Manufacturing is changing with us

Back in 2004 I wrote Bill Gates a letter telling him how to compete with the iPod. I said to design it in public view with everyone’s help. I was called a massive idiot back then.

It has totally shocked me that more companies haven’t taken my advice. This weekend shows that things are changing and that my advice in 2004 is now being heeded.

1. Bug Labs is working with famous design firm IDEO and is designing its UI in public eye. VC Fred Wilson reported that on his blog this weekend.

2. TechCrunch is designing a Tablet PC for less than $300. Mike Arrington gave a report on that this morning.

This is huge and is only going to get bigger. Thanks to companies like PCH in Shenzhen, China, and Twitter and friendfeed (where you can have conversations with thousands of people in live time) we’re going to see new companies spring up and design products and build brands.

Is Techcrunch a blog anymore? Or did it just become a consumer electronics brand?

Or, even better, if you read my comment over on TechCrunch maybe TechCrunch isn’t a brand at all. Maybe they’ll charge you to put YOUR brand on the Tablet PC.

After all, you can already get camcorders with your own image on them (Jeremy Toeman showed me his and it’s very cool) so why not get your own brand on everything?

Thanks Mike Arrington for taking us off the rails into Twitter idiot land

Yesterday Mike Arrington took us off the rails and into the idiot land.

Listen, I’m as egotistical as the rest of them. I can say “follow me” along with the best of them. According to Loic Le Meur and Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, I have more authority than either of them because I have more followers on Twitter. Their words, not mine.

That idea is patently idiotic. We have been derailed from the promised land of smarter conversations on Twitter and have moved into the idiot land if that’s the way we think.

Even worse, my post yesterday about this got 12x more traffic than my two video posts did (even though one of them was with the guy who named Web 2.0 and is my favorite interview of the year). The 12seconds.tv video post took far more time and money to do (and more time to think about and consume too). The fact that no one cares about actually learning something and trying a new service or hearing about how the entrepreneurs are doing it is telling me a LOT.

We’re off the rails and well into idiot land now.

Why is former TechCrunch author Duncan Riley is writing about celebrity news more on his Inquisitr blog than trying to find another tech scoop? Look at the traffic curves. TechCrunch is headed down for the past few months. Inquistr, Riley’s new site, is headed up.

We are a land of idiots. Idiots care about who is following them. Idiots care more about celebrity news than science. Or technology. Or geeky stuff.

Idiots try to rank things based on who has the most followers. Idiots can’t be bothered with thinking about adding value like Tim O’Reilly or Jay Rosen, all guys who teach you something in nearly every tweet and who I can’t remember ever caring about how many followers they have.

Look at this attitude close up in this post by Jesse Stay, who posted his defense of the follower idiocy on Louis Gray’s blog so it could “get to more eyeballs.”

Aaarrrrrgggghhhhhh.

Of course, Mike Arrington is not an idiot. Neither is Loic Le Meur. Neither is Jesse Stay. So, what are they up to?

They know there is money in idiocy. That is where their future traffic will come from. That is where their profits will come from. There aren’t enough smart people so you gotta create some drama to pull in the idiots. Steve Gillmor figured it out.

Maybe I’m the idiot. Sigh.

Now, to be fair, the post that started this mess, from Loic Le Meur, had a good goal: to make it possible to find better tweets in searches. In other words, to separate the news from the noise. Except Loic used the word “authority” and hooked it to popularity: the number of followers one has.

Loic claims he didn’t do that to start a fight, but that demonstrates he just didn’t know that the idiots would rebel against the thought that they don’t matter as much as someone else. It also fed the idiots who believe that the only thing in life that matters is celebrity. How lame.

Here’s why I’ve been saying for the past year that it is far more important who you follow than who follows you: if you follow people just to get followers you’ll end up being overworked, deep in information overload, and superficial to boot. You won’t have a philosophy. It +will+ show. You might be able to fool most of the idiots most of the time, but eventually they’ll see the difference between the “collect follower” types and the “surround yourself with smart people” types like Tim O’Reilly or Jay Rosen.

I can smell the “follow me” types a million miles away, can’t you?

One crowd is off the rails in idiot land, the other is building something of lasting value.

Which one do we want to incent? The “follow me” idiots? Or the “try to get smarter” crowd?

I know I’m swimming upstream, but I want to get smarter. Screw the page views. Screw the business models. They all are lame anyway. I want better friends. Better content. Better news. Better ideas. That means I need to find better people to be part of my social network. Idiots be damned.

So, when I say that listing search results by numbers of followers is idiotic, now you know where I’m coming from. There are a lot better ways to find the high value Tweets. I covered that yesterday. But no one cared, which is why that post didn’t show up on TechMeme.

I guess I should just give in and join the idiot crowd. I bet this post gets on TechMeme or, even better, Digg.

Aaarrrrrggggghhhhh.

See, this is why I really don’t care about Mike Arrington’s claim that I should blog more because my traffic is going down. If I cared only about building a business or making money then he’d definitely be right.

My goal, though, is to have smarter conversations every day. Does anyone else care about that goal? Or are you all wanting to be celebrities so you can sell stuff on your Twitter account, like what Jesse Stay is advocating for?

How do we get this back on the tracks now that Arrington has derailed us?

Did I harm my blog by FriendFeeding this year?

Since I’ve been blogging eight years this month I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog and how I want to do things differently in 2009.

I told Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, that I wonder if I’ve made smart time investments in 2008 by spending so much time on Twitter and friendfeed. Yeah, I knew about the Chinese earthquake before pretty much anyone, and 45 minutes before CNN reported it, but doing that required being online with Twitter open late at night after most of you had gone to sleep or were watching some TV.

He just posted that I need a friendfeed intervention, which is why I’m writing this post.

About a month ago I asked people over on FriendFeed and the comments came in hot and heavy. Of course most of them thought I did a good thing by spending so much time on FriendFeed this year.

How much time? I told Arrington tonight that I bet it’s seven hours a day or more. I started in late February. So, that’s around 2,000 hours. What did I get for my 2,000 hour investment this year?

22,997 followers.
6,841 comments. (These are blogs and items I had something to say about, so I left a comment on them).
13,078 likes. (These are blogs and items made by other people that I wanted to share with you).
I manually followed 5,405 people. (You can see all the content they generate in real time here).

Anyway, what did I give up by spending time on Twitter and friendfeed?

  1. A few of my friends think I am not as good a thought leader anymore because they don’t get as many long posts as I used to do.
  2. If you check Compete.com you’ll see my overall traffic went down about 14% this year while FriendFeed’s traffic went up 4,056%.
  3. I don’t get any money from friendfeed, while on my blog I do sell ads now.
  4. I’m not breaking as many stories anymore so I’m showing up on TechMeme less and less.
  5. Arrington himself told me he is reading me less on my blog, although lots of the “A list” crowd have been showing up on friendfeed now that it has hit a certain audience size and is starting to show up on their referral logs.

What did I gain by being on friendfeed and Twitter?

  1. I now get a much wider-range of news and am available to a wider range of people.
  2. My words now get indexed by the two most popular “real-time web” search engines: Twitter Search and friendfeed search. I know people who get their news by visiting Twitter search and looking at what news is “trending,” or becoming more popular.
  3. I am now part of the conversation in a way that I’d never be if I were just blogging. Seth Godin, for instance, only blogs and he rarely gets discussed on Twitter or friendfeed. If he were active he’d be discussed 25x more.
  4. I’ve made a lot of friends that are just reading me on twitter, I’ve met many people at Tweetups and the like that I’d never have met if I weren’t so active.
  5. By being active I’ve been quoted in countless articles about Twitter or friendfeed, which helps me too.
  6. Because I listen to the conversation I am getting better video interviews. Compete.com shows that FastCompany.TV is growing nicely this year and has taken up the slack for my blog. Add that into all my new readers on Twitter and friendfeed and I’m happy about my total readership. Seagate deserves a lot of thanks there for sponsoring FastCompany.TV back when there were no viewers.
  7. I now have a new news source that other bloggers won’t have: a crowd of 5,400 people who are bringing me the best news from around the web in real time. Already I’m seeing stuff there that will turn into blog posts and insights that other people aren’t seeing. Because I’ve build relationships with many of these people over the past year they call me and warn me about important news before they call other people. This “funnel” of news could be a sizeable advantage for someone trying to compete in a very competitive space.
  8. I now have a list of 23,000 people on friendfeed and 44,692 on Twitter that I can show potential sponsors. Before all I could say is my monthly uniques.
  9. In friendfeed Mike Arrington has 15,108 followers and I have 22,999. Mike has a LOT more blog readers than I have, so he should have dramatically more followers than I have on friendfeed. But by participating in these services I have collected more subscribers. Do they offset the same number of blog readers I’d have if I spent so much time blogging instead of hanging out on friendfeed? That’s the question that got Mike and I to talk.

Why does this all matter? Well, if you are going to do this as a business you’ve got to prove how many readers you have and demonstrate both audience size as well as influence.

The other thing that advertisers are asking me for is quantitative data about who is reading me. Some companies now don’t want to reach geeks, for instance. So, they are looking at your social networks to see what kind of audience you’ve attracted.

So, what do you think? Do I need a friendfeed intervention? Looking forward to having a good conversation. Of COURSE we are talking about this on friendfeed. In fact, in multiple places. :-)

Guy Kawasaki says outrageous things about Twitter

Guy Kawasaki is a pretty influential guy and when he says “Twitter is a weapon,” in an interview I did with him my ears perk up.

But he got more outrageous from there. He took on TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington with a challenge. Guy would rather give up his cell phone for a week than give up Twitter for a week.

Oh, Guy said a few other fun things. Which is what you’d expect from the first technology evangelist (a role he held at Apple back in the early 1980s).

Not to mention that he started a cool social media directory, AllTop, and promptly put his own name at the top of the ego page. Oh, he’s not just outrageous about Twitter. In reality we were there to discuss his new book, Reality Check: the Irrreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.

“I’m so sold on Twitter.”(1 minute in)

“I think Twitter is, arguably, the most powerful branding mechanism since television.” (2 minutes in)

The essence of a good pitch (3 minutes in)

“I would sell to Toyota,” when I asked him what he’d do about GM (4 minutes in)

Twitter should be bailed out by the government (4:45 in)

“The thing that drives your competition crazy the most is when you are successfull and they are not.” (7 minutes in)

“Is your boss an asshole?” (10 minutes in). Leads to a fun discussion about Steve Jobs. Funny how that happens!

Why your company can’t be successful like Apple or Google just buy spending money on goodies (14 minutes in)

“For me, Twitter is more important than a cell phone.” (16 minutes in)

“Twitter is a weapon.” (17 minutes in)

Thanks Guy for inviting me over for a fun conversation. Now back to Twitter. Follow Guy @guykawasaki and follow me @scobleizer.

UPDATE: over on FastCompanyTV this video is getting more comments than any other in recent memory, which brings on this outrageous Scoble rule: get a famous Twitterer to say outrageous things about Twitter and you’ll get more comments on your blog.

My "alignment" with TC50

Alec Saunders, in a comment over on his blog where he said I came off very poorly in my rant about the startups at Demo’s websites questions my “alignment” with TC50. I think that’s worth pointing out here.

I have not shared a meal in the past few months with Mike Arrington. Last time I remember seeing him was at his TC party a couple months ago.

I am NOT paid in any way by TC50. I have absolutely no business dealings with TC50. I have signed no contracts.

“But you’re a judge.” That is true. But so are many other people, including executives and VCs from around the valley. I am NOT being compensated for my time judging the finalists in the rich media category.

I am quite willing to spray my invective toward Arrington and Calacanis. They haven’t been friends to my business interests over the years.

I will be looking for things to both criticize and praise about both conferences this year. Actually I’ll probably be nicer to Demo this week because I’m not there and it’s not really fair to criticize something that you don’t have a personal involvement with. The companies’ websites? Fair game.

Anyway, I’ll be judged at the end of the week whether I was biased one way or another. If I do have a bias, it’ll be easy to see.

I have been more “aligned” with TC50 up to this point for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I think Arrington and Calacanis are outhustling Shipley. But, now, that isn’t really for me to judge. Now it’s YOUR turn to judge which conference did a better job of finding the best startups. I’ll link to the best analysis no matter what side of the fence it’s on.

UPDATE: also, this is true for FastCompany. Unlike other media companies like Mashable or Venturebeat that have sponsored Demo, FastCompany has no business ties to TechCrunch or Demo.

Let's cry for the poor fragmented, underreported startups

Daniel Terdiman, over at CNET, is reporting that Demo and TC50 are potentially fragmenting their audiences.

Let’s cry for a moment for all the startups. Boo, hoo, hooo.

Back to reality. Any startup that looks at this as a loss should be refused funding.

First it’s funny that a CNET reporter is saying that. After all, CNET is one of the few organizations around that has the resources to attend both conferences. CNET should LOVE this because it gives them a HUGE advantage over 99.9% of other bloggers.

The way I look at it is that four years ago only 70 companies got paid attention to (I attended Demo that year). Now double that number will. Even if you only try out the top five companies from each conference that number will be double too. So, competition between two conferences is GREAT for startups. Any startup that says otherwise just won’t have credibility with me.

The fight between Arrington and Shipley has helped focus our attention on these two conferences (the LA Times even wrote about it) so now startups are getting even more PR than they’d get if there were only one conference. Keep in mind that each of the 70 startups on this list paid $18,000 to get on stage, so I’m sure not crying for Shipley’s business. Seems to me that it’s better than ever.

OK, now that we have the drama of the morning out of the way, let’s dig into the 70 demonstrators at Demo. TechCrunch will announce its list on Monday morning at 6 a.m.

If Shipley really cared about the startups she would have made each of the URLs in this list linkable. Here, let me do that. Then, let’s take the weekend and see what we can learn about each of these companies. What do you think of this group? Anything here catch your eye?

UPDATE: I just visited every one of these companies. Boy do they almost all suck (at least their Web sites and if their sites suck, I can’t believe their products are going to do much better).

Accordia Group, LLC; New Rochelle, NY;

Adapx, Inc.; Seattle, WA;

Alerts.com, Inc.; Bellvue, WA;

Arsenal Interactive, Inc.; Mountain View, CA;

Asyncast Corp; Campbell, CA;

Awind Inc.; Junghe, Taiwan;

beeTV; Milano, Italy;

Best Buy; Minneapolis, MN;

BizEquity Corp.; Spring House, PA;

Blue Lava Technologies, Inc.; Honolulu, HI;

Cerego; Tokyo, Japan;

Cinergix, Pty Ltd.; Melbourne, Australia;

Clintworld; Boenningstedt, Germany;

CoreTrace Corp.; Austin, TX;

crowdSPRING, LLC; Chicago, IL;

DesignIn, Inc.; Marblehead, MA;

Dial Directions, Inc.; Alameda, CA;

DOCCENTER; Omaha, NE;

Enterprise Informatics, Inc.; San Diego, CA;

Familybuilder; New York, NY;

ffwd.com, Inc.; San Francisco, CA;

Fortressware, Inc.; Mountain View, CA;

Fusion-io; Salt Lake City, UT;

G.ho.st; Ramallah & Modin, Palestine and Israel;

Green Sherpa; Santa Barbara, CA;

Infovell, Inc.; Menlo Park, CA;

Intelius, Inc.; Bellevue, WA;

Invision TV, LLC; Bethesda, MD;

iWidgets, Inc.; San Francisco, CA;

Kadoo Inc.; Washington, DC;

Koollage, Inc.; San Jose, CA;

Mapflow, Ltd.; Cork, Ireland;

Maverick Mobile Solutions, Pvt. Ltd.; Maharashtra, India;

MeDeploy; Hamden, CT;

Message Sling; Worcester, MA;

MeWorks, Inc.; Taipei, Taiwan;

Microstaq, Inc.; Austin, TX;

MixMatchMusic, Ltd.; Burlingame, CA;

Momindum; Paris, France;

OpenACircle.com; Dallas, TX;

Paidinterviews, LLC; McLean, VA;

Paragent, LLC; Muncie, IN;

Photrade, LLC; Cincinnati, OH;

PlanDone, Inc.; Petaluma, CA;

Plastic Logic, Ltd.; Mountain View, CA;

Qtask, Inc.; Burbank, CA;

Quantivo Corp.; San Mateo, CA;

Radiant Logic, Inc.; Novato, CA;

RealNetworks, Inc.; Seattle, WA;

Rebus Technology, Inc.; Cupertino, CA;

RemoTV, Inc.; New Haven, CT;

Rudder, Inc.; Houston, TX;

Semanti Corp.; Alberta, Canada;

Sim Ops Studios, Inc.; San Francisco, CA;

SitScape, Inc.; Vienna, VA;

SkyData Systems, Inc.; San Mateo, CA;

SpinSpotter; Seattle, WA;

Telnic, Ltd.; London, England;

TetraBase, LLC; Boothwyn, PA;

The Echo Nest Corp.; Somerville, MA;

tikitag, an Alcatel-Lucent Venture; Antwerp, Belgium;

Toolgether; San Mateo, CA;

TravelMuse, Inc.; Los Altos, CA;

Trinity Convergence, Inc.; Durham, NC;

TurnTo Networks, Inc.; New York, NY;

UbiEst S.p.A.; Treviso, Italy;

UGA Digital, Inc.; Taipei, Taiwan;

Unity Solutions, LLC; Clearwater, FL;

Usable Security Systems, Inc.; San Francisco, CA;

WebDiet, Inc.; Henderson, NV;

Xumii, Inc.; San Mateo, CA;

Zazengo, Inc.; Santa Cruz, CA;

The Silicon Valley VC Disease

Yesterday at the Mobile Web Wars event (here’s video of that), held right before the TechCrunch party, David Hornik, partner at August Capital (he’s the host of the TechCrunch party) told the audience that he would not invest in pure iPhone apps because the iPhone had too small a market share and that anyone who wanted to get big in the mobile space should go after all phones, not just the iPhone, which, while it’s hot with early-adopter types and is seeing people waiting in lines to buy around the world, hasn’t yet made a dent in, say, Nokia’s market share of cell phones overall.

Let’s call this the Silicon Valley VC Disease. This disease has been going on for a long time. Seagate’s CEO Bill Watkins told me a few months ago that Seagate almost didn’t get started because they couldn’t get funding from VCs who didn’t see a potential market for hard drives. UPDATE: See the comments below where I learned that August Capital is one of those who funded Seagate.

It’s a corrosive disease, too, and is why we get tons of stupid Facebook apps and tons of easy-to-make and likely-to-go-viral iPhone apps. Quick: explain why we don’t yet have a really brilliant travel app or even a single political app for the iPhone, despite lots of interest in those topics (especially in this political year). Not to mention many brilliant apps like Evernote (my favorite app so far)?

What is the disease? That you must make bucketloads of money (or at least have a shot at doing that) in the first two years of business.

If you have a plan to make just a reasonable amount of money, or if it will take decades to make a big amount of money, don’t come to Silicon Valley.

Walmart would NEVER have gotten funded by Sand Hill Road. It took decades to make bucketloads of money. That kind of business plan would never fit in here.

Why? We have the Silicon Valley VC disease.

I imagine that if we went back in time to 1977. Imagine a small group of geeks wanted to get funding to build apps for the Apple II. It didn’t have much market share yet. But imagine those developers wanted to build just Apple II apps. Would they have gotten funded? Probably not. And types like David Hornick would have told them “you gotta build apps for mainframes and DEC’s, because that’s where the market is, not in that Apple II toy.”

So, is Hornik wrong? No, he’s exactly right. The much bigger market is with regular-old-single-chip-cell phones. You know the type. They are the kinds of phones that make phone calls and maybe do SMS texting. If they have a Web browser it’s a small tiny black and white one that can only look at WAP-style text-centric sites, not the full-blown Web that the iPhone has.

But while Hornik is right, he also has the Silicon Valley Disease. He forgets that the small, seemingly unimportant platform today that gets early adopters excited will become the large, dominant platform of tomorrow. It might take 10 years, though, which is too long for VCs to care about. How long did it take Visicalc to happen on the Apple II? Or Aldus Pagemaker to happen on the Mac? A few years at minimum. iPhone is only one year old.

But already we’re seeing the writing on the wall. If you can get past your Silicon Valley VC Disease.

First, our society’s most valuable audiences are getting iPhones. Last week when I was in Los Angeles, both of the famous architects I interviewed already had 3G iPhones.

Those two guys are HUGELY valuable for advertisers. They are representative. They aren’t the only ones.

But even better than the demographics that the iPhone is getting is the usage patterns.

See, I have two Nokia phones and a Microsoft Windows Mobile phone too. They all suck for using the Web. Fine for email and for texting, but really suck for using the Web.

Go see Google’s Vic Gundotra (he’s Vice President and runs a bunch of the teams that build things for mobile phones). He told me that usage on the iPhone is “off the scale” when compared to other phones.

Simply translated: people who have non-iPhone phones simply aren’t using them for anything other than email. This is easily verified. Sit next to a Blackberry user and watch what they do. I do that all the time. All you see them doing is email and light Web use. Now sit next to an iPhone user and watch what they do. Much more heavily used on photos, maps, Web, and video.

An iPhone user is easier to reach and is easier to get to try new things. Plus, the iPhone app store makes it very easy for an app to be tried out and loaded.

But back to the Silicon Valley VC disease. It’s the same disease that Microsoft execs have. Or, really, most big company execs, or worse yet, our government workers, have truth be told.

They won’t adopt anything until “it’s safe” and until there’s a HUGE business reason to do it. It’s why huge parts of our government are still run on paper. Why there isn’t a database anywhere of all of our elected officials in the United States. Why Microsoft didn’t compete with Google until too late. Why General Motors won’t build great all-electric cars until after Tesla or Toyota beats them to the punch. Etc. Etc.

Luckily the Silicon Valley VC Disease is having less and less effect lately.

You can startup a company with very little cash, because you can build it on cloud-based services like Amazon’s S3, which let you get started and show the world you’re getting adoption even before you go for VC money.

And, luckily, not every VC has the Silicon Valley VC Disease. Lots invest in stupid, small, weird, ideas for platforms that only have a percent or two of market share. Go see Jeff Clavier, for instance. He’s been doing that a lot lately. I met him in the office of Tapulous last week, which makes iPhone apps.

Why shouldn’t you listen to Hornik and others who have Silicon Valley VC disease?

  1. It’s easier to start a company on new platforms. Why? Because the big money probably hasn’t moved in yet, or at least they haven’t become established.
  2. People who buy new things are FAR EASIER to convince to buy other new things than people who have had the same stuff for years.
  3. It’s easier to build a brand on a new technology than it is to do that on an older, more established one (hey, everyone has a radio in their cars, but you don’t see VC’s funding new radio stations, do you? Why is that?)
  4. The best, most transactional and monetizeable audiences are those that pick up new things. Think about it, would you rather have a customer like Dan Meis, one of the world’s best architects or someone like my dad who still uses the same TV that he bought from me in the mid-1980s?  My dad is a nice guy and very smart, but he’s a horrible customer to have and is going to be very expensive to get to adopt something new.
  5. It’s a lot cheaper to get adoption when influencers (read bloggers and journalists and Twitterers and FriendFeeders) are talking about you. What are they talking about right now? iPhone apps. Look at Summize, the search engine Twitter just bought. What’s one of the trending topics on the home page? iPhone. Get over it. They ain’t talking about Nokia or Microsoft.

Anyway, I just find it interesting when VCs start telling people not to support a platform when there’s lines around the world waiting to buy that platform. If everyone listened to that sentiment we’d never see any innovation in the world.

So, who is working to prove Hornik wrong? Drop me a line.

Oh, and David’s a nice guy and throws great parties. Thanks David for letting me in last night and for giving me something interesting to blog about today. :-)

UPDATE: As usual lately a much more interesting conversation about this post is happening over on FriendFeed.