MicroEval: Modern Performance Reviews

MicroEval is a web-based app offering an interactive and painless way of doing performance reviews based on the idea of shortening the periods of time when the feedback is gathered.

Traditionally, corporations do performance reviews twice a year, which causes people to get late visibility in their performance. The feedback is overwhelming to produce or read for the persons involved in the process. By gathering short pieces of information periodically, MicroEval offers a painless way to collect the data and periodic visibility in the actual performance.

The company was founded by Ernie Park, Ryan Jackson and Sam O’Keefe. In the summer of 2012 the company secured a seed investment from YCombinator.

The site has been featured on TechCrunch and discussed in the Hacker News community.

Demand Media: Audience-driven Content Authorship

Demand MediaDemand Media is a company headquartered in Santa Monica, California, which uses algorithms to predict audience measurements for different search queries; it then pays freelancers to write web articles based on these trends with the purpose of attracting web readers and ultimately sell online advertisement based on this audience. As a secondary area of activity, Demand Media owns eNom, a domain name registrar which allows people to buy their desired domain names with the ultimate purpose of having a website at those specific domain name web addresses.

While traditional newspapers find difficulties in moving into the online space due to low advertisement income (and high costs in producing editorial content and attracting an online audience for it), Demand Media uses an algorithmic approach to make sure that it produces editorial content only for specific topics where there is pre-existing demand. In addition, the company produces content written primarily about time-irrelevant areas, which allows it to monetize the content indefinitely (or at least well into the future) via ads, as opposed to the newspaper industry where most articles could be considered obsolete in a couple of days after their publish date.

The main websites operated by the company are eHow, an online repository of human knowledge with more than 1 million articles of specific information about popular search topics, and Cracked.com, the most visited humor website in the world (over 300 million monthly page views).

The company has been criticized for offering low quotes (around $15 per article) to freelance writers and then using dubious accounting practices of amortization in order to recoup this expense across several years, therefore giving the appearance of profitability. A recent Google search quality update called Panda attempted to emphasize webpages containing expert quality knowledge, which caused an impact to Demand Media’s traffic and lead to comments about revenue losses.

New Relic – Webapp Performance Management

New Relic is an application performance management solution, implemented as SaaS (software as a service); it is able to monitor applications that are running in cloud, on-premise, or in hybrid environments, by measuring the right performance metrics and identifying the slow-performing components.

New Relic is a company based in San Francisco, California. Lew Cirne (known as the inventor of application performance management) founded New Relic in 2008 and currently acts as the company’s CEO.

Since being founded, the company received several rounds of investing, totaling up to date 34.5 million USD. Due to their focus on user acquisition, the company recently experienced a surge in its ability to attract user traffic and is trending towards 1 million unique visitors per month.

New Relic is multi-platform and supports today’s most popular languages and frameworks, including Ruby on Rails, Java, PHP, .net and Python. Besides the free plan, prices start at $24/month/server for an annual commitment or $49 for month-to-month billing.

LastPass – The last password you’ll have to remember

LastPass is a tool launched in 2005 dedicated to the management of passwords for all the sites that a user might visit (and have an account with them).

The service includes a wide range of interesting security features; for example, users can choose to reject all login attempts to their LastPass account unless they come from a specific country. The site also features synchronization services which enable users to have their passwords available on a wide range of devices including laptops and mobile phones.

The company was founded in 2005 by four industry veterans. Nowadays it is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. On a regular month, the site attracts an average of 400’000 unique visitors.

In December 2010, LastPass announced the acquisition of Xmarks, a browser bookmark synchronization service. This allowed them to enhance their mission of providing the best data-syncing tools out there.

RainyMood – Listen to rain online

RainyMood.com is a web app that provides free online streaming for the sound of the rain, from within the browser, without requiring any download or plugin.

In addition to the sound of rain, the app suggests each day a different Youtube music video which can be played on top of the rain for a better immersion in the ‘virtual’ world of the nature.

The rain music is played in a loop, it’s 30 minutes long and it has a high level of quality, being on par with the type of recordings one could find on CDs with nature-sound themes.

The site belongs to Tailored Music, Inc and receives around 100’000 unique monthly visitors. Sites providing similar services include raining.fm and naturesoundsfor.me.

Dropbox: Share your files across devices

Share files across your devices Dropbox is a synchronization system available for free for up to 2 GB of disk space which enables you to keep important files synchronized across all your devices, such as PCs or mobile phones. By referring friends to the service, users can gain additional disk space up to a total of 16 GB. A paid subscription starts at 100 GB storage space for $9.99/month.

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Their current traffic levels revolve around 3 million unique monthly visitors.

Drew and Arash relocated in San Francisco in fall 2007 and secured seed funding from Y Combinator. In fall 2008, Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners invested $6M Series A funding in the project.

In an Youtube video recorded May 30, 2012 at Stanford, Drew shares his views on how to build a successful service startup, the importance of figuring out distribution, why hiring great people matters and how to keep the product simple and usable.

Mogotest – Automated Browser Compatibility Tests

Mogotest.com is a cross-browser testing suite that performs automatic checks across popular browsers to make sure that a website looks the same, no matter which browser users use in order to access it.

The site was co-founded by Kevin Menard and Nick Plante in 2009. Nick is currently no longer involved with the service.

The site has been accepted in the TechStars accelerator program and received a 12’000 USD investment from them in 2010. Despite its potential usefulness and the relative big market for such a service, Mogotest remained at modest traffic levels, reaching around 1’000 visitors in the most recent months.

Mogo Test has been featured in several web publications, including Testing Web Sites and Hacker News.

PayDragon – Preorder by mobile phone

PayDragonPayDragon is a site which enables restaurants to offer to their users the ability to order and pay via a mobile phone. When the order is ready, users get a notification on the phone; they are able to skip waiting lines since their order is already available for the pick-up.

PayDragon was part of the YCombinator program. Their launch has been covered by the press in popular review sites, such as TechCrunch and PandoDaily.

At the end of July 2012, the team announced a $1.35 million seed financing. The investment round includes Ron Conway’s SV Angel, Rustic Canyon Ventures, Mark Schwartz and Yuri Milner.

PayDragon was founded by Hamilton Chan. His previous project was called PaperLinks, which he explains at large during an interview with SocalTech.

PadMapper – Rentals Search Tool

PadMapper: Appartments for RentPadMapper is a cool web-based tool to search appartments for rent in your favorite city location.

As opposed to traditional tools, PadMapper uses a geographical overlay that makes the listings easy to visualize by placing them on a real-world map. It also offers intuitive controls for restricting the results displayed based on common search criteria, such as number of bedrooms, monthly price or rental types. It can also display overlays with different characteristics of the neighborhood, or a “walk score” that informs you how easy it is to walk the area in order to find groceries or other convenience stores.

The site has around 300’000 unique monthly visitors. Auxiliary services are offered under related names, such as PadLister, a tool for apartment ad listings, or PadBlogger, the official blog of the site. The company was founded in 2009 by founder Eric DeMenthon, an MIT graduate.

On June 22nd, 2012, PadMapper announced that it will no longer feature rental ads retrieved via Craiglist, a popular renting service in major cities from US, as it received a cease-and-disease letter from them.

ICANN: New top level domain extensions

ICANNICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is the current regulatory authority that governs domain names and numerical addresses on the Internet. The organization has a mandate from the United States department of defense to govern these areas of the Internet.

A major change is about to happen regarding how webapps are addressed: until now, most of the domain names that hosted popular webapps had endings in .com, .net, .org or other less-popular endings, out of a total of 22 possible values. On June 20, 2011, ICANN voted to end those restrictions. As a result, a process was started under which individual corporations can apply to receive and maintain custom domain name endings, such as .google or .bing.

The limiting factor in generating new domain name endings is the cost involved. The one-time application fee is $185,000, and annual charges are, at a minimum, $75,000 per each ending. Nevertheless, for big corporations, these fees represent insignificant monetary levels. The new gTLD application window opened on 12 January 2012 and closed on 30 May 2012. During the application window, 1,930 domain name endings were submitted (and paid) in the ICANN system, with several entries belonging to well-known software and Internet companies.

The process met strong opposition from Internet activists and web technologists around the world. In a famous blog post, Ben Werdmuller argues that specific domain name endings such as .book or .blogs belong to communities around the world, which don’t have the material or legal resources to unite and protect their interests in front of big corporations with large amounts of cash. Others say that it will create more confusion and that the decline of DNS further strengthens the position of a few gatekeepers – Google on the web, Apple on the phone. “If it’s not searchable, it doesn’t exist”.

The application process was affected by a security bug, due to which some applicants were able to see information belonging to others. On 21th of June 2012, ICANN announced that Michael Salazar, New gTLD Program Director, resigned from his position.

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