Feature Friday: Topic Pages

Yesterday we relaunched usv.com. A team inside USV has been working on it on and off over the past few months. Though it’s not perfect yet, I encouraged them to launch it and fix the inevitable bugs in public. And that is exactly what they did yesterday. Nick Grossman, who led the effort, wrote a post outlining some of the goals of the relaunch.

To summarize, we want to make usv.com less “real time” and more thoughtful. We would like less noise and more substance. We want it to be referential as opposed to news driven. And the biggest step we’ve taken in that direction are the topic pages. Here’s the blockchain topic page. Here’s the policy topic page. We’ve started with four topic pages (blockchain, policy, marketplaces, mobile) but we intend to build out a bunch more.

I think this line in Nick’s post sums up our goals for usv.com and I’m pleased to see we are moving it in that direction in the new year:

The goal of [usv.com] is to expose more of our thinking, and to do it together with others

#VC & Technology#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Does that meanreal time = more noise? :-)Happy new year Fred. Looking forward to have a good read on AVC again this year.

    1. fredwilson

      sadly i think that is true

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Not sure on this FredFiltering requires deliberationDeliberation requires resource (de-liberation = reducing degrees of freedom and thus noise)Ergo – Real-time + deliberate is possible but requires well-resourced curation (to reduce noise input), and/or well managed filtration to block noise output).Of course getting sources of discovery on point, and then using masterful censorship is viable, but it is controlled and tends to propaganda.So I think the trade-off is one of cost, trust, and skill (as in increasing True Positives / All Positives)Which to now has proven pretty good, but any change is a risk (Newton was essentially correct, but Einstein was more deliberate !)

        1. fredwilson

          We are moving away from real time in said that in my post. We don’t have the resources to do curation in real time

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Yessir – but defining the goals clearly amounts to transparency – so Happy New Year and thanks for the resources ( limited or directed as they must be)

          2. Nick Grossman

            I like that way of thinking about it; thanks

          3. William Mougayar

            Exactly. Quality over quantity.

          4. Twain Twain

            Is this reflective of how Twitter is also considering changing its algorithm from its time basis one?I had a conversation with the Director of MIT Collaboratorium four years ago about how differentiating the time factor in the filter and cluster algorithms for social networks and IM channels really is —compared with interest topics and social relations (colleague-colleague, expert-expert as different from professional-purely social).The real-time functionality of Twitter is one of its product differentiators just as the space-position functionality of 4SQ is its.Adding the time-space dimension to metrics was, in some ways, the startup sector’s way of adopting and implementing concepts from Quantum Physics and the relativity of objects in the vector space.At the time, I said to the MIT Collaboratorium guy that timestamping is a filter for content but not an invention to tune for relevancy per se.

          5. ShanaC

            where did you have this conversation. and it took two reads to understand what is going on. (I just wish I could have crashed it)I think one of the most difficult things for these algorithms to understand is what people confuse and see time as a form of space. (rabbi aj heschel actually pointed this out philosophically in the very accessible book, the sabbath). Interest topics overlay both, but not in the same way, but people think that they can and should overlay both in the same way, because of the way they view time and space and equivalents.

          6. Twain Twain

            So the funniest thing is happening on G+. There’s a passionate debate on one of my posts to do with Schrödinger’s Cat and the whole notion of space, time and simultaneous super-positions.It’s amongst my most popular posts:(1.) Schrödinger’s Cat: 265 up votes, 143 shares, 71 comments.(2.) Intelligence in 8 slides: 157 up votes, 23 shares, 54000+ views.(3.) Star Wars vs Star Trek: 144 up votes, 21 shares, 112 comments.As you can tell, the people who follow me are into science. Oddly, my shares of amazing photos get a fraction of the love.Anyway, I happen to know that Vector Spaces are the way everyone from Facebook to Twitter to Google to IBM Watson train their engines to filter information and to do their social/knowledge graphs.It’s standard practice for how their recommendation ranking systems figure out what content to surface to us.Meanwhile, in the Quantum Physics community there are these ongoing debates about relative time.So…for example, one of the philosophical arguments is that time shouldn’t be fixed on the axis because it transforms with the particle at different geo-locations as it evolves.It’s fascinating to read some of the comments because people are using time to explain why the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ worlds can’t occupy the same space — just as why the cat can be dead and alive.That throws some of the Probability ideas from the classical models out-of-whack.

      2. Twain Twain

        Here’s what Evan Williams just posted about time: “The problem with time, though, is it’s not actually measuring value. It’s measuring cost as a proxy for value.”It’s a really interesting perspective on metrics generally and a clarification wrt his response to “Instagram is bigger than Twitter”:* https://medium.com/@ev/a-mi

    2. falicon

      “Over time is WAY more interesting than real time” – Kevin Marshall ( ad nauseam )

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        What’s up with your Disqus ‘name’? I thought someone was impersonating you for a minute there.

        1. falicon

          Dunno – signed in via Twitter as usual…

  2. William Mougayar

    Long live curation and discussions.That’s a great evolution & parallels the topical pages I have had at Startup Management on startup topics.I was pleasantly surprised to see Google index your pages so quickly & the topic pages seem to go even further by tagging users & topics together. For e.g., this is me on Decentralization https://www.usv.com/~wmouga

  3. Full of Himself

    A centerfold of the Gotham chick would be nice.

    1. fredwilson

      Fuck off you miserable asshole

      1. Mario Cantin

        Well said! “Full of Himself” needs to go crawl under a rock.

    2. ShanaC

      Guys, we know there are going to be lots of downvotes on this comment. The reason it is up is because of fred’s reply – please ignore this one (because otherwise it disappears), Upvote fred, and move on#openingupinternalmodchat

      1. Anne Libby

        How about deleting that disgusting comment?

        1. fredwilson

          i don’t want to, i want to shame the commenter all day long

          1. Anne Libby

            Hmm, is that a little Protestant (American variant) showing? Put him in the stocks!

          2. pointsnfigures

            As I commented here previously, take all the shots at me that you want. My family is off limits. Unfortunately, with the internet you get a lot of shit with the good stuff.

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Yeah, I was kind of curious why it didn’t just get removed.

        1. ShanaC

          I figure people were going to be, and I figure we were going to have to keep resticking it there, hence why I posted why.

      3. laurie kalmanson

        extra points to fred and mods for leaving it here — helps reinforce the reality of the garbage that appears; even a tight community has drivebys

  4. Tom Labus

    You’re on the scroll on CNBC. Quoting you that “the Apple Watch will be a flop” A bit of creative editing

    1. fredwilson

      Jesus. That’s not what I said but now that is the narrative. Oy

      1. PhilipSugar

        Classic that is why people hate speaking to the media. My favorite interview responses, after being fined for not talking to the media: https://www.youtube.com/wat

        1. LE

          Candle in the Wind. You know, I don’t have any sympathy. You decide to be a public person this is what comes with it. You are in the prison. Nobody is shoving a microphone in my face because what I say doesn’t matter and is not relevant. Nobody is forced to choose this life.Last year I sold something to someone and they decided to give my name in an interview and added an adjective that I’d rather they didn’t say. While I’d rather they hadn’t done that I made money and if the condition was “I will pay the money but I might say “X” I would still have obviously done the deal.Fun fact: Teachers on Staten Island also say “axe” for “ask”. I heard it with my own ears from someone with a masters degree that teaches high school.

      2. LE

        I had an epiphany today on why the apple watch might actually work. It’s a security angle. Since everybody has left I will wait until you do the next post on Apple watch to give my thoughts.

      3. LE

        No such thing as bad publicity. What you should be doing is actually more of that type of thing.

  5. bfeld

    I’ll add it to my daily folder for a few weeks and see if it sticks. It was there for a while when you first launched but then it got noisy and I stopped looking at it each day. So – we’ll see if it’s better…

    1. fredwilson

      That validates one assumption. That it was too much noise and not enough signal

      1. LE

        Part of that noise comes from the presentation. Improving the presentation will help a bit with the brain confusion.

    2. Nick Grossman

      thanks brad — that’s the feeling we were getting too and thanks for getting us back on the board! we will see if it sticks this time…

    3. JimHirshfield

      Brad – Is this just a list of browser bookmarks? Or are you using a particular RSS reader? #justcurious

      1. bfeld

        Browser bookmarks. I open “All tabs” each morning first thing. In it, you’ll notice Feedly, which is an RSS reader, so it’s a little recursive per your question.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Cool. Thanks.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          That’s a good idea. How long do you spend going through those all? Do you try to engage each day on each platform too?

          1. bfeld

            30 minutes to an hour. Yup – I try to engage everywhere.

  6. kidmercury

    hope ya’ll add a kook page as one of the topic pages — we have 18 posts already to go! https://www.usv.com/tagged/

    1. Nick Grossman

      of course!

    2. Anne Libby

      That would be awesome.

    3. fredwilson

      that is soooo great

  7. Dave Pinsen

    Aiming for the Vox of VC?

    1. Nick Grossman

      that’s a nice way to think about it. I really like what VOX has been doing.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        I was thinking of their topic “cards”. Hopefully, USV will be more accurate though: http://www.breitbart.com/bi

    2. Ana Milicevic

      Vox, and not Buzzfeed 🙂 Both great at what they’re doing but not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.

  8. LIAD

    I don’t see much thinking on USV (yet), more a list of categorised links.USV also fractures the conversation, as if the post linked to is of interest, we now need to read the comments on USV and also the comments on the blog itself.I would ban link posts all together and only allow text posts (which can obviously link to external posts) – just like some subreddits.I want insight from USV and it’s top-notch community and content creation, not just content collation/curation.Save for USV’s ‘calibre’ of members there is no USP yet. I’m sure we will get there, but still work to do.

    1. Nick Grossman

      Thanks LIAD. I think those are great insights. Interesting thought that moving away from link posts to analysis / writing might work. I’ve been thinking that at the very least we should require a comment (i.e., no link-only posts). But I agree on the goal completely: insight from USV and its top-notch community. I don’t think we’re there yet either but I think we can get there too.

      1. LIAD

        Thinking out loud..only reason I would come to USV, if I knew majority of posts were ‘link-only’ is because the quality of links are incredibly high.Could USV ensure link quality was impeccable? No.Do I have somewhere else I curate a list of people who effectively send me links all day long? Yes, It’s called Twitter.Mandatory comment posts (rebrand comment as insight) – is prob the way to go. Enforce dialogue, value add. Play to USV community’s strengths

        1. aweissman

          these are good thoughts Liad. Thanks

        2. Nick Grossman

          yep I agree w that. really good ideas. thank you.

          1. ShanaC

            also, you may want to be able to repost comments as separate posts in and of themselves. Highlight the community to keep them coming back

          2. JimHirshfield

            Embeddable comments! My number one feature request at Disqus.(see, even my requests for features are queued up behind other priorities 😉

          3. ShanaC


          4. Nick Grossman

            yes that is something we have talked about for a long time now actually

        3. ldouglas

          Rebranding “comments” as “insight” is brilliant, and would be a nice trend to see started. It feels inviting of value added conversation vs. potentially disjointed commentary.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        all — here’s what’s on our radar, here’s what we think, here are conversations; view by

      3. Anne Libby

        Yes, in thinking about what you want to do, it’s not to create the Medium of early stage investment thinking. That is, attracting post authors who want to use USV.com as their signal-boosting platform.That would be the tail wagging the dog.

      4. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I think requiring a comment, and displaying that in the front page feed, is a good idea. Right now, for me, that page is not very engaging. Something else needs to be in those feed units to pull me in – the latest comment, or a required comment from the OP. An excerpt from the actual post. Something like that.Another thought: if real time is less important, it might be worth testing out displaying the recent top posts (in the main column) from each topic instead of by the week. So: top recent Blockchain posts, etc.

    2. fredwilson

      i hear you on comments. i have tried for years to get sites to reblog my posts to include the disqus thread so we have a commingled disqus thread and not two different oneswe could do that on usv.com as wellbut i am not sure i agree on the no link postsi write on avc. i want to share those thoughts with the usv.com crowd but i don’t want to have to abandon avc

      1. Andrew Kennedy

        so the pushback from sites is that they don’t want to distribute comments not generated on their site? I don’t really understand why they would push back on it.

      2. LE

        but i am not sure i agree on the no link postsLink posts are fine. But there should also be a field to write 2 sentences on why you think the article is interesting. (Then you can say more in the comments if you want). [1] A short summary of why you feel the link is important would be a great benefit. [1] To me that’s a big thing lacking at HN that retards discovery. “Here is why I think you should read this”. Newspapers used to do this with the line below the headline to draw people in. And of course if you forward a person a link by email you always write why you are sending it to them. You don’t expect them to just trust you and read it.

  9. Twain Twain

    Clearly, several of the USV portfolio companies are doing well. A number of them are hiring:* https://www.usv.com/jobsI especially love Splice’s available position for a “Great Person”.

    1. ShanaC

      🙂 people should be good and great people more often

      1. Twain Twain

        We’re pretty lucky on AVC in this respect!

    2. John Revay


      1. Twain Twain

        Yeah, it’s much more accessible and inspiring than the functional title of roles.And it tells us more about the values of the company. They care about working with great people.

        1. John Revay

          give me an army of “smart and creative” people and I will solve most any problem.

  10. laurie kalmanson

    interesting experiment: i love the idea — i would bet yes, but there’s no way but testing with users to know if something that seems right will actually work. if it does work, it could work for twitter for findability

  11. Rohan

    What I’d love to see is your firm’s thesis on the page and curated content both that makes cases both for and against your thesis.That would, of course, be useful to us.. and hopefully will be useful to you, too.. so you see disconfirming evidence from time to time

    1. aweissman

      this is an interesting idea. We did dig into the thesis some more about 2 years ago now via blog post (https://www.usv.com/post/in… but I think you are suggesting a topic page itself

      1. ShanaC

        I think it would be interesting to see you guys writing more about the thesis as it evolves. What was the thesis, how has it changed – like networks today may not mean what you thought it to mean 5 years ago, as the world has changed, and it may be interesting to see how you see yourselves change as a fund.

        1. LE

          What’s the end benefit for USV for doing that vs. the time involved in providing that information? [1] To me unless the info is shared outside of USV (gets some kind of press mention) it wouldn’t be a good allocation of resources. Think in terms of who the “customer” of USV is. It’s always easy to justify something as having a benefit as long as you don’t have to quantify the upside. To me I don’t see how that would move any needle.[1] Because if you asked me I would find it interesting to watch a video called “a day in the life of X person at USV”. But it’s questionable that the time involved would be worth the money and opportunity cost.

          1. ShanaC

            better dealflow that’s accurate

      2. Rohan

        Hi Andy,That’s right. I think of these topic pages as places where we discuss the idea (e.g. Bitcoin). The basis for the discussion will be your thesis on the topic as we would assume you guys are well researched and have given it significant thought given you’re putting your money on it.And we’d then get place to share content, ideas and say whether we’re for, against, or neutral (=> we’re not sure where we stand on it yet).That way, the USV Bitcoin page will be a place for real up to date thinking on bitcoin. You guys can the update the thesis post based on the discussion. Hopefully, that’ll benefit you as much as it’ll benefit he audience.

    2. laurie kalmanson


      1. Rohan

        I don’t understand?

        1. laurie kalmanson

          posts with hashtags would aggregate to the topic, pro or con

  12. Nick Grossman

    I’ll add an idea here that I just said in response to Arnold in the usv.com thread comments:”There is also an aspect of “discovering a sector” that we do, continually. For instance, we have spent the better part of the past two years learning about blockchains, thinking about it as an app platform an ecosystem, meeting many of the players etc. That’s a slow, evolving process, that I think we can do a better job modeling/supporting on the web than we’ve been doing. So I would be really psyched if we could figure out a way to do that, collaboratively and openly, in a way that’s fun to participate in.”

    1. Ana Milicevic

      Yes! Having a primer from USV’s perspective on a sector (why it’s important, what defines it, etc) would also be valuable — I think this may be in line with what Laurie’s suggesting below.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        netflix does categories well

    2. Elia Freedman

      Nick, when I clicked over to USV.com I saw really old posts, some as old as a year ago. My immediate response was how does this show USV’s current thinking and realized that it defaulted to show me most popular. I would consider switching to most recent by default. The content didn’t match up with my expectation and made me feel like USV’s thinking was outdated. Alternatively you might be able to resolve this issue, assuming you consider it an issue, by hiding the dates.

    3. JamesHRH

      For the stated goals, you need a public wiki, not a traditional website or the feed experiment that was the last incarnation of usv.com .

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        This is where Google-Wave could really shine. A neural-net of interconnecting, continuing, updating even actionable . . . . conversations – RIP Google-Wave 🙁

  13. JJ Donovan

    I am not sure if you are in maintenance mode, but I keep getting the 500 error.

    1. ShanaC

      no, but now I want to see that d’oh

  14. John Revay

    Some quick thoughts…1.Re: more “Thoughtful” I call about a year or so ago – Fred wrote a post saying that USV was going to expose more of it’s thinking ( or possibly research?) on line… -2. Fred did a post on podcasting a few months ago http://avc.com/2014/11/podc…3. I have been listening/ subscribing to the a16z podcast series lately – down time while driving in the car – some of them are really good to listen to…..seems to be exposing some of the stuff they are thinking about.4. I know when USV refreshed their site last year – there were comments that they were copying Hacker news…..and that by design USV does not have the “staff” that a16z does – it still would be great if there was a section where there was audio content stored

  15. John Revay

    One more – Topic Pages – just wondering how these will relate to the USV investment thesis…I was thinking about that last night as it relates to yesterday’s post – on what Fred is thinking about for 2015.#merrynewyear

  16. JimHirshfield

    This is reminiscent of what we’re doing on Disqus Home with channels and conversations curated by a few specialists. Here’s the Talk Shop channel, a collection of conversations around Fashion and Beauty: https://disqus.com/home/cha…The challenge, as pointed out in the comments here, is that even crowd-sourced contribution and voting needs curation. But at scale and in real-time, the noise can be kept at bay. The reason HN works in this regard is that there is volume (scale). When there isn’t enough scale, even the low/no vote content/conversations are too conspicuous.

    1. ShanaC

      you can artificially boost the conversation. #blackhat. The better question is value to publishers for you, and can you push content channels (paid/free) to each other (again, big publisher question – audience development is a pita)

      1. JimHirshfield

        At scale, which Disqus has, definite benefits to publishers. More content read by more people is a net positive for publishers.

        1. ShanaC

          Agreed, but sometimes I think publishers are just silly for not getting what they are

    2. laurie kalmanson

      new disqus home is great

      1. JimHirshfield

        Thanks Laurie. All feedback welcome.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          fitt’s law — bigger targets are easier to hit; make each chunk of the page clickable, not just the icon; the target area could be the area of the blue lines … easy to hit, frees the user from having to think about what to hit, and can just target the general area (lines for illustrative purposes)

        2. laurie kalmanson

          it’s cool when several people upvote something; aggregate those as subs of a single thread/comment, so i can understand hierarchically, not as separate items, which becomes repetitive– notifications / settings gear / most recent / replies> look like they offer sorting, like disqus does itself, most recent, by comment, by commenter; that would be cool

    3. LE

      When there isn’t enough scale, even the low/no vote content/conversations are too conspicuous.Physical neighborhoods (as well as any gathering of people you could say) are like that as well. A large enough group of nice people and the few riff raff don’t seem to matter much.

  17. Semil Shah

    I’m struggling to find my way around the USV site. Just thinking out loud — I’d like to see the following: Topic Area (Blockchain), Thesis (new core infrastructure), Risks (adoption, market timing, potential flaws), Investments (OneName investment post), and finally, how does this tie back into USV’s overall vision. So, maybe something slimmer, more focused, which ties together USV ideas with USV investments.

  18. howardlindzon

    I like the changes. Gives me more of a contextual reason to comer back. Also – for you and the community check out realvisiontv.com …ex hedge guys attacking a financial network with video in the netflix type model. You will love the interviews …here is a discount code for anyone in your community http://www.howardlindzon.co

    1. pointsnfigures

      Yup, tastytrade.com has been attacking the fin tech news networks for a while. I like them better.

  19. karen_e

    Thought leadership defined: “The eminence an individual or organization achieves by developing, delivering and marketing superior expertise that solves a significant problem.” [hat tip Bloom Group]

  20. Supratim Dasgupta

    “We are a small collegial partnership that manages $1B across six funds.” I thought it would be much more than few billion, considering Twitter alone is such a big company!

    1. Twain Twain

      I’m not affiliated to USV but, typical of how VCs disclose their investment strategies, $1 billion would be how much USV has to invest/has invested.Twitter and the other portfolio constituents’ valuations are different from that. Those valuations sit in the accounting books of Twitter rather than in USV.

      1. Supratim Dasgupta

        Got it. So does the fund size to current valuation follow the same ratio as investment to expected return 10X? e.g if current investments are valued at 10B VC will cap fund size at 1B?

  21. marko calvo-cruz

    It’d be nice to have websites that look to provide substance instead of noise, in such a noisy world.