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.

SkyGrid launches free real-time-web news service into private beta

Yesterday I visited Kevin Pomplun, CEO and Founder of SkyGrid, and while they were turning on the servers he introduced the new real-time news engine to me. The video is 45 minutes, but you’ll learn a lot about how this real-time news engine works.

Yesterday TechCrunch also wrote about SkyGrid and gave a few details.

It is for everyone? No. But it shows yet another piece of the real-time web so it’s important. For news junkies like me, though, it’s crack. I’m running it on its own computer here and watch it all day long.

Unfortunately for now, invites are hard to get to try the beta. I will let you know when more become available.

Real Time News to take step forward today

In a little while, at about 4 p.m., I will be at a small company in Silicon Valley to introduce another key piece of the Real-Time Web to you. This time it’s about news.

You’ve seen the news from Google announced today, but their news display is, while cool, unsatisfying because it isn’t showing news in real time.

This is a real hole that Google and Yahoo have left in the marketplace. They didn’t get a clue about how Twitter is changing how lots of us get our news. I now start the day by looking at trending topics on Twitter Search to know what big news events have happened overnight.

But Twitter doesn’t catch everything. I didn’t see Oracle buying Sun Microsystems there first. In fact, even Techmeme was very slow this morning to catch onto that tech industry news.

How did I catch it? I have an entire screen dedicated to the new service that will announce today.

I’ll broadcast it live in video. Watch my friendfeed for links. See you at about 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Of course it will be live so you can ask questions of the CEO and team, too. I’ve been using this tool since December and I’m convinced it will force Google and Yahoo to change their news pages.

What I hate about real-time web (your productivity goes to hell)

For the past 12 hours I’ve had friendfeed running, along with another secret tool that’s coming in May that shows me news updating in real time, and another screen is running Tweetdeck here.

This is powerful stuff, I can talk with the world and see reactions coming in live. We’ve turned the Web from something that took weeks to discover new sites to a big chat room that pushes items at you in crazy fast manner and moves them down the screen.

More and more geeks are complaining to me that they can no longer keep up with Facebook, Twitter, friendfeed, and all the other things.

Linda Stone defined this problem as continuous partial attention.

I think it’s worse than that. Continuous partial inattention. I dare you to open up the new friendfeed in a window next to your work, point it at the aggregation of all the people I’m following, and try to get any work done.

Now, some of you are saying “well, unfollow.” But there’s something interesting for me in seeing all sorts of little conversations that hundreds or thousands of people are having.

The thing is I +can’t+ unfollow. Why not? You might say I’m addicted. Better people than me already have.

But there’s no going back for me. I will not give up this new world.

That means that we need new skills to deal with this new world.

One new skill? We now will share filters. I shared one with you in another post. Yesterday there was a big earthquake in Italy. Here’s a filter to help you find all the news about it. You can write me filters that will bring other things to my attention that I might miss in the stream of noise.

Other skills? We’ll need to build new news aggregation sites, like the “trending” feature on Twitter Search or Techmeme that will find the news “needles” in the stack of noise “hay.”

But right now we’re entering a period of transition. One where some of us will not be able to cope. Or we’ll be sucked in so deeply that we suffer career or family consequences. I’m struggling with the balance here myself.

I don’t know the answers here, other than to know that this new world does have its problems.

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!

Steve Jobs' bad news heralds the real-time web age

UPDATE: yes, I’m insensitive, but this post isn’t an editorial opinion about Steve Jobs, just a note about how his news spread and how his announcement brought into focus the real-time web. Tragedies and bad news tend to focus our attention and bring into relief how our world has changed. I remember how 9/11 did that for blogs. Today the bad news surrounding Apple’s CEO and co-founder brought a new development into our focus: the real-time web.

As I said in my earlier post, I wish Steve and his family all the best.


I’m sure that Steve Jobs didn’t want his announcement to be one of the seminal events that ushers in the real-time web age, but what just happened today will be remembered for years to come.

What happened? While CNBC was reporting it on TV the real-time-web was going nuts. Passing along little tidbits. Stories. Links. Rumors. And all that. It was interesting, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

There were 40 Tweets coming in every three or four seconds on Twitter search. And it stayed up!

Friendfeed was going nuts (that’s where I saw the news first).

While I wrote this post, which only took about a minute or two, 191 new Tweets came in.

But this points to some dangers and problems:

1. If you aren’t online there’s no “warning” system that something is happening. I wish I could tell Twitter to SMS me whenever a “high flow” event is underway.

2. It’s hard to separate out the real facts, from the fiction. I have a better filter than most people. I know who is credible based on past experience with them. Quick, who is more credible, Allen Stern or Ralph Sanders. I am following both and know who Allen is. Ralph? Not so much and I’ve never seen him involved in a breaking news story.

3. Our mechanisms for tracking stories and important tweets are really lame. Right now, hours after the news has broken, there are TONS of tweets coming through the system. Hundreds every few minutes. But, in that stream of “noise” is there any “news?” Yes. I’ve been clicking “like” on the best ones that I see, but I can’t see them all, so we need an even better system that lets the crowd expose the best tweets and friendfeed messages. I like friendfeed a lot more because it shows blogs and photos and youtube videos and other things instead of just tweets. All of those will play a major part in many news stories (like, say, a big fire or an earthquake).

Anyway, thank you to Steve Jobs for demonstrating to lots of people that real-time news is indeed important and that blogs are not the only way to go. Now you understand why I invested so much time in friendfeed and twitter last year.

What real-time keynotes need (VentureBeat wins Apple keynote race bigtime)

You will read TONS of stuff about Apple’s keynote. I’m watching it right now on several screens.

Why? Because in real time everyone is putting up slightly different stuff.

Venture Beat has a friendfeed room where you can watch in real time like a chat room, or you can view it standard threaded style.

That is very cool. Especially when compared to TechCrunch’s live coverage, which makes you refresh the page manually. So 1994. What, is Arrington trying to increase his page views artificially?

Compare that to Gdgt, which is where the two top guys from Engadget, Peter Rojas and Ryan Block are posting their coverage. They are posting pictures and flowing text in live. Really great stuff, especially when you put them in a window next to the VentureBeat live stream.

The standard place my son goes is MacRumorsLive. They are doing an excellent job too, but gdgt’s photos and VentureBeat’s interactivity are making them look old and tired.

ArsTechnica is posting photos and text live, but they make you refresh your page manually, just like TechCrunch does.

Finally, Engadget is doing their usual excellent job, but their page needs to be refreshed manually too.

What this does point out, though, is that there’s a real-time web, but that they aren’t integrated. Imagine if there was one place you could watch EVERYONE post in real time. Not possible yet, but I bet that by next year friendfeed will get everyone to build live rooms there. VentureBeat is winning this game by a HUGE margin!

Why is VentureBeat winning?

1. Their room refreshes live without having to refresh your browser page.
2. Their room has interactivity so people watching at home can ask questions.
3. Their room has text, photos, and potentially video from Qik cams and such.
4. Their room’s items and threads are all permalinkable. I could link you to something very specific there. For instance, here’s where they posted a photo of iPhoto Books. I can’t do that to the other live rooms.
5. Their feed can be reused and reshared in other places on friendfeed and on Twitter.
6. Ostensibly they could even mix in other feeds from their competitors through RSS searches. I have a CES room where I’m doing that, for instance.

This isn’t even a close race. If you want the best live experience there’s only one place to go right now. VentureBeat FTW!

Well, until I found Chris Pirillo’s Ustream where he’s posting the audio live. But I posted that to the VentureBeat room too. 🙂

UPDATE: It got worse for gdgt.com and macrumors live. MacRumors’ site was hacked during the keynote and gdgt.com was unavailable during part of it.

UPDATE2: other people are using friendfeed to report from the keynote, but I can only pay attention to so much! I’ll put the best of those on my “liked” page. 🙂

UPDATE3: I missed a few. Gizmodo has a nice live feed. AppleGazette is using CoveritLive. So is GeekBrief.tv.

Whew, that’s a lot of live feeds to watch! I think the smart ones are just going to wait to get the TechMeme
blog storm later. 🙂

UPDATE4: Pirillo’s audio stream went down with about 20 minutes to go. Luckily MacTips Podcast had a live audio stream going too.