Partnered with Bolt.com

Classface
I recently moved to New York City, as I have partnered RateMyTeachers with a teen media company called Bolt.com. Bolt is selling targeted advertising for us at significantly higher rates than we were capable of on our own. So far, so good. I have also partnered with Bolt on a new venture called classface.com. If you have heard of TheFaceBook.com for college students, classface is essentially the same thing, except for high school students (using RateMyTeachers and Bolts significant membership to promote it). TheFaceBook attracts well over a million daily users and billions of page views each month. We are hoping to attract a similar audience. We’ll see.

Update (11/28/05): No longer working with Bolt.com. Classface has been renamed StudyBreakers.com.

RateMyTeachers on CNN

Today I was interviewed on CNN’s “In the Money” regarding RateMyTeachers.com. I was behind Wolf Blitzer in the makeup line. All I could muster was a weak “Hello” with a faint nod of the head. He looked really focused on getting to the news desk and I suppose I didn’t want to disturb him. He had a good, positive, disposition about him, though. All-in-all, an interesting experience, even though it felt like a radio interview (all I had was a ear piece to listen to the questions – I had no idea with whom I was speaking). Here is a recent USA Today article, as well. Overall, the press exposure has been great.

NPR Interview – All Things Considered

I was recently interviewed for this NPR piece discussing RateMyTeachers.com. This was my third appearance on All Things Considered. It is amazing how much has happened since I first was interviewed by NPR regarding RateMyFace.com in December of 2000.

“Jennifer Wing of member station KPLU in Seattle, Wash., reports on a Web site for school children across the country — RateMyTeachers.com — that allows them to “grade” their teachers.”

Plans for IMConnected – Connecting Friends to Friends Online

I have completed plans for IMConnected and have started showing it off to potential partners or investors (including people at Microsoft).

IMConnected

Have you ever stepped back and considered the sheer number of people you have met in your lifetime: your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, classmates, teachers, etc.? Have you ever thought it was curious the way you have met many of these people? For example, I have a friend Jennie, whom I met through my life-long friend, John. Jennie and I became friends and through Jennie, I met another great friend, Jasmine, who lives in Washington DC. I then introduced Jasmine to all of my friends in Washington DC, spawning new relationships well beyond my immediate control and knowledge. Eventually, Jasmine would meet people I had already known and met through other unique relationships. These new relationships have spawned many new relationships and our “web of friends” grows ever more interesting and complicated by the day. While some people are more conscious of this interesting phenomenon then others, this is something everybody thinks about and is potentially intrigued by. I am about to make this curiosity explicit, via the power of the Internet.

We all know that we live in a small world; there is much truth to that adage. There is even a statistical theory called the “six degrees of separation” describing the phenomenon of a shrinking world where any random two people can discover a link through a chain of six acquaintances. We plan to physically store these relationships in a giant database and output the information for the public in a giant web. We then can map out each individual’s web of friends and see how connected we all are and how small a world this really is.

The way the site will work is as follows. Someone, e.g. Mark, logs on to the site and enters the names and email addresses of his friends and then provides a short explanation of how he met each person and what the nature of their relationship is. Each person Mark includes in his “web” (and there will be a lot) will receive an email from Mark that says he knows them and has written a comment about them on this website. The person receiving this email from Mark will almost surely click through to see what Mark has written about them; the urge will be irresistible. When the new user inevitably becomes a member to see these comments, he or she in turn enters in the names of their friends. Some will probably overlap Mark’s friends, and many will not. As increasingly more people join, we start to develop webs around each individual that we can actually map (imagine a web like structure with your name in the middle, mapping out a degree or two of your relationships – immense but intriguing). Each member of the community (and there will be millions in a short period of time) will have their own page mapping out all their relationships, and listing all the comments from other members who know them and have written about them. We will create a dynamic and interwoven community, allowing members to search for and find other interesting people with whom they may interact.

The community possibilities are endless and exciting. Imagine being able to search for someone from Wisconsin who is “two degrees” separated from you (i.e. you have a common friend, but did not know it yet). Not only do you have something instantly in common with each person you engage to communicate with on the site, but you also would expect to have many people engage you, just because you are who you are and know who you know. This excitement will be easy to carry over into the site, and will create unprecedented momentum and growth of the community.

Update 2004: I was never able to generate an investment to develop IMConnected and at the time I didn’t have the funds to bankroll it myself. Everyone I approaced properly asked “how will it make money?” At the time, the internet advertising market was seemingly close to dead. I always responded that I didn’t really know how it would make money; I just knew it had the potential to be insanely popular and we could figure out how to make money after.

Up until that point, the internet was much about finding people across the world that you really didn’t know. No one was really exploiting the unique real world relationships and networks we all have developed across the course of our lives. Two years later, Friendster and then MySpace launched utilizing the same pioneering idea, today known as “Social Networking.”

Launched RateMyTeachers.com Today

RateMyTeachers.com

RateMyTeachers launched today, bringing the funcationality of RateMyProfessors to middle and high school students – created by ordinary people with a vision for a better way of doing something. This past year, the concept of “accountability” in education entered the public consciousness. Many of the original founders had an interest in education (two of them are teachers) and asked who is accountable to whom? Are schools accountable to the federal government? We concluded that students have a right to discuss the quality of their education and that teachers must be accountable to their students. We decided that a site like RateMyTeachers.com would be an effective tool to elevate the student voice into the public discourse on quality education.

RateMyTeachers aims to help facilitate a positive change in the way parents, students, and teachers alike look at the education system and therefore to encourage structural changes with regards to school and teacher choice. Secondly, it is a place for students to have their opinions validated.

Lastly, RateMyTeachers is a useful resource to the teacher who is open and self-assured enough to face the opinions of their customers, i.e. students. Every teacher wants to be respected by his or her students, and every teacher entered this profession in order to help students develop as individuals. By studying their ratings, the teacher can often adjust their methods, helping create that environment of mutual respect, whereby their knowledge will translate more effectively to the mind of the student.

Launched RateMyFace.com this week

Launched RateMyFace.com this week with Ron Gallagher. After telling a few people in AOL chat rooms about it, the site exploded and we generated 100K users in this first week. Unfortunately, the idea was a bit beyond our programming abilities and it takes about five minutes to manually add a new profile (which is kind of hard when you have hundreds of people submitting their pictures for rating). We are going to put the site on hold and relaunch it next summer with a much improved front and back end.

RateMyFace Logo