Justin Kan of Justin.tv talked about how easy it is to promote your site or product with the right strategy. It also doesn't hurt to have a camera hooked to a laptop, with an EV-DO connection streaming every second of your life. Our previous Justin.tv coverage here and here. Surreal moment of the talk? Checking Justin.tv and seeing him talking to us. Creepy
Octopz (pronounced 'Octopus') is a Web-based, online collaboration tool for small groups. It's one of the many companies presenting at next week's Web 2.0 Expo here in San Francisco, and is making its public launch on Monday.
Octopz runs in its own browser window and uses Adobe Flash to mix a whiteboard space with live text, voice, and video chat. The workspace has an area to upload and share files with other group members. Each uploaded file gets its own folder, which houses any edits made by group members. For example, if you're making notes on a digital photograph, other members can create a copy of that photo and add their own notes. Each version is neatly stacked underneath the original. All group edits are saved and stored, and can be shared and edited later for asynchronous collaboration.
Things get a little tricky with Octopz's multiuser controls. Anyone can grab control of the workspace at any time, which in testing led to some minor power struggles. There's also not a way to keep track of which group member made which edits, either with a history or differentiating colors per each user. Despite these issues, Octopz handled a four-person conference from three different geographical locations smoothly.
Octopz comes in at $99 per month per license, which is twice the cost of the standard version of Adobe Connect. However unlike Acrobat Connect, Octopz lets businesses create an unlimited amount of rooms and users, something you don't even get with Adobe's professional level of Acrobat Connect service.
Update: Fixed pricing clarification regarding comparison to Acrobat Connect. Also, Octopz was picked as one of our Top 5 favorites from the Web 2.0 Expo earlier this month.
For more screenshots of Octopz in action, keep reading.
MySpace quietly launched Trailer Park this morning, a new area showcasing trailers for upcoming movies. All videos are played on the in-house MySpace player and can be embedded on member pages. Trailer Park is launching with five trailers from Lionsgate, Warner Bros., Independent, and Buena Vista Pictures.
The page is designed to feel like a member's profile, with forums, a friends list, and a comment board. The dearth of actual content about a movie (actors, ratings, and so on) can be found at the movie's marketing site, which gets its own link alongside the trailer.
Unfortunately, from the … Read more
When we last checked in with PowerReviews, the company that powers user review feedback for online retailers, the team had just launched a user-facing site to aggregate reviews from its clients. I liked it, although I had some criticisms. This week, PowerReviews launched a new site, Buzzillions, which addresses some of the early site's issues and adds a few more features. (It's too bad the name sucks, though.)
The new site does a much better job of clumping products together. You're less likely to find 15 different listings for the same camera now (one for each store … Read more
HiTask is a(really simple collaborative task management tool for small groups. Members can create tasks, meetings, reminders, notes, and birthdays to add to their own schedule or assign to others. The entire interface is drag-and-drop, and any actions by team members will instantly be reflected on your tasks page. It's a mix of a scheduling app and to-do list tool that's dead simple to use. In testing, we were making and managing several projects in less than five minutes without reading any documentation, which bodes well if you're collaborating with non-tech-savvy people.
Assigning tasks to other users is really simple. Once you've created a task, you can just drag it over to the group member's name. You'll get a note on the task letting you know who you've assigned it to, and as soon as they're done with it you'll be notified in real time. Likewise, when a group member assigns something to you, it will show up on your schedule, along with a note of who it's from. The one thing missing from HiTask is the option to view other members' schedules, which would be helpful--especially for gauging how much is on someone's plate.
If you do need to talk, there's a built-in chat module, which is limited to one-on-one. There's no way to group chat, or share files like you get with some more advanced group collaboration tools like BaseCamp, and activeCollab, but HiTask is pretty early in development.
HiTask has both a free and premium service. The free service reaches its limit at 10 tasks, making it little more than a demo. The $15 a year service provides unlimited tasks, group members, and projects. See the screenshots after the jump.
Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about how Yelp had empowered local restaurant-goers and helped them improve several local eating establishments with their constructive reviews. One thing that caught my eye was the mention of Yelp's sponsorship program, where local businesses can pay for premier placement in Yelp's search results and "sponsor" favorable user reviews so they appear at the top of the list.
The sponsorship program has been around since early 2006, and many businesses have participated in it as a way to enhance their identity on the service. The sponsorship package includes … Read more
Zillow is launching a few important community features on Wednesday. The sexy new addition is Home Q&A: Zillow will now let users ask questions about any property on the map. Anyone can answer them. Presumably, real estate agents will be the ones doing most of the answering, both to make homes sell more quickly and to appear knowledgeable to buyers who are interested in other properties they are representing. Homeowners, or anyone else for that matter, also can answer questions the community poses. All answers can be rated for helpfulness.
Home Q&A questions will appear on the Zillow front page, but at launch they won't be geographically targeted: you'll see a selection of all the questions on the system, not the ones relevant to your location. Zillow said it is moving toward launching a personalized home page, though.
The less sexy, but more important feature for the real estate industry, is Zillow's new user profile pages. Again, this will likely be populated by agents, since it's where all of a user's answers, questions, and helpfulness ratings will be aggregated. A buyer could get a pretty good feel for the knowledge and attitude of an agent on one of these user pages. The analysis on an agent won't be as deep as it would be with a rating tool like My-Currency (review), but since the community on Zillow is much larger and more engaged than on any upstart real estate site, it's still likely to be very useful. Zillow spokespersons estimate that of the site's four million visitors a month, 150,000 are agents. I don't think it will be too long before most of them set up user pages on Zillow, creating what is essentially a new directory of real estate agents -- but with user ratings attached to them.
There's also a fantastic new self-serve advertising system. I say fantastic because I'm tired of seeing Google's ads everywhere -- Google's service, while effective, isn't specialized for particular industries. Zillow's ad system will allow ZIP code-targeted advertising for agents, homes for sale, or local services companies, and the rates are reasonable: a penny a view, for a little ad with a graphic in it. (Zillow will still use Google ads for "fill-in," I was told.)
Finally, any user on Zillow can now flag a home as "for sale." That's something buyers' agents are likely to do, and it's a sneaky way to get around the fact that Zillow can't use the real estate industry's incumbent listing service, the MLS. After a home is flagged, the owner or agent can "take over" the listing, or, presumably, reverse it if the home is not in fact for sale.
Zillow is one of best examples of what Web 2.0 can be: It's got useful and unique data, it's fun and addictive to use, and with these changes it becomes even more of a community site. Plus, unlike most other Web 2.0 experiments, Zillow is becoming a central player in a market where there's real money changing hands.
More Zillow-supplied screenshots after the jump.
Microsoft is hard at work on a new consumer-targeted screen-sharing and collaboration tool, code-named Tahiti. Microsoft's landing page describes it as an "easy way to share documents and screen views with small groups of friends or coworkers; anytime, anywhere."
Each group member is assigned a mouse pointer and an editing color when working the group works together on Office documents. There's also a feature called 'handouts,' which is a storage space for documents or files you want to share with the group. The tool has no integrated voice or chat features, but Microsoft will likely add … Read more
ActiveAllowance is a complex site that helps families with children manage the kids' allowances and chores. After experimenting with it for a few minutes, it made me hope that my 8-month-old son never, ever grows up. Am I really going to have to manage a list of chores, pay for them piecemeal, and then teach my kid to motivate himself, budget his income, and learn about saving, investing, and so on?
I suppose that's part of being a dad. And a site like this could help me and my wife keep our messages consistent. ActiveAllowance tracks lists of chores and goals, and helps a child budget his efforts to finish the tasks that earn him money. It also helps kids allocate their income based on family guidelines (so much for savings, for charity, and so on). Parents can set it up so allowance money is awarded when certain chores are done, or you can decouple allowance from chores if that's the way you parent.
Kids get their own simplified interface when they log in. From there, they can check how they are doing against their goals, and print "checks" to draw from their allowance funds, which they present to the Bank of Their Parents, presumably in exchange for cash or goods.
The site allows for very detailed management of chore lists, payments for them, and budgeting, and I found it frighteningly complex. User feedback on the site's forums tells the story: it takes time for users to get past the learning curve. There are many who seem to be stuck in the support forums. But once the program is grasped, the transparency and communication fostered--and the degree of consideration required before you can fill out the details--helps families communicate more effectively about money, and ActiveAllowance can motivate and teach children in all the right ways.
My take, though, is this: if your sons or daughters can follow all the ins and outs of their detailed chore list and exactly what income they're going to earn from each task--and if they begin to effectively organize their lives around getting what they want--then you might do well to give them your Quicken password and let them run all the household's finances. And maybe if you get to work each day on time, they'll grant you your own allowance.
Vaguely related: Wired's new Geek Dad blog.
Two more pictures after the jump.