Archive for the ‘Web Tools’ Category


The Power Trip

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I’ll keep this short, I’m neck deep in analysis for the upcoming Wave report –while trying to balance client needs and projects, I’m busy.

When I worked at web startup in the first web boom, all kinds of people came to power that didn’t have the credentials or experience. The demand for leadership in this fast growing company resulted in immature professionals quickly moving to middle management. I remember two distinct instances where the power went to their head and I now tell their stories for all to learn:

Mr M. and the Weekly Porn Emails
Although we were in IT/Software Engineering Mr M. wasn’t from tech, and in fact, had very few technical skills, so his talent became managing one very talented technical worker. He spent most of his time causing drama, going out to lunch, and surfing and sharing porn at the office. In fact, every week, he would gather his favorite porn screenshots from playboy (I think he and his college buddies had an email list) and he would forward it to his friends. Sadly, friends and colleagues aren’t always the same, and in his mis judgement he repeatedly sent it to those under him –including me. In his wisdom, he even sent it to his subordinate, the talented tech guy. It only took a few months for this to get back to HR, and he was soon in crying his eyes out to keep his job in the VPs office while the rest of the office laughed at him for months –and still do today.

Moral of the story? Friends and colleagues aren’t always the same –respect the boundaries.

The Ego of Mr W. comes full circle
Mr W, was actually often in conflict with Mr M, they’d both moved into middle management in IT, yet by far, I’d prefer to be friends with Mr M. Now, Mr W on the other hand, through his psuedo-power around constantly telling everyone “I”m a director” and expecting us to kowtow to him with our foreheads buried to his entry of his window facing cubicle. He abused his power, taking over people’s projects –taking credit for them. I always remembered when he wanted something, he would come by and act so nice, so sweet, then BAM, here comes the Friday afternoon work request. Eventually, he used his power to intimidate the young girls, he didn’t realize it, but I was in the cube next to him when he told two female colleagues how he’d “love to get between them” and chuckle. He even made unsavory comments about my girlfriend (I had her picture on my desk), which were quite stinging. Years later, Mr W ended up working for someone that’s related to me (the valley is a very, very, small place) and IMd me and apologized for his behavior, I accepted, but will never forget.

Moral of the story? You’ve moved into power, so now act like it, and do something to improve yourself and those around you. Part 2: Be nice to everyone, you never know who will be in power.

Your turn…
Wow, that felt good. Now’s your chance to let it fly, jump on to the Jeremiah couch, and feel free to rant and rave, but two rules: 1) don’t give away the name of the offender or company name. 2) Give a moral of the story, so we can all learn. If you feel like being anonymous, I’m ok with that too.

Now nearly any website can now be “Social” with LiveBar

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LiveWorld now introduces “LiveBar” and Mark Hendrickson from Techcrunch has a review showing now any static website that embeds this lightweight social script.

I first saw mockups of this product a few months ago from LiveWorld, and it seemed impressive, but unlike embedding chat, comments, forums, or blogs directly into the webpage, this is an ‘overlay’ that is quietly positioned at the bottom of any webpage.

What use cases could warrant this overlay experience versus an embed? Existing large websites with an inflexible CMS system that makes UI changes difficult. Companies that want to experiment with social on their websites but aren’t ready to dive in. Lastly, websites with heavy interactive marketing or content where community should take a back seat to what’s being shown. Expect to see competitors of Liveworld to develop their own versions of Livebar, allowing lightweight deployments of community features. Also, expect this to be a great ‘sampler product’ for LiveWorld to demonstrate community to hesitant brands –much like the easy to deploy OpinionLab tools.

Looking forward, whether companies like it or not, the future holds that websites will be social, and it means that customer opinions (good and bad) will circumvent their marketing content. The LiveWorld folks also have launched a community site, where you can interact with them further.

I’m conducting a Wave report on this community platform, and it’s become very clear to me that the technology is a commodity (that’s why there are around 100 vendors) and what really is going to count is strategy, service, support, and knowhow.

Related Resources

  • Status Update 2: The Forrseter Wave Report
  • What Facebook Connect means to brands
  • Thinking Long Term: Google’s New Browser ‘Chrome’
  • Forrester Report: Online Community Best Practices
  • Physical and Digital Security for our Online Lives and Businesses

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    I use to work at Exodus (my story here), which became Cable and Wireless, which is now Savvis. Back in the first web boom Exodus was a high flying web host, for premiere brands. We had the top web brands, ya know: Yahoo, Weather Channel, eBay, Pets.com, and a ton of porn sites (little known secret).

    We emphasized uptime, fat pipe, and hardened security, both digital and physical. As a result, we installed countless devices from bioreaders of palms, to ‘man traps’ that would trap someone in a tube if their exiting weight was greater than their entering weight.

    I recently found out during one of my lab days (full day evaluation of a vendor –including scenario testing) with community platform vendors, that some brands are putting them to the test when it comes to security.

    This one particular community platform vendor was being evaluated by a large Fortune 1000 company, who was very concerned about security. As a result, they tried to break into the building where the servers were, the Colocation center. The tried various tactics from manipulation, giving excuse to get in, or looking for unlocked doors.

    On a related note, one of the vendor employees told me about his experience where he saw that an air conditioning unit was plugged into the outside of the colo, which he unplugged, and it stopped functioning. I guess the system was not redundant with backup fail safes.

    Given that our personal data is all over the web in Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Peoplesoft, Siebel, SalesForce, your bank, what have you done to test the security and ensure the physical realm is secure? Not much I’ll bet, we just rely on blind faith as users in many cases to ensure we’re protected. I trust my bank (but cannot confirm) that my data is truly safe.

    Thinking Long Term: Google’s New Browser ‘Chrome’

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    With nearly every tech blogger pontificating on the cartoon, firefox vs IE vs chrome, or expressing love for the ‘cloud’, only a few folks are thinking about the long term implications to Google’s new browser called ‘Chrome’.

    Harry McCracken does some forward thinking and raises 10 questions
    that need to be answered, mainly around conversion and partnerships. I’ve got to add a few more ideas that I’m not seeing asked by others, Google’s new browser could mean:

    More accurate web analytics. Although not mentioned in the announcement nor cartoon, the opportunity for Google to develop better web tracking from actual users spanning multiple websites is at hand. Now that Google has it’s popular web analytics trackers are in many websites, they could potentially increase data gathering by using a browser –of course opt-in would be necessary, perhaps like the attention trust.

    Any website can now be social
    Google’s browser could eventually make any website social –even if the website owner chooses not to participate. How? A plugin could be created that allows your gmail, gtalk, and other network to join you wherever you surf on the web, essentially your social graph could go with you as you travel the web. Coupled with Google Readers’ aggregation ability, this is a way to beat Facebook using a more ‘open model’.

    A default browser on the Android mobile platform. If you’re not familiar, Google has announced it’s intention for it’s Android, a mobile platform suitable for software developers who want to incorporate their websites using Chrome. Expect to see a lightweight mobile version be available. Eventually coupled with geo-specific location gathering, (of course, opt-in) this could now empower Google with information about location based marketing.

    Other methods to monetize. Other than the obvious ability to create more categorization of the web and offer ads, let’s think creatively on how Google could use this to enhance their bottom line. With more accurate data (combine analytics and location aware scraping) Google can now return more intelligent search results to users –in fact, each person could receive a customized search results page, advertisers would follow suit to quickly achieve higher rankings.

    Peer into closed networks. This browser is a direct threat to closed social networks that do not allow Google to search or scrape like on the openweb. Social Networks that require a login to see data like Facebook potentially can be flanked if Google is the browser is the browser rendering the pages. Of course, this brings all kinds of privacy issues into play, but attention trackers with opt-in agreements could help Google to map these out.

    No, this is not an IE killer, history has shown there’s plenty of room for multiple browsers, different users have different needs.

    There are so many echos on Techmeme, so let’s try to have some original thoughts, I’d love to hear your long term insights on how this browser will impact the web space, leave a comment.

    Video: I’m Running For President of the United States

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    Well not really.

    My new friend Avi Bhatnagar showed me this clever viral video that combines personalization, as well as a social marketing impact. You can add your friends in the ‘spread this’ page to spread it among your friends and family, you can create your own here. Quite honestly, the video effects (while are obvious upon a close inspection) are a pretty good, all things considered. I noticed in my recent research report on Social Network Marketing campaigns, that DiGiornio had a simliar type of personalized social campaign that let you prank calls on your friends with the “Ditcher” –expect to see personalized marketing, interactive marketing, to meld with social marketing.

    CMS Horror Stories, and Your Soon-To-Be “Legacy” Community Platform?

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    In the late 1990s the CMS invaders deployed their systems at large corporations, as managing web pages using HTML editors wasn’t scalable and non-technical folks needed to publish. In many cases after the invader left, the company’s business teams and technical web teams were stuck cleaning, fixing, enhancing, for years to come.

    Unplugging web publishing systems (and community platforms) ain’t easy.

    Publishing from Word Docs, ouch.
    I was a web manager at a very large corporations, as such, I was the business sponsor for the website, and therefore the tools that were used to publish the website. Often, in most cases, I inherited a legacy CMS system, one that I did not choose, the underpinning structure of the site revolved around it, documents, navigation, ability to edit pages, and look and feel.

    This was one of the worst implementations of CMS systems I’d ever seen, the idea was for non-technical people to edit the webpages, so the system would have the ability to check out a ‘word doc template’ filled with macros, publishers could edit the word doc, check it back into the system and a new webpage would appear. fail.

    The templates were so complicated as users had to be trained on how to use the word docs, understand the styles, and all the nuances associated with the code. The linking structure linked to a primary key for a document, which also caused confusion. That’s just the publishing process, it gets worse.

    The Pains of Content and Structure Coupled
    The site was unfortunately designed so the structure would for the most part, remain constant. The structure of the site, and the content were coupled together, and that’s a major problem. As the site would grow and more pages were added to the taxonomy, the system became more and more inflexible. The developers had a very complicated way of managing the pages, the changes took a few days to work as the underlying code had to be changed. The simplest of web changes that you would expected to see from a web CMS system required ongoing developer support –not content changes at the business level.

    I’m not going to mention the name of the CMS vendor who provided this less than stellar tool, as I believe the deployment of the system was to blame from the in house technical group –all of which happened before I got there. Whew, I feel better, that’s been pent up inside of me for a few years now.

    Thinking forward: Community Systems of today, to be legacy systems tomorrow
    As we deploy community solutions that have social media features, are we thinking about in a few years how these legacy systems will be inflexible, don’t talk to our other systems, cobbled together application ware that we loosely couple with our other customer facing web systems?

    I also know of many business groups that are deploying community software, often by ‘notifying’ IT that they are doing it, sometimes without thinking about the long term implications of these systems not being able to migrate, talk, or share data with other websites. In many cases, the business sponsor will move on to another role, job, or company, leaving the archaic community platform in the hands of the next web strategist.

    Two questions for you:

    1) I’d love to hear from you about your CMS horror stories, feel free to leave a comment below, go ahead, vent away.

    2) Are you deploying a community platform for your web strategy at your company? What are you doing to plan for the long term 5+ years impacts of this system in regards to the rest of the enterprise web strategy?