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Web 2.0 NYC – Tying it All Together: Implementing the Open Web

Joseph Smarr – Chief Platform Architect, Plaxo (Dude talks fast)

Talk about the most fundamental and important changes on the web: The Web is going social, and social is going open. I’m going to take you though it and hopefully make sense of it.

Social web building blocks, but a lot of confusion as to what they are and what they do.

So: How to dhese pieces fit together, and how will this look once the dust settles?

Social web is BROKEN.

on each site, we still need to

  • create an account
  • re-enter our profile info
  • re-find our friends
  • re-establish our relationshiops

There’s gotta be a better way. And, there is. Help is on the way.

Building blocks establish

  • who i am (ID)
  • who i know (Social)
  • what’s going on (Activity)

Who I am

Create a portable, durable online identity


  • sign up / sign in with existing account
  • Link / share profile data between sites
  • Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, Google (on some properties)

rel=me (XFN)

  • Consolidate your online identity with me-links

social graph API

  • See what your users said about themselves

Shows plaxo pulse “Stream” which seems like it’s activity from across multiple web apps, kinda like friend feed. Hmm, I guess I’ll finally have to check out Plaxo.

Who I Know

Build and maintain real relationships

Contact APIs

  • Find people from your current address book
  • Leverage previously established relationships


  • Share private data between trusted sites

Friends-list portability

  • Continuous discovery across multiple sites

What’s Going On

How do you stay up to date with the people you know.

Becuase the whole web is becoming social, there are social things happening on dozens of sites. There’s no way you can go to all those sites to know who’s doing what all the time.


  • Build social apps that can run anywhere


  • Syndicate your activity to share with others


  • Real-time update stream between sites

So, where is this all going?

There’s you, and there’s all this social stuff on the web, adn there will be a middle SERVICES LAYER that manage interaction between the two. Those services will be:

  • Identity Provider
  • Content aggregators
  • Social graph provider

A day in the life of teh social web

  1. John wants to check out a new site. Can show up and use his identity provider to log in and start playing around.
  2. He finds who he nows that are on the site via the social graph provider
  3. He creates some content and shares it back…his friend Joe finds it and he also discovers the new site (content aggregator)
  4. Virtuous cycle repeats

Portable contacts: the missing piece.

Effort underway to standardize

  • contact schema
  • discovery / auth
  • common operations

Focus on ease and speed of adoption

  • Active involvement from large and small players

More info at

Web 2.0 NYC – Design and User Experience in an Agile Process

M. Jackson Wilkinson – Viget Labs

Briefly, talking about Waterfall process. It’s incremental.

Moves on to talk more about Agile. There’s a cycle of dev, where on a repeated scale a product is actually pushed out.

Agile is: Adaptable. Iterative. Cooperative. Quality Driven.

But, the truth about Agile in practice. There is DOGMA. Time frame is very constrained? How can a designer produce work on the typical Aglile dev schedule.

So, you end up with design cliches: Path of least resistence. Rounded corners, drop shadows, reflections, etc. That’s why Web 2.0 sites look so similar…there’s no time to do really good design work.

And then, Agile tends to yield Waterfall!

Now that we know it doesn’t work, then, how to we fix Agile?

  1. Skew project cycles. Front-load design before the official agile dev cycle begins.
  2. Make use of Cycle 0. Kind of like planning…stuff you need to do at the beginning, like research, dev overhead like setting up environments, etc.
  3. Define “done”.
  4. Start cycle with planning.
  5. Make sure everyone’s in the SCRUM
  6. Emphasize validation: User testing, show people on the team how it works, etc.

Web 2.0 NYC – From Modern Times to Open Times: Best Buy BlueShirt Nation Case Study

Peter Hirshberg – Technorati
Michele Azar – Best Buy

Best Buy built blue shirt nation. Mainly to get ideas from customers and employees to improve the offerings.

SO, the blue shirts connected and started sharing ideas to improve best buy.

401(k) program, there was a contest about the 401k on blue shirt nation, and enrollment went from 20% to 47%. Not bad. True testiment to social media rallying employees.

Another case: Portal software hated by the employees. They sourced via Blue Shirt nation to find people out in the stores to come in and write the new portal. Shipped in some Geek Squad kids from the sticks. Got done in a few weeks for a fraction of the cost. Expertise location! Yay!

Best Buy has also started a prediction market. And are actively engaging customers in the store via mobile with reviews, etc. Not bad.

Best Buy is actively scanning Twitter and engaging with customers there.

Changing your company, WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Have a bunch of meetings, and decide one thing to do, and put all resources to that. I say: when you have someone with a huge idea, lock them out of the building and don’t let them come back in till they’ve thrown away the one $1million idea and come back with 100 $10K ideas

So best buy has roled out “Remix” API, leading to a Support-a-pedia.

Ending with the standard jabbering about how corporations need to be open, no secrets, etc. Wisdom of the crowds. Hm, after this week on Wall Street, I’m not sure how much I believe the mob should rule.

Web 2.0 NYC Panel: The Future of Browsers

Ojan ?? from Google
Brendan Eic – Mozilla
Chris Wilson – MS Internet Explorer

Question: 2022 roadmap for HTML. Too long to wait? What have you guys done about HTML 5.

Brendan: HTML 5 is big. We’ve done canvas, we’ve done offline support. It won’t be 2022, itn eeds to be sooner.

Ojan, can you comment on plans for HTML 5 w. Chrome: Sure. ALl credit for HTML 5 features in Chrome goes to the Webkit team. The other aspect is Google Gears, which led a number of features that have sort of become HTML 5 features. We wil move forward to support HTML 5 features in Chrome. I’m excited about UI elements. There’s an HTML 5 spec fo thigns like toolbars and menus, which currently takes a ridiculous amount of javascript, needs to be sent over the wire. If it was native, would make things a lot faster and easier. I’d love to seem more features like that in HTML 5.

Chris, HTML 5 features any time soon? Answer: We’ve actually taken much of the features in IE 8 have been pulled from the HTML 5 spec.

Brendan, how do you keep up with big companies as an open source provider? Well, we’ve been doing this for 10 years. Open has advantages: recruiting, partnering, etc.

Chris tell us about Canvas in HTML 5. Have you note implemented Canvas to push people to Silverlight? Well, Silverlight is an end-to-end platform. That’s not the platform that my team works on. We certainly recognize that we need to have vector graphic support. We decided that in the next product cycle we’d be better off doing other things first, but we will start to look at vector graphics.

Ojan, with Chrome, my quesiton is, what’s the target audience. Are you going after consumers to take away from IE, or for developers. A: well the primary goal of google chrome is to make developing Web apps better. Down the road, the intention is to build many features in HTML 5. What it comes down to is Google wants browsers to do Web applications well.

Question about debugging…

IE Guy: Go try Beta 2 of IE 8. We’ve really expanded debugging capabilities.

Google guy: Google chrome has two different debuggint tools. They’re pretty decent. If you like firebug, check out the google webkit. It’s moving really quickly.

Question: How far is the browser away from being the operating system? When or if or do you preceive that in the future the primary way that even desktop apps will be with a browser-like API and development?

Google guy: It’s apples and oranges, frankly, comparing OS and a web browser. They’re really twoo totally differnt things. It’s not een clear what it means in some sense.

Brendan: Browsers have disintermediated the OS in some ways. Desktip apps built with web technolgies, like AIR.

Question: Why can’t browsers be consistent? Too many browsers! This is hell! What are you guys doing about it.

IE Guy: Yeah, we’re doing something to help this problem. 1. Investment in test week (?). We’ve been building out the test suite to the point where it really is an interop test. But we’re trying to pass at 100% by the time we ship. 2. Compatibility story we’ve been building. The way we’ve decided to enable you to say: work like ie7, until i update to ie 8.

Quesiton for google: Can developers tie in to the data on users to make experience data. “Google keeps some data to improve the browser experience” for people. “We currently have not plans to expose this data to users”…I don’t think it’ll happen.

Web 2.0 NYC – Day 3

Morning, buncha keynotes. My coments below. Also, it seems there’s a “Medical Aesthetics” (this is: plastic surgery) conference coming into Javits this weekend. I bet that would be pretty horrifying/entertaining.


What Many Eyes Knows
Irene Greif, IBM Research

Many Eyes, IBM, online visualization tool.

There is a pent up desire to analyze data and what’s coming from where. All that’s needed is a simple toolset.

People can upload data, any data, in spreadsheet form, and see it with a number of different visualizations. Hm, nice.

Some surprises for us:
-Surprising domain, typical pattern: such as social network of the bible, and took images to a religious blog site.
-Many people really concentrating on Words…word visualizations are particularly popular with the users.

Wow, kick-ass dynamic visualizaiton of AG Gonzales testimony. “I don’t recall”…. Laughs from the audience.

Results: Scalable real-world deployments of data analysis lets research keep up with wisdom of the crowd.

New IBM Center for Social Software in Cambridge.

Organizing Chaos: The Growth of Collaborative Filters
Jay Adelson –

Let’s break it down into three parts:

-Generic collaborative filter, large population, like DIgg front page.
-Social networks, where i create a subset community.
-Exciting thing: hyper-personalization. Instead of looking at social network…I’ll find people like you, and use that data to find things that are more specifically interesting to you.

That gets creepy. “Hey, we see you’ve been walking a lot this week. Maybe you should buy new shoes?” Oy.

Because We Make You Happy
Ben Huh – I Can Has Cheezburger

He’s wearing a Fail Blog shirt. Yes!

We try to keep things SIMPLE: Two people, sharing a piece of content. Not that complicated.

Future of Video Games
Shauna Fisher – IAC

Every major industry has been disrupted by the intenet, except video games. And we at IAC think that’s next.

Two types of video games: Console. $7b in hardware, $11b in software.

Traditional vid games are costly and slow to develop. Typical games needs to sell 250K unites to break even. Rarely happens, so it’s a hit-driven market.

Enter the internet: Lower cost to dev game, entirely online distrbution, free for basic access, high engagement.

IAC online game brand is “Instant Action”, recently launched. Traction: 700k users in ‘just a few months’.

Demo of “Legions” are shown. BIg ad for IAC. Then live demo of racing game, all played in the browser. Hm,pretty impressive-looking.

Web 2.0 NYC – Day 1

I’m at the (horrible) Javits Center in NYC for Web 2.0’s first day. The whole thing seems a bit empty, ill-attended, so far. Maybe more people will show up as the day progresses.

Bottoms Up and End to End: Apply the Wisdom of Crowds to Businesses

Ramez Naam, Microsoft

Session I was most interested in for this time-slot. Might be lame. Generally this room seems pretty empty, and the whole thing seems a little ill-attended?

This talk is about how to organize your biz t make it work better.

Starting with the old chestnut: OSS Field Manual on how to sabotage organizations. Including:

  • Insist on doing everything “channels”. Never shortcuts to expedite decisions.
  • Refer all matters to committees for further study and consideration. At least 5 people on a committee.
  • Advocate caution. Be reasonable and urge conferees to avoid haste.
  • Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Should things be pushed upstairs?

So, how do we structure an org to encourage and take advantage of innovation, change?

Hmm, he’s hitting Darwin. I hope we’re not getting to social darwinism here.

And so: Wisdom of crowds beats the wisdom of king, bosses, etc. Okay, sure. Bunch slides about how flat is good, top-down is bad, etc.

Okay, but how does bottoms-up work:

  • Clearly articulate a direction, and provide reasoning. (That way, all the rowers know what direction to row)

Eh. My time: wasted. Hopefully the next session (after lunch) will be better.

Lessons Learned in Scaling and Building Social Systems

Good talk!

Joshua Schachter – This guy is one of the founders of i guess.

He build from very small to 4 million users and millions and millions of users.

I’m not Mr. Smart Guy. I’ve screwed up everything you could possibly screwed up so I can share some of that with you.

Three kinds of scale

  • Technological
  • Social
  • Personal


  • Partition systems into multiple users. Sharding, clustering, etc. I build as one big database. It’s a huge painin the ass. don’t do that.
  • Caching. Meta caching. Dn’t go to the database if you can help it.
  • Replicas. Must have multiple copies of data. Fastest performance having data on disk in the order that you made it. Having your primary keys int he exact format you needed will really help you. 60x performance on the same hardware.
  • Autoincrement
  • Proxy: put a proxy in front. Helps out enormously in terms of performance. Guy on a modem in Romania: it takes four mintues for hinm to fetch an item. He;’s occupying an entire slot on the server for tht whole time.
  • Slopiness: support the innate slopiness of how people use things. Decouple interactive performance form the rest of the system.

Social Scale

  • Different features at different scales. Set of features will be different at different levels, different scales
    Small system: push everyone together actively. Larger systems, features around mitigation of traffic, like people not finding each other (like tags, etc. on delicious)
  • Coping:  AT start of system: minimize barriers to entry and activity. Later on when traffic ramps. you want to increase transaction cost to increase quality of the system.
  • Utility, network effect, revenue. Structure things in this order. Make it useful, then get a network effect, and then figure out how to make money on it. For example: you get an evite invite, and it has no info on the event. Annoying. Evite wants the traffic, but it pisses off the users. Too many barriers to entry in terms of utility and network effect, you’ll get spanked. (Hmmm, lessons for SM?)
  • Product is self-marketing. Don’t make people log in to see anything at all.
  • initial marketing vs. actual functionality. was marketed as online bookmarks for those with more than one comptuer, but in reality it’s a bookmark search appliction.
  • identity & reputation: provide ways for people to be continually drawn into the system. let people market themselves using your product as a vehicle.  Make people feel good about themsleves by exposing stats on who’s looking, using, etc. They’ll come back.
  • RSS!!!!! Badly named, hard to use, power user thing. BUT: half the traffic comes from this. (He also recommends full feeds, not clips. Hmmmm.)
  • Infection: Firefox plug-ins was a huge ramp-up for
  • Language: consistency. When we added privacy to, button first said “private”. Then we changed to “do not share”. spent a whole week getting it right.
  • Fidelity: Ensure that your system will not get users angry at each other. Like: revealing specifically who’s following you. This spelled trouble on (“my former boyfriend is stalking me” etc)
  • lengthen or destroy feedback loops: don’t ban users. maybe abusive users get slower responses from server, or aren’t seen by others in the system, etc.
  • Pretty URLs! (Yay SelectMinds and URIs in Zev)
  • API. Bring developers’ natural enthusiasm for solving problems into your system.

Personal scale

  • be lazy: reduce. when you build stuff, you’ll do it wrong. You’ll need to learn from your users, and change things. So don’t spend a lot of time building: it’s wrong. You’ll change it. Build fast, iterate quickly.
  • Ideas: write your ideas down. Keep extensive notes, go back and look at them.
  • Listen to your users: I used to read every single incoming and outgoing customer support message. (Damn). I spent time reading these things and learned a lot. Tally up requests, and figure out what you can build now to deal with those complaints.
  • motivations: what are the users’ motivations for using the system? find out.
  • user testing: do it.
  • measure and record: everything. what are your success metrics?

Good talk. Keynotes next, in half an hour.

New York’s Web Industry From 1995 to 2008: From Nascent to Ascendent

Fred Wilson

Kind of a rambling review of internet media history in nyc. but, here ya go.

1995: bay area had 8 times the early-stage venture investments as new york. 2008: just 2 times. so the valley still in front, but nyc growing fast.

Why did this happen? I’ll discuss. Oh, by the way: Death to Silicon Alley! Let’s just call ourselves New York.

1979: Interactive Telecommunications Program starts at NYU. Tisch school.

1989: Connect Times: leads to Jupiter research.

1991: Ziff Davis starts ZD Net.

95: Interactive agencies like Razorfish and

96: Flatiron partners. Got sued for that.

97: Silicon Alley Reporter Radio SHow

97: Razorfish bought a ton of agencies. “This ended badly.”

97: Doubleclick goes public. Yo yo dine gets bought by Yahoo.

98: Kozmo. (Yeah!) WHich was awesome, and which failed.

98: “The last year of sanity in the first internet wave.”

99: Offlin companies want to go online, fueled the agencies. Generally all hell broke loose.

2000: The crash.

2002: Rock bottom.

2003: Renewal.  And so on.

The Death of the Grand Gesture
Deborah Schultz

Meandering presentation that didn’t really say anything. I guess the point is that social software isn’t really about a grand event, more about an ongoing series of interactions. Fascinating.

High Order Bit
Jason Fried – 37 Signals

How many of your are in the software industry. (People raise hands.) You guys are really fucking lucky! You don’t have to worry about physics, or anything. You can build it anywhere, inside, outside, hot cold. You’re very very very lucky.


You have to worry about things others don’t. Like, you have to worry about feedback. Software is more difficult to gauge reaction. Software is there, and expands, and expands, and that’s one of the things that makes it bad.

So, what would your software be like, if it was physical? WOuld it be spikey? Comfortable? Fit in your hand nicely?

Ooooh, i feel guilty now. You need to be a curator of your software. Where you can say “no”. Think of your product a a museum, and your features as art. Will you hang that feature on a wall?

The other trick: Listen to your customers, but innovate for your entire customer base.

Finally: Eventually you’ll hit bloat. And it’ll be really hard to go back. Don’t do it.

In closing: Curate your software. Don’t say yes to everything.

Growing Company DIY
Maria Thomas – New CEO of Etsy