Archives for the month of: February, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk about the decline of the value of Google search over the past few weeks. What baffles me is how iTunes search has been able to fly under the radar for so long without someone punching it in the face. It is so bad. I mean seriously, it’s awful. Even worse is that it has been as long as I can remember. What’s so bad you ask? How much time do you have?

*Design - The iTunes search design is nails on chalkboard bad. Seriously. Listing out every possible category and making me scroll for miles to eventually figure out that it didn’t find what I was looking for. It’s extremely inefficient wasting precious time and effort on my part. For the record I’ve never searched for an album title in my entire life, but I’ve probably seen thousands in my search results.

*Speed – Word association game…Road Runner is to FAST what iTunes is to SLOW. I feel like iTunes is about to explode into shrapnel every time I search. What’s taking so long? Maybe the MSFT paperclip takes my query, gets on the 101 freeway, drives to Cupertino, stops at the Apple cafeteria for a quick bite, then gets engineering to fulfill the request, and returns it back to me in Mountain View. It’s plausible.

*Results – This is my the biggest gripe by far. If the results were good, I could probably get over the other problems. Heaven forbid you don’t know the song name exactly the way it’s spelled. Good luck if the savy app developer couldn’t get ‘Runs’ for his hot new app and decided to go with ‘Runzz’. Spelling bee kids lose to iTunes every time.

*User Experience – Here’s my flow for searching iTunes:

1. Open iTunes.

2. Go directly to Google.

3. Search song title, artist, app name, or podcast.

4. Go back to iTunes.

5. Click on the iTunes Store button.

6. Enter word in the search bar.

7. Get bad results.

8. Return to Google and try to find a different spelling, name, or secret key to unlock iTunes search.

9. Go to a quiet corner of my office and cry.

For the love of all that’s good Apple, please fix iTunes search or at least tell people it’s powered by AltaVista. It’s cool if it is. I’d just like to know.

I was cleaning out a drawer recently and I came across the business card for Living Social CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy. In early 2009 we setup a meeting with the hottest Facebook app developer called Living Social. I remember going to their website and reading about the Washington DC based company with a founding team from Revolution Health (?). But now they were hottest Facebook app developer on the planet.

In terms of app developers, at the time theirs had a major hockey stick. Quizzes had just started hitting the user feeds and these guys had the lion share of the popular ones. The numbers he was throwing out were mind blowing.

As Tim walked into the meeting, he had a beat up suit, a wrinkled white shirt, and he looked like he’d been traveling for a week. Nothing he said overly impressed or shook the room. He reminded me of a lot of guys I went to college with in Provo. He was just a nice, normal, mellow guy who founded a company and worked hard with his friends to grow it.

We tried to work with them but it didn’t pan out. As quickly as Living Social had exploded onto the sync, the quizzes were gone like Jean Valjean in the middle of the night. Facebook cutoff their feed access and that was pretty much the end. I don’t know full transition story, but obviously the company pivoted from apps and took a huge roll of the dice to go with the group deals market and they exploded again.

The amazing thing about Tim and Living Social is to think how high they were at the top of the Facebook app world, to then have it all crash down, but then rebuild it all again. Amazing. Maybe he’s a brilliant guy who had an off day with us, but I don’t think so. He’s a normal who has put it all on the line several times, and with the big ups and downs he’s been able to pull out a huge win for the company. He’s a grinder for sure. From on top of the app world, to the floor falling out, he kept pushing and found a way to successfully refocus the company and rebuild (read: pivot).

For all the slack ‘pivoting’ is taking right now, there are some tangible examples of incredible companies that were pivoted into brand new business models from what they set out to create. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking at a new direction from where you originally started. It’s not all bad, just maybe find a different word to use if you’re telling someone about it.

When @Jason Calacanis posted this on Twitter this morning I had to share it. It’s about as amazing as YouTube gets. I wish I’d had some role in making it.

To Freezecrowd: You just blipped on my radar. Put me down for some angel funding when you need it.

 

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