there are 8 posts from February 2006

February 23, 2006

back of the envelope

Inspired by Kottke’s retirement from professional bloggerdom, here are some quick back of the envelope calculations on what it would take to earn Kottke-style scratch as an ad-supported blogger (instead of one supported by 1,450 micropatrons).  You can use this as your guide to whether you should quit your job and join the New York Magazine aspirational set.

  • Jason pulled in $39,900 from his campaign.  Let’s throw in an extra $100 for a nice decent meal out to celebrate the end of your hard-blogged year, and put up a revenue target of an even $40k. 
  • You’re a blogger, not a sales person.  You’re not hooked in with the cool kids, so The Deck ain’t for you.  Your skill set’s more in line with “copying and pasting JavaScript into my sidebar,” so you go AdSense all the way.
  • For arguments’ sake, we’ll say that you’re able to pull down a $1.75 effective CPM (over the course of the year you average $1.75 in revenue for every 1,000 page views).  There is absolutely no guarantee that you’d actually be able to hit that; ahealthy number for  a community generated content site could be targeted at $1 (especially after Google’s cut).  But for argument’s sake we’ll say that over time your editorial integrity drives to something just this side of an automated blogbot, and you start targeting your content at things that people actually pay good money to advertise next to.

OK, here comes the hard part.  Math!  $40,000 at $1.75 per 1,000 page views means that you’ll have to do north of 22.8 million page views in the year, or 1.9 million monthly, or approximately 64,000 a day.  Think you have it in you?

It doesn’t take a math genius (like me!) to know that this calculation is highly influenced by the eCPM you think you could earn; if you think I’m off, post your calculation in the comments.[1]

[1] Obvious and transparent tactic to drive additional page views.

February 17, 2006

hell is chrome

“When the devil came / He was not red / He was chrome, and he said / Come with me / You must go / So I went / Where everything was clean / So precise and towering.  I was welcomed / With open arms / I received so much help in every way / I felt no fear / I felt no fear.” (Wilco)

(Update:  chrome isn’t hell after all.)

February 17, 2006

dumbing it down

While I take umbrage at the phrase “typical MBA-laden, non-engineering focused Product Manager” in Jeremy Zawodny’s post, he does an excellent job of translating annotating Tom Coates’ slide on the future of web apps.  What I think is missing, though, are the reasons why these rules matter; so, just to pile on, I’ll dumb the conversation down into a discussion of benefits.

Look to add value to the aggregate of web data.
Benefit:  without doing this, you have no business.  Jeremy’s message is geared to the PM at a BigCo (“[at] a company with infrastructure that can scale to scan, retrieve, and analyze a significant portion of all the public on-line information in the world…”), but it works for SmallCos, too.  Your customers are swimming in information – whether they’re producing it or consuming it.  If you can’t add value to that production or consumption process (or, better yet, both), why would they use or (gasp) pay for your service?

Build for normal users, developers and machines
Benefit:  reach a larger audience.  Normal users are obvious; developers will help you extend your distribution; machines will make that distribution possible in an automated, scalable way.

Start designing with data, not pages
Benefit:  ability to leverage a service across multiple audiences.  Good web PMs (and especially PMMs – product marketing managers) are necessarily visual people, so this habit will be hard to break.  But by focusing first on the data and the use cases that drive the data leaves you degrees of freedom to adapt and brand a single code base for multiple audiences.  It’s how you do versioning (where versioning <> road mapping) right.

Identify first order objects and make them addressable and Use readable, reliable and hackable URLs and Make your data as discoverable as possible
Benefit:  link sharing and Google search index juice[1].  Remember the early e-commerce systems that made it impossible for a user to bookmark an individual product?  Remember how frustrating that was?  If your product is good enough, your users will share links through IM, email, blogs, social bookmark services, SMS; not to mention saving state / position for their own use.  And without addressable objects, how the hell will you end up in the search engines?  Not enabling this behavior would just be stupid.

Correlate with external identifier schemes
Benefit 1:  no wasted time / money developing and evangelizing new namespaces.  There’s no reason to invent a new ISBN scheme, a new set of EXIF data, a new way to represent location.  Stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before you, and follow their lead. 
Benefit 2:  how else will someone be able to mash your collaborative shopping service into a zoomable, draggable map that layers on real time weather tracking, LiveJournal mood data photo facial recognition?  Repeat after me:  our app is not an island.  Our app is not an island.  Our app is not an island.

Build list views and batch manipulation interfaces
Benefit:  deep, repeated use of the application.  List views and batch manipulation are typically characterized as “power user” features.  While your target market may not be “power users,” I would bet that you want to encourage “power use” of your app.  If your app is to take a prominent place in a user’s daily behavior, you need to enable use cases that go beyond the casual and support extended use over time.

Create parallel data services using standards
Benefit:  faster, cheaper, more flexible product evolution.   Not only will your own developers be able to evolve and adapt the product more quickly, but using standards will enable you to (a) take advantage of the creativity of the market, and (b) lower your overall feature development cost.  Certain apps are more “platform” than others; an overwhelming portion of Konfabulator’s value is driven by third party widgets, for example.  (Horn tooting:  Movable Type is a great publishing platform, and is even better when you factor in how its been extended by its developer community.)  Without standards-based data (and application) services, you’re making yourself responsible for every dollar of value creation.

I’m sure there’s a bunch of obvious stuff I’m missing.  But hey, maybe this will help that typical MBA-laden non-engineering focused Product Manager get a better handle on what Tom’s talking about.

[1] Tom and Jeremy both work for Yahoo, after all.

February 16, 2006

o is for operator

The Times dissects, the viralbuzzmarketing campaign that promised ringtones that were supposed to attract the opposite sex…

But rather than the revolutionary product that Pherotones promised, the ads were the beginning of a buzz marketing campaign under the guise of a fake product (Pherotones) and a fake doctor (Dr. Myra Vanderhood) with a fake Web site, all for a real client with less than $250,000 to spend.  The real client is Oasys Mobile, a little-known cellphone content provider that sells games, cellphone wallpaper and ring tones that can be downloaded.

See also the MySpace MVNO:

The social networking site MySpace, hugely successful among teenagers and twenty-somethings, is about to become more ubiquitous with the launch of a cellular service that will let users read and post to the site for free.

A match made in heaven, it would seem.

February 14, 2006

congrats to google

Congrats are due to Jeff Veen and the rest of the Measure Map team; bigger congrats to the Google folks, who have landed one of the smartest (and tallest!) people I know.

February 10, 2006

expectation of privacy

I don’t know about you, but I generally operate from the assumption that conversations I have with another person are “off the record”[1] unless we both explicitly agree that they’re “on the record.”[2]

[1] Default settings matter.  A lot.  Especially when the defaults are set 180 degrees from the user’s mental model.
[2] What’s the IM equivalent of the ever-present “this call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes?”

February 08, 2006

lessig and cerf on net neutrality

Lessig’s submitted testimony to the Commerce Committee for the net neutrality hearings is, as usual, worth a read.  He lays it out in plain English…

For the first time, network owners would have a strategic capability, as well as incentive, to create barriers to entry for new innovators. We should remember that the current leaders in Internet innovation all began with essentially nothing. Google, eBay, Yahoo! and Amazon all started as simple websites providing limited, but fantastic, services. They had to pay no special access-tax to be on the Internet; there was no special channeling by Internet providers that disadvantage these competitors relative to any others. They succeeded because the product they offered was better than others. Competition on the merits thus drove this market.

The critical fact behind Lessig’s argument is that consumers are the victims of duopoly – having to choose between telcos on the one hand and cablecos on the other.  Vint Cerf hammered this home in his testimony

Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success. For the foreseeable future most Americans will face little choice among broadband carriers. Enshrining a rule that permits carriers to discriminate in favor of certain kinds or sources of services would place those carriers in control of online activity.

Both docs are worth reading in full.

February 01, 2006

twenty eight things

Finally, something other than Google in fifty years, or swearing in IM.

Four jobs I’ve had:

  1. Truck mechanic’s assistant.  Worked on 18-wheelers.  Changed tires, changed oil, pulled out clutches.
  2. Production assistant for a TV studio.  Ran tapes, fetched food, learned just how malleable television is.
  3. Newspaper distributor.  Fancy word for delivery boy, but I owned distribution of the NYTimes in Hamilton, NY during college.
  4. Professional blog person.

Four movies I could watch over and over:

  1. Godfather 1
  2. Godfather 2
  3. Annie Hall
  4. Grosse Pointe Blank

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Clayton, MO
  2. Wallingford, PA
  3. Hamilton, NY
  4. San Francisco Bay Area

Four TV shows I love:

  1. Lost
  2. The Office
  3. The Sopranos
  4. 24

Four places I’ve vacationed:

  1. Paris (honeymoon)
  2. Hawaii (before the first kid)
  3. A weekend in Sonoma County (between the first and second kids)
  4. Disneyland (after the second kid…see a trend?)

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. Kow Soi yellow curry with chicken from the Thai place down the street.
  2. Anything from Sea Salt in Berkeley
  3. Fried green beans from Bizou Coco 500
  4. Honey nut Cheerios

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. Home with the girls
  2. New York
  3. Kauai
  4. On the Dipsea trail, but only if it were sunny out.

Who’s up next?  Andrew, Shelby and Frank.  (Is it fair to tag animals?)