Anticipatory web services

The Anticipatory/Predictive/ Intention Web

We all have silent little conversations with our computers, don’t we? Admit it. “No, that’s not what I meant.” “Go back.” “Are you still alive?” We talk to them like they are pets. We hope they will understand a few words we give them, knowing we will have to remind them again and again to get down off the couch, to stop eating slippers, to sit. We talk to other things too, lots of things, that don’t talk back with us.

Computers (software, web services), however, enable more complex discussions and as technology is taking hold of more and more of our time, there exists the early inefficiencies of any major change. The creation and distribution of information online, your information, and that of everyone else remains for the moment at a pivot point, balancing between traditional media control and a rising of consumer-driven content. The time is ripe for a significant advancement* in the “anticipatory web.” A change in the user experience is about to come.

Sit. Stay. Good Web.

CartoonIt’s fair to say I have spent a lot of my life on computers, on software development, and the marketing of each. Five years ago, my attention centered on connecting companies with their customers primarily by paying for lead information, casting test advertising nets into the Internet ocean, and mitigating their adoption concerns (i.e. understanding why they wouldn’t buy.) Now, working on our own software (finally) at Grabbit I am thinking more about the intelligence of software to understand a user’s needs, preferences, patterns, etc. (all without endangering their trust.)

The complex equations of algorithms combined with the implicit behavior and data given to us by the user will help developers create next-generation software systems that anticipate more fully who you are and what you want from an end-user perspective. We’ve seen baby steps in this direction for many years online. Auto-fill forms, “keep me logged in” buttons, and so on. But software can take a big step — a step that produces interaction.

Companies can address product or service concerns, or open public discussions about other issues concerning their customers and by doing so, anticipate what user’s want (importantly) based on use AND explicit feedback, for instance. In turn, customers can offer – by way of behavior or explicitly-given feedback – additional information about themselves. Also, because of periodic down economies, lack of capital and simple software that provides basic information, many software companies (especially internal divisions of large corporations and underfunded start-ups) circumvent market research, focus groups and other comprehensive testing techniques for the web services and pay for it in adoption or poor press.

* The term Anticipatory web is not in any way a ‘new’ term. Q. Why now? A. Product and service providers have conglomerated into several the major categories. They have matured enough to offer partner programs, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), and support for these. Concurrently, web service developers are creating sophisticated programs to anticipate consumer behavior, therefor unlocking revenue for many of the software companies who will have otherwise failed. Happy customer. Happy company. Happy investors.

Have an example to share? I’d love to hear about it!

You thought PayPal was it?


Finally, some true innovation for peer-to-peer online payments from a company establishing itself with partners who will really help distribute their service. Partners like AOL and Facebook.


Jason Hogg grew up in the finance industry, in fact his father works for MasterCard. Jason was a founder of MBNA Canada and served as chief business development and marketing operations for them.

Over a year ago, I met Jason, along with members of his board (Steve Case included) for an intimate briefing to a handful of interest journalists. The parent company Revolution, was premiering a subsidiary of that company called RevolutionMoney. I was in that group, sitting along “real” journalists, with their tattered notebooks, scribbling furiously as Jason spoke. Me, with my iPhone, trying for one of the first times, to type quickly. Unable to keep up, I resorted to jotting down topics, looking with envy to the fast-moving pens beside me on either side. Well, I thought, I’ll get it all in an interview. People tell me Steve doesn’t have the best business sense all the time, but I still have a soft spot for him because of my time at Netscape. Jason sticking it to his dad for the interests rates alone seemed satisfying enough to chase him down for a chat.

And after all, what Jason was doing, seemed like an interesting story — putting the power of money lending, and terms of those relationships into the hands of the people actually at risk. I liked it. I thought it would allow so many people across the world, from those who get caught in the problem of “we can’t lend you money because you need it” to those in 3rd world countries still just hearing rumors of technological advances, sheltered from the knowledge of the opportunities around them.

There was something I liked too, about what Jason must have learned from his father. The enormous interest rates and late fees credit card companies change consumers is a large problem. So many people are in debt, or have debt war stories. RevolutionMoney was sounding like EvolutionMoney. Terms negotiated directly between two (or more) parties. I thought more than once about my Indian friend Arijit, with whom I would trust to back for a business initiative he may have, regardless of his resources.

I called RevolutionMoney’s press contact a couple of times. She didn’t return my calls. I tried email, finally she told me she was no longer with the company and gave me a new name. I tried the new name, to the same end. Eventually they told me that Jason was too busy for an interview, and now I know why.

American Express bought them! What a sell out. Back to Paypal and looking into services like


Jeff Robbins, from Lullabot on Drupal (Podcast and Interview Transcription)

Recorded during an earlier interview.

Related blog post.

Drupal is often referred to as a content management system but it’s also a web framework. It’s basically a PHP web application framework in the same way that Rails is a web application framework for Ruby, Drupal is a web application framework for PHP. But it’s really focused on CMS that’s built on top of it but it’s really, really flexible. And so there are all these modules out there that can add, basically sort of fundamentally change the way that Drupal works.

Lisa Padilla: Hi, it’s Lisa Padilla. Welcome to Lisacast, another episode. Today’s guest is Jeff Robbins who is Co-Founder and CEO of Lullabot. And for those of you who don’t know Lullabot, Lullabot is all about Drupal and Jeff is going to talk a little bit about that. Jeff Robbins, are you with me?

Jeff Robbins: I am, are you with me?

Lisa Padilla: Yes, that’s great. Could you also just say before we started that you do your weekly Drupal Podcast on BlogTalkRadio?

Jeff Robbins: No, we do it a little more home-brewed, yeah, no, we —

Lisa Padilla: Do you guys edit first before or do you do live shows?

Jeff Robbins: No, we do a lot of edit. We do a lot of editing and make ourselves sound smarter, although, I guess there is only so far that we can go with that. But yeah, the live thing is exciting, it’s very exciting.

Lisa Padilla: Yeah, I still get excited right before shows start and I think it’s because of the live act and because there have been a couple of times when I interviewed Rafe Needleman, he was actually tied up with his toddler and he was a few minutes late and so we just started without him. But it does offer spontaneous conversation to start to and maybe the show goes the different direction. So there is that. But you are here and let’s talk about you. Let’s jump right in and talk about your background.

Jeff Robbins: Okay. What would you like to talk about?

Lisa Padilla: Well, our listeners here might not know that you have an always been an entrepreneur that you’ve had around in the music industry.

Jeff Robbins: Well, I guess, yeah, just sort of a different type of entrepreneurship I guess but yeah, my sort of previous career was as the front person for a band called Orbit. We were on A&M Records for most of the 90s and did the Lollapalooza festival and had top 10 modern rock song and stuff like that. So, yeah, did that. Well, I started a web company, I actually worked at O’Reilly in like 1991, ‘92, ‘93 when the web was kind of coming into being and I actually started one of the first web development companies. But when my band got off for the record deal, I was happy to go do that and stop explaining to people what the Internet was and why they should have a web site and that kind of thing. Everyone eventually figured out what the Internet was and why they ought to have a web site. But meanwhile, I was playing rock shows.

Lisa Padilla: Yeah, that company was Liquid Media in 1993, right?

Jeff Robbins: Yeah.

Lisa Padilla: So, you have done quite a bit of web development too and have done Ringo Starr site, is that right?

Jeff Robbins: That’s true, yeah, I got to spend some time talking to Ringo onto the phone and helping him with his various technical computer problems. He is a lovely man.

Lisa Padilla: You must have started with music then, and how did you come to start at O’Reilly?

Jeff Robbins: I just was doing various temp jobs to, I was playing in my band and was looking for jobs that were paid well but didn’t tie me down too much and I ended up getting a job, a temp job at O’Reilly doing illustration work for some of their books. And they liked me and I really liked them and so they kept me on and I worked there probably two or three years or something like that till I left to go do the web stuff which happened relatively briefly and then my band got signed.

Lisa Padilla: And it’s no coincidence probably that you have authored a book under the O’Reilly name?

Jeff Robbins: Yeah, our book is called Using Drupal. It’s the first O’Reilly book about Drupal and they came out just about a month ago, something like that. It’s been selling very well. It looks like we are going to do some more stuff with O’Reilly. I am not quite sure what yet but we were having a good time together.

Lisa Padilla: Okay, and this book is really wonderful just from a person who is interested in learning new web 2.0 class systems but having a limited amount of time and meeting to get the biggest thing out of that for my time. You really turned around my thinking on Drupal and something that looked daunting to me and I had heard colleagues that cursing not having in-house Drupal specialist and then hearing sporadically that somebody would pick up a book and figure it out and sort of inspire me to drill down to that book, and now I am total convert.

Jeff Robbins: Oh that’s great, yeah, I mean that’s kind of why we started Lullabot. So, my band got robbed in 2001 and I started building web sites with my wife who is also an O’Reilly author, Jennifer Robbins. She has written Web Design in a Nutshell and Learning Web Design. And so, we did Ringo site and kept building other sites. And eventually, I was kind of looking for something to kind of integrate the needs of all these people that I was building sites for and I ended up finding Drupal in building a big web project using Drupal. And it was really frustrating, there is a lot of promise in Drupal, there is a lot of hoops and dreams and it’s really cool, there is all these modules, there is like I don’t know probably I haven’t looked recently but last time I looked, there were about 3,000 different modules for Drupal that like various I don’t know pick a web feature and there is a module for it, there is eCommerce and buddy lists and rating systems, and whatever is out there, tutor integration and there is modules for it. But when you actually sit down to do it, it’s not always really clear how to do it, which modules to choose, what’s the best way to do it, or any of that kind of stuff. And I basically got about half or three quarters of the way through the project that I was doing, I mean this is years ago. And I had no idea how it’s going to finish the project and [Full article]

Elad Yoran, KoolSpan (Podcast and Interview Transcript)

Recorded during an earlier interview.

I was lucky enough to interview KoolSpan at the RSA Conference. Elad Yoran, Executive Chairman, joins Lisacast to discuss TrustChip technology and recent financing of $7.1 million (What? I thought there was a recession!.) KoolSpan’s crypto engine is a self-contained authentication, encryption and key management platform. That’s right, I said ‘crypto engine’. Tune in to learn more.


Lisa Padilla: Hi, and welcome to the show today. This afternoon, we are broadcasting, we have this BlogTalkRadio at the RSA Conference in San Francisco where Elad Yoran who is from KoolSpan is going to talk to us a little bit about their technology and the crypto engine and a recent about financing that the company received that was announced this week I believe. And Elad, are you with me?

Elad Yoran: I am with you Lisa and delighted to be here.

Lisa Padilla: Thank you. I am sorry to cut you off as our show started. But we were talking a little bit just a few minutes ago about the significance of receiving some funding in this day and age when the economy is purposively a bit shaky or we are supposed to be concerned. I think we still see a lot of activity around technologies that really shows some values. So, maybe you can talk a little bit, Mr. Yoran, about your background and your post as a chairman of KoolSpan and about your recent funding.

(Informal talk)

Elad Yoran: First, there was an article on the front page of the business section in today’s new York Times that talks about Silicon Valley funding being impacted by the economy. And so, I think that getting funding today well may be a little bit impacted by the economies for companies with strong prospect. Funding is still available. And for us, in a personal sense, getting the funding was critically important and that it enabled the company to go forward and do the things that it needed to do in order to meet the demand for its product for the TrustChip. So, we raised $7.1 million. It’s a significant amount of money and the lion’s share of the funding will go towards things like demand fulfillment as well as of course to continued research and development.

Lisa Padilla: And so, if you get one step back anyway in this sort of way the groundwork for products, when it started and how it started.

Elad Yoran: Well, KoolSpan was founded five years ago by a gentleman by the name of Tony Fascenda. He is actually the company’s CEO and media visionary in the world of wireless and mobility. He has been an entrepreneur for the last 35 years and has developed paging systems and two-way paging systems and handheld forms long before our it became really a consumer market or a market in which every person really had a wireless handheld device like a cell phone. So he has been doing this for years. And sometimes I joke around with Tony and tell him that it took somebody with his background and his perspective on mobility and wireless to come up with a solution as innovative for the security industry. So it is really an out-of-the-box and creative thinker here.

Lisa Padilla: And give us one example of how like TrustChip would be implemented, what’s your case study about that.

Elad Yoran: So, if we think about what cell phones are today, they have evolved a long way. Cell phones aren’t just for making telephone calls, I mean they are really little computers. And we use them for today a wide variety of applications, obviously still to make telephone calls but also for e-mail and for all of the PDA functionality. And now, we see all kinds of other applications rolling out into the cell phones. Now, the thing to keep in mind is that cell phones were designed to be mobile, they were designed to easy to use, they were designed to be a lot of things, just not secure. And now that, we are using cell phones to do so many things, of course one of the most important of which is still making a telephone call that security has to be elevated and brought into the equation. So it’s not just about mobility and ease of use, all those things are still critical, but another critical dimension or characteristic that we have to add to that list is security. And so, you have to question what’s an application, I will give you a very simple one that we all do every day and that’s making a telephone call. When we make telephone calls on landline phones, we have very strong sense that the conversations we have are secure and we know who we are talking to on the other end and we know to a great extent that the conversations are not being eavesdropped. [Full article]