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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Polish Web 2.0

I used not to pay much attention to Polish web 2.0 endeavours – and maybe not without a reason, since most of them seem clones of Western ideas anyway – but I took a second look, even if a brief one, after this post by Sebastian Kwiecien.

There is a presentation with the visual of web 2.0 companies’ logos in Poland. Compare to the US one.

Main message for me – there’s been hardly any innovation so far. But I didn’t have time to browse through all sites mentioned, maybe there are some nuggets to be found. Still it’s a sad situation. Someone’s gotto change it:)

Google Poland has a blog

Didn’t even notice, and it’s already a few weeks old: Google Polska blog.

I was looking for info when they are going to introduce search for Google Maps in Poland, but so far no clue.

You bet: a “Polish Nokia” will emerge

Article in Gazeta Wyborcza (Polish):

W Polsce narodzi się gigant high-tech?

A topic dear to my heart: will we at last have a high-tech startup with a brand known worldwide? Say, till 2008.

Dariusz Wiatr, former McKinsey and Andersen Consulting partner, says no.

Tomasz Czechowicz, who runs MCI Management fund, says yes (but means whole region rather than only Poland).

Google Reader got an update

I use Google Reader, which was recently upgraded. After couple of days I can say I like the update a lot. Supports selective reading much better and that’s what I needed, in order not to drown in all these feeds. But now it is probably little different to bloglines and others.. well maybe at least it’s more reliable, thanks to Google’s infrastructure.

Anyway, for those who don’t know what the RSS reader is… who yet don’t know what it is… you might want to try it.

Wiki of choice: Wikispaces

In order to choose a wiki for one of my pet projects I had to spend quite a few weekend hours on comparing, demoing and testing things available on the market. There are lots of them, and I had little background to start with. As a matter of fact, my experience with wikis is limited to Wikipedia… and it’s only reader’s experience.

Eventually, I decided to go with Wikispaces.

I thought my expectations towards wiki to be quite typical, so I was quite surprised that it was so hard to find a suitable solution. My basic requirements for the wiki were the following:

  • Should be hosted
  • Should preferably look as simple and clean as Wikipedia
  • Should preferably NOT look or feel like Sharepoint
  • Should demand as little overhead as possible ? for example provide a WYSIWYG editor
  • Should be cheap, at least in the beginning

I found some helpful sites giving an overview of the wiki landscape, including:

  • Wiki page with list of wiki solutions
  • WikiMatrix? really nicely done dynamic matrix comparing different wikis

In the end I established some intimacy with the following wikis:

  • Confluence
  • Editme
  • eTouch SamePage
  • Jotspot
  • Socialtext
  • Stikipad
  • Wikispaces

Below, rather than a detailed review (I have full time job, sorry), a report on impressions along the way. (read more…)

Some serendipity finds

I started to search for online collaboration solution and immediately found several sites as interesting as totally irrelevant to my topic, including:

  1. Google Trends
  2. Pandora music service

(rather unexpectedly, I was directed to both by one of the company’s internal blogs)

Google Trends allows you to input a keyword and see a nice chart presenting the news and search volume for this keyword changing in the course of time. Moreover, you can input several keyword and see them stacked together on a chart.

Pandora, on the other hand, is a music service. It’s a music serendipity engine, to give this entry a double bottom. I am so impressed that I will probably devote a separate article just to it. Do not wait, though – give it a try now!

Serendipity definition:

1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.

A word I was first introduced to by Nick Carr’s article, here. Note interesting discussion on whether Internet is enhancing or killing our ability to experience true serendipity.

Text in, image out

Take a look at snap:

Is it just an eye candy or the true innovation to the search experience?

As for myself, I’m not sure if the visuals of the returned results help a lot to judge their value, and the scroll seems way too slow. But the looks does impress, and the auto suggest while you type is nice.

Update: I forgot to mention that I failed to find my own webpage – an ultimate proof that they still have work to do.

RSS is worse than email

I’m back from the training and vacation in the US.

I caught up with my email already, but I’m not sure when I will be able to read all those feeds accrued during the last two weeks.

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.

Journalism after Google

NYT article by Steve Lohr pictures journalism trying to cope with new search engine driven reality:

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

Not that it’s only today that the profession is shaped by technology and marketing: headlines were always meant to attract attention, and telegraph invented the pyramid.

But now comes the Google and the rules change again. After the editor and the reader, the spider becomes third stakeholder that needs to be satisfied.

Google to build research lab in Poland

Gazeta Wyborcza reports that Google Poland is looking for a manager of the research and development center it allegedly plans to open. Worldwide Google has 12 such centers, including 3 in Europe, located in London, Dublin and Zurich.

Most likely locations include Warsaw and Cracow, due to their academic potential.

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.

Gdrive + Writely

Last week Google acquired Writely, an online wordprocessor created by company named Upstartle, triggering, as usual, wave of ?Google goes after Microsoft? noise. Almost immediately it was followed by the voices of skeptics, including Andrew Orlowski’s analysis in the Register and Nicholas Carr comment, scoring points for obvious, namely, that Writely is nowhere near replacing Word anytime soon.

I didn?t have a chance to play with Writely, but despite that, I am pretty much sure that it will not be replacing Word anytime soon.

Nevertheless, it would be disappointing if it ended up, as Register suggests following Jupiter Research, just as a beefed up text input box for Google?s email and blogging platform. Like Gmail is able to be preferred over Outlook despite lacking many of its features, the online wordprocessor could find a more prominent place by taking advantage of its inherent advantages: simplicity, collaboration facilities, and unrestricted accessibility from any place, just to name a few.

Although Writely would have a difficult time to gain traction as a standalone service, it would be a different story if it was introduced to wide range of users as a ?one click? alternative to offline editing. Google did a similar exercise with its chat, when it integrated it with Gmail, allowing any user to try it immediately, with no installations required. From my personal point of view it was a killer idea ? previously, when it was a standalone application, I found little incentive to bother with the chat, even if I installed it initially just to take a look; now, when it is one click away in the already open Gmail browser tab, I use it almost every day.

Gdrive could serve as a similar driver for Writely.

Gdrive would deliver immediate value to the users with little barriers for wide adoption, since free storage for user?s files, if security and privacy issues are left aside, is an easier sell than a entirely new way of document editing. Gdrive users will be able, of course, to download their documents from Gdrive, edit them locally and then upload again; but what if an option existed to avoid this hassle and make simple amendments directly online? A click on ?edit? and the user would find himself in the word of Writely.

Even if online wordprocessor would initially suffice only for a limited range of scenarios, from there, Writely could safely keep evolving, till one day, who knows, someone will discover that for his simple text editing needs, he doesn?t need a desktop application anymore.

Update: I just read article on Squash in which Writely role is being considered in a way close to this thinking; it paints a larger picture of Google’s vision of online/offline coexistence, and mentions also OpenOffice element, which I left out.

Google way vs. Microsoft way

Sanaz Ahari is a program manager at Microsoft, working on portal; originally it started as but then was included in “Windows Live” branding push. Nowadays, as far as I can understand, is supposed to be a testing groud for components to be included in, which is, however, still called “beta”.

Anyway, I just read an entry on her blog, with some comments comparing her today’s work to the days:

one thing i would say is:
during it was all about: experiment, iterate and improve a concept and make customers happy by listening to them. and who did everything: a few ppl, end-to-end for design, pm, dev, test, planning, marketing – everyone basically wore all the hats. it’s different. there are many more stakeholders, some justifiably so and some maybe not. so many stakeholders that it’s hard to keep track. some are stakeholders and some think they are. the biggest challenge is making sure the right ppl are involved – the more ppl the longer it takes to just get shit done. and that is hard – very hard, but absolutely crucial. it’s the balance of how do i keep the project going, while keeping everyone happy. and keeping everyone, or at least most folks :) , happy is crucial if you actually want to succeed in the corporate world…

it’s almost like had one set of customers: our users, has two, the internal teams/stakeholders and our users :) so my rule of thumb is, if the teams/stakeholders can help us build a better prodcut for our customers then that’s great! if not, let’s not waste eachother’s time.

It reminded me an interview with Marissa Mayer of Google, in which she elaborated on how it works in her camp. I read the article half a year ago, but one or two search queries located it in Businessweek: (read more…)

Web 2.0: a label for “now”

Inevitably, my article “How do you make money on Web2.0?” gathered the following comment by SidewalkPilot on digg:

What does WEB2.0 mean, and why are there no spaces?

I use the term merely as a shortcut for saying “the new internet companies”, in contrast to their predecessors from the original Internet bubble. Web 2.0 is just a slogan coined for the needs of this time period, and I use it not because I believe it means anything, but because I see a practical purpose of labeling some topics in a way consistent with general public.

The companies in question often share certain elements that are trendy today, such as technologies (AJAX, RSS, …), approach (focus on social features), or even design (the famous blue gradients). Some people try to take these features and create a definition of what “web 2.0” is and what it is not, but I’m not one of them.

Note that it’s my personal approach on this, though. As can be expected, the topic is a subject of a lively conversation, with skeptics like Russell Shaw (“Web 2.0? It doesn’t exist”) and committed defenders like Stowe Boyd (“Traitors in our Midst: Web 2.0 Antihype”). Dion Hinchcliffe has a nice summary of this discussion.

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