Business Technology

what apple music should be

Om Malik on Apple Music in The New Yorker.

April 28, 2003, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, saving the music industry from the scourge of piracy while creating a large and steady source of revenue for Apple. Thirteen years later, however, what started as a simple and intuitive way to find music has become a cluttered festoonery of features. As Apple begins competing with focussed streaming services like Spotify, the company’s strategy of tacking new services, like Apple Music, which became available last year, onto already bloated software has made the experience of using the application more and more unpleasant.

It totally sucks. I did the free trial of Apple Music. During it, and after, I’ve been so confused how to do basic things between my iPhone and iTunes on my MacBook. Holy Hell.

Does this need to be so hard? How about this:

Apple Music is the new sole Apple Music service (Creative, huh?).

iTunes is the designation for Music that you own (designated by an infinity symbol?)

Beats is the designation for Streaming (the beats logo, obvi?)

Stations is designation for both their Radio and personal playlists with a toggle.

That’s it.

(For those who say kill/sunset iTunes, I don’t think it’s practical. It’s a multi-billion dollar business and market leader in song sales. Why kill that? Keep it for those who want music “forever.” It also makes the whole Apple Music thing more holistic. You can subscribe/unsubscribe and your Apple Music is still useful. It just works.

Business Financial News Politics

Healthy campaign; Sick government.

I just finished reading Double Down: Game Change 2012. It’s a tick-tock of the last presidential election.  As you might expect from someone who ran for Congress (and is a geek), I’m fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff. (Yes, recommended for those w/a similar mindset.)

One of the sharpest points in the book was just how finely-tuned the Obama campaign was, both in 2008, and, again, in 2012.  On strategy, on tactics, on adjustments, and discipline they were off the charts.

I found this spectacular performance particularly grating when placed up against the actual Obama administration’s execution. The most current, and glaring, demonstration of which is the disastrous rollout of the Accountable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare).

The failure goes much deeper than simple procedural errors or stupid technical decisions. The botched implementation is a reminder and reinforcement of everyone’s worst belief: that the government is incapable of executing, and left to its own devices, will screw up pretty much everything. The central “argument” among the most vocal critics of health reform was that the government getting more involved would just make things worse.  Hmm.

The book makes what’s plainly obvious, all the more glaring: the Obama election had a life-or-death accountability attached to the planning and executing of the election campaigns. In the implementation of a program that touches all Americans and has consequences measured in the trillions? Not so much.

The practice of politics is a true market exercise, giving us ugly, painful to experience campaigns and sometimes it creates ruthlessly efficient machines like the Obama campaign. The knock on government execution is exactly that – there is no accountability, no market forces, no stimulus leading to course correction. The rollout of ACA apparently embodies this.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Health reform was a mess from the beginning. It started with Republican intransigence, leaving Democrats to moderate the legislation themselves. There was the fundamental focus on the political palatable instead of an intellectually honest dedication to addressing the fundamental issues of the existing system. Then there was the standard opposition-driven hysteria abetted by a generally clueless public, and the “required” back-room deals which weighed down the legislation further. Now, after surviving a Supreme Court challenge,  triggering one of the biggest wave elections in 100 years (which I was knocked on my ass by as a candidate), and all other theatrics, here we are: The crowning indignity. The public launch basically coudn’t have gone worse.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

The president and his administration, I hope, are ashamed. And, look, I’m not saying the bill is doomed: Not saying that we won’t bend the cost-curve long-term and end up with a more humane system. But since it only gets more complicated from here, why should we believe that this screwup was the aberration and not the sign of things to come?

It’s my belief that government is going to have an even more critical role in the not-so-distant future. Unfortunately, the general vapidness of political conduct and current execution of complicated policy, like the ACA, only shows how ill-prepared we are as a nation.

Forget China. We have the met the enemy and he is us.

Business Misc Technology

Google, P&G, and Insidious Interviews

Interesting article in the NY Times about what Google has learned about hiring over the years. The highlights:

1) GPA & standardized test scores were uncorrelated with employee performance.

2) Ability to answer brainteasers was uncorrelated with employee performance.

3) Behavioral interviews were effective in predicting employee performance.

In 2007, I shared with Google my SAT scores, transcripts, and sat through multiple brainteasers. Given that experience, I was intrigued to learn they’ve since abandoned this approach. Three personal reactions:

1) Behavioral interviews have long been the gold-standard. My alma-mater, Procter & Gamble, used the behavioral framework as their interview centerpieces. “Tell me about a time when you…” I think it’s great that Google has come around to this method. I agree w/the Googler’s quote that they are a great view inside the candidate’s thinking process, standards, and past behavior. More so than pointing out that Google apparently eschewed a well-known practice in their early years, I wanted to tip my cap to P&G for getting this right since back in the day.

2) Interviews often reveal more about the company than they do the candidate. When Google asked for SAT scores, transcript, and brainteasers, they revealed a lot about their culture. In the past 6 years since I interviewed at the big G, I’ve come to know dozens of ex-Googlers. They’ve pretty consistently shared stories of a culture that valued intelligence above all else. At the time I thought it was kind of myopic/snobby how much they focused on where I went to school, my high school class rank (!), etc.  But based on what I’ve heard since, I guess that was part of the culture of the place; it reflected their view that they only wanted the smartest folks, and that those folks got the highest SAT scores, best grades, etc. By contrast, in interviews P&G obsessively looked for strong predictors of leadership and teamwork. Naturally, P&G paid attention to where you went to school and how you did,  but only as a minor consideration compared to what you had done. That very much reflected how the company worked. P&G cared much less about who the smartest person was, and much more about teamwork and running effective processes. (Of course, this rigorous focus on process is why P&G can also feel suffocating to some.)

3) Interviews should focus on asymmetric topics. “[Brainteasers] don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”  This is a key plot point in the article. Many interviewers focus on topics where there’s a large knowledge asymmetry. It’s natural for interviewers, like all humans, to prefer to feel smart. Ironically, this is something that I thought Google did well in my experience. In my phone screen, I was asked the classic Google question: “Teach me something.” I saw it as a good window to the candidates communication skills, how difficult of a task they chose to explain, etc. Personally, I like a hybrid approach: a lightweight case study merged with the candidate’s area of expertise. Interviewing a college student for P&G, I might ask: “If you were the Brand Manager of Cascade and wanted to target college market, how would you think about that?” Instead of using interviews as an opportunity to get confirmation of knowing more than the candidate, use as an opportunity to learn from them while assessing how they go about it.

Final thought: Square peg, round hole. The interview process is really just the endgame. When a company doesn’t really know what it’s looking for, it’s not going to know how or when they find it. Understanding that it needs a 2” round peg is the same as understanding what the desired employee needs to accomplish, the kinds of skills they’ll need, the personality traits to work effectively in that organization, etc. Else, the company ends up picking the shiniest square peg, in the coolest color, that has the right “feel” to it. Hiring can be random without a strong grasp of what’s needed. That’s probably why it’s so easy to cheat and focus on the person’s likability, or some other random criteria.

One reason P&G is so good at hiring is because it’s a completely known quantity: for close to 200 years they’ve looked for talented, driven folks to plug into a system. Since they know exactly what they need, they’ve close to perfected that process. In hyper-growth companies in rapidly changing industries, it’s a lot harder. That’s why Google is doing this analysis and why hiring seems like such a crapshoot in Silicon Valley. This makes Google hiring such strong talent, at massive scale, even more impressive. Always room for improvement, and the referenced article shows that Google agrees/is getting even better.

Business Technology

square and starbucks.

What’s in it for Starbucks?

That’s the question I was asking after I digested the big news from last night that Square signed a deal with Starbucks to power their payments. I won’t detail the deal, because if you haven’t read about it already, you definitely don’t care about this post.

First, I’m surprised at Howard Schultz’s level of involvement in the deal: Joining the Square Board after recently leaving Groupon’s BOD. Some people don’t see Square and Groupon as competitors. I’m not one of those people. Groupon’s aim is to become the ecosystem for local businesses. That most decidedly includes payments, loyalty programs, POS, and obviously deals. The evolution of deals is likely to be in 1)targeting based on what you actually buy and 2) delivery, potentially in real-time based on time, location, weather, who you’re with, etc.

Groupon aspires to be a lot more than just an email deal company.

Square, too, has much larger aspirations than processing payments. Firing up their Cardcase app or their Point of Sale system you quickly see that w/this level of integration, Square will own the data on where you shop and what you buy. All of this will be used to get you to try new places, to come back more to existing favorites, and to buy more (everywhere).

Square aspires to be a lot more than just a dongle-based payments company.

That establishes why I see overlap between Square & Groupon.

With this deal, I just don’t see what’s in it for Starbucks. Obviously they get the Square software and the resulting experience. It’s a great experience on its own and some think that’s why Sbux did this deal. I find that hard to believe because I’ve been religiously using the Sbux card & app for the past few years. They’ve worked great. I can see my balance, quickly pay, and how close I am to my reward. I find it hard to believe that Sbux couldn’t just add the geofencing functionality for pay by name. Starbux isn’t adopting Square CardCase because it has scale — Square’s hope is that this deal will give them that scale and adoption. Outside of SF, my friends have never even heard of CardCase, and based on everything I’ve read, this is true across the country.

Maybe Sbux added Square just to give customers more options? That would be fine, if it wasn’t so potentially harmful to Sbux in the long-run. Why? Data. Square will now have data on how often you go to Sbux and what you spend. If the integration ever goes all the way, they’d also know the kind of drinks you get, etc. This data is massively valuable in the future.

Example: I always get Venti Chai’s from Starbucks. (If I’m feeling fancy, I go extra-hot, no water, & whole milk.) In a future CardCase world, it’d make sense for me to get offers from other shops to try their Chai’s. Or maybe since I always get a beverage on my way into the office, I start to get offers between 7-7:30 AM because that’s exactly my purchase window. Or maybe it’s been 3 weeks, and I haven’t been back, so Starbucks sends me an offer to come in for a free drink to re-start my habit. Any of these, or some variation, are all powered by the data. And Starbucks is now sharing that data. As the gorilla with scale, Starbucks was in a position to dominate this game on its own. This is something it’s smaller coffee/tea rivals can’t do with out the help of  the Square/Groupon/Google/PayPal’s of the world, through aggregation and building scale. With this deal, Starbucks euthanizes that advantage.

Starbucks is a smart company. So let’s assume they thought this through: They don’t want Square using any of the data from any of their transactions to be used for competitive targeting of any kind (no poaching!). Best case, they got this included in the deal. But assuming that Square/CardCase gets traction, helped by this deal, Sbux is helping to create a really powerful marketing program for coffee shop’s everywhere. Increasing trial, driving up repeat visits, encouraging referrals — are all the promise of what only Starbucks could create on its own given their scale, but now will be available to all because Starbucks helped drive adoption of CardCase by consumers. So even w/an exclusion for its data, this puts them in a tougher competitive environment. They go from having a strong competitive advantage to a level playing field that they helped level.

It’s clear what’s in it for Square. If Starbucks puts their back into it, this is a grand slam for Square. It drives massive adoption of CardCase by consumers, which in turn will drive adoption by smaller merchants, which drives more usage by consumers, and so on. The flywheel takes off.

For Starbucks? Here’s the best I could come up with:

– Starbucks thinks they won’t be able to create a consumer experience anywhere close to Square’s, so why not embrace the inevitable. (Find this hard to believe). Though as Owen points out, maybe this is a “stick to your knitting” strategy.

– Starbucks is desperate for “cool” and Square is very much that. (Schultz is too savvy for me to believe this)

– Starbucks got some kind of massive savings from Square on all the fees on the backend that makes this all worthwhile. This would mean Square is going to eat a ton of $ in fees in the coming years. (This seems to be the most likely, even if it doesn’t make much sense to me. At Sbux scale, this is a very serious amount of money for Square to eat indefinitely)

I could also just be giving Starbucks way too much credit:
– Starbucks got way caught up in the “magic” of the CardCase “experience” and made a deal without thinking through the long-term implications of what it was signing up for. From reading his books (which are very good), you clearly see how much Schultz cares for and values the magic of in-store experience.

I’ll end with a prediction/guess: In the near future, there will be a ton of handwringing internally at Starbucks over all of the above. I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks doesn’t end up promoting Square and this goes away. Then again, Pay w/Square is a pretty awesome experience so maybe they’ll put their full weight behind it and it’s going to be huge. I just think that’ll be a big mistake for Starbucks. But huge for Square. If this turns out to be the case, I believe it’ll be a textbook example of how a large, successful “old-school” company didn’t get how technology was eating the world and they’ll pay the price for it. Technology isn’t an adjacency or a feature for almost every business today, it’s core-competency for the successful ones.

Business Technology

the less discussed, other sinister plot at groupon.

I love Silicon Valley. Love almost everything about the technology ecosystem. I grew up in New Jersey watching with extreme envy and wonderment as the ‘95-01 boom-bust played out. Like most, I also share a certain reverence for Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, the Valley tends to indulge in one of the less enviable Jobsian traits: the shithead/hero rollercoaster. People and companies are always one or the other. We glorify when it’s smooth sailing and bash mercilessly during turbulence.

Groupon has taken the entire ride. From wonder boy CEO and “fastest growing company ever” to becoming the evil company out to defraud merchants/investors. Now that I’m no longer directly affiliated with the company (other than being a locked-up shareholder), I thought it would be nice to provide a little balance. There’s plenty that’s been said on the negative side of the ledger — no doubt inspired by a righteous desire to protect the little-guy merchant and investor and not at all fueled by a desire for twitter followers or endless TV appearances.

Outside of karmic balance,

Business Technology

what is quora?

The best site you (probably) have never heard of.

I started playing around on Quora a little over a year ago. In that time I’ve become addicted. However it’s one of these sites that’s contained to Silicon Valley + a few people connected to Valley’ers. So let’s talk about it.

So what is Quora?

1) It’s like Twitter. But for people who want to learn things and/or have intelligent discussions.

On twitter we can follow celebrities and other high-profile folks to get a view into their world (+ our friends). On quora we can follow the folks who are experts in areas we want to learn about and follow specific interesting topics (+ our friends).

Assuming you’ve followed enough topics/people, pulling up the site produces new questions and answers about people and topics that interest you. It’s addicting if you like to learn new things or to answer questions.

2) It’s like blogging. But directed. Blogging answers questions that you have, while Quora is about answering questions other people have.

Typically I blog about things that I’m asking myself or that I find really interesting. It’s really “answering questions no one asked”. Like say this post, “What is Quora?” It has it’s place, but there’s something cool about answering a question that you know someone definitely cares about. I can’t speak for all bloggers, but there’s a large satisfaction that I get when I know that a post of mine is appreciated and well-read. I get that feeling a lot on Quora. I believe bloggers have a “contributor”-mindset, and Quora is sort of a utopia for this.

3) It’s like Facebook. But not really.

It’s like Facebook in that it gets social design very, very right. Facebook is killer because the whole process of sharing updates, photos, and many other forms of information with your friends is frictionless. Quora has designed a *terrific* social experience around asking and answering questions. The use of the Facebook connect feature encourages you to invite key people to the service, the “voting up/down”  rewards people who contribute awesome answers (while also improving the experience for everyone else so the best answer floats to the top), and so on. It’s amazing social design which we’ll likely increasingly see in every web service in the coming years.

So check-out Quora! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. You’ll also see a bunch of answers from me on technology, politics, marketing, and other things I’m interested in. I’ve been meaning to blog more, especially about the campaign, but am struggling with where to start. So I’m jumping in with thoughts that I’ve been meaning to write up for the past year.

Business Financial News Politics reading

financial services reading.

Lots of disturbing, horrifying, and bizarre facts out there about the state of the financial services sector of our economy.

One of my all-time favorite writers, Michael Lewis, has a great piece on AIG in Vanity Fair.

Much more controversially, Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone posts a searing indictment of uber-bank Goldman Sachs. Almost must read.

The past year in the banking sector (based on the actions over the past decade+) has had a truly stunning impact on our country. Likely, we’re going through a history-shaping event. It’s why I’m shocked at how what has gone on has been out of the public spotlight. I hope to see more in-depth reporting coming out soon on the role lobbyists, PAC’s, and financial firms themselves played in this national nightmare.

Business Financial Life Politics reading

2 hours of pain and bliss.

Below are some of the more interesting articles I’ve found over the past month. Not sure if it adds up to 2 hours of reading, but it sounded like a good title to me. Why pain? Because reading some of these articles made my blood boil and indignation rage. After avoiding these kinds of articles for a few months, I’ve jumped back in and hope that maybe something productive will result. Here goes…

1) NYTimes: Banks up to their old tricks.

After screwing over their country (and, to be fair, many other countries) American banks have decided they’ve been punished enough. They are passionately lobbying against regulation of the same complex financial instruments that pushed the world economy to the brink of collapse. They’re pushing for less transparency and less oversight. The money quotes:

“The banks run the place,” Mr. Peterson said. “I will tell you what the problem is — they give three times more money than the next biggest group. It’s huge the amount of money they put into politics.”

“The outrage among the public means that things have a chance to change, if things move quickly,” said Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland Law School and a former director of trading and markets at the C.F.T.C. “We’re in this brief moment of time when the average citizen is on a level playing field with the lobbyist.”

The banks run the place? A brief moment in time when the average citizen is on a level playing field with a lobbying group out to bankrupt taxpayers? Wait. What was that sound? Oh, just me throwing my laptop against the wall.

2) NYTimes Magazine: Tom Davis Gives up on Washington

An old article on a republican congressman from Virginia. Half human interest story and half sad state affairs of Washington. I would take 435 Tom Davis’ over almost anything else you could give me. I found it really interesting to read the story of a man who spent a lifetime in politics, played the game enough to exist within the power structures, yet refused to compromise on some core ideas and principles.

3) The New Yorker: Money Talks – the Obama budget

Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget head may have the toughest job on the planet. By all appearances he’s a non-political, intellectually honest policy wonk trying to follow through on an ambitious agenda while not bankrupting America. In times like these, saying that last phrase, becomes more than empty rhetoric. Interesting to read about the schism within the administration between those who are scared of our deficits and those who feel we need to march ahead to “right America”. Though, unlike the battle in 90’s, we live in a different world where the dollar is actually in some amount of danger.

4) New Yorker: Cost of healthcare…

Atul Gawande is an *amazing* writer. He wrote a great book called Better: A surgeon’s notes on performance. Here he takes on the peculiarities of health care costs. Gawande writes with the credibility of a renowned doctor and with the incisiveness of a gifted author to confront a taboo in the world of medicine– the profound import of money. Examining a city in TX that boasts health care spending far above the national average and surrounding towns, he dives in full bore. There’s a synergy to this and the Orszag article and, hopefully, we’re approaching a consensus in potential approaches. Make no mistake, health care is the single biggest threat to our country’s future. It threatens private sector viability and the potential to bankrupt the government. Social Security and bailouts can’t touch our medical system.

5) New York Review of Books: Crisis and how to deal with it.

Niall Ferguson is one of my favorite authors and speakers on economic issues. I’ll warn you to not read this next to any sharp objects, prescription drugs, or other dangerous things. The conversation, between some of the “brightest economic minds”, offers very, very little sunshine.

I’ll have 5 more in a few days.

Business Life Personal Politics

reading joker one.

At one point in 2004-2005 I read a book or two a week. In retrospect, it was a phenomenal time. Some of my earliest memories are of reading soo much. At one point, I remember that my brother and I were so engrossed that our father took our books away from us when we had visitors, because otherwise we’d just retreat to our room and read. Anyway, since 04-05 there’s been a long, slow decline in my reading volume. I’ve recently made a conscious effort to pick up my old reading habit.

This weekend I read Joker One A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell. My review? RUN out  to borrow/buy it. It’s amazing stuff. /End book review.

Here are three thoughts inspired by the book.

1) Read Joker One to learn about leadership. Joker One does an amazing job of elegantly boiling down what leadership comes down to. In his final few pages he boils it down to one, elegant, powerful word. I have never heard of leadership described in this manner but once I read it, it resonated. I won’t call out what it is here, because, honestly, it’s a powerful culmination of the 300 pages that came before it. Discussing it out of context not only fails to give it its due, but also to spoils the powerfulness of its words and meaning when you read it. Obviously leading men in battle, with the weighty consequence of life and death surrounding you, is far different than civilian leadership. Yet the lessons and universality of the questions the author raises should speak to anyone who has or will be put in a position of leadership. Great stuff.

2) I’ve posted previously about Generation Kill. Glimpses into the military have always enthralled me. As I read Joker One, I literally felt as if I could sniff war. I finished the book about an hour ago, and I’m struck by the same thoughts I always have: It’s almost criminal how we turn a blind eye to our unpleasant truths. War movies fail at the box office when the country is at war. People tune out the news when the death toll or other such updates are reported. No one complains when the media closes their war-locale reporting bureau. We don’t want to talk about the thousands of dead and those badly maimed and injured. We don’t pay attention to the horror stories of the lack of long-term medical treatment and job opportunities afforded upon soldiers when they return. We turn a blind eye to the rampant PTSD.

But this is all after the fact. What responsibility do we all bear, as citizens, for how much we know about the foreign policy that guides these troop deployments? Troops do their part by answering the call, charging towards gunfire, and following orders. The dictates that guide them are from the highest levels of the military following the orders of the highest levels of government. We put those people into power, and so, ultimately, are responsible for those orders. They represent our will. As easy as it is for us to get bogged down in our lives, our trials and tribulations, it’s our greater responsibility to think deeply and honestly about our views. They guide the fate of so many of our brothers and sisters.

Ultimately, society is a grand bargain. We are inextricably interdependent. It would be a shame if the only ones holding up their end of the deal are the ones risking their lives to follow orders and represent America.

Have we done our duty honorably?

3) After reading Joker One, you literally feel an emotional connection to the marines in the story. You care for them. Admire them. Like them. Empathize with them. That’s not terribly surprising: Even if you took a group who have no reason to respect or admire, but dive into their life, you’d almost certainly find a compelling, story that would elicit empathy. This is why it’s always struck me as strange, the amount of contempt that we have for strangers. Instead of the benefit of the doubt (forget kindness), we often are ready to believe the worst in others. What if you thought about each random person you met, and put in their place someone you cared about: an old friend or family member. I’ve just read this book, and since I’ve never met any of these amazing marines, they could literally be any of the strangers I’ll bump into next week. How would I treat them if I knew who they were? How would I treat a stranger if I didn’t know their personal story? What does this say about us?

Now: go buy Joker One.

Business Technology what if

facebook, twitter and corners.

Back in the day, around age 10, I went door-to-door selling greeting cards, candy, and other random things from a catalog. We’re talking big money here: I probably made $2 for every item sold. Things were going well until the day I got the newest catalog in the mail and then canvassed my neighborhood.

A curious thing happened at the first few houses. At first I thought it might just be an anomaly. It wasn’t. Someone was moving in my territory. People were telling me that “my partner” had already stopped by and/or they had already place an order. From previous years I knew that there were other people selling the same stuff in my development. We seemed to have naturally settled into defacto boundaries to make life easier on all of us. That is, until now.

So what happened? When the next catalog came out, I rushed out to sell way into his territory. With my beloved mother backing me, I had my competitive advantage of no money down (she fronted the cash allowing me to not ask for money up front, reassuring prospective customers that I was not a 10-year old scam artist) allowing me to hustle some new volume. Within a few cycles, detente was reached. This was sort of the G-rated version of people getting popped over corners on The Wire. OK, maybe not.

What the hell am I talking about? Facebook and Twitter, of course. This post is mostly for my friends in the Valley. In the normal world, no one really cares about battles between websites. Here we live for this stuff. But I digress… As many of you have no doubt already experienced, Facebook launched a completely new home page among other things.

Two things spell out the declaration of war:

The adoption of the Twitter stream look:
Naturally, the public (especially social media “experts” and the media) have caught on to the fact that Facebook has jacked Twitter’s flow and incorporated it. There’s not much to say here, as the visual similarities are so clear.

Making Facebook the place where celebrities want to broadcast.
I think that one of the biggest drivers of Twitter’s surge in mainstream adoption has been the influx of celebrity users. I follow Shaq. Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Barack Obama’s campaign, and a ton of other notables have used twitter to broadcast snippets from their “lives.” This kind of direct connection would have once only been possible through watching TV or reading a magazine. It can be powerful stuff. Facebook has, until now, only had extremely limited “Fan Pages.” But now, with these pages becoming much more like regular profiles and allowing public figures to broadcast information in a uni-directional manner similar to Twitter, Facebook has moved to head off one of Twitter’s most popular aspects. With this new page functionality, and vanity URL’s (soon to come?) it’s clear that FB means business. Facebook want to be the platform of choice for public figures, and they want them badly.

Facebook has some of the smartest talent in the Valley. It’s safe to assume that they’ve analyzed how many people are piping their tweets into their facebook statuses. With that number growing, that makes for unhappy Facebook’ers. It’s a strong sign that you’re in danger of being disintermediated. If you’re facebook, that can’t stand. Strike one.

Strike two: Twitter was becoming the service de jour of celebrities. You could practically see it. It seemed like every other day Stewart or Colbert was mentioning them or a new celebrity was signing up. Shaq has even been encouraging interaction with his fellow twitteroni’s. I can hear the conversations now. johnny: “Why would I want to sign up for Twitter?” miguel-ramon: “Because I talk to shaq, diddy, and a bunch of people we know on there.” It’s a dead-simple, pretty cool value proposition.

The Facebook crew watched Friendster get eclipsed by MySpace, and then they, themselves, did the dirty to MySpace. Seeing a near hockey stick growth curve, a lot of twitter action within their own service, and the popular media/celebrities fawning over Twitter is a recipe for higher highs, and so facebook tried to, apparently, buy twitter. No deal. So now facebook has decided to come for that corner.

Battles aren’t fought in one direction though. Can Twitter stand pat and wait for Facebook to bludgeon them with their near 200MM active user advantage? By the way, they’re *adding* 5MM users a week. That means they’re adding a Twitter every week to their user base. So, standing pat probably isn’t the play. So what is? I’ll suggest going after Facebook’s corners. Facebook makes it killer easy to efficiently share information, content, photos, etc (I’ve been a die-hard facebook fanboy/addict for years). Twitter should allow you to link/import your content shared elsewhere on the web. I post photos to flickr and link it to my twitter account and my followers get a tweet. I upload a YouTube video? My followers get a tweet. I comment on a blog using my twitter identity? My followers get a tweet. I buy tickets to a concert and want to tell my friends. All of this is opt-in (so relax!) Tweet. You get the picture. If this clutters up the Twitter stream, why not add a second tab for shared content? Wow, wait a minute, that looks like Facebook! Oh, and while you’re at it, why not auto-create a classification for me of “friends” (people who follow me back) vs me and Shaq who it’s clear that I’m not friends with. Privacy matters to many, and this would allow granularity of who gets to see these updates. Wait a minute, information sharing is starting to look very similar…

Will this happen? I have no idea. But I call tell you what Avon, Stringer or Marlo would have done…OK, maybe not Stringer. I still remember back when he was trying to explain to a recently-returned-from-prison-Avon why they shouldn’t be worried about reclaiming their corners and focus on the bigger picture. But, I digress.

Oh, and if I was twitter, I so would not be stressing monetization right now. The future of communication is at stake! (sic)