Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

Why Instapaper should be afraid of Pocket

I’ve been using Instapaper for a while now, except for one short-lived attempt at trying out the gorgeous Readability app. I’d since then returned to Instapaper whose genius is just being there for you – wherever and however you access the web – making it the easiest way to save news and text content for reading later.

Enter Pocket.

Pocket is to Instapaper what the iPad is to the Kindle. Both of them have their own virtues. Both of them do what they’re good at very well, but unlike the Kindle whose biggest strength in my opinion is the ability to read any book glare-free on a digital surface that’s closest to paper, Instapaper plays in a mostly iPad world.

So, why should Instapaper care about Pocket

  • The barrier to switching apps is minimal

As I’d mentioned earlier, this was my 2nd attempt at switching from Instapaper to another site, despite both loving the utility of the product and saving thousands of articles on the app (more on that in just a second).

But, it was trivial for me to pick just the 10 most interesting articles to transfer over to Pocket. For the most part their save-to-read-later actions are similar, Instapaper wins in Safari while Pocket requires you to email the article to save for later. But, I digress… Switching over was not a problem at all and one of the main reasons I didn’t feel the pain of switching was that most of the articles I save for later are ephemeral in nature and don’t matter much anymore. The ones that really mattered were @longreads from various magazine articles that I hadn’t read because there wasn’t an easy way to pick the most interesting ones among hundreds (I save hundreds) on Instapaper.

  • Pictures helps you prioritize reading or viewing

Speaking of prioritizing which articles to read; when you’ve saved tons of articles to read later, and believe me you will when you are accustomed to clicking read-later links whenever you stumble upon something, chances are you’ve got so many posts that at times you just give up on reading them.

The Instapaper look

On using Pocket I realize a great way to pick articles to read is to sift through this content visually, which makes it easier to pick the article du jour that you feel like reading at that moment. Oddly enough I find myself reading more content on Pocket because of this one reason.

All articles; articles, pics and videos are displayed here.

Plus, since there’s an easy way to sort through videos Pocket makes it a one-stop shop for most multimedia content as well.

  • iOS world of Multimedia

You may think it’s not a big deal right now but in a world that’s increasingly gravitating towards videos consumed through your iPad on your couch at home, Pocket’s filling an important need. The reason this assumed even more significance for me is that I also do have Apple TV and so throwing content I find on my iPad over to the television screen is now such a favorite habit of mine, that I find Pocket’s ability to gather all those interviews I’ve been intending to watch on the web throughout the day truly changes the way you consume content on your Apple TV.

The videos only tab in Pocket

Granted, it’s gonna take a deep-rooted change in people’s habit to start using these read later apps, but I think the impending Apple TV revolution (I’m talking about the real TV Apple’s working on) affords Pocket the chance to really go mainstream while Instapaper will remain the amazing utility that it currently is to readers everywhere.

What problem does Pocket solve?

Pocket’s competitive advantage comes from an increasingly iPad fueled world of multimedia content. While Instapaper essentially became my TiVo of news, Pocket has now become my online TiVo, whether it’s News, online video content whether it’s YouTube or Vimeo or even twitpics for that matter (though I rarely use it to view pics later).

Individual Video page

By becoming the one-stop shop for all content, Pocket gives you fewer reasons to try out or stick with Instapaper, as awesome as it is, which is why I think Marco should be concerned right now. Who knows? At some point he may release the “Kindle Fire” version of Instapaper.

Do you use Read Later apps on either your browser or phone? I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on Pocket? Leave a comment or tweet me @mariosundar.

Filed under: Miscellaneous, , , , , , ,

Tech News, Interrupted…

Tech News, Interrupted…

Anil Dash takes the tech media to task for thinking less and linking more. Frankly, I don’t see this situation changing anytime soon given the link economy we live in (Thanks, @Huffingtonpost! I recommend checking out their “Most Popular” widget to understand the “State of the Media” today.) 

Lots of linking with just the barest amount of original reporting, which is actually a fairly efficient way of getting a story out. But while I admire many of the smart people who work at a lot of these outlets, apparently no one who was linking to this story has more than the slightest bit of knowledge about the discipline they were covering.

That said, I do think there’s room here for tech world’s very own Jon Stewart (Dan Lyons?) or Charlie Rose (Sarah Lacy?) who cater to that thoughtful demographic but building that audience ain’t easy. Thoughts? 

Filed under: Miscellaneous, , , , , ,

Why do Social Media Management Tools Still Suck?

It’s been over 5 years since I wrote this piece on MarketingProfs referring to Charlene Li’s original post that introduced us to new ways to track social media metrics. Here we are in 2012 and after a review of some of the leading social media “management”, “monitoring” and “listening” tools, it’s too bad that we don’t have a single winner-take-all scenario but rather a mashup of tools, some of which work better than others.

Now, I bet you didn’t come here to read that. What I’d like to do over the next few minutes is to give you a sense of the social media landscape that greets you today. Consider this post a primer on navigating the mess that is social media management.

There are tons of social media management tools out there that’s probably confusing to the novice but the ones you’ve probably heard of are the ones above. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I’d highly recommend Jeremiah’s research on this topic.

Where do I begin?

I’m sorry to break this to you but there ain’t a single tool that’s a panacea for all your social media tracking woes. Frankly, you’re gonna find out that there are two kinds of tools that cater to different teams in your organization:

  1. Social Media Management tools (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.)
  2. Social Media Listening tools (Radian6, Sysomos, Lithium, etc.)

You’re going to find that all of the tools you evaluate is going to perform better either as a management tool or a listening tool. Very few try to do both (For example, Hootsuite) and in those cases, they fail at one of the two. Chances are that most companies and small businesses will start this journey looking for a social media management tool since the first step in evolving your company’s social media brain is “Awareness” where you identify and track your existing social media presence on social platforms. For example, see LinkedIn’s Social Media Presence below:

Step 1 is gonna be to monitor your activity on these key platforms, identify audience growth (# of followers) across platforms and figure out engagement (how to improve RTs or comments via proper copy and scheduling).

Define your criteria

Step 2 is to identify what are the criteria for selecting this social media tool for your company? The social media tool will have to take into account a bunch of internal requirements that you’ve got to map and then find a tool that fall within the parameters you set for yourself. Here are some criteria I mapped before we began the process of identifying potential social media tools at LinkedIn.

Once you define your version of the above criteria (see above), the goal is to come up with a list of tools that fall within the parameters you define. As you go through the list you realize that the primary challenge is finding a tool that’s complex enough to deal with massive datasets (for example, to plan your marketing campaigns on Twitter or run reports around PR campaigns) while at the same time easy enough to be used by everyone on the team to update your company’s status updates.

So, though Tweetdeck is ideal since it’s free and is easiest to use (has basic scheduling of tweets for e.g.) it unfortunately lacks even basic collaboration / report generation features. So, what you eventually end up with is you’re forced to pick either a Social Media Management System, Listening tool or both.

How does your company do social media? And, if you’ve had a different experience and found your ideal social media tool leave a comment or tweet me @mariosundar

Filed under: Social Media ROI, Social Media Tools, , , , , , ,

How the Columbia School of Journalism gets Social

I had an opportunity to grab lunch with Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia School of Journalism’s digital media professor and Dean of Students, over a week ago when he was in town for a conference.

Keeping in mind my recent resolution, I feel it’s apropos to share a quick little video interview I filmed while I chatted up Sree at San Francisco’s picturesque and historic Fairmont Hotel.

Journalism is in the throes of a severe recession. That topic by itself is worthy of a post but this post is about institutions like the Columbia School of Journalism that continue to evolve and train the next generation of journalists. Sree, not only epitomizes what the school stands for but also practices the social media he preaches.

Here’s our brief 3 minute chat.

I’ll continue to bring you snippets of my conversations with interesting social media voices in this segment. Stay tuned.

If you found this interesting you may want to follow:

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Beating Blogger’s Block

I started blogging years ago. Nearly 6 years ago.

It has unquestionably changed my life and my career in the years since. But, I don’t do it anymore. At least not with the passion that I originally started blogging with and that bothers me.

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I’ve written over a thousand blog posts since then but here on my personal blog it just doesn’t feel fresh, fun or exciting anymore as it was during those early days.

What went wrong

1. I blog for a living. Here a blog, there a blog, just too many blogs. 

2. It’s been an interesting roller coaster of a year (to say the least)  

3. Twitter killed Blogging for most of us

Why this bothers me 

Blogging is a really good indicator to identify how passionate you are on your favorite topics.When I started blogging I’d spend hours after work writing about topics I love. It’s that passion that slowly helped me find social media and LinkedIn way back when. And, so when I find myself not blogging actively anymore it bugs me.

I don’t want that and I need to change things up. I need to blog. And, I need to start today.

What’s next? 

The blog definitely needs more regular, interesting content and I’m gonna make an extra-effort to do exactly that. Oddly enough, there’s far more interesting stuff happening today in social media than there was a few years ago; so much so that there’s tons of noise and hopefully the content I create here will cut through that noise.

Over the next few weeks you’re going to see content that will focus on three key attributes.

1. People: Meet professionals whose work I admire. Capture that on the blog. 

I meet tons of interesting folks in the social media space whose work I find relentlessly fascinating. Expect to hear more about them on the blog as I get them to share lessons learned while working on real world projects in social media, whether it’s in PR, Marketing or Journalism.

2. Always unique, always differentiated. 

Using Quora for the first time was a huge aha moment that reminded me of my initial experience blogging. What Quora does best was provide a platform for sharing what you’re good at while bringing you an audience of interesting people in that space who’d love to hear from you. That’s what a good blog is supposed to be while giving you the control over every aspect of content and design.

So, you’re gonna see a slew of content that I can provide unique insight into and hopefully we can reach many more readers like you who will find that content useful. All I’d ask is for you guys is to share posts that you find useful, when you find em useful.

3. Give more than you get

In the past, there have been days where I’d put together a hastily scribbled post just because I’d want to get to my quota of one post a day. Now, granted this is a part of the Writer’s Block that hastened the slow-down of my blogging, but as I look around I see a a few awesome bloggers who generate a ton of quality content on a regular basis. And, I know it’s doable.

Blogs that I love reading on Flipboard. Blogs from my good friends, for example, Jeremiah who has been churning out some stellar content for years or Adam who more recently has been kicking but with some super insightful posts these past few days.

It’s time for me to get back to blogging…

Filed under: Best-of, Miscellaneous, ,


For the past four years, I’ve made the annual trek to Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Conference and have fond memories and some great friendships that were forged during those weekends. This weekend will be the first year in 5 years (I even made it last year despite the chaos) that I’ll be missing out on the action – partly due to a bruised rib and partly cos I haven’t had a chance to breathe since my return from Toronto.

Bringing #SXSW to Twitter

Over this weekend, I’m gonna do my best to avoid staring at my Tweetdeck screen that will taunt me with tweets from friends streaming into Austin, sharing their Instagram photos or checking in non-stop over this weekend, I figured why not get other non-attendees together do something constructive – a Twitter chat.

Who better to host the chat than Mack Collier. Mack and I started blogging at roughly the same time over 7 years ago, we shared the stage at Southby years ago and he runs a weekly twitter chat (#blogchat) on topics related to social media every Sunday. And, that’s exactly what we’re doing this Friday to distract ourselves from SXSW.

Here are the details:

  • Time: Friday, March 10 at Noon Central for an hour (see Mack’s post here)
  • Topic: Using Social Media tools to network (here’s a hint on some of the things we’ll cover)
  • How to: Log onto Twitter (ideally use a desktop app via Tweetdeck or Hootsuite). Create a search column for #notatsxsw and you’re off to the races. And, hashtag your tweets #NotAtSXSW

How do I participate? And, what’s a Twitter Chat?

To the uninitiated, Twitter chat is an online unconference, if you will. What’s an unconference, you ask. Well, never mind. It’s a great way to bring together peers with a common interest on common topics. Frankly twitter chat will be a perfect example to illustrate how to “Use Social media tools to network”. For you newbies, here’s a short description from Mack on how Twitter chat works:

If you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter, you know that there are a lot of conversations happening at any one time, and it can sometimes seem like a jumbled mess. But when we add a hashtag like #blogchat to our tweets, then it becomes much easier for us to track and keep up with the conversation that’s happening!

Think of the #blogchat hashtag as a ‘mark’ that we add to our tweets, then if you are searching for the term ‘#blogchat’, you can quickly and easily see all the tweets that are related to our discussion!

The only difference this time is we’ll be using the #NotAtSXSW hashtag both during the chat as well as for the rest of the week, as we lead up to it. So, look forward to seeing you guys there. Don’t forget to follow @mackcollier and you know me – @mariosundar. See you guys on Friday!

Follow me @mariosundar

Filed under: HOW-TO Use Social Media, Twitter, , , , ,

Do you view your career as a startup?

I first met Reid Hoffman, nearly six years ago (Thanks, Kay!) as I was being interviewed by the then executive team at LinkedIn for my role as social media guy. Since then, what has always struck me the most about Reid is his simplicity coupled with his enthusiasm in debating complex topics, whether it’s a philosophical discussion on social media to something as simple as the importance of adding commenting to our blog.

 One of my favorite pics from the old days – Reid Hoffman (center) with Jean-Luc Vaillant (left) and Allen Blue (right) at our old Palo Alto office

Working at LinkedIn during those early days was a great opportunity to watch, discuss and learn from him on a slew of topics and it’s great to see that Reid’s now shared many of his learnings into his recent book – “Startup of You“.

There are tons of valuable insights that Reid and co-author, Ben Casnocha, have assembled in the new book. Insights that are simple on the face of it, but you’d be surprised at how unheeded some of them are. Here are some:

  • How to establish close professional alliances who can help you and whom you can help in turn.
  • Why the most powerful networks include a mix of both allies and looser acquaintances.
  • Why you should set up an “interesting people” fund to guarantee that you spend time investing in your network.

The other parts of the book that I also found fascinating include the anecdotes, like this one:

I [Reid] first met Mark Pincus while at PayPal in 2002. I was giving him advice on a startup he was working on. From our first conversation, I felt inspired by Mark’s wild creativity and how he seems to bounce off the walls with energy. I’m more restrained, preferring to fit ideas into strategic frameworks instead of unleashing them fire-hose-style. But it’s our similar interests and vision that have made our collaborations so successful.

We invested in Friendster together in 2002. In 2003 the two of us bought the Six Degrees patent, which covers some of the foundational technology of social networking. Mark then started his own social network, Tribe; I started LinkedIn (LNKD). When Peter Thiel and I were set to put the first money into Facebook in 2004, I suggested that Mark take half of my investment allocation. I wanted to involve Mark in any opportunity that seemed intriguing, especially one that played to his social networking background. In 2007, Mark called me to talk about his idea for Zynga (ZNGA), the social gaming company he co-founded and now leads. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to invest and join the board, which I did.

An alliance is always an exchange, but not a transactional one.

Now, some folks may think that these alliances are an exception:

All of which prompts a question: in a winner-takes-all world, do the networks of the rich and powerful become self-reinforcing? For all Hoffman’s claims that the lives of successful Silicon Valley zillionaires are a useful model, one cannot escape the sense that he moves in a rarefied world in which a you-scratch-my-back chumminess excludes the less fortunate.

I beg to differ. These mutual alliances model is one that all successful professionals follow. These alliances can be found everywhere in our careers. And, we do it all the time.

Now, some professionals may have an old-school way of thinking where they stop looking at professional enrichment once at a job. Though this may have worked in the past, I couldn’t agree more that in today’s economy it’s imperative that we not only keep our skill sets updated constantly but more importantly, that we also actively nurture our relationships that matter so much. As Reid shared with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times last year:

The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach your career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.

I highly recommend this book if you believe the world of work is undergoing a dramatic change and if you’d like to learn some of the basic lessons to equip you to deal with those paradigm changes successfully. So, I wanted to share some reasons why I think it may be worth your while to take a read. Tweet me your reactions to the book.

I look forward to your stories.

Follow me @mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Colleagues, ,

Why LinkedIn Events matters more Now

Think of every event or conference you’ve ever attended. Think of the two questions that’s been foremost on your mind in finding value from the right events, besides avoiding these guys or worse still running into these guys:

1. Which of my friends are attending this event? 

This is probably the #1 question that bugs conference organizers and event attendees. Think of the last time you’ve attended an event or a conference? Your first thought that helped you decide should you spend that extra few hours after work, driving all the way to an event was – are my peers, colleagues or former colleagues gonna be there. Is it gonna make it worth my while?

LinkedIn Events you may be interested in does just that as it prioritizes the results showing you just the ones your connections are gonna be at, making it easier for you to decide which ones to RSVP for.

Showing you the events that your friends are attending, gets you to those events

2.  Is this event worth my time? 

Given the time and cost investment associated with events, attendees also wanna make sure that they are making new connections that will prove to be invaluable to them in the long run. Enter, Attendees you may want to meet.

It's People You May (or Should) Know at the Event or Conference

This feature is priceless (like People You May Know) as it allows you to connect with these potential contacts you should be networking with. This is something that only a site like LinkedIn can provide using the relationship graph that exists on the site today, friends of friends and all that cool stuff.

I’d give LinkedIn events a try just for the above two features, but I bet there are other reasons to try it out as well. Let me know what you think about the feature by leaving a comment and I’ll make sure it’s shared with my colleague Jimmy Chen and team.

As a critical part of networking, you can now leverage the relationships you’ve built on LinkedIn over the years to inform your experience attending events, making it more productive.

Related posts:

  1. Here’s Jimmy’s post from the LinkedIn blog
  2. TechCrunch’s take on LinkedIn Events’ intelligent recommendations & search by Leena
  3. TNW’s Cheri on LinkedIn’s bigger, better and more user-friendly Events upgrade

Filed under: LinkedIn Features,

Grab a glass of ice water in Outlook Hell

I assure you I won’t begin every post of mine with a Steve Jobs quote. Only whenever appropriate. Mossberg relates this classic anecdote where Jobs famously quipped that iTunes on Windows PC was “like giving a glass of ice water to someone in Hell.

TouchBase and Calvetica: The 2 iPhone Calendar apps that saved me from Calendar Hell

Alas, Mac desktop users are stuck with the reverse problem – serving poutine at Four Seasons – also known as a clunky, bloated Outlook that aims to embarrass the user and make it terribly hard to gain any utility from it.

But, this past week, I stumbled upon 3 great Mac calendar apps (2 on the iPhone and one on the desktop) that take the sting away from Outlook (keeping it safely in the background) while surfacing key functionality where needed, when needed.

1. Why Calvetica? (Yes, it’s $0.99 and is so worth it; so pony up)

Cos simple’s always better than complex.

If Apple had spent sufficient time designing a calendar app this is what they’d have ended up with instead of the underwhelming Mac calendar app. The app looks gorgeous (think Helvetica) but more importantly it reduces the number of clicks to get to important parts of the calendar as well as to visualize your calendar. Plus, it does a neat sync with Exchange.

They also have a more robust calendaring 2.0 version (that includes task management) for $2.99 that I wouldn’t recommend. This app tends to look a tad more noisy than the classic version and lacks its minimalist tendencies.

2. Why TouchBase? (Another $0.99 well spent)

When one click is always better than two, or three, or more.

Of what use is a calendar app when it takes forever to say, inform your fellow meeting attendees that you’re late for a meeting or to postpone it. Plus, it takes forever to find the address where your meeting’s taking place and I could go on.

TouchBase’s strength is the same as Calvetica – great design that surfaces to your finger tips, the most important relevant information around  a meeting intelligently. For e.g.

First off it creates these simple visually simple cue cards that pull all the relevant information for a meeting (including participant’s contact – phone and email addresses provided your address book has them). The best part of this is the “I’m here late” or “I’m running late by…” tabs that makes sending out a SMS or email to participants a one click process.

I just used it earlier today to save me a few minutes of frantic back-and-forth with my calendar and email when all I needed was to click once, and send auto-formatted SMS or email to say I was running late and bam! it was sent.

3. Why Fantastical? (a pricey desktop calendaring app at $19.99)

When you just wanna type in a calendar event that gets added magically to Exchange or iCal. 

Now, the missing piece of the calendar puzzle is Microsoft Outlook on a Mac laptop, the bull in a china shop. Plus, it’s always a few clicks away to create a calendar event, moving away from your current application, getting to the calendar tab, opening an entry and awkwardly adding multiple details for an event, finding the right time before sending out.

What if you could open up a calendar entry from a keyboard entry no matter where you’re at. The best part of this app is yet to come – natural language recognition, like Siri. So just hit – “Project meeting with Ed and John from 2 to 2:30 today at Boardroom” and it applies all the criteria to your calendar invite right from your Mac Menu bar. Love it. So much.

And the fact that it adds a neat calendar to the Mac menu bar (which unfortunately lacks one) is the icing on the cake. Either way, the above 3 apps or maybe 2 (#2 and 3) finally provide a glass of refreshing ice water in a calendar hell. BTW, if you’ve any suggestions for similar Mac apps (desktop or iPhone), leave a comment.


Filed under: Miscellaneous