Mark Cuban: Companies that Live by Free Stuff will Die by Free Stuff


The always clever, almost always insightful, and sometimes good dancer Mark Cuban has a great post today about “Freemium” companies.   Cuban suggests:

Its not that they can’t make money offering free. They can , have and will. The problem is that they know that its literally  impossible  to be the king of the mountain forever. But that won’t stop them from trying. And that is exactly what will kill them.

Their better choice would be to run the company as profitably as possible, focusing only on those things that generate revenue and put cash in the bank.  More importantly, when you see your BlackSwan company appear and you know they will kick your ass, rather than ramping up to try to compete, get out. Sell. Or maximize cash and pay your shareholders every penny you have.

Like every company in the free space, your lifecycle has come to its conclusion. Don’t fight it. Admit it.  Profit from it.

I think Cuban is right on, though I think he’d also agree that most companies won’t take his advice, especially Google which stands to gain (but also lose) the most from maintaining their massive search revenue and general online dominance.

http://blogmaverick.com/2009/07/05/the-freemium-company-lifecycle-challenge/

Twitter is playing a significant role in the Iran Political Crisis


Until recently critics of Twitter were quite reasonably skeptical of claims that Twitter significantly influenced the US election or that Twitter was bringing more than trivial bits of real time news to the web, but the Iranian Election shows how important the service has become as a global communication and democratization tool.

Before CNN was adequately covering the sweeping events in Iran Twitter was being used in and out of the country to keep people informed even as other social networks and computer services were shut down.

Although I’m not entirely clear on infrastructure issues, I think Twitter will be able to make it much harder for anti-democratic forces to stifle messaging via the service compared to the more complicated services like Facebook.

Kudos to the service for rescheduling a major infrastructure upgrade until tomorrow, recognizing that Twitter is of increasing importance in making sure news and information flows freely in and out of Iran during the crisis there: Twitter Blog

CNET – Twitter is Confusing Censors in Iran

China shuts access to Twitter, Flickr, Bing, Live, Hotmail, Blogger via the “Great Firewall” filters


China is closing down access to various internet services as they approach they anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989.   The early report from TechCrunch  says that Twitter, Flickr, Bing, Live, Hotmail, Blogger have all been made hard to access via the “Great Firewall” filters.     I did notice when in China last year that there are various programs like ‘Great Ladder” that allow people to bypass these filters, but obviously not many are going to have the combination of nerve and savvy to do this.

I believe that China’s censorship policies are probably counterproductive *even to the Chinese Government’s goals* in the long term, and I’d sure like to find a way for the internet community to make this clear to China’s leaders.   Ironically China’s leadership has done a remarkable job transitioning away from the bulky, centralized, bureaucratic economy that had been stifling progress for decades.    China’s citizens now enjoy a higher level of prosperity and *economic* freedom than they arguably have ever had in history.  Much of this prosperity is the result of producing goods for the US market.   What exactly does the government think will happen if they allow more open dialog in China?     I’d suggest they’ll find this would tend to reduce the tensions created by unhappy citizens rather than increase them.    Suppression of dissent in Tibet routinely brings international scorn to China, where a more open dialog will bring praise, respect, and support.

China needs to realize that the world’s fascination and respect for China’s culture and international influence will be enhanced by free speech, not reduced.

TechCrunch UK is reporting on this and I’m looking for more direct information now.

More from China’s CN Reviews

Tweets in Space from Nasa


I’ve been writing a lot lately about Twitter for many reasons, but I think two very good examples of why Twitter represents a key social media breakthrough are the upcoming Twitter tweets from space by NASA astronaut Mark Polansky and last month’s contest for followers between celebrity Ashton Kutcher and CNN news.   (Kutcher won by topping a million Twitter followers first).      Note that NASA and Kutcher – arguably two of the more technically adept big name brands, are not using Facebook to push content and interact with fans, they are using Twitter.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a very open, interactive, public venue.    It’s almost ideally suited to superficial yet “somewhat intimate”  interaction with both a small and large audience, and I think this is the key brilliancy of Twitter.    It serves both as a messaging system with friends  or business associates but also as a kind of community public square that allows you to interact with millions of other people in an informal yet direct way.    Pushing out a note to the world via Twitter, especially if you have a lot of people following you, is likely to result in fast, often rewarding feedback.

For well over a decade  it has been clear that the internet is about *people* much more than it is  about technology or computers.   However it’s only in the last few years that the barriers to entry, the familiarity with the tools, widespread access to broadband, mobile phones, and more of the human components of the internet have come together in the necessary ways to push people ahead of technology as the key online consideration.   Twitter remains at the same time superficial and profound and is the culmination of that online socialization paradigm.    With only tens of millions using Twitter and over 200 million on Facebook there is clearly  plenty of  room for Facebook success, but I believe we’ll see Twitter continue to grow more rapidly and become the key global messaging tool – primarily because it’s so simple to use and much friendlier for mobile applications.

Yes, you should be on Twitter too and let me know so I can follow you!    Joe Duck on Twitter

The Stupid File: Twitter as Cult, destroyer of moral compasses. BALONEY!


One of the most intriguing and most frustrating aspects of the “new media” is how foolish the stories become as writers search for meaning amidst the ocean of change and sea of drivel that makes up the modern information infrastructure aka “Them Dang Interwebs”.

Today’s foolishness takes the form of Jeremy Toeman’s article “It’s Official, Twitter is a Cult” where Jeremy manages to mangle the meaning of a cult about as many times as he invokes it in criticizing Twitter.    Another article actually suggests Twitter is wreaking havoc with moral compasses but I’m not sure I’ll even dignify that nonsense with a read, especially because I find Twitter to be the *least morally offensive* of the many internet venues where I hang out.

Yo TwitterCritterCizers, when is the last time a group of your friends drilled a bunch of wells to give extremely poor people in Africa water?  On Twitter the answer is “Last Saturday “, when the Charity:Water effort, funded by hundreds of thousands of small donations from Twitter folks, began a project to bring clean water to Africa.    This act alone defies much of the cult charge since it is clearly benefitting people who are far outside the “Twitter” network and represents the opposite of a totalitarian, elitist approach to social interaction.   But let’s go through the “Cult” charges one by one to note how backwards this analysis really is.

I’m harping on this partly becuase I’m a twitter fan / evangelist but also because the promise of social media is absolutely spectacular, and I think Twitter may come the closest to realizing that promise for a mass audience.    Twitter and most other social media experiments represent humankind’s best effort to date to create broad based, non-elitist, participatory democracies and social networking infrastructures.    Twitter *defies* the cult and elitist mentality that is still pervasive in legacy human interaction, especially in religion and politics where money, charisma, and connections completely trump solid qualifications and personal virtues.

At the risk of falling into Jeremy’s  trap and talking about a stupid article, I really think its’ a good idea to debunk this mythology before the world comes to an end and only me and the glorious Twitter people survive the apocalypse , whoops…. I mean before it gets out of hand.

  1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
    Nope, in fact it’s hard to even talk about Twitter to friends, relatives, or readers of this blog who mostly think it’s silly.    I like to evangelize blogging but don’t do that much with Twitter, and  in Twitter land Twitter rejection is expected and OK.   No cultishness in the “coercion” department.
  2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society
    Ummmm.  No.  There are no real “kingpins” on Twitter.  In fact the founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, are not even the most followed and don’t participate in Twitter all that actively with comments.   Both are pretty mild mannered geeky guys who live modest lifesyles and largely shun the fame and personal power Twitter could bring to them with the simple act of more postings and calls to action.   Furthermore, on Twitter you can follow anybody you care to, and many will probably follow you back if you don’t annoy them with appeals to buy things.   This is called an “egalitarian society” and is the opposite of a totalitarian one.
  3. Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma. Even the author of the article states this one is “a stretch”.   A stretch to utter nonsense.
  4. It believes ‘the end justifies the means’ in order to solicit funds/recruit people
    Huh?   Twitter does not solicit funds or actively recruit people.   It is free, it is open, you can leave, join, participate at your own whim.
  5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society
    First, it has little wealth at this time.  Twitter’s looking to monetize its spectacular success and most folks hope they can do it, but one thing that is clear is that unlike cults Twitter won’t ask the members for anything – not even active participation.   More importantly Twitter’s  is getting used to generate a lot of money for *charities* and good works like the Charity:Water project listed above.

Conclusion:   Twitter is not a cult, it’s a minor social miracle.

PS  To avoid an untimely demise pass this Twitter propaganda on to 1000 of your closest friends and relatives and follow @joeduck at Twitter

Comscore: Twitter Traffic Explodes


Twitter continues to soar in terms of traffic and Comscore reports on some of the reasons Twitter is one of the most interesting applications to come around in a long time.   I think the demographics analysis helps us understand why “Twitter is different”.  For the first time in Social Media history the earliest adopters of the application are not the youngsters, but rather a very representative cross section of America.   This is important because it’s an indication Twitter will have considerable staying power and also is appealing to a crowd that has the resources to make it more valuable than otherwise, and potentially more valuable than Myspace or Facebook, the clear 800 pound social media gorilla that remains the most significant player by far in the social media space.    However at Twitter’s current rate of growth it will surpass Myspace by next year and Facebook within a few years, though it’s  not clear  from this the data that Twitter will continue at the current phenomenal growth rates.

From my own experiences I do think Twitter represents something really different and superior to the Facebook experience, and that is the real time large group interaction.   On Facebook I usually don’t have enough friends online at the same time to interact, and more importantly I usually just want to say “hi”, trade a bit of news, and eavedrop on other conversations.   This is easier on Twitter.  Much like a large party filled with interesting people where you know “some” people and are learning to meet others, Twitter  allows you to follow interesting threads and then hop over to some other one, in the meantime dropping notes or your own quips as you hop around.   It matches will with the short attention spans that are natural to our human conditions but also allows detailed follows ups with experts or company representatives or close friends.

Watch Twitter – it is the most significant new online application in many years.

Twitter’s Discovery Engine: The End of Civilization As We Know It.


Sure it’s too early to know how the advent of “Social Media” will revolutionize the internet landscape but it will *certainly* revolutionize the online experience dramatically.     It’s been slowly happening for some time – perhaps 2 years or so – but I think we’re now at something of a tipping point where we’ll see widespread mainstream adoption of social media  – I predict Twitter will be the big winner in this space though there is plenty of room for Facebook to maintain the huge presence it now has online.

One of the most provocative upcoming items is the Twitter Discovery Engine, which will be Twitter’s attempt to allow users to  mine the information from the massive Twitter community.    They may not get it right at first but eventually we’ll see that unlike Google search – which is great for static information – Twitter will be able to connect you to a “human expert” about as  fast as you can Tweet out a 140 character note or click on their  “Follow” button.

This is very important because despite many foolish reports suggesting that Google has “solved” the problem of internet search they have done nothing of the kind.   Google’s very good at finding a lot of material about issues that stay the same over the years such as historical events.  Yet Google’s regular search generally fails – and miserably – when you are trying to find real time information on current events.    Their blog search and news search are better for information that changes regularly or has changed recently, but with a robust Twitter search you’ll soon be able to interact with newsmakers and news events in real time, asking questions and offering your own input.

The internet has always been about people much more than it is about technology.   Google is a brilliant company but I’d suggest that Google will be seen in the future as being the *last* of the major internet players to rely primarily on their technological prowess rather than their social architectures.     The new game will be the integration of human experience and expertise with the blossoming online information landscape, and this game will dominate until we have very powerful and direct integration of human brains with online information sources – probably in about 10 years.  This brain/machine integration has already begun at a rudimentary level with Braingate and mainstream devices like the Emotiv headsets coming soon.

This social media revolution  is not just a profound new development in the history of human communication, it is a social evolution of biblical proportions, and the beginning of a redefinition of social interaction that will both enhance and undermine our tribal history of human socializing that goes back tens of thousands of years and tended to favor smaller groups, less democratic social heirarchies, and simpler forms of “friend or foe” interactions.   These social mechanisms served our evolutionary needs at the time, but are becoming outmoded as the global population and global interests  come together, and fast.

Welcome to the new age new media revolution.    It’s going to be neat but be sure to fasten your mental seatbelts because there will be  some Twitter turbulence ahead.

To Twitter or just copy Twitter?


In technology there are few more important questions than “What’s going to happen with Twitter”.    As with many early adopter issues, only the digerati and a few smart marketers understand how profoundly and importantly Twitter is reshaping the online landscape, giving a voice to millions who want to interact casually and superficially with … millions more.

This spinoff effort will be very interesting to watch as it’s a successful niche website that is  establishing a Twitter like interface:
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/03/27/a-twitter-spinoff-launches-for-moms/

The challenge here is that if every website you go to has it’s *own* chatting interface you’ll either 1) get ticked off or 2) spend the rest of your life interacting with people at all these sites.

The answer is not individual site chat areas, rather we need to integrate the real Twitter with websites.  (or some other chat standard,  but Twitter seems to be the right choice given it’s ease of use and exploding subscriber base)

Open ID, Facebook connect and Google Friend Connect and open social and Disqus (for blog questions) and many other applications  have the right general idea but nobody seems to be able to integrate all this across the board.   We need to be able to seamlessly move from site to site, carrying our identity along with us so we can comment and interact easily.

Google & Facebook & Twitter, oh my!


Silicon Alley Insider is discussing an interesting analysis suggesting that Facebook could be a “Google Killer” thanks to Facebook’s greater rate of growth and the suggestion that Facebook now accounts for 19% of incoming Google unique user traffic, up from 9% a year ago.

My intuitive take on this is that the analysis is misleading and seriously flawed for several reasons:

1) Rates of growth will tend to be vastly larger as sites approach the market saturation levels we have with Google and I think we may soon have with Facebook.      The new 800 pound Gorilla on the social scene is  Twitter which is growing at over 1000% last year.   You can’t 10x your current traffic for long without exhausting all people on earth, so all these rates must slow, and soon.     e.g. at 1000% annual growth with 5,000,000 unique users you’ll exhaust earth’s population in about 3 years, 2 months.

2) Twitter will chip away at Facebook user’s time online, and fast.    No major application has grown at the rate we see now at Twitter.    For many reasons we’ll see Twitter continue to grow explosively for at least a few years and I’ll be surprised if it does not rival Facebook within 3 years in terms of use.    Most high tech early adopters are tending to move away from time on Facebook and towards time on Twitter, and major media is showing a huge enthusiasm for promoting Twitter feedback on TV to mainstream America.   Twitter, not Facebook, is the application with the most disruptive potential.

3) Monetization of Social Media sucks, and will continue to suck.    Google can easily monetize searches for things where Facebook continues to struggle to find ways to turn the vast numbers of views into big money.   Although they are likely to make modest progress,  I do not see social networking as potentially all that lucrative where keyword search, almost by definition, remains the best high value internet monetizing framework.

4) The claim that 19% of Google uniques from Facebook  seems very, very dubious.    This number appears to be from Comscore and does not even make sense.   Facebook searches do not generally direct people to Google, so presumably this is suggesting that a staggering number of people leave Facebook to go do a  search at Google?    I’m trying to find more detail about this but it does not pass the sniff test even if they are simply stating that people tend to jump to Google after visiting Facebook, which is correlation and probably not causation.
This suggests that Facebook’s 236m uniques drive  (.19 x 772m) =     146m uniques to Google?         Something is  Facebook fishy here.

I am confident that all three of these applications will continue to thrive because each is filling a different online need and doing the job well.   There is no need to converge online activity more than has already been done.   For example it’s not inconvenient to switch to your banking or travel booking website for those tasks, and many probably prefer this to having a single “one stop shop” for all online activity.     Ironically Facebook’s attempts to imitate Twitter may actually accelerate the growth of Twitter which seems to be a better way to communicate quickly and effectively and superficially with many contacts.      Facebook, however, has been making good progress with their “open social” efforts that allow users to log in to other sites easily and then post blog comments and other activity to their Facebook account.     Facebook will thrive but as the recent revaluations / downward valuations suggest Facebook is no Google and will never be Google.    Search trumps social in terms of making money, and the mother’s milk of internet growth and to some extent  innovation is …. money   (though I’d say innovation is fueled by the lure of wealth as much as real wealth).

John Stewart Hates Twitter?!


Hey, John Stewart *hates* Twitter, falling for the correct but misguided criticism that  “it is superficial” .   News flash John – try watching your own network.   OF COURSE TWITTER IS SUPERFICIAL – that’s why it’s exploding in usage!

Let’s see how long Stewart can dodge the Twitter bullet that is becoming almost an essential piece of the interactive media landscape.

I’m having trouble embedding the Daily Show Video because the Daily Show and Viacom are not hip enough to allow YouTube to run these, giving them far more advertising and exposure than they get by restricting the clips to their own site. However, here’s the link if the videos does not appear below:
http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=219519&title=twitter-frenzy