Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sticky Logins

One of my biggest issues with the web today is authentication. OAuth and OpenID aside for a moment (both of which are cool), the iPhone app model has largely gotten authentication right. I'd like to see user expectations around mobile app login, carry through to desktop browsing as well. When I login to an application on my iPhone I rarely ever have to login to it again (I don't care how insecure that reality is; I DO care about wasting time trying to login) which is bliss.

Conversely, when I use a web browser on my desktop, I have to login dozens of times everyday. I have to maintain and understand a dozen different username/password pairs and play login Tetris in an attempt to login to the various services I use each day. What a drain on me, and on society at large! "Remember me" checkboxes never work (due to poor cookie creating/handling policies on the part of the app provider (you can't blame the browser here, it's your fault; read the spec)).

I'm not an iPhone app developer so I don't know why this "just works" in native iPhone app-land, but it does. I'd appreciate some of that login love being shared into the web app space at large.

In the olden days the argument around login caching revolved around generalized "kiosk" browser scenarios wherein a browser would be shared by lots of people. That model died, and now everyone has their own computer (for the most part), so you can't argue that a mobile device has a 1-to-1 relationship with its user as effectively as you once could. Even if you do, I'd argue to carry that 1-to-1 relationship over to other devices via some other means (biometrics, use the camera in the machine to recognize me, I don't care)

(yup, I had to login to blogger.com to write this post)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Want An Independent Board Member?

Board composition for a VC funded tech startup is usually, rightfully, heavily tilted in favor of the VCs that have invested in your company. Several months ago my firm, Gnip, added an independent board member on the recommendation of one of the existing board members. I'm new to all this board stuff, so the value wasn't clear to me. I didn't resist, but I didn't jump at the opportunity either.

The board member that suggested we add an independent, had someone in mind (shocker). We met, we talked. Rapport was solid and given that the guy was a like-minded engineer, asking him to join the board felt right. Months ticked by and value was tangential; concentrated during board meetings. As as a side note, it's been quite nice having an engineer on the board rather than just career VCs and company executives.

We're facing some steep technical challenges, and while I have full confidence that our team can solve them, I thought I'd ask if this independent board member would come to Boulder for a couple of days and design/discuss architecture and implementation with us. It was really just a "let's see what happens" request.

Out of the gate, this guy's true impact was felt. He, independently, provided relatively non-bias (of course he's a share holder, but he doesn't have cash on the line) product, direction, architecture, implementation, and prioritization perspective. Because he's on the board, he's abreast of our game, so we didn't have to bring him up from zero, and upon arrival we all hit the ground running. His background in related technologies and markets gave him inherent understanding of some of the challenges we're facing, and his suggestions and ideas made total sense in our context.

My experience with cash invested board members is that they usually have money on their minds (shocker). That headset is hard to get away from, and therefore discussion and direction suggestions obviously come from there. That particular value is crucial (unless it's poorly guided without full thought), but I didn't realize the value an "independent" board member could provide until last week.

If you're considering an independent board member, and are kind of on the fence about it, give it some real thought. I imagine it only makes sense if the candidate has highly relevant experience (not just "kinda relevant"), is a good person, and would truly be happy to help you out.
I'm grateful to have the board members and advisers that Gnip has. I can't imagine doing this any other way.