Saturday, July 26, 2008

Alacatraz 100 - One to Add to the Bucket List

Today, I swam the Alcatraz 100; the icnomic swimming race starts at Alcatraz Island and ends 1.5 miles later in SF's Acquatic Park.

The weather, tides, wind, and fog all cooperated and made for an amazing day and experience.

I understand the movie the Bucket List proved to be so-so, the idea, however, of making a list of things to do before you die is cool.

After today, I would suggest, if you enjoy outdoor challenges, that you add the Alcatraz 100 to your list.

As I checked in for the race, the organizer asked me to promise him one thing....in the middle of the race stop swimming and take in the setting...Alcatraz behind you, the Bay Bridge to your left, the Golden Gate to your right, and the city of San Francisco looming directly in front of you.

I managed to stop twice and the views will stay withe me...until next year's race!

Thanks to my colleague, Ryan Spoon, for motivating me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

SWAT Summit

Last week's SWAT Summit in SF brought together leading players in the social media, brand, and agency worlds. Widgetbox participated on the Social Advertising Case Studies Panel.

First, thanks to Cassie Phillipps and the rest of the gang at Room Full of People for putting on a great show and for including us in the conversation.

While the conference centered on how brands and agencies can best harness the power of the social web, the panel focused on specific campaigns and their results. The audience, like many people I speak with, wanted to understand what advertisers can do to leverage social networks and widgets to connect with their audience.

The other panelists were imeem, Votigo, and BeAffinitive.

Widgetbox presented a case study on a cost-per-install campaign that we ran with a music video provider. The results, as you can see by watching the embedded slide show, were powerful. With an 11-day campaign, the widget enjoyed a 50,000% increase in hits, a 110,000% increase in uniques, and a 8,800% increase in subscriptions. The best news is AFTER the campaign finished, hits continue to grow and the widget is enjoying steady organic adoption and distribution.

If you are interested in running a campaign with Widgetbox, please let me know...will.price at widgetbox.com

Mongol, A Movie To See

In July 2005, I read and reviewed on this blog Jack Weatherford's wonderful book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

Jack Weatherford outlines Khan's amazing life story and rise from outcast/orphaned Mongol nomad to ruler of the world's largest ever empire. The book serves as a major rehabilitation of Khan's legacy and transforms the traditional view of Genghis Khan from brutal tyrant to transformative ruler who spread the rise of free trade, religious freedom, science, standards, paper currency, postal services and communications, and national identities in lieu of tribalism, religious persecution, and autarky.

Khan's genius lies in his ability to transcend his circumstances and envision completely novel means of organizing armies, ruling empires, and structuring society (merit vs hereditary and tribal). An Indian friend of mine and admirer of Khan's describes him as being "self-born," a force in history with no precedent and a man of ideas and achievement completely non-linear to his context and roots. I really love that concept.

Now, Sergei Bodrov brings us his brilliant epic, Mongol. The move brings to life the steppes, the man, and the incredible rise from obscurity that marked Khan's early life. It is a movie to get lost in and one that you wish would keep going. The good news....Mongol is the first of three and I cannot wait for the sequel.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rich Price - Turn Off My Heart Video

My brother Rich's song Turn Off My Heart premired on MTV's Real World show last week. Since then, he is up to the #4 unsigned artist on MySpace for the Folk Rock segment.

Embedded in this post is the video to the song.

Facebook Turning Off Spammy Apps

Guest Post by Tracy Pizzo, my colleague at Widgetbox:

The Facebook f8 platform is just over one year-old, and yet to some app makers it must feel like it is hitting the "terrible two's" a little early...

Last week, Facebook suspended Slide's Top Friends app - one of the most popular on Facebook - for privacy violations. It then suspended SocialMe, also for privacy violations, and this morning TechCrunch wrote about the shutting off of all viral elements of RockYou's Super Wall (newsfeeds, notifications, invites, etc.). Today, TechCrunch reports that SpeedDate is now no longer working.

From the app maker's side, this has had immediate and detrimental effects, as user numbers have taken a nose dive from where they have been for many many months. This could have long reaching and deleterious effects for companies such as Slide and RockYou that have focused an enormous amount of their development energies on a select few platforms. Take a look at this graph on Super Wall to see exactly how fast apps have been spread by spammy invites and notifications, and how fast the drop off happens without them:



But, there's another way to look at this. I applaud what Facebook is doing here - they are putting their users first, which is exactly what should matter most to them. Even if these apps have driven a lot of growth for Facebook over the last year, I think I can speak for most Facebook users in saying that a lot of the methods these apps use to spread themselves around can be really frustrating. Time.com had a great article in April that outlines some of the struggles Facebook users have when using apps.

Time.com notes that "the increase in "junk" notifications is enough to leave [Facebook users] feeling peeved," to which Facebook responded months ago by allowing their users to shut off app notifications one by one. But what I believe has been more frustrating for users is that they simply don't always know what they are getting themselves into. This same article outlines this experience perfectly,

An even bigger nuisance with using Facebook apps is that it's not always clear how they work. Tina House of Combine, Tex., says she accidentally posted a Valentine's Day greeting that said "I love you," not just to her husband, but to all of her friends, while using the application Super Wall, because she did not realize that the program defaulted to sending the posting to everyone. "I still shudder over that one," she says. And because advertisements are slickly intertwined with the apps — they often use the exact same font and graphics — it's easy to inadvertently click one by mistake.

I know that I was duped by the "Click to forward to see what happens" on Super Wall, and I spend enough time with widgets and apps that I should have known what was happening.

This latest suspension by Facebook illuminates a continual ratcheting down on spammy aspects of apps over the last few months, and I don't expect it to stop until they feel their user experience is protected. A lot of companies like Slide and RockYou took huge risks in focusing on such a small number of domains (I'm counting Facebook as one domain). They really pushed the envelope - albeit in a number of innovative and effective ways - on optimizing viral spread of their apps, and because of their sharp thinking they (and by proxy, Facebook) saw enormous success from very early on. That same growth is now starting to have diminishing returns for Facebook, as there has been a leveling off of site usage in both the US and the UK, slowdowns which first started rearing their heads a few months ago. Once those diminishing returns kicked in, Facebook had to take action in order to stay ahead.

What is clear to me is that the early success many folks saw on comes with a big price tag, and they may now have to pay the very real and painful costs as Facebook, and I'm sure other app platforms soon, come collecting. Assuming that growth between apps and Facebook will always go hand in hand and be mutually beneficial is a dangerous game to play.

This news also highlights what I think of as the bigger picture here, which is users' desire for choice. At Widgetbox, we often use an analogy to the early days of television. When TV first went mainstream, everyone was thrilled with the three channels that were available. Those channels saw such success that the networks themselves believed they could accurately predict what EVERYONE wanted to watch. Today, we can look at the rise of cable and the hundreds and hundreds of channels out there and see how untrue that was. Really what consumers wanted was choice. They wanted more channels with more programming focused on smaller and smaller niches so they could easily find what they were looking for. They didn't want to have to sit through programs and commercials the networks chose, but rather wanted their television delivered on demand. Maybe no individual channel had as much blockbuster success as the first three, but in the aggregate they changed the face of television dramatically. I believe this analogy is true for widgets/apps as well. We're huge believers in choice and access, and clearly users - and the platforms themselves - are starting to throw up their hands with the more one-size fits all approach that has dominated the landscape thus far.

Essentially, what this news screams to me is the need for independence. Domain independence, app independence, and network independence. Pretty fascinating stuff, and it continues to be a wild and dizzying ride, with no stopping anywhere in sight.

Widgetbox is Hiring

Widgetbox is actively hiring senior JAVA and DMBS engineers. The spec follows. If anyone is interested in joining us/me at Widgetbox, please reach out and let me know - will.price at widgetbox.com

Thank you.

Widgetbox is a Sequoia-funded, 23 person Internet startup based in San Francisco that is improving the Internet through choice and access. By connecting widget consumers, creators and advertisers, we provide choice to those who want it and reach to those who need it. We pioneered the rise of widgets to become home to the world’s first and largest widget community, with more than 70,000 widgets and 45 million monthly viewers on over 920,000 domains.

We are interested in talking with candidates who meet the following requirements.

SKILLS AND REQUIREMENTS
Expert in Java, Servlets, and XML
Proficient with Hibernate and Spring
Development and design experience with Service Oriented Architectures
Experience with MySQL a plus
Team leadership experience
Solid track record of meeting deliverable targets, and taking part in successful releases
Strong understanding of web technologies used in social networking and Web2 sites
Experience with performance and scalability work and designing scalable systems

Custom Galleries from Widgetbox

Today, Mashable covered the launch of Widgetbox's Custom Gallery Product

Widgetbox is the largest consumer facing widget platform. One of our core assets is the Widgetbox Gallery; home to over 66,000 widgets. Why so many? Because user's love choice and use us to find content that foots to their individual passions and interests, be it finance, sports, children, or Buddhism....

As Mashable notes, with today's product launch third party blog, social network, and website building platforms are able to offer the Widgetbox's widget content to their end users.

We are fortunate to launch the product with some amazing partners, including Typepad, Xanga, Amnesty Hypercube, Doodlekit, Freewebs, Friendcodes, Netvibes, Nimble.ie, Piczo, Synthasite, Webjam, and others.

Why is this important? Users love to express, learn, and interact with widget content and widgets add significant utility and stickiness to consumer web platforms. With simple IFrame or XML/JSON integration, Widgetbox's partners can offer all or a subset of relevant Widgetbox widgets to their endusers.  Some of the partners noted above went live two days after contacting us, and our goal is to make the Custom Gallery a seamless, self-service experience.

Thanks to all our partners on a great launch. If you want to add a Custom Gallery to your blog, social network, or website building platform....drop me a line at will.price at widgetbox.com