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December 12, 2007

Nielsen top 10 in 2007 lists: Seattle is 4th among blog readers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 11:12 AM

Yesterday, the Nielsen Company -- famous for its TV audience measurements -- put out a series of top 10 in 2007 lists. There are close to 30 different lists covering most-watched TV shows, DVDs, movies, etc. View them yourself (13 page PDF.) Here are some that interested me:

Among major markets, Seattle/Tacoma had the fourth highest percentage of "adults who have used the Internet to read or contribute to blogs within the past 30 days." The top market was Austin, Texas, with 15 percent of adults reading/contributing; followed by:


Portland, with 14 percent
San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, 13 percent
Seattle/Tacoma, 13 percent
Honolulu, 12 percent
San Diego, 12 percent
Dallas/Fort Worth, 12 percent
Columbus, Ohio, 11 percent
Nashville, Tenn., 11 percent
Colorado Springs/Pueblo, 11 percent.

The national average was 8 percent.

Among the most-purchased packaged consumer goods, measured by the "percent of homes who purchased each category within past year," fresh bread was the leader (97 percent), followed by refrigerated milk, toilet tissue, fresh eggs, cookies, ready-to-eat cereal, canned soup, chocolate candy, potato chips and batteries (86 percent).

The same list, if measured by sales instead of percentage of homes that purchased the category, is lead by carbonated soft drinks ($17.6 billion) and also includes cigarettes ($7.8 billion) and light beer ($5.1 billion).

With the exception of the bread, milk and eggs, it sounds a lot like the presumed shopping list of the stereotypical American gamer, including the batteries to keep the remote and wireless controllers charged up.

And what games were we playing? This list is based on "the percent of PC gamers playing title in the average minute." Nielsen also reports average minutes played per week, from April to November 2007.

No. 1, by a long shot, "World of Warcraft" with 0.792 percent of PC gamers playing in the average minute and 1,023 minutes played per week (I'm guessing that's per individual.)

Here's the rest of the list:


"The Sims," 0.177 percent, 298 minutes/week
"RuneScape," 0.147 percent, 688 minutes/week
"Halo: Combat Evolved," 0.145 percent, 451 minutes/week
"Halo 2," 0.131 percent, 466 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike," 0.114 percent, 504 minutes/week
"The Sims 2," 0.110 percent, 387 minutes/week
"Madden NFL 07," 0.103 percent, 407 minutes/week
"Grand Theft Auto," 0.084 percent, 399 minutes/week
"Counter-Strike: Source," 0.077 percent, 550 minutes/week.


Nielsen doesn't break out console titles, but it does give a list of the most-played platforms based on usage minutes, "a percent of all measured console minutes." Interesting to note that taken together, all the other consoles on the list (excluding the "other" category, which "consists of any other console systems found in the home") are used about as much as the PlayStation 2.

PlayStation 2, 42.2 percen;
Xbox, 13.9 percent
Xbox 360, 11.8 percent
GameCube, 7.1 percent
Wii, 5.5 percent
PlayStation 3, 2.5 percent
Other, 17.1 percent.

Classmates.com dropping IPO filing

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 9:24 AM

Classmates.com, which was hoping to cash in on the social networking phenomenon by filing for an initial public offering, said today it is stopping the effort because of unfavorable market conditions.

Classmates Media, which has offices in Renton, runs the long-standing Web sites that connect alumni in schools across the country, as well as military personnel and employees in different workplaces. Classmates is owned by Woodland Hills, Calif.-based United Online.

Although it can be argued that Classmates was very early to the social networking game, it seems it didn't fully leverage its large community of members, but acted more like a directory of students that's useful especially when it came to planning reunions.

In a release, Classmates said: "United Online has determined that proceeding with the initial public offering under current market conditions would not be in the best interests of its stockholders."

The company filed for the IPO in August, saying it wanted to raise as much as $125 million. United Online estimates that it will have to record costs related to canceling the filing of up to $5.5 million during the fourth quarter.

The question is whether Classmate's withdrawal is a sign of an unfavorable market for social networking, or if Classmates just doesn't stack up against other companies?

According to the Associated Press, users spend significantly more time on MySpace and Facebook than on Classmates.com. In fact, the average visitor spent about 8.3 minutes on Classmates.com in October, compared with 195.6 minutes on Facebook.com and 192.9 minutes on MySpace.com, according to comScore Media Metrix.

And Facebook had no problem selling 1.6 percent of its company to Microsoft for $240 million -- a figure that gives the company a market worth of $15 billion.

December 5, 2007

Finding, declaring love on Facebook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 7:02 AM

Add this to the ongoing debate over whether Facebook is worth the $15 billion imputed by Microsoft's investment in the company: A couple's decision to link together their Facebook profiles is now akin to "going steady" in the 1950s -- a serious, public declaration of a romantic relationship, just short of moving in together or getting engaged.

That's the assessment of this interesting Reuters feature that includes several interviews with college students and professors about how people communicate their relationships using the wildly popular social network.

From the story:

"For those in a relationship, the theme that kept echoing was that Facebook made it official," said Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor of telecommunication and information studies at Michigan State University who has studied social networking sites. "That was the term they used. And when the relationship fell apart, when you broke up on Facebook, that's when the breakup was official."

This guy's assessment got me thinking about how valuable Facebook could turn out to be:

"People are beginning to use it more than phones, more than text messages, more than instant messaging, even more than talking in person," said Dave Berkman, a mental health counselor at the University of Wisconsin clinic. "It speeds things up. People are prone to define where they are so they can show other people [online]."

October 11, 2007

Microsoft employees love Facebook

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:39 AM

If you have a Facebook account, then perhaps you got the same message as I did today.

One of the stories Facebook inserted into my newsfeed was on some of the largest work networks on Facebook.

Surprise, surprise: Microsoft, the company rumored to possibly be buying a chunk of Facebook, came up as No. 2. That's right, Microsoft has the second-largest work network on Facebook with almost 17,000 employees.

Slightly ahead of Microsoft with the largest work network is IBM, with more than 20,000 employees.

Following IBM and Microsoft is Ernst & Young, Accenture and National Health Service. Now, I'd never heard of National Health Service, but a quick Google search revealed that it is the publicly funded health care system in the U.K. Go figure.

Those stats are interesting, but frankly, what makes Facebook the application of the decade is its intense student following, and there's a little bit of early evidence that it might be faltering.

Om Malik is writing on his blog that comScore is about to release its September 2007 market research report, and it seems the number of unique Facebook visitors took a little decline. In fact, he said, it's a 9.3 percent drop in unique visitors from 33.75 million in August to 30.6 million in September.

Possibly the decline corresponds with students returning to school and not being in front of a computer as much as they were over the summer. Who knows?

He then points out a blog post by The Wall Street Journal's Kara Swisher who says that despite this news, an investment of some sort in Facebook still seems to be in the works, and still likely at the insanely high valuation of $15 billion.

Who's interested?

She wrote:

"As has been reported here and elsewhere, one is Microsoft, of course, which is Facebook's ad-serving partner and which currently delivers the company a sweetheart guaranteed ad revenue payment of about $75 million annually.

But the second, said sources, is not, as might be expected, Google. It is, in fact, dark horse Yahoo."

September 20, 2007

Gates Foundation supports online activism

Posted by Kristi Heim at 1:40 PM

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's partnership with MTV is taking new shape as the U.S. election year approaches. The foundation is one of the key supporters of the thinkMTV social networking venture, launched today as "a platform for activist campaigns."

The site connects people and causes, with user-generated news and video and links to take action on issues such as poverty, war, politics, health, environment and education.

The Gates Foundation started supporting thinkMTV back in 2005 as part of its education efforts.

If you want to see Jay-Z talk about a water crisis or Pete Wentz explain why he put Ugandan refugees in a Fall Out Boy video, this is the site for you.

But MTV is also paying individuals for activism. For those who volunteer, donate blood or do other good works, it's giving "badges" that can be used for things like access to MTV events, media exposure, meetings with celebrities and video cameras. More on that here.

September 5, 2007

The money is real, but the debate is virtual

Posted by Kristi Heim at 5:40 PM

Note: Please keep the comments polite and refrain from any personal attacks.

Following on my post last week about hybrid Web sites that combine social networking and financial services, a lively debate arose about rating financial advisers online. It seems timely to raise these issues, considering the turmoil in markets recently and the subprime lending debacle. Investors can certainly benefit from better information, and the web makes sharing it much easier.

One concerned reader made these criticisms about the site and about financial advisors in general:

"Clients of 'financial advisors' that are usually brokers/salesmen simply do not have the knowledge to rate those brokers. I have helped many advised clients and NONE of them understood the fees they were paying, or how their returns compared to the indexes. They had no idea that their broker participated in revenue sharing, or that they were being charged 12b-1 fees. Some thought they paid no fees at all! None knew what their bill for financial costs came to, or the effect of those costs over time. They had all been manipulated into trusting their 'advisor'... blindly.

"The questions asked on financialjoe are very superficial and will NOT give a true rating for advisors. Not even close.

"Uneducated people answering superficial questions and giving unreliable ratings isn't what investors need.

"What needs to happen is that investors need to be educated on what their financial advisor will never tell them. For example:

" 'the BCT study found that the raw returns of equally weighted mutual funds (net of all expenses) for 1996 to 2002 were 6.626% for the investors working on their own and were 2.924% for funds provided by advisors.

" 'In other words, the public working on its own did more than 100% better than financial advisors when it came to selecting equity mutual funds. After factoring in inflation and taxes, clients of financial advisors lost money and lost purchasing power.'

"If someone is calling themself a 'financial advisor', they should advise, not sell. It's almost impossible to do both honestly I have learned.



And financialjoe.com's Shawn Tierney responds:

"To categorize clients who use a financial advisor, essentially saying that they're all too ignorant to rate their brokers, is a gross misstatement! There are millions of doctors, attorneys, business owners, and other professionals that use financial advisors; are they ignorant? There are also tens of thousands of financial advisors who work for all the major wire-houses, banks, and other firms that hold CFP's, CFA's, and Masters of Economics degrees; are they not qualified to advise?

"The majority of investors cannot even explain the functionality of a mutual fund, let alone the fee structure, and most don't want to learn because of the complexity involved. Study after study has shown that investors fail to become educated due to the complexity of the investments, and the level of vocabulary Wall Street injects.

"During our focus testing, financialjoe.com used various levels of vocabulary in the questions. We found the more in-depth the question, the less participation, and completion of the questionnaire.

f"inancialjoe.com's focus is participation. Through participation will come knowledge by way of experienced wisdom.

"For example:

"Through financialjoe.com investors rate their advisors. As each rates their advisor they become tagged to that advisor, and are exposed to that advisor group discussion. It takes one of the users to bring up the discussion of 12b-1 fees, or anything else they have learned through experienced wisdom. Through these discussions they can together determine if the advisor disclosed the entire fee, or just portions of the entire fee.

"Did the advisor disclose the entire fee for a wrap account (total fund expenses plus wrap fee) or did he essentially lie and just disclose the wrap fee leaving out the total fund expense because he wanted to capture the business.

"The result? Mission accomplished! The advisor has now been exposed to every client that he services who participates as a user of financialjoe.com, as well as every potential client who was thinking about hiring him. This is a permanent record that cannot be expunged by the NASD or any other regulatory who settles financially without admitting guilt.

"The final result is permanently weeding out these types of 'advisors' who conduct unethical behavior. But, this cannot be accomplished without participation! So, in knowing this, why would we structure questions that we know will alienate the average investor?

"The comment also states, 'None knew what their bill for financial costs came to, or the effect of those costs over time. They had all been manipulated into trusting their 'advisor"...blindly.'

"I can assure you through personal experience in explaining fees to clients that there are those clients who, after breaking down the fees to them, say, "I really don't care about the different types of fees, just tell me the total fund expense". I also know of RIA's (Registered Investment Advisors) who tell their clients that their management fee is 1%, but fail to disclose to their client the additional mutual fund expenses held in a separate account.

"As for the questions being 'superficial' that is simply incorrect and needs no further explanation other than the aforementioned.

"The financial industry encompasses more investment vehicles than just mutual funds. The commenter, 'Caution!!', submits the BCT study, but fails to attach the entire package. Yes, the BTC study that Morningstar.com published has a lot of great info, but as Morningstar.com says themselves:

"I can't think of the findings for any study that apply to every single financial advisor in America.

"The study is not perfect. It is unfortunate that the authors use the word 'broker' in their landmark study to apply to almost all financial advisors. Their use of the word 'broker' does not just encompass Series 7 licensed reps who are paid commissions and loads. It truly applies to almost all financial advisors who sell mutual funds. 
 
If you hold a Series 7 or Series 65 license, if you are a registered rep, RIA or IAR, if you work for a broker-dealer, major brokerage firm, wire house, or if you are an insurance agent with a Series 7 or Series 65 license, the BCT study may very well have analyzed your transactions (both buy and sell transactions) during the years of the study. Unless you work for a fund supermarket on a salary, your transactions were probably analyzed in the BCT study.

"In the study, virtually everyone selling mutual funds (even RIAs and IARs) are referred to as "brokers"-even if you don't have a Series 7 license.

"Why are these findings so scary? The BCT study implies that about 50% of all FAs produced returns of less than 2.924% per year.
When you factor in taxes and inflation, the clients of all of these "advisors" lost spending power and thus literally became poorer each year. This gives even more credence to the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Clements' warning of many years that people would be better off if they avoided financial advisors.
I disagree-if only for the reason that skilled financial advisors provide many valuable services besides investment management-but that is the topic for another article.

"The findings of the BCT study seem to apply most directly to advisors who have been selling mutual funds with a 5.75% load, a 3% or some other relatively high load or a front-end, back-end or level load. Even if the fund is a so-called "high-performance fund," with all these fees on top of the human tendency to buy high and sell low, advisors' returns may be much lower than most FAs ever suspected".

"The BCT study found that it is the combination of high-cost mutual funds and advisor behavior that lead to such poor returns. Thus, it is conceivable that even if an advisor uses super-low cost index funds, he or she could significantly under-perform the indexes simply due to buying when prices are high (and everyone is exuberant about the market) and selling when prices are low (and many people are scared).

"Conversely, it is possible that some advisors using high-cost funds could deliver outstanding performance by buying these funds when the prices are low (and when such funds are unpopular) and then selling them when prices are high (and everyone else wants to buy them). This is not what the BCT study found-but it is possible that a few advisors in America could be delivering such performance.
The above advisors might somehow be able to overcome the performance hindering effects of high-cost funds through their mastery of behavioral finance".

For the ENTIRE article the following link will take you there.

"I will finalize my response with this. No system is perfect, but financialjoe.com will improve as technology advances, and as we find new ways to enhance the services we provide.

"I can assure you one thing will be accomplished. Investors will become wiser, poor advisors will be weeded out, and nothing will have a greater impact on Wall Street than the community of investors who came at them through financialjoe.com!"

August 28, 2007

New site lets people rate financial advisors

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:39 AM

New ventures that combine social networking and personal finance are starting to to take off, and the latest local example is financialjoe.com.

After spending 10 years in the financial industry, Shawn Tierney was unsatisfied with the quality of information people have about their investment advisors. As a former insider, he should know. Tierney worked as a financial planner for Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

kristi2.jpg

"An advisor can get away with not servicing his clients, making poor recommendations, or never calling the client again once he makes the commission," Tierney said. "This is because no one else will ever know."

Tierney, along with his brother James Tierney and former Microsoft employees Richard Gerschwiler and John Pezzanite, started financialjoe.com as a place for people to rate their advisors, find people with the same advisor and share information about financial issues. The site launched just two weeks ago.

Users can identify themselves with tags to their advisor, joining online public forums with that advisor and other clients. Clients' names and emails are kept confidential.

Today, the forums had information about regulatory actions against Ameriprise, student loan woes and a conversation about mutual funds. Users get an email message every time a new rating is posted on their advisor.

The site can help investment firms, too, Tierney says, by providing feedback on their advisors, helping them improve customer satisfaction and avoid losing clients.

Avvo offers a similar service but for rating attorneys. "Avvo's great," said Tierney, but people are going to need financial advice much more often than they'll need a good lawyer.

A few other social networking / finance hybrids to check out are wesabe.com, Geezeo.com, and covestor.com.


August 24, 2007

Map green business online

Posted by Kristi Heim at 3:21 PM

What do an urban sustainability forum, Grist magazine and a green cleaning service have in common?

They're all Seattle points on a new online map designed to help people find eco-friendly individuals, businesses, events and organizations around the world.

The two-month-old project sponsored by the Sundance Channel is supposed to supplement the cable network's weekly environmental program The Green.

As a social networking platform, it's not clear how this one can distinguish itself from all the other sites claiming to help like minds find eachother. At the so-called Eco-mmunity, anyone can list themselves or others on the map, leading to a wide mix of destinations that may or may not be eco-friendly.

A random look at points in Seattle and Los Angeles included listings for Trader Joe's, the California Institute of Technology and Whole Foods Market. And the map's only listing in Iowa turned out to be Smith Barney Financial Advisors. Well, I guess dollars are green.

August 17, 2007

Hard to run a company when you're such a celebrity?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 2:06 PM

Not so hard, says James Sun, CEO of Zoodango and emerging television personality. Sun may have finished his stint on "The Apprentice" as runner-up, but he's launching several ventures that promise to keep him on air.


Brian Casey

James Sun

He has a Hollywood agent out to make the most of his personality, tech skills and business acumen. Decked out in black Prada shades, intern by his side, Sun turned out for a lunch today with Chinese stars visiting Seattle to promote the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Not everybody can make the transition from reality TV to stardom, he says, "but my agent thinks I can."

The first show he's working on is a techno house program, introducing new kinds of technology and explaining how to set them up at home. Think fun with wireless gadgets and tabletop computers.

The second show is a look at celebrities launching their own businesses. Think Paris Hilton opening a pampered pet store.

Sun says he is also planning to go on a national speaking tour with "Apprentice" winner Stefani Schaeffer. The theme is very anti-Trump: teamwork.

"Stefani and I never backstabbed each other even once," he said.

Even though backstabbing sells on the show, Sun says real business is collaborative.

But with so much going on, how does he even find time to run a company?

"My job is chief evangelist officer," Sun said. Zoodango is getting more users in Los Angeles because he's there so often talking about it.

Besides, his investors have asked him to do a daily video blog about working as a tech CEO. His last blog, a rant about hospital security officers tasering a man holding a baby, was broadcast on television 48 hours after he posted it on YouTube.

"That's the power of the Internet," he said.

July 26, 2007

LinkedIn on U.S. tour

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:25 PM

Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn visited our offices Wednesday, where spokeswoman Jane Corrigan told us Seattle is one of the fastest growing markets.

The site has 12 million users worldwide, and is seeing double-digit growth, she said. In a matter of weeks (between Corrigan setting up an appointment with me and arriving in Seattle), the number of users here jumped from 179,000 to about 181,000.

She said that many of the people on LinkedIn are venture capitalists and investment bankers, but that it covers all industries. In Seattle, some of the corporate customers include Expedia, T-Mobile USA, Amazon.com and Microsoft. A corporate customer pays a fee so that it can list job openings on the site.

Corrigan stressed that LinkedIn is a site where professionals can meet and "brand" themselves online, whereas other networking sites are for a user's personal life.

So the question is, do you really want your photos from you vacation on the site where you are also linked to work colleagues or associates?

I wonder if LinkedIn is spreading this message because Facebook, which is increasingly being used for business networking, has started to eat away at its user base?

She did, however, show me a few neat tricks on LinkedIn:

-- You can brand your LinkedIn site, for instance: www.linkedin.com/janedoe

-- There's a new Questions and Answers feature, where members can ask and answer whatever question is on their mind. A recent example is Robert Syputa, a Seattle-based senior analyst at Maravedis, asked: "How do incumbent mobile operators plan to confront the growing 'open access' of wireless networks?" He had received four answers in the last six days.

July 12, 2007

China's Internet growth bringing sea change

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:28 AM

We all know the rapid growth of the Internet in China is bringing changes to China itself. But it will also have consequences for the rest of the world. A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project points to some of those shifts.

About 137 million people are online in China now -- second only to the number of Internet users in the U.S. but still just 10 percent of China's population. In the U.S., about 65 percent of the population is online.

China's Internet population is growing faster than that of the U.S. and is projected to exceed the number of U.S. Internet users in just a few years.

That means more Web sites in Chinese, the one written language that is shared by speakers of many different dialects of the Chinese diaspora. This could have a unifying effect on China's citizenry, the Pew report predicts. Already, the Web is becoming a vehicle for expressing dissent and exposing problems that would not otherwise come to light.

But those voices are often squelched if they threaten Party control. Different approaches to the Internet could create more tensions with Western countries and non-Chinese companies like Microsoft over human rights and censorship, the report said.

When Bill Gates was asked in an interview with Fortune how he squares Microsoft's position in China with its leaders' suppression of free speech on the Internet and disregard for human rights, even China's most admired Westerner had no answer for that one.

July 11, 2007

Treemo's latest contest

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 6:37 PM

Seattle-based Treemo is launching a contest on its social networking site made for mobile phones.

The winner will receive tickets to a Velvet Revolver's concert in New York on Aug. 18. The plane tickets will be provided by another Seattle company, Farecast.

Participants are asked to send in videos, photos and essays on Velvet Revolver's new album -- Libertad, or freedom. Submissions are made by mobile phone.

There's already quite a large collection of entries on the Web site. There are several pages of thumbnails, where you can view pictures and text messages people have sent in representing freedom, including pictures of snowboarding and flowers.

To enter, you must register for a Treemo account or log in to your existing account, and then upload photos, videos, audio or text. The entry must be tagged "libertad." Winners will be decided by a combination of number of views, favorites, comments and shares, as well as a final vote among judges.

Brent Brookler, the company's CEO, said so far Treemo has more than 50,000 registered users and 95 percent of its traffic is coming from mobile. He added that Velvet Revolver has band members from Guns n' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots.

June 5, 2007

Avvo launches with glitches

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:26 AM

In today's paper, I wrote about Avvo, a Seattle startup that aims to create profiles of every attorney in the country. The service would compete with the Yellow Pages or other ways consumers find divorce lawyers or bankruptcy attorneys today.

Avvo aims to be more than a list of lawyers by providing ratings for each lawyer on a scale of 1 to 10.

I took a quick peek at the site last week after the company allowed a preview before the site's launch. I found nothing unusual, except that it was really slow.

However, CNET reports today a number of odd glitches and information it found:

According to Avvo's profiles of "licensed attorneys," President Abraham Lincoln, once a lawyer who traveled on horseback between county courthouses, and Scopes defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who died in 1938, have no disciplinary sanctions pending and are encouraged to update their profiles by personalizing them with "professional experience" and achievements. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito each receive hardly flattering "experience" and "trustworthiness" ratings of three out of five stars.

Avvo does not disclose how it comes up with its ratings.

Board member Rich Barton, the CEO of Zillow.com who helped Avvo CEO Mark Britton start the company, readily acknowledged to me in reporting today's story that the company's techniques will cause some controversy.

"As long as we stay focused on the fact that we are empowering the consumer with information, in the court of public opinion you will win," he said.

UPDATE: See the comment down below for Mark Britton's response that he sent to the CNET reporter regarding what he found on the Avvo site.

He said, in part: "We're working hard to constantly add more information and, now that we're live, lawyers and consumers can help by adding their own content. In just the few hours since launch, hundreds of attorneys have claimed their profiles and provided consumers valuable information regarding their body of work."

May 14, 2007

Redfin: "Pandemonium" after "60 Minutes" airing

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:01 AM

Seattle online real estate company Redfin said its Web site was swamped Sunday night after it was featured in a "60 Minutes" segment.

"Pandemonium here at Redfin," said the company's blog. The site became very slow after the show aired on the East Coast, the blog said, and the company scrambled to keep every server up and running.

The segment, which pretty much amounted to an ad for Redfin, talked about how the company's business model could disrupt the traditional 6 percent commission that real estate agents take in transactions.

Clips from the segment are here. You can read a summary of it here and see lots of posted comments from real estate agents who are not happy with what they saw. ("I think Leslie Stahl really blew this story, it was a cheap shot at Realtors.")

May 1, 2007

GoChongo: Commerce and creativity

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:16 AM


goChongo

GoChongo founder Shawn Plaster.

A Seattle startup is putting a spin on the YouTube concept with a new site that goes public today. GoChongo features an ask-and-answer model where users describe projects that they're willing to pay for. A user might request a musical sample, for example, or put out a call for poster designs or videos. Other users can see those requests and submit entries -- and the winning entry gets money from the person who requested it.

Add goChongo to the growing list of startups whose business model relies on advertising money. A user will see a few seconds of advertising before viewing submissions, and that ad revenue is split three ways among the requester, the performer and the company.

The idea for goChongo came from founder Shawn Plaster, 36. He worked at Accenture for 11 years, the last six in the company's Seattle office. Part of his role at the company was to study the consumer technology space.

"We were in awe of how people were willing to video and submit their content," he said of sites like YouTube. "We were trying to figure out how we can create a fun, entertaining site that would give these people an opportunity to meet one another."

Plaster calls goChongo an "entertainment destination and marketplace." (Chongo, by the way, is a Spanish slang word for "monkey" and was Plaster's nickname growing up. His brothers still call him "Chongo" today.)

GoChongo has nine employees, all working from their homes. Plaster has put $100,000 of his own money into the company and angel investors have contributed $75,000.

February 23, 2007

Hit the slopes and show it off

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 12:41 PM

When the forecast calls for a lot of white powdery stuff to fall from the skies, it's hard not to get a little bit antsy.

For some time, the Washington ski slopes have provided Web cams to visitors of their Web sites so they can check out the snow conditions. But now the Summit at Snoqualmie has an even more high-tech option.

The Summit is providing a site where riders and skiers can post home videos from the slopes. Some of the videos were obviously posted by the Summit and feature music tracks in the background, but others show look like 30 seconds from a cell phone.

I can see how this could really catch on with people vying to show off the best jumps and tricks. After all, typically the only people to catch it are the few taking the lift overhead.

Check out "Four year old Jarod's first time skiing," and "WHOOHOO," in which a snowboarder lands a sweet jump.

November 28, 2006

Geek night in Seattle

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:00 AM

A geek night in Seattle is being organized by Brady Forrest of O'Reilly Radar and Bre Pettis of Make:Seattle.

The Dec. 7 event, called Ignite Seattle, will be held at Lower Level in the Capitol Hill Arts Center, and will start at 6:30 with a bridge- building contest sponsored by Make: Magazine. Teams will have 30 minutes to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks.

Ignite Seattle continues with a series of five-minute-long slideshow presentations, which speakers are still signing up for. You can RSVP here.

Geek night in Seattle

Posted by Kim Peterson at 10:00 AM

A geek night in Seattle is being organized by Brady Forrest of O'Reilly Radar and Bre Pettis of Make:Seattle.

The Dec. 7 event, called Ignite Seattle, will be held at Lower Level in the Capitol Hill Arts Center, and will start at 6:30 with a bridge- building contest sponsored by Make: Magazine. Teams will have 30 minutes to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks.

Ignite Seattle continues with a series of five-minute-long slideshow presentations, which speakers are still signing up for. You can RSVP here.

September 5, 2006

Lusting for more wiki action

Posted by Kristi Heim at 11:59 AM

Here's a topic that promises to spur some online conversations: Nancy Pearl and her Book Lust empire is one of the newest wiki sites on Wetpaint. The beloved Seattle librarian is the subject of what Seattle start-up Wetpaint calls "a community for people who love books."

The wiki is apparently a team effort by Wetpaint and Pearl's publisher, Sasquatch Books, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports.

I like the feature that lets you "post a question for Nancy." So what does she think it takes to be well-read? A large dose of Shakespeare (King Lear, Hamlet, or MacBeth), some Herman Melville (Moby Dick), the poems of Walt Whitman, The Apology by Plato, and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

For a different kind of book lover, there's an entire wiki devoted to the DaVinci Code.


August 30, 2006

LiveVillage goes live

Posted by Kristi Heim at 12:48 PM

Villageware put out the beta version of its LiveVillage digital map of Seattle, and I've been trying it out.

CEO Mike Safoutin is right -- you never know what you're going to find when you're not really searching for it.

I moved my mouse over Ballard and found a listing for an upcoming show by legendary surf guitarist Dick Dale at the Tractor Tavern. So far, the event listings seem a bit light, and it takes some time to learn how to navigate the map. If every listing worked as well as the Tractor's, it could be a very useful tool.

Eight local retailers are distributing the map on CD, and it's also available in a free download. The sponsors also provide a link to LiveVillage on their Web sites.

The first two weeks of the beta has been an interesting learning process, says Safoutin. Now it's about ironing out the kinks.

August 11, 2006

Mapquest vs. Google Maps: Who's better?

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:31 PM

Techpoint compares routes on Mapquest and Google Maps and finds some interesting differences.

From Detroit to Tallahassee, for example, Mapquest says the drive would take nearly 16 hours while Google says it would take 21 hours.

I thought I'd do a quick comparison on a more local level. Driving from Seattle to Walla Walla, according to Mapquest, would take four hours and 25 minutes and cover nearly 273 miles.

Google Maps says the drive would take five hours and 14 minutes and cover 272 miles.

Google Maps was partly developed by the Google team in Puget Sound, a region where some people seem to drive really slowly (or perhaps just really politely). Maybe the enjoy-the-scenery style of driving here has rubbed off on Google?

The speed freaks over at Microsoft, meanwhile, say the drive would only take four hours and 15 minutes.

July 24, 2006

The growing non-English blogosphere

Posted by Kristi Heim at 10:43 AM

Feel like you're aging fast? Blog search service Technorati is already 3 years old. To mark the anniversary, CEO David Sifry has some interesting data on the blogosphere here.

Sifry says part of Technorati's new redesign is based on a newspaper's organization by section. Scroll down his page and you'll find, in nice color-coded charts, a breakdown of blog posts showing that the vast majority are not in English. In fact, the percentage of English-language blogs declined from 44 percent in April 2005 to 31 percent this March.

Japanese language blogs are growing fast and make up the largest chunk. Chinese language blogs are not far behind, and most of them are hosted by Microsoft's MSN Spaces.

July 17, 2006

Lost in Seattle finds new village

Posted by Kristi Heim at 6:30 AM

When Mike Safoutin first arrived in Seattle, he was fascinated by all the activities going on in the city. The trouble was, he couldn't find a way to keep track of it all.

Now, several years and a University of Washington Ph.D. later, Safoutin has started a Web site modeled after an interactive TV guide, but with local events and places instead of channels. LiveVillage, which makes its official debut Aug. 15, is a searchable map of the city that helps people find out what's happening at any location and at any given time. A preview of the service went up on the site this morning. Safoutin, who runs the University District software start-up Villageware, said his mission is to "create a live, changing virtual model of the place where you live."

He's already mapped out 100 square miles of Seattle, including 10,966 shops, 18,207 buildings and 92,322 dwellings, as part of his Lost in Seattle project. With LiveVillage, Safoutin takes digital mapping much further with software that continuallly updates the objects on the map. Businesses appear red when closed and green when open, for example. New icons pop up when events are happening now or in the near future.

Alan Eustace, Google's vice president of engineering, said recently that he would like to search for a class and be able to find a Web page with information on what is happening here and now. It sounds like Safoutin has brought the technology at least part of the way there.

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