PikSpot wants to help tame the Wild West

For my “Ingram 2.0” column last week, I wrote about a Toronto-based social-networking startup called PikSpot that is designed to help create communities of interest, and has launched with two groups based on Leo Laporte and Chris Pirillo’s UndoTV and Don Tapscott’s book Wikinomics. I thought I would reproduce the piece here for those who might have missed it.

When it comes to Web-related ventures, Scott Waddell is not your typical twenty-something, working on a MySpace clone while doing his undergrad degree — in fact, he’s pretty close to being a veteran. He was involved in several early Internet companies in the mid- and late-1990s, including iRover, a content-management system for Internet service providers. He also helped pioneer the use of streaming video for sites like Accuweather and MSN, long before YouTube came along.

Mr. Waddell’s latest venture, with partner Geoff Norton, is called PikSpot.com, a social-networking hub that can be used by groups, companies or individuals as the engine behind their community. While “Web 2.0” sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and so on tend to be focused on the type of content that users are sharing — Flickr for photos, YouTube for video, MySpace for blogs, etc. — PikSpot is designed to handle all of those, but is more focused on helping to create communities, regardless of what kinds of content are involved.

“PikSpot is all about collecting, organizing and promoting user-generated content,” Mr. Waddell said. “It’s designed to create niche communities based around shared interests — whether that’s funny videos or knitting or cars — and letting people publish and share their content with others in an organized kind of way.”

Kim Robinson, an investor who is also chairman of PikSpot’s parent company Wired Kingdom, says the site helps turn the “Wild West of the Web into a more organized set of collaborative communities,” one that even companies wouldn’t hesitate to use for internal communication and teamwork.

At the moment, PikSpot is in invitation-only “beta” mode, which means you need a special code to get access. The site — which Waddell calls a “platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration” — launched this week with a special demo/preview event, and will be releasing invitation codes over the next month, with the launch of an open beta in the new year. After just one or two mentions on prominent blogs, PikSpot got 25,000 visitors to the site and about 10,000 sign-ups.

Although anyone will be able to create a new group once PikSpot launches its open beta, the site currently consists of several pre-loaded groups that anyone is free to participate in — by either viewing content, “voting” on that content by clicking a button marked “kudos,” or by posting and/or uploading their own comments, photos and videos using PikSpot’s built-in tools.

One of the groups that has been created is called UndoTV, and it is designed as an online home for former hosts and fans of a popular TV show called TechTV, which was hosted by Leo Laporte, Chris Pirillo and Kevin Rose, among others (Kevin Rose went on to create the popular social-media tool Digg.com). Leo Laporte and several other partners in his podcasting and TV empire, including Amber MacArthur — who used to host the TV show Call for Help with Leo and now works at CityTV — have already uploaded their video and audio clips to PikSpot.

Chris Pirillo, who runs a website called Lockergnome and a popular U.S. technology conference called Gnomedex, said that he and Leo chose PikSpot because it was the best engine they could find for the kind of community they wanted to set up around UndoTV.

“Some people suggested that we just post to YouTube, or simply set up a single page of links that point off to everybody’s respective corner of the Web,” he said in an email interview. But that wouldn’t have helped the community aspect of UndoTV come together, Mr. Pirillo says, so they kept looking, and eventually found PikSpot and started working with Scott.

“We took a leap of faith and entrusted the immediate future of UndoTV with their yet-to-be-proven platform,” he says. “I sent them list after list of feedback, and their team was overwhelmingly responsive and open – further underscoring my faith in them.”

Group members will be able to upload video using PikSpot’s tools, and can even record a video message or comment using just a webcam, which the site stores and posts automatically on the fly. Once uploaded, the creator of a video can add keywords, and can even tag specific spots in the video stream so that Web browsers can go directly to that point. Each site and user has an RSS feed, which makes it easy to get updates whenever someone changes or updates the content on the site.

Much like YouTube, videos from a group on PikSpot can be easily embedded in a webpage or blog with a simple line of code, and Scott Waddell points out that any information about the stream — including the tags and reference points, as well as any permission to download — go with it wherever it is embedded.

The other major group that PikSpot is launching with is based around a new book that Toronto-based technology author and consultant Don Tapscott is working on, called “Wikinomics,” which is about how social networks such as blogs and wikis can be used by companies. The final chapter of the book will be put together via a wiki, Mr. Tapscott says, and he is hoping that the community that comes together through PikSpot will have other thoughts and ideas to contribute to the book.

“This is not just social networking where you meet someone online and have a date,” the author said in a recorded message played at the preview event. “This is mass collaboration… peer-based collaboration and value production.” PikSpot’s structure enables the creation of “interest-based communities” that are focused on “rich media content,” Mr. Tapscott said. He and his co-author will be posting their thoughts on the topics raised in the book, and “we’re going to invite people to contribute things that they see as valuable.”
“When I was planning [the book], I wanted to create a state-of-the-art mass collaboration — practicing what we preach in the book,” Mr. Tapscott said in a follow-up email interview. “My options were really to use a wiki or blog. I’ll still be using wiki tools, likely Socialtext for the final chapter — which is a wiki (The Wikinomics Playbook). But Pikspot takes this to a whole new level.” The author added that the approach is designed to be “very much in the spirit of the book’s central idea — that the new Web drops collaboration costs, enabling a new mode of production to occur.”

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