One A Day

I am not talking vitamins here. I am talking curation or maybe creation.

As I went through the process of building several mixtapes over the past day leading up to the post I just did, I came to realize that putting something together on the fly is not always the way to create the best result. A measured but routine approach can often produce something special.

At dinner last night my brother in law Jerry told me about a cinematographer friend of his named Jamie who passed away almost ten years ago. Jamie was an artist who worked in many mediums; fim, music, photography, etc. One of Jamie’s hobbies was that he took one polaroid a day, every day. Jerry said he’d be hanging out at Jamie’s apartment in the west village late in the evening and Jamie would say "shit, I forgot to take a photo" and he’d rush out of the apartment and shoot something. Apparently Jamie did this for something like ten years and his collection was recently shown somewhere. I can’t recall where but I’ll find out and add a link to this post.

When Fotolog first launched, it was a photo sharing service just like Flickr. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, Fotolog quickly gained traction in Brazil whereas Flickr took off in the US. In Brazil, the users went nuts, posting huge numbers of photos. But given the less developed nature of the marketplace it had taken hold in, Fotolog was worried about the monetization options and was facing huge infrastructure and bandwidth costs. So they did something about it. They limited the users to one photo per day. And that transformed the service. The users embraced it and the quality of the service improved.

When Tumblr offered music uploading, they did the same thing. You can only post one audio file (max of 10mb) to tumblr each day. It’s funny. I can post as many mp3s to this blog as I want. I can only post one mp3 per day to tumblr. And yet, I post one mp3 every day to tumblr and don’t post many mp3s here anymore.

If you take the aggregated set of music posts, you get this (check the autioplay button)

There’s just something about limiting yourself to one a day that creates something special. You don’t want to waste the opportunity on something average, so you carefully select the one thing you are gong to showcase or possibly create. And when viewed over time, it’s way more than that. It’s a timeline to your life. Jerry told me that Jamie went out with one woman for a while and during that period, you’d see her in many of his daily polaroids. Then one day, she just stopped showing up. That’s life and that’s the power of one a day.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. blackmailismylife

    A friend of mine just pointed me to I have yet to play with it very much, but it seems like a fun way to create a mixtape without the incessant social networking annoyances.

  2. Vijay Veerachandran

    Fred, Its definitely fun in the beginning. Just an example.One of the main attraction to your blog at least for me was the VC quote once a week. Then you kind a lost the habit and stopped the thing entirely. I am sure that many readers enjoyed the quote and the funny story behind it.

    1. fredwilson

      i ran out of cliches.i need a new “xxx of the week”

  3. monsur

    This reminds me of the Harvey Keitel movie “Smoke”, where he takes one picture a day, from the same spot, at the same time. It is set up as a novelty, but leads to a touching moment later one. Great movie!

  4. Adam Seifer

    Hey Fred – glad you’ve noticed the one-a-day phenomenon. We’re big believers in it. I just wanted to clarify a couple of points you made and add to your observations:- Fotolog launched in May 2002 – flickr didn’t come along until Feb 2004.- We actually didn’t impose the one-a-day limit because of technical or cost challenges (although there were certainly tons of those). We actually created the limit *before* the site started growing like crazy — in fact, I believe it was a big catalyst in that growth.From the beginning, we didn’t think the world really needed another place to store and organize *all* your photos. We wanted to create a more social experience where you weren’t just limited to sharing vacation photos with your mom/best friend but could use your network to get your daily, spontaneous photos seen by friends of friends (and friends of friends of friends, etc.). We figured that letting people “dump” all their photos would be counterproductive. We hoped that one-a-day would make people more likely to be thoughtful about what they choose which would make their photos more interesting to other people which would make it more likely that they got some kind of human feedback which would make it more likely that they would want to post another photo the next day. It also made it impossible to only drop by the site at the end of the month and just dump your memory card. Which wouldn’t be a problem if Fotolog was a tool or archive. But for a community, it’s important that members come around frequently. One-a-day helped that a lot.It’s funny – there have been a number of Fotolog knock-offs that have popped up over the years in the various countries where Fotolog has become popular (our fastest growth right now is in Europe – Spain has recently become our biggest market). Invariably, at some point they say something like “Just like Fotolog – except you can upload as many pictures as you want!!!!” and invariably, they get deluged with all of those pictures that ought to get thrown out because it’s easier to just upload them than to take the time to edit. And then those sites disappear – because it’s not as much fun to wade through noise to find the signal.– Adam Seifer, co-founder

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for clarifying that. Its a classic case of knowing only half the story and therefore telling it wrong. If I wasn’t on my bberry, I’d correct the post. I might do it laterFred

  5. randy

    your one pick yesterday (of the replacements) was worth a decade of random uploads.

  6. isayusay

    The one-a-day idea is great. We’ll add that to the slideshow and banner uploads before we launch the media-buzz social networking site.

  7. Johnrob

    I’ve always maintained the creation date attribute on all my mp3 files for this very reason. I’ve come to realize that the dates themselves are more important than the songs, because I can always get another copy of the song. But the dates are mine and mine alone, and there is no way to reproduce that data (my song dates are often different than the song’s release date; a song from the 80’s might be significant to me in the 90’s).

  8. stone

    Man, does this post remind me of the new company I just launched. Wow!

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a good thing. when i blog about something and i get that reaction, i know i am still thinking right.

  9. Kristen Forbriger

    Very true, Fred. But commiting to doing something once-a-day always seems to be a way to set youself up for failure. You never know where any given day might take you!In any case, thanks for reminding me about my current once-a-day project, and committing myself to it once again!

  10. Hannah Park

    This is brilliant, and I am thilled that you put this down into a post.I will admit, my iTunes is full of music that I had never listened to. 4-5 minutes a day to listen to a new song seems a reasonable and worthy task.I am at an internship at a company called TickerHound ( , and my boss reminds me often that social networking is becoming increasingly important for yourself and your company (I know I’m being a bit obvious about it). This one-a-day idea is so applicable, and I am excited to start. Plus, throwing myself into a guilt trip everytime I miss a day will definitely provide a sufficient incentive to succeed. Thanks!

  11. Pierre Far

    That’s an excellent thought, Fred. Yesterday I was thinking the same thing about coding websites: add one feature a day. I stumbled across this magical trick for motivation by mistake. Maybe in time it’ll trick me to break the rules and start adding more than one feature a day.

  12. Alek

    The one-a-day rule is key for It does help get some quality music in the mix.

  13. mikesabat

    On the supply/retail side, woot is a great example of how ‘One a Day’ can be really effective.I think it all boils down to creating scarcity for your product, like you said “you don’t want to waste the opportunity”. When there is a real limit, [certain time an item can be purchased, or a number of photos you can post today (or even in your entire lifetime)] it adds value.

  14. Daniel Romaniuk

    We took a similar one-a-day approach with our new cartoon website, though for different reasons. Since it takes a lot of work to create even a bad cartoon (compared to say snapping a digital photo), we are not worried about people drawing ten of them per day.Our concern was that people might dump their whole portfolio of cartoons in one shot. The one-a-day limit has resulted in a rhythm of new material from various artists.The downside is that some people wanted to upload their whole portfolio, and they were turned off by the upload limit. It’s very hard to turn people away when you’re struggling to build membership, especially in a niche like cartoons. But I still believe having limits has made our site ( more fun and interesting.

  15. Chang

    Hey Fred, I only found this post now. In Korea, there’s an online shopping site called (guess what) One a day – just sell one thing a day, at a big discount – no new idea, but good execution I guess.