How to start and run a social network

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New Media Outlook for 2008 (and probably beyond)

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AlwaysOn – The popular ‘insider’s network’ on anything even remotely associated with technology, recently undertook a survey along with KPMG to assess the mood in the Social Media space for the year ahead. The results are quite interesting – economic turmoil or not. The survey sample consisted of around 300 VCs, CEOs and other insiders in the media industry.

Some interesting inferences that we can potentially draw from this survey are –

1. A unanimous opinion that this year will see further shifts in advertising dollars to new media avenues.

2. The two opposing forces of commitment and confusion that seems to currently reign in the advertising industry, especially pertaining to social networking and the advertising opportunities and challenges that it has created. The industry seems to recognize the importance of social media and community platforms. But it comes with the challenges of how to actually take advantage of the opportunities offered by them.

3. For the question – “Who should we blame when ad personalization goes too far and violates privacy”, a majority of them responded “The Portals”. Hmm… now that came as a surprise. Maybe a populist vote here, but I was thinking that the sample will vote towards either consumers being more responsible of what information they give away or the government for increasing regulations that govern online privacy.

4. For the question – “Have advertisers figured out how social networking figures in their marketing mix”, a whopping 91% felt that advertisers have no clue whatsoever!

5. The reasons stated for including social networks into the marketing mix came as no surprise.

6. Last but not the least, VC focus seems to be on the mobile and content space for the next few months (probably a combination of both).

Here are the survey results – courtesy – AlwaysOn




Written by kvinod77

February 25, 2008 at 5:01 am

Posted in News

Microsoft + Yahoo! Welcome to the Centre of the Social Networking Universe

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So… Microsoft is bidding to acquire Yahoo! Oh… wait a minute, did I read that right? Wow… imagine that! Ladies and Gentlemen, if the Super-Bowl wasn’t enough in making this an interesting weekend, here comes Microsoft with arguably the most audacious coup in the technology industry for the year! Usually, I would give out links to related posts on the web but I wouldn’t do that just this time ‘coz it is every freakin’ where! If completed, this would be the largest acquisition MS has made and the biggest internet merger since AOL bought Time Warner for $112bn in 2000.Tech stocks that were sagging till yesterday in Wall St. have suddenly started looking up. People are talking of selling their cars to buy some MS and Y! shares. But we know Wall Street – always the emotional and impulsive type.

But let me not go into the usual M&A analysis that is currently being spewed out in the blogosphere during the past 12 hours. Enough is being said already. What I would like to do, is to think through this scenario under the context of social networking/media. Microsoft being what they are, under the merged entity, what will happen to all the social media assets that is currently being owned by both companies. Both, in terms of external investments, and outright acquisitions, both forms have fairly competing and complementing media assets. Not the mention all the bright people who have been literally working their a$$ off to make their platforms successful. What would be the implications on the current social content/media landscape once this merger is completed? Here’s my hypothesis –

1. Easy Picking for Start-up – Yahoo had already announced a layoff of 1000 employees recently. Adding to that, there is a level of rising bitterness inside Yahoo that is being reported on various blogs. MS has said that it is confident that it can save at least $1 billion in operating expenses in the merged company. With more heads rolling, I am sure that it will add to the existing pool of ex-Yahoo’ers in the market, thus making a large pool of available talented individuals with strong pedigree, looking for interesting work. Suddenly, start-ups will find that hiring new talent is not as difficult as they originally planned for.

2. Microsoft has a stake in Facebook and has covered some ground with Office Live! Yahoo! currently owns Zimbra, Flickr, and the likes. Not to mention their experiments with Y! Mash. These are some of the pioneers in the general proliferation and acceptance social content/media/network platforms. What will happen to them? They will become MS teritorries now. But with MS having made an investment in Facebook, I can easily imagine a titght lock-in scenario where all these platforms are combined together in a service-based model. Imagine a single platform that allows you to –
a. Network with friends (FB)
b. Share pictures (Flickr)
c. Exchange bookmarks (
d. post and apply for jobs in your network (Hotjobs – watch out LinkedIn!)
e. create & deploy widgets for you & your friends (konfabulator)
d. write and syndicate blog content within your network (MyBlogLog)

Now that will be one big-a$$ platform controlled by a big-a$$ company. Suddenly MS has bought itself into being the Social platforms arena with one big swipe!

It is a completely different question as to whether this will work. But nevertheless, the synergies in the social arena are obvious and easy to comprehend. Let’s see if Steve B can work his magic here!


Written by kvinod77

February 1, 2008 at 7:18 pm

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How much does it cost to build a social networking platform from scratch?

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Here’s how much (I think).

That’s the question an acquaintance asked me once. The question actually caught me off-guard because, I am used to people saying – “ooh”, “aah”, “That sounds so much fun”, and so on – when they here what I do both in my day-job and my moonlighting affairs. But when I was asked this question, my mind started swirling a bit (maybe because it was my second glass of wine at the alumni reunion… but whatever). Although I gave him some numbers that he ‘seemed’ to be convinced with, I thought about what would be a ballpark number of moolah one would need to build a Facebook or a Hi5.

So, I set forward to create a spreadsheet that will give an ‘indicative’ number for this. First, I listed down all the possible ‘feature sets’ or ‘story titles’ (depending on which development style you may want to follow). Then I started adding effort estimates for each of them completely based on my experience/gut-feel.

And then I started to think about outsourcing. Somewhere on Mashable I read about how programming skills are getting commoditized (is that the correct word?) and what matters is the main idea or concept. Now, if you’ve read my previous blog you would know what I am talking about here. So, if you want to just own the concept and you want to focus all your energy and resources in building a community on your platform, then outsourcing platform development would actually make sense. Now, there are various implications and factors that influence the decision of outsourcing your platform development – maybe I will save that topic for another post. But at a high-level, outsourcing can be of 2 types –

1. Complete (offshore) outsourcing of a custom built social networking platform

2. Using white-label, on-demand platform vendors to build and customize your community on top of it.

Both are completely different animals and need different set of skills and resources to manage them. So, just for the sake of discussion, let us focus on Option 1 – complete custom platform development.

In my spreadsheet, I started factoring on offshore costs from 2 theoretical locations. But the efforts involved in managing outsourced development is not the same as an on-premise engagement. Therefore, I added ‘Effort’ columns for outsourced work as well.

Taking all this into account, my “highly scientific” methodology of effort and cost estimation have led me to believe that a non-differentiated, plain-vanilla social networking/community platform can be developed well within a $100k budget. Of course, this can be made more cost-efficient by adding the offshore factor, which can bring the development costs to around the $50k mark.

Now, I am not sure how aggressive or pessimistic this estimation is. So, feel free to take a look at my spreadsheet and use it for your own planning needs (no copyrights whatsoever). And yes… If you feel that I may be way off mark here, I would love to hear about it. Let me know if you find something missing or if you think my estimates are too aggressive.


Written by kvinod77

January 5, 2008 at 2:35 am

In the beginning…

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So how did this all begin?

Just around Thanksgiving, in 2007, I was talking to some of the students at Hult International Business School. As a school that primarily attracts international students, and boasts of a global campus footprint, I was eager to stay in touch with my Alma Mater, and that involved talking to current students and helping them with their post-MBA career planning. Honestly, I don’t know how successful I am in ‘helping’ them, but I do whatever I can anyway.

During some of my discussions that I started observing some commonalities in the questions that international students have. They were similar to questions that I had, when I was nearing graduation and eager to hit the job market with my newly earned diploma. I did some research and realized that, although school career services do all they can to help students launch their career, international students need special attention and active support of alumni in their location and industry, if they were to succeed in any way. My research (the highly sophisticated methods I use involve Google, at the most) resulted in a realization that I will need to connect all these people, who come from different countries, have different cultural mind-sets, but share a common goal.

In November 2007, I saw the problem.

In December 2007, I envisioned a solution.

In January 2007, I started implementing the solution, to see if it actually solves the problem.

And thus F1Pages was born.

Let’s see what happens.

Written by kvinod77

January 2, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Chronicle

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How to start and run a social network?

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I am starting a new social network.

This is my story.

– Vinod

Written by kvinod77

December 31, 2007 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Chronicle

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