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Kevin Rose didd it !! August 4, 2006

Posted by rajAT in digg, entrepreneur, kevin rose, media2.0, web2.0.
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Business Week has done a story on digg.com founder Kevin Rose. Few excerpts from it are here

It was June 26, 4:45 a.m., and Digg founder Kevin Rose was slugging back tea and trying to keep his eyes open as he drove his Volkswagen Golf to Digg’s headquarters above the grungy offices of the SF Bay Guardian in Potrero Hill. This was the day Rose would test everything. Two years earlier, Rose had gambled on his idea to change newsgathering, letting the masses “dig up” the most interesting stories on the Web and vote them onto his online “front page” on Digg.com. Rose had given every last piece of himself to the project — all his time, all his cash, and even his girlfriend, who fought with him after he poured his savings into Digg instead of a downpayment on a house. Today, Digg, Version 3, the one that would go beyond tech news to include politics, gossip, business, and videos, was going live. At 29, Rose was on his way either to a cool $60 million or to total failure.

But for now, Rose is the “It” boy among a new wave of entrepreneurs running the hottest of the top 100 Web 2.0 companies sprinkled around the Bay Area. Together, this network of mostly Valley boys — Six Apart Ltd. co-founder Mena Trott is a rare female among them — fill SF bars like Anu and Wish and Cav and parties at their sparsely furnished lofts.

Rose’s social stock has climbed,too. He has more than 11,000 friends on MySpace. He was a runner-up in blog ValleyWag’s “Hottest Guy in the Valley” contest (think Tom Cruise’s doughier little brother), and he co-hosts a hot weekly video podcast called Diggnation. It’s like a techie version of the Saturday Night Live skit “Wayne’s World.”

At a party for the 50th show, Rose was mobbed by fans and even photographed signing a pretty brunette’s cleavage. The snapshot was posted on Flickr the next day. Video is here n here.

Clearly much has changed since 1999, and Rose and his fellow wealth punks have little in common with the sharp-talking MBAs in crisp khakis and blue button-downs who rushed the Valley as the NASDAQ climbed. In the late 1990s, entrepreneurs were the supplicants, and Sand Hill Road, dotted with venture-capital firms, was the mecca. Dot-commers relied on VCs for the millions needed to buy hardware, rent servers, hire designers, and advertise like crazy to bring in the eyeballs. For their big stakes of, say, $15 million for 20% of a company, venture capitalists received board seats, control of the management levers, and most of the equity.

Now, it’s more like: Maybe we’ll let you throw a few bucks our way — if you get it. Otherwise, get lost
.

Digg is emblematic of the ethos of Web 2.0, new consumer and media sites revolving around social networking and do-it-yourself services. Others include YouTube, which serves up some 100 million requested videos a day, rivaling the audience of NBC. Then there’s Facebook, where the college crowd practically lives. The average gamer on Xfire spends an astounding 91 hours a month on the site — it’s like a part-time job. As a result, superhigh valuations are again coming out of the Valley. In a world in which Facebook turns down $600 million deals, the $580 million that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWS ) shelled out for MySpace.com in July, 2005, is widely considered to be a steal.

Rose grew up in Las Vegas. His father is an accountant, and his mom “just chills,” he says. They lived in a three-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac. Standard middle-class America. In 1999 he dropped out of the University of Las Vegas to join the action in Silicon Valley, where he took coding jobs for dotcoms. That led to his gig as the TechTV host, which transferred him to Los Angeles in 2003. But Rose was bored.

So far, Digg’s traffic just keeps growing. And Rose is picking up a bit of swagger. His shyness is fading, and his wardrobe has gotten a hipster upgrade. Girls on MySpace swarm him. But the pain of losing his girlfriend isn’t gone, and he says that no matter what happens with Digg, he won’t put business first again.

The tech bust notwithstanding, the Valley is still the only place on earth where geeks with good ideas can become celebrities overnight. But wannabes be warned: As nearly everyone found out six years ago, the fall from rock star to pariah can be just as quick — and not nearly as much fun.

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Peer Production: Boon or Bane June 3, 2006

Posted by rajAT in blog, citizen journalism, collectivism, digg, media2.0, peer production, technology, web2.0, wikipedia, youtube.
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Nick Carr and Jaron Lanier say that rise of digital collectivism is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise. They argue that this is different from meritocracy where the best gets awarded. Nick is of the opinion that the peer produced goods will be mediocre. But as these average goods are available for free that undermines the economic incentives for creating something that is better than mediocre.

Nick points out that markets are good at setting prices for commodities as markets filter out individual biases. There are things where markets are not good like writing books, encyclopedia entries or editing newspapers or magazines. Let me try to expain Nick’s argument by an example – It says that Wikipedia is a mediocre product as compared to Britannica encyclopedia or any other encyclopedia. Now that there is a free mediocre product i.e. Wikipedia in the market people will not buy Britannica anymore. The sales of Britannica will drop and Britannica will take its encyclopedia product off from the market. So, how Britannica should survive in the wake of wikepedia? If Wikipedia is mediocre then I think there is an opportunity for Britannica to tap in. People are always ready to pay premium for the best knowledge. I really don’t think that this behavior will change in future also. The knowledge worker viz consultant, lawyer, doctor faces this competition daily but does he feel threatened from a consultant who is providing his services free of cost. No. Because the costly consultant knows that the cost is not the differentiator but the specialized knowledge that he is having. And that is going to attract the client.

If Britannica thinks that they have a superior product than Wikipedia, they shouldn’t fret. In fact they should see wikipedia as its free version. Let me give you some real life example. Couple of my friends got hooked to wikipedia. They were spending tones of time reading articles on it and they ended up buying Britannica and Microsoft Encarta. I asked them why they have bought two encyclopedias – They said Encarta got lots of multimedia content and Britannica got lots of wonderful long articles. And now they have best of both the worlds. Now if they want to check on a particular thing they first saw it on Wikipedia and then on the regular encyclopedia. Society overall has benefited by having a wikipedia. It gives people a choice and people are smart enough to figure out what is good for them.

Let us have a look at newspapers and magazines. Will Ohmynews or NowPublic will replace NYT or BBC well I don’t think so. Citizen journalism will perform an important role in our society and they give a refreshing new choice to the people. The established media houses because of certain restrictions, generally don’t report things in full. This could be because they are related to one political party or because of the nationalist agenda. Citizen journalists don’t have any such prejudices and give unbiased view of the situation. And it is great to have this alternative available. Similar reasons can be given for consumer generated videos and pictures. We cannot compare the pictures present in Flickr by the ones that get published in National Geographic. But people would like to see both. No video on YouTube can be compared to any oscar winning movie.

Jaron Lanier argues that American Idol can’t give you a John Lennon. I am not sure of American Idol but the singers who won in Indian Idol are signed by big music houses. In fact some of the singers who won in other popular singing competitions got nominated as best playback singers in Filmfare awards (Indian Oscars). Shows like Indian idols give such a great platform to the budding stars and motivates millions of other people too. And this also puts pressure on the existing established singers to give their best. As a result, the society gets benefited.

In the end, I will say that connected production or peer production or whatever you want to call it is a great boon to the society. It challenges the authority of the existing established players who have to come with more innovative ways to survive and sustain. People are going to buy / favor / consume the product which is the best.

Peer production has just raised the bar.

India and Citizen Journalism May 27, 2006

Posted by rajAT in blog, citizen journalism, digg, india, media2.0, mom2.0, web2.0.
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Last evening, I gave an overview of Web 2.0 to my mother. I told her that now people can have their own digital diaries on internet. They can express their opinion on any topic and can share it with other people. This whole phenomenon is called Blogging. She said, "It is little weird my dear, Diaries are supposed to be personal". I told her that people write their views on politics, technology, sports etc. Some of them are personal also people write about their break offs with their girl friends and boy friends but then privacy was a 20th century problem. She couldn’t really come on terms with the privacy part.

After that I started showing her some blogs. Ajit Jaokar's OpenGardens was open on my laptop. She read open gardens and exclaimed, "Rajat show me this one". The word gardens have attracted her. My mom loves gardening and her Bonsai are very famous. I chuckled and said this is not about gardening but a mobile blog. She was not happy on listening this.

After that I started telling her that Media is no longer one way. It has become a lot more participative. She was quietly thinking and I was looking at her. She then said this means that now anybody can become a reporter. I was like YESSSS!!! I have not uttered a word about citizen journalism and she got there on her own. I got very excited and told her about that the best source of information on IRAQ is not CNN or BBC but a blog. People all over the world go to that website for unbiased information on IRAQ. Next thing on my radar was Ohmynews.com. I told her that all the news items published here are submitted by common people and not journalists. This gives so much power to common people like us as now we have a big forum to express our views. I told her that now we don't need a team of senior editors to decide which is bigger news and which new item should not be printed. Thanks to Digg.com where people decide which news goes on the top and which goes on the bottom. This is WE in WEB.

She was very impressed on listening to all this. And I ended my little lecture by saying that these changes are as big as the invention of printing press.

But after that I started thinking about why citizen journalism is so easy for Indians to get. This was 3rd or 4th time when I have given an overview of Web 2.0 to a person who uses internet barely. All of them jumped at citizen journalism. I think people especially Indians have lacked forums where they are heard, a place where they can go and speak about the problems like corruption, bureaucracy that have crippled the society. I can forsee a very bigger change that our society is going to witness in near future.

Can you?