Archive for the 'Social Software' Category

German college student social networking site StudiVZ.de — Case study in corporate communications

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Karsten Wenzlaff has written an in-depth article on StudiVZ.de, the largest German social networking site for college students with an alleged 1M users, that covers a lot of the recent criticisms regarding both the founder’s as well as the company’s behavior and communications: StudiVZ - The glamour is fading (or a chronic on how lack of PR can ruin a good idea)

Via Basic Thinking: Social Networks : StudiVZ als gute Case Study

Web Monday 2007 — Take the poll!

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

For everyone who has attended any of the more than 50 Web Monday meetups over the past twelve months, I would like to invite you to take part in a little survey that I just set up.

It’s absolutely low-tech, simply email me your answers to the following questions:

  • The meaning of life — Who are you and what brings you to Web Monday?
  • Pretty good stuff — What do you like most so far?
  • Not so hot — What do you see needs the most improvement?
  • Eureka! — What did you learn?
  • This way, please! — Your suggestions and ideas going into 2007!

The poll will be active through November 21, 2006. The results will be published shortly thereafter on the Web Monday wiki.

Thank you all very much!

Amberjack crunched

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

Amberjack launched the other day and has already been featured on Techcrunch: Amberjack Makes Site Tours Easy

About Amberjack:

Amberjack is a lightweight Open Source library, enabling webmasters to create cool site tours.

By guiding your site visitors, Amberjack tours can greatly improve the usability of your website.

The Amberjack JavaScript library is lightweight (~4K), stable, LGPL licensed, browser compatible, set up in 2 minutes & super-easy to customize.

Best of all, nothing must be installed or learned. Use the Tour Wizard to create great looking and helpful tours for your site or intranet application.

Amberjack is a private, non-profit project by Arash Yalpani, who is based in Berlin, Germany. He recently launched Webride, an interesting service that automatically attaches discussion forums to any web page.

Wow, that makes two posting about web stuff from Germany today.

German video platform Sevenload receives funding

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

The Financial Times Germany reports that Cologne, Germany-based Sevenload has just received funding from a strategic investor and is rumored to be valued at a whopping EUR 130 million.

At Wiki Wednesday

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Some recent news from Socialtext:

And, more pizza is on the way.

Google has acquired JotSpot

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

This just in (via email from JotSpot):

JotSpot is now part of Google

We’re writing to let you know that Google has acquired JotSpot. We believe this is great news for our users. More importantly, we want to reassure you that you’ll continue to have uninterrupted access to your account. Both Google and JotSpot are committed to supporting our customers, and we understand that users have invested a lot in our products. In the near-term, we’re focused on migrating JotSpot to Google’s systems and datacenters. We’ll work hard to make that move as seamless as possible so that customers won’t be inconvenienced.

Why is Google acquiring JotSpot?

Google shares JotSpot’s vision for helping people collaborate, share and work together online. JotSpot’s team and technology are a strong fit with existing Google products like Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Google Groups.

Techcrunch has more: Google Acquires Wiki Collaboration Company Jotspot

Crowdsourcing — Opportunities for politics and government

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing” is a term coined by Wired magazine writer Jeff Howe and editor Mark Robinson in June 2006. It describes a business model akin to outsourcing, but relying upon unpaid or low-paid amateurs who use their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D. Crowds targeted for crowdsourcing include garage scientists, amateur videographers, freelancers, photo enthusiasts, data companies, writers, smart mobs and the electronic herd.

Overview

Crowdsourcing attempts to replace selectively hired, trained and managed workforces with mass volunteer participation and self-organization. While not a new idea, it is becoming mainstream. Open source projects are a form of crowdsourcing that has existed for years. People who may not know one another work together online to create complex software such as the Linux kernel, and the Firefox browser. In recent years Web 2.0 technology has evolved to allow non-technical people to participate in online projects. Just as important, crowdsourcing presumes that a large number of enthusiasts can outperform a small group of experienced professionals. The tagline for Jeff Howe’s website, crowdsourcing.com, is The Rise of the Amateur.

Back in July, over on Tim’s blog, I asked:

I wonder if this could be applied to the world of politics as well: Citizen engagement, crowdsourced policy development, only an engaged citizen is a good citizen etc.

Now two very critical postings by Chris and Tara make me want to get back to this.

Chris: Crowdsourcing — the neue sweatshop labor

Wired got it wrong when it established the term, putting business interests ahead of the community’s — suggesting it’d discovered a gold mine of cheap labor that could become the next wave after international outsourcing. What Wired should have said of course, casting it in such a light, was that it’d discovered the next source of legalized sweatshop labor where you never even need to meet face-to-face, let alone account for, the people doing the work.

Tara: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

The word crowdsourcing makes me sad.

Why don’t people just say: “wanting you to give your time to my project for free” or “could you do me a favor that will never be returned?”. It sounds so much nicer.

I don’t think I agree. If the terms are transparent and participation is strictly voluntary, I don’t see why crowdsourcing is necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, it may require a lot of effort in building relationships and community (much more so than with traditional outsourcing, I would guess, and something that not all corporations may be capable of doing).

On the contrary, I see enormous potential for crowdsourcing in the area of politics, government, and citizen participation. In a way, projects like AmericaSpeaks (to name just one among many others who were present at the NCDD conference in San Francisco this past August) do just that: they help governments and organizations crowdsource the process of finding smarter solutions and building consensus around them.

And why does that make sense? Because even if they wanted to, governments and the people involved in politics are oftentimes simply not capable of doing it on their own. Without consulting their citizens, they seem less likely to find the right solution to a complex, messy and controversial issue, let alone bring about consensus or get group buy-in. Instead, since citizen involvement is usually not an option due to organizational and budget constraints, they have to go it alone, achieving mediocre results at best.

This is what we have been used to. And this, in my opinion, is one of the main reasons why so many people around the world are frustrated with the political class, with the people who represent them, with the system as a whole.

Now what if…

What if there were an easy and fun way to do this type of collaborative work between governments and their citizens on the web? What if engaging your citizens became a viable option — efficient, affordable, rewarding for both sides? What if, as a government, for the first time in history you could ask the people for help when you need it?

Would citizens be interested? I believe so, and it’s worth a try. I am pretty convinced that more people have a pretty good idea of what makes a good citizen, and they would love to contribute a lot more than they already do — if only it wasn’t so hard.

And as for payment? My guess is you wouldn’t even need to pay people for this type of work, at least not in money terms. If you can convince someone that their contribution as a citizen, their time and effort, their learning about an issue, engaging with their peers, trying to understand each other’s points of view, trying to move things forward, going through all the sweat, tears, pain, and difficulty — if you can prove to that one citizen that all this wasn’t just a waste of her time, but instead, that her input really made a difference, then you will have rewarded her already.

E-Democracy Forum Rules

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

As the Campaigns Wikia mailing list is struggling with the challenges of how to have a meaningful discourse via email, Steven Clift gives out invaluable advice:

… you need a well defined set of rules and a forum manager empowered to warn/remove those who violate civility rules. You also need participants willing to use the delete key on the posts that might politically offend them but are not uncivil (rather than pay for a moderator or censor).

He then points to his very own E-Democracy Forum Rules:

Based on a decade of experience, these rules provide a citizen-based foundation for online civility by focusing on public issues in order to promote effective public agenda-setting through dialogue. These online public forums about the sharing of ideas and information rather than being right with one’s ideology or winning an argument. Our forums are not designed for debating abstract political philosophy or ridiculing others for their beliefs, backgrounds, or speculative motivations.

Online civility, in my view, is another key concept for any type of web-based deliberation project.

Hotsoup is live

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Hotsoup has launched (and already they made it on national tv last night). What is Hotsoup?

HOTSOUP.com is the first online community that joins Opinion Drivers from across the spectrum. The community connects well-known influencers from the worlds of politics, business, religion, and popular culture with influencers who drive opinion at the grassroots and community levels. Harnessing the power of social networking technology, HOTSOUP.com levels the playing field by giving anyone and everyone a voice in how America’s institutions can work better.

Opinion Drivers are the individuals who, every day, influence their friends, colleagues, and peers. …

Collectively, grassroots Opinion Drivers are an enormous and growing force because Americans place decreasing trust in old-line opinion leaders such as network anchors and politicians; they’re turning to each other for advice and guidance in these fast-changing times. Where is a good place to eat out? What’s the best car to buy? Who’s the best candidate for school board and for president? More and more, Americans are turning to trusted friends and neighbors to answer such questions and manage the crush of information at their fingertips in the info-tech age. If you’ve ever been asked, “Hey, what do you think about…” then you are probably an Opinion Driver. Welcome to the HOTSOUP.com community.

…CONNECTED BY ONE PLATFORM

Opinion Drivers across the country are losing patience with party lines and PR spin. They recognize the complex challenges America faces and want intelligent discussion and reasoning. They want smart debate, real answers and, most importantly, they want the opportunity to be heard.

Carter, Chip, Joe and Mike, prominent Democratic strategists, and Mark and Matthew, Republican heavyweights, had successful private sector practices that specialized in helping corporate clients find Opinion Drivers. It was frustrating; the rise of the Internet and other societal trends made Opinion Drivers both more important and harder to reach.

At the same time, Internet veterans Allie, Bart and John were consulting on better ways to reach and engage Opinion Drivers online while simultaneously launching a new social networking site called Sisterwoman.com.

And Ron, one of the country’s most respected journalists, was observing his readers’ behavior change and co-authoring a book, Applebee’s America, about this audience and the community-building potential of the Internet.

Despite representing both sides of the political aisle, Internet media and journalism, we all reached the same conclusion: There is no single place for Opinion Drivers to gather online. That was the day we set out to build HOTSOUP.com.

Intelligent discussion. Smart debate. A voice for everyone. Will be interesting to watch if and how the makers of Hotsoup will be able to grow the community culture necessary to achieve these goals.

Europe — sort of a black hole for social application development (and that includes Germany, I take it)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Stowe gives feedback on his More Europe project: The More Europe Project: Two Weeks In Europe

I think it has to do more with the small number of social application start-ups in Europe than anything else. Yes, I know all about Last.fm and Plazes — in fact I saw Felix Petersen of Plazes in Lisbon a few weeks back — but aside from those two (and of course openBC!) there doesnt seem to be much going on, really. (Oh, I am using Fred Oliviera’s Goplan, a Basecamp competitor. and he is based in Portugal, now. Shouldn’t forget that.) On the other hand, I was in San Francisco the other day for Office 2.0, and I saw no less that 25 companies demoing their applications. I had invitations from companies in Mexico, Canada and Israel for meetings, but nothing in Europe.

I think that Europe is sort of a black hole for social application development. For some reason, there is just not much happening. Are there other stealth startups that I just don’t know about? Is it Graham’s hypothesis? Have all the inventive Europeans already departed for San Francisco? Is it lack of VCs? Surely not education; is it a cultural issue? People in Europe being less likely to quit their day jobs?

Sadly, I think Stowe is right on with his assessment.

I’ve been thinking about this, too, for the past 18 months or so (ever since I moved to sizzling Silicon Valley in May 2005). I think it’s a combination of cultural issues (Germans being a little too risk-averse all the time combined with a common disdain for failure) as well as lack of infrastructure (mainly, the aforementionend technology hubs and an ecosystem for funding).

I see small pockets of resistance, though.

Web Monday, the event I started almost a year ago, is aimed at addressing the cultural issues in that it gives people who not only have ideas but also want to do something about them a chance to present to their peers in an overall nourishing environment (that’s what Wiki Wednesday is to me). The recent Barcamp Berlin also helped bring people together (a mini-hub, if you will, though only for a weekend) who share the same passion about people and technology. And judging by what these people had to say afterwards, it will not have been the last barcamp in or around Germany.

A handful of successful internet entrepreneurs have begun to serve as angel investors: Lukasz Gadowski of Spreadshirt (who may join us for the upcoming Web Monday Silicon Valley, November 6) and Axel Schmiegelow of Denkwerk (who has invested in Qype, who will join us over the web and do a presentation from their Hamburg, Germany headquarters) come to mind. That’s only two, you may ask, but it’s a start.

The recent decision by the German government to pursue more of a hub approach with regard to their funding of universities is also a move in the right direction, in my view.

All this will take a while to really take root. In the meantime, if you’re the young and aspiring entrepreneur out there in the German hinterland, please do us all a big favor: Don’t think you need anyone’s permission. Don’t let the risk of failure overwhelm you. There are enough people who will gladly help you (even in Germany). Don’t wait until you have a perfect plan.

Just do it!