Crowdalytics and lean startup metrics: Gemini Round Table in Israel

logo-geminiWe’re headed to Israel for IGT09, and while we’re there, we’ll be meeting some of Israel’s startups. The folks at Israeli VC firm Gemini have set up a two-hour session entitled Crowdalytics and lean startup metrics on November 30, as well as one on cloud computing on the 1st.

The overall focus of the session? Startup acceleration and community monitoring. Startups need to learn fast from their mistakes, and they do this best when they have a complete perspective of their online presence. Today, that presence extends far beyond their own website, out into the communities and platforms of the web. We’ll look at analytics for lean startups and the emerging field of community monitoring, and discover how watching the web can help fledgling companies build the right business faster.

A bunch of local firms are going to be there, including EyeView, Mintigo, Collecta, Outbrain, TwitWit, Footbo, Ekoloko, Clicktale, and Confidela. Bitcurrent collaborator and Syntenic CTO Dan Koffler will also be joining us.

Why elasticity, performance, and analytics will change how Webops is judged

I got to Velocity this morning, and Jesse asked me if I wanted to get on stage for five minutes to talk before lunch. Given that I’m doing a session in the afternoon called What The Rest Of Your Company Knows About Your Website, I figured I should make something new.

One of the things that’s abundantly clear — echoed in presentations from Shopzilla, Google, and many other excellent speakers — is that performance matters. It affects your conversion rates; it even changes your Search Engine Marketing ranking (which was news to me.)

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Marissa Mayer at Velocity09, and Google's quest for speed

I’m at Velocity in San Jose. Just got in last night, and I wish I could have been here for the whole thing. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest congregation of people who make the Internet work, in one place, for one subject. Jesse Robbins and Steve Souders, along with O’Reilly, get an amazing group of people together. Even the chat in the speaker room this morning was skimming the top of my forehead.

It actually feels like cloud computing and web monitoring are converging very quickly. It’s increasingly obvious that performance, user experience, and revenues are inextricably linked. Microsoft and Google covered this in a joint presentation yesterday, and by now, you’vep probably heard about the number of results Google shows. They tested the number of results that should be shown on the first results page, then tested them.

As Google’s VP of products Marissa Mayer points out, users wanted 30 results. But when they turned this on, they saw a 25% drop in searches on the site!

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Complete Web Monitoring at Enterprise 2.0

Just finished a one-hour dash through web monitoring from a community manager’s point of view. The slides are available as a PDF; while this deck deals somewhat with the business of monitoring communities, it also looks at how to tie those communities back to business outcomes in analytics and how to take a more holistic approach.

Plus, it has my new favorite image of a community gardener in it. It’ll get me yelled at.  Here’s the deck.

We’ll have more stuff like this over at www.watchingwebsites.com.

Google prepared to put all the meat in the spit

I wrote a piece for GigaOm on the gradually forming Google strategy for applications. Here’s the short version: Google Apps + App Engine + Chrome + Marketplace = Appexchange for small businesses.

The piece got referred to in a post by Enrique Dans, who blogs in Spanish. Naturally, I wanted to see what he’d said in the post, so I figured I’d put it into Babelfish and get a translation.

Sometimes the Internet says it better than you can: “Google has had 95% good news and is prepared to put all the meat in the spit.” I might stop and reflect on just how much technology was involved in that — writers in two countries, RSS feeds and linkbacks, translation.

Nah, putting all the meat in the spit is just awesome.

Why I like my data near my logic

I use an email client on my iMac. When it can’t get to the server, it still works. But sometimes, on a slow day with an unreliable network like the one I’m on right now, I don’t realize that I have mail waiting for me. The disconnect between by client-side logic and the server-side data camouflages the fact that the network isn’t working.

By contrast, when I use GMail’s web interface to read my mail, I know when I have new messages. Because Google controls the processing (on its servers) and data (right next to them) the two are connected. No camouflage there: If the network sucks, I know it.
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Amazon's new CDN: More than just footprint in Asia

Amazon’s rolling out an extension to its S3 storage offering that will help move content closer to users, reducing WAN latency. “Using a global network of edge locations this new service can deliver popular data stored in Amazon S3 to customers around the globe through local access,” announced Amazon CTO Werner Vogels on his blog. Om beat me to the punch on this one and has a great writeup, too.

The service gives Amazon a much-needed footprint in Asia, but also serves notice to CDN companies that the days of long-term, minimum-rate, negotiated contracts and favored pricing are nearing their end.
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Sitting on the frontlines of the Chrome rollout

Within hours of Chrome’s release, many companies were reporting operational issues. This might seem strange: Chrome is supposed to be leaner, faster, and better. But some of those improvements meant headaches for people running websites — and for those monitoring them. We sat down with Gomez CTO Imad Mouline to look at his company’s experience with the Chrome rollout.

Following its launch, Chrome rocketed to roughly 1% market share practically overnight, according to some sources, and although its use is tailing off a bit, this was a significant enough change in traffic to cause problems. “Small differences under the hood of the browser can lead to big issues in application delivery,” said Mouline. “For example, Chrome has a different connection profile with up to 6 connections per host” which increases TCP session concurrency. “The use of millisecond timing for the Javascript setinterval function also causes issues.”

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What Kitchen-Aid taught me about cloud computing

If you’re even slightly interested in utility computing — the move towards on-demand, pay-as-you-go processing platforms — then Nick Carr’s The Big Switch is a must-read. You may not agree with everything he says, but his basic thesis is compelling: Just as we went from running our own generators to buying electricity from the power company, so we’re going to move from running our own computers to buying computing from a utility.

Because I spend a lot of my time writing, I’m constantly trying to out-guess the future. And something I’m obsessed with right now is appliances. Not virtual appliances, or network appliances, but simple appliances like pasta makers, bread machines, meat grinders, blenders, and so on.

If you look at the history of the electrical industry, the businesses that became interesting immediately after ubiquitous power was available were those you could plug into it. Generators were boring; but fans, irons, and fridges were really, really cool.

I touched on the topic back in May at Interop (there’s a Slideshare of the deck here on Bitcurrent.) And I think it’s worthy of a lot more consideration because, well, Costco had a sale on Kitchen-Aid mixers.

My wife is an extraordinary cook and an even better baker. And she’s long lusted after a Kitchen-Aid. They’re something of a cult, with a powerful motor, a custom-fit bowl, and dozens of attachments. Most people are happy with a hand-mixer, or a whisk, but there’s an obsessed segment of the market, the Really Serious Home Baker, full of those who simply must have a Kitchen-Aid. So this grey, intimidating, vaguely Cylon-like appliance dominates our countertop.

The Kitchen-Aid is at its core a motor. Its most common use is as a mixer, whisk, or dough hook. But it has attachments that can grind sausage, make ice-cream, roll pasta, shuck peas, and so on. It was conceived in an era where motors were expensive, and attachments were cheap. Here’s a great photo of a precursor to the modern Kitchen-Aid.

Today, motors are cheap. We don’t even think about them. We build them into everything, which is why gift tables at weddings are festooned with single-purpose appliances. And the Kitchen-Aid is the workhorse of near-professionals who demand a 600-watt motor that can tug even the toughest foods into submission.

User interfaces are the modern equivalent of appliances. Until recently, the Internet’s user interface was a desktop computer. Connecting to the Internet was a lot of work for a device: Network signaling, properly rendered graphics, keyboard and mouse, a display with enough resolution, and so on. It required a dedicated machine. The “motor” was expensive, the attachments were cheap. So we put many applications on our PC: Mail, Instant messaging, games, document viewers, file storage, mapping software, videoconferencing, and so on.

But all that has changed. We now have set-top boxes, game consoles, PDAs, cellphones, book readers, SANs — hundreds of devices, all able to access the Internet, all purpose built. That PC in the room is increasingly the jack of all trades, and master of none. The motor is cheap; the attachments matter now.

There are things the PC is still best for: Workstation tasks, like graphic design or software development. But if you want to understand the future of consumer electronics and user interfaces when CPUs are ubiquitous, consider what happened to kitchens when the motor was everywhere.

Self-powered appliances were all about convenience and portability: You don’t have to set up, dismantle, and clean your Kitchen-Aid every time you want to do something, and you can use an immersion blender single-handed over a hot stove-top. In other words, while many cooks crave a Kitchen-Aid, few use it to grind their morning coffee.

We still have to deal with gadget sprawl. Just as everyone has spare hand mixers and blenders secreted away at the back of their kitchen cupboards, so we’re struggling with multiple devices and seeking a way to reduce them. Certainly, high-end PDAs like the Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile devices or the Nokia N95 are tackling this challenge.

It’s also important to remember we’re not just dealing with physical devices, we’re dealing with information. Having multiple blenders isn’t bad–it just wastes space. But having multiple gadgets, each with a part of your digital life on it, is horrible. Which is why synchronization and architectures like Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Google Apps/iGoogle, and Apple’s Mobile Me are so important: It’s not just about decentralizing the physical interface, it’s about decentralizing the information.

When I talk with people about cloud computing and SaaS, I’m always surprised how little mention is made of mobility and ubiquitous computing. To me, these are as big a driver of on-demand platforms like Amazon Web Services or Google App Engine as any of the cost savings or fast development cycles that a cloud can offer.