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.
So you want to use Phweet on your phone? You’ve just received a Phweet notification from Twitter via SMS. A Twitter friend wants to talk to you! This set of instructions will get Phweet working on your iPhone.
They said it couldn’t be done. AirCell said they would block calls from aircraft. What and who flys and tweets at 35000ft? @Andy Abramson tweeted a little while ago breaking the news that you can talk now on AirCell using Phweet. AirCell had recently announced that WiFi would soon be on all aircraft although no telephony. Well they got that wrong! Phweet!
Phweet makes it more obvious than ever that Twitter should share more on how to set up your Twitter Life. I personally have observed that Twitter only really comes alive when you are following a 100+ users maybe more. Then the next problem is even when you follow someone it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily follow you. In the end we are on Twitter to fuel the conversation. And Twitter is a wonderful signaling service.
We just took Twitter talk to a whole new level of convenience! Now you can use Phweet to escalate your exchanges on Twitter quickly to voice conversations. We’ve put a Phweet button next to every name. No numbers, nothing more required to just get talking! The credit for this idea should go directly to @cleverclogs who runs @twtooltrack and is an ace Twitter mentor!
Here’s what it looks like:
Note: If you are not yet logged into Phweet you will be asked to first. This is just like any Twitter web app. Phweet uses your Twittername and password to send updates via the API. After the first time Phweet will remember you. Any questions just @stuarthenshall. Your friend will decide when or if to accept your talk request. You are most likely to get a quick response if they recently updated or follow @ or ‘D’ replies on SMS or on a web app like Tweetdeck, Twhirl or Twitterriffic.
How to make your Twitter Phweet Smart!
My colleague David (@mrblog) developed a simple little Greasemonkey hack for Phweet. It provides an easy-to-use Phweet button- all you do is click on the icon next to the name and you start talking! No extra clicks or registration!
Currently it only works with Firefox. To install the hack in Firefox:
Now go and think about your web service and consider how quickly Phweet can bring a seamless voice activation to your users. Phweet! The whole world could be talking at the click of a button!
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.
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.
Each blog post here should update to PhweetTalk on Twitter. If you want to follow what we are blogging here on Twitter then http://twitter.com/phweettalk is the answer. We’re keeping “Phweet” on Twitter for those important announcements about service and general updates. “Phweet” updates that are tweeted will end up in PhweetTalk too. That’s just the way it goes. It’s not as complex as it sounds.