I may grow in to needing the $yyyy/month plan, but most people don't start off at that end, and the majority of people who can afford something that expensive (because they're an operating concern with a lot of money) probably already have a solution in place (hence their ability to make money).
If they are going to leverage the Kickstarter model, then they should at least learn from other KS projects: show me the problem, build a prototype, show the prototype solving the problem, play cool music, and for crying out loud look at me (the camera) when talking.
There's probably a good reason that Kickstarter doesn't accept nebulous web businesses - scaling manufacturing costs real money, but building a software prototype is cheap. If someone had made a video dryly explaining GitHub or DuckDuckGo as a concept prior to developing them, I wouldn't have signed up. But I find them invaluable today.
Worse, he's not a very convincing speaker. The impatient demeanor, the failure to look directly at the camera, and the multiple stitched-together takes all suggest a lack of confidence. If you're not good at public speaking, fine, but admit that and pick a better way to present your pitch.
Ultimately, I'm left feeling like the idea is a good one, but doubting whether he is the right person to build it.
I very much enjoyed it.
So basically... it's already built.
> To manifest this grand vision, we are officially launching a Kickstarter-esque campaign. We will only accept money for this financially sustainable, ad-free service if we hit what I believe is critical mass. I am defining minimum critical mass as $500,000, which is roughly equivalent to ~10,000 backers.
Oh that's interesting. The grand vision will not manifest until $500k is raised. But isn't the product already basically finished?
So what happens if they don't raise $500k? Do they kill the product and flush 8 months of hard work (and presumably a bunch of money) down the drain? Doubt it. That doesn't make any sense.
Something is fishy here.
Here's the kicker: their Kickstarter video had an already-working demo! They launched the closed-to-backers beta within weeks of the Kickstarter funding closing, and opened it up to everybody within a few more weeks. They already had a working product, they simply used Kickstarter as an advertising platform that cost them NEGATIVE $39,651 and got them hundreds of loyal fans and evangelists (their backers) and millions of eyeballs (through the media covering their ~8x funding).
It's actually quite brilliant.
It's not "fishy". It's a huge undertaking. Regardless of how much they've built, there's no way the product is "already basically finished" (as if one could know that), it almost certainly will need work to accommodate the change in focus, and technology is not the hardest part of the challenge anyway.
The thought that went through my mind when I saw the number is that $500K is awfully low, given the scale of what he's talking about. But then I read more and it's clear that he proposes that number as a sort of idea validation. One can argue for or against that but you have no cause to impugn his honesty.
I don't fully get the idea yet; "API-oriented Twitter" only gets me so far. But this:
fired me up so much about this proposed service that I have had trouble sleeping
... I recognize and immediately sympathize with.
I am going to a followup post explaining this more. This first post was probably too long as it is.
So nothing is fishy. It's quite clever actually. They can almost guarantee that they will have a nice launch if the strategy works.
But that seems to be the very problem with it. In trying not to bury his lead, I believe Dalton Caldwell has let it take over the pitch. 95% "why" and 5% "what". 10 minutes in, I was still scratching my head wondering what the service will look like. And the name App.net certainly doesn't do the cause any favours. The first decent explanation finds itself relegated to question 2 of the FAQs.
This is an audacious attempt, and I laud that. But the pitch, in my opinion, needs an overhaul. Diaspora was also about the "why", but they addressed the "what" really early in their Kickstarter pitch.
Why aren't you using Kickstarter?
We wish we could, we <3 Kickstarter. Unfortunately, the
Kickstarter Terms Of Service explicitly prohibits raising
money for this kind of service.
"projects, projects, projects. As in all categories, Kickstarter is for projects that can be completed, not things that require maintenance to exist. This means no e-commerce sites, web businesses, or social networking sites. (Yes, this means Kickstarter wouldn’t be allowed on Kickstarter. Funny, but true.)"
It's a project with a definite end milestone, with a product that will continue on after.
Did they actually ask Kickstarter?
The Ouya game console is a physical object while this is some kind of vague web app/API thing.
Somebody else posted the actual Kickstarter TOS, but it seemed pretty clear it wouldn't be allowed for this kind of project.
Kudos for taking on the big dogs, though.
And I think that's the same pain-point with most of the Web right now. We can't really evolve our web applications because we don't control them fully; we have to accept the terms of the platform, which tends to be advertising driven, which means they want to constrain the UI.
If you're tired of Twitter, you can't direct your Twitter interface to a new service. If you want to add a new feature, you have to build an entirely new interface and hope they never revoke your app's access. If you want to send a private message, you have to share it with their logs.
This idea that we're building platforms is insane. Listen to Eben Moglen (founder of Freedom Box) talk about this; you'll enjoy it. As he puts it, a platform is a place that you can't leave. That's our pain point right now. We need services that you choose and web apps that are compatible, not walled gardens. Not for our applications, anyway.
So losing the advertising model has a pretty distinct advantage: it gets us away from the platform model, where they have to control the way you access the service so they can deliver the ads. I can't say how the business model fits into that, but the engineering side definitely wins.
Why muddy the waters like that? The takeaway is that the incentives a company adopts are consequential and will define the culture and the product.
The tech blogs that run 24/7 are dying for stories at this time of the week since the PR production line comes to a halt on Friday. This announcement is the second biggest tech story today and has attracted comment from a bunch of blogs. I think it barely would have registered on a Monday or Tuesday.
And what do geeks like to hack on? New, exciting projects.
I love the spirit of this, but as described, I wouldn't use the service if it were free. Twitter isn't even in the same ballpark as SourceForge. shrug
For example, I remember hearing that Yammer and StockTwits toyed with building on top of Twitter at one point, and decided that they were best off building separate networks.
I am doing this project because rather than just complaining about how I think things should go, I am going to personally do something about it. It will work or it won't work, but at least I will know that I gave it a shot.
But I think the subtext here isn't so much that Twitter is hammering people with ads, so much as that their need to show users ads is causing them to constrict the marketplace for Twitter applications --- anything that might get in the way of an ad-supported strategy is, in this understanding of Twitter, in jeopardy.
With pay-for services, there's a much smaller number of people who are going to (or be able to) pay, and when you start looking at those numbers, it's never the fabled 'hockey stick to heaven' that people dream of.
What if twitter just sold access to their stream, and a few million orgs (companies, individuals) were paying, oh, say, $20/month. And let's say... 2 million - why, that's only $480/million per year maximum! Gosh - who would ever want to invest in that? Instead, by going with 'ads', there's always the promise of some big change that could explode the revenue down the line.
I, as a consumer, don't want a service that I rely on to be heavily VC-funded in this day and age, because it means they will have unrealistic expectations to grow revenue phenomenally, which means they might screw the service with ads, or choke the data that the service collects; which means it is likely that the starting point of any new Web 2.0 product is awesome but it only gets worse after that, with ad and feature-creep.
We keep hearing that the cost of computing is coming down and yet the cost of a service (in terms of privacy lost, irritating ads shown, or restrictive API terms) seems to be going up and up.
If GitHub is being used as the example in this line of argument, then why not follow their lead and build something people need and raise money later? Wouldn't you then be even more likely to convince hackers — the primary community you're trying to serve?
But, from what I understood, with the current crowdfunding scheme you're basically pre-ordering membership.
NB: I'm not really sold on the product idea myself, just trying to understand the objections to the business model.
To me, the proposed project touches on a much bigger issue of how Twitter is a part of the internet infrastructure. Real time messaging has become really important, and there's some anxiety around how that infrastructure can be a part of the web in some trusted way.
Simply making Twitter community supported doesn't appear to me to be the best decision. We've learned about some great potential from Twitter, and I'm much more excited about something fully decentralized than I am interested in a community supported Twitter clone.
Grandiose vision, but going to war with Twitter today is as foolish as trying to take on Facebook.
You're not going to attract a mainstream audience and gain serious critical mass just because you're an open platform and developer-friendly. In the case of SourceForge/GitHub, it was different because the demographic is entirely developers. Not so with social networks or media companies of any kind, the audience is mainstream, that means college students, celebrities, high school girls, etc.
"Every battle is won before it is ever fought" (Sun Tzu) -- learn from Diaspora's failure, don't repeat it.
Evan Prodromou has been trying to crack that nut for many years now...
What is a real time feed and service or a social platform in general? Is this basically Facebook sans the UI for a monthly fee?