Ten Years Of Techmeme

If you were blogging about tech in September 2005 when tech.memeorandum.com launched, you knew about it and you read it. There was a time when AVC posts would regularly be on Techmeme and AVC would regularly be on its leaderboard. That has not been the case for years but I still read Techmeme every day. It is as valuable a source of news for me as anything else.

Gabe wrote a short post about Techmeme yesterday on its 10th anniversary. There are few things in there that I’d like to react to.

  1. Techmeme’s original goals were to “1. Recognize the web as editor, 2. Rapidly uncover new sources, and 3. Relate the conversation.” These are awesome goals and made the site what it was and what it is. Techmeme does a better job at number 3 than anything out there, ten years after showing the world how it is done. Sadly they do not do a particularly good job at number 2 and have not for years. Gabe tacitly acknowledges this with this bit “However, as Techmeme became the first stop for tech news for a growing and influential segment of the tech industry, other goals became imperative too. In particular: strive for comprehensive coverage of the day’s most significant tech stories, and post big, breaking news story quickly.” I can get the “big breaking news” anywhere and don’t value Techmeme for that. But I understand that others do and frankly Techmeme can and should do whatever they think makes for the best site for the largest audience. But I do miss the time when solo bloggers made up most of the links. Those kind of voices are still out there and there really isn’t a great way to find them unless they are software engineers whose links show up on Hacker News.
  2. Techmeme survived each and every effort to supplant it. Gabe writes this “Later the phrase “Techmeme Killer” would appear fairly regularlyin headlines, most notably when Google itself introduced a would-be “Techmeme Killer”. Even after Techmeme survived Google’s Techmeme-killer, services like ePlatform and TechFuga would still elicit comparisons to Techmeme, while TechCrunch would later say of Tweetmeme, a Techmeme-like aggregator of tweets “If I were Gabe Rivera, I’d start worrying now”.” I’ve ranted on this before but nothing annoys more than the “xyz killer” headline. The fact is that that supplanting a category creator and market leader is not easy, as much as the media would suggest that it is, and Gabe and his team have done a terrific job of continuing to produce a great site day after day, year after year.
  3. Techmeme has never taken outside investment, allowing them to run the business as a “cashflow business” that creates a good living for the team. Gabe says this “I always hoped it would be possible to build and sustain Techmeme without the aid of venture capital or debt. Not so much because of real or perceived issues around independence or autonomy, not because “bootstrapped” is an impressive badge of honor, and not because I disliked investors (some of my best friends are VCs!) But rather because the media business we envisioned by its nature was just not destined to become the “unicorn” VCs always want, at least in its first of several possible iterations. So proving sustainability always seemed necessarily part of the plan. Moreover, in casual conversations with investors over the years most ideas for expansion suggested to me seemed destined to fail in my estimation (a fate borne out in a few cases by actual companies that carried out such plans).” Most businesses, including many that do raise VC including some we have invested in, should not raise VC. Kudos to Gabe for understanding that and financing his business another way (revenues).

Techmeme is an “internet treasure” to use the phrase my friend Mark taught me. I visit it every day. So do most of the leaders of the tech sector. It’s a fantastic resource and it’s been a pleasure to watch Gabe and his team build it into what it is over the years. Happy 10th anniversary Techmeme.


Comments (Archived):

  1. aweissman

    “But I do miss the time when solo bloggers made up most of the links. Those kind of voices are still out there and there really isn’t a great way to find them u”+1,000,000I used to use Google Blog Search (if you remember it) just for that – choose some topic then just see what blogs and bloggers have written about it. AFAIK DDG doesn’t have this yet, and I totally miss it.

    1. fredwilson

      Medium does a decent job of this for posts that are on Medium. But we need a global service

      1. Vasudev Ram

        hn.algolia.com does it some for HN.

        1. LE

          How so? It’s doesn’t appear to be updated daily and it’s not at an easily reachable URL. Not being updated daily (as well as during the day) means that people won’t develop a habit or addiction by constatntly constantly visiting. Out of sight, out of mind.

          1. Jess Bachman

            Well its M-F, and updated mostly daily. I get it in my inbox, I don’t check the URL ever. Just saying, it sates my blogger fix.

    2. kenberger

      We need the SST of the blog world!(Andy knows that’s an indy record label)

    3. LE

      Unfortunately also a bit of chicken and egg. People will be less likely to blog and share their thoughts if there is not a reliable (even if intermittently reinforce-able) way to find that they are saying something interesting which results in traffic to support the effort they are putting out. Which is considerable if done correctly. Not sure I would ever want to blog but at least one of the reasons is how difficult it is to develop an audience if you don’t come into the mix with a super special reputation or are outstanding in another way. (Newman can make salad dressing, the rest of us would have a much harder time).I may be interested in what Arnold or JLM or Pointsandfigures or you are blogging about, but I don’t have the bandwidth to check every day [1] if you said something of interest. And also since they are not highly trafficked, there is going to be not as much activity in the comments. (But mostly I don’t have the time in all fairness as commenting is time consuming..)When did solo bloggers make up most of the links? A random check of archive.org (below) results in nowhere near “most of the link” as of July 2006 (attached screen shot in case of a typically slow archive.org).https://web.archive.org/web…[1] Which is to your point if there was a site that I could visit “blogmeme.com” that would be quick to scan that would solve the problem and become a habit….

    4. Sebastian Wain

      IMHO Technorati, in its first incarnation, worked better than Google Blog Search for articles discovery but then, not sure why, they completely underestimated this advantage and made difficult to discover new blogs outside the mainstream. Now they pivoted to combating fraud traffic…It seems this is a very tough business area to be in.

    5. Douglas Crets

      Got a solution for you. http://www.Notey.comThey mine the blog web to surface the good blogger juice. Hope you like it.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Interesting. But their sharing tools suck — I’m getting an error when I use their share tool. When I copy and paste the URL into Facebook, I don’t get any images or copy from the post to share. Too bad because there’s some cool stuff to share in there. They need to fix that.

  2. jason wright

    “….as much as the media would suggest….” will be the reason for industry’s end. it’s a distortion field i try not to enter.

  3. William Mougayar

    It’s a great example of a “lifestyle business” that continues to do well. It also shows the power of their brand, having been first and been stuck in people’s mind, users forget their imperfections, and return to visit them often.One other thing I like about Techmeme is that it’s not a time suck, unlike other social sites. You go in, find 2 stories to read, and get out. That format balance between newspaper-like headlines and a social stream is a bit magical.

    1. fredwilson

      We call them cash flow businesses here at AVC having collectively decided that lifestyle business is derogatory

      1. William Mougayar

        I stand corrected.

      2. someone

        Excellent point.

      3. awaldstein

        thank you.seriously dislike the term lifestyle business.

      4. Twain Twain

        From a blogger who was inspired by your post and something he read on Techmeme:* https://401stblow.wordpress

      5. sigmaalgebra

        Instead of two words, how about just one, profitable? Back to two words, how about obscenely profitable? “Obscenely”? As my very ethical brother finally admitted, “that’s the best kind”! Yup!Or as in the boutique scene in Pretty Woman: Mr. Hollister: Just how obscene an amount of cash are we talking about here? Profane or really offensive?Edward Lewis: Really offensive.Mr. Hollister: I like him so much. Ah, apparently really offensive is even better than obscene.So, how to do that? Get a popular Web site! Let’s see some simple arithmetic:Let’s assume, for, say, $100 a month, an ISP connection with a static IP address, IP port 80 unblocked, commercial use, e.g., for a Web site, permitted, an upload bandwidth of 50 million bits per second (Mbps). Send a Web page for 400,000 bits. On average half fill the upload bandwidth 24 x 7 for sending50 * 10**6 / ( 2 * 400,000 ) = 62.5Web pages a second. Send an average of 5 ads per page, and get paid (thank you Mary Meeker) on average $2 per 1000 ads sent.Then the monthly revenue would be2 * 5 * 62.5 * 3600 * 24 * 30 / 1000 = 1,620,000dollars.Then for the Web servers, they need to be able to handle a peak load of 125 Web pages a second for, say, some relatively simple pages.So, a server can have 8 cores, a 4.0 GHz clock, and 64 GB of ECC main memory in a mid tower case for less than $2000. So, at, say, 5 Web pages per second per core, get 40 Web pages a second and need 4 servers with a Cisco load balancing box in front (ah, first cut, just use round robin). Need some back end servers for the real content, say, 4 more.So, for capex, we’re looking at 8 servers for $2000- each and a Cisco box, what, $30,000-?Gee, get the $30,000 all at once?Nope: Instead start with just one server, for $2000- and settle for 1/8th of the monthly traffic and revenue, that is,1,620,000 / 8 = 202,500dollars. So, right, after get the checks from the first month, or have a friendly chat with a banker about, what’s the term, factoring receivables, buy the other 7 servers and the Cisco box.Then upgrade to a spare bedroom with a big window A/C. Have an electrician upgrade the house 100 A service to, say, 300 A and put a 200 A panel in the spare bedroom. Get some UPS units. Put all the boxes on wire rack shelf units, 18 x 48 x 72″ for $100 each from Sam’s Club.Get a Corvette Z06http://media.caranddriver.c…with enginehttp://media.caranddriver.c…Get some Lincoln Center opera tickets, say, sure, La Traviata, a young blond with a good figure and good at music. Have a good dinner and, then, enjoy the opera.Then drive to Boston, feast on seafood and Montrachet, and take in some seminars on mathematical physics!Ah “Really offensive.”!

    2. awaldstein

      my most disliked term william.dislike it because it is narrow.dislike it cause it displays invariably a misunderstanding of the value of a brand.all those who think a hamburger stand in madison park is a lifestyle business should check out shake shack.Is ‘lifestyle’ really a business model? http://awe.sm/hOCjc

      1. LE

        my most disliked term william.Same here. Never liked that term. Reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom said I was “playing with the computer”. Of course she didn’t understand that is what you did to learn and she was definitely putting me down.A big fan of Danny but I am not sure that Danny Meyer didn’t take investor money at some point along the way for either USHG or Shake Shack (pre-ipo). For sure there is no mention that I can find that his restaurants were all self funded out of profits (or debt) solely without the help of financial partners along the way. So he very well might have had silent partners which means he had angel investment or greater. This wouldn’t be unusual in the restaurant business in NYC, right? Also the hamburger stand wasn’t started as a traditional business to make money the way the back story is told. It happened almost by accident.

    3. JamesHRH

      O&O business please 😉

  4. leigh

    I loved Techmeme and still do but I agree on number two. I had a couple stories up there in the earlier days from my blog and loved reading new and interesting content writers. It seemed to disappear once the top 100 list was introduced and got replaced by very product based announcements and it’s harder to find the alternative viewpoints especially around the social cultural impacts of tech.

  5. kenberger

    Techmeme also holds a great resource: the Tech Events listings http://www.techmeme.com/eventsI'm a frequent conference goer, and I don’t know of a better resource today that rounds up the most notable confs and announcement dates in the US and Europe:Placecast used to be the best, but the founder killed it. And Lanyrd (YCom co I watched debut, bought by Eventbrite) is just so-so.

  6. pointsnfigures

    10 years at the top is a long time in internet years. congrats

  7. JimHirshfield

    It’s a great quick reference guide of what’s going on in tech. I think the most impactful aspect of it’s success is that Gabe did it without aggressive advertising formats or gimmicks.

  8. sigmaalgebra

    Fred, here you are mentioning the difficulty of finding technology bloggers with content you will like, in one step more detail, like for some of your interests. IIRC before you mentioned at AVC (although I may have lost the link) about the difficulty of finding video clips with technical content you will like.Internet Content(1) Large.Right: For a grand understatement, the content on the Internet is huge, humongous, gigantic, jumbo, uh, as an NYC video cameramen said in the movie Godzilla, “really large”.(2) Large in Bytes.Yes, on the Internet, the total number of bytes of data that come on-line each day is humongous, …, i.e., also “really large”. E.g., just for YouTube, the number of bytes is, uh, really up there.(3) Large in VarietyLikely and apparently, whatever it is about life on this planet, now the largest collection of it is no longer the library at Oxford, Harvard, …, or the Library of Congress but, in a word, the Internet.So, the variety is, right, “really large”.(4) Varied QualityYup, the quality is also some of what varies. E.g., for me, Ng’s Stanford lectures on machine learning were an upchuck — he fumbled terribly with both maximum likelihood estimation and even just simple, old unconstrained non-linear optimization. Ah, come on — at least conjugate gradients and maybe quasi-Newton, if nothing else (from some old work I did on submarines to support my wife and myself through our Ph.D. degrees), the Broyden-Fletcher-Goldfarb-Shanno (BFGS) updates.I hate to think of the mess he would make of constrained non-linear optimization (e.g., the Kuhn-Tucker conditions — I published a paper on one of the trickiest aspects of the Kuhn-Tucker conditions, the implications between the Kuhn-Tucker and Zangwill constraint qualifications; I did the research as a grad student, and it was the last I needed for a Master’s and, since it was publishable, polished my halo for my Ph.D.).E.g., sadly, as it worked out, I never had a good course in quantum mechanics. The subject is supposed to be mathematical, and, now that I have a good background in nearly all the relevant math, with likely and apparently plenty of the prerequisites for all the rest of it, last night, as something nice to do just before bed, started watching the quantum mechanics course at MIT. Yup, the material looks okay. The professor stumbled and fumbled terribly with the topics of independence, correlation, and predictive power, but, well, we have to be patient because after all these are mathematical topics and he’s just a physicist!Gee, if he makes a mess with something as simple as independence and correlation, then what will he miss or fumble with that is more advanced!I suspect the second semester, which is supposed to be mathematical (although the stated prerequisites are meager), will be better.The Eric Lander lectures, also from MIT and also on YouTube, on biochemistry and genetics are terrific.Point 1: In quantity, variety, and quality, the Internet is “really large”.ChallengeBut, with so much content, for a person to find what they will like is a challenge.Ah, drinking from a fire hose — if it only were. Instead, it’s drinking, drowning, from wide, deep, rapidly flowing oceans of content. Net, people are overwhelmed and largely give up. For more, people don’t dream that there could be a solution.Solution 1.One solution would be to crawl the Web, parse the HTML, collect URLs, get keywords/phrases from the HTML, and use those to make essentially a computer based version of an old library card catalog subject index. Then weight and count the links and use those as a gross measure of link popularity. Pay attention to more details and can polish that to something that seems a little better.Gee, someone searches for music and gets the Top 40! I.e., get rid of nearly all the quantity, variety, and quality and return to the play list of some rural radio station 20 years ago. I.e., are getting a low grade on personalization. Bummer.I.e., I can get the “big breaking news” anywhere right so that it’s personalization that’s needed, missing, and challenging. E.g., not everyone wants to get a big thrill looking at the mathematics of quantum mechanics as a video version of bed time reading which is a case of personalization.Solution 2.Need personalized exploitation of the quantity, variety, and quality of the Internet content to let people find what they want — via search, discovery, recommendation, curation, notification, subscription.How to do that?Tilt! For what people “want”, that is, really, content with the meaning they have in mind. Soooooo, need to be able to give people the content with that meaning.E.g., I want lectures on quantum mechanics and relativity with the philosophical and mathematical level, that is, the meaning, I have in mind. For some of the challenge here, some months ago I bought a popular text on quantum mechanics and started in. He mentioned that the wave functions form a Hilbert space. I’ll have to check and write out some math, but first-cut I don’t think so! Instead the wave functions are points in a Hilbert space, but to have a Hilbert space, i.e., according to the definition, a complete inner product space, also need a lot of points that are not wave functions! The author got his Ph.D. at Harvard. But, after all, he’s just a physicist! And so far that does appear to be much better than a computer scientist!For a little more on meaning, I’d like and expect the author to have quite clearly in mind what is true and false about correlation, independence, and predictive power — quite clearly. E.g., I’d expect a really clear, simple, 100% rock solidly correct proof that in the bivariate Gaussian case uncorrelated implies independence. IIRC, there is a proof in either Feller I or Feller II.And sufficient statistics, i.e., from the Radon-Nikodym theorem — might that have a good role in physics? What about an algebraic group of measure preserving (e.g., as in ergodic theory) transformations and, say, for an old subject (E. Wigner), for starters, molecular spectroscopy? A community that struggles with the difference between independence and correlation stands to have a lot more struggles with sufficient statistics!So, how the heck to get at meaning? Not with keywords/phrases! Yes, as we know, “The dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”! :-)So, the keyword/phrase approach to Internet search throws out a lot of the quantity, variety, and quality of the Internet content and does poorly on personalization and meaning and, thus, is good for, what, ballpark 1/3rd of content on the Internet, searches people want to do, results they want to find? So, there are struggles finding things in the other 2/3. No joke. So, for the other 2/3rds? Hmm ….So, clearly this argument is nonsense, and anyone would be just a time wasting fool to try to attack the 2/3rds, but where is the first serious error?

  9. David Semeria

    Techmeme is the permanent second tab in my browser (the first is Google Calendar)

  10. OurielOhayon

    Agree. Techmeme is a must-know, must-visit daily service for news. What Techmeme highlight thought for the past years is that too many news publications are simple echos of what others say or what the PR say. On one side you have a good idea of the importance and the news itself. On the other you realize how much of the tech publications is just an echo chamber and why the news industry is sick.I wish that beyond the title and conversation Techmeme could1. be a daily summary of the news itself2. give space to other sort of voices (eg facebook post, blog comments,…)3. be more visual and less text oriented4. have a better sense of real-timeness5. had a way to give insights on wall-gardened content6. allow on site discussions7. Had more international versions.The best move Techmeme did in years was adding tweets to its sources.

  11. Chris Phenner

    AVC, Techmeme, HN — all part of a balanced, daily diet.

    1. Jess Bachman

      You could remove the titles in those and it would just display the icon. This is what I do and it saves a bunch of space.

      1. LE

        Better yet create a folder and put all of them in the folder. You can’t scale links all on one line like that, the RE is to valuable.

        1. Jess Bachman

          Yeah.. just my most used ones are on the bookmarks bar. I also have folders too for less used stuff.

  12. Twain Twain

    Congrats to Techmeme for doing things their way for 10 and good luck for another 10.

  13. Jess Bachman

    I’ve found that the Mattermark Daily newsletter is a good source for the blogger links type stuff.

  14. LE

    A screen grab of the first techmeme.com at archive.org (May 20, 2006).They are in competition with news.ycombinator.com for coming up with a nice original graphic design and logo that is good enough to keep using 10 years later. (Don’t have the one that they started with of course…)This goes to the point of being a true entrepreneur. By my definition you are able to operate at 85% “B or B+” level across a wide number of disciplines (law, accounting, marketing, design, sales, financial, communications, manipulation) with very little outside help or even guidance or advice. Many times all on your own. This allows you to operate in a lean way and save a great deal of money. Can’t stress this enough. Must have multiple skills or at least be able to know when someone else hired is able to do their job. Or be a very fast learner and be able to fill in the gaps. It’s the opposite of being a single function cog in a large corporation….

  15. Douglas Crets

    Gotta give credit to techmeme. Great post.

  16. vruz

    I see a few people in this thread missing and weeping for the blogosphere they helped to destroy, through their hard work centralising the web.”Oh what have we done”, minus self-awareness.

  17. Douglas Crets

    I have noted this commentary on the loss of the blogosphere, and had responded to one person on the threads. But I’ll post this here to alert others. http://www.notey.com, which received investment from Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, is an attempt to “retrieve what was lost” by SEO gaming and cenralized web strategies. It’s a deep dive algorithm that surfaces blog posts you normally don’t see, thereby creating discovery in blogs again. It’s been a while. *Disclosure: I know the founders, but am not an investor, nor do I have any financial stake in their work. Just passing it along as a tip.