Dimdim – The art of sharing


For those of you who read my blog, or know me personally you may have heard of DimDim, even if you have read my recent column in the Delhi Metro. I simply love this product/service. I am writing about it again because its just come out of hibernation, during which time it managed to collect over 300,000 customer, hence they obviously didn’t sleep too well ๐Ÿ™‚

DimDim, gives nothing away in its name, but I guess all “cool” websites don’t. In short it allows you to work together. How many times have we come across the terms groupware, collaboration, teamwork, remote working, the list goes on, BUT rarely have we come across a product which actually makes it happen. Sure there are websites which allow you to share files (I still email people), you can conference call on Skype, and even IM people, but few tools let you do it in one place.

So how does it work?

Once you’ve gone through the sign up process, you login in, and are presented with a control panel (remember no software to download or install, its all in a web browser), this allowsย  you to invite DimDim colleagues OR just email new people, and invite them to your “meeting”. Which can either be now, or in the future. Then you decide to share your desktop, a powerpoint, or simply the provided whiteboard, where you can scribble and make notes, that all can see. To aid communication, they have a built in webcam system, voip, and also IM, hence you choose howto talk/chat.

Enough of the praise, surely it can’t be that perfect, and I admit it does have a few hiccups.

1. When you upload a powerpoint it takes forever, and I am on a 2Mb connection

2. I had problems inviting people, tell a lie, the individual who I invited kept crashing (possibly his fault)

3. It should allow you to hide particular apps on your desktop, like netviewer, eg share your desktop BUT not you msn chat

4. The webcam refused to work, maybe its because mine is built into my Mac

However I shouldn’t crib too much, webex, netviewer have been doing this for as long as I can recall, and they stil crash, and the plus point to DimDim is that its FREE!!. So if your a web design team who needs to show their clients what you do, or need to make a presentation, or simply like to scrawl on a whiteboard, DImDim is for you.

DimDIm have shown what is possible, they started off small, little money, down in the backstreets of Hyderabad (a little artistic license here :-)) raised money, moved to sunnier climbs in the valley, and now have everyone talking about them, good luck to DD and the team.

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MetroMela – Its not all about fun

This website may not be fun, but I am starting to like it. Its not a social network, , and it doesn’t help you with a job or even find a potential marriage partner. BUT, it does have it’s uses….

… You simply indicate which metro you are interested in, (unfortunately it does not have Delhi as yet), and then you are free to search for info about the metro. You can then post or read a review about the location, and even see if their are any good deals. It seems to take the concept of what the guys at Burrp are doing a little further, where Burrp reviews bars and restaurants, this reviews almost everything in the Metro.

The basic problem with these review websites is lack of content, its a chicken and egg situation, what came first ? (see answer below). If you have no content a user will never come back, hence a website like this always needs to launch with lots and lots of content already created OR launch within a small circle of friends which will start to use it regularly, and then add users slowly, before you tell the world.

Metromela, segments companies into 3 categories,

Shopping, Food and Entertainment

Health and Wellness

Family and kids

Each company is then given a comment by the reader, and from here various ratings are given to the company. I would remove user login, and allow all readers to just add a comment at the click of a button, OR to search for a company to add a comment to, especially if they have had a bad experience. In addition I would speak with the guruji/asklaila teams to see if these comments can be included on their search engine, something tells me however they will take the idea and add it to their own portals ๐Ÿ™‚

As for the answer to what came first, well the chicken did, students of philosophy will now why…simply because actuality always comes before potentiality (Aristotle) (Note: the egg is the egg of a chicken and no other animal)

This must have been one of my quickest reviews, not because the website had little to offer, but because it had little new.

[I now write for the Delhi metro, see my column every other week, and scream at the editor if you like what you read]

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As if I need a break, I have recently been hit with several emails, all about startups who have updated, or added value to their products. Instead of reviewing these startups again, I am adding them to my “Interval” sections. The first one is Picsquare.

Picsquare allows you to upload your photos and then have them printed digitally. The update from there team concerns yahoo photos, which closed earlier this month for Indian users. Of course yahoo users can upload to flickr, but flickr has limited storage, picsquare has added a feature which allows you to export your pictures to them. Picsquare will offer unlimited space, and you have the value add that you can get your pictures printed on items such as mugs and t-shirts.

Second in line is Guruji. That indian search engine which picked up $8 million in funding (does anyone know how many people search using this). Anyhow the update is that they have now added a movie timing search. Confused so am I. I can see why people may search for music, images, in forums etc, but movie timings, but then I asked a few friends, and for them its bliss. According to guruji, 20% of searches in India are for entertainment, so this would be a good way to get customers to use guruji.

So I gave it a go…or rather my bollywood obsessed wife did (tks Anhsul), she gurujied (okay made that up, not sure which verb applies here) for Jab We Met . The timings match those at pvrcinemas.com perfectly. I know one search does not make it ideal, but I think I nice idea, call it vertical search.

Then I went to google to see what it can do. First link went to oneindia, which had a table of timings. All in all a good idea, $8millon worth not sure, but its a start,…keep it up.

Whinge: Since I am talking about upgrades, figured I may as well mention something which is absolutely useless from yatra.in. Yes the guys with deep pockets, who wish to control the travel portals in India. Choose a flight, fill in details, then select credit card…can I find England, UK, or Great Britain, nope, I can find Laos, South Africa, Norfolk islands (where is that), but no UK. Surely even then non-geography qualified developer would know that there is a small island out there called Great Britain. So I email support, what do I get, a cut and paste reply, 3 days later, no help. Why am I complaining on this blog,ย  simply to make a point….lots of money does not equal a great service or product.

Next Post: How do you raise $10 million for a startup in India ?

Bigadda – No not BigUdder

When I first read it, tried to pronounce it, it always sounded like a BIG Udder, anyhow after being corrected several times, I have now perfected the pronunciation. Although I loathe to do social network, I felt this one needed to be reviewed, who knows its backed by the big Reliance teams, maybe just maybe they could have seen what others have missed, and worked out howto move the masses from orkut over to them…so lets see.

My first viewing occurred during a Cricket match, where I saw the ads for BigAdda. First impression, whoever is behind this has a big cheque book, but little idea in creating a community…name one large social network which advertised to get its customers…um Facebook, nope, MySpace, do not think so, Orkut, nada….they work, because they work.

Okay this is a live review, I have just registered, and am with excitement logging into it…

…not sure what to say, so you can add videos, pics, create a profile, and create your own groups….yawnnnn…seriously, that’s all it does. You can goto a forum, start a blog, and send a internal email to users, my question to the Reliance team….Why would you do this?, I mean Why create BigAdda?, did you feel there is nothing out there for the youth of India which compares to this, if you did, ….I would suggest using Google. That’s the entire review, what more can I say, its a social network , which isn’t really that sociable.

I think design and all are great, and kudos to the development team, but to be honest they could have saved money by using off the wall services like Ning, which let you create your own social network.

After all that advertising (anyone care to guess how much money they must have spent) , the forums, and blogs look empty, not sure how many registered users, but you can’t create a community, it grows on its own.

Reliance team, please take that cheque book, and invest in some of the cool startups already in India, maybe just maybe there is better creativity and ideas sitting outside, than inside….

….and on that note rumour has it Indiatimes is building a clone of Facebook for India…go figure, somebody please send me a good startup to review…please.

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Zimbra and Indiatimes…email wakes up

Indiatimes Zimbra
Okay neither Indiatimes nor Zimbra can hardly be called startups, but I had to write this, Why? simple its because of the potential of this “togetherness’ But before I get into this extra marital affair, a little info on the new email.

I tried it out, I am a yahoo fan, never moved to gmail, rediffmail or hotmail (as if), in fact I am not really a fan of email anymore, and feel that email for corporates will be dead in a few years( multi project, task list, grouping systems are needed), BUT, whilst we are still alive and using it, we may as well use the best.

A year, or maybe more I came across zimbra, which to me was the best thing to happen to email, since domain names were invented. (If you don’t get the joke, don’t stress it). I registered with Indiatimes, read the press reports, its supposed to be an all singing and all dancing email system, with communities etc, but I was let down. Its actually just vanilla zimbra (a few zimlets specific to Indiatimes).
After getting over my initial disappointment I took another look, I noticed it had a couple of links which allowed you to translate emails, shop, or search for travel without leaving the email. But even then, all my excitement just drained away, Why? because Indiatimes has a platform which does so much more than this, why would you just allow users to do what they can from the website…so it saves them a click of the mouse button ?

To explain my disappointment let me explain to non-Zimbra users about what Zimbra can do. Zimbra has these wonderful little plugins (Zimbra is opensource), called zimlets, these allow users to do things like make skype calls by clicking on a telephone number in an email, they allow you to map the location given in a email. They allow you to track invoices and stock within your company for order processing.

Credit where credits due, Indiatimes new email, does allow you to share calendars, it does allow you to share files, and tag your email, which is great for multi project work, BUT the question I still have, is why are the wow factors not their.

A few suggestions (who am I to suggest :-))

1. Get a zimlet written which can work with routeguru.com, so that when I get an email with an Indian address, I can right click and it shows me the location.

2. Get the asterisk plugin up and running, and let me make a VOIP call from the email

3. Get your users to write their own zimlets, eg into facebook, orkut etc

4. Partner with dimdim and get online web conferencing built in also

and the last one to me is the biggest, Zimbra comes with a plugin into salesforce.com, add that plugin, and sell Zimbra accounts to every SME in India complete with a low cost online CRM system, QED

One more thing, I accept cheques in any currency ๐Ÿ™‚

For all those others ISP’s, portals, Zimbra is opensource, you can download and install yourself, and give to your customers. the paid version is a per mailbox offering, but is more network robust (opensource one can be hacked to achieve same thing). But to me the power in Zimbra is NOT the email (that is dead…or will be) but the open platform, and the use of email as a base to upsell other services.

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It’s big, It’s back and it’s hairy…Proto

Okay not so much of the hairy part, but Proto has just finished over in Chennai, and although alot of companies have presented, my interest lies only with the Internet ones. So here goes:

Have covered this one last year, but for all those who haven’t heard about it, tolmolbol across like a social network, but underneath the covers there is far more, you can post classifieds, search for businesses, or even write reviews. The UI is a pleasure for an Indian based entity, but I have a nagging doubt that it does too much, in fact it does everything, tells you the best restaurants, allows you to search for businesses, question is “Whats the focus?, Why would I goto Tolmolbol?”

Since its a local guide, wouldn’t it be great if I could have local offers on this website for local people, i.e if I live in Saket (Delhi), then local businesses their would give me a discount (Note: for a coupon system get in touch with offersforshoppers).

I’m perplexed, its seems to be along the lines of the old link exchanges, except here you are not really exchanging links, but can create an ad (this part is really simple, you login, create ad, place budget, and then place onto a list of websites, such as indiatimes) , so instead of exchanging links Tyroo have taken the google adwords model and moulded it somewhat.

Downside is that googles adword model covers millions of websites, whereas this covers 10-12 (I am sure this will grow). So if you are a small business you can now get ads on some of the biggest portals in India for a minimal cost, and little effort.

I leave this quick review with a question “Have you looked at tailgate? that is where the banner ads are going, transactional banners”

Interesting!, they have some money in the bag, hence someone else out there likes it also. What this website aims to do, is make your life easier, i.e take care of the information overload, and allow you to find what you want, when you want.

I am sure there is some complex algorithm working behind the scenes here. So how does it work ? You register, and then add your favorite blogs/feeds etc, you then get some html to cut and paste into your website, which effectively feeds through info from the blogs you have added. For example, I would add a few blogs I like, send the html code to my friends, they now start getting the feed that they want.

Again I end this post with a question, “Wouldn’t a product like findory work better?, no registration, no adding of blogs, simply click on links and as you do, it fine tunes all the feeds on your home page” Taking this to another level, lets say I had minekey had 20000 blogs added to there website, and I pasted that code to my website, wouldn’t it be great if every time I clicked on a hyperlink, that my feed were fine tuned…maybe this is what happens ๐Ÿ™‚

Wow, one word, I am lost more than most in Delhi, in fact all of India, being from the UK, and I just tested with 3 delhites sitting next to me, We tested Saket Sports complex to Pandara road, and Qutab enclave to New Friends (Note: Bug here, I get Faridabad twice here ). It worked perfectly, okay enough of the congratulations, for those who didn’t work it out from the name, or my description, Routeguru helps you find your way. You can have the directions sent to you via sms also.

Loved it, really did, the difference between this and most mapping websites, is that it works like we currently work, it minimizes the use of street names, but uses points of interest, eg, Pass ESC hospital on the left, and then petrol pump on the right, first mapping tool that works in India, guys I know a team in Bangalore who are looking to integrate maps into their website, get in touch. Awesome, and guess what no questions ๐Ÿ™‚
As the website says, voice and personal messaging. Its quite simple really, you can get your friends (and enemies) to dial a local number in India, and leave you a voicemail which you can access via the web. For example, if I am travelling, they can leave me a message, and I can pick it up just as I retrieve my email. But I have lots of questions for this one…deep breath

1. Can I just redirect my existing voicemail (say with airtel to this number), i.e users can then just dial my normal mobile number, and when it switches to voicemail it goes to your network.

2. What about voice to sms, look at spinvox, they have built a platform, which allows you to send a voicemail, which gets converted to sms and sent back to you, great if in a meeting.
3. What about integrating this into some note taking system, e.g. there are lots listing, todo list systems out there like tadalists, vitalist, basecamp etc, now what if I could send myself a voicemail, this would then get sent via email to my list. Look at vitalist forum, they do this with a voice provider in the US, you are traveling, need to add a note, you dial a number, send message, it gets added to your todo list. This would then be a premium product you could sell.

If you want hotels, without the fuss, and want to read what others have said, Inasra is the place to head. You fine tune your results, first by city, and then by items such as price, cuisine , ratings etc. They claim to have 3500 hotels, which I guess would appeal to most tastes. Currently with a lack of reviews, it looks like a directory listing, having said that, I think this has a future, link it up with routeguru above.

Now I’m not really a cricket fan, (admitting this may be a fatal sin in India) hence this review is very biased, why would this be at proto?, don’t get it, and I am not sure what’s web2.0 about it. Its a great cricket portal, where you can play games with your friends etc, but….still confused how does it fit in.

And that brings the web2.0/Internet segment to an end, there were other companies, mobile apps, enterprise, but those you will find on other blogs.My favorite has to be routeguru, it has a focus, it is different, and it solves a problem. To the proto organizers, would it be possible to get a list of those who didn’t make it to the final, I don’t see why they can’t get coverage on the blogs, even if they couldn’t get to the final.In summary, we have a mapping system, a local guide to businesses, hotels, data mining, voicemail and ad network, oh and cricket.Just think if they could all work together, the mapping gets added to the local business and hotel websites (the mapping in return uses the businesses and the hotels in their directions, from where a hyperlink could take them to the appropriate website). The ad system needs to get businesses to buy ads, tolmolbol has these businesses listed, and inasra has hotels listed, ready made target list. The data mining could then be used together with ad system and add info to websites.I know its not perfect, but I feel for any of these startups to get traction they need to work together, burrp over in mumbai has restaurant reviews, which am sure needs directions, offersforshoppers has coupon system which needs businesses, get together guys.

The reviews up above are preliminary, so if something needs to be corrected do get in touch, also I will be reviewing a couple of the ones above in detail on the e-hub blog.

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What’s hot and what’s not – Reviewgist


Nivio has been going great, alot of people have asked for accounts, and we have had to phase them, demand was far higher than we expected, however this post is not about Nivio, but about reviewgist. Guess what its a site which reviews….

Big deal…but wait, when you start to use it it gets better. I was in the market for a laptop, and these days you usually fire an email around to people to ask their opinion, well this website, pulls feedback from other sites such as PCmag, and collates all the positive and negative feedback into one place. In addition it has a nice reviewmeter which lets you easily see what is good and what is not.

It also compares prices, finally someone is comparing prices, but the prices are from US based websites, as are the comments. The useability is a little poor, but with a good UI guy in board this can be changed quickly.

They claim to do semantic search, and without going into too much detail, semantic is the way to go (or at least thats what I’ve been told by an old colleague for the last 4 years). the semantic part allows them to pool together all the reviews, take the ratings, and give the reader a overall sentiment on the product, quite cool. I am not sure how accurate the ratings are, and I guess only real user feedback on the website iself will tell this.
There is a billion dollar market for comparison websites, and review websites, India is way way behind the pack, but hopefully its changing…good luck guys. They are based in gurgaon, and are hiring, to if your looking get in touch.

Oh I promise to be more regular, than I have been, Nivio was killing me, in addition for my sins I am also now a editor on ehub, emilychangs blog in the US, hence will try to get Proto mentioned up there, so any comp who did not get chosen to present at proto, let me know, I’ll try to get you reviewed in ehub.

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