Monthly Archives: November 2010

Path: the social system that will piss social mavens off

Dave's 2010 TED Notes

I didn’t read any of Path’s hype before trying it myself. I wasn’t part of the beta. I don’t owe Dave Morin lunch (he’s the founder of this new thing called Path that’s getting a deep amount of hype tonight. The photo is of him at the TED conference). But I was excited, mostly because Kevin Rose hyped it up a few months ago on Twitter.

First, the hype.
Wired.
Network Effect.
New York Times.
CNET.
ReadWriteWeb.
Los Angeles Times.
Forbes.

Whew, guess some PR firm was busy! (That amount of reporting doesn’t happen on a startup by accident).

My friend Jesse Stay invited me in. I instantly signed up as “Scobleizer” and started adding friends. Within a few minutes I discovered I can only add 50 friends. Oh, wait, my real friends and family aren’t yet on. So, now I gotta delete some of the folks I already added. Sorry Matt Mullenweg. You didn’t make the cut. I needed to keep Ashton Kutcher. After all, Matt doesn’t impress my niece, but Ashton sure does! ;-)

I find software with limitations interesting. Twitter was interesting because it was a blog tool, but one that forced you to keep to 140 characters. I remember having lots of fun trying to see how much information I could pack into a Tweet.

Now I have to pick 50 people. Screw Dunbar’s number that says that a human can have between 100 and 230 friends. No, Dave Morin decided we can have no more than 50.

Anyway, this is an interesting “walkie talkie” of the modern age. I can use it with my son, for instance, and let him see a photo of something I’m doing and he can send one back. I see if he’s seen the photo. We can see where the photo was taken. But there isn’t any text we can write back and forth yet.

Which gets me to the point. This thing will piss social mavens off.

Hell, it will piss off lots of people. Look at this tweet from @Starman: “Something about Path bugs me: if these friends are so close, why not just use facebook with a closed list?”

See, it’s hard to figure out who is on the system. Instagram is MUCH better done in this regard (you add your Facebook friends on Instagram. On Path you have to add people’s email addresses. Email? Really? OK. The problem is my closest friends and family, like my brother Alex, don’t have an iPhone. So can’t use Path with them).

Pisses me off again.

My wife? It’s hard enough to get her to try any new iPhone app, much less one that only lets her share photos with a close group of friends. She says that’s what she uses Facebook for. In fact, Facebook Groups do pretty much what Path does, except without the cool iPhone app. Hmm.

Anyway, this is an app that has me saying “hmmm.” If it weren’t backed by a bunch of famous Silicon Valley VCs and Dave Morin, former head of Facebook’s platform, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. What Meebo announced tonight is far more significant and interesting, actually.

Yes, this whole post will get me kicked out of the Silicon Valley hipster mobile app testing club, but so be it.

Path will piss off a lot of people. Ashton Kutcher likes it, though, he wrote that in the Techcrunch post about Path.

Me? This will get forgotten pretty quickly due to Facebook’s announcements in the morning.

Oh, and if you don’t like Path, please “Tip @techmeme.” Thanks. It’s one way to fight the hype.

Or, better yet, just get Instagram and use Facebook’s groups with your close friends and family. I bet they are already on Facebook, right?

UPDATE: there’s another MAJOR problem with @path: if you drop someone off of your Path list, they can tell. Zach Ware proves this. Now think of the social problems that will happen if you are on my list for a while, and then get dropped off. Say a family member gets dropped for someone else. “What do you MEAN I’m not your best friend anymore?” That’s really nasty for a system that depends so closely on only being used by friends and family.

First look: Meebo channels Foursquare with web-wide checkin

You might have heard about Meebo. 180 million people use their instant messaging service. So, when they do something it should be taken seriously. Tonight is one of those times.

They took the “check in” feature of Foursquare and applied it to the web.

So, using their new service you’ll be able to check into my blog. What will that do? It will tell your friends on Meebo about my blog. Just like checking into a restaurant tells your friends on Foursquare about the restaurant you’re going to.

Why is that important? Because, as CEO Seth Sternberg explains in the video I did with him on Friday, you can find other people interested in the same things you are.

Here’s an example. Only people interested in tech will check in here. So, using the new Meebo functionality you can see who else has checked in on my blog. Then you can look where else those people have checked in. You’ll probably find lots of other sites that are also interesting to tech people. I, for instance, will check in on things like Hacker News and Techmeme, among other tech bloggers.

But, I also will check in on my favorite BBQ restaurants. So, if you’re looking for good BBQ, you can use Meebo to see other BBQ sites.

Hopefully soon, if this takes off, we’ll be able to find lots of commonalities.

It’ll be interesting to compare this to Facebook’s likes, too, although Seth talks about them in the video and says that Facebook’s likes are great for brand, but not for specific web pages, especially if the publishers haven’t added Facebook like buttons to their sites yet.

Anyway, what do you think? It should be available Tuesday on the Meebo site here.

UPDATE: Techcrunch has more on the Meebo Minibar. So does GigaOm. So does VentureBeat.

A new journalism: audio on iPhone

You might have heard of CinchCast. It’s a new app/service that runs on mobile phones. I use the iPhone version. I record audio using it, which posts right after the interview. I can also call a phone number and record an interview that way. The quality is great. I don’t use anything other than my iPhone. The photo above is of me interviewing AirBnB’s mobile developer, Andrew Vilcsak, at the GDGT party last night. You can listen to that interview here.

But I’ve done 168 different CinchCasts already after using it for a few months (you can even follow the feed there, and see when I post new ones, which I do every day or so).

Here’s a taste:

Meeting Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot, and Alexa Andrzejewski, founder of Foodspotting at the GDGT party.

An audio tour of the virtual meeting robots at Anybot’s headquarters. These robots let you attend meetings without being there. I could get one for Rackspace’s headquarters, for instance (that’s in Texas, I live in California) and then I could attend meetings “virtually.”

My first ride in an “Uber” limo. This service uses an iPhone app to call a driver to you (only works in San Francisco so far, but other cities coming soon). Works really great and the limo driver I interviewed loves it too.

When I visited the Apple store in San Francisco this week a group of people were playing a violin concert on their iPads. I walked up, started interviewing the leader, who turned out to be Jeff Smith, CEO of Smule. The app they were playing, Magic Fiddle, is the #1 music app in iTunes store right now.

I interviewed the CEO of BraveNewTalent.com, this week, but afterward I learned he is a great philanthropist, too, and was named to the very exclusive “Young Global Leader” club at the World Economic Forum. So, over wine and cigars we talk about what he’s seeing in the world. Quite a remarkable guy.

You might have heard all the hype about location-based services. Foursquare. Whrrl. Gowalla. Loopt. Well, here I sit down with Loopt’s founder, Sam Altman, to get the Silicon Valley perspective on what’s going on.

Last week Microsoft’s Kinect came out and the top tech journalist in the world is Walt Mossberg, who is the tech expert for the Wall Street Journal. When I met him at a Dow Jones tech conference I wanted to know what he thought of Kinect. His opinion matched mine, that it’s a game changer. But don’t take my word for it, listen to what he says about it.

Silicon Valley is in the middle of a talent war. You’ve read about that. Google, just this week Techcrunch reported, paid an engineer $3.5 million to stay at Google and not go to Facebook. Why do they have to do that? Well, Olivia Fox studies the psychology of geeks and smart people (she works with teams and execs) and she gives some ways that companies can win the talent war and why people choose to go to certain companies, like Facebook, and not others.

I’ve interviewed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a couple of times on Cinch. The latest was when Facebook announced its new mobile platform a couple of weeks ago. In that interview Mark was very candid and gave you some sense of the social thinking he’s doing that no one else in the valley is doing. The other time was when Facebook announced its new groups feature. Mark was in Palo Alto, I was in a hallway in a hotel in Texas calling in, which shows the power of CinchCast to do remote interviews.

While hanging out at Facebook a couple weeks ago I met Groupon Vice President Mihir Shah and asked him why Facebook isn’t disrupting Groupon.

Zagat makes the top travel guides in the world and now they are making a really great set of mobile apps to help you find restaurants. Here is an interview where I visit Nina Zagat in her New York office.

Paper.li makes virtual newspapers out of your Twitter accounts, or Twitter lists. I’ve noticed a lot of people have been using them lately so when I had a chance to have lunch with Edouard Lambelet, CEO of Paper.li, of course I pulled out my iPhone and interviewed him about what he’s seeing in the real-time web.

Finally, I recorded my own CinchCast about why CinchCast is becoming an important journalism weapon, so you can hear more about my thoughts of this tool in my own voice.

Why do audio instead of video? I’ve found a few reasons.

1. Audio is easier to upload and distribute. I can record remotely without expensive equipment or a good internet connection (the Mark Zuckerberg interview about Facebook Groups, for instance, was done doing nothing other than a phone call). Even if I need to upload, though, it’s faster to upload audio than video, which means I can use CinchCast to do breaking news, while video would slow me down.
2. Sometimes you are in a place that video just isn’t appropriate in, or is hard to do. Often I’m in restaurants, for instance, which are often too dark to get good quality video.
3. Many times talking heads just don’t need video. I love talk radio, but I don’t need to see KGO Radio host Ronn Owens. His voice is just fine. Same here.
4. iPhones aren’t really great for video. Yeah, I’ve done it and it’s fine in a pinch, but it’s very hard to hold steady and it’s a bit blurry compared to the videos I do with my Canon 5D MK II.

Anyway, I’m having fun playing with audio. Hope you’re having fun listening. What do you think?

Oh, did you see you can leave your own audio comments underneath any of my CinchCasts? I listen to every one of those and enjoy hearing your voices come back, too. It’s like a new kind of talk radio.

Update: MarkSpoff asked me why I use CinchCast over AudioBoo, another nice audio product. My answer? For a couple of reasons. 1. AudioBoo limits the length of audio recordings, CinchCast doesn’t. 2. AudioBoo doesn’t let you call into the service, which means I couldn’t have used it for that second Mark Zuckerberg recording. 3. I started on CinchCast long before I heard about AudioBoo and I’m not willing to switch to a service with limitations. By the way, CinchCast works on iPad. You just need to figure out how to get to the MP3 file and listen to that.

Tea with the guy who stole a big fish from Facebook

Yesterday you might have heard that Paul Buchheit, co-founder of FriendFeed and the guy who gave Google Gmail and its “don’t be evil” motto, left Facebook to join Y Combinator as a partner.

Why would someone leave a top job at pre-IPO Facebook, a company that seems to be taking over the world? Well, Los Angeles Times got Buchheit’s point of view. I went the other way, and headed over to Y Combinator to have tea with the guy who convinced Paul to leave and join up. Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator.

What is Y Combinator? It’s the top startup incubator in the world. Every few months they hold a contest where they ask entrepreneurs to send in applications (more than 1,000 did just that last month, Graham told me), pick 30-50 (that process happens next week as interviews with about 100 companies starts), then they work together for a few months, improving their idea, which ends in a demo day in front of hundreds of investors. The last crop, founder Paul Graham told me, ended up with almost every company getting funded (which is admits is pretty extraordinary).

We ended up not talking too much about his big hires, but we talked about some things he’s seeing happen in the startup world in Silicon Valley.

After all, we’ve all noticed that things are getting a little heated again. Om Malik wrote yesterday “Irrationality, Welcome Back to Silicon Valley.”

Graham admits that valuations are about three times the size what they would have been two years ago, which were artificially low because of the financial crash.

But back to getting Paul Buchheit “we got him because we liked him.”

Fun tea, hope you enjoy it.

Go to your users? Smule does it in the streets of San Francisco


Watch live video from Startup School on Justin.tv

One of the most interesting speeches at YCombinator’s Startup School was by the CEO/founder of AirBnB, Brian Chesky. You can watch that here.

In that speech Brian detailed how AirBnB kept failing until he did one thing: took a tour to get close to the customers and learn more about what they wanted. “Go to your users,” Paul Graham, head of YCombinator told him to see if he could get Brian to move AirBnB into a successful business. Brian took the advice and did a world-wide tour and just tried to meet users around the world. Every entrepreneur should listen to this speech. He made some slight changes and the company started taking off. If you want to hear about that part of the story, fast forward to about minute 16.

Anyway, last night I was at the Apple store. I needed a hard drive and I didn’t have time to wait for Amazon to ship me one. I didn’t even have time to go down to Fry’s to save $40.

One aside about Apple. Last night it took me 67 seconds to walk in, go up the set of stairs, find the hard drive I wanted, hand my credit card to an Apple employee (he took it right there on the spot), and walk out. Why does Apple sell more per square foot than any other retailer? Might have something to do with just how easy it is to buy something.

Anyway, when outside I was caught up in a crowd of people listening to some weird band playing on iPads. I got closer and thought it was most cool. Here was about 10 people playing violins on iPads. I get closer and one of the guys was Jeff Smith, CEO of Smule. I turned on my iPhone and interviewed him. Then I watched.

Smule is a company that builds apps for iPhone and iPad. The newest one is called “Magic Fiddle” which teaches you to play violin. In the interview Jeff Smith demos it for me and the crowd standing on the street in San Francisco.What was he doing? Going to his users. Celebrating with them. They just hit number one in the iTunes store. Handing out T-shirts. Listening to feature requests. In fact, he asked people “please tell me the songs you want to see in Magic Piano.”

I love that the nearly the entire Smule team was there. In the street. Working the crowd. Finding out what people want, thinking about their next app. Even taking some abuse for blocking the sidewalk.

You wanna know how to make your startup better? Take Paul Graham’s advice. Go to your users!

Got any examples of how companies you love went to their users? Let me know! scobleizer@gmail.com