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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Design & Learning from Viral Applications FB App lifecycle

Step 1

(Initial Growth):

Initial Growth (based on advertising principles) – all about conversion rates (#times people see profiles, canvas page, invites, activity stream, feeds). Goal MAX conversion rates for each channel. Consider long-term user experience. Effective (aggressive) methods at the beginning will not work later in app life cycle

Design/implement based on simple concepts. Viral channels are more important than features!

Step 2


Goal: concept validation.

  • Iterate/execute rapidly. Viral loop. A/B testing. Do not complicate – it will make execution/testing/measuring. Goal: figure out features, do not be emotional, and be guided by data/metrics.
  • Use web matrix (Google analytics for conversion rates)

[Social Application classes]

  • Channel (superwall)
  • Content
  • Dating
  • Games (related to dating, affinity groups)
  • Gifts
  • Self-Expression

Understand audience, look at market size, potential penetration (set expectation right :). Ning has impressive numbers but segmented. iGoogle (10-15 Mil, virality is not clear yet, how to build initial friend list?)

  • Understand activity stream.
  • Focus on simple
  • Focus on activity stream that all users can engage into

Typical 30 releases/day during the post-launch phase.

Take extra care of 1-st impression (app about page is important!)

Step 3

(grows, tuning along the way)

Start with the call to action

Figure out conversion rate (make sure x*y>1)

Preview Page messages turning

App turning

Step 4


Buy additional throughput, engage ad network

Make sure that viral loop works – otherwise money will go into drain.

Use different add network.

Cross-promote apps!

Step 5



How to make users to come back? How to make users to come back?

Saturated social circles. Critical mass.

Good functionality bring users back – tune for user experience! 1-to-1 becomes more important than invites. Use e-mails and messaging. Do not spam – interact by telling only when something happened.

Step 6


Understand that every channel will degrade over time. Set your expectations right!

Location Web presentation at Web 2.0

Location Web

Location = context

Context -> higher relevancy -> user experience

Location is a killer mobile app enabler

Fire Eagle – location broker (get all inputs, have app (publisher) registered). Dopler as publisher. Fireball get access for the info

DO use FireEagle PHP library! (Update, query, integrate)

Geolocation methods:

Triangulation (WiFi 20[m], GPS 1[m], Cell Tower 2000[m]) {Loki JavaScript API} Garmin device plug-in, get path data GPX

Association (IP Geolocation) {quova, ip2location}

Geo Term Extraction {MetaCarta Query Parser API, Urban Mapping GeoMods}

Geocoding {geonames (started with Tiger geoset in Postgres), Google, Yahoo,}


JavaScript API

Browser.getGeoLocation() -

Mobile location

iPhone (WiFi, cell tower) and other mobile API

Symbian S60


WHERE Widgets $3/mth for users, no need to have relationship with phone network provider – where wil do it for you {}

SkyHook (WiFi only)


Cell Tower info sources

ZoneTag (yahoo)



WhereCamp unconference May 17-th, May 18-th. Mt. View

Important: only integrated (combined) location methods can provide reliavle location info


Geocoding Links:

  • geoNames web services:
  • Google Geocoder class:
  • Yahoo geocoding API

SEO Optimization


(Serve different content, could be in violation of Google policy)

IP delivery is used to get around Google bot (detect if bot is coming from one of Google's computers)

Use English->English translation to detect/display cloaked page

301 redirect

And know when to use 302 instead

Supplemental Index

Supplemental index queries does not work on Google any more. Use method described below: – show only main index pages, can be used in calculation in %% of

To take out of sup index – pop-up rank by linking to home page or by any other method

Duplicate content

Dilute page importance – get rid of them when possible

Scan for it!

Block duplicate content for crawlers by rel=nofollow


Complete control over design/HTML

Menu based on CSS shows SE what is linked (much better than JavaScript)

Can put more emphasis on what is important

Image replacement (careful to not been caught), nice way to get around brand police

Keyword Research

Google Suggest (from toolbar) (from

Keyword Density

Density is not as important as location of these words

"Thin Slicing"

Title text is the most important on the page. Have list of all URL, and list of titles. Make sure singular vst to plural, common misspellings

Reverse Engineering of competitors (with Y! account) Look into internal pages -> export into single .tsv file as the result of all search.

Generate "smart" inbound links

  • Write an article on W3C and link back to your site. They publish in press articles.
  • Become contributor, etc for non-profits
  • Buy existing site for SEO purpose (slowly change content: weeks, month)
  • passing page rank
  • Donate to site thanking to in-kind donors that put your link on the page
  • Put comments on blogrolls
  • Wikipedia (do not edit from your Co address). Wikipedia is no-follow but journalists and bloggers go-to the link
  • Digg. It is as much about submitter as about content. Know community to target, do a lot of altruistic stuff (like with Wikipedia) or go to top 100 digger list and ask Digg pro
  • YouTube, Flicker are not generating pagerank but bloggers and journalist will find you and link from there articles. Titling is very important. Build a micro-site, have co name as log-in on YouTube.

SEO Tools

SEO for Firefox extensions



API Design notes from Web 2.0 Expo

Twitter API Experience

It is ALL around REST these days. Even Google abandoned more complicated API in favor of RESTfull

For Twitter API more that 80% of overall traffic these days

Twitter manages developer community over Google Group

400 applications added by hand to the directory from e-mail, tons more are around and not the catalog

XML, JSON, and many other formats supported

Grow API organically (started with 2 methods and no documentation), from the conversation with developers "I can do X if you do Y"

Documentation is really important – at least reverse engineer. Doc should describe at least: How do I start? Is API crawlable? How to dive into the API?

Support developers 24 hrs is important – be present! If not listening, developers will go forward.

Delegate to other developers who are active within the community. Do not forget to socially reward them.

Scaling from API prospective. XML, JSON are not designed for scale by itself. Do it early is a big win. Dedicate part of server farm for API – do not mix destination and API on the same servers

Security issues. API is where bad-behaving users will go first. Audit. Monitor. Expect what can be leaked.

What twitter did wrong?

  • Did not start with
  • Did not version the API
  • Did not make life easy (or easier) for Flash developers
  • Did not automate (statistics, admin use, app galleries)
  • Many more

New in twitter API

  • Rudimentary geolocation support
  • More consistency between methods
  • Parity between user-side and API side

Misc Observations

It is unclear how to make API into business. It is a trade-off between value from dev community and users. Mashery pretends to monetize on API. QOS is an option.

OAuth [] is absolutely where authorization goes on API. More complex on production and consumer site.

Jabber/XMPP – most clients pull constantly. A lot of overhead can be saved this way. But overhead and lack of libraries slow down the effort.

Web->API->SOA Model provides: separation of concerns, direction to move towards

Faces of APIs: XML, spreadsheets, static virtual maps, static URLs, SOAP, JSON, serialized PHP, JavaScript callbacks, etc

The only way to transfer date/time data – UNIX timestamp

New API directions:

  • Amazon S3/(with billing associated with it and authentication)
  • OAuth – emerging standard for 3-d party in client-server relationship. Create a situation to provision on behalf of other users.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tagging entrepreneurs at StartupSchool

Tagging entrepreneurs at Startup School

Startup School this weekend was by far the best entrepreneur event this year. By amount of energy floating around and amount of applause from the audience it may well surpass rock concerts in New York.

Interestingly enough it was not as much about mechanics of razing startup money or even building a viable business, but rather about common sense and a choice that entrepreneurs need to make. The choice is between going to venture capital firms in hope of building next great Googles and Facebooks with very little odds and building successful money-making companies with much bigger odds. People interested in later should checkout great speech by David Heinemeier [] (creator of the Ruby on Rails framework), others may continue to read my boring notes.

Suggestions for startups to raise money

What to do:

Talk only to “good” investors

Tell existing story

Do deals in parallel

Thech founders are the key in SV

Create San Hill Buzz

Do not be distracted by fundraising process (no more than ½ person assigned to the process)

What all investors look for:

Market (big & growing fast). Startup cannot create markets. Customers with “hair on fire”. Unfair advantage.

Great Team

Great Product

Story that all investors want to hear:

Exploding market.

Best solution.

Best team.

Suggestions and observations

Get twice $$ what you think is needed

Avoid “super pro rata” in terms – makes hard to get second round

Deal making is about alternatives – more the better

Talk to CEOs of potential investors

Evl0-ery company has a rocky beginning

37 Signals

Tagging developers from Fortune 500 to fortune 5M. Different rules in that world – NO VC. No sales cycles – just solving one problem may be at little better than someone else


-“listen to your users”

Amazon, Cloud computing

· AWS bandwidth passed Amazon retail bandwidth worldwide

· S3

· EC2

· SimpleDB

· SimpleQuue

· Flexible payment service

· Mechanical Turk

BlueOrigin [] (Vertical takeoff and landing vehicle company funded by Jeff Bezos) as user for EC2 for computation

Google app engine. Will it be real competitor to EC2? Time will show.

“Customer focus is more important than competitive focus” – thank you, Jeff Bezos for setting right priorities for Amazon