I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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36 posts categorized "Online Communities"

October 23, 2008

Social Media Talk at CMO Club of Boston Dinner November 11

My friend Perry Hewitt, who is the CMO at Crimson Hexagon, kindly asked me to join her in presenting a talk titled "From Communications to Conversations: Understanding, Managing, and Embracing UGC" at the CMO Club of Boston dinner on November 11, 2008.

September 14, 2008

Pragmalytic Perspective Roundup

Been browsing a few of my MediaPost newsletter subscriptions. Here are a few good articles that reinforce our POV about the shift away from the digital marketing "Age of Evangelism" to the "Age of Analytics":

Skepticism about the advertising value of social media by Pat LaPointe in the Online Metrics Insider newsletter.

Good practical advice about testing from Aaron Smith in the Email Insider Newsletter on email testing, consistent with much of the advice we also offered here.

From Steve Smith's article in the Mobile Insider, some useful metrics on mobile browsing and mobile search in particular.

June 14, 2008

Re-Imagining Social Networking

Yesterday, Om Malik posted on the apparent plateau we've reached in the growth of social networking as a business.

My read:

  • For social networking to be really valuable, it's got to be really relevant to and really usable by a large number of people.
  • Today, these two conditions are true only for 15-25 year olds and for tech early adopters and evangelists (of all ages).
  • The way forward for relevance lies not in thinking "social-networking-out", but in "high-value-use-case-back".
  • The way forward for usability lies in "opt-out" vs. "opt-in" interface engineering.

Continue reading "Re-Imagining Social Networking" »

April 22, 2008

Picked Up On MITX Exchange

Octavianworld is now a featured blog on MITX Exchange.  (Thanks to MITX for the privilege, and especially to Dean Whitney for all his hard work building that site.)  I'm honored to be there, in good company, and hope to put back even a little of the lots I've learned through MITX people and events.

February 28, 2008

DylanMessaging: Viral Genius

This viral messaging campaign by Ten4 for SonyBMG's release of a collection of Bob Dylan's music last fall was enormously successful.  I've always loved the original video, and harbored ideas of recording my own version of it at home to kick off various presentations I've given in the past, but hadn't pulled the trigger.  Then I saw this (via Scott Kirsner -- thanks Scott!) and was really impressed.  The mind races to all the other similar possibilities, though doubtless there are intellectual property issues that weren't a problem here.

Reminds me of another viral favorite, Mr. Picassohead

October 01, 2007

One Social Graph To Rule Them All

It seems not a day goes by that I don't get an invitation to connect with someone on one social networking service or another.  It's all very flattering, but it's getting really hard to manage, especially as many of these services don't syndicate well, or at all.

In an ideal world, I could connect and interact with people and groups from a single interface.  Of course, different providers of these services would feel very differently about this.  Smaller ones would love to have this outlet as an alternative to almost-certain obscurity.  Bigger ones say, "I already got one, it's my world, and my users are just living in it, thank you very much."

Via Caroline Meeks and TechCrunch,  I just finished reading  Brad Fitzpatrick's August 17 essay, "Thoughts on the Social Graph".  Brad does a very good job of laying out the problem to be solved and how to go about solving it.  Better yet, he and friends are actually working on it.  With Google behind him, this is pretty serious.

Still, I wonder if it's a bridge too far.  Prediction:  with agents like Jonathan Miller and Ross Levinsohn at Velocity now out there trying to aggregate interesting web properties into networks with the minimal reach necessary to make them interesting to advertisers (i.e., moving them up from the AdSense basement I live in), we'll soon see "federated" APIs based on these individual properties' collective social graph emerge.  Why?  Because doing so will make it more interesting for advertisers to build their own versions of "Facebook applications" on top of these social graphs. 

Let's take an example.  Let's say mythical new age ad network "Travelamigos" goes out there and rolls out a bunch of small travel social networks.  People who use these networks are more likely to find and connect with buddies if they are connected across all relevant networks, not just bilaterally, so they'll find such a capability useful and be more likely to join the underlying services.  Advertisers will have a larger, better-connected user base not just to sell ads to, but also to develop services for.

For large media firms, who currently control and are expanding their own "social media" properties, aggregating and exposing such a "social graph API" would also seem to be a natural progression.

June 29, 2007

LinkedIn: Facing Reality

Many of us have been wondering for a while when LinkedIn would get around to opening up its API so others could take advantage of its networks of registered users to build applications  that could be spread virally through those networks.  Facebook has stolen a march on LinkedIn, first by allowing anyone to create a group, and most recently by exposing an API to allow others to develop applications that use its registered user base and networks -- or what they call the "social graph". 

Facebook applications have taken off like wildfire, and with this initiative Facebook has raised the "platform ante" beyond where Google, Amazon, and Yahoo had it (i.e., rich APIs and data sets to query through them, but limited networks of users) for anyone aspiring to build a large-scale web presence.  My favorite Facebook app, which I think best (most simply) demonstrates what Facebook has made possible, is the "Friend Wheel".  When I look at mine, I realize how many friends I still have to introduce to each other!  (Maybe what I need is a Facebook app that implements "graphic friendship" ideas...)

Now there's speculation about LinkedIn getting with the program.  Folks fret about whether the LinkedIn UI could handle the weight of a bunch of apps.  That's a red herring, IMHO.  Based on the relative rate of connection requests I've been getting in the last few days (4 or 5 to one in FB's favor), it would seem LinkedIn has no choice. 

But what's even more compelling about what Facebook's done, and why the imperative for LinkedIn is even more urgent,  is the economic opportunity it creates.  Everyone in the network can now make informed choices of apps to place on their profile pages, and a smart platform player will ultimately do a three-way rev share -- some for the member, some for the app developer, and some (ok most) for itself.  It will be interesting to see how soon Facebook gets around to this.

April 24, 2007

Think Viral, Act Tribal, Part II: What, Why, and How Memes Propagate

A while back I wrote down some ideas about viral marketing prompted by a meeting with an entrepreneur who was having some trouble executing a campaign.  Today, I came across a really interesting research paper, "Memes and affinities:  cultural replication and literacy education", by Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear, presented in November 2005 at the National Reading Conference annual meeting.  The paper is here: http://www.geocities.com/c.lankshear/memes2.pdf.

Continue reading "Think Viral, Act Tribal, Part II: What, Why, and How Memes Propagate" »

March 30, 2007

A Second (Life) Gold Rush

Things are booming.  Nearly US$5M exchanged in January, up from  US$235k in October 2005.

With the data provided by Linden Labs linked from here:


(The comments on this post are interesting, BTW)

I plotted this:


Short version:  Since October 2005, 40x more folks,  each spending 1/6 the hours, but exchanging 3x more  money per hour.

Postscript:  of course averages lie.  There are sure to be massive concentrations in spending, both in terms of who is buying (big businesses experimenting) and what is being bought (land, skins).   And these concentrations could be hints of a speculative bubble that will pop at some point, just like they do in the real world.  After all, what if big businesses buy islands and no one visits them?  They're unlikely to invest further, at least in the short term.  And what if users buy cool outfits, and still can't make friends?  Maybe they cash in those Linden dollars, buy some Ben & Jerry's, and crawl back to real world Saturday nights watching Love Boat reruns.  At least, until a Dale Carnegie for the 21st century emerges to help us with our virtual world social skills.

Perhaps in upcoming releases of such data, LL could include some of these "who's buying what" stats?  Won't be long I'm sure until we see firms cropping up that do all sorts of analysis on the SL economy.  (Related issue:  if economics is "the dismal science" in the real world, is it any cooler in virtual worlds?)

March 28, 2007

Graphic Friendships, Part III: The OpenACS "Collaboration Graph"

Gustaf Neumann, who teaches computer science at Vienna University,  has been a very important contributor and innovator in the OpenACS/ .LRN community in the past several years.  Recently he  has authored a very powerful wiki module, built with the OpenACS toolkit.  More recently he's integrated some other tools to deploy a  "Collaboration Graph" page he's published on the xoWiki instance running at openacs.org.  The tool graphs co-authoring relationships for wiki pages among OpenACS community members.  Here is an example that plots co-authoring relationships for my friend Caroline Meeks, and here is Gustaf's introduction on the OpenACS forums.

Continue reading "Graphic Friendships, Part III: The OpenACS "Collaboration Graph"" »