Is the page view dead?

There are two reasons that make it increasingly difficult for page-view to be a good metric to compare across sites. First is in-page ajaxy activity. For example, on SlideShare you can download powerpoint file, add slideshow as a favorite and comment without going to another page. The second reason is related to consumption of multimedia content such as video and slideshows. A user might watch a slideshow for a while without impacting page views in any manner.

What can replace the page view? Neilsen moved from page views to time on site as a core metric last July. Now they say that the impact has been greater for video sites than sites with a lot of ajax. A new web metrics startup Nuconomy measures things like number of comments, downloads etc. to track engagement.

At SlideShare, we are starting to use “No of clicks per visit” as a measure of engagement. I like it more than time per visit, since it gives an index of activity on the site. At the same time it takes the multimedia viewing and ajaxiness of the site into account.What do you think about “No of clicks per visit” as a metric?

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office: there we go again

ReadWriteWeb wrote an article yesterday about why Google Docs is a threat for Microsoft Office. Someone called Karim posted a long rebuttal which is its own post now. Makes for some interesting reading. The discussion in the comments breaks into the typical anti MS or anti Google camp.

In my own experience, Google docs is useful for different reasons than MS Office. Yesterday, I created a Google spreadsheet to track a weekly column on Slide Design that we are planning for the SlideShare blog. I want to share the information with the rest of my team, the spreadsheet is not heavy (it has very little data), I don’t need any fancy formatting. Google Docs was perfect for that.

The day before I spent almost the entire day in Excel crunching SlideShare numbers, creating charts. There is no way I could use Google Docs for that. Its a lot of data, lot of charts and a lot of manipulation of data. Any type of network latency will be annoying. Also, I use many advanced Excel features that I am sure Google Docs does not support.

Google Docs is useful, but I don’t see it taking over MS Office anytime soon.

Review for Blame it on Fidel

We have been on a kick for watching French movies – Blame it on Fidel; was the latest. It is told from the perspective of a 9-year old girl who questions everything. Its the 1970’s in France. She lives in a nice house with a nanny and garden which comes to an abrupt end when her uncle is killed by the Franco regime in Spain. Her father, overcome with guilt (he had fled Spain a few years ago), and mother who is a journalist, get involved in a movement to get Allende elected in Chile. And while her parents are getting more involved with the “communist” movement, her Nanny who has flown Castro’s Cuba is filling her head against communists. So the name: Blame it on Fidel.

The movie is the first one by Julie Gravas, daughter of the leftist Italian director Costa Gravas. I read in reviews later that there is an autobiographical thread in the movie (the questioning daughter and the father with leftist sympathies).

I enjoyed the movie – Anna, the main character is a precocious child who argues about everything with her parents (reminded me a bit of myself as a child a bit – I remember exasperated looks my father would give me). But its her process for coming to terms with what’s happening around her, for the leftist friends of her parents who hang around in the living room waiting for the election results in Chile, for the rallies she is taken to where they get tear gassed, for the women her mother is interviewing as she writes a book about abortion.

Open letter to Matt & Toni: Three ways for WordPress to become more of a social network

WordPress.com is growing at fast pace. Its not quite at the Facebook, MySpace level, but at the rate it is growing, it could clearly get there. It has some of the elements of a social network, but these elements tend to be implicit rather than explicit. I think WordPress could grow even faster and replace some of what people get out of sites like Facebook if it became a little more of a social network. The question is how it could do this without changing the current character of the community too much.

Others have also noticed that wordpress has some of the attributes of a social network. Chris Messina thinks of it as a distributed social network. I am building on that theme. Like Chris, I like the openness of WordPress. It fits the nature of the web. I like the fact that its person-centric. And I have also observed that for a object-based network like SlideShare, the main place for embedding our widgets is not Facebook, or MySpace or Orkut – its WordPress. So you could say that I am selfish in my desire to see WordPress grow!

WordPress does have the basic ingredients for social network. Spaces for individuals (their blogs) within a larger social system (WordPress.com) and ways for people to connect with each other (by linking, commenting, blogrolls). What WordPress does not have is the social glue to pull the disparate community together and give it more of a community feel. Here are three ways that WordPress can get more social glue.

Wordpress icons1) Make it easy to navigate via users: Right now you can navigate from user to post to user, or from comment to user. It would be easy for WordPress to change this and make it possible to go from user to user in a much more fluid manner. A specific example: on the front page of wordpress.com, they show the user icons next to blog posts in the News Department area. The user icons should point to the About page for that user. As a rule, user icons should always point to the About page for that user.

2) Standardize the “About” page: To the best of my understanding, there is no standardized profile page on WordPress. But every social network needs a profile page which has information about the user and includes a browsable list of contacts. The About page can service this purpose – it needs to the central place for information about a user and their contacts.

3) Create a standard list of contacts: Social networks need a way for each person to have browsable list of contacts. I don’t think that WordPress needs to have a “Add as contact” button like most social networks. There are many implicit ways for people to make social connections on WordPress (blogrolls, commenting, linking). Any or all of these could form the basis of an inferred list of contacts (this idea will need to be fleshed out).

There are other things that WordPress could do to create more of a community feel. For example, create WordPress groups. People express identity and form affiliations by creating / joining groups. Groups could be based on topical interest. Location based groups also might work well – letting bloggers from a certain location easily find each other.

I think the challenge for WordPress would be to do this without losing the current feel. But with a few subtle design and technical changes, wordpress could do this … the basic ingredients for a social network are already in place. And I think Matt and Toni are upto the challenge.

What the Yahoo-Microsoft deal might mean for startups

There has been a lot written about what a Yahoo-Microsoft deal might mean for startups. Most of it is focuses on how it takes out two out of the three players who compete for buying startups. Yahoo and Microsoft will be preoccupied for a little while, to say the least. I just saw a contrary viewpoint from Marc Andressen and find myself in agreement with him. Marc points out that the triumverate (Google, Yahoo & Microsoft) are not the only ones who do the acquiring. He lists Amazon, AOL, CBS, Cisco, Viacom and several other acquirers. So its not as if the startup M&A market is suddenly drying up. Second and more importantly, he points out that building a startup to get acquired is foolishness anyway. And to want to get acquired by particular companies is even more foolish. I often meet entrepreneurs and realize that they are hoping to flip their startups in a year or two, and turn a neat profit. In fact, when I heard Paul Graham speak at FOWA, that seemed to be his message as well. The picture he painted was of two twenty-year olds who build something, move to Silicon Valley, live on Ramen noodles and flip the startup in 2-3 years. If that is your model, then you will mourn the preoccupation of the two potential acquirers (especially if you were targeting them for the flip). But if are focused on really building a great product and a great company, then this does not change anything.

For SlideShare, we made a decision early on that we want to change the way that people share presentations, and build a great company. This news did not change anything for us.