Archive for May, 2011

My secret email weapon

May 26th, 2011

One of the biggest benefits of a social network is the ability to see who you’re talking to, links to webpages that have been shared, content that has been uploaded and activity. Email, on the other hand, can be a far less informative and contextual experience.

Enter: Rapportive. This plugin lets you see everything about the person who is emailing you all within a Gmail sidebar. I’ve been using this extension for quite some time now and I’ve shared a link to it in the past, but if you haven’t signed-up yet I highly recommend you do.

Here’s how it works:

You email me, and when I hover over your name I will get a sidebar that loads within Gmail that pulls all public information about you. It will show your photo if you’ve uploaded one to a social network, links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, as well as recent activity from those networks. Right away, you go from being yourname@email.com to being a person with layers of valuable context for me to learn about you.

Here’s how it looks, using profile information from one of Rapportive’s co-founders:

Rapportive

If you connect with a lot of strangers throughout the day, this tool is invaluable. And when you connect with people you know, this tool helps you discover more links to more info about them.

Rapportive has become my secret weapon with email. When I get a cold contact from someone I’ve never connected with, or when I’m trying to connect with someone I don’t know much about yet, Rapportive adds a tremendous layer of context for me.

This is one Gmail extension I could not live without. You can download it here.

Update: Google has announced a “People widget” that does a lot of what I’ve discussed above.

Video: Jeff Jarvis, Michael Arrington talk bias and transparency

May 24th, 2011

Michael Arrington talks transparency, bias with Jeff Jarvis

Media guru Jeff Jarvis sat down with Michael Arrington at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference yesterday.

The conversation focuses on objectivity and transparency in journalism, new journalism and what it means to be a reporter today.

I’ll let the video speak for itself without too much primer, but for those interested in bias, transparency and the discussion around the role of journalists, it’s an interesting talk:

Personalization is figuring out what not to show

May 20th, 2011

Facebook Newsfeed

Personalization can deliver tremendous benefits to both companies and readers. Facebook’s Newsfeed or Google’s Search results learn from what you like and don’t like, and they get better at showing you more information they think you want to consume. If you stop clicking on certain links, personalized information feeds stop showing them to you.

From the user’s point of view, personalization helps cut through content overload and it takes users right to content they’re likely to want to consume.

From a company’s point of view, it increases the amount of time a user spends on a website, users return more often and higher engagement levels are seen by delivering personalization.

But what about the content we’re not seeing? How do our perceptions of the world around us change when we have content curated, automatically for us? The subject of personalization is something I often discuss with friends, colleagues and businesses I work with. I believe that as we see more and more content coming online, deciding what not to show is just as important as what we do show.

Editors have historically been tasked with curating the world of information and showing people not only on what they think they want to know, but also things they don’t know they need to know. The boring stuff is often important.

Then along came the Internet and businesses started looking at ways to automate curation. Facebook is built on this very technology. Increasingly, we’re seeing both individuals and media companies turn to technology to help curate content in this way.

Today I stumbled upon this TED talk from Eli Pariser that addresses this very subject, and he gives a few good illustrative examples. Pariser is the author of a book called Filter Bubble which addresses personalization, and his talk is quite insightful:

And in response to this, there is an alternative perspective worth reading at Louisgray.com. (Thanks @ScepticGeek)

[Cross-posted to Future of Media]

Microsoft acquires Skype for $8.5 billion

May 10th, 2011

Skype

In a press release issued this morning, Microsoft confirmed rumours it will buy Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. The acquisition is the largest in Microsoft’s history.

Rumours about the acquisition started leaking out online late last night, and this morning Microsoft confirmed it is acquiring Skype Global S.à r.l. from the investor group led by Silver Lake.

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a news release. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

The deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype, and Microsoft says the acquisition will “increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications.”

The company says the deal will also generate new business and revenue opportunities.According to filings, Skype posted $859.8 million in revenue in 2010, but lost $7 million. Under the acquition, Microsoft will also assume the $686 million in debt which Skype posted as of Dec. 31, the Wall Street Journal reports.

From an organizational standpoint, Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft. Current Skype CEO, Tony Bates, will become President of the Microsoft Skype Division and he will report directly to Ballmer.

“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Tony Bates in a news release. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.

Microsoft eyes this deal as a way to enhance its portfolio of real-time communication products and services, as Skype boasts 660 million users worldwide (170 million of whom are “connected users” according to the press release) and more than 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations last year.

Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft says it will continue to support and invest in Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms. Skype will also support Microsoft devices such as Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices. It will also connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities.

“We are thrilled with Skype’s transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees,” said Egon Durban, managing director of Silver Lake, the investor group that sold Skype to Microsoft. “We are excited about Skype’s long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world’s most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms.”

Not everyone is excited about Microsoft’s acquisition, however. Analysts were reportedly shocked by the the deal, and concerned Microsoft overpaid for the company.

Skype has a long history in voice-over-IP services and is a widely known name in the industry. The company was founded in 2003 and was acquired by eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion. It was sold again in 2009 to several investors including Silver Lake, eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Microsoft says in the 18 months since Skype was bought from eBay, calling minutes have increased by 150 percent and the company has developed new revenue streams and strategic partnerships.

The acquisition will now be subject to regulatory approvals, which both companies hope will happen by the end of this calendar year.

[Cross-posted to Digital Journal and Future of Media]

An interview with SB Nation CEO on moving beyond sports

May 3rd, 2011

In a recent interview with Beet.tv, SB Nation CEO Jim Bankoff talks about becoming a “great media company.” His vision is to cover several content verticals, and the company is making its first move outside of sports and into tech. Hiring several former Engadget staffers, the company is launching a tech site because it believes there is audience and advertiser overlap. The company is also setting up a NYC office.

Check out the interview below:

[HT Jon Dube]