I Kickstarted Diaspora – Step 1 in Quitting Facebook

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I’ve been wanting to make an investment in some Kickstarter program for a while. A friend of mine got involved in the early pre-alpha stage, but I couldn’t find a project that I got that passionate about until now. I love Kiva and the idea behind it, but the idea behind something that could radically change social networks is pretty sweet too. These guys could easily steal my percentage of the $70K that they raised and go buy beer too, which is cool too and I’m happy to support them for having the chutzpah for doing that. I’ve never really been able to get behind Facebook. I post all of my updates via Twitter and respond to email from about 4 people on it. I find it a bit mundane in terms of what is being shared and I, no offense, only have a few friends that add interest and value to my life. The rest is just kind of nice to see. I like these people, but I don’t need the updates about their lunches and they don’t need mine. Frankly, if I lost 90% of my friends (who aren’t really friends but mostly distant acquaintances), I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it. Throw on all of the headache behind the privacy stuff and I start to think about dropping the whole program. I don’t know if I’ll go so far as to completely pull the plug on FB, but I find myself, in my old age, caring less and less about what other people happen to like nor do I feel so compelled to share what I like. Odds are, you don’t like what I like. Jason’s post really swayed me this morning. Not so much to quit FB, which I think is coming for me, but to also start exploring other alternatives. In the words of Archers of Loaf, the underground is over crowded.Diaspora was getting a lot of traction today. I loved the video and really like what these guys are trying to do. I think that old people are going to have a tough time getting it, but if you think about bitorrent for social networks, that sums the premise up nicely. It is obviously still a long ways away from going primetime and having grandma hit you up for a friend request, but I don’t think that it is as far away as others are saying. $70K buys a lot of coding time from 4-talented devs living on raman and Coke. If I can launch an open source version of FB for free in 15-minutes (terrible video), these guys can do it in 3-months.Of course, the Diaspora video also seems like this is the kind of scam that was concocted over large amounts of cheap beer and bad coffee, so who knows.UPDATE – TechCrunch, of course, has a another post on Diaspora.

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The Apple iPad – Turn Ons and Turn Offs

I’d be a bad parent to throw the iPad into the same category as one of my kids, but I do love it.Yes, it has only been a week and I’m sure that I’ll find some of the flaws that the anti-iPadders are talking about, but thus far, they have yet to materialize.So, in the spirit of a Playboy centerfold… Turn On’s:

  • Yes. It turns on instantly.  Just like my phone and my MacBook when I don’t shut it down.  I simply push the button and I’m online.  It is the way that computers should be.  The fact that people have to wait 5-minutes for Windows to boot up in 2010 is an embarrassment to the human race.
  • The Kindle – The Kindle on the iPad just rocks.  Some people complain about the glare, but I spent most of this past weekend on the beach reading off of it and it was fine.  I didn’t have to reposition my chair, didn’t have to move around or tilt it in an uncomfortable way.  Yes, there was a glare, but not nearly as bad as I get on a laptop.
  • The Kindle II – Best practice – if the white background hurts your eyes (it does mine) switch to black background with white text.  Eyes all better.
  • Family time – Because of the form factor, it is a great family game machine.  I kill zombies with my son and serve diners with my daughter.  We curl up on the couch together and play.  I busted out Pictionary on it the other night and all four of us spent about 45 minutes drawing and guessing and had a blast.  There is a version of Sorry I’m aching to try.
  • Video – Because it is true HD, I find that I’m watching more video (not Hulu yet, though) on it than on my laptop.  We are a one TV family and I like that while my wife watches television, I can watch quality video on the iPad in another room. Check out ‘The Raven‘ for a perfect example.
  • iPhone apps work – this is really nice.
  • Bedtime stories – There are some amazing kids books out there and it is cool, especially Alice in Wonderland, how they work.  I hope more come out.
  • Google Maps – It is generally a cool application, but having the iPad on the counter and looking at a map makes me feel like a modern day Magellan.
  • Netflix – Hell yes. Watch instantly kills on the iPad.
  • BoingBoing – They’ve built a really nice interface specifically for the iPad.

Turn Off’s

  • Video – Apple needs to get over this petty squabble with Adobe and support Flash. Apple is asking all web developers to support a different video standard and that is kind of dumb.  Hulu is coming out with a premium version soon that will support the iPad.  That will be nice to see.
  • Weight – Despite the form factor, it is a bit heavier than I was expecting.  Not that it weighs a ton, but compared to a Kindle, it is different.
  • No Social Books – My big vision for Kindle / iPad / etc. is that they build a social service that allows me to see how other people mark up their books.  Brad Feld has a great book shelf and actually does a good job sharing what he reads.  Other people I follow, not so much.  I’d love to not only see what they are reading, but also see their mark ups and notes.  I’d pay a bunch for that service. Shelfari gets kind of there, but I’d like to see what people I follow jot down in the notes.
  • Publishers aren’t quite there yet – I saw the video for Mygazines and that is what pushed me over the edge to buy an iPad.  Their content isn’t for me, but I love their vision and I hope that other publishers get on board with similar types of services.  I’d really like to see Golf Digest put out an iPad edition that has tight integration and video.
  • Fragility – Mabye it is because I’ve had my iPhone for a long time and I’m used to it. Maybe it is because my iPhone has a little condom it sits in. For whatever reason, I don’t think of my iPhone as that fragile.  The iPad on the other hand, I feel like I’m carrying around a precious plate of glass. I’m worried that if it drops, if it lays wrong in my bag, if I stare at it the wrong way, It will break. Hopefully that will go away.
  • iTunes – I’ve always felt that for managing music, iTunes was okay.  Add Podcasts, books and videos and it starts to suck.  Add another profile or another device and it becomes totally worthless.  I have things on my phone that I don’t want on my iPad and vice versa.  It should be easier to manage these profiles independently of one another.  Right now the experience fails huge.
  • App Splurge – One thing I didn’t account for was the limited number of free iPad apps.  As soon as I got it home, I had to spend $50 on books and apps.  Not the end of the world, but at ~10% the purchase price, it was a surprise.
  • Fingerprints…

Unknowns

  • Video – I’ve heard that there is a pretty nice VGA / HDMI cable that you can hook to your television, but I’ve got no experience with it. It would be cool to see. It would be cool to see this used as a presentation device too and I’m sure that at Web 2.0 next month, it will be.
  • Business apps – I like having access to the information for work, but I haven’t had the opportunity to check it too frequently yet.  Right now, I’m still rocking 3-screens so anything too important, I use my laptop.
  • 3G – I opted not to get 3G.  For one, I’d rather eat broken glass than give more money to AT&T.  Second, I’m rarely in a spot where 3G works and wi-fi isn’t available. As more restaurants and cities make it available, the need for 3G will dwindle.

I’m still very much in the honeymoon phase with my iPad, but thus far, I really love it. I ended up with the 64GB one because it was all they had. I’m not sure how I’ll fill that up yet as I don’t even have music or movies installed yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a way. I maxed my phone out pretty quickly.Got questions? Got suggestions on how I can better use my iPad?  Please leave comments or drop me an email.

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Sponsor My Son’s Cast!

Saturday morning, my 6-year old son fell from the monkey bars and broke his arm. It was kind of a crappy way to start a weekend, but I think that there is a silver lining to this.Every year, there are 40,000 monkey bar accidents resulting in emergency room visits. I’d like to start a trend of having private companies help fund the costs associated with healthcare in America.Imagine your uncle Bob’s, who might die without his pacemaker, getting all costs covered in exchange for wearing a Visa t-shirt everywhere he goes? Maybe Grandma needs a new hip, how about covering the cost of that in exchange for getting her car wrapped with Actonel banner.I see this as a larger trend beyond casts, but casts, especially a full arm cast like my son will get on Monday, should be prime real estate for key advertisers. I’ve flown this idea past my wife and she was surprisingly on board.We’ll consider most advertisers suitable for a 6-year old with the only caveat being that there is a spot for his friends to sign their names. I envision characters with text blocks underneath them for his friends autographs.  I’ll let your creatives come up with something.The technology on how to wrap this is up to the advertiser and would need to be approved by our orthopedist. I suspect that some type of sticker will be appropriate, but I don’t know how it will stick to the fiber glass. That’s up to you.Ideal advertisers that we are thinking about include Pokemon, Bakugon, Nintendo or Golden Palace (seems like this would be up their alley).The kid is going to have a full arm cast for at least 8-weeks starting tomorrow.  This is an option for a single advertiser. He is in school for 4-hours a day (kindergarten), with 25 kids in his class.  He interacts a lot with other kids in the rest of the school.  I’d guess that he gets direct / indirect interaction with over 100 kids a day.  He spends a lot of after school time with his friends and other kids in our neighborhood.  We’ll permit limited, approved PR for this opportunity.My wife and I are serious about this, but also consider any type of sponsorship to be college money for him.  Like a lot of parents, we have high hopes for our kids.  In other words, think Stanford not state school. If you’re interested in this opportunity, please contact me directly via this blog.

I’m The Mayor of Your House – #crime

At the end of the year, I read Michael Fertik’s great post, 2010: The Year of Atomic Branding on my friend Jennifer Leggio’s blog. I file this under ‘scary – interesting’ and I thought that was the end of it.

A couple of weeks later, I’m in the city for the weekend with my family. We had just trudged through the rain and were sitting in the bar of the St. Francis. The kids having hot chocolate, me having a martini and I checked in on Foursquare. The act of checking in on Foursquare when I’m with my family delights my kids because they like to know the Mayor of places. The act of checking in on Foursquare pisses my wife off to no end and has been the cause of many a shopping spree.

This time, she simply said “So now everyone that follows you knows that we aren’t at home and we are over an hour away. How many people follow you and how much do you trust them not to rob us?’ I wish she would have stopped there, but of course, she follows that up with “How often do you check in, telling the world that you aren’t home, but maybe me and the kids are?”

Flashback to Michael Fertik’s article, the potential threat of oversharing on social networks.

Of course this got me thinking about how safe location based social networks are. How vulnerable are we?

I’ve heard interesting stories about people & stalkers and being dumped or being fired because of FourSquare. I haven’t heard about people being robbed. Yet.

A week or so later, I did a simple check to see how vulnerable we really are. I did a quick search for people in San Francisco sharing their status on Twitter and checked in on FourSquare or Gowalla. It’s a simple query using Twitter’s advanced search capability.

What I found amazed me. People checked in all over the place. FourSquare was living up to it’s reputation. However, an easy cross check from Twitter – where people tend to put their full name and where they live, with WhitePages.com let me easily figure out where people lived. I don’t mean just the city, but also their exact address and even a nice little Google Map with directions to get there.

Of course, not everyone is easy to find on WhitePages.com, but my quick little informal experiment yielded about a 25% hit rate. I got freaked out. No more FourSquare for me. In the old days, burglars would prowl around neighborhoods looking for empty houses.  Today, they simply need to search for affluent neighborhoods and look for people who have checked in at places more than a few hours away.  The movie theater for example.

I took it one step further.  Here is a feed for people who have checked in or are posting “I’m at” the key phrase for both Gowalla and FourSquare.  When people say where they are, they also say where they aren’t (home, for example).

Glad I have an alarm system. How long until someone really malicious does a nice little Twitter / WhitePages mash-up?

Photo by Johnny Grim.

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Sharendipity: How Microblogging Helps The Sales Process

I wrote a post yesterday on the Socialtext blog on how microblogging can help accelerate the sales process. It is really cool to see this work in action.  If you’re in sales, or work for a large company, I strongly recommend (plug, plug) using tools that help broadcast your activity to the greater audience at your company:

The serendipitous nature of enterprise social networks continues to amaze me. Take what happened here last week here at Socialtext over our microblogging platform, Socialtext Signals.

One of the reps on my sales team Signaled that she just gave a demo to a prospective customer at a very large company. Less than 5 minutes later, our director of marketing responded (via another Signal) that his brother is CIO at that company, and how can he help? An offline conversation ensued, an introduction was made, and now we are having conversations at a level we would have had to work 10 times as hard to get.

People in your own company probably have a closer level of connection to your customers — and potential customers — than you might think. To make sure those connections happen, you need an open environment where you can ask questions, find the right people, and get answers. That discovery process is much harder without a tool like Signals. In e-mail, information becomes locked away. If our director of marketing, for example, hadn’t been CCed on an e-mail message about that potential client, we never would have found out that he had a connection there that could help.

My guess is that a simple message — such as “I’m trying to get in to BigCo, can anyone help?” — to a company of 1,000 people will initiate responses from 5 – 6 people who at least might know someone. From relatives to close family friends to old acquaintances from past lives, they might have an in. In most cases, they will be stronger introductions than anything you’ll get from LinkedIn or any public social network.

Selling is hard work. You need to have a lot of different moving parts all line up in order to get a signed contract. One of those things is getting all of the right people on board. This requires a lot of skill, planning, presentation and sometimes, a little bit of serendipity.

 

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Twitter, Voyeurism & Small Towns

My friend Chris makes a great argument that Twitter, while getting popular amongst niche circles, will never cross over into true mainstream like Facebook has.
I don’t buy the idea that Twitter will be like the invention of the phone, cell phone or computer, where this narrow set of first adopters paves the way and then a floodgate of regular people follow. That time has passed. It’s actually the masses that have (ironically for a social technology) revolted from Twitter because it’s been crammed down their throats in the media and on the Web, and regular people have balked at it. They are happy to say “I don’t get it, and I don’t want to get it.” Facebook happened more organically in dorm rooms because people saw a need for it. People immediately find their friends there, and that matters.
If Chris is talking specifically about the brand Twitter, I would contest that it is too early to tell whether or not Twitter is the ‘it’ application that mass media portrays that it is.  Micromessaging, though, is here to stay.
I look at Twitter like the Friendster of micromessaging. There is a chance that Twitter could devolve and die like Friendster did, making way for MySpace which faltered making way for Facebook.
But I don’t see micromessaging dying anytime soon. In fact, I only see it getting more and more prominent.
People by nature are egotistical and everyone believes that they have something vital to say. As soon as the printing press became common, people were posting bills and handing out fliers sharing their ideas / opinions. I’m quite sure that there was some guy on a high hill shouting smoke signals. There was ham radio, CB’s, fanzines on photocopiers, CompuServe forums, email lists, blogs and now Twitter.
To further show my point, I looked at the town where I grew up.  A small town, not a very technologically sophisticated town of about 3,000 people.
People love to shout out their thoughts and love being voyeuristic and see what other people are doing. Micromessaging isn’t going away anytime soon.

My friend Chris makes an interesting argument that Twitter, while getting popular amongst niche circles, will never cross over into true mainstream like Facebook has.

I don’t buy the idea that Twitter will be like the invention of the phone, cell phone or computer, where this narrow set of first adopters paves the way and then a floodgate of regular people follow. That time has passed. It’s actually the masses that have (ironically for a social technology) revolted from Twitter because it’s been crammed down their throats in the media and on the Web, and regular people have balked at it. They are happy to say “I don’t get it, and I don’t want to get it.” Facebook happened more organically in dorm rooms because people saw a need for it. People immediately find their friends there, and that matters.

If Chris is talking specifically about the brand Twitter, I would say that it is too early to tell whether or not Twitter is the ‘it’ application that mass media portrays that it is.  Micromessaging, though, is here to stay.I look at Twitter like the Friendster of micromessaging. There is a chance that Twitter could devolve and become irrelevant like Friendster did, making way for MySpace which faltered making way for Facebook.But I don’t see micromessaging dying anytime soon. In fact, I only see it getting more and more prominent.People by nature are egotistical and everyone believes that they have something vital to say (bloggers especially). As soon as the printing press became common, people were posting bills and handing out fliers sharing their ideas & opinions. I’m quite sure that there was some guy on a high hill smoke signaling his ideas. There was ham radio, CB’s, fanzines on photocopiers, CompuServe forums, email lists, blogs and now Twitter.To further show my point, I looked at the town where I grew up.  A small, not very technologically sophisticated town of about 3,000 people. A simple Twitter Search of the town name reveals that people there are using Twitter.  These are real people, not some new-media elites grabbing on to this medium. They have a small community and Twitter offers the easiest way to reach them with their ideas and opinions.People love to shout out their thoughts and people love being voyeuristic. Yelling and watching aren’t going away anytime soon.  Neither is micromessaging.What do you think? Is Twitter a flash in the proverbial pan? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.Photo by Fuffer – who has great cartoons.

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Thank Your Supporting Cast

I’ve heard a story that, after he is done filming, Clint Eastwood has a thank you party for his supporting cast & crew at his private club, Tehama, in Carmel Valley. What an awesome thing to do for people that, aside from a split second credit at the end of the film, probably don’t get much credit for the work that they do.I’ve always thought that this was a really cool thing to do.By most accounts, especially in a down economy, I’ve had a pretty good year and have had the opportunity to do some really fun things. I celebrated my 10-year wedding anniversary with Holly, watched my kids evolve into little people, closed some big deals, got a bunch of case studies, consulted / advised two companies, taught a class, sat on two panels, did a couple of guest blog posts and learned a ton from all of the people that I met with throughout the course of the year.Success is not an individual sport.  There are a lot of people that have helped me out. For that, I’m very grateful and I’d like to recognize them.  Think of this as a Follow Friday, Subscribe Saturday or what you want to call it.  These people rock.

  • My amazing wife and family – beyond them, this list is in no particular order
  • The awesome people at Socialtext for all of their help – Kris, Eugene, Ross, Michael, Alan, Shawn Devlin, Chris Lynch, Michael Kieran, Adina Levin, Phyllis Ball and the entire development staff here at Socialtext. You guys have built an amazing product that is really fun to sell.  Thank you.
  • All of my customers that actually bought stuff from me.  You have no idea how much it means to me that you see me as someone you trust enough to do business with.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. A million times over, thank you.
  • Eric Grafstrom, Jim Weil, Mukund Mohan, Peter Marquez & Greg Brown for being good friends that I can bounce crazy ass ideas off of and being willing to tell me if they are crazy or not. I am always so impressed by you guys and learn so much in our conversations.
  • Terri Griffith for letting me teach her class at Santa Clara University – I can’t wait to do it again this winter!
  • Too many friends to name – I’m insanely lucky in that department
  • Jennifer Leggio, Dat To and Fernando Labistida for having me guest blog on their sites. PLUG – I love doing this if you need a sales guest blogger, hit me up.
  • Sameer Patel, Oliver Marks & Gerhard Gschwandtner for letting me sit on panels at their respective trade shows. I love that you guys invite me to these and I learn so much when I do these events.
  • Bloggers and writers like Jim Keenan, Doyle Slayton, Jill KonrathPaul Castain – I learn so much from you guys every time you post.
  • You – I’m shocked sometimes when people read this blog.  Thank you for doing so.

As the clock turns over to Thanksgiving day here on the west coast, I’m reminded how lucky I am, but how many people have helped me to be in this position. I know I’ve missed people on this list, but thank you very, very much to each and everyone of you.Image by me.

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