Monthly Archives: March 2011

Does chat have a future? Leah Culver thinks so

I used to really be into chat rooms, but since blogging, twittering, and Facebooking came along I found it just wasn’t that interesting to me anymore. There were better, and more focused ways, to talk with people about things I cared about.

But Leah Culver thinks she can build a future for chat with her new company, Convore, and fix some of the sins that older chat systems have. Funny, the engineers at Rackspace love IRC too, just like she does. But that’s pretty geeky. Can she get the rest of us to join in?

Based on the new people who are inviting me into Convore chat rooms it definitely has a chance.

A cool app for discovering and sharing music: Soundtracking

I just bought a new iPad which is a 64GB version. My son said “why did you waste your money?” Well, I told him, on my old iPad I filled up nearly 16gb with just apps and wanted more space so I could hold my music. “Get Pandora,” he told me. Heheh. My son telling me something I’ve known for years (I was one of the first people to cover Pandora, years ago). But his insight was deep. No longer are kids storing music, or copying it from each other. They are using streaming systems. And further they want new kinds of music discovery apps. I showed him one new app, Soundtracking, that I came back home from SXSW with. It’s awesome. Here CEO Steve Jang shows it to me. Great app, lots of fun for music lovers, get it on the iTunes store.

One bad company buying another: AT&T buys TMobile (Verizon forced this marriage!)

AT&T Wifi Box in Starbucks store in San Mateo

You all know I really despise AT&T, even though I continue paying them thousands of dollars per year for three cell phones. Since getting my Verizon iPhone I haven’t dropped a call and I can actually hear the other party. Steve Gillmor got one on Friday and, wow, what a difference. Not to mention that the world’s toughest dead zone: Devil’s Slide is non-existent for AT&T and TMobile, but works the entire way on Verizon for me.

TMobile is even worse. It doesn’t have enough coverage. My entire neighborhood, which includes some of the houses of the richest VCs, not to mention VPs from Apple, HP, and other places, has NO TMobile Coverage. This isn’t back waters of some flyover state. It’s 13 miles from the tech center of the world (at least until Beijing takes over later this decade).

CNBC just announced AT&T is buying TMobile’s US business for $39 billion. More details flowing in on Google News and even more over on Techmeme. That’s one way to get more bandwidth to try to serve iPhone users better before they all realize Verizon has a better network.

I think this COULD be a good thing, if they fill in some of the numerous dead zones and get us better service. I’m stuck with AT&T because I need to head to Europe every few months and AT&T’s iPhone is better there. Also because in other places AT&T does have better coverage, and its data is faster and also I can use data while talking, which really isn’t that big a deal for ME anymore (since I have two phones, I solved that problem).

Anyway, does one bad company buying another make a good one? I guess we’ll see.

Yes, I know I might get crap for calling these companies bad companies, but I’ve paid AT&T thousands of dollars over the last few years. I’ve earned that right.

Speaking of which, why didn’t they just spend that $39 billion making a better network? Oh, do I love capitalism sometimes.

This is a forced marriage due to Verizon finally getting the iPhone. If that hadn’t happened AT&T would have continued not to worry and continued not to invest in its network. Now that they know lots of people will switch when their contracts are up they needed to do something huge to try to improve the network before everyone wises up.

The best operationally-run web startup: ImageShack/YFrog (plus, first look at new YFrog)

The YFrog Man

Right before heading to SXSW I had a remarkable visit to ImageShack, the folks who make YFrog. Don’t know who they are? Well, they are serving millions of images and video to tons of people on Twitter and other social networks. They are turning on a major new version that turns YFrog into a full-blown social network. See a preview of that below.

But very quickly I learned this startup was different and, no, it wasn’t because of the pile of plastic frogs in the middle of the room.

What was different? The CEO, Jack Levin. I could tell instantly that he was operationally minded. But then he dropped the bombshell: he was Google’s first ops hire. Oh, I really do need to do more homework on startups before I show up.

So, I quickly turned on my camera and we did three videos:

1. Where we talked about operations and web startup infrastructure. Lots of stories about early days at Google (he was hired by Google when they only had 30 employees and about 300 servers).
2. One where he shows me the new YFrog.
3. His “fun” project where he’s building a datacenter that uses NVidia graphic cards to do the processing instead of the Intel processors in the machines. He’s able to get a 30x improvement in some processing by doing this.

Sorry for the bad audio, my camera’s audio input was dead and I didn’t realize it until I got home. It’s not often that a CEO is so operationally-focused and it’s even rarer that they open up their infrastructure and show me how it works. Hope you enjoy this interesting look inside how YFrog works.

Thanks Jack for sharing what you’re doing.

What’s the best SXSW app? So far, for me, it’s LocalMind

I’ve seen a TON of different location-based apps in the past two weeks. But today I was introduced to one that actually is useful AT SXSW: LocalMind. What does it do? It lets you ask questions of people who are around town. “Are they still serving free beer?” you might ask, for instance. Back comes an answer.

Here founder Lenny Rachitsky showing it to me in the hallway.

What caught my eye about this? It’s like Quora and Foursquare got together and had a baby.

It shows you people who have checked in with Foursquare and have LocalMind open near you, in the past few minutes, and then you can ask them questions. Right now I’m using it and there’s dozens of different venues with people checked in right now at them. I can ask them questions, like, “how long is the line for the Mashable party?” and get an answer back right away.

After SXSW I can see asking things like “who is playing at the Ritz bar tonight?” or “how crowded is it at the Metreon?”

They have a web version, although the iPhone version is nicer.

Do you have a hot app at SXSW? Text me at +1-425-205-1921