Posts from August 2008

Comment Of The Day: Web Services That Cater To Both The Publisher And The Reader

"You have to build a service with the user/reader in mind or you won’t get any uptake. But if you can’t engage the content creator in your service, you’ll lose something important"

what’s most interesting about this thought – which clearly I agree with and in fact we look for and build services that support the notion – is that it implicitly acknowledges that the line between content consumption and creation (i.e, publisher and reader) is blurred, maybe to the point where the distinction no longer matters.  Instead, more interesting value is being created by services which take new ways of looking at content, from the perspective not of the originator (or owner) of the content, but by its velocity, its movement, its consumption patterns.

So tremendous value can be created by looking at and building applications that, as you say, serve both sides of the equation because that’s where the action is occurring.

Originally posted as a comment by aweissman on A VC using Disqus.

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Web Services That Cater To Both The Publisher And The Reader

I’ve been noticing a trend lately that certain web services are starting to cater to both the publisher and the reader. And I think this is an important direction for a host of reasons.

You have to build a service with the user/reader in mind or you won’t get any uptake. But if you can’t engage the content creator in your service, you’ll lose something important. When publishers start paying attention to a service, they build hooks into their content that drive more users to the service. An early example of that were the "digg this" and "post to delicious" links that publishers put at the end of their stories.

And monetization opportunities can result from publishers engaging with the service. A good example of this is the sponsored posts section on techmeme. Publishers and bloggers come to techmeme every day to see what the tech world is talking about, but also to see if any of their stories got picked up. So it makes perfect sense that Gabe offers publishers the ability to feature their content for a price on the right side of the page. I’ve suggested to Gabe that he do more to service publishers. The leaderboard is one very smart thing he’s done. But he could do more. There’s no page on techmeme where I can go type in my blog url or feed and then see stats on my posts. I tried to use techmeme search for that, but it’s not really suited for that application. (one of our portfolio companies) does a great job with this. The front page and the personalized radar page are totally designed for the every day reader, showing them what is happening in their neighborhood. But they have a page for publishers that allows me to give them my blog info and get stats on how many of my posts have been picked up for each location they service and who else is blogging about those stories, places, and neighborhoods. By engaging the publishers and local bloggers in their service, insures that all of their content is coming into and they engage these publishers in various monetization opportunities that offers publishers and local bloggers.

A service I’ve started using a lot lately is built by our friends at Betaworks (our firm does not have an interest in John Borthwick of Betaworks has a good post on on his blog. There are dozens of url shortening options on the web these days, all taking from the good idea that tinyurl started. And they all do a pretty good job of shortening urls quickly and easily. But is thinking a lot about publishers in their approach to building out their service. If you visit my political post from early this week and then click the bookmarklet, you’ll see this list of places that post has gone. You can see that 194 people on twitter clicked thru to that post with, eight did it on facebook, four did it on netvibes, etc, etc. That’s very useful information for a publisher and getting publishers interested in will get them using it and possibly providing a way to monetize it, something that has eluded the url shortening category to date.

That click tracking picture reminds me of another of our portfolio companies, Tumblr. When David and Marco built Tumblr, they built it from day one with both the publisher/blogger and the reader in mind. You don’t just blog/create content in Tumblr, you also consume it there. The Tumblr dashboard is a very simple and elegant "rss reader" but they don’t call it that. But in keeping with "serve both the publisher and reader" mantra, the dashboard is also where you go to find out how people are consuming and engaging with your content. On the right is a screen shot of the way tumblr readers engaged with the kozmo photo I blogged at yesterday. Right from the dashboard that I use follow what other people I care about are saying and doing on tumblr, I can see how people have reacted to what I have done. It’s a great example of the power of social media in action.

Any post on this topic by me would be remiss if it didn’t at least mention friendfeed and twitter. Both have tabs that let me focus on how people are enaging with my content. The reply tab on twitter does that for me and the "me" tab on friendfeed (or the "my feed" page in the new beta version of friendfeed) also does that for me. That said, I think both services could do a much better job of surfacing what people are doing and saying with my content. Twitter can’t tell me (at least I don’t think they can) how many people favorited one of my tweets, how many retweeted, how many people clicked on a link in one of my tweets, etc, etc.  And I have not been able to figure out how to just see all the comments people have left for me on friendfeed. So both of those services could improve the way they service the publisher in my opinion.

We are at an interesting point in the world of media. Bloggers and every day people are creating more and more relevant content that mainstream people are consuming. But big media companies are seeing the power of social media and they are engaging with the very same services more and more every day. This is mashing up and mixing up the concept of the publisher and the reader. And so services that do the same by focusing on both of them at the same time are going to prosper.

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A Fun Job For A Strong Graphic Designer

In two and half weeks, I am going to deliver a web 2.0 keynote titled:

New York’s Web Industry From 1995 to 2008: From Nascent to Ascendant

As many know, we created a wiki and I asked people to contribute ideas to it.

And they did.  NYC’s web history has been outlined on this page. And we’ve got a bunch of great images on this page.

I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to talk about and all of this user generated content has been incredibly helpful. Thanks everyone.

Now I need to hire a graphic designer to help me tell this story with a visual presentation (possibly delivered right on the web). I’m also open to using keynote or powerpoint.

Here’s what I want:

1) a person who can take my ideas and make them come to life on the screen. there will be little to no text in the visual part of this presentation

2) someone who has the time over the next two weeks to put this together. i have to submit the presentation to the web 2 conference on friday, sept 12th

3) a NY native who has watched the internet industry develop over the past 15 years.

This is a paid gig. But more than anything I want someone who is as into this topic as I am.

If you are interested, please send me an email. Click the contact link on the upper right of this blog to do that.

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Comment Of The Day

Well….these are two VERY different types of numbers

I would argue that a three point lead in voter polling SHOULD lead to a 60-40 lead in wagering because with a three point polling lead you are statistically favored to win 60% of the time.

I’d assume that if the polling was coming in at 55-40, the wagering odds would be around 95-5.

Originally posted as a comment by andyswan on A VC using Disqus.

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Black Swan Quote Of The Day

The payoff in a human venture is, in general, inversely proportional to what it is expected to be. —Fred Wilson Dot VC

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

I am finally getting around to reading this important and fascinating book and as I’ve been doing lately, I’ll try to reblog the best quotes I come across while I am reading it.

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Polls vs Markets

My friend Alan Warms sold his small company Buzztracker to Yahoo! last year and has been doing some great work inside Yahoo! since then. Yesterday, he sent me a link to their new election dashboard service which I have bookmarked and will now visit everyday until the election.

I like the fact that I can get everything I need to know in one page view with links to things I care about like the most blogged about political stories of the day. It’s very well done although I sure wish they’d done it in ajax instead of flash.

The thing that pops out at me when I look at the election dashboard this morning is that the race is very tight in the polls (47% Obama, 44% McCain). And the polls will clearly tighten in the next week as McCain benefits from the limelight of the republican convention.

But the election markets are not tight at all. Intrade has it at 60% Obama, 40% McCain and it hasn’t really moved in the past three months.


Hub Dub has it at 70% Obama, 30% McCain and that also has not moved much in the past three months.


So why is it that the polls are tight and tightening and the markets are not? And are markets better predictors of news than polls? I suspect the answer to that is yes.

I’ve been placing a lot of bets lately on Hub Dub and I am having fun and engaging with the news in a way I’ve not done before. It’s the same effect playing fantasy baseball or football has on your enjoyment of the real game. And in the process, it may become a new way for all of us to think about the news.

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Change I'd Like To See

I’ve got my Obama t-shirt on today and my song of the day is celebrating the change that is going to come. I am eager to watch Obama speak tonight. I’ve watched (mostly after the fact via web video) many of the speeches in Denver this week. Frankly, I’ve not been particularly inspired. Although Bill Clinton’s speech last night reminded me why I was such a big supporter of him in his time.

I am hoping that Obama can inspire me and the nation tonight. He’s talked so much about change, but I think he needs to be really clear about what tangible change he wants to bring and how he’s going to do it. Change as a slogan doesn’t inspire me. A short list of top priorities would. You can’t do anything if you try to do everything. But if you focus on a few big things, you can change a lot.

Here’s my list of the five things I’d want to change if I was in his shoes:

1) Rid politics of the stench of money and corruption. I used to think we should have public financing of campaigns but I’ve come around to the point of view that giving money is a form of free speech. We should allow our citizens to give money to fund campaigns but all gifts should be anonymous. If you can’t and won’t get "credit" for your contributions (as is the largely case with the $10 to $100 gifts given over the Internet), then we’ll have a much cleaner political system.

2) Get us out of Iraq. Regardless of whether this was a good war to fight or a bad war to fight, we’ve achieved most, if not all, of what we can and will achieve there. It’s cost us about $600 billion so far and the cost is going up by about $12 billion per month. And most of that money is not going to our troops and our military operations. It’s going to pay for private companies and bribes to keep the Iraqis from killing each other. It’s ridiculous. I heard this week from someone’s speech in Denver that the Iraqis have built up a surplus of close to $100bn from oil profits. It’s time for them to be financing their own security and it’s time for us to go. Their own leadership agrees with this view. We should have a firm timetable to leave and we should have the Iraqis start paying us $12bn per month for as long as we stay.

3) Cut the deficit. We’ve got an annual budget deficit of roughly $600bn per year. After leaving Iraq, we’ll still be in the red by $450bn. I’d just roll back the Bush tax cuts and go back to the tax rates in place under Clinton when the economy and the rich were doing just fine. That would raise at least $200bn per year and probably more. Those two moves alone would cut the deficit in half. I’d go further and get the budget back in the black but that would not be in my to top 5 list of priorities.

4) Invest in alternative energy. I’ve heard Vinod Khosla say that we could turn the upper plains states into the next middle east with significant federal commitment and private investment in biofuels. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but we need a John Kennedy "go to the moon style" national commitment to eliminate our country’s reliance on carbon energy in the next 10 years. In the process, we can create millions of new jobs, and maybe we can turn Sioux Falls into the next Dubai as well.

5) Change the healthcare paradigm. We need a market based solution that covers every citizen’s health care. I don’t care whether it’s Obama’s plan, Hillary’s plan, or some other plan. But it should be market based, create incentives to continue to invest in and find innovative new treatments, and it should cover everyone. Plenty of countries have done it. It’s time for the US to do it too.

I know that several of these are on Obama’s list and that’s why I am supporting him. I don’t want more tax cuts for the rich, bigger deficits, a continued reliance on oil energy, more wars, less diplomacy, and a continuation of the existing health care approach. I want change. I hope Obama can convince the rest of the country tonight.

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Axes To Grind

Having and "axe to grind" is a phrase that means you’ve got a dispute to take up with someone or possibly an ulterior motive. I’ve seen and/or participated in several such axes in the past 24 hours and it’s gotten me thinking that the Internet, email, blogging, etc is a particularly great way to grind such axes.

Alley Insider and Valleywag have posts up today addressing the WSJ story about Insight Venture’s individual partner’s making a $3mm investment in Photobucket that turned into $40mm for them personally instead of their LPs. This is a tricky part of the venture capital business, full of conflicts, and one that I have had to be very careful about myself. When I read the story, my first reaction was why this story and why now? Photobucket was sold almost two years ago. It turns out that both Peter kafka of Alley Insider and Owen Thomas of Valleywag were pitched this story and didn’t bite. And Owen Thomas wonders outloud on Valleywag:

I was fascinated by the question of who wanted to get Insight, and
why. I’m still at a loss. Insight has a low profile in the industry; as
a late-stage investor, based in New York, it rarely dabbles in Silicon
Valley’s splashy younger startups. (Its sexiest investment is
SkinnyCorp, the New York-based parent company of Threadless, a website
which sells T-shirts.)

So: A spurned entrepreneur? A rival venture capitalist who lost a
deal to Insight? It’s useful to keep in mind that venture capitalists
can make a lot of money on side deals — deals they heard about in the
course of doing their day jobs. ‘Twas ever thus. The person who thinks
he ratted out Insight, though? He’d like you to believe that some
venture capitalists are so venal and so foolish as to torpedo
their entire careers over a tiny deal that happened to turn out well.
Insight’s opponent, whoever he is, underestimated the firm’s
intelligence — and some reporters’ intelligence, too.

Yesterday I got an email from a person who is unhappy with TypePad‘s data portability offerings. He is "trying to get the word out that TypePad’s users are truly locked in". He asked me to blog about it. Others have blogged about this issue, but I didn’t feel sufficiently knowledgeable so I forwarded the email to a friend at Six Apart. My friend wrote back that:

Since day one TypePad’s provided an easy way to get your content out of the
tool, with the well-documented MT import/export format, and for
years has supported domain mapping so that users can own their own URL
and keep that with them if they choose to move their blog to another
platform or service.

[He] rightly points out that the MT import/export
format doesn’t include the permalink of the entry. Our efforts now around data portability are focused on the IETF standard
AtomPub, which is fully supported in TypePad.

I then passed that back to the guy who emailed me. I guess I am now weighing in on and highlighting this debate, but I still don’t know where I come out on it. I am all for data portability within reason. But it’s also clear to me that the people who are taking on Six Apart have some sort of axe to grind and I don’t know what the motives are and that bothers me.

I’ve also had several email exchanges and one blog comment in the past day with people who have complained about one or more of our portfolio companies. This happens to me a lot, at least a few times a month, but it happened several times yesterday. I always refer these people to right people in our companies and take mental note of the complaint. Most of the time, these complaints are totally legit and I am well aware of the deficiency and trying to help our companies address it.  But sometimes the tone of the complaints, the level of anger and tone of the conversation, leads me to wonder what’s up with the people who are making them. Do they have an axe to grind?

I guess journalists deal with this all day long and have developed tools, tricks, and techniques to deal with this issue. I could use some advice as an investor and blogger to help me deal with it. I think it’s only going to grow as an issue for me.

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Goodbye Olympics, Hello Conventions

I followed two twitter bots during the Olympics, 08olympics and twittolympic. They were both great and I want to thank the people who put them together and operated them. I got more olympics news from these two bots than any other source. It helped me keep connected to the olympics while I was traveling and away from the TV. And it made the TV watching even better when I was able to do that.

I’ve stopped following these bots now that the Olympics is over and now I want to turn my attention to the two conventions, the Democrats this week and the Republicans next week.

Can anyone recommend good twitter bots to follow the convention news? I don’t want individual twitters, I want bots that aggregate the best links and tweets. Please leave your suggestions in the comments and I’ll reblog the best suggestions (gotta love reblogging comments!).

UPDATE: I am still searching for some good bots to follow, but this HuffPo twitter account seems like it’s going to be good. I’m following it now.

2nd UPDATE: Added rss_democrats and rss_republicans. Two more twitter bots to follow. And I stopped following the HuffPo twitter account on my mobile. It was a firehose.

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Reblogging Comments

If you visited this blog over the weekend you saw this post which looks like this:


That post was a reblog of that comment left by Joe Lazarus. I was able to reblog it with one click using Disqus.  This is a feature I’ve been asking for since Disqus launched and it finally arrived today.

Here’s how it works. If you have a disqus profile (you probably do if you leave comments here regularly), go to that profile and give disqus the login credentials to your blog. Then whenever you see a comment you want to reblog, hit the reblog link that is after the comment right next to the reply link. It’s that simple.

As I explained to Alan at Centernetworks:

i regularly get great comments on my blog and want to be able to elevate them to the front page easily. this does that for me.

i also sometimes leave comments on other blogs that are full blown
blog posts and i’ve wanted a way to showcase them on my blog while
recognizing the blog they came from. this does that as well.

That was a comment I left on Alan’s blog. If he was using Disqus, I could have posted it here with all of the relevant links with one click.

When stuff like this gets easier, more people will do it and commenting will become more popular because your comments will sometimes end up as blog posts where you get the credit.

Disqus is all about making commenting easier and better for everyone. And reblogging is a big step in the right direction.

I am going to try to reblog a comment at least 2 to 3 times a week. Hopefully I’ll do it even more.

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