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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Q & A With iUpload CEO Robin Hopper

I honestly didn't "get it". All the recent Q & A Between Robin Hopper & Jason Dowdell hype around iUpload bewildered me and I was unable to figure out what everyone was talking about. So Renee kindly set up a call between iUpload's CEO Robin Hopper and myself and now I find myself gulping the kool aid. Hopefully the question and answer session will remove some of your questions about what they're up to as well. Enjoy! Q. What are the advantages of using iUpload versus WordPress or any other blogging app with user mgmt. and workflow features that I can download and host on my own box? A. The similarities between what we offer compared to WordPress or other blogging apps probably begin and end with the fact that they are both blog based. Other blog applications offer group blog/guest author capabilities and have very simple workflow features (i.e., submissions from author A will be held as drafts, letting multiple people create and maintain a blog. While we do have guest authoring, our approach is very different in that we provide our clients with their own branded blog network and they can give out blogs to any number of individuals. Those individuals can blog about whatever they'd like and an extensive set of administration tools supporting an unlimited number of workflow/approvals can liberate content from those individual blogs for use on any of their web properties or even other applications. The approach means that the very best content being created in individual blogs can be discovered without necessarily knowing or visiting that individual blog. At the same time, you get all the benefits of individual blogs like tapping into the smaller spheres of influence of each blog, two-way conversation creation, putting a friendly face on the organization, etc., etc. Here's a post I did on my blog a while back that also tries to illustrate the differences: Q. Currently partnering with Pheedo for incorporating Ads into feeds, are there any other key areas you'd like to partner with a company on rather than manage in-house? A. The recent Pheedo partnership allows community owners and/or individual blog site owners to incorporate ads in both their feeds and in their sites themselves and is one of many partnerships we have with more coming soon. A key feature of our application suite is something we call Perspectives (released in beta a couple of weeks ago). Perspectives is very much about partnerships and partners to date include Tribe, Salesforce, Plaxo, Yahoo, Technorati and others. Essentially Perspectives lets you participate in diverse communities all from the friendly confines of your own blog - for example, I might post something on my blog site about an item that I have for sale and apply a "classifieds perspective" which may make the information accessible from a number of classified sites or perhaps eBay. As a business example I may post content to my web site or to my corporate blog and apply a "crm perspective" which could control who (customers vs. partners vs. staff) would actually be able to view the content on the site. Q. I've used the free blogging account and have found some good and some not so good features in it. How different is the business blogging app than the free account? A. The free blogging account really just lets you see the lowest level of what I've outlined above - the individual blogs themselves. The business blogging application builds on this and differences include: Customizable Templates - clients can provide full template libraries for individual bloggers to choose from and/or let them customize for build their own templates Skinned application - the blog application itself is "skinned" as our clients Definable feature set per client - the features offered to individual blogger is definable by our clients meaning they can decide what features are appropriate for their bloggers right down to even the buttons in the rich text editor that appear. Premium options - clients can offer different versions of blogs including paid-for versions Quick post & guest author facilities - lets clients create another level of author, i.e., the casual contributor that doesn't need his/her own blog but can participate just by filling in a form. Custom URL - communities define their url and the naming convention and options (allow domain mapping for example) for their bloggers. Community of blogs admin - the entire community admin and editorializing module is not part of the free version. Q. How does "cross-posting" get moderated? Suppose I don't want my bosses' posts showing up willy nilly on my blog cause my friends will think I'm a flakey brown-noser? Do I, as a grunt employee, have any control over that? A. We're not really about cross posting between blogs or having people stick stuff in each others blogs (although I guess customers could enable that if they really wanted to). Our approach is intended to let companies have some control over the branding of individual blogs (although its entirely up to them how much control or freedom they want to offer their community of bloggers), let individuals post what they want in those individual blogs, then liberate the best content for re-use on other properties. Because our clients "own" the templates offered to their individual bloggers they can push relevant information out to those individual blogs if they'd like (examples might be recent news or press releases, sponsor ads, top headlines, etc.) Moderation the other way is quite extensive. An entire community administration interface lets staff review content authored in individual blogs, editorialize it, target it for reuse on other web properties, send it through an appropriate approval process, etc. It even lets you monitor trends... For example suppose at the admin level you notice staff are blogging a lot of tips for using one of your products and you decide that it would be great to display appropriate tips in the product section of your main website... Click on categories, create the new category for the tips, search to display a list of relevant posts and either approve all or select the most appropriate and that's it you have a new section for your website. Q. Do you see this as something that will get adopted by companies in specific verticals first or something that will get picked up by large corporate accounts in various industries with no focus on any vertical in particular? A. The short answer is "yes". Because this is completely branded there will end up being verticals that grasp it quickly based on implementations that we've already done. Of course we gain a fair bit of expertise in these areas so it's natural that we end up with successes in different verticals. A couple of early verticals for us have been publishers (citizen journalism applications), reality television shows (fan blogs), large brand companies (photo and other contests), and the more horizontal corporate blogging applications. However, the platform really is a good fit for any organization that wants its constituents (staff, customers, partners, citizens, etc.) to blog. Q. Is it fair to say this is like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups for corporations, but with a blogging platform instead of a forum as the base? A. While post from individual blogs could be rolled up and presented in a discussion forums, it's really is much more than that, for example, content from individual blogs could build entire intranets or websites... An unlimited number of community categories let you get as granular with the application as you'd like and respond to different initiatives very quickly. Think of it as an enabling platform for almost any opensource marketing initiative. Q. What are the hosting options? Can I host it on my own boxes? I assume there's a hosted solution option and if so, am I sharing the same database / machine as 1,000 other corporate accounts or do I have my own boxes and database? A. The iUpload Application Suite is delivered in the application service provider model. Like asp's in other industries like we're not implementing individual iterations of the application for each client but run the application across an extensive, redundant and load balanced datacenter facility. The Application Suite is in it's 6th generation and has been employed by organization large and small to not only manage public web content but also very private and secure intra and extranet content. Q. Is there an API for this? A. Yes, although not available to the public using the free version of blog, there is a publishing api for our corporate customers. We also have an API for Perspectives that we'll start to make available to the public in the coming quarter. Q. What's the licensing model? A. Pricing model is monthly subscription primarily comprised of a base fee for the application and all the administrative modules and incremental fees based on the number of users and/or blogs you wish to empower people with. Smaller communities with basic administration and aggregation requirements start at $100/mth while large communities with the full administration console starts at $1000/mth.

By Jason Dowdell at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

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