We are having blogs for Dinner? Again?

Ok I’m getting sort of confused and dizzy trying to decide if I should start a blog at every new place I test or log onto or whatever…. given that this is WEB 2.0 can’t we use the power of integration and collective blogginess?

So many people have their own blogs, especially in the crowd who tends to test new 2.0 applications, that I really like the idea of integrating existing blogs rather than creating brand new ones that’ll just get lost in the digital maelstrom.

But in the meantime I guess I’ll have a FLOCK and VOX and MYSPACE and 360 and Blogger AND this real one.

Web 2.0 – it’s more than just snooty elitism.

Dang.  I was going to write about how damn snooty and elitist O’Reilly and Battelle are with their “invitation only” Web 2.0 events.  But whenever I read O’Reilly’s blog, and the few times I’ve met him in person, I always come away thinking he’s quite simply the clearest and most innovative fellow who thinks and writes about changes in the internet landscape.    John is pretty dang sharp as well.

So, instead of criticizing those guys I’ll note the upcoming non-snooty version of their Web 2.0 events, called the Web 2.0 Expo , to be held in April 2007 at Moscone in San Francisco.    Be there or be …. Web 1.0.

Yahoo 360 and the perils of early adoption

I’m was messing around *a little* with Yahoo!’s excellent social networking application “Yahoo 360”, wondering why it’s not more popular and why I’m not spending more time with it. They are of course related, since widespread adoption is going to justify more of a committment from me and until I see that happening I can’t “afford” to spend time building up contacts and 360 groups only to find nobody else is using it.    I had a similar experience with LinkedIn which is also very good but seems narrowly focused more on those who are looking for work, hiring people, etc rather than lazy pseudo-tech bums like me who are happy where we are.

I’d like to keep up with Jeff Clavier and the Silicon Valley Search SIG group, but the 360 group is not active at 360…yet.   I do think Yahoo’s built a great environment for virtual biz “meetings” and it may spring to life.  It’s totally understandable that the SIG is not using this much –  they also would need to see a “critical mass” of interest and commitment to become more involved.

In terms of utility Yahoo 360 seems to be in what I’d think would be a sweet spot – somewhere between Myspace’s legions of ranting teenagers and LinkedIn’s almost elitist business formality and (at least for now) narrow focus on technology workers.

I don’t spend much time on any single application – even my own sites which really need the TLC not to mention major overhauling, but to me 360 is really getting close to the right social networking environment if it had widespread adoption.

Real Estate Heat Maps from Zillow

Zillow is really a helpful application for real estate.  Check out this heat map of Silicon Valley Real Estate prices, giving you an idea of the most expensive areas here.   Zillow’s got them for several metro regions.

I’ve been looking at some houses to buy as investments in Ashland Oregon and Zillow’s been helpful, though I think it’s a mistake to put too much stock in their Zestimates.    For example Zillow estimates the value at a place offered at 429k to be 541k and another at 300k to be valued at 379k.   As much as I’d like to turn an instant profit of 100k and 79k I think the estimate is simply way out of whack with the prevailing Ashland Real Estate conditions which suggest that…. things are not selling well and prices are going to go down.

Death to Brands! Death to Brands?

Although it’s early in the process, I think, and hope, that the concept of “brand” is going away in favor of the concept of utility/efficiency/pragmatism/reason.     As mass marketing, and the masses, move to online venues I think the notion of advertising as “branding” is suffering.     Online advertising such as pay per click and the increasing importance of marketing to highly targeted niches will make branding more difficult and expensive.   Online venues allow you to select a service or product provider far more objectively than before and with the benefit of tons of input from other people.    Real commentary is trumping advertising as the information source of choice, and this is a very good thing.

Yet many 2.0 companies don’t seem to get the message yet.    I think the Silicon Valley echo chamber makes it hard for many new online efforts to see how they have little chance of becoming more than an online footnote once the angel funding dries up.  In fact I think the new “life cycle” for 2.0 companies takes advantage of this ignorance about the death of brands which is why you see so many new companies with great logos, cool schwag, good business plans, attractive booth salespeople, and bright technical teams, and a killer plan to “brand” themselves as the next best thing …..but they have NO REAL BUSINESS.

I haven’t done much research, but I think it’s notable how many of the huge success stories did not seem to start out with big notions of branding their efforts.     Google, Yahoo, Myspace, etc etc are not products of clever marketing, rather great ideas that came at the right time.

Blog, Humbug!

Over at Adam’s he forced me to think a bit more about my concern that blogs, forums, and wikis all fall short of the ideal environment for information exchange / communication / enlightenment. He basically asked what was needed to create a better environment and I answered:

I don’t have a good solution in mind but it seems to me the analog offline is something like a party or informal conference space (e.g. the Meet the Engineers session at Google Dance though it ended too early for me to introduce myself to … you!).

In that environment there are “conversation leaders” who are the center of attention and gather people interested in a specific topic, but you can also break off to talk with somebody you just met there. Blogs seem to suffer from too much focus on the blog author and forums from too much focus on worthless or off topic comments. Wikis …. just don’t usually work well due to lack of participation.

I have a feeling the “solution” may come from virtual spaces like SL or game environments which can leverage available technology (e.g. web search, messaging, threaded conversations) with the social component we all seek as primates.

…..hmmmm … I’m also thinking that the dialogs at Myspace, though often painfully superficial or bizarre, are more “real” and interactive than many in the tech or political blog space. There, the comments have a higher profile than in conventional blogs and incline users to bounce from one member to another based on the comment streams.

Kiko.com sells for $258,100 on Ebay today. No champagne glasses came with this deal.

I feel bad for the Kiko folks even though they are but a handful of the millions of workers who live in the shadow of the search giants, hoping they’ll toss a golden bone or two out now and then. Kiko’s calendar application was probably the victim of Google’s free calendar, as some of the analytics programs are victims of Google’s brilliant plan to distribute Urchin (now google analytics) free to all. Brilliant because it lets you track PPC campaigns and will likely serve to increase Google’s PPC revenues even as people become more savvy about their traffic and PPC spend.

Of course at 258k somebody may be able to turn this around into something profitable. As with Real Estate “fiascos” that go broke sometimes it’s the second team of managers who can come in and, with a much lower capitalization cost, turn the biz around. I doubt it in this case though.

Me? Sue Yahoo!? Sure, what the heck.

The “Checkmate Strategic Group, Inc.” of Florida has been sending me notices about why I should jump on the click fraud bandwagon and help them sue Yahoo! as part of their class action Yahoo! lawsuit because I have bought Pay Per Click ads over the years, and as everybody knows some of that money went to pay fraudsters.

With a name like “Checkmate Strategy Group” they must be good – or at least be good marketers, since I think the main goal on these suits is to pay out some pittance to the class masses and land several million for the firm.   Hey, you can trust those “Checkmate Strategy Group” guys in a way you would not trust “Vegas Craig’s $2 legal opinions dot com”.    Sorry, no offense to Vegas Craig.

Ha – it’s sort of like PPC in reverse where Yahoo will lose or settle and “return”, say,  five hundred million nickels and dimes and quarters to hundreds of thousands of advertisers in the form of $100 here and $1000 there, while the CheckMate Group gets to keep 100 million nickels and dimes and quarters which is a LOT of  cold, hard cash.  100 million dimes is ten million dollars – I bet that sure beats ambulance chasing.

As much as I like retribution for the shameful lack of oversight on the part of Search Engines since PPC ads took off,  I think Google rather than Yahoo’s been the overwhelming beneficiary of all those ill gotten fraudulent PPC gains in the form of a clicked nickel here and a dime there.   They got off easy with a recent $90 million settlement.

So, on second thought maybe I won’t sue Yahoo! cuz I like those guys.  They are doing great 2.0 stuff  all over the place and opening up data and maps and cool stuff.

On the other hand I sure could use a few of those shiny nickels back ….

Little Miss Sunshine * * * *

This excellent film reflects on the ironies and quirks of the American middle class experience as it follows a family on their roadtrip to a California beauty pageant for little girls. Alan Arkin is the explosive grandpa, Greg Kinnear his son the wannabe motivational speaker, Toni Collette the strugging wife with a teen who refuses to speak and a bright and enthusiastic daughter. The cast is simply superb both individually and together. Little Miss Sunshine succeeds where hollywood typically fails miserably by bringing complex, funny, and tragic characters together and making us care about them all.

Todd Davidson of Oregon is the State Tourism Director of the Year

Congratulations to my pal Todd Davidson who was just named State Tourism Director of the Year by the Travel Industry Association of America.    This is one of the top awards in travel and it’s great to see him win it.   I worked with Todd back in the day when I was doing a lot of regional and state tourism work for Oregon and I’m so glad to see him honored in this way.   Congratulations Todd!