Posts from September 2009

Comment Length

I read an interesting post this morning (via Hacker News) that suggests the longer the comment, the higher quality it is. The conclusion of the post (which is worth reading in its entirety) is:

there seems to be a clear correlation between comment quality and comment length. At least on websites with an audience that is not actively malevolent, longer comments seem to be better

The author of the post was specifically addressing the question of whether you should restrict comment length and his conclusion is no. He goes on to say that if you do restrict the comment length, you should restrict it at 2000 to 4000 characters.

So why do I tell you this? Because I am not sure I agree. I think blog posts should be short and sweet and I think comments should be as well. I don't restrict comment length on this blog and you can leave as lengthy a comment as you want. I am not trying to dictate what people do.

But I read a lot of blogs and a lot of comment threads. And what I prefer is when someone can make their point quickly and concisely, ideally with a bit of wit thrown in for good measure.

Reading and writing comments can be a lot of fun and good comment threads (like we have here thanks to all of you) can be very informative. When you can get forty of fifty opinions on a topic of interest in a few minutes, that is a wonderful thing.

You can't do that when one comment takes you a few minutes to read. And I think it is also true that long comments tend to dominate a conversation and that is not good either.

So I keep my comments to a couple paragraphs at most on other blogs and I try to keep my replies here even shorter. I'm curious what all of you think.

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My Talk Today About The NYC Startup Sector

A couple things:

1) It will be live on ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/clickable

2) The talk is scheduled to start at 6:30pm. I'll twitter out the URL when the talk is about to start.

I want to thank everyone who gave me feedback in the comments. It is a great discussion, comment thread so far. The final deck, reflecting some of the comments is below.

I'm looking forward to giving this talk and if it is well received, I'll do it again soon in a larger venue.

The NYC Web Startup Sector

I'm giving a talk tomorrow night as part of our portfolio company Clickable's monthly speaker series. The talk is sold out so I am not going to link to the event page. If this talk is well received, I will look for another venue to deliver it again where more people can attend.

The topic of my talk is the NYC Web Startup Sector, why it is different from other startup hotbeds, and what makes it a special place to start and grow a business. I wrote a post about this talk a couple weeks back and linked to a wiki that a bunch of people went to and contributed thoughts. I really appreciate everyone's contributions to this talk.

Here is a pretty close to final draft of the slides I'll use. I prefer to use images to make points and let my voice do the talking so you may have trouble making much sense of this. But I do think you will get the high level points.

If you have any thoughts about the slides or the general themes in the talk, please leave them in the comments. I am always looking for more feedback on these talks.

The Latest From Bug

Bug

Our portfolio company Bug Labs continues to build out its family of modular open source hardware products. This is not a sexy market space like social media or mobile. But it is an important market space. Because as hardware becomes more open and more "hackable", we'll be able to do more things with web services.

A good example of what I am talking about is the La Montre Verte (green watch) service in Paris. They have networked together environmental sensors all over Paris and the data is broadcast via a mobile phone to a open platform called Citypulse which makes all the data available via a web service.

Bug is a platform to enable exactly these kind of open source projects. Not everything can be done in software and most hardware is too closed to make it useful for applications it was not intended for. That is where Bug comes in. You can snap a few sensor modules onto a Bug base and you've got a custom piece of hardware that can collect data and power a web service.

And the latest news from Bug is that the Bugbase module is now wifi enabled. This was not an easy task because Bug was committed to putting an open source wifi solution into the market and that was a hard problem to solve. But they have solved it and Bug based devices can now communicate over the wifi channel.

If you have a project like La Montre Verte that you want to get up and running, you should look at the Bug platform. It's perfect for that sort of application.

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The Sound Of Silence

Regular readers might have noticed that I didn't post yesterday. That's a rarity for me. Typepad tells me that I have made 4,744 posts since I started blogging on September 23, 2003 (this blog had its sixth birthday this past week which I failed to notice). That math works out to 1.2 posts per day.

I like to keep this blog fresh and it bugs me when there is a day old post at the top. But yesterday was one of those rare days when I didn't have anything to say. Part of it was that I had spent most of the day on a plane flying back from London, part of it was that I arrived to an onslaught from journalists and bloggers who wanted to talk to me about Twitter, and part of it was that I had a ton of stuff I needed to do when I arrived home. So no blog post yesterday.

In addition to not saying anything on this blog, I also had nothing to say about the Twitter financing. That annoyed a lot of people who were writing about it yesterday. But I don't think financings are particularly interesting to talk about. I like what Twitter had to say about the financing:

There's a lot of talk today about our financing. Yesterday we closed a
significant round of funding with a group of investment firms that
we're excited to publicly thank: Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe
Price, Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Benchmark
Capital, and Morgan Stanley.

It was important to us that we find
investment partners who share our vision for building a company of
enduring value. Twitter's journey has just begun and we are committed
to building the best product, technology, and company possible. I'm
proud of the team we've built so far and I'm confident in the future
we'll build together.

That is the whole post. And it is probably one of the shortest posts on the Twitter blog in my memory.

The truth is financings are important to keep the company funded but they are not achievements in their own right. I like that Twitter's post acknowledges that.

So that explains my silence yesterday. I really had nothing to say. I feel the need to speak coming back already and have some good posts rumbling around in my mind this morning. So stay tuned in to this channel. I promise we won't have too many blackout days like yesterday.

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Seedcamp 2009

For those who don't know, Seedcamp is Europe's version of Y Combinator. It was started by Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni a few years back and has grown into an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Europe.

I attended Seedcamp 2009 this week and sat through several panels, pitches, and did a panel and a masterclass talk.

The thing that struck me about this year's group of startups was the geographic diversity of the teams and the number and quality from eastern europe in particular.

The lessons and culture of silicon valley are being replicated all around the world. It will be decades before any other location has the scale of tech-based entrepreneurship that the valley has. But a week at Seedcamp tells me that it will happen.

There is no shortage of engineering skills around the world. The information that drives tech innovation and entrepreneurship is flowing freely in real time. The valley didn't learn about Pubsubhubbub and RSSCloud any faster than the entrepreneur/technologist in Zagreb.

So we are seeing teams and products coming from all sorts of places now. It reminds me very much of NYC fifteen years ago. What NYC didn't have then that it now has is the infrastructure for entrepreneurship, the role models, and a sophistication about how the game is played.

London is developing those things pretty quickly and it is now spreading them throughout europe through programs like Seedcamp. Europe is hard because of the geographic diversity but the internet shrinks things and I'm quite optimistic that we will see a lot more Skypes, Spotifys, and Vent Privees in the coming years. And I am also sure that at least a few of them will be Seedcamp alums.

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Startup Visas

I'm in London for Seedcamp 2009 and I've been spending the day with entrepreneurs and technologists from all over europe. It's a reminder that the world is full of great entrepreneurs and technologists.

I started my day in a board meeting with one of our companies that was started in Europe. It turns out one of the founders of that company, one that is growing and hiring in the US, cannot get back into the states right now because of a Visa issue.

That is infuriating to me and to the founder in question. His risk taking and the innovations of him and his partners and team members are creating a business in the US and creating jobs and wealth that will largely stay in the US. And he cannot even get into our country right now.

This is nuts. I've got an issue with our immigration policies generally, but specifically we should modify our rules around Visas for founders and key team members of startups that are at least partially based in the US, particularly if they have been well financed by angels and VCs.

Fortunately, there is a growing political movement called The Startup Visa movement and there is real momentum behind it. If you are close to your legislators, particularly representatives and senators, please bend their ear on this issue. Though I am not close to the politics around this issue, I suspect this is not a hard issue to get behind politically. Nobody is losing jobs because entrepreneurs around the world are starting companies that are based, at least partially, in the US.

We should make it easy for these people to get back and forth into our country. And with your help, I suspect we will.

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A Great Systems Engineer Job/Challenge In NYC

How would you like to lead the scaling efforts of a website that is currently serving 17mm unique visitors a month and growing 40-50% per quarter?

That website is Tumblr and here are the stats I just mentioned. Quantcast has it as the 329th most visited website in the US and at the rate it is growing, it may well be top 100 in the not too distant future.

I believe this is one of the most interesting web service scaling challenges in NYC right now and should be a great opportunity for the right person.

Here is the job description/job spec and it includes a link to submit a resume if you think this job is for you. And if the job is not for you, but you know someone who you think is ideally suited to this challenge, please send me an email (click on the contact link on the upper right of this blog).

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Urban Architects

Union Square, New York City.Image via Wikipedia

Jack Dorsey, who came up with the initial idea for Twitter and co-founded the company often talks about his fascination with cities, mass transit, and bike messengers. He says it was this fascination that led to the inspiration for Twitter.

Dennis Crowley, the founder of Dodgeball and Foursquare, shares that fascination. When I first talked to him about Foursquare, he told me that he "tries to build things that make cities easier to use".

Steven Johnson, the author and co-founder of Outside.in was inspired to create that company when he was writing the Ghost Map which is about the urban scourge of cholera and how a map of the Soho neighborhood in London solved the question of the source of cholera.

Steven's co-founder of Outside.in is John Geraci, who I first met at ITP's senior project show when he was showing off a cool service called Found City which I blogged about at the time. John is now running an incubator for entrepreneurs that want to reinvent how cities and urban governments work called DIYCity.

And one of the crowd favorites at TC50 this past week was a company called CitySourced, which built "a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify
civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report
them to city hall for quick resolution". This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in my "public channel" post earlier this year.

These and many others are our new urban architects. I am not suggesting that the traditional roles of urban planning and architecture aren't still important to our cities. They are and will continue to be.

But there is something new afoot in urban life. And it starts with the mobile phone, a computer in our pocket or purse, that is with us at all times.

Services like Twitter, Foursquare, and Outside.in are changing the way I use the city and I am certain they are changing the way many of us use the cities we live in. And we are just at the very beginning. Think about what happens when we get true augmented reality services on our phones. Think about what happens when we get real social networking services on our phones. Think about what happens when we get new interfaces on our phones that don't require us to be looking down and typing when we we are out and about.

This is an area, the intersection between mobile, local, and urban life, that we are particularly excited about. You can see it in our portfolio and you'll be seeing more of it soon. If you are working in this area, please come talk to us.

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SEO and SEM For Email

Everyone who works in online marketing knows what SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) are. They have become large businesses with hundreds of millions (SEO) or billions (SEM) being spent each year. SEO and SEM are the tools a marketer uses to get customers or potential customers to visit his or her website via search.

But many marketers don't realize there are similar tools for getting customers and potential customers to see their email messages. As Matt Blumberg, CEO of our portfolio company Return Path, points out in this post, there are very similar tools available in the email world.

SEO is all about the things you do to make your website optimized to show up in the organic (aka free) search results. In email, the equivalent is "reputation monitoring and management". As you work on your email reputation, the likelihood that your email will get into the inbox goes up. And like SEO, there are both consultants you can hire and tools you can use to do this.

SEM is about buying traffic via search. In email, the equivalent are whitelisting services. If you have a good email reputation, then you can pay to be on various whitelists that are like "EZ Pass for email".

Just like SEO and SEM, you really should do both. Start with optimizing and then move onto paid services. If you want to learn more, Return Path is the leader in providing both "reputation monitoring and management" and whitelisting. You can learn more on their website.

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