My-oh-my: $100 million miomi web 2.0 frenzy?

June 29, 2007

Is this just another of those turning points that we will look back on in time as the culmination of irrational exuberance around the latest buzz-word like the sale of for the domain market or the bankruptcy of for the dot-com bubble have been before or am I just totally missing the potential of an amazing idea?

miomi wants to provide a tool that enables everybody to map their personal experiences on a timeline. You will then be able to browse through time, discovering what your friends did while you went shopping for toilet paper or to discover new friends because they had the same need at the same time. Microsoft is heralding it as the next YouTube or Skype.

The problems I have with this concept are the following:

  1. Will I really be mapping all the details of my life as I am busy enough living it? There might be a certain degree of automation that is possible through cameras supporting geocoding and date-tagging, which will make mapping and sharing straighforward. The ubiquity of those devices in the near future and broadband access from everywhere will make this process pretty seamless. But what is miomi’s added value over a flickr map mashup which is already available today?
  2. Will the community of mappers find the right level of abstraction for mapping their activities that will actually provide some interesting insights for others? As there is probably a positive correlation of events I want to remember and events that I take a picture of the positive impact of the ubiquity of camera functionality as described above comes into play here as well – but so do the limitations if I want to differentiate miomi. If I want to go beyond what I am already doing through flickr map mashups and map additional events and experiences that are less well documented, how do I really create relevance for others? This leads me to the third problem:
  3. Am I really interested in what everybody else is doing? As the newsfeeds on Facebook demonstrate it might be very interesting to stalk my friends and have a topic for starting a conversation – but do I really care that someone I don’t know was shopping at the shop around the corner at the same time that I shopped there? Does this create a level of affinity that I want to build a friendship on – even if it is just virtual one?
  4. How can $100 million be needed to build a platform like miomi? We are in the post-dot-com bubble web 2.0 era and not in web 1.0, after all. Although strategic reasons of scaring away competitors and creating free coverage in the media might have played a role in inflating the number communicated beyond the real numbers, it sounds a little far fetched.

Looking at the press coverage so far it seems like the strategy of creating a splash without much reflection by the journalists covering the story has worked quite well. Or I’m just not getting how brilliant this idea really is? I’d love to hear what you think!

More articles on miomi:

Update (July 5th, 2007):
Interesting insight on my doubts about the $100 million: apparently the check only read ‘Whatever it takes’. The size of the fund is 50 million pounds = $100 million -> perfect line for the media frenzy: they are investing $100 million… maybe some of these journalists should be checking their sources.

Here is where I got this update from – comment #5:
Visualblog: Der neue Web 2.0 Wahnsinn: Miomi (German)


Startup how-to

June 28, 2007

The engines are running hot and everybody here is working hard on putting all the pieces together. It’s always a great feeling to see something that started out as a general idea materialize and become a reality – with all attention to detail. And as everybody who went through this process can attest it’s quite a rollercoaster ride!

Time to sit back and contemplate the learnings of others. Here are some of the best I have found:

So – all set but lacking a groundbreaking idea like the mobile loo locator MizPee? Try these sites for some inspiration:

Facebook or MySpace – the Aristocrats…

June 26, 2007

Interesting article by Danah Boyd on class divisions through Facebook and MySpace. Not totally surprising, though, that a platform like Facebook, which grew out of the ivy league space seems to cater more to the tastes of the university crowd than a more messy, anarchic network like MySpace, that grew bottom up out of the alternative music space, and seems to be the favorite of the ‘working class’ kids.

As choices by my peers do effect my desision making, even a slight preference for a certain network by my friends can have a dramatical impact on the overall affinity of the entire group:

“To see how freedom of choice could create such unequal distributions, consider a hypothetical population of a thousand people, each picking their 10 favorite blogs. One way to model such a system is simply to assume that each person has an equal chance of liking each blog. This distribution would be basically flat – most blogs will have the same number of people listing it as a favorite. A few blogs will be more popular than average and a few less, of course, but that will be statistical noise. The bulk of the blogs will be of average popularity, and the highs and lows will not be too far different from this average. In this model, neither the quality of the writing nor other people’s choices have any effect; there are no shared tastes, no preferred genres, no effects from marketing or recommendations from friends.

But people’s choices do affect one another. If we assume that any blog chosen by one user is more likely, by even a fractional amount, to be chosen by another user, the system changes dramatically. Alice, the first user, chooses her blogs unaffected by anyone else, but Bob has a slightly higher chance of liking Alice’s blogs than the others. When Bob is done, any blog that both he and Alice like has a higher chance of being picked by Carmen, and so on, with a small number of blogs becoming increasingly likely to be chosen in the future because they were chosen in the past.

Think of this positive feedback as a preference premium. The system assumes that later users come into an environment shaped by earlier users; the thousand-and-first user will not be selecting blogs at random, but will rather be affected, even if unconsciously, by the preference premiums built up in the system previously.” 

It’s therefore only natural that members of different sociodemographic groups making choices in dependence of the choices of their peers are a perfect example for power laws at play, resulting in the divide witnessed. Even a minor skew of the early adopters within each network towards a certain sociodemographic (which clearly existed between Facebook and MySpace from the get go) is therefore very likely to result in a permanent skew in the sociodemographic affiliation.

Web 2.0 – Who’s participating?

June 25, 2007

BusinessWeek ran Web Strategies That Cater To Customers – a big title for a meager paragraph that doesn’t tell you anything more than “there are people out there who care about what you are doing – tune in to what they’re doing”. Thanks for this strategic enlightenment.

They had a couple of interesting stats to show, though, on the growth of social media usage and on what people are doing and who participates by Forrester. On average participation still follows the 1% rule so the interesting question is how to incentivize participation in the right way. Some musings on that later.

Let the tail wag

June 24, 2007

It’s been almost three years since Joi Ito asked the question “Will the tail wag?”. Will there always be a clear separation between producers and consumers of content or will the lines blur completely? Will most consumers create content as well?

Although there has never been a clear separation between the two as all producers are consumers and many consumers are also producers of content, Joi’s question is a very valid one. The rise of an environment coined with the buzz word Web 2.0 changed the rules of the game to the extent that now consumers are not only producing content in their private realms. They now have access to a global audience and crowdsourcing starts to substitute the traditional content-selection gate keepers within big media. Bands, authors, and journalists have proven their talent and marketability directly in the consumer space, landing deals with big media after the fact.

Too many books are being printed

The publishing industry has to deal with annual return rates of roughly 40% – or $7 billion. These are a lot of trees that get cut down just to be destroyed as an unsold book at the end of the value chain by my standards – and any ecological and economical standards, as well. Although marketing aspects come into play as well, inflating the print runs for a bigger splash at the book stores, the publisher’s are clearly not doing a very good job estimating the sales potential of a specific title.

Too few authors get published

On the other hand many aspiring authors are not being discovered, as the few editors at publishing houses are unable to screen the 6 million manuscripts in circulation. Those that get screened are being decided upon by the gut feeling of one editor. Prominent cases of disastrously wrong decision making spring to mind with twelve publishers rejecting J. K. Rowling before she was finally allowed to start her billion dollar career.

It is therefore obvious that the traditional process of content selection is seriously flawed: too few gate keepers create a bootleneck for the vast amount of creativity out there, preventing many great authors from being discovered or even screened. The wrong books are being printed in the wrong quantities as the decision making is based on the gut feel of a few.

Wisdom of crowds

The internet opens unlimited opportunities to tap into the wisdom of crowds. Anybody can publish, anybody can screen and review, the decision making for publishing certain stories as a book can be based on more relevant criteria than the gut feel of one editor. Authors with the most positive ratings by readers get a publishing contract. Publishers get more input for sales predictions by gaining direct insight into their target group prior to any print runs. And special interest topics with a limited expected sales potential still find their audience online.

Over the last couple of years I spent quite some time thinking about how to structure a platform that facilitates this process. I’m thrilled that with a great team of friends working on the development this platform is now becoming a reality. Stay tuned for our beta launch soon.