The Power of Real Time: the Super Bowl Twitter Experience

Twitter-cheerleaderI watched parts of Super Bowl LXVI in a lounge at LAX, on my way to the Bay Area.  Not being in an ideal setting, quite distant to the screen, my natural instinct was to tap into my second screen to enhance the experience, so I fired up Twitter on my iPhone, and came face to face with the new social media reality for essentially the first time.

Now I am reading that it was a Twitter record with 12K tweets per second during the game.  While TV viewership is flat, the real time web was alight with interaction, commentary and sharing, demonstrating what is now possible in the connected world.

I really think it's a combination of a few separate curves that is defining the new real time web experience.  On one hand, the community is getting more fluid in its expression.  Conventions are being established and the new vocabulary and interaction modes are now better understood by all.  Some of the early clumsiness has now diappeared.

Secondly, the commercial voices are better integrated. So when Madonna or Shazam or Foursquare are interacting with their audiences, that is also more fluid.

And most importantly, the online communities are extremely comfortable integrating the living room experience to their online conversations.  For me, Twitter was an enhancing addition to my TV yesterday.

All of this tells me that we are still in the very early stages of media and entertainment disruption we are seeing enabled through the connected economy.  It also tells me there will be many more great businesses that will be created in this realm.  What excitement to feel on the month of the Facebook filing.

Google+: The Anti-Twitter

We have all seen Google Wave and Google Buzz, and probably have concluded that Google won't be able to leverage its email-driven social graph through features.  They need to come up with thicker value and attempt to solve a problem, which neither Wave nor Buzz really did.

Enter Google+. At first glance, it looks like Google decided that the soft belly of Facebook is its rapidly diminishing context: bundling your college buddies, collagues, family and acquaintances together.  Add to that the very different usage of the platform in non-US geographies (read: primarily dating and mating), it seems very sensible to build a publishing platform to let you narrowcast content and online social interaction to carefully crafted buckets of relationships.  That's my read on Google+.

To me, this decision is very distinctive by the fact that it is exactly the opposite path of Twitter.  There must have been countless meetings at the Google Corporate Development group about Twitter.  For a while, Twitter looked like a fairly low-price ticket for Google to bolster its own social graph. However, Twitter's one-way, follow model must have not fit Google's strategy, seeing they are going in the opposite direction. Deep vs. broad.

I have not had a chance to use Google+.  I think the premise it holds out is interesting and valuable.  I do think there will be big pressure on the user experience for it to deliver its promise.  The smart grouping of relationships and the implicit extraction of context will ve critical.  I noticed that Gmail rolled out a people feature next to email messages that seems to work very well.  This is a technology challenge and that is not an area Google is weak in.

I am keen to see if Google will be able to turn its deep UX assets and talent into a seamlessly usable social sharing tool with Google+, or if it will join the list in the first sentece of this post.

UPDATE: Liz Gannes's post today is not too promising on Google's initial UX attempt.  Now I am more curious.

Twitter Killed My Blog

"Rewritten by machine and new technology,
and now I understand the problems you can see."

The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star

I realized today, with amazement, that it has almost been 3 months since my last blog post, and that this is just my 7th post since May.  This is by far the slowest blogging I have ever logged and I am a bit embarassed.

In parallel, I have probably been tweeting on average twice a day for the same period.

In short, Twitter has killed by blogging.  And I suspect I am not alone.

I also realized that I am not as good a blogger as I fancied myself to be.  When I analyze the 500+ blog entries I have written over the 5 year life span of this blog, I find that most of them are reflections on content that has been created elsewhere – mostly links and comments to others' blog posts,  videos, articles, etc.

In other words, they have been glorified ReTweets.  And the same act now takes me a few seconds (to retweet), as opposed to the 15-minute blocks of time that a blog post typically requires.

From now on, I'll stop fighting the natural flow and try to RT when that is all that's called for.  So this blog will probably see fewer entries but hopefully more original thinking.

If you enjoy hearing from me, you can follow me at



How to Think About Your VC

I am reading Jeff Bussgang's book and came across a great quote.  If you are an entrepreneur talking to a bunch of VCs and trying to make sense of the process, or trying to decide if you can be partners with that guy across the table from you, I don't think you can go wrong this line of thinking from Twitter's Jack Dorsey:

Is this guy fun to work with? Is he going to challenge us? Is he smart? This person was going to take a seat on the board. I viewed it as a hire that we could never fire.

Blogging Intensity and Fragmentation

On the heels of my post on why I blog, comes the updated VC blog rankings from Larry Cheng (I'm a N/A rated, dismal number 51!), and a good post by David Hornik on a tendency he identifies:

For years, my every thought became a VentureBlog post. But I have to
admit, over time, my focus turned elsewhere. I spoke at events,
podcast, taught, started The Lobby conference, and worked hard to help
my portfolio companies thrive. And, along the way, my blog suffered.
Fewer things in my daily life called out for commentary. And
VentureBlog began to languish.

I realize my blogging has suffered in frequency recently.  For me, this is largely due to changes in the way I communicate my professional thoughts.  Back in 2005, SortiPreneur used to be the sole channel I used to do this. However, now I use Facebook to broadcast to my friends and Twitter to reach my professional community.  When you add the fact that a Tweet takes a fraction of the effort a blog post takes,  I find myself asking whether a thought deserves a full blog post everytime I think about sharing it.

Twitter Spawning 50K Apps

By now it's obvious that much of Twitter's value comes from its platform characteristics.  I can not think of another company that better embodies the spirit of connectedness in 2009.  But, hearing that 50,000 registered applications to date have been built using Twitter APIs, is still mindboggling.

It's also the evidence of Twitter's openness that powers its growth.

Twitter & Google Starting to Date?

Googtw After yesterday's announcement of Yahoo intergating wih Facebook Connect, comes the news of Google and Twitter joining forces to allow Twitter integration with Google's Friend Connect.

John Battalle reads this as "Twitter, as in Not Facebook". On the opposite side, Marshall Kirkpatrick's take on it is "just like Yahoo bowed to Facebook, Google is bowing to Twitter".

I think I have a different view of this.  Despite the timing of both transactions, they represent different strategies to me.  Yahoo's move was a bow to Facebook, in favor of its users and the utility they extract from Yahoo, but eroding a strategic advantage Yahoo may have pursued through its massive reach.

Google's move, on the other hand, is less about bowing to Twitter.  Twitter knows surprisingly little about its users, whereas Google knows a ton – thorough clickstreams, search behavior and Gmail.  In fact, I'd say Google still owns a much larger chunk of the social graph than Twitter.  What Twitter is great at is realtime and declared interests.  And it's growing super fast.

This move by Google and Twitter makes me suspect even more my prediction yesterday.  This alliance will allow Google to observe how Twitter helps its users and evaluate Twitter as a potential acquisiton target.  It will also help Google to preserve some ground against Facebook, who has now clearly become the only contender to Google for ownership of the identity layer of the internet.

Twitter a Utility?

Bo Peabody recently had an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Times (via PEHub), titled "Twitter.Org?", where he suggested:

I launched the social networking site Tripod in 1995. By 1998, it was
the eighth-largest site on the Web. But Tripod was never a successful
business. Social networks aren't great places to advertise. You can't
charge users for their services. And they never gain enough momentum to
survive in the stock market. Indeed, no social network has ever made it
as a public company.

Instead of expecting profits that won't materialize, the
entrepreneurial community should instead operate social networks as
not-for-profit organizations. Wikipedia has grown phenomenally with a
not-for-profit business model, and while Wikipedia has its problems,
its fate is in the collective hands of its users rather than in the
hands of media companies or the stock market. Facebook and Twitter
should enjoy the same comfort.

Bo Peabody is a social media veteran and the article is a personal one.  It's explicitly rooted in his experience.  His point can be valid if you take social networks and user-generated content from a media perspective.  So I would agree with him in the case of the likes of MySpace or Bebo.

However, he points out Twitter and Facebook specifically, and there, I disagree with him.  This blog has always seen Twitter and Facebook as attempts at owning the identity layer of the internet.  Until Facebook, there was no meta data on the identites of internet users.  That's been changing rapidly over the last couple of years, and especially last year, Twitter has emerged as a contender in the identity layer – one that perhaps has a thinner layer of data on the users, but can grow even faster due to its simplicity.

I also find the notion of a not-for-profit, or utility-like, Facebook or Twitter very interesting and worthwhile. However, my reasoning would not be due to their limited profit generating ability, as proposed by Peabody, but the idea that something as powerful as the identity layer of the internet perhaps ought to be a public-domain asset, just like the internet itself.