Archive for October, 2007

FoldSpy to measure 20 million screens

conor 21st of October 2007 by conor

Eoghan McCabe launched FoldSpy back in July and they will soon measure their 20 millionth screen. The tool is designed to tell you what your visitors are seeing so you can optimise ad placements.

foldspy02

Web users spend far more time at the top of a page than at the bottom, so the top of the page is more valuable when placing ads or other page elements. Using FoldSpy, you can find out exact where this “top” is and you can make design adjustments accordingly.

I hadn’t fully understood the tool until I tried it out. You add one line of code to your site’s page headers to enable it. Then to see it in action, you simply go to www.yoursite.com/#foldspy. There you get an overlay on your site showing what percentage of measured users (on all sites) could see particular areas of your page. An area of 600 x 400 on one of my blogs shows 96% of viewers would see everything.

foldspy01

Increase that to 1024 x 600 and it plummets to 19%! You can then tweak ad placement to ensure that they are seen by as many users as possible. The important point is that they are not reporting screen resolution (which Google Analytics already reports) but the statistics on the sizes of the browser window. With the sites I run, over 70% of users are at 1024×768 resolution but they may have the browser window set much smaller.

There are several other very useful features including a hover-over mode where you can see the percentages changing as you move the mouse around. You can also change colour and position to suit sites with different layouts or dark colour schemes. Obviously each site that installs it provides more data for everyone else.

There are both Free and Pro versions of the site. With the Free version, the data you see comes from FoldSpy sites all over the world; with FoldSpy Pro, you also get direct access to data collected on your site, which means the results are tailored to your particular audience. They have focused on building up the screen measurement data since launch but expect to do a marketing push on the Pro version in mid November.

This is one of those well-designed useful utilities that every web developer should have in their arsenal. It has made me think twice about the screen expansion we were going to do on one of our sites.

Company Index: Eoghan McCabe Ltd

Could Swarmteams be the next Jaiku?

conor 17th of October 2007 by conor

I only just heard of Belfast-based Swarmteams last week despite them getting quite a bit of coverage last autumn. Given the buzz around mobile social networks, it looks like they have a great growth opportunity on their hands.

swarmteams01

It is based around the idea of group messaging using SMS, IM, RSS and E-mail with a particular focus on SMS and mobile. Like Jaiku channels you can message individual groups and not just everyone of your contacts (like Twitter does).

Rather than simple format-less messages, they have implemented an SMS command system too. For example, the prefix .CHAT means broadcast this message and send all replies to everyone in the swarm. By contrast, .ASK means broadcast but just send me the replies and .TELL means broadcast but don’t send any replies. In fact there is a whole raft of commands which requires its own cheatsheet!

It is clear that Swarmteams was designed for mobile first and web second. This means that you can even do things like create swarms on the fly using your phone. I see huge potential here for co-ordinating short-term activities between constantly changing group and sub-groups of people.

A perfect example occurred this evening with the Facebook Debate in London. No back-channel had been created and someone already at the event wondered if one existed. With Swarmteams they could have created one on the spot using their phone and invited a bunch of people to it. Instant group SMS, IM and RSS for all to monitor or take part.

swarmteams02

The site itself is very “concept heavy” with lots of info about swarm like behavior which I’m not sure any user really cares about. The web-based message board is quite sparse in design but has a large number of icons which may confuse. If Twitter is under-designed, then Swarmteams seems to be taking the kitchen sink approach to features. I even spotted a Skype logo. A strange omission is GTalk and Jabber for IM given that they support AIM, ICQ, Yahoo and MSN.

There are two versions available. One for Enterprises (Swarm-Pro) and one for individuals (Swarm-it). Whilst I originally didn’t get the Enterprise angle, the examples they give make sense: Retail Industry engaging consumers, Music Industry engaging fans, Government & Campaigners engaging citizens etc.

The version for individuals is where I see the potential for rapid growth but since it is a pay-for service I fear it will remain untapped. Both Twitter and Jaiku bit the bullet on SMS cost in order to build their customer bases. Both intend(ed) to offer freemium services in the future. Could Swarmteams use the Enterprise income to subsidise the Consumer version in order to quickly build the user-base?

As users become more sophisticated they are moving from the simple functionality of Twitter to the richer experience of Jaiku. I really think that Swarmteams could be the next logical step.

Company Index: Swarmteams

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/18/2007 4:21:44 AM

Thanks for the update Ken.

I’d be very surprised if you are not already beating VCs off with a stick. Any Euro-VC who has seen the excitment in this area must see the value Swarmteams has.

I love the concept-heaviness on your blog, I subscribed the second I found it but I just thought it might distract on the main site. Do you speak much at conferences? If not, you should!

If all those commands are available via HTTP post then you are way ahead of anyone else in API richness.

I’m going to check out the widget, that sounds very useful. Might be perfect for the Paddy’s Valley site in fact!

Comment posted by ken thompson
at 10/18/2007 3:04:23 AM

Conor

Thanks for taking the time to put together a very insightful review

We are currently growing swarmteams organically using the enterprise version of swarms with music bands, retail brands and civic/youth engagement fans – mostly focused on the UK. These enterprises sponsor the messages provided they are on their chosen topics.

We are now starting to looking actively for external investment but we did not want to do this until we had some good revenue streams. External funding would enable us to offer the personal version for free if we want to – we are not yet fully decided on this – one of things we have discovered is that sustainable long-term swarming works best in the context of real ‘must do’ applications as opposed to general gossip and they can be harder to find in the personal space.

I agree with your comments on ‘concept heavy’ – we will be slimming down and simplifying things over the coming weeks. I think this also points to one of our uniques – we developed a novel biological model for communications (patent pending) and then built a system to implement the model. So it means we have intellectual property which you can’t really create by rapid prototyping alone.

I know about the Paddys Valley trip etc – timing just not right for us – would love to chat further with Niall. I wrote to Conor to try and make some connections with the Irish Web2.0 community which I heard about from Brian Cleland at InterTrade. We are looking for potential resellers and partners in both geographies and sectors.

In terms of the API any swarm command you can issue from the handset can be issued by another program via an HTTP post.

We also have a ‘Swarm Button’ widget which can be dropped onto an existing website or community or to add mobile and IM channels to it instantly. It also provides single signon – if you are logged into the application you don’t have to log-in again to swarmteams. All the application has to do is change the code where it communicates with it groups to a call to the Swarm API and it can use TELL, ASK or CHAT and swarmteams will handle all the channels for it automatically.

Best Regards

Ken Thompson

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/17/2007 4:54:16 PM

The depth of their thinking and analysis of social behaviour is easily the match of anything you hear from the Jaiku guys.

They got in touch with Web2Ireland via InterTradeIreland. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paddy’s Valley came up too.

Perhaps they fell off your radar due to the pay-for aspect? I have to wonder if maybe they could have grown as fast as Jaiku over the past year with a freemium approach?

I’ll be interested to see what they are doing with APIs too.

Comment posted by Niall Larkin
at 10/17/2007 3:56:25 PM

Excellent analysis Conor. I had forgotten about Swarmteams. Strangely enough for an Irish outfit, I first heard of them through Techcrunch. It’ll be no surprise to those that know me that I was drawn to their application of the principles of bio-logic (rather than techo-logic) to smoothing out normal socio-logical processes.

I looked into the guy behind it and I remember thinking what an interesting character with refreshing outlook on selecting people and building teams. (Almost an in-company BarCamp ethos)

I’m curious as to how they came under your radar lately? Would love to hear more from them. I mean this is a company that would presumably have get a great deal from FOWA, BarCamps (incl Belfast) and of course the upcoming trip to Silicon Valley.

Swarmteams – another exciting web2ireland startup

admin 17th of October 2007 by admin

swarmteams

Based in Belfast, Swarmteams provides a Community Engagement Platform – which enables mobile groups to store their contact details on the Swarmteams server thus giving them the convenience of single click group messaging without the hassle of each group member having to try and maintain their own sets of group contacts.

check techcrunch coverage and comments from Stowe Boyd

iFoods.tv – a New Web2.0 foodie site is changing the way people cook

admin 17th of October 2007 by admin

ifoods.tv

iFoods.tv – a new Web2.0 foodie site is changing the way people cook.

It could also be described as a ‘Facebook for Foodies’ – which is aimed at everyone interested in cooking – from outright beginners to proficient cooks.

Founded by Chef Niall Harbison – who started his career as a chef in Ireland’s premier restaurant, Peacock Alley, under the guidance of Michelin Star Chef Conrad Gallagher. Niall became the youngest Head Chef in Ireland, of a fine dining establishment, in 2001 when he took the reins at Lloyd’s Brasserie (aged 21) where he cooked for the likes of Victoria Beckham and Robbie Williams. Since then, Niall has continued to cater for the rich & famous as a private chef on both super yachts and in their mansions worldwide, cooking for Bill Gates’s 50th Birthday party, U2, Lance Armstrong and Mariah Carey.

Some other related points

* iFoods.tv was co-founded by Niall Harbsion and partners.
* The site officially launched on August 23, 2007.
* iFoods.tv currently contains 100 video tutorial recipes:
* iFoods will be constantly adding new videos with the long term view of having a huge resource of online video tutorials.

Time for api.gov.ie?

conor 16th of October 2007 by conor

In a recent competition for the best idea for a webapp with an Irish focus, I was surprised to find several submissions were about citizen interaction with the public service and the Government. This set me thinking that we should not encourage the public service to build applications and sites but to build APIs for our data.

The key word is “our”. There is still a strong belief in the public service that somehow they own our data whether that is a hospital telling me I can only get my son’s x-rays through the Freedom of Information act, the Ordnance Survey keeping an iron-grip on GIS data or local government publishing data in proprietary Word docs and PDFs.

One developer who will soon be releasing a much needed webapp which queries particular data across many County Councils told me that he has had to build multiple converters and scrapers for this data. Given that the LGCSB (Local Government Computer Services Board) should be in charge of all of this, how did we end up in this situation?

Expecting the public service to build webapps for us is a fool’s errand. They would spend €100m, take five years and it wouldn’t work when it was finished. However, if they make each department’s data available along with some simple APIs, then citizens can do it for themselves, or pay someone to do it. Free unlimited access to all APIs for individual or non-commercial use and some small pay-as-you-go for commercial use. I’m sure Yahoo can give plenty of guidance here.

So what data do we want and need? Anything available under Freedom of Information from crime rates per county to court cases to tax revenue by category. If it exists, we want it. Private data like tax is clearly out of bounds but the Revenue could make statistics available and allow us to do our own slicing and dicing. Maybe we wouldn’t need the ESRI reports any more, we could build our own.

Am I living in a fantasy land or does anyone think this can happen? Revenue Online proves that the capability to build smart, useful, reliable applications exists in some parts of the Irish Civil Service. Perhaps if those guys released an API, the others might follow?

Share This

Comment posted by Damien
at 10/18/2007 3:39:08 AM

The Guardian have a long running campaign in the UK to open access to public data. The premise is that you’ve already paid for it once with your taxes, you shouldnt have to pay for it again.

A good starting point in ireland would be the CSO – they don’t have an API, but at least seem open to sharing census and other stats we paid them to collect – see http://www.cso.ie/px/ and also have some RSS feeds

I think nooked.com (in Sligo) have also been RSS feed enabling public bodies, though usually to suck in data, not pump it out..

Damien

Comment posted by DennisDeery.com
at 10/17/2007 7:47:04 PM

["¦] blognation Ireland » Blog Archive » Time for api.gov.ie? Irish blogger Conor O’Neill offers a great idea – why don’t governments provide an open application-programming interface to their mounds of data? How about it U.S.A.? (tags: government) ["¦]

Comment posted by John Ward
at 10/17/2007 2:45:27 PM

It is ESB etc”¦ however it could’ve served as a backend data service.

I would doubt there are any skunkworks, my experience of the public sector is that everything has to documented before being done. Another aspect is that security, and data privacy is often the most important requirement above all else which could hamper anything like this. It would have to go through all sorts of compliance reviews. It’s unfortunate but its the reality.

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/17/2007 8:36:55 AM

Thanks for that link John, I wasn’t aware of Reach until this morning. I’ve just checked the site and it fit my prediction perfectly: it tried to install MSXML 5.0 and failed in Internet Explorer 7. Nuff said really.

But this is pure Enterprise level stuff anyway. I’m sure it is ESBed and WS-*’ed up the wazoo it but doesn’t enable citizens or average developers to do things for themselves.

Has anything skunkworks ever come out of the public service? A few techie civil servants with spare time on their hands and some public data that is really hard to get at”¦”¦”¦”¦.

Comment posted by hugh
at 10/16/2007 9:58:42 PM

data liberators of the world, unite!

Comment posted by datalibre.ca · when irish api’s are smilin’
at 10/16/2007 9:57:34 PM

["¦] ie.blognation.com: In a recent competition for the best idea for a webapp with an Irish focus, I was surprised to ["¦]

Comment posted by John Ward
at 10/16/2007 3:30:49 PM

Conor,
There is an initiative to do this. It is called Reach Public Services Broker and it was a project I worked on. The concept was simple: a single place to engage with the public sector, data from each of the agencies would be made available via a message broker – Address from welfare, Passport id from foreign affairs, License id from Environment. Unfortunately it hasn’t delivered on the vision, and I fear may never do.

http://www.reachservices.ie/

http://www.reach.ie

In terms of thought leadership it was way ahead of its time. The reality of delivery was somewhat different. Each agency has its own IT program they’re working on, with budgets tied to that. Second, the government requires outside expertise and expensive consultants to advise them, a second bunch to build it. This becomes expensive and can cause problems.

John

Comment posted by Steven Livingstone
at 10/16/2007 2:56:52 PM

James, if someone wrote an API – even if behind the scences it scraped stuff – consumers would write their clients against it and when the “real” API’s became available that would not change. You would be the API

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/16/2007 2:18:36 PM

I wouldn’t mind so much if Ordnance Survey would actually launch the great new features they announced aeons ago. If they would also do a deal with Google so that we get non-joke rural GoogMaps, then we could use Google APIs!

A simple start for all the others would be RSS feeds for every category of guide, form and press release published by each department. Then let the geek citizens build the portals for the average joe in the street.

Comment posted by James Corbett
at 10/16/2007 1:46:59 PM

I think it’s a great idea, whatever about the practicalities. The Ordinance Survey situation galled me so much a few years ago, when I bought my first GPS device, that I setup a Yahoo Group called OpenEir to see if we could build an “open source map” of Ireland. There was quite a bit of interest but it never took off.

On a separate note I trawled through all the government department websites lately in search of RSS feeds and found that only 5 departments – (1)Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, (2) Enterprise, Trade and Employment, (3) Environment, Heritage and Local Government, (4) Health and Children, and (5) Social and Family Affairs, provided feed for their press sections. The department of Health and Children stands out for offering 6 separate feeds. Ironic that it’s not Comms, Energy and Natural Resources, eh!

I was actually thinking of building scrapers for each of the other departments but feck it”¦ why should I even have to consider that. This isn’t even APIs we’re taking about, just drop dead simple RSS feeds

Paddy’s Valley is now an all-island event

conor 14th of October 2007 by conor

The Paddy’s Valley tour by Irish start-ups of Silicon Valley in December has just become an all-island event with the addition of InterTradeIreland to the trip.

InterTrade is a cross-border body that is about all-island trade and business development networks. Paddy’s Valley fits into that perfectly and it’ll be great to see Northern Irish companies joining the tour.

Expect to see several stories on blognation in the coming weeks on NI start-ups.

Comment posted by James
at 10/15/2007 6:08:38 AM

There are NI startups?!

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/15/2007 7:06:52 AM

There’s a rake of great companies in Northern Ireland and I hope we can play a part in getting them more profile.

Comment posted by James
at 10/15/2007 4:11:19 PM

Hopefully so, I don’t know any! Would be good to know more about them.

Touristr adds travel blogging

conor 14th of October 2007 by conor

I’ve watched Touristr develop over the course of 2007 from a fundamentally useful travel site to one that can compete on a global stage with ease. They have tweaked many parts of the site with this new release and lightweight travel blogging is the main new feature.

touristr_front_02

The motivation behind Touristr was very simple: find out what a place really has to offer using stories and adventures from other travellers. In the original launch, this was very much built around the idea of users adding flags on Google Maps. In the revamped site, they have pre-added thousands of flags for places of interest so you can just add your stories around that location/attraction.

The big change to the front page is interesting. Many social sites jam-pack the landing page with eye-candy and links in an attempt to show you just how exciting the site really is. I tend to find this incredibly distracting and it makes it harder to find what I need. The other extreme is the Google search bar. It looks like Touristr is taking this approach. Whilst I like the simple look, I think they do need to add a much bigger “About” link for new visitors.

Their mascot TR is a very smart idea as it changes costumes with each country you are looking at. They have gone with a lighthearted stereotype approach which only the truly anal will find offensive. TR adds a very strong branding to the overall site.

A search for Paris on the home page brings up a Google Map with some flags on it, lots of text links and a lovely set of pictures. One small nit; the map does not auto-center and auto-zoom to Paris which I would expect. Oh ok, I could have meant Paris Texas.

Below the map is a set of filtering icons. This is one of those forehead slapping features which overcomes one of my biggest search engine annoyances: “Is it AND or &? Can I use and or must it be AND?”. The filters make complete sense.

touristr_results_01

I clicked on the “Eat” filter and the list of results was refined. Amongst them I spotted “Au Petit Riche” where a group of us ate during Le Web 3 last December. Clicking on that provided an accurate description of it plus a text box where you could immediately add your own story and your own pictures. Others can indicate whether your story was interesting or not and add comments. Very slick and very simple.

touristr_petitriche_01

You can also Rate, Save and Recommend a destination. Of course there are RSS feeds for every destination too so you can keep an eye on new stories for places and venues you like. Every user has an RSS feed so your friends can follow your stories and pictures as you travel.

Of all the travel sites I’ve tried recently (and I’ve tried a LOT!), Touristr is the one which fits best into my way of working. Instead of the usual 4000 reviews of a Marriott in New York, I hope it becomes a source of unique information for the intelligent and inquisitive traveller. They have some major features coming which I’m looking forward to trying out since they’ll make travelling even easier again.

Company Index: Tourist Republic

Comment posted by TouristR
at 10/25/2007 5:59:51 AM

[…] Per saperne di più un ottima recensione su Blognation […]

Comment posted by Jan Blanchard
at 10/15/2007 4:58:56 AM

Thank you for this comprehensive review. You’re making a good point about the home page. Showing the right amount of information and content to give directions to users and in the same time keeping it simple is a real art!
Since our initial release in private beta, we’ve been adding and removing things constantly from the home page. We’ll be adding screencasts soon and we’ll definitely consider more “about TouristR” info.

Startup Weekend Dublin

conor 14th of October 2007 by conor

I’ve just heard about this interesting event that is on from December 7th to 9th. The main Startup Weekend site says:

Have you ever wondered what a group of highly talented and motivated people could accomplish in a weekend? Could they start a company from concept to completion?

StartupWeekend answers that question and more. A unique three-day experience, StartupWeekend brings the best and brightest people together in a local office space to select the concept, break into teams, and develop the product, marketing and revenue model.

I love the sound of this. We tried to get a lightweight version of this off the ground for Web2Ireland week but it didn’t happen.

It looks like those who take part over the weekend get equity in any company that results. You can participate in one of several different roles:

  • Developer- Sys Admin
  • Developer- BackEnd
  • Developer- Architect
  • Developer- Front End
  • PR
  • User Experience
  • Designer
  • Legal
  • Cook

I see that at least two companies have been created so far: scrolltalk and tipdish. It would be interesting to hear stories from those who have attended one of the five so far held around the world.

Comment posted by Andrew Hyde
at 10/15/2007 3:19:34 PM

I am flying in from the states for this, can’t wait!

Comment posted by In Search of Clear Focus » Blog Archive » Startup Weekend
at 10/15/2007 8:06:57 AM

[…] Thanks to BlogNation for the heads up. […]

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 10/15/2007 4:19:28 AM

It looks like EI is not aware of this either.

The person who contacted me was on UK number so perhaps it is being done remotely like MashupCamp? Did I see a Python Ireland person on the blogroll?

Comment posted by Damien Mulley
at 10/15/2007 4:05:22 AM

I’ve never heard of the people that are involved in this. Still a long way to go to have an all-aware tech community in Ireland.

Delta make Web2.0 investment – in the UK

admin 14th of October 2007 by admin

Fresh from closing a €100m investment fund – with Enterprise Ireland participating – Delta has made an investment in a web2.0 play according to the Sunday Business Post.

“The founders of Kidstart, which expects to launch its services in the coming months, have backgrounds in consulting and in the credit and loyalty card sectors, according to Kenny.

The company is a so-called ‘Web 2.0’ firm, a term used to describe the new generation of internet firms that are using advanced online technologies following the dotcom boom and bust.”

Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

admin 11th of October 2007 by admin

Don Dodge has a great post on Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue

He covers typical business models

1. Freemium
2. Transactions
3. Subscriptions
4. Advertising

Great read.