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06.05.2008 Just surfin’

While browsing the web to gather some ideas for my series of posts I have come across several interesting critters. There seem to be at least a thousand different ways to tagging and whenever I access such a site, something interesting pops up. Mostly the interesting things have been blog entries about web business. I am not interested in making business myself but I do have a certain interest in the process that creates new business in a fast growing and vague environment like the web. There are lots of sites waiting to be noticed, discussion about making money in services that cost nothing to use and also a few challenges to create even more sites in a short period of time. As I am a bit twisted as a personality, I will start with the last one. Some of the first ones I will cover whilst writing about the others.

I was surfing to see what was all about and when clicking the first link (which wasn’t in an intuitive location!) I came across Six Sites and later on Every 5 Weeks. Both share the same idea: can you make a site once a month or two. When I stumbled upon them, the latter was already finished. The sites they created seem to be pretty generic RoR sites but they are LAMP projects according to the front page. They did and did not succeed in the quest: There are 12 sites released but four of them are spin-offs from other sites.

The first one is Domain Log Book which is designed for people with umpteen domains who cannot keep track of what’s where and which expires when. It isn’t filled with features. It is a simple service that may be useful for somebody. The second one is FullSingle which is basically a meta site or an ode to single page sites. The third site, überlook, is some sort of a web show-off post service. It offers a feed from whatever is posted on the site. The Weblog Tutorials site is the same for weblog tutorial pages. A pretty idea but I don’t see a lot of content on either site. What’s wrong with a generic tagging engine? The next one, Most Hired, is an aggregation site that collects the job offers from twenty-ish job feeds and shows them on one page. Most Preview does the same for movie trailers. The next one is finally something a bit different: a home run scoreboard, Home Run Happy. The next, Design by Grid, is a tutorial site. To avoid overdoing aggregation, there is Me in One that is a personal aggregation service. The sixth, or whatever the number, site is I Worked On and guess what, it’s not launched yet. The next one is The Opinion Aggregator which answers questions through means of aggregation. The final site, Most Sliced, actually finally catches a possible business opportunity for aggregation, it is a portal for finding a slicing service. (Actually they have and but they don’t show up in the schedule. They are, you guessed right, aggregation sites.)

After briefing the whole campaign in one paragraph, I keep meeting the words aggregation and tagging. Neither are nothing new. None of the sites looks really flashy or special either. I consider the domain service somewhat useful, the design by grid has some real value to it, the personal service is good for a limited audience providing a lot of content and the slicing service has a business angle. So, there are twelve sites out of which four have one main feature that catches my eye. I am happy with the reuse of components and the fact that making one site is big enough a project for one year. I am unhappy with the overuse of one idea and the lack of original innovation. I am an Open Source person with a heart for mash-ups and I am not seeing too much of a real effort. Flashy graphics or at least a defined look in a service is important to users. That is a big lesson to learn for these guys. I am not sure if any of these will fly but they are certainly in hiatus right now. Grasping a few good ideas with enough grinding does the job but I am not sure if they did any actual brainstorming.

After bashing these fine guys for a while I go on to this guy with six sites in mind. I prefer him according to some grains of detail. First of all I like his way of writing. He seems more like he is talking to me, he is covering areas around the actual development and he loves feedback. He has bolder ideas: he talked about making a great RSS engine that would replace desktop ones for good. He sounds more professional to say it in one sentence. The delivery date for all sites is the same so I think they will be more finalized in the end. I say this guy will pull it through!

Now to the business stuff and what I wanted to say about them: I came across Paul Graham and a essay by him. He thinks about making business while looking like non-profit for most of the users. This is intuitive to most Open Source people. Other things I noticed about the writing are the concepts (or names for old concepts) that I came across in a seminar last autumn: Swarm Creativity and Coolhunting. Those are terms generated to grasp the ideas of finding innovation and trends in virtual, distributed and electronic communities. Both of these challenges and the essay have the intent of first throwing some hooks and letting the “Swarm” or a flash crowd decide where the business will be. In the modern web environment and the world of Open Source we should not take the old business models and pay-per-user for granted. I am happy to see people grasping that finally but it seems that there will be lots of services simply born to die as a side effect.