Twingly Team Interviews: “We’ll see web pages being built with a mobile first approach”

Today we bring you our 8th Twingly Team Interview – an article series where we chat with Twingly employees about their time with us as well as about the past, current and future state of the web and blogging. This time we interviewed Kristoffer Forsgren, 28 years old, who is Interface Developer at Twingly.

When was your first contact with programming?
I think around the age of seven. At that time I discovered that the computer came with something magical called “Quick Basic” and a bunch of example games. Quite fast I started to investigate how I could modify parts of the code to get different kind of benefits. After following a few examples in a book my father had, I coded a program that allowed me to enter all the VHS movies we had and get them saved in a text file. To me it was very thrilling that it was possible to make the computer do basically whatever you wanted it to do. Then at the age of 11, I came across a “HTML school” in a computer magazine. The structure made a lot of sense to me, so I started to learn HTML straight away. My computer didn’t have a web browser, but I still enjoyed writing HTML. My interest grew even stronger a couple of years later when the family got an Internet connection, and since then I’ve been keeping on learning Javascript, CSS, PHP and so on. Later I decided to to study computer science and IT security among other things.

And when did you get in touch with Twingly?
Well, I guess it depends what you mean by “got in touch”. The first time I got to know about Twingly was as a blogger, a long time before I was hired. I joined Twingly back in 2008 thanks to a project called “Twingly Summer of Code“. We were a group of four people who set out on a journey to build a huge map tool to visualize the blogosphere. A bit like Google Maps, but with blogs instead of cities. When the project ended I was asked if I would like to stay. I said yes right away.

You say you heard about Twingly for the first time as a blogger. When did you start blogging?
That was in 2005. Originally I used a blog system I built from scratch, but after some time I made the switch to WordPress. To me the Twingly service was interesting, I liked the idea to connect bloggers and newspapers. That type of connections had been a standard among blog systems for a long time and it seemed like a natural thing to widen the areas where those connections could be made. Twingly seemed like a really nice company, and the Summer of Code project proved it to be that way.

Do you still blog today?
It’s been quite a while since I posted on my personal blog, and even longer since I wrote something on the blog I started back in 2005. I guess I really should sit down and get a few posts written, but it’s easy to prioritize other things. I do use Twitter, which is considered a microblog, so I guess you could say that I still blog… ; )

You are the Interface Developer at Twingly. What tasks does this role cover?
“Interface Developer” basically means that I code (and design) the front end stuff, the things you see in the web browser when you are visiting our site. That doesn’t exclude that I code other parts of our system as well, but mainly I’m coding away in the stuff our users see. Mainly I code HTML, CSS, JavaScript and C# / ASP.NET. But I do spend quite some time in Photoshop as well.

What have been the most fun projects for you during your time at Twingly?
It was a lot of fun to work with the Summer of Code project, we had a great time within the group and it was challenging to get things to work the way we wanted, partially because we where using early pre-release tools. Things could change and break as soon as we switched to a new version, which we had to in order to access a new feature we needed. It might have been a bit chaotic from time to time, but it never stopped being fun. Twingly Channels was also a really great project to develop, although it could get quite intense just before the release…

What are your thoughts on the future ob web interfaces? What kind of services or apps do impress you the most right now?
I believe that it will be more common that we’ll see web pages and services being built with a “mobile first” approach. Smartphones are basically becoming the standard phone, thanks to iPhone and Android. Since they have advanced web browsers it makes sense to make sure that web pages are as easy to use as possible when being viewed on such devices. I don’t think that it means the death of smartphone apps though, nor do I believe that desktop apps will be completely eliminated either.

Right now I’m pretty impressed by the growth of Instagram, but I do find it a bit odd that they still haven’t added any ability for users to browse their photos online. There are quite a few other web services for that, but I really do believe that Instagram should develop some way for users to interact through a web browser as well. Dropbox is also a service that amazes me. They have brought file syncing to the masses in a very user friendly way, and thanks to their API they have enabled sync opportunities to a lot of other apps. They managed to make my digital life far easier than it used to be.

If you could change two things of the digital world today with the snap of a finger, what would that be?
I’d like to see good export functions on all web services and apps. I want to be able to download my data (and have it in a sane format) at any given time. I would also add a unified API (yeah, utopia, I know) between different web services/apps. Imagine being able to connect your Flickr and 500px account to Facebook to have the photos being displayed in your photo album there, and at the same time having comments pushed back to the services you have connected.

Support your favourite blogs on “Pay a Blogger Day”, November 29

Twingy loves blogs, and we’d like nothing more than to see the blogosphere grow and flourish. That’s why we fully support the latest initiative of our friends at Flattr. The startup offering a social micropayments service for content producers and creative people has come up with the clever idea of a “Pay a Blogger Day”, a day when everybody is encouraged to support bloggers and to show them their appreciation.

Before you continue to read, please mark November 29 as “Pay A Blogger Day” in your calender.

We spoke to Andrus Purde from the Flattr team about how they came up with the idea and in which ways we all are encouraged to support bloggers on November 29.

Hi Andrus. Pay a Blogger Day is an initiative by Flattr, supported by a couple of other companies who are friends of Bloggers (among them Twingly). Can you explain how and why you came up with the idea?
We at Flattr are always looking for ways to make our service more useful for bloggers. In one brainstorming session we talked about that to really make a difference we need both, the “chicken and the egg”, so providing good tools as well as encouraging people to use them. From there it was a small and logical step to an awareness campaign that is now Pay a Blogger Day.

How exactly does it work, what do you want people around the web to do on November 29?
We want to inspire people to look for ways they can support their favourite bloggers: Look for the donation or Flattr button, buy an e-book or something via an affiliate link. At first on November 29, but in the future, why not every day?!

How are you going to raise awareness during the days leading to the 29th? Any ideas how you could make big news sites cover your campaign?
The payablogger.org minisite has some viral features built into it which have worked rather well. We’re also happy to have Twingly and other partners aboard that do spread the word. But perhaps the most important thing is that feedback from bloggers has been great, and they’ve been instrumental in getting the word out. That in a way is much more important than what big news sites say.

How many people do you think will participate globally? Do you have any figure in mind (even though of course this can’t be measured)?
If we see bloggers post or tweet that there were more donations and purchases on November 29, this has been a successful cause/campaign. And of course the more bloggers, the better.

It’s not a coincidence that Flattr is the company behind Pay a Blogger Day, since bloggers have been a main target group of Flattr from day one. Can you tell us a bit about what’s going on at Flattr? Any new features that you are going to release or ideas you are working on?
Pay a Blogger Day is not pure altruism. If more bloggers are successful in being supported by their communities, there’s a bigger market for Flattr to operate in. So it’s a win-win. Besides raising awareness about the need to give back to bloggers we are making it easier to discover flattrable content. We also want to make using Flattr become an even more social experience, and we have just released new partner tools, so adding Flattr buttons on community sites is now very easy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApeZoOsfb1g&w=500&h=315]

Impressions from the FOWA conference

In the beginning of October, we sent our Twingly team colleague Kristoffer to London to attend the Future of Web Apps conference, a 3 day event aimed at Web Developers and Entrepreneurs. Today he tells us what he thinks of the conference and if he would travel there again.

Hi Kristoffer. What are you working with at Twingly?
I’m the Interface Developer of Twingly, which means that I’m mostly building the stuff that our users interact with in their browsers.

In the beginning of October you travelled to London to attend the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference. Was this more of a Twingly “business trip” or a private trip that you would have made in any case?
It was a business trip on Twingly’s behalf. I probably wouldn’t have visited FOWA otherwise. I’m glad I decided to go since the conference was even better than I was hoping for.

Was it your first time at FOWA?
Yes. I was hoping for a nice conference with interesting talks, and I got that. Then I was positively surprised that there were a lot of spontaneous discussions going on all over the place.

What kind of hopes did you have, which speakers or sessions were you looking forward to the most?
I was really looking forward to listen to Scott Cachon from Github and Chris Coyier from Wufoo. Sadly I missed the first part of Chris’ talk, since it attended a very interesting discussion that started after Scotts’ talk. Scott was talking about the office culture at Github and he went through a lot of good practices regarding CSS.

Did you expect to learn anything new from the talks or was it more the general atmosphere and seeing those guys live on stage that you were looking forward to?
Well, I was for sure expecting to learn something from the first day, which was an “iOS Bootcamp” where we went through the basics of programming for iOS devices. For the the two days of talks on FOWA, I was hoping to learn things, mainly from the “non tech” talks. I know it might sound a little bit strange since I’m a developer, but as a developer you come across different resources regarding programming all day long in your regular work. Listening to talks about marketing in many ways offered more new knowledge.

Was there a speaker that managed to really surprise you? Somebody who said something that you even now, a month later, still remember?
I’d say that both, Scott and Chris who I mentioned above managed to make very strong impressions. Chris gave a very inspiring talk about CSS; I didn’t expect that level of energy on a subject like that. And it was very interesting hearing Scott talk about the culture on GitHub. A lot of the people in the audience, myself included, were surprised hearing that they had that level of “anarchy”. On the other hand, it did make sense when he explained it a little bit further. If you simplify it a lot it would almost boil down to “Make sure your employees are happy and good things will happen”

Did you collect and hand out a lot of business cards?
It was a lot socializing and interesting discussions in the breaks, but I didn’t exchange that many business cards. It might partially be explained by a somewhat tight schedule and that a lot of people left the conference quite fast at the end of the day.

The food of a conference can be a critical success factor. How was it?
After the workshop day I was a bit worried. For lunch there were only a few sandwiches – tasty ones, but I wouldn’t have settled for something like that on a regular day. However, I was not prepared for the amount of food we got on the two days of the conference. It was excellent. Everyone I spoke to during the lunch (which was a good time to chat around) was incredibly satisfied with the food. Usually it seems to be a weak spot on conferences, but the people at FOWA really managed to satisfy everyone. But I have to figure out if the Brits are that crazy about desserts as the meals on FOWA made me suspect…The desserts basically had the same size as the serving of the regular food… : )

If you would have to choose 4 international conferences you can visit during a year, would you choose FOWA again?
I would visit FOWA again in a heartbeat. It was that good!

“Because of social media, hotels are forced to deliver real value”

Björn Milton is one of the co-founders of Twingly. In summer 2010, he left the team to do something totally different: Open a hotel with his wife. We had a little chat with Björn about his exciting project and the changes to the turism industry caused by social media.

Hi Björn. You are one of the founders of Twingly. Now you are running a hotel on the Swedish Island Gotland together with your wife. How did that happen?
By accident really. In the summer of 2010 me and my wife Karin planned our wedding that was due to be held in the beginning of August. In July we found out that a property right next to where we have our house was up for sale. We went to have a look and decided that it had potential. We didn’t really know exactly what we wanted to do with it, but we decided to go ahead and ended up buying the property 1 day before our wedding. So there we were, owning a rather substantial piece of property, not really sure what to do with it.

Quite quickly we decided to build some kind of accommodation, and during the process the ambitions rose (as they tend to do) and we ended up with a hotel and a restaurant that we named Hotel Stelor. We completed the construction in 6 months and opened up for business in June 2011. Neither me nor my wife have any prior experience in the hotel or restaurant business so we have spent this first summer working really hard and learning loads of stuff. We’ve tried to share some of our experiences in our blog, Stelor Towers (only in Swedish unfortunately).

Do you miss working at an Internet startup?
When we decided to start the hotel business, I was really excited about doing something hands on, building physical stuff and connect with people in person and I still am today. Our hotel business is in fact run very much like a startup, building stuff in a short period of time, experimenting a lot and then rebuild the stuff that didn’t work out. We try to be very open with what we do and how we think and strive to surround us with people that know the things we don’t. I do miss the tech part of an Internet startup though and will hopefully get a chance to work more with technology soon again.

Your hotel is Sweden’s first that offers guests an iPad instead of a TV. What kind of feedback do you get regarding this?
The idea is that we want to offer our guests the best possibilities to take part in the the informational landscape. Hotel Stelor is very much about facilitating social interactions, both physical and digital. And the iPad plays an important role in that. The feedback from our guests has been overwhelmingly great. Most people like laying their hands on an iPad and our guests are not different. Sure, occasionaly guest have asked for the reason why we don’t have TVs in the rooms. But the most common reaction we get about actually not having TVs are positive ones.

What plans do you and your wife have for your hotel business? Any more ideas on how to combine today’s digital lifestyle with the tatmosphere of a 18th century building housing your hotel?
We have lots of ideas about how to develop our hotel business. Our focus is about building a place where meetings between people and sharing of information is the the main thing and we’re constantly trying to come up with ways that make that as easy as possible. We strive to use and develop technology that integrates deeply into the experience of staying at our hotel in a way that enhances it rather than automates it.

During your years at Twingly you saw the social web unfold and evolve. How can you use this kind of knowledge for your hotel business?
We make use of the social web a lot, communicating and getting feedback through a number of different channels. We work a lot with Facebook (http://facebook.com/hotelstelor) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/hotelstelor) and actively encourage our guests to share their experience through sites like Tripadvisor or Facebook Places. From having been part of Twingly and learning from how we’ve used the social web there, I feel I have a rather good sense of what works when communicating through those channels.

In what ways will social media change the hotel and turism landscape? Or won’t it?
I already think it has. The traveling business, being one of the world’s largest consumer industries, can’t ignore the power of the social web, although it has tried for along time. I think the industry as a whole has woken up at last. There are lots of tech driven startups popping up around this field and the big players are spending more and more money trying to harness the power of the social web. Some successfully and others less so, but the interest is there and it is there to stay. The biggest change we’ve seen so far is that people, in recent years, have started to share their experiences with each other on a big scale. This forces the hotels to deliver real value to their guests if they want to survive.

The technology landscape in the traveling industry has been very conservative for along time and is just now beginning to move. I think there are lots of opportunities in this field right now, both with regards to the social web and with technology in large.

What web trends do you think are the most exciting ones right now?
The cloud is truly becoming a reality. People have talked about it for years, but it is now at first that the concept of the cloud is being leveraged for real into both consumer and business products. Your services and your data can be accessed through any device at any time, freeing you of the need of having to worry about whether you have the right device with you or if you’re going to loose it. The only thing you have to worry about is having access to a good Internet connection. Which is of course provided free of charge at any reasonably forward thinking hotel : )


“Visiting a fair leads to new contacts – exactly like social media”

Stockholmsmässan is one of the world’s leading and most flexible organisers of meetings and fairs – and a Twingly partner. On any of it’s event-specific websites (e..g Formex), the company has embedded the Twingly Blogwatch widget which links to blog articles discussing the industry or topic relevant for the fair. Petra Rudberg is Digital Media Manager at Stockholmsmässan. We asked her a couple of questions about the importance of social media for public fairs and their upcoming platform relaunch.

Tell us about your experience with the Twingly Blogstream widget so far. What where your toughts when you decided to implement it into your websites?
Twingly offers us the chance to include our fairs visitors’ experience on our website. Fairs center around personal encounters and bloggers are generally good at describing those. We can give you lots of reasons on our site why you should come to one of our events, but many people prefer to hear objective opinions.

How important is feedback from the blogosphere for Stockholmsmässan?
Very important. We are following blogs within every topical sector where we run a fair. There is a lot of conversation surrounding any topic or industry we are covering with our events. Reading what bloggers say gives us inspiration and ideas how to develop and improve our fairs. In fact, bloggers are as important to us as traditional journalists and media, and we regularly invite bloggers to our events, giving them the same attention as we give to other media representatives. Bloggers are welcome to both our events and our press meetings.

Your websites are very appealing from a visual standpoint. Now you are in the process of creating a new concept for all your event-specific sites. Could you explain to our readers what the main goal and improvement will be?
Thanks, we are glad to hear that. The visual aspects have a high priority for us. The main goal with our sites is to give visitors an impression, a hunch what to expect at the event. People coming to one of our sites want to know who the exhibitors and participating organisations are, and what kind of products or services they offer. With the upcoming relaunch, we will put exhibitors into the spotlight. Another measure is to make our sites more interactive. Twingly Blogstream helps us with that, but we also plan to integrate closely with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The ideal situation is that everybody – visitors, exhibitors, journalists and bloggers can have a dialogue via our site.

Today, all your websites seem to be based on a similar template, but still look differently. Will you stick to that approach?
Yes. We run many different fairs with varying needs and context. Some cover physical goods (like Stockholm Furniture Fair), others services or knowledge. All have different requirements, hence we want to make sure they get a web presence which suits their needs and target group. With our new platform there will be even more ways to adjust and customize a specific event website.

In what way will you integrate Twingly into the new concept?
The Twingly widget will have a high visibility as it already has today. We hope we can show you parts of the new design in the beginning of December.

What are for you the most exciting trends within social media?
I’m glad that the initial social media hype has calmed down a bit. It’s not a competition about who has the most followers. The most important benefit is that we can have a conversation with people – like in our case with those interested in our events. I also find the mobile world pretty exciting, and how this brings social media to every aspect of people’s live. At Stockholmsmässan we are currently creating apps for our events. Visiting a fair is a social experience which often leads to a lot of new contacts – exactly like social media.

“The way we share and what kind of content we share will evolve”

The more content people publish on social media sites and blogs, the more important it is for companies, brands and organisations to monitor what’s being said about them on the web. There is a huge number of Social Media Monitoring services to choose from. Many are using Twingly data about the blogosphere, such as Sweden-based Lissly. We had a chat with Simon Sundén, one of Lissly’s co-founders, about what’s happening at Lissly, what’s to expect in the upcoming month and where he thinks social media is heading.

Please give us a quick introduction of Lissly. What’s the company background and what kind of services are you offering?
Lissly is a social media monitoring tool which you can use to monitor what’s being said on social media any keyword or phrase. We launched our tool in October 2010 and are based in Sweden. Lissly focuses on providing the best monitoring for local markets and languages, which often isn’t that easy with other tools and services. We worked hard to have the best data for Sweden and now we are expanding to other countries & languages in Northern Europe.

What are the main differentiation points of Lissly compared to other Social Media monitoring solutions?
We know the local market and offer monitoring for local languages, especially in Northern Europe. Lissly is also a very easy to use, we like to call it “Social Media Analytics for the People”. But of course you can always go in-depth and get detailed data.

Is there any feature that in your eyes is especially good or useful, that you want to highlight?
Of course everything in Lissly is awesome, but our Forum Monitoring as well as Related Words are some key features I personally like a lot! Currently we monitor a majority of all forum activity in Sweden, including the largest forums in Sweden as a total as well as within each niche. Related Words is a feature where you directly can see what related words & topics are connected to your keyword or project.

What is on the roadmap for the upcoming 12 month? Where is Lissly heading?
We strive to have the best quality on every single language in the Nordic region (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish) and plan to expand to other markets & languages. That also means that we will add a lot of new sources. Every language and country has its own important blogs, forums, social networks – we will allow monitoring of all of them. Other upcoming improvements include an iPhone app that we plan to release in autumn, enhancements to our API, features to show more information regarding each mention (retweets, shares, likes, views, ratings etc.) to better understand the social impact and better functions for bookmarks, notifications and mail reports.

You are using Twingly’s API to collect data from the blogosphere, so you have a rather good insight into the world of blogs ; ) What are your thoughts on evolution and future of blogs?
Yes, Twingly’s API is one of the sources we use to gather blogosphere data and we really like it. Concerning blogs: They have “survived” many years and I’m absolutely positive that they will continue to be an important part of the social web in the future. What will evolve is the way we share and what kind of information we share – with better mobile connectivity and easier services like Tumblr we will see a lot more of picture, video and other media type sharing than plain text. Much of the blogging today doesn’t happen on what we typically call a “blog platform” like WordPress, Typepad or Blogger but rather on video sites, sharing sites etc. We see a lot of video blogs on YouTube, picture blogging, sharing on Tumblr and so on – this is also blogging and I think that this will increase in the future.

Where do you see social media in 2-3 years?
In 2-3 years we will not talk about social media anymore but rather the social web. It’s already becoming harder and harder to find sites on the web that aren’t social. I have a feeling that we are moving towards a web where we increasingly will be dependent on our social identity. This will be the basic platform where all our social activities are tied together – you will use it to comment on sites, register for forums, play games and so on. We already see this today with services like Facebook and Google, but as more sites implement social functionality the amount of information connected to our social identity will grow.

“We will buy and sell products via Facebook in the future”

In the early days of the Internet, there was disbelief that consumers one day would want to buy shoes on the web. A lot of huge e-commerce sites focusing successfully on selling shoes have proved the sceptics wrong. Brandos is Sweden’s largest online shoe shop and uses Twingly to connect with the (fashion) blogosphere. We had a chat with Marie Segerberg, who is Country Manager Sweden at Brandos, and asked her about the importance of blogs and Social Media for the online shoe business.

Marie Segerberg, Country Manager Sweden at Brandos

What’s the background on the Twingly blogstream integration on your product pages? When and why did you decide to make this step?
Brandos is the largest online shoe shop in Sweden and we have a lot of nice shoes that fashion bloggers write about. Bloggers are important opinion builders that affect what people buy. Twingly helps us to show what those opinion leaders think about our shoes. And that’s also a good way for us to add more product information to our site. We launched the integration in January 2010.

Can you tell us a bit about the bloggers linking to your site?
It is mostly women that blog about our shoes and they have very different taste. We offer over 18.000 shoe models, so there is a lot to choose from. Many products go out of stock during the season, at the same time new models arrive. Hence the Twingly links are spread out over many different shoe models.

How do you react when a shoe you sell gets negative reviews on blogs?
We appreciate all reviews and try to learn from them to get better. If a product gets constructive negative reviews we always check the product thoroughly to see if the reviews are correct. If so, we add/change information about the model on our site. We answer on the blog post if possible, to show that we care and to tell the readers what we have done about it. If it is just an opinion like “Ugly!” we do not act on it, people are allowed to have different taste : – )

How important is Social Media in general and the blogosphere in particular for e-commerce?
Very important. We trust our friends much more than we trust companies. What our friends say about a company or a product affects our own opinion a lot. Through Facebook we get to share our opinions with friends all the time. Bloggers are very open with their private life and as people follow them for a longer time, they unconsciously start to feel like friends. Many fashion bloggers have higher impact than fashion magazines on what people buy.

In the past, many people believed that consumers would never buy shoes online, since it’s recommended to try shoes before you buy. But it seems as if those concerns were wrong. From your experience, what’s the best way to convince consumers to buy shoes on the web?
We try to get consumers to understand that you can still try before you buy, even if you shop online. Brandos always offers free delivery and free returns, so you can order as many shoes as you want and try them at home. We have 30 days open purchase and it is easy to send them back if you do not want them.

From Brandos’ perspective, what are the next trends within e-commerce?
We have already seen fashion bloggers opening their own shops on their blogs. I think we will buy and sell products via Facebook much more in the future.

Do you personally read blogs? If so, which ones are your favourites?
I blog for Brandos.se at Skobloggen and I read a lot of blogs. I try to scan the most important Swedish blogs that are likely to cover fashion and shoes to see what they are writing about and to get inspiration.

Privately I admire blogs that show us another side of life, for example Korrespondenterna, Läkare Utan Gränser (Medecins Sans Frontiers) from the field work and Unicef’s blog.

Twingly Team Interviews: “Automate as much as you can”

We have been doing our 8th Twingly Team Interview! This time we spoke to Oskar Skoog, one of our developers. Oskar explains which Twingly service has challenged him the most, which Internet phenomenons amaze him and how he stays informed on his areas of interest.

Please tell us a bit about who you are and how you came to Twingly.
My name is Oskar Skoog and I’m 29 years old. I’m one of the developers here at Twingly. I first found out about Twingly back in 2007. A friend wrote her thesis there. I was still studying computer science and had just started looking for a job. She suggested that I should send an email to Twingly. And here we are…

Why did you follow your friend’s advise to get in touch with Twingly?
It seemed like an interesting place, but honestly I didn’t know that much about the company before. So I’m glad I got called to the interview and got to meet Martin and Björn, two of the 4 co-founders, because that was when I got really interested in working for Twingly. The idea that Martin told me about was something like an European Technorati. At that time, neither Google nor Technorati were really good at blog search, especially not in Europe. So this is what later became Twingly Blog Search. We started developing the engine one or two month after I began working for Twingly.

Which of the other Twingly tools have you been involved with? Which one was the most exciting or the most challenging one?
I think I have been involved with more or less all of them by now. Today I’m the developer who’s been at Twingly for the longest time, but it’s also a small company, so you end up working with everything. The most challenging project was Twingly Channels, without any doubt; and possibly also the most exciting one, although I also really enjoyed working with the blog search.

Why was the development of Twingly Channels particularly challenging?
Due to lots of new technology at that time. The real-time web was new and there didn’t exist a lot of common knowledge to learn from. It was also quite different from our other products, especially in the back-end system, so we had to learn a lot of new stuff quickly.

What’s your biggest learning from almost 4 years of developing for Twingly?
It’s hard to think of anything specific, but if I had to say something I believe in, it would be to automate as much as you can. It both becomes easier to do it again and it works as kind of documentation of the process. I think most developers know that they should automate if you ask them, but the value of it might not always be that apparent.

What’s your take on how the Internet has evolved during the past years?
What amazes me the most about the past few years is how social media has grown and how it got such a huge influence everywhere. I’ve always loved using the Internet, but I think this has really changed how everyone perceive and use the Internet.

Which services or apps do you find particularly remarkable or ground-changing?
Facebook is perhaps an obvious answer, but their massive user base is incredible. Another amazing site, closer to the things I work with, is Github. Unless you’re a developer, you might never have heard of it, but Github has really changed how collaborating with code works in open source projects, by making it much easier and also more social.

How do you stay informed about programming techniques and other areas of interest?
Hacker News is a great site and community for tech and programming news. Most of the programming related blogs I read are quite narrow in their field and there are a lot of small good blogs. Some of the best, and also more popular, ones are Etsy’s Code as Craft, igvita.com, MySQL Performance Blog and Ajaxian.

After many years at Twingly, do you remember an occasion or event that made you especially happy?
Asking this just a few days after our awesome 5-year birthday party makes it hard to think of anything else… : – ) It was an amazing party. Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate with us!

Twingly Team Interviews: “We’re seeing a huge boost in our offerings for data clients”

It has been a while since our last Twingly Team Interview. So far we have published chats with five members of the Twingly crew. Today we are going to ask Twingly CEO Martin Källström a couple of questions. He offers some insights into the early days of Twingly and gives his outlook of what’s to come – both for Twingly as well as for the digital world.

Please tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up founding Twingly.
My name is Martin Källström and I’m the founder and CEO of Twingly. I have background in Computer Science and Technology. A few years ago Niclas, Björn, Figge and me launched Primelabs, the company that eventually became Twingly. The plan from the start was to do a lot of different projects to see what would “stick”, but Twingly happened to be successful enough for ending up being our one and only product.

Today Twingly offers quite a few different tools and services. But how did everything start?
Our first service was the Blogstream widget, which took about a year of development. We had to write the software that indexes the blogosphere and to create the technical environment in order to provide newspaper websites with our widget solution. The blog search engine followed, since we had all the data, so that was a logical step. With the launch of our blog search engine we introduced Twingly as a consumer facing product as well.

Do you miss coding?
Yes I do, although I enjoy they business side as well. When the abstinence gets unbearable I try to find the time to hack something. Twingly Liveboard for example is a Twitter dashboard I developed last summer when I needed get relief from abstinence of coding.

When did you start to pay attention to the blogosphere?
I actually had my first blog together with my wife in 2000/2001 or so, when we travelled in Japan and wrote down our experiences. Though after our trip I didn’t really stick to blogging (which back then really was in its early days), I first rediscovered blogs about four or five years later.

This month Twingly will celebrate it’s fifth birthday – half a decade! How would you summarize those years?
They were exciting and full of ups and downs, like probably most startups experience it. Often, ups and downs lie very close together. I remember attending the DLD conference in Munich once. There I saw Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, walked to him and pitched the Twingly blog search engine. He enjoyed it and said TechCrunch will likely cover it. A while later he informed us that it’s possible that they won’t have the time to write about us but yet a few hours later, they did anyway! Our concern wasn’t only whether we would be mentioned by TechCrunch but if everything would work smoothly, too. Fortunately, everything went well.

Do you think this kind of blog coverage is essential for young startups?
In my eyes, yes. TechCrunch published a couple of write-ups about us and it’s a great way to get noticed in Silicon Valley, the US and in most other parts of the tech world.

Today Twingly offers a variety of services. Which ones do you think have the most potential?
All of them of course ; ) But in the near future we will particularly focus on our Blogstream widget and make it even better for our Twingly partners who use Blogstream to connect with the blogosphere. Apart from news sites we are noticing an increased trend within the e-commerce sector to open up to social media, and we could welcome several new online retailers as Twingly partners, so this will be an area we’ll emphasize as well. Furthermore we’re seeing a huge boost in our offerings for data clients, e.g. media monitoring companies and other online services that are accessing our blog data.

Do you think we are seeing the peak of the current social media hype, or will it continue?
I’m convinced social media will be a big topic even in the upcoming years. People are increasingly surfing with their smartphones, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities, services and potential for all parties involved in the online business. I’m also expecting huge growth in the video and live video sector. YouTube was just the beginning.

Tell us about which online trends you are paying special attention to right now?
I’m pretty excited to see the change in the book sector. E-books are quickly becoming a huge mainstream phenomenon. That’s definitely a trend to watch. Furthermore, from a more technical perspective, there are lots of developments on the server side. Just think about cloud computing and how easy it has become for startups to launch without the need of any technical infrastructure (apart from a few computers and an Internet connection). A third trend I observe is the rise of powerful realtime technology which makes it possible to built new kinds of web services and applications without putting to much strain on the servers. I expect to see a lot of innovation built on top of this.

If you have two wishes for this year, which would that be?
My first one is a better investment climate in Europe. The US Internet sector is prospering again and there is a lot of capital available for innovation. Europe hasn’t really caught up. I hope that will change, maybe fueled by more acquisitions of the likes of Facebook, Google, Microsoft on this side of the Atlantic.
My second wish would be the emergence of another big player in the web world that doesn’t have its origin in the Silicon Valley but somewhere in Europe.

“The most exciting shift right now actually happens within children’s literature.”

Just a few days ago we announced that the two largest online booksellers in Sweden, Adlibris and Bokus, have launched Twingly Blogstream on their sites to show blog links. But another renowned company within the Swedish book industry made such a step already two year’s ago: Norstedts, Sweden’s oldest publishing house founded in 1823. The company runs both norstedts.se as well as rabensjogren.se (the country’s leading publisher of children’s books) and is putting a lot of emphasis on integration with social media channels.

Norstedts recently relaunched its websites and now more than ever highlights incoming blog posts. We spoke to Klas Fjärstedt who is the one in charge of Norstedts’ and Rabén & Sjögren’s digital media about this move.

You recently relaunched your site and put blog reviews about your books into an even bigger spotlight. Tell us about the thoughts behind that decision.
The Swedish blogs dealing with books are usually of very high quality. Linking directly from our sites to those bloggers reviewing our books can be seen as a clear sign of how much we appreciate and value the “bookosphere”, which is gaining importance. We want bloggers to know that if they refer to one of our books they’ll be visible on our main homepage, regardless of what they write, regardless of whether they praise or criticize a book. We think this kind of openess and transparency is important. We don’t select manually which blog posts will be visible.

The book industry is driven by new content. Older books vanish quickly from the spotlight. The books on our homepage usually are the latest releases. However, bloggers write about both current and older publications. It’s fun to see some older release appear back on our homepage simply because someone blogged about it. Bloggers are kind of in controll about a part of our site, which I think is exciting.

I also want to emphasize that we have been using the Twingly integration since 2009. As far as I know there is no other book publisher yet that has done this ste, and it’s only now that online booksellers seem to wake up. I think there is a lot of inspiration to gain from visiting our sites, and we are proud to be cutting edge.

Any other improvements on your site you find especially noteworthy?
The key criteria for our relaunch was added value, simplicity and openess. Those attributes are the foundation for what we do on the web, and there is a lot Twingly can give us in order to accomplish our goals. We also reworked out design, everything looks much clearer now. On rabensjogren.se we built new templates in order to present the children’s books’ characters in a more vivid way, like here. On norstedts.se we have new templates to present book series, e.g. here.

What’s the impact of social media on the book business?
It’s huge. There is a lot of online conversation about books, and our goal is to participate in that. We want to make it as easy as possible to blog about our releases, to bring our content to other sites (by offering a HTML code for embedding book covers) and to share it via Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. We know that a recommendation by a blogger for a book has a lot of impact on the purchase decision – often it has more weight and a higher conversion rate than advertising. Bloggers invest a lot of time to review our books and most of them are quite ambitious, thus there is a big benefit for our customers to read those postings.

Can you compare the “bookosphere” to the fashion blogosphere?
I’m under the impression that in Sweden books and fashion are the two most popular topics people blog about. They want to express their opinions and feelings about books!

These are exciting times, even books are going digital. What are your thougths on the future of books, and which ways do you see to bring the traditional book and the digital world together?
Fictional publications will move towards e-books. We already publish many of our releases digitally. Regarding children’s books we see an interesting trend towards applications, creating interactive versions of book content. The most exciting shift right now actually happens within children’s literature.

Do you personally read blogs? Which ones are your favourites?
Yes I do, and my main source for recommendations are the people I follow on Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic knowledge channel!

Here is Klas on Twitter.