In The House Of Scoble

Yesterday, Robert Scoble invited me along with one of the companies I work (Concept.io) for to his house out in Half Moon Bay. It was a random day because I had to drop off my wife early at SFO, then had a beautiful pre-dawn foggy drive down 280 across 92 in and up and down into Half Moon Bay, which was just waking up. I had been craving a long stretch of time to catch up on things without interruptions, so three and a half hours in the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company was basically divine. I then drove out to the Pacific and just sat on the cliff for 30 minutes, a crystal clear day. [Here’s a Vine I took on the cliffs.]

Ram — the founder of Concept, which makes Swell Radio — and I drove up to Scoble’s at 11 and spent the next two hours in Robert’s central command room, three full ACDs, a monster LCD, all kinds of camera equipment, and much more. Ram and I went to visit Robert for product feedback on Swell (which is in beta now). and we didn’t know what to expect. Robert is quite active (to put it mildly), is hard to pin down, seems to be everywhere, and has strong thoughts about all the products he uses and tests. I thought maybe he didn’t get a chance to try Swell because he’d been so busy. [Here’s a Vine of us hanging out.]

Well, we were wrong. He tried the product. A lot. The next 120 minutes were filled with in-depth discussion about Swell as a mobile product. I know Robert is knowledgeable, but my respect for his product insights and intuition went through the roof during this session. We literally went through every corner and edge case of the app itself, the system and graph architectures, the UI elements, and nearly every use case (in the car, at home, etc.) for an app like Swell. Ram and his team have been in product development for about 9 months so far, most of that time spent creating a new technology to recognize and weight audio content based on keywords. At the same time, the end user doesn’t see many technologies that drive many of the apps we use. It is often abstracted away.

In this regard, Robert was able to take a complex yet intuitive product like Swell Radio and share some of the most insightful feedback we’ve received. I hear people now and then ask for and give “product feedback,” but Scoble didn’t just give feedback — he used the app, tried to convey his own personal use cases while respecting what more “normal” users in a mass audience may want or expect. I realize it’s silly to post about Scoble since everyone knows him and knows that he’s very knowledgeable about products, but the force and range of information he conveyed in two hours was incredible. Of course, not all of it fits with a product roadmap as it stands today, but to paraphrase one of PG’s most recent lines to “live in the future and build what’s missing,” it’s clear Robert lives in the future and has an excellent sense of what’s missing. When I work with teams, I want to have this level of insight and offer this level of feedback. Perhaps, one day.

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