We're shipping today: the road to Building43

Screen Capture of Building43

This afternoon we turn the key on Building43. I’m up at 5 a.m. to help the team put the finishing touches on the site, and thought it would be a good place to start my blog back up. Sorry for disappearing from my long-form blog for a while. I just didn’t have the energy to write more than 140 characters or so. That’s one reason why I like my friendfeed page or my Twitter account, which I often treat like a blog but I can do it in little chunks in between doing other tasks. Sort of a treat while doing other things.

But first, what is building43?

Building43 a Web site. It’s a T-shirt. It’s a Twitter account. It is a video channel on Blip.tv. It’s a friendfeed group. It’s a sticker. It’s a team. It’s a Facebook Page. It’s a database (or really a few of them). And more.

It’s a community for people who are fanatical about the Internet.

“OK, Scoble, stop smoking whatever you’re smoking and tell me what it is.”

It’s an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, where he gives his dad, who is a dentist, some ideas for how to use the new web to do business better (I call it the 2010 Web, Kara Swisher calls it Web 3.0, yet other people just want to call it “the web.” I don’t care what you call it as you recognize that there’s a different web today and it doesn’t look like the Web that was around in 1994).

Or, it’s a community of hundreds of people who will be at TechCrunch’s headquarters this afternoon to help us ship this. Coming this afternoon are some remarkable people who have done remarkable things with their lives, and that’s totally humbling.

This is also one of the first times in recent memory where I wasn’t transparent. Turns out that while I was traveling, speaking, interviewing, helping build a team, arguing about what we were doing, researching, talking, listening, etc it’s very hard to blog. Who knew? Heheh. But it all started three months ago when Rocky Barbanica and I visited with a bunch of executives at Rackspace for a few days.

What was my first week at work like? Well, the Chairman, Graham Weston, walked us around to many of the employees at Rackspace, and introduced us. A year ago I got to interview Graham and came home and declared that Rackspace was the best company I’d ever studied and that Weston was a “real business leader.” Now I got to see it from the inside.

I’ve never heard of a chairman of a public company doing this: introducing a new hire to the company personally. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I have some of the video and it’s so personal that I haven’t even shown it to other Rackers (people who work at Rackspace are called “Rackers”). Graham knows, it seems, everyone in the company and can tell you something about them and you can tell when they both meet that they both have a lot of respect for each other. It’s something I haven’t seen in corporate life for a while.

Anyway, we talked in those days about why Rackspace hired us. Turns out that Graham saw a creative spark between Rocky and me that he appreciated and wondered if he could find a way to foster. I think he missed that we’re always pretty close to going postal on each other, but that’s does get a certain kind of creativity out of me. Heheh.

Rob La Gesse sporting a Building43 T-shirt

But now I need to bring Rob La Gesse into the picture. I think the first time I had a real conversation with Rob was a couple of years ago when Maryam and I were moving back down to California from Seattle. We were driving and I Twittered to please call me cause I was bored. Well, he called me about an hour later and that led to him building a friendship with me and he was the one responsible for getting me to San Antonio to meet the startups in town. Back then he wasn’t a Rackspace employee, he was a contractor and he thought that by bringing me to town it would help his ability to get work. Little did he know.

Today he’s at Rackspace and he’s our boss. Interesting how it all started on Twitter three summers ago.

Anyway, I’m rambling. In about 12 hours you’re going to get to see what we’ve done. It is just the start. To the trained eye it looks like a WordPress blog and a friendfeed group (and soon a Facebook page and a Twitter account). But we just needed to ship. And ship fast without a dedicated technology team.

Shipping is a feature, my old friends at Microsoft used to say.

Why is that? Well, because of where we’re going: the promise of Building43 is bigger than just being a WordPress blog with a friendfeed group or a Facebook page. The promise is we can help other people and businesses get excited about the Web we love.

That’s why, in today’s live video stream on Kyte.tv (we will start at about 4 p.m. Pacific Time) that we’ll be doing from TechCrunch’s headquarters in Palo Alto we’ll be asking you to help teach someone else about how to do something on the web. Over the next few weeks we’ll have people teaching about building large-scale databases with Hadoop, how to speed up your Web app, how to build an iPhone prototype, how to do copy-and-paste programming so you can add a cool widget to your website like the ones I have along the right edge of my blog, or many other topics.

See, if we let businesses just stay in the 1994 web, we’re all missing out. That’s like what my blog has been lately. Not updated. Not interesting. And leaving business on the table.

Yeah, I’ll be doing my usual thing of getting you inside to see how companies are using the Internet in a new way. Some of our first interviews are with Four Seasons, Zappos, Facebook, Google. We’ll also have conversations with some of the smartest minds and visionaries. One of the ones that you’ll see today is with Fred Wilson, the guy who invested in Twitter, among many other companies. That’s all fairly interesting stuff, but if Building43 is just about me, it’ll be a failure. It won’t have reached its potential.

Here’s another way to put it. When you look at Techmeme and see all the tech bloggers yammering on about the latest cool things, the way they were this week about Facebook’s new URLs that are coming out tomorrow, or Apple’s new iPhone, do they look backward and think about the average businessperson? Not in my experience. We don’t have an industry conversation about how to actually use all this cool stuff to improve lives, make businesses stronger and closer to their customers, and have some fun.

A few people here and there are trying. I watch what Chris Messina, David Recordon, Marc Canter, Joseph Smarr, Kaliya Hamlin, and a group of others are trying to do by pushing a more open web. Those are the kinds of efforts that inspire me and are inspiring Building43. Can we build on what they are trying to do and take it to main street?

I see Tim O’Reilly and Craig Newmark working behind the scenes with technologists and politicians inside the government to try to get them onto the modern web. That’s a huge job because many parts of government are still run with paper, not with computers. Of course that means they can jump right over the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and land squarely in 2010 with some interesting new approaches that many businesses will struggle with because many businesses assume that having a 1994 website is good enough.

Those are our challenges, but also our opportunities.

We’d love your help! Invite us over and we’ll help you teach the world to make a better Web for all of us.

Thank you.

While I’m here, here’s some FAQ’s about Building43:

Q: where is it available?
A: http://www.building43.com

Q: When will it turn on?
A: At about 5 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon.

Q: Who is/was involved?
A: A whole bunch of people at Rackspace and elsewhere, from designers, to executives. I haven’t had my coffee yet, so don’t want to leave anyone out, but we’ll have an about page on the site where we’ll talk about the team. One person I wanted to thank, though, is Tricia Macmanus. She’s on loan to our team from inside Rackspace and without her this wouldn’t have shipped.

Q: Why are you launching with a private, by invite-only, party at TechCrunch tonight?
A: I hate doing invite only parties but we had a budget and Techcrunch graciously opened up their offices to us and they can only fit about 150 people (we’ve already gotten that many to RSVP). We will be doing as much as we can to involve people around the world and there are some remarkable people who are coming to the party tonight that we’ll try to get on our live video channel. Please join us there starting at 4 p.m. Pacific Time today (we’ll be going until about 7 p.m.)

Q: What is Rackspace’s involvement?
A: Rackers and Rackspace are providing the hosting, the team to build the site, the team to get content, and such. You won’t see a logo on there, nor will you see much, if anything at all about Rackspace on the site.

Q: If Rackspace is paying your salaries and for all your equipment, why aren’t you talking about them?
A: For Rackspace Building43 is an R&D group. It’s how Rackspace is learning what it should do next. We’re meeting with the most bleeding edge companies and we’re trying to learn and share those learnings with everyone. When we visited Zappos that company learns by hosting public tours where other companies come in and have conversations with executives (you get to see part of one of those conversations this afternoon as you sit at the table with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, and Graham Weston, chairman of Rackspace). But not every company is like Zappos, and we’re just exploring the world looking at what’s happening on the Web right now.

Q: I was expecting to see more of a place where we can build and try Rackspace’s new cloud hosting services.
A: One step at a time, we’re just getting started and we’re now evaluating what to do with the next phase of Building43.

Q: How often will new content show up from the Building43 team?
A: We have a ton of videos still to edit and get up, you should expect at least a couple every week to get started, but it’s our goal to get one a day up. It might take a few weeks to ramp up to that level because we’re still building the team and Rocky and I are traveling a lot, we’ll be in New York next week, for instance, and London in early July.

Q: How do I submit a video or a blog?
A: There are a lot of ways you can contribute to Building43. You can tag someone else’s videos with “building43” over on YouTube and those will show up on the site. You can include the #building43 hashtag in your Tweets and those will show up in the Twitter parts of the site. Or you can post to the Building43 Room on friendfeed.

Q: Why are you so fanatical about friendfeed? I thought you worked for Rackspace?
A: Friendfeed has the best real time display right now of any of the services you’ll find us on. It also has the best room technology and the best community (we made a list of more than 500 innovators and influencers and most of them are on friendfeed already). Plus we just like the team and they even, over the weekend, wrote some custom code for us so that we could better integrate it into our site.

Q: Doesn’t “fanatical” imply this is going to be a cult?
A: Well, for me and others at Rackspace, the web is a way of life and we couldn’t imagine life without it. So, fanatical seemed to fit. If that word bothers you, replace it with “enthusiastic.”

Q: Since anyone can post to Twitter or friendfeed aren’t you worried that spammers and jerks will show up?
A: I’m sure there will be those who test the limits and have some fun. Heck, we might even do that ourselves! But they’ll get bored quickly and move onto something else, which will leave the rest of us to work together to make the Web better.

Q: I saw that you have some cool T-shirts and stickers, how do I get one of those?
A: Stay tuned, we’re still figuring out how to distribute those.

Any other questions? I’ll try to answer them on friendfeed, here’s a thread started about this post already, so join into the Building43 room.

UPDATE: Lew Moorman, Rackspace’s President, posted here about his views on Building43.

Robert and Rocky ride again at Rackspace

TechCrunch just broke the news.

We will give more details about this news today on the Gillmor Gang. That show starts at 3 p.m. Pacific Time. Join us live at http://live.twit.tv or listen to the Gillmor Gang once the recording is up for more. I’ll also be on Ustream’s “Live from the Belmont at SXSW” channel tonight after 7 p.m. Pacific Time too.

When Rackspace told me they were hiring my producer, Rocky, and wanted to hire me too, to build a new kind of community it brought back thoughts of when I was at Microsoft working with Jeff, Charles, Lenn, and a cast of others on Channel 9. That was just a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been on a whirlwind tour so I could study a bunch of different businesses. I visited a radio station. Facebook. A lonely startup up in Bellingham, Washington that’s now broadcasting live video on the Internet about themselves. Cisco. A coworking facility outside of Seattle which is where iPhone app developer Shazam is located. And quite a few others.

When I was getting a tour of KSCO, a 10,000-watt radio station in Santa Cruz, CA, owner Michael Zwerling showed me the transmission equipment. The brands on that equipment are long forgotten, if you ever knew them, but those companies were vital to pushing our culture and our ability to communicate further.

When I walked into the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver on this tour, and saw tons of people on TweetDeck, I knew we were in the middle of yet another radical shift that would be felt for years into the future (it was this same conference where I first noticed how important the Firefox browser and other social services like Flickr, which was developed in Vancouver, would become back five years ago).

It is pretty clear that the transmission equipment of the modern age is cloud computing. Whether you study Facebook, or Salesforce, or Amazon, you can see the tectonic shifts that are underway in our industry. Look at 12seconds.tv, a small company in Santa Cruz, for instance, just a few miles from those old radio transmission towers, and you see how they are using cloud bursting technology. One of their videos gets popular? Their algorithms move that video over to Amazon and move all the traffic over to Amazon too. This lets them host on their own very inexpensive equipment but protect their service from traffic spikes that occassionally happen.

But forget about the cloud for a moment. Everywhere I look I see other shifts in how we think of the Internet.

Google Latitude showed me that a new kind of location-based service is coming that will get millions of users in just a few days and will lay the bed for a new kind of interaction with your friends and with businesses near you.

Facebook is exploding, seeing 700,000 new users per day. I call Facebook “the velcro” of the Internet because it has so many little hooks to get you involved in that community. I sat next to Randi Zuckerberg at the World Economic Forum as she could ask Facebook’s users a question and get back tens of thousands of responses in just a minute or two. What is happening there is real and is changing everything.

I look at new video communities like Seesmic, that let me interact with people in real time using my webcam. I can post video of a building burning down just as well as just me ranting and raving.

Blogs, too, continue to change and shift. New commenting engines like Disqus or JS-Kit are changing how we can hook up our separate communities together.

Finally we see what’s happening on Twitter and friendfeed and it’s clear that this new world is building the equivilent of a world-wide talk show.

Add all these things up and they got me excited about doing something new.

That new thing is called Building 43.

Why “Building 43?” Well, if you visit Google’s campus, you’ll see that the building that houses their “master plan” is Building 43 (several of its founders sit in building 43 there too). Microsoft has a building 43, too, which is where many of the developers on Windows and other things sit. I always thought that was funny that both companies had a building 43. When I asked friendfeed and Twitter for interesting building 43 stories,
stories-about-Microsoft-and-Google/ I learned that Google’s numbering system predates it back to when SGI had its headquarters there.

Our “Building 43,” though, is not a place. It’s not even a website. It’s a decentralized community for people fanatical about the Internet. You’ll find us on Facebook, on Twitter, on friendfeed, on Ning, and lots of other places too.

“What about your videos, Scoble?”

You’ll see me continue my videos with companies and people who are fanatical about the Internet. But you’ll also find we’re focusing our cameras on people who build Internet experiences and learn more about how they did it rather than just what they did like I’ve done for the past few years. This is getting back to my roots as well, where I like learning how to build things.

Building 43 will be a lot more than just my videos, though. It’s a community, which means it’s not about me. It’s about you and what you’re trying to build. That will become clearer as we turn on rooms in building 43.

“Why Rackspace?”

When I first met the Rackspace team (they were one of the first interviews I did at Fast Company) I came back and said “Rackspace is one of my favorite companies.” http://scobleizer.com/2008/04/09/my-favorite-company-rackspace/
That’s because they were building their headquarters in a “bad” part of town and had a vision of revitalizing the neighborhood. We are taking that same spirit to the Internet during this tough economic time. By showing more people how to build businesses and have fun on the Internet we’re going to all win.

Rackspace is also one of the few companies in the world that has touchpoints with thousands of other companies. That’s important because I can study how the Internet is changing live and, thanks to these relationships, we can present to you how these sites were built and how you can build the same features into your own business sites and blogs.

So what is “building 43?” We are on the Gillmor Gang where we talked more about what we’re building. You should listen to that and visit http://www.building43.com and sign up to be notified when we turn on the full site.

Is the real-time web a threat to Google search?

Is the Real-Time Web a threat to Google? Rackspace executive Lew Moorman sure thinks so.

He’s right. Fewer and fewer of my search behaviors have been on Google lately.

And last week friendfeed did something very important: made it a lot more possible to do powerful real-time web searches.

First, the problem with friendfeed is it is too geeky. But ignore that problem for a moment, because if they don’t get it right, or make it something that the mainstream wants, well, you’ll see the same kind of search show up on Facebook (which has been making moves lately to be much more open) or Twitter.

So, why is this stuff working?

Well, because it’s with your friends and THEIR behaviors. Your friends are a lot more trustworthy than anyone else. How do I know that? Because while I was in Davos George Colony, CEO of Forrester handed me the results of a report they did on Trust and they found that people you know are the most trusted. Far more than corporate or personal blogs. Yes, I know you don’t trust me that much. That’s OK. I don’t trust your blog much either. 🙂

But, if I know you (thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed I have gotten to know thousands of you) I can build a much better recommendation engine.

Oh, and even more troubling for Google is that Facebook and friendfeed have a lot more metadata to study.

What is metadata? It is data about data. Well, in Google’s case, the metadata is the linking behavior of people in the web.

But look just on friendfeed. What’s the metadata there? Everytime I click “like,” something I’ve done more than 16,000 times now, I’m adding metadata. Everytime I add a comment, something I’ve done more than 8,000 times now, I’m adding metadata.

What other metadata is there? Well, they still can study linking behavior. I can link to my discussion of how cloud computing will change programmer behavior, for instance.

What else? Well, friendfeed knows how many of my friends also liked that item. They also know how many people clicked on that item (although they haven’t surfaced that information yet).

So, now, let’s look at search.

First, if I need to know who the best retailer is to buy, say, a Canon 5D Mark II, is it better to ask the people I know, like I did here on friendfeed, or go to Google and deal with the SEOs? Try doing that search over on Google. I did. Do you find a single retailer? I didn’t.

So, now, let’s get to friendfeed’s search.

Let’s do a search for anyone who has written about the Canon 5D MK II but lets constrain that to posts that have at least one like and at least four comments. Here’s the search. Note that the post I wrote just one minute ago is already in the results page. This is the real-time web.

Google won’t see that friendfeed item for hours and, even if Google’s spiders index it Google does not have enough metadata to study to let it do this kind of search.

Let’s keep going.

How is this for searching news? Well, right now Australia is burning. So, let’s search for “Australia fires” but lets constrain that search to anything that has five or more likes and five or more comments. Note the quality of the conversation that comes back.

How am I doing this? With friendfeed’s advanced search.

But it gets better than that.

How about we search for all Tweets that talk about the Australian Fires? We can do that.

“But can’t search.twitter.com do that better?” Well, yes, but can it also just show you all the Google Reader items people have shared? Like friendfeed can? No.

Can Google search show you all the Upcoming.org events that mention SXSW? No, but friendfeed search can.

Can you easily see all the YouTube videos that have the word Grammy in them? Probably over on YouTube you could do that. But can you now constrain the videos to the ones that have gotten some comments? With friendfeed you can.

But try doing THIS with Google: try finding everytime Dave Winer has commented on an item about netbooks. On friendfeed that’s easy. On Google? They don’t have the metadata to study.

Now, keep in mind that there aren’t many people on friendfeed yet. The numbers of comments there are not even close to enough to make all searches satisfying. But, look at friendfeed’s competitor Facebook. They have more than 150 million users already. What if Facebook were to get a search like friendfeeds?

Now do you start to see why I’m using Google less and less?

Lew Moorman is right.

Oh, and I got lots of answers to my Camera question before I was even done with writing this post.

UPDATE: you can search for “threats to Google” on friendfeed with this search. Fun to watch the comments come in!

Cloud Computing Price War to come?

Rackspace today announced they are purchasing Jungle Disk and Slice Host in an event that’s going on now.

What does this mean?

Rackspace is competing with Amazon’s Web services. Microsoft is expected to launch other similar services next week at its PDC event. Rackspace will announce several new services both today and over the next few months.

Rackspace’s employees tell me they are making their services open so that their customers can leave and go to other company’s services.

Who is Jungle Disk? They are a service that’s wholly on Amazon’s Web services right now and offer their customers backup and storage. You pay per gigabyte per month to back up your hard drive. They will announce new storage services and will give their customers a choice of using either Rackspace data centers or Amazon’s. Or both. Now you will have access to your data even if Amazon’s servers are unavailable for some reason.

Who is Slice Host? They have thousands of VPS Hosting customers who are mostly web developers who want access to super fast and super reliable cloud services. They compete pretty directly with Amazon’s EC2 services.

More as I live blog the event, keep refreshing to see more over the next hour, or watch the live event.

Earlier this year I got a tour of Rackspace’s new headquarters and met several of its leaders in a video.

DISCLAIMER: Rackspace is one of the sponsors of my blog and FastCompany.tv.

UPDATES: They just announced that Mosso, Rackspace’s cloud services, will be renamed “Cloud Sites.”

We’ll do more live blogging on FriendFeed here because that lets me interact with people a lot faster than my blog does.

Thanks for help on Scalability Questions

Over the weekend I pleaded for help with the Webinar I’m hosting today on scalability. The comments I received on the blog and on FriendFeed are world class and included links to tons of resources. It is an example of why I love blogging and Twittering and FriendFeeding. What an interesting group of people hang out here. Anyway, see you later in the morning. I’ll read many of these questions live, and if you can join us live we’ll be taking questions via Skype during the show.

One change, Matt Mullenweg couldn’t make it back from Europe in time, so we have the VP of Engineering from Technorati, Dorion Carroll. If you want to join us live, sign up on the Webinar page. We’ll have a recording of the Webinar up in about a week.

Help, I'm clueless about Web Service scalability

I’m really freaked out. I have one of the biggest interviews of my life coming up and I’m way under qualified to host it.

It’s on Thursday and it’s about Scalability and Performance of Web Services.

Look at who will be on. Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress (and behind this blog). Paul Bucheit, one of the founders of FriendFeed and the creator of Gmail (he’s also the guy who gave Google the “don’t be evil” admonishion). Nat Brown, CTO of iLike, which got six million users on Facebook in about 10 days.

All three have faced huge scalability problems head on. All three are developers and architects who actually have built systems that have built great reputations online.

I’m totally out of my league and as I do more and more research on the topic I realize just how out of my league I am.

But, one good thing about doing stuff online is that:

1. I can admit I’m over my head and get help from you.
2. I just need to know enough to be dangerous to get a conversation going between these three guys.
3. I’m not the only interviewer here. You will take over and fill in the pothole in my own knowledge (we’ll get you involved via Skype).

It’s free. It’s open to you.

So, since I’m clueless about the topic, what would you ask these guys about how to build scalable and performant Web services, especially given that tomorrow’s services are probably going to be glued together from a variety of services?

Oh, and thanks to Rackspace for sponsoring this webinar (we’re filming it at the excellent Revision 3 studios in San Francisco).