October 31, 2010

20 Halloween Scares to Put Fear Into Every Twitter Fan

20. The company is moving beyond telling you how to use the word "Tweet", and will trademark the @ symbol as well. Also, blue birds.

19. The #NewNewTwitter is going to be 3D.

18. Strains on the company's infrastructure thanks to a spike in users will lead the company to cut tweet lengths by half, to 70 characters.

17. By 2012, only the company's official clients can be used to update Twitter. Existing clients, such as Seesmic and TweetDeck, will be asked to migrate instead to Plurk and Identica.

16. The company's three founders, Ev, Biz and Jack, all have four or fewer letters in their first name. The new CEO is named Dick. This is the primary reason character limits make sense to these folks. Even their communications guy is named Sean, and goes by @SG. Thus, if you have a name like Demetrius or Annabelle, you should never expect to get a job at Twitter. In fact, you probably shouldn't even have an account.

15. Due to the popularity of retweeting, and the understanding that not everybody reads every tweet, Twitter will set up parallel domains called retwitter.com and reretwitter.com that syndicate the Twitter firehose, only delayed a few hours, so you can relive the past as if it were in real-time.

14. In 2011, you may see the fail whale in the Twitter office more than Ev Williams.

13. Due to office constraints resulting from rapid hiring, the company will settle on an agreement with Google and Facebook to rent out some of their empty cubes. The move is also a side bet, knowing half the employees won't have to relocate when the eventual buyout comes anyway.

12. Twitter is going to become so ubiquitous that your mom and all her sisters are going to join. That is seriously going to be annoying.

11. Twitter Lists are going to expand to include as many as 5,000 people. But that still won't be enough for Robert Scoble @scobleizer, who will hit the limit on day two and swear he spent 100 hours perfecting each one.

10. Twitter is going to acquire the country Eritrea, solely to request a top level domain of .er, and shorten its domain to twitt.er.

9. The FBI is reading your tweets. They're the only ones who ever click on your links.

8. Automated tweets from all those programs your friends use to say when they are watching TV, where their location is, what high score they got on whatever game, and if they signed up to start using some app will soon outnumber actual tweets pushed by hand.

7. Twitter's @Anywhere platform will be followed by a companion program called @Anytime. The combination means you can never sign off from Twitter. Even when you sleep.

6. As Chris Messina, who pioneered Hashtags, is now at Google, the company will make a move to prevent Twitter from using them, claiming intellectual property. This will surprise many, who had expected more of an "Open Web" move from Google. The removal of hashtags will make the world's trending topics actually readable again.

5. Derived from the company's HackWeek, Twitter will launch a World News aggregation site that uses tweets as the source, and takes target at both Google News and Yahoo! News.

4. This guy Nick Selvaggio, who has the handle @direct, actually sees all your direct messages.

3. After being lambasted for a male-centric blue version of the site, Twitter delivers a pink version with cutesy writing "for the ladies".

2. The guy who was in "Dude Where's My Car" has hundreds times more users than you do. No wait. That one's true.

1. Search.twitter.com will never ever ever work the way you expect it to. Ever.

20 Halloween Scares to Put Fear Into Every Google Fan

20. The development teams behind Google Reader and Blogger are unified following a reorg, under a new project called "Google Breeder".

19. The Google New project accidentally gets uploaded to the wrong set of servers and overwrites Google News with internal company project updates.

18. Twitter becomes so successful that long-form writing is considered anything which is between 135 and 140 characters. As a result, Google runs out of interesting things to index.

17. Google's goats get an agent, defect to Zynga to promote Farmville.

16. Google's book indexing project fizzles as its realized nobody actually reads any more.

15. Due to an impasse with broadcast networks and cable's fear of Google's growing impact, Google TV traction stalls as only commercials are available.

14. With the founders of Wave, YouTube, AdMob all leaving or changing roles in the last weeks, leaders of all project teams within Google dust off their resumes and post them as shared Google docs with high-priced executive recruiters.

13. Aggressive legalities determine that Google has to take another photo of your home on StreetView if you don't like the current one.

12. Somebody actually asks a question to Larry Page or Sergey Brin about the future of Google Knol or Google Base in a public forum.

11. The code base between Google's new robot cars is mixed with the Android code base, making our phones autonomous beings that call and leave messages with text to speech to anyone in our address book whenever they want.

10. Google Buzz is discontinued after unfavorable press coverage. The Lively team is persuaded to come back, and is given the keys to "social".

9. Eric Schmidt loses a bet to Carol Bartz, is forced to buy Yahoo!. The new company is called Yahoogle. It passes anti-trust scrutiny somehow.

8. Yahoo! is determined to own the patents to Pay Per Click following their acquisition of Overture, Google forced to remove PPC from their offerings.

7. AJAX is the new Flash.

6. Jimmy Hoffa is found buried in Google's famous ball pit.

5. Microsoft cracks the code behind Google's search algorithm. Using SEO, Bing results flood Google's index for all terms.

4. An overzealous team of programmers looking for career advances takes Eric Schmidt's off the cuff remarks seriously, embarks on setting up programs to help people move and change their names at age 18.

3. Paul Buchheit is determined to own the intellectual property and trademarks to Gmail and its underlying code. Thus, Gmail and its users become property of Facebook.

2. Apple's suit against HTC is successful, freezing the development and deployment of Android for all partners.

1. It is revealed that the same 50 people click on 99% of AdSense ads, and most of them are marketers just demoing the product to potential clients.

20 Halloween Scares to Put Fear Into Every Apple Fan

20. Wowed by IE 9 for Windows, and to tick off shared rival Google, Apple abandons Safari in exchange for promised browser development by Microsoft.

19. Apple products deemed security risk to carry on planes by TSA, must be placed with checked baggage for all flights.

18. Apple abandons USB and 802.11 and forges their own standards body, reporting to themselves.

17. Apple actually acquires Facebook for $40 billion. Mark Zuckerberg said to ascend to CEO position by 2012.

16. John Gruber of Daring Fireball is to be added to the company's board of directors.

15. MobileMe to be replaced by a new messaging system built on Apple's social network, Ping, accessible only through iTunes.

14. Riding a wave of over-confidence, thanks to the recent string of successes, Steve Jobs reintroduces the G4 Cube, the Dalmatian and Tutti Frutti iMacs, and yes, the hockey puck mouse.

13. During a company board meeting, Al Gore asserts that he did, indeed, invent the Internet. The other board members, swayed by his amazing charisma, agree Apple will backpay Gore royalties for each machine, dating back to the early 1990s, which had Web connectivity.

12. International trade strife between China and the United States flares up, and Apple's subcontractors discontinue making new iPhones, Macs, iPads, and more. Suicides actually increase.

11. After so many MacBook Air owners realize their hinges break shortly after their warranty expires, a class-action suit bankrupts the company.

10. HP bundles next generation Palm devices with every desktop, laptop and server sold. Palm becomes new mobile standard.

9. Windows Phone 7 is Really Really Really Good. No wait, Really.

8. Apple retail store insulation found to contain asbestos. Even worse, Steve Jobs demanded it be included.

7. Adobe copyrights the word Flash and extends the word to contain all Flash drives. A settlement mandates all flash drives come preinstalled with Flash.

6. With the introduction of Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, Outlook becomes the standard Mac client and Apple Mail is retired.

5. Entertainment industry colludes to deny Apple access to music and films on iTunes store. Only Disney/Pixar and indy offerings left.

4. Tim Cook leaves Apple to take the CEO position at Dell.

3. SCO rolls back to life, and somehow obtains an injunction against Apple's Mac OS X, due to its UNIX underpinnings, stopping all Mac sales.

2. AT&T announces contract to extend iPhone network exclusivity through the end of the decade.

1. News breaks that Steve Jobs actually perished during liver surgery in Tennessee in 2009. What you have seen in the last year-plus has been a zombie.

October 29, 2010

Podcast With @hackmanj on Blogging, my6sense, Marketing

Wednesday night, as the Giants and Rangers were battling in game one of the World Series, BlogTalkRadio's Joe Hackman and I sat down to see if we could cancel out the jocks and reaffirm our position as geeks, participating in a podcast to discuss how bloggers can gain visibility through access and insight. We discussed my personal decisions to join my6sense as VP of Marketing, my conversion process from iPhone to Android, and how I try to juggle having three kids under 2 1/2 with all the other tasks that compete with my time.

Among the key discussion points, which might be fun for you to check out:

1) Defending one's turf, rather than being pragmatic & investigating alternatives.
2) Google's innovative moves versus struggles they have had in other areas.
3) A next generation of bloggers in their teens you should start watching now.
4) Microsoft's challenges in mobile a parallel for search.
5) The history of louisgray.com.

For those of you who have read louisgray.com for some time, or heard some of my previous podcasts, some stories may be familiar to you, but there's always something new.

Joe posted the discussion on his site here, and I have embedded it below. You can find Joe on Twitter at @hackmanj.

Listen to internet radio with Joe Hackman on Blog Talk Radio

October 27, 2010

Credit Karma Eliminates Credit Score Mystery

Just as Mint.com greatly simplified people's ability to get their entire financial picture in one page, complete with trends, potential savings, and the option to see how they measured up to people across the country, Credit Karma brings the same level of transparency to one of the more opaque statistics out there - the personal credit score. And, unlike other gimmicky "free credit report" businesses out there, this one has its Karma in the good column, for it truly is free.

One's credit score can impact a person's ability to make purchases with debt, or to achieve a desired interest rate. But the factors that can impact one's score are often seen as something of a black box. Consumers know that it is good to not have late payments, and that having some amount of open credit lines available is better than none, but how one goes up and down the credit score scale can be mysterious.

My Credit Karma Is Great, But Not the Best In the World

This confusion has given rise to multiple "credit report" businesses like FreeCreditReport.com and FreeScore.com. Even the FTC has a dedicated site to the practice, discussing annual credit reports. (See their dedicated site or the official annualcreditreport.com for more) Most of the time, users find they may get an initial score free, and start receiving bills in later months, which can often be hard to cancel. I dealt with this myself, and was pleased to see Credit Karma skip that annoyance.

When you sign up for Credit Karma, it is important they determine it's really you. Answer a few questions about your housing history, who may own your mortgage, or your car payment, and enter your social security number (just once), and they will hit up TransUnion for your score. But the fun doesn't end when you get your three-digit number.

My Credit Karma Is Strong Among Similar Aged Peers

Among Gmail Users, 1 in 8 Has a Better Score Than Do I

The number (mine came in at 767) is just the beginning, not the end result. Credit Karma lets you know how your score places you against your peers by age, by e-mail account domain, or how that compares to the national average. Much has been made about the fact that Yahoo.com e-mail holders have the lowest credit scores on average, so if you want to look great against your supposed peers, then use one of those free e-mail accounts. Could be fun.

Beyond the sizing up, Credit Karma shows you how you got your score. I scored very well on percent of on-time payments with 100%. It's how I was raised, I guess. But I got D's on the age of open credit lines (thanks to the recent purchases of a home and minivan, no doubt) and total number of accounts. Turns out if I had twice the number of open accounts, I would have scored better. Go figure. I also got a C for my 4 "Hard Credit Inquiries".

I Pay On Time! That's Good, Right?

As with many things financial, you can have a disconnect between what you feel is good practice and what others say is actually great use of your credit. Keeping a small number of credit cards and paying off each month sounds great, but a full third of Credit Karma users have more than 20 credit accounts on file (open or closed). 60 percent of users have an average age of credit lines of less than 4 years, with only 10 percent having more than 8 years.

Also like Mint.com, Credit Karma lays on potential savings thick. I have offers to reduce my credit card costs, my mortgage costs, auto loan costs or even bank costs. I haven't yet looked into any of them, and to be honest, probably won't, as these accounts are pretty new with the recent move and upgrades, so I'm a little fatigued by playing financial Tetris. But I am glad Credit Karma is out there to keep tabs for these options on my behalf.

The site is free and open for business at http://www.creditkarma.com.

As Spotify Accelerates, Tipster Pumps False Apple Angle

On Tuesday morning, an anonymous tipster e-mailed a number of top tech bloggers about potential talks between Apple and the fast-rising digital music challenger, Spotify. One tech reporter I talked to said the e-mail he received was routed and rerouted to be fully anonymized, and even went so far as to mention Apple's ticker symbol ($AAPL), complete with $ signs often associated with stock tickers.

Whatever the idea the tipster had in his or her head, after a mid-day rumor popped, it was dashed by afternoon, with the company releasing a rare outright denial.

Coincidentally, I assure you, around this same time, I was meeting in person with Shakil Khan, head of special projects of Spotify. We met as friends, and spoke candidly. I did not take notes, and promised not to write about much of what we discussed. I will keep that promise.

But given today's near-news and much of the uncertainty that has been bandied about regarding Spotify's future, when it may officially hit the United States market, and whether it can be a viable company, providing a service people will pay for, I am more confident than ever that they have a significant and disruptive offering, thanks partly to the discussion. I feel assured that making a bet with Spotify for my music future is a good one - which may find some interesting competition with Apple's promised iTunes in the cloud and whatever becomes of Google Music, but that the company is preparing not for a short-term sale, but a long-term evolution of the way we discover and consume music.

Spotify has both free and premium offerings. The premium offerings are attractive. When the time comes that I can pay for an account here in the US, rest assured I will. If forced to choose between Sirius XM or Spotify for my roughly $10 to $12 a month, I would get Spotify those dollars. And for those who choose the free option, advertising will still be pushing revenue into the service.

Apple seems to be reacting to Spotify in an intriguing way, one which I have not seen them react to any other player on the music front before. As someone who has largely switched away from iTunes and to Spotify, I can see why. When I heard of the tipster's rumors, that Apple was looking to buy Spotify, it didn't sound right to me, and it didn't sound like anything the company has told me. So without violating any of my promises to Shak to keep numbers and dates out of the discussion, I am glad the rumor was spiked. False tips can distract from what is a fantastic music experience which can't officially arrive here on these shores too soon.

Following Injunction, LimeWire Says Illegal Acts Are Illegal

I am of the belief that most people will take legal approaches to purchase goods or services if they are provided at acceptable market rates and are readily available. Only when market conditions are so out of whack with public perception, combined with free or near-free alternatives, do you see a dramatic uprising of illegal activity - as the public essentially revolts against the inflexible market makers.

But while most people are law abiding honest folks, there are of course exceptions who will flaunt the law because they can and feel the sheer capability they have to do so means they must. In the world of Peer To Peer (P2P), this has no doubt been the case. For every cash-poor college student trying to get the latest Green Day album off Napster, you may have others bootlegging new releases filmed in the theater on a handicam. And for the most part, both the college student and the video voyeur know what they are doing is "wrong", and there's also no doubt the networks they used were fully aware and supportive of said bad activity.

Napster kicked off the P2P digital music revolution, followed by many others in its wake, from Kazaa to Gnutella, BearShare, eDonkey, LimeWire and others. While the RIAA and its ilk moved to respond like drunken Neanderthals to shut down the users and its networks, many of them have eventually fallen. The latest to give up the ghost is LimeWire, who fell under a court-ordered injunction and was forced to stop supporting its file sharing software.

This is not news to those of you who are RSS addicts, like myself. But as someone who had previously downloaded the software, used as a backup if the TiVo failed, I got a note from them via e-mail today reporting the shutdown and ominously stating:
Well, duh.

It's not as if the company didn't know exactly what it was getting into when it launched and supported its service. It wasn't as if it was naive enough to think its users were sharing PG-rated photos and freeware software. P2P networks like LimeWire are rife with dark content. So I have to smirk at the stark reminder that essentially states the obvious. Illegal things are illegal. They always have been. Just because software and technology makes it possible doesn't change the rules.

October 22, 2010

New Google Campus Store Features Geek Schwag Galore

Google is said to have one of the most valuable brands in the world, leading annual reports with the likes of Wal*Mart, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and others. The brand is pervasive, and represents much more than its initial search roots. Recently, the company opened up a retail store on its campus that features the Google logo (and its many sub-brands, like YouTube, Android and Blogger) on scads of merchandise. Now, if you want to wear Google apparel like the company's employees, without having to pass a rigorous set of interviews, you can just walk in and gain official geek cred.

The company has quietly had an online store for years. It's where I purchased a black Google beanbag (like the real ones on campus) and the Google onesies Matthew and Sarah sported when they were only a few months old. Now, the online experience has made it to the physical world, on the Google campus itself.

In the 2000 Charleston Road building, commonly referred to as "2000 Alza" thanks to Alza Pharmaceuticals (purchased by Johnson and Johnson) previously occupying the space, on the ground floor, you can now purchase Google shirts, pens, flying discs, mugs, fleece jackets, and much more. Just like the Apple campus can let you pledge allegiance to Cupertino at their main campus with Apple wear, Google now lets you do the same.

The 2000 Alza building is already among the most interesting on campus, so far as I am concerned. It houses the Buzz team and other consumer-facing products. But while the lobby used to be a quiet place where engineers could have one on one discussions, I found the lobby swarming with gadget seekers today, and a line with dozens of customers looking to sport the Google logo.

I took a quick intro video of what's offered, embedded below.

If you think I left empty handed, of course you would be wrong. With Fall here, and Winter on its way, Matthew and Sarah now have a YouTube and Google jacket respectively, which they took to the park this evening. So if you are near Google campus, or just want to fill your home with Google outside your computer, you now have a place to go.

One more thing - still no Google watches, so I continue to wear my Apple watches every day, adequately spreading my allegiances. I even asked at the front counter, but they simply don't have them.

October 21, 2010

Information Streams Accelerating the Attention Crisis

More people are creating more content of more types and sharing it with more connections in more places than ever before - not just text, but photos, audio and video as well. Every second of every day comes with more opportunities to be off task, distracted, and interrupted - with something new fighting for your attention. It might be the arrival of new e-mail, or a new RSS feed, a bombardment of new tweets, a text, or a push notification, but the interruptions are increasing - forcing you to make a choice oh where to put your attention and how to use your time.

A never-ending stream of updates on your favorite social networking sites may be full of interesting links to check out from your friends, with photos of where they are that day, and location updates telling you exactly what they were doing.

You are likely being bombarded with new demands on your time and your attention that weren't there last year, and if you were one of the elite few who had opted in to this interruption firehose a year or so ago, there is no doubt the velocity is stronger than ever, and there is no end in sight - for the tap continues to be opened.

You Are Constantly Optimizing Your Streams for Relevance

As this firehose of information sprays forth, you might think it is simply an increase in noise - that the same amount of information relevant to you today is the same amount that was relevant to you months ago, years ago. But it's not true - because as humans, we are catering all our streams to our own interests. Consciously or subconsciously, we are making deliberate choices to connect to the "right" people, to follow the "right" sites, to opt into the "right" discussions, to engage in the "right" e-mail threads, and to click on links that we believe are relevant for what we want to discover or how we want to be entertained. So this noise, even if it is still noise, is getting honed and massaged - and it is increasing the relevant signal in an ever mounting shriek, like the whistled warning of an oncoming freight train.

This combination - the dramatic increase in consumable content and diversity of sources, along with the human desire to be connected to the "right" people and "right" subject matter - practically ensures that the increase in personally relevant information is growing, if not in an exponential way, a linear way.

Simply put, the total number of personally relevant pieces of content to consume each day is much higher than it was 1 year or 2 years ago, and will likely be 5 to 10 times higher 2 years down the road.

We need to find ways to handle this deluge.

Early Adopters Showing Signs of Early Fatigue?

For those of us who are digitally connected and active, we are feeling this in acute fashion. Despite improved software tools to help us accomplish tasks, practically all of us feel we are busier than we were last year, and the year prior. We feel there are more tasks that need completing, and that we are actually falling further behind. And we are constantly being interrupted - our every task seeing its schedule hole punched like swiss cheese, as one turns to each incoming beep on the smartphone or software alert that indicates there are new messages in front of us that quite possibly could demand our attention - now.

As humans, the way we are dealing with this onslaught of personally relevant information manifests itself in a few visible ways. Some of us feel as if we are suffering from constant short term memory loss. We can't answer questions about shows we have seen or blog posts we may have read. We may scrunch up our face and look quizzically as friends remind us of updates they may have seen on social sites that they swear we saw, but we can't remember.

Social Gestures A Shortcut to Save Time and Move On

For those of us who once may have been active blog commenters across a wide variety of sites, we are commenting less, and when we do, we are usually writing shorter comments. The two big exceptions to total comments, of course, are Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which forces brevity - it's practically the iPod Nano of the writing craft. In exchange for our once lengthy and on-topic discussions, we are taking shortcuts. We might simply be clicking a "like" button to signal we saw the content and approved of it. We might want to toss a bread crumb of a social gesture the author's way - to share it, to retweet it, and move along quickly to the next thing, because there's always something bigger and better to take our attention away around the corner.

The very time we take to consume the media we're handed is like being passed a ticking time bomb. If something is deemed too long, or isn't immediately rewarding, we might just close our window, or decide to TL;DR the whole thing. There's even a Web site for that very purpose now.

There Is No Off Button. Ever.

The attention crisis is with us at all times and in all places. It is clear. No longer can we simply turn off our computer screens and relax with a good book, or a magazine, or see our favorite show, and avoid interruption. For at the same time, our smartphones are in a state of constant connectivity. They beep and chirp to let us know of new e-mail, new text messages, new phone calls, or even chat pings from Google Talk. They practically beg to be held and coddled at every moment, as we practice partial attention - holding the phone or laptop with the TV or radio on the in background. We glance down at our phones at stop lights or in traffic to see the latest Twitter mentions or if any of the newest e-mails require immediate action, because we fear both being out of touch and falling even further behind than we know we already are.

So what is being done? There has to be a breaking point, at which people's unfinished projects and mediocre work products, the result of constant interruptions, distractions, and scraping under the deadline, red eyed and fatigued, take their toll. There will need to be a trade off, either through the recognition that something will be missed, something will not be finished, or that we need to turn to a higher power, to artificial intelligence to help us surface the best and to ignore the rest. We cannot any longer rely solely on our ability to read fast, process fast and decide fast, to blast through the day's content and come out the other side fully intact. And if we are superhuman and still swear that this is possible, the demands will be even more difficult in coming months and years.

Information overload is passé. It's truly not an issue of too much information in general - but moreso an issue of too much relevant information and our inability to filter out the noise automatically to get to the good stuff every single time. Therein lies the opportunity - the opportunity to fight the attention crisis head-on. Whoever gets this right, whoever can help you to eliminate the crisis, to find the best stuff, always, and treat you like an individual, not just a clone of people like you, wins. And if you know it or not, you are already winning, because there is more relevant content than ever. Can you become superhuman and get it all?

One more thing. How many times were you interrupted in reading this post?

October 20, 2010

Apple, Google Agree Web is Future of Software Delivery

Apple's announcement this morning of a Mac App Store, part of OS X 10.7 Lion starting next year, and for 10.6 users as soon as 90 days from now, spells another nail in the coffin for the retail box model of software discovery, purchase and installation. Just as iTunes, Napster and the many other Web-based entertainment delivery models dramatically impacted the retail experience of physically purchasing (or renting) CDs and DVDs, so too will the software industry be impacted by an increased emphasis on Web delivery of applications. Apple has woken up to this trajectory with today's announcement, after years of focusing their app store on mobile devices, while at the same time, Google continues to march down its path of a Chrome Web store for the company's planned OS.

The concept of an iTunes-like software delivery method for purchasing is hardly groundbreaking. Back in 2007, more than three years ago, I was begging for it in a piece I had posted to The Apple Blog (Solving Software Purchases the iTunes Way). At the time, I talked about the benefits of reviews, demos and one-click purchasing for all types of software, and those benefits are a big part of the promised Mac App Store. Interestingly, at the time of my post, Apple had only focused on media with iTunes. The iTunes App Store came out a full year later, and it has taken two more years to bring this delivery method to standard software.

In the last three years, a few major developments have taken place to make this promise more of a reality - including increased access to high speed broadband, required for large downloads, much like with movie rentals and purchases, once deemed nearly impossible, and the gradual doing away with optical drives, which Apple seems to be allergic to in the same way they ditched floppy disks back in 1998 with the first generation iMac.

On my MacBook Air, if I can avoid hooking up the USB SuperDrive, I will do it. I downloaded my Adobe Photoshop suite from the Web, and want all my data to flow through the air. If I ever were to consider Google's Chrome OS, the process would no doubt be the same - only with the browser being the center of the universe, not an iTunes like product.

Interestingly, much of Apple's event this morning was taken up talking about the latest edition of iLife, the consumer products focused on rich media, from photos to video and music creation. First, those apps and their data take up a lot of space, possibly forcing folks to consider backup outside their smaller SSD drives, and second, highlighting how unlikely it is that I will be purchasing iLife from an Apple Retail store in a boxed version. If Apple hasn't yet said that all software installs are going to come from the Mac App store, there will definitely be a push that direction. I already don't want to upgrade from my current version of iLife to iLife '09, simply because there's no way to update over the Web.

Many of us have faster pipes. Many of us are using our DVD and CD drives less and less - if at all. The Web is replacing all these things, and Apple is making a centralized place for us to have fast access, and for them to no doubt make lots more money than they already do - grabbing 30 percent of the pie. It's an aggressive move for them on the balance sheet, one more piece of their "integrated" approach, but the right one and the obvious one. Google's Chrome Web store too is obvious, and exciting for its own right, giving the option for Web services providers to charge for apps that might otherwise be free. As a consumer, I am ready to pay real money for good programs. Just don't make me buy them at retail on a spinning disk.

October 19, 2010

Blippy Gives Popular Brands Top Billing, Ramps Real-time

Since increasing the site's focus on purchase reviews and capturing all activity by specific brands within the network, Blippy's direction has been becoming increasingly clear - surfacing popular buys by brand, and showing the most popular stores across the entire purchase sharing site. Today, the site saw a significant revamp which brings the top brands to the front page, increasing discovery and even showing what is trending across each of these top companies.

As was noted when Apple introduced Ping to create something resembling a social network around your iTunes purchases and favorite artists, a good percentage of Blippy's shares originate on iTunes. Today, the company highlighted nearly twenty brands, including not just Apple and iTunes, but also Amazon, Ebay, Fandango, Gamefly, Groupon, Hulu, Netflix, Safeway, Sephora, Starbucks, Target, Threadless, Walmart, Woot and Zappos.

New Categories By Brand on the Left, With Realtime Entries on Top

Choosing a company shows all shares from the network across that brand. Of course, choosing Starbucks fills your browser with lattes, mochas and iced coffees, while Fandango finds how many folks used the site to see The Social Network. Sites like Amazon and Ebay are clearly more diversified.

Blippy borrows from Twitter in a number of ways with its new site. The first and most obvious is the "Trending in" function for each brand. Trending in Apple? The always exciting "Overnight Shipping Charge" and "Expedited Shipping Charge", while the book "Free" by Chris Anderson is trending in the Amazon category. Also a Twitter-like aspect? When new entries flow into your browser while you are on the site, you are told how many await you and get the option to "Click to Refresh" (just like on Twitter search and the old Twitter).

The Amazon Page on Blippy Pulls In Purchases from the Store

Staying the same on Blippy is the same focus on pulling in your purchases, writing reviews on your content, and being able to connect to friends to find out what they're buying. But the new store features show what's trending across the network and helps surface buying from people you don't yet know. And you still get the option to make comments, or ask them to "Tell you more". And if you really like a product, you can become a "Fan" of it. As you can tell, I'm a "Fan" of Blippy. It's an incredibly versatile sharing network - the final step after you've said you've liked something and then visited on Foursquare. It's the result of you truly taking an action with something that counts - your money. In early October, the site was said to be processing more than $500k in purchases each day.

You can find my Blippy stream here: http://blippy.com/louisgray.

October 18, 2010

Catalogs.com Launches A Flippin' iPad App for Shopping

The iPad has been an unquestioned hit since its unveiling and debut this Spring. Our home alone has a pair, which are seemingly constantly monopolized by my two year old twins, who have made it their primary entertainment device. With millions of the devices sold, application developers are creating new and innovative ways to browse content, play games, and, with some effort, get work done. But the device isn't exactly known as a commerce engine - something Catalogs.com is looking to change with the company's new iPad app, officially announced today after approval by iTunes over the weekend.

Much like Apple's iBooks app introduced the idea of flipping pages right to left as you progressed through a story, Flipboard and other developers have tapped into the same concept to make the iPad experience immersive and personal. Catalogs.com has done the same thing, bringing the old world of print catalogs to a new medium.

The application, at launch, comes prepackaged with 30 catalogs from retailers like MacConnection, Petco, Foot Locker and the Home Depot. Instead of grabbing the catalog from the mailbox, all you now have to do is click on the cover and flip from page to page.

Browsing the Catalogs.com iPad App and Adding Items

If you like an item, click it, and add it to your wish list, just like you would from Amazon.com. The wish list can contain items from different catalogs as well, in one place, just like Amazon can share a wish list between multiple departments in the store. And when you are ready to order, click "Details/Buy Now" to complete the process.

Catalogs.com has partnerships with more than 600 merchants in its main Web site listings, and is starting off with a few dozen offerings optimized for the iPad experience. Instead of getting new catalogs each week or month, cluttering your mail, the app updates automatically with the latest offerings and prices.

My WishList on the Catalogs.com iPad App from Multiple Merchants

For casual shoppers who are enjoying their iPads, the new app is extremely convenient. You can see initial feedback from TechCrunch (Shopping Site Brings Print Catalogs To The iPad) and BetaNews (Catalogs.com gets the Flipboard treatment with new iPad app) as well. The app can be found at http://bit.ly/ipadcatalogs.

Disclosure: Catalogs.com is a client of Paladin Advisors Group, for which I am a co-founder.

October 17, 2010

Life Online: Fraud, Security, Trust, Passwords and Paranoia

Occam's Razor has an intriguing two parter, penned over the last week, about how deceitful people are mining Facebook for your personal data, taking advantage of open networking and random connections to possibly use what they discover, via your open door policy, in nefarious ways. The gist of the articles? Be extremely careful who you connect to, and say no to strangers. (See: Friending Strangers On Fakebook and its follow-up: The Cindy In Your Town)

This approach, as smart as it sounds after reading both pieces, runs contrary to one of the more widely held positions in social media, that the friend connection around the corner could be the one you most want to know. Take Thomas Power's comments on limited networks being 'flawed' as a great example of someone who believes in making as many connections as possible on all networks. Many of us do this. That's one reason why there are autofollow scripts for Twitter, and why many people complain about Facebook only allowing 5,000 friends, when it's unlikely you care about their every coming and going.

I've long taken an extremely trusting approach to the Web. I chose to accept all friend connections in Facebook quite a while ago because I don't want to dictate where people want to find my stuff. If they are more comfortable in Facebook or Twitter or Google Buzz or anywhere else, that data should be there. I've taken to using Foursquare for location, and I share many of my purchases via Blippy. I even have made real photos of my own kids as part of my presence online. There are few secrets.

Some might think this approach stupid - an inevitable march toward a mistake waiting to happen that puts my data, my money or my family in jeopardy. Finally, late this summer, something did happen, but not for the above reasons - try as I might to link them.

The first sign something was wrong was when I received an e-mail from Amazon.com that shut my account outright. You might remember my post on the issue: "To Protect Me, Amazon Has Decided to Kill Me". I had hoped it was a red herring, an oddity that was not to be repeated. But it was just the beginning of a data tug of war that made me somewhat nervous, but mostly frustrated.

At first, only Amazon was impacted, but the very next day, I got another odd order, from Zappos, saying a set of steak knives I had ordered was on its way. I canceled it immediately, and thought that maybe Amazon and Zappos' shared corporate control indicated a database surprise. They told me this was not the case. Then, as I was on the phone with Zappos, discussing the issue, I got an e-mail from TurboTax, saying I had requested the User ID associated with my e-mail.

Nice Try Getting Back Into My E-mail, Jerk

That's a big no. Of course not. So I sighed in defeat, and immediately started changing my passwords everywhere I could think of - starting with TurboTax, a mere 2 minutes later. Like most people, I have a small set of passwords I use for most accounts. I had been careful enough to change it up for the most financially impactful sites, but my most commonly used password hadn't been changed since I first started using it in college - back in 1996.

A few hours later, I got a note from Apple saying too many attempts had been made to answer my security questions on my e-mail account, and therefore, the password could not be changed. This told me that for some time, the hacker had access to my e-mail account, and had correctly guessed my password worked on other sites (like Amazon). When I changed it, I had effectively locked them out. But there was one place I hadn't looked yet, an obvious place... a commerce site directly linked to my Apple account.

I logged into the Apple Store (with my new password) and saw the joker had successfully ordered a Mac laptop and a Canon camera, both shipped overnight by FedEx, using my account. The total damage was just over $2,000. The thief had used my first and last name, and my cell phone number, but not any of my credit cards. In fact, the shipments were even sent to Sunnyvale, the same city where I live, but obviously not to me.

I Hope The Thief Enjoys His Laptop

After setting a fraud alert on my credit cards, I checked all activity on said cards practically every few hours for weeks, and saw no change. My credit score didn't get impacted, and I never heard from the thief again. I called Apple to have them check into a MobileMe breach, and they put a watch on my account. I reported the issue to the FBI's hotline, only to get a form letter saying they probably wouldn't follow up. Even a call to the local Sunnyvale police came up empty, when they said the defrauded merchant had to be a Sunnyvale shop to get any help.

As you can guess, this was completely frustrating. I still have no idea how my e-mail address was compromised, or how the thief got hold of my commonly-used password, which they then leveraged to get into other accounts. The good news is that my identity wasn't truly coopted, and no charges ever hit me directly. But it certainly put some mud on my otherwise clean view of the world.

So think about how we are sharing and possibly oversharing? Our social updates from mobile phones can now track our location down within a few feet. Is that not valuable to people who want to know where we live and where we go? Do we need to give people an extra boost to find data that doesn't belong to them? I believe strongly in trusting people and getting my data on the Web, and am happy to know that none of my use of these networks set the would-be disaster in motion. But Occam's Razor is onto something as well. Are we doomed if we are careful and doomed if we are not?

I don't mind the lesson on keeping my passwords hard to crack and change them often, but should I raise my paranoia meter thanks to this experience?

October 14, 2010

my6sense for Android Adds Instapaper, Replies, DMs, More

I would be remiss to not highlight the continued updates the my6sense team has made to the company's Android application, aimed to surface the best content for you from your news and social streams, based on your own interests. After joining the company as their VP of Marketing in late August, I've seen the application launch on Android, and worked with the engineers to get their priorities focused on those areas that will bring the highest functionality for users. And what we are finding is no surprise - people want to not only read the best stuff, but to share it everywhere and enjoy all the social nuances they experience with dedicated apps.

When my6sense first debuted, the application was focused on RSS, and many folks still believe that's what the app is all about. While RSS is great, the new additions to the app, including support for Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz, put content from those networks on the same foundation as RSS for news consumption and discovery.

As those social apps gain utility in the app, user expectations rise. It's a great thing, making us reconsider where consumption ends and creation begins.

Thus, in the last month, we have added:
  • Likes and Comments for Facebook and Google Buzz
  • Retweets, Replies and Direct Messages on Twitter
  • Full Google Buzz consumption and sharing
In addition, as we add more features, we are reducing impact on one's phone:
  • Reduced memory usage
  • Added the ability to move data to the SD card
And more focus on customer requests, including:
  • The ability to save the last known settings (such as sort by time) when you open the app
  • The option to display items that have been created in the last 12 hours
  • The addition of Instapaper support to save your items to the cloud.
One of the byproducts of the enhancements is that I have found myself browsing Google Buzz and Facebook a lot more on the go, and can now like or comment on friends' shares from anywhere. my6sense does the hard work to pull the best stuff to the top, and I am not missing a thing when I am away from the computer.

The app today is on Android and iPhone, where it all began, and my6sense also has an Attention API for customers, who can bring personalized prioritization to their streams. More screens are planned of course.

To find out more, check out the company blog post: Stream on, until your stream comes true: Android App Version 1.3 or check out The Next Web's great review: My favoriter, my6sense for Android, gets some hefty upgrades.

Disclosures: I am Vice President of Marketing for my6sense.

October 13, 2010

Google's Marissa Mayer Promotion Signals Future of Search

With news breaking yesterday that Google vice president of search products, Marissa Mayer, was taking a new role at the company, focused on location and local services, debate has festered far and wide about what the move means for the company's direction, for her specifically, and, laughably, in some isolated cases, if it was in response to perceived failures in her current role relative to competitive moves from Microsoft's Bing. Without being a fly on the wall or being in the offices where these sorts of things are decided, all one needs to know is that Google hasn't earned its leading reputation by sitting still. Mayer, well respected by practically all who see her in action, is one of the company's leading talents, and is being pushed to what's next, not the battles that have already been decided.

Search is a mature market, and Google, for the better part of a decade, has been doing it better than anybody else. The company has leveraged its leading search position to also become a phenomenal business leader, driving billions of dollars of advertising through its pipes every month.

While others, like Search Engine Land, do a great job of watching the month to month market share jockeying between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and assorted others, displaying Google's share of the pie at around two-thirds of the total, the numbers don't look to be dramatically changing any time soon, even with new innovations each brand is rolling out.

About a month ago, I wrote a post titled "The Future of Search: Personal, Persistent and Implicit". While much of what Google does today with search is focused on one-time explicit searches, the market is moving toward persistent implicit searches, which can tap into your own preferences as an individual, including your purchasing behaviors, your reading preferences, your location, hobbies or business.

It is this determination of who you are and what you like that is driving Facebook's focus on their "Like feature", and this morning's announcement with Bing for social search. It is why Foursquare is such a hot commodity, able to turn down a reported $100 million offer from Yahoo! in deference to going it alone. And this is what Marissa is reportedly going to be doing.

Many armchair quarterbacks are looking at Google and seeing an older, more mature, company that struggles to acquire or retain talent in contrast to market upstarts like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. Key to that challenge of keeping the best talent? Keeping them focused on interesting products and quests - the type of quest like what Marissa sees before her, grappling with the different properties within Google that touch location and local and making something impressive, preparing the company for a future where the world of search will look incredibly different indeed.

For savvy press release readers, one does not see any negativity in Marissa's news, and to bring up words of demotion or competitive pressures are ridiculous. At the same time, she joined the company's operating committee, which is essentially as high as you can go without being on the board of directors. Meanwhile, Marissa has enough money to walk away if she ever wanted, and just about any company under the sun would be delighted to have her. So think again when you see nonsense about this being a push down the stairs in Mountain View. This is a strategic move, one that shows they aren't going to be sitting on their laurels at a time when others are making headlines.

We are beginning the third wave of the Internet. Google won the first wave - of information and retrieval. I will be writing a lot more on this soon. Promise. But keep your eyes on Marissa. I don't expect any Dodgeball level mistakes to come this time.

October 09, 2010

Yobongo App Encourages You to Chat With Local Strangers

Before the advent of personalized home pages, blogs, and social networks connected to our real identities, many of us participated in anonymous chat rooms, where we tried to connect with strangers with similar interests. These chat rooms were filled with intrigue of finding new conversations and insight from people we might never meet in real life. Some were about hobbies or careers, and many more were built with the goal of hooking up, but others were about location. Today, with our smartphones having the option to determine our location, and with virtually all of them having pervasive access to the Internet, there lies an opportunity to recreate the chat room experience on the mobile, with strangers, tied together by our GPS coordinates. An old friend to louisgray.com readers, Caleb Elston, has announced he is leaving a comfortable job at Justin.tv and striking it out on his own to spread the word about this new experience - and it's called Yobongo.

Caleb first crossed our radar more than two and a half years ago with the launch of his shared OPML site, Toluu. At the end of 2008, Elston started a gift recommendation site, called Kallow, and earlier this year, he launched a Techmeme-like site for top news, called Kickpost. But unlike those three projects, Yobongo is going to get his full attention - as he believes it "is going to be a big thing."

Starting a Yobongo Account, Alerting Local Friends

I spoke at length with Caleb Thursday night, before his announcement, to learn why Yobongo has got him changing his life path, and found not just what inspired its start, but also, details about how the product has been in open testing in Canada for several months.

The idea came about when Caleb was in a crowded movie theater. In advance of a showing, people were "fooling around" on their cell phones. As he recalls, people called out funny lines on the previews and microconversations started happening. As he thought about it, he realized there lay an opportunity to connect everyone in the theater, leveraging smartphones' location capabilities and introducing real-time chat for those connected. But existing solutions were almost exclusively explicit or sexually-based, and there remained an opportunity for a non-adult option, to connect complete strangers for whom location was the single link.

An Active Yobonbo Chat Room

"We thought there might be a possibility you could communicate with people you didn't yet know but shared a location, while using your real identity," Caleb said. "It has to be instant, with no rooms to join, all one one screen."

The algorithm behind the product starts with a basic premise of the target number of people who are active in a single room. The current target of 20 people feels full to users, and there are several dozen active Yobongo sessions, with 2-3 of them in Toronto. Why hasn't Yobongo yet come to the US? Caleb says the company doesn't yet want to launch in full in the country until the mechanics of being truly hyperlocal are solved.

"The big thing is that we believe chatrooms will live on in mobile phones, just as they lived in the late '90's," Caleb said. "The problem then was the bad actors were so motivated, and they had the technical ability to circumvent banning mechanisms, making regular people uncomfortable. But in the earliest days, it showed promise of connecting people."

With Yobongo, identity is tied to a unique phone. If a bad actor is banned, you would essentially have to buy a new phone. Also, in the last 20 years, the culture and technology of the Internet has evolved to make revealing one's true identity more comfortable and accepted.

"Authentic communication can happen between people you do not know," Caleb argued. "For the personal device you have with you all the time, connecting to people is an exciting mechanism. There are more mobile connected devices next year than PC devices."

The application is initially targeting iPhone users, but with time, one should suspect the app to hit more screens and more systems. As Caleb told me, it's "iPhone only right now - but that's not the end game".

October 07, 2010

New Twitter Search Backend: Faster, Not Much Deeper

There are many things Twitter does very well, and some where the company and its service could stand to improve. As the company's popularity has grown, and its employee base has swelled, one of the biggest holes in its lineup has been around its search engine. More than a year ago, after becoming increasingly frustrated with its shortcomings, I gave up and said it was very, very broken. Maybe that wasn't nice. But it was true.

With news today that Twitter has quietly introduced a new back-end for their search engine, it is worth revisiting to see if what they have delivered solved the listed issues, or if, instead, it is just a new back-end, built to perform the basics on a larger scale.

Issue Number One: Search Results Limited to a Few Days

At the time, I used an example to show how Erin Kotecki Vest (@queenofspain) was shown as having mentioned the word "Obama" five times in four days, when she had, of course, mentioned him much more often. At this point, Erin isn't talking about Obama quite as often, so a new, similar search is needed for testing.

I tested the word "Giants" from Mychal Urban, a Bay Area sports writer (@MUrbanCSN). The results went back six full days, covering 7 tweets. Similarly, searching for the word "TechCrunch" from Mike Arrington (@arrington) delivered 7 days worth of results, and 33 total tweets.

It appears the "deeper" database goes about a week, up from low points of 2-3 days.

Issue Number Two: Older Tweets Were Missing

Twitter Search has always offered the option to search the database for a subset of dates. At the time, I used the above example with Erin, but searching from January 1st to May 21st of 2009. A search of this type failed, saying "the page you were looking for doesn't exist".

With the new database, these older tweets are still not available. For example, searching for "techcrunch" from "arrington" between June 1st and August 1st of this year says "no results".

So this is not yet fixed.

Issue Number Three: References of People Were Not Tracked

At the time, I tested to see if Twitter could find my references of an individual, like Mashable's @adamostrow. At the time, it reported "no results. Tonight, I tried the same search, but with Robert Scoble (@scobleizer). If you look at the results, Twitter says there are no results. But I actually sent a reply to Scoble as recently as October 3rd.

On the flip side, I could get Twitter to return results for mentions of @erickschonfeld, displaying three results in the last two days. For whatever reason, this particular query goes at least two days, but less than five.

This appears to suffer from the short database (by time), but is not a separate issue.

Issue Number Four: Oprah Doesn't Exist In Twitter Search

For whatever reason, Twitter Search didn't display results from Oprah (@oprah) two years ago. Tonight, I searched again, and found no results.

As Oprah's last tweet was September 22nd, it may not have been recent enough to see in the database, and doesn't mean it's Oprah specific. A similar search on my name goes back 7 days.

I assume, in this case, that maybe if Oprah had tweeted in the last week, she would be there. Other high profile, high subscriber accounts, like @aplusk, go back a week.

The post from Twitter Engineering focuses on how to keep the current capabilities available under increasing load. As Twitter's focus is on real-time, they note, so should their search engine be. This means, essentially, that older tweets are much less relevant than new tweets - so much so that they drop out of the index after a week's time, both on the old version and the new.

The sign that "older tweets are temporarily unavailable" is seen anytime you hit the end of the road on Twitter search. I had hoped the new database, which sounds technically impressive, would have moved the needle further into the past, but it hasn't yet. The team says "The first difference you might notice is the bigger index, which is now twice as long -- without making searches any slower." If this is the case, then they are, without saying it specifically, acknowledging that Twitter Search had deprecated to only two or three days worth of data, and now it is at seven days, for most searches.

I give Twitter a lot of credit where it is due for the company's maturation and increased feature set, as well as reduced downtime, but it looks like the full functionality once promised by its search engine is not near fruition. Older tweets might be available on Google Realtime search.

October 06, 2010

Congratulations Foursquare on Well-Deserved Downtime

Over the last two days, the popular location based service and king of check-ins, Foursquare, has been suffering from intermittent outages related to database overload and storage troubles. And this is wonderful news. Not because I wish them ill will, but it seems this is a necessary strain practically all successful companies go through at some point as they achieve rapid user growth. How users react to what are hopefully temporary bumps, and how the service reacts after the fact can help determine if the company will continue to be embraced, like a Twitter, or dumped, like a Technorati.

Foursquare's rise from its SXSW 2009 debut to near pervasiveness among the digerati, becoming synonymous with the location check-in movement, despite big players like Facebook and Google participating, and more direct competition like Gowalla and Mytown, is a testament to the service's viral nature, including game mechanics, close ties to friending and following, and a casual attitude that eliminated the dark feeling of insecurity many people once had about announcing their locations, and replacing it with something one not just accepts, but expects.

Downtime Hits All Folks, Even Facebook (from Tonight)

Foursquare seems to be in the position to choose their own destiny - to forge ahead as an independent company, flush with cash from a summer VC round, or to court willing suitors at a later date, hopefully at a higher valuation than deals they famously turned down in a public negotiation for control. While two days of shakiness are no doubt unwelcome by the company or its addicted userbase, it seems a rite of passage that the biggest Web services go through in a circuitous route to the top.

Twitter is by far the most famous for continued bouts with downtime, closely tied to scalability issues, and its fail whale mascot is the icon of downtime that all other interruption pages wish to be when they grow up. The company's status blog at http://status.twitter.com/ has actually seen 15 different posts since September 1st, contrasted with only 10 posts from the company's official blog. (http://blog.twitter.com/)

But the blue bird and white whale on a teal background are not the first to document downtime doom. Amazon Web Services promotes a service health dashboard, while Salesforce.com displays a system status at Trust.Salesforce.com. Google provides a status dashboard for Google Apps, with dedicated pages for Blogger status and Feedburner status and others. Even pokey old Web 1.0 dinosaur Hotmail has a status dashboard.

Common to all these services? Previous downtime issues that hit the community hard. Truth is, until there is a major downtime incident, most companies do not offer insight into their status. They may feel like they are teflon, and they can't be taken down, or they simply didn't think about what could happen if something went wrong. It takes a public shakeup that calls the service's stability and viability into question to push for improved system integrity and redundancy, and despite best efforts, some never quite solve the problem.

Back in 2007 and 2008, Technorati was as much known for its Technorat Monster escaping as anything else. This cutesy downtime message foretold the demise of the service, which had to strip out much of its functionality simply to stay up, and was pretty much abandoned by all but a core of users who watched the company evolve its business model and reduce their technical demands. And so far as I know, Technorati never launched a status page. They didn't do what the many other successful companies (above) did when push came to crash. Foursquare, it looks like, is working hard to push this recent event and will come out of this stronger because they are following the proven path - of ownership, late hours, and public transparency.

Tonight may suck for the company's employees, who are taking a public flogging that cans of Red Bull and pizza won't fix. But they should wear the fatigue as a badge of pride. In time, they could look back at this week's events with warm and fuzzy feelings, remembering the outage, which resulted from "too many checkins", as a clear tell they were graduating from Web curiosity to Web titan.

October 03, 2010

Tweetbeat Captures World's Events In Realtime, Spam Free

One of the most valuable and pervasive user-generated features of Twitter has been the evolution of hashtags. Whether used to signal discussion of a specific topic, or to participate in a shared event, searching for mentions of popular hashtags has become a frequent occurrence, aimed to capture the pulse of the world in real time. But, like most good things, they too can be used for ill will, as spammers and other jokers latch on to popular events and topics to push their nefarious agenda. Also, search results from Twitter, especially as the service grows in popularity, are not categorized or grouped. Tweetbeat, the latest introduction from search company Kosmix, delivered a solution last week that brings the world's events to the fore, with Twitter as the filter, spam free.

Just like the company's previous (and ongoing) efforts with the Tweetbeat Firsthand extension, which surfaces relevant Twitter accounts through the entire Web, Kosmix is again trying to make the pervasive noise from Twitter useful, bringing the best of the service forward, and pushing the dreck to the back.

Tweetbeat tracks the opening of The Social Network

Tweetbeat, launched last week at the TechCrunch Disrupt event, features what the company calls LiveFollow event streams to see real-time reactions from experts and others, Replay functionality to show tweets that took place during past events, and recommendations to find people who are engaging in events of shared interest.

The Disrupt event was not only a good launch conference for the product, but also a good test case, as Tweetbeat chronicled people's reactions to startup introductions, panels and yes, the AOL/TechCrunch news. Companies and people mentioned in the event were featured in a leaderboard, showing who was getting the most digital ink.

Tweetbeat tracks the Giants and Padres as they fight

But Tweetbeat is more than just tech conferences. Tweetbeat fires up for weather hotspots, movie releases, and all manner of sporting events. (See: http://tweetbeat.com/events. For me, one of the most compelling and fun uses of Tweetbeat is the service's dedicated NFL section, which shows real-time reactions to games across the league, with breakdowns by contest. You can even play back each game to ride fans' highs and lows. Even the baseball pennant race got a look in (See: Giants vs. Padres - Game 162 on Tweetbeat).

Tweetbeat NFL in Action for the Lions & Packers

Kosmix was among the earliest partners to have access to Twitter's full firehose feed, and they are leveraging that access to its fullest with Tweetbeat, pulling in about 3,000 tweets per second, filtering them for relevance and hiding those with low influence - a rank they have developed for every single active Twitter user, utilizing multiple factors, such as retweets and the influence level of those who have retweeted them. The result? An incredibly fast, no nonsense view of the world's reactions to real-time events.

Twitter's trending topics are well known to often be led by frivolous or off-color hastags, and you won't find that on Tweetbeat. While Twitter search may be a quick click away within the service to see what people are saying that very second, Tweetbeat is capturing it all and ranking it for usefulness. You just might find the event you are searching for is not just on Tweetbeat, but organized with style. So check it out at http://www.tweetbeat.com. With the NFL season under way, and fall TV shows hitting the air, you know I'll be sneaking over to see what the world is saying.

Disclosure: Kosmix, the parent company of Tweetbeat, is a client of Paladin Advisors Group.

Not All Startups Go To Heaven. Read Why They Die.

The comment that "9 out of 10 startups fail" is Silicon Valley legend. Everybody says it, and as debate on Quora rages, nobody knows whether its true or where the idea originated. Truth is, with practically every business venture, there is risk, short term and long term. Startups carry higher amounts of risk, but also higher potential rewards. It's the antithesis of mutual funds and blue chip stocks. Some fail quietly. Some succeed loudly. Some fail extremely loudly, leaving a burning hole in the ground where somebody's money and dreams used to be. And often, the people behind the carnage dust themselves off and try again. It's tradition.

Expertly chronicling many of the reasons startups perish over the last year has been Steve Duplessie of the Enterprise Strategy Group (better known as ESG). While you may not be familiar with his work, ESG is easily the most respected analyst firm in enterprise infrastructure and software. I've benefitted from working alongside Steve and his team in various roles at companies I've worked for and consulted for, and appreciate the firm's insight. I have especially appreciated Steve's taking the time to illustrate many of the failures he has seen firsthand, to help people learn from those mistakes and try to increase their chances of success.

It's one thing to boost entrepreneurs and investors by highlighting successful companies' history, and another to try and help them avoid failure. Such is this path Steve has taken and I am sharing with you. If you don't have the time to read them all today, bookmark his blog and come back to make sure you do. There are lessons to be learned.
Since starting my career in Silicon Valley in 1998, as I was wrapping my degrees from UC Berkeley, I have only worked for startups, from 3-4 person companies to one that peaked over 200. I've consulted for large firms and small and advised others that count only the CEO/founder as the employee. But I've seen many of the experiences Steve discusses.

I've been at a company that dramatically reduced its staff because it couldn't raise another round of funding. I've been at a company that was shut down because of differences between its lead investor and management. I've been at a company that struggled because its products didn't match its amazing promise - fed by a zealous CEO with charisma. I've seen great management and poor alike struggle. I've seen companies with products chasing solutions that may only exist in a lab. And I know while I've done many things right, there are always changes I wish I could go back and do over again that could push these companies in a better direction.

I talk a lot about successful companies with great products that I enjoy and use every day. Many of these products and companies are going to go on and have success, be they household names or acquired by household names themselves. Many others will go away for any number of reasons - including the many choices Steve lays out in his intriguing series.

For months, I have had highlighting his series as a "to do" for me to bring to the fore for you. While ESG's focus may be enterprise and not consumer, and while the team is based in Massachusetts, not Silicon Valley, there are lessons to be learned. You might find yourself nodding along as you read his stories, recognizing your colleagues or partners, or even yourself.

Also, despite Steve's initial reticence to jump into this new fangled social media world, he's discoverable on Twitter at @stevedupe. Worth a follow.

Disclosures: During my time at BlueArc from 2001-2009, ESG was was a paid analyst firm to assist the company. ESG also has relationships with Emulex and Ocarina Networks, both of whom are current or past clients of Paladin Advisors Group. (See: LinkedIn or About Page)