Archive for October, 2007

Web 2.0 Summit, Day Two

October 19, 2007

Notes from Day the Second:

  • Most of the talks targeted CEOs with little understanding of technology: giving them nuggets of info about their products (“Google gadgets are cool and we can advertise that way!”; “Cisco has a community platform!”) to bring back to their teams, plus finance/investment deep dives, like Mary Meeker’s obscenely interesting presentation on market growth. By all accounts, this isn’t the audience that the Web 2.0 Summit started with.
  • The Launchpad Event showed six companies at various stages of startupitude:
    • TripIt, which is a cool feature but not a company (and I knew about it and still didn’t use it for this trip)
    • Spiceworks, providing hosted IT for SMBs, an awesome market and I hope they succeed
    • Realius, a fantasy real estate game which took a wrong turn on their way to TechCrunch40
    • g.ho.st, a fantasy operating system in the cloud, a science project with an awesome pedigree, pretending that Amazon Affiliates is a business model
    • Click Forensics, a click fraud company that didn’t differentiate itself from the N other companies in the same space
    • Cleverset, winning Best in Show – a Seattle company rocks the Bay! – providing hosted personalization for web companies that don’t have the scale or skill to build their own solutions

    I thought the idea of having a VC panel discussing each company was a great idea – I would have loved to hear a deep dive from people who hear pitches all day long – but unfortunately time constraints meant two short comments per presentation.

  • I expected the Web Bowl, an event where ahead-of-time-selected luminaries answer questions in a College Bowl-style format, would be somewhat interesting, if a bit ego-massaging: I didn’t expect it to be so chaotic, and remembered again that writing trivia questions is hard. Over and over again, the panels missed unanswerable or uninteresting questions, and there wasn’t really any control of the event.

Plus meeting friends old and making friends new. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Web 2.0 – it’s full of suits!

Web 2.0 - it’s full of suits

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Facebook Apps and the professional unpleasantness of fun

October 18, 2007

There’s a general theme going around conversations about Facebook apps – supposedly it was a common theme at Dave McClure’s Graphing Social Patterns – that says “today people are just building apps that do things for fun, but soon we’ll see the apps that are useful.”

The theme sounds good. It makes us adults feel better, because after all we think spreadsheets are cool. Kara Swisher from the WSJ and AllThingsD wrote about how SuperPoke is for toddlers, which prompted much of this conversation.

The theme, though, has nothing to back it up.

Maybe there will be high-value, high-usage utility apps that will take advantage of the social graph and the Facebook environment, but there’s no reason we wouldn’t be seeing them today. It’s not like they must be more complicated or that they have to wait to launch until they get everything just right.

It may be that the Facebook interface doesn’t lend itself to complex interactions, and as that changes the apps might change too. But until then, this is just a case of wishful thinking for the world to look more like the grownups want to see.

We’ve been talking about this at WhitePages.com for a while – after all, our core service is a utility, though a very simple one – and then it came up as part of the Web 2.0 Summit’s Facebook app developers panel.

Keith Rabois from Slide put it neatly, saying that “people are using Facebook apps to do things they can’t do in real life” – have a food fight, send a drink to a friend at any time, etc. Most utility apps cover something you can do in real life, even if it’s a real life online.

Keith also pointed out that the things we used to think about as toys, like blogs, now have become part of the mainstream communication. It’s not impossible to think about SuperWall as a long-term communication method. (OK, a little hard.)

Lance Tokuda from RockYou was snarkier – if he built an app for Kara Swisher, only eight people would use it.

Hadi Partovi from iLike was the closest person on the panel to back up the utilities-are-coming-wait-for-it theory by saying that we should compare the apps that came out for Windows in the first few months with the ones that came out later.

Sounds good, and leads you to believe that maybe those earlier apps on Windows were just for fun until the pros came along. Actually, though, I have no idea if that’s  true. The apps I worked on post-Win3.1 launch were all “utilities” (and all bad), and certainly along with the growth of utility apps has been the growth of entertainment apps/games (with games/multimedia often driving technical requirements that utility apps benefit from). I expect the data here would be at best quite noisy.

Finally – and here’s a shocker – adults like to waste time too! The Wall Street Journal’s article on Scrabulous inside Facebook reads like the articles on meteoric growth of the Graffitis and Superpokes of the world, but guess what – adults play Scrabble too, and they’re doing so inside Facebook.

So let’s not fret if Facebook remains a place to play. If we need new and important utility apps that use the social graph and solve problems we can’t solve in real life, we’ll get them. But a SuperPoke or two never hurt anyone. Me? I’m heading to back to be killed by high school kids in another game of Mafia.

Web 2.0 Summit, Day One

October 18, 2007

I’m not blogging each talk: some overall notes from the first day –

  • The morning workshops were mostly underwhelming. I expected mostly marketing pitches, which is what we got, and the presentations were just generic. The SEO panel was a weird mix of detail points which were too basic for any SEO/SEM optimizer and high-level comments which just fell flat. (Jason Calacanis thought it was mostly a pitch, which was probably right.) Having the MySpace CTO and Veoh VP of Ops talk about their use of CDNs was the highlight and probably the right tone for this conference.
  • Even at a high-powered conference like this, you still get duds as speakers or talks – Marissa Meyer’s Google Health overview was mostly platitudes + clip art, the Nokia talk was all over the place, RevolutionMoney sounds great but once the CEO started talking, his speech assumed a finance-focused MBA (I couldn’t describe how it worked at the end, and nobody I talked to could either).
  • I’m sure I’m in the minority on this front, but I find John Battelle’s interviewing style really difficult, especially in the Mark Zuckerberg interview, which was really a series of snarky comments or attempts to get “scoops” phrased as questions. While everybody loves scoops, Battelle isn’t Woodward and a hall with 1000 people isn’t the dark garage of the Watergate hotel – all you’re going to get is platitudes, no matter how much you badger. (The DeWolfe/Murdoch interview was still filled with snark, but was longer so had more actual content; the Ballmer interview so far hasn’t been nearly as bad.)The John Heilemann interview of Mike Moritz was the highlight of the interviews, if only because it felt like a real interview and brought out non-obvious things. Well, and just being in the room with Rupert Murdoch was pretty neat.
  • Only one crazy question so far. Bring on the crazy!
  • I didn’t do nearly enough LobbyConning – by the end of the afternoon the lobby was just mobbed.
  • If there’s Werewolf, I didn’t find it (and probably just don’t have the SF network or extroversion to create it). There were instead fancy-style LA parties for MySpace. This was fine: I ended up connecting with Chris Law from Aggregate Knowledge, who I haven’t seen in person in 10+ years, since he and I (and Paul, his co-founder) were Microsoft interns. (Want to create Werewolf with me? Contact me here or scottru@twitter.

Let there be werewolf

October 16, 2007

WordPress reminds me that I last posted “a while ago.” That’s a bit depressing, but I’m hoping that three days at the Web 2.0 Summit will restore my mojo (and somehow invent more time).

But here’s the important question: is the Web 2.0 Summit too corporate for werewolf? And is there anyone to organize a Werewolf game (I’m looking at you, H.B.)? Do I need to pick up some index cards and remember the script? The mind reels…