Posts from Weblogs

Getting Feedback and Listening To It

When you are VC, you live in this protected environment. You sit in your office in a glass conference room with lovely views and entrepreneurs walk in and pitch you and you get to decide who you are going to back and who you are not. People tell you what they think you want to hear. That you are so smart. That you are so successful. They suck up to you. And it goes to your head. You believe it. I am so smart. I am so successful.

You have to get out of that mindset because it is toxic. My number one secret is the Gotham Gal who brings me down to earth every night, makes me do the dishes, walk the dog, and lose to her in backgammon. Actually I have not lost to her in backgammon in over twenty years because she used to beat me so badly that I couldn’t take it anymore.

But blogging is another helpful tool in reminding yourself that you are not all that. Marc Andreessen said as much in his excellent NY Magazine interview which was published yesterday. I loved the whole interview but I particularly loved this bit:

So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?

Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.

Do they ever convince you?

They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.

No, really?

The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.

Keeping someone on his or her toes, making them rethink their beliefs, making them argue them, is as Marc says “fairly helpful.” That’s an understatement. It is very very helpful.

That’s the thing I love about the comments here at AVC. I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and Larry are common naysayers. They may come across as argumentative, but arguing is, as Marc points out, useful.

The comments are also a place where people play the suck up game. It isn’t necessary to do that and I don’t appreciate it. It makes me uneasy.

So I would like to thank the entire AVC community for being a sounding board for my ideas, for pushing back when I am off base, and for resisting the suck up whenever the urge presents itself. I appreciate it very much.

Search Vs Social

Back in 2008 and 2009, probably because of our investment in Twitter, I was obsessed with looking at acquisition traffic from search and social and comparing the two. Here’s an example of a post I wrote at that time looking at the two channels and comparing them.

At some point, I became convinced that websites would eventually see more acquisition traffic coming from social than they were seeing from search, which was the king dog of Internet traffic at the time. It was a hotly debated issue but, again maybe because of how long we were on Twitter, I was convinced social would be king some day.

I stopped obsessing about that issue sometime around 2010 and moved on to mobile as the thing I thought about and wrote about the most.

But today, when I was looking to see if the traffic to AVC had declined a lot while I have been away and blogging about all sorts of non work stuff (it hasn’t), I saw this chart of year to date acquisition traffic to AVC.

acquisition channels

Social, and for AVC that means Twitter and Disqus, brings 23% of the visits to AVC. Search brings less than 20%. And it’s been that way for a long time now. Well over three years.

It’s kind of funny to think that we wondered and debated about such things back in 2008 and 2009. It’s not a debate any more and its not something to wonder about. It’s reality now.

Reblogging

So we are heading off for four weeks in Europe this evening. I’m going to start reblogging a lot of older stuff as a way to keep AVC fresh while I’m not posting every day.

So I thought about what posts would be the most worthwhile to dust off and bring back. I went to Google Analytics and looked at data from the past two years to see what posts that are older than that (ie written before August 2012) got the most traffic during that time.

It’s an interesting list. There’s a lot of MBA Mondays content in there, particularly around employee equity and valuation questions. And there are a few really popular guest posts, like this one from Fake Grimlock. And there are a few classics like this one.

I am going to queue up a bunch of them to autopost over the next few days while I figure out what my blogging routine is or isn’t going to be in Europe.

I’m curious to get everyone’s suggestions on this. I’ve written over 6,500 posts at AVC so I can’t just wade through them to find the best ones. I need some sort of algorithm. Another that comes to mind is most commented. I’ll take a look at that later today. Any other ideas for surfacing the best stuff to reblog?

The Personal Blog

There’s a bit of a renaissance of real personal blogging here in NYC. Two of the original NYC bloggers have, after years of writing professionally and editing others, returned to their own blogs.

It started with Lockhart Steele, the founder of Curbed, Racked, and Eater, who started that media business on his personal blog.

Then the next day, Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor/blogger at Gawker, dusted off her blog and started writing on it again.

It feels so good to link to both of them.

There was a comment on Elizabeth’s kickoff post that suggested she go to Medium. She replied:

I already write for (and on) Medium. My most recent piece is here. But I don’t think it’s quite the same thing as maintaining a personal blog, where you control all of the visual elements and maintain a custom URL.

I wanted to reply to that comment, but could not for the life of me, log into WordPress to leave it. So I’ll blog about it instead.

There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.

When I started blogging here at AVC, I would write about everything and anything. Then, slowly but surely, it became all about tech and startups and VC. It is still pretty much that way, but I feel like I’m heading back a bit to the personal blog where I can talk about anything that I care about.

Today, that thing is the fact that the Gotham Gal and I are taking our youngest child, Josh, to college. As my friend Bob told me over email last week about sending his son off:

I am surprisingly emotional at least to me ……….. Sending Josh off as your last must be something.

Yeah, it is something. I’ll miss him a lot.

Trolling

The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls.

Whitney says “As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present.”

We’ve had our fair share of Trolls here at AVC over the years. They are most notable whenever I write something negative about Apple.

But we also get them on posts that are more personal in nature.

Yesterday I got a Kik from William who helps me moderate AVC.

trolls

The comment in question was a tasteless comment about the Gotham Gal. William deleted it as I would have.

Had it been a tasteless comment about me, I would more likely have let it stand as I’m inclined to let everyone see how warped these trolls are.

I think Whitney is right that we are unlikely to have an open Internet without trolls. They are annoying, as is comment spam and many other things, but I’d rather have an open forum where anyone can comment, than close things down and lose all that comes from the freedom to say and do what you want.

Trolls are annoying but I am certainly happy to live with them given the alternatives.

A Comment About Comment Spam

The AVC blog has been hit with a rash of comment spam in the past several weeks. Every day we take down at least five or ten of these annoying things. And some days, we take down a lot more.

The “we” is me, William, and Shana. I really appreciate their help with this chore. They’ve been helping me moderate and manage the comments here at AVC for several years now. It’s an unpaid and mostly unnoticed job. I really appreciate their help on it.

I honestly don’t understand why these spammers do this. The Disqus system has its own filters and very little of it actually gets through and into the comments. And the stuff that does get through gets taken down by us.

These past few weeks has been particularly bad. I am not sure if the problem is an increase in spam attacks or some sort of change in the Disqus filters. But whatever is causing the increase in spam, it’s pissing me off.

If you leave comments here regularly, you will certainly have experienced getting a reply that is spam. So you know how I feel about this stuff.

One of the many reasons I moved away from Typepad comments and to Disqus back in 2007 was to manage comment spam. I could not manage it on Typepad and the old AVC comments were full of the stuff. That’s why I left all of those old comments behind on Typepad when I moved to WordPress. I am not going to let that happen again.

The fight against The Internet Axis Of Evil never stops but it does change. When I wrote that post a decade ago, it was mostly about email spam and viruses. I don’t think so much about those scourges now. We’ve moved on to getting hacked and DDOS’ed and worse. The good thing about the Internet is you can do what you want on it. The bad thing about the Internet is you can do what you want on it.

So if you’ve noticed an increase in comment spam recently, you are correct in your observation. We are taking it down as fast as it comes in. Maybe the spammers will move on to somewhere more fruitful for them. Or maybe Disqus will tighten their filters a bit. Either way, we are going to keep this bar clean of that stuff. I promise you that.

Feature Friday: A/B Testing Headlines On WordPress

AVC community member Shana Carp has been building a neat service that A/B tests headlines for WordPress posts and helps you figure out the one that will bring the most traffic.

It’s called BayesianWitch. You can sign up here and add the plugin to your WordPress.

Although I think it’s a great idea for someone who wants to optimize their posts for more traffic, I have not implemented it here at AVC.

As I told Shana, I like to write my own headlines and I am not that concerned with traffic. There’s already a healthy number of people who come here every day and engage.

But if you are still building your readership and want to make sure you’ve got a headline that pops in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, you should give BayesianWitch a try.

I am sure Shana will be hanging out in the comments and please let her know what you think about the service, how it works, etc, etc.

Tweetstorming

Yesterday, I tried Tweetstorming for the first time. It was a Tweetstorm about Tweetstorming. You can see the entire storm here.

You might think “that’s a strange way to communicate publicly when there are all these awesome blogging tools out there like WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, etc” and you would be partially right.

What you might miss, and I missed until recently, is that Tweetstorming has some unique characteristics, which I outlined in my storm, that make it different and possibly better in some respects.

But what is certainly true, and I demonstrated by missing Tweet 8/ in my storm, is that Twitter doesn’t make it easy to storm properly and Twitter doesn’t make it easy to consume storms properly. As a result many Twitter users feel that storming is spamming and they also feel like its very hard to consume and engage with storms. At the end of my storm, I encouraged Daniel Graf, Twitter’s new VP Product, to fix all of that.

There are already some good tools out there for Tweetstorming, like Dave Winer‘s Little Pork Chop.

After my storm and the engaging discussion on Twitter, Dave reached out to me and encouraged me to use Little Pork Chop.

I wrote back to him and said that I would try it, but that I would prefer to have Tweetstorming functionality built natively into Twitter and that I had been encouraging the folks at Twitter to do that.

Dave then asked why I would want Twitter to build this when the functionality already exists and that would have negative consequences for the developers who had already been building and iterating on tools to solve this problem.

I wrote back and said that I use Twitter’s Android app for almost all my tweeting and consumption and I really want everything to be right in that app and not have to mess around with third party tools to get what I want out of Twitter.

Which begs an age old question about platforms and the developers who hack around them. And, of course, this age old question has been front and center in the discussion about Twitter since it first emerged back in 2006.

So as I sit here in front of the computer using a traditional blogging platform to compose my thoughts, I see a few interesting questions and I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts on them.

1/ Do you agree that Tweetstorming has some unique characteristics that make it different and possibly better in some ways than traditional blogging?

2/ Do you agree that Twitter should productize Tweetstorming, like they have done with @replies, #hashtags, and RTs, which also emerged organically from the user base?

3/ Do you think that third party tools such as Little Pork Chop should be allowed to satisfy this use case in lieu of Twitter building it natively into their apps?

Please let me know what you think in the comments, and as always, if there are other interesting topics about Tweetstorming to discuss, please introduce them too.

A WordPress Plugin For A Books List?

The Gotham Gal moved to WordPress this week. I mentioned it in a post mid week.

She maintains a book list on her blog. She’s a huge reader, at least a couple books a week, many times more than that.

And she lists her favorite reads for all to see. It used to be a TypePad widget on the sidebar but in the new UI, it’s an entire page linked to off the main header.

On TypePad, she could enter a book name, an ASIN, or an ISBN and the book and link to Amazon would automatically be added to the list (with her Amazon Affiliate ID attached).

I spent about an hour yesterday trying to replicate that functionality on WordPress via a plugin. I tried about five or six plugins without any success.

Has anyone come across a WordPress plugin that does this? If so, we’d love to know about it. Thanks.

 

Gotham Gal 3.0

The Gotham Gal has followed me from TypePad to WordPress and given her blog a refresh. Check it out here.

We both use the same designer, Nathan Bowers, so our blogs have always had a similar look and feel. They look even more similar now, particularly on the phone.

I love the elegance and simplicity of both blogs on my phone. It has become my primary reading device and it’s where I read AVC and Gotham Gal (and comment) most frequently.

I think Gotham Gal looks particularly good on the tablet. I’m a bit jealous of that. I may have to talk to Nathan about that :)

Anyway, we have both now gone through the typepad to wordpress conversion and all that entails, we’ve got new his and her blogs, and we are pretty happy about all of that.

Thanks Nathan.