Me.dium

Me.diumMe.dium is a new Boulder startup with a big vision. It aims to “reveal the world of people and activity behind your browser.” If you’re like me, this statement will intrigue you while simultaneously leaving you wondering just what the hell such a tool would look like.

I have been playing around with the private beta of Me.dium for about two weeks now. I’ll admit that at first I didn’t get it. But just like my friend and Me.dium CEO Kimbal Musk said I would, I eventually had my “a-ha” moment with Me.dium. It’s just not how we’re used to thinking on the Internet, but we think this way in the real world every day.

Let me give you an an example. Every day when I walk home from work I pass a relatively new restaurant here in Boulder. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary when I walk home, but yet I’m picking up impressions and real world data points about this restaurant. It’s always crowded. People look like they’re having a good time. The place is buzzing. I see a couple of my friends having a beer there. It must be pretty good. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

Now take that same concept and map it onto the virtual world of the Internet. But instead of just the things that you physically walk by, Me.dium is considering the virtual places you visit, and combining the concepts of attention and social networking to focus your vision. And it’s doing it side by side using a browser extension.

Back to my “a-ha” moment. Today I was sitting in the Me.dium office talking with Kimbal and the founders. We knew that a GigaOM post was about to come out on Me.dium and we could literally see the interest among our friends and other users who were congregating at GigaOM and the Daily Camera story that had been written earlier that day. Something must be going on over there! Aha! As we clicked on GigaOM, we could see that they had posted just moments earlier.

This has enormous potential, because if Me.dium can really figure out what people like me care about and are paying attention to, there’s a good chance I’ll want to check it out myself. It’s a social discovery mechanism similar to Digg, Reddit, or StumbleUpon but it’s quite unique in that it brings a real time input to your peripheral vision as you surf.

Naturally, any product that captures your clickstream is going to be called “creepy” by a few people. My impression from using the tool is that Me.dium has done an excellent job of thinking about these issues and adding simple to use privacy controls.

In my opinion, the major challenge that Me.dium will face will be getting users to quickly and efficiently grok the benefits of a tool like this. The current metaphor in the UI doesn’t help the situation, but to their credit the Me.dium team appears to be taking this sort of feedback quite well.

Me.dium was founded by David Mandell, Robert Reich and Peter Newcomb, who recently relocated from New York to Boulder. The company has obtained funding from sources such as Spark Capital, Appian Ventures, Brad Feld, and CEO Kimbal Musk. The company plans to do an open release by the end of the year, but current users can invite their friends and CU students with colorado.edu email addresses will be immediately accepted into the private beta.

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About David Cohen

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  • http://www.5o9inc.com Peter Cranstone

    David,

    Very interesting… seems that the more the web knows about “me” or in this case what you care about the more powerful the advertising opportunities are. The ability for the consumer to remain in control of his privacy will be key to Me.dium.

    So how do I – we – you control what Me.dium gets to learn?

    Peter

  • http://me.dium.com David Mandell

    Peter,

    Me.dium has been designed to act on the users desires for socialability, or privacy. The user chooses to share whatever tehy are in the mood to share and Me.dium proveds value based on the users mood. Me.dium is easily swithed off at any point, and while it is being used, the user can conrtol his or her visibility or anonymity on the fly.

  • http://devinreams.com Devin

    Sweet, college is paying off every day. 😉

  • http://www.b-eye-network.com/blogs/rogers Shawn Rogers

    I’ve met the guys at Me.dium and really find the energy and knowledge of the group to be infectious. But after reading the article in the Camera yesterday I am struck by the trust factor. Will everyday users of the Internet be comfortable with a company having this level of knowledge about thier surfing habits? I might be missing something here I know brad Feld is on the Board and the team has a lot of success behind it but I’ll be interested to see how it develops. I’ve applied for Beta access I look forward to getting greater insight.

  • http://www.blogs.dhenderson.com/David_Henderson/ David Henderson

    AttentionTrust solves the trust and provacy problem.

    http://www.attentiontrust.org/about#principles

    😉

  • http://www.blogs.dhenderson.com/David_Henderson/ David Henderson

    that was “privacy” 😯

  • http://me.dium.com David Mandell

    Shawn, the trust factor has always been a priority for us. The way we approach it, is the user choosing to share their activity with Me.dium, and in return we have to respect that choice and provide as much user control and value as we possibly can.

    As opposed to many other services out there – some known and others not – Me.dium allows the user to choose when and where he or she would like to share their activity. It’s completely up to the user.

    I look forward ot your feedback.

  • http://www.blogs.dhenderson.com/David_Henderson/ David Henderson

    With all due respect david, having spent the last 11 years dealing with Internet privacy issues in various startups, Medium in its current form doesn’t effectively address those trust issues?

    An on/off button doesn’t really begin to deal with trust. It’s a much more complex issue.

    For example:

    What happens to the user (attention) data you collect?

    Can users access, edit and delete their clickstream data?

    Could that user data be subpoena in court of law? That data is connected to a unique email address and a group of friend email addresses.

    Why should consumers trust Medium with their click-stream data? Isn’t this user attention/ intention data the key to Medium’s business model? What happens at the end of quarter when Medium is trying to make a revenue number? What’s in place to protect me the consumer?

    Is Medium an open data service or a closed data service? Can users take their attention data out of Medium and use it with other 2.0 services or is Medium a black box?

    I know you’re currently a beta product, so maybe you have thought through many of these issues and your trust policy is coming in future releases.

    At the end of the day, this is the critical issue for you guys! 🙂

  • http://mcburnett.org/neal/ Neal McBurnett

    Excellent questions from David Henderson.

    I look at my browsing history from yesterday and think – yeah – no problem – share that day with my friends. It would be great in many ways.

    But there is a big concern that my browsing might somehow expose some only quasi-public sites I visit (like betas :-), or expose information that I or my friends wouldn’t want disclosed. Even though, as they say, once private information gets out there it is hard clean up the mess, I think it is very important to have the ability to retroactively erase all available records of past clickstreams, and hopefully even get compliant clients to erase their copies of the information.