Massdrop Raises $6.5 million

Massdrop LogoMassdrop have announced that it has raised $6.5 million in a Series A round of financing, led by Mayfield Fund. This new funding brings the company’s total funds raised to about $8 million, which includes existing investors Kleiner Perkins, First Round Capital and Cowboy Ventures. Massdrop will use the cash to fuel its rapid growth and deliver on its vision for a new wave of community-driven commerce.

If you haven’t come across Massdrop before, it’s a bit like a social version of GroupOn. Massdrop supports a range of communities from automotive to in-vogue vaping. A poll product category is put forward and enthusiasts suggest different models in the product category, before everyone votes on their preferred one. For example, there might be a poll for external battery packs with models from Anker, NewTrent, Mophie and Satechi put forward and then voted on. Once there are some top choices, Massdrop approach the vendor(s) to see if they would be interested in a bulk sale, potentially with a range of price points based on volume. If agreeable, the product is put on sale with the different points shown thermometer-style. Purchasers can either buy regardless of price point or else commit to buy when it reaches a particular point.

It’s a cool idea that seems guaranteed to get savings. There are some downsides, the main one being that you have to wait until you get your hands on the product. First, the purchasing window has to close, then the whole shipment is delivered to Massdrop who finally re-ship the individual items. Definitely not for goods you want in hurry, but where it scores is that you potentially get the best product in the class at a good price.

On this basis, it’s not hard to see why Massdrop could be big. It combines the benefits of a crowd-sourced product recommendation site with the power of group purchasing to reduce prices while keeping quality up. For vendors, it’s no longer a race to the bottom; there’s an incentive to make good products.

Further, unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you’re buying a real, existing product and not gambling on the design and manufacture of an unknown product which takes months to deliver.

I think that the financiers have made a canny investment in Massdrop as there’s lots of potential here and I’ll be looking out for a bargain on the site too. What do you think?

Huffington Post Going Strong – 1 bn Page Views, New Hires, Head Spins….

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

For anyone that wonders why AOL got into bed with Huffington Post, here is your answer. People use the site. At least, that is what HuffPo says and we believe.

Last month, Huffington Post claimed they hit 1 billion page views in the month of August. With as much diversity that the post has, I wouldn’t be surprised. With the growth of the site in the last 30 days, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit 2 billion a month by early next year.

So how are they doing this right?

Sites with Communities

This seems to become a new trend – divvy up a site into several niche markets. Make the site feel like it caters to what you like. If you cannot group people in one big circle, make little circles and put all the numbers together in the end.

The announcement also talked about the purchase of “Localocracy” – an “online town common where registered voters using real names can weigh in on local issues.” This could bring the HuffPo to your local community. Get news and comment on it.

The HuffPost 50 is another good example. They call it the “Internet Newspaper”. You can get a little bit of everything on this page. You can scan the front page, find the one thing you like, read it, and move on.

Top Name Site Hires

This is how part of the press release reads:

The Huffington Post Media Group announces today the launch of four destination sites: Huff/Post50 (www.huffingtonpost.com/50), HuffPost Gay Voices (www.huffingtonpost.com/gay-voices) and HuffPost Weddings (www.huffingtonpost/weddings). Each offers HuffPost’s unique combination of real-time news and opinion, and passionate communities powered by a leading social news platform.

HuffPost/50 — whose Editor-at-Large is actress, producer and writer Rita Wilson — covers the challenges, complexities and joys facing the boomer generation, now 77 million people strong. It spotlights boomers who fearlessly tackle new challenges in the spirit of reinventing themselves, regardless of age, and encourages boomers to question conventional wisdom about aging. Topics being covered include: longevity, relationships and sex, politics, the intense “sandwich” pressure of simultaneously taking care of aging parents and children, retirement, spirituality and religion, friendship, politics and dying.

Not only did it announce new communities in LGBT and Wedding categories, it also put a staff together that includes comedian Margaret Cho, Heidi Klum, and other celebrities in their respected fields.

Engagement

It’s amazing to see how many people “Like” an article. Whereas a site has a good day with 34 likes on an article, HuffPo good post would see 1000x the traffic. For example – their “Arrested Development is back” post produced 79,000 likes.

Integrating the Facebook Factor really helps. Then again, their social comment section also adds community response, which – in turn – can be posted back to the social networks. I guess the day of the forum is really dead.

So in a nutshell, Huffington Post is a community site. You can go to get your tech fix, political fix, LGBT fix, and more. It  has news, commentary, pictures, video and so much more. Of course, it’s staff of bloggers and reporters is pretty impressive. So 1 billion page views is not surprising. With addtional website acquisitions, the 2 billion view mark a month is very possible.

A Week with Google Plus

Google Plus I have been participating in Google Plus for a week now and I am enjoying the interaction and community. There are a couple of things that I would suggest to new users to help make Google Plus more fun and useful

  • Create Circles
  • Follow People who interest you
  • You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you
  • Participate
  • Control your incoming Notifications

The first thing you want to do when you join Google Plus is set up Circles. How you set them up is up to you. You may want to have your family and friends in one. You may want to create another circle with people who have a specific vocation or avocation you are interested in (like photography). If you plan to follow someone who you know to have a very active community for example Robert Scoble or Chris Pirillo you may want to put them in their own circle so they don’t overwhelm the conversation. You can also put people in more than one circle, so you may want to create one large circle that combines two or more circles like family and friends plus people who interest you. Then make that your primary stream. One of the best ways to find new people to follow is by seeing whose post your friends and those who you are already following are sharing and commenting on. Remember you are under no obligation to follow someone just because they follow you. It is easy to get pulled into the numbers game, don’t. Google Plus is a place for conversation, don’t use it as a bullhorn. Participate by commenting and sharing other people’s post along with posting your own. If you just want to announce your latest and greatest adventure/conquest Google Plus is not for you. Finally to avoid notification overload click on the gear at the top right hand corner and then go into the Google + settings and decide when you really want to receive a notification. You can also decide how you want to receive the notification by email or SMS.

If you want to learn some tips and tricks for using Google Plus Comptricks has a great article 10 tips for Google Plus Beginners .  Finally have fun. Google Plus is a unique community it is not Facebook or Twitter. It  has its own strength and weaknesses. So I say welcome, come in and stay awhile.

IntoNow

IntoNow LogoThis past week Yahoo purchase IntoNow. What is IntoNow. IntoNow is a way to share what you are watching on TV with other people. It was launched in January 2011 into a ever growing field including Glue and Miso. The way intoNow works is you hold up your iphone, iPod Touch or iPad and hit a button on the IntoNow application and within a couple of seconds the applications picks up what you are watching on TV. It also determines whether the show is currently on or if it is a recorded show. IntoNow has a database of over 5 years of American TV content or 2.6 airings. It uses this data base plus the SoundPrint technology, The SoundPrint technology reads the audio from TV shows like a fingerprint and identifies the program within a couple of second. This is what makes intoNow different from its competitors you don’t have to enter what you are watching, the system picks it up automatically. Once what you are watching is determine you can then share it on Twitter or Facebook. You can also start and participate in discussions and recommend shows. It is clear by the Yahoo press release that they plan to use the information for target advertising. “IntoNow has built a platform and companion TV application based on real-time indexing of television that deepens the connections between audiences, television content and advertisers.”

I did see a couple of problems with IntoNow, First because the number of users are fairly small I only found one show that had any kind of discussion at all and even that only involved two people making unconnected comments. Second it is limited to US TV shows only, so if you want to share a movie you are watching on Netflix or maybe Amazon On Demand then you will have to use some other application. In addition if you are outside the U.S. or watch non U.S.-based shows you are out of luck. intoNow does not work well in a noise environment and let’s face it, if you are watching TV with some friends a quiet environment is not happening. Plus history tells me that in the end the purchase of IntoNow by Yahoo has a good chance to turn out bad for IntoNow the product. Although the creators will have done quite fine, money wise. If you ask me which of these TV check-in products I like best I would say Glue which has a large and active community. Glue also allows you to share more media types, including movies, music, and web videos. I not sure I will use IntoNow, it will depend on if the community that uses grows and becomes more active.

Knoppix Linux: 30 Minutes to Being Free of Windows

I upgraded one of my network file servers, yesterday. I replaced a hard disk that was setting off occasional error notices, and, while while I was at it, I replaced the current operating system (Mandrake Community 10.1) with Knoppix 3.7. Knoppix is the Linux distribution that I use in class to demonstrate how simple Linux is to use, because Knoppix is a fully-functional operating system with common applications that can boot from a single CD. So, with the bootable CD, I can quickly convert any computer to Linux without the risk of deleting any existing files from the Windows operating system.

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