I hate to admit it, but I totally get Snapchat

I’ve been thinking a lot about Snapchat lately. I just got an Iphone 5, and have begun messing around with Snapchat. My friends have raved about how fun Snapchat is for several months but I’ve resisted, mostly due to the “creepiness” factor.

My Snapchat Inbox

My Snapchat Inbox

After using the app, I have quickly reversed my opinion of it. Today, online presences are tightly curated (facebook, twitter, instagram). We only want to show the world things that reflect well upon us. This inhibition is quite limiting when it comes to social interaction. As there are countless horror stories with inappropriate texts or emails going viral, I share many peoples nerves when employing digital communication tools. They are permanent. That’s exactly what makes Snapchat beautiful. Because no communication on Snapchat is permanent, it allows for much fuller expression.

 

Yes, Snapchat is used for sexting. However, it’s potential as an impermanent communication tool is vast. It allows users to express themselves freely, unafraid of the now commonplace repercussions for rash decision online.

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Snapchat recently raised over $20 million in venture funding. I’m excited to see what’s next.

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Interesting? 

Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose

Just watched the Charlie Rose interview with Jeff Bezos. Twas very interesting. Bezos is an extremely passionate guy, a trait I find fascinating after running Amazon for 18 years. The interview left me with several thoughts I wanted to share:

  • Inventors, Not Disruptors: Bezos kept harping on how Amazon focuses on inventing, not necessarily disrupting. He views disruption as a byproduct, even a consequence of great invention.
  • Customer Focus Above All Else: The other central component of Amazon’s identity is being customer focused. They are constantly asking themselves “What do the customers want?” “What will they love?” “What do customers need and how can we make getting it easier/cheaper/better?”
  • The Internet is still in its infancy: Bezos believes that the societal reinvention brought on by the Internet is very young. he believes we are still in Day 1, as things are moving faster than ever. When it begins to slow, he says, we are in Day 2.
  • Brick and Mortar is not in Amazon’s immediate plans: Again, Bezos is focused on invention. He is only interested in getting in brick and mortar if Amazon can bring something new to the table. He is not interested in a “me to” approach to retail. All about invention.
  • He’s an optimist, and has a hearty laugh.

Watching the interview gives two clues as to why Amazon has persisted and flourished for so long. First, as Bezos states, there was an incredible demand for such a company. They filled a clear gap in the market. Bezos says that the hardest times for Amazon was the process of raising money to found it. Success was almost instantaneous.

The other clue is Bezos himself. He has an incredibly impressive eagle’s view of the Internet/Ecommerce/Technology industry, and approaches every decision through the lenses of customer focus, invention, and teamwork. Listening to Jeff makes the staying power of Amazon much less mysterious. He has incredible vision.

What a fascinating guy.

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Interesting? 

App.net Fundraising = Success

Just wanted to quickly share how thrilled and enthused I am by APP.net’s funding!!! I truly believe this is just the beginning. Premium consumer internet services should not be ad-supported. Simply put, having an ad-supported product misaligns the motivations of the company and the desires of their users. The reason? Because the company’s clients become advertisers, NOT USERS. When users are the client, NOT THE PRODUCT, user experience becomes the top priority. And in consumer Internet, that’s the way it should be. 

https://join.app.net/

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Product vs. Platform… App.net

I leave tomorrow for 3 Days in Las Vegas (woohooo I hate las vegas!!!….Seriously. Scroll past the article, I’ll explain) but I wanted to churn out this post before I left. By the time I return, App.net‘s funding campaign will have concluded. At that point, we will know whether or not Dalton Caldwell’s brilliant proposal will have succeeded or failed. I have personally supported the project and believe in its values. I also believe in Dalton (without personally knowing him) as he spent many years trying to bring innovation into the music business (which I care deeply about) in the form of Imeem. Twitter’s Platform decisions have been written about all over the web, by people more intelligent than me. Still, I wanted to chime in with my own opinions before the funding deadline is reached.

The Twitter Phenomena… A Live Social Stream Is So Important

Here’s the backstory: Many prominent social platforms (twitter, facebook, etc) deliver tremendous value to their user’s through 3rd party access to their APIs. Essentially, external developers can build on top of these platforms in the form of games (think farmville), applications (spotify), and other constructs. What this does for the user is create a much richer online experience. An open API also brings value to the actual platform developers, as so much more content is delivered to their users without additional expense. Innovation can happen at a much greater rate when the platform is open. Everybody wins.

Once attaining a critical mass, these Social Platforms naturally begin to think about money and profitability. So, they turn towards the only established model of income for such ventures: an ad-based revenue model. Now, in an ad-based revenue model, success is predicated on the # of page-views. This directly conflicts with having an open API and platform, as many of the 3rd party applications built upon these social platforms direct views away the platform to the outside sources. So, instead of having 3rd party developers built on the social network’s platform, keeping development in-house keeps page views on the platform. Then, the shutdowns begin. Facebook’s API became more restricted. As did Twitter’s. These restrictions threaten the entire 3rd party development ecosystems that the platforms support.

Dalton Caldwell has proposed a whole different system for funding social platforms. Instead of using an ad-based revenue model. He proposed straight charging users for entry, as well as charging developers to build application on the platform. This kind of premium live social stream has its pluses and minuses. The downside (and what many credit with what will be a failed fundraising period) is that users have to pay to gain access/membership. The upside (and the part I STRONGLY agree with) is that charging users and developers will allow the platform to retain its integrity! It will not shut out 3rd party developers who threaten page views and it will not become an ad-riden experience as Facebook has.

Yes, it will cost us users money. But what fantastic experience doesn’t?!?!?! I enjoy paying for Spotify Premium. I like having an ad-free experience.

The consumer internet is still relatively young, and it is definitely still evolving. I believe the initial push-back from consumers against online services that required membership fees was because they weren’t receiving enough value in exchange. Also, many of the physical services were overpriced before the Internet (CD’s and Music). So when the option for free digital versions arose, consumers leapt at the opportunity.

Free, ad driven models have become the norm. But, people will pay for greatness. People will pay for great services. Hell, look at HBO. Sure, Youtube offers free video content. And, HBO is disrupting the hell out of mediocre television. But, people are more than willing to pay for HBO’s additional content. The free option of Youtube entertainment hasn’t touched HBO. Thus is the power of premium experiences.

App.net is striving to create a premium experience of a social streaming platform. One with integrity. One that will not go back on its promises once it attains critical mass. The business plan allows for this. So take a leap of faith. Donate.

Screenshot of my App.net

They’re so close. Be a part of the future, for even though free is the present model, it delivers shitty products. Instead, lets move toward the future. Where premium costs deliver premium content.
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Vegas Post Script Haiku:

I Hate Las Vegas
Gambling, Stress. Drinking, Stress.
Free Trip, So I Go. 🙂

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Disruption Abound: The Future is Siloed Excellence

This picture gets my blood racing (NERD ALERT):

Goodbye Conglomerate Service, Hello Siloed Excellence

The above picture breaks down all the services currently competing with Craigslist. However, each of the above firms are only competing with Craigslist in one (maybe two) area(s). Essentially, what’s happening is that for a long time now, Craigslist has provided a very solid platform for personalized transactions online. However, it assumes the same basic format is applicable for all these different types of transactions. That is simply not the case.

An interface optimized for selling homemade crafts is going to be different than one optimized for job posting/searching. The reason for this is quite simple: different transactions/postings require different designs and attract different audiences.

Craigslist has provided a very successful, free, and profitable platform. I’ve used it countless times. However, the core product is too broad. Craigslist’s inability to customize its service for different sectors, along with an outdated and hassle-ridden design could well lead to its downfall. That fact, along with the flattened access and distribution platform of the modern Internet, means that Craigslist is being disrupted by many niche services (check out the linked Dave Mcclure post on the power of niche) which are custom built to excel at delivering a single, narrow product.

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The reason this picture “gets my blood racing,” is because LOOK AT ALL THAT OPPORTUNITY. There is so much space for narrow, excellent vision and product execution in todays marketplace. The evolution of the Internet has led our society to a place that is so ripe with opportunity for innovation and disruption. But, what is truly beautiful is that those opportunities will/can be successful because THEY SOLVE A PROBLEM FOR PEOPLE.  They do genuine good because their products help people live more efficiently. They add value to lives. And that is just plain awesome.

 

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Update: This was recently published in the NY Times about what could happen to Craigslist. Interesting Read!