Saturday, March 29, 2008

OpenSocial, Adobe goes online and more ...

I am a bit behind with my blog entries. Got busy with FreshBrain and just didn't make the time. So I will do this entry to catch up a bit. Sooooo much is happening. Got to love it!

How about the announcement last week that Yahoo agrees to join with Google and MySpace around OpenSocial. Actually, what they did is create an OpenSocial Foundation! This is great. Developers need to be able to write applications that are targeted for social networks in such a way that they run in all of them without change (or in reality - at least with minimal change). That definitely is not the case today.

So why do we care. Well, is build on a social networking platform - Drupal. I talked about this in the past. What we want is for developers to be able to write applications that can then run on our platform as well. We will need to support OpenSocial. But that is what we are all about - leveraging open source and standards as much as possible.

With Yahoo, OpenSocial gets closer to ubiquity. We of course still need Facebook. They are not excited about the idea as they are the leaders right now and they were pretty early with applications. I hope that this recent announcement will help push them to commit!

Second on my list is an announcement by Adobe that they are launching Adobe Photoshop Express - a limited online version of Adobe Photoshop. While I thought the last one was great, this one is more of ... about time. Adobe is releasing something that others already have. They are heading in the right direction, and they do have one nice feature - integration with flickr. But as I said, it is about time.

And third (last) on my list, an update on FreshBrain. We have been working hard. Lots of small things to mention (ok, some of these are not small to us).
  • Working during Beta to improve usability of
    • Improving search - really critical to the students.
    • Simplifying the concept of projects, how you view them, start one and join one.
  • Signing up partners. I will do a whole section on this soon.
  • Readying FreshBrain to hire our own employees (insurance, benefits, etc.).
  • Beginning to drive volume - launched our first contest on the new site!
We all feel both buried and jubilant. So much to do, but so much is going well.

Talk again to you soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Preparing for College

Some of you know that I have two sons. One is in middle school and the other in high school. We just spent a week visiting colleges. It was of course primarily for my junior in high school who is really focused on grades, SAT scores and deciding where he will "spend four years of his life." It was also good for my younger son too.

We visited SDSU, UCSD, UCLA and UCI. We have already visited UCB and UCSB. We still have on our list another visit to UCB (we were there during a big football game and want to see what it is like on a regular day) and Stanford.

These are all good schools. I could go on and on about what is going through his mind right now, but that isn't the point of this blog entry. It is more about grades, SAT scores and extra curricular activities.

To get into any of these schools, you will need excellent grades. Anywhere from a 3.6 to well above a 4.0. And for your test scores you will need 1100 (not counting the writing section) to above 2200 (with writing) and good scores on the subject tests!

This in itself is tough. But there are LOTS of students who have these kinds of grades and test scores. What will make you different. It can be your extra curricular activities. These are clubs, sports, work and so on.

FreshBrain can be a part of this. Do a number of activities and projects in an area where you have interest, show a passion and progress and put it in your personal statement (a key part of your UC and private school application)!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


FreshBrain is very proud to announce that we have released Beta of

This is a huge moment (ok Thursday was a huge moment). The Beta release is the first time we are providing the complete set of capabilities to students. There is of course a LOT more to do, but this release has activities, projects, tools and training. It supports lots of social networking between users and it allows for Advisors to help the students with their projects.

Come by and take a look -

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Days Away Now ...

I feel like we are finally just days away from going live with the new website.

For those of you who have paid attention, we were suppose to be live by now. Our target was the end of January. I sometimes joked that it might be January 32nd since we needed all the time we could get. Well - it now looks like it might be January 45th:)

But we are really getting close. With the feedback from the Usability Test - we decided that we had to make some changes. Most were pretty simple, but a few were significant. And to insure that those changes integrate nicely into the site has required some real time and effort.

But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Interesting Random Topics

I am overflowing with topics and have not spent the time to update my blog. So here is a very quick dump of the top four.
  • AMAZING software products and websites that are free!
    • I will not name them all, but here are a few that we have found that are pretty impressive.
      • Sketchup from Google. Simple to use 3D design software. Standard version is free.
      • Maya from AutoDesk. Very high end professional 3D modeling software. Personal learning edition is free.
      • Fotoflexer at Online photo editor with great effects. Free.
  • Huge governmental focus on solving the education problems in the US ... but will it work?!
    • Listened to the state of the union. Touted no child left behind progress. This is good, but is it enough.
    • Met with the state government in Utah on an educational bill that was being submitted. Found that it was labeled with one of the governers favorite projects yet had nothing to do with it. Also found that districts had already written their requests prior to the bill even being submitted. All seems very backward.
    • We will work hard to find ways to engage in this. Looks like foundations are better for large infrastructure projects. But there are some opportunities with state and federal grants.
  • Incredible number of non-profit efforts, will they be any better?!
    • We (FreshBrain) have been talking to lots of non-profits. ALL of them are trying to do the right thing, but all are going after the same dollars to fund. And there is really no alignment across them.
    • There is also a huge challenge in finding enough time to work out a good partnership. Everyone is busy delivering on their mission!
    • Can we do it differently? I don't yet know, but we will try. Maybe through a joint grant request - we can find the common motivation and benefit.
  • Continued focus on online protection of minors.
    • This is a very important area for us. We will be doing background checks on Advisors and will put in place a large number of protections for the students!
On another topic, we are getting close to releasing the new Looks like in order to get all of the usability feedback in, it will now be the week of February 11.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Awesome Usability Test

We ran a usability test of the new on Friday at Sun Microsystems in Santa Clara, CA. We had 13 high school age students participate. The usability test ran for just over an hour. The structure was:
  • 8 laptops in a conference room
  • One or mostly two to a laptop
  • Complete three scenarios
    • Register
    • Explore
    • Create a predefined project, their own project and do an activity
  • Provide us feedback after each scenario
  • Provide us with written feedback at the end
The students were AWESOME!! They jumped right in, appeared to totally enjoy the experience and provided us with loads of verbal and non-verbal feedback.

It was amazing how spot on we were. The fact that we built on a social networking platform was exactly the right choice. They were quick to take advantage of all of the capabilities to share with friends, work together on projects and so on. We also nailed it with the look and feel of the site, the types of technology areas, the types of activities and projects and how we intend to use Advisors.

We did walk away with a number of important enhancement requests. These are mostly building on what we have We will make a couple of changes for this release and the rest on the one planned for March.
  • Enhance search - it is how the students want to find everything.
  • Make tools easier to find and better connected to activities and projects.
  • Provide an internal system (as opposed to email used today) to make and accept friend requests, additions to projects, etc.
  • Improve usability of forums.
  • Extend capabilities of My FreshBrain to show more about friends, their activities, projects and forum entries.
  • Look at adding more non-techie options maybe under Lifestyles (eg. cooking, writing).
  • Provide a more in depth set of steps for projects.
This was all very validating :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

OLPC Bickering

I am shocked by the bickering that is going on around One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). This all seems more like a political and commercial battle rather than a focus on the kids.

Backing up. OLPC is about trying to provide kids in developing countries with the technology that we all live with every day. It is attempting to level the playing field, give kids in these countries with the tools to learn. To develop. And to hopefully bring along with their generation new opportunity. All a very noble goal.

My fundamental problem with it (separate from whether they picked the right technology - laptop vs cell phone) is that it feels more like a big PR and marketing effort rather than a genuine effort to solve the problem. People that are trying to do something good are not out to make a name for themselves. Not out to get as much press as possible. And not out to win with "their" technological solution. They instead work behind the scenes to make something happen. They lead with solutions and grow it from there. They don't lead with promises.

I have just spent a few minutes and read what is going on with Intel. I have read the comments from Bill Gates on how Microsoft sees it. It looks like what could have been a good thing is coming tumbling down!