I read this puff piece on a Portland company (via techmeme) that is hosting a wiki about other websites. Yeah, you read that right… the business is a wiki that has information about websites. The only reason I’m bothering to write about this is to point out how press release journalism does no favors for companies or readers.
Ray King hasn’t had a home run yet. But investors in his newest venture, AboutUs Inc., think King could be building the next Google.
King’s Portland company has just closed a $1 million initial financing round for its wiki, or collaboratively created Web site, listing the names of Web sites and information about them.
I don’t get it and I’m disappointed that the writer of this piece didn’t come out and say the same thing.
First of all, the great majority of the market doesn’t want to add content to a wiki. Take a look at any of the wiki pages attached to Amazon product pages, like this page for a canon powershot camera that has over 100 customer reviews but the product wiki page is empty. I picked this one page because there are 114 user reviews of this product but zero content in the wiki, clearly reviewers prefer one format over the other for some reason. Perhaps it’s the nature of a review to be first person and opinion rather than a wiki page which is supposed to be authoritative. Note to journalists covering tech, ask the question here about what the incentive is for people to contribute and when Ray King answers, say “I don’t get it” and make him answer it again.
Secondly, as it relates to the company profiled in the attached article, it is all built on Mediawiki, which in itself is a very capable wiki platform but has a terrible editor. This alone certainly doesn’t doom Mediawiki but if your business is dependent upon attracting user generated content then one would have to make the assumption that a user friendly authoring environment is a requirement. Also, if you are building a business on top of Mediawiki, would you not at least skin it to make it look like a branded site? Before anyone comments back that “oh but wikipedia is built on Mediawiki and they have no problems with the editor”, I think you need to sit back and take a deep breath while considering the fact that wikipedia was first and that gives them a lot of latitude in terms of features and usability. If wikipedia were to start at ground zero today competing with another wikipedia already established then usability, specifically ease of use, would factor in greatly. Note to journalists covering tech, use the product/service in question and form an opinion about it as a user.
The writer of this piece also says that web 2.0 is a technology where web sites “invite participation from users, and Web technology is used for collaboration and communication,” but then goes on to call Google the “mother of all web 2.0 companies” that is a profitable “multiline business” blah blah blah. So I can live with the web 2.0 stuff and Google being the “mother” and so on, but the last time I checked Google is like 99% advertising when you look at revenue so to call it a “multiline business” may be more than a little generous. Note to journalists covering tech, we’re all getting tired of the “it’s like Google” comparisons.
Finally, there is this juicy quote from one of the investors in speaking about wikis in general and the founder of the company:
While freely admitting he doesn’t use wikis, and doesn’t really understand them, “Ray is a very intelligent guy, and people are finding the site,” Holce said.
Note to journalists covering tech, if an investor tells you they don’t use the product or even understand them, ask him/her why the hell they invested.