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

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