Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo - Session Summaries Part 1

Although the WebGuild Web 2.0 conference started out strong I can't say it stayed that way the rest of the day. With each session being only 45-minutes it was hard to get past the basics that I think most people in the room are already comfortable with. Also the quality of moderators ranged from - 'why are you even here' to 'stop badgering the panelists' to 'great way to keep the conversation going.'

I attended 5 sessions, here are my key takeaways for the first two: Community Building and Social Media Apps in the Enterprise (I'll get to the others in my next post).

Community Building

Moderated by Tom Corthrel, Vice President of Lithium with the following panelists: Jonathan Abrams, Founder & CEO of Socializr, Scott Wilder, General Manager of Small Business Online Communities at Intuit and Sylvia Marino, Executive Director of Community Operations at

The session started off asking what platform the panelists had used to build their communities. Both Intuit and had parts of their communities built with Web Crossing. also uses MovableType 4 for their blogs - everything else was homegrown and in Socializr's case open source.

When asked the open ended question of how they define success it came back to the customer. The ultimate goal in each case was to enhance the customers experience and give them the information they are looking for. Here are a few specifics of what that broke down to:
  • Resolution Rates - the ability for users to solve user problems

  • User Engagement - how well the content was consumed

  • Community Enablement - allowing customers to build their own community and share resources with them

Then there was the question anyone who has tried to create a community has struggled with - how do you get people engaged and how do you motivate your thought leaders (particularly within the corporation)? Sylvia brought up the fact that Microsoft product managers are actually rated against the online product ratings. I personally like this approach and think it's the best way to get everyone thinking about the customer first - all of the time. Other softer approaches are to give people 'points for participation' and hope that the self gratification is enough to keep them engaged. Although I agree with Scott that a little hand holding can go a long way and of course Jonathan's point that you need to make it easy is a must.

Social Media Apps in the Enterprise

Moderated by Sylvia Marino, Executive Director of Community Operations at with the following panelists: Anshu Sharma, Senior Director of Platform Strategy at, Robert Rueckert, Senior Investment Manager at Intel Capital and Ajay Gandhi, Senior Director of Enterprise Social Computing at BEA Systems.

This session was focused around how enterprises use social media apps internally to communicate with each other. BEA Systems seems to have what many people talk about - a Facebook/LinkedIn-like platform that allows employees to find experts related to a specific topic. They do this primarily with tag clouds and ranking functionality. Although he admits it was a bit of a challenge to change people's behavior to do some of the "work" by tagging the content - the reputation-effect ended up being the motivator that got people on the bandwagon. With the "Semantic Web" some of this can be done automatically with search terms that were used to find the content (that would be cool).

An interesting point that Ajay brought up is the organizational complex that an app like this can create. When the new grad joins and is active in the internal communities and looking like the expert how is his/her boss going to feel about that? Maybe you don't need such a structured hierarchy anymore - one idea that Ajay brought up was the ability to capture knowledge and use semantics to recommend the right mix of people for a project team. I hear enterprise 3.0? I wonder how long it will take us to get there.

I really like one key point that Anabu made around 'security' - it sometimes seems like IT has taken security precautions so far that it has handicapped some corporations. When challenged about security, Anabu asked his IT group what their security policy was on email and phone calls. These are two modes of communication that employees within the enterprise have the ability to freely communicate with each other with "no control" of the content that gets out. His point: don't over think social media apps.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Break Blogging at the Web 2.0 Conference & Expo

I'm attending the WebGuild Web 2.0 Expo and it's been an entertaining start. My favorite keynote speaker was Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Although their site is anything but 2.0 - in fact Newmark said they were given too much credit by even calling it 1.0 and said it was more 0.1 (funny and true). Yet they haven't needed the fancy web design and features to build their 10B page views per month. The secret - "build a culture of trust" - "people need simple starting forward fast stuff that doesn't waste time" according to Newmark. Users of Craigslist can confirm that's the experience they expect and get from the site. What I really liked most about Newmark is that he's not going to sell out - he could be making way more money selling ads or even selling the company to the hungry eBay (who has managed to gain a small stake in the company) but Craigslist has been able to stay true to themselves and their mission.

The other keynote speaker was Gil Penchina of Wikia. Although I had seen wikia pages come up in my search results I was unaware of their mission - to extend the concept of Wikipeidia, an online encyclopedia to an online library. I was particularly interested in their initiative take search opensource. They have made progress and their goal is to make the tools and algorithms open. Since Yahoo couldn't hold their ground maybe Wikia is the right company to give Google a run for their money?

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Media - Same ol' Mistakes

Marketers are still trying to apply old rules to the new game. Thinking online video ads can be approached like TV ads is a mistake. In fact, a recent study noted that half of all respondents stopped watching online videos once they encountered in-stream advertisements (I know I would have done the same). Expecting viewers to sit through a 15-30 second commercial before getting to the actual content is not realistic in the online world. Heck, people don't even like watching commercials on TV and thanks to DVRs 53% of people don’t have to.

As with everything 2.0 there are some marketers that do this better than others -- those who are experimenting with using just a corner of the screen or placing the ads in separate screens all together are headed in the right direction. I think that there is a place for online video advertisements but we need stop thinking it's just a new kind of TV and come to the boardroom with a fresh new approach. The focus needs to be about making the ads relevant and non-disruptive.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Web 2.0 Predictions for 2008

As I wake up from my holiday hibernation I've been thinking about what the web 2.0 market is going to look like over the next year. So here are my predictions for 2008:

  1. Take it to Go. The iPhone was just the tip of the iceberg. Mobility is going to be increasingly popular and I think we'll see new and innovative ways to mobilize information.
  2. Consolidation - Mergers & Acquisitions. Already this year Plaxo put up their For Sale sign - I'll be particularly interested in how this one turns out since they are one of the few players with a business focus. However I think this is just one of many sales and/or merges we'll see in 2008 - along with a few IPOs.
  3. Social Networking Off to the Niches. MySpace and Facebook made their point with millions of users actively sharing, discussing and connecting with each other. With success comes followers - I think we're going to see a lot of 'social networks' popping up and that by the end of 2008 there will be a network for everyone (including everyone in business).
  4. Corporations Learn to Exhale - a Little. I still think we have a ways to go before most companies can be as open as Sun but this year we'll move from 'innovators' to 'early adopters' as F500 companies get closer to crossing the 'marketing 2.0' chasm.
  5. Widgets go Corporate. Widgets and web apps have entered the mainstream B2C market - what commercial company doesn't have one? In 2008 widgets will start to enter the corporate world - I think we'll see some business apps on Facebook too.
  6. Advertising Business Model Experimentation. Publishing companies are still trying to figure out how to best monetize the proliferation of user generated content. I think we'll see a few business models introduced and tested before we get it right. Which of course the market will change again.
  7. Second Life gets Competition. Despite the buzz and hype of Second Life I don't think they've moved fast enough to simplify the experience of virtual worlds for the masses leaving the door open for entry. I think we'll see a another major player in this space who will give Linden Labs a run for their money.