Danish international goalkeeper Anders LindegaardManchester United has signed Danish international goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard on a 3½ year deal for an undisclosed fee after reaching an agreement with the players former club Aalesunds FK, reports the premier league club’s official website ManUtd.com.

According to the official release, “Personal terms have been agreed with the player, who passed a medical in Manchester. Anders will train with United during December, but will be ineligible to play until the transfer window opens in January 2011.”

Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Anders is one of the brightest young keepers in the game.  The challenge at Manchester United is always to look to the future and in Anders, we have signed a goalkeeper of great presence and even more promise.  Having the time to train with him before he is registered will be an important period for him – almost like a pre season to get him integrated with the other players.”

Anders Lindegaard said: “Joining Manchester United is a dream come true for me.  The Club is such an institution in Denmark, it’s an honour to come here.  I’m looking forward to playing and training alongside some of the great players in football today.  I can’t wait to be part of this team and to make my contribution to keeping the team at the top of the game.”

I hope Sir Alex has made a right call this time as the Red Devils desperately need a perfect replacement for the Dutch star Edwin Van der Sar. Experts believe United has to have one of the best goalkeepers around if they are to win more trophies and titles in the future.

This is a post from Bits Station that bring latest Football and Sports News and Reviews.

, , , , ,

3D Printed Tables using 3D Printing

Soon tables like these will be available to download and print in your home

As Christmas fast approaches, millions will opt to spare themselves the crowded high street and instead settle down in front of the computer and do their shopping there.

Yet buying online has always had one key disadvantage: you have to wait.

Not only that, but the inability to touch a product, try it on, feel how heavy it is or do anything else you would do on your typical high street excursion prevents online shopping being the perfect experience.

But technology is now coming online that could allow you to receive your goods straight away.

As the cost of 3D printing hardware begins to drop, bespoke, printable products may be about to hit the market.

Fashion potential

Freedom of Creation is a design and research company exploring the capabilities of what, in the industry, is known as rapid prototyping.

Janne Kyttanen is the company’s founder and creative director.

“Imagine the potential of this for the fashion industry.”

“I can measure your body, in 3D, and I can make you perfectly fitting garments in the future without any sewing and stitching, making the needle and the thread obsolete.”

His company is now producing products for companies including Asics, Tommy Hillfiger and Hyundai.

A hook made using a RepRap printer This hook was printed on a RepRap machine

Away from the fashion world, 3D printing has many applications for the developing world.

The ability to produce specially designed objects from a computer offers exciting possibilities for making vital tools in poorer, hard to reach areas.

One scheme that is looking to capitalise in the technology is RepRap, short for Replicating Rapid Prototyping, which offers a cheap way of replicating objects – including the printer itself.

“It’s a 3D printer that prints out a kit of parts for another 3D printer,” explained Dr Adrian Bowyer from the University of Bath.

“It doesn’t print every last single part. There are some which, at the moment, are a little bit difficult for the machine to manage – so things like electric motors and the electronics circuitry the machine can’t do for itself – but it prints out a lot of the rest.”

Technological disruption

In contrast to early 3-D printing machines which cost around £20,000, Dr Bowyer says a RepRap machine comes in at just £300.

And the software and hardware specifications are all open source – meaning the machine can be duplicated freely.

This low barrier to entry has piqued the interest of many entrepreneurs, keen to see how the technology can be effectively deployed.

David Flanders, a technology enthusiast and blogger based in London, has been experimenting with ways to do good with the RepRap machine.

“Imagine I print you a shoe. Your child grows, as they do. You take that shoe, you throw it back in the shredder – the shredder then processes the plastic.

“You scale up your design 0.3% and you’ve got your child’s next shoe. That’s the type of imaginative excitement that we really are talking about.”

In the past, the ability to print, burn CDs or DVDs have been seen as a serious threat to intellectual property, making the act of piracy easier.

3D printing is no different. Public Knowledge, a Washington-based public interest group “working to defend citizens’ rights in the emerging digital culture” referred to the advancements as the “next great technological disruption”.

In a paper entitled “It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up”, Michael Weinberg wrote: “The ability to reproduce physical objects in small workshops and at home is potentially just as revolutionary as the ability to summon information from any source onto a computer screen.”

He is now calling on 3D printing entrepreneurs to remain vigilant of policy debates attempts as the technology develops into the mainstream.

[Via BBC]

, , , ,

Leaders Should Lead Without ControllingThis was the fourth day of our five days together, and we were swirling in chaos. There were almost thirty of us in a small room as part of Ann Bradney’s leadership workshop I wrote about last week.

Sara* was on the floor, cradling the arm and leg she had broken several months earlier, feeling broken herself, crying as she thought about her son who died five years ago. A few feet away from her, Angelo stood with his hands on his chest, also crying, immersed in his experience of alienation from his mother. Across the room, Zoe was huddled with her sister, Chloe, as they felt the pain of losing their own mother and confronted their fear of losing each other.

As I looked around the room, I saw two or three other people scattered about, each struggling with deep emotions of loss, fear, anger, and sadness. The noise was disorienting. People were crying, laughing, shouting, hugging, and comforting each other, all at the same time. It was completely out of control.

Just like life itself.

We were a microcosm of the world and of every organization I’ve ever known. Not just the pain, though that certainly exists wherever we’re brave enough to look, but the multiplicity of activity. The variety of individuals and groups, each occupied, engulfed even, by their own concerns, needs, and desires.

To top it off, we had only one established leader, Ann, to manage the mayhem. It was an impossible job. She couldn’t be in seven places at once. She couldn’t support each of the people who needed her. She had set herself up to fail.

Which, it eventually dawned on me, was her plan all along.

Ann didn’t just let the chaos happen by accident. She welcomed it. Because the perfect ingredient to draw out leadership is exactly the one most of us, including leaders, fight so hard to avoid: overwhelm.

Leaders like to be in control. I know that’s true for me. I want things to turn out right and I feel — often mistakenly — that if I have control over them, they will.

But here’s the thing: the more control I have over something, the less room there is for other people to step into their own leadership. If Ann didn’t need the help, many of us would have sat back watching, happy to let her lead.

When I took a bird’s eye view of the room, I saw that there were only six, maybe seven, people who needed help at that moment. The rest of us, close to twenty, were in a physical, psychological, and emotional place where we could offer help.

But it’s hard to offer help, to step into your own leadership. It requires tremendous courage. You have to risk being wrong, overstepping your bounds, and standing alone.

Which is why we needed a nudge.

So Ann created a situation that she couldn’t possibly handle by herself, and people stepped up. One participant, Janice, went over to Zoe and Chloe, the two sisters, and spoke softly to them. Another participant, Holly, sat next to Sara, who was mourning the loss of her son and held her. And I went over to Angelo, who looked up at me for a moment and then fell into my arms crying.

It’s not that Janice, Holly, and I were the leaders in the workshop. The day before, it was me who was crying, and Angelo who did the comforting. But on this day, in this moment, we were in a position to reach out.

Designing chaos into a process is the antithesis of what most leaders do. Usually, we try to focus on one thing at a time. One objective, one concept, one conversation, one task.

But in real life, in real organizations, nothing happens one thing at a time. And no one can be on top of it all. At one point, one of the participants accused Ann of allowing too much bedlam. Ann’s response was swift and emphatic:

“No. People want to make the leader the one who sees and knows everything. I am just a human being. I can’t see everything. I can’t know everything. I make mistakes. When you make me more than human, you can bring me down while refusing to take responsibility or any risk. Step into your leadership now.”

But wait a second. It sounds great but what if everyone in an organization stepped into their own leadership? What if everyone followed his own impulse? Wouldn’t that lead to anarchy?

Maybe. It depends on the strength of their organization’s container. How clear is the mission of the organization? The vision? The values? The culture? If we know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what’s important to us, and how we operate, then there will be trust, focused action, and abundant, unified leadership. If not, there will be anarchy.

But if the container isn’t strong, there will be anarchy anyway. Because, no matter how much leaders would like to, they just can’t control everything. And trying to control the uncontrollable just makes things worse. People check out. They feel no ownership. They work the minimum. And things fall through the cracks.

Here’s the hard part: leading without controlling. Stepping into your own leadership while leaving space for others to step into theirs as well.

If you find yourself still wanting to control it all, try saying “yes” to everything until you’re overwhelmed and can’t possibly deliver. So overwhelmed that, like Ann, you will fail to be on top of it all.

If that happens, then, like Ann, you will grow leaders around you. Your failure will prevent others from making you more than human. It will encourage them to take responsibility and risks. To step into their own leadership.

And if, on a particular day, you feel good, grounded, and strong, with a little extra energy, then look around for someone else who is overwhelmed and reach out to help. Take the risk to lead.
*Names have been changed

About the Author

Peter Bregman speaks, writes, and consults on leadership. He is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm, and the author of Point B: A Short Guide To Leading a Big Change.

(Via HBR)

, , , , , , , ,

MBA Degree for EntrepreneurI started my career as an entrepreneur at twenty-four years old, right out of college. I ultimately built and sold a $250 million global scrap metal company, an experience I wrote about in my book Starting from Scrap.

After my book came out, I visited several U.S. business schools and met with MBA students to talk about my experiences launching a company in emerging markets. Many of the students who came to hear me speak were aspiring entrepreneurs in the process of getting MBAs. Many of them asked similar questions: “You didn’t get an MBA, nor did many other successful entrepreneurs, so if I want to start my own company, is business school a worthwhile experience? Is it worth paying all this tuition — or will my degree just be a resume-builder?”

I once had a conversation about this topic with Dr. John Yang, the dean of the Beijing International MBA program at Beijing University. Here’s what he had to say: “In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a matter of the heart, and education is a matter of the brain. It is difficult to teach a heart.”

I share his perspective. By definition, an entrepreneur is one who takes risk. It’s an attitude and an appetite, one which may be hardwired into one’s personality. Education can influence one’s attitude toward risk: for instance, understanding the principle of diversification or the long-term returns of equities versus bonds may make an investor more willing to create a “riskier” stock portfolio. But ultimately, can you teach someone to really enjoy taking risks? I don’t think you can.

When I think about the value of an MBA for aspiring entrepreneurs, I see a parallel with the military. Countries spend billions of dollars training soldiers so they’ll be ready for combat — they’re taught to fire rifles and operate in simulated high-pressure situations. But that training only goes so far. A Marine colonel once told me that he never knows how a soldier will respond — whether he’ll hide in his foxhole, run in the other direction, or stand and fight as he’s been trained #8212; until the bullets start flying. How someone reacts in times of great stress relies largely in instincts and the makeup of his or her personality — and training only takes you so far.

The same is true with entrepreneurship. Understanding strategy, finance and marketing can be very helpful. But it’s also important to possess self-confidence, a need for independence, energy and passion, curiosity, and an ability to communicate ideas. If you don’t have these natural assets, you’ll struggle as an entrepreneur.

I’m lucky, because those are personal attributes that I have. I don’t have an MBA, but I’ve picked up many of the business skills I needed during more than 15 years running a company. (My grandfather referred to me as having an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks, whose official colors are black and blue — an expensive education that makes Harvard Business School appear inexpensive by comparison). Many of the lessons I learned from those tough and painful experiences I might have learned in an MBA program — and if I’d learned them earlier, my company might have been even more successful.

If I’d understood the use and importance of financial and inventory controls, I could have prevented millions of dollars in fraud. Perhaps studying cases about companies that had grown too fast and lost control of both their finances and the quality of their products would have encouraged me to expand at a more sober pace. We wasted years trying to re-organize after over-expanding and perhaps missed countless opportunities in the process. I could have saved or made a lot more money had I taken some courses in business law or venture capital financing. (We ended up getting strong armed by our investors, and they got away with it due to our early-stage naiveté.) I also would have benefited if I’d known more about human resources and the need for well-designed compensation and incentive systems. These are just a few of the tools you can get in business school — and they’re all tools I wished I’d had.

So I believe MBA programs do give future entrepreneurs valuable tools to help them mitigate risk and increase the probabilities of success. But even with those tools, only you know whether or not you have the heart to execute on the opportunities we all recognize to launch a compelling new business. That is when the real bullets start flying.

About the Author

Stephen Greer is a senior advisor at Oaktree Capital and author of Starting from Scrap.

[Via HBR]

, , , , , , ,

Facebook Messages

Yesterday we told you how Facebook might defeat Google in the war for the web’s dominance as the Palo Alto company prepare to wage open war on Google with its new “modern messaging” system. However, founder Mark Zuckerberg says it’s not a “email killer”, in fact it’s the new way of communication combining SMS, chat and email.

BBC’s Maggie Shiels analyses how Facebook has ramped up competition competition with AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google with Facebook Messages.

Facebook Messages aims to tie users more closely to the social networking site at a time when everyone is battling for their attention.

The product will merge texts, online chats, and emails into one central hub.

Facebook said traditional email is too slow and cumbersome and needs to step into the modern world of messaging.

“This is not an email killer,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told reporters and analysts at an event in San Francisco.

“Maybe we can help push the way people do messaging more towards this simple, real time, immediate personal experience. Email is still really important to a lot of people. We think this simple messaging is how people will shift their communication,” added Mr Zuckerberg.

‘Killer app’

In a case of bad timing, reports surfaced hours after the Facebook launch that Gmail suffered an outage.

The new service is seen as offering an alternative to Gmail, the fastest growing web service in the past year with over 193 million users according to data tracker ComScore.

Gmail screen grab Email remains one of the most popular means of communication

The irony was that ahead of the announcement, speculation was rife that Facebook’s new product would be most crippling for Gmail. Mr Zuckerberg said he did not see it that way.

“In reality they have a great product.

“We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and say ‘I’m going to shut down my Yahoo Mail or Gmail account’.

“Maybe one day, six months, a year, two years out people will start to say this is how the future should work,” said Mr Zuckerberg.

AOL which at the weekend previewed changes to its once popular web mail service disagreed email is doomed.

“Email remains one of the killer apps on the internet,” said Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s senior vice president of consumer products.

Industry analyst Augie Ray of Forrester agreed.

“Research we have done shows we know that in the US 90% of adults check their mail at least once a month and 59% of adults say they maintain a profile on a social networking site.

“There is a big gap between the reach social media has and the reach email has.”

Ease of use

At the heart of Facebook Messages is an effort to ensure users “see the messages that matter”.

The new feature will simplify how people communicate whether it be via text, instant messages, online chat or email. All these messages will come into one feed known as a social inbox allowing users to reply in any way they want.

screenshot All 500million plus users will eventually be offered an @Facebook.com address

Facebook said around 70% of users regularly use it to send messages to friends and and that a total of four billion messages pass across the site every day.

“We really want to enable people to have conversations with the people they care about,” Facebook’s director of engineering Andrew “Boz” Bosworth told BBC News.

“It sounds so simple. We have all this technology that should be enabling that but it’s not. It’s fragmenting that. So I have one conversation on email with my grandfather and another with my cousin on sms and all these things don’t work the same way.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about the technology. I should just have to worry about the person and the message. Everything else is just getting in the way,” added Mr Bosworth.

The new system will be modelled more on chat than traditional email which means there will be no subject lines, cc or bcc fields.

Liz Gannes of technology blog AllThingsD said she believed users will have a bit of a learning curve on their hands.

“I think the product is just different enough from what people are used to that it will feel really weird to users for a while.

“The lack of subject lines will get people upset at first and then of course they will probably realise they never wanted them anyway.”

‘Game over?’

Other features include being able to store conversations so users can have a complete archive of communications with friends and family. Mr Bosworth likened this to a modern day treasure trove of letters stored in a box.

Incoming message will be placed in one of three folders – one for friends, another for things like bank statements and a junk folder for messages people do not want to see.

The product will also represent a challenge to Yahoo with over 273 million users and Microsoft which has nearly 362 million.

“For me today represents the day when Facebook truly becomes a portal on the level of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL,” Charlene Li social media analyst with the Altimeter Group told BBC News.

“They now have to start making their inboxes more social. Friends are the new priority as opposed to the conversation. This makes Facebook so much more functional.”

Facebook screenshot The new product will be introduced slowly over a number of months

Robert Scoble technology writer and founder of Scobleizer.com said this product gives everyone something to aim for.

“This is a new kind of communications system but its not game over for Yahoo and Gmail and all the others because it will take decades to get people to stop doing traditional emails.

“However this is something new and very powerful because Facebook can tap into my social graph and ensure that only my friends are there and I won’t get spammed.”

Facebook said this product was the biggest the social networking giant had worked on to date.

The company will also offer an @facebook.com email address to every one of its more than 500 million users.

check out what’s the first reaction of the analysts here.

, , , , , , ,

Facebook-vs-GoogleIn 1993, The New Yorker ran a famous cartoon with two dogs near a computer, with one mutt telling the other “On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog.”

Oh, how times have changed.

In the Facebook internet, everyone knows exactly what breed of dog you are.

That was Facebook’s real trick — convincing the world to identify themselves online. They pulled that off by giving net users a place to share photos and pithy updates, when the real purpose of Facebook, it turns out, is to layer identity over the fabric of the web.

For years, Google’s natural enemies seemed to be Microsoft and Yahoo. But as the search giant trounced those giants in the search space battle, it’s been slowly losing momentum in what may turn out to be the real war — the one for the display ad revenues — to an unlikely foe: the dorm-room-born Facebook.

We’ve seen a public pissing fight this week over who owns social network contact information, but that’s just the start.

Today, Facebook is reportedly getting into Google’s e-mail face, mounting a challenge to Gmail, Google’s most successful social product. Users will reportedly get @facebook.com or fb.com e-mail addresses. But more importantly, Facebook already has ranking scores for every one of your relationships with contacts on Facebook and will use that to prioritize your inbox, according to the tech rumors.

That’s an important side battle, but it’s not where this war will be lost or won. That’s not where the money is.

Facebook, which began its life as a small private club for Ivy Leaguers, now has its sights set on what might be the net’s biggest pot of gold yet: a way of placing ads anywhere on the net with a granularity Google can only dream of — in no small part because Google promised its users never to go down that path.

And that’s why Google, the web’s most successful advertising company, sees Facebook, not Microsoft’s Bing, as its biggest rival.

Some tech pundits foresee a Facebook future where friend recommendations replace search, or Facebook gets enough data from what users like to make a more relevant search engine. That’s unlikely, for a number of reasons, including that Facebook profiles aren’t that detailed and that Google is already building social into search (look here if you are logged into a Google account to see a glimpse of what’s going on).

Instead, follow the money Facebook is making now. Depending on how much you have filled out your Facebook profile, you might have noticed that Facebook ads are sometimes eerily too good, as if Eminem’s music label actually knows what kind of music you like.

If you’ve had that sneaking feeling, then you know exactly why Google is trying to play social catch-up with Facebook, and how Facebook could single-handedly save the online publishing industry.

What gnaws at Google is not so much that Facebook users spend a lot of time on its competitor’s site. And it’s not even that Facebook gets so many page views that it now serves up an astounding 23% of the U.S.’s online display ads, according to a recent survey by comScore. That’s more than twice as many as Yahoo server and ten times as many as Google, though Facebook’s rates remain low.

Instead, the search giant is scared by two things it sees as possibly undermining its stature as the web’s top tech company.

One, there’s so much interaction and information being shared inside Facebook that it has become a decent-sized replica of the Web inside the Web. And Google can’t crawl and analyze much of what happens in there. That’s a problem when your goal is to organize the world’s information. Google is blind to this because much of what happens on Facebook remains in Facebook. (Ironically, this is due to users’ privacy settings, which Facebook has relentlessly tried to chip away at over the last four years.)

Two, Facebook knows who you are and has the right to use that information because you explicitly gave it to them. Google has different kinds of data that reveal a lot about who you are and what you are interested in — some of it very private. But very little of that data is information you explicitly told the company to share, and they’ve assiduously promised not to use your search history and e-mail data to profile you.

For years, that’s not been a problem for Google. They made the majority of their $7.29 billion in revenue in the third quarter from little text ads that show up next to and above search results.

Those adds are all keyed off the words you type into that little box. There’s no targeting involved. It doesn’t matter to Google’s AdWords system who you are, what you’ve searched for before, or what you do in other Google services (the only real targeting available in AdWords now is by location).

Google then expanded this program in 2003 to run ads on other people’s sites, its AdSense product, which now includes text and display ads. For years, those ads were also purely contextual, based mostly off the words on the site running the ads. So if you ran a blog about your life as a dentist, your readers would see ads for dental floss and teeth-whitening products.

But then, in search of a new revenue stream, Google bought DoubleClick in 2007 for more than $3.1 billion.

DoubleClick is one of the net’s display ad giants and has been serving banners ads on sites across the net since the early 1990s, using each ad serving spot as a way to track what you are reading to make inferences about your interests and build a pseudonymous profile of you tied to a cookie in your browser.

But despite having a large number of sites running the ads (including Wired.com), AdSense/Doubleclick ads still account for only 30 percent of Google’s revenues. And, surprisingly, the targeting isn’t very good. You can go here to see what Google thinks it can deduce about you just from your browsing.

The problem is that Google built a wall between user search data and advertising — and the mammoth financial success of AdWords proved that the separation was fine at the time. A search query was likely to show intent, and it really didn’t matter to advertisers selling something who the searcher was.

To make display ads better, Google kicked a hole in that wall in 2009 when it started including the videos you watch on YouTube as a way to target display ads ads at you.

Google isn’t talking about how well those ads perform compared to its purely contextual ones. But according to a Wall Street Journal story from this summer, Google is “soul-searching” over ways to turn what you do while logged into Google into data that can be used for targeting ads. That’s agonizing for Google since it’s always promised that it would keep that usage data separate from its ads.

But Facebook has never made that promise, and its users don’t seem turned off by the targeted ads.

They know they gave up the targeting data by typing it into their profile box, by becoming a fan of a company on Facebook or clicking a “Like” button. And now Facebook is training users to stay logged-in to Facebook all the time, for the convenience of logging in to sites or “liking” a story.

Why does that matter?

It matters because now you are your Facebook identity all over the net, telling every site that plays in the Facebook ecosystem exactly which dog you are, that you like playing fetch and what other dogs you run in a pack with.

Which means, it’s a virtual certainty that Facebook-targeted ads are going to start showing up in your hometown’s newspaper, your favorite online music site and hundreds of other sites you visit. And unlike the targeted third-party ad systems run by Microsoft, Google and others, there’s no need to track you around the net to try to infer from your reading and video viewing habits how old you are, where you went to college or what you are into.

As the underdog in this fight, Google’s best weapon will be openness — tying to turn users against the walls of Facebook, while Facebook will try to be just open enough to keep users and partners from revolting.

Facebook knows all of that already because you told them. Facebook touts the story of a wedding photographer in Michigan who’s expanded his business tremendously simply by targeting ads at locals who mark themselves as “engaged.” Gabriel Weinberg, the one-man show behind the search engine DuckDuckGo, went so far as to create an ad targeted just at his wife.

Now, Facebook advertisers don’t actually know anything about you — at least not until you click on an ad, visit their site and handover your e-mail address. Instead, they use a simple panel in Facebook that lets them choose what categories to target, including age, location, education and gender. They can further target ads based on the things you have liked or added to your profile. Facebook runs the ads on a company’s behalf but never turns over a list of who fits the targeting criteria to the advertisers.

As a private company, Facebook doesn’t have to share public numbers, but a spokesman told Wired.com that advertisers are getting comfortable with Facebook, and it has thousands of advertisers. Revenues are estimated at $1.3 billion a year and rising, while investors and secondary markets are valuing the company at more than $40 billion on Sharespost, a private stock market.

That despite the fact that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has never loved ads. He kept them off his site as long as he could, and even the ones that run now are relatively small, given how big and loud ads have gotten on the Web outside of Facebook. Some marketers complain that the Facebook ads just aren’t visible enough on the site, so they concentrate their efforts on getting people to “fan” their pages, in hopes the news that you like “Starbucks” makes it into the news feeds of your friends.

Facebook says it’s not working on any third-party ad system, and right now, it doesn’t need to. It’s flush with cash from investors, who’ve poured hundreds of millions into the company, without Zuckerberg losing control. It can bide its time, making Facebook even more central to the internet, building more relationships with top advertisers and convincing more sites to turn over their login systems to Facebook.

But it’s a near inevitability Facebook takes the same, logical step Google took and starts putting ads on third-party sites, targeting Facebook users reading the Washington Post, The Daily Beast, or your hometown newspaper.

Those ads could be splashy and dominant – the way advertisers like them these days, without distracting from the Facebook experience. They can also be very targeted, without Facebook having to hand over the info about that reader to the website.

It has the potential to be the opposite of Google’s Adwords/Adsense division, with huge profits coming from outside the Facebook walls. Facebook could then grab a giant and dominating slice of an evergrowing online display ad market, while simultaneously making display ads actually targeted.

Facebook even makes the case that its ad system is less creepy than third-party systems that track you, mostly without you realizing it, around the web. While they do see what you are doing around the web when you are logged into your Facebook account and there is a “Like” button on that site, the company says it does not mine that information and deletes it after three months. No other third-party ad network comes close to forgetting so soon.

Facebook’s advantage is that they probably don’t need to do this sort of tracking, given all the profile data, friend connections and likes that you’ve fed into their system. If advertisers and users get comfortable enough with ads based off that data, then there’s no reason that a site such as the New York Times wouldn’t want to turn over at least some of their ad sales to Facebook. Having spent years getting advertisers used to targeting the Facebook generation, Facebook would be able to charge very high rates to advertisers.

That’s because it would not only be able to do very granular ad targeting, but it could do so on a site with the reputation of the New York Times.

Online papers love the idea of targeted ads, because contextual ads just don’t work for news. What ad are you going to put up next to a story about a flood in India? An ad for Indian rugs? What about next to a story about a plane crash? Or even a story about a run-of-the-mill mayoral election?

One hope to fix that giant problem facing the media industry is to know who your readers are.

And that means building identity into the internet.

Facebook’s the only company to have done so, and that’s why Google is fighting to catch up to “social.”

There may not be room for more than one online identity company on the net, but Google has assembled a high-powered team of coders and thinkers, including Slide’s Max Levchin, the open social evangelist Chris Messina and Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr, to take on the Facebook crew.

As the underdog in this fight, Google’s best weapon will be openness — tying to turn users against the walls of Facebook, while Facebook will try to be just open enough to keep users and partners from revolting. The best case scenario? Google figures out how to turn identity into an open protocol like e-mail — something you can host and control anywhere that lets you stitch together whatever services you like.

And if that effort fails, Facebook’s relatively benign child-king will be in control of what you can and can’t do with your identity on the internet.

And Mark Zuckerberg will have built a company worth more than $100 billion — and maybe worth more than Google.

Last week, on Mouse2House blog where I regularly contribute on Technology, I discussed how Facebook is going to kill Gmail and the dorm-room-born company might be the biggest enemy of Facebook. In this post Wired’s Ryan Singel analyzes how Facebook could beat Google to win the net.

, , , , , , ,

QR Code on a CupcakeThe hyperlink is the fundamental building block of the Internet, and effectively ties reference points to useful content. Without the hyperlink, the web would be nothing more than silos of content lacking semantic connections.

Traditionally, hyperlinks live in browser windows on desktop monitors. Today, however, some hyperlinks are moving offline, where they can be “clicked” by people roaming the real world.

By printing a Quick Response (QR) bar code on any item — a lamp, the program booklet of an event, or a retail store window -– a consumer can quickly link from the real-world experience to rich web content via his smartphone. Using QR codes, jump points to the Internet can be placed anywhere in the physical world.

The ability to place a QR code on anything offers opportunities for businesses and consumers. These are a few examples of how a business can leverage QR codes and turn real-world “clicks” into sales:

  • You have been looking for the perfect lamp for your living room for a long time. You see the perfect one — not in a furniture show room, but in a hotel lobby. At the base of a lamp is a QR code. You scan it with your phone, click a link to “buy it now,” and purchase the lamp on the spot.
  • You drive across town to purchase a leather jacket from a fashion boutique. By the time you arrive, the store is closed. A retail window badge reads: “Sorry, we’re closed! Scan this code to buy online, and receive free shipping!” The free shipping offer is normally not available online, but since you made the trek, the store offers you a reward.
  • You attend a musical and have a great time. Reviewing the Playbill at home, you encounter a QR code that you can scan to order tickets for the next musical at the venue. The tickets are offered at 40% off, and the offer is only good for seven days. With the offer laid perfectly in front of you, and positive memories of tonight’s musical fresh in your mind, you purchase the tickets.

Context-Sensitive Marketing

These examples illustrate the power of a new opportunity created by QR codes that we call context-sensitive marketing, or CSM.

Remember those impulse items in the supermarket checkout aisle? The savvy merchant, knowing you are likely to be hungry while food shopping, shows you quick fixes like a candy bar. CSM enables the same type of impulse buying, only this time, it’s “virtual impulse buying.” The idea behind CSM is to reach your customers when they are most likely to be interested in your product. With the knowledge of what context you’re in –- staring at furniture, attending a musical, or shopping for clothes — the ability to engage in virtual impulse buying is literally at your fingertips.

From the consumer’s standpoint, CSM is a convenience. Scanning a QR code is a deliberate act the consumer is choosing to take part in. On the other hand, GPS-triggered smartphone pop-ups are not part of the CSM playbook, because the consumer never opts-in (or out) of the content.

In addition to purchasing convenience, a real-world hyperlink can trigger multimedia or crowdsourced wisdom that can help you in a pinch. Imagine, for example, needing to re-thread the belts on a child’s car seat, but not having the manual in front of you to show you how. There is no need to Google the product or scavenge through your file cabinet for the manual; just scan the QR code and have the manual or a how-to video appear right on your phone.

Is the Real World Ready for Contextual Links?

QR Code Image

All of this technology may sound great, but is the world ready for QR codes? Changing consumer behavior is notoriously difficult. Will consumers find scanning items with their smartphones to be a natural and useful act?

Technologically, the convergence of three trends are equipping consumers with the tools to make QR code scanning seamless:

  • The growth of wireless data transmissions through 3G+ and Wi-Fi;
  • The ubiquity of Internet-connected mobile mini-computers, a.k.a. smartphones (equipped with GPS and high-definition cameras); and
  • The emergence of data storage in the Internet cloud.

According to Nielsen, 51% of all Americans will be carrying smartphones by 2011. The number of QR codes in circulation is reported to increase significantly. QR reading apps are quick to launch, quick to scan and available on every smartphone operating system.

Behaviorally, the mass adoption of QR codes will depend most critically on the utility of what is behind the QR code. Businesses need to provide scan-worthy content that truly makes the lives of consumers better after taking the time — however short — to scan a QR code. To this end, businesses simply need to be creative. Provide a special offer to incentivize the scan or save time for the consumer by providing context-triggered helping hands.

As a final example, imagine discovering that the water dispenser on your home fridge isn’t working. You open the fridge and see the indicator light informing you that your water filter cartridge needs replacing. What do you do? Will you fire up your laptop and type into a Google search box the exact model of your water filter cartridge replacement, then hunt for the best deal online? That’s what I did last year. But with any luck, next time around, a QR code will be printed on the water filter with the prompt: “Scan me to reorder.” Grabbing my phone, I scan the code, pulling up a 15% manufacturer’s discount if I order the cartridge directly. I click to buy, knowing I saved time and money, which I can now spend on more worthwhile activities.

That is the power of context-sensitive marketing.

About the Author
Hamilton Chan is CEO of Paperlinks and Paperspring. Through itsiPhone app and QR web platform, the just-launched Paperlinks platform makes context-sensitive marketing plug-and-play for small, medium and large businesses.

, , , , , ,