Posts from Weblogs

The New AVC

As I promised to do months ago, we have moved AVC from Typepad to WordPress.org. We is Nathan Bowers with some direction from me. We also did a redesign which you are all seeing in action. The goal of the redesign was to optimize for mobile, clean up the page, and make the content and comments front and center and eliminate everything else. The only widget that survived was the usv.com widget which is now placed between today’s post and yesterday’s post.

We moved search back to Google site search because it simply works better for me. And I am sure I search AVC more than anyone else. We’ve added a table of contents for MBA Mondays to the Archive section and improved that a bit too. I made some changes to the About page, and Subscribe Via Email is no longer buried so deep it’s remarkable that anyone ever found it.

AVC is now just one column. That works best for mobile and mobile will soon be the way most of you access AVC. We’ve also eliminated the <div> element that made Disqus work poorly on mobile for all of you. I’m sorry it took me so long to fix that.

I am sure there are some things that aren’t working right. Please let us know what they are in the comments and we will fix them. And I am sure many of you will dislike the redesign. Feel free to tell us that too, although I don’t expect we will fix that.

I have wanted to move off of Typepad for many years. I was hesitant for a whole host of reasons, a few valid and most not. I am really happy to have finally made the move and now I can work with an open source CMS that has plugins galore and is evolving and improving constantly. It was long overdue. I want to thank Nathan for making this move easy on me and getting it done.

You Can Turn Off Comments, But You Can’t Turn Off Discussions

I saw this on usv.com today:

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Popular Science has decided to turn off comments. They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last.

As Adrian says in the usv comments:

Let’s face it – dropping comments on PopSci isn’t going to stifle societal debate. There are more than enough places online to debate the impacts of science.

There are so many places on the web to talk about stuff. There are the blog communities, like AVC and many others, and there are the link sharing communities like Reddit, Hacker News, and USV.com.

The web (and increasibly mobile) is a great place to talk about stuff that matters to you. It always has been and it always will be. Some publishers will foster those conversations on their own domains. Some will let the conversations happen elsewhere. I am not particularly concerned about who does what.

I am concerned that we keep talking and I am not the least bit worried that we will continue to do that.

Lightweight Engagement Gestures

I was on vacation with my friend John and he asked me how I used the favorite button on Twitter. I told him it is a way to tell people that I’ve seen the tweet when I do not want to reply.

I use it in two primary ways. To signal that I saw and liked a tweet. And to signal that I saw a tweet to the person who sent it. The two are different only in that in the second case, I probably did not like the tweet but I still wanted to acknowledge it.

I really like super lightweight engagement gestures. I am bombarded by stuff coming at me all the time. So if I can acknoweledge something publicly without having to do much work, I get a huge amount of value from that.

Bumping on usv.com and upvoting on disqus are like that too. Because the identity of the bumber and the upvoter are on display publicly, they are an efficient way to signal that you saw it and liked it.

I am going to try to upvote more on disqus. As I reply less and less in the comments, I need to upvote more and more. I will make an effort to do that.

A New Look For usv.com

A few weeks ago, Nick came into my office and asked if I thought we could get more engagement out of the new usv.com.  He felt that we’d succeeded on the transition from a blog to a link blog, but we had not succeeded in really stimulating discussions at the new usv.com. He had some ideas on how to address that and we batted them around. I encouraged him to follow his instincts.

He then posted this thread on usv.com and got a ton of feedback on it. And so for the past few weeks, he’s been iterating on the usv.com front page. This past Monday, Nick and Brian did some more work, came up with the “cards” thing and Nick was excited. For the past few days, I’ve been encouraging him to “ship it.” He did that last night.Check it out.

For those of you who did not click on that link, here is what it looks like:

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The big changes are:

- Infinite scroll. This is something I’ve wanted since day one. I am so happy.

- All posts on the front page. No posts hidden behind the new tab anymore.

- Posts are bracketed by days. So each day you can come and see everything that was posted on the previous day to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

- Posts are inside a “card” that shows the poster, tags, comments, bumps, the link, and for the most popular posts, a blurb from the poster about the link.

- The left and right columns have been switched.

- Search is now prominently featured at the top. Yesssss.

So that’s it. I’ve been using this new UI for the past two weeks and I can’t imagine using the old one anymore. I like it way better. I hope you all do too.

Tumblr

I read this in an analyst report published on Yahoo! yesterday:

We believe Tumblr is an underappreciated asset with fast growing user base and engagement levels. We think Tumblr may actually be capable of creating as much value as Yahoo! core.

It’s not clear to me how much value the “Yahoo! core” has so it is not possible to put a number on this statement. But it is telling.

I have been using Tumblr every day for almost seven years now. USV invested in Tumblr in the fall of 2007 and we ceased being investors last year when Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! in May.

I still use Tumblr every day. I think it keeps getting better and better. My feed today is incredible. As it was yesterday and the day before.

The magic of Tumblr is that it sits between Twitter (short form) and WordPress (long form) and fills a gap in the world of blogging that nobody else has managed to capture. There are elements of Facebook and Instagram in it as well. So it’s a lot like all of these apps but in the end it is like nothing else. It has a soul and pulse and a vibe that other social apps don’t have. At times, it is simply magic.

When Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! a lot of people thought that spelled the end of Tumblr. I was not particulalry worried because I knew that David was committed to sticking around and Yahoo! was committed to leaving Tumblr alone. Nine plus months later, I think we can all say that to date the marriage has worked out well for the Tumblr users. The product has never been better and it feels as alive today as it did when I first logged in almost seven years ago.

So I agree with Carlos (the analyst who wrote the line I opened this post with). Tumblr is underappreicated. It always has been. But not by me. I love Tumblr.

Humans Of New York

I have a new favorite blog and I thought I’d share it with all of you.

I found it via the Gotham Gal’s blog (which in and of itself is kind of embarassing. We sleep together and I found this via her blog).

It’s called Humans Of New York. I follow it on Tumblr.

Every day I get two to five posts. Each post is a picture of a new yorker or two. And something that was said by the subject of the photo.

It’s like riding the subway, but even better. You get to see all kinds of people and learn a little bit about them.

Sometimes it is sad.

Sometimes it is funny.

Sometimes it is upsetting.

Sometimes it makes you smile.

But rarely does Humans Of New York fail to make me feel something.

And that is great art at work. And that is Tumblr at work. Tumblr is great art and so is Humans Of New York. I love both of them.

The AVC Word Cloud

On thursday, I stopped by usv.com and saw this post:

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I clicked on the link and it took me here. Turns out Asish Datta of Setfive Consultingmade a word cloud using the raw words on AVC since launch in 2003. For 2013, the word cloud looks like this:

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The dark blue are words that did not appear in the top 100 the year before. You can see word clouds for all eleven years of AVC here.

But possibly more interesting than the word clouds is the table below the word clouds that lists the roughly top 300 words over those eleven years and the years they were popular and when they were not. You can see that here.

As my partner Brad pointed out at usv.com, words like company, investing, business, etc are not particularly interessting or revealing. But there is a lot of signal below that noise. One way to see it is to look at just the company names in the table and see when they were on my mind and when they were not. Only Google and Twitter have managed to make it in the top 100 every year they and AVC were around, for example.

Asish (or someone else as he’s open sourced the code and data here) could do some additional work on this and come up with some pretty interesting observations. I would like to thank Asish for this great work and in particular for open sourcing it so others can work on it if they would like. That’s awesome.

New Outlets & New Voices

The greatest thing about blogging is that it has opened up so many new voices and new outlets. 

Just in the past few weeks, we have two new outlets, both from WSJ veterans.

The All Things D team has flown the coop and has resurfaced as Recode. The formula seems to be pretty similar to All Things D, the team is intact (at least it looks so to my untrained eye) and the format is familiar. They will do a big conference to anchor the whole thing. At least right now, it seems that the only things that have really changed here are the URL, the color scheme, and the ownership structure. But a new home and a new ownership structure may open up possibilities that they could not pursue in the past. We will see about that.

Jessica Lessin, one of the top tech journalists at the WSJ over the past ten years, launched The Information in December. I am not a fan of paywalls and barriers to the free flow of content and information and so I am not a subscriber or a reader and I don't plan to link to anything behind a paywall. But this is an ambitious experiment and an attempt to make a challenging business model work in the tech news sector. As I told Jessica in a private email last month, I am happy to be proven wrong about the paywall business model and there is nobody I would rather see prove me wrong than her.

But maybe more exciting to me is the proliferation of new voices that I am seeing out there. One of the driving factors is the emergence of Medium as a blogging platform that is home to many of these new voices. Every day I seem to find a new blogger on usv.com who has written something interesting on Medium. 

But it isn't just Medium that is hosting great content. You can still find great stuff on old platforms, like the one that Ev built before Twitter and Medium – Blogger. This post from Duncan Anderson on the important trends in mobile is on Blogger.

As far as I can tell, there has never been more diversity and quality of content than there is right now. And the reason for that is the printing press of our times, the cms in the cloud, is just getting better and better, easier and easier, and cheaper and cheaper. I will continue to do my part in feeding the blogosphere and I hope and expect that usv.com will continue to be a good filter for those who are interested in the intersection of technology, startups, policy, and capital markets. With all of these new voices and new outlets emerging, we need filters and discovery more than ever.

Traffic

Benedict Evans wrote a post about his traffic recently and I am proud that AVC is one of his top ten referrers. That inspired me to post some traffic data here today.

I've had google analytics on this blog since Oct 2005 and here's what the monthly traffic has looked like since then:

Monthly traffic since 2005

I feel like the AVC audince has been stable (or flat) since 2010. The peak in the middle of 2011 was from stumbleupon which was for some reason sending a boatload of traffic here for a while. That has since gone away and we are generally at about 250,000 visits per month. The UV chart looks almost identical to visits except it's about 175,000 UVs per month vs 250,000 visits.

Here are the top ten countries where AVC readers reside:

Avc audience location

And here are the top ten sources of traffic (actually eight because twitter appears twice and number ten is this blog)

Avc top ten referrers

A New Look For 2014

I have been unhappy with the way this blog looks for a while. I've fallen into my typical habit of putting too many widgets on it and messing things up. I have also discovered that the layout of the blog is making disqus work more poorly on mobile than it should. Many of you have run into problems commenting on mobile and it's likely that is my fault, not disqus' fault. I also want to do an even better job of optimizing the blog for reading on phones and tablets. That was the goal of the last redesign, which we did in the spring of 2010, but a lot has changed with responsive design since then and we are going to leverage all of that to make AVC even better on mobile.

I am also going to port this blog from Typepad to WordPress. I've been wanting to do that for a long time but I've held off because it's a big effort and I didn't have the stomache for it. But I do now. We will port all of the posts and disqus comments, but I am going to leave the old typepad comments behind. They are full of spam anyway and its too much work to clean that up.

I will be working with Nathan Bowers who has helped me with this blog for quite a while now. He and I work well together and I am confident we can get this done in a month or so.

So now is the time to let us know what you like and don't like about the look and feel and user experience on AVC. Please share that with us in the comments.