Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Consulting & advisory, research notes, in the press, about bubblegen,
next wednesdays.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Something to excite the geeks among us..

Product Reviews by MetaEfficient (Via MeFi)

-- Mahashunyam // 7:26 PM //


Question of the Day

Looking at my site stats given the discussion below - noticed a very nice power-law distribution for posts read. Normally, we think about PL distributions at the level of blogs. It's interesting that the relationship holds at a lower level as well. Presumably because there are similar positive fb mechanisms at work - preferential attachment, only at the level of posts instead of blogs (sites, whatever).

Why am I making a Big Deal (tm) out of this? Well, because it's an unambiguous piece of evidence for the hypothesis that there's a nice niche to expose a lot of great content already living but rarely accessed in blogs.

My most read post recently, and no 2, if you're interested.

-- umair // 7:02 PM //


Blogonomics (Pt 2)

In the b-sphere, the ratio of blog posts/comments, on average, is really, really, really massive. Quickly eyeing a very high traffic blog - Engadget - the ratio is only about 1/3. This tells us two things. Either:

1) On average, people want to converse, but there are barriers to conversation.

2) On average, people don't really want to converse - what they wanna do is post.

I don't think 1 is likely - comments are pretty costless. But even on moderately high traffic blogs (like mine), there really aren't many to speak of. Conversations are really a hugely concentrated market: MeFi, /., nicheDots (like Daily Wireless), etc. So I will go with 2 for now. Which tells us:

3) Mechanisms are required which create gains to conversation, since costlessly conversing doesn't provide an incentive.

Which is something I'm thinking about...

-- umair // 6:20 PM //


Copyrights & Copywrongs

You know, there's a lot of spurious debate flying around the b-sphere these days. Case in point, this post at BoingBoing about a very small number of composers being able to earn a living from copyright. This is irrelevant for at least two reasons:

1) Sample selection. One of my fav artists are Monolake, who in fact were succesful enough to found Ableton. Clearly, copyright is pretty irrelevant to the entire category of artists that's represented by Monolake - and this category (largely German) has pushed musical innovation hard in the last few years. But they've also made a nice living at it.

2) Other revenue streams. Most musicians don't make a living from copyright because analysing things that way simply reflects the power-law distribution of sales in media markets. But, as the paper referenced notes, many do make livings from all kinds of project work, whose rights is often held by other folks, or which doesn't have clearly defined rights assigned to it at all (pirate radio, etc).

In fact, if you think about it, the logical endpoint of this argument is for stricter rights (under a more loosely controlled distribution regime - enabling more music/media to get distributed cheaper to more people). This is exactly what the paper concludes. But this argument does not support the free-culture position.

This is all a long way of saying that Cory's asking the wrong question - we know copyright's broken - but fixing it requires deeper thinking. Take the counterfactual: would the music industry would still be pushing Britney (would TV networks still be pushing bad reality shows and Joey) in a copyrightless world? Would most artists still be poor and starving? I think it's pretty likely.

If you think that's off, then consider whether, in the absence of copyright, you could rip off your favorite CD's and become a viable competitor to the big labels by selling them. You couldn't: you'd still have to push them through the standard distribution channels, whose economics naturally favor scale, scope, and marketing. The same applies all the way down the value chain.

Copyright's just a way of formalizing an economic theory which is out of sync with the digital world (see license). It's a product of industry economics, not the other way around - especially these days, when barriers to evading copyright are effectively zero.

To make this explicit, consider a world with a strict copyright regime, but full of Web 2.0 goodies - we'd likely see a strong LT effect, with more gains flowing to more artists. But this is a product of technology, marketing, distribution, etc - not copyright regimes.

-- umair // 5:52 PM //


Marketing 2.0

Jeff with a nice rant on the gap between Marketing 1.0 and the as-yet-unseen Marketing 2.0 (ie, the fact that the marketing droids are not exactly leveraging the Net). Check it out.

-- umair // 5:44 PM //


50 Gmail Invites

Just burning a hole in my inbox. If you want one, drop me a line...

-- umair // 4:20 PM //


Google vs Evil

gGoogle - aka Good Google (no cookies, ads, etc). Ha ha!! (Via Linkfilter).

-- umair // 3:59 PM //



Though not a vlog aggregator, highlights the potential of vlogging to become basically a distribution channel for virals. Tells us that more efficient ranking mechanisms may be needed than the standard simple positive feedback algorithms, because the stickiness of video is inherently greater (unless you enjoy virals).

-- umair // 3:54 PM //


Calacanis on the Bloglines acq...no comment, except to say that saying 'there's no business in RSS readers' is missing the (strategic) point. As someone on my blogroll posted the other day, 'I spend more time on Bloglines than I have on any other website...period'. The name of the game is switching costs - providing a key leverage point for future moves.

-- umair // 3:48 PM //



CNet's new RSS aggregator. So, again, we come up against the problem of how to monetize RSS. CNet's move is protective - to embed greater switching costs into it's greatest resource (it's real estate). But it doesn't solve the monetization problem - because if CNet gloms ads onto Newsburst, it will be shooting itself in the strategic foot.

Is this a trend/will more publishers use RSS aggregators as protection mechanisms? Probably - but Publishing 2.0 (tags/RSS/open-access/etc) is moving fast enough that this is a nonissue.

Interestingly, economically, what we're seeing is value-destruction: readers appropriating gains (or surplus, if you like, in the form of 'free' info, or info without ads) at the expense of publishers, shrinking the total market size (for Net publishing).

Of course, creative destruction, Schumpeter, etc...

-- umair // 3:17 PM //


Numbers Day

Interesting stats about how much SF writers make - time series + cross sectional both.

What struck me is the effect that this kind of transparency is going to have on how the pie gets sliced across industries - this is far beyond your typical newspaper salary survey.

-- umair // 3:13 PM //


Space Finance

The Cost of Capital for Space Tourism Ventures. The methodology is flawed - you can't use unadjusted betas for cruiselines as comparables for space tourism (!), but interesting reading nonetheless.

-- umair // 3:08 PM //


Feedburner details some podcasting growth metrics - essential reading. (via Feld).

-- umair // 1:51 PM //



Mefeedia - an RSS aggregator/Vlogging community. If you haven't had your a-ha moment yet, you will have it here. (Via Unmediated).

-- umair // 1:46 PM //


Envivio/Intel whitepaper providing a rough overview of H.264/IPTV.

-- umair // 1:44 PM //


Inflection Points

GM is..uhh...podcasting. (Via Scripting News).

-- umair // 1:43 PM //



Strangely enough, about two weeks ago, I stopped getting any spam in my Gmail account (before which the level was rising nicely).

-- umair // 12:18 PM //


Replication Wars

The MPAA shuts down LokiTorrent, replacing it with a nicely menacing page telling us file-sharing is illegal.

I recommend you read the discussion at Slyck. Why? Because it's a living example of selection pressure: you can actually read how misguided strategic moves like this select exactly the kind of responses they're meant to stop. In this case, more and more efficient p2p architectures...

-- umair // 11:59 AM //


Speaking of Goog

So they've offered to host Wikimedia...I don't think this is purely altruistic, there are significant learning gains for Google involved, especially in light of where it's portfolio is going.

-- umair // 11:56 AM //


Evil Google

Greg notes something I didn't write about that's pretty important - [email protected] ended the analyst day by talking a lot personalizing search without imposing additional costs on the user. I don't really see this anywhere in Google's portfolio. In fact, the one place where it could be - personalized RSS a la Bloglines - is the one massive innovation gap Google's left (having done little with Blogger post-acq). Comments, thoughts...?

-- umair // 11:53 AM //


Connectivity Wars

Trying to map the dynamics of the coming connectivity wars can get complicated. I think a metaphor to use is to put the cable operators in the same place that the telcos were in just after the Telecomms Act in 96 - with little market power on paper, but with a huge amount in the real world.

Here's a nice piece from the Post discussing how cable operators won't be forced to carry side channels - the additional channels per station enabled by shifting to digial broadcasting. The metaphor works (to an extent) because carriage rights (over cable networks) are analogous to access rights (over telco networks).

Now, obviously, in a situation where the cable operators can cherry-pick which content to carry (or not), distribution is king. Oh, yeah - and the consumer generally gets a bad deal as well.

The interesting part is that the situation won't be static, like the telco industry post 96. Since the MSOs and the RBOCs will be competing against each other for content and customers, the market dynamics look to be considerably more complex than the network owner simply putting the squeeze on content producers.

-- umair // 11:46 AM //

Thursday, February 10, 2005

News from Jesusland

US school's new challenge to Darwin

Hmmm...at least its attracting investments for creating biblical theme parks :-). Wow!

-- Mahashunyam // 7:02 PM //

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Global Trade Tectonics

China projected to become India's #1 trading partner

Indo-China trade may cross $17bn

I am starting a betting pool on when India and China will negotiate a Free Trade Agreement to fundamentally disrupt global trading structure :-). Where's my money? Before 2020.

-- Mahashunyam // 11:50 PM //


Resource on all things derivatives, financial engineering and quantitative finance.

A friend pointed me to this cool site. Lots of good info.

-- Mahashunyam // 6:25 PM //


Replication Wars

Barry and a buddy debate file-sharing - nice debate, what strikes me is the lack of radical innovation in this space for the last year or so (BT has been around for a while, folks).

-- umair // 11:57 AM //

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Gadget Mania

Chuckit, HyperDog, GoDogG0 and more. All from SitStay.com

Sit in your patio, drink your beer, drive your dog nuts in your backyard with your GoDogGo canine activity sport :-).

-- Mahashunyam // 11:02 PM //


Google Maps

Yeah, Google Maps is pretty cool - a nice example of recombinative innovation. More interesting is the fact that Dot Com 2.0 is disrupting Dot Com 1.0 (Google Maps/Mapquest, LinkedIn/Monster), and this is going to accelerate - there are many spaces in which Dot Com 1.0 plays just kind of ran out of steam and stopped innovating. Aggregators, anyone?

-- umair // 4:28 PM //


LinkedIn Jobs vs HR

It's no big surprise that the HR industry is fundamentally broken. We've all received the advice that if your application ends up in the hands of HR, you might as well as kiss it goodbye. So why didn't the Net (as promised in 98) kill HR?

The Net's first attempts at destroying HR were pretty crude - Monster, etc were (are) basically big fat databases. It's easy to say why they didn't really work (because the economics were wrong) - it was cheap enough for applicants to essentially spam potential employers, who realized only limited gains. In fact, interestingly, Monster and other job boards have ended becoming complements to HR, rather than substitutes for it - HR people are the ones that use them the most, because job boards reduce their costs of doing business, while their gains (ie salaries) stay the same.

Dot Com 2.0 is giving us more interesting solutions, like LinkedIn Jobs. Now, I'll be the first to say I find LinkedIn's solution more than a little creepy, and potentially open to massive gaming.

But the economics behind it are fascinating. Essentially, LinkedIn Jobs threatens to replace HR with, well, you and me (plus a simple bit of software). That is, with what I've termed distributed economies of scale - massively distributed information revelation (and/or production). Note that Monster et al never met the criteria for this model, which begs the question - why has innovation from the incumbents been stagnant for the last few years?

The Dot Com 2.0 vs HR question becomes this: is it more efficient to massively distribute the processes and routines of HR (filter, sort, get references, arrange meetings) than it is to specialize it? Put another way, assuming the gains to potential employers and job-seekers stay the same, is it less costly to massively distribute and then extract information about both on LinkedIn's network (using LinkedIn's search/reference/etc mechanisms) than it is in the real world? Put really simply - can n people on LinkedIn do as good a job as the folks down the hall in HR?

My guess is that the answer is yes - but only because HR in the real world is so amazingly inefficient. Either way, this is a textbook example of a massively distributed model whose goal is to radically alter the structure of an industry whose time is long past due. And this time the economics are far, far more attractive.

-- umair // 1:51 PM //


Dot Com 2.0

Google (along with others) is bidding on About - I would love to see what GOOG would do with such a great, but underutilized, set of resources.

-- umair // 1:38 PM //


Link of the Day

Yeald is the coolest thing I have seen in a very long time...I think this has huuuge potential.

-- umair // 1:24 PM //

Monday, February 07, 2005

Bubble Science

Carl wrote in to tell me about his new book, Frenzy. It's about decision-making in the face of big opportunities leading to bubbles, and is full of interviews of (and recommendations by) VCs and other tech financiers. I haven't read it yet, but it certainly sounds cool. Check out his survey of tech investors - for example:

"...During this period did you ever think you were investing in a bubble that would collapse and make investments worth very little or nothing ?"

76% said yes. Very nice.

-- umair // 5:57 PM //


Montreal's Explosive Music Scene

NY Times on the music scene in Montreal. Did I mention that I think Montreal just rocks? BTW, for those who don't know about the Vice Magazine, don't miss it! Check out the A-Z of design here.

-- Mahashunyam // 4:33 PM //

Sunday, February 06, 2005

No monopoly on modernity

Finally! Somebody somewhere in the west is beginning to clue in :-).

-- Mahashunyam // 10:18 PM //



Interesting example of segmentation.

-- Mahashunyam // 2:20 AM //



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