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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.

Resolution, from Thomas the tank engine to the Wii

Thomas that tank engine

I was thinking about how the resolution of an experience changes the experience.    Thoughts began while playing with my children.   My son loves to play with trains, small Thomas trains, small tracks you piece together and trains you push around.   For Christmas my brother asked me what my son would like and I thought that a battery powered train (see right picture) would be a hit.    It was but it also changed the way my children play with the trains.   With the battery powered train the focus became setting up the tracks in some form of circular shape and then watch them go round and round.    Play with the push trains had been much more imaginative, it was about setting up the tracks, creating narratives and pushing the trains around, speaking the narratives out loud.   Thomas the electric tank engine stopped most of that.    It was now about just watching him (the train that is) chug round and round the track, usually pulling cars, sometimes on his own.   Less creative, less social, less physical, and shorter time wise.   I was thinking how does the resolution of media and experience effect the experience of the media and play associated with it.   

It seems that like with comics if media or the experience isnt too polished, too finished, it leaves plenty of room for the human mind to fill in the gaps and engage in the experience vs. observe the experience.   This reminded me of a great interview with Brian Eno where he talked about the importance of leaving media and cultural products open and "unfinshed" (from 1995, I found the orgnial and posted it to findin.gs DB).  But it also seems like engaging kinesthetically with the play transforms it — as my wife said when i asked her why the play was different with the trains you have to push she said because they "have to be the motion" not observe it.        

The Wii, is unfinished, resolution is low, characters (in sports for example) are comic like and the physical engagement in the experience manages to trick the human mind, at least mine, that the experience is pretty much "real".   Its amazing what a little bit of sound and a slight vibration in the remote does — its sophisticated enough to telling my brain that the experienceis so close to tennis or boxing that its real.  Its interesting to think about how these somewhat rough, unfinished experiences are open enough to let one become fully immersed.    Like WOW vs. Second Life.   The environment is unfinished and pretty rough — but the experience is one of total immersion.    And medieval narratives are such a dominant underpinning in our culture that the moment you engage in WOW you have a narrative to engage with.   Second Life seems more polished, and it doesn't have a narrative overlay, much of it is about events and engaging people in living a "second life".      Now its time to get back to my weekend and leave this post, well — unfinished.

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.

Choice, end to end control, distributed innovation and that iphone thing

A lot of chatter about the iphone — just read Dave Winer's piece — lots of conspiracy theories about how real the Job's demo was and people are starting to focus on the question of how closed the platform is.  Jobs has said that the platform will allow third party development but it will be "restricted" and managed — like ipod games.  Apple believes that in order to get a product into market — out of the box — end to end control of the hardware and software experience is the easiest and fastest way to deliver something that works to users.   This worked in the case of the ipod — it wasnt the first MP3 player to hit the market, it was just the first to work as seamlessly as it did, from the device to the pc.   There are smart phones of many flavors out there today — but they all require a lot of setup, maintenance etc.  The iphone is clearly going to be different — take a look at the Pogue's list of what is does and doesnt do.    

Last year I lived in Italy for six months and I made some notes about what an insanely mobile the country was — 57M people with 70M cell phones.   There are more mobile phones here than fixed lines, estimates are that 18% of the population have cut the cord (chk). Kids and couples walk around listening to cell phones playing music, like 30 years ago people would walk around listening to a radio.    Someone we know was chatted up by a waiter at a restaurant — for follow up, he offered her a SIM chip instead of offering his phone number.   SMS is everywhere and its far more conversational than in the US. The rates and pricing plans push people to SMS.    Wifi is fairly available and the cell co's are clearly nervous about voip / skype – 3 (Hutchison Whampoa) has an offer in market for $15 a month unlimited voip calling to over 25 countries from your handset.    And in Italy Apple has next to no presence (as of 06 they had no stores and next to no market share).  In Italy Apple has next to no presence (as of 06 they had no stores and next to no market share).

Over time the iPod functionality needs to merge into the phone.     Yet Apple has created a business model that is based on tethering hardware to software and reaping all of the margins on the hardware.    The result is that music that I have "bought" on iTunes isn't transportable to other non apple devices.   I really haven't bought it, its a rental agreement – with the a right to listen to that music on 5 apple pc's / devices.  Jobs knows that the ipod is close to its peak and its time to move the ball — the question in my mind is whether open and unlocked alternatives — palm, symbian, rim and even linux phones can out run Apple. 

The pressure points are in my mind (a) apple's dependency on the ipod and its related business mode — the iphone needs to have everything the high end ipod has (focus will be on music, video and phone — watch how they execute on core ipod features (eg: access to itunes store from the device (which today is not available), music and video sharing (also not available)) and then non ipod functionality.    The phone is a messaging device, music and ipod functionality needs to balanced against great messaging capabilities — voice and text (Phones outside of the US are used more for messaging that voice — calling them phones is a cultural artifact — they are messaging devices with voice as a secondary features)   (b) apple's tie to cingular (2 years), and the associated restrictions this brings with it (re: no voip, open wifi roaming, no HSDPA/3g, requirement for a 2 year contract, no unlocked alternative etc.)  (c) the tension between a closed end to end platform with controlled innovation vs. an open platform with distributed innovation and lastly (d) the execution of the hardware / device and the lack of a keyboard.  If this is mostly a media device Apple will miss the broader market. 

I have no doubt people will buy this product — it seems like a beautiful piece of hardware and simply postioned as the highest end ipod it will find a market –  just like the nano or video ipod.  But neither the nano or the video ipod defined a new category — they were devices in a long stream of innovation that started with the orginal ipod.   The iphone needs to define a whole new stream of innovation independent from the ipod.  And the business model will likely also have to evolve — in more developed markets (south korea the flip has occurred to a subsription model, $5 a month for all the music you want / can eat).     I am going to be watching the pressure points listed above to see whether similar to the ps3 vs. Wii the lowend offer some real alternatives, without all the restrictions that Apple's business model now imposes on it as the category leader – the mobile world needs to see some real innovation and what I saw last week suggests that not going to come from Apple. 

Packing up and heading home

Time to go home

Heading home, with yellow dog

History, Mussolini

We were driving up in the hills near a small town called Mezzegra yesterday. Outside of a villa there was this small cross with Mussolini's name it. Someone had placed flowers by it. As the photo's of Mussolini on wine bottles suggest he is far from demonized. A wikipedia search turns up that this is where Mussolini and his girlfriend were executed before he was taken to Milan.

Note, he was caught in Dongo on his was to Chiavenna where he was trying to board a plane to Switzerland. Weird, this is so close to Switzerland, he could have driven or walked from Dongo or Mezzegra.

GPS tracking, where I am

I am having fun with GPS tracking and posting to the web — tracked a run I went on tonight. Software from Charles Grillio’s (here is his site), he has been great in helping me customize the software for the device. Thank you.
Its a strange feeling to go out and then see where you have been tracked, minute by minute on the web.

To see tracking click here (note / opt for satellite image, I am still off the google grid, just).

Would you drink from here?

Metadata without some trail of heritage / trust can be problematic

Where am I?

Finally back in Italy after travel to London. Got a ppc phone with integrated GPS up and running (mio 701) — I am interested in what happens when mobile devices become location aware. Early days but its proving to be interesting. Found a program that lets me publish my location so you can see where I am on a google satellite map. You can see my location — when I publish it — at this site (username is Johnnyb11, try 01/05/2006 as monitor date and once it takes you to google maps opt for satellite, I was a little off the google grid). If anyone knows of other applications to publish location please email me. This one works fine but I would prefer to use SMS to publish location data, should be easier.