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Ben Barren - Confessions of a Mad Man » 2005 » July

Monthly Archives: July 2005

2% use RSS knowing what it is…

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645 cab $425
Originally uploaded by benbarren.

For a second there I thought the Pew’s Report ‘13% of internet users using RSS’ was as part of the dreamland as Nasdaq north of 5000 - With Forrester’s 2% of internet users using RSS (KNOWING WHAT IT IS !) As they say - ‘knowledge is power’ ! or ‘ignorance is bliss’ ! From Charlene at Forrester :

“68,000 North American households showed that only 2% of all online households were “using RSS”. Now here’s the caveat — that doesn’t include all the people who may be using RSS (for example, through My Yahoo!) and don’t realize it. Young consumers between the ages of 12-21 were more likely to be using RSS — 5% of online young consumers say they use RSS.”

‘The new model carries an MSRP of $425 for the electric-powered version and $250 for pedal-drive. No word on the release of an M version.’

AOL’s Ajax "Feed" Reader not called RSS

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AOL this time : And like Microsoft’s and its all about the Ajax. Like the way they dont mention RSS and use mainstream pre-populated feeds for AOL type audience. Like the DenverPost/Newsgator solution, but Ajax, another thing which people won’t know the name of, but happily use.

Ebay ‘Elvis’ Weird…

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annabelle sg
Originally uploaded by benbarren.

Lucky I don’t have a 2 year old ! They start clicking early these days, all the way through to “Are you sure you want to complete this transaction? ‘Yes Daddy’ : “The latest is the story of a limo that was once owned by Elvis Presley. The owner tried to sell it on eBay, with a “buy it now” price of $245,000. He was therefore quite happy when someone did, indeed, agree to the “buy it now,” price. There’s just one problem the owner of the account claims his two year old daughter was playing with the mouse on his computer and she is actually the one who made the bid. He apologized, but apparently that wasn’t good enough. The seller is now suing him for $245,000, plus an additional $150,000 in “damages.”

‘Dad I’ll Skype you’.. Can I borrow $3b ?

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Originally uploaded by benbarren.

Dear Dad,
I have left NewsCorp to pursue other avenues of business.
Namely, I’m buying Skype. If you won’t fork out $3 billion, I will.
Oh Dad, BTW, can I borrow $3B ?
Sarah sends her love

Just when you think Lachlan Murdoch’s resignation is the biggest News4Corp, the one billion minimum Draper wants for Skype, and $100M Yahoo offer a joke, now in reality appears to be closer to $3b : “And the Google of VoIP looks like it might be Skype, which was almost sold last week to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for $3 billion.” Very interesting analysis :

Skype comes from the people who did the Kazaa peer-to-peer network application that drives record company executives mad while simultaneously loading spyware on your PC… Skype sees its payday coming primarily by linking its system to regular old telephones… Skype has 20 million regular users (there are 2.6 million signed-in right now as I am writing this).. The big difference between Skype and Hotmail or ICQ is that Skype threatens existing, highly profitable franchises. As free e-mail, Hotmail may have threatened paid e-mail services, but there were no hugely profitable paid e-mail services. And ICQ threatened nobody. But Skype absolutely takes money out of the pockets of existing telephone companies. And since the value of a telephone subscriber is generally a known quantity, the value of an active Skype customer can be at least guesstimated…If Skype really has 20 million active users and the company is worth something near $3 billion, then the market value of a Skype customer is $150…While that may seem like a lot of money, it is around 10 percent of the imputed value of a traditional telephone, mobile telephone, or cable television customer.

This lower value evidently factors in the ephemeral nature of a Skype customer who might disappear forever at any moment, or go for months without using the service… Rupert Murdoch wasn’t really serious and mainly looked at Skype to see the company’s books and to learn more about the VoIP business without having to pay for the lesson…It also means that whether News Corp. is the purchaser or not, Skype WILL be sold sometime in the near future… But I think the most likely purchaser of Skype would be a mobile telephone company. Since Skype service requires broadband, and broadband so far is inherently fixed, Skype threatens only incumbent FIXED phone service, not mobile service. Skype causes headaches for Verizon, but not for Verizon Wireless. So Skype would appeal most to mobile phone carriers who have no fixed telephone assets. That means no offers from SBC, BellSouth, Sprint, or Verizon, just to speak of U.S. carriers, but Skype might be supremely attractive to a Vodaphone or an NTT DoCoMo, both of which have the ability to finance such a deal effortlessly..Of course, the rest of the VoIP industry loves this. If Skype is worth $3 billion, then so is Vonage and maybe Packet8.

This purchase will validate the VoIP industry, give it a per-subscriber value number that can be used to justify more debt, raising more money that can be used to further undermine those creaky old phone companies. And that may be the greatest reason why Murdoch was interested in the first place. By putting Skype in play, he distracts for no money at all most of the major media companies. And while they try to figure out how to respond to VoIP, old Rupert will be attacking them on some completely other front. He’ll be stealing their shoes. “

“…Dear Colleagues,You may have already seen the announcement that I have decided to resign as an executive of News and that I will remain a director. I would have liked to talk to you all personally about my decision but clearly that’s impossible so I hope this email will go some of the way.As you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision. And while it was of a personal nature, it is important to me that you know that it was not made lightly. Only after long and hard deliberations over many months did I come to my final conclusion that now was the time for me to take this next step forward in my life and my career.

Growing up in and around the company, I spent my most formative years looking up to the men and woman of News Corporation with great admiration and deep affection. I knew from around the time I could walk that I wanted to join this great team of people and share with you the thrill of working for a truly unique and exciting company.Since early days cleaning presses on the old Daily Mirror in Sydney to publishing the New York Post, from interning as a sub at News International to running our US television stations, from working alongside you from Rome to Darwin, my admiration for you and your work has only grown stronger. Along the way we have shared many adventures and forged many strong and lasting friendships.

Going forward we face many difficult challenges as the media world evolves at a pace never seen before. As our markets fragment we must lead the way in finding ever more new and exciting relevance to those who read our newspapers and watch our programmes. I am looking forward to exercising my new role as a non-executive director to help steer us through the next generation of media challenges and opportunities.News is the most truly global of all media companies.

Our strength lies in our local management in markets around the world, not just in Los Angeles or New York. This culture is unique and, coupled with great leadership from my father, provides a powerful engine for growth.Needless to say I will be watching closely and anticipate celebrating your many successes for years to come. There is no more talented team of creative professionals in the world. You will go from strength to strength.

On a personal note Sarah and I are looking forward to returning home to Sydney with our son, Kalan. I know how much many of your husbands and wives, children and friends sacrifice for this company, often with little official recognition. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you and your families, for your dedication, loyal support, and friendship over so many years.

Very sincerely, Lachlan”

What’s Wrong with RSS Aggregators

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Originally uploaded by benbarren.

This is Russell Beattie from Yahoo’s (their penultimate blogger) best post for 2005. Maybe its coz I’m in the RSS game. Maybe it’s because I agree. Maybe it’s because I use RSS very similarly to how he describes and I’m selfish - I JUST WANT IT FIXED ! He’s also very honest about his employer and the industry, and having worked for large portals myself (MSN and Telstra in Australia) I also get the smugness of showing a graph with 10 times the market share than number 2. But I’ve also done my startups. And now Im doing an RSS one. So near enough is not nearly good enough if I want freedom and respect.

The dirty truth in RSS is, even though acording to feedburner, there are over 2000 RSS Readers, most are really bad. In fact, of web based readers, I dont think any are any good. And I mean any. It’s why I work in the space. If you look at MyYahoo and I have used it daily (with other readers since Dec 05) it only has headlines in text, not sortable, delivered by site, with no-refresh or filters. Its embarrassing, because Yahoo do everything else in RSS really well “Add to my Yahoo” is everywhere. (except maybe in Yahoo search results !) Bloglines or Newsgator are no better. NetNewsWire is good for Mac (but an app) Rojo is alot better, the list goes on. Microsoft’s latest attempt with ajax on is closest to what I like in an RSS reader : Smart, fast, sortable feeds, tags, but let me get on with my reading. Quickly. AD A.D.D. Look it up product developers, this is your target market, people who want information, new information, for them yesterday, and the market at the moment is split in two : Advanced early adopters (lunatic fringe acc’g to podcast411) and innovative mainstream, who dont know its RSS but get value out of it. Functionality needs to cater for both. (with the biggest challenge with RSS being the signup process which scares off 90% of potential market)

I totally agree with alot of Russ’ points, especially for someone trying to like the Pheedo report says, mainline 400 feeds in 10-15 minutes each weekday morning (”give me all new items from all sources I haven’t read ordered by time, and make sure you fetched the last feed 60 seconds ago” - “I’m not joking” says psycho entrepreneur. (director yells “cut” on “Web 2.0 : What went wrong” mockumentary/vblog/podcast) Adam Curry talks about DSC addicts that go to and press refresh waiting for a new episode to arrive. (I did the same at to get his closing address + it was worth it)

So I’ve decided to ‘distribute’ or RSS (really simply steal) the whole article : “With the appearance of My AOL, Microsoft’s and Google’s RSS home page it seems that My Yahoo! has some company in the “RSS Home Page” space. These competitors are right to jump in as according to FeedBurner, Yahoo! is currently enjoying nearly 60% of the aggregator market. Though it’s nice to see that mainstream portals are jumping onto the RSS bandwagon (lead by my employer), the problem is that all of these services generally suck. Why? Because they all break a very simple rule: You should only see an RSS item once. If I go to a page and see the weather for the day, that’s it. I don’t need to see the weather again until it changes drastically or tomorrow. After I’ve seen it once, it’s noise. If I see a news story headline, that’s it, I don’t need to see it again unless there is something new. It’s very simple. There’s too much information out there in the world to constantly have to search for updates on my own customized news page. New information should stand out, and old information should go away.

The way all these “Box Aggregators” are set up, you have all these boxes on the page with different feeds in them. At a glance you have no idea what is new and what is old, nor do you have any idea when things were updated relative to each other. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the “River of News” method, but honestly, I’d rather have that sort of basic interface than a bunch of boxes which contain 90% old news and don’t scale beyond a few dozen feeds. Of course my beloved Bloglines seems to hit the sweet spot, though the interface could definitely do with another refresh and some more accurate functionality. I love the fact that I’m able to click on a category and get all the new items for that category in one long list - which could be 200 or more stories - there’s no latency in scrolling. I love that once I’ve done that, those stories go away. I’ve seen them, I don’t need to see them again! Though if I want to, I can view items from a set time period in the past and they reappear. I wish this worked better (sometimes the dates seem to be wrong or I get ENTIRE feeds from some blogs) and I wished Bloglines had a better concept of sessions - even if I had to log in more - so I could just say, “show that last click to me again, I changed devices and missed the updates.”

Read marks and session management is the key to aggegators IMHO. As a person who scans almost 400 feeds daily, I can tell you this is the only way realistically keep up. Even aggregators made for the general populace, who may only keep track of a dozen or so news sources, not providing this functionality is just wasting their time. Though actually, I think that many people start out with a small list of feeds and just keep adding to them. Why not give them a scalable solution right away? While I’m on the topic, I have to say how AMAZING Bloglines Mobile is yet again - this time on my PSP. The PSP is a perfect Internet tablet - it turns on instantly, connects in seconds and really makes browsing enjoyable, not just possible. Though sites with a lot of JavaScript and frames and tables either don’t work or are just cramped, Bloglines Mobile just looks and works amazingly - again, scrolling has no latency so it’s so comfortable to sit back on the couch and keep up with my feeds reading them on a great big portable screen. Last year at Camp Foo (which I didn’t get re-invited to, waaah), I told Mark how great Bloglines Mobile was and I’m still impressed with it. Now that the PSP is out, they need to add back in the “enclosures” link (which is missing from the mobile version) as the PSP is a great Podcast listening device as well. Hopefully these are all first generation services and we’ll see a quick progressing to more useful versions. Seriously, all this stuff looks just like Netscape’s original use of RSS on its home page back in 1999, no? RSS is so much more than that now.”

Its Microsoft Day - Ajax, RSS, Spaces

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ol stompin ground the edgey
Originally uploaded by benbarren.

Maybe I should go back to Redmond in their Evangelists/PR Division. They certainly are in the blogosphere and media today, after their ‘Analyst Day’ : Key messages :

1. MSN Spaces - #1 Blogging Site/Network : 18.5m blogs, 55m unique users mth, 10% of all RSS Feeds WOW

2. Launching a ‘Linkedin or Friendster like’ “Friend of Friends” service, almost so late it might work - They will just pre-enroll push offers to Hotmail, Messenger and Spaces clients, doh. (oh and MSN !)

3. did $1.39 BILLION in ad revenue in last year !

4. New Hotmail solution will be all AJAX‘y, ala their team of 3 RSS reader which is pretty funky

5. Moving search from delivering ‘links’ to ‘answers’ - good luck. (I still surf the web for an experts site - unless MSN are going to scrape site content I dont want Britannica/Wikipedia/ type search result)

More Reasons for Newspapers to be Scared

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moore jess
Originally uploaded by benbarren.

When you already have declining competition, what you really want is your competition to cash out and take up a hobby, like flying planes and getting their pilot license (its hard and time consuming according to some podcasters - im jealous ok) This is why the founder of CraigsList which JJ blogged is so on the money I wish I could hire him for my business :

“My title at craigslist is “customer service rep and founder,” and my customer service role is at least a full-time gig. A CEO runs the actual organization now. I’ve always had difficulty articulating why I have this obsession. I work anywhere from two to ten hours a day, seven days a week, doing stuff like deleting “bait and switch” posts from New York apartment brokers, moderating discussion boards, and sharing community suggestions with the team. If you e-mail me about the site, I’ll probably write back–quickly, too…. I figure that reasonably good customer service is part of the social contract between producer and consumer. In general, if you’re going to do something, you should follow through and not screw around. As a nerd, I have the tendency to take things pretty seriously, so if I commit to something, I try really hard to stay committed. This isn’t altruism or social activism; it’s just giving people a break.”

“Also, I’ve learned from the open-source movement that people want to contribute to endeavors of mutual benefit. So at craigslist, we’ve turned over a lot of control over the site to the people who use it. We seriously listen to suggestions and actually change the site in response to them. I feel that all this is a deep expression of democratic values. From a business point of view, of course, it makes good sense, too: it lowers our costs and improves the quality of what’s on our site. Finally, it helps keep management in touch with what’s real–or at least that’s what we hope. Unfortunately, in contemporary corporate culture, customer service is often an afterthought, given lip service only. This seems to be part of the general dysfunction of large organizations. As a company accumulates power and money, the people who are skilled at corporate politics take control of it. Customer service never seems to be highly prized by people with those skills. Maybe it’s because they lack empathy.”

This seems farely accurate…

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Hotel Windsor
Originally uploaded by benbarren.

1. Pay attention to your conversations with the person in question. Does this person show a special interest in having a conversation with you and, once started, make an effort to keep that conversation going?

2. Is this person “accidentally” running into you in places where he or she knows you will be, such as at your desk? At the Laundromat on Tuesdays? At your brother’s birthday party?

3. Make a note if he or she mentions future plans to spend time with you: “That band is coming to town soon. We should really get tickets.”

4. Spend time alone together. Canceling other plans in order to be with you longer, or not finding excuses to leave, could be a sign of interest.

5. Has he or she been calling for random reasons, such as, “I was wondering if you knew what that pizza place down the street is called,” followed by, “Are you hungry?”

6. Has this person taken a sudden interest in your life and hobbies? This is a sure sign that he or she is interested in something - and it’s probably not your stamp collection.

7. Observe how the person acts around your friends - he or she might be extra friendly to your closest pals for a reason.

8. Sometimes seeing someone you have a crush on results in telltale physiological signs. Does the person in question blush when you look at him or her? His or her sympathetic nervous system is probably going into overdrive. Does he or she have trouble speaking, using jumbled words when talking to you?

9. See if the person in question mirrors your motions: When you lean back, he or she leans back; when you put your elbows on the table, he or she does the same.

10. Note whether this person sits or stands in the open position - that is, facing you with arms uncrossed. In addition, a woman tends to cross her legs in a man’s direction.

11. Does he or she move closer to you and/or touch you subtly, such as with a pat of your hand or a touch of your cheek?

12. Other elements of body language include frequent eye contact, holding your gaze and looking down before looking away, energetic speech coupled with open hands, and flashing palms.

13. Does the person you’re wondering about just plain smile at you a lot?