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Going the Extra Mile

During my time here, I’ve been involved with and contributed to Rapleaf’s attention to detail, strong work ethic, and the desire to always improve on the status quo.

Going in-depth with recruiting

As a college student, I had no idea the lengths that companies would go to find talented college grads. Here at Rapleaf, the process is second to none. We spend hours and hours a day posting jobs, sourcing and emailing candidates, collecting and processing resumes from candidates, recruiters, and referrals, and interviewing/screening. We go through, in a typical month, 5 to 10 times the number of candidates as a typical start-up our size. Not only do we go through more candidates, we put them through more hurdles. Through our unique process of both traditional and alternative methods of screening, we here at Rapleaf do everything we can to ensure that employees are the most dedicated and dynamite engineers. This process is labor intensive and time consuming, but is critical to the success of any business. People need not only the right skills but the right attitude to make a company successful. It is this aspect of the recruiting process that Rapleaf takes extra care, bringing candidates in for in-house interviews to meet the entire team, preceded by multiple phone interviews with various other individuals. By the time a candidate is given an offer, they have been through a very comprehensive interviewing process.

Taking full advantage of Google Adwords

Startups need to take the time and effort to learn about the complexities and nuances of using Google AdWords and implement them into their marketing plans, recruiting, business development – any area of the business requiring publicity. Google AdWords is the most robust keyword and content advertisement engine on the planet. Blogs and literature quickly digress into talk of quality scores, phrase matching and conversion tracking. I’ve found that the most critical aspect is your click through rate (CTR). This is the lynchpin for the internet marketer – it affects your costs, your placement and effectiveness of your online presence. Without it, your ads will suffer in the dregs of Google search pages and your costs will skyrocket. Worst of all, you won’t get your message across to your audience. For an excellent beginners guide to using AdWords, check out Google AdWords Made Easy

Recognizing and boosting email deliverability

It’s a no-brainer for companies that send mass mailings or newsletters to check the deliverability of the emails they send out.  Not enough startups run these checks themselves. Many companies pay a great deal for others to do it for them; here at Rapleaf we do it ourselves using Deliverymonitor.com, while saving a lot of money at the same time.  This inexpensive service allows you to see what’s being delivered into what ISP’s inboxes and manage the whitelisting process at these ISPs in just a few minutes. Before Rapleaf, I’d never heard of it. After performing the checks and working with it, it is hard to imagine companies not using a service like this. Seemingly trivial, this can mean the difference when trying to reach the right people for your business. Go here to check out what else we do when it comes to boosting email deliverability.

Working at Rapleaf has made me realize just how much is involved in a start-up. The number of projects and changes sitting on everyone’s plate at a given time is enormous. Having heard at the outset that I would have my hands in many pots, I knew there would be a lot on my plate. The depth and variety of these tasks is incredible, and is what keeps Rapleaf on its successful trajectory.

Changes to Rapleaf Services

Rapleaf started as a portable reputation platform and a tool to find information about one’s self and others on the social web.  Like many great companies, we’ve evolved over the last two years.   Now we’re embarking on the next evolution that will benefit the greater community while guarding people’s privacy.

Starting today, only you will be able to search your information on Rapleaf.com.  Also, information about consumers will be more secure and only authorized developers/companies will be able to access information about consumers.   We are making these changes in order to better protect consumers.   We strive to: (i) help companies better understand their users in order to provide a better consumer experience, (ii) help consumers find and manage publicly available information about themselves.

Our mission is to enable new services and applications by supplying trusted vendors and businesses with access to data about their consumers that they already have a relationship and interact with.  And we empower consumers by providing them a view into their public online identity, enabling them to manage access to their information.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

The Startup Bibles

In my first meeting with my supervisor Vivek, he told me to get ready for a crash course in entrepreneurship.  I figured he was referring to the steep on-the-job learning curve - which he was - but he was also referencing the approximately 5,000 pages of reading thrown my way over the last month.  Readings range from academic textbooks to sales essays, recruiting tips to popular science.  Each book and article provides insight into the skills needed to successfully run a startup.  For this reason, I thought I would share some of my favorites and my takeaway with relation to Rapleaf and startups more generally:

Recruit or Die (Chris Resto, Ian Ybarra, & Ramit Sethi):  I figured this book was an appropriate place to start: recruiting.  Three young authors provide an insightful look into how to compete with established brands in recruiting, and keeping, the best talent.

Takeaway:  Always recruit.  This is a mindset, and something we’ve certainly adopted here at Rapleaf.  When you’re a startup you can’t afford to recruit seasonally (i.e. when college recruiting fairs occur) or when you’re in need of a specific position.  Instead, you need to constantly seek the best talent in the form of both active recruits (those looking for jobs) and passive recruits (those who think they’re happy…until they hear about an exciting new opportunity).  Also adhere to the concrete recommendations such as taking recruits to a basketball game or sending a personalized card welcoming each employee.  These small touches show employees their value.

The Entrepreneurial Venture (Ed. William A. Sahlman, Howard H. Stevenson, Michal J. Roberts, Amar Bhidé):  The meatiest of our readings so far.  Essentially an academic textbook, the essays in this collection are intended to guide you from concept to product.

Takeaway:  For me, the most valuable lesson from this text was purely psychological: the notion of risk.  At Rapleaf we’re truly blazing new trails and this comes with a requisite level of danger.  The essays in this text stress that entrepreneurs take on an inordinate amount of risk in the economy, and are rewarded (or punished) accordingly.  There’s also valuable advice on writing business models and plans, but as I recently discovered, such documents are becomingly increasingly outdated in the tech world.

Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug):  Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff.  How to have visitors use, and actually enjoy, your website.  Krug, an expert in website usability, provides concise tips on how to increase users’ time on your site through maximal clarity and minimal clutter.

Takeaway:  Too many useful tips to include in a short takeaway!  He boasts that the book can be read in one plane ride, and with that brevity, it would be a mistake for any web startup or brand looking to improve its site not to read Krug in its entirety.  But the most important point is to think like a user.  We don’t read websites like we read books…our eyes jump around the page and look for specific keywords or images.  Websites should optimize for this type of audience, focusing upon ease of use and navigation.

The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell):  This book became a huge hit due to Gladwell’s unique ability to synthesize dry academic articles into exceedingly interesting vignettes.  He explores how products and ideas spread between people. If you like this, you should also read its predecessor, Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations.

Takeaway:  This book is really instructive in terms of marketing and sales.  At Rapleaf, we always discuss the idea that every connection is a potential company evangelist.  This is particularly important in customer service.  Even the customers that seem most upset with your brand or product can become your biggest allies when treated honestly and with respect.  Gladwell’s example of Lois Weisburg, the nondescript woman who seemingly knows everyone, is instructive in this case.  Sometimes the biggest influencers are not marketing managers—they’re everyday people like Mrs. Weisburg.

Bit Literacy (Mark Hurst):  This book provides an interesting, and often surprising, look at the inefficiencies brought on by our age of information. As Hurst points out, tools like RSS feeds and even email can be useful, but also paralyzing.  Hurst outlines various methods to make information a tool rather than an obstacle to increased productivity.

Takeaway:  Startups have to optimize!  Rapleaf has adopted a lot of Hurst’s tips both company-wide and individually. I agree with his recommendations that you check your email on set occasions, never treat your inbox as your task list, and prioritize digital tasks according to weight.  Some things are over the top– Hurst’s even adopted the DVORAK keyboard in lieu of the inefficient QWERTY–but generally the advice is to optimize your information flow, and never mistake activity for efficiency.

The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss):  Ferriss has become something of a counter-corporate icon in the past year, sparking interest among employees, entrepreneurs, and the unemployed alike.  The appeal stems from Ferriss’ conception of the “New Rich,” essentially referring to those who refuse to slave 9-5 and defer enjoyment to retirement.

Takeaway:  Ferris provides some interesting tips on maximizing efficiency and profit for any company, but I’ve learned more by exploring his marketing strategies.  Before the release of his book, he brilliantly befriended prominent bloggers who then posted about his work upon release.  It was this use of UGC that propelled his book to best-selling status.  At Rapleaf, we’re constantly seeking new methods to increase brand awareness without spending advertising dollars.  Ferris’ strategic networking provides an interesting example of how to increase publicity with a minimal budget. [His marketing of the book is not the focus of the book.  Independently of the book, you make a good point, but make sure you stay on point and highlight some of the things the book stresses – being more efficient, think in terms of opportunity costs and set a value for your time and find someone to do it cheaper, etc.]

The Starfish and The Spider (Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom):  Their one sentence summary perfectly captures the driving force behind this book: “If you cut off a spider’s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish’s leg it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish.”  Now apply this comparison to companies and you’ll see the future of companies, and not only in the high-tech space.

Takeaway:  This book is primarily interesting on a theoretical level, as it reveals the inherent advantages of decentralized communities versus traditional, top-down corporations.  However, there are concrete examples here as well.  At Rapleaf we use a community-edited internal wiki system to track changes in the company.  We also have an open team structure, and as I blogged about before, we manage up.  It’s these tools, according to Brafman and Beckstorm, which insure that names like Wikipedia and Digg will define the next incarnation of corporate America.

These books provide insight into the way we do things at Rapleaf, and I hope the brief descriptions above are helpful for any startup.  If there’s one theme throughout all these books, it’s that entrepreneurship is primarily about risk and release.  Risk is self-explanatory.  And by release, I mean the entrepreneur’s ability to release attachment to habits and notions that decrease efficiency.  In some cases, this means a willingness to let go of the founding vision or business model of a company.  In others, such as the examples in Four Hour Workweek and The Starfish and the Spider, it simply means relinquishing control to the community.  Sometimes the best companies, these books reveal, are able to eventually run themselves.  From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen, for entrepreneurs, particularly those who initially took on so much risk, this release can be the most difficult part.

Living the Dream: Silicon Valley

Ever since arriving here, Ben and I have been amazed by the type of things we see and learn from day to day. Having worked in several large cities before- Philadelphia, London, and Boston - San Francisco is like nowhere else I’ve ever experienced. The difference is in the thinking, foreign to these former centers of ‘innovation’, where big business and static products stamp out the new; radical ideas are fostered and encouraged here in Silicon Valley. The foresight of the people in this area has been driving the evolution of the internet for years now, and I am getting to see for the first time just how incredible it really is.

Having worked for a tech consultant firm in Boston, I was exposed to several different areas of tech – but this exposure was next to nothing like the inundation of technologies and startup ideas I have heard about in my month in San Francisco.  Outside of Philadelphia, working for a pharmaceutical marketing company was an entirely different experience, with barely a trip outside of my cubicle. No social events were on my agenda, no launch parties for new pharmaceutical companies or drug lines. The tech industry is filled with an energy that is simply not a part of any other industry. London was perhaps the most difficult, watching person after person walk by with their head down, uninspired and void of any gusto, almost like an army of clones marching around up and down Victoria Street.

The subway systems are also a good representation of their respective cities. Boston, clinging to an outdated and rickety system, is unreliable at best. On the Tube in London, perpetually late and over-crowded trains are bursting with people covered in blank stares, lacking any form of inspiration or zeal. The BART of San Francisco is the exact opposite – filled with all kinds of new and different energies no big city in the world can offer. The newest of gadgets, brainstorming of new ideas, eclectic mixes of people – all aboard each and every train. Efficient and on time, the BART is home to more than a few ideas that have changed the face of technology.

For over five years, I’ve read and used CNet forums. They are the most comprehensive site on the internet when it comes to product reviews and downloadable software, one of the first reliable user-generated content sites I can remember. Their office? A block away. Never in a million years did I think I would be working down the street from their office, just a few hundred feet away from people who existed to me only in cyberspace before. For the first time, it dawned on me how rooted the tech ‘movement’ is here, and how that affects the mindset of the people. Here, ideas are supported and followed through with until they are perfected. And then – the launch. An unpredictable, exciting and learning experience for everyone (speaking of which, I’m attended the Firefox 3 launch party last Friday).

The environment at Rapleaf, which seems more and more like a microcosm of the tech industry here, is drastically more diverse than the traditional places I mentioned. Everyone here has come from such a unique path that it’s hard to think that we’re all working towards the same goal. It only adds to the dynamic atmosphere that is San Francisco. Both the pace and the workload of Rapleaf far outstrip anything mature companies have to offer. I used to sit around on Friday afternoons and wait for 4:30PM to roll around. Now, working till 8PM on a Friday seems early. Long weeks are followed religiously by ‘networking’ events that can last well past 3AM. How entrepreneurial.

It is an exciting time to be working here in San Francisco – feelings of innovation seem to permeate every aspect of the city. And definitely inspirational to be around.

An Addendum to ‘When Good Isn’t Good Enough’

During my internship here at Rapleaf, I’ve discovered that it is crucial to have very high standards when recruiting.  Not only are you finding the best, but this is also a great way to retain employees from the start.  Our CEO Auren has written about our desire to hire only great candidates, not just good ones.  And recently he’s been stressing the value of actually underselling an offer to insure incoming employees are completely committed to the culture and direction of a company.

A Wall Street Journal article found that companies large and small are increasingly looking at employee retention as a measure of success.  They’re being reactive, in a sense, by linking executive bonuses to employee retention.  I don’t think startups can afford to do this.  One of my takeaways is that it’s important that any company, regardless of size or industry, be proactive and set expectations from the beginning and maintain expectations (see Auren’s advice in the links above).  By ensuring that your employees are committed to the culture and direction of a company, you don’t have to worry about retention quarter after quarter.

Despite being in a ‘revolving door’ industry for talent, as the tech industry can be, I’ve seen that we’ve been pretty fortunate to retain the best people, and I can vouch that a lot of it has to do with setting expectations from the start.

Lessons Learned from Working at Rapleaf

It’s hard to believe that my internship here at Rapleaf is almost half complete - it somehow feels like I started yesterday…and I’ve been here forever.  This feeling can probably be attributed to the steep learning curve here.  On that note, I wanted to share some of the many lessons I’ve learned here from my Rapleaf colleagues.

Rallying the Troops

When I decided to write this post, I knew it had to start with our CEO Auren.  Auren is one of those rare individuals who have the ability to make everyone feel important.  Whether he’s talking to investors or ordering a sandwich, Auren knows how to engage others.  This ability to connect people, as well as Auren’s well-known generosity, has made him one of the most well respected entrepreneurs in the Valley.

Internally, Auren’s ability to motivate is unparalleled.  In my first meeting with Auren, I asked him his target number of employees as we grow from the current team of 15.  He immediately responded: “40,000.  Isn’t that what Google’s heading toward?”  Auren always sets the bar high, but that’s because he truly expects Rapleaf to do incredible things.

Managing Up (And What That Really Means)

One of the many things that stuck with me from my interview with Rapleaf co-founder Vivek was the chance and ability to manage up.  To be honest, I had no idea what he was talking about.  I told Vivek that I’m not shy and will tell others, superiors or not, what I think.  This is sort of what managing up is about, but there’s more.  Managing up is feeling responsible for not only your work but for the entire direction of the company.  Rather than waiting for your supervisor to give you another task, managing up entails predicting the next task, and then doing it without even being asked.

On a day-to-day basis, this manifests itself when Max and I schedule meetings with Vivek rather than the other way around.  It also arises in being honest with Vivek, and anyone else, about setting expectations and meeting them.  If Max or I are unable to get something done, we’re encouraged to be let our superiors know in advance.  This creates an open and dynamic work environment, and it’s an exciting part of working at Rapleaf.

Recruiting (When You’re Still in College Yourself)

It’s been a really cool experience to see recruiting from the other side.  At Yale we’re lucky enough to be exposed to companies of all sizes and all industries through our career services, but I had never thought about how those companies reached us until arriving at Rapleaf.  Then I immediately discovered that the process is a lot more complicated (and difficult) than it appears to students.  Small companies like Rapleaf employ a variety of methods to get the word out, from job sites and college career centers to more creative modes (but we’ll leave those out as trade secrets.).  The point I’ve learned is that small companies need to employ every tool possible to get the word out.

Changing business models

Finally, and I think most importantly for entrepreneurial students like Max and myself, I’ve learned that the days of a single business model are done.  Rapleaf, only two years old, has already undergone several incarnations – adaptation in order to survive.  It seems like every young company here is focused on developing a great product first and finding a revenue stream second.  This attitude is reflected in the investment environment, as venture capitalists are generally looking to invest in people and ideas rather than strict business plans.  In fact, several tech lawyers recently told me that they haven’t seen a traditional business plan in a decade.  The lesson here to young entrepreneurs is simple: stop writing and start building.

Putting Entrepreneurship into Action

(Editor’s Note: Along the lines of Ben’s perspective and commentary on startups and startup culture, Rapleaf intern Max Owen gives us his perspective on entrepreneurship here at Rapleaf.)

After being at Rapleaf for just a few days, the difference and benefits of being at Rapleaf and its culture has over traditional companies, have become quite evident. Everything here moves at a pace that simply cannot be duplicated in big corporations. Having worked at some of the world’s largest multi-national corporations, I can’t imagine going back. Culture elsewhere has always translated into dry, boring meetings with someone you’ve never met or interacted with telling you what your role will be “for the duration of your time here.” Gee, thanks. Can I have that contract back that I just signed?

Everything here at Rapleaf is fresh, new, and done the smart way. For instance, we don’t have ‘HR’. We have Christina, who is more efficient than any company’s heavily resourced and personnel-heavy department I’ve ever dealt with. Direct deposit? Sure, at a corp., it will get done in 3 weeks. Here – 15 minutes. Done, anything else I can do for you? Awesome.

Ahh the ‘corporate’ culture of a start-up – a misnomer really. Nothing too corporate about it; it has more the feeling of a group of college students pouring all their brainpower and efforts into an excellent idea than a workplace. With engineers’ ideas and drawings littered all over the office, making your way around as a business intern can sometimes get you lost in the maze of code, not that unlike the Matrix. Maybe that’s why Vivek mentioned the red and blue pill on the first day…

My fellow business intern Ben and I have been exposed to some pretty awesome moments so far, such as schmoozing at the 5 Year Wordpress Anniversary Party, being thrown at the frontlines of customer service right away and getting to the root of the action, and meeting explicitly with the VP of Business Development and CEO here at Rapleaf to discuss the vision of the company and ideas around this vision (over the course of the summer, I’ll cover some other events that have occurred). Out of the office, we have been exposed to a smorgasbord of events San Francisco has to offer – Union Street Fair, Carnaval, Haight Street Fair, etc. And that’s just the start. In speaking for both Ben and I, from the minute we stepped off the airplane, we knew this was going to be a summer unlike any we had experienced before.

Max will be a senior at Babson College in which he is studying in their prestigious Entrepreneurship program. He is also a captain of the Varsity Lacrosse team as well as a Peer Mentor. Hailing from New Jersey, Max is often known to CWalk or Harlem Shake on request. Feel free to email Max: max[at]rapleaf[dot]com.

San Francisco and the Startup ‘Lifestyle’

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of many postings from Rapleaf interns, who will be providing their perspective and regular commentary on startup life and culture here at Rapleaf.)

When our supervisor and Rapleaf co-founder Vivek Sodera asked fellow intern Max and myself to blog about our experiences working at Rapleaf, it seemed like a daunting task. Write a press release? No problem. Run some analytics? Easy. Meet with our CEO to discuss ideas? Sure. But try to explain everything that happens in working for a San Francisco tech startup in the form of a blog? Where to begin?

It’s difficult for me to digest all of the action and excitement that we go through on a daily basis. Working for a startup - especially one with Rapleaf’s trailblazing technology—requires one to iterate and adapt every day. No two days, in fact no two hours, are the same.

And you know you’re working at a startup when….

(Seven Telltale Signs You’re Working at a San Francisco Startup)
1) Your supervisor - barely your senior - picks you up at the airport and immediately suggests that we check out the San Francisco nightlife.
2) Your roommate, a foreign exchange student from India, makes Indian food for all of the interns one night after being out until 3 am.
3) You attend (and survive) not one nor two but three of San Francisco’s largest outdoor festivals -Carnaval, Union Street Fair, and Haight Street Fair - your first two weeks on the job.
4) Trash talk is heating up around a potential intraoffice basketball game.
5) Your supervisor refers to working at a startup as a ’lifestyle’ rather than work.
6) Part of your job is attending networking events with some of the most exciting entrepreneurs in the Bay Area.
7) There is beer in the fridge in the office kitchen.

While some of these things may come off as fun and games, I can vouch that we’re working exceptionally hard here in helping to solve difficult problems. And that’s what’s amazing: It’s work that doesn’t feel like work. With such an incredible team, you really want to hang out together, both inside and outside the office.

As the summer progresses, I will try and keep you apprised of Rapleaf’s happenings and my thoughts. In the meantime, feel free to comment!

Ben will be a senior at Yale, where he is simultaneously pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in East Asian Studies (China). His research focuses upon information flow and data privacy in new forms of communication, with interest in data privacy and data portability. When he’s not in the classroom or in the office, Ben likes to surf, play volleyball and basketball, and religiously follow the Lakers. You can email Ben at: ben [at] rapleaf [dot] com

Rapleaf’s newest engineer - Nathan Marz

It’s official! Nathan Marz has graduated from Stanford and will be joining the Rapleaf team fulltime. This is something all of us here have been anxiously waiting for and we’re beyond excited.

See, Nathan isn’t just a smart cookie (graduated with a Computer Science BS/MS simultaneously from Stanford). Nathan is also a fierce contender on the b-ball courts. So it’s only fitting to say that getting Nathan onboard here at Rapleaf is equivalent to securing the #1 draft pick. Now I’ll admit, Nathan can school anyone when it comes to all things computer science or engineering related, but when it comes to basketball, he still has alot to learn (especially from yours truly).

And when we picked Nathan from Stanford, we weren’t aware that he was a triple threat - he has hidden musical talents. Not only can he play the piano (since the age of 12), but he can also sing pretty well. If you’re not careful, he’ll rick-roll you into submission with his rendition of “Never Gonna Give You Up” during a karaoke session.

All in all, we’re excited to have Nathan on board. We’ll just have to contend with the intraoffice trash talking that will ensue (that is before the big ‘Vivek vs. Entire Rapleaf Team’ basketball game).

Introducing the 2008 Rapleaf Intern Class - The Dream Team

With the NBA Playoff season winding down and the 2008 Olympics right around the corner, it’s only appropriate we introduce not the US Dream Team, but our very own Dream Team.

Coming in from all four corners of the US, we’re proud to introduce our summer intern class of 2008. Comprised of all-stars in the fields of business development, marketing, privacy, entrepreneurship, web design, software engineering, Ruby, and just overall kicking butt, these guys are here on a mission to take Rapleaf to the next level (while having a great time this summer in San Francisco).

From left to right we have Ben Jacobs, Max Owen, Ashutosh Pande, Zack Coburn, Abhishek Jain, Piotr Kozikowski, and Kevin Ballard.

Some tidbits of information on each:

Ben Jacobs - Coming in from Yale where he’s focused on Privacy and Marketing here at Rapleaf. Will actually be heading to China later this summer to study privacy during the 2008 Olympic games (don’t worry, he speaks impeccable Mandarin). Also his favorite animal is the cougar.

Max Owen - Hails from Babson College, studying Entrepreneurship. Could be a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake but decided to dance circles around the competition and is pursuing an interest in business development. Carries around an SF tourist map at all times for safe measure.

Ashutosh Pande - From India to Georgia Tech and now here at Rapleaf. Worked on interesting projects in the past, including an XML Search Engine and Scalability in P2P Networks. This summer he’s working on improving his morning grooming time. Also claims to have no musical talents, but we know that is a bold-faced lie.

Zack Coburn - A hacker and entrepreneur from Olin. Is business partner’s with Rapleaf’s very own Dan Scudder on DormItem (which was acquired by Universal Advertising Inc.). When he’s not coding in Ruby, he likes to point out inefficiencies in Ruby apps.

Abhishek Jain - Worked on some cool projects at Georgia Tech such as Natural Language Understanding in Interactive Games. Has seen most of the fairs and festivals here in San Francisco (Bay-to-Breakers, Union Street Fair, Carnavale), and is loving every minute of it. Also known to cook late night Indian meals for his roommates.

Piotr Kozikowski - A coder in his own right. Worked on some interesting computer science topics at Georgia Tech, including Knowledge-based AI and Computer/Network Security. Speaks fluent Polish and Spanish. And aspires to be a rapping leaf for Halloween.

Kevin Ballard - An Apple fanatic that is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Apple 3G iPhone. Studying Computer Science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is involved in such projects as MacPorts, TextMate, Typo, Colloquy, Growl, etc. Can crush anyone in any game for any console and has a SecondLife avatar he calls “Fake Kevin Ballard.”

Watch, wait, and see. You’ve been warned…be on the lookout for these assassins!

Emily Leathers has joined the Rapleaf engineering ranks

We brought on another superb engineer…this time a CMU grad involved in every aspect of campus/student life (literally 14 campus organizations, ranging from a capella groups to student senate to campus advisory committees - oh vey!). Emily Leathers joins us from the East, or rather the Middle East I should say, where she spent a year at the CMU Qatar campus. In fact, when we brought Emily in for an in-house interview, she had the raw nerves of steel to not only sustain a full-day flight, but then undergo our rigorous interview process while on a disorienting 12 hour time change. Pretty amazing in our eyes.

One of the great things about Emily is that she likes to cook and bake…and we like to eat, so it’s a perfect combination. She’s also a fan of the arts and crafts, so hopefully her craftwork will make our office more festive and flavorful (beyond our coveted pirate flag). In summary, Emily is pretty cool, and we’re happy to have her on board!

BitStrips launches with the help of Rapleaf’s Address Book API!

bitstrips_logo.gif BitStrips is a new site that just launched at SXSW. Think of it as a YouTube for comic strips. Anyone can go on, create comics using their super simple comic strip creator, and also be part of the community and create member profiles. It’s free, really easy to use, and an excellent distraction from work :) .

And what would an online community be without the ability to invite and find your friends? Using our Address Book API, BitStrips built a nifty friend invite feature that allows users to find contacts already on the site, or send invites to friends from Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo contact lists. As the BitStrips’ userbase grows and grows, they’re developing a sweet catalog of comics.

We’re happy to help them out with our free and easy to use API. BitStrips even took time out of their busy beta launch to create a comic for us Rapleaf folks!


So checkout BitStrips and create some comics with characters that look less desperate than that guy on the left!

Dan Scudder rises through the ranks

We brought Dan in as an intern, and boy was that a steal. He set the bar for all future interns. Customer service…check. Recruiting…check. Product…check. Marketing…check. But what blew us away was his tenacity and ability to adapt and pick up business development…which wasn’t even part of his internship. He knew what he wanted and he went after it. As an intern, he not only sourced but helped closed some pretty decent sized deals - a rainmaker in the making. And now we’re blessed to have him on our business development team as a full-time member and early employee of Rapleaf. We were fortunate enough to manage Dan (or rather he managed us) and we are all blessed to have him on our team. Congratulations Dan. Hurry up and graduate and help us blaze this trail!

PHP Client Library for our Address Book API

Rapleaf Address Book API users benefit from the easy to use functionality of our API. It’s a simple API call to integrate into any site, and since Rapleaf maintains an up-to-date code on the importer, you don’t need to spend time building your own importers or doing code maintenance.

Mimi Sun has built a PHP Client Library for the API, making the Address Book API even easier to integrate into your site.  You can see a demo, sample code, and download the full kit here.

The Address Book API allows for a user to import their email contact list (from Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, and Hotmail) into any site. Our API is used on dozens of sites and applications, and is a way for users to invite friends to a site, share content with people in their address book, and import their social relationships.    

Thanks to Mimi for helping make this available. If there are any questions about working with this client library, please email developer@rapleaf.com.

Rapleaf plugin for Mozilla Thunderbird displays membership info

One of the exciting parts about our APIs at Rapleaf is seeing what creative tools and applications other developers are building with them.

Daniel Thomas has taken the initiative to build Rapleaf 4 Thunderbird - a simple plugin using our Person API. It allows you to learn more about the people in your inbox (via their online memberships). Thunderbird is a desktop email client and in using our API, the plugin displays links to a person’s online profiles in your incoming email.

rl4tb.bmp

It’s free to download and install. Once installed, you will need to register for a Rapleaf API key and input that into your plugin preferences. From there, you’re off and running. Daniel has posted full instructions on his site.

To download the beta version of Rapleaf 4 Thunderbird, you may go to the following link:

http://www.networklighthouse.com/attachments/045_rap4tb-0.4a.xpi

Thanks Daniel for building this!

DataPortability Workgroup meetup kicks off with a bang!

Rapleaf hosted the first Bay Area Meetup for the DataPortability Workgroup at our offices yesterday. As the kickoff meeting, representatives of companies and organizations involved in the DataPortability movement not only laid the foundation and framework for future discussions, but they also were able to discuss technical, policy, evangelistic, and implementation efforts and implications of dataportability. Full detail eddescription and feedback on the event will be provided by our very own Manish Shah. Pictures of the event below.

We were glad to host such an exciting and fruitful event and we look forward to hosting future Dataportability discussions. And special thanks to Manish for representing Rapleaf, the ever-entertaining Marc Canter for scribing, Trent Adams for taking meticulous notes, and to Daniela Barbosa and Chris Saad for streaming and setting up the event!

women and men on social networks

From looking at the data provided by Rapleaf, women are much bigger users of social networks then men. Much bigger.

The fastest growing demographic on social networks are moms between 35 and 45 years old. These women are putting up pictures of their kids (Johnny at baseball practice, Susie at soccer, the family in Disney World, etc.) and using these social networks (especially MySpace) to essentially make family home pages and share them with friends and relatives. They are decorating their pages, making RockYou slide shows, and using lots of widgets.

Men over 35 are just not that into social networks (yet) except on some rare examples like LinkedIn.

While both younger women and younger men have both joined social networks in drives, the younger women are much more active than the younger men. My hypothesis is that a lot of the younger men are spending their spare computer time playing video games. Women tend to enjoy casual games more and most social networks are essentially a huge casual games network.

HBase presentation at Rapleaf HQ rocked!

We were lucky enough to team up with Powerset this week for a tech presentation on Hbase, discussing structured storage and Apache’s Hadoop project.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hbase, it’s all about storing massive amounts of data once you’re past the capacities of your conventional database. Hbase is an open-source implementation of bigtable storage, and is quickly growing popular among startups that are gathering and organizing lots of data (like Rapleaf!).

We had over 80 engineers in attendance at Rapleaf Headquarters in downtown SF. Jim Kellerman from Powerset started off the presentations, and then Bryan from Rapleaf rounded off the night with his own talk on Hbase. The audience also posed some great questions. Overall, it was a tremendous success and we hope to host many more tech community events in the near future.

Pictures from the evening along with links to the full presentation video are below. Also included are the presentations themselves. Special thanks to the folks at Powerset for helping pull this off, and also to the guests that made it such an awesome event.

hbase1.GIFhbase2.GIFhbase3.GIFhbase4.GIFhbase5.gifhbase6.GIFhbase7.GIFhbase8.GIF

Part I: http://www.vimeo.com/445542

Part II: http://www.vimeo.com/445554

Part III: http://www.vimeo.com/445569

Presentations:

Powerset’s Hbase Presentation

Rapleaf’s Hbase Presentation

Import Contacts with the Rapleaf Address Book API

The Rapleaf API, a core component Rapleaf, allows any company or developer to access information on a person and include that in their own site. Such information includes memberships, reputation, and demographic info.

We’re excited to release the Rapleaf Address Book API. It is super easy to use and can help any site increase its reach by allowing users to import their contacts into your site, and further benefit from portable social graphs.

The Address Book API allows you to:

- Ask your users for their email login credentials (for Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail/MSN)

- Securely pass the credentials to the Rapleaf Address Book API

- Obtain the names and email addresses of all the contacts in that person’s address book

It’s all free and really easy to use. User’s privacy is guarded and password information is never stored.

You can find the Address Book API documentation here: http://www.rapleaf.com/apidoc/v2/abook

p.s. - Combine the Address Book API with the Rapleaf Person API to get social network memberships and demographics of each email in that address book.

Statistics on Google’s OpenSocial platform end users and Facebook users

We recently gathered data and released stats on users of MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Plaxo, and Hi5 – five social networks on the OpenSocial platform. We also gathered data on Facebook users. For instance, did you know:

- The greatest overlap between OpenSocial container sites exists between MySpace and Hi5, in which 43% of Hi5 users also use MySpace.
- Facebook users are 63% female and 36% male whereas the sites integrated with the OpenSocial platform are 61% female and 38% male
- 52% of Facebook users are 18-25, whereas 40% of the users are 18-25 for the five container sites on the OpenSocial platform
- Facebook users tend to use 2.9 major social networking sites on average whereas users of OpenSocial container sites tend to use 2.7 major social networking sites

Full in-depth data below:

Facebook Users
- 2.6 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 63% female, 36% male
- 17% <18 yrs, 52% 18-25 yrs, 21% 26-35 yrs, 5% 36-45 yrs, 5% >45 yrs
- 2.9 major social networking sites used on average
- 62% are on MySpace, 5% are on LinkedIn, 9% are on Friendster, 10% are on Plaxo, 22% are on Hi5

MySpace Users
- 11.3 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 63% female, 36% male
- 20% <18 yrs, 40% 18-25 yrs, 27% 26-35 yrs, 7% 36-45 yrs, 6% >45 yrs
- 2.4 major social networking sites used on average
- 15% are on Facebook, 2% are on LinkedIn, 9% are on Friendster, 6% are on Plaxo, 17% are on Hi5

LinkedIn Users
- 0.8 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 38% female, 61% male
- 2% <18 yrs, 9% 18-25 yrs, 49% 26-35 yrs, 24% 36-45 yrs, 16% >45 yrs
- 3.2 major social networking sites used on average
- 16% are on Facebook, 25% are on MySpace, 12% are on Friendster, 16% are on Plaxo, 8% are on Hi5

Friendster Users
- 2.3 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 58% female, 41% male
- 12% <18 yrs, 39% 18-25 yrs, 36% 26-35 yrs, 7% 36-45 yrs, 5% >45 yrs
- 3.0 major social networking sites used on average
- 10% are on Facebook, 44% are on MySpace, 5% are on LinkedIn, 5% are on Plaxo, 26% are on Hi5

Plaxo Users
- 1.3 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 62% female, 37% male
- 16% <18 yrs, 39% 18-25 yrs, 24% 26-35 yrs, 10% 36-45 yrs, 11% >45 yrs
- 3.6 major social networking sites used on average
- 20% are on Facebook, 53% are on MySpace, 11% are on LinkedIn, 9% are on Friendster, 15% are on Hi5

Hi5 Users
- 4.5 million users identified in Rapleaf
- 60% female, 39% male
- 21% <18 yrs, 44% 18-25 yrs, 23% 26-35 yrs, 6% 36-45 yrs, 6% >45 yrs
- 2.8 major social networking sites used on average
- 13% are on Facebook, 43% are on MySpace, 2% are on LinkedIn, 13% are on Friendster, 2% are on Plaxo

We currently have 60 million people in our databases and we searched those people across publicly accessible social networks, in which much of the data was obtained.

If there or any further inquiries on this data or other data we may have, please contact press@rapleaf.com

Also, developers may check out Rapleaf’s API v2 (for integrating people data into your site): http://www.rapleaf.com/developer

OpenSocial, portable data, and Rapleaf’s API

The buzz on the web over the last week has been the release of Google’s OpenSocial. OpenSocial is a mark-up language that developers can use to write applications on a host of sites. Companies that have committed to OpenSocial include MySpace, Bebo, Google, Hi5, Friendster, SixApart, and more.

OpenSocial creates a range of opportunities for companies, developers, and users to benefit from the social power of the web. Companies save resources by not having to code the same app for multiple sites. Users benefit because they can transport data across every site they use. At Rapleaf, we’re excited about OpenSocial and the mission of making data portable.

Our newly released API v2 allows companies and developers to access portable user data – memberships, demographics, and reputation – and import that data for use in their own sites. Any developer can ping our API with an email and we’ll return information on the person, including:

- Memberships: links to their social network profiles (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc)

- Demographics: name, age, gender, location, and occupation

- Reputation: Rapleaf score and ratings

Site’s are already using this information to benefit their users – pulling in links to their social networks or automatically completing profile info.

As the mission of portable social graphs and identities evolve, we look forward to seeing sites and users benefit from the Rapleaf API and OpenSocial.

You can access the new Rapleaf API docs here

Privacy Related Uses: Checking all your email addresses

“I forgot I setup a membership with that other email address!”

Rapleaf is all about finding information related to a given email address. Often, people are surprised to find an outdated social network profile that is linked to one of their emails. But the other side of the issue is making sure you search all your email addresses with Rapleaf. You may have an email address that you no longer use, but other people know about that email and it may have information linked to it.

One example was my friend, who is in the process of having a background check done for her new job. She checked Rapleaf for her university email address, and was able to see her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. However, she could remember that she created a MySpace profile back in high school and wasn’t sure why it did not show up on Rapleaf. We suggested she search her other email addresses that she used in high school, and she was eventually able to find that her MySpace profile was linked to her @yahoo.com email address. She then logged on to MySpace and made the necessary changes to her information.

The key take away is that Rapleaf searches based on an email address. We may find some of your memberships for a given email, but if you have used different email addresses to register on other sites, Rapleaf will not find those other memberships until you search that other email address.

If you are a Rapleaf member, you can also add more emails to your Rapleaf profile so Rapleaf can find all applicable memberships that you want to display. It’s easy to add more emails – just sign in and go to this page: http://www.rapleaf.com/PersonalInfo/manage_email

Rapleaf not only has the power to help you build your reputation, but we also provide tools to learn about what information you have out there on the internet. By staying on top of your information, you can better manage your online privacy and control your reputation online.

Super Engineer Eric Wong is Employee #12!

We’re extremely excited to welcome Eric Wong as the newest Rapleaf engineer! Eric hails from the sunny streets of San Francisco, and is a graduate of UCLA. He’s also an extreme biker – he is really determined and has biked for miles in some of the harshest conditions. Luckily for Eric, his work at Rapleaf will consist mostly of coding. Unluckily for the rest of Rapleaf, Eric is planning a team-building extreme biking trip for 2008. eric-wong.gif

Another Eric Wong notable: He is an excellent bread maker. We’re already fortunate to have the baking support of significant others, but we’re happy to bring some of that baking talent in-house with Eric. Bread is the preferred snack of the Rapleaf Gorilla.

He’s a former engineer at Zappos and we’re psyched to add him to the Rapleaf engineering squad. He’s already moving our software forward and building some awesome tools for Rapleaf! So give it up for Eric, the newest Rapleaf super engineer!

(PS – We’re still looking for more kick butt coders like Eric…check out our jobs page for the latest opportunities)

Social networks and political process

Rapleaf has a bunch of groups, organizations, causes, and candidates that are using our data to better democracy. But we still find that most actors in the political process really underestimate social networks.

So we put together a “social networks for dummies” PDF with some up-to-date stats on who is on these social networks and why someone involved in affecting change should care:

social networks and politics

Information sources now on Rapleaf profiles

We promised a few weeks ago that we would tell you where the info on your Rapleaf profile was coming from - and we’re happy now to release that functionality to the public. We’ve added a super simple way to see how Rapleaf obtained your profile info, and we point you to the source to correct it.

If you go to a Rapleaf profile, you can scroll over an attribute to see its source. For example, if you scroll over the Gender attribute, you will see the text “Gender found via: sitename” under the information area. Additionally, if the source is one of the sites listed under the profile’s “Memberships” section, the corresponding site will be highlighted.

If information was found on multiple sites, we’ll tell you every site that we found it on.

Screenshot:
data_attribution.gif

Information sources will help you better utilize Rapleaf to manage your online information - by pointing you to the sources of the info, you can easily correct any wrong information that you may have out there.

Rapleaf API – Mash it up in Mashup Challenge

We are super psyched to announce that Rapleaf will be part of the first ever MashupChallenge, a 3-month contest that allows web developers to compete and build the best Mashup on the web.

We’re making available Rapleaf API v2 in the contest – developers can access portable reputation and identity information for a given person through Rapleaf, and mash it up however they please. This means that you can query Rapleaf for social network profiles, name, age, gender, etc. for a person.

MashupChallenge started today and you can sign up on their official site . They’re giving away some great prizes (from 50%-off hosting for life to a Nintendo Wii) to the kick-butt coders that come up with the most unique mashups. We’re proud to support development on top of APIs, and we look forward to seeing some cool applications being built.

More information on Rapleaf API v2 is here: http://www.rapleaf.com/apidoc/v2

Sign up for MashupChallenge here: http://www.mashupchallenge.com

PHP Classifieds now with Rapleaf module!

phpclassifieds_1.gif PHP Classifieds is a great software that anyone can download to easily build and manage their own classifieds site. Its got all the great functionality of a classifieds system - templates, categories, field customization, and many more exciting features.

The new PHP Classifieds 7.3 will be coming out soon and we’re excited that there will be Rapleaf functionality available to those who download or purchase the new software. It is super easy to activate Rapleaf for PHP Classifieds - all you need to do is register for an API Key with us and then plug your API key into the Rapleaf section of your classifieds admin area.

phpclassifieds_2.gif

Once activated, a user’s Rapleaf score is displayed in the listing details and user details across your site. Rapleaf is another great way to increase trust among your classified site users and scare away potential fraudsters, and we’re excited to be part of a great classifieds software package!

Privacy Related Uses: Deleting outdated social network profiles

“Wow, I didn’t even know I had a profile on that site!”

The other day my good friend Tim Brennan was telling me about a cool way he used Rapleaf to manage his online information. Tim is a power Facebook user, and he forgot that he had an old MySpace profile which he no longer used anymore. He also had incorrect information on his MySpace page – he moved last year to a new town.

When Tim searched himself on Rapleaf, his profile showed the link to his old MySpace page that he previously forgot about. At that point, it was an easy move to sign back into MySpace and close his account. After all, he no longer used it and it also contained outdated information. Why would he want anyone to see it? For Tim, online reputation management is especially important as he begins a career search during his senior year at Babson. Potential employers may be searching social networks and the web to learn more about him before hiring.

Tim found Rapleaf simple and useful – it alerted him to his information online, and pointed him to the source of any incorrect or outdated information. . We’re psyched to see people use Rapleaf as a tool to learn where they have online information and better manage that info.

Merchant Circle adds Rapleaf to business pages!

merchant-circle-logo.gifWe’re happy to announce a new Rapleaf partner – Merchant Circle! Merchant Circle is an awesome site that lets businesses build a reputation, find new customers, and promote their own business. Rapleaf is a natural fit for the reputation part of their website – and all businesses on Merchant Circle now have a link to their Rapleaf profile!merchant_circle_screenshot.gif

Many businesses on their site are already taking advantage of Rapleaf’s ratings – APS in San Marcos, TX is an example of a company that is already starting to leave ratings for current and past customers. Over time, these customers return the rating and merchants are able to start building their online reputation that can be showcased to future customers.

Another great and unique part about our partnership with Merchant Circle is that we display links to Merchant Circle pages on Rapleaf profiles. So if you search an email on Rapleaf and they also have a page on Merchant Circle, you can click right through to learn more about their business on the Merchant Circle site.

rapleaf_merchant_circle.gif
It’s a perfect match for promoting trust in commerce, and we’re definitely thrilled to help thousands of small businesses grow and manage their online reputation.

Start-ups, privacy, and being wrong

We made lots of mistakes. And this is a long post that, in great detail, goes over our mistakes and what we plan to do about them.

Start-ups often make mistakes. But millions of users, consumers, bloggers, critics, etc. set us right when we make wrong choices. It shows they care. Good start-ups evaluate the feedback and iterate to receive new feedback … resulting in a positive feedback loop (even when the feedback itself isn’t always positive).

Over the last two weeks, Rapleaf received a lot of feedback. Most of it unsolicited and by people who have no relationship with the company (this is the best kind of input as it gives a much needed and different perspective).

What do we do?

Rapleaf searches the Internet on people much like some of the more well-publicized services such as ZoomInfo, Wink, and Spock. Rapleaf is a giant system that evaluates billions of pieces of information on over 50 million people, growing by a few hundred thousand people a day. This is a lot of information.

People are sometimes taken aback because of the breadth and depth of Rapleaf’s search. Unlike some of the other services that search on name, our search is based on email address. We are essentially the largest, deepest, and fastest email search engine.

But we do more…

We gather this information to allow users to control it. At least, that is what we want to do. But as many people - like Judi Sohn, Marshall Kirkpatrick, and others - pointed out, we definitely made a bunch of mistakes in this realm in the last few weeks.

Our Goals: to encourage freedom of data and allow user data, from profile information to social graphs to user preferences, to be 100% portable.

When we started the company there was a lot of buzz about portable reputations, but we didn’t realize at the time that one’s reputation is not just what someone says about you on eBay, but also who you hang out with, what you participate in, etc. And reputation is very context dependent (Bill Clinton might have a reputation as a good leader but a bad husband).

So in the next few months you’ll see a whole bunch of products from Rapleaf that allow the community to more easily access information and build products on top of this information.

Now back to our mistakes and how we corrected for them…

All this data about me is scary:

There is a lot of information about people living on pockets all over the web. Everyone has an online/web footprint. And it is accessible if someone really wants to research someone – the information is publicly available – but it takes a lot of time to find.

Rapleaf automates this search process. We search billions of pages on blogs, social networks, forums, etc. for information on people. And a little over a month ago, we started making this information public on Rapleaf.com

Some people did not understand how we found their info and were worried that this info was going to be public, even though the info was already public. Others were concerned that their info was just plain wrong. The common denominator was not understanding where this info was coming from.

Yesterday we cooked up an idea to solve this - we are going to tell you where we obtained the info. Essentially all info will be attributed to a source and that way you can correct it at the source. We haven’t started coding this yet, but look for this change in the next few weeks.

“You’ve been searched” emails:

We send emails to people after they are searched on Rapleaf.com. We send the emails every Monday night if they were searched the week before. We do this because we want to give the person who is searched on Rapleaf the opportunity to manage their information and privacy and to give them the opportunity to opt out or to change something (such as not displaying their age). Since we gather this information on people, it is important to let them know about it.

Last week we also made a decision to send the “you’ve been searched” emails to people that were searched for in Upscoop, a service we run that allows you to upload all your friends and find out what social networks they are on. In retrospect, this was really stupid and very wrong for doing this without any controls. Very very wrong. But at the time, it seemed like a really good idea for some reason. The problem is many people who use Upscoop were unaware that their contacts would receive a courtesy email.

Again, we were wrong. Now we iterate. And we ask for forgiveness.

We stopped sending the Upscoop been-searched emails yesterday. If we decide to re-enact this, we will likely give our users the ability to opt-out of sending email to their contacts. In addition, we will likely not send more than one “been-searched” email to someone more than once a quarter.

A few people also asked us to stop sending the been-searched emails on Rapleaf.com. We debated the merits of that request internally and came to the conclusion that this is a good feature (the vast majority of the feedback on this have been very positive). People should know if their information is available for others to see. But we’ll limit these emails to maximum of once a quarter.

Opt-out:

We always had an easy system to get information removed from Rapleaf. You email our customer service and we immediately restrict all your information. Simple. However, we also had an additional (and onerous) system to completely delete the information about oneself. As a start-up, we looked at how some larger, more established companies were handling opt-outs and did exactly what they did.

In retrospect, this doesn’t make sense, as highlighted by Matt Roberts. Since we’re already removing information off the Rapleaf.com site when we get an email, we should just delete the information. So we amended our privacy policy to make it much easier to get out of Rapleaf’s system if you want to.

Multiple privacy policies:

Previously, we had three different privacy policies for Rapleaf, Upscoop, and TrustFuse - our B2B data provider (see below). We originally did this because we thought we would have shorter and easier-to-understand policies which were service-specific. This created a sense of mistrust due to the lack of transparency and just didn’t make any sense. Not at all. It became apparent when I talked to Stefanie Olsen (of CNET) on the phone last week – she was very confused with what info applied to what site. Stefanie is very smart – so we figured that if she was confused, millions of people will equally be confused.

So we changed it. We created one comprehensive privacy policy and released it last Friday (August 31). It is still a serious work in progress and we’ll likely need to make edits to it, but it is a big improvement and we look forward to receiving feedback so we can iterate further.

API v2 and Project TrustFuse:

After working on it for many months, we announced our V2 API (aka Project TrustFuse) last week. We’ve been working on Project TrustFuse for the better part of the year, and we’re glad to get the first rev out.

Our API allows people to do en masse Rapleaf lookups to better help their users. This is an open data platform for developers to build products on top of. For instance, I heard someone was working on a WordPress plug-in to easily attach social network information to blog comments … I’m really looking forward to seeing that.

Like other well-known APIs (for instance, Google Maps API) we give a certain number of searches for free so consumers can build cool apps. People that are doing lots of searches on a monthly basis pay a little bit of money per lookup. This is how we generate revenue.

And we’ll even give heavy users the ability to do batch lookups and provide aggregate reports of the information. And yes, these heavy users and companies may use this information for marketing purposes to give their users and better offers when they visit their sites. But they also use this information to provide a better user experience on their sites, to adjust their fraud algorithms, work on eliminating captchas for the masses, enable political candidates to better interact with voters … to name a few examples.

Rapleaf’s new V2 API is going to help enable the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web to become a reality.

But we screwed up here too. We’ve been massively secretive about what we were up to (working in dark caves night and day) to prevent competitors from doing something similar. We should have been more confident in our abilities (we have the best engineers on the planet) and been more public about what we are up to.

We’re doing that now: detailing Project TrustFuse and the Rapleaf V2 API. And we’ll be doing more on this front to build clarity and to let thousands of people write software on top of the data.

What else we need to do:

We’re currently assembling a privacy advisory board to advise us when privacy related matters (such as the ones over the last couple weeks) occur. While we’re confident we’ll make lots of mistakes in the future, we want to ensure we have some trusted feedback on new products and features we are releasing.

We also want to give bloggers and community leaders the ability to get an early preview of the products we are releasing. This way, you can give your feedback BEFORE it happens (and probably stop us from pushing a lot of stupid ideas). If you are interested, email reputation@rapleaf.com and we’ll add you to the list.

And yes, OpenID is coming too.

We sincerely apologize to those that were offended, felt their privacy was violated, or lost trust in Rapleaf. You’ll see, we’ll make it up to you and do you proud.

Overtime we’ll continue to educate and explain the uses of Rapleaf and how individuals empower themselves. Check out our blog over the next few weeks to as we’ll chronicle how others have used Rapleaf for their benefit.

It is humbling being wrong

I remember in high school, I always wanted to be right. You remember when you were younger…you thought you were smarter than everyone and you hated being wrong. But as you get older, you realize it is inevitable to be wrong and if you are trying lots of things, you are going to be wrong often.

It is humbling being wrong, and we’ve been wrong a lot at Rapleaf. This experience of receiving all this feedback has been extremely helpful to our product development and we really appreciate all the time that people spent putting together extremely thoughtful advice. Hopefully we can continue to iterate, respond, change, get feedback back from you, and iterate again (feedback can be sent to reputation@rapleaf.com).

- Auren

p.s. - Special thanks to all those who already and continue to give us feedback including:

Matt Blumberg (http://onlyonce.blogs.com/onlyonce/2007/09/personal-reputa.html)

The Customer (http://thecustomer.co.uk/marketing/customer-20-i-own-my-privacy)

Dean Donaldson (http://deandonaldson.blogspot.com/2007/09/trustfuse-igniting-time-bomb-on-your.html)

David Evans (http://theprogressbar.com/archives/2007/08/reputation_and_social_networking/)

Henry Farrell (http://crookedtimber.org)

Nathan Gilliatt (http://net-savvy.com/jobseeker/marketing/check-yourself-at-rapleaf.html)

Tish Grier (http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/2007/09/perils-of-social-networking-pt-2.html)

Andre H. (http://n0comment.wordpress.com/2007/09/03/the-internet-and-privacy-get-yourself-removed-from-rapleaf-quickly/)

Denis Hancock (http://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2007/09/01/rapleaf-and-the-growing-privacy-challenge/)

Keyser Infinity (http://keyser-infinity.livejournal.com)

Junkdepot (http://blog.junkdepot.com/browse/updates/junkdepot-fights-fraud/)

Marshall Kirkpatrick (http://marshallk.com/)

Liminal Librarian (http://www.lisjobs.com/liminal/2007/09/walking-line.html)

Adriana Lukas (http://www.mediainfluencer.net/2007/09/master-slave-relationship/)

Natalie M. (http://sevenorora.livejournal.com/42885.html)

Randy McDonald (http://rfmcdpei.livejournal.com/)

Kristen Nicole (http://mashable.com/2007/09/04/rapleaf-privacy/)

Matt Roberts (http://mattroberts.com/)

Stefanie Olsen (http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6206023.html)

Akkam’s Razor (http://www.akkamsrazor.com/)

Judi Sohn (http://www.momathome.com/)

Killer Startups (http://www.killerstartups.com/User-Gen-Content/rapleaf–Do-You-Have-A-Bad-Reputation/)

Technology News Daily (http://news.techvine.org/2007/09/05/rapleaf-changes-questionable-privacy-policy-in-response-to-recent-inquisition/)

Weblogsky (http://weblogsky.com/2007/09/being_a_public_character.html)

Lauren Weinstein (http://www.securitypractice.org/2007/09/fw-ip-re-at-rapleaf-your-personals-are.html)

And whole bunch of other blogs written in German, Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French, Dutch, Italian, and English four-letter words.

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