Friday, August 18, 2006

Why Posts Are Easier To Manage Than Emails

I was struck this morning by how much faster I can process posts in my feedreader than I can emails in my inbox.

Part of this is the fact that most posts are not directly addressed to me, and don't require a specific response, but that isn't the whole story.

For me, the key factors are:

1) Posts are archived on the Web, so I don't have to make a keep/delete decision

2) Responses are automatically threaded via comments, so I don't have to worry about linking responses to posts

3) del.icio.us allows me to tag the posts I consider particularly interesting, and the process is much quicker than placing copies of an email into different folders.

I know that with desktop search, I can achieve many of the same things, but I've never found it that useful.

What are your experiences?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Community Creates The Value

Back in the halcyon days of Web 1.0, John Hagel of McKinsey wrote a best-selling book called "Net Worth" that argued that community would be the engine of value creation.

Companies like Yahoo! then dutifully went out and bought companies like eGroups and GeoCities, arguably at overly inflated prices. To a large extent, Hagel's ideas dropped by the wayside.

Today, however, it's clear that Hagel was simply ahead of his time. Communities are creating tremendous value. The difference is the level of engagement. Subscribing to an email list and creating a personal home page are one thing. Writing a daily blog is quite another.

For example, a friend of mine created a fun little flash game. Nothing much happened with it. Yesterday, it was featured on StumbleUpon and got thousands of visitors. We used to call it the Slashdot effect; now there are hundreds of different Slashdot effect generators, ranging from Digg to mini-communities and networks.

Another example is PopSugar. Lisa Sugar started blogging for fun less than a year ago. Today, PopSugar generates 13 million pageviews per month, and includes a gossip blog, a fashion blog, and advice site, and a social network, with 12 more sites on the way, all self-funded and bootstrapped.

The PopSugar team created an incredibly engaged community just based on good content. Admittedly, theirs is a six-sigma (low probability) event--thousands of blogs launch each day, and few will ever attract 13 million pageviews per month--nonetheless, it illustrates both the power of community and the ability to create one with creativity and talent, rather than dollars or big media pull.

Can you think of any communities that engage you? Or how about communities that you wish existed? Examine your passions...you just might find a gold mine.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bursting the California Housing Bubble

SoCal home sales drop 22%, the biggest plunge on record. Prices down slightly.

Remember how the movie goes...first the prices and transaction volumes rise. Check.

Then people start saying the four words that Sir John Templeton said are the most expensive in the English language: "This time it's different." Check.

Then the prices and transaction volumes peak as people pile on, driven by the fear of missing out. Check.

Eventually, the market runs out of greater fools/new buyers. Check.

As the bubble deflates, asset holders try to sell without taking a loss. As a result, prices stabilize, but volume plunges. As today's story indicates, check.

How long until we enter the next phase, when overextended investors start selling at a loss, triggering a run for the exits and an asset price crash?

To paraphrase Bette Davis (and her eyes), fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Use The McNugget Principle To Win At Business And Life

Human beings are inherently lazy (substitute the word efficient if you prefer). And therein lies a tremendous opportunity.

In a world of increasing complexity and time poverty, people are more willing than ever to pay for convenience. I can buy a pound of chicken and some breadcrumbs for about $2.50. I can buy frozen chicken nuggets from Costco for about $5. Or I can buy 60 Chicken McNuggets from McDonalds for about $20.

The same principle that applies to lumps of friend chicken also applies to everything else in business and life.

Let's say that I want to join a startup. If I join an existing startup, even as a senior executive, I would be wildly lucky to get 5% of the equity. On the other hand, if I successfully start my own company, I could have 50% or more of the equity, even after raising a first round of funding. Yes, it is harder to start your own company, but is it 10X harder? 100X harder? (Note: Yes, 5% of Google is more than 50% of just about anything else, but for every farsighted person who took a job at Google in the early days, another 100 took jobs at "safe" companies like Excite and AltaVista).

As an entrepreneur, your job is to take raw chicken and breadcrumbs and turn them into neatly packaged McNuggets for your customers and investors. The good news is that chicken and breadcrumbs (technical talent, hardware, software, and services) are cheaper and more widely available than ever. You just have to be willing to get your hands dirty with chicken guts. (Note: And be lucky--luck is definitely one of the 11 secret herbs and spices).

Nor is this principle limited to the business world. When I want to give back to the community, I think it's crazy not to start or run your own non-profit or movement. Whether its HBSTech, The SDForum Startup SIG, the Silicon Valley Junto, as the founder or chairman, the benefits and exposure that I receive far outstrip those I'd get for simply volunteering, and it's not as if taking a leadership role takes that much more time. (Side note: The secret to making this work is finding a great partner to shoulder most of the burden--thanks Karae, Nancy, and Ben!)

Heck, just think about the last time you and your friends wanted to hold a get together. The easiest way to shape the discussion is to simply do a little extra legwork to find a venue and activity, then offer it as an convenient, McNugget-like option. Rather than the painful "so, what do you want to do," discussion, your buddies will quickly adopt your plan. (Either that, or reject it for being lame, and then tease you mercilessly. But I never promised a risk-free course of action!)

How have you applied the McNugget principle to create attractive and convenient packages for customers, investors, and friends?

Launch Parties = Bubble

The Fake Steve Jobs has the best commentary yet on the Web 2.0 bubble.

I mean, I'm not 100% sure, but when a) you've got companies with names like "Yelp"; and b) they're having parties at SFMOMA; and c) this man wearing a bra is one of the guests of honor; and d) your PR bimbos are acting like drunken LUGs at a Girls Gone Wild party, and e) it's all being paid for by venture capitalists who are just betting that a bigger fool (cough, Rupert Murdoch, cough) will come along ... well, yeah, you might start thinking that maybe you're in the middle of a bubble type period.

Now I've actually talked with Jeremy at Yelp, and I think he's a sharp guy with a great product, but damn, I just never feel good when spending money on parties becomes part of the businessplan.

As Fred Wilson might say, I've seen this movie before.