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Alexa whiplash

Early in the week Fotolog's Alexa rating nose dived:

Alexa nose dive

And then 2 days later, we were up at #11 worldwide:

Roaring back

Alexa needs to start to operate more like a business.   They have a huge lead in terms of toolbar based traffic analysis — they might be a standard but the product hasnt evolved much, the toolbar is considered by many to be sypware and there is little to no customer service for publishers.   Quantcast and others are building businesses and Alexa is standing still.    There are quirks in there system that just need to be sorted out, like doubleclick is #200 or so — they have to be reading iframes and banners wrong to track that ranking.   As for our numbers, I know our geo mix is wrong — there should be a way for publishers and users to interface with Alexa.   We have settled back down to #16, a three month average of 21 — #11 was fun for a day.    

Flog laps 10M

10M!

Just passed 10M member accounts on Fotolog.  What a year it has been, some community metrics / data points.   

  • We have almost doubled our membership so far this year
  • We hit Alexa #17 in the world yesterday (ahead of ebay!), average over the past week is #18, yesterday we were tracking reach of over 2%.
  • Comscore recently logged us as having 4.5M daily unique visitors on a base of 10M member, and 15M monthly uniques
  • Over 20% of our pageviews last month were from Europe.

And the adoption of new products has been very strong.   When we launched Fotolog Messenger three weeks ago we had 1.5M people try it out in the first 15 hrs.  As of Friday we had 3,193,618 members who had enabled the messenger feature, almost a third of everyone, who ever, over the past 5 years opened and used an account with us? ! That's, one engaged membership.  

Thank you to our members, thank you to our team in NY and thank you to everyone who helped make this happen — its a privilege to be part of this great social media network.   We are figuring out who is member #10M is and do something special.  We will also be launching more new features on Fotolog this week than ever before in our history — 10M or not, this was always going to be a big week!

 

Java time

Big changes at Fotolog last week — we shipped the new Fotolog memberpage.  It is written in Java, an update from the old PHP code that goes back to the founding of the site.   Results are coming in and it looks like significant performance gains across the board.  

First the member experience has improved — the new page is cleaner and has a faster response time.   But in addition, we are now serving the site on less than half the boxes that we were using.  

Registrations are up — over the weekend we are seeing our daily registrations up over 35% given the improved performance and a requirement to register to post a guest book message.  Revenue lift from Google is trending up approximately 15% given additional contextual data from the guestbooks. 

This new code base will allow us to innovate much more on the member experience — that is why we made this change — we did expect to realize some other benefits.  But these across the board immediate gains are far broader than I expected.  

  

Mac App’s

A few people have asked me what applications I am using on my Mac, in particular all the little sidecar applications I use. When I start using a new application I typically add it to the "app's I use" section of findin.gs. But here is a snapshot of some of the more interesting applications I am currently using.

Omnifocus : Omnifocus is a Getting Things Done (aka, GTD) application that grew out of the work of Ethan Schoonover and the set of scripts that he wrote called Kinkless GTD. I tried Kinkless, moved over to Actiontastic and now I am trialling Ominfocus and loving it. The degree of granularity it offers in terms of project/context control is great – as you flip from project to context, zoom in and out of focus, see Ethan screencast of the product. In Betaworks I have a diverse set of projects that I want to track and manage — Omnifocus is still underdevelopment but the omingroup have the beginnings of a great application here.

Neoffice : Open Office for the Mac, works great, unlike MSFT Office it runs native, and becasue it opens files all inside of one application its far faster than office. I dont generate many office docs, I use Neo essentially as a viewer — works very well. The best of lotus Symphony final comes to life as an open source project.

Spirited away: I like to work with a clean desktop — Spirited Away does just that,it cleans up applications that are not in focus after X minutes, very useful.

Backdrop : Nice little application that drops a curtain between the application in focus and others – for someone who likes working with a clean space, this is a great little app. Spirited away and backdrop work very nicely together.

Mindmanager: Just starting to work with version 7. Its good client based mindmapping software, I am still trying to figure out how to integrate this into my workflow (aka "why do I need this, how does it help")

Groupcal : To synch between exchange and ical, snerdware has a piece of software that runs pretty well. Warning, dont disrupt a synch — recovery is not fun.

Quicksilver : Amazingly versatile finder application

Glance : Remote desktop, demo's and presentations, glance is something the Flog team introduced me to and its way simpler than the alternatives (webex etc).

Disk Warrior : I was doing some preventive maintence to the other week and tried to install Tech Tools Pro. In the process my hard drive melted down — half way through the installation I was stuck and off to the Genius bar.   Disk Warrior fixed the problem, Tech Tools didnt.   For hard disk errors Disk Warrior.

Thats it for now 

Alexa?

Now Alexa is tracking Fotolog as #15 in the world, with reach above 2% for the first time??!@?   Facebook is at 2.055% and they have had 80% growth in the past 3 months.    Yes, yes I know Alexa has its limitations but Comscore, Alexa, Quantcast all pointing to solid growth.

Fotolog snapshot from June 26th on Alexa

Flog clips, onward …

Some clips of recent Fotolog data … next week today we will pass 9 million user accounts.  The team has grown our audience by 60% since I came on board in late December and over 150% since June 2006.   Flog is currently the 20th most trafficked site in the world according to Alexa.  Comscore now ranks us as the largest site in Argentina, measured by total page views (we're doing 3x the page views of Yahoo).   In Spain, we're ranked #10, pageview wise we have seen a lot of growth in Europe this year, especially in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany. 

Comscore data for May 2007, top sites in Argentina

Also in May the site saw strong growth in the US (60% growth in unique visitors), albeit from a smaller base.    The arrival of micro-blogging sites in the US like Tumblr and Twitter is demonstrating how the use cases around blogging or self publishing are fragmenting.    Letting people post some combination of text, images, videos, presence and location — mingle that with a social network, shake, don't stir, and you get what Fotolog is about.  

Based on usage data Fotolog has become more of a social media network (tracking the usage patterns of MySpace, Mixi, Facebook and Bebo) rather than traditional online media network.   Lapping Yahoo in Argentina clearly supports this engagement argument — Fotolog's unique visitors are 1MM less than Yahoo's, yet the total minutes on the site are twice that of Yahoo and pages are 3x.     Fotolog's reach on Alexa continues to grow — over the past three months we are up 23% to 1.7% (note, I don't understand what happening with Orkut, both reach and growth seems to be slowing this year).    

I will be very interested to see how our launch of point-to-point IM does on Flog.   Within the next 10 days we will have Userplane's service up and running so members can message each other with one click (no client, user to user IM).     And to boot, Fotolog will have another significant announcement to make in the next few days.

Hybrid waste

I am trying out the Canon TX1 hybrid cam. I am a big fan of hybrids — for the past couple of years I have used the Sony DSC M1 hybrid. This Canon promises a lot and thus far seems to deliver fairly well. The Camera is very stripped down and easy to use — but the ergonomics aren’t as good as the Sony, harder to hold and shoot with one hand. Stills are 7.1 pixels and other than the flash (which is weak) the stills are good. The face identification software does a really good job of finding faces — less clear whether the adjustments it does once it has found faces is worth much, but that strange allure of technology recognizing a human feature is enough to make one think it must be have some value.

Video is just weird. Canon promote this as an HD hybrid and sure enough the video is 720p, 16:9, 30fps. But it records in M-JPEG (Motion JPEG – basically a string of jpeg images?!). Hugely inefficient at encoding, gives you approx. 13mins of video on a 4 gig card? There is the advantage that you can pull a still from the video stream, which is kinda interesting if you want to wade through a gazzillon frames for the 1/30th of a precious second. But why M-JPEG, Divx or MPEG4? I suspect they wanted to (a) save on licensing fee’s — and (b) make sure the camera wasnt too good at doing video. The tension that hybrids have for Camera manufactures persist — if its too good then people wont need to buy two devices. But the choice is an interesting testament to how the plunging cost of storage continues to radically effect technology standards.

Jim Gray Missing / Amazon Mechanical Turk

Great example of what the turk can do — distributed application to search for a missing person on satellite images, takes 5 mins of time to sign in and search five images / details below: 

Amazon Mechanical Turk Jim Gray Missing: Help find him by searching satellite imagery Jim Gray Background On Sunday, January 28th, 2007, Jim Gray, a renowned computer scientist was reported missing at sea. As of Thursday, Feb. 1st, the US Coast Guard has called off the search, having found no trace of the boat or any of its emergency equipment. Follow the story here. Through the generous efforts of his friends, family, various communities and agencies, detailed satellite imagery has been made available for his last known whereabouts.

How smart is your network?

I have spent a week getting a pots number to call forward to another number. I set it up on verizon.com, took 4 days to complete the order, once it was done the number no longer worked. I called and after 25 mins on hold I got to a very perky tech representative — he checked it out, said it was setup wrong through the system. He went and made some adjustments — I swear I heard wheels turning in the engine room — another 15 mins later we were done. With the caveat that I need to call again nxt week to set it to ring straight through (right now its on 4 rings and then it will forward, and only the business office can change that rule).

Vonage, grandcentral, skype, pick your voip — this take less than 3 mins. to update. Hmmm that sure is one smart network.

Bits up vs. down

I have been using the fon service for about two months now. One of the things that surprises me is the ratio of bits going up vs. down. This is where I stand:

August: 1108 hours – 6617.03 / 3305.65 Mb (dl/ul)
July: 681 hours – 5885.6 / 3907.02 Mb (dl/ul)

The up is considerably more symmetrical than I expected. In July the ratio is approx. 1:1.5 in august 1:2. And the media we push up is photos and email not audio, not video. In the never ending discussions i participate in about bandwidth and bandwidth usage I rarely hear people discuss how symmetrical one pipe/service is vs. another. IP based video is pretty much all coming down today — over the coming years if people start to post video the way we post photos today we are looking at symmetrical usage. Granted we usually dont care about when the bits go up as much as when they come down, but still I would never have expected these ratios. Note where we are located there hasn’t been any sharing of the router — so this is all our usage.

EuroTelcoblog: Click up or shut up…

This will be interesting, I remember a long time back that Ebay as an AOL partner didn’t want to integrate IM features for fear that buyers and sellers would start to trade independent of the platform.

Click up or shut up

Just arriving in EuroTelcoblog’s inbox one minute ago was confirmation of Skype integration into 14 categories on eBay, selected on the criteria of “Skypeâ??s ability to positively impact the transaction.” The categories are:

Automotive GPS devices
Camera and photo lenses and filters
Wired networking routers
Skype devices
VOIP / Internet telephony
Diamond solitaire rings
Real estate (residential, commercial)
Manufacturing and metalworking
Beds
NBA basketball cards
Silver coins
Lost in Space collectibles
Radio control toys
Cars and trucks

Apparently, eBay considered that these were categories where “instant communication can greatly facilitate trade, such as those with high average selling prices, complex products, or new technologies that can generate a high volume of…

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