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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Weird Al, PRI & MySpace’s Effect on Enterprise Development

Well, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks and unfortunately, this stie has taken a bit of a back seat to other ventures. We’ll, I’m back like little Carol Ann. Here is an update.In a Mark Cuban kind of way, Mark Cuban announced today that YouTube is done for due to the challenge associated with getting the rights to music used in videos. While I agree with Mark that managing the rights associated with all of the music used in videos is going to be tough, I really hope that the record industry, embraces YouTube and doesn’t push this too much. If I want to make a fan video, so what? I disagree with Mark in that no one is going to listen to a bunch of music via YouTube. That doesn’t make much sense. Record labels are dead. The question is do they want to long painful death or a short quick one. Dear Clive Davis, Embrace new media.The new Weird Al video is everywhere and deserves to be. It is hysterical.This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner RIAA because its content was used without permissionD’oh! See above guys. Slow and painful versus quick and easy. Dummies. Millions of people who don’t watch MTV or any other video channel were passing this video around to their friends and posting it on their sites. WTF? Weird Al has this on his MySpace site, but you need to deal with that. I am going to have to rock one of those White & Nerdy pullovers when they come out.Speaking of MySpace, PunkRockIdol has really taken off. Beave and I are pretty excited about it. It’s only been up for a weekend, but the traffic numbers are pretty positive and the feedback that we’ve received has been awesome.This leads me to my final thought for the evening and that is the effect that MySpace will have on the development and usage of enterprise applications. What has amazed me in doing PRI is how much HTML knowledge is needed to build and promote a MySpace page. It is insane. They certainly don’t make it easy. If you’ve never done it, not only is it a lot of HTML, but the text editors are terrible (tiny windows) and you’re never really sure if it works or not. Yet despite all it’s short comings, there are 110 million users all banging out basic HTML.This is really cool to me. In the future, somone in a major corporation is going to tell these MySpace users that something can’t be done in the enterprise and they are going to say ‘Screw you, I’ve done this on MySpace and can do it here.’ A more realistic scenario is that the admin for the local dental office with 11,000 friends is going to be tapped to build a website. In 10 years, this knowledge will have an amazing effect on how enterprise applications are deployed and modified.I haven’t had a chance to play with Salesforce.com and Greasemonkey, but this would be the first area that I could see this massive collective knowledge coming into play. If your company deploys a web based app, it is now very simple to modify it to have the look and feel that you want, not what is deployed by your company. The data that goes in and comes out of the system is the same, it just looks different based on your desires.

On Punk Rock and PHP

This is going to be a unique two part post in no particular order, but I’ll start with the PHP part first. At the beginning of the year, I dropped Blogger in favor of WordPress. I did this for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one was that I wanted to get a better understanding of PHP. When I told my friends this, they all said, ‘Why on earth would a sales guy want to learn PHP?’ The answer at the time, and still is, two-fold (following the parts & folds? It’s going to get confusing).First, a big chunk of Yahoo’s services are based on PHP and I abhor when I hear engineers tell sales guys that something can’t be done. I love understanding technology to the point where I can call bullshit on an engineer and explain, from a high level why something can be done. I also am certain that understanding technology helps me be a better technology sales person because I can explain solutions at a dumbed down sales guy kind of level. I also find that it helps bridge the divide between sales and engineering. A little street cred if you know what I mean.The second reason that I wanted to learn PHP was that I come up with all kinds of crazy ideas for things that could make a decent long tail business. Not millions, but beer money. The problem with beer money is that it is hard to get an engineer excited about building something that is only going to generate beer money. Thus, I wanted to learn PHP, a bit of JavaScript, some more HTML and a bit of MySQL so that when I get these goofy ideas, I can build them myself.Which takes me to the second part. My friend Beave has been one of my closest friends since we played little league in 3rd grade. We both quickly learned that being in 3rd grade and being a third string right fielder sucked and that being on a skateboard or BMX bike was multiples more fun. We’ve both always been semi-entrepreneurial and started a business in 8th grade publishing a fan zine that had pictures of local skaters, freestylers and record reviews. SaB-Zine. We printed it on my moms photo copier when she was at meetings. We traded advertising from the local skate shop in exchange for distribution and sold 10 copies at $1 a piece. We were rich!!! We took our profits to McDonalds and ate like kings. I don’t remember what we did with the money from the second issue, but I think that we sold 10 or 15 copies of that too.Since BMXing and Skateboarding typically begets punk rock music, we’ve both had a love for punk rock since the 6th or 7th grade. Ever since then, we’ve always wanted to start another little company to make McDonalds money for us (but neither of us eat at McDonalds anymore, so we need WholeFoods money now). I’m happy to announce now, that we have launched PunkRockIdol.comWhile this isn’t the most complex of sites ever built, it is my first foray into building applications that are a bit more complicated than my K2 script. More importantly, 9 months ago, I would have had no idea how to do this. The idea is simple, get punk rock bands to submit their videos and have an online talent show where users vote on the best video. We’ve met a bunch of cool people from the punk rock scene over the years and have recruited a lot of them to be guest judges. We’ve done a ton of homework on how to distribute music online without a major label. We’ve built a MySpace page and are experimenting with all types of marketing on MySpace. We are planning on launching the site in September. Keep an eye out for it.I’m especially thankful that I have Justin, Paul, Jesse and Jon as references for when I really got into a jam.

Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn at Yahoo! My balding head all over Flickr!!!

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of the cool perks of working at Yahoo is having interesting luminaries from the industry come and speak about their successes, failures and general goings on around the industry. Yesterday, Reid Hoffman, the CEO of Linked and angel capitalist to everyoneandtheirmom.com (Flickr, Friendster, Facebook, Digg, Technorati, etc.) was here and gave a very interesting round table with Bradley Horowitz, our VP of Product Strategy.The conversation was a compelling discussion of LinkedIn, social networking, venture capitalists and other tid-bits of knowledge from such an accomplished person. Instead of summarizing the whole conversation, here are the bullets that I took away.

  • With an undergrad at Stanford and a masters in Philosophy from Oxford, Reid has a big brain and an incredible vocabulary that seems to roll off of his tongue quite nicely. He used the word ‘Frothy’ to describe the current consumer Internet venture environment. I loved it.
  • We are just scratching the surface of the consumer Internet and it will grow by leaps and bounds over the next 5 years.
  • When making an investment, Reid looks at the market and makes certain that there is a significant difference in the company and it’s competitors (Flickr to other photo sharing sites)
  • Consumer Internet must relate to the 7 deadly sins to be successful – LinkedIn = Greed
  • LinkedIn is trying very hard not mix a users business identity with their personal identity. Based on all of the issues with people not being hired based on their MySpace profile, this is a very good move.
  • They probably won’t add photos to LinkedIn due to EOE issues.
  • As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn generally tries not to fuck up. It seems simple, but it is a good business lesson.
  • Reid’s rule of thumb for when he will forward a request for an introduction is when he feels that the recipient will thank him for it.
  • A challenge that they are facing is that too many people use LinkedIn solely for job searches. How do you get them to look at LinkedIn as a tool to facilitate everything from investments to vacation plans and everything in between.
  • Reid felt that Yahoo! Answers is the coolest thing that we have released in the last 18 months.
  • He thought that one of the biggest issues that we have is our overall compatibility with Firefox. I don’t think that anyone would argue that.
  • Put the customer first and business second.
  • Monster Networking was the best thing that he had ever seen a big company do for a little company. It justified the space and they launched a crappy product. How sweet is that?
  • Invitation declines are awkward, but they are working on ways to make them more socially acceptable. I like that, as I felt like it gave me a reason to turn down invites of people that I don’t know or don’t know well. Also, I will be more cognizant of who I send invites to.
  • He felt that there was a 70/20/10 rule to venture capitalists. 70% offer money, but a negative experience, 20% offer money, but add no value and 10% offer money and ad value. Find the 10%
  • A venture investment is like a marriage based on a dinner and 2 PowerPoint slide shows.

And as an added highlight, Paul Stamatiou, Y!’s celebrity intern, posted pictures of my prematurely balding head all over Flickr. Note to self, sit behind Paul in future sessions.

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Isn’t it technically ‘Our Space’?

MySpace got hit with more negative press today. In this case, 20 students were suspended from a school in Costa Mesa, CA for visiting another user’s page. The other user built a MySpace page making threats and anti-Semitic references about another student. This student making the threats was expelled. Rightfully so, but that is a different topic.

It has been a pretty bad couple of weeks for MySpace in terms of press. Not only are schools and parents getting their panties in a knot about MySpace, but a number of blogs have had postings about not understanding why it is so popular.

I am almost starting to think that someone at MySpace is putting out negative releases like this. Let’s see, you have a site designed for people under the age of 30. Their schools hate it, their parents are afraid of it and no one over the age of 30 understands it. It is a perfect recipe to get everyone in the world between age 13 and 29 to register. MySpace is the Elvis Presley pelvis shake, the Reefer Madness, the Judas Priest suicide, or the NWA suburban gangsta-fying of this generation. It isn’t dangerous, but old people think it is and therefore it is cool. Why not put out a few negative mock press releases to give your site a little street cred? No publicity is bad publicity, right?

The more I read about MySpace, the more I think that it is like the first part of the Lord of the Flies before the conch shell. You have a bunch of children with no parents around, there is no policing of the site (except for no-nudity), and most users are similar in age , have similar issues and are able to connect to one another. It is social networking in its purest form.

The reason that people over the age of 30 don’t understand MySpace is because we have jobs. Most people over the age of 30 have families that probably depend on us or at least serious bills to pay. We have enough trouble dealing with email, IM or just day to day requests from people that help us pay our mortgage. We can’t deal with everyone that likes the same band as us wanting to be added to our page. When I figure out how to get $100 a month from everyone that would like to have me add them, then I will give MySpace another look.

I know this is going to make me sound really, really old, but I liked MySpace better when it was about the music, man. I have a bunch of friends that got their band launched or better distributed via MySpace (Here, here & here). It was cool. I could go to MySpace, listen to new bands, download some MP3’s. I could keep track of who was coming to town. Maybe even check out a show. Now when I go to a site, I get hit with the auto play of some ass quality audio track because Shainee23 loves Kelly Clarkson.

Jack Bauer has a MySpace account as do the rest of the characters of 24. So do the characters of Nip/Tuck. Each day more and more media companies are adding fictional profiles (but what else are internet chat rooms?) from their movies and shows to MySpace. Just because Jon Stewart added you, doesn’t mean that you are really his friend. At some point, the value and the novelty of the service has to wear off.

Now Viacom says that they want to get into the social networking business. How many social networking sites does one need? Plus, I don’t really recall learning about the 10th mover advantage in any business class. Maybe I was sick that day (good chance). Aside from the PHP scripts being really cheap, what reason would they have to get on this bandwagon and build a service this late in the game? This race isn’t over yet, but the leaders are way out in front. Kids tastes are pretty fickle and change by the minute. Today’s start-up is tomorrow’s MySpace. Today’s giant media conglomerate, however, never builds the next cool thing.