My Favorite Internet Things From 2010

In honor of the new year, here are my favorite Internet things in 2010 and why they're so important. This isn't just list of what I use the most, this is a list of things that I think are hitting prime-time and changing the way we operate for the better. In no particular order:

Facebook's Open Social Graph: I still don't care much for Facebook but I think the open social graph is a fantastic development. Information streams and sharing on Facebook itself are too eclectic and unorganizable to be useful. Being able to add your social graph on top of third parties like CNN, ESPN and Netflix however unlocks filtered personalized information in a clear and actionable way that was previously very difficult because people didn't want to have to re-register and rebuild friends on every website. I know a lot of people fear Facebook's instant personalization but I think it's incredibly useful.

Flipboard: The Flipboard iPad application is incredibly transformative for social sharing, news publications and the iPad all at once. It is a beautiful way to interact with Twitter and Facebook and consume personalized news streams. It's a very clean + seamless + intuitive way to browse news in a way that no other publication has achieved yet. I'm not sold on it being a comprehensive reading solution (no two-way sync with Google Reader is a deal-breaker) but it's the most pleasurable way to read Twitter and Facebook by far and it single-handedly sells people on buying a tablet computer.

Foursquare: I used to think Foursquare was about serendipitous meetings with friends but now I realize that's just a very small beginning. Foursquare is all about signaling trusted parties that you are in a specific location, and triggering valuable localized + personalized + timely information. That might be the location of a nearby friend, a deal from a brand, history from a database, news from a publication or more. We are just beginning to see the possibilities of smart people creating valuable products on-top of simple location sharing. I also love what Foursquare has done with it's API's- with 3rd parties like Foodspotting and Instagram being able to pass all sorts of data to Foursquare the personal history archiving is really amazing as well.

Google Chrome: Google did for browsers what it did for email, search and maps before- rewrite and redefine capability and expectations for the entire industry. The Chrome browser is a million times faster, lighter and more powerful than any browser before it and has sent waves of progress thru it's competiors. I am positive I save hours a week working and browsing on the web thanks to Google Chrome. I can't wait to see what Google does in 2011 in turning the browser even more into a fully featured OS (Google if you're reading this please send me a CR-48).

Quora: These guys managed to build a community where important people with fairly exclusive information feel motivated to share it. Because of Quora we are all learning things that we may never have thought we'd have access to. That's a pretty valuable creation. It's rapidly joining Twitter as the source for finding and sharing information for journalists, so though it's very niche now I'm sure it will grow significantly next year.

Groupon: The deals are great, sure, but the exciting impact is the larger influence Groupon is having on helping advance advertising from being about forcing impressions to offering real value. Groupon isn't the only way this is happening, but it's a big one. The deals space is now cluttered and competitive (and potentially overhyped) so it will be interesting to see what happens in 2011 but the lasting effect of consumers expecting value-driven reasons for trying a product is here to stay.

Google Docs: I've been an advocate for Google Docs for years, but the features Google launched for it in 2010 put it over the top. Completely real-time synchronized group editing, full document compatibility (at least with file storage), and mobile access all make Google Docs an incredibly powerful work/life tool that I use almost exclusively over Microsoft Office. It's just one of the many ways my computer experience is moving entirely to the cloud.

Streaming Music: In 2010 streaming music almost entirely replaced mp3's for me. Sites like Pandora and TheSixtyOne give me access to great music without having to deal with transferring files from device to device, hard-drive to hard-drive. They also enable me to discover more new music easier than ever before. The faster music moves to the cloud the better- I can't wait how Google and Apple enter the space this year with cloud-based music offerings (I wrote more about streaming music in an earlier post).

So that's my list, what do you think? What are your favorite Internet things from 2010 and why?


5 Great Sites for Listening to Music on the Web

One of the things I've found harder and harder over the last ten years, and I know I'm not alone on this, is dealing with the many thousands of pieces of content I have on an increasing number of computers and hard drives.  This has been the most difficult with music and photos, and only exacerbated by my move to Mac this year due to file and organization incompatibilities.  So as hard as I try, and as much as I work to rebuild and refine my collections on each new computer, each transition more and more gets cut.  In particular, I'm starting to realize it takes way too much effort than it's worth to maintain an up-to-date music collection.

But I do love music, and I love finding new music, so how am I replacing the thousands of MP3's I've collected?  I'm becoming obsessed with the plethora of amazing places on the web to discover and stream music.  The websites below comprise the current roster of music sources that I rely on daily.  Each of them has a different model for music discovery and recommendation, and access to different sources of music.  But they all have a mix of known and unknown, and they all provide a really enjoyable listening experience.  So without further ado:

1) The Sixty One
My current favorite, a site I visit daily at home and at work. A great source for popular indie + independent music, and a beautiful site to boot.  As songs play you get full-page photos, facts of the bands, and fan commentary displaying on the page.  The community helps songs rise, so make sure to sign-up and vote.  Don't forget to try out the different playlists available in the top-right corner.

2) We Are Hunted
Great site for listening to music that's popular on the web.  They index all sorts of sites and social networks, and let you stream the 99 most popular songs in a variety of categories.  The 'popular' category is usually pretty mainstream, but there are also tons of ways to discover new stuff.  Try different things like visiting the 'app' section to listen to music being actively shared on Twitter.

3) Pandora
Pandora probably isn't new to anyone, but I couldn't leave it off the list.  It's still the best streaming radio site ever invented.  It's the most reliable way to get  a full station of music you really like, on your computer or on the go via the killer mobile apps.  If you use Pandora on Mac check out PandoraJam, which gives you a desktop app that sync's with last.fm and has other cool features you might want.

4) Hype Machine
These guys describe themselves as "Discover music blogs worth listening to", and that's the general idea.  The front page is an aggregate of the most popular songs based on coverage from a curated list of music blogs.  The music is very indie and lately seems to include too much techno remix, but it's still a great place to find new music and best of all it has a useful search engine.

5) Tumblr
This last one might be a surprise since Tumblr is so much more than just music, but right from the beginning one of the site's primary uses has been to share songs.  Many Tumblr users post their favorite songs along with the rest of their creative output; the trick is to find the right Tumblr users to match your taste- both with music and other content.  Here are a few of mine: Fred Wilson, Bijan, Tuneage.


Delicious, Foursquare, OneTrueFan and the Founders Dilemma

This week two very interrelated tech news stories broke.  The first: Yahoo may be closing Delicious; the second: Former MyBlogLog founder launched the public beta of his new product OneTrueFan.  Why are these related?  Delicious and MyBlogLog were two incredibly popular web 2.0 social products that were acquired by Yahoo! aggressively when their stock was rising.  Both were poorly assimilated, rarely updated and for the most part left to squander to the dismay of their loyal fanbases. Oh and despite it all I've used and enjoyed both of these services almost to the bitter end, so this Yahoo's failure is personal.

While the founders of MyBlogLog and Delicious did very well financially through their acquisitions I imagine they were incredibly pained seeing their vision go mainly unrealized and their dedicated users left unfulfilled.  Now years after web giants like Yahoo swallowed up hot startups we're seeing the founders try for success again with their ideas again.  OneTrueFan is in a way MyBlogLog 2.0 - the founder's attempt to create independently what  couldn't be done within Yahoo.  It's the same story as Foursquare, which was launched by Dennis Crowley years after Google acquired his first company Dodgeball and drove it into the ground.  Now Foursquare is one of the most popular mobile social networks around at the dismay of Google; will OneTrueFan achieve similar success?

I for one am happy to see founders go back and try to make a second run at their idea.  It shows passion and dedication, and proves they really cared about the product, not just the money.  It shows if you care about your product you need to think hard whether it can possibly achieve its potential when you have to play by someone else's rules.  Personally I hope like Dennis Crowley before him Delicious founder Josh Schachter tries for round two with his dream with a new version of social bookmarking; I would be much happier using his product than the one Yahoo! is embarrassingly choking to death.  I think there's a huge amount of potential to build upon Josh's original vision (and I know I'm not the only one).

In the mean time, I hope founders of great companies try to make it on their own, or at least look for better matches in their suiters.  Those of us who come to love and rely on your great work want to see what you're cable of doing with your great idea.

(But then, part of me wonders if it sometimes takes the disappointments early on for success to happen.  In other words, was Dodgeball too early for its time, was it destined to fail either way, and did the manor in which it failed drive Crowley to a new, better idea that he wouldn't have been capable of achieving otherwise?  Or maybe it takes the added flexibility and confidence of having some money under your belt, as this article suggests.)


Let me introduce you to Recco

My friend Joe hit a big milestone this weekend on a longtime personal project of his: he (and his partners) launched a company and published an iPhone app into the Apple app store. I'll get to the app in a second but first some words on the milestone. A lot of people talk about good ideas every day and never do anything about them. Joe and his friends stopped talking, got to work and made something*. I'm crazy impressed with their drive and ingenuity, and even a bit jealous of his ambition too. No matter what happens from here Joe and the guys should be really proud of what they've accomplished- I know I'm proud for them.

So on to Recco. The way I see it Recco was born out of the frustration of a generation of food recommendation sites that focus on aggregating the masses- both in content quantity and participation. While some are better than others, there's still this feeling like there's too much content and too many people to discover the best stuff.  The Recco team saw a need to build an app that cuts the clutter and helps get to what you really want- giving and getting recommendations from your trusted friends of great places you should experience.

For those of you who use Foursquare or other mobile location apps the experience with Recco will be fairly intuitive.  You open the app to view recco's around you, and you add recco's + tips as you want.  Your credibility rises as people endorse your recommendation.  It's pretty basic right now but this is just version one- I'm excited to see how the Recco team builds upon their platform to bring more powerful recommendation and discovery.  Check out the Recco site to learn more and download Recco for iPhone, and start giving Recco a try.

And to the Recco team: it was exciting to be a part of your beta- congrats on launching, let me know how I can help moving forward, and I can't wait to see where you go from here!

*By the way, Seth Godin produces a lot of gems but the number one reason I read him every day is to remind myself I should keep trying to move from talk to make...


Some Grade-school Nostalgia This Weekend

This weekend i've had a few throw-back moments that rekindled the joy of favorite things from my grade-school days.
First, Capcom released an iPhone app that lets you play old arcade games like the original Street Fighter 2. For me this is straight-up a flashback to grade school skating rink parties. I'm surprised how many of the special moves I remember after not playing an arcade game at least 15 years. I was so hooked on the game in the subway that I missed my stop.
Second was this short youtube film I came across about opening packs of baseball cards. Anyone who's visited my bedroom back in Cherry Hill knows how obsessed I was with baseball cards back in the day. I used to skip lunch all week and pocket the money so I could run to the card store Friday after school to buy more.
Anyway neither of these drives down memory lane will get me back into the hobbies for long but it was fun for the weekend.

[written on my iPhone at while biking at the gym]


Exploring the Third Place

Today I spent about four hours aimlessly walking around SoHo and The Village enjoying the weather and exploring new spots.  Along the way I managed to discover two pretty cool new coffee shops (at least new to me), and with the aid of Instagram on my iPhone I collected a mini photo-documentary of the people around me.

The Third Place

And of course the details on the coffee shops, both of which I recommend for different reasons:
  • Ground Support - an awesome hideaway in SoHo that lets you dodge the crowd for a quiet cup of coffee.  there's plenty of room to sit at the indoor picnic benches, and free wifi, not much more you can ask for.  I could easily see doing work here on weekends.
  • Third Rail Coffee - I've walked by this place a bunch of times but never gone in until now, which was a mistake.  You can't come here for anything but coffee- it's got four small two-person tables, and nothing else.  But as long as coffee is what you're there for, you're in for a treat.  There are house blends of drip coffee and espresso, and then a variety of name favorites (Intelligentsia, Stumptown) and international imports on request.


8 Lessons I learned About the Future of Internet and Technology at TechCrunch Disrupt

A few weeks ago I had a great opportunity to attend the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. Over the course of 3 days I was front row for some phenomenally insightful speakers, thought-provoking panels and at least 50 startup exhibitions. The overarching topic was "disruptive technologies and industry trends." Here are 8 core lessons I learned:

1) Strive to achieve things that give people pride to be alive in this generation
This ambitious goal was born on the opening panel about “what makes an internet treasure” and resonates as the high bar we should all aspire to pursue with our work. Mark Pincus, founder of casual games developer Zynga (maker of pop culture hit Farmville), gave a poignant example of how this can be achieved even in unexpected places. Mark’s vision for Zynga is to make people’s daily lives have more meaning. He’s trying to achieve this by enabling people to build more meaningful relationships through gaming, teaching people how to accomplish goals, and turning entertainment into social action successes (Zynga’s fundraising effort for Haiti in Farmville raised millions of dollars).

2) Gaming mechanics are joining social functionality as a standard feature set
Today it’s almost universally expected that content sites contain certain baseline forms of social interaction: comments, voting, and sharing. Also, with the rapid deployment of Facebook & Twitter’s social graphs, we increasingly expect to see a social recommendation overlay of which content our friends recommend most. Now a further layer of interaction is set to become a standard: gaming mechanics. Mobile applications are rapidly playing catch-up to Foursquare by building reward and ranking systems into their products, but the trend doesn’t stop there: several start-ups are rolling out plug-ins that enable every site to integrate gaming mechanics quickly with a few lines of code. One such company, Badgeville, touts gaming mechanics as a way to incentivize critical behaviors, and develop a new level of funnel analytics.

3) Intelligent curation of content is more important than ever as the pace of content creation accelerates
Lots of companies are working on smart ways to filter and display the most valuable information from the stream. One pathway is giving users powerful curation tools. Datasift is a platform to filter Twitter content by very specific data points such as topic or authority. Storify lets users snag and combine all types of media from everywhere into one curated story page that updates everywhere it exists in real time. Another method is algorithmic creation of content. Tweetbeat develops robust news pages about topics & events displaying only the valuable Twitter content, complete with replayable timelines. And the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt, Qwiki, answers search queries with interactive audio/video compilations that feels right out of a futuristic Disney movie.

4) We will soon be making purchases and payments in very unexpected ways
Ecommerce is blowing up right now. The local deals space is so rich and so competitive that Groupon actually got on stage to seriously announce a dating service Grouspawn, which promises that anyone who uses a Groupon on a first date and then goes on to have a child with that person is eligible to win a full college scholarship for their kid. On the other end of the spectrum, Wildfire has built a robust self-service tool that enables brands to run Groupon-style deals and other contests right on their Facebook page. But perhaps the most exciting area of development is mobile payments: Square was on hand to tout its simple tool to turn iPhones/iPads into credit card reader. PayPal is enabling payments by tapping iPhones together. MobilePay launched an iPhone app that handles credit card payments and loyalty cards for stores. Gifi even lets you leave surprise cash gifts for friends at places you know they’ll check into on Foursquare.

5) It’s a golden era of technological breakthroughs, but what about the ramifications?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke inspiringly about the solutions Google and other innovative technology companies are solving. Cloud computing and ubiquitous connectivity provides nearly everyone with levels intelligence, memory and computation that once dictated power, disrupting countless economic models by leveling the playing field. Access to all this information is a source of joy because “satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life” (Dr. Linus Pauling). But as technology gets smarter, companies like Google and Linkedin are starting to grapple with a big question: in a future where you have all of the answers before you even look, what about the joy of serendipitous discovery? Schmidt says: “in the future we are never lost, but there was something fun about getting lost. What are the implications of all this intelligence and how small the world has become?”

6) As competing products reach feature parity, the skill is to design interaction
Walking through a startup showroom and reading the trades lately has made one thing incredibly clear: it’s hard to have a differentiating product on features alone. The first question every judges panel asked of startups was: could your competitor own this space just by adding features (anyone trying to compete with Foursquare really needs to think about this). Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever was challenged to answer how Quora would stay significant in the face of competition from Facebook Questions. Charlie’s answer was that Quora was specifically designed to elicit high quality information with its product, rather than large quantities of answers to masses of questions. They knew everyone could offer a Q/A service, so the skill was in the design of interaction. These words should ring true for Digg founder Kevin Rose, who’s desperately trying to save Digg from rapidly descending into irrelevancy because its product simply wasn’t designed well for interaction.

7) The big marking implication of mobile is ubiquitous connectivity increases access to moments of truth
Online advertising’s biggest impact has been its ability to have immediate and traceable impact when paired with ecommerce. Mobile advertising has unprecedented capability to connect marketing and consumers during similar moments of potential off-line purchase. The challenge is improving ROI by pairing the plethora of mobile ad inventory with consumer intent. Hyper-local search can do this; mobile display media however is still more often relying on an interception approach. The head of digital marketing for P&G said Gillette won’t pay to give a coupon to someone who was about to enter a store and buy their product at full price anyway. It sounds like to win over clients like P&G mobile marketers need to crack intent, change habits, and instigate referrals in real time.

8) Each era of Internet evolution is defined by the dominant form of intelligence
The popular model of the evolution of the web (e.g. 2.0) classifies generations by type of interaction (e.g. professional content vs. user generated content). A newer model focuses on type of intelligence that dictates classification + curation + discovery. In this model we’ve lived through three distinct generations of Internet evolution: the portal (curation by human editor), search (ranking by algorithm), and social (community recommendations). Each generation is capable of producing more relevant information, which is the key determinant of value, and ultimately how disruptive the information model is. Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin, says the modern media company needs to incorporate expert curation, intelligent search, and social graphs to be successful. Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel says the entrepreneur trying to change the world should be thinking about what the next generation of the Internet could be powered by.

So what do you think? If you watched any of TechCrunch Disrupt, I am very interested in hearing what you took away from the conference. If you’re catching up by reading blogs like this, I’d love to hear what you think about the topics in general. Please share any thoughts.


I am loving Instagram Photo App for iPhone

I'm quickly becoming addicted to a new photography application on my iPhone called Instagram.  All you do is snap a picture, apply one of the many creative filters, and then easily share it to all of your favorite social sites.  You can also geotag photos and check in to foursquare all in one shot.  It's also got the underpinning of its own social network, letting you view, favorite, and comment on the most popular public photos.  It combines the fun of Hipstamatic and the simplicity of Posterous, and it's free.  I can't wait to see where the creators of Instagram take it next.

Instagram joins Hipstamatic, Pro HDR, and 360 Panorama in my folder of photo taking tools.  You can see my reviews over at my Blippy page.


Outdoor Adventures in West Virginia

This weekend a bunch of us ditched New York City for a weekend of outdoor adventures in West Virginia.  First we conquered white water rafting down 16 miles of the Upper Gauley River, a stretch of class 5 rapids often considered the best river rafting on the east coast.  It was the first time any of us had ever done such an aggressive rafting trip, and for the most part we killed it.  We made it through most of the tough stretches of rapids mostly unscathed, though I flipped out 3 times.  Afterward we made our way to New River Gorge where my brother took us rock climbing.  It was the first time I'd climbed out of a gym, which was really cool.  It was a really awesome, unique weekend that my brother summed up best in 140 characters:
@askobac: the new & gauley river: class 5 rapids, pies & pints, junkyard wall, gumbos, friends, brother, flipped raft, first fall on gear = great trip
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Appreciating Coffee Coast to Coast

As of late it feels like NYC has been going through a coffee revolution. More and more specialized independent coffee cafes are opening, and less time is being spent in Starbucks. I try and go out of my way whenever I can to try a new coffee spot, and they always seem to be better than the last. So far my favorites in the east village are:
But as the NY Times points out a lot of the NYC coffee renaissance is happening in Brooklyn, especially Williamsberg, so I need to start jumping on the train.

This week I traveled to SF for work and found an amazing spot called Sightglass.  It was opened by two brothers and right now it's a big empty garage with only two things: a giant on-premise bean roasting machine, and a small bar where they sell the freshest coffee you could possibly get anywhere.  The place is dead simple, focusing on pouring the perfect smooth flavorful cups of coffee and nothing else.

As awesome as Sightglass is, though, I wonder if it would be successful in New York.  It takes a while to make every cup fresh grinded and drip-brewed, and it costs $2.50 for a 10 oz. cup.  Is there enough love of Coffee on the east coast for someone to bring such an enthusiast place to the east coast?


Checking in to content consumption with Blippy and GetGlue

Two social networks I've been enjoying lately are Blippy and GetGlue. Both networks build community around content consumption and recommendations, but in very different ways. Through Blippy and GetGlue I share the apps I download, books I read, movies I see, shows I watch, and more. All of that sharing connects me to others who share my interest for the same content and leads me to recommendations of other content I might enjoy.

Blippy plugs into purchase points, enabling you to share everything from your credit card transactions to Netflix orders.  In effect it's very similar to the original idea behind Facebook Beacon, but completely opt in.  Even as open as I am I am uncomfortable with opting in to sharing my credit card transactions, but I do happily share my iTunes purchases and Netflix orders.  That means as soon as I download a new iPhone app, purchase a song on iTunes, or order a movie- a record is shared with my Blippy network.  I can later log on and review any of the items.  Something unique about Blippy though is people who view my profile can easily request that I review specific things, which means I don't have to waste time reviewing stuff that no one cares about.  In particular, I am having a great time sharing and learning about iPhone apps with on Blippy.

GetGlue has actually been around for a while as a browser toolbar that lets you easily share and comment on content you are viewing while you're online.  This could be anything from a wikipedia article you find interesting to an IMDB article about a movie or TV show.  This month they launched an iPhone app that enables more traditional check-ins similar to Foursquare, but rather than focusing on places they focus on the content consumption similar to the browser plug-in: movies, shows, music, and books.  Also in the tradition of Foursquare there is a gaming aspect, with badges and rewards.  Both the browser actions and mobile check-ins lead to discussion and recommendations.  So far with GetGlue the best conversation I've had has been around sharing when I'm reading The Facebook Effect.

I always recommend trying new social tools to see if they fit for you, and these two are definitely getting my attention lately.  If you do give them a try make sure to connect to me:



Crowd Funding New Ideas

4 students at NYU made headlines this week by announcing their intent to create a decentralized social network that would provide all of the user control and privacy that is now significantly lacking in Facebook. The project, which they named Diaspora, is lofty in ambition and is generating a lot of attention in the tech circles.

Aside from Diaspora itself though, what's really cool is the NYU team's use of Kickstarter to raise the money for their project. Kickstarter is a site that helps people execute crowd funding. Users post ideas that would take a certain amount of capital to execute on, and use Kickstarter to raise the money that it would take to get started.

The NYU team specifically set a goal of $10,000, which they believe is enough to fund them working all summer without any pay. People who choose to fund the project are given a certain value of return when the project is complete based on their support. For example, the Diaspora team set contribution levels starting from: $10 gets you a copy of the program on CD and some Diaspora stickers at the end of the summer; $25 gets you that and a T-shirt; thresholds go all the way up to $2000, which gets you a brand new computer delivered with Diaspora installed already on it when the project is complete.

I love the idea of people that want something to be created coming together to fund it. As more and more traditional revenue streams go the way of the dinosaur, crowd funding could be a huge opportunity to provide cash necessary for things that collectives of people want. For example, fans of a band could crowd fund the studio time for a new album. A certain group of professionals might fund a particular research study.

I donated $10 to the Diaspora project; I look forward to following its progress this summer, and will certainly explore the finished project when it launches. I also expect to start contributing to more crowd funded projects in the future.

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Facebook & Google Racing to Establish In-Store Mobile Connections

A few months ago Google sent out QR code stickers for local businesses to put in their windows. If a passer-by snaps a picture of the QR code with their phone they're brought directly to the business's Google Places page where they can read reviews and learn more about the store. It would actually make more sense for stores to put the QR codes in other places, like on their delivery menus or on print ads, since when shoppers are at the store window they can just walk right in and experience the business first hand.

Well rather than be left out of the storefront window Facebook has now answered by shipping their own stickers that advertise a store's Facebook URL and the ability to "like" (formerly "fan") the brand's Facebook page via text message. As it lies now, Facebook's value proposition seems more significant. If a consumer is interested in the brand after browsing the physical destination, it's a great time get them to join the business's social network to kick off a lasting relationship. Google's Places page (at least right now) doesn't offer much to someone who's already been to the store.

It actually makes complete sense for Twitter to get in this game as well. I already see stores advertising on their signs to "follow" their Twitter feed, but that actually isn't so quick in a mobile client. Most people don't know you can just text "follow [twitter handle]" to 40404 to follow a profile immediately, but Twitter could definitely help stores advertise this.

Has anyone seen the Google QR or Facebook stickers in a local store? Which brands do you think make the most sense for in-store promotion? What type of offerings would you like to see as a product of the merging of web presence and physical presence through mobile moving forward?


East Village Blogging: My East Village Food Spots

Since my move to 11th & Broadway, I've been doing my best to explore the village as often as possible. Recently I've been spending hours just walking the East Village streets hanging out in parks, and eating a lot. I've also started following the East Village blogging scene, after reading Dave Winer's article about the EVB'ers vs NYU. Now Jeremiah's Vanishing New York and EV Grieve are added to my feeds, and I'm feeling the urge to contribute. So with this post I am going to begin what hopefully is an extended series of posts about my experiences in the village.

Since moving down to 11th street I've been trying to identify my go-to East Village spots. It's harder than you think to find the place you want to go to often, that has the right price, the right food, the right atmosphere, the right people. As of late I've been finding myself often drawn to the same 3 spots:

Everyman Espresso - This spot is so basic it's probably overlooked by most people. It's like sitting in a garage: a few metal chairs & tables, white brick walls, set up in the entrance of the Classic Stage Company. It has killer latte's though, wi-fi, the baristas put on good music, and it's barebones atmosphere means it's mostly visited (thankfully) by locals + regulars. I like to come here in the morning before work, or early on the weekends.

Dos Toros Taqueria - Opened by two brothers who came to New York City after living in the Mission District in San Francisco, a place well known for its amazing burritos. Their menu is minimal but you go there for burritos, and they're the best I've had in NYC and I can't help but eat here at least once a week. There also focused on sustainability, sourcing local farms, biodegradable products, their own compost, and more. It's a small spot but I plan on sitting at the street counter often when it's open on nice days.

Nori Sushi - Another small spot, stuck unnoticeably around the corner from St. Marx on the way to the much more popular Paul's and Pom Frit. It's cheap and good sushi, which is always a challenge to find. The owners are always there and really friendly. You can get 8 or more pieces of sushi for $1 a piece any night of the week, or check out their interesting specials. I am drawn to the sushi counter when I have a free night and time to myself for for dinner.

Do you live in the East Village? What are your favorite spots I should try? What are the places you're making home?


Sorry, More on Foursquare: The Business & Life Tracking Opportunities

As if I wasn't a big enough evangelist already, Foursquare's announcement of a location dashboard for businesses is further proof to me of how disruptive the location check-in game will be.

The early iteration of the location dashboard that Foursquare revealed at SXSWi lets businesses view the data around the check-in activity at their own location. Right now this is limited mostly to who & how many people are checking in at what times of each day, but you can already see the seeds being planted for a much deeper platform. Foursquare mentioned they are looking at including weather data so stores can see how their foot traffic is impacted. What if Foursquare opens up the platform so any data layers of a propper format could be brought in, similar to how Google Calendar operates? Businesses might be interested in traffic patterns or holiday calendars. They might want to import purchase volume or coupon history. They will also benefit from tracking their various location based ad offerings.

And what about companies being able to use check-in's for their loyalty cards or personal visitation records through the Foursquare dashboard or API? It sounds like Tasti-Dlite is working on this, and I'd love to see Starbucks count my check-in towards a free coffee. It also makes sense for my gym not to have to swipe me in once I check in.

The location dashboard is great for businesses, but it's also exciting to consider the different opportunities that this hints at for the Foursquare users. Right now every time I look at my check-in history on Foursquare.com I think of Mint's metrics. We have access to limited data so far, but we could be able to dive into our entire historical trends in order to see how our choices of how we spend our time have evolved over the year. And just the way I use Mint to figure out my years expenditures for insurance, I want to use Foursquare to see my years gym visits for my health insurance.

In fact what I'd really love is somehow be able to mary the data between Mint and Foursquare. Usually one reflects the other, but if I ceck in at a restaurant and don't use a credit card then It would be very cool if foursquare could somehow tell Mint to leave a placeholder for a cash transaction. Though Mint and Foursquare seem far apart in some ways, the fact that they both help me to track and analyze my life patterns makes me think the data should be merged and leveraged together.

I could go on but the point is clear. On the surface Foursquare is a social network and a game, but the data layer below it is a powerful utility for us players and the business owners we are interfacing with. Foursquare's API is already getting used, but as it becomes more robust and people start truly start innovating on top of it's platform, I look forward to seeing the possibilities.

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Roger Ebert Finds His Voice Again

I guess I was living under a rock but I completely didn't know the courageous story of Roger Ebert. For everyone under there with me, here's the quick summary. After years of terrible health issues that left him stripped of much of his face and throat, he completely lost his ability to speak in 2006. His body is terribly weak, he's a sliver of the size he used to be, but nothing has slowed him down. He does the movie reviews he's famous for, but he's also returned to writing in a way that he'd left behind. He writes a prolific blog that has thousands of engaged readers. And until yesterday he was forced to handle speaking needs through post-it notes or computer generated read-outs in a blocky voice.
But yesterday a company called Cereproc gave him his voice back. They were able to take the audio tracks that Roger Ebert had recorded for movie studio DVD extras and stitch together a full framework of his voice. Now when he types into a computer, the output will be his own voice speaking to his wife or children. It may be a small change, but it makes a huge difference in enabling Ebert and his loved ones to feel like they're speaking to the real him. Yesterday he demo'd the difference between his computer voice "alex" and his revived personal voice, and its heartwarming to watch.
Ebert's history was told in this month's issue of Esquire, which I coincidentally read the morning before the story broke. It's magnificent. Read the article, read about the breakthrough that Cereproc enabled, and watch the video.


My 365 Project

My 2010 goal is to complete a 365 photo project; the idea is to produce 1 picture a day for every day of the year. Ideally this means taking a photo, doing any digital editing that I'd like, and publishing it to my gallery (though sometimes I'll use a picture I took earlier in the year) every single day in 2010. So far I've gone 23 straight days, so I think I'm ready to open up the project to the public:

Follow my daily gallery on Tumblr
See the gallery on Flickr

I'd love to buy a DSLR at some point, but in the mean time I'm relying on a point-and-shoot Canon SD700 and my iPhone 3GS. I'd love comments and suggestions on the pictures!


The Power of Facebook Mobile: Making Your Phonebook Personal

Last week Facebook rolled out a new version of their very popular iPhone app. Aside from finally enabling push notifications, it also provided a new option to sync your address book with Facebook. At first I was skeptical of how well this would actually work, but count me impressed. Facebook's ability to match your phone contacts with personal Facebook information is very impressive.

Consider my experience this weekend. I received a phone call yesterday from a new business contact who I hadn't spoken to before. I missed the call, but I saved the number in my phonebook. This morning when he called back Facebook had automatically located his profile based on his phone number and name, inserted his picture into my contact listing, and linked me to his profile. I could see his company, and put a face to a name. This was especially impressive because I wasn't even connected to this person on Facebook- it was don't only through matching public information. Facebook facilitated my experience in a way that made the power of its personal information so very clear.

Now all of the sudden most of my contacts on my iPhone have faces on them, and each listing has a link to a Facebook profile. And you can imagine this is just the beginning- why shouldn't Facebook fill in the person's work information or home address, if the person has opted in for it? Then when friends move or change which company they work for I don't have to worry about updating my address book- they've likely updated their Facebook profile, and Facebook will update me.

The syncing doesn't work perfectly, but it's a lot more powerful than I expected. And now I feel like the listings in my phonebook are actually my friends, and my new contacts are real people. I can't wait to see where Facebook takes this next.

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