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Jason Calacanis Announces Launch of Open Angel Forum

Alongside Michael Arrington and TechCrunch, Jason Calacanis has done a great job with the TechCrunch 50 conference - a launchpad for 50 start-ups amid a collection of great roundtable sessions. I have attended each of the last two years and I consider it one of the most productive events of the year. Calacanis is expanding the effort with a new venture: the Open Angel Forum. Formally announced today, the first event will be held January 14th in Los Angeles (with other regions to follow):


The Open Angel Forum is designed to bring together bring together 15-20 high quality angel investors and five companies looking to raise capital. Unlike pay-to-play angel groups like Keiretsu Forum (which charges $6,000 to pitch their four San Francisco chapters!), the Open Angel Forum is free to startups and angel investors. The only people who pay to attend the event are a limited number of service providers (i.e. lawyers, recruiters, etc).

I'm inviting the angel investors I've developed personal relationships with over the years (many of whom have invested in Weblogs, Inc. or Think folks like Sky Dayton, Matt Coffin, Elon Musk, Kevin Rose, Ryan Scott, Mark Cuban, Fred Wilson and Ted Leonsis. I've also started angel investing as you probably know.

You can learn more at Tied to this announcement, Jason stated his intent to invest as an angel in 5-10 startups a year:

"My first two investments are and I'll be announcing two more angel investments in December. My goal is to do 5-10 a year."

Widgetbox Introduces the Blidget Pro

Widgetbox has released the Blidget Pro product: the next generation of our successful Blidget tool. Also worth noting, it is our first subscription-based service ($3.99 / mo or $29.99 / year). The Blidget Pro is a far more powerful version of the Blidget - a tool that has converted nearly 100,000 blogs into widgets and served 2.3 billion impressions since its initial launch in 2007. It represents a major step forward – and the best way to give you a feel for its capabilities is with some samples (the full feature set is below). Please contact me if you are interested in learning more or how Widgetbox can help you and your company:

- Easily create viral, branded widgets without any code - Custom header, footer and/or body assets (jpg, gif, swf, png) - Tab integration for multiple feeds and formats - In-widget video integration for YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo (Hulu example) - New visual layouts (slideshow, brick-mode, headlines with images) - Custom widget linking (header, footer and/or body) - Premium promotion on -Widget analytics (installs, widget views, uniques)

2009 Predictions: More Huffington Posts and Daily Beasts

First there was the Drudge Report.Now there is the Huffington Post. ... And Politico. ... And The Daily Beast.

And as part of my 20 Digital Media Predictions for 2009 series, I am suggesting that there will be others that successfully break into this space.

The Huffington Post

Why? Because five themes are at work here:

1. For the most part, the major news sources aren't yet hip to online traffic and marketing... that leaves a major opportunity for upstart, web savvy online content players who aggregate and create news.

2. It is (relatively) easy to drive traffic in these formats... and it is scalable. With the right team, it is possible to achieve large numbers quickly.

3. Consumers like their content aggregated and they like it delivered in blog-like formats (real-time, easily digestible, full of links).

4. Launching is affordable as it requires little up-front costs (development, dollars, etc). Meanwhile, data is easily accessible such that the business model and audience appetite can be assessed before warranting a full investment / resourcing.

5. Verticals fetch advertising dollars. And this trend will become more apparent in 2009.

Selfishly, I'm Glad Jason Calacanis 'Retired' From Blogging

About a week ago, web 2.0 celebrity / guru Jason Calacanis "officially" announced his retirement from blogging. Most of the blogosphere reaction was that the supposed retirement was either a hoax or a ploy to generate Mahalo buzz:

Starting today all of my thoughts will be reserved for a new medium. Something smaller, something more intimate, and something very personal: an email list. Today the email list has about 600 members, I'm going to cut it off when it reaches 750. Frankly, that's enough more than enough people to have a conversation with. I'm going to try and build a deeper relationship with fewer people--try to get back to my roots.

I found it a little strange that Jason would retire from blogging (despite remaining so active via Twitter, FriendFeed, email and so forth)... but he's really wow'ed me with the quality of content that he's published via the email DL. In a few days, he's delivered rich, thoughtful analysis and news:

- The Fallout (from the load out - How to Generate Feedback for Your Startup (three simple ideas) - How to host an amazing conference - The Dark Knight Reviewed - Quick hits: Party tonight in Santa Monica

If Jason retired in part from blogging to lighten his work load (blogging is hard work)... I think he may have to slow down on the emails. He's now delivered an article a day and each is very good and very lengthy - so he's setting some high expectations!

The "How to generate feedback for your startup" newsletter is nearly 2,000 words (though 1,000 or so are selected user comments) and there aren't many better people to learn scrappy, web 2.0 marketing tips from.

I enjoyed reading Jason's blog... but I'm selfishly enjoying these emails (and the user responses) more.

Mahalo Opens Up; Recognizes the Power of Transparency

In what Jason Calacanis bills as "Wikipedia 3.0", Mahalo has just taken a very major step forward by opening their platform to all registered users. Until now, Mahalo has crafted each of their 50,000 pages by hand (hence the tagline "human powered search"). But by enabling users to directly contribute, create and edit pages - Mahalo is becoming a "human powered portal" or "directory".

What's particularly important about Mahalo's move is their focus on transparency. I am a firm believer that websites and communities work only as well as the users' incentives are aligned. Digg is a terrific example: publishers are incented to submit content; diggers are incented to vote, befriend and share; and everyone is incented to digg as much (and as fairly) as possible.

Jason recognizes that fully opening Mahalo can be noisy or even turbulent ("it's not going to be as freewheeling as Wikipedia day one"). So they have two solutions.

The first isn't scalable over the long term, but important for helping define community interactions and demonstrate proper behaviors: "[Mahalo's] staff is going to check every edit made and confirm it is correct. We have three full-time folks on this right now and our expectation is we will only get 10-50 editors per day."

The second solution is to make activity fully transparent and consequently establish self-imposed community guidelines and incentives. Mahalo has made their User Activity Dashboard public. It's the same dashboard that their staff follows internally. By publishing this content and making the community's behavior fully transparent - there is an incentive to behave properly and frequently (attention and reputation!) and there is a consequence for misbehaving (your actions are public and tied to an account).

Most importantly, it establishes accountability. Users are accountable for their actions. Vertical specialists are accountable for the changes in their verticals. Readers become accountable for validating the quality (or lack thereof) of an article. And Mahalo staffers become accountable for either enabling or disabling content, users and topics.

Available data in the Dashboard: - Recommended Links - Declined Recommended Links - Note Edits - Message Board Posts

Is Mahalo's Growth Coming From Video Games?

Mahalo has grown very nicely over last two quarters and, according to Quantcast, now reach over 800,000 uniques monthly. While my searching behavior still starts at Google and goes to Wikipedia for informational needs - I find myself using Mahalo for topics that are either: 1) very current (Google still struggles breaking news within results sets - see American Idol finalists) 2) wide but shallow (lots of content but no definitive / authoritative leader)

Apparently users agree that for Mahalo works for video games searches (which work for both of the above bullets). Below are the top 20 Mahalo pages - 13 of which are gaming related. And if you look at Quantcast's related websites, there is a theme of gaming (see below).

Mahalo has a video games hub, but it might make sense to create / pursue a deeper video game portal or network (Wikia is experimenting there).

Gaming Information Affinity 14.2x 12.2x 10.7x 10.0x

Top 20 Mahalo Pages

  1. Lost Odyssey Walkthrough
  2. Devil May Cry 4 Walkthrough
  3. Pavlik Taylor Live Coverage
  4. Debbie Clemens Photos
  5. Guitar Hero 3 Wii Cheats
  6. Guitar Hero III Cheats
  7. How to Play Guitar for Newbies
  8. 2008 Grammy Performances
  9. Net Gun
  10. Turok Xbox 360 Walkthrough
  11. Penumbra Black Plague Walkthrough
  12. Bush Tax Rebate 2008
  13. Guitar Hero 3 Song List
  14. Halo 3 Armor
  15. Guitar Hero 3 Xbox 360 Cheats
  16. 2 Girls, 1 Cup
  17. The Simpsons Game Walkthrough
  18. Halo 3 Skulls
  19. Pokemon Crater
  20. David Tarloff