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Joost, apparently not the future of TV

I always thought Joost was an interesting product. The desktop app interface was good, and despite the fact that there wasn’t that much to look at in terms of content, I thought it was going places. Recently Joost launched their browser-based version in order to compete with sites like Hulu, who’ve been successful in reaching large audiences through content streaming straight from the browser.

So I went in to take a look at the new browser-based Joost, and all is not well – particularly when it comes to experience. I login, and I get to my Home. First thing that happens, Joost asks me to install a plugin – which deep down means “browser, but not really”. So I bite that bullet and what do I get as a reward? A 15 second ad – great. And after I watch one of the videos that was tagged as part of Joost’s “Our Picks” section (a 2 minute video on robots), I get another ad. Thanks Joost. But no, thanks.

If you’re going to ask someone to sign-up for a product, at least reward them in some way that doesn’t envolve the feeling of being lured into installing stuff and watching ads. Not only will people just close the browser window and leave, they’re probably going to remember the crappy experience, tell their friends about it, and just stay away – quite possibly, for ever.

Joost

I know solving the internet TV problem is tough, but if you’re going to start somewhere, you should start by not frustrating your visitors – it’ll just remind them of good old TV. You know – the one we all stopped watching a long time ago. In fact, I think I feel like I had more control over the old one – at least then I could zap those ads with a flick of the finger.

PS: Where’s the real content? I’ve seen that video on robots, a video-clip by Pink and some report on summer festivals (and a total of 4 ads to go with those). Joost was called the future of television before, but honestly, if all TV is going to have is robot videos, pop music and awkward comics, I’d rather read a book.

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Yay! Totspot launched!

I’ve been (and so has the rest of the team here) pretty quiet during the last few months. Mostly because we were pretty busy working on Totspot (blog), which we launched with a group of really smart people. Totspot is a social publishing platform for parents and their kids. It’s a pretty niche market, but an exciting one too.

Totspot

Totspot started out as client work and it became our single focus for months – definitely worth it, for several reasons. One: it’s pretty cool to be working on something that’s usually not your core audience – as you may know, we build solutions for teams much like our own who work on, with and for the web. Second: it gave us an opportunity to engage deeply with an idea. As a team, we usually focus either on planning, or on execution – and we don’t often get the chance to deep dive into a product like we did with Totspot. It was good to get back to thinking exclusively about one core problem, like we had before with Bell Canada, and with our own product, Goplan. Third: kids are awesome.

Totspot

So I’m pretty excited about this launch. Totspot is now in a private beta stage and we’re slowly inviting moms and dads to check it out – if you want in, head out to Totspot.com and leave us your email address (we respect your privacy, your email address is safe with us). There’s more exciting stuff to talk about really soon, so keep an eye out – I promise I’ll be posting more often (especially next week from Vegas)

Note: Mike over at Techcrunch wrote about Totspot too, and Techmeme’s caught up to the story, so head over there and read up on what people are saying. Oh! And obviously there’s the official Totspot blog, where we’ll post product updates – go check!

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The flow of information

This post is philosophical and doesn’t necessarily carry solutions to the problems it presents. I know it’s not my usual kind of writing, but hey, it’s better to get ideas out there than it is to keep them to yourself. Tread carefully.

Brian Oberkirch just posted about the flow of information and where we’re heading to by connecting the web to the objects we carry with us daily. This topic has been on my mind since when I first heard of the Chumby about 2 years ago. Connected devices like the chumby, stuff by Ambient Devices (that I’ve never seen live, unfortunately), the iPhone and Arduino bring us closer to data that we generally pay little attention to.

These days the web isn’t something we’re always plugged into or connected to. We just tap into it when we want information – still some of us do it more than others. The web is leaking into the real world (as Matt Webb hinted at in his Movement presentation) through connected devices and services like Twitter, Dopplr (or Birdie, which we’re building around here – more on it later, promise).

There’s still barriers between now and a future where the online world and the real blend into each other completely. Brian mentions some of the problems we’re solving now like identity and usability. A lot needs to happen in the interaction world as well. The way we connect to the cloud (cloud being online data) is still open, vastly unexplored territory. We’re building devices that get us closer to the data, but I keep feeling like our use of screen-based media is often limiting. We’ll see a lot more of products like BUG labs than we will of services in the future.

My guess is we’ll have specialized devices connected to specific bits of data – much like we use our cellphones to connect to GSM networks and call people. What those will be and how they’ll look is still unknown, but it’s an exciting time to be working on platforms, devices and the web.

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