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Building in someone else's yard

Added on by Chris Saad.

Loic Le Meur writes over on LinkedIn about his mistakes betting on Twitter with his company Seesmic. Seesmic was a company that produced a series of great Twitter clients for multiple platforms (Mobile, Web, Desktop etc). When Twitter started shutting down developers and releasing their own official clients Seesmic's business was undermined and ultimately shuttered.

I'm not blaming Twitter for this strategic change – they did not know they would take that decision at the time when they were fully supporting their ecosystem. I blame myself entirely. I should have never dedicated all my team resources to build on one platform. That is a lesson learned the hard way along with many other developers. I was too excited and became blind.
Here are my two cents for entrepreneurs betting on someone else's success: be careful that everything can change from one day to another and all the rules will change. I will never be that dependent on anyone anymore.


Loic is a wicked smart and very successful entrepreneur. He's always smiling, generous and well liked by his peers. It's a real shame that Twitter pivoted in the way that it did to undermine his business.

I'd like to refine Loic's lessons learned a little here, though. In my opinion the problem was not betting on someone else's platform but rather...

  1. Twitter is not a platform, it's a media company
  2. Betting on one media company rather than multiple

Whenever a company makes money from Ads, it's not a platform/technology company - it's a media company. As a media company It needs to control the eyeballs so that it can control the ad impressions.

To be fair, though, Twitter's ad revenue model wasn't in place when Loic started betting on them. It was clear, however, that their revenue model was still in flux and that ads would play a role in order to keep the service free for end-users.

The reality is companies successfully rely on other platforms all the time. Amazon Web Services is a great example of this. There's never a risk that AWS is going to start turning off or competing with its developers because it is a true platform.

Like AWS, Echo is a true platform. We make our money by encouraging developers to build world class apps on our platform and we even help them sell those apps to major customers.

Facebook, Twitter etc were never true technology platforms. They are distribution channels. They are data sources. They are social services. But they are not platforms.

Ironically this is still happening today. Major media companies and developers still spend enormous sums of money encouraging their users to participate on Twitter and Facebook as 'outsourced engagement platforms'. Ironically Media companies who should understand the value of owning the audience and the ad impressions are happily outsourcing them to competing media companies (Facebook and Twitter). I write more about this over on the Echo blog.

The key, then, is not avoiding 3rd party platforms, but rather to understand the difference between platforms, products, services and media companies. It's key to understand the incentives, revenue flows and business models so you can understand how to align your company and product with the value chain.


The Open Web Is Dead - Long live the Open Web

Added on by Chris Saad.

Yesterday Robert Scoble once again declared that the Open Web was dead. His argument was that Apps and proprietary black holes like Facebook are absorbing all the light (read: users, attention, value, investment) and taking our beloved open platform right along with it. In his post, he kindly (but incorrectly) named me as the only person who really cares about the Open Web. While that's flattering, I think he's wrong about me being the only one who cares.

But he is right about the Open Web. It's in real danger. URLs are fading into the background,  native Mobile apps are all the rage and Facebook threatens to engulf the web into a proprietary black hole.

But I think there's a bigger problem going on right now. Not just with the web, but with silicon valley (as stewards of the web). We've lost sight of the things that matter. We're obsessed with quick wins, easily digestible VC pitches, stock options and flipping for a Ferrari.

There's more to this game than that. Let me touch on some of the things I see going on.

  1. Lead not just cheerlead In our obsession with being seen by our micro-audiences as 'thought leaders' or 'futurists' it's always very tempting to watch which way the wind is blowing and shout loudly that THERE is the future. Like a weather vane, it's easy to point the way the wind is blowing, but our biggest, best opportunity is not to declare a popular service 'the next big thing' just because a few visible people are hanging out there. Rather our collective and individual responsibility is to help articulate a direction we think moves the state of the art forward for both the web and for society at large. Something, as leaders of this field, we believe in. Just like VCs develop an investment thesis, we should all have a vision for where the web is going (and how it should get there) and actively seek out, support and promote quiet heros who are building something that moves the needle in the right direction.
  2. Add to the web's DNA Almost every startup I see today is focused on building an 'App' and calling it a 'Platform'. Too often (almost every time) though, these apps are nothing more than proprietary, incremental and niche attempts at making a quick buck. We need more companies to think deeper. Think longer term. What are you doing to change the fabric of the web's DNA forever? How can you contribute to the very essence of the Internet the same way that TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, JS and so many other technologies have done. Even proprietary technologies have provided valuable evolutions forward - things like Flash and yes, even FB. How are you going to live forever? This is why Facebook used to call itself a 'Social Utility' instead of a 'Social Network'. Mark Zuckerberg was never content to be the next Myspace Tom. He wanted to be the next Alexander Graham Bell. And now he is.
  3. Don't just iterate, innovate Of course, someone has to build Apps. We can't all be working at the infrastructure layer. But too many of the Apps we chose to build (or champion) are incremental. As startup founders, investors and influencers it's so easy to understand something that can be described as the 'Flipboard of Monkeys' instead of thinking really hard about how a completely new idea might fit into the future. Sure there are plenty of good business and marketing reasons why you shouldn't stray too far from the beaten path, broadening it one incremental feature at a time, but the core essence of what you're working on can't be yet another turn of a very tired wheel. If you're shouting 'Me too' then you're probably not thinking big enough.
  4. B2C, not Ego2C Silicon valley is clearly a B2C town. We all love the sexy new app that our mother might eventually understand. Something we can get millions of users to use so we can show them lots of ads. Besides the fact that I think we should focus a little more on B2B, the problem is we're not really a B2C town at all. We're actually more focused on what I will call Ego2c. That is, we pick our favorite apps based on how famous the founding team is OR how easily we can use the app to build yet another niche audience for ourselves (and brands/marketers). It would be a tragedy if the social web revolution boils down to new methods of PR and marketing. But that's what we seem to be obsessed with. As soon as any app from a famous founder gets released we give it tones of buzz while plenty of more deserving projects get barley a squeak. If the app gets a little traction (typically the ones that have Ego mechanics baked in) you see a million posts about how marketers can exploit it. Inevitably the app developers start to focus on how to 'increase social coefficients' instead of how to help human beings make a connection or find utility in their lives.
  5. "Users don't care" Speaking more specifically about the Open vs. Closed debate, too often we hear the criticism "Users don't care about open". This is absolutely true and the reason why most open efforts fail. Users don't care about open. They care about utility and choice. This is why the only way to continue propagating the open web is to work with BUSINESS. B2B. Startups, Media Brands, The bigco Tech companies. They care about open because the proprietary winners are kicking the losers ass and that usually means there are at least 1 or more other guys who need a competitive advantage. They need to team up and build, deploy and popularize the open alternative.  That's why open always wins. There's always plenty of losers around who are going to commoditize the popular closed thing. As technology leaders we're paid to care about things users don't care about. Things that shape the future. While users, in the short term, might not care, we should dare to think and dream a little bigger. As a case study look at Android vs. iOS. iOS is more profitable for a single company, but the other is now a force of nature.
  6. Death is just a stage of life Just because something is no longer interesting doesn't mean it's dead. Its spirit, and often times the actual technology, lives on, one layer below the surface. RSS is a great example of this. RSS's spirit lives on in ActivityStreams and the general publish/subscribe model. It is powering almost every service-to-service interaction you currently enjoy. Is it dead, or has it simply become part of the DNA of the Internet? Could RSS (or something like it) be better exposed higher up in the stack, absolutely, but that will take some time, thoughtful execution and influencers who are willing to champion the cause. The same is true for OpenID and OAuth.
  7. The Arc of the Universe Is long but It bends towards Open The battle of Open vs. Closed is not a zero sum game. Both have their time. It's a sin wave. First, closed, proprietary solutions come to define a new way of fulfilling a use case and doing business. They solve a problem simply and elegantly and blaze a path to market awareness, acceptance and commercialization. Open, however, always follows. Whether it's a year, a decade or a century, Open. Always. Wins. The only question is how long, as an industry, are we going to keep our tail tucked between our legs in front of the the great giant proprietary platform of the moment or are we going to get our act together to ensure the "Time to Open" is as short as possible. It takes courage, co-ordination and vision, but we can all play our part to shorten the time frame between the invention of a proprietary app and the absorption of that value into the open web platform.
  8. Acknowledge reality FB has won. It's done. Just like Microsoft won the Desktop OS (in part handed to them by IBM), so too has FB won the Social OS (in part handed to them by Microsoft). For now. Acknowledging the truth is the first step to changing it. The only question now is how long we're all willing to wait until we get our act together to turn the proprietary innovation of the 'social graph' into part of the open web's core DNA. We need to recognize our power. They have ~1B users? The open web has more. Chances are that the major website or brand you work for has plenty of its own users as well. Are you going to send them to FB, or are you going to invest in your own .com. Trust me, I know it's really, really easy to take what you're given because you're too busy putting out a million fires. But as technology leaders I challenge us all to build something better. We're the only ones who can.
  9. [Edit] Don't kill Hollywood Did you catch the YC post  calling for silicon valley to kill hollywood. Not only was this reckless and short sighted, it's the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Instead of trying to kill or cannibalize media companies and content creators, how about we work with them to create the next generation of information technology. They have the audiences+information and we have the technology. Instead, most silicon valley companies, by virtue of their B2C focus, are too busy leaching off major media instead of finding ways to help transform it. Sure most of them move slowly - but move they are. Move they must. Helping them is very profitable. I write more about this on the Echo blog - calling it 'Real-time Storytelling'
  10. [Edit] Today's data portability problem When I started the DataPortability project the issue of the time was personal data portability. That's not the case anymore. While user-centric data portability is still being done via proprietary mechanisms it's a) actually possible and b) moving more towards open standards every day. The real issue right now is firehoses. Access to broad corpuses of data so that 3rd parties can innovate is only possible through firehoses (for now). To put it another way, the reason Google was possible was because the open web was crawl-able - for free - with no biz dev deal. The reason FB was possible was because the open web allowed any site to spring up and do what it wanted to do. Today, too much of our data is locked up in closed repositories that can and must be cracked open. Google's moves to exclude other socnets (besides G+) from their search results until they had free and clear access to them might be inconvenient for users in the short term, but, as a strategic forcing function, is in the best interest of the open web long term.

End of rant.

Analysis of F8, Timeline, Ticker and Open Graph

Added on by Chris Saad.

So at F8 last week Facebook announced Ticker, Timeline and extensions to the Open Graph API to allow for new verbs and nouns. Here's what really happened.

  • They split their single 'News Feed' into 3 levels of filtering. Now (Ticker), Relevant (News Feed), Historical (Timeline). (Side note, we've had a 'Ticker' style product at Echo that we called 'Community Stream' for a long time now - and most of our customers and partners said to us 'why would we want to show all that data it's just noisy'. Maybe now they will take a second look.). Question: Will G+, Twitter and the REST of the web adopt the same model? They should.
  • This allows FB to collect more 'noise' (also known as synaptic firings or Attention data) which, in turn, allows them to find more signal (also known as synaptic inferences or attention management). I've long said that the answer to information overload is not LESS information - it's MORE. The more information you have the more ability you have to find patterns and surface them in relevant places (I said it so long ago I can't even find the link). Question: Will independent websites think to collect their OWN Attention data BEFORE sending it to FB so they can leverage for their own purposes. The value of this data is incalculable.
  • Having these new presentation metaphors in place, they then created a mechanism to collect more data in the form of expanded Verbs and Nouns in the Open Graph API. With this new API, user's are now expected to abandon explicit gestures of sharing and instead, accept that every action they take is auto-shared to their friends. Question: When will the first horror stories start coming out about engagement ring purchases, personal health issues and sexual orientations being inappropriately revealed due to auto-sharing?
  • Using all the bling of the Timeline, along with new messaging and a simple little opt in toggle of 'Add to my timeline' they managed to re-launch 'Beacon' without anyone noticing (none of the tech blogs I saw even mentioned it). Question: Why did none of the tech media cover that angle of the story?

I continue to be in awe of Facebook's scale, seriousness, ambition and momentum. There has never been anything like it before.

They have created an Attention Management Platform that rivals Google Search and easily out classes many of my best ideas about Attention Management and Personal Relevancy back when I was thinking about the problem.

It's breathtaking.

And since it is all done with hard links to a single proprietary hub, it is eating the web like a cancer.

Before F8 it was clear that Google+ was a 1 or 2 years behind FB. Now they are 3 or 4.

Only time will tell who, how and why more open systems will begin to reassert themselves in the ecosystem. My bet is that it wont come from a b2c copy-cat, though. It will come from a well organized, commercially incentivized b2b play.

The part that still confuses me, though, is why ANY serious media company would want their news to load in a 'FB canvas app' instead of their own website. It makes zero sense. None of this changes the reality that you need to own your own data and your own point source. I made a little comparison table earlier in the week that explains why.

WSJ Outsources its business to Facebook

Added on by Chris Saad.

Today WSJ announced that it has built a news publishing platform that lives inside Facebook - effectively outsourcing their core website to the Social Networking Giant. The number of reasons this is a bad idea is staggering. I've tried to summarize them in a spreadsheet comparing a FB approach verses an Open Web approach.

Please feel free to contribute

NYT Paywall, Huffpo Lawsuit - Symptoms of the same misconception

Added on by Chris Saad.

Over the last few days I have been debating the NYT pay wall on a private email thread of friends. I didn't feel the need to post it on my blog because I thought that pay walls were so obviously a losing strategy that it was a waste of time to comment.

But combined with the recent law suit against the Huffingon Post and Arianna Huffington's eqloquent response yesterday, I felt it was worth while to re-publish my thoughts here. Most of them are based on thinking and writing that I did many years ago around Attention. Most of that old writing has been lost in the blog shuffle. Hopefully one day I will dig it up and re-post it in a safe place.

On to the issue...

The price of content

I believe that people have historically paid for the medium not the content.

They pay for 'Cable' not for 'CNN News'. They pay for 'The Paper' not for the content in the newspaper. They pay for 'CDs' not for the music on the album.

Also they paid a lot because the medium was perceived to be scarce (scarce materials, scarce shelf space, scarce advertising dollars), scarce talented people.

Consumers are not stupid, they understand (if only somewhere at the back of their mind) that the COST of creating and distributing things has been deflated by a growing list of converging trends.

We live in a world of abundance (in the area of digital content anyway). Shelf space is infinite (database entries), any kid in a basement can make content and there is no physical media anymore so cost of distribution has disappeared as well.

The scarcity now is on the consumption side - Attention is the scarce resource. Value is derived from scarcity.

That's why on the Internet, Attention allocation systems (Google Search, FB News Feed etc) are attracting traffic, engagement and ultimately profit.

In this new world, the price of content must be reduced significantly as shakeouts and rebalancing occurs - because the cost of producing it is approaching zero.

The more the Music, TV and News industry fight this, the more they leave themselves open to disruption by Google, FB, Twitter and the rest of silicon valley.

This is not even to mention that everyone is producing content now. Tweets, Photos, Videos - it's abundant. Of course most of it isn't very 'good' by J school standards - but that's irrelevant. The world has never rewarded good with any consistency.

Also just because content is not good, doesn't mean it isn't personally meaningful.

For example, I care more what my child (theoretical child of course) posts to FB than the most important journalist in all the world says on CNN.

But please don't confuse my dispassionate assessment of the issue as pleasure or happiness at the demise of mainstream media though.

I am simply stating the facts because without understanding those we can't begin to change them (if that's what the media world decided to do).

In terms of making a judgement of those facts, I think that curators who weave and summarize a broader narrative in the form of 'reporting' are critical for an informed citizenship and a functional democracy. I believe in it so much that I have dedicate my life to helping mainstream media companies staying relevant and co-writing things like this:

But I also believe that mainstream mass media broke an ancient (and by ancient, I mean as old as rudimentary human communication) pattern of people telling each other personal stories vs. getting all their stories/news from editorialized mass broadcasts.

The Internet may just be restoring the balance. The result is some massive restructuring of inflated budgets, processes, offices, costs etc. While we're in the middle of that restructuring, it looks like a media apocalypse. Until it settles down and a new equilibrium is found.

Here's what Arianna wrote on the subject:

The key point that the lawsuit completely ignores (or perhaps fails to understand) is how new media, new technologies, and the linked economy have changed the game, enabling millions of people to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation -- from couch potato to self-expression. Writing blogs, sending tweets, updating your Facebook page, editing photos, uploading videos, and making music are options made possible by new technologies.

The same people who never question why someone would sit on a couch and watch TV for eight hours straight can't understand why someone would find it rewarding to weigh in on the issues -- great and small -- that interest them. For free. They don't understand the people who contribute to Wikipedia for free, who maintain their own blogs for free, who tweet for free, who constantly refresh and update their Facebook pages for free, and who want to help tell the stories of what is happening in their lives and in their communities... for free.

Free content -- shared by people who want to connect, share their passions, and have their opinions heard -- fuels much of what appears on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Flickr, and YouTube. As John Hrvatska, a commenter on the New York Timeswrote of the Tasini suit, "So, does this mean when YouTube was sold to Google that all the people who posted videos on YouTube should have been compensated?" (And Mr. Hrvatska no doubt contributed that original and well-reasoned thought without any expectation he'd be paid for it. He just wanted to weigh in.)

Read more on her post


And here's a bit of 'Free Content' - A conversation I had on Twitter wish someone who disagreed with this post.

What is Echo StreamServer?

Added on by Chris Saad.

Yesterday we announced a new Echo product called StreamServer. There is very little more I can say that Khris Loux has not already said so eloquently on stage at the #e2 launch event

When you work so hard and long on something (depending on how you look at it, StreamServer was either 15, 2.5 or 1 year in the making) its hard to sum it all up in one, 1 hour event.

But that's what we tried to do.

We tried to thread the needle between a contemporary story about activity data, the existential change (read: opportunity or threat) occurring on the web as traffic and monetization flows to proprietary social networking platforms, the opportunity for every major node on the web to be just as powerful and innovative, the need for open standards and powerful cloud services as the basis of the the rebuttal and our deep desire to make this an industry wide effort. We tried to communicate the important role of aggregation and the pivotal job of mainstream media, e-commerce, entertainment, startup and agencies play in curating activity information for the masses.

We also tried to communicate that this was not just a pipe dream, but rather a commercial reality for major customers. A solution running at scale. A new distribution and monetization opportunity for 3rd party devs and a future ready piece of infrastructure for media companies.

I think we did the best job possible at threading all these stories, and doing it with a human, authentic voice through the lens of customer and partner experiences.

I'm proud of the work we've done so far, and the tireless efforts of the Echo team and our customer/partner devs.

And all of that being said, though, we are only at the beginning. We have just planted the first seed and I look forward to helping it grow.

So what is StreamServer in my words?

It is the real-time, social scale database that Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Foursquare and others built, delivered as an ec2 style cloud service. Turn it on, and forget about managing the data or scaling the infrastructure.

It is the first of its kind and it will hopefully form the basis of many new companies as they deliver many new, novel and innovative experiences to customers and end users everywhere.

And it's a bet on the future of open standards, developer ecosystems, a heterogeneous web made up of first class social nodes.

It's Real-time as a Service.

Facebook and the future of News

Added on by Chris Saad.

Marshall Kirkpatrick has written a thoughtful piece over on Read/Write Web entitled 'Facebook and the future of Free Thought' in which he explains the hard facts about news consumption and the open subscription models that were supposed to create a more open playing field for niche voices. In it, he states that news consumption has barely changed in the last 10 years. RSS and Feed Readers drive very little traffic and most people still get their news from hand selected mainstream portals and destination sites (like MSN News and Yahoo news etc). In other words, mainstream users do not curate and consume niche subscriptions and are quite content to read what the mainstream sites feed them.

This is troubling news (pun intended) for those of us who believe that the democratization of publishing might open up the world to niche voices and personalized story-telling.

Marshall goes on to argue that Facebook might be our last hope. That since everyone spends all their time in Facebook already, that the service has an opportunity to popularize the notion of subscribing to news sources and thereby bring to life our collective vision of personalized news for the mainstream. Facebook already does a great deal of this with users getting large amounts of news and links from their friends as they share and comment on links.

Through my work with APML I have long dreamed of a world where users are able to view information through a highly personalized lens - a lens that allows them to see personally relevant news instead of just popular news (note that Popularity is a factor of personal relevancy, but it is not the only factor). That doesn't mean the news would be skewed to one persuasion (liberal or conservative for example) but rather to a specific topic or theme.

Could Facebook popularize personalized news? Should it? Do we really want a closed platform to dictate how the transports, formats and tools of next generation story-telling get built? If so, would we simply be moving the top-down command and control systems of network television and big media to another closed platform with its own limitations and restrictions?

Personalized news on closed platforms are almost as bad as mainstream news on closed platforms. News organizations and small niche publishers both need a way to reach their audience using open technologies or we are doomed to repeat the homogenized news environment of the last 2 decades. The one that failed to protect us from a war in Iraq, failed to innovate when it came to on-demand, and failed to allow each of us to customize and personalize our own news reading tools.

That's why technologies like RSS/Atom, PubSubHub and others are so important.

What's missing now is a presentation tool that makes these technologies sing for the mainstream.

So far, as an industry, we've failed to deliver on this promise. I don't have the answers for how we might succeed. But succeed we must.

Perhaps established tier 1 media sites have a role to play. Perhaps market forces that are driving them to cut costs and innovate will drive these properties to turn from purely creating mainstream news editorially toward a model where they curate and surface contributions from their readership and the wider web.

In other words, Tier 1 publishers are being transformed from content creators to content curators - and this could change the game.

In the race to open up and leverage social and real-time technologies, these media organizations are actually making way for the most effective democratization of niche news yet.

Niche, personalized news distributed by open news hubs born from the 'ashes' of old media.

Don't like the tools one hub gives you? Switch to another. the brands we all know and love have an opportunity to become powerful players in the news aggregation and consumption game. Will they respond in time?

Due to my experience working with Tier 1 publishers for Echo, I have high hopes for many of them to learn and adapt. But much more work still remains.

Learn more about how news organizations are practically turning into personalized news curation hubs over on the Echo Blog.

A failure of Imagination and Conviction

Added on by Chris Saad.

As you might know if you follow my work even remotely, my projects almost always come from a place of philosophical supposition. That is, I first create a model that I think matches the current and emerging state of the world, and then I create a product, project, format or other that works inside, encourages or commercializes that model. Many of my colleagues at JS-Kit do the same thing. Khris Loux and I, for example, spend hours and hours discussing our shared world views and how this translates to features, business direction and general life goals.

This methodology allows us to couch our decisions in well thought out mental models to make them more consistent, predictable and, we hope, more effective.

Over the years, and with my friends, I've proposed a number of these philosophical models including APML, DataPortability and most recently (this time working with Khris) SynapticWeb.

One of the hardest aspects of creating a philosophical model, however, is truly letting it guide you. To trust it. To take it's premise to the logical conclusion. Another challenge is explaining this methodology (and the value of the resulting outcomes) to others who a) don't think this way and b) have not taken the time to examine and live the model more fully.

Many times, the choices and decisions that I/we make from these models are nuanced, but the sum of their parts, we believe, are significant.

Let me make some concrete examples.

Social Media

There is this ongoing tension between the value of social/user generated media and the media produced by 'Journalists'. Sure social media is amazing, some say, but bloggers will never replace the role of Journalists.

The fact of the matter is, if your philosophical world view is that Social Media is important, that it is a return to one-to-one personal story telling and that it allows those in the know - involved in the action - to report their first hand accounts, then you must necessarily expand your imagination and have the conviction to follow that line of logic all the way to the end.

If you do, you must necessarily discover that the distinction between Journalists and 'Us' as social media participants (all of us) is authority, perspective, distribution and an attempt at impartiality.

In the end, however, we are each human beings (yes, even the journalists). Journalists are imbued with authority because a trusted news brand vets and pays them, they are given the gift of perspective because they sit above the news and are not part of it, they have distribution because their media outlet prints millions of pieces of paper or reaches into the cable set top boxes of millions of homes and their impartiality is a lie.

Can't these traits be replicated in social media? Of course they can.

Reputation can be algorithmically determined or revealed through light research/aggregation, perspective can be factored in by intelligent human beings or machines that find both sides of a story, distribution is clearly a solved problem through platforms like Twitter, Digg and others and impartiality is still a lie. At least in social media bias is revealed and transparency is the new impartiality.

I don't mean to provide an exhaustive reasoning on why Social Media as a philosophical framework holds up as new paradigm for news gathering and reporting here - only to give an example of how we must allow ourselves to imagine outside the box and have the conviction to fully believe in our own assumptions.


The same type of artificial mental barriers have appeared at every step of the way with each of the philosophical frameworks in which I have participated. Streams, is the most recent.

When we launched Echo we proposed that any conversation anywhere, irrespective of the mode or channel in which it was taking place, had the potential to be a first class part of the canonical and re-assembled lifestream of a piece of content.

Many pushed back. "Oh a Tweet can't possibly be as valuable as a comment" they lamented. They're wrong.

A Tweet, an @ Reply, a Digg, a Digg Comment, a Facebook Status Update, a Facebook Comment, an 'on page' comment and any other form of reaction each have just as much potential for value as the other.

Some have created artificial distinctions between them. They separate the stream into 'Comments' and 'Social Reactions'. I have news for everyone. A comment is a social reaction. Thinking of it as anything less is a failure of imagination and conviction. The trick is not a brute force separation of the two, but rather a nuanced set of rules that help diminish the noise and highlight the signal - where ever it might be - from any mode or channel. We've started that process in Echo with a feature we call 'Whirlpools'.


Another interesting failure of imagination that I come up against a lot lately is the notion of community building.

With Echo, we have taken the philosophical position that users already have a social network - many have too many of them in fact. There is no reason for them to join yet another network just to comment. Not ours, not our publisher's.

No, instead they should be able to bring their social network with them, participate with the content on a publisher's website, share with their existing friends on existing social networks, and leave just as easily.

By using Echo, you are not joining 'our community'. You already have a community. If anything you are participating in the Publishers community - not ours.

We don't welcome new customers to 'Our community'. Instead we help their users bring their community to a piece of content, interact, share and leave.

Publishers invest large quantities of capital in producing high quality content only to have the engagement and monetization opportunities occur on Social Networks. In these tough economic times, publishers can not afford to bleed their audience and SEO to yet another social network just to facilitate commenting. That is the opposite of the effect they are trying to achieve by adding rich commenting in the first place.

If we use our imagination, and have the conviction to see our ideas through, we realize that publishers need tools that encourage on-site engagement and re-assemble offsite reactions as well - not bolster the branded 3rd party communities of the products they use.

Be Brave

In summation - be brave. Observe the world, define a philosophical framework, imagine the possibilities and have the conviction to follow through on your ideas. Stop being lazy. Stop stopping short of taking your impulses to their logical conclusions because I've found, when you consistently execute on your vision it might be a little harder to sell your point of differentiation - but your contributions will ultimately be better, more consistent and more long lasting for your company, the web and the rest of the world.

Calling for open

Added on by Chris Saad.

Steve Gillmor often writes fantastic (and fantastically long) editorials on the landscape of the real-time web, but they are often very dense and sometimes fail to cover some key points. I thought I would take the liberty of translating and correcting his latest post with my own contributions.

Ever since FriendFeed was sold to Facebook, we’ve been told over and over again that the company and its community were toast. And as if to underline the fact, FriendFeed’s access to the Twitter firehose was terminated and vaguely replaced with a slow version that is currently delivering Twitter posts between 20 minutes and two hours after their appearance on Twitter. At the Realtime CrunchUp, Bret Taylor confirmed this was not a technical but rather a legal issue. Put simply, Twitter is choking FriendFeed to death.

Translation: The FriendFeed team were absorbed by way of acquisition. Twitter has terminated their priority access to Twitter data because FriendFeed is now owned by Twitter's primary competitor.

Correction: Of course Twitter turned them off. Facebook is Twitter's self-declared number one competitor. When you own the platform and the protocol you have every right to protect your own arse. In fact they have an obligation to their shareholders and investors.

What’s odd about this is that most observers consider FriendFeed a failure, too complicated and user-unfriendly to compete with Twitter or Facebook. If Twitter believed that to be the case, why would they endeavor to kill it? And if it were not a failure? Then Twitter is trying to kill it for a good reason. That reason: FriendFeed exposes the impossible task of owning all access to its user’s data. Does Microsoft or Google or IBM own your email? Does Gmail apply rate limiting to POP3 and IMAP?

Translation: Most commentators think that FriendFeed is dead because the founders have been bought by and buried inside Facebook. If FriendFeed is so dead why is Twitter trying to choke it.

Correction: FriendFeed is clearly dead. If you have ever worked for a startup and tried to ship a running product you know that focus is the only thing that will keep you alive. Facebook is a massive platform serving a scale of social interaction that has only been previously seen by distributed systems like email. The last thing Facebook wants is for its newly aquiried superstar team to waste time working on a platform that no longer matters to their commercial success or the bulk of their users (i.e. Friendfeed).

Twitter is choking FriendFeed for another reason - because it's systems are now essentially just a proxy to Facebook. As stated above, Twitter can not give it's number one competitor priority access to one of its major assets (i.e. timley access to the data).

The data that Microsoft and Google does not exercise hoarding tactics over (the examples Steve gave were IMAP and POP3) are open standards using open protocols.

I am never sure about Steve's position on open standards, he often vacillates from championing the open cause through projects like the Attention Trust only then to claim things like APML and DataPortability are bullshit - maybe he just doesn't like me (That can't be right can it Steve?).

The fact is, however, that open standards and protocols are the basis for open systems which is why companies like Microsoft and Google do not control your email. Twitter and Facebook are not open systems.

So the reason Twitter is killing FriendFeed is because they think they can get away with it. And they will, as far as it goes, as long as the third party vendors orbiting Twitter validate the idea that Twitter owns the data. That, of course, means Facebook has to go along with it. Playing ball with Twitter command and control doesn’t make sense unless Facebook likes the idea of doing the same thing with “their” own stream. Well, maybe so. That leaves two obvious alternatives.

The first is Google Wave, which offers much of the realtime conversational technology FriendFeed rebooted around, minus a way of deploying this stream publicly. The Wave team seems to be somewhat adrift in the conversion of private Waves to public streams, running into scaling issues with Wave bots that don’t seem to effectively handle a publishing process (if I understood the recent briefing correctly.) But if Waves can gain traction around events and become integrated with Gmail as Paul Buchheit recently predicted, then an enterprising Wave developer might write a bot that captures Tweets as they are entered or received by Twitter and siphons them into the Wave repository in near realtime.

Translation: Twitter is killing FriendFeed because they think no one will notice or care enough to stop them - Twitter has more than enough momentum and support to continue along it's current path. Facebook wont cry foul because they are doing the same hoarding technique with their own data.

Maybe Google Wave might save the day, but they seem to have lost their way.

Correction: Actually the only people who can call bullshit on Twitter and Facebook is us, the media. We are all media after all. Steve Gillmor in fact is one of the loudest voices - he should call bullshit on closed systems in general. Instead we all seem to be betting on one closed system to do better than another closed system.

We are like abused wives going back for more, each time pretending that our husbands love us. Guess what, they don't love us. They love their IPO.

I was the first to support Google Wave very loudly and proudly. I met with the team and was among the first to get in and play with the preview. It is a revolution in collaboration and how to launch a new open system. It is not, however, a Twitter or Facebook competitor. Especially not in its current state. It is not even a replacement to email. It is simply the best damned wiki product ever created.

Waves are the 180' opposite of FriendFeed and Facebook or even Twitter. They are open, flexible and lacking any structure whatsoever. Their current container, the Google Wave client, however, is totally sub-optimal for a messaging metaphor much less a many-to-many passive social platform. It is a document development platform. Nothing more.

The same could be true of Microsoft’s deal for the firehose, but here, as with Google, Twitter may not want to risk flaunting ownership of a stream that can so easily be cloned for its enterprise value. And as easily as you can say RSS is dead, Salesforce Chatter enters the picture. Here’s one player Twitter can’t just laugh off. First of all, it’s not Twitter but Facebook Benioff is cloning, and a future Facebook at that, one where the Everyone status will be built out as a (pardon the expression) public option. This free cross-Web Chatter stream will challenge Facebook’s transitional issues from private to public, given that Salesforce’s cloud can immediately scale up to the allegedly onerous task of providing personalized Track on demand.

Translation: Maybe the enterprise players - specifically Salesforces' Chatter - will save the day.

Correction: Doubtful. This is just another closed system for a specific vertical. It's long overdue. It is awesome. But it is not a Facebook or Twitter competitor much less an open alternative to the proprietary messaging systems we keep flocking to. It is simply a long overdue expansion of the simple changelog tracking feature on ERP assets. It's a simple feature that was sponsored by a simple question. "Why doesn't the asset changelog include more data - including social data?". Duh. I was doing this in my own web based CRM at the start of the decade.

It’s likely this pressure can be turned to good use by Facebook, unencumbered as they are by any licensing deal with Twitter. Instead, a Chatter alliance with the Facebook Everyone cloud puts Salesforce in the interesting position of managing a public stream with Google Apps support, which eventually could mean Wave integration. Where this might break first is in media publishing, as Benioff noted at the CrunchUp. Twitter’s leverage over its third party developers could be diluted significantly once Salesforce offers monetization paths for its developers. So much so that this may call Twitter’s bluff with FriendFeed.

Translation: No idea

But FriendFeed has always been more of a tactical takedown of Twitter than an actual competitor, a stalking horse for just the kind of attack Twitter seems most afraid of. No wonder the speed with which Twitter is introducing metadata traps to lock down the IP before a significant cloud emerges to challenge its inevitability. Lists, retweets, location — they’re all based on raising the rate limiting hammer to discourage heading for the exits. It’s not that retweets reduce the functionality of the trail of overlapping social circles, it’s that they lock them behind the Wall.

Translation: Twitter is introducing more metadata into tweets to maintain its lock in through API limits etc.

Correction: On this point Steve is partially correct. This isn't about rate limiting though - it's about turning Twitter's proprietary protocol into a real-time transport for all the data the web has to offer. It is not about API limits but rather cramming so much value into the pipe that the pipe becomes like water - you gotta drink from it or you're going to die.

I don’t expect anyone from Twitter to answer the simple question of when will Twitter give FriendFeed the same access they provide other third party client vendors. For now, it’s frustrating to not see the flow of Twitter messages in realtime, but over time we’ll build tools on top of FriendFeed to take such embargoed messages private. Once inside FriendFeed, the realtime conversations that result are just the kind of high value threads Chatter will support, Wave will accelerate, and Silverlight will transport. Keep up the good work, Twitter.

Translation: I doubt Twitter will play nice with FriendFeed and give them equal access again because once items are inside FriendFeed they turn into rich conversations. Conversations that Chatter will support, Wave will accelerate and silverlight will transport.

Correction: Actually Twitter does not and has never given fair and equal access to its data. FriendFeed had a moment in the sun with first class access the likes of which almost no one else has seen before or since.

I have no idea how Chatter fits into the B2C picture - it is clearly an Enterprise play for Salesforce. Wave indeed will act as a great interface through which to participate in real-time threads. The threads themselves, however, will need to be generated or framed by much more rigid systems designed for public discussion.

Silverlight is great for rich web apps. It is Microsoft's way of bringing the richness of the client into the browser. Just like .NET is to Java, Silverlight is to Flash. A way for Microsoft to leverage a key technology component without handing the crown to someone/something it doesn't control. But I'm not sure if fits into this discussion.

In the end, the only real solution for all of this, of course, is a return to the way the web has always worked (well). Open systems. The transport should not be Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Wave or any other nonsense. It should be RSS and Atom ( specifically) transported over PubSubHubBub and read by open standards aggregators. The namespaces should be OpenID based and adoptable by all.

The sooner the early adopter community realizes this, the commentators push for this and the developers code for this, the better off we will all be.

Disclosure: I work for JS-Kit, creators of Echo - one of the largest providers of Real-time streams. I also Tweet - trying to find an alternative though!

5 Things you need to know about Social Media Marketing

Added on by Chris Saad.

Someone recently asked me to give them the top few tips I could think of about Social Media Marketing. Here's the first 5 things that came to mind.

  1. Conversation is not a buzzword They call it a 'conversation' - the meaning is literal - not figurative. Someone speaks, you listen, and you respond appropriately. You try to add value to the dialogue not shout your message. The most common mistakes people make in social media are the same mistakes they make at a dinner party. They don't listen. They don't add value. They don't have something interesting to say. They are not authentic. They are not humble. They don't listen and learn because they are too busy talking.
  2. Have something worth saying and say it with Authenticity. Talking about your product only gets you so far. You need a point of view. What is the underlying philosophy that makes you wake up in the morning? What drives you? Why do you make the decisions you make? They want to know how the sausage is made just as much as they want to have a BBQ with it.
  3. Build something worth talking about and get out of the way The best thing you can say is nothing at all. Instead ship something worth talking about and have others do the talking for you. That means you need to listen to what your customers want, build something they will love and facilitate their interaction between each other. Do not fear negative feedback - you can not control your message or your brand - you can only discover, engage and learn. If and when you do, you will turn critics into brand/product evangelists.
  4. Don't build a social network "Having a social networking strategy for marketing is like having a muscle strategy for smiling" - Tony Hsieh, Zappos. You don't need to build a social network to have a social media strategy. In fact that's a bad move. The conversation is already happening on existing social tools - you just need to search for it and jump in (carefully).
  5. Time and ROI If you don't think you have the time or can't work out the ROI then you don't understand business. Business is about people. It's about relationships. It's about creating value for others. Social Media is not something your marketing department should do. It's something your whole company should do. Just like they all answer the phone and send email, they also need to exist in the global conversation about your products and services. Get involved. Find the time. The return on your investment will be nothing short of staying relevant as the world changes around you.

What are your top 5 Social Media Marketing 'tips'?

Blogs are Back

Added on by Chris Saad.

When Khris and I showed Robert Scoble Echo prior to the Launch at the Real-Time Crunchup he said "Wow, Blogs are Back!". I couldn't agree more. It looks like his sentiment is starting to propagate.

When I say Blogs are Back I mean that the balance between other forms of social media (Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed etc) are now finding their rightful balance with the first and foremost social platform, Blogging.

This is not to suggest that other forms of interaction are going away, only that there is a natural equilibrium to be struck.

There are a number of factors that are helping this trend along.

They include:

  1. Twitter Inc decisions that have not reflected the will of the community - particularly changing the @ behavior, changing their API without informing developers, making opaque decisions with their Suggested User List and limiting access to their Firehose.
  2. Facebook's continued resistance to true DataPortability
  3. The emergence of tools and technologies that turn blogs into real-time, first class citizens of the social web. Tools like Lijit, PubSubHubBub and of course Echo.
  4. A realization that blogs are a self-owned, personalized, tool agnostic way to participate in the open social web.
  5. The broader themes of the Synaptic Web

I also discussed this with Dave Winer, Doc Searls and Marshall Kirkpatrick the other day on the BadHairDay podcast.

You can also see previous references to this in my 'What is Echo' post. I've also posted a more detailed account of how Echo fits into this notion on the JS-Kit blog.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have also posted on this. I also registered '' (what should I do with it?).

I look forward to see what this new trend brings!

What is Echo Comments?

Added on by Chris Saad.

On October 14, 2008 I wrote a blog titled 'Who is JS-Kit'. In it, I explained why I was joining the JS-Kit team and how their philosophy and execution resonated so much with me. On Friday the 10th of July, 2009, the JS-Kit team launched Echo. Here's the video. It is the clearest example yet of the potential of the JS-Kit team that I spoke about back in my Who is JS-Kit post.

I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what Echo means to me personally. But first, I'd like to make something very clear. Although much of this will be about my personal opinions, feelings and philosophies on Echo and the trends and tribulations that bore it,  Echo is the result of the hard work and collaboration of a stellar team of first grade entrepreneurs that I have the pleasure of working with every day (and night).

From Khris Loux our fearless and philosophical CEO who lead the charge, to Lev Walkin our CTO who seems to know no boundaries when it comes to writing software, to Philippe Cailloux, the man who turns our raving ADD rants into actionable mingle tickets, to our developers who worked tirelessly to turn napkin sketches into reality. We all scrubbed every pixel and will continue to be at the front lines with our customers. This is the team that made it happen.

For me, Echo is the next major milestone on a journey that only properly got underway in November 2006 when I visited Silicon Valley for the first time.

I was at the Web 2.2 meetup. It was set up by one of my now friends Chris Heuer. There was a group discussion about social networking and how we, as individuals, might communicate in ways that were independent of the tools that facilitated such communication.

I was sitting in the back of the room in awe of the intellect and scope of the conversation. Could you imagine it, for the first time in a long time I (a kid from Brisbane Australia) was in a room full of people who were just as passionate about this technology thing as me - and they were actually at the center of the ecosystem that could make a real impact on the outcome of these technologies.

I shyly put my hand up at the back of the room and squeaked out (I'm paraphrasing and cleaning up for eloquence here - I'm sure I sounded far less intelligent at the time).

"Aah... excuse me... aren't blogs the ultimate tool agnostic social networking platforms?"

What I meant was that blogs use the web as the platform. They produce RSS. They have audiences. They illicit reactions. They create social conversations over large distances. They essentially create one giant implicit social network.

I got some "oh yeah he might be right" reactions and the conversation moved swiftly along to other things.

For me, a light turned on. One I've been chasing ever since in various forms and to varying degrees of success (or failure as the case may be). For me, Faraday Media, APML, DataPortability and now JS-Kit have all been an exploration on how to create a tool-agnostic, internet scale social network that has notification, filtering, interoperability and community at its heart.

As I said at the start of this post, Echo is the next step along that journey. For me, Echo represents an opportunity to making Blogging not only 'cool' again, but to make it a first class citizen on the web-wide social network. To make all sites part of that network.

Much has been made of its real-time nature. Even more about its ability to aggregate the fragmented internet conversation back to the source. These are both critical aspects of the product. They are the most obvious and impactful changes we made. But there is much more to Echo than meets the eye. Much more in the product today and much more we hope to still add.

Our choice of comment form layout. The use of the words 'From' and 'To'. The language of 'I am... my Facebook profile'. The choice to treat the comment form as just another app (as shown by the use of the 'Via Comments' tag) and more. The choice to merge the various channels into a unified stream (comments+off-site gestures). These were all deliberate and painstaking choices that the team made together.

Echo is based on a theory we call the 'Synaptic Web'. This is the frame of reference from which all our product decisions will be made. It is an open straw man that I hope will eventually be just as exciting as any given product launch. It states in explicit terms the trends and opportunities that many of us are seeing and is designed to help foster a conversation around those observations.

In the coming hours and weeks I'm also going to record video screen casts of the specific product decisions that have already made it into Echo - hopefully these will further illustrate how each pixel brings about a subtle but important change to the space.

In the mean time, I'd like to reiterate how humbled I am by the reaction to the product and how excited I am to be working with the JS-Kit team in this space at this time in the Internet's history.

I look forward to hearing from each of you about your thoughts and feelings on our direction, and shaping our road map directly from your feedback.

How do you feel?

Added on by Chris Saad.

I was playing with my iPhone earlier today and I remembered a notion we've all spoken about. For some reason, though, this time I pondered it a little longer than usual. It feels wonderful.

The iPhone interface feels authentic, polished, robust and reactive in a way that few other software interfaces do. Many Apple interfaces do in fact.

I started thinking about other examples of this and I've come to realize that todays users seem to be rewarding feeling over function in their software. Google, FriendFeed, iPhone OS, MacOS, BaseCamp, Omnifocus, Flickr. These are all applications that feel good.

In many cases, they are far less functional than their counterparts, but that doesn't seem to matter.

I also recently came across the Facebook Design Team's Facebook Group.

This is from their group description:

We love clean and simple. We are passionate about enabling the user to connect and share what they want, fast. We design for users of all ages and demographics. We don't believe in reading a manual to understand how something works. We care about details down to the pixel. We are a small team of 20, and we design the homepage, profile, chat, inbox, platform, and every part of the Facebook experience.

I especially like this sentence:

We care about details down to the pixel.

I don't think anyone was under any illusion that Facebook did not care about pixels. Their interface is so clean and consistent that they have actually killed category of personal branding - self expression through design.

I was recently lobbying for something to be simpler to use. At the end of my description of how it might work, I was told that I contradicted myself, because the implementation I described was more complex.

The reality is that simple, intuitive and good feeling design is not about a simpler implementation - it's actually about a more complex implementation. It's usually an implementation that takes more thought, more time, more pixel pushing and ultimately more business logic for the developers.

Apple didn't need to make their home screen bounce when you tried to push pass the end. But they did. It makes it feel great. I sit there playing with that little bouncy effect all the time (yes I do have a life). It took more time, more complexity and more work. But that's not the point - the end result felt and behaved like a real-world object. It feels nicer and is ultimately a more intuitive way to signal the end of the list than ignoring the user input or jarring the user with some brute force notice.

Pixels matter. Animation Matters. Layers of additional business logic that try to consolidate and simplify the user experience matter. More than most engineers and product managers know.

Product managers need to give engineers the time to polish the pixels. They need to consider that getting a product 'feature complete' does not mean it is 'user complete'. Engineers should also lobby for product managers to give them the time needed. When they are writing code and presenting things to the screen they also need to take the initiative to consider the pixels because the pixels matter.

As a product guy I've been guilty of pushing for feature complete instead of user complete. And I am going to try to find the patience and the process to change that.

Engineering is not just about building something that works - it's about building things that belong in people's lives. Things that people want to use not because they have to, but because it makes them feel good.

Wave is the future of the Enterprise

Added on by Chris Saad.

google_wave_logo-760260 I was just debating with a friend about the value and usefulness of Google's Wave in the enterprise.

His argument is that Wave has 10 years of adoption curve ahead of it and would not quickly replace email or wikis for enterprise staff.

I tweeted my response:

20% of enterprise users will be using wave in the first 12 months for more than 50% of their comms (replacing email and wiki)

Edit: To be clear, my 12 month time frame begins when Wave is publicly available.

That's a big call to make on enterprises adopting a radically new technology. Enterprises move very, very slowly. So why am I so bullish on the adoption of Google Wave in the enterprise?

Here's why...

Email is king

Everyone uses email right? Why would people swap? Because with Wave, they don't have to.

First, with Wave's API there will quickly and instantly (I mean in weeks, long before public launch) be integration between Wave and Email. Wave messages and events will  be funneled to email and back again as if the two were built from the same protocol.

Second, Wave will be viral. Users will quickly realize that their email inbox is only giving them a pale imitation of the Wave collaboration experience. It will be like working with shadow puppets while your friends are over having an acid trip of light, sound, fun and productivity.

If someone had told me that they were setting out to kill/replace email, I would have laughed in their face. Now that I see the Wave product and roll out strategy - I think it might actually happen.

Enterprise IT Departments

IT departments are slow to adopt and roll out new technologies right?

People forget that enterprises are just a collection of human beings. Social beings. Like IM, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Wikis and countless other applications, Wave will soak into an enterprise long before the IT department knows what the hell is going on.

The enterprise adoption curve of Wave, however, will make those other technologies look glacial. Everyone who ever picked up a Wiki, IM client, Facebook or Twitter (I think that covers 99.9% of the developed, working world) will latch onto Wave for dear life.

Everyone else will be forced to open a Wave client to find out what the hell is going on.

Too many tools

Enterprises indeed have many, many tools that already 'own' a large part of a given knowledge worker's/enterprise user's day.

None of them matter anymore. Again, with Wave's amazing API and extensibility model, each of these apps, custom or not, will have a Wave bridge.

Official Wiki Pages, Sales Reports, Bug Tickets, New Blog Posts, Emails, Customer Records will all be available and accessibly from the Wave interface.

Who's going to write all those bridges? Hacker employees, smart IT department engineers, new start-ups and the companies that own those other products hoping desperately to remain relevant and competitive.

Half Lives

Geocities, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. What do these things show us? That technology adoption has a half-life. Geocities lasted as king of the heap twice as long as MySpace, MySpace twice as long as Facebook and so on. We are approaching a kind of singularity - although just like with the mathematical function, one can never achieve 0 of course.

Sure, enterprises move much more slowly, but when was the last time a really new enterprise productivity application hit the market? Do we even know what the current half-life is? My bet is that it's pretty damn short - and Wave has the potential to be ahead of the curve.

Related link: Business Opportunities around Google Wave

Media 2.0 Best Practices goes live

Added on by Chris Saad.

media-20-best-practices-logo Today the Media 2.0 Best Practices went live. I'm very happy to see this come to light.

I've been working on something like it for a number of years now, and with JS-Kit's backing and the participation of my friends it has taken shape.

I'd like to thank all involved. I look forward to having conversations with the participants and creating something that vendors can use to make and keep user-centric promises to their participants.

I'm also very happy that the Media 2.0 Workgroup was able to take on this process and see it through. There is a lot of potential in that group that is yet to be realized.

Check it out…

Visit the site and view the strawman at

Follow along

Source materials donated to the community by

Supported and shepherded by

Time to get started

Added on by Chris Saad.

In times of change, new opportunity is always created. Always. Many have written on the opportunity created by this economic downturn. Here are some of the excerpts:

Mick from Pollenizer writes:

1. You don't need a boom to grow. 2. Better access to great people. 3. A slump doesn't stop spending, and it increases in some areas. 4. There is still money available if you look hard, and you deserve it. 5. The community is still here to support you. 6. The big guys cut back on R&D letting you do the innovating. 

Paul Graham writes:

The economic situation is apparently so grim that some experts fear we may be in for a stretch as bad as the mid seventies.

When Microsoft and Apple were founded. ... If we've learned one thing from funding so many startups, it's that they succeed or fail based on the qualities of the founders. The economy has some effect, certainly, but as a predictor of success it's rounding error compared to the founders. ... So maybe a recession is a good time to start a startup. It's hard to say whether advantages like lack of competition outweigh disadvantages like reluctant investors. But it doesn't matter much either way. It's the people that matter. And for a given set of people working on a given technology, the time to act is always now.

And Rajesh Jain writes:

For entrepreneurs, they need to forget about the craziness around and just focus on the business and market. The stuff that's happening has little or no impact on the business of most early stage companies — in most cases, their revenue base is too small to see any negative impact from "market conditions." So, any sales person giving market slowdown as a reason for not meeting targets needs to be given a talking to!

I also think this is a great time to get alternative / disruptive ideas to consumers and businesses. Everyone is much more receptive to  discussions about solutions which provide better ROI. (And without a simpler, cheaper solution, entrepreneurs don't really have much of a chance anyways.)

Getting started today with the right idea is indeed an attractive prospect. If, however, you are two years in to your company and looking for extra funding without real traction or poof points, times are going to get very tough.
For startups in this category, I would suggest taking a long hard look at the value you bring to the table, and finding a partner who can absorb and propel your assets through these tough times.
I was interviewed fo the NYT on Friday on this very subject. I suggested the same thing to the reporter.
More conversation over on Silicon Beach as well (I got many of my snippets from there).

Who is JS-Kit?

Added on by Chris Saad.

The news today is that JS-Kit just closed a $3.6m round of funding and I have joined the company as a Strategic Advisor. I'd like to take this moment to explain who JS-Kit is, what it could be, and why I decided to get involved.

First, I get offered a lot of advisory roles or full time jobs. It's always very tempting to help entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams.

The reality is, however, between my company Faraday Media, my work at the DataPortability project, APML Workgroup, Media 2.0 Workgroup and other projects there simply isn't enough bandwidth left to give the attention required.

The JS-Kit opportunity is different. When I first met Khris Loux (The CEO of JS-Kit) it was clear very quickly that we had a unique connection and a shared vision for a distributed Personal Web. As a result I have broken my own rule and accepted the offer to consult with/advise the company on a formal basis. It will be a significant commitment and take up a large part of my time.

The company he has quietly built over the last 2 years reflects our shared vision and its success is unmatched in the marketplace. With more than 550,000 registered sites, JS-Kit is the largest provider of light-weight plug in social features on the web. More importantly, though, it has no destination site. A philosophical choice that allows it to execute on a strategy of powering the edge to get more social - and more personal - without siphoning traffic back to a proprietary center.

JS-Kit technology powers some of the biggest sites on the web - with more to be announced soon.

This combination of scale and a focus on the edge makes the company uniquely placed to build something very special.

There are a number of challenges ahead for the company though - challenges of which Khris and the team are all too aware.

The name is not great! It was the name of a prototype product that became very successful very quickly despite not being ready for prime time so it sorta stuck. Blame Nick Gonzalez for writing it up in Techcrunch only days after it was put live for preliminary testing (just kidding I love Nick in a manly platonic sort of way)

Adoption is easy, but customization (it's possible to make the widgets unrecognizable from the default style) is far too hard to do for average users.

The design is Web 1.0 at best. The site, brand and products lack a cohesive visual language and a modern look and feel.

These are just some of the things I will be helping to change over the coming months. The funding round also allows the team to execute on these opportunities quickly. These changes will be a precursor to a much broader strategy that we hope will delight users, empower publishers and surprise the industry.

In the mean time though, Faraday Media is still very much alive and kicking with both my involvement and the involvement of my best friend and co-founder Ashley Angell. I believe the core technologies developed in its labs will change the web. Faraday Media and JS-Kit will continue their business development activities and my role will help to shepherd the process.

So too is the DataPortability project under the stewardship of the stellar new steering group lead by none other than Daniela Barbosa.

So in this time of Economic woes, failing companies, staff layoffs and uncertain times I am proud and honored to be part of a team that is continuing to have a sustainable and positive impact on the web and actually growing the opportunity for a distributed personal ecosystem.

So now I'm involved, I'd like to encourage you to try out the tools on your sites and blogs and send me feedback directly. I'd like to start a conversation with you to improve the company and the web together.

Also follow Me, Khris and Nancy on Twitter!


Coverage has already started

I'm on the Anthill 30 under 30 list.

Added on by Chris Saad.

Anthill is the leading entrepreneurial magazine in Australia. They have released a list of the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30. Somehow, someone hacked the list and added my name! From the magazine:

They collectively turnover hundreds of millions of dollars each year, yet some are barely out of university. They are proud to be Australian but see their home-grown success as little more than a stepping stone. They have never known serious recession, political instability or significant global conflict, yet they are better educated and better informed than new business owners of any generation preceding them. Meet the future of business in Australia.


Chris Saad Age: 26 Location: Queensland Company/Role: Faraday Media

At 26, Chris Saad is one of Australia’s most impressive young web entrepreneurs. His theory and practice around web standards – specifically “DataPortability” and “Attention Management” – have gained significant traction and are set to have a profound impact on the evolution of media in the digital age. Saad has co-founded several web-related companies and organisations, most prominently Faraday Media in 2006, of which he is CEO. Faraday Media is developing Particls, a technology that learns user habit and taste and delivers relevant information to them via news crawler, SMS, email, flash visualisations, etc. He also co-founded the Media 2.0 Workgroup with 14 industry “commentators, agitators and innovators”. There’s no shortage of ideas or energy in this digitally-minded entrepreneur. One to watch in the years to come.

Make sure you click through to the Article, subscribe to the mag and read the other 29 profiles!

Of course, singling out 30 'front men' does not really do justice to the real people who work tirelessly to make successful business happen. People like my business partner and co-founder who actually builds our Faraday Media products Ashley Angell. Like our investors, our team, our advisors and supporters who make everything possible.

To all of them and to our customers and partners - thank you for making this sort of thing possible.

I also look forward to clicking through to the other profiles and learning more about the other people listed - seems like a great group of Aussies!

Microsoft is going to release a web-based version of Office.

Added on by Chris Saad.

How? Using Silverlight. Here's the strategy as I see it.

First, the underlying Silverlight technologies (XAML and .NET) are encouraging client-side Windows developers to think beyond boring forms apps and delve into the wonderful world of vector graphics with 3D, sliding reflective surfaces. In short, Microsoft is encouraging developers to use the power of the client-side to ensure that Windows apps to continue to make web-apps look like boring documents.

Second, having raised the bar on client-side user experiences, the Silverlight runtime enables developers to maintain that high bar of multimedia user experience in the browser. But Silverlight is not like flash. Developers can use the exact same development assets, metaphors and tools they know and love. Objects, Controls, Visual Studio and more. Users will come to expect web-based experiences that match their newly enhanced client-side ones.

Third, if Silverlight makes it possible to essentially deploy client-side style applications through the browser, which Microsoft product can now become truly web enabled?

You guessed it. Office.

Silverlight represents a way for Microsoft to not just complete in the online office space, but blow it out of the water with a product that is as good (or better) than its client-side counterpart. There was no way Microsoft was going to bet their web-based application strategy on Flash or try to hack together an Ajax word processor. Silverlight, and its true Object Orientated .NET foundation, are a perfect platform for the web-enablement of their traditionally client-side suite.

Fourth, Silverlight is positioned as the new application platform. It exists in places Microsoft has never existed before. On Nokia phones (the land of Symbian), Linux workstations and OSX. Even iPhone could conceivably run Silverlight since it runs the full fledged Safari browser. And now there is an announcement that Silverlight will be shipped with millions of HP computers.

With Silverlight now coming out on Nokia phones, delivered as part of the Olympics coverage and embedded throughout MS properties and content deals popping up everywhere, Microsoft is gaining enormous distribution potential. If they can somehow skirt the anti-trust issues, they could even bundle it with IE8.

Silverlight is a critical and masterful piece of technology and strategy from the Redmond giant. It allows them to leverage their tools and technologies from the client, raise the bar on web-based experiences, deploy their client-side apps through a browser and broaden their platform reach into every device and screen in a user's life.