MyToday Launch

MyToday.com (created by us at Netcore) is a public RSS aggregator providing the latest news, views and content on a topic-based collection of feeds, called Dailies. It is simultaneously available on the web through an Ajax client and on the mobile phone in WML. Check it out and let me know what you think of it, and of enhancements you’d like to see.

Ajax version: http://www.mytoday.com/
Mobile version: http://m.mytoday.com/

Here is how my colleague, Veer Bothra, describes the thinking behind MyToday.

Public versus Personal Aggregators
Personal aggregators like bloglines.com, my.yahoo.com, live.com etc. give the users an empty plate which needs to be filled with feeds which the user knows about. This approach ignores the fact that users in general are interested in a subject but not necessarily aware about quality feeds and sources in that area. A public aggregator like MyToday.com depends on editorial expertise to choose and pick the best sources in a subject. This way, the reader can get going without any sweat.

Source versus Stories
Aggregators like news.google.com, topix.net are story based. Their endeavor is to distill the most important stories at any point of time. MyTodays selection is based on the quality of the source and not on the stories. Therefore the selection process when making a Daily is stringent to maintain the quality of content.

Micro-content Client
MyToday consists of a Micro-content client and an aggregation system. The micro-content client is built keeping in mind the nature of micro-content like blog posts and news stories. They are small in size, large in volume and more often than not, time sensitive. MyTodays micro-content client makes it easier to consume lots of information quickly.

Aggregation System
MyTodays underlying feed aggregation system claims to turnaround Dailies in 30 minutes. Give it an OPML of feeds and it can create a new Daily in 30 minutes which then auto-updates. Niche information / content verticals, available on both PC and mobile, can be created and served with low human intervention.

Personalisation
The reasoning behind public aggregators is that most users want to start with a choice made by the experts. But it is also true that most wouldnt be satisfied with the default for long. They would want to tweak it a bit – add a thing and remove some. This is where personalisation comes in as the natural next phase of development. Keep watching.

This is what Jonathan Boutelle had to say after he saw it at BarCamp Delhi:

It seems to be a specialized AJAX homepage. It allows the quick creation of niche publications that aggregate and present rss data. The design is very slick, with geographic filtering. It also has very rich integration with phone (at sister site m.mytoday.com). It makes it very simple to great aggregated feeds. Check out mytoday.com/bcdelhi, which they built in an hour and which is consuming all the blogs, tagged photos, etc from barcamp delhi. Awesome!

The core insight of this approach seems to be that most “real people” won’t build up an rss reader from scratch. But they’ll be OK with deleting feeds from a pre-existing set.

Google’s Ad Auction System

Business Week provides some insights:

What makes Google’s auction so different? Auctions come in two main flavors. In a typical first-price auction, participants put in sealed bids, then the winner pays his or her bid. But the danger is the high-bidder ends up regretting having won, an effect known as the winner’s curse. A second-price auction lessens winner’s curse because the highest bidder gets the prize but pays only the minimum necessary to win, namely the second-highest bid, plus perhaps a penny.

Kamangar, Veach, and colleagues chose a second-price auction. But not knowing theory, they designed one that differed in a key respect from the one economists had studied. In the economists’ version, bidders always have the incentive to tell the truth. In Google’s auction they don’t, say Edelman, Ostrovsky, and Schwarz, since in some cases, by understating the top price they’re willing to pay, advertisers could get a slightly lower position on the search page for a lot less money. They conclude that naive advertisers who told the truth could overbid. Google’s system has pluses for advertisers, too, says Varian. It’s easier to understand than the academic version. And it’s proven to work on a large scale.

Web 2.0 Thinking

Dion Hinchcliffe offers 16 ways. Among them:

# Data belongs to those that create it. Yes, you heard me. Everything a user creates, contributes, or shares is theirs, unless they have given away the right explicitly and by free choice. Any information they contribute to the Web should be editable, deleteable, unshareable by the contributor whenever they feel like it. This also means indirect data like their attention records, log entries, navigation history, site trails, or anything else that might be tracked. And all Web sites must clearly and simply state what information a user is creating and give them a way to stop creating it and even clean up.

# It’s about data first, experiences and functionality second. Whether it’s text, images, audio, or video, the Web ultimately revolves around data. In other words, you can’t have presentation without something to present. All this data is locatable with a URL that is easily found (see #2). Another way of looking at this is that the the Web is ultimately about nouns first, and verbs second, though the shift is slowly moving towards verbs these days. Examples of nouns: calendar entries, family photos, stock quotes. Examples of verbs: making an appointment, sharing a picture, buying a stock.

Open Mobile Internet

Ted Schadler writes why it will win:

1. The PC industry is great at building platforms for applications.

2. 3G cards and Wi-Fi today and WiMAX tomorrow provide ubiquitous broadband access.

3. “Open” provides an abstraction layer that allows innovation on the edge of the network to be decoupled from innovation at the core of the network.

SMS bigger than Movies, Video and Software

Ajit Jaokar quotes Tomi Ahonen: “Total SMS revenues in 2005 were about 75 Billion USD. To put it in context, Hollywood box office is a bit below 30 B USD. Global music industry revenues are about 35B. Videogaming, consoles and all software are about 40. And the total value of all laptop computers sold in 2005 was about 65 B USD. SMS alone earns more than any of those industries…. And SMS is still over 90% profit. Do we love this industry or what?”

TECH TALK: The Value of Vision: Blue Ocean Strategy

I did not know of the term blue ocean strategy until recently. But it is a very good phrase to describe how entrepreneurs can think and build a vision around the future focusing on uncontested marketspaces. Clay Christensens ideas around using disruptive innovations to look at non-consumers are somewhat similar. The term white spaces is another common phrase. What they all do is provide a starting point for thinking about the future. The book, Blue Ocean Strategy, provides an excellent framework to think about the future. I have excerpted below some excerpts and quotes from the authors, W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne.

The following is from an interview with Management Consulting News on their website:

Blue ocean strategy is about creating uncontested market space. Too many companies are swimming in the red ocean of bloody competition where there is limited room for real growth. The image of the vast blue ocean conveys the infinite possibilities for profitable growth that exist with this strategy.

Value innovation is a strategic move that allows a company to create a blue ocean. Typically, companies in the red ocean pursue incremental improvements for customers through either low cost or differentiation. Value innovation helps companies make giant leaps in the value provided to customers through the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost.

It shouldnt be a trade off between the two; exceptional value and innovation should be inseparable. Offer buyers a huge leap in value, and that will give rise to new markets. Thats how you make the competition irrelevant.

We begin by giving companies three pointers on how to break out of the red and into the blue ocean. Number one: stop benchmarking the competition. The more you benchmark your competitors, the more you tend to look like them. That makes you a me-too organization, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Second: stop being content to swim in the red ocean. Many companies are caught up in competing and dont even look to the horizon of the blue ocean. And third: dont count on your customers for growth. Look to non-customers; they provide the most insights into how you can create new, uncontested opportunitiesnew demand for your products or services.

Here is another excerpt from an INSEAD Q&A with the authors: Blue ocean strategists recognize that market boundaries exist only in managers minds, and they do not let existing market structures limit their thinking. To them, extra demand is out there, largely untapped. The crux of the problem is how to create it. This, in turn, requires a shift of attention from supply to demand, from a focus on competing to a focus on creating innovative value to unlock new demand. This is achieved via the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low-cost. Under blue ocean strategy, there is scarcely an attractive or unattractive industry per se because the level of industry attractiveness can be altered through companies conscientious efforts. As market structure is changed by breaking the value/cost tradeoff, so are the rules of the game. Competition in the old game is therefore rendered irrelevant. By expanding the demand side of the economy new wealth is created. Such a strategy therefore allows firms to largely play a nonzero-sum game, with high payoff possibilities.

Tomorrow: Thinking Vision

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