FOWA: Making Your App Social (Rashmi Sinha) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. [Suw also took notes on this talk.](*

Rashmi does Slideshare, which is 1 year old today!

The idea behind slideshare: presentations are hard to share. Pictures of Flickr, videos on YouTube, but what about the slides?

*Again, nothing against the person presenting, but a case study of SlideShare shouldn’t be titled “Making Your App Social”*

People share varied stuff on SlideShare. After the initial “2.0” uploads, realised that PowerPoint is the simplest way for people to share a bunch of photos or stuff.

FOWA 2007 92

10 lessons…

– forget the iPod (good design, but it’s not social)
– give up control, it’s messy
– plant seeds, let people connect
– should have a strong individual focus; don’t count on altruism
– try to solve one problem really really well

*steph-note: can hear Leah Culver (talking in the other room) in here really clearly, it’s quite annoying*

What kind of social? Social space or widget? Facebook app? own a piece of the social network *steph-booth: ew, [another use of “social graph”](–1.html)*

FOWA 2007 93

Privacy is social: sharing is often in closed circles *steph-note: yes!! yes!!* There is a whole continuum between “public” and “private”. Important to be able to shift back and forth between public and private. By setting the default to public, really enabled the sharing of bookmarks.

FOWA 2007 94

Brian: how do you carry privacy settings outside? (feeds, etc)
Rashmi: give control to the person. The social connection is the carrier of the “privacy metadata” (ie, tell your friends to not share further).

*steph-notes: some of my thoughts on privacy are in [Ethics and Privacy in the Digital Age]( I agree that for the moment, privacy is **mainly** managed through our relationships with others, rather than technically.*

Privacy is a tough issue.

Levels of participation: everybody is not a creator.

Popularity. Metrics:

– favorite & tag
– comment
– view
– embed
– download
– e-mail

“The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki– add to reading list.

Get into a conversation with users. You can’t get away from them, particularly if you’re in the social application space. Customer service as user research. Answer e-mails personally, monitor blogs… etc. *steph-note: cf. [Satisfaction](*

Launched SlideShare by just embedding a slideshow or her talk in her blog. October 4, TechCrunched.

Designed SlideShare for people like themselves, but quickly saw that people were using is to upload art, etc.

Rashmi believes more in “putting it out there”, and letting the people who need it find it, rather than a closed beta which is a lot of work. Hard to find the right people for the closed beta too. Launch first, refine later. *steph-note: I kind of agree, but in the case of coComment, for example, launching too early actually did them disservice.*

**Important:** make sure that what you “put out there” works. Little by little. Indeed, if it’s broken, people might try it and not come back. The “put it out there” philosophy works for non-critical stuff.

Be agile. Fail fast to get to the right answer. Track metrics, adjust, change.

Allow for play.

*steph-note: I’ve written about quite a few of these privacy issues on CTTS, and had a nice discussion over lunch with Rashmi. Start with [Ethics and Privacy in the Digital Age](*

Similar Posts:

FOWA: Predicting the Future of Web Apps (Edwin Aoki) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 91

1. A new industry consortium will develop standards for building web apps and concente for low-cost, reduced capability devices

2. AOL will announce a major push for HTML and JS applications on the desktop

3. A new mobile computing device, with a modern OS and open developer platform. The hardware will include a hard drive, harndwriting recognition, and a touch screen.

All these predictions have already come true… 10 years ago!

1. The Network Computer Reference Platform.
2. 1997: Netscape Crossware
3. AT&T/EO communicator (1994)

All these ideas are still relevant today. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the ideas.

The web apps of the future need to run everywhere. AJAX browser in the pocket (iPhoto), or on your Wii.

But you can’t be everywhere all at once.


– small and beautiful beats big and clunky
– sweat the details but not the infrastructure (let service providers do the heavy lifting for you)
– standards and openness are really important (employ them with an eye towards security and trust)
– technology moves faster than society (laws, education, customs), so use these tools responsibly — it’s up to us

Edwin predicts “Future of Stuff”, 5-10 years from now.

Similar Posts:

FOWA: The Future of Web Startups (Paul Graham) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Check out [Paul’s essay derived from this keynote]( The [conversation also continues on the YCombinator news site](*

*steph-note: missed the beginning, very incomplete*

FOWA 2007 88

Standardizing things, from funding to acquisitions. Acquisitions are interesting because the buying company knows exactly what “brain power” they are acquiring.

Instead of approaching venture capitalists with a plan, start the company with a few thousands of $$ from your uncle or [Y Combinator](, and then approach VCs with a company. *steph-note: I thought this was the obvious thing to do*

We still need startup hubs. You need to make a startup succeed, not just start. Here is the value of startup hubs: face to face meetings. No technology in the world replaces that. Whether you need it is not the question: the important thing is “does it offer an advantage or not”? If it does, then your competitors will have it over you if you don’t do it.

The ability to be able to work face-to-face for three months greatly outweighs the disadvantage of moving.

Seed funding is a national business, contrary to VC funding which is regional. No regional Y Combinator branches. Just like you can’t have a regional “big university”. But maybe seed funding is actually international?

If seed funding is indeed international, then not really possible to create other “Silicon Valleys”, because the people who are really motivated to succeed will move to SV, and those left behind are “less good”.

Acquirers are assholes, even the nicest companies (lawyers, “they’ll make you pay”). Need: Chief Acquisition Officers. Would both identify the opportunity and close the deal. Now it’s two separate steps. Maybe in future, big companies will have both a VP of Technology (in-house) and a CAO (bring good stuff in).

College may change, if hackers start building startups. For the moment it’s warped towards preparing you to have an employer. There’s nothing magical about a degree. Do you need a degree if you’re going to start your own company? The need for degrees is driven entirely by administrative requirements.

Don’t encourage people to start companies in college, though, because that gives them a great excuse to abandon their startup. OTOH, some of their best founders were still in school.

The greatest value of university is not the brand name or maybe the classes, but the other people you meet there. *steph-note: not sure this is valid outside the US.* Shift from getting good grades to impress employers to actually learning stuff because you’ll need it. *steph-note: OMG, is US education that broken?!*

Increasing the number of startups would mean you can’t sit on an idea if you have a good idea, because other people have your idea. So if it gets easier to start startups, then they are more likely to actually do it.

If people actually get to work instead of sitting on ideas, technology will evolve faster. Some ideas are too scary! Look at how hard a time Microsoft is having trying to figure out web apps. New ideas implemented increasingly in startups rather than big companies. Big companies are just not a good place to make things happen fast.

Talked with a guy who had his startup recently acquired by a big company. From a “lines of code cranked out”, they were 1/13th as productive after the acquisition. Something about big companies that just sucks the energy out of you.

Y Combinator: there to release energy by making it more easy for hackers to start their startups.

For the moment, the process of starting a company is a whole series of tubes 😉 — lots of kinks in the plumbing.

In future: a big straight pipe. Being measured by performance, fleshing out the arbitrary crap people are measured by nowadays.

Paul talked about exit strategies, not running a company to make money. Startup means exit. If there is no exit, there is not startup. Not all technology companies are startups. Not all new companies are startups.

Hackers actually like to make stuff, they’re not in there for the money. So actually, if you let them make stuff, you can pay them less! Big companies are paranoïd about their brand, they should be less scared about releasing stuff. Companies are judged by their successes, not the crap stuff they might have released (look at Google). Just let developers release stuff to the world.

What can we do to encourage startups? (Question from Ian Forrester, BBC).
A: Make documentaries on people doing startups. Seeing how it goes is usually what convinces people to take the plunge.

If you just want a couple thousand $, don’t raise VC money, just get angel money. What makes Silicon Valley is the angels. Google would have never made it if they hadn’t had angel money.

Y Combinator is going to open source their angel money paperwork, to make it easier for “rich hackers” to invest.

Similar Posts:

FOWA: The Edgeconomy (Umair Haque) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

Laws of the Edgeconomy

FOWA 2007 80

*steph-note: whoops, no more slides!*

(organizing principles)

– 1. Open beats closed

Huge companies are shifting to open business models.
A universe of external possibilities explodes.

– 2. Betters beat goods

– 3. Plastic beats specific

Bluetack vs. screw.
Glue that can hold stuff together.

Lots of companies get this, but it’s not enough.

How to make this work is about management. How do we manage all of this stuff? We really need to think about 3 key challenges.

1. volatility of the economy – interdependence

Craigslist does not intend to maximise profits.

Trust. *steph-note: slides are back*

FOWA 2007 83

FOWA 2007 84

Purpose Beats Profits.

FOWA 2007 86

Guilds were there to protect a skill.

A purpose is a set of shared beliefs about how value is created. Encapsulates key trade-offs. Google: organizing the world’s information (that’s a trade-off). *steph-note: I’m lost.*

Failure Beats Success.

Fail really fast. Not like Bush… Can’t plan for the future in this kind of environment.

Play Beats Work. There is No Consumer. They are the people at the edges of the firm. Synergistic relationships with firms. Culture > Brand. Competition is a Commodity.

Markets, Networks, and Communities Beat Firms.

We don’t compete. This is what we have to build business models upon.

Advantage is in the DNA. It’s the stuff that makes the firm go.

Future of the recording industry: two futures

– dynamic pricing
– open pricing (a kind of “social price” — challenge: how do you get that to scale?)

Networks manage risk much more efficiently. Communities are better for managing fixed costs. *steph-note: (?)*

Future of big media corporations? They need to start by blowing themselves up, atomizing — before coming back together.

FOWA 2007 82

*steph-note: can’t said I understood everything (and to be fair, I think Umair was a bit thrown off by the Powerpoint failure, or it’s just that I have trouble grasping all this “economy” stuff) but all this seems really interesting. Going to start reading [his blog]( for a while to see.*

Similar Posts:

FOWA: Customer Service is the New Marketing (Lane Becker & Thor Muller) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session with [Thor Muller]( and [Lane Becker]( of [Satisfaction]( They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 71

The sacred hospitality code: serve people food and welcome them in before you ask them their name. A drink before introductions. Let’s look at customer service from that point of view.

Amandari, Bali: 8 waitstaff per guest

Great approach to customer service, but unfortunately doesn’t scale very well.

Different approaches to customer service:

– customer-focused (Four Seasons, [Zappos](, [Craigslist](
– product-focused (Apple, Google, most web startups)
– infrastructure-focused (telecoms…)

The best way to deliver excellent customer service is the stop trying. Because trying looks like robots in cubes answering the phone.

FOWA 2007 77

[Funny Dell Customer Service Call YouTube video.]( In the US about 3% of the population is employed in related support roles.

“Customer Service from ValleySchwag” on Flickr.

Secrets of the Concierge (hotels):

– they talk, get to know people
– they have little control, but a lot of influence
– smashing the silos

Enter the Cluetrain…

“Customer interactions are our best branding opportunities” Tony Hsieh, Zappos. Call centre, with no scripts, and no metrics for call length. Just do everything it takes to make a happy customer. A bunch of concierges rather than robots.

Online: how do you make conversation central? Look at the guys doing [30boxes]( With their previous company, had so much success they couldn’t really keep up with their customer support. Worked from a business perspective, but they weren’t very happy about it. So with 30boxes, they set up [a forum]( Went to 50% questions unanswered (previous company) to 50% questions answered by other customers.

Once you start building a community, customers want to start telling you lots of other things. Lots of valuable stuff.

Disconnected support tools => disconnected customers. Contact page, FAQ, Trouble Tickets, Forum, Wiki… But they don’t produce and engaged experience, and it’s disconnected from the service that we’re offering. The common thing here is *conversations*, except with Trouble Tickets (separate).

With a trouble ticketing system, Customer Service is often a firewall between the company and the users. When you make the conversations public, everybody inside the organisation gets much more exposure to the problems, questions, suggestions… Your successes are magnified too.

Dell IdeaStorm. Digg-like thing for their more loyal customers.

Dangers: the Digg revolt. (“The numbers.”)

These conversations are happening somewhere. Better be somewhere you can engage in them.

In your hands, but out of your control. [JetBlue YouTube video]( (CEO speaking).

Don’t create systems that place constraints on customer interactions. (Time per call: don’t talk to people, avoid interaction… which is actually the wrong thing to do!)

[Ning]( Putting out major product releases on Fridays, as the only people who would be banging it around during the week-end would be their more rabid users. So they’d get feedback etc. from them, and by Monday the release would be nice and clean for “normal users”.


Think of your story as your customers’ story. They’ll put the word out for you and defend you in the marketplace.

Danger: people are messy.

**Smash the silos**: think like a network. Companies think of themselves as silos. Our customers are in a lot of different places. “It’s not our problem” is a problem. When something breaks, it can be hard to know who to call (ie, cellphone not working). People get bounced around from company to company. So, put the customer in the centre. All the stuff we’re building on the web is very interdependent. So, for customer support, we need to stay focused on the customer.

E.g. [Dopplr](, a web application that you can use all over the place without ever going on the website. Widgets, API, integration. But a customer support nightmare.

Growing belief that nobody is really in charge anymore. There isn’t necessarily one person/entity to go to. Participate in the larger conversation that’s going on.

Danger: competition? It’s difficult to speak about competition in an environment where everything is networked. Some companies don’t want forums because they don’t want customers talking about other products on their site.

“What would a concierge do?”

Genius Bar in Apple.

Similar Posts:

FOWA: The Future of Commerce (Robert Kalin) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. See [Suw’s notes on this talk](*

[Etsy]( soapbox for people who make things to stand up on.

FOWA 2007 69

Went to New York, faked college IDs to go and follow classes. Owning his education. Started about six different companies.

100’000 sellers on the site. Slow, regular growth. Only US$. Most of the users are in the English-speaking world.

If you engage people in a different way, you can change the way they relate to stuff.

Online marketplace: notorious tarpit where so many companies have tried to be successful. People go to offline marketplaces also for the people. The social aspect is important: who made what I’m buying?

Make things playful to engage people. Colour blobs you can play with on the screen, to choose things by colour. Time machine.

Userbase 95% women. 1500 people a day are joining at this stage.

*steph-note: I don’t mind being shown around Etsy, and this is quite interesting, but I’d expect something else from a talk titled “The Future of Commerce”. This more “Story of Etsy” or “Etsy Demo”. I think it’s really important that the people making the programmes of conferences are very clear about what the sessions cover.*

Etsy is still very much under the radar.

A brief history of money: going from very concrete (barter, silver coins with a certain weight) to abstract (paper money with number written on it, plastic, electronic — never physical).

Similar Posts:

FOWA: 10 Cool Web Apps Demo (Ben Forsaith, Adobe) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Very brief notes from [Ben Forsaith](’s session at FoWA.*

FOWA 2007 5

– Slide Rocket (Keynote/Powerpoint online)
– Scrapblog: make visual stuff
– Picnic: very easy to use, full online photo editor
– MTV Video Remixer: not working
– BuzzWord (recently purchased by Adobe)

Examples outside the browser (AIR):

– Fine Tune: web radio station with randomized playlist
– eBay
– a Media Player of some kind
– Pownce
– a Google Analytics tool (sounds nice)

Similar Posts:

FOWA: The Future of Search (Tony Conrad) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session with [Tony Conrad](, hosted by [Brian Oberkirch]( They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 24

Brian is the original Sphere groupie. Tony is one of the [Sphere]( founders.

Lots of blogs, but felt that nobody had made a really good job of making that content available to a more general public. => so with Toni Schneider, started Sphere in 2005.

Sphere had a promise: better, more relevant blog search.

Sphere bookmarklet: not link-based. Content relevancy. Something they threw in at the last moment, but a lot of their traffic came from there. *steph-note: if I understood that right.*

Day 8: OMG, we’re going to have to do something different.

Time contacts them to see if they can integrate context-related stuff to their articles. They loved it, but Tony didn’t like it: not a good user experience. People don’t want to go on a site called “” that they’ve never heard of. => little widget that would overlay on the page.

Ex. Reuters page. A-list publishers are getting very good at linking out, they understand the advantages (SEO + readership). Contextual link between mainstream media and social media (blogs). Widget works well for mainstream media and bloggers. (Long tail!)

FOWA 2007 27

FOWA 2007 29

The stuff in the left column and bottom of the page is generated automatically.

Overlay “window” with related content, also for blogs:

FOWA 2007 32

Over a billion article pages across the web in a year.

There is a widget now available for WordPress blogs, and one for TypePad in the advanced templates.

Issue: thinking about the scaling issues.

Different “client/users” have different requirements for what they want to filter out of their searches. Funny: CNN asking to remove the safe filter, and running lead story about “Pornification of American Culture” — Sphere did indeed find all the relevant results… and got an earful.

Publisher partners don’t want adult content.

Brian: lots of talk about how little it takes to bring a product to market, but this story is about what comes after… people scaling. 10 people now but not in the same office. *steph-note: Brian, not sure I interpreted correctly what you said*

Close to Automattic, which is a completely “virtual” *(steph-note: I hate that term)* company, meaning they’re scattered all over the place. Freedom to pick out the very best people for the job. Sphere communicate non-stop, always online, always on the phone, get together at 4-5 every Friday. At one point Tony had met 6 of the 10 people on the team, and he was the one who had met the most. So brought everybody in location in SF at some point, and it was awesome! *steph-note: Matt told me they had this happen at WordCamp for Automattic this summer.*

Tony: advocate of taking baby steps. Figure out an idea that’s going to be in a big space and nibble around the edges.

Brian: business model? how is this company going to make money?

Tony: Somewhat advertising-based (Brian notes there are no ads now).

Brian: is there an API?

Tony: to do an API right, and not screw people around, without conflicting with their ability to serve their partners the way they are today… *steph-note: sentence that never ended…*

Sphere’s focus is more at the publisher end than the long tail end (at least for the moment).

Testing people’s online collaboration skills is part of the hiring process.

Similar Posts:

FOWA: How to Turn your App into a Business (Ted Rheingold) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of [Ted Rheingold](’s [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. [Suw also blogged this session.](*

*Blogged Ted earlier this year at Reboot when he was encouraging us to [learn about cats and dogs](*

Simple idea: let people make web pages for their dogs and cats. Realised later that this could actually be a business.

FOWA 2007 64

What does it take to be a business? Suddenly all sorts of words like CTO, CEO, Incorporating, Titles… start flying around.

But mainly, being a business is about **generating revenue**, or at least having a pretty good idea where it’s going to come from. If you don’t have an idea how you’re going to make money, you’re going to run out of money.

Important: don’t think there is a new economy. There’s new technology, but **the economy hasn’t really changed**.

Dogster and Catster make money from advertising, partnerships, people subscribing… A lot like a magazine. Virtual gifts. You’re maybe disrupting the economy, but not creating a whole new one.

**Learn your market.** It took Ted a long time to learn these markets. You can’t pretend to know where the advertising goes because you’ve read magazines. Also, get ready to learn other markets. Ted thought at some point they were going to do classifieds, spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, but nobody was interested in their classifieds, so that failed. Don’t get overly attached.

**Get advisers.** People who understand the industry you’re in. But also people who understand how to run a business.

**Learn business finance.** Know how much money you need to spend, etc. Forecasting expenses, revenues. Some of these things are actually pretty basic, but you need to be comfortable with them. Don’t spend any money you don’t have to. If you’re cheap with your employees and your contractors, they may leave (*steph-note: indeed!*), if you’re cheap with your hosting your site might go down, if you don’t trademark your logo/names…

**Sell, sell, sell.** Ted is a designer, not a salesperson. Nobody is going to sell your business for me. Everything changed for Ted when he brought in a business partner. (Not an employee!) Important to choose well. It will be years of partnering with that person, startups don’t usually get bought. You need somebody who is as passionate as you are.

**Make your business a business.**

Very hard to make money on AdSense or that kind of advertising unless you’re serving millions and millions of pages. Sponsors and partnerships are more viable. Even a small market is interesting if it’s targeted. Subscription: emotional thing. Be part of the team. To show their support.

*steph-note: lost some of the Q&A because of running around with the microphone.*

Fail fast. They just removed classifieds three months ago. Important to see if the changes you’re thinking about are really worth it financially.

Q: when did you decide it could be a viable business?

A: thought it would be a kind of passive business where he’d get a check every month from advertising for a bit of maintenance here and there. Month 3, 10’000 people joined the site. A lot! Way more than he thought. Used the wisdom of his crowds to think about it, and then sat on it for a while before making the big decision. Making sure people are using it and spending as little money as possible the whole time.

Hiring is a real pain, specially if you want to be ethical about it (don’t want to hire somebody and lay him off three months later).

Similar Posts:

Short FOWA Complaint [en]

[fr] FOWA: wifi foireux et peu d'accès aux prises d'alimentation. C'est suffisant pour gâcher une bonne partie de la conférence pour les participants-blogueurs (surtout si on leur a donné un passe pour couvrir la conférence en direct)...

I’m here to live-blog, which must be a recognised activity as I got a “blogger” pass for it. However: **the wifi is crap** (sorry, I know it’s easy to complain, but it’s making my life difficult — uploading photos is a nightmare), and **the power plugs are right at the back of the room**. I think that crappy wifi and lack of power supplies are two things which can single-handedly ruin a good part of the conference experience for blogging attendees. Oh, and the rows are so tight that unless you sit in the front row, there isn’t enough space to type comfortably.

Do they really believe that people live-blogging the sessions are going to sit right at the back of the room? I take photos too, so I need to be in front. And the whole “power up then go back to it” idea just doesn’t work: there’s a session going on while I “power up” which I might want to follow!

Then, please let me say a word about the £4 sandwich I bought at the break. I know this is England, but… arghl! There are water fountains at the back of the room, but really (particularly when you’re blogging) bottles are way more practical. Which reminds me… I have an empty bottle with me, so I’ll do something smart and fill it up instead of just complain aimlessly (blame a bad day yesterday, food deprivation, and dehydration).

Oh, and next time, I have to remember that these boots are **not** good for sitting cross-legged on the floor. The talk in this room (which I’m only half-listening to, unfortunately) is about accessibility and actually sounds very interesting. I saw Suw typing madly a bit further down the row, so hopefully I’ll be able to read about it.

Aside from that, I’m really happy to be here and see everybody!


**Update**: [Suw wasn’t very happy]( either.

Similar Posts: