Posts from Weblogs

The AVC Daily Email

Most of you read AVC via email.

Today, all of you will see a refresh of the look and feel of the daily email to match the refresh we did to the website last week.

I want to thank Phil Hollows of Feedblitz who made this happen for all of us. And Kirk Love who created the new look and feel and helped a bit with the email work too.

A few stats: There are about 29,000 email subscribers to AVC. The daily open rate hovers around 40%. So roughly 12,000 people a day read AVC via email. That compares to an average day when about 6,000 people stop by the website and several thousand more who subscribe to and read the RSS feed on a daily basis.

I hope you all enjoy the new look and feel.

#Weblogs

AVC 3.0

Welcome to the new AVC. This is the third “iteration” of this blog.

The first iteration (AVC 1.0) was the Typepad era during which I redesigned AVC a number of times using Typepad’s tools. That lasted from September 2003 to February 2014.

About six years ago, we moved AVC to WordPress and did a significant redesign (AVC 2.0) and very little has changed since then.

AVC 2.0 had a nice long run and served its purpose very well. 

But for most of the last year, I have wanted to make a number of changes to AVC:

1/ I wanted to move to a new host. I have been struggling to maintain the hosting infrastructure by myself and that has resulted in a number of outages, some only visible to me, some visible to all of you. 

2/ I wanted to get a professional developer team involved that I can rely on from time to time to help me with technical issues.

3/ I wanted to improve search so that we can all find those old blog posts that we know exist but are no longer on the front page.

4/ I wanted to move to a more minimalist design where the blog posts are the main thing you notice when you come here.

5/ I wanted to find a way to continue to allow discussions without having to manage/maintain/moderate a full-blown comment community.

I am happy to report that I was able to do all of that with AVC 3.0:

1/ AVC is now running on Siteground. We continue to use Cloudflare for security and caching. We now use AWS for backups of the WordPress data.

2/ AVC is now supported by Storyware who will help me manage the hosting infrastructure and will be available to make tweaks to the UI when/if necessary.

3/ AVC search now runs on Algolia which will allow me to tweak and improve search relevancy over time to make it easier to find older blog posts.

4/ AVC has a sleek new design, made by Kirk Love, which is minimalist and copy centric.

5/ Comments are gone, replaced by a very cool WordPress/Twitter plugin developed by my colleague Nick Grossman which was built on top of this existing WordPress plugin.

Those are the big changes. Many things remain the same.

1/ You can continue to subscribe to AVC by email and RSS. We continue to use Feedblitz and Feedburner, respectively, to power that.

2/ We continue to maintain an archive of old blog posts by date and category and a specific archive for MBA Mondays.

3/ We continue to show full blog posts on the front page in reverse chronological order.

4/ We continue to run the USV Team Posts widget so you can see what my colleagues at USV are blogging about.

There are two important changes that I would like to talk about a bit more.

I have typically blogged every day, including weekends. I tend to post audio or video on Saturdays and write a regular blog post on Sundays. I am going to move to optional blogging on the weekends. I will sometimes write on Sundays and I will sometimes post audio or video on Saturdays. But I will not commit to doing that every weekend. I have already started to do this and some of you may have noticed it. You will notice this change in the About page.

AVC has always had comments. Initially on Typepad’s comment system. Then powered by Disqus, a former USV portfolio company. Disqus is a fantastic product, built and maintained by a terrific group of people. It is the best commenting system in the market by a very long shot. But managing, maintaining, and moderating a comment community is something that you must actively work on. I have done that assisted voluntarily by a number of AVC regulars, most notably William Mougayar, and also Shana Carp. I very much appreciate all the work they have done on this over the years. But I have tired of the work and I imagine that they have too.

So we have moved to hosting the discussions of AVC blog posts on Twitter. You will see two buttons at the bottom of a post. The first button allows anyone to easily post a comment as a reply to the @AVC tweet announcing a new blog post. The second button will allow you to see the entire comment thread on Twitter. 

Kirk initially suggested this approach of using Twitter to host discussions to me. My colleague Nick developed the functionality and it has been running on his blog for a few weeks now. He built it on top of this existing WordPress to Twitter plugin.  The “Discuss On Twitter” functionality is now running on USV.com in addition to Nick’s blog and AVC.

I think Twitter is a fantastic place to host discussions and I hope that other bloggers that use WordPress will adopt Nick’s plugin. And I plan to show this plugin to Jack and others at Twitter in the hopes that they will adopt it and make this a feature of Twitter than can run on all blogging platforms.

I hope you like AVC 3.0 as much as I do. And I hope that you will continue to get as much value out of it as I do.

#Weblogs

What Is Going On With AVC? (continued)

I have received a bunch of questions from AVC regulars about this temporary design and what is going on with AVC.

As I wrote in the first post in this series :), a couple of files in my WordPress configuration got deleted during the year-end holidays, messing up the look and feel of AVC pretty badly.

At the same time, I have been working with Kirk Love (a longtime friend) and a WordPress design firm called Storyware to design and build an entirely new AVC.

I am pleased to let all of you know that this shiny new AVC will launch tomorrow with a blog post from me talking about the new design and what we are trying to do with it.

#Weblogs

What's Going On With AVC?

As Jason Wright said in the comments to yesterday’s post:

This blog is rendering like it’s 1998 in Safari and Chrome at the moment.

The theme that renders AVC in WordPress got messed up somehow and we are having a hard time getting it back to normal.

I am planning on relaunching AVC with a entirely new theme and design in the New Year and so I’m not particularly motivated to address this issue right now.

I’m open to feedback on why I should or should not bother, but my feeling is we can live with this bare bones design for the next ten days.

#Weblogs

Algolia

One of the things I am most focused on with the new AVC.com, which is coming soon, is a better search experience.

I have been impressed by how much we were able to improve the search on the new USV.com and the way we did that was by using a site search service called Algolia. So I am going to use Algolia here at AVC as well.

Algolia allows me to customize the search results to improve them. That means I can work on improving the search results here at AVC over time.

There are 8,470 posts here at AVC as of today. That’s a ton of content. And finding the post you remember reading and want to read again, or send to someone, has never been easy.

I hope and expect to fix that soon.

#Weblogs

The Fifth Estate

Mark Zuckerberg, in his speech last week at Georgetown University, called social media “the Fifth Estate.”

The first three “estates” of society, classically, are the clergy, the nobility, and everyone else.

When the printing press arrived during the Renaissance/Enlightenment period and a mainstream press emerged, a fourth voice, The Fourth Estate, arrived on the scene and the mainstream press has had a long, strong, and lasting effect on society.

As far back as the counterculture years of the 60s, the term Fifth Estate emerged to describe underground newspapers. But it was the web, first with online communities, then blogging, and finally social media, that gave a voice to everyone.

And that is why Zuckerberg called social media “the Fifth Estate.”

As someone who has been blogging for most of the last two decades and who has enjoyed a voice that has been amplified by technology, I very much believe in the power of this Fifth Estate. I think it will have as strong and lasting effect on society as the Fourth Estate has had and will continue to have.

I also understand that the platforms that currently host the Fifth Estate have a tremendous amount of power to shape it, regulate it, and constrain it.

The reason this blog runs on open source software (WordPress) and is hosted on a server that I control is that I don’t want my voice hostage to one of these tech platforms.

I do use Twitter regularly and in doing so, I participate in a constrained platform. I don’t use Facebook regularly, partially because I don’t want to be exposed to or constrained by that platform.

But this post is not about Facebook vs Twitter. They are more similar than they are different. They are large and powerful tech platforms where the Fifth Estate materializes in our society.

They are not the only platforms that host the Fifth Estate. There are so many that matter. There is Reddit and the many other message boards like it. There are blogging platforms like Medium. And there are communities that exist to serve particular interests, including ones that cater to hateful and awful people.

The question that Zuckerberg posed for society last week is what power do we want to convey in these tech platforms to shape and constrain the Fifth Estate.

My vote is very little, if any.

I believe that the power that Facebook and Twitter and other platforms wield on society by virtue of their dominance is a fleeting power and that in time they will be replaced by something else that is better for society.

For now they have a lot of power and that is causing a lot of hand wringing in the halls of Washington and elsewhere.

But we should be careful not to hand them more power. Or worse require them to censor some voices and not others.

This tweetstorm by my friend Balaji says it very well.

Particularly this one:

#policy#Politics#Weblogs

The USV Blog Search Engine

It has always been possible to search AVC. You click on the search icon in a desktop browser or you click on the menu button in a mobile browser.

But there is another way to search my blog posts, both here at AVC, and also the ones I have written on USV.com.

With our recently launched refresh of USV.com, there is now at tab at the top called “Writing.” It looks like this on a mobile phone:

You can search by type (USV blog only, team member blogs only, or all), topic, author, and date.

This search engine includes writing by many USV alums on the USV blog and all of the current USV team members who blog regularly. It is quite a library of content, mostly on tech, venture capital, startups, and that sort of thing. But naturally it veers into many other topics from time to time.

If you want to read what USV team members (current and past) have to say about something, there is now a resource to do that. And we hope to make it even better over time by improving the metadata and search functionality around this large library of content.

#Weblogs

You Can't Please Everyone

I get a lot of feedback on this blog.

I appreciate all of it.

Even the harsh stuff (you are an idiot, etc).

One of the things I have learned from writing here is that the same words will generate very different reactions from people.

Last week I wrote about the value of bluffing.

It triggered a ton of inbound email.

I received two emails within seconds of each other.

One said “that is the best advice you have ever shared”

The other said “people will go to jail because of you”

I just shook my head and smiled.

That’s how it goes when you put your thoughts and ideas out there.

But there is also a lesson for leaders in here.

You will not be able to please everyone in your company and you can’t try to do that.

You must be true to yourself, you must be authentic. You can’t pander.

It is useful to get the feedback, to listen to it, to try to understand it.

But you can’t let it jerk you around.

You have to have the courage of your convictions and you need to be consistent with them.

#entrepreneurship#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.

#Weblogs

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.

#Weblogs