ToonDooSpaces: Comics-based Social Network for School Kids

Zoho is mostly known for their Web-based productivity and business software, but sometimes they venture into … hmm… unproductivity.   In the past year or so close to a million cartoons were created @ ToonDoo, and that number grows by 3-4 thousand every day.  (Hey, even I contributed onesmile_wink)

Today they have announced  ToonDooSpaces, private comics-based collaborative space for classrooms, be it school or kindergarten level.  (Remember when FaceBook – actually TheFacebook at the time – was strictly limit to the confines of actual colleges?)   What can you do @ ToonDooSpaces?  Here’s how the kids at one of the pilot schools explain:


Even before this launch, ToonDoo has been used at hundreds of schools including Auburn High School, US, Totino-Grace High School, US, Leawood Middle School, US, Korea International School, Korea, Mount Scopus Memorial College, Australia, Lake Superior College, US and many others -  apparently all the way to college level.  That said I think ToonDooSpaces will be most favored by the younger ones.  Here’s a detailed review by Kevin Hodgson who has been using ToonDooSpaces in his class for months:

All spring, my sixth graders (11 and 12 year olds) were fully engaged in the use of our ToonDoo Spaces site. They would walk in the door and immediately ask: Are we going to make comics today, Mr. H? And they give a little shout of “Yeah!” with a fist pump when I say “yes” (after we do whatever other work we have planned).

Here’s an interactive video showing off more of ToonDoo’s features:


But hey, I’m writing a business / technology blog, so let’s get serious here. smile_wink   I often talk about Freemium (more here), and I think this is a perfect showcase.


Remember, Freemium takes patience – in this case ToonDoo has been available for over a year, attracting hundreds of thousands of users before the launch of the “premium” version, Spaces.

And here’s something else: I guess the inner child must have died in me a long time ago, how else do I have the most fun on the Pricing Page?  The fact is, we often talk about the need for transparency, and how SaaS should be easy not only to learn, use, but to buy, which includes price information, without having to endure lousy sales calls.  Well, it doesn’t get any easier:


Move the cursor along the users / months axis, click anywhere, and voila! – there’s your price quote.   SaaS companies, take notice: you can get rid of the kiddie appearance, but should offer a pricing tool this easy.

Now I am off to create a cartoon(doo). smile_shades

(Disclaimer:  I am Editor of CloudAve, a Zoho-sponsored group blog.)


Google Replaces Beta Tag With Price Tag on Apps

Just a short note:

Guess who will welcome GooGreed with a big smile?  Zoho.

Update:  TechCrunch has the clarification from Google:

In experimenting with a number of different landing page layouts, the link to Standard Edition was inadvertently dropped from one of the variations. We are in the process of restoring it and you should see it soon. We have no intention of eliminating Google Apps Standard Edition, and are sorry for the confusion.

Related posts:


Zoho Office for Sharepoint: Use SaaS, Keep Data Behind the Firewall

One of the major roadblocks to SaaS providers’ entry to the enterprise is  IT and Business concerns about corporate security, thinking of the firewall as the last line of defense. 

Microsoft SharePoint has a very strong position in the Enterprise as the incumbents behind-the-firewall collaboration server, and for years smart Collaboration and Social Software vendors with better functionality, like Atlassian, Socialtext, Jive Software, Newsgator  have been "playing well", adopting their services to SharePoint.

Now Zoho joins, announcing Zoho Office for Microsoft SharePoint, which combines the benefits of a collaborative SaaS Suite with the (perceived or real?) security if keeping data behind the firewall.

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Atlassian $timulus Package Inching Towards Finish Line

Quick update on the Atlassian $timulus drive I previously reported about:  at 2pm on the last day of the promotion, they are at $93K – the $100K donation is realistic… but they may need a little push.

So I decided to put my money (well, a little) where my mouth is and have just purchased 10 5-person  licences of Confluence, the market leading enterprise wiki.  Not that I can use them all – so I will find a way to give them away in the future.

If you want to help them donate $100K to Room to Read, you can do your part easily … and just as a reminder, you’re buying a $1,200 licence for $5.   What a bargain to close out the week. 🙂

Update: With 3 hours to go Atlassian is just $2.5K short of reaching the target.  See coverage map at Mike’s blog.

Update #2: Ah, the drama of the last minutes:

$640 short of $100k… with 20 minutes to go, my maths says we’re just going to miss! 🙂
$590 short. Need $30/minute now… at least we did $35 last minute! 🙂
Just tipped $99,510… I wonder if we should just leave it up for 10 minutes extra, or does that seem dodgy?
Well… computer says it’s…over $100k!!
Woo! Woo!!! Dancin’ around the room. Atlassian Stimulus Package 400% of $25k goal. What a week. Simply staggering. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!
Atlassian Stimulus Package (preliminary) final total – $100,350 for Room To Read in 120 hours from 7284 _awesome_ startups and teams!!


Atlassian $timulus Package Supports Charity. Two Days Left To Get Your (Almost) Free Confluence or Jira Licence.

This must be do-good-week.  Amongst all the talk about Ashton Kutcher’s challenge to CNN, how the follow-on Oprah show pushed Twitter to never-seen height, little attention was paid to the small fact that this initiative generated over $1 Million donations to Malaria No More.  Ashton started with his $100,000 check and was soon joined by Demi Moore, Ted Turner, Oprah and I don’t even know who else .. I lost count at $1M.   Hype aside, this is a major contribution to a good cause.

This week we’re also seeing a for-profit company, Atlassian drive to raise $100,000K for the benefit of Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries in rural communities in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Zambia …etc.  Doing good is in Atlassian’s DNA, likely coming from the co-Founder, who is a major Kiva Supporter.  His company had set up the Atlassian Foundation which donates basically 1% of everything:

  • 1% of company and employee time to Foundation projects
  • 1% of company equity to the Foundation
  • 1% of our products to non-profit groups

But wait!  This isn’t a post about charity only.  There’s a Deal in it for you!

The Atlassian $timulus package is a 5-day drive, during which you can get either Confluence, the excellent Enterprise Wiki, or Jira, the issue tracker – Atlassian’s first product that’s still an IT favourite  for $5 for 5 users.

Now I hear you ask: is that $5 per person per month?  That would by typical (actually low) pricing for most SaaS offerings.   NO!  It is:

  • A five-user licence (ie. $1 per person)
  • For a full year
  • For the full-featured entrerprise strenght products

My only regret is that it does not involve the hosted versions of these products.   But if it’s the downloadable, installable version, what’s this per year licence?  Most enterprise software is sold with a perpetual licence: you can use it forever.  But then the vendor pushes the (almost) mandatory maintenance fees to the tune of 20-25%, and major new releases every 4-5 years.

Atlassian does not play such games, their philosophy is transparency and simplicity. Software should be easy to learn, easy to use and easy to buy.  Hence the annual licence whish involves support. (Update: I misunderstood this part: the licence is a perpetual one, the additioal annual fees are for maintenance / support, and the are optional.)  And for comparison, the minimum annual licence for both Confluence and Jira is $1,200.

So Atlassian is essentially giving away $1,200 licences for free – but it’s actually a lot more.  This isn’t just your introductory price.  Customers who purchase during the $timulus week (only two days left) are locked in to their $1 per user price for the lifetime of the product, and those fees will be donated as well.   That goes way beyond giving up revenue – they can’t possibly provide support for $1 a year, so Atlassian is reaching into their pockets big time for years to come.

The initiative appears to be more wildly popular than they expected. The initial goal was to raise $25,000 for Room to Read, and they exceeded that target on the first day – hence the new objective of $100,000K.

Early this morning they were at 66% of the increased target:

Now, before someone thinks I am doing a paid commercial here: I am not receiving any form of compensation or incentive from Atlassian.  I simply like what they are doing.  A lot.

But I’m not naive.  This isn’t just charity.  It’s damned good marketing – in more ways then one.  First, as you may suspect is Brand recognition.

The second is perhaps less obvious: Atlassian’s initial product, Jira took several years to take off – the second, Confluence had much faster growth.  Part of their secret sauce has always been relying on a very loyal, very satisfied customer base, mostly IT-types who buy additional products from their trusted vendor.

So yes, Atlassian is seeding their market with thousands of free customers this week.  Which is fine, I’ve said before: you don’t have to be purely altruistic to do good.

Update: The Atlassian $timulus Package is now listed in Consumerist’s Morning Deals, along with Blu-Ray Discs and Casio Cameras 🙂

(Cross-posted from CloudAve. To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)


US Army Wikified

WetPaint is one of my early “discoveries”, three years ago I called them the “wiki-less” wiki, as it blended wiki-like, forum-like and blog-like features long before it became fashionable.   I haven’t followed them closely, but apparently they’ve been growing nicely, and today I saw this post:

The US Army on Wetpaint! – hm .. let’s see.  The PE350 Wiki is a Virtual Classroom, set up by Major Mark Rea, who put his Cadets’ physical education plan online.  This is cool on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin…

First of all, it’s a truly professionally maintained wiki, with a Wiki 101 for new users, then details of the Syllabus, Lessons and Assignements, Cadet Fitness Challenge..etc.  They use text, photos, videos, podcasts – you name it, this is a fully featured interactive social site.

Second, I grew up in a country where anything even remotely related to the Army was surrounded with utmost secrecy, and I am still somewhat amazed at the level on information publicly available about the US military.  Granted, there are no strategic plans or weapons specs in this wiki, but still … smile_wink

Third… quick IM reaction from the first person I shared this news with:

Cool. Why is US Army resorting to free sites? Credit crunch

What a perfect fit for the Power of Less theme I just wrote about earlier today, in my Web 2.0 Expo post.  Major Rea and his cadets are using Wetpaint instead of Blackboard, the market leader commercial software for Education.   No, the US Army as a whole did not replace Blackboard with Wetpaint – but this particular unit did.  It’s a good start – just like corporations using Google Apps or Zoho Business services here and there … usage grows, initially it may just be leverage in licence negotiations with Blackboard, Microsoft and the like… but one day, who knows…smile_tongue.  It’s nice to see the US Army SaaS-ified. 

Oh, and for that Power of Less: it’s certainly less when it comes to what hey have to spend on software – but I’m not even sure it’s less when it comes to usability, participation.  Could this also become the case of Less is More?

(from the PE350 video page)


(Cross-posted from CloudAve.  To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)


The Tale of Two Notebooks, and Yes, It’s All About Earning a Buck

One down, one running better than ever.  Thanks to the irony of TechMeme, the two news are juxtaposed almost side by side:

I’ve never considered these two Notebooks comparable, despite the common name.  Google’s one was your web-based post-it notes, barebones, easy to use.   Zoho’s version is a full-featured multimedia application to create, aggregate, share, collaborate on just about any type of content easily, be it text, database, spreadsheet, image, drawings, audio, video – you name it.  It offers a lot more, but may be “too much” if all you want is the yellow stickies.  The two apps serve entirely different needs. But I don’t want to focus on the products here, did it before: Not All Notebooks Are Created Equal.

Let’s talk about the economics: Google is simply ditching some of the money losers which is clearly the right strategy in a recession when it saw it’s primary revenue source, advertising drop radically.  A while ago (before the economy collapsed) Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu provided great insight into why getting into applications does not make much financial sense for Google, whereas it is Zoho’s primary business.  Today we’re seeing that logic in action.

Of course  Google is not the only one, we’re seeing startups shut down service, or give up the free-for-all principle and start charging for their services.  Over at CloudAve we’ve discussed Jott as an example, but there are many others.   We may have enjoyed all these free services, but deep down had to predict this bonanza would not last forever. It’s time for rationalizing business – after all, it’s all about making a buck.

Update (1/20/09):  Surprise, surprise! (not really).  Zoho came out with a tool to import your Google Notebook data into Zoho Notebook.

Update (1/22/09) Two days later here comes Evernote with an import process.  Who’s next?


Under the Radar: Call for Startups in Cloud Computing & Business Applications

Under the Radar is the Silicon Valley’s most established startup debut platform: a conference series organized by Dealmaker Media, covering business applications, social media, entertainment, mobility..etc.

The 11th Under the Radar conference in Mountain View, CA on April 24, 2009 will focus on Cloud Computing and Business Applications and the organizers have issued a CALL FOR COMPANIES to present.

The general criteria for all UTR events:

  • Unique value proposition
  • Ability to monetize product/business
  • Large market opportunity
  • Must still be considered "under the radar" – launched in 2008
  • Company must be an actual startup – not a new product from a large company

Typically 32 finalists are selected, who will present in a rapid-fire format  – they are grouped in categories of 4 each, in two parallel tracks  and each presenter has about 15 minutes. They get grilled by the judges and audience, and at the end of the conference the winners of each category are announced.   Categories for the April event are:

  • Cloud Infrastructure
  • Platforms
  • Virtualization
  • Saas
  • Mashups
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Business Apps
  • Development Tools (Utilities, OS, etc…)
  • Mobile Office
  • Semantics
  • Commerce
  • Social software/ networks
  • Sync (online/offline)

If you’re building a startup, meet the criteria above, will have a real product / service out by April, don’t hesitate:  APPLY.

See you in April!

(Cross-posted from CloudAveto stay on top of Cloud Computing news, analysis and just our opinion, grab the CloudAve Feed here)


Come to Defrag

Next week I’ll be in Denver, attending Defrag, a boutique, intellectual, intense, very participatory conference.  I’m attending despite the fact that I’ve cut down on conference attendance, not because of the current economic turmoil, but largely due to burnout.  After a while they just all feel the same: empty session rooms, bored exhibitors, people just enjoying ad-hoc hallway conversations.  But there is something intriguing about Defrag: friends and smart minds I respect keep on tweeting about Defrag, and the agenda just looks exciting.

  • I’ve always enjoyed reading Paul Kedrosky, whose posts deliver the punch in just a few words – or an image.  I’ve never met him, so I’m looking forward to his keynote.
  • Howard Lindzon’s keynote, titled It’s Always a Good Time to Start a Web Business will no doubt have a very special meaning in the current economic situation.
  • I’m really, really looking forward to the next keynote, Getting Into the Flow Applications – a subject I somewhat touched upon, and likely will re-visit before heading to the conference.
  • The first breakout session will be a huge dilemma: I literally should split myself in two halves, I badly want to attend both Dis (and Re)-aggregating the Web with Disqus, Intense Debate and my6sense, but I can’t miss Re-imagining the metaphors behind collaborative tools with Atlassian, Mindtouch, Liquid Planner, One Place either.  (Update: now I really can’t miss it, as I’ll be moderating this session.)

I could go on, but I’ve just realized I’d literally have to duplicate the entire Agenda here.  Have I just discovered Defrag’s secret sauce?   Conferences are never about sessions, it’s all about the ad-hoc networking, even lobbycon-ing – yet I find myself wanting to attend most sessions, in fact two of them in most of the breakouts.  Defrag promises amazing intellectual content, and if I just follow Twitter, an extraordinary group of innovators plan to attend. From what I hear, this is the conference where the attendees participate just as much as the speakers.

Do yourself a favor, check out the Agenda, read Eric’s 10 reasons to come to Defrag and register. (Use discount code “zoli1” to receive $300 off).

Update: Microsoft’s PDC is in full force today, and guess what, the conference wi-fi is failing.  This seems to be the fate of all conferences, including ironically Web 2.0 Expo.  The only exception I’ve seen so far is the Office 2.0 Conference, which teamed up with Swisscom to build rock-solid wi-fi.  What is less known though, that they got the tip and contacts from Defrag organizer Eric Norlin.  Yes, Defrag, working with Swisscom was the first conference to provide industrial-strength, reliable wi-fi throughout the entire site, including rooms in the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency.  So if you come to Defrag, you’ll be connected 24/7.  (OK, just 24/2: Nov 3-4thsmile_wink)


The Skype Downgrade Experience

First, kudos to Skype for listening to customers, many of whom considered the first Skype 4.0 beta’s full-screen a deal-breaker.  Yes, they listened and gave us a compact view, somewhat similar to good old 3.x, which is why I installed it in the first place, but after an hour or so I am ready to uninstall.

In a nutshell: the new Skype is great for single-channel communication, long video calls with one person, but if you’re a multi-tasker (aren’t we all?) who usually has several chat windows open at a time, you’ll be disappointed.

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