Guy Kawasaki’s ‘Truemors’ – Dissected

SMS Text

When Guy made the help wanted post on his site about two weeks ago, I was intrigued and sent him an email right away, hoping to get access to the new service he was launching. Now that the service has officially launched, I can safely share my findings with you.

I need some help from people who are in the flow of interesting and true rumors. They would be folks who can provide “scoops” that begin with a phrase like, “Did you hear that…?”

While I may not be the most ‘in the flow of interesting and true rumors’, I was given access. At its very core, Truemors is socially driven rumor aggregator that could easily have been built on a modified Pligg.
There are four ways you can use to post rumors to the site:
1. By sending a text message
2. By calling
3. By sending an email
4. And by posting directly through the site itself.
Via Text Message
If you post a rumor via text message, send the message to 55022. You have to start the message with the number 2020 and are limited to 250 characters. Also, keep in mind that the last 4 digits of your phone number will appear on the rumor you are posting.
Via Telephone
If you submit your rumor by using your phone, call 650-329-2020 and you will be asked to leave a voicemail message limited to 30 seconds. Once you hang up, SpinVox will convert your voicemail into text and will send it to the Truemors servers to be posted on the site. Your rumor will appear in whatever language you speak in and again, the last four digits of your phone number will appear next to it.
Via Email
If you decide to send in your rumor by email, use the following email address: You will receive a confirmation email (only the first time you post a rumor), and when you respond to it, your rumor along with two characters on each side of the ‘@’ in your email address will be posted to the site. Emails are also limited to 250 characters.
Via The Site
If you decide to post through the website, simply click post online, enter your name, email address, and the hot scoop that you apparently have. Keep in mind that your name will appear next to your rumor so might not want to put your real name there. And just to be safe, make a separate email address if you’re going to use the site in the long-term.
Once a post has been made to the site, there are several ways that other users can interact with a submitted rumor. You can give the rumor positive/negative score, comment on it, share it with other users and other socially driven communities, and surprisingly, any user can change the category in which another user has submitted a rumor.
The Problems
Even at first glance, I see several problems with Truemors:
1. Lack of Exclusivity: For a site like this to succeed, there needs to be some level of exclusivity. As is quite evident on the site right now, the decision to open the site to everyone has caused people who have no inside information on anything to post all kinds of gibberish and the site is over-run with spam.
2. Lack of Focus: The site doesn’t focus on rumors from one particular niche and instead seems to want to be an aggregator of rumors from all niches. The problem with that is that there are established rumor sites in most of the categories enabled on Truemors already. At least there are sites covering the technology, business, politics, entertainment, and gaming industries.
3.Lack of Incentive: If I land some hot scoop tomorrow, there is no chance in the world that I will submit it to Truemors. I would much rather submit it to my own site for my audience, or give the scoop to some other online or offline publication which is willing to pay me for my exclusive inside news.
The Ultimate Question
Stan poses the ultimate question. While the project presents an interesting concept, there is nothing about it that cannot easily be replicated, except for one thing. Guy Kawasaki. The question is, will Guy’s brand name be enough to attract those ‘in the know’ to the site, and will it be sufficient to create a viable community?
My Solution
As I said, I like the idea behind the project, and with a few changes I think it could really work; so here’s my solution. First, drastically narrow down the focus of the site. Limit it to at most 3 different categories. This will also help when deciding who gets to use the site. Secondly, rather than opening up the project to everyone, limit it to not more than 500 people who you can be sure are ‘in the know’ and will generate material of some substance. Allow them to post rumors and allow others to add to those rumors (i.e. different sources for the same rumor, additional information, and so on).
Lastly, rumors are of value because of the press they generate and I don’t think anyone is going to post a rumor that has a shot at being true, to the site in the absence of any kind of incentives. Therefore I think that once there is substantial information on a particular rumor, and there are high odds that it will be true, let all the members of the site (those who reported, whose who augmented or further confirmed, and even those who just read the rumor) bid on who gets first, second, third, and so on, reporting rights to the rumor.
Based on these steps, Truemors will grow out of a site where people are just posting funny or obscene statements/rumors that have absolutely no weight, and can become a source (for insiders and high profile journalists) for the most complete information on any potential rumors and a resource for those looking for juicy information to buy and report on.
Overall I think it has some great potential with a few changes and I wish Guy Kawasaki the best of luck with his new venture.
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  • Now this is a post. Based on facts and willing to analyze, get the bad things, the good things and the possible solutions. So different from the one I commented on BusinessLogs some days ago.
    That’s why I like Pronet.

  • nice post. and I want to add one more point.
    actually I think business rumor is valuable in business world. so truemors should think about how to make this kind of value happen! my suggest is: when some user posts a rumor about one company(whatever new strategy or executive scandal,etc) and get enough vote/digg number, then truemors’ system will automatically send this rumor to PR managers’ account of this company’s rivals. as a result, this rumor embodies business value. I think this can be a revenue model.

  • “First, drastically narrow down the focus of the site. Limit it to at most 3 different categories.”
    “mit it to not more than 500 people”
    “let all the members of the site (…) bid on who gets first, second, third, and so on, reporting rights to the rumor.”
    Muhammad – First of all, GREAT POST, a well thought out dissection of a new hot website. But look at the above quotes you mentioned, wouldnt this effectively make Truemors an exact replica of Digg?
    While your points are valid, I would hate to have this a website, where unless you recklessly spend all of your time on it like Digg, your “Truemor” never sees the light of day.
    I think Digg is experiencing growth problems because it is a tight knit community, one that thrives on exclusivity.
    I applaud Guy for deciding to be the “Un-Digg” even if it means it’s eventual peril.

  • Google’s Girl

    I agree it lacks focus and has no niche nor direction…wtf? Now if these were rumors that appealed to a particular industry, like was back in the day, it would be worth a bookmark…why try to be everything to everybody…who cares about Avril Lavigne unless your niche is celebrity sites?

  • I agree with you – no focus, no incentive, too all over the place. I’d be very surprised if this thing went anywhere in its current state. You should consult for them.
    I can never remember the name of the site either.

  • Guys
    Let the business evolve. Nothing stays the same….

  • charles taylor

    I think the SMS posting technology provided by GoLive! Mobile ( and the Voice posting technology provided by SpinVox ( are truly cool. I guess people aren’t used to the technology yet, but it has potential…

  • Thanks for the “dissection.” All feedback is good. Here are some thoughts for you:
    – Lack of focus. Believe it or not, this is on purpose. We put out a tool that can be used to follow Paris Hilton, Guatanamo Bay, Detroit Red Wings, or Motorola. This was quite on purpose–we want the “community” to decide what market Truemors serves. My philosophy is that customers ultimately decide how a new product is positioned, so one should “let a hundred flowers blossom.”
    Also, the site is eight days old. This is like saying that eBay on its eighth day should have focused on selling cars and not Barbie dolls: “No one will use it because they won’t know what kinds of things are bought and sold their because eBay didn’t limit the categories.”
    – Lack of registration. Also quite on purpose. We are trying to remove the barriers to having a voice on the web. We believe that registration would have a chilling effect–imagine if you are a whistleblower and the first thing you have to do is set up an account and get email confirmation.
    – Lack of incentive. A good point, and one that we are trying to figure out. Hopefully people will want to develop a reputation as a good truemorist the way people like Neil have developed a reputation on Digg. What motivates someone to want to be Digg god like Neil? It’s not the money because there is none.
    The challenge we face is that to “track” Neil we have to register him, and as I said, registration has a chilling effect… More to come in this area–perhaps with a special denotation of the status of people as “truemorists” (see below).
    – Lack of exclusivity. Yup, this is true. Guilty as charged and proud of it. It’s a central focus of why I did Truemors. My belief is that you shouldn’t have to have scribes, a printing press, a Macintosh and PageMaker, a web site, or a blog to “tell the world.” The bad news according the most bloggers is that anyone can post anything; the good news is that anyone can post anything.
    However, we do have a status called “truemorist.” These people have an account with a password. They can create, edit, delete, and add pictures. In a perfect world, there would be about 500 hardcore truemorists plus “anyone posting anything.”
    – Crappy content, spam, etc. A cost of doing business. On the first day we were open, we had 405 posts. 218 were deleted of this total. During the first week, people were basically trying to see if it was true that “anyone could post anything” and what they could get away with. It’s vastly settled down already.
    Here’s something very interesting: half the bloggers think there was too much crap. The other half thinks there’s too much censorship and deletion. 🙂
    So here’s the test for what doesn’t get deleted at Truemors. It has to truly be a truemor: something that is news, a true rumor. Opinions, good or bad, get deleted because Truemors isn’t a discussion board. For example, “Did you hear that Seth Godin hates Truemors?” stays. “Guy sucks” doesn’t. PR hype gets deleted unless is cleverly written as a truemor. For example, “Buy discount tickets here” gets deleted. “Did you hear there’s a new way to buy tickets and save a boatload?” won’t if its truly a new way and does save money.
    A simple way to look at it is this: Suppose you read something at Truemors, would you ask your spouse, relatives, friends, colleagues, etc, “Did you hear that….?” If it passes this test, then it’s highly likely that it will stay. If not, it’s highly likely it will be deleted.
    – Built on Word Press. This blows me away. I don’t understand the stigma of being built on Word Press. Isn’t Scoble, everyone’s hero, using Word Press? Should we look down on companies using MySQL instead of Oracle?
    – Only getting PR because it’s Guy. Also, true, but what am I supposed to do: hide the fact that it’s me? And when I publish my next book, use an anonymous pen name? All of entrepreneurship is about tipping the field in your direction by doing whatever you can including your past reputation. Entrepreneurship is not about a level playing field–it’s about gaining every advantage that you can. It took me 23 years to get to this point, I sure am going to use whatever advantages I can.
    Here’s what I truly don’t understand. Sure, shoot me and Truemors down. It’s okay. I’m a big boy and a juicy target. Such is life. But if I were an entrepreneur, I would be thinking:
    “Life is good. Guy has shown that with $12,000 and seven weeks of work you can launch a company today. Open source has changed the world. Now I don’t need to spend 6-9 months sucking up to clueless VCs in between their golf games and trips to the south of France and 6-9 months duking it out with a compiler. By tapping the blogosphere I can get PR without spending $10,000/month on a PR firm and $40,000 at Demo. I can come up with an idea, launch it, and see if it works.”
    Guy Kawasaki

  • By the way, I don’t know why some of my comment came out larger and in bold. I was just trying to use dashes to this text off from the rest. Is this a Word Press thing? I thought no one but clueless Guy uses Word Press? 🙂