RSS Feed

Blogging 101 for dummies

Posted on

Welcome to my first blog post on Enterprise 2.0. Today, i will be introducing some of my strategies to be successful in blogging.

Why i blog?

Apart from fulfilling my assignment requirements, i would like to establish myself as an Enterprise 2.0 consultant (wannabe) to help organisations improve their business. Blogging is a great way to help market yourself or for any organisation to gain online recognition and at the same time, build their digital reputation.

1) Investing time and commitment

It is always going to take a fair amount of time to write something that will capture the imagination of your readers. Doing your own research on something that you have no prior knowledge on is of utmost importance to your preparation before writing, therefore one must be willing to fork out a period of uninterrupted personal time to just sit down and focus on the task at hand.

What this means is that it will potentially require you to sacrifice a couple of hours of your own personal time (family? TV? napping?) to write this one single blog post. It is a trade-off often required to produce quality work and it will mean taking time away from something else. It is not enough to just post regularly for a couple of days and then totally stop posting  for a month. How fast would you stop visiting that blog if all of a sudden the author stopped posting for a couple of weeks?

The reality of being a successful blogger is to write regularly and consistently, therefore one must find the time to do it. They deserve your best and it takes ample time to create your best. Finding the perfect balance between time and consistency is a huge challenge most bloggers will face.

Bottom line: Time and effort is required to produce a smashing piece of work!

2) Marketing your blog

Search engines will still be able to locate your blog but to make it highly accessible to the entire audience out there on the internet, you have to put in the effort to make sure that people know about the existence of your blog. It is pointless to have built a great blog but no one comes knocking on your doors. Leverage social book marking tools such as “Digg“, StumbleUpon and Blog Carnival as part of your marketing strategies. Link your blog to other social networking tools that you use normally such as Facebook and Twitter!

A simple way to engage more readers out there is by commenting. Readers can potentially be bloggers themselves. It’s almost like having a conversation so as much as possible, try to be actively involved in commenting on other blogs. Link your blog to other blogs and be part of the blogging community! Ask good questions and give them a run for their money. This way, a discussion can be initiated between one party to another.

Bottom line: Don’t hide your blog. Let the world know of its existence!

3) First impression counts!

A boring headline will not attract people to start clicking and reading but an interesting one will. Here are some articles from Copyblogger on how to create better headlines, 10 sure-fire headline formulas that work and How to write magnetic headlines. Another important aspect of creating a good first impression are the opening sentences that you use to get your reader’s attention. Here’s an article from Copyblogger about 5 good ways to start your blog post with a bang.

A neat and organised layout for your blog helps a lot. Present your article in a way that is easy to read and navigate. I have encountered blog posts that were too “colorful” for my liking and it was difficult to read. Spend quality time on formatting and make it presentable.

Bottom line: Do not turn off your readers at the first time!

4) The reader-centred approach

The most important factor is to provide value to your readers. This value could be in the form of articles that provide practical tips to improve your daily life. It could also be recipe guides for house wives who want to cook a healthy meal for the family with cost-cutting ingredients or in-depth movie reviews to help movie goers make up their mind before hitting the cinema.

The more value your post can provide to your readers, the more likely they are going to revisit your blog or recommend it to friends, leading to increased readership and online recognition. I’m an avid reader of tech-blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo. I always feel that i learned something new each time i visit one of those blogs and that’s the value they provided me: more knowledge and insights on the latest mobile gadgets and technologies.

Bottom line: Post something that will benefit your readers!

5) Learn from others

Learn the good things, dump the bad things. There are a thousand and one examples on the internet on how to create a good blog. As mentioned in the above points, there are websites that provide useful tips on how to be successful in blogging. Taking these tips on board will shorten your learning curve on blogging the right way. Positivity blogProblogger and Copyblogger are 3 excellent resources. On the flip side, here are 5 bad examples that you should NEVER follow!

Bottom line: Don’t learn it the hard way! Try to get it right the first time!

Here are some useful links and references:

Hope you’ve learned something new from me today and I’m looking forward to my next post. But before you leave, here’s an interesting video on how you can increase traffic for your blog! Till next week people, cheers!

Advertisements

How Threadless threaded their business

Posted on

In comparison to Web 1.0 startups of the 1990s, business startups of Web 2.0 companies are very different today.  Over the past decade, there have been a number of dramatic changes in the factors that affect the starting cost of launching a web:

Hardware: Prices of hardware components continue to go down.

Software:  The rise of open source technologies (e.g. Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) have significantly reduced the cost of deploying a web application. The organization can focus specifically and only spend money on the relevant features needed for the business to operate.

Infrastructure:  Large increase in capacity of data centers, hosting facilities and bandwidth bring down the operating costs of delivering web-based applications. Many providers offer affordable hosting packages today. Harnessing the power of cloud computing is one such example where they outsource their applications and data management to external vendors.

Marketing:  Web 2.0 companies now primarily employ web-based marketing strategies (blogs, social media, viral marketing, etc.) to bring their products to the fore.  Gone are the days of multi-million dollar commercials as organizations only pay for actual user clicks.

What all these means is that there is scalability to Web 2.0 organizations in terms of technologies and business models. As O’Reilly said, if the model for Web 1.0 companies was to “get big fast”, it’s now “small is the new big”. Larger software developing teams are not fundamental to the success of the company with faster ROI through reduced cost on expenses like hardware and TV commercials will see the business having a foot hold in the market as soon as possible.

Threadless.com is a market for designers (mostly hobbyist) around the world who sign up to design shirts which are sold internationally, splitting a small portion of product revenue per sale. Its integration with social networking tools ranging from blogs, rating and score systems, slogansdesign challenges ($2500 prize money!!!), clubs, gift certificates etc  provide cost-effective methods to enable scalability in its business model which makes the store renounced for high product quality and interaction with its community of users.

It also leverages the viral marketing prowess of twitter to “advertise” their shirts. Users have the chance to have top tweets emblazoned on T-shirts. Threadless is crowd-sourcing for shirt patterns by having users to nominate and vote for the Twitter messages that make it onto shirts.

“What’s interesting about this is allowing anybody with anything to say or quick wit to participate. “You don’t have to have an artistic bone in your body. We’re tapping into the commentary that’s already happened.” – Tom Ryan, CEO of Threadless

How it all began?

Everything began with only two designers (Jake Nickell and Jacob De Hart) almost a decade ago. Today, Threadless has collected tens of thousands of top designer contributions with about 80 employees since it first started. Their strategy of “the customer is the company” provides a big playing field for collaboration that is central to their business model. Their success story is also a case of competitive innovation leveraging the ‘doing more with less’ ethos.

A video introduction to Threadless

The game of leveraging the long tail

Posted on

Leveraging the long tail refers to how a business make profits by selling specific products that appeal to a specific group of customers (niche market). Generally, these products may not sell alot but there is lesser competition to deal with and therefore, they tend to have the majority of market share. In short, leveraging the long tail aims to let these sellers(mainsteam providers) get noticed by the small niches.

This is a video by Chris Anderson who explained his theory of leveraging the long tail by comparing the power law distribution with pareto distribution (80:20 rule) where a small group of mainstream products can have a big effect (e.g. high sales rate) within a niche market.

Using the film and music industries as examples, he presented a long tail model with a distorted graph (see figure above) to explain how a bottlneck in distribution(ran out of screens) caused the distortion which brings me to my next point of the internet having infinite shelf space. Without the limitations of the physical world such as location and space, there are limitless choices of niche markets on the internet to buy and sell products.

An example of a business leveraging the long tail is GAME. The company specialises in the retail of game related products such as game consoles, video games, PC games and related accessories. Today, it has in excess of 1400 stores in Europe and Australia.

Despite having so many retail stores around Europe and Australia, GAME continues to use the internet to reach out its customers from around the world. A few reasons would be the convenience and a wide range of gaming products to choose from website. Imagine if you went to the store to buy a game only to find out that it just went out of stock? Websites like these allow customers to do pre-orders and stock checks before making their purchase.

By building on the driving forces of the long tail, GAME has reached out to customers who are lazy to make their way down to the shop due to location and without the constraints of a physical space (retail shop), they can promote all of their products through the website. It solves the dilemma of one store not having stock for a particular game but another outlet does.

The website also uses algorithmic data management to recommend other games to customers based on the genre and price of the game they are going to purchase before checking out. The “wisdom of crowds” philosophy is also being leveraged to provide ratings and reviews of the games on sale. Games are ranked by best sellers while consoles/accessories are ranked by top picks based on customer ratings. Comments on the product are moderated to control the “wisdom of the crowds”.

An entire range of self service tools such as shopping basket, wish list, product search and adding of comments are made avaliable upon signing up for an account. Users are given great control over the management of the accounts. Simple tasks such as updating  personal details, payment card management and linking of reward cards to their accounts can be done easily.

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/game

For the more avid gamers, here’s another recommandation…

If you are interested in video game rental, visit GameFly. It has many similarities to GAME and most of the best practices of leveraging the long tail can be found on its website but their business focuses more on the rental side of things. It can be a waste of money at times if you buy e.g. a new RPG game and completed the story within a few days of purchase. As time goes, your game boxes start to pile up (white elephant). GameFly provides you with the option of renting or trade-in used video games.

WhatsApp with perpetual beta?

Posted on

The concept of perpetual beta is to have a software which never leaves the development life cycle, allowing developers to release frequent updates and new features(which have not been tested) to its users. This is similar to Raymond’s idea of “release early, release often” where he made a point on continual software development and improvement focusing on listening to customer feedbacks.

But why release an application that is not entirely ready into the market? The reason is simple: to let developers have a rough gauge of the market’s excitement towards their new creation in the form of early feedback(critical feedback would really improve the application prior to release) and establish a footprint in what they feel, is a rapidly growing market with potential to succeed. WhatsApp is an example that fits the pattern of perpetual beta.

WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messenger that allows you to send and exchange messages (like your usual SMS) using your current data plan(over the 3G network). It means that texting your friends and family would be free of charge as long as the amount of “bytes” used to send messages is within the limit of data which you have suscribed from your telco. WhatsApp is downloadable on Android Market, Apple Store, Nokia Ovi Store and BlackBerry App World.

Key Features:

  1. Exchange text messages
  2. Send images/audio files
  3. Add/Remove friends
  4. Integration with your phone book: Automatically searches for friends(their phone numbers) who uses WhatsApp and adds them to your friend list.
  5. Group chat of up to 5 users (user limit will be increased in future versions) from WhatsApp version 2.6 onwards.

Some best practices and concepts of perpetual beta can be found in WhatsApp. For example, WhatsApp developers follows that “release early, release often: ethos by updating the software regularly whether its due to bug fixing or adding of new features like group chat in version 2.6. I am a frequent user of WhatsApp myself and the updates seem to be never ending because my smartphone is always prompting me to upgrade the software version almost every week. There were occasions where WhatsApp did not work properly (bugs) in some of the newly released smartphones and they had to release quick fixes to patch up the software.

WhatsApp also engages its users as co-developers and real time-testers by monitoring user feedbacks and bug reports through their “Send logs” function. Users simply need to touch the button and they will be prompted to send a mail or log (text file) to WhatsApp with real time device information and location data recorded as part of the log. If there is a bug issue or a feature that they would like to see in WhatsApp, they can convey this message to the developers easily. Over the years, WhatsApp has been very popular among smart phone users because it “listens” to users to improve the product, making the application user-centric.

Video of WhatsApp running on the iPhone

A dictionary above the level of a single device

Posted on

When David Stutz left Mircosoft in 2003, he wrote a parting letter to his former employers entitled “Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software”. The letter caused quite a stir within the IT industry at that time because its content exposed the short-sightedness of Mircosoft’s steadfast refusal in embracing open source softwares and platforms. Tim O’Reilly echoed his sentiments of “software above the level of a single device” and often used this concept to help define Web 2.0. Dictionary.com is one such example of a software that runs on multiple platforms.

Dictionary.com is an online English dictionary and thesaurus that provides users with millions of English word definitions, synonyms, spelling, audio pronunciations, examples of sentence construction, word origins and translations. Today, more than 50 million users worldwide visit this site every month, making them the world’s largest and reliable free online dictionary resources.

What i really like about Dictionary.com is the way they extend some of Web 2.0’s best practices and techniques to mobile devices. Ever since i owned a smartphone, gone were the days of flipping through thick pages of authentic dictionaries(front to back and back to front) just to search for a single word meaning which is taxing on the eyes. The application became extremely handy in alot of situations where i did not understand the meaning of a particular word especially during lectures. It feels like squeezing a big and thick dictionary into your phone with no extra weight!

Dictionary.com has also done well with the constraints of limited input that mobile devices can handle with a simple yet interactive user interface. It was so convenient to just key in the word into the search box and the meaning with sentence construction examples will be displayed in a short and concise layout with audio pronounciation an option. This makes the output easy on the eye, all within the touch of a button. Navigating through this application is really easy.

The most interesting feature of this mobile application is in their approach to leverage mobile devices(phone speaker) for enhancing user experience and make the edge smarter. The voice-to-text search function allow users to select the voice tab to speak a word. Dictionary.com up will process the voice sample and return a meaningful definition of the word. If that word has several possible choices, a list of related words will be displayed.

Dictionary.com also made its API avaliable to third party developers which are mostly being used for creating word games and language learning applications on mobile platforms.

Dictionary.com Commercial

The “Visio” of the internet

Posted on

Gliffy is a browser based software for creating diagrams. Flowcharts, SWOT analysis and floor plans are some of the wide range of diagrams that users can create. It is a free service and no signup is required.

Key Features:

  • Sharing of diagrams with other users
  • Full shape library
  • Publishing of  diagrams as images to blogs and other URLs
  • Exporting of diagrams
  • Online forum help

Collaborating with different users

Collaboration is a function that allows you to invite other users to view and edit your document. Any changes to the document can be saved. Users do not need to worry if he or she is unhappy with the revised document as Gliffy will store a copy of the previous work everytime it is saved. You can retrieve the document to see what has been changed and make amendments to it or revert back to the earlier version.

Gliffy’s role in providing its users with “rich user experiences”

Rich Interactivity: Wide range of functionalities to choose from the user interface. Different type of diagrams and shapes which users can experiment on by dragging and dropping the shapes into the workspace.

Platform Independence: Most people would be familiar with Microsoft Visio but Gliffy is the browser-based version of a diagramming software. Users can have access to this software as long as they have a web browser with internet connection. They can also edit documents collaboratively through private invitations.

Userbility and simplicity first: It is really easy and straight forward to use Gliffy. Users can manipulate shapes and arrows simply by using the drag and drop action. User interface is also neat and easy on the eye.

Match the technology usage to the requirement: Gliffy was built using OpenLaszlo to deliver multimedia content for its users.

Preserve content addressability: Users can publish their diagrams to make it public. A embed code and direct links to the document will be generated. This ensures that content is still findable.

Deep, adaptive personalization: A function called “Drawing Guides” when turned on, will detect for shapes with matching edges and center points in the relevant workspace. If a matching edge is found, Gliffy will automatically join the shape which the user has dragged into the workspace to the other shape’s edge and a green line will appear to show the new alignment. The same applies to center point alignment. Users will save all the hassle trying to do alignment which can be time consuming and frustrating.

Here’s a video demo on Gliffy:

The traveller’s “Facebook”

Posted on

Trip Tracker is a social travel mapping service that allows its users to share stories of their travel experiences with friends, family or anyone who is travelling around the world. Where they have visited, what they have seen and the emotions they felt, all of these exciting experiences can be documented using this website. It is free to sign up for an account.

Trip Tracker Travel Journal

Trip Travel Journals are like blog entries that combine photos and comments of the user at a particular location. Photos are added using the uploader application and it will be categorised by entries which are displayed on a map based on where it was taken. You can edit your journals and annote these entries (e.g. RSS Feeds or embedding your trip into widgets) to give useful tips/recommandations to fellow users and travellers.

If users have a GPS receiver, he or she is able to create a GPS track, a file which contains data on the geographical location of the destination (time stamp, GPS coordinates etc.) they have travelled along with the GPS receiver. All these data that has been captured using the GPS receiver can be uploaded onto Trip Tracker using a computer. Trip Tracker will this data to pin point the exact location of the journal entry with photos taken and display the user’s travel path on satellite imagery, allowing them to share their trails and experiences with everyone.

What are some of O’Reilly’s pattern of “Innovation In Assembly” found in Trip Tracker?

API for its web services: Trip Tracker provides API for 3rd party developers. Users need to register for an API key before he or she is able to have access to the API. Using Trip Traveller API, users can create applications with functionalities such as updating of journal entries and search for areas around the globe with its respective coordinates. Avaliable in REST Protocol or NET Library formats.

Design for remixability: Trip Tracker supports different data formats and delivery mechanisms. For example, the GPS Track File is supported by alot of different formats. Some examples are GPS Exchange Format (GPX), Google Maps XML, Garmin Mapsource(mps) and MapTech Exchange Format. Merging and splitting of journal entries chronologically creates new entries based on the time span of the photos.

Granular addressability of content: Users are able to access certain parts of the website they want at the time they want to. For example, journal entries can be embedded as widgets to be displayed at a small corner of your blog. Users can also suscribe and search for RSS Feeds of a particular trip.

Use Existing Standards: Formatting of journal entries are done using BBCode or BBTags. It is a mark up language used in many different forums.

Other links:  http://blog.triptracker.net/

Video Demo on how Trip Tracker displays the photos against Google Map: