Yesterday we looked at the evolution of GetGlue, a service that allows you to “check in” to TV shows, movies, music, and more.

One of the striking things about GetGlue is how it has used cutting edge web technologies (recommendations, Semantic Web) to build a future-proof foundation. And how it has taken advantage of currently hot platforms (like iPhone and iPad), while also targeting future platforms (like Internet TV). In Part 2 of our interview with Alex Iskold, the founder and CEO of GetGlue, we find out how he’s steered his company towards the future. We also find out what other trends Alex Iskold is tracking currently.

Semantic Web

RWW: You were very early to spot some major trends that were happening, like Semantic Web and recommendation technologies. Can you tell us about how you’ve implemented the theory that you’ve written about in the past – what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and the lessons learned. For example, the Semantic Web. You’ve written a lot about that. Some of the things you’ve implemented probably haven’t worked out quite as well as you may have thought they would, while other things may have worked really well…

“We developed a whole bunch of semantic web bits and they’re inside the product.”

Alex Iskold: There is a big validation inside GetGlue of these things that I’ve always talked about. There are the semantic bits and they’re very important. To give you an example, here’s something that is both really basic but also very striking: GetGlue widgets on partner sites.

To put a widget on the official Dexter web site, all they need to do is drop the widget in. They don’t need to tell Glue what show it is – the widget will just know. For our competitors, this is actually a big barrier. They cannot do this, period. For us there is a simple tag, which we’ve developed over the years, that allows us to make it completely seamless for people to install our widget.

We developed a whole bunch of semantic web bits and they’re in there [inside the product]. Our system has a unique identity for each show, for each group, for each movie. There’s only one version of [each show/movie etc] and that’s pretty powerful, because it makes the taste graph unique and complete. Versus if you were to have fragments [of information] then it’s a bad user experience, because everybody’s looking at a different thing. And then you can’t do any analytics, it’s just a mess. So that’s why we have semantic web bits.


RWW: How about recommendation technologies, which you’ve written about before on our site. How have you implemented the theory in GetGlue?

“We want people to take all of these crazy algorithms that we’ve got for granted.”

Alex Iskold: Recommendations are very much part of what our users really enjoy. You go and you sign up with GetGlue, you click a bunch of things that you like and then every week we will go and look up a set of new movies, new books, new music – and we’ll rank it just for you. We’ll say “Hey, because you liked these five movies, this new movie that’s coming out this week is probably going to be interesting to you.” And people absolutely love that. It’s powerful and it’s also taken for granted. But there’s a lot of heavy lifting to do that. To basically filter all of this for people. There’s a lot of computing power and a lot of algorithms running.

Here’s the interesting thing when you take it one level higher. We want people to take all of these crazy algorithms that we’ve got for granted. Because who really cares? As long as the software’s fun and delivers utility. As long as it’s perceived as a complete system. What does it matter what’s inside? You just enjoy the experience.

New Platforms: Internet TV

RWW: Recently I spoke to Jim Spencer from Newsy. They are really interested in Internet TV, it’s going to be a big platform for them. I imagine it’s also going to be a big platform for GetGlue as well. Are you working towards that?

Alex Iskold: I am actually in the camp that thinks that the “Second Screen” is a simpler and faster way to get to the same place. [RM: second screen refers to when you use another device – such as an iPad, a laptop or a phone – to get supplementary information about, or interact with, whatever you’re watching on the TV screen]

“The Second Screen is a simpler and faster way to get to the same place.”

We’re already here. We’re already where we need to be. We’re in the living room, and according to Nielsen, three out of four people use the Second Screen – which is, you are watching TV and you’re also holding either a computer in your hand or you’re holding an iPad or a phone. So we [GetGlue] are able to tap into TV consumption in the living room.

In terms of Internet TV, of course it’s relevant to us. But I think that our biggest focus right now is building a loop, where people check-in and in exchange for check-ins they get tangible rewards. Right now, the way I look at Glue is that when you see a friend, that’s a reward. When you get a suggestion, that’s a reward. When you get stickers, from brands, that’s a reward. Then can we picture a world where we start giving people real, tangible discounts. That’s the big focus for us in coming months.

The Next Big Trends

RWW: You’ve done a lot of writing on ReadWriteWeb in the past, about future trends and trends that are evolving. So, what particular trends are you tracking closely at this point in time?

“I’m very bullish on tablets and the iPad specifically.”

Alex Iskold: I have to confess that I’ve been really, really busy and I’m not able to think through as much about what’s happening next. However, I can tell you one really recent example: ABC has an app that can synchronize content on an iPad to what’s on TV. It is seriously stuff from science fiction. The lure of such technology is amazing.

I’m very bullish on tablets and the iPad specifically. It will be the next gen computer that controls more and more of your home. I recently got a new car which came with an iPhone interface. You just slide the iPhone in and it knows how to read what’s on the phone and play the tracks, synchronize contacts, GPS, everything. And it’s sort of like a complete plug and play. I didn’t have to do a thing. I’m anticipating that soon more and more of that happens at home. So I think smart homes, where we’ll see more computing devices and programs – controlling what’s happening, from room temperature to lights to monitoring heat and electricity. And applications related to optimizing your bills. Because computers are way better at crunching numbers. A computer can check and see your usage. That’s where I think things are headed.