Excellent Idea, Jason!

For as much crap as I’ve given Jason Calacanis over the years – ramped up most recently over “the Winer incident” at Gnomedex (I won’t link because I don’t want to focus on it and because this post is supposed to be positive), I have to give him my endorsement on his latest Mahalo idea – a Mahalo Ombudsman.

An Ombudsman is an intermediate go between, often used in the military as an ambassador from the military to the families of military members. In the Mahalo context, an Ombudsman would be someone who has a significant following in the tech/media blogging world and would monitor Mahalo’s search pages for neutrality as well as answer questions for the community.

Personally, the latter should be handled by the company as a whole. Jason should answer community questions. That aside, I can live with an Ombudsman doing it.

I’ve said of Mahalo that it would not work because Jason has a personality that has already polarized much of the blogosphere. The reality is that stepping out of the spotlight and allowing an Ombudsman have the spotlight would do wonders for disassociating him from the service which I still think is necessary. If folks see Calacanis in Mahalo, bad things will happen. But if folks see Mahalo as another tool to effectively search, research and find resources then the product is a winner.

This is a fantastic first step.

As critical as I have been to Jason (I resent that the one time I met him in person, I was an ass too!), the man is smart and I believe he recognizes the problem at hand and is sincere about addressing perceptions (or misperceptions, if you will).

I’m still not convinced about Mahalo, but if an Ombudsman were to be in place, I would be willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Hell, if I had the following that guys that he wants had – like Scoble or Jeff Jarvis, I might take it as an opportunity to look for my next job. Fortunately for b5media, I don’t have that following. :-)

Sink or Swim: Six Companies that Might Make It

This past Friday, I had the privilege of being on a “Future of the Web” panel at New Media Nouveaux outside of Washington, D.C. It was a lot of fun and certainly a necessary kind of event if the capital region is going to make any real strides in the area of social media.

One of the questions that was asked revolved around which companies or individuals were important to watch for the future. I shaped my answer in a Sink or Swim kind of mode. Companies who would sink into obscurity or make it in an industry that has as many newcomers, it seems, as we had in the late 90s and few are actually making it to an exit or IPO.

So as a recap and an elaboration, let me outline three companies that will sink and three that will swim.

Yahoo – Sink
A couple of weeks ago, I had several stories about Yahoo! and the woes they were encountering. In that time, their CEO has left, they have closed several of their businesses including Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Personals. This is more indication of what is to come as they slim down to an acquirable state. Yahoos failure was not in vision, but in execution. Many missteps along the road took them out of the lead position to upstart Google, and their seemingly blind navigation through the internet world post-1998 just makes me think they aren’t going anywhere but straight to the acquisition bin.

Twitter – Swim
Twitter is only a couple, six months old. They are not a big company and they may not have a business plan. However, their amazing ability to lure new users to the world of micro-content is nothing short of amazing. Twitter’s base principle “What am I doing now?” seems shallow in its focus, however look deeper and you’ll find a whole new world of connectivity between blog posts. Before blogs, we had magazines and newspapers and you had to wait until the next day to find out what someone would write – and then those someones were”qualified” journalists. Then there was blogging which gave the average person the opportunity to write a couple times of day. Twitter takes that conversation into an even more granular state of the “in between” times. Half global instant message, half blog, half forum, half marketing platform – Twitter has the bases covered. Despite upstart competitors like Pownce and Jaiku, none have the weird charm that Twitter does.

Plus, Twitter takes the internet into untethered space allowing folks to use the service via text message. That is very Web 3.0.

MySpace – Sink
No need to rehash this, Myspace is dead.

Facebook – Swim
An open platform, an open motif for all kinds of guerrilla and viral marketing, Facebook will not only become the destination for friends and colleagues – it will become the platform of choice for marketing.

Mahalo – Sink
Something about “human powered search” doesn’t sit right with me. It seems old and antiquated. It seems irrelevant. It seems like too big of a task to have relevancy in. Why should Mahalo work? If it does, it will only because Jason Calacanis is a very smart man. Beyond that, the entire concept is crazy.

ConceptShare – Swim
My good friends up in the great white north, ConceptShare, are definite swimmers. Scott Brooks called me this morning to thank me for mentioning them. Quite unusual to get a call thanking someone for a mention, but that demonstrates how smart these guys are.

ConceptShare takes the idea that collaborative design is tricky over email with comments and feedback sometimes having questionable results in the end product, and mashes the collaborative process into a single web application. With ConceptShare, a designer, photographer or videographer can upload “concepts” to the application, and contributors can comment with drag and drop comment threads linked to portions of the piece. This is particularly interesting in video where 2:35 seconds into the video, there is a color shift that seems unnatural and a contributor thinks that the video producer should edit that one 10 second section. See the power?

ConceptShare has been used by b5media, in full disclosure, for several of our design projects including our version 2 template that is deployed across the network. Very powerful. These guys laughed at me when I predicted they would be acquired by Google – but I think it’s coming.