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Posts in the ‘Business’ category

17 Nov 2005

by Noel

Companies and Social Software

Interesting post by Grant McCracken on the impact social software will have on the corporation. He sees a struggle between the “Old Guard” defending the unified corporate voice, and the upstarts who want bring the messy reality to the corporation’s communication. I swear I didn’t read it before my most recent post but it confirms my thoughts.

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15 Sep 2005

by Noel

eBay acquires Skype

eBay to acquire Skype for over 2 billion (euros or USD). That is a lot of biscuits. I think you have to take this as a sign that war is about to erupt in the VoIP market, given Google’s recent entry. Now, who’s left for Yahoo to buy?

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26 Aug 2005

by Noel

Google’s Business Plan

How the heck does Google manage to stay in business? has some interesting speculation on Google’s business plan for Google Talk. Giving away software for free, building market share, and only then trying to find ways to make money does seem to be a viable business plan for today’s technology companies, but it takes courage, or deep pockets.

I’m on holiday next week, so postings to Untyping will slow down from their usual languid pace.

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24 Aug 2005

by Noel

Talk Gets Cheaper

Google has just released Google Talk, which is an IM client (not very interesting, though it does use the Jabber protocol) and an internet telephony service (much more interesting, though only a Windows client is available).

In the Voice over IP (VoIP) market Skype is king at the moment, and it is what we use to communicate between all the members of Untyped. However Google has the clout to seriously challenge Skype. Two important steps by Google: they are supporting the open SIP protocol, and actively seeking to integrate their service with other VoIP services such as Gizmo Project, giving them potentially a much wider reach than the closed Skype protocol. It looks like this market is going to get very interesting in a hurry. Now where are the phone companies in all of this?

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16 Aug 2005

by Noel

Content To Go

Blogs are a good way of building reputation, but many of us are too busy to write regularly. As more commercial organisations get into blogging it should come as a surprise to find there is now a company that will out-source your blogging.

The plan is pretty simple: you give them some cash, and they hire a small army of Chinese people to create content for your blog. It’s a bit like the old monkeys-and-typewriters gag: given enough monkeys and enough typewriters, eventually one of them is going to produce Shakespeare. If the plan is simple the ethics are substantially more murky, though in the final analysis it isn’t too different to contracting out press releases to a public relations firm. The difference, I think, being that people have an expectation that blogs are written by those personally acquainted with that which they write about.

I do like this post. Apparently the writing style of teenage girls is easy imitate, but Super Bloggers are proving more difficult, where Super Bloggers are defined as “bipolars, cynics, liberals, outcasts, super-hip”. I’ve already shown my dislike of Coldplay, but I don’t think I have the requiste 5% self-loathing to crack this exclusive group.

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22 Jul 2005

by Noel

Podcasting and Implicit Feedback

Podcasting is going to save the world … if only we could find something to listen to!

Tyler Cowen writes on Marginal Revolution:

The key question is what kind of aggregators will take off … The relative returns to “portal podcasts” will be lower than for portal blogs. Glenn Reynolds can read and process material faster than most people, but no one can hear a two-minute comedy routine in much less than two minutes … So you won’t find good podcasts through other podcasts to the same degree, since it is harder to serve as an effective portal. The sorting will work less well, and the categories will be harder to describe and communicate. Advertising will matter more, and institutions such as iTunes will have more influence over selection and content. Podcasting will be more in hock to MSM than are blogs.

The two most prominent podcast portals are Odeo and iTunes. Unfortunately they’ve got it wrong. Both iTunes and Odea organise podcasts into categories, but as Tyler points out the categories aren’t that useful. For example, let’s say I want to listen to some new music. Right now there are only 692 channels under the Odea music tag. That is a few too many to listen to. If I try to be more specific and go to the Indie tag there are 92 channels. This is better but still not great; the term indie covers everything from whiny boys with guitars to stuff I might be interested in hearing. So perhaps Tyler is right and podcasts are doomed.

Or perhaps not. As I posted earler, implicit feedback is much better than explicit categorisation. If you want to see how great implicit feedback can be in the music arena, look no further than If I like, say, Mouse on Mars then correctly guesses I like Plaid, Autechre, and Aphex Twin. All is takes for to work is a little plugin that tells the site what music you’re listening to. Could the same technology work with podcasts. Of course! Problem solved.

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14 Jul 2005

by Noel

Pricing and Differentiation

Tom Evslin writes a great post on the importance of pricing, and in particular not under-pricing oneself:

I won an argument with an IBM SE on the very
good grounds that I was more expensive than him; my
recommendations for system changes were implemented
(grumpily) and some of them worked. We got a much bigger
consulting job after that which I’ll probably blog about
some day because it’s an interesting story.

The moral for today is one that every maker of luxury
goods already knows: price can create a perception of value.
As a consultant, you need high perceived value or no one
will give you the time of day let alone their watch. And,
if you don’t have the respect you need to get information or
to have your recommendations tried, you can’t succeed.

It’s a good point. Particularly when starting out, and
overheads are low, it is very tempting to sell on the basis
of price. We’ve done so in the past and the results have
been bad: the client hasn’t respected our time and
has given us the run-around.

If you’re in this situation you’re probably thinking
“if I raise my prices all lose all my
clients!” Particularly in fields such as web
development, where there is so much competition, this is a
valid concern. So what to do about it? Well let’s think
about why high prices work. As Tom says, it is because of
the perception of value they create. Which is to say it
seems to the client that your high-priced service is better
than the competition’s lower-priced one. There are many
other ways to give the client this impression. For example,
you can write articles that show the breadth and depth of
your learning. As you’ve probably guessed, Untyping is just
such as effort. Management gurus call this differentiation,
and the more competitive the market the more essential it

So there it is. You can’t charge high prices if the
client thinks they’ll get the same service from your
lower-priced competitors. You must differentiate yourself.
Paradoxically price indeed is one way to do this, but in
many cases not the best way, and can be deterimental if you
haven’t already established a reputation in other ways.

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