Thursday, February 28, 2008

(Off topic)(On point): Slice the pie

Have you heard of Slice the Pie?

Looks like a brilliant, brilliant move!

Analyze this....

Okay, we've been graphing other people a lot of late. So I figured now that the WeareIndia blog is entering it's second month(of being tracked...), we should graph ourselves, and see what's going on.

1) Here's the first set of graphs, representing our page views, number of unique visitors, and average time spent on the site.
- Page views are up: this is expected, given that traffic and posting frequency has increased..
- Absolute unique visitors are up: this is good news...more people, more new people...very nice!
- Average time on site is up: but marginally so...I'm going to look into this one during our next health checkup. I'd like to see this one become a little more steep than it is right now. Just a wee bit more steep....

2) Here's the second set of graphs, showing our 3 sources of traffic(direct visitors, visitors from referring sites, and visitors from search engines).

- Direct traffic is steady: which is what ZERO marketing and ZERO advertising typically reflects.
- Referral traffic is increasing: I trust you've read the power of links on the web?
- Search engine traffic just spiked: this looks like good news, right? But I looked harder, and found that people are showing up at our site for all the wrong reasons. We're doing a bad job of search engine optimization.
Lesson learned: getting traffic is easy, but getting quality traffic is key.

Overall, I think we need to work on increasing the average time spent on our site, and improve the quality of our search engine traffic. I have a feeling the two have some(not necessarily proportional) relationship to each other.

But here's my favorite graph. It's the loyalty graph. Of all the people that visit us often(at least more than once..), most people have visited us 51-100 times.

Our loyalty equation is that in total, 50% of our visitors have visited us between 15-100 times in the last 2 months.
Here's another way of looking at the same data:

Analyze that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MicroHoo, or StupidSoft?

At a time when Microsoft is busy fighting proxy wars, trying to make $40 billion acquisitions, and being fined with $1 billion in fines by the EU(more non-compliance's getting boring now), I find myself quite taken aback to hear Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft, saying things that could best be described as borderline idiotic.

The article in question is at the Washington Post.


1) "If we didn't succeed at the PC, they[GOOGLE] wouldn't have a business".
Okay, I need to show Craig Mundie this picture:

It's a picture of Herman Hollerith, and if Hollerith didn't succeed at punched cards(sometime in 1800), Microsoft wouldn't have a business.

2) "I don't think they can do anything we can't do"
Oh yeah? Let's see....better search, better email, an arguably better chat program, to name a few.
Where's your blogging platform acquisition, Craig? What happened to MSN Spaces? Can you get my enterprise connected without my having to deal with Active Directory?
What are you talking about? They do quite a few things you do, and they do it better.

3) "I'd like to think we're strategically open-minded, we've made adjustments [to our business model].
I'd like to see Google and someone else come up with something that really threatens our business model."
Hm. Check this graph out, Craig.

I'd like to think you're strategically saturated(ie. out of options), and that the adjustments you've made to your business model since 2002 have not helped you grow. And apparently, there was room for growth(see sharply rising red line..).
As far as someone threatening your business model goes, no one really gives a hoot about your business model, Mr. Mundie. It's inapplicable and obsolete.
And what's with the "I'd really like to see..", bit?? We both know that's a big, fat lie if there ever was one.

4) "They're sort of late to the cell-phone thing"
Well, they were sort of late on the search-thing too. And the Internet advertising thing. And the web-based e-mail thing. And the chat thing. What's your point, buddy?


Yeah, I'm really wondering about this Microsoft-Yahoo deal. A lot's been said, and hypothesized, but when the chief of strategy at Microsoft says really strange(dumb) things, I wonder if we will actually get to see the grand acquisition that will turn into MicroHoo, or if we will see Microsoft lose out on this bid and be made to look like StupidSoft?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kingdom 2.0

Last week was my "links" week. Lots of brilliant perspectives on linking to others on the net as a tremendous source of derivative value.

- Scott Karp started me off, with "
Reinventing journalism on the web...".
- Then, sometime mid-week, I ran into
Chartreuse and why Paris Hilton is famous. I thought this one was particularly brilliant.
- And then, Scott again topped off my reading this morning with how
Link Journalism could have transformed the NYTimes reporting on McCain ethics.

Somewhere in there, there was the whole "
TechCrunch Effect" thing going on w/ BubbleGen. The big question asked was if TechCrunch has peaked, given its recent downturn. I mean, they've gone through their highs and lows like everyone else, but the point that Umair Haque was making was that perhaps they're getting normalized.

I thought it was a valid question, but perhaps there needed to be more questioning along the lines of not just what TechCrunch could be doing right/wrong, but also about competitive dynamics vis-a-vis Mashable, Digg, ReadWriteWeb, and the gaining popularity of lesser traffic, but arguably better quality blogs like Sramana Mitra's.

Here's what I was thinking through all of this:

a) You need to know why you have a community to begin with. And it might be different from what you originally envisaged the community to be.

b) The more niche your community, the more loyal your audiences. To me, TechCrunch needs to evolve not based on localizing their geographical markets(, but by verticalizing their niche audiences(startups, venture capital, social networking, applications, etc.)

c) The stronger and relevant your niche associations(links to related content, for example), the more your loyal audiences keep coming back to you. You're giving them the content they
want, and the perspective they need.

I think this last bit is particularly important:

-- Your users don't NEED your content...they WANT it (because there are plenty other places they could get the same/similar content from).

-- Your users don't WANT your perspective...they NEED it (because you're their knowledgeable resource for rich information about their niche interests).

So what's the message? I have none..yet. But I'm going to give this some more thought over the next few days and see what floats.

I guess I'm a little tired of hearing that whole "content is king" line. Apparently, content ain't king any more.

So who's king? Or do democracies work better without a king?

CTO message: "iPhone rules. We need to be on it."

A longer version of this e-mail came in from Harshal a little while ago. Thought it should go up on here. If PC and Unix geeks with no prior Mac/Apple affiliation or bias are so moved, we need to get our butts moving on this.


iPhone delivers top-notch video. Like no other. Unsurpassed. Crystal-clear, smooth, high quality video.

No matter how much you dislike the iPhone(or "i-Culture"), you will instantly agree that its video delivery just leaves the competition drooling, and thinking about how to play catch-up to the standards set by this beautiful device.

You just need to watch a YouTube video(which looks like crap on a web browser) looking mouth-watering on an iPhone, to know what I mean. It's just hot, hot hot!!

One thing that’s missing: the 3G version of the iPhone. As a customer, I would never want to pay for a low bandwidth video rental service, so advent of a 3G iPhone is what will really bring about the inter-play of utility and entertainment(phone and media delivery).

I think the iPhone will change the mobile market with its capabilities to deliver mind boggling video on demand. YouTube was the first one to tap this market, but with the introduction of the iPhone Development SDK in late February, the iPhone opens up to 3rd party developers as well. We should see lots of interesting apps/services getting on the iPhone soon.

We need to get WeareIndia.TV on the iPhone.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

S3 uploads: a big piece falls into place...

We just got our ingestion & encoding system integrated with Amazon S3.

Took us all of 13 days (since my last post on this) to pull it off, but with some serious bloodshed by Harshal, we now have a big piece of our S3 puzzle resolved.

The challenge wasn't just uploading content, but uploading content in a way that tied in with our complex encoding architecture.
What was also interesting is that Harshal tells me we've moved from FTP, to HTTP POST submission, making the process a lot more secure(now that we're using security keys, security access keys, MD5 hash keys, and what not...!!).

Yes, this is a total pat-in-the-back time for us: first step to being frugally efficient about content delivery.

Stay tuned for some more updates.


Oh and the usual disclaimer quote from Mr. Wolfe: "Well, let's not start [ ] each others' [] quite yet. Phase one is complete, clean the car, which moves us right along to phase two, clean you two."


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Silly things on my mind today....

I'm puzzled.

Fake Steve Jobs made me laugh, and then I heard Tim Egan tripping out on his "Book Lust" post about how (the real) Steve Jobs was dumb because he said: "...people don't read any more".

So, do people really don't read any more? Or is it that people don't read books any more?
I'm leaning towards something like: people don't read books as much as they did before.

But does that mean people aren't reading as much as they did before?
Personally, I read more these days than I did..say...2 years ago. But my reading isn't as much on paper, as it is digital(you know...blogs, news sites, web sites, bla bla).
Bet you there are others like me.

The question is, am I contributing to the dissipation of book culture? I'm not a very micro level, I probably am.
But then, am I that passionate about books as a medium, to begin with? Probably not.

I thought Tim Egan somewhat accurately conveyed my general attitude towards reading: paper or plastic, it's the story that sells. I could lay back on a hammock on a sunny afternoon with a glass of lemonade and a good paperback, or I could be scrolling through the same book in my Firefox window.

But I wonder, is the attitude changing? Are the masses leaning towards being on the hammock with their lemonade and an Amazon Kindle, while the minorities would ignore their open Firefox windows to finish the last few pages of a gripping paperback?

I'm trying really hard to confuse myself with all these questions because at the heart of all this lies answers to some other questions I had:

- As different mediums for consumption emerge, is it sensible to allow the new(by virtue of their efficacies alone) to replace the old?

- Shouldn't the economics of each (older)medium evolve with the introduction of (newer)competing mediums?

- Is it wise to build business models for new mediums based on the models used by preceding mediums?

- What part does convergence play in all this? Is co-existence in anyone's interest, but a publishers(more mediums for distribution)?

- Are publishing economics being dictated by distributors? (I know the answer to this one!)

- Is there a chance that publishing economics could be dictated by publishers? Would that work out for the "Author > Publisher > Distributor > Consumer" value chain?

- Should we be thinking about older versions of value chains, in determining economics for new mediums? If not, what are the new value chains in each vertical/niche? While we're on the subject, what is the value creation in each vertical/niche?

- Why would anyone ever make a product that looked so butt-ugly? Look at it. It's butt-ugly. How could anyone ever sell that for $399 and expect it to sell?
WHAT?! It sold out in 5.5 hours?! But how many? Now why wouldn't you want people to know THAT? Hmm...................:)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I saw SaaS upon a mountain

I signed up for this Wild Apricot service a month or so ago....

Thought I should play around with it and see if I can actually have some use for it.

Turns out that I didn't have the time to play with it, and so never really ended up going back to their site to check out their cool features.

My trial expired today. I was expecting a "sorry to hear you're not interested....please come back again soon". I must say I was pleasantly shocked to see a 30-day trial end with me being an official(albeit non-paying) customer of a company/service.

In fact, I was messing around with Helix Mobile server(30-day trial as well), and aside from the product key, I've received no communique from their sales team on how to best use their product. As it turns out, just getting their product SETUP is so complicated, that I'm now experimenting with Darwin Streaming Server.

Point of the story? SaaS rocks. Your sales life-cycle has new meaning, because you are able to provide information about your service at any stage of the cycle, you're able to offer flexible pricing models at any stage of the cycle, and best can let your customer just use your software for as long as they like to see if they can actually get some basic needs solved.

It's a really honest way of doing business.

Monday, February 18, 2008

D(eoxyribo)N(ucleic) A(cid)

A lot of people have been asking us with curious eyes: "Does 'We are India' imply that you're only a platform for Indians?"
It's now been asked enough times for it to go down as a blog post, and in due course, on our website.

I'm tempted to discuss the etymology of We are India- but it's going to bore you to death, so I'm going to shy away from the usual speak on democratization (heck...even Reliance talks about democratization these days...) and empowerment.

Instead, I'm going to ask myself some questions.
And I'll answer them myself, too.

// Q:
Are you only a platform for Indians?
A: No. We are a platform by Indians....not an exclusive platform for Indians.
Yes, our current focus is to be able to hunt down Indian film-makers, wherever they are. And that's purely a resource issue- we want to focus our efforts so that we make the most of each region we touch.

// Q: Why "We are India"??!!
A: We are today's India that cares precious little about geography, boundaries, and differences. We look, we listen, we reach out, we diversify, we imbibe, we exude, we aspire, we perspire, we shake hands, we rub shoulders, and we participate actively in the globalization of the world.
So, we wanted to build up a platform that is reflective of who we are today, and how we see ourselves tomorrow.

// Q: I'm X-stani or Y-deshi. I feel weird about putting my work up on a platform that claims: "We are India".
A: Go away.

// Q: I'm X-stani or Y-deshi. Can I put up my work on your platform?
A: Of course! You're very welcome to do so. In fact, if we get enough folks from your stan or desh, we'll even help you build your own WeareXstan.TV or WeareYdesh.TV....
Point is, we're totally cool about who publishes on our platform. Remember that we are business folk, artists and technologists. No politicians or nationalists among us. We like big...biiiigggg parties, and the more of you on our platform, the louder we can be.

// Q: So, who's the audience for WeareIndia.TV?
A: 3 answers to this, all of which hold true.

- The exciting answer: folks like the 25 researchers hanging out at Maitri, in Antarctica, who go into convulsions when people tell them about the "March of the Penguins".
(All due respect, but they need some quality entertainment that keeps them in touch with their home. We're not sure if Zee TV reaches them. )

- The boring answer, adapted from our business plan: "...
the platform is an avenue for publishers to showcase their content to niche audiences in broadband-equipped global markets, including the Indian diaspora abroad."
(Zee TV reaches them, but it's really bad content...the stuff you saw on TV in India, last year. Plus, they need satellite TV subscriptions, which is no good if you're at work on your lunch break. And there are some really good online platforms as well, like Rajshri, Tinselvision, etc. but what if you don't want to watch a full-length song-and-dance Bollywood flick?)

- The realistic answer: anyone on the Internet.
(which is why we're saying......ALL ARE WELCOME.)

// Q: Why shouldn't I go to YouTube?
A: You should. They are an awesome platform too. However, be forewarned of the needle(your video) in the haystack(72 million videos on YouTube) problem.

// Q: How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other video sharing websites out there?
A: First off, we're not creating a "video sharing website". We're building an Internet TV network. It takes some effort to tell the difference, so let's just keep it at that for now.
Second, we aren't going to let you take a funky clip on your camera phone(no matter how mind-blowing-ly awesome it is, dude...) and upload it here. We have some general rules of the thumb: your content has to be professionally produced(with a real camera), it has to have narrative value(Coke + Mentos doesn't count), and it needs to be work that you have ownership of(or work that you are permitted to distribute/showcase, even for monetary gains).

There's a lot more. Our technology platform includes stuff you've rarely seen, and we're going to keep improving/enhancing it as we go along to make the user experience unsurpassed.

At some point, you're going to start seeing publisher tools that give you more control over what you can do with your films, beyond just publish.
I have to be hush-hush on this, but the idea here is to give you the freedom to create your own Internet TV platform.

And your platform would be a part of our Internet TV network.
Get it? :)

Interview @ the Indian-European Union Film Initiative

WeareIndia.TV was recently noticed by Pervaiz Alam, Director at the Indian-European Union Film Initiative.

He thought 'WeareIndia.TV' is a super fantastic concept, and went on to interview yours truly about why we're doing what we're doing, and how we'll make it do what it do.

A bit about Pervaiz, from the IEFILMI web site: "The Director of India-EU Film Initiative, Pervaiz Alam, a former award-winning BBC journalist, is also a screenwriter and documentary film-maker. A Senior Broadcast Journalist with BBC World (Television) for almost five years till 2005, Pervaiz worked in the Commissioning Department, and was Channel's London-based producer of several well-established television programmes such as 'Question Time India', 'Question Time Pakistan', 'India Business Report', 'Bollywood Bosses', 'Bollywood Inc.', 'HARDtalk India' and 'Face to Face'".

The interview is at node 914 on IEFILMI.

Do check it out. Try and keep your focus away from the photo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

(Off topic) Equity in the land of the free, home of the brave.

Ever heard the cliche : "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer"? Well, here it is, in all its glory.

Times of India: wanna do one of these now, so we don't embarrass ourselves like this, fifty years down the line?

(Image courtesy the New York Times)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We are India (..we are running late)

This right from our vacuum-sealed, closely knit, hard working, dedicated, driven, and enthused management team....

We are India.TV is running late. Yes, yes, I know...we are India, we are like this only, we run on Indian Standard Time, yada yada, and yes...we find all that very funny too.

In all honesty, we're working very hard to get this up and running. We have good people working on this, in 4 cities across the world.
And we have attracted a lot of attention, so we're a touch nervous about going live without getting our s**t together.

The good news: we're going to be hosting our media on Amazon S3. Not sure why our CTO didn't bring this up before, but I can't seem to find a better deal (with the same level of reliability) anywhere else.

It's mind-blowing, and it means we're going to be able to serve our content very inexpensively, while offering all our publishers amazing revenue sharing ratios.

The bad news: there is no bad news. It's all good. Be patient, hold your horses, and we'll let you know when we're getting closer to launch.

On behalf of WeareIndia.TV,
- preetam.

P.S.: We've prettied up our home page somewhat. You ought to go take a look: www.WeareIndia.TV

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all."

The fourth estate of the Internet reeks of a democratic web characterized by value chains, mass participation at every point, walled gardens with symbiotic gate-keeping, accountability, visibility, value creation and equitable distribution.

This post is about how I see the next meaningful evolution of the web.
Robin Sloan called this EPIC(Evolving Personalized Information Construct), and I'll call it Web 4.0- The fourth estate of the Internet.

Web 4.0 is about role-playing.

Broadly, I see four categories of players emerging in this space: {Consumers & Micro-publishers} + {Publishers & Commercializers}

Corresponding to those players, we could derive four genres of platforms: {Consumption avenues & Micro-publishing tools} + {Original media platforms + Transactional services}

It follows that value creation will happen from the capabilities extended by each platform to its respective player.

The players--

>> Consumers (users) will experience, transact, and consume at all the different avenues available to them at the edge of the network.

>> Micro-publishers are able to create original media, re-purpose original media into forms that enable greater degrees of accessibility, and generate micro-media(personal, micro, individualized interpretations of original media). They are able to do so either with the help of exclusive tools that facilitate micro-publishing(Blogger), or on OM platforms(Brightcove).

>> Commercializers (advertisers, VAS providers, 3rd party services) who will use native OMP services(Brightcove's ad platform...), network models(Google Adsense/Yahoo! Ads), or a combination of both (Google AdSense integrated into Blogger) to provide monetization opportunities.

>> Publishers (the original media kind..), will be the ones driving this new web economy, and the more fully they participate(enable the above), the richer this new web will be. It also follows that the more expansive their breadth of service offerings and capabilities, the more opportunity there will be for value creation.

The value--

Areas of value creation for this new web would be:

>> Making sense of it all: with the relative ease of production, and mass production, there will be an explosion of content on the Internet. Personalized reconstruction, refinement and discovery services will be key in helping users absorb only what's relevant to their interests.
The challenge here will be to mitigate information overload, and move towards individualization.

>> Making money: Transactional services need to be deeply integrated into almost every production, distribution, and publishing platform. Open standards here will help greatly, not only in facilitating the scaling of monetization capabilities, but also to allow for the entrance of newer monetization models.
The challenge in this case, would be to overcome coagulation of monetization models/services(Yahoo! + Microsoft), and instead develop level playing fields, which comprise of thin API-driven open services, usable by advertisers, VAS providers, and retailers alike.

>> Distributing value: I've mentioned in a previous post, that on the Internet, visibility is not only possible, but necessary. Everyone contributes, in some way, to the efficacy of the value chain, and to reward that efficacy(and sustain the model), there will need to be equitable distribution of value across the entire chain. To be able to do that, fingerprinting content, tracking its passage through distribution channels, and correlating that with $$ generated along the way becomes a critical first step.
Ideal outcome: Producers, distributors, re-distributors, re-constructors, de-constructors, and to an extent, even consumers, feel the positive effects of value distribution.
Bad case scenario: Some participants get left out of their piece of the pie, and in due course, disrupt the value chain by emerging elsewhere, on someone else's value chain, in a different role. And when participants start churning, show's over.

>> Building synergies: The biggest area for value creation in Web 4.0 will be the synergies. The more symbiotic the relationships, the merrier it is for contributors and participants in the synergies. And of course, the more synergies there are, the bigger the party will be. This is also where we hope to see a new wave of entrepreneurship, which goes beyond the M&A school of thought, and enter the S&H(Strength and Honor) school of wisdom. We will see entrepreneurs who understand their core strengths, are quick to identify complementary strengths in other businesses, and build sturdy bridges to harness the two.
Nurturing agents(VCs, incubators) will be quick to place one business into the context of 10 others, and fund not just the development of an idea, but the building of bridges as well.

Attempting to make an absolute classification of the web is a futile task. At any point, the sheer volume of variances make it impossible for one to paint a picture of what the web looks like, or will look like.
However, the web is democratic. It is as much a property of the individual, as it is that of any group.

Its evolution, therefore, becomes a collective goal.

Daunting thought it might seem, transitioning into this economy doesn't need to be a mammoth task. Let's not forget that at the root of all this is a very real situation- production is cheaper, distribution is more efficient, and consumption is easier.

I hope you get it, because "Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Of note...we're mouthing off too much

Just opened up our comments section for readers yesterday, and the first one that came our way was that we are mouthing off too much, and this makes the blog unreadable.

Thanks to Gregory for putting it as gently as he did, and- we're going to fix that.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Utopia 3.0

I'm not quite sure that everyone gets this, but the Web(2.0, 3.0...15.0) cannot be interpreted the same way we looked at product life-cycle releases (Windows 3.0, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, ....Windows Vista...Windows XP... ).
So Josh Catone's right in saying "..version-ing the Internet is silly..".

Aside from version-ing the Internet, defining the Internet is the next silly thing to do. I really couldn't tell you, definitively, if web 2.0 was about interactions, if it really was the business revolution it was made out to be, or if it really taught us zip about using the Internet as a platform.
Likewise, who's to say what web 3.0 will be about? It could be about personalization, like a lot of folks are saying, and it could be about contextualization.

The right way to look at the evolution of the web is to start off by ignoring the nuances and focus on as large a picture as we possibly can. I call this picture "i-volution- the role of i in the internet".

1.0 was about access. It was about how we could get on the Internet, and how we could access the information that was on the Internet.

With 2.0, the message was clear: it became easier for us to access, AND to produce.
RSS became the vehicle to share information we produced, web services became more popular, and Internet access became a commodity.

The new wave was production, and access to/availability of production tools became the mantra of the Web 2.0 generation.
This happened at many levels, across many different market niches, in varying degrees of sophistication.
From Publishing > Video > Services > News > Information > Lifestyle...and anything else that comes to mind, there was(is) Blogger, YouTube,, Google News, even Wikipedia....and that list keeps growing every day.

Now here's the problem: I haven't had a chance to fully catch up with web 2.0, and folks are already talking about web 3.0. Granted I'm a slow adopter, but still...I feel like the web's moving a lot faster than I am, and while I may not taste and swallow as quickly as others, I definitely look and touch new technologies pretty darned quick. So there's no way I'm going to start talking about Web 3.0, until I know the ins and outs of Web 2.0. I understand I have a lot of empathy on this point....a lot of people are worried that the hype-cycles of the web are moving faster than the evolution cycles, and we're missing out on value creation.

And at any rate, it occurred to me that we can't quite go on to the next step, until we've entirely saturated the current one. It's human. It's natural. It's Darwinian. I can already see this post being rejected in the Red states, but red or blue, it's very true: we can't really decide what we take forward into Web 3.0, until we know what worked(and what didn't) in Web 2.0.

We're only just getting equipped and acquainted with the tools of this new generation(2.0), lots of questions are being asked about the economics of viability surrounding the use of (and production from) these tools, and obviously, we're still a ways from mainstream adoption of the 2.0 world.
So 3.0 will be a phase where we learn to create new worlds with our new tools. It's going to be the age of mass production, mass consumption, and mass distribution.

Mind you, it's going to be a very inefficient phase. There has been a lot of 2.0 hype, and not all of it is holier than thou. Some Evangelists 2.0 have forgotten the very premise of business, and focused more on painting pretty pictures of grandiose worlds filled with democratic ideas that have little bearing on cash flow and profitability. So that dust has to settle, before the jewels in the rough emerge.

Then, it's going to be a matter of us getting used to the new economics surrounding the real value that 2.0 brings us: there will be more production, there will be more consumption, and somewhere in there, there will be more transaction. And we're definitely going to need better systems to handle those transactions.

Once(when) we have those cycles going, at a more mainstream level than it is at today, perhaps we can begin to visualize what the next web will look like.

I'm tempted to write about that next web here, but why bother, when I can just write another post?
After all, I did mean to write about new horizons, and ended up writing an epitaph.

But then, this is more a cenotaph, because if I'm reading this right, Web 3.0 is going to be a transient phase...and not the new world we've been talking about.

API (Arrogant Pricks, Inc.)

Okay, J.Yang @ Yahoo! and your buddies of the bored board,

I hear you've received a letter from API(publicly traded as MSFT) indicating they'd like to buy you out. I understand it's a hostile takeover of sorts, and it's either sell yourself to the devil, or get sued so many times over that....that it just would have made more sense to sell yourself to the devil.

Pity. Chances are that you're probably going to have to sell. But- there's a wee little glimmer, and if you can capitalize on that window, then who might just live to see another day. At any rate, make no mistake that you have built up a wonderful company, which is, very unfortunately, has reached the end of its life-cycle, and the only options for you are to either breathe a new lease of life into your company, or submit to your grave(publicly traded as MSFT).

Okay- ignore the rest of the filth-flarn in Ballmer's letter to you. What he really means is that he's a big bully, has a big pocket, and is willing to be obnoxious to extreme limits, in order to convince your shareholders that this deal is the only way to preserve their interests.

Your obvious come-back to this should be to convince your shareholders that in fact, NOTHING could be further from the truth. This will, in fact, give your current shareholders stock in a company that has just about started to dig its own grave, because API has absolutely no clue about where they go next. And in fact, they're just as f-ed as you are. Their cash position, built up over the years for times like these, is their life-support system, and it can only last them so long.

Once you have your shareholders' attention, you will then need to hammer out two things:
a. That the grand plan proposed by API(publicly traded as MSFT) is actually a big box of crap.
b. You have a better plan in the works.

Here's how-

a. Big box of crap:
#1: "In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together. These discussions were based on a vision that the online businesses of Microsoft and Yahoo! should be aligned in some way to create a more effective competitor in the online marketplace....While a commercial partnership may have made sense at one time, Microsoft believes that the only alternative now is the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! that we are proposing."

You see, Ballmer has one goal, and one goal only. He's livid at Google's success, and very raw that the house that Jack(..Bill..) built wasn't ready to stay alive with the entrance of the simplest of ideas...a search engine that just works.
This is fact, and take little validation.

It follows, therefore, that Ballmer's 'vision' of aligning Yahoo! and MSFT to create a more effective competitor in the online space has been flawed, for over 2 years now(since he first pursued you). The only thing that will compete with Google's search domination is a de-fragmented bunch of 100+ startups, each of which will focus on a core market niche and perfect the art of search in that niche.
And here's the kick.....if Ballmer was to wait out another 2-3 years, and keep aside $10 million on average for each, and get a half decent acquisition strategy in place, he'd have spend about $43 billion less than what he's going to spend, in buying you.

#2: "While online advertising growth continues, there are significant benefits of scale in advertising platform economics, in capital costs for search index build-out, and in research and development, making this a time of industry consolidation and convergence. "

Okay, this one should be an easy retort for you. I'll even spell it out.
"AS online advertising growth continues, there are significant opportunities in micro-targeting economics, in partnering up with vertical ad-platforms, to form a sinew that powers the clearly visible divergence in the Internet economy.
And all due respect, but screw convergence."

#3: "-- Scale economics: This combination enables synergies related to scale economics of the advertising platform where today there is only one competitor at scale. This includes synergies across both search and non-search related advertising that will strengthen the value proposition to both advertisers and publishers. Additionally, the combination allows us to consolidate capital spending."

Scale economics are typically harnessed and touted in order to offset the resulting (financial) value to consumers(in this case, advertisers and publishers).

Your response to this:
"Advertisers are not(we repeat, ARE NOT) looking for a cheaper way to deliver ads. They want more efficient system of targeting and delivering ads, so their click-through-ratios go up, giving them a better bang for their advertising dollars.

Publishers, on the other hand, want to make the most they can, via ad-placement along side their content. Their big problem isn't how much money they can make from content that's on their site, but how much MORE money can they make by letting their content travel freely across the Internet via syndication and edge distribution. "

Yeah Jerry, tell API about RSS and ask them what their plans are for the edge-conomy.

#4. "-- Expanded R&D capacity: The combined talent of our engineering resources can be focused on R&D priorities such as a single search index and single advertising platform. Together we can unleash new levels of innovation, delivering enhanced user experiences, breakthroughs in search, and new advertising platform capabilities."

Tell him to stop with the 'single', already.
There is not going to a 'single index' and a 'single platform' for much longer. He's still thinking PC vs. Mac, and that game, compared to the Internet game, is very apples 'n oranges.

And because I know of some fine folks in your ranks, I know that R&D is the real reason API(publicly traded as MSFT) is after you. Your brains are brilliant and your management has failed them.
API feels like moving your brains under the roof of another management, is going to "unleash" "innovative" "breakthroughs" in the marketplace.

Your mantra here should be that adopted by FSJ when it comes to Ballmer: SIOOMA(Suck It Out Of My Ass).

That's all layman talk. But the point here is that this big box of crap stinks so bad that even the layman can smell it out halfway across the world(quite literally..!!).
Let your smart shareholders in on this smelly proposition, will you?

b. Better plan:

Here's the juice guys. You're still the good guys, in my book. You've done a lot of things right, and you've actually built something of value. But, like I mentioned earlier, and like a lot of people have been telling you(Umair Haque, Sramana Mitra, and plenty else), you're in a period of strategic decay, brought along by the nature of the corporation that you've built. It sucks, but it's true.

I can't tell you what you should do, or list out what you've done wrong. It's going to take me a bloody long time, and in all fairness, I think it's you who that exercise should belong to.

But as a way forward, I think you should begin by making a statement which explains how jumping into a big bag of crap will only accelerate your decay. Remember, your shareholders are YOUR shareholders, and it is YOUR responsibility to create value for them. That you haven't been able to do so over the last few years is to your disrepute, and maybe you do deserve a few lawsuits for your negligence.

It's time now, however, for you guys to 'fess up to your mistakes, and stop uttering meaningless bull crap("Our job at Yahoo! is to make your life easier") to save your skins. It's stupid, disrespectful to your shareholders' interests, and not a progressive mindset. And bull crap like that will get you deeper into quagmire, not pull you out of it.

Second, stop with the corporate re-structuring, firing, layoffs, etc. Come up with a plan for what you will do at Yahoo!, and then come up with a plan for how you're going to do it. Brownie points are some of the few things your brand still holds in favor with a lot of people, and by making yourselves look like first-grade a-holes, you're hurting yourself...every day.

Third, create a new you. I know someone that got a job offer from you guys, and then a week later, quit to go to Google. I would be shocked if that happened to me as often as it does to you. It tells me that irrespective of what I do as a company, I stink so bad as a culture, that people are not giving me 5 days of their time before moving on. So get some HR strategists together, get some focus groups together representing -all- the different parts of your business, and generate a new buzz...."Yahoo! We're (finally)listening..."

Fourth, build a vision for your company. With it will come 'character', which will keep Arrogant Pricks(and the like...) at bay. Your search sucks. Your e-mail's OK. Your portal is not comprehensive. And your portal covers too many services for you to be good at any(or even a few).
Second, your list is messy. It's not even intuitive any more....why's there a category for Fantasy Sports and then separate ones for Fantasy FB and Fantasy MLB?

If you ask me, I'd say start with "Green". Make these your core focal points, partner up with Google on search, and with others on the rest. (YouTube for video, CNET for Tech, maybe an open source client for chat(Gaim), etc.

That is, if you really think the others are worth pursuing.

See, if you aren't doing simple things like these, and carefully examining each of your service offerings at a granular level, how do you possibly determine what your overall company strategy ought to be?
I'm a regular, and I know that the only noticeable change that happened on your front page in the last 2 years is that the menu option for "more Yahoo services" is now an Ajax popup menu.

Back then, I was excited, that perhaps this was the beginning of a new Yahoo! and that even though you guys were behind Google(they'd evangelized DHTML/Ajax before you), you had, at least, gotten the message that the new Internet was around the corner, and you were gearing up to do big things that would show us an exciting range of possibilities.

It's now two years since, and Google Labs( is re-inventing the world, and Yahoo Labs( is busy churning out PDFs.

Yahoo!- NOW'S THE TIME TO PUT UP A FIGHT. And before you conquer the world, you need to conquer yourselves. It's a process, and it's going to take you some effort. This fight is not about you staving off Ballmer and Microsoft. It's about you renewing your commitments to your shareholders, because they're not just here for your money. They are there to participate in the creation, development, success and growth of a new empire. I bought Yahoo! shares when you announced Project Panama, but then it was delayed, and I sold, at a loss, just because it didn't seem worth it to me any more to invest in a company that announces ONE big thing, and then fails to deliver on it many months after it was expected to.

But I like you guys...I knew you before I knew the 'Page boys'.
And I'm willing to invest again.

Just make me a plan. And show me the money!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Algorithmically human societies

I chose to bore myself to death this last weekend.

More out of curiosity than anything else, I was going through different online video sites(can't/won't name them), putting the views/video versus video rank into an excel spreadsheet, and generating graphs. It was a tail-driven exercise, to see what everyone's tail looked like.

I started off with YouTube(blue) and saw that they're quite consistent with Chris Anderson's depiction of the long tail. Nice parabolic structure, with the hits, the mid-tail and the tapering long tail, tending to infinity.

But then I mapped out the others and I noticed a *very* interesting trend.

I'd love to take a highlighter to these four but I think it's obvious- we're still looking at a spurt of online video sites that survive on hits. Or on the strength of unmanageably long tails.

There is no discernible mid-tail.

The bigger picture? You're either running a high risk venture(your hits stop being hits one day, and you're toast), or you're going to take 50+ years to demonstrate meaningful profit margins(assuming you last that long).

It's actually hilarious. I've been reading so much about VCs pumping gazillions of dollars into some of these startups these last few months, and I wonder- isn't anyone thinking about value creation any more? Where's the value in making $0.10 per unique visitor/year?
I thought the value creation would be if someone came along and said we can help generate $0.50 per unique visitor/year, and we will help increase that number by x% every year.

What surprises me is that in these (not-so-hot financially) times, a VC is actually willing to hear a pitch that effectively says: "Hi! I can build an online video site. I can make us $0.10/user/year. Please give me $25 million and I can promise you that I will have a user base of 50 million users in my 4th year. Which will give us only about $5 million in revenues.
But you see, I'm trying to accumulate a lot of eyeballs into one place with your money, so that the next rich person on the block looking for a list of 50 million eyeballs can buy us out, and we'll be sooper-dooper rich."

Irrespective of how our story ends(and I'm not sure it will end!), we have quite a few people to thank for making sure that at the very least, ours isn't yet another B.S. story.

Stay tuned.