The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (January 30, 2009)

Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

01_secondary-transaction

On Starting Up…

http://www.markpeterdavis.com/getventure/2009/01/the-4-types-of-exits-secondary.html
Exiting via a secondary transaction to bolster liquidity.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/1545-how-we-reduced-chargebacks-by-30-as-a-percentage-of-sales 
On the usability of billing.

02_usability-billing
03_mosembro

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/01/26/how-mosembro-uses-microformats-to-improve-usability/
A look at the Modular Innovation and microformats of Mosembro.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Notches’ Niche – the Whole Universe

notches-logo-114 Corey Henderson, co-founder of Notches, identifies the long term goal of Notches as being “to give users the confidence that the reviews they find on a site powered by Notches present the whole universe of opinions on anything.” Recently, I met up with Corey Henderson and Tim Marman, co-founders of Notches, to learn more about their ideas and to discuss the company’s unique vision, as well as where they see themselves within the growing universe of next generation, Internet products.

More about Notches

notches-founders Notches is a platform for reviews — with the grand goal of being to eventually encompass all reviews of everything.  Notches is striving to aggregate all the reviews of everything out there, to make it easy for users to obtain and compare reviews for an item, as well as to be secure that they are looking at the entire, relevant, normalized universe of opinions for that particular product.

Unlike PowerReviews and BazaarVoice, Notches

  1. Brings all of the reviews for a given product together, into a centralized platform, to be analyzed, normalized, and summarized,
  2. Further prunes the cross-site review set to prevent gaming of the results,
  3. Eliminates (or de-emphasizes) reviews that have become old,

… while providing an API that allows any person, or company, to obtain and/or contribute to an open and accessible review platform.

Corey further explains,

“Ultimately this is about making sure online users get quality reviews on anything they are researching, from products, services, restaurants, movies, music, anything. By providing a single system for everyone to use, we can be confident that you’ll be getting as close to a complete picture of what thing is best…”

Challenging Notches

There are many challenges Notches is and will be facing as their platform evolves and matures, such as…

  • Assessing and maintaining reviewer reputation,
  • Eliminating “nonsense” reviews,
  • Squashing spammers,
  • And constantly evolving and improving the various platform algorithms (e.g. normalization).

One critical challenge that should not go unmentioned, central to all successful businesses, is the revenue model. Currently, Notches plans to drive revenue through “affiliate programs where companies like Expedia or Amazon pay (Notches) for referrals” along with “advertising, that will be included on some of (Notches’) mini-sites.”

More Notches

To help demonstrate many of the capabilities of the Notches platform, Corey and Tim have released two, fun mini-apps. Both of these demo products are built with the same Notches API that is available to today’s developers. So, if you are a developer, dive in, and please share what you create with Notches.

On Facebook, you will find Notches’ product that allows users to read and write reviews, as well as request reviews from other Facebook friends.

notches-facebook

For Twitter, Notches has created another product that enables the obtaining and posting of reviews — especially handy when you are on the road and want some quick feedback for a particular restaurant.

notches-twitter

The Twitter app, while not currently the best for consumer reviews via Twitter, again provides a simple introduction to both the Notches consumer features and developer API capabilities.

Expanding Universe

Notches is moving quickly in their “primary mission to work with a wide variety of partners, building tools, apps and communities around reviews” to further “showcase different aspects of (their) platform.”

Soon, from Notches, you can expect to see…

  • a widget to connect Notches to reviews on blogs,
  • new showcase applications within the vacation and travel market spaces,
  • various collaborations with microrevie.ws, hobby sites, and college portals,

… and much more.

Continuing Modular Innovation

The Modular Innovation trend seen within many of the cutting edge, next generation products, services, and platforms is often described via the instructive categories of…

  • Sharable,
  • Flexible,
  • Interoperable,
  • Portable, and
  • Utilizable (or Convenient).

As a matter of fact, in talking more about the origins of Notches, Corey is eager to point out…

“The original thinking, that has since become Notches, came way back when web services were first introduced as a concept. We saw that best of breed services, loosely coupled, would become the model of development in the future.”

… and “Notches is simply aspiring to be the best of breed review service” in the realm of Modular Innovation and the next major evolution of the Internet.

So, where in the spectrum of Modular Innovation does Notches currently reside?

Central to Notches is Interoperability, both with other technologies as well as empowering other individuals to connect to Notches via their API. Notches leverages best of breed services and standards, from the hReview microformat to Rapleaf‘s API.

Implicit to the Notches platform are the broader characteristics of Sharability and Portability. Due to the centralizing nature of the aggregation qualities of Notches, everyone has access to all of the normalized versions of the submitted reviews, from every Internet-capable device, courtesy of the Notches API.

The Flexibility of Notches is primarily at the Interoperability level of the product, accessible via the API. However, more Flexibility in terms of “making sure that users can control the reviews they write” (Portability and Sharability) are still being worked on and understood to be “fundamental” components.

For the reasons already outlined above, the showcase products and collaborations that Notches is producing, each in their own right, are a Modular Innovation simultaneously making Notches’ platform more Utilizable as well as Convenient to experience from various alternate services and products (including mobile devices).

Notches makes a very good showing within all of the core categories that make up Modular Innovation, especially Interoperability; which bodes well as Notches strives to build a successful, self-sustaining product with the supporting “community delivering incredible user-centered tools and reviews.”

Watching Notches

The origin of the company’s name comes from the basic premise that one item is always a notch above or below another — there is no tieing when it comes to Notches.

It is in this competitive spirit that Notches is attacking its market, its niche, potentially even paving the way for more business entrants within the microformat space, and creating a world within which “users should not have to look at multiple review sites anymore.”

Just as exciting as it is to observe a new company entering the growing wave of Modular Innovation, it will also be interesting to watch Notches as they grow and advance.

Go and try out Notches today (here and here) & enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy