Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where’s Coleen?

Coleen hasn’t tweeted since 10th Feb, and her last message was ominous:


Hopefully she’s just busy looking after Cheryl.

MSFT re-categorise IE?

Not sure if this is note-worthy or not, but since it might be I’d thought I’d mention it – MSDN lists Internet Explorer 7/8 under the “Operating Systems” category, whilst 6.0 is under “Applications”.

Trivial I know, but it didn’t happen by accident. Someone (probably a whole committee) sat down and made a conscious decision to put IE in the O/S camp.

Screenshot below:


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crowd-sourcing (II)

Following on from my previous post (which was published today but written last week), I’ve just read the follow up to the secretlondon story here - “How to build a website in 48 hours for £3,000”.

It’s a snappy title, and I love the energy, enthusiasm and general Web x.0 crowd-sourced kool-aid of it all, but I can’t help but point out that whilst they’ve accounted for every last bagel the biggest cost is missing – the people. It’s fantastic that they managed to harness the ‘crowd’ to get 40 people willing to give up their weekend, but my back-of-envelope calculation of their hidden cost is as follows:

  • They all work 12hrs/day, just because, you know, like, …
  • A 12hr/day is the equivalent of 1.5 (8hr) normal working days
  • There are 40 of them
  • They clock up 40*2*1.5 = 120 FTE man-days

By my reckoning, if they’d commissioned an agency to build it, it would have cost somewhere between £60-100k to build, not £3k.

I’d really like to understand what the people involved think, and how they value their time. We’ve all given up our free time at some point or other to help out friends / neighbours, but what’s interesting in this case is that they are helping to build something from which, I presume (perhaps unfairly), other people will benefit financially.

When Tiffany appears on the cover of Wired as the new Martha Lane-Fox, how will they feel? And do they care? Are they shareholders in the new venture?

[Update] I found this in a blog posting - “we weren’t started by a company — we’re a community, and secretlondon is all of us” – so apologies to those on whom I cast aspersions.


I’ve had a post on crowd-sourcing in mind for a few weeks, but I couldn’t quite work out what I wanted to say (other than it being all the rage). I’ve been talking to a number of clients recently who have expressed interest in getting closer to their customers.

Then I came across this article on a startup called secretlondon - .

Once I’d recovered from the irritation of seeing someone succeed before they’ve got their first job, I decided to take a look, and as an example of the power of crowd-sourcing it’s quite interesting.

The idea came out of a Facebook group (, and the founders are now looking to build out a dedicated website (

They have used 99designs to outsource the design of the logo (

They are starting the site development by publicising how they are intending to build it (, and appealing for help from the community (and being quite successful to judge from the comments).

And finally, the source code for the site is on GitHub (, and therefore public.

There’s basically nothing private or proprietary about it – it’s even more Wikipedia than Wikipedia – even the idea has been open-sourced.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

ECommerce Toolkit

If you were building an ecommerce platform, how much standard functionality could be developed as a standalone service? Would it be possible to create a suite of services that developers could use as a toolbox of hosted apps?

I've been thinking for a while how this might work, and although I'm a long way from any solution, I've decided to start using this blog as a collection point for ideas, research, analysis etc.

The service I've spent most time looking into is ratings and reviews. This is now fairly standard on websites, and I think it's possible to abstract the collection of data away from any specifics relating to a particular site. This means it's possible to create a ratings service that is externally hosted that needs to know nothing about the parent website. If I am collecting ratings, and then aggregating the data and feeding it back (average, weighted average, top / bottom reviews, etc.), it's irrelevant whether the review is about a book or a play or a sandwich. The implementation details are left to the developer - you want to rate things on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 - that's up to you, we just store a number. You want to publish reviews instantly, or moderate them pre-publication - that's also up to you - just set a status on the initial review and filter the content coming out using the status field. We just store the status as a text field - if you want to use it to store New/Approved/Archived then just do it.

What are the other services that could be created in the same vein? Favourites? Comments (e.g. Disqus)? Subscriptions?

There are a lot of online services available right now in this space - think Reevoo for reviews in the UK - but most are marketing services directed at the business owners. I'm thinking more about a toolkit for developers, not the business. Making it easier for developers to create new experiences without having to spend time on the building the plumbing.