Fun Friday: Which web or mobile services most inspire you?

It’s time for another community powered day at AVC. Someone, I can’t recall who, suggested this to me. One of the two questions we ask people who are applying for our analyst position at USV is “Which web or mobile services most inspire you?”.

So let’s discuss that question here at AVC today.

For me, it is always those services that allow for emergent behavior, like this woman Anna Todd writing a serialized novel, to date 278 chapters long, called After that has more than a million readers. Or a 19 year old young man raising almost $2.5mm to make virtual reality goggles. Or designing an incredible 3D maze that can be 3D printed and purchased by anyone. These are the kind of services that inspire me.

How about you?


Comments (Archived):

  1. David Semeria


    1. fredwilson

      Good one. A treasure

    2. Dan T

      I fell in love with Wikipedia on a trip to Athens Greece in 2009. I had a few hours to kill between meetings – had never been there before and was walking around the Acropolis – but it was holiday and there were no tours / guides around. I was longing for a guide book and remembered I had data access on my old “storm” phone. Starting using wikipedia to learn as I was walking around. It was awesome. . . .clicking through topic to topic, as I walked for a few hours. First time I ever tried that in a new city and it was great.

      1. JimHirshfield

        There are some apps that use your geo-location to inform you about things around you, pulling info from Wikipedia. Many Wikipedia entries have geo-location coordinates in their structured data, esp (and obviously) entries about locations, sites, buildings, museums, etc.

    3. awaldstein

      Great one.Where would Google send me to if there wasn’t Wikipedia?

    4. Girish Mehta

      Yes – Wikipedia. And MOOCs – how this space evolves could be a sight to see.

    5. Alan

      Yes. A great one.

  2. Alex Dunsdon

    Good idea…for me it’s things that make the super complex simple. Like Citymapper that makes cities usable or Yossarian that mimicks the human creative brain using metaphorical (not logical literal) search.

  3. William Mougayar

    You are very tech centric, obviously 🙂 (by those 3 examples)Tech for Tech is good, but I’ve yet to be inspired by world-changing moments or events that are totally spun out from web/mobile services, like something bigger than changing a single person’s life.We need something that changes the world. I’m waiting and thinking more and more about that. Maybe decentralized apps and services will empower the individuals further, so they can collectively bring the changes required.I’m on a social, cultural, ideological, educational, maybe political quest. The Internet has a higher calling, and I’m long on it.

  4. markslater

    a gambling service on the block chain………ok its a white paper – but the fundamentals of the blockchain lends itself to a radical evolution of gambling….

    1. fredwilson

      hmm. interesting.

    2. andyswan

      must know more

      1. markslater

        i just invited a friend of mine to the convo here – he might chime in…..

    3. William Mougayar

      p2p gambling is a great example of the upcoming wave of decentralized apps, built on the blockchain.btw- bitcoin-powered gambling sites are a lot more transparent than otherwise, because all transactions are transparent. the house can’t cheat.

      1. markslater

        william – there is no house!it actually means that the gamblers cant cheat……

        1. William Mougayar

          I know. i like the p2p one, of course.but my house comment was related to the current model of those using bitcoin as a currency with a traditional model.

    4. Dave

      Good context from Robert Tercek that backs up your idea. Long but worth watching all the way through.

    5. PhilipSugar

      Quality post. Reason to read comments.

  5. Jason C

    Tumblr. Great platform for discovering and creating content.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah. great choice.

  6. Twain Twain

    I love Medium. Its ability to allow annotation and comments at the paragraph/sentence-level is much more relevant and specific than standard commenting at the bottom of the page.It’s what I’d consider contextual commenting.It will be interesting to see if they enable embeds of associated audiovisuals at the paragraph/sentence level too.

    1. fredwilson

      i think that’s a taste issue. i can’t stand contextual commenting. i want to read the whole thing first and then comment. but i understand that others love it.

      1. Twain Twain

        Maybe less of a taste issue and more of a topic issue?For example, you already provide lots of context and a beginning-middle-end flow in your topics so the Disqus conversations at the end make sense. There is already contextual shaping.The articles I read on Medium tend to be scientific like this one:*…The comments at a paragraph-level are useful for those topics.I can see, though, that contextual commenting on Medium might serve to fragment streams of thoughts rather than coalesce them the way that a Disqus commenting plugin at the bottom of a post does.

  7. Ed Freyfogle

    Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – – people around the world mapping crisis zones to help first responders. This week, from the comfort of my living room, I helped map rural Liberia in the hopes that we can suppress the ebola outbreak happening there. HOT “applies the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development”. That is tech for real world good.

    1. fredwilson

      peer produced content is awesome

    2. William Mougayar

      That’s a good one. Like Waze for humanitarian cases.

    3. Drew Meyers

      Humanitarian volunteers was one use case we can across building our location sharing platform. I would love to know “where organization X has feet on the ground”; a map that instantly shows me where volunteers are. Many orgs hack this, and put a map like this: http://www.doctorswithoutbo…But it really should update in real time rather than having to manually go edit that page…i would bet these types of pages are outdated on pretty much every non profit website that has them. If every volunteer was tagged with the right organization, all they’d have to do is check-in to the new city they are now in and the rest would happen automatically (assuming the website was integrated w/ it on the backend).All our code is open source, would love to see someone do something like this with it:

  8. Jorge M. Torres

    I really admire the culture of gratitude that ChangeTip fosters. And its a fun way for anyone to learn about bitcoin.

  9. JimHirshfield

    Spotify –> Sonos = music ubiquity & listening pleasureSpotify + Guitar TABS = music pedagogy

    1. fredwilson

      me too

  10. JimHirshfield

    Chromecast – So easy & useful.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, it’s pretty awesome

    2. Jim Canto

      Been meaning to pic one up.

    3. Frank Traylor

      I too enjoy Chromecast. My fave was Aereo… until it was shut down. I’m looking forward to what the Supremes have to say.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Me too. Hope SCOTUS does the right thing.

  11. LE

    Going by the definition of “inspire”fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.I would have to say youtube music videos. [1] (Which by the way inspired me enough to buy the dvd of some of the things that I saw).The other thing would be reading some short programming trick or example that inspires me to fork from whatever I’m doing and get immersed for hours on end (the zone).Comments and posts on AVC (and HN) inspire me to write and give me ideas.[1] To clarify in other words listening to them put me in a semi manic state that enhances creativity. The fact that I bought a dvd is a different “inspire”.

  12. Dan T

    no major inspirations . .just lot’s of little – THIS IS AWESOME MOMENTS, when I experienced all of the following – which are very ordinary now – particularly for this crowd:- listening to pandora with sonos in my house, controlled with my phone- watching netflix on my phone to view all 8 seasons of Dexter in between my kids games at tournaments over several weekends- learning with wikipedia as a visitors guide in new locations: athens, tokyo, bangkok, cairo and nicosia- reconnecting with my friend in Nice France over skype in 2005 – first time I tried it – WOW, that was cool- finding the answer to a biz question – by reviewing a spreadsheet via dropbox on my mobile- finally (after 3 weeks) getting a response from Delta about my lost luggage via TWITTER – after trying email, phone, face-to-face and facebook.these are all trivial now, but at the time – they were AWESOME.I love it that new ones keep coming all the time

  13. kevinmurphy

    golf course distance lasers/apps of all kinds due to the resulting increase in pace of play

  14. gregorylent

    whatsapp and wechat (weixin) .. totally cool services .. downside? they sharply illustrate the limits of text/photos/video in terms of human communication .. simulacrums

  15. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    Web service – Github, hands down! Mobile – that’s a bit harder, since I just recently got back into smartphones. But I’ll go with Firefox OS.

  16. markslater

    here is one that i want:An subscription service that allows me to fill a box of toys for same day delivery for my kids. A cooperative where i can contribute and consume – the ability to purchase those toys my kids like.there are millions of basements full of unused toys. Activate this inventory. win.

    1. JLM

      .More fun:Give each child a triple espresso and a Labrador and drop them off at a park. A big park.Even more fun:Give the Lab a triple espresso also.JLM.

      1. markslater

        aghh but JLM – me be freezin me bollox off up here for 5 months!

        1. JLM

          .It is 80F in the ATX today. Sunscreen kind of day.We make our choices and we live with the consequences.JLM.

        1. JLM

          .Haha, I have a black lab who does the exact same thing. My lake house has the lake on one side and a golf course on the other. The deer sun themselves in my front yard in the afternoons and the lab chases them across the golf course.JLM.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I keep wondering why there isn’t a toy swap network. Maybe people are kinda squeamish about the germ aspect? We’ve bought many garage sale toys.

      1. markslater

        the cleaning piece is easy. the challenge is object recognition. when checking a toy in, you need a scalable OR process that automates the publishing of new items…..There is no doubt that the supply and the demand are there in this model – just needs an elegant solution…..

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Oh, that’s cool. Great idea.

    3. LE

      there are millions of basements full of unused toys.I’ve often wondered about why that has never really come to pass. As any parent knows they always have tons of old toys (or clothes for that matter).With toys I’m wondering if there are some legal or liability reason. Or broken, missing parts etc. Or other logistics.Or perhaps it has something to do with the lack of “new car smell”. That is when you get a used toy it doesn’t come in a nice packaging that you can tear open.That said no doubt in my mind that some college kids could make a living simply going down the street offering to triage and sell toys in basements in return for a commission. They’d need to triage, clean up, and post of a website with shipping. Or kids doing fund raising. Much better than a car wash.There was a shark tank episode, I think last year, (boy was I off on that..) with a company that did a similar idea renting toys and sending them out and allowing you to return them ( netflix like iirc).Ok here it is:…Hey check this out, they filed for bankruptcy apparently:

      1. markslater

        yes – i heard about those guys. i think the trick is:1. onboarding – send a mum a box and a bottle of wine and encourage her to purge. (all free)2. check in the toys by sterilization (machines avail) – object recognition technology (to index, create record, append listing, assign to customer record).3. Review and publish toys4. Put toys away – (potentially attach QR / bar code eeon check in).5. pick and pack orders6. solve for same day delivery7. implement reviews, ratings, purchase capabilities.8. rinse, repeat.Its a visual experience and a mobile one – kids will be swiping picks, adding to carts etcancillary stuff like recycling, game mechanics, need solving but its not impossible…..any of it.

  17. Matt Quirion

    Github is more amazing to me today than even when it first got going. There’s a real social-graph in there of folks trying to solve real problems together, and I’ve come to appreciate it more and more over the years. And now we’re seeing other services look to Github as a model. I can’t wait to see what comes of that.

    1. kevando

      Releasing the game 2048 (… on Github really showed the power of github collaboration.Within a week, people had made over a dozen legit mods.At one point, a “mod” was the most popular video game in the world (counter-strike). I’m super excited to see more game makers put their code in github.Imagine releasing GTA code on github…

    2. markslater

      yes – love github.

  18. Isaac G

    Wikipedia – as a human achievement is both beautiful and extraordinary. And if your metric is emergent behavior ‘to wiki’ as a verb is perhaps even more impressive than to google. There is an expectation that the totality of knowledge is approachable and accessible, in any language.

  19. Kevin Havas

    Absolutely love GrubHub Seamless and OpenTable. Seamless offers great ratings, reviews, and delivery. OpenTable makes reservations a breeze. If these 2 ever get together Yelp could suddenly be in big trouble.

  20. Alban

    3D scanning / publishing is pretty awesome. We live in a 3D world, and 3D capture is getting bigger, a complete new media form!

  21. awaldstein

    WordPress as the free software that powers my professional life.Single purpose, just can’t live without apps, like HopStop make turn my phone a tool not a busy box.

  22. Paul Sanwald

    I really really love soundcloud. The reason for this is that I’ve been a musician most of my life, and I’ve always had conversations with non-musicians where they talk about music as if it’s something outside of themselves, or something they can’t do. But these days, it is getting easier and easier for anyone can create sound, you don’t need to have played violin since you were 3, you can make something pretty cool in garageband.As a musician myself, the ability to share something in an ecosystem like that inspires me to make recordings, and record music that I write.It’s been a while since I’ve posted something on soundcloud, seems like a good weekend project!

    1. fredwilson

      me too paul. its open and emergent. i love it.

      1. Francois Royer Mireault

        I like contextual comments on Soundcloud VS Medium. Same concept but makes more sense with sound VS text.

  23. whitneymcn

    At this particular moment, it’s Whisper. I don’t find the app/service personally appealing as it exists right now, but I feel like it’s an early iteration of a significant evolution of our relationship to “the Internet.” It’s playing with the way we define identity and community online, and that absolutely fascinates me.

  24. baba12 the guys who started thinkorswim made this and I think every startup should require that every employee have a tastytrade account and learn to trade options. It inspires me that they like khanacademy these guys are doing something in the world of investing & should become a standard in every after school program and make kids be aware of markets and independent.

  25. RJFox

    Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, etc. Hard to beat a service thats bringing quality education/learning to the masses (or at least the connected masses).

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yes! I think this is going to impact our society more than anything else. The unbundling of education.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Education has been unbundled for as long as there have been books and libraries. What’s bundled is the credentialing and research that universities provide.

        1. Manuel Molina

          agree.but it doesn’t pay to memorize the route anymore, because technology is going to change it soon. the learning is valuable now, not the proof you took the course.

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Must disagreeThe proof IS the understanding – the mechanisms are easy, knowing when and how to apply it is education.Knowledge and access to knowledge can be commoditized (and that is a GREAT thing because data itself is boring) , but wisdom and construction of argument is far more than simply following a path to knowledge.

          2. Manuel Molina

            i still want my surgeon to be certified. but more and more of the education we’re valuing today is about the soft skills of decision making, creativity and the choice to grow.

          3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Fair play – and agreed – I am just saying we must through the baby out with the bath water (and I gather you agree)

          4. Emily Merkle

            …and the scientific method is not stale, nor is the coursework / information / process behind becoming a scientist. Anyone can throw up a podcast series and call themselves an “expert”. The process of higher education – the PhD – is invaluable. And rigorous. And demarcated. An undergraduate degree – university for that matter – is only as good as what you put into it. Certification is not solely “proof you took the course” – though at some schools in some programs, that is all it is. But learned study to be applied to a field requiring stringent standards, knowledge base, and reasoning – does still call for a seal of qualification/completion/legitimacy.

          5. Manuel Molina

            totally agree.

          6. sigmaalgebra

            Apparently somebody leaked out to you some of the secrets of academics! We will have to look into taking away their cap and gown, class ring, access to the faculty club, and the honors, rights, and privileges thereunto appertaining!

          7. LE

            The proof IS the understanding – the mechanisms are easy, knowing when and how to apply it is education.Put another way rote learning and memorization (or a computational algorithm) is not the same as judgement. Judgement weighs many factors.

          8. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Including choosing the algorithm – Life is NP hard !

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          We could say that about a lot of things that nonetheless have been fundamentally changed by the accessibility and low barrier to entry that the internet provides.There are now so many ways and opportunities to learn anything you could possibly want. I love books and libraries (and have taught myself a lot of things with books), but now anyone can share their 20 minute tutorial video. And for people who, say, learn better by listening or watching than reading, this is important.I do agree about the credentialing part. That’s part of what I’m saying.

          1. Emily Merkle

            …and because anyone can throw up a video or podcast, does that make their imparted wisdom verity?No.

          2. LE

            One thing the web has done has allowed relative nobodies to gain way way more importance than they deserve. Because it’s so easy to appear to be something by slick presentation that you are not. This has always existed but it so much easier today.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            That’s not just a problem with the Internet.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            Old story about the mainstream media: Their stuff can look from good up to serious until they write a little about a subject you actually know something about. Then likely realize that all along all they were doing was putting out smelly bait for the ad hook.

          5. jason wright

            everyone is a somebody.

          6. Traci Tenneson

            Thank you

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I know a lot of ‘credentialed’ wisdom out there that ain’t so verity, either. The wisdom of the crowd helps filter this issue.

          8. sigmaalgebra

            The time I looked at Khan, his understanding of calculus was not good. Instead, just get a good college calculus book; highly polished versions have been around for decades, and no doubt used versions can be quite cheap. Old books that were quite good include Thomas (relatively good for students of physical science and engineering) and Protter and Morrey (relatively good for all other students). Johnson and Kiokemeister was once used at Harvard and in the college I went to and is fine.If get still more serious about calculus, then go for Rudin, ‘Principles of Mathematical Analysis’,Loomis and Sternberg, ‘Advanced Calculus’, Fleming, ‘Functions of Several Variables’, Cartan, ‘Differential Forms’. For some classic applications, take a fast pass through the old MIT favorite Hildebrand, ‘Advanced Calculus for Applications’. For more, do some of differential equations, say, from Coddington. Warning: Coddington and Levinson is much more advanced. I can’t recommend Khan.

          9. LE

            There are now so many ways and opportunities to learn anything you could possibly want.And that’s part of the problem. So it becomes “what am I going to spend my time on then? This or that?”Because I can’t possibly have the time to do everything that I find interesting. Nor is it a good idea (other than for entertainment of course) to simply fork to the thing that someone else writes about.So although curation would be the obvious answer I’m not sure it is.And reasons to do something vary with the person. No way someone writing can include every reason why something is good. I can come up with benefits of why a particular car that I bought was a good purchase that would never ever ever make it into a suggestive post.Lastly you don’t get any hard knocks lessons of failure and adversity either.I learned much from having to slog it out without an exact roadmap back in the day. I know I did. It was really tough. Had I been given all the answers things wouldn’t be the same. Kind of like the pleasure you get from making it down the ski hill after falling so many times. Or of being able to sail the boat (vs. driving a motor boat). Or of finally landing the women of your dreams.

          10. sigmaalgebra

            > So although curation would be the obvious answer I’m not sure it is.Pick one of your interests and get a curation good for your interest treating your interest as unique in all the world. If you like your curation, then send it to someone that also has that interest and let them refine the curation for themselves.Is there a way to do this? Gee, as of last night, the last of the code, just for the last two, main Web pages, appears to be working. Then the code quit! I looked into the log file and saw why! I had failed to start one of the server processes, the one I call ‘compute server’ that does all the hard work! That was the first time since the code of the Web pages was written and compiled without errors and run that far without an error! But, the session state server and SQL Server were both running and working! So, it’s coming!So, it’s for search, discovery, recommendation, curation, notification, and subscription to give you for each of your interests the Internet content for each of your interests. The content can be text based or not and, thus, can be long tail Web sites, specialized blogs, still images, video clips, recorded music, really anything with a URL. It is very different, e.g., for your input there are no keywords/phrases!

          11. Dave Pinsen

            The video aspect is new.

          12. sigmaalgebra

            If video came first and then someone invented books, then for serious content we’d all understand how much better a book usually is! Gee, a book has a table of contents in the front, an index in the back, a preface, chapters and sections, references, and can easily find what want and read at whatever speed want, very slowly to just flipping the pages. Try those with your old video!!!

    2. Dan T

      Kahn academy made it so I could still help my kids with math beyond 6th grade. I have fun re-learning and helping my kids figure it out.

  26. andyswan

    Tastytrade & LikeFolio

  27. Francois Royer Mireault

    Foursquare remains my top app. One of the few mobile service that impact my everyday life and my travel trips. Everyone I show it to is amazed by the value it provides.

  28. Mahesh

    Uber for pure simplicity and eleganceBlinkist for pure genius to read non-fiction books as summaries in 15 minutes

  29. matthughes

    Three that come to mind:1) The StockTwits House Rules – should be adopted by the entire Internet.2) The publish button.3) Instapaper – a curator’s best pal.

  30. Susan Rubinsky

    I worked at David Gelernter’s startup Mirror Worlds Technologies back in Web 1.0. I am still waiting for a tool like the one we produced (it was called Scopeware) that automatically unites all disparate data related to you, the user, at the granular level and which can easily be sorted by tags/filters or by your own saved boolean searches.Imagine logging into your computer or device each day and getting a stream of info, similar to your Facebook stream — but every piece of data related to you such as email, documents, music, photos, etc. — but then being able to change the stream easily and quickly with one click.I used to setup saved searches related to projects I was working on. I’d just login and click the name of the project and then all the documents, people, email, etc. related to that project would show up in my “stream.”Everything has gotten even more disparate now and I still miss that software every day. I am still waiting for a “WOW” like that.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Build that!

    2. Henry Chalian

      UI of me ….

  31. Alex Meyer

    Things like Zidisha ( where anyone with a little bit of money (no need to be rich) can help others who really need help go a long way. Benefits for both sides, moves the world forward.Also things like Wello ( that are cheap/useful solutions to currently really expensive things that have undergone little change.

  32. Aaron Klein

    Twitter. Without a doubt.It’s replaced my newsreader and the home pages of every news site. It keeps me connected to what is happening with a key set of friends and industry leaders in my world. And it so helps with the spread of ideas that governments want to ban it.Easy answer.

  33. Justin

    Not really a service… but ubiquity of Wifi. Its great to see it offered for free at most businesses! I rarely use mobile data

  34. pe_feeds Absolutely beautiful weather. Add to the fact that it powers Dark Sky and Poncho!

  35. Tom Critchlow

    I really love Headspace (http://www.getsomeheadspace… – helps people learn how to meditate and helps you practice. The UI is a little clunky in places but the content is great and the format of “courses” makes the whole thing feel a little more like a MOOC which is nice.I love uses of technology that inspire people to live better lives even in small ways

  36. RV

    Firefox OS

  37. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Open sourceAnything that enables people to learn for free or cheapStack ExchangeThese three have changed my and many other lives.

  38. Ro Gupta

    Reddit. Even for all its flaws and frivolities, reminds me that ‘Internet citizenry’ can be a real thing, allowing people to identify with interests or ideals that otherwise get clouded by borders — geo, class, age, etc.

  39. Phil Nguyen

    SoundCloud -> Easy to share and focused on independent music/sound creatorsI plan to apply for the position, so I’ll explain more in the video!

  40. Ajay Pal Singh

    airbnb and Uber. I know of no other service enabling so many people around the world to make money, sustain themselves and learn and meet new people at same time

  41. Emily Merkle

    Skype. It powers the communication of cutting-edge digital media, the space I work in. It is a global community, and the Skype IM feature allows for group chats, a record of conversations; swapping files. None of us use the video chat feature so much; this is business, many work in nontraditional locales, and it’s function over form for us.Hands-down.

  42. Steve

    Just learning about cartodb – its great for making maps for fun and has clear professional applications.

  43. ThePitchDoctor

    Can´t believe nobody has mentioned us yet! What could be more inspiring than “Collaboratively Consuming Ponies Together”?

  44. Emily Merkle

    …I am also a big fan of IFTTT.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Gee, ‘rule based’ programming, as in ‘expertsystems’ and Forgy’s RETE algorithm wherethe rules execute in real time and where the’working memory’ is everything that happens,that is, all the ‘events’, in the 50 or so Webservices that they scan for events.Uh, likely some of the rules can have ‘conflicts’that means that the order of executing the rulescan affect the results! There can also be locking issues. The way they have designedtheir system, there is ‘polling’ from even theirhigh level architecture, and such polling canget to be a bit much.More generally ‘rule based’ programming wastried a long time ago and found not to bevery good. Instead, for any very seriousproblems, people quickly returned to proceduralprogramming.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Interesting. Somewhat indecipherable.I have not had any issues I couldn’t solve.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          > indecipherableI was brief and presumed quite a lot ofbackground in old ‘expert systems’software.> I have not had any issues I couldn’t solve.If keep what are writing the rules for quite simple, then will be able to solveissues and they will be infrequent.

          1. Emily Merkle

            … And that’s the point. Why you would presume any degree of software systems background is beyond me. Literally.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Nearly everything about girls is “beyond me. Literally.” It’s like I’m from Mars looking a some life forms on Venus.Here, for a user at AVC, it’s not so easy to guess what the background is in software. Sure, I could do the default ‘sexist’ thing and assume that you girls don’t know about software, but I don’t believe that that’s true here. So, I can’t keep straight the software backgrounds of you girls! No surprise: I didn’t understand you girls in the ninth grade, either! And apparently I understood something less than 1% of my wife; maybe after all the books I read about girls I got myself up to 2%!Background: It goes way back, as soon as anyone had anything like a computer, an early remark was that what they had was amazing and really very much like human intelligence, and full artificial intelligence (AI) was just right around the corner. Since then there have been lots of such corners.Well, at one time some people at DARPA get a bit over confident from some of the DARPA successes so tried to make a big splash in AI. Their main tool was their checkbook. They went to MIT and found some people to take their money and pursue AI. Some of the MIT people pursued ‘expert systems’. Uh, right, just around the corner are expert systems for replacing humans for anything but a candle light dinner and maybe also that! And there’s a great deal on a bridge over the East River.So, take a person who is an ‘expert’ in something, cooking, diagnosis for auto repair, diagnosis for medicine, computer system management, stock market day trading, personal financial planning, etc. — you can think of them faster than I can type.Then assume and presume, that, of course, just as the AI people guessed, really the way the brain of this expert works is via ‘rules’, that is, when they see THIS then they do THAT. Did I mention the great deal on that bridge?So, a ‘rule’ is some software of the formIf THIS then do THAT.So, for the THIS part, there is some memory. Think of a big scoreboard in lights with a lot of data that keeps changing as we watch it (in ‘real time’). This scoreboard was called ‘working memory’. Then there was software that looked at the scoreboard for situations that were cases of THIS for some rules. E.g., maybe there was a rule where THIS was “when a stock is down more than 10% in less than 10 minutes, buy it. The rest of the rule, the THAT part, was “sell the stock in 10 more minutes”. So maybe this is a guess at a rule of an expert day trader. Maybe. Keep thinking about that great bridge deal!So, some software notices the THIS part and then executes the rule and the THAT part.There was a more efficient way to detect the THIS parts — the Forgy RETE algorithm. It’s simple and obvious and doesn’t not add or detract from the highly questionable value of expert systems. It was Charles Forgy, at one time at CMU. Not one of the best things from Pennsylvania! Apple jelly would be much better!Well, if just have 10,000 such rules, then can have some ‘conflicts’ where some rules turn the porch light on and the others turn it off. Then whether the light is on or off can depend on the order in which the rules execute. And there is a ‘conflict’ at the light switch as one rule wants to flip the switch up and another rule wants to flip the switch down. For more, some of the THEN actions can need some coordination, say, several actions done in sequence with exclusive access to some relevant resources — e.g., turn the porch light on, unlock the front door, walk out, unlock the porch screen door, let the kitty cat in, get the mail, return, and then ‘release’ the exclusive access on the screen door, the front door, the front door lock, and the light switch. Or, don’t want some other rules turning the switch off while outside.Resolving such conflicts in software is a big deal, especially in relational database, and some of the work on such conflict handling for expert systems was quite involved, with ‘transactional integrity’, automatic ‘deadlock’ detection and resolution, etc. For these last two terms, I’ll leave their discussion to the next semester!At any rate, in broad terms, IFTTT has, at least in principle, if not really yet fully in practice, put themselves right at the beginning of much of the software ‘architecture’ of old expert systems where, as they grow, they will necessarily encounter a long list of challenges long well known and with good solutions well known although not all really simple to implement. Could easily blow $100 million in software development for these challenges.So, net, IFTTT has put their toe in the old waters of expert systems and some related challenges.Now you are caught up on some years of expert systems AI nonsense.For something much more promising, how about that great deal on that bridge over the East River!

          3. Emily Merkle

            You are pretty funny.I actually understood everything you just expounded upon; thank you. I like IFTTT because it is fairly straightforward, seems logical to be, and allows me to control my digital content footprint with relative ease. I can see how an overzealous if – this – then – thatter might effectively tie themselves in knots – but if they do that their expertise is either better suited to a more sophisticated rubric – or they are not quite able to hang at this level of offering.

          4. Brad Dickason

            I am also a huge fan if IFTTT. It’s a great gateway to code for those who don’t know how.

  45. Shaun Dakin

    Streaming hardware 1) Roku 2) ChromecastStreaming Services 1) Netflix 2) Hulu 3) Amazon Video 4) YouTubeNotice what is missing? Apple anything. Tried the Apple TV a few years ago, Roku crushed it.

  46. michael jacobe

    – Evernote – SaaS that is so practical. Use from notes for one:one meetings with team members, grocery list, top 10 music lists and view on any device- Airbnb – disruptive to the status quo. reading The anything store and this feels like that kind of dynamic- Music streaming – Spotify, Bandcamp,, sonos, etc. I love music and i’m inspired daily by it. and it is just so bloody accessible now.- Nest – Installed my 2nd. IoT makes sense when i see it in practice. kind of want the nest protect, especially when i chase and dead battery chirp the other night.- Kindle / Kindle app – like music i love to read and it is just so easy to do.- Tumblr – Fred said this right, perfect for curating the internet. I use mind as much as an internal dialog with myself about what i like at that given moment. Also inspired by the community element. Love the loving of posts.

  47. William Mougayar

    I love (mobile app). The idea of listening to thousands of FM stations from around the world, live, is just amazing.

  48. Dave W Baldwin

    My vote would have to be on how the lines are starting to blur and a greater number are thinking outside the box.

  49. RichardF

    4G and unlimited data on my mobile it’s freakin amazing to have that much speed on a mobile in your pocket or tether to my chromebook. (yes I know its not truly unlimited but a terabyte is good enough for me)

  50. Michael Vagnetti

    Inspiring: services that help to manage content overabundance, e.g., @readlists / @readability from @arc90, and @findings from @betaworks.

  51. Bernard Desarnauts

    I love that Coinbase is helping the Bitcoin world to get out of crypto-nerds and into early tech adopters type. By the way, Fred, what is the second question you are asking applying Analysts?

  52. Brett Bedevian

    This might sound cheesy, but mine would have to be disqus. Simple to use, a way of commenting on your favorite posts throughout many great websites, with a convenient dashboard to keep track of your comments across all these sites.

    1. Jim Canto

      True story.

  53. Doug Burke

    I love One Second Everyday ( Capture any important (or non-important) moment in video with your mobile device, in your busy day. Mash-up those days into a compilation video over time. Helps me document interesting things in my life. Cool.

  54. Dave Pinsen

    No one has mentioned Jelly so far?

    1. JimHirshfield

      Peanut butter crowd.

    2. Jim Canto

      Jelly is interesting…but I’m not inspired by it…yet.

        1. Jim Canto

          You lost me. Or.. I just don’t get the reference. Care to clarify, Dave? 🙂

          1. Jim Canto

            Ugh.. how did I miss that?!? 🙂 Nope… definitely not the Old Fashioned Peach. Thanks for clarifying.

        2. Jim Canto

          Not sure why my reply (showing in my Disqus dashboard) is not showing here. Strange. Did you see my reply a few days ago? (This reply was posted directly on AVC. The reply I’m asking you about was posted via the Disqus dashboard.)Also.. to be clear… I am “with” the concept behind… questions. Looking forward to seeing what it evolves into over time.

      1. KaraChesal

        I know I’m late to the game here but I was listening to NPR this morning and heard this story…. The short of it is, in large numbers everyday citizens are better at predicting future world events than a small number of experts. If this was applied to Jelly, might they actually be on to something?

        1. Jim Canto

          I believe they ARE on to something.

    3. LE

      Jelly:Say you’re walking along and you spot something unusual. You want to know what it is so you launch Jelly, take a picture, circle it with your finger, and type, “What’s this?” That query is submitted to some people in your network who also have Jelly. Jelly notifies you when you have answers.So this is essentially another entertainment and time wasting app then.Seems like a good thing for retired people and college/high school students. Or maybe someone sitting in a hospital bed with nothing to do. You know “the elderly and the infirm”.I mean who the fuck has the time to get interrupted with texts with questions from people because they were “walking along and you spot something unusual”.I wonder if any of the people who invest in Jelly actually are willing to answer questions during their busy day on Jelly. (Other than as a PR gesture). [1][1] Oh geez didn’t even realize this was Biz Stone. I’m sure he’s out there answering questions all day long on this.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Seems a bit like Yahoo! Answers.After Seinfeld went off the air, Jerry Seinfeld said he felt like he’d “graduated from show business”. He didn’t come out with another sitcom right after. He moved back to New York. I think there’s a lesson there for Biz and other big Silicon Valley winners.

        1. LE

          I think there’s a lesson there for Biz and other big Silicon Valley winners.What you would you say the lesson is? Don’t go into something new when you are in a manic phase? Because everything seems good and doable? Or?

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Graduate. Move. Do something else. Say no to the people who want to throw money at you to try catch lightning in a bottle twice.

          2. LE

            to try catch lightning in a bottle twiceYou know at least one difference between Jerry Seinfeld and Biz Stone?Seinfeld put in years as a hungry comic before he hit it big.And I think as a result he realized how much luck played a role in his success. Not just his talent.To wit (from wikipedia):In 1976, after graduation from Queens College, he tried out at an open-mic night at New York City’s Catch a Rising Star, which led to an appearance in a Rodney Dangerfield HBO special.[3] In 1979, he had a small recurring role on the sitcomNote that he got a “small recurring role” after managing to appear on an HBO special (HBO wasn’t that big back then but Dangerfield was of course).I just notice that the wikipedia blogger page for Stone says that he helped create and launch blogger. But I can’t find anything on him and blogger other than he worked for google on blogger.Actually check this out:…Turns out the wikipedia page about the relationship to blogger is literally bullshit. Kind of dovetails with the “fake it till you make it” in the above story link.

    4. awaldstein

      Not a fan of Jelly or Need or the entire Q & A category as they really don’t add to our networks but are parasitic to them: Context more than content is why networks matter

    5. thomasknoll

      I have some serious concerns with Jelly. Not that I think they aren’t building something that could be very effective at capturing usage… but specifically because they are poking all our right buttons: http://notepad.thomasknoll….

  55. Otis Funkmeyer

    YouTube. Learn anything. For free… My favorite is when I learn something from a kid (<16). It’s so gratifying to watch a true meritocracy emerge.

  56. MFishbein

    I wrote a blog post answering the question…pasting the highlights here…1. Codementor is a marketplace for 1:1 help from developers. Codementor inspires me because it takes advantage of globalization and excess capacity to deliver an experience tailored to the needs of the buyers on the marketplace. Codementor helps the demand side of the platform start and build companies and learn to code — two areas that I think are very important. It also provides developers with additional revenue opportunities.2. Fedora is basically a whitelabel online school. As a customer of Fedora, I received a fully functional and self-branded online school within hours and at no upfront cost. If I wanted to build it myself it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and months of development time.It’s additionally inspiring because I’m excited about opportunities for software to eat software development, and make it easy for entrepreneurs to build software products. Lastly, Fedora supports a democratization of teaching and learning.3. Amazon’s Direct Publishing’s user experience and network effect are massive improvements to the traditional publishing model. It enables anyone with a message to be heard. It also enables “micro-entrepreneurship” — it enables people to diversify and create additional revenue streams.4. Bitcoin is not a service per say, but there are a plethora of services that have been built to support fiat currencies that presumably could also be built to support Bitcoin. I’m not as much of a Bitcoin bug as some people are, but I think the prospect of a decentralized independent currency presents enormous opportunities. While I don’t think there’s a high probability that Bitcoin will become a widely adopted currency, I think the potential upside makes it an attractive investment as a risky asset within in a diversified portfolio.

  57. Andrew Cassetti

    I’m a huge fan of Kimono. Makes experimenting with data visualization/analysis super easy.

  58. Paul-Louis Lepine (Hype Machine) the best way to discover music online according to me. It is what Twitter Music should have been. It is the website i spent the most time on and i actually buy songs throught the websites (who still does this ?)@fredwilson:disqus you had an account. What made you stop using Hype Machine ?

  59. ShanaC

    Stripe.Paying people is annoying.

    1. LE

      – Online bill paying a tremendous time saver vs. writing checks.- Ach transfers between bank accounts done online. Old way was literally running to the bank or banks and standing in line to make a deposit.

  60. Austin Clements

    The entire idea behind Google Now. Having tremendously useful technology operate in the background is an excellent concept and, as far as I can tell, is being executed really well (I don’t own any android products yet).I like the future of technology as it was depicted in the movie “Her”. Engaging with a thoughtful entity that brings the information you would likely want to know when you want to know it.

  61. Jesse

    Mapbox, Exposure, Hi, VSCO, and Instagram.

  62. falicon

    This is both a tough and an easy question all at once! The insanely low barrier to high quality content and real, human, connection the internet and mobile devices provide is what inspires me on the high level.But for specific services/apps…it’s difficult to list just a few (and really depends on what type of inspiration you are looking for — money? reach? power? paradigm shifting ability? etc. etc. etc.)On the general level, here are just a few that make the list on all of those criteria though (no surprise these are all major services now):1. Youtube – UGC video/content about *everything*2. Audible – affordable audio version of most popular books3. Google – find almost any content4. Facebook – readily available small talk with almost all your past acquaintances5. Twitter – reach almost anyone, any time.6. Kickstarter – fund almost any project/idea via fans7. Amazon – buy almost anything at a reasonable price (and quick delivery)8. Minecraft – digital legos, mulit-player and at scale9. Google Calendar – collaborative and easily accessible organization10. Gmail – highly available, free, dependable email…and the list just goes on and on and on…and is still growing!p.s. I made the mention in the comments the other day (though I don’t know if it was my suggestion that you are recalling or not).

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Look who’s here 🙂 Where u been?

      1. falicon

        I’ve mostly just been coding and coaching (it’s baseball and track season right now)…but also Fred hasn’t been blogging about too many things in my interest zone/focus lately, so I haven’t had too many thoughts/opinions/experiences to share and I’ve just been casually lurking when I have a few minutes instead.Thanks for noticing though! 😉

  63. 3agonists

    YouTube. Without it, many brilliant ones such as Khan Academy wouldn’t have been possible. And Wikipedia is one of the greatest.

  64. Ana Milicevic

    Steering clear of the usual suspects that have by now become indispensable (like Gmail, Airplay/Chromecast, etc) I’ll list two that have really been very inspirational:1) I really like Tomnod by DigitalGlobe – a crowdsourced way to look at satellite imagery in disaster areas and potentially aid search & recovery efforts. Many volunteers signed on to help search for the missing MH370 recently, and while applications to large disasters (e.g. post a large weather event) are clear perhaps it’s even more relevant for smaller crises that cannot command the same level of S&R response.2) Apps that can proactively communicate potentially perilous situations. I just found out about this one yesterday and haven’t used it yet (come to think of it — hope not to need it ever) but there’s a motorcycling app that is able to ‘predict’ when a crash occurs and send out notifications of a likely crash to a pre-defined list of contacts including rider’s last known location and select telemetry data. Pretty cool idea and could mean the difference between life and death in some cases. I’ll report more when I’ve had a chance to test it — really curious at the tech behind it.

  65. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Not to take the thunder away from my answer to the question in the application but I picked AngelList. The service is truly disruptive, the founders are fully committed to make the funding process more transparent and fair to entrepreneurs, the platform is amazing with great additions such as jobs and of course syndicates. Ultimately, I think this is a good disruption for the entrepreneurs and the investors. Runners up were Wattpad, Mattermark, Kickstarter (to mention a few)

  66. Brandon Burns

    Buzzfeed. It reminds me that there’s enough worthless dribble, and inspires me to not add to it.

  67. DaveWalters

    Coolest I’ve seen lately is Kimono Labs from the latest YC class. It takes the theory of IFTTT, and pushes it into a DIY, roll-your-own API builder. Looking for a fun test case to run through some real-life cycles.

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. Reminds me of Dabble which came and went a few years ago. Its easy to love these things but none have yet gone mainstream. Maybe this will. The execution is spot on

      1. DaveWalters

        Agreed. It’s very well done, and ‘success’ is likely measured in number of users. I love the chance it has to be an extensibility layer between traditional database content and mobile apps via a freemium backend like Parse. Its hackiness factor is very sexy…

  68. Jim Canto

    The services which inspire me are the SaaS platforms which truly empower non-coders. The following platform (which I discovered only last week) takes empowerment to the next level. I’ve only logged a few hours of “flight time” with it…but Webydo has definitely got me enthusiastically digging in.

  69. DanielHorowitz

    3d maze is pretty cool.A few things I find inspiring (not necessarily web or mobile services..I’m cheating)1. Non profits at YC as well as the work of impact accelerators like the Unreasonable Institute. (and B corps)2. The new science stack (Andy has written about this and invested in it) It’s very exciting to fund possibly risky research that I think is promising. I believe many breakthroughs will come from projects started on Experiment for a few thousand dollars.3. Bitcoin. – Potentially very empowering for the developing world.

  70. Ben Spiegelman

    Google Ideas: this is not one of the web/mobile services I talked about in my application, it is an incredibly cool group. Google Ideas is the technological modern day Boondock Saints! Well not exactly, but look at their projects and you can see the slight similarities.

  71. hangtime79

    What inspires me: Reddit and Disqus. Two great platforms for communicating within the communities of websites.Reddit because of its granularity and depth (when it wants to see). While it sometimes gets things wrong (see the issues in and around the Boston bombing); it does a lot of things right. The communities that have formed are specific and fantastic. One specific subreddit I always found valuable is AskHistorians. The population and conduct of that group of individuals is gold and what all online communities should aspire too. On the flip side, but no less as valuable are the folks on the CFB (College Football) and NFL sub-reddits. While full of rowdy fans its truly built communities.Disqus for the ability to comment across the web. In many ways for me, it is the spirtual successor to A way to catalog my thoughts on topics across multiple websites. I can look back over my Disqus profile and understand what I was thinking in a very simple format.Now I would like to flip the question also, What doesn’t inspire me. Twitter.Yes, it’s a part of my daily routine and I checked it often, but Twitter committed the ultimate sin in my opinion. It turned its back on those had invested so much to see it grow. That decision has been debated here in the comments at length. But unequivocally we can say it was poor business decision now. When Twitter walled-off the garden it killed any and all growth. I was reminded of that today with this article on Business Insider:This Is The Single Biggest Reason Twitter Can’t Keep New Usershttp://www.businessinsider….Every one of the issues the company has at this point is related to the move to close the API to 3rd Party client developers. Twitter is a great platform, but an awful client developer and thus killed the companies future fortunes in one move.

  72. jason wright

    historically it has to be Napster when it first came on the scene. giving the music industry barons the finger. loved my mundane email account – i’d be lost without it.twitter is super useful at highlighting the map of connections between individuals and groups. that’s a good discovery tool for me.

  73. Ela Madej

    All the tech companies that are making the world a better and a more beautiful place–Watsi, Kiva, DonorsChoose, Kickstarter as a whole + so many exciting things at the interesction of tech and science (23andme etc).

  74. JamesHRH

    http://www.comediansincarsgettingc…It is uplifting to see someone master three mediums: live, sitcom, web.Funny, mostly. Howard Stern not so much.Revealing. Stern pushing Jerry on his relationship with his Dad:’ Well, it was OK, but I didn’t expect very much.”Very first episode with Michael Richards is touching. Jerry working to rehabilitate the persona of the single most dedicated to the craft of laugh actor on his meal ticket.

  75. BillMcNeely

    This week QuiQui and Skycatch have motivated me.First let me know that same day delivery through drones is more than science project by the behemoth that is Amazon. They are delivering pharmacy products in The Mission neighborhood in SF. inspired me because it let me know a veteran could offer a drone out of box that you the user could code as you saw fit. reminds of the old Homebrew days.

  76. Kathryn Shantz

    Honestly? Not to be cliche or anything, but WhatsApp inspires me in a tremendously actionable way. They demonstrate the possible, and ultimately inevitable, of disruption at the highest level.

  77. SamGuo

    Imgur. It has created a new way of telling stories and delivering information.

  78. pointsnfigures brush up on my math skills.

  79. Michael Ross

    Along the alley of quality education I would highlight this mobile app: My Sex Doctor. The app offers young people direct access to the information they need to make more informed choices about their sex lives. A small thing but with pretty big potentials.

  80. Anne Libby

    I’m late to the party, with a different train of thought: Pinterest.I was on Pinterest pretty early, and some of my first “friends” were women from Utah who shared some of the same photos I did, and also photos of their food storage/organizational solutions. That is to say, people very different from me in some big ways. It has also given me an appreciation of the growing importance of visual intelligence. This has changed the way I prepare presentations when I’m going to speak or teach…

  81. Jerry Wang

    Wechat. dead simple to use just like Whatsapp. but more sophisticated with every feature you need, messaging, sharing pictures/videos, group chatting, video calling, casual gaming, online shopping. and it is completely FREE.

  82. TimothyTPhifer

    Gee, a book has a table of contents in the front, an index in the back, a preface, chapters and sections, references, and can easily find what want and read at whatever speed want, very slowly to just flipping the pages. Try those with your old video!!!

  83. Instagrams on marshmallowsCan’t wait to eat my Israeli vacation! YUM

  84. Craig Cramer

    1) twitter – Nothing better than twitter for universal and efficient access to interesting thinkers (especially when paired with pocket.)2) Khan acd and other learning sites mentioned make learning accessible to anyone who is motivated (and has internet connection.) 3) Strava – a bit of a niche, but super app for endurance athletes to build community near and far as well as being a great tool for motivation.

  85. thomasknoll

    Recently?- for making team chat even more interesting and useful than many of the *many* tools in this space.- for making it feel like my semi-distributed team is always sitting in the same room.- for enabling me to build up new habits- for enabling my team to have constant passive awareness of what is going on across our company (and for making standups *significantly* shorter.

  86. Andrew Mohebbi (the only 24/7 crisis chat) and Crisis Text Line (the only crisis service that supports text messaging for teenagers –there’s another, but it is only for active duty military and veterans or family).If you want to support a PostSecret film AND help try to “raise” 1,000 volunteers:…IMAlive developed a unique 40 hour volunteer training program that’s self-supported by the volunteer and optionally crowd-funded by the volunteer.IMAlive is an incredible resource for people who are in a state of crisis and potentially suicidal.I have no affiliation with IMAlive, but I lost my best friend to suicide and I’ve volunteered on a phone crisis line (after going through 40 hours of training) and young people *don’t* make phone calls anymore. I think everyone here knows that.(I could also say Hype Machine or IFTTT, the latter of which I have over 50 recipes, and I constantly annoy the team with suggestions, heh)

  87. Pramod Dikshith

    I think it’s Youtube and CodeAcademy. I remember learning programing was dreaded during my undergrad days. CodeAcademy has made the experience of learning programing seamless and easy. As we move to a more digital world and digital can solve a lot of problems that humanity is facing especially in education, healthcare, communications etc, I feel each one of us can contribute to those areas with knowledge of programing. YouTube has been a biggest change. The reason why I am saying this is it has disrupted more than one Industry. From Education to Entertainment to Healthcare to Marketing. It’s a great service for people who cannot relate to text medium and relate better to visual medium. I have learnt so much watching videos of thoughtleaders.

  88. Barrett


  89. Marissa Di Pasquale

    Every day I get up to work at As a kid, I was the perfect student. Being a good girl, I went to school, got good grades & then multiple degrees. Beautifully trained to do this. As a teen, I wish I had someone show me how to create a business. Now I want my kids to have that. Learning business is as important as learning english; its a necessity for today’s world, learning how to collaborate, think & make decisions, understand the numbers and execute . 80% of US parents want schools to be teaching kids the practicalities of business. This is what inspires and drives me every day.

  90. Deepak Raj Devjani

    I’ve always been inspired by products or services that are bringing about a real, quantifiable, positive change in people’s lives and solving real-world problems through innovation and by employing the power of networks, technology or both.Some examples would be crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding marketplaces like Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc.Also, platforms and services like Skillshare, Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy etc that allow people to take back control of their education are also inspiring. We just have to figure out a way for institutional or mainstream marketplace to recognize the appraised value of knowledge obtained through such non-traditional sources.Finally, on a more personal level, I was a huge fan of Sessions – a startup that paired you with a personal trainer who designed customized diet and exercise plans for you and then called/texted/emailed you daily to make sure you stayed on track. They got acq-hired by MyFitnessPal. That inspired and motivated me to start and stick to a healthy lifestyle that I’ve maintained even after the daily nagging stopped. 🙂