Sundae - Before

On February 26th, I made a post entitled Career Transitions, detailing the failure of Bumblebee Labs as a startup and outlining my next steps. Now, exactly 7 months later, I’m ready to detail what’s gone on in the intervening time. First things first, I accepted a job offer at a startup called peel one month ago as a “social experience designer”. The company is still in stealth mode so I wasn’t really quite sure what I could publically say about them. Let’s just say I’ll be heading up their Social Television initiative and there’s going to be some exciting developments coming down the pike.

Even at the beginning of the job hunt, I anticipated that it would be a long process. I wanted time to scope out the scene, understand and surface all the various interesting opportunities and get a better understanding of where I best fit into this crazy landscape. Publically, I was predicting 3 –  4 months. In the end, it turned out to be 6. I’m not going to pretend that the entire process wasn’t hard work & demoralizing at times but, looking back on it in retrospect, that period did serve to form the basis of relationships & experiences that will reap dividends over time.

What surprised and gratified me was validation that the problems I were thinking about were interesting, my level of insight was high and what I was doing was important. It was heartening that people who were very senior up at very important firms, taking the time out of their day to meet with me and explore what I had to say about social experience design. On the other hand, what surprised and disappointed me were the tiny number of companies I could find that I regarded as trying to do anything truly innovative with social. I met up with a lot of companies who were merely trying to stir fry a bunch of existing social features into a hopefully appealing amalgam. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this. It’s a strategy that is probably as good at making money as any other. It’s just that with so much innovation yet to be explored in social experience design, it’s disheartening to find so many people unwilling or unable to really push the boundaries.

Now that my life has started to busy up again, I’ve also found the urge to take up side-projects. One that I’m extraordinarily excited to be starting but not ready to announce publically is the formation of a Product Design Guild in San Francisco. The other is this, a regular series of blog posts I’m going to title Social Software Sundays.

This gestation period has also given me a better sense of what it is that is interesting of the stuff I have to say. I’ve had countless conversations, pitches and discussions with people and I’ve been slowly reworking, refining and adapting the messaging and positioning over time. I’d been toying with the idea of starting to contribute some of this knowledge towards the public domain. A question on Quora finally prompted me to start to list out all the various problems I was interested in and even I was a bit stunned with how much was in my buffer. After confirming support that it seemed like a good idea, I have decided to write a new blog post every Sunday about a different area of Social Software that I find interesting. To help guide what I should write next, I’ve decided to open it up to the community. I’ll be using Quora as a platform to help manage the community element but the writing will appear here.

Looking forward to writing my first Social Software Sunday next week :).


  1. Quora says:

    September 26th, 2010 at 12:00 pm (#)

    What should Xianhang Zhang write for his next Social Software Sunday post?…

    0. An Update – 1. TBA…

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