Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wanted: You

That's right. If you've got skills, that is.

Specifically, I'm looking for people to join me on a start up I'm getting off the ground. It's in the realm of Web 2.0 (of course, though I detest using buzz words) and sports. If you've got familiarity with programming (any or hopefully all of the following: PHP/MySQL, HTML, CSS, AJAX, etc.), leave a comment, shoot me an email (, facebook me, call me, or whatever else. Location isn't crucial, but being in the Bay Area or Boston is preferred. Hope to hear from you soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Facebook + VTech

GigaOm has a great article up today on the effect of social websites, Facebook in particular, on the dissemination of news and, on a larger level, the legitimacy of the web (and, again, Facebook in particular) as a avenue of communicating emotion (in this case, the vast number of groups and events that have popped up on the site in response to Monday's events at Virginia Tech).

And it's completely true. Though the internet will always be the internet, a form of communication more impersonal than phone calls and actual human contact, it has increased in emotional relevance - emails are pretty much as intimate as snail mail notes (though 10 years ago many said this would never happen), Facebook wall posts are an acceptable way to wish your friend happy birthday (though a phone call usually means more), etc. The groups formed and profile pictures changed in response to Monday's tragedy, though on a website, express and symbolize true empathy and support.

Whether it's setting up a group to let your friends know you're OK or joining one to show your unity in standing behind Virginia Tech and its victims, the web is changing. Welcome to a more connected world.

(PS - I have to say this blog has reached a new low - I'm now blogging in class. In my defense, my prof is droning on about why his memorization and superficial project-based class, disliked by all, was actually useful.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Vigil - 4/19 @ 9pm

Hey all - just thought I'd put up a quick post about the vigil to be held tomorrow night (Thursday, April 19th) for the tragedy that happened on Monday at Virginia Tech. It's on College Green (Locust between 34th and 36th) at 9pm. Whether you're a Penn kid or a Philadelphian, try and make it out and show your support for the victims. Most of you I'm sure have already heard of it, but I thought I'd do what I could to help spread the word.

The tragedy was a little closer to home for me than most, as Virginia Tech is my Dad's alma matter (and the school that afforded him the right to come to America). It's a true shame, and I'm sure our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and friends. I was going to put up a dedicated post on the topic, but I really couldn't (and can't) find the words.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Google Clicks Twice

You really shouldn't be getting your news here first (especially not this story), but I had to put something up about Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, the online banner advertising giant, on Friday. Here is a link to the story on TechCrunch, and here's an interesting article up today on GigaOm.

Arrington makes an interesting point in his article - Google paid a price that's 10x the company's revenue, a staggering amount for a mature company.

Some of the pundits have been calling it a "strategic acquisition" to justify the price, but something just seems off to me. $3 billion is a lot of money, and I think it's probably too much. Microsoft had been rumored to be interested at around $2 billion, but Google came (way) over the top.

What do you guys think? Is Google getting carried away with these purchases just because they have boatloads of cash, or is DoubleClick really worth that much? And another odd point - does anyone notice how much less attention this purchase is getting than that of YouTube. Google spends twice as much money and gets half as much press. I mean, everyone around campus was talking about the YouTube deal, but I haven't heard anyone mention DoubleClick over the past few days.

On a quasi-related note, is it just me or is the tide turning against the Mountain View titan? Maybe turn is an overstatement, but I think the winds are beginning to change. Fred Wilson has a great post up today where he astutely points out that Google has to start worrying more about the quality of their lawyers than that of their engineers, which can never be a good thing.

As they've become a big company, they're inevitably lost some of their ability to innovate or even incubate innovation. Just read the Dodgeball founders' post on Flickr. Dodgeball was all the craze not that long ago, but, after being acquired by Google, they've been beaten out by Twitter in the social texting space. The founders complain, rightfully so, that the lack of resources Google sent their way was to blame for the loss in market share.

Wow, this post got longer than I had planned. My basic question is what do you think about all this? As usual, disagreement is highly encouraged and preferred...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MySpace Response

So my buddy Sergey Lossev (Founder/CEO of VCEL) wrote a post in response to my last one about MySpace and Photobucket entitled "Blocking Photobucktet: not as stupid as you think."

He makes some good points, basing his argument around the following tenants:
In order to sustain their leadership MySpace needs to make sure to:

1) Drive a sustainable and large enough revenue stream via advertisement
2) Make sure that the quality of the content and the userbase remains intact. Meaning that the ratio of Signal to Noise in this network needs to favor signal as much as possible (e.g Have real private messages and comments vs robot spam)
Both very good points, especially the second. MySpace has a vast audience, so obviously advertisers are going to pushing for ways to get their wares in front of all those eyeballs.

But one point of his represents the crux of our disagreement - that MySpace needs to ensure they get 100% of the revenue from their site (or at least the majority of it - he mentions widget revenue share at the bottom of the post). Basically, he's taking the same stance as MySpace itself - the site shouldn't let parasitic companies make money off their traffic.

But that's exactly my point - they should. They should let others make money off their site. Because while MySpace is great, it's all the cool widgets that make it even more great.

Philosophically, that's exactly what being "open" is about - freeing oneself and one's company from greed (I'm loving the hippie slant to that last phrase) and understanding that if they don't embrace the little guy trying to make a buck, one of those little guys could be the one that ends up killing them. Going back to the OS Wars, it's the same thing as Apple saying they want to make all the money from the software and Microsoft being content with letting 3rd party software developers make a fortune as long as they do it gives people more of a reason to buy Windows. By dangling the incentive of money, you effectively have the entire widget development community working for you.

Now the times have changed, and it's understandable for MySpace to want to see some of the money widgets make because they're not exactly making money for signing up users (where Microsoft makes a bundle for each OS sold). So fine - work out a rev share with widget developers. And I think that's where Sergey and I have an area of agreement on the issue.

Maybe you've noticed that I've ignored the signal vs. noise issue. It's basically because I have no answer, except that maybe it's a non sequitur. What about letting widget developers make money encourages noise? I mean, I kinda see it - advertisements can be spam, and if you let people make money they're going to want to push ads and whatnot as much as possible. But you get a bit of a free market effect going on - if a widget is pushing spam and it pisses users off, then it will become less popular. And because widget developers rely on MySpace to put food on their table, they're not going to want to lose popularity.

Essentially, allowing them to make money outsources creativity. And creativity and new features keep users coming back for more and staying in love with a service, even if there is better stuff out there. Microsoft has done just that with Windows.

And then you can pull the second page out of the Microsoft book and copy what widgets and crush the competition (like Lotus and Word). Gotta love the boys in Redmond.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MySpace's Doom

It's been a while, hasn't it? I apologize (but don't say I didn't warn you) - life has been beyond hectic.

I figured something would wake me from my blog slumber. A couple weeks back, the combination of a few friends' remarks and an article on CNN got me pretty pissed, and I started a draft on the brain drain our country is experiencing, stemming from the lack of emphasis on the sciences and engineering. Unfortunately, work came up, and I lost motivation to finish it. I promise I will because it's something I've been meaning to blog about for a while, but don't hold your breath.

What actually did the trick was MySpace, returning to the forefront of stupidity. A few weeks ago, I wrote the boys at NewsCorp an open letter, suggesting what they could do to ensure they remain the #1 social networking site: open up.

However, being a bastion of corporate foolishness, they don't realize their precarious position. Recently, they blocked PhotoBucket videos on MySpace, leaving millions of users without video on their pages.

It's mind boggling. They really don't get it. They just don't. I think their fate is sealed.

And I wanted to update one thing on the open letter post - Facebook is more "open" than I gave them credit for. Although they limit the personalization of pages, they understand the importance of third party developers and apparently have a sweet API. The whispers at first were that it was too limited to do anything cool with, but now it's loosened up a bit and some pretty nice stuff is being built around it. I can't attest to this myself as I haven't used it, so if any of you want to chime in that'd be great.