Does Open Social = Open Destruction?

I suspect not, but unlike Google, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 and maybe even Facebook I’m not in the loop on this Open Social thing so I certainly don’t have the whole story. You see, something is really bothering me…

Much of the coverage of Open Social has focussed on developers being able to use “normal” JavaScript and HTML to develop their apps. However, FBML and FBJS, combined with Facebook’s limited indexing on Google, actually do us a favour:

  • Stop application formatting bleeding between apps.
  • Stop applications being able to control each other.
  • Protect users against malicious scripts.
  • Only execute scripts in a confined environment that you are unlikely to stumble upon within an normal websearch.
  • It’s Facebook’s responsibility to parse our code to ensure it’s not malicious.

I’m going to trackback this post to a few big bloggers in the hope I’ll get an answer in the comments, because I can’t find any answers to these critical questions anywhere on the web.

The thing that bothers me most is that Google doesn’t exactly have a great reputation for quality secure code and attention to user privacy. Do I need to be turning off JS in my browser? :S

Edit: LMAO, turns out I was probably right. So, folks, let’s all welcome in a new era of totally shit web security. Hurrah for key-loggers! Hurrah for hackers being able to re-use old tricks without needing to think!

Good grief! :S

The Pioneering Scoble?

Many of you, like me, only use facebook as a way of communicating with people you actually know well. However, there’s no rules to how this is done and you’ve got to admit, annoying though it might be, Scoble and Kawasaki’s approach has some considerable advantages for them and (crazy though it might seem), the overall social graph.

As I see it, Robert’s using facebook to tap into an extremely valuable resource. Via facebook’s filtering features he is able to see the most important information in the daily lives and activities of a lot of people. Through interacting with them, facebook automatically hones the information he sees until it is as relevant as possible to him. Dave McClure also did a similar experiment, utilizing features such as tagging to raise his profile and tune his social graph quicker.

I’ll admit facebook’s algorithm isn’t astounding, but as I rarely communicate with Robert I never get “spammed” by him so it must work.
Actually, it’s a positive thing for me: thanks to Robert’s open policy, my team and I have been able to make (albeit fairly lose) friends with him which has been invaluable during the development of our app.

Of course, if you’re not Robert then it’s easy to feel that he’s everywhere, spamming the whole face of facebook and twitter. However, by opening the floodgates like this, he’s allowing facebook (and indeed the new version of our app Blog Friends) to potentially converge on the “true” social graph much faster. Let me explain.

When I went to university I spent the first two months making in excess of 500 friends via many clubs, societies and bars. I spent the next 4 years “optimizing” these relationships: I lost contact with most of them; some of them became business relationships; many became close friends; others become distant, but with an open social channel. The fact that we can now, thanks to the power of computer-based social networks, do this on a much faster and larger scale must only be good for the flow of information and hence humanity… it’s just a pity the tools aren’t perfect yet.

Quick Post

Here is an example post from me.

Successful businesses have a business plan

Lately I’ve seen quite a few articles (including this one sent to me by James Cherkoff) talking about how the most successful startups and entrepreneurs – tech startups in particular – didn’t have a business plan. Part of the popularity of this idea seems to be coming from certain VC’s who – in a perfectly reasonable bit of marketing – are trying to look “a bit maverick” in order to appeal to young startups.

However, every example I’ve seen so far proves to me the opposite; that a business plan is in fact an essential ingredient in the success of a business.

Take the example of Edison from Marc Andreessen’s blog – by the end of the article you see clear examples that Edison’s got a handle on:

  • building a team: he might have started on his own, but eventually had a number of people working with him (one of which is named in the article).
  • building a business: his company appears to have an income from the telegraph industry.
  • appreciation of resource planning: he does not divert all resources to the phonograph the moment he comes up with it because at first it is not clear to him if it is worth it.
  • cash flow planning: he understands when money is coming in, and when he needs to save

Now I doubt for one minute that Edison actually wrote his plan down – and if he did it was probably on the back of a napkin (the equivalent of the 10 PowerPoint plan) – but it sounds to me like he did in fact have some sort of plan.

What all these entrepreneurs have done (Edison, Ellison, Gates) is build strong teams that enable them to react to forced/serendipitous changes. Once they reacted, the “business plan” is adjusted and off they go on the new path. As many people have said, the reason investors are so interested in the “team” is that a good team is capable of reacting to such opportunities.
So in the end I’m with Tim Berry and Guy Kawasaki and others on this one: writing a business plan is a good thing to engage the team and enable transparency and clarity in the figures/assumptions. However, for a startup that probably ought not to be much more than can be written on a napkin – after all it’s much more useful (not to mention more fun) actually getting the customers now rather than spending time and money trying to estimate exactly how many you might get at Year 3.

Social Media and the Mainstream

After a rather nice barbeque at a friend’s house today, I thought I’d take a small diversion on the way home to snap this bit of local graffiti:


The site it refers to is not my cup of tea, but the statement it makes is really strong: “I’d like you to know more about me, and this is how you can”.

It’s great that Myspace, Facebook and the rest are so mainstream now that an unsigned rapper can reasonably assume that passers-by will know what it means, and what’s more he can do so for free (I’m assuming he owns the fence of course).

For me, this is important, because as the owner of a startup I need to be certain that the products we develop are of value to people.  I am glad that “Chalk” is able to, like countless others, find his voice through the sorts of products in which we are involved.

Musicianship v. Entrepreurship

Last year I realized that there was three things about being a corporate slave that didn’t sit well with me:

  1. There’s a poor locus of power and rewards in a pyramid-structured large corporation.
  2. I’d never have enough money to buy a house and a recording studio.
  3. Retiring early to do more interesting things probably wouldn’t be an option.

I figured that to solve all these (plus a dozen other things, broadly-themed around the words “power”, “flexibility” and “rewards”), I had to start [another] business, and that’s how BrainBakery was formed.

However, one thing I thought I’d lament is the loss of my free time to continue my music.  But, one year on, I don’t find I’ve missed it quite as much as I thought I would.  This surprises me, but I think I know why – it’s because entrepreneurship, for me, satisfies exactly the same things I like about playing/writing music, namely:

  • Creating something new/unique
  • Creating something about which people have opinions and ideas
  • Building a band/team
  • Socializing/networking
  • Collaborating with other teams
  • Building success, recognition and fame
  • Having people interested in what your doing

And both of them give me aching fingers at the end of the day.

Monetizing Facebook

I read this article about Bay Partners launching a Facebook app fund.  What’s most interesting for me is not the article itself, but the comments.  It seems to me that not one of the 50-something people who’ve responded have any idea how to monetize Facebook beyond PPC – which as many people have discovered isn’t exactly an ideal platform for it.

There’s developers out there like this one who are actually going round telling people they won’t develop Facebook apps.  Well, good luck to them, but it looks to me these guys are going to be kicking themselves down the line: this is the democratization of gold-star marketing data!  It is not, IMHO, an opportunity to miss.