Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Down With Wishy-Washy Mediocrity: Amen Wants Only Strong Opinions

Amen today launches a service that asks users for their superlatives, proclamations and hyperbole. Specifically, the main thing Amen users can do is declare that a person, place or thing is either the best or the worst of its kind, ever (or at the least, this year).

Amen is much simpler than writing out a review or choosing a star rating like most other user-generated recommendation services. It’s kind of like Mad Libs.

So, for instance, Ashton Kutcher — an investor in Amen — recently posted “‘American Movie’ is the best documentary ever,” and “Led Zeppelin is the best rock band ever.” If other users agree with Kutcher’s proclamations, they can post “Amen.” If they don’t, they can post “Hell no!” and nominate something else that better fits the description.

These statements may seem silly — and indeed many early Amen users seem to be using the format to joke around — but they might just be tremendously useful, said Amen co-founder Felix Petersen.

That’s because Amen is generating structured data, the elusive building block of the semantic Web that so many companies would love to capture. And it seems to be somewhat addictive. In a month of beta testing, 3,000 users have created 30,000 statements and 80,000 Amens, Petersen said.

Petersen hopes these silly little statements could turn into something big, because Amen understands both how to classify what a user is talking about and how statements relate to each other. Amen already generates lists within each category, ranking which response got the most Amens.

Soon, the company plans to release its lists as Web pages to be indexed by search engines. (Everything posted on Amen is public.) Eventually, advertisers will be able to purchase sponsored placement within the lists, similar to AdWords, Petersen said.

Amen is based in Berlin and was co-founded by (extremely) early Twitter engineer Florian Weber and Petersen, who previously co-founded Plazes, which was sold to Nokia.

Petersen said he and Weber started out with the idea of building a service to help users generate free-form lists, but realized that they might get more participation if they made it easier and more fun to contribute.

Amen has raised a bit of funding from Index Ventures, in addition to Kutcher. The company has built both a Web site and an iOS app, and plans to let in waves of people as they sign up, Petersen said.

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