Heavy and Interesting Web 2.0 Report

web 2.0 reportGetting to know the Web in its second version was quite interesting, to say the least. Addictive, to be more exact. The intellectual challenge that I need to have on an ongoing basis is one thing. Being a long tail person myself also magnified the effect, since Web 2.0 has more space than any person can imagine, and there is something for everyone in it.
This report includes a heavy explanation and analysis about what makes a great Web 2.0 application / website, and what are the main practices these organizations are applying. The report is prepared by O'Reilly Media, the inventors of the word "Web 2.0", and it summarizes the findings of the conference held at the end of 2006 regarding this new phenomenon.
Watch out, this is only for the heavy readers, I shared it with some colleagues of mine (Internet professionals) and they struggled with the material in it.
Full of structured examples and live citations it can actually be so much fun to go through all the examples in light of the principles discussed and thinking about how to apply them.
It's an absolute must-read for the dedicated Web professional trying to make sense of all the chaos and turmoil going on.
A lot of presentations and interviews are available here for that conference and other conferences by O'Reilly. Highly recommended.

Why Celebrities Can't Endorse Websites

Let's start first by defining some aspects of the Web, and the people who use it.
The Web is a different medium than the mainstream media in several ways.

  1. Power to the users (once named surfers): Users choose what they want to read on the Internet. On TV, although you can choose which channel to view, you are stuck with whatever you are presented with.
  2. Interactivity: Not only is the web an interactive platform, it gives us the full range of choice between being totally passive, and just reading or viewing what's on there, and being totally active by logging in, writing, commenting, etc. We can also have any of the choices in between those two extremes. Even in the most passive of choices, you still have to click through to different pages to continue browsing, while on TV, you can just sit there till you sleep.
  3. Person of the year 2006: More and more power is gained by the web, which is in its second version, and most Web 2.0 citizens want thier voices heard. The Web is emerging as an alternative underground tool where people who don't have access to huge mainstream media can find a way to express themselves and reach out to people.

The highly active users of the Internet are fed up with celebrities spamming thier lives, and looking for alternatives. They are also keen on becoming celebrities themselves. The long tail shows that there will be lots of small celebrities, who are enabled through Web 2.0 technologies.

The Web is for people who want to look for their own personal preferences. People who don't need to watch tonight's show just because everyone else is watching. Furthermore, it is for people who want to contribute, share, and make their voice heard.

Therefore, having a celebrity endorse a site or a web service might alienate these people. They want to be celebrities, not just see them. Mainstream celebrities are symbols of the media that these people are moving away from.

When might celebrities be useful?

  1. When they are Internet celebrities: Of course! These celebrities can easily be identified with by the users, and they aspire to be like them in some way or another.
  2. When online and offline merge: The line between mainstream and web applications and media is blurring, and this strategy might work for programs or channels that have both aspects to them. Luvoo is endorsed by Carmen Electra, and it is a TV show based on their matchmaking website.

I'll be checking this theory myself with a project I'm currently working on. Although I'm conviced that Internet users have the power to promote the people they think are popular, I will keep an eye on examples where this is and isn't working.

How to Translate an Ad

Many times I see meaningless ads formatted and written in a tone that does not touch any aspect of our lives. Often times, these are poorly translated ads, that were translated by the dictionary, not by culturally-aware human beings.
Not only do these ads fail at conveying the right message, they sometimes backfire in certain societies.
Here are some tips to take into consideration while translating an ad or any other form of copy, written, audio, or visual:

  1. Don't translate!: yes, you read it right. The first thing you DON'T want to do, is take a dictionary, and go word-for-word, or sentence-for-sentence. While this might work well with normal prose, it is quite dangerous with ads. What makes this process more delicate, is the limited space usually provided for advertisements. You usually don't have enough space to go around idioms and phrases, and you have to create something that fits. Don't translate, transcreate. Here is an article that sites different instances of successful transcreation in literature and art.
  2. Think culturally: Thinking about the cultural implications while you write the new copy is necessary to make sure you get your message to the people. There is a website that talks about similar stuff, but the name of the website is the key for this tip: Don't make me think! This site talks about the Internet users' experience and how it must be improved by being simple, to the point, and easy to understand. When you write a transcreated ad, don't make your audience think.
  3. Find the corresponding idiom: Many times, smart ads make us of certain idioms or puns on certain words. This is where you are really transcreating. The pun cannot be translated, and the idiom might and might not have a counterpart in the target language. In this case, you should find the idioms that are used in the target language and find ways in which they can click with the audience.
  4. Test: You should always ask regular non professionals to see the ad and check their reaction. This is also a tip for writing regular ads for your own audience also. Many of us get swayed with the greatness or beauty of a certain pun, or fall in love with a certain idea, that we forget that we are writing to certain people, and even forget that they need to understand! This is an example by Olay.
  5. Check the positioning: An American diapers brand had a commercial showing how easy it is to use their diapers, and how much it saved time. The same ad was adapted for the Far East, and it backfired, as those mothers came through as uncaring. "Why would a mother want to spend less time caring for her babies?" If you don't take this into consideration, you will do the opposite of what you actually want.
  6. Let the people decide: Another safe (and free) method of doing this, is by passing the concept to your target audience and seeing how they deal with it. Post a thread on a forum, and discuss your brand or message. Observe what words people use to describe certain concepts. You will be surprised at how differently people use words for concepts. Try to check if they are using any cultural references or similarities. This is the language they are most comfortable using. Use it in your ads.

The main idea is that you should take the concept, and work with it. Giving it a fresh and local touch, and making sure your audience understand and like it at a glance.

As advertisers globalize, they will need to focus on local partners who understand the culture, instead of just copying and pasting their offices to new locations.

Adsense and Blogging Secrets From the Pros

I enjoy writing, I love to learn, Web 2.0 stuff is just irresistable, and it's great to be able to make money out of all this.
So I've decided to learn everything there is to learn, reach out as close as possible (to people) and earn some bucks:)
It's been a while since I've been learning about the basics, trying many things, facing a lot of frustration, and feeling the exhilaration that comes with this great medium.
Last week, I bought "Six Figure Blogging" a course by Darren Rowse and Andy Wibbels. I am seriously considering exploring all the related materials there is to learn and implement.
I'm half way through, and had some important things considered and changed in this site. It seems promising, more interesting and fun.
I'll share my thoughts on the course when I finish and implement it.
What's next?
Joel Comm's "What Google Didn't Teach You About Making Money With AdSense". Lots of great resources come with it; a one-month free entrance to the coaching club, some exclusive downloads and software. Didn't read it yet, but it seems really advanced and fun to read.

Crowdsourcing is an Ancient Discipline

Although strongly facilitated by computers and the Web, has been used in other fields without the use of the Internet. Of course it is a lot easier and much more efficient, but I would like to highlight a system that beautifully and naturally utilized this approach.
That system is calligraphy.
When was a new style of calligraphy invented? Who invented it? We only know the period, and a group of people who were active in creating that style. There are the big influential calligraphers, and the other ones with small contributions. The "source code" of calligraphy is contained within the letter itself. The length and height of a letter is determined by a certain number of dots above or beside each other. Popular opinion and taste are what determine which improvement is to be adopted, and with time, a certain style evolves. Who created it?
The Crowd...

Music Community and Stardom on the Web

I recently started working on a project for online music sharing, uploading, and community building. Several different directions presented themselves so far.
Creating a huge database of rare and very-har-to-find music collection is one of these, and I got to know one serious enthusiast working in this direction like crazy.
Another idea, by Tareq, was to announce to singers from wherever, to record a song, and we can then record them singing and upload the video clip on our website. This way, they can have a recorded video of their song, distributed to a huge number of people, who will then vote for their favorite song / singer. Another idea is to provide users with software that allows them to edit tracks and songs as they like.
I then came across a bold initiative working on promoting singers through the web. They have a descriptive title and slogan, SingToWin.com your free road to fame.
Their model is focusing on unheard of singers who are bold enough to record their voice in any format.
The site is functioning but the launch is scheduled sometime this month. This is a clear implementation of the Rady-Fire-Aim approach; they have something to start with (eight songs!) and they are probably working on the tweaking, improvements, and development. The design is quite simple and intuitive, and can use the services of a professional designer!
The lesson for me...? Immediately start with whatever I have and fine-tune from there.


Undo the Scribbling onYour Face With Olay

Whoever made this ad is a genius. The shapes of the computer keys fit perfectly well with the shape of the bottle. The relative positions are exactly as they are on the keyboard, and most importantly pushing Ctrl-Z will "undo" the last action you did. This is what Olay is claiming. They will undo whatever was done on your face.
But I have some doubts about the audience and whether or not they would really understand the subtle message in this ad. How many people actually use Ctrl-Z instead of clicking on the "undo" button? How many women over the age of forty are that familiar with the keyboard, and will understand the message? I doubt there is a significant number of people who will relate with the message.
This is a typical thing that I usually fall for, and am training myself to focus on what really needs to get through. I'm seduced by "great stuff" and many times forget the main idea, which is to tell forty-year-old women that Olay will undo what life has done to her.
Still, there is great beauty and simplicity in this ad, which won the Dubai Lynx Award for best print ad. You can find a gallery of interesting and up-to-date stuff like this in AdBlogArabia. 

How Crowdsourcing is Using Too Many Cooks, Without Spoiling the Broth

Outsourcing, insourcing, open sourcing... What's next?
I remember reading about a great method Walt Disney would use in developing his themes. It relied on tapping into the minds of anyone who wanted to participate.
Simply, the project manager would post the main theme / idea on a highly visible bulletin board, and all employees are encouraged to post their comments, add their insights, and share whatever feelings they have regarding that idea.
I thought, "wow! this is truly great in allowing people to contribute to one big idea, and a democratic and human way of allowing anyone to participate to whatever extent they want and can. This is really teamwork."
"Too many cooks spoil the broth" we were taught. Well... not with the Internet, and definitely not at Walt Disney.
Nowadays, we all know that this is the "normal" way of harnessing collective intelligence. Wikipedia is best example that demonstrates the power of global cooperation. (funnily enough, the master crowsourcer needs some support in their article on crowdsourcing. I, considering myself a crowdsourcer contributed with information I thought to be relevant)
Although we are all adding to the global information base through our writing, commenting, and all the social networking programs available, crowdsourcing is evolving to become one of the reliable business practices for product development, market research and design.
Several companies are adopting this method and actually rewarding the successfull contributors of the best ideas with cash.
A recent example that I stumbled upon was Cambrian House, which is a website named after the Cambrian era in which major diversification occurred on Earth. This is a company, focused on creating innovative products, software, and simply great ideas. They are also offering lucrative psychological and fianancial rewards for the greatest idea providers.
Ideawarz is one of their cool project competitions where sixteen ideas compete in four rounds, and the best single idea wins.
Crowdsourcing is another example of leveraging the long tail. Many people contribute with insignificant improvements on the same idea. But the combined total of these contributions make a really considerable difference.
Although it's a really exciting concept, limitations present themselves in sophisticated and technical products and services where highly educated people are required to crowdsource. With general products also, a significant number of people have to participate to really reap the benefits.

To Monetize or not to Monetize

I made it clear to myself from the beginning that this will be a business blog, with a commercial side to it. At the same time, it is not intended solely for selling products and services. I really enjoy writing and sharing my experiences and thoughts with people. Since the main topics discussed here are related to business, I might as well apply them and gain some experience in making money through this new medium.
It's been a bit more than a quarter since this blog has started, and I want to participate in Shai Coggins' $100 challenge, to share the results and experience.
I'm using a variety of techniques and revenue streams to monetize the blog. Right now, I'm in the stage of experimenting with different methods, and looking for the best way to utilize each.
Monetization efforts range from totally passive income techniques, to techniques that get offline connections and result in business transactions. Therefore, I'll group my methods to three groups: passive income, cost-per-action methods, and marketing methods that bring prospective clients.

Passive Income:The type of program that rewards me whenever a user clicks on an ad, without me having to convince the reader of anything, hence the name.

  • Google Adsense:The ad system that pays bloggers for each click a user clicks on any of their ads. All I have to do is find how out to attract (and keep) visitors, and hopefully they will find the ads relevant for them, click on them, to result in money paid for me.
  • Bidvertiser: The same system, but with a different network of adverisers.
  • Kontera: Also pays per click, but in a different way. Their ads are the highlighted and underlined with double orange line. They also depend on context. If you hover over any of these orange link, a box with information appears. I get paid if you click on them. I just discovered they have new really cool formats, ranging from simple text, to pictures, video and flash. I'm going to start testing them.
    $0.78 was generated so far from these systems.

Cost per action (sale) systems: The ones that reward me if and only if the reader takes a certain type of action, buying a product for example. They are also called affiliate programs.

  • Toolbars: Halfway between passive income and CPA, are toolbars. I create the toolbars, and hope to promote them as much as possible. I am rewarded the more people download and use them. I have already made my first $100 through Conduit, but it's only redeemable when I reach the $250 level. Agloco is another system, where everyone who installs it gets to share the profits. This toolbar is supposed be released sometime during March '07.
  • Auction Ads: These are eBay auctions featured on my site. I get to keep the profit made out of the sales if one of my readers makes a purchase through my blog.
  • Text Link Ads: It's an affiliate program, where if you sign up through my site and get accepted, I am rewarded.

Cost per (my) action: Programs that pay me for an action on my side, for example writing a post and / or linking to a certain site. PayPerPost and Blogsvertise are the two systems I am working with right now. I am still experimenting with these two systems, and already wrote two posts, one for each. I'm supposed to be paid $15 for these two posts. Blogitive is another similar system for which I applied. I was asked to make some changes, which I did, and hope for acceptance soon.

Marketing for prospective clients: I'm working on promoting my toolbars, The Middle East Media Guide, Mediadisk, and my services as a copywriter and translator. I got an offer to work with Textappeal, a company that works on providing advertisers with messages translated while taking into consideration the cultural implications of the target audience. More importantly, this blog was responsible for getting me an offer to work with the biggest Arab online community, which I gladly accepted:)

This is how my first quarter looked like. I think the results are great, and got me to really unexpected places and people, which I would never have found. My financial goals are mugh higher than this, and I'm constantly looking for more ways of providing value and quality content. More important to me, is growing, learning, and connecting with more and more people of similar interests.


Advertising For What People Really Want

The classical cycle of advertising starts by first researching what your customers want. You collect data, and you spot trends. Then you research (or guess) to where these people are paying attention; what media they are watching, what events they are attending, and what streets they are passing through.
Other forms of advertising exist of course, but I will not get into them here.
In this model, you try to be where the customer is, you try to present them with a message that you hope they are looking for, and you try to answer questions you assume are in their minds.
With the Web and with search engines, this model is facing some limitations. Now, people have a "place" through which they can search for whatever they want whenever they want.
When I open the TV, I want to watch a certain program, I don't want to see anybody's irrelevant advertisement. When I go to a concert, I don't care who sponsored the singer's flight, I just want to enjoy the event.
BUT... When I'm about to plan for my holiday, I actually want to know which companies have the best deal.
This is one of the very rare instants in which you can target your advertising only to the people who are willing to receive your information.
This is how "search marketing" started to evolve. Smart companies started to know the importance of being listed high on search engine result, and the amount of traffic it brings to their websites. Enter SEO (search engine optimization).
This field aims at having your company listed at the top of search results for the keywords related to the products/services you offer. This is done by researching what people are searching for, how they might view your product, and most importantly how search engines work.
This involves both technical and marketing knowledge, and it is both, an art and a science. When internet marketers discovered this in the late 90's, they started manipulating search engines with certain unsavory techniques that would list their pages at the top of search results. Many of these pages were meaningless, full of irrelevant content that was just designed to attract users to the page. And since these sites had advertisements on them, they would make money just because many people viewed those ads. Of course the ads were irrelevant, and the users dissatisfied. This is one of the reasons that industry crashed.
Now, since search engines are much more sophisticated, and can detect these techniques, webmasters are trying to improve their content as much as possible, and trying to implement legitimate techniques that would rank them high on search results. Eventually, I hope, the most relevant and highest quality content should be rewarded by being at the top. However, the Web is made by humans, for humans. There will always be the human factor, and we will always need to market. This makes it more and more interesting. SEO is there to stay.
You can familiarize yourself with the basic terms of this industry by referring to this SEO glossary.
Many other resources exist in this field.
Discountclick is provider of this service and even have an affiliate program, with a generous 20% commission on all sales generated through any publisher.
My favorite SEO tools site is seochat. Check the left sidebar and try them, they can give you a great idea bout these concepts and help you understand your site or blog. To help you understand how search engines read your site, try the spider simulator, which shows exactly how sites are indexed.
Since I'm interested in many things in life, these fields are really exciting for me. They allow, force, and help me to learn more and more of everything, and keep my mind connecting stuff together.