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Phweet is Now Inactive – Thanks for Your Support and Interest

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Thank you for visiting Phweet, checking out Phweet or being one of our early supporters. It’s served it purpose. It was a great test bed, proof of concept and ahead of its time. A few others have tried adding voice to Twitter none have yet worked and we believe we know why and even how to address. Yet my purpose is not to address those ideas today. Some of our thinking carries on in other projects and consultancy assignments we handle today.

Why shut it now? David and I kept it going as a live demo and as a conversation and discussion point. However Twitter is closing in on the day when using Twitter oAuth is mandatory. It wasn’t available when Phweet was designed and created. I wish it was. Still today in it’s current form it isn’t worth upgrading the coding.

A Few Observations:

Friction: Twitter is not a “friction” free environment and continues to have many points of failure. One form of friction relates to escalating conversations on and around Tweets. There’s a constant follow me follow you issue, send me your email, what’s your phone number? Every escalation that adds real value currently takes place off or outside Twitter. Phweet was one of the first services to try and solve this. Allowing easy escalation to voice calls without further exchange of personal information.

Second type of friction is in the flow. Twitter’s fail whale happens. That can mess up whether or not messages are even delivered by Twitter. More importantly while the flow is massive the medium still remains fairly asynchronous. There are no guarantees that the respondent will get the message or a notification in real-time. More advanced users may (eg using a Twitter App on mobile). Thus “signaling” with Twitter needs careful thought.

Twitter’s Future: Twitter’s future remains bright. Their approach to developers still encouraging. Twitter hasn’t killed the innovation engine around it. The first law of developing for/with Twitter remains. It’s simply “love Twitter”. I still do. David does too, or we wouldn’t spend time developing and learning from other Twitter Apps. We’d like to apply that expertise in “more”, “broader”, strategic and relationship driven opportunities. We’re busy with both social and communications related projects currently. Contact one of us.

Twitter @anywhere and geo-location will in time make Phweet like services even more relevant. The ready escalation on location to richer dialogues whether with a restaurant or a hot date will drive the need to have conversations that stretch quickly beyond 140 characters. In fact that’s often the case with Twitter. The answer to a tweet needs more than 140 characters.

Twitter Firehose: The firehose (total access to tweets as they happen) changes many opportunities for how developers harness Twitter. Many simple social media monitoring programs are moving here. Although that’s commodity turf IMHO. The firehose has many advantages for “communications” particularly in the corporate sense and in terms of  call centers. We’ve now implemented “watchlist” solutions.

I couldn’t write this post without looking at a few previous posts. In fact the last one on the blog sums up many learnings captured with Phweet. I see it also keeps quiet and I’m secretly pleased to see we’ve really progressed in the last year. That’s really what Phweet was about, making progress, taking a step forward, accelerating the future. No we didn’t knock off Skype.

If I have a frustration it is simply that “great” no “outstanding” work never found a sponsor. Strategically, Phweet was the most revolutionary approach to changing the way we make calls in 100 years. “context before call”, “no numbers / your choice of profileID / public records streamed / personal exchanges etc.

There’s no way to predict what solutions might have been. However, here’s a few predictions of how we could still make a difference.

1. Context before Call – Twitter is making more and more inroads with Customer Service. All have a problem escalating and handling the resolution. Adding the Twitter stream to the Call Center is going to be a winner. A talk request for customer service rather than the queue.

2. Identity Services. Location based services must separate and enable us to use the ID of our choice. Whether that’s a directory service like Facebook, or Twitter or Linked In. Or perhaps something else. We require more sophisticated CallerID’s. We want more transparency with our companies. The integration with social media and call centers is now an imperative.

3. Phone Numbers: This is old school. It’s almost tragic watching GoogleVoice and Ribbit and recently Line2 say yet another number usually on your mobile is the solution. The world is context first and escalate if required. Using multiple lines is a failure case where there is no other management or separation solution (eg personal vs family).

4. Voice is a Commodity – The argument is voice is just part of the web of exchanges. It’s cheap and anyone can add it to any webpage or enable it almost anywhere. We’re not quite there yet.

Phweet Review – Your Suggestions Wish

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

This posting is on my personal blog too. I’ve purposely not pushed the @phweet messages or the updates on the Phweet blog while we are in Alpha. The learning has never stopped. I also thanked many people that made Phweet a success yesterday. Looking forward to your continued support and a Happy New Years wish to all Phweeters!

Some things are Phweet! Ah sweet! At least that’s the play on words I was looking for. I thought a world full of PhweetTalk might make Twitter a more interesting place. So this is my review.

10 things I have learned:

We haven’t yet changed the world. People still prefer to make their calls off or outside Twitter and without Phweet. While we garnered a lot of early attention the reasons why are not that hard to see.

1. Most importantly Phweet works. It breaks new ground re callerID, context for a call, call in progress, and call records. The variations developed later including persistent Phweets have even more potential.

2. However, Twitter isn’t yet a mature or effective signaling system. There’s lots of confusion around @ messages, DM’s and the default settings for notifications and email. Many times we wished we had the money to enable reliable SMS and email notification services ourselves.

3. I still look at Phweet as a Clayton Christensen type innovation. It’s counter intuitive, disruptive and slightly broken in the beginning. But watch out!

4. We thought the “PhweetURL” in the tweet would be more viral than it was. At first it was. We had a dozen people in our “launch call”. However sharing and promoting URL’s on twitter isn’t as easy as it sounds or may look. Signing in to Twitter was also a barrier. Twitter really needs an oAuth identification service. Twitter should authorize and send Phweet the key. We also had too many public canceled sessions so the user didn’t get a reward.

5. Tweeters do talk. In fact Twebinars prove they also like conference calls. Yet our lack of an app integration made this hard to call in. We also didn’t put in a “billing system” in the Alpha which restricted the “convenience that can be made available. A few of us know. We ran PSTN accounts and the integrity and convenience of the system improved.

6. We failed to get one Twitter App developer on board. They could have integrated Phweet using the API so it was almost like having a Twitter buddy on speed dial although without the rude ringing. This was disappointing to us. I never wanted to be in the App business although (if I had the funds) we could develop two or three twitter related apps that would challenge the current leaders on the desktop and mobile. I believe we presented revenue models and options that should have been attractive. My guess is many different agendas.

7. We have built a really nifty personal call management system. You can take the call on any channel and Phweet is effectively channel agnostic. Still the feature was buried for first time users and without a payment plan we couldn’t fund the calls so the host always got a call back. That’s a problem we’ve now solved alas it awaits another iteration.

8. Many don’t see the potential for the anonymity / callerID that is and separation from the phone number. This is integral to effective location based services and managing your privacy.

9. Similarly, we’ve not yet executed an integrated package that puts the receiver in charge. Many still fail to see that traditional call escalation results in interruptions, voicemail and potential breaches of privacy. By contrast Phweet lets the receiver make a judgment based on context and their relationship whether or not to escalate to a call. We’re already doing this unofficially by texting first. Phweet must make that dumb SMS message smart.

10. The PhweetURL was always meant to become invisible. In time it will. It’s really an exchange contract that brokers and escalates access between two or more parties. It may be public or private. Without apps we could make the Phweetman the button we envisage or enable it to go to every web page. Again we know the next step.

There’s more of course. We’ve looked at statistics, we’ve looking as deeply as anyone into twitter user behavior. For now we didn’t get a million users quickly. That’s not to say I can’t see 10+ million in my future.

What I would do differently

I wouldn’t have launched a public alpha. There were huge benefits and yet I think we may have done better with building out business case privately. When that public alpha launched, the perception was we were too big really for angels and we needed to go for something bigger. Fact was we were perhaps somewhere in between. As a consequence we shot too high too fast when we had a million demands at once. So I would have spent the time sharing it with more of those I trust and know. No one told me this privately although a couple of influential bloggers who I’d have called my friends shunned mentions as if they had been slighted. It was never the objective. We did what we thought was best at the time and prepped it. I couldn’t see at the time how I could run an effective alpha. Part of our initial focus was to learn how a Phweet passed through the twittersphere. Many of my best friends weren’t even on Twitter despite my early advocacy. So this is really a catch22 reflection. Still it is a note for future iterations.

I spent hard earned money on help with the look and feel of the site. If we hadn’t gone to public alpha we could have saved this money and in the end it was more trouble than it was worth. It’s always an interesting trade-off. It’s also part of the set of skills that’s required to get a start-up like this off the ground. In reality I’m still much happier we spent some time on the “packaging” my real frustration is not having the resources to make improvements. Like anything you have to be prepared to throw it away. Still as they say. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Just two guys had real skin and labor developing Phweet.

In both my reflections on 2008 and in the above I wish we had started with a few more resources. I felt close at the time it just didn’t quite gel that way. I’m sure David feels the same way. Both of us are capable of driving more than just ourselves. I still look at it with pride and think if this is what we could do just think what a team of 10 could do. It’s not a question of delegating everything; its more about ensuring everyone is doing what they are best at. I found myself caught in trying to do everything. The simple fact is few startups or web solutions start with so few resources and even less that provide VoIP solutions. Most have a small army.

If it is not clear in the above I would  approach funding differently. I’m a little horrified that I’m still stuck on really moving forward because of a complete lack of funds. Having sold big dollar consulting projects the costs to have driven our Phweet team forward could have already paid out many times over in some large organization with more resources. Still that’s not the prize that a startup VC or Angel looks for. I’m convinced that the ROI can be huge.

The future for Phweet

That will be a separate post. It’s dependent on and requires additional support from my friends. I require encouragement. So does David. We have a good understanding of services that we can harness in
the next iteration. Our plans for Phweet won’t be beholden to “minutes” which is a death spiral for most VoIP companies.

What would thrill me the most and best kick start my new year would be your suggestions; public or private. So if it was yours… what would you do next? If you are as passionate as I am and want to press the innovation boundaries then join us, advise us, fund us etc. Certainly, now would be a good time to come forward.

Communications is Fragmenting

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The next time you use Phweet I’d like you to consider how it improves communications in a world that is rapidly fragmenting.

  • We want Multiple Identities: Our directory listings are increasingly fragmented, outdated and dispersed. Where once a white pages or yellow pages listing was enough we now have profiles on social networks, corporate profiles, personal websites and more. Each serves a different purpose, each a different share and a different way of revealing ourselves. No one wants one identity for all communications anymore!
  • We use Multiple Channels: Communications channels are often not synchronized or updated. It’s a guessing game where you will find me. This results in lost opportunities and failures. The fact is you don’t know my number anymore anyways. You click on a name in your address book or an IM handle and we talk. The end point doesn’t matter. What matters is that the communication channel is a good connection and that it costs nothing or almost nothing. More importantly why should you have to judge or guess where to send the message or make the call.
  • We want privacy without Interruptions: Sharing your mobile number may result in unwanted interruptions. Routing all calls to your mobile is the future. The problem is interruptions. If I give you my mobile number and you share it there is no way for me to ‘expire’ that connection and I may suffer further breaches of privacy. As a result, we are often highly protective of our mobile numbers. When it gets really bad people get a new mobile number. That’s not a solution.
  • Desire control over access: Callers dictate when the calls happen without context and often without identification. It’s even worse as I wrote yesterday when it is an unknown number calling. We send those to voice mail and then may later have to listen to it or clear it. Let’s face it SMS is more and more popular for setting up calls and the “Available”, “Away” etc. that we have seen on IM accounts has become almost irrelevant.
  • Broadcast and escalate conversations: It is hard to spontaneously escalate calls to conferences particularly if people are on different networks. This is one of the things that has always impressed me most about Skype and moving Skype multichats to conference calls with three to five people. We’ve enabled this with Phweet without number exchanges in multiple formats. You can even broadcast what you are talking about in real time. The future where you control the bridge and determine the services on the bridge is here. It’s a key differentiator. There’s more controls and power we will be offering to users.
  • Communications on-the-move: Location based services are limited by access to numbers and concerns about sharing proximity info. The future is not going to be limited by the cost of the call or the need to know the communications channel. It should be about whether or not I want to allow access to me and under what circumstances and context I am willing to share. I feel I will share different profiles / directory listings and broadcast them to different destinations. The status update is key and so are my public profiles. At the end of the day it is my directory listing that will put you in touch with me. My listings on the move may be many and varied. They may or may not relate to each other. That’s fine by me.

I beleive Phweet addresses communications in a fragmenting world. We still have a way to go. Let me know which of these items are important to you. Which one’s you think really make a difference. If you were Phweet how would you use these attributes to move forward? Look forward to your comments.

The first Public Phweet

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

When a picture may be worth 1000 words I still have to write a few more here. What happened? I sent David a “phweet” from Phweet.com which travelled over Twitter sharing I wanted to talk with David. Not long after David accepted we were joined by followers and people I’d never met before who saw the Twitter updates and clicked on the phweetURL. I also provided some updates at the same time in Twhirl. I also sent additional invites to a few and they joined as well. People came and went. It was fun, insightful and we learnt more over that three hours than we’d learned in the last 30 (maybe more). I’m hoping we will see many more Phweet sessions like this as we learn to use it. We are just beginning to understand that it’s not always immediate. Be patient and wait for your friend to accept. 




To see more about a Phweet. See the history in Twitter.

Public Alpha not Beta

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

We still require lots of user input. The only way to get it is to share what we are doing. We expect some disappointments and at times it may not work for you. That’s why it is Alpha.

100 Days or less to launch:

When to launch can be a million dollar question. We think 100 days from first thinking about it to action is a reasonable target. We spent the first 50 days finding our way from an iPhone app for Twitter to something that we think is much much more interesting. We spent the next 30 days getting the first prototype up and running. We’ve spent the last 20 days testing, completing some initial brand work and working through the initial UI issues. And now we are itching to share!

What to launch and when?

Today we see a lot of “closed beta” out there. That means they aren’t ready for prime time and they need many more people testing it. The problem with closed betas is they often limit what you can do. We’ve now done almost all the testing we can (with a tiny group of friends) and Phweet is not a closed system. In fact Phweet is only possible right now because Twitter works and creates new opportunities. We need to test live on Twitter and throughout the Twitterverse to really learn how Phweet works and how to optimize it.

It’s an Alpha:

It’s an alpha. This is our first real rev after the initial bugs. We have some dependencies. Twitter must be running, we’re using a third party flash widget etc. We’ve also added a little color and we’ve got a robust telephony back end behind it In the end we think nothing that a few dollars and a supportive community can’t fix.

We can go to beta when we know how it needs to scale (eg conference calls), when every session connects first time, when the words and phrases aren’t confusing. You’ll tell us when we are ready.

Share on Twitter!

We don’t know who the talkers are on Twitter. We hope and expect that “talk” will bring new opportunities to the Twitterverse and beyond with all emerging open networking services. We want to begin by giving users another reason to “tweet”.

Beyond helping us get to Beta with feedback good and bad… If you like the idea of talking to your Twitter friends. If you like the idea of and enjoy participating in spur of the moment conference calls and topic of interest…

The Best way to help us!

Share on Twitter why you love Phweet. For we certainly want you to. Tweet @phweet screenshot links with improvements etc.

Phweet Description

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

When you have to write a short description for the SEO pack installed in wordpress it focuses your attention. This is what I wrote….

Phweets are unique tinyURLs that let you to talk your Twitter friends for free. Now you can share on Twitter who you are talking to and build conference calls in real-time. Don’t dial Phweet!

Phweet Technology

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Phweet is a rather special patent pending approach to telephony. Phweets are a new form of conversation and a few of us are already sending and taking Phweets on our iPhones and Nokias. In fact we believe mobile is the future for both Twitter and Phweet. Connecting Twitter, web calls and conferences to the PSTN remains challenging. Understanding the opportunity and making it happen are two different things. 

Phweet launches with capabilities that five years ago were talked about and yet effectively still dreams. Phweet works out of the box to connect Flash and SIP numbers for free. You can use any open SIP service with it. That also means it will work on many new Nokia phones with WiFi. It also connects Phweet calls to the PSTN and a few accounts are being tested now. Thus you can expect to route calls anywhere. 

A substantial part of Phweet was years in the making. Phweet uses the TelEvolution platform. TelEvolution was architected by my Phweet co-founder David Beckelmeyer. It means we are using a VoIP service platform that can be controlled by web services APIs. So upfront,  Phweet is engineered to make calls on another API and we’ve used one of the most open platforms in TelEvolution available. This cut our time to market down to days and kept our costs low while knowing which elements are already proven and robust.

While David would be delighted for you to build your answer to the future of Telephony on TelEvolution, Phweet proves both as a reference service and in terms of potential that web/voice/social-media mashups are the future. 

We believe that Phweet and others can sit at the intersection of the web and telephony. We’ve set out to prove it starting with a sound technology base. And no we’re not just Phweet talking you we are talking Phweet.

Phone + Twitter = Phweet

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

On this day I really committed to making it easy to talk to Twitter friends. I’d been asking myself what happens when you combine.

Phone + Twitter = Phweet.