Dimdim – The art of sharing

DimDim

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 🙂

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 allows  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 🙂

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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How do you raise $10million ….. Asklaila

Asklaila

Nope, I am not on drugs, and most of whom read this article, will have already learned of the news, hence am a little behind the times, but I prefer to be the tortoise and not the hare…

$10million raised from Lightspeed, Matrix and SVB. Now I am never one to question money, in fact the more startups which get money the more will benefit, BUT I think we need to take a closer look at what asklaila is, so in my xmas period I decided to see what it does.

I think the Asklaila team may hunt me down if I was to call it a search engine, BUT it does have a really big search box on it :-). But who am I to call a Pie a Pie, what asklaila is supposed to be is a local review service…again I am not sure of this because their FAQ link does not work either.

Asklaila allows you to rate a search result. Imagine searching for Pizza, if the link is good you login to asklaila and you rate the website. Its a good way of ensuring the best links get to the top. BUT and this is not asklailas fault, user’s tend to only view the first handful of results, hence the ones which are rated will always get to the top and get rated again, the others will not see the light of day. This is similar to the problems that Digg is now facing , a few users control what most people actually view. I haven’t had time to test the spam protection, I hope it is there.

In addition Asklaila allows you to send the search results by sms and email to others…always a nice touch.

But thats it, it seems to have some sort of directory, and seems to be a mix of manually created indexes, and automated results, i.e a cross between Yahoo of old and Google of today. The rating feature is a nice touch, but Mr Google has also thought of this feature…and is about to launch across its website.

If Asklaila is a local review website, it should be a little concerned that websites like Judy’s Book, Zipingo, and Insider Pages, have all closed their doors in one way or another.

I am not a user of asklaila, and am yet to come across someone who is, I would really like to hear from anyone, man women, child, mammal (of any kind) who is using this, cause I maybe missing something here.

On a side note: Guruji I hear has pulled in another $10 million in addition to the $7million is has burned through

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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 🙂

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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Paahijen – Okay I don’t know what this means

paahijenThis website has two heads, one seems to be a tag based advertising system called Tagwise, and the other a multi-lingual scratchpad.

Lets deal with tagwise first, From the quick glance I took, it allows you to post an ad for something you have to offer or something you want. For example someone has posted that they need a flat, great so its a for sale/wanted website. Which is fine, but why would I use this website? It allows you to vote on ad also, which I just haven’t managed to work out, why I would want to vote or rate an ad. Unless of course it allows me to do group buying of a product.

In short, that is tagwise, so what about scratchpad. I think this is superb, but would benefit from looking at how rediffmail works with other fonts and languages, i.e the way it suggests words. Scratchpad allows you to enter in a word, pick a language (there are 11 of them, one of which is Oriya…someone want to tell me where that is from). The word then gets converted into that font, and you can then use it where/how you wish. Again basic concept is good, but now it needs to pluginto something which I can use, what if I could download this and install as a outlook plugin, what if I could take this and mash it up with Gmail, or Zimbra (Now there is an idea, get this language setup to work with Zimbra).

Maybe its a slow day for me, but this website has two heads, which just do not fit onto the same body, the tag system looks okay, but on its own not much happening, and the scratchpad again really good, but more of a value add to other tools, than a stand alone…..but then the world is full of mash-ups…maybe this needs to be used there.

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Indian Hotels – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Indian Hotel Review

Well that’s what I thought. Indianhotelreview, as the name suggest is supposed to be a website which reviews hotels. But its not…well not just that.

When you first visit the website, you get hit with a very busy website. Which has answers to question, contain a review, links to google, links to smileys, and an array of other confusing items. Eventually I managed to search for a city, when I typed in Delhi, I received a list of hotels, but no reviews, then I tried Mumbai…and no hotels appeared at all. You can of course register, but I can’t see a purpose.

I think the concept is great, but the execution well its killing me (forgive the pun ) . In the end it seems like a website where you can book a hotel, and the review side has fallen to the side. I think a place where people can come and leave their comments about their experience, whether its hotels, or food (like burrp.com) is great, but why ruin it with all the frills, like google ads.

Anyhow, one good feature, was the “Ask a city expert”, here you can pose a question about a city, and get a reply from a local person, always good when you need to gather ground level information.

Good luck guys, please remove the ads, the money will come but first you need the customers.

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