eHub Interviews PrivatelyApp

Posted by Cesar H Castro Jr on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011. Filed under: eHub Interviews Social web Twitter

Visit PrivatelyApp, originally added to eHub on Jan 14, 2011.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

PrivatelyApp: is a great way to have a private conversation with Twitter users. Your friends, collegues, acquaintances, and just about anyone who might have a connection or interest in common with you.

I see as a compliment to Twitter, providing a service that gives you privacy and long form conversations with your Twitter friends. Some beta users have described it as a “Group DM” or as iChat “with all of Twitter as your address book”.

At the moment, the app is in closed beta – visitors can leave their email if interested in trying it out.

50 interested eHub readers can use this exclusive link to join the private conversation.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

PrivatelyApp: solved a problem for me, I wanted to have private conversations with groups of my Twitter friends.

I was at a large conference and had met up with some conference friends. We are all geographically disparate, and the only time we get to hang out is at conferences. We all wanted to catch up and go to dinner at a popular 5 star restaurant. When I looked into reservations, I was informed that the restaurant was always packed and that there was no way a large party would be seated. However, they would take a reservation for five. I thought it would be great to enjoy a fabulous meal while catching up with good friends who had not seen each other in a year or more.

Although we were all on Twitter and known to each other, tweeting was out as an option, since it would be seen by other people at the conference who might want to come along – something that just was not possible given the restaurant. Instead, the dinner was organized via an ad hoc chain of DMs, texts, phone calls, and passed along messages. It was cumbersome. What was needed was a way to have the five twitter users in one private conversation.

That was the spark for me. I wrote the initial version of right after.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth? Do you have a day job?

PrivatelyApp: Yes, I do have a day job. For me, creating software is a passion, and I am writing because I want to use it.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

PrivatelyApp: I am an expert Rubyist. Most recently, I was employee #7 at Hashrocket, the premier Ruby on Rails consulting firm, and I have worked at various startups for the last 12 years, from founding Blue Ripple with VC-backing, to working for self-funded entreprenuers. I contribute regularly to open source, speak at conferences, and occasionally co-host the Ruby5 podcast. is just me. But I have a great group of friends who have helped me along the way. To them I am grateful. Thank you Alex Eckermann, Ben McDonald, Cameron Daigle, Corey Grusden, Jon Larkowski, Nick Karpenske, Paul Elliott, Sandro Turriate, Shane Riley, Jim Remsik, and Wes Gibbs.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

PrivatelyApp: Three things drive the designs for minimum viable product, continuous deployment, and Outside-In development.

I have a list of features, from which I work on exactly one feature. When that one feature is implemented, it is immediately put into production. I then move on to the next feature. I manage the list by adding things as they come in and reviewing the list periodically.

Outside-In development starts with an integration test for the feature that leads to focused unit tests of just the code necessary for that feature. Working this way has kept the codebase managable and clean.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

PrivatelyApp: is built using Ruby on Rails (with jQuery, Haml, Sass), MongoDB (using my own document mapper), and Resque.

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

PrivatelyApp PrivatelyApp: I will start with the second most requested feature: an iPhone app. already has a mobile web site, but taking it to the next level with an iPhone app is a pretty natural progression, and an answer that you probably anticipated.

The most requested feature is to add a new participant to an existing conversation – fantastic feedback from the community and an upcoming feature :)

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

PrivatelyApp: Definitely distributed. Although most of the beta users of are in the US, there is an active international contingent.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months? The next 2 years?

PrivatelyApp: For the next six months, better notifications and mobile apps. No idea on what the next 2 years will bring.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

PrivatelyApp: Adoption by a wide swath of Twitter users. My beta users love – to succeed the Twitterverse has to love it. That is no small task.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

PrivatelyApp: For now, I am just focused on getting more features out.

eHub: Do you have a business model? If so, what is it?

PrivatelyApp: Yes. Freemium.

eHub: How much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

PrivatelyApp: Pretty terrific! :)

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

PrivatelyApp: That it has been useful to my friends. Writing a piece of software that people find useful is immensely gratifying.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

PrivatelyApp: No surprise, but we are just starting with really ubiquitous access to information. The exponential broadening of the intersection between the real and virtual world is really fertile ground for new ideas, products, and services.

For me, what I love about creating software in this space is the constant feedback from users. This is really powerful and is helping to accelerate the pace of innovation. This is a great time to be a maker of things.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit or have in your RSS reader other than your own?

PrivatelyApp: I dip into Twitter and my Github feed :)

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

PrivatelyApp: Very pertinent question :) I try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night – if I get more than 6 hours I have been sleeping in :)

Once again, a big thanks to Les Hill of PrivatelyApp for the Interview and the 50 eHub invites

Visit PrivatelyApp, originally added to eHub on Jan 14, 2011.