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Posts Tagged ‘Shah’

Everything You Need to Know About the Social Media Bubble

May 18th, 2012 05:30 admin View Comments

Are we or aren’t we? When it comes to social media bubbles and whether or not we’re in one, there is no shortage of people willing to argue on each side of the debate. 

It doesn’t matter if Facebook finishes Friday, its first day as a publicly-traded company, with a valuation of $105 billion or $75 billion: The debate is sure to get more intense in the coming weeks, months and possibly years. Earlier this month in the buildup to Facebook’s IPO, we took a look at the social media bubble (or lack thereof) in a five-part series that was based on dozens of interviews with experts on both sides of the divide.

We opened with a comparison between the dot-com bubble to the current period, when social media companies that have no revenue model are being sold for a billion dollars or more. Later on, we compared Facebook just ahead of its IPO to America Online in the period leading up to and following its IPO.

While there is no shortage of bright people willing to argue that we are not in a social media bubble, we tended to land on the side of the argument that we were seeing the same kind of “irrational exuberance” that led to a run-up of dot-com stocks in the late 1990s and the early part of the last decade. Working under the assumption that we were indeed in a social media bubble, we speculated on which companies were likely to survive when the bubble bursts.

Finally, we talked to startup experts and found out whether a bubble was irrelevant to those who were thinking of starting a social media business. Suki Shah, cofounder and CEO at GetHired.com, told us, there may never be a better time to start a social network company.

“Small teams of smart, dedicated, entrepreneurial people are creating significant momentum and innovation in niche areas that really appeal to larger companies,” he said. “Regardless of what will happen in the future, serious entrepreneurs need to use this time to set sail.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: Everything You Need to Know About the Social Media Bubble

Julia, a language for technical computing

February 18th, 2012 02:42 admin View Comments

Julia is a new programming language by Viral Shah, Jeff Bezanson, Stefan Karpinski, and Alan Edelman.

From the blog post Why We Created Julia:

We are greedy: we want more.

We want a language that’s open source, with a liberal license. We want the speed of C with the dynamism of Ruby. We want a language that’s homoiconic, with true macros like Lisp, but with obvious, familiar mathematical notation like Matlab. We want something as usable for general programming as Python, as easy for statistics as R, as natural for string processing as Perl, as powerful for linear algebra as Matlab, as good at gluing programs together as the shell. Something that is dirt simple to learn, yet keeps the most serious hackers happy. We want it interactive and we want it compiled.

(Did we mention it should be as fast as C?)

While we’re being demanding, we want something that provides the distributed power of Hadoop — without the kilobytes of boilerplate Java and XML; without being forced to sift through gigabytes of log files on hundreds of machines to find our bugs. We want the power without the layers of impenetrable complexity. We want to write simple scalar loops that compile down to tight machine code using just the registers on a single CPU. We want to write A*B and launch a thousand computations on a thousand machines, calculating a vast matrix product together.

We never want to mention types when we don’t feel like it. But when we need polymorphic functions, we want to use generic programming to write an algorithm just once and apply it to an infinite lattices of types; we want to use multiple dispatch to efficiently pick the best method for all of a function’s arguments, from dozens of method definitions, providing common functionality across drastically different types. Despite all this power, we want the language to be simple and clean.

Looking at the excellent Julia manual, it becomes clear that Julia is another descendant of Common Lisp. While Common Lisp has many detractors (and not entirely without reason), nobody can claim that the family of languages it spawned aren’t well designed. On the contrary, languages like NewtonScript, Dylan, Goo, PLOT, and now Julia all have a hard to grasp quality without a name that makes them an improvement over many of their successors.

Source: Julia, a language for technical computing

Iran Blocks HTTPS, Cutting Off Gmail, Yahoo and Other Major Sites

February 10th, 2012 02:42 admin View Comments

The Iranian government isn’t exactly known as a champion of free speech and access to information. Thus, it’s never shocking to hear about Internet censorship in the country, the state of which appears to be getting worse all the time.

Today, news surfaced that the country is blocking access to websites that use HTTPS. That means that a number of popular, secure websites like Google, Gmail, Yahoo and even online banking sites are inaccessible. Anything based outside the country that uses a secure connection via HTTPS is blocked, according to news reports and a thread on Hacker News. Secure sites based within Iran are reportedly still accessible.

The shutdown is said to be timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and is believed to be temporary. Exactly how long it will be in place is unclear. The revolution culminated with the fall of the Shah on February 11, 1979, but the country did not officially become an Islamic Republic until April 1. So, the restrictions could be lifted this weekend, or perhaps several weeks from now.

Meanwhile, developers and members of the Hacker News community are brainstorming ways to help Iranians get around the limitations. Some have suggested setting up Tor bridges for Web users in Iran, although that presents its own logistical issues.

These measures come just as the Iranian government begins to roll out longer-term plans to effectively strangle the Internet to death and create a new, state-sponsored Web for citizens of that country to use. The government is even requiring Internet cafe owners to videotape all patrons so that Web surfers can be more easily identified by authorities.

If news reports are accurate, Iranians could be facing a level of Web censorship that approaches that which exists in North Korea, where public access to the Internet we all know and love is barely existent. Whether or not Iranians, who have already had a taste of what the Web can do, will tolerate such restrictions without a struggle, remains to be seen.

That the Iranian government is clamping down on Internet access is hardly a surprise. In 2009, they saw firsthand the kind of unrest that emerge amidst a well-connected and dissatisfied citizenry. Since then, governments in nearby countries have been overthrown or otherwise challenged in the so-called Arab Spring.

Source: Iran Blocks HTTPS, Cutting Off Gmail, Yahoo and Other Major Sites

Iran Blocks HTTPS, Cutting Off Gmail, Yahoo and Other Major Sites

February 10th, 2012 02:42 admin View Comments

The Iranian government isn’t exactly known as a champion of free speech and access to information. Thus, it’s never shocking to hear about Internet censorship in the country, the state of which appears to be getting worse all the time.

Today, news surfaced that the country is blocking access to websites that use HTTPS. That means that a number of popular, secure websites like Google, Gmail, Yahoo and even online banking sites are inaccessible. Anything based outside the country that uses a secure connection via HTTPS is blocked, according to news reports and a thread on Hacker News. Secure sites based within Iran are reportedly still accessible.

The shutdown is said to be timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and is believed to be temporary. Exactly how long it will be in place is unclear. The revolution culminated with the fall of the Shah on February 11, 1979, but the country did not officially become an Islamic Republic until April 1. So, the restrictions could be lifted this weekend, or perhaps several weeks from now.

Meanwhile, developers and members of the Hacker News community are brainstorming ways to help Iranians get around the limitations. Some have suggested setting up Tor bridges for Web users in Iran, although that presents its own logistical issues.

These measures come just as the Iranian government begins to roll out longer-term plans to effectively strangle the Internet to death and create a new, state-sponsored Web for citizens of that country to use. The government is even requiring Internet cafe owners to videotape all patrons so that Web surfers can be more easily identified by authorities.

If news reports are accurate, Iranians could be facing a level of Web censorship that approaches that which exists in North Korea, where public access to the Internet we all know and love is barely existent. Whether or not Iranians, who have already had a taste of what the Web can do, will tolerate such restrictions without a struggle, remains to be seen.

That the Iranian government is clamping down on Internet access is hardly a surprise. In 2009, they saw firsthand the kind of unrest that emerge amidst a well-connected and dissatisfied citizenry. Since then, governments in nearby countries have been overthrown or otherwise challenged in the so-called Arab Spring.

Source: Iran Blocks HTTPS, Cutting Off Gmail, Yahoo and Other Major Sites

Do You Really Need Your Own Mobile App or a Better Website?

January 12th, 2012 01:30 admin View Comments

The short answer can be no, and a number of website developers are beginning to think in terms of extending the core web apps to better handle mobile devices, such as iPads and other tablets. This flies in the face of current trends, so let’s consider what are the pros and cons.

“We deal with all sorts of customers,” says Amir Shah, the CEO of St. Louis-based Web developer AgilitySpeaks.com. “I find that when we introduce them to ‘mobile’ the first thing they think about, and usually the only thing they think about, is an app.” But developing an app dedicated to tablets means forking into two or more different processes, and that can be complex and costly.

Apps have their utility, as Shah points out. “If a client has a product that is the app, or if they are generating revenue from an app or need something that leverages the internals of the iPad such as the camera or GPS, then yes, an app makes sense.” Another model is something that requires regular consumption, such as a newspaper subscription or a game. How regular a usage pattern? Certainly more than once or twice: “If I’m buying a car, once I’ve bought it, I won’t use your app until I need another,” Shah says.

Shah points out several misconceptions about the purported advantages of using apps, rather than building a better website that can handle both mobile and traditional browsers. These include:

  • Mobile perceived performance. With the right coding tricks and techniques, you can improve mobile browsing performance to close that of a fixed desktop and with a better perceived latency too.
  • Better disconnected access. Many apps do require continuous Internet access, so you aren’t getting anywhere with moving off a traditional browser just for this reason.
  • It isn’t just the iPad either. Once you finish your iOS app, you will want to do another one for Android devices, and maybe also Blackberries too. Each platform has different requirements, different dev tools, and other requirements.
  • Push is just for apps. You can rig up alternative push notifications using SMS or email that are just as effective and don’t require the notifications to be managed by the Apple-owned processes.
  • Anyone can code up an app these days. True, but coding up a great app isn’t any easier than coding a great website. Plus, done right, a website that will work well on a tablet or smaller screen is easier to maintain. And it can be cheaper to build than maintaining all those forked developments.
  • Apps give me more marketing mojo. Definitely not true. Well, when was the last time you could search Google for in-app content? “No one searches for a restaurant on the iPhone app store,” says Shah. Having a single code base for your site content means that your SEO is going to leverage all your site visits, including all the page views from your mobile readers. Plus, you don’t have to point people to a special “m.website.com” version too.

Obviously, if you go the one-website-for-all route, you have to learn how to use HTMLv5 and know your way around CSS and be able to automatically detect browsers and …. But these should be part of your Web bag of tricks already.

Source: Do You Really Need Your Own Mobile App or a Better Website?

Hosting a WordPress Blog on OpenShift

December 30th, 2011 12:00 admin View Comments

OpenShift.jpgIf you’re using WordPress, the most likely options are to run your own stack, use a shared hosting provider that offers WordPress, or go with WordPress.com. With the rise of PaaS offerings like OpenShift, though, why not run WordPress there?

As it stands, most PaaS providers are largely targeted at custom code rather than packages like WordPress. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get WordPress up and running, as Amit Shah demonstrated by moving his WordPress blog to OpenShift.

Actually, he was moving from Blogger to WordPress, which makes it even more interesting. Shah gives a detailed explanation of how he moved his blog to OpenShift, including the commands to grab PHP, MySQL, add domains and set up the directory for WordPress.

Why would you want to do this? Scalability is one thing. I’m running a WordPress instance on Linode right now, and I can add resources if I want but it requires manual intervention and stopping/restarting the VPS to make changes. Hosting on a PaaS should mean you can scale up/down dynamically with no downtime.

It also means that the PaaS provider will take care of all the security updates, etc. That’s true, or should be, if you’re using shared hosting or WordPress.com. However, the trade-off for shared hosting means that you’re on a server with who knows how many other users. It also offers much less flexibility. WordPress.com offers plenty of scalability, but again has much less flexibility in terms of what you can do (like install custom plugins, etc.).

One of the trends I’m hoping to see in 2012 is for projects like WordPress to be easily deployed on PaaS services.

Source: Hosting a WordPress Blog on OpenShift

Tapjoy Partners With PapayaMobile for Social Discovery of Mobile Apps

November 16th, 2011 11:49 admin View Comments

Mobile ad network Tapjoy is in the process of changing itself from a business-to-business company to a consumer application discovery tool. In that vein, the company announced this morning that it is partnering with PapayaMobile to create a social marketplace for apps that will allow users to see what the popular Android games based on what their friends are playing.

Essentially, it is the merging of two SDKs — the PapayaMobile social community mixed Tapjoy’s in-app marketplace. The idea is to create higher engagement levels so Jumptap can target more relevant ads at users and developers can increase their bottom lines.

This move is the second public step that we have seen Tapjoy take to become a more consumer-focused business. The first was a couple of weeks ago when it announced Tapjoy Games, a Web-based games repository intended to implement its pay-per-action service intended to work around Apple’s App Store terms of service.

Tapjoy is not making a full consumer pivot. Its existing ad network, video offerings and partnerships are not effected by its new lean on consumer benefits. Tapjoy is nothing if not aggressive and the moves we have seen it make over the last several months show that it is trying to diversify its product solutions to avoid the trouble it got in with Apple that threatened its entire business.

In terms of social and mobile engagement, this is an area of the industry that is rapidly taking off. Read the ReadWriteMobile archives over the last month or so and you will see a plethora of articles focused on increasing engagement, creating actionable data and turning that data into money. Some companies have built the solutions themselves (see Apsalar) or, like Tapjoy, have gone the route of partnership to achieve the same goals.

“Our entire business is built around delivering as much value to consumers as possible, and clearly there’s considerable value in helping them discover new games based on what their friends are playing,” said Mihir Shah, president and CEO of Tapjoy in a press release. “PapayaMobile’s social network has the scale and reach, particularly across the U.S. and China, to help make our ads further targeted and more engaging for users.”

The Social Marketplace will suggest games to users based on the popularity within their connection in the Papaya network. The interest graph is calculated using anonymous data to guard privacy. The Social Marketplace be available for developers by the end of the year.

It is another vertical for Tapjoy and another shot to increase its portfolio. What do you think of Tapjoy? Is it a company grasping at straws or are these astute strategic partnerships? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Tapjoy Partners With PapayaMobile for Social Discovery of Mobile Apps

Tapjoy Partners With PapayaMobile for Social Discovery of Mobile Apps

November 16th, 2011 11:49 admin View Comments

Mobile ad network Tapjoy is in the process of changing itself from a business-to-business company to a consumer application discovery tool. In that vein, the company announced this morning that it is partnering with PapayaMobile to create a social marketplace for apps that will allow users to see what the popular Android games based on what their friends are playing.

Essentially, it is the merging of two SDKs — the PapayaMobile social community mixed Tapjoy’s in-app marketplace. The idea is to create higher engagement levels so Jumptap can target more relevant ads at users and developers can increase their bottom lines.

This move is the second public step that we have seen Tapjoy take to become a more consumer-focused business. The first was a couple of weeks ago when it announced Tapjoy Games, a Web-based games repository intended to implement its pay-per-action service intended to work around Apple’s App Store terms of service.

Tapjoy is not making a full consumer pivot. Its existing ad network, video offerings and partnerships are not effected by its new lean on consumer benefits. Tapjoy is nothing if not aggressive and the moves we have seen it make over the last several months show that it is trying to diversify its product solutions to avoid the trouble it got in with Apple that threatened its entire business.

In terms of social and mobile engagement, this is an area of the industry that is rapidly taking off. Read the ReadWriteMobile archives over the last month or so and you will see a plethora of articles focused on increasing engagement, creating actionable data and turning that data into money. Some companies have built the solutions themselves (see Apsalar) or, like Tapjoy, have gone the route of partnership to achieve the same goals.

“Our entire business is built around delivering as much value to consumers as possible, and clearly there’s considerable value in helping them discover new games based on what their friends are playing,” said Mihir Shah, president and CEO of Tapjoy in a press release. “PapayaMobile’s social network has the scale and reach, particularly across the U.S. and China, to help make our ads further targeted and more engaging for users.”

The Social Marketplace will suggest games to users based on the popularity within their connection in the Papaya network. The interest graph is calculated using anonymous data to guard privacy. The Social Marketplace be available for developers by the end of the year.

It is another vertical for Tapjoy and another shot to increase its portfolio. What do you think of Tapjoy? Is it a company grasping at straws or are these astute strategic partnerships? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Tapjoy Partners With PapayaMobile for Social Discovery of Mobile Apps

The Twitter Endgame: IPO, Chess, or Roulette?

July 9th, 2011 07:22 admin View Comments

Editors Note: Guest contributor Semil Shah is an entrepreneur interested in digital media, consumer Internet, and social networks. He is based in Palo Alto and you can follow him on Twitter @semilshah.

Reports are swirling that Twitter is in talks to raise $400 million, valuing the company close to $8 billion. It seems as if it was only yesterday that Twitter raised $200m from Kleiner Perkins. At the time of Kleiner’s investment, some pundits chuckled beneath their breath, claiming the old venture firm was paying up on price in order to claim a bit of equity in social networks, which they had been perceived to have missed.

Despite that laughter, it may be John Doerr, his partners, other Twitter investors, and their employees that share in the last laugh. In addition to the success of their niche funds, Doerr knew exactly the bet he was making when he hunted down this deal last December. In buying a piece of Twitter, one could connect the dots for the possibility that Doerr, with his deep knowledge of Google, knows something about a Twitter endgame that got his investment juices flowing. There have been countless blog posts trying to show that Google should buy Twitter. At the same time, other technology giants left hanging without any social data could perceive Twitter as an attractive acquisition target also, giving them a large network and helping circumnavigate many walled-garden sites filled with social, user-generated content. Can the company’s major shareholders help create competition for a Twitter deal in a very small market?

The roll call of Twitter’s investors is impressive, littered with the names of blue chip venture firms and consumer web celebrities, many of whom built their reputations largely through this one investment—and rightly so. With around 400 employees, half of whom are focused on engineering and product, Twitter doesn’t necessarily need almost half a billion dollars of additional financing to keep going. To date, it has been able to book some revenue based largely on the promoted tweet ad unit.

However, it has also been acquiring companies to help eliminate blind spots in its technology and product offering, to date spending more than $50M on purchases like Fluther, TweetDeck, and most recently, BackType. One could make the case that as the company continues to get the product back on track that a mix of housekeeping plus new acquisitions make sense to get the product to a point of stability. This seems to be what is happening especially under the product guidance of c0-founder Jack Dorsey, who came back but still is CEO of Square, and former Google AdSense guru Satya Patel.

That is, because right now, the Twitter product struggles just to be stable. For those that use Twitter’s native web site in the browser, it’s been considerably slower, possibly because the system is processing over 200m tweets per day. Sure, that’s a lot, but in those 200m items are a lot of loud, spammy, and inaudible (or inauthentic) accounts. For those trying to get a handle on direct messages (“DMs”), random old threads keep popping up when they finally load, which means they may be moving all DMs to a new server. @Replies are still not distinguishable from @Mentions, users haven’t been educated to make lists, and it’s very hard to search through favorites or old tweets. There are also more add-on options available per tweet via mobile than there is on the web, perhaps due to the fact that for those that use Twitter heavily, there are so many different clients from which to access the stream.

And therein lies the huge challenge but also Twitter’s massive opportunity. There has been much controversy about Twitter’s handling of its own developer community. For some, the lack of a clear roadmap has spooked people from investing in the space with time, money, and developer resources. For others, talk is cheap, and the reality that Twitter will have to eventually own every piece of the stack is obvious, so those that enter the fray must do so willingly.

Most recently, these tensions were brought to light when Twitter was seen to attack Uber Media and then subsequently acquired TweetDeck, or when Twitter decided to launch it’s own photo-sharing service in partnership with PhotoBucket (and thereby bypassing services like Twitpic and yfrog), or when it decided to get into the URL-shortening game, going so far as to re-shorten URLs that were already shortened by other services like bit.ly. As powerful and disruptive as Twitter can be in the real world, make no mistake that in its own ecosystem, similar forces are at work.

There has now been a good year of “bubble” saber-rattling in the technology world, and combined with today’s red-hot IPO market, Twitter needs to keep advancing its chess pieces forward. While the public demand for shares in Twitter may be huge, the reality is that the five-year old company not only doesn’t have the revenue acceleration needed to make this a viable option, but it’s product isn’t entirely set either. This latest $400m fundraising round may be an attempt to help fuel more product-enhancing acquisitions and, overall, to begin a consolidation of fragmented clients and services that currently survive solely on an oxygen supply from Twitter’s API. With each round raised and as its valuation goes up and up, the possible exit outcomes dwindle and the stakes get higher. The Twitter endgame transforms from chess into a dangerous game of roulette.

From my own personal viewpoint as a Twitter user, my sincere hope is that Twitter remains an independent, standalone company that eventually is publicly-traded. I will line up to buy shares. I view the Web through Twitter and spend more time on the service than any other, by a mile. And while I hope it will IPO, I have this sinking feeling that’s not realistic. This is not to suggest that Twitter is failing at finding and tuning all the best possible business models. They are doing an incredible job with only 400 people. It’s astonishing, really. Rather, it’s that the scope of all the potential opportunities is so massive, wide, and deep—from Internet, to television, to back-end analytics, search, location—that it may take a real partnership to transform these models into real revenue engines.

Who would be interested in Twitter should they continue to remain private and closely-held? Some make the case for companies like Apple, especially after its integration of Twitter into its iOS5 software. A company like Twitter could give cash-rich Apple a huge network to deploy its iAd advertisements on multiple devices, perhaps eventually even on television. Earlier this year, there was some chatter that Facebook may be interested, but they don’t (yet) have enough cash on hand to do this (though Facebook stock could do the trick). There’s always Microsoft, which certainly has cash on hand and an appetite to buy social communication services, recently demonstrated by its $8 billion acquisition of Skype.

This leaves one company, located in Mountain View, that many believe could be the perfect acquirer for Twitter, despite the fact it just launched its own social network, Google+, which is poised to launch brand pages, too. A possible Google-Twitter acquisition has been analyzed to death, so I won’t do that here, other than to say on paper, it makes a ton of sense. Because of all the bountiful seeds Twitter has planted around the world, the company best positioned to harvest those seeds (and turn a healthy buck while doing so) is Google, bar none.

But, as Twitter raises more money at higher valuations, and if an IPO is not likely in the near future, the number of possible outcomes dwindles. While an acquisition by one of the four companies listed above could be huge, both in terms of dollars and media attention, the real game would be to create enough competition among at least two of the four possible bidders to drive up the price and maximize shareholder returns. If Twitter uses the new funding to continue to fortify the product and also continue on a hunt for the best business models, it may give the potential acquirers information that leads them to think they may not be likely to extract profits from Twitter either.

By raising a whopping round, Twitter buys itself time but also elevates the stakes. Does Twitter putter along for the next few years and stumble upon a business model, enabling it to IPO? Does a giant like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, or Google snatch up the company, or better yet, engage in a chess match with each other for the right to buy it for close to $10b or more, minting money for the company shareholders? Or, does Twitter start to slowly fade away, unable to reel in enough cash to keep the twittering machine humming? With the first option being a longshot, we’re down to two numbers on the roulette wheel. My money and my hope is on black: an acquisition.

Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström

Source: The Twitter Endgame: IPO, Chess, or Roulette?

Zynga Buys Canadian Mobile App Development Firm Five Mobile; Opens Toronto Studio

July 8th, 2011 07:00 admin View Comments

Zynga has made its 15th acquisition in 13 months today, with the purchase of Canadian mobile app development firm Five Mobile. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed and the Five Mobile team will now become Zynga Toronto.

Five Mobile is a mobile application development company that specializes in multi-platform development across various smartphone platforms. The team has worked with some of the largest media and technology companies, including Disney, Sony Pictures, AT&T, Bump, Flurry and RIM, in North America to develop branded, interactive mobile apps for a number of platforms.

The startup’s founders, who all came from Tria Wireless, include Ameet Shah, Jeff Zakrzewski, Oliver Tabay, and Troy Hubman. All the founders are joining Zynga Toronto and Shah will head up the Zynga Toronto studio, reporting to Zynga’s mobile head David Ko.

Mobile is a big part of future strategy for Zynga and it’s not surprising that the social gaming giant is building out and staffing up its mobile team. The company just launched a mobile version of CityVille for iOS, and debuted another iOS game last month, Hanging With Friends. Plus, Zynga landed a marketing deal with AT&T to bring bring customized games and content to the carrier’s customers.

Zynga’s past acquisitions in 2011 include DNA Games, the team behind cocos2d, Wonderland, JamLegend, MarketZero, Floodgate, social browser Flock, and New York’s Area/Code.

Source: Zynga Buys Canadian Mobile App Development Firm Five Mobile; Opens Toronto Studio