Web 2.0 Way of running a Web Application

Question: How do you turn a Web 1.0 application into a Web 2.0 one?

Answer: Pull the plug.

I’ve been involved in comments over at Robert Scoble’s on the Zooomr crash and burn, and make no mistake: the application is down and out, and there is no plan in place to get it back up other than asking for donations. Donations for what? Well, we heard about server problems, but then we heard about RAID controller problems; discussion about the database server failing was followed by discussion that 10TB is not a big enough server. This was then followed by the problem isn’t CPU: It’s I/O because of the static pictures being served. Kristopher Tate doesn’t seem to be a consistent idea of what the problem is. Other than, We think the controller on our main database server is bad.

What?

This is what I dislike about Web 2.0. Kristopher Tate and Thomas Hawk are darlings of the A List set, so therefore these aren’t two men running an application, neither of whom really has a clue in how to keep an application of this magnitude up and going. No, these are two brilliant, far thinking futurists who only need money and help from someone to keep this going, as the troops rally around with “Way to go, guys!”

This application has been down over a week, after it went down once before with a promised rollout, after missing its initial rollout at its own startup party, following on what sounds like other downtime problems. Do you think system users should be concerned? Perhaps even, dare I say it, critical? Not on your life. Being critical is not the Web 2.0 way.

There isn’t a note on the front page about the server being down for the count. No, they’ve pasted some UStream videos where people can watch Hawk and Tate stare at a computer terminal, drink wine with ice, and talk to people who are asking them questions via some form of chat. However, when the server failed this last time, Thomas Hawk did write about the the little train that could.

(I would pay money, real money, for one of you developers at, oh, Citibank, Boeing, John Hancock insurance, or so on to go into your bosses office next time you have problems with your applications, and tell him or her about the little train that could.)

I have had more than my share of problems with hardware in the past, and normally I would be much more sympathetic. In fact, since the application is database-driven and PHP, I believe, I might even have offered help–I’m better at troubleshooting problems than building apps from scratch. Not for an application and a company, though, that keeps billing itself as the place for photo sharing, with such grandiose pronouncements that one is forced to imagine that Flickr is the po’dunk site, while Zooomr is the tasty noodle waiting to be snapped up.

So now people are being asked to give, Kristopher has bills to pay, and Zooomr needs a new server. Personally, before I started throwing money at the site, I’d ask to see a business AND technical plan upfront, including a detailed estimate and listing of hardware Tate and Hawk need, now and for the next six months to a year. But, as Thomas Hawk has pointed out, I’m not really a part of that whole Flickr/Zooomr scene, so I don’t really understand.

True, I don’t. I don’t understand solving server problems by doubling or more the burden on the server; throwing new features on when the server can’t reliably support existing ones; and not putting an honest, blunt, note in the front of the site telling people exactly what’s happened, and how the site, and their photos and data, will be recovered. However, before other startups think to follow this as an example, all I have to say is: don’t try this at home, kiddies. Not unless you’re good buds with the Big Names.

I’m sure the company will get the support they need. After all, they have all sorts of friends among the movers and shakers. That’s the only thing that really matters in a Web 2.0 universe.

Speaking of movers and shakers, I have an idea for the company: Get Mike Arrington and Techcrunch to fund the equipment they need. After all, Techcrunch has been pushing the company as a Flickr buster since the very beginning. As much as Scoble and Arrington have been touting this site, you’d think they’d both be fighting each other for the honor of investing.

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45 Responses to Web 2.0 Way of running a Web Application

  1. Thomas says:

    Amazing how quickly we all forget how porn sites scaled themselves in the first bubble – one server at a time.

    No porn site got ANY funding in the early web 1.0 bubble – but some of them grew to be massive server and badwith intensive sites. How’d they do it? Slowly, reinvesting revenues to add new servers each step of the way.

    I guess that’s one of the problems with Web 2.0. You can’t charge people for it.

    The simple fact is, some sites simply don’t deserve to live. Cruel as that may sound, not every web application actually has a justifiable existence (webvan, pets.com ring a bell?). Perhaps zooomr does, perhaps it doesn’t. But your points are all spot-on … they should *not* have rolled new features on a structure that already couldn’t handle the existing features. They’re moving too fast, with poor change control (if any), and their immaturity in production operations management is painfully obvious.

    Plentyoffish is a great “small guy” story – Markus built everything from the ground up, no investments, on his own and scaled over time. He didn’t become an equivalent of match.com overnight, but patiently he got up into the big leagues. Sounds like the zooomr founders are lacking in that patience.

  2. tod hilton says:

    Your opinions never cease to entertain. And I mean that in a good way!

  3. Pingback: Phasor Burn » Blog Archive » Zooomr’s about to be counted out by the referee . . .

  4. Ethan says:

    B-b-but… reward spectacular failure! I read it in a book! Or is that no longer operative?

    I have no skin in this game whatsoever, but it amuses me to see the “solution” bandied about that a company like Google should “just” buy them out so they can have Zooomr’s executive talent under their roof.

    I forgot to buy onions yesterday… ADM should buy me out for my purchasing acumen.

  5. jim says:

    I don’t have any skin in this game, either. I don’t use zooomr (I’m not even sure how many o’s there are in the name). I only used flickr for a short while; I never understood why I was using it, so stopped. But it does seem to me you’re too hard on the zooomr people.

    What are they to do? They have no money. The server goes down and it’s reported that one of them is standing on the platform of the BART station in an effort to get to the server. They are appallingly underfunded. And there’s no way to fix that. Some of the people in the Scoble thread suggested that some others should invest in zooomr. But zooomr can’t sell them securities. The securities laws require hoops to be jumped through. Zooomr doesn’t have the money to jump through those hoops. There isn’t a bank in existence would lend them money right now. They can’t go out and hire expertise. They have to ask for donations. It’s all they can do. Not that it will do much good. The Scoble thread is full of people urging others to donate, not of people boasting they’ve donated:

    At charity dinners he stands by the door
    And collects, but he does not subscribe

    Why were they underfunded to begin with? Maybe it’s that “just as good as flickr, but better” isn’t a compelling value proposition. It can be invalidated by Yahoo spending just a bit more money. And maybe it’s recognized that Stewart is a better manager. He was certainly capable of cutting his losses. Game Never Ending ended. Flickr, remember, was plan B.

  6. Larry Price says:

    This farcical episode is like ‘The Secret’ as applied by guys who didn’t quite make the cut at YCombinator. “Visualise Running Servers” is not an effective strategy.

    Scaling sites up is hard, but not that complicated if you can maintain focus, it’s when you try to do a bunch of cool shit (that’s a technical term) over and above your core application without taking care of the fundamentals that you run into problems.

    Shelley, I saw your comment at Scoble’s and I have to agree that we are seeing some karma coming due for Mr. Hawke. I don’t know about the A-listers mafia though, I just put it down to a confluence of interests, a conspiracy of effect rather than one of intent; Scoble and Arrington both have a reputation to uphold as being the first to spot the new new thing; so someone who manages to position themselves as such is going to get the nod from them. And of course once they’ve committed to supporting an individual or company, it’s very hard for them to look objectively at that company, no matter how badly it sucks . It’s cognitive dissonance at work.

  7. Audrey says:

    It’s amazing how long businesses can pretend to be operational, long past their breaking point, if the founders have the right friends. Not the last time we’ll see this. Web 2.0 isn’t the only hype machine to produce such disasters.

  8. Shelley says:

    The porn business model–sounds like an effective approach.

    Ethan, you’re forgiven on the onions if you continue recipes like that margarita chicken fajitas. Yum! But celebrate failure–I can’t see this becoming the foundation for Web 3.0.

    Tod, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t annoyed with me.

  9. Shelley says:

    Jim, yes the whole they couldn’t even get to the server center gave me significant pause. Someone wrote in comments in Scoble’s post that they actually lost their original angel funding money. I didn’t think that was possible.

    Larry, “Visualize running servers”–that is about it. Oh, I may have been on Robert Scoble and Arrington’s case, but when it comes to both, they both have overhyped this company. It could never match what was written about it.

    Audrey, you’re very right.

  10. Ethan says:

    The porn business model–sounds like an effective approach.

    Create your own snappy comeback, incorporating the bonus phrase “totally screwed”.

    Glad you liked the fajitas. I was always too intimidated to try them at home, until the right recipe came along. We’re going to try chicken instead of beef next time.

  11. Shelley says:

    Beef, it was beef. I must have chicken on the mind.

    bwock!

  12. Scott says:

    The sad part is, I can’t even see the features that set them apart from Flickr because they’re down. I get the impression that they allow you to migrate your photos from Flickr to their server and provide some extra benefit or feature. Maybe they should Google Gear-enable Zooomr. That way people can socially share photos that they are storing on their local hard drive?

    I don’t know if I’m quite on the “kick them while they are down” train here. But I think you bring up some good points Shelley. I do wonder why we are expecting a kid (I’m nearing “over the hill” I get to call a 19 year old a “kid” ;) ) and a blogger/photographer to perform at the same level as a multi-million dollar company like Flickr or Photobucket or whatnot. To me, that’s like expecting your local Mom and Pop bakery to cater the Super Bowl. Is it really Zooomr that annoys your, or is it all the hype that Scoble and Arrington have heaped upon it that’s really annoying?

  13. Shelley says:

    It is the hype, and the fact that quality of application doesn’t matter as much as quantity of attention. That’s not the way to build good tech.

    But the boys of Zooomr do not get off — they’re pushing the hype button as much or more.

    Hawk has come out in Scoble’s comments and stated that the sole purpose is to provide a means where people can sell their photos, and Zooomr keeps a percentage. That’s their business model.

  14. Scott says:

    That’s interesting. What whizz-bang feature do you need to write to support that?
    1) upload picture
    2) display picture
    3) display “buy” button
    4) payment processing

  15. Pingback: Zooomr Update: The Power of Community - odd time signatures -

  16. tod hilton says:

    Wow, I just read through the comments on Scoble’s post. Wow.

    To me, it seems like everyone is too emotionally involved to analyze the situation from a logical business perspective. They want to root for the underdog [totally cool, do it], but don’t realize that the underdog is really not equipped for this fight. The fact that they didn’t even have a rollback plan* in place is just one more sign of the inexperience. I don’t care who you are, you should always expect your install/upgrade to fail and have a plan for it. I’m sure Kristopher is a promising young developer, but they’ll either get help from seasoned people [and do it right the next time] or learn these things the hardway…as they’re doing right now.

    *A rollback plan is what you’re going to do if you’re upgrade fails.

  17. Scott says:

    I would hope they would do a post-mortem/sunset review after this is all over with. but I imagine they’ll just post a little blurb essentially saying “whew, glad that’s over with” and start working on the next round of features. I hope that’s not the case, I hope they take the time to stop and write out some lessons learned.

  18. Audrey says:

    I just saw Thomas Hawk’s comment explaining Zooomr’s business plan. 90% share of sales to photographers? I don’t know what their overhead costs will be if they get this up and running, but I’d be astonished if they can pull that off–there are a large number of pressures controlling the viable sale price for any item, and it seems like they’re counting on it remaining fairly high to support their costs. What he misses in discussing businesses that eliminate the middleman, such as eBay, is that they frequently contribute to lower prices for all but the most exceptional items, because there’s so much out there for sale.

    Do donors get to see a break-even analysis? And I hate to ask, but seriously, do they have any kind of finance person involved?

  19. Shelley says:

    What they need to do is re-engineer the application and ensure it’s robust and scalable, and then develop a plan moving forward. However, they need never worry about hardware limitations, as they’ll continue to be bailed out whenever they run up against their own limitations.

    That’s the kicker, too, as they’ll never be able to successfully sell the company. Why? Because turning to their userbase to bail themselves out gave that same base ‘ownership’ rights — or what it will perceive to be ownership rights. If they sell, watch for the userbase to express a sense of outrage and betrayal.

    As for the business plan, why should people buy when what’s offered is already free? Remember that with copyright, you have to have a lawyer to go after a violator, and most people can’t afford a lawyer. This has already become a problem at Flickr: all them fresh photos, gathered in one place, conveniently tagged with keywords, uploaded by amateurs who don’t know how to fight for their copyrights.

    Where the real harm enters with an incident like this is that we’ve received affirmation that quality of technology matters less than power of connections.

  20. Jack says:

    “Where the real harm enters with an incident like this is that we’ve received affirmation that quality of technology matters less than power of connections.”

    Shelley, I agree that zooomr has failed the basics of migration and customer communication, but I have to disagree that it is (will be) seen as a successful way of doing business. Having more than a week downtime is an affirmation that their business processes are weak to the point of being unacceptable.

    How that gets bent into a story that this affirms some sort of power of connections is beyond me. They are NOT successful. Connections have NOT provided them with any revenue stream. It affirms nothing. I’m failing to see the harm it has caused. Rather it is an object model of how not to upgrade your application – and I think that is a useful dose of reality.

  21. Audrey says:

    How that gets bent into a story that this affirms some sort of power of connections is beyond me. They are NOT successful. Connections have NOT provided them with any revenue stream. It affirms nothing. I’m failing to see the harm it has caused. Rather it is an object model of how not to upgrade your application – and I think that is a useful dose of reality.

    The frustration I have with this sort of thing is that despite being clearly unable to run the business in a way that will earn money (or even stay online for any length of time), they’re getting attention from users and promoters like Scoble as though this were viable. Which takes attention away from interesting projects that might actually be worth working with. These sort of schemes pop up all the time in the publishing world, but they encounter a fair amount of resistance from writers and editors who’ve been around the block a few times. Why isn’t the tech industry applying the same level of skeptism?

  22. Ethan says:

    To follow on to Audrey’s comment, if zooomr was some anonymous outfit, it would either be ignored outright as an anonymous failure, or lambasted to death for its shortcomings. I think the point of the “connections” thing is that influential people are not only doing their best to rhetorically buoy up the company, but even go so far as to say that Google should buy out the company so they have “access” to zooomr’s top talent. Not sure that any other failing/struggling business would get this sort of kid-glove treatment.

  23. Shelley says:

    Jack, true, this is a good demonstration of how not to deliver or support a true production system. But connections have helped them get ‘free’ hardware, which keeps them limping along when perhaps this was the time when the application and company should have folded.

    Audrey, very good question. You’ll notice that there are few professional techs involved in this discussion. Most know this application has more problems than just the server. Most, though, don’t want to face being a person writing a negative about a Web 2.0 company. Or perhaps open themselves up to attacks from the ‘hordes of believers’. Why shouldn’t Scoble have known better? Because he doesn’t care–any noise is effectively good noise.

    Ethan, Zooomr never would have got off the ground, most likely if Arrington hadn’t grabbed the project for some reason. It was more or less a Flickr clone, hacked together in three months. Nothing to get very excited about.

    But we’ve seen the power of the believer — not only not willing to hear anything negative about the application, but also not wanting anyone else to have anything negative to say–as witness the people telling me to go away in Scoble’s comments; promising a Greasemonkey script to strip my comments out of the comment thread.

    If what I was saying was so wrong, why were they so defensive? Because belief can’t be challenged. If I were to have commented in a milder tone, they could have ignored me. But I was pretty harsh — deliberately so. It got through the impervious shell of the believers, and that really pissed them off.

    And now, the believers have had a chance to watch their idol, Kristopher, sleep for several hours. Yes, that’s what’s on the front page of the site — a vidcam of Tate sleeping.

    It’s creepy. It’s just plain creepy.

  24. Ethan says:

    Grrr. I got sucked in to commenting over at Scoble’s site. I hate being baited like that. Bad! Bad!

    I’m sure some Unified Theory of Everything-worthy spin will clear everything right up. Or at least a petulant Greasemonkey script.

  25. we’ve received affirmation that quality of technology matters less than power of connections.

    That’s always been true, in the short term (and Zooomr’s track record is still ‘short term’). It’s called ‘getting your foot in the door’. I don’t think it is significantly more true now than it has been in the last 25 years or so. Mostly what has changed is the nature of the ‘connection’ (ie. country club memberships don’t figure as prominently).

    Most, though, don’t want to face being a person writing a negative about a Web 2.0 company.

    Yeah. I’m waiting for the Uncov takedown.

  26. Shelley says:

    Well, Ethan, if I get monkey filtered, and you do, too, at least we’ll have company in our land of outcasts.

    Michael, Uncov did a rather neat job of that new Calacanis thing.

  27. So now people are being asked to give, Kristopher has bills to pay, and Zooomr needs a new server. Personally, before I started throwing money at the site, I’d ask to see a business AND technical plan upfront, including a detailed estimate and listing of hardware Tate and Hawk need, now and for the next six months to a year…. Do you think system users should be concerned? Perhaps even, dare I say it, critical? Not on your life. Being critical is not the Web 2.0 way.

    I recall there was a woman at Fortune magazine (sorry I don’t remember her name) who wrote a piece critical of Blogger, circa 2000. That was when Blogger was doing its fund-raising drive, getting donations from users so it could get a second server. Blogger had terrible service and it was always down. It’s poor server was overwhelmed. So they asked for donations and got a second server.

    The article in Fortune was skeptical of the business plan and critical of the service. And I recall the Letters To The Editor about it, very critical of the article, and how the writer had to say something like “I don’t think this has changed my opinion of Blogger, but I’ve learned that a lot of people like Blogger. A lot.”

    I do kind of wonder if the folks at Zoomr are thinking about Blogger when they go out asking for donations. Maybe that precedent guides them. But then, I’d question if Zoomr has the same kind of innocent idealism that Blogger had in the early days. I think I’d be a little surprised if it turned out that Zoomr has the same kind of intense loyalty from users that Blogger did in the early days.

  28. Shelley says:

    If I remember correctly, Blogger’s problems really were based on too many people signing up, not necessarily on a continuing round of adding neat new stuff. Plus, there would have been a great deal many more users, and more confidence in the people running the software.

    There really isn’t that much similarity between the two. Zooomr’s biggest problem is a complete dependence on Web 2.0. If a site is completely down, I’m not sure that having a live vidcam of the one and only tech person involved with it sleeping on the front page is the best approach to inform the users. And again, throwing new features at a system that can’t even support the older ones is also not something I’d recommend. Also arrogantly proclaiming how superior you are to other services that are actually running seems, well, ludicrous.

  29. Audrey says:

    Just for curiosity’s sake, I looked up the actual news surrounding Blogger’s financial collapse. They ran out of money, causing all of the employees to be laid off and really eliminating any resources to improve scalability, which was their primary application issue at the time. But I’d say Ev Williams’ letter to the community about their troubles is a much more mature response than anything I’ve seen from the Zooomr duo so far.

    I also found an interview by Fortune that gives more details about Blogger’s growth and funding woes, written after they’d pulled out of it.

    It’s an interesting contrast, actually. Some of the surface details might look similar, but they’re really not.

    Blogger: stable application with too many users
    Zoomr: unstable application, scaling issues also possible

    Blogger: decides to cut down to one employee, the main developer, and hunkers down to try and make things work
    Zooomr: only had two employees to start with, only one who has the needed technical skills. Seems to spend a lot of time checking it’s image in the mirror.

    Blogger: Was able to raise funding to start with, but ran out before the business started to generate enough revenue to support itself (which happened about a year later).
    Zooomr: Unable to raise outside funding, operating off a 2nd mortgage taken out by the CEO, revenue model still theoretical.

    Let me know if I’m hijacking your comment thread, Shelly. I can move this over to my own blog if you’d prefer.

  30. Seth Gordon says:

    The one thing from the Scoble comment thread that stands out is:

    Shelley: they have one database server. It costs $25,000. It is nearing the end of its life.

    They bought a database server, dropping $25K up front, instead of, say, spending $100/month to lease a dedicated server at a colocation site where someone else would be responsible for swapping out dead hard drives? WTF?

  31. Sean McGee says:

    I agree that Zooomr did a lot of things wrong this past week 2 weeks or so.

    However, if you don’t use Zooomr, you shouldn’t criticize. If you didn’t donate, you shouldn’t criticize.

    Well, you can criticize all you want, but then it begs the question, “Why do you care?”

    I was (hopefully still will be if this ever gets ironed out) a Zooomr user, so I had/have a personal interest in seeing Zooomr succeed.

    Unless you have a vested personal interest in Zooomr, why do you care if they did things the way you would’ve done them or not?

    Startups learn a lot of lessons the hard way. Hell, even long standing businesses still learn lessons the hard way. What separates the men from the boys is what they do with the hardship when they come to it.

    The fact that Zooomr was online for 10 minutes tells me that they’re not bull-shitting about the new features, etc.

    Zooomr will be back, and it will be better. As to whether the user base will shrink or grow, that remains to be seen. But I’m still going to use Zooomr when it comes back online, not because it has new features; not because Thomas Hawk bad-mouths Flickr; not because Zooomr is the underdog; but for one reason alone: I can have the features of a Flickr pro account for free with Zooomr.

    And if you don’t like the way Zooomr has done things, don’t use it!

    All this controversy being stirred up reminds me of these tools getting offended over things some Radio Personality says. If they don’t like it, turn it off. Very simple.

  32. Shelley says:

    Audrey, feel free to chat as much as you’d like, your contributions are always welcome.

    The 25,000 gave me pause, too, Seth.

    Sean, that’s bilgewater: “If you don’t use such and such, you can’t criticize it”. Neither Scoble nor Arrington use the service and they praise it to high heaven. Or does that not count?

    Zooomr has made mistakes since the very first day it decided to have a party and a rollout at the same time. And of course, missed the rollout.

    Hawk made a mistake by blowing up the fact that Zooomr wasn’t getting a commercial key out of Flickr, when the story was that Zooomr itself wasn’t providing its own API. I was involved in that discussion, and even offered to help them create an application that could help port data from Flickr to Zooomr — and it was then that I found out that he wasn’t really interested in this functionality: this was all publicity. This was marketing — Zooomr, the lil guy being beaten on by the big bad Yahoo owned Flickr.

    They may have new features, but if the code is crap — bloated, ill designed, badly architected that could explain why it was up only ten minutes.

    Normally, I could care less. But I can’t stand watching marketing masquerading as ‘good tech’. Good tech is tech that doesn’t break — not mysterious features that probably will end up not being as exciting as they’re being made out to be. Not videos of technicians sleeping in the front page rather then clear discussion about what’s just happened to a person’s photos.

    You think my critical comments are going to hurt Zooomr? Not as much as the bloated compliments given out on Techcrunch. “Flickr, look out”, indeed.

  33. Sean McGee says:

    Not as much as the bloated compliments given out on Techcrunch. “Flickr, look out”, indeed.

    I have to agree with you there. I wish these so-called Tech blogs would’ve waited to see it first hand b4 praising it.

    And yes, it sucks that this is being called “good tech”. But I would point the finger at those calling it that, instead of Zooomr. (At the same time, I do think it’s dumb to not have left Zooomr Beta online until Zooomr Mark III was launched. But, sometimes, you think somethings going to work, and it doesn’t. And if you stupidly went forward without a rollback plan, you don’t sit and cry about it. You move on and do the best with what you’ve got at that moment.)

    I don’t think your critical comments are going to hurt Zooomr, it’s just that they seem so personal.

    As to the whole API issue, I don’t think it was marketing so much as I think it was that Kristopher just didn’t have an API ready for distribution. Hawk, cool guy that he is, is just an opportunist.

    I don’t know about the code being bloated or not, but if it works in the end, as a user, I don’t care.

    However, as someone who codes for a living (when I’m not goofing off reading blogs), it’s irresponsible on their part if the code is bloated.

    Zooomr did a lot of things wrong. But I just wish some would reserve judgment for the day it really has bombed.

  34. Shelley says:

    It has bombed, Sean! As for not caring, you should! You know that bloated code is more vulnerable to both crashes and data loss. Do you want the meta data associated with your photos to just disappear one day?

    Personal? The most I’ve said personally is that Zooomr has not been well managed, and that not putting information about what’s happening on the front page is irresponsible. I’ve also said, in response to Scoble that a person who puts out an application that crashes isn’t necessarily a brilliant programmer.

  35. Pingback: Zooomr, or is it Dooomr? : Meandering Passage

  36. me says:

    To people who say “Why do you care?” I will respond with a question “Why do you care if I care or not?” If you are a happy user, may God be with you, cause you are going to need him to save Dooomr.

    I have written in Zoli’s blog another comment regarding doomr’s reliability if you care to follow.

    In short:
    Zooomr has meshed up a lot of times! Including corrupted photos. The service is unreliable all together and the sad thing is that they do not learn from their mistakes!

    http://www.zoliblog.com/blog/_archives/2007/6/1/2991407.html#931325

  37. As to the whole API issue, I don’t think it was marketing so much as I think it was that Kristopher just didn’t have an API ready for distribution.

    So why not hire Shelley to build the API?

  38. However, if you don’t use Zooomr, you shouldn’t criticize. If you didn’t donate, you shouldn’t criticize. Well, you can criticize all you want, but then it begs the question, “Why do you care?”

    Sean, I believe you’re watching a social process at work, one which hopefully leads to the ocassionally great new company. Your question can be expanded to include nearly any activity where people over comment on events they are not directly involved with. Why analyze a sports game if you were not one of the players in the game? Why discuss what made Michael Jordan so great? Likewise, regarding business, why discuss why Microsoft was so successful, whereas Wang went backrupt? Why discuss the Hewlett Packard split, or the merger with Compaq? Why ask why Frienster crashed, or why MySpace succeeded? If you don’t own shares in the company, why have an interest?

    I started one business in the past. It failed. I’m about to start another. Perhaps it will succeed. I’m interested in almost any discussion that offers a credible analysis of why some company succeeded or failed. I learn a great deal by listening to competant professionals, such as Shelley Powers, offer critiques of various companies.

    You are witnessing a social process. I believe it leads to better companies.

  39. Shelley says:

    Lawrence, thanks for trying to smooth the path, so to speak, but folks will either agree, or see me as kicking a company when it’s down. Frankly, it’s stupid of me to write such–the ‘troops’ rally even tighter, and the Zooomr folks become even more entrenched.

    I would think they’d listen to Zoli, though. His criticism was extremely mild, and his points very valid.

  40. Not “mean” – “critical”. In some of the best senses of the word.

    The two aren’t the same.

  41. jim says:

    So why not hire Shelley to build the API?

    Because they don’t have any money to pay her with.

  42. jim says:

    I don’t know if people are explicitly thinking of blogger as a comparison to zooomr. It may be. But I do think there’s a comparison in the back of many zooomr boosters minds: the “garage myth”. Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wozniak, why not Tate and Hawk? Success stories fuel optimism. Most small underfunded companies lurch from crisis to crisis until the participants have had enough. But we don’t hear about them. We hear about Apple and H-P. Perhaps it’s a good thing that zooomr’s trials are being played out so publicly.

  43. Most small underfunded companies lurch from crisis to crisis until the participants have had enough. But we don’t hear about them. We hear about Apple and H-P. Perhaps it’s a good thing that zooomr’s trials are being played out so publicly.

    I don’t think the public nature of their failure will dissuade anyone from trying to build the next great start-up. Nor should it. To have an interest in starting a company, you have to be comfortable with risk. At the risk of overstating the case, I’d say that you need to have a gambler’s mindset. Peter Drucker once disagreed; he argued that a good entrepreneur is concerned with minimizing risk. I actually don’t disagree with that, but I think one would have to be splitting hairs to say “minimizing risk” and gambling are mutually exclusive. One has to gamble intelligently, looking for the best odds. One has to work hard and be careful. One has to plan carefully. One has to avoid emotion and look at actual reality as objectively as possible. But if one has no gambling interest at all, then why bother with start-ups? There are less crazy ways to make money in this world.

  44. Shelley says:

    No body has money to pay me. Sigh.

    Jim, I’ve long thought the garage myth did more harm than good. Most startups fail. Most do so quietly, some much more noisily (pets.com comes to mind).

    There’s a new phenomena in place with today’s startups — the power of the community. The thing is, the community is just as likely to turn against you as for you.

    But nothing will ever get me to think putting a live vidcam of a developer sleeping, eating, or drinking beer on your main page when your primary web service is down is an effective way to instill confidence in _all_ your client base.

  45. Phil says:

    Lawrence – I’ve seen it argued that there are several different kinds of gambler mindset. Four, to be more specific – they split according to whether you prefer to maximise or minimise the stakes (and hence gain/loss), and whether you prefer to maximise or minimise the odds (and hence the risk). Perhaps Drucker’s point could be rephrased by saying that successful entrepreneurs are low-risk gamblers – either steady, incremental low-stakes low-risk plodders or the high-stakes low-risk type, endlessly patient market-watchers. The Zooooomr guys are clearly gamblers, but they don’t strike me as the low-risk kind.