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Professional Blog - Chris Saad



Paying Attention: Personal Blog of Chris Saad



Last Build Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:53:30 +0000

 



The real implications of Apple's new AirPods

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:55:14 +0000

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What a lot of people seem to have missed is that Apple didn't just launch wireless earbuds last week. They launched a wireless microphone as well. 

I said this about 2 years ago: The next great product category for device makers will be wireless earbud+mic.

Not only did they go to great lengths to explain how the microphone worked, they also showed how the user can double-tap to access Siri.

Get it? 

To jump ahead, simply think about the movie "Her". Think about the Star Trek computer.

The next great, mainstream interface is not going to be Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality. It's going to be voice. It's voice agents. It's conversational commerce (not single purpose chat bots, but a few smart general purpose agents with trainable skills).

Amazon Echo has done a great job of making voice omni-present in the home. I use it all. the. time.

Using Siri or Google Assistant, however, still feels too hard.

If Apple can take the stigma away from 'Bluetooth headsets' they have an opportunity to literally 'have our ear' (or rather, our Attention) all day long.

And before you say "Siri sucks". It's software. It's in the cloud. I guarantee they're working on making it better. Or they will just buy Viv.

- Originally posted on Facebook, Sept 11, 2016

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Unbundled

Mon, 02 May 2016 01:21:09 +0000

How the breaking apart of traditional, rigid structures is creating a personalized, on-demand future and changing the everyday interactions of people, politics, and profit.

About this post

This post is based on a theory and a book outline I’ve been chipping away at since 2010. Since I’m probably going to be too busy to ever finish the full thing, I figured I would massively truncate and post it here so that it’s finally out in the world in some form. In the six years I’ve been thinking about this subject, it’s only become clearer with the advent of the on-demand economy, 3D printing etc. Please excuse the length!

Introduction

In Silicon Valley we’ve used the term “Unbundling” to describe the phenomena of mobile apps breaking apart into multiple separate apps, each essentially providing more focused, single purpose features. Think of the Facebook app being separated into Facebook + Messenger.

I believe this Unbundling phenomena is happening almost universally across all aspects of life. It’s a meta-trend that has been happening for decades (or more) and will continue for decades to come. It’s a common process affecting many of the things happening in the world today. In fact most of the major disruptions we see (loss of traditional jobs, failing record companies, terrorism, divorce rates, the rise of fringe/underdog political candidates etc) are all, in at least some way, connected to this fundamental transition.

See the full post on Medium

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My New Mission: Everyone’s Personal API

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:44:11 +0000

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If you're too young for this reference, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8To-6VIJZRE

Today I'm excited and humbled to announce I will be joining Uber as Product Manager for Uber API and Strategic Partnerships.

APIs create an ecosystem of shared success, move markets and change the world. But, of course, APIs alone are not enough; there also needs to be a deep respect for the Developers who invest their time and energy into implementing those APIs into their apps.

My hope is to continue having a great deal of empathy in the role because, like many of you, I’ve personally participated in many aspects of the developer ecosystem. Together we’ve been the anonymous face in the audience excited by the big platform announcements. We’ve been the outspoken critic of decisions that made things more difficult for developers. We’ve lobbied for a more open Internet by promoting Open Standards. We’ve been part of the day-to-day grind of implementing 3rd party APIs and building our own APIs and Developer Ecosystems. These experiences will help shape how we make things easier for implementers.

My role also involves Strategic Partnerships. I’ll be working on particularly large scale or novel 3rd party implementations. I hope these high-profile projects will both bring the power of Uber to more users as well as act as inspirational examples of what’s possible with the API. And don't worry, one of my big missions is to use any custom integrations and partnerships to drive solutions that we'd make available to the entire ecosystem.

Uber is an incredibly exciting company sitting at the intersection of multiple trends including Mobile, the On-demand Economy and Big Data. The potential is big: to make our daily life more efficient, create jobs and help cities and towns to run more smoothly. The Uber API will play a key role in this opportunity.

While I can't yet speak to specific plans, I want everyone who has ideas or feedback for any developer resources from Uber to drop me a line. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to build something amazing.

Now it’s time to get to the bar and celebrate. Who’s calling an Uber?

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New Opportunities

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 02:48:00 +0000

Today I'm searching for new opportunities.

Over the last 5 years at Echo I’ve lead product for the team who built the Echo Real-time Developer Platform from 0 to 85 Billion API calls a month, some 30+ shrink-wrapped consumer social products and the super slick drag-n-drop Echo Experience Studio with 100+ customer deployments.

We’ve powered amazing brands like Salesforce, AWS, WWE, ESPN, NASDAQ, USA Networks, Washington Post, Coke, Fanta, AT&T, Scripps Networks, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and many, many more.

It’s been an amazing journey with a passionate and dedicated team - I’m grateful and humbled to have had their trust and hard work. 

At each stage I’ve had the chance to mature my skills in all aspects of the product and startup lifecycle including rapid prototyping, agile/lean development, branding and marketing, growing teams/cultures, scale and security, developer platforms and ecosystems, B2B product/sales/support, and beautiful, easy-to-use B2C experiences (some lessons learned: http://bit.ly/1DNNqEV).

Today I’m announcing that my time at Echo is coming to a close. It’s time for me to look for new horizons!

I don’t yet have a specific project or company I’ll be doing next. But I know some of the characteristics I’ll be looking for...

  1. Smart, passionate and hungry people
  2. A product making (or having the potential to make) a big impact
  3. An opportunity for me to work my ass off to help the venture succeed

So if you’re working on something great and need help with…

  • Business and product strategy
  • Product management
  • UI/UX
  • Developer platforms/APIs
  • Developer ecosystems and App marketplaces
  • Open standards (adopting, creating, influencing)
  • Modern UI metaphors (Cards, activity streams)
  • Future of media
  • Working with brands

Then I want to hear what you’re working on and how I can help!

Drop me a line

You can also find out more about my experience at www.linkedin.com/in/chrissaad

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Context Matters Episode 5 - FB Suicide Prevention, Cocaine use in SF & Do you need to be in Silicon Valley?

Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:03:12 +0000

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See the full show notes

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The Collaborative Economy Technology Stack v1

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 01:28:28 +0000

My friend Jeremiah Owyang (twitter, website) is the analyst researching, defining and leading the conversation on the Collaborative Economy. I, along with Rahim Fazel (twitterwebsite), assisted him to create this diagram as a visual aid for newcomers to the space.

See Jeremiah's post for the full detail.

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Context Matters Episode 4 - Medium vs Twitter, Culture war in San Francisco

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:07:53 +0000

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See the show notes

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39+ tips for building a startup after 15 years of success and failure

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 17:36:43 +0000

I’ve been working on startups in one form or another since about 1999. I started hanging out in Silicon Valley informally in 2008, and moved formally at the beginning of 2009.In Silicon Valley there’s a particular flavor of startup that gets built. One where you “raise money, grow fast and make an impact”. In Silicon Valley “Success” is about being validated by a large market (most important), investors (less important) and “making the world a better place”. By this measure, I feel like I’ve had some share of big wins and great outcomes. More importantly, though, I’ve had the opportunity to make and learn from a lot of mistakes.Along the way I also advise many startups, as well as pay close attention to the broader startup ecosystem. As I do, many “obvious” mistakes jump out at me as I flash back to how intuitive those same decisions seemed to me at the time and how clearly unhelpful they were in hindsight.What follows are some of my personal, high-level and incomplete tips resulting from this experience. Although I’m very technical, I am not a practicing engineer, so these tips are written from the perspective of a “non-technical co-founder”.I’ve written the advice more or less in the order in which you might need it, and in a fairly stream of consciousness way. Some of the tips might seem cliche or obvious to those "In the know" - but in my experience they are easy to ignore, misunderstand or underestimate when you’re in the thick of following your dream and “thinking different”. There’s also a huge knowledge gap between those with experience and those who are just getting started.As always, there are exceptions to every rule and many of the individual tips in this list are not mandatory on their own. However, if you start skipping too many of them, it will really undermine your chances for success.Before you even get startedBe in Silicon valleyYes you can succeed in other places, but the chances of any business succeeding are so small, why start with a disadvantage?Some argue that the ecosystem in their area is "getting better" or they’re "going to help build the ecosystem along the way". Trust me, as someone who’s tried, It’s hard enough building and driving the train, you can’t lay the tracks at the same time! (A retort from the great Jeremiah Owyang) (Jeremiah and I debate the issue on Context Matters Episode 5)Have a big vision - a master plan for how you want to change the world Now forget your big vision  - Or you’ll risk trying to boil the ocean. Instead…Figure out a very specific, painful, real problem Find a problem where there’s a significant number of people or companies that would materially benefit from a solution. It’s essential that the problem is one you are personally experiencing and/or are super passionate about solving.Find people who are uniquely qualified This is one of those cliche pieces of advice that’s easy to ignore as you band together with your friends to just build something. The fact is there’s a huge gap between great people who win and mediocre people who don’t. Find great people to execute on your idea with you. Great is hard to quantify here, but it includes curiosity, humbleness, hunger, high-EQ, team spirit, self-motivation, discipline and, ideally, high levels of skill and experience in the given problem domain.A big, sobering question to also consider is: Why are you qualified?Make sure you have a technical co-founder who knows what they’re doingIf you’re building a tech/software product (and you should be) you can’t outsource the core technical function. You must earn (not find) a technical co-founder by doing lots of wireframes, mockups or even having a minimum viable prototype built from an elance contractor. But before you kick into [...]



Context Matters - Episode 3 - Brian Williams Scandal, The Anti-vaccine Movement

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 02:38:46 +0000

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See the show notes

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Why Context Matters?

Wed, 11 Feb 2015 16:20:32 +0000

Context Matters is a new podcast that me and my friend Brian Solis are working on. I'd love for you to check it out!

I've embedded the first 2 episodes + a bonus track below.

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Long term, personalized value in the news business

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 00:22:11 +0000

Just a quick thought...

Media companies are so focused on "going where the audience is" that they forget how to serve those audiences, cultivate them, inform them and build trust with them over the long term with a web and mobile product that serves the needs of the news consumer.

They say that Facebook and Twitter have "made the home page irrelevant" - while that's true, in actuality they've dived head first into that irrelevancy by missing opportunity after opportunity for true personalization and next-gen UI/UX metaphors.

News feed, social, real-time, follow, notify, citizen journalism, reputation, journalist participation - even something as basic as comments - still no where to be seen in any major outlet.

The latest example is a CNN redesign that is functionally exactly the same as it's been for decades while at the same time they invest in gimmicks over on Snapchat.

It takes two to facilitate disruption. The disruptor to innovate and the disrupted to wallow in inaction.

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How telling our own stories is disrupting Journalism

Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:20:43 +0000

It's become increasingly clear to a growing number of people that the Internet, and more recently Social Media, are empowering individuals to tell their own story... 1 tweet at a time. Victims, Terrorists, Dictators, Celebrities, Politicians, Countries and even every day citizens get to publish their message, their way, free of pesky intermediaries called 'Journalists'.

I've been writing about this, in one form or another, for pretty much as long as I can remember. Certainly since I read the Cluetrain Manifesto some 10+ years ago.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there's no place for Journalists/Editorial Voice. I believe the ultimate answer is the intersection of social conversation and editorial curation.

That being said, However, I was tickled by this post on Vox today where Senator Barbara Boxer announced her retirement using the traditional TV Journalist/Politician interview format - with her grandson playing the role of journalist.

I'm sure she didn't mean it this way, but it's a stark example of how the Journalist could be seen as disposable, interchangeable or even totally unnecessary in a wide range of traditional journalism cases.

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Given this accelerating trend, journalists, and media companies, are running out of time to find their (essential) place in the future of story telling and journalism.

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Context is Everything. News Should Be A Collaborative Work

Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:16:06 +0000

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News is broken. In a Twitter Generation most people just read the headlines before getting incensed and outraged... for 15 minutes. For me, I try (and often fail) to make a point of reading the whole article before forming an opinion. Often times reading many, many articles. I find myself wishing there was a great deal more supporting information on the page so that I don't have to work so hard to discover the truth.

But I'm a news and information junkie, right? The mainstream audience doesn't need or want that kind of detail, right? It's not worth the effort because it won't generate more revenue for news orgs right?

History is replete with examples of convention wisdom underestimating the audience (E.g. they just want 140 characters or 2 minute snackable videos) and pioneers daring to give them something more and, in the process, succeeding beyond anyones wildest dreams.

Vice comes to mind as a recent example. In an era where people said "young people don't care about news" and "they can only watch 2 minute videos" Vice has managed to deliver long form, in-depth news pieces that young people are eating up like crazy.

Given this, I'd like to see more from news content and/or news platforms. I'd love to see news that presents the articles along with the following additional data included (there are interesting possibilities for UI innovation here - but in most cases a simple hyperlink would probably suffice).

  1. Timeline of events for this story (circa does an amazing job here)
  2. Broader historical context and precedents
  3. Supporting/contradicting facts (preferably in charts and graphs)
  4. A comprehensive and CURATED compilation of related coverage and conversation in other places, 
  5. Biases of the reporter and contributing sources
  6. Biases of the subjects of the story (particularly if politicians are involved) 

There's probably more to add to this list, but that's a good start.

Basically I'd like to turn Atoms back into multi-celled organisms at the point of consumption.

I suspect it would take a crowdsourced annotation model to achieve this level of detail for every story or storyline. Essentially a Wikipedia for breaking/major news. This would turn news into a Collaborative Work.

Do you have great examples of this happening somewhere? The closest I can think of is Circa (as mentioned they are doing point 1 in my list) and Genius.com.

Interested in working on it? I'd be interested in helping out.

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Collaborative Works

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 23:34:36 +0000

There's been a lot of talk about the impact of social media on mainstream media, democracy and politics. It's also clear that the 'collaborative' or 'sharing' economy is going to massively disrupt traditional business models and concepts of ownership vs. access.

I'd like to propose another area of exploration. Collaborative Works. That is, work product produced as a result of a broad collaboration between loosely tied peers.

Think Wikipedia.

I struggle to think of too many other great examples. Some loosely related case studies might include...

  • Facebook Groups, for example, allow a few people to curate and collaborate to create a space for others to hang out in. You can even invite people into groups as part of the curation effort. But it's very rudimentary right now and the 'work product' is fairly simple.
     
  • The Reddit community also does a good job of covering major breaking news and producing collaborative reporting and investigative citizen journalism. While the Reddit team has made some moves to bake more support for this behavior into the product, the platform was never really designed for this kind of use-case.
     
  • Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding platforms) is also related to this, in that they ask the crowd to donate pure cash to a project. But it asks very little else of its users.
     
  • Genius.com is perhaps closest to my vision. It's a platform for crowd sourcing annotations of lyrics, news and other content.

I think there's a real opportunity to take this to another level. Perhaps by applying some new user experience metaphors on top of traditional social networks to coax/incentivize directed effort towards meaningful work product.

My personal dream would be to see collaboratively produced/curated news. News that is collaboratively produced from initial idea all the way through sourcing, writing, editing, fact checking and distribution.

Something open like Twitter #hashtags but less 'shouting into the stream' and more 'composing a collective narrative'.

In the past I've suggested that adding narrative structure on top of social media conversation was the role of Mainstream Media and the traditional Editorial Process, but, except for a few bright spots, I've increasingly become disillusioned with the attempts so far. However even if there was great traditional editorializing going on, I'd still love to see what democratizing the editorial part of the process might look like.

News is not the only 'work product' that could be developed collaboratively though. I'd love to hear your thoughts. What other work product do you think might lend itself well to Collaborative Work? Let me know what you think!

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The Tyranny of Choice

Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:02:13 +0000

For the longest time I was all about Choice. Give users flexibility, power, choice I'd say. Open ecosystems create opportunities for innovation I'd say.

I've recently changed my mind. At least when it comes to the first few stages of creating a new product/company/opportunity.

It seems that the number of people with any taste and tenacity is quite small and the opportunity (especially when you're just getting started) is not about consumer choice but about product choices. Creating great Product is all about making hard, opinionated choices based on best practices, intentionality and specific use-cases/markets in mind. The choices need to be on the design side so that the consumption side (the consumer buying your stuff) does not have to think.

I bring all this up to say this.

The Android and Windows device marketplaces are still missing the point.

It seems that every device manufacturer (with a couple of notable exceptions) is committed to creating as many phones as they can in a range of colors, sizes, variations and price points.

This one has a big lens on the back. This one has a crazy massive screen. This one comes in red. This one is the 'prime' version. This one is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Play running Android Kitkat 4.23423 on Verizon - are you kidding me!?

I follow these things very closely, and I still can't tell you what the hell is going on. I can't imagine the confusion in the mind of the regular consumer.

The opportunity for Android and Windows is to create ONE flagship phone and iterate on a regular schedule - each time getting better and better. No forks, no variations, no changes and one distinct brand.

Then, and only then, can you start to introduce some simple variations. Black or white. 16gig or 32gig.

The current overcomplicated approach seems to stem, at least in part, from a technology mindset. Version numbers, inheritance, open source etc. The problem is that cell phones are not computing devices. They are not technology. They are consumer electronics. They are jewelry.

As far as I can tell, the only vendor+product doing this besides Apple is Microsoft with the Surface. But on the Nokia side they still have an embarrassingly large range of phones with stupid names based on numbers. If anyone can explain what the numbers mean I will give them a bitcoin.

Sure Surface is still losing money, but at least they are building trust over time that this is a stable, supported, flagship product that is a viable alternative. There is no tyranny of choice.

Of course the Surface has it's own problems of trying to be both a Tablet and a Laptop - but that's a discussion for another day.

I hope now that the Nokia acquisition is complete, Microsoft's next move is turn down the noise over there and get them to focus on one device that matters.

This post was inspired by a friendly debate with the awesome Doug Crets over on Facebook.

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Some suggestions for Google's Social Product StrategySome suggestions for Google's Social Product Strategy

Sat, 21 Jun 2014 06:33:10 +0000

Photo Credit: http://photos.jdhancock.com/photo/2011-09-11-232435-relationship.html While Facebook struggles to unbundle it's vertically integrated social network into simplistic mobile apps, Google already has a collection of discrete and powerful apps that millions of active users love every day. Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Groups etc are all products that enjoy a level of deep usage that provides a strong foundation for social. Why push users to adopt a stand alone social network called Google+?While the devil is obviously in the details, here's some of the high level things I'd do if I ran Google's Social Product Strategy...Discontinue the Google+ brandMerge Gmail Contacts, Hangouts Buddy List, Youtube Subscriptions, Google+ Circles, Android Address Book etc into a single product called 'Google Contacts'.Merge G+ accounts with the core Google Accounts productAdopt some of the social polish from G+ ProfilesDisplay public activity (Shares, +1s, YouTube video uploads etc) on an Activity TimelineEnsure strong support for Facebook Connect style functionality. Google Connect. using open standards of course.[Most Important] Build a discrete product called 'Google News Feed'Feed it activity data from YouTube Uploads, YouTube Thumbs Ups, YouTube Comments, Google Drive Actions, +1 Buttons, Google Groups activity Etc based on your Google Contact ListBase the UI on the existing G+ Cards design with additional refinement based on Facebook style Stories and Story summariesDisplay the Google News Feed in YouTube, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Home page, Google News etc as an open panel/pane/right rail. Depending on the service you bias or filter the feed toward that particular content type (E.g. on YouTube, show mainly YouTube news feed stories with a tab/switch to see 'All' stories).Include the News Feed as a default home screen widget on AndroidHeavily filter/summarize the News Feed stories with something similar to EdgeRankNow that there's real distribution for Google News Feed stories, give 3rd party developers an API so they can publish to their Google Profile (via Google Connect of course) and, by extension, into the News Feed of followers/contacts.Keep G+ notifications but simplify the UI and merge it with Android Notification Center - calling it simply 'Google Notifications'. There's no reason my Mobile notifications are different than my web/google notifications.Fix Hangouts so that it's a first class communications productDrop the obsession with Video. A hangout should simply be an ad-hoc or permanent group of 2 or more people. From a group, a user can launch into a Voice OR Video chat. For example right now it's difficult to simply start a voice call without suddenly broadcasting your video to everyone (particularly on mobile).Finally add proper SMS support ala Google VoiceBuild a proper Skype class desktop client. The browser extension is barely usable and has a number of limitations due to the browser sandboxStreamline the invite/group creation process. Right now it's hard to start an Audio only call (see point 1) or find/send the right invite link (I tried it recently and it failed over and over again)Make the web version answer incoming phone calls in less than the 30 seconds it takes now - most people hang up before it connectsProvide an option (or even default) for the Google Hangouts iOS/Android Dialer to use the Voice network for calls (like Google Voice does right now) rather than dataFinally kill the Google Voice Web and Mobile apps (since Hangouts would now have feature parity)Replace the Android default Dialer and SMS Apps with HangoutsBonus: Buy HuminBake some of[...]


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How Apple might compete with Google on Search

Mon, 09 Jun 2014 01:08:21 +0000

Thought experiment.

Yesterday I tweeted lamenting the fact that a report shows we now search more within Apps than Google/Web Search...

Well....

  1. Notice that on iOS 'Search' is branded 'Spotlight Search'.
  2. Notice the new 'Continuity' Features on iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite that involve lots of cross iOS/OSX interactions
  3. Notice the SMS Syncing between iMessage and Desktop
  4. Notice deep spotlight search on the OSX - showing content within an App in the search results (like recent documents etc)
  5. Apple has clearly shown they want to disintermediate Google by turning every search box on an Apple device (iOS or OSX alike) into a branded search experience "Spotlight" that a) they control b) mixes both web and native/app content.


Imagine taking this further in a series of incremental steps that would eventually lead the app developer community along towards a powerful end goal...

  1. Introduce 'Deep App Search' on iOS. An API that App Developers can use to allow spotlight to index their contents so they can appear in iOS search results and/or Siri or more often
  2. Introduce 'Continuity' for Search Results... When I get a result on OSX Spotlight, why can't I 'launch' it on my iOS Device and vice versa.
  3. Introduce Search Sync so that OSX Spotlight can return results from my iOS devices/Apps (and vice versa). Content that can only be seen on my phone will only allow that option in the search results
  4. All of this would presumably be via iCloud... 
  5. Apple could provide a WEB Interface to all this.. say at Spotlight.com
  6. BOOM! Apple would now have a differentiated Web Search Interface that rivals Google using...
  • A well known search brand (Spotlight)
  • Bing for Web (at least until they decided to build their own)
  • Deep/personalized results from your iOS app data. They might even be able to reach into FB if FB played along with the FB iOS App.
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The challenge of developing Open Standards

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 17:09:29 +0000

A lifetime ago I created something called the DataPortability Project and, separately, proposed my own standard called APML. I also co-authored the Backplane standard. The first two were not very successful in achieving their mission. The latter is currently enjoying a medium amount of success.During these experiences, and while observing other standards efforts (particularly in the social media and web space), I've come to be quite jaded about the Standards processI still believe deeply in the vision of Open Standards. A world where independent parties can interoperate with each other without prior negotiation means that there's free and rapid iteration for the benefit of everyone.Most of life as we know it is enabled by standards of one kind or another. From which side of the road you drive on to the shape and power coming out of your wall socket. The Internet itself is a miracle of technical standardization - from TCP/IP to HTML5.The reality, however, is often times far messier and more frustrating than one would expect and hope. It's caused me to rethink some of my earlier, perhaps naive, points of view.So, despite my love and admiration for the work and many of the individuals, I'd like to indulge in a post about the frustrations with standards and the standards community...The standards writing community tends to be mired in politics divided along minutia like HOW to organize yourself and WHICH technical approach is the most elegant and WHO is running what clique. You have to approach it in exactly the right way or risk offending someone (this post likely wont help).The community tends to be fairly academic resulting in commercial applications and/or ease-of-use taking a back seat.If any commercialization does happen, only the 'losers' in the market tend to participate so it never becomes dominant or particularly useful at solving the end goal (which is not openness, but interoperability). Even when big players participate they tend to send people who do not have the political capital at their company to adopt what's been developed in any meaningful way.For some reason engineers/implementers would rather create a proprietary format or protocol over an open standard just because the latter sounds like more work. Unfortunately often times they're right.it's easy to write a technical spec and propose it as a standard. The problem is getting consensus amongst the technical community and adoption by companies that matter. Unfortunately most standards efforts get stuck on the first part and never even begin to tackle the second and most important part. Adoption is far more important than getting every technical detail correct.As a result the standards often die on the vine or shortly thereafter.As far as I can tell real standards tend to emerge only after proprietary innovation is created and commercialized by a first mover who wins big. Part of their competitive advantage is they get to control the implementation and iterate on it quickly. This forces competitors to fast-follow (read: copy) the conventions and models of that market leader.This results in a kind of rough, market led convention that, while not open and interoperable, lasts for pretty much the entire cycle in which the particular technology is relevant, interesting or rapidly changing. This can take many, many years. Decades even.Once that layer/component in the technology stack becomes conventional (read:boring) and the battle (read:unique value prop and lock-in) has moved up the stack, then standards groups can get together, figure out the common cases (which have now stabilized and been fully figu[...]



Confessions of a Startup Founder trying to get Press...

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 23:37:52 +0000

I just read a great post by Bekah Grant about the pain and suffering that tech bloggers go through dealing with the continuous onslaught of startup founders trying to get press for their startups.I thought it might be fun to give the startup founder point of view so we can each understand each other's world a little better.IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERFirst let me say that many of my close friends are tech journalists/bloggers both past and present. I know (second hand) many of the frustrations they go through every day trying to do their best to stay on top of the stream of news, balancing priorities and serving the page view master. This post is not meant to be an attack on anyone - just a fun counter-balance to Bekah's post.The hungry, hungry employeesAs founders of startups we have asked other people to risk their livelihood (wives, employees, families, investors and so on) on our crazy idea. Not only are we desperate to see this idea succeed so we can make our own little dent on the universe, but there's also the constant fear of letting those who've bet on us down and having them and their families go hungry!In any given day you're dealing with product development, business development, fundraising, marketing, family issues, competitors, personal grievances between various stakeholders and the worst enemy of all - time.You don’t have any visibilityIt's hard to explain the sheer terror one feels after you've poured your blood, sweat, tears and money into a project, that, on launch day, it wont get covered... or... just as bad... it will get covered and no one will care.The reality is, of course, that even with coverage, launch day is often not the big 'build it and they will come' miracle moment most green entrepreneurs think it will be.In any case, get covered they must and trying to walk that fine line of diligent follow-ups without being annoying with a blogger who is spread too thin to give you a clear response is a nightmarish process.One would think it would be easier if you're friends with the blogger (as I sometimes am) but in truth it's even harder because you don't want it to ever seem like you're leaning on your friendship to get something written (because that is, of course, NOT the point of your friendship) and you don't want to upset your friend for some announcement.Bad PerspectiveAnother mistake that's easy to make as an Entrepreneur is that you are so intimately aware of every facet of your product and all of the underlaying assumptions and market dynamics that it's very, very easy to screw up your pitch.After being so close to something its often difficult to see the forrest from the trees in terms of the high level message or newsworthy angle.Getting outside advice and pitching it to friends first is often a good idea to help with this.Worse than a lack of personal perspective, though, is the difficulty in knowing what the journalist will actually care about or resonate with. Even if you research what they've written about before there's no guarantee that they still care about that space on the day of the pitch. They may have written about it once as a favor, or written about it endlessly and they are now sick to death of it such that they feel like your 'related app' is just a 'me too' copy. On the other hand If you come in with something fresh it might appear as outside their beat or simply too offbeat.There's obviously no excuse for pitching a B2B story to a B2C Gaming blogger though!PR PeopleAgain I am very fortunate to work and play with many in the blogger community so I don't need PR people to 'get introductions', [...]



A mission to make your startup really matter...

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 18:28:42 +0000

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As you can tell from my Personal Blog, I'm quite excited about the new TV show Cosmos

Partly because of the great new TV content for me to watch, but especially because of it's bigger, important mission of educating the people of the world on science and the scientific process.

A lot of people connect with me asking for advice for their startup and they start by telling me all the features of their app. It does X, and Y and if you press this button it will do Z as well!

If X or Y is unbelievably cool or novel, then that might be enough, but personally I'm far more interested in WHY it does X, Y and Z.

What is your Startup's bigger mission? How are you changing the world for the better?

Often times you will here about 'Marketing Narratives' from marketing people. David vs. Goliath/Challenger or Widest Range or Cheapest Prices or whatever. But that's not enough. Your story needs to go much, much deeper. It needs to be an actual mission. It needs to address an injustice in the world.

Having strong answers to these questions can inspire and motivate customers, employees, investors and journalists in a way that features can't. In turn, that motivation will open doors, fuel loyalty and drive success.

Continuing the case study of Cosmos, the creators of that show clearly have (and communicated) a mission around science literacy and continuing the legacy of Carl Sagan. As a result they managed to produce something far more than just another TV show. Instead they have created the most widely distributed first-run TV show in history boasting feature film quality CGI - All for something that could have easily been just another, run-of-the-mill science documentary show!

Remember though: A mission is not just for marketing. It's not something that you should just bolt onto your press releases. It should be part of the very DNA of your company. If you don't have one, then take the time to think more deeply about why you care about the thing your building and have it inform every decision from feature prioritization to partnership opportunities.

Live it, breath it, and actually change the world.

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