What you search = who you are

Microsoft’s adCenter Labs has information about and demos of “behavioral targeting system”, i.e. systems that allow you to predict what users are based on what they have done.

I found the demographics prediction demo particularly interesting. It allows to “predict a customer’s age, gender, and other demographic information according to […] search queries and webpage views”. Try it here, all you need it to type a URL or keyword. I tried with URLs:

Cocomment.com seems to be searched mostly by male below 18 (23.46% of users below 18 years old, vs 9.8% in the general population) while this blog is “18 to 24 oriented”.

MySpace.com gives some interesting results shown below:

I wouldn’t take this data for truth but it is interesting (and a bit scary of course) to see what advertisers are trying to do with all the data they are gathering on us.

Web 2.0 Suisse

Sebastian Kwiecien et Richard MacManus m’ont demandé d’écrire un bref descriptif du web 2.0 en Suisse.

Je vais bien sûr parler de coComment, skyClick & adsClick, search.ch, et essayer de ramener en Suisse Plazes et OpenBC qui, bien qu’établis en Allemagne, ont de solides liens avec l’Helvétie.

Je suis certain d’oublier beaucoup de sociétés qui mériteraient d’être mentionnées. Alors si vous avez des liens à me signaler n’hésitez pas, envoyez moi un mail ou utilisez les commentaires ci-dessous. Merci d’avance 🙂

Speaking in September

I will be speaking at two events in the coming weeks, first on a panel about Web 2.0 in Lausanne at the IMD alumni club (more info here, click on Guest to pass the ridiculous first screen), then in Lisbon at SHiFT, a conference I already told you about earlier this year, where I will share some of the lessons learned on the coComment project. I intend to talk about working with European surroundings and perspectives in the fast moving, no rule is the rule, expect everything web 2.0 environment.

Let’s have a coffee if you are attending any of these.

Business blog survey

Ingo Haupt, a German business student at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, contacted me about an interesting study on Business Blogs. The idea it to understand “what quality aspects of business blogs are most important for consumers and how companies can use their weblogs to create and strengthen consumer loyalty”.

Sounds like an interesting program, your individual data will be kept confidential and the results public.

So if you have 10 minutes to invest in a nice research click here and be sure to check Ingo’s blog to get the results when they become available. Thanks for your help!

Band funding

I just stumbled upon SellaBand, an inventive new business model for the music industry. They created a smart mix of communities, revenue sharing, viral marketing and outsource talent scouting and financing to their users. Powerful.

How SellaBand works: fans, dubbed Believers, find an artist they like on SellaBand.com. For USD 10, they can buy a share, or ‘Part’. Once the band has sold 5,000 parts, SellaBand arranges a professional recording, [..] managers and producers. Believers receive a limited edition cd of the recording.

[..] songs are then made available as free downloads. Income comes from advertising revenues, which are split three ways: artist, believer and SellaBand. The company will also sell cds through regular channels, sharing profits with artists and believers.

Since both believers and artists benefit from getting 5,000 parts sold, both are likely to actively promote the band (and SellaBand)

More info on springwise.com.

Personal technologies

When we first drafted the LIFT06 program, one of the key project I wanted us to talk about was an experiment of the Geneva hospital to fight bulimia using a web site.

They had a very interesting idea: bulimia patients have a problem with their image, and admitting being sick is shameful and tough in our society. Using the web, they could more easily get in touch with the patients and still reproduce the richness of a doctor-patient relation, monitor the weight losses, communicate the daily menu, etc…

The network would even provide a comfortable and constructive environment for exchanges. Patients wouldn’t have to walk down the street and feel observed by bystanders, and emails allowed for more direct conversations.

I thought this was interesting as it demonstrated that people are willing to rely on technology for very intimate things. And it is a key evolution for businesses. Technologies CAN carry personal relationships.

Proof is this article found on BankWatch stating that “making online banking feel personal is the next step”.

In the 1990s, online banking’s early promise fizzled for lack of a human touch and a physical place to do business. […]
Now banks say the standard is making their online “branch” do all the things that a branch manager or a loan officer reached in person or on the phone could do.


Internet users are demanding that we take the services to the next level. And this time they want the machines to feel more human. We are back in the 2002 situation where demand is ahead of the offer (full article here).

Holographic storage

FinanceTech has an article on 5 Technologies You Need to Know About that talks about holographic storage, a “technology that uses three-dimensional imaging to dramatically increase – nearly 10 times – storage capacity on a disk.

Seems this is right around the corner, even if it will not reach the mass market before a little while with prices like 8’000 to 10’000$ for 300GB at the end of 2006.

I always experienced the same thing with my computers: at buying time I thought “this hard drive is way too big, I will never use all the space I have”. This just to find myself scrambling to delete files a few months later. This should be history soon.

39% of blog readers

The latest PEW report confirms blogs are going mainstream.

Thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs – a significant increase since the fall of 2005.

Link (via David Weinberger)

Just a few months ago there were debates about whether blogs would become mainstream. Time to focus on the next question.

My last day at coComment

Today is my last day of work for coComment, the end of almost eleven months of hard and passionate work on one of the most exciting projects of my professional life.

It is both unsurprising and… surprising!

Since May my mission was to take care of coComment during the transition between a 100% Swisscom owned project and a fully independent company. I moved the project to Geneva, rebuilt a team, and focused all our energy on the relaunch. I was still an external consultant, and my official title was “Interim CEO”, so there was a sense changes were looming on the horizon.

On the other hand, Nicolas, Marco and me (aka the “founders”) tried hard to be part of the future of coComment and strike a deal with Swisscom on the establishment of a new company. Unfortunately we could not agree on satisfactory terms for all parties involved. Spin offs are really hard to do as anybody with experience in that kind of situation will tell you. So, as it stands, I will not be back on the project when I return from holidays.

coComment has been such a wild ride. It all started on an email from Nicolas Dengler, who was then working for Swisscom Innovations (the R&D arm of our national telco). He was asking for my opinion on an idea he had, a kind of Third Voice with a twist of Web 2.0.

I was immediately seduced by the project and its potential, and promptly joined as a consultant. My role was to help refine the concept, and make it fit the different constraints we had (budget, development capacity, location, etc…). By the end of 2005 I had logged countless hours of commuting between Geneva and Bern, where the project was then being developed in-house at Swisscom by Peter Balsiger and his team.

I stepped down a little in early 2006 to put the final touch on the organization of the conference I founded and that some of you attended; on February 2 and 3 LIFT was here, and on the ensuing week-end I ended up showing the small web project I was working on to some bloggers, among them Robert Scoble.

A-listers are magicians: they can transform your private alpha in public beta. It is both a good and a bad thing. If it happens, just be sure you have more than your development server when they start talking about you 😉

So one of the craziest weeks of my life started. From the Swiss chalet of my friend Pierre Devos – where we had taken all the LIFT speakers who had no plans for the week-end – coComment spread all over the web: second most bookmarked site on delicious, fourth most searched term on technorati, articles all over the press, most notably in Wired, tens of thousands of people trying to reach the site. The buzz was completely overwhelming. Solve a problem for passionate internet users out there and they will reward you with a free buzz surpassing your wildest dreams. As Don Dogde said:

We now live in a meritocracy. Money, VCs, and the press no longer decide what will be successful. Great products/services with intuitive designs that solve a real problem win.


So my post-conference vacation turned into helping deal with all the craziness that started in February and just ended this week.

I met thousands of passionate and interesting people, went to the silicon valley, got introduced to the world of venture capitalists, held meetings in more than 10 cities (let’s see: Zurich, Bern, Paris, Bucharest, London, Munich, Boston, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Tokyo, Barcelona, Zaragossa), managed a great team to deliver the best ever version of what I believe is an indispensable service for all those participating in the global conversation… What a ride.

As of today, coComment is a successful web service used by thousands of people, hosting hundreds of thousands of comments, making global conversation useful and helping individuals deal with a growing problem: managing their participation all over the web.

One day I will go into more details about all this, and maybe even write a book about that whole story as Bruno once suggested 😉

But now is finally my turn for a bit of rest.

Before I publish this post and head to Brittany for three weeks of well deserved disconnection, I want to thank all those involved in this adventure, starting with the great team who worked with me for the last three months (ben, chris, christophe, guillaume, hugh, juan-luis, leif, nicholas, pierre-alexandre, raph, steph, steven, the namahn folks and the netage folks); all our users, friends and coworkers who provided advice, ideas and challenges; and last but not least my two “co-founders” Nicolas Dengler and Marco Chong, two people with whom I think we were forming a very balanced, creative, and effective team. It is really a shame we built that chemistry on a consulting project 😉

I will be back with a fresh mind in September, working on the preparation of LIFT07 and looking for a few new challenges (maybe even in the commentosphere… who knows…), . Enjoy your month of August folks, see you soon 🙂