Are you the next Nike?

How do you build a brand around your name, your ideas and opinions? The power of social networking, blogging and micro blogging has provided a platform that makes reaching out to millions of people easy. However there is a catch to this method and as the saying goes “you only get out what you put in”. As spoken previously in my blog about leveraging the long tale the internet has provided a platform for true exposure for any niche if marketed correctly. So what are some of the techniques that are being used to get your name out on the internet.

  • Seamless integration of social networks, and build your name on various social networking services

  • With there being hundreds of different services available at ones disposal, generally the well established and popular services are the best to invest time into. Currently Facebook and twitter have the strangle hold of users and are excellent ways to leverage your digital identity. I’ve found that mashable.com posted two excellent posts on how to uses facebook and twitter to build your brand.

  • Establish relationships with others in your niche, adn Market your Product

  • There is your audience, and the power of recommendation from peers in your niche can only be an advantage.

  • Active Blog, and Own your Content

  • With most of the attention today being drawn to appeal of micro blogging, the blog is still a very important selling point in your overall identity. As it is an extension of your ideas and opinions and acts as a portfolio/resume. With increased activity and community around your blog builds foundation of strong search engine results.

  • Monitor Personal Branding

  • Simply Google the blog/company/name whatever your are marketing as your product, as it gives an idea of where you site against the rest
  • Market your blog through various other aggregation services, like technorati, Yahoo! updates and blog lines.
  • Monitor followers and comments on social networking services like twitter and facebook, look at followers statistics after updates via blog
  • Unfortunately there is no set way of marketing one self online, however taking advantage of the trends online (go where the people are) and provide a reason why people want to listen to you, your blog and only increase in traffic.

    ~Matt

Cloud Computing = Normal regular network + hype???

Currently it seems we are in this form of transformation phase and a battle between software as a service and locally run applications. As the much quoted cloud computing terminology being associated and marketed as the next big internet revolution. Google has built their business based on offering services online either through Google Docs or Gmail. Where Microsoft is acknowledging the importance to be in this field and releasing their own revision of office 2010 in a from where it is marketed as a service available online.

This can be seen by Larry Ellison, the CEO and founder of Oracle during the TechPulse360 conference. Where Larry points out very strongly that what really is meant by the term cloud computing, a re-invention of the word networking.

Some key points of what Larry feels about cloud computing

  1. Cloud computing has been the past and present of computing not only seen to be the future.
  2. The cloud is still a computer network
  3. As long as there is an internet there will be hardware and local based software, because what runs these services online.
  4. Software as a service is not new, his example Netsuite

However in all this i think the industry has got caught up in the idea that cloud computing is a new technology. Where the focus has been drawn towards the marketability of offering these services online. Where the real story is not that cloud computing as a platform is new, but through technologies like ajax, RSS, XML, KML and API’s have been used to expand the capabilities of what the internet cloud computing is truly capable of. Perhaps what is shifting is the approach that consumers are no longer required to have powerful machines, but access to high speed broadband internet, and the massive explosion of netbooks and smartphones in the market can be a sign of things to come.

~Matt

Final Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Eight: Lightweight Models and Cost-Effective Scalability “Ebay”

This final pattern is all about implementing a model that is able to adapt to a cost effective process that is able to deliver a cheaper product with less than required resources. While with the free flowing nature that web 2.0 development provides, there is greater chance of improved ROI and ability to scale with the demands caused by network effects.

Ebay.com is one of the pioneers of the internet age. From its humble beginnings as a server in a living room in 1995, that could handle a max number of 50,000 active items. To its now global empire in auction sites, that sees eBay having local versions of the site in 33 different countries. What has made this possible is the way in which eBay has been able to cope with the evolving demand of its user, as well as meeting is business strategy goals. Ebay is working off a horizontal scaling technique, as opposed to adding more power to single machines they are spreading out for parallel computing to serve the data. At present they have 16,000 application servers into 220 different pools. Having pools allows them to break up each pool and access the resources and requirements individually2. This practice is the same for the databases
This practice is the same for the eBay databases, with 1000 logical databases, on 400 physical hosts, it is a very cost and resource effective approach to scaling the eBay servers. A new approach eBay has taken to is in v3 most of the eBay site has been ported into java, as it has the advantages of scaling better than the previous c++ coding, yet still keep the core functionality the same.

howstuffworks.com has an excellent roundup of eBays infrastructure

howstuffworks.com has an excellent roundup of eBays infrastructure


The eBay API and affiliate programs is another example of a best practice by eBay, as it partners as well as users to build from eBay infrastructure onto their own website. As the main incentive for sellers is that they have the ability to earn extra money for providing these extra links. Not to mention to advantage of providing a easy approach for new businesses to start up selling on the internet. Ebay’s main revenue model is getting a listing fee and a percentage of the total sale of an item. Advertising on the site is carried out through eBay itself, as the adds are targeted towards its users.

Ebays efforts have highlighted the notion that if you build your product or services on a platform that is easily able to scale , as the demands for web 2.0 solutions are only to get more demanding as more users use the system. Where smaller lightweight scaling technologies reduce the strain on IT support and infrastructure, while having the advantages of building in additional models (revenue, affiliate programs) when required.

Foundation of web 2.0 Series
Pattern Eight: Lightweight Model and Cost Effective Scalability “eBay”
Pattern Seven: Leveraging the Long Tail “Audible”
Pattern Six: Perpetual Beta “Dropbox”

Pattern Five: Software Above the level of a Single Device

Pattern Four: Rich User Experience “Google Docs”
Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Seven: Leveraging the Long Tail “Audible”

Leveraging the long tail is the expression where a service/content takes advantage of a niche market that would otherwise be swallowed by the head of the markets in traditional distribution models. The internet provides a limitless opportunity for companies and individuals to exploit thePower Law Distribution, to not become reliant on physical space to sell products and the cost advantages of selling through e-commerce. A pioneer of this online is Amazon, where they have made a business out of selling a range of products no brick and mortar could successfully achieve. In particular I want to highlight their efforts in online distribution of audio books through Audible.

Since its introduction 1997, Amazon has continually evolved Audible and now share many of the key principles of Power Law Distribution. One best practice that they have implemented is the use of a algorithmic data management, to generate items that other users bought while they purchased this item, or items that are very similar to this title. This is excellent in providing a narrow scope of titles within a category that other may find very useful. Other elements like customer feedback and reviews on title also help give the customer a in depth look matching the title they are going to buy , with similar titles or customers with the same interest.

Audible

Audible


As they have a very large library it helps customers pick up titles that they may otherwise not notice or think about. This ties in with another best practice of matching supply with demand, as many users will generally move towards books that have the higher ratings and more positive comments than books with no feedback. The reviews are either carried out by audible and the users who have purchased the item, to reduce fraudulent reviews. As well you can see all the previous reviews done by a user so you can judge the comments they have made.

Audible has leveraged the low cost advantages of being online, by promoting their services through many podcasts. As many shows are located through the itunes store, the same with many audible books. It has been a very successful advertising plow in my opinion. As many of the people who are listening to podcasts are use to this form of concept, so it is going straight to the niche market. They have also utilised services like twitter to promote any specials and new releases to those who are following them. So in many cases this is the digital form of word of mouth. Even with the niche market of audio books audible.com has gone after expanding their catalogue to cover many areas. Since April 2008 audible.com has been producing their own sci-fi based audio books as many of these classics were not available in the spoken form. Expanding into a niche area that hasn’t been explored yet.

So what does this mean to other businesses and enterprises. This practice applies to both products to be sold and internal services that could benefit from opportunities that may of initially didn’t exist within the current structure. This can be done either through improving the process of search, filtering and aggregation of data internally and apply to areas that can meet user demand. The internet is now the driving force of smart business and having a excellent understanding on a enterprises niche market is extremely valuable.

Series So Far
Pattern Six: Perpetual Beta “Dropbox”
Pattern Five: Software Above the level of a Single Device
Pattern Four: Rich User Experience “Google Docs”
Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Six: Perpetual Beta “Dropbox”

The internet has change the way software developers are looking at the traditional software development and delivery process. What web 2.0 technologies have done is bring and end the idea of downloading and installing a particular version of software and introduce a new process of software evolving regularly and relies on a new breed of software testers, the users. For many years there one only one online application you would think about when it came to perpetual beta’s and that was gmail, up until recently when the Google App Suite was formally out of beta. I’ve already mentioned this piece of software in a previous blog entry, and still continue to use it daily. Dropbox has been in beta since September of 2008 and allows users to join up and use the server through a private beta system. As it stands it has released 17 versions for windows, OSX and linux. These updates have been coming at a very regular interval to all the platforms, which for many services some platforms may be left out from initial release, and incorporate later in the development tree. Prime example is the release of Google Crome, lacking OSX support at the initial release, which has puzzled many users.

The feedback for the updates have manly come from users of the private beat as there is the ability for submission of feature requests as well as vote of other users proposed updates. On the feature request site they have broken up the features as short, mid and long term goals. Not only does this help the developers with understanding the users, but it builds a relationship with its users, as they have implemented a wiki to allow the flow of information. At the moment their service is run of a amazon s3 back end so this could come into availability problems with the service.

So it can be seen that Dropbox is feeding off the wider community to help understand the use cases present and close the gap between building and then running the software. What this can mean to Enterprises looking at establishing their produce online is, scope how to best translate the already existing software development cycle into a more agile iterative approach. Where initially look at trailing smaller project teams and learn from the process of transition to a web 2.0 environment. As a side note the new office 2010 as mention in the pattern five, should be a interesting beta process to be apart of, and ideal example of a large organisation (Microsoft) turning towards an online alternative to their traditional desktop based software.

Series So Far

Pattern Five: Software Above the level of a Single Device

Pattern Four: Rich User Experience “Google Docs”
Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Five: Software above the Level of a Single Device

As the increasing number of people move towards smartphones like the Apple iPhone and smaller internet enabled devices, there is a greater exposure to online applications and services. This trend is pushing the industry into a new era of ubiquitous computing and the many advantages for enterprises that come with it. No longer are we carrying devices that just make and receive phone calls, but have the ability to create and share a rich variety of media to work friends, family and work colleagues. A prime example of this is Facebook.
facebook_logo
In the past five years facebook have exploded on the internet like what myspace did in the early 2000’s. According the facebook , they have more than 30 millions users who are actively checking their account though a mobile device. Where they also go onto saying that mobile facebook users are 50% more active then just standard computer based browsing users. This shows a great leap towards information on the go, but with many websites the mobile experience is very much lacking in usability. Not to mention the large number of mobile smart devices with all different format specifications many websites are poorly handled/rendered to make use of this emerging trend.

Facebook has effectively made the use of their website on a mobile device, providing two different portals for use with mobile devices that just have internet access, and mobile devices that support applications. The site m.facebook.com allows just internet enabled phones a cut down version of the main page giving access to an overview of the account and the activity that has taken place, whether it be notifications or new emails in the inbox. This has helped with the load times on the mobile device without additionally formatting to make it clunky.

A large number of users of mobile facebook are through the use of the facebook application. This has been made available on a wide variety of devices a well as mobile service providers. Particularly the iPhone, blackberry and the G1 mobile. As it stands the facebook application on the itunes app store has been in the top 25 free apps since its inclusion. As it allows the users a wide variety of tools that aren’t provided through the m.facebook.com portal. The cleaner UI as well as the ease of navigation has been the main success to the application.

So as more devices become location aware and have the ability to expand the collaboration effects it provides an opportunity for enterprises to leverage these best practices within their organisations. As it is becoming a standard for companies to issue smartphone devices like blackberry’s, providing an intranet that is available in mobile form can only have positive effects.

Series So Far
Pattern Four: Rich User Experience “Google Docs”
Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Four: Rich User Experience “Google Docs”

What web 2.0 has done for the internet is provide a new generation a rich applications that are able to replace the need for traditional desktop applications. As the advantages of portability of content and reduced reliance on hardware has seen many businesses looking at Online collaboration as a viable solution.

Google Docs allows the users to have a seamless integration between an online and offline world, when it comes to document creation, whether they are on a Mac, pc, linux or even a mobile phone . Where the concept of Rich User Experience has been explored through a lightweight browser based model.

Google Docs embraces the term Cloud Computing, as it offers a fully functional tool that supports a wide variety of formats including DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV and PPT. As well as a majority of all the major functions you would find in a word processor like Microsoft Word. What Google docs have over most word processors is the ability to interactively work on documents amongst multiple people at the same time. As well as the security knowing that only the people you have granted access to the file is able to view and edit the document. Taking out the need to transport your documents on an usb flash drive or sending multiple copies out via email to fellow group members. Google has incorporated a service called Google gears that allows the storage of the online Google to be stored locally when the user is offline. So that the file can still be accessed and any changes made locally when next online will be automatically synchronized.

Google Docs

Google Docs


There are some restrictions put in place for maximum file sizes as well as number of documents you are allowed to have created. For example documents cannot exceed 500kb, excel documents cannot have more than 256 columns, 200,000 cells, and 99 sheets and PowerPoint presentation cannot be larger than 10mb. To some this may a negative point, but majority of users, using this service are working well within these numbers so the affect these restrictions place are very small.

Google Docs is a very powerful tool and with its integration of other google services and support for a large variety of file formats have made it one of the most popular web applications. And since the inclusion of Google Gears for offline document creation it has minimised the risk of being disconnected from created content, which I think has been a concern for business looking at Google Docs as an alternative. A recent article by
Informationweek
has outlined the strong growth of business users looking at Google Docs and the continual pressure that is put on Microsoft and their venture into online document creation through Office 2010 web apps. This only emphasises the transition that many enterprises are leaning towards, based on the advantages an online solution can bring. Either through the attempts to standardise in an industry that is constantly moving at a fast pace, reduced requirements placed on hardware infrastructure and the IT support that is required for deployment and configuration and the inherent benefits of having a rich user experience on customer and user satisfaction.

Series So Far
Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Three: Innovation in Assembly “Google Maps”

This wont be the last Google mention in this series, as Google has year after year provided a wide range of excellent tools for both the individual and the enterprise. Google Maps has exploded since its release in 2004. The release of the API has been the main contributor for the growth and popularity of Google Maps platform to date and is now the base of many web 2.0 applications used by bloggers and even more important many enterprise solutions.

So how is Google Maps building upon its platforms through the API, for starters it has build in many of the other services offered like docs and gmail natively. In particular Google Maps, allows users to incorporate 4 different types of API’s: Google Maps Javascript API, Google Maps API for Flash, Google Static Maps API and also Mapplets that allow you to create applications within Google Maps itself. This is just a small amount from the other 48 API’s that are provided by Google. The API offered is free for most users that have non-commercial uses and a premium service that is for company intranet uses as well as commercial sites. Where the incorporation of Google AdSense, allows for many businesses and enterprises to build a business case in developing through this platform.

One other reason for widespread adoption is the use of commonly used languages that are ideal for developing web applications from the API. Javascrpt and KML, with their extensive knowledge base on teh internet, the barrier of being a Google Maps developer is extremely smaller. Some of the most interesting incorporation of the Google maps API is on the websites like twittervision.com , www.flickrvision.com and www.earthknowledge.net/home/. Where the first two sites are mashing up tweets from twitter and photos from flickr on the world map based on the location where they are. And Earth knowledge allows users see current important environmental issues around the world.

It has been shown through user adoption that this service is one of the more popular API’s on the Internet, through the ability to let users manipulate the data they are offering to fit their very own use. And with Google’s openness with documentation, platform requirements, software development tools and open standards, it opens to platform to many enterprise solutions. As this provides a different approach to managing new web 2.0 applications / additional services into already established infrastructure. Where it has been regarded that the web 2.0 model provides a faster ROI compared to the traditional development cycle.

Series So Far
Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern Two: Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’ “Flickr”

For as long as I’ve known computers, there has always been a Intel Inside sticker somewhere on the machine. This is what Tim O’Reilly means by Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside’. Data is going to be just as important if not more important that the physical components that is inside the machine. This pattern expands from what was discussed in the previous entry about Harnessing the Collective Intelligence from Diggs users. As there are many web 2.0 companies that deal with user content, Flickr is a perfect web 2.0 example of how a company deals with user content.

Flickr has built is business around the content that has been submitted by users. Where additional features that have been implemented over the years have added value to the way users interact with their content. This can be seen through the constant enhancements with social networking integrations like twitter, the power of search through tagging and keyword searches. One of the most important features of Flickr and what has made it one of the most popular photo sharing site is the ability to allow users to control the license on their on content. And with the incorporation of open standards like RSS and XML directly into the site it has opened the site an excellent portal or users to share their content. As we are sharing more and more of our data onto the internet trust in a platform or a service is extremely important and Flickr recognises this. There are many API‘s that are made available as a way to provide a clear path for those looking at sharing and reusing content. A feature that many enterprises are looking for when data portability, and open platforms are of high importance.

Series So Far
Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Foundation of web 2.0 – Pattern One: Harnessing Collective Intelligence “Digg”

Harnessing the Collective Intelligence is about building value into your product, by harnessing the data that it contributed by your users as well as managing network effects that are associated with it. This is generally seen through active participants directly and indirectly made to a website. I’ve chosen Digg.com as a perfect example to showcase how a web 2.0 company is utilising their user base at enhancing the quality of their product the more people use it. For those that aren’t familiar with digg.com, they provide a social news site where users can submit stories from all over the internet for other users the “digg” them as well as comment on these stories. Once a story is regarded as a top story it is promoted to the front page of Digg.

According to compete.com, Digg in the month of August 2009 had just under 44 million unique hits. So what is the formula the digg’s success. Well as mention it is the freedom and trust Digg put on their users to decide on the content they want to see on the site. The core concept of the site is being active within the community, either through leaving comments on a story, digging a story that you like or submitting a story you find interesting. With the incorporation of Facebook connect Digg has minimised the barrier of adoption by allowing users to connect to Digg via a Facebook account. This has also opened up for services like Facebook and twitter to monitor activity on Digg and promote this through these social networking services.
Digg also takes the data posted very seriously and are constantly looking at ways to reduce gaming of the system as well as improving the overall accuracy of top stories through their promotion algorithms.

What Digg has done since its introduction in 2004 is provide a way for people to share information in a way that is very natural and in a way that the internet had not know for during traditional web 1.0 setups. Where Digg’s popularity today has stemmed from giant steps the company took when this type of news aggregation was not heard of. When a large organisation like CNN has developed their own style of user based new aggregation ireport.com, it has shown the success of Digg has had a profound impact on the way people are getting their news.