Do One or Two Things Really Well

Dave Pollard writes: “If you want to make a difference in this world, you need to know yourself, to perfect what you do well until you’re brilliant at it, to focus your energies, and to show others courageously that nobody does it better.”

I don’t recall who first gave me the advice to “do one or two things really well”, but it’s probably the best advice I’ve ever received, up there with “things happen the way they do for a reason, so understand what that reason is if you hope to change it”. Problem is, I’ve never really followed this advice. “You’re like a cluster fly”, a girlfriend told me many years ago, “you know, those high-energy flies that come indoors in the spring and the fall that crash into walls, ceilings, lights, windows, like crazed dive bombers, and then spin around noisily on their backs when they hurt themselves. That’s you — no grounding, no focus, just running full tilt at everything until you knock yourself out.”

The last quote kind-of describes me as well!

Global Handset Sales

WSJ writes about the continued astonishing sales growth in mobile phones:

Momentum in the global handset market is expected to continue into 2005 after growth last year exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts, technology research company Gartner Inc. said.

Handset sales are expected to exceed 730 million units in 2005, after rising 30% to 674 million in 2004.

“In mature markets, it remains to be seen whether the record-breaking levels of replacement sales can be sustained” in 2005, said Hugues De La Vergne, an analyst at Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn. “In emerging markets the major battleground in 2005 will be the sub-$50 handset arena.”

CNN adds: “Growth in emerging markets would continue as the mobile phone market is expected to hit 2 billion subscribers some time this year, up from 1.7 billion by late 2004. The challenge is to sell to people who cannot yet afford mobile telephony…Motorola has announced it will produce a handset for less than $40 later this year to address that market.”

Odeo and Podcasting

The New York Times writes about what Evan Williams (who co-founded Blogger) is doing next:

The company plans to introduce a Web-based system that is aimed at making a business of podcasting – the process of creating, finding, organizing and listening to digital audio files that range from living-room ramblings to BBC newscasts.

Odeo plans to base its business on the premise that the explosion of digital audio content has created the need for a central place to find relevant material and that there will also be a need for a market to buy and sell “premium” content in much the style of the eBay online marketplace.

Odeo, noting that advertising is already an accepted component of conventional radio, also plans to embed automatically generated audio ads within the downloadable files. And because the files are specifically chosen by the consumer, the company is also hoping that consumers and advertisers might find one another as readily as through the keyword Web search advertisements that are at the heart of Google’s and Yahoo’s businesses.

Personal Media Aggregator

Robin Good writes: “Personal Media Aggregators are the road to create instant-vertical-communities by way of becoming fulcrum points around which news, commentary, discussion, and networking opportunities around a very specific topic, brand, celebrity or writer can become a cohesive aggregating force.”

Google’s Power

Paul Allen outlines 7 reasons why Google will rule the world:

– Google Philosophy
– Efficiency of Advertising Model
– Good Partner
– Employee Pet Projects
– Speed of Decision Making at the Top
– Cash Flow Funds Pet Projects and Acquisitions
– Open Source and Declining Hardware Costs

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Whats Changing

There have been three versions of search engines in the Internets first mass-usage decade. The first search was actually Yahoos directory with sites handpicked by editors. This was fine until the number of websites werent very large. As the Web grew, the limitations of the directory approach became apparent. Along came Altavista which used a crawler to get web pages and run indexing algorithms on them. This allowed for keyword-based searching. This era lasted a while until smart webmasters figured out ways to get their pages to show up in the top of the results list by artificially inserting words into their pages.

This problem was addressed to a significant extent when Google launched its search engine using PageRank technology which ranked pages based on incoming links a measure of authority. This immediately improved the relevance of the results. While there have been some incremental modifications, for the most part, the PageRank technology serves as the base on which most of todays leading search engines have been built. From Yahoo to Altavista to Google, the focus has been on providing the most relevant results in the quickest possible time to information-hungry users.

In the five years or so since Googles launch, there have been plenty of new developments in the world and Web around us. As we think of next-generation search, it is important to understand the changing nature of information and usage so we can build up a new model which can then help provide insights into the characteristics of next-generation search engines.

The five most important developments in recent times have been: user-generated content, RSS, mobile phones, broadband and internationalisation. We will look at each of these.

1. User-Generated Content

For much of our history, content has been created by few for consumption by many. This has been because access to the tools for content creation and mechanisms of distribution have been limited. The Internet changed the economics of distribution anyone could use its global reach to disseminate content. But the tools for content creation were still not easy for mass-market usage.

That has now started to change. Beginning with do-it-yourself publishing via weblogs to image capture via digital cameras and mobile phones, new content is now being created by millions. While the earlier model was that of a few creating for many, it is now many creating for few. The blog that I create or the photos that you take may be limited to only a very small set of people but they are people who are important to us.

The latest meme in user-generated content is Podcasting. The New York Times wrote recently: [P]odcast [is] a kind of recording that, thanks to a technology barely six months old, anyone can make on a computer and then post to a Web site, where it can be downloaded to an iPod or any MP3 player to be played at the listener’s leisurePodcasts are a little like reality television, a little like Wayne’s World, and are often likened to TiVo, which allows television watchers to download only the programs they want to watch and to skip advertising, for radio or blogs but spokenAnd as bloggers have influenced journalism, podcasters have the potential to transform radio.

Another interesting bottom-up example of user-generated content is the tagging that sites like Del.icio.us and Flickr are supporting. Users can tag any kind of content and then share it with others. Micro Persuasion wrote: “Tags are a natural complement to search because they empower users to create structures that organize unstructured consumer-generated media.

Tomorrow: Whats Changing (continued)

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