The Value of Time

The following post was written by my close friend, amazingly talented tech reporter and about.me Advisor Om Malik as part of our Stories about.me project. Om survived a near fatal hear attack in 2007. Annually he raises money for heart disease-related projects at UCSF and we’d like for you to consider joining us in supporting his charity: Heart to Heart for UCSF Cardiology.

The about.me Blog

Tony’s note: The following post was written by my close friend, amazingly talented tech reporter and about.me Advisor Om Malik as part of our Stories about.me project. Om survived a near fatal heart attack in 2007. Annually he raises money for heart disease-related projects at UCSF and we’d like for you to consider joining us in supporting his charity: Heart to Heart for UCSF Cardiology.

For 27 years I was a slave to cigarettes. I would plan my day around smoke breaks, avoid long flights because I knew I would need a fix, and seek out new apartments based on their “smoker friendliness.” I resented snide comments about my smoking habit, because I was not in control of the habit. The devil’s weed controlled how I lived.

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Introducing Collections: Pinterest for People

One of my favorite features yet as we evolve about.me beyond being just a public profile page – Collections are incredibly fun – here is a link to mine: http://about.me/tonyconrad/collections

The about.me Blog

Have you ever found an about.me page, then wanted to find it again later but couldn’t? We have. Being able to remember and find an about.me page can mean the difference between making that connection, a key introduction or getting the job.

And now with our new dashboard feed and Quick View, it’s easier than ever to browse lots of about.me pages. Since our dashboard feed launch, each person is viewing an average of 66 people per visit! With that kind of volume, it’s difficult to remember everyone you come across. And with that in mind, we built Collections.

Collections allow you to save and remember the people you come across on about.me. It’s like Pinterest for people.

Tony Conrad's Collections

Curate Interesting People

You can title your Collection whatever makes you happy and you can make it private or public. You can share your Collections or even embed them in your website. To kick start your Collections, we’ve made one each of your Twitter and…

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Around the World with about.me

Still blown away at our global reach – who would’ve thought a small idea to create a public profile (we used to call it a “splash page”!) would reach millions of people almost everywhere in the world in just 2.5 years – #ProudOfOurTeam

The about.me Blog

In the 19th century, the British Empire declared itself as “The empire on which the sun never sets” to describe its extensive global reach, which extended so far as to always have one piece of land in daylight.

In the 21st century, it looks like the same can be said for about.me users. No matter what time of day, somebody is on about.me. We have a global user base that extends across 6 continents (we haven’t gotten to colonizing Antarctica yet, but it’s on our to-do list). Take a look at this neat visualization of about.me users who have chosen to tag their locations:

Pretty cool, huh? You can scroll around and look for your hometown! It’s worth noting that there are a large proportion of about.me users who choose to keep his/her location private – in that case, you wouldn’t have been included in the above visual.

It’s easy…

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Beyond the Resumé

In the past couple of years, we’ve noticed a ton of college students signing up for about.me in the autumn and spring as they kick off their search for internship or permanent employment post graduation. I think one of the reasons why is that about.me is ideally suited for this demographic as they’re leveraging a 360 degree view of themselves to get traction – ie, who are, what makes you tick, what do you want to do, where you’re active on the web in addition to your academic and summertime internship experiences.

The about.me Blog

The leaves are changing hue, NCAA football is getting interesting, and students everywhere are prepping for exams: college is in full swing.

Schoolwork and the various opportunities of college life require loads of time and energy. With that in mind, what can a career-minded college student do online to maximize their future success?

More and more frequently, formal recruiting and informal introductions happen through social networks. As a student, it is important to not only be online but also maintain an employer-friendly public presence. Since we launched about.me two years ago, we’ve noticed an annual surge in college students joining our platform each Autumn and Spring as they start their search for Internships or their first job post graduation.

Phil and Sierra

Square Peg, Round Hole

The desire to have a flattering online presence might send you and the students you know running to update resumés/ CV and professional networks online –  worthwhile…

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Meaningful Connections

One of our biggest opportunities at about.me is to help our users forge meaningful connections. Our new dashboard and mobile app are an expression of our commitment to helping our users forge meaningful connections. Our current emphasis is on showing our users people interested in them and people with whom they have things in common is a great starting point. This month we’re working on a new feature to enable users to reply to make connections outside of about.me. More soon…..

The about.me Blog

about.me is a fantastic way to connect with other interesting people. It’s extremely easy to send someone a compliment and respond with a “thanks”. Frequently these small tokens of appreciation turn into larger interactions, and even partnerships or relationships.

Positive Community

This Twitter exchange between Christine and Darius is the type of interaction we get to observe everyday. At about.me, we pour our time and energy into creating a superior way to express your identity online, so it’s gratifying to see about.me connections happening all over the web.

Pass It On

Share…

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#RN10/3

Some stuff we lit up in the wild last week…..

The about.me Blog

Starting with this post, we’d like to try something new to keep everyone up to speed with the latest feature improvements as well as updates to the infrastructure plumbing at about.me. It’s a bit of a behind the scenes look into how our development process works and what we’re making happen each week. We typically do a release midweek, so look for our post around then.
 

What’s New

The team has been making lot of progress on a variety of projects. Below, we’ve included a information about some of the current endeavors.

Quick View

Quick View is now live on the site. Now we have a new way to view pages faster when browsing through Search results, the Popular page or the Featured page  – it’s kinda slick, just click a thumbnail to open a quick view of the page. We’ve also made it easier to read the beginning of someone’s biography and quickly get a better understanding…

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Breaking-Away.

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There are lots of people (brilliant, high-achieving, incredibly successful people) who regularly turn off their phones, close their iPads and let their minds recover from the effects of an ever-increasing tendency to always be plugged in, tuned in and turned on. Call it meditation or simply being in the moment, the time these people take to disconnect from technology is rumored to lead to longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives, as well as increasing familial bonds and personal satisfaction.

Unfortunately, I’m not that guy. Most of the founders/entrepreneurs I know are not that person.

 As a founder/entrepreneur, you live a life where you are always “on.” Even before our age of connectivity, the original American founders—people like Rowland Macy, Henry Ford—succeeded in large part because they made their companies their entire lives to put things in motion, envisioning at their company’s inception a way of life that doesn’t exist yet. That’s what you have to give to it. You have to make tons of sacrifices. Sometimes that includes your family. Sometime yourself.

It’s not all bad. There’s a lot of flexibility that happens as a result of being constantly plugged in. It’s what enables me to slip out in the middle of the day and go to a parent-teacher conference. It’s why I can wake up in the morning and work out before I go into the office. But at the end of the day—if I’m being honest—being turned on and tuned in all day long has at times reduced my capacity for real connection. It’s easy to turn my phone off for 30 minutes to sit down and have dinner, but while I’m physically separated from my device, I’m not turned off. Often, to be honest, I’m sitting at dinner with my family and I’m thinking about what emails I have to reply to when we’re done. And, to be clear, I’m very much in love with my family.

 So many of us go through the motions, but we’re not connecting in a meaningful way. And frankly, that has characterized a lot of my interactions with people over the past 20 years. More often than not, I’m not really able to be totally in the moment. As much as I want to believe I am, I’m not. I think it’s true for a lot of founders/entrepreneurs, especially those who are trying to turn their idea into a habit.

 And then an extraordinary thing happened to me. In August, I took my family to Ladakh, India. And, for the first time in my life, I was forced into the moment. And it was amazing.

 Ladakh (located between Kashmir and Tibet) is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India, renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture and sometimes called “Little Tibet,” as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. Ladakh also has a very spotty network, limited cell coverage and no Internet in the mountains. The most “technology” I saw in Ladakh was a few hours of electricity each afternoon that allowed me to recharge my phone so I could take photos. That was it.

My first day off the grid was liberating, but I was still dialed in. I was still thinking about what was going on at work, and even non-core stuff like which photos I wanted to share on Twitter and Instagram. But by day three or four, I just stopped thinking about all that stuff. And once I realized that I wasn’t thinking about all that stuff, I was incredibly surprised. It might have been the altitude of Ladakh (12,500 – 21,000 feet), which requires you to move slowly, but I felt like everything slowed down to a pace at which I could really experience it. I enjoyed my family at a depth I haven’t felt in a long time. I was present with them. I have never felt more in the moment.

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It got me thinking that I hadn’t probably been truly present like that since I was around 10 years old. Like a lot of founders/entrepreneurs, my entire life has been spent pushing forward, and I’ve leveraged stress and motivation and goals and achievements (that virtuous cycle) in a way I’m really proud of. But it comes at a cost.

The power of experiencing a few days of living completely present, completely disconnected from technology, was that I returned from Ladakh exceedingly energized and focused.

From a work perspective, it created the space in my mind to enable me to see the forest instead of the trees. On the flight back, it became crystal clear to me what I felt needed to be done for about.me’s next product evolution: it had to be the feed in our new web dashboard and mobile app. As a team, while we were working on these projects, we were also working on a lot of other stuff that seemed important, but in reality, didn’t have the same ability to impact our trajectory. By taking a step back, and in this case, a step outside, the day-to-day grind, I walked back in the office from my vacation and was empowered to have a conversation with our team about stopping everything and focusing 100% of our energy on the feed in our web dashboard and mobile app. In my opinion, disconnecting is what enabled that clarity to focus on areas that will impact our trajectory in a meaningful way.

And it has. Since we launched our new dashboard and app, our engagement and retention has grown to record numbers. The number of users logging in and interacting with users is at an all-time high. Traffic, time on sit, page views and visits are up. Daily active and monthly active users are at an all-time high and growing. Early mobile data is super promising, we’re averaging 20+ profile views/sessions and people are coming back to the app at 3x the rate of our previous app. And the qualitative inputs are super encouraging and flattering.

Yes, I came back to work full-speed ahead, but my time spent unplugged allowed me to come back and have a clear conscience for the first time in a long time. Before this trip, I would never be the guy to say “you need to disconnect; go off the grid,” because until now, I considered it a bit selfish and unproductive. And while it is something you do for yourself, it’s such a gift to everyone and everything you come in contact with and it resets you in a way that enables clarity around what really needs done. That’s the power of it. That’s why it matters. It’s an incredibly powerful experience and a habit I think we can integrate into our lives as founders and entrepreneurs.

Some Thoughts On Identity & What’s NEXT @ about.me

The story of about.me‘s creation, acquisition and recent spin out tends to generate a lot of interest and conversation. “Why did we start about.me?” very quickly leads to “what are you going to do with it next?”

When I think about the “why” behind building about.me, I tend to reflect on my own history with other founders. Over the past decade and a half, I’ve been lucky to work with a number of entrepreneurs I consider to be “founders of movements”: Matt Mullenweg (WordPress), James Freeman (Blue Bottle Coffee), Bre Pettis (MakerBot), Kevin Rose (Milk, Digg), Philip Rosedale (High Fidelity, SecondLife), and Jeff Veen (Typekit) to name a few. These founders create more than great companies, they put things in motion, envisioning at their inception a way of life that doesn’t exist yet. They have an innate sense of how others will engage with the products they build and what impact that might have on the world.

The “Why” is easy. When we founded about.me in 2011, we weren’t simply looking to build a better widget. Instead, RyanTim and I wanted to build something that reframed social media so that everyone on the planet could assert their own identity. We wanted to offer everyone more control over how they represent themselves online. At that time, everyone was talking about social media – whether it was Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. These services provide incredibly important functions in our lives (and for the record, are personally three of my favorite services), but one of the things that really frustrated us was the lack of unity as to how they treated and displayed identity.

About.me Photography

Identity is a confusing topic (Evan wrote an excellent piece a few years ago that’s still fairly comprehensive – Mobile needs to be addressed as a separate variable and I’d add “wearables” to the list but for now I think he’s covered the essentials for the browser) and it definitely involves more than how you represent yourself online.  But online has become the most effective environment for people to discover and interact with you at scale and we believe it’s incredibly important to have a starting point online for people to learn more about you.

The social media movement fragmented our identities in ways that don’t align with the 360 degree view we have of ourselves. This fragmentation is an unintended consequence of being active on services that represent different aspects of our personalities (i.e., you are a different person on Twitter than you are on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc.). Said another way, you are not the sum of your Tweets, you are not solely defined by your professional experiences/ accomplishments, and you’re most definitely not defined by your social graph. These are all important facets of our identity but none should be given the lead role of defining us. We believe that YOU should define YOU. YOU should navigate people interested in learning more about YOU to a page that introduces YOU on YOUR terms, not leaving it to focused services or a Google algorithm to define YOU.

post-it-man

I believe that representation with a minimum of additional work or other obligations required (friend requests, constant content creation, etc.) is the basic foundation of identity. These are requirements in order to be a clear identity platform and tackle the areas Evan discusses.  The fundamental power of about.me is its simplicity – the ability to reach a broad audience hinged on it being nimble, flexible, easy to understand, easy to use, beautiful, meaningful. And we believe the person with no tech experience and the 21 year old uber coder can both have an equally profound, pertinent experience with about.me. That’s hopefully seeding a movement of people taking back control of the starting point of their identity.

faves

Every day we see the value we create for people. By giving them a set of tools to curate a page that represents how they see themselves, how to get in touch with them and what they’d like you to do when you visit their page (e.g. pre-order my book, follow me on Twitter, hire me to cater your event, support charity: water, etc. – the list is endless), the power is visible.

As our platform has quickly grown to millions and millions of users, our vision for what role about.me plays in people’s lives has evolved from being your starting point to share how you view yourself to the world to being the best way to discover, learn more about and connect with people who are interested in you combined with an easy way to discover new people with whom you have things in common.

We’re seriously excited about this evolution in how we view about.me. It opens up a ton of opportunities for our new mobile app and dashboard (I can’t tell you too many more details but next week should be a fun week for our users and the about.me team who have been heads down since we bought back about.me!) to marry identity with ways to learn more about people interested in you and to discover and connect with people you have things in common with: interests (woodworkers, photographers, investors, kiteboarding, triathletes), location (home town, places you’ve lived, current city), education (high school, college) and work (first real job, places you’ve worked, current gig).

Stay tuned!

We know OM just has a way with words but his true gift is his ability to see the purity of the idea, the moment. Very few people have had as profound an impact on my life as OM. Honored to be his partner, thankful to be his friend.