Month: March 2008

Beyond the Forest: OpenID and the bigs, all hat and no cattle

It’s no surprise that Portland is rapidly becoming one of the de facto hubs for OpenID evangelism and development.

Scott Kveton, the chairman of the OpenID Foundation now calls Portland home. Portland-based JanRain is a leading force in the OpenID development effort and new Portland-transplant Vidoop is also coming on strong. If Beer and Blog is any indication, we’re all interested in getting more use out of OpenID on our blogs. And having the opportunity to sit down with David Recordon, the vice chair of the OpenID Foundation, is something that’s appealing to quite a number of us.

And while the big companies that we often encounter one way or another—Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL—have all claimed to jump into the OpenID pool, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is beginning to wonder if this isn’t all a bunch of OpenID lip service. Or to put it bluntly: Are the bigs all hat and no cattle?

The problem, though, is that the Big Four Internet companies that I mentioned above have made big press announcements about their support for OpenID, but haven’t done enough to actually implement it. Microsoft has done absolutely nothing, even though Bill Gates announced their support over a year ago. Google has limited its support to Blogger, where it is both an Issuing and Relying party. Yahoo and AOL are Issuing parties only.

This is a tenuous position at best. For as much ground as we can cover from a grassroots perspective, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to get anyone—beyond early adopters—to take on OpenID without the support of some of these bigger entities.

Without the bigs, there is no OpenID tipping point.

But the funny thing—not funny “ha ha,” but funny “sad”—is that all of these gigantic companies are struggling with one very similar issue that would be partially—if not completely—solved by an effective implementation of OpenID: bringing acquisitions under a common login credential.

Yahoo! throws its acquirees’ respective user bases into turmoil every time it asks them to move over to a Yahoo! ID. Google takes years in its struggles to get everyone on the Google credential system. Microsoft and AOL are no different.

To me, it seems obvious that OpenID could solve this issue, now and for the foreseeable future. And I can’t be the only one seeing that.

As hard as it may be for them to accept it, the bigs need to move away from their proprietary credentialing structures. They need to embrace concepts like OpenID and OAuth for what they can do to solve their problems, today.

In short, they need to let go and let OpenID.

For now, the jury is still out on when and how the big company momentum will fall behind OpenID in terms of something more than spin and lip service. But let’s hope that day is soon approaching. For all of our sakes.

I can tell you one thing: from a grassroots level, Portland is sure to be leading the charge. And we’re not going to slowing our OpenID fandom anytime soon.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 24, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

Beer and Blog: Scott Kveton on implementing OpenID on your blog

Justin Kistner writes “This week Scott Kveton is going to help us understand the ins and outs of OpenID and how to implement it on your blog. I know @turoczy will be excited about this because we wants OpenID back on the comments form for SiliconFlorist. “

Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks at Fast Wonder Blog

Yummy Yahoo! Pipes hacking from Dawn Foster. All in one convenient place.

Startupalooza is Saturday, March 29th at Legion of Tech

Don’t forget to RSVP for Startupalooza being held this Saturday, March 29th from Noon until 6:30 at CubeSpace!

SplashCast: Daily Stats

Tom Turnbull writes “We are wearing it on our sleeves at SplashCast. This new addition to the site looks great and provides a great look into traffic volume.” And I have to agree. I really appreciate SplashCast providing this view into the numbers surrounding their product. Very cool.

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 22, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

Matt King’s TwitterWhere is dead. Long live TwitterLocal!

Matt King writes “TwitterWhere is now TwitterLocal. It’s hard to find a name that hasn’t been taken, but I think I’ve finally nailed it. I couldn’t get TwitterLocal.com, someone registered it and put up a useless placeholder page. But now at least I’m not stepping on any toes.”

pdxdog

A Ning-based social network for dog lovers in the Portland Metro area to communicate, meet each other and share great resources. It is looking to become a “go to” site for creating groups, sharing tips and ideas and great products.

BumperStickr

Two words: bacon bumperstickers. Need I say more? Just stumbled across this site from Eugene. Not sure it really qualifies as a “startup” but they’re speaking at an upcoming OEN event, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Portland widget startups on the cusp of something big

Portland is well-known as an creative town. Especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. It’s hard to avoid the moniker with a powerhouse like Wieden+Kennedy in town.

But, anyone who lives here realizes that it’s not just W+K. There are marketing and advertising agencies and boutiques of every size dotting the Portland corporate landscape.

Within that environment, it’s not surprising that marketing and advertising wend their way through the culture of the city. Lately, however, I’ve begun to see this marketing influence popping up in a rather unexpected—but extremely interesting—space: Portland’s Web startups. Specifically those startups that focus on widget development.

It seems that the heretofore lowly widget is taking on the role of something more than a cute small-footprint app. It’s beginning to appear that it may be more than just a way to serve up some content, remotely. Today, in fact, it’s becoming clear that the widget is starting to take on a very important role in the world of marketing communications as one of the most tangible means of interacting with customers.

And two Portland startups on the leading front of widget development have the potential to capitalize that trend.

Earlier this week, Portland-based SplashCast revealed that the company’s Facebook widgets for popular recording artists were outperforming traditional online advertisements. Well, that might be an understatement. SplashCast pegs that performance at “75 times better than the clickthrough rate of traditional banner ads.

Now, to put that in context, SplashCast is seeing about 3% clickthrough rates on those Facebook apps. And that 3% is 75 times better than banner ads are performing.

But, the dismal downfall of banner ads as a format is not the focus, here. The point is that banner ads are an accepted and prevalent format for advertising that don’t hold a candle to the performance of widgets.

Later in the week, SplashCast continued to tout this finding by beginning to describe their apps, not as widgets, but rather “social advertising”:

SplashCasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users.

Social advertising. I might have left it at that, had not another Portland-based widget-building startup taken a tangential and complementary position on the issue.

That startup is StepChange (conspiracy theorists may begin churning on the “companies named with a capital ‘s’ and capital ‘c'” theories, forthwith), a small consultancy that both develops widgets for a number of customers and has some widget-based side projects in the offing, as well.

StepChange is beginning to notice a similar trend. And StepChange’s insight only lends credence to the position that SplashCast is taking on the world of widgets:

While we’ve done some basic Flash/Feed widgets, most of our design and development work has been on Social Media Apps that function more like true “applications” – with our clients requiring a relatively high degree of administration, content management, targeting reporting and integration.

I think these kind of ‘super-widgets-turned-applications’ need a better name, so I’m going to start calling them Distributed Marketing Applications.

In my opinion, the position that StepChange and SplashCast are taking is one that makes absolute—if not completely obvious—sense: social media marketing should be, well, social.

Social media is about interactivity. And feedback. And conversations.

Traditional online advertising—with its dancing gifs and whack-a-mole come-ons—just isn’t cutting it anymore. Traditional advertising is not, for lack of a better term, “interactive.” It’s one way. It’s broadcast.

And those who are deeply engaged in social media are hesitant to consume—if not completely avoid—those grating and annoying advertising formats, leftover remnants from last century’s dotcom failures.

Today’s Web consumers are wanting more. And they’re wanting something with which they can interact.

Widgets—and by extension Portland’s widget developers—offer that interaction for users. They offer something more than broadcast. They offer the potential for communications that are far more interactive.

To put it quite plainly, widgets offer us a form of marketing communications that we, as those being marketed to, “can actually do something with.” And if Portland’s widget developers can crack that code for the untold billions interested in interacting with us as customers, then they stand to have marketing and advertising executives beating a path to their door.

StepChange’s Kevin Tate makes a bet:

I’m also willing to bet that, as more and more companies look to extend their existing sites and services into Social Media, we’re going to see a significant market need for these types of platforms.

I’m beginning to agree with him. And I’m excited to see Portland continue to serve its role as a creative town. And, as a leader in marketing and advertising for what could truly be the next generation of ads.

Smart-ups: OEN Eugene chapter

The Oregon Entrepreneur Network (OEN) has announced a new group that has sprouted out of its fledgling Eugene chapter: Smart-ups.

Smart-ups is a new entrepreneurial support group in the Eugene/Springfield area. We’re a local chapter of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) based in Portland, OR.

The new group will take charge of hosting a series of Pub Talks similar to those the OEN holds in the Portland area on a regular basis.

Caroline Cummings, CEO of OsoEco—whom you may remember from this year’s Angel Oregon—started the Smart-ups group. She talked to Eugene’s The Register-Guard about the inspiration behind the group.

“We know there are entrepreneurs in this community,” Cummings said. “What happens is they end up starting up their own little Yahoo groups, or they meet at coffeehouses, and they don’t realize there’s a lot of support out there, like the chamber, like the university. That’s what Smart-ups is all about — pulling all of these groups together.”

Sounds like a common problem. It will be interesting to see how Eugene goes about solving it. And I’ll be sure to keep track of what they’re doing.

For more information, see Smart-ups.

New Feature: Silicon Forest Job/Gig board

It’s officially Spring. And Spring is always a good time to plant some new stuff.

As I strive to make this site more useful for both the folks who are trying to create startups here in the Silicon Forest and the folks who are interested in following those startups, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: there are a lot of people looking for other people to help them.

And sometimes, they’re looking for people to work for them.

So I thought it might be helpful to launch a gig board of sorts. And then I posed a hypothetical question on Twitter. And the response absolutely convinced me it was the right thing to do.

So, I scrambled to create the Silicon-Forest-startup-oriented job and gig board.

Now, it’s not terribly pretty (neither was this blog up until a short while ago), but it is functional.

In the interest of time, I decided to use a canned solution for the proof-of-concept. Call it an agile mentality or use Guy Kawasaki’s phrasing. Either way, it seemed best to get it out there so we could start gathering requirements. But I would like to build something custom that better meets your needs.

So please bang on it, and then let me know what features you would like to see. And if I can’t accomplish that with the canned solution, I’ll work your ideas into the custom solution I’m planning to commission.

Oh, and at this point the job board is completely blank. Which is sort of detrimental to the whole “job search” thing. And, really, who wants to be the first to jump into the pool? [Update: Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick (Web designer) and MyStrands (Community Manager – Evangelist) for taking the plunge!]

Well this may help. Until the end of March, anyone can post up to three jobs completely free of charge by using the discount code “earlybird” at checkout.

What have you got to lose?

Now, I know many of you have more than three jobs to post. And the “underwriting the Silicon Florist” survey directed me to get creative about finding ways to fund the continued development of this site. So, I’ve started the cost of a job posting at $50 for 2 weeks.

That seems reasonable without being exorbitant. So, let’s see how that goes.

Again, I’m looking forward to your feedback. And I’m hoping that we can make the Silicon Florist Job and Gig board a valuable resource for all of the startups here in the area.

Don’t forget “earlybird” gives you a chance to try it out for free. So please do.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 21, 2008

 

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

Aaron Hockley will be breaking down WordPress 2.5 for us at Beer and Blog

Justin Kistner writes “If you don’t know, WordPress 2.5 is kind of a big deal. It will be significant WordPress update. Aaron is saying he’ll convince you to switch to WP if you don’t use the WP already.”

MyStrands is the Best Multimedia Application!

Corvallis-based MyStrands Social Player has won the Mobile Rules! Award 2008, a leading annual competition in the mobile world, as the Best Multimedia Application. The Mobile Rules award ceremony is taking place in San Jose right now.

Grading Gartner and Forrester

Sam Lawrence has been a client of both Gartner and Forrester since January and has provided an interesting report card of the two analyst firms. Lawrence, CMO at Jive Software, a collaboration and community software maker, had the following key takeaways

Promoting Portland and strutting our stuff

Michael Richardson writes “The Silicon Forest is becoming more and more relevant; the torrential sucking of investor money that Silicon Valley has inflicted upon the rest of the nation is fading as more and more startups are popping up in other places – and yes, Portland is one of them. We’re doing good things here, and the pace is increasing. The community is finding itself which is only increasing the momentum. We need to show off this talent. We need an interactive festival.”

Linux Plumbers Conference 2008

The Linux Plumbers Conference was created to provide a forum for communication and problem- solving for issues which are system-wide and cross project boundaries. This community event includes both invited guests as well as open registration, gathering 300 stakeholders, decision makers and developers. Linux Plumbers Conference 2008 will be held September 17-19 in Portland.

Vimeo: Finally, A Reason To Use Facebook

Patrick Moberg writes “The main benefit to you is adding a Vimeo box on your Facebook profile to showcase up to date streams of videos you upload, like, and appear in. This allows your Facebook friends to see the videos you put on Vimeo.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley CEO (part 1)

There was a timestamp issue with the original post that created this page. I apologize for the inconvenience. You can find the article, here:

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley CEO (part 1)

Silicon Forest claims two of the largest Web 2.0 investments in 2007

Earlier this week, I tried to shoot a hole in news that the “Web 2.0 sky is falling” by highlighting that Web 2.0 investments may be down in the Silicon Valley and Texas—but Web 2.0 venture amounts are up practically everywhere else, including the Silicon Forest.

Today, TechCrunch continued to take a look at the slowing:

In 2007, the median deal size was $5 million, up 22 percent. And the median pre-money valuation was $10 million, up 66 percent (from $6 million in 2006). Both deal size and valuation for Web 2.0 companies remained below the average VC deal across all industries ($7.6 million and $16 million, respectively)

But again, there’s a silver lining to this Silicon-Valley cloud. For us, at least.

Take a look at where the top investments landed. Lo and behold, there are two Silicon Forest companies on the list. Corvallis-based MyStrands appears on the list twice with nearly $50 million combined investment, and Portland-based Jive Software appears courtesy of their $15 million round, last year.

This is the kind of news that begins to put Portland and the entire Silicon Forest on the map. It’s news that, hopefully, makes the venture capital community take notice. And maybe, just maybe, the type of news that motivates those investors to take a second look at the Rose City technology scene.

I can’t wait to see what 2008 holds for our local companies. But the bar has been set. And I hope to see more than two of our companies on the list, next year.

(Hat tip Jeff the Great)

SplashCast “social advertising” tees up $4 million

Man oh man. With all of these Silicon Forest startups attracting funding, it’s about time I establish a “graduating class.” And here’s one of those startups that’s definitely in the running for Salutatorian, if not Valedictorian: Portland-based SplashCast.

First, the funding. Because that’s the real news here.

SplashCast announced today that it has secured $4 million dollars in Series A funding, led by Mark Bayliss, an Australian (remember the Australia trip not too long ago?) media and advertising executive veteran of some of the world’s largest advertising and media companies who runs in the same circles as fellow Aussie and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Emergent, an emerging growth investment fund also with strong ties to advertising and consumer brands, was a follow-on to the round.

I asked Mike Berkley, SplashCast’s CEO, to put this funding—and the organizations providing it—in perspective for me.

“What does this mean for the company?” said Berkley. “The relationships that Bayliss and his partners bring to SplashCast gives the company a monumental step-up in social marketing.”

Which bring us to my second point. I’m a marketing geek. So, let’s talk about SplashCast’s newest take on their positioning. Or better yet, let’s not use some stupid buzzword. Let’s talk about how SplashCast is describing their product as of late.

If you haven’t been watching SplashCast, this probably would fly right by, unnoticed. But, I’ve been watching these guys ratchet down on the language they’re using and their efforts to make the product more attractive to a broader big-media advertising market. They continue to make definitive changes in describing what they do. And they seem to be honing in on something new.

SplashCast started in user-generated content. Then they moved to more of a “branded content” sort of play, building custom apps for big names like Justin Timberlake, Britney, and Hillary Clinton. Now, they’re directly positioning themselves as an alternative to what—as silly as it sounds for me to describe it this way—can only be referred to “traditional” online advertising models.

SplashCast calls this new focus “social advertisments.” I call it “advertisements that actually do something.” But regardless of what you call it, they’re pushing this message very strongly as of late:

[SplashCast’s] New Social Marketing Solution Viewed As Breakthrough For Advertisers Looking To Reach Users On MySpace, Facebook & Other Social Networking Sites

And:

Splashcasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users. SplashCast’s video-based social advertisements on average receive click-through-rates that are about 75 times higher than typical banner advertisements used on MySpace, Facebook or other social network sites.

This seems to be their new home: taking on traditional online advertising. And that puts them directly in the sites of some very big players.

Now, some may look at these recent changes and cast aspersions. Claiming that this belies a lack of focus.

In my opinion, these changes don’t seem to be wishy-washy or “searching for a problem to solve.” These are simply the pains that any growing company goes through as it works to figure out where its true market lies.

And there’s a very clear reason that the messages have been moving in that direction.

You build a product based on your ideas and passion. You tend to build a company based on what people will buy.

And given that SplashCast is securing funding and landing customers with this new positioning, it only makes sense—from a business perspective—that they continue pursuing this stance.

I, for one, will be continuing to watch them.

For more information on the funding and social advertising, visit SplashCast.

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