How Hackathons Turn Into Products

Today is the 12th hackathon I’ve done since joining AddThis back at the start of 2011.  While I definitely spent many all nighters working on AIM in its early days, I never got the chance to work on projects not related to my day to day job.

Earlier this spring we released a major new product called Audience Discovery, and the dev team that works on the product crushes it.  But before we started investing in the product, there were the hackathons.  While I joined AddThis to run our publisher web tools, during my interview I was exposed to all of the fun side projects that we built on top of our data.

So how did we get from a hackathon project to a product used by Fortune 500 companies?  Here are some screen shots showing how a simple hackathon project evolved over time.

Hackathon Fall 2011

Hackathon Fall 2011 – Excel outputs, heaven help me

Hackathon Winter 2012

Hackathon Winter 2012 – An early test of search data and flot.js output

Spring 2012

Spring 2012 – More flot.js output using free form inputs

Hackathon Summer 2012

Hackathon Summer 2012 – Who could forget our London Olympics Project

Hackathon Fall 2012

Hackathon Fall 2012 – County Level Candidate Data.  We predicted every county and state correctly except Arapaho County, CO

Hackathon Spring 2013

Hackathon Spring 2013 – Using D3.js to output new Audience Interests data type

Hackathon Spring 2014

Hackathon Spring 2014 – Using NVD3 to output bar charts on new data types and analysis

Audience Discovery Spring 2015

Audience Discovery Spring 2015

None of this could be done alone, and a big thanks goes out to all the engineers, designers and dev ops who helped along the way.

Increase Engagement on Your WordPress Blog

Update – Hat tip to Aaron Jorbin for catching that you need to be an Admin to do this and you can’t be using MultiSuite.  If you are using MultiSuite then you need to be a super admin.

The best content on the web is not limited to big publishers, some of the best writers on the web are really passionate bloggers.  One of the challenges we bloggers have is to keep our visitors engaged on the site and introduce these visitors to otherwise undiscoverable content.

At AddThis, we are trying to solve this problem with the Trending content box.  With AddThis installed on 14M+ domains and seeing 1.3B users our data network and data processing capabilities can surface the most social content for your WordPress blog.  You may be asking, “how hard is it for me to do this?”  As with any of our tools, they are super easy to install and you get awesome real-time analytics as well.

Here are the step by step instructions to add the Trending content box to your WordPress Blog.

  1. Go to
  2. Sign in with your AddThis account, if you don’t have an account or don’t use our sharing tools, sign up.  It’s free and enables visitors to share your content to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and 300+ other services.
  3. Customize the Trending content box.  Pick the colors of the box, the size and how many links you want to display.
  4. Copy the code and log into your WordPress blog.
  5. Choose Appearance->Widgets and drag the Text widget to your Main Sidebar
  6. Paste the copied code into the Text Widget and hit Save.

Your blog’s top social content will now appear in the sidebar of your blog helping you keep visitors engaged.  If you are looking for more advanced features or want to hit the API for the feed directly, checkout these docs.


The Power of AddThis Data

I wrote a blog post today on the AddThis blog about crunching data in preparation for the 2012 South Carolina primary this weekend.  I was curious to see which states showed the most interest in Mitt Romney.  I also was interested in seeing how political television ads were influential in increasing interest in neighboring states.  For example, the map below shows interest in Romney is strong in Massachusetts and Georgia because TV markets in both states overlapped with primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.  This is just the beginning of the insights we can provide.

My Personal 2011 Infographic

We had a great idea back in September when we were creating the 5th Birthday Infographic for AddThis, and planning the year end infographic we release in December each year, that wouldn’t it be great if we could give our publishers their own infographic.  The design and development team of Jeff, Foo and Aaron did a great job of getting these graphics out to our publishers this week.  Now publishers who use AddThis can have a nice recap for their 2011 that they can post on their blogs  Here is mine:

AddThis Recaps the Year in Sharing

2011 was an incredible year for social sharing.  I spent the free time over the past 2 weeks processing incredible amounts of data (we process 70+ terabytes per week!), and Jeff did an awesome job turning my spreadsheets into a great infographic.  I am really excited to share with you the great nuggets we were able to find amongst the 11MM+ publishers and 1.2B+ users who share through AddThis.


WordPress or Tumblr, Which Is the Right Blog Platform To Get Visitors?

A few friends recently have asked which platform they should use to start a blog.  Invariably the decision comes down to WordPress or Tumblr.  Currently I am using WordPress that I have hosted at Dreamhost.  I have used both blogging platforms extensively and have observed some really big differences in each platform’s ability to help you get visitors.  Here are some observations I have made using my own blogs’ data and from data we have internally at AddThis.

  • According to Google Analytics, my Tumblr blog has no Search Engine Optimization (SEO) juice.  I have almost zero referrers from a search engine.  This means the only way Tumblr gets me new visitors is from social traffic or people manually typing in my address.  WordPress does a great job with SEO, and with the All in One SEO Pack making sure my posts are crawl-able is very easy.
  • Visitors are more likely to share from WordPress blogs than they are from Tumblr.  WordPress’s platform is easier to customize where the sharing buttons appear on each post increasing the likelihood to share.  Shameless Plug:  AddThis supports both WordPress and Tumblr and we give you tips on how to get the most out of sharing with each platform.
  • When sharing from Tumblr does occur, it delivers social traffic, and in one specific case it delivers a knockout.  When I see someone share my Tumblr blog post to StumbleUpon, it is amazing to see how much traffic that arrives on my site from StumbleUpon.  A single share drives on average, 500 views, which is amazing.  On WordPress a single share to StumbleUpon drives 3 views on average.  I have asked people at StumbleUpon and Tumblr why that may be and neither company could explain it.
Tumblr’s popularity continues to grow, and if they can get me more SEO juice the platform would be attractive.  In the meantime, WordPress does a better job at delivering all three types of traffic (direct, social and search).  If your audience skews younger, and if you don’t care about SEO juice, Tumblr is your platform.
If you want to move your blog from one platform to another here are two tools I recommend:

5 Years of Sharing, millions of domains, billions of users, trillions of views

We celebrated a birthday this month, as AddThis turned 5 years old.  In 5 years we have seen over 1.7 trillion views of our tools, the fall of MySpace, and the rise of Facebook and Twitter.  AddThis goes way beyond simple sharing tools.  We process over 70 TBs of data a week so that our publishers can learn what impact their content is having on the social web.

As the director of product for AddThis for the last 10 months, it is amazing to see the evolution of such a simple set of tools become something so essential that over 10 million publishers worldwide use our product.  Every day is a fun challenge of building a product for over 1.2 billion users.

Five years in Internet time feels like an eternity, and the data we have can clearly show and predict trends happening across the web.  The infographic we released today shows some of those trends.  It will be fun to see what trends emerge over the next 5 years.