The 4 a.m. Chatroulette feature and the epic battle between "consume only" Apps and Participatory Web (why I'm not worried about iPad like @JeffJarvis)

Last Friday night I was sitting on a street corner in Palo Alto. Why was I there? To hang out with the geeks and to get the latest shiny object that Steve Jobs and team had spent that same night stocking the store shelves with.

But while waiting in line someone said “did you know the guy who started Chatroulette is here?”

While thoughts of some guy showing his penis on a street corner did go through my head, I wanted to meet Andrey Ternovskiy. Why? It’s not every day you meet a 17-year-old high school student from Moscow who launches a web service and three months later has 20 million unique visitors a month (he showed me his Google Analytics, they are what every entrepreneur dreams of having happen).

So I sat next to him. I think I had to kick a potential investor out of his seat to do that. Seriously Andrey had two investors hanging out with him all night long. I quickly figured out that he was using a version of Chatroulette I had never seen. It had a nicer layout and had a new feature: he was playing chess with someone else in the world. No penises, either.

But then he freaked me out and up popped a code screen, he made some changes, then went back to testing. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m testing a feature.”

“Do you mind if I record you?”

“No.”If you are on an iPad you can’t use the Flash player that I just embedded of my interview, but every CinchCast I do (Cinch is an app I use on my iPhone and iPads that lets me record and distribute to you audio recordings) also has an MP3 file that does work on iPad, here’s the one of the interview I did with Andrey while waiting in line.

“I want to get some feedback,” he said.

And with that we need to move our focus from Andrey to Eric Ries. What is Eric known for? Coming up with a methodology called “Lean Startups” where he puts forth some crazy ideas like you should ship 50 times a day and you should, gasp, listen to feedback.

I have a feeling Eric and Andrey would understand each other quite well. To really understand the Lean Startup methodology, I went and had a long talk with Eric, who is one of the most revolutionary thinkers I’ve had the pleasure of talking with. The conversation was so interesting it went an hour and I had to break it into two pieces just to upload it.

Revolutionary thinking that so few companies use.

But now let’s get to the epic battle part and my reactions to Jeff Jarvis who is worried that the iPad will destroy the world. I have now had a few days to use my iPad and I’m not worried.

Oh, and Jeff you’re wrong. Mostly.

See, when Jeff plays with his iPad he sees a pretty girl that doesn’t add much depth to his life.

I don’t like the metaphor. It too much reminds me of Chatroulette so let’s get away from girls and boys.

I much prefer how Dave Winer gives us a verdict against the iPad based on the comparison with other computers in his life.

If I look at the iPad the way Dave does I see all of its contradictions and shortcomings. I grok where he’s coming from.

But I don’t at the iPad as a replacement for my computers. It was something I would leave in my family room and not use very often. Sort of like a book or a magazine that I might pick up when I’m bored.

This is why the world that Jeff Jarvis is predicting won’t come around.

The iPad doesn’t kill the laptop.

“So, Scoble, why haven’t you put your iPad down since getting it?”

First that’s not really true, my son stole my iPad to read a book on it tonight so I was left watching TV and poking at my iPhone. Also, I’m using a Dell laptop to type this post out, mostly cause I can type a lot faster which lets me write boring long posts easier (maybe I should write on the iPad, it’ll encourage me to be, um, shorter with my ramblings).

I see this epic battle playing out between the old school of Time and New York Times and other mass media, who want you to look at their content and read their ads and not do much else, and the new world of Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, and all the rest of the content-creation, participatory, and collaborative web services.

I haven’t put it down, though, because it has already totally changed how I view the world of media. I think the Time Magazine “look at me, I’m pretty and well thought out” view isn’t going to win, but deserves space right next to the rough-and-tumble world of blogging, Flickr’ing, Twittering, and Facebooking.

It’s Time’s fault that they haven’t made their new interface conversational. I just won’t talk about it as often as if they had thought this through a little more and stopped working so hard on making it so damn pretty. To me I remember another service that made everything pretty: Pointcast. It failed. So will this new style of “pretty.” But the iPad is an awesome way to use Twitter. So it will remain in my hands.

So, what trends are we seeing already?

First, people keep asking me what Twitter app I like on the iPad (I’m still arguing it out in my mind, give me a week, but you can’t go wrong with Twitterrific).
Second, games are TOTALLY participatory and are selling very well.
Third, apps like Smule’s Magic Piano are at the top of the charts and you can participate with people in a new way on that app.
Fourth, the app that pleased the crowds today in San Francisco wasn’t the Time Magazine app, but was the Geometry Wars game.
Fifth, when I was looking for a flight to Omaha what did I reach for? Kayak’s new app which is freaking awesome.
Sixth, what is at the top of the charts right now? Pages. Numbers. Keynote. All work related apps.

If Jeff Jarvis is right people will get frustrated and will return their iPads in droves.

Hint: they aren’t and they won’t.

This is a device that will drive us nuts and will thrill us at the same time.

What else has come along recently that’s done that?

How about Facebook? How about Twitter? (What worse tool for writing can you imagine than one that limits you to 140 characters yet it keeps getting more and more popular).

Anyway, I’m rambling and I haven’t done what Eric Ries advocates: I haven’t shipped a new feature (a new blog) in a while and I haven’t listened to your feedback. Off to do that now.

Comments

  1. “Lean startup”? Congratualations… you have just re-invented the development process you will find in most Japanese Dev companies… just gave it different name.

  2. “Lean startup”? Congratualations… you have just re-invented the development process you will find in most Japanese Dev companies… just gave it different name.

  3. The killer app for the iPad is Safari (I'd prefer choices of browser more below).

    The major pain point that many of us are struggling with aren't the awesome apps, sharp developers go where the money goes. We're arguing over the simple stuff like

    -why don't we have root access by default on the device. It's not a DVD player, it's a computer, give me root/administrator privilege without having to hack the thing

    -copying files to and from our tablets. Don't you want to flick files from your phone to your tablet? I do. Why does iTunes prohibit competition on the device (maybe the Kindle Store will help, at least one more DRM devil vying for our souls ;).

    -installing any software we want, purchased from any web store. Yo Appstore, how about some competition.

    -more web utilities. Why can't I install Chrome+Flash. The device is more than capable.

    I think Dewitt Clinton & Matt Cutts captured the major pain points I have. Of course they're Googlers so we expect them to want us on the web but they're also right.

    Btw, I love and hate the device so I guess it's not all bad. But it has shown me much more clearly what I desire in a tablet.

  4. Robert, quick heads-up that there’s a new tech conference in Russia coming up next February in Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. There will be a ton of young developers, like Andrey, there. Hope you can make it. It’s called СочиConnect and it will bring together leaders from the fields of technology, media, and sport. Check it out.

    PS: Bring your skis )))

  5. Robert, quick heads-up that there’s a new tech conference in Russia coming up next February in Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. There will be a ton of young developers, like Andrey, there. Hope you can make it. It’s called СочиConnect and it will bring together leaders from the fields of technology, media, and sport. Check it out.

    PS: Bring your skis )))

  6. Actually, I can't think of a better tool for writing than one that limits the writer to 140 characters.

  7. Find it a bit humorous that people complain about all of the features that they want but aren't seeing on the iPad. This is against the Apple Fan Boy (iFanBoy) terms of use. Read the manual; no descent allowed. I have the perfect idea for those that whinge about the lack of [fill in the blank] – don't buy the iPad! Get something from Dell or HP or … a real computer! The iPad isn't a desktop replacement. It ain't a phone replacement. But I hear it IS magically revolutionary. And for word scramble fans – iPad = Paid, what is exactly what you did, for a device that will somehow be less magical and even less awe inspiring this time next year.

  8. Robert – the Eric Ries interview is one of your best – This should be required viewing at all startups and colleges with entrepreneurial programs.

    I've been with startups that did it “the old way”(WebMD in the mid/late '90s) and I'm running one doing it the new way now.

    I just forwarded it to our team.

  9. Great opportunity to listen in on you guys, especially Andrey. – Epic intro to the valley for this young entrepreneur, certainly a remarkable young man and a privilege for us to get in on all the personalities.

    Hands down, this is the best bundle of info i've read all week long, save the best for last – Scoble, Google, Marc Essel. I'd love to hear what your iPad app for twitter is; if that's what you're waiting for, what would be very cool is comparisons of the new Tweetie app as well..

  10. All of this print-on-iPad hoopla is EXACTLY the same as 1995, when print companies got all excited about “broadband” and immediately assumed that it meant fancy, Roger Black-designed UIs. Mr Black and his team were very talented, but then, as now, business models based on expensive content production and slick UIs are just not sustainable.