Front vs back

Brian Pokorny talked about a distinction between the applications that focus on the front camera more than the back camera in the devices. I think he is right about the comfort that the younger generation (less than 25 year old) has to be in front of a camera. We observed it with vChatter also. He is also right that the front camera is about faces while the back camera is more about the things.

For many young people who are using netbooks or tablets, the only camera they have is the front camera. In those cases it is all about the faces, it is all about their faces, the faces of their friends and interesting people they meet online.

Here is his slide modified to show where vChatter fits. [Photo courtesy Brian Pokorny and TechCrunch]





Camera camera everywhere … Not a single relevant pic? Something serious is brewing in the mobile photo sharing space. A number of entrepreneurs are looking at the cameras springing up in each and every device around us and trying to make the most of it.

Instagr.am just released a very polished and popular iPhone application. Halloween picture sharing mania helped it earn many new users.
picplz just raised an insane amount of money on a good team and an idea to make it easy for people to share their photo memories. Is the imeem founder moving from one bad business (online music) to another bad business (photo sharing)? (Om Malik says that the photo sharing applications are great ideas but bad businesses.)
Path.com was launched today with an anti-social network that allows you to share your photo life path with the closest 50 friends that you have.
All of these ideas point to a bigger current flowing through the startup world – a further explosion of the content generated by the cameras all around us. Flickr, YouTube and Facebook are just scratching the surface of what is about to come. Get ready for some action guys!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million pictures, and a live video is worth even more. That is a part of the core belief we have at vChatter that allows you to share your live moments in front of the cameras with your loved ones and if you so desire with a matching randomly chosen person from all over the world. With cameras coming up everywhere it would become easier and easier for everyone to share their live moments in different contexts. Lights, Camera, Action … Let the fun begin!

I was at the f8 facebook developer conference today. Here is a quick summary that I put together from a facebook developer’s perspective.

Facebook announced a bunch of things today. There will be a profound impact of these changes on the way we browse our favorite websites and as facebook developers our lives would be very different too.

Open Graph/Semantic web

A big step towards that “semantic web” we were all waiting for – going with their mission to make this world more and more open facebook announced that the websites would have access to an API which allows them to personalize your experience. e.g. You would know which of your friends liked a particular news story on CNN.

The developers would be able to mark their pages and objects with semantically interesting data and send that over to facebook. e.g. when someone likes a movie on IMDB it would go straight to your movies list since IMDB would be able to annotate that feed item as type “movie”.

Facebook Credits

Facebook announced that Facebook Credit which is currently in beta would come out for the broader ecosystem in June. Facebook Credits is an extremely important piece of the monetization puzzle for facebook and they have thought about this really well. They are also experimenting with many different ways to bring the liquidity in and out of the system.

Like everything, everywhere

The “Become a fan” is now “Like”. You now have a chance to leave your finger prints wherever you are on the web. You could like a song that you listen to on pandora or you could like a new story on CNN. Every web page is an object for facebook to be tracked. Every time you click some blue button you leave your trails.

Facebook also simplified the sharing process and made it a part of the Like experience. Now you could like something or someone on the web and share your comments at the same place.

Simpler and more open APIs for the developers

Facebook wants it to be extremely easy to integrate with them not just for the big websites but also for a small business owner who probably depends on his kid to program his website for him. They made two big policy changes that makes the developers’ lives much easier.

1. Now the websites would be able to store the profile information for longer than 24 hours. Removing this clause from their developer terms of usage makes the developers’ life so much more enjoyable. The applications built without this constraint would be much more powerful and stable.

2. Instead of prompting users for multiple permissions on multiple popups, developers could now prompt them for the access that they need in one screen and make the whole on-boarding process much simpler and faster.

They also announced social widgets that would make it easier for the developers who are not too deep of programmers to get plugged into the facebook party.

The new Open Graph API is a restful implementation of all the existing APIs. It is very simple and as Bret Taylor puts it requires only curl and a browser to get started.

A side comment about a personal observation – One interesting thing I noted was how facebook was able to merge FriendFeed into their organization and how they used Bret Taylor to learn the developer perspective and quickly make huge changes to their platform. I am impressed.

All these changes make the facebook platform powerful yet simple to understand and implement.

I think this slide from Steve Jobs’ presentation sums up my professional life really well – At the intersection of liberal arts and technology.

work-lifeIt is a hard balance that many of us need to struggle with. Working in a start-up and having a good family life seem to be poles apart. One of my favorite business school professors, Steve Blank published this piece today on VentureBeat. The permalink seems to be broken so I am repeating some of the key points that Steve mentioned.

This is what he writes –

My wife and I agreed to a few rules upfront and made up the rest as went along. We agreed I was still going to do startups, and probably more than most spouses she knew what that meant.  To her credit she also understood that meant that child raising wasn’t going to be a 50/50 split; I simply wasn’t going to be home at 5 pm every night.

In hindsight this list looks pretty organized but in reality we made it up as we went along, accompanied with all the husband and wife struggles of being married and trying to raise a family in Silicon Valley.  Here are the some of the rules that evolved that seemed to work for our family.

  • We would have a family dinner at home most nights of the week.  Regardless of what I was doing I had to be home by 7pm.  (My kids still remember mom secretly feeding them when they were hungry at 5pm, but eating again with dad at 7pm.)  But we would use dinnertime to talk about what they did at school, have family meetings etc.
  • Put the kids to bed. Since I was already home for dinner it was fun to help give them their baths, read them stories and put them to bed.  I never understood how important the continuity of time between dinner through bedtime was until my kids mentioned it as teenagers.
  • Act and be engaged. My kids and wife had better antenna than I thought.  If I was home but my head was elsewhere and not mentally engaged they would call me on it.  So I figured out how to spit the flow of the day in half.  I would work 10 hours a day in the office, come home and then…
  • Back to work after the kids were in bed. What my kids never saw is that as soon as they were in bed I was back on the computer and back at work for another 4 or 5 hours until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Weekends were with and for my kids. There was always some adventure on the weekends. I think we must have gone to the zoo, beach, museum, picnic, amusement, etc. a 100 times.
  • Half a day work on Saturday.  While weekends were for my kids I did go to work on Saturday morning.  But my kids would come with me.  This had two unexpected consequences; my kids still remember that work was very cool.  They liked going in with me and they said it helped them understand what dad did at “work.”  Second, it set a cultural norm at my startups, first at Supermac as the VP of Marketing, then at Rocket Science as the CEO and at E.piphany as President. (Most Silicon Valley startups have great policies for having your dog at work but not your kids.)
  • Long vacations. We would take at least a 3-week vacation every summer.  Since my wife and I liked to hike we’d explore national parks around the U.S. (Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maine.) When the kids got older our adventures took us to Mexico, Ecuador, India, Africa and Europe. The trips gave them a sense that the rest of the country and the world was not Silicon Valley and that their lives were not the norm.
  • Never miss an event. As my kids got older there were class plays, soccer games, piano and dance performances, birthdays, etc.  I never missed one if I was in town, sometimes even if it was in the middle of the day. (And I made sure I was in town for the major events.)
  • Engage your spouse. I asked my wife to read and critique every major presentation and document I wrote. Everything she touched was much better for it.  What my investors never knew is that they were getting two of us for the price of one.  (And one of us actually went to business school.)  It helped her understand what I was working on and what I was trying to accomplish.
  • Have a Date-Night. We tried hard to set aside one evening a week when just the two of us went out to dinner and/or a movie.
  • Get your spouse help. Early on in our marriage we didn’t have much money but we invested in childcare to help my wife.  While it didn’t make up for my absences it offloaded a lot.
  • Traditions matter. Holidays, religious and secular, weekly and yearly, were important to us.  The kids looked forward to them and we made them special.
  • Travel only if it needed me. As an executive it was easy to think I had to get on a plane for every deal. But after I had kids I definitely thought long and hard before I would jump on a plane.  When I ran Rocket Science our corporate partners were in Japan (Sega), Germany (Bertelsmann) and Italy (Mondadori) and some travel was unavoidable.  But I probably traveled 20% of what I did when I was single.
  • Document every step. Like most dads I took thousands of photos.  But I also filmed the girls once a week on the same couch, sitting in the same spot, for a few minutes – for 16 years.  When my oldest graduated high school I gave her a time-lapse movie of her life.

Jane McGonigal is a very talented game designer. I met her for lunch in Berkeley when Nipun brought us together with Mike Smolen (dotSUB). She was voted MIT’s top-35 innovators changing the world, for her work in building distributed games. Here is an interesting presentation from her about how gaming would help learning in the future.


Could games be used to influence behavior? Could guilds, mobs and monsters teach us a thing or two about leadership, decision making, team building and effective communication? The answer is absolutely yes.

I met an interesting Stanford professor Byron Reeves who is focusing all his energies now to create this link between the fun games and the serious business.

Byron says –

If you want to see what business leadership may look like in three to five years, look at what’s happening in online games.

Here is an interesting report by IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook group – virtual worlds real leaders.

Helen Cheng, a level 60 guild leader and a stanford graduate talks about her transformative experience.

Finally, I pushed my button to talk and rallied the troops to revive one another and try again, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. It was me, this girl, talking to a room of guys. And to my shock and surprise, everyone complied and we got going. That was a defining moment for me, and eventually led to me becoming a guild leader.

Leadership in current times, just like games, could be –

  • A temporary phenomenon
  • Task-oriented
  • Dynamic and constantly changing

Only time will tell where the leadership is headed in the coming decades. I think games are a clear indication of what it might look like in the future.