My daily readings 11/30/2010

  • tags: Startup

    • #3.  Build early and often.  Alex and I lived by this in grad school and with dodgeball.  We’d roll out half-baked features a few times every week and were more worried about getting stuff in the hands of users than making sure it was perfect or actually worked.  We do the same kind of stuff with the foursquare prototype at SXSW 2009 (giving ourselves a deadline by which the thing HAD to be working – at which point we still though people would laugh as the idea of “life as a game”) and we still do it now – hacking on things internally to see how they “feel” long before they’re launched.
    • Yes.  If you’re thinking of doing anything in an emerging space – RFID, near-field presence, iPods that trade files on the street, connecting strangers in a room – just find some way to hack it together.  Even if it’s not ideal, your thinking will be advanced enough so that when the iPhone 5 with built-in near field RFID and 100 hours of battery life comes to market, you’ll have the foundation in place (both tech & your understanding of what works / what doesn’t) to make your ideas a reality.  (and if you are thinking about this space, use our API – it’s pretty advanced in terms of “who’s with whom” and “personal history” – we build this stuff because we needed it, and built an API so that other people could use it too 🙂
    • #5.  Hire the best people you can find.  This was kind of easy in the early days of foursquare – we hired our friends who were really passionate about the stuff they were building (most had other location+mobile+social side projects or startups).  We have a superstar team not just because their resumes are so strong, but because they’ve been passionate, thinking about and tinkering in this space forever. Those are the people you want to surround yourself with.
  • tags: anti-social

    • To me, one of the most interesting thing about Foursquare is the History tab. It transforms the service from a “where you are” app, into a “where you were” log. In a way, it’s sort of like a diary. I wish Twitter was better at this idea as well. Because what I tweeted a year ago says something about how I was feeling, or what I was doing back then. In fact, a lot of the web services we use on a daily basis would be perfect for this type of passive diary writing. And that’s exactly what Momento, an iPhone app, makes happen.
    • It’s another of the anti-social social apps, like OhLife and the newer Path, which seem to focus more on what experiences mean to you (or a very small group of friends), rather than to strangers and the larger web as a whole.
  • tags: foursquare LBS

  • tags: Social network design

    • This isn’t touchy feely stuff. Neither I nor the prospective people who may use your social product care about your features, your game mechanics, or how amazing your application will be when there are millions of people on it. I’m selfish with my time and you’ve got seconds to hook me in with something new. And I’m not alone.
    • It’s not always obvious upfront what should be your best in the world focus and enshrining the wrong thing can be a problem. However, it is much worse to build a social product without guiding principles. When you are focused on the one thing your social product is going to do better than everyone else, all you need to launch is your one thing and no more.

      Ask yourself and every member of your team what you are best in the world at every week. Even better, define it, agree on it, print it out, blow it up, and put it on the wall. This should be the filter by which everyone is making product decisions.

    • But equally important – especially in a world of infinite supply – is what makes us feel different and special. People want scarcity. People want exclusivity. This doesn’t mean your social product should be limited to a niche. Frontierville was built for mass appeal – so that I could play with ALL of my friends – but it still finds ways to bring uniqueness into its social experience via neighbors, customization of your plot, and collections.
    • It goes back to the issue of infinite supply. If there is an infinite supply of points, badges, and levels because they exist on every single social product out there, the minute you use them without being thoughtful, you are losing your shot at exclusivity and scarcity. A better approach is to figure out what makes people feel unique and special on your service independent of any specific game tactic. Then, selectively cherry pick the features that reinforce your emotional reason for existence for people. For uniqueness to work, you have to lead, not follow.
    • Once you have the critical features defined, there is typically one interaction that is clearly the most important to get right. It’s the interaction that if you get right means someone comes back and, if you don’t get it right, you can’t realize your full potential.
    • You want your social product to feel like it is a living and breathing party, not expensive furniture you’re not supposed to sit on.
    • 7. Develop relationships, not features. Today, we have multiple personalities and different types of relationships with people in the real and virtual worlds. If you are going to design a new social product, it’s not enough to just offer a feature, like photos, videos, or events. You need to look at how the relationships on your social product will be important and different from the relationships you and others have already on Facebook, LinkedIN, and Twitter.
    • For a new social product, you need to think about how your social product expands, deepens, and changes the relationships people have today online and in the real world. This isn’t easy to achieve. The best example of a social product doing this well is Quora. Originally seeded with Facebook’s social graph, it has quickly differentiated itself by showing you people you may care about because of their thoughtful commentary, experience, and expertise displayed on topics that are important to you.
    • As I think about what’s going to be created, discovered, invented, and re-imagined with social software in the next six months let alone the next five years, I can’t help but be excited. These principles shine a light on the first few feet in front of us, but, with every new social product success there will be new ones. As Alan Kay timelessly put it, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
  • tags: Content discovery

    • Serendipity is really just an informed calculation based upon any number of our individually unique interests, habits, location, the time and date, and prior knowledge. This level of relevance is, of course, what the emerging personalized Web hopes to achieve for each user, whether for recommendations (GetGlue; Hunch), marketing and ads (Rapleaf; Facebook advertising), or news and content (my company, TrapIt).

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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