Freshbooks launches benchmarking features

Just a quick post to say congratulations to my friend and fellow mesh conference organizer Mike McDerment, the CEO of online-invoicing service FreshBooks. The company just launched a quarterly industry-benchmarking feature, which involves releasing aggregated data from the various industries that use its invoicing services, so that other companies in those industries can compare their vital statistics — how long it takes to get invoices paid, what proportion of revenue is recurring versus new, etc. As Mike explains in the video I’ve included with this post, this kind of info can be a very powerful tool for companies to use, particularly small and medium-sized businesses that are trying to gauge how they compare to their peers in the industry. Congrats to Mike and the rest of the team.

Is the link economy really broken?

It happened amid the stream of Twitter messages about the vice-presidential debates between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, so a lot of people probably missed it, but Allen Stern of Centernetworks said something that really caught my eye: “it’s clear the link economy is broken.” Why did he say that? The link in his message went to a post at CNET’s “The Social” blog by Caroline McCarthy, about how Friendster now supports Facebook apps — a post that contains nine links. Of those nine links, two-thirds are internal only; in other words, they link only to CNET articles. The other three link to the Friendster website, the Facebook website and the Bebo website, which means they add zero value (or almost zero) to the overall post.

This is an issue that comes up periodically (one of the last ones to bring it up was Tim O’Reilly, in a great post). It’s fueled by the desire on the part of sites like CNET to prove how authoritative they are by making it look as though the only stories worth linking to are their own. I have nothing against CNET as a news site, and I think Caroline does some fine blogging, but to say that their internal links are better than anything else they could possibly link to is just ridiculous. It seems obvious that they either didn’t even bother to look for other information to link to, or there’s an internal policy to promote their own material. Both of those things are wrong.

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Zoho quietly builds Google competitor

I often think that Zoho doesn’t get enough credit for the work it has done building a Web-based, Office-style suite of apps. As TechCrunch is reporting (and others have mentioned in the past), the company has launched an application marketplace where developers can host apps that they create with Zoho Creator, an Ajax-driven platform that makes it easy to put together small Web applications. The launch is just the latest in a steady series of releases from Zoho over the past year or so.

Developers who sell applications through the marketplace get 100 per cent of the revenue from anything they sell, which is a nice change from many similar Web stores, and hosting apps on Zoho’s database service will be free for small applications (those that draw a larger crowd will pay a fee, the company says). “We are trying to be the IT department for small and medium-sized businesses,” a Zoho evangelist told InformationWeek. The marketplace joins the Zoho family of Web services, which includes a mail application, word processor, spreadsheets, a presentation creator, a CRM app, a chat service and several other services.

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Hey hey, you you — get off of my cloud

Let’s be clear about one thing: Richard Stallman is a legend in the programming world, and his opinion is worth listening to. He was one of the brains behind the Free Software Foundation and other initiatives, and has been a force for freedom and open source and all of those other good things for many years. He also has a real guru/holy man kind of hair and beard thing going on, which clearly works for him, and I admire that. That said, however, I think his Chicken Little routine with regard to “cloud computing” is a little over-done. I know RMS would rather that we all program our own operating systems and use software that we whipped up with vi and a programmable calculator, but that just isn’t going to happen.

The fact is that people want their computers and software and so on to be convenient, and to let them work faster and easier. Yes, it matters that things are free and open and that monopolies are resisted, etc. But at the same time, reality means that lots of people use Windows and so they are already trapped to a certain extent. From that point of view, moving to a “cloud” model — even if it does involve storing all their files and mail and photos with The Great Google in the Sky — is actually a good thing. Is it any better to have your email trapped in a .pst file that can only be read by a very expensive version of Microsoft Office? No.

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Calacanis: the Tony Robbins of Web 2.0

Update:

Apparently, Jason doesn’t want his email newsletters posted any more because he “doesn’t want to give the haters a platform,” according to a Twitter message. The text of the email has removed from both Silicon Alley Insider and TechCrunch, but you can still find it.

Original post:

Jason Calacanis, the diminutive entrepreneur behind Weblogs Inc. and the “people-powered search engine” known as Mahalo, seems to be attempting to transform himself from just a scrappy CEO into a Web 2.0 cross between Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins. It’s actually been coming for some time, but really kicked into gear when Jason stopped blogging and started sending out an email newsletter to a select group of followers. Of course, his missives routinely show up on various blogs anyway, which is a nice way to have your cake and eat it too. Which is great, because it means that none of us is denied access to Jason’s words of wisdom.

In his latest missive, Jason gives each of us the benefit not only of his years of startup experience but also of his bachelor’s degree in psychology, both of which taught him a number of key lessons about how to succeed even when everything is going against you. I’ve read through his newsletter several times and extracted some of those key lessons:

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