The long-standing popularity of "word of the day" web sites and emails has been merged with Twitter to create Artwiculate, a Twitter-based word game that might passively expand your vocabulary while you're taking part in social interruptions.
To play you simply use the word of the day in a tweet. You don't need to use a hash tag or anything special to acknowledge its use. If the word of the day appears in a message on the Twitter network, Atwiculate will pick it up and throw it onto the front page of the site for other Artwiculate users to vote on. At the end of the day, the top 50 uses of the word are shown on the Artwiculate main page.
You could, of course, follow @artwiculate and receive the new word every day without playing along, but what fun would that be?
On Tuesday, we talked about Brizzly releasing a new API called "Let's Be Trends", which enables third party developers and services to tap into the company's definitions database for currently trending topics on Twitter. While not every definition requires multiple paragraphs to explain, I have been thinking about the real value of these definitions, and how they could be utilized as an ongoing news feed, similar to a real-time Wikipedia. After all, as trends age, the reason for their trending changes ever so slightly.
Note the real-time definitions for the real-time events.
Typically, Twitter's trending topics fall into four major categories:
Celebrity names: Either due to a death or other event with a person in the news. (Jay-Z)
Live events: Could include conferences or sporting events. (#sxsw09 or LSU)
Technology Tools: You can often see the words "iPhone" or "TweetDeck" trending.
Memes are the least likely to need updating. #iamsinglebecause and #cantlivewithout are fairly self-apparent. Complete the sentence and see what your friends think. Celebrity names, depending on the situation, could need updating. If Patrick Swayze passes away and becomes a trending topic, that's fairly clear. But if you have Barack Obama trending, it could be for a meeting with a world leader, or simply because he called Kanye a jack-ass. You can also see the need to make an update, as in the case of Conan O'Brien, who trended last night not because of his show, but because he had fallen and hit his head during a taping of that show.
Technology Tools like TweetDeck may trend ever higher because of a point release, or AT&T will trend because of the release of MMS, but often they trend just because people are talking about them often. (Like with the iPhone)
Live events to me seem like the biggest opportunity to have continuous definition updates. If you wanted to know why Michigan or LSU were trending this morning, the answer was yes, because there was a college football game. But what about the score? Why would LSU get more attention than Notre Dame? Maybe because of the team's ranking, or the excitement of the game? At this point, defining a trending topic (in Brizzly for example) becomes a lot like reporting on the news - so it would make sense to update the definition based on the score or the position of the game - is it the second quarter? Are we in overtime?
This may seem trivial today. We're talking about features on an API for a single service. But if we are to believe that microblogging is growing and that user contributions to the global service are going to play an expanding role, maybe this would be the time to start thinking about how we can utilize the opportunity to drive information back to those looking for it and inch our way further toward the future of media. And maybe, just maybe, Brizzly or somebody else can hire somebody whose job it is to consistently update live events.
Computer security company Symantec highlights just how easily shortened URLs can direct users to malicious sites and software in the video above. Most Lifehacker readers are probably savvy enough to avoid these sort of traps, and as the post points out, this problem isn't the fault of Twitter or of URL-shortening services, but it is a problem that could easily fool a lot of people. (The post is also quick to point out that "If you're running Symantec antivirus software, there's no need to worry," naturally.) So be aware, and be careful out there!
The big news yesterday was that Twitter raised another $100 million. Today, Twitter CEO Evan Williams confirms in a blog post that the company did indeed close a new round of funding. The new investors in the round are Insight Venture Partners and T. Rowe Price. Existing investors Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Benchmark Capital also put in more money.
Williams did not disclose the size of the round or the valuation, but as we first reported earlier this month the valuation is believed to be $1 billion.
This latest round brings the total amount raised by the company to $155 million over the past two years.
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By way of sarcasm, Fried raises a number of points. But the key ones he hits on are valuations, revenues (or lack thereof), business models, and hype. And he chose an easy target in Twitter, which has no shortage of naysayers who simply cannot believe the amount of funding and valuation the service keeps getting. But Fried undoubtedly knows how the game is played, and by picking on the current “it” company, a few people noted that his post looked more like a case of sour grapes. But his points are still definitely worth talking about.
Fried jokes that 37signals is valued $100 billion based on a group of people who are paying $1 for 0.000000001% of the company. His point is that valuations based on investments are ridiculous. But that’s not entirely true.
Certainly some are — Microsoft’s investment in Facebook that pumped its valuation to $15 billion is a great example. But the key point there is that Microsoft wasn’t making an investment in Facebook hoping to get rich when the company eventually has an exit. Rather, it was making a small (1.6%) strategic investment mainly to keep Google away. At the time, everyone went mad over the $15 billion number, but it was never realistic to begin with. Since then, Facebook (which has grown a lot in size) has raised real money at valuations that are much less. So did Microsoft get screwed? No, because it was never about the money.
But in Fried’s example, lets assume that the $1 investors are putting money in hoping to eventually get it back. If they really are paying $1 for 0.000000001% of the company, putting the valuation at $100 billion, those investors are going to want an exit of more than $100 billion (leaving out the various types of deals and options they could have surrounding an exit). So that $100 billion number does have meaning.
And likewise, without knowing the details of its latest round, the $1 billion number probably does have meaning for Twitter. If an when it closes this latest $100 million round, those investors are going to be looking for an exit of more than $1 billion. You can bet that T. Rowe Price wants to make money on this deal, as do the firms involved. And they clearly think Twitter is worth more than $1 billion dollars. And they’re hardlyalone.
Revenues & Business Models
Fried jokes, “In order to increase the value of the company, 37signals has decided to stop generating revenues.” And continues, “Once you have profits, it’s impossible to just make stuff up.” That is absolutely true, and Mike wrote a great post recently about that very dilemma Twitter could well face shortly.
But this is Fried pulling out the tired “Twitter makes no money” card. Let’s be clear: If Twitter wanted to right now, it could make money. (Well at least revenue, if not profits.) They would simply have to turn on advertising (which they can now do thanks to a recent change in their TOS) and some amount of money, and probably not an insignificant amount, would start rolling in.
At the same time, if it did that, investors would have a better idea of their business potential and that could make some wary of sky-high valuations if the numbers weren’t stellar — which both Fried and Mike rightly note.
But as Twitter has stated numerous times, its real intention for making money (at least right now) is not to go the way of ads, but instead to do professional accounts and tools. It would seem that Twitter is getting closer to rolling that out, and they’ve said the plan is to start making money before the end of this year. We’re closing in on that, so it seems safe to assume that new investors have a pretty good idea of Twitter’s strategy here. And if that’s the case, they clearly like what they see enough to pour in $100 million (again, assuming that round closes).
With this rumored new round, Twitter would have some $130 million in the bank. Like Facebook before it, that would give the company plenty of time before they had to start making any meaningful amount of money. Actually, Facebook just this past quarter went cash flow positive for the first time — after taking over $700 million in funding throughout the years. Twitter seems downright svelte by comparison.
The point is, they will have plenty of cash, and as such, plenty of time to worry about getting the right business model in place. And these investors would not be investing if they didn’t think that would happen, obviously.
“Bhatnagar admits the math [for valuations] is mostly a guess but points out that ‘the press eats it up.‘,” Fried writes. That’s undoubtedly true, we the press do eat this stuff up. Big numbers are sexy, and lead to interesting, or at least lively, discussions. But again, this is Fried suggesting that valuations based on investments are crazy. In some cases, they are, but not always. And provided that both the writer and reader understands how they work (which, admittedly, is quite often not the case), they can be a useful point of reference.
“37signals will lead the new global movement filled with imaginary assumptions on growth and monetization potential,” he continued. “We’re excited to roll out a list of unconfirmed revenue possibilities that involve crowdsourcing, a robust set of widget creation tools, 3G, augmented reality, social stuff, and an app store. Also, everything we make will include a compass,” Fried concludes.
Though he later backtracked from it, it seems pretty clear that Fried is suggesting that Twitter is pretty much all hype. We touched on this a bit yesterday, but ultimately, this still remains to be seen. But what’s humorous is that on the sidebar of his very post, Fried himself has a Twitter widget, and it’s actually above his list of 37signal products. This isn’t quite as bad as the people who loudly proclaim that Twitter is all hype — on Twitter.
But regardless of where you fall on the hype debate, all that really matters is that the investors obviously don’t think it’s hype. And they’re apparently still pouring money into it with the belief that it will be the next big thing. How big? Big enough to have an exit north of a billion dollars. How do I know? The valuation told me.
Normally, when you use Twitter’s search service, you can avoid clicking shortened URLs blindly – which is a security risk – by expanding them and taking a look at where they’ll be taking you exactly. I use it all the time, and I’ve even gotten accustomed to using Brizzly for Twitter on the web partly because it automatically expands any shortened URL.
I’d recommend anyone never to click short URLs without knowing where it goes, even when it comes from people you know and trust, because that’s not a guarantee for safe links either. In that regard, it doesn’t help that Twitter Search now no longer appears to expand Bit.ly URLs, which is the default web address shortener used by Twitter.
We’re not sure when this problem started occurring, but Twitter app developer Mallikarjun Reddy noticed it earlier today and adds that it is not an issue on Bit.ly’s side since its API for URL expansion seems to work just fine. Fortunately, the expansion for most other URL shorteners still functions, but since bit.ly is the most widely used tool of its kind on the social network, this is not something to simply brush off. Even if bit.ly is doing its own part to warn users of malicious links, Twitter has a responsibility to its users to protect them as good as they possibly can.
One more item to add to the ever-expanding to-do list of Twitter’s engineers.
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While there is often a lot of talk about the downside of URL shorteners being that if they go down, they take your links with them, the much more obvious and real problem is that they very easily mask potentially bad sites. We’ve been seeing this more and more in both public tweets and DMs, but luckily so far most of those have just been worms meant to replicate themselves, rather than really bad viruses. But security software company Symantec released a video today to show some very bad links in action.
As you can see in the video below, clicking on just one link infected a computer a dozen or so times in seconds. Obviously, Symantec’s intention is showing this is to sell their software that helps to protect against these attacks, but the point is still a good one to make. While URL shorteners like Bit.ly have begun warning users about potentially harmful links, others don’t bother. And let’s be honest, most of us click on links from friends regardless of what URL shortener they are using.
Yesterday, Twitter was bombarded by tweets using the hashtags “beforesex,” “aftersex,” and “duringsex.” It wasn’t long before people were using those tags to send out malicious links. It’s a problem because virus makers know that any trending topic is likely to be searched for a lot, so they can just ride that wave and catch unsuspecting users who are curious to click on links.
If you're an infrequent Twitter user you may never venture from the simple interface on the Twitter website. Regular users however have found third-party Twitter applications to be a fantastic addition to their micro-blogging experience.
This week we want to hear about your favorite Twitter client. Whether it's web-based, installed on your computer, or on your mobile phone, we want to hear about the third-party tool you use to Twitter and what it is about that tool which makes it your number one choice.
Hive Five nominations take place in the comments, where you post your favorite tool for the job. We get hundreds of comments, so to make your nomination clear, please include it at the top of your comment like so: VOTE: Twitter Client. Please don't include your vote in a reply to another commenter. Instead, make your vote and reply separate comments. If you don't follow this format, we may not count your vote. To prevent tampering with the results, votes from first-time commenters may not be counted. After you've made your nomination, let us know what makes it stand out from the competition.
About the Hive Five: The Hive Five feature series asks readers to answer the most frequently asked question we get: "Which tool is the best?" Once a week we'll put out a call for contenders looking for the best solution to a certain problem, then YOU tell us your favorite tools to get the job done. Every weekend, we'll report back with the top five recommendations and give you a chance to vote on which is best. For an example, check out last week's Hive Five Best Time-Tracking Applications.
Twitter is about to raise a boatload of cash. Last week we broke the news that Twitter is raising another round of funding at a $1 billion valuation and that one of the new investors in that round is Insight Venture Partners. Initially, Twitter was trying to raise $50 million, but demand for its shares is so great that it is raising even more.
The WSJ is reporting that the round may close as early as later today, and that Twitter may end up raising close to $100 million. In addition to Insight Venture Partners, another new investor is T. Rowe Price. In February, 2009, Twitter raised $35 million at a $250 million valuation.
Raising that much cash at a $1 billion valuation should hold it over until it decides to go public or is bought for a ridiculously large sum. (The price to acquire it just went way up). It also will put Twitter in the major leagues, and give it the resources to keep scaling its service. No more excuses for outages or technical hiccups.
More details as they come in.
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While writing my previous post and looking over comments from earlier today on other posts, I started thinking about bias. For just about every story we write, it seems someone always has either a comment or an email for us ranging from suggestions that we should also write about such and such company that is a competitor to the one we wrote about, to outrage that we didn’t mention the other said company. So why don’t we?
Well, for starters, it would be impossible to cover every company and each of their competitors, and give them each the same treatment. Not only are there not enough writers to do this for TechCrunch, if you put all the blogs together, there still would not be nearly enough. Further, and maybe more importantly, no one would want to read all of that coverage. A part of our job is to provide a filter to readers.
Some call that filter “bias,” and that’s fine except for the negative connotations associated with that word. While the idea of objective journalism is nice, if you go high enough, it really doesn’t exist. Somebody, somewhere at even the most exalted publications has to make a call on which story to pursue. There is always a flip side (or several), where another story is left out.
Others will be quick to jump on that saying something like, “yes, but you don’t have to do so many stories on X company while not covering Y company at all.” That’s true, but if X company is more worthy of coverage, shouldn’t that be the story to pursue? Not everyone will agree with that, but I think it comes down to a debate of what our role is: Are we kingmakers or are we prognosticators?
The people who think our so-called bias is hurting other companies, clearly will think we’re kingmakers; that we randomly or not-so-randomly pick companies that we want to see succeed and shower them with coverage. From my perspective, the reality is more that we’re prognosticators (or at least are trying to be). That is, finding cool companies that we think could actually have an impact in the tech sphere and covering why that may be the case, independent of caring about how many stories that might mean for any one company.
A good example of this in the past couple of years has of course been Twitter. From the early days of the company, many people could not see the potential of the service, and plenty still don’t. As such, some get really, really angry over the amount of coverage it gets. But what’s interesting is that this coverage is now happening across pretty much all levels of the press, it’s not just one site (though some obviously cover certain companies more than others). So either all of the press is colluding to bolster companies like Twitter, or they’re simply seeing a trend happening, that this company, for whatever reason is becoming important, and so they’re covering it.
Before you know it, the company that just a few years ago no one could understand why it was getting so much coverage, is now raising money with a billion dollar valuation. Did the early explosion of coverage make that happen? Or was the early coverage simply serving as a predictor that it would eventually happen? Kingmaker or prognosticator?
A more recent example of this that we’ve been seeing is with Foursquare. Many of the tech sites (including this one) have been covering the company quite a bit, and there are plenty of readers who have no idea why. But it’s one of those companies that myself and others saw potential in before it even launched. And so far, that prognostication has been slowly but surely been playing out, as earlier this month the company got a round of seed funding that several VCs were said to be fighting over the right to get involved with. Did they get the funding because of the early coverage? Or was the coverage there for the same reason they got the funding? Kingmaker or prognosticator?
The majority of complaints about Foursquare coverage seem to be that only a few early-adopter geeks and their friends are using it. Of course, the same exact thing was said for Twitter and for Facebook before that. It was also said for FriendFeed, which, while it never got the massive amount of mainstream users (though usage was way up right before the sale), still exited to Facebook to the tune of $50 million for one reason or another. Was that just the press coverage? Or did the press see the potential, especially with regards to Facebook (back pat)? Kingmaker or prognosticator?
With Foursquare, like Twitter before it, we aren’t writing about it because a group of geeks are using it. We’re writing about it because of the interesting use of gaming elements with a mobile app that propels usage. And because of the very interesting ramifications it could have on local mobile business deals. This is about seeing the start of a trend. Just as Twitter was about seeing the start of a trend.
That’s not to say that Foursquare will for sure go on to be a real success, it’s still a very young company, and has a very long way to go. And even Twitter at this point could still fizzle away over time. And of course it is always possible that everyone in the press is overlooking the next big company. But I believe that if a company is truly great, it will find a way to make itself known. Someone, somewhere will find it and start covering it, and from there, the product will speak for itself and garner more attention and coverage.
It remains, and will always be about the product. And we’re always out there hunting for the next great one. If you’re not getting the coverage you feel your product deserves, remain focused on improving it. Focus on making it better than the ones getting all the coverage. Don’t be bitter, be better. If you stick to that, eventually someone will find it. And then the complaints will start rolling in that your product is getting too much coverage. And that we’re kingmakers.
I notice that Imogen Heap is continuing with the free streaming of her album Ellipse . And no doubt significantly because of the free streaming, Ellipse is charting at #5 on Billboard. It is a glorious album, though I think we can pretty definitely count the free streaming of the album on the web as a very effective strategy. Perhaps it will become commonplace to stream music for free in order to maximize sales.
I'd be keen to know the proportion of sales of this album and the songs on it online versus through CD. It would almost be surprising if she sold much in CDs at all, because her presence is so online..
A bit tangentially, I just found this beautiful video of a beautiful song by Kate Havnevik, who I found through collaborative filtering and Imogen's music. If you like Imogen you'll absolutely like the extraordinary Kate. (note that it doesn't start for 10 seconds)
With the explosion of Twitter mobile apps, web-based clients, and desktop applications, it was only a matter of time before someone launched an actual Twitter-focused app store. Oneforty has built a marketplace to for basically all things Twitter, helping developers get their creations found and letting users access a centralized place to find and buy Twitter-based technologies. We have 100 invites to try out the site (OneForty is in private beta); just click here and use the code: TC140.
The site lists 1,332 free and paid applications and services built on Twitter’s API, where people can search for, rate and buy Twitter services. The site also features lists of the most popular apps on the marketplace, ad lists the “best” app for nine types of Twitter services, such as apps for business, url shortners, image sharing, news, and travel. The site also hopes to be somewhat of a social network, with users having the ability to create profiles of their favorite Twitter apps and services.
You sign into oneforty with your Twitter account, which lets you interact with the site with your Twitter handle. Each listing for an app or service has a detailed description of its features and and includes screenshots, and categories that the app fits into (i.e. business or mobile). You can click the “I use this” to add the app to your profile and you will be listed on the app’s page as a user. The listing also identifies the developer who created the app, features press mentions of the site or app or site and pulls in a stream of Tweets that mentions the app or site. And you can “share” a particular app via Twitter.
Oneforty’s revenue model is fairly basic. If you want to download Tweetie’s iPhone app, oneforty provides an link directly to Apple’s App Store, allowing oneforty to collect an affiliate fee. Of course for the free downloads and sites, such as TwitPic or TweetDeck, oneforty will just direct you to their sites, where you can download or access the application. oneforty is also going to list Twitter-related books and merchandise, with affiliate links to Amazon.co. An interesting bit of trivia—the site’s founder, Laura Filton, wrote the “Twitter for Dummies” book and taught a “”Twitter for Business” class at Harvard Business School. Oneforty was incubated at TechStars and is advised by Guy Kawasaki.
Twitter currently lists applications and also has a wiki-based directory of Twitter-related sites and apps, but it’s layout isn’t easy to navigate. Twitdom also has an application database which includes reviews and ratings but doesn’t seem to have the user interface and marketplace feel of oneforty.
Finton tells me that soon oneforty will become a full fledged e-commerce platform, where developers can sell their apps on the site itself. I think its fairly easy to use and am a fan of its sharing features. If oneforty can pick up a dedicated base of users, it has a chance at becoming the defacto Twitter app store.
The site is in private beta at the moment, but we have
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Open Source in Emerging Markets -- the emerging markets — which include India, China, and Brazil — have more FOSS adoption and a higher concentration of effort in open source. Three quarters (74%) of developers in emerging markets use open source software for at least part of their work, compared to 65% of developers worldwide. In this context, "use" means personal use or corporate use, and could include both developer tools and desktop or server applications. (via glynmoody on Twitter)
Last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph published an article titled Tech to the future that looks at what’s coming next in consumer and social technologies. Unfortunately it isn’t available online, however here are the sections where I was quoted:
Futurist and author Ross Dawson says the next big shifts will pivot around how we connect to other people and “how we share the content of our lives with others. It’s all about the social use of technology.”
Analysts predict that rather than a new Twitter-styled platform emerging, social networks will move towards being meshed or interconnected. They say private and public data will blur together and an advanced version of the social networks of your choice will be your browser of entry point.
Now that we have as a society discovered sharing the content from our lives, the floodgates are open. Interoperability across social networks is evolving slowly, but is what we are coming to expect. Then later in the article:
“This is not the death of the traditional broadcaster,” Dawson says, “ but the role of terrestrial broadcasting of television will significantly decrease as the internet grows as a distribution system.”
“Twitter set up the idea of sharing everything as we go; the next phase will be documented via sharing video.”
“For Australians, the chance in video consumption habits will also be market by the NBN, in allowing IPTV (internet protocol television) to become a reality in most people’s living rooms.”
One of the inexorable shifts in moving image viewing will be in distribution channels. Given the existing investment in broadcasting infrastructure this is not going to disappear in a hurry. But an increasing proportion of video content will be delivered over IP. Much or all of the content currently available on free-to-air will be available over IP, meaning it can be consumed across multiple devices and many situations. Managing that transition is perhaps the most prominent strategic issue of the next five years for TV channels.
The panellists generally agreed that total revenue in the influence sector, including the companies represented on the panel (Rapleaf, Buzzlogic, Klout) is around US$100 million. The primary business model is providing insights to companies on who the influencers are in their customer base.
One example given is a hotel that asks guests checking in for their Twitter name, swiftly ascertaining how influential in social media they are, and treating them accordingly. If someone who has real reach is their guest, the hotel might upgrade them or otherwise treat them in a way that they are likely to rave about.
Another example is a clothing company that assesses how influential a customer is by seeing how many people in their personal network buy similar items of clothing to them. If they determine they are indeed influential in actually impacting others’ buying decisions, they may give them gifts or other rewards which will flow on to further sales.
The second of the Five key trends in how influence is transforming society is “influence can be measured”. This is a very recent phenomenon, driven by a wholesale shift of most influential communicators onto online channels, and the richness of information available on many social media platforms.
What this means is that companies can start differentiating at a high level of granularity how they treat their customers. Instead of simply taking into account wealth or spending power in treating people differently, influence is rapidly becoming an important factor.
As Auren Hoffman noted in the panel discussion, companies are moving beyond ‘total customer value’ to consider the additional customers that may be referred by someone, sometimes called the ‘customer network value’.
This suggests a world where those that receive the most preferential treatment are not the wealthiest, but the most influential. Capital wanes in its power relative to influence. Most critically, influence becomes a currency that buys things with real value: free goods, discounts, special treatment, and more.
We could call this Influencism: a world in which influence holds sway, sometimes even beyond capital.
There was heated debate at Future of Influence Summit as to whether differential treatment based on how influential you are is a good thing or not. More on that discussion later. However like it or not, we are swiftly entering that world.