“All changes should make things better”

To create great products for our users and clients, we need the best developers. Recently, two new hires have joined the Twingly development team. You already “met” Magnus Hörberg. Today, you can learn a bit about our latest addition to the team, Johan Eckerström.

Hi Johan. Please introduce yourself.
I’m a 26 year old guy originally from the Swedish town of Norrtälje, but for the last six years Linköping (where Twingly has its headquarter) has been my hometown. I still think of myself as a student, even though I quit studying and started working almost a year ago.

Why did you quit studying?
Well, I simply got tired of it and wanted to get practical experience instead. So I joined a small consulting company here in Linköping. We worked on customer specific software systems. It was great fun but I’ve always wanted to work on an in house product. So when I heard that Twingly was hiring I got excited, since Twingly has several products and great knowledge how to handle lots of data. I thought it would be a great fit.

So handling of data is your special area of interest?
Yes, I get the most satisfaction from software development when I’m building software that refines data and produces some kind of result that can help humans learn more or process more information. Writing something that can handle data in a smart way or at a scale that isn’t possible for a human is a lot more interesting than just automating simple tasks.

When did you start to become fascinated by data?
I think it all started when I learned to program a computer. I wasn’t really into computers and software until I was around 15, when I discovered Unix systems. Shortly after reading about Unix I installed OpenBSD. Once I got exposed of the Unix environment I got really interested in programming and what you can get the computer to do. From there it was a very natural step to work with data and think about what you can do with it. One of the first actual useful programs I wrote was a small manager for my digital photographies. Since I’m a very enthusiastic photographer I get loads of image files, so I needed something to analyze and sort the data. It was pretty basic and just used the EXIF data but still it helped me manage loads of files. At the university I worked on a few projects outside of the curriculum for student organisations, and I learned a lot from building those systems.

Do you still work with own projects?
I probably start a new project every week, but only a handful ever get completed during a whole year. : ) It’s mostly small tools that helps my everyday life. Like analyzing my inbox for digital receipts and summarize my costs in a spreadsheet, or an SMS service that can aggregate what the nearby restaurants menus have to offer and help me decide what to eat for lunch. I’ve stopped trying to build software for my photos since Aperture and Lightroom do such a great job helping me to manage it.

At Twingly, what tasks will you focus on?
I’m primarily a backend developer so everything behind the scenes. All members of the development team here at Twingly are working with both development and operations. One of the great benefits of working at Twingly is that the tasks are so diverse. During a work day I might be deploying new servers, make infrastructure changes for the systems and develop new features for our products. We have a lot of interesting projects planned for 2013, there will be lots of changes made to the infrastructure and to support new features for our customers.

What motivates you the most, what helps you to find the best solutions and creative ideas to solve problems?
My primary motivation is that of the end user, I want to build services that help others to do their business and simplify their workflow. All changes should make things better, and this applies to the software I write, if the solutions are small and elegant, I can more easily make changes and improve the experience for the end user. Since we are a small team it’s very easy to use different tools and find the right tool for the job. I prefer to discuss the hard problems during a cup of coffee with my peers, to find new angles to attack the problem. I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from following the developer community on GitHub, I try to read all technical articles I can get a hand on. Even if it has nothing to do with the work I’m doing right now, it always comes in handy in the future.

How will the web look like in five years? and how will that influence your work as a developer?
I hope the web will continue evolve as it has during the last five years. I sincerely wish that the standards for making web sites will keep evolving and that the browsers and tools will evolve in a coherent way, since that would make my work easier. : ) As for new services and sites, I think that the HTML5 standards will enable people to build a lot of awesome products that haven’t been possible in the past. As for my work as a developer, I will be able to build new solutions that are even more useful and easier to use. I have great hopes for the future on the web!

Twingly Team Interviews: “I want to know if a new technology can make my life easier”

Recently we could welcome a new developer to our team: Magnus Hörberg. And as it is our tradition with new employees, we did an interview with him to tell you a bit more about him.

Hi Magnus. Tell us about about you.
I am 24 years old, and I grew up in a small Swedish village called Dillnäsby, south of Stockholm. I recently joined Twingly as a developer, before that I worked at a consulting firm. During the past weeks I have made myself familiar with the different IT systems that Twingly needs for its operations to run.

magnusWhen and why did you learn to code?
All my life my family had computers at home. My father worked as a traveling sales man when I was young, but he didn’t enjoy that too much. So he taught himself how to create simple computer programs. Eventually he was able to quit his job and start his own consulting business. Seeing what was possible with programming skills I got inspired. After the military service back in 2008 I myself began to code.

How did you learn it? By experimenting?
Yes, reading, testing and evaluation. I learned the basics during my studies of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, but personally I think our current school system isn’t really suited to teach full scale application development. Too much is happening too fast for the education system to keep up. You can learn the basics in school, but not enough time is devoted to the subject. At least not at my program. So basicaly you have to sit at home at night and develop your own projects to grow as a developer.

And you are never finished learning, right? Today’s programming knowledge will probably be outdated in a couple of years. How do you keep yourself updated?
Absolutly, it’s very easy to become lazy and start to think “I know enough to do my job, I don’t need to learn that new thing.” But if you meet up with other developers over a few beers and discuss problems you have in your projects, almost always someone will have read an article of a new solution that you can discuss and try out. Also, Hackernews is a great source for new stuff and general thougths on software development. Basicly I think it comes down to curiosity. I want to know if a new technology can make my life easier.

Do you remember you first coding project?
I’m not sure. It could have been a photo album application for one of the student associations I’m a member of. But I never finished that. The first project I finished calculated the inbreeding coefficient of a individual given its family tree.

What is the most exciting part of developing for Twingly?
I would say it’s the amount of data and the amount of development the company currently is going through. And the challenges in renewing an old technology stack. All code always has a debt coupled with it.

What’s the best approach in your eyes to solve that? Rewriting everything? Or just fixing the parts that need to be renewed?
Small incrementing steps. You can never and should never try to fix all problems at once
but if you continually do small improvements you will evolve.

You mentioned the amount of data. There is a lot of talk about big data, many say it’s one of the biggest trends right now. Do you agree?
Absolutely, when storage is so cheap there is no excuse not to store information. You never know when it might come handy.

Apart from big data, which other trends do you see for the near future regarding web technology and trends in development? Is there anything you are especially looking forward to?
Well it’s a couple of things. One is the new mobile OS that Mozilla is developing, the other is the WebRTC effort. Enabeling a developer with relative ease to develop video chat application and stuff like that is really exciting. Also companies as Github and Heroku make a huge impact on how we develop software.

On a Friday evening, do you already look forward getting back to coding on Monday?
Absolutely. But I don’t even need to wait until Monday since I have some own projects I am working on during the weekend.

Twingly Team Interviews: “Twingly’s client list says a lot about the quality of its products”

It has been a while since we published our last Twingly Team interview. Time to pick that little tradition of ours up again. This time we asked a couple of questions to Lorina Eldib, who recently joined Twingly as account manager. She explains what drives her motivation, which kind of blogs she reads and how she plans to incentivize her colleagues to give their best at work.

Hi! Please introduce yourself to the readers.
My name is Lorina, I am 27 years old, living in the Swedish town of Norrköping, about 160 km south of Stockholm, and I recently joined Twingly as account manager. After school I learned to become a florist, but rather quickly ended up working with sales instead of flowers. First within the event sector where I became project manager and was in charge of 12 sales people, then at a company offering survey and analytics services. I was the accout manager for about 100 clients, from small-sized companies to big corporations such as Volvo.

Lorina and her daughter

…and then you heard that Twingly had a vacancy?
Exactly. My old boss pointed me to the open position at Twingly, which sounded like it would suit me perfectly. He knows Twingly’s recently appointed CEO Peter Bláha so after I told him that I was interested, he let Peter know. Peter called me and asked me to send my CV. And here I am.

What was it that made you curious about Twingly?
Exciting clients from many different sectors. As an account manager it’s always fun to deal with renowned companies and brands, and it says a lot about the quality of the products Twingly offers.

If you could chose, do you prefer to work with a hundred different clients at once or rather with a smaller number?
I think for an account manger it’s desirable to work with a limited number of clients which you really can focus your attention on.

How familiar are you with the blogosphere?
I’m not a blogger myself but since I love to bake together with my daughter I read a couple of baking blogs to find inspiration and to understand whether the ingredients and tools I plan to buy are of high quality. I usually purchase these online which means that I can’t touch them. Bloggers help me to ensure to have a great baking experience and to create delicious pastries.

Which are your favourite baking blogs?
Passion 4 baking and sotasaker.com (unfortunately not available in English).

I’ve seen you carrying an iPhone around. What are your favourite apps that you really don’t want to be without anymore?
Runkeeper, Facebook, LinkedIn, SEB, Spotify, Twitter, Säljstöd (Salesforce).

How do you use that sales app?
Considering that I don’t have the world’s best memory it helps me to get immediate access to all the client information when I need it – even when working remotely.

Does that happen often?
Yeah quite often. I work from the train, from the bus, sometimes from home…

What’s your personal career goal at Twingly?
Like any passionate and ambitious sales person I want to be at the top of the internal sales ranking. Furthermore I’m looking forward working internationally as well as coaching new sales personnel.

Can you colleagues expect to be surprised with baked goods when reaching their targets?
There is a chance ; )

But if the Twingly team from now on will be supplied with cookies and cake on a regular basis, maybe you should introduce a weekly gym day as well…
Well, we have Peter as our personal trainer. He’s still pretty much into Rugby and tries to get us excited about the sport, too.

Twingly currently has more sales vacancies. Do you think people need to have a strong web background to be able to become great account managers at Twingly?
I don’t think so. Most of the things you can learn “on the job”. But of course it can be an advantage to already know the industry.

Who is Twingly’s new CEO, Peter Bláha?

Last week we announced that Twingly Co-founder and CEO Martin Källström has made the decision to leave his role after six years on duty. Today we want to give you the chance to learn a bit more about Martin’s successor, Peter Bláha, who is our new CEO.

Before you read our short interview with Peter in which he gives some insights into who we his and how he plans to develop Twingly, here are a few facts about him. Peter is 34 years young, a graduate engineer in data technology and he joins Twingly after 7 years of extensive sales experience in his last position as Director of Sales at the Swedish Network Provider IP-Only. Peter is married and he has 2 daughters as well as 2 dogs. You can follow him on Twitter or on his blog – just don’t be surprised about the huge cover photos there. You will get background information on that if you carry on reading here!

Hi Peter. You leave the business-to-business telecom industry to lead a company working with social media and blogs. That’s kind of a big change, isn’t it?
True, but that’s also my intention: After having worked with selling data communication infrastructure and telecom services to large companies for seven years I felt the time was right for a new challenge. I have always been interested in the media sector and social media is an important and growing part of that. That’s why I consider Twingly a great opportunity for me to get to know another industry. It’s a new challenge, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.

Peter and Zoe

Is it the first time you are the CEO of a company?
Yes, although my team at my previous job consisted of 5 people, now at Twingly it’s 8. So that’s not a huge difference concerning management.

You have lots of sales experience. Will that background shape your work at Twingly?
Yes, one of my goals is to make Twingly a more sales-driven company and to focus even more on developing products and services that our customers, like websites using our Twingly widgets as well as clients working with our blog data APIs, ask for.

What does that mean for bloggers who always have been at the heart of Twingly’s interest?
We love bloggers. They don’t need to worry at all. Since 2006 Twingly has been developing its technological basis and services. Now that most of it is in place, we can focus increasingly on selling services to our clients. But it is equally important to us to come even closer to the blogosphere, which is why we recently bought the Swedish blog portal Bloggportalen. The math is simple: If we increase the number of partners who use Twingly widgets, bloggers have more websites that they can link to and get traffic back in return. It’s a win-win situation.

Speaking about Bloggportalen: What can bloggers in Sweden expect?
We will improve its looks and make it easier to use and easier to register. We are also going to add new features for bloggers. Bloggportalen will be the place where bloggers increase the traffic to their blogs.

What else will happen at Twingly in the near future?
In addition to Sweden, Twingly is active in 16 different countries. We will put more effort into expanding our current business into foreign markets and we want to do that in the same effective way as in our home market. Germany and UK are top priorities and we are also going to analyse whether there are other countries that should be of interest to us. In those markets the priority will most likely be our blog data business, while in the Nordics we will heavily continue to push our widget services as well as develop Bloggportalen.

How are you as a leader?
I’m direct and honest, prefer low hierarchies and try to inform as much as possible. The more information the better.

Unlike the telecom b2b industry, the social media sphere is pretty public, both regarding praise and criticism. How will you deal with that?
Since I have participated in a Swedish TV show called “Gladiators” I have experience with receiving public feedback, both the good and the bad. I always try to answer criticism instead of ignoring it.

It doesn’t happen that often that the CEO of an Internet company (or any company) has been a “Gladiator” on TV…
Hehe, that might be true. I participated in the Swedish adaptation of the US entertainment show “American Gladiators” in 2004, and for the current season the producers called me and asked if I want to apply again. Since last time was lots of fun and I love everything that has to do with competition, I applied and got picked again. The whole program was filmed in a period of 3 weeks, so it doesn’t interfere with my new role at Twingly.

And you can deal with the occasional Gladiator remark you hear when talking to clients?
It’s a perfect ice breaker and eases up meetings a lot : ) !

Do you have another hobby you are passionate about?
Yes, 17 years ago I discovered my passion for Rugby, and today I play for the Stockholm-based first-division Rugby club Hammarby IF RF as well as for the Swedish national team.

Can you somehow use your Rugby and Gladiators experience for your professional life?
Well, the Rugby rules are hard to apply at work. You don’t tackle your clients or co-workers. But since I have been manager of a Rugby team for a few years, I learned a lot about how to coach 25 guys with very strong opinions. That experience naturally can be useful on the job, too. And through the Gladiators show I gained media training, which might come handy in some situations as well.

Will you get your Twingly colleagues to play Rugby?
Only if they like to : ).

Where do you want Twingly to be in the end of 2013?
My goal is that in the end of 2013, Twingly will be known to have the best quality and area coverage of blogs in Europe, and that any company which needs to get deep knowledge and understanding about the European blogosphere knows that Twingly can deliver that. Furthermore, I want Bloggportalen to be the heart of Swedish blogosphere.

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.

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.

Twingly Team Interviews: “Blogging will become even bigger”

It’s time for another Twingly Team Interview! Today it is Anton Johansson‘s turn, the youngest member of the Twingly team who however managed to be the employee who has stayed with the company for the longest time (apart from the founders). Anton describes what’s so special about working for an Internet startup, explains why he thinks blogging will become even bigger than it is today
and reveals which web trends he currently finds particularly fascinating.

Some of the readers might know you, but please tell us who you are anyway.
I’m Anton Johansson, a happy young guy from Linköping that loves music, dark beer and to talk (which I’m pretty good at). I started my first blog in 2004 and have since then been writing continuously about trends, startups, tech & media. My Twingly journey actually started via blogging. Martin Källström emailed me and a couple of other Swedish media blogs to get some feedback on the Blogstream idea. I kind of ditched the concept (luckily he didn’t listen) but since he understood that I was living in Linköping, he asked me to come up for a cup of coffee. On that first meeting they asked me to work for them and yes, that’s what I still do 🙂

When was that?
In 2006, pre-launch, and I was the very first employee after the founders. I’ve always been the youngest guy at the office (still are!) but one of the oldest in terms of how long I’ve worked for Twingly. It’s still an amazing journey to be part of!

And you directly agreed on working for a startup?
I was still in school when Twingy hired me but I started to work per hour immediately. There aren’t too many people interested in startups, media and blogging in Linköping (not in 2006 and still not too many in 2011) and not too many startups either, so it was a great match between us. The first year I mostly worked with blogging and PR but became more and more involved in all parts of the company afterwards.

You say you ditched the idea of Blogstream. Today that’s one of Twingly’s most successful and revenue generating products.
Haha yes I was obviously wrong. This was pre-launch and Blogstream wasn’t developed, they didn’t even had a demo. As I said, luckily they didn’t listen to me. Blogstream is a great product, concept and idea.

You have been with Twingly for more than 4 years. That’s a pretty long time in today’s fast paced Internet business.
When you join a startup in such an early stage the company, the products and the brand becomes a big part of yourself. But most important are of course the people. I really love to work with the whole team. I learn a lot every single day, have a lot of fun and love our customers, products and ideas. Martin gives me a lot opportunities all the time and I really believe in the awesome products we build.

Your official title says “Product Strategist”. What is your exact role nowadays?
When people ask what I do at Twingly I usually say that I “do all the fun stuff”, which is kind of true. I’ve never really had a precise role at Twingly, I’ve been working with all parts of the company even I’ve had different focuses during different time spans. My title “Product Strategist” or “Business Developer” means that I try to come up with great ideas for new products, analyse the ones we already got and develop business models, sales channels and products. But as I said before, I’m involved in more or less everything. I also work a lot with PR, design and support. Basically, I’m doing everything except coding.

What kind of projects or tasks have you been involved in recently?
I’ve been doing wire frames and design sketches for a new product, market segmentation and PR for the updated Twingly Channels.

You mentioned “awesome” products. Which Twingly tools are you personally most enthusiastic about?
My focus right now is to find a more scalable, light-weight, easy-to-use product that we can sell via self-service or at least without the 2-3 months sales processes we’re having today. But if you look at our portfolio of products we’re very successful in the higher end of the scale, with quite heavy products for big corporations. There’s a lot of opportunity there too, especially if you look at social media enterprise products and we might focus on that in the future as well. It’s fun right now. A lot of opportunities. Great ideas. Many things to come.

That sounds as if Twingly’s enterprise products have a very high priority compared to the consumer focused ones. Is that true?
Our enterprise solutions have always been prioritized. We have some of Europe’s largest brands as customers. They need support. But it doesn’t mean we don’t work with the consumers in focus, they’re the ones using our products in the end. Blogstream, our most successful product so far, is a way to get bloggers noticed. We work closely and hard with bloggers all day long. Still, we are mainly a business-to-business company, our products are b2b oriented. That’s how it has been since the early days. But our free services is a way for us to get traction, better data, new customers and new opportunities. We don’t even have ads on Twingly.com, so the b2b products are currently our only business model.

You have been a passionate blogger back in 2006 and you probably still are. What are your thoughts on the future of blogging?
Yes, since I’ve worked closely with the blogosphere and the blogging phenomena for a long time I’ve seen a lot of trends and changes over the years. When I started it was a few hundred blogs in Sweden and nearly all of them were connected in some way. Today there are hundreds of thousands of blogs only in Sweden and blogs are a natural way of sharing thoughts. It’s pretty much mainstream and even my grandmother understands the concept and possibilities with it. But it’s also the most heavy type of social media, which means that blogging will never be for everyone. Not in the way Facebook and Twitter are for people today. On the other hand, blogging has proved to be a very valuble media type for so many different purposes. It’s open, flexible and is in some ways more of a standardized media type than social networks. You can’t block all blogs in for example #egypt, but you can block Twitter. That’s a huge difference.

I really think blogging will become even bigger than it is today, on many different levels. What comes after Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress and blog search? It’ll be a lot of innovation in the upcoming years now when blogging are mainstream and not a hype.

Name some web trends that fascinate you right now.
There are many but to name a few:

1. Filtration and assortment of contacts: How do you manage thousands of close, loose and professional contacts? What happens when you in the future have an updated contact list of friends from all way down to when you were a child? What social possibilities will it lead to, and how will the social networks handle it? This is a huge question in my generation (born in the 80’s) right now.

2. Touchscreens and all the new cool interaction design those will bring to the world

3. Realtime comments on all sites, not just Facebook and Twingly. When comments and discussions happen in realtime, it will make everything become a social object in a new way. It will create changes and new opportunities in everything from news to events.

If you would have 3 wishes for Internet-related news or innovation in 2011, what would those be?
I actually already have seen a personal Internet innovation wish coming true in 2011: Greplin, a new cool search startup, has recently launched a search for ME. Their search engine indexes my social networks, Dropbox, email etc and gives me a search tool for my own web history. That’s a great innovation in search. Two other things I also hope for are that The Beatles and AC/DC should become available on Spotify.


What would you do if you have 24 hours totally disconnected from the web?
It actually happens once in a while ; ). I love to read books, hang out with funny friends and to play badminton. But if i could choose I would probably just partying like crazy with some even crazier friends in a cool city in Europe. Right now I’m in love with London and the Ryanair prices to go there…

You can follow Anton on Twitter here.

Twingly Team Interviews: “Social Media has yet to solve major global problems”

Today we continue our series of Twingly Team Interviews. Pontus Edenberg is Business Development Director, came to Twingly in 2007 and has a background in the music industry. Among other things he explains the main difference between the music business and the Internet startup world and describes the next challenge for social media.

Hi Pontus. Tell us about yourself and what you do at Twingly.
I’m 37, started my first company when I was 17 (my dad had to sign the registration forms). I have run several small companies, mainly within the music sector. In 2000 I was one of the founders of several websites, among them HitQuarters which was at that time the largest directory of people working in the music industry. After that I was employed by a Swedish company supplying US newspapers with different crossword and sudoku services for their websites. We also arranged an Online Sudoku World Championship with the final in London.

One day in spring 2007 I read a story about Twingly and a deal they had done with a South African newspaper. I called them and few days later I had my first day at the company. Today I work with business development. I try to combine the needs of our customers with our assets (products) with the goal of offering solutions that are as beneficial as possible for our customers.

What was your pitch to Twingly that convinced them to hire you?
From my experience with US newspapers I was pretty convinced that I could help Twingly to develop their business, so I called them and said something like “You probably need help in getting media companies as customers. I can do that!”

Did you keep that promise?
I think so… ; ) Within the next couple of years Twingly got major media clients in Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Norway etc. It was a great ride, since our approach was quite knew, and it was really interesting to learn to understand the differences within the media companies in different countries.

You started your career in the music business. Was it difficult to adapt to the Internet sector?
No not really. But the music industry is very much focused on people’s dreams and to produce hits. If a song didn’t find its way to the charts within 3 weeks, it was useless. It was a good lesson for me to learn thinking in the long term at Twingly. When working at a web startup some of the products need time to reach a critical mass or a certain awareness to take off. Just think about Twitter that took several years to reach the tipping point after which usage numbers exploded.

Do your clients have the right expectations about what Twingly tools can deliver?
Yes usually they do. They have in general a quite good understanding about that it takes time to build good brand awareness in social media. Twingly is a vital part of the mix, and our clients know that they have do a lot of work themselves to make it work.

When you started at Twingly the term “social media” hardly existed. What has changed in the past 3 years?
I believe the most interesting aspect is that major companies and organisations in a much broader way not only have been forced to listen more to their clients, but also have found major benefits in doing so. They are getting much more aware on what people are saying about them out there and that when people gather in the wrong direction it hurts, even if you are a billion dollar company. It also can happen very fast, so it is not enough to just react. Major companies have to be proactive and listen to the chatter in the digital world. By doing that they can handle situations before they turn into disasters. It is also very interesting to see how we can use social media to help one another, just pop a question on Twitter and you get answers that can’t be answered by Wikipedia. However, what we haven’t seen yet, which I think is a great challenge to come, is to solve major global problems through social media. Currently we are solving day-to-day issues, but if we can use that strength on the really difficult tasks, that is when I think it gets really interesting.

On a more personal level, what web trends are you especially excited about?
I’m getting particularly excited about the possibilities of personalized streaming media. When you truly can experience “anything, anywhere, only for you”. We are moving towards that but there is still a long way to go there.

What can Twingly users and clients expect for 2011?
We have some really interesting product developments coming out in 2011 that I think will take Twingly to a new level. I hope I can be a part of that and find even better solutions for companies to communicate.

Since you have been working in the music industry one has to assume that you are passionate about music. True?
Of course! I am a total sucker for top 20 music, especially pop/dance. “Club Can’t Handle Me” with Flo Rida probably got the most spins last year…

Twingly Team Interviews: ”We all understood the technical challenges”

Continuing with our series of Twingly Team Interviews, we this time spoke to Niclas Wiström who is one of the founders of Twingly. He describes the early days of Twingly and why he thinks that it was an advantage that all the founders have a technical background.

Tell us about yourself!
I’m Niclas, 37 years old and one of the founders of Twingly. I’m the oldest person at the office which the rest of the team doesn’t get tired of pointing out…

How did you meet the other Twingly co-founders?
I have worked together with Martin since 2001 or 2002 at Allt om Bostad, a Swedish website for house owners. We then decided to quit and to start our own consulting company. A few years later Martin and I together with Björn and Figge launched Primelabs, which was the company behind Twingly (in 2008 we changed the company name to Twingly AB). Twingly was from the beginning one of our main projects.

You have a background as a developer, but you also enjoy the spirit of entrepreneurship…
Yes! I started my first company together with 7 other people in 1996. But I have always enjoyed working with the technical parts as well. From the early Twingly days on I was the one in charge of the hardware. In the beginning we only had 4-5 servers, but that was good since we all did consulting as side projects to earn money that we could invest into Twingly. Then over time, the work load got bigger.

All four of you who started Twingly have a technical background. None of you had deep knowledge on the business side. Do you think that was an advantage or disadvantage?
Things worked out pretty good for us, also from the sales-perspective. In our case I would say it was an advantage, since we all understood the technical challenges of the service we created. And early on we signed up SvD and DN, two of the biggest newspapers in Sweden, as clients for our Blogstream service, which websites can use to show incoming blog links from the blogosphere.

What was the goal when you launched Twingly four years ago? Did you adjust that goal over time?
In the beginning we thought the blog search engine itself would be our main product. Later we realized that from a commercial point of view Blogstream and other B2B services worked the best, and we also broadened our spectrum by launching several tools focusing on microblogs and the real time web.

What was the most exciting that happened during the years with Twingly?
I think the early days were especially exciting – the time when we launched Twingly without knowing how everything we had planned would work out. Or when we made a road-trip to a conference in Vienna to promote Twingly and meet newspaper executives at out very own little booth.

Was there a moment when you regretted that you didn’t do something else instead of creating a startup?
Nope, never. I always have enjoyed working with Twingly. And even though I’m a late riser I look forward to go the office almost every morning.

Since hardware is a passion of you: Which of the latest technologies and developments in the it sector do you personally appreciate the most?
In fact Solid-state drives (SSD), the new kind of storage solution that are better than traditional harddisk. They don’t break as often as harddisks, are calmer and faster. We are using SSD in a few of our servers and we’ll probably make some more upgrades in the future.