Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Aaron Brazell

Words that Need to Die in 2008

First of all, Happy New Year everyone. Now that we’re into 2008 and folks are heading back to work, I sincerely hope you are settling back in. I still have a long way to go, even though I’ve eliminated over 1000 unread emails and have about 450 to go. I figured it was time for a break to write this entry.

Lake Superior State University came out with their annual list of Words to be Banished from 2007. It’s always fun to read these and cringe when you see words that I use. Words and phrases like “organic” or “[blank] is the new [blank]” (I wrote two posts of the latter variety last year – i is the New e and g is the New i. Guilty as charged.

I’ll follow suit and list some of my own choices for words or phrases to be banned. Note that some of these can be found EASILY at the Web 2.0 Bullshittr.

  • Hyperlocal: the idea that a site or service focuses on geographically local results or interests.
  • Verticals: businesses describe verticals as tightly focused markets that show potential for growth.
  • Conversation: Loren Feldman said it best.
  • Ecosystem: a word that I admittedly use a lot. Ecosystem describes the way blogs, social networks and communities evolve together. An unbalanced ecosystem is one where something comes in and destroys the status quo that we all are comfortable with
  • Evolve: I used it above. Point made.
  • Widgets: Does anyone really understand what a widget is anymore? A widget is not a “thingy” as it has become understood. A widget is not any sidebar module. A widget is not a LinkedIn badge. A widget is a piece of third party, or more accurately external, code that displays interactive information. Or take Red Hat’s definition if you don’t believe me.
  • Social Graph: Stop, stop, STOP!

What are your nominations for words of 2007 to be banned?

Aaron Brazell

Leveraging Yesterdays Technologies for Tomorrows Innovations

Perhaps I’m getting old fartish, but I’m mildly disturbed by some of the “innovations” that are coming out these days. It once was cool, but now it’s just getting obnoxious. Take Cumul.us for instance, a service I just discovered today thanks to my friend Frank Gruber over at Somewhat Frank. This service tries to take the Twitter meets Facebook approach by asking what the weather is like now, and pulling in friends to figure out what everyone is wearing. I’m sorry, but I don’t see value in this iteration of social media.

Since when does anyone ask other people what to wear? I check out the temp and figure out for myself if that hoodie is going to get use or if the tee-shirt from Lijit is going to see the light of day. This is not rocket science, and it certainly does NOT need a social network built around it – at least not funded (and to be fair, I have no idea if they are).

I pick on Cumul.us because they are fresh in my mind, but they are not the only company doing stupid things. But let’s not focus on the negative. I’m certainly a fan of services and technologies that bring real life usefulness to real life people in very real senses.

The trick, in my mind, to a valuable company, is in using yesterday’s technologies to bridge the gap to tomorrow’s innovative new services. These are the valuable services. These are the ones I want to latch on to and evangelize. These are the ones that, if I were an investor, I’d be tossing money at. The bridge to Web 2.0 was on the back of billions of dollars of investment in fiber optics during Web 1.0, which allowed us the bandwidth to have the rich applications we enjoy today.

So let’s look at some successful companies that have real life application, that were built on the back of yesterday’s technology.


Utterz is a viable player because it is based on the cell phone. You know, the thing that came out in the mid 90s that is attached to everyones hip today? Utterz allows you to call a phone number, leave a message similar to what you would do on any voicemail system, and then publish the message to the web, in various places. That’s a useful way for an everyday kind of person to experience today’s web.


Twitter is a great crossover from another mid-90s technology, Instant Message, as well as text messaging into the great wild of the microweb. Again, Twitter is a valuable tool that builds community on the back of technologies that we have all enjoyed, and in some cases come to rely on, in an everyday world. Twitter is sticky among common users (and trust me, it’s more than just us early adopters using Twitter) because the obstacle for mom and dad is non-existant. Since everyone has a cell phone, everyone can use Twitter – regardless of if they even have internet access.

It’s even possible to have engagement in the Congo, where few people have internet access, but the wireless telecom industry is booming. That’s actually useful.


Tripit is a valuable company with real world application because, let’s face it, just about everyone rents a car, takes a flight somewhere or stays in a hotel and it’s really damn hard to keep track of all those confirmation emails. Then you have to print them all and trifold them so you have a thick stack to take with you just to keep you on track with what you’re supposed to be doing and when.

Tripit offers absolutely ZERO obstacle to use. Not even an account. One will be created for you automatically if you don’t already have one. Simply forward your confirmation email from U.S. Airways (or any airline itinerary, hotel reservation, car rental, etc) to plans@tripit.com and looky, you now can login with your email address and print your itinerary. Travel alot and have lots of confirmations emails? Forward them all. Tripit is smart enough to organize them.

Tripit was built on old world technologies – email and confirmation sheets. Everyone understands these, but Tripit makes sense of it and helps everyday users save hassle, headache, time… and for the green among you, paper!

The challenge for all innovators is coming up with the idea no one has thought about and doing it in such a way that anyone, and I don’t mean early adopters, can use and immediately benefit from. Lots of cool gizmos out there, but if there’s no real world value it’s just noise. We need less noise.

Update: After re-reading this several days later, I realized that it sounded like Tripit was only for US Airways. I was using that as an example. Any airline confirmation email, hotel reservation or car rental can be forwarded. I’ve updated the entry too to reflect that.

guest blogging

When a Brand Fades

 Today is the New, New Internet Conference, the biggest web 2.0 conference on the Eastern Seaboard this fall. More than 800 attendees are expected. The roster of speakers is impressive. The conference will focus on the larger business aspects of the new Internet economy.

Though I am one of the speakers, I will be in the lobby working during the opening keynote (as well as the first session).  Why?

aol_logo1) I need to get some work done. And 2) the opening keynote is AOL’s Vice Chair Ted Leonsis. And I just don’t think he or the AOL brand is that relevant anymore.  In short, this was one of the sessions I could most afford to miss.

Look, AOL does have some great things going on. My fellow panelist Frank Gruber for one. And no one can deny how powerful TMZ is in the gossip side of things.

But at the same time AOL the brand has faded, it’s lost its luster. And that’s because it’s not really dominating much, and its leadership — like Leonsis — seem to be following, not creating earth shaking vision.

For many, including me, AOL just means dial-up.  And that’s because the brand promise was safe, easy dial up access for so long it’s permanently etched into my brain. This is in spite of the many things AOL is doing in 2.0. And is it any coincidence that one of its most successful efforts is branded TMZ and not AOL?

Perhaps it is me, but wouldn’t all of AOL’s current social media efforts benefit from a re-brand.  I just think the dial-up legacy kills it. As a result the company seems to be fading. What do you think about AOL’s efforts?

guest blogging

Rant: Silicon Valley Fenetics

Yes, intentionally misspelled. Phonetics.

Phonetics and mashup are all the rage in Silicon Valley web 2.0 start-up naming conventions right now.  When it was Digg, FaceBook and Skype, this was different.  It was cool, fresh and neat.  You could not help but ask yourself, what’s that?!?

Now, it’s not cute anymore (‘sup Pownce and Jaiku!). Instead it signals, “Oh, another 2 dot-bomb.” OK, maybe we’re not there yet, but you get the point.

Branding gurus are charging clients tens, hundreds of thousands for not-so-cheeky plays on phonetics or slamming two words together.  Read TechCrunch, and you’ll find posts littered with examples:

Out of the three of these, there’s only one I like: TasteBook. Why?  Because it tells you or at least gives you an idea of what it does.  TasteBook allows Shazam-Poster-C10097475users to create and order custom hardback cookbooks (“tastebooks”). BTW, that’s what a company name is supposed to do. Tell potential buyers, partners and investors what kind of business it is.

One must wonder how much longer this latest naming fad will continue.  And if you don’t think it’s a fad, how many eGoofy cos and .bombs can you name in five seconds? Pets.com, eHarmony, eLuminant, etc., etc.

P.S. As a result of this rant and as a tribute to Doug Haslam, I’ve decided to rename my PR firm Shazaaamr.

Aaron Brazell

Calling Maryland Area Internet Startups

If you represent or in some way are connected to internet startups in the Maryland or Washington, DC area, I’d very much like to talk to you. I’d love to hear what you are doing, get a demo if you are prepared to do so, and discover (and share) more of what is happening in this area. I’ve noticed in recent months that the area has quietly grown very active and I’m interested to find out more of what is happening out there.

Aaron Brazell

Safari OS To Become the New Standard

I was not one of the folks who had the pleasure of being at WWDC07 today, however I followed closely what was being said through the variety of websites who were live blogging Steve Jobs’ keynote.

I was expecting a little more in the way of announcements today but got very little of that. Cool insight into what Leopard will look like in October and much needed improvements to .Mac. The biggest “read between the lines” moment came when Jobs announced that there is no SDK for the iPhone and, in fact, Safari 3 would be released for Windows (available for free download now for both Mac and Windows users) and would be deployed in its fullness on the iPhone.

What does this mean? It means that Apple has single handedly created the OS of the future and it is Safari. Notably, don’t ignore Google who seems to be Apple’s latest bed-buddy, and is poised to benefit the most from this move – particularly since there has been long standing rumor of the Google OS which has been vaporware so far but could very well blossom on the Safari Platform.

Yes, I did say Safari Platform. If the “read between the lines” moment was the intuitive announcement that there is no SDK for the iPhone and, in fact, web apps are the means of deploying iPhone software, and in fact Safari will be available to the vast majority of folks, there is no reason to believe that Safari is not the new OS platform.

“We have been trying to come up with a solution to expand the capabilities of iPhone by letting developers write great apps for it, and yet keep the iPhone reliable and secure. and we’ve come up with a very sweet solution,” said Jobs.

This capability is being exposed through the full version of Safari that will run on the iPhone, said Jobs, using Web 2.0-style technologies like AJAX that will enable developers to create content that “looks and behaves exactly like apps,” integrated with the iPhone and iPhone services.

“They can make a call, they can send an e-mail, they can look up a location on Google Maps,” Jobs added for emphasis. What’s more, distribution is simple because developers can put them up on their own servers, update the code themselves, and incorporate the built-in security that Web 2.0 applications provide.

“They run securely on the iPhone, so they don’t compromise its reliability or security. And guess what? There’s no [software development kit]. You’ve got everything you need, if you know how to write apps using existing Web standards,” Jobs said. (Macworld)

There is no barrier to entry to building software for the next generation smart phone and considering that the iPhone is locked into only AT&T here in the U.S. as the sole provider of the device for the next 5 years, it’s not unreasonable to assume challengers from other manufacturers and providers will emerge. In fact, Verizon Wireless is already talking about their own device in the fall.

If the challenger devices don’t have the same features as the iPhone, how are they challengers? Expect new mobile browsers that display “the real web”, and perhaps even device that ship with embedded Safari (don’t know the legalities of that so feel free to correct me on that!).

If Web apps are the future, there’s really no reason to assume that everyone won’t follow suit and that *ahem* Google *ahem* won’t be marketing Gmail, Documents and Spreadsheets, YouTube, Google Calendar and the plethora of other web based software that is already available to smart phone users.

Before you know it, Apple and Google will have created the world’s first OS in such a format.

Your thoughts?

Aaron Brazell

Open Letter to Google, Feedburner

Dear Google Executives:

I think it’s very interesting how you have chosen to acquire FeedBurner. I think it’s a wonderful investment for you as you can further solidify your offerings.

For instance, you’ll have more reach into feeds to push your Google ads via the FeedBurner Ad Network. For you, this is a fantastic opportunity.

As your mission is to index all the data in the world, to have a window into feeds and how those feeds are consumed in a multiplicity of environments is literally huge. We know that publishers aggregate their feeds and collection of feeds in a variety of different ways, so for you, this is good.

From a platform perspective, your relatively powerful invasion into data presentation with so many major accounts like Dow Jones, AOL and even b5media is nothing but genius.

I write this letter to you, though, as an account holder. Not just an account holder, but an Enterprise account holder. b5media currently powers over 200 blogs through your newly acquired service. We use it to aggregate channel feeds and power various aspects of our network.

FeedBurner is an important partner. Google, however, has not historically been a good partner and Jeremy is even offering a cash prize to anyone who can show us differently. Chad also tells us why he hates Adsense. Granted, this has been on the advertising front, but forgive me if I remain skeptical.

You are effectively taking over our entire feed platform and there’s not really a lot that would prevent us from creating our own feed platform. b5media has historically created things when we find we’re not happy with what’s already out there, so I’m not averse to doing it again.

We can certainly enhance what FeedBurner already offers us in terms of API. The problem is that we have a great relationship with FeedBurner. I feel like we work in the same building regularly. We know these guys. We know you too. Frankly, I’m concerned.

The standard line provided by corporate marketing folks at this point is to assure the customer base that “nothing will change”. I appreciate the fact that that is your job, but really time will tell. I want to trust you, Google. I want to believe that you are not evil, but you have to show me something or I don’t mind considering alternatives.

We start all over. Square one. Day one. Make me trust you.

-Aaron Brazell

P.S. Steve Fisher sees the FeedBurner exit as quite a good example for entrepreneurs.

P.S.S. Andy Beard tells us the 7 good things and 7 bad things about this acquisition. In fact, Digg him.