Exclusive first look at location-based service, PlaceBook

It’s not everyday that you get to reveal a new company to the world for the first time. This is one of those cases. PlaceBook is run by former execs from Netflix, among other places, and is about to jump into the location-based service space occupied by Foursquare, SimpleGeo, Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, Loopt, and a few others. You can learn more about the executive team on LinkedIn.

What is their philosophy? That privacy matters when it comes to location data.

Anyway, listen into CEO/founder Michael Rubin as he tells me what he’s seeing happen in location and gives me a first sneak peak at what they are doing.

Then sign up for their beta.

What are they doing? They will give you a variety of location-based services, arranged into metaphorical bookshelf. Applications like personal fitness, trip planning, scrapbooking, among other things. All apps will have a heavy location component. Will this be even cooler than Foursquare? It sure looks potentially that this company will get location at a level few others do. But I’ll let him introduce the company to you in his own words.

How sharp is the iPhone 4.0's screen?

iPhone 4.0

Yeah, people are arguing about whether it really is a “retina display.” IE, can your eye see individual pixels on the new iPhone’s screen?

I say hell with that. The screen is the best one I’ve seen — by far.

How good is it? Well, click on the photo above and you’ll be taken to the full resolution photo straight off of my Canon 5D MK II’s sensor of the 960×640 screen on the iPhone (you will have to scroll around a bit to get to the right part of the screen).

Now THAT is sharp!

Oh, and if you still can’t get enough, here’s a video (make sure you click “watch in HD” and open it in full screen mode to get the full effect:

UPDATE: Just for comparison sake, here’s the iPhone 3GS’ screen with the New York Times on it so you can see the difference. It’s not even close! On the 3GS you can’t read any of the text without zooming in, while on the iPhone 4 you can clearly read the text.

New York Times on iPhone 3GS

Twitter struggling?

Twitter has been down for more than 30 minutes now. Basically since I finished writing that last post about why we should consider Google Buzz again.

Seems that the World Cup traffic has been hammering Twitter.

I sure wish Twitter would get a handle on its scaling problems. Did no one see that an event like this would get everyone to Tweet?

UPDATE: Twitter has posted that they are having sitewide issues. Still is down, now has been down for more than an hour.

UPDATE2: as of 3:20 a.m. Pacific Time I’m able to get to Twitter again.

Is it time to reconsider Google Buzz vs Facebook or Twitter?

Google Buzz logo

OK, Google Buzz has been out several months now (you can see my Google Buzz items on my Google profile page). When it first came out lots of people tried it. But they just as quickly went away. I know, I have 10,000 people following me there but many haven’t been back since the early weeks.

Plus, Google got a lot of bad PR because when you setup that service it shared your social graph publicly. One problem: Google Buzz’s social graph is based on the one you built up inside Gmail. That’s potentially troublesome. Google fixed that problem after a few days, letting you hide your social graph, among other fixes, but that bad aftertaste still exists.

For a while it seemed like the service was going to be a ghost town.

But lately it’s been coming back. I’m getting more engagement on my items there than on Twitter or Facebook. Personally it’s more fun, but more on that in a second.

Why is it coming back?

1. Google has been consistently adding features. It now is pretty close to matching FriendFeed (or it will be after they ship a few features I’ve been given early access to).
2. The community is great. I see a lot of great photography. Great discussions of news stories. And great conversations about tech. You only have to see my iPhone vs. Sprint EVO thread to see the value there.
3. The team is visible. There’s a Google Buzz page for the team, they are interacting with us on the site and in public (especially true at the Google IO conference, which makes sense).
4. The mobile features, especially on Android, are way ahead of other social networks like Twitter or Facebook.
5. Google has not yet deleted anyone’s accounts or punished people unfairly the way Twitter or Facebook have.
6. Google’s infrastructure is famous for being very scalable and having high uptime and that’s true on Buzz, too. Everytime Twitter is down I head over to Buzz. I can’t remember ever seeing Buzz down, actually. I think there might have been one time, but it was so short I don’t remember. Funny, while writing this post I saw the fail whale on Twitter twice. The only problem on Buzz that I’ve seen is that sometimes it gets a bit slow.
7. The search engine actually works. On Twitter, try to find old Tweets. You can’t. But on Google Buzz my old items are still searchable. At least so far. Of course the system isn’t very old so that’s not very fair to Twitter.
8. I wonder if there’s an SEO opportunity here. According to compete.com my blog’s traffic has been heading up all year since Google Buzz came out. Are my posts being helped by also being on Buzz and by my having a great YouTube site and a great Google Profile — all linking together? Or is it that I’ve been doing more good content lately? I don’t know, but I don’t want to stop doing Buzz just to find out. Makes sense that Google might be rewarding sites that support Buzz, doesn’t it? I’m sure Matt Cutts will jump in and say there’s nothing going on here, but Google is definitely putting more real time stuff into its search results, so this is something I’ll be watching the SEO experts to test out.
9. It’s been getting an identity that’s different than either Facebook or Twitter. Mostly thanks to being able to post long items, but also because its aggregator works better than Facebook’s does and also because photos show up in big, glorious, color. See Thomas Hawk’s items for an example of how different Buzz is.

Anyway, add this all together and I’m wondering if it’s time to reconsider Google Buzz?

Now, there are still some significant negatives.

1. Google Buzz desperately needs noise control. For instance, there are lots of people still bringing their Tweets in there and those Tweets are almost always low quality. I want to tell Buzz to not display anyone’s Tweets. But I can’t do that yet because Buzz has no noise control features.
2. Google Buzz desperately needs separate lists that I can put people on. Everyone is fed together in one long feed. I want to separate out people like I can on Twitter with Twitter lists, which are massively awesome.
3. There aren’t nearly as many clients for Google Buzz as there are for Twitter, but I’m starting to see a few previously-Twitter-only clients now supporting Google Buzz. Seesmic is one, but only on their Windows app so far.
4. There are dramatically fewer brands on Google Buzz, especially in the news departments. Plus dramatically fewer people. So, until Buzz gets more popular you’ll still be forced to read most of your friends on either Facebook or Twitter.
5. Google Buzz isn’t yet available as a service that’s separate from Gmail. That’s a real bummer.
6. Google Buzz still doesn’t give you enough control over the display. For instance, popular items still pop up to the top and you can’t force the site to be strictly reverse-chronilogical like Twitter or Facebook are.

But back to why I’m having more fun on Buzz. There’s something that’s fun about being able to have a conversation. Over on Twitter it just seems everyone is shouting at me “read my blog, click my links, watch my videos.” I’m guilty there too, because that’s what Twitter really has become. Trying to be two-way over there is very difficult, actually causes too much noise, and even if you do it having a conversation there is really disjointed and not nice.

Plus, the folks over on Google Buzz are early adopters. They are pioneers. Late adopters don’t show up, so the conversations are fun and interesting. If I want to talk to late adopters I just go to my local bar. Online I’m looking for something a bit more fun.

Google Buzz has — for me — been getting better. Is it a Twitter or Facebook killer yet? No way. But if it keeps being updated I can see an interesting world taking shape here and, certainly, one that brands and geeks should certainly be putting into their media mix.

What do you think? What would get you to use Google Buzz instead of Twitter or Facebook?

These apps keep you exercising (and Foursquare/Gowalla/Yelp/etc should be paying attention)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love apps that use geolocation. That’s why I’m such a Foursquare freak. Tonight Maryam and I went on a date and I checked in along the way with Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. I regularly let my friends watch where I am on Google Latitude, etc.

But, one of the things I want to improve in my life is I want to get back in shape. My son has been running and has lost a lot of weight and looks, well, hot!

So, I’ve been looking for some motivation and here I’ve found two apps I’m trying out when I go for a run: Runkeeper and Runmeter.

So far I like Runmeter slightly better, but here’s the CEOs of both companies showing me their apps:

1. Runmeter/Abvio’s CEO, Steve Kusmar.
2. Runkeeper/FitnessKeeper’s COO, Mike Sheeley.

One thing is that these apps work great for other kinds of sports too, like cycling, walking/hiking, or skiing.

Why are they motivational? Well, with these you can share your run with the world and how fast you have gone. It even, while you’re running, shows you your previous best pace so you can see if you are going faster or slower than you were going last week. By sharing your runs with the public there’s some public pressure to keep it up. I haven’t yet gotten brave enough to share my runs, but I will soon.

Do you use apps like these to keep track of your exercise? What do you like about them? Which is your favorite?

Why should Foursquare or other location-based services pay attention to them? Because they are great ways to add more data onto locations. People who run around Golden Gate park, for instance, are far more likely to know the ins and outs of the park than other visitors. Plus, it’d be fun to hook in different courses/runs into Foursquare or Gowalla. Gowalla has something called “trips” but that isn’t granular enough for a hike, a run, or a cycling tour.