The rumors of the death of Web 2.0 have been greatly exaggerated

The always insightful Venture Capitalists Peter Rip and and Jeff Clavier are speculating about what’s up with Web 2.0. Peter’s suggesting that there’s a lot more sizzle than steak in the whole Web 2.0 equation while I get the idea from Jeff’s writing and some of his excellent presentations at Mashup Camps that he thinks there is a lot of life left in the new web world.

However the most striking item along these lines was Don Dodge’s recent mini-investigation that suggested the average VC may be losing money based on the fact that it appears more is going into the new web than is coming out of it. I hope Peter and Jeff shine some light on this eventually.

Oscars look out – The YouTube Video Awards are exploding in a microwave near you.

Pete reports that YouTube will announce today their version of the Oscars – a “Best clips of 2006” sort of Academy Awards for YouTube. Scoble suggests it’ll be a way to find “more great video” but I’m skeptical.

Hmmm – After YouTube eliminates all the copyrighted clips, SEO marketing scam clips, and lame junk will there be anything left to win the awards?

“And the Oscar for best explosion in a Microwave goes to ….”

Although I’m a fan of the YouTube concept of user driven content freely and easily distributed, and I see this as a key transition to a vide-ized world, I’m intrigued by how little discussion there is about how lacking in quality are 99.9% of YouTube videos. I see it as a testament to the alarming lack of creativity in the techno-savvy population, especially when you consider that those uploading are, on average, MUCH smarter and probably more creative than the people who have not figured this stuff out yet.

As things shake out we will hopefully see improvements and creativity flow to the clip medium, and we are also seeing glimmers what is potentially the highest use of video sites – news and clips of things that cannot or will not make it to conventional media. Things like eyewitness stories from Iraq and closed societies like North Korea, or small town football games so Grandpa can cheer on the kid from 3000 miles away.

All these types of media, in abundance, would demonstrate the huge potential of citizen driven media, but this stuff is pretty lacking right now on YouTube, which favors at it’s best *clever* junk clips like exploding bottles of Coke, microwaveable silliness, or Dell Laptops.

So, good luck to all the nominees for best clips of 2006. All 100,000,000 of you. And may the best exploding Coke bottle win!

Travel, 21st Century Style

A German Artificial Intelligence lab is working on a travel information network that will use on board navigation to alert drivers to  trouble down the road.     Working in real time the system would alert drivers just a few minutes down the road to dangers ahead.   As autos get smarter and transportation info networks evolve we should see a lot of benefits.  Traffic congestion could be reduced substantially in metro areas simply by providing “early warning” to commuters via websites and alternative routing using on board navigation systems.    Rural problems tend to arise from weather problems and this type of information is already flowing online, though it’ll really be useful when drivers can easily access this information from their cars.     An example is Oregon’s TripCheck website which displays road cams and conditions information and Yahoo’s integration of mapping and traffic information for some metro areas.

BBC Report

SmartKom Website (warning – this odd site is NOT the way to write for a non-technical audience, or even for a technical one?)

Who owns your attention anyway?

Too deeply buried in the (very interesting) discussion here  and here bout how hard it is to get enough traffic to a website to make it generate big money is a more provocative question, to wit:

Who owns YOUR attention and how much is your attention worth?

Big players are making huge profits reselling your attention in the form of placing targeted advertising while you search and surf for info. I have no complaints about that in principle (in fact I feed my kids from that!) , and even agree, somewhat reluctantly, with the assertion that advertising can often enhance the search experience by providing you with sales info on products related to your searches and surfing.

However I’m not sure the power curve is properly placed right now. Rather the big players like Yahoo, Google, MS call most of the shots and reap most of the profits while we, the little sheeples, use their (good) services, often at no charge. It’s certainly a win-win scenario for most, but you can make a strong case that Google, as the big recipient of the big bucks, wins more than you do. Frankly though I don’t know the equation here – what am I worth to Google or Yahoo or MSN?

Over at Battelle’s during a discussion of Microsoft’s new plans to pay big users to use MS products a reader suggested it would take over $50 per month for him to switch to MS search rather than his preferred Google. This raises a very interesting question about what he’s worth to them. I wrote over there:

Pay to use may be the shape of things to come as users begin to realize that they, and not the big players, are the key to internet success. Yaacov’s point is key – would he really want $600 annually to use MS search? If so he’s not typical. I bet you could get most people to abandon Google in favor of LIVE (which is close, but not as good as Google), for $50 per year or less.

In fact I bet you could get most people to switch engines for $10 per month and some for $5 or less. Why don’t they do it? MS had plans and I think they eventually will try this “pay to search” model, which is strong and moves closer to the user ideal of owning their own attention.

When you sell my attention to the highest bidders, shouldn’t I get a piece of the action?

Another related NYT Article

Poli techs may rule the 2008 election?

In 2004 the internet was credited with much of the early success, and even the later flame out, of the Howard Dean Campaign, though it was not considered a major factor in the Kerry or Bush campaigns.

Fast forward to the already hopping 2008 presidential campaigns where most observers, including the New York Times are suggesting the internet will play a significant strategic and marketing role for most if not all candidates vying for the US Presidency.

Who would benefit most from a “web centric” campaign system? Hard to say since onliners, especially those who blog regularly, are a curious blend of outspoken conservatives and liberals (I’d say more conservative banter on average).

At first glance it seems Barack Obama would have the online edge as he is arguably the most charismatic, young, and hip candidate and should play well with the young internet audience. However in an election the blog banter will probably drive the discussion of the candidates and it’s hard to predict how well prominent blogs like DailyKos or Drudge will process candidate information.

The transparent right wing bias of Fox News pales in comparison to bloggers like Anne Coulter or Michelle Malkin whose “frothing at the mouth” style is fun too read but hardly generates the intelligent reflection that best serves the democratic process.

However, elections aren’t won on deep reflection or discussion of issues. They are now based largely on careful modelling of primary states combined with targeted negative campaign ads on television combined with superficial media analysis of small gaffs or personality quirks.

Maybe a political technology injection is just what Doctor Democracy has ordered.

The Perfect Storm * * * 3/4

This excellent film from 2000 really seems to capture the feel of the east coast fishing life and contains excellent, but not overdone, special effects. Based on the real story about a huge Atlantic storm the film follows several fisherman as they head out to sea.

The performances are uniformly excellent with George Clooney, Mark Whalberg, John C. Reilly, and William Fichtner as crew on the Andrea Gail.

Fixed mindset vs Growth mindset = Microsoft mindset vs Google mindset?

Google’s legendary success, especially in light of Microsoft’s lackluster performance, leads one to wonder about the differences at these two techno behemoths.

Stanford Magazine has a nice feature on the work of Carol Dweck on personal achievement. Here is a summary of the work in a single diagram.

Perhaps the big difference between Google and Microsoft is that the Google culture inspires what Dweck calls a “Growth Mindset”, which the MS culture inspires the “fixed mindset”.

Supporting this model is the idea that where MS seems to ignore criticism Google often embraces it. Also, Google remains open to change – flexible – while Microsoft seems to resist change or even force square pegs into round holes with bloated or “bad fit” applications. For Google, the modifications to the world view are reflected in Google products. This leads to the simpler, more friendly technologies Google is known for.

Meanwhile the MS products rely more on their virtual OS monopoly, big businesses reluctance to change, and their sheer size which allows them to move the market.

Where does Yahoo fit in all this? (disclaimer – I have Yahoo stock) . I think they are the sleeper here, with a culture and people that have the potential to adopt the growth mindset but are currently stymied by market forces and the Google glow.

Related:  Scoble today bashes his ex, Microsoft, for talking BS before action.

Travelers Advantage is a Traveler’s DIS advantage

It should be called Traveler’s DisAdvantage

I’ve had really bad results with Travelers Advantage over many years of membership. The only reason I stick with this horrible service are the “bribe” rebate coupons they send each year when I threaten to cancel. These roughly cover the cost of this horrible travel service but it’s time to get rid of it. I think the “hotels at half price” may still be about the same as online pricing if you have the time to mess with it and make a lot of calls but their call in reservations system is scandalously expensive given that you are *paying them* to find deals. I’d like a *single example* of TA beating Hotwire pricing for comparable hotels or a few examples of them beating out a hotel search.

Example: Booking for a specific Days Inn in CA today I was getting many different rates. I called TA and asked them to match the online price. Nope, they said, and suggested deceitfully that they were using “real time” rates and probably I could not get the lower rate. Travelers Advantage had $75 plus taxes where my initial search gave me $67 including taxes. I pulled up their “low price guarantee” and read it to the customer servicer who just kept insisting on the high rate. Although it’s possible they would have eventually refunded the difference I’ve seen such “guarantees” before and they often try to take advantage of loopholes and BS. I didn’t want to book and then hope to get justice months later.

So… back to Days Inn website which had even lower rates than earlier (or I missed an option there), so I went ahead and booked at 204+tax for the 4 nights vs the 300+tax I would have paid Travelers disAdvantage.

But here’s the funny part: After I booked at Days a chat box came up saying ‘hey, would you like to save $30 on today’s reservation? Sure I said. Up came this: “JOIN TRAVELER’S ADVANTAGE!”

I explained I’d already joined and they gave me a higher rate than I’d got -literally- one second ago from this website and asked why.

She never answered me, just disconnected. Sad, but at least I got my good rate in spite of all the wasted time with 1) My existing Travelers Advantage Membership and 2) Another prospective Travelers Advantage Membership.

PT Barnum would be proud of you, Travelers disAdvantage, because you, like he, act on the knowledge that a sucker is born every minute.

Girl Scout Cookies are a great donation – not a bakery scandal

The Girl Scout Cookie economy is substantial.    I’m still looking for data but it appears to be an economy of …. get this … about seven hundred million dollars annually.    Given that they are only selling the boxes for a week or so per year I think we may want to cut GSA loose on ideas for balancing the federal budget by increasing cookie sales.

Source for 200 million boxes

At $3-5 per box I was concerned that the cookie company might be exploiting the Girl Scouts because cookie sales to people, as economists like to say, have fairly inelastic pricing that is not really subject to market conditions.   You pay what they charge and consider it a good deed.  Obviously the cookies don’t cost much to produce based on market driven pricing for similar products at the supermarket.

But it appears the baker generally gets under $1 per box and the rest goes to the very good cause of GSA as I learned from this great breakdown on the Lac Baie Girl Scouts website.

Cost per box at this council: 3.50

Cookie Company–85¢

Troop–48¢ – 65¢

                        -day and overnight trips

                        -service projects

                        -camping events

                        -special programs and activities


Support Services to all Troops/Girls–$1.87

                        -Financial assistance for girls

                        -Subsidize council sponsored program events and activities

                        -Adult volunteer and older girl trainings

                        -Outdoor education, camping and programs

                        -Maintenance of two camps and a program center

                        -Membership publications

                        -Travel opportunities for girls and adults

I also learned that each council sets their price and negotiates independently with the baker.   Not sure why though.   Here in Southern Oregon $4 gets you a box.

Therefore – you can feel comfortable buying more Girl Scout Cookies!

Disclaimer:  We have a scout in the house 

Backyard NeXT Cube | San Jose

Backyard NeXT Cube | San Jose

Originally uploaded by ldandersen.

This is a great picture and concept by Ian Anderson of a NEXT Computer, Steve Jobs project that was once hailed as the next big thing, valued at about $15,000 way back in the day of 1980s….. It’s sitting in a lawn now, worthless except as memorabilia of digital days gone by.

Unlike many other “heirlooms”, old computers tend to drop 90-99% of their value after only a few years. Better, faster machines crop up faster than you can order a new PC from Dell.

I think this is important not just as a noteworthy “computers lose value”, but also as a bellweather of the new digital economy where *things* are not really valuable, rather it’s the things *abilities* that are valuable and the abilities are rapidly improving