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I’m at the Glue Conference all day. So far, it’s far exceeded my already high expectations. I’m now sitting in the API track and the first two presentations have been dynamite. Clay Loveless from Mashery just did a presentation titled “5 Things I Hate About Your API-TOS“. He nailed it. Here are his top five (most important last), along with some commentary from me.
For simplicity, I’ll call the company providing the API’s the “platform company” and the companies using the API as the “ecosystem partners.” Also – I’m not picking sides here as I’m an investor in both “platform companies” and “ecosystem partners”. Rather, I’m just trying to summarize Clay’s points, bring out a few ideas, and give you a sense of the kind of stuff we are talking about at Glue.
5. Do You Think My Code is Yours? While it may seem like a stretch that a platform company trying to create an ecosystem would try to assert this, the phrase “derivative rights” appears in a surprising number of platform company API’s. And I’ve run into people that actually believe they own the code (or rights to the code) developed by their ecosystem partners. The only thing I can say to this one is “be careful and don’t accept absurd assertions.”
4. It’s Just Tooooooo Loooooong. This one is related to the next one, but it’s what happens when the lawyers take over. See #3.
3. It’s Written in Legalese, But I Speak Geek. Thanks for the 14 page TOS – now what the fuck does it mean? Give me a one page summary in plain English and bullet points. Be “ecosystem friendly” – all the time. Don’t bury the lead on page 11. Just tell me the rules so I can play by them.
2. Commercial Use OK Or Not? I’m seeing this become increasingly contentious between some platform companies and their ecosystem partners. Until the platform company is successful, this is a mellow and happy situation. Once the platform company becomes successful, often in part to the adoption of their API by their ecosystem partners, the platform company starts trying to split out commercial and non-commercial use, at least in certain areas. If you are an ecosystem partner and you think this evolution should be against the rules, just check page 10 of the TOS (per point #4) where it says “Company reserves the right to change any aspect of the TOS at any time in the future.”
1. TOS != Product Roadmap Communication Platform. As an ecosystem partner, you should assume the platform company will change its roadmap over time to support its business goals. It can be painful when this happens in the context of a TOS change, although I think there are some cases where the platform company just has to say “ok – here’s how we are going to do things going forward – deal with it.” The solution to this one is clear and open bi-directional communication – as long as there is trust and no one is trying to hide the ball or do things that are clearly “over the line” in terms of the TOS, these situations are usually quickly resolvable with an appropriate commercial agreement.
Oh – and if you want to run Java on an Apple IIc, here’s how you do it.
I hate spam. Over the years I’ve been an investor in a number of companies that address the spam problem, including Postini and Return Path. I’ve also been involved in lots of other companies in the email ecosystem and spam has always been something I’ve paid close attention to.
I’ve thought hard about Blam (Blog Spam), Spim (IM Spam), Skam (Skype Spam), and SMam (SMS Spam). A few times in the past I’ve thought about Twam (Twitter Spam) but Twitter has done a good job so far of dealing with most of the nasty stuff, the most visible being the porn-follower twam that they somehow managed to beat back (or that I’ve successful ignored).
Today, I got caught in a twam trap. I got a note from someone to try out a service. It’s someone I’d heard from before so I went to the new site and played around with it. I wasn’t terribly impressed and didn’t really get it. A few minutes later I got a DM from a friend that said “@bfeld none of the links on that page are active, fyi. tried Chromium + Safari”
I didn’t know why my friend was tweeting me that, but then it occurred to me that playing around with the software must have sent out a tweet. I took a look and lo and behold it did. I didn’t want that, nor did I set it up. But it did. Yuck.
Automatic tweeting from within applications is becoming commonplace. This is good in many cases, but unless the sender authorizes the actual tweet, it’s twam. There’s no opt-in dynamic around twam, so before a service sends out a tweet for the first time, it seems like good form is to make sure the user wants to tweet. Most, but not all, do.
When you develop a twitter integration, think this through. Don’t be a twammer.
On March 8, 2010 Amazon fired me as an Amazon Affiliate because of Colorado HB 10-1193. I proceeded to have a dozen different conversations (email and live) with several of my state representatives, including one of the co-sponsors of the bill, and each conversation made me more incensed at the abject stupidity and lack of understanding of the dynamics surrounding the situation. Ultimately, the argument came down to one of protectionism – e.g. “we have to protect our local merchants so Amazon shouldn’t get an unfair advantage by not having to charge state tax.” I could rant about this for a while, but I’ve got better things to spend my time on at this point.
I’ve been an early Viglink user for a while. Niel Robertson, the CEO of Trada, introduced me to Viglink’s founder Oliver Roup and I agreed to be an alpha tester. While we aren’t an investor, I’m intrigued with what Viglink is doing and I’m already a big fan.
Last week I realized that all of my going forward Amazon links (and other links to merchants with an affiliate program) were getting rewritten by Viglink. As a result, on a going forward basis, I was getting Amazon affiliate revenue (via Viglink) for anyone that clicked through one of my links and bought something on Amazon.
That was cool, but I have a gillion of old links using my Amazon affiliate code that no longer works. I asked Oliver if he could rewrite all of the old links also. Here’s his response:
“We have coded this and deployed it. As a result, all your dead Amazon affiliate links will be overwritten with our affiliate code and the revenue will be credited to you. What’s more, we just created an affiliate program against ourselves – any links you have to us on your blog will automatically be affiliated and you will receive 10% of the revenue from any customers we get as a result of those links.”
Awesome! If you are a fired Amazon Affiliate in Colorado, take a look at Viglink.
Remember rock / paper / scissors? It’s a beautiful kids game that unlike tic-tac-toe regularly results in a winner. Paper always beats rock. Rock always beats scissors. Scissors always beats paper. But what happens when you only have two – say “software” and “network”.
Whenever I’m at a Silicon Flatirons event, I always get into an argument with someone from the telecom world about “what the Internet is.” Most of the time I try to listen patiently for about 30 seconds as the telecom person explains to me how without them there would be no Internet and the applications that exist are merely “traffic” on “their network.” They then try to tell me crazy things like “no one will ever need more than 100 Mbps” and say snarky things like “who knows, maybe Google will spend more on their 1 Gbps buildout then they did on the 700 MHz spectrum.” I try to remind them that when I was 13 someone told me “you’ll never need more than 48k of RAM” and then again when I was 18 someone told me “you’ll never need a hard drive bigger than 10MB".” Oh, the things people say in the throws of competitive pressure. Innovation? Who needs innovation. Let’s take a big helping of regulation instead.
As someone who has been involved in creating software in one form or another for the past 25 years, I know I’m biased. I happily live in my little parallel software universe, generate huge amounts of data that travels over these complex networks, and pay a lot of money each month for the privilege. If you add up all of my bills – Comcast in multiple houses, a Qwest T1 to my house just outside of Boulder (since Comcast doesn’t get there), a Verizon MiFi, AT&T for my iPhone, Tmobile for Amy’s Dash, Verizon for a Droid we don’t use, lots of connectivity to my office, and probably some other stuff I don’t even know about, it’s a big number. Oh, and that doesn’t even count all the connectively that the companies I invest in use. You’d think – for all this – the network would be the driver of my behavior.
But notice the different providers above. Comcast. Verizon, AT&T, and Tmobile. I know my friends at Sprint must feel left out – I’ll have to figure how to get something on the Now Network. Oh yeah, I’ve got DirectTV in one location (the one with the T1) because of – er – no Comcast to my house. These companies are all household names for me because they spend ridiculous amounts of money on advertising – not because I love them. Do you love any of them?
I had an interesting experience in New Orleans over the weekend. After a day, I turned to Amy and said “have you noticed that almost everyone is walking around with an iPhone?” I was amazed by the incredible the penetration of the iPhone. I followed this up with “I wonder what they are all doing since I can’t get a signal on this thing worth a shit.” Then, during the marathon on Sunday, I noticed that the vast majority of runners who had a device had one of three devices: (1) A Garmin GPS watch, (2) an iPhone, or (3) an iPod. That was it. Every now and then someone had a different phone. But the number of runners with iPhone’s was remarkable.
I can assure you there weren’t using the phone for the network. It’s pretty funny to watch someone at mile 15 of a marathon on the phone saying “Hello – can you hear me? Damnit – fucking AT&T.” Yes – I heard that once. During mile 15.
I predict all those iPhones were out there because of the software, not the network.
Videos like this one remind me that I live in a very tiny corner of the universe.
Only 8% of the people interviewed (out of a sample of over 50) correctly defined a browser. It also shows how effective Google has been in their approach to branding, especially given that they just aired their first TV commercial a few weeks ago.