Nicolae Rusan

Co-founder of The Shared Web

That photo did grab your attention, didn't it? You're looking at two of the three co-founders of The Shared Web happy to see their site's photo upload feature worked.

In this interview with Nicolae Rusan (happy guy on the right) we'll take a closer look at The Shared Web and how it aims to change the way we share content on the web…

Please introduce yourself to our readers

Hey, I'm Nicolae Rusan, one of the cofounders of The Shared Web. Currently, I focus a lot on the product and design side of the company. I've spent most of my life in Toronto, Canada - but moved out to Seattle about two years ago to work for Microsoft, and stayed out here to start The Shared Web.

What is The Shared Web and how did it get started?

The Shared Web is the best way to get content in the topics you care about, from the people whose tastes you trust. We talk about it as the first effective social curation platform.

The idea emerged when Kareem, Nav (the other founders) and I were talking about how we all see so much interesting content on the web, but we are not curating effectively for each other. We got to asking ourselves why we don't share and recommend more of the content we see. While there are things like Facebook and Twitter out there, they didn't feel like the right places to be doing curation for each other - they weren't designed with this in mind.

So what we do is we let you essentially showcase all the interesting things you're seeing in different topics. And, then your friends and others who are also interested in those topics have that content recommended to them.

We developed this idea through the Techstars Seattle program, which was a fantastic experience. We strongly recommend anyone thinking of doing a startup to go through Techstars if they have the opportunity - it really accelerated thinking through the problem we're trying to solve, and formulating the right product to solve it.

What has been the single most important lesson you learned at Techstars?

I would say that the most important lesson I learned at TechStars is be balanced. The startup experience is very much a roller-coaster - and though people say it, it's still surprising once you're in it. You need to remember that you choose to do what you're doing, and you can stop at any point, and with that perspective - forge forward. This is just one part of your life, so don't lose sight.

How does the site know what you find interesting and what not?

On our site you follow not only people (the way you do on Twitter), but you also follow topics (e.g. programming, javascript, bonsai gardening). This is similar to the model that Quora uses for organizing their questions.

We help you find topics to follow based on who your friends are, what content you've engaged with, and what other topics you're following.

We also have a similar model to Quora in terms of how we treat topics, and their relationship to each other. We leverage the relationship between topics to get to a more and more fine-grained understanding of your interests.

I currently use RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and a couple of other services to stay up-to-date of what's happening on the web and also to share it with my friends and colleagues. Where does The Shared Web fit in?

Facebook, and Twitter started as communications platform, and eventually curation was one of the things that emerged as something people did on these platforms. Neither of these sites was designed with the explicit intent of being a curation platform, and that creates certain limitations in terms of how the content is organized and presented. These mediums, and RSS, require a lot of sifting through other type of content in order to get to the content you actually care about.

There are also certain norms and understandings about what these platforms are used for, that limit their ability to thrive as curation platforms. For example, I wouldn't share the interesting programming news I read on Facebook, because most of my friends aren't interested in programming. But, on The Shared Web I can share that content into the programming channel knowing that friends who are 'following' that channel will see that content, and the ones who aren't won't.

We see The Shared Web as being your go to place for discovering content on the web, and engaging around that content with the people you care about.

I can imagine people will only start using the service when there's enough relevant content, but you need users for that in the first place. How do you plan to get initial traction to solve this chicken/egg problem?

We definitely think about that challenge a fair bit, and we have strategies we're going to test to overcome this initial barrier.

We plan to provide immediate value by leveraging the social services that are already out there where link sharing occurs: primarily Facebook and Twitter to start. That way, we seed our site with the ample content that is available on those networks, and add a layer of organization, and personalization to that content.

Beyond that, we're focusing on making the profile pages that showcase all the interesting things you're curating be something that you'll want to share out - because they will be visually appealing, and easy to populate.

We also believe that there's a lot of topics that are more specific where it's hard to get a curated stream of high-quality, relevant content. For example, let's say you're interested in keeping up to speed on SEO news. With even just a few people curating in that topic, we can get a relatively high quality overview of good content at the moment.

Thanks for giving us a sneak peak Nicolae! Looking forward to using TSW.

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