Shady but smart: Secret’s CES feed copies Yik Yak for a new crowd

That savvy Secret. The anonymous sharing network, which recently redesigned its entire product to save itself, isn’t going quietly into that dark night.

It unrolled a new feature Monday allowing people at CES to view and post to an exclusive CES feed on Secret. Only those in the Las Vegas area can add content, turning Secret into a geofenced members-only club for whining about Mandalay Bay Wi-Fi, discovering the best after party, and mocking Samsung’s keynote.

A location based social feed — it’s like Twitter circa SXSW 2007. But where Twitter grew too large and noisy to deliver on its initial events flair, Secret’s geofencing makes sure the party stays small.

Yik Yak peek feature

Yik Yak’s Peek Anywhere list, with featured themes and events at the top

As others have said, it’s a “fun experiment“, one that “could give Secret an edge over Yik Yak.” There’s just one caveat: Yik Yak already has this feature. It created it months ago. (For a primer on Yik Yak, a college campus staple, read here).

In its “Peek Anywhere” section, Yik Yak users are prompted to check out feeds from geofenced areas around events like college football games and music festivals. The Featured peeks change day-by-day depending on what’s happening, and allow people to get a glimpse of the action on the ground somewhere. Yik Yak, in turn, probably got its Featured Peeks idea from Snapchat’s Featured Stories.

Secret, for its part, says it has been thinking about event-based feeds since March 2013, when it played with a location feature at SXSW. When I asked Secret co-founder Chrys Bader whether Secret copied Yik Yak with its redesign a few weeks ago, he deferred.

“If you look at any text-based social network, it’s all text,” Bader pointed out. “I suspect Yik Yak and Secret will diverge a lot over the next six months.” He wouldn’t elaborate, but hinted that Secret’s upcoming design and feature changes will focus on other contexts besides location.

Regardless of whether Secret is ripping off Yik Yak, it’s a time honored truism that the tech company that succeeds is the one that executes the best, not necessarily the one that executes first (see: Facebook v. MySpace; iPad v. many tablets that came before).

If Secret can spread through the tech crowd to other demographics, perhaps it could beat Yik Yak at its own game. After all, Yik Yak has largely ignored the Silicon Valley audience until this point. Instead, it has grown virally the way Facebook did, through college campuses.

By launching an events based feed at CES, Secret might get a leg up on the early adopter audience. Assuming that Twitter circa SXSW 2007 is still something people in tech want.

At CES, let’s just concede defeat for an open standard for IoT

Let’s just get this out of the way, y’all. We are not going to see some kind of open standard or HTML-like universal language for the internet of things or the smart home at International CES in Las Vegas next week. Instead we’re going to get a bunch of different platforms that will strive to create walled gardens. Walled gardens that will be bridged — sometimes clumsily — in the clouds via services or hubs. So consumers will have to go all in on HomeKit, or Nest or iControl’s Open Home or Wink or whatever, or work a bit harder with services like If This Then That or SmartThings or others to make their devices work together.

With that in mind, here are the internet of things-related trends we’ll see at CES next week:

  • Apple will have HomeKit, and we’ll have a bit more, but still not all, the information we’ll want from vendors participating in the program.
  • The Works with Nest developer program will have several partners and devices that people should be excited about, although I’m not sure how many of those will be announcements versus actual implementations.
  • I think the iControl’s OpenHome and the Wink certifications will stay in the game and likely come out of this CES with some strong partnerships.
  • We’ll see announcements from one-off device makers that will see them supporting the major platforms through software integrations or even hardware or offer their own programs to help others support those platforms without having to invest development time and effort. This will be a tough area as only a few middlemen will make it.

The consolidation of many of home automation devices under a few platforms will be the major theme of the show, but there will be other internet of things-related trends worth exploring as well. Medical devices for the lay consumer as well as FDA-approved devices for diagnosing fevers and even various illnesses will also be demonstrated. I’ve also seen a variety of connected devices pitched to me related to conditions as varied as chronic pain, anaphylaxis (when you can’t breathe because of an allergic reaction) and diabetes.

As I’ve said, some of these are FDA-approved, while others are purporting to show connections between certain data points the consumer tracks in their blood pressure or heart rate or urine and their health. As more and more of these devices come on the market I’m growing increasingly leery of the claims being made, in part because the mix of statistics that the FDA looks at when evaluating and discussing the efficacy of a medical device and the marketing that the consumer looks at when deciding whether to purchase such as device are very different.

For an example of the disconnect between statistical relevance in the medical field and a consumer’s understanding of what that means, the Boston Globe’s reporting on fetal genetic tests offers a heartbreaking look at what happens when the dry world of math meets marketing. Marketing wins and it’s not always beneficial to the consumer.

The internet of things will also creep further into cars, beacons will provide more presence in our homes, we’ll see more Bluetooth devices and everything will get an algorithm. We’ll even have algorithms to manage our things’ algorithms and possibly a few services to manage our myriad things. Clearly the trends are still telling us that the internet of things and the smart home are still too complicated for most consumers.

But since this is the next big thing, both in terms of selling new gadgets and in terms of gathering ever more data from consumers, the industry is ready to put all of its muscle to figure out how to solve that complexity. Maybe it’s a bigger platform or a better algorithm. Perhaps a service or an app will do the trick. But one thing is for sure: It’s not going to be an open standard.

My hope for CES 2014: Consumer Electronics Simplicity

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show will have tons of amazing new tech on display but it’s all for nothing if not easy to use. I’m hoping for a trend of simplicity and user experience magic from this year’s devices.

McGraw-Hill’s new adaptive ebooks aim to adjust to students’ learning needs

At the Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, McGraw-Hill Education unveiled its SmartBook, an adaptive e-book that tailors the reading experience to each students’ pace and mastery level. It guides students through the material, frequently assessing their retention, and highlights content on which they should focus.

Amazon launches Vegas trade show for AWS developers, users

Save the date: Amazon will host its first-ever partner and customer conference at the Las Vegas Venetian in late November. With this move, Amazon looks more like an old-school IT vendor than ever. It recently announced an official partner program, another sign of IT maturity.

Toys meet tech: augmented reality to play out at Toy Fair

Does your kid want to play with unicorns? You might want to check out the goods at next week’s Toy Fair in New York, where toy makers will show off the latest-and-greatest augmented reality technology that animates once-static games, books, and toys.