Monthly Archives: January 2010

Twitter’s traffic in trouble?

I see over on Mashable that Twitter’s traffic is flat. Is Twitter in trouble?

Based on my watching of more than 16,000 accounts, no. Usage is better than ever. But, keep in mind I only care about geeks and tech talk. I don’t track how many people are talking about cat photos or celebrities or all the other dreck that’s on Twitter.

But these reports and charts have two major flaws:

1. They potentially undercount overseas users.
2. They potentially severely undercount users who use clients like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.

Last week I spoke to two groups at CES, mostly marketers. Most of those audiences raised their hands when I asked them whether they used clients like Tweetie, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic desktop. So, if and quantcast are undercounting those who use clients, or aren’t counting them at all, then we’re all arguing about nothing.

But, let’s say that these charts are right. Does that matter? It does to Twitter. After all, it’s easier to get hype and get advertising if the charts head up.

Why might these numbers be right?

1. New users get shoved into celebrity land immediately. That hardly is very satisfying. Come on, have you looked at what Oprah or Ashton are tweeting about? How about all the other celebrities. Here, go check it out (I’ve embedded a preview of this celebrity list from Mashable here):

2. Text in 2010 is boring. In an age when YouTube is growing nicely (here’s a comparison of Twitter’s growth to Youtube’s) it’s time to add some nicer displays to Twitter. When Twitter is looking as boring as my black and white Kindle you know something is wrong.

But, anyway, this is all a way to say that there’s a good amount of room for improvement on Twitter. I can see many many areas that Twitter could improve its service to make its service more engaging. Here’s some:

1. Get rid of the 140-character text-only limit. Facebook is a lot more fun to use than Twitter because you can see photos and videos right inline in the feed and you can actually communicate something more than the metaphorical equivalent of a grunt.
2. Greatly improve the list feature. The idea that it’s limited to 500 accounts is really stupid and the fact that I can’t create more than 20 lists per account is equally stupid. It means you can’t create lists of things that are complete. For instance, I already know of more than 500 tech startups. Let us create lists of lists, which would dramatically increase their usage.
3. Come out with a “supertweet.” Or, a new display surface for each tweet that can display all sorts of metadata. That would make each tweet more useful.
4. Add comments to each tweet.
5. Make the new retweet feature more useful by showing much more information about each retweet.
6. Improve search so that it has some usefulness.
7. Integrate a game into Tweeting, like Foursquare has. Give out badges for good behavior.
8. Greatly expand the bio. Or, just scrap the bio and make a deal with Google to integrate Google Profiles (here’s mine) into Twitter. Make it easier to search for people and companies.
9. Get rid of the follower counts. They are a game that increases noise. Everyone knows, like Anil Dash reported, that they don’t mean anything anyway. They just reinforce bad behavior.
10. Get rid of the suggested user list and, instead, point people to Listorious or something like it, which would let people find groupings of people using Twitter (with a preview).
11. Give us a private Twitter that we can share just with our friends (and make it easy to choose where Tweets go).
12. Give us a much better direct messaging capability. Right now that’s very lame, even compared with the very lame Facebook capability.
13. Give us a major UI update. Time to take Twitter into 2010 and stop making it try to fit into a 2006 mindset.
14. Make it easier to create and manage multiple accounts. Why do I need to use tools like Seesmic to tweet to my three accounts? Why can’t Twitter itself hook them together? This would let me create accounts with a lot less noise and a lot more purpose, which would help new users a lot.

Just some ideas.

But, anyway, how real are these numbers? Is Twitter’s traffic in trouble?

The best of the best and the worst of the worst of 2010 CES

I’ve been watching Twitter for the best of CES lists, and since I went last week I’ve got my own perspective on it too. First, the coolest display I found was the Intel infoscan touch monitor. That’s the video that’s above.

Let’s head through the best of the best of CES.

Fast Company: What to Take Away from CES. My favorite of the group, keys in on the real trends (which were hard to find at CES). While everyone else was ooohhhiiing and aaahhhhiiiinnnnggg over 3D TV Fast Company found the mobile and interface trends that will really matter.

Android and Me: Best of CES 2010: Android Edition. Android was all over the show floor and these guys found it all.

CNN: Best new toys from CES 2010. Yeah they got most of my favorites. The Parrot AR.Drone is mondo cool. But where’s Boxee? CNN was asleep during that demo, I guess (Boxee Box was named by CNET as “Last Gadget Standing” for best of CES, which concurs with my opinion).

TechRepublic got your favorite geeks to speak out about what they found interesting at CES. Yes, I’m on there.

TechCocktail: best of 2010 CES. An even better list than CNN has, includes Boxee and Ford, both things that impressed me.

Engadget: Crapgadget Crapdown, CES 2010: the best of the worst. Engadget is the official blog of CES, and was everywhere you didn’t want to be (honest, do you really want to sit through 50 boring press conferences instead of watching Cirque du Soleil?) and found the worst gadgets of 2010.

Appboy blog found three cool videos that captured CES.

Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision 3, found the Seven Weirdest, Wackiest, and Dumbest products from the show for the Huffington Post.

VentureBeat made a bunch of photos that capture the CES experience.

Ars Technica went further with the picture theme on a post titled: CES in pictures: the good, the bad, the Elvis.

CrunchGear did a postmortem. There’s that Intel screen again (yes, it really was the coolest thing I saw at CES). Crunchgear was all over the show floor (we met them inside the Canon booth) and they wrote up their favorite gadgets here.

ZDNet found an Android-powered microwave. That’s what happens when you take a platform approach. Weird gadgets come out.

Aging in Place Technology Watch wrote up their top-ten technologies from CES, which includes more wellness gadgets than other writeups.

G4′s writeups include a ton of video games, which I didn’t pay much attention to, other than to check out the very cool 3D Avatar game. 3D games are gonna be hot this year. 3DTVs? Not so hot due to lack of content.

iPhone Life found a few services that turn your iPhone into a Universal Remote control. I gotta test those out.

VentureBeat wrote up their favorites from CES. I loved that NVidia tablet, but asked the CEO if their technology was going to be in the Apple Tablet. Let’s be honest, Apple is the one we’re all waiting for. His answer? “I can’t comment on our partner’s plans.” Hmmm.

The Telegraph keyed in on Ford’s plans to introduce a “tweeting car.” I want this in my car.

Engadget, again, had a series of podcasts from CES, but here’s their final one where they wrap up what they saw.

Tekzilla uploaded a TON of video from the show floor.

My favorite product of the show was the Boxee Box and eGuiders got a video demo of it from their CEO. CNN also wrote it up after it won “last gadget standing” at CES.

The Washington Post made some cool photos of CES.

Oh Gizmo found that the RCA Airnergy captures energy from the wifi signals going through the air. Incredible if it works as promised.

Ben Parr, in discusses why 3D became the dominant trend at this year’s CES. My favorite? The Sony OLED 3D TV. You had to wear glasses, but damn it was sharp and fun to watch. I can’t see buying one, though. Wearing glasses for more than one movie or sporting event a week would make my head hurt and even if I got over that hump there just isn’t much content and no affordable camcorders (the cheapest 3D camcorder I saw was $22,000).

PC World looked at all the in-car technology and put together a video.

Seagate showed me USB 3.0 and their new thin hard drives. USB 3.0 makes your hard drives a lot faster.

Macworld wrapped up a bunch of the HDTV news that came out of CES.

Wired’s Gadget Lab has a ton of gadgets, including the Que eBook reader. eBooks were all over the place, but I just don’t think they will do well when compared with Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Distribution is key here, not cool gadgets. Speaking of which, Engadget has the e-reader story of CES 2010 where they look at all the cool new ereaders.

Gizmodo has the best “best of CES” writeup I’ve seen so far. Or, at least, it’s the most complete.

Entrepreneur focused in on the best trends to come out of CES, including portable projectors. I am building a studio and am thinking of how I can use these small pico projectors to shine people and images on the walls here.

At Friday nights’ blogger party I got a chance to see the Parrot AR.Drone and thought it was the coolest thing (not the most useful, but the kind of thing that will keep the kids busy for hours). Anyway, toucharcade has a hands-on report about the AR.Drone.

James Kendrick is a guy I know from the time I used to sell tablets for NEC (yes, there WERE slates back in 2002 that were a quarter-inch thick!!! We forget so soon). Anyway, he put his hands on all the slates he could find and writes them up.

The TV I thought was coolest was the LG ones that have Skype built in. I can see these becoming a staple in conference rooms, especially at startups. I have a video of the screen.

Ubergizmo just posted a good list of neat stuff they found. Very complete and agrees with my own list.

Finally, Ryan Block and Pete Rojas over at GDGT did a great job of covering CES. You’d expect that. Pete started Engadget and Ryan used to run Engadget.

UPDATE: Melissa Jun Rowley of NBC in San Francisco, got some video about the dark side of CES (she interviewed me at the blogger party on Friday night).

UPDATE2: CNN poked into the Internet trends that were apparent at CES. Tom’s Guide looked into the 3DTV’s that didn’t need glasses. I checked those out, but they didn’t work for me off to the side and seemed blurry compared to the others. They will work in advertising signs, but I seriously doubt you’ll want one of those at home.

Popular Science picked its favorite gadgets of the show. Gizmag has even more gadgets that the other reviews didn’t share with us.

Jeremy Toeman, who launches companies at CES (they’ve won “best of CES” several times) knows CES better than most people I know and here’s his report of what he saw when he walked the show floor.

Penquin Six looked into power monitors at CES and has a nice roundup of those (which aren’t covered in most of the other reports).

Engadget’s headline? “All the stuff.” Well, they got most of it, but if you read all these links you’ll get a more complete picture.

Now, I’m sure I missed a few reports or videos or whatnot. After all, there were thousands of tech journalists and press there roaming the halls looking for stories. So, if you have a good wrap up, please post it in my comments here.

Whew, after visiting all these links I’m almost as tired as I was last week walking the show floor!

Is the mobile tech press wrong in positioning Apple vs. Google?

When I got back from CES I’ve been seeing an increasing number of stories, like this one on Techmeme, that are comparing Apple’s mobile strategy and products to Google’s mobile strategy and products.

Oh, we do love a good fight, don’t we, where two great competitors bloody each other to a pulp before one comes out victorious.

The thing is, I don’t see Google and Apple as beating themselves up. At least not yet and probably not until 2011 or maybe even 2012.

“OK, Scoble smarty pants, what’s going on then?”

There are two competitors, don’t get me wrong, but instead of Apple vs. Google it’s Web-and-app-friendly devices vs. non-web-and-app-friendly devices.

Apple and Google’s devices are all web friendly. They are easy to use to pull up information from the web. But most of the world’s phones aren’t that way. Go to any cell phone store and try pulling up a web browser on them. Google and Apple’s products make it simple. Most of the others make it very hard, and even if you succeed you probably have trouble navigating the web, or are faced with a dinky small screen.

It’s worse than that if you compare app platforms. At CES last week I met an exec at Research In Motion, the folks that make the Blackberry. He bragged to me that they were building their own Twitter and Facebook clients. I didn’t get the bragging and asked him “so I guess you aren’t trying to build a platform, then?” I explained to him that if you build your own apps that signals to your third-party developers that you want them to go away and work on something else because you’re demonstrating that you’re very willing to take the best opportunities away from them.

Ever since then I’ve been asking developers what they think and on Saturday the guy (Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie) who built the Golden Globes’ iPhone app (and the LeWeb iPhone app) was over my house and I asked him. He told me that he’s working on building for the Blackberry platform too, because there’s so many users there but he said that the Blackberry is very difficult to build for. You really should listen to this interview, because in it you encapsulated what is happening to the entire mobile market.

Schneider didn’t hold anything back against Nokia or Microsoft, either. He just sees confusion and instability on those platforms.

Let’s break down the marketplace:

Apple: best of breed web-and-app-friendly mobile device.
Google: very close to Apple. Because my iPhone didn’t work very well at CES I gave the Google Nexus One and the Droid a good amount of usage last week. While the Droid isn’t as easy in a number of areas (search expert Danny Sullivan outlined most of the ones that bug me too) its apps, like Google Maps, are dramatically better than those that exist on other platforms and the web was mostly enjoyable to use too.
Nokia: confused. Multiple app stores. Just introduced a new platform with the N900 that’s different from their phones that have most of the market share.
Palm: is with Google and Apple in that they have a web-and-app-friendly phone, but they put it on a device with a small screen that ruins the experience for me.
Microsoft: struggling to get a strategy that works. Paul Thurrott, Microsoft expert, just this morning wrote up the troubles that Microsoft has right now and how it might dig out this year.
RIM: Difficult to develop for, most of its devices have very small screens that are hard to use on the web. Great keyboards, though, and great email integration.

Anyway, we can see a clear demarcation now in the industry between those who make web-and-app-friendly devices and those that do not.

It is my thesis that this year those who do will steal market share from those that do not and a confused strategy, like Nokia has, is going to look mixed because consumers will go with a company like Apple or Google who has said “we’re all in.”

So, is it right for the tech press to keep pitching Apple vs. Google like a couple of boxers who are going at it?

Or, do we need a new metaphor? I keep thinking that Apple and Google are like tigers and lions and all the old phones are like zebras or antelope and we all know what happens there.

The Google Reef

Today I’ll be at Google to attend the press release of the Nexus One, the latest in a line of Android-powered phones and the first that will have Google’s brand name on it.

I don’t expect that the phone will be the real news (if you do, you can already read Engadget’s review and other news about it on Techmeme).

What is?

That Google is expanding its reef.

To understand what I mean by that, you should go back and read Dave Winer’s post about how some things in the tech industry are like coral reefs: that is that they are powerful for the ecosystem that they enable.

Most of us can see that Google’s reef is increasing right underneath our feet. They even, just a few months ago, turned on a new dashboard page so you can see just how much stuff you are using of Google’s. My page already has 20 entries on it. Scary how much of Google’s stuff we use.

So, how is Google’s reef expanding?

Well, a startup in Bangalore India that was born just this morning (I’m the first blog to link to them) is usually not the kind of thing you’d pay attention to, but I’ve been playing with MailBrowser, which is a Gmail plugin for Firefox. It promises to be like Xobni or Gist, but for Gmail and Google contacts.

In their intro blog post MailBrowser says they created it because they wanted all the cool features of Outlook but they didn’t want to “go back” to Microsoft. Here’s a video demo of their plugin.

Now MailBrowser (Twitter account here) is just one tiny example of how Google’s reef is attracting developers from around the world. MailBrowser’s founder, Rohit Nadhani, told me he’s bootstrapping the company but will focus 2010 on a few areas: 1. he’s waiting for Google’s Chrome to get more APIs so that he can build his product on Chrome too. Right now it only works in Firefox and IE. 2. He’s betting on Google’s contacts API and he’s shoving metadata about each person into Google’s contacts. Oh, that sounds like a Facebook competitor! And soon he’ll add info from Twitter and Facebook and attach them to each contact inside Gmail, er, Google Contacts. Yes fans we have an identity war underway but that’s only one small piece of the reef that Google’s building.

Now, back to the phone. See, if you add data about your friends and business contacts to Google’s contacts, won’t that help make your mobile phone more useful? More useful than, say, a mobile phone from Apple? Or Nokia? Or Microsoft?

Damn straight it will be.

Let’s swim over to another part of the Google Reef. The part everyone knows about: search. Have you tried searching for your name lately? I have some tricks to finding more info about people. Let’s try it when searching for Steve Rubel, shall we? Here, add the words “google profile” to a search for Steve Rubel. What do you find? His Google Profile, of course. In it you’ll see where he posts stuff, and what services he uses. Now, what if Google added a news feed to this? Wouldn’t that be very similar to Facebook or Twitter or FriendFeed? Click on his contact info tab. Notice what’s there? His gmail address. Oh, Steve is on the reef! By the way, did you know you can add the word “Twitter” onto a search for someone and you’ll find their Tweets? Try it with Steve Rubel. It doesn’t work with everyone, but soon it will.

OK, let’s swim over to another part of the reef. Welcome to the part known as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Just two days ago I listened into my wife telling a friend of hers how to create a resume. Her friend wasn’t yet on Gmail, and didn’t know about online office systems. But instead of trying to get her friend to use Microsoft Office, Maryam said to go to Google Docs and look at the templates there, many of which have resume builders. Quite nice. It is this ubiquity which is winning Google converts. Notice that not once in this conversation did an objection to not having as many features as Office come up. I didn’t even know that Google’s docs had templates that users can share with each other. Google’s reef is so big now no one person can have seen it all.

Finally, let’s head back to the phone part of the reef and get ready for today’s announcements, which happen at about 10 a.m. Pacific Time at Google’s headquarters. I’ll be tweeting from there, and so will the rest of the tech journalists and blogger types. You can watch all that on my Twitter list of tech journalists.

What do I like best about my Android phone when compared with iPhone? Google Maps are dramatically better — when driving around it shows turn-by-turn navigation and speaks to you, plus has photos of what your destination looks like and a much nicer UI than exists on the Apple device.

It will be interesting to see if Google can expand on its lead here in other places in the phone (and if it can get developers to build the best versions of their apps for its platform instead of Apple’s). If it can, I’m not so sure that Apple needs to worry because Apple is a far sexier company than Google is, but who does need to worry is everyone else. Why? Because Google is building a reef and it’s a far more interesting reef than any that RIM, Nokia, or Microsoft have.

Today’s announcements at Google will be very disappointing if you compare to the way Apple announced the iPhone. The BBC even told me that pro video cameras aren’t being allowed in, which tells me even Google knows that today’s announcements really aren’t that sexy and don’t warrant being on the evening news.

But if you look for evidence of reef expansion Google’s announcements today will be quite interesting indeed. See you at 10 a.m.

Part II — Hot Startups to Watch in 2010

I love startups. Why? Because they represent the future of the tech industry and usually you can pick trends that will drive the tech blogs like Techcrunch out of them.

In Part I of this post I introduced the first 10 startups out of 25 that I’ll highlight (the second 15 are discussed in this post).

Here’s the 25 I picked on a Twitter list so you can follow them all on Twitter.

Just to make sure I didn’t forget anyone I shouldn’t, I asked my Twitter followers for their favorite startups and that led me to start a new list of about 100 startups that you should pay attention to in 2010. The final 25 were culled from this list. Are some good ones missing even from this list? Absolutely. I expect we’ll have to update this list every quarter or so as new companies come out and there are many, many good companies that didn’t make this list because of biases of mine. If your company didn’t make it in, please let me know and I’ll take a look and maybe do a future post.

Biases and selection process

Every list like this has bias. Here’s mine. I picked the best of the crop as I know it. I looked at Wakoopa, which is a service that shows what’s hot with early adopters. I have seen many of these companies up close and personal, so there’s a familiarity bias that I’m sure is present (hint: if you want hype, you gotta show your product to all tech bloggers). I tried to stay away from already popular startups like Zynga and Ning. Why? Because I’m trying to focus on what is to come, not what has already happened. I also specifically tried to pick best-of-breed to demonstrate a trend but keep it mostly to companies that haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Thanks to Crunchbase for being the definitive database of startups out there (you can edit entries and add info about companies, it really is a great resource on companies).

The rest of the list:

PointAbout logo
11. Appmakr/PointAbout.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video demos of how this works are on their site. Why is it important? Because the iPhone is getting more and more important and having an app is a way for companies to keep relationships with customers up to date. Appmakr lets you make your own iPhone app from a number of different feeds like RSS, Twitter, or YouTube, among others for $99 without writing any code and it looks comparable to apps that other companies have spent tens of millions creating.

Payvment logo

12. Payvment.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because this brings ecommerce to social networks in an easy-to-implement way which opens up all sorts of new retail-style opportunities on sites like Facebook. It also shows off PayPal’s new APIs, which make in-app purchasing possible.

CloudKick Logo

13. Cloudkick.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because it helps you monitor your cloud computing servers on Amazon and Rackspace (#1 and #2 in cloud hosting). It helps you visualize your bandwidth allowances and other important metrics and a lot more.

Blippy Logo

14. Blippy.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This is the weirdest choice that I made and seems very stupid on first look, but this system that lets you share your credit card (and other) purchases with the world makes sense in what it potentially enables: crowd buying and predictive buying. “Hey, we notice you visit Safeway every five days, did you know that you can save x amount if you switch to our buying club?” Now it doesn’t do that. Yet. But this is definitely a concept you should watch, especially after Quicken bought Mint which did similar stuff with credit cards, but not in a public way. But I’m not so sure I want you to see what I’m buying. I signed up anyway.

Expensify Logo
15. Expensify.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. No videos available. Why is it important? I hate expenses. In fact, this whole post really started as a way to procrastinate on doing my expenses. This system makes expenses easier and more automatic. Big win for me. Trend? That we’re going to share even more info with public in future than we can ever imagine. What are the benefits and costs of doing that? We’ll find out together in 2010.

RedBeacon Logo

16. RedBeacon.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This TC50 winner helps you get price quotes and book appointments with local businesses. Is this what will take Web 2.0 into bedroom communities around the world? Good chance it is.

CitySourced Logo

17. Citysourced.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because government is being forced to do more with less. How can city managers know where to spend their meager resources to better improve their communities? You can tell them with the mobile app Citysourced has created.

Spotify Logo

18. Spotify.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Instant music. No downloads. Who needs to steal music anymore? Just type in your favorite band’s song into Spotify and it starts playing nearly instantly. When I first saw it I was floored. Not out in USA yet, but VERY popular in Europe and will be released within months here.

Plancast Logo
19. Plancast.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. No video available. Why is it important? This service, which lets you tell your friends what your plans are for the future, has instantly become San Francisco’s tech geek social calendar.

Evri Logo

20. Evri.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? This system helps content producers present a better UI to navigating other articles on the web. This helps profitability through more pageviews and more time spent on site and also increases search hits. The newspaper industry needs more ways to help their business, this is one, along with Apture, another company that is proving new UI to content navigation.

Square Logo

21. Square.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? When you go to an Apple store you’ll notice they don’t have cash registers. Instead the salesperson comes to you and lets you complete the transaction with a hand-held computer. Square does that for the rest of us using an iPhone and a little add on for the top/headphone jack.

Aloqa Logo

22. Aloqa.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because Aloqa is building a platform for mobile phones around your location and it shows you favorite hotspots, friends, vents, and recommended bargains nearby. But it’s the platform part of this that has me interested so companies can add their own apps in easily which makes this different than, say, Yelp.

Nimsoft Logo

23. Nimsoft.
(Crunchbase entry). They aren’t yet on Twitter (bad!). Videos: Part I, Part II, Part III. Why is it important? Because more and more of our applications are built using cloud-computing blocks. A piece on Amazon. Another on Rackspace’s Cloud. Yet another on Google or Salesforce. Yet you are in control of none of it, so you need to know the state of each. Nimsoft shows you that status. By the way, this company isn’t really a startup, founded in 2004, but this product entry is totally a new direction for the company and I wanted to call it out.

Oneriot logo

24. OneRiot.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because more and more of our life happens on the real-time web ala Twitter and Facebook and other services and we need search to make sense of it. I expect that they’ll face sizable competition this year from Twitter or Facebook or both and it’ll be interesting to see if they can stay ahead and do something spectacular. I picked them because they are the strongest of the independent real time search companies, but there are a few others out there too and we’ll be watching the pack in 2010 to see what happens.

Wildfire Interactive logo

25. Wildfire.
(Crunchbase entry). Twitter account. Video. Why is it important? Because Facebook got dramatically more important in 2009 to tons of businesses thanks to its wild growth and Wildfire helps businesses build promotions for those companies. Plus it was a Facebook Fund winning company, so is interesting to watch.