Tag: web_2.0

Any questions for Sam Sethi?

Sam Sethi is an entrepreneur, technologist (entrepologist) and consultant. Sam has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years for companies like Microsoft (strategy director in MSN UK ), Netscape, Gateway Computers and CMGi, in a variety of senior technical and marketing roles. Most recently Sam has been charged with setting up TechCrunch UK.

I’m interviewing Sam this Wednesday morning (30th Aug 2006) for a PodLeaders podcast. We will be talking about TechCrunch, the Live Web (Web 2.0) and anything else that may arise in the questions!

As always, if you have questions you’d like me to put to him, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll put them to him.

Rick and Shel want to meet you!

I received an email yesterday from Shel Israel regarding his forthcoming road trip to Europe with Rick Segal.

Shel asked me who he should meet in Ireland. I said, “why don’t I post it on my blog?”

“Great!” he said.

So, Shel and Rick are

looking for people with great ideas who can help us see how tech entrepreneurialism will evolve in Ireland over the next few years.

Given that Rick is a VC and Shel is a business consultant, anyone with a new business or new business idea should be keen to meet them.

If you would like to meet up with them, either leave a comment on this post, or drop me an email at tom@tomrafteryit.net and I’ll pass on your interest.

UPDATE – Unfortunately I will be away when Rick and Shel are visiting Ireland but Pat Phelan of Roam4Free has kindly stepped up to the plate and is holding a blogger/VC dinner in the Taste of Thai restaurant on September 9th at 6:30pm. Rick and Shel will be there and are hoping to meet lots of interesting Irish people there too. If you are interested in meeting them, I’d advise you to go along.

Gmail accounts preferred by Google Spreadsheet

Google launched an online spreadsheet application earlier today. To overcome the problems experienced with previous launches, they are limiting the numbers of people who can access it by asking people to go through a signup process.

I signed up for a Google Spreadsheet account this afternoon and I received one already.

Interestingly, I signed up for it with my tom@tomrafteryit.net email address and then thought, wait a second, I wonder if they’d give a preference to Gmail accounts. So I signed up for an account again with my Gmail address this time and…

You guessed it, I received my logon for my Gmail account a few minutes ago and no sign of the sign up for the tomrafteryit.net account! So from my completely unscientific experiment, it seems that Google gives preference to Gmail account holders when signing up for Google Spreadsheet.

Google Spreadsheet

If you love your OPML, set it free!

Dave Winer has launched a new site called Share your OPMLMike Arrington and Steve Rubel and quick off the blocks with early reviews.

The site is straightforward enough – you register and you upload your OPML file – this is generally an export of the feeds you are subscribed to in your feed reader. The more geeky OPML users may have lots of OPML files corresponding to different reading lists or interests.

Why is this of interest to anyone? Well for one thing, looking at my Feedburner stats, I can see I have around 500 subscribers to this blog but I have no idea who they are. However, if any of them upload their OPML file to Share Your OPML, I will be able to see immediately that they are subscribed to my feed and therefore I get a better idea of who my subscribers are.

Right now, according to Share Your OPML I have 3 subscribers (ignoring myself!) – but check out who they are –

Share Your OPML tells you who is subscribed to your feed

Other functionality includes the ability to see people with similar reading patterns to yourself – there are great possibilities for cross-pollination here.

You can always upload your OPML and decide not to let people see who you read but if you do that, you won’t get the most from the site. According to Mike Arrington, feed by feed sharing is being added to the application very shortly. In the meantime, if you have some feeds which you would rather not let people know you read (for competitive reasons, or whatever) then you would be better off removing them from your OPML file before uploading it.

In his review Mike also says says:

If tools are added that make SYO [Share Your OPML] the easiest place to manage your OPML (including adding feeds, removing feeds, batch operations, categorization/tagging, etc.), some of the more openminded RSS readers may start to allow customers to store their OPML at SYO instead of with the reader. SYO would become a sort of central registry of people’s OPML files.

While Steve Rubel, in his review, reckons:

Share Your OPML needs the big aggregators to support it. You should have the option in Bloglines, Newsgator, My Yahoo, WIndows Live and the Google Reader to automatically share all or some of your feeds on this site.

If this happens (and I bet it will) Share Your OPML will become an essential tool for marketers. We will use it to understand which feeds have the greatest attention. Further, if it incorporates community tagging, watch out. It might be just the killer app we desperately need to break out influential blogs in different verticals.

One thing it is missing is RSS feeds for the results so I can subscribe to see who is subscribed to my feeds!

Anyone have contact details for Tim O'Reilly?

I am organising a Web 2.0 mini-conference for IT@Cork for early June of this year. I have some good speakers lined up but I’d love to get Tim O’Reilly along to speak since he wrote a seminal piece on Web 2.0.

Also, the fact that Tim is from Cork originally and this is an IT@Cork mini-conference, can’t hurt!

I checked the O’Reilly Radar site and sent an email to the contact address there but i have heard nothing back so i don’t know if Tim read the email and is too busy to respond or didn’t see it.

If anyone has contact details for Tim, can you email them to me at tom@tomrafteryit.net? Or leave suggestions in the comments?


"Thank you for taking the trouble to complain"

One of the reasons why Robert Scoble is liked and respected is that he puts his hands up when someone highlights a problem with some aspect of Microsoft or its products. If someone says “Microsoft sucks” – he doesn’t say “No it doesn’t”, he says “Why do you think that, and what can we do to make it better?”

I had a bad customer service experience this weekend and it really annoyed me!

What was unusual was that the customer service issue I had was with a very new, U.S. based, company, in the Web 2.0 space. I would have expected any company in this space to be particularly customer focussed – that was obviously a little naive of me!

It started when I signed up and paid for use of this application. I saw a bug in the program and I posted about it. One of the founders of the application advised me to go to the program’s support forums to report the bug. I went to the forums but I was annoyed that I had to create a new account on the forum to login and report the bug (I already had an account for use of the application). I have enough logins and accounts across the different sites I use without having to create a second account for this application!

When I raised this unnecessary extra login with the application founder, his only response was:

If we did that, we’d have to limit forum users to only active application users.

I thought this was a bit short – I tried to suggest a few ways of fixing the issue:

There are ways around that too – for instance, anyone registering for the forum – put a flag on their account when they register (if they don’t have an application account) and check for that flag as part of the login process.

To which I received the increasingly snarky response (remember, I have paid money to this guy, to use his application. I have spotted a shortcoming in his application and I am trying to suggest ways this shortcoming can be fixed):

Ok, then what happens when someone registers for the service and wants a username that is already taken in the forums? What forum account should we create?

Finally, in response to a comment I made where I said I was getting tired of the discussion (because any suggestions I made on how to improve the application were simply being shot down with no effort to say “hmmm, you know that’s not a bad idea, let me think how we can …” or somesuch), he said:

If you don’t want to engage in a discussion of a “problem” like this, please indicate that your question was rhetorical and I will not waste both of our time trying to engage in the discussion.

My question wasn’t rhetorical. I had a genuine beef with his products which I think others would find annoying too. I tried to suggest ways to improve the products and all I got back was “No we can’t do that; no we can’t do that; If we did that, then what would we do here…”

Now, I believe that if a customer complains about your product or service – you should thank them for taking the time and effort required and for making you aware of the deficiency in your offering. Most people would simply walk away having said nothing – or worse, tell their friends “Don’t use that application, they can’t even figure out how to do single sign on across two applications!”

If someone goes to the trouble of giving you feedback, don’t go out of your way to antagonise them (espcially if they are a paying customer), swallow your pride, admit that your product is not perfect (yet) but also say you are striving to make it so, and thank them for helping you along that road.

It is a tenet of the service industry that a customer who has complained and has had the complaint handled well, is going to be a far more loyal customer than the customer who never had an issue in the first place!

By the way, I have purposfully left the name of the company involved out of this post because I think the focus of this post shouldn’t be the company but the lack of customer service. If you do want to see my original post and all the comments, you can here.

To see how to create a positive customer experience, follow Ben and Jackie’s Church of the Customer blog or read The Cluetrain Manifesto (or both!).

Web 2.0 to suffer from United States Department of Justice request?

I see Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing has posted an article on how the US Department of Justice have requested a weeks worth of search data from the major US search engines. Seemingly Yahoo, AOL, and MSN simply handed over the data without any question. Google however held out and is now being taken to court by the DoJ for refusing to comply with the order.

Google’s reason for not complying? Well it wasn’t on privacy grounds, nope, Google refused on grounds that the request was too broad and burdensome!

The Department of Justice is playing the monsters under the bed children protection card:

the information it has requested, which includes one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period, is essential to its upcoming defense of the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act

Danny Sullivan over at SearchEngineWatch has a rapidly updating analysis of this story – according to Danny:

a more accurate way for the government to assess how often children might encounter porn through search engines would be to conduct their own research. Indeed, they have. Government Report Says MSN Search Adult Filter Most Effective from the SEW Blog back in June covers this report (PDF format) that the US Government Accountability Office did back in June. From what I can see, it measured how often children might encounter porn through image search. To do the assessment, no subpoenas were required.

What was interesting for me was how the other search engines caved and handed over the data. I was interviewing Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! the other night for a Podleaders.com podcast and, in the context of Yahoo! having previously provided information to the Chinese Government which resulted in a Chinese journalist being jailed for 10 years, I specifically asked him:

If this had happened in the US would Yahoo! have fought the government request in the courts?

Bradley’s response was interesting – he said:

We are bound to abide by the laws of any country in which we do business… so under a court order or a subpoena we would hand it over

In this case however, as far as I know, there was no court order or subpoena – simply a request from the Department of Justice. In fairness to Bradley he makes it clear that he is not a policy officer of Yahoo! and Yahoo! are not the only search engine which complied with the request.

However, you have to think that this request is only setting a precedent for far more reaching and specific requests to come in the future. What will this do to Web 2.0 and people’s willingnes to host their data on other companies servers, I wonder?

I see Damien Mulley has posted on this as well.

John Battelle has published another post on this subject showing that the Department of Justice’s motives are far darker than previously suspected – specifically:

From the motion the DOJ filed to force Google to comply with the subpoena:

“The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing ‘[a]ll URL’s that rea available to be located through a query on your company’s search engine as of July 31 2005.”


“all queries that have been entered on your company’ search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005.”

God alone knows why they would want all that data from Google (and presumably the other search engines as well) – but we know it has nothing to do with seeing if children can access porn.

As John said:

No way in hell Google would give that up, given the company’s penchant for secrecy. Sure, the DOJ might guarantee that the data would not enter the public record, but, once in the DOJ’s hands, it’s out of Google’s control.

Riya frustrations

I received an Alpha invite to try out Riya the other day. I have posted about Riya previously and it does sound like it will be an exciting application – it is an online photo application (like Flickr) but it has facial recognition software built-in. This means that once you upload a photo and tell Riya who is in the photo, it will recognise them in any other photos you upload. This will help enormously when you want to search for pictures subsequently as currently there is no real way to search for images unless they have meta-information attached.

But when I went to Riya, I was unable to upload any pictures as the uploader is Windows XP only – this meant I was unable to test any of the applications features 🙁

Riya Home page

However bad it is not having a Mac uploader, how difficult would it have been having a couple of test images in Alpha testers accounts so that if they couldn’t upload images they could, at least play with the test ones?

Michael Arrington interview

I was talking to Michele Neylon last night and he was in great form noting that the number of subscribers to his site had passed the 100 hundred mark – I’m afraid I punctured his balloon when I mentioned I had just been interviewing Michael Arrington – Michael only set up his TechCrunch blog reviewing Web 2.0 products last June and he already has over 15,000 subscribers! That’s right, 15,000 subscribers in less than 6 months!

I had a fascinating chat with Michael – he spoke about his background before TechCrunch, his famous BBQs, and his plans for the future. Michael really impressed me with his breadth of knowledge of what’s hot and more importantly what’s coming down the line – he was easy to talk to and generous with his knowledge and time.

As we are coming up to the American holiday season (Thanksgiving), I am going to hold off on publishing this podcast until next Monday – put it in your calendars! Oh! and for those who thought the previous interviews were a shade long, this one comes in at a shade under 30 minutes.