Several years ago, my friend Upendra Shardanand tried to get me to join him in starting a company that would remake the way news is created and understood — overturning the worst, ambulance-chasing tendencies of modern journalism, and building tools to help people track and understand the topics and people that shape their lives. I begged off in order to pursue my own startup, but it was the hardest “no” at which to arrive, since I respect Upendra so much and so admire what he was looking to build. Though we’ve chosen to pursue different topics, we have in common a desire to make the world better through entrepreneurial projects, and Upendra’s effort definitely would have won me over had I not already started down my own road.
Happily, Upendra has built and launched a company, Daylife, around his ideas about the news industry, and I’m proud to be a Daylife advisor. There’s an excellent article about Daylife in the current issue of BusinessWeek, talking about some of their early successes.
This month, Daylife is sponsoring a developer contest around its API, which provides a rich programming interface around news topics, people, and places. I’m one of the judges for the contest, along with Brian Behlendorf, Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis, and others. It makes me very happy to see some of the API samples, many of which remind me of ideas I heard kicked around back when Google News first launched. (Coincidentally, there’s an interesting article about the stagnation of Google News in today’s New York Times.) Daylife has also put together a list of Lazyweb ideas for the contest, my favorite of which is this design for a tracker of news about evil dictators.
I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with for the contest, and I’d encourage you to check it out and submit a project. I started playing around tonight and quickly came up with three ideas for Daylife API projects that would help my startup. It won’t take too many people doing the same before Upendra’s idea of changing the way news works starts to take shape in the world.