Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

Breaking bread with Steve Jobs at Lunch

Or should I say, breaking bread while at lunch… with Steve Jobs at the next table. For those of you who’re looking for something related to marketing or technology, you may want to skip this post and check out my next one on social networking. Well, today as I was having lunch with a good friend of mine at Apple’s Headquarters Cafeteria in Cupertino, and in walks Steve Jobs with Jonathan Ive at around 1:00 PM, probably right after Steve’s company wide meeting (earlier that day) and then proceeds to grab a table right next to my friend and me! Nice.

Source: via Fake Steve Jobs via iPhone Matters

Speaking of the company wide meeting earlier yesterday where Jobs announced a free iPhone to every full time employee at Apple, yet again, Steve proved why he’s a genius when it comes to drawing the perfect analogies in reducing even complex strategy into the simplest form – Zen style.

He then talked about iPhone in relation to the rest of Apple’s business. Steve described it as trying to put the third leg onto a chair with only two legs. The first leg is the Mac business, which Steve addressed by saying that they have the “best Macs” in the new product pipeline ever right now, and that the stuff coming out in the next year is “off the charts.” Wow, sounds juicy.

He said that the second leg is the iPod and iTunes marketplace, which we all know has been wildly successful. The third leg of the chair, Steve hopes, will be the iPhone business, which he hopes to grow into something as strong as the iPod. He added that he hopes for the fourth leg to become the Apple TV, but focus is on the iPhone for now. This reiterates previous reports that Steve Jobs viewed the Apple TV as more of an experiment than a total dive into the set-top space.

Now, this may sound silly for many, but for someone like me who came to America six years ago believing in the meritocracy preached by Jack Welch, motivated by the marketing genius of Steve Jobs, and being someone who moved to the Silicon Valley the day after graduation to immerse myself in the technology mecca; seeing Steve Jobs yesterday at lunch made my day.

Of course, I didn’t have the courage to walk over to Steve and say that the the Mac evangelist campaign (check out the Mac evangelist page in 1997) is probably the reason I am a community evangelist today and instead here I am gushing on my blog.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar,

Google Gadgets vs. Facebook Apps (Updated w/ images)

LinkedIn won one of five search awards at the Searchnomics conference earlier today where I went to accept it on behalf of our product/engineering and development teams, who make the social search magic work for over 11 million LinkedIn users (I work as Community Evangelist at LinkedIn).

Todd Watson (IBM) and Jeremiah Owyang (Podtech)

I was present at Marissa Mayer’s keynote where she announced the Google Gadgets Venture (Jeremiah’s got some incredibly prolific/timely blog coverage here). I thought it was serendipitous that Google announced this on a day when two other blogs were debating the business feasibility of facebook apps, since just recently two apps were purchased.

1. Google Gadgets (worth $100K?)

Google was probably one of the early companies to dabble in APIs and currently have built out a slew of tools to enable developers to create Google Gadgets. Here’s a summary (via Google Developer blog):

The Google Mashup Editor has an option for instantly deploying your web app as a gadget. For Java programmers, Google Web Toolkit provides another good way to write a gadget or a full-featured AJAX app with a gadget component. The Google Data APIs and AJAX Feed API can help power your gadget with rich data sources. You can even add offline functionality using Google Gears.

So, yesterday, Marissa announced Google Gadget Ventures at the Searchnomics conference…well, here’s the official blog release:

We’ve been hearing from a lot of gadget developers that they’d like to spend more time developing if they could, and we’ve been thinking about ways to help them do that. To that end, we’re happy to announce Google Gadget Ventures, a new pilot program that will help fund third-party gadget development and gadget-related businesses. We plan to offer two types of funding: $5,000 grants for gadget developers who want to invest time making their already successful gadget even better, and $100,000 seed investments for new gadget-related businesses. For now, applications are restricted to gadget developers who have more than 250,000 page views per week on their gadget. (Source: Official Google Blog)

Other than Jeremiah’s post if you could only read one more post on Marissa Mayer’s keynote, then check out a post by Nitin Karandikar, guest author at Read/Write Web.

2. Facebook Apps (worth $60K?)

Earlier in the day, yesterday, TechMeme had an interesting discussion (via Read/Write Web again) on the business viability of the Facebook apps that are being created.

On Monday the blog Inside Facebook broke the story that the Facebook-only application Favorite Peeps had been acquired by slideshow creator Slide (and Slide confirmed to me yesterday that they had reached an agreement with the creator of Favorite Peeps). The rumored acquisition price was $60,000. This is the second Facebook app buy-out reported by Inside Facebook in the past week. Last Friday, they reported that the Extended Info application had been acquired by travel startup SideStep, who make a top 50 Facebook app called “Trips.”

So, it looks like Google believes that certain gadget related businesses (upward of 250,000 page views/week) could be worth investing up to a $100K and Facebook apps that are deemed business worthy have already been acquired for roughly $60K. As Josh Catone asks, is it a fad?

With these developments, what do YOU think?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Twitter meets Facebook in Pownce?

Kevin Rose of Digg fame is out with an interesting side project. Last week I wrote about how Facebook is probably a walled tumblelog, given its ability to mash your social interests ranging from movies to whatever into one very useful mini-feed. Pownce is an interesting concept, which was announced on Kevin Rose’s tumblelog today:

Today we’re turning on the splash page of Pownce, a side project that I’ve been working on with some friends over weekends for the last few months. The site isn’t quite open to the public yet, but if you want to try it out, enter your email and we’ll get an invite out to you shortly. Oh, and here is my Pownce profile.

The primary difference with Facebook is that Pownce allows you to unwall your garden, meaning Pownce’s “mini-feed” allows you to be either private or public and is focused on sharing stuff (text, files, links, and events). So, what exactly can you do with Pownce?

Pownce is a way to send messages, files, links, and events to your friends. You’ll create a network of the people you know and then you can share stuff with all of them, just a few of them, or even just one other person really fast.

Looks like Pownce zeroes in on a key feature of sharing “stuff” with friends (a la Twitter) and hones it nicely. So, while in Twitter you sent text messages, here in addition to text messages you can also send files, links and events. Can’t I do all that with Facebook. Yes and much more, but the key difference here is that Pownce is not just open to a closed network of your friends, but like twitter affords you the opportunity to send public messages as well.

Apparently, it also resembles a slew of other file sharing apps, although Rafe Needleman from Webware says it works just fine:

Pownce strongly reminds me of Tubes (review) and Izimi (review), and little less so of AllPeers (stories) and Pando (quick hit). It’s also reminiscent of the file-transfer feature of various instant-messaging clients.

There’s also a heavy dose of Twitter (stories) in Pownce. Every time you send a file or note, it’s added to your running feed of activities that anyone can view; likewise, it’s easy to see the public feeds of other users and the private items posted by your friends.

Currently, it’s only in exclusive invite mode, but if you want to be one of the early few to check it out, then leave your email address on their site. I just did.

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Opening the LinkedIn kimono – API Style

Well, I don’t think a lot of readers may have noticed my recent comment on a Jeremiah post that we, at LinkedIn, were seriously evaluating APIs, “the technical details which enable programmers to write applications which would interface seamlessly” with our site. Last week, Reid Hoffman (one of our co-founders) mentioned to Dan Farber (ZdNet) at the Supernova conference — that we’ll be delivering APIs to developers over the next 9 months.

As a matter of fact, APIs was one of the first topics I discussed with my colleague Steve Ganz (who was responsible for republishing public profiles in the hResume format). The recent Zdnet piece and the ensuing blogosphere chatter is heartening in that it highlights the value that LinkedIn provides to millions of professional users, and the opportunity to enhance that business value by opening APIs to developers is significant. From the TechMeme thread, a few blogs stood out for some constructive suggestions; for e.g. Read/Write Web’s post “LinkedIn to Open Up” that suggests potential feature sets that the APIs may enable:

For example, it would be great to see a visualization of all of my connections as a network; and on a map. It would be also great to be able to explore my network, using a visualization technique like Thinkmap. Another more subtle thing that is missing from LinkedIn is the strength of the relationship. Not all of my connections are equal, some are much stronger than others. This is a very valuable piece of information that can help a lot with things like lead generation. It is not easy to capture the strength of the relationship, but even a trivial heuristic like ‘number of times I’ve clicked on someone’s profile’ would be a good start.

To sound cliched: the possibilities are indeed endless. There are other posts such as Dave Winer’s “Will LinkedIn Open Up?” where he talks about taking it even one step further:

It would be cool if they just implemented an identity service that managed relationships between users, and allowed developers to define the relationships. Rather than incrementally one-upping each other by being slightly more open, why not go all the way, and operate an identity service for your own application and for everyone else. This would put Linked-in (or whoever) at the center of Internet 3.0.

What are your thoughts on the topic? I’m curious to know, as a user of LinkedIn, what kind of features can you see yourself benefiting most from?

Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic. Leave a comment.

(I’m the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn and these are my personal musings. And, yes, I like the word “musings”)

Filed under: Linkedin

Is Facebook a walled tumblelog?

Quickest update (as of 6/29/007): Wow, this discussion just keeps going on and on… Earlier today, Steve Rubel thinks that Facebook is a walled garden and here’s a snippet:

That leads us to social networks and, in particular, Facebook. (I should preface this by adding that Edelman represents MySpace.)

Despite the age of openness we live in, Facebook is becoming the world’s largest, and perhaps most successful, walled garden that exists today.

Most social networks (which I am characterizing here broadly to also include sites like Flickr, Vox, and digg) let you determine what you share with the general public through Google vs. what you only share with your circle of friends. This level of flexibility is a win-win for everyone. If you don’t want to share anything you don’t have to. On the flip side, if you’re a voyeur, go for it.

For all of the excitement around Facebook and its application platform, it’s essentially a giant walled garden. You can embed virtually anything you want inside Facebook. Just like open APIs, Facebook’s developer program lets anyone create value in the ecosystem.

And, Jason Kottke concurs:

I’ve no doubt that Facebook is excited about their new platform (their userbase is big enough that companies feel like they have to develop for it) and it’s a savvy move on their part, but I’m not so sure everyone else should be happy about it. What happens when Flickr and LinkedIn and Google and Microsoft and MySpace and YouTube and MetaFilter and Vimeo and launch their platforms that you need to develop apps for in some proprietary language that’s different for each platform?

Quicker update (as of 6/25/007): Kent Newsome debates Facebook: the New Internet or gilded cage?:

Open API or not, there’s still a wall around Facebook. It’s hard to get data out of there and into the wild. As AOL found out, what people look at initially as a safe place to hang out can begin to look like a cage over time. I continue to believe that the blogosphere is the only network that matters, and that over time most people will elect to take control of their content and manage it via a wall-free platform. Anything that gets between a content provider and its users is by definition bad for the content provider. And there’s no need for a central registry of contact information- we have Google. Just do a search.

Quick Update: Feld Thoughts has stirred a mini-storm with his Facebook problem. His recent post summarizes what that problem with the new f8 platform is:

None of these Facebook apps developers are deriving any real benefits (if you are a Facebook apps developer and ARE deriving a tangible benefit, other than customer acquisition within the Facebook infrastructure, please weigh in.) In addition, Facebook has shifted all of the infrastructure costs to these apps developers, creating the “I have 250,000 users, now what?” problem.

On another note, I responded to Eric Schonfeld (Business 2.0) to his related post on Facebook:

Actually, I wrote a post on how I leverage Facebook for activities surrounding my social interests like movies or music and most f8 apps facilitate that.

However, LinkedIn focuses on helping me navigate my professional network and advance that part of my life; my career.

Having the two separate helps me better manage my already chaotic life!

Check out the TechMeme discussion or continue reading my original post below.

Ever since I spoke to Matt Cohler at the Web 2.0 Expo, I’ve been wanting to try Facebook and given the recent spurt in activity I’ve had a chance to try it out and notice that many of my friends are on it as well. Facebook is an interesting way to keep track of the various social activities that you’re passionate about and facilitates sharing that with your social network.

As an example, here are the activities in my life that Facebook allows me to keep track of and the f8 apps that facilitate it:

* Movies (f8 apps: Flixster and Netflix movies)

* Music (f8 apps:’s official app – love it)

* Photos (f8 apps: MyFlickr and ZuPort: Flickr)

* Politics (f8 apps: The Compass, Elections 08, Obama)

* So, Movies + Music + Photos + Politics + any f8 app you can throw into the mix = Mini-feed (yes, that controversial mini-feed)

An evolved walled tumblelog?

Think of the mini-feed as the evolution of twitter. So, in twitter you were hooked onto the various minutiae of your social network’s lives, on Facebook you do something similar, but a little bit more organized and richer. Well, let me back up here. Think of Facebook as an evolved tumblelog. So, what’s a tumblelog you may ask.

Jason Kottke, one of my favorite non-marketing bloggers, defined tumblelogs in 2005:

A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere

…really just a way to quickly publish the “stuff” that you run across every day on the web. (Source: Wikipedia)

And, that’s exactly what Facebook is. Just better than the tumblelog definition above and far more effective, except that it’s a walled tumblelog. So when bloggers like Kent Newsome wonder why Facebook is better than blogging:

What is so much better about Facebook (and MySpace and other similar platforms) than an ordinary blog on a popular platform- say WordPress?

The answer, as Dare Obasanjo surmises, lies in Facebook’s richer solution a.k.a the tumblelog, but the dilemma is that it’s a walled tumblelog. So, there are really two answers: if your blog is a personal, social interaction tool that you use to communicate to a closed circle of friends then you’re better off with Facebook. It’s apparently WAY better than MySpace. On the other hand, if you’d prefer a public (maybe career focused) blog that helps define your online brand then Facebook cannot replace that. However, Facebook allows you to import your blog and share it with your social network through a feature called “Notes”. Nice!

(Disclosure: I work for LinkedIn, the professional networking site)

Filed under: Facebook, Tumblr

Two Guys and a Gal from the Community

* Jake – the Community Guy

As many of you probably know, I’ve been on the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) board for the past year or so. Recently, Jake McKee had a couple of posts where he talks about his experience joining the AMA as well as his more recent experience dealing with the local chapter and the national chapter (Yes, there are two components).

My real beef was with the AMA national organization itself. There’s a staff there whose full-time job is helping to support and growing the marketing industry and when you accept money for membership, you have an obligation to reach out to new members/payees and make them feel like something larger than an email list.

Personally, over the past year, it’s been great working with teams of volunteers at the local chapter (Silicon Valley). However, I’ve never been able to figure out the value proposition to me from the national organization. Maybe I too am missing something here.

* Guy – the Truemors Guy

I’m a fan of “the Guy” (see my posts here and here); and I’ve been intrigued by his recent launch of a site called Truemors — a clone between WeSmirch (Automatic Dirt Digger) and Digg (User generated dirt digger). Unfortunately, Truemors has been buried under an avalanche of bad reviews, with the two most recent ones drawing particular attention:

1. Tim Faulkner

We are supposed to take from “the numbers” that Guy was just trying to learn some lessons about Web 2.0 startups, but Truemors does not reveal new lessons, it shows Guy needing to rationalize bad PR.

2. Matt Ingram

The only thing that could possibly give Guy’s site some value is if it spontaneously developed a thriving community the way Digg and Slashdot and Metafilter have. Is Guy’s name and a couple of nasty blog posts at TechCrunch enough to do that? I doubt it.

Matt’s point on community is well taken. Here are my top 3 reasons truemors doesn’t interest me at this moment:

-lack of community (which was Digg’s strength), lack of focus (digg started off tech focused and maintains that niche), lack of a chief truemor monger (Gossip sites like Perez Hilton have a chief-blogger/gossipper or dare I say “evangelist”)

As Guy says, there’s no such thing as bad PR but unfortunately at this point of time it may not be possible to evangelize Truemors since it does not seem like a product worthy of evangelism (The Art of Evangelism by Guy). What do you think?

* Robyn – The MyBlogLog Gal

My good friend, Robyn Tippins, over at MyBlogLog, seems to be having an interesting problem with her personal blog. Apparently, the pages of her personal blog were removed from Google’s index since they violated the webmaster’s guidelines. Boy, I wonder what those guidelines were? But, this now puts Robyn in a predicament:

This isn’t really a huge deal to me, as the site isn’t really monetized well and most of my readers come from bookmarks, links to me or are RSS subscribers, but I can’t help but be a little pissed that it’s happened. I mean, what if I depended on my site for income, as so many of you do? The only recourse is to admit wrongdoing and ask for reinclusion? How am I supposed to know what I’ve done?

Anyone of you readers with some insight into this space? Any suggestions?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

June 11th event on LinkedIn Best Practices (SD Forum)

One of my major goals as Community Evangelist at LinkedIn is to find opportunities to interact with our users from across different categories: startups to consultants so that I can gauge their LinkedIn experience. Now that task has become all the more exciting given LinkedIn’s recent growth; we currently have over 11 million users at LinkedIn.

I look forward to speaking to about 100 of those fellow LinkedIn users at the upcoming SDForum Marketing SIG event, where we’ll discuss professional networking best practices using LinkedIn. The event is scheduled for this coming Monday (June 11th; starting 6:30 pm in Palo Alto – details below). I’d like to thank Filomena and Ed from SD Forum’s Marketing SIG for inviting me.

Event details:
DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary LLP
2000 University Ave.(University Circle)
East Palo Alto, CA 94303

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Registration / Networking / Refreshments
7:00 – 7:15 p.m. Announcements and Introductions
7:15 – 8:30 p.m. Presentation and Discussion
8:30 – 8:45 p.m. Wrap-up / Networking

Free for SDForum members
$15.00 for Non-SD Forum members

Here’s who should attend:
* Any LinkedIn user (from basic users to power users, from those who started yesterday to those who’ve been members since LinkedIn started)
* From startups to consultants, the event is geared towards your taking home, some basic usage principles of LinkedIn

Here’s why you should attend:
* Find out how best to use LinkedIn in your respective industry/field
* Network with your fellow LinkedIn users/peers, the LinkedIn community
* A chance to directly tell us (in person) how your LinkedIn experience has been, suggestions, feedback, etc…
* Plus, we’ll have surprise guests/LI users at the event

Let me know if you’re going to be there

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Facebook Polls | Market Research meets Social Networks?

Being a close observer of the emerging social networking phenomenon (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn), I’m always intrigued by its impact on marketing as a whole. Just yesterday, when I logged onto my Facebook account (more on that later) I was greeted by a market research poll on my mini-feed, which asked me which Tech blog I read the most or something to that effect.

Today TechCrunch clarifies:

This is an advertising product that is designed to generate revenue. Users can able to create a poll question and up to five answer choices, and then target the poll based on gender, age, location or profile keyword.

Most importantly, these polls appear in users’ mini-feed, which is prime time online real-estate.

Why could this be of importance for marketers?

Targeted marketing research

Now, this valuable data, is gonna cost you:

The polls are not free – Facebook charges you a variable amount based on how quickly you want results. You tell Facebook how many results you want and how much you are wiling to pay per result. The more you offer, the more quickly results are returned to you. Prices currently range from $.10 to $1.00 per data point, plus an initial $5 insertion fee. Facebook will estimate the completion time for the poll based on how much you bid. (Source: TechCrunch)

So here are questions to you:

Do you think, the mix of marketing research conducted within a social network, would make a difference to the quality of data gathered? Is this data more valuable to you as a marketer?

Would you answer a question if someone within your social/professional network asks you a question. Have you tried LinkedIn Answers? (As I said above, I work for LinkedIn)

Feel free to leave a comment.

Filed under: Miscellaneous