Become a Web 2.0 Super Hero by learning valuable skills for YOUR business!

Alan Rae and Lisa Harris will be running a workshop to show how small businesses can use Web 2.0 tools in their own business on the 20th July at the Hub in London.

Are you secretly afraid of new web technologies?

Does the mere mention of Blogs and RSS break you out in a cold sweat?

Fear no more, the team have created a hands on workshop for you to learn how to use these tools in your own business.

The pilot workshop will be held at the Hub, 5 Wormwood St, London, EC2M 1RQ on Friday 20th July at 9am. The workshop will last 3 hours and there is a small charge of £50 + VAT to cover materials and refreshments

If you can make it, its well worth a visit. A small price to pay to become a Web 2.0 Super Hero!

Book your place by following this link.

Business Week’s whose doing what online (US)

Business Week have published a few interesting statistics from Forrester research. The statistics show what percentage of the US’s demographic is online and what they are doing online.

The highlights follow below and make interesting reading. Though I’m sad to read that Generation X is now categorised in the age group of 27-40.  I suddenly feel very old! 

Creators publish Web pages, write blogs, upload videos etc.

37% Youth (18 to 21)
30% Generation Y (22-66)
5%   Seniors  (62+)

Collectors use Really Simple Simplification (RSS) and tag pages for information

18% Generation Y (22 to 26)
16% Youth, Generation X, Older Boomers

Joiners use social networking sites

70% Youth
57% Generation Y
51% Young Teens
29% Generation X

Spectators read blogs, watch peer generated videos and listen to podcasts

59% Youth
54% Generation Y
49% Young Teens
41% Generation X

Inactives are online but do not participate in any form of social media

70%  Seniors
61%  Old Boomers
54%  Young Boomers
42%  Generation X

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Web 2.0 gives birth to the Prosumer

Prosumer, is a combination of Producer and Consumer and perfectly describes the millions of participants in the Web 2.0 Blogosphere and Social Networking revolution.

Gifted Amateurs, Professional Amateurs and now Producer Consumers

Content is KING and is shaping our world. But where do we go from here? See the video for some potential insights.

Are today’s "gifted amateurs" on the Internet killing popular media?

Andrew Keen’s new book, “The Cult of the Amateur – how today’s Internet is killing our culture and assaulting our economy”, examines this very issue.

I’m not entirely convinced that Keen is convinced by his own argument. However, The book is designed to be “biased” and finally sparks a debate about the case against amateur content and its proliferation  through Web 2.0 technologies.

I do agree with Keen in some respects, in that it is becoming too easy to manipulate Google’s search engine’s results with Google Adwords and then using the results of popular searched words, as keywords on your site. The polite term for this is “Search Engine Optimisation”. I see it more as Search Engine Hacking. Search engines, such as Google are increasing their own usage with tactics such as Google Adwords.

However to the original point, are amateurs really killing the Internet and popular media?

Have a look at the video below, where Keen discusses his book at part of the Authors@Google series. I’m off into the  garden to the read the book!

Andrew Keen’s blog

Steve Clayton and his Blue Monster

 The Blue Monster

I was lucky enough to interview Steve Clayton at Microsoft’s UK headquarters at Reading on Monday. Steve is the Chief Technical Officer for the Microsoft Partner Group. Along with his team, he manages Microsoft’s relationship with 35,000 partners across the UK. Maintaining an excellent relationship with so many Partners is a key priority on Steve’s list, I was interested in how he manages this challenge. 

I was also interested to hear Steve’s insights into the challenges and issues faced by SME’s in the UK today. In particular, how the new breed of web technologies can help to raise small business profiles. The highlights of the interview are detailed below. Steve is also an active blogger. However, his blog is somewhat different from other Microsoft blogs in that its not product specific, more a general overview of the industry.

In reading his posts, you’ll discover he’s an avid Liverpool FC supporter, a big fan of BBC’s Dragon’s Den and one of his top five CD’s is Blue Lines from Massive Attack. The blog balances his Microsoft and personal interests in such a way that is both informative, interesting and stimulates a conversation. How many people reading this post, would expect that from a Microsoft employee?

Steve’s approach is not to force a Microsoft sale upon his readers. Instead, he promotes goodwill. Across Steve’s team there are 14 active bloggers with a combined readership view of over two million. Therefore, I’m not the only one that sees the ‘goodwill’ approach as compelling. In fact, a large proportion of the readers of his blog are not Microsoft Partners at all. Readers, (including myself), enjoy reading his daily thoughts on technology.

Having spent over an hour with Steve on Monday, I truly believe that he is a hidden gem at Microsoft UK.  In fact, in my opinion he is Microsoft UK’s answer to Robert Scoble.

Of course, he is passionate about technology. However, his passion strives further. He is equally passionate in helping SME’s and Partners to be more successful. In an open message to Microsoft UK’s Managing Director, Gordon Frazer. Can we have more bloggers like Steve Clayton please? 

The Blue Monster campaign (read below) grabs my attention, sparks a conversation and builds a bridge. As a Microsoft end user and as a customer, I would like to see more of this.

Interview Highlights

Q. What is the Blue Monster and how did its story come about?

“I met Hugh MacLeod at a Girl Geek Dinner in London around 8 months ago. We got into a discussion about Microsoft and Robert Scoble. Hugh, expressed the opinion that Microsoft needed a new way to tell its story to the public. Hugh comes from an advertising background and in the wake of Microsoft’s Department of Justice troubles, he felt that the company could benefit from a new way to reach out to consumers”.

“Hugh enjoys drawing cartoons and one day, he sent the Blue Monster cartoon to a few Microsoft guys, including me and Robert Scoble. Hugh’s vision was that the Blue Monster signalled a rebirth and re-growth of company, that was taking on another complete change within the I.T. industry. The I.T. landscape had evolved with Software as a Service and the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon. Looking at it from the outside, could Microsoft go into another round with a different set of competitors and come out and do well?”

“Hugh stated that the cartoon was something that we could either use, or discard. Well, I decided to use it and hence why it is now on my business card. When I first got these [Blue Monster] cards printed, I used to hand them out together with my standard Microsoft business card. However, I quickly discovered that people would keep the Blue Monster card and give me back my standard Microsoft business card!”

“The beauty of the Blue Monster is that it is open to interpretation. It could represent Microsoft saying that we are going to change the world, or we are going to go home. Or, it could represent customers saying, Microsoft you do change the world, if you don’t get that then go home! It can be seen from so many different angles. If Blue Monster had been launched as a corporate campaign, it would have likely died a death. People, would have said that Microsoft is just trying to be cool. Its just not about that. It comes from the grass roots level and hopefully, that’s where it will stay”.

“Blue Monster and its slogan of, change the world or go home drives a lot of the thinking on my blog. What I really want to do, is change people’s perception of Microsoft. At the end of the day, these 4 buildings [Microsoft HQ] that we are sat in, are home to a bunch of regular people who care about their job, passionate about what they do and are passionate about this company. Unfortunately, not many people get to see that. So that’s what my blog has been about, exposing these 4 grey buildings out to a public that actually, I think wants to get to know us a little bit better”.

Q. Can you share any insights of SME’s today?

“What we have have seen is that technology is allowing smaller companies into more places more often. An internal phrase we use at Microsoft is, ‘making your business look bigger than it is’. The advances in technologies such as Wi-Fi, broadband and mobile devices means that SME’s can do their business anywhere. However, it appears as if they are in more places than they actually are. We have a number of good examples of small businesses that are doing just that”.

Q. What techniques have worked best for you to get your message out there?

“Blogging has been the biggest thing to get the message out there. That has driven other things like the Blue Monster cards. I also get involved in community events. For example, Chinwag run a series of monthly events in London and I also attend Sarah Blow’s London Girl Geek Dinners where I meet lots of different people. I’ve recently joined the Board of the British Interactive Media Association. Getting out into the community and public speaking all help to stimulate the conversation”.

“From the feedback I receive, there is a clear interest in the stuff I talk about and the way we talk about it. I’m convinced that people want to have a relationship with Microsoft. There are other prolific Microsoft bloggers such as Eileen Brown, who is driving a really strong message to get more women into I.T. Then there’s Darren Strange, also known as the Office Rocker! Darren is our Product Manager for Microsoft Office, very well known and a great blogger”.

“I would say there are about a core group in the UK of about 20 really good, almost Professional Microsoft bloggers, who have similar mantra to me. Blogging allows us to put a public face to the company, whether its about us talking about a Microsoft product, division or a particular aim”.

Q. What communication techniques did you try that didn’t work?

“When I first started my blog it didn’t work. I’m fortunate that I’ve got some good friends, particularly in the Partner community. They told me honestly that they did not enjoy reading my blog. Right at the start, I was writing about things that always had a Microsoft angle, a product or a piece of technology. Ultimately it took me some time to find my voice during blogging”.

“Whilst out for a pint, I asked a friend about what he thought about my blog. He said it was okay but he wasn’t reading it all that much. When I asked why? He replied that he felt that I was trying to push the product a bit too much. I then asked what he wanted from my blog? He replied, What I want, is the conversation that we usually have down at our local pub. That is probably what most of your readers want and would quite enjoy. An open, frank and fairly random conversation at times. This is where my blog is now. At times, it makes me nervous because there’s quite a lot on my blog which has nothing to do with Microsoft”.

Q. What do you think are the major problems faced by small businesses in the UK today?

“Time and awareness. There’s a huge amount of things a small business can do. Such as, promoting themselves on the web, Search Engine Optimisation and having a blog. Most businesses are too busy trying to run their business and have little about what I.T. can truly do for them. Web 2.0 is a good phrase for the I.T. industry, but most people do not understand what it represents. My mother has no clue as to what Web 2.0 is. However, she knows what a blog is. Actually, she didn’t know what a blog was but when I told her it was my online diary, she then started to read it”.

“So, our challenge is really, time and putting this Web 2.0 stuff in a language that everyone can easily understand”.

Q. If you could offer an SME once piece of advice, what would it be?

“My one simple piece of advice to a small business is simple. ‘Go Blogging’! I’ve seen what it can do for companies. My favourite example is English Cut, which is discussed in Naked Conversations. If a small tailor on Saville Row can go on to build a business through blogging, then anyone can. Go Blogging, is about differentiating your business and telling your story. In essence, it is about imparting some knowledge and adding some value to your reader and potential customer”.

The Long Tail has proved that no matter how bizarre your niche, there is a market out there. The important thing to realise is that as long as you have something interesting to say, are not over selling and your message is consistent, honest and authentic, it will work. I’m absolutely convinced it will work for any business”.

Thank you Steve.

A Blogger’s Nirvana – Windows Live Writer

If you are new to blogging, or even a seasoned professional, I highly suggest you take a look at Windows Live Writer. Even though it is still in beta, the application simply ROCKS!

Writer, integrates with a number of different blogging platforms including, Windows Live Spaces, Sharepoint, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server, and many other blogging services.

The application, is very easy to use and makes publishing blog posts easy.  There are a growing number of plugins available, to enhance your blogging experience. Already, there is support for Flickr, Technorati, Delicious, Videos, ScreenCapture, Snagit, tags, maps and tables

As Writer is still in beta, there is only support for an  American English dictionary. However, Scott provides an unsupported workaround, that will allow you to use a British dictionary for spell checking. Remember, this is an supported tweak though!

One of my favourite features is “offline blogging”. I can now blog anywhere, as Writer stores my posts locally and then publishes them directly to WordPress when I have an Internet connection! 

One Final Thing…  Its a FREE download

Download Windows Live Writer

Brunel Talk: Peter Ward from

On Saturday 9th June, I attended a talk from Peter Ward from the travel / social networking site Where Are You Now (WAYN) at Brunel University. Peter is a passionate entrepreneur and his talk was very inspiring. He represents a growing number of UK entrepreneurs that are embracing Web 2.0 technologies to build their businesses.

Based in London, WAYN unites travellers from around the world. Founded in 2002 by friends Pete Ward, Jerome Touze and Mike Lines. WAYN secured initial funding from Steve Pankhurst, founder of Friends Reunited in 2003. Today, WAYN has grown into a travel social networking community with over 8 million active members!

WAYN offers a unique blend that combines social interaction and user generated content with location based services. Users can log their trips, see who is where and make new friends. The site offers travellers a way to interact, share experiences, keep track of friends and meet people from around the world.

WAYN Top 5 Fast Facts

  1. WAYN is an 18+ member site, with 52% male and 48% female split
  2. WAYN’s members are located in over 220 countries, including the UK, US and Canada 
  3. Membership has grown from 45,000 in March 2005 to over 8 Million to date
  4. WAYN has a top 2000 ranking on Alexa
  5. WAYN receives strong press coverage across UK in national papers, BBC and ITV, and some recent press in the US.
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Brits are the web addicts of Europe!

A wonderful cartoon from Hugh!

For businesses looking to differentiate themselves with the use of Web 2.0 tools. The story below from
makes interesting reading.

“The UK’s web fans are spending nearly a day and a half online every month – more than internet users in the rest of Europe or the US.

According to an internet activity study by comScore, the UK has the most active online population in Europe, with the highest average number of daily users (21.8 million), the greatest number of days of internet usage per month (21 per user) and the highest average time spent online per month per user (34.4 hours).

The average European accessed the internet – from home and work – an average of 16 and a half days in the month, and spent a total of 24 hours viewing 2,662 web pages.

But across Europe there are some wide differences. Germany has the largest online population, 32.6 million people age 15 and older, while the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have the highest percentage of their populations using the internet. The average Swedish user views 4,019 pages per month – 51 per cent above the European average.

The study also revealed Google is the most popular website in 13 of the 16 countries covered by the study, followed by Microsoft in most countries, with Yahoo! coming third.”

With such an active potential market online. Can UK small businesses afford not to promote themselves with blogging? Today, differentiation is the key. The blog, or the “Voice of the Blog”, can help your business communicate with the wider market. Today’s markets are conversation, and your customers want to be involved. To communicate, to debate, to argue, to agree, to disagree this is all good stuff.

If you are not blogging about your business, offering value or insights, your competitors will be.
Can you afford to miss out?

Europe online ’24 hours a month’

Via BBC News

Interesting, I would have thought the UK spent more time online! As for me, I can never unplug from The Matrix. I wonder, if I can have my little finger replaced with a USB drive?

More than 122m Europeans aged 15 and above use the internet each day at home, school or in work, says a report. The average European accesses the net 16.5 days in a month, and spends 24 hours viewing 2,662 web pages, according to tracking firm comScore.

The Netherlands has the highest net penetration, with 83% of the country online, the firm reported. Russia, which was included as a European state, has the lowest, at 11% of the population.

More than 221m people across the 16 countries surveyed are online each month, comScore said. Germany had the largest online population, with 32.5m net users aged 15 and above, the survey for net usage in May 2007 found.

Netherlands 83%
Norway 70%
Sweden 70%
Denmark 68%
Finland 65%
UK 62%

*The percentage of a population aged 15 and above online
Source: comScore

The UK had the most active online population, spending more than 34.4 hours online each month and a peak of more than 21.8m people online in any given day.

Google was the most popular online destination in 13 of the 16 countries, followed by Microsoft in second place and Yahoo in third.

Internet penetration across Europe was 40% of the population aged 15 and above, with only Spain (39%), Italy (36%) and Russia (11%) falling below this level.

Bob Ivins, managing director of comScore Europe, said: “Increased net usage is tied to broadband roll-out. The UK is an example of a country whose net usage has increased dramatically as broadband has reached more people.”
He said: “While the study reflects average net usage and penetration, 20% of users account for 60% of usage, with some people spending hundreds of hours online each month.”

He added: “As convergence takes place between TV and the internet, the nature of what is classed as online and offline will also have to change. “Is someone online when watching TV over the net?”

According to comScore, the United States has 156m people online, with 121m online on average each day.

The rise and fall of Social Networking

Hat tip to Stuart Brown.

I joined Facebook on the weekend. I resisted as long as I could.

I couldn’t help but notice a recent surge of other people I know signing up recently as well – nor could I shake off the odd sense of déjà vu. It seems like such a short time ago that MySpace was the place to be in terms of social networking – now it seems that’s all over and Facebook is now the ’site du jour’.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened, either – there have been countless communities online that have grown, peaked, and slowly faded into obscurity. Like a roving band of wildebeest, it seems communities arrive en masse, graze for a while, and move on to pastures anew.

The current crop of Web 2.0 sites seem to have amplified this trend – there are more and more sites cropping up with a community angle, so now people hungry for social interaction on the web have a near boundless choice for their communal appetites.

As surely as Facebook has risen to challenge MySpace, and as Digg has all but displaced Slashdot, in the not-too distant future there will be other sites which rise to threaten the current generation. Perhaps the MySpace killer is already out there, just waiting for a chance to break the mainstream?


The early days of a community site are its most fragile -most start-ups will fail without ever making it past this phase. Those familiar with running forums or sites with a community aspect will know how hard it is to get a sustained level of activity without a solid user base – avoiding the tumbleweed can be difficult.

With work and persistence some sites will begin to make headway – a small, closely-knit community can develop. Many community sites will persist at this level, with no real reason to change – others may get lucky and find a break – whether it’s a link from a major blog (TechCrunch or similar), getting on the front page of Digg (or Reddit, Netscape, etc), or even a news report or feature in the mainstream media.

Such buzz can cause a massive spike in traffic – propelling the previously unheard-of site into the view of thousands more people, and potentially kick-starting a chain reaction large enough to push into the mainstream. Of course, there are no guarantees – a spike in interest from a single link can come and go very quickly, with little net benefit.

The social networking site Virb has had its fair share of buzz – it’s been on Digg, been featured on a few high-profile blogs, but has a fairly modest Alexa ranking of around 5,000 (at the time of writing). It’s firmly in the ‘crunch’ phase of start-up sites – the ‘Valley of Uncertainty‘.

For Virb, there are two possible paths – the first is unfettered and gradually accelerating growth, the other is to remain in the doldrums indefinitely. With such a great deal of competition in the social networking sphere, it could go either way.

Facebook is the perfect example for a site currently in the midst of meteoric growth – from an Alexa ranking of around 50,000 in 2005 to around 100 in 2006, to 18 today in 2007. Little wonder that people are eager to acquire the site – even at a stupidly high price.

Such rapid growth is unsustainable, of course – and ultimately such popularity will reach a peak. There are but a finite number of people to populate any given social network, and humans are notably fickle creatures. Ultimately the usage levels for any given site will stabilise – social networking site Bebo and social news site Reddit are both in neutral-growth periods – not to say that future growth is impossible, but without intervention the user base is unlikely to spontaneously increase.

For the top few sites that attain popular appeal, a healthy period of traffic and utilisation follows the peak in usage – established services such as Flickr, MySpace and Digg have such sustained appeal that they persist at a relatively stable level – the ‘Plateau of Ubiquity‘, if you please. How long a site persists here depends on several factors, principally including the fierceness of competition and the rate at which a site can evolve to keep its users happy.

The internet is a fast changing place, and to hold a position of dominance with so many fresh upstarts is not easy. While a community site can revitalise, innovate and hence prompt additional growth, life at the top is tough. For many once-reigning sites a slow yet inexorable decline is inevitable. The once mighty Slashdot is still very popular – it’s in the Alexa Top 500 – but slipping further and further away from the pole position it once held, with younger upstart Digg usurping its audience.

Social networking and community-led sites dominate the top ranked sites on Alexa, second only to the search engine contingent. With such massive reach and the potential for direct marketing, it’s not in the least surprising that the top of such sites are seeing such lucrative buyouts – $580m for MySpace, $1.65b for YouTube, and a touted $1b for Facebook. I don’t doubt that some of these acquisitions are worth it – the potential to reach people directly on the sites where they spend most of their time is valuable indeed.

I guess I’ll see you all on Facebook. For now, at least.