Posts from Social Networking

Does Open Conflict With Making Money?

We had a good chat hanging around Zander's desk yesterday about this line from Matthew Ingram's post on his love/hate relationship with Twitter:

Lastly, I hate that Twitter’s metamorphosis seems to reinforce the idea that being an open network — one that allows the easy distribution of content across different platforms, the way that blogging and email networks do –isn’t possible, or at least can’t become a worthwhile business.

I asked Zander what he thought about that line and he told me he hadn't thought long and hard enough about it to have a fully formed opinion but it was certainly important to our investment thesis and we ought to have an opinion on it.

I do have an opinion on it.

I do not think open conflicts with making money and further I think there are ways to make more money by being open rather than closed, but it takes imagination and a well designed relationship between your product/service and the rest of the Internet.

I also think it is better to open up slowly, cautiously, and carefully rather than start out wide open and then close up every time an existential threat appears on the horizon.

I recall when Etsy first put out an API. It was a read only API. Then they made it read/write. Over time they have added a lot of features that have made it possible for third parties to add value to Etsy and Etsy's sellers and buyers. But they have always protected the essential things that make Etsy's business and marketplace work and hang together as a sustainable entity.

Contrast that with Twitter which started out completely open which allowed anyone to build a third party client, grab a huge percentage of Twitter users, and then threaten to take them away from Twitter. That's not a sustainable relationship between your product/service and the rest of the Internet.

So I do believe that there are many ways to be open, to become more open, and to do so in ways that enrich the overall Internet and your company too. I am quite fond of O'Reilly Doctrine:

Create more value than you capture

And I think doing so means being open, becoming more open over time, but always in ways that allow you and your company to remain a sustainable business that can cover its costs and then some and remain viable and value enhancing for the long haul.

#VC & Technology

Feature Friday: What's The Atomic Unit Of Your Product/Service?

This isn't exactly about a feature. Features are the verbs of a web/mobile product. Objects are the nouns. And one thing I always like to think about is what is the most fundamental object of all in your service. I like to call this the "atomic unit."

Here are some examples:

In Twitter, the atomic unit is the tweet

In SoundCloud, the atomic unit is the sound

In Turntable, the atomic unit is the room

In Tumblr, the atomic unit is the post

In Codecademy, the atomic unit is the lesson

In Wattpad, the atomic unit is the story

In Etsy, the atomic unit is the item (although one could argue it is the seller)

In Kickstarter, the atomic unit is the project

In Disqus, the atomic unit is the comment (although one could argue that it is the thread)

In Instagram, the atomic unit is the photo

In Kik, the atomic unit is the private message

In LinkedIn, the atomic unit is the resume

In Foursquare, the atomic unit is the checkin (although they may have just moved it to the venue)

In Gmail the atomic unit is the email, in Gcal the atomic unit is the appointment

In Brewster, the atomic unit is the relationship

In Dropbox, the atomic unit is the file

In Google Docs, the atomic unit was the document, in Google Drive, they would like to it to be both documents and files. And that creates some cognitive dissonance.

I could go on and on, and I apologize to all the USV companies I left off this list. I am not picking favorites. I am just doing stream of consciousness examples.

When you think about an MVP, it's really important to identify the atomic unit and make sure you focus the product crisply and cleanly on that object. If you think you have three or four atomic units, you are going to end up with a clunky and bloated experience and that is what you want to avoid at all costs with your MVP (particularly if you are mobile first).

Can you identify the atomic unit of your product or service? If you can't, then you might want to sit down and think about why you can't and what you might be able to do to address that.


Feature Friday: The New # Discover Tab

A few weeks ago, Twitter released a new # Discover tab on its web app. I do not believe the feature has made its way into the android app yet. At least I don't think I have it in my android app.

But I really like the new # Discover tab. It has immediately caused Twitter Discover to join Hacker News and Techmeme as my first reads every morning.

What's great about Twitter Discover is that I get links I don't get on Techmeme and Hacker News. I see things about sports, NYC, music, and other things that the people I follow on Twitter care about that have nothing to do with tech, venture capital, and startups.

Twitter Discover had been, until recently, the same links for everyone, or at least the same links by geography. I am not entirely sure to be honest. But now Twitter Discover is personalized for every Twitter user. And, like Who To Follow which got yet another upgrade yesterday, Twitter Discover will continue to evolve and improve as Twitter adds more data science, more data, and more user feedback into its development.


Feature Friday: People Tagging

I remember when I first met Joshua Schachter. It was in our first office back in early 2005 and he was still working at Morgan Stanley and running Delicious out of a server in his closet. I was immediately struck by the way Joshua looked for lightweight simple ways to do things. He told me that reduction was the key to getting something right.

Delicious was so simple to use. It didn't do much. But what it did do, it did well. I once asked Joshua why he didn't let users rate links. He said "we do. if they post it to Delicious they are ranking it as interesting. if they don't post it to Delicious, they are ranking it as not interesting". That's classic Joshua. is also classic Joshua. For those who haven't seen it, is a super simple lightweight way to tag people. It currently leverages the Twitter name space to find people, tag them, and tweet out the tags. You can also tweet out to your followers that you'd like them to come tag you. That's about it. Delicious for people.

There's a chrome extension that allows you to see people's tags in line in Twitter. I just installed that so I haven't had much experience with it yet. But I like the idea of a super lightweight people tagging system that is transportable across the web. I hope this takes off. Joshua is the right person to build it.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Full disclosure. USV is an investor in Tasty Labs which has built Jig and


Some Thoughts On The Success Of Code Year

Code Year, which I blogged about a couple days ago, has now signed up over 100,000 in two days. That's a lot of signups for a brand new service in just two days. How did they do it? Here's some suggestions on the key drivers:

1) an awesome idea. "give me your email address, we'll send you interactive coding lessons weekly" is a damn good idea. tim o'reilly told the codecademy guys "i wish i'd thought of this". that's the definition of a good idea.

2) well timed – launching as a "new year's resolution" is genius. but also launching in a "dead news period" was equally genius. jan 1st and jan 2nd of this year were slow news days. so Code Year got plenty of airtime in the tech blogs and news aggregators over a sustained two day period.

3) the landing page is clean, simple, and well designed. the call to action is simple. here's a blog post from the designer explaining how that page was designed.

4) the use of twitter and facebook to spread the word is simple and powerful. after you give your email address, you are given the option of tweeting out or posting to your wall. TechCrunch says 50% of the site traffic comes from Twitter and Facebook (with Twitter coming in at >33%).

5) a small ask. they didn't ask for money, the service is free. they simply asked for an email address, something everyone has and most are willing to share in return for real value.

So kudos to the Codecademy team and everyone else who was involved for great execution of a service launch. I am looking forward to getting my first coding lesson and getting started.


Feature Friday: Embed This Tweet

Yesterday Twitter rolled out a feature that I have been requesting for what seems like four or five years now. I am so happy to be able to embed tweets in my blog posts. So I'm celebrating by making "embed this tweet" the featured feature this friday.

When you open a tweet onto its permalink page in the new version of Twitter that rolled out yesterday it looks like this:

Embed this tweet

If you look right above the "reply, delete, favorite" links, you'll see a link that says "Embed This Tweet". If you click that, you'll get something that looks a lot like the embed option in YouTube (the all-time king of "embed this media").

I did that on my twitter love tweet from yesterday morning and when I embed it in this blog post, I get the following:



I love it! The real live tweet with all the important tweet actions right in the post.

Thank you Twitter. You made my week. And I dig the new UI/UX too. So simple. Less is more.

Just In Case You Didn't Know: USV is an investor in Twitter. I was on the board for four years. I love Twitter.


Things That Tweet

I was at breakfast with a friend yesterday who told me about a project he did with some Twitter data around weather. He said as he was pouring through the data, he saw that there were bursts of tweets at certain times. He dug into the data and saw that it was weather vanes and thermometers that were tweeting out their data.

It got me thinking about things that tweet (like weather vanes, refridgerators, traffic lights, etc) and their role in the land of social media. I believe that devices and sensors that broadcast their data via social media channels are an important source of social data and engagement. And for some reason, they are way more common on Twitter than any other social platform.

Have you ever seen a weather vane on Facebook? I have not. If they exist I'd love to know about them. I want to understand the Internet of Things and its role in social media. I suspect that the symmetric friending model and the use of real names/real people in the Facebook system is a hindrance to devices updating Facebook pages, but I could be wrong.

Services that are too determinent in their use case are ultimately limiting in their extensability to important new uses. Machines are reliable sources of information and the social services that are friendly to them have a number of interesting opportunities in front of them.


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.


Disqussing Disqus

Yesterday our portfolio company Disqus announced a bunch of numbers including the fact that they had raised $10mm to fund their rapid growth. The AVC community is powered by Disqus and we are big fans of the company here. So I'm pretty sure many of you already saw the news and are happy for the Company. For those that did not see the news, click on that link above. For those who would rather get a brief summary, here's what they announced:

– Disqus is four years old this week

– Disqus communities are viewed each month by almost 500mm users worldwide.

– Over 750,000 blog communities have adopted Disqus

– 35mm commenters actively participate in these communities

– The company grew 5x across all its core metrics in the past year

– 75% of blogs that use a third party comment system use Disqus

– All of this was achieved by just 16 people, but they hope to increase that number in the coming months

If you are interested in working for a rapidly growing category leader, here is their jobs page.

In other news, Disqus released some new features, one of which I discovered in the comments to yesterday's post. If you mention other people in a Disqus comment by typing @ then his or her Disqus name, mentioned people will be notified via email or Twitter. I saw a number of people using this yesterday. Let's do this as much as we can around here. It will make the disqussions even more lively.


We Are NY Tech

Imagine if there was a blog that wrote about one person who works in NY Tech every day and over time built the seminal database (like Crunchbase) of everyone working in NY tech. How cool would that be?

Don't imagine it. Just head on over to We Are NY Tech and witness it in action. You can also follow We Are NY Tech on Twitter.

Unlike silly lists like the Business Insider "Coolest 100 People" which is bullshit and I hate it and wish they would stop putting out nonsense like that, We Are NY Tech is democratic, wonderful to look at and read, and is exactly the kind of service we need in NYC to identify who is who and who is doing what and why.

We Are NY Tech was build by the team at Simande, a creative shop that builds great websites. If We Are NY Tech is a anything, its a great example of their work. I suspect this is a labor of love by the Simande team, but if I were Silicon Valley Bank, Gunderson, Cooley, Ambrose, and a host of other service providers to NYC's startup community, I'd be trying to buy sponsorships of We Are NY Tech. No better way to show the support of the community than to support a living breathing database of the community.

Well done We Are NY Tech. I'm following you and I hope the rest of the NY Tech Community is too.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech