Posts from Weblogs

AVC Stats

As I’ve been working on a new design and approach to this blog/newsletter, I have been diving into the analytics to understand what all of you are doing with it.

Here are some charts and tables:

1/ The web traffic (desktop and mobile) has risen and fallen over the years, driven by SEO and other factors. MAUs peaked in the 2012/2014 period in the 300k range. It has settled in more recently at 80-100k a month.

2/ The email “newsletter” subscriptions have risen a lot in recent years. For much of AVC’s history, email was not a particularly popular way to read this blog, but in the last four or five years, it has grown a lot, to about 30k active email readers.

The top 50 blog posts of all time are an interesting bunch. Most of them have been written in the last five years, but there are a few that go back to 2009 and 2010.

Clearly there is a lot of value in the archive and I want to flesh that (and search) a lot more in the redesign.

It also want to make the email subscription work better. I have heard from many who read via email that it could be improved. So I will work on that.

Time For A New Look

Five and a half years ago, I moved AVC from Typepad to WordPress and rolled out the design that we now have. It has worked incredibly well. It is low maintenance, easy on the eyes, and minimalist, all things I have come to appreciate in a blog.

But I am in the mood to change things up. Maybe it is the arrival of fall weather in the northeast, or watching my daughter and my colleagues at USV do redesigns and some envy as a result. Or maybe it is just time.

Here are the things I would like to achieve with the redesign:

  • Even lower maintenance
  • Much better archives (and better search too?)
  • A new look and feel

I am not sure how long it will take for me to roll this out. I could get it done in a month. Or it could take me many months.

But it is on my mind and on my to do list too.

Paid Posts, Guest Posts, Etc, Etc

I get five to ten emails a week from people, companies, agencies, brokers, etc asking to post content here at AVC.

If you are one of the folks who send me those emails from time to time, you can stop doing that because there has not been a guest post here at AVC for over five years and I don’t have any current plans to do them.

Beyond that, the only guest posts that I ever ran here were from friends, colleagues, and AVC community regulars. I may do that again, but have not felt the urge to in a long time.

I do post a crowdfunding project most Fridays and a video or audio embed on Saturdays. But those are chosen by me based on what I am interested in or what I think you all would be interested in.

I have never been compensated for a guest post and would never accept compensation for a guest post. All the content that is published here, since the start in 2003, has been created by me or by people I know that I thought you should hear from.

I am not opposed to paying for promotion and I understand that influencer marketing is a big marketing channel now. Some of USV’s portfolio companies spend real money doing that.

But this space is not for sale, to anyone or any message. And it never will be.

Reply Spam

The AVC comments has been experiencing a wave of comment spam that has largely been replies to legit comments. I appreciate the community for flagging it and our moderators for nuking it. Keeping the comments free from spam is important to me but not an easy chore.

One idea I have, which I don’t even know if is possible in Disqus, is the idea of limiting replies to longstanding community members who are registered with Disqus and have high reputation scores.

What this will do is eliminate the reply spam, but will also make it impossible for new commenters to reply. They will still be able to leave a comment.

I think the pros may outweigh the cons.

Thoughts?

Karma

A friend of mine sent me this the other day.

Two AVC posts were at or near the top of Hacker News.

But I did not go and read the comments as I have found the comments at Hacker News emotionally challenging for me.

As many of you know, I have also found the comments here at AVC emotionally challenging for me.

One of the suggestions I received when I blogged about that recently was to charge for comments.

I don’t want to charge for commenting because I want this to be an equal opportunity place for people to speak.

However, when something is free, it is abused. We have spam and trolls.

One mechanism that I like is Karma. You are given Karma when you join a system, and you may earn more Karma every month to replenish your supply. You spend Karma to make a comment. And if your comment is popular, you can earn more Karma. If your comment is deemed to be spam or against the community rules, you lose Karma.

Creating a native currency inside a social system is powerful. It allows you to start “charging” for things that should have a cost associated with them while still allowing the system to be “free to use.”

I am not planning on adding Karma to the AVC comments because Disqus doesn’t support this feature and I’m not eager to make any changes to the technology I use to put this blog out every day. I mean that. So if you email me or leave a comment suggesting I move to a new comment system, I am going to ignore it.

But this idea, combined with the ability to spin up a crypto-token simply and easily, is pretty powerful. A number of social platforms are doing this. Reddit is one that seems to be making a version of this work.

If I was starting over from scratch, I’d build on top of that idea. I think it would make things a lot better.

A Small Change To The Comments

David Steinberg, founder and CEO of Zeta Global, the owner of Disqus, saw my blog post last week expressing a desire to make this blog easier to manage. He reached out, asking how Zeta/Disqus could help.

I explained my frustration with the comments here at AVC and he asked the Disqus team to see if they could help.

And less than a week later, we have the first result of that assistance. AVC is running an experimental feature that Disqus is working on called “collapsed comments”.

One of the things that I find challenging with the comments is when a group of people decide to have a conversation with each other and it results in dozens of replies, one after another.

I don’t want to stop them from doing that, but I also don’t want that conversation to take up a ton of space on the page.

It is also the case that it is often in those rapid reply discussions where the flames come out.

So we are going to collapse the replies on multiple reply conversations here at AVC and it has been live since late yesterday.

It looks like this:

Behind that “Show More Replies” link are sixteen more comments, taking up four pages of screen real estate.

I am not saying that those conversations aren’t valuable. They are and people can still dive into them.

But they are not longer going to be the primary thing people see when they wade into the comments here at AVC.

I think that is a good thing and a small step to making it a bit easier to manage the comments here.

Feedback

Thanks for all of the feedback on yesterday’s post.

There have been about 250 comments to date and a similar number of email replies.

Not surprisingly the feedback from the email replies was overwhelmingly supportive of removing the comments. It seems that most of the people who read via email don’t wade into the comments. And they email me directly with comments which often leads to a one to one private conversation.

The feedback in the comments was overwhelmingly to keep them. And there were lots of strong arguments for that.

I did get one email from a reader who told me the ability to engage in the AVC comments helped him get through a difficult time in college. That got my attention.

I also got a ton of suggestions on how to modify the comments to make them more manageable (limiting the number and length of comments, limiting the time allowed to post one, charging people to comment, etc). I like that line of thinking a lot but I am limited in terms of what I can do by the Disqus feature set.

I will ponder all of this for a bit and let it all sink it. Thanks for taking the time to tell me what you all think.

Rethinking AVC

I read a lot of email newsletters and I love the simplicity of them.

Receive, read, forward, maybe reply, delete.

If I was starting AVC all over again, I’d head over to TinyLetter, which my daughter uses, and start writing.

But I’ve got legacy issues to consider. I’ve got an archive, a three letter URL with a lot of Google Juice, an RSS feed, a community, and a number of other things that I’ve built up over the years.

Many AVC readers don’t bother with any of that and simply subscribe and read via email. For them, AVC is an email newsletter. The number of readers who engage that way has been growing a lot in recent years and it is now the majority of readers. That speaks volumes to me and suggests that is how most people want to get this content every day.

So I’ve got an email newsletter with a lot more overhead. The community requires moderation and maintenance. We have to actively manage spam. I need to keep up with WordPress, which introduced a new UI that most people dislike (I’m mostly fine with it). I have a hosting service to deal with. And the email and RSS feeds are powered by third parties who do a great job for me but need some level of staying on top of.

That is a fair bit of technical debt that I’ve built up over the years and would go away if I was using a modern newsletter service like TinyLetter.

So I am going to experiment with simplifying AVC a bit in the coming months. One thing I am going to do for sure is cut back on the comments. I have seriously thought about shutting down comments and I have done that for a few posts.

I am either going to shut them down for a week and see how that feels. Or shut them down except for a few posts a week (like Sunday and Tuesday).

The truth is comments are used by a very small portion of the AVC readership. But the people who use the comments are very active and engaged. So removing comments won’t impact a lot of readers, but it will impact the most loyal readers.

So I want to tread lightly here. But I also want to lower the overhead of writing and managing AVC and comments are the highest overhead feature on AVC.

I’m interested to hear what people think of the overall goal and objective of simplification and how I’m thinking about it. And I’m specifically interested in feedback on cutting back on comments.

How I go about doing this is still a bit of a work in progress in my mind and I appreciate the feedback as I think this through.

The Daily Dose

At the bottom of the first post on this blog is a widget that contains links to recent blog posts by other USV team members. Many USV folks blog regularly and this widget surfaces those posts to all of you and everyone who visits the various blogs of the USV team members.

Other than me, there are a few other USV team members who blog regularly; Albert, Nick, and Bethany are the most prolific writers at USV. Andy and Brad are the best writers but we don’t get a lot of production out of them.

Since the start of the year, Bethany, who runs USV’s portfolio network, has produced a dozen blog posts, on topics like Hamilton In Puerto Rico, Nostalgia Creep In A High Growth Company, How To Measure A VC Firm’s Platform Efforts, and a lot more.

I am just one window into USV and the VC/startup world in general. I encourage those who are interested in this stuff to seek out other voices as well. Right now, Bethany is one fire. You should check her blog out.

Guest Commenting Has Been Suspended

We have been dealing with a lot of comment spam here at AVC over the last few weeks.

Most of it is “guest commenting” where the spam is being posted by an account that is not registered to Disqus (which hosts the AVC comments).

So I am trying something new and different in the hopes that we can dramatically reduce comment spam.

We are suspending the guest commenting feature on AVC. This may be temporary or it may be permanent.

I hope and expect that regular commenters who are registered with Disqus will not be impacted.

I realize this may reduce the number of comments by people who are new to AVC. It may also reduce the total number of comments and the opportunity for new voices to come and participate. None of this is good in my view.

But I want the AVC comments to be a “clean and well lit” place and I also want the maintenance of this blog to be minimal. So that’s why I’m doing this. We will see how it goes.