Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Ad-proaching a Singularity

This weekend, stuck in the land of dial-up, I paged through a print motorcycle magazine and compared the articles against the advertisments. All the ads were for gear, motorcycle shops, or vehicles to haul your motorcycles. Essentially, indistinguishable from the articles themselves. You can do the same with any reasonably niche dead tree publication.

The closer a publication moves to the right of the sketch above (going more niche) the more ads = information. The further to the left (going more general) the more ads are a distraction.

You’re already familiar with the Long Tail, so you already know this.


“Only 0.04% of those people who got the ads on their screens bothered to click on them. [Luke Mitchell] had expected at least 1% to respond.” -Catherine Holahan, BusinessWeek

“[Facebook is] advancing narcissism — which isn’t really making advertising any better — people will enhance their profiles to get better treatment from advertisers.” – Ester Dyson

“Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information.” – Dave Winer

Sunday, 19 February 2006

EdgeIO – Listing First Impressions

I received the preview password to EdgeIO.com today, Mike Arrington‘s new project to aggregate all blog posts using the tag 'listing' at a single site, all organized and such as you’d expect from a classifieds site.

Since I’m trying to sell a house and blogging about it, seemed like a perfect opportunity to test it out.

It’s a slick system. I added ‘listing’ to my WordPress categories, flagged the post with it and a handful of other categories, hit Publish in WordPress, and EdgeIO sucked them right in.

After that, I claimed the post and added a handful more tags and the price. I had more luck with the hidden span claim method than the xml-rpc method.

The most interesting bit – despite having the ZIP Code and address throughout the post, EdgeIO didn’t know the location, until I set my location in my profile. Then like magic it was updated. Good thing my current location and the location of the house is the same.

If you have a preview password, you can check out the EdgeIO listing for the house.

The idea that work I’m doing already (writing to my blogs) can be leveraged in a useful way is very powerful. I can see the same type of aggregating-the-edges system for reviews (music, movie, product).

There’s an undercurrent of concern EdgeIO highlights – multiple silos of tag clouds. The same word in Flickr, Technorati, Del.icio.us, Upcoming.org, 43Things, et. al, bring up very different types of information.

EdgeIO has essentially declared ‘listing’ to have a specific, universal meaning (“something for sale”). If another, existing tag cloud agreed – hell – if all of them agreed on the same meaning, EdgeIO turns invisible. Either becoming the enabling technology behind all the other sites (as NavTech is to mapping) or disappearing altogether.

Friday, 16 December 2005

The Problems with Podcast Directories

I had a great lunch with Paul Cantrell today at Sushi Tango. Oh, and if you need an idea for lunch, ask Paul. He listed off a half-dozen other places that sounded just as fantastic.

One of the many things we discussed was the problem of podcast ratings and categorization – i.e. the problem of finding interesting podcasts.

At the bottom of each post here on the Work Better Weblog (and many of the other sites I contribute to) you’ll see a star rating. Click it if something I say resonates with you – don’t if it doesn’t. I offer it as a low-investment feedback mechanism. It’s cheaper than writing a comment and only slightly-more expensive than reading the post itself.

Like all feedback mechanisms – those most likely to bother are those at the poles (polls) – why speak up if you’re not the choir or in the wrong church altogether?

The number to pay attention is the number of votes – not the rating itself. So yes, an overall rating of 2.5 with 10 votes would be a good thing. In the end, our individual rating criteria are very different. Is this rating in comparison to the previous post? Another post on the same topic on a different weblog? How well my writing went with your morning coffee? Is 5 good or is 1 better?

The star is only a single indicator. Top rated posts on this blog will be different than top rated posts that I’ve written, than, well, you get the picture. How does a 4 at podcasts.yahoo.com compare to a 5 at Podcast Pickle to a 0 at Podcast Alley? Given how niche anything in a weblog or podcast is – the qualifiers of what these ratings mean are a mile long.

AmigoFish has promise – its collaborative filter + RSS feed sends new stuff directly to my feedreader – based on what I and others have rated – then provides an easy way to go back and finish the loop. Problem is (like all the directories) ratings are applied channel-wide and there are a lot of open loops.

I’ve got a channel over at GigaDial – Garrick’s Podcast Picks. It’s an on-going list of podcasts that I’ve found exceptional (35 as of this writing). Here’s the 9-step process for a item to get added to the list:

  1. A podcast finds its way into my feedreader
  2. It gets transferred into my iTunes’ Unlisted Podcast smart playlist
  3. It comes up on shuffle
  4. I listen and don’t hit ‘next’
  5. It resonates with me
  6. I remember I liked it the next time I’m at my computer
  7. I click the ‘add to podcast picks’ bookmarklet in my browser
  8. I search for the specific podcast in their directory (not everything is in there)
  9. I find the podcast and add it to the list

I gotta wanna – I’m just saying. So, this means something and I’m only going to do it once. Now, unless I take the extra step of telling the publisher I’ve added them – they’ll never know they connected. Same is true at all the other directories. That sucks. More than Earthlink advertisements in podcasts.

Within the RSS 2.0 spec, there’s an optional category tag, at the channel and item levels. It’s a free-form field – can be anything you’d like. Anything. If it’s a series of characters – it’s a category. And it can be different item to item, podcast to podcast.

Reminds me of a scene in a quiz show sketch from MTV’s 90s comedy show ‘The State’:

“Name a type of car.”
“Yes, blue can be a type of car.”

So, why are all the directories shoehorning podcasters into 15 main, meaningless sections when each podcaster could declare their own unique categories – plural – and standout?

A single-dimension directory is like trying to make money hosting podcasts or sanitizing telephones – it’s only fulfilling at the most cursory level. This is why Google is still the best podcast directory – it takes very specific queries, ones with multiple qualifiers. Then returns fulfilling results.

Bringing me to the podcast directories splogging up the search results. Yes, podcast directories are guilty of the same crime as the the other PageRank-loving sploggers – taking an RSS feed and republishing it for higher placement. 6 of the 10 items on the first page of Google results for “first crack podcast” are directories echoing one another. This redundancy makes each result less valuable.

Update: 9 Feb 06, If you’d like a more colorful read of the same issues, The Bman at FalconTwin.com delivers

Sunday, 30 October 2005

The Niche is You

There must be something in the air, Seth Godin picked up the ‘who’s the audience when everyone publishes?’ argument.

Seth is of course right – the cost of the production is quickly reaching zero. Fantastic blog software like WordPress is free – just the cost of implementation. Other hosted services are free. Once a blog is up, it’s one step away from offering audio or video. Hurrah.

I’m unclear about what Seth is asking here:

So there’s more, but is there better?

Better than what? Than mass-media? Than what doesn’t exist today?

From my perspective, having more voices is better than having fewer. Knowing that everyone I have a personal relationship with can share video, audio, or text with me (and everyone else in their circle) easily is better than not. I’m recalling Dan Gilmor‘s quote,

“Everyone will be famous for 15 people.”

A while back, Eric Larson from the Ericast asked what his niche was. I responded, the niche was him. If people want to hear what he has to say – there’s only one place to go.

Coincidentally, I think Godin proves this point in his last paragraph.

“It didn’t matter if it was the best movie Walt [Disney] ever made, because it was the only one right now.”

Replace “Walt” with your nephew, with your best friend, your sister, with Seth Godin, Dave Slusher, Garrick Van Buren, or anyone you’d like to hear from regularly. It doesn’t matter if anything from them is the best ever (on any scale) it’s the only thing from them.

In the choice between an expensive, high production-value, special-effects laden, movie and one from someone I have a personal relationship with like Chuck Olsen, I’ll pick Chuck every time. If I’m looking for tips on choosing a good bottle of wine, I’ll choose Tim Elliott over Wine Spectator every time.

The bar is a lot higher – for movie studios, broadcast radio, television networks, and newspaper companies. For now they’re competing with your nephew, your best friend, your sister, and everyone else that doesn’t have to make millions of dollars in profit to continue – just something to say and people that care about them.

“We are people with hearts, lives, families, aspirations, hope and something to say. That’s by far the more interesting story, and it has legs, it’s going somewhere, unlike the tail, which is a vestige of times gone by, when you could count on people to be idiotic couch potatoes, ready to be harvested by advertisers with their intrusive and mindless ‘messages.'” – Dave Winer

So, yes – More is Better.