Breaking the silence

Hard to believe it’s been 6 months since my last post, but what can I say, I’ve been busy! Not only have I been silent on this here blog, but for those that I have talked with over the last few months can attest, I haven’t talked a whole lot about what I’m working on. Today is the day I get to tell my story. NetworthIQ has been acquired by Strands and I have joined the Strands team to work on moneyStrands, the upcoming personal finance solution. For info on how this news is going to impact NetworthIQ, be sure to read the post over there. This post contributes my personal perspective. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it.

It was just over 3 years ago that we started working on NetworthIQ. It was a bit of a bumpy ride. In the first couple months, I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it, but with a couple of high-profile press mentions we were off and running. The idea for NetworthIQ was pretty basic, apply the popular Web 2.0 principles of the time (social networking, public sharing, collective intelligence) and apply it to personal finance, something that hadn’t been done before. There was the occasional “this is the dumbest site ever” comment, but for the most part we always got great response and feedback from those that signed up, which was what kept me going.

Hard to believe that with the web being as global as is now, that the company that came calling was practically in your back yard. I spent two terms at OSU, and went through the disappointment of seeing my baseball career die, but now I’m back in Corvallis living out the dream. Pretty ironic. Not only that, as an active follower of the Silicon Florist and Silicon Forest, I already knew who Strands was and was following what they were doing.

So, how and why did NetworthIQ and Strands come together? Up until a few weeks ago, the face of Strands on the web was MyStrands, the social music site. It may seem odd for a personal finance site to come under that umbrella. But, now that moneyStrands has been announced, I think it starts to make a lot more sense right? Strands is starting to take the personalization and recommendation technology that they’ve built in new directions and personal finance was one of those directions. My primary job now is to channel my knowledge of the personal finance market gleaned from building NetworthIQ into the moneyStrands roadmap and keep NetworthIQ humming along.

Though it was a few months ago, it was sad to say good-bye to TransCore, I had many great opportunities to transition into software development (I started as a financial analyst) and got to work on some fun projects with great people there. But, when an opportunity to work on something that you are personally passionate about full-time and still allows you to support your family, it’s something worth making the jump for.

As for Corvallis, yes, I commute. Quite a bit different from my old commute (though I’m now even more disappointed in Oregon drivers). But, it’s only two days a week normally and the rest of time I’m up north here at home, or enjoying the quiet confines of the Sherwood public library (gotta love a city that provides free wi-fi. Even if its only downtown), or I’ve even been known to drop in on fellow web innovators and do a little co-working. I’ve also been able to make it to more events around PDX like PDX Web Innovators, Lunch 2.0, InnoTech, and BarCamp since it’s good to get out of the house a bit when working at home. However, after commuting 3 hours one day, I’m not exactly eager to make the drive into pdx proper that often, but it’s fun when I do.

Just wanted to add a personal thanks here to Todd, Jeff, and Aaron, my partners in crime at Fourio. Though we certainly had our struggles, the fact that we saw our first released product (a side-project no less) through to an exit is something to be proud of. I don’t want to make this into an academy speech, but I haven’t shared in a while, I should mention that my wife has been great through all of this, supporting my crazy/obsessive side-project turned startup dreams and for that I am extremely grateful. See honey, it wasn’t a waste of time :-).

New challenge – Web Reviews

I’ve got a new moonlighting gig, to go along with my own projects. I’m writing web reviews for Digital Trends. I didn’t really see this one coming but the opportunity seemed like an excellent one, so I’m giving it my best shot.

Digital Trends is one of the best web business stories in the Portland area. Founded just a few years ago, it has bootstrapped its way to a thriving online business focusing on consumer electronics reviews and news. Through the power networking group known as “mom’s groups,” I met Ian, the CEO, and after a few discussions about the latest TechCrunch reviews, I asked, “hey, why don’t you guys do web reviews, seems like a great fit for the current audience.” Next thing you know, I’m the one writing them.

My goals with these reviews are different than with a typical “Web 2.0 blog.” I don’t care about the latest breaking news, funding, the latest gossip, the business model, who the founders are, or anything like that. I’m only concerned with the site itself, and that’s what I focus on. How useful it is to the web audience. The site must at least be a public beta too, no private, invitation only ones. It needs to be ready for anybody to use it. The hardest part is picking, with so many sites to choose from. I make my picks on mainly a gut feel when I see the site, that “this is interesting.”

You may have also heard me rail against the Web 2.0 blogs posting so often, making it too difficult to keep up, and so my goal is to write 1 and maybe 2 a week. My inspiration comes more from the Solution Watch approach. The audience at Digital Trends is much more diverse though, so it’s fun to distill the great stuff we early adopters come across to a wider group of people.

The first batch went live a couple weeks ago. Take a look. I’d love to hear what you think, good and bad.

I welcome any submissions. My email is over there in the right-hand column. I can’t promise a response, but I will promise at least a look at your site.

LocalSignal preview release

Thanks for all that voted in my “name this app” poll. won by an 8 to 6 margin over I’m going to trust the voters on this one and go with it. It’s also time to announce the preview, since Silicon Florist and Metroblogging Portland have already covered it. Yes, I know it’s aesthetically challenged (though it’s much better than the first preview thanks to Matt at CouldBe Studios who hacked up my css), but I would love to hear feedback on the idea, content, and if you feel so inspired, design ideas.

Jump right into the Portland news to take a look.

LocalSignal is built for 3 types of uses:

  1. Quickly get the latest news, event info, and social media content from around the web for your city
  2. See what’s happening in a city you’re traveling or moving to
  3. See who’s online around you in your city

As is my custom, I usually give a back story when launching an app (here’s Web 2.0 Innovation Map and NetworthIQ). Basically, I was subscribing to a whole bunch of Portland feeds, and it was beginning to clutter up my reader. Feed readers are great, but the more feeds you follow the more difficult it is to keep up and need arises to find faster ways to filter. Also, when I took a trip last year to San Diego, I had been looking for something like this to get an idea of what was going on down there, maybe if there were any Web 2.0 type companies or events to check out. I also like to know what’s happening in Seattle to get a feel for overall Northwest happenings, but I certainly didn’t want to subscribe to those feeds, and didn’t want to build a new page in PageFlakes/Netvibes for any city I all of a sudden cared about. Finally, I’ve met a number of great people locally here in Portland as a result of my online activities, and would like to continue that tradition by finding the local people using various social platforms.

Putting those ideas together with my increasing use of Original Signal for news scanning, and the city-based single page aggregator now known as LocalSignal was born. Originally I was just trying to filter out universal social media platforms for local content (topix, newsvine,, technorati, MetaFilter, Ball Hype, Upcoming). If a site had feeds and some way to filter content by tag or location, I tried to utilize it. Unfortunately, I think the vision falls short by only relying on that method. Some feeds were too stale for that fine grained of content, and some too busy to find anything useful. For that reason, I’m starting to add more locally produced content.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m doing building another app right now, as if I have the time. Well, I wonder myself sometimes. Focus was never my strong-point. But, I like to tinker and the feed plumbing was built back in February as I was brushing up on my PHP. Todd and I discussed some organization and design ideas in Aprilish, but I still let it simmer. Some recent events have given me the motivation to bring it down from the attic and get it out the door.
There’s still a number of things to do: UI improvements, showing new items since last visit, showing popular items (determined by clicks), and of course content content content (adding, removing, ordering) for the 53 cities currently being tracked.

Here’s some additional resources about news filtering methods:

Today is my last day as a twentysomething

Tomorrow is the big 30. Just thought I’d mark the milestone somehow, the passing of an era. No longer will I “still have my youth” :-).

Unfortunately, there haven’t been many web things considered here lately. I became a father for the 2nd time in early June, which has made this a wonderful time. However, time for blogs (both reading and writing) has dwindled as I sharpen my focus on family, work, and paying side-projects (yes, July also marks the first month that I will personally make money on NetworthIQ). I can see opportunities all around these days, it’s just a matter of seizing them. That will be my goal as I enter my 30’s. Less reading and talking, more doing.

Web 2.0 Innovation Map

Introducing the Web 2.0 Innovation Map. We all know Silicon Valley is hot when it comes to web startups. But, what about other areas of the country? Are there any hidden hotbeds of web talent? What other groups were in the northwest along with Fourio? These were some of the questions I was looking to answer. Now, Web 2.0 can be visualized, using what else, but the Google Maps API and Yahoo Geocoding API.

I’ve taken 200 applications, tracked down their addresses, geocoded them, and placed them on the map. With some help from Todd on the design, this map was put together in the last week. It was much more work than I thought it would be to track down the addresses. Without a good (open/free/structured) WHOIS API, most of the address lookups were manual. And don’t get me started on sites not listing a contact address. Fortunately, my geocoder app worked great, so getting lats/longs was fairly painless. Then it was just a matter of exporting the Excel data to a JavaScript array and hooking it up to the map.

On a side note, I’m not here to debate the “Web 2.0” term. For this application, Web 2.0 is simply defined by the explosion of internet applications that have come out over the last year or so. I’ve used other people’s lists to compile the apps to be mapped.

The map isn’t completely finished (what web application ever is?). I’d like to add descriptions, include company information, and maybe add a little thumbnail of the site. But, I like to release early and see what kind of interest there is before investing too much time. Any feedback is appreciated.

If anybody knows of a good source for WHOIS data, or has a well structured (XML preferably) list of web apps with the name, url, and brief description (along the lines of an API for eHub or TechCrunch), please let me know.

Thanks to Adam Trachtenberg’s eBay Motors & Google Maps mashup for being a great example of how to do a mashup. It’s one of my favorites as far as implementation goes and was a big inspiration for the innovation map.

I see that TechCrunch has added an OPML file, which is a very big help. The one problem is that it points to the TechCrunch post. If there was something similar that pointed to the actual site’s URL, that would be awesome.