Liz Gannes

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Q&A: Joshua Schachter on How Jig Differs From Other Social Sites

Joshua Schachter famously founded Delicious, the social bookmarking tool sold to Yahoo in 2005, that inspired a generation of Web 2.0 start-ups with its tagging features and dual value as a personal tool and a greater information network.

After Delicious was bought, Schachter worked at Yahoo and Google and made a bunch of angel investments, but now he’s finally back to working on an independent product: Jig.

Schachter describes Jig as a marketplace for social transactions. The first version of Jig is a Web site about needs: Someone posts a request, other people make suggestions, and the original asker notifies everyone when he or she feels a solution has been found.

An underlying goal of Jig’s approach is to more efficiently allocate users’ attention, Schachter said in an interview with AllThingsD on Friday. He said he feels that other social Web services focus too much attention on popular people and topics — rather than more precise, meaningful and useful connections between people.

Jig comes out of Tasty Labs, a start-up Schachter co-founded with Nick Nguyen (formerly at Delicious and Mozilla) and Paul Rademacher (formerly at Google, and creator of the seminal HousingMaps Google Maps-Craigslist mashup) with funding from Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

Here’s a lightly edited write-up of my chat with Schachter on Friday:

AllThingsD: So congrats on the launch!

Joshua Schachter: We hadn’t actually meant to launch till Monday. We invited the 3,000 people on our list last night, and someone ignored the [instructions that said] don’t blog or post it. Then it made it to the Hacker News, and that was that. Everybody wrote it up at this point, so we got a few thousand sign-ups, so I guess that was our launch.

Many people have put quite a bit more effort and pain into launching.

It was the most pleasant launch I’ve been through yet. The site didn’t go down, and people were less asshats than I expected.

So, backing up, where did the idea for Jig come from?

When I was at Yahoo, I realized Yahoo Answers was sort of a painfully bad product, basically hostage to the form of Q&A itself. If you make it seem more general, you have a lot more opportunity to build a system that’s better for people. So we’re hoping to connect people, whether it’s about information, goods or something else. Needs are the first thing we’re building. Maybe offers will be next.

But Jig does feel like a Q&A site, with people posting requests and other people responding.

Yes and no. A lot of these sites take away your identity, take away your answers. The Web has been more about information — consuming and producing content — but we’re sort of about who are the people involved, what’s been done already. We’re trying to figure out a low-cost, efficient way trying to get social transactions to the place they’re trying to be.

What’s your stance on real names?

I sort of get it now — it’s jarring to see a first name and last name and profile picture next to someone that’s only using a first name and no picture. I think that people with identity in the system will get trusted more. I understand the anxiety about continuity between real people and pseudonyms. I want people to have an identity, but I don’t care which one it is.

How important are communities versus the larger user base?

We’re still figuring that out. We did build something called affiliations, sort of a mix of badges and groups. We’re trying to build a marketplace, and marketplaces are about trust, so if I get a piece of information from someone and that person is in my neighborhood or a friend of a friend, I have a little bit more trust.

Are you building any sort of underlying structure to make existing knowledge useful? Or is each question a blank slate?

That will probably only be something we could do if we had more data. If we can take advantage of fungibility of knowledge, that would be awesome, but it’s not our top priority. Right now we have a bit of a spam problem and UI bugs [that are higher priorities].

Why start with your own Web site, rather than an app or building on someone else’s platform?

The activity of “I need to do something, does anyone know how to do this?” felt right to do on the Web. We will do mobile stuff in the future, because people want to know stuff about places and local things. It’s probably not right for a desktop app.

Do you see a continuous line between Delicious, your other roles, and Jig?

We did a series of prototypes, and our first prototype, which this came out of, was actually about tagging people. People would tag people with the needs that I have, and it’s still there but hard to see. The need was the tag, and now it just got a little bigger and heavier. People keep asking for classifications — maybe we should do that, I don’t know.

I feel like you, of all people, would be thinking about how to use tagging.

I’m very wary of people tagging their own content, because they’ll try to design for the largest possible audience.

Why is Jig better than asking questions on a social network, or on a dedicated Q&A site?

The idea is that we will try and route attention to your need, and then when it’s done, we take it away. The goal is to efficiently spread out attention.

These sites like Google+ have a problem with the rich getting bigger, where Scoble will post and it always bubbles up to the top. That’s the long tail enforcing the long tail.

We want to get needs in front of the person most likely to resolve them. We’re couching it in the language of a social network, but underneath it’s not an activity stream, because we actually found that doesn’t work well at all.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik