Monthly Archives: September 2010

Blackboard mobile is another example of how mobile and location are changing everything

I’ve been telling people that there have been three major movements on the Web.

The first major movement was pages and search.
The second major movement was social and interactivity.
We’re seeing the third major movement now, which is the addition of mobile and location.

A great demonstration of just how mobile and location are opening new opportunities and changing everything we do is Blackboard’s mobile app.

What kinds of things does it do? Well, it shows you where transit is on your University Campus. It lets you sign up for classes (when I went to college I had to wait in long lines to do that). The app also shows you assignments and grades and lets you interact with other people on campus.

Why is this important to pay attention to?

Well, you might remember that another important company, Facebook, started on college campuses just a few years ago. Enjoy this look and interview with Kayvon Beykpour, vice-president of Blackboard Mobile, at a ground-breaking app for college students, but think about how much our world has changed due to smart phones and location-based services.

This originally was run over on Building43, the place Rackspace and I discover world-changing startups and technologies.

Please, Arrington, don’t pick another enterprise clone

A couple of years ago at Techcrunch 50 they picked a Twitter clone, Yammer, to win. That made sense, because it was the best business. But looking at the final seven companies at this year’s Techcrunch Disrupt, just announced, I see one that sticks out. Opzi. It’s a clone of Quora for the enterprise. Badgeville is a clone of Foursquare’s game for other things.

I hope that none of these win this year.

Silicon Valley needs to be sent a message that we need real innovation and interesting new ideas. There are a few other ones.

My favorite? DataSift, which you’ve already seen on my show, but is the one that I am already using and is already rocking my world (I got it for first time last night).

Let’s go through the winners (listed in no particular order, the final winner will be announced later today after a final round of presentations by these companies).

Pinger. Turns your iPod touch into a free cell phone.
DataSift. Helps you find a needle in the real-time tweetstack.
Qwiki. Turns the web into a video and audio experience. MG Siegler of Techcrunch wrote “Just may be the future of information consumption.”
Cloudflare. Wants to be a CDN for the masses. Makes your website faster and more secure.
Opzi. A Quora for the Enterprise.
Badgeville. Wants to layer social gaming (and yes, badges) across the entire web.
Game Crush. Lets guys pay money to play online games with women.

OK, to me, there are really two that stand out from the crowd. Cloudflare and Datasift. Real technology innovations. If I wear my Rackspace hat, I’ll vote for Cloudflare, I can see how that will help a lot of our customers make their sites faster. If I wear my Scoble hat I’ll vote for Datasift. That will help me (and other companies and users) find the best tweets and get rid of noise and spam in their streams.

But I’m afraid that Arrington will, once again, vote against technology innovation and go for the clone. Please don’t let that happen! You can vote for your favorite company until this afternoon. Please do and help me tell Arrington to support technology innovation.

You can watch live now on Ustream.

TechCrunch to keep independent voice, Arrington says

I talked at length today with Mike Arrington after he and CEO Heather Harde sold TechCrunch to AOL this morning on stage at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference. He then gave me a funny short interview. Some of what I learned he covered in the interview, but here’s everything I learned from him before I turned on my iPhone to interview him.

1. He won’t discuss the price. Others are reporting rumors of $25 million to $40 million.
2. TechCrunch will keep its SF office.
3. The entire staff will stay, or be welcome to, Arrington told me. He said AOL bought TechCrunch for its news brand, which they expect to continue, and their events business, which will expand.
4. TechCrunch’s hosting will move to AOL (Techcrunch is hosted on WordPress.com and other TechCrunch properties, like CrunchBase, are hosted at Rackspace, the the web hosting company I work for).
5. AOL will give TechCrunch some more technical resources.
6. Arrington says that he’ll stay for “years” and that he could see having a great time expanding the TechCrunch brand at AOL.
7. He knows he can’t cover AOL in the same way, especially in telling a positive story about AOL.
8. He said that AOL execs expect him not to screw it up, and want him to have an independent media voice, like they give Engadget and TMZ, among other media properties that AOL owns.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s next for Arrington and this tech brand, but I bet it’ll be interesting. For me? Back to searching for world-changing technology. Congrats Mike and team!

Techcrunch Disrupted by AOL: The end of an era in tech blogging?

The news/rumor that Techcrunch is up for sale quickly made the rounds at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference this afternoon. GigaOm started it with a post that a sale to AOL is close at hand.

I’ve been burned by these kinds of rumors before, I remember when it was rumored that AOL was buying Mashable, but those discussions never led anywhere.

This time, however, I was back stage at the Disrupt conference when the news started making the rounds. I quickly asked staff members about the rumor. They didn’t know anything, they said. OK, maybe this is just a rumor, I thought, but then one offered “but I’ve heard a rumor there are multiple deals being considered.”

Then I noticed that Mike and Heather weren’t anywhere to be found, and people pointed to closed doors and said “they are in there.”

Later, I ran into Heather Harde, CEO of Techcrunch and asked her “can you talk to me about the news?” She answered quickly “nope.”

Even later, at Techcrunch’s dinner, I met Keith Teare, who was one of the guys part of the founding of Techcrunch and is the third owner of Techcrunch. Mike owns a majority share (a large majority, I was told), with Heather owning a healthy share, and Keith owning a far smaller share.

Keith told me he hadn’t heard anything from Mike and Heather yet, but that as a minority shareholder that he would only need to be told when it is time to sign paperwork. As of 10 p.m. that paperwork had not been signed by Keith yet. So, no confirmation on any deal tonight.

Arrington hasn’t answered my queries. I’ve talked with half a dozen of Techcrunch staff and they all say they don’t know what is going on so won’t make any confirmations.

That all said, it sure seems like something is going on and I’m very confident that a sale is in the offing. But is it AOL, like GigaOm reported? Well, GigaOm is usually very accurate on such matters, Om is the best in the business.

I saw Heather later again and she didn’t wave me off the story. Loic Le Meur ran into Arrington at the dinner and he wasn’t waved off either.

Now that the news part of this blog is covered, what will I speculate on?

1. Amount. Jason Calacanis sold Weblogs.inc to AOL for $25 million. I can’t see Arrington taking less than that and I’m sure he’d love to double, or even, triple that amount to rub it in (Jason, tonight, on his Twitter account, has been making it very clear that the two didn’t split on amicable terms). So, my guess is that the sale would be between $50 million and $75 million.

2. Does Arrington stay or go? My gut told me Arrington would want to get out of the deal as fast as possible, but after talking with a few insiders at dinner who know Mike very well I’m starting to turn my opinion. They told me that Mike would be very attracted to a deal where he could have a significant presence at AOL. Once I started considering this I said “well, if Arrington stays at AOL then AOL sure will be a lot more interesting than it was before.”

3. Techcrunch staff? Sounds like they all split up a small percentage of stock. Did MG Siegler own enough to become a millionaire? Hopefully so, he sure has played a key role in getting Techcrunch to be seen as viable without Arrington. Some of the staff told me quietly that they were worried about what working for AOL would be like and that Techcrunch wouldn’t be the same kind of publication post acquisition. I told them they should look to Engadget for some clues to how AOL deals with content properties it acquires. That’s seemed to have gone pretty well.

4. PR pressures. I doubt PR teams will change their strategies much right away, but over time they might spread stories out to other blogs. Arrington was very strict and wouldn’t run stories if Techcrunch wasn’t given equal access to launch stories. That forced PR teams to think out how they deal with Techcrunch and usually they played Arrington’s game, which brought them a pretty good story/press release flow.

5. News breaks. I’ve watched Arrington close up, spending hours in his hotel room at a VC conference once as he grilled people on the phone to try to get news out of them. That’s a skill that few in the industry have and it’s why he’s been at the top of the Techmeme leaderboard more often and longer than any other journalist/blogger I know.

So, I don’t think this ends Techcrunch, but it certainly will make it just another big brand that doesn’t change that much. With Arrington involved you could always expect some surprises every month and I bet the frequency of surprises goes down over time. How dramatically? Time will tell.

I’ve watched Arrington from the very first day he published (he regularly tells people I was the first blogger to link to Techcrunch) and it’s an organization I’ve always looked up to, even with a little bit of a jealous eye. “If I were smarter or more ambitious, I could have built that,” I remember thinking to myself once in a while. Stupid thinking, I know, because I’ve built an absolutely awesome life and I really don’t want to do the hard work of building a business. Mike has my respect for doing the hard work of building a great brand and team. I don’t know when I’ll see a similar effort, so tonight, my glass is raised to Mike and his team and I’ll be in the front row tomorrow to hear exactly the details of this news.

Then again, I’d love it if Arrington pulled AOL’s CEO up on stage and rips up the contract right in front of him and says “we’re staying independent.” Just the kind of surprise I’d love to see at the Disrupt Conference.

But, tonight, I expect that Mike will, instead, grab the check and head to the bank and with his deposit signature will be putting the final punctuation mark on an incredible story in publishing history. Thanks for all the disruption of the past five years Techcrunch!

The real-time curation wars (exclusive first look at Curated.by)

Back in March I wrote a post about the seven needs of real-time curators. Over the next week or so no less than three companies are shipping services that will fulfill that dream with tools that comply with all seven needs.

What are they?

1. Curated.by. (My Techcrunch Disrupt tweets on Curated.by is here).
2. Storify. (My Techcrunch Disrupt Storify bundle). Most of Storify’s tool is under NDA until announced later this week, so I can’t talk more about the tool.
3. Keepstream. (My Techcrunch Disrupt page on Keepstream).
4. Bag the Web. (My Techcrunch Disrupt page on Bag the Web).

First, I recorded an audio post about what is real time curation and what problem does it solve? You might listen to that, because it’ll explain what these tools are solving and how I’ll judge them over the next few days. Listen here:Second, I recorded a video last week with Curated.by’s founder, Bastian Lehmann. This is the first look that I know of at this curation tool and a discussion of how he’ll compete and make money providing these curation tools.

Based on my first playing with these tools it is clear that Curated.by and Storify are in the lead. They let you mix multiple media together, not just Tweets, and have good and easy-to-use drag-and-drop interfaces to let you reorder things. Who will be best? I need a few days putting them through their paces. If you are using these tools at Techcrunch, post your URLs in the comment area here and I’ll link your curation into mine, which is one way to get group curation.

Also, most, if not all, of these are embed-able in blog posts, so they are designed for the modern web and they seem to understand how to distribute themselves back into Twitter and Facebook. Below I’ll embed each of the curated feeds so you can watch them all in the morning and see how they behave when updated.

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Curated.by:


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Storify:

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KeepStream:

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Bag the Web:

Corporate developers: exclusive first look at Application Craft, a new tool for corporate web apps

In the 1990s we had Visual Basic, Delphi, and then Visual Studio come along. All great tools for corporate developers who needed to build apps for their workgroups.

But since then developer tools have stagnated. Yeah, we’ve had Ruby on Rails, but that’s really aimed at web developers (Twitter was originally built in it, for instance) and the kinds of database and UI tools that corporate developers needed weren’t there.

Today Application Craft (CrunchBase info on Application Craft) is releasing a new system that looks somewhat like Visual Studio, but is completely web based. Here CEO Freddy May spends a lot of time with me showing how it works and giving me some idea of the power underneath.

Oh, and you can build a LOT without knowing any code. May says it’s not just aimed at developers, but can be used by “citizen developers.” IE, those who don’t know how to code very well. That is exactly the audience that Visual Basic was aimed at back in 1992, and it went on to be the tool for corporate developers. Will Application Craft take over that mantle? We’ll see, but this is a very interesting start. What do you think?