:Ben Metcalfe Blog

My first take on Seesmic

(DISCLOSURE: Since writing this post I have accepted an advisory role with Seesmic)

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of a demo of Loic Le Meur’s new start-up Seesmic – which I guess is best described as a video based Twitter-like service with a slightly higher emphasis to the social network aspect of the play over products I’ve seen this area [see screenshot]. It also appears to plug-in to existing social experiences very well.

Of course this is going to be a crowded market, but from what I have seen I think Loic has built a good foundation to launch from. Also, given its strict SMS and IM orientation I doubt very much Twitter will launch into this space – meaning there’s all to play for.

To me there are three key aspects to a service like this which will ultimately decide who wins and who doesn’t:

1) Ubiquity of video ingest
… ie ‘how do people get their video’s into the system?’.

On this front I’m not sure how Seesmic is going to handle this, beyond the expected “file upload” approach of uploading video from a file on your hard-drive (which is a necessary ‘default’ but still cumbersome). I’m guessing he’ll build a flash-capture system and some kind of phone capture too, but this is where a strong API comes into it’s own because then anyone can build the functionality into their existing video-capture system (be it software or hardware).

From a non-technology perspective, it’s interesting to read from today’s TechCrunch article that Loic also plans to open a mini studio in San Francisco (and perhaps elsewhere) for people to upload their videos from.

2) Distribution
… ie ‘how and where will people see it?’

I know Loic has a few tricks up his sleeve on this one that I’m not going to reveal, but in short making sure you can get your video out there and discovered is obviously important… And I mean off-site.

As competition in this space increases, people are invariably traversing sites like YouTube less and less, and you can’t expect to be running a destination site with guaranteed traffic. Also as the userbase matures, they’re going to expect more ways to use their video to add value to own sites (from blogs to Facebook and MySpace profiles). And by that, I mean beyond the now standard video embed.

3) Context
… ie ‘Why are people creating this video?’

The one thing I do think Loic needs to think about is context… Perhaps the single biggest reason why Twitter was successful was that it has a context: “What are you currently doing?”

If Twitter was just a technology stack (SMS, IM and web messaging system) that let users do whatever they wanted, I’m not sure whether it would have been so successful. There’s a slight paradox because of course user’s don’t just use Twitter to answer that question, but the point is it forms a foundation and people know when their running as edge cases to it.

If only 10% of the internet population currently create content (and that might be an exaggerated claim, it’s probably less) then doing the most to help stir their creative juices is important. Not everyone has inspiration on tap which leaves people without motivation to create and in turn a ghost town ecosystem. Also factor in those who are motivated to create despite a lack of inspiration :)

I think the trick to getting more people to create good quality video that others will want to subscribe to help them with the inspiration, (in addition to empowering them with simple editing tools).

Look at Facebook – on it’s own it’s a foundation of creation tools – photos, events, etc. But it seems to me people really engage with the Facebook apps where a context is applied – eg “rate your favorite films”, “are you a chav”, etc.

If Seesmic can keep things fresh by having a good context – perhaps a daily changing question that users can opt-in to answer if they so wish – I think it will have a ton of quality content.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.