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22 Dec, 2009 – one comment

tumblarity vs pagerank

When I started blogging my thoughts most tangential to my day job in late 2006, Google PageRank was the true currency of the web.

Today, most of my colleagues and my friends don’t blog at their own .com, instead they tumble. And Tumblarity is how they’re measured.

Navigating PageRank is a lot like playing Dungeons & Dragons (or what I know of it). You work tirelessly to collect experience points, level up, and sometimes suffer a crushing blow dealt by the Dungeon Master – aka Google.

Navigating Tumblarity is a lot like playing Plinko. No two people explain their perception of the scoring alike and the score wildly fluctuates almost if by chance. From the outside, it seems entirely hit or miss.

Accruing PageRank is an exercise in empire building. Slow and complex, but ultimately possible.

You don’t seem to accrue Tumblarity. It comes and it goes – like the actual attention span of a human being. Some days you’re hot. Some days you’re not.

PageRank is obsessed with how content is connected.

Tumblarity is obsessed with how people are connected.

In fact, about the only thing both have in common is their community’s derision. Give someone something to be measured against and watch them game, accept, or reject the construct.

22 Dec, 2009 – 4 comments

behold the plateau of social media

After playing with Google Insights for Search,

Are we seeing a permanent stagnation for social media? What comes next? And how soon?

22 Dec, 2009 – one comment

who owns your content’s profitability?

Yesterday’s surprising news that Twitter actually earned a buck in 2009 raises interesting questions about profitability, labor, and the gift economy.

As reported by Business Week,

Twitter is ending 2009 on a high note. The microblogging site has reached profitability after inking $25 million of deals that make its content searchable by Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), Bloomberg BusinessWeek has learned. In October, Twitter said it had struck multiyear arrangements that make users’ short blog postings available on and on Bing, which is run by Microsoft.

In exchange for making short blogs, known as tweets, searchable on Google, Twitter will receive about $15 million, the two people say, adding that the Microsoft partnership is worth about $10 million. “The deals were huge,” says one. “With two scoops of the pen, a lot of revenue came in.”

The payments Google and Microsoft were willing to make to Twitter underscore the growing value of the massive volumes of data coursing through Twitter’s network. Executives of both companies have said their technologies would be considered incomplete if they did not include the millions of messages that get posted on Twitter every minute.

Microsoft and Google purchase the rights to publish our content. But we don’t get a cut of the profits.

Make sense to you?

Twitter’s terms of service clearly state, “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.” But then go on to say, “By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

So, we own our content, but Twitter can do pretty much whatever it likes with that content. Try thinking about this with a physical good – you own your car, but I can pretty much do whatever I want with it (demolition derby!). You own that pie, but I’m going to run it through my digestive system.

How’s this fair?

Well, as Josh pointed out to me yesterday, “Twitter let’s you use their service for free in exchange.”

But then Twitter would be worthless if I hadn’t used their service and brought my friends with me… right? And from the Business Week article, Twitter actually cut their operating costs by negotiating with mobile carriers because the size of their user base is now so large. So I doubly helped Twitter.


Well, isn’t this what Google did?

Yes and no. Google ‘crawled’ my content (on my own .com) and the content of millions of other people to better understand how it all fit together, and in turn, improved how search engines fundamentally find content. Google does display a brief snippet of my content to searchers, but it does not publish the content in its entirety. This new use of tweets will (perhaps simply because tweets are so short, anyway).

Welcome to the collision of the gift economy and the market economy (Adam Smith’s economy).

The market economy is structured in nearly immediate transactions of value – what I give is predicated on what I expect to get in return. Quid pro quo. The gift economy separates the input and output for the foreseeable future – I apply labor with the expectation that eventually, some day, I will be repaid. And that payment may come in social standing and not gold, women, or sheep.

Like you, I’ve tweeted for so long not in expectation of some financial reward, but with the hope/knowledge/expectation that someday my efforts would be repaid in connections, status, interests, and beautiful strangers.

But our belief in the gift economy can be unsettled when the market economy generates a sizable wealth from our donated behaviors. Imagine if the Blood Bank of America, an organization that has consistently run under the gift economy, began selling our blood to private enterprise (hey, that’s my B negative!).

One way to look at this is Generalized Exchange – that value is exchanged circularly and new types of value are created in the process – as Twitter gains profitability it can begin offering new services, new value, and as more users flock to the the platform they bring with them new value to Twitter.

But then again. $25 million. That’s a few jetpacks, right there.

21 Dec, 2009 – one comment

re-thinking reach

If we stopped measuring reach solely by impressions and instead, factored in how content posted to a site is spread by its readers – our notions of the top sites on the web would dramatically change.

Fortunately, this is something we can actually do. Simple tools like Google Blog Search, Backtweets, and more sophisticated services like Scout Labs and Radian 6 make tracking how content spreads nearly automatic.

We can start by simply multiplying the usual reach estimate of a site by the % of the estimated readership that has spread content in the past (an estimation drawn from the number of links back, tweets, etc). We could go further by tacking on the estimated reach of the sites where the content was spread to – but we’d find that many of these sites are too small to have an accurate measure of readership.

What would we find? Well, 4chan would probably be the number one site or at least somewhere in the top 5. Mainstream media sites would drop way down in the rankings – these sites have simply not reinforced the sharing behavior with their users. Blame the years they spent fighting any kind of user interaction.

I hope we start to see lists like this in 2010. If anyone works at any of these measuring services, send them my way, I want to make this happen (or hit my head against the wall until it can’t).

21 Dec, 2009 – 3 comments

transmedia branding

click the image to see the full size slide

I’ve been thinking a good deal about Henry Jenkins’ Seven Core Principles of Transmedia Storytelling and I’ve been wondering… can I build a new brand using these seven principles?

Can I use these core principles, some more figuratively than others, to construct an entirely consumable, sharable, remixable, and remarkable brand?

Mike is oft to say, the best conversations are the ones where each person comes to the table with a different piece of information to share about a given topic. Transmedia storytelling is how you engineer the possibility for these kinds of conversations. And when you apply this to branding, you get a brand that is ripe for conversation. And you aren’t anybody until somebody is talking about you.

Funny, we’ve gone from, “I think, therefore I am.” to “I’m spoken of, therefore, I am.”

21 Dec, 2009 – one comment

chief culture officer

Last night, I inhaled Grant McCracken’s latest book, Chief Culture Officer. In it, Grant argues that corporations need a new role and position to assimilate and navigate the cultural waters: the Chief Cultural Officer.

The book is one-part manifesto, one-part how-to manual, and one-part blogroll for everyone and everything you should be paying attention to right now. When I first picked it up, I thought, “Boy, this sounds just like me!” and then about half way through I realized, “this sounds just like me and most of my colleagues and friends.” Full disclosure, Grant name checks me on page ninety-one, but in no way has Grant asked me to write about the book or recommend it to my readers.

For many years, brands were the backward little brother of the cultural world, not as extravagant as film, not as experimental as art, not as forceful as fiction. Brands had a simple task, to bang the drum on behalf of a product or service, to play carney barker for the corporation. Brands were predictable. They were tedious. The subordinated intelligence and creativity for marketing’s favorite rhetorical devices: repetition, good humor, simplicity, and of course repetition. (p 142-143)

I thought the best way to urge you to buy a copy or borrow one from a friend would be to share with you some of my favorite passages from the book.

On the importance of culture to the corporation,

Let’s be clear. Without a connection to culture, Coke is merely carbonated water and syrup. Without culture, it’s just a fizzy drink. So culture counts. Let’s be clearer still. The fundamental terms of the Coke proposition are changing. The carbonated soft drink is now contested by new ideas of what a drink should be (Snapple, Gatorade, Poland Springs, Vitamin-water, Red Bull). In the traditional case, culture matters. In the present case, it matters more. (p 10)

Thousands of little experiments,

For we are a culture with a third term, a restless creativity. If once we were a mainstream and avant-garde, now we are a great wilderness, with thousands of little experiments happening everywhere. Point, counterpoint is dead. The struggle between status and cool is over. We are now a culture over-flowing with variety and noise. (p 78)

On status and cool,

Taste now comes from a mastery of change, not a mastery of status. [...] Cool is an outsider’s sensibility now completely internalized, built into every individual and our entire culture. [...] it is anthropologically more rewarding, I think, to see cool as a measure of our culture’s ability to absorb conflicting impulses and embrace contradiction. (p 70,77)

Grant’s advice to the newly minted CCO,

The most important rule here: Don’t be partisan. Don’t be cool. Treat everyone as more knowledgeable than yourself. (p 111)

Tracking, measuring, and scrutinizing your wins and losses,

The big picture will oblige us to pick up things that are surviving infancy and moving forward. We must decide where we expect them to stand in three months, six months, and a year. And then we must scrutinize our successes and our failures and see how the algorithm needs to be changed. (p 105)

A CEO can’t go it alone,

But media is now so finely segmented and in the case of mainstream radio so repetitive, consuming media does not guarantee broad acquaintance. (p 156)

The final chunk of the book is literally a list of lists – content creators and publishing houses that demand your attention to be better connected to culture. That alone is worth the purchase price.

BTW, if you buy the book on Amazon today, they’ll have it shipped in time for Christmas. Stocking stuffer, anyone?

18 Dec, 2009 – leave a comment

friday digest no. 3

Apologies for a bit of Holiday tardiness this week; but here we go, the Friday Digest – the only thing you need to read today – a round up of my favorite shared posts.

To the shares!

hold your hands to your head b/c your mind might be blown

fav found image, she reminds me of Sundance’s foxy school-marm lady

17 Dec, 2009 – leave a comment

the highest spike in searches before offline purchases?

Hitwise just released some interesting stats on trends of online searches for printable coupons and store locations. It looks like with just over two weeks left to shop for Christmas, people are using the web to prep before their offline excursions more so than ever before.

Also: searches for ‘walmart store locator’ were the most frequent term by a factor of 4. By the way, at least here in NY, the adwords competition looks pretty slim for that phrase… seems like you could do something creative with that space…

17 Dec, 2009 – leave a comment

round-up of location based services in adage

Check out this extremely comprehensive round-up of location based services making noise in Adage this week.

Two services that caught my eye:


Yowza is one of the more interesting upstarts in location-based advertising. Users who download the Yowza app to their iPhones are able to have deals and coupons pushed to them based on their immediate location. Yowza is paperless too — simply let the cashier scan your phone to receive a discount. With big-name retailers like REI, Crate & Barrel, Guitar Center and CB2 on board, Yowza has the potential to completely upend the Sunday circular.


As location-based services take off, a host of new companies like GeoApi, Geodelic, and, most promisingly, SimpleGeo are offering geo services to make application development for publishers and brands much simpler. SimpleGeo offers hosted services like a Context Engine that allows developers to access geo-tagged content from the likes of Twitter, Flickr, Brightkite and more; storage for location data; and even an SDKs so you can get augmented reality up and running, fast.

Yowza certainly seems like a throwback to the good ol’ days of 2007 when we all thought mobile + couponing was the wave of the future; but I’m sure the coupon hounds love the promise of this app. SimpleGEO makes me happy to know that rolling location based apps is only getting easier.

17 Dec, 2009 – one comment

sxsw panel update, save the date

A couple quick updates to my SXSW Interactive Panel (please check em out):

Thanks to everyone again for the support. We need it now more than ever.