Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Bang is coming

As you know, we have a proof-of-concept site on that has been in beta for 3 months.  The feedback we have received during our pilot phase has been immensely valuable, and we've turned them into improvements to the site.   As a result, the level of engagement is far superior to what we see on the existing Spoke site.  By the metrics, the number of page views per visit is up by a factor 4, and visitors spend more than 5x the amount of time on the site.  Clearly, people like what they see when they visit.  

In fact, we feel we have made enough progress that we are ready to make the beta site the new public face for This doesn’t mean that the existing features you enjoy on the current site as member or anonymously are going to disappear but they will be accessible on a different site.  Stay tuned for the exact date for the transition as well as all the information you will need to navigate through this transition.
This release is major and has been in the works for the last year and a half. It originated as a request from a growing portion of our users who wanted to make simple edits to the site without registering. The first six months were all about design and planning, the following nine months were spent developing and the last three months testing as well as upgrading the site to make it ready.  Our goal was to make the site as easy as possible to update and we got it done. With, you can now update a page in a matter of seconds and create a complete company or a person page in a matter of minutes. 
As we continue to enhance the site, our focus is evolving, though our mission is still the same:  to publish information about industries, companies and people. We want Spoke to be recognized as the authoritative site for business information on the Internet, the place you come to first to find the information you need to conduct your business. The content is professional and business focused, organized so that you can consume it easily.  

The major change is that we now want also to be a medium for the best voices the Industry and let them publish and moderate the business information available on the site for their respective industries. On our site, our community is publishing information about other people, companies and as the standard for blogging and journalism evolves over time, we expect our community to abide by them and provide only business facts and not disparaging comments or any speculations. We have put a moderation system in place to guarantee that this is not happening but we will also rely on our community to self discipline itself in a transparent way.

This is a very different business model than a traditional social networking model where people are in control of their information. In the past, people may have been unhappy about the information they found about themselves on Spoke and found it very difficult to correct it. We now  allow them to correct it quickly or remove it altogether in the case of a person profile.  

Overall, we feel that we’ve struck the right balance between content contributors (i.e., the community) and the subjects of the profiles (i.e., people and companies). Of course, we expect a healthy conversation and we plan to adjust based on your feedbacks as content producer and profile subjects.

Our beta is already available so if you have not seen it yet, just go and play with the site so that you get familiarized and update or add any information you feel is needed on any profiles. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monitor your key accounts on

Dear Friends,

We are pleased to announce that our registered members can now follow company and people profiles directly in an individual activity stream  on so, if you decide to use this feature,  you don't need to go from one profile to another to see what is going on but just go to your activity stream.  And it is very easy to set up, you just have to follow on the profiles you are interested in and any changes to the profile from that page will appear in your individual activity stream that you can find in the user drop-down menu.

By following profiles, you benefit from the intelligence gathering of our community in real time. Since is fully editable, the thousands of visitors looking for intelligence about companies and people can also share their insights with the rest of the community. If you follow a profile, you'll be notified as those new insights are added. 

And there is more: because we are now integrated with the major press release providers, we can alert you about developments at companies that could create either job openings or business development opportunities.

Following a page will help you be among the first to learn about developments at companies like SAP, find job openings at Tesla Motors, or find business development opportunities at Netflix. This new feature lets you tap into key goings-on at nearly 1 million companies and 4 million people that already have profiles on -- and more are being created every day.

Philippe Cases

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving and new feature

Today, I am very proud to announce the first of a long series of new features on our way to achieving the full vision of our platform.

You have now the ability to see press releases directly in a company profile (see IBM Corporation and Blue Shield California). Today, you can see press releases very readily for public company profiles but it is quite rare to see the same for private companies and that is what we are doing for free!!! With this new release, you are now able to follow more targets and get information in real time about what is happening with your partners, competitors, customers or suppliers independently of whether the company is public. If you are a job seeker, you will find these news releases interesting as you are getting ready for an interview.

As we are receiving press releases from our content partners and matching those press releases directly into our company profiles on a daily basis, our database is now updated more than a thousand time every day making it more fresh and updated.

If you are looking for a press release on the site, there are few cases for which we may not have it and for which you can help:
1)      The company doesn’t exist yet in our database. In this case, you should just create the profile and add as much information as possible to enable better matching. We are doing well with company name, web site, stock ticker and addresses but the more information, the better;
2)      We may not have enough data to do an accurate matching. Again in this case, just make sure we have at least company name, web site, stock ticker and addresses  and the more information you can add in addition to this, the better;
3)      Lastly, we may not have agreements with a newswire that push press releases for that specific companies, in this case, just post a request with the name of the wire provider in our user forum and we will contact them to add them to our roster.

This feature is only available for the time being on our beta site When we will migrate to, the feature will be available on this site as well. 

By providing the ability to follow private companies for free, we want to thank our community for all the support they have been providing us and for such a long time. In this Thanksgiving Day, I feel blessed to be part of such a supportive community.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Philippe Cases

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Publishing profiles

We have been publishing on our Facebook page a series of profiles. We will start publishing them on the blog as well. For the one who missed the prior ones, here is a selection. We will publish all of them over time on this blog but  if you want to see them all of them now, visit our Facebook page:

Profile of the day serie: everyday, we are sharing one profile that has been created that day. Today is the profile of Trula Lacalle. Trula is a renowned psychologist focused on repressed memories and is now dedicating her life to aging. If you want to honor one of your mentors, friends from your business life. Go create a profile on for that person and publish it here.
On Wenesday, Steve Jobs died. I was on a company meeting and suddenly everything stopped and we talked about Steve. Nobody around the table knew him. Some were too young and others didn't have the chance. Here is the profile that came out of it. If you want to share your own links, videos, testimony,... go on the profile by clicking on the link and start adding.
Profile on for Steve Jobs, Founder, Former Chairman & CEO, Apple

Profile of the day: Ushahidi is changing the world as it helps to report in real time what is happening in the world enabling people to react quicker and save lives as well as enforcing democracy. Ushahidi is an Open Source Project out of Nairobi Africa which lets users submit reports by text messages, emails, tweets or web postings. This software was used to expose Kenyan Election Killings or res...See More
Company profile on for Ushahidi, Nairob

Profile of the day: Dave McAvoy Dave is on a journey to drink one beer every day. And the good news is that he reports on it so if you like beer...
Profile on for Dave McAvoy

Monday, September 5, 2011

The new site is live.

We are three months late but the first release of our new site is now live on We have released this first version of hub to members last week and we are now preparing ourselves to open it to the public towards the end of next week. You can find some great member-profile examples that we caught on Twitter here:

Hub.spoke has the one feature you have been asking for for a long time--the ability to update information directly on site without registering. Since we released the site to our members last week, we’ve had thousands of unique visitors and the average number of edits per visit was 7.7 edits. The average time spent on site was close to 7 minutes and the bounce rate was 25%. 62% of the edits were on people and 38% were on companies. 20% of those visits were made by people who came at least three times. Those statistics are promising in terms of engagement and we look forward to seeing how these metrics evolve when the site is truly public.

Right now, anybody can edit any profile and edits go live after moderation. We have monitored the quality of edits during this initial test with our members and the results were outstanding as we didn’t have one piece of spam or wrong information. As we are opening our site to the public and we are looking to have only good quality information on the site, we will be very cautious on moderation and the jury is still be out to decide whether we will require some level of authentication (such as registering with a real account on Facebook) or if we keep editing open for anonymous users.

This new release is full of features but the one other feature that I am most excited about is the ability to organize links available about a topic on the web. Think of it as your dream Google search results on a person or a company you are searching. All the relevant links are there and organized in a coherent way that makes sense. We are providing two different frameworks to organize links: one is a timeline called milestones for companies or achievements for people where you can select links to create a historic view about yourself and your friends and their companies, and the other is notable links if the link is important enough to help understand the company. Here are few examples of companies with great milestones and notable links: Tesla Motors and Shoedazzle ; and here are some great examples for people, Ben Smith and Indra Nooyi.

One more thing: if you are an expert, consultant, or blogger looking for a job, or an active participant in an industry, and you are looking for ways to reach more people beyond your traditional network, create or edit profile pages on companies, or important people in your industries on Spoke. Any links will be credited to you on the profile page so your name will be viewed thousands of times by people who are searching for those profiles. Of course this feature is available only if you are registered. As we are moving forward, we will keep all this information so that we can promote you even more in the coming months, if you are an active participant on Spoke. You could even become an editor if you consistently provide good links. So do no wait to engage and get known in your industry.

PS: For those of you who wonders what is gonna with, and are going to stay separate until has caught up in terms of functionality with and then we will switch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Information overflow?

Between Frederic Fillioux, with his Monday Note proclaiming the demise
of traditional news organizations and the advent of Churnalism with its
low standard of journalistic rigor, and Jeff Jarvis, who embraces the
use of Twitter as a tool to break and verify stories, there's a war
raging over whether Twitter will be the savior or executioner of the
news industry. As always, when positions are polarized this way, there
is truth on both sides of the argument.

MG Siegler, frustrated by Facebook's PR machine, pointed me to some very
interesting statistics from John Sullivan at Propublica (PR industry
fills vacuum left by shrinking newsrooms ) that may
highlight what the problem is and what the outcome could be. In the
1980s, there were 0.36 journalists and 0.45 person working in the PR
industry per 100,000 people. In 2008, the rates shifted to 0.25
journalists and 0.90 PR persons per 100,000 people. Thus the ratio of
PR/journalist has nearly tripled in less than 30 years. I will leave the
rest of this article to you, the reader, because it is an interesting
point of view on how PR is taking over the conversation.

My point is a little bit different. In March 2011, Business Insiders ( ) observed that 15 million users were following 50 or more people on Twitter, and were, therefore, very active. If 1/3 of them are in the USA, then 1,630 users per 100,000 are now broadcasting information on Twitter, 2,000 times
more than PR persons and 8,000 times more than journalists. These numbers are probably far higher on Facebook.

As if it weren't already challenge enough for the news industry to keep
up with the PR industry, the emergence of Twitter and Facebook poses a
far more overwhelming challenge for journalists, both in terms of
opportunities as well as the possibility of getting lost. I daresay that
the challenge is even bigger for the PR industry, as they now have to
control far more conversations than they had to in the past, and they
are probably understaffed for the task at hand. If journalists and PR
persons face a big problem, what about you and me? We rely on those
experts to provide us with news that is highly relevant, yet we, as well
as they, are now confronted with an enormous information fire hose right
on the computer. As Laurent Haug points out, “from a world where the
problem was to add information, we now enter into a world where the
problem is to find which one can be ignored, hidden or deleted.” If the
early days of Web 2.0 were all about blogging and creating new and
interesting content, we are moving now in a world of curation.

The problem is the same in the data industry.
If you consider how you would gather information on a company or a
people today, you have three options:
1. websites or social networks managed by PR persons whose goals is to
manage the conversation for a specific outcome, such as recruiting,
increasing sales, and managing perceptions, rather than providing
2. commercial information providers, who may be hard to find or very
3. search engines and social networks to find an ocean of information,
but you don’t really know which information can be ignored, hidden or
And the problem is getting worse by the day as we are creating as much information in two days than we did up to 2003 according to Eric Schmidt.

There have been several attempts to create databases for specific
vertical industries. Some have been very successful, but none has
attempted to specifically address the problem of searching for
information about companies and people over the internet. Spoke wants to
be the one stop shop to find 90% of the information you need. We are
hoping to leverage this huge community of participants the same way
journalists are using them to validate information they receive. We will
be relying on you to provide us with information as you are searching
for your own information. It is going to be a give and take, and some of
you will be creating profiles that others will be able to use.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turning your most aggressive detractors into your biggest advocates

One of the good things about working for a company like Spoke (which hasn't always had the best rep on the internet -- but don’t tell anybody) is that when a user isn't satisfied, they're usually pretty vocal about it -- and will usually stay in our face until their concerns are resolved. It sounds like a headache but we've actually grown to love it, realizing more and more that underneath emotion there is often valuable user-insight. And being receptive to this has not only helped us to turn a significant corner in consumer-perception, but we were able to leverage that same passionate displeasure when designing the strategy that is ultimately shaping our new site.

In the past months, not only did I talk to supporters, but made it a point to engage with dozens upon dozens of our most dissatisfied users:

-"I need this profile removed immediately"

-"Someone hacked my social media accounts and defaced my pages"

-"All I'm trying to do is make sure the proper information is being displayed"

-"If I need to draft a Cease & Desist letter I will"

At the beginning, these conversations were relatively one-way streets, with users sharing a grievance about our service. But in peeling back layers of frustration, we began to sense a common theme: people wanted more control. They wanted the ability to click and edit information without a long process to get there, and as the new site began to take shape, we were able to give more and more back to our users during this dialog -- describing what we were building and how their pain-point was, quite literally, about to become nonexistent.

Even better, we reached the point where we could give demo's and show screenshots:

It turns out people get pretty responsive when a company actively seeks out an unsatisfied user-base and says "you know you're right, that could be better -- and we've actually been working on it for months now".

We started to get feedback like:

-"Everything's resolved. I will definitely watch for the new webpage"

-"You guys were instrumental in building my business, excited to play with the new-site"

Over the course of a 15 minute conversation, a representative from an electronics manufacturer went from "delete all my information and my company's information now!" to "eager to play with the full site, keep me posted", and more than one person in a sales role described a unique application of the new site that I didn't even see at the beginning.

Moreover, the goodwill impact stretches beyond just the new product. Users who previously had a below-average impression started to respond to the entire company with positive comments, praising both our responsiveness and new direction. Just a couple weeks ago, a prominent investor who was trying to remove his entire online identity (and thus had approached us rather upset) encouraged me in a final email that he sees the benefit in what we're building and expects that giving our users this much control will not only satisfy them, but empower them.

Obviously, user-feedback is essential to any growing company. But depending on the trajectory of that growth, it can be useful to understand when certain types of feedback may bring more value. A supporter is very helpful to improving on a product that they already like -- assisting with incremental innovation; however for those major changes (the kind will soon be unveiling) sometimes it's necessary to give an extra ear to those who don't love what you're currently doing. By engaging these users and building on top of those strong feelings, they will not only help you make the biggest inroads, but who knows -- they may even become your biggest allies!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The last building block?

We have been talking about it for a while now, and people are exasperated waiting for it, but our new version of the site is about to be released. Our target for release is May 9th.

This release aims at two primary goals:
1) To resolve, once and for all, our last complaints. Over the course of the last year we revamped our business processes such that we are now A+ at BBB and we receive fewer than one Truste request per week on average. Still, we receive complaints that business processes alone can't address. If you are interested, you can find them on Uservoice. The top three complaints pertain to the inability for members and interested parties to:
• correct errors in company and person profiles
• easily correct misinformation
• remove fake employees.
This release will resolve these and more – the top ten complaints from our users.
2) Fulfill one of the initial premises for Spoke: to provide a 360 degree view of a company, along with its people, drawing from all the information available on the Internet. Ultimately such a view across many companies enables business users to derive insights and drive business around an industry, a trend, a company and people. By the power of aggregation, we also believe that we can create a lively environment around industries that many in the tech industry believe are “obscure”.

This said, and to be completely transparent, we believe that information on the Internet shouldn’t be confined to what people publish about themselves. There are plenty of places to do so, and we believe that promotes a one-sided, biased point of view. It is also a very limited means for managing reputation. We believe that there should be places where a community can respectfully interact around companies and people outside the control of said companies and people. Further, we hope that Spoke will become the premier site for this kind of vibrant community. Sure, we expect to get a fair amount of grief over this – even very respectable sites catering to self-promotion are not immune – but the community as a whole benefits greatly.

Of course, we don’t want this place to become a magnet for creating controversies. I’ll write a blog on this soon, but to summarize: our goal is to make it the place where business users come for inside information about a business or a person. We have worked very hard to deliver on this premise. From the get-go:
1) We are delivering a completely updated site based on proven, cutting-edge technologies (Ruby on Rails, MongoDB….).
2) We are giving to the community at large the power to update profiles and provide insights. This means that anybody will be able to update profiles as discussed.
3) At the same time, we have created a moderation platform to provide enough oversight to ensure that community-provided content is appropriate. As we discussed, our focus is business information, so this will not be the venue for airing your customer support issue or maligning someone's reputation; there are plenty of sites for that already and we don’t want to be one of those.

Moving forward, we are building:
1) A set of Open APIs so people and organizations can create and update profiles from their existing information, and can integrate the Spoke data into their own application.
2) A way for news providers to directly their news into our profiles;
3) A platform for bloggers to contribute content and insights while retaining full control of their content to maximize page views. Spoke could be a valuable channel for building readership and reputation. Additionally, Spoke can drive revenue through sales of reports or consulting directly on the site.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more blog posts about what we're up to!

Philippe Cases