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.
The TringMe flash widget makes it easy to take Phweet calls on any PC without downloading anything. In many ways it is the ultimate in convenience until you want to start hosting Phweet sessions yourself or simply want to free yourself from a headset and start using a phone. The other downside of the practicality is you may pop in and out of the Phweet session for a few moments while you invite others or even accidentally close your browser tab.
We have many more solutions and choices on the way. My first SIP share uses Gizmo5 a SIP based client that embraces open telephony that has been around almost as long as Skype. The way we use it gives it new meaning. You won’t need to add any buddies or new contacts. You will just need an account setup. Then you will find the audio quality improves and you gain new opportunities to direct calls to where you want for just a few dollars.
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 lets you accept calls with one click from your Twitter page or Twitter clients. Phweet is a simple service where you don’t need to download or share anything more to talk. The call is contained within a PhweetUrl; a smart link that calls you. And you can share who you are talking to in real time without having to reveal or exchange phone numbers or other identities.
New Conversation Paradigm:
Phweet empowers you to adopt new conversational techniques where you have complete control. Phweet helps you share who you are talking with and builds new conversations. You choose whether you promote the conversation or keep it strictly private. You can easily Host conference calls on any subject and control who participates. You can request to join other live conversations; and the Host may approve your request. No need to share or make additional information public (phone numbers, ID’s or other details).
Your conversation is contained in the unique PhweetURL generated for that call. It’s all you need. And you control it.
How does it Work?
Sign-in with your Twitter name and password at www.phweet.com. Select your preferred channel (Browser, SIP ID or number/Mobile Phone which will be enabled later) for hosting/accepting a Phweet. Add the Twitter username of the person you want to talk to, and send them a message (public or direct/private).
That’s it. The PhweetUrl does the rest for you. Once your conversation ends, the unique URL expires and your session message board disappears with it.
Phweet is a simple idea. A mashup of telecommunications, microblogging and chat. It brings real “presence” and context to open up communications. Phweet will initially enable free calls between Twitter friends. Before long, it will add many more social networks. The Phweet API enables application developers to quickly integrate “talk” and put all “calls” on speed dial without the need for complicated coding or infrastructure.
Smart Links are the new way to talk. Don’t dial – Phweet!
How do I know Phweet secures my Privacy?
Every Phweet is a unique URL that expires when you end your Phweet session. What remains are just a few tweets.
Our PhweetURLs are smart links that make communication more social. Today we are operating off Twitter and Twitter clients, tomorrow it will be all other social networks! Our vision Is to create a more open telephony and communications environment where the users take control and are not dictated to by numbers, directory services, or tariff barriers, while retaining increased control over their privacy and presence information.
Phweet frees communications from centralized directory services replacing the traditional telephone exchange (or log-in server) with a simple hyperlink or Phweet URL. Our business development is focused on developing the linking paradigm for communications. We are not in the twitter (et al) applications business. In fact our API will enable any application developer to add a “Phweet Button” to make creating talk requests as easy as pushing a speed dial button.
Who’s behind Phweet?
This post duplicates our original About page.