More from TechCrunch today as they have posted that Facebook, Google and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup. Not quite sure what impact this will have, but it’s definitely worth following.
Archives for January 2008
At the huge CES event in Las Vegas yesterday Yahoo revealed further information about their next step into social networks. Michael Arrington has a good overview: Here Comes Yahoo Live, I Mean Yahoo Life. Basically it’s some kind of mashup between Yahoo Mail and Maps with some third-party widget exposure/access built in.
The problem for Yahoo, as far as I can tell, is that piecemeal things like this are simply not comprehensive enough for anyone to really take them seriously. Yahoo already has a lot of great elements that it could leverage into a social media strategy, and the fact that they aren’t even at the table (as far as anyone can tell) indicates simply that Yahoo is either a) hedging their bets far more than they should, or b) too siloed an organization to pull its own pieces together effectively. Either way, they won’t likely achieve a whole lot until they solve one problem or the other.
In other words, Flickr is smaller than Facebook and MySpace, but nevertheless it is still one of the best-of-breed social networks on the web, and until Yahoo can demonstrate that it can (and will) marshal its own properties, their social network strategy is likely to be a disappointment.
Last night the US Presidential election season kicked off with the Iowa Caucuses. The results were pretty stunning – clear victories for both Obama (D) and Huckabee (R). Scratch that – the results were very interesting, and might have been considered stunning if the Iowa Caucuses were a more genuinely significant political event.
Iowa is an oddball event – there’s no other way to put it – particularly on the Democratic side of things. Although public meetings like the caucuses are definitely a part of the democratic tradition, that isn’t the same as saying that the results obtained in Iowa are necessarily indicative of outcomes that will come in more “normal” exercises in democracy – like, for instance, actual elections. Plus – in the grand scheme of things, Iowa accounts for very few delegates to the convention in August.
That said, I think Iowa was important for Obama to demonstrate that he could translate interest into real public support. This demonstrates a couple of important things which will be very important for him going forward:
- There is now some evidence that Obama leads an organization that can deliver results. Say all you want about advertising (positive and negative), fundraising, high profile endorsements, and all the rest of it – what wins elections is having an organization capable of getting people to act, not just to talk about acting.
- There is now tangible evidence, no matter how slight, that white Americans will publicly support an African-American candidate. What does this change? No one knows for sure.
- Fundraising hasn’t been a huge problem for Obama, but if there were anything holding people back, I think many of those barriers have now been removed.
The main event in all of this comes on February 5, when we’ll see if Obama’s organization has scaled to a multi-state effort, and if/how he can weather the onslaught that Clinton is likely to bring to his door. But more than anyone else on the Democratic race, Obama could be the beneficiary of even the smallest proof point. He has that after last night – and next we’ll all learn what that means.
Tonight in Iowa the US Presidential campaigns really get underway. Everything so far – the debates, the endless pre-campaign campaigning, the breathless punditry – has been but a prelude to the Republican and Democratic Primaries, which ironically kick off not with a primary election but with a caucus.
I haven’t been commenting about US politics much lately, but I have been following things very closely. I’m not one for predictions as much as scenarios, so here goes:
Democrats: The Democratic race has already been as interesting as they come. Of course the big battle so far has been between Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Pundits and polls have been all over the map trying to call Iowa (and New Hampshire next week), but in a way, Americans and the Democratic Party have already won with three such interesting candidates to choose from. Clinton has been the front-runner from the get-go, and it’s very refreshing that a woman can finally be taken seriously in US Presidential politics. The same, though, holds true for Obama who is interesting because not only is he black but (perhaps more significantly) he’s of another generation of US leadership (born in 1961). Added to the mix is John Edwards, who is the most traditional-looking candidate but is running a feisty, labour-friendly campaign that doesn’t seem to pull many punches.
I have always been cautiously optimistic about Obama’s chances, and I think he could succeed very well tonight. If he does well, he will have taken his support from Clinton. For Clinton, I think she has to win and win big over the whole rest of the field – which doesn’t look to be in the cards. I don’t think it’s out of the question – polls (which suggest that it’s tight between her and Obama) underestimate the importance of organizations in Caucus situations, and I have little doubt that Clinton has a pretty great machine working for her. The deciding factor will be Edwards. There’s still a possibility that the safety factor embodied by Edwards (and the comfort caucus-goers have with him) becomes an important safe harbour for people, in which case we’ll likely have a real three-way race going forward. If not – if Edwards tanks and underperforms based on current polling – then I would lay odds on Obama coming out of tonight as the clear front-runner.
Republican: This is simply one of the most ridiculous races ever. Three very unserious candidates have emerged (Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee), plus one serious but very much past-his-prime candidate (John McCain) and a fifth – Ron Paul – who is so far outside even the Republican mainstream that he shouldn’t be taken seriously… except that he has and continues to raise TONS of money.
I think the key to handicapping this is simple: who will the Republican Party feel they have to “get past” in order to set themselves up for 2012? McCain isn’t the guy – this is likely his last Presidential campaign regardless of how well he does. Paul? Nah, not really. I think it comes down to Giuliani and Romney at the end, and whatever the result tonight, the party will find a way to put one or the other in place in the General election. I think they’d most like to get Romney out of the way – he’s such an appealing guy in such completely superficial ways that to let him fail in 2008 would clear the Republican decks for an entirely new crop of candidates in 4 years. Now or in 4 years Giuliani will shoot himself in the foot, so I doubt anyone’s too worried about him.
Worth your attention: DataPortability.org – Share and remix data using open standards. Scoble has been publicly testing the portability of Facebook data (relevant posts: Facebook disabled my account, Unintended advantages, and What I was using…) in the past day and (of course) found the results to be less than ideal. I have a feeling that data portability is going to be one of the important issues of 2008. Finally.