Web Exclusives: More
The speedle of light
Dan Porter '88's dot-com
that's better than a grapevine
By Rob MacKay '89
of mouth has given way to cyberwords of e-mail, and nobody is better
versed in the subject than Daniel J. Porter '88, the president of
www.speedle.com, a startup
that offers an easy, more direct way to find out what's hot and
what's not on the Internet.
"It's like the Billboard charts, but
based on what people e-mail around to each other," says Porter,
a history major whose thesis was on the Avant Garde movement in
jazz. "Speedle puts your finger on the on-line pulse with no
The first product to be built around Microsoft's
Passport (a service that allows Web users to access sites on the
web with one name and one password), Speedle runs a people-focussed
site with a technology platform that enables and measures what people
share with each other. All the e-mails and instant messages that
travel through the Speedle system, including anonymous ones, are
tallied and ranked. Then the site provides activity charts so members
can find out the day's most discussed topics, the funniest jokes,
the newest trends, and other forms of buzz.
And for businesses, the San Francisco-based company
also provides members with a set of lightweight customer engagement
applications that allow corporate entities to get closer to customers
by simply tapping into the subjects of their e-mails. Call it market
research without the market researchers.
It's also worth noting that the company has added
a new word to popular jargon. "Speedles" are in fact shareable
e-mails which could contain links, news, jokes or anything else
people want to pass on to friends and foes. And though it's not
a dating service, Speedle members often share photos, likes, dislikes,
and more intimate personal information in an effort to meet others
with similar interests.
Porter notes that e-interests are as vast and
varied as the world's population. Says he: "It's almost impossible
to predict what ends up being popular, a God-related link can follow
a joke, which can follow a picture of space." On June 1, for
example, Speedle reports that 3,000 e-mails were circulated about
a thumb wrestling championship in Arizona. Two of the most popular
speedles ever - "If men raised the kids" and "Could
this be true" - were invented and generated by a Florida grandmother
who was poking fun at members of the opposite sex and politicians.
Barely a year old, Speedle's official launch and
redesign are scheduled for July 2001. Nevertheless, it has already
gained critical acclaim. In early June, the tech news agency Red
Herring had it as the "Catch of the Day," writing that
the company and its tools "might ultimately lead to a new way
to navigate the edge of the network." In a similar vein, WNBC
reported on April 11 that "Speedle may potentially be the first
major upgrade to e-mail in more than two decades."
Of course, Porter is a proud Speedle member. What
kind of information does he circulate? "I sent a lot of articles
on women's health to my wife, Melanie, when she was pregnant,"
he says. "I also posted the articles on my member page. I received
several e-mails from total strangers who said they check out my
page and assume I'm an expert on the subject. That's a lot of attention
for a guy who passes out in the doctor's office when they bring
out the needles."
Rob MacKay, is an editor at Timesnewsweekly,
a weekly newspaper in Queens,New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.