March 10, 2008

How I Found or Started Using A Dozen Web Services

I was talking with a friend the other day about one of the Web services I use on a daily basis. When they asked about how I first learned of the site, I couldn't really remember. Did I get invited? Did I just log in? Did a friend tell me about it? No idea.

So, I thought I'd take a look backward and share how I found out about some things, or what the driving reason was to join others... and maybe you can tell me any interesting stories you have along the same lines.

(Presented in no particular order...)

1) MySpace (

I don't use MySpace, per se. I certainly don't have a MySpace page. But in 2005, when I was hosting the Oakland A's themed ANtics here (instead of on PhotoBucket), I saw a lot of traffic from random MySpace pages. Enough folks thought highly enough of the comics to post them in comments or their profile, so I got a dummy login and can now click through to see what people are saying about them. And this... I promise you... is the only way I ever use MySpace.

2) Facebook (

Like with MySpace, I avoided Facebook as long as I could. The social network seemed more appropriate for my younger sister, a college student, than it did for me. When Facebook opened up, I still resisted, but I couldn't help being lured in by all the talk of Mario Romero's Feedheads application, which tagged the most popular shared items in Google Reader. I got a Facebook account almost solely to use his application, and then ended up sticking around. I still don't consider myself a major Facebook user, but have gained a good number of "friends" on the site, and play Scrabulous with the family.

3) Feedheads (

See #2, basically. Robert Scoble lusted after Mario Romero's excellent application, and his reviews were so glowing that I was willing to join a social network just to get it. The fact that this functionality hasn't yet been written into Google Reader directly still baffles me.

4) Twitter (

I first publicly swore I would never use Twitter, and then later, after asking the community's opinion, reversed my stance and joined the service. The honest #1 reason I joined? Because I felt in the wake of my highly visible argument with Mashable, that just maybe the entire event could have been minimized with a few well-placed "tweets" to Mark Hopkins. While we had tagged each other on e-mail, the responsiveness just wasn't as fast as it could have been with Twitter, and that helped me jump the shark, to avoid a recurrence, although admittedly the argument eventually made me a lot more friendly with Mark and the Mashable team than ever would have otherwise.

5) FriendFeed (

It's funny, I can't tell you if I was ever invited to FriendFeed by anyone in particular during their closed beta period. But in a discussion on Robert Scoble's site about Feedheads being his favorite Facebook application, one commenter asked, "What do you think of Friendfeed (, and their Facebook app ?", saying it did even more than Feedheads could. I went back to Facebook and saw the FriendFeed application did exactly as advertised. (Oddly, my Apple Mail tells me I got in on October 17th, the same day I first announced Feedheads getting its new name, while the comment's time stamp is October 18th.)

6) Spokeo (

I had never heard of Spokeo until I met with their VP of Marketing at a Plug and Play tech conference last fall. The demo was enticing enough for me to sign up. (See my initial coverage here) The site's still interesting, and it's been fun to watch their development, but given the lack of interactivity, I've defaulted to FriendFeed for sure.

7) Reddit (

A few years ago, I was asked to be emcee for a local talent show. While there was no way I would have even thought of attending, let alone participating, the option to be in control was too much to pass up. I think the same thing happened with Reddit. I'd largely ignored the service, in favor of Digg, but when Reddit allowed for custom Reddits to be built, and MG Siegler of ParisLemon came calling with the idea for an elite Reddit, I jumped on board.

8) ReadBurner (

It's almost not fair to post this one, now that Alexander Marktl has taken it down, but I saw some oddities in my referral logs, coming from a server hosted on the Amazon Web service. I clicked through and it was amazing to find this incredible service without a domain name or any Google traction. (See the first story from January 7th here) For two months, ReadBurner shined like the Phoenix, but came crashing down to ash after the developer let real life get in the way.

9) LinkRiver (

Another referral logs hero.

Adam Stiles had been using LinkRiver on his own site for some time, and I had largely ignored it, thinking it was one user's pet project. When overnight, it went from to, I realized it was ready to hit the big time. A few e-mails later, and I was in touch with Adam to find the real story.

10) RSSMeme (

After ReadBurner debuted, other services came in the site's wake. None was more excitable than Benjamin Golub, who seemingly overnight crafted a link blog aggregation clone. Not hours after the site had debuted was Golub tweeting about it on Twitter and sending me Direct Message after Direct Message. Eventually, I said "enough" and checked it out. Despite initial rough edges, he's developed the site and grown its link blog base to the point that it is the unquestioned leader here.

11) Yokway! (

This was a fun one. Yokway! still isn't out, and won't be for a week or two. But I found a reference to the near-term appearance of Yokway! on one of the tech blogs I read. After I searched Google, and found the site was closed, I did another search on Google's Blog Search, finding one mention of Yokway!, in French, from February 1st. The author helpfully gave a backdoor access port, and a few clicks later I was in and checking out the service, which will be very cool when it debuts for real.

12) Athletics Nation (

I include AN here as it's become a major part of my Web experience every spring and summer. I was visiting the Daily Kos Web site one day in early 2005 when Markos Moulitsas casually mentioned Sports Blogs Nation, and the Athletics Nation Web site. I clicked through and was dumbfounded... it was as if a light had been turned on and I openly asked where the site had been all my life. A single site... dedicated to A's baseball, full of knowledgeable fans. It was amazing. I've been an A's fan for 20 years now, and an AN fan for 3. Soon thereafter I became part of the site's editorial team and have contributed stories or comics since mid-2005.

There's no possible way I can dig deep into my e-mail or blog history and find everything. I do know that beyond these dozen services, I joined LinkedIn way back in 2003, on a colleague's recommendation. I was buying computers off eBay back in 1999, and was using PayPal back in 2000 to buy game tickets. Amazon shows me I ordered a set of books in 1999 using the same ID I have now, though I can see e-mails to my mother about the service dating back to 1997. There's also no perfect way to find out when I started using Google Reader or TechMeme, or the first time I ever started reading TechCrunch and Scoble... but sometimes it's worth looking backwards a bit to remember just how we started using these things, even if it now seems like we always have been.