Monday, May 15, 2006

Looking for the Swaptree Post?

Wow - based on the visitor stats, it looks like a lot of people are searching for . My SwapTree post is here:
http://productize.blogspot.com/2006/05/to-have-and-to-want-rant-on-swaptree.html

Also, I have moved my blog. Newer posts are here
http://www.isabelwang.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Moving (Again)

Back in March, I signed up for GoDaddy's QuickBlog. A few weeks later, I moved all my post here. And earlier today I created a Typepad account.

I thought QuickBlog was reasonably user-friendly. But what really, really impressed me was GoDaddy's super excellent support. I tried moving my blog from isabelwang.com to a subdomain and ran into some difficulty. I was able to reach a tech in about 3 seconds. He not only fixed the problem but reminded me that my web hosting account was up for renewal; there's a special promotion that I should take advantage of.

Maybe this doesn't sound like a big deal, but to me it showed that GoDaddy trains its staff well. What the guy did took attention to detail, and the ability to wear multiple hats.

But I stopped using QuickBlog because GoDaddy didn't have the most flexible templates. The layouts I liked didn't support the colors I wanted, and vice versa - and there's no option to customize. Plus, Flickr didn't recognize QuickBlog, and without HTML access there was no way to install Technorati's claim blog script. So, I moved on to Blogger.

My experience here has been great. I LOVE Blogger's interface design. Everything looks pretty and is totally intuitive. And it's free - which is only icing on the cake. I would gladly have paid. But something's missing - GoDaddy had categories and visitor stats, which Blogger doesn't.

So this morning I checked out Typepad. It took a lot longer to set up than Blogger, but has some thoughtful features. For instance, if I have an Amazon Associates ID, and I included lists of books or CDs on my blog, these items would automatically be linked to Amazon under my referral account. I will post a few posts there and see how it goes. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Share of Voice on The-EV1-Planet

When I first came across TrendIQ a few weeks ago, I was skeptical about its market research methodology. According to TrendIQ, the importance of a company/product/event is closely correlated with the amount of available text on the subject on the Internet. If there exist 100 pages of content on donuts, and 30 of them mention Krispy Kreme, that's a 30% "share of voice". TrendIQ monitors such stats over time to gauge where you stand relative to the competition in consumers' hearts and minds.

I wasn't sure I liked this approach because some pages of content reach far larger audiences than others. It seemed like over-simplification to equate volume of references with consumer sentiment. But maybe there's more validity to TrendIQ's stats than I realized.

1. A chart in Technorati CEO David Sifry's recent "state of the blogosphere" summary showed that major news events create noticeable spikes in blog posting volume.

2. My friend Warren says nobody really takes time to read; most visitors to even CNN or Slashdot probably only give the headlines a cursory glance. And my other friend Patrick says there are far more content creation tools (websites, blogs, forums, many kinds of social networking profiles) than expression-worthy ideas - which might explain why almost half of new blog owners stop posting within 3 months.

To make a long story short, readers are great, but if your company/product/event is something people invest time in writing about, you've made a much more significant impact.

Anyway, I got to thinking about share of voice because EV1Servers, the web hosting company I used to work for, merged with its arch competitor ThePlanet last week. GI Partners, a private equity firm, recently bought a controlling interest in both. EV1 and ThePlanet together manage 50,000 web servers, which are home to 1.6 million websites. Together they form the world's largest web server provider.

Is this an important event? Apparently not. It was briefly noted in the Web Hosting Industry Review and Netcraft, but not blogged about at all - even though people in the web hosting business are a relatively vocal lot. There's some discussion on EV1's and ThePlanet's customer forums, but both threads combined had only a handful of posts. In comparison, there was much more feedback on EV1's new website design, and a great deal of clamoring for Opteron servers. Apparently customers care about customer-impacting events, even if they seem relatively trivial. As for major announcements from your company? Maybe not so much.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Questions and Answers

wants to "evolve Microsoft from a software company into the world’s largest, most attractive provider of online media through MSN, Windows Live and adCenter." But despite a $100 million investment on MSN Search, adCenter's own FAQ shows a disappointing trend:

Question: How many people use MSN Search?
Answer #1: Over 40 million/month, according to Nielsen's 2004 stats
Answer #2: 39.1 million/month, according to Nielsen's 2006 stats

"Most attractive" is debatable as well. I haven't tried using , but I'm already disappointed with the unwelcoming tone of its introductory materials.

Question: WHY is there a $5 charge to create an MSN adCenter account?
Answer: You are charged a $5 administration fee only one time. It is an administrative fee that is non-refundable.

Question: If I am charged for invalid clicks, WHEN will I be refunded?
Answer: If Microsoft adCenter determines that your ad has received invalid clicks, a credit will be issued to the credit card you use to pay your monthly balances.

And speaking of unwelcoming, adCenter is not compatible with Firefox.

On the bright side, Microsoft does offer detailed instructions for importing Google and Yahoo keyword ads into its system. I was planning to check that out, but got annoyed with adCenter's account creation form. "A signup fee will be charged", it said, but the $5 amount wasn't stated. Oh well; some other time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

To Have and to Want (Rant on SwapTree)

I was reading about in Business 2.0. It's a service that lets users exchange books/CDs/movies/games. You create an account, enter UPC codes for no-longer-wanted things, and submit a list of items you'd be willing to trade them for. SwapTree's system scans for matches and shows you potential exchanges. Once a proposed transaction has been accepted by all parties involved, SwapTree sends out instructions and ready-to-print mailing labels to each participant.

Business 2.0 says SwapTree is notable for being the first online bartering system that facilitates multi-party trades. For instance:

A sends B a book
B sends C a game
C sends D a movie
D sends A a CD

According to SwapTree's developers, an early version of their system took 20 minutes to set up its first 4-way trade. Now multi-party matches are made in just 1/5 of a second.

Is such a complex algorithm really necessary? Couldn't SwapTree's functionality be provided through a simpler system?

1. Users submit lists of Haves and Wants. SwapTree aggregates info.

2. Instead of waiting for SwapTree to set up trades, users look for opportunities on the aggregated Have and Want lists. Search results could be filtered by location, or limited to exchange partners who own specific items.

3. Users earn one SwapTree point for sending each item to another participant. They redeem points by requesting items from others. All items have the same value (as SwapTree's founder puts it, used media is "all worth about the same to people who have already read, view or otherwise consumed them").

I think points offer more flexibility than simultaneous exchanges. Users can immediately offload items they have on hand, and use credits they accumulate on a newer movie or game that might become available at a later time. And given SwapTree's 100% ad-supported business model, a points system is also more conducive to interactive sponsorship programs. SwapTree says it can help advertisers find targeted audiences because they know what users have and want: if someone's profile contains references both Spiderman movies, they could be shown a preview of #3.

But instead of just displaying a sponsor's ads, why not offer the opportunity to award SwapTree points for users to make purchases, participate in market research or attend events? Or redeem points for discounted prices on overstocked or discontinued items? Advertisers will love the guaranteed results - and the points cost SwapTree nothing. That would be a much easier sell than cost-per-impression advertising.