Ticket Bots

New York State put a law on its books this week making operating “ticket bots” illegal:

using ticket bots, maintaining an interest in or control of bots, and reselling tickets knowingly obtained with bots constitutes a class A misdemeanor. As such, violators could face substantial fines and imprisonment

As someone who has often lost out on tickets and was forced into the secondary market at double the price (or more), I appreciate the effort here to curb this abuse of the system.

But I do wonder if there are technical or market based solutions that would be more effective. And I wonder how New York State is going to enforce this new law.

A market based solution could be some sort of auction mechanism that effectively sells the tickets at “market value” and takes the profit out of scalping. Of course the effect of that might be to increase the cost of tickets to everyone and that might not be ideal. If that were paired with some sort of discount for fans and/or fanclub members, you might be able to keep the prices affordable for real fans and take the profits out of the scalping business.

Anyway, I am not griping about this new law. It could help at the margin. But I do yearn for a more elegant and market based solution that fixes the issue more systemically.

Keep It Simple

I like this advice from John Lilly, a serial CEO and now a partner at Greylock:

I didn’t understand the role of simplicity and messaging early on. One of the things that happened at one of my start-ups was that I would get bored saying the same thing every day. So I decided to change it up a little bit. But then everybody had a different idea of what I thought because I was mixing it up.

So my big lesson was the importance of a simple message, and saying it the same way over and over. If you’re going to change it, change it in a big way, and make sure everyone knows it’s a change. Otherwise keep it static.

The number one cause of employee unhappiness and unwanted departures is “I don’t understand where we are going.” That is a failure of leadership on the CEO’s part. I agree with John, keep it simple and repeat often and don’t mix up your messages. It is critical, particularly as the organization grows in size.

Videos For The Hour Of Code

The Hour Of Code has become a big deal in K-12 schools around the US and around the world. It happens this year during the week of Dec 5th to Dec 11th, which is Computer Science Education Week. Schools find an hour during that week and offer students the ability to do coding exercises for an hour. Students love it.

Many schools ask parents who are software engineers to come to school and help out with the Hour Of Code. My friend Dan Malven is doing that in his children’s school this year. He sent me an email with a question for the AVC community. He wants suggestions for videos to show the students that will help them get excited about learning to code. Here is how Dan explains it:

My goal in the presentation is to show how software is affecting the things they care about. The message I’ll be giving is that not everyone will have the desire and skills to be a professional coder. But everyone does need to understand software because its affecting everything. I want to show how software is (and will) affect sports, music, entertainment, medicine, politics, etc. Basically whatever 8th graders care about. I want them to understand that software is affecting all the things they care about so if they want to have an impact on the things they care about they better learn software.

So, if you know of any videos, ideally publicly available on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc that Dan can use, please share them in the comments.

And, of course, if you are going into a school in a couple weeks to help with the Hour Of Code, please feel free to use any of the suggested videos with the students in your school.

Google Pixel XL

When Google announced their Pixel smartphone a few months ago, I bailed on my plans to move from the Nexus 6P to the iPhone 7 and instead ordered the Pixel XL. This marks the end of several years of going back and forth between Android and iOS. I may start doing that again. Or I might just stay on Android. It’s hard to know. Other than iMessage, there is not much I prefer about iOS these days.

The Pixel XL was backordered and I finally got mine last week. I spent the past few days configuring the Pixel and logging into all of my primary mobile apps. I swapped the SIM card a couple days ago and have been fully on the Pixel for the past two days.

Here is what my Pixel XL looks like:

pixel-xl

Here is the back of the phone:

pixel-xl-back

So here is the thing. I really like the Pixel XL. But it’s not really much different than the Nexus 6P that I’ve been using since this past spring when I went back to Android from iOS. They both have a fingerprint sensor in the upper back of the phone. They both have a large 5.5″ display. They both have really nice cameras, good battery life, and are snappy.

Maybe there is something I will discover about the Pixel XL that will make me appreciate it a lot more than the Nexus 6P. Or maybe one high end Android smartphone is more or less the same as another one.

For me what matters most is the Android software, the Google application suite, and the camera, battery life, and fingerprint unlock. That combo is hard to beat. And that’s why I am sticking with an Android phone this winter instead of going back to iOS.

Video Of The Week: A Crypto Economy

AVC community member William Mougayar traveled to Amsterdam a couple weeks ago, along with some USV folks, to attend SteemFest. He delivered this talk in which he sketches out a vision of an economy powered by blockchain technology. It’s a fairly concise but expansive vision of what is possible to build with open public blockchains.

Shop Differently This Holiday Season

It’s Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. Here at AVC, we recommend shopping where you can find unique items that allow you to express your individuality. Etsy.com, of course.

The Creative Independent

In a world full of click bait media and fake news, it is harder than ever to find authentic and meaningful content on the Internet. The utopian early days of blogging in the early 2000s, when this blog was started, seem long gone.

But the Internet is a vast place and there is quality content on it. Podcasts are a particularly bright spot right now and remain largely unpolluted.

The most exciting new entrant into my daily reads this year is The Creative Independent which quietly started publishing in late September.

The Creative Independent is a publication by artists for artists and is funded entirely by Kickstarter PBC and is advertising free. 

Their mission is to “is to educate, inspire, and grow the community of people who create or dream of creating.”

Each day a new post appears that is about a particular artist and it’s dives into something specific about them and their work. I follow The Creative Independent on Twitter and am taken into the world of art and artists every day. 

If you are looking for something a bit more meaningful to read every day or if you are an artist or have an appreciation for artists and their work, you may enjoy The Creative Independent as much as I do.

The New Improved Kik

Our portfolio company Kik quietly pushed out a new improved version of its popular mobile messaging app yesterday. The only press was a short blog post.

But if you are a frequent user of Kik, as I am, you will immediately notice that its cleaner, faster, and lighter. It practically hums in your hand.

For years, Kik has focused on its bot platform and apps that run in its messenger. That continues. I believe that Kik has more bots on its platform than any other messaging platform.

But over the past few months, Kik has been doubling down on its core messenger to address some lingering issues. Now there is less spam and more speed.

If you haven’t been on Kik in a while, give it a shot. I think you’ll agree that they did a nice job with the new version. You can download it here by clicking on the blue download button.

It Is All Spam

My friends Jeff Jarvis and John Borthwick wrote a thoughtful post about the fake news issue and put forward fifteen suggestions for the platforms and news organizations that are struggling with it.

This suggestion got my attention:

Create a system for media to send metadata about their fact-checking, debunking, confirmation, and reporting on stories and memes to the platforms.

It reminds me of the efforts in the email sector to create metadata around email messages to help the mail platforms identify what is spam and what is not. Examples of such efforts are DKIM and SPF.

If you think about the guts of the Internet, you have these simple protocols like TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP, etc that allow information to flow from one computer to another. These systems are inherently open, often radically open. Anyone can publish anything to anyone. That has largely been a good thing because it has allowed an open communication network to develop globally without a lot of interoperability worries and work.

But when you do that, you allow all sorts of bad things to happen. And the people who build and manage internet technologies have been trying to figure out elegant solutions to all of this bad behavior for the past twenty five years (or possibly longer).

For me, the first example of this was email spam. And then search spam. Email and web search were two of the first wide open systems that were plagued with all sorts of bogus information and messages. And twenty years later, these two systems have largely been cleaned up through massive investments across multiple dimensions.

So when I hear of some new bad thing like fake news, I immediately think of spam. And I think of the things that have been done to manage and mitigate spam. There is a roadmap for mitigating and managing this sort of thing. It seems like we need to replicate it around fake news. And we should.