Team Focus On The Individual
If you haven’t read yesterday’s piece on AdaptiveBlue’s team, you really ought to go there and check it out. These guys are real rockstars of the web, innovators who strive for perfection with a vision that gives you, me and everybody we know, more control over our information, our web experiences, and in the end, our lives. The AdaptiveBlue vision blends the utility and entertainment of the web seamlessly, invisibly, with our everyday world.
I was lucky enough to get an interview with Fraser Kelton, Director of Business Development, via email as he was recently flying to New York. Here are a few highlights:
Wordout: I understand that there’s only 6 of you. Just who are you guys and how can you get so much done with such a small team?
Fraser: When I joined the team two things strongly resonated with me. The first was how proudly Alex spoke about his strategy of hiring the best individuals for the team regardless of where they were located. Members of our team live in New York, Maryland, and Paris and Hamilton. The second thing that resonated with me was how highly Andy, Rion, Karen and Jeff spoke of Alex and the teams that he builds.
Being dispersed has its challenges but we’ve adopted a number of new innovations to make our lives more efficient. Basecamp, by 37Signals, acts as our communication hub and is a hive of activity that hums with activity 24 hours a day.
If you read Alex’s latest post on engineering tips for startups you’ll better appreciate AdaptiveBlue’s approach to building out our vision. The biggest thing is that everyone on the team brings it in a big way and is passionate about the future that we’re building.
Wordout: Several companies provide similar products to yours. What sets AdaptiveBlue apart from the pack?
Fraser: First and foremost it’s the team.
On the technology side we have a few powerful pieces of technology that differentiate us. Our lightweight, top-down ability to understanding the semantics of every day objects across the web is huge. We’re able to understand meaning, and can then create contextually correct connections. Alex’s founding vision was to create a smarter browsing experience by leveraging semantics and personal attention – we continue to build towards this exciting future and the columns that form the foundation for the future of the company are starting to take shape.
We’re also focused on the individual, which is a major differentiator. Many companies focus on technology first, and people become secondary concerns. We believe that if high user benefit is not delivered then the value of technology is minimal. This belief about the importance of people is visible from the level of support offered (not many other company’s have the CEO handling front-line customer support chats) to how we handle an individual’s data.
Wordout: Alex has written about turning web sites into web services. Hasn’t that term been applied, for the most part, to online retailers who might gain by having more sales? By installing SmartLinks on a blog, doesn’t this essentially turn that site into a web service as well, with the product being the content and the payoff being (hopefully) an increase in readership?
Fraser: Turning web sites into web services is related to having an interface by which people can [interact with] it. In a way, we are doing that via both SmartLinks and BlueOrganizer but not as directly as something like Amazon. A better way of putting what we are doing is automatically connecting web sites via context.
Wordout: We hear alot about the Semantic Web but many of us are not really sure what that is. What is it, and where does AdaptiveBlue fit into it?
Fraser: So first of all the tech community is in an odd place around definitions when it comes to all of this. “Semantic Web” is one very well defined thing, whereas a semantic web and semantic apps have other, different, meanings. The real promise in all three is in the ability to understand meaning and providing correct connections. Understanding that a page on linkedin is about an individual – and the person happens to be the same individual on pages on facebook, on myspace or wherever… is a powerful and useful thing. The same is true about objects – knowing that an object on a blog is the same object that’s on Amazon, is the same object that’s on a completely different website, is a wonderful thought to play around with. As the web of pages fades away to a web of things the future becomes exciting.
Wordout: Does AdaptiveBlue collect information on how a particular user might be employing SmartLinks or BlueOrganizer? If so, what do you do with that information? Can you personally identify where the info came from?
Fraser: Yes, we are currently collecting several types of information. First we are collecting anonymous usage of the organizer, just to improve the use of the product. We are also tracking clicks on SmartLinks for the same purpose. In the future we will be doing more with attention information, but our motto is to always put the user in control – if they are not interested in utilizing their attention information we respect that.
Wordout: How will all this semantic web stuff affect privacy and security on the web?
Fraser: Implicit and personalization technologies are going to have a major impact on privacy and security and there will be a lot of interesting discussions and debate occurring around these two areas, moreso than semantics. The key to all of this is to make the user have control over their data and information. Take the recent issues around Facebook’s Beacon – an implicit technology – a major source of the backlash was the implementation. They made it opt-in for companies and opt-out for the individual consumer. That’s backwards from how it has to be; the users [need to] have full control over their individual data.
Wordout: What’s the next step for AdaptiveBlue? Where are you guys going with this?
Fraser: Everyone on the team – Alex, Andy, Rion, Karen, Jeff and myself – are deep thinkers and dreamers who find ways to implement the vision in a pragmatic way. We’re building a number of exciting columns that support a cohesive strategy right now. If you let your imagination wonder to the edges of what can happen when the potential of the columns are connected … you’ll start to see our vision.
Be sure to click back to Wordout Wednesday for the review of SmartLinks, and we’ll dig just a little deeper into this Semantic thing. Until then,
I am Jon, and I’m closing my eyes and letting my imagination wander, and wonder.
.Find another great Fraser interview at leonho.com