Archive for the ‘tech.commentary.web’ Category

Foursquare – why bother?

Jon Evan’s TechCrunch post Dear Foursquare, Gowalla: Please Let’s Stop Pretending This Is Fun pretty much sums up the way I feel about Foursquare these days.

… Because they’re not giving us any good reason to use them. Look at their web sites. Gowalla proclaims, “Discover the extraordinary in the world around you.” Foursquare says, “Unlock your city.” To which I say: “Oh, come on“ — and it seems I speak for approximately 96% (formerly 95%) of the population. I have no interest in enlisting in a virtual scavenger hunt, or unlocking merit badges — what is this, the Cub Scouts? — or becoming the narcissistic “Mayor” of my local coffee shop. Thanks for the offer, but I’m afraid I already have some semblance of a life.

… If they want to reach the majority who don’t care about making it to Mayor, they need to abandon their pretense of fun, stop pussyfooting around with silly slogans, and make their value proposition stark, simple, and profoundly unsexy: “Check in and get coupons.”

Like Jon, I’m an early adopter. I started checking-in to my favorite eateries and coffee shops long before Foursquare was mainstream (my Foursquare profile) and Facebook launched their answer to Foursquare – Facebook Places. Initially, it was just about staying current with trends in the industry and satisfying my curiosity. Eventually, the game mechanics caught on and I found myself looking forward to things like the Superstar badge. Today, I find myself wondering why I even bother.

Foursquare FacebookFoursquare really isn’t providing me with any value. It doesn’t help me connect with my friends, too few people in my social circle use it for it to be interesting on that front. It isn’t saving me money,  here in Eugene Oregon there are few vendors who even know what it is. I spent ten minutes trying to explain the importance of my Mayorship status to the owner of  my favorite Indian restaurant. I left that experience feeling a little embarrassed – I think he thought I was crazy – no discount, and no pat on the back for the Mayor. What am I getting out of this? I’m done with thinking badges are cool – well, mostly.

I expected Foursquare to pick up the pace after they closed the $20 million Series B round with Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz. I’ve seen few new features, and even fewer business development deals since they put the money in their coffers? What are they using the money for? Is Foursquare adrift? Did Facebook Places pull the wind from their sails?

I’ve used Facebook Places and I expect I’ll start using it more in the future. Facebook Places is already connected to my social circle and Facebook Deals  (announcement) might just save me a few bucks. Right off the bat, Facebook’s value proposition is stronger.

If I were at the helm of Foursquare I’d be focusing all of my resources on doing as many national discount deals as possible. I’d make it supper easy for smaller vendors to claim their businesses and create special offers for their customers. I’d work to make sure Foursquare vendor profiles are well ranked in search results. Create the clear value proposition – and then make it easy for everyone to get a piece of it. If Foursquare can’t start providing their users with some value – they’re done.



Firesheep Extension

Will Firesheep, Eric Butler’s Firefox extension, wake people up to the dangers of connecting to an un-secured wi-fi network? Unlikely -  I think it’s just going to make it easier for the kid next door to jack your Facebook account.

Firesheep, makes it really easy for the little monsters out there to see that you’re on an un-secured network, grab your logins, and jack your online identity. Your Facebook relationship status will change from married to single, and you’ll Tweet the Tweet that will end your career, before you even realize the kid has the keys to the car.

Firesheep takes advantage of unsecured wireless networks and unencrypted cookies to “sidejack”, or gain access to sites by way of accessing these cookies. Developed byEric Butler, a freelance web application and software developer in Seattle, Washington, Firesheep was created and released at Toorcon 12 to demonstrate the security risk inherent in storing unencrypted login data in cookies. As Butler writes on his blog, “On an open wireless network, cookies are basically shouted through the air, making these attacks extremely easy.”

Firesheep opens a sidebar in Firefox (screen shot) that shows everyone who is connected to a certain unsecured WiFi network. With a single click, you can connect to most any social network using that person’s user name and password.

I see the point Eric’s trying to make, but I’m not sure I agree with his methods. I’m hoping – if the point really is to educate people to the dangers of connecting to an un-secured wi-fi network, that Firesheep alerts the unsuspecting user before too much damage is done. If it doesn’t now – perhaps Eric will add this little feature in a future update. Little monsters, beware – Eric might just turn the tables on you.

Posterous iPhone App Released

Posterous is getting a lot of attention, and props today for their new iPhone App – and it’s well deserved – Posterous implemented well, with a focus on making the posting workflow as easy as possible. I have a Posterous blog, it’s a place where I can post random thoughts and snippets – the new iPhone App will make it easier than ever for me to keep it current. If you’re looking for an easy way to set up a blog you’ll use, give Posterous a shot.

Flickr Facebook Integration Disappointment

FlickrOn Thursday, Flickr, the popular photo sharing site, announced a new Facebook integration feature. I’m a Flickr Pro user and love the service.

We’re always looking for new ways to make it easier for you to share your photos and videos with the people who matter to you. Today, we’re launching a new and improved way to share your Flickr photos with your friends and family on Facebook! Just connect your Flickr and Facebook accounts and we’ll automatically send an update to your Facebook feed every time you upload a public photo or video.

I was excited to take advantage of this feature because I assumed it would be better than the Facebook import feature, which has supported Flickr for years. Unfortunately, Flickr’s Facebook integration is about as basic as you can get. Every image you post to your Flickr photostream is posted as an individual Wall update to your Facebook account. Unfortunately -  did I say unfortunately again? – for someone like me, that’s often uploading dozens of photos at a time to Flickr, this just don’t work very well – my Facebook wall was quickly transformed into a Flickr photostream.

You’d think that Flickr/Yahoo!, with the resources they have available. would be able to come up with a more full featured integration. There are dozens of Flickr Facebook applications out there written by individuals in their spare time that blow this out of the water. Like the title of this post says, Flickr’s Facebook integration is a disappointment. I’m really surprised Wired or ReadWriteWeb didn’t ding Flickr/Yahoo! a bit for this poor showing.

I think Flickr/Yahoo! spent more time writing the announcement blog post than their developers did working on the integration ; ) I wonder how many people hours Yahoo! spent pushing this through the bureaucracy.

Concentric Sky Launches

Recently, I started working for a great company called Concentric Sky here in beautiful Eugene Oregon. At Concentric Sky, we build innovative web sites, iPhone applications, and a whole lot more.

Concentric Sky has a wealth of technologies at its disposal and we have a great team of developers with decades of combined development experience. A couple of the technologies we have a great deal of experience with are Python and Django.

Recently, we used Django to implement Michael Moore’s new website and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Concentric Sky developed the back-end code for this site in Python/Django with a custom administrative interface and social media aware Content Management System (CMS). The site is optimized for millions of hits per day and it has been humming along nicely since it was launched. You can read more about this project on the Concentric Sky blog.

We have a lot of interesting projects in the works and I look forward to sharing some of them here in the future. Stay tuned!

Email Center Pro – New Video Introduction Launched

I work with a great group of people at Palo Alto Software developing a collaborative email application called Email Center Pro. Today, we unveiled a new video that introduces the service – it’s featured on We love the video,it’s fantastic, we’ve watched it dozens of times – it does a great job of communicating the problem Email Center Pro solves. Take a look and tell me what you think.
Credit: Principals – Jason Gallic (Email Center Pro Marketing Manager) worked with Christian Martel Atelier Transfert Design to produce the movie.

History of the Internet

Do you want to brush up on the history of the Internet? IF(ANSWER=TRUE, “watch this”, “don’t”).

History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.

Facebook Users = Country

How many users do you have? That’s a question you hear a lot in the Tech Industry. Most people are really skilled at creatively inflating the number because users = money, success, influence, and more. If you’re talking valuation in the Tech Industry it usually looks something like valuation = users * inflated user value.

Scanning my feed stream today I happened across a post by Mark Zuckerberg. If you don’t know who Mark is – well, just stop reading this and go back to work. Mark wins the award, IMO, for best answer to the "How many users do you have?" question.

"Today, we reached another milestone: 150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. This includes people in every continent—even Antarctica. If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia and Nigeria." — Mark

Here’s why I think Mark wins the award:

  • He says "actively" and then backs it up with "almost half of them are using Facebook every day" – most people stretch the definition of "active" or don’t even bother using it
  • He gives the number of users real meaning and context by creating a country for them which happens to be larger than Japan, and Russia
  • and it helps to have 150 million users

Nicely done Mark. Hats off to Facebook – a service I seem to be using more and more as friends of all kinds jump on the bandwagon.

Email Center Pro – Collaborative Email

Email Center Pro - Collaborative Email
I spent quite a bit of my time in 2008 working on a collaborative email solution for the SMB market called Email Center Pro.

Email Center Pro is a web-based service that makes it easy for business people to collaborate on and manage "shared" email addresses like customerservice@ and info@. I like to say that Email Center Pro turns "shared" email addresses from "money takers" into "money makers" by improving response time and response quality.

We officially launched Email Center Pro in April of 2008 and since then we’ve been using feedback from our customers to rapidly evolve the service. Some of the new features we’ve added over the last eight months have been documented on the Dead Simple Software blog. I’m a big fan of our recent improvements to the way we display conversation history.

I’m really proud of of the way we’ve evolved the service this year and I think our subscribers appreciate the work we’ve been putting into the service. I’m looking forward to the continuing evolution of Email Center Pro in 2009.

Pandora Ads Rock

I love Pandora. Pandora is a free Internet Radio service that uses the Music Genome Project to send you a constant stream of fresh tracks based on your music preferences. I love rocking out to the music streams Pandora sends my way every day.

The core music service Pandora offers is impressive but Pandora impresses in a lot of other ways.

Pandora’s user interface contributes a lot to the success of the service. The user interface is beautiful and a pleasure to use.

Pandora is an ad supported service and I’ve always been impressed by the way they’ve integrated ads into the user interface. Ads are usually integrated into a website as an afterthought – slammed into the right margin or simply dumped into a header or footer. Pandora on the other hand integrates, or blends, the ad into the user interface. I think this makes the ad far more effective.

Recently, Pandora has been making more of the ads integrated into their service interactive. Today the HP TouchSmart ad really impressed me – it was beautiful and a pleasure to interact with. I think this type of ad is a very effective branding tool. Ads like this might not convert well on the spot but I do think they’re great for brand building.

Pandora Twitter Integration, a nicely implemented file transfer service, just added support for Twitter. Now users can set up a drop to update tweet when it changes. Pretty cool. The cool guys at are calling it You add just about anything to a drop, even a voice mail, so the use cases are pretty endless.

Tag Galaxy – a new way to search Flickr

Tag Galaxy provides a very visual tag-based search tool for Flickr – check it out. IMO Google really needs to start working (they probably already are) on more visual search tools like this for the Web. Browsing search results like this provides a better, or at least more interesting, user experience. If Google is working on this kind of thing – they should start releasing some of the work as Google Labs projects. DIGG also sports cool visual search tools. WARNING: Tag Galaxy was built by Germans so watch out for David Hasselhoff avatars.


TransferBigFiles – another cool way to quickly transfer a large file.

Obama Ads

I really don’t like the fact that Google Adsense is dumping “Obama Exposed” ads on my blog. I’m an Obama supporter and I’m about to pull Adsense from my blog because of this. Is there anything I can do in my Adsense setup to solve this problem? Maybe the new Ad Review Center will do the trick for me. Maybe I can switch out the “Obama Exposed” ads for the “Impeach Bush” ads ; ) looks like a really cool tool for simple large file transfers. File transfers up to 100mb are free. enables you to create simple private exchange points called “drops.”


Viewzi, a new visual search engine, looks promising. I’m surprised Google isn’t playing around with visual search more – text heavy search results aren’t going to last forever.

My money is on Craigslist

eBay Vs. Craigslist - my money is on Craigslist

*More* button just added to Google Maps

A *More* button was just added to Google Maps. Clicking *More* gives you the option of displaying Wikipedia articles associated with the map you’re viewing and photos from Panoramio. Google Maps just gets better. Love it. Read more about the *More* button.

firefly demo on

Wow, take a look at the firefly demo Dave Winer has up on – neat. firefly makes it easy for you to interact with the other people viewing the web page you’re on.

PC World Reviews Email Center Pro

PC World just reviewed Email Center Pro. Email Center Pro is a new SaaS we launched last week that helps small businesses manage shared inboxes like info@ and press@. Read the review.

About palmIT

palmIT is authored by Cale Bruckner [LinkedIn], President at Concentric Sky, and former SVP Product Development at Palo Alto Software.

Cale Bruckner

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