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The big news in the startup world is that Israeli startup Shaker won the big prize at the Techcrunch conference this week. Many, including AOL employees, wonder what it is that Shaker is “disrupting” while others are talking about the conflicts regarding the finalists and AOL/CrunchFund’s funding of 2 of the top 3 and an upcoming investment in the winner. Of course questions are nothing new with Techcrunch (now aol) conferences – heck, I wrote about MC Hammer investment questions with regards to DanceJam at the first TC40.
When I saw Shaker, the first thing that popped into my head was, “oh it’s the new version of that game!” But I couldn’t remember the name of the game until Dean Collins replied to my message on the NYTM messageboard noting that Shaker is Leisure Suit Larry! And yep that’s exactly what it looks like.
TC writer Leena Rao describes Shaker as, “…a mixture of Second Life, The Sims, and Turntable.fm all mixed together using your Facebook data and connections. Your Facebook profile becomes a walking avatar, your pictures are placed on an virtual wall, you can choose what music is playing in the room for everyone to hear and you can even buy people drinks.”
Shaker looks like a fun game but what frustrated me in the Shaker demos is that the founders kept suggesting that this virtual world was, ” just like real life”. It is absolutely nothing like real life.
Rackspace startup blogger Robert Scoble seems to love Shaker – I just don’t see it here. I mean seriously – maybe I am missing something – but it’s a virtual world where you walk around and chat – AOL 1996 called. Sure you can click on a person and get their info but otherwise what, you dance on a bar? And just wait – the minute a woman “walks in” to the virtual chatroom, you will watch all the males run over. Something tells me these “bars” will be all male. Maybe it will work for the concert concept but even that will be a stretch.
As I watched the two demos of Shaker, I could only think of one thing (which applies to more than just Shaker)…
HOW ABOUT CALLING UP A COUPLE OF YOUR REAL FUCKING FRIENDS AND GOING OUT TO A REAL FUCKING BAR AND HAVING A DRINK OR DINNER AND SOME FUCKING CONVERSATION INSTEAD OF SITTING IN SOME FUCKING VIRTUAL WORLD.
And if you don’t have local friends or are new to your town, go to Meetup.com or Plancast, find a freaking meetup and get the gosh damn fuck out of your house. Walk up to a person, shake a hand, exchange a business card (heh), and smile. Learn something in your conversation.
I know it’s not easy to go outside and it’s way easier to stay home/office and chat on a social network or, now, play some 2.0 version of Leisure Suit Larry. But trust me, the more we sit at home and live online, the less we will be able to live offline.
Ok I am done. Now get out there and do something.
It seems like the big pre-SXSW bitchfest this past weekend was around whether anonymous commenters are good or bad, whether they are trolls and whether they are the scum of the earth and should be shot with a nerf gun until they give up who they really are. AOL tech blog Techcrunch switched from using the Y Combinated Disqus comments system over to using Facebook comments. Let me just say this as Allen not as anonymous commenter 2382389A, the move was made to get more traffic to Techcrunch. Period. (nothing wrong with wanting to make money)
Robert Scoble nearly died (I think his caps lock key got jammed too) after reading some post by Steve Cheney. There seems to be two main issues going on within the posts regarding Facebook comments and trolls stories:
- Are anonymous comments bad or good
- Should we be willing to let Facebook control how we use the Internet outside of the walls of Facebook.com (I will save this discussion for another day)
It seems whenever the discussion of “internet commenting trolls” comes up, I always get into an offline discussion about which came first on a blog – shitty content or the trolls? In most cases mice and rats don’t just show up – they come when you put food out there for them. The conversation usually ends up with everyone agreeing that the trolls show up when shitty content is placed out there for them.
Evelyn Rusli, anchor for Techcrunch TV has announced that she has resigned from the AOL-owned Techcrunch blog and will be moving to NYC and will begin working for the New York Times. Rusli left Forbes in mid-March to join Techcrunch and just six months later she is off to the land of Yankees, Giants, knishes and the best subway system.
Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington noted on Evelyn’s hire, “(she) will be our main anchor for breaking news content as well as planned shows”. So what happens to TechcrunchTV now that the main anchor has left? My guess is not much as most of the content on TechcrunchTV are interviews and weekly series rather than only breaking news.
Good luck to Evelyn in my home city – I am sure she will love it there!
Update: Some new questions have come up in chats I’ve had since this post went live. The questions all revolve around whether the NY Times will be looking to get more into video with the hiring of Rusli. Based on her messages, it does appear she will have a larger content scope than at Techcrunch.
Last month AOL made three large acquisitions: video service 5min, tech blog network Techcrunch and Thing Labs (makers of the Twitter client Brizzly).
Louis Gray reported that the Thing Labs acquisition price was $18 million with a total including earnouts of $30 million. Peter Kafka reported that the 5min acquisition was an all-cash deal valued at somewhere between $50-65 million. Most have suggested the Techcrunch sale price at between $25-40 million. (Om Malik originally broke the news of the Techcrunch acquisition.)
Assuming all three acquisition reports are correct, that would mean a total acquisition price of ($18 + 50-65 + 25-40) between $93-123 million. So assuming the lower numbers are correct, that would fall in line with today’s announcement.
Update: the AOL 10-Q notes the 5min sale at $64.7 million (that’s what Kafka initially reported) which leaves $32.4 million for Techcrunch and Thing Labs. If Gray is correct that Thing Labs was acquired for $18 million, that would leave $14.4 million for Techcrunch, a much lower number than the $25-40 million reported by some outlets. But the only confirmed number at this point is the 5min acquisition price so the other two are still a mystery. These amounts don’t include the earnouts – much of which I assume goes to TC because it’s critical that some of their staff stay on board.
AOL has released their Q3 earnings today and the announcement includes a short brief regarding the acquisitions. Total price for all three: $97.1 million plus $23.1 million in earnouts over the next three years. They were able to lump all three acquisitions together which means we may never know exactly what each acquisition price was.
Here’s the bit regarding the acquisitions, “In late September 2010, we completed the acquisitions of 5Min Media, Thing Labs and TechCrunch for $97.1 million in the aggregate, net of cash acquired. In addition, we have agreed to pay an aggregate of $23.1 million in total to certain employees of the acquired companies over the next three years contingent on their future service to AOL.”
A couple of weeks ago, technology blog Techcrunch was hacked. At the time of the hacking they were using the Rackspace Cloud Sites service as their hosting provider.
Today I noticed that everything on Techcrunch is now pointing to WordPress.com. If you run a traceroute of the techcrunch.com domain, it points to WordPress. Images and static files (e.g. s3.wordpress.com/wp-content/themes/vip/tctechcrunch) are also hosted by WordPress. Most likely this means that Techcrunch has moved off of the Rackspace Cloud Service and has become a VIP customer. GigaOm is another popular blog that is also hosted on the WordPress VIP service.
Assuming I am right and Techcrunch has moved to WordPress.com for hosting, it’s interesting how short of a time they were hosted on the Rackspace Cloud Sites service. I have pinged a couple of Rackspace employees and will update this story once I get any further details.
Update: I can now confirm that Techcrunch has moved to WordPress VIP hosting as noted in their footer. Rackspace employee Robert Scoble has also confirmed the move in the comments. It will be interesting to see if they continue to run the Rackspace advertisement going forward. It does appear the other sites in the Techcrunch family are still hosted on Rackspace – they could be in the process of moving.
CenterNetworks is currently hosted on the Rackspace Cloud Sites service (we pay full price, actually lately we’ve paid a lot more than the base rate). I’ve never posted a full accounting of all of the good and bad of using the Rackspace Cloud Sites service. Alison Gianotto posted an open letter to Rackspace management last month. In January Rackspace raised their Cloud Sites base pricing by 50% for new customers.
Last year, top 100 tech blog Techcrunch added a “meta refresh” to their homepage which allowed your Internet browser to refresh the homepage at specific intervals of time without your instruction. This refresh serves two purposes:
- it allows readers who leave their browser open to the Techcrunch.com site to always view the latest stories when they return to the page
- it allows Techcrunch to add monetizable pageviews to their ad base
After what appears to be a bad hacking event last night (I feel for their staff as I know all too well about hacking over the past year), Techcrunch appears to have added an “interstitial” advertisement. Interstitial ads are basically ads that are placed on pages between the content. In this case, the ad displayed below is presented to a user upon the first load of techcrunch.com, but doesn’t appear again.
Technically, code on the techcrunch.com home page pushes users to the interstitial ad if they don’t have the cookie which tells the server that they have already seen the ad. Also, it appears the ad is running through Google Ad Manager and appears to be a custom campaign with Blackberry (congrats to their team on the ad sale).
With all the traffic from discussions about the hack, to the big Steve Jobs iTablet/slate/whatever event tomorrow, that Blackberry interstitial ad should provide for some very nice income for CEO Heather Harde and team.
When I review startups and/or services, I like to make sure I review them from the perspective of the target user. With that said, last weekend I decided to take a look at what a new Twitter user would experience. One thing is clear…Twitter seems to want to push new users away. The overall design and experience just screams “get lost” to a new user. Even if we look at average users (like myself), it’s easy to get confused.
This post is only in reference to twitter.com and does not include any of the desktop apps including Hootsuite, Seesmic, Tweetdeck, Brizzly, etc. New users won’t download those apps straight away – their first experience will be with twitter.com.
Concepts to grasp:
- happening posts – this is the new text box that you are supposed to answer the question, “What’s Happening?” While there is no notation, this is the content that is referred to as a tweet
- re-tweets – today there are two types of tweets – the old kind “RT @centernetworks moo” and the new kind by clicking the retweet link under a tweet which only appears when you mouse over a tweet
- replies – a reply to a comment/tweet made by another user (note I didn’t say person because so many twitter accounts are just robots- be it RSS robots or auto-tweet robots)
- lists – this is the new one – people are added to lists created by other Twitter users.