Alex's Tech Thoughts

The Free Economy

Google, Gmail, Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and many more of your favorite companies and tools are free. They are supported, primarily, by advertising. They don’t sell you a product, you are the product.

This has led me to think that if people are okay with being the product for some of the biggest internet companies, why haven’t we seen this offline and in other parts of our lives. Food, home-owners/renters, entertainment, travel, clothing, and more. Why can’t some of it be offset by advertisers?

Why don’t real estate companies and agents work with advertisers to offer an offset on apartment cost by putting a few banners outside your apartment? I would gladly accept a few hundred dollars off my rent due each month to hang a banner for Pepsi outside my NY apartment.

Maybe companies have tried this. Maybe not. I don’t think it is a terrible idea. I’ve heard worse. I think the only question we really have at the end of the day is that if this were to become rampant, is this the type of world you really want to live in?

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My Obsession With Distribution

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with distribution. For me, distribution is getting myself and things I do out there. A piece of it is networking, physically going out and meeting people. But a bigger part is what I write or things I am interested in. I write frequently here and distribute it via Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Gchat status, Hacker News, Reddit, Google + and other outlets.

Distribution is an exciting space. Some of my favorite companies are in the content distribution space, specifically Outbrain and Taboola. These outlets get more people to your content. Content owners pay per click, the clickers come in naturally through publishers (i.e. in a nice way) and the distribution companies make some dough.

What other content distribution outlets are out there? What about product distribution? What does a new apparel company do to get the word out there? Buy Google AdWords? Promoted tweets? Facebook ads? What about as an individual? How do you get your personal brand out there? What methods can you use?

I’m fascinated by methods of distribution (specifically digital distribution) and want to hear more about what else is out there. Share with me please.

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Digital Tools I Use Everyday

I’ve been thinking about tools I use everyday and wondered how they stacked up to others.

Here is what I use:

1) Twitter (news)

2) Facebook (distribution of my blog and keeping up with friends)

3) LinkedIn (getting updates on who moved jobs, looking up people, connecting with others)

4) Google+ and Skype (google hangouts with Dwolla team for daily meeting and skype for other calls)

5) Google Docs (I rarely use Microsoft Word or Excel- only if I’m in a spot with no internet)

6) Tumblr (post my blog on Tumblr)

7) Gmail and Gchat (to email and chat)

8) Instagram (when I take photos)

9) Foursquare (using Explore to find places around me or to let friends know where I am)

10) Citibank and American Express (check on my finances)

11) Reddit and Hacker News (I’m mostly a lurker, but peruse both each day)

12) Dwolla (I work there and I pay people back with Dwolla)

13) Eventbrite (I typically have an event going on, so I check Eventbrite frequently)

14) Verizon, Time Warner, Con Edison (check my bills almost daily)

15) Games: Angry Birds, Derby Jackpot (Angry Birds played typically in the subway if no internet)

16) Spotify (I listen at my desk and with mobile app- easily worth the $10 a month)

17) Brewster (I have found it to be a much better address book)

18) Dropbox (sharing files and such)

I’m sure I am missing a few, but that is a good high level overview.

What am I missing? What do you use that is awesome and you can’t live without?

Leave it in the comments below.

Betting On Growing With Partners

One of the hardest strategies in partnerships, business development, and when building companies is betting on growing with partners. But when it works— it can pay off in spades.

Think of Zynga. They bet on the Facebook platform and it paid off handsomely. Other ideas that jump to mind are any popular App that benefited greatly from the iTunes App store.

While I was working at Aviary, there were a few small Apps that we definitely benefited from as they were growing with us (and fueled even greater growth). Betting on and putting time into those relationships improved the company’s situation and, I’m convinced, had a positive effect on building an even greater product.

At Dwolla I try to find companies that are already doing big things, as well as looking out for the up and coming opportunities so that we have the opportunity to grow our payment platform with them. I think this will lead to big things happening in the upcoming months. 

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Trying New Things

I used to be wary of trying new things. I didn’t join Facebook and Twitter until 2010. I also didn’t get an iPhone till 2012. I had been, historically, a pretty late adopter on the technology side of things. I’ve been trying to change that the last two years.

Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital is a notorious early-adopter. Everything from Instagram, foursquare, Tumblr, and others, he was pretty early on the platform. This is why he has become an investor of many of them. He uses the platform early and really tries to understand how the community forms. 

I think that once a week we should all try out a new service, use a product offering, immerse ourselves in a new community. It doesn’t take much time and you will probably, in aggregate, gain a ton of utility.

What should I try this week?

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Why Facebook Will Be Around For A Long Long Time Redux

Here is my latest Forbes piece:

Let me know your thoughts!

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Thoughts On OAuth (From A Consumer Perspective)

OAuth which stands for open authorization, has become quite popular in the past few years. Most regular consumers use it every day and don’t really know that they are. Whenever you go to a website and you click “Login with Facebook” or “Login with Twitter” you are using OAuth. Websites like Pinterest, Foursquare, Skillshare, and others use various one-click sign-in capability.

I like OAuth. Let me rephrase that, I like OAuth for sites that I enjoy and trust. For example, I love Skillshare. I use FB Oauth to sign in. I linked up my Twitter, FB, LinkedIn to better improve my profile. It would be a pain to have to recreate my profile for every new site I join. The ones I like, I love connecting via OAuth.

OAuth allows me to share my private resources (e.g. photos, videos, contact lists) stored on one site (usually FB or Twitter) with another site without having to hand out my info to the new site.

The one issue with OAuth is allowing it for sites I don’t like or when sites wants more permissions than I am comfortable accepting. I’m not sure where, but I remember seeing a study showing some data around the more permissions asked for the higher chance of the user bailing. I think each extra permission added had a drop off of 20%. 

Bottom line: If I join a site that I enjoy and plan to use for a long time, I want to Oauth. If it isn’t a site I like or they ask for too many permissions, I think that Oauth is annoying and don’t like to accept.

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