Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Could Color kill Check-ins?

“If I’d asked my customers “friends” what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse check-in.”Henry Ford Color

Check-ins don’t work for the majority of users outside of the tech industry. They’ve been around for a while. They’ve been tried, tested, been crowned breakout technology at geek-fest SXSW Interactive, but to date I’m not sure if any of my friends in the Real World actually CHECK-IN when we meetup.

But, Photos, we all do. All The Time. Family gatherings, events, conferences, concerts – you name it – whenever 2 or more are gathered together, chances are there’s a photo being taken (maybe not at Starbucks, but you get the picture). Especially, in today’s world of the ubiquitous smart phone camera.

Enter Color.

What is Color? A hot new mobile photo app launched yesterday that for lack of a better term reminds me of a bizarro meeting of Facebook Places and Facebook Photos, where they re-create your social graph based on where you and “birds of your feather” gather today in real-time in the real-world.

Yes, it’s difficult to describe and yes, it’s difficult to experience without a friend or two (oh, yae!) around, but the idea is so dang intriguing and potentially disruptive. So bear with me here.

Color vs. Facebook Places / Photos

Interestingly, Color’s vision is kinda like how Facebook describes Facebook places is described in this video (if you can get past the cheesy Apple music and corny spin)

We haven’t really provided a way for you to find out where your friends really hang out, and we think that’s a really important part of who people are“. Color’s basically flipping the check-in model by saying: Your friends are those you hang out with. Just hang out. Do your thing, and we’ll take care of “checking you in” with any photo being taken by you or around you.

Boom!

Bill Nguyen says:

Color offers a way to determine location and proximity in such a non-battery draining, accurate manner that an impromptu and “elastic” social graph can be created from the data, without once ever having to purposefully check in.

“Our data is so accurate that we know where you are,” said Nguyen.

So, if you’d asked techie users what they wanted, they’d have said a faster check-in or a more centralized one (sorry, Gowalla!), but Color could be trying to build a real-world graph based on the people you actually end up hangin out with. And, for those of us living in the real-world and not in a “social graph” this could be very interesting.

The Creepiness and Loneliness Factor/s

Now, this is easier said than done. They are betting on a future with people becoming more photo-savvy, caring less about privacy. And, in that world if you’re around a camera – any camera – they will find you whether or not you “check-in” (again a Facebook trait, who allow your friends to check you in even if you don’t, a lil Minority Report’esque for my taste) but could this be a future we’re all not gonna mind in the future?

Interestingly, Facebook bet its future on people’s eagerness to share more. And, as the voiceover in the Facebook video says: “I expect in the future, people are gonna share a lot more of their lives this way (meaning check-ins)“, but frankly people are sharing a lot more via photos today. And, Facebook, as the world’s largest photo-sharing site should know that.

A more immediate concern for Color may be the “Loneliness” factor. It works effectively only when you find yourself in groups and folks who try it alone in their room (who does that in the real world anyways?) are bound to face disappointment. And much like Twitter who struggled explaining what they were all about (a site about nothing) for a very long period of time, Color too would have to figure out a way to overcome this challenge.

Tipping Point?

I did tell my former colleague and currently product lead at Color, DJ, that Color would have been THE breakout technology at SouthBy two weeks ago, giving bloggers, journalists, movie makers and musicians the Aha moment, they so sorely lack today. Here was his response to that question on Quora.

Related Quora threads I answered:

1. What is the point of Color?

2. What emergent behaviors will Color create?

Filed under: Color, Location, , ,

Why LinkedIn Today is not just another News product.

Why LinkedIn Today works better than other news portals

For the same reason Facebook’s social graph completely improves upon the game playing experience – think of Scrabilicious or Zynga. They upended the gaming industry giants despite cheesy graphics – for one reason: add your friends into the mix and games are way more fun. Frankly, that’s the only reason we play. Likewise, throw in your colleagues or customers in the mix and News turns way more valuable.

Yes. News is to LinkedIn as Games is to Facebook.

I’ll be honest. I’m still a die hard Techmeme fan because I follow every minute news update in the business of technology. But, increasingly I find myself checking out LinkedIn Today, for one reason. As I skim through the articles on Today, I find myself noticing the people who’ve shared them before I check out the news itself. Not sure if this has been your experience as well.

Ice-breaker meets the Water-cooler

It really prioritizes the most important news for me based on my professional taste and who’s sharing the news. And, frankly that’s why I think LinkedIn Today is different. For starters, it automatically surfaces the most interesting news for me based on who I am professionally. There’s no setup there. Think of it as a automatic news interestingness filter based on who I am professionally.

If this works for a voracious news reader like me, then imagine today’s mainstream professional who’s got much less time to dabble in news. What would he or she want to try out. Imagine if you could see the top news articles shared by your colleagues at work, your executives, your clients, your prospective customers. Another chance to ping them, to talk about the latest news in your space.

People Filter your news

So, without rambling on… let me end this post by quoting from a recent post by Mathew Ingram (who’s been fairly prolific on this topic in recent times), on yet another critical factor that distinguishes LinkedIn Today from other news products for professionals:

If there’s one thing that web users need more than ever, it’s smart filters to help them navigate the vast tsunami of information that comes at them every day. (The big problem isn’t information overload, says Clay Shirky, but rather “filter failure”.) Someone is going to solve that problem, and if they do it properly, they could wind up capturing a significant share of the online news-reading market.

Wouldn’t you agree? The situation gets fairly worse for professionals whose time between 9 to 5 is far more valuable than the time of web users in general whose primary disposition seems to be sharing pictures of LOLCats with their friends on Facebook. Given that situation, it is absolutely imperative that we need a product where smart filters curate the uncontrollable fury of information that’s blaring at us while we work.

In LinkedIn Today’s case, those smart filters happen to be your professional interests, your colleagues, your mentors, thought leaders, etc. in your space. In addition, you can even filter each of the headlines by companies, industry and location for e.g. (see above). You can also follow news sources you dig (see below); something I did rather reluctantly and I’m hoping will translate to better results. But, frankly, people you care for professionally is why this product differs from every other news product out there. 

Enough about what I think. What do YOU think of LinkedIn Today? Let me know in the comments section below or just @mariosundar me on Twitter. Rest assured, I’ll pass it on to Liz and team, as I have in the past.

For regular readers:

I’m back. As I’d promised yesterday. This is a post that’s been brewing in my mind this whole week and I just didn’t find the time to key clicks to my laptop. I’m proud of the work of my colleagues, Liz and team and have slowly but surely moved towards using Today as I’ve noticed an increase in relevancy of news that’s surfaced to me.

Let me preface this by saying, for a long time I’ve refrained from raving about LinkedIn products I dig (because I work there), but to hell with that. When I share my enthusiasm for any tech products (people think I work for Apple :), I’d be remiss if I don’t share with you yet another product I love, just because it’s from the company I work for.

Of course, everything I post here will be within reason and will be explained thus. I’d urge you to call me out if I’m veering towards promotion but I can’t recall the last time I did that on this blog and rest assured it won’t happen. Again, these are just my personal thoughts and do not reflect my employer (as is the running caveat on all my posts here).

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Features, ,

Death, Taxes, and Murphy’s Law.

Updated with thoughtful comments from readers. Scroll down.

So, I was supposed to be in Austin today for my annual South by Southwest (SXSW) trek . But, given the certain constancy of Murphy’s Law, I find myself back in Toronto writing this blog post. Boy, what a day (and what a way) to cap a momentous week at work.

Earlier today, I found myself running to Gate No. 164 in Toronto International Airport after being detained for a random inspection at customs, which in my case, is regular enough at this point. Well, the last time I sat through one of these, it took me 15 minutes, but this time it took over an hour and as I sat waiting with a bunch of others, I noticed I had cut it too close this time.

I missed my flight by 5 minutes.

Worse still, all the United Airlines personnel had left the building since it was the last United flight for the day (finding this out took me a half hour!). Equally odd was my experience of having to make a U-turn and walk straight through Canadian immigration (with my I-94 still stamped on my passport) since there were no available flights for tomorrow. And, the best part was I panicked that my checked-in luggage was now somewhere en route to Austin, Texas. Luckily, a half hour later I did find it at Carousel No. 13 (So, all was not lost).

Eh, well. I could go on. But, that’d defeat the point of this post.

Shit happens. But our response to it builds character.

I bet there are two schools of thought. One who assume that individuals with strength of character deal with tough situations with grace. But, I’m sure that’s not the way it works. Rather, it’s our response to such situations over time that helps build that strength of character. Now, I’m sure there are worse things than missing an international flight narrowly by a few minutes. But, trying to salvage some minimal goodness out of it and not focusing on the negativity is sure as heck harder than it seems.

It also reminded me of a wonderful anecdote narrated by Mayor Cory Booker when he spoke at LinkedIn earlier this week. This one too involved an airport and a flight. He talked about how he found his good luck at finding perfect seats on a flight turn into a nightmare, but the choice he made helped turn it around and make it a pleasant experience for him and the family seated right next to him. Sure, I ruined a good story (you’ve got to hear him speak). But, even when the tough situation just involves you, the choices we make helps save our day.

So, here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna see my long-time-no-see friends, I was hoping to catch up with, on Sunday. And, there’s always another year, another South By Southwest. But, one thing’s for sure. I’m gonna use tomorrow in a productive fashion. Gonna get rid of my dumb phone that has been the bane of my existence, get my new iPhone, and get some blogging done.

Yes. If nothing else. The one good I can claim this resulted in, is get me to kick that writers-block squarely in the nuts. And, it’s back to blogging, baby.

Thanks for your thoughts and kind words! Here’s some:

Michael Lee Stallard

Flo!

Paul Roetzer from PR 20/20

Those TabbedOut guys

Wade Burgess

Ben Wise

And, to my good friends and peers. See you on Sunday.

 

Filed under: Miscellaneous

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