A lot of the pundits pontificating about the cloudpocalypse are blaming application developers for not building redundancy into their apps. I'm sure in some cases, that is true, but the reason this became such a disaster was precisely because app developers built in redundancy. The cloud failed because everyone expected the cloud to fail.
Amazon's EBS technology is fundamentally flawed. This has become increasingly apparent in the last year, maybe longer. As a result, developers have built in all kinds of mechanisms to recover from EBS slowness or failures. So as EBS fails, the recoveries kick in, which spreads the problem to other data centers, which causes those to fail, which then causes more recoveries, etc.
It's like the stock market and program trading. When the market starts to tank, computers automatically respond, pushing it even faster. To combat this, the markets have put in limits to slow down program trading. No such thing exists in the cloud, I don't know if it would even be possible.
But there's another parallel to the stock market. Whether it goes up or down is based on whether people think it will go up or down. We're now in the situation where even more people will be building increasingly sophisticated recovery mechanisms for cloud failures, which will only make the problem worse.
If the stock market is too volatile, the only option is to put your money some place else. I've decided that Amazon's cloud is now too volatile, and I have to move my assets elsewhere.
New research out of Yahoo shows that the top 20,000 Twitter users get 50% of the tweet impressions (the number of people who see each individual tweet). Since Twitter has about 200 million users, that means 0.01% of Twitter users have 50% of the tweet wealth (yes, I just made up that term).
Now compare this to income inequality in the U.S. where the top 1% control 42.7% of the financial wealth.
That means that Tweet wealth is over 100x more concentrated than financial wealth. That is staggering.
I don't know exactly what this means yet, but in a world where attention increasingly matters more than money, we've got a very big problem.
Dave Winer posted today about how much the #dickbar sucks, and more importantly, how rudderless Twitter seems to be in finding a solid business model.
Well I've got one, and it's quite simple. Allow accounts to charge to be followed. A one time fee, or a subscription. Twitter takes a cut, say 30% like the Apple app store.
This is ideal for a platform as it creates new business opportunities for Twitter users. eBay created all kinds of small businesses, as has Amazon, Etsy, Google, etc.
The most obvious uses at first would be things like stock picks or selling subscriptions to digital goods.
It could also be used by sites as a very lightweight payment mechanism. Follow this account (Twitter handles payment) and you then get access to an app or website which is using the Twitter API.
It would also be a way for people to support things they care about in a public way. I can follow the paid account for a band I like, which gives me special access, exclusive mp3s maybe, but it also puts an icon on my profile showing that I support the band. There's a lot of social/karma/reputation value in that. Similarly, it could be used by non-profits as a way to raise money, maybe Twitter would even waive the fees.
If done correctly, it would be the simple micropayments and subscription mechanism people have dreamed about for years but no one has ever been able to pull off. Twitter is in the perfect position to do it.
I tweeted about an idea I've been thinking about for awhile last night and got a lot of interest, so I'm going to outline how a Groupon for volunteering could work. The four key pieces are a really great organizer, a metro area to focus your efforts around, an email/twitter/facebook list, and a local charity.
As the organizer, you find a local charity and work with them to develop a "deal," which is a project that could be completed in a weekend if they just had enough volunteers to help out. Like renovating a community center, or making a newly disabled person's house handicap accessible. Be really creative, the more interesting and compelling the story and project, the better the "deal."
An email goes out on Tuesday laying out the deal, and if enough people sign up, the project is on for Saturday (or Sunday). The email could include a link for folks to donate to cover food or other incidental costs associated with the event in case they can't actually come themselves.
A second email goes out on Thursday with more specific details on logistics, tells everyone about all the people coming (we're on!), and encourages more people to signup (don't miss out!), tell their friends, and/or donate to defray expenses. You can even be a little fun with it and gently poke at people that helping someone else might be a great thing to do before they cash in their latest 50% off spa treatment deal from Groupon.
The project happens on Saturday. People are taking pictures, tweeting about it, meeting new people, having fun, and doing something awesome and amazing too. All the people seeing that activity will want to get in on the action next week. You send out an email on Monday with pictures and highlights from Saturday. Then when the next deal hits on Tuesday, people will be less afraid to go. So three emails a week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday.
Once you get some traction, people will start bringing their ideas for deals directly to you. They wouldn't even necessarily have to be based around local charities, it might end up just being a family who needs help. Obviously, you can tweak this flow and make it your own. The days are somewhat arbitrary, etc.
Here's why I think this will be successful.
It's interesting how the New York Times is portraying the charity social networks like Jumo and Causes as the new United Way. This concept of the new gatekeepers occurs across all industries. For filmmakers and authors, Amazon will offer to manufacture and sell your product for you and give you some percentage of the proceeds. Apple has a similar deal with iTunes and iBooks.
The problem with all these types of services is that you don't know who your customer/donor is. You don't get their email address, the gatekeeper does. So the next time you have a fundraising drive or release a book, you can't go back to those people again -- the people most likely to buy your book. That is, unless you pay the gatekeeper. Amazon actually has a paid service where you can promote your book to all the people who have bought some other book.
You need to be able to process your own donations on your own website. You need to be able to sell your books, DVDs, CDs, and whatever else all on your own site. That's the only way you can truly be independent and build for the long-term.
I dealt with this problem at Brave New Films by building out a whole distribution infrastructure with fulfillment, shipping, an online store, and connected it all with our supporter database and website. But who wants to do all that? This is one of the core problems NationBuilder is looking to solve for independent leaders and creators.
With act.ly, we set out to prove Twitter could be used for activism if a tool was designed specifically for it. 100k tweets and 78 million impressions later, the highlights:
There's a lot of misunderstanding over Facebook's strategy, I have no insider information, but it seems pretty clear to me what's going on.
There are two dominant advertising players online, Google & Facebook. Google is great at ads based on what you already know you want, Facebook is great at ads to convince you to want something. It's pretty obvious that the latter is what a lot of advertisers want, and it is 100% Facebook's strategy to own that.
Many people see Facebook as the new AOL, a walled garden, but the companies that do well on the Internet are the ones that make the Internet better, not the ones that try to control it. With the Open Graph, it's clear Facebook understands this, and is looking to integrate into the web as much as possible. It's all setting up the day when Facebook lets every website put their ads on it, just like Google AdSense.
But first, Facebook needs the whole web to organize itself socially, then they can take that information and serve really good social ads all over the web. As a website owner, you'll soon be able to do the calculation over whether Facebook or Google ads generate more revenue for your site. That's the big battle to come, and is the biggest threat to Google.
It's unlikely one will be clearly dominant over the other, because different sites have different purposes. Most likely, Facebook ads will do well on a lot of the sites where Google ads don't -- the more social, "hang out" places like College Humor, Reddit, internet forums, and lifestyle oriented blogs. There are quite a lot of sites like that, so Facebook's advertising business has the potential to be much bigger than Google's -- and more importantly, it can provide much-needed revenue for sites innovating socially on the web.
Aaron from The Young Turks is one of a handful of people who repeatedly create wildly popular petitions on act.ly. Several times we've watched his petitions become the most popular of the day and thought he might have some useful tips and tricks for others trying to do the same. He kindly agreed to share some of his techniques.
On choosing an idea for a petition:
When an issue needs more publicity, has momentum and I feel like it would have untapped support on Twitter, I'll do a petition. 9 times out of 10 I won't do a petition unless I think it'll blow up. Most of the time I'll listen to the show, and if there's a particular issue that Cenk gets really worked up about, I'll weigh all the variables and decide whether or not to do a petition.
Our free Twitter petition tool act.ly has been raising hell ever since we launched it a little over a year ago. Just last week a petition bringing the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan to the attention of Katie Couric quickly garnered over a thousand tweets and prompted her to respond. The next day, the CEO of Target responded to a petition accusing the company of funding an anti-gay politician.
Thanks to Reshma Saujani, our first pro.act.ly candidate, we got a lot of buzz this week at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in NYC. She gave a first glimpse of pro.act.ly on a panel with Chris Hughes (Facebook, Obama, Jumo) and Scott Heiferman (Meetup) about using social networking to create social change.
Marcia Stepanek from Justmeans covered the event:
Social media can help you to "build your own machine" to change the status quo, says Reshma Saujani, a congressional candidate for the 14th District in New York who has been organizing her campaign for the last 18 months, mostly on social networks. "I believe technology can really disrupt the Establishment," she told the panel. "Normally, you need to belong to a political party or club that brings endorsements, contributions and visibility ... and outsiders, therefore, find it hard to run." But social media change that, Saujani said.
She is testing a new social media organizing platform created by Jim Gilliam (Brave New Films) called pro.act.ly, which Saujani described as being "Obama 3.0." She said "we knew that we would need 30,000 votes to win our campaign on September 14 and we knew we would not get the support of the party or the labor unions, so we had to build our own machine." Pro.act.ly, she said, enables movement organizers to look up any single supporter and learn instantly how many people in their networks are supporting your campaign. "It measures the intensity of their commitment," she said, a kind of digital dashboard for community organizers of all stripes.
"Jim (Gilliam) wants to give pro.act.ly to a lot of people in 2012 who want to run all across the country and get them to change Congress," she said.
Watch the full 30 minute panel, see the transcript on TechCrunch, and more coverage from TheNextWeb.