Month: July 2010

Is Google Me Going To Be The Anti-Facebook?

At 216 slides, 'The Real Life Social Network' by Paul Adams takes a fair bit of time to wade through, but it does offer some interesting insights into the various ways in which identity, context and connections play out (and differ) in the real and virtual worlds. More importantly, with rumours flying thick and fast about Google Me, this could be a pointer as to how the product could work. Of course, with the assumption that Google Me is indeed a reality.

The slides go into exhaustive detail explaining how a single basket definition of your identity, context and connections don't work well at all in the real world. There are more than a few obligatory potshots taken at Facebook in the process. But that aside, I like the basic premise that is being put across and if they can actually build this in a manner similar to how Gmail was built at its time of launch, it will be the mother of all battles on the online audience front.

At stake is a minimum of 500 million users (and potentially a billion soon, if Zuck's projections come true) who are giving away (sometimes unwillingly and unknowingly) information regarding themselves at a scale unheard of so far. Contexts that are made by users themselves are more accurate and cheaper to compute than ones generated by machines. Google could really do with all of that data and make their advertising platform even better.

The trouble for Google is that 'social' is not where its mojo is at. While the company does have a better quality of audience (primarily driven by intent than connections), 500 million is an audience you can't afford to ignore. And on the internet, owning the audience is what is all about. If they can actually do the anti-Facebook, where contexts are isolated and sharing is off by default, it may just give enough people the incentive needed to switch.

Google has little to lose on this front. They are not even a bit player compared to Facebook at the moment. But this can really hurt Facebook if it is done right. A lot of people, including me, are still on Facebook because there is really no other alternative.

P.S: I really wish people would stop using 'social graph' anywhere and everywhere. I am not even sure if half of the people who use it know what it means.

The Real Life Social Network v2

View more documents from Paul Adams.

Filed under: Industry, Internet

Small Victories

The story behind every start up runs along two chapters. The first is the search for a sustainable business model and the second is the search for an operational model which is sustainable in the business you are looking to operate. '7-days a week' is a concept that is at the core of the start up folklore and it goes something on the lines of “if you are not killing yourself (and your team in the process), you are not worthy enough to call yourself a start up”.

The vast quantities of bullshit floating around that concept needs to be tackled in a different post, but what I want to focus on is a tangential aspect of it. When you are a freshly-minted start up, it is almost always the case that you have juggle multiple things. On any given day you may find yourself making the draft of a new pitch, fending off customer queries and even fighting with the utilities guy as to why the power is intermittent in your office. There is almost always n+1 on the horizon when it comes to things that you want to tackle, where 'n' is far beyond what your available bandwidth can tackle with comfort.

In such a scenario, it is very easy to get lured into the trap of going after the big targets (alpa, beta, public release etc) as the only worthwhile milestones, but what also needs be kept in mind is that, in start ups, team members are almost always likely to be stretched to the point of breaking. While a the big goal might be a great target to gun for, it is also important to have smaller targets in place that breaks the monotony, brings in a feeling of being rewarded and keeps the perception/sensation of motion in place.

In the long road towards achieving sustainability, it is important to recognize smaller achievements. The key thing to remember in a start up is that you are working with a concept that is yet to be proven. Thus, that concept in itself cannot be the final reward for people who are part of your team. More importantly, it cannot be the only reward for yourself. It is important to break that big huge task into simpler and smaller parts, put timelines on it and go about attacking it.

And when you do finish those tasks, take a moment to savour and celebrate it. This is one place where it is really important to enjoy the journey as much as you would enjoy the eventual destination.

Filed under: Business, Start-ups