Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fred Wilson, Stowe Boyd and Josh Bernoff at Widget Web Expo day 2

The following is simply my notes, made at the time the presentations were being made at day two of WidgetWebExpo in NYC. Lack of wifi made live blogging impossible.

I'll add a little commentary and links later (am at JFK waiting to board for Heathrow at the time of posting). Apologies if it's not polished, but it's the best I could do in the time available!!

Fred Wilson gave the key note

1.Fred Wilson: (Fred blogs at AVC)
Why widgets is the wrong word and why it matters.

"I wrote a blog post this morning and in the process I developed some thoughts. the ppt is available at slideshare.

Fred's powerpoint for WWE:

Fred referred to the widget as defined on wikipedia.

"The words are wrong and the way we are using them is wrong.

"The first i used was in 2005, the flickr badge. Eye opener for me It developed a lot of interaction, people would click through and comment on my flickr page.

"Most interesting widget i have used is the mybloglog widget. It made me realise widgets would do more than just show content, they would introduce new function – that my blog could become a social network.

"My favourite widget is one hacked together by a friend named darren, a frequent reader. we all post music. (widget is on fred's blog) you can fast forward, auto play skip, etc. pulls from tumblr.

"The problems with widgets: what is content and what is ad?
we increasingly are getting trained by google to think of organic results as content and the stuff on the right is ads. that notion of separation of ad is content is something we see a lot of places on the web.

"Widgets get relegated to the sidebars and increasingly viewed in the same way as ads and therefore increasingly ignored.

"Three times I have cleaned out widgets, I posted 'widgets suck' cos most of last year the single most used search term on my blog was 'widgets suck'. I found widgets i liked and then found I needed to clean house and I'd poll people and people said they didn't like the widgets.

"Widgets cause a painful slow down in load times."

Fred demo'd with his own blog taking 25-30s.

"Responsiveness and load time is key to success on the web.

"On my tumblog there are no sidebars. it is delivered inline and a better experience for the user – but these are embeds or feeds.

"I am enamoured with the concept of flow and rivers, we need experiences on the web that are a flow controlled by the user... a river of news or of anything, is more compelling than the more interruptive experience of widgets on my weblog.

"The challenge is how do you get into the flow, with a better end user experience."

Q&A: Stowe asked: "Why don't you come up with a better design for AVC."

"I don't really have any other way to do some of these things – I don't have a way to express my social network any other way, or these flickr photos and put them into the flow.

"Idea that widgets get served like in context ads – gthe only that appear to the user being the ones that suit the content. Less interruptive then.

"Is it just a design issue? I used to have a lastfm badge which showed my most recent songs. I took it out, in my tumblr page there's a post that's autogenerated showing my five most recent songs, in the flow.

(worth noting Fred is delivering a very publisher rather than consumer perspective, by which i mean widgets are not always 'ours'. Fred's are displays of elements of his likes and interests, not ones designed for the user to take and display for themself - to make their own).

"There's a signal to noise ratio issue. the signal on avc is now much stronger about tech and venture capital because much of my 'noise' about other things I'm interested in is now in a different flow (tumblr).

"Generational shift, those born after 1980 are much more fast paced about the way they consume content, they want to get to the answer really quickly so twitter and tumblr are doing well.

"Facebook is taking the apps off the profile and into an apps tab, the fact I've installed an app doesn't mean it should be on my profile page (though it'll be in the river of news...)

"First gen of he widget economy was powerful because it showed we can mash up on a single page. But the user interface needs to change. widgets shouldn't suck."

Chris Saad: “You don't have to consume your friends entire life stream. You post to the world but your friends should be able to filter for themselves.”

Stowe: people are experiencing blogs differently – via rss without any of the widgets.

Fred: "The ultimate power of feeds is to route content to the people who want it where they want it. Widgets can put that content before the right people at the right time.

"People are starting to access the power of rss as plumbing rather than as publishing.

Q what models are making money.
A: widgets aren't, they are marketing system to get to web services.
People say this fb app has been installed 20m times, but then you see the daily active users might be 20K. It's about the engagement of the widgets.

"I want to know how much people use a widget on my blog.

"Web is becoming more intelligent more social and more playful. the most successful widgets on fb are games, social games, with real engagement. 2m a day play one of comps games a day. 12% of worldwide fb reach.

"everything should have some game dynamic to it, it has to have entertainment value even if its just about information.

Stowe Boyd:

Social Meaning In a fragmented world.

"Tower of Babel was destroyed and everyone's languages were confounded and spread out. that's what's going on on the web.
"People are spending more time on the web, less on tv! there's a fragmentation of exp.

"Is widgeting enough to bridge all of this incompatibility, bring together all these social shared meanings?

"Can we have distributed reputation and identity. If I have rep in tech is it worthwhile in politics, can we abstract sociality.

"I am a webthropologist, I am a synthesist, trying to get a big picture view on the impact on all of us, more an art than a science.

social tools and fragmentity:

"social tools have the purpose of creating or shaping culture, not just to make communication more important.

"culture is about a shared experienced, shared context and shared ethics.

"FB and google's actions are being amplified by the herd behaviour. Large population activities can cloud what people actually do with their closest context, down to social scale. There's a whole different set of physics in social groups compared to crowds.

"You can make the wrong interpretations and assumptions, just like we did about subatomic particles.

"Individuals aren't concerned about the fragmentation of their ID. denizens of the web are trying new stuff and setting up accounts all the time. I've recently used brightkite, i used to use plazes, i was just waiting for something new.

"people are curious and looking for new things to do, this playfulness that Fred was getting at.

"They will tolerate and even gravitate towards a fragmented world, it is this willingness to use fragmented identity on the web, they want a porthole here into some other context and they want to show that to someone.

"We can't expect uniformity when there is so much innovation going on. I use, they have devised new ideas which aren't like anything found elsewhere.

"People can propose activities that other people can take on (eg give up your car). I create the activity, it is unique at the moment. You will see this innovation, new ways of sharing in social tools. and we'll see more and more innovation, leading to more fragmentation.

People will do the big things AND all the other little things.

Edge vs Centre:

"The move away from mass to social media is the move from the centre to the edge. here we talk to each other as individuals. not published by a media org. I am an individual having a conversation – and this hollows out the centre and the impact has been enormous.

"The death of newspapers is one impact.

"The difference is that people choose to find their info from people they care about.

"People find it more enjoyable interesting and rewarding to work with real people rather than companies. People can say, I really like Louis Vitton, I really do, not because I'm being paid to, it's a natural social conversation. I express myself through this.

"Ads always come up, what do ads do for us on the web? as individuals? Are they a tax – in order for this to be free...

"Is it possible that they could be supportive of what we do – not just be at best benign.

"Could they support our social tools – I suspect ads will be enmeshed in the social experience – just using them as some kind of ugc is already proving to be more successful.

"Make it easy to share ads, too. I can't reblog ads, I can't share it.
Doing something more with ads, changing the words, making it personal, voting on them, we'll see that in the context of people sharing.

Social = Me First!
"The paradox is that we connect with others, through whom we define ourselves, we have to start by defining ourselves. We present ourselves in one way or another – makes us seem a little self-obsessed but its ok cos we are searching for a reason to be – (psychological self-determination) we are developing our personal identity at the heart of all we do online.

"Sharing widgets, our favourite this or that, it's all part of that. It can be a core way in which we define who we are and what we do.

"Rep and status plays to that (numbers of my followers) etc, I'm defined by my connections. It's about me in the world of other people.

The web is no democracy but it's not a hierarchy.

"It's more like living in a village where your rep and id is not even, some have more than others. We have kin, just not genetic. We have a sense there's a whole world of people we can talk to yet we are broken into language groups. There's 2K languages. English as a second language is accelerating cos of the web. it's killing language diversity.

"David Weinberger said on the web we will all be famous for 15 people.
DW also uses the term continuous partial friendship – deep connections in short periods.

"Long tail changes our concepts of involvement.

"Does the world become a deeper place or do our feelings become shallow. No, I have rivers of information and get to know hundreds of people meaningfully. The long tail isn't just about retail, it's about the spectrum of relationships we can afford.

"Widgets can help this with a low cost of doing so.

The web of flow is huge, but not massive

"We are moving to a web of flow where streams come to you, twitter, friendfeed, new google reader with commentary and sharing, tools which allow us to mediate the web... a stream of sociality.

"It will be a socialised world, not mass media. it has to be filtered by other people – via social relationships. Fred waits to see things come around cos it gets pushed to him. There's a mass impact but not cos its a mass medium.

"Its not one person's decision but 100k peoples considered opinions and thoughts.


EXPERIENCE: we all watched the same TV and talked to each other about it. Now its fragmented. People are doing other stuff. mass media is failing as a primary experience we share. instead socially scaled tools are emerging. The experience at one places will pop up in another context, like seeds in the flowers you give to someone and the seeds falling in their garden.
We adapt to this unequal and lumpy web with different experiences, where old experiences can be re-embedded in new contexts.
eg mybloglog, people tolerated, people experimented with dozens of different widgets.

People crave these novel experiences and our use of it as a mechanism of self expression.


Big brands fear letting go of control!
Stowe: Courage is one of the key skills for people moving from mass to one-to-one. They might have to accept they will get their feelings hurt. At this scale different rules are at work, they have to have same kind of courage, they have to cede control, the control was already lost, the conversations were already happening.
Playfulness is another part of that courage thing.

Get down to social scale.

Stowe: “People departed to the web (from mass media) just as fast as it emerged”

Josh bernoff – biz case for widgets:

You better be thinking about your objectives. In groundswell this is important in any social app.

We had a client called us and said we want to start a community. cos a competitor has.
What do you want to achieve.
There was a long embarrassed silence.
The client had not figured out why they were doing this.

A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other rather than from traditional institutions.
Concentrate on the relationships.

P: People, assess your customers social activities (25-35yr olds are widgeting!)
O: Objectives: decide what you want to accomplish
S: Strategy how will this change your relationship with your customers – people officially declare they are an x fan
T: Technology is last.

Don't think of the technology first and then try to find a use for them.

Widget use in us:
12% used desktop (18+)
17% of 18+ 53% used web widgets (12-17yr olds) has a tool to look at how this ladder looks around the world.

Widget users are highly socially active. they are doing a lot of creativity and use of social tools. if you do create a widget then you can count on its users are using lots of other social technologies too. You won't reach everyone. you reach an elite, a highly influential elite.


research – listening
marketing – talking
sales – energizing
support – supporting
development – embracing

my starbucks – tell starbucks how they should improve.
widgets can do all of these.

listening with widgets – you can get insight, see MuseStorm you can measure the interactions and learn from them.

Talking with widgets: usa today isn't that sticky – it doesn't extend the conversation (just broadcasts rss).

Purina has a personal outcome version which allows you to add a pic of your pet.

Q: “people will not post your widget because they love your brand. They will post if they find something useful.”

(not always true, eg fans).

Widgets can embrace customer suggestions and ideas (bit like digg), crowdsound, salesforce ideas,

Summary: To make widgets work start with your clear objective, measure progress toward that objective, choose technology to meet that objective.

Widgets as Adverts
scott rafer, lookery

Are you trying to get people to click thru? Or enjoy themselves.

New formats are hard sell, clearspring and kickapps have some really expensive sales people – i dont have the margin, we don't pitch the agencies we don't pitch the brands.

83% of US display ads (6bn dollars) sold for under $1 cpm in 2007. on a dollar basis on an impression basis its nearer 97%.

myspace average 9c a 1000 across the entire enterprise.

There are 12bn dollars in us above this of txt ads – and most is google.

facebook has left out search from apps deliberately, so we can't get into that.

Below all this you're into remnant advertising.

We run about 3bn ads across social networks the majority on facebook.

We got most of our traffic with a low guarantee. we said we'd pay 12.5c per thousand on which ever fb apps want to play. Shared this on techcrunch. Within 24hrs loads of interest. we did 150m in jan and 3bn more than that in may.

for this to work you need to find impressions by the truck load.

Later this year we'll offer a guarantee 1c a 1000.

what widgets are actually good at massive data collection. that data is a lot more valuable than the impression itself.

Facebook has closed half of its viral routes, most people are shrinking in there, it's getting harder to launch.

Fraser Kelton; adaptive blue; semantic web type company funded by union sq ventures (fred's)

our secondary product is widgets

everything can be explained by pop culture.
Widgets: if you build it they will come... if we have thing with a grab button everyone will grab it and share it.

you need value for the publisher
value for the browser
ease of replication

the major failure usually is we leaves out the fact that there has to be some utility – otherwise we get very skilfull at tuning it out.

How can you find the equilibrium between the three things.

Value for publisher: Why do I want to put this widget on my site/fb page etc.

1.self-expression – I'm a fan, I'm showing something about me.
2.Additional content – if its pulling in rss, lazy man's update.
3.$ the potential to make money
4.playful/fun building – my bloglog
6.Increased page views – media companies want more page views cos they live on cpm models.
You can have a widget strategy that layers in a bunch of these, provided you keep the other two arms in balance:

Next: Value for the visitor.(browser)
We are good at blocking out items we don't deem the content. sidebar stuff.

Have to get interaction; something to get them to engage with the software, you're halfway to your goal of having widgets to promote widgets.

1.self expression – my bloglog face roll. chance to replace the 'you' picture with the real you.
2.playful/fun to action (shoot the monkey on banner ads, for example)
4.Ego: tap into people wanting to show themselves off – feedburner gives you a chicklet to show how many have subscribed.

Ease of replication

People have focused on this too much. In order to make it effective:

1.1-click installation – don't have pivot points
2.on-page – people don't want to move from where they are – no pop-ups etc
3.customizable – you must allow people to change it to suit a users own background colours etc. issue for people who want to control brand look and feel. ditch it! it's the basics why you wouldn't have a flexible width for sidebars, too.
5.transaction timing: a really big one. if you instal one widget on fb people get an offer of a second. that works cos of context on fb. on the web its where you see one specific widget, so when you try to do the same thing people see it as a negative thing.

Keep 1.2 and 3 in equilibrium (value for publisher/value for browser/ease of replication

We launched widgets a few months ago.

People hover their mouse over images. Go image heavy rather than text heavy.

Give people buttons for installation – visual. changing to logos and images made a big difference for us.

Future of online branding, content and advertising on the web, Jeff Nolan NewsGagtor.

The way audiences are engaging media is changing. They aren't going to media, they are bringing it to them so media, brands and advertisers have to change.

Newsgator works with over 100 media companies. all of our customers are syndicating their content and monetising their content with advertisers.

the best value for getting traffic is to get the people who already visit your site to promote your site.

A site that gets 200k pi, you get 50 placements = 1m more page views. widgets are traffic multipliers.

USA today works as a simple extention of reach. their audience only needs this.

If you are in music you have to be in myspace. it drives distribution and discovery. But you have to know who to seed with.

Media co's see this as a way to also synidcate content to other media sites.

See National Geographic's Our Shot/Your Shot

Danny from Amnesty demo'd Hypercube which makes widgets render as users want them in whatever networks and in an itunes style.
I like what it does, but wonder why people would visit in the first place? maybe widgets are a point of inspiration thing. you grab it when you see it. you don't go looking for it.

Top 10 widget mistakes:
vp marketing MuseStorm:

1.mismatch with your demographics or demographics of where the app is launched to take advantage of social graph
3.spend a lot before you know what works
4.don't limit incentives – push people to your site instead of have them use app (you need them using app for virality
5.Naming may be key if you have a rival.
6.its content that rules, not the brand. utility wins. a better analysis of your category before you develop your widget. try the other rivals.
8.don't bet the farm on a single social network – consider going where your competition isn't provide content that is useful remember whey people post or share – it's the content.


11.don't be self-serving and uber ad heavy. facebook demographics hate that.
12.DON'T LET YOUR Widget go stale
13.don't forget to make your widget searchable.


There are five types of widgets:

gadgets (igoogle)

musestorm wrap them so it can work across all.

preso will be on

strategy questions to answers:

who is responsible (what dept in our biz)
what is the objective (what do we aim to achieve with a widget)
then tech solutions (see josh bernoff preso)
who will use our widgets and why?

its pull marketing. the majority in facebook are staying in there, not surfing – are they like your demographics.

discover how people are using social media, the people you want to reach.
what kind of widgets are best fit for your peeps.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?