Revisiting my crappy predictions

Last year I’d made a prediction about Quicken developing an online version which, a year later, still hasn’t happened. Mint, the startup that just won the TechCrunch 40 competition did hop into this space, and they started by tackling one of the two things I’d highlighted as the most important topics for a startup to handle: automatically connecting to the various financial institutions to download your data.

The second thing I wanted the startup to tackle was importing one’s existing Quicken data, which Mint doesn’t do. It really can’t until it matches Quicken’s feature set to a reasonable extent, which it may never do. I want to do “crazy” things like enter my own transactions to manage cash, and track stocks/investments. Little details like that.

I’m not sure if that’s where Mint is heading, but it certainly could if it wanted to. Coming up with the base infrastructure, data syncing, and the scaling/security around all of that are the hardest parts, I would think. Adding features like the ability to create a cash account, which is just a check register that’s fully editable, are probably not hard. Neither is adding some rudimentary investment tools and growing those features.

I’ve used Quicken consistently for 6-7 years and am perhaps currently spoiled by it’s feature set. A good rule of thumb for whether or not something is a serious competitor to Quicken is whether or not they can tell you your Net Worth. To get an accurate count for that, it would have to include all of your cash accounts (checking/savings/cash in wallet) plus investment accounts (401k/IRA/other investment accounts) plus your liabilities (mortgage/car loans/school loans) plus your assets (car/house/boat/etc). It is becoming clear that building such a feature set is no small feat, and as such there seems to be no end in sight for me as a Quicken user.

Hate the internet? You'll love uncov

At any given time, there are generally only one or two websites I look forward to seeing an update from on a regular basis. Back in the day, it was The Onion. These days, it is uncov. It’s pretty much the anti-TechCrunch (although I like TechCrunch as well). They pick startups which they think are bad ideas, and tear them up. They’ve given new meaning to the word “Fail.”

A few of my favorite uncov articles (you’ll see the lead image is often funny on it’s own):

  1. Their June 2007 coverage of Pownce
  2. Their spat with Robert Scoble
  3. The lead image on their Timebridge coverage is inexplicably funny to me (as is the word “failroad”).
  4. A pretty solid (and funny) response to the hype around Zoho Viewer.
  5. Graphing lolcats’ daily reach against Mahalo

I can only aspire to one day have a startup featured on uncov.

Death of the "extended network" in MySpace…

This is old news (July of this year) but I didn’t see this post until now. Tom from MySpace explains what the idea was behind the phrase “extended network” on MySpace, and why they eventually got rid of it.

if dave knows john and john knows amy, then dave could see amy in the network. when you’d view someone’s profile it’d show if you were friends, or how you were connected to a person … within a week (or maybe even less time, hard to remember), we realized that this ‘network’ concept was really hard to scale .. the site was slowing down trying to process this relationship each time you viewed a profile. in fact, i later heard from a friendster developer that this is what slowed them down for the first year.

I thought it was pretty interesting, especially when he goes on to explain that people preferred simpler controls anyhow (public, private, friends only) and didn’t see the value in the “extended network” concept. This is in obvious contrast to LinkedIn, where the degrees of separation are an important aspect of the site (obviously, the sites serve different purposes). My gut feel is that it wouldn’t be hard to get that to scale (memcached hashtable with extended friend ids?) although MySpace’s userbase is roughly ten times larger than LinkedIn’s.