Will Friendfeed move to mainstream?

A great deal has been written about Friendfeed and its phenomenal growth. This popular social site enables sharing of items across various social sites with others and also allows comment on items shared by friends. However, the ability to post direct to FF is limited.  Here’s the typical flow of information to FF, which as you will see is mostly from direct blog posts and other news aggregators.

Maybe this is a concious choice by FF to be a super-aggregator of feeds rather than a social bookmarking or sharing site. In which case, ability to share or post directly to the site is not as critical.

The Friendfeed blog recently described their favorite new application – Mail2FF, a new Friendfeed application that lets you send pictures directly to Friendfeed through email.

Since we launched our API, avid FriendFeed users and developers have built all sorts of cool applications. One of our favorites is Mail2FF, which lets you easily post pictures to FriendFeed via email. Built by Gary Burd, it lets you post messages directly to FriendFeed using a special email address that consists of your FriendFeed nickname and your FriendFeed Remote Key.

I think it’s a great idea and what I would also like to see is direct posting of news to FF from some of the mainstream media sites. 

NY Times CNN ABC News

The mainstream adoption of social aggregators is highly debatable and to say the social landscape is fragmented would be an understatement. I think becoming a super-aggregator of all content from all social sites is a brilliant strategy but I think FF could further increase its share of the social media pie by enabling direct sharing of content to its site.

Mobile drives adoption of social sites like Facebook

I recently received two invites from someone I know, one for Facebook and another for LinkedIN. I accepted the Facebook invite right away, took me over 2weeks to activate the LinkedIN connection. The difference was that I could add the contact to Facebook via my cellphone but not so with LinkedIN. For the latter, I had to go to the site, log in and accept the invite. With Facebook, I can add a new contact with a simple text message.

Add a friend

For sites trying to acquire new users, this is a lesson worth learning, the easier you make it for folks to sign up, the faster you can drive adoption.

Wii Fit says your 4yr old is fat

Just the other day, I tuned into my favorite radio station on my daily 1hr commute to work and heard this parent calling into say that according to Wii Fit, her 9yr old daughter was fat. Of course, next thing you know, there’s a flood of listeners calling in, to express their outrage.

My colleague walked into the office yesterday with a similar story, ‘You are not going to believe this but Wii Fit says my 4yr old is obese’. I was horrified, what kind of monster would say that to a child and this was just a machine. 

I have blogged about Wii’s mainstream marketing woes in the past and how it’s trying to appeal to every demographic on the planet, a strategy which seems to have served it well as it outsells Xbox game consoles in the US and Wii Fit is one of June’s top-selling games.

However, it is obvious that by targeting everyone, Nintendo might be confusing its user base. Unlike other Wii games, Wii Fit as the name indicates has a fitness component to it. Here’s how Nintendo describes it,

Wii Fit is a combination of fitness and fun, designed for everyone, young and old. By playing Wii Fit a little every day, you, your friends, and your family can work towards personal goals of better health and fitness.

The problem with Wii Fit is that it uses BMI (Body Mass Index) as a way to assess one’s fitness level and there’s a cute little disclaimer at the bottom,

The BMI assessment in Wii Fit is designed for adults, not for players between ages 2 and 19.

Based on their marketing and advertisement, there’s no doubt Nintendo is pitching Wii Fit to all age groups so it can’t hide behind the fine print. Moreover, BMI is a very flawed indicator of one’s fitness even for adults because it’s based on one’s height and weight. It’s very misleading because weight is not a very accurate predictor of one’s fitness, because someone with higher muscle mass could easily outweigh someone who is of the same height but has more fat, because fat weighs less than muscle. Using that kind of flawed system, no wonder cherubic little girls are inaccurately proclaimed to be ‘fat’.

One one hand, one can say it’s the parents who are responsible because why on earth are they using a gaming system to determine their child’s fitness? But then again, isn’t the customer always right? I don’t think it’s in Nintendo’s best interest to have their product associated with creating self-esteem issues in little girls.

Why Yahoo! mail sucks

One of my pet peeves is why companies who have been around a long time are still unable to get the basics right. A great example is Yahoo! mail that,  even after 11 years of being in existence, can’t distinguish between legitimate emails and spam. It’s annoying enough when tons of junk mail gets routed to your inbox but the last straw is when legitimate emails get sent to your spam folder.

This interview with Mark Risher, anti-abuse product manager for Yahoo Mail in Network World on introduction of DomainKeys Internet Mail, as the standard for authentication, back in February makes it sound like the greatest invention since sliced bread. I found that there’s more truth in the comments than in the interview itself. 

This technology is something we felt would be very helpful for receivers so we can confer special privileges to a message. For this other message that lacks a signature, we can penalize it. We can treat it with more suspicion and run it through additional filters.

Yes, authentication of emails sound great in theory, the assumption being that Yahoo! system can identify the authentified piece of mail. But when their own mail system can’t distinguish between authentified mail and spam, what’s the point?

The incident that inspired my post today was an email I received from another Yahoo! mail user, a friend of mine who was responding to my previous email, and guess what?! His email was DomainKeys authentified and yet, it ended up in the spam folder. If I hadn’t checked my spam folder I would have missed the email with his flight details and would have left him stranded at the airport.

That’s why theory doesn’t always add up to reality and that’s where Gmail atleast has its basics right. Gmail system is smart enough to identify and compile emails in the same thread so subsequent emails in the same thread don’t get blocked. I mean, the fact that I’ve responded to a given email address multiple times should render it kosher.

That being said, how much can one expect from a free mail service but wait a minute…Gmail’s free and it’s not even out of Beta yet (which is curious, why is it still in Beta?). From what I’ve heard, the paid business mail hosted by Yahoo! has even worse spam filters, resulting in more spam than the free account, so much for paying for better service.

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, for the last few months, it’s been nearly impossible to log in to the mail account. You keep trying and trying, and you can see your emails in the tiny box on My Yahoo page but you can’t get to them. Yahoo! mail is supposed to be the third-most popular site according to Hitwise, a number which is no doubt helped by frustrated users who have to keep visiting the site multiple times because it’s so friggin darn impossible to get in.

Inside scoop on SV New Tech July Meetup

Last Tuesday, I was at the Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup in Palo Alto. The line up was great as usual and the only downside was that they were all out of pizza even before I got there, oh well…there’s always the wine. Here’s the scoop on the new ventures who presented there:

The first one was www.kwiry.com, presented by founder Ron Feldman. “You can text it before you forget it with mobile txt message reminders to your computer.”

This is a nifty tool to remind yourself of everyday important details by texting it to the kwiry website. Kwiry adds a social component to the query, it allows folks to search through the reminders, add comments, it has a Facebook application, integration with Twitter and yes, there’s also a mobile version of the site.

Show me the money: Their response to business model question was that the site serves up search results and product results, both of which are monetizable through search advertising and product advertising. One intriguing idea they’re working on – pilots with offline media companies, where the brands could leverage the site to do product marketing campaigns. One test case was with Mustang, where customers were encouraged to text kwiry for more information on Mustangs. 

 www.websketch.com – Presenters were Scott Tse – founder/prez and David (who seemed to be the king of everything else that needs to be done). It’s an online web design and hosting service for the average user, ie. someone without programming experience or html training, very unlike the average audience at this Meetup.

Based on the demo at this Meetup, it seemed very easy-to-use and the UI was very slick and intuitive. You have the ability to drag and drop your new website into reality with interesting use of images that scroll, embedded videos, and scrolling pages to create very professional-looking pages. One of their customers is Ducati motorcycles. The presenter created a snazzy-looking webpage from scratch in under a minute. The site also has Flickr integration so you can easily use pictures from your Flickr account. The tool is 100% browser-based with expected integration with YouTube in a week.

Show me the money: Currently, like the gazillion other start ups out there, this site is also free. Their plan is to grow the user base and then start charging a fee but I think this model is very sketchy.* The main issue with the site is that you can’t transition your webpage to another server, the pages have to be hosted on their site. I wonder how many of their users would be willing to get locked into a third-party site for their business website without knowing the terms of the contract? Also, currently there is no customer or database support available so that’s other deterrent for small-businesses which seem to be their primary target.

*Meetup organizer Vincent Lauria had a great suggestion which was to grandfather the early adopters into the system so you don’t lose them when the site goes live and you reward them for taking a chance on your idea.

Note: I tried to access the live demo on the site, but I got an error message even though I had IE 7. Sorry, but your browser is incompatible. “You may only view pages with Firefox 2 & 3, Safari 3.x, or Internet Explorer 7 and edit pages with only Firefox 2 & 3 or Safari 3.x+”.

 www.LaunchSplash.com pitches itself as filling “a need of 100% of web startups – drop dead simple launch pages for your upcoming site – build community before you even have one.” Presenter/founder, Jacques Crocker did a great job of demonstrating how easy this application is for use. This is a great option for folks like me who register a ton of domain names and end up with a dummy page with tons of crappy links. The application is quite simple and all you have to do to get started is to enter name of your domain into the search box. It offers several different templates with RSS feed and ability to capture email addresses from visitors so folks can sign up while your site is being built. The preview option shows you what your page will look like. You can also host the page at your own domain by mapping the IP address.

Show me the money: The revenue model is simple fee-based subscription model where the basic page is free, and the plans start  at $5/mthly and go higher depending on the selected plan. The founder has no intention of opening the site up for third-party developers… yet.  

www.ZoomProspector.com helps business find the right location through a variety of attributes such as college education of the labor market, property prices, and even income. The data provided through this site is incredibly extensive. The founders, Chad Catacchio & Anatalio Ubalde claim that their tool offers Map data that’s much deeper than Google, Yahoo! maps and all the other data sources put together. The site which was featured on TechCrunch earlier this year uses data from the local governments.

Show me the money: The revenue model was somewhat vague and very ‘Googlesque’, they talked about how they want to ‘liberate’ the data so access to all information is free. They seem to be targeting local governments who will leverage this data to attract new businesses. The plan also seems to be to monetize through advertising and driving traffic to client communities. The site’s currently in closed beta and access is through invitation code only. Note: For those aspiring for an opportunity with a startup, they are hiring.