User Acquisition in the Era of App Platforms panel at TiEcon tomorrow

If you are going to TiEcon, then come by to our panel in the morning tomorrow. Dave McClure is moderating.

Panel description: From entrepreneurs working on new applications to established firms looking to gain scale, effective customer acquisition strategies remain of paramount importance and vital to success. The massive scale of application platforms today combined with the acceptance of modularized content/functionality have resulted in new options for those looking to crack the consumer adoption nut. What are the pros and cons of an apps only strategy? What are the best practices around a hybrid website/app approach? And, is there still such a thing as a website only strategy? Join us as we bring together an exciting panel to revisit the ins and outs of customer acquisition.

Panelists are David Hornik (August Capital), Net Jacobsson (Former Facebook), Jason Oberfest (MySpace), and yours truly.

I think Dave asked me to be on the panel because I represent the “Don’t just be on apps” perspective. While SlideShare has a multi-pronged strategy (we are on all major platforms where professionals are), but we have chosen to focus on the slideshare.net and build it upto to be a destination site. To some extent, its because of timing. We launched SlideShare before Facebook launched its platform, and MySpace was never suited to us. So we did not have a choice. If I launched an app now, then I would consider launching on Facebook and other relevant platforms.

However, I do think there is something to be said about embracing the biggest platform out there: the WEB. On the app platforms, often you are dependent on the vagaries of the platform. One day, Facebook might change the rules on you. Also, the advantage you get from platforms depends on when you launch on them. Early facebook apps had an unfair advantage which later apps did not.

What do you think? Platforms / web / both?

Slumdog Millionaire: Brilliant yet flawed

Finally watched Slumdog Millionaire. Really enjoyed it – it was an energetic, well directed journey. The child actors especially played their roles brilliantly and made you love them.

The flawed aspect was the over dramatization of slum life. Jamal as a child encountered pretty much every bad thing you hear about slums (riots, child beggar exploitation, prostitution, slum lords). You could see how the movie was catering to Western audiences, to every stereotype about India – you could see the calculation that for an Indian movie to do well in the west, it has to tell a certain story. (Its not a coincidence that the after Salaam Bombay (which is also about life in slums), this is the next movie about India to break out into the world stage.)

It did break out of that mold somewhat after the middle when the focus was on Jamaal’s life as a young man, with life as a chaiwala in the call center. I think the first half of the movie could have been been much less dramatic and still managed to get across the range of life experiences picked up by this child from the slums.

But in spite of the pandering, the movie had a certain joi de vivre. Every moment of the movie was enjoyable. The music (by AR Rahman) was brilliant. India has been in love with his music for many years now, but this is his entry to the world stage. Overall, a lovely movie, less pandering next time please.

Blogging on the weekends

I have been missing blogging. Someone pointed out that my last post was Nov last year. Thats too long ago. But I also know that I don’t have a moment during the week to blog. Twitter is about all I have time for during week.

So from now on, I am going to become a weekend blogger. Will try to do at least one post every weekend. (this one does not count).

And Happy 2009!

At Web 2.0 Summit

Its been a while since I was at a conference (startups often get you into hibernation mode). But I am really enjoying Web 2.0 Summit. I participated in Guy Kawasaki’s TechHunch Thrifty panel (Guy comes up with the best names). He invited a bunch of startups (Disqus, RescueTime, InfinityBox, Posterous, PollsEverywhere, MightyQuiz and SlideShare) who started with little or no funding. It was a fun panel. I enjoying demoing SlideShare and seems like at least a few of you enjoyed the demo.

Now at Incubator 2.0 panel.

If you use SlideShare and have a question, comment, idea, please come by and say hi.

VEOH decision about copyright

Its a good day for social media sites – a judge just threw out a case against Veoh (the video sharing site) and ruled that such sites are protected under the safe harbor law provided they do the below things. Copyright is a of concern to anyone running a social media site and this ruling is welcome. Copyright has not been a really big problem for SlideShare. We get the occasional DMCA and act on it immediately. Sometimes content uploaders are really upset when they approach us, but usually calm down after our swift response. We are lucky that the content owners in question are not the music companies!

TechCrunch’s analysis of the ruling is that as long as video sharing sites (and I am extending that to presentation sharing sites) do below, they are protected under safe harbord provision.

– Let users know that they should not upload copyrighted material. (we point this out)
-Act immediately DMCA takedown notices (we try to respond within 24 hours)
-Use technology to detect copyrighted material (we dont do that, but we do have community flagging mechanisms for pointing out copyrighted materials)
-Control infringing users, especially repeat offenders. (we do this)
-Most importantly, the court ruled that sites don’t need to check every video. This is important – there is no way we could check every file that is uploaded.
-Most of the content should be non-infringing (this is definitely true for us – we receive complaints for a very small proportion of content – much less than 1%)

Shifting to wordpress.com

My blog was down for past few days as my wordpress.org blog got hacked. I simply don’t have the time or energy to manage it. So, I am shifting to wordpress.com and hoping I can import my old content into it. Hopefully I will blog more often now.

Online editing will take a decade, but its time for sharing office docs

With all the hype around Google docs, it’s good to finally see some stats about their market penetration. TechCrunch today reported results of a survey conducted by NPD: A 73% of Americans have never heard of web-based Office suite (e.g., Google Docs), 94% have never tried one, and only 0.5% have actually switched to one. The survey results don’t surprise me. In fact, I would have guessed that even fewer people would have tried / heard of a web-based Office suite.

In a year of running SlideShare, we have realized how particular people are about the end look & feel of their Office documents (especially their presentations). If SlideShare does not render an image or a font, or messes up some graphics/charts, then our users tell us about it!. We get complaints about the particular shade of purple, and the title that does not look quite right. Makes sense, people work hard on their documents and they want the finished product to have a certain look and feel. I have tried several online Office authoring apps and while they are great when I need to collaborate during the creation process, the latency is annoying when you are working on the document yourself, and the application feels hopelessly limited when you are in the final (production phases). I have used Google Docs & Zoho for word and spreadsheet documents with some success, but was not able to make much headway with Google Presently because the look and feel are much more important for presentations (and no, I don’t see Presently as competition – reasons are described below).

This has been our hypotheses to begin with – that the tools and mindset are not quite there for large-scale shift to online authoring of Office documents. But there is no such barrier to sharing of documents online. SlideShare was the first office document sharing site on the web. We started with the premise that people want a quick and easy path to sharing their presentation documents. And so far, it seems like people do want to do that (look at SlideShare stats below).

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BayCHI panel on Advertising User Experience on Tuesday, October 9th

This Tuesday’s BayCHI program should be very interesting. We will focus on different types of online advertising including post rolls, overlays, and content as advertising. The focus will be on what types of advertising users find intrusive, what they are are willing to put up with and engage with, and what new types of advertising we are likely to see.

Panelists include Jeremy Liew from Lightspeed Venture Partners who focuses frequently on advertising on his blog. Ted Rheingold from Dogster will talk about his experiences managing advertising on community sites, Heath Row from Double Click will focus on content as advertising, while Joe Hurd will share Video Egg’s experiences with video advertising.

Go here for more information, and optionally RSVP here. BayCHI programs are free and open to the public, so come by!

Vote for my panel: True stories from Social Media sites

I submitted a panel for SXSW: True stories from Social Media sites. Guy Kawasaki will be helping emcee the panel. Yes really! If you would like to hear about some of what goes behind the scenes at such sites, then vote for my panel. We will ask people who run and participate in such sites to come up and give their true stories.

Also, Jon also submitted a panel about AJAX and Flash mistakes. He will talk about some of the false turns and dead ends one can run into while using rich web technologies. Learning about mistakes can be educational and fun! More fun than the drab story of untempered success. Vote for his panel here.