Delicious Bookmarks for September 24th through March 8th

These are my Delicious links for September 24th through March 8th:

Delicious Bookmarks for July 21st through August 31st

These are my Delicious links for July 21st through August 31st:

Delicious Bookmarks for June 22nd

These are my Delicious links for June 22nd:

  • Sorry, There’s No Way To Save The TV Business – A clear and concise overview of how the incumbent stakeholders in the TV business are oblivious to the fundamental changes being wrought by delivery of video over the Internet and how this rising tide will ultimately wash away the strategic underpinnings of their legacy business models, which ultimately cannot be translated to this new world.
  • Not safe for work: And we’ll tweet at the end of the tour | Technology | guardian.co.uk – "Looking around the hall at the same-old-same-old faces of microblogging – the people who have been around long enough to have usernames like @amanda and @drew and @mario – all given just enough stage time to remind everyone how awesome their little corner of Twitter is – I realised that 140 Characters was never supposed to be a conference about "the state of now" at all. Rather it's a conference about the state of "then". A conference designed to bring together those of us who have been using Twitter since the start and who now feel like we've lost control of it to celebrities like Aston Kutcher and Oprah. A chance for us all to sit around and talk about the good old days when Scoble and iJustine still mattered a damn and where having 50,000 geeks following you was the pinnacle of success…Or to put it another way, 140 Characters was like a meeting of Twitter Early Adopters Anonymous."

Delicious Bookmarks for June 12th through June 15th

These are my Delicious links for June 12th through June 15th:

  • Topspin » Twitter Emerges as a Viable Direct Marketing Channel – An examination of how Twitter is helping artists using Topspin go direct-to-fan. Using awe.sm, the Topspin + SAM crew were able to establish that 22% of traffic on the first day of Jimmy Eat World's latest album release came from Twitter and that accounted for 20% of the sales. The emergence of Twitter as a meaningful traffic driver has been complicated by the difficulty in tracking its impact. But with awe.sm, publishers like Topspin artists are now able to really see the impact that social media channels like Twitter are having.
  • For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown) – TechCrunch discusses the breakdown of their own traffic by source and cite their use of awe.sm in helping to track traffic from Twitter, which is now responsible for 9.7% of their overall traffic.
  • Can Su.pr Short Links Save StumbleUpon? (250 Private Beta Invites) – Another mention of awe.sm by TechCrunch in their story about StumbleUpon's new URL shortener, su.pr.
  • BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Bands ‘better because of piracy’ – Interesting take on the impact file sharing has had on the development of music artists in the 'post-Napster era'. One could argue that increased exposure to a broader spectrum of music during artists' formative development may diminish the need for conventional A&R. One more reason the labels' legacy cost structure may be increasingly unnecessary.

Delicious Bookmarks for May 19th through May 23rd

These are my Delicious links for May 19th through May 23rd:

Delicious Bookmarks for April 27th through April 29th

These are my Delicious links for April 27th through April 29th:

Delicious Bookmarks for April 17th through April 21st

These are my Delicious links for April 17th through April 21st:

Delicious Bookmarks for March 31st through April 2nd

These are my Delicious links for March 31st through April 2nd:

  • Social Media ROI – Solid presentation on how to approach social media marketing from a quantitative perspective. Most interesting are the examples of different types of social media campaigns to drive different business goals. There is no one-size-fits all social media marketing campaign.
  • The Lab – A web-based Sass -> CSS compiler. Sass is basically a shorthand way to write stylesheets for your website. It allows for nesting with two spaces. Also, it can do some basic math with constants. No more going around your CSS files updating the size or color of something.
  • Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable « Clay Shirky – "When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse…With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem."
  • Changing Nature of Virality: Facebook and Twitter – A consolidation of interesting stats from Hitwise on percentages of traffic to entertainment sites driven by Twitter and Facebook. For example, perezhilton.com's biggest week ever was driven primarily by traffic from Facebook (8.70%) over Google (7.62%). It is clear that for certain types of sites, particularly entertainment-oriented, 'viral' discovery is an increasingly important discovery mechanism being fueled by the growth of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
  • The Rising Power Of Social Media As A Traffic Driver – Fred Wilson on the impact he's seeing to traffic on his own blog from Twitter and Facebook: "Links are the currency of the web and traffic is money so these are important trends for our portfolio companies and for everyone who does business on the web."
  • Tony Hsieh: Zappos In The Business of Selling “Happiness” – This was a really great presentation that i was lucky enough to attend in person. Some of my favorite quotes were "Hire slowly, fire quicky", "When all your employees live the brand, you don't need to rely on marketing and PR to handle all your communications", and "We decided to take all the money we would have put into marketing and put it into making the customer experience better." While I do feel that Zappos sounds more like a management/corporate culture experiment than a business, I still think there are a ton of great lessons that less altruistic businesses can apply. My primary takeaway was probably on Slide 17 of the presentation, the idea of "Committable Core Values": having a company mission that is actionable for every employee.
  • Economy Tech trends in 2009 by Mary Meeker (Morgan Stanley) – An omnibus presentation on the current economic climate and the high-level trends that will drive the technology industry in the near future. The first ~40 slides contain some really interesting data and charts on the larger macroeconomic situation and are worth looking at even for people not interested in the technology industry.
  • The Memefication of Your Band – A more pragmatic take on the entertainment-as-a-service concept focused on how musical artists can more effectively promote themselves. "Your band must invade the Perception Economy. Your Band must no longer be a band. Your band must be a meme. A Meme Which Generates subMemes. These memes must be compelling, intriguing, and interesting enough for people to ‘follow’ or at least think that you are ‘worth following.’"
  • High-tech Market Research and Consulting – Quantitative application of the Lanchester model, a WWII military strategy framework, to business in which market share is the proxy for number of troops. Interesting theoretical construct for understanding how players with differing market share should seek to compete in order to maximize their competitive advantage — i.e. smaller players should seek to segment a larger market into smaller pieces in which they can compete closer to market share parity while larger players should seek to compete in the broadest market possible to maximize the value of their dominance.
  • WordPress › WP Greet Box « WordPress Plugins – A very useful WordPress plugin that shows visitors to your blog a unique greeting message depending on the page they are visiting from. E.g. Ask users coming from Digg.com to Digg your post, etc.
  • Chat Catcher – An interesting service to help you track mentions of your blog posts across Twitter, FriendFeed and identi.ca and aggregate them back to your blog. The coolest thing is probably the 'Scriptless' version which can run on WordPress.com and other hosted blogs.
  • Viral Arts: Making you money… Virally – A potentially interesting service that matches YouTube video producers with brands willing to pay them for product placement.
  • The changing face of usability testing: Optimal Workshop releases free service called Treejack » VentureBeat – Basic DIY usability testing tools that allow you to test designs in the form of online surveys. Simple, elegant, and IMHO 80/20 effective (vs full-service usability testing software).
  • Why Bit.ly Will Upstage Digg – Definitely what I would be working on if I was in charge of bit.ly. While analytics were the initial draw for sharers to use bit.ly, recognition as an influencer could be a differentiator now that others like cli.gs and tr.im are commoditizing analytics for shortened URLs. I totally agree with Om that a bit.ly powered Digg (Bigg?) would produce much more interesting and representative results than Digg, which has come to be dominated by an idiosyncratic user community. Also, I think it would be foolish of Bigg to be reserved to bit.ly URLs. Why wouldn't they want share/click data from all the shortened URLs they can get it for?
  • Topspin » “Josh Freese. What are you doin’? This summer.” – Brilliant (and hilarious) showcase of how the internet can make even the way you sell your art part of the experience. Definitely worth the read! My favorite is the $10k package, which includes: "Josh takes you and a guest to Club 33 (the super-duper exclusive and private restaurant at Disneyland located above Pirates of the Caribbean) and then hit a couple rides afterward (preferably the Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror) / At the end of the day at Disneyland, drive away in Josh’s Volvo station wagon. It’s all yours … take it. Just drop him off on your way home, though, please."
  • Relationship Symmetry in Social Networks: Why Facebook will go Fully Asymmetric – Bokardo – A very interesting analysis of the difference between the asymmetric relationship model of Twitter (arguably pioneered by Flickr) and the mostly symmetric relationship model of Facebook today and why the reality of attention inequality is a barrier to Facebook's growth as long as they stick to symmetric relationships.

Delicious Bookmarks for February 19th through February 25th

These are my Delicious links for February 19th through February 25th:

  • HTML URL Encoding Reference – Handy table of the URL encoded values for ASCII characters.
  • A foot and a half: Finally, A Use for Twitter – Greatest Twitter story evar! I actually saw these tweets from @the_real_shaq while this was happening, now we get the backstory from the guys for whom they were intended. I <3 Shaq!
  • The Crisis of Credit Visualized – Astute, approachable, and just plain pretty animated explanation of our current economic situation. Oh, and did I mention INCREDIBLY FRIGHTENING!? Once you realize how simple, and thus fundamental, the underlying problems are, it becomes very difficult to believe in a quick or easy fix. Now, back to stuffing my remaining cash into my mattress…
  • How Freshbooks Built an Army of Passionate Evangelists on Twitter. How are YOU doing so? | Blog of Mr. Tweet – A great story from a company passionate about serving customers and building relationships with them (CRB = customer relationship building) and how they extended the reach of that passion through Twitter. Worth the read.
  • The Missing Google Analytics Manual | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Optimization Blog – A comprehensive collection of the most helpful links and videos to teach you how to get the most out of Google Analytics.
  • Coding Horror: Commandos, Infantry, and Police – Quotation of a legendary analogy from Robert X. Cringely’s “Accidental Empires” published in 1993. Cringely characterizes the successive waves of employees who staff a company through its lifecycle from startup to industry leader to incumbent as commandos, infrantry, and military police, respectively.”The [commandos’] job is to do lots of damage with surprise and teamwork, establishing a beachhead before the enemy is even aware that they exist. Ideally, they do this by building the prototype of a product that is so creative, so exactly correct for its purpose that by its very existence it leads to the destruction of other products. They make creativity a destructive act.”
  • Add Community to your Site with Triggit! – An interesting idea of using Twitter as a platform to create user communities for your site (a la MyBlogLog). The differentiator is supposed to be that the community discussions happen publicly on Twitter, thus driving more traffic to your site.
  • GroupTweet – Cool simple tool to create what are essentially Twitter group mailing lists. You set up a Twitter account for your group, register it with GroupTweet, and then it’s just a bot that RTs any DMs sent to the group account. In order for a group member to be able to post to the whole group, they need to be followed by the group account. And you can control who reads the group messages by protecting the group account’s updates. Simple, elegant, effective.
  • Analytics Talk » Blog Archive » Tracking Sub Domains with Google Analytics – Best article I could find on how to track subdomains properly in Google Analytics. Surprised they don’t do it right out of the box. But, these easy to follow instructions and screenshots will get you sorted quickly.

SaaS vs Shrinkwrap or Never trust a company not on Twitter

While eating lunch today, I started to think about the growing complexity of my company‘s expenses and decided it might be a good time to start looking at accounting solutions. The fact that my research began with a tweet is indication enough that I probably don’t fit anyone’s average consumer mold. But, I think some of the insights that came out of my experience are pretty fundamental and potentially extend beyond the ‘early adopter’ echo chamber.

First, I started down the conventional route by checking out market (and marketing) leader QuickBooks. Through some quick web searching, I found a few authoritative sounding comparisons that pegged QuickBooks as the best value for basic users (we’re just at the lower bound of even needing this stuff) — with the notable exception of the Mac version, which apparently gets less product development love than the Windows one. At $180, QuickBooks wasn’t really that daunting on the financial cost front. But, I was already starting to cringe on the usability/time cost side.

What I found myself really wanting was a web app (like Mint or Wesabe) for business accounting — something with a lightweight interface for connecting and organizing data from my financial services providers all in one place. And while I was researching products that might fit this bill, I started to think about why I had this innate preference for a web app (SaaS) over shrinkwrapped software. The business model of packaged software invites feature bloat, because it’s upgrade driven and you need to continually find ways to justify why Thingamajig 2009 Pro Edition™ is so much better than Thingamajig 2008 Pro Edition™. Software as a Service businesses have a much different (and arguably greater) challenge, they need to continue to create value for their customers month after month. Sometimes that value comes in the form of new features, but it doesn’t *have* to. So, you end up with a much more customer-centric product (what customers *know* they want after using it, not what they *think* they want before buying it — as humans are notoriously bad predictors of our own happiness) and a vendor who is truly interested in addressing your customer needs. So, unless there is an element of the problem a given software product is trying to solve that inherently benefits from the advantages of the desktop (i.e. local storage, access to the file system/peripherals, superior performance), I’d rather have the SaaS version.

The other thing that was on my mind when doing this evaluation was my incredibly positive recent experience on Twitter with the CEO’s of iPlotz and Balsamiq, both of which happen to be SaaS products. I realized that it really spoiled me and there’s no way I’m ever going back to the old regime of captive audiences and passive customers. So, my new rule is “never trust a company not on Twitter.” Now, that’s a bit reductionist — and, in Intuit’s defense, they are actually on Twitter (hi Alison 🙂 ). The real point is that today’s customer service equation needs to include how responsive the company is to your new product requirements and feature requests, not just how quickly they fix something when it’s broken or answer a question when you’re too lazy to read the instructions. As much as I appreciate Intuit’s presence on Twitter, I highly doubt Alison is able to change Intuit’s release schedule to get that new feature I want out to me sooner. By virtue of the packaged software business model, she is not adequately empowered to address my customer needs.

Through my research and a very handy post on my friend Leonard’s blog (thanks for the tip Carrie), I found two SaaS solutions for small business accounting: LessAccounting and Xero. They’re both about the same price ($~25/month), and Xero seems to have a slightly superior feature set (automatic syncing with your online accounts is a biggie). But, LessAccounting clearly had the edge in customer interaction. LessAccounting has a very active corporate Twitter account and both founders have personal accounts, they use Get Satisfaction and there are 4 topics on their Get Satisfaction page that have been updated in the last 24 hrs (I also checked out the activity on the Get Satisfaction accounts of both founders), and, last but not least, they have a sense of humor (be it a slightly mean one 🙂 ). Xero has a very active corporate blog and they seem to be quite responsive to their customers’ comments. But as a prospective customer, I would really like to have some better ways to interact with Xero than sending them an email or leaving a comment on their blog. (Update: Phillip from Xero responded in the comments that they do in fact have a Twitter account and an in-product feedback mechanism.) Get Satisfaction and User Voice are both great names, because when you use their products as a company that’s exactly what you do: give your customers a voice and the satisfaction that it’s being heard.

When shopping for SaaS, you’re choosing a partner in innovation. So, the future direction of a product is maybe an even more important consideration than the current feature set. And while LessAccounting can surely replicate Xero’s features, can Xero replicate LessAccounting’s customer-centricity? They both offer 30 day free trials, so I’m going to try both and make a decision in a month. And who knows, at $180 for QuickBooks Pro I may decide shrinkwrapped software is the more sensible way to go this time around (but, that doesn’t mean I have to like it 😉 ).

Update: Wow! This is starting to freak me out. I write these things to capture the distillation of the things I see out on the interwebs that I like and dislike, mostly for my personal benefit in thinking about my own business. I don’t do so really anticipating to hear back from the companies about whom I’m writing, but I guess I’ll just have to get used to this whole blogging thing 😉 .

Thanks to Phillip from Xero and Allan from LessAccounting for your responses in the comments and for engaging in the conversation. Phillip corrected me that Xero does have a Twitter account, which I updated in situ above.

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