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Monthly Archives: May 2007

I know, you think I am out of my mind, right? Before you go jumping to conclusions, hear me out on this one. One of the major differences is that while MySpace is closing down their network and trying to develop all widgets internally, Facebook has gone the opposite direction and opened up their platform to 3rd party developers (granted the 3rd parties have to adhere to their standards, but at least they are allowing 3rd party development).

OK, so they are at opposite ends of the spectrum on this one, but there are a lot of striking similarities that I am starting to see, and it makes me a little worried. I think that one of the great things that has made Facebook so popular is that it is a social network that crosses over to the real world (really, most people connect with those that they already know in their offline world). Beyond that, they have methodically launched feature sets at the right time, and for the most part, the community has been very accepting (with the exception of the News Feed, but everyone came around).

Facebook has become the defacto standard to follow when it comes to features in a social network, but I think that their opening up may actually be a bad thing. By allowing more outside content, opening up their network to almost anyone (long gone is the exclusiveness that drew people to it in the first place), and the ability to move content around on the page, this may actually hurt them. The more they open up and allow leads to more control over the page given to the user which in turn opens up their product to the vulnerabilities that plagues MySpace, the messiness that users ultimately make out of their profile. The one thing that they have not allowed is the customization of profiles (a la CSS modifications), so that is a good thing. I do hope that they do not go down this path, but if they do, I believe they will be opening the door for the next killer social network to move into it’s place (at the very least they will become MySpace and free up their space as number two for someone else).

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At what point do you have too many cooks in the kitchen to get anything done? Is this problem specific to organizational size, or does it happen with small teams as well? I tend to think it is a by product of larger organizations, where for better or worse, there are layers of bureaucratic overhead that all have opinions and want to voice them, but it can happen anywhere, at any time. I have worked for both large organizations and small, and my experience has been that this sort of problem increases dramatically in direct correlation to the overall size of the organization.

I have stumbled across a couple of blog posts in the last few days that have prodded me to think about this in more detail. Seth Godin has a great post on who you should hire and he states that most fast moving organizations (these can be large or small) are really just looking for people who can get things done. This drives home the point that at the end of the day, things need to get done, and too many cooks stymie production. Why is it so hard to just make a decision and get moving on it? The absence of a decision is bad, and by not making it and moving on, you are simply belaboring actual work. To drive this point home, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” deals with gut decision making and how accurate it can be, and I think it lends itself to this notion of too many cooks in the kitchen is a very bad thing.

When it is all said and done, one person needs to step up and make the decision and democratically let everyone else in the room know that they are the decision owner and they have said the final word and now let’s get to work!

Close the books on this one, today was the first gathering of the Northern Virginia Open Coffee Club and it was a success. Thanks to everyone who made it out, especially given that today was the start of the first summer holiday. We had some very good discussions ranging from general industry discussions, to business ideas to specific technology discussions around Ruby and Apollo.

Everyone agreed that this was a great start to something that we all hope will continue to grow. We will continue to meet on a regular basis, somewhere between every other week to perhaps once a month. We will work with The DC Open Coffee club to ensure that we do not overlap and perhaps even do a combined gathering once a month. For now we will continue to meet at the same Starbucks until we outgrow it.

In the spirit of the Open Coffee Club, we kept it very informal, no name tags, etc. As we continue to grow the group, hopefully we will be able to incorporate a demo or two here and there, and hopefully be able to bounce ideas off one another and foster lasting partnerships.

If you did not make it to this one, sorry we missed you. There will be an announcement shortly on the next one, come by if you get the chance.

There is a great write up today on VentureBeat about Avanoo recently launching. For those of you who have not heard of them ,they are a site that taps into the wisdom of crowds in order to offer up answers to many of life’s questions. They have built upon the popular notion popularized by James Surowiecki’s in his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds“. The general notion is that a crowd is smarter on a whole than the smartest individual contributor.

Avanoo is taking this concept to a whole new level and providing the ability for an opinion seeker to narrow down their search for an answer to their question to the group that mostly aligns to them self. For example, a 25 year old guy looking to buy his wife their first anniversary present would be more likely to follow the advice of like minded individuals (meaning of the same age, sexual orientation, marital status) than say that of a group comprised of 60 year old divorced, bitter, men. Get the picture?

One of the founders, Dan Jacobs, gained a bit of notoriety back at the beginning of the year by publishing his account of an experience they had with a certain VC when they were shopping their idea to the various VC firms. He changed the name to protect the innocent, but it did not take long for anyone to understand who “Dude Yamaha” was.

Dan is a great guy, I have exchanged several e-mails with him over the months, and I wish him and Wilford all the success. I think they have tapped into something here, and I am excited to see where Avanoo will go.