Because Mike has too many answers and not enough questions.

Two Sides of the Web 2.0 Coin

Posted by Mike Bijon July 26, 2006

A very public argument between Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, and Jason Calacanis, the founder of Weblogs, Inc. and current trustee of traffic-generation for Netscape/AOL, paints a very clear picture of web 2.0 and why it was built. The latest salvo from Kevin Rose is brief, as he usually is, and titled Calacanis, with a retort by Calacanis titled Kevin Rose cracks (or “how to know when you’ve won the debate”).

On one side of the “primary drivers of web 2.0″ coin stands ideals about the power of information on the internet, and on the flip-side is the ability to profit from a cooler, smarter way of finding or displaying information (and, isn’t that the foundation of search, whether it’s Google or “the people” making the decisions). In this case, both Kevin and Jason have plenty of opportunities to benefit from both sides of this coin. Nonetheless, Jason is a great promoter who has, effectively, copied Digg’s “cooler, smarter” methods and, it seems, isn’t above extending that controversy by offering to pay prolific users of Digg (and other, similar sites) – taking more of a profiteering stance (I do wonder how much this is driven by the demands of AOL … ). Kevin, I think, is proud of the original methods Digg uses to sort and display news info and a fan of letting users run the system – more of an power-to-the-people stance.

Rather than taking a side, I think the most important thing to note from their argument is in its context of competition between high-growth website founders. Consider that while web 1.0 companies didn’t didn’t have public faces and debates like this, many were built and succeeded or failed for very similar reasons to those behind this argument.

As a webophile, just sit back and watch these two – this isn’t the last play in the game. As an entrepreneur, instead of trying to beat a Google or MySpace, consider that as each generation of web sites grows a dedicated audience there are still new opportunities for small, innovative players to create new presentations and interfaces, and only rarely will someone be as bold as Calacanis, to risk losing those hard-earned audiences.

Faster Airport Screening Secret: “The Great No-ID Airport Challenge”

Posted by Mike Bijon June 09, 2006

After all the discussions about building solid online identity systems, Wired has the story in The Great No-ID Airport Challenge of how identity real world identification proves to be even less necessary and more useful to identity thieves. Are we focusing our attention in the wrong places or could an online identity system help to enforce meat space identities?

In early 2005 I discovered that an expired driver’s license is as good as having no license at all. After several mail delivery/theft problems in my apartment building I had somehow missed the renewal forms that are mailed several months prior to license expiration in California. Thankfully, the security screeners at LAX reminded me that I needed to renew my license … and in the process pulled me out of line for a more thorough security inspection. The extra inspection (more details below) was faster than waiting in the normal security line. Unfortunately shorter lines in the enhanced screening process are probably over now. Jim Harper accepted a challenge from John Gilmore, co-founder of the EFF, to fly without his ID and “having gotten through screening perhaps even faster than he would have if he’d shown ID.”

More on how I started requesting that TSA send me to the “extra screening” line:

Even with almost an hour to spare before my flight I was worried that the extra screening would keep me from making my plane. The security screener ushering me around and between the ropes assured me with a grin, “You’ll be better off this way.” Such an assurance, and that grin from someone wearing a TSA badge, didn’t reduce my worries at all.

Only one other traveller was enjoying the extra screening at the far end of the security check queues. Immediately two of the six TSA screeners working with or watching him stepped out to take my luggage and the tray with my phone, change, and keys in it. With that kind of attention all the checks and sweeps of my carry-on items and self were complete and I was on my way in just 4 minutes. That left me with about 15 minutes, waiting for my wife to complete the standard screening line, to consider how receptive the TSA screeners would be if I started requesting the additional screening in the future.

I’ve asked three time so far, none while travelling with my wife, and only once was I allowed into the “extra” screening line – during a very busy evening at Chicago’s ORD. Really I think the TSA screener checking IDs was just irritated that her coworkers running the extra security queue were just sitting around. And, she did me a favor to the tune of 30 minutes not spent sitting instead of waiting in line.

Google Video Ads – Google is Still Smarter Than the Masses

Posted by Mike Bijon May 24, 2006

Neither Michael Arrington at TechCrunch nor Seamus McCauley at Virtual Economics think Google’s new AdSense PPC video ads were worth doing. I strongly disagree. I think Michael and Seamus are missing two major reasons why PPC video ads are at least an obvious, if not smart, use of the AdSense system.

First, the rigid mathematics of Google’s AdSense algorithm are typically smarter than the masses. Just like the house eventually wins in casino gambling, Google eventually beats other advertisers in revenue by not trying to outsmart itself and letting mathematics calculate the value of displaying an add based on historical factors including both the PPC bid and the CTR (click though rate). The AdSense algorithm is the whole reason Google makes so much more from simple text ads than traditional “inventory/campaign publishers” but is still affordable to small publishers who target a narrow market with it – it’s the action of that whole Long Tail thing Michael mentions every now and again. Video ads won’t be exempt from the AdSense algorithm either, so we may not see very many of them but the ones we do see will be out-earning any other ads for Google.

Second, Mike and Seamus are underestimating the creativity and ingenuity of Google’s advertising customers. Even at $44 per airing in a major metropolitan area a “real” TV commercial needs to show quite a few times before it gets captured and viralized like the Honda “cogs” ad did, plus how do you know that an ad will attract as much attention as your ad-guys want it to? I think Google’s PPC video ads will prove to be great ways to both introduce viral promotional videos into the market and to test the attention-grabbing power of an ad less-expensively than with broadcast media. Given Michael’s penchant for new media and that he is “look(ing) forward to the day that a show, ignored by the networks, first decides to launch itself on iTunes and go straight to consumers” I’m surprised he isn’t also rooting for an ingeious video ad to go viral without ever seeing the light of a TV broadcast.

Of course, Google’s huge troop of smart engineers and pool of cheap bandwidth is what allows them to expiriment with these click-to-call and video ads years before they’re likely to popular, instead of always being a market reactionary (yes, they didn’t do AdSense until their customers said so). I do have misgivings about why Google won’t allow AdSense publishers (the people showing the ads on their sites) with small- and medium-size sites to stop the video ads from showing, like they can already choose to stop image and Flash banner ads from showing. Since Google’s algorithm and data pool is usually smarter than the masses they need to respect the web sites of their customers, publishers in this case, and take advantage of their ingenuity instead of risking offending them.

Digital Identity Systems – Designing to Keep the Network Up and Spammers Out

Posted by Mike Bijon April 24, 2006

Terrell Russell commented on my earlier ID/trust post in “Can claimID provide credibility?” and a commenter there, Fred Stutzman, pointed out some great info about how trust can be built on a foundation of untrusted URL’s, as well as pointing out several ID protocols in the making: OpenID, LID, and microID.

From my comment at claimID: I think I came down harder on claimID than I meant to in my prior comment about trust and claimID. Their concept and timing is great and should offer an improvement over the current methods of validating ID’s. As far as I can tell the market is currently monopolized by the closed-system of each of the credit reporting agencies. And they certainly aren’t interested in trust or relationships (or even security, it seems) at all. It’s best we take it out of the hands of those agencies and don’t depend on eBay or MySpace to open their systems either. ClaimID is a good start toward opening things up and giving contrl back to the users, even without a working system up. I just hope Terrell and his team at claimID make the system play nice with others – thus, my continued shouting about needing a protocol or open standard so that the “complex network” described by Terrell will stay up regardless of funding, bandwidth, or any commercial players (made apparent by how hard it is just to keep proprietary soap dispensers full).

Fred (comment at claimID blog), you’re completely right about Cote’s description of the identity management process. He’s got it right and the parties he mentions at OpenID, LID, and microID are already well into implementation. Indeed, all of those systems (after a quick glance) should work well – so long as the primary users are geeky enough to own their own URL’s/hosting accounts. However, once a service is offered to freely host ID URL’s those URL’s won’t confirm anything more than having a Hotmail address does now – and in my mailbox a Hotmail URL is more likely to be spam than someone I trust. That, of course, is why closed trust systems like eBay’s are shallow but still worth something. So, we either need to restrict digital identities to a subset of people willing and able to pay for the URL/priviledge or to build in some sort of feedback loop that adds a level of trust to each identifying domain – thus motivating those hosting ID URL’s for free to keep spam registrations low or face migration away from their untrusted systems.

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