Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Web Innovation is Alive and Kickin' in Boston

I'm currently planning an informal party for my son's graduation in June. Who'd have thought that a meeting of the Web Innovator's Group could be the answer to my organizational prayers.

WebInno, as it is known for short, aims to support Boston-area entrepreneurs, visionaries and creative thinkers in Internet and mobile innovation by holding events that foster community interaction. The organization was founded by David Beisel at Masthead last year. Meeting veterans tell me that the early meetings numbered around 75 but word has spread quickly. An estimated 200 people attended last night's informal soiree.

David has created a fun format. The evening showcases three "main dish" early-stage startups. Each gets to demo and present for just five minutes. After these presentations, folks can wander around the room, where other companies are served up as "side dishes," conducting continuous informal demos and answering questions.

You can check out Steve Garfield's pix of the event here:

Boston Web Innovators Group

Main Dishes - The Steak

Which brings me to my party planning. One of the main dish companies was, which aims to be a LinkedIn for personal party planning. Features include "save the date" mailings (with the ability to import contacts from partner Plaxo), the ability to create invites with personalized photos, RSVP and thank you functionality and a party store locator. (The company has already inked a deal with iParty.) When asked about competitor Evite, Founder Matt Douglas noted that the workflow applied to the site, along with the full-function nature of the site, were key differentiators.

GuildCafe was another entree. This one is LinkedIn for gamers. You can share your gaming history, your favorite games and best scores, and find sympatico players. (If you are one of the 20 million online gamers out there, you'll wanna check this out.)

The other main dish was Goombah, an unattractively named but attractive site for music lovers. Goombah provides personalized music recommendations on a track-by-track basis. The site suggests songs based on what users are already listening to from other member's libraries and from our collection of quality free music. They've got 6,007,638 tracks in user libraries as I write this.

Side Dishes - Some Sizzle

In addition to these presentations, five companies presented at demo stations around the room before and after the main presos:

Doodleboard is a Web-based visual collaboration tool, similar to a whiteboard online.

Geezeo is Web-based platform for users to track their finances, assess risks and explore options to enhance their finances. (Hubby are you listening?)

Mobasoft, a multimedia content system, offers integration of audio, video and dial-in comments along with MMS messages from cells and media-rich comments from email.

Spotstory brings people together to discover and share stories of often overlooked, but interesting and entertaining locations. It makes everyone a microtourist. (Note: site still under development, but blog is up. I'm looking forward to this one.)

TrustPlus is a portable reputation system that provides trust and assurance for individuals transacting and interacting anywhere online. They're building a "credit-score equivalent" for the reputation of individuals on the Internet. (OK - I'll behave on eBay this weekend.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deval Patrick - Using Tech to Go Direct

Last Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick kicked off the Mass Technology Leadership Council's annual meeting. Deval's intro highlighted the point that he used "technology to bring grass roots campaigning into the 21st century" with tools like podcasting and (powered by Brightcove).

Patrick opened with his trademark self-deprecating humor. "I'm not that technical - really. Just ask the state troopers." He explained that just the day before, he'd set off the smoke alarms in the State House by trying to start a fire in his fireplace.

Patrick sent a strong pro-business message, noting, "We have to step up our game" to remain competitive with other tech powerhouse regions. Rob Weisman at the Globe covered his commitment to streamline permits and regulatory approvals and noted his appointment of a permitting ombudsman, Gregory P. Bialecki. (Patrick also suggested that we call Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray if the permitting process isn't working. )

Patrick said that he has gotten some of his best ideas from blogs and wants to continue to encourage this kind of interaction so that people remember "government is not them, it's us."

The Governor made good on this commitment last Friday, with his first podcast. recapping his first few weeks in office. He plans to record these updates weekly. Note that the site is offering a transcript as well.

Great step towards increased transparency in state government.


Friday, January 26, 2007

The Inexorable Migration of News from Print to Online

Alas my blogging has gone into deep freeze mode, along with the New England weather.

Over the last week, I was struck by the juxtaposition of several news stories, which underscore the rapid and much-lamented change in the news landscape.

Item 1: This news from Nielsen/NetRatings was everywhere: Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210% year over year in December. Unique visitors to blog pages accounted for 13% of their December Web traffic, up 9 points from 4% in December 2005.

So while newspapers are getting clobbered on the ad side, they're gaining traffic on the Web side. Now they just have to figure out how to monetize it.

Item 2: Time Inc., the leading magazine publisher in the U.S. and U.K., announced the layoff of 289 staffers, along with several regional bureau closings. "The layoffs are about the restructuring of our editorial staffs as we move quickly into a future of flexible, multiplatform content creation," typed John Huey, Time Inc.'s editor in chief, in an email to staff, according to this Washington Post story.

The New York Times headline spin on this was interesting: "Time Inc. Cutting Almost 300 Magazine Jobs to Focus More on Web Sites." It really spelled out the evolution from print to online.

Item 3: The Boston Globe closed its three remaining foreign bureaus. I had remarked recently to a friend that I was surprised the Globe had not long since turned to its parent, the New York Times, for its international coverage. In closing bureaus in Berlin, Bogota, and Jerusalem, the Globe article notes that the publication "avoids cutting an additional 'dozen or so' newsroom jobs."

You could see this one coming, but it was still sad.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MIT Enterprise Forum Keynote by Allaire, the $60 Million Man

I rarely get so excited when a non-client raises a round -- even a really big round -- but I found myself grinning broadly at today's news that Brightcove just raised an eye-popping $59.6 million round, led by AllianceBernstein LP, Brookside Capital LLC and Maverick Capital Ltd. Mass High Tech calls this " of the largest private funding rounds for a local networking company in recent memory."

Brightcove's chairman and CEO is Jeremy Allaire, and you can read his blog post about the funding here.

Allaire just happens to be the opening keynote of the MIT Enterprise Forum Conference: Brave New Web: Connect. Contribute. Collaborate. And CHEN PR just happens to be sponsoring the event and serving on the conference committee. Kudos to the folks on the committee who reached out to Allaire. And kudos to Allaire and the many other great speakers in the lineup for demonstrating that cool tech stuff is happening in New England.

When Allaire founded Brightcove in 2004, Internet TV did not look like the sure bet it does now, so Brightcove deserves tons of credit for pioneering this market. In the intervening years, the desirability of Web-based video content has been proven by YouTube and Google Video.

This round, pegged for international expansion, attests to the fact that Internet TV looks like a no brainer now. And Brightcove is lining up major media partners, like Time Life, Dow Jones, AOL and Hearst. (The latter are both investors as well.)

And on the chic scale, it's tough to beat having a candidate (Barack Obama) announcing his presidential bid using Brightcove technology.

Join us on February 7th. I'm sure that Jeremy will have a killer presentation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Movin' On Up: Bloggers Get Press Credentials in Federal Court

The Washington Post carried a story yesterday announcing that when the Scooter Libby trial (charges of perjury, obstruction of justice) starts next week, two bloggers will be credentialed as members of the press corps. Wow.

This marks the first time that spots will be reserved for bloggers in federal court.

The Media Bloggers Association, led by Robert Cox, has struck a deal that will allow has won credentials to rotate among two members for this particular trial. The Association has not yet had a chance to issue its press release, but you can read Cox's blog post here.

The Post reports:

Yet, after detailed talks with Cox, officials at the U.S. District Court decided that public awareness of court proceedings could be enhanced by his group's members, among them documentary filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor and freelance writer James Joyner.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blogging Cartoon

From the New Yorker calendar - a graphic with two dogs chatting:

"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Let's Not Get "Plutoed"

Last year, The American Dialect Society hit my radar screen by selecting "truthiness" as its Word of the Year. (Merriam-Webster kicked up a bit more dust this year by also selecting truthiness, but I have to give the ADS kudos for being a first mover.)

This year, the ADS selected "plutoed" as its word of the year, defining the word in its rather funny press release as follows:

To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

It's important to note that "climate canary" tied Plutoed in the initial voting and a run-off was required. (High drama, no doubt.) A climate canary is "an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon."

The ADS doesn't stop at a Word of the Year. There are winners in other categories, such as Most Useful, Most Creative and Most Outrageous.

These additional nominees/winners caught my eye:

Flog - A fake blog created by a corporation to promote a product or a television show (Ouch to Wal-Mart)
Murse - Man's purse
Boomeritis - Afflictions or injuries of Baby Boomers, caused by their age (Ouch to me)
Grup - A Gen-Xer who does not act his or her age

The ADS also displays nominations at its website. Professor Wayne Glowka (Georgia College and State University) is Chair of the ADS New Words Committee and when you read his hysterical and on-point nominations, you'll see why. My personal favorite from his list:

Ecosexual - A person choosing dates according to a partner's green habits

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Celebrating and Accelerating Change

When you are through changing, you are through.
Bruce Barton - advertising pioneer

The Wall Street Journal kicks off the year with its much buzzed-about redesign. The paper has been Slim-Fasted down to five columns from six, and will become more analysis oriented. The publisher concedes that news access being what it is, "...almost half of our news was available to readers the previous day, often online." The paper aims to have more exclusive stories and offers this goal:

We now aim to make 80% of your Journal what-it-means journalism, devoting the other 20% to ensuring that you haven't missed anything of importance from the previous day.

Meanwhile, the Journal seems to be taking the advice of BusinessWeek columnist and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, who is kicking off a new series for the online Careers section. In his new book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Goldsmith outlines 20 habits that bug people and how to break them.

Guess what we have for habit #1? Clinging to the Past. An excerpt:

I refuse to attend any school that clings to the past--because going backward is not about creating change. It's about understanding. <...>

Understanding the past is perfectly admissible if your issue is accepting the past. But if your issue is changing the future, understanding won't take you there. My experience tells me that the only effective approach is looking people in the eye and saying, "If you want to change, do this."

All these great business minds and it all boils down to what Nike's been telling us for years: "Just do it!"