Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

New Start-Ups Branch and PandaWhale Provide Homes for Online Discussions

Starting a blog is hard. Getting high-quality conversation in your blog comments is harder. Twitter might be more conversation-oriented, but tweets are only temporary and not threaded together. And so, a couple of companies are trying to find the in-between by building platforms for online discussions.

One of those sites, Branch, actually hosted a recent conversation on “How do blogs need to evolve,” with many pioneers of blogging contributing.

Even though Branch is mostly closed to the public, the site was able to pull in voices for that conversation from people like early blogger Anil Dash, Matt Haughey from MetaFilter, and founders of Blogger-maker Pyra, in part because Branch is backed by Obvious Corp, which is Pyra and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ new company.

Obvious said this week that it is helping the Branch team with its technology, design, branding and marketing, and also sending in its own COO, Jason Goldman, to take on an active role. Branch also got funding from SV Angel and Lerer Ventures.

Another new discussion site is PandaWhale. It’s not as pretty as Branch, but it does some nifty tricks around aggregating threads of conversations from elsewhere on the Web, rather than trying to be a new destination unto itself.

So, for instance, PandaWhale users can import a Facebook or Twitter post — as well as all the replies on that platform — onto a single page, and combine it with a discussion on that topic on PandaWhale. All the site’s conversations are public. You can see an example here.

PandaWhale, which opened to public testing this week, was started by Adam Rifkin and Joyce Park, two hyperconnected Silicon Valley start-up people who lead a monthly event for founders and engineers, called 106 Miles. They previously founded the social app maker Renkoo. Greylock Partners, Omidyar Network and Lightspeed Ventures provided PandaWhale’s seed funding.

Like Quora did before them, both Branch and PandaWhale are kicking things off with topics related to technology, but they both hope to go broader than that.


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