Archive for the ‘whitepages’ Category

Snapvine, stockbrokers, and voice posting

June 6, 2008

One of the many real-life intrusions lately has been the recently-announced planned WhitePages.com acquisition of Snapvine, which I wrote about on the WhitePages Developer Blog on Wednesday morning. We’ve been working on this for quite a while, and I’m very excited about the energy I’ve seen from both teams as we start to meet each other and think about what we’ll build together.

The entire adventure reminds me of the first startup I thought about creating, which I discussed with Victor in 1999 when we were both working on NetDocs. Streaming audio was just starting to be embedded in websites, but there was no such thing as combining audio with personal publishing (and not much personal publishing, unless you count Diaryland – and I did).

My father has been an investment advisor since I can remember, and when I was a pre-teen, he ran a large office of Prudential Bache in Penn Station. One of my strongest memories was the broadcast conference calls he would lead or listen to each day – with clients, brokers, etc. – sharing what was going on in the market, learnings, etc.

So I got excited about building a set of online tools for this kind of person – someone who wanted to publish pure audio to a set of interested parties. I thought about simple web pages and simple audio controls, designed some very basic pieces, etc.

Then Shoutcast came along, and for some reason I decided that was the end of it – someone had beaten me to it. I can’t explain why I thought they were the same thing – maybe it was just that I saw Shoutcast as a demonstration that I was already behind the curve. Anyway, Victor and I worked on our doomed corporate project and played a lot of Run & Gun, and nothing came of it.

Fast-forward almost a decade later, and now I’m working with a company that’s come as close to building that toolset as anyone else out there, and I’m going to get to work on combining those kinds of tools with the most comprehensive people search website on the planet. It’s an exciting road ahead.

Oh, and I still listen to Shoutcast on my Chumby. (And I do owe Victor a call.)

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Links 2008-03-05

March 5, 2008
  • IE8 and How Decisions Get Made at Large Companies – This is a hyperliterate debunking of the standard myth around large companies – that they’re hive minds or well-oiled machines following a consistent plan, rather than an assorted group of individuals all grappling about, trying to figure out the right plan. The press echoes the hive mind when it says “Microsoft” or “Bill Gates” made a decision, that no doubt was made up and down a chain by dozens of people. My stories on how things happen are different but the result is the same.
  • You used <X> to write what? – a set of articles in CIO magazine talking about pluses and minuses of using different dynamic languages for different problems, at a good level for the technologist who doesn’t have time to read every devblog in the universe. Unfortunately each one is written by a different person and the quality varies tremendously – the Ruby one is very good, the Perl one is pretty terrible.
  • Hanging out at the 2008 Crossword Puzzle Tournament – made famous by Wordplay, this is a good narrative on this year’s tournament. (Random fact: a member of my Puzzle Hunt Team wrote one of the puzzles featured in the film.)
  • CAPTCHA hacking and farming – A solid article about Google/Yahoo/Hotmail CAPTCHA’s all being broken (or, more likely, farmed), with a good collection of links in the comments. (Updated, via Waxy: a blog post about human CAPTCHA farming becomes a marketplace for farmers – and it looks like the price keeps dropping.)
  • Dancing with the Data Center – WhitePages migrates every server in its colo, one at a time, with no downtime – with photos. (Insert obligatory disclaimer here.)

Hey, this is fun. Maybe I will actually do it every week…

Blogging, Blogging Everywhere

January 30, 2008

Just a bit of work news: we’ve kicked off a WhitePages Developer Blog. When your brand is commonly associated with the phone company, it’s difficult to begin a conversation with assumed technical credibility – but the scale and complexity of what we do is legitimately interesting and there are deep software & operational design issues behind supporting hundreds of millions of queries/month on a capex shoestring, and I’m hoping we highlight – and share – that information with technical friends across the globe.

Anyway, I have the first two posts, including one about our just-completed Hack Week.