My daily readings 05/30/2010

  • Drag and Drop feature for HTML5

    tags: HTML5

    • Since its launch in 2005, Box.net has steadily been growing its cloud-based content management system, and has now accumulated more than 4 million users, with hundreds of thousands of businesses using the application. And the startup is seeing top line growth, with a 500% rise in revenue from 2008 to 2009, and a record first quarter – up 300% from Q1 2009 – thanks to deals with the Oprah Winfrey Network, Volvo, and Nokia Siemens are using Box.net (Box declined to give us exact revenue numbers). And the startup just raised $15 million in funding.

      Levie seems pretty passionate about the potential influence of HTML5 on the enterprise, even saying that “HTML5 will be the death of desktop software.” Box plans to add HTML5-enabled functions like pausing/resuming uploads, offline caching, and multiple file select in the near future.

  • tags: no_tag

    • Imagine…now, as a publisher, I have 200 ‘followers’ whose sole interest is in seeing the links/stories that I publish. Jason Fried talks about building an audience. So far, there is no other tool that ‘aggregates’ all your content and pushes it directly to an audience like digg v4 is suggested to do.
    • The mere fact that I can have one place, that streamlines all of the links published by people I am interested in hearing from + links they found interesting, is absolutely game-changing (in my opinion).Ofcourse, it all comes down execution, but based on what I am seeing, I think I see Kevin back in his original form. Quite contrary to your assertion about pandering to his VCs, I don’t see any evidence of driving revenues. I see mainly product development. I see small UI elements that seem to enhance the link discovery process. I see giving value to small-time publishers and further ‘democratization’ of news.
    • We’re certainly in accord about there being a value neither fb nor twitter are completely providing. I just see the simplest explanation for a premier startup that far (seriesC) into funding to implent trendy features to benefit publishers (not readers) to be the result of VC pressure. If reddit is any indication, the majority of visitors to digg don’t even login, far more don’t comment, and far more don’t submit.

      For this model to really work, I suspect it’d require a lot more participation on the part of diggers, else tyoud just have a lot of publishers automatically spamming links at one another.

    • It doesn’t matter what something was designed to do, it’s much more important how it is used.

      Standalone RSS readers are a fairly primitive form of RSS feed consumption imo.

      The problem with Digg has long been that it reflects what is mainstream to a non-mainstream group. This, Digg v4, doesn’t change that, but it is a step in the right direction. I agree with Alexis’ questioning though of the form it takes & the reactions “Too little, too late.”

  • tags: no_tag

    • I love nothing more than shouting my opinion on things, and I’ve been particularly harsh on Rose and Digg over the last several months. But opinions are one thing. Rewriting history is another.
    • Reddit, a site for discovering and sharing new things, was launched in mid-2005, more than six months after Digg. There were very few differences between Reddit and Digg then, and they haven’t diverged all that much since then, either. Both sites allow users to vote on submitted stories/links, and the most popular stories are on the home page. Reddit ripped off the core Digg idea when it launched. Which is totally fine in my opinion, since the Internet has evolved in this way from the beginning. You take someone else’s ideas and you try to improve on them.
    • Paul Carr put this best when we were discussing this post internally on Yammer: “So at best they did zero research before they launched Reddit into a space that kinda relies on the founders knowing where to find cool new stuff online.”
    • Kevin returned to a full time role at Digg earlier this year and clearly wants to prove that he can bring this company back to life. He’s excited about Digg, clearly. He may succeed. He may fail. But at least he’s in the arena and fighting valiantly.
    • It will be tough for Digg to recoup $40M of funding. Reddit had less than $1M of funding, was able to sell out at several times that, and the founders could move on with their lives.
    • Michael, maybe I’m biased as an avid reddit user, but for one Alexis is no longer connected with reddit in any official capacity as far as I know, secondly I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean “You suck for copying others!” he means “You’re copying popular features from elsewhere that have no real use on your site”. Imagine if Techcrunch decided to copy twitter and implement a followers feature… something completely worthless and out of place, I’m sure you’d be criticized for that.

      Again, maybe I’m blind to the hypocrisy of Alexis, but it seems he’s saying that Digg is wrong for copying something *because* it’s out of place, not because copying is wrong: afterall, the internet thrives on reimplementation of others ideas, everyone knows this.

      As a side note, Digg was not an original idea, many sites for sharing links existed before it, many have been created since. It’s all about implementation, if I create a blog about “tech” today am I copying Techcrunch?

    • Just some history for you. Kevin Rose started Digg in December of 2004, but he was actively employed by G4 until May of 2005 and Digg as a site didn’t gain much popularity until Kevin started working at it full time. I joined Digg in April of 2005, but only after seeing a segment on G4 about it that Kevin did. It is totally believable that the founders of Reddit had never heard of Digg since it gained popularity after Reddit was created. Dismissing Reddit as a Digg clone may have been accurate in 2005, but the sites diverged and the focus of the communities changed. Digg became rife with power users and the front page became their playground as politics amongst users heated up. Reddit maintained a balanced approach to how stories were submitted and advanced, and have fulfilled the promise of Digg better than the current product that Digg offers. Reddit took the idea that Kevin had and indeed delivered on it instead of floundering in the pocket of a MrBabyman.
  • tags: money

    • Although today’s poster only asked, “What do I do with my money?”, there’s a second, related question that’s also very important, “What do I do with my life?” In both cases, I think the right answer is, “start slow, and avoid making any big decisions now”, though as always, there are exceptions.
    • The money question is the easier of the two to answer: First, don’t lose the money!
    • Read what Warren Buffett has to say about financial helpers. Spend a few years getting recommendations and talking to various advisors before deciding (intermittently, not full-time, of course). Avoid hiring this guy. Meanwhile, put your money in a very safe fixed-income investment, such as short-term CDs. You can circumvent the FDIC insurance limit by having the money spread accross multiple banks (think of it as “RAID for money”) — see CDARS for more info. Don’t rush to invest it in the stock market — that’s risky and you could easily lose half of your money in a matter of months. Avoid long-term or illiquid investments, though it’s fine to put a few percent into random things such as startups, but understand that you’ll probably lose that money, so consider it an educational expense.
    • First, it’s important to understand that once you have the basics, happiness comes primarily from healthy social connections and a sense of purpose. If you quit your job and move to a new city where you don’t know anyone or have a clear purpose, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up depressed or even suicidal. So unless your current life is very broken, don’t do that. Take it slow.
    • Many people with jobs have a fantasy about all the amazing things they would do if they didn’t need to work. In reality, if they had the drive and commitment to do actually do those things, they wouldn’t let a job get in the way.
    • Again, don’t make any drastic changes unless you really need to. Spend time building up new activities, interests, and social connections, especially ones that will give your life a sense of purpose.
    • True freedom comes from the inside anyway — we’re all still slaves to the larger system. (while searching for a story to illustrate this point, I ended up on Epictetus’s Wikipedia page — he seems to have had it about right, so I’ll go with that, though The Matrix is also entertaining)
    • Explore the opportunity. Do something remarkable. Go for a walk in the park. Appreciate the trees.
  • tags: Sync

  • tags: Product, design

  • How to use money

    tags: no_tag

  • tags: designer

    • The problem is that UX requires business knowledge, psychology, design, and code all working in concert with each other. The education system does not treat people to think holistically. It’s why designers, coders and biz dev all hate each other. The problem is that all innovation happens at the nexus of these disciplines. Entrepreneurs often drop out out of school because of this.

      So the answer: They don’t exist in mass because they are all self-trained. You will find them in pockets working in various industries and obviously in startups but it’s all quite haphazard.

      My recommendation:

      1) Learn as much as you can yourself. Wireframe some stuff in plain HTML/JS and show people the clickable design and refine from there. Iterate, iterate. Make yourself care.

      2) Read Amy Hoy. Most of what she writes is “aha!” inducing.

    • Example: I interviewed people for a “web artist” position recently. I’d expect someone in that position to have good traditional layout, composition, sketching, drawing, coloring (whether painting or markers or Photoshop) skills, understanding of and practice using grids, typography, font selection, be able to describe their design process, how to run a critique, how to take a critique, plus a basic understanding of not just HTML, but CSS, and that they keep up on things like CSS animations and such. That’s all on top of other things like demonstrated ability to work as part of a large team (jacks of all trades are immediately suspect) and being able to sit for long periods.
    • The problem is that to find a truly good ux developer, you have to find someone that is not only artisticly inspired, but also someone who is grounded in statistics and testing / scientific method. It is a rare breed and the market is flooded with hacks. Start by looking for someone who has a background in human factors and then look at their portfolio. It’s not a magic bullet but it will weed out a good deal of hacks.
  • tags: development

  • tags: development

  • tags: leadership, management

  • tags: developer

    • this is not true. if a team is “hiring” you can transfer in, but the popular ones are full up, and getting in is very competitive. plus many teams are only in a particular office and if are not willing to move to it, then you are out of luck.

      that said, transfers are supported by management and there’s a nice internal web app for browsing which teams have reqs and for requesting a transfer.

    • I think the correct title would have been – “Why I won’t work at Microsoft, again.”.

      I don’t think it’s a valid argument against Google without having any data-points. I’ve seen many Startups also don’t finish their features/products and throw away when they realize this is not the right thing to do.

      Overall, don’t generalize too much. Experiences are different for different people at different places.

    • That’s not surprising, given the person running Bing is Qi Lu. There’s a reason they brought in an outsider: they just couldn’t afford to screw this attempt up.

      I’ve had the enormous privilege of working in his organization at Yahoo (I still have no idea how I was able to fool my interview panel into hiring me straight out of college and into that group).

      That experience gave me an extremely highly bar in terms of choosing engineering organizations to work for. There’s only a couple of non-startup companies I am willing to work at after this experience: most everyone else – including non-search parts of Yahoo – just does not get how to run an online service and are unwilling to listen to a young punk like me🙂

    • Damn, I really, really agree with this:

        I know that while it’s important to write quality software,
        it’s equally important to just fucking finish it.
    • I believe because the publicly available reports of their interview process don’t seem to emphasize “getting stuff done” as much as she prefers, but instead emphasize other attributes. She believes that if it’s not emphasized in the interview process, it’s likely to be underemphasized in the organization as a whole. Since she believes that attribute to be more important than its proportion of apparent emphasis, the probability of being dissatisfied with her work environment is too high for her tastes. That’s how I read it anyway.
    • I would say that interviewing for engineering knowledge (coding, algorithms, software engineering) is pretty straight forward, but interviewing to figure out if a candiate can get ‘real’ work done is very difficult.

      I don’t know of any magic way of testing for that. There are some good signals, of course, such as:

      1) pre-interview open source reputation and release.
      2) References from people you trust and respect.
      3) Publications with significant content written by the candidate.

      But I’ve seen each of these fail, even in combination, in predicting the ability to execute. That said, it’s better than nothing.

      (disclaimer, I work for Google, and am also waiting for the part about Google in the OP)

  • tags: iPad, future, mobile

    • Rose asked Doerr for his thoughts about what’s coming next. Doerr says that’s we’re on the third great wave of innovation. The first was the microchip/PC in the 80s. The second was the Internet in the 90s. And now we’re entering a wave of social, mobile, and new commerce, Doerr says.
    • Doerr (who invested in Apple) clearly loves this device. He had one on stage with him and kept picking it up over and over again throughout the Internet. He says it will change the way we interact with everyday things such as television. And it will charge health care. But maybe most importantly, it will change education, he says.
    • John Doerr: Great question. I think we’re on the verge of a third great wave of innovation. The first was the microchip and the PC in the early 80s. The second wave was 1995: the Internet. Marc Andresseen brought Netscape Navigator to the world. Then Amazon came. Then in 1999 we saw the 15th search engine called “Google.”

      This third wave is social, mobile, new commerce. We don’t have a name for it yet. We could be on the verge of reinventing the web. It’s people, it’s places, it’s relationships. It’s exciting.

    • CR: In the first hour with the iPhone and app, you were in right? You knew.

      JD: I did. These smartphones change everything. They’re always connected, always on. It’s a powerful new platform. 85 million iPhones and iPod touches – we’re there. And now we have the iPad. It took just 28 days to sell a million of them. It’s not a big iPod. It’s a new paradigm. Imagine 10 years forward.

    • CR: Go ahead take 10 years forward. Steve Jobs told you “this is the best work of my life.” Why does he think that?
      JD: It’s not a computer. You don’t need files. You don’t need mice. It’s magic, what you see is what you touch. I don’t want to call it a computer. It’s a magical surface.
    • CR: What does Mark Pincus and others like Zuckerberg have in common with some of the greats?

      JD: They were nerds. They had no social life whatsoever. They have a love affair with their companies. They were missionaries not mercenaries.

    • JD: We invested in Zynga 20 months ago, and it’s the fastest growing venture we’ve ever had. The people there are extraordinary. They can monetize these new social networks. Advertising is one part, but it’s more than that. 2% will pay for virtual goods. They also raised $3.6 million for Haiti in just a few days. It’s powerful stuff.
    • JD: I haven’t talked about new immersive relationship between you and the medium. Again, I’m not talking about computers. It’s like the iPad. This is a fluid experience. New ways of interacting, things from Apple, Cooliris, there are others. These will improve. We’ll look back at these devices today as if it’s the stone age.

      I’m excited about what the iPad can do with healthcare. The government is spending $20 billion on this. We need this information in the cloud. Every doctor and nurse needs an iPad.

  • Worth reading for every product manager, developer and designer.

    tags: Product, design

  • tags: startup, relationship

  • The result is knowing little about a lot of different things. While the latter graph may still Internet users, the large gaps should be filled instead by many little bars.

    tags: no_tag

    • My personal opinion is that reading newspaper editorials daily and weekend reading of Economist (what the author calls pre-Internet habit) is more likely to offer analytical depth than browsing tens of blog sites and following up-to-the-minute trends on Twitter. IMHO, Internet has more breadth but less depth… I would want my young kid to follow the newspaper+Economist habit than bothering about hundreds of ever-changing news stories on Twitter and blogs.
  • tags: Startup

      • Creating a new market is difficult and risky.
      • Changing people’s working habits is hard.
      • Social factors can make or break a product. The end-users didn’t see anything in it for them.
      • If the end-users don’t like a product, they will find a way not to use it, even if their bosses appear to be enthusiastic about it.
      • Talk is cheap. Lots of people telling you how great your product is doesn’t mean much. You only really find out if your product is commercially viable when you start asking people to buy it.
    • A small number of copies were sold. No one is actively using it at present. Once I realised that it wasn’t a complete product and that additional development was required I moved on to other product ideas. I had basically run out of enthusiasm for the product.
      • I am not an accountant.
      • I have never run a cleaning company.
  • tags: UI, UE

    • “But the place for such experimentation is in the lab.”

      That’s a silly, elitist statement. No matter how much testing you do in the lab, the ultimate test is in the hands of end users. Lots of dumb WIMP UI ideas, like modal dialogs, MDI windows, and nested menu hierarchies, survived the labs at Xerox, Apple, and Microsoft, but fell out of favor over years of real user experience. On the other side of the coin, lots of now-popular desktop and web UI elements were conceived by run-of-the-mill developers far from any research campus. As the new-car smell wears off touch devices, plenty of touch UI conventions will get drop-tested in the wild, the stupid ones will get discarded, and the good ones will get copied by everyone and become taken for granted. This will happen far faster in the cutthroat app marketplace, under the eyes of millions of customers, than in any HCI lab.

  • tags: startup

    • Awesome article. You hear a lot about getting feedback early being a good idea, but this really highlights it.
    • It’s actually very simple. Hard to do but simple. There is no sophisticated insight or knowledge or process you need to know. It’s simple but hard.

      Suppose you have an idea for some software for travel agents. Before opening an idea or writing a single line of html you go to the phone book and find the number of a travel agent. You call them and say :

      “Hi can I speak to the manager please. Hi there, my name is Sam and I have an idea for a computer software tool that might be useful for Travel agents, I’m not selling anything but would you have 15 minutes available for me to talk to you and get your feedback ?”

      Do that 20 times. Talk to 10 different people. List any repeated phrases, objections or suggestions. Ask each of them “Do you think this would be useful to other travel agents ?”.

      Now if you have the guts to do this very simple but difficult thing enough times that you actually talk to 10 different potential users you will know whether there is a market and if there is you will already have real beta testers lined up.

      People may want to pick holes in this “what about…” “what if…”. Yeah, you can analyse on the internet all you want but the fact remains, if you do this the chances of you building something people will buy goes up dramatically.

      And the reason people don’t do this is almost always fear.

      (note: I was the Sam Howley in the article)

  • tags: Minimalism

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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