Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Internet Summit 08

I just got home from Internet Summit 08 at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised.

The speakers and panels I attended were al both worthwhile and kept me awake. That's a good thing.

Lunch logistics did not work so well, but I did not go for the free feed.

The software as a service was very interesting in talking about the sales and marketing model. Apparently most Saas companies have an extremely high customer acquisition cost. That made me feel a little better about my two Sass companies. The first has almost no customer acquisition. It makes a profit from day one. The second has an as yet unknown customer acquisition cost. But it is known that it is it almost nothing. We sell into several different segments of a vertical. Some of the segments have a very high customer acquisition cost. I probably saved myself a lot of money and time on different sales channels by attending that session.

The session on Social Networks was the best of the day. The panelist were great. The topics were timely. The comments were deeply insightful. The big take away was that social networks have to find a way to charge for applications there members need - not want. Still, no one was willing to venture what those apps are.

The session on Search taught me how to - and why to - protect my business on Google maps from being hijacked. I will do some reading on this tonight and comment on it later.

I definitely plan to attend in the future if the event is held again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Replacing "Interfaces" in the Insurance World

Currently in the insurance world - and probably in many other industries - there is an enormous amount of work being done to allow many different systems to "integrate" with each other.

"Integrate" as used here means to be able to pass electronic data from one system to another. The goal is to have the systems "talk to each other". Primarily this has been pushed as a way to avoid the dreaded double entry of data.

We have been working on a product revision that allows a wide variety of sharing and collaborations between many diverse users. Kind of a social service for business that lets you keep your business private.

As part of this service, we allow the user to add hyperlinks and embedded links to their portion of the site.

Why should "interface" not be replaced with links and embedded links?

The problems with direct data to data interface is either it never ends or it crushes innovation. Neither is a good solution.

Crushing innovation is good for the Applied Systems and AMS's of the world. It is good for proprietary company systems that want to lock you in to doing business only with them.

What if instead of getting a data dump to update your in house system, you got a link to the related document on the insurance company's system.

Here is a big plus for that - just one version of the document - everyone sees the same thing. No out of sync issues. Plus no storage space issues.

Plus - and of course the leading software providers of management systems will hate this - you would no longer need an expensive Agency Management system. You would only need a very inexpensive - or even free (Google Docs? Maybe?) - document management platform.

I can hear the screams from the establishment now. "We can't do that!" "You don't understand!"

My answer - Are we Americans or American'ts?

Of course the folks that are reaming you now for an obscene amount of money will say it can't be done. They might not have a job. Of course the companies that want you to only work with them - even though they don't offer all the products you need - will say you don't understand. They might have competition.

I think you do understand. I know it can be done.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Your Internet Goes Down

When the Internet goes down at your office are you tempted to just close up and go home?

I think this is true for a lot of us these days.

Here is the next question, if you need the Internet so much to do your job, don't you think your customers want to work with you through the Internet also?

Do you think your customers feel the same way when the Internet goes down at their jobs?

I have been around a while so I actually reminder the dark ages when you owned a computer - even a PC - because it actually ran some stand alone programs I found useful - I think???? Now, I am not real sure what other purpose a computer has except as a way to connect to the Internet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Symbolic Representation

More thoughts from reading Glut...

Symbolic representation of things is a skill that allows humans to communicate better.

With computers the first common symbolic representation of things might be considered the GUI screens from Windows and Apple. This is kind of like sign language to many, but it was a big step up from the DOS prompt and allowed computers to be much more accessible to many more people.

In today's social web world I can not think of a site that does not include - in fact demand - that each user post a image to be the symbolic representation of themselves. I joined a site recently that defaulted to a very ugly goat picture to encourage you to post your own image selection.

To be honest I find an immediate and subconscious reaction to any site or service that uses these small images. It personalizes.

What else could be added to do this even more?

Sound is often something that drives me away.

Video is good but to static. And how and when to activate it is always an issue.

How do you feel the ability to personalize backgrounds fits into this?

Any other ideas? 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Glut and 5 Levels

I have been reading Glut by Alex Wright.

He thinks that we humans have a natural need to classify things. He also thinks we are most comfortable with classifying things at 5 levels of complexity. The middle level apparently is normally the thing itself.

Let's assume this is true. What are the 5 levels of Facebook, Twitter, etc? I am not sure I can see 5 levels. Is this a problem? Is this because we are so early in the way we use and understand social online?

Here is an example of the 5 levels:

Hound Dog - in North Carolina that would be a Plott Hound
Bassett Hound - again - not in NC

On Twitter would this be:

World Wide Web
Social Web
Mirco Blog

Do relationships have this same 5 levels? Online - again say Twitter:

User of Twitter

Any other thoughts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Makes A Service A Platform?

I have been told - or read - that a platform is totally ignorant of the content on the platform. Under this definition a word processing, spreadsheets or YouTube is a platform. Right?

What about the fact that these platforms define the type of content? Word processing is usually mostly text - words. Excel is almost always numbers and formulas. YouTube is videos and only videos.

Does this keep these from being platforms?

Is Facebook more of a platform because you can have text, pictures, videos, links, messaging, etc all on one service?

Twitter is text and links only. But I think most folks consider Twitter a platform because it has standard API's for third party developers to use. Is this a part of the required criteria for a platform?

Any opinions?