Category Archives: web2.0

PMA Europe 2007 Conference

Earlier this month I took a trip to Birmingham to attend the PMA Europe Conference organised by PMA Europe. It was a 2-day conference but unfortunately I could only attend the 2nd day. The conference had
a really interesting line-up of speakers and there were some truly jaw-dropping products on display at the exhibition hall.

The conference attendees were mostly photo-retailers and mini-labs. The first talk I attended on day #2 was ‘How Can technology improve customer service ?’ by Mark Keohane of Fujitsu. This talk was mostly about APMs (Automated Photo Machines or Kiosks) and how more APMs (provided by Fujitsu of course ;-) ) can make for happier customers at retail stores.
The next talk I heard – and to be honest, this talk alone was worth the trip – was by Stephen Giordano of Lucidiom. Stephen’s talk was titled “The Long Tail: Less is more”. In the world of Imaging software (and hardware), Lucidiom are the 800lb gorilla, which makes Stephen Giordano the Bill Gates / Steve Jobs of Imaging software.

Lucidiom have something like 40,000 Photo Kiosks throughout the United States and have collected a bewildering amount of data from hundreds of millions of photos printed on those kiosks. They can tell which photos are good (based on the histogram), the make and model of camera a photo was taken with and lots more (presumably from the EXIF data embedded in the JPEG format). If any company is qualified to talk about the Long tail of digital photography, Lucidiom is.

Giordano began by saying that for consumer photography “Film is effectively dead. It’s been dead in the US for some time now and it will soon be dead in the UK too.” Consumers however are only now realising what’s possible with Digital photography, and retailers need to adjust to the new reality.

The bulk of Lucidiom’s business is from Kiosks which account for 95% of prints. Currently only 5% of business is from Internet orders but this side of their business is growing at a rate of 25% each year.

He talked briefly about Camera Demographics (makes and models of cameras collected in Lucidiom’s database) before moving on to the more interesting topic of People Demographics. Women aged between 18 and 35 are the main buyers of photo prints and merchandise. In the US female owners of photo stores are doing better business than their male counterparts. Photo stores which have been “feminized” do better business because they become destination stores (like Starbucks). What this means for photo store owners is stores must be cleaned up and revamped. Get rid of the clutter. Add coffee machines and couches. Have a play area for kids. He summed it up as …

Film is the horse around 100 years ago. Digital is the Car. You sell Ferrari’s in a showroom, not a stable.

Stephen Giordano is a well-spring of money-making ideas and his energy is infectious ( I guess that’s why he’s CEO – If Kodak were smart they’d acquire Lucidiom even if only to get Giordano ). He’d like to see APMs (photo kiosks) in Maternity Hospitals and Nursery schools (20 visits per month – donate some of the revenue to the school). Lucidiom’s Beyond 4×6 strategy is all about steering customers towards photo products: Posters are really popular among teenage girls, Photo books are doing tremendous business ( “and the kicker is : they buy multiples !” ) . He describes Photo DVDs as a “sleeper product” with high margins.

He estimates that there are 3.5 Trillion (yes – Trillion) photos sitting in shoe boxes so the market for scanning and merchandising is also potentially huge. Some retailers offer a service whereby they’ll scan your old prints and put them on a DVD, but their service stops there. This is a Huge mistake – make it easy for consumers to pick the best photos and turn them into posters, calendars and other products at the point-of-scan.

I came away from Stephen Giordano’s talk totally buzzing with ideas and just a little overwhelmed at the volume of information he packed into just 1 hour. I was furiously scribbling notes and I’ve only captured some of the many nuggets of information and wisdom packed into that talk. If Giordano is speaking at the forthcoming PMA conference in Las Vegas I’ll be there.

During lunch I got to chat with one of the organizers of PMA UK who told me that the World conference in Las Vegas is on a completely different scale – a staggering 22,000 people passed thru the conference during it’s 5 days last year. The problem PMA have is choosing a venue big enough to accomodate their world conference. This dwarfs any of the Web2.0 conferences I’ve recently attended.

Out in the trade-show hall some of the big names had impressive displays of just how big you can print your photos. Some of the prints were laid out on the floor and were as big as our living room. All in all it was a great event and I’m looking forward to the PMA world conference in Las Vegas in January 2008.

Facebook Photo Editor

After some nagging from friends I finally caved in and created a Pixenate Facebook App. All that hype about creating Facebook Apps being easy ? I’m happy to report it’s all true.
I had to be nagged and cajoled into creating the Facebook App because I wasn’t entirely convinced of the utility of having a Facebook App. Why spend time developing for a closed platform when the benefits are dubious at best ? Let’s take 2 scenarios..

  1. Your Facebook app becomes really popular very quickly: You are now providing facebook with functionality and you’re paying the bandwidth/hosting costs. What’s worse is if facebook see this app get really popular they just roll it’s functionality into facebook itself and you’re left out in the cold. Chump.
  2. Your Facebook app isn’t that popular, you get a few hundred facebook users using it after a couple of days. You’ve just wasted a few hours (or days). Chump.

Currently the Pixenate app for facebook falls into the latter category. But … there is a silver lining.
At demobar last thursday I was demoing Pixenate to the throngs of bright young VCs, geeks and the curious. What struck was that people seemed to ‘get’ pixenate when I showed them Pixenate running in Facebook. It isn’t immediately apparent that Pixenate.com is just a demonstration site for the Pixenate product and that Pixenate is a white label product that can be embedded in any existing website, but as the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words…
pixenate_facebook.jpg

I showed the Facebook app to a potential client earlier that same day and could see that they ‘got it’ (They hadn’t used facebook but Facebook’s accomadating layout makes for a pretty good placeholder for pixenate). “So could you embed Pixenate in my site just like that?” was the immediate response when they saw it. For clarifying how Pixenate can be embedded in other websites, the Pixenate facebook app is a godsend.
As for the facebook API / development platform itself. It’s been kind of flaky lately. I’m getting passed a lot of invalid session keys which is a real pain because users naturally blame the application developer not the Facebook platform.
So the pixenate facebook app is useful but not for the reasons everyone told me it would be. The facebook app is just another example of how pixenate can be embedded. I think I’ll use it in our marketing materials.

CMP & O’Reilly’s upcoming Web2.0 Expo in Berlin

Last night I had a chance to meet CMP Media’s Jennifer Pahlka and a couple of fellow Web entrepreneur’s at La Boqueria – a cosy little Tapas bar in Cork. Jan Blanchard of touristr, Conor O’Neill of LouderVoice, Pat Phelan of yak4ever, Damien, Tom, James Morris of Emoh, Rory Wales of EvenStar, and Mark Twomey of 2G1TV were all there. It was a great night with plenty of good fine, wine and chat.

Conversation turned to the upcoming web2.0 conference in Berlin and what speakers would we like to see there. Getting a group of speakers together for something like this is a tough job, especially for something like web2.0 where the chances are that most of the attendees are as knowledgeable as the speakers on stage. I’ve often heard it said that the real benefit of these conferences is the opportunity to network. This was certainly true of LeWeb in Paris last december where the only outstanding speaker was Hans Rosling, and the panel discussions were simply boring because the panel consisted of people who’d all read the same books/blogs and all held similar opinions. One of the issues raised last night was the need for contrarian opinions – a few voices to counterbalance the happy-clappy valley-centric web2.0 cheerleading.

I don’t think I’ll be attending web2.0 Berlin – at €900 it’s not exactly a bootstrapping-startup-friendly event. But I wish Jennifer and the rest of CMP Media the best of luck and based on some of the suggestions floating around last night I’m sure it will be a great event.

I’m going to Mix ’07

Plane tickets have been booked.
Hotel has been booked.
Right so – I’m off to Mix ’07 at the end of the month.
I’ve never been to Las Vegas before so it should be fun.
Now all I have to do is try and nab one Mr. B. Gates for a quick hallway demo of Pixenate™:-)

There are 117 sessions so there’s a lot to choose from. Some of the sessions I’ll definitely be attending are…

PANEL DISCUSSION: Services on the Web: Build or Buy
Speaker(s): Jeff Barr – Amazon.com, Matt Goyer – Redfin, Don MacAskill – SmugMug, George Moore – Microsoft, Aric Weiker – Microsoft

PANEL DISCUSSION: Scrubbing Your AJAX
Speaker(s): Daniel Egan – Odyssey Consulting Group, Dennis Hurst – S.P.I. Dynamics, Scott Isaacs – Microsoft, Joshua J. Pennell – IOActive

PANEL DISCUSSION: Designing the Perfect Podcast Player
Speaker(s): Dave Winer

Navigating the Programmable Web
Speaker(s): Don Box – Microsoft, Steve Maine – Microsoft

Microformats: Data Formats That Put Humans First
Speaker(s): Tantek Çelik – technorati.com

Designing with AJAX: Yahoo! Pattern Library
Speaker(s): Bill Scott – Yahoo!

Thinking in CSS: How to Build Great Looking Sites
Speaker(s): Molly Holzschlag – Digital One Corporation

Anyone who thinks this is a microsoft-only event – take note – those are some pretty heavyweight non-badge-wearing names at the bleeding edge of web development.

For those who don’t have time to read Paul Graham’s latest essay

Microsoft is dead can be neatly summarized as …

To Google,
Please buy Snipshot – it’s going for a song.

Paul Graham funds a number of web2.0 startups…

So if they [microsoft] wanted to be a contender again, this is how they could do it:

1. Buy all the good “Web 2.0″ startups. They could get substantially all of them for less than they’d have to pay for Facebook.

Graham does some Microsoft-bashing (hey – with all his money and status I thought this would have been beneath him but he’s got startups to be acquired), and makes some overtures towards google.

There can only be one big man in town, and they’re clearly it. Google is the most dangerous company now by far, in both the good and bad senses of the word. Microsoft can at best limp along afterward.

Paul Graham is a smart guy but not smart enough to hide the whiff of desperation in his latest essay. If he’s not careful he could end up like this guy.

delicious is my twitter

Apologies to any readers who haven’t drunk the Web2.0 kool-aid and are puzzled by the title.
It’s just occurred to me why I don’t like twitter – It doesn’t fulfill any need that isn’t already fulfilled by del.icio.us. I usually post a note alongside each bookmark which lets me micro-blog (post short comments without having to think too much). If I want to signal to someone to take a look at the bookmarked item I just tag it for:[nameofperson] which I suppose you could loosely call ‘chat’. Since I gave up personal blogging, del.icio.us has fulfilled a need for short-hand blogging. Thinking about it – twitter is like del.icio.us but without the bookmarks – viewed in that light it really is hard to understand why anyone would use twitter.

Pixenate just got more interactive…

I’ve spent the past week deep in the bowels of Pixenate’s code, tweaking here and there, before introducing a new feature of the editor – Preview.

As you can imagine, letting users preview changes on a small thumbnail version of the image, before applying it to a full-size image, gives the user better feedback and let’s them experiment more with color settings – something that pretty much all of the more sophisticated desktop photo editors let you do. I’ve never been happy with Pixenate’s ‘Colors’ panel (3 sliders, a drop-down and no preview pane) and neither have some of our customers. Preview has been something I’ve been meaning to do for a while but have been putting off – perhaps knowing the impact it might have on the server. Lots of chit-chat back and forth between the client and server is not such a good idea but on the other hand you want to give the user as much feedback and control as they’d expect from a desktop app. This tension between user-interaction and server-performance is something common to all AJAX-based web applications. I’m reasonably happy with the performance results so far and now I think it’s ready to be put out in the wild.

So … I’m putting out another call for tyre-kickers.

This time I’d like you to play around with the Colors panel, the Sepia panel and the Interlace panel. Tweak the color settings to your heart’s content. Drag the preview pane around to reveal different parts of the image.

Play around and explore
.

I’ll be sitting here with a terminal session and top running – watching load averages very closely.

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