Google Plus rolling out custom URLs (another home on the web)
I recently got invited to “claim” a custom Google+ URL in which I gotÂ www.google.com/+EricFriedmanÂ through a simple process for pre approved users.
This is a smart move for Google+ and clearly a benefit to users and pages alike. Â As Google+ competes to be your “identity” on the web against the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and other services, custom URLs seem like a logical next step. Â Thankfully the URLs are case iNsEnSiTiVe so any variation works.
Its a strange thing to be able to have a custom namespace off of the root Google.com and sort of nerdtastic at the same time.
I missed the boat on Facebook and had to throw a middle initial into my Facebook.com custom URL. Â Despite my attempts to reach out to the “other” Eric Friedman on Facebook, he would not budge and give up his namespace (having got their first).
So add another service to your list when you go to register your Company/page/name/childrens names on the web and add Google+ to the list.
Wither the desktop client (Mozilla Thunderbird put on autopilot)
Mozilla announced that their messaging software Thunderbird will essentially be put on autopilot, shifting resources to other projects. Lots of sites weighing in (and people too) with commentary and even internal memos about the news.
This is bittersweet news for me as a user of Thunderbird for years when I was a Windows user. It was far better than any other software at handling multiple pop3 email addresses at the same time. I can remember a time when I setup my websites and going through the process of configuring email addresses online in a hosting control panel, followed by authenticating each email in Thunderbird. For me, this was an important learning step in understanding POP3 and IMAP and the implications of each. I thought I had it made when IMAP became supported and I was able to truly see messages across multiple Windows boxes all updates together in real time.
The writing was on the wall of course, as managing multiple email addresses across multiple computers could be made exponentially easier by having them all controlled via browser. It was around this time that I discovered Google Apps For Your Domain (that was the orignal name!) and switched everything over. Painful, but very worth it.
Now of course web based email is the norm (sorry Exchange users its true!) and everyone expects services to be available via browser. Thus, the withering of desktop clients continue. This is a bit unfair as there are a bunch of applications I still use on my desktop - but for the most part I look for a web solution first.
The biggest shift is that when looking for a solution, I am inclined to pick a web based product simply because the switching costs are lower and it makes hardware obsolete. As with many things its not obvious at first, but over the past few years I have switched many of my primary use cases to browser based solutions.
Countdown to “Unlimited Everything” mobile plans
The crux of the deal is that you will have Unlimited Talk, Unlimited Text, and Shareable Data. Â The matrix below outlines the offering
I am now starting a countdown until they open up the third pillar with Unlimited Data. Â I don’t think that its too far off. Â I know there are other “unlimited everything” plans but they do not include family plans and add on devices such as tablets and wifi hotspots. Â The closest you can get is with TMobile’s unlimited plan and adding devices that way (trust me, I used to do it)
The race to the bottom is happening and I expect other mobile carriers to follow suit. Â I can imagine a time where there is totalÂ ubiquitous connectivity and the services you pay for are on top of the pipes (carriers) and are all added value.
The convergence to unlimited Talk, Text, and Data is already on its way and Verizon just took a big step to get there faster. Â I hope other carriers follow shortly.
In a world where there is unlimited bandwidth these things are all possible.
Computationally Expensive (within project planning)
When I first started working at foursquare I heard this term as a way of explaining that some things were not possible (right now!) but could be built in the future (soon!). It is one of my favorite terms for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of the challenge of overcoming whatever obstacle is in the way.
For different groups to understand what is possible and what is not, a matrix of sorts is needed to quantify why things may or may not be possible. Things like an overall Company vision and roadmap contribute to why and when things are happening, but scoring things can also bring some much needed transparency into the process.
At first glance this seems like an excuse as why not to get something done - simply blaming “its too computationally expensive” - but as you can see there are a myriad of reasons.
I am far enough away from the time when this was first discussed that I have started to think about the issues that came up in another way. You can easily plot the overall Difficulty and Impact of a project by plotting them on a graph similar to the one below.
Scoring would work such that;
Green = justification for immediate completion
Yellow = decide based on subjective views
Red = justification to wait
You can see how almost any discussion between groups, such as BD and engineering, could be plotted on this graph. Something that has extremely high impact but is technically very difficult (red) may not get the hours/work necessary in light of other projects. However something that is high impact and low difficulty (green) could get prioritized right away. Using this methodology brings in some objectivity that may otherwise be absent from a discussion.
There are many subjective reasons why something may end up in a specific area or color, but this at least lets you plot all projects accordingly.
As an organization grows, this allows you to weigh the ideas and complexities of partner requests with that of folks who have longer term (cross quarter) projects currently in motion. Things like engineering hours, PM resources, and design may play a role in the score and color of a dot. Previously running projects have probably the highest impact, but provide justification on a high impact low difficulty project being pushed off a month.
Everyone in the organization should understand how a suggestion or feature improvement could affect the overall goals and timeline of a Company.
I don’t think I will stop contributing grand ideas to the product and eng. teams here anytime soon though ;)
Get to the “ask” early
In most meetings the last 5-10 minutes are used to go over the “ask” or the crux of what folks are there to talk to in the first place.
I have noticed a common occurrence where someone sets up a meeting or call to go over something new or propose something interesting, but they only cover this within the last part of the meeting time. This sets you up to have very little time to present your request, while spending significant time setting up and getting ready for your big “ask”.
Commonly after introductions are made via email and calls or meetings have been setup, folks never dive into the crux of the issue until there is little time for healthy discussion. It can be daunting to go into a big request at the early stages of a conversation or relationship, but you should strike the right balance. Even setting someone up with a brief agenda early, including the “ask” within it can be helpful. This way both parties know that eventually you will bring up the request sooner or later. This can also help in letting them digest the request first, while you setup the story behind the rest of your discussion.
There are a few different types of meetings that happen and each can be handled differently. Sometimes in a sales meeting you need to set up the product or proposal the right way, or give proper background. Other times in a proposed partnership you need to go over some of the important details that pertain to your proposal. Other meetings are used to brainstorm something entirely new, but there are one or two key points that must be a part of the final product. In any of these cases it is always prudent to make sure there is plenty of time to discuss the price, requirements, or demands that you have.
The “big crescendo” at the end of a meeting can sometimes be a surprise to the audience and does not leave them with enough time to process the demand as well as ask questions.
I recommend bringing the “ask” as upfront as you can without harming the story you are there to tell.
The new “getting started” with gadgets
Getting started with gadgets has changed. It used to be that each electronic gizmo, phone, or device required a quick registration and understanding of their proprietary system.
Now however, you are greeted with ever familiar OAuth prompts for services you probably already have an account with. This happens with more than just web services. Unboxing a new TV you are asked to install widgets for Facebook and Twitter. Setting up a digital picture frame you are asked to OAuth with Flickr. Certain sites and web services can even benefit from handshaking with foursquare too.
This is somewhat of a realization of BizDev 2.0, showing that the openness of these APIs is making life easier for first time customers.
Even in the latest iPhone, there is a deep iOS 5 Twitter integration, that makes for sharing to that service very easy. Creating a prompt from photos and more gives you easy access to an already established social network that you want to share to anyway. Some may think this means that the kings are decided in this arena, but I think that is hardly the case. Folks like Twitter may have a stronger foothold, but there will always be room for people to break out beyond the constraints of the social networks of today.
Back to my original thought, getting started with gadgets, you now have a much higher chance of an interconnected device. The so called “internet of things” is coming, highlighted most recently by Twine raising over 500K on Kickstarter.
This shows a world of interconnected devices, that starts with the initial OAuth handshake.
Do you think you will be able to have a device in the future that doesn’t require a sign in?
moar personal tracking! iDoneThis.com
With the new year comes a flurry of new years resolutions from everyone - myself included. I am giving iDoneThis a try at the recommendation of two friends. Its a simple a lightweight way to track what happened each day, and build momentum for the next entry.
Their system emails you when you want (mine come at 11pm) and you simply reply back with whatever you want for that day. I am using this as a personal “snippets” of sorts to see if I get value. I am trying to stay on top of it, and I am proud to say I have so far been great at it (yup, almost all 10 days of the new year). Anything that integrates into an already existing behavior is much easier than many of the personal tracking/diary type apps I looked into. iDoneThis uses email, which I live in daily.
Outside of work recaps or snippets of the week there is a lot going on and it was recommended to me that getting everything written down/journaled would be a decent attempt at tracking everything. We will see how it goes.
I am already using foursquare for where I go, and this should be a nice example to fill in the blanks on what goes on.
What are some other great personal tracking / quantified self tools are out there?
hello Homeland and the #screwcable problem
Tonight I finished watching Homeland from Showtime - and tweeted about itÂ (really great show by the way!)
To my surprise it set off a flurry of responses from friends and colleagues who were at various stages of being either interested in starting to watch it, in the middle of it, or interested in more. Â This presents a “hello Homeland” situation for many of my friends who want to see the show from this tweet, heard about it elsewhere, or maybe just have an interest and want to sample it. Â But right now they can’t do that.
Some friends even started watching it right away based onÂ or tipped into watching it from my recommendation.
This is the part I find extremely fascinating (and no, I am not looking for a pat on the back). Â Everyone is looking to cut their cable, and stop paying large cable co’s for service, or switch to an a la carte model. Â The problem is that this does not mesh well with the behavior that we currently follow. Â Its extremely hard to change peoples behavior, and although the complaints are real, the bills are high - the benefit of cable to solve this need/desire to consume things as they are broadcast is a real benefit.
I’ve long believed that piracy is largely a business model problem not a human behavior problem. If you give people a legal way to consume the content they want, they will pay for it.
So what business model supports the current behavior?Â Affiliate links and capturing attention.
Currently there are different models that could support this type of behavior. Â The simplest is affiliate links. Â More difficult is capturing attention. Â If I could have linked out to two (or one if they were smart) types of content, I bet I could have generated direct sales, or possibly even subscription sales for Showtime via Homeland. Â Afterwards, there is interest and intent around the show - just waiting to happen online.
The first, and simplest method would be to allow someone to deeplink to content that only subscribers have access to. Â Meaning a Showtime subscriber could link to an extended viewing of Homeland to their social network, attributing the longer viewing and following episode sale or subscription sale to their account.
The second, would be driving views to content (read: ratings) via my recommendation. Â This attention could be monetized by ads, and because it comes from a trusted source (me) my friends and colleagues may sit through advertising supported video for their first viewing of the show. Â Subsequent purchases and subscriptions would also be attributed to the original seeder (again me).
This method has been tried for years by many startups. Â I have personally seen many companies that have promised solutions, but never delivered. Â A real time chat room or re-played chatroom next to video content isn’t what anyone is really looking for. Â They want to share their thoughts about something when its over with their friends in real time. Â This is today solved by Twitter and Facebook - usually in a hard to follow thread of comments.
The real time (somewhat solved by Twitter today) and post watch need for aÂ watercoolerÂ is veryÂ prevalent. Â Some friends even wanted to chat about it as soon as they were done watching. Â Why can’t Showtime (or someone else for that matter) give us a place to have this conversation. Â I am much less excited about this opportunity, but if it offsets the cost of all-you-can-eat cable and gets us to the a-la-carte model faster than so be it.
The problem with an immediate consumption based behavior means that only true a-la-carte cable pricing would suffice. Â This would mean an ever growing firehose of video on demand, available at a clicks notice. Â Since this is not going to happen anytime soon, this affiliate model would work quite well.
Based on the reactions of some of myÂ variousÂ friends, its clear this would have resulted in views of Homeland from a single tweet, which in an affiliate model would have ultimately been good for the show, good for me, and great for Showtime.
A Common Metric of Success
Getting everyone on the same page is important for any company.
It becomes especially important in the beginning of a startup when you have small teams working on small projects in different departments. This helps everyone know exactly what metric of success you are going after. It also helps align groups to determine whether or not the work that they are doing aligns with the quantified goals of the company.
These metrics could be anything such as; pageviews, sign ups, paying customers, shipments made, monthly accounts activated, downloads, etc… The common number helps people in any team from business development to engineering know and understand that what they are doing has an impact on the business.
This type of clarity also helps people decide whether the next task they are going to work on aligns with the vision.
Here is an example of what Panic did
You certainly don’t need a flat panel display pulling in APIs to get the job done (although this is a beautiful way to do it). A shared Google Spreadsheet does the trick just as well, and you can jump in to see the data behind a graph.
When you question what you are working on, or what the CEO finds most important, you should be able to consult this document, graph, or screen and know the answer. Its great to help multiple departments start to understand how each team works together towards a common metric of success.
Always Be Helping the @NYTM
Please vote for me atÂ http://bit.ly/EricNYTM
I have been a member Â and participant of the New York Tech Meetup for many years, and it was one of the ways in which I got exposed to great startups in NYC.
I have met some great people, seen some incredible demos, and made some good friends over the years. Â When I saw the opportunity to participate further, I jumped at the chance and wanted to pitch how I can continue to be helpful, only this time as a member of the board.
I am running to Always Be Helping the NY Tech Meetup, or simply #abh. Â
If I continue to help people get introduce to tech companies, help startups hire more engineers, or simply bring exposure to the meetup, I have accomplished my goal.
For many, the NYTM is a large gathering of tech minded folks around the idea that anyone with a great idea can present to their peers to get feedback, users, pitch practice, networking help, and various other benefits. Â What it has evolved into is a great organization for New York, capturing the mindshare of both those new to the tech sector, and bringing back those who have worked in the area for decades.
I have participated since the organization matured from a warehouse meeting led by Scott Heiferman, to a ful fledged non profit transitioned to Nate Westheimer and a full board. Â Its been a great ride and the core principles have remained the same which is why it is a thriving group with thousands of members.
I have enjoyed and benefited from getting to know folks involved in many startups and want to continue in the following ways;
1. Always be helping to hire bring great talent to startups
2. Always be helping guide people to the technology sector
3. Always be helping people network with relevance
Hire great talent
Referrals are the best way to get great talent. Â By identifying great candidates, understanding company culture, and knowing about openings and needs I hope to be a resources to startups large and small, looking for great people.
Guide and mentor
Having worked on both sides of the table in this arena over the past 8 years I can bring some perspective, answer questions, and know when to get out of the way. Â Sometimes people need a sounding board for their next move, sometimes they need more direction and I provide both.
I would like to think I have the unique ability to connect folks together when there is a need. Â Identifying the right people and opportunities is helpful to startups that have just started, and those that have been around for years. Â I have done both over the years.
If you agree with helping the New York Tech Community I hope Â you can share this mantra and use the #ABH hashtag!
I support the @NYTM and want to help Hire great talent #ABH
I support the @NYTM and want to help guide and mentor #ABH
I support the @NYTM and want to help network #ABH
Getting more members, being active, and supporting great organizations like this make the ecosystem better as a whole, and I hope to continue doing that for years to come.