Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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New war of platforms?

Interesting article by Tom O’Reilly.

Perhaps days of fragmented but free-for-all web are coming to an end, as the gravitational pull of proprietary platforms – Facebook, iPhone, Google services – steadily increases.

On the other hand, many of these platforms in fact broke open spaces that were previously off limits to anyone but owners of the closed ecosystems and the few who bought their way in.

iPhone allowed everyone to write and distribute apps without mobile carrier’s blessing, and Facebook granted access to its social graph, allowing third party apps to take advantage of it.

Google Waves goodbye to email (and Microsoft)

Google revealed its stealth Wave project, with the announcement timed, by the way, within minutes after Microsoft Bing’s coming out.

Wave is an attempt to redefine and merge communication media, possibly replacing email, IM and others.

The demo looked really cool. Sadly Wave is not available yet – but I am really eager to check it out when it opens.

Demo lasted more than an hour, the video is available at project’s homepage.

Briefly, Wave aims to replace exchanging messages back and forth, which is the current practice, with single threads, called waves.

Different stuff can be added to waves – messages, but also photos and instant messaging.

In fact they implemented IM in a way that allows to follow each keystroke of the counterpart – like in good old days of Talk sessions on unix systems.

Meanwhile, Microsoft rebranded its search engine to “Bing” and tries to promote it as a “decision engine”, tailoring search results layout depending on the recognized query context (e.g. travel related search) and presenting structured information on its own page, rather than rely on user to go to any of the results.

I like the direction Microsoft is taking, but at this point I would be more excited about Wave’s ability to change my daily routing rather than Bing.

Bing is at most evolutionary step in the right direction, while Wave has more revolutionary feeling to it.

Note: this doesn’t bode well for Microsoft, which is an underdog compared to Google. In this position it should be Microsoft coming up with revolutionary ideas, not Google. Microsoft fails to show real innovation for all the dollars it sinks into search (for years already).

Another note: Wave makes me think of tremendous advantage Google has thanks to it capabilities in mass scale, real time processing. Building a system like this would be a challenge for a small startup.

Learning from Twitter, Facebook

Lately I’m mostly busy with community functionality of Ogito and I’m trying to take advantage of some intuitions from Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve had Facebook account for some time, but was never an active user. Twitter I never used at all, even though I had some experience with blip, a Polish twitter look-alike. So I opened a twitter account to experience the original thing.

My initial goal was something very close to twitter – or how I imagined it should feel like before actually using it. Low barrier of entry, easy to use, one information stream carrying all the relevant user updates.

After playing with Twitter and reading reactions to Facebook latest redesign, which makes social network look quite similar to its much smaller competitor, my vision is evolving a bit.

In fact I wasn’t disappointed by how easy it was to start using twitter. The application is lighthearted and inviting, also because the community seems to radiate with enthusiasm of the early converts.

On the other hand, and maybe it’s my lack of experience with the app, the updates stream seems overwhelming, difficult to read continuously and unstructured. Figuring a conversation from exchanges of replies is one example when I’m quite lost (stream of given users shows replies he directed at someone, but not the other way round, so it’s hard to understand the context).

Facebook feed was supposedly better. It had intelligence to handle updates (status vs activity reports) differently. It lost this advantage after redesign and maybe this is why so many people hate it.

Given that we will have a lot of non-status related updates, Facebook (as of before redesign) might serve as a better inspiration.

Its latest redesign also suggests a number of points where caution should be applied (I’m basing it mostly on this summary in huffingtonpost): overuse of user thumbs, large fonts and trivial updates, lack of real time view.

Of course, many of the complaints (photos flooding the feed em masse etc.) will be resolved by subsequent fixes.

Report: social lending in Poland

Report from our research on social lending in Poland is now publicly available.

You can download it from Gemius webpage:

English version of the report

Polish version of the report

The research was an idea I had after February Bootstrap meeting devoted to social lending. Initially I thought of writing a simple article, but then decided that it would be cool to have some original primary data. So I asked Gemius (leading Internet research agency in Poland) to participate, and then involved Accenture as well.

Below a couple of comments and slides from the report. (read more…)

Kokos will cooperate with Allegro

Kokos, one of the social lending sites in Poland, announced that it started cooperation with Allegro, the dominant online auction player (through antyweb).

According to the research that we did (Accenture and Gemius), this is a rather promising idea for Kokos – Allegro is the top site that potential borrowers actively use (i.e. visit at least once a week):

(there is similar data for potential investors, among which Nasza Klasa has better penetration)

The full report will be public shortly, also in an English version.

FriendFeed, Internet garbage dump or a gold mine

1) Joseph Weizenbaum, who created psychiatrist simulator called Eliza, dies at 85. WSJ article quotes him saying (link by Valleywag):

The Internet is like one of those garbage dumps outside of Bombay, there are people, most unfortunately, crawling all over it, and maybe they find a bit of aluminum, or perhaps something they call sell. But mainly it’s garbage.

2) Friendfeed, basically an RSS aggregator of person’s online activity with added functionality of comments, becomes the latest Internet hit. Scoble loves it, Duncan Riley at Techcrunch covered it and but didn’t see much point, louisgray replied to him with a blog post titled Duncan Riley Misses the Point of FriendFeed, which gained this comment by Ontario Emperor which i.a. explained why it is so useful to add another layer of commenting possibility to the “artifacts” that we produce:

(…) sometimes it’s not appropriate to comment at the original artifact. For example, one day I tweeted

“@commuter ont i10 eb jammed at euclid. 2 rt lanes clsd @ 4th. vineyard archibald offramps clsd.”

Then I subsequently added a metacomment via FriendFeed:

“i was 10 minutes late for maundy thursday rehearsal. my fault.”

The metacomment wouldn’t have made sense as just another tweet, but it made perfect sense as a metacomment overlaid over the previous artifact.

3) Ability of events in reality to generate “artifacts” is virtual reality is growing fast. These first artifacts can attract reactions, which themselves gain status of artifacts and are reprocessed (aggregated, commented on) further.

4) It reminds me of financial markets, which started with rather simple “artifacts” for real things (e.g. currencies), then built so many virtual layers on top of them, that in the end few people can understand the further chains of abstraction.

5) If financial markets were indication, the social sphere can be expected to generate amazing volume given its original “real” base, at the same time becoming unpredictable and impossible to understand for the majority of people.

6) How can social sphere be understood to be “unpredictable”..? In a way illustrated by recent Sarah Lacy interview and the twitter-enabled audience?

Technorati :

Twitter effect

Keynote interview with Zuckerberg is embarrassing to watch sometimes, but feel free to take a look yourself here (fragment).

There is plenty of commentary of course, about Sarah Lacy putting herself in the spotlight instead of her rather more interesting guest, not knowing her audience, and failing to get a clue even afterwards, but more interesting for me are comments related to twitter.

Bill Thompson:

And yet I was there in another way, listening to and even interacting with some of my friends in the audience, picking up on the vibe in the room and even tuning in later as Sarah Lacy loudly defended herself.

I was there because I was plugged into Twitter, the instant messaging service that lets users send short text messages to anyone who cares to tune in, online or on their mobile phone.

Steve O’Hear:

I think another factor in the keynote’s downfall was the use of Twitter as a so-called ‘back channel’. With keynote attendees able to share live commentary instantly, a negative response can spread like wildfire in a profound way that is very different to what’s possible without such connectivity.

Mark Evans:

What’s particularly fascinating is how quickly the criticism and vitriol started to flow as the interview started to go pear-shaped. While Twitter emerged out of nowhere last year at SXSW as a tool to tell people what was happening, Twitter’s took centre stage again this year to blare out anti-Lacy pronouncements in real-time.

Participants are able to turn event into a discussion forum in real time. Both exciting and scary (when you imagine yourself running the event).

Technorati : , ,

Monetto partners with Nasza Klasa, should they go with Goldenline instead?

More recent post: Nasza klasa and facebook

Monetto was kind enough to send me their press release, announcing partnership that they concluded with Nasza Klasa (Polish equivalent of classmates, but more of a Facebook phenomenon in terms of popularity).

Not that I could do anything with the material while in the Ukraine, but still a point for their PR.

One curious thing is the homepage screen shot they attached to the press release.

20082008 Monetto homepage.jpg

Some static elements are evidently in a “draft” state at the moment, and it’s not clear if the core functionality (transactions) has the same status. Placeholder for press snippets shows that Monetto has really high hopes. Folks at bankier should take note.

20080205 Monetto napisaonas.gif

Back to the main point. From the press I understood that:

  • Monetto signed letter of intention with Nasza Klasa regarding the partnership, which will work as the following (in my understanding) –
  • Users of Nasza Klasa will be able to “confirm” their profile using Monetto capabilities (more info on blog entry: “test” money transfer and sending ID scans by email)
  • Additionally, NK user will be able to indicate on his profile that he wants lend/borrow money
  • Nasza Klasa hopes that it will improve credibility of the service (validation of profiles) and reduce problem of fake profiles
  • Monetto hopes that users redirected from Nasza Klasa will in part get interested in P2P lending and use its intermediation
  • The actual contract between two sites has not been signed yet

Meanwhile the release was picked by Gazeta Wyborcza, which reprinted it, without hesitating to spin the point about raising Nasza Klasa credibility to describe it as a site which “more and more often raises mixed feelings”. Get over it, Gazeta.

But in the end they comment that the deal has a high potential for both sites and can harm competitors a lot and especially

My first thoughts on the deal below.

(read more…)

Plaxo: making sense of it

I start to get some clue on how Plaxo can be useful. Interestingly, many of my friends are already in, but I’m yet to hear from any of them on any usage for it.

The cool thing that Plaxo can do is gather rss feeds from a number of sites that you may be already using. Say, you publish your pictures on flickr, share favorite articles in Google Reader (this was actually new to me, more below), update your profile on myspace, etc. All these sites publish feed with updates, which Plaxo can import and aggregate.

Result? Your friends can track your activity across all sites in one place – Plaxo.

Now, two problems with this idea and my friends .

First, they usually have no idea what is “feed”.

Second, they barely use any of the sites other than Linkedin (which doesn’t have a public feed, btw), and maybe some Polish sites (like Goldenline), which also have no feed.

There is little to aggregate in their case.

But I start to like the overall idea of Plaxo (and there maybe more to it which I didn’t bother to find out yet). I added this blog’s feed and it gets aggregated pretty well.

Also I accidentally discovered “shared items” functionality in Google Reader while trying to figure Plaxo. When I “share” the item that I like you can see it on this page. Nice, I will try to share some interesting stuff from time to time.

Our class

Nasza klasa (“our class”) Polish social networking site meant to reunite former classmates, is getting much hype recently, judging from how many of my friends signed up.

At the moment 10 people of one of my former classes are represented, out of total of ca 30.

Thanks to the site, the 9 of them learned today that their colleague, and my co-worker, Magda, died yesterday in a car crash while driving back from her vacation.

Linkedin launches “answers” service

Linkedin opened a “Q&A” feature. I think it might breathe more life into the service, which I’m probably not alone to consider underused.

Now you can ask a question to the network (all network or just your connections), and people can answer it, either in private or publically. In the latter case anyone can browse the answers, which are often interesting.

Consider, for example, question “As an entrepreneur or small business owner, what is your biggest fear?” – here (I’m not sure how linking works and if you need to be logged in to access the question).

Inevitably, some answers feel more like a sale pitch. Another question: What is the best way to do market research in an industry where a) it is a new field and you know many people are building plans to do something similar b) protect your business idea and model ANy ideas most welcome, Thanks Johann. I decided to answer. High level and two-liner, but at least unbiased:)


Another Polish network site, and Linkedin clone, I guess. But quite cute. Recently I’m having special feelings for names with “golden” in it.

Anyway, I found it while looking up some unexpected contact of today. They had a salsa group so I registered out of curiosity (haven’t been to salsa for ages, I prefer horse riding lately because it’s in the open air, even if there are hardly any girls to be met).

Ok small update: after 5 minutes, while breaking from writing this to read some blog entry about unsolicited invitations in goldenline, I got unsolicited invitation from a headhunter. Heh.

Anyway check my profile, with the most dressed-up picture I got (scanned it today for a proposal).

More information, less wisdom

Is there anything wrong with having all the answers at your fingerprints? You don’t know, you type, and Google tells you, or you go straight to Wikipedia.

I use Google News on a daily basis to lookup my favorite topics. Hundeds of news sources there, but they say the same thing most of the time. For fresh view, I wait for articles by Carr or Andrew Orlowski, who, by the way, wrote the piece in Guardian which inspired this post: A thirst for knowledge.

Britannica’s president Jorge Cauz identifies a homogeneity online he finds unsettling. “Internet discourse has the ability to negate the diversity of voices, and no one can differentiate between truth and myth,” he says.

How to avoid being another mirror in the hall of mirrors? With such amount of information sources at hand, it’s difficult to go back and do thinking on your own:

“It’s a false supposition we can endlessly delay having to interpret and judge things by stacking more and more bits of data in front of us,” he says. “That data is a comfort blanket in a way – we all do this. People are becoming addicted to getting more information all the time.

Accumulating information is now easier, and thinking is difficult. You would expect that critical insight will rise in price, since it became so scarce now. On the other hand, when the free is (seems?) good enough most of the time, few will pay premium for a quality content.

Bad Google

What happens when people Google you? Samantha Grice has an interesting article in National Post:

Despite the search engine’s near-miraculous powers of information retrieval, it has a dark side. The Internet’s helpful librarian can become an embarrassing mom who insists on hanging your dorkiest kid photos above the mantle and incessantly gushing about your less-than-stellar achievements.

I hurried to do a Google lookup for myself, but luckily, no embarrassing photos showed up. However, I found one amusing item – an old advert from the time when I was a board member at student consulting association and I had an idea to promote ourselves on international online business boards. It seemed to make sense, since our core competence was to provide assistance to foreign companies interested in the Polish market.

The end result of the whole initiative was a significant number of inquiries, one small project for a Chinese exporter (who in the end didn’t pay the bill), and a ton of spam. I think it can be classified as a less-than-stellar achievement.

MMORPG: whose world it is?

SWGMMORPG, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.

The Wired runs a story about a virtual world which was taken away from players. The topic inspired me to mention the Genesis for the first time on this blog. (read more…)

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