Category: Sandy

Another Portland startup closes down

SandyUsually, when I have to mention a company going through layoffs or—worse yet—shutting down, it’s a fairly grim and unwelcome affair.

This is a welcome change.

I’m happy to report that Portland-based Values of n is being shutdown—because it has been acquired by Twitter, the popular microblogging service that powers the conversations of the Portland Web startup scene.

Why the shutdown? I mean, Values of n has some amazing technology and thinking in its products: my favorite anthropomorphic digital assistant, Sandy, and Stikkit, little yellow online notes that think. Which I guess makes them somewhat anthropomorphic in their own right.

Yes, the technology is amazing. And Sandy has quite an impressive relationship with Twitter. But quite frankly Twitter doesn’t know quite what to do with those assets at this point. So they’re going into the mothballs.

Which brings us to the reason they actually did acquire Values of n: one substantial piece of intellectual property by the name of Rael Dornfest.

Ev Williams of Twitter couldn’t have put it any better when he said:

Rael Dornfest is a famously talented engineer, author, and entrepreneur. Before founding Values of n, Rael served as Chief Technology Officer at O’Reilly Media and is known for his pioneering work on RSS as well being the series editor of O’Reilly’s celebrated Hacks books…. [I] have always thought he was one of the smartest guys I know.

Smart, indeed. Incredibly talented, yes. And in possession of an insane amount of energy.

It’s a little known fact that the amazing—and highly lauded—services of Values of n were single-handedly conceived and managed by Rael with some help here and there. (But he did the bulk of the work.) Even with all the stress of running those services in parallel with a consulting business, he remains one of the most delightful and intelligent people in the Portland tech scene.

And the good news is, Portland is exactly where he’ll remain. Twitter can have his intelligence and guidance, but we get to keep him here. Which means Twitter wins, Rael wins, and we win. Win, win, um, win.

But don’t just take my word for it

This news was all over the tech scene on Monday. Here’s a quick smattering of posts that provide more details on the acquisition:

  • A fork in the road
    “I have taken an engineering position in the User Experience group at Twitter. I started consulting there a few months ago, and fell in love with the team, their way of thinking about things, and of course the product (my Twitter user id is in the low 100s). It turns out we worked incredibly well together, the feeling was mutual, and they pulled me in as a permanent member of the team.”
  • Twitter Hires Rael Dornfest, Shutters Values of n
    “Twitter just announced on the company blog that the company has acquired the assets of Portland, Oregon based Values of n and brought its well-known engineer founder Rael Dornfest on to the Twitter staff. Dornfest’s latest project at Values of n was an anthropomorphized personal assistant service called Sandy.”
  • Twitter Acquires ‘Values of n’, Adds Rael Dornfest To The Team
    “The primary goal of the acquisition appears to have been to bring Rael Dornfest to the Twitter team. Dornfest is the founder of Values of n and former CTO at O’Reilly Media, whose responsibilities also included editing the O’Reilly Hacks series. He was also the head of the RSS-DEV group, which created the RSS 1.0 standard.”
  • Twitter buys a company, closes it, keeps its founder/engineer
    “The micro-messaging service Twitter, fresh off its rejection of an offer to be acquired by Facebook, has turned around and made a purchase itself: A personal productivity and information management solutions company called Values of n, Twitter reports on its blog.”
  • Twitter Buys Start-up’s Assets; Hires Founder Rael Dornfest
    “Twitter grabbed headlines today after reports surfaced saying it declined a $500 million buyout offer from Facebook. Now, Twitter is making more news today by saying it has acquired the assets of Values of n, a company that developed a sticky-note application as well as a personal productivity app that works over e-mail, SMS, and the Web.”
  • Twitter Acquires Values of n (Makers of Sandy)
    “Judging by the lack of updates to Twitter I highly doubt that we’ll see any of the Values of n’s features integrated. I am devastated to hear they will be shutting down all their services as well.”
  • Rael Dornfest joins twitter; now this gets interesting
    “Now the man’s going to join forces with Ev Williams, Biz Stone and other smart people at twitter; my product development head is bursting with speculation about the cool direction twitter could go in (and thinking multiple products people, one at a time…). And of course the dude’s an engineer….”
  • Twitter says I want Sandy
    “These are two pretty cool products and I have been a fan of I want Sandy for a long time and it usually runs most of my calendering.”

While I’m sad to see Sandy go, I’ll eagerly await her return. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to Rael lending his intelligence, wit, and inimitable energy to Twitter.

Congratulations to Rael. This couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

And Sandy…? Call me.

WebWare 100 loves Sandy

SandyEveryone’s favorite anthropomorphic digital assistant, Sandy—the smartest hire Portland-based Values of n has ever made—is now even more popular, given that she’s been named as one of the WebWare 100.

I hope she’ll still take my tweets.

While much of Sandy’s personality has fallen by the wayside in the WebWare write-up, I’m including it for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Sandy:

[S]imply add “her” as an e-mail contact to get started. Sending Sandy an e-mail with a small message will have the system scan what you wrote and convert into an e-mail reminder or calendar appointment that will be sent back to you at whatever time you note. It also has been designed to work with the popular microblogging service Twitter, letting users remotely set reminders while away from their regular e-mail.

At first blush, Sandy appears to the only Portland type to get a nod, although Vimeo, whose Dalas Verdugo lives here in Portland, also received the honor of being named to the list.

If you happen to see a Silicon Forest based on company on the WebWare 100 winners list that I overlooked, please let me know.

Yes, yes. I’m asking you to help me out. I’d really appreciate another set of eyes. Go to it, cub reporter!

Twitter: 7 Silicon Forest creations that will improve your experience

Something dawned on me this weekend as I was watching the streams of Portland-based tweets stream across my screen. I think Portland may have more another “per capita” stat we can start quoting. I think it’s highly likely that Portland has more tweets per capita than any city in the US.

With all of these Twitter users and tweets flying by, it comes as no surprise that Portland and the Silicon Forest have created a number of cool side-project Twitter-related tools and views. I use a number of these tools every single day. And they’ve greatly improved the utility of Twitter—and the information it holds—for me. (Of course, as always, I also remain hopeful that some of these side projects have the potential to form—or at the very least inspire—full-fledged Silicon Forest startups.)

While I’ve covered most of these individually, I thought it might be wise to round them up for future reference. Both to highlight the work that is going on, and to hopefully, stimulate some more ideas for development.

In no particular order:

  • Pulse of PDX provides a view of Portland Twitter users and what they’re posting to Twitter. The best thing about Pulse of PDX? You don’t even have to be a Twitter user to use it, so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the proverbial Twitter water. Of course, once you use it, you may want to become a Twitter user.
  • Twitterwhere let’s you find all the Twitter users in a particular geographic region. Want to find all of the Twitter folks in Corvallis? What about Vancouver? Portland? And since the service provides a feed, it’s another “try before you buy” Twitter tool. Add the feed to your feed reader if you’re still debating whether to sign up for Twitter or not.
  • Tweetpeek allows you to create quick widgets and pages using the followers of a particular entity. Think Pulse of PDX for whatever you want. Create a Twitter entity, follow the folks you would like to include, and run it through Tweetpeek. Easy.
  • Ever wish you could see Twitter conversations in a threaded, rather than linear, format? Well, then Twitterthreads may be for you, my friend. Simply log into Twitterthreads with your Twitter credentials, and you’ll be able to see your
  • Heavy Twitter users will find times when they simply don’t see all the replies that were meant for them. And that’s where Portland’s Twitter Reply Sniffer comes into play. Use the tool to search for your Twitter name and you’ll see all the replies from all the folks who are interested in conversing with you.
  • I don’t use public transit as much as I would like, but when I do, NextTrimet has been a welcomed addition to my Twitter toolset. Simply follow NextTrimet (and wait for it to follow you back), then send your stop number in a direct message to NextTrimet and it will let you know when the next ride will be arriving.
  • Sandy isn’t a Twitter tool per se. But I have to tell you, since I discovered Sandy’s Twitter account, I’ve been working with her more and more. Like anyone else on Twitter, she’s cordial, intelligent, and helpful. And she’s helping me keep track of more and more things.

Wow. Portland and the Silicon Forest are definitely a Twitter.

Those are just a few of the cool tools built on and around Twitter that I’ve been lucky enough to find. I, for one, can’t wait to find more hometown-built tools that make Twitter even more valuable.

Have you built a cool Twitter app or found one that I haven’t listed? Please, by all means, let me know.

Sandy has more to want

Sandy, the anthropomorphic electronic assistant from Portland-based Values of n, has been brushing up on her skill set. And now, she’s ready to share some more of those skills with you.

First, Sandy now lets you share the love with your friends so you can collaborate on appointments and to-dos, just by letting Sandy in on your email conversations.

Staying organized with friends, family, and coworkers is effortless when I work with them, too.

  • send shared reminders (the movie premiere Friday night)
  • add stuff to each other’s calendars (the dentist appointment)
  • share a to-do list (get those to-dos done together)

…and so much more. No more fussing with different organizing systems and calendar applications — just bring me into the conversation and I’ll take care of the rest.

Second, for you getting-things-done, New-Year’s-resolution types, Sandy has added goals. I mean, Sandy already helps you get where you’re supposed to go in terms of meeting and tasks. But now, she can help you get where you want to go in life, as well:

[W]hat better way to keep your eye on the prize than to write it down and keep it front-and-center as you go about your day.

To that end, we’ve carved out a spot in your Daily Digest to add a goal, guiding principle, or inspirational quote that’ll appear at the top of your Digest email each morning and alongside your appointments and to-dos on your “Today” page.

To meet Sandy, visit I Want Sandy. For more on Sandy’s development team, see Values of n.

Irony: I want Sandy launches, and I need a reminder to cover it

Apparently, I need I want Sandy to remind me that I want Sandy has launched. (In my own defense, I follow both Sandy’s blog and the Values of n blog. But both were strangely silent about the release.) I just happened to stumble upon a Web Worker Daily post on I want Sandy as I was catching up on feeds.

So from the better late than never file…

Portland-based Values of n, makers of the popular Stikkit thinking sticky notes, have launched their latest application, I want Sandy, an anthropomorphoic personal assistant based on Stikkit technology.

Sandy was designed to work in conjunction with existing tools to help you remember what you need to do. Interacting with her is as easy as firing off some “Remind me…” emails.

Working with me is as simple as sending me email. There’s nothing to download, install, or configure. I live in your address book alongside everyone else you know and email.

You write to me at a special email address, get my attention with a few simple keywords, and I’ll take it from there.

When you tell me about appointments, to-dos, and contacts, my replies come with attachments you can click to add to your calendar, to-do list, or address book. You can even introduce me to your calendar so that everything you tell me shows up there automatically.

For more information or to sign up, visit Sandy at I want Sandy. Or see additional coverage from Mashable (sneakily hidden under the uri of “I want Sally”).

Is Sandy wrapping up her on-the-job training?

Messages in the ether suggest that there are more BETA applicants being added to I want Sandy, the Stikkit-powered, anthropomorphic email management tool being built by Portland-based Values of N.

While there are no apparent changes to the I want Sandy site or the Values of N blog, I’m hearing more and more mentions of additional BETA invites in circulation. Interesting, if only for the fact that these are some of the first mentions of Sandy I’ve noticed since June of this year.

Could Sandy be finishing her on-the-job training and getting ready to hit the work-a-day world?

More news as it becomes available.

[Update] I just happened upon some more I want Sandy coverage from Startup Squad.

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