My history with Facebook goes back to 2006 when I joined the service, then 2007 when I first visited their HQ in Palo Alto and wrote that I was so impressed with the company that I thought it would be worth over $10bn. That number that sounded so crazy then is but a fraction of its vaue today. And then a year later I helped Mark Zuckerberg launch Facebook in Spanish. Here’s a video of the two of us. Needless to say that Mark Zuckerberg is an absolute genius when it gets to build THE social network.
Still I did not buy Facebook shares in the IPO. I should clarify that I am a long term investor, not a trader but $38 seemed to high a valuation for me. I was waiting for the shares to come down.
Before the earnings announcement I had bought some Facebook shares at $28 and a few hours ago I bought more shares at $23. And I have another order to buy more if they get to $20.
Here’s my rational.
Facebook is an amazing company, it has a good chunk of the richest segment of humanity glued to its service. The share of global income of people with Facebook accounts must be, in my view, at least half of all global income. Not only do they have a billion users but they have the billion with the most money. The top billion.
That Facebook is so great at engagement but so bad at monetization sounds to me as a more solvable problem than the exact opposite and that’s why I am buying the shares.
Right now Facebook seems to get $2 per user per quarter. I can’t believe they are not going to be able to get double that in the near future. If Google owned FB, how much would they get out of its user base? Google gets over $40bn in revenues from its user base now but its users and time on site are comparable to FB. So a good guess could be that FB could get 10X more revenues from their user base when they grow up.
Risks? that they never get good at monetization and/or that somebody else “myspaces” them. That’s why I only recommend owning at most 3% of your net worth in Facebook shares. My main holdings are Apple, Google and Amazon and my portfolio exposure to Facebook is very small. But now I am a shareholder.
Twitter I use a lot, borth for reading and producing content. Twitter is like the newswire for me, like those news summaries that appear down below on CNN (or used to because I haven’t watch TV in so long). Twitter is great for breaking news. Also for short interactions and some fun moments. Twitter is trying to kill DM and that is bad, they should take out the 140 character limitation in DM so you can have deeper one to one discussions. So you can combine the public with the private. Twitter should also not count the characters of links to give you a few more characters for the occasional moments you need them. The URL shortener war is absurd.
Facebook is only about friends for me, I used to have 4000 “friends” now I have around 600. Sorry if I erased you. But now I know almost all of them, if not in person at least virtually pretty well. Facebook is about more private things and I use “friends only” a lot. I know Facebook is dying to make money out of me showing whatever I post to anyone to get more activity and impressions. And the same is true for a lot of Facebook users. So I battle Facebook on that and many times I lose and I am annoyed when a friend of a friend who I don’t know appears, even though they are mostly nice I should say. In terms of politeness Facebook wins the prize. The only non private part of Facebook that I use is groups, and those work well to liaise along themes or narrow lines. What Facebook needs to come up with is a paid version like LinkedIn and show ads for those who don’t pay. Also Facebook attempts in advertising have been clumsy so far. Facebook thrives at connecting people but is very poor at trying to have them buy something. I would gladly pay $7 per month to give no incentive to Facebook to spy on me to sell me ads.
I use Google+ for drafts, I have an idea and I put a first draft on Google +, I then get criticisms, comments, and I improve or modify my original idea into something deeper, I do more research on my own and then I go to my blog, generally my English blog. Google+ has great ideas and a wonderful design on mobile. I just wish more people used it as it also has no ads.
Tumblr (I am an investor) I use for shorter articles, I am also aware that what comes out in my Tumblr goes on Twitter as I have them linked. Tumblr is great to discover longer form and visual content. Their discovery platform is still poor but I know it will get better. And what you find is just beautiful. Tumblr also lacks comments but that can be both a good and a bad thing. In the one hand you stay away from trolls and keep it friendly. On the other hand, the debate always ends up in Twitter and you can miss some interesting comments. And Tumblr gets some original content creators who are mostly there or just there. In Tumblr I follow photography, science, medicine. I used to use Tumblr as a form of self expression, I still do but now I love to discover what others have to say. There is a certain level of aesthetics and professionalism in Tumblr that is missing elsewhere.
Pinterest I don’t get. I see it as closer to Tumblr but kind of messy. I don’t see a lot of original content producers there. It is more kind of “look at what I found Dad”. I am a father of 5 btw and I am used to this show and tell moments. What I don’t like about Pinterest is that it is not about creating your own content. I think it might have an utility as an archive for your personal findings on the Internet, which can be kept private. The Android apps for Pinterest don’t let you post, just look.
Path I just started using it. It is very, very visual and I use it taking advantage of the camera programs in my iPhone and my Samsung Galaxy. I use it for great shots taken with phones. Shots that are the essence of the moment I am in, like a great tweet, but visual. I know you can do much more at Path, but I don’t. The people who answer me in Path I tend to know. They are friends. Path is actually very, very well designed.
Flickr and Picasa
Flickr I love but I have the feeling that it’s dying. Pity because there is tons of quality photography there and I am an amateur photographer. I use Flickr for the photography I do with the Leica M9 or the Canon 5D Mark II. Lately, I’ve been trying 500px and I think it’s the modern version of what Flickr should be. Their iPad app is great. Google+ photos formerly known as Picasa I use. I like the fact that many pictures go there from my Android. They also go to iPhoto from my iPhone the same way. Both systems are good for not losing pictures even though you have to erase many. I wish they would ask you if you want to update them.
I love Snapseed on the iPhone and iPad. It is simple, very well designed and you can take great pictures to post in social networks. Instagram I use but sometimes with pictures I took with Snapseed cause otherwise all Instagrams look alike. They do have a great community at Instagram also made of mostly nice people.
YouTube is another beast. In the video world I prefer Vimeo. But Youtube has huge audiences that have given millions of views to my videos so I go on placing them there in spite of the horrendous, idiotic level of commentary. I have rarely seen a smart person commenting on a video on Youtube. Dante’s inferno said “lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate” and that is today very applicable to the level of Youtube commentary. I many times just don’t let people comment on my videos in order to avoid racism and plain idiocy. Now Vimeo is another world. Vimeo is like Tumblr in video. There is amazing quality beautiful videos there.
Foursquare and Google Maps
Foursquare is so focused on the stupid game of being a mayor of your bathroom that you sometimes forget that it’s also like a Spotify for geographical locations. It is interesting to find good curated lists of say restaurants in South Beach Miami. The lists have been enhanced in their latest updates. I use Google Maps a lot. In any case since I invested in Dopplr and Plazes I have always believed in the social value of city exploration and I know we will accomplish more in this area. Google and Foursquare are half way there with different solutions for similar needs.
Until LinkedIn invited me to write for the site I was using it little. Fon was using it to recruit but not me personally. Now that my posts get so much engagement there I find that with LinkedIn I can interact with the most educated audience of any site. At least when focused on professional endeavors.
Is messenger social media? I think it is. Skype is social by nature, and I use it either in very intimate situations or non intimate at all, like job interviews. BBM I have with two of my children who are still on Blackberry and a few other people who have not given up. Whatsapp keeps me in touch with some others who are across platforms, it is uncanny how they got away with the fact that if you have somebody’s phone number you can Whatsapp without acceptance. It makes you want to get a new phone number so ghosts from the past don’t haunt you. SMS is rare for me. Google Talk and the Google + messengers I use but rarely, with an occasional friend who loves it. MSN or Yahoo I have not used for ages. Email I do use and a lot. I like the asynchronicity of it. I like Gmail, it’s brilliant.
Blogs other than mine are also a way to be socially active, reading, leaving comments, and I do read a bunch of blogs, the best way to see what I read is still my Netvibes public page. All the RSS feeds that were kind of killed by Twitter but not totally for me. I love the way Netvibes presents all blogs in one screen for me in my MacBook or any PC. I read many professional blogs such as the Hipertextual blogs, or GigaOm.
My Spanish and English Blogs on WordPress
I try to keep a certain quality level in those blogs. They are me so I better look good :). I have apps for iPhone, Blackberry, to blog from other devices but I mostly blog from my MacBook and after testing the grounds on Google + or Tumblr.
In Spanish I love Meneame, in English Reddit. Social news work for me as the wisdom of the crowds is actually a good editor and I frequently comment.
Social Music and language learning
Those and other formerly non social activities are also getting social, certainly music with Spotify which I use a lot and even language learning with Busuu.
Languages on Social Media
In my case there’s the languages issue. I write more in English because the best content on the web is in English. Spanish even though it is spoken by a great deal of people there is little new science or radical ideas coming out in Spanish. There are some, but few. I also understand French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan. Catalan is to languages what Path is to social networks French is probably the other language were some original content is found. Less so in Italian and Portuguese. I am learning German, if I really spoke German I have a sense that there would be some more original content. But Germans and Northern Europeans in general have an elite who writes in English and that is great.
Gadgets and Social Media
There is another angle to all of this and that is that many social networks are gadget specific. Path is not on the web, the iPhone is great for photography. With the iPhone for example you can be in Instagram as well and I also post on Instagram. You can then post from there to Tumblr and other networks. Not to Google + which is trying to make it all with Google products (a mistake). I use the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy SII which is amazing, the new Blackberry Bold 9900 which is still the fastest small gadget in which to write and message but poor for almost everything else, the iPad which is perfect for looking at content, not so great for producing it. And then my MacBook Pro which is perfect for typing fast, for editing video, for editing photography.
Flipboard makes social media look better, more visual, perfect for the iPad. Now there are two things that I would like to see in Flipboard. One is a blended Flipboard, a Flipboard that shows you the best from all your social media. In my Flipboard I have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr. I would like to be able to see a blend of all those services and not them one by one. Algorithms could decide what is the most popular pictures, news, commentary that I may want to read. Also from Google+ once they have an API. But the other idea, which is more interesting is to turn Flipboard around and make it a product for other people. Like I publish my Flipboard for others to see and what others then see is my production accross social media, what I put on Facebook that is public, plus my tweets, plus my Instagrams, Flickr, Tumblr, all that I publish in one place for others to see. So instead of having to follow me on Twitter, on Facebook, Tumblr, etc I would just say follow me on Flipboard.
Sixty per cent of my Twitter stream is not in English. Instead it is mostly in Spanish with a little French and Italian, occasionally some Portuguese and Catalan, and a few times I struggle to decipher it in German. But my Google+ is a different story. So far, almost everyone who shows up in my Google+ writes in English. And I have bad news to all the people who treasure their own languages. The quality of the content is far better.
Without offending anyone who is mostly a non English speaker, and prefers Spanish and/or other languages, I have to admit that one of the successes of Google+ is that almost everything I get is of above average quality AND in English. My mostly Spanish Twitter stream has many tweeterers from Spain and Argentina. While I was born in Argentina and live in Spain, I realize that the problems of Spain or Argentina are repetitive and hardly inspirational. I am so fed up of reading about what a crook Cristina Kirchner and her cronies are or how incompetent Zapatero and his colleagues can be dealing with the Spanish economic crisis. I am obviously following too many people in Spanish that add little discovery, novelty and inspiration to my life. And if they point out to new things, I generally read them in English first.
This also makes me think that while there are 400 million people who speak Spanish and maybe another 300 million who speak the other languages my Tweets are in (French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and German) it is hard to find something truly original and new in languages other than English. This is sad but true. Indeed the most original thinkers in those other native languages, write in non native English (half of the creative minds of Silicon Valley were not born in USA). This is not about saying that no genius emerge from the Spanish, French, German, Italian and other cultural circles. They do. But when they do they are rarely expressing themselves only in their native languages. Yes, literature may be an exception but there is hardly any of that in the limited world of the 140 characters of Twitter. And I love that in Google+ I don’t need to struggle with excess brevity.
I wonder if anyone has studied how many discoveries, original sciences, or amazing start ups, happen in all the other languages my Twitter stream is in. Because if Google+ is any indication, sadly not much. Non English languages are probably 60% of my tweets but only 10% of what’s new and awesome. And my Google+ because it is in English and because I am following quality rather than friendship or national interest is mostly new and frequently awesome in a way that only Quora has been to me lately. And this is why I have decided that while I continue to tweet in different languages and follow people in different languages, Google+ will be English only for me. I won’t even answer comments in other languages so as to keep the flow in English.
This does not mean that my life will only be in English. And not even my life on the internet. After the birth of Google+ I will leave Facebook even more as a place to interact with friends. Indeed I erased 4000 people from Facebook lately and I left it as a site mostly of people who I know and care about. I will probably soon erase some more and go down to a few hundred. So when it gets to express love, emotions, and local society and politics Spanish will continue to be my main language and Facebook and Twitter my vehicles. But that will not happen in Google+.
Now that I have Google+ I will keep Facebook for love and emotional relationships, Twitter for sharing and learning about information, Quora for elaborate thoughts and Google+ for intelligent conversations and discoveries. As far as Tumblr and my blog are concerned I will continue to use them the way I have until now. I generally start a thought on Tumblr and when I elaborate on it enough it moves to my blog as this post probably will.
RadioMe is the name of my most recent project. It’s an Android app that I call a “social media DJ”. The idea for RadioMe came during one of my frequent bike rides. I usually listen to music, but that wasn’t enough to keep me connected. I hate the feeling of not knowing what is going on around me, so whenever I wanted to catch up with my social environment, I had to interrupt my ride to read my Twitter/Facebook streams and check my e-mails. So the trade-off was: enjoy a nice ride without interruptions but be disconnected from the outside world, or stay connected with the downside of having to interrupt the ride.
With RadioMe, I finally solved this problem. RadioMe is a social radio that plays your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn, Google Reader and SMS so you LISTEN to it instead of looking at a screen. It’s like having a personal assistant that reads everything to you aloud. RadioMe has an integrated music player that automatically turns down the music when you receive updates, and turns it up again as soon as you’re up-to-date. You can configure how frequently you want to be updated, and how many updates should be read during the “social break”. To make it easy, you only need to define the “music period” and the “update period” (e.g. 10 minutes listening to music, then 2 minutes social updates, then back to music for 10 minutes…). It’s perfect for when you ride your bike, drive around in your car or simply prefer to hear what’s going on instead of reading it.
But the functionality of RadioMe doesn’t stop there. The app is multilingual, it can read updates in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and even in Japanese and Simplified Chinese. You just have to tell RadioMe which languages it should detect. If you get an incoming call, RadioMe pauses automatically. You can configure by how much the volume of the music should be reduced, if you want RadioMe to stop reading upon shaking, temporarily turn off certain providers, etc. Duplicate updates are automatically recognized and only one will be read.
One really important aspect is the speech synthesis. The standard PICO TTS voice included in every Android device sounds like a robot from the 80′s with a cold. So if you want to use this app, you should definitely install SVOX TTS from the Android Market (sounds much better and is quite cheap). The new version of RadioMe will have a trial version of SVOX already installed. I designed this app, and it was built by Alberto Alonso Ruibal.
Here’s a video where I show how RadioMe works. You should give it a try, I’m completely hooked :).
Twitter just tried that useless sponsored trend bar that is of no benefit to users known as the “dickbar”. After this failure, Twitter will probably try regular ads. That will be less annoying but still not the current Twitter experience. Now one way Twitter could make tons of money and keep their wonderful experience intact is to charge businesses. How would this work? Well if a brand wants to be on Twitter, and most brands in the world already are, so say if they want to STAY on twitter, they will be charged something like $10 per month per every 1000 followers they have on Twitter. Why would the brands pay? Because they use twitter to reach their customers. In this way it is brands that will think about how to make the best use of Twitter and Twitter continues to look and feel the same way while they make money for bringing followers to businesses.
Facebook could do the same btw, charge businesses to open pages and groups and let people do it for free.
In all this I would make an exception for media businesses or businesses who enrich the eco system.
- Why the Quick Bar (“dickbar”) is still so offensive (marco.org)
- Justin Williams on Twitter’s Dickbar (carpeaqua.com)
- Jeff Rock on Twitter’s Dickbar (jeffrock.com)
- Twitter Employees Build An Actual #Dickbar Bar (businessinsider.com)
A lot has been written about how people “go crazy” on social networks. This has led many in government to say that more needs to be done to protect privacy. That many may not become employable as their poor behavior becomes public. Some have even said that people should have the right to erase their life from the internet. The right to be forgotten. Others put a big emphasis on rebuilding privacy around individuals despite the ever increasing popularity of compulsive sharing. The idea of some legislators is that the internet and social networks are bound to destroy somebody’s reputation sooner or later and people need protection from their own disclosures. That social networks show their worst behavior. That people go wild on the internet.
My view on this is quite the contrary. People don’t join social networks to destroy their reputation but to make themselves look good. Social networks have the same effect on people that classrooms have on children. Users behave better and are more honest in them because they are being constantly watched by others and want to impress them. And most social networks have “teachers” who show up in the famous “report abuse” buttons. Social networks have rules and their own etiquette and people live by them.
The fear of alienation and ridicule from peers also acts a great deterrent. Friends who frequently see what you do and think, who you know, who see your location, your pictures, your videos, your tweets, your updates, act as a moderating influence in your life. Before people occasionally knew what you did and chances for poor behavior were greater. Now they are being watched. But because most people want to be liked. They behave better. So you can see my point: living a life being watched makes people, on the average, better and more honest. And that is good.
Like I never tire from saying, the Internet is a great tool that can be used in uncountable ways to promote basically any product, and music is no different from any other product. There are many sites and applications which can help publicize music, and it’s just a matter of knowing them and using them correctly to get what you need. For example, Ace of Base (of which my friend Ulk Ekberg is one of the founders) have a new album, The Golden Ratio, and they are using all these tools to make their music reach every corner of the world.
Twitter is one of the basics, because it permits the band to inform about anything new that’s going on in a short, easy, straight-to-the-point manner, so that any fans that follow then instantly know if there are new photos on the site, where the latest concerts are taking place, or where to listen to the new single. Ace of Base use their Twitter account quite regularly to keep all of their fans updated on the latest news like iTunes reviews on their new album, new photos… The best thing about Twitter is that it’s simple and quick to use, so it’s perfect for spreading the word quickly.
Facebook is another excellent platform for this, mainly because practically everyone has a Facebook account, and it’s got so many ways of sharing all kinds of stuff that it’s perfect to publicize a band. Ace of Base have their Facebook full of photos, thousands of comments on their Wall, a music player with some of their songs, info on the band and it’s members… All the information you need in a platform everyone knows and uses.
Ace of Base also have an official webpage that they always keep updated. On it you can find more specialized information on the band, like the biography, discography, news, and even links to buy the album either as a CD or as downloadable tracks to upload onto your mp3 player directly.
Last but not least, Ace of Base have put out a great widget with a piece of each of their latest tracks, which you can embed on a blog, on a website, on Facebook…
and here’s their new videoclip from their Youtube channel, where you can also see older material and the making of their new video.
I’m glad to announce I have invested in Sonico, the fastest growing social network in Latin America and Brazil, with now more then 17 million users after less than a year from its launch. Sonico helps users connect with their real friends, share photos and videos and other information, with a focus on security and privacy.
Sonico announced today a $4.3 million Series A financing round, led by DN Capital and by investors such as Fabrice Grinda (founder of Aucland, Zingy.com and OLX), Alec Oxenford (DeRemate and OLX) and myself.
Rodrigo Teijeiro, Sonico’s founder and fellow from Argentine, is leading an amazing team of more then 90 people, that in the last few years have built great products like Flodeo or cumplealerta, and now Sonico, capable of attracting millions of users at a rate that only Facebook could match, although not in Latin America, where Sonico is generally growing faster, also competing with MySpace, Hi5 and Orkut. According to Comscore, in Argentina Sonico has more than six times the number of users Facebook has.
There are many reasons why I believe that Facebook will be worth over $10bn, maybe as much as $20bn but I will focus on one, its open immigration policy. Joanna Rees (CEO of FON USA) and I went to see the folks at Facebook in order to make a deal on how Fon could appear in Facebook. The visit was amazing in the sense that we basically learned that we could do whatever we wanted at Facebook. All our ideas were greeted with a yes, yes and yes.
Basically, the Facebook system resembles a country with open immigration in which the best are allowed to thrive, kind of like USA who manages to attract the best of the best…and thrives. But of course you have to live by certain rules like for example disclosing who you are, a rule that we also have at Fon and that while potentially hackable Facebook told us that they frequently delete accounts of people they believe are not disclosing their true identity. Interestingly Second Life has the opposite principle, namely that people would like to live in an imaginary world of second identities, and some do, but most like to have a real relationship with real friends.
To me there´s no doubt that Facebook will be hugely popular and will overtake Myspace sometime during 2008 and become the largest social network in the world. The only lingering doubts center around monetization but with Google nearby and with the famous Myspace Google deal as a starting point I see that selling ads to people who disclose their identity and so much about themselves will be like shooting fish in a barrel.
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