Pluralitas Non est Ponenda sine Necessitate

For those non-Latin speakers out there, you are asking yourself right now, what the hell does “pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate” mean? Literally, it means “plurality should not be posited without necessity.” It’s a theory made popular by 14th century friar, William of Ockham, and is better known as Ockham or Occam’s Razor.

Why am I thinking about 14th century friars and Latin phrases about plurality and necessity on the day after Thanksgiving you ask? The short version of the story is that my friend, Kyle Flaherty, recently shared a great post with me by analytics wizard, Avinash Kaushik. Avinash writes a well known blog called — get this — Occam’s Razor. After reading his lengthy, but thought-provoking, post on social analytics, it got me wondering about the inspiration for the name of his Avinash’s blog.

Now I think it’s mandatory that we all learn about Occam’s Razor at some point in high school or college but of course that, along with billions of other pieces of knowledge that don’t fit into our everyday lives, somehow fell out of my head along the way. But after reacquainting myself with this concept of seeking the “simplest answer,” I’ve been thinking a lot about streamlining my work and personal life these days. In particular, slimming down my information sources and my day to day work flow.

I wrote about taking steps in this direction several weeks ago following my brief retirement from Twitter. But the place I’ve really fallen down is on keeping up with my Google Reader. I know some people like Bob Scoble have abandoned their readers altogether but I realized the other day that there are a dozen blogs, mostly written by friends, that I haven’t been keeping tabs on as closely as I would like. And the reason was because their quality content was getting drowned out by the 50 plus other blogs that I was keeping in my Google Reader, many of which contributed to my reader consistently registering 1,000 unread posts mark.

Maybe I’m unique in this fashion (although I doubt it) but thinking about 1,000 unread posts is just too daunting. Instead of going in and chipping away, I tend to ignore my Google Reader and thus miss out on dozens of great posts by people like Kyle, Peter Kim, Rachel HappeTim Walker, Greg Verdino and others. So in a fit of “pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate” (which is really more about the concept of “the simplest solution is usually the correct one), but inspired me to “simplify” or slim down my reader to about 15 blogs.

The result is a much more manageable, 137 posts, all of which I was excited to read. The downside is that I will miss out on the good posts on ReadWriteWeb, and the HBS blog. But the way I look at it, it’s better that I read a few blogs all the time then have lots of great blogs that I never look at.

What about you? Are you able to keep up with it all? If so, how?

Hootsuite: Morphing from Twitter Client to *Badass Social Media Dashboard*

While I don’t personally use social media dashboard/tool, HootSuite, I have a number of friends and colleagues who do. At some point, I plan to give it a try. To that end, I do take a personal and professional interest in knowing as much about the spectrum of social tools and networks as possible, particularly since I’m on the hook for staying on top of these things for work and for the weekly podcast I do with Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet (note: live interview on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show coming with Hootsuite founder, Ryan Holmes, on January 14).

When I found about some of the latest features that Hootsuite was announcing this morning (9 AM PT), I couldn’t resist at least spending a couple of minutes letting the folks that read this blog know about it. For a more thorough review, you can check out Hootsuite’s blog or Mashable, but for the “quick-n-dirty version, see below…

What’s new:

  • Integration with Facebook, LinkedIn &
    • Users may now update Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles from one location
    • According to HootSuite they are the only Twitter client which allows you to schedule updates for these individual social networks
    • Users may manage social profiles for multiple accounts
    • Users can now read your friends’ Facebook and LinkedIn updates and view in-line Facebook comments within HootSuite
  • Direct integration with LinkedIn (this is a big one in my mind)
    • As a result of LinkedIn opening their developer API over the weekend (more on this from Jeremiah Owyang here), HootSuite jumped in (and to my knowledge) is the first to have integrated direct LinkedIn status updates
  • HootSuite is one of the first clients (I believe that Seesmic is the other) that allows users to manage lists. Users may now:
    • Create lists by dragging and dropping users into columns
    • Import lists you’ve already created & save them as a column in HootSuite

Clearly, Hootsuite is working hard to stay in front of the everchanging landscape of social tools and functionality. For that, they are to be applauded. How long can they keep up with this frantic pace? Who knows, but I like the way CEO, Ryan Holmes thinks. When asked for a quote on Hootsuite’s latest release, he replied…

This update sees HootSuite morphing from Twitter client to badass social media dashboard. We’re constantly listening to our users to hear what they want. Beyond that, we’re thinking about what they might want that they haven’t even imagined yet. We think about these things and then try to make them a reality.

Anyone that knows me at all will recognize that Ryan’s words are music to my ears. Congratulations to the folks at Hootsuite. I look forward to hearing more!

Crowdsourcing 2.0: Is it Ready for Primetime?

Over a year ago, I participated in a charity auction for my good friend (and now podcast partner), Jennifer Leggio. Also taking part in the auction were social media smarties, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Greg Verdino and Joe Jaffe. The goal of the auction was to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the five of us offering up a variety of speaking/consulting services to the highest bidder. In my case, a company called Genius Rocket ended up being the highest bidder.

I’ll spare you the details on the back and forth discussion that the EVP of marketing at Genius Rocket, Peter LaMotte, and I had over how I would make good on my engagment but the net net was the video below (and a wrapper post) so that you would have a little context.

To Peter’s pleasant surprise, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking and engaging in the art of crowdsourcing based on my participation in the We Are Smarter Than Me project. To that end, I was quite at ease sharing my opinions of how crowdsourcing can benefit business — especially when it comes to outsourcing some elements of the creative process.

During the video, I cover the following topics:

  • Why I’m bullsing on crowdsourcing
  • Companies that are doing a good job at crowdsourcing
  • Reasons why crowdsourcing is becoming more mainstream
  • Considerations for doing crowdsourcing right
  • Reasons why I would consider using companies like Genius Rocket

[Update 11/23]

Following the interview that Peter and I did back in March at SXSW, Genius Rocket announced the launch of a new offering called GRSelect. What I like about this new product is that it addresses the issue of quality when it comes to crowdsourcing (something we covered during the video interview). You can see the details on how this works in the diagram below but the essence of GRSelect is that it brings the customer into the production process.

From Genius Rocket’s blog announcing the product…

The new model answers the most common requests of the creative crowdsourcing world; higher awards, more feedback, and less risk. No artist that participates in a GRSelect project will go uncompensated for his or her efforts. At the same time, clients will now be active collaborators in the creative process.

While I haven’t seen GRSelect in action, I like this approach a lot.

So what about you? Are you using crowdsourcing in your business? If not, what’s holding you back?

Day Trippin’: An Interview with Tripit Co-Founder, Scott Hintz

For folks that read this blog regularly (yes, all 3 of you), you might remember that I did an interview series earlier this year called Experts in the Industry. My goal was to get forty five smart people — authors, marketers and entrepreneurs — in the forty five days leading up to SXSW with a goal of gleaning insights on the future of social. Not only did I end up with 75 interviews but I was lucky enough to have enough blog fodder for over two months.

Since then, most of my interviews have been saved for the weekly Quick-n-Dirty podcast I do with my partner (and blogger), Jennifer Leggio. To that end, Jennifer and I normally spend a few minutes during the show on a “featured social network. Three weeks ago, we happened to pick social travel site, Tripit. The reason I mention this is that the marketing folks over at Tripit (yes, this is a hat tip to you Angie) had their listening ears on and reached out to me once I tweeted out the URL for the weekly wrap up post on my blog. Angie was kind enough to thank me for the mention and offered up and interview with one of the two Tripit co-founders. A couple of e-mails later, I had my interview with Scott Hintz.

1. How did Tripit get started?

Gregg Brockway and I were part of the team that launched discount travel website (sold to Expedia in 2003). Gregg had since moved on to run Expedia’s luxury travel business (Classic Vacations), while I stayed at Hotwire for a couple more years. But both of us had the itch to start something again, so we decided to get the band back together. We both had a lot of ideas for new businesses in travel – there are so many problems to solve in our industry! – so we started working through them and we found a few that we were both passionate about.

We chose the TripIt concept because it addressed a problem we’d both encountered routinely in our lives – that drill of going through your inbox right before a trip and hunting for all those purchase confirmations, printing them out, stuffing them into a manila folder, hand entering and printing maps and directions you would need on the trip, etc. There had to be a better way, and we thought we could develop some technology that would make that process a whole lot easier. We also felt that there was a need for a traveler-centric travel site, one that was really focused on making the travel experience better, rather than trying to selling you more plane tickets or hotel rooms. Travel booking sites are great, but they are always a little bit biased because they want to sell you more stuff.

2. For a while, it seemed like Dopplr started off as the “travel social network” site of choice and then all of a sudden, Tripit makes a sudden surge. What happened?

I think TripIt has done well because we provide so much value to the traveler once he sends his booking emails to us – and that includes both social utility and personal utility. TripIt is unique in that it builds rich itineraries full of all the detailed information you need on a trip. We invented the “Itinerator” that processes booking confirmation email from over 800 websites (and growing every day), and that’s what enables us to piece together every detail of your trip.

With that as our foundation, we have all the data needed to power social features (like detailed itinerary sharing, our Who’s Close feature that tells you when you’ll cross paths with someone you know, and our LinkedIn application) as well as personal features like detailed calendar synch, mobile access to trip plans, automatic maps and directions, etc. We also have an API that allows TripIt users to share their itinerary data with third party applications, and that enhances the value of storing your itineraries in TripIt. With over 250 developers (and growing) using our API today, the value proposition of TripIt just keeps getting better. TripIt users can link their accounts to apps like USA Today’s new travel app Auto Pilot, top iPhone app FlightTrack Pro, expense solution ExpenseBay, and so many more.

3. I see that Virgin is a sponsor. Any plans to create a one click option where you buy a plane ticket and it automatically updates Tripit?

Yes, the TripIt API makes it possible for any site to hook up directly to TripIt and seamlessly transmit booking data into the traveler’s itinerary. We get TripIt users asking for this all the time, and we know that innovative and customer-focused booking sites will start addressing those requests soon. Go Airport Shuttle (which books over 2 million airport transfers a year) already offers an “add to TripIt” button on their site, allowing their customers to zap ground transportation details directly into TripIt. We’ve publicly announced a deal with Hotwire where they’ll be adding an “add to TripIt” button on their confirmation page, as well. And BCD Travel, the third largest corporate travel agency in the world, will soon be delivering its itineraries directly into TripIt on behalf of its corporate clients. Several other travel sites are currently working on direct connectivity with TripIt, so look for more announcements soon. And, as I said earlier, the TripIt API is open to any travel site that wants to hook up to us, so travelers should encourage their favorite sites to take advantage of that.

4. I love the ability to e-mail in itineraries and have them populate trips. Even more powerful with the iPhone app. What technology did you use for this? Home grown or existing?

Thanks, we love it too! Honestly, one of the best parts of working at TripIt is that we get to read thousands of emails every week that praise us for the ease of use of getting booking data into the site. We invented the “Itinerator” technology that processes those emails, 100% home grown. We have a team of engineers that is fully dedicated to enhancing the Itinerator, adding support for new booking sites, and generally keeping everything humming along every day.

5. Which super hero did you want to be growing up?

Definitely Green Lantern from the Sunday-morning Superfriends cartoon. As he was depicted on that series, he could do anything with that ring – whereas all the other Superfriends had very specific powers. I always found it odd that he wasn’t the star of the show, since his powers were greater than all the other Superfriends combined!

6. Where does Tripit go from here? Maybe the “Friendfeed” route?

Boy, there are so many ways to answer this question, where do I begin?! The key is that TripIt has a comprehensive view of you
as a traveler – we know your trip history, all the things you are doing on a trip, and where you are planning to go in the future. That give us the data we need to solve so many problems – like providing recommendations for things you might like on the trip, or alerting you when the price drops on a flight and you might be eligible for a refund, or making it easy to access your travel information on different types of mobile devices. There are also many needs we could address in the area of corporate travel, like helping your company locate you in an emergency, making it easier for your admin to plan and manage your itineraries, helping companies schedule internal meetings, or giving them data that helps them negotiate better deals with travel providers.

I think anyone who travels a lot will tell you that there are so many frustrations you encounter along the way, and so many of those are opportunities for TripIt to build features that ease the pain of travel. And we don’t have to build all those features ourselves – our API is open to all kinds of third parties who want to build apps that solve travel problems, and we’re seeing plenty of great innovation happening there every day. For example, one of my favorite new apps to use our API is FlightCaster, which is a new app that is trying to predict flight delays before the airline even recognizes that they might have a problem. Pretty cool, huh?

7. Assuming your answer to the last question is “stay the course,” what future features/functionality to you have planned?

Well I can’t share our product roadmap, but I will say that our list of features is very long and there is no shortage of great ideas. We get so much feedback from our travelers every day telling us how we could make their travel experience better, so that’s a great starting point for us as we prioritize what we do next. We really try to listen to travelers and build what they want, so that feedback plays a critical role in our business. I’m so grateful that we have so many engaged users who take the time to send us their ideas – and I think they do it only because they know we listen, they already get so much value out of TripIt, and they have a vested interest in seeing it get even better. It’s really humbling to see how many people out there are relying on TripIt every day as they venture out into the world, but it’s also a lot of pressure to live up to their expectations and keep finding ways to delight them. But our killer team here at TripIt is definitely up to the task!

8. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only read one blog, whose would it be (and please don’t say Techmeme – Scoble tried that with me and I had to hit him with a tazer)?

My guilty pleasure is Brett Snyder’s blog, The Cranky Flier, which I read in my Google Reader. I can’t help it, I’m a total airline geek and so is Brett, so it’s like candy to me to read his musings on the airline biz.

9. What’s the ONE pearl of wisdom that you would like to share with other entrepreneurs who are just getting started?

If you’re considering ideas for a new business, make sure they are based in utility and that you can get users to form habits using your product. Utility = value = revenue. And habit forming = mindshare = free marketing. You need to find low cost ways to grow your business, and it doesn’t get any better than free marketing. And if you have real ways to generate revenue once users make it to your business, then you have the ingredients for success.

If you want to know more about Tripit, we’ll have VP of Product, Will Aldrich on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show this Thursday, November 19, at 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT.