Doing More With Less… Reddit

The last of my blog posts on the patterns of web 2.0 will focus on the idea of doing more with less or more concisely using lightweight models & cost-effective scalability in order to build a scalable, cost-effective strategy encompassing business models, development models, and technology to deliver products to market faster and cheaper without sacrificing future growth (Watson, 2011). Web 2.0 has enabled this new trend in online business by offering a number of facets:

  • The decreasing price of hardware, bandwidth, and software
  • Open source, easy to access software
  • Companies have learnt from the dot com bust in the late 90s
  • The success of word of mouth and the viral marketing in todays online world
  • Agile development models (Google Offers Example)
One example of a company who has followed this approach in order to build a successful business for its self is Reddit:

Reddit is a social news website that was launched back in 2005, the main function of the website is to allow users (know as redditors, on the site)  to submit links to content they have found on the web, these can range from virtually anything, users are also able to submit posts that contain their own thoughts and opinions. The rest of the Reddit online community is then able to vote the posts up or down with the most successful links gaining prominence by reaching the front page. Reddit also attempts to organise the topics of the posts by placing them into communities (called subreddits on the site) – Although to date there are over 67,000 communities  to view, which just seems a tad excessive in my opinion.

Reddit wasn’t the first web site to create this social news phenomenon, but it has been successfully in steadily increasing its user base. One of its rivals Digg has recently seen the number of visitors to its site drop, with many users of Digg moving over to the rival Reddit. Why is this? Many believe its due to Digg’s change in online software, which turned many users away – further proving how importnat it is to get online web applications right, even if they are free.

Site Visits To Reddit & its biggest competitor Digg

In the early part of this year, the former co-founder of Reddit – Alexis Ohanian wrote a blog post discussing why he believes Reddit has become so successful. Redit now attracts over 1 million page views a month and is currently listed as a top 100 website. According to Alexis Ohanian the success of Reddit is down to three things:

  1. The Software: Reddit’s commenters operate in a system that quickly promotes the good and hides the bad… making the news stream extremely efficient.
  2. Enpowered Users: News thats curated by the readers, not editors… sounds very web 2.0 right?!
  3. Nurtured community: Listening to its users.
Its no coincidence then that Reddit also seems to compare favourably to Tim O’Reillys web 2.0 pattern definition – lightweight models & cost-effective scalability. Below are some other facets of the pattern that i believe increases Reddit’s success.
  • Scale Pricing & Revenue Models: Reddit has a number of membership models ranging from the free account to a month subscription based appraoch. While the site also sells advertising opportunities like many other web 2.0 ventures.
  • Scales fast: Despite becoming a top 100 website and buying up more storage space, Reddit still only employees 4 engineers to maintain its 48TB of disk memory and 44.4 trillion bytes of data.

How does the future look for Reddit? Reddit’s ability to be agile and be cost effective in scaling has lead it to be successful and while its competitors are laying workers off, Reddit continues to grow and will do for the foreseeable future – although how it will react to the webs ever changing environment will determine if its successful or become just another Digg.

Further Reading:

Reddit Overtakes Digg

Reddit Grows 230%

Wikipedia – Reddit


Dropbox… A Software Above The Level Of A Single Device

As Web 2.0 becomes more and more ingrained into our every day lives, theres a growing need for our information and documents to be available on any device we use throughout the day. According to Web 2.0 expert Tim O’Reilly the emergence of web 2.0 has enabled users to know longer be limited to a PC platform. O’Reilly goes on to say how web 2.0 has enabled this device flexibility and despite it not being a new phenomenon its more of a realisation of the true potential of the web platform, and how you should design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet services.

Mobile Cloud Computing

As for myself, i could use my MacBook, iPhone, a Windows Desktop or an iPad at any point on any given day. One way i try to keep all my information together is via Dropbox. Dropbox for those of you who are not familiar with it is a Web-based file hosting service – A Cloud Service. The idea is simple – you save files such as documents, photos, or videos to a folder on your computer – Mac or PC – and the files automatically sync to any other computer or mobile device you use – you can also share any folder with a friend. It was started in 2007 and has since grown to 25 Million users, whats even more impressive is the fact that Dropbox reported 4 million users in January of 2010 and 1 million users in April 2009, thats a substantial increase in users – and a clear sign that Web 2.0 and Cloud computing is becoming part of mainstream culture.

Dropbox - Device Flexible

But more importantly Dropbox is a prime example of a “Software Above The Level Of A Single Device” is succeeding in today’s web driven environment. Dropbox is currently offered on 7 different devices (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, Blackberry, iPhone and iPad), by developing the software to work on an abundant number of devices, not only does it open up the number of possible users but also allows users to access there data anywhere by virtually any means. According to Watson (2011), in order for these pieces of software to be successful on a magnitude of devices they often have a number of key characteristics in common, below is these characteristics and how Dropbox echoes them.

  • Design from the start to share data across devices, servers and networks: Dropbox was designed to work within a web browser or via the official app, as smart-phones have hit the mass market Dropbox grew and has develpoped device specific applications. And there not stoping there – according to a recent press release: “Next up, it will be TVs, cameras and even automobiles”, said Drew Houston, CEO and co-founder of Dropbox. “It’ll be everything with an on switch,” Houston said. “Literally, anyone with an Internet computer or phone can find Dropbox useful. That’s really all walks of life.” (Drew Houston – Dropbox’s Chief Executive, 2011)
  • Extend Web 2.0 to devices: Dropbox not only has a standalone app on all aforementioned platforms, but also has a fully working website for computers and mobile devices, allowing users to get hold of their data from even more devices.
  • Use the power of the server to make the devices smarter: With very little storage space provided on modern phones, Dropbox and its servers have enabled users to carry around their information and data without taking up precious space on there phone. Furthermore from a desktop standpoint, the service has enabled users to get rid of those pesky flash pen drives that often get lost or damaged.
  • Leverage devices as data and rice media sources: One of the features Dropbox pushes the most is how the service can enabled mobile devices to data-capture sources for photos, videos, audio, and text and how easy these are too share with friends and family. This was mentioned during the recent press release: “The company is working on a lot more in the photo space, and today released a new version of its iPhone/iPad app that enables people to mass upload photos to Dropbox. In the future, finding a way to sync and manage photos among a variety of photo services from iPhoto to Picasa seems a natural next step.” (Drew Houston – Dropbox’s Chief Executive, 2011)
  • Work around limitations in input and display: With such a wide variety of offerings on numerous devices, Dropbox has considered the different hardware limitaions of each device and  applied extra effort on interaction design to optimize customers ability to use your service.
  • Enable data location independence: Dropbox’s killer feature as your all aware by now is its ability to allow users to seamlessly keep data synchronized across a magnitude of devices and allows users the opportunity to have accesses to their information 24 hours a day.
Dropbox is an exceptionally example of how “Software Above The Level Of A Single Device”  can work if done correctly. Creating a piece of software that is not device or OS specific will enable uses to make use of the huge array of devices on the market, while also allowing users the ability to manage, share and maintain data from anywhere.

Innovation in Assembly…. Google Maps

Google Maps is a web mapping service provided by tech giant Google, it provides many map-based services, including the Google Maps website and many of the our day-to-day websites and applications, over 350,00 infact. Google offers the service, called an API (application programming interface) to developers to use free of charge as long as its not for commercial use. 

Firstly what is an API, according to Wikipedia:  its a particular set of rules and specifications that a software program can follow to access and make use of the services and resources provided by another particular software program that implements that API. Secondly why would Google hand the keys over to there software to complete strangers? To answer that question its important to understand one of the key patterns of Web 2.0 according to O’Reilly, who states that “Innovation is in Assembly”, in laymen’s terms this means when commodity components are abundant, you can create value simply by assembling them in novel or effective ways… Like online maps. This approach to snap on services allowing  companies the ability to beat there competition by  harnessing and integrating services provided by others. Google as you would expect is making money on this service just like there world renowned search engine. They do this in two main ways:

  1. Sell ad space on the service. This is done in two different ways: 1) using Google’s acclaimed AdSense engine that places advertising that is related to the topic the user has searched for whether that is in a search engine or a geographical location. Option 2) was introduced in 2010 and allows companies to pay Google to have their brand logos inserted into the map as part of the icons. 
  2. The second way Google Maps makes money is buying selling the service  to enterprises who pay for the rights to use the Google Maps API behind protected logins and intranets (which is currently against the free terms of service).

But its clear that Google Maps didn’t just succeed just because it was making the Californian based company money, the application successful met some of the best practices in application statergy, as outlined by Watson (2011):

  1. Google offered API’s for its service
  2. Google Maps has exceptional design by remixability (flexibility), this was actually stumbled upon my Google who found that there map service that was being created at the time was being hacked and in-fact made into a mashup. Google changed their business model… and the rest is history i guess.
  3. Google included developer support (tutorials), and allowed for analytics of there map service, this ensured that they followed the API best practices theory for uptake.
  4. Google Maps used/uses already existing standards meaning devlopers could use the tool without learning a new coding language.
  5. Google managed to build its business model (AdSense) into the API.
  6. Google is Google Maps biggest customer – be your own customer

As mentioned at the start of the blog, Google Maps API is used around the world in hundreds of thousands of applications and websites, you would almost use it everyday, and thats what makes API’s and Google’s one in particular so usable is it flexibility.

Further Reading:

Google Maps Mashups

How Google Makes Money

Googles Business Philosophy

O’Reilly – Web 2.0

Google’s Person Finder

Over the last couple of months there has been a series of natural disasters across the globe that have caused devastation on nearly every continent the human race resides upon. As these disaster take our homes, destroy cities and take loved ones from us, social media is being used as a tool in the reporting, clean-up and finding of people in these terrible disasters. Social networking sites such as Twitter are used as a way of pushing live news updates around the world (via the #tag, example). The collaboration of these individual micro blogs containing snapshots of information provided family members with reassurance, but also the wider community an incite into what was going on in the minutes, hours and days after such a natural disaster. In a generation where newspaper sales have decreased, more and more people are harnessing the collective intelligence of social media to provide them with an overview of what is going on.

Below is a infographic from Mashable on how social media is used in general with an emergency…. Click to find out more:

Social Media Emergency Infographic

How Social Media Is Used During Emergencies

But it’s not just these large social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook being used to combat issues raised by natural disasters, large corporations are helping a hand in the relief effort of a natural disaster, once such example is Google, who hours after the recent earthquakes in Haiti, Christchurch and now Japan have set up a service to find relatives who may be missing due to the disasters.

Google’s Person Finder:

The website uses collaborative techniques to allow families to  search for a missing persons or on the other hand for a missing person to put their details on the site in order to be found or to relieve the stress placed on the family members. During this weeks earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Google aided the Red Cross who were initially overwhelmed with people using its Family Links website, which helps track people during an emergency. Within a couple of hours Google stepped in, launching a version of its person finder tool for the earthquake, Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake, the tool can be used in Japanese or English.

Google People Finder Home Page

Google People Finder Home Page

Although an application like Person Finder has greater value than most traditional web applications it is still able to meet one of the 8 core patterns of the evolution of Web 2.0. According to Tim O’Reilly this core pattern, which is one of 8 is based around the ideal of enriching the user’s experience. Google’s application is a great example of harnessing collective intelligence as more people use the service the greater number of ‘someones’ will appear on the application. This combining of the records enables the user to find exactly what there look for; a family member.

As we start to have a greater understanding as to ways of using web 2.0, a greater number of social media collaboration tools will be used in a variety of situations that intertwine within our daily lives. Google’s person finder is just one of many that have changed the way we deal with emergencies and most importantly as a tool in aiding the finding  of  what means most in live.. our loved ones.

Want more on how Social Media has helped during the Japan earthquake then try these links:

How Twitter & Facebook Helped

Vital Lifelines

People Turn To The Web In Times Of Crisis


How To Follow The Japans Disaster Online