How I Photosynth'd my family room

I just put up a Photosynth of my family room. Unfortunately you need a Windows machine to view it. But, this is a combination of 50 images I made this afternoon with my Canon 5D.

It took only a few minutes to upload them all and complete the Photosynth. Very easy to do. Anyone can do it, you just need to plan out your Photosynth a bit. Sort of like a big stitched panorama, except that people can “walk” through the images and zoom into different ones.

Can you find the photo of our 11-month-old son, Milan?

"Demo of the year" of 2006 released by Microsoft

If you go to Google and search for “demo of the year” you’ll find my 2006 post about Microsoft’s Photosynth. It was that good. The demo is still among my favorite I’ve ever seen (and I’ve sat through thousands of demos).

A few minutes ago Microsoft released Photosynth for all of us to use.

What does Photosynth do? You take a bunch of photos of something, like the outside of your house. Shoot a bunch from different locations. It’s best to have between 20 and 300 photos, the Photosynth team tells me. Then it creates a 3D mesh of all the photos that you can “walk” through. There are several demo Photosynths on the site.

I am uploading some of my family room right now, will let you know how that works later tonight. Just wanted to let you know you can play with it too.

UPDATE: My images are now uploaded so you can see a Photosynth of my family room (can you find baby Milan?) and O’Reilly has a nice writeup on the release.

UPDATE2: There’s even more on TechMeme.

Where Google and Facebook are fighting the next monetization battle

Think about something you’ve purchased recently. How did you decide to buy that thing?

In my buying behavior I find that I can split it up into three phases:

1. Need generation. This is what happens when someone shows you something you didn’t know you wanted, but that you immediately get interested in. It might be a TV show (how many people will visit China over the next few years because of what they are seeing on TV at the Olympics. I bet a ton).
2. Research. You’ve decided to buy something, say a new car, but now you need to figure out which one is best for you. Some of the things you do here are to ask your friends, look online for reviews, read Consumer Reports, etc etc.
3. Purchase. You’ve decided what you want, now you go looking for the best place to complete the transaction.

Think through to the best businesses on the Internet. Most that I can think of fit into one or several of these three phases.

Google, for instance, makes billions of dollars from advertisers who want to help you complete a transaction. Do a search for digital cameras, for instance, and there you’ll see ads.

But competing with Google is not really possible, even for a huge multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft.

So, since Google has pretty much locked up the last phase, where is the next Internet monetization battle taking place?

Both Facebook and Google are beating each other up to lock up the next phase: social recommendation and participation.

Google calls this FriendConnect.

Facebook calls this “Facebook Connect.”

Yesterday I visited Facebook to get an up close look at Facebook Connect. I had previously attended the Google FriendConnect launch and even videoed that with my cell phone.

It’s interesting, though, that both of these systems haven’t gotten widespread use yet. It’s also interesting that the teams both struggle to explain why a normal business would use these technologies in their own business’ sites. At least in language that a normal person who isn’t a Facebook addict would understand.

So, let me simplify into a single sentence. Adding social networking features to your corporate sites helps your users through the research phase of the buying process.

These will get widespread use over the next few years as stories come out about successes.

But let’s look at one site that’s very close to what I’m talking about.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library.TV.

Now, Gary owns a wine store in New Jersey that is selling about $50 million per year in wine. That means he has the third phase of the buying process nailed down. He’s the Google of the New Jersey wine market.

So, how is he changing his business? (He calls it bringing thunder to the wine industry).

His website and show are TOTALLY about extending his reach into the other phases of the buying process.

His video show creates the need in your head to try more wine. Today’s show gets me to try out some Italian sparkling wine. I had no idea before I watched that show that I needed to try that wine.

Now, notice what happens next. Look at the comments. 136 of them when I wrote this post. You can see the research phase of the buying process happening there. People are recommending different wines than Gary did, or backing up what Gary said, etc.

Now, Gary is WAY AHEAD of most other wine stores. I went to Google and searched for “Wine store” and found wine.com.

But notice that they don’t even get close to creating the need in my head for different kinds of wine that Gary does. Video is unparalleled for creating need for new things.

And, also notice that if you wanted to research Wine that they don’t have the same kind of research community that Gary is building.

Now, could wine.com go past winelibrary.tv in the research phase? Yes. They already are tracking top contributors to their reviews. But using Facebook’s Connect they could go way further: they could tie their contributors into Facebook itself and add all sorts of interesting interactive features. I know that if a friend of mine, like Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, buys a paticular wine that it’ll be good (Loic has great taste in wine).

By making the site more personal and bringing my friend’s choices into a site like this it’ll convert me to more wine sales at a far higher rate than it does today.

But imagine if Gary’s site did that. He already is 90% there (he’s always on Twitter interacting with people and his video show is just so much more of a personal experience than reading the reviews on wine.com).

If I were a marketer I’d be trying to figure out how to stay up with Gary. Why? Well, do you think his viewers are going to price shop Gary? Hell no. How do you stay up with Gary’s concept? Google and Facebook’s new APIs are the way to do that.

What do you think? Are you thinking of using more social features on your website?

My blog about other blogs

I’m getting back into using Google Reader. I took a few months off (mostly) because of my fascination with FriendFeed but found that everytime I opened Google Reader I was getting smarter than by reading TechMeme or FriendFeed or Twitter.

There’s real meat in the 600+ blogs I subscribe to (and 500 friends on Google Talk bring me even more news).

Anyway, I’ve been trying to write a note on each blog I share. Today I looked at that and realized it’s a blog about other blogs.

If you notice that I’ve been blogging here less lately, it’s because I’ve spread my attention out to other places. Hope you’re enjoying this because I only share things that impress me and now that I have the ability to put a note on each item I share, hopefully you find that more useful too.

Making better Facebook video 606 pixels at a time

Yesterday I did a couple of interviews at Facebook’s headquarters that’ll be up over the next couple of weeks. But in between I stopped at Chris Putnam’s desk. I’ve known him since he was 16, living in Atlanta (he showed me a web service he built so that people on the Internet could listen to him practice his piano). Anyway, he’s the guy who built Facebook’s video system. Interesting that he has three monitors on his desk. One of which shows how many videos are sitting in a queue waiting to be encoded.

That got me to ask him what’s some things that would help his encoder out and also give you the best possible quality on Facebook for video.

He said that making your videos 606 pixels across would keep his encoder from having to scale down your video size. I did a Google search on 606 pixels and haven’t found anyone else that’s shared that data.

Which shows one of the reasons I blog: to get things into Google so I can pull them out later.

Ahh, the interesting things you learn by asking questions of the geeks who build the technologies we all use. Thanks Chris and Facebook for a most interesting day yesterday.