Archives for 2006


Google Killing the Picasa Brand?

Despite being an Office 2.0-fan, there are a few client applications I just can’t live without, and one of them is Google’s photo management package, Picasa.  I know I am not alone … and I am still getting a lot of hits on some fairly old posts on the subject:

Yet it wasn’t until I read GoogleOS II: Starring Linus Torvalds on Read/WriteWeb today that I realized I should display the Picasa banner if I like it so much.  So let’s give it a try:

Selecting Picasa takes me to the next step, where I can choose from a number of  text links like:

or badges like:


Yes you’re seeing it right: there is no Picasa ad whatsoever – only Google photo software. The landing page these links take you to appears to be in transition: it starts with “Use Google’s photo organizer to find, edit and share the pictures on your computer” , then the word Picasa is mentioned twice, but not in a prominent position. I guess Google is preparing to slowly phase out the Picasa brand… just like Writely died to give birth to Google Docs (and Spreadsheets). Hey, they could have named the other app Calcly


This makes me wonder what happens to other good brands in Google’s hands: do we get to lay with GSpot after all? Or will it just be assimilated, to be part of Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Wikis? By the time Google acquires a decent presentation app, it could be Google Docs,  Spreadsheets, Presentation and Wikis – that’s almost as good as some of Microsoft’s naming wisdom


Oh, and coming back to the excellent Read/WriteWeb article, I can’t wait to get my hands on some Ginux.




It’s the Silicon Valley, After All

Software all not, events like this reassure us that we ‘re still in the Silicon Valley smile_angry


Zoho Adds Wiki to Online Suite – It’s All Coming Together

It’s nice to get your dream fulfilled fast.  Writing about Socialtext 2.0 in October I wrote:  “My ‘dream setup‘ for corporate collaboration: a wiki with an integrated Office 2.0 Suite.”

A little later in my post on the JotSpot/Google deal I specifically called for my friends at Zoho (I’m an advisor to the company)  “to make their move soon: they either need to come up with their own wiki, or team up with a wiki company…So far Zoho is ahead of Google in Office 2.0, if they want to maintain that leadership, they will need a wiki one way or another.”

I did not have to wait long, Zoho Wiki is here, announced simultaneously on TechCrunch and the Zoho Blog

This product is perhaps the first showcase of how Zoho’s long term product strategy will play out.  To begin with, if you are a registered user for some of Zoho’s other products, your single sign-on automatically gives you access to the Wiki.  (For now you can create 3 wikis, but I don’t expect this restriction to last long.)

While most wikis I know of started their life without  WYSIWYG editing – yes, you had to write ugly markup language – Zoho Wiki shares the codebase of Zoho Writer, so right at the start you have all the bells and whistles of the popular editor, including formatting options, special characters, emoticons, inserting tables and a spell checker, amongst others.  As for appearance, there are 5 themes to select from, should you not like the default one.

A wiki is all about linking: Zoho supports multiple options of creating new pages and linking to them:

  1. there is a large “create new page” button displayed consistently on all pages
  2. you can use the link icon from the editor and pick wiki pages, email addresses or external URLs.
  3. you can just type a WikiWord (also known as CamelCase) to create a page and link to it. (LinkAsYouThink)

#1 above is normally followed by creating links to the new page, but my personal preference is either #2 or #3, both of which create a “shell”, i.e. a link to a not-yet-existing page, that you can click on to actually create/edit the new page – this is way you can be sure you won’t end up with orphan pages. (I wrote more extensively about the orphan problem here)

Perhaps the most distinctive feature is how you can embed objects from other Zoho and 3rd-party applications: spreadsheets, graphs, presentations, forms, videos, slideshows…etc.  The screen-shot below comes from my test wiki, where I used a chart originally plotted in Zoho Sheet, using data coming from Zoho Polls, and originally published on my blog.

Pre-Google JotSpot became known as the “application wiki” for including a few pre-defined forms; think of the possibilities when you can use the full power of Zoho Creator to create forms/applications and embed them in your wiki.   Of course whichever application the data is updated in, it will be reflected in all other apps, typical Zoho-style.

For non-Zoho apps, see these two examples: a Youtube video and a Bubbleshare slideshow embedded in a Zoho wiki.

As for permissioning, both read and edit access can be independently set to either private / everyone or group; group members then can be managed individually.  What I would like to see in the future is the ability to centrally manage “groups” across all Zoho apps: for example set up a group in Virtual Office, where all my contacts are, then just refer to the group by name to share spreadsheets, wikis, presentations..etc.

And talk about wishlist, since I was recently fairly critical about SocialText 2.0, I have to be fair and state that I am missing some of the same features here, too: inbound links (backlinks), breadcrumbs to ease navigation, nested comments, improved history, and the ability to email to wiki pages.  The Zoho team reassured me that these are planned for future updates.

Notably absent is attachment handling and versioning, a standard feature in better business wikis, yet I don’t consider it an omission, rather good strategy. Why?  Document management/versioning in wikis solves a critical problem, but does so on the basis on yesterday’s (OK, today’s ) technology.  Even with proper versioning one has to download documents, locally update them, then upload them back up to the wiki. 

That’s a lot of work, and Zoho has a an easier, more streamlined  approach to do it all online. Not only they integrate Writer, Sheet and Show to the wiki, but have also provided tools to easily access documents originated by Word, Excel, Powerpoint online.

The current integration is still somewhat clumsy (but working): you invoke the applications separately, save your work, and either link to the document’s URL from within the wiki, or embed it by using the “insert html” icon.   What I’d like to see eventually:

  • Easy access to invoke to editor / sheet /show ..etc applications from inside a wiki page – perhaps a colored area on the sidebar
  • Smart linking: link button would bring up list of not just wiki pages but all my Sheet, Writer ..etc files
  • Single button embedding without having to copy/paste html code
  • Last but not least, text search not only of wiki pages but all my data across all Zoho applications.

Considering Zoho’s breakneck speed of product releases, I am quite optimistic that we don’t have to wait long.  It’s all coming together – in 2007.



Related posts:




SVASE VC Breakfast with Gabriel Ventures: Sold Out

I’ll be moderating another SVASE VC Breakfast Club meeting this Thursday, Dec 21st in San Francisco.  As usual, it’s an informal round-table where 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher, Hummer Winblad, Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc.

These sessions are a valuable opportunity for Entrepreneurs, most of whom would probably have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no Powerpoint presentations, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation; but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Follow a structure, don’t just roam about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing the problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 3 minutes. You will have about 5, but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story. The second half of your time-slot is Q&A with the VC.
  • Bring an Executive Summary; some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up. (Arriving an hour late to a one-and-a-half-hour meeting is NOT acceptable.)

Thursday’s featured VC is Scott Chou, General Partner, Gabriel Venture Partners. For details and registration please see the SVASE site.    In appreciation of our 40% growth in membership during 2006, we are pleased to offer SVASE members free registration for VC Breakfast Club during December. Non-members will be able to register at the substantially discounted rate of $25. 

The above promotion brings up an issue: it’s easy to register for free events – please only do it if you really mean to attend. The registration system closes at 10 participants, depriving other entrepreneurs of the opportunity to join. (No walk-ins allowed).  So if you need to cancel, please notify us by email.

(Update: The event has sold out. We can not accomodate more participants, if you’re not on the list, please do not just show up – join us next year).

Here’s a participating Entrepreneur’s feedback about a previous event.

See you in San Francisco!Zbutton




Google Maps Has Become a Real Trip Planner

Have you ever had to drive to multiple destinations in an unknown area, feeding them in your car’s navigation system, only to discover in the end that you just criss-crossed town several times?  If you ever:

  • looked for a house to rent after relocation
  • had to visit multiple clients in a new job
  • or just wanted to see some spectacular lights of Christmas ..

I’m sure you know the feeling – like I do.  The frustration is over now, if you use Google Maps.

With the addition of multiple destinations, Google has not only caught up with Yahoo Maps but significantly beat it. The killer feature may not be obvious at first glance, so let me present a case study here, planning my imaginary drive starting from the St. Francis hotel at Union Square, San Francisco.

First I input all my destinations, in a random order – say, this is how I pulled it off craigslist.  (Click pic for the live view.)

Well, if I followed this order, I’d be crossing the City several times, totaling 29.3 miles.  But now that that I have a feeling of what’s where, I can start playing with the map: simply drag and drop the destination boxes, and see how Google replans my trip.  The second plan cuts down my trip to half, 15 miles!

Is there still room for improvement?  Perhaps I don’t want to cross the Presidio and try the
South-bound semi-circle:

I’m down to 14 miles, which is not a huge difference, and considering traffic, perhaps I take the previous option: it’s more scenic anyway.

The final decision is yours: but the ability to plot all destinations, then move them around freely to optimize your route is a clear winner. Google Maps has just Become a smart Trip Planner.

(Now, if only it added real-time traffic data a’ la Yahoo Mapssmile_nerd)



And the Winner of the Weirdest Company Name Award is: Xeequa

I guess all the good names are really taken… but I’m sure by the time of his launch party, Axel will come up wih a better explanation for naming his “Channels On Demand” startup Xeequa

(The first result for this Google search might give a hint to the pronounciation).



They Must Have Skipped Science Classes…

SPRINGTOWN, Texas — One teenager was killed and another was injured today when a crude oil storage tank exploded as the pair used a lit match to try to look into the tank, authorities said.

Sad. And stupid. smile_sad


NASA / Google: It’s Not What You Think

They want you to believe it’s to establish a “relationship to work together on a variety of challenging technical problems ranging from large-scale data management and massively distributed computing, to human-computer interfaces.”  

This could cover “Real-time weather visualization and forecasting, high-resolution 3-D maps of the moon and Mars, real-time tracking of the International Space Station and the space shuttle”.

“Yes, two of the biggest names in geekery have joined forces to give the gift of virtual space exploration to the masses” says Gizmodo.

No, no, and no.  They all are missing the point: it’s all about building the next Google Campus on the Mars. smile_shades



Trapped in Akismet’s Blacklist

I am unable to comment on WordPress-powered blogs.  It took me a while to figure it out – actually credit goes to Mike Arrington who dug up my buried comments from TechCrunch’s spam queue.   It appears that the word “zoliblog” as part of any email is blacklisted by Akismet.

I left a note using Akismet’s contact form six days ago, to no avail – so if anyone reading this has the power to help, thanks a lot in advance!

Update (12/31):  I few weeks later I am out of prison 🙂 



Proof Positive: The Blog is the New Resume

My friend Rod Boothby got his new job thanks to his blog.  I’m happy for Rod personally, and also because it proves a point I’ve made several  times: resumes are dead. 

Resumes are tailored for a particular job, and let’s face it, often “cosmetically enhanced”.  If you’ve been blogging for years, you certainly did not do it with a particular job in mind; your blog is likely to be a true reflection of who you really are, what you are an expert in, your communication skills, your priorities … YOU as a whole person, not as a candidate for a specific job.  Thus, as Rob concludes:

“…hiring a blogger is a lower risk proposition because you have more information and a better idea of how they are going to perform.”


        Source: Innovation Creators (I don’t have Rod’s charting skillssmile_embaressed)


I am not in active job search mode, but will likely join a startup one day. Still, I have not updated my resume for the past 2 years or so.  Why should I?  My life is (now) an open book: my blog reveals a lot about my thinking, knowledge (or lack of), and for more facts it points to my LinkedIn profile.  I was recently approached by a stealth startup… great, I thought, they must have found me through my blog, that’s a good start. But then they asked me to submit a resume, and I lost interest.   If the blog is not enough common grounds for a conversation, then I don’t trust this Founder is hiring the right people, so why would I be interested?

Now, I don’t deny the importance of resumes in certain situations, typically in larger businesses and for documentation, background check ..etc purposes, but that’s *after* there is a level of interest.  

Tom Peters has been saying for years:

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You”  

It’s never been easier to build that Brand Called You: if you’re still not doing it, what are you waiting for?  Start your blog today!