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Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

Evan Williams (founder of Twitter) has a fabulous post on how to evaluate new product ideas

 

I’ve been thinking about a number of new product ideas lately. In doing so, I’ve been trying to come up with a way more structured way of evaluating them. Here’s a first attempt at defining that. It’s not as clear as I’d like it to be. But perhaps you’ll find it useful.

Tractability

Question: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?Blogger was highly tractable. Twitter was tractable, but sightly less-so because of the SMS component. Google web search had quite low tractability when they launched it. Vista?: About as low as you can get.

Tractability is partially about technical difficulty and much about timing and competition—i.e., How advanced are the other solutions? Building a new blogging tool today is less-tractable, because the bar is higher. Building the very first web search engine was probably pretty easy. Conversely, building the very first airplane was difficult, even though there wasn’t any competition.

In general, if you’re tiny and have few resources, tractability is key, because it means you can build momentum quickly—and momentum is everything for a startup. However, tractability often goes hand and hand with being early in a market, which has its own drawbacks (e.g., obviousness, as we’ll discuss below).

If you’re big and/or have a lot of resources—or not very good at spotting new opportunities, but great at executing—a less-tractable idea may be for you. It may take longer to launch something worthwhile, but once you crack the nut, you have something clearly valuable.

Obviousness

Question: Is it clear why people should use it?Everything is obvious once its successful. Big wins come when you can spot something before its obvious to everyone else. There are several vectors to this: 1) Is it obvious why people should use it? 2) Is it obvious how to use? 3) Is it an obviously good business?

Number two is more affected by the design of the product than the idea itself. You don’t actually want number three to be true. You want it to be a good business, but not an obviously good business, because than you get more competition. Web search was not an obviously good business before Google demonstrated it. This allowed them to leap-frog the competition that was in it for years, but not taking it very seriously. But, like Google, the business may not be clear until later.

The key question for evaluating an idea is number one: Is it obvious why people should use it? In most cases, obviousness in this regard is inversely proportional to tractability. The cost of Blogger and Twitter’s high tractability was the fact that they were defining a new type of behavior. The number one response to Twitter, still, is Why would anyone do that? Once people try it, they tend to like it. But communicating its benefits is difficult. We’re heartened by the fact that Why would anyone do that? was the default response by the mainstream to blogging for years, as well, and eventually tens of millions of people came around.

On the flip side, if you can build an ad network that makes people more money, a better search engine, or a productivity app that actually does tasks for people—all, less-tractable solutions—it will be highly obvious to people why to use your product.

Sometimes you can come up with ideas that are highly tractable and obvious. For example: Top Friends or HotOrNot. These products were not hard to launch and yet, were immediately appealing (to their target market). What was not obvious, in either case, is that they could also be great businesses. HotOrNot has proven this to be true. And I suspect Slide will, as well.

Deepness

Question: How much value can you ultimately deliver?The most successful products give benefits quickly (both in the life of a product and a user’s relationship with it), but also lend themselves to continual development of and discovery of additional layers of benefit later on.

Facebook is incredibly deep because it leverages your connections, which touch practically every aspect of your life. Scrabulous, on the other hand—a Facebook app for playing Scrabble—is not very deep. How big is the Scrabble-playing part of your life, and how much can it deliver beyond that?

But most things are deeper than they seem at first glance. Practically any application, once people start using it, can be used as a lever to more activity and benefit delivery. Being smart about what you’re leveraging is key.

When Feedburner first launched, their only feature was the ability to take an RSS feed and spit out multiple versions, depending on the capabilities of the feed reader requesting it. It seemed useful, but hardly something to start a company around, especially because that particular problem would probably go away over time. Or so I thought. What I didn’t get and they did (because Dick and gang is smarter than me) is that they were setting themselves up at a great leverage point—between publishers and their readers—where they could offer an ever-deeper value stack. Soon it was feed stylesheets with one-button subscription, feed stats, feed flare, blog stats, email subscriptions, and, of course, advertising, where they made their money.

While we’re talking about Feedburner, its worth mentioning that their product was also very obvious for their core user-base. There were clear benefits and very little drawbacks. They also had no competition, even though there were tons of companies in the RSS/feed space, because most of the others were battling it out on the reader side.

Other times, you stumble into deepness. When they put up HotOrNot on a whim, Jim and James didn’t know they’d be able to leverage it into a highly profitable dating site. Okay, so HotOrNot’s still not the “deepest” of sites, but it’s deeper than you think.

Wideness

Question: How many people may ultimately use it?Wideness, like deepness, is a fairly classic market analysis measure. They are usually inversely proportional—do you try to offer the mass-market good or the niche one?

Feedburner is not particularly wide. Their market was those who published RSS feeds (and cared about them). This was in the hundreds of thousands, not a hundred million. Turns out, it didn’t need to be used by a hundred million to be worth a hundred million, so going for wideness is not entirely necessary. But it’s something to look at.

Like deepness, wideness can take you by surprise. The web is getting so damn big, what seem like niche ideas can be very decent businesses. When Ted Rheingold launched Dogster, as a joke, he didn’t know there were enough people out there who would be interested in making their dogs web pages to actually build a business. When we launched Blogger, I thought maybe a few thousand people would use it.

Sometimes, you can find a spot that is both deep and wide. This is where multi-billion-dollar businesses are built: Google, Windows, Ebay. It’s easy to think these kinds of opportunities aren’t laying around anymore—at least not for the little guy. But most people would have said the same before Facebook entered the picture.

Discoverability

Question: How will people learn about your product?I was going to call this criteria “viralness.” However, there’s a lot of focus on viralness these days, and—while sometimes amazingly effective—it’s not the only way to grow a user-base. And it doesn’t make sense in all cases.

Interesting to note: Google web search is not the least bit viral. Nor is Firefox. Nor it Kayak.

It’s possible to get the word out without being “viral.” One way is organic search traffic. Another is pay-per-click ads (if you can monetize). Another is plain old-fashioned word-of-mouth/blog/press. (Twitter has probably grown more through press and blogs references than any inherent viralness.) There’s also distribution deals and partnerships.

Either way, it’s something to think about up front, as different ideas lend themselves to different discoverability strategies. And some things are more difficult than others to spread. Dating sites, for instance, have not historically been viral, because people weren’t going to invite their friends to—or even talk much about—their personal ads. The sites made up for this by buying lots of ads, which worked because they monetized signups via subscription.

Monetizability

Question: How hard will it be to extract the money?Far be it for me to say that obvious monetizability is a requirement. I’m generally a believer that if you create value, you can figure out the business. However, all things being equal, an idea with clear buck-making potential is better than one without.

Whether or not something is monetizable is not always clear up-front. It wasn’t clear how Google was going to make money early on. Ebay thought it would sell auction software.

In most cases, if you position yourself close to the spending of money, you can extract some. Or if you offer something that clearly saves or makes people money.

Blogger, I believe, makes money for Google, but it’s not the most monetizable of products. Twitter, I believe, will be more-so, but that’s yet to be seen.

Personally Compelling

Question: Do you really want it to exist in the world?Last on the list, but probably the first question I ask myself is: How important to me is it that this product exists in the world? If I were evaluating a startup, I’d ask this of the founders. As I wrote in “Ten Rules“:

Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires.

In theory, you can get around this with lots of user research. (It’s pretty clear neither Slide nor Rockyou‘s founders are creating widgets based on their own needs and desires.) But you’re more likely to get it wrong that way. When I’ve gone sideways, it’s when I wasn’t listening to my gut on this issue. Specifically, Blogger and Twitter were personally compelling, while Odeo wasn’t.

However, “personally compelling” doesn’t have to mean only that you want it as a user yourself. Curing cancer or helping the world be more green may be highly personally compelling for other reasons, which I think is just as good. My favorite products are those I really want as a user, but that I also think have some “greater good.”

Charting it Out

To bring it home, here’s a table with my estimates on where different products land by these criteria. Obviously, these are subjective measures, and for some of them, it’s hard to judge in retrospect. (I didn’t inlclude Personally Compelling on the list, because I can’t really speak to the founder’s motivations in most cases.)
Product Tractability Obviousness Deepness Wideness Discoverability Monetizability
Blogger Very High Low High High High Low
Google (web search) Very Low Very High Very High Very High Low Very High
Facebook High1 High Very High High Very High High2
Twitter High Low High High High Med
Feedburner Med High High Med Med Med3
HotOrNot Very High Very High Med Med Med High4
Scrabulous High Very High Low Low Very High Low
Ebay Med High Very High Very High High

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The concern about the Mozilla-Google relation is more focused on what would happen if Google walked away and chose to create its own browser, or back another. Their agreement is set to expire next November, the foundation announced within its financial statements

Only a couple of years ago, Firefox was the little browser that could – an open-source program created by thousands of contributors around the world, without the benefit of a giant company like Microsoft to finance it.

 

Today, Firefox, which has prospered under the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, has grown to be the largest rival to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, with 15 percent of the browser market worldwide and higher percentages in Europe and among tech-savvy users. It has about three times as many users as the Apple Safari, whose new version is the first to work on PCs.

 

In trying to build on this success, the Mozilla Foundation has come to resemble an investor-backed Silicon Valley start-up more than a scrappy open-source project. Using a for-profit subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation, the foundation has generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue in royalties from search engine companies that want prominent placement on the browser. As a result, the foundation has built a war chest to compete against the giants and has, at least temporarily, moved away from the typical activities of a nonprofit organization.

 

Looming over all of this competitive planning is Google, the search engine giant that has been writing most of the royalty checks that finance Firefox. That contract expires next year and no one knows whether Google will continue as an ally – or possibly emerge as a challenger.

 

There are many examples of businesses that have been created to help service open-source projects – like Red Hat was for Linux – but Siobhan O’Mahony, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Management, calls Mozilla “the first corporate open-source project.”

 According to Mozilla’s 2006 financial records, which were recently released, the foundation had $70 million in assets, largely invested in mutual funds, and last year collected $66 million in revenue. 85% came from a single source – Google. But, despite a pledge to use Firefox revenue to support new open-source projects, the foundation gave away less than $100,000 in grants, according to the audited statement, or $287,000, according to Mozilla, in 2006. In the same year, it paid its chief executive, Mitchell Baker, more than $500,000 in salary and benefits.

 

The rise of Firefox can be seen as an extension of the Netscape-Microsoft battle of the mid-1990s. After Microsoft had largely wrested control of the market, Netscape decided in 1998 to release its code to the public, and immediately developers took up the challenge.

When the extent of the financial connection between Mozilla – which proudly points to its community of tens of thousands of voluntary developers, testers and “evangelizers” – and Google was first revealed about a year ago, the question was whether Mozilla was acting as a Google proxy in its larger wars with Microsoft and others.

 Wladimir Palant, a longtime contributor to Firefox who administers the popular Adblock Plus add-on that removes ads from Web pages, said he was pleased that the foundation had so much money saved up. He advised that it “save some of the money for later.”

A Google spokesman issued a statement saying: “Mozilla is a valued business partner because many users utilize Firefox to access Google products and services.”

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“We’re living in a cold war between open and closed systems, and Google is happy to lend support to entities that it sees as allies,” he said.

Source(IHT)  via Slashdot written by eldavojohn.

 

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Construct a highly available Apache Web server cluster that spans multiple physical or virtual Linux® servers in 5 easy steps with Linux Virtual Server and Heartbeat v2.

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To get the most out of this article, you should be familiar with Linux and basic networking, and you should have Apache servers already configured. Our examples are based on standard SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SLES10) installations, but savvy users of other distributions should be able to adapt the methods shown here.

Article illustrates the robust Apache Web server stack with 6 Apache server nodes (though 3 nodes is sufficient for following the steps outlined here) as well as 3 Linux Virtual Server (LVS) directors. We used 6 Apache server nodes to drive higher workload throughputs during testing and thereby simulate larger deployments. The architecture presented here should scale to many more directors and backend Apache servers as your resources permit, but we haven’t tried anything larger ourselves. Figure 1 shows our implementation using the Linux Virtual Server and the linux-ha.org components.

As shown in Figure 1, the external clients send traffic to a single IP address, which may exist on any of the LVS director machines. The director machines actively monitor the pool of Web servers they relay work to.

Note that the workload progresses from the left side of Figure 1 toward the right. The floating resource address for this cluster will reside on one of the LVS director instances at any given time. The service address may be moved manually through a graphical configuration utility, or (more commonly) it can be self-managing, depending on the state of the LVS directors. Should any director become ineligible (due to loss of connectivity, software failure, or similar) the service address will be relocated automatically to an eligible director.

The floating service address must span two or more discrete hardware instances in order to continue operation with the loss of one physical machine. With the configuration decisions presented in this article, each LVS director is able to forward packets to any real Apache Web server regardless of physical location or proximity to the active director providing the floating service address. This article shows how each of the LVS directors can actively monitor the Apache servers in order to ensure requests are sent only to operational back-end servers.

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Google is preparing its own distribution of Linux for the desktop, in a possible bid to take on Microsoft in its core business – desktop software.

A version of the increasingly popular Ubuntu desktop Linux distribution, based on Debian and the Gnome desktop, it is known internally as ‘Goobuntu’.

 

 

Google has confirmed it is working on a desktop linux project called Goobuntu, but declined to supply further details, including what the project is for.

 

 

The Goobuntu.com domain has been registered in the past couple of days, though presumably not by Google. It now redirects to a Cuban portal. Perhaps Google will have to think of a new name for the system before they launch it to the wider public. ®

Ubuntu, funded by the South African internet multimillionaire and occasional cosmonaut Mark Shuttleworth, is already emerging as a leader in the desktop Linux world.

It has built considerable momentum in the Linux community, and is starting to appear more widely. Shuttleworth is seeking to persuade white-box PC manufacturers to start shipping machines with Ubuntu preinstalled. Source

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Openads is one of the most interesting open-source projects/companies on the planet. Period. It’s an open-source ad server. Like DoubleClick without the lock-in or fees. In other words, it’s open source–100 percent GPLv2. I guess it should be no surprise that the world’s most popular ad server, powering Web 2.0 business models, is open source, just as the LAMP stack is the technological basis for Web 2.0 sites/services.

 

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Google AdWords is enough to make a few pennies. Once I get serious readership and want to monetize that, however, the next phase would be to use an ad server like Openads to tie into more sophisticated ad networks (using a more sophisticated ad server). (The ad networks most widely used with Openads are shown at right, below.)

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I could still use Google AdWords with Openads. It’s just another ad network, after all. But Openads’ software would give me more control over the ads served up on my site. It also allows me to deploy several different ad networks at once, letting me try out various ones to determine which is most effective for my audience. I could run them in rotation and designate the percentage that these ad networks serve ads to my site (based on contract, for example). I could have maximum control of the ads on my site.

Without paying Openads a dime.

I asked Scott how this differs from the traditional model that its major competitors, DoubleClick (1,500 Web sites around the world and a reported 300 billion page impressions) and 24/7 Real Media, use. I figured they gave away the ad server software and charged per page view or click-through or something like that. I was surprised to find out that all of the ad server companies today charge for the privilege of using their technology. Just for the ad server you pay a monthly fee and/or a CPM fee (utility fee, cost per 1,000 impressions) just for using the software.

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How, then, does Openads make money? Scott indicated that Openads provides consulting services to publishers with complex problems (billions of ad impressions). But the primary revenue driver comes from charging ad networks fees for sourcing publishers. (Scott equated this to how Firefox helps Google. Firefox has its search bar at the top of its screen, with Google now getting a large percentage of its search revenues through Firefox. Firefox, therefore, is helping them reach the user as simply as possible, just as Openads helps ad networks find publishers and charges for the service.) . source


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Freemium Business Model

Investors are abuzz about ‘freemiums’ – services that lure users in with a basic product, then charge for more features.

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But free didn’t become a serious option until the Internet gave us low-cost online distribution. Adobe did it with its PDF Reader in 1994, Macromedia with its Shockwave Player in 1995. Both became the industry standard, and those companies were able to make money by selling the products’ authoring software.

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In these days of Web 2.0 services that rely on quick customer adoption, the strategy has become so common that VCs have coined a term for it: freemium.

 

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When the service is free, word spreads

Danny Rimer, the London-based venture capitalist with Index Ventures, has been an enthusiastic investor in freemiumtype businesses since 1999. His firm led an $18.8 million investment in Skype, which resulted in a handsome return after the $2.6 billion buyout by eBay.

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Freemium works because “you reduce the main stumbling blocks of product adoption,” Rimer says. “Web-based users who don’t have to pay for it will often start evangelizing the benefits to others.”

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How can you make your freemium service soar? Here are nine tips from venture capitalists and entrepreneurs:

 

  1. Have a product or service that truly stands out
  2. Know your up selling plan from the beginning
  3. Once you’ve decided that a product will be given away for free, don’t change your mind
  4. Access to your product should be just one click away
  5. Make sure the major bugs have been exterminated
  6. Harness the collective intelligence of your users
  7. Keep improving the product to give users more reasons to stick with it
  8. Identify a range of revenue sources
  9. Timing is everything.

source

 

 

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[google-phone.jpg]

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Google Inc has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its cell phone project and is courting U.S. and European mobile operators, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Anian, a Reuters company that tracks industry trends for institutional investors, reported last month that Google had engaged Taiwan’s High Tech Computer Corp to design a Linux software-based phone for launch in the first quarter of 2008.

The Anian report cited industry sources as saying T-Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom, would likely be Google’s U.S. partner with France Telecom’s Orange selling the phones in other markets.

The Journal said on Thursday Google had also approached the two biggest U.S. wireless services, AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, in recent months to ask them to sell phones with Google service. SourceA & SourceB

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