A small business for everyone?

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:33.
Mastercard and Warillow International have just published a research study on a new class of small business: the "Web-Driven Entrepreneur". The study estimates that there are 5 million of these businesses in the United States and they represent 25% of all small businesses.
...Two companies; Google and E-Bay have been fundamentally responsible for this new market by creating dynamic access points for these entrepreneurs. These companies provide small businesses with instant scalability and the chance to compete with their larger competitors, by giving them the opportunity to advertise and sell to massive markets.
... The idea that everyone can be an entrepreneur is a powerful one. For banks, web hosting companies, insurance companies, lawyers and a yet to be dermined class of middlemen, this could be huge. The secret will be to understand that this new world will not be about segmenting people into neat boxes, those who are small businesses and those who are not.

 
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Small Businesses

Thu, 2005-09-15 13:08.
The 23.7 million U.S. small businesses are seen as prime candidates for the expansion of search marketing beyond the roughly 200,000 now using it. According to The Kelsey Group, the market for local search marketing could reach $2.5 billion in 2008. Jupiter Research, however, thinks it will grow much more slowly, anticipating $824 million in 2008.

Linda Stone on Attention

Thu, 2005-09-15 13:04.
In 1997 I coined the phrase "continuous partial attention". For almost two decades, continuous partial attention has been a way of life to cope and keep up with responsibilities and relationships. We've stretched our attention bandwidth to upper limits. We think that if tech has a lot of bandwidth then we do, too.
With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we're connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive.
We've been working to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. Marketers humming that tune for two decades now.
Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled.
... We're shifting into a new cycle, new set of behaviours and motivations. Attention is dynamic, and there are sociocultural influences that push us to pay attention one way or another. Our use of attention and how it evolves is culturally determined.
... So now we're overwhelmed, underfulfilled, seeking meaningful connections.
... Attention captured by marketing messages and leaders who give us a sense of trust, belonging in a meaningful way. Now we long for a quality of life that comes in meaningful connections to friends, colleagues, family that we experience with full-focus attention on relationships, etc.
The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

 
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The Digital Identity Big Bang

Thu, 2005-09-15 12:07.
Every website has parts of your personal information: your name, your address and phone number perhaps, and often your credit card number. Some allow you to send messages, some are just for checking your 401k balance. Many have information about you that you wish they didn’t have. And if you and I meet at a party tonight, it’s just about impossible for either of us to find each other again in cyberspace because, well, while Google is good at finding Amazon, it is very bad a finding you. Because there isn’t a place on the internet where you can be found.
Digital Identity technologies intend to change all of this. Instead of having multiple personality disorder on-line, these technologies promise to give you a digital identity that is the same everywhere. Instead of having to update dozens of websites with your new address – if you can remember them all – you’d have to update it only once. Instead of being spammed or phished because somebody got a hold of your e-mail address and pretended to be somebody else, you could set your communications preferences once and technology would enforce it for everybody.

 
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Malta and web 2.0

Thu, 2005-09-15 12:00.

I believe Malta is currently witnessing a silent revolution through a growing number of Internet users who are coming to realize that they can have their voices heard without a controlling intermediary. This major paradigm shift is silent because those most active in it are yet to realize the true potential of digital communities and still see themselves as isolated individuals.
Although Malta is a tiny nation dominated by majority rule, embodied in the major political parties and the Roman Catholic church, a small digital community is about to embark on a path of social change which potentially has a much larger effect than any other effort the same social network could attempt without the benefit of the electronic networks of digital telecommunications.
Identity and self-image play an important part in the formation of digital communities. All identities are filtered through the personal experiences and the emotional ups and downs that flow through our interactions with and in everyday life. The Internet goes beyond all other media formats in altering a person's relationship to the so-called 'real' world of everyday life. It offers more possibilities than any other single-medium satellite communication. I don't say this hypothetically or from a position of utopian desire. I've lived on the frontline of Malta's cyberspace for over 10 years.
... Digital communities enable group action and interaction. They also engender constructive contexts and social capital. Reconfiguring the power relationships between ordinary citizens and traditional institutions, digital communities can give a voice to marginalized individuals providing peers who listen and contribute to the development of their unpopular ideas.
This is precisely what many Maltese Internet users are on the verge of discovering.

 
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The universal, self-publishing, loosely-coupled personal directory

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:37.

The original premise behind the initiative is that SMBs are at a great disadvantage when it comes to online search engines and directories because they don't have the expertise to ensure that the best information is provided to the search and directory services organizations (Google, Yahoo, etc.). In turn this means that potential customers are frustrated in attempts to locate businesses when they're in need of services. Trying to find, for example, the closest dry cleaner that does on-site leather cleaning can be a frustrating experience with today's Web search and directory tools.
But in reality, it can be just as time-consuming and frustrating to find big businesses also - especially bricks-and-mortar locations that are close to where you live or work. Here's just one example. Suppose you're away from home (at a trade show, for example) and you'd like to pick up a copy of a newspaper that provides daily IT news in its business section (for example, the "San Jose Mercury News" or the "Austin American-Statesman") - where would you go to find one? Neither the Merc nor the AAS Web sites will tell you where to buy the paper in Chicago or New York. The concierge at your hotel might know of someplace that sells papers but if only there were a listing you could find of retail businesses within a mile or so of your hotel that carried out-of-town newspapers. You could then quickly find out (by calling) which ones had the papers you were interested in and pay them a visit.
Here's another example. Same situation, you're out of town at a trade show. You want to pick up a quick lunch so you'd like to find a fast food place within a block or two of the show venue. You could visit mcdonalds.com, wendys.com, jackinthebox.com, and burgerking.com and enter the show venue's address to find the closest shop, write them all down and determine which is the shortest walk. Or you could go to an SMBmeta-enabled online directory and find all the fast-food places within two blocks of your current location - and probably see them all on a map.

 
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The Sharing Economy

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:25.

Interview with Yale law professor Yochai Benkler

Q: How did you conceive the notion of peer production from such seemingly disparate activities?

A: I had been looking at commons-based behaviors in unlicensed radio spectrum and in intellectual property, and their important role in innovation. I was uncomfortable with the notion that this was purely a phenomenon of software or musicians. That doesn't explain Wikipedia. That doesn't really explain Slashdot [the peer-written and -reviewed tech news site]. That doesn't explain why Google was so phenomenally successful.

Q: What qualities do those things have in common?

A: [They show that] the economic role of social behavior is increasing. It used to be that if you said, "Here, this is interesting, why don't you read this?" it was primarily social. When you take the exact same behavior and plug it into Google's Page Rank algorithm, you actually get a discrete economic output that increases welfare in the economy overall -- even though you continue to have a certain social interaction there as well.

Q: Why is peer production happening now, and what technologies are enabling it?

A: With the steam engine, the archetype of the Industrial Revolution, we moved to industries where the physical capital was relatively concentrated. You had to have financial capital in order to enable effective collaboration between individuals.
What we're seeing now is cheap processors, which put computation on our desktops and in our laps, cheap storage, and ubiquitous communications. It's this combination of a low-cost personal computer and the Internet...that allows this aggregation of behavior. Things that would normally just dissipate in the air as social gestures come to have some persistence as economic products. This departs radically from everything we've seen since the Industrial Revolution.

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The Relationship Revolution

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:16.
Consider a small thought-experiment: Whenever you see the word "information" -- as in the strategic importance of managing information, or the importance of timely information in solving problems, or the need to make substantial investments in information technology in order to compete in the cutthroat world of global competition -- substitute the word "relationship."
Ultimately, the issue boils down to value: How do organizations, markets and individuals create and manage value? The fact is, people -- not information -- create the value that matters, and information is merely one of many ingredients that people use. Consequently, the real future of digital technologies and networks rests with the architects of great relationships -- not just the architects for timely bits and bytes of information. People who believe in the hype of the Information Age are -- pun intended -- badly misinformed.

 
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Jane Jacobs: what makes a vital city?

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:01.

Jane Jacobs: Cities are the chief motors of economies. You can't talk about economies without talking, at least obliquely, about cities. Any human settlement is an economic equivalent to a local ecosystem. Just as ecology is the economy of nature. I've just been looking at the same thing from the opposite point of view�”the nature of economies.


Stewart Brand: Presumably that steps you right up to the question of global economy?


Jane Jacobs: Yes. The nature of economies comes to that. But people want these prescriptions. You can't prescribe for a global economy any more than you can get a handle on prescribing for a global ecosystem. Also, if you get too abstract about these things they become meaningless. You can't put everything in one ball of wax without it becoming abstract.

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Limitations of networks unanchored to geography

Thu, 2005-09-15 10:51.
Services like Craigslist have local incarnations -- Craigslist New York, say -- which are essentially convenient abstractions of geography in order to control the nature of the content. That's ideal for selling stuff, finding a job, or renting an apartment -- for transactional interactions. Ten years after Netscape went public, I can still get a little thrill at how easy it's become to find out that someone in Sydney needs a rideshare, or a date, but some of the limitations of networks unanchored to geography are also more apparent. I and millions like me can look at this board from anywhere on the globe, and the chances that I'm going to connect with someone around the corner are correspondingly small.
From finding out why the nearest laundromat has shut down (big local quality of life issue, trust me!) to why the cops were on the block last night, from where the good yard sale is to changes in local zoning, to simply making a few friends right nearby, there are all sorts of down-to-earth reasons it might be good to shift attention from the cross-continental, trans-oceanic network for a bit, and get better connected with the local neighborhood.

 
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