Posts from Blog


One of my favorite bloggers and thinkers about social media, Anil Dash, has a blog post up on Medium titled You Can’t Start the Revolution from the Country Club. Go read it because he's talking about some important stuff.

In his post Anil observes that in many of the most interesting new social media services, there is a sense of exclusivity built into the experience. A velvet rope as it were. And in many cases, this is being done to produce signal instead of noise, to make the consumption experience easier, and to produce "quality content." Anil calls bullshit on that. And so do I.

I have learned the power of inclusivity from writing this blog and watching this community evolve. Everyone is welcome here. Everyone can comment. Nobody's comments get nuked unless they are spam or hate. And I have a very high standard for hate. The community can and does police this place. And that allows anyone to come in here and be a regular. And that is what has created the magic.

If you look at some of the best communities on the web, like reddit for example, they all follow this approach. It makes for a noisy and messy experience. But it works and it scales.

This is my basic argument for free as a business model. Once you insert money into the equation, you are excluding important voices. Once you insert exclusivity into the quality model, you are excluding important voices.

Some of these "country clubs" as Anil calls them may succeed. But they don't inspire me. They don't invite me (in the behavior sense of that word). I'll hang out in public if you don't mind. It suits me.


I'm Looking For An "Ask Me A Question" Blog Link/Widget

A friend has asked me to help them with a new blog series. Each week this blogger will select a question submitted by their audience and answer it.

I'd like to put a Q&A link/widget on their blog to collect the questions from the audience.

I like what they do on Ask the VC and am looking into how they do that.

But I'd love to see what else is out there for this kind of thing.

If you've come across something like this on blogs that you like or if you use something like this on your blog, please let me know about it in the comments.



Blogworld Talk Between JLM, William, Arnold & Me

A few weeks ago AVC regulars JLM, Arnold, William and I did a talk at Blogword.

BlogWorld Panelists June 2012

We talked about blogs, social media, and of course, commenting communities. William kicked it off with some data that came out of the survey he did. About nine minutes in, the conversation starts.

We recorded it on SoundCloud and you can listen below.


Finding Your Voice

Everyone has something to say, something to contribute, everyone can make a difference. And I believe the Internet is making it easier for all of us to find that voice, use it, and make that difference.

I am supporting evidence item number one in this case. I was 42 years old when I started blogging. I'd always had a lot to say. Just ask my mom about that. But I never really found the place and the way to get it all out. AVC became that thing and now I've got a platform to make a difference. I hope I'm using it well.

I have watched so many people find their voice on the Internet over the years and it warms my heart when they nail it. It happens all the time in the blog comments here at AVC. I'm not going to name names but you all know the stories and who they are.

It's also happened to the Gotham Gal. When she started blogging she was in the process of moving from being a full time mom back to the working world. And she wasn't sure how to make that transition. It was a struggle. Through her blog she has become a champion of the idea that you can be a mom and an impactful person in the world at the same time. She has also become a champion of women and women entrepreneurs. She has found her voice and her job. This blurb from her blog yesterday was proof postitive for me:

Be strong, be fierce and be tough.  Like raising money from someone who starts to hit on them or say how cute they are.  Come back with a sharp comeback or tell them to go fuck themselves and leave the room.  You wouldn't want their money anyway.

That's how she has always been in person. She gave me a piece of her mind the first time I met her. And she's been doing that to me it ever since. I love her for it. And I am absolutely certain that the women (and men) she works with love her for her "fierce" attitude too.

The Gotham Gal blog had a big part in making all of that come together for her. The back to back posts this week telling women to be fierce and how to make macaroons for passover represents a fairly unique media property but that's how she rolls and it's her voice.

Finding your voice doesn't just mean blogging by the way. I'm watching a good friend get involved at a high level in a big time political campaign and I can see how energizing it is for him. I'm watching my partner Brad finding a way to engage in advocacy that he has cared deeply about for years. I'm watching dozens of entrepreneurs start companies with a goal of changing the way the world works for the better.

But blogging can help achieve all of these voice finding exercises. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Blogging/commenting/social media is the talk part. And I encourage everyone out there to leverage the Internet as you find your voice, make an impact, and find your way in this world.


Blog Polls

Blog polling widgets have been around a long time. I've tried out a few of them on AVC over the years. And polling has never taken off as a major form of engagement on blogs (as has commenting, liking, tweeting). I'm curious why that is so.

I met with a young man named Max Yoder yesterday who has built yet another polling widget. He calls it Quipol. I figured I'd give it a test run with the AVC community. And let's get right to it with the question of the day:

Let me know what you think of Quipol and blog polling widgets in general in the comments.


Community Moderation

I'm sure the AVC community has noticed a bit more comment spam slipping in. That's for a number of reasons. As the number of comments rises across multiple threads every day, it takes me longer to get through them all. One of the many reasons I read every comment is that I am also the moderator and I delete and report all comment spam, as well as very infrequently I'll delete an entirely inappropriate comment. It is also true that as the Disqus network has increased in size and reach, it has become a bigger target for comment spammers. Even if you filter out 99.9% of all comment spam, if enough comes at you, that 0.1% starts to amount to a real number.

I've made a small change in the AVC Disqus moderation settings. If enough people flag a comment (by clicking on the little red flag that comes up when you hover below a comment), that comment will no longer appear in the thread. I will still see the comment when I moderate the thread and I can reinstate it or delete and report it as spam. This puts the power of moderation into the hands of the community which is something I should have done a long time ago. I'm not going to say how many flags will do this. I don't want anyone gaming the system.

I do not want the community flagging comments you don't agree with. This is a community open to all voices, even when they express ideas that aren't popular. In particular, comments that hate on me personally should not be moderated. I can take the heat. I want the heat. I'd like to remain the only person who can moderate "entirely inappropriate comments." So if that kind of comment gets flagged off the thread, I will put it back.

Finally, I also do have the ablity to make certain community members moderators with the same powers I have. There are a few, not very many, who I would bestow this right onto. Shana and William come to mind in particular. If you would like to have mod powers and you think you've earned them, let me know in this thread and I will respond to the request in this thread. I will also report on this blog who I've given these powers to. I reserve the right to revoke them at any time.

I've leveraged the power of this community for so many things over the years, it is ironic that it has taken me so long to leverage the power of the community to keep the bar clean.


The Post Frequency Rule

The frequency of posts in a service is inversely proportional to the size of the post. Said another way, the longer the post, the less frequently they will happen.

Take a look at stats from the three largest "default public" social media services:

WordPress – 430k posts per day

Tumblr – 31.8mm posts per day

Twitter – 140mm posts per day (march 2011)

Of course, these numbers are also impacted by the number of total accounts and active accounts on the system. None of the three companies post those numbers publicly. Based on the numbers I've seen, the ratio of monthly active accounts to total accounts is also highly correlated to the the size of the post. The shorter the required post in a service, the higher percent of total users will be active on it.

If you want to understand the power of Tumblr and Twitter, you need to look at how quick and how easy it is to post. There are of course many other factors at work, but brevity and ease is a big part of why these services work so well.


Do You Ever Get Bored Of Blogging?

In the cab home from her basketball game yesterday (they won), my daughter Emily asked "Dad, do you ever get bored of blogging, tumbling, twittering?" I chuckled and handed her my post from yesterday to read (on my android).

The truth is I never get bored of writing. It is something that came relatively late in life for me. I started writing when I started blogging in 2003. I was 42 years old. It's a hobby, something I do to entertain and educate myself and I enjoy it very much. I love putting the puzzle that are my thoughts together every day.

But an unintended consequence of this writing hobby is that I've developed an audience and a public persona. I didn't set out to do that. But it happened. And now I've got a responsibility to serve the audience and manage the public persona. At least I feel that responsibility.

The "work" I referred to in my post yesterday is that responsibility.

I never get bored of "blogging." At least I don't get bored of the writing part of it. I do get bored of maintaining an audience and a public persona. That can get old and lead to ruts like the one I got in with Twitter last year. But all it takes is some great feedback (notes in Tumblr, RT and replies in Twitter, and comments on this blog) to get me over that. The ability to get immediate feedback on my thoughts is a magical thing and at the end of the day, it is what keeps me going day after day.


Observations From Three Days Without Internet

We spent three days in Tuscany with old friends. We had a blast. The Gotham Gal batched up a bunch of blog posts and put them all up just now

The Gotham Gal used to do her travel blogging like that in "batch mode". Check out this post about our visit to Rome a few years ago. It covers four days or more in one post.

Nowadays we all travel with laptops. I even brought the iPad with us this trip. We do something and she blogs about it that same day. Like this visit to MAXXI, the new modern art museum in Rome. 

When you can share something you did right away, it is a lot easier to remember the details. And a post about a meal or a museum visit can be a lot more detailed than a post about four days in Rome.

I call that real time blogging and it is very much the way we do things these days. And in a strange twist, being without fixed Internet over the past three days limited how we could blog but also forced us to do more real time blogging. Check out my Tumblr, where I was posting photos from my blackberry. I could tweet too.

And we got seriously into Foursquare in Tuscany. My son must have checked into every store, restaurant, gelateria, and town we visited. It is so easy to do that. 

Real time blogging doesn't take any time to do. You snap a photo with your phone, if you like it, you upload it, and get back to seeing the sights and sounds of the town. You sit down to a lunch, checkin, and then open the menu and discuss the options with friends and family.

Even though it doesn't take any time to do, there are benefits of real time blogging, both for us and for those who care to follow our travels. For us, we have created an archive of the things we did and when we want to go back, we can search our archives and find them again. For those who care to follow our travels, there are tons of tips and advice on places to go and where to eat, shop, etc.

Services like Tumblr, Twitter, and Foursquare utilize the mobile phone to make real time blogging possible. It's quick and easy and you can leave a trail both for yourself and your friends and followers.

I did not really miss fixed Internet very much over the past three days and really enjoyed using the phone instead. Next time you go on a trip, try setting up a Tumblog and a Foursquare account, download the apps for your phone, and give it a try. I think you'll enjoy it as much as we did the past three days.


Some Thoughts On Comments

Tereza asked me to comment on the NY Times piece that ran this weekend on news sites' decision to move away from anonymous commenters. I think anonymous commenting leads to a lot of bad behavior and it should be discouraged. But I think anonymous commenting should be allowed and I allow it here. There are enough examples out there of why someone would want to comment anonymously that I think it has a place in the online conversation.

In the world of user generated content, you are always going to get posts that you don't want. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that can be used to downgrade or even largely hide that behavior from the vast majority of users without taking it down. I think anonymous comments should be subjected to some of those techniques.

For blogs and online publications that get a lot of comments, and this blog is on the cusp of that place, I think we need a way to highlight top comments for each post. Disqus does allow the comment reader to "sort by" most popular or "best rated" but that requires user action. I think Disqus should offer blogs with a lot of comments the ability to run a window above the comment thread with the half dozen or dozen best comments that would be automatically calculated with the possibility of override by the blog author. Some blogs are already doing this like Business Insider, Gawker, and Huffington Post.

We need to introduce game mechanics into commenting systems and I think Disqus can and will be at the forefront of this effort. Game mechanics will reward the kind of behavior the community wants and will punish the kind of behavior the community does not want. The anonymous commenter who has valuable information but can't publish in their own name will be rewarded. The anonymous commenter who leaves a hostile name calling piece of crap will be punished. And the comment thread and community will be better off for it.

The other benefit of this approach is the community can police the comment thread. I do a fair amount of that today helped out by our community bouncer Kid Mercury. Turning that job over to the community in its entirety is the obvious next step.

The comment threads on this blog are now well over 100 comments on most days and get up to 300 or more comments on the most popular posts. I continue to read every comment because it is important to me to see them all. I also want to make sure they aren't spam or hate filled crap. But you may notice that I've cut back on the number of replies. It used to be that out of a 100 comment thread, my replies might be 30 or more. Now its probably 10 or less. I make up for some of that by liking comments a lot more.

But this community is following a pattern that all online communities follow. In the beginning, I was a huge part of the threads. Now I've cut back and let the community do more of the talking. And I think that's a good thing. Hopefully Disqus will give us more features like the ones I talked about earlier in this post to take the community powered moderation and rating and presentation to the next level. I'm looking forward to it.

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