Posts from April 2016

A NSFW Content Recognition Model

Last week our portfolio company Clarifai released a NSFW adult content recognition model.

If you run a web or mobile service that allows users to upload images and videos and are struggling with how to police for NSFW content, you should check it out.

Ryan Compton, the data scientist at Clarifai who built this NSFW model, blogged about the problem of nudity detection to illustrate how training modern convolutional neural networks (convnets) differs from research done in the past.

We are excited about the possibilities that modern neural networks open up for entrepreneurs, developers, and scientists. Our investment in Clarifai is based on our belief that AI/machine learning/neural networks/etc have reached the point of mainstream adoption and usability. And we are seeing more and more use cases for this technology every day.

Solving the problems of content moderators and trust and safety teams at scale, as we discussed here at AVC this past weekend, seems like a particularly good use of this technology.

#machine learning

Voting

It’s primary day in NYC today. I got up early and voted.

My daughter sent me this photo. She voted too.

I Voted

Walking around NYC this morning, I saw a lot of people wearing those stickers.

I like the idea of showing pride in an act of civic responsibility.

We can complain about the options, the rhetoric, the process, the corrupt system, and we should work to change all of that. Voting is a good way to do that.

#Politics

The New Entertainment Un-Bundlers

Last month I wrote a post called “The New Entertainment Bundlers” in which I talked about the emerging group of companies that are bundling subscription entertainment (and other services) into an offering that makes it easier and less expensive for consumers to acquire streaming entertainment services.

But something has happened on the way to the forum. Amazon has decided to unbundle its streaming video service and sell it in the US for $8.99/month. Amazon’s Prime service remains a massive player and bundler of entertainment in the market but the decision to unbundle video suggests that bundlers like Amazon and YouTube will also unbundle and compete on multiple dimensions. That makes sense.

Of course, it remains to be seen if a bundler like Amazon will allow another bundler, like Verizon or AT&T, to bundle their unbundled services. From a consumer perspective, that would be best. The more options and the more competition in the market, the better for consumers. It’s nice to see the market evolving in that direction.

#Film#streaming audio#Television

Community Moderation

The Verge has an incredible post up about “content moderation.”

I have always felt that the hardest part of running an Internet business was insuring the trust and safety of the users and I am thrilled to see some light being shone on this part of the business.

There is always so much talk about the product and engineering parts of the business and so little about the extremely difficult work that goes into policing the product. And yet when you look at churn, so much of it in a scale Internet business is a result of users running out of patience with spam, trolling, and worse. This comment by Dick Costolo from the piece is telling:

“We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day, We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them.” 

Well as the post points out, that is not so simple. And, of course, there are free speech issues too. I constantly hear people criticizing Twitter for blocking users.

But trolling, as bad as it is, is not the worst part of this work.

A trust and safety team has to deal with the most awful kinds of people and actions imaginable. I often suggest that everyone should sit in a trust and safety organization for a week. Then a lot of the conversations we have about free speech, privacy, and the like would get a lot more nuanced. There are bad people out there doing bad stuff.

Sadly, as I have seen again and again, startups don’t understand how challenging these problems are going to be until some sort of situation forces them to react. Then they throw people at the problem but never their precious “engineering resources.” When trust and safety, fraud, compliance, and moderation teams start getting their own engineering resources, something that often takes years to happen, then you know the company is finally acknowledging the importance and seriousness of the work.

The people profiled in this Verge story are heroes in my book. They do hard work, are not paid as much as they should be, and they are working in incredibly difficult and dangerous (for their mental health) situations. It is high time we start acknowledging them and their work and investing in it.

#management#Web/Tech

Video Of The Week: Kobe's Last Game

Steph Curry is the future of the NBA, but Kobe Bryant was the best player in the league for most of the past twenty years and the way he went out this past Wednesday was pretty special.

If you are an NBA fan and haven’t seen it, take five minutes out of your weekend and watch this highlight reel.

The most amazing part is he had to hit two free throws at the end to make 60 and I am sure he was feeling the pressure of needing to make them. He did.

Enjoy.

#Sports

Feature Friday: Fingerprint Phone Access

One of the things that I was sad about losing as I moved from iPhone to the Nexus 6P was the ability to unlock my phone with my thumb.

But it turns out that the Nexus 6P also has fingerprint phone access. It’s not a thumb on the home button, it’s your index finger on the upper back of the device.

So I’ve been using the Nexus 6P for about a week now and I have to say that the index finger on the back of the phone is in many ways a more natural place for the fingerprint scan. It’s easier when you have the phone in your hand than reaching over with your thumb.

There are a few situations where the back of the phone is less desirable, most notably when the phone is lying on a table. And I haven’t yet purchased a case for my phone but I wonder if the Nexus 6P cases have an opening for the fingerprint scan. I would hope they do.

If your phone doesn’t have a fingerprint scan device for unlocking your phone and your high security apps, then you should really get one that does and check it out. It’s a great feature.

#mobile

Forevery and Dropbox

I blogged about our portfolio company Clarifai‘s Forevery app a while back.

Forevery is an iOS app that lets you search your photo library and do a bunch of other cool things.

One feature I really wanted was Dropbox integration. I back up all my smartphone photos to Dropbox and have been doing that for years. But searching for the one that I want has been really hard.

Now with Forevery’s Dropbox integration it is drop dead simple.

Here’s the blog post from the Forevery team explaining how this works.

If you want to download and try Forevery, you can do that here.

#mobile

The Meltdown

I was watching The Masters golf tournament on Sunday when Jordan Speith melted down on the 12th hole, hitting not one but two balls into Rae’s Creek. It was hard to watch. It was gut wrenching.

Jordan is the most talented young golfer that has come along since Rory McIlroy emerged five years ago. And Rory had a similar meltdown in the 2011 Masters.

My friend Bob sent me an email yesterday and said “No matter how bad you might feel today, I guarantee Jordan Spieth feels worse.”

To which I replied “you have to fuck up to get better.”

I have been playing the game of golf since I was 12. I took it up on my own. Neither of my parents are golfers. I don’t really know why golf was something I wanted to do at the age of 12. And I regularly curse the day I took it up. But I will say this about the game – it is a microcosm of life. You cannot master it. You can be brilliant one minute and god awful the next. That’s how the arguably best player in the game puts two balls into Rae’s Creek on two consecutive swings. Golf requires a mental toughness to be great. I see it in my friends who are way better than me. They have the ability to hit a horrible shot and completely forget it and just focus on the next shot as if nothing happened. I cannot do that as hard as I try. That’s why they are single handicappers and I am not.

Going back to Jordan and Rory, I think it is great that they had these meltdowns so early in their professional careers. These meltdowns teach you something important. It teaches you that you are not infallible and that you can fail spectacularly and get up the next day and continue to be the best player in the game. That leads to the mental toughness that is required to play the game of golf at the highest level.

And because golf is a microcosm of life, you can extrapolate this to everything that matters, your marriage, your family, your career, your reputation, etc. We are humans. We fuck up. And when we do, we have to get up the next day and keep plugging away at the game of life. And the sooner we figure that out, the better off we all are.

#life lessons

Watches, Wrists, and Wearables

I’ve written a fair bit about this topic over the past few years. I’ve been a skeptic that watches are the next big thing in mobile devices. But I also believe that wearables will be important in our ongoing effort to integrate computation and data into our every day life.

The smartwatch sector has been around for a number of years now and Apple took a big shot at it with the launch of the Apple Watch a year ago in April 2015. It hasn’t gone that well for Apple and it begs the question of that means for watches and wearables.

Here’s a google trends query I ran this morning to get some sense of what is going on in this market.

The Apple Watch was supposed to crush its competition and yet that has not happened. Fitbit is stronger than ever and is currently generating more search interest (only one measure and maybe not the best one) than the Apple Watch. A new version of the Apple Watch is coming out soon and maybe that will be a game changer. I am skeptical.

I think wearables are more of a fashion item than computers and smartphones. It is also not clear that the network effects of operating systems and application platforms that have made computers and smartphones a duopoly are as prevalent in wearables. It is very likely that wearables are an accessory to a smartphone more than an application platform in and of itself.

I think wearables will be a big category but there won’t be one iconic device that dominates like iPhone dominates smartphones in the US. Some of us will wear an Apple Watch, some will wear a Fitbit, some will wear a Here in our ear, some will wear a Dash in our ear.

I am wondering when we will see the smart nose ring come to market.

#wearables