I sent SeÃ¡n O’Sullivan from mySay.com a few questions by email as part of the piece I did in the Sunday Tribune on how it is people who bring the personal and trivial who are the new terraformers when it comes to technology. While before it was businesses trying out new technologies, now it is the ordinary citizen. Unfortunately, I was on a strict deadline so did not manage to get the below into the article but I still think the information here is quite interesting. Here are the questions I asked by email and the replies:
1. So what is mySay all about?
mySay lets you keep in touch with your groups of friends over the phone. You call, you can listen to their updates, and you can also drop them an update. You can decide who you want to listen to by registering and inviting your friends on the web. Once you friends are in, you can all keep in touch, hearing each other’s updates and stories, jokes, whatever, on the phone, on the web, or through mySay widget on your blog or desktop. It’s social communication, using your phone, with no need to download any software – just use your voice!
2. People are giving out that a lot of these services are vanity or ego services. Ways of allowing people to disclose too much information about themselves. What would you say to that? How old is mySay? How many users?
Many of these services are indeed “vanity” or “ego” based. However, one of the most powerful aspects for (for example) flickr, is the interesting social effect of having information be “open”. With flickr for example, it’s possible to search for “st patricks day 2007″, and to see photos from all over the world, from people you’ve never met, about an event of interest. This has a value beyond the simple value of storing photos on the web – it becomes a social documentary (via pictures) of something of interest. Blogs do something similar – while there is much ranting and self-listening via blogs, the outpouring of commentary that occurs around an event, whether trivial (Britney’s hair) or serious (Virginia Tech) is stimulating, varied, and compelling in a way that’s different to other current forms of media.
As for the specifics on enabling people to give out too much information about themselves:
- there’s always the option to make the information private (e.g. mySay lets you have a private page, so that only people you invite can listen).
- if stuff is public, but you don’t want to listen – eh, don’t. If blogs, or twtter streams annoy you, maybe you shouldn’t subscribe or look at them?
- control over privacy / amount-of-sharing is a critical element to get right in services like these.
mySay was launched to the public one week ago. There are a few hundred people signed up since we opened the doors.
3. How does a service like this recoup their revenue?
Well, like many of these services, it’s free to users. The business model flows from two areas: there will be an opportunity to generate some ad based revenue from the site and potentially in-call as we gain users and traffic, and secondly, we think there’s a great opportunity for sponsored content. For example, if I’m a listener to (say) the SF49′ers snippets, I might choose to opt-in to hear occasional offers directly related to the 49ers (tickets, merchandise). Or think of it a different way, a music festival (like Oxygen here in Ireland) might create a profile in the service, and people could sign up as listeners to hear updates, band samples and promotions about the upcoming festival. What if iTunes wanted a profile – listeners could add iTunes as a friend and then when they dial in to mySay, they hear a snippet of the latest music that matches their interests. And so on. There are a lot of potential commercial angles, but right now we’re focused on building a great user experience and ensuring it’s something people want to use and tell their friends about.
4. What’s next for mySay?
In the near term, we’re engaging with the users to ensure that we understand what they like, and what they’d like to see us add to the service. We’re adding support for some new countries right now, and we’re working on some easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate widgets for your desktop and blog/social network pages. The new widgets all work using the new mySay API, which we’ll also release in to the wild when we’ve tested it with a few partners. This is key to enabling an “ecosystem” around the service. With these kinds of services, the users really tell you what’s important, so it’s key to enable them to do what they want.
5. Answer a question I should have asked you.
Q. Give us a typical usage scenario for mySay?
A. Look at me. I phone it. When I do, I hear my new stuff: Joe (friend of mine) is ranting about Vista. Shona (girlfriend) is travelling right now, and is hamming it up ‘cos it’s sunny where she it, and it’s raining here (Ireland). Ross (colleague) is looking for recommendations for somewhere to stay in Oz. Keith is hungover. That’s the new stuff. Now I dial zero and say “Fame has arrived – I’m being interviewed for the Sunday Tribune! – will pass on the link when it’s up on the web!”. And hang up. Now – anyone of my listeners who calls mySay will hear my update. And Joe (for example) sitting at his desk at work is going to see his little mySay widget shake, and my photo’s going to appear with my little snippet.
Other scenarios emerging:
- Power Bloggers
- Families where the members are spread around the world – they can all leave updates and check in with each other is a casual way