Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

All Roads lead to [[Roam]] Research

Why Roam Research is the future of project management, note-taking and to-dos

  • To-do’s don’t work.
  • Project Management tools don’t work.1
  • Note taking apps do not work

But… Roam Research just might be the Swiss-Army Productivity Knife we’ve all been waiting for.

The four most beautiful words in the English language are ‘I told you so.’ – Gore Vidal

Who doesn’t love discovering a music or stand-up act before the world does 2 LinkedIn (2006), Facebook (2006), Twitter (2007), Spotify (2011), Quora (2012) have been products I fell in love with before the world did, but I think I found myself my next big obsession – [[Roam Research]] – that others might discover in the years to come.


The first draft of life. Roam Research.


A few months ago, stumbling upon a serendipitous tweet, I dove head-first into [[Roam Research]].

A few minutes of exploration later, and $15 of monthly-subscription lighter, I found myself haphazardly and confusedly creating a “root folder” in Roam Research.

Fast forward to 3 months later, I live my work and (slowly, personal life managed) on Roam Research and can’t imagine starting any work day without Roam.

This is the post I wish I had read when I got started.

Screen Shot 2021-10-24 at 8.47.10 PM


Notion is basically lipstick on a Word Doc! 3


It’s not fair to compare Roam to Notion. Or Asana. Or Todoist.

But, as a platform for connecting-the-dots of life 4, Roam somehow out-performs all of the above at their job, and more.

The problem Roam solves is vastly different from what Notion (a better designed & prettier Microsoft Office or Google Suite of productivity docs) solve, or Medium (a beautiful WYSIWYG editor for organizing thoughts), or Todoist (a robust task management app) try to accomplish, and to be honest they all fall short because of one fundamental flaw in how we work. They are all beautiful siloes.

An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood.

That sticks, right in there somewhere.

[he points to his head] – Dom Cobb, Inception

There’s many a slip/s between the moment an idea/s has “taken hold of your brain” to “fully formed, fully understood.”

Enter Roam Research.


Now what does Roam do?


How do we build a platform that makes it trivial to track-download those ideas and process them effectively, without dropping them into beautiful lists of to-dos, notes, and projects?! The challenge being each of those categories of information (to-dos, notes, and projects) interact with one another, but not seamlessly and live in separate islands, including the original silo which is pen-and-paper.

Roam connects the dots between islands of ideas

Roam is a breakthrough in that it allows us to navigate each of these islands of different shapes & sizes (to-dos, notes and projects) by atomizing how each of them are built – from a checklist. Not only does Roam make it trivial to input these ideas mindfully 5 outside of their siloes (like with pen & paper, but better – onto a canvas for drawing upon them with structured data.6), and a simple suite of under-the-hood Easter eggs that pop up at just the right time to get shit done (work or life) and manipulate any idea.

Since forever, we’ve done tasks, projects and every single day, in one haphazard way: ideally, by putting pen-to-paper. Then Microsoft Office, brought the hurt to workplace “productivity,” to be followed by a lighter version — Google Docs. And more recently Notion has created a prettier version of Office (not to be outdone, MS Office ripped off Notion just this past week, to strangely rave reviews and dull re-looped critiques 7).

But, then imagine a near perfect way to capture your thoughts, process intelligence and get shit done — in the moment, through every moment of your life?! It’s almost like Anthony Bourdain describing the In’N Out burger:

Bourdain orders his burger “animal style” — a double patty with extra Thousand Island sauce and pickles. He divulged what he loves most about the burger. “This cheese-like substance is just perfect,” he said. “This is like a ballistic missile … a perfectly designed protein delivery system. – Anthony Bourdain 8

Roam is that ballistic missile perfectly designed for downloading ideas, impelled at completion. 9


What Office could not, and Notion does not; Roam does… 10


Targeted, flexible, multi-layered, Roam is “Notion meets Todoist meets Asana” with agenda, purpose and goals. 11

By shifting all your writing into a bulleted list, and giving you the ability to seamlessly vary that list, Roam reclaims your attention from the tyranny of the blank piece of paper that has writers shudder before writer’s block, and cedes immense control back to you. By also giving all that is needed back to the keyboard makes trivial what might have (until now), taken different iOS apps, desktop apps, and a moleskine notebook to accomplish; a seamless mind-meld between your thoughts and fingertips.

Imagine that, but for every idea that permeates your brain, every idea worth taking down, and because of their mutual links you can jot down and literally “connect the dots” (whether it’s tagged by date or topics, or whole sentences and paragraphs – more on that in just a second.) In the public sphere, that’s Twitter.

In the private sphere, that’s Roam. And I can’t wait to see how that might translate to the work sphere.

Microsoft Word or its online evolution Google Docs is quite literally that blank piece of paper, while both Medium and Notion have prettied things up a bit, without reinventing the original grammar of Word which has served its purpose, but it’s time for the Tesla, not a prettier horse.12

Note taking for me has shifted away from [[Google Docs]] and each time I work on [[Notion]] I realize their immense disadvantages to working seamlessly on a platform like [[Roam]]. It is impossible for any other platform for you to basically get started creating, weaving and connecting ideas without you having to hit a Command-F to File or Scroll to Search or Discover.


Here’s how Roam’s Tesla fares against all previous productivity islands.


Roam’s Swiss-Army-Knife of Five:


Roam differs from Word or Docs or Notion in its minimalist interface (no bells, no whistles, no command-F drop-down from a mouseovers and clicks) that belies the powerful mapping engine powering it, that respond to the click of your keys. (snap of your fingers allusions)

Here’s the five-step crash-course, I wish I had at my fingertips when I jumped on the Roam bandwagon, that might have speeded up my learning times exponential.

Five tools in your tool-belt that will get you humming along your Roam journey in no time. My only $0.02, don’t think twice, don’t overthink, don’t over-plan, just start typing…


1. Pick a Topic, Start a Page: Hit the [[ ]] running…


Imagine being able to create new pages on the fly, without hitting Command-F (File), Open New, and create a new document, or toggle between folders unsure of where you’ve these documents saved, but is there a better way to do this right now.

The framework of Roam Research is built on its bulleted checklists, but more importantly on its bi-directional Wikipedia-like links that can be spontaneously created with the subtle tap of [[ ]].

Whether it’s a mini-rolodex or creating groups of individuals around specific categories, words, book reviews, you name it, create a topic, launch a page, while you generate your ideas. I use it as a mini-rolodex, so I add the job title before the name, I create and tag groups of individuals (so folks who are in Sales, etc.) I even use it for all rough drafts of posts I eventually end up writing, including this very post you’re reading.

The rough draft of everything I think; I build and create on Roam Research, starts with a pair of [[ ]].

It’s interesting that V2 or V3 of every idea goes to different apps:

  • Writing: iA Writer, then WordPress
  • Projects: Emails, Docs, Notion (at times) depends on who I’m sending this to
  • To-dos: Rarely, todoist, for the most part all of my to-dos are reviewed and check-listed on Roam Research

It’s hard to explain Roam to someone who hasn’t used it before, Before I continue, I have to warn the users here, that unlike Notion or Google Docs, there is no freemium version of Roam, so be prepared to pay up-front a subscription to enjoy the benefits of Roam, but rest assured, I don’t see myself working on any other product for note taking (Google Docs), Task and Project Management (Todoist), and everything else under the sun.

Roam is as good as your bulleted checklists and topics (like Wikipedia, but imagine for your personal and work-life), and by just typing those magical [[ ]] keys yields a satisfying Pavlovian response the way that red notifications icon felt on Facebook back in the day. 13


While Google Docs, Notion and others are basically “better, faster horses,” 14, what Roam seems to do is build a new grammar of productivity from the ground up.

And, that leads to a network graph of ideas, unlike any I have seen since my days working at a social network or two. The beauty of these brackets and the chance to start off on topics, is the rich contextual data that accrues that one can see at the bottom of each page.

Over time, I’ve also found myself auto-creating a page for each day, which ties back to making Roam a productivity tool. Creating todos, is as easy as Shift-Enter that toggles through a to-do, done and none.

To me, this is where the magic begins, the 140 character magical spin on documentation itself from Roam. Take Roam for a spin, and in a few days, either the double bracket, or there’s a Chrome extension, that creates a double-bracket, when you hashtag (I know, most of you are rolling your eyes, but when you hit that Easter egg, the productivity gains are immense.

For the first time, in my life, my browser has truly become a moleskine notebook, where I don’t have to toggle between taking notes with a pen-and-paper, staring at my iMac browser screen, but it’s all on Roam, and the keys fly as fast as my mind can.

It’s liberating. And, frankly, this post doesn’t do it justice.


2. Finding a needle (word) in a haystack (block): Double Brackets (())


Now imagine losing your thoughts & ideas in paragraphs, making it more difficult to bring them back up on command, since [[topics]] don’t necessarily tell the full story, but what if you were able to bring up paragraphs or blocks on command by just opening up (()) not just the (it’s called “blocks” here), and imagine being able to at random call up each block that searches and pulls up relevant blocks that might have otherwise been lost.

Imagine a tool that basically allows you to do all of the above three seemingly incongruous goals, and blend them into a daily stream-of-consciousness (yes, seems impossible) that somehow gets things done, while allowing you time to ponder over ideas you’re mulling over (whether it’s a blog post – all of my draft V1s start on Roam) or projects you’re planning at work, events you host, I could go on.

This is basically the culmination of what I described as the fundamental issue with to-do apps. Zooming out and zooming back in to our lives is a constant battle & challenge, but I think, I’ve finally found a tool that allows me to do just that.

Now granted, some of you may be intimidated by even trying out Roam Research. The team seems to revel in the community finding itself, vs. building communities (like Notion seems to be so good at doing), so consider the next five tips and tricks, what I’ve learned in the past 3 months that I slowly Easter-egg’d my way into so you don’t have to…

This is a pretty easy way to master the fundamentals of what makes Roam Research such a powerful tool to accomplish all of the above three – note taking, to-dos and project management – and frankly, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.


3. All Life is a Routine: Double Semi-Colons;;


All of life is a routine. Or a habit.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi

Somehow Roam gets it, and make it trivial to harness its power.

For the life of me, I’ve tried to figure out life-management, that has taken different shapes and forms from Things to Todoist (most recently), tied to RescueTime, but they all hit upon a fundamental snag — context switching and zoom-in and out of our thoughts — what if there’s a way to go from thoughts to tasks to projects to checklists while you’re on the topic and out and in.

Let me give you an example: tasks are recursive projects that might range from a broken stove knob to a major home renovation. They also slip-and-slide priorities to projects to calendars to time itself. It’s one giant hairball that just cannot be undone, until the very framework and its various parts have been convincingly redrawn.

Every single day, pre-Roam Research, I used a different set of tools for note taking, to-dos and project management, and I must have tried a whole slew of them, and all of them failing, since they were separate islands and they never connected.

Routines have a very important place in life. To-dos, time management systems, project management can all be made more efficient through routines, and no time management app makes it easy to create-and-recall routines as Roam does, and only by being immersed in this environment and using routlines for what they’re worth might one recognize its power.

This has to be my easiest time-saver

  • Emails you send (before an event)
  • Processes and steps you need to set up (during an event, before an event)
  • Daily Top 3 tasks to accomplish
    • Ditto for the week

Just like the iPhone made text an indelible part of our lives and relegated phone calls to the merely urgent, and much like the Macintosh made typewriters irrelevant while making keyboard usage ubiquitous. Roam makes the creation and re-creation of routines and habits trivial from the get-go, what a liberating thought that is but I’ve never seen the ease with which one can create a routine, through keyboard shortcuts.15


4. Tables, Kanban, Pomodoro, on the fly: Double Curly Brackets


The last two features I’ll bring up, might seem trivial at first glance, but I bring them up as an example to showcase the power of Roam Research as a platform for productivity.

Evernote is a popular one that many swear by, I’ve personally only briefly used that app, but there are many others. For me, over the last couple of years, it came down to my favorite Moleskine notebook and pen, which truly works to highlight the day’s Top 10 and any other notes that need taken down.

But a moleskine’s advantage (focus) is betrayed by the inability to link to ideas (I know Moleskine has an app that allows to upload your note taking) a digitized moleskine but again it does not solve the fundamental problem, and something that requires specialized hardware and a subscription that I don’t plan on buying.

While creating a table on Roam Research is as easy, as

{{table}}

Yep, hit Enter, and it’ll guide you through how to type in the headings and the respective entry points for a table. But the beauty of Roam Research is how trivial they’ve made the idea of creating a table.

Ditto for a {{Kanban}} table. Or a {{pomo}}doro timer, in case you wish to time your writing a blog post.


5. Isn’t Research All About The Highlights: Command-H


Life needs a highlighter. What I’ve always envisioned in a modern moleskin is the ability to highlight as we go, and it’s always been impossible to do with any of the task management apps I’ve tried thus far. Just select the sentence, and hit “Command-H”

Imagine a tool that basically allows you to do all of the above three seemingly incongruous goals, and blend them into a daily stream-of-consciousness (yes, seems impossible) that somehow gets things done, while allowing you time to ponder over ideas you’re mulling over (whether it’s a blog post – all of my draft V1s start on Roam) or projects you’re planning at work, events you host, I could go on.

This is basically the culmination of what I described as the fundamental issue with to-do apps. Zooming out and zooming back in to our lives is a constant battle & challenge, but I think, I’ve finally found a tool that allows me to do just that.

Now granted, some of you may be intimidated by even trying out Roam Research. The team seems to revel in the community finding itself, vs. building communities (like Notion seems to be so good at doing), so consider the next five tips and tricks, what I’ve learned in the past 3 months that I slowly Easter-egg’d my way into so you don’t have to…

This is a pretty easy way to master the fundamentals of what makes Roam Research such a powerful tool to accomplish all of the above three – note taking, to-dos and project management – and frankly, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

The reason being it’s always been impossible to context switch rapidly, especially and most importantly, directly from your keyboard. So you can go from [[Topics]] to ((Blocks and Paragraphs)) to ;;Templates for Routines, and {{Kanban & Tables}} back to a single minded Focus has never been possible, and never from the comfort & luxury of your keyboard.

And the ability to have a daily Top 5 and then some, and then highlight the one you’re working on, allows you to stay focused for as long as you need.

And if you need a timer, all you need is {{timer}} at your hand. Or a {{POMO}}

See the list goes on… Regardless, like a blank sheet of paper, Roam does feel a bit intimidating when you start, and over the course of 3 months I’ve learned what I wish I had known at the start. Building an app ecosystem related to tasks might just takes this to another level.

The key to me, is taking this hyper-invested community of theirs, and move into the mainstream. This post of mine, is just a simple way to describe what has worked so effectively for me — this Swiss Army Knife of Five above.

The four saddest words in the English language, “It might have been.” – Poet John Greenleaf Whittier 16


The Promise of [[Roam]]: Roam is the iPhone to Notion’s Blackberry


Roam’s only competition is itself, and a timeline that competes against Google Docs, who might throw a wrench in the works. But, they are unlikely to move as fast as a nimble competitor like Roam.

What else can they make trivial

To me this is the power of Roam. Any thought process that one can think: topics of interest, blocks of ideas, routines and habits, have been trivialized to a point where your keyboard does the work that normally felt intuitive to pen-and-paper-and-moleskine-notebook.

Ditto for productivity, I feel if they play their cards right, Roam is a far more efficient way to get things done (GTD) than any other tool I’ve ever tried. And if it is, why wouldn’t you make it easy for teams to collaborate off of, and imo that’s exactly what its founding teams would like to do, albeit with religious fervor.

So, what can one expect from Roam Research in the future, and more specifically, what do I wish to see in its North Star.

With a switch of the keys, {{}} or should I say, double curly brackets opens up a world of features that can be summoned at a moment’s notice. Ironically, as well as they connect the various islands of thought on a blank webpage, Roam is the ideal version of Google Docs.

  1. For example: Just this past Sunday, I created a quick overview of my week’s writing with links and a quick hashtag [[time-blocks]] I have created for myself to better manage my time (both at work and in life).
  2. Imagine creating a table on the fly while you let your ideas do the typing. I’ve truly never felt more liberated than when I stumbled upon this easter egg, while planning a sequence of events for the upcoming quarter.
  3. Collaboration (I’d hope) is a simple addition to the foundation they’re building. I find it a huge hassle that I can’t easily share my writing with my peers, colleagues, at work, and I find myself and my content stuck on Roam Island. Ironic, as it may seem.

There’s just so much that Roam could be, and already is, and that can be its greatest undoing as it is its greatest strength. That blank sheet of paper, needs to be defined and communicated effectively to its legions of fans. I see Roam, the way I saw the users of LinkedIn, when I started there back in the day — 2006. Most of LinkedIn’s users were a very active cult of open-networkers (I’m not making this up), and the goal was to create a brand that transcended this core group of users to all professionals, which LinkedIn did.

Ditto for Twitter, that is the closest to the ethos & brand that Roam could emulate. Take for example, how mainstream Twitter’s hashtag and @ mention seem these days, something I’d have never imagined back in the day, when I started using it at SXSW within a core group of insular techie users!

I can’t wait to see what the team at Roam, builds next. But, I’m sure there’s no ceiling for what they can build, but the devil (is always) in the details and execution. And, I am thrilled to continue being an avid paid user of this amazing product.

Just gimme more.


  1. By some estimates, the operations economy is going to be far eclipsed by a project economy and tools to enable these projects are going to become the next Microsoft or Google in the workplace. ↩︎
  2. I remember seeing Abel Tesfaye, way before he became known as The Weeknd, and that’s how I feel about technology worthy of evangelism. ↩︎
  3. Love the allusion to a phrase that has gotten quite a few people into hot water, no pun intended, including President Obama in 2008. That said, I reiterate the absolute hot mess that is Notion, as if “’A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog,’ meaning, ‘Circumstances do not alter a man’s nature, nor even his manners.’” proving Charles Spurgeon right, via his 1887 compendium of proverbs, The Salt Cellars. ↩︎
  4. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is from his Stanford Commencement speech that can be found in its entirety here ↩︎
  5. This is vastly different from a to-do app like todoist that makes it trivial to add your ideas from any source, but sometimes constraints are good. They focus the mind on a stack-ranked list, as opposed to adding a bunch of to-dos from every source imaginable only for you to declare bankruptcy ↩︎
  6. Ironically, “Canvas” is what Microsoft Loop – their Notion clone – often calls itself when painting a new vision of office productivity ↩︎
  7. Microsoft Loop is a new Office app for the hybrid work era, via The Verge. “These collaborative Loop components have been the dream of Microsoft for the past couple of years, and it’s clear the company has been adjusting how Loop works to fit the realities of pandemic life. A central Microsoft Loop hub looks like an improved way to track and organize these components — and a clear response to the new hybrid work era to which many businesses are adjusting and competition like Notion.” by @tomwarren ↩︎
  8. Known for his brash, yet honest delivery, Bourdain sets us straight on what makes the In’N Out Burger above and beyond, the best at what it does, via Eater. ↩︎
  9. Getting Things Done (GTD) was a “work-life management system that prioritizes clarity by eliminating chaos that is our heads. Think of it as the Marie Kondo technique for your brain. ↩︎
  10. I’m going to caveat this entire post both with “I told you so,” and this has been my experience. For many MS Office might out of habit, be the norm, and for others Notion might have created an ideal community for habit, but if you were to start from scratch and define “that productivity tool” that has it all; it has to be Roam ↩︎
  11. I remember the early days of both LinkedIn & Twitter, there was no existent grammar to describe them both. They both evolved organically through stellar leadership into what they are today, but no one knew what they were, just that they were incredibly powerful tools and you knew someday they’d fulfil their potential given great parenting. Ditto for Roam; it feels difficult to describe to others, which might drive some folks away, but I hope to put a spin on it, that show folks what I see today. ↩︎
  12. I do understand that the team at Notion has built a great platform that works so well, for so many professionals, here’s an example; but again, so has Microsoft and Google. ↩︎
  13. I wrote about that red notification icon that might have been an attractive addition to Facebook on Facebook that was geared towards that dopamine hit ↩︎
  14. Yes, Henry Ford might have used a variation of the quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” but trust me all that some people want is a faster horse. Maybe some day they might consider a Model T, or a Tesla, but for the majority of folks we are selling productivity tools to, they just might want a better, faster, prettier Google Doc. ↩︎
  15. Mobile Roam: I’d so love for Roam to release an iOS app, since I can’t imagine the speed benefits of creating routines or any of the other time benefits unleashed by Roam Research. A browser is a great way to get your ideas through, but the explosive power of Roam can best be harnessed on mobile and it’s going to be a herculean task to make that switch seamlessly. Templates in Roam, via hereAlso Capiche ↩︎
  16. Via Quote Investigator: In the passage above Mancroft also referred to “the saddest words” which he linked to Bret Harte. It was true that Harte wrote a comment on this topic; however, he was reacting to an 1854 remark by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier who proclaimed that the saddest words were “It might have been”. ↩︎

Filed under: Knowledge Networks, New Products, Productivity, Productivity Tools, Roam Research, What's New in Social Media, Writing, , , , , , ,

Five Reasons I ditched Writing App “iA Writer” for “Ulysses!”

Writing and blogging tools have come a long way since I first started using iA Writer, one of the simplest writing tools I could find to publish on WordPress or Medium. Today, there seem to be three writing apps of varying degrees of complexity from left to right that has risen to the top — iA Writer, Ulysses, and Scrivener.

Kafka on Writing or How to Beat Writer's Block
Kafka on Writing or How to Beat Writer’s Block

After some debate, and a few years of using iA Writer, I switched to Ulysses recently since it feels like a grown-up version of iA Writer. It takes the craft of writing seriously, provides an accountability better than any other writing platform and seems to make the inscrutable keyboard-friendly plain text formatting syntax — Markdown just as simple as needed. So, without further ado, here are the five reasons I decided to “upgrade” to Ulysses from iA Writer.

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.

Franz Kafka, born on July 3rd and my greatest inspiration to overcoming writer’s block

Five Reasons to Switch to Ulysses!

  • Better Organization: There’s a story to be told about story-writing platforms like iA Writer and Scrivener but Ulysses organizes itself best from the eyes of a writer
    • The Writer’s Journey: The way the app is organized — from personal notes to blogging to writing a book; all the while allowing for random thoughts to permeate an “Inbox” is a terrific way to organize the writing process, regardless of your stage of writing interest.
    • Markdown Onboarding: The challenge at times (for me) with iA Writer was that the organization was rather nebulous around Markdown; 1 that seemingly is a feature, not a bug. Ulysses on the other hand does a pretty good job of educating you on Markdown and distills it down to core features that every writer needs – whether it is adding images, videos, or footnotes (all three of which I had desperately sought to add on iA Writer but constantly lost and finding myself scouring the web for Markdown syntax). Not only does Ulysses guide you while you type in markdown commands but it eases the confusion should you forget the syntax; like when you try to add a URL with the basic syntax, it automatically pops up the URL title bar and you take it from there vs. not knowing if what you did was right.
Markdown to add images on Ulysses
Markdown to add images on Ulysses

I get a distinct feeling, there’s a lot more onboarding magic waiting to happen within Ulysses as I continue to use it, and with the determination to get back into the daily writing game, it was crucial that I had a product that allowed me to see progress being made and that held me accountable.

Onboarding their Subscription and building a community made it worth the price of admission
Onboarding their Subscription and building a community made it worth the price of admission
  • Progress Bar: I love the goal-setting feature which pops up when you hit attachments in the main-screen that allows you to not only tag (which makes for the easiest organization; something that iA Writer was strangely lacking) but also lets you add images (yet another feature that I found missing in iA Writer because previews were almost impossible to do); but most importantly, it allows for goal setting (both in number of characters, but more importantly with a due date for your writing). Believe it or not, the past week has seen me draft over three posts, and being intentional about setting a date/time to start blogging and completing the process truly helps beat back writer’s block.
  • Backup & Version Control: Oddly enough, losing a well-written draft on iA Writer was the trigger that led to my switching apps and one that early users of Microsoft Word might recall. I still can’t find that iA doc which was lost while transferring it across folders on iCloud. And just the fact that Ulysses backs up all its documents with version control was enough for me to switch. Just syncing across devices within iOS isn’t enough (maybe if you’re a real amateur) but it’s the ability to hold the documents in place, for perpetuity that gives a writing app the distinction it deserves.

    It’s like one of my favorite moments from Seinfeld, where Jerry and Elaine mock the reservationist for taking their reservations but not holding it.

    See, you know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation – the holding!

    Anybody can just take em.

     

     

  • Multimedia: Speaking of embedding YouTube videos, the only reason I briefly switched to Medium (more on this later) was their exceptional web editor that allows you to preview any multimedia link (from images to YouTube videos to tweets) right there on the page as will be seen on your published page. That’s a terrific feature and one that iA Writer could care less about (remember, they are the markdown writer — plain text writer) but frankly, most of my posts are social in that they connect to a bunch of images, videos, and tweets as jumping off points for conversations. Ulysses is helpful in embedding / previewing pics, embedding videos (not previewing) and are yet to allow for either on tweets. Regardless, this is a considerable upgrade from the iA Writer interface whose primary goal was not moving from your keyboard but made previewing quite the pain.
  • Quality Pays: Finally, the pricing. The fact is there’s a reason one pays for a Mac vs. a lesser priced PC and that argument has been made before. While iA Writer charges $29.99 for the Mac version, and $4.99 for the iOS Version and I haven’t paid a penny more since I purchased it years ago.

    Ulysses goes a different model — subscriptions! And while I’m not a fan (I frankly don’t have a clue how many apps I have subscribed for that I don’t use!) this is an app I plan to use on a regular basis. And on a feature-by-feature comparison, it wins. Frankly, it wins on their document organization, keywords, and backups, because — words matter. When you pay for quality, it shows. And $39.99 a year, ain’t too bad a price to pay for that.

What’d make it even better

Medium’s web-based editor is most definitely the best WYSIWYG editor on a blogging platform out there. It’s miles ahead of WordPress and that’s their secret sauce. I just wish something as simple as Ulysses or iA Writer will allow Twitter, YouTube and Image embeds (Ulysses allows image and video embeds — but (vid) embeds doesn’t translate to WordPress and it’s not as good as it can get, auto-play can be)

 

Regardless, I have to stress that writing on iA Writer is a terrific way to get into the habit of writing or getting back in the game. And you can always upgrade to Ulysses later. Love both these writing apps!

Tweet-Roll: Further Reading // Writers to Follow

Thanks to the following writers for their work that I reference and include above. But more importantly, this is a mini-version of blog-roll that used to be a great way to find a community of similar writers. When I started my blogging experience, I found a community of early bloggers who were included in my first blog-roll including @jowyang, @annhandley, @chrisbrogan, and of course, the incomparable @guykawasaki. Further reading and cast for this post, below: 

About Me: Thanks for reading. I’m Mario Sundar, Twitter’s 1st Evangelism lead in 2016, also LinkedIn’s 2nd PR guy between 2007 and 2012. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years and these are my thoughts on technology and communications.

If you like my writing, please subscribe, comment or respond here below. Or you can find me @mariosundar on Twitter.

  1. iA Writer aggressively markets itself as a Writer for Markdown and purposefully stays on point, making simple additions like images and videos painful.

Filed under: Business Blogging, New Products, What's New in Social Media, Writing, , ,

Microsoft’s Office Space under Attack!

When was the last time you felt elated about using Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Outlook, or any of the products in the Microsoft Office Space? Never.

Cue classic Office Space printer demolition scene

All of these products were built with an utter disregard to the user experience, much like printers, much like phones in the pre-iPhone era. All of these products have widespread usage within the enterprise but much like the DMV, don’t seem to give a crap about their users’ experience. But that was before the iPhone. The iPhone taught us was that if we build an exceptional product for users, the enterprise is within reach. Focus on the user and the rest will follow.

Into this new dynamic, we find two new extremely buzzy mobile entrants: Slack and Quip.

  • Both Slack and Quip are meant to operate in a Post-PC world.
  • Both Slack and Quip are mobile-first, making their usage on iPhones and iPads as efficient as using them on the desktop.
  • Both Slack and Quip will eventually take on Microsoft Office if they execute well – Quip, by recreating the killer apps (Word and now spreadsheet) as well as the newsfeed (collaboration) while Slack started with messaging and is now moving to own killer apps like document editing and in the future “calendars and task management.”

Jessica Lessin at The Information, seems to think that Slack and messaging apps’ hype is overrated. But I think she’s missing the bigger picture that Slack and Quip are both not just about messaging.

Be leery of products that tout their better messaging experiences. As Arjun Sethi, co-founder of MessageMe who just joined Yahoo told me: “Messaging is secondary. The primary use case cannot be messaging.”

Agreed. But I think in both cases, Slack and Quip, it’d be inaccurate to think their ambitions are relegated to messaging. Office made Bill Gates the richest man on the planet because of the platform they created.

A platform whose crown jewels thus far remain:

  • Killer apps
    • Documents and spreadsheets (Word and Excel)
    • Presentation (Powerpoint)
  • the dots that connect them
    • Email / collaboration (Outlook and OneNote)

That is all there is to this cash cow, the killer apps and the dots that connect them. For Facebook it’s photos and the feed; for LinkedIn, it’s jobs and their enterprise product; and for Apple it’s the Camera and the Phone.

Interesting to see that all of Microsoft’s office products hinged on the ability for people within an organization to collaborate and I believe this fundamental secret sauce is under attack with products like Quip, Slack and Evernote.

Both Slack and Quip, aim to recreate that dynamic from the ground up in a mobile future that Microsoft frankly does not own nor lead anymore. Quip has created the post-PC version of killer apps that drives work. I wouldn’t be surprised if they built the rest of the killer apps mentioned above (they just launched spreadsheets as a premium feature), should they find a demand for it. And once they create the suite, the superior product experience will drive large teams and enterprises to ask for “Quip Inside” to their IT teams, the same way we bugged our IT teams about switching us from Blackberries to iPhones. And we saw how that played out.

What do you think is Slack and Quip’s potential? Are they overhyped?

Postscript: There are others who are also jostling within this space, like Asana (which aims at collaboration from to-dos) and Evernote (which aims at it from note taking), and as someone who has tried the product I find Quip extremely addictive for an Enterprise product and I’ve heard the same about Slack from startups and friends who have been using them. Box and Dropbox are two other pieces to this puzzle from a server side, with Box playing the LinkedIn to Dropbox’s Facebook.

But make no mistake, what we are seeing right now is the Unbundling of Microsoft.

Filed under: New Products, Quip, Slack

The Secret about Secrets

Dreams are a window to the human soul. So are secrets.


There really is no place to be truly honest on the web today. There’s no place to scream like no one’s watching. Sadly, this is especially true on issues that matter to you, on issues that make you, or issues that break you.

Yesterday’s news that Facebook is dabbling in the creation of an “anonymous” app has Om Malik seeing red. Facebook has owned the market for your identity on the web and now seems to also gravitate towards the opposite end of the spectrum, ostensibly to alter perception on their approach to privacy?

Facebook’s DNA is about mapping people, their relationships and booming their online identity. In fact, online identity is their most killer feature. It is what we all use to log into various websites to leave comments, or sign-in to new apps and services. It is how many Pinterest. Facebook identity is Facebook. So that is why it is hard for me to take any attempts at anonymity seriously!

Is this a PR move? Let’s give Facebook the benefit of doubt in that all of their successes (as driven by advertising) is also driven by an acute sense of how social works. That and given the lengthy product roadmaps that dictate the creation of products, I think anonymity on the web is something Facebook is giving a lot of consideration and this just might be their initial foray into that space. There might be more than meets the eye and I bet there’s a simple answer to all these hyperactive rumors. Here’s where my heads at in this space.

1. Contextual anonymity is empowering, transformational

Relationships matter. Always have, always will. Just ask Facebook and LinkedIn.

But as psychologists will tell you even within the concentric circles of our life (partner, family, work, neighbors, industry, etc.) we employ varying degrees of straight talk (think “fake it till you make it” resumes) for varying reasons. What if we added anonymity to these different concentric circles?

Google + tried creating these circles (minus the anonymity) to provide different slices of news feeds for different communities within your network.

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Facebook did the same when it allowed you to share different content to different slices of your life.

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And Branch tried the same mix of generating conversations within communities (experts, journalists, etc.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 1.23.21 PM

Given that Facebook acqui-hired the team at Branch and Josh Miller from Branch currently leads Project Anonymous, it’s not a stretch to imagine the much rumored product being an extension of the DNA that powered Facebook Groups and Branch.

And since Facebook owns the social graph, it’ll be very easy for them to anonymize conversations within groups already created. For example: I’ve a group for my closest friends (10 people), people I worked with while at LinkedIn (30 people), etc. There are so many ways to slice and dice sub-communities within your Facebook graph and just toggle pseudo / anonymity into the mix.

But what’s the benefit of anonymity, you ask…

2. Corporate Dens: When Communities *talk *

Enter Secret.

I became a recent convert to Secret after stumbling upon the concept of “contextual anonymity;” see a Secret experiment called “Dens” which allows for honest feedback within the filter of anonymity in your workplace. Dens seems like a powerful device to enable people at companies to speak up, be playful, and share their daily thoughts that others can follow within the community / company. Even the 360 degree feedback finds in confidentiality, its Achilles Heel:

People who have never gone through the 360 process before are usually initially worried about how the data will be used and if it will remain confidential. You need to ensure you assure them up-front that it is a confidential process and won’t come back to haunt them at performance review time.

The benefits for safe, anonymous comments in similar settings should be pretty obvious to Facebook. Granted there’s room for slander but I’m sure product driven updates will mitigate just that.

3. When Honesty Matters

Take Quora, a content network that allows anonymity for a slew of reasons. Here are a few reasons why this works:

Besides the reason you included, sharing life experience, other reasons include, but are not limited to:

• political/religious views where those views might be persecuted by a strong majority: Falun Dafa, pro-democracy in Hong Kong, Muslims in India, Christians in Iraq, etc…
• Experiences with drugs, and mental illness, or any other taboo subject
• Simply wanting to hide your content from being explicitly pushed out to people who follow you
• Asking questions that you are not able to fully, or clearly enunciate, which feel like they might appear trolly, but aren’t

As I’ve become more active on Secret, I find many heartwarming snippets of humanity show up. And this is just the tip of the iceberg since the network hasn’t hit critical mass yet. But the opportunity to leverage anonymity for its goodness vs. the acts we’re used to seeing on the web, is an untapped market.

Goodness.

Kindness.

Controversy.

And more

Can we scale this kind of a network is all that’s left to be seen. And if Facebook is going to bring a billion people into the world of anonymity, it could tip the scales.

Time will tell.

Filed under: Branch, Facebook, New Products, Secret

Hacking Time and To dos

To dos, like New Year’s resolutions, are a Herculean challenge that most of us have tried and failed. Nothing works. Paul Ford), former editor Harper’s Magazine, thinks we repeatedly waste time building to-do applications with no serious solution in sight:

One of the systems Victor talks about is in that speech is Doug Engelbart’s NLS system of 1968, which pioneered a ton of things—collaborative software, hypertext, the mouse—but deep, deep down was a to-do list manager. Since then the world of technology has never hurt for personal productivity tools.

Every year or two there seems to be a new hotness: it was Remember the Milk for a while, and OmniFocus, and TaskPaper, and Asana. Asana’s tagline is “Teamwork without email.” And of course there are tons of productivity technologies that don’t involve a computer, including the “Getting Things Done” system, which tore through the Internet like wildfire for a few years—Inbox Zero is its legacy.

That said, I believe we are at the cusp of upcoming technologies like speech recognition, the evolution of notifications, and a renewed focus on what I’d like to call “life management” (think wearables) that will finally put a dent in the way we manage our lives, to dos included. A couple of examples that have attacked this problem with some level of success have been “Mailbox” and “Google Now” to cite a couple of examples. Sure, these are early attempts at fixing email and to-dos, but I see this as a harbinger of the future.

The Challenge with To-dos

The biggest challenge with time management apps is the fluid requirements of To do apps. They have to scale from the micro (staying focused on the immediate task at hand) to the macro (that needs perspective with other apps like the calendar, ideally with notifications); the simple to the complex, the one-time to the repetitive (like habit tracker @liftapp); the important & urgent to the trivial; and so far we’ve just had blunt instruments with which we’ve been trying to hack away at this complexity called life.

All this complexity also has to be handled with little input from the user, or you risk losing them at the get-go should you try to gather much information from them. And the input medium has to be as simple as possible, not forcing the user to be typing away with difficulty on their smartphones. That’s where Google Now becomes more and more magical, as they delight their users by surfacing information users might have missed. This will be the future of To-dos. Read through Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan’s post comparing predictive search to digital assistants:

However, there’s no question that Google Now has proven that there are some search needs that can be predicted. These are often especially tied to location. That’s why — in retrospect — it’s not surprising that predictive search has emerged as more a smartphone feature rather than a search engine feature. We got Google Now for our phones long before we got it for our desktops.

Indeed, predictive search may even develop into an essential smartphone feature. We may come to expect every phone to have it, just as we expect our phones to have cameras or notification areas. And just as people might not buy a phone deemed to have a bad camera, they might also pass over a phone with poor predictive search in favor of one offering better.

The other major challenge with to-dos is handing off some of their actions to apps like email and calendar. Like some to-dos, that are important or urgent, could very well be a unit on your calendar. Now how does one hand that off across apps?

[Update: Since the writing of the post, Khosla VenturesTimeful App launched on iOS this past week, and seems to do a terrific job thus far. More on that in an upcoming post]

Now if only there was a way to dumb down this process to its fundamental basics, where the user does none of the heavy lifting but experiences the benefits of (feedback loop) of such a system, we might have a start. Granted we do not have a single solution that is cross-application and cross-platform, yet.

Hacking To-dos with Siri

This past weekend, upon transitioning to Apple’s latest OS X Yosemite, I feel I may have a quick fix, at least for now that might ease my time management. [This post was written before the launch of Timeful, so expect a sequel shortly.] Two of the biggest improvements in Yosemite, besides the mobile iOS influenced look-and-feel are Notifications (at a swipe) and Reminders that (finally!) syncs across mobile and desktop.

And the secret sauce to make this time management hack work is Siri. In its most recent avatar, Siri is a pretty good note taker, transcriber, and so removes the biggest obstacle with Reminders, which is the act of opening an app to type in your to-do, now all you’ve to do is say it out loud and it’s integrated into a giant catch-all. Let’s call that folder: “Do.”

In addition, I’ve created a bunch of often repeated categories, which range from Groceries (which I turn to when I shop at Google Shopping Express or Instacart), to Chores, which I’d rather not turn to, but gotta. At the end of each day, I review the “Do” folder and either assign a time / date for completion, either / or a folder that I can turn to “Later.”

The missing piece to all To-dos is Timing. Notifications (across mobile and desktop) can really make this work, unlike all past attempts at To-do apps. The good news with the new Mac OS’s is that Notifications are integrated cross-platform and a cursory viewing is just a swipe away under the newly redesigned OS X on the right hand of the desktop.

Frankly, this is as good as Reminders are gonna get for now, but I bet there are ways to further do the thinking for us, as Google Now has shown.

The Future is Brighter

With my experience with Timeful these past 24 hours, it’s clear that time management can be hacked on mobile and desktop in a way we haven’t been able to do thus far. And with increasing tie-ins with the mobile OS and the world of notifications (check out Naveen‘s (Partner, Expa) essay on how “notifications are becoming the app itself”) and predictive search, we just might be able to crack this case.

Also, notifications will allow time management apps to interact with the user on a project to project basis in a way that task managers haven’t been able to in the past. The benefits of such one-click incremental interactions (task done or task moved forward) in future OS’s will bring about a sea change in the efficiency of to-do apps.

When we can interact with our data in short bursts via notifications, we make remarkable efficiency gains, especially on tasks that we perform again and again. Apps will become more about information and communications; we’re going to think of them as services instead of as windows onto our data. The things that can make best use of single click efficiency will soar. A whole new world is up there waiting for us at the top of the screen. We just need to pull it down.

Finally, one of the time management fads talked about in Paul Ford’s piece was David Allen and his until recently ubiquitous Getting Things Done (GTD) craze in the nerd community. Even comedian Drew Carey outsourced his time management to Allen to fix this problem and learned this:

[It] turns out that the Zeigarnik effect is not, as was assumed for decades, a reminder that continues unabated until the task gets done. The persistence of distracting thoughts is not an indication that the unconscious is working to finish the task. Nor is it the unconscious nagging the conscious mind to finish the task right away. Instead, the unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan.

And that plan needs to be made in concert with the big picture, without which the minute next steps mean nothing. Curious what David Allen thinks of the new wave of time management?

How do you track time in your life? Curious if any of your time hacks beat the version I outline above. Tweet me @mariosundar or just leave a comment below.

Filed under: HOW-TO Use Social Media, New Products, What's New in Social Media

Time has come to change how we read

Google Reader is dead. Long live reading.

If you are from the real world and happened upon posts from any-and-every tech blog, you wouldn’t be mistaken in assuming that today marks the demise of the written word, now that Google’s offed Google Reader.

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Image Source: Business Week

But as Joe Coscarelli of New York Magazine, notes, most people don’t know Google Reader from Google Currents, less so care about its disappearance:

As a blogger this might be blasphemy, but the online echo chamber when beloved products, however esoteric, change or shut down is out of control. Worse, it might convince us, through repetition, that these things matter. Regardless of what your social media circles might indicate, the universe will not mourn Reader because the amount of people whose job (or even hobby) it is to consume and process news is actually minuscule. Thankfully.

As a matter of fact, in their rush to tease out the minutiae, I fear we have missed the big picture. There is a fundamental disruption happening in how news is consumed.

Many apps (Digg, Aol, Feedly) are scrambling to jump on the RSS bandwagon by touting their next Google Reader but fact is we are already seeing attempts at more efficient ways to consume news.

And RSS is only part of that story.

What’s the New TiVo of News?

Matt Buchanan of The New Yorker, writes of the problem that ailed Google Reader:

But a feed reader still represents a fundamentally different vision of gathering information than the social model that has gripped the Web. It is largely a single-user enterprise—a digital monk diligently scanning feeds. And it is intensely focussed on the Web sites most important to the user, rather than the omnivorous grazing that characterizes scanning news on social media, as links are surfaced by the people the user follows.

Fact is most of the sites I recommend below have moved away from the RSS-only model while curating social content, in many cases with a lil help from an expert – a trait most successfully used by Gabe Rivera and his trinity of popular news aggregation insider sites Techmeme (Technology), Memeorandum (Politics), and Wesmirch (Celebrity).

As Matt says:

Everybody consumes the Web differently, so it’s hard to imagine a single reading service that works for every person. But it seems reasonable to think that one combining a person’s deep and abiding interests with the serendipity of social media could work for most.

But the future for news readers is brighter than ever and here’s not one, not two, but five different reasons why:

1. Flipboard

The one news app I cannot live without today would have to be – without doubt – my Flipboard.

Flipboard pulls together the disparate threads of news that course through our ubiquitous social media world and makes gorgeous sense of it. Everything from your LinkedIn to Facebook updates, YouTube to Instagram (even SoundCloud), and most importantly, your Twitter followings are displayed in an elegant magazine like format. It’s the kind of design one normally expects from Apple, and Flipboard’s attention-to-detail here is impressive (Follow their designer, @craigmod).

The important distinction to make here is that Flipboard is primarily a consumption device. Though it provides you options to tweet or update your status on any of your social accounts, the beauty of Flipboard is its visual clarity and the ability to on-board you with great news right away.

2. Feedly

For those hard-core Google Reader users who fret-and-fumed since the announcement-to-shutter was made, Feedly has been a god-send. Not only has Feedly invested the most in making this a smooth transition for users, they have also made the most gains among the same user base (up to 3 million users now). In addition, they now support lost RSS reader tools (like @reeder and @newsify) stay alive.

From a user perspective, what feedly has done is provide a quick replacement for Google Reader with a blazing fast cloud service, which you can find at Feedly Cloud. What’s most shocking to me in this whole scenario is why Google didn’t transition those influential Google Reader users to Google Currents – their Flipboard wannabe – the same way Flipboard did!

What Feedly does with its aggressive push into the Google Reader space remains to be seen, but I’d watch out for what they have up their sleeve next.

3. Newsify

All great news consumption apps start on mobile. Flipboard set the standard and, believe it or not, Newsify and Reeder are two similar apps with similar credentials.

RSS subscriptions, unlike the real-time ephemeral nature of social, add up pretty fast in an inbox and what you found is that you had to declare news bankruptcy pretty soon, deleting days worth of RSS content.

What you need is a pictorial, almost Pinterest-like, visualization that allows you to skim through hundreds of posts while picking out the ones that seem most interesting. If it’s 4.5 star app rating is any indication, Newsify seems to have nailed that experience for the iPhone and the iPad.

4. The Modern Op-ed: Quora and Medium

What Huffington Post successfully started, Quora and Medium have tried to emulate. The goal: to find and amplify excellent sources of authoritative analysis, with topics ranging from breaking news to expertise across varying categories.

While Quora is focused on news-via-experience, Medium seems to have perfected the art of the modern op-ed, democratized it while still maintaining its quality.

But what all these sites do is take the traditional news model and flip it on its head by finding commenters, whose comments are the starting point to creating worthwhile reading, and giving these individuals a platform to write and a community to pontificate.

5. Social News: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Finally, the elephant in the room. Social.

Let’s not forget that all of the above innovation rests on social.

What would Flipboard do without Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn feeds. Would their pages be as interesting or even exist?

Most of what I follow on Flipboard are Twitter lists I’ve created. Most of what most people follow on Flipboard are also built around links shared on social sites. With LinkedIn already showing how a successful social news product should be built around relevance and Facebook clearly showing its cards with what could potentially be a social news engine, we can see the direction that social news is gonna take in the coming years. And it’s gonna be a game changer.

So let me leave you with a question:

How do you get your news today? Is it on Yahoo News or Flipboard or Twitter? Do you read news primarily on your phone as you are boarding the train or on your desktop once you get to work or with a New York Times subscription while you drink coffee in the morning.

Leave me a comment.

Filed under: Curation, Facebook, Journalism, Medium, Quora, Social Media Tools, Tumblr, What's New in Social Media

Quora’s Vision, Competition

Quora’s Adam D’Angelo penned an interesting year-end post where he articulates Quora’s mission better than they’ve ever done before. As a huge fan of the site, I’m glad to see Quora returning to its roots.

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge.

LIBRARY-OF-ALEXANDRIA

Much of Adam’s thoughts reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The American Scholar, which predicts the beauty of Quora and its goals many years ago.

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state.

Instead of the sublime and beautiful; the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized.

Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the leger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.

That to me, was and is, Quora’s highest ambition: to educate, organize and share the world’s knowledge  from the sublime to the mundane (which is very different from Google’s “organize the world’s information.”) And, it was refreshing to read echoes of that in Adam’s recent post:

We hope to become an internet-scale Library of Alexandria, a place where hundreds of millions of people go to learn about anything and share everything they know.

Or as Emerson said from the users point-of-view:

The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges.

Matthew Ingram over at GigaOm suggests this pits Quora with Wikipedia, while Owen Thomas is more like Google v. Quora. Frankly, it’s neither of them.

The battle lines are drawn. It’s knowledge platforms that Quora will find itself facing off.

1. Knowledge Platforms: The Old Guard

WordPress, Typepad, etc.

Frankly, any site or service that dabbles in knowledge dissemination is competition to Quora, the only difference here being Quora could be both the platform (like WordPress) and the connector (like Google). I’d have counted Answers sites in this mix but they’re either too niche (Stack Overflow) or dead (Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers).

So, blogs. There are close to 150 million blogs in the world with Google doing a pretty decent job of corralling that information, sometimes connecting the highest bidder with the rest of us with questions. But that’s not the market Quora is going after. It’s knowledge; a higher quality of information. And where do people share the knowledge they have – mostly on blogs and niche social networks. Think about this: the biggest drawback of most blogs is the ability to build an audience (the more influential, the better) but Quora is great at helping you find that audience and helps you connect with those who seek that knowledge (like Quora credits?)

But before they get there they need to scale their knowledge platform; hence, I’d guess, the push away from Q&A to everything that constitutes knowledge.

2. Knowledge Platforms: The New Wave

Svbtle, Medium & Branch.

Increasingly I’m seeing sites that aim to one-up the WordPresses of the world with “a curated collection of great people who have things to say, “a new way to talk to each other,” or “the sharing of ideas and experiences.”

Oddly enough, two of the above come from the House of Obvious Corp. (the brainchild of Twitter co-founders, Ev and Biz), both of whom “would rather build the next Wikipedia, than Zynga.” Guess who’s building the next Wikipedia – Quora.

While Branch forces us to take a second look at commenting systems, cryptic Medium seems to be aimed at publishers and media companies or something like that. Either way, all of the above are aimed at scaling the quality of knowledge that’s distributed on the internet. And by doing so they aim to become the Google at connecting knowledge with those who seek it.

You may notice I didn’t mention Tumblr because I feel they’ve carved out a unique niche for themselves far from either “quality” or “knowledge” by becoming a social entertainment platform with a specific audience (teenagers and time-wasters?), much like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post both of whom feed off of Tumblr.

3. Social Platforms: News and Blog Niche

LinkedIn Blogs, Facebook News

Much like Tumblr and Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have a distinct purpose that immunizes them against Quora. But increasingly, both of these social networking giants, especially LinkedIn seem to make subtle inroads into knowledge sharing. Heck, LinkedIn even recently launched a curated blogging platform. As LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, says in his recent post “It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s What They Know.”

I’m also personally looking forward to posting on a number of subjects I’ve grown passionate about during the course of my career: how to scale a company; the most valuable management lessons I’ve learned; thoughts about the future of work; how to close the skills gap; and many others.

Topics that you can find answers to on Quora along with the more mundane questions that professionals across the various spectrum have asked questions on, but LinkedIn’s scale makes this an interesting one to follow.

Granted, this is but a hobby for LinkedIn; their very own “Apple TV” but as I see it, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of knowledge networks.

Filed under: Branch, Knowledge Networks, Linkedin, Medium, Quora, , , , , , , , ,

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