First Look: peddl

My monthly column for VentureFizz is back. This month, I take a first look at peddl, an MIT Media Lab startup. From the post:

When it comes to buying and selling secondhand things, there have been few technological innovations after the garage sale and Craig’s List. But a new startup called peddl is using its MIT Media Lab brainpower to use a combination of a mobile app, hyperlocal, and new market models to make it easier to broadcast the idea that “I have this” and “I want this” to prospective local buyers and sellers.

The story starts at the MIT Media Lab, where Tony DeVincenzi, a creative director, Matthew Blackshaw, a Yale graduate and former Microsoft employee, and Dávid Lakatos, a Hungarian national and particle physicist work on experimental computer interaction projects. They came up with an idea 6 months ago to come up with a software application that could have a large outreach and would solve a problem that many people have: easily buying and selling secondhand things to people around us, with “people around us” meaning hyperlocal.

For the full article, see “First Look: peddl”

DogVacay: An Alternative To The Kennel

I’m a dog lover. My wife and I treat our Corgi, Steve, like a child. And every time we have to travel, we feel awful leaving him at even the best kennel.

See, Steve was a rescue dog. When we got him, the people at the rescue organization said there had been a rash of foreclosures in the area, and that people were leaving their houses and abandoning their dogs. Steve had been running around by himself for several days before he was picked up by animal control, and the result: dude has severe separation anxiety. When we leave for a moment, he thinks we’re leaving him forever.

So knowing that he’s barking his head off and is terrified when we’re away is just terrible. And that’s why the idea of DogVacay appeals to me, even if it is only a service available in Los Angeles at this point.

From their site:

Dog Vacay allows you to find a real home to board your dog. It’s better than a kennel where Spot will be stuck in a cage all day. Home boarding gives your dog individual attention, fun with a small number of well-socialized dogs, and supervision from a responsible pet owner – at a price that doesn’t add up to more than your vacation

 
Browsing the listings show that the prices offered really are much better than most kennels:
Clicking on a listing shows photos of the accommodations, a bio of the host, availability, etc., and lets you make reservations, ask a question, or propose a meet and greet.
I love this idea, and if it comes to the Boston-area, we’ll definitely give it a try.
BTW – here’s Steve.

First Look At Spreadable on VentureFizz

SpreadableMy monthly column is now available at VentureFizz. Called First Look, I profile a New England-area startup each month, looking at both the story behind the idea as well as how it actually works.

First Look at Marginize

My article, “First Look: Marginize“, is now available on VentureFizz. Each month, I’ll be reviewing a Boston-area startup on the VentureFizz site. If you’re an early stage Boston-area startup looking for coverage, please contact me at nathan dot burke at gmail dot com.

First Look At xtra xtra

xtra xtraMy first monthly column for VentureFizz, First Look: xtra xtra has just been published. Each month I’ll be writing a column featuring new startups in the Boston area.

If you have a startup you’d like to see reviewed in the First Look column, please let me know by sending an email to me at nathan dot burke at gmail dot com.

Threadsy Is What I Wanted Google Wave To Be……Awesome

Image representing threadsy as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Wow. Threadsy. It’s awesome.

These days, it takes something really, really interesting to get me to write a blog post, and threadsy is it. Here we go.

Threadsy is exactly what I was hoping Google Wave would be. Unfortunately, Google Wave ended up being a buggy, spam-infested pile of confusion. Threadsy is a webapp that allows you to pull in multiple email accounts and your social media accounts (twitter and facebook) into one simple interface. And by cross-referencing each source, it’s able to be Xobni-like and find out more information on those that you are corresponding with.

That was a horrible description. Here’s an example:

Threadsy 1

This is a screenshot of the app. You can see that the app is split into two panels: Inbound and Streams. The left pane shows my incoming emails. Clicking on an email does this:

The email opens on the left, and the right hand pane looks to find that person’s stream. For instance, in this example the person that sent me an email has a twitter account. Threadsy automatically looks up her twitter feed and shows me her most recent posts. Dude. That’s kind of badass.

What Does It Solve?

Right now I’m trying to stay ontop of the following every day:

  • My work email address (google apps for business)
  • My personal email address
  • My work twitter account (@aprigo)
  • My personal twitter account (@nathanwburke)
  • My personal facebook account
  • My work facebook account
Until this very day, I solved this (if you want to call it “solved”) by using:
  • Google chrome for mac to have my work email and facebook open
  • Safari to have my personal email and personal facebook open
  • Tweetdeck to monitor twitter
That’s a lot of tabbing around to stay ontop of anything, and it just doesn’t work. I have to stay ontop of my work email, but it’s pretty much impossible to even peer over at my personal stuff. But now with Threadsy, it’s all in one spot. Like I mentioned previously: Dude.
Am I Rushing To Judge? Of Course I Am.
Now, I’ve only used Threadsy for, say, an hour. So rushing to judgement that it is the best thing since root beer is perhaps dumb. I plan on really taking a look around at it to see what it’s capable of, but for now, I’m pretty damned happy with it.
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A Google Thank You- Anyone Else Get This?

Yesterday in the mail I got a letter from google. Inside it contained a glossy piece of paper that thanked me for using Google Apps For Work. But here’s what it looked like when it arrived:

A couple of things to notice:

1. You can’t see it in this terrible photo, but the envelope says that this had been damaged at the post office. You’ll also notice a rip above the black mark on the bottom of the envelope.

2. They say “We hope you’ll enjoy this small token of our appreciation”. Are they talking about the note itself?

So I’m wondering: Was there something else in the envelope, or was the note itself the small token of their appreciation? I mean, if it was just the note, hey, that’s nice enough and I appreciate the sentiment. But it seems odd that the envelope was damaged and there was a hole in it just big enough for someone to take something out of it.

Did anyone else get one of these? If so, was anything else in there?

Thanks.

The Panasonic Living In HD Program

Just found out about Panasonic’s new “Living in HD” program and giveaway. They’re basically looking for bloggers, photographers, videobloggers, etc. (anyone who creates content) to join the program, and the winner gets an entire suite of Panasonic HD toys.

What They’re Giving

Grand Prize:

  1. A 50 inch Viera Plasma HD TV;
  2. Two Lumix Digital Cameras – one SLR and one point and shoot;
  3. An HD Camcorder;
  4. Toughbook Laptop Computer;
  5. Blu-Ray Home Theater in a Box and assorted Blu-Ray Movies, and
  6. assorted accessories.
Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”): $12,100.
Not bad. Not bad at all. I’m definitely going to enter, but in order to be considered, you have to create a video to explain why you should win.
Fellow Boston-blogger Steve Garfield is the pitchman for this promotion, so that should give you another reason to sign up.
Here’s his video explaining the contest.

In addition, they’re running a weekly theme photo giveaway. This week’s challenge: upload a photo of your favorite summer food, and the winner gets their choice of a DMC-GH1 Panasonic Digital SLR camera (a $1500 value) or a 50″ plasma TV.

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A Quick Podcamp Boston 4 Wrapup #pcb4

It’s Monday morning, and I think I’ve finally organized my thoughts enough to talk a little bit about Podcamp Boston 4.

My Initial Impressions

When I looked at the session list, I immediately turned into an angry old man. One of my biggest complaints about conferences like podcamp is that all of the discussion centers around the 35,000 foot view of social media. Talk about “joining the discussion” and “engagement” often dominate, and I think the majority of conference goers are already on board with the idea that social media can help them reach people. Once you see the value of using these tools to reach an audience you don’t need more convincing. You want to know how to do it.

So that was my knee-jerk reaction. Of course, I was wrong.

The Theme

This year’s theme was “What’s Next”, and I think a lot of us thought that meant “What are the next social media tools and strategies that are going to help us”. It wasn’t that. Instead, in this context, “what’s next” really meant “now that the world sees the need to use social media, and everyone is using it, what do we do now?”

See, in previous years the idea of using blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. inside a business was kind of risky. Kind of dangerous. Companies that decided to forget about being proper and conservative gave these tools a shot and looked like mavericks. They were pioneers just for trying. Simply having a YouTube channel for a company was enough for people to take notice.

Those days are gone.

Now every company large and small is trying to make “viral video”. The days of attendees airing their frustration about trying to sell the idea of social media up the ladder to their bosses….those are over too. Now having a social media strategy is the price of admission, but when every company is doing it no one pays attention. Hell, I saw an ad for a tire company on TV last night and they said “check out our YouTube video”. Dude, you’re on TV. Why don’t you show me your video ON TV…you know, where I’m watching right now! It’s so crowded on YouTube that companies are taking out TV ads to get people to go to YouTube. Talk about bizarro world. Whoa.

The Sessions

A good chunk of the sessions dealt with the ROI of social media, and that makes sense. Since a lot of the benefits of using these tools are intangible, having some objective measurement is definitely welcome. For me, the best session was the “Using Online Video for B2B Marketing” presentation by Mike Volpe and Karen Rubin of Hubspot. The reason? Well, I’m working at a B2B company and we’re using video to help us in our marketing. Makes a lot of sense, huh?

Another great session was with Amber Naslund, who did “What’s Wrong With The ‘A’ List?”, in which those that aren’t uber popular among the social media elite aired their grievances and criticized those that are. This included such numbskull remarks as:

“I like following these guys because they give such good information, but they tweet too much. I want them to slow down.”

So wait. You decided to follow this person. You’re getting value from what they say. But you’re criticizing the frequency at which they give you good content? Huh?

Technology Maturity

Thinking back to the last two podcamps, I couldn’t help but feel like this one wasn’t nearly as exciting. I tried to figure out the reason, and I think I’ve found it: the technology has slowed down.

In the past, the rate at which new tools were launched was astounding. Every day there was something new to try, and it was really, really exciting. It was so much fun. There was a buzz in the air that just made everything electric. You knew that something new was going to break out during the weekend, and we’d be the first to try it. There would be some idea brought up in a session that would go beyond a session room, permeate the consciousness of the conference, and spread to the outside world.

But that couldn’t last forever.

Rather than chasing the next tool, we’re all trying to figure out how to get the most out of the ones we’ve got. Everyone’s on facebook, so let’s figure out how to use facebook to hit our targets. People are using twitter, so let’s play there.

This approach makes much more sense from a practical and business perspective. It does. It’s just not as fun and exciting.

Well, that’s it for now. I want to thank everyone that worked to put podcamp Boston 4 together.

Twitter is down, facebook is sketchy, and Knoyce is hilarious

Twitter is down, presumably due to a DDOS attack, and facebook is really sketchy today. While checking out blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, I noticed a pattern….the people that have just "launched" the "new social network" called Knoyce are trying to capitalize on it.

On the Mashable post entitled "Facebook Down. Twitter Down. Social Media Meltdown,"a comment from someone named Tim:

press release about twitter and facebook going down http://bit.ly/14GNm4

Which leads to a press release:

Twitter & Facebook are Down….Knoyce.com is thriving!

Twitter and Facebook down….people joining Knoyce.com, the newest social media network that works!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release) – Aug 06, 2009 – With the recent issues of Twitter and Facebook, many people worldwide have been acquiring about the new social media network Knoyce. Knoyce recently launched on Tuesday August 4, 2009 and has already reached many people everywhere. From the United States to Canada, South America, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Berlin, London, Serbia, the United Kingdom and many more, people are loving what Knoyce has to offer.

For those who are tired of the continual problems that Twitter and Facebook have every other month, go to http://www.knoyce.com and become a part of something "better than just nice…" but KNOYCE!!!

Read more about what Knoyce has to offer @ http://bit.ly/uwHHA

They’re spamming other posts as well, like on the updated Mashable post:

apparently the new network Knoyce.com is the only site thats working right now http://bit.ly/14GNm4

Which again links to the same garbage press release listed above.

Why is this getting me so worked up? Because Knoyce isn’t real. It isn’t a "new social media network". It’s just a NING NETWORK. Anyone can create a network on NING for free, and there are some really good ones out there. I really enjoy SocialCigar.com and Sysadmin-Network, both NING sites. But they’re not claiming to be new social networks.

If you check out the link from the press release that tells you "more about what Knoyce has to offer", it brings you to a wordpress.com blog that says:

After much anticipation, Knoyce has released it’s new social network site to the public for all to join. There have been many registered users that have taken well to the site and are already running with it. Some of the new members on Knoyce have already began tweeting about Knoyce and one member in particular, has already invited over 300 of his friends and family.

Right. Much anticipation, and someone invited his friends. Whoa.

I honestly believe that this is a massive prank by someone saying "I bet I can get a bunch of fools to join my fake social network, and I can do it without spending a penny. I’ll build a free NING network, and I’ll put up a wordpress.com blog, then I’ll put out free press releases. I’ll get publicity by spamming a bunch of blogs. It’ll be hilarious."

To that, my friend, I tip my hat to you. I think the Knoyce concept is pretty funny. Very nice.