Getting ready for SXSW: Order your "geek cards"

SXSW 2011

Back in 2006 I wrote my “best practices” for business cards. That advice hasn’t changed much but the technology behind business cards and business networking sure has. To see just how see the Building43 interview with Hashable’s CEO. Folks over on Quora expect Hashable will be one of the most popular apps at SXSW in 2011.

But as cool as Hashable, or Bump, or similar apps are going to be, most of us will still use paper cards. Damn luddites!

But that doesn’t mean your paper card can’t be geeky! At SXSW this year two companies sent me versions of “geek cards” that they are pushing. You see those two cards in the photo attached to this post.

Who made these? Two companies:

1. Paperlinks.
2. AvaKard.

Yes, both of these are using standard QR codes, so you can scan them with any app but with Paperlinks you can use their iPhone app, which works really well. Shows you all sorts of detail that I can change. You can even get to my Quora page just by scanning my card.

Overall I like Paperlinks better. Partly because I’m just not sold on non-standard-sized cards. Makes it easier to lose and scan and stuff like that. Plus I like the iPhone app they made.

I do like having a photo on a card, though, makes it easier to remember who handed you the card, and where. I also like that Avakards uses a SXSW-specific URL. Paperlinks, in its defense, shows you “I met you at SXSW” which is very useful when you end up mixing up your cards with all of those that you got elsewhere. They are always fun to look back at too.

But, what about you? Are you ready for SXSW? Do you have YOUR geek cards ready to hand out?

By the way, you can scan the cards above using QR code software or Paperlinks’ iPhone app. It even works in the photo above.

One last thing, be careful when handing these cards around. Your corporate bosses might not like you using non-standard cards. In fact I’ll find these hard to use because they don’t even say Rackspace on them. Or, if I did use them I’d also hand you a Rackspace card, too, so you’d know my official work info. But these are fun ways to network with the geeks at SXSW who will be trying all sorts of new mobile apps to network.

Thank you Google

Dear Google: yes, I know you are pissing off lots of businesses that today aren’t listed as high. CNN Money covers their plight.

I wanted to say “thank you.”

Why? In nearly every search I tried today results are better than they used to be.

Not many people look out for the users in today’s world when so many big businesses are pushing the other way.

I’ve been running lots of searches for things like “San Francisco hotels downtown” and overall your results today are less spammy, have more “real” hotels and fewer intermediaries, and have better results than they used to. Plus, they have fewer ads and fewer of these intermediaries than your biggest competitor, Bing.

Yes, I’m watching Techmeme and seeing the businesses that are hurting. Quora has a very good list of such.

But I just wanted to say “thank you” for trying to do something about the resultsets that are growing less and less useful because more and more sites were getting low-quality content into the result sets.

By the way, these changes don’t help bloggers but I don’t care. I’m a user of Google first and the results have definitely improved lately. I just searched for “Motorola Xoom iPad” and see that my blog is nowhere to be found, but the reprint on Business Insider is on the first page. Definitely Google is much more biased to big brands now than it was eight years ago (eight years ago bloggers were able to be seen much higher than brands).

First look: "no editing" iPhone video editor in HighlightCam

Editing video is a real pain in the behind. Here’s the workflow I use:

1. Hook up my card reader.
2. Copy my video files off of my video card or iPhone to my local hard drive.
3. Import them into a video editing program like iMovie on my Mac or Windows Movie Maker on a PC.
4. I need to edit it, pulling out bad footage, figuring out how to make transitions look good, etc.
5. Export it to a file that can be uploaded to YouTube.
6. Upload it.

I did all that to get the video on this post done today.

But, most people don’t want to do this just to get a video of their kid’s birthday party done, or a ski trip, or a school play.

They just want to shoot, and have it go up to somewhere they can share, like YouTube or Facebook, automatically. Or, even better, they just wanted to email it to grandma so she could see it.

When HighlightCam told me they had a better way to do videos, I was pretty skeptical. After all, I already have iMovie on my iPhone, which lets me edit videos, but then I remembered that most people don’t know what I know about video editing. I have a professional editor, Rocky Barbanica, who taught me a bunch of stuff. You probably don’t have a “Rocky” to help you out and you probably don’t care anyway.

So, what Highlight Cam does is replace Rocky with an easy-to-use system. You just tell it the clips you want to upload and what they are for. It does just that and edits them together into a great video.

Watch the video with CEO Robert Neivert and see how it all works.

First look: PowerInbox's new email platform makes it more powerful

PowerInbox founder Matt Thazhmon visited me this morning and showed me PowerInbox, a new email platform that enables new apps that do lots of cool things with email.

They turned on this platform this morning. Watch the video to get a sense of what it does.

But it can do a bunch of things with specific types of emails.

1. With social network notifications it can bring Facebook directly into the email so users don’t need to click out to leave a comment, for instance.

2. With enterprise email, it can build collaboration features right into the email, so two users can chat back and forth right from an email, without really sending yet another email that clutters up inboxes.

Downsides? It only works on Chrome today, Outlook and Firefox coming soon, and it requires loading some software on your machine. Doesn’t work on iPads or mobile, unfortunately, at least yet. We cover all that in the interview.

Love the idea behind this. How about you?

Why iPad is untouchable while iPhones were beaten by Android

iPad ads everywhere

Over on Techcrunch it’s fun to watch the comments come in after it ran yet another “Apple’s iPad still has no competitors” rant.

The Android fans are saying “just watch, Android will beat your iPad just like it beat your iPhone in market share.”*

No, this time won’t be the same.

(* I put an asterisk on this because I still haven’t seen convincing numbers that Android has beat Apple at anything that matters, like number of apps, profitability, or even sales at Verizon).

First of all, ALL THAT MATTERS IS APPS. Let’s keep repeating that until you get it.

See, with the iPhone Android got to “enough apps” that it largely took away iPhone’s advantage there. With that advantage gone, now the market could look at other things. Android beat iPhone in several key places: more carrier choices, more device choices, cheaper prices.

The thing is iPad has a total lock on the app market RIGHT NOW. Consumers won’t even be able to consider other advantages Android has until Android gets enough apps.

Now, some people think “enough” is 16, which is currently the number on Android. I totally disagree and believe the market will, too. Apple’s iPad has 60,000 apps.

Until Android gets “enough” apps (let’s say that’s 5,000) it won’t enable average people to consider it because they will look stupid when going into the store to buy one.

That’s why Google’s IO conference this year is so important. Can they convince iPad developers and others to build apps for tablets on Android?

Google needs to have a great developer story and, so far, it doesn’t have one. Mostly because its slates won’t sell nearly as well as iPads do, and even if they did have a runaway success, their app store doesn’t monetize nearly as well as Apple’s does. Can they fix that before the IO event? That’s worth watching.

That said, I can’t see any scenario that takes Apple’s iPad out of the #1 slot this year. That’s why it has no competition and why Techcrunch is right.

UPDATE: another proof point? Technologizer noticed how bad the Google app store is. Think that makes developers excited? Nope.

The new Silicon Valley hype machine: AngelList

Yesterday at the Launch event I was sitting next to Naval Ravikant. I kept watching his screen. I had heard about his site, AngelList, before, but I didn’t have an opportunity to really dig into what it was and how it worked.

When one company, GreenGoose, got on stage and had an awesome demo (it was my favorite company of the two-day event, they won best overall from the LaunchPad, AngelList lit up. They got dozens of investors to show interest. As I watched Naval’s screen, you could see the investor interest pouring in. Like when a great answer gets posted to Quora, except AngelList only allows angel investors and a few other “scouts” (I’ve been added as a scout so I can watch the system and let you know what I see).

Visit GreenGoose’s page on AngelList and you can see who their investors are. Right now it lists Kal Vepuri, Shervin Pishevar, Bill Warner, Jay Levy, Betaspring, David Beyer. There are comments along the side, including a note about them winning at Launch from Naval himself. Price and terms are listed for investors.

Unfortunately because of SEC rules this site isn’t open to the public, but I’ll use this to inform my opinions often on my Tweets or here on my blog (I have to get permission from startups to use their discussions in public, first).

If you are already on AngelList, my page is here and you can follow me — I’ve already helped one company, Glmps, get noticed here (I got an early demo that even investors haven’t yet seen and I’m excited by that company’s offerings, and noted that in comments there, you’ll hear more about this company at SXSW).

But, anyway, watching what investors get hot and bothered about tells you where the world of tech is moving toward. It also helps explain some of the high valuations. Investors tend to be pack animals and tend to want to get in on “hot deals.” AngelList makes the hot deals happen fast.

I asked Naval why he started the site and he explained how he was screwed by a venture capitalist at one of his startups. He started it to help entrepreneurs see more venture capitalists and be able to more effectively deal with them. Looks like his service is well along its way. If you are an investor or a startup founder and you aren’t on AngelList yet you are really missing out.

An iPad lovers review of Motorola Xoom

You know I’m an iPad freak. I was first in line to buy one and I’ve used it so much my screen is cracked.

It is the device that’s changed my life more than any other in the past year, which, in a year that Microsoft Kinect shipped, is totally impressive.

For the past few days I’ve had a Motorola Xoom. I accepted a loaner because I wanted to prove that it would suck next to an iPad.

One problem: I’m falling in love with it.

With a couple of caveats.

First, the caveats:

1. There aren’t any apps that are designed for it yet. I have three “secret” apps that will be out soon, but three goes against, what, 30,000+ for iPad?

2. The iPad 2 is coming, I’ll be at the Apple press conference on March 2.

So, those two caveats out of the way, what do I love about it?

1. Some parts of Android are better designed than iOS. Multitasking just seems to work better for me than the way you do it on iOS. In the video I did you see why, it takes fewer clicks to switch apps.

3. Notifications are much nicer on Android. Along the bottom right it shows me when new emails and other things come in. Very well thought out, and way better than notifications on iPad.

4. Battery life seemed equal, although I need more time to really figure out whether it’s as good as the iPad, which has extraordinary battery life.

5. Having cameras on the device is very nice. I used it last night at a discussion at Stanford and I filmed it. Because of the size of the Xoom it came out a lot steadier than anything I film with my iPhones. (This advantage will only last a month or so over iPad 2, but it’s there). I can see using the other camera to do videoconferencing, too. Yeah, it’s not the highest resolution camera you’ve ever seen on a mobile device, but it works pretty well, I’ll try to get a video up tonight from it.

6. HDMI connector. I have an HD screen downstairs. Here I can hook it up without buying a hyper-expensive Apple connector.

7. Better resolution and form factor, especially for video. I love watching video on my iPad. Netflix rocks on it, especially when the kids have taken over my TV set. But I like the higher resolution of the Xoom (1280 pixels across instead of only 1024) and I like the longer and narrower form factor, which fits video better than the iPad does.

8. The widgets on the home screen let me just glance down at my tablet to see info. I now am keeping it on my desk at work as a third monitor and that’s nice.

9. The docking station makes a nice desktop stand. Although it’s a bit weird to figure out how to get the Xoom to dock once you figure that out it makes a nice desktop stand.

10. The browser feels closer to Google Chrome than Safari does. It has one box for URLs and search, which I really love (the two box system Safari has feels lame in comparison) and it has tabs, just like my Chrome does on my desktop.

11. Speaker system in the Xoom is better than the iPad and it has stereo speakers.

13. Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar apps are WAY better than the ones on iPad. As you might expect.

So, take this all together and I really love the new Motorola Xoom. I will be buying it because it’s the best of the Android-based devices I have seen and I need one to track all the apps over the next year and compare them to what’s on iPad.

That said, will I recommend my dad get one? No. Not this year. Why? No apps that have been specifically designed for the 10-inch tablet, which in my experience does demand new apps. Yes, Android phone apps “stretch” to bigger sizes a lot better than iPhone apps did when stretched up, but sorry we haven’t seen great apps like the History of Jazz, Aweditorium, NPR, BBC, Flipboard, Heritage, etc, like what you see on iPad.

The apps are ALL that matters for the market and Android does NOT have them yet.

That said, Android is in a better spot than HP’s TouchPad or RIM’s PlayBook, and I believe it will take the #2 spot, mostly because of the strength of its mobile app community on phones.

Some other minor nits. I don’t like the surface on the back of the device. It isn’t consistent, which makes part of the back collect more dirt than the strip with the cameras and speakers.

Also, the on button is in a weird place. I’ve hit it a couple of times accidentally because it’s where you hold the device with your left hand.

Finally, is it worth $800? Not for the mass market due to the lack of apps. If you don’t care about the lack of apps, then yes. It brings Android solidly into the tablet world and brings Apple some significant competition.

Can’t wait to see that iPad 2, which will probably change some of these opinions.