WebInno37 Preview

Some people mark the passage of time by an annual rite of award ceremonies, others by the coming and going of sports or television seasons. Me? I measure by WebInno events and it’s hard to believe that it’s already time for another one! Hard to believe but true nevertheless. Tonight is WebInno37 and if you’re in Kendall Square you might want to stop by. You can register here.

As always, the event will feature a mix of ‘main dish’ companies, which will have five or seven minutes to present to the gathered masses and ‘side dish’ companies that will join the ‘main dish’ presenters in demoing before and after the presentations.

One of the things that stands out for me about WebInno37 is the inclusion of Timbre as a main dish company. They were a side dish back in September for WebInno35/Rocket and are the first company (that I can think of at least) that has appeared as both so quickly. Given how awesome they are, it makes sense. But here I am getting ahead of myself! Let’s get a little more organized, shall we?

Here’s my take on the companies that will be participating in WebInno37, starting with the main.

Timbre – The Band Discovery App That Lets Music Find You – Like I said above, these guys were at WebInno a few months ago. I thought they were the coolest company at the event. There’s no reason to think they’re any less cool now. What do they do and what makes them cool, you ask? They let you know what’s happening in terms of music around you. It’s an app (iOS only at the moment) that uses geolocation and a content feed (from SeatGeek) to let you know what shows are happening around you.

You can specify a radius (from one to fifty miles) and it shows you band names in a really clean interface. If you touch a band name it brings up a new screen with album art if available (or a grey weave if not). This screen tells you where the band is playing. Touching it allows you to purchase tickets, share the show with friends and listen to/download a track from iTunes. It’s all very clean, clear and intuitive.

When I spoke to these guys at WebInno Rocket I asked about the ability to filter by venue and they explained it wasn’t something they were doing. Their rationale is that people should start with the music and go from there. I totally agree. If you’re into going out and finding new bands close by Timbre is for you. It’s awesome.

ThriveHive – Small Business Marketing Made Simple – A really good friend of mine recently started a kitchen design business, Discount Cabinets in Framingham. It’s been almost two years and things are really starting to pick up. He and I have talked about marketing a few times and it’s a big challenge. The most effective approach for him is to establish relationships with builders and contractors. This can lead to more sales but also has a longer sales cycle. Working directly with homeowners is faster but it’s hard to generate leads. Almost all his business is word-of-mouth at this point and it’s not something that can scale very easily.

ThriveHive looks pretty good. It looks like it’s designed for someone just like my friend. He works day and night and doesn’t know where to start when it comes to marketing. Taking this aspect out of the small businessperson’s set of responsibilities seems like a great idea.

I can only base my opinion on what I saw on the site but to me it all makes sense. I’m sending my friend a link to ThriveHive and will see what he thinks.

Ditto – Here’s everything I know about Ditto:

  • Ditto is a Facebook app
  • Ditto joined Facebook on February 6th
  • 40 people Like Ditto
  • I initiated the app on Facebook
  • I was unable to figure out how to engage with the app
  • It seems to have something to do with associating actions with images

They did get a nice (and very informative) write up by Scott Kirsner on Boston.com. His article makes what they’re doing sound very cool. I haven’t seen that coolness in action just yet but am hoping I will soon and that I’ll get a much better sense of what they’re up to when they present.

Aside from the main dish companies, there are a whole bunch of side dishes:

ChatterMob – Want Free Stuff? Join the Mob – Survey Monkey moves to Facebook. At least it kinda looks that way to me. What I found confusing about ChatterMob is that when you go to the homepage you see messaging about getting free stuff AND the service’s ability to “ask your target demographic anything.” I get it but it feels kind of muddled to me. It also requires connecting with Facebook and maybe it’s that I’m getting older but I’m just less interested in connecting everything through Facebook than I used to be.

JunkDrawer – Where your stuff goes – Finally, a new use for barcode scanning. I use them to add books to Goodreads but that’s about it. With JunkDrawer I can use them to collect info about all the junk I have. Sitting here in my office I was able to scan the bar codes from a small pack of Chips Ahoy cookies and a Mead 3 Subject College Ruled Notebook. Great.

So.

Yeah, I was able to scan the bar codes of those cookies. And some Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.

The things I used it for are silly since I don’t have that much with bar codes right on my desk, but I can see utility here. As they suggest, you can get alerts related to the products you’ve scanned. I can imagine that having utility for recalls. You can connect this with Facebook if you want but I just signed up with the app itself. While I recognize the benefit it also feels like something else to remember to do and I don’t foresee myself scanning the codes for everything I own or buy.

Good Benefits – Workplace Giving is Now a Perk – This is a site that allows you to make corporate giving a more engaging program. I am all for it. I signed up but was only given the option to share it with my employer. Apparently, if I successfully refer Good Benefits to my company’s giving program administrator I will get $50 I can give to my favorite charity.

Within seconds of signing up I did get a nice email from Ryan Selkis, the founder of Good Benefits, with additional details. Basically, Good Benefits is a charitable savings account that can increase the amount contributed to a cause or charity by allowing small recurring contributions to be made – with employers matching dollar for dollar. I’m looking forward to talking to them because I am curious. It would be good to know what size organizations they’re targeting, for example.

Kuratur – Easily curate, customized, automated content magazines. In minutes. For free. – That is one confusing run of words. I think it’s the part “automated content” that makes me stumble. Or maybe it’s “content magazines.” Aren’t magazines content by their very nature? Why use both terms? Or are these magazines that feature automated content? It’s all very unclear based on that set of words.

Things didn’t get much clearer when I signed up. When you do (which can be done using Facebook, Twitter or email) you’re presented with a screen that gives you the option of adding a title and selecting an update frequency. You can also paste in Google Analytics or Chartbeat tracking codes. There’s a video to help “get up to speed fast.”

I watched the three-minute video that was pretty helpful. Of course it was a little more confusing since it refers to the output as Web pages. Which is it? Web pages, content or magazines?

Having played with it for a little while I like Kuratur. It’s pretty cool. The way it is being described needs to be improved a bit, as does the performance. I tried setting up a page/content/magazine and found it took several minutes to process and then populate the Web page/content/magazine. I’m going to chalk that up to it being early days. Here’s the one I made, based on my 1000faces project and on the hashtag 1000faces. It’s totally rudimentary but I can imagine all different ways Kuratur could be used. Very cool.

Nyopoly – Every time there’s a fashion/style-related company at WebInno I joke about being a pretty style-neutral person. That’s true to a degree; but I do actually really like shopping. I also like trying to get deals. Whenever I shop I ask for a discount. Never a big one, but offering $120 for a pair of shoes they want $130 for, things like that. Shockingly, no one ever agrees to my suggested pricing. Nyopoly seems to offer its members the opportunity to negotiate a “personal price on the most fabulous finds in fashion.” Alas, it looks like most of these finds are not for me. Such is life.

Splitzee – Splitzee is the fastest and most secure way to collect money online – When I heard the name I thought Splitzee was a way to split up a bill and get your friends to pay their portion. It turns out it’s more for collecting money for a cause or project. Say your kid’s third grade teacher did a really awesome job and when May rolls around everyone wants to pitch in to buy him tickets to a Red Sox game. Splitzee replaces emails, phone calls and those awkward knocks on the door. It’s all pretty simple and a solid idea.

TradeGrouper – Trade with People you Trust – First there was eBay, which allowed anyone to sell anything to anybody. eBay is awesome for a lot of people in a lot of situations. But for many people it seemed rife with scams and rip-offs. So people started turning to Craigslist, which replaced the mercantilism of eBay with a kinder, gentler, community-based approach to buying and selling. Now, for those among us for whom even Craigslist is too large a pool we have TradeGrouper. It limits buying and selling to specific groups or communities. Just friends for example, or colleagues. You have to be willing to accept a much smaller pool of potential purchasers. If you’re cool with that then TradeGrouper might make sense for you.

Well, there you have it, my preview of WebInno37. I’ll be there to see what I got right and what I got wrong. Hope you’ll be there too.

WebInno32 Preview

We’re fast approaching the last WebInno of 2011. Hard to believe how fast the year has passed but what can you do? Actually, I know what I can do. I can write my preview of the companies that will be at WebInno32. And I know what you can do to. You can read it! How’s that for simple? Check it out, let me know what you think and I’ll see you Royal Sonesta on the 29th.

Here are the Main Dish companies

BestVendor – Best Vendor Helps You Discover the Work Apps You’ll Love. I don’t know about the name or the tag line but I guess there’s utility in getting recommendations for which apps might be right for me. It seems like a solid idea. The video on the site does a good job of explaining how this might be used by an advanced race of dogs and I was able to imagine how people might benefit as well. The whole idea is that they site will provide recommendations based on other people’s experience.

Conceptually I love crowdsourced solutions. Practically I’ve had mixed experiences. Waze, for example, is a navigation app I’ve had/used for years. I downloaded it because I wanted a GPS app and I loved the idea it would improve over time as more people used it. Based on my first few tries using ways it could only have improved . . . That was a few years ago though and now it’s awesome. It’s likely the learning curve for BestVendor won’t be as long and the consequences of downloading a bum project management app is way easier than getting lost for hours. I do like the overall vibe of the site and am looking forward to hearing the rap at the event.

Kibits – Kibits and you’re closer. Well the site doesn’t tell you that much about the app, just that it lets you “instantly connect with the people who matter most.” I’m interested in connecting with people so I signed up. I wish the app – which you can register with through Facebook – had let me know which of my FB pals were already using Kibits. From my phone it offered to scan my contacts but I’m not really down with that. It did let me look at my FB friends but either none of them are using Kibits yet or the app doesn’t know. My bet is that none of them are using it yet. I’m just not into spamming people with app invites. (Maybe the Kibits people should see about getting people talking about it on BestVendor?).

Once the app was installed on my phone a very helpful robot – KiBot – got in touch with me. It showed me how I could chat, share media, calendar entries, documents, etc. It all seemed very awesome. My only reservation is mastering another platform. It’s probably better than the cobbled together system I have now – but unless a ton of people I know are on here too it feels like a lot of work for little reward. As with BestVendor the site, app and feel are all very good. Hopefully someone I know will try it too so we can use it together.

TastedMenu – What? No tagline? Come on people, how am I supposed to know what this is all about? This is a service I can really sink my teeth into. Hahahahahaha. But seriously, I like this site a lot. It really does look good and it functions well. There seem to be a lot of activity. Either that means there are a lot of people already using the site or the people who are using it are really into it. It’s not really complicated. You can either enter the name of a restaurant or the name of a dish. If you enter a restaurant it will give you the basic info on the place (locations, hours, URL, payment types, etc.) and then a listing of menu items. Where applicable it also provides ratings of different dishes. You can drill down onto these to see photos of the items and individual diner’s feedback. It struck me as a deeper version of Yelp.

If you search for a specific food item you get details on the ingredients, suggested additional searches, photos and ratings for which places have the best of what you’re looking for. This seems like a great feature if you’ve got a hankering for a certain dish. Maybe someone else has this functionality (no doubt they do, there’s really nothing new anymore now is there) but I’m not aware of it. The user reviews in this case are helpful and several that I looked at included photos and fairly in-depth comments.

There are a few things I really liked on the site and a few I wish were improved. First, I like the badges. While some the badges in some apps don’t really tell you much the badges here give you a sense of how often the person writes and what they know about. That’s actually helpful information for a reader. The profile pages are also top-notch, providing good information on members. There are a few things I’d like – an iPhone app would be great. Picture being in the mood for something specific and being able to see where it was available right around you. Or being able to decide whether to walk the extra few blocks for a better experience. I have to imagine this is in the cards. I’d also like a tighter integration with Facebook.

And now for the Side Dishes

AppBlade – It’s like Adding MacGyver to your Development Team. Is that a good thing? It always seems like MacGyver is getting himself out of trouble. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid trouble in the first place? But I digress . . .

AppBlade say they’ll “securely power mobile applications across your organization and beyond.” Huh? Does that mean they’ll make my iPhone battery last longer? That my power is insecure? Watching the video on the site was very helpful. As I’m not an app developer it’s not that interesting to me but I can imagine its utility.

Hyper3D – Again, no tagline. So you might know that I am pretty addicted to photographs. My 1000faces projects is just about one of my favorite things ever. I’m also pretty into 3D so if someone is coming along to say they can make my images 3D you can sign me up! Which is just what I did. I uploaded a recent photo and waited. Unfortunately the site provided zero feedback. Was I meant to click someplace to see my photo in 3D? Would I need glasses? What was the deal? After waiting a while without any message from the site I navigated away. I thought maybe my photo was in “My Models” but that was empty save some ads. Next I went to the “Gallery” where I could see other people’s photos but not mine.

The 3D is OK, it’s actually pretty cool but a little creepy too. And it’s not as cool as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe I’m missing something in terms of adding my own content but not seeing my stuff bummed me out. I have high hopes for seeing them at WebInno though. I am keeping my mind open and my fingers crossed.

Oh, and the video on the site that explains this isn’t very helpful.

DailyFeats – Small Change Adds Up. I get the idea but I’m not sure I understand. You do things – small things – and get points, badges, rewards, etc. What kind of small things? Organize your desk, make someone laugh, treat others with kindness. These are all great things to do and one should try to do at least one every day. I don’t know if I want to get a Starbuck’s gift card for doing good little works. There’s something that feels private in how I function in the world – at least at that small interpersonal level. It felt like an attempt to commoditize kindness and while I’m sure that isn’t the case or idea it left me little cold. I’ll check them out and maybe they’ll be able to make me feel better about things. At least that seems to be their goal.

MeetingKing – Manage your meetings. I love this idea. It can generate meetings, agendas, minutes, etc. It integrates with iCal, Outlook, Google an more. I signed up and tried using it but for some reason my meeting didn’t show up. They did have a really handy sample meeting that walked me through the capabilities. It all looks very good. The site is kind of gross looking in terms of color and layout but the promised functionality could make me overlook that. I say promised functionality because repeated attempts to create a meeting in iCal appear to have failed. A demo will help I’m sure.

PowerInbox – Rich apps inside your inbox. I’m definitely not the dumbest person I know but I can’t figure this out. I have tried getting it running a few times with no luck. How hard could it be? The instructions on the site are clear – and I followed them to the letter – until I get to step five. It says, “That’s it! Now just open a Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Groupon email and enjoy your new and improved inbox.” Well just that is confusing. Does it mean I should open one of these emails in my email client? Or on FB/Twitter/Gmail/Groupon? When I go to Gmail I see nothing new, when I go to Facebook it’s the same, when I try Twitter it looks like it always does. If I go to my mail client and try opening an email generated from these services it’s also the same. I probably just need someone to show me how this is meant to work because I can’t figure this one out on my own.

Take the Interview – No tag line. This is meant to be an easy way to screen candidates through a video interview. Maybe interview is too strong or suggestive a word. Basically you’re able to post openings – along with questions – and ask candidates to respond to the questions with a video. I guess it’s a good idea. The site looks kind of dated but who am I to hold that against someone? The idea is a good one. My only concern would be wading through lots and lots of really bad videos.

Rejoiner – Capture Pre-Submit Data from Abandoned Forms. Some things just rub me the wrong way and this is one of them. I can think of reasons someone might decide, “hey, you know what, I don’t think I want to sign up for X, Y or Z” and navigate away. It’s creepy that my decision NOT to complete a registration is seen as an opportunity to market to me. In display people can opt out of being tracked for targeting. It feels like stopping the registration process for a site should be viewed as an opt out of establishing a relationship with that site and ought to be respected.

Rocketmind – Rocketmind is an Android app developer. Their site features two apps. One is a 3D fishing game and the other is a phone dialer. Since I have an iPhone I can’t say whether these apps are good or not. They seem strange to me and I don’t really get the story.

Well that’s it from me. There are some very cool looking companies (TastedMenu is on the top of the list), a few I didn’t understand (Rocketmind) and some I couldn’t get working (PowerInBox). I’ll be there on Tuesday to check out all of them, take some photographs – and, if I’m early enough – have a free beer!