Analysis of Google Base

What is Google Base? It appears to be a dead-easy online database creation capability within Google that popped its head up today, briefly, and then just as quickly went away. (As of this writing, the site is giving us “Forbidden: Error 403″ messages).

Here’s what one snapshot of the text from the site (source: http://telendro.com.es/imagenes/base.gif)

“Google Base is Google’s database into which you can add all types of content. We’ll host your content and make it searchable online for free. Examples of items you can find in Google Base:

  • Description of your party planning service

  • Articles on current events from your website
  • Listing of your used car for sale
  • Database of protein structures

You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base. In fact, based on the relevance of your items, they may also be included in the main Google search index and other Google products like Froogle and Google Local.”

More thoughts and analysis on Google Base, and Google’s response to the rumor, after the jump. (Would that be a “base jump?”)

Who’s Listens To Blogs? Andreesen, Bradbury, Rhodes, Sifry, Wyman…

Alex Barnett pulls together a definitive Cluetrain / “markets are conversations” post.

Example one from Alex:

“The first of the three events this week is to do with splogs – spam via RSS feeds and blogs. I posted about my experience of the problem and called out:

“Question to the feed search engine folks…(David Sifry, Blake Rhodes, Bill Bob Wyman are you listening?)…how do we stop this? Can we? It can’t be good for your business if this kind of thing takes off, can it?”

Within 24 hours David, Blake and Bob each posted a comment on my blog, acknowledging the industry-wide issue and confirming their companies’ commitment to solving the problem.”

Ok, cool. But all the folks above are in the blog business, so maybe it’s not that surprising. Which leads to example 2…Alex wonders…what the heck does “Ning” do?

Alex: “I speculated on a couple of revenue models and wrote, tongue-in-cheek…’Good question…Marc Andreessen might but hasn’t share the biz-plan me yet. Are you there Marc?'”

A few hours later, what does he find? A comment from Andreesen.

“Alex — your description of what we are trying to do is very well said. It’s an experiment, but those are the goals.

We are going to see if we can generate enough revenue through a blend of advertising (like Google, Yahoo, etc.) and premium services to be able to support what we are doing, including the free developer accounts.”

Brilliant. The third? Alex notes a functional deficiency in FeedDemon, “The file can’t be exported (OPML, would be nice Nick?…anything!)” What does he find two days later in his comments from Nick Bradbury?

“Just wanted to let you know that I’ve added OPML export of the reports to the next build of FeedDemon – expect to see this in RC2.”

It’s so easy for a company to do this. Set up an RSS feed to listen. Listen to it. If a customer has a question or concern, take the few seconds required to answer it on their turf. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Scratch that. It’s not easy for a “company” to do this. It’s so easy for a person to do this. Companies (despite their legal existence as “entities”) really can’t do anything on their own. They don’t walk. They don’t talk. They don’t bathe. They can’t communicate.

People communicate. That’s where relationships happen. Between people.

(hat tip: Kevin Briody)

Buying MySpace: $580million…Hacking MySpace: Priceless

Start with MySpace, the social networking site acquired by News Corp earlier this year for $580million. Similar to Tribe, LinkedIn and the like, MySpace allows its members to create links to each other.

Add one bored teen (“samy”) with scripting skills, who has the epiphany that “popularity begets popularity.” Samy not only comes up with a hack that allows him to automatically add himself as a “friend” to anyone who views his profile, but takes the notion one step further so that it goes viral…anyone connected to anyone connected to him becomes connected as well.

You can see where this is going. An excerpt from samy’s log of the incident:

10/04, 12:34 pm: You have 73 friends.

I decided to release my little popularity program. I’m going to be famous…among my friends.

1 hour later, 1:30 am: You have 73 friends and 1 friend request.
One of my friends’ girlfriend looks at my profile…I approve her inadvertent friend request and go to bed grinning.

7 hours later, 8:35 am: You have 74 friends and 221 friend requests.
Woah. I did not expect this much. I’m surprised it even worked.

1 hour later, 9:30 am: You have 74 friends and 480 friend requests.
Oh wait, it’s exponential, isn’t it. [ed. – yes, samy, it is.]

1 hour later, 10:30 am: You have 518 friends and 561 friend requests.
Oh crap…

3 hours later, 1:30 pm: You have 2,503 friends and 6,373 friend requests.
I’m canceling my account…

5 hours later, 6:20 pm
I timidly go to my profile to view the friend requests. 2,503 friends. 917,084 friend requests.

Here’s the whole thing.

BoomerTech! Event Announcement: LifeWear (Nov 3)

The Stanford Center for Longevity, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, the MIT Club of Northern California and SmartSilvers Alliance present:

LifeWear: Can Mobile Systems Enrich Your Social and Healthcare Interactions?

Speaker:
Dr Alex (Sandy) Pentland, MIT Media Lab

Panelists:

  • Terry Winograd, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

  • Dana Mead, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers

Moderator:
Susan Walker, SmartSilvers Alliance

Date: Thursday, 11/03/2005

Time: 6:00pm

Venue: Peter Wallenberg Theater – Stanford University Campus

Location: http://wallenberg.stanford.edu/top/location.html


What happens when a forward-thinking technology…

“I have been developing wearable information aids…essentially
augmented mobile telephones…that passively map and monitor your
personal rhythms and social interactions.”
– Sandy Pentland (MIT Media
Lab), September, 2005

Meets the Boomer Market? …

“On Jan. 1, 2006, the first of an estimated 77 million baby boomers,
those Americans born from 1946 to 1964, will celebrate their 60th
birthday. Through its sheer size — and, some would say,
self-indulgence — the generation has given rise, or given teeth, to a
host of fashions and institutions that are now central to popular
culture: rock ‘n’ roll, working moms, Earth Day, sport-utility vehicles,
Botox, Viagra and Starbucks.”
– The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2005

Visionary thinker Dr. Sandy Pentland’s group at MIT is developing
LifeWear, systems that create “quality of life” maps by monitoring
social networks to proactively enhance our personal and social lives.
Using enhanced mobile phone technology, devices can measure the common
sense signals that we use to assess each other, such as tone of voice,
body language, and patterns of interaction. Learn how this family of
emerging technologies could enhance our ability to manage communications
and interactions with family, health assessment, care giving, social and
work situations.

Join us as we explore in a panel discussion the implications of LifeWear
and other innovative technologies with potential to start a revolution
in the experience of aging.

(disclosure: Cerado is a contributing member of the SmartSilvers Alliance)

Book Review #2: It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do

Laurence Haughton’s well-organized It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do communicates a series of tactics of how to actually get.things.done at an organizational level. Four broad building blocks are given which, in concert, Haughton contends will result in what he calls “follow-through.” These are:

  • Clear direction

  • The right people
  • Buy-in
  • Individual initiative

Ultimately, this is a book about personal accountability. What is accountability? Stating, unambiguously, what you or your business is committing to do (in truthful, measurable terms), and meeting those commitments. It sounds simple. When done right, it IS simple. But if that’s the case, why are so many businesses so screwed up, and why are so many customers ready to defect? Haughton contends it’s because organizations don’t follow through, and gives his thoughts on how to get an organization to meet its commitments by way of the the four building blocks outlined above.

On the “clear direction” front, Haughton contends that many managers are faced with a double-whammy. The executives to which they are reporting have not given them clear direction. This can be because (p. 13, PP):

  1. The executive is overwhelmed

  2. The executive is himself or herself trying to avoid accountability, because his or her boss was not clear with them

As a result, businesspeople end up in an ever-increasing game of CYA, and by the time a thought gets to the customer it is so ambiguous and caveated-to-death that the customer no longer knows what to actually expect.

After the direction is set, however, the organization actually needs to make things happen, which requires both people and systems. The key point in this section is the identification of the individuals who will be committed to the follow-through. This is a non-trivial task…it sometimes seems there are a lot more talkers than do-ers on the planet. How to tell which is which?

“Ask about what they did, not what they think.” (p. 69, OCI)

(By the by, about fifteen years ago, there was a discipline entitled “Critical Behavior Interviewing” that emphasized this very same point.) Why is this distinction so important? Because following this line of conversation may be one of the best screens available for finding people who actually get things done, as opposed to just talking a good game.

With enough practice, and enough polish, and enough pizazz, nearly anyone can spin a yarn in an interview-type situation to paint the picture he or she desires. But instead of asking about “what do you think you would do in this situation,” Haughton suggests focusing the conversation on what the person actually did in a similar situation in the past. What was the situation? What did you do? How did you feel about it? What was a situation that arose during the execution that you didn’t expect? What did you do when you found out you didn’t have as much time, resource, or budget as you expected?

Questioning along this line focuses on the reality, not the yarn.

The third section of the book, while peppered with a handful of good thoughts on how to motivate the individuals on the front line who actually make things happen, unfortunately succumbed to that unfortunate bane of business, acronymus rampantosis. Examples:

“The single, most powerful piece of advice for overcoming the law of inertia and thereby improving your organization’s follow through can be summed up in four words ‘outmaneuver the CAVE people.'” (p. 107, YAA)

“HOT teams are where work is fun and, when the day ends, you can’t wait for tomorrow. HOT teams are where everyone gets a lot done in less time…hard work doesn’t feel nearly as draining on a HOT team as it does elsewhere…If there’s a rift, a HOT team discusses it as adults…HOT teams have a way of getting everyone in even the most diverse groups to their their level best to follow through.” (p. 139, YAA)

“He laid out a strategy that was specific, measurable, accountable, realistic and time-bound (SMART).” (p. 109, YAA)

In other words, after building up such a good head of steam, this section of the book, unfortunately, resulted in a few moments of gratuitous eye-rolling. Enough with the buzzwords already!

Redemption came in the final section, however, which is all about looking at things through the eyes of the customer (go Laurence!) and emphasizing and re-emphasizing the need for shared purpose and mutual respect between executives, managers, line employees and the customers they are committing to serve. Haughton finishes strong, with a conclusion that is a must-read; it’s a strong distillation of the book’s key concepts intertwined with a number of vignettes that illustrate his points with real-world examples.

The very last paragraph of the book is telling:

“Commitment means never asking the other side ‘to understand.’ All managers must be willing to expose themselves and say ‘The robustness and stamina of the follow-through is my responsibility. All our promises have my name on them.”

True to its message, the book is exceedlingly well organized and, if one desired, one easily would be able to recreate the outline that was likely used to structure the writing. Another interesting aspect was the breadth and number of interviews with managers, the individuals who actually need to do things, that were interspersed throughout the book. Haughton did not spend time focusing on the smoke-blowing “big thinkers” who talk about their most recent trip to the ethereal plane without regard for the actual implementation, instead choosing to share the words from individuals who are actually getting things done.

While not earth-shattering, ultimately this is a sound, pragmatic book, and a helpful reminder of the things we should all be doing.

Related:
Book Review #1: All Marketers Are Liars


Legend

PP: Pure Pragmatism

OCI: Of Crtical Import

YAA: Yet Another Acronym

Carnivore Emptor

More lying to customers. From the LA Times:

“Kobe beef, it seems, is everywhere these days…What gives? How did Kobe beef become so ubiquitous? Well, the short answer is: because it’s not really Kobe beef. In the old days, back before 2002, when you saw it on the menu, there was a good chance it was actually Kobe — the real deal, imported from Japan.

Today, what is commonly called Kobe beef is really all-American — it comes from American-grown cattle that are crosses of traditional U.S. breeds such as Black Angus and bulls brought from Japan before 2002, when the Department of Agriculture outlawed the importation of Japanese beef, after several incidents of mad cow disease there.

At best, calling this beef Kobe is a term of commercial convenience…At worst, it borders on an outright lie. Both a waitress at Sterling Steak House and Sterling’s chef Andrew Pastore claimed their porterhouse was the real thing, imported straight from Japan. When told that if this was true, it was completely illegal. Pastore adopted a Brooklyn wise-guy stance: “I let my suppliers worry about that.”

The next day his publicist clarified that what Pastore really meant was that the meat came from Japanese cows that had been brought to the U.S. to be slaughtered — which would also be illegal.”

Why does this happen? And why is it so rampant? Hugh Macleod calls this “the ignorance premium.” Hugh:

“With the Ignorance Premium, you’re paying extra for not knowing. Instead of micro knowledge, you’re basing your choice on the cooler, hipper macro Brand Metaphor. Branding is all about about being cool and hip, because branding is all about propping up the Ignorance Premium.”

Still want to pay $175.95 a pound for “Kobe” filet?

(hat tip: Dan Gillmor)

BWeek Cover Story On Boomers

BusinessWeek has just put up a great cover story on the Boomer market.

For previous generations, age 50 meant, bluntly put, the beginning of the end. But today’s 50-plus crowd is far more likely to see the two or three decades ahead as a second life. – BusinessWeek

A number of great bits in the article on how companies are starting to clue-in on marketing, taking into account the realities of boomer generation and connecting with customers who don’t at all act like their parents did at the same age. Example: Dove gets it.

Dove turned industry tradition on its head last October with print ads using ordinary looking women instead of glamorous models. Two of the six shots in the ad exult in advancing age. One shows a 46-year-old woman with deep lines around her jaw and eyes and a full mane of gray hair….The payoff so far: In the nine months following the launch of the campaign, sales of Dove rose 3.4% from a year ago. That uptick sounds small, but it’s huge for the static soap category, and it exceeds the growth in soap sales as a whole.

The key line:

“As you get older, fantasy and idealization are out, and reality and authenticity are in,” says James J. Gilmartin, president of ad agency Coming of Age Inc. in Lombard, Ill.

Now tie this to Tom Portante’s post…hmmm…

To this end, one of conversations we’ve started over at the Cerado BoomerTech Community site is a discussion around how tech-savvy boomers will take advantage of innovation as they age. Swing on by if you get a chance if you have any thoughts…

Best CRM Blog Voting Open

The folks over at SearchCRM are tallying votes in the categories of “Best CRM Blog” and “Best Business Intelligence Blog.” Voting criteria are based on:

  • Personality: Does the blog’s tone or “personality” appeal to you? Do you feel its commentary has just the right balance between friendly, critical and professional?

  • Usefulness: Simply put, do you find this blog useful? Does it provide you with good resources and is it truly thought-provoking?
  • Content: Does this blog provide relevant content on the most current trends and issues in the CRM market? Do you learn something new every time you visit? Does the author have a clear and compelling focus?
  • Do you revisit?: Does this blog keep you coming back for more? Do you find yourself eager to check it for the latest updates? Do you engage with the author when you agree or disagree?

Interesting in weighing in? Vote here.

SugarCRM Lures Open-Source Developers With Cash

The folks over at SugarCRM are hosting a contest to incent developers to make further extensions to their open-source CRM platform. According to the story in NewsForge, the project is offering:

  • $500 for the best theme template

  • $1,000 for the best business and productivity module
  • $1,000 for the most innovative module.

As SugarCRM battles it out with Salesforce.com (which recently launched AppExchange with much hoo-ha), these kinds of activities are a great incentive to enable the community to extend the offerings and tailor them to their own needs. (Sugar currently claims nearly 2,000 developers, up from 900 just month in September, 2005.)

Video iPod Released

Video iPod just announced.

Specs:

  • 30 frames per second

  • TV out
  • 30GB and 60GB models
  • 30G up to 75 hours of video, $299
  • 60G up to 150 hours video, $399
  • Shipping in one week

(source: Engadget)

iTunes will sell music videos, $1.99 per.

The very interesting part…iTunes also will be selling TV shows, commercial free, for $1.99 per. The shows will be available on iTunes the day after they are broadcast over-the-air. Not a rental, the show will be owned by the purchaser.

Who should gulp? NetFlix.

Now, let’s take this to the logical conclusion…[warning-speculation!] within three months, Apple enables podcast feeds for the shows, by subscription, for a fixed-price per month (let’s say, I dunno, $14.99 or $19.99 a month) for all-the-shows you can drink. You subscribe to the shows’ podcasts via iTunes. They get automagically downloaded to your iPod the day after they air.

Wait a minute. Let’s look at the specs. The iPod has a TV out connection.

Who should gulp? Not just TiVo, but also the cable companies. They may both have just been disintermediated.

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