Archive for the ‘gnomedex’ Category

Gnomedex: The End

August 11, 2007

I didn’t write about the last two sessions (the UW panel or the clean energy speaker) – partly fatigue, partly I’m tired of blogging about disappointing things. But since it’s Gnomedex attendees that started me blogging for real, might as well write a summary.

The rumor is true – Gnomedex is about the hallway conversations and the relationships, not the sessions. Some of the sessions were motivating (Ignite Seattle, Guy Kawasaki, Darren Barefoot) or sparked interesting conversations (Vanessa Fox), but those turned out to be the exception. As Ethan Kaplan put it, “I thought it was a tech conference, not conspiracy theories and violation of thermodynamics conference.”

Far better were the people I met (Vanessa Fox, Ethan Kaplan, Dave McClure, Todd SawickiDeepak SinghGregg Spiridellis, Baratunde Thurston, etc.), reconnected with (Dave Schappell, Daryn Nakhuda – discussed my “Seattle CTO Support Group” idea with him, now actually need to follow up), know and was able to watch shine (Elan Lee, Leo Dirac), etc. Noting the obvious – if you weren’t blogging, you were twittering; if you weren’t twittering, you were facebooking; lots of casual mentions of Facebook and zer0 of LinkedIn. Oh, and a celebrity sighting at a very good sushi dinner.

The single message I’m thinking most about was Deborah Schultz‘s comments about the way your relationships and networks weave together, and how that impacts my own networks. Oh, and stick with Jason’s comment – try to interact with actual people more than I manage their online proxies.

Huge thanks to Chris (who I talked to for one minute before someone interrupted, ah well, next time) and Ponzi for making this unique event happen!

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Gnomedex: No topic is so serious

August 11, 2007

That Robert Scoble can’t interrupt it to curse about Valleywag. Ethan Kaplan and I turned to each other at the same time and said in unison “Did that really just happen?”

I wasn’t going to write about the discussion with Derek Miller about blogging and living through cancer – I don’t know Derek and didn’t feel like it needed a book report – but interrupting the end with this felt obscene.

Gnomedex: Jason Calacanis responds

August 11, 2007

to getting Winered yesterday. My take – the yelling made Gnomedex into inside baseball – there’s no value to one luminary yelling at another luminary, especially at the first second when Jason mentioned Mahalo. Yes, Jason was good at turning every question or comment into a chance to sell Mahalo, and yes, I would have rather seen more of a focus on the various approaches to Internet pollution, but mostly I was just disappointed with the childish behavior. The rest of us don’t need to be protected, thanks.

Gnomedex: Gregg Spiridellis

August 11, 2007

Overall one of the highlights of the event – an interesting and engaging talk that used JibJab as an example in telling a story, and gave people lessons on what to do next for themselves.

Gregg’s the CEO of JibJab. He started with how the company began – his path was supposed to be investment banking, but the Internet (and his artistic brother) called. They began pre-bust, took only family & friends funding, and survived the bust by going from 13 to 2 people. During six years their model changed every three months, including selling Nasty Santa dolls at Spencer Gifts – they knew that they could build a brand and provide great content and just had to keep finding ways to stay alive.

They learned from a Bush-Gore rap battle in 2000 that they could develop something in July, and if it’s good it could last through November, unlike the short shelf life of so many other videos.

This Land came out in 2004, went to their 130K subscribers they had built over six years, and went from 100K views on Day 1 (normal would be 40K) to 1.5MM by Day 7. NASA sent a copy to the space station, a copy went to Antarctica. Marketing math: 80MM views, 590MM “offline brand impressions.” Meanwhile they’re answering 30,000 mails/week with just them and their wives; the day before the Today Show, they created a Yahoo store with a fake DVD picture, sold 9,000 and then figured out how to manufacture it.

Real business model through 2005 was licensing fees – couldn’t afford to build an ad sales team. Cobbling together revenue streams however they could. Funded about a year ago to grow to the next opportunity…

JibJab is a hit-driven business, and even good CPMs on a hit-driven business can’t build a long-term revenue model, especially with high production costs. (A normal hit for them is 3.7MM views, which at a $20CPM is $74K – hardly pays for production even when it’s a hit.) So how do you create a scalable programming model that’s viable to the tail?

They started breaking down what they did in a “relevance spectrum” (which does sound just a wee bit corporate…). To get long shelf life content, you need content relevant to different people at different times – which is all about social expression/lifecycle events and holidays – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Realized that American Greetings online is an $85MM business, smileys for IAC (FunWebProducts) is a $100MM business (Zango has a similar story) and pays for IAC investments, etc. HotOrNot & Facebook have gifting businesses, etc. This turns out to be a huge business, and “Social Expression Programming” is an opportunity.

Gregg demo’d Starring You, their new mass-market, compete-with-American-Greetings product, making it easy to make something good – users are good at distribution, not creation. You upload a head shot and can create a quick movie – Hula, Disco, etc. – with them. He had pictures of Chris Priillo and Robert Scoble and the video generated huge laughs and applause – we’re the mass market too, evidently! He asked if we wanted to see another movie and everyone was excited to see another. Can create more of these videos over time. I can absolutely see my family, especially my father, playing with this for hours – will send it to him today.

They’ve designed the content so that it’s embeddable (including the publishing tools) and uncompilable, so every drop point can be a viral hub, but their branding stays in place – critical for their long-term value chain.

Baratunde asks about melanin enhancement for black etc. users – Gregg says that they deliberately designed the dances to be silly enough that it wouldn’t matter, but did note that 2% of their audience was African-American and they had to make a tradeoff. (He also noted that people have done things like dog and Darth Vader heads, and I sort of wanted Baratunde to go postal on the comparison – mostly just for fun – but no luck.)

Some notes:
It does feel disappointing that companies that do have the ability to create high-quality mass-market content can’t make a long-term business out of it online, and while these are great toys, how do you do this and the next “This Land”? How do you make sure that all great media doesn’t have to be simple and single-user consumable? Gregg notes in response to a question that there was a 1-1 tradeoff – it’s opportunity cost, This Life took eight weeks, they can now do it in four. They will still do some of this for brand-building, and they can do narrative (movie trailers) this way, not just dance.

Gnomedex: Ignite Seattle Talks

August 11, 2007

I admit to already having a love for Ignite Seattle – I spoke at the first one, it’s the singular event for bringing techies together in Seattle, and every time the tone of the talks and the event shifts slightly. Bre & Brady brought something amazing to Seattle.

I was very excited to see that seven speakers from this week’s Ignite were added to the Gnomedex schedule – even happier that five were local and that I know a few of them well.

I didn’t know before attending Gnomedex that we were going to need some fast-talking, type-A energy on Saturday morning, but after Michael Linton, we really needed it, and scotto – who turns out to be a dynamic and engaging speaker, and who used the 15-second slide shift like a master, in a talk that was either memorized (a good thing!) or seemed so, was an energetic kickoff.

Dave McClure struggled a bit more with the format and there was too much data to get the ONE BIG IDEA that Ignite talks do so well, but he’s fun to listen to.

Deborah talked about online relationships, gave an example of getting contacted by business partners through Flickr – are your friends on Flickr/Facebook real? – and says that these relationships are real because we live, in a relationship economy, “transactions are the by-products of healthy relationships” – “[relationships] come to your aid when you least expect them” – you never know which contact will matter, weave yourself and your networks across multiple groups – be someone who relates and brings things together. Nice! I’ve been thinking about this as I get started on Facebook – who are the people from my network that I bring in and what does it mean to have so many different people from different parts of life?

Beth Goza’s encouraging us to think about the mobile web as being different than just what you did on the Internet, same metrics and porting. She’s doing a clever job of segueing from point to point. Much of this talk is basic for people who know their way around mobile development (carrier lockdowns, etc.) and there isn’t much of a conclusion but it’s still fun to listen to her.

Leo! Leo! Leo‘s up, going from his talk about the transhuman revolution in Ignite 3 to Venture Term Sheets in Ignite 4. Always fun to know people whose interests are so varied. This talk is giving the 5-minute intro to what VC’s are, what they invest in, how they work, etc. His slides on liquidation preference are the clearest way I’ve seen this concept presented publicly. A perfect use of five minutes to explain the concepts.

Brian Dorsey (who I know from somewhere…) came to talk about Noonhat. Starts with the premise that our interests and our social networks keep us connecting to the same sort of people, and how he wanted to use lunch to meet new kinds of people. The site is a clever way of finding and connecting, and Brian talked about how he built it in his time (50 hours of development plus N hours of chatting) and no other costs. (Random note: Brian provides a simple progress bar on the below of his slides to show how far he is. When you know these presentations are exactly five minutes, you get more interested in following time.)

Last talk is Elan Lee, a luminary in the gaming world and a friend of mine. (Sorry I called you a luminary, Elan. You’re going to be mobbed after this talk.) “Mundane objects all around us provide entertainment and you have to just go find it.” The audience is mesmerized as he gives fun examples from life (carry a bucket and you can get in anywhere, throw toast at unexpected parties, customer service lines with random questions – ask the Kremlin or Butterball if there’s a God), then from his work (e.g. the radio drama of ILoveBees). Elan has an even cooler progress bar on the bottom, though it’s a bit stressful to watch and times the 15-seconds rather than the 5-minute.

In my mind (and I’m biased), this was the highlight of the Gnomedex presentations so far. Including Ignite was a great idea and I expect there will be a push for more talks like this going forward.)

Once Chris posts the videos, I’ll point to them here.