Facebook Shows New Life and Value

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A few months ago, we started to see a shift in how Facebook could potentially be used in a different way. Newsfeed commenting was heralded as a Friendfeed style approach. Initially buried in the original Facebook design, I sort of shrugged it off as just another me too approach that wouldn’t take.

Boy was I wrong.

In fact, accidentally Facebook became valuable to me again by keeping me engaged and connected to the hundreds of friends I have there.

Facebook used to be a fairly passive social community. By passive I mean, I found value in event RSVPs and occasional messaging. Certainly by all accounts, I was the exception as it seemed to be pretty active for other users as a wall post messaging system and an app platform. I block almost all apps universally as they annoy me, so I didn’t find the value. It was for these reasons that I had temporarily suspended my own account.

However, the other day I made a fairly innocuous status update, something I don’t do all that often and was surprised by the comments that that status update got. It was the first time for that for me. I was a Facebook Status Update Comment Virgin! And it was exciting! In fact, it made me want to do it again!

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End of the day, Facebook was getting boring for many users including myself. It was passive. It was blah. It certainly was a way to keep in contact with people, but showed little real value beyond that.

The new design has given some people heartburn, but even that heartburn seems to be dissipating into quiet reluctance at worst and enjoyment by others as people realize that little stuff like feed commenting is now more exposed than ever. Facebook, for me, has once again become useful.

What are your thoughts?

Young TechStars Become Grizzled TechVeterans

I’m not usually one to cover breaking news, but this demands it. Not so much because Boulder-based SocialThing is a great company or that they are a particularly good example of a great company acquired by an even greater company. Frankly, it’s neither. But it deserves a huge congratulations nonetheless.

TechStars, a YCombinator-style early incubation investment co-op(?), has a major exit by being acquired by AOL. Hats off to SocialThing and the young entrepreneurs behind it for making a very quick exit in a difficult market.

SocialThing is a lifestreaming service, much like the more popular FriendFeed. It was launched in March of this year making it all of four months old. It is so new it is still in private beta (we have an account) and doesn’t support Internet Explorer!

AOL, on the other hand, is a company desparate for relevancy. They continue to downsize announcing even more layoffs and consolidations of their business last month. Most of the business has been consolidated to Ad sales and retired to the hallowed halls of Madison Ave, though their former Dulles, VA HQ still boasts some performing products (AIM, Meebo, etc).

The feel good story here is that founders Matt Galligan and Ben Brightwell have just grown up very fast. They are no longer relegated to incubator company founders that might never make it. They have created a succcess story with an early stage exit that now makes them veterans in this space. Veterans being entrepreneurs with a successful exit (my definition, loose as it might be).

So congratulations to AOL and more importantly, the SocialThing team. Good to be grown up now.

What's Your Legacy?

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Back in December, the blogging world was struck dumb when Marc Orchant passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. I don’t want to rehash all the details as you can find them elsewhere. Sufficed to say, many tears were shed over his passing.

Time heals all wounds, right? No, not quite.

Today, GigaOm announced the “acquisition” of mobile gadget site jkOnTheRun. To me, an interesting subplot was the post that James Kendrick from jkOnTheRun wrote mourning the fact that Marc was not present to enjoy the excitement of the acquisition. This in turn spurred this FriendFeed conversation.

  • Steve Rubel shared an item on Google Reader – I miss Marc Orchant
  • Aaron Brazell, Andrew Baron, Jason Calacanis, James Hull, paul mooney, Peter Dawson, David Risley, Dave Martin, matt hollingsworth and Dan Liebke liked this
  • I miss Marc too and his writings – Steve Rubel
  • me three. – Robert Scoble
  • Same here. – James Hull
  • Today is dedicated to Marc. He helped get me my first paid blogging gig and now our blog is part of Om’s network. Thanks Marc. – Kevin C. Tofel
  • me 2 – Peter Dawson
  • He would have been proud – James Tenniswood
  • @Kevin he is smiling today. – Steve Rubel
  • Steve, I think you’re right. I hope he knows the profound influence he had on so many people. I’m humbled to call him a friend. – Kevin C. Tofel
  • I miss him too! I was talking about him at dinner tonight. Gnomedex is coming up and I was thinking how great it was to see him last year at the event. I was so lucky to spend time with him. – Betsy Weber
  • Now you know why Marc has a big thumbs-up wherever he might be. :) – James Kendrick
  • yeah…. me too. i think about him when Gnomedex, CES and DEMO conferences roll around. He was a true gentleman and a scholar. still have him on my skype….. every now and then i think of sending him a note. – Jason Calacanis
  • Me too. :( Gnomedex was the last time I ever saw Marc. – Aaron Brazell
  • Aaron: you were the last person he tweeted as well… as I’m sure you know. – Jason Calacanis
  • I remember, Jason… :( – Aaron Brazell
  • I had the good fortune to work with Marc’s daughter Rebecca at PR Newswire. Rebecca and I set at adjacent desks and she was very helpful to me. I never had the good fortune to meet Marc but truly enjoyed working with Rebecca. It’s nice to know that this man who resided in the place I now live is so well remembered. – James
  • Me too. Marc was always a ray of light, always uplifting. Made you feel good about the human race. – Cameron Reilly

Of course, I was the last person Marc ever tweeted when I was in the midst of trying to quit smoking.
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To this day, I think about Marc and this conversation brought everything flooding back. I more than occasionally wonder how Sue, his wife, is doing and have often thought about looking her up and giving her a call. But, then I think it still might be too soon. I don’t know.

What struck me about this friendfeed conversation is the word “legacy”. Marc had a legacy and it has carried over past his death. Legacy is the effect you have on people when you are gone. Legacy is the weight of your presence when you are not present.

Marc’s legacy lives on as he has positively changed so many lives and those lives remember.

Right now, the conversation in the technology blogging sphere is about relevance. It is hitting a moment where survival of the fittest is kicking into gear. Currently, everyone is fighting over the Techmeme scraps dropped from the plates of a few. Who can get the most pageviews? Who can track into top positions? It’s all very short sighted.

Value is created when you are able to positively affect the lives of those around you. Maybe talking about Seagate drives is not quite as sexy as adopting children in Africa, but it changes the way that a technology manager invests money.

Discussing African American history with a historian, as we will do on Saturday evening has the potential to affect real lives. Talking about how to be like Julia Allison does not.

Legacy is the mark you leave on a society when you are blessed to no longer be a part of it. Marc left his legacy. I hope to leave mine. What are you doing to leave a mark?