April 24, 2013

Devoxx France Video: Early Adopters, Press and Social Media

Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, France and speak at Devoxx 2013, with a focus of helping startups raise their "visibility seed round". Often, companies focus on their product, and yes, to raise money - but there's a missing piece, gaining the first customers and first press. Before stepping on to the stage, I sat down with fellow Googler +Alexis Moussine-Pouchkine to talk about mistakes company often make in reaching out to first users and press, and how they can leverage social media.

We also talk a bit about Google Developers Live (+GDL), the program I manage, helping Googlers interact with developers directly, worldwide. Hope you take a look and find this quick video valuable.

April 18, 2013

TV Tattle Goes Dark After 13 Years

In the fall of 1998, a friend of mine at the Daily Californian student newspaper in Berkeley said he was in a real fix. With housing scarce at Cal, and both of us set to start our senior year, somehow he ended up "between places" and needed somewhere to crash. While I was already crammed into a one bedroom, one bathroom place with another roommate, I told the friend, Norman Weiss, he could crash on my couch. But I was no saint. I charged him $20 a night, figuring I'd make a $100 for the week while he looked for a place. After all, I needed money too. A month later, I was up $600, Norman found a place, and my real roommate, who wasn't in on the "cash for couch" deal, was ready to stop sharing the bathroom.

Norman by most standards was a pretty quirky guy. His social awkwardness was exceeded only by his intensity for finding a story. He was a good journalist, was voracious about hoovering up information, and was always up on the latest gossip at the university, and politics. Our evenings were spent talking about news, rumors and the Web. Shortly after he left my place, he showed me the early stages of his new idea - a website dedicated to links about TV. He was so excited about it and begged for my feedback on the name of the site and first graphics. I don't remember my exact words, but I seem to remember being pretty dismissive. After all, this was before real blogs had taken off, and I didn't care all that much about TV. But he did.

I first highlighted some of this story back in February of 2006, as Norman didn't take my being critical as a reason to stop working on what eventually became TV Tattle. Starting in 2000, and for nearly every weekday the last 13 years, casual television watchers and industry hobnobbers alike have turned to Norman's curated links to get the daily dish on the boob tube. Which is why when he put up a quick text note this week saying he was calling it quits, this move even hit The Hollywood Reporter, who seemingly is shocked by their outing of the quiet, but not truly anonymous, kingpin behind the site.

TV Tattle wasn't the most flashy site by any stretch of the imagination. It was largely text heavy, and images were small, if included at all. RSS was lacking, and social media integration was invisible. It remained a testament to a simpler time of the Web where one guy sitting at his computer, wherever that was, could keep people interested and entertained on a specific topic, due to being more diligent and consistent than anybody else.

Colleagues of mine from the Daily Californian went through a lot in the few years we all shared there. Some stayed in journalism and worked at places like the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and the Arizona Republic. Others of us found the magnet of Silicon Valley too much to ignore, and work hard on the tech side of things. But while Norman remained much of an enigma, my every visit to his site was a small link away from those formative days when we had no money, when three guys shared a one bedroom apartment, and gossip on Berkeley's always amusing City Council members was the topic du jour.

When looking to take some time off from the world of tech, I've never stopped being a regular reader of TV Tattle, but now it looks like that choice is being made for me. Good luck, Norman. I hope we haven't heard the last from you.

April 08, 2013

Video: Social Media: The Thing You Do "Between" Things

A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to visit Paris, France and London, in the UK, to speak at Devoxx France and meet with colleagues internationally. While in London, I sat down with +Bob Barker, who works with my good friend +Thomas Power, and he asked me questions on how I use social media, including what sites, what times, and for what purpose.

As this question comes up a lot, and continues to come up, more than 7 years after I started the blog, I'm glad he took the time to record it in this video, less than ten minutes long. Fast summary: You shouldn't block off time in your day for social media. Like email or catching up on the news, social media happens "between" the rest of the bits in your life - be they meetings, work, or anything else.

Like many people, I consume content differently on a mobile device than I do on the desktop. I often watch television, but at the same time, have my Nexus 7 so I don't miss a thing - levering what I've long called continuous parallel attention. In the discussion, we talk about how Google+ Hangouts have broken down barriers in communicating with friends, family and colleagues, and how I leverage Twitter for real time content and sports. Of course, I work for Google, but these are my individual words, and the objective was to be as transparent and real as possible.

April 06, 2013

Allen Stern, Web 2.0 Tech Blogging Pioneer, Passes Away

Tonight, I found out, as did many of us in the tightly knit tech blogging community, that Allen Stern, the founder of Centernetworks, and later CloudContacts and Let's Talk Fitness, had passed away. No matter the reason, it was far too soon - and no matter of Wikipedia style dry obit can capture the loss of one of the tech blogging scene's first, finest and most fun, personalities, who was truly larger than life.

The news broke about three hours ago, in a Facebook post from Allen's sister, saying Allen had passed earlier in the week. For those of us who know Allen well, this is a big surprise. Allen's health, once a major cause for concern a couple years ago, had dramatically improved, as he lost more than 125 pounds through greatly improved diet and exercise. While I've talked about my own push to lose all of thirty pounds, thanks to Fitbit, the idea of losing 125 pounds is mind boggling.

Allen after his health kick, looked fantastic. (via his Facebook)

Before Allen's health kick, he made a name for himself running Centernetworks. Archive.org has it starting all the way back in 1999, but when I first started posting regularly here, CenterNetworks was one of the Techmeme regulars, and Allen was seemingly on every story. On top of his New York-centric view of the Valley and all things tech, he had a very funny and dry sense of humor, punctuated by my favorite bits of him as "The Blogger King", along with pompous Burger King crown, laying down the rules of the tech Web.

Allen, amid all the self-centered hipsters that entered the blogging scene, was genuine and personal. In 2008, when my twins were born, we had a fun blog back and forth that peaked with the month-plus old Matthew jokingly being hired as an intern at CenterNetworks, and later losing his role for sleeping on the job. We pretended to sue, and Allen later sent a model A Train, from one of his other passions, New York transit, which became one of my kids' favorite toys. Allen also was one of my most frequent email contacts, and always took the time for a phone call.

After he immersed himself into CloudContacts, Allen later sold Centernetworks, and later focused more on getting his body into shape. As he told me frequently, he was sluggish and in horrible repair two years ago around Google I/O, which was the last time I saw him, in 2011. He fought hard and made himself look dramatically better, part of the life change that came as he also moved out of urban New York and to suburban Austin, Texas.

I'll miss Allen. I missed it when he stopped posting as regularly to CenterNetworks as he once did. But more, I'll miss the fun email threads and fun phone calls that always left me laughing and feeling better. Death sucks and tonight, I'm sad. Bye, Allen.