Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki visited Ireland to deliver his Art Of The Start talk at the Irish Software Association’s annual conference. His ‘Irished-up’ version of the talk was warmly received by a packed house. Despite his busy work and tourist schedule (this was his first visit to Ireland) Guy found time to sit down and discuss his online life, how he stays in touch with everything that is going on out there, and his new venture, Alltop.com.

1. Hi Guy and welcome to Ireland. I can only imagine how busy you must be with all of your interests. Can you give us a sense of how you stay on top of all your online activities – how do you handle email for example?
GK: It’s sheer determination. I spend hours every day answering email. I also have an online assistant to help me with the easy ones, but I don’t have many easy ones. I am basically attached to my Air.

2. What about feeds? Are you a big reader and subscriber?
GK: As the content guy behind Alltop.com, I have personally found approximately 1,200 feeds. I also read feeds for Truemors stories. I’m probably about six standard deviations from the norm when it comes to feeds!

3. What are the tools that you have discovered in the past couple of years that have made your online life easier, more productive or more pleasurable?
GK: My main tools, aside from Office 2008, are MarsEdit, Ecto, Typeit4me, GrabberRaster, Yojimbo, and NetNewsWire. I have found all of these essential for my roles as a venture capitalist, blogger, and entrepreneur.

4. With regard to your new site, Alltop.com, I suppose my first question is the obvious one – tell me about the gap you spotted that led you to develop Alltop.
GK: We saw how popurls was sending Truemors as much traffic as Google, so we figured out that single-page aggregations are popular things. We started with Celebrities because we thought it would attract celebrity news fans. Then we added Fashion. Then Sports, Gaming, and Macintosh. And we just kept on going. Now there are more than twenty topics.

5. I have heard some people accusing you of stealing the idea for Alltop from popurls. What do you say to that? What about Original Signals?
GK: They should ask Thomas Marban if he feels robbed. Before we did Alltop, I asked him why he didn’t do more topics and if he cared if we did Alltop. We acknowledge popurls all over Alltop – in fact, there are two links to popurls on our home page. Do you see any links on Apple’s home page to PARC or links on Microsoft’s home page to Apple?

Regarding Original Signals, I didn’t even see the site until after we opened up Alltop. I didn’t know the site existed – so much for extensive competitive analysis by an entrepreneur! I saw popurls, loved it, got Thomas’s ‘permission,’ convinced my partner in Truemors (Will Mayall) to agree, contacted the developers of Truemors (Electric Pulp), and off we went.

6. Why do you think there has been such a low takeup of RSS tools (especially readers) by web users?
GK: I’m glad you mentioned this. In fact, this is the conceptual gap that Alltop addresses. We provide “aggregation without aggravation.” Take it from someone who knows: It isn’t easy to find the RSS feeds of many sites. I sometimes think companies literally bury them. So to really use RSS all you have to do is (1) find a site you want to read; (2) find the feed in the site; (3) know that Netvibes, Pageflakes, iGoogle, MyYahoo, NetNewsWire, etc exist and where to get them; (4) learn how to use them; (5) remember to boot a separate application or go to personal page to read your feeds. And even if you do all of this, most of the feed readers do not present articles in a clean, compact way. It’s a miracle that as many people use feeds as they do.

Personalization is relevant for people with more time than money. Alltop is for people with more money than time. (Guy Kawasaki)

7. Can I assemble a personalised “My AllTop” page now or will I be able to do that in the future? What plans do you have for features and tweaks on Alltop?
GK: There’s no such thing as “My Alltop” for anyone except me. In a sense Alltop is Guy’s Alltop (he grins widely). But I know what you’re really asking: Will there be customization and personalization? The answer is a definite, “Maybe.”

It isn’t a no-brainer to do this. The people who really want personalization can already do that with the products and sites I mentioned. I don’t want Alltop to be a better Pageflakes. I want to get the people who will never hear about or use Pageflakes. Perhaps true personalization – I mean at the Facebook / MySpace level – is relevant for people with more time than money. Alltop is for people with more money than time.

Think of Alltop as an online magazine rack. You come to the rack, see a bunch of magazines and their stories, and you quickly scan them to see which stories you want to read. If you consistently like only a few of the magazines, then God bless you: go ‘buy a subscription’ via an RSS feed in a customized page or feed reader. If your readers really want personalization, tell them to contact me, and I’ll build an Alltop topic just for them. All it takes is money – hey, you can get a purple and yellow 911 with alligator leather seats from Porsche if you want it bad enough!

8. So what do you say when power users say, “I can do what Alltop does all by myself”?
GK: Some combination of the following: “Have a nice life.” “When are you moving out of your parents’ house?” “Been on a date lately?”

9. Is there any prospect for demographic fine-tuning on Alltop? (I am a cranky 40-something, you are a beaming 50-something; we have very different interests from 20-somethings. Do you envisage being able to break things down to the point where we can find out where all the cool 40-50 somethings are going on the web and therefore avoid/ignore the stuff we don’t find interesting?)
GK: I see this as Mission: Impossible. It’s effectively saying that all 40 year olds are interested in the same things, and it’s different from what all 50 year olds are interested in. I find it hard to imagine that this is the case. If you’re a 40 year old who likes cars, go to autos.alltop.com. If you’re a 50 year old that likes fashion, go to fashion.alltop.com. Trying to set up topics for age groups is like trying to create Virgos.alltop.com where we supply what “all Virgos” want to read. There’s no way I can see to categorize like this.

10. What’s your favorite Alltop topic?
GK: Hard to say. I love all my children. Egos.alltop.com is the most controversial. No one thought we had the courage to do religion.alltop.com. Twitterati.alltop.com is a fascinating real-time slice of what interesting people are doing. Nonprofit.alltop.com has the potential to change the world the most.

11. Coming to the wider topic of blogging, monetizing still seems to be the holy grail for many bloggers. I was interested to note how little you made from advertising on your blog in that ‘first year of blogging’ post you did. I also noted that Businesspundit reckoned he was clearing just $1,000 a month from that revenue stream. You’re a Top 50 blogger and he’s in the Top 4,000 and while I’m fairly sure that monetizing was not a key priority for either of you; considering the kind of traffic and linkage you both get, those are some pretty small potatoes (and we know a thing or two about potatoes here in Ireland). Thoughts?
GK: Monetizing is over-rated. If people pursued their passions only if they can make money on it, most of us would do nothing. I play ice hockey 4-5 times a week. I’ll never make a pence on it. Some people write journals – they’ll never make a pence on it. Some people play music – they’ll never make a pence on it. How many people will monetize their photography? 100,000,000 people blog. 99,999,000 will never make a pence on it. So what? Blogging is self-expression, not a way to amass a fortune. People should stop looking for grails and start looking for personal enlightenment. (When I asked him about monetizing Alltop, he just shrugged and said, “It’s pure Web 2.0 – we came up with it, we put it up and if we get eyeballs we’ll think about putting ads on it.”)

12. I saw you in the Macheads trailer. (a) What’s you impression of the film? (b) Have you ever knowingly dated a Windows user?
GK: I haven’t seen all of Macheads yet. So (a) I hope I’m depicted in a positive manner (he grins widely again) and (b) when I had a social life, computers were not invented yet (he grins more widely).
Prototypo, ergo sum.
13. What’s next for Twitter? What about the ‘slowdown’ in social networking sites – is it merger time? What will happen with Yahoo/Microsoft/Google? In other words, the big fat hairy impossible question – where’s it all going for Web 2.0?
GK: Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. Who cares? If you just sit around and think about what will happen, you’ll never “do” and then nothing will happen for sure. People should prototype more and cogitate less. “Prototypo, ergo sum.” I wasn’t that great a Latin student.

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