Posts from March 2006

TypePad Widgets – A Day Late and a Dollar Short For Me

In June 2004, I wrote a post called Blogging Tools Suck.  At that point, I had been blogging about nine months and was getting increasingly frustrated with the hacking I had to do in TypePad to get other services integrated into my blog.

I asked for easy integration of things like Feedburner, Technorati, Adsense, Sitemeter, and Search.

Since then, I’ve learned how to edit the templates, put HTML and Javascript into my templates, and even play around with CSS. I really never wanted to learn all of that, but I had to in order to get everything working the way I want it to work.

Well almost two years later, TypePad has sort of answered my request with TypePad Widgets.  There are about thirty widgets right now including Feedburner, Indeed Jobroll, Indeed Job Search, Technorati, and Feedblitz – all services that I already have on my blog but had to get there the hard way.

The cool thing is that this is based on an open API so any web service that wants to integrate with TypePad can add a widget, just like Feeburner’s Feed/Site Flare service.

Since I have most of the services that I want on my blog already that there are widgets for, I decided to use the Bunchball widget to add Pac Man to my blog sidebar.  Unfortunately TypePad Widgets doesn’t support advanced templates yet.  And the very reason I converted to advanced templates in the first place was to integrate these kind of third party services.

Ouch, that hurts.

Nuggets

Penthouse"Here’s what Penthouse sounds like — it sounds like languid, six foot
tall women reaching across a glass topped table for their one cigarette
a month. It sounds like lipstick traces on your cheek alone in a warm
taxicab and the first snowflakes just getting flicked away by the
windshield wipers. It sounds like one single light still softly on at 3
AM in the windows of an otherwise all dark building across Fifth Avenue
from Central Park; awful things happening there perhaps, but you’re
pretty sure not. It’s music that defines all those times you can’t
quite figure out what’s going on, or where it may be headed, but God do
you love it as it’s happening."

These words were written by a reviewer named James Carragher about this record, Penthouse, by Luna.

I should stop right here because that pretty much sums up the record, but I am not going to do that because I have a few things to say about this record myself.

First, Lost In Space is my favorite Luna song of all time and that is saying something.

Second, Dean Wareham is one of my top ten favorite guitar players and that is saying something too.  His solo on 23 Minutes In Brussels on this record sounds like Jerry Garcia and he never sounds like Jerry Garcia.

And finally, I miss this band so much.  They made great music and Penthouse is their masterpiece.

Moderating Comments?

I’ve been moderating the comments on this blog since early February, when I got so fed up with the comment spam building up on this blog that I took the step of approving every comment.

About half the comments I get are spam and about half are legit.

I hate moderating the comments.  It takes away the immediacy of the comment which I think is extremely valuable.

And if I don’t check the comments every couple hours, then there are always a bunch of comments waiting to be approved that nobody is seeing and I think that reduces the amount of discussion that would ordinarily happen.

I am tempted to take moderation off and just live with the comment spam.  I think that might be the lesser to two evils.

Many of you have written that there are solutions to this comment spam problem but I can’t find any that work with TypePad and I am not leaving TypePad right now for a host of reasons.

I am curious what you all think I should do.

Freemium Works For Content?

Jason Chervokas says I am wrong, that a freemium business model works well for content and cites the Greatful Dead as the example of how to do it.

The Dead certainly did show the power of freeing their music to power a fan base that bought concert tickets like sugar water.  It’s a great example, but I don’t think that was exactly what I was talking about when I was critical of the Times Select program.

In any case, I am glad that this discussion is going on.  It’s healthy to debate these issues, put them out there, form opinions, and try to figure this stuff out.

Who Owns The Word Apple?

In a perfect world, nobody.

But I guess we don’t live in a perfect world.

Apple is a word.

It describes a fruit that has allegedly been around since adam and eve’s time, assuming there were people called adam and eve.

It also is the name of a computer company.

And its the name of the company that is owned by Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo
Starr, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George
Harrison and which owns the rights to the beatles’ music.

And whomever is making the decisions regarding the beatles’ rights to the name apple thinks they have to sue apple the computer company over trademark violations.

This is all so silly.

Because in my world, apple is a fruit.

Second Life Gets Funded

It was a matter of time before someone stepped up and funded Linden Labs and it was announced yesterday that Globespan Partners along with some big name entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Mitch Kapor, and Pierre Omidyar put $11 million into Linden Labs.  That’s great news. I think the Globespan guys are great and think they’ll make excellent partners for Linden Labs.

But the bigger story is what’s going on inside Second Life.  It’s a virtual economy where anyone can build anything and it is amazing what is being built.  It is also amazing how much money is being spent there.

As I said in prior posts, I am spending some time in Second Life.  My name is Flat Plasma and I am mostly checking it out right now.  But even so, I have to say that I agree with Scoble.  Second Life is a platform (he calls it an OS) to build a lot of interesting businesses on.

So congrats to Linden Labs on their financing, on Globespan for making what seems to me to be a good bet, and to the Second Life community for creating such an interesting environment.

VC Cliché of the Week

The father of this weekly series, the guy who taught me at least half of the cliches I know, is a guy named Bliss McCrum. He and his partner Milt Pappas taught me the venture capital business from 1986 to 1996 when I worked with them at their firm, Euclid Partners.

One of my favorite cliches from Bliss is a rising tide lifts all boats

Whenever things seemed too good at a portfolio company, in the stock market, the economy, or somewhere else, Bliss would quip, "well you know that a rising tide lifts all boats".

It was his way of saying "don’t mistake a good market for a good business".  The insinuation was always that the tide would come back in and so would the boats.  And you had to be prepared to make things work in tough times as well as good times.

And we are in good times in the venture business, the internet business, and for the most part, the US economy.  Consumer confidence hasn’t been this strong since before the Iraq war.  The Fed has raised rates 15 times and may not be done, signalling that the economy remains stronger than they’d like it. Venture money is flowing freely in Silicon Valley and China and in many parts of the developed or developing world.  Advertising dollars continue to move from offline media to online media and that is one rising tide that is certainly lifting all boats.

But we know these good times will come to an end at some point.  Are we in 1998 as Caterina suggests and have another year or two before the good times end?  Who knows?  I don’t expect this run of good times to play out like the last one anyway.

The best we can do is prepare our companies to withstand a business environment that is less friendly.  Companies need a business model, they need a seasoned and well constructed team, and they need patient and experienced financial partners.  With these ingredients, hard work, and some luck, you can survive a downturn.

Some of the best companies I’ve ever worked with were funded at the height of the last bubble and they are doing great now.  So it doesn’t really matter when you start a company, but it does matter that you can make it through tough times.  Because right now we have a rising tide that is lifting all boats and that won’t last forever.

Yes, but …

We had always hoped that the Union Square Ventures weblog would give our readers an idea of what goes on inside of our firm.

Brad did that yesterday with his Yes, but … post responding to my Looking Ahead post.

He disagrees a bit with my post and goes on to make a big deal about our offer to share our delicious tags with everyone else.

If you read my post on Looking Ahead, you’ll want to read this one too.

Free vs. Freemium at the Times

I got a couple comments to my Freemium post and My Favorite Business Model post that I’d like to respond to.

Rick Burnes said:

The way you’ve described freemium it seems like Times Select = A Big
Freemium Experiment. Yet you’re not a big TS fan. (Who is?) Does
freemium work for content? Why does it make sense to wall off network
calling on Skype, but not Nick Kristoff’s columns?

And Jeff Jarvis said:

works in services, not content, i’d say.

Jeff is absolutely correct and he answers Rick’s question.  If your business is entirely about content, then you must offer your content for free and support it with advertising.  You can offer the same content in more convenient forms as a paid service (email and RSS alerts, packaged without ads, archives, etc) but I believe you must make the content free or you will not maximize the audience and the value of the online medium.

I believe that the Times is making a mistake with Times Select.  I’ve blogged about this in the past.  The numbers may support their decision, it was an easy one to make since they never took ads in their columnist’s pages anyway. 

But I believe that putting up a wall between the online audience and content marginalizes that content and makes it less valuable.  The online medium is all about links and you can’t link to content that isn’t freely available.

I do believe that offering services to the Times’ customers such as crossword puzzles, archive search, photography archive, etc are great examples of ways to leverage the freemium business model and I just wish the TImes would focus on adding more services like that and take down the wall between their potential audience and their best columnists.

Avatars

One of the things we are spending time on in our quest to look ahead is virtual worlds and avatars.

I’ve spent some time in Second Life and have created a persona called Flat Plasma.  I haven’t spent any money there yet and am not yet as addicted as Scoble and Kent Newsome.

But there is something really interesting in the intersection of virtual worlds, social networking, and the ability to create almost any reality you want.

So in an attempt to add some virtual reality to this blog, I created an avatar of myself at SitePal, a cool service that allows you to create a hosted avatar and put it anywhere you can place some javascript (like my blog).

I annoyed a bunch of readers this morning with the audio and so I’ve cut that out for now.  I intend to allow you to play my avatar’s voice if and when you choose, but I haven’t worked that up yet.  I will, hopefully this week.

And I plan on changing the look and feel pretty regularly.  Ideally, I’d like to put this avatar everywhere I’ve got a picture on the web; last.fm, myspace, flickr, etc, etc.  It would be cool if everytime I change my avatar, it instantly changes everywhere I’ve put it.

Jackson says in the comments to my MP3 of the Week post today:

I think Virtual fred should lip synch to the mp3 of the week.

I might try to make that happen too!  Cheerios has something like that called Cheerioke.com.  I’ll have to check it out.