Friday, March 30, 2007

Hello… My Name Is WWW

Thank goodness Coldwell Banker has decided to sell real estate in virtual world Second Life. I guess I can cancel that benefit concert for avatar homelessness.
Coldwell’s virtual properties will sell for about $20 U.S., but they aren’t looking to make money on it. Like most businesses venturing in to Second Life, they are hoping to get attention online from a new market segment that can be converted to real world customers.

Are we becoming a society that is online first, real world second? Many companies have made big names for themselves through ecommerce (think Amazon, eBay, Expedia), and the past few years have seen a surge in online socialization (think MySpace, Facebook, Second Life).

Most actions that would have previously caused us to interact face-to-face are now being automated online. Highly targeted online advertising is all the rage.
As our real and virtual lives become more intertwined, will we still be active in the real world? Likewise, as electronic advertising takes over, will the real world be less cluttered with “clever” messaging? I, for one, would just like to be human again.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Attention Spans Shorten on the Web

We are a society with a short attention span. The Web fits right in with that trait because it is a source of immediate information. With high-speed Internet, we can quickly get online, find the answer to our question, and be on to the next task in seconds flat.

Web statistics can attest that users generally look at only 2 to 3 web pages on any given site, and 30 seconds on any given page. This indicates they look for exactly what they want and either find it quickly or give up and move on to the next site (hopefully the former, rather than the latter). We want information quick, we want it now, and we have little tolerance for websites that don’t clearly tell us where to find what we want.

So which came first- the short attention span or the Internet? Either way, the two feed off of one another. Those with short attention spans can go to the Web for quick information keep moving to the next thing.

That’s all I have to say on this subject. On to the next thing… .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Video Awards Not Just for Celebrities Anymore

With more and more entertainment being supplied via the Internet, recognition is moving online as well. YouTube announced today the winners of the first YouTube Video Awards, recognizing the most popular original videos of 2006.

Users have flocked to YouTube to watch all sorts of self-created videos, proving that it is now quick and easy to watch videos over the Internet. So much for cuddling on the couch. As I mentioned last week, online video sites like YouTube allow us to share in a collective experience. On top of that, some people are able to stretch their fifteen minutes of fame. Look at the winning videos and you will see that average non-celebrities are gaining celebrity status because of their homemade creations. Anyone can become famous on the Internet with a little creativity and PR.

My favorite new celebrities are Ok Go with their nimble choreography:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Knowing Your Website's Purpose

Setting up websites has become rather easy thanks to free hosting sites and templates. This weekend I set up a website for the local youth baseball team in a matter of hours. The team's parents will be able to see announcements, schedules, rules, and practice tips. The purpose is to aid communication.

It surprises me that more people don't take advantage of web communication. Sure many have websites, but how often have you been unable to find what you need on a site? Sometimes their intentions are unclear. Sometimes their information is incomplete.

A few things to consider if you have a website are:

  • Why do you have a site?

  • What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Does your home page tell users what they need to know and what to do next?

  • Every website can gain from a periodic review to make sure it is still on track.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Impact of MySpace on Presidential Election

    MySpace is joining in on the political fun of the 2008 presidential election with the Impact channel.

    The New York Times describes it as, "an online version of a town square, a collection of links to political MySpace pages that will make it easier for the site's 60 million American users per month -- many of them from the traditionally elusive and apathetic youth demographic -- to peruse the personal MySpace pages of, so far, 10 presidential candidates," (see The Future President, on Your Friends List).

    Here users will find candidate blogs, videos, photos, and links. They can even add candidates to their friends list. The Impact channel will provide voter registration tools and an easy payment method for campaign contributions. MySpace hopes that they will be able to play a strong role in online campaign strategies by "reaching people who are historically not interested in voting," according to MySpace founder Tom Anderson.

    With these efforts and others, like, the United States public will be able to follow the candidates and the election in brand new ways.

    On the flip side, candidates are readily building Internet campaign strategies as a means of reaching young voters.

    All that's left now is to see how it is received. Do users want politicians on their friends list and "digital yard signs" on their sites, or will this be a case of the parent trying unsuccessfully to portray cool.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Panda Sneeze

    Online Videos Make the World Smaller

    Online videos are exploding in popularity thanks to sites like YouTube. CacheLogic of Cambridge, England says, “TV shows, YouTube clips, animations, and other video applications already account for more than 60 percent of Internet traffic,” (see TR10: Peering into Video’s Future on Technology Review).

    Who would have thought we would flock to the Internet to watch clips of grown men dancing on treadmills or homemade Lego Gatling guns propelling rubber bands at dominoes with remarkable speed? A friend of mind told me traffic surged on YouTube after the above Panda Sneeze video was mentioned on a television show.

    Movies and television shows have long been distributed across different countries, exposing diverse audiences to similar experiences. Online videos are allowing the human race to further share experiences. Many of these short films can easily cross cultures, relying on visuals rather than language to tell a story.

    With ever-improving technology, social networking on the Internet continues to prove that it’s a small world after all.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Blog Video Collage on YouTube

    Check out this video collage of blogs on YouTube. The video was created by Darren of Blogged Out. You may find some new favorites for your blog roll.

    As a reminder, the Blogged Out project starts tomorrow. Visit Blogged Out to find out more.

    More Choices Than Ever

    Information overload is a term commonly thrown around these days with the Internet being a large source of information. With information comes choice. We must choose what to do with the information we find, decide whether it is credible, and opt for the appropriate action.

    In his post on Choice, Seth Godin points out that we have many more choices than we did several hundred years ago. I know that I turn to the Internet frequently to choose products, services, and sometimes even personal decisions. It is usually my starting point for research, from which I determine the remainder of my research.

    We make choices every day on whether or not to get out of bed, what needs to be done that day, and how we will act. We choose what food to consume, which products to purchase, and where to spend our time.

    Has the Internet made our copious choices easier or more difficult?

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Media Loves Second Life

    I admit it. I’m obsessed with Second Life. Not as a participant, mind you. I’ve spent very little time in its virtual world. Rather I am boggled by the concept and its media attention. Here are just a few of the latest headlines:

    Second Life's looming tax threat

    Does Your Business Need a Second Life?

    How I Did It: Philip Rosedale, CEO, Linden Lab

    In a virtual world, an actual job may be waiting (see my post entitled Job Seekers Need Not Leave Second Life)

    New Portal to Second Life: Your Phone

    That’s quite a buzz. The first article, Second Life's looming tax threat, discusses the possibility of government taxing on money earned in Second Life, which has quite a bustling economy. Among the ideas for taxing is leaving Linden dollars untaxed, but taxing the U.S. dollars equivalent when cashed out. I have little doubt that taxation will occur in the future. Income earned on the Internet is still income. Earnings from eBay must be reported to the government; Second Life will follow.

    Visitors are doing more than just socializing in Second Life, or at least businesses hope they are. Companies are setting up virtual shops, including Second Life as part of their marketing strategy. An auto company lets avatars test drive cars. Recruiting firms are conducting virtual job interviews. These businesses are hoping to create enough buzz in the virtual world to increase their reach in the real world.

    What is it about Second Life that has made it so popular and, for some, lucrative? What is the draw for consumers to spend time in Second Life?

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Subscribe to Life After Web

    Just a quick note: You can now subscribe to Life After Web using Feedburner. Look for the RSS symbol in the right column. You'll have the option to get this content in a variety of feeds. Thanks for reading!

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Blogged-Out Serves Bloggers and Charity

    In the blog realm, there are many blogs about blogs. A gentleman named Darren has started a new project called Blogged-Out. Here he will divulge visitor stats, income generated, and the techniques he used to in order to help other bloggers. Is it all in the name of adding money to Darren’s wallet? Nope. He will donate 40% of the gross income generated during the three month project to a charity voted on by the participants. I told you he was a gentleman.

    Sign up for the newsletter or RSS feed and get involved. You’ll be helping Darren, yourself, and a worthy cause. The Blogged-Out Project officially launches on Monday, March 19.

    Fight Tech Crime With Tech

    The human species has a way with crime. If a human can invent something, another human is already figuring out how to exploit it. In true cycle, with the Internet, comes cybercrime. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, enter cybersleuths.

    In Smart technology fights online fakes, Deborah Kong says, "new tech firms are arming brand holders with a smart solution: Web-crawling software that detects fraud and sends warnings to apparent violators, often with minimal human interaction."

    As more and more transactions occur on the Internet, it makes sense to police these events with software. After all, it's difficult to patrol the Web by squad car.

    I fear, however, it won't take long for the offender to find a workaround. Thus continues the vicious cycle.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Personalizing the World

    While adjusting my half of the dual climate control in the new car to a toasty 75 degrees, I was struck by how much we customize our experiences. If I were a coffee drinker, I could order precisely the right flavor, with just the right amount of foam, and my choice of lactose source.

    On the web, I have an RSS feed that gives me only the headlines I want to see based on my keywords and publication preferences. My web browser loads exactly the page I want to see upon opening the window. Even Blogger lets me choose the template I like for this blog and pick the information I want to present.

    We are trying desperately to feel special in a highly populated world. Customization lets us feel like we are getting special treatment, even if our preferences are being fed to us by a computer.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Expression and Perception on the Web

    It seems like everyone has a website these days, whether a blog, a social networking space, or a business site. Websites express their owners’ personalities through color choices, featured content, and design, all of which are used by visitors to understand more about the site and its creator.

    Websites are increasingly being used for self-expression. In a way we are branding ourselves, much like we do with clothing or cars. While brands used to be reserved for businesses, now everyone wants to show their “individuality.” Customized web spaces make it easy for people to declare their personality, but if you think about it, we are truly declaring a demographic.

    Colors, language patterns, layout, and content merge in to a full presentation. Consciously or subconsciously, visitors will draw a conclusion about the site and its creator. The visitor will use their perceived categorization to determine whether or not they believe the source to be credible.

    There is no one size fits all. What appears credible to one visitor may seem ridiculous to another. The best you can hope for is to be true to yourself or your brand, which in turn should attract the right visitors.

    What does your website say about you? What perceptions do you think your visitors glean?

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Speaking of being able to buy anything on the Internet…

    It’s amazing what you can find for sale on the Internet when you’re not even looking. Even more amazing is the way technology is applied to every aspect of human existence.

    Apparently there is a piece of software that helps women track their menstruation cycles and recommends the best times to try for a baby. The iOvulate Calculator even claims the ability to help choose gender, “although the success average is lower.” Let me know how that goes if you try it.

    The Internet gives us access to all sorts of tools to enhance our lives. Though some may seem absurd to me, they no doubt serve a purpose to someone else. Perhaps it’s not even that the tools themselves seem absurd, just the method of distribution. People are willing to search impersonal sources for intimate information. We’ve succumbed to the world of technology and many wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Buying a Car Online

    Today my boyfriend picked up a new car which he purchased online. Though I've always researched auto purchases online, it wouldn't have dawned on me to actually purchase on the web. After all, what about the test drive? At any rate, he built the car he wanted on the brand's website, visited one dealer, then decided to cut to the chase with CarsDirect. One week after entering his desired features, his car was ready for pick-up with all the options, but thousands cheaper.

    I guess you can buy anything on the Internet these days. Sometimes it is more convenient to do so. If you need that test drive, I hear that Toyota has built a virtual test drive race track in Second Life. Local traffic laws may apply.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2007

    Popularity on the Web

    Social networks abound on the Internet. Between MySpace, Second Life, and personal blogs, it’s easy to make “friends” on the Web. Enter popularity contests. Users can gauge “worthiness” by seeing how many friends or comments or Diggs a site rates. As Seth Godin noted, “There’s really very little point in trying to have more friends than anyone else at MySpace.” I read recently, though, that one can buy MySpace friends, which would indicate that someone must think there is a point, even of some of us don’t see it.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2007

    Choose Your Own Identity

    Pseudonyms are common on the web. People use false names for email accounts, websites, social interactions, nearly anywhere that a name is required on the Internet. Identity is easier to proclaim on the Internet than in real life. In life you must be able to prove that you are accomplished where you say and earn your identity. On the Internet, it is slightly easier to declare your talents. It is thought that in many cases on the Internet, people choose to be their ideal selves. From behind the computer they feel more confident.

    Identity will probably become a prominent issue in the future. Some European countries are already considering laws that make creating email accounts with pseudonyms illegal. Wikipedia asked for an editor's resignation upon learning that his credentials were false (see Wikipedia disowns an editor). In a world that is becoming increasingly more reliant on technology, watch for rules to be established surrounding identity.

    Where should identity be policed and by whom?

    Thursday, March 1, 2007

    With Globalization Comes Isolation

    In the past week, I interacted with people from around the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe. We shared ideas, advice, instructions, and laughter. I facilitated events with hundreds of attendees and watched as they learned and asked questions. How global of me. Did I mention I didn’t have to leave my chair?

    Think about how small this world has become through blogs, email, instant messenger, and web seminars. Before the Internet, how long would it have taken you to interact with hundreds of people from distant lands?

    The Internet, among other technologies, has brought people closer to one another, yet our society is spending more time with technology and less time with other humans. It is great that I can order books online and have them shipped directly to my home, but there is a comforting buzz of energy in bookstore. I love that I don’t have to go to the bank, but I miss out on the chance of seeing a neighbor in line.

    Technology has, arguably, made our lives easier. Many businesses are becoming global that never would have considered it ten short years ago. People are befriending others across oceans through socialization on the Internet.

    With all of this globalization, however, we are also isolating ourselves from our immediate surroundings. The art of conversation is truly an art now that we have succumbed to the immediate transfer of short phrases and acronyms.

    Look up from your computer. Look at your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? Are there other people in the room? I dare you to speak to one of them. After their initial shock, they might start speaking back. In seconds you could be having a quick exchange of information with an actual, living, breathing soul, right there in the room.