Author Archives: Ken Yeung

About Ken Yeung

Editor-in-Chief of and an accomplished interactive producer in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area interested in all things in tech and marketing. Whether its gadgets or startups or related issues, he's eager to learn about it. From attending local and national conferences to appearing at events, parties, and other meetups, Ken is interested in sharing what he sees. Oh, and he's an accomplished photographer too, having been commissioned by Mashable, TechCrunch, TechSet, SXSW, BlogWorld, and many more.

Blogworld - Day 1 - Ben ParrWord has leaked out about Ben Parr’s latest endeavor and it’s sounding like it’ll revolutionize the future. Well, if what we’re reading is true, that is. A few weeks ago, the former Editor-at-Large of Mashable gave word that he was going to have a series of announcements about what he’s going to be doing now. It was known that he was teaming up with a co-founder to create a startup, but he kept it pretty close to his sleeve, always saying that he’s “not ready to announce yet”. Then, the truth slowly started to come out. First, it was his announcement that he was going to continue writing, but this time it was a weekly column for CNET. And then last week, TechCrunch seemed to let it all out with a post that, if you believe what you read, spoiled the surprise.

So what was this stealthy startup that Mr. Parr has been working on? It’s called the Peep Project and it’s started by both Mr. Parr and his co-founder, Hilary Karis, formerly a senior software engineer for Sociable Labs. The only thing that seems to have been revealed is what the Peet Project is all about: it’s going to be your “intelligent assistant”, which TechCrunch assumed was going to be a Siri wannabe, but Mr. Parr is adamant that they’re “not building Siri”. They further describe the Peep Project being something to “help manage your information universe”. You can get a slightly better understanding of what Mr. Parr and Ms. Karis is doing if you read their AngelList proposal, specifically when dealing with recruiting (they’re hiring for a designer, by the way):

Can’t remember the super-awesome thing you found on the web yesterday? Ever have so many tabs open that you run out of memory? We’re fixing that…We think of The Peep Project as a cause. We’re going to change the way people interact with information. We’re going to change how people use the web.

While they say that they’re not building Siri, what it potentially may seem to be is that they’re expanding on a whole new level of Artificial Intelligence and building upon the platform that created Siri. I’m not saying that the Peep Project will be a voice-activated automaton and I might be totally wrong about what the Peep Project is about, but the fact they’re describing this as an “intelligent assistant” is probably going to be something much more than the next mechanical turk. The age of technology “assistants” is rapidly approaching–Siri was the pioneer in this and the Peep Project might be the one to evolve it to make it much more meaningful (how exactly remains to be seen). Those that I know that have been exposed to the Peep Project say that what Mr. Parr is doing has a shot and I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt (the man has ideas…).

Siri (credit: Apple)But the Peep Project isn’t the only one thinking about trying to get rid of Siri’s monopoly of being a true virtual assistant. In fact, Google has indicated that they would like to compete with Apple and create their own. In a TechCrunch post written by Alexia Tsotsis, it’s being reported that Apple will be trying to integrate Siri into multiple platforms. So the search engine giant has said they’re working on an assistant program as well and hope to roll it out soon. Perhaps the most poignant part of the post is this analysis from Ms. Tsotsis: “Google has now set its ambitions beyond social and is focused wholeheartedly on building this “Do engine,” or goal oriented search: 2011 was the year of social for Google. 2012 is the year of ‘Assistant.’

That’s right: 2012 will be the year of the “Assistant” and it seems that Mr. Parr and Ms. Karis have acknowledged this and want to get ahead of the game. We’re no longer talking about just social applications like Instagram, Twitter, Path, Facebook, or Zynga. Instead, the tech industry is slowly moving towards an era where applications and services will be tapping into the awesome API powers of these “assistants”. Maybe that’s something the Peep Project is all about-who knows, we won’t even find out for a while until they fully announce what they’re up to.

The Verge reports that Google’s Assistant service won’t just be a standalone application–developers will be given access to the API in order to integrate Assistant right into their very own applications, but the knowledge would come right from Google’s enormous search engine, not from the application creator’s library. But what Assistant would do is give users the ability to speak to get answers, search results, and more–just like Siri. It will be interesting to see how the Peep Project can differentiate itself from this, but I think that given that only Apple and Google are the two major players who are probably diving head first into this, the Peep Project has a good chance at being a major player and help shape the discussion about this stuff.

Last month, a study was done that indicated that Siri currently accounts for 25 percent of traffic handled by search engine Wolfram Alpha. But compared to how Assistant would leverage the Google engine, the results that Wolfram Alpha would produce for the Apple iPhone is based on data curated by the service, not on algorithms attempting to search the web. In his proposal, Mr. Parr stated that he’s trying to create a product that will focus on “intelligent information”–something that will have us look at information in a different way. Perhaps the service will be about changing the status quo and evolving the information received from Wolfram Alpha or another similar service and building a completely new dynamic that will make things more contextually relevant?

Who knows..we’ll just have to wait and see. Of course, I could be entirely wrong…in which case, he’s probably building a social network for cats.

Photo Credit:
Ben Parr at work at BlogWorld Expo 2009 by Ken Yeung/Flickr
- Apple iPhones with Siri by Apple

Mobile devicesIn a little less than a week, most of the tech community (~45,000 of us) will converge on Austin and make it the de facto tech hub for five days. Within the thousands that attend, most will probably be developers, designers, entrepreneurs, while the rest are agency and company-specific individuals eager to see the next big thing and/or try and figure out what is said technology good for and how can they use it to help their business.

If you’ve never been you SXSW, then you might find it a bit overwhelming. But even if you’re a veteran, there are some things you might want to be aware of when going there to help you be more productive and efficient with your time. So that’s why I’ve put together a list of five useful applications that one should probably have on their phone or mobile device to help them navigate through the madness that is SXSW.


FlipboardA safe application to always have on your mobile device is Twitter, especially if you want to catch up on all the news. But with so much happening at SXSW, it’s probably better to get them in a more digestable format. That’s why I would say that if you want a one-time dump on what’s happening in the world and/or in the industry, make sure you download the Flipboard application for your iPad or iPhone. This year, they’re going to have a special section for SXSW (think they had it last year) and you’ll hopefully be able to see photos, stories, and much more. Almost like a Techmeme in a magazine format, you’ll receive all the top stories emerging from the keynotes or product launches right on the device. It’s definitely worth a shot and if you sync it to your Twitter account, you can even push stories/articles you like right to your profile and share it with your friends and followers.


EvernoteForget your pen and paper in your hotel room? Don’t worry about it. In fact, you don’t need to bring that stuff with you anymore. Download the Evernote application for your mobile device (Android and iOS available) and you’ll be able to jot down quick notes, keep track of any of your expenses, upload photos for viewing later, and much more. And the best part is that while you’re on the go, you can use Evernote on your mobile device to photograph business cards and jot down notes so you remember how you met that individual (always helpful), or you want to keep track of the schedule of parties and events you need to go to. But if you are in a session and want to make notes of what the speaker is talking about, but hate to type on your phone or iPad for lengthy periods of time, then just have Evernote’s desktop version installed right on your computer and type away. It’s Cloud-based so as soon as you save your information, it will be accessible anywhere as long as you use your Evernote account to log in. If a presenter has a key slide you want to memorize or share with others, take a photo using your mobile device and you can push it to Evernote instantly. Always remember what you’re doing with Evernote.


InstagramWhile it’s still a conference, what’s a technology/interactive event about if you can’t take photos and share them with your friends and followers? The largest mobile social network is probably going to be very helpful when you’re either in sessions or out on the town. Maybe you see that famous celebrity and you get your picture taken or there’s something else worth sharing–Instagram is probably your best application to keep track of it and to share. Plus with the myriad of filters that the service has, you can add a bit of artistic flair to it. Photo sharing? That might have been a bit passe and last year, but Instagram is still around and popular than ever. And if you want to be the person who can navigate through crowds easily without needing to lug a big camera (don’t want to be me?), then you are probably better off using your phone–less stuff to carry, but with the enormous power of a social network and the potential of a real camera.


FoursquareLet’s face it, being at a large-scale event like SXSW isn’t going to be easy to keep track of our friends. With over 170 parties happening in Austin within the five days of the show, who knows if you’ll actually see your friends or colleagues. Most likely with all the people using their phones and the noise, it might be hard to get in touch with everyone, but that’s why you need to be on Foursquare. This three-year old company first launched at SXSW and has seen its adoption take off. For most people, it’s all about the badges, but if you want to find the most interesting people that you know at a party, know where to go. And pay attention to Foursquare too because you just might unlock some secret prize or event (like Foursquare did last year with the Big Boi concert) or find Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Secret Wine Party” being announced.


TextPlusTraveling with a large group of your friends? Need to keep track of them without having to send multiple messages to multiple people to try and coordinate? We’ve all been there–you want to try and get five of your friends together in order to hang out and grab a bite to eat before a party, so you call one person and then call another and another and each one has a different schedule or things that they want to do. It’s going to be a pain to try and coordinate and your battery on your phone is dying. Why not have a better way to have people communicate with everyone in real-time instead of you playing the middleman?

That’s why attendees at SXSW should have TextPlus because it’s going to probably be the only real feasible way for people to get in touch with large groups of people to coordinate which parties to go to, what awesome things to check out or to find one another in the madness that is SXSW. The best part is that all texts are free–international people probably don’t need to worry about their minutes being used or being charged for any expensive texts that they send out. Group texting is the way to go when you want to communicate…save the phone calls for when you’re back home.

Bonus: Eventbrite

EventbriteI know I said that there would be five apps that you should have, but one just appeared to me and I felt that I should mention it…Eventbrite is one of the most prolific and prominent ticket reservation services for the SXSW parties. If you’re going to be at any party, chances are that you had to RSVP through an Eventbrite page. But when we get to the door of the party, we don’t want to have to deal with checking our email confirmation to find the ticket–it’s just not efficient. Their mobile application is supposed to share with you your upcoming events and their locations, give you a barcode so that it can quickly be scanned–getting you into the door sooner, contact the event organizer for any outstanding questions, and much more! Never get lost at SXSW because with Eventbrite’s mobile application, you’re going to know exactly where you should be going.

Photo Credit: Mobile devices via BlogIT

Yelp rings the bell at their IPO debutAnother week closes and another Internet company hits it big. This time, the winning company was local-review site, Yelp, and they just debuted their Initial Public Offering (IPO) on Friday with their listing on the New York Stock Exchange.  Whether there’s a bubble is probably something worth debating, but one thing is for sure, with the successful IPOs of companies like LinkedIn and Pandora Radio exceeding expectations, investors are eager to dive right in and take advantage of these hot young companies by wanting a piece of the action. Yelp turned out to be no different that the rest–their IPO price started off at $15 a share on Thursday night and then by the close of trading on Friday, it jumped to over 60% it’s IPO price ending up at $24.58.

Using their stock ticker symbol “YELP”, the Internet company helped raise over $107 million in gross proceeds. Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, said yesterday:

Over the past seven years our team has worked tirelessly to improve the Yelp experience for consumers and local businesses, and as a result there are countless numbers of people who have benefitted from that hard work and the power of Yelp communities all over the world. Today is a time to pause briefly to reflect on how far we’ve all come and to celebrate the fact that Yelp has become a trusted source to connect with great local businesses…

The company is the sixth Internet/tech company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange–could Facebook be joining them later on? That will remain to be seen, as the social network giant has yet to choose an index. But in the meantime, the latest public Internet darling has certainly got to be Yelp. And it’s definitely been a long time coming. The Wall Street Journal reports that Yelp primarily makes its revenue by selling advertising on its websites to local and small businesses, but while that might be able to sustain them, could one of the reasons for their IPO now because of a need to raise capital to stem losses incurred over the past seven years? Or what about needing capital to help build and innovate faster so that they can avoid the potential competition that Google might offer them in light of their recent acquisition of Zagat? That’s right, Google…the potential elephant in the room that could dump a lot of resources on the table to take out any competitor–if they only had the right solution.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like Yelp has much to worry about the Google/Zagat acquisition. But in the near future, Google will be storming at Yelp’s gates looking for a piece of the action. The search engine giant already is capturing reviews and displaying them in Google Maps as well as many of their other properties. In a September 2011 interview with Reuters, Marissa Mayer, VP of Local, Maps, and Location Services, was quoted as saying that at the time of the Zagat purchase, Google needed to provide more than just directions to consumers seeking information about restaurants and other local businesses.  She went on to say “It’s also (about) getting them a sense of the place. A sense of what to expect.

The Yelp IPO is a good stepping stone for the company to solidify their infrastructure and product. CNN reports that like most other tech companies that have tested going public, Yelp isn’t profitable and we know that since they’ve been trying to stem the losses from the past seven years. In 2011, Yelp reported a net loss of $16.7 million while receiving sales of $83.3 million. That’s considerably more than in 2010, when they had $9.6 million in losses on $47.7 million in revenue. But if investors are ignoring these problems and paying a premium for Yelp now, does the company (and public) think that they’ll stand a chance or will the prices start to go downward when the market opens on Monday? Yelp’s IPO may have bought them the necessary time needed to make some needed cuts in spending/costs and give them the ability to innovate and deal with potential competitors. I mean, for a company that was initially valued at $900 million only to have it skyrocket to $1.49 billion, that shouldn’t be too hard, would it?

Photo Credit: Yelp rings the ball at the New York Stock Exchange on their first day of public trading via Yelp

Social Media ClubIn 2006, the social media phenomenon was kicking into gear and it was then when a group of people got together to start what has become one of the industry’s best communities dedicated to fostering the understanding and education of social media.

That organization became known as the Social Media Club and its first chapter was installed right here in the heart of technology: San Francisco. It’s mission was centered around creating a global program to help advance digital media literacy, promote ethical behavior and build a community of like-minded professionals to meet and learn from another. It wasn’t going to be a professional organization where you just pay some yearly dues and you get to put it on your resume. This organization had the foresight to see that social media was going to be the next biggest thing for people to use on the Internet and wanted to grow and learn from it. The industry owes a great deal to the pioneers of this organization, especially they’re two founders: Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells.

Within the past six years, this group has rapidly expanded. With chapters around the country and even in places like Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and more,  they’ve managed to positively impact hundreds of thousands of people and improve the understanding of the industry and helped make countless connections and networks. Their goal wasn’t to lecture everyone on how social media was going to be done. No, they decided to hear from other professionals to have them offer up their lessons learned and trade stories on how to effectively use the tools at hand. From hosting educational chats online each week to creating conferences and other monthly events to even having a Social Media Clubhouse and several of the biggest technology and Internet events around the world (CES, SXSW, LeWeb, and more), the Social Media Club has never failed to provide quality content that is relevant to people.

Social media is easy but it’s also difficult. Sure, setting up a Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube profile is simple, but how you use it will be a bit trickier. Maybe you want to learn more about social media or talk to some of the genius professionals out there that made some of the most creative case studies out there (e.g. understand what happened with Barack Obama’s election and how social media affected it, how did the Old Spice videos really become a success, how does a company like Ford handle it from a company-wide standpoint?)–whatever you want to do or learn about social media, most likely you’re going to be able to find it with the Social Media Club. Each month, in fact, the respective chapters holds their own events with different topics. Just this month, the San Francisco chapter held their meeting where they talked about metrics and data with a great panel from Marketo, Buddy Media, Seesmic, and Kred. Lots of great stories and lessons learned.

But while the group has had some great success, there’s a need for them to raise some money. Social Media Club is a non-profit organization, but they do need funds to help support their programming and to pay a small staff that help to keep everything rolling.While it’s nice that social media is free, there is a time when paying is more appropriate because you’re getting one helluva value proposition from it. So today, they’re asking for our help. If you’ve ever been considering becoming a member, now is the time to do it. I, personally, just joined because after a couple years of going to their events, it was about time for me to contribute something because these events have proven valuable to me. It’s not really that much for membership either–a professional membership will cost you $100, but the real value is if you get your company or entire organization to sign up. This way, you won’t be the only one benefiting from the knowledge…you’re entire company will be savvy in the art of social media!

But, if you don’t want to be a member, you can still help out by donating to the organization so that they can continue to fund programs that support the industry. These funds aren’t for salaries–they’re to help them keep free and low-cost events going around the globe with their individual chapters. You can make your donation by going to and no amount is too little. Help keep the Social Media Club going so that it will continue to foster education and knowledge so that the industry can continue to be better and create and promote great ideas!

Bye BrizzlyLooks like things didn’t really work out for Twitter clients that get bought by AOL. News broke today that Thing Labs, which AOL bought in 2010, is going to be shuttering its signature product, Brizzly. The web-based Twitter client that launched in 2009, apparently suffered at the hands of neglect and after a while, the founders decided that they had no room for their startup and decided that the new things being worked on within AOL were “far more worth their time and attention.”

In the farewell post, the founders, Grant Shellen, Jason Shellen, and Zachary Taylor acknowledged that they had pursued Brizzly simply as an “experiment”. They saw that there was a better way to view content on Twitter and from there, they created another Twitter client that people would use to share their information. From adding link expansion, infinite scrolling, inline photos, video displays and many other features, the team started to expand their horizons into integrating into Facebook. But it probably wasn’t easy for the company as they had to compete with many other Twitter clients eager to get users’ attention: services like Hootsuite, Seesmic, Tweetdeck, and many others.

The barriers to entry for a third-party Twitter client are quite difficult too without the proper support and resources. Just last year, Sysomos released a study that they did where they looked at 25 million tweets and found that 58% of them were sent from an official Twitter app, with 42% coming from non-official Twitter clients. The most popular of which were TweetDeck (since acquired by Twitter), UberSocial, and Echofon. It’s pretty hard to try and grab a foothold in the market if you’re going to be a Twitter client.

With a lack of innovation, it’s probably a good thing that the service is getting shut down. According to, the number of visits to the service has drastically gone down over the past year to nearly 4,000 unique visits in January 2012. But while it’s going away, the spirit of Brizzly will continue to remain with the founders–they haven’t tossed away any of their ideas for the service. In fact, they’re adapting those same ideas to work within the next generation of AIM. It looks like they’re trying to make AIM more sociable than it ever was before since it will allow you to find out when people have mentioned, liked, followed or commented on your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram content.

So long Brizzly. May your spirit be reincarnated well into the latest version of AIM and you find the peace you’re looking for.