May 3rd, 2012

Dessert Wine Market Ready for a Meme

I remember when Sideways came out and there was that joke about Merlot that old people found funny (21 at the time, I just didn’t really get it). Merlot, I guess, was a meme at some point and then it wasn’t.

I am wondering when some dessert-related alcohol is going to come in strong with some inescapable Sriracha-like branding and just blow our collective minds. We’ll see it everywhere and begin ordering it with increased frequency. Like Merlot or Chardonnay, it will be a meme for a while and then disappear.

The consumer product market trends are incredible in the way they spread: greek yogurt, coconut water, 5 Hour Energy, etc. Nowhere and then everywhere. Dessert wine is ready – it’s an ignored category ripe for disruption and a part of the meal that people mostly ignore.

Random thoughts for random nights.

Also, happy early birthday Liz.

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May 2nd, 2012

Mobile and Curation vs. Creation

Phin’s latest must-read, “Mobile is the 99%” rightly points out that mobile and touch-devices specifically cater to the experience of the 99% — the people who consume, curate and comment across the web.

Couple that with the news today that a full 1/3 of the visitors to are on mobile devices and that Instagram has passed 50 million users and you can’t help but see the future of consumption-based businesses over the next 5-10 years.

The impromptu Mechanical Turk survey I put together last week made this even clearer — this idea that people mostly use their mobile devices for short bursts of consumption. The apps that have done the best on mobile so far – reddit, games, photo-related apps, Twitter, all are designed around passive consumption.

In this way perhaps the future of mobile is like the early days of television – just sit back and watch and you’ll be entertained. This idea of curation vs. creation is perplexing because I can’t decide if they are necessarily at odds, though I can’t help but wonder if, because it is hard to be an awesome creator on mobile, does it mean then that we about to enter into a period of hyper-consumption ushered in by our mobile devices? TBD.

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May 1st, 2012

Badoo Now Advertising in the Subway

Badoo is a treasure trove of weird/interesting product insights (click for some thoughts from 2010) and now they are advertising in the subway. It is on.

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April 30th, 2012

Text it to Me – My Favorite Sleeper Feature

The emergence of O2O startups (the lazy person’s acronym for online-to-offline) has created a much-needed bridge for the wealth of digital information into the real world.

But from a product perspective, the interaction between online and offline is not yet seamless. You find a new coffee shop you want to try, but then how do you get the address to your phone? Maybe you save it somewhere, but it’s usually like 5 clicks into an app. There’s a deal you want to buy, but your credit card isn’t saved with this particular daily deals app. You buy a bus ticket, but then have to search in your email to actually pull up the ticket to show the driver. You see an article about some new app you want to download, but then promptly forget about it.

It’s clunky.

My favorite solution currently is the “text-it-to-me” feature. For example, check out the OnSports website. While I don’t know the numbers on this, I bet a ton of people use this feature (especially since it’s really the only thing you can do on their website). The user gets an easy way to interact with the service on his/her phone, and the owner/developer/entrepreneur is able to collect mobile phone numbers for people interested in the product.

Most people use their mobile phones for just-in-time information – where is this place I am going to right now, what emails have I received in the last hour, etc. and the usage numbers around SMS are insane. Some of the most successful startups have figured out how to leverage existing communication mechanisms to build an active user base, and while SMS has been used in the past for this sort of thing, I can’t help thinking that it has been under-utilized and there’s so many creative ways to take advantage of SMS that have not yet been explored.

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April 29th, 2012

The Art of the Playlist

Something really missing in social music right now is a great, sublime, amazing playlist experience. I use playlists primarily as a way to discover new artists or to assign a soundtrack to a certain mood. While usually I make my own (was a huge maker of mix CDs back in the day), I do like to listen to playlists made by others. That said, so far it has been extremely tough to find the gems because the bulk of playlists are mostly bad or lame. Perhaps the best example of a sweet playlist is the Hype Machine Zeitgeist, which unfortunately only comes out once a year.

Want to point out, though, that applying blanket “social filtering” is not the answer (point echoed by Hunter Walk over the weekend). While social filtering is helpful, I am not sure it is the “killer app” in this harder-than-we-though playlist challenge.

This challenge made me think of Muxtape, the NYC-based mixtape startup from 2008 (a small remnant is still available here). Currently playlists are a feature within the major music services, and it made me think about whether a stand-alone service built only around playlists is still a relevant request in 2012. Do we have room in our lives for yet another music service? Muxtape was amazing in a pre-Spotify/Rdio world, and I think its simplicity is more relevant than ever.

That said, there is still the question of filtering, search and curation. Now that the content has mostly become free (not free as in $0, free like a bird…a big change since 2001 and even 2008), I am hoping to see a lot of cool advances in the world of music filtering over the next few years.

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April 28th, 2012

An Overheard

A short one for you on this fine Saturday.

From a friend: “A lot of people hate on Microsoft but they are the only software company to ever make *two* products with over a billion users.”

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April 27th, 2012

Innovation Spaces

This thought starts with a cheeky, shortened version of online-to-offline, which will now be referred to on this blog as O2O (like H20, but not).

Online innovation is a space with massive growth potential and a large future in front of it. But perhaps even more exciting is the future of O2O-type businesses and initiatives that bring the digital thought process into offline endeavors.

This means innovative spaces. I have been wondering about this – the major scholars, some examples, the design process, and general thoughts around how to make a space innovation-friendly. It’s not simply just getting a bunch of sweet electronics and pimping it out that way, though that would be fun on its own, but rather the process itself. Or even simply the idea that a space on its own CAN be considered innovative. It’s easy to see why Steve Jobs had such trouble committing himself to furniture.

Spacial decisions aren’t like pixels – you can’t change and shift and fix and iterate until you’re happy. Nonetheless, it’s a new area of interest for me and if you have any resources – whether just some strong opinions, essays, or cool architecture porn, please feel free to send them my way (ap at

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April 26th, 2012

The “Burner” Button

I am very curious to see what, if anything, happens with the Gawker “Burner” button that was announced today. While part of me is incredibly curious and excited – I am a huge supporter of anonymity and identity control within online communities – I also wonder what sort of dark stories and rumors and libel will be set free as a result.

And that’s just the thing – I think there’s this hesitation to really embrace anonymity as a crucial part of our growing digital community. There’s a time and a place for “the real you”, and it’s not everywhere, all the time.

But there’s a dark side to free speech that is really hard to defend. People can be assholes sometimes and even more so when hiding behind a computer screen and armed with a keyboard and a “Burner Button”. The Gawker crew has far more experience with the nuances of asshole-on-the-internet and this particularly bold move could result in a new type of insightful and useful commentary. Or there will be a surge in profanity, or probably both.

What we forget when we experience these trollish, disgusting, hurtful, dark-side-of-humanity moments is that they too represent a core societal value that we at least in theory all believe in. But it’s important to remember that while it sucks that people are mean, that is a problem with people, not the internet.

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April 25th, 2012

Twitter Gem: Everyone is a Publisher

I wish there was a better way to organize and view your favorite tweets. The feature is mostly hidden, and only a few people I know use it with any sort of frequency. And yet, there are so many gems. So many discussion starters, controversy, passion, h8, and humor.

This one comes from @bradfordcross from back in January, and to me it was an insightful and pithy way to summarize this “creation revolution” that is going to characterize the next few years in technology. More people making, saying, writing, commenting, photographing and creating.

I wonder how this truly fundamental shift will affect that standard sharing numbers across the web. The hard-and-fast rule was always that, in any system, 1% are the true creators, 19% passively create (press the like button, add a comment, post a few things), and the other 80% only consume. For more reading about this, check out Brad Feld’s post from back in 2006. Creepy to think that these numbers are nearly six years old.

Helping to find and shape a digital voice for creators is extremely non-trivial, and even if the creator ratio goes up to 5% or even 10%, that represents a MASSIVE MASSIVE shift in terms of pure numbers.

Git ready.

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April 24th, 2012

Mechanical Turk Adventures: Favorite Mobile Apps

I have been obsessed with Mechanical Turk since hearing about Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market project. While these days crowdfunding might be hotter than crowdsourcing, the idea of a massive mob of remote workers to me will always be fascinating.

Mechanical Turk is part of Amazon and launched in 2005 and represents one of Amazon’s “inside out” businesses where they took a tool they used internally and turned it into a monetizable, publicly-accessible product. Amazon Web Services is perhaps the best example, though MTurk is a close second.

So today’s post is going to be an MTurk experiment. I posted a simple question: “What is your favorite mobile phone app and why?” hoping to collect a tiny, anecdotal sample of global thoughts around mobile phone applications. MTurk workers are all over the world, so I also asked the workers to list their handset.

You should know that the reward for each of these answers was $0.10 and I collected approximately 125 replies, ultimately rejecting around 10% because they were nonsense or didn’t answer the question. This study is *in no way* scientific. I was mostly looking for knee-jerk replies, and think I achieved that. Here are my 10 favorites verbatim and then some more general thoughts.

Answers have not been edited except for spelling.

1. I love my flashlight app, It is convenient and quick to function. The illumination is bright as well. (droid X)

2. My favorite mobile phone application is Bluetooth. I like this application because it is the best cordless data transfer technology between mobile phones irrespective of network connectivity. (Nokia 3500 Classic)

[note: Bluetooth? Really?]

3. I like the Pinterest App because I can use it when I’m waiting in line to keep me from getting bored and agitated from waiting. (Apple iPhone).

4. Tiny Tower is my favorite app, because it takes awhile to build up your income and if you want to max faster without cheating you have to setup a system to profit. I also like it because I don’t have to spend too much time on it, just check it once or twice a day after my building is high enough, one of my all time favorite game. (Apple iPhone)

5. My favorite mobile phone app is calculator as it help me to calculate when and where if it is necessary (Nokia c2).

6. My favorite app is ‘Draw Something’. It is my favorite app because it is simple, fun, and free. (HTC EVO)

7. My favorite mobile app is The Creeps. The simplistic Tower Defense game is intuitively controlled and pretty fun for a free price point. (Apple iPhone)

8. I enjoy the app Dismount on my phone. I can aim and throw my ragdoll character off of/into things one handed, it’s a nice little mindless game to pass the time while I’m feeding my kid with the other arm.

9. My favorite mobile phone app is Reddit is Fun. It allows me to browse Reddit, which has huge amounts of content and can keep me busy for hours on end (LG Optimus V).

10. My favorite mobile phone app is Star Walk. I love being able to pull up the sky anywhere in the world at that moment and see what is up there, especially at night. (Apple iPhone)

Lessons learned:

1. People LOVE Reddit. Approximately 10% of the replies listed some sort of Reddit app as the favorite. Perhaps this is related to the types of people that hang out on Mechanical Turk all day, though who knows.

2. Games were often listed as a favorite app. There were many replies that listed something like “…I use it when I am bored, for a few minutes at a time”. This came up over and over. To me, this spoke to the idea that the best mobile apps should require very little commitment time-wise.

3. Handsets were really, really mixed – no dominant brand.

4. Some respondents believed their handset WAS an app. I received around 10 responses that said “my favorite app is Samsung Galaxy” or “my favorite app is Android”. I re-worded the question to say “the brand of your phone is not an app” and that helped significantly.

There are probably more lessons to be learned here, and likely another post or two.

Hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to peep the data set.

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