It says a lot when Brian Oberkirch interviews a successful entrepreneur like Ted Rheingold of Dogster and Catster and Ted seems just excited about hearing what Brian has to say. Brian is that good.
So, who is Brian Oberkirch?
The About portion of Brian’s website describes him as “Social media consultant. Writer. Marketer. Dreamer & tinkerer.” Basically, to me, he is an idea factory. Forget about just social media and marketing, he has great ideas on tech subjects such as microformats and mashups, too. Brian does a series of interviews under the name “Edgework” and he recently rattled off three good ones in a row.
In the most recent episode, as I mentioned, he interviewed Ted Rheingold of Dogster and Catster. Dogster and Catster allow people to make web pages for their beloved pets. So, quite the community has grown around these pages. They talk about how the sites fill niche, passion-centric markets. General social networking sites don’t tend to do so well. It helps to have a common interest that the users rally around. Flickr revolves around photo sharing, for example.
MySpace started off as a site where users discussed unsigned bands that they were fans of. Now MySpace is far more general, but it is sustaining itself—probably because it is so damn ubiquitous. Facebook is now trying to do the same. They were a community that were bonded together by academia. You needed a .edu email address to be admitted. So, there was a sense of community because everyone had something in common. Now Facebook is letting more users in, and some existing users don’t like it. It will be interesting to see what happens there.
Before Dogster, Brian covered Kiva, a nonprofit founded by Matt Flannery. What is Kiva? Let me just let the site explain it:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.
There just aren’t many sites out there like Kiva… it’s a great idea. Not only community marketing, but community financing—for a cause. Kudos to Matt.
Finally, before those two episodes Brian talked to Chad Dickerson of the Yahoo Developer Network. The main topic was Yahoo’s Open Hack Day. Yahoo used to hold internal contests to see what types of cool hacks and mashups their developers could come up with. Recently, they opened it up to the outside world. Check out the winners here.
Brian provides a lot of great ideas about the mashup culture, which is nothing short of fascinating. To see more examples of mashups, check out ProgrammableWeb.
To find out more about Brian, check out an interview by Shel Israel on Naked Conversations. I recommend checking it out. One quote from that interview that stuck out to me was when he was talking about how old school marketers will need to be cognizant of the new school “unmarketing” techniques, though it will be a gradual process:
I know we talk a lot about dinosaurs and how everything is changing, etc., but I think it will be gradual. If you don’t eat well, keep smoking, never exercise, eventually that will catch up to you. Same thing will apply. You’ll be able to get away with it for a while, but there will be a tremendous opportunity cost.
I thought this exact quote could relate very well to what will happen if old school table-based web designers don’t pay attention to web standards.
Not to be bandwagonesque, but Jeremiah Owyang also recently had a post about Brian.
So, lastly… I need to ask a question. Brian… when are you going to write a book on all of this? Personally, I can’t wait.