ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Ode and a [slow] farewell to Twitter

11/26/2012 7:48:45 PM

“Facebook is for people you went to high school with, Twitter is for people you wish you went to high school with”

-- Someone on Twitter

It wouldn’t be a huge exaggeration to say that my current occupation (and success, if you will) is 50% thanks to Twitter. I’ve joined Twitter in 2008 considering it (as it was advertised at the time) a micro-blogging platform. I enjoyed blogging but sometimes things I wanted to spill to the ether were too short to warrant a blog post. And that’s were Twitter was supposed to come in. Little did I know that it will become the most important communication platform, news source and marketing channel in my life.

MIX10k

In late 2009 I’ve noticed an interesting competition announced by someone on Twitter. It was called MIX10k and the objective was to create a Silverlight (some other technologies were allowed too) app with less than 10kb of source code. So I’ve created this 3D Tic-Tac-Toe game, submitted and campaigned for it on Twitter. I didn’t win the Grand Prize, but won a Community Prize. Thank you, Twitter!

And the prize was [partially] paid trip to MIX10 conference in Las Vegas. That was my first major conference and actually the first trip to US. Moreover that was the conference were Windows Phone 7 development story was unveiled. And Windows Phone development was what I wanted to do next. Unfortunately I got some bad news at the conference, but nevertheless met a ton of cool people who were and still are active in the Windows Phone community on Twitter and elsewhere.

So my initial life plan for 2010 failed, but I’ve stayed active in the #WPDEV community.

AdDuplex

I was hanging on Twitter with my Windows Phone developer friends (among other interesting people) all the time and was curious to see their successes once Windows Phone platform launched. What I saw was some happiness, but mostly disappointment in the way indie developers (especially game developers) struggled to get any visibility in the Store (called Marketplace back then) and as a result not getting any meaningful income from their ad supported apps.

Seeing this I had an idea that developers could help each other by promoting each others apps utilizing the ad space that doesn’t bring them any meaningful income anyway. That’s how AdDuplex was born. And it’s my primary occupation for more than a year now. Thank you, Twitter!

The End Is Near

I’ve met a ton of awesome people on Twitter. I went and/or got invited to a ton of awesome events via Twitter. I’ve met a ton of awesome people in real life via Twitter. Most of these encounters were made possible thanks to different usage patterns that 3rd party Twitter apps provided us. Currently I’m using Metrotwit on the desktop as my primary Twitter client. It allows me to see a bunch of different activities at a time and constantly occupies a whole monitor. I don’t read twitter as a newspaper or an RSS feed. I glance at it from time to time and engage in conversations if something catches my eye. I see my timeline, mentions, DMs and a couple of search columns all at the same time and get a lot of value out of it.

Unfortunately Twitter thinks I’m using it wrong. They are enforcing their vision on 3rd party developers and basically just kicking them out of the platform in an effort to improve monetization. That’s their right and totally understandable. It just doesn’t play well with the way I’ve used and want to continue to use Twitter.

My copy of Metrotwit still works pretty much as I want it to. But for how long? How enthusiastic do Twitter client developers feel this days? I know for a fact that their morale is pretty low. Twitter clients are going away and with them goes away the Twitter I used to love.

I was very skeptical when I heard about app.net initiative. I thought it was an utopia. I still do. But with recent developments around Tweetro and after watching This Week in Startups with Dalton Cardwell I feel it’s time to look for alternatives. And as of today app.net seems the closest thing to it. No matter how utopic paid social network may sound.

So, I pulled the plug and registered on app.net. You can follow me @ailon. You can still follow me @ailon on Twitter too. I’m definitely more present on Twitter than on app.net for the time being, but for how long?

Thank you, Twitter! I’ve loved you. I still like you. And I still want to be friends with you. I just don’t love you anymore. I’m like that spouse that stays only because there’s no strong enough reason to move out just yet. But it’s only a matter of time.

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Monetizing data!? Yeah, right!

11/19/2012 5:19:00 PM

windows-8-rt-devices

Over my current ~2 year stint in the startupland I’ve seen a number of startup founders claiming selling of the data they collect as their monetization strategy. This statement always makes most of the serious serial entrepreneurs and investors smirk. “Yeah, right!” – they say. And I agree with them.

I’ve never thought about the data we collect at AdDuplex as a direct source of revenue. After some time, I’ve discovered that it’s a pretty good marketing asset, though.

Last week a story on AdDuplex blog was covered by CNET, CBS News, Neowin, ReadWrite(Web), PC World, Computerworld, LA Times, Tom’s Hardware, etc. This story was totally based on the data we have. And was only possible because of it.

And the effect of it was actually undermined by the fact that I underestimated the fact that there are only a few companies in the world that have any data on the penetration (I don’t want to infer sales, but some pundits did ;) of the Microsoft Surface. And apparently there’s a lot of interest in these numbers.

Unfortunately I treated that blog post the same way I treated all the previous statistics blog posts that were mostly of interest to people inside the “Windows ecosystem” and didn’t make an attempt to break out of the specialized media loop. But even without it the post found its way into mainstream. I’ve got my first “urgent request for comments” emails from multiple media outlets, etc. That makes me feel great and at the same time a little sad that I didn’t anticipate it upfront and didn’t approach this PR opportunity properly.

Last week I’ve attended Silicon Valley Comes To Baltics conference and the best talk there (at least for me) didn’t come from Silicon Valley. It was “Insurgency Marketing: How to get attention for your startup” by Andris K. Berzins from the neighboring Latvia. One of the points of that talk was using interesting stats to attract attention to your under-the-radar startup. Because, you know, no one cares what you actually do.

Build 0.11 - Andris K. Berzins from HackFwd on Vimeo.

So it’s still very unlikely that you’ll be able to turn your “data” directly into a revenue stream. But I can definitely attest that it can be a very valuable marketing asset.

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Notes from a trip to Microsoft BUILD 2012

11/6/2012 7:59:48 PM

image

Yesterday I’ve returned from the Build conference in Redmond. The content was awesome, the swag was awesome and, most importantly, the people were awesome. But there were a few less than perfect things which can be reduced to one …

Location #1

This was my first visit to Microsoft’s campus, so it was really interesting in that regard. Other than that it’s hard to explain the choice of venue.

223609_10151458168044186_1722236813_n

Except for keynotes which were held in what is now known as BAT (big-ass-tent) the rest of the sessions were held in 2 buildings (Microsoft Building 33 and 92). As you can guess by the building numbers these are not particularly close. Here’s the map:

msft_campus

It takes at least 15 minutes to walk from one to the the other. Microsoft tried to mitigate this by running shuttle buses between the buildings. I’ve tried to use the bus once. Ended up waiting 10 minutes for the bus in the rain and then when I finally got to the other building the session I wanted to attend was already full. So from day two I decided to choose the first session of the day and based on that stay in the same building for the day.

Another consequence of this layout was the need to have 45 minute breaks between the sessions. I’m not sure I mind this since that left more time for networking which is the most valuable part of the conference anyway (especially considering online availability of the content). But it’s worth mentioning that all the content would easily fit into 3 days if it was in the same building with ~15 minute breaks. And we could’ve had more content on day 4 (I’ve heard some sessions didn’t fit in).

Location #2

One of the main selling points of doing the event on campus was supposed easy access to Microsoft employees. While I was told that we actually got more talks by real engineers (as opposed to evangelists) than we would if the event was held somewhere else, I’ve heard from multiple Microsoft employees that they were forbidden to get close to the conference. Add that to the fact that they have their own life in Seattle area (spouses, kids, hobbies) and they have to go home and you actually get less access to them than you would if they were on “workation” in Vegas.

Location #3

This is totally random. Sorry for mentioning it here. But on the day I arrived I wanted to get a beer. So I wiped out my Windows Phone, launched Local Scout and found the closest place to the hotel that served beer and burgers. It’s called Red Robin (a chain burger joint). So I went there and ordered a beer. Bartender asked me for my ID. (and no, I don’t look like I could be younger than 21).  I complied and gave her my European Union ID card. She was really genuinely sorry, but said that it wasn’t good enough and she needs a proper passport (which I left at the hotel). I was a little upset, but agreed to settle for a burger w/o beer. To my surprise she said that not only I’m not getting a beer, but can’t stay in the “bar area” of the establishment and non-bar (restaurant) area was full. Oh, well.

When I returned to the same restaurant on the last day of my trip with passport in my pocket no one seemed to care about my age.

I don’t know if this is a state of Washington thing or what. I wasn’t asked for passport in US (except at border control) never before and never after that accident.

Few notes on the hotels

WP_20121103_022
Night shot of my hotel taken with Nokia Lumia 920

Tim Heuer has a great post with hotel tips for PDC in 2010. I would add one thing though.

I’ve chosen Silver Cloud Inn Redmond based on proximity to the event and actually walked from and to it from the Microsoft campus. That’s great, but … There was a great and free shuttle service from/to all of the official conference hotels (there were 17 of them) so the proximity to Microsoft wasn’t that important. On the other hand I’ve been to 2 parties (including some drinking and late return to the hotel) in the Bellevue center, plus I went there for shopping and actually went to the airport on a public bus (yes, I’m cheap) with layover in Bellevue center.

So, if I had to choose again I would choose a hotel in downtown Bellevue, rather than close to Microsoft Campus.

It was great, really!

I know this post sounds sour, but lets write this off on the fact that I was born in USSR or am European or whatever. I’m having hard time praising the awesome things (they were awesome what’s there to talk about?) and would rather mention the things I didn’t like (things that can be improved on). That said //build/ was awesome and I would do it again without blinking.

See you at BUILD 2013!

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