December 9, 2008

Tag-Lines in a Democratic Internet

 Talking about marketing and brand identity, the debate of these days has been the following:  what is the role of tag-lines in web 2.0.  The issue is more than philosophical -- it is ontological... If we accept the concept that web 2.0 designates a participative community, where users define the tone, the content and the nature of the community, then we should reject the idea of having a tag-line to drive the community towards any preconceived end. This is the underlying idea of an authentic democratic community, where labels and tag-lines are disturbing the purity of the natural identity. Indeed, the community identity is never defined and continuously evolving, wherever the users are willing to take it.
Twitter does not have a tagline, nor does Digg, Blogger, Technorati, Craigslist (if you consider it a web 2.0) et many others.
On the other hand, some web 2.0 services have built their identities leveraging tag-lines and often changing many overtime.
Facebook is a good example - here is its tag-line history:
“Keep up with friends and family,” “Share photos and videos,” “Control privacy online,” and “Reconnect with old classmates.” Now Facebook has a simple message to entice you to sign up: “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”
Is Facebook managing its tag-line reactively or proactively? In other words, is Facebook reacting to the users' behavior, so to hone the potential of its brand - or - on the contrary,  has Facebook elected to pursue a specific marketing strategy, irrespective to its users?
I understand that, once you have reached the dimension of Facebook, such question become a chicken and egg question...  However, I am keen to believe that the importance of auto-determination of an online community is expected to impact the use of tag-lines (or - at least - the evolution of the same).
Some other examples - Youtube "Broadcast Yourself", and Myspace "a place for friends".
Now, empirical evidence shows that only a minor percentage of Youtube users is actually uploading videos representing themselves, while the majority of the users is just "watching-someone-else."  Most of the users would rather mirror themselves in a tag-line such as: "find-here-the-TVshows-of-the-80s-you-used-to-love-so-much,"  or also "show-your-friend-a funny-video"...  Of course, these are not quite the actual lines to have under a logo... but I mean the content-message of these tag-lines is closer to the community than "broadcast yourself", even though I concede this last one sounds very nice...
Now, I believe you are ready to try this exercise on your own, with Myspace "a place for friends". (Friends? Sure...)
If you are curious to read more tag-lines click here. 

December 5, 2008

Patents and R&D Personnel: Not Always a Direct Correlation in Europe

Past November the 27th, Eurostat published a research concerning the relationship between patent activity and R&D personnel (find it HERE ) .  The main question raised in such research is the following: does a higher innovation input in form of more personnel lead to a higher innovation output in terms of patents?
Although many Member States fit the correlation, the relationship between patents and R&D personnel does not appear to be straightforward in all of them.  This analysis reveals a number of interesting differences between the structure of research and technological industry countries.  Of course, the research does non include all kind of IP protection likely to be associated with technological innovation. Trade secrets or copyright could be associated with relevant and valuable innovation which would go undetected in this research.  Besides, Eurostat considers only EPO patent applications in drawing the comparison among the multiple EU member States. 
However, if we accept the research methodology, the data provided offer some insights regarding the "ROI" of technological businesses located in different EU countries.  In fact, the figures are presented in break-down according to what sector the R&D personnel belongs, namely Business Enterprise, Government, Higher Education and Private Non-Profit Sector.  Some surprising conclusion could be drawn, if you are looking for the best venue for a tech company... Just a quote: "In 2005 the Italian industry employed about 600 000 people more than the French, but the value added of the non-financial economy in France was about EUR 167 bn higher than in Italy. Whereas in France the shares of R&D personnel and expenditure were nearly three times higher than in Italy, patent activity in 2004 was slightly higher in Italy than in France." 
In other words: French spend more to invent less. Italians monetize less their inventions. 

October 29, 2008

Namestorming - UPDATED

We eventually picked the name for our service.  The process was lengthy and articulated, involving market research, TM clearance, multi-cultural tests, etc. etc.  Anyway - I'll "give you the baby without the pain of the birth": UKINDI - As soon as possible I will uncover the beautiful story of this name...
After incorporating the company, and before branding the product, it was critical to have some non-biased feedbacks on the name of the service.
Well, some of this feedbacks were not so excited about our name, NexTongue...  Hence we are running a last, final, ultimate and definitive round of name-storming.
We posted our query to a community of creative people, and will grant a reward to the best three names.  If you have a chance, please 
VOTE VOTE VOTE , or post your proposed name and try to win the reward ---- along with our gratitude - you name what's more important :-).

October 16, 2008

Super Powers For the New Officer of Copyright Enforcement

On October 13, 2008, the former "Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act" was passed into law under a new name: “The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act ”.  Such Act aims to consolidate federal efforts to combat copyright infringement under the White House’s direction.  In particular, The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act establishes within the executive branch the position of intellectual property enforcement coordinator (IPEC), who will be appointed by the President and will report directly to the President and the Congress regarding domestic and international intellectual property enforcement programs. If you have chance to read through the Act, take a note of the number of tasks the IPEC will perform...  I suppose this is why the IPEC is already known as the Copyright Tzar .

October 14, 2008

KIDS Act Passed Into Law

The Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008 is now law.  The KIDS Act provides for an information exchange between the Attorney General and the social networking sites, in order to prevent known sexual predators from accessing such websites.  In particular, Attorney General shall establish and maintain a secure system that permits social networking websites to compare the information contained in the National Sex Offender Registry with the Internet identifiers of users of the social networking websites.  The new law has been promptly embraced by Facebook.     

October 3, 2008

Europe Aims to Lead the Transition to Web 3.0

Somebody may argue that the Internet is a living creature. In fact, instead of following a linear pattern like other sciences and technologies, the rhythm of its evolution progresses in terms of generations. 
In the beginning there was the Web (nobody ever called it Web 1.0...) and, if you 
are nostalgic about it, you may want to travel in the past and check a 2001 vintage "Google!" search . The exclamation mark was a must-have-it, during the age of Web 1.0.
Then Youtube, Twitter and Facebook took over and here you go with the second generation: the Web 2.0 - the most (ab)used expression to describe the articulated variety of internet services involving users' active participation. But this is history, already.  
In fact, despite the eggheads cannot even agree on its precise definition, the Web 3.0 is a reality.
Moreover, such concept of Web 3.0 has already been embraced by the European Commission , which defined it as the Internet of Things, taking place through wireless interaction between machines, vehicles, appliances, sensors and many other devices. "Web 3.0 means seamless 'anytime, anywhere' business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015. Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe."
I personally appreciate and welcome this attitude and look forward to seeing Europe leading the Web 3.0 revolution.  However, if you actually read the Communication , you may notice that the challenges for the implementation of a fully integrated network deeply involve the European local authorities, the EU legislation and - last but not least - significant investments in infrastructures.  Hopefully, the European bureaucracy will be able to keep pace with the Web re-generation cycle because, just in case you nobody told you, there are already more the a hundred thousand results for the Web 4.0.

October 2, 2008

USA Ratifies the Singapore Treaty

The United States of America on October 1, 2008 ratified the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.
The Singapore Treaty deals mainly with procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing and introduces greater flexibilities and efficiencies into the delivery of trademark registration services. By eliminating red tape, enabling trademark authorities to take advantage of modern communications technologies, and further simplifying and standardizing trademark office procedures, the Treaty promises to reduce transaction costs for brand owners. 
The Treaty explicitly recognizes that trademarks are no longer limited to two dimensional labels on products and specifically mentions new types of marks such as hologram marks, and non-visible signs, such as sound or taste marks. 
The Treaty also establishes common rules for the recording, amendment and cancellation of trademark licenses. The Treaty also introduces new mandatory relief measures for trademark office procedures in order to alleviate procedural mistakes by trademark applicants, notably, missed time limits, which, if not remedied, could be detrimental to trademark rights.  WIPO Press Room 

September 26, 2008

The Strange Case of Dr. User and Mr. Ads

MySpace just came up with a brilliant idea (IMHO):  a new advertising platform to "Promote You". Check it here.
Given the quasi-monopolistic situation of the web-advertisement market, it was key to establish direct relationships with advertisers, to get better returns for the huge inventory held with MySpace.
In fact, this is quite common for most of the big Internet services, which have an in-house department of ads sales, in order to fight Google position as main ads broker.
The original strategy undertaken by MySpace is to sign-up its own users as advertisers.  In this way, MySpace is creating new ads demand, while granting very targeted service to its users/advertisers.
Although in theory everybody, including businesses, could place his ads on MySpace, because of the demographic of MySpace's users, it is more likely that the most active advertisers will be just the most engaged users.  After all, we know that these users are artists, musicians who are already promoting themselves on MySpace.  Now they might enjoy a more powerful tool to do so, and guess what, they will be paying for that.
I think this strategy may represent a partial solution to the shrinking of ads revenue coming from traditional advertisers, namely off-line business.  Not to mention that having a relevant presence in the ads brokering market can surely be beneficial for such a concentrated market.

September 25, 2008 - Best of the lot

The past few days have been pretty hectic. Working on the incorporation, the user interface, the focus groups, the ads and their respective "screen real estate"...
However we hit a very important milestone:  we register the domain name for our website.  Of course, it is a temporary solution - but in case nothing better pops-up, it's going to become permanent.  Just like everything else in life...
The domain name we chose is:
I look forward to receiving some feedback on it.

P.S. do not bother checking: noting has been published at that URL.

September 12, 2008

WIPO Reports Increased Internationalization of Patent Filings

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently published  World Patent Report 2008.  The report, based on 2006 figures, shows that patents granted worldwide increased by 18%, with 727,000 patents granted in 2006 alone.  According to these statistics, the total number of patents in force worldwide at the end of 2006 was approximately 6.1 million.
The Report also shows that North East Asian countries (mainly China and the Republic of Korea) and the United States of America led the overall growth in worldwide filing of patent applications.  According to the Director General of WIPO, Dr. Kamil Idris "this reflects a consolidation of earlier trends which demonstrate a marked shift in innovation hubs around the world.” 
The increased internationalization of patent activity is demonstrated - according the Report -  by the growth in international filings through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the multilateral agreement administered by WIPO which provides a simplified method for international patent filing.  The number of international patent application submitted via the PCT in 2007 is estimated to be 158,400, representing a 5.9% increase over the previous year.  
The statistics, however, confirm a certain concentration of the innovative activity, since the Report pointed out to a growing tendency for traditional applicants to file their applications in multiple countries.  In fact, the USA keeps being by far the largest user of the PCT system.  In 2006, 33.6% of all PCT filings originated from the USA, almost twice that of the next largest user, Japan, which accounted for 17.5% of all PCT filings.

September 5, 2008

User Interface - Join Our Focus Group!

In case you want to complain about the upcoming "New Facebook", that's exactly what I'd love to hear from you.
Designing a useful, enjoyable and accessible User Interface (UI) is a crucial step for every web-service.  The UI represents more than the look and feel of a website.  A good UI captures the website's utility as a tool to perform specific tasks.  
Thus, if a UI is not functional, no matters how sophisticated is the technological back-end, the web-service becomes virtually useless.
We do not want to take this risk - here is why we need your help!

Next week, Ira and I will organize a focus group to analyze the user behavior, with respect to some of our competitors' websites.  If you are interested in joining the experiment, please send me a message, and I will sign you up.
The nature of the experiment requires to gather a focus group of 4-6 people, who will meet in the same physical location.  Therefore, we plan to have a meeting in the Stanford area.  
After trying different web-sites, we will start an open discussion and all participants will be asked to comment individually on certain specific web-features or designs.
I promise you will enjoy it.  
Besides, it is going to be an opportunity to discuss about web design, meeting interesting people and the event includes a social side: some food and drinks all together.  
We look forward to having you in our first UI focus group!

TV vs. Web

We all know that: the Web is much better than the TV.  Have a look at this video to find out why...

August 29, 2008

Yahoo! (s)Mash(ed)

Yahoo! announced they are going to shut down Mash, the social networking site started less than one year ago.  Yesterday, Yahoo! sent a message to Mash’s users warning them to save all profile information somewhere else, since after September 29 Mash won’t be there anymore:  “we hope you had fun with it” and sayonara to everybody!
Mash is (or was…) a nicely designed SNS, it just got out there too late.  In fact, there is no more room for general/all-purposes SNSs.  Market’s needs have been saturated by Facebook (which is BTW celebrating its 100 Million users).
On Facebook, you can search and find most of the people you are in touch with… and eventually you keep more easily in touch with people who use it…
If you are wondering when was last time you e-mailed your old friend who is not on FB, the answer is: longer than others who are on FB: this just is one of the indirect effects of the Network Effect).
However, more and more professionals, teenagers and families keep in touch with Facebook.  A law firm is also recruiting on Facebook.
General SNSs (i.e. Facebook) have recently turned into an enriched version of a phonebook, and people use them just like one.
The value of a phonebook is inherently related to its completeness and distribution (AKA the Network Effect).  In the SNSs case, both completeness and distribution rely on users activity, which is costly.  O.k., filling user’s profile, adding friends and uploading pictures may be fun too, but doing it multiple times may become an hassle.  Anyway, swinging from a SNS to another is time consuming and there isn’t really reason to do it.
On the other hand, some SNSs are pursuing another strategy to gain a spot in the market, namely specialization.  Facebook’s internal networks or groups are not specific enough to satisfy users' needs.  Sometimes, the features of a SNS just don’t match a specific purpose or taste of its users. 
Thus, people who share a common interest, or come from a certain location tend to aggregate around a specialized SNS.  There are plenty of examples.
MySpace (which is still growing) is gradually specializing in music.  Its users share an interest in famous as well as emergent bands’ productions.  Thus, the features available for users’ profile customization match this purpose.  Flickr is another good example: it is more than a photo sharing, is an active community of photographers.  Thus, the quality/dimension of the pictures you can up/download is way superior to other SNSs.  Orkut, of the Google family, is well established in a few countries (e.g. Brazil), where it is much bigger than Facebook.  In fact, Orkut benefited of FB’s initial language deficiency and enjoyed a first comer advantage.
Therefore, SNSs new trends will be driven by the ability to interpret the concept of a hub, where people may find features and design able to satisfy an unexploited aggregating element.  And of course, a huge amount of luck…

August 27, 2008

SMILE, not SCRATCH (When You Pick a Domain Name)

It would be great if you’d enter our naming competition. We’re currently calling our online language exchange service Lingolink; unfortunately, the domain is already taken and the owner is not willing to sell it to us.
Once the service is up and running the winner of the "competition" will receive a special mention on this blog!!! (Exciting, isn't it?!)  To enter, by Friday, Sept 5, please send me your top five names. Feel free to include your friends, co-workers and family members as well. Make it a fun, brainstorming event :o)
Through the name of the service we want to communicate the following characteristics:
We connect people from around the world through language exchange.
We’re an on-line market for the buying and selling of language services.
We’re the go to place where people have fun and make friends from around the world.
On our site users feel that we are using technology for learning unlike anyone else. This is the best way to practice speaking a language.
Users say “aha” after using the service. “I finally understand what that word means.”
We’ll most likely pick the name that meets the following criteria:

Needs to possess these qualities
Simple –- one easy-to-understand concept
Meaningful –- customer instantly “get it”
Imagery –- visually evocative, creates a mental picture
Legs –- carries the brand, lends itself to wordplay
Emotional –- empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens

Spelling-challenged — you have to tell people how to spell it
Copycat – similar to competitor’s names
Random – disconnected from the brand
Annoying – hidden meaning, forced
Tame – flat, uninspired, boring, non-emotional
Curse of knowledge – only insiders get it
Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious, relies on punctuation

I can't wait to receive your suggestions!

PS. This is my avatar...

August 25, 2008

Series A Financing Sample Library

If you are working on a start-up, or you are a corporate lawyer, or just in case you are looking forward to collecting something valuable for your legal library, you cannot miss this.
Y Combinator and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati made available an entire set of documents created to use when raising angel rounds. 
Y-C and WSGR disclaim: "While they may not be suitable for all situations, the goal was to make the terms fairly neutral. So while we would of course advise both parties using these documents to have their lawyers look at them, they provide a starting point that we hope can be used in many situations without too many modifications.
Needless to say, neither YC nor WSGR assumes any responsibility for any consequence of using these documents."
Find all the documents

August 24, 2008

Find me on Technocrati

I am getting a Technocrati account...
I am waiting for the spider to register my blog. 
Here is my Technorati Profile.

August 23, 2008

The Pirate Bay case - UPDATE

The URL, accessed from the Italian ISPs, is not re-directing any more to the Pro-Music's web site.  The reverse DNS now says "localhost"...
Meanwhile, an Italian association (ALCEI) brought the issue before the Privacy Authority.  We'll hear about the Pirate Bay again... and perhaps it will be possible to understand who (and on what legal basis) gave such order to redirect the traffic (since the Court did not).

August 22, 2008

Open Source and Open Licenses as Copyright's Offsprings

Open Source and open licenses may appear as copyright's worst enemies.  Ironically, in order to ensure free access to certain content it is necessary to enforce copyright.

The idea is simple as well as counterintuitive: if you want to grant public and free access to a work of authorship, it is best if you establish that such work is protected under copyright law.  In this way, you can require that further publication and derivative works may be subject to certain conditions: e.g., to be licensed under the same license, for free, with no limitation for derivative works and with credit to the original author.
Otherwise, if your creative work were to fall in the public domain, anybody could claim a proprietary right on derivative works.

In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeal of the Federal Circuit (Jacobsen v. Katzer and Kamind Associate, Inc.), the Court addressed - among the others - an interesting issue, namely whether it is possible to enforce an open license, given the (alleged) lack of economic interest by the copyright holder.
Eventually, the Court acknowledged that the conditions i) to give credit to the author and ii) to display the copyright notice, represent a sufficient economic interest to uphold a public license.  In fact, giving credit to the author -in the case of an open license- is not merely a moral right, it rather encompasses an inherent benefit for the author.
In particular, the Court defined such benefit as follows:
"The attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce. Through this controlled spread of information, the copyright holder gains creative collaborators to the open source project; by requiring that changes made by downstream users be visible to the copyright holder and others, the copyright holder learns about the uses for his software and gains others' knowledge that can be used to advance future software releases."
I am not absolutely sure that such statement is truly catching the spirit of the Open Source project.  However, it looks like a robust argument and a preeminent endorsement of open licenses.  Somehow a windfall.

August 19, 2008

Net Neutrality - Guess the Quote!

While watching Lessig's last presentation, I thought - hey this is quite a crisp definition of Net Neutrality:  "NN guarantees access to content and applications that people want to choose, not the content and the applications that network providers choose for them."  Indeed, "neutrality is the spirit of the Internet" - so that, everybody is free to  access any web site, at anytime from anywhere.

So, from another perspective -what's the risk of a non-neutral network?
The answer is in the following quote, and I bet you'd never guess who said that:
"Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn’t want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped “address unknown – return to sender”? Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them?"

Check your guess here! 

Startup School

I just found a resourceful site... It is an "oldie", I suppose - given the time-flow in this field. However, I think it is worth giving a glimpse to this conference

August 16, 2008

La Baia e il Tubo (*UPDATED*)

Italy and some Italian corporation have recently started a war (in the courtroom, of course) against two of the most representative Internet players - the Pirate Bay and Youtube.  The two cases have been harshly criticized in the blogosphere as an assault to freedom of expression and an attempt to weaken the increasing importance of the Internet as a powerful alternative to mainstream media and government propaganda.

My personal opinion: although I can envision the risk of a drift towards a stricter policing regime, the immediate reason of such lawsuits is well grounded on a rather prosaic level:  money (or should I say the lack of...). 

The old media tycoons are suffering significant revenue losses both from the advertising and the copyright royalties.

Direct sales of hard copies of copyrighted materials (software, movies and music of course) are suffering a perennial downturn.  Although the majors are cutting their losses, through on-line distribution, the hostilities against file-sharing have not ceased at all.

On the other hand, the market for on-line advertising has become more and more relevant (Google is constantly increasing its ads revenues), in spite of the traditional  advertisement on radio, television and newspapers, which is progressively loosing its share.  In fact, the money spent by advertisers tends to be steady and the overall advertising market is not really growing. Thus, it is the same old pie, except that slices are shared differently.

However, both in the Mediaset v. Youtube and in the Pirate Bay case, the problem is not limited to a friction among opposing  commercial interests.  The situation is way more complicated because Italy and its government interests are complicated.

In Mediaset, it is enough to say that the plaintiff is -somehow- the Italian prime minister, Berlusconi.  There is no need to explain his interest in communication and public opinion.  Moreover, in Italy some of Berlusconi's main opponents are leveraging the Internet and Youtube to drive their political activities.

As The Pirate Bay is concerned, there are too many things to say.  
Access to the Pirate Bay web site has been blocked from Italy and do you know where is the URL re-directing?  To a website hosted in England and owned by Pro-Music, namely the majors' association who is "behind" the lawsuits.
This is not quite all: when accessing the Pirate Bay site from Italy, Pro-Music is able to collect information about every user and his cookies-- using such cookies it is possible to access the user's profile in the Pirate Bay database, perhaps giving a look to what files such user recently downloaded, uploaded or searched.  
This is enough evidence to bring a strong case in court, of course if we assume it was acquired lawfully. 

I found a video-demonstration of how it is possible to hack Th Pirate Bay users'  identity. Click here!

The Italian URL is not re-directing any more to the Pro-Music web site.  The reverse DNS now says "localhost"...
Meanwhile some Italian associations brought the issue before the Privacy Authority.  We'll hear about the Pirate Bay again...


August 13, 2008

Pick a Name!

In these days I am going to pick a name for my start-up. It is a language learning service, but I'd prefer some name unrelated to the nature of the service.
My concern is to find something which is short, sexy, easy to spell and to remember. Besides, since it would be an international service, I'd like to avoid anything that could sound awkward or offensive in other languages... like cin cin, which is nice if you are in Italy, not so much in Japan... or cozza, a shellfish in Italy, not edible in Germany.
I look fwd to hearing what you'd pick!
Write your suggestion here!
My new favicon.