Dude, where’s your Facebook app?

This is the new line in parties. Its replacing “whats your Web2.0 startup?” At a recent party, everyone had a Facebook app, many had multple Facebook apps. Some were still working on theirs (the laggards!). This is the new land grab. If you want to be noticed, then hurry.

I had heard of this entrepreneur in the making, an ambitious woman planning an eBay of services. Recently I heard that she had changed tack and was working on a vampires and werevolves application for Facebook. I went to a conference to hear RockYou speak and learnt that their most popular application was “Horoscopes”. Another friend has launched several facebook applications with the latest being “Am I Virgin or not” application. He is thinking of several more along similar lines.

Its viral for viral’s sake. The point is not to create a cool, useful app and make it viral. The point is to create an app that is viral to begin with. The logic often seems to be – “once I get all the Facebook users using my viral game, I will use that to lure them to my website/other application“. And how will you make money? Who knows? As Paul Kedrosky puts it, Silicon Valley has never cared about revenue anyway :->

So what’s your Facebook app?

Designing Slidecasting: a new multimedia format for the web

When SlideShare launched it was a place to share PowerPoint on to the web. TechCrunch called it the “YouTube for PowerPoint”. And while it was not my choice of words, I did not disagree! Yesterday, we moved beyond that initial description. SlideShare is now a place to share and create a new multimedia format: Slidecasts!

Slidecasts are a mashup of slides with audio. As it was pointed out time and again, slides by themselves can feel bare. Our users wanted to add voice tracks, music etc.

We did not just want to add audio to slides. We wanted to create a multimedia format suited to both creation and consumption on the web. What does that mean? The main developer on the project Kapil and I debated this time and again. We were inspired by the philosophy of “small pieces loosely joined“. For video, the visual and audio stream are generally recorded together. For Slidecasting, we wanted the multimedia format to suit the nature of the web, where multiple streams (slides and audio) can be loosely or tightly coupled.

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The SlideShare karoake randomizer

Fun project of the week was to work on a karoake randomizer to help you use SlideShare to run a ppt karoake event. You enter a tag from slideshare. It grabs all creative-commons licensed slideshows for that tag. If the slideshows allow download of the original file, it shows that link. All you need are some volunteers for presenting!

The SlideShare Karoake Randomizer is the first tool that uses our just-released API. We are open sourcing it so that you can use it as you like. Its available on our new API site SlideShareToys. And the code is available through Google code hosting.

The SlideShare Karoake Randomizer will be used for the first time today at the Creative Commons Salon in San Francisco! If you are in SF, come by this evening to Shine and watch the pptkaroake in action. Or maybe volunteer to present to a random slideshow. I am told that a critical element of pptkaroake – beer will be available!

Guy Kawasaki, Hal Varian and Ross Mayfield are SlideShare advisors

All of them have been informally advising us for a while and I am thrilled that they are joining our board of advisors.

Jon and I met Ross at one the early BarCamps and find him a great mix of a pragmatic entrepreneur and deep thinker. He has been involved with us from before the launch (in fact, he was one of the first people we showed SlideShare to. He got the concept immediately). His advise has been invaluable.

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Ads, low-fat yogurt, ads and women’s bodies

There I got your attention, didn’t I? A post about a yogurt ad campaign on a friend’s blog caught my eye: Its almost an anti Dove’s real beauty campaign – the message being “forget it, men’s preferences will never change. So eat light yogurt”. Advertising campaign is from a Brazilian yogurt company. Interesting discussion follows. (yes, I did find some of the women in the advertising campaign very beautiful).

[via Ana].

PowerPoint Karoake at Creative Commons Salon on July 11th

If you missed the PowerPoint Kaorake at etech this year (I wish I had been there). Or if you were there and want more, then come by to the Creative Commons Salon in San Francisco on July 11th. Danny O’Brien will moderate the event. SlideShare is helping pull it together – actually, the only thing we are doing is to build a randomizer for randomly pulling slideshows for the event! (Ya, that’s a fun design project!)

Slideshows will be pulled from ones that have been shared with a Creative Commons license on SlideShare. If you want your slide deck to be considered, then upload to SlideShare, tag it “pptkaroake”. Also make the original file downloadable. If you plan to come by, then RSVP to this upcoming post for the Creative Commons Salon. For a great description of PowerPoint Karoake, go to Heathervescent.

Google buys Zenter (or the online powerpoint space heats up)

I am taking a break from reading blogs, techmeme etc. (try it sometime – its like having a mini-holiday without going anywhere), so it took an email from a friend to find out that Google bought Zenter, another one of those Paul Graham startups. Zenter was focused on online powerpoint authoring, with some community features. There was speculation on TechCrunch that this was an HR buyout – that they just wanted the team, while VentureBeat thinks its for Zenter’s browser based editing and polling features.

I think its curious. Eric Schmidt pretty much demoed Google’s PowerPoint clone at Web 2.0 expo. Why buy another PowerPoint company when their own app is almost ready? What did Zenter have that the Google PPT clone did not? I can speculate (and have some theories), but we will find out soon.


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Talk at Yahoo research tomorrow: The perils of popularity

I am giving a talk tomorrow at Yahoo Research Labs titled “The perils of popularity“. There has been a lot of excitement about how web-based social systems harness the wisdom of crowds. I want to challenge that notion. I also want to challenge some of Chris Anderson’s assertions about the long tail. Anderson contends that with the democratization of the tools of production and distribution and ability to reach niches with tools like Netflix and Google, the era of hits and manufactured pop is over. I think that the mechanism for creating hits is shifting from studios to the large scale social systems like YouTube and the rules for how content rises to the top. Instead of manufactured pop like N Sync, we have hits from teams like lonelygirl who best understand how to use that medium.

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Following a mashup to its roots: Shift Happens

In following the RSS feed about the SlideShare contest winners, I realized that the winning slideshow is a mashup and started following it to its roots. The winner jbrenman clearly acknowledged that his contest entry is a stylistic rendition of Karl Fisch’s original presentation, so I had always known that. But as is the case with many mashups, I had not spent time tracking the creation to the original. As I started following links, I learnt that Karl Fisch is a teacher who created the original Shift happens powerpoint. Generously, he shared both the original powerpoint file and the mp3 that goes alongwith. In his blog, he also talks about how he came to create the presentation to get the faculty thinking about this new world that their students are entering. (Shift happens is about the paradigm shift in America’s changing role in the world). He also discusses the statistics that he cites in the presentation (acknowledging that his presentation itself is a mashup of ideas and statistics from many sources).

This is fascinating. I could go on stepping back in tracing these ideas. So who is the original creator? Is there an original creator? Is the question even relevant?

Thanks to Karl for sharing. Your presentation rocks (here is a link to his original ppt file). Thanks jbrenman for your stylistic interpretation. Its brilliant (embedded below).

This adds to my belief that powerpoint is the ultimate mashup medium. If you think about it, most presentations are mashups – a collection of facts, opinions and pictures put together under the creative lens of an individual.

Upcoming talk on Office 2.0 and the social life of office documents

On May 8th, I have been invited to give a talk at San Francisco State University by Prof. Sameer Verma. Its a class on Multimedia Business Application Development. For a while I have been wanting to talk about Office 2.0, but never seem to have the time to write the talk itself. On a whim, I decided to write the abstract and send it on. Now, I have no more excuses and have to get the talk ready by May 8th! So, I will be spending the weekend writing and working on the slides. Below is the abstract. References and suggestions about this topic are welcome. And of course, I will post the slides after the talk!

Office 2.0 and the social life of office documents

Traditionally, we have thought of office documents as files that get created, edited and saved to our hard drives. On collaborative projects there might be emailing back and forth. But documents mostly spend their lives on our personal hard drives, within an idiosyncratic mess of folders and subfolders. In this talk Rashmi will examine what Web 2.0 means for office documents with a focus on presentation files. She will discuss how office documents are being liberated from the confines of the hard drive. They can be born in the browser, letting multiple people work on the same document at the same time. Once created, they are no longer confined to our hard drives, but accessible to anyone with a web connection. Documents get linked, tagged and shared on the web. Large scale sharing and social networking around these documents makes the documents useful to more people, and means we can find them when we need them. The social life of documents just got a lot more interesting!