Grazr Goes 1.0, Relaunches with Video

Grazr.com relaunched late yesterday with a host of new features. (Marshall Kirkpatrick has the Techcrunch writeup) I helped with the site redesign, focusing on demonstrating the capabilities of Grazr as well as making the activity of building a Grazr painless and easy.

One of the new features that I’m most excited about is the ability to watch video from any web page. Here’s a Grazr displaying YouTube videos:

So it’s as simple as that. You can browse YouTube from any web site with a Grazr!

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Monetize This!

Martin Lamonica’s piece Making Web 2.0 Pay is indicative of the growing concern among Web watchers, venture capitalists, and other interested techies who are worried how to monetize the amazing innovative period we’re in. However, I think his piece, though illuminating, is exactly the type of thing that developers should run away from immediately because it focuses on the problem of making money at the industry level, and not the level that matters: the level of your individual users.

In his piece Martin discusses issues like making money via mashups, building to flip, and commodity office applications and points to several reasons for the new boom:

  1. High-speed internet connections
  2. Ajax
  3. APIs
  4. Cheap startup costs

So Lamonica’s point is that it is simply easier to create now. These seem like very reasonable factors for the new companies and products we’re seeing. However, simply having the means doesn’t really lead to innovation…but solving someone’s problem in a better way does. So in addition to technology-related reasons, I would add a couple more factors to Lamonica’s list, including two that can directly lead to solving people’s problems…

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The Long Tail of Popularity

Update: Simplified the beginning…

In his 2005 Les Blogs presentation Doc Searls, in his explanation of what blogs are and what they are not, suggested that:

“We are all authors of each other.”

What exactly does Doc mean by this? Does he mean that we author other people’s lives, and they ours, whether or not we want them to? Or could it mean something more optimistic, that we author each other gladly?

Then there’s the problem of popularity. How does popularity fit into the idea that we all author each other? Don’t popular things help shape us, too? Do the voices that add up to popularity author us in the aggregate?

Popularity is maligned as much as any attribute known to man. If you are popular, you are probably not worth paying attention to. It’s as if we are saying: “You already have too much attention, and I’m not going to give you more.”

But I think there is much more to popularity than unwarranted attention.

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The Evolution of Information Grazing

One lens through which to look at the recent innovation in the memetracker space is frustration. If you look at where the frustration is in how we track memes (ideas), you can get a decent picture of where the innovation is going. If you want to predict the future, find the frustration!

Like an antelope eating grass on the Kalahari, grazing is eating small quantities of food at frequent but irregular intervals (Apple Dashboard dictionary). Recently, the term grazing has been adopted to describe our efforts at finding information on the Web. The following is a very general picture of the four types of “grazing” we’ve gone through, or are going through now. Each level had it’s own share of frustration, which led (or is leading) directly to the next level.

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Reading Lists Podcast

Adam Green and Danny Ayers joined Alex Barnett and I for a podcast on OPML Reading Lists.

Reading List Podcast with Adam Green and Danny Ayers (11MB .mp3 – Alex’s notes)

We talked about reading lists, dynamic reading lists, and feed grazing. In addition, both Danny and Adam talked at length about the Semantic Web, and how we seem to be building toward it with formats like RSS and OPML.

It’s a solid introduction to this interesting development in feed reading. Enjoy!

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Dynamic Reading Lists

Adam Green:

“There are plenty of RSS aggregators that allow you to import OPML files as a quick way of subscribing to a large number of feeds, but these are basically a static form of subscription. BlogBridge, on the other hand, is able to stay in synch with the original OPML.”

I’ve been using Blogbridge for a few days now, after talking about them with Adam over sushi, and I can say that dynamic OPML reading lists are really cool. However, because they are OPML they are working at the feed level, and at this point I think I’m more interested in the post level.

Adam has set up a dynamic OPML reading list of Tech.memeorandum created from an hourly check-in of the popular meme tracker site. So, every hour the OPML updates to show all the blogs that have bubbled to the homepage of memeorandum. So this is totally cool.

However, the blogs got there because of some really interesting post, because they’re somehow related to the top stories of the day. In other words, the blogs themselves may or may not be interesting to me other than their one, attention-getting post. So OPML might not be the best solution at this level. So the question is: are reading lists dynamic? Or is it simply news headlines that are?

Going forward, my guess is that we’ll be more interested in the post-level relevance, as opposed to feed-level relevance. Or, perhaps that’s easy for me to say because I already feel like I have enough feeds to read (about 200). But I think it makes sense that way, because we read many, many more individual posts than we acquire new feeds, and we’re more interested in the relevance of the information than what feed they come from. Acquiring new feeds is slow, reading the news is not.

Gillmor’s Theory of Everything (podcast)

About half an hour into our podcast with Steve Gillmor:

Attention Podcast with Steve Gillmor, Joshua Porter and Alex Barnett (58 min 14MB) (Alex’s notes)

it became clear to me that Steve’s ideas on attention aren’t just a view from 50,000 feet. No, it’s more like a view from space, where you see a butterfly tapping its wings in Borneo and visualize the tsunami that might occur in Cuba – three years later. RSS, Attention, and Gestures, Steve’s three muses, are not just cogs in a nice little theory he’s working with to explain why he’s having trouble keeping up with all the information he wants to read. Instead, this is Gillmor’s Theory of Everything.

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Help…My Attention is Dead!

I had a great conversation with Merlin Mann, Thomas Vander Wal, and Fred Oliviera today about our collective lack of attention. Most of us had relatively sophisticated ways of dealing with it, from outright getting on the wagon and shutting off the feed firehose completely to tweaking our software to only allow access at certain times. Interestingly, one of the things that we all did was to set our email readers to only fetch mail about once per hour.

Most discussions I’ve had lately are about this lack of attention. It’s getting to the point where people are going on “content diets” to lose the drinking-from-a-firehose feeling, just like they go on food diets to lose weight.

My problem is not email, not spam, not chat. It’s reading feeds. I’m simply overwhelmed. I’ve gotten to the point where I skim for only those things that meet the following criteria:

  • Big, new idea
  • An idea that immediately builds on one I’m already comfortable with

If an idea doesn’t meet these criteria, then I filter it out. I simply can’t read those longer, thoughtful posts by people I’m not familiar with. And even those people who I know and are familiar with get filtered out if I can’t see value in the headline or first sentence. The downside to this is that I have less time for thoughtful repose, and less time to really consider some of the more subtle points someone is making. I went on vacation recently and I read two whole books (books are a paper medium on which words are printed in pages and bound by cloth covered cardboard), and loved every minute of it.

So I’m interested in hearing about your attention problems? Got any good or interesting tips for dealing with it?

Trends to Watch in 2006

Here’s part 1 of a list of trends I saw gaining momentum in 2005 that I see growing even more important in 2006. Part 2: Synchronization and Local Store

This started out as a list of technological trends, with RSS, Ajax, and Ruby on Rails being the headlines, as all three had huge years in terms of implementation and being squacked about. But these things, while interesting, aren’t really trends in the way that people are using the Web. Instead, they’re trends in building. Nothing illustrates the disparity between technology and usage more than the what Yahoo had to say in their October whitepaper: RSS-Crossing into the Mainstream. They claim that while over 1/4 of all Web users consume RSS in one way or another, only 4% know it.

So, in the spirit of usage I offer the following trends, focused on the way that those in the curve use the Web. Those ahead of the curve are probably on to whatever will get mainstream next year…

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Unbundled Media

In his Marketing 2.0, Noah Brier further riffs on Terry Heaton’s unbundled media idea.

“The effect of unbundling is being felt far and wide, both inside advertising and out. With the help of blogs, the fundamental unit of the web has officially moved to the article/entry, passing both “the individual page” as well as “the site” in terms of importance. The permalinks of blogs have created an atmosphere where it’s completely possible to bypass homepages all together, connecting directly with the desired content. Throw in RSS feeds and the whole idea of a website changes from destination to syndication.”

“from destination to syndication”. I like that.

Do not come to me. Take away with you what you will and be happy.

It’s a good read, full of Web 2.0 topics and transitions. He’s also taken an article I wrote last year a few steps further. For those new to the Bokardosphere (sorry, I couldn’t resist), here it is: Home Alone? How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content

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