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Archive for September, 2008


Twitter Isn't for Normal People

For the Internet community, Twitter has become the standard tool to share information about our near instantaneous industry.  It is the newest app that we have taken on to beta test its potential to cross-over into the mainstream.

I can comfortably ask anyone at a tech event what their Twitter name is without having to worry if they have an account. I often use this as a yardstick for adoption. When you can make a similar assumption with normal people, like you can with E-mail, Aim, and Facebook, you have a smash hit.

This is why getting normal people to adopt Twitter will be difficult:

1. “Following” is what creepy stalkers do. Normal people don't follow, they have friends.

2. The concept of  online social capital is meaningless to them.  They don't care about their online presence because nobody in their industry or social-circle cares.  Their only concern is that embarrassing pictures don't show up when they are Googled.  A massive shift in perspective needs to occur before regular people start to adopt tools that can help them cultivate that online identity as opposed to hiding it.  We have an incentive to raise our online social capital, which is someth

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ing the mass-market doesn't understand or care about.

3.  Normal people don't want you to know “what they're doing”.  Talk to any attractive girl and she'll tell you about one or two guys that can't take a hint. They don't want that person to be able to follow them and they don't want to tell that person what they're doing.

4.  Getting people a regular person to use Twitter literally requires force.  If it wasn't for the web-community forcing their non-tech friends to use it, I don't think it would be growing as fast as it is.  In fact, Nate Westheimer and Justine Ezarik forced me to use it at SXSW because I thought it was pointless.  Honestly, I agreed because I thought Justine was cute and was shocked that an Internet app had attracted what appeared to be a normal girl to use it. (I didn't know she was a video blogger at the time).   This type of evnagilism is a testimate to the service and community that Twitter built, but it's only a sustainable strategy for growth if it can cross-over to regular people, and not just from geek to geek.

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Building Web Apps For Normal People

If your reading this blog, chances are you don't fall under my classification of normal. You’re an Internet person, a geek, part of the web2.0 crowd; a SMALL group of tech savvy early adopters that act as the guinea pigs for the newest stuff on the Internet.  I am tired of hearing about new things being built by Internet people for Internet people.  Its ultimately necessary, but successfully building something for normal people is infinitely more interesting

Most web apps are built for the tech crowd because it's easy, relatively speaking.  There is a better chance that they will try it, and if they like it, there is a built in promotional infrastructure as they all rush to tell each other. If you’re part of this crowd, you probably have a sense of what they'll like, what would be useful, what features the application needs, and how it should look. You have friends in this community so you can figure out how best to harness that social network. Your friends will use your web app and tell everyone else that they should too.

That’s not to say that creating an app for this market is easy, it’s not.  However, if you are going to create a web app, this is the easiest market to create it for.

The hardest market to create something for is normal people. They don't want it and they won't try it. They'll wait for a geekier friend to tell them that it's absolutely essential, and then they’ll wait some more until everyone they know looks at them with shock when they say they don’t use it.  If it's not dead simple and immediately apparent why it will be a major benefit to them, they'll never touch it again. Pe

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The normal market is the one that matters.  If your app can’t crossover, it is unlikely that it has the power to scale into a successful business.

So how do we reach normal people? This seems to be the formula:

Take a product that is massively popular with geeks, let it marinate for a year or two, and dumb it down 100%.  Then you might have something that normal people will use.

If its social in nature, you better understand how normal people are social.  If you’re a geek this may be a shortcoming.  Normal people aren't open, they don't want everything about them public, and they want exclusivity within their network. Their social dynamic is fundamentally different.

A social app for normal people needs to mirror a real life social network and the interactions need to mirror real life interactions.

Who does it:

AIM is the ultimate app for normal people. The user has friends and they talk to them in real time.  It’s the perfect real-life mirror, which is why it is one of the most popular web apps ever adopted by normal people.

Facebook is the obvious example.  It mirrored the real life social network of colleges, and then slowly grew up with it's crowd of early adopters. In Facebook you have friends, and friends have access to more information about you, just like in real life. One of the most popular features is the wall, which is analogous to the whiteboards that all college students have on their door.

After Gamil, I quickly run out of other examples because normal people don’t use all of the stuff we have built over the last few years.  Comment if you can think of examples of web applications that normal people use.

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In Defense of Another Internet Blog

This is a blog about the Internet, the very last thing that the Internet needs.  The effect that it will have on the net, compared to a scenario in which I don't write it at all, is basically zero.  This seems like an excellent reason not to do it.  Maybe I should end things there: Post, Blog, Match.  A single post; you have to admire the simplicity.

While this blog may not have a measurable impact on the Internet, it will have considerable effect on me.  By posting,  I will become a better member of the Internet community.  It will force me to th

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ink critically about th

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e subjects that face this industry.  I  will have a forum  to present my analysis publicly so its logic can be debated.  It will hold me accountable for my thoughts in a way that highlight their value both in the present and in hindsight.  To determine if someone is truly an Internet expert, read their posts from a year ago.  What they have to say in hindsight is a good indication of how important it is to listen to them now.  If you find yourself reading this in a year, let me save you the trouble; ignore everything I have to say.

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What this blog is about

At the turn of the century, the United States went through an industrial revolution. Innovations in machinery, steam power, and mills transformed the landscape of the American economy. A few men rose to prominence as the leaders of this revolution, showing the world how to conduct business in a new age. J.P. Morgan (banking), Andrew Carnegie (steel, railroads), and John D. Rockefeller (oil), were among these men and they became known as the Robber Barons. While these men are cre

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dited with leading the way into the industrial revolution, they are often criticized for their ruthless practices.

Today, we are in the midst of a digital revolution. Technology has altered the landscape of business as significantly as machinery did over 100 years ago. We are in the very earliest stages of this revolution. How we proceed will shape its future and will reflect how this time period is remembered historically. The goal of this blog is to chronicle our progress.

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