Dude, where’s your Facebook app?

This is the new line in parties. Its replacing “whats your Web2.0 startup?” At a recent party, everyone had a Facebook app, many had multple Facebook apps. Some were still working on theirs (the laggards!). This is the new land grab. If you want to be noticed, then hurry.

I had heard of this entrepreneur in the making, an ambitious woman planning an eBay of services. Recently I heard that she had changed tack and was working on a vampires and werevolves application for Facebook. I went to a conference to hear RockYou speak and learnt that their most popular application was “Horoscopes”. Another friend has launched several facebook applications with the latest being “Am I Virgin or not” application. He is thinking of several more along similar lines.

Its viral for viral’s sake. The point is not to create a cool, useful app and make it viral. The point is to create an app that is viral to begin with. The logic often seems to be – “once I get all the Facebook users using my viral game, I will use that to lure them to my website/other application“. And how will you make money? Who knows? As Paul Kedrosky puts it, Silicon Valley has never cared about revenue anyway :->

So what’s your Facebook app?

Upcoming talk at UC Berkeley: Fast, cheap and somewhat in control: Lessons from the design of SlideShare

Next week, I will be giving a talk at the Information School, UC Berkeley about the design of SlideShare. This will be for Marti Hearst’s UI Design class at the I. The talk is really about a 360 degree view of design that I got as I have moved from academic to consulting to entrepreneurship. The title and abstract is below.

Fast, cheap and somewhat in control: Lessons from the design of SlideShare

In the last five years, Rashmi has approached design as an academic researcher looking for statistical patterns that distinguish successful design, a user experience consultant solving design problems for large companies, a creator of a game-like software for design research. Now, in her current incarnation she balances design among business concerns while leading a small, bootstrapped startup. In this talk, she will share 10 lessons learned from the design of SlideShare, why Web 2.0 companies don’t do user research (or do they), how the Beta launch can be considered a user probe, how personas are not needed when you know your users by name, the importance of technical simplicity and how designers need to avoid thinking too much and start taking risks.

Slideshare our new social app is on Techcrunch!

So its finally out – the other project that we (at Uzanto) have been working on. And its starting its life with being Techcrunched!

The process of sharing slides is broken. It goes from my hard drive to yours via email. Or if I put it online, its in a clunky format like pdf or Powerpoint that you need to download.

Slideshare solves that problem. It webifies your slides – it makes the experience of viewing them, sharing them with individuals or groups smooth and seamless. You can upload your slides from Powerpoint or OpenOffice (Keynote users will have to save in Powerpoint format for the time being) and Slideshare will render them like this here. You can tag, comment and most of all embed your presentations into your blog or website like this one below.

(Slideshare is still invite only. Add yourself to the invite list or ping me if you would like to take a peek or try uploading your own slides).

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Why flock makes sense

I don’t generally get involved in these web2.0 brouhahas, but Flock has been on my mind recently. The most round of criticism comes after the release of Performancing a cross-platform browser plugin for Firefox that makes Flock pointless.

I was initially excited then skeptical of Flock, but it was at a talk about FireFox recently that I decided that Flock makes sense. Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler talked about how they had managed to create simple software in an open-source geek culture (not known for simple software). What struck me was that their method primarily seemed to be about having a small team that worked as gatekeepers keeping the non-essential stuff out. I am simplifying, but I have thought a fair bit about how to make usable software in an open source culture, and their method was definitely what I would term the “gatekeeper model”.

They also talked about Firefox’s current main challenge, which is to move beyond early adopters, and some early majority and go after more of the Internet Explorer crowd. Strategically, Firefox will be focused on a simple experience that is similar, but compares well to Internet Explorer. That is Firefox’s main battle especially with renewed efforts of Microsoft with IE.

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Collaborative Filtering strikes back (this time with tags)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I became interested in collaborative filtering. Well, it was five years ago, and I was at UC Berkeley, but it seems like eons ago.

What is collaborative filtering? Technically, it’s an algorithm for matching people with similar interests for the purpose of making recommendations. In non-technical terms, it’s a system for helping people find relevant content. Unlike search, where you parse a query to and the most relevant content, with collaborative filtering you find some way of gauging an individual’s interest in content, and then recommend what other similar users liked.

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Web 2.0: Data, Metadata and Interface

One key takeaway from the Web 2.0 panel was that data, interface and metadata no longer need to go hand in hand. When working on an application/website, one thinks of the overall picture including the data, the metadata, and the interface. With Web 2.0 apps, the data might be from one place, the metadata from another, and the interface from a third party or a remix. The diagram below shows the move towards Web 2.0 along with examples.

the move towards Web 2.0

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