A note of thanks…

December 25, 2008

The new year is approaching and I am finding myself reflecting on an incredible 12 months. Incredible, surreal, gratifying, crushing, uplifting, concerning and more.

This year I’ve basically been a homeless nomad as I’ve traveled the world to conferences and meetings. I’ve spent 14 hour stretches on planes, stayed in everything from crappy random motels all the way through to mansions in high-rise buildings.

I have loved every moment. It has been life changing.

I owe a lot of people a great debt. They helped make this year possible. I am going to invariably miss some of them here, but I’m going to try to name them anyway.

Nik Seirlis

Nik was the guy who believed in a 10 year old kid doing work experience in a computer store. He listened to my complaining one rainy night 3 years ago and said “Kid, you need to stop doing this small time stuff and think bigger”. OK he didn’t quite say it like a cowboy, but you get the drift. Nik continues to give me a firm kick in the arse every time I start to rest on my laurels. He helped me get the courage to start this journey.

He literally got on a plane with me in ’06 and we went to Silicon Valley together. Nik’s personal success set the bar for me in my own life and continues to inspire me.

Ashley Angell

If Nik helped me start the journey, then Ashley packed his bags, sold out his family and joined me on the road (figuratively). Ashley and I co-founded Faraday Media together, dreamt up APML and Data Portability together and have had countless discussions about social media, friendship, partnership and much much more. ‘

Ashley has that rare quality that you need in a business partner to be able to switch contexts. We each explicitly switch gears from ‘Friends’ to ‘Founders’ to ‘Board Members’ and emotionally and logistically bucket our discussions. Having worked with countless partners and friends, I can’t tell you how important, and how amazing this skill is.

Thank you my friend!

Steve Kelly

Steve Kelly funded the journey. He is Faraday Media’s angel investor and still funds aspects of the company to this day. His dry wit, calm attitude in the face of adversity and generous spirit have made it possible for Ashley and I to ride out together.

Ben Metcalfe

Ben is a unique guy. Dude is maybe a better word. When I first met Ben with Nik Serlis in 2006 his first words to me were ‘Why would I want to download THAT” referring to our then windows download product. I took an instant dislike to him.

Right after that, though, Ben showed his true nature. He and Sofia totally set us up in the Valley. They introduced us to almost everyone we know today. They showed us the sights, explained the culture and not only pointed us in the right direction, they took us by the hand and lead us there. Within a day I was having drinks with one of my heroes in SF city – Stowe Boyd.

Stowe Boyd

Stowe has been my inspiration for quite a few ideas over the last couple of years. What I call Edge Theory, Streams and even some of my ideas on the Attention Economy have been inspired by him.

Stowe continues to be an inspiration and I’m grateful to be working with him even more closely today!

Daniela Barbosa

Daniela is beautiful both inside and out. She is my co-conspirator, my collaborator and my friend. Along with Ashley, Marjolein and Elias (and many others not on this list) she helped me co-found and more importantly operate the DataPortability project. Without her, Elias and Marjolein (in the early days) it would have literally imploded under its own weight.

She has been unwavering in her loyalty and commitment and for that I will be forever grateful.

Marjolein Hoekstra

As I’ve described before Marjolein is a quiet supernode of the social media landscape. Her emotional and logistical investment into all this ‘Chris’ in the last couple of years has made it possible to keep up with our community, related posts and people and ideas and trends.  Marjolein uses her news radar skills and her countless browser tabs to find gold nugets in a raging river of noise.

I wish I saw more of her these days.

Elias Bizannes

Like I said above, Elias is one of the people who co-founded DataPortability with me. More importantly, however, he has been compeltely piviotol in turning the project into an organization. While we don’t always agree, we always respect what each of us brings to the table. And he brings a lot of HARD, detail orientated work. Like with everyone on this list, I could not have done significant chunks of my work this year without his help.

Martin Wells

Martin is almost as much a philanthropist as he is an Entreprenuer. I first glimpsed Marty’s name on the ‘2 Web crew’ website. An Aussie cabal of Web 2.0 leaders. They were once a pinicle of ‘in crowd’ for me to reach out to.

Reach out I did, to many of them. None responded with the generosity and common sense advice that Marty did. He not only elevated my thinking, but challenged me to think even more. He challenged me to stop thinking and to act.

He almost flew back to Australia to drag me to the Valley this year. I’m so glad I came.

Beyond the professional, however, I’d like to think that Marty and I have become great friends. He opened his home to me for many months and I will always love spending time with him, his wife and kids.

Robert Scoble

I met a lot of my heroes in the course of this year. Some were great, others were disappointing.

Scoble is exactly as you’d imagine. In the best way possible. He is constnatly swamped by people wanting his attention. He has a million incoming messages at any given time. And he tries his very hardest to give every single person SOME time. He sees us all as equals in a giant conversation.

His laugh is infectious and he is ALWAYS smiling.

His faith in me during his Facebook crisis helped propel the DataPortability project to a new level and his friendship through countless conferences and meetups (We’ll always have Amsterdam Robert hah) have turned amazing nights into surreal moments frozen in time.

It’s all just too much fun.

Michael Arrington

Michael Arrington is an amazing person. Number 100 on Time’s top 100 list this year (Lucky the list didn’t stop at 99 hey Mike?). That is seriously an amazing achievement.

Too many people assume Mike’s success is undeserved in some way. They are dead wrong. Mike works his *$@#ing arse off – often to the detrment of his health and his relationships. He gives TechCrunch everything.

When Mike invited me to stay at his home I was blown away due to his noteriety and ‘power’ in the valley. When I actually came to stay, however, I was blown away by a more important fact.

One of his first words to me were “I don’t want my shit on Valleywag”. In that moment I realized that he was taking a big risk letting me into his home and life – because any minute thing in his life could be blown out of proportion.

The most amazing thing I learned about Mike was that he still LOVES startups and helping people succeed. I would have never expected that.

Everyone wants something from Mike because they see him as a ticket to traffic or success. After spending a lot of time with him, I’d be happy to just call him a friend.

His faith and support of me at the start of the year will always be remembered and I am forever grateful.

Bill Hudak

I was introduced to Bill Hudak by Martin Wells. Almost instantly Bill, Marty and I became a crazy trio of Aussies. Bill isn’t an Aussie though. He is an American trying to be an Aussie. Oi, Bugger!

Bill is a valley boy – born and raised. He knows everyone there is to know here. He walked me into meetings with people I couldn’t believe just by making a phone call. He is super smart and super funny.

But more importantly than any of that, just like Marty, he opened his home and life to me. He lent me his car (A Pontiac Solstic no less) for countless months and litterally enabled me to speak to the people I needed to speak to.

I am proud to call him a friend.

Khris Loux

I met Khris just before a trip to Amsterdam. I really got know Khirs on the flight to Amsterdam and the ensuing 4 day Next Web Conference. When I say got to know him, I mean we laughed our arses off, took over the town, met the most amazing people and imagined the future of the web together.

Khris finds business value the way I find architectural value. He is the ying to my yang when it comes to startups. He too opened his home to me when I stayed in the valley. But more than that, he opened his mind!

As I’ve posted before, I’ve been offered a lot of gigs this year, but JS-Kit, lead by Khris, was special. I can’t wait to see what Khris and Chris can pull off in the new year.

In conclusion

I owe all these people, and countless others, a lot. Their faith, support and efforts on my behalf have made everything possible. I look forward to helping them to continue their journeys next year, and meeting more amazing people in ’09.

I’m sorry if your name does not appear here, my fingers are about to break and it’s Christmas Morning – I need to run!

Thank so much everyone.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Proposal: OpenID Connect

December 8, 2008

OpenID needs to be as simple as Facebook Connect if it has any chance of competing. The problem is User Experience. It’s a nightmare.

My proposal:

  1. All Email providers and OpenID Consumers (particularly Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail) implement: http://eaut.org/
  2. Until we have critical mass with step 1, a 3rd party, community controled “Email to OpenID mapping service” should be provided. Vidoop runs a related service at http://emailtoid.net/. It’s quite good but it should be donated to the OpenID foundation for independent control.
  3. OpenID Connect login prompts ask for your email address on 3rd party sites.
  4. When you hit ‘connect’ it generates a popup much like the FB Connect popup.
  5. The contents of the popup is either:
    • The password screen of the OpenID provider as resolved via EAUT OR
    • The password screen of the OpenID provider as resolved via the community EmailtoID service OR
    • A prompt from the EmailToID service that walks you through creating a new OpenID or mapping an exiting OpenID to this email address.Here’s the important part: In all cases, the screens MUST conform to a strict UX Design Guideline set forth by the OpenID Foundation to ensure the process is as simple as Facebook Connect.Only providers that confirm to this OpenID Connect UX standard (as certified by the OpenID Foundation?) may have their OpenIDs validated in this popup. This is a harsh rule but it ensures a smooth UX for all involved.
  6. This initial Email to OpenID mapping through a 3rd party service is painful since most email providers and OpenID consumers do not use EAUT yet.
  7. This can be overcome if we get a series of OpenID Consumers and OpenID Providers involved as launch partners. A major email provider (Gmail, Hotmail and/or Yahoo) would also be be helpful but not a blocker.

Potential Concerns:

  1. How do we deter phishing? Does this work-flow make phishing worse because of the predictable UX? Does it matter? Is there a way to ensure a distributed karma system is included in the work flow?
  2. This only solves the login problem and does not go into the issue of connecting to, accessing and manipulating data as the full data portability vision describes. This is a conversation for another thread.

Bonus:

  • If you provide OpenID but do not consume it you need to be named and shamed. There should be a 2 month grace period, then The OpenID Foundation, the DataPortability Project and everyone else who is interested should participate.
  • “OpenID Connect” should be a new brand with a fresh batch of announcements with strict implementation guidelines (not just around UX but also around things like consumption).

To summarize, my proposal world:

  1. Allow users to use their email address for OpenID
  2. Standardize the User Experience for OpenID
  3. Provide a stop gap while Email providers catch up with Email to OpenID mapping.

Get involved:

I’d love to do mockups for this – but I’m busy. Anyone interested in learning from the Facebook Connect UX and drafting OpenID Connect Mockups from which we can draw the strict UX guidelines I mentioned?

Could this work?

According to CNet, Facebook is going to start charging app developers a fee to achieve ‘Verified Application’ status. The fee is optional, but that doesn’t matter. Apps that are not ‘verified’ will quickly get buried by those that are.

I think in hindsight people will recognize this move as one of the final death knels of the Facebook platform as we know it today.

First, they de-emphasized applications all together by relegating them to a ‘boxes’ page and making the stream their primary interaction metaphor (Read: FriendFeed clone). Now they are trying to lock down the platform further, raising the bar for participation and charging what amounts to a protection fee for app developers to get any real attention at all.

The fact of the matter is, an increasing number of people are finally realizing that Facebook looks very similar to Pre Internet networks, AOL, Passport/Hailstorm, and any other proprietary implementation of a platform that can and must be open.

The only platform that matters on the web is the web itself, and Facebook through its actions and inactions is helping us all learn this lesson faster than ever.

Who is JS-Kit?

October 14, 2008

The news today is that JS-Kit just closed a $3.6m round of funding and I have joined the company as a Strategic Advisor.

I’d like to take this moment to explain who JS-Kit is, what it could be, and why I decided to get involved.

First, I get offered a lot of advisory roles or full time jobs. It’s always very tempting to help entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams.

The reality is, however, between my company Faraday Media, my work at the DataPortability project, APML Workgroup, Media 2.0 Workgroup and other projects there simply isn’t enough bandwidth left to give the attention required.

The JS-Kit opportunity is different. When I first met Khris Loux (The CEO of JS-Kit) it was clear very quickly that we had a unique connection and a shared vision for a distributed Personal Web. As a result I have broken my own rule and accepted the offer to consult with/advise the company on a formal basis. It will be a significant commitment and take up a large part of my time.

The company he has quietly built over the last 2 years reflects our shared vision and its success is unmatched in the marketplace. With more than 550,000 registered sites, JS-Kit is the largest provider of light-weight plug in social features on the web. More importantly, though, it has no destination site. A philosophical choice that allows it to execute on a strategy of powering the edge to get more social – and more personal – without siphoning traffic back to a proprietary center.

JS-Kit technology powers some of the biggest sites on the web – with more to be announced soon.

This combination of scale and a focus on the edge makes the company uniquely placed to build something very special.

There are a number of challenges ahead for the company though – challenges of which Khris and the team are all too aware.

The name is not great! It was the name of a prototype product that became very successful very quickly despite not being ready for prime time so it sorta stuck. Blame Nick Gonzalez for writing it up in Techcrunch only days after it was put live for preliminary testing (just kidding I love Nick in a manly platonic sort of way)

Adoption is easy, but customization (it’s possible to make the widgets unrecognizable from the default style) is far too hard to do for average users.

The design is Web 1.0 at best. The site, brand and products lack a cohesive visual language and a modern look and feel.

These are just some of the things I will be helping to change over the coming months. The funding round also allows the team to execute on these opportunities quickly. These changes will be a precursor to a much broader strategy that we hope will delight users, empower publishers and surprise the industry.

In the mean time though, Faraday Media is still very much alive and kicking with both my involvement and the involvement of my best friend and co-founder Ashley Angell. I believe the core technologies developed in its labs will change the web. Faraday Media and JS-Kit will continue their business development activities and my role will help to shepherd the process.

So too is the DataPortability project under the stewardship of the stellar new steering group lead by none other than Daniela Barbosa.

So in this time of Economic woes, failing companies, staff layoffs and uncertain times I am proud and honored to be part of a team that is continuing to have a sustainable and positive impact on the web and actually growing the opportunity for a distributed personal ecosystem.

So now I’m involved, I’d like to encourage you to try out the tools on your sites and blogs and send me feedback directly. I’d like to start a conversation with you to improve the company and the web together.

Also follow Me, Khris and Nancy on Twitter!

 

Coverage has already started

Speaking at Social Media

September 24, 2008

 

Speaking at Social Media

Speaking at Social Media

Join me there! Using the code “zaph” will get you half price off ($495).

As I posted earlier, I am going to be posting my book outline in parts to my blog to get feedback and Ideas – please feel free to chime in!

Except from “Revolution of Me” – A book outline by Chris Saad

 

INTRODUCTION

Unshakeable family units have given way to an increase in constantly evolving family clusters.

GETTING A DIVORCE

If you return to the core truth about Marriage, it is an institution designed to lock two people into a contract for the sake of raising children in a stable, predicable and balanced environment. It is a container for building a successful life and offspring together in a family unit.

The institution has its roots in ancient history when work was hard (and potentially far from home) and survival was even harder. People had limited choices for partnership (mostly inside their immediate geographic area), life expectancies were short and life moved very slowly.

In modern times, in developed countries, life looks very different. Work is not always hard or far away. In a lot of cases it can even be done from home. Survival is not as hard. Technologies and medicines have ensured that life spans average around 80 years and dense cities and the broad Internet access has created a hyper-choice for companionship.

Is life better? Who’s to say? Perhaps our fast pace, shallow connections and increased life spans have only served to further isolate us from real relationships. The purpose of this text is not to judge.

It is clear, however, that the contract of Marriage now exists in very different times.

It seems natural, then, that Marriage as an institution (a container) seem to be changing shape as well.

From Wikipedia article about ‘Divorce’: 

“In many developed countries, divorce rates increased markedly during the twentieth century. Among the states in which divorce has become commonplace are the United States, Canada, South Korea, and members of the European Union, with the exception of Malta (where all civil marriages are for life, because civil divorce is banned). In addition, acceptance of the single-parent family has resulted in many women deciding to have children outside marriage, as there is little remaining social stigma attached to unwed mothers in some societies. Japan retains a markedly lower divorce rate, though it has increased in recent years.”

So with changing social pressures, perhaps a change in the success rate of the basic social contract of Marriage is both healthy and expected adjustment? Perhaps a change in definition from a formal container into more of a loose cluster of familial associations will ultimately serve our new living conditions better.

 

Read more on the wiki

Comments, ideas and contributions welcome!

Are you coming?

Web 2.0 Expo New York 2008

I will be speaking on “Understanding the Basics of Personal Data: Vendors, Users, and You” – 09/18/2008 3:05pm – 3:55pm EDT Room: 1A06 &07.

Here’s a $100 discount code if you’re planning on going webny08mc23.

Hope to see you there!

In the mean time, I’m hanging out in the Bay Area.

American Politics

June 7, 2008

As many of you know – I have been visiting in the US now since the end of January (with a short stint in Europe in the middle). I am loving it. Particularly here in San Francisco and the Bay Area specifically. It’s an amazing place where amazing things are getting done every day.

But I have made an observation in my travels that I thought I would write about today.

American Politics is a fascinating spectacle. And I don’t just mean the politics of government, but the politics of business, community and culture as well. These patterns, trends and reactions are consistent in all sorts of other political interactions here.

The themes go something like this.

If you have been doing something for a long time and talk about very practical, operational things, then you must be good at whatever you do. You typically talk about being against something than for something else.

If you are new to the process and/or attract large crowds of new people, then you are interesting and inspirational but you surely can’t have any substance to your message. You typically talk about being for something rather than against something else.

These two positions are always seen as polar opposites. Many people seem to refuse the idea that someone who is new can also have substance. Or something that is experienced may actually need new blood and new ideas.

It’s a politics that fights not the ideas on their merits, but the way those ideas are derived, or who proposes them.

There’s also a tendency to focus on what ‘has worked’ rather than what ‘could work’ – or what has worked in other organizations or other structures outside the immediate scope of inquiry.

Universal Health care for example. Surely the government can’t look after our health right? They couldn’t even look after the victims of Katrina. Of course, if we look beyond the borders of the United States it’s clear that every other 1st world country does have Healthcare backed by the federal government and it works well to create a safety net for their people. It’s a simple observation that allows the conversation to move beyond ‘could it work’ to ‘how could we make it work for us’.

There’s often a lack of subtlety – a sense that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater rather than taking the good and building on it. Making what is work for us.

As I said, I love this country and my experience here has been amazing – I hope it continues in fact. But as always, I will continue to look for patterns and see if they can be improved. At least in my little corner of the world.

Some of this also comes down to an idea I posted on Twitter the other day – I think it explains some of my thinking in this area.

“We need to extend the time frame inside which we evaluate what is in our best interest”

Everyone acts in their best interest. It’s inevitable and irrefutable. But if you open the window from 1 month or 1 year to 5 or 10 years you realize that what’s actually in our personal best interest is actually in the best interest of many other people too.

But that’s a post for another day.

Anthill is the leading entrepreneurial magazine in Australia. They have released a list of the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30. Somehow, someone hacked the list and added my name!

From the magazine:

They collectively turnover hundreds of millions of dollars each year, yet some are barely out of university. They are proud to be Australian but see their home-grown success as little more than a stepping stone. They have never known serious recession, political instability or significant global conflict, yet they are better educated and better informed than new business owners of any generation preceding them. Meet the future of business in Australia.

Chris Saad
Age: 26
Location: Queensland
Company/Role: Faraday Media

At 26, Chris Saad is one of Australia’s most impressive young web entrepreneurs. His theory and practice around web standards – specifically “DataPortability” and “Attention Management” – have gained significant traction and are set to have a profound impact on the evolution of media in the digital age. Saad has co-founded several web-related companies and organisations, most prominently Faraday Media in 2006, of which he is CEO. Faraday Media is developing Particls, a technology that learns user habit and taste and delivers relevant information to them via news crawler, SMS, email, flash visualisations, etc. He also co-founded the Media 2.0 Workgroup with 14 industry “commentators, agitators and innovators”. There’s no shortage of ideas or energy in this digitally-minded entrepreneur. One to watch in the years to come.

Make sure you click through to the Article, subscribe to the mag and read the other 29 profiles!

Of course, singling out 30 ‘front men’ does not really do justice to the real people who work tirelessly to make successful business happen. People like my business partner and co-founder who actually builds our Faraday Media products Ashley Angell. Like our investors, our team, our advisors and supporters who make everything possible.

To all of them and to our customers and partners – thank you for making this sort of thing possible.

I also look forward to clicking through to the other profiles and learning more about the other people listed – seems like a great group of Aussies!

GSP East 2008

I am speaking at Graphing Social Patterns. Will you be there?

You can use this discount code for a 20% discount: gspe08fos

Follow me on Twitter to work out where I am – hopefully we can catch up face-to-face.

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