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Category: economics

UI Is A Conversation

The Cluetrain posited that markets are conversations. And this is coming true through the emergence of the two-way Web. Of course, the Web was designed as read/write from the beginning, but for many years the Web was a one-way street. Commercial interests modeled user interaction on the one-to-many broadcast model.

Now that “user-created content” is all the rage, the “write” part of the Web is suddenly in vogue. The economic model is still the same. Regardless of who creates the content, if an audience forms around it, sell access to that audience to advertisers. More accruately defined audiences create a better targeting opportunities for advertisers.

The User Interface (UI) has been like having a conversation through a translator. You tell it something, it goes away, decodes your input, and then returns an answer or another question. There’s no fluidity, no real conversation. With the emergence of XMLhttpRequest (AJAX) and some other UI technologies — there’s a chance that the UI could become a conversation, a fluid back and forth. To create that fluidity will require new interaction models that are easy for the user to learn. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as an intuitive user interface. Generally that’s what people say when they mean to say “good.”

In the current design and production process for Web applications, who looks after the conversation? Who acts as the host?

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Nothing Ventured

When it cost a bundle to buy the basic infrastructure to create an Internet-based businesss — venture money was critical. It’s still expensive to scale and handle large bandwidth requirements, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. When asking the question about whether the venture capital model is broken, one might ask what are top 10 things to remember when building a Web application-based business today? Are any of those things made easier or better with venture capital funding?

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Good Money, Bad Money

One sign that the business of building businesses on the Web has changed since the bubble years is that entrepreneurs are talking about “good money” and “bad money.” Used to be that all money was good. The idea used to be to get as much money as you could from a VC, then go public as soon as you could. And of course investors would cooperate by buying lots of stock, causing the price to sky rocket. Quick riches and early retirement. Then on to create a second company that never quite captured the magic of the first.

The VC funded IPO is becoming rarer and rarer. I wonder if the Small Business Administration will be the new funder of small Web businesses?

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Getting Small

One of the ideas that came out of the “Future of Web Apps” conference, recently held in San Francisco, is that an IPO is no longer a primary goal. While there were lots of presenters talking about taking money from venture capitalists, the liquidity event du jour is an acquisition by Google, Yahoo or Microsoft.

The other thread was that staying small and creating a company that could support you and some of your developer buddies was a perfectly fine goal. A few people were looking beyond the mass market to the long tail and simply being a small business. The cool thing about the Web is that it makes “really big” possible, but “small” works too. 37 Signals and their suite of Web Apps is a good example.

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