Posts about Internet

Small is the new big: HR department

Last month, I wrote that small is the new big. More demonstration of it: eBay is fast becoming one of the largest employers in America. Of course, it hardly employs anyone, but it enables a lot of people to employ themselves and run their own businesses: 724,000 people are using it as their full- or part-time employment, up 68 percent from a year go; another 1.5 million use it to supplement their income. Walmart is America’s largest employer with 1.1 million workers. Sure, the eBay-self-employed don’t have Walmart’s crappy benefits and uniforms (if eBay were really smart, they’d institute group health insurance!) but all those folks are their own bosses. As industry gets bigger and bigger, small becomes more and more of an economic force.

: See Rex Hammock in the comments on eBay’s power seller health insurance and the regulatory issues around it.

Free the tags

Stowe Boyd has a long riff on opening up tags. Yup and amen.

Note, too, what Nick Denton is doing on his blogs: He’s using an MT plug-in (I don’t know which one) to make categories free-form, which turns them into tags, complete with pages where you can see, for example, everywhere that Jalopnik wrote about Porsches.

The scarcity killer

One of the slides in my PowerPoint BlogBoy dance calls the internet a scarcity killler and contemplates what that means for media: when advertisers can always find somewhere else to advertise and when access to scarce airtime and presstime is no longer valued.

It doesn’t kill commerce but it changes the rules and the value. So, for example, the scarce commodity might not be paper but may be trust. And so those who establish trust gain value in the future.

At Always On, George Gilder went on a nice, hyperbolic riff on scarcity:

“TV is dying fast and it will be followed by Hollywood. These industries fed on scarcity. There are only a few channels available. TV was technology of tyrants. It fed this advertising model that has collapsed,” Gilder told an audience at the conference. “The thirty-second spot is just going to die. Nobody is going to watch any ads they don’t want to see.

“Book culture and blog culture can redeem a civilization,” he said.

Throw the Google at him

Andru Edwards tells the story of how GoogleMaps saved him from a guilty verdict on a traffic ticket. [via Make]


There are two kinds of stuff on the internet:

* Resources and articles and other static gems.

* Feeds and lists and conversations and other dynamic goodies.

Even that is a quite imperfect bucketing of the wonders of online but stay with me for a second, for it’s at least a useful means of distinguishing some fundamental aspects of Web 1.0 from 2.0 and what’s coming next and what’s needed.

Web 1.0 is built primarily on the former, the resources and articles and pages and mostly static things: It’s about stuff that sits and is found at an address. It’s about search. It’s about URLs and permalinks. It’s about Google and Yahoo before that. All that is valuable, always will be.

But Web 2.0 adds on the wonders of the latter: feeds (RSS, Atom, FeedBurner, et al); lists (OPML, etc.); conversations (blog posts, Technorati links, PubSub feeds, comments); swarming points (tags on Flickr,, Technorati, Dinnerbuzz); heat sensors (Blogpulse et al); aggregations (e.g.,; communities (Craig’s List, et al); alerts (Craig’s List feeds); decentralized distribution (bittorrent, etc.); and on and on.

See Fred Wilson thinking about feeds and asking what businesses will be needed and will emerge, especially as Microsoft embraces RSS in Longhorn. See also Kevin Hale’s wonderful post, which I linked to a few weeks ago, on how RSS is the new search.

But it’s more than that a new Microsoft or a new Google. It’s bigger than that. This is a new architecture. It’s a dynamic architecture.

And it’s not as if this is entirely new. About five years ago, when I arranged an investment in Moreover (which is when I met Nick Denton, which is when I met blogs, which is when my career and life changed, leading to the wonderful world of un-self-employment), what excited me was that this company — which scrapes headlines to create categorized feeds — was a means of getting to the dynamic web. There are many other examples, such as Technorati and Pubsub. Now, they’re coming together to form the next generation.

One of the things I couldn’t get done at the last job was to rearchitect the news sites around feeds and RSS. When you think about it, that’s exactly the structure a dynamic news site should take and once it does, it becomes easy to replace static, produced pages with collections of feeds: I could put together my town page with feeds of newspaper headlines, blog headlines, forum-thread headlines, new classifieds (these homes added to the market since you were here), weather information, and so on: all categorized, all conscious of what I last saw here. It’s really not a gigantic change, it’s just that it’s hard to take something already built with bricks and rebuild it with hoses.

I’m also grappling with this in my present consulting gig at The New York Times Company’s, which has an incredible collection of valuable reference material in about 500 topics and will also build lots of dynamic (current and conversational) material around those topics. Presenting each and organizing each brings different issues and opportunities.

In both these cases, the borders between the two buckets become very fuzzy: Dynamic content can turn into static reference content (e.g., a blog post you point back to again and again). And static content can become dynamic (e.g., Wikipedia).

And there are plenty of other issues that are only beginning to surface: There are not the means to measure audience for such things as RSS (readers don’t cookie). You can throw out the definition of a page view when we shift to a world of the post view (post as in an element of content). You can throw out the definition of content when much of this is about conversation and interaction and just plain action. You can forget control of time and display when people can timeshift/placeshift/mediashift their stuff onto their iPods and phones and such. You have to worry about how people will find stuff in a post-search world where Google is no longer the answer to everything.

Now back to Fred and his quest for new opportunities….

I’m still trying to hook up with Dave Winer across vacations and travel to figure out what he’s up to with OPML editors. I’m eager to play with his newest tools.

One great thing about OPML is that it exposes the depth of possibilities of working with lists. Any feed or any list of feeds carries with it the option of action: Click on a headline to see the article. Click on the classified alert to get a job or a house. Click on the eBay alert to make a purchase. Listen to a podcast. Respond to email or posts. Mush it all together and rearrange it into your own to-do list. Make that your calendar.

Feeds are dynamic in what they present, how they present it, and what you can do with it.

Five years ago, I worked with a smart bunch of people in Munich who were creating a company called Twest that aimed to create much of this functionality: They were making the module that let a family create and edit a shopping list via browsers and phones anywhere anytime. Or party lists. Or quizes. Sadly, they were ahead of their time. But I still want that functionality today.

In this post, a few weeks ago, I suggested that blogging and feeds should become a metaphor for how newsrooms operate — and thus, a new content management tool for them.

See Dinnerbuzz, below (or at least the Dinnnerbuzz of my hungry imagination).

Like Fred, I’m eager to hear what opportunities there are in this next world. As you can tell from this rather rambling post, I’m not even ready to categorize the opportunities in buckets. But let’s try a few:

* New means of creating: that new newsroom system, that OPML editor….

* New means of finding what you want. What’s the next Google?

* New means of aggregating. Dinnerbuzz (to overuse that example!).

* New means of acting: That family shopping list (with buy-it-now buttons).

* New means of organizing: The ultimate calendar/to-do list/alert machine.

* New means of communicating: Use SIP to give me that urgent alert in the best medium for me at the best time.

* New means of recommending: Beyond Technorati’s one-size-fits all authority.

* New means of policing: What to do about the next generation of spam scum.

* New means of marketing: If I’m going to be motivated to deliver via RSS I may need to make money doing it.

* New means of consuming: What happens when you take the best of every RSS reader out there today and coordinate with all my Windows and Apple applications and all my devices? What’s the next browser?

What else? What are examples?

: See also Heather Green’s chat with Yahoo’s RSS pointman Scott Gatz.