Sizing Up Your Business

Last night I spoke at the Gilbert FastTrac GrowthVenture meeting. It was a pleasure to see so many founders and entrepreneurs in a room sharing knowledge, insights and experiences.

I’m willing to bet any one of them could have stood up and shared their thoughts with all of us and we would have learned as much (or probably more) than we did by listening to me for 40 minutes.

The thing is, it takes a community, an ecosystem to create a thriving entrepreneurial economy – and while that is a topic for a different post – I was thrilled to see entrepreneurs coming together.

I’m including the slides below, and I hope you find them helpful – but the real value was in the richness of the dialoge.

View more presentations from Brian Roy.

JustSignal – Turn down the noise and just get the signal.

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On Friday, November 21st cosinity released JustSignal – a combined FriendFeed and Twitter application that allows you to turn down the noise and focus in on just those topics or users you find most interesting.

As much as I love Twitter and FriendFeed, they can become a giant distraction. Too much noise, not enough signal. JustSignal is the solution. It allows you to get your entire home feed from FriendFeed and near real-time “Track” from Twitter – all in one user interface. JustSignal’s filtering solution allows you to only receive the information you care most about – in real-time.

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While that alone is a powerful solution for the individual user… JustSignal delivers so much more.

JustSignal Brand Monitor tracks your brand across Twitter and FriendFeed – allowing you to monitor what is said about your brand – and react in real time. Our robust solution queues Tweets, FriendFeed Posts, Comments and Likes that refer to your brand. Anyone in your company can log in and respond to those Social Media brand messages as they happen.

JustSignal Brand Monitor also archives everything said about your company – allowing you to analyze the data and determine what the perception is and how it is trending.

This combination of real-time monitoring and response, and historical data analysis is transformative for your company. Stop sending out surveys and start listening to your customers, prospects and influencers.

You can contact me directly for more information.

FriendFeed to XMPP Bridge – Why, how and the plan.

Yesterday I took about and hour and created a FriendFeed to XMPP bridge. The advantage I had was that I was already running a XMPP server and had a working XMPP bot – these existed for my own personal use as well as for cosinity.

Why?

Primarily this is about information discovery. The ability to participate is challenging (see below) as FriendFeed is an aggregator.

As I said in an earlier post – I believe FriendFeed’s Real-Time functionality is missing two important capabilities.

  1. The ability to filter the feed by keyword(s).
  2. The ability to get real-time for the public timeline.

While there is nothing I can do about access to the public timeline – I can, via the API, create the ability to filter a feed by keyword(s).

Additionally, XMPP is a clean way to distribute the information – so why not have it published via XMPP?

How?

Since FriendFeed had not released any sample code or a Python/PHP library for real-time yet I had to modify the existing libraries to support real time. This turned out to be trivial – I simply made a new {fetch_RT} function which looks much like the existing {fetch} function. With that complete I could simply use this modified PHP library to grab a user’s real-time stream.

As I mentioned earlier I already had an XMPP server running and had created a bot for other reasons. I simply re-used that bot and the over the network XML API defined by the bot to send the FriendFeed stream out as XMPP messages.

There are several important things to note here about the architecture:

  1. De-Coupling the FriendFeed real-time processes from the XMPP bot processes is a very efficient model.
  2. Keeping the XMPP stream bot a “dumb pipe” (i.e., outbound message streaming only) is also very efficient.
    1. Clicking on the link at the front of the XMPP message opens the FriendFeed “conversation” in a browser.
  3. Since FriendFeed is an aggregator, participation via XMPP will be very problematic.
    1. For Example: If the message is a tweet do you want to reply with a tweet – or comment on the tweet in FriendFeed’s conversation?
    2. The bot would have to track a large number of variables for each message in order to properly distribute your comment/message/etc.
    3. This overhead would directly affect the ability of the service to scale.
  4. The scope of the feed (e.g., the apple room or My Home feed or my “the cool people list”) and the keywords for which you’d like an XMPP notification would be configured via a web interface.
    1. This – again – goes directly to keeping the service as scalable as possible.
    2. The down side is you can’t change scope or keywords via XMPP messages.
    3. There is the possibility of creating a separate “ffstreamcontrol” bot which would take these commands. It remains to seen if this is really required or a nice to have.
  5. Since the stream bot acts as a dumb pipe – it can rapidly scale by running multiple instances with the same UID and a different resource string. You won’t know (or care) which bot you are connected to – they all look the same. If one dies – the FriendFeed real-time processes will be programed to try the next one… and the next one… etc.
    1. Again – this is a very efficient model.
    2. Will provide high levels of redundancy
  6. The bots will all connect to a dedicated XMPP server – the XMPP messages will then be distributed via XMPP federation.
    1. XMPP federation protocols are very efficient.

The Plan:

My current plan is to build something similar to what you see below. The user will create XMPP streams based on scope (i.e., FriendFeed scope – For Example: the Debates 2008 room) and keyword(s). The user will be allowed multiple XMPP streams. All XMPP stream creation, deletion and modification will be done via a web interface.

The XMPP bot(s) will serve as a dumb pipe for content delivery.

Participation is problematic – and as such will be set aside for now. User’s can still participate by clicking on the link in the XMPP message – this link will open the FriendFeed conversation (here is one for example). This will allow the user to participate, subscribe to the user’s involved in the conversation, etc.

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Please feel free to comment – let me know if you think this is headed in the right direction.
NOTE: This was written very quickly based on a prototype made yesterday. Please excuse any less than completely thought through concepts… it is a work in progress.

54 Hours To Build A Company: A Look At Startup Weekend Phoenix

TechCrunch coverage of Phoenix Startup Weekend… Yeah – I was there working on Reserve Chute!!!

Twitrratr gets a nice bump… nice job guys.

Go Phoenix!

It’s been some time since we last covered Startup Weekend, a series of events that bring a roomful of developers and entrepreneurs together to develop new startups in only 54 hours. When the program originally launched last year, each weekend was geared towards building a single application, of which every participating member was a cofounder. Since then the format has changed – multiple companies are created at each event, and they don’t have to incorporate at the end of the weekend. Here’s a handful of the companies founded at last weekend’s event, which was held in Phoenix.

ReserveChute

With so much of our essential data making its way to the cloud, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to quickly make a local backup. Reserve Chute, an open source web app that will be available for use in the next few weeks, will automatically make backups of popular cloud based services including Gmail, Twitter, and Basecamp.

It’s unlikely that any of these services will be going out of business in the foreseeable future, and they almost certainly have redundant backup systems in place. But the prospect of having my entire photo collection or Email history wiped out is unnerving – having an easy way to back up these services would definitely give users some peace of mind, even if they never had to use it.

My Shelter Helper

My Shelter Helper is web page builder aimed to help animal shelters establish a presence on the web. Shelters can logon and after entering some basic information like their address and telephone number will be presented with a functional and good looking website. It’s a great idea, and I love the tagline: “Helping save animal’s lives.”

For now the service is generating some pretty barebones sites, but will introduce support for donations so that shelters can easily collect from benevolent animal lovers worldwide. I hope the team keeps working on this – anything that helps animals is a good thing, and plenty of people (like my mother, for example) would love to donate to their local animal shelter along with the national organizations.

Twittrratr

Awful domain name aside, the Twittrratr team has actually built a pretty cool Twitter site. After entering any keyword, Twittrratr will find related tweets and attempt to figure out if the subject is being spoke about in a positive or negative light. It’s a good idea but unfortunately it doesn’t work very well – oftentimes words that Twittrratr associates with a negative tweet aren’t being used to describe the keyword that was searched for. The team acknowledges that the system isn’t perfect and is open to suggestions (it’s still pretty impressive for 54 hours from conception to launch).

[From 54 Hours To Build A Company: A Look At Startup Weekend Phoenix]

What did you do last weekend?

I hope you had fun. I was at Phoenix Startup Weekend working with a team of smart, energized people to create a new company in a single weekend.

The result – Reserve Chute – is sheer genius.

This one time, at Phoenix Startup Weekend (http://phoenix.startupweekend.com) actually held in Chandler, AZ, a band of brothers, and one sister, came together to create a new company called Reserve Chute. With it’s main offering a personalized data backup service that permits users to grab their data from online sources like GMail and others and save them to a storage device of their choice. This is one cool and innovative service that should be on your “Must Have” list. Your data on your terms for when Web 2.0 becomes Web 2 point Oh no! What more could you ask for. For more information, visit http://www.reservechute.com and sign-up for this unique and powerful service offering.

If you use online applications to run your business you need to check Reserve Chute out. It might be the best thing you ever do for your business.

The following photos are courtesy of Adam Nollmeyer – Thanks Adam. You can find Adam’s work here.

UPDATE – The photos below are actually courtesy of ccl1111 – you can find his photos here. Adam’s photos are still great… be sure to check them out as well.

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