Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sharing Life

Zipiko has on a number of occassions been compared to Dopplr. Take this Techruch entry for example "Zipipop (from Finland) is a start-up that is developing Zipiko, a mobile service for sorting your social life on the go, as in, broadcast where you’ll be at a certain time in the day. Think Dopplr, but on a much more granular level perhaps."

And according to Dopplr's latest press release it “is leading the way in intention sharing services online." This is interesting to Zipipop, since we have previously blogged about Dopplr being an early example of what we are calling intention broadcasting systems (IBS). However, Dopplr is not a fully-formed IBS, since it lacks the fundamental 'coordination' phase; which means that you can easily end up getting too much direct and sometimes intrusive calls/messages. A complete IBS should be handling and coordinating the meetups more passively – something that Zipiko does well.

However, the Zipiko system is not able to let you know which city your buddies are going to be in until they have already arrived and shared an event. So it dawned on us that there is a good potential here for cooperation
– especially since we are both in the business of intention sharing and we also happen to we live in the same neck of the woods.

So in the spirt of Zipiop's first official slogan 'Sharing Life', this is how it could work:

Dopplr allows people to know when they will be in the same city and then Zipiko allows them to easily arrange their get-togethers – kind of a Blogger/Twitter, macro/micro relationship.

@Dopplr posse – Let's meetup at somewhere, sometime soon: As Bogie says, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Intention Broadcasting Model: Preliminary Thoughts

I have recently been developing our Intention Broadcasting (IB) concept into something approaching a more fully-fledged theory. My first objective was to come up with a model of how an intention broadcasting system (IBS) should work in a general sense. The second was to identify existing and future implementations of IBS-based services.

I initially studied some Situated Cognition theory to see if there were useful correlations and, out of the key principles, the following were of particular interest: affordances, problem solving, goals and intentions. And The Young-Barab Model (1998) of Dynamics of Intentions and Intentional Dynamics.

In any environment there are different kinds of affordances (possibilities for action) that allow us to carry out intentions to achieve certain goals. However, the process of reaching these goals is hindered by contextual problems that can only be solved on the fly and through interaction with the real world.

Intention Broadcast Systems – Key Phases

The key phases that I have identified in the dynamics of an IBS are as follows:

Intention: the agent has an intention to do something
Goal Adoption: agent sets out on a particular path to achieve the intended goal
Affordances: agent adopts an IBS as the best method of achieving intended goal
Broadcast Transmission*: agent passively broadcasts intention to target audience (avoiding multiple intrusive communications)
Reception: the target audiences tune into to receive relevant intention via streams (channels, groups, etc)
Censorship: a collaborative rating system is often required to help protect both the broadcaster and audience from bad intentions.
Coordination: systems for involved parties to overcome contextual problems though interaction and collaboration.
Outcome: Goal accomplished

*Ideally the target audience would all be actively using the service and receive the message passively or through system-based notifications; however, in the real world some people will need to be contacted via more conventional methods, eg – SMS & email; however, the IBS can at least automate the sending and collating of the messages and their responses.

First Sketch of the Dynamics of an Intention Broadcasting Model

First Sketch Comparing Conventional Strategies with the Dynamics of an Intention Broadcasting Model

The sketch above shows an example of how intention broadcasting is much better at solving some real-world problems. In this instance I have chosen to use organizing a get-together as an example, however, I will later go on to explain how it can work in other situations.

Agents A & B both intend to have a party and they adopt this as their Goal:

Agent A goes conventional and uses a combination of affordances (calling, SMSing and emailing) to let the audience (friends) know that he is planning (intends) to have a party. All these methods are intrusive and can make the receiver feel under pressure. The replies have to be manually collated, adjustments made, and updates sent multiple times. This is a laborious process and Agent A will eventually succeed in concluding the situation or the frustration will become overwhelming and the goal abandoned.

Agent B, however, opts to use the Zipiko intention broadcasting system. Agent B broadcasts the intention to have a party and her Zipiko friends can passively see the plan on the listings page and click to join. Friends can also be sent free SMS invites, even if they are not registered on the system. The system then automatically and instantly updates attendees on who is coming, sends reminders and informs about cancellations. Using the Event Messaging Board collaborative adjustments can be made right up to the last-minute.

So the benefits are clear, however, if a theory is to be successful it has to be proven to work in many different contexts.


IB systems can utilize any method of one-to-many combined with one-to-one ICT broadcasting strategies and almost any situation where you can define a clean intent/desire/need you can build an IBS to help out. And already aspects of intention broadcasting are appearing on the web. Here are some current examples:

Travel: Dopplr allows you to broadcast your intention to travel to a particular destination so that friends and colleagues can know where you are and 'serendipitously' meet up with you.

Real Estate: Igglo enables potential customers to broadcast their intention to live in a particular neighbourhood or even block and attempts to match the desire. Also, potential sellers can advertise their intention to sell their property (secret selling) in order to gauge the real market value; and if they see an offer then can’t refuse then all the better.

By shear chance both these services have also been developed in Finland. Finns are famous for not talking so maybe this more passive way of communicating is appealing to them ; )

Micro-lending and Peer-to-Peer Banking: is an organization that provides micro-lending to entrepreneurs around the globe. The entrepreneur will post (broadcast) how much they need and what the loan is for (generally from $250 to $500); you can select (tune into) the person, gender, country, type of business and elect to assist this person. Could this phenomomen could spread to conventional banking.

(Note: I am aware that there is a Finnish organization also involved in micro-lending but can't remember the name. If you know please add it to the comments).

In light of our open attitude (see previous entry) you will now be privileged to read, for the first time, about some complete IB-systems currently being concepted during Zipipop's 10% time. We reserve all rights to implement any of these ideas and if any financiers are interested in helping us we are all ears:

Buying/Selling (project codename: Share Swap): The customer broadcasts an intention to buy a product (either new or second-hand). Sellers see this intention and make direct offers. Buyers benefit in having to do no legwork, can see and compare offers in one place, and get more open independent expert advice.

Sellers benefit from the direct contact to active customers, a better understanding of customer needs, and save money on inefficient, and often unwelcome, general marketing. Both benefit from the collaborative feedback censorship system that rates people (as in Ebay); and transactions can easily be resolved in the coordination phase.

This can also be used to buy/sell trade or consultancy freelance work, eg – people always need skilled labour and organizations often need freelance work, but it is not always clear who to contact or what is a fair price. So they could broadcast their need for some freelance work. Freelancers could then tune into (via channels, groups, etc) the offers that are best suited to them. And the censorship filter helps customers avoid the cowboys (British slang for incompetent workers).

(13/09/08 - Check out for

Personal Opinion Polls (codenamed: POPs): You intend to do something but you want feedback before doing so, eg – you want your friends to advise on which wedding dress you should buy; or which guy you should date.

The need for this kind of service is just starting to express itself on micro-blogging services. See here for an example.

Baby-sitting (codename Baby-sitting Project): Broadcast your need (intention for finding) a babysitter. Use the collaborative censorship rating to evaluate trustworthiness.

In fact, I have been playing with the concept of an Intention Exchange System that could encompass many IB needs in one service: like a stock exchange but with the trading based on intentions. Interested bodies could tune into all the different kinds of broadcasted intentions that are relevant to them and make offers. The exchange could be facilitated by swapping items/services of similar value, system credits (that could be exchangeable for real money), or via real world credit systems, eg – Paypal, etc.

(Relevant Off-Topic Sidetrack: Many years ago, when I was in the film business, I remember reading about a young filmmaker who had been touring his award-winning film around the world for a year. He consider the period his reward for all the hard work, but, just when he was getting all the attention and offers of more financing, he suddenly realized he could not answer the "What next?" questions that were flying at him. We are sure that Zipiko is going to be a big hit, and, therefore, we are already preparing to make the most of the opportunities this will bring our way; however, we are fully aware of the tremendous concentration of will and effort still required for many years to come to take Zipiko to where we want it to be.)


So we can see a familiar pattern arising that can affect huge sections of web activity. IB essentially farms out (crowdsources) the work of searching for things on the web by matching needs with solutions in a much more efficient manner.

As I have demonstrated, aspects of intention broadcasting have been developing in a fragmented way for a while, however, with this new model it is now easier to identify and develop fully functioning IB systems. The next stage is to see how IB fits into the bigger picture regarding the emerging practices related to the semantic and pragmatic web.

And then that little question of making sure that 'ordinary' everyday people see the benefits and make the switch to such systems.

Zipiko will be the first full-on 'proof of the pudding'.

Startup Ideas and Painting

'Fecundity' by Richard von Kaufmann (2004)

During the first year at Zipipop we constantly debated how open we should be with our ideas. At the very beginning we even made people sign NDA's and this had some benefits: people realized we 'meant business'; they (maybe) felt privileged being invited into the inner circle; and it forced us to think hard about how we wished to present ourselves to the world.

However, since ideas are only valuable if they can be implemented, we soon realized that fast implementation, and accredited distribution, are by far the best way – in an industry that moves at breakneck speed – to protect a web-based idea.

By freeing up and putting our ideas 'out there', we were then able to more effectively garner input from the bright and busy intellects that flock around Zipipop; enabling us to refine our ideas faster and thereby making the implementation stage quicker and more efficient.

There are some that say that ideas are cheap and to some extent that is true. However, I really like this article about startup ideas by Paul Graham because it distinguishes between good ideas and valuable ideas: valuable ideas being great ideas that people want and are willing to pay for.

He also shows that great ideas come out of a long process of trail, error and adjustment. Zipiko has only been in development for less than five months, however, the fundamental idea came after more than a year of brainstorming and 'do-search' within Zipipop.

First we developed the idea of POPs (personal opinion polls), one of which was a date-picker, this then inspired us to work on a more full-on event organizer designed to cope with every imaginable scenario. For a small company (only three partners at the time) we clearly, in retrospect, bit of more than we could chew. But then we got hit and carried along by the mighty Facebook wave.

As a 'test' (or a subconscious excuse to deviate from the 'monster' project), we decided to do a couple of Facebook applications to see how we could later integrate our services into the exploding platform. We caught the tail end of the wave as it swept over Finland in the summer of 2007, and we soon became know locally as the Facebook company. For many months the event organizer was put on hold as we implemented a whole bunch of in-house and third party Facebook apps.

However, right from the beginning we had a conscious plan to develop for mobile platforms, and in light of this Facebook was a good playground for us: the discipline of delivering apps with a clear purpose, inside a restricted screen space, has prepared us well for small screen challenges. And it was our Going for One? Facebook app that was the direct predecessor to Zipiko.

The Paul Graham article also makes some nice analogies to painting and it reminded me of one of the greatest things my high school art teacher would constantly tell us; "Don't wait for inspiration, just start painting and the ideas will come." This method is almost infallible, however, there are times when you will spend months fiddling on a large respectable oil painting that people might – if you every finish it – smile upon approvingly; and then there are those rarer – more valuable – works, produced in a flurry of inspiration – usually as a break from that never ending project – that people will rave about.

This last phenomena has parallels with many famous web services, for example: flickr – the photo sharing was just part of a bigger game project; PayPal – the service was originally supposed to be a way of exchanging credit between handheld devices; and closer to home there is Habbo Hotel – started as a project to help promote their friends' band.

So far we can propose that: Great ideas come form an abundance of mental doodling, brainstorming and 'do-search'; great ideas are worthless if left in the dark; and for a startup, great ideas need to come with commercial value.

In light of all this we have decided to publish some of our ideas, since even if we fail to implement them before competitors, we can at least gain some beneficial recognition from exposing them to the light of day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Organizing Get-togethers: Zipiko vs Micro-blogging

At the Mobile 2.0 conference in Barcelona, we were asked by an investor group why users could not use Twitter and other micro-blogging services to organize get-togethers. We have been asked the same question a couple of times since. Here is the answer:

The screen shot above shows Jyri Engström talking about how to use micro-blogging to get your friends together for a last-minute beer. However, the likes of Jaiku/Twitter are not ideally suited for this purpose, since they cannot: reach everyday friends, automatically collate responses, send reminders and inform about cancellations.

Needless to say Zipiko can and is doing these things. In addition, we have recently added event messaging boards, so that collaborative fine-tuning can be made right up to the last-minute, eg - the plan was to picnic, but it is pouring down, so invite them to your flat instead (a real-life example). We are currently considering the implications of allowing update comments to also be sent to attendees via SMS - but this will probably have to wait until we have sponsorship.

However, you can watch the video and listen to Jyri's many pearls of wisdom. Below I have outlined his key ideas in relation to Zipiko:

1. Define the social object round which your service is built:


2. Define the key verbs for that object:

see, join, share (11.9-2008)

3. Make the object shareable:

We already have perma-links to events past and present, we already have a prototype Apple Widget and are planning others, and are working on a strategy to link to Facebook Connect.

4. To grow your userbase, think about what can you provide in terms of a gift users can offer their friends:

more fun together / time / free SMS

5. Work out a business model where you charge the publisher, not the spectators:

Intention Ads / Pro Services / Sponsored SMS