Friday, October 06, 2006

Sweet Irony

A a couple of friends pointed me to this article:
The Investor: Jim Breyer, partner, Accel Partners

What he's backed: Brightcove, Facebook, Prosper

What he wants now: Social-networking sites may be sprouting like weeds, but none yet operates as a bona fide marketplace, with members buying and selling their own creations as much as they blog, link, and post. Breyer, who sits on Wal-Mart's board, is interested in backing an international network for indie artists, musicians, filmmakers, authors, designers, and other creative types from dozens of countries.

Ideally, the site would have the download and payment features to create what he calls a "micromarket" for members' wares. "There might be a Chinese student filmmaker with a five-minute film who wants to reach a niche of U.S. users," Breyer says. "He could find people willing to buy his films, and maybe a producer willing to bankroll more." Transaction fees would supplement ad revenue.

Breyer wants a five- to 10-person team to build a prototype using a peer-to-peer structure that would reduce bandwidth costs, and to identify core groups of users that would get traffic moving to the site.

What he'll invest: $10 million
I'll be damned if this doesn't sound exactly like a concept i've been developing and pitching over the past two ... three years. This article i wrote on dijjer (controversially dugg for having dared to suggest that something out there might be more appropriate than BitTorrent for certain use cases) a while back reflected just one of the latest strategies I was exploring to build a scalable ecosystem.

How did I get into this? Being in L.A., quite a few good friends of mine are struggling artists. Jazz artists. Blues. Independent filmmakers. Upon pitching the ecosystem to them, their response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and they've contributed a lot of great ideas. But I've so-far been letting them down though. Yet, applications of this concept don't stop there. The rabbit-hole goes deeper, much deeper.

The problem is, ideas, no matter how thoroughly-developed, and pitches, are dime a dozen. I've learned the hard way that nothing moves forward until you've built something palpable for people to poke at, get their hands-on, and understand your vision. But by the time you've gotten to that point, really, what the hell do you need investors, or anybody else for?

You ought to just go it alone. Screw investors. If you've got a sound business model, with a well-thought out application built from the ground-up with scaling in mind, you can buy the hardware and bandwidth you need, when you need it. You need investors when what you're looking to build is yet another buzzword-compliant web2.0-taggy-mashuppy-socialnetworky-hotmeme'o'the'day-y with no plan for a strong revenue stream, which in the end will die as yet another fad, but will have made a few investors rich because they got Yahoo! to purchase the user base.

At the last eBay developer conference, i got the chance to meet Shannon Sofield, from, who gave us a presentation of his digital marketplace. He's figured out the tough part: facilitating transactions and fulfillment for the purchase and delivery of digital assets. And he's currently doing it without the assistance of any peer-to-peer framework. If he starts adding a social framework to his ecosystem, he'll have it made in the shade, not that what he currently has, doesn't already pay his bills quite handsomely. My hat off to Shannon, for having a vision, and superbly executing on it. And there's a lot of heat around his ecosystem, the dude could not rest for a second at the conference.

Let's hope that in 2007, I put an end to the pondering, and start delivering. If i don't, someone else will. And in the end, it'll be okay. Sad for me, but okay. I believe humanity is in dire need of an alternative to today's media distribution. Far too much of what we see, hear, read is controlled by a handful of corporations that call all the shots, and what rises to the top, is too often not even close of being anywhere near the cream. Widest possible audiences are being catered to, leaving little to no room for niche interests.

Money today is flowing in a highly inefficient and wasteful funnel pattern, from the unwashed masses to BigMedia, so many revenue opportunities are simply not being catered to.

We're missing out on so much. And it's sad.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Get Work Done with Blossom for OS X!

Round 3 of voting for MyDreamApp has just begun. Consider voting for Dan Lundmark's Blossom project.

Ever wonder where all the hours go? Blossom tracks how much time you spend on each app, web site, or document, and visualizes the data as a beautiful blossoming plant. Meet your goals and see your virtual plant blossom! Vote for the Blossom concept at and see your productivity blossom!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

PPK On JavaScript

In the process of paying a visit to PPK's site while writing my previous blog entry, i stumbled upon his first book. As I sift through its Table of Contents, I'm feeling this incredible urge to buy it, and tell every engineer I know to do the same.

Done. Ordered it.

New .Mac Webmail Coming Soon

The following message from Apple just came in our .Mac mail with this .Mac Webmail Illustration:
The new .Mac webmail is coming soon, and you'll feel like you've seen it before.
With its smart use of the latest web technology, it'll remind you of the Mail application on your desktop, with a simple and elegant interface, drag-and-drop capability, built-in Address Book, and more.

A new look

Everything is within easy reach. Your mail folders are next to the Inbox, and you can read full messages and access your contact info without leaving the page.


Manage your Inbox easily, by dragging and dropping messages, just like you do on your desktop - even multiple messages at the same time.

Message pane

Read entire messages in a pane located right below your message list, just like you do in your desktop Mail application.

Smart refreshes

.Mac webmail keeps page reloads to a minimum, by refreshing only the portion of the page that needs updating, instead of reloading the entire page.

Quick Reply

A .Mac webmail exclusive. Dash off a response without leaving your Inbox, by clicking the Quick Reply button next to the message to which you're responding.

Built-in Address Book

It's fully integrated, so you can quickly access and search your contact info. Start typing in a name, and all your matching Address Book contacts appear in the address field.

Message previews

The .Mac webmail Inbox displays the beginning of every message, so you can quickly scan your messages without opening them.

Message flagging

Flag and unflag messages with a single click.

Keyboard shortcuts

Save time with keyboard short-cuts for common operations like composing new messages and searching your mailboxes.

Thoughts: Whenever we try to replicate desktop-like functionality within web documents, that's typically when web browsers are pushed to their limits of web standards support. It's rather feasible to achieve fairly advanced functionality in a cross-platform manner. But it's obviously far from trivial, and most often an exercise in pulling one's hair out. Cross-browser research and advocacy from guys like Peter-Paul Koch is invaluable to the developer community.

Building advanced user interfaces often requires going to the edge of CSS support, and Windows Internet Explorer's horribly broken box model and many missing advanced CSS features sure don't help. I've often noticed script execution speed issues in Safari, even when compared to OS X Firefox on the same machine. And when we start manipulating too many cross-referencing objects, I recently learned that Win/IE will leak memory. The list goes on.

It's reasonable to expect that Apple's web-based email will have to work flawlessly, with its most advanced features in Safari. I'm curious to see whether Apple will also strive to keep their application working flawlessly in other browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, and Win/IE. After all, the whole point of having access to .Mac Webmail, is to be able to access our mail from any machine, even if it isn't a Mac.

Brandy and

Based on Ernest's Photoshop mock-up, and after tweaking some content, the new is up and running.

The slideshows are semantically marked-up, and brought to life through a modified version of a pretty simple, yet effective reusable CSS/JS concoction i'd put together a while back.

The tabbed navigation *and* its content are wrapped into HTML List Items, which is a bit of a crazy/overkill way of doing this, but i figured it'd be fun for content to be tied in the markup to the section it corresponds to. A more classic approach might have been to have a UL block that describes the headers, followed by a succession of DIV blocks for the contents of each section.

My approach does make things clumsy in the sense that I have to "manually" position content blocks with negative "left:" absolute positions within a given LI block. This results in the little dots between the headers not always being centered. But it's not too horrible :) It does look better on a Mac than on a PC, with the "Zapf Chancery" font.