Monthly Archives: December 2008

30 minutes at 12seconds.tv shows future of “reality based” tech startups

Welcome back after Christmas. Yesterday I visited Santa Cruz to shoot some surfers with Marc Silber, photographer, and to visit 12seconds.tv.

At first glance 12seconds.tv is a lame idea. But, most of you thought the same thing about Twitter. So, that first impression should be thrown in the recycling bin along with all the torn up wrapping paper from Christmas presents you received yesterday.

What is it? It’s a service that lets you upload or record videos 12 seconds at a time. Sort of a video Twitter. It’s gained a cult following around the world.

But forget all that.

In my 30-minute video interview I discover a few other reasons to pay attention to this team and this service and why this company shows the future of tech startups in our new “reality-based” economy (I split the video into two parts. Here’s part one and here’s part two).

1. This isn’t their day job. They all work other places during the day. But are building this on nights and weekends, which is why I visited the day after Christmas.
2. They are part of the new “reality economy” which is self funded until they find a revenue stream which is significant enough for them to live off of. Only then will they go for VC funding, if they need it at all.
3. They are using a “cloud bursting” architecture. All the videos are hosted on their own servers, but if one gets popular they move it, and all the traffic, over to Amazon.com’s web services, to protect their servers from being overloaded. This lets them serve a lot more people very efficiently and cheaply.
4. They use Twitter for everything. Customer service. Building community. TweetDeck is up on their screens and they use iPhones — even answering questions on Christmas day.
5. That lack of resources causes them to focus on one thing, and one thing only (I wish Podtech had learned that).
6. In the second part of the video they demo their new iPhone app which they charge for “if no one is going to pay for this why are we building it?”

Anyway, enjoy. You’ll also see Marc Silber shooting photos in the video and Jeremy Toeman explaining how he’s helping 12seconds with PR and strategy. From 12seconds.tv you see Jacob Knobel, lead developer, who, along with Sol Lipman and David Beach started 12seconds.tv (you see all three in the videos).

What do they mean by “reality based?” Well, they have already noticed that investors are looking at monetizeable ideas much more closely and are less likely to fund things that don’t have community support already and don’t have a good idea of how they’ll make money in two years.

Welcome to the new “reality based” tech startup. Anyone have any other examples?

Mike and Loic are wrong about Twitter search

Bob Warfield has it all right: Loic Le Meur’s call for authority-based Twitter searches is all wrong.

What is Loic’s idea? To let you do Twitter searches with results ranked according to number of followers.

You’d think I’d be all over that idea, right? After all I have a lot more followers than Loic or Arrington has.

But you’d be wrong. Ranking by # of followers is a stupid idea. Dave Winer agrees. Mike Arrington, on the other hand, plays the wrong side of the field by backing Loic’s dumb idea.

Here’s why it’s a stupid idea: everyone is gaming the number of followers. And, even if everyone weren’t, popularity on Twitter isn’t a good way to measure whether a Tweet is any good or not.

It would increase noise, not decrease it. After all, if such a system were in effect you’d see my Tweets at the top of the page, even for things that I don’t have any business being at the top of the page for.

For instance, let’s say we were talking about something in China. How about something affecting supply chain management. Who should be at the top of such a result? @liamcasey because he runs a sizeable supply chain management company in China. But, no, he won’t be at top if Loic gets his way. I would be. That’s really lame.

So, what’s a better idea? Study the metadata that really matters.

Here’s some on Twitter:

1. Number of retweets of that tweet.
2. Number of favorites of that tweet.
3. Number of inbound links to that tweet.
4. Number of clicks on an item in Twitter search.

On friendfeed there’s even more to study:

1. Number of likes of that tweet.
2. Number of comments on that tweet.
3. Amount of resharing of that tweet.
4. Clicks on each tweet.
5. Velocity of commenting and liking behavior.

On both services you should see a bias of tweets made by people you’re actually following. Who you are following is a LOT more important than who is following you. Why? Those are active choices YOU made, which should tell the system something about you and who brings you the most value. The numbers of people following you is almost totally irrelevant.

I really hope that the Twitter team doesn’t listen to the popular users on this issue.

Oh, and friendfeed, why is your search so bad?

I can’t pull much value out of the search engine. Why can’t I say “show me all tweets that include the word ‘obama’ and that have two or more likes and three or more comments?” If we had the ability to actually pull value out of friendfeed’s database this whole argument would be moot.

To Loic and Mike: since when did “authority” have anything to do with “popularity?”

The best gadget I stole in 2008

Maryam wanted a video camera. She asked her friends and they recommended the FlipCam. She thought it was safe from me. She got an ugly one (orange and white) just to make it very unlikely that I’d steal it. After all, if it isn’t an Apple product, or cool and black, it probably was safe from her geeky husband, right?

But I tried it out one day and found that it gave me a lot better quality that my Nokia cell phone with Qik.

Since that day I haven’t given it back. All the recent videos on my Kyte video channel are done with it.

So, now she wants it back. Hah, I think I’ll buy her one of the new HD ones. And me too.

One tip: you MUST use a monopod (which is what I’m doing) or a tripod with this. It is too small to hold steady otherwise.

Why do I love it? It uses AA batteries so I can either use rechargeables or, if those are dead, some of the AA’s in the freezer.

It has a little USB plug that swings out the side. It works with any computer. So, if I take video of my friends’ cute babies, I can give them that video right there. Oh, and the video works with Kyte, YouTube, Viddler, Facebook, and a bunch of other services too. No reformatting or work needed.

Hope a bunch of you find one of these under your Christmas tree.

One problem? The local BestBuy is sold out of the HD versions so you might need to buy them online.

Mike Arrington is talking about his experiences with the Flip and other small HD cameras on his Twitter account. For me, it might be ugly, but it is the best thing I’ve stolen from Maryam all year.

The best 2009 web development tool?

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I remember the good old days of 1994. Back when your only choice of developing a web site was doing it by hand. Remember typing HTML codes like <b> and <table> and making it all work? Or, if you didn’t know what those meant, you had to pay some developer $100+ an hour to do it for you. Seriously, back then HTML developers were in short supply and building a web site was expensive. The magazine/conference company I worked for, Fawcette Technical Publications, paid more than $100,000 to build its first web site, which was a pretty rudimentary one.

Then came a bunch of tools. I liked FrontPage. But played with Hotdog. Dreamweaver. And a bunch of others that I’ve forgotten. FrontPage has been morphed into Microsoft Expression, which is still a damn cool tool, but it was really designed for last year’s web.

What about the web of 2009?

Of course you’re going to use Ajax and build Restful APIs, right? What about putting your stuff in the cloud? Of course!

So, what’s the best tool for that job?

Well, three million people have chosen Aptana’s toolset and they are about to release a tool for building cloud-oriented websites and apps.

So, yesterday I went over and got a look. Here’s the videos:

1. Discussion of Aptana’s tools and what the 2009 web marketplace looks like with Kevin Hakman who runs developer outreach for Aptana. 20 minutes.
2. Demo of Aptana’s Cloud with Kris Rasmussen, cloud lead. 18 minutes.

What will you see there? The web-development tool for 2009? I think so and so do three million other developers. Got anything that helps startups build cloud-based websites and apps better? Let’s hear about them.

Hope you’re having a good Christmas with your family. More cloud stuff on Friday when we post our interview with Tim O’Reilly and go and visit 12seconds.tv in Santa Cruz to hear how they are using cloud computing to build a popular company with almost no money invested.

Ahh, the echo chamber

Ahhh, it’s always fun to look at the referrer log in WordPress and see who is linking to me and how much traffic they send me. Here’s mine from today. What are some trends here? Arrington rules. Techmeme is OK. Where’s the rest of the traffic? 

We are talking to ourselves. Mike. This is the real danger. 

I think I’ll go back to Facebook where 140 million people are hanging out. 
:-)

My blog's referrers today

It’s time for the geeks to sit down and shut up

Eight years ago, during the last downturn, I would have supported things like Scrapplet with open arms. If you look at it the geeky way Scrapplet is incredible: it lets you drag and drop pieces of the web over to your canvas and create a new web page. The technology underneath — all developed by one guy, Steve Repetti, is absolutely incredible.

But it is way too unapproachable for normal people.

Why would I have supported it last time and not this time? Last time we didn’t have so many choices about where to put our attention. There was no iPhone. No Facebook. No Twitter. No PlayStation3. No Xbox. Etc. Etc. This time the small companies are still getting funded so there still is enough for TechCrunch to talk about and TechMeme to link to. Last time those two didn’t even exist. There simply isn’t room in the marketplace for a geeky technology like there was last time. Sorry Scrapplet.

Here, quick, read Webware’s post on the Scrapplet. Then read TechCrunch’s post. And finally, check out Louis Gray’s post.

Do you have a clue what this thing does yet?

I do, but only because Steve gave me a demo and, even, made me a page to demonstrate some of the key things behind the technology.

The problem is that Steve can’t give everyone in the world a demo.

And the other problem is that the world has changed. We’ve become a nation of Twitterers and Facebookers. Not of people who want to geek around and build mashups of our own. We want to push a button and have it all done for us. Which is why Twitter is the ultimate tool and why so many think the little-bit-more-complex friendfeed is awful.

If you can’t handle friendfeed you definitely can’t handle Scraplet.

So, here’s the deal: Ripetti is onto something here — being able to embed any code, URL, or drag and drop pieces of pages into the editor here is extremely powerful and the fact that he got all the geeky bloggers to talk about it demonstrates he got us all hot and bothered over the weekend. But he needs to go back and find a much simpler way to bring his technology to the masses.

Until he does it’ll only be us geeks playing with it.