Friday Five
  1. carousel app Now that we’re all shooting more photos and videos than ever before, Dropbox is hell bent on storing them for you. Dropbox knows there’s a high switching cost for moving all your personal stuff (hassle, trust) so they’re making it easy and appealing to store and share, particularly via mobile. And yesterday Dropbox purchased iOS photo app Loom to continue the offensive.
  2. This week, Twitter took a page out of Facebook’s monetization playbook by adopting app install ads. With a heavily mobile user base, Twitter provides an appealing audience for app creators looking for new users. Here’s hoping this proven ad revenue model shores up Twitter’s languishing stock price.
  3. Hunter Walk illustrates how context matters when serving up recommendations for end users. When YouTube recommended videos to users, the interface explicitly told them why: e.g., “because you watched these puppy videos, we’re showing you this kitten.” As a result, users were less likely ignore the recommendations — and consumed more video.
  4. But what if you don’t want your online behavior tracked, for relevant video recommendations or anything else? The Atlantic cites research from Zeynep Tufekci on emerging user behaviors, from passive-aggressive subtweeting to active hatelinking, that regular people are adopting to remain invisible to the algorithms that track online behavior.
  5. Also filed under “what your social networks now know about you,” Facebook has launched Nearby Friends, a way for you to find out who’s close by. The technology is based on Glancee, a startup Facebook acquired back in 2012. Needless to say, early messaging is all about user control and privacy settings.

Weekend fun: Done right, Vine videos are a glorious, six-second art form. Here are this year’s winners from the Tribeca Film Festival, with my favorite Wrap Dancer winning the animation category.

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.

Cloud factory

banff mountainsThanks to the team at The Cloud Factory in Canada for putting together a great event on the state of cloud technology — and its digital economy and innovation impact. Stunning backdrops, great ideas, and good debates about everything from pricing wars to cloud commoditization to flavors of Open Stack.

Below are the slides I presented on  innovation made possible by the cloud for the theme of “democratizing the enterprise.” Now that we’ve moved beyond the first step for creating a web initiative being “write a million dollar check for some servers,” we’re seeing products and services that can focus more time to delivering value and iterating fast, rather than developing datacenter protocols.

Friday Five

twitter michelle obama

  1. Twitter is going all Facebook with new, expanded profile pages. The new profile pages offer a wider banner, a larger profile image, and the ability to “pin” a tweet to the top of your profile. The profile pages will now emphasize your tweets with the most engagement by making them larger. First Lady Michelle Obama is already up and running — soon you will be, too.
  2. Good explainer post on the difference between the card design proliferating across the web and emerging card architectures. The former reflects a design aesthetic, which may be a more ephemeral trend. The latter supplants embedded media, and enables third-party and first-party content to co-mingle — potentially delivering more value to the user.
  3. Speaking of cards, the explanatory journalism startup Vox launched this week with a lush, card-enhanced look. Bright yellow highlights tease explainer cards that act almost like dynamic FAQs. Topics range from “what is marijuana” (really?) to “is it the Ukraine or just Ukraine.” GigaOm broke down the benefits and challenges of the new site.
  4. Internet of Things was canonized as the biggest new thing when John Chamber at Cisco referred to it as a $19T (t, as in trillion) market back in January. This Business Insider scrolling presentation walks you through examples (smart TVs, connected cars, wearables), venture capital investments, and security questions.
  5. A new report from mobile analytics and advertising firm Flurry tracked mobile behaviors from January to March 2014. Findings confirm that native mobile apps (versus mobile web) continue to dominate, commanding an astonishing 86% of the average U.S. mobile consumer’s time. HTML5 and CSS3 were the mobile web darlings of 2010 — today, not so much..

Weekend fun: Turns out, Game of Thrones is more than a blood-thirsty way to spend a delightful Sunday evening with the family. The show’s popularity has ensured that there are now more baby Khaleesis than Betsys, and has spawned a veritable spike in female baby Aryas. But cheer up — weekend is coming.


Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.

Friday Five
  1. social-networking-over-timeA Pew report on older adults and technology use finds that more seniors are online. Today, 59% of 65+ adults are connected, compared with 53% in 2012 and only 35% back in 2008. And they’re more social: more than half of women 65+ use social networking sites, validating my theory that grandchildren photos are a critical driver for Facebook adoption. Seniors still lag notably in smartphone adoption, with only 18% penetration compared to 55% of the general population.
  2. On-demand car service Lyft raised 250 M, putting them in a fundraising league with Uber as the two compete for marketshare. How big will these “collaborative economy” or sharing services grow as a generation less invested in owning enters its prime earning years?
  3. Hard to believe that Gmail is already 10 years old. The service launched on April 1, 2004, via a mere 1,000 initial invitations. Gmail changed the way we think about searchable email, and turned up the pressure for ease-of-use and storage for IT departments struggling to keep up with heightened employee expectations. Fun fact: Gmail was a skunkworks project, and launched in beta on 300 old Pentium III computers nobody else at Google wanted.
  4. Amazon, Google, and now Microsoft are engaging in price wars over their cloud offerings. Thankfully, gone are the days when the first thing you did when you build a website was, “First, write a million dollar check to Sun for some servers…”
  5. Lots of people have great ideas for social products and services — but many of those products depends on critical mass of users. How do you grow enough to get the metrics to understand where to improve and scale? Andrew Chen lists some solid approaches to solving for the dreaded cold start problem.

Weekend fun: Lots of people are already sick of watching this video of an ecstatic two-legged puppy romping on the beach. I am not one of those people.


Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.

Friday Five
  1. facebook rift This week, Facebook acquired virtual reality purveyor Oculus Rift for $2B in cash and stock. This purchase gives the social networking company, which was only two years ago struggling to get its arms around mobile, a leg up in virtual reality hardware. What will they use it for? Gaming’s an obvious first use case, but there’s a big vision opportunity. Semil Shah penned a terrific, if pun-laden piece on Facebook’s strategy and direction.
  2. In an effort to boost Google Wallet, Google enables friction-free money transfer for Gmail users. The simple user interface — as easy as adding an attachment — is sure to attract entice more people into signing up for Google Wallet.
  3. What’s content marketing, again? This piece breaks down this generic term, and explains why companies like NewsCred and Percolate are closing significant financing rounds.
  4. From the Something Useful Now department, the Starbucks app has added a couple of handy features. The app now enables shake-to-pay, which uses your mobile’s native accelerometer to pull up the scannable barcode, and a feature than enables tipping for up to two hours after your visit.
  5. Nieman Lab runs an extensive review of NY Times Now, a mobile product launching in the app stores on April 2. The launch is a step forward into current digital news best practices (mobile-first approach, briefs, curation of third party content). But will it lure more subscribers with this new app, or introduce product confusion with too many similar offerings?

Weekend fun: Are you still immersed in March Madness this weekend? Then check out @NailbiterBot, which will tweet to you when games are close in the second half. Follow the account now, so you can quietly excuse yourself from your in-laws and tune in.


Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.

The skinny on startup accelerators

RDV sketch

Speakers looking pensive, only mildly upstaged by Brent Grinna’s pants

If you have a startup that’s launched but needs to grow, how do you choose, apply to, and make the most of a tech accelerator experience? Monday’s Rough Draft Ventures Sketch brought together four accelerator alumni and professionals to demystify the accelerator process — the pain and the perks.

Several themes emerged:

  • Accelerators are competitive, and can afford to be choosy. Have your startup pitch down cold. Make your one-minute video clear and focused on business value. Know who your CEO is, and how decisions will be made.
  • Accelerators can unlock a broad network, so if you’re lucky enough to be accepted, make the most of the resources made available to you.
  • Every member of the founding team should show they are actively learning. Share new ideas and lessons learned — even when those lessons are “we chose the wrong direction, and here’s why.”
  • Speaking of the founding team, having a strong technical co-founder matters. A lot.
  • Be serious about your startup. Applicants who are merely in love with the glamorous idea of start-up life will swiftly be weeded out via a five-year grueling process of starting a business.
  • Don’t rule out incubators. While they don’t offer investment, they provide space, enable connections to business services, and valuable introductions to mentors. And you don’t give up 6%.
  • Women apply at much lower rates than men — for example, given odds that only 20% of applicants are accepted, many women will choose not to apply. In contrast, men will apply even when their likelihood of success is roughly a snowball’s change in hell. There’s an opportunity for women to step up and stand out in the accelerator applicant pool.

Thanks to Natalie Bartlett who ran the show for Rough Draft Ventures, and to speakers Brent Grinna, Merrill Lutsky, Karen Murphy, and Katie Rae for sharing insights and ideas — and staying late to connect with the students.


Friday Five
  1. design enterprise on mediumMedium has released its first mobile app, bringing its elegant, curated reading experience to your iPhone. Login requires Twitter, and they made the somewhat curious decision not to “bog users down” with a homepage. Still to come: more robust search and a mobile writing experience.
  2. The internet of things garnered a lot of attention in January when Google shelled out $3.2 billion for Nest, its patents, and its people. Is the next step for IoT consumers an app store for hardware? NEX band is making an early foray, counting on the viral sharing behaviors of youth to attract developers and ideas.
  3. If you manage a Facebook page for a brand, you might want to double-check those reach numbers. With an upcoming algorithm change, the organic reach for a brand page may fall to as little as 1-2% of the fan base. Facebook is looking to migrate organizations to a paid acquisition and retention model.
  4. Why do people edit Wikipedia? Here’s a quick explanation — part of a useful short series on the who, why, and how of Wikipedia editors.
  5. Is Twitter ditching @ replies and hashtags? Sounds as though they will keep the functionality, but lose some of this “visible scaffolding” around user behaviors. Expect to see ongoing evolution of the user experience as Twitter seeks the user growth needed to buoy its newly-public stock.

Weekend fun: Ever wish you could go back and erase or edit your early online ramblings? For better or worse, Twitter is breathing new life into them by featuring “my first tweet” for its eighth birthday. Here’s how you can look up your own very first tweet.

first tweet

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.

Friday Five
  1. social referralsComscore data show that users coming directly to a news site stay longer and view more pages than those coming from search and social. Users arriving via search and social drive up views, but are more difficult to convert into loyal readers. Two caveats to the study: mobile traffic is not included, and email is often improperly tagged, which causes some users to be improperly counted as “direct.”
  2. Tony Haile, CEO of realtime analytics product Chartbeat, will convince you: what you think you know about the web is wrong. Saddled with a web measured by the click, we’re now trying to better understand user behavior while interacting with a site. Among the more compelling observations: if a site can hold visitors’ attention for three minutes, they are twice as likely to return than if you hold them for only one minute.
  3. The Web turned 25 this week, kicking off a flurry of pieces reflecting on the internet era. Here’s a brief timeline from Fast Company. Fun fact: When web creator Tim Berners-Lee was asked to name one thing he never envisioned the web being used for, his reply was ”kittens.”
  4. It’s astonishing to think that a gigabyte of hard drive would have cost you about $190,000 dollars back in 1980. In a move designed to compete with rival Dropbox, Google Drive is now offering 100GB storage for only $1.99/month.
  5. Sadly, the money you just saved on storage will now be spent on Amazon Prime membership, which just rose from $79 to $99/year. Prime was a genius feature — the ultimate gateway drug for online impulse buying. I guess those drones aren’t going to pay for themselves.

Weekend fun: According to a recent report on millennials, 55% of them say they’ve shot and shared a selfie, versus 24% of Gen X, and of 9% of boomers. Bucking the trend, this former Secretary of State beats Ellen’s product placement hands down.

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective links about compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.