Posts from Web/Tech

Feature Friday: While You Were Away

I love the “while you were away” feature on Twitter. It’s full of great stuff every time they show it to me.

My sister in law said to me last weekend “I hope they never get rid of the classic timeline on Twitter.”

I replied “I wish they would have gotten rid of it years ago.”

Different strokes for different folks I guess.

I use gmail’s priority inbox because I don’t want to see every email that comes into my inbox.

I wish there was a curated version of my Twitter timeline so I would only see the best tweets that come in.

Of course, I’d like to be able to see all the tweets if for some reason I wanted to do that. I think Twitter should maintain that view for the hardcore users like my sister in law who want that.

But I doubt most people want to see everything. Facebook got rid of “see everything” as the default view many years ago and they massively improved the user experience in doing so.

So I’m eagerly awaiting a curated version of my timeline from Twitter.

Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with “while you are away.” And I am.

The Follower Hockey Stick

A week or so ago, I happened to notice that my Twitter follower count had gone up by 75,000 in the span of several weeks. Since then, it’s gone up by another 15,000.

Here’s the chart from Twitter’s analytics service:

twitter follower count twitter follower count

I’ve learned over the years to be highly suspect of anything that looks like a hockey stick and so I looked at the list of recent followers to see if anything was awry.

I was expecting to see a bunch of spam accounts and maybe that’s what is going on. But a lot of the recent followers look reasonably legit.

It’s not clear to me what is going on. It’s like once I crossed 400k followers my “who to follow” score went way up.

In any case, I’m happy to have so many new followers. Sadly I’ve not been tweeting much lately since I stopped tweeting out the AVC posts every day.

Maybe this will be an impetus to tweet more often. We will see.

Feature Friday: Document Sharing In Slack

We use a lot of document sharing applications at USV. We use Google Docs, Hackpad (which was bought by Dropbox), Quip, Dropbox’ new Notes service, and a number of other document sharing apps.

But as we have moved most of our internal and USV network communications to Slack, we wanted a document sharing app that people in a Slack channel could use.

So the hackers at USV, mostly Nick and Brittany, built one.

We call it Quackpad, although we’d prefer to call it Slackpad, and you can use it here.

Just sign in with your Slack credentials and you are good to go.

If you, like us, use a lot of Slack for internal and external communications, I think you will find Quackpad really useful.

Nick blogged a bit about the history of Quackpad and how they built it here.

While You Were Away

I saw this in my twitter feed this morning

while you were away

I like that a lot. I don’t see every tweet that is in my feed. I like the idea of Twitter figuring out the ones I’d like to make sure to see and put it right up front and center. Kind of like Gmail’s Priority Inbox, a product I am absolutely reliant on and could not live without.

Well done Twitter.

Full disclosure, I am long TWTR.

Video Of The Week: Dick Costolo at Re/code

I like how Dick answers the question about whether he’s going to be CEO of Twitter by the end of the year. It is about time that Twitter articulates how large their audience really is and why their usage numbers can’t be compared directly to Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Full disclosure, I own a lot of Twitter and am a big fan of the company and of Dick. I do not plan to be more critical of Twitter in the coming months.

Getting Your Emails Outed

So I got an email from a reporter on Friday. The note said “…. some emails from you to various Sony executives were part of the collection released on Wikileaks. I’m working on an article for [   ]  about some of them—how they depict a behind-the-scenes look at Silicon Valley dealmaking. And I plan to include a few where you’re either the sender or recipient.”

If you are looking for a clever way to do a phishing attack, this would be it because I clicked on that link as fast as one can possibly do so. Fortunately the email was mostly tame, about the Gotham Gal and I looking for a ride to a conference from LA on someone’s plane. I didn’t insult anyone and no confidential information was revealed. Phew.

I replied to the reporter that I appreciated the heads up and I had nothing other than that to say.

If you want to look at all of my emails in the Wikileaks email dump, you can see them here.

This is the future for all of us, as I’ve stated more than a few times on this blog. When writing emails, assume they are going to end up on a site like this. Because they will. I’ve been changing my email behavior over the past few years and this latest incident has caused me to be even more cryptic. I think the vast majority of my emails will start looking like “my cell phone is [   ]. i’m free at [  ]. give me a call to discuss”

Don’t Automate, Obliterate

On Friday we did our monthly two hour “deep dive.” That is when our entire investment team spends two hours going deep on one topic. This time we talked about how the Internet, twenty years in, has only really disrupted a few large industries so far and there are many that are largely operating in the same manner that they were operating before the Internet came along. Albert postulated that we are only now seeing these large industries be impacted by the Internet.

That led to a discussion about how to recognize the most interesting opportunities in these “laggard” industries. We went back and looked at our portfolio and what we have learned from that. I observed that many entrepreneurs look to use technology to automate a workflow as a basis to build a technology company, but we have learned that creating an entirely new workflow seems to produce bigger outcomes.

Albert brought up a famous Harvard Business Review article from 1990 by Michael Hammer titled Don’t Automate, Obliterate. In this article Hammer argues that reengineering industries using technology is much preferable to automating them. You can read the whole thing on the link above. It was written 25 years ago, but it seems as fresh and relevant today as it was when it came out.

So, to me, the thing to look for when investing in technology opportunities in “laggard industries” is entrepreneurs that want to obliterate business processes instead of automating them. That is hard to sell to the established companies. They will not willingly adopt an entirely new process. They will want you to automate it for them. So coming up with a back door into the industry is often better than a full frontal assault if you intend to use the obliterate approach.

Like most deep dives, we did not come away with a fully formed investment thesis. But we did come away with some important observations and words we can use to talk about them. Automate vs Obliterate is great and I am sure it will be quite helpful as we start looking around laggard industries for investment opportunities.

Video Of The Week: NYC’s Internet History

This is an oldie but goodie. I’ve posted it here before but not since I delivered this talk almost seven years ago. This is my history of the NYC Internet community from 1995 to 2008. It’s about 25mins long.

Where Protocols Come From

There’s an interesting discussion on usv.com this week called Where Protocols Come From. Here’s the anchor to the discussion:

Protocols play a vital role in computing, as well as a vast array of our online interactions. The device you’re reading on now has a USB connection; without it, your device couldn’t interoperate with other devices. You’ve probably sent an email to someone in the past hour; without the standard IMAP/SMTP protocol, you wouldn’t be able to send email to people who aren’t on Gmail.

While protocols make interoperability possible, and in fact many are governed by standards bodies, history shows that standards are often imposed by one dominant player. For example, Apple may have quietly invented the new standard for USB. JVC played a large role in the invention of the VHS.

On the software side, the history is a little murkier. Among file formats, Adobe invented the PDF and Apple is largely responsible for the proliferation of MP4HTTP was invented by a computer scientist and widely adopted without the domineering of any one industry player. Attempts to establish social networking protocols, such as Tent.io, have largely failed. We are, however, beginning to see an uptick in protocols proffered by companies, such as our portfolio company Onename.

This week we’re asking:

  • Why have hardware protocols been driven by dominant players but not software?

  • What might it take for a software company to establish a protocol?

  • What conditions must be met to establish to establish an internet protocol?

The discussion is here. We are collecting both comments and posts in the discussion, which is how we do every topic of the week at usv.com.