Reid Hoffman, the Founder and CEO of LinkedIn, came to speak at our DVF seminar this afternoon. Reid was one of the first Symbolic Systems graduates at Stanford, meaning he had the pleasure of taking Philosophy 160A (and Phil 160B!). I bet he’d be shocked to know that the classroom of students taking 160A today fills up nearly all of Building 370’s classroom!
Reid was formerly at PayPal, where he led all of external relations for the company. It was interesting to trace his background from academia (he received his Masters of Philosophy from Oxford) to technology (eWorld, Fujitsu, Confinity/PayPal, Friendster, and now LinkedIn). The idea of social networking has been around for several years now (beginning with SixDegrees) and it’s starting to make news with the rapid growth of services like Friendster and Orkut. Unlike those two, LinkedIn is primarily focused on business networking. We debated in the seminar and afterwards whether or not these systems will truly be successful. They require that most of the members find some positive benefit from the system. In the case of Friendster (and possibly Orkut), it’s all about dating. For LinkedIn, it’s about networking, the ability to find potential employees and/or potential employees. The marketplace is only big enough for a few companies in this space (Reid believes the magic number is 5), and it will be interesting to see which ones make it through. Friendster is dog slow these days, while Orkut is fast (though it did have a few security holes that were patched up last week).
In development news, I’ve gotten Phlink to interact with Soybo and iTunes. A user can call up my PowerBook with a phone and search through my iTunes library for a song. That song would then be played back through the phone! The next step is to get the user’s recorded speech (i.e. prompted for by Phlink/Soybo) and have it be imported directly into a database. Next week!
Afterwards, I headed up to Emile and Zhenya’s place in San Carlos, where I hung out with Eric. The four of us went to eat at Hotaru in San Mateo. The sushi was pretty good, better than Blowfish. I seem to take a lot of photos of Japanese food. Perhaps it’s because it’s so well arranged on the plate!