Recently in Websites Category

Fun with Wordle

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I just got sent a link to Wordle, a fun tool that takes a block of text and creates a word cloud of the text. Check out my bio washed through Wordle below. Interesting to see one particular graphical representation of the information therein:

Netvibes Activity Feed

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I am a huge Netvibes user. I find it's one of the best start page/RSS reader aggregator services out there. Before Netvibes, I used My Yahoo! but somehow Netvibes's GUI seems a bit easier to use.

I just discovered that you can publish a feed of everything you do on Netvibes. I've been looking for this function in other services but am ecstatic that it's here. So now, I plan on sending every article I read to my Netvibes activity feed. If you're curious what I read across my RSS feeds, subscribe to it! I'm also putting this link in my right hand column of this site.

Hotlists from HotorNot.com

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Interesting new widget from my buddy James at hotornot.com.

I can put the persons, places, and things that resonate with me in this widget which denote what's cool, influential, and important in my life from brands to people and anything. Pretty nifty. I think a way to express this is actually kind of interesting. No other way exists that I know of to do this.

We always express ourselves by the things we wear, or who we talk about or idolize. But we have primitive tools to make this known. We cut out pictures and paste them to our wall. We buy clothes and wear them. At least with this widget, we have an easy way to pick out those things that influence our lives and let others see them.

Something interesting to watch....

I Need MOOOOO Therapy

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These Moo cards are really starting to take my brain and feelings for a loop.

The impulse to make more is staggering. It takes a huge force of will to not go and upload more pics and order more.

When I order them, my intent is to use them as a personal ID card or as a unique business card design. But I find that when I get them, it is super hard to part with them. I like them so much that it's hard for me to give them away! I think it's the fact that I took those pics on the backs. I have a deep attachment to them simply for that fact alone.

It's also their novelty and size. The slender aspect ratio of these cards makes them almost cute and you want to own them. I can't part with them because they are so keep-a-ble!

Then when I show them to others, they like them too. But they won't take just any card; they want to pick. They look carefully through them and only pick the one they like. Or take more than one. How strange. They want that special one that appeals to them alone, even though I took those pics and like them all.

It is even more pronounced when I show my biz cards. In case you didn't know, the backs of my business Moo cards have images of my startups that I take on occasion to document their "Making Of". So when they take my Moo cards, they don't want some strange image or dudes on the card backs; they want something that is familiar to them, like either their own company or if they know the people.

Moo cards are strangely addictive and produce such interesting reactions in myself and in others. I think I am going to need some MOOOO therapy soon to figure this all out...

MOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

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One day, I saw someone handing out these small photographic cards with their contact info on the other side. They were photos that this person had taken and I thought it was a great idea to meld photography, or life imagery, with a personal identity system. I was hooked. I had to make some too! Enter Moo.com .

Moo.com allows you take photos from flickr or bebo and make cool business cards out of them. These can be from pictures you have uploaded into your own account, or they can be semi-randomly selected from the gazillion photos on either service.

I took some of my own favorite shots and uploaded them into flickr. Then I went to Moo.com and they have a great interface for selecting which pictures you want, cropping them, setting up the text on back, and the ordering them.

For one batch, the result wasn't that great; they sometimes don't print so well. However, my second batch came back really cool and you can see them in the picture above. The second batch was a personal business card and I just ordered another batch of business cards, with candid photos from all the startups I work with on the back.

I love the way they make printing these cards so easy. It's also an interesting way of expressing yourself (or your business) through the use of photography, a lens into the world through your own eyes. Something to share, something to tell your own story with.

I can't stop ordering these cards!

Interesting Pictures Navigation: Asia Grace

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Something about this pictures navigation really appeals to me:

Asia Grace

It allows a hierarchical drill down into images. I like the rollover feedback of selection by outlining. I can see many applications of this technique on other sites.

Social Networks: Recruiting and Reconnecting

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Recently there has been a bit of press regarding LinkedIn. Also, I've noticed that there has been an uptick in LinkedIn invites lately. A lot of that has happened when former colleagues at Yahoo! are thinking about leaving and they realize that they don't want to lose their connection with previous colleagues, or they want to renew their connection with those who have left.

I too find LinkedIn to be quite useful in finding old colleagues. For David Shen Ventures, LLC, I am often recruiting for positions in my companies. And I have found that my social networking site memberships have been extremely useful in finding and contacting people. To date, I have used Friendster, Yahoo! 360, and LinkedIn the most in locating folks. Surprisingly, our Yahoo! alumni network Yahoo! Group doesn't work so well. I think that Yahoo! Groups is probably the old generation social network and needs to be updated with today's functionality. It is too limiting in its ability to let members communicate with one another. The membership is private and it only allows broadcast of messages out, which so far has proven to be not very helpful at all.

On LinkedIn and Yahoo! 360, I can contact people directly and a personal message has been much more effective at reestablishing someone whom I have not talked to in a long time.

Through my connections, I am tied to literally every Yahoo! that ever worked there. It is quite amazing. Of course, LinkedIn is much more informative from a recruiting standpoint since people post their company info there.

If you think about the way Web companies go through cycles of waxing/waning success and employees go through their own mini-cycles of entering/exiting companies, it seems that LinkedIn usage is tied to these cycles. It would be interesting to do some research into correlating industry and personal events to traffic and usage of LinkedIn and other social networks.

Google Maps on Mobile

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Everyone was super impressed when Google Maps came out, all decked out with Ajax and an API for others to hack into. Their maps heralded an age of mashups and rushed copycats from competitors like Yahoo!.

The other day a buddy of mine shows me Google Maps on his Treo. I go "WHOA". It's got the same type of AJAX-like interaction as the web site! You can drag it around and when you go off map, it automatically connects to the Internet and grabs new images. You can also put it in satellite mode and surf around locations while looking at real buildings!

The real kicker is this. You can look up businesses on the map and get directions. What a godsend. Up to now, yellow page applications have all sucked on mobile phones. Now Google Maps Mobile makes it all worthwhile. You look up a business, little pins denote business matches, you click on one to get more info, and you can get directions to go there.

And thank god for the Google war chest to fund dedicated apps for a whole suite of mobile phones! I also downloaded Google Maps onto my Motorola SLVR and it works a little bit hokey in the sense that it keeps asking me for permission to connect to the internet, but it also performs wonderfully.

Find this and more great Google Mobile apps at http://www.google.com/mobile/. The Google Maps Mobile app is available at http://www.google.com/gmm/. Now I must try out Gmail for Mobile phones....

Yelp

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I just recently rediscovered Yelp, a website which uses the community to rate businesses. When it first came out, I got invited to signup and I did, but I didn't really do much with it.

Then I began using it to lookup places to eat in hopes of using other peoples' opinions to sway me one way or another. It was my hope that the opinions of Yelpers would help me better than using Zagats, which, to me, is no help at all.

Why is that? It's because Zagats has EVERY restaurant in the universe in there. How do you pick from a list of a 40 5-star restaurants? They all seem the same given the text descriptions. Maybe it would be better if they had pictures, but they don't. Generally, it doesn't cater to my tastes in particular.

The Black Book series of city guides has been the best thing so far. Somehow I've connected with the reviewers who put that together and they've consistently picked restaurants that I know I like. It's the best guide for me out there.

I hope that Yelp can become the same thing for me.

But most importantly, I wanted a place to remember where I went and how I felt about it. Yelp provides a nice GUI to do that. And they have a nice mobile implementation to be able to look up stuff while on the go.

Check out my Yelp reviews with this handy module:

Do your tastes mirror mine?

Way Too Much of this Web 2.0 Stuff

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How about some Web 2.0 overload? Looking for a new job with a crazy startup?

The favorite gathering place for Web 2.0 businesses has always been Michael Arrington's Techcrunch. Here's a few more:

The Go2web2 Blog of Orli Yakuel

and her amazing Flash powered Web 2.0 company navigator:

Go2Web20.net - The complete Web 2.0 directory

An older list of Web 2.0 companies from Baris Karadogan, Partner at ComVentures dating back to March 2006. Many new companies have emerged since then.

All I can say is "let the buyer beware".... Creativity run amok is cool, but make sure you go deep and seek substance.

If You Want to Have a Web 2.0 Company....

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...you must use the right language in your presentations. Find useful and essential Web 2.0 doublespeak here at:

The Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator

After you finish your presentation, you must have an official Web 2.0 logo. Forget that retro crap. Go 2006 with a true Web 2.0 design! Type your company name here:

Web 2.0 Logo Creator

Since I want David Shen Ventures, LLC to be truly a next generation Web 2.0 company, I am thinking of switching my logo to this:

Generated Image

But if I truly want to be Web 2.0, I must drop some vowels. So...

Generated Image

I am also thinking of switching my page design. So I tried this automatic page layout creator for Web 2.0 design:

Web 2.0 Generator

Check out my proposed new webpage design.

What Do I Think is the Next Wave of Business for the Web?

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When I tell people what I'm doing now, they always ask me about what I think is hot and upcoming. They always wonder what I think makes something worth looking into and potentially the next big hit in Web business. I guess they want to know the secret formula or something.

Sometimes I hate answering this question. It is almost like the question I always get asked in seminars when I present: What are your favorite websites and why? It seems that I always should have a ready answer in my pocket to give them. And sometimes it's hard. Hard to remember all the websites I surf to each day, or those that I encounter through referrals or friends, or hard to articulate why I like something or why I don't. So now I get into the practice of thinking more deeply about each website I go to and try to have some kind of answer to this question.

As I now must have for "What does Dshen think is hot on the Web and why?"

So I thought I'd write some of them down here so at least you can see what I'm thinking about these days:

1. I find the viralness and the spontaneous emergence of communities intriguing. Sometimes you can't predict when something will take off. The non-prediction aspect is both frustrating and invigorating; as business minded folks, you want to be able to say that this community will work and I can make money of it or not. The reality is that a lot of these communities take off on their own. It has been shown to me that the "put it up and see what happens" strategy works so well here. If I don't connect with a community or what brings it together, it doesn't mean that it won't be huge or work for others. Which brings me to my next thought...

2. It's all about the niches. The Yahoos and the Googles of the world have already taken care of the broad swaths of internet turf. But they are so huge that it's hard and not justifiable to attack niches. This is where I think smaller companies can do a great job at tackling niche markets and flourishing. With the internet lowering barriers of reaching people, small niches that were hampered by geography and other factors can all of sudden congregate and be powerful through the internet, which has no physical limitations. So communities of interest can form and be really huge.

3. In the future, the power will really be spread out to the people. I really like startups working on concepts which empower people. One big example is how MySpace is showing that the record labels aren't as necessary as they were years ago when there was no internet. Musicians can now effectively get their music out to the masses and make money without the marketing power of record labels. If the labels (and music studios, and other similar huge old world entities) don't change their thinking, they will all die a slow death. Throwing lawsuits at it will slow it down but my belief is that such movement of democratizing the old world is unstoppable and inevitable.

4. Equally important and relevant to me are the people working on it. I find there are two types of people. Those who are very open minded and those who are not. My belief is that the open minded people are more creative, more adaptable, and be able to accept new ideas and directions than those who are not. I try to avoid working with those who think their way is the only way and don't really listen to what I have to say, or what others have to say for that matter. In my 10+ years of working on Web products, I have been surprised so many times at what works and what doesn't that I've lost count. You have to have the ability to go with the flow and shift and adapt. Being too rigid brings a lot of risk, which brings me to the next point...

5. I see building applications on the Web has a huge probability game. Nobody is guaranteed for success but yet that shouldn't stop you from putting something up and seeing what happens. And whatever you do, you keep stacking the odds in your favor. You keep testing and adjusting. You find smart people to bring onto your team. You network continuously to make sure you get the best ideas possible. Keep stacking the odds in your favor and you may just find that someone who isn't doing this is all of sudden left in the dust.

6. A buzzword favorite. I like companies who work in the long tail (see book of same name The Long Tail by Chris Anderson) which is akin to giving the power to the people.

7. Another buzzword favorite. I like companies who disrupt old traditional ways of doing things. Those who take on big, huge, slow companies in big and huge industries by doing something in a different way that cuts costs and delivers better to their customers. Love it. Think iTunes to the music and TV industries.

Other stuff: Gotta be innovative, gotta be engaged with the Web. Being tenacious and never giving up. Unwavering belief in success.

That's it. Now to work on my favorite websites list haha.

Today I saw an article in the New York Times online edition about flightstats.com. This site is pretty cool. It gives you tons of information about the flights out of any airport, and any associated delays. The article also talks about the myriad of delays plaguing all airports during the summer travel season and highlights how annoying travel can be with late arriving, delayed, and cancelled flights. Flightstats.com helps with all that by giving you the latest info on any flight in or out of any airport in the world.

Of course upon reading the article, and being an avid world traveler, I immediately went to the site to check it out. I entered the URL and....waited....and waited....and waited....

I went to the bathroom and came back and it still had not pulled up.

It brought me back to a time when the team that designed the ads for the front page of Yahoo! used to report to me. We would deal with many clients and every time we talked to them we would ask them if they were technically ready to handle the traffic that exposure on the Yahoo! front page would bring.

The answer we would receive would always be an emphatic yes. But we would never believe them.

We would reply with an "are you sure?" and a "we're going to test your site to make sure it's ok" and a proposal to host a jump page which would look exactly like the target page but only be put up in case of emergencies.

Sometimes they would take our offer and sometimes they would not. Foolish mortals.

In the years that I helped out with Yahoo! front page ads, I think at least 8 out of 10 clients were technically not ready to handle traffic that the Yahoo! front page would deliver them. It was the equivalent of a firehosing of users to the site, and webmasters on the client end would almost never be ready to handle it. We've seen site slow-downs to virtual non-response conditions whereby too many users would attempt to enter the client's site. People outside of the Yahoo's of the world just didn't have the experience to handle that much traffic, and under normal operating conditions, never need to even deal with that.

But buying an ad on the Yahoo! front page isn't a normal condition.

In recent years, I have seen this gotten better. People seem to be doing better at building scalable solutions and being prepared for them.

I guess not everyone has experienced it yet.

Today, an article in Wired, a plug on the Today show, or a discussion in the New York Times is enough to send a ton of users your way. Obviously, Flightstats.com wasn't prepared for it. I went there and waited and waited for many minutes before the site came up. Then it was butt slow trying to retrieve data on LAX for today.

It just goes to show that building scalable web products is a necessary skill, and that even abnormal exposure in a news article is enough to make your site slow down or even stop responding.

Only Designers Would Chuckle

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Traditional logos redesigned in Web 2.0 style!

Yay Hooray | yh collab: redesign famous logos in web 2.0 format!

Maybe I'm weird, but I think this is hilarious!

Google Graphical Ads Scary

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OK so the ads started serving in finally to my 300x250 spot. Well, sort of. Pretty scary as to the clients showing up. This company called Remit2India keeps showing up. I did see a travel company before that, but I forgot what it was called. In my Musings blog, I keep getting Fish Tychoon. Where are the video ads? Where is my Pepsi ad? How about some Superbowl winners? It appears that Google is rotating graphical ads with the video ads.

It looks like AdSense doesn't deem my site worthy of video ads yet. I'll keep waiting though.

Google Video Ads on AdSense

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A few weeks ago, Google announced running video ads through their Adsense program. Here is an ad I created:

Hopefully you see something! I have no idea how this is going to work, but I figure if I place it here, then I can at least check it out. Make sure you comment on the ads you see in this post - Thanks!

Yahoo! Widgets

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Having seen Mac OS X desktop widgets, I kind of filed that away for later perusal and got back to that now when I read about the Yahoo! Widgets library in PC Magazine.

Very cool stuff! Widgets are great because you can access data and be presented with that data in a unique GUI that is optmized for that data. No more are we confined to the idiosyncracies of a Web browser - let me tell you, after working on websites for almost 9 years, I am coming to hate the Web browser in many ways as much as I love it for what it can do.

I downloaded the Yahoo! Widgets engine and then checkout a whole bunch widgets, while closing some that aren't really useful for me. My current favorites are:

RSS News Reader by John Hinds - I loaded up all my RSS feeds into here. Nice!
World Clock Pro - the ability to spawn separate clocks for each time zone is really important.
Yahoo! Weather - I love the transparency effects of this widget. Very well done and I can monitor forecasts out 5 days which is important for planning my training days.
Picture Frame - somehow the presentation of this widget is better than many of the filmstrip applications out there. I set it to my favorite Yahoo! Photos folder and let it run. Funny that it doesn't work with Flickr...?

I can't wait for Tetris to show up, or TextTwist...!

Get some now at Yahoo! Widgets.

More Trendspotting

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Trendcentral.com

Style, technology, entertainment, and lifestyle.

JC Report

All about fashion trends.

Iconoculture

Consumer trends across a number of product categories.

Influx Insights

Who's into what worldwide; tech, style, lifestyle, street cred.

PSFK Global Trends Collaborative

Categories of trends galore!

Trendspotting, Latest Business Ideas

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I found these two websites one day while looking for new ideas as well as marketing information on emerging trends.

Trendwatching.com

Very cool reporting on all the crazy things going on out there. You can sign up for a newsletter, and also search their database.

Springwise.com

A website that talks about new business ideas from the same network of trendspotters that their sister site, Trendwatching.com uses. Sign up for this newsletter as well.

Important data for all entrepreneurs and marketers alike...

Things That Attract Users and Make Them Stick

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Last night, I had a dinner meeting with some entrepreneurs and we were talking about how to make users stick to a website from a community standpoint. These points were:

1. Socializing - satisfying the need for humans to connect with other humans is great attractor for people to stick around. They communicate, meet, make friends, etc.

2. Sex - once you get Socializing, then the next natural extension of that is wanting to meet for dating reasons or sex.

3. Competition - somehow, enabling people to compete against one another and make them feel better than others by winning contests, acquiring more goods or power, is something that people like. There is the prestige factor of feeling and being better than others.

4. Fame - along with competition, if you can increase one's opportunity for fame when they win, then there is a natural desire to keep competing and retaining that fame and being on top. It's all about bragging rights to your friends and strangers....

5. Fortune - this was one we didn't discuss, but I just thought of. Allowing people to make money out of their activity, or acquire real or virtual wealth, helps keep people on the site. Reward for activity and participation only makes people want to participate more. As in the real world, the pursuit of wealth is on many peoples' minds.

Google Analytics

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As soon as Google Analytics was announced, I immediately signed up for it and started playing with it.

The first step was a non-start. Somehow the Check Status function wasn't working for a day and kept telling me that I put the Google code on my pages wrong. But that was fixed pretty quickly.

NOTE: Google email customer service is FANTASTIC. They really respond within 24 hours, mostly sooner! I emailed someone to cancel my Adwords account and it was deleted within 6 hours. I emailed someone regarding the Analytics problem and they responded within 8 hours that someone was working on it. This is in stark contrast to the typical no response or the automated useless response you get from other companies.

Soon data was filtering in. I think Google Analytics is pretty basic. It covers visits and pageviews and I'm getting used to its terminology. It also has nice analyses of the technology used by viewers. I don't have many pages on my site, so I don't know how deep the Analytics goes, but I hope it does go deep.

I am dying to try its ties to Adwords. The conversion tracking should be really interesting. It will also be interesting to see if they are innovative and thoughtful enough on the data display to make it understandable. Often data from websites is so rich that it's unusable unless some machine filters it first, and then presents it in a meaningful way.

Highly recommend this - I just hope Google doesn't ever go "evil" and start using my data for something other than what I would like...

Still the best part of this is that it's FREE.

Try it now at Google Analytics.

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