First//Look: BrightKite

Picture 3.pngIn a world of shiny new things, BrightKite is the current top of the list. Beta invites are hard to get and new ones go quickly. So what is BrightKite all about? BrightKite is a social network that hinges on one key differentiating factor. It knows where you are. Users of the site update their locations (manually for now, but I could see GPS updates in the future) and share information with friends as well as other people in the same location.

The content on the site includes Twitter-esque messages about where you are/what you're doing and photography. One very limiting factor at this point is that BrightKite doesn't integrate with the content users are already creating on sites like Twitter and Flickr. BrightKite will push your updates to Twitter, and has a cool way of co-updating your Twitter location, but it still means that you have to create content twice. That's not going to happen in large numbers.

The idea of social, location-based networks aim to close the gap on contextual relevancy that has resulted in irrelevant information overload. I have found that proximity adds context and makes things more relevant to me. This is BrightKite's beta so I'm really looking forward to seeing how they evolve this and bring out more mobile consumption elements (iPhone app, BlackBerry app, proximity alerts, etc.). Advertisers will undoubtedly be perking up at the targeting ability that location brings. That's for another post. If you're on BrightKite make sure you add me.


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Key takeaways:


  • Location-based social networks are growing in number and will be standard in the near future
  • Location is manually updated, but will move to real-time, GPS-based updates when the technology catches up
  • BrightKite has good privacy filters in place which is crucial for the promise of this level of off-line connectedness
  • BrightKite does a good job of pushing its content out, but needs to do a better job of pulling it in
  • Social media overlap (creating the same content more than once) is a growing problem and needs to be planned before sites get to launch stage
  • Location-based ad targeting is a way to monetize this very quickly, but has to be in balance and aim to add value (like if I am standing in line at Wendy's it could offer me an immediate coupon)
  • Mobile plays a large part in the success of this network and will for all social networks in the near-term
  • Would love more consumption options on the phone (not just publishing) to get the most benefit from the service

If you know of a new service that you think I should take a look at drop me an email or leave a comment.


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First//Look: Hulu (beta)

Picture 1.pngWell, it was a long time coming, but NBC finally has Hulu (their YouTube/iTunes competitor) up and running. I will tell you that I came into this First//Look with a skeptical eye. Hulu, on the contrary, really stood out as a great online video experience. The primary downside to this site is that you cannot take the clips with you on an iPod nor can you see them on a mobile device (for the meantime) as it requires the newest Flash plugin.

Here is the video tour of Hulu:

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Key takeaways:


  • The model for displaying and interacting with video online is in its infancy.
  • Big brands are looking at what's working and coming up with new models to leverage technology to provide advertiser and user value.
  • Hulu tries to balance content with advertising (30 second spots with banner ad combos).
  • Hulu allows users to engage with the content in very minimal, controlled ways. Commenting and rating clips is permitted.
  • Video still is not portable. You cannot take it with you on an iPod nor when you're offline.

Now that you have a bit more knowledge about Hulu, what advice would you give to NBC before they roll this out? Is it social enough? Are there features you think they're missing? Let me know what you think in the comments.


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First//Look: Seesmic (pre-alpha)

What do you get when you combine video, social networking, micromedia and a very savvy French entrepreneur? You get Seesmic. Seesmic is the brainchild of French blog-star Loïc LeMeur and aims to do to video conversations what Twitter did to text-based conversations. The site is a social network where the primary content is video. Users record video, post it to the site and other users reply in video.

The site is in pre-alpha (only about 300 users testing right now) and a lot will change over the course of the next couple of months and I'll re-post when it goes into beta. Enjoy the video:


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Here is an example of the user-side of the video experience from Seesmic:

Key takeaways for marketers:


  • The move toward video as an intimate, personal form of communicating is here
  • Technology has caught up to consumers and video is easy to record on Seesmic right through the browser
  • Conversations will be mobile on this site down the road so you can create, send and reply to videos from a mobile device
  • Content created by the users is re-mixed into a daily video best-of video that is then shared with everyone
  • Hooks into YouTube, Twitter and Skype help auto-promote content to larger, external networks
  • The company is asking for suggestions and proactive responding to them in video
  • The openness that the company is providing as they share how they are growing is a model more companies should follow

Through the videos they've created I have found myself becoming attached to the company and the model they are using to build a company. I will keep an eye on this in the future and let you know when more invites become available.

If you have a site that you would like me to look at and possibly do a post like this on, drop me an email or leave a comment on the post.


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First//Look: Firebrand (beta)

Picture 7.pngWhat do you get when you take a great user interface, add in the biggest brands from around the world and pull in all of their best commercials? You get Firebrand. Firebrand is a site that uses commercials at the content. There is precedence for this in the mainstream media where every quarter there is a show in prime time called something like "Worlds Best Commercials". The Superbowl ads are highly anticipated. People do like to watch good commercials, but will they come to Firebrand? Time will tell.

The site is in a private beta, but I'm showing it to you today to get your input. Check out the video.


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Here are a few of the commercials I saw/found on the site.

Some make me laugh:

Some make me emotional:

Some I just love to watch over and over:

Key takeaways:


  • Great interface for showcasing, searching and navigating video
  • Big brand representation gives immediate legitimacy
  • Social interaction is key to engagement
  • Co-branded promotions and contests could be a driver of traffic
  • Promos are not interruptive (as they should be)
  • This is the long-tail at work, niches like this have an audience you just have to find them
  • Content portability is crucial and well done. I can take it on my phone, iPod, blog, etc.
  • Tie-in with TV channel could help drive traffic to the web

Key questions:


  • What is the revenue model here? Outside of the brands sponsoring their clips or paying to get involved, I am not sure.
  • Will people come? This is the key question.

What do you think of the site? Will you visit it regularly or just every once in a while (or maybe never)? Do you think it has legs to stand on?


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First//Look: Yahoo! Mash (beta)

Picture 7.pngFor big media companies, social networks are like lawyers. Everybody has one. The newest company to release a dedicated social network into beta is Yahoo. It's interesting to note that Yahoo has had all of the pieces of a truly engaging social network platform for as long as I can remember. Message boards, Answers, Flickr, MyYahoo!, etc. all operated independently of each other in the past. Yahoo has recently made moves to consolidate properties and is leveraging it's Yahoo ID system as a single sign-on for all of the sites.

Mash is still in beta. That being said, it has a way to go to catch up to the interactivity and personalization of MySpace and Facebook. This beta is hard to personalize, doesn't pull in RSS feeds with consistency and has few plugins from developers (because it is in beta). I would love to see Yahoo use some of it's own UI tools to make the experience better all around. Right now it appears very stripped down way (not in a good, Facebook-esque way).

Yahoo's long-term property acquisition and convergence strategy should help this network gain traction. They will need to determine what a user's forward facing presence is in the system and then let people build on that. For example, I have a Mash profile, MyYahoo profile, Flickr Profile, etc. That's too many for one entity and I could see Mash serving as a mid-range solution for doing some consolidation to make user's lives easier.

Check out my First//Look at the Mash beta:

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Key takeaways:


  • Enable people to do cool stuff and get out of their way!
  • Find out where your target audience is and focus there (Facebook, MySpace, Mash, etc.) - don't get sucked in to the hype of one network over another
  • Try to add value to each and every interaction
  • Personalization is key. Let people feel like they own the space and make doing this as easy as possible
  • Leverage user generated content sources within the partner network to add more value (something that Yahoo/Google are better positioned to offer vs. Facebook and to some extent MySpace)

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First//Look: dopplr (beta)

dopplr_logo.pngDopplr is a social network that I've been trying to join for a while, but invites have been few and far between. It's a highly focused, social travel site. Users plot their future travel plans and then share that information with their friends and family. The larger the network the more valuable this service will become. People in the same city at the same time (who would have previously missed each other) will be able to make arrangements to meet up. It's also a great way just to let people know where you are and where you're going. I know my mom would use that service to know where I am traveling.

Check out the video for a quick tour of dopplr.

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This is a hyper-targeted network with zero advertising. I am not sure what the business model is to keep things moving forward, but the geo-targeting and personalized marketing options here are huge. I do think that for dopplr to reach it's full potential they should build out onto other networks. I would find it easier to use if I could log into Facebook or MySpace or Bebo and find my existing friends instead of trying to re-add my network by hand.

If you have a site that you would like me to profile on First//Look, send me an email or leave a comment on this post.

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First//Look: Microsoft's Tafiti (beta)

Picture 3.pngThe competition for search eyeballs is an intense game. Anything that a company can do to test new waters or create real differentiation could potentially be a driver for new user acquisition. Of the big three search proprietors, Microsoft has stepped up with an innovative new visual search tool called Tafiti (which means "do research" in Swahili).

Built on the company's Silverlight (it's basically another version of Flash and could be the downfall of this product) platform, Tafiti allows users to search in an interactive, visual environment. The motion is fluid and rich and should appeal to anybody who is tired of the stark white look of Google or the overly crushed look of Yahoo. This universal search tool incorporates images, RSS, news and books into one search with a visual toggle between them. The option that allows you to drag results to a pile for later reference is a very cool idea. (Makes me wonder if/when Apple would partner with Google to do something like this.)

Here is the video for your review.

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Key takeaways:


  • All major search players are moving to universal search
  • Visual search overlays like this one could be a part of next generation search apps
  • Because items like images, videos, RSS, books, etc. will be indexed, marketers need to start looking at tags and other meta data to make sure people can find them
  • Silverlight = Flash functionality, but it's a separate plugin
  • Would be interesting if Microsoft built another version of this in Flash to bump up adoption

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First//Look: Pownce (alpha)

pownce.jpgThe newest venture from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kevin Rose (Digg CEO, Revision3, etc.) is the much hyped Pownce. To date it's been billed as everything from a Twitter killer to an email and instant messenger replacement. I Pownce here (Thanks to Jim Kukral for the invite).

The product is still in Alpha (meaning it's fairly unstable and in active development), but let's take a first look.


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Items of note on Pownce (alpha):


  • Not overly impressive at this point, but shows strong potential as a communications platform
  • Not a Twitter-killer until mobile hooks are put into place
  • Easy to put contacts into groups to streamline communication
  • Reliability will improve as the product goes into beta and then launches
  • Nice use of Adobe's AIR framework to make install easy and application response good
  • Enhanced messaging makes communicating easily

I'll follow Pownce as it moves into beta (mostly stable, minimum active development) to see how it unfolds. Look for new communications tools to emerge along this line in the next 6 months as more people try to invent the killer app.

If you know of a site or service you'd like to see me review let me know by email or in the comments here.

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