Introducing Sled

I’ve been obsessed with project management and personal productivity for a almost two decades. My experience ranges from tiny lists to gigantic project plans with hundreds of people and resources. In the past I’ve been a certified PMP and managed large engineering teams. What I’ve learned above all, is that we tend to overcomplicate everything.

Four years ago my startup Nouncer failed for many reasons, none of which had much to do with the product itself. Looking at where Twitter is now and how it evolved, it is a clear validation of my original vision. But even if I had gotten passed the challenges that doomed Nouncer, I still think it would have failed. It was just too complicated, too soon.

I’ve long considered Twitter’s biggest asset to be its 140 character limit. It completely democratized personal expression by making everyone as expressive and articulate. It also helped people communicate more by making their content small enough for casual, constant consumption.

A year ago I started thinking about applying this philosophy – empowerment through restrictions – to project management. I’ve started thinking about enterprise-scale problems and what a restrictive tool might look like. But no longer working on large scale enterprise projects, my attention shifted to personal productivity and “home projects”, and so Sled was born.

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New Adventure, Same Quest

Ok, the startup is over – now what? The first thing after deciding to end my startup was to figure out what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to stay in the web world, but given my wide range of past experiences I didn’t know what role I really wanted. This was new territory for me as it was the first time in 17 years that I didn’t already know what I wanted to do next (and had it lined up and ready to go). So I asked myself a simple question: what was the most fun part of working on Nouncer? To which I had a quick and easy answer: OAuth.

Working on the OAuth specification, talking about it, promoting it, helping others to understand and implement it, and most importantly being part of the community, were the most exciting tasks this past year. Since I didn’t think anyone will pay me to sit all day having fun writing OAuth, XRDS-Simple, and other related specifications, I was looking for opportunities where I would at least be able to continue working on open standards in a small part capacity. Turns out I was wrong.

It is therefore my great pleasure to announce that I will be joining Yahoo!’s Social Platform team in the newly created role of Open Web Evangelist. Turns out someone does want to pay me to spend my days working on OAuth and other exciting open standards! The Social Platform team is lead by Michael Curtis and focuses on the social directory, social graph activation, the vitality platform, and the universal profile among other things. All this with the perfect timing of the Y!OS announcement (Yahoo! Open Strategy).

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The Last AnNounce(r)ment

Two years is a long time, especially when spent building a startup from the ground up. My most exciting professional adventure to date has reached its conclusion last month when I decided to pull the plug on Nouncer, my attempt at building a microblogging web service. The Nouncer story started with an idea and hunt for logo, evolved into a business with some general directions about a financial model, and materialized into a big chunk of code – 150,509 lines to be exact.

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Nouncer – Building Blocks for Real-Time Content Delivery

Nouncer LogoNouncer is getting ready for its alpha release this month. I have written before about what Nouncer was supposed to be, and how I started working on it. But like most early stage products, Nouncer has evolved and changed in order to offer a unique service and remain competitive. In the spirit of anti-stealth, this post aims to explain, as much as currently known, what Nouncer is and what it is about.

Nouncer bridges the gap between real-time delivery and information overload. While most services focus on building a messaging system, Nouncer offers a content delivery platform. Content: Real-time, quality, and as requested.

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In Search of Talent

Nouncer is getting closer to a working platform and it is time to get more hands in the factory. I’ve wrote before about the quest and challenges of finding a co-founder for startups, in NY and in general. That search is still on-going but my main focus is on getting stuff built and used. With that in mind here are some roles I would like to add to the Nouncer team. Any of these can be done as a full time job, part time, contract-based, or internship. If you are a student and looking for a really cool internship position, these are promised to be both fun and challenging (you’ll even get paid), and a true learning experience.

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Nouncer’s First Steps

Nouncer is making its first few steps into the world this week. The first set of APIs are being released this week to the Nouncer alpha environment, and will allow developers to learn about the session management and user registration features. I expect to release enough API calls by the end of the year to allow developers to build working applications using the platform. However, Nouncer will not be fully operational until February-March 2008.

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Nouncer Platform Capabilities Preview

Nouncer is a micro-content platform with strong focus on real-time content distribution. The best examples of what a Nouncer-driven website can be are existing microblogging sites such as Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce. The idea is that many sites and developers would like to incorporate real-time content functionality into their products but lack the resources or desire to build a large scalable messaging system. What Nouncer does is provide a rich set of APIs developers can use instead of their own server side application.

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Playing with Numbers: What a Microblogging Service Financial Model Might Look Like

Building a business out of a microblogging service is not a trivial task. There has been a lot of chatter regarding Twitter’s eventual monetization, but so far the only people who made money off microblogging are the Jaiku founders when they sold the business to Google. I have written before about the difficulty of monetizing microblogging, but difficulty is something to overcome, not a brick wall. This model is an attempt to figure out the different options of running such a business.

You can download the Excel file or try the Google Docs version (if you want to play with it make a copy first). If you know your way around financial models, jump right into the model. Continue reading for some background and points of interest.

Financial Model Snap

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What’s the Plan, Stan?

Inspired by Path 101 anti-stealth startup philosophy, I decided to make public some of the business documents I wrote for Nouncer. Reading the Path 101 blog, I really enjoyed following their progress. My first reaction was they are making a mistake by revealing too much, but when I actually considered what they might be losing, I could not come up with a single point. At the end of the day, it takes a lot of storytelling to get a startup off the ground and you end up telling people everything anyway, with or without an NDA.

Before you dive into the presentation, you might want to read the rest of this post first. Also keep in mind that it is based on market research from March-April. A lot has changed and the plan was not updated.

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In Search of a Co-Founder

It sucks trying to build a startup in the New York City area. But not because of what most people think. It is not the weather or the expensive lifestyle. There is no lack of experienced people, success stories, active VCs, a supportive community, or good entrepreneurs with great ideas. Before starting my own company I worked for a (Really) big bank, and like most employees in corporate America I blamed everything on my employer – nothing unusual about that. But I did surprise myself when I still blamed my former employer for everything after leaving them. Well, maybe not one particular employer but the financial services industry as a whole.

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