Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Fluidinfo voted Top Technology Company at LAUNCH in San Francisco

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Wow…. Fluidinfo was just voted “the clear winner” as Top Technology Company out of 100 start-ups in the LaunchPad at the LAUNCH conference in San Francisco!

Thanks to all the judges, especially to Robert Scoble, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Brian Alvey, Naval Ravikant and Mark Pesce. Mark said “Fluidinfo is totally crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy I love.” :-)

It’s weird, because 3 weeks ago I told Jason Calacanis, who suggested in email that we enter, that I didn’t think we should go up on stage at LAUNCH. We don’t (yet) do UI, and start-up events are heavily oriented towards sexy UI and ideas that can be explained in a couple of minutes. We were so busy already, it seemed like a recipe to do something mediocre if we threw together a demo. Instead I asked if we could just hang out in the LaunchPad with the 99 other start-ups and talk to people passing by. Today the judges went through the LaunchPad and talked to all the start-ups. Several told me we should go up on stage to do a 3 minute presentation, so I thought “why not?”, threw together some Keynote slides, opened some browser tabs (on the quick WeMet.At app written by Nicholas Tollervey in a few hours, and the increasingly great Fluidinfo Explorer (that link points at the ReadWriteWeb top-level namespace in Fluidinfo) written by Pier-Andre Parent, who we’ve never even met) and went for it.

The whole Fluidinfo team has been working really hard towards LAUNCH for the last 3 weeks. Everything at LAUNCH and recently announced on our blog has been built by all of us. It’s nice to win a prize, because after being funded we decided to be quiet, keep our heads down, build and train a team, and not even try to get people to use Fluidinfo until 2011. In January we began our first outward-facing efforts, building and releasing quite a few writable APIs. It’s still early days yet, and we have something very cool right around the corner.

Thanks to all the other great startups and the organizers at LAUNCH, especially Jason Calacanis, Tyler Crowley, and Jason Krute. Standing up for 20 hours and talking for about 30 was never so much fun!

Marc Hedlund joins the Fluidinfo board

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

We’re really happy to announce that Marc Hedlund has joined the Fluidinfo board!

I’ve gotten to know Marc slowly over the last 10 years. We first met very briefly when he was CEO of the Popular Power, a San Francisco start-up. Nelson Minar (Marc’s co-founder) and Derek Smith, two of my close friends who are very close to Marc, were both working there. Nelson and Derek, as well as several others including Fluidinfo investor and advisor Tim O’Reilly have sky-high opinions of Marc. Hearing regular off-the-charts superlatives about Marc over the years always kept me interested to someday know him better.

Marc was present at my first ever (abysmal!) solo VC pitch for Fluidinfo, to the ill-fated Bryce Roberts and Mark Jacobson of OATV in early 2007. During the presentation, Marc interrupted to ask if he could take a photo of my slide titled “Revenue”. I think he wanted it as an example of how not to pitch a VC. I’ve never forgotten. He snapped the pic, resumed his seat, and told me to carry on :-)

Marc has a ton of experience. He founded and led Lucas Online, the internet subsidiary of Lucasfilm, was director of engineering at Organic Online, and was also CTO at Webstorm. After Popular Power he was VP of Engineering at Sana Security, and then Entrepreneur in Residence at OATV, gaining intimate knowledge of the world of venture capital and interacting with hundreds of start-up companies. Marc then co-founded Wesabe where he was Chief Product Officer before becoming CEO. These days he’s Chief Product Office at Daylife in New York.

As you can probably imagine, we’re honored and excited to have Marc involved at Fluidinfo.

Coming soon to a FluidDB near you…

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Today (Monday 15th November) commencing from 10am GMT (11am Western Eurozone, 5am EST) the main instance of FluidDB will be offline for several hours while we roll out a major update.

We’re excited to announce the following new features and changes:

  • /about added to HTTP API – It will be possible to access FluidDB objects that have a fluiddb/about tag value with requests whose path starts with /about. For example, the object about “Barcelona” can be reached directly via /about/Barcelona. The behaviour of /about, when given an about value, is exactly like that of /objects when given an object id. More information will be available in the API docs at http://api.fluidinfo.com/. Many thanks to Holger Dürer (http://twitter.com/hd42) for suggesting this improvement.
  • /values added to HTTP API – It is now possible to manipulate multiple tag values in a single API request to /values via the PUT, GET and DELETE HTTP methods. From the user’s perspective, this will result in a significant improvement in performance. More information can be found in the API docs at http://api.fluidinfo.com/.
  • “SEE” permission replaced with “READ” – the permissions system has been simplified. FluidDB now uses only the READ permission on tags to decide whether API calls accessing the tag values should be allowed to proceed. Anything that used the SEE permission now uses READ. For example, when you do a GET on an object to retrieve the names of its tags, you will only receive those for which you have READ permission. Many thanks to Jamu Kakar (http://twitter.com/jkakar) for suggesting this simplification.
  • Deleting a tag instance now always returns an HTTP 204 (No content) code – DELETEing a tag value from an object that did not have that tag used to result in a “404 (Not found)” status. This will be changed to simply return the non-error “204 (No Content)”.
  • “Content-MD5″ header for checking payload content – It will be possible to send a checksum of a payload to FluidDB via the “Content-MD5″ header. FluidDB will attempt to validate the checksum with the payload and return a “412 (Precondition failed)” status in the case of a mismatch.
  • Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) added to HTTP API – it will be possible to make cross origin requests as specified by http://www.w3.org/TR/cors/ rather than rely on JSONP. FluidDB will have an almost complete implementation of this emerging standard although we expect to make changes and improvements as the specification matures.
  • Text indexing of fluiddb/about tag values – text indexing is coming to FluidDB but is definitely a work in progress. This release is just the very first step: the fluiddb/about tag will be indexed from the update onwards (existing fluiddb/about tag values will be indexed over the coming days/weeks).

For those of you who have written or maintain a client library for FluidDB we’d like to refer you to the changes we’ve made to the Fluid Object Mapper (FOM) library as a reference for what you might want to do with your own library.

To encourage people to add the new FluidDB capabilities to libraries, we’re going to extend the FluidDB Weekend of Code offer to library authors. Let us know when you’re working on your library and where we can find it (Github, Bitbucket, Sourceforge etc) and we’ll order you a pizza and send you a book of your choice from Amazon.

Finally, we’re moving to a four-week development cycle so expect regular updates, pro-active bug squashing and lots of progress in the coming months. We’ve got lots of exciting stuff in the pipeline and we can’t wait to see how the FluidDB community reacts.

Tim O’Reilly joins the Fluidinfo advisory board

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Tim O'Reilly - out standing in his field

The wild rumors are all true. Tim O’Reilly has joined the Fluidinfo advisory board!

I’m an unabashed fan of Tim, his company, and everyone I’ve ever met who works at or has worked at O’Reilly (especially Sara Winge). I’ve been talking to Tim on and off about FluidDB since March of 2007 after being introduced by Esther Dyson. Tim would blog about something, and I’d email him and say “FluidDB will be able to do that” or (more recently) “FluidDB can do that.” When we first met, we spent 90 minutes together and I showed him a demo of a few things. He drilled down hard in the first 2 minutes: “Tell me what’s different about it.” So I went for it. When the meeting was over, Tim left the room and went to the elevator to leave. I was packing up my stuff when suddenly he was back, wanting to ask and suggest more. He came back to the room four times, lastly to get my phone number :-)

Since then, Tim has been extremely generous, introducing us to many great people. You can see who very easily in the graph of introductions I put together over the years as I talked to people about FluidDB. He made the introduction that led through Gerry Campbell to John Borthwick and Andy Weissman at Betaworks who led the Fluidinfo investment. Tim invited me to the Social Graph Foo camp in 2008, to a Science Foo camp, and to two general Foo camps, and he’s been helping me in the (ongoing) attempt to get a US visa.

It’s a personal thrill to have Tim formally involved with Fluidinfo. During years working on what at times seemed like the dark side of the tech moon in Barcelona, to have had Tim and Esther (and others!) behind us along the way has been wonderful. I often feel I want us to succeed as much for them as for anyone else.

Anatomy of a funding

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Yes!! Fluidinfo is finally funded. Getting there took a while, and wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Below are a few loosely related comments on how it all went down. I hope this will be of interest to people who are specifically interested in the progress of Fluidinfo, and also to other entrepreneurs. I’ve been waiting years to write it. Predictably, now that I’m in a position to do so, I don’t really have time to do a decent job.

There was a lot of rejection along the way. I blogged about expecting and embracing startup rejection in Nov 2008. We had to ignore all that, and take heart from the strong support of a few people. More on them later.

We were even called "unfundable" (and “world-changing”) in a generous article by Robert Scoble, who is a very careful listener and much smarter than people seem to realize. I was of course determined to change that.

Tim O’Reilly uttered the most memorable fund-raising related sentence along the way: “This could take over the world…. but I don’t see how we could fund you.” Argh! Best, clearest, and most useful advice came from Jeff Bezos who simply said “Never give up”. Most haunting startup article: Avoiding the Cargo Cult by Roman Stanek. Most inspiring and favorite other entrepreneur met along the way: Jason Calacanis.

Several times we could have been funded if I’d accepted very low valuations. I said no to deals that didn’t feel right. I said no, and we pushed on to a release living on fumes, when people told me Fluidinfo was just ideas – as if the years of coding counted for nothing. I even said no to a couple of informal offers to acquire Fluidinfo.

Several times we could have been funded if we’d agreed to just build some kind of application, instead of insisting on working on Fluidinfo as a general storage architecture. I was never willing to give up or even relegate the importance and value of getting the right architecture in place. I think many startups have powerful general ideas but get diverted along the way into building something more specific. They have the intention of getting back to the more general and broadly applicable vision, but they never do. There are many reasons why that happens, among them the fact that once low-level engineering (programming) decisions are baked in, they are very hard to revisit.

So you could say I wasn’t willing to compromise on the vision – to get funded earlier in order to do less. And I felt compelled to push back on the elevator pitch, a posting through which I met Andy Weissman. I don’t think entrepreneurs should obediently infantilize their grand visions just so someone who’s probably not going to fund you can perhaps understand what you’re doing. Sure, if you have a compact idea that you can package up into a tiny pitch, go for it. If after trying to do that, you don’t, go find some potential investors with the patience to listen to you. The Betaworks guys told me after we’d first met that they’d blocked off 3 hours to talk to me – they knew it might take some time to see the scope of what we were attempting, to ask about it and consider it, to let it sink in, to hear why it might work, etc. (It didn’t take 3 hours, BTW, but they were prepared.)

I spent a lot of time pondering the link between obviousness, the creation of value, and passion. I often try to get people to read that article.

I’ve been introduced to many people along the way. A couple of years ago, in order to avoid real work, I started drawing a graph of the introductions I could remember. I filled my entire 3 meter whiteboard. So I wrote a small program to generate input for Graphviz and fed it all the information. You can see the result here. The colors are for people I’ve only talked to on the phone (light green), only emailed (orange), or was introduced to but never got a reply back from (yellow). All the rest (darker green) I met in person. I had to force myself to meet people, at first just telling myself it was part of my job and that if I didn’t do it Fluidinfo would simply cease to exist at some point, and in the end actually coming to enjoy it.

If you know your way around the seed and venture world, you’ll recognize many names in that graph. You can infer that they all – one way or another – found a way to say no, with the exception of Esther Dyson (who is a saint) and the investors who have just funded us. Many never actually bothered to say no, and several simply stopped replying to email. (See also: Pond Scum.) As an entrepreneur without a lot of outside support, it’s good to have things to keep you going. Planning to have the last laugh is sometimes all it takes. :-)

Quality I most enjoyed running into while meeting all those people: intellectual generosity. One thing I learned to stop doing: taking other people’s time and attention for granted.

The total money we spent on hardware over the last 4 years is $2000. That was one laptop, a couple of sticks of RAM, a USB memory, a couple of external hard drives, and a printer. The whole of Fluidinfo was written on two 15″ laptops, with no external monitors.

I can’t stand entrepreneurial cliches. They drive me nuts. There are so many people out there pontificating about startups, funding, VCs and entrepreneurs. If you spend any amount of time in that world you’re going to hear the same old tired cliches over and over and over. Standout exceptions: Chris Dixon, Scott Rafer, Nivi and Naval at Venture Hacks, and Paul Graham. Yes, there’s a bunch of other good stuff out there too.

I made the mistake of talking to VCs too early (see the post on rejection mentioned above). I should have been talking to earlier stage funders, but I was so sure the VCs would find Fluidinfo irresistible, and I wanted a bigger amount of money, that I neglected to talk to the only people (with money) who could really appreciate what we were trying to build.

John Borthwick and Andy Weissman, the founders of Betaworks, are fantastic. Betaworks are changing early-stage financing in New York (and beyond). Look at the intro graph: John is very easy to find. Those are almost all introductions he was making long before they funded us. They invited me to speak at their monthly brown bag lunch. They’ve had us in their office for a couple of months this year, given us keys, let us come to their weekly company-wide meetings, taken me into confidence multiple times, let me be present when sensitive things were discussed, created opportunities, pulled the funding round together, been generous and accommodating on the terms of the deal, and more. Spending time with the other small startups in and around the Betaworks office has been great – there’s a lot of very smart people there, and they’re working hard (while having fun) building all sorts of things. John is very good at his job. Keep your eye on Betaworks.

And never give up :-)

Fluidinfo is funded!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

We’re thrilled to announce that Fluidinfo have just closed a small Series A round ($800K) led by Betaworks, with participation from IA Ventures, RRE Ventures, Lerer Ventures, Chris Dixon and the Founder Collective, Joshua Schacter, Andrew Rasiej, Ross Williams, Esther Speight, and Ed Carroll. They’ll be joined by early Fluidinfo seed funder Esther Dyson. We’ve been talking on and off to Betaworks for two years, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the close relationship we’ve developed with them over that time, and with the fit of our collective visions and aims.

We’d never have gotten this far without the support of several early “sweat equity” contributors and 17 friends and family seed investors – our huge thanks to that group too.

Fluidinfo is now a US (Delaware) corporation, thanks to the efforts of Gunderson Dettmer, and for the time being we’ll be based out of the dynamic Betaworks offices in New York. As you’d expect, we’re looking for a few passionate programmers to join the team.

In other news, we’ve been selected as a finalist in TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield, and we’re most of the way through a major overhaul to the Fluidinfo web site, with more good stuff to come.

I’ll stop now, to try to keep this short. Watch this space for some upcoming posts.

Meet Tickery

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

TickeryWe’re very excited to present Tickery: a fun tool for exploring sets of Twitter friends and finding new people to follow.

Tickery starts off very simply, letting you see who pairs of Twitter users follow in common. For example, who do Tim O’Reilly and Tim Bray follow in common? Even simple queries like this are interesting, because they’re a great way to find interesting Twitter users you may want to follow too. In addition, on the Tickery page just below where you enter the two user names, you’ll get to see whether the two users follow each other. So if you find yourself asking “I wonder if X follows Y?” you can use Tickery to find out immediately, which beats scrolling through multiple pages on twitter.com.

Please be patient with Tickery if you do a query on a user we haven’t added yet. Tickery uses the Twitter API to get information about users, and there are restrictions on how fast we can make those API calls.

Tickery lets you sign in via Twitter – see the button on the top right of the tab bar. If you sign in you can filter results to show just the people you’re following (or not), you can click to follow new people, and you can send out tweets with links to Tickery results of interest.

Tickery’s Intermediate tab offers a big jump in power. Enter simple queries using Twitter user names, and simple terms like and, or and except. For example, the query (jack and ev and biz) except terrycojones shows me Twitter users that all the three Twitter founders follow, but who I do not. Or get possible hints on which entrepreneurs are being followed by one firm and missed by another: for example who does everyone at Union Square Ventures follow that no-one at Betaworks does?

Tickery also has an Advanced tab, which gives you another big jump in power. I’ll save a description of that for another post, but to whet your appetite, here are users Tickery knows about with a Twitter id less than 1000 and people I follow on Twitter that I have also met in person. Or see the description and examples in the "huh?" button on the Advanced tab.

Powered by FluidDB

The most important and interesting thing about Tickery is that it’s built on top of FluidDB (description, API). Tickery is great fun all by itself, but it was built to show what we at Fluidinfo think the relationship between applications, their users, and their data will come to look like. That’s also the subject of an upcoming post, but here are a few bullet points to give you an idea of why applications like Tickery, written on top of FluidDB, may look normal but are in fact very different. Such applications, in combination with an information architecture like FluidDB will:

  • Leave users in control of their data, which includes letting them use other applications to work on it and, if you’re really serious, being able to turn off access to the application that stored it for you.
  • Make the world writable by default, by allowing anyone to add anything to the underlying data in any way they like.
  • Selectively protect individual aspects of data objects on a user-by-user and application-by-application basis.
  • Allow users and applications to put their name (like an internet domain name) on pieces of data, thereby stamping that data with trust and reputation.
  • Let you combine and organize your data, in isolation or with anyone else’s, via search and tagging.
  • Let other applications add more data, in a compatible and integrated way, without needing the permission or advance knowledge of the original application.
  • Explicitly allow for, and encourage, the flexible evolution of data structure conventions, similar to the way that we see evolution of tagging and hashtags.

You can read about this in the context of Tickery on the About tab.

These are the kinds of ideas that people have recently been writing about as the future of data. For example, see some of these articles: The Future: Operating System And Application-Neutral Data, We need a Wikipedia for data, Can Twitter Survive What is About to Happen to It?, Shared data services – the next frontier?, and Robert Scoble’s Twitter to turn on advertising “you will love” (here’s how: SuperTweet). While you’re at it, you might enjoy Scoble’s article The unfundable world-changing startup, which he wrote about Fluidinfo a year ago.

Stay tuned, there’s much more to come. If you’d like to find out how to write programs that can augment and use the data Tickery has stored in FluidDB, have a read of Tickery, for programmers.

Meanwhile, have fun with Tickery! Check back here, or follow me on Twitter for more news on Tickery, FluidDB, and Fluidinfo.

An amazing first 72 hours

Friday, August 21st, 2009

pencilsWe’ve had an amazing first 72 hours following the FluidDB launch early Monday evening.

Initially, we didn’t give out any passwords for real FluidDB API access. That was partly to give ourselves a chance to recover, partly because we wanted to take it slowly to see how FluidDB usage would go, and partly because we really did launch early – we have a lack of monitoring and admin tools to prove it.

On Monday night I think I was more mentally exhausted than ever before. Apart from having very little sleep, the emotional side and stress factor was high. I’d told many people we would launch on the 17th, and really didn’t want to have to postpone. On the weekend Esteve and I had found two problems, one seemingly serious, and fixed them. I built the final Amazon EC2 images on the Monday morning. Esteve had been putting in long hours to roll the 0.3 version of txAMQP. Xavi was putting the final touches on the web registration process and we were moving domains and URIs around hastily after realizing there was an overlap. It was all pretty calm, but there was a lot going on.

On Tuesday I figured I’d take it easy, just keep an eye on things, and even take the kids to the pool. But it didn’t work out exactly as planned… We found that people were getting into FluidDB, and exploring using the anonymous user (the user you become if you don’t send a username). The anon user has very limited abilities, but can do a few things. Several people had shown up in the #fluiddb IRC channel we’d made and were discussing how to program to the API, and what they had learned so far.

And we were stunned to see that within 12 hours of the release, Seo Sanghyeon in Korea had blogged about us, had written a small Python library for talking to FluidDB, and had even written glue to make a FUSE filesystem backed by FluidDB. Who is that guy? we all wondered.

Since then it’s been one great surprise after another. We’ve been having 20-35 people in #fluiddb on IRC. Four client-side libraries have been written or begun (for Common Lisp, PHP, and at least a couple for Python). The people on #fluiddb have pointed out a few shortcomings of our HTTP REST interface. They’ve run into several (small, thankfully) bugs. They’ve helped to improve the documentation in multiple ways. They’ve been teaching each other. They’re sharing code. They’ve helped clarify RFC2616 and our sometimes marginal interpretation or plain misuse. They’ve discovered and intuited most of the internal organization of FluidDB. We are now using the client libraries written by these incredible people from all over the world; they’re in Korea, South Africa, Italy, the US, Uruguay, Spain, Canada, France, the UK, and probably several other countries. It’s amazing.

There’s also been a ton of support and a lot of nice comments on Twitter and Friendfeed. Some examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. You can search Friendfeed or search Twitter to see a whole lot more.

I couldn’t have imagined a nicer way to launch FluidDB. Hanging out in IRC with a bunch of smart, enthusiastic, and energetic hackers going over the ins and outs of FluidDB is like a dream come true. It makes me smile to think of the number of times I’ve been dubiously asked why I was so sure other programmers would like FluidDB. So if you’re wondering what FluidDB is all about and how to use it, please head over to #fluiddb on irc.freenode.net and say hi. And to everyone already there: thanks so much :-)

FluidDB Launches!

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Image: Mark von Minden

Image: Mark von Minden

We’re very happy to announce that FluidDB is launching into a private alpha phase today.

We’ll use this blog for a series of posts describing the ways in which FluidDB is different, what it changes, how it can be used, what it’s good for, ideas for and examples of applications, programming with FluidDB, and much more. In the meantime, there are some links below to get you going.

If you followed @FluidDB on Twitter to reserve a username, that has been created for you. We’ll send you a direct message on Twitter when your account is also enabled for API access. We wont be creating accounts for Twitter followers any longer, because you can now reserve a username directly.


Mailing lists

  • FluidDB Discuss is a mailing list for all sorts of discussion about FluidDB.
  • FluidDB Users is a mailing list for programmers who are using the FluidDB API to write applications.

Documentation

Follow us on Twitter or read our personal blogs