I'm pleased to share that Flowtown has acquired the technology behind WhoShouldiFollow, a Twitter friend recommendation engine that my friend and I created. Xconomy has a good writeup on today's news. Flowtown is a social marketing platform aimed at helping businesses engage with their customers. What is particularly exciting to me is that the WSIF engine can help Flowtown deliver actionable intelligence for how businesses can expand their network to listen to the right people and find new potential customers. Thanks to Ethan Bloch and Dan Martell [1] of Flowtown, both masters of the startup hustle [2] (and blog infographic) who have been great to work with during this process!

My friend Gary Elliott and I originally built WhoShouldiFollow[3] back in early 2008 as a way to make Twitter more useful, and as an opportunity to experiment with collaborative filters on the social graph. We'd both been playing with Twitter since mid-2006 and had gotten past our "twitter is dumb" phase early (everyone has one) but were aware of how rocky it was to get started finding interesting people. Designing the service was a fun introduction to building on the Twitter API and presented interesting challenges to giving real-time, (hopefully) high-quality recommendations. More recently Twitter has rolled out a similar feature for twitter.com (with an API promised). While it may obviate some of the general usefulness I think there is ongoing value for businesses to discover the appropriate people to follow based on various criteria (influence, location, etc) beyond what Twitter itself exposes. More broadly, there is a revolution underway as businesses grapple with understanding what truly works using social media and engaging with the right people is at the center of that process.

As a final note, I'm bullish on hackers having side projects. WhoShouldiFollow was a side project for us and lead to a whole bunch of good things: learning new technical areas, job offers and modest financial benefits. It was built before I took the plunge into startup life (which makes it more difficult to find time), but for hackers in jobs that may not be sufficiently challenging side projects are a great avenue to explore new domains. And there is huge benefit to owning something from concept to shipping. So, onto the next one!

[1] Dan Martell is also an angel investor in oneforty, the startup where I work.
[2] The startup hustle is best captured in song by Mr Rick Ross
[3] Yes, we realized after the fact that it should have been "whom". What can we say, we're better at coding than grammar. (And even Twitter did it!)