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Tell a tale. Package it well

Kaavya Viswanathan's controversial 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life' was a packaged novel, writes Deepak Mankar.

business Updated: May 01, 2006 18:15 IST | Deepak Mankar | Deepak Mankar

Is the Internet "the big time sink that some people fear" - and not "that big a contributor to efficiency and productivity"? barnako. The Pew/Internet Data Memo on Internet penetration and impact pewinternet may give a strong push to this line of thinking. Between March 2001 and April 2006, the number of Americans who said the Internet improved their ability to do the following tasks grew as follows: (a) the ability to shop from 16% to 32%; (b) the ability to pursue hobbies and interest from 20% to 33%; (c) the ability to do their work better from 24% to 35%; and (d) the ability to get more information about health care from 17% to 20%. More frequent users benefited the most, claims the memo. See what I mean? Also read this earlier report pewinternet for a useful perspective.

Ebbtide. In the blogosphere.

Excuse the mixed metaphor above. But wasn't it just last week that I wrote about all the excitement in the blogosphere? hindustantimes. Stuff like TV Guide's 65 television-centric blogs and the right way to make money with blogs debate? Now I've to tell you that all ain't honky dory out there. The early adopters are leaving the building - and threatening not to return. The -list includes such veterans as Dave Winer ("I want some privacy, I want to matter less, so I can retool."), Robert Scoble, Russell Beattie, Sarah Hepol ("Blogging wasn't helping me write [a book]; it was keeping me from it." - "a major distraction"), Jack Tapper of ABC among others. ("Blogging dummies' 25 April 2006). barnako.typepad Lee Tucker who dismissively labels himself "as someone who has never been a particularly popular blogger" writes: "the blogosphere can be a major drain". And: "To use an analogy, American history is full of authors that wrote a great American novel, then faded into obscurity. Would J.D. Salinger be considered so important if he continued to write novels about adolescence today? Why should we expect that just because a given blogger made her mark at one time, that she should always be able or willing to continue doing so?" Derek Doran-Wood comments: "To paraphrase a funnier man than I: rumors of blogging's demise are greatly exaggerated. …Show me someone who doesn't feel the need to shake up their routine every half decade or so, and I'll show you... well, a very dull person." Nari Kannan wonders: "With millions of blogs already there and millions more coming online, who has time to read our blather?" blogging_dummie.

The road ahead. Hotmail as Windows Live Mail?

In March 2006, the global webmail market had Yahoo! (around 240 million unique monthly users), Hotmail (around 230 million), AOL (almost 70 million) and Gmail (less than 70 million), according to ComScore Media Metrix. Like so many of the web's early denizens, Hotmail, started by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith in 1995, is taken for granted. Microsoft acquired Hotmail along with its then 8 million users in December 1997. In a short span of a year, there were 30 million Hotmailers. Two years down the line, their number had swelled to 52 million. Enter Gmail (April 2004). Yahoo! mail too got a US beta makeover (drag-and-drop organization and a built-in RSS reader) in September 2005. Two months later, Microsoft announced Windows Live, with Hotmail renamed as Windows Live Mail. Gmail is 'sexy', says Sara Radicati, a Radicati Group Analyst. Hotmail's image is merely 'free' webmail. So, an image overhaul is a must. "In recognition, perhaps, of its diminished coolness, Microsoft is largely abandoning the Hotmail brand it spent so much to acquire - another big gamble. Existing members will be able to keep their address, but new users will receive addresses, and Microsoft will stop using the venerable Hotmail brand to tout the service. In its place, the mail unit is getting a piece of the Windows brand, something that top executives like CEO Steve Ballmer have made clear is a big responsibility," writes Ina Fried in 'Hotmail's new address'. techrepublic.

Lots of pop. All on a single page.

Popurls (popurls) brings together popular content from several sites (links to popular stuff on Digg, Furl, YouTube, Slashdot, Yahoo News, Flickr, Spurl, Del, etc.) all on one page. The listing of popular stuff from multimedia sites like Flickr has thumbnails of content. On the bottom left there's also a little 'Your Pop' listing that lets you submit your own list of 'pop' sites. If these are vetted or filtered is a moot point, though. Tara Calishain's commentresearchbuzzis usability-related: "I must confess when I first looked at this site I considered the design (blue text on a black background. Tiny blue text) and almost skipped it. But then I noticed a little toolbar on the upper-right part of the page that lets you change the background (to a much more readable gray color), and increase the text size. Thank you. Beyond that you can also increase the amount of popular URLs on the page with this toolbar and open up a quick search box."

Natural language search. With clusters.

Australia (Sydney) based Lexxe gets its moniker from the linguistic term 'Lexical' (= 'related to words'). It calls itself "a third generation Internet search engine with advanced Natural Language Processing technologies". The core issue for Lexxe is "the processing of language from the level of words and the meanings associated with them". The clusters show up on the left of the answers page. An interesting and meaningful way to search. lexxe.

Ootsourcing. What's in and around?

To keep in touch with the trends and events in outsourcing, do read the InformationWeek blog found at informationweek.An 18 April post by Paul McDougall, for instance, cites a new study showing that "handing IT projects to third parties - often based in far-flung corners of the globe - isn't saving corporations as much as is widely believed". Also: "Other reasons frequently cited include access to workers with skills that are in short supply in America, greasing the way for entry into new markets that represent untapped sales opportunities, having the ability to dial their workforce up or down depending on seasonal demands, and the chance to create a network of 'follow the sun' tech workers to support worldwide operations." A recent TPI report puts the average expense reduction achieved through outsourcing at only 15%. "Not so much considering that programmers in low-cost countries earn as much as 80% less than their American counterparts. A good chunk of the differential is eaten up by overhead, says TPI. That's a lot, so you'd think CIOs would be pulling jobs back in-house in droves after not realizing big savings," writes McDougall. Check this out, too:informationweek. ('Outsourcing Contracts Up, But Savings Questioned')

Tell a tale. Tell it well.

Want to learn how to tell a great story? Seth Godin's 'How to tell a great story' has the answer:odemagazine. His 9-point 'success formula' goes like this: (1) "A great story is true." (2) "Great stories make a promise." (3) "Great stories are trusted." (4) "Great stories are subtle." (5) "Great stories happen fast." (6) "Great stories don't appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses." (7) "Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone." (8) "Great stories don't contradict themselves." (9) "Most of all, great stories agree with our world view."

Tell a tale. Package it well.

An informative article about "packaging" books ('First, Plot and Character. Then, Find an Author.') is here: nytimes. By the way, Kaavya Viswanathan's controversial 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life' was a packaged novel.

An era ends. No more great comics.

"I don't think you'll ever see another 'Calvin & Hobbes,' 'Bloom County' or 'Doonesbury' again," says Breathed, 48, a Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning in 1987. "The popularity of those strips was built on a young audience - great comic strips are not built on the backs of aging readers." The problem, it seems, is that newspapers, when choosing comic strips, give too much weight to the opinions of aging readers.calendarlive.

That's all for now though there's plenty more out there. Join me again next week, same place.

Copyright (c) 2001- 2006 by Deepak Mankar. All rights reserved. Deepak Mankar, an advertising practitioner on the creative side since 1965, is also intensely passionate about the web and web content creation. Read his online articles at Website: You may e-mail him at

First Published: May 06, 2006 09:00 IST

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