Mail, Shoutout and Feedback!

Just wanted to a quick update on a couple of things.

fatdoor’s messaging capabilities (such as sending emails, friend requests etc) were down this evening from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM due to our mail server down time (note to myself: post a blog entry “before” we are down next time). But please note that, none of your friend requests or sign-ups are lost during this time, they were simply queued and processed as soon as we are back up at 5:30 PM.

Based on the feedback so far, the “shoutout” feature is one of the most loved features on fatdoor; for those who haven’t played with fatdoor, “shoutout” is a simple way of keeping in touch with your neighborhood online – think of it as your “news feed” for the neighborhood (you can actually subscribe to it via any feed reader too) that is generated by your neighbor activity.

We are getting a lot of feedback from our early Alpha users (both feature requests and bugs) and we are working on them quickly to roll out what you are asking for. So, please keep it coming!

As always, I can be reached at this blog or at my email: chandu@fatdoor.com

Cheers,
Chandu Thota
Co-Founder & CTO
http://www.fatdoor.com

Thanks for all the feedback on fatdoor (and keep it coming)

We have been getting a lot of blogger attention and feedback on fatdoor so far. Thank you very much and keep it coming. One of the major feedback items was that it was not clear on our site that we are only open in Silicon Valley; we have outlined it in our press release, but who reads a press release anyway ūüôā So we added on our homepage last night that we are only open in Silicon Valley; all other users will be in an invitation queue so that they will be our first users in their neighborhood.

Also here is an interesting screen shot as of this morning: fatdoor is one of the most tagged item on blogs. Thank you for all your feedback and please keep it coming.

Cheers,

Chandu Thota

Co-Founder & CTO

fatdoor is live in Silicon Valley

We have just launched http://www.fatdoor.com/ at Ignite Where 2.0 and we are live in Silicon Valley. If you live in the area, sign-up to “get to know your neighbors”; if you are not in the area, sign-up for an invitation – we are going to open up for different geographic areas soon.

This is an exciting product that we have been working on for last 4 months with a goal to enable neighbors connect, communicate and share information in the neighborhood.

All neighbors in the neighborhood have profile pages created and they can be edited by anyone in the network (friends, family and neighbors). You can reach any neighbor either by directly writing to them (via fatdoor mail) or by inviting them to join your network (friends etc).
fatdoor also offers rich community tools such as “Geo Spatial Groups”, and “shout outs” for one to many communication. You can post a shoutout (think of a message broadcast in your neighborhood) to reach all your neighbors within 5 miles or can post a group message just to reach your block. You pick how you want to communicate. And you get to keep tabs on all this via RSS feed to add to your favorite portal like MSN, Yahoo or iGoogle.
Finally, one cool thing about fatdoor is it you can see community activity around a location. For example, if you have a Palo Alto Blogger meetup at Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto, CA, visiting the profile page for Coupa Cafe will show you the blogger community meeting at that location. That gives you a good idea of all the community (group) activity that happens around that place! That can expose your community activity to more people so that you reach out to more members in the city.
There is a lot more to write about for detailed features – which I will continue to do so in next couple of posts. But in the mean time, if you are in the Silicon Valley, please sign up and give us feedback!
Cheers,
Chandu Thota
Co-Founder & CTO
PS: Venture Beat has a nice story on fatdoor. Dan Kaplan did an awesome job in getting to the value of our service and the potential. Give it a read.

Privacy principles & online product design

Scoble posted an entry today about privacy on the web in the context of people search.

Privacy on the web is something that I think about at work every day. It’s an interesting subject – because each person is different, their life styles are different and their social circles are different. After talking to many privacy experts, conducting many focus groups this is what I have learned:

There are 3 kinds of people on the internet; if you are building an internet product about people, you need to know these 3 kinds so that you can have good policies in place to take care of each one of them.

1. Public People: these are the types that don’t mind sharing their phone number on their web site (yes, like Scoble). These are the types of people that have blogs, myspace profiles and don’t mind getting attention. These are also the guys that do ego-searches on Google and subscribe to Google alert’s on their name. Since they are so public by nature, you don’t need to worry about them ūüôā Just make sure you have the tools in place to moderate their exposure if and when they need it.

2. Private People: these are the types that do mind being exposed; these are the types that also pay phone companies to un-list them from phone books (it’s a sweet deal for phone book companies btw :)). They are smart enough to know the system to take care of themselves. In some extreme cases you find them paying monthly $ to companies like Identity Sweep to “keep track of internet” to protect their identity. When you are designing a product, keep these guys at the center of your design. Privacy control tools are not just enough for these folks. So, what makes a big difference? Policy! Make sure you have right defaults in place, for example. As long as you keep these guys happy, you are good to go.

3. Public Private People: these are the people that think they are private but their information is exposed in all public places. And these are the types that are private in nature but don’t know what’s out there on the web about them in public domain (now this can be due to a couple of reasons: a. they genuinely don’t know – such as my grand ma, who does not know how to use internet, but her address is listed in phone book and she is listed on every white-pages site on the web; b. they genuinely think they are safe online – such as many many Americans that are un-suspectingly clicking a check-box while shopping online, whose fine-print reads it’s OK to share their information for commercial purposes). Some of them for sure will get a shock of their life if they see what’s out there available on the internet freely for millions of others to see. Now, if you are designing a product, just make sure you build a community that makes it hard to abuse the system; and of course, if you can reach out to them and educate them about privacy and their life online, its even better.

So, its all about tools, policy and the community that matter if you are designing a consumer product online.

Having said all that, new search engines like Spock don’t bother me much with respect to privacy on the web. I suspect they aggregate content that’s already available and make it easy to get information about you that otherwise can be found using a bunch of existing services like Google, Wink, ZoomInfo, Zaba and Intelius. So what am I worried about? The sites that create content about people – these sites worry me a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for creating content but the sites that lack tools, policy and the community to protect the privacy of their users worry me (I can show you a number of examples in this category).

And finally, yes, I work at a social networking company that aim to create content about people;
and I guarantee you, protecting our user’s privacy is at the center of our product’s design – but – if you have great ideas about privacy principles in online product design, I would love to hear from you.

Am I going to Google?

In response to my blog entry this morning, I got a bunch of emails asking me if my new employer is Google.

Just like Microsoft, Google is a great company to work for – but – I’m not joining Google. I’m joining a much much smaller (only in size) startup company.

I will be writing more about what I will be doing in near future but for sure we will be embracing Microsoft platforms in a big way (including Microsoft Virtual Earth! ūüôā

Can we ever create a Silicon Valley in India?

Before you start reading this, I recommend you read Paul Graham’s “Why Startups Condense in America” because I keep referring to it¬†in this post.

So, can we ever have a Silicon Valley in India? As Paul says, to create startups the basic ingredients that you need are¬†nerds and rich people. I’ve been to both Bangalore and Hyderabad¬†– both have great schools (granted Bangalore has IISc and that’s one of a kind on the planet so it has an edge over Hyderabad – but this is not about Hyderabad vs. Bangalore) and both have rich people from the IT boom in India – so is that enough to create a right mix to start startups? No, not quite.

There are a couple of things that going for America: they are not too fussy and they have a huge domestic market. In India to start a company you have to jump through hoops – at least that was my experience back in 1997, I was just out of school and I remember all the hoops that we had to jump through to incorporate a business. And then India has no domestic market, not yet at least. Even if you want to start a company that targets international markets you need exposure to the right problem set in right time – which is impossible to get when you are in school. Even after joining a company as an employee after schooling, mostly we teach how to build a software services company but not a startup or a software products company. So the typical formula that Paul Graham sets for startups, that startups are started by young people that target a domestic market falls apart for India. So how do we create right environment with right nerds that are backed by right investors?

In my mind, to create such an environment, you need keep this following three things in mind:

1. Products not Services:¬†Indian software market is solely made up of services – not products; to create a startup environment, we need to think of more products than services.¬†Knowledge in this area is a must for India to build right products for right markets in the right time. The only way for India to grown in this area is to see an influx of successful NRI’s (preferably from valley) either moving to India or sharing their knowledge in Indian schools by being part of some sort of¬†“visiting staff”. Services business does not scale well if you are into creating value instead of generating $.

2.¬†Wealth not Money: Services business create money (in Rs or $) for each line of code you write – but a great product creates wealth (and money as a return) over a period of time by proving its value in the market. Most of the young engineers in India fall for “making money” game instead of thinking of creating wealth (and value) in the software markets. Nothing wrong in making money, but creating wealth is far more powerful than creating money. Creating wealth reflects on the society and lives of others, where as money only creates better living for individuals.

3. Entrepreneurship not Employment: Indian schools teach us a great deal about how to get a job Рbut I have rarely seen focus on entrepreneurship (even in business schools). Even in IIMs, to my surprise, the focus is on campus placements rather than bootstrapping companies and building businesses. It almost seems like we have given up the idea of creating employment and look for employment. I think this is where the schools should perhaps revamp their curriculum to coach students to think towards creating wealth instead of making $100K straight out school. The only way you can do this is by creating an environment around schools where rich and nerds can hang-out (like restaurants in Palo-Alto in the Valley).

We have many smart people that are driven and risk taking Рbut very few of them actually venture into starting their own companies because there is no proper coaching either from schools or from the society to think in that direction. If we cannot parlay our success in software services into building global software products, we simply cannot sustain the growth. To see a better India, I think we need to focus on building value in our software sector that leads to the creation of nerds-rich-startup cycle. Hopefully, we are not too far from it.

ScobleShow!

Scoble’s foray into video blogging is felt all across the web – and there is a reason for it. Scoble is known for his content. He has done it with his blog before his Microsoft days, he did at Microsoft with Channel 9 and now at PodTech. When I talked about it in my post regarding “what’s next for Scoble” this is exactly what I had in my mind – a TV Show – I even remember asking him about it. There is no doubt that Scoble will be successful in this venture – and it’s great to see that he already talks about the things to improve about his show¬†– but there are a couple of things that are missing from the list and here they are:

1. Site is too slow: I’m pretty sure that the PodTech team is already working on it but they need to scale for the upcoming flood of traffic ūüôā – this is a good problem to have but they need to be quick to solve this.

2. Site’s design: Not sure how PodTech designers plan to scale the design for Scoble’s wide verity of up-coming content but they need to work on basic usability aspects to categorize content (beyond tags) and search (including video search!).

3. Ability to link and host video’s from other’s blogs: If I’m going to link to Scoble’s language war’s video talk, I want to be able to post a snippet or even entire video link from my blog (similar to: YouTube or Google Video). Sure I can’ link using the permalink but it does not work well for rich media content like ScobleShow!

4. Content: Finally, this is about the content itself. I said before Scoble is known for his content in the past and his speciality lies in covering the content that other’s haven’t covered before – and I hope he continues that with his ScobleShow. But when I see the list of people that he wants us to pick from all I see folks that are being covered by tons of other channels, magazines and media – so Scoble should probably continue on his original style¬†of talking to the un-sung heroes behind many successes (like he did at Channel 9 @ Microsoft) and introducing them to the world. That’s¬†how I at least see ScobleShow is different from other 100’s of tech video blogs and channels around.

Having said all that, Scoble is an early indicator of where the the blogging and the media is heading to Рway to go Robert, congratulations!

Enterprise JavaScript Programming

One of the primary tasks of my development¬†team¬†at Microsoft is to develop client-side (web browser) UI frameworks and client-side APIs for Virtual Earth. As a heavy client-centric web application,¬†our product, Windows Live Local, requires a lot of JavaScript based development coupled with server-side development (using popular AJAX and JSON protocols). What I have personally learned over time is that we have to be smart about what functionality we can build on the client-side vs. what functionality we can move to server side; this is a crucial step in the design process since most of the server side development is fairly simple (or straight forward)¬†compared to JavaScript development. You might think I’m crazy when I say this but believe me it’s hard to do development in JavaScript – no, I’m not talking about simple client side scripts that you use to make dynamic HTML web sites – but I’m talking about Enterprise JavaScript Programming or simply EJP.

EJP is slightly different from what usually scripting developers do with JavaScript РEJP is different in a way that you need to build stacks of re-usable layers of JavaScript libraries that also allow you to plug in general development blocks such as threading, state-serializers, networking, perf counters, tracers etc Рnow the only problem is that the language is not mature enough to support these things natively. On contrary any .NET language (or Java) that can be used for server side development support these primitive concepts natively. That is why I say that it is hard to develop in JavaScript.

Now,¬† I do know that there are some good debuggers out there that can make your life easier when you are working on 100s of thousands of scripting code but it’s not clearly enough. Microsoft’s Atlas framework is aimed to solve some of these problems by giving some structure and framework to JavaScript programming and it is a good start in EJP arena; but¬†it is¬†going to be a while to get production ready Atlas Framework, so¬†we are on our own for building these core building blocks to build rich web applications and platforms like Virtual Earth.

So the bottom-line is this:¬†“developing in JavaScript may be easy but developing Enterprise Ready Applications in JavaScript is extremely hard”. Do you agree?

Now, EJP is what precisely makes my job challenging and fun at Virtual Earth – so if you are ready to do some EJP, send me your resume. ūüôā¬†