The 19th participant is Confer
Founded by Rod L'Huillier Confer - is a social news-sharing site especially aimed at an Australian audience providing a platform for content recommendation and news sharing. The content is completely community-driven via member submissions of links to blog posts, news stories or even videos that they have found interesting. Members can also vote on submissions to democratically determine the front-page news and most popular content. The site also allows for discussion of submissions and members also have their own personal profile page with networking features.
It aims to be a platform for sharing discovery and engagement in Australian content, particularly from the Aussie blogosphere, and for localised discussion of news and issues be they global or local.

Confer in short:
  • Social News Sharing - Content Recommendation
  • Content discovery via community contribution
  • Discussion - Have your say on local issues
  • Collaborative filtering via voting
  • Independent and community-driven
  • Promoting Australian web content
For Confer putting quality over quantity is important and it's about attracting people who want to be members, not necessarily the most members, and having a platform that suits their needs and to follow a natural path of progression with that in mind. Confer would rather be known as a niche property of value as opposed to a very large toilet wall.

Let us explore a bit further how Rod and Confer are progressing:

Who are the founders behind this and how it started?
Confer isn't backed by any company or company structure and is run by myself, Rod L'Huillier, as an individual with lots of support and assistance from its founding members. Not having any commercial intent, and as a community site for its community, the driving force is the community and also the beneficiary.

Further reasoning for creating the site comes from the belief that while it's great to connect on a global level, via sites like Digg and reddit, there also needs to be platforms that engage audiences in local content. Particularly from the Australian blogosphere where there is a lot of great content being published. Without local platforms it would be hard for that content, which may only be regionally relevant, to truly be discovered by an audience that appreciates it in a social media-driven world.

How long it took before it was up and running?
One month or so and continuing.

What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
Stealthy beta!

What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?

The aims are for it to be a platform for sharing discovery and engagement in Australian content, particularly from the Aussie blogosphere, and for localised discussion of news and issues be they global or local.

What services it provide it for consumers or customers?

A platform for sharing and discovery of web-based content.

What is unique about your venture?
The concept of 'social news sharing' or collaborative filtering/content recommendation in global terms with sites like Digg, reddit and Netscape are nothing new although Confer offers an Australian site for Australians and their stories.

What market segment verticals you are targeting for?

Local - Australia

What type of customers you are targeting?
No defined target

What age group of people will benefit most?

No defined target

How many users are using your services?
There are around 50 active members (submitting, commenting and voting) and a larger number of spectator members.

What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
At this point of development, there is no outward marketing.

How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
At this point, it's all about quality and value over quantity!

What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
The site is currently not monetized, nor is there any immediate goals or requirements to do so. In the future, there may be opportunities to look at three-way value exchanges as opposed to seemingly unsuccessful two exchanges currently being used across many sites.

Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
Major players, on an international scale, are fairly apparent for example digg, propeller, reddit and so on. I think there needs to be a clear understanding of scale and culture, particularly when developing for a local audience in Australia and niches within that audience. It might be a case of being well-known for providing great value in that niche rather than well-known at large.

What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?

Are you using a lot of open source tool sets for this?
The site is based on Pligg open source software. During the coming months there are plans to add asked-for features including Open ID support, ability to export a user's own data and enhanced video and image sharing.

What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?

How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Not enough!

How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
This is possibly the greatest feature of the web economy - that there is such a low entry cost, although, in an evergrowing sea of choices the cost to stand out and be noticed is becoming real and increasing.

What are the main barriers in general for people to start their venture in Australia?
I think like most things the only barriers are the ones you accept.

What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and the market segment you are in?
I find the topic of monetisation interesting and believe, that on a user content-generated site, users should also share in any returns be it capital growth or revenue, I'm sure there will be more debate about this in the future.

I also see mainstream media and news outlets becoming more involved in social media via strong ties with third-party sites as a way to facilitate discussion over stories rather than carrying the load on their site - in terms of moderation and the high level of moderation required for brand protection-related issues.

I would also hope that the deployment of niche collaborative sites continues to grow and reflect the vast diversity of groups within the offline world and that Australian-focused sites are a part of that.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Go for it!

Thanks, Rod for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you in future on the progress of Confer. All the best for Confer and the competition in this carnival.