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Exploring the 2010 Web

To build something new you have to destroy what you were doing before. That’s one thing that not enough of us do. Las Vegas does that. They tear down one of their favorite old casinos to make way for something new.

That’s what I had to do to my blog. For the past year it felt like a boat anchor wrapped around my neck. It was more and more like work (because, well, it was) and less and less about personal discovery or anything really valuable.

All my fun experiments were over on Twitter, Facebook, or friendfeed. You could see that. Mike Arrington even tried to do a friendfeed intervention last December. Remember that? Since then I’ve gotten 14,000 more subscribers over on friendfeed and that service has become dramatically more important as it has gone real time and added on much better search features (are are also way ahead of Facebook’s and Twitter’s).

But that is not what I’m thinking about.

What I’ve been doing for the past two months since joining Rackspace is going back to the basics. What makes me excited?

I’ve visited dozens of companies, gone to a bunch of events, and, more importantly, I started playing with my blog again.

First off I went through every line of HTML and PHP so that I understood what was going on inside WordPress again. I hadn’t done that for years. Second, we moved my blog over to a WordPress install hosted on Rackspace’s Cloud Servers, aka Mosso.

That freed my mind because now I could try out server plugins and also widgets on my blog. For instance, you’ll see in the comments here we’re using Disqus so that your comments will integrate over to friendfeed in near real time. I’m not settled on Disqus, over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at the others too. There’s a lot of innovation happening there.

Second, I’m playing with location-based services. You’ll see Google’s Latitude widget over on the right side of my blog, underneath the friendfeed one. I’ll be adding more widgets over the next few weeks too.

Oh, and also over the last couple of months I’ve been slowly working with various folks at Rackspace. After I played with the HTML here, Vid Luther took over, talked me into using a new theme, Thesis, and then integrated Facebook Connect in here and also did some other work to get my blog up to 2010 standards.

Now, you might think my new blog isn’t “visual” enough. I don’t have a picture of myself. No fancy logo or graphic banner. Those might come in the future. For me my blog isn’t about me anymore anyway. That’s more what my friendfeed set of feeds is (which is why friendfeed plays such a big part in my new design). Friendfeed aggregates my tweets, my Flickr photos, my videos, and much more together. Plus, via my likes and my comments you can see what stuff I’m reading and what catches my eye.

Which brings me back to what I’m doing now for Rackspace: I’m exploring what it means to be a 2010 website. I’ve been visiting tons of businesses and there’s a lot of businesses out there that don’t even have a web site, or if they have one, it looks like it was built in 1994.

In a couple of weeks I’m getting a new 2010 Toyota Prius. If you look at the web site, it seems to be pretty cool, right? But why doesn’t Toyota have a community, or place you can go to talk about the 2010 Prius? Toyota does have a Facebook page, but why didn’t they create a place for me to go to talk about my new Prius with other people? Why didn’t it create a YouTube account that would get hooked in here? Did you know that Toyota’s PR team is on Twitter? Yeah, they are, but you wouldn’t have known by looking at the Toyota Web site. Even over on Twitter and Google it took quite a few tries to find this page.

And that’s what I’m getting at. Toyota is one of the world’s top brands. Has TONS of money to spend on marketing. And they aren’t even taking advantage of the 2010 web. So how are smaller businesses supposed to do it?

For instance, right near Facebook is an awesome yogurt shop named Fraiche. Tons of Facebook employees frequent here. So you’d think they’d be working on a Facebook connect site so that they can let their community know when they have something new to offer, right? No.

Do they use video to tell their story? No. Do they have a friendfeed group where people who love Fraiche can talk about it? No. Is there a blog that shows some of the new things they are adding? No.

This is a business that’s run by the wife of a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and is right in the heart of Palo Alto (a short walk away is Tapulous and Facebook). If they aren’t on the 2010 web, something is wrong.

As I’ve taken time to watch what the tech blogs are doing (I spent some time in TechCrunch’s offices this week) I see that we’ve forgotten about the mainstreet businesses.

We’ve gotten so far ahead with our social media toys that we’ve forgotten about the many many businesses that still have web sites that look like they were designed in 1994-2000. Even the Toyota site doesn’t really have much on it that wasn’t possible before 2005 (with the exception of some high resolution video).

The world has changed in the last four years and businesses, I’m convinced, will need to react to this new “2010″ world. It might take them until 2015 to really get on board, but I want to help now.

So, that’s what I’m going to do here. Focus on the 2010 web and how we can help businesses get there. That’s also what we’ll be doing over on Building43. By the way, we’ll be launching that sometime in June, sorry for being a little quiet about that. Turns out that building a community from scratch and figuring out a direction takes some time to just sit and think.

“OK, Scoble, so what are you learning about the 2010 web so far?”

Well, I’m seeing it has a few attributes:

1. It’s real time. Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed are all moving toward architectures and displays that refresh in real time, or let you see what’s happening right now. We are at the extreme beginnings of that trend. You really should watch the video of the panel discussion I moderated on the state of real time search to get a sense of where this is going. That panel discussion will be remembered for years as a key point. One of the panel members runs Facebook search team. Yes, Facebook is working on real time search. (That video is in two parts since the meeting ran almost two hours long. I really do recommend watching it. Part I is here. Part II is here.).
2. It’s mobile. You’ll see this more next week when the Where 2.0 conference rolls into town, but if 40,000 iPhone apps hasn’t convinced you yet, nothing will. On Monday I’m meeting with Nokia to find out the latest.
3. It’s decentralized. Look at my behaviors. I’m all over the place. Six years ago I did only one thing: blog. Now I Flickr. YouTube. Seesmic. Friendfeed. Facebook. Twitter. And many more. Go to Retaggr and see all the places I’m at.
4. Pages now built out of premade blocks. You build these pages by copying a line of Javascript code to your template. This is very simple once you see how to do it, but for someone who doesn’t know code, or where in the template to go, this is VERY daunting. Silicon Valley has NOT made it simple enough yet for the mainstream to build highly useful pages. See the friendfeed block to the right of my words? I added that by copying and pasting from the friendfeed widget page. If you know where to look a TON of cool pre-built blocks like this are available for you to put on your website or blog.
5. It’s social. This seems obvious to anyone on Twitter or Facebook, but how many businesses add their customers to their pages? Not many. Silicon Valley has done a horrible job so far of explaining why adding people to your websites matters.
6. It’s smart. We’re seeing more and more smarts added to the web every day. Tonight Wolfram’s new search engine turned on. Have you played with it? That’s the 2010 web and check out what you can do with it.
7. Hybrid infrastructure. When I visited 12seconds.tv in Santa Cruz they told me they were using a hybrid approach: they own a rack of servers but they also use Amazon’s S3 to “cloud burst” or take up the slack for files that are popular. My employer Rackspace will have more to say about that trend too over the next few months.

Anyway, I’m off to New York this week. I’m meeting with Fred Wilson to see what he thinks is happening in the 2010 web. Anyone else got something that will push the web into 2010?

PR People: I even made a place you can pitch me on 2010 web ideas. It’s interesting that a bunch of people are subscribed to that room — probably lots of tech bloggers looking for ideas.

Thanks for sticking with me while I destroyed my blog, now let’s have some fun together!

Oh, last weekend I videoed Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, as he got onto friendfeed (his new account is here). That’s a fun video too that you might find useful (the first couple minutes have bad video, but it gets better after that). He even admitted to me that Wikipedia is not a good example of a 2010 website and that they are going to be rolling out new features that will make it much more up to date. Can’t wait to see that.

I’m off to bed. Yes, I typed this all after midnight tonight. That’s another thing, no more pre-done packaged crap here.

This guy just won a “mint”

Aaron Patzer, CEO of Mint Software

The winner of TechCrunch 40 is: Mint.com.

Here’s the CEO, Aaron Patzer. He just won $50,000. His site is being hit so hard it’s down. He gave us a demo yesterday morning. We’ll try to get that up tomorrow.

What’s interesting is that two days ago I asked who would win and within minutes one commenter here said he thought Mint would. More proof that my readers know more than I do?

Here’s the TechCrunch coverage of the contest
. Mint is also at the top of TechMeme right now.

Not to be missed photo events

On October 1 Stanford University is rolling out the red carpet for a Photowalk which ends up at a talk by National Geographic photographers.

Rick Smolan, famous photgrapher, did "Day in the Life" and "American 24/7" series of books

This week Rick Smolan (that’s him in the photo) is doing another one of his famous photo projects that you can participate in. He’s the photographer who did the “Day in the Life” series of books, among others. This time he’s working on a new book that focuses on what home means to Americans.

Anyway, really hope you can come along on the Photowalking at Stanford. You’re invited. Just sign up on Upcoming.org. You don’t need an expensive camera, either. It’s open to everyone.

A few hours in TechCrunch 40′s hallway

Renee Blodget holds court in the hallway

I never even got into see a presentation. The hallway was too good. Here’s my photos. Damn, I love my Canon 5D camera (thank you Maryam!). Imagine how good my images will be after I learn how to use it. Thomas Hawk or Scott Beale don’t need to worry about losing their status as best Web 2.0 photographers anytime soon. Hah.

I got a demo of Mint and it lives up to the hype someone gave it in my comment section this morning. Nice way to look at and manage your personal finances. Cubic Telecom did live up to the hype, too. I gotta get some of those phones for Maryam’s family in Iran. She pays so much for her mom to call back home.

There’s plenty of chatter over on TechMeme — I’m not going to try to live blog conferences anymore, it’s a thankless task and one that’s best left to people who actually like sitting in the halls. Me? I’m a hallway rat. CenterNetworks’ Allen Stern has a good wrapup and links to a few of the best posts..

Oh, anyone want to be on the ScobleShow? I’ll be hanging out in Half Moon Bay and have a few extra hours this week to do some interviews. Family is here, so it’s good to get out of the house.

Finally, in that picture above is Renee Blodgett, holding the camera. If you can identify all the other people in the picture you’ll be ready for some hallway networking at tech conferences in the future. Hint: a famous journalist/blogger, a wife of one of TechCrunch 40′s co-founders, and a famous lawblogger is there.

Utterz: like Twitter but with audio/video

I’m in serious social networking fatigue. Or maybe that’s the overnight fatigue kicking in cause Milan woke up three times.

Here’s another Twitter competitor: Utterz.

Except it’s like Twitter with TwitterGram with a decent UI.

Here’s the condundrum: if a service has better features than Twitter but your friends aren’t on it, is it any good?

No.

Translation: I’m not trying out new social networks anymore until at least 100 people ask me to join.

Sorry to be so rude, but the bar has gone up. The window has closed. Yada yada yada.

Oh, I’m sneaking out of the house to go to TechCrunch 40 for a few hours. Don’t tell Maryam! :-)

Are “demo shows” really free for anyone?

I’m seeing a LOT of hype about TechCrunch 40 being free for companies to demo at. Eric Norlin repeats that, for instance, on his blog.

That just isn’t true, if you look at it the right way.

Most companies I know are bringing five people to a show like TechCrunch 40 or Demo (which is next week). Shel Israel, in an interview that’ll be up this week on ScobleShow, told me that he recommends startups bring EVERYONE to shows like Demo or TC40 (everyone being someone involved in building the product/service, not support staff like secretaries or janitors). Why? Because the hallways is where the real networking is done and where the real stories get written about companies. If you have five people at a conference like this you’ll have five times more opportunities to get a hallway discussion started that’ll lead to a major blog post or an article in the New York Times (I’m writing a column for Fast Company and am already including at least one company from TechCrunch 40 in it, for instance).

At TechCrunch 40 those people need to buy a ticket. So that’s far from “free.”

Plus, many companies that are coming from outside of San Francisco region need to pay the travel, hotel, and meal costs. That’s not insignificant.

Even people who get in free (and there are always some of those) need to take time away from other things that are important and/or cover travel costs. That’s hardly “free” in my book.

So, what’s the most “free” for both attendees and demoing companies?

How about ScobleShow.com? I’ve had hundreds of companies on my show in less than a year. Far more than you’ll see at Demo or at TC40. Yet none of them, other than Seagate, paid to be there.

Also, no one at home pays to watch those demos and you don’t even need to travel to see them.

So, Eric, you’ve already got your “free for all” demo show! Even better, if someone gets boring you just turn them off!

Oh, and I patterned my demos after Chris Shipley’s Demo. No PowerPoints. Short demos (most of my demos are less than 10 minutes).

Every single company that’s been on my show should say thanks to Seagate. That’s the model for making a “free for everyone” demo show.