How Steve Jobs inspired me…

Around 1982 I was introduced to my first computer at my school, the Apple //e.  I remember seeing computers before, but it was always from a distance.  Our teachers would allow us to play the games on the computer if we behaved, which was a struggle for me.  So I worked hard and even told some lies to have my teacher believe I was behaving, but nonetheless I was awarded the time to play games on the computer.  This easily became my addiction.  After playing games for many months, I noticed that there was a computer club after school.  I immediately signed up and rushed home telling my parents that I needed a couple of dollars to buy a book on how to program.  I really wished I could remember the name of the book and kept it.

I started by learning some basic syntax “print”, “run”, “goto”.   I had no idea how the computer worked, but every time I entered something on the command prompt, I was given some type of response.  I kept reading the book and transitioned from doing simple math problems to programming word games.

One of my favorite games was Dungeons and Dragons.  I would often play with other kids in the neighborhood as we switched turns being the Dungeon Master. Because of this game, I was inspired to build my own fantasy game on the computer, where the computer would ask questions and you would have to respond.  Depending on what answers you picked, it would lead you to the promise land or you were sent to different challenges or even death.

I started with quick games leading the person to making couple of choices, but later my games became more and more advanced with many choices and options.  I would save my games on 5.25 floppy and share it with my friends.  I enjoyed creating these stories, which I would write the code on paper at home then when I got to school, enter them in on the computer.  I enjoyed being the creator of the stories and seeing other kids play them and pick options.

As I reflect back on people who have impacted my life because of their passion and innovation, Steve Jobs was one of them.  I was too young to know and understand the sophisticated business he created, but not too young to be inspired by one of his many creations, the computer Apple //e.

To this day, I am passionate about technology and building programs that can change the way people think and do things.  Although I never got the chance to personally thank him for being one of my top inspirations, he will always be remembered by me.

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Whom Should You Hire at a Startup? (Attitude over Aptitude)

When I read this article a big smile came to my face and I knew just from the title that I needed to add this to my blog.  This article written by Mark Suster at TechCrunch was a bullseye.  I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.

You can find the entire article here

Startups. We know the mantra: Team matters. Is this philosophy exaggerated? Overrated? Cliché? No. Team is the only thing that matters.

Whatever you’re working on now, the half-life of innovation is so rapid now that your product will soon be out-of-date. Your existence is irrelevant unless you continue rapid innovation.

Your ability to keep up is dependent on having a great team of differing skills. Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do.

The nature of the Internet and global knowledge is such that even if you’ve stumbled on to a super interesting area of innovation there will be many teams tackling the same problem at exactly the same time.  If you develop something novel that catches a spark you’ll have the world gunning for you over night. In this globally connected world product leads disappear in nano-seconds.

The company with the best team on the field will win. The team which hires the most talented people, channels them in the most productive configuration and gets the most output from their unique capabilities.

So how exactly do you assemble such a team?

1. Only hire A players
There’s an old saying, “A players beget A players. B players beget C players.” Why? Well, A players are discerning and tend to only want to join somewhere where they perceive other A players are. B players tend to have slightly more self-confidence issues so they tend to hire people slightly worse than themselves – thus C teams.

Is this a universal truism? Of course not. But it is general pattern matching. And it’s why VCs tend to look for uber-talented founding teams. We know that if you start with ho-hum founders you’d less likely to assemble a world-class team.

So if you’re trying to scale your team be focused on quality. Don’t sacrifice. Don’t hire too quickly just because you raised money or because you feel pressure to make things happen. The minute you compromise on quality you’ve already begun the descent.

Aim high.

2. Find people to “punch above their weight class”
I wrote an entire blog post about this in the past highlighting my belief that you should hire people who “punch above their weight class.” But what does that actually mean?

It means that many management teams I know feel the need to hire people who have “done it before” and frankly many VCs encourage this. It’s a mistake. When you hire somebody too early who has already “done it” you often find somebody that is less motivated in tough times, less willing to be scrappy (as many startups need to be), more “needy” and less mentally flexible / willing to change their way of thinking.

Importantly, you also find people who are too quick to undermine the authority of the founders. They “know more.” You don’t want sycophants – don’t get me wrong – you want people who challenge your thinking and a meritocracy of ideas. But you don’t want team members who openly question your judgment, your authority. At least not publicly.

So what do it mean to “punch above one’s weight class?” It’s a boxing analogy. It means a welter weight who wants to fight in the heavy-weight category. It means a “young Turk” who has something to prove. It means somebody who held the director of sales in their last company but in this company wants to be VP. Their last company said, “you don’t have enough years of experience.”

You said, “Eff experience. I want to know whether you can deliver. If you can, you’re golden. You’ll go a long way. If you can’t – you’re toast. Are you up for it?” It’s Tristan Walker of FourSquare. They hired him when he was an MBA. He had no right asking for a senior biz dev role at one of the hottest companies in the US. But he was ready to punch above his weight class. And he pushed for it.

And heavy-weight he has become. He is out innovating people with 10 years’ his experience. He is hungry. He is an A player. His innovation and execution are proving his worth.

3. ABR: Always be recruiting
In the entire time I was an entrepreneur I think I never really stopped recruiting.

In my busiest days I was still taking early-morning coffees or end-of-day beers to meet as many people as I could. Sunday mornings often became recruiting coffee sessions.

One of the “tells” for me of a management team that will not be extra-ordinarily successful is that they’re not always recruiting. I’ve seen it before – I send a talented member to a team and they say to me, “we don’t really have a role for that person.”

Really? I always have a role for talented people. I may not have a BUDGET for talented peole – but I always have a role for them. What role? Who the F knows. But let me at least have a coffee and feel out their enthusiasm, talent and ambitions.

I might choose to do an upgrade on my existing team. I might be grooming them for when I have more money or more revenue. I might not be able to persuade them now but I want them to know my company so that when I’m ready to step on the game I have a list of A players I want.

Sure, the challenges to me are obvious:
• How can I afford them?
• How do I motivate them?
• If I bring them on board now, how do I not reduce the motivation from those that I have already hired?
• Should I upgrade existing staff or hire them laterally?
• Can I persuade them to join when they have other choices?

If you’re not dedicating a large chunk of time to continually “recruiting” then you’re high. Or maybe you’re “low” – as in “not likely to succeed.”

Remember. Always be recruiting. ABR.

4. Don’t worry about exact “roles”
I think the most limiting factor that stops startups from recruiting is the “we don’t have an open spec” or “we already have somebody doing that role” excuse. Don’t let that be you. Your team can always make room for David Beckham. Lebron James. Keith Rabois. Sheryl Sandberg.

Get out there and find them. Ask others for intros to their talented friends. Meet talented people and sell them the vision. Get them exited about what you’re doing. Be relentless.

If they’re amazing, then be radical. Give them controls that they don’t have in their current company. Allocate them enough options to salivate. Convince them that even if they stay only a year they’d learn great stuff that would be valid for the rest of their future. You might several meetings to bag top prospects. But if you never start you’ll certainly never hire them.

5. Attitude over Aptitude
If you’re doing a great job at continually recruiting and if you have a company ready to hire several people, at some point when you have enough of a pipeline of talented people you need a way to separate them. I have a long-standing mantra, “attitude over aptitude.” This is assuming a raw minimum of MIPS in the candidate. They need to be seriously smart / talented in their field to make the minimum grade.

But within this “minimum acceptable talent level” you still have a wide variance of “employee types.” Let’s be honest – some uber talented people are PITAs. I never hire them. One bad apple spoils things for everybody.

You don’t see it coming. You figure, “sure, they’re a pain but they produce such high quality work I’m willing to put up with them.” Don’t. The last thing you need is some rat bastard fomenting trouble.

They’re the ones who are talking pop at cocktail parties when they’ve had one too many. They’re having private lunches with other employees talking about how they’ve lost faith in your vision.

When you hit internal moments of doubt you need the team members who say, “Guys, we can do this! We’re up against the ropes but we’re not down. Let’s dig in.” You need team members who do that when you’re NOT there.

If you have a trade-off between somebody who is more talented but a “bad seed” versus somebody who is very talented (but perhaps less so) who is a motivator – I’d hire the latter any day of the week.

Choose attitude over aptitude.

6. Culture matters
Along the same lines as aptitude I would say that “company culture” matters. Know what your principles are. Know the kind of people you want. Know what makes a member of your team. What traits are important to you? What values to you want to embody?

Try to set out guidelines for hiring. Try to live them yourself or people will see through it.  As times get tough you’ll value this culture. Even in uber successful times where you’re hiring like mad you’ll want to know what somebody who embodies your culture is like.

The best book I ever read on this topic was Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (founder of Zappos). It’s a must read and has great advice on building a company culture.

7. Don’t over-sell
Finally, I always tell management teams not to “over sell” and I never do so myself.

I don’t mean you shouldn’t sell hard on the virtues of your company and why you’re the next Google – you should. If for nothing else you want all of the talented people you interview to spread the gospel whether they join or not.

What I’m talking about is this – if somebody is thinking about joining but you can tell they’re not convinced don’t cross the line to get them to join. What does this mean?

It means don’t tell them that they’re stake will make them $20 million if you’re not convinced it will. Don’t promise them that their role will be much bigger than you’re planning. Don’t promise revenue or growth faster than you know you can achieve.

Sell hard, sure. But don’t over sell.

Why? Because if somebody is not convinced in their own mind and you arm-twist them to join they’re bound to be unhappy and eventually leave. I’ve seen it a loads of times. You promise the world. You don’t deliver. They are frustrated. They feel duped. They express this to others. Now you have more than one problem.

And it’s never a good thing when a high-profile hire quits unexpectedly. It causes otherwise happy people to second-guess things.

So sell, by all means. But don’t over sell. Don’t promise unrealistic things. Don’t over promise.

So that’s it.

So go and schedule your next coffee meetings. Increase your number of interviews. ABR.

 

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The Age Of Relevance

The Age Of Relevance by Mahendra Palsule

Full article can be found at http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/03/the-age-of-relevance/

What’s the Next Big Thing after social networking?

This has been a favorite topic of much speculation among tech enthusiasts for many years. I think we are already witnessing a paradigm shift – a move away from simple social sharing towards personalized, relevant content.

The key element of the next big thing is the increasing significance of the Interest Graph to complement the Social Graph. While Facebook, Twitter, and Google are already working on delivering relevant content, a slew of startups are focusing exclusively on it.

Relevance is the only solution to the problem of information overload.

The above matrix is a representation of how the process of online information discovery has evolved over time.

Phase I: The Search Dominated Web

This is how Google began its dominance over the web two decades ago, using PageRank to surface the most popular web pages as identified by other web pages that linked to them.

Phase II: Web 2.0 With Social Bookmarking

In the Web 2.0 era, social bookmarking services gained significant traction, surfacing popular content. Sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon are hugely popular even today, driving millions of page views.

Phase III: Personalized Recommendations

Services like Hunch, GetGlue, etc. have focused on building an Interest Graph for users, to deliver personalized recommendations using a ‘taste engine’.

Phase IV: Personalized Serendipity

The latest crop of startups is focusing on personalization using a combination of Interest and Social Graphs. Personalized Serendipity is what Jeff Jarvis calls ‘Unexpected Relevance’. Examples include Gravitymy6senseGenieo, and TrapIt.

What Exactly Is Relevance?

The battle against information overload is sometimes presented as a choice between Relevance and Popularity, where ‘relevant’ is equated to ‘personalized’ as against popular.

However, Relevance does not always mean Personalized. Relevance is very dynamic – it depends on the needs of a person at a specific point in time. There are times when users want to know about the most popular stories, and other times when they seek personalized content.

There are multiple approaches to filtering information for Relevant Content. Google, Paper.li, and PostRank are examples of algorithmic filtering, while Reddit, Hacker News use a crowdsourcing approach. Klout can be used to filter Twitter streams by influence, while Facebook uses social affinity as a filter for its newsfeed and social signals for its new Comments Plugin. Location is another high-impact signal for delivering relevant content, gaining importance in a mobile world.

In other words, Relevance spans across all the quadrants of the Discovery Matrix above, and none of the above approaches to filtering for relevance is the ‘best approach’. There is no killer approach to Relevance. Henry Nothhaft, Jr., CMO of TrapIt, described it as “the myth of the sweet spot”. The competitive edge will be with services that support multiple discovery methods, multiple filtering approaches, have flexibility, and support multiple mobile platforms.

Quora: A Showcase Of The Interest Graph

Quora has pioneered the use of the Interest Graph as a dominant signal for its newsfeed. Quora asks new users to select Topics to follow, as part of its onboarding process, which is the first revelation that Topics are as important as Users to follow.

Quora’s newsfeed is an interesting showcase of what happens when you mix an Interest Graph with a Social Graph – and the result is the mysterious addictiveness so many have experienced, but found difficult to explain. An item pops up in your newsfeed not because you were following a user, but because you were following a related topic.

This often leads to Personalized Serendipity – or Unexpected Relevance – which is why Quora gets many people hooked.

The war over the Interest Graph began between Twitter and Facebook last year, as Erick describedso eloquently. So how did Quora beat them to this game?

For starters, Quora is built from the ground-up with the Interest Graph being a backbone of the framework. Twitter’s ‘Browse Interests’ is too broad and primitive to be of use, even at present. And while Facebook has a mechanism for allowing publishers to push new items to your feed, most publishers have been unaware of this functionality.

This is also the reason why Facebook’s Like Button now publishes a full news feed story. The future clearly belongs to who best captures the Interest Graph as Max Levchin and Bill Gurley put it.

The implications of a Relevance-driven web are wide-ranging and broad in scope. Better utilization of the Interest Graph by services will lead to better ad targeting, and a potential decrease in reliance on CPM/CPC-based advertising. Monetization focus will be on higher yields through transactions and subscriptions as Dave McClure once described. Online media publishers will focus on Relevance Metrics revealing engagement and time-spent on site, than primitive metrics like page views and traffic.

Social media may lose its obsession with follower numbers and traffic, evolving to context-driven reputation systems and algorithms.

Interest Graphs will be used to build Better Social Graphs. Today’s monolithic Interest Graph will get further specialized into Taste Graphs, Financial Graphs, Local Network Graphs, etc., yielding higher relevance for different needs.

The Age of Relevance beckons!

 

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The Seven Principles You Need to Know to Build a Great Social Product

Social products are an interesting bird. For even the most experienced product designer, social products prove an elusive lover. While there are many obvious truths in social products, there are also alot of ways to design them poorly. Especially when you are deep in the moment making pixel-level decisions trying to remember what’s important, things may not be so clear.

The only magic I’ve found in designing compelling social products that have the best shot at breaking through the noise and capturing people’s time and money is in being extremely clear on how your social product meets a few key design principles.

1. Design your product to matter in a world of infinite supply. In 2010, people are inundated with an overwhelming number of people, applications, requests, alerts, relationships, and demands on their time. You love your product. The benefits of it are totally obvious to you. However, if you and every member of your team can’t crisply articulate what emotional benefit someone will get from spending 15 minutes on your social product that they can’t get on Facebook, LinkedIN, or Twitter, you’ve got work to do.

This isn’t touchy feely stuff. Neither I nor the prospective people who may use your social product care about your features, your game mechanics, or how amazing your application will be when there are millions of people on it. I’m selfish with my time and you’ve got seconds to hook me in with something new. And I’m not alone.

To successfully use the fleeting moments you have, you need to orchestrate everything under your control to work together seamlessly under a single brand with a single reason for existence. Make it emotional. If your team can’t tie back every decision they are making to the emotion you want people to feel when they are using your social product, then your reason for existence isn’t strong enough to serve its role, which is to guide your team and the product decisions you are making.

2. Be the best in the world at one thing. To put an even finer point on the focus required of any social upstart, you need to be best in the world at one thing. For Lululemon, they’ve built a $450 million annual revenue business by focusing on the black yoga pant. For Twitter, it’s the 140 character message. For Facebook, it is connecting you to the people you already know. Everything these companies do ties back to a specific thing they are going to be best in the world at doing.

It’s not always obvious upfront what should be your best in the world focus and enshrining the wrong thing can be a problem. However, it is much worse to build a social product without guiding principles. When you are focused on the one thing your social product is going to do better than everyone else, all you need to launch is your one thing and no more.

Ask yourself and every member of your team what you are best in the world at every week. Even better, define it, agree on it, print it out, blow it up, and put it on the wall. This should be the filter by which everyone is making product decisions.

3. Seek out uniqueness. Today’s social platforms and applications are fantastic at meeting people’s need to belong. But equally important – especially in a world of infinite supply – is what makes us feel different and special. People want scarcity. People want exclusivity. This doesn’t mean your social product should be limited to a niche. Frontierville was built for mass appeal – so that I could play with ALL of my friends – but it still finds ways to bring uniqueness into its social experience via neighbors, customization of your plot, and collections.

When people talk about exclusivity and scarcity these days, discussions of game mechanics are never far behind. I love game mechanics as much as the next person. However, if you are implementing game mechanics in the exact same way as everyone else, you’ve got a problem. It goes back to the issue of infinite supply. If there is an infinite supply of points, badges, and levels because they exist on every single social product out there, the minute you use them without being thoughtful, you are losing your shot at exclusivity and scarcity. A better approach is to figure out what makes people feel unique and special on your service independent of any specific game tactic. Then, selectively cherry pick the features that reinforce your emotional reason for existence for people. For uniqueness to work, you have to lead, not follow.

4. Focus on your most important interaction until you have it right. Once you have the critical features defined, there is typically one interaction that is clearly the most important to get right. It’s the interaction that if you get right means someone comes back and, if you don’t get it right, you can’t realize your full potential. Take this interaction and be maniacal about it. For Twitter, this is the Twitter stream. For Polyvore, this is the set page. For Facebook, this is the news feed. For YouTube, it’s the video page. For Dailybooth, it’s the live feed page. It’s the interaction where your magic happens, so give it the care and feeding needed to make it a star.

5. Choose your words carefully. The earlier you are as a social product, the more your word choice should be different and distinct from everything else out there. Early on is the time to have something important and different to say. In fact, all the great brands of the past 30 years have started out appealing to the passionate and rebellious first. Virgin? Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Apple? The 1984 commercial. Nike? The subculture of intense runners sporting moustaches. Facebook? A few still remember the original Scarface logo.

There are things to copy from other services and there are things to make uniquely your own in social products. Layouts? Do your best but pay attention to what is already working. Colors? Hard to be original here, but blue is pretty played out. Icons? A toss up. Terminology? Own it. Your word choice is the primary place for you to have a point-of-view and present not only what you want your brand to emotionally mean to the people using it but the kinds of relationships you want people to have as a result of using your social product.

6. Create a party, not a museum. Great social products are clean, simple, and fast. The successful ones have little design flare, so that the people, photos, videos, text, and comments are front and center. The more design you add from colors to treatments, non-web-fonts, and graphics, the less your social application will feel like a party and the more it will feel like a museum. Or a magazine. Neither are a great goal. You want your social product to feel like it is a living and breathing party, not expensive furniture you’re not supposed to sit on.

7. Develop relationships, not features. Today, we have multiple personalities and different types of relationships with people in the real and virtual worlds. If you are going to design a new social product, it’s not enough to just offer a feature, like photos, videos, or events. You need to look at how the relationships on your social product will be important and different from the relationships you and others have already on Facebook, LinkedIN, and Twitter.

Most people will say that Facebook Connect handle the whole “people” thing for any new social product. I would argue that Facebook Connect is a start but if you can’t quickly show someone a new relationship dynamic or similar people in your social product in a way that is unique to your application, the value of people interacting in your new product will accrue back to Facebook and not you.

For example, I’ve found that on most new social applications I join I have the same 10 Facebook friends – typically my most prolific friends on Facebook already – on this new service too. In most cases, because these new social applications are just an extension of the things I’m already following them do on Facebook, such as sharing photos, events, lists, and videos, I don’t have a reason to come back to this new application a second time.

For a new social product, you need to think about how your social product expands, deepens, and changes the relationships people have today online and in the real world. This isn’t easy to achieve. The best example of a social product doing this well is Quora. Originally seeded with Facebook’s social graph, it has quickly differentiated itself by showing you people you may care about because of their thoughtful commentary, experience, and expertise displayed on topics that are important to you.

It takes alot for people to care about new people in the context of a new social product. Spending your time and energy on what constitutes similarity or what new relationships you want people to have as a result of your application is time worth spent.

As I think about what’s going to be created, discovered, invented, and re-imagined with social software in the next six months let alone the next five years, I can’t help but be excited. These principles shine a light on the first few feet in front of us, but, with every new social product success there will be new ones. As Alan Kay timelessly put it, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.

Gina Bianchini is the founder of Ning, the leading online platform for the world’s organizers, activists and influencers to create their own social experiences with over 80 million unique users each month.

The full article can be found on TechCrunch

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10 Social Media Deals to Check In to on Black Friday

Find the complete article on Mashable written by Christina Warren

Black Friday is upon us and that means that retailers are scrambling to offer up the best door-busting (or mouse-busting) specials and promotions to entice eager holiday shoppers.

Thanks to the success of Cyber Monday, retailers and online shops have long embraced the web as a place to promote and showcase deals and specials. What’s unique this Black Friday, however, is the large number of specials and promotions offered by retailers to customers who use location-based apps and services.

Users of social networks like Foursquare and Facebook Places can get discounts or get entered into special contests just by checking in to their Black Friday shopping destinations. Other services like Yelp, SCVNGR and Gowalla are also offering up special promotions.

Some retailers, like Sears, are even running deal-voting specials on their Facebook fan pages. Plus, many retailers are using Facebook and Twitter to promote their early-bird specials in advance of the big shopping day.

We’ve scoured the web and rounded up 10 specials and promotions offered exclusively through social media. Know of a promo or special we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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Value of Patents… Really?

As I was reading this recent article found on techcrunch.com about Facebook and it’s patent on location checkins, i started wondering what the real value of a patent is. Was Facebook really the first to discover this? Will they now patent the actual location based services to?  What is the integrity of an patent?  What are your thoughts?

Facebook Granted Broad Patent Covering Location-Based Social Networks And Checkins

Facebook may have been late to the location wars with Facebook Places launching only a few months ago, but it’s been thinking about how to add location to social networking for years. Yesterday, it was granted a patenton “Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members” which could have serious implications for other geo-mobile social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla.

The patent appears to be pretty broad. It covers a “method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location.” The location is determined using a “GPS identifier” and it combines a status update with the member’s current location. It also seems to cover what are now known as checkins:

the status information manually provided by the first user on an input module of the mobile device; associating the location information with the status information of the first user in a database; and sending the status information and the location information of the first user to a second user for display.

In other words, Facebook might just have been granted a patent to Foursquare’s (and Gowalla’s) main feature. It remains to be seen whether Facebook will treat this merely as a defensive patent or use it as a stick in negotiations with other mobile social networks. Hopefully, Facebook won’t go all Microsoft on other startups and use this patent to eliminate competition.

To read the entire article, click here

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General Conference with Family & Friends

As the 2010 General Conference ends, I can’t help being some what impatient for the next one.

For us it’s been a tradition for the past 3 years to go over to our close friends with many of our other friends gathering to watch General Conference. We share meals, stories, and continue expanding our friendships while we listen to the speakers during General Conference. As different leaders are speaking i continue to feel a very strong spirit anytime President Monson, along with his counselors and Elder Holland speak. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the other speakers, I was just more in tuned with them. Watching and listening to General Conference with my family and friends has made this tradition very special to me and i don’t look forward to the day when this tradition ends.

I find that my heart swells after the conference as we depart from our friends, our church leaders and especially our dear Prophet. There is so much to learn during General Conference with many talks that are given and I look forward to going back and reading and listening to them.

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Togetherville Helps Parents, Kids, And Schools Connect With New ‘Communities’ Feature

Togetherville, a Facebook-like social network for kids 10 years of age and younger, is launching a new feature called School Communities today that aims to “give kids a voice” when it comes to how their schools are run. The feature also represents a big change to the way the site is building its social graph, making it far easier for children to connect with their friends.

It’s easy to forget (and many kids probably ignore it entirely), but Facebook maintains a firm requirement that everyone on the site be thirteen years of age or older. That’s where Togetherville comes in — the site appeals to parents by promising a safer, more secure environment, where parents can moderate who their children are connecting with. Parents approve each of their child’s friends, and can also connect with other parents using Facebook’s social graph.

Before now, though, the process to find your child’s friends was more tedious than it probably should have been — if your kid wanted to ‘friend’ another child, then you would have to be friends with the other child’s parents on Facebook. The new ‘Schools’ feature makes this easier: during signup you’ll enter the name of your child’s school, Togetherville will present your child with a list of their friends, and they can ask to connect with them (pending each parent’s approval).

The addition of schools also brings another dynamic to the social network: communities. Parents can now talk to each other about current school-related issues on the school’s community page (which is analogous to a Facebook page), and it also gives kids a chance to speak their minds.

But while parents will be to engage in a straightforward conversation forum, the kids side of things is a bit more complex. Every so often Togetherville sends out mass polls to all of its users — questions like, “What’s your favorite subject and why?” When a child responds to one of these questions, their answer will appear in the feeds of their friends, and their parent will be asked for permission to publish the response on the community page of the child’s school (they’ll also be asked if the response can be published as part of anonymized data aggregated across all of Togetherville).

CEO Mandeep Dhillon says that this gives kids a unique chance to share their thoughts on their school — if enough students talk about an issue, then maybe the grownups will take notice (I suspect that student requests will result in a lot of noise, but the trends may be worthwhile). He also says that the community feature will be rolling out for uses beyond schools as well, like coordinating soccer teams.

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A Case for Coding Your Wireframes

Working as a designer day after day can be laborious. Luckily, the field has expanded, and so the process has become simpler. Many free tools and resources are out there.  Wireframes bring elegance to design mock-ups. They are the basic structure of a website, with colors and enhancements removed.  They are used to view design concepts with just the bare essentials, and they can provide a useful perspective on any project.

Most wireframes are created in software suites such as Adobe Photoshop and Fireworks, but some websites enable you to create wireframe images right in the browser.

In this post, we’ll go over coding a basic wireframe image in HTML and CSS and see how it can benefit the creative process.

Read more

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Facebook Engineer Explains “Worst Outage in Over Four Years”

Facebook Software Engineering Director Robert Johnson took some time to explain to a curious public exactly why Facebook went down earlier today, calling the mishap “the worst outage we’ve had in over four years.”

Facebook Engineer Explains “Worst Outage in Over Four Years”.

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