Showing posts with label social-networks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social-networks. Show all posts

27 December 2009

Flightwish Reboot

Restarted working on Flightwish today. A lot of background stuff... seeing that the DNS is correctly set up for all the FW domains... getting Subversion properly configured on the dev server... restoring the old FW software trove... all the dirty little details of permissions, software configuration and setup that don't usually get mentioned in software development plans, but eat into your time in such a big way.

I've installed the Pebble blog engine on the server, and I have to say it looks pretty nice. Far more impressive than the Blojsom engine that I'm still using for my personal blogs. Simpler to use and customise, and performance feels somehow snappier. The only real snag I hit is that Pebble is supposedly able to interpret WikiCreole - not my wiki syntax of choice, but better than no wiki syntax at all! - only it doesn't seem to work. At least I couldn't make it work. Well, it was pretty late in the day, so maybe my brain has simply had enough for the day.

My idea is to first just get a Flightwish blog up and running so that I can get some content up on the site, and update it reasonably regularly so as to improve its pagerank. I was a bit surprised to see, though, that despite having only reactivated the site a few days ago, its pagerank is 3. Not bad for a dead site! I guess it must be because it has been a real site in the past, and also due to its age (several years.)

After that my next priority will be to get a forum system up and running and looking reasonable so that people can start to sign up and chat. Yes, it would seem to be Yet Another Social Networking Website. Hopefully we'll have enough of a real focus to make it a bit different. The idea is (as it always has been) to do something in the travel space, with a strongly social slant.

As soon as the forum is set up I'll focus on writing a bunch of content - to be released at several-day intervals - telling the stories that drive/drove the initial concept of Flightwish. Those stories (you'll have to subscribe to the Flightwish Blog and wait a few days if you're interested - there's no content there yet) will explain the shape of the Heart of Flightwish as it exists in my head. I'll probably also reminisce about some of the experiences we've had with this thing in years past... the long, long road we've travelled to get here.

Lots of work for a one-man-band! But I think we can do something really interesting, different and meaningful in the travel space. Certainly I'd love to visit Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Belgium (for the beer) and loads of other places, but I don't think I can do it without a bunch of help!

08 May 2008


My week for being haunted by old ghosts.

A bit more than a week, actually... It all started last Thursday with a call from a lady working with a lot of organisations that support HIV counselling, treatment and management. A lot of organisations. She had tripped (how?) across a product/project that a few of us put together some years ago that we called Projectory. Projectory is a collaboration and communication platform, specifically aimed at software-development organisations and teams. Think of CollabNet. But better, of course! ;-) Certainly quite different in some key ways! Except we never got the business off the ground, mostly through an unlucky turn of events that resulted in us losing key sales people at a most critical time.

My caller was wondering whether the Projectory platform could be adapted to help them to communicate, collaborate and coordinate better with a couple of hundred other organisations. Well, we've set up a meeting for next week, and we'll see... What a blast from the past, though! I had all-but-forgotten about Projectory... Thankfully I have the code archived away somewhere safe.

And then it happened again. A call from an ex-colleague a couple of days ago: Could we put together a rough estimate and proposal for a social-networking platform for World Cup 2010. In case you're living in a cave (or the USA where "football" means something completely weird) South Africa will be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and, for South Africans, it is a very big deal. This is, after all, the second biggest sport event in the world after the Olympics. (China get the hell out of Tibet!) The weird bit is that what's being asked for is very, very close to the project we called Flightwish -- a social-networking platform centred around group travel opportunities and concepts. We failed to get funding for Flightwish, though we tried hard. Normally I would favour a small-start, organic-growth, little-or-no-funding startup model, but that path is clearly a very poor fit for a Grow-Big-Fast webalicious venture. Since then, a few others have started playing in that space, but I have yet to see any of them put together the exact combination of ingredients we planned. Would we have done better? Who knows?

But now we may just get a chance to try it again.

Key takeaways:
  • I suck at Sales and driving Sales, therefore I am a poor fit for CEO of a startup.
  • Flightwish taught me a deep hostility to the idea of a single "window of opportunity"; it's rubbish.
  • Beware the Websites Of Yesteryear! You put up a website. It's out there. You forget about it. Google doesn't! Fix them up or shut them down.
  • The "social" potential -- the ways that the web opens-up for collaboration and group communication -- we've barely scratched the surface of what's possible.
  • VC people in SA are mostly bankers with fancier job titles. And we all know the collective noun for bankers, don't we...

23 February 2007

Old New Venture

Sometimes you just plain run out of energy.

That's what happened to us last year.  Bruised and sore from the sheer amount of energy we put into Flightwish, only to be repeatedly turned down, we gave up.  I even contemplated selling our domain names – a nice block of four closely-related names – on eBay.

But, as renewal date for the domains approaches, we have decided to give it a go once more.  After all, before we got involved with business plans, venture capital companies, bullshit artists, prototypes and minds-games, the idea really was cool, and targets a real need.  After all, the concept originated with my Dad -- a total non-techie, which gives it a lot more credibility than most of the web startups out there.

So we've started kicking the tyres again, and lo and behold! The fun is creeping back into it!  We've no idea whether we can make any money out of this, now or ever.  We don't care, right now.  We have a cool idea for a web community that we want to put together with some help from our friends, and we're going to have some fun doing it for as long as we can keep the lights on.  Drop me a line if you're at all interested...

We've put up a fun front-page so far, where we can drop a few hints as we work on the software.

15 August 2006

Social Networking 2.0?

A thing that really, really irritates me about the whole "social networking" hoopla is how it takes such a short view of history.  Dave Pollard has a very nice, very useful writeup about social networking (2.0-style).  (Sidebar: Was that mindmap done using Freemind, Dave?  Great piece of software!)

But let's not forget that we humans have been "social networking" since before we fell out the trees.  The fact that we're now trying to do so over the 'net, through a much-lower-bandwidth interface than we're geared for (nothing beats face-to-face!) just means that we've set ourselves some obstacles to overcome.

Perhaps the only significant contribution that the 'net brings is the ability to communicate anonymously.  Some might argue that this is also the handicap that the 'net brings to our conversations, too, since it is what enables spam, wiki defacements, etc.  But I think that anonymity is also exactly what allows us to express a lot more of our true nature, our inner self.

24 July 2006

Reports of the Death of Email Greatly Exagerated

So there have been a couple of surveys among college students indicating that the surveyed population mostly uses IM to keep in touch with their social circle.  They only ever use email to contact companies and "old people" like their parents, and view email as "old fashioned".  This has led some commentators to pronounce the Imminent Demise of Email as communication channel in the Internet.


Social Networks are Killing Email? - I think not! What we are seeing here is the confluence of two things:
  1. Younger people have more time on their hands, and so are more inclined to spend some or much of that time in online communities, or social networks. (Newsflash: Social networks are nothing new.  We've been doing social networks since before we fell out the trees!)  As a result they tend not to use email, preferring IM, as email lacks an immediacy - we're seeing the impatience of youth.
  2. As one ages, one's priorities, as well as the demands on one's time, change.  Therefore, the preferred modes and channels of communication one favours are likely to change with age.  Duh.  Why do I love my cellphone more than my landline?  It does voicemail.  I can disconnect without missing anything.  There are times - many times - when I prefer to disconnect.  I truly won't miss anything important in the endless torrent of attention-grabbing shit, and I need time to myself.  Time to stop and think. Time to reflect.  And I'm not insecure about it.
So, in a nutshell, we see 1) the impatience of being young, and 2) the insecurity of being young, reflected in some surveys that say that young people don't much use email.

And from this, people are extrapolating Email is Dead?  Let's see the same surveys done on the same populations 5, 10, 20 years from now, and lets see how their channels of communication have changed then.  Perhaps then we can begin to draw some conclusions, instead of this bogus pseudo-science.

Otherwise I will stick to my premise: Death of Email Greatly Exagerated.

Disclaimer: I am in my mid-40's and have two sons who fall into the "youth" category, one at Rhodes University, the other a hotshot Software Developer.  As such, my views may be biased.

19 July 2006

When Funding Falls Through

Just received email to the effect that the funding deal we were hoping for has fallen through.  Again.

I confess I'm rapidly losing faith - not to mention running out of money to keep the roof overhead.

We've been trying to get funded for about six months now, with a conspicuous lack of success.  I freely admit that for part of the time we were simply not trying very hard: the deal on the table was too tempting for us.  We were close enough to the investor that we had no need to draw up a very formal business plan for pitching (though we certainly did have an internal operational/development business plan) so we were pretty lackadaisical about the whole thing.

A couple of months into the negotiation it became apparent that the amount of money we were negotiating would be insufficient to get the business as far as "revenue generating", and the amount we would really require was more than the angel-group were willing to invest; "Too rich for our blood!"  Fair and reasonable; indeed the right decision for all concerned, since we would otherwise be throwing money at a venture doomed before it started.

So we then had to spend considerable time working up a reasonable (I think!) "pitch" business plan for another angel investor.  They're the ones who have turned us down this morning, and I can understand and sympathise with their reasons - essentially they feel that the market we wish to tackle is just too tough, and we are neophytes in the space.  We agree.  We've known it all along, and addressed those problems in our business plan, but evidently it wasn't enough to convince them to part with (about) USD 1million.  That amount will get us about to public-Beta in a timespan of about 4 months.

So.  Anybody know of an angel/venture group wanting to get into the social-web space in a venture that has real-world revenue streams (i.e. We're not planning on ad-revenue) in a USD45billion/year industry? (And Yes, that's a "b", not an "m".)
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