Every day I spend an hour or two curating a set of links that I find provocative, useful, or important, adding a few lines of commentary to boot. It’s called Signal, and you can consume it in three ways – as an email newsletter (sign up on the Signal Home Page in the upper right hand corner), in your RSS reader, or on the web.
For those of you who like to click on links, here are the last three Signals for your enjoyment:
Thanks for reading…and I hope my August semi-break, coming soon, will allow me to write longer pieces here with more frequency. I’ve been hard at work on some Web 2 Summit projects, expect more on that late next month.
I’m proud of the team that put the CM Summit together, and this reel. Well done folks!
For all 186K of you loverly RSS readers, here are the past five Signals:
If you squint, it almost looks like a weekly newsmagazine!
I thought it meant to search! Apparently, in this context, it means “to drop Microsoft Office and use our software!”
I almost feel like a relic pointing out the obvious, but when I got my latest paper-based Fortune magazine (yes, I do subscribe to a few still), I found the image at left on the back cover.
Long ago, while writing the book, I predicted that Google, long proud of the fact it never had to market its brand, would have to start marketing like a “normal” company. Why? Because while search “markets itself”, applications like Picasa won’t.
And so it has been, and so it continues. In January of this year, when my attention turns to predictions, I said that Google will have to decide to promise more as a brand than “search.” In May, I pointed out that this concept was progressing.
Not that big a deal, I suppose, given that the years have come and gone, and we’ve turned our attention to other Internet meteors like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Except…I still find it significant that the king of the Web has purchased the back page of an analog magazine. If for no other reason that this entry in the database of intentions – this blog post – may be discovered by some anthropologist in centuries yet to come, as proof of some point yet unmade.
Still and all, I am fascinated by what it means that Google, the verb that means “to search”, is being used by Google, the company, to mean something entirely different.
Tomorrow I will be at the Geo Loco conference in SF, interviewing Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures, investor in Twitter, Zynga, Etsy, Tumblr, Foursquare, and many others, and general good guy.
Fred is great on stage, and we have a lot to talk about, given our mutual interests. But as I was preparing for the discussion, I pinged Fred and asked if he thought it’d be a good idea if I asked all of you for input. Of course he said yes.
So, what do you want to hear from Fred? What should I ask him?
Who remembers the utter gold rush that was the Facebook Platform back in 2007, back when everyone, and honestly, really, EVERYONE, in the industry was busy answering the question “What’s Your Facebook Platform strategy?”
Well I sure do. At FM, we had meetings to address this question, meetings driven by me, by my staff and my senior executives, and of course, by our investors, who were asking the same question of every portfolio company they had. (And…do you believe…when Facebook launched Platform, it only had 20mm users?!)
Fortunately, our “Facebook strategy” was to not drop everything and start developing apps for the new environment. Despite the extraordinary hype, we took a measured approach, working with a few clear winners (like Graffiti), and waiting to see how it might all play out.
Fast forward a few years, and it’s clear that a very small set of important companies have managed to lever the original Facebook Platform into real value – Zynga, Slide come to mind – but I’m not certain the amount of energy put into the Platform ever netted out a gross ROI for all who threw themselves into the race.
Now, three months after all the Open Graph announcements at this year’s f8, I find myself wondering – where are all the web-based Facebook applications and services? It seems to me that Facebook has won, big time, in terms of getting folks to adopt “Likes.” But where are the developers and the awesome new ideas? Am I missing something? Is Facebook going to go toe to toe with Google, Apple, and Microsoft for the hearts and wallets of the developer?
From what I can tell, Facebook’s privacy tempest has delayed the formation of what I expected to be another goldrush. And no, I’m not talking about publishers who have incorporated “Likes”. I’m talking about entirely new or re-formulated web and mobile services that leverage unique data feeds from Facebook so as to bring entirely new value into the world. We’ve seen a fair amount of this from the Twitter ecosystem (though still and all, not as much as we might see soon). In the case of Facebook, however, I expected that by now we’d have seen a bunch of super cool services. But so far, none.
Again, am I missing something? What are you planning to do with the Facebook APIs? And what do you wish you could do, but so far, can’t, despite the announcements at f8 last April?
(Image above is from the Web 2 Summit, where Mark Zuckerberg will again grace the stage and converse with me).
The media really, really, really loves to write about Apple and the iPhone these days. It reminds me of Google in 2004, when the media fell in love with the concept of search.
Besides the antennae story, which I find hopelessly over reported, the latest iPhone rhapsody has been how many iPhone 4s Apple has sold – apparently, 3 million as of last Friday. Friday was July 16th. The iPhone 4 launched on June 24, so that’d be 23 days to reach the 3 million mark.
3 million phones in 23 days – that’s a pretty strong clip, the fastest sales of an Apple phone to date, Mashable reports. If I do the math, that’s more than 130,000 phones a day.
But did anyone in the press notice Google’s little announcement, the day before Apple launched its iPhone 4? This one? The one where Google said, and I quote:
“Every day 160,000 Android-powered devices are activated — that’s nearly two devices every second.”
Yep, that’d be 30K MORE phones a day than Apple. And my guess is that Android’s pace is accelerating, while the iPhone 4 is probably sliding downward, given how many folks bought it at launch (Mashable reports that 1.7 million were sold in first three days, so 1.3 million the next 20 days). In fact, if you do THAT math, and divide 1.3 million by 20 days, you get 65,000 iPhone 4s sold each day, which is nearly 100,000 less, PER DAY, than Android phones.
Is that story anywhere in the press? Not that I see.
As far as I can tell, Android-based phones will far outnumber any other smart phone by year’s end. Apple, meet your new Windows. It’s name is Android.
In this overwraught essay, a novelist yearns for a time before addiction to technology slowly drained us of our humanity.
I don’t buy it.
We can both be connected and be fulfilled. We can stop, disconnect, read a book, make love without checking our devices for updates. And we can also be connected, while still being human. In fact, being human is being connected. We’ll figure out the instrumentation that works for us.
Can we misuse it? Yes. Will we? Yes. Do I believe that we’ll figure out the right balance, even as we redefine what it means to be human, thanks to our ability to connect in new ways? Of course.
If you want to go upstate and read a book, by all means go do it. But read this review – in the same issue of the NYT – of “Hamlet’s Blackberry” while you’re at it. We’ll evolve. Just, perhaps, not into who you want to be. Which is fine. Stay gold, Ponyboy.
I’ve written before about my relationship with Foursquare, and I’m sure I will again. I’ve tweeted my complaint that the “friend” mechanism is poorly instrumented (in various ways), and I should note that this is certainly not just a Foursquare problem (more on “Friendstrimentation” shortly).
But today I wanted to build on my earlier post, “My Location Is a Box of Cereal,” and Think Out Loud a bit about what I’d really like to do on Foursquare: I’d like to check into a state of mind.
What do I mean by that?
Well, imagine that instead of checking into a physical location, as Foursquare is mostly constrained today, I check into the state of mind I might call “In the market for a car.” Or perhaps I check into “playing a great game of poker with my friends.” Or maybe I check into “pretty bummed out about the death of my cat.”
I think you get the point. The check in is, as I’ve argued elsewhere, more than a declaration of where I am. It’s also a declaration of my state of mind, as well as my openness to a response from someone who might provide me with value.
In short, the checkin is a search, waiting for a response. And there’s no reason to constrain that search query to location.
What matters is that as users of this particular brand of search, we get good results. And the jury is well out on that concept, at least to date.
Here’s what I’d like to have happen when I check in to the state of mind I’ll call “In the market for a car.” This is a commercial checkin, of course, and I’d be well aware of that when I checked in. So what might I expect?
First, the ecosystem of businesses eager to sell me a car become aware of my status, and are prepared to respond in an instrumented fashion. I use the word “instrumented” very directly here – the last thing I want is a bunch of spam results – pointless, irrelevant come ons for brands or models in which I most likely have no interest. If that’s what I wanted, I’d just use a search engine. After all, most of search is instrumented, for the most part, against my query, and my query alone. On a service like Foursquare, I’d expect the response to be far more nuanced.
How? Well, I’ve given Foursquare permission to use my Facebook social graph, for one, and my Twitter interest graph, for another. So when I check into Foursquare, I’d expect a response that understands who I am, who I know, what my interests are, and how I compare, as a cohort, to others like me, who may have also in the past checked into a similar “state of mind.”
Add even more social and interest data to the mix, and you can see how this starts to get pretty interesting.
I’d expect a response that 1. knows who I am is personalized in a meaningful way, 2. surprises or delights me with an offer of value to my search, and 3. respects the fact that I might not be ready to act, at least not yet.
Organizing all this data and response isn’t an easy task. But then again, neither was building out the infrastructure we currently understand to be search. Once the checkin is loosed from the chains of pure location, the potential for connecting to customers in conversation at scale, and at an intimate level, is far too great for this use case to not exist.
A final thought on Foursquare, since I’m on about it. I really wish it was easier to create temporary or unique “venues” or states of mind. For example, last night about 125 folks came to the Web 2 dinner at a local SF restaurant. Many of them “checked into” the actual restaurant, but wouldn’t it have been a lot more fun if, when they came and fired up Foursquare, they saw a new “venue” that had been created, perhaps by the first person there, or perhaps by the organizer, called “The Web 2 Premiere Dinner”? And further, wouldn’t it be cool if the organizer, sponsor, or anyone else involved in the dinner could attach some kind of value to folks who might check in?
Now sure, I know you can create a new venue on the fly, and many do (I saw a pal who checked into “The Dog House” a while back, because he did something that upset his wife. I loved that). But the process to do so is awkward and difficult at best. Foursquare can and should encourage such behavior, and provide resources for us to intelligently curate the results.
Doing so would be a big step toward an ecosystem of search that was driven by the equivalent of a “social query” driven by a state of mind as much a location. And when the two connect, well, so much the better (read The Gap Scenario for more on that.)
OK, back to work, all.