Dr. Seuss 2.0

December 7, 2007

David Pogue at the New York Times wrote an interesting piece about naming in the web 2.0 era:

These days, startups take the lazy way out: they choose goofy-sounding nonsense words. They think they’re being clever by being unclever.

These are all actual Web sites that have hit the Web in the last year or so: Doostang. Wufoo. Bliin. Thoof. Bebo. Meebo. Meemo. Kudit. Raketu. Etelos. Iyogi. Oyogi. Qoop. Fark. Kijiji. Zixxo. Zoogmo.

These startups think that these names will stick in our minds because they’re so offbeat, but they’re wrong. Actually, all those twentysomething entrepreneurs are ensuring that we won’t remember them. Those names all blend together into a Dr. Seuss 2.0 jumble.

(Quote from David Pogue in the New York Times)

I will agree that some of these names are pretty ridiculous; however, naming in the online world today is pretty damn difficult. In the old days, people had to go through the hassle to register a business or trademark a name to prevent someone from using the same name. Now, any domain name squatter can spend a few dollars to register the URL to prevent people from using it.

As a result, all of the good names are “taken” and you have to get pretty creative to find a name that has an available URL and sounds good at the same time. We’ve been trying to name our non-profit for the past month, and just haven’t been able to come up with anything good. Maybe I’ll try browsing through Dr. Seuss books for inspiration. “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo/A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!” (Quoted from If I Ran the Zoo). OK, maybe not.


Web 2.0: Drunken Mayhem or Sobriety Test?

November 10, 2007

Anne Zelenka posted some interesting thoughts on GigaOM about the current web 2.0 environment in her Web 2.0 Manages to Sober Up post yesterday. While Steve Rubel predicts doom and gloom ala the 2000 dot-com bust, I think Anne does a great job of providing a more balanced perspective on the current environment.

I think that there are two main differences this time around.

  • First, we are dealing mostly with VC investments in this round instead of public money going into insane IPOs. This means that the impact on the economy will be more limited if the bubble bursts.
  • Second, most companies taking investment money have actual products. The days of funding technology ideas with no tangible output seem to be mostly (but not entirely) behind us.

In the pre-2000 days, you couldn’t build anything as quickly or inexpensively as you can now. Ajax applications come together quickly and hosting is really affordable. People are building things quickly with little money to see what works. A bunch of ideas will fail before you see the next Flickr or Digg emerge. The funding tends to go into those that have shown some success already.

While my general outlook on the industry is still positive, I don’t think that the future is all roses and kittens. Some companies are probably paying way too much while trying to catch the next big thing. Will Microsoft really get $240M worth of benefit from Facebook? Maybe, but I’m a bit skeptical.

Other Fast Wonder posts you may want to read:


Macs, Twitter, Social Networks, and more at Defrag

November 9, 2007

I am always a little skeptical about new conferences. Until you arrive, you really don’t quite know what you will find. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Defrag Conference. In general, there seemed to be a high percentage of really smart people who “get it” in attendance, and I have had some very interesting discussions.

While getting ready for the keynote to start, I noticed that mac users made up almost all of the audience (90%??). I also noticed quite a few screens displaying Twitter and Facebook throughout the conference. I sat next to a group of people from NC State who told me about a Facebook Scrabulous tournament they were participating in that had been organized entirely over Twitter. This was definitely a web 2.0 / social networking savvy crowd. I also saw at least one Facebook group started as a result of the conference.

I was on a panel about Social Networking in the Enterprise along with Charles Armstrong and Aaron Fulkerson. It was very well attended (I’m guessing 100-150 people?), and people seemed to enjoy it. I talked mostly about Social Productivity, which is similar to social networking, but it is framed in a way that is more relevant to the enterprise.

David Weinberger’s talk, The Rise of the Implicit, had some very interesting ideas about how information is taking shape as we web 2.0 technologies evolve. You can read his entire outline of the talk, but a few of his ideas were particularly interesting to me. He talked about how the web transcends the information age by taking what is typically dry, dull information and bringing life to it through the context that eventually surrounds it. Facebook, for example, starts with the creation of a profile with very dry, dull information (name, birth date, location, etc.), but it becomes valuable as the additional context around it builds and takes on a life of its own through participation of friends, applications used, status, groups joined, and more. My take on this idea is that it is another example of how collaboration and community are really one of the defining characteristics of the current web. It isn’t about the basic information; it is about how that information evolves as you collaborate with your community of friends and build context around the information.

The Social Intelligence panel with Jerry Michalski; JB Holston, Newsgator; JP Rangaswami, BT Global Services; and Joshua Schachter, Yahoo! (founded delicious) had some interesting discussions. JP talked about an idea that has been near and dear to my heart lately: the gaming of online systems (like reputation systems). He said that transparency thwarts the gaming of online systems and fosters collaboration, while putting too many measures in place to prevent gaming stifles collaboration. Other community members will gang up on the gamers when they see the behavior helping to self-correct the issues within the community. I have been saying something very similar, so it was great to hear it reinforced. JP also said that his father had 1 job, he’ll have about 7, his son will have about 7 at the same time, which is a really interesting way of looking at employment. I also think that it is absolutely true. I can’t count the number of young people I know who are involved in multiple ventures (jobs) simultaneously. I think the traditional model of a 9-5 “job” is hopelessly out of date, particularly for technology workers, while the freelancer / consultant model is becoming much more prevalent.

We had 2 open spaces sessions at the event. As an organizer of events like BarCamp, I came into it thinking that an hour for a single open spaces session would be a miserable failure. I was right and wrong. The open spaces session on Monday was amazing, and I was absolutely wrong about it not working. More than a dozen sessions were proposed, and people were very engaged in the open spaces breakouts. The ClosedPrivate movement started as one of those sessions. However, by Tuesday when most of us were hopelessly behind on email / blogging / etc., the open spaces sessions did not work particularly well. I think that less than half of the participants were engaged while the rest (me included) used the time to catch up on work. The moral of the story: having open spaces sessions can work as a small part of a traditional conference; however, you have to do them early in the program while people are still fresh.

Dick Hardt gave a really entertaining presentation on Defragging Identity with hundreds of slides in 12 minutes, which makes it really difficult to summarize! One of the key concepts included how predicting future behavior based on past behavior can break down in the digital world as online behavior becomes fragmented. People have multiple logins, many identities, reputations (eBay), etc. that are highly fragmented. We need to defrag this behavior, bind it based on a common identifier (like openid) across sites, and aggregate our identities while still having multiple personas. The key is that we each control those identities so that all the stuff we do across all sites can be aggregated together. I’m a huge advocate of OpenID and would love to see it evolve in a way that allows me to carry more information along with me (profile data, friends, reputations, etc.)

Doc Searls talked mostly about Vendor Relationship Management (see Harvard’s project VRM) with the idea that the market is built for you, the consumers, by the vendors. Here’s one quote (approximate) from Doc, “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings.” He asked the question, what if managing worked the other way around – we managed our relationships with producers / vendors; what if we were in charge of our preferences across whole markets?

Andrew McAfee presented on the topic of Defrag and Enterprise 2.0 with the idea that the concept of ties provides a foundation for conceptualizing value, tech selection, drawing borders around tools, adoption & exploitation. New tools are not going to make all ties equal, but tools will facilitate tie creation & migration. His blog on the topic of Enterprise 2.0 sums it up better than I ever could.

All in all, I met cool people, had great conversations, and came away with new ideas to ponder. It was well worth the time spent to attend. I would strongly recommend attending next year if you get the chance.


Clearspace X Community Software

May 15, 2007

Yesterday, we issued a press release about Jive Software’s new Clearspace X product. Clearspace X is:

a special edition of Clearspace for companies interested in creating productive and engaging online communities for their customers and partners. In the past, companies have had to “glue together” separate applications for blogs, wikis, documents and forums, resulting in disconnected people and content, and low participation rates. Clearspace X unifies these collaboration tools into one system, bringing them together through a clean, user-friendly interface and integrated incentive system.

Using Clearspace X, companies can quickly and easily create compelling public-facing communities, enabling users to share information and ideas with each other via discussions, structured wiki documents, moderated blogs and even files (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF). Users can keep abreast of recent activity in the community through email notifications, instant message alerts and RSS feeds. (quoted from the Press Release)

We use Clearspace internally to manage our company as a community with constant interactions using discussion forums, document sharing, wiki editing of documents, internal blogging, tagging, and much more. This software is the main reason that I was able to be so productive my first week on the job. Clearspace X is similar to our Clearspace product, but tailored to the needs of an external community.

An added benefit of my role as Director of Developer Relations at Jive is that I get to give the product away for free to non-commercial developer teams. This includes open source projects, student coding projects, and other non-commercial teams of software developers. I’ll have a simple web form for requests available on the Jive Software website in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, drop me an email if you qualify for a free license of Clearspace X: myfirstname at Jivesoftware dot com.


Dogfood: aka Week 1 at Jive Software

May 10, 2007

My first week at Jive has been a whirlwind of activity, and I think that I have been super productive for the first 5 days on the job.  I’ve completed a first draft of how we might build Jive’s new developer community on our newly released Clearspace X infrastructure. I am re-working the process for how we give away free licenses of Jive’s Clearspace and Forum products to open source projects. I’ve put together a new demo script for our CEO to use at BarCamp – customized for what I think will be the audience at BarCamp. I was also able to get confirmed speaking engagements at Defrag and OSCON this week.  All this while being constantly distracted with last minute BarCamp details as the co-organizer of the BarCamp Portland event this weekend (note to self: next year, do NOT start a new job the week that you are holding BarCamp!)

How was I able to get all of this done while getting up to speed in a new company?  It comes down to dogfood, specifically, to eating our own dogfood at Jive.  We use the current Clearspace beta product for all of our documents, to hold discussions, for blogging, and more.  Most of the information that I needed was already in Clearspace.  For new information, I just started discussions in Clearspace where I asked other Jive employees about things like what to name the new developer community, how to promote our new developer community, and more.  I posted all of my work as wiki documents in Clearspace, and because everyone uses it, I was able to get feedback and information from across the company.

We are also avid users of our Openfire / Spark IM solution with every Jive employee already populated in our buddy lists from day 1 on the job. I worked with an employee in Canada over IM to help him reproduce an issue that I was seeing in our beta product, discussed our Ignite community with our CTO, negotiated with our web developer on resources to get some web forms completed, and much more.

I have to say that Jive seems to be a great fit for me.  I’m working with people who are just insanely smart, who live web 2.0 technologies, and we’re working on some really cool collaboration software.  Did I mention that we are hiring?


Mobile Twitter

May 5, 2007

I’ve been using Twitter both on my computer on my and phone for a while, but the user experience of the phone has been a bit rough.  One option is to turn on text messages and be interrupted by your phone every time a friend Twitters.  Another option was the use the standard web interface, which required lots of scrolling and painfully slow load times.

Now Twitter has just released m.twitter.com.  It’s very simple, clean, and easy to read on the phone.  I think I’ll like using Twitter on my phone even more with this release.

Twitter is one of those services that people either love, hate, or can’t see the point.  I’m in the “love it” camp.  It’s a great way to keep up with friends.  I like knowing what new app or gadget Josh Bancroft or Chris Messina are testing. I also get great lunch suggestions from people like Raven Zachary.  The best use of Twitter is at big events where you can learn which session, party, speaker, etc. really stinks and which ones are a must see.  At sxsw, Chris Messina organized an OpenID meetup primarily over Twitter. News also spreads quickly via Twitter, and I frequently see breaking news on Twitter before other mainstream media sources. The best part is that you get this information quickly and easily from your community of friends, acquaintances, and coworkers.


Online Community Map

May 5, 2007

Thanks to Kaliya for finding this.