In an effort to avoid to much feature creep and in an effort to get something else web related done for my resume, I've decided to release http://www.managedmarks.com out into the wild. I'd like to figure out a good way to either charge for the service or generate a little revenue via ads, but I'm not too sure how either would work. This wasn't started as a business idea as much as it was started as a solution to a problem I had. I'm sure you could argue various other solutions such as a wiki, but I felt that a simple and focused web-based tool was what I wanted. ManagedMarks serves it's purpose as a simple and very focused tool.
If you haven't checked out ManagedMarks yet, see the site tour video below for some details. I originally thought this was an interesting project to take on since I found that my previous employers team in India had crippled access to the net. Links were often buried on the internal website, in emails or in process documents. Maintaining all these different locations was always an issue and I thought it'd be better if we could just reference one location that was always maintained. If we had a good central location that could be easily updated, the team would easily be able to set that as their homepage in their browser.
I also felt strange starting up Firefox or IE and having my iGoogle pop up with personal stuff when I was in a meeting or giving a presentation. As a result, I made a simple .html file with a few a href's to the sites I frequently used. My manager thought this was an interesting solution, but we never really had time to do anything more with it. As a result, I wanted to come up with a slightly more sophisticated way of accomplishing the same task. ManagedMarks was a name that stuck and I loved the concept... I was laid off and never got to do this for my previous employer, but I wanted to do it for myself anyway... Let me know what you think.
To Follow or Not To Follow? If someone follows you, should you check out their profile or ignore it? Should you just follow them regardless of who they are or follow depending on whether you like what they seem to be all about? What are the real social rules in a social network with only one truly enforced rule? 140 characters or less...
Let's imagine that you use Twitter and understand it can help you to market yourself while also allowing you to keep up-to-date on everything happening with friends, celebs and industries that you care about. Let's imagine your going about your Twitter posting and get a new follower. They don't reply to something you say. They just start following you and you presume that either you said something that caught their attention or they know you somehow. Do you follow them back regardless? Do you look at their profile and make an educated decision about their tweets, their website and their bio? Or do you just ignore it because you didn't recognize their name immediately as a real friend? Do you reply to them and start a conversation?
Twitter has overtaken the social networking world with it's ease of use. The follow mechanic is it's way of casting aside the 1:1 true friends system. There's no reason to even write to the person explaining to them why you've chosen to follow them. You just do it. The only case where following back is enforced is if you are a private twit, but that seems extremely uncommon. Among all the public twits, there's no enforcement over who sees your posts or who subscribes/follows those posts. Rather than forcing a friends system, Twitter left the choice to the user.
Since it's really up to the user, it's strange to me that there's been some heated debates about following back people that follow you. Guy Kawasaki, founder of AllTop.com, mentioned in a keynote at the SES New York that he feels it's arrogant not to follow back people that follow you. I really like Guy's The Art of the Start keynote. I like a lot of what Guy has to say in this keynote about Twitter too, but his auto-follow or you're arrogant is something I completely disagree with him about.
In fact, I'd go as far as saying that it could very well be the opposite and that following back everyone makes you look extremely unrealistic. After all, if you don't have any interest in a persons tweets, isn't it rather fake to follow them back? Wouldn't it be rude to say you'll follow someones tweets, but then ignore it all together anyway? Twitter is one of the easiest ways you can be transparent with your audience and I think one way you show your personality other than through your bio, pic and background on Twitter is by the people you follow. If you simply follow everyone with no hesitation, then you're not really being true to your Twitter audience. I tend to think of following as a way to show people that I'm a fan of what that person contributes to society. Why lie about that by just auto-following everyone that follows me?
As a result of being born in 1979, I've had the pleasure of seeing many of the ups and downs of video games over the last 30 years. I was in Jr. High School during the early 90s and was always thinking about how I'd get rich. Spending less of my lunch money and saving just wasn't going to cut it. I remember having a subscription to Nintendo Power and receiving the special Nintendo Power Strategy Guides as part of the subscription. These guides sold in retail stores for $10-$15 if I remember correctly. As a result, I remember reading them and then showing them off at school and selling them. It was like free money to me and I could usually get around the same price as retail for them.
I knew how to market this stuff to the kids at school and would even have kids in bidding wars on occasion. My money was in their pockets and I just had to figure out how to get it. Was I popular? Not at all. I often think that if Facebook, Twitter and MySpace had existed when I was in grades K-12, things may have been different, but I had enough close friends that being the most popular kid in school never really concerned me. When I wasn't rollerblading or playing football or basketball with my friends, my free time growing up was spent in front of a computer monitor. I started a BBS in Jr. High and I learned quickly that I was great at talking my way around the net in the days of IRC.
The tools have evolved now and the computer is no longer just something geeks use. Now companies are just using these new tools as ways to reach their audience and make more sales. The process is still the same. Resale and consignment is still a huge business and companies like Amazon and eBay have proven that they can deliver. It seems that making buying easier for the consumer is a key business strategy as well. Amazon and Apple have devices on the market that connect you right to their stores so you can purchase items on the go. The eBay Apple iPhone app allows you to be in a bidding war while you're relaxing at the beach.
Making it convenient for people to buy your product is the key thing that 7-11 and other convenience stores learned long ago. It's what online companies have learned and it's what I learned in Jr. High. A good balance of being in the right place at the right time, having a product with good margins and as little inventory as possible is what makes the perfect resale company. Being a middle man of sales like eBay is also a good solution. Everyone has something to sell and eBay helps facilitate that connection to a wide audience. How will your company combine the power of resale and convenience?