Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Links for 02-27-07

Monday, February 26, 2007

Links for 02-26-07

Friday, February 23, 2007

Links for 02-23-07

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Links for 02-22-07

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Follow-Up on Commercial Communities in Photos

Following up on an earlier post that I discussed here, Dan Heller has some further thoughts on the possible evolution of photo "community" sites, such as flickr, to something that's more suited to selling photos. The whole post is well worth reading but I wanted to highlight a couple of points that I think are particularly worth pondering.

The first is that the technical barriers to entry are not that great. That's not to say that there aren't other barriers to entry. In particular, there's a very real difficulty of creating community critical mass. (Metcalfe's Law in action.) However, to the degree that there is a "correct" approach to blending community and commerce, the point that someone will hit on it seems very credible.
So, what is that "investment?" Oddly, not much. To get a sense of this, one of the start-up companies that emailed me is a two-person team, only one of which is a programmer (whose 18 and never had a real job). You'd never know it by their site, as it looks and acts surprisingly professional, looking as though it were managed by a sizable team. Of course, great credit goes to the duo, but the real underlying "magic" is simply the ever-growing development--and use--of AJAX, the basic underpinnings of what is now more broadly known as "Web 2.0" technologies. (Flickr is what is it because they were early adopters of AJAX.) In other words, creating the technology behind what would become a social-networking photo-sharing photo licensing site is not hard. This means that the technical "barrier to entry" is not technology. It's really about three other things. First, one has to have the vision that this is the future. Second, the ability to attract a critical mass of users and create a living, breathing social network that people talk about. And third, to know and understand the economics of selling a commodity whose value in the individual units, not as a generic "class" of widget. Hint: an auction-based system where buyer and product are combined to establish viable price points.
The second point that I found particularly interesting is Dan's discussion of an auction model for pricing. Supply-demand pricing is a particularly interesting notion in a case like this where many of the content creators are amateurs who 1.) Don't really have a lot of experience in setting prices and 2.) Would, in many cases, be more than happy to take whatever price they can get for what is essentially a zero-cost product--assuming that it is photography that they would have created anyway. No-reserve auctions aren't perfect pricing mechanisms but one need only look to eBay to see wrinkles such as "Buy It Now" and reserve prices that could be optionally layered atop a basic auction mechanism.
The auctioning system in online advertising is a model to follow, and I would certainly expect eyes to be looking in that direction. It took the online ad auction system a long time to get to this point, and I would expect nothing less here. Best yet, it is a much more efficient system than the $1/image microstock model.
I continue to think, as I wrote earlier, that the surety offered by a more traditional microstock site, such as iStockPhoto, will continue to appeal for certain types of applications where guarantees around quality or legal concerns may trump variety and lowest price (e.g. a lot of the pics in corporate presentations for example). However, I do tend to agree that the "world's biggest flea market" (as eBay is sometimes called) model has a place as well.

Links for 02-20-2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Web 2.0 in Video

This video is apparently making the rounds and it's quite good indeed. John Battelle has an interview with the director here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Shareware, Freeware, et al.

Someone I know had been having some lengthy debates about the whole taxonomy of software types as they evolved, primarily through the BBS world, to the current day. Yes, exciting stuff I know--although, actually, of some historic interest at least. In any case, given that I was pretty involved in that world through my Directory Freedom program and other software, I agreed to answer some questions on the topic. It's all a bit muddy and fuzzy--in part because most people didn't even think about licenses and terminology as carefully as many do today.

Be that as it may, the document is here. I'm licensing it under Creative Commons-Attribution license so that others can re-use some of these definitions if they find them useful.

[Update: Oops, I had a bad link up. Fixed now.]

Links for 02-16-07

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Flickr Fotos for Fee?

As I've written previously, there are perhaps more differences than meet the eye between a photo site like flickr and one like iStockPhoto. The former is far more about community, the latter about commerce. Conflating the two as both representing the same flavor of "crowdsourcing" therefore seems like too much of an oversimplification to me.

However, the incredible popularity of flickr--and the great quality of many of the photos contained therein (including by professionals)--probably makes it inevitable that Yahoo! (who owns flickr) would look to ways to make the site more pro-friendly and pro-enabling. After all, there's almost certainly far more money to be made off those using a service for business than as a hobby.

And indeed, Stephen Shankland of Cnet news.com yesterday pointed me to some speculation about flickr getting into the stock photo business over at Dan Heller's Photography Business Blog. Stephen's thoughts are here. I pretty much agree with his take. iStockPhoto is constituted to make it very easy for buyers by manually vetting every photo for quality, model release forms, lack of trademark violations, etc. And it would be  a mistake, I think, to minimize the usefulness of what's effectively a service level guarantee that iStockPhoto (and the other microstock sites) provide. A lot of "stock" may indeed "often seem so oversaturated and artificial and sometimes creepy" (to quote Stephen) and remind us eerily of the default Windows desktop. But when you're a graphics director putting together a corporate presentation, you tend to be far more concerned with issues like technical quality and legal safety than you are about ars gratia artis.

Thus, I'm not convinced that there's a great fit between flickr and the sort of commercial stock that tends to dominate iStockPhoto.

That said, I do think that there are opportunities for flickr to get more pro-friendly. One need only look to some of the features available on a site such as SmugMug, for example. It offers custom watermarks and you can choose which resolutions of your photos to make public (unlike flickr where it's all or nothing). One could also imagine more expansive file size limits and the ability to upload RAW format images for archiving and backup purposes. You'd also need to add some way of indicating that model releases were available and probably some sort of reputation mechanism a la eBay's feedback. This is all very do-able.

More difficult would be figuring out when and how to involve humans on the flickr side. As a non-commerce community site, flickr needs very little in the way of staff to resolve conflicts between members and over transactions today. That would rise exponentially were it to more explicitly weave the filthy lucre into its model (and hopefully without causing too many problems with the successful community that it's built to-date).

For the reasons I discussed earlier, I don't see a more commercially-oriented flickr as a replacement for iStockPhoto. It may evolve to better enable the sorts of services and features that would benefit pros, but I think it likely to remain a somewhat messy Web 2.0 bazaar. In other words, a site with lots of great bargains and art for the adventurous but caveat emptor.

Professional Bloggers as Symbiotic Parasites

From Table of Malcontents over at Wired:
It's an odd dichotomy: amateur bloggers are the ones who produce the vast majority of original content on the Internet. Professional bloggers, on the other hand, serve as a human filter for the internet according to a subject and their own passions, because (and here's the rub) pro blogging only pays in volume.

This strikes me as a very perceptive comment. I'm sure one can come up with plenty of corner cases where it doesn't quite hold true. However, it's pretty clear that the true "pro blogger" sites are very much about cadence and volume (of both posts and readers)--traits which, almost by definition, pretty much rule out a lot of carefully-written, thoughtful original content.

Great graphic too from mental floss for Visualizing the Blog "Echo Chamber."

Links for 02-15-07

  • A Web 2.0 Valentine | Social Signal
    This is very well done!
    [tags: web2.0,humor]
  • What's In A Name? - Forbes.com
    I don't think Dan likes Notes much: "Lotus Notes is far and away the most horrible software on the planet. Sure, people grumble about Microsoft products. But that's nothing compared to how people feel about Notes. People hate Notes."
    [tags: collaboration,ibm,microsoft]
  • The Psychology of Security
    "Security is both a feeling and a reality. And they're not the same."
    [tags: security,toread]
  • Mad Techie Woman » Pipes Missing the Target
    A less positive take on Yahoo Pipes. "the only folks playing around with the site are people capable of creating their own mashups." That doesn't surprise me. The question is whether it makes it easier for the geeks.
    [tags: web2.0,programming]
  • IMified - Instant Productivity
    Potentially useful tool to access various services (blogs, project management, etc.) from IM accounts (AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk--but not MSN). I couldn't get it to work with my Basecamp account for some reason, but it has a built-in ToDo list.
    [tags: blogging,im]
  • The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines
    In at least some of these cases, specialization has its virtues.
    [tags: search]
  • Minding the Planet: How the WebOS Evolves?
    Some interesting thoughts from Nova Spivack on the evolution of the Web.
    [tags: web2.0]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

del.icio.us Postings to Blogger

The del.icio.us tool that can automatically generate daily posts from your tags doesn't seem to work with blogger. The following javascript will generate HTML for your last 20 non-private bookmarks saved to del.icio.us that have content in the notes field. (I look for a non-empty notes field because it allows me to save miscellaneous other bookmarks which I don't want to post about for whatever reason, without having to remember to make them private.) Put the javascript in a file, open it with your browser, look at the generated source (I use the Firefox Web Developer plugin), and you can then easily cut and paste the last however many bookmarks into a post.

While this isn't an automated process, I may actually prefer being able to control when and what I post--and the procedure is faster to do once you've done it a couple of times than to read about.

(Just put in your own username. There are some commented out date functions because this script could also be written to just return today's bookmarks, but I decided that wasn't the best fit with a manual posting approach.)


Links for 02-14-07

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A *Very Few* Thoughts on Steve Jobs, DRM, and Pricing

There's been the predictable amount of hoopla around Steve Jobs' comments about music and DRM. What seems to be have been missed (or at least drowned out by all the noise) is the simple fact that of course DRM is bad for Apple and Jobs (assuming that the alternative is DRM-free music.

My intent here isn't to use "of course" in place of an argument though. Consider the following:

Apple doesn't really care much about making money off the iTunes Music Store (iTMS). After all, they don't today. Various reports have suggested that 70 cents on the dollar or so go to the labels. iTMS is a vehicle to sell more iPods because, even if most iPod music comes from sources other than legal, digital purchases, iTMS and its ilk remain an important part of the mix (and will likely be more so over time).

All other things being equal, consumers clearly would prefer DRM-free music. It's more transportable; it's less hassle. Simple economics suggests therefore that its value is higher--meaning that either higher prices can be charged or that more will be purchased. Econ 101.

Therefore, reduce DRM, you increase digital music sales, and you increase the sales of digital music devices--of which Apple has the lion's share of the market. Looks pretty straightforward to me.

I also believe that, if anything comes of all these discussions (or perhaps I should say "when" as I've discussed previously), I seriously wonder if the whole pricing model will be revisited as well. Flat pricing makes no economic sense. It only exists for practical reasons such as setting a nice psychological upper limit in negotiations. Thus it's no surprise that we're starting to see more dynamic and innovative approaches to pricing; I have to believe those will win out with music as they have elsewhere.

(The current pricing of most digitally-downloaded TV shows and movies also makes little sense but that's a topic for another day.) 

Friday, February 02, 2007

New Links

Local Mashups

As I wrote from Mashup Camp, one of the more interesting dynamics that we see in the Internet's current evolutionary phase in the re-insertion of space and place as an integral component. This makes a lot of sense. If I'm surfing the Web to find a recipe for some Chinese dish I may not care much about location, but if I'm looking for a restaurant to eat that dish in, I care a great deal about place.
Indeed, as Virgil Zetterlind remarked to me at Mashup Camp, it's entirely possible that, at least for certain types of searches, something like Google Earth could become our next-generation interface--i.e. something that explicitly looks at the world through the lens of place.
Thus it's with interest that I note Yahoo is testing local mashups. And, as Om Malik notes:
Pretty nifty mash-ups to boot: taking bookmarks from Del.icio.us, events from Upcoming, Flickr photos, News and even blogs. Flickr modules are seriously hot. They are taking data from Wikipedia and adding it to the mix. Missing: Yahoo Maps! Pretty easy to get a quick snapshot of what’s happening in a city. If they can roll this out across the world, I think they easily best Google’s local efforts.
There's some argument in the comments about whether this will take off at Yahoo! or somewhere else instead. I'm not sure I have an opinion on this, but there's clear value in providing this sort of mashed up and aggregated content--including information from social networks (although those probably will require some sort of reputation-based filtering to really become an integral element). There's still a lot of experimentation in form, type, and (yes) business models needed. But it's clear to me that the future Web will be less disconnected from the physical world than it is today.