SecondSite becomes FreshBooks

At the same time as we — that is, myself, Mark Evans, Rob Hyndman, Stuart MacDonald and Mike McDerment — have been organizing mesh (which is taking place today and tomorrow at MaRS in Toronto), Mike and his team at 2ndSite have been busy renaming their company and their product and getting ready to relaunch it. So it’s fitting that on the day mesh 2006 launches, so does Mike’s new company, called

You can read a bit more about why the company decided to make the name change at, but suffice it to say that it still provides the same great Web 2.0 service (featured in an “enterprise Web 2.0 apps” piece by Dion Hinchcliffe at ZDNet), which allows companies to do all their invoicing and time-tracking seamlessly online. FreshBooks is also launching a new feature in a couple of weeks, which allows any user to send a printed invoice by first-class mail using the U.S. Postal Service (including a self-addressed envelope). If you want to give it a try, you can check out with this “sneak peek” URL (this creates a short-term demo account that will eventually expire).

Way to go, Mike. Congrats to you and the team.

Mark Cuban makes a great point

The occasionally irascible but always entertaining billionaire sports-team owner and media gadfly Mark Cuban (hey, that would look good on a business card, wouldn’t it?) has a great post today about blogs and the traditional media. His first point: “A blog is media.” Simple, and yet many people miss that one completely, or go around talking about “the blogosphere” as though it’s a single giant entity, which drives many (including Jeff Jarvis) crazy. Say it with me, everyone: the blogosphere is “made of people,” just like the stuff in that great old campy horror movie Soylent Green.

In his post, Mark notes that:

“In traditional media, you are first defined by your medium. There is some constraint to the physical or digital definition of the medium the content is delivered on or by, that for the most part determines how you are perceived. There is a cost vs time vs interest vs access series of constraints that determines who your audience is, how you reach them and what they expect of you.”

In other words, newspaper comes to the door in the morning and is read (or not) at the table or on the bus, radio happens now and then in cars or during dinner, TV is on in the morning and after dinner but rarely during the day, and so on. Newspapers have to print stuff on rolled-out sections of dead trees and then load it onto trucks, radio has to beam stuff from tower to tower, TV has to pay anchors obscene sums of money for hairspray and plastic surgery, etc. etc.

The other big point, however, as Mark puts it, is:

“In a nutshell, blogging is personal. Which is really where the paths of blogging and traditonal media diverge. Traditional media has become almost exclusively corporate while blogging remains almost exclusively personal… Sure, there are bloggers that want to make money from their blogs [but] they are the infinitesimal minority. 99pct of blogs are about what someone has to say. 99 pct of traditional media is about making money.”

In typical Cuban-esque fashion, I think that hits the traditional metal fastening device right on the head. Blogs are personal, traditional media is corporate. Are there columnists and stories and people within the regular media who achieve some personal connection to readers or listeners? Of course there are — all the way from Howard Stern to your favourite columnist at the local paper. But it’s harder. Blogs make that a whole lot easier, and therein lies their power.

One interesting subtext to all this, of course, is that the personal power of his blog has gotten Mark Cuban into trouble before — including just yesterday.

Update: Jeff Jarvis has taken issue with some of what Mark said in a post at Buzzmachine, and Mark has responded in the comments. And Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has an interesting take on Mark’s post, about the differences between “vocational” and “avocational” media. Interestingly enough, Mark has also followed up his post with another one on what newspapers do better than the Internet.

mesh to the max — we’re sold out

Well, after about three months of blogging, meetings, BlackBerry-thumb, pleading/begging, brain-storming, hair-pulling and more than a dash of good, old-fashioned dumb luck, the bright idea known as mesh is two days away and we are sold out. In other words, you waited too long and now it’s too late to get a ticket 🙂 Now that the selling is done, all that remains is to put on a kick-ass show, which we plan to do starting bright and early Monday morning, with a whole pile of smart people and great questions and debate, followed by a big party at The Drake, and then another whole day of even more smart people and great debate. Check the mesh blog for updates and hopefully we’ll get some pics up at Flickr too, tagged “mesh06.”

Josh is wrong — geeks totally rule!

Josh Kopelman’s post on “the first 53,651 users” has been getting a lot of comment. A VC with First Round Capital, Josh talks about all the clones and Flickr knockoffs he sees, and suggests that startups shouldn’t pay much attention to their first 50,000 or so users — since that’s about how many RSS subscribers has. In other words, don’t believe that all those thousands of geeks signing up for things represents a real stab at mainstream success.

This is a great point, as my friend Paul Kedrosky and others, including VC Brad Feld, have noted. Most of the 50,000 people are probably just like me — they sign up for everything that comes along (as though there were a giant score sheet somewhere recording how many “invite-only” betas we have all managed to get access to) — use it maybe once or twice and then in most cases completely forget about it.

That’s not a great indicator of whether a company has a sustainable business model, I grant you. And it’s also not surprising that most people’s grandmothers, or aunts, or the guys down at the hardware store haven’t heard about or even Does that mean they aren’t good businesses, albeit in a very early startup stage? I’m not so sure about that. Flickr started that way, and has reached a point where I would argue it’s a darn good business, and I think Thomas Hawk is right that there’s more to it than just “don’t pay any attention to the first 50,000 geeks.”

Not all that long ago, most people probably thought Google was just some geeky website with a stupid name, and I was likely one of the 50,000 or so who started using it early on because it was better — qualitatively better — than everything else. Obviously, every clone isn’t going to become Google, but that doesn’t mean those 50,000 early-adopter geeks won’t turn out to be right.

BlogHer starts an ad network

Staci over at pointed me toward the new ad network that was just launched by BlogHer, the women’s blogger network that started as a conference and has become much more than that. There’s more info on it here, but it looks like a slam-dunk idea to me (not that anyone asked me, of course). The service is starting with about 25 of the BlogHer network’s bloggers — not sure if that’s all of them or just the top 25 (it’s neither; see the comment from Debi Jones below) — including Badgermama (the mommy blogger with the purple hair), CityMama, Chookooloonks (a Jamaican Trinidadian term of endearment, in case you were wondering), Ninja Poodles and Surrender Dorothy.

As Staci explains it, the network is launching June 1 with a single advertiser — Sweet Simplicity Sweetener — and adding other ones later, in “contextual categories” starting with food. Participating bloggers agree that it will be the only graphic ad on their blogs, and agree to editorial guidelines. There’s a letter from the founders of BlogHer (Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins) about the new venture here. This reminds me a little of The Deck, which Coudal Partners launched with a select group of blogs including Daring Fireball and I wrote about that here.


Debi Jones of also points out that there’s competition in the mommy-blogger space: a site called has also launched a blogger and advertising network, in which bloggers are paid to post at least 5 times a week.

Social network space a tad crowded?

I just had to post something here about this because it totally blew me away. Not to pick on the folks at Alice Hill’s RealTechNews, but I was just reading a post they had about something, and down near the bottom there was a gigantic line of icons, each of which represented a social-networking website where you could click and either submit the post or bookmark it or whatever.

I’ve included a screenshot here because I found it so incredible — there are 25 icons, from a little animated TV set to a star and a sheaf of wheat. They represent everything from and to news sites such as and Fark, to lesser-known bookmarking sites such as and RawSugar, to ones I’ve never heard of such as LinkAGoGo and

If you’re a VC and you’re thinking about investing in the social networking space, I suggest you take a look at these and despair. And this isn’t even all of them — I can think of a few that aren’t even on the list (maybe their icons weren’t cute enough), such as Diigo, eSnips, Dogear, Kaboodle, LookLater, StumbleUpon and Frassle.


Google’s new toy for math geeks

Like the rest of the geek blogosphere, I watched a bit of the Google Press Day event and then checked out some of the new toys they launched, including Google Trends and Google Co-op (or — which seems to have more to do with chickens, but then hyphens don’t translate that well into URLs) and I was somewhat underwhelmed — if that’s a word. Particularly with Google Trends, which seems like mostly a buzz-meter a la Alexa, with dubious long-term value, although Steve Rubel has had some fun playing around with it.

But it was Google Co-op that really floored me. This thing makes the incredibly complicated and mind-bogglingly obtuse Google Base look like a Hallmark greeting card. I know that Google is all about algorithms — not just because it’s obvious, but because that’s what Eric Schmidt said during the press conference; he said that Google Co-op wasn’t about social networking, but about making search better, and that for Google pretty much everything was about algorithms. But damn — Google Co-op in its current form is enough to make a non-math geek hold his head in his hands and weep, or head for the Xanax.

It seems simple enough. Google wants you to “Help other users find information more easily by creating “subscribed links” for your services and labeling webpages around the topics you know best.” Great. I know how to label things with tags like at, and I know how to subscribe to things via RSS and whatnot — how hard could this be? Well, pretty hard actually. If you go looking for more detail, here’s what Google tells you:

“In order to use the API you need to define one or more ResultSpecs. A ResultSpec contains a Query and a Response. The Query gives a general trigger pattern of queries for which you want to trigger your result. The Response provides a template for the output you want to display when the trigger pattern is matched. The id attribute of the ResultSpec tag uniquely identifies the ResultSpec. Every ResultSpec must have an id attribute.”

And that’s just the introduction. It gets worse. You have to learn about structured queries and data objects and output methods and formats, not to mention the frighteningly named “extractors” and validators. Obviously, this is for people who like programming in the same way I like ice cream. And I know that like Google Base, this kind of setup is meant for companies and services to set up their own databases and then feed them into the Googleplex, just as Google Base does for used cars and real estate and whatnot.

But still. Couldn’t it be just a little more user friendly for us non-programmer types? As Paul Kedrosky notes, it breaks one of his primary rules, which is that people are lazy. Even Danny “SearchEngineWatch” Sullivan couldn’t make it past the introduction, and Cynthia over at IP Democracy said that Google needs to remember the KISS rule. But how can you keep it simple when you’re hiring 300 math geeks a month?

Get your mesh on — four days left

The countdown has begun — to mesh, that is. In case you haven’t been following this blog over the past couple of months, mesh is the Web 2.0 conference in Toronto next Monday and Tuesday that I have been organizing (and I use that word loosely) with my friends and fellow bloggers Mark Evans, Rob Hyndman, Stuart MacDonald and Mike McDerment. We are coming down to the wire and getting awfully close to being sold out, although we could probably squeeze you in if you hurry.

Stuart has a rundown on the mesh blog of some of the last-minute information for those attending, including the fact that we’re starting registration at 8 a.m. at MaRS, and (partying being an important part of any Web 2.0 event) there will be a “social mesh” event in the atrium with cocktails following the day’s events on Monday, plus a party later on in the evening at the ultra-hip nightspot The Drake, for those who like to dance into the wee hours. There have been some last-minute schedule changes, but nothing too major — we’re hoping to have a final schedule up at soon.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago — February, I think it was — we all got together in a Toronto bar for a few drinks to talk about blogs and the Web and how it was changing our jobs (in the media and marketing fields), our interests (politics and society) and our businesses (big as well as small), and how it would be great if someone would have a conference where we could all talk about that kind of thing with other interested people. Not seeing one on the horizon, we decided to do it ourselves, despite the fact that none of us have any experience in doing that kind of thing.

And we’ve had some pretty amazing help along the way, not just from sponsors and suppliers of stuff (and our very patient families, of course), but from the people who have agreed to come and take part — like Om and Tara and Paul and Steve and Michael, but also people like Jason Fried and Matt Mullenweg and Michael Tippett and Andrew Baron and Warren Kinsella and Rick Segal (for a full list, check the schedule).

Now it’s almost time to mesh.

Back in the Gillmor Twilight Zone

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat — I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. Not the brightest light on the tree. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. You get the picture. I’m certainly not as smart as Nick Carr, as I have pointed out before. That said, however, I do have an English degree — and I still can’t figure out what the heck Steve Gillmor is talking about in his recent column about… well, whatever it’s about.

It’s not just me. Even Nick “I went to Harvard” Carr can barely figure it out. It has something to do with Nick and a recent podcast, and the current fetish for not including links in blog posts — which as my M-lister pal Kent Newsome has noted, is a load of elitist hogwash. For whatever it’s worth, Kent can’t make head nor tails of what Steve is on about in his column either.

For one thing, it’s all wrapped up in Steve’s patented “GestureBank” metaphorology, or whatever the hell it is. You know, like this stuff:

“Clicking on a link does not pay the author; it pays the signaller (in this case the aggregator, publisher, or arbitrager of the link’s “value.”) The author of the content is paid in link credits, which tether him or her to the tyranny of the mediocrity of broadcast economics.”

Riiiiiiiiight. There’s plenty more where that came from too, about “negative gesturing at its root level,” and something about tipping your waitress and how the tip reflects… well, something (Valleywag has some fun with Steve’s inscrutability here). And in there somewhere is a bit of response to people like Kent who have rejected the “no linking” policy Steve seems to be pushing. Steve says he secretly agrees that links are good karma, but they tie people to the current model, and he’s looking way down the road at some GestureBank future that the rest of us can’t see. Best of luck with that, Steve.

I’m going to stick with Kent — links are a sign that you don’t know it all, that ideas come from somewhere and go somewhere, and that they flow through blogs and comments and other places and ultimately create value somewhere. Whether they tie me to some blog-publishing feudal system is beyond my capacity to say. Like I said, I’m an English major. All I know is, I hope Steve is getting paid by the word.

Media is Jell-O, the Web is the wall

And you are the nail. Every day there are new signs of how traditional media — newspapers, radio, television — are morphing and shifting and changing, as content finds new routes to the consumer, like water finding the easiest path as it flows downhill. Fox announces a deal to sell shows via iTunes, Warner Brothers announces a deal to use BitTorrent to offer downloads, newspapers watch their subscription levels continue to plummet as online readership rises. Media owners everywhere are trying to figure out how to adapt to the changing environment, which is where the Jell-O and the wall and the nail come in.

Warner Brothers may get some applause for going the BitTorrent download route, but the files are likely going to be all buggered up with DRM — a comment over at BoingBoing says Warner is already using a similar system (not BitTorrent) in Germany and the files are lower quality than a DVD but cost just as much and don’t have any extra features. How is that a good deal? Sharing a movie gets you credits, but you reportedly have to share an entire movie about 40 times before you get enough credits for a free one. As TechDirt points out, the studios are “offloading the cost of the bandwidth onto the buyers, but giving them no benefit in return.” Not smart.

As for newspapers, debate is still all over the map about how to offer content online — and I should know, because we’ve had (and are having) plenty of that kind of debate at Is the subscription model working? Does it make sense to combine that with a partial “pay wall” as the Globe does and the New York Times recently started doing — or should content be free and advertising carry the freight? Does Google actually help, or is it stealing content in some way as the European Newspaper Publishers contend (that last one is the reddest herring I’ve probably ever seen, as I’ve mentioned before).

As Mark has mentioned in his post, and Rob in his, these are just the kinds of questions that our conference was set up to try and tackle (tickets are still available, but time is running out). Notice I didn’t say “answer.” But at least we can have a go at nailing some of that Jell-O to the wall.