online collaboration, the startup process, company news & other stuff

Archive for June, 2007

(2/3 of) MixedInk moves to Silicon Alley: a newcomer’s take on the New York Tech Scene

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Having studied and worked in Cambridge, MA for the last several years, I was hesitant about moving to NYC just when the company was gaining momentum. Sitting in a coffee shop by MIT, you might think everyone in town has a tech startup and a degree in engineering. While New York definitely would be cutting edge when it came to stock markets, art, and fashion, we wondered whether a tech startup community could be found.

Two of our three founders have now relocated to the Big Apple, and just a few weeks in, we already see New York City’s unique – and probably hipper – entrepreneurial spirit and savvy. Take NextNY. It’s a 750+ member strong group of “young people who have a stake in the future of tech and new media in New York,” with an active community sharing advice on its wiki and blog, filling its bustling mailing list, and meeting at events. Nobody officially runs the group – so anyone can host an event, update the wiki or post on the mailing list.

Based in Soho, Meetup has also made for an easy entry into New York. Highly relevant tech Meetups can fill a few evenings with food for thought any given week. The NY Tech Meetup gives a handful of people (precisely) 5 minutes each to demo their idea to the New York tech community, with a few minutes to answer questions from the audience. It has thousands of members, and packs the house with 400 people for its events. Last Meetup showcased some exciting startups and had David Weinberger briefly (but passionately) introducing his new book, Everything is Miscellaneous.

Last night, we checked out the New York Web 2.0 Social Networking Tech Meetup, which met jointly with Howard Greenstein’s Social Media Club. Speakers shared how to give a good pitch and “fearless networking” and introduced a new search engine – SenseBot. The highlight from the night was ParkWhiz, a new website that allows you to find the best-priced parking garage near your destination and then make reservations in advance from your computer. The problem they aim to solve is simple: “Parking sucks.”

On first impression, the NY tech community is busy starting some cool companies, ready to network and kick around new ideas, and willing to share energy and lend a hand.

Other popular NYC Meetups and resources I’ve found in my short time here are:
• The New York Dot Com Hatchery – The Hatchery allows you to pitch your ideas to a top-level advisory panel – great ideas are accepted for development and/or support. Keep in mind, they are looking for early stage businesses, and not just ideas on paper.
Web2NewYork: A networking party for post-internet media, advertising and business.
• NextNY has a nice resources page.
• The New York Software Industry Association connects members with qualified interns from the area and has an incubator at 55 Broad Street.

What’s your impression? If you have other useful NYC tech startup nuggets, please add them in the comments. I’ll pull them together and add the best ones to the NextNY and any other resource lists.

6.29.07 additions (thank you to The Hatchery):

iBreakfast: The monthly iBreakfast Club meeting promises to showcase the Silicon Alley movers and shakers in the context of the entire technology marketplace.
• Google has regular meetings, which are always good. Keep an eye on the Google Blog.
• Founders Club (by invitation only).
Mobile Monday: This is a networking event for the local mobile industry, featuring both virtual and in-person gatherings.
• The Ivy clubs all have VC forums. They tend to cost some money, but have lots of VC’s.

10.05.07 Update:

Lunch 2.0 is launching on October 16th at The Ladders (137 Varick Street, 12:30-2:00).  RSVP: info@lunchnyc.com.

5 ways to improve on wikis (even though we love them)

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

As a collaborative writing platform, the wiki obviously has many strengths. I mean, Wikipedia is now the 9th most popular site on the entire internet. This simple cumulative editing system might conservatively be described as revolutionary. But let’s not dwell on the wiki’s impact, as it has been adequately explored (and then some) in many glowing reviews in the press, within the blogosphere, among the digerati, etc.

We believe that the wiki isn’t the endpoint in the evolution of mass collaboration. So, we’re trying to create a more perfect wiki by fixing some of its features which are…suboptimal, shall we say.

Here are a few areas in which wikis could be significantly improved (the first two are the most critical):

1. Wikis don’t allow multiple simultaneous editors. If two people edit at the same time, one of them either prevents the other from writing or overwrites what the other has submitted. Even if wikis did allow real time editing – and there is a least one wiki hosting company that now does – having multiple simultaneous editors would detract from the quality of writing and make for a discombobulating experience, as it’s impossible to anchor one’s edits in a static conception of page content if that content is constantly changing.

2. Wikis don’t allow for bottom-up expression of mass opinion. Wikipedia’s neutral point of view (NPOV) policy is necessary and appropriate for an encyclopedia, but what about cases where the community actually wants to express itself in a biased way? With wikis, disagreements on any significant point, or on the best way to structure an argument, frequently lead to back and forth edit wars. The only way to resolve these disputes is through the imposition of top down solutions – which are inherently undemocratic, inefficient, and generally antithetical to the principles of the user-generated content movement.

3. People are creatively bound by what’s on the page already. Whoever writes first in a wiki often sets the tone and framework for complex issues, making it more difficult for subsequent users to think about the topic in a different (perhaps better) way.

4. Recent users’ edits are more likely to remain in the wiki simply by virtue of not yet having been corrected. So instead of having the best (or most representative) piece showing, you just see the last person’s input at any given time.

5. Finally, many wikis lack what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing (this is true in particular of the Mediawiki platform used by Wikipedia).

Do you agree that these are issues? What else would you change with the wiki if you could? How could it be improved? What characteristics would the ideal collaborative writing tool have, in broad terms?

Your thoughts, please…

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship…

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Welcome to the MixedInk blog!

MixedInk is a very cool new democratic tool that allows large groups of people to write collaborative opinions online. Our platform will fundamentally improve upon some of the groundbreaking technology that already exists in the collaborative writing world (we’ll be giving more detail later).

We’ll be releasing a beta version as soon as we can. We’ve introduced this blog in the early stages of this company, because we want to get your input while our site is still in development. We will also be sharing stories and thoughts about the startup process, programming, collaboration, and other relevant news.

By way of introduction, you’ll be hearing on the blog from me – Vanessa – as well as from David and Dan, my co-founders. We look forward to hearing back from you!