May 14th, 2008

Vidoop secures Messina and Norris

The Web world—and the world of distributed social applications—is buzzing with some momentous news. And happily enough, a Portland company is right at the middle of all of the excitement.

Portland’s Vidoop, has announced that Chris Messina, aka factoryjoe, and Will Norris, of the DiSo Project have joined Vidoop as full-time employees.

Suffice it to say, this is huge.

Messina and Norris are among the most recognizable names in the Web world today. Specifically for their efforts on the next generation of social technologies—technologies that promise to transform “social networking” from its current form of “destination sites” to being part of the very fabric of the Web, itself.

Their chops are, quite frankly, legendary. So much so, in fact, that Portland’s Marshall Kirkpatrick admits that he expects “nothing less than magic”:

Vidoop has had a strong team of engineers from the start. As someone who’s excited about standards based identity and the innovation that open technology makes possible – I am very interested to see what Vidoop and its new additions will be able to do. Check out what the two have sought to do for some time over at the DiSo Project. Now that they are doing that work with backing and as a part of a substantial team, expect nothing less than magic.

Messina sees opportunity

So—clearly—those of us on the outside are all excited about the news, but how do the DiSo guys—the people actually in the middle of this—feel about it?

Messina posted some of his thoughts about his new gig, highlighting:

Working full time on this means that Will and I should be able to make much more progress, much more quickly, and to work with other projects and representatives from efforts like Drupal, BuddyPress and MovableType to get interop happening (eventually) between each project’s implementation.

And, he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, to provide some additional insight.

What’s your new position at Vidoop going to entail?

Well, for the most part, doing what I was already doing with DiSo, but actually focusing on it full time.

What this means is that Will and I and other project leaders will be hunkering down and working out how we’re going to architect the project to better include external contribution, to better explain what DiSo is all about and how to get involved, to explain why and how to use the core technologies that we’ll be leveraging in DiSo, and to start formulating a more coherent roadmap for the project that other platform implementations might follow along with (for example, while we’ll be focusing on WordPress and working with the BuddyPress folks, we want to see MovableType and Drupal also getting this kind of functionality and open API support).

What were some of the key reasons for your deciding to join the Vidoop team?

Well, the conversation started innocently enough, but when I met many of the Vidoop folks at SXSW, I became more generally interested in what these guys were up to. When Kveton joined up and then, along with Luke Sontag, the co-founder, offered me the chance to come work on DiSo full time, and offered me resources to make it happen, there was really no way that I could turn that down.

As I’ve gotten to know more of the Vidoop team, I really think these are world class folks ready to make an impact on the world. That they have faith in open source and open technologies and were smart enough to bring on folks like Kveton and Kevin Fox speak to that wisdom, and suggests that I’ll be working alongside folks who get it and want to do the “right thing” is equally motivating.

It also helps that Vidoop is still small and scrappy and looking to define itself as a leader generally in the secure identity space… I think that that’s going to start mean more things to more people over the next couple years, so getting in at the ground floor to help set that direction is tactically something that also appeals to me.

What problems are you most excited about helping Vidoop solve?

Well, I think there’s a gaping hole in the marketing of OpenID right now about what you can do with an OpenID, or why they’re URLs and not, for example, email addresses. Providing a salient, compelling answer to that question is one of the first things I hope to tackle, and is essentially what the DiSo Project is predicated on.

That we can also help turn Vidoop into a leading open source factory is also a nice bonus, and something that, well, I don’t think exactly happened with Flock (for contrast).

What are some of the biggest opportunities you see for Vidoop and OpenID in general?

As I mentioned, it’s kind of demonstrating what an OpenID endpoint should look like. I don’t think anyone quite has this right yet, but we’re still early.

I also think that there are A LOT of user interface problems with OpenID (Kyle Neath cited some the other day) that are inhibiting its adoption. So rather than lead with a technology and expecting people to be like, “Oh yeah! OpenID! I want one of those!” we need to address real use cases and develop opportunities where it just so happens that OpenID is the easiest and most compatible solution for the job.

That Google’s Friend Connect supports OpenID is huge, but it’s really only the first page of the next chapter. The opportunity is writing the volumes that come next.

What are some of the biggest hurdles you see for Vidoop and OpenID in general?

Well, apart from better demonstrating what OpenID is really good at, I think that there are serious issues with the mobile OpenID experience (Twauth is one approach to making it better). I think this is going to require conversations with mobile providers, but also will require a more critical consideration about what expectations are when people are using apps in a mobile context or environment.

Part of that is going to necessitate the development of human interface protocols that help people recover when OpenID fails, or when errors occur that don’t have obvious solutions. In some ways it’s about educating people about the ways in which OpenID can stumble, but also the ways in which you can recover gracefully. Frankly, hardly any discussion has materialized around those topics yet, and I think without more thought and design put to those matters, OpenID will continue to be seen as a developer or geeky tool not ready for the “masses” (i.e. people who really don’t, and shouldn’t have to, care about the background technology that makes the web work).

Will we be seeing a lot more of you around Portland?

Dude, I love the Ace Hotel and Stumptown, so I’ll definitely be spending more time up there! Seriously though, I imagine I’ll definitely be up there pretty regularly.

How long can you resist Kveton’s Portvangelist charm before you feel pressured to move up here?

Portland is definitely one of my favorite cities, and if I ever leave San Francisco, it’ll probably be where I end up next.

In fact, my half-sister used to live in Portland, and I remember when I was in college I came to visit her and her family for a week. Since her husband was a day trader, we had to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to be at the office at like 5AM so he could be trading when the east coast markets opened up at 9AM. Anyway, I decided that I’d walk around the city that morning rather than stay in the office, and I remember clearly the cool fog, the sun, walking by Powell’s and the seeing the Willamette Week in newsstands (its design was an inspiration at the time, given that I was in design school!). Anyway, my point is that I pretty well fell in love with the city that morning, so at some point, I’d definitely love to come back and stay some day!

Anything else you’d like to make sure the Portland tech community knows about this news?

Well, I’ve always been really impressed by the openness and inclusivity of the Portland crowd ever since (and even probably before) I attended BarCampPortland.

With Vidoop making Portland its new home, I think we can only expect to see more and more interesting things emerge, and continue to emerge, from the Portland tech scene. What with Ignite, Startup Weekend, BarCamps, werewolf!, all this bodes well. Oh, and if there are any passionate WordPress devs looking for a project to hack on in their spare time, DiSo is certainly looking — and imagine we’ll start doing meetups in the not-to-distant future as well… watch our Twitter account for more.

Vidoop continues to impress

Obviously, this is a huge win for Vidoop, a company which has already done an impressive job of attracting top local talent to its rapidly growing Rose City footprint. And with this move, Vidoop steps into a whole new arena: attracting leading talent from San Francisco.

“We’re excited about Chris and Will joining Vidoop,” said Scott Kveton, Vidoop’s VP of Open Platforms, another recent tech rockstar hire for Vidoop. “We’re seeing a set of open technologies are emerging to help describe the ‘digital you,’ and Chris and Will have been at the center of those discussions. These are the technologies that will really enable the Open Web.”

And it’s not just the execs. The Portland team clearly realizes the opportunity that now lays before them: helping define the future of the Web.

When I mentioned to Michael Richardson, another recent Vidoop hire, that he just happened to luck into the dream team. He concurred.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with Chris Messina and Will Norris,” said Richardson. “It’s a great chance to work with people who not only have great experience but also possess a clear vision of the upcoming open web. I look forward to working with them and the rest of the Vidoop team to make that vision a reality.”

Vidoop’s Kevin Fox sees similar potential—and opportunity—for the burgeoning Vidoop talent pool.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Chris Messina on past projects and have always found his enthusiasm and honesty refreshing,” said Fox. “His ability to form a vision, then create and galvanize a community is unmatched. I look forward to helping build communities around the great products that Chris, Will and the rest of the stellar Vidoop team create.”

Now, it’s really starting to get exciting here in Portland.

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5 Responses to “Vidoop secures Messina and Norris”

  1. kveton says:

    Wow, what a great post … thanks for this Rick. I’d normally Twitter this comment but its down right now … seems like *that’s* what we should take on … :-)

  2. Rick: You write as well as Messina speaks. Good, informative, lively dialogue. T Norvell

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