward. It’s fantastic.

What do these connections mean? I can’t say, yet. But intuitively I know that MyBlogLog is going to matter in lots of different contexts. The potential here is just massive.

More on the Yahoo!/MyBlogLog deal:

UPDATE: There’s been an explosion of coverage this morning on this announcement. TechMeme is doing a great job of capturing the links out there. Here’s a sample:


Yahoo! Snaps Up Mybloglog.com  —  Yahoo! is making notoriety a mouse click away.  —  The Internet portal has purchased Mybloglog.com, an Orlando, Fla.-based website that enables readers of web pages to leave information about themselves, building a social network among fans of such things
Webware.com
Mathew Ingram
Rex Hammock’s weblog
Elatable
Squash
Blogging Stocks
Business Filter
Zoli’s Blog
Bloggers Blog
FactoryCity
Between the Lines
Digital Inspiration
The Social Web
10e20
duncanriley.com
CenterNetworks
Clickety Clack
Susan Mernit’s Blog
Caroline McCarthy / Webware.com: YAHOO BUYS MYBLOGLOG. SO WHAT?
Mathew Ingram / mathewingram.com/work: Yahoo buys MyBlogLog — but why?
Rex Hammock / Rex Hammock’s weblog: Yahoo! buys MyBlogLog (deja vu all over again)
Elatable: MyBlogLog and Yahoo light up the blogosphere
Phil Sim / Squash: MyBlogLog will fizzle  —  10 million kudos to the guys behind MyBlogLog.
Melly Alazraki / Blogging Stocks: Yahoo! makes a (small) move — buys MyBlogLog
Mwelch / Business Filter: Yahoo! Snaps Up MyBlogLog
Zoli Erdos / Zoli’s Blog: Let’s Not Spam MyBlogLog
Bloggers Blog: Yahoo Buys MyBlogLog For Real This Time
Chris Messina / FactoryCity: Sticking eyeballs with toothpicks; or Yahoo buys MyBlogLog
Larry Dignan / Between the Lines: Yahoo’s MyBlogLog purchase by the numbers
Amit Agarwal / Digital Inspiration: MyBlogLog: Now Playing At the Yahoo! Theatre
Steve O’Hear / The Social Web: Yahoo buys MyBlogLog
Chris Winfield / 10e20: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog.com – For Real This Time
Duncan / duncanriley.com: Yahoo! buys MyBlogLog
Allen Stern / CenterNetworks: Yahoo! buys MyBlogLog – Yep, it’s confirmed
Junior Hines / Clickety Clack: Yahoo Buys MyBlogLog
Susan Mernit / Susan Mernit’s Blog: Weekend news: Myblog log acquired; Rafer joining Yahoo!
Om Malik / GigaOM: Yahoo buys MyBlogLog… for real!
  —  Updated: 8.58 pm: A few minutes after we had ordered our dinner at Mehfil Restaurant in San Francisco’s SOMA district, Scott Rafer, chairman of Orlando, Florida-based MyBlogLog, checked his Blackberry Pearl, and broke into a smile.

Valleywag
A View from the Isle
Mark Evans
Screenwerk
Web Worker Daily
Search Marketing Gurus
hyku | blog
HipMojo.com and Marketing Blog Bent …
Tris Hussey / A View from the Isle: MyBlogLog joins Yahoo, is this good?
Mark Evans: Yahoo Finally Acquires…MyBlogLog
Greg Sterling / Screenwerk: Getting Y!’s Mojo Back: A Release a Week
Chris Gilmer / Web Worker Daily: MYBLOGLOG, A VIRTUAL COMPANY, SOLD TO YAHOO
Li Evans / Search Marketing Gurus: MyBlogLog Acquired By Yahoo! or Not?
Josh Hallett / hyku | blog: Congrats to the MyBlogLog Gang
Froosh / HipMojo.com: Linked In: More Than Spam?
Jason Dowdell / Marketing Blog Bent …: Yahoo Aquires MyBlogLog for 12 Million
Chad Dickerson / Yodel Anecdotal: Bloggers unite!  Yahoo! joins forces with MyBlogLog
  —  There once was a time when bloggers basically lived in silos of independent existence.  Hunched over your keyboard, you checked your ego feeds every day, looked for inbound links, followed the various meme-tracking sites, and read who you thought was interesting.

Search Engine Land
CyberNet Technology News
10e20
Search Engine Watch Blog
Yahoo! Developer Network blog
Marketing Blog Bent …
Danny Sullivan / Search Engine Land: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog & More On How It Works
Ashley / CyberNet Technology News: Yahoo! Acquires MyBlogLog (along with their statistics program too!)
Chris Winfield / 10e20: How Long Until Spam Becomes a Huge Problem for MyBlogLog?
Kevin Newcomb / Search Engine Watch Blog: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog
Jeremy Zawodny / Yahoo! Developer Network blog: MyBlogLog Joins YDN!
Evan Roberts / Marketing Blog Bent …: Something Smells Funny in this Shoe
Yahoo Buys MyBlogLog.  No, They Didn’t.  Wait, Yes.
  —  Ok so it’s official and confirmed from Yahoo: They bought MyBlogLog.  This was first rumored to be happening in November, but was never confirmed and we updated our post to reflect that.  This morning the news broke again but was pulled immediately afterwards.

Conversion Rater
Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim and Webomatica
Pat McCarthy / Conversion Rater: MyBlogLog Gets Yahoo’d
Andy Beal / Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog
Webomatica: Yahoo! Buys MyBlogLog
Eric / The MyBlogLog Blog: The Jig is Up — MyBlogLog joins Yahoo!
  —  Todd, John, Steve, Scott and I are pleased to announce that Yahoo! has brought MyBlogLog into the fold.  I’ve been drafting a post about this for the better part of a week and it’s just not happening.  No matter how hard I try, there’s just too much here that I can’t yet put into words.

Read/WriteWeb and Scott Rafer at WINKsite
Richard MacManus / Read/WriteWeb: MyBlogLog Acquired by Yahoo – Grist To The Distributed Network Mill
Rafer / Scott Rafer at WINKsite: Yup, Yahoo! Bought MyBlogLog.
Pete Cashmore / Mashable!: Confirmed: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog for $10 Million
  —  Valleywag started a rumor in November that Yahoo had bought MyBlogLog – Yahoo then denied it and everybody backtracked.  Another story popped up on MarketingShift early today, adding a $10 million price tag – that post was quickly pulled
Don Dodge on The Next …
Valleywag and digg
Don Dodge / Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing: Yahoo acquires MyBlogLog for $10M – Has anyone done the math?
Valleywag: SELF-REFERENTIAL: Valleywag, your premature news source
digg: Confirmed: Yahoo Acquires MyBlogLog for $10 Million
Jeremy Zawodny / Jeremy Zawodny’s blog: Welcome MyBlogLog to Yahoo!
  —  It seems like only yesterday that TechCrunch posted a premature story about Yahoo! buying MyBlogLog.  —  Well, now it’s official and I’d like to publicly welcome the MyBlogLog team to Yahoo.  In the last month or so, I’ve had the chance to meet and get to know the team
Owen Thomas / Business 2.0 Beta: Yahoo Spends Millions on Social Startup MyBlogLog
Rafat Ali / PaidContent: Yahoo Buys Distributed Social Network MyBlogLog; Reportedly Around $10 Million
Profy.Com
TechAddress
Message
MediaVidea and The Blogging Times
Paul Glazowski / Profy.Com: Post Analysis: The MyBlogLog Buyout
TechAddress: Yahoo Snaps Up Mybloglog.com – By Forbes.com CES Blog
Stowe Boyd / Message: Yahoo At The Center Of The Social Universe: But Where’s The Integration?
Pramit Singh / MediaVidea: Mybloglog: a better model for blog networks?
Minic Rivera / The Blogging Times: This time it’s for real: Yahoo buys MyBlogLog

Five things about me

Alright, why not. Thanks, John.

1.) I made my little brother throw deviled eggs into a crowd of people dancing to Emmylou Harris at Steve Wozniak’s wedding to our next door neighbor Candi Clark. He was about 5 and I was about 10. We got kicked out. He should have known better.

2.) I took the SATs twice just so that I could beat my older brother’s score. As older brothers do, he told me after the fact that I beat his score the first time.

3.) I listen to Gordon Lightfoot sometimes. I like it on train journeys for some reason.

4.) I was a nationally ranked water polo player in high school. I dropped out of the sport in college to pursue more important games like foosball, tetris and boat races.

5.) I have no big toe nail on my right foot. It was removed after an injury and the toe basically looks like a stump now. It effectively attracts the pointiest and heaviest parts of people’s shoes right when I’m not looking.

On deck: Bernhard, Don, Mitch, Justin, Micah

eWeek doesn’t want me to visit eweek.com

I saw a link to an eWeek story and visited in part because I hadn’t been there in so long.

Ugh. Now I remember why. Here’s a 30 second screencast showing you why I’m not a regular reader.


Link to video: http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?vid=c0467b333753b3d3fd849b14b76c56a4.1605369

First, notice the page load time. Then, once it loads, notice the billboard mania that draws my eye in every location other than the first sentence. I’m gone before I started.

But the killer is the IntelliTxt ad…a fakey inline link that is actually an ad that blocks the text on the page when you rollover the “link”. Notice it conveniently doesn’t block the other ads.

Fortunately, there’s a Greasemonkey script that will disable any IntelliTxt ads from any web site. Funny enough, I found this script on Wikipedia. It works great.

I thought the IntelliTxt issue was dead, but media sites scrapping to maintain profits on the page view model are bottom feeding for clicks with clutter and misleading links. Instead, they should spend their resources courting relationships with readers.

A community site without a community

Taking a little time at home last week gave me a chance to play around with one of my experiments that was nearly at its end. FlipBait is a simple Pligg/MediaWiki site that pokes fun at the dotcom golddiggers out there.


It’s mostly a sandbox for me both technically and journalistically. But it’s not really helping to inform or build community the way I hoped.

First, after a month I still have no participants. There have been several passersby, but a group publishing site needs to have a core team looking after its well being.

Second, it’s just too much work in its current form for me to keep posting to it.

I sort of expected this to happen, but I’m a big fan of experimentation. So, I thought I might analyze the issues for a few blog posts and close it down…

…but then Pligg 9 was released.

The new version of this Digg-like CMS added a key feature that may alter the dynamics of the site completely: Feed Importing.

I give it a few RSS feeds. It then imports the headlines from those feeds automatically.

Now, I have a bunch of feeds all pouring headlines into FlipBait throughout the day. I’m aggregating the usual suspects like TechCrunch and GigaOM and VentureBeat, but I also found a few sources from various searches that effectively round out the breadth of the coverage

I can find new dotcom golddiggers without fail every day.

This is very cool. Though you can see back in the Pligg forum archives that there was some debate about whether this feature would destroy the whole dynamic of voting-based publishing. That may be true, but it’s just too useful not to have.

Now, this might be the most interesting part…

I’m also importing stories from del.icio.us using a new tag: “flipbait“. That means that if you tag an article with “flipbait”, Pligg will automatically import that article and make it available to the FlipBait community. That’s how I’m entering my own favorite posts for the site as opposed to using the ‘submit’ function directly at flipbait.com.

You don’t ever have to visit the domain, actually, because you can pull articles to read from the RSS feed and submit articles to the site just by tagging as you already do.

Hmmm…what does that mean? Interesting question. Can a meaningful community form around a word that represents an idea?