Guba CEO steps down, says more execs may follow

It’s kind of refreshing to see an executive state the obvious. Guba is an interesting business because they bootstrapped it but in the process made themselves toxic to mainstream venture capital because their bootstrapping mechanism was a porn business, excuse me “adult content”. Yeah, they had over 300,000 subscribers paying $15 a month for a service that really was pretty ingenious, they would archive all the adult content out of usenet newsgroups and serve it up to subscribers. Considering that Guba had deals with Hollywood well before YouTube did you have to wonder, in hindsight, whether or not they could have been YouTube were it not for that porn business. I should also point out that they did clean up and split off that part of the company under a separate brand but the fact remains that people like me, who have been interested in this space for a while, still look at the company and think “yeah they serve up porn”.

Guba CEO steps down, says more execs may follow | CNET News.com:
“I think we can all acknowledge that YouTube has won the big prize,” McInerney said. “Guba is at a crossroads, and we’re deciding whether to look for funding or to sell. I think we’re inclined to sell.”

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What It Is vs. What It Does

We have been going through a pretty intense process over the last month putting together the series B pitch for Teqlo. It’s been challenging on a couple of fronts, but primarily because of self imposed complexity. In other words, given 10 seconds how do I articulate what the company does in a manner that people can attach themselves to. I should have reread any of the numerous posts I have written on keeping things simple :)

It was only recently that the moment of clarity was achieved, rather than simply describing what it is I have been consumed with describing how it works and why it matters and the result was just more confusion.

Teqlo is a web-based personal workspace for people who use the internet to get things done.

Yeah, it’s that simple. The fact that we enable breakthrough capabilities for user generated application compositing from third party services, can achieve a continuum of usability unparalleled, and are at the forefront of a new wave of business application software assembled and distributed by the very users who depend on it is all well and good but it’s how we do it as opposed to what we are.

This very much reminded me of recent advertising campaigns by Ebay and AOL that focus on personalization and ubiquity.

Ebay say “you can get IT on Ebay” without defining what IT is because ultimately IT is everything. Whatever IT is really is up to whoever is using Ebay to buy or sell the things they need or want. AOL’s latest campaign focuses on “building a better internet experience” and for the vast majority of the mass market this is probably spot on. Whatever services are available from AOL or it’s competitors is secondary to the experience they provide, which admittedly is a function of what they offer but absent of an intense level of personalization their users don’t necessarily benefit.

UPDATE: Please see my last comment in response to a couple of others for more context on this matter.

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Last.fm updates their Mac client – it works now

I wrote about Last.fm a while back and continue to hold this service up as a real standout for it’s ability to deliver a compelling service that stands apart from other streaming music services – this is what Real Networks should have been about. The one thing that was disappointing is that the Mac client (yes, you do have to download a client component) wasn’t that well done and crashed a lot… thankfully they have updated it and it works great.

Another option for listening to last.fm is an status bar application called Amua, which is released as open source.

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Let’s Say Thanks

This site really made my day today. You can select a postcard from a gallery, add a message of your own or select one of the prepared messages and Xerox will print it and Give2TheTroops will include it in the care packages they send to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

My compliments to Xerox for doing this and at the same time showcasing one of their products, which I will plug right now as a courtesy. The Gen3 Digital Production Presses, with SmartSize Technology, revolutionize digital production printing with automatic make-ready and collation, the ability to mix stocks within a run, and built-in intelligence to maintain color fidelity and registration. Customize, personalize, and add more value to every page. Use customer data captured from CRM databases, Web sites, and call centers to drive variable text, images, and graphics in marketing communication materials. Variable information printing enables you to support high-value customer marketing programs and increases customer loyalty and response rates. I totally don’t know what that means but I want it.

It takes less than 2 minutes, why not click on over right now and send a thank you note to someone who has earned it…

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Disconnect and Contrast

I was reading this account of a terrible fuel explosion in Nigeria that killed 260 people; two sentences served to pointedly underscore the worthlessness of Kofi Annan is if for no other reason than how disconnected he is while sequestered away in his Manhattan mansion.

Here’s Annan’s call to arms:

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his condolences and called “for a review of the country’s fuel supply management, as well as a thorough regional review of risks that could lead to other environmental or technological disasters in West Africa,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

Here’s what the residents of this impoverished neighborhood had to say:

Residents blamed greed, graft and poverty for the disaster. (ED: referring to the massive corruption and mismanagement that plagues Nigeria’s dominant export business – oil.)

In this case the residents of Abule Egba called a spade a spade while Annan calls for more reviews and studies of which the results he would no doubt ignore and do more of nothing about. But the news conference will be delivered in a charming foreign accent. Actually, I’m not surprised that Annan doesn’t have much to say about institutional corruption, after all he does oversee one himself. The only good news is that Kofi Annan is gone, I’m anxious to see what the new Secretary General Ban will do differently

More WOMA Stating the Obvious…

Puff piece in the NYTimes about a couple of doctors who created some skin care products for kids and generated strong buzz by giving the products away to moms who chatted them up on message boards. I realize that this is a shocking observation, so you should probably sit down and breath deeply.

There is a more subtle conclusion that is unavoidable in all these stories, which is that women tend to use the web to participate in communities while men use it to conduct a transaction.

The real reason that I am posting this is that it occurred to me while reading this article that there are 2 other significant developments that have enabled businesses like the one profiled in this article to flourish. The first is a reliable online payments system and the second is a cost effective shipping and logistics network in the form of UPS and Fedex. While often overlooked the fact remains that both of these developments have enabled small businesses like MD Moms to not be constrained to being just a local business tied to the physical community they are located in.

Online Chat Is a Grapevine That Yields Precious Fruit – New York Times:
Soon after, the founders took their word-of-mouth marketing one step further, giving out products to mothers with the hope that they would mention them on Internet message boards and parenting Web sites. The strategy worked. MD Moms’ products were popping up in online discussions.

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2007 prediction

I’ve given this a lot of thought and can only make one prediction with confidence for the upcoming year, that we will witness a lot of high profile executive departures from mainline enterprise software companies to SaaS companies. It will be this flow of executives out of traditional software that will alarm SAP/Oracle/Microsoft/IBM/etc. and bring about a rethinking of their respective strategies in this area, along with an increased willingness to throw some of their existing businesses under the bus in the pursuit of SaaS strategies.

Christmas gift from Pingdom – One free year of uptime monitoring

There’s not much time left on this special offer but I signed up for a free year of uptime monitoring. It looks like a great deal.

Royal Pingdom » Christmas gift from Pingdom – One free year of uptime monitoring:
During the next 48 hours (ok, 45 as of this writing) it is possible to sign up for a full year of Pingdom’s uptime monitoring service for free. If you already have a trial account, you can upgrade that for free too. No strings attached. This is our Christmas gift to all server administrators and webmasters out there who want to be able to relax during Christmas instead of being paranoid about their websites and servers breaking down.

Microsoft fights Gmail in the workplace

Funny true story. The default Exchange mailbox size at SAP was 50mb – fifty megabytes, or put another way, equal to one of those free USB drives that they give out at conferences. The IT guys in Palo Alto were always really good to me by increasing it whenever I asked and with no hassle at all for which I was always grateful (I’d be sure to collect all that conference swag, including usb drives, and give it to IT, they love that crap for whatever reason).

So one of my friends asked me one day how I had so many messages in my inbox (I rarely deleted email, there was something like 10,000 messages in that mailbox but with Copernic’s search it was never a problem finding anything), and I told him that I just asked IT and they made it larger. He calls me the next day and says “hey, IT said they would make my inbox larger but they were going to charge my cost center” to which I said “you have to be fucking kidding me, tell them you are going to start using Gmail for all your work stuff!”.

When he told them this they spouted off about how this would violate company security policies, etc etc etc. He did anyway and I ended up using Gmail a lot for work as well because the other restriction SAP imposed on it’s employees was file size limitations for in/outbound messages, which of course Gmail does not (well they do, but it’s really really generous).

Apparently, a lot of corporate email users are ditching Exchange for Gmail irrespective of what their employers are providing them:

Microsoft is fighting the trend for corporate employees to duck IT policies and auto-forward all their work email to Gmail.

The software giant is urging employers to increase mailbox sizes to 2GB or more.

So here’s the not funny part of the story, at least in the event you are Microsoft. I was talking with the guy that is responsible for all our systems, including email, at Teqlo the other day; we had a running conversation about using Zimbra for email but because of some server requirements and me being a really cheap bastard who doesn’t want to pay for any hardware I don’t have to, we had been putting it off.

Our mail server is hosted by Network Solutions and we’re kind not happy with that arrangement anymore for a variety of reasons, so I said to Scott “what about using gmail for our mail server, this is what Socialtext does?” and he said “yeah they have that new service for hosted domains“. We looked at each other and I asked everyone else in the room if they could think of a good reason why we should not just use Gmail for our mail server, and start using the Google Calendar as well, eyes darted around and nobody raised any objections or issues, so I guess that is what we are going to do now. Before anyone barks out “but what will you do about offline access” let me say that I’m already using my Apple Mail app against my gmail account so this really is a non issue.

The lesson for companies that are providing IT services to employees: make it simple and as unrestricted as possible because your employees will figure out the path of least resistance on their own and they, like me, often don’t quite give a shit about “company policy” if 1) it’s obstructing their ability to do their job, and 2) it’s patently unreasonable or based on the same reason my mother used to give me, “because I said so”.

The lesson for technology vendors, in this case Microsoft: come out with services that effectively compete with leading edge stuff like Gmail rather than just doing what your customers tell you to do, which in the case of Exchange was develop nothing but features that enable easier management of Exchange servers and better spam filtering. Make it easy and cheap to get started so that companies like my own consider your solution before just signing up with Gmail or whatever other alternative because it’s immediate, easy, and really does work well. This reminds me of Ray Lane’s 7 Laws for the New Software Landscape.

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