Thursday, December 22, 2005

top 10 web predictions for 2006

Everyone else seems to be writing one of these, so here goes...

1. Web 2.0 will be usurped by Web 3.0. There will be a bloody revolution and we'll revert to the barbarity of Web 1.0 before peace is finally restored and Web 2.5 is installed as a compromise.

2. It will be a record year for Wikipedia, with thousands of bios edited to include involvement in the RFK assassination.

3. The amount of information stored within tag clouds will finally reach critical mass and they will subsequently be phased out in favor of tag maelstroms.

4. Tagging will reach an all-time high, with tags being incorporated in every conceivable way into every possible website... and my mother still won't understand how the hell to use them.

5. AJAX will be replaced with another acronym, sexing up another web development technique that's been around since the early days of Mozilla.

6. Google share prices will continue to rise and I will continue to bug my dad for not listening to me back when they were only trading at <$100. Even long before the IPO, pundits were skeptical, confident that "for Google to stay permanently ahead of other search-engine technologies is almost impossible, since it takes so little—only a bright idea by another set of geeks—to lose the lead..." (unless those geeks get hired by Google first)

7. On June 10, 2006, the last available .com will be bought and squatted.

8. The military-trained and -armed dolphins supposedly set free by hurricane Katrina, but later reported as a myth, kill five off the coast of Maryland. The New York Times sits on this story for a year before releasing it. (OK, this one wasn't about the web, but I couldn't help it)

9. Steve and I will finally hit level 60 in World of Warcraft. By this time, professional Chinese item- and gold-farmers will outnumber normal players 2 to 1. Worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, they will still be treated better than Wal-Mart's employees.

10. Zombie dogs will rise from the dead (again) and will be there to cover it all (again), with pictures. It will make the reddit front page and accumulate a record number of points until finally being retired at #1 on the top all-time page.

Don't believe any of this? Trust me, I've got a source... (from the future)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

new addition yields higher productivity

I mentioned earlier that we had some bizarre habits, now we've purchased a novel device that accommodates these habits quite nicely.

This is a big improvement over the precarious stack of books and magazines teetering on a tissue box we had looming over the open toilet bowl.

(yes, that's my powerbook)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

holding the line

“Thank you for holding the line.”

This isn’t a Spartan phalanx, it’s a friggin' customer service line – and you're on hold.

It's a fairly typical scenario: you've been grossly overcharged and want the appropriate rebate. I take the responsibility of doing these sort of mundane-but-necessary tasks so that Steve can spend his time doing more productive things. Meanwhile, a machine is reassuring me that “Personal customer service is our number one priority.”

I know I’m not the first to rant about this sort of thing (and I certainly won’t be the last), but isn’t it a bad sign when a company has to tell its customers that “your call is important to us” when their call clearly isn’t important enough to warrant a human interaction. The most vexing thing about this particular customer service line is that every 4 minutes or so, the recording is interrupted with a *click* one typically associates with a sentient being picking up the phone – it is only a trick. It’s really just another robot (this one is female and with a bit more sass) reminding you that you’re on hold.

Hey, they’ve got high-speed Windows-based hosting…

After fifteen minutes on hold I was promptly disconnected.

To make a long story short, I did finally get through to a human, Richard, but I’m pretty sure he looked nothing like the customer service agent that I was promised.

Monday, December 12, 2005

what day of the week is it?

It’s a more difficult question than you might think.

Having spent the last week back in the “real world,” coming back to the startup lifestyle took some adjusting. Back in this aforementioned world, the week is divided into seven equal units commonly referred to as “days.” They’ve been given names and our society has conferred unique distinctions on each of them – from “hump day” (a major misnomer) to “Friday” (marking the end of the traditional workweek, many regard this day as worthy of much thanks).

Back in this world, the week is broken up into “Must-see TV Thursdays” and “Monday Night Football Mondays.” In the startup bubble, these distinctions quickly fade and days of the week become strikingly less relevant. There are of course exceptions, particularly when this “real world” collides with that of a startup; you find yourself scratching your head at this silly notion of a bank being closed on a Sunday, as if there were a day you could simply unplug your

If it weren’t for these interactions with the outside world, days would (and usually do) simply blur into one another. Your dad shouldn’t be surprised (or concerned) when he wakes you up with a phone call at 1pm on a Tuesday and you can’t recall what day of the week it is:

“What day is it? I dunno, it’s a workday.”

“Yeah, I know Alexis, I’ve been at work for the last six hours.”

“Today’s not Sunday?”

“No, it’s Tuesday.”


“You’re running a business and you don’t know what day of the week it is?”

“It’s a workday, that’s all I need to know.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

unstealth! redditWall!

This afternoon, word got out that reddit has a new wall (well, it’s the same old wall, but with a new design). redditWall is about to go live! Remember that name.


Let me first apologize for not mentioning this before. In fact, I wasn't going to blog about this, because I really believe that one shouldn't hype up something without having something to show. But you know what? Here it is.

So what is it, and why would a couple recent college graduates put off doing actual work on the site to paint it?

It's a wall, but with the reddit mascot crudely painted on it.

redditWall is like most other cinderblock, whitewashed walls, but with one major aesthetic difference: it has an alien from the future painted on it. At reddit, we strongly believe that a wall's life hasn't begun until it's been decorated with a mascot.

To be honest, this isn't actually what our wall looks like. In fact, we have no interest whatsoever in painting anything on our walls (we prefer the sterility of white walls — that, and we don’t know where to buy paint).

Thursday, November 24, 2005


With a belly full of turkey, I’m writing to give some thanks – albeit some unconventional thanks. (If you want the traditional thank you list, it's here)

And now for something completely different:

I'd like to use this post to thank all the people who have ever discouraged, criticized, and doubted -- for you may very well be the best motivation there is.

Positive reinforcement always gets the praise (fitting, I suppose) for being a driving force in most people's lives. Not surprising, given how much people enjoy receiving it.

But what about the chip-on-the-shoulder-forming folks whose faces you envision on the dartboard? Personally, the people who motivate (intentionally or not) through negative reinforcement have always been an incredible impetus in my life.

A football coach I had (yes, I played football -- albeit for only a year) specialized in this type of motivation. Nowadays, there's no one in sweats blaring a whistle at me in between gruff curses and putdowns (despite my requests, Steve won't comply), but there's still plenty of motivation out there to prove all the believers right and all the naysayers wrong.

Thanks, coach.

//thanks for the title suggestion Connor, even though by "title suggestion" I mean "the text that I blatantly stole from your away message and used as my title."

it's been too long

I know it's been a while since my last update. I had always assumed that my mother was the only one who really kept up with this, but coming home for Thanksgiving, she confirmed it:

"What happened to your online diary?"

"Mom, it's not a diary, I told you that because calling it a 'blog' wouldn't make any sense to you."

"Fine, your blog diary, why has nothing new happened in your life?"

"It's not that, it's just that I haven't had anything that I wanted to sit down and write about."

"But I've 'reddit all' and I want something new."

"Well, hopefully something will come up that's worth writing about. If not, I'll just do what I always do -- write about random nonsense."

Speaking of which, why is it that the blogger spellcheck flags "blog" as a misspelled word?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

perk perq

I've learned from an undisclosed, but authoritative, source that great hackers drink coffee, tea, soda, or some other form of caffeine.

Despite these social pressures, coupled with the need to sustain long coding binges, Steve doesn't consume any of the aforementioned stimulants. He apparently has no need to.

Even our mascot drinks coffee (see today's header img).

It's rather perplexing, but it means that my roommate and I don't need to share any of our coffee with Steve. We certainly drink enough to compensate for him, though.

...must's not an addiction until you admit you have one...

//was that photo a shameless product spot? Absolutely. Your coffee/tea/hot chocolate will thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

a small epiphany with two eggs over medium

Recipe for egg sandwich:

2 eggs (preferably the brown ones, just because they seem healthier, see bread)
2 slices of bread (whole wheat, because you're trying to be healthy)
1 slice of cheese (the type doesn't matter)
a dab of butter (for the frying pan)

I'd go into further detail about how to actually prepare this egg sandwich, but if you can't figure out how to fry an egg, you're probably Steve.

As I sat down to eat this fantastic breakfast (ideal for a startup budget because they are not only cheap to make and tasty, but also remotely healthy), I realized something quite comforting.

Keep in mind that every now and then you wake up with this unshakable worry that while you were sleeping, someone has not only replicated everything you've been working on, but also everything you've been planning, and done it ten times better.

But back to the comforting thing: all of the other websites that have or will have mascots will eventually be defeated, because ours is the only one who comes back from the future.

//thanks to chris, zak, and steve

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

symposium, eh?

One of the great things about being located in Cambridge (and the big advantage it has over living in, say, Charlottesville, Virginia) is the abundance of lectures/symposiums that seem to be held on an almost daily basis. Not only are they in great quantity, they are also typically catered.

This particular event was Corante's Symposium on Social Architecture, which featured a talk entitled: How Will The Social Web Change Media? It was indeed well-catered (although I only stuck around for the last two sessions).

Needlesstosay, reddit didn't come up in the panel discussion, but there was some genuinely good discussion about the effect of the web on the media. Things got interesting during the following session, when web-based civics was discussed. Plenty of people talked about encouraging municipalities to install WiFi (a choice quote from NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg: "Will we have to dig up the streets?"), but no one mentioned Google's aspirations.

I wonder who will get it done first...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

hero of the day

The great Aaron Swartz graced us with his presence, only to succumb to our music selection. Only a few minutes into Master of Puppets, he was rendered totally incapacitated. We have found his kryptonite.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

light at the end of the tunnel (it's the candles on a birthday cake)

We've had a week of unbelievable productivity (possibly inspired by spez's drive to accomplish all that he could before leaving the enviable 21st year of his life for the mundane 22nd).

Happy birthday spez.

Not that it'll make much of a difference; you'll still get asked for three forms of identification whenever we go out for a drink.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

presentation blitz

You've said the elevator pitch so many times that the words lose all meeting. The key, as far as I can tell, is to avoid trying to memorize and recite it. There's usually just a few key ideas I try to always get in (read: none of them are web 2.0 buzzwords, like "web 2.0"). This keeps it fresh every time, which seems to make it a better experience for everyone involved.

We were invited to present reddit this week at the Boston Web Innovators meeting and the Berkman Blog Group. This was a remarkable contrast to our normal levels of human interaction, which usually peak when our third roommate comes home from the lab. All of a sudden, you've got the attention of a room full of people, some of whom are even interested in what you're working on (or at the very least, need to put up with listening for the next 10 minutes). Fortunately, speaking about the site nowadays comes fairly naturally, considering it's almost the only thing we ever seem to be thinking/talking/dreaming about.

Valuable lessons learned included the following: if you are ever worried about winning over an audience, people love free stickers and pins. Now if only I could remember to bring enough business cards... (or if only stickers were a suitable alternative).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I suppose it was only a matter of time before this happened...

Thanks, askjigga. Hopefully you'll get some good karma for this.

Monday, November 07, 2005

weekend away? lend out your room

The startup life is an insular one. Friends, loved ones (fortunately, we have very understanding ones), and even guildmates* begin to wonder why they never hear from you anymore. Sometimes it’s quite hard to explain why getting a few pixels to align is so frustrating, or why the seemingly innocuous acronym “CSS” causes so much aggravation. Nevertheless, every chance to reconnect and recharge is invaluable (and savored). This weekend I flew back home to be with my mother and father, take in some football, and forget about aligning pixels for a couple days.

By mid-summer our trips home were always received with comments like, “What are you eating?,” “You’ve lost weight,” or “I am sending you back with food.” (The last one was from my mom). I can proudly say that more recently, these comments have ceased -- presumably because we’ve added a few extra things to our diet, like protein and vegetables.

A trip back home guaranteed not only a full weekend’s worth of great eating, but also a vacancy in our apartment, which Steve was quick to take advantage of. Some Winter Founders Program applicants had their lodging plans screwed up and we had a room to spare, so I returned to an apartment full of hackers. Sights like this are encouraging signs of the startup renaissance that folks are talking about (another sign is the abundance of metaphors and buzzwords [like “startup renaissance”] surrounding it). Hosting some guys who were in the exact same position that we were in April was the least we could do; besides, we can use all the good karma we can get.

Something struck me today as I sat down to write this: many people take books into the bathroom, we take our Powerbooks.

Wouldn't want it any other way.

*A World of Warcraft reference, mom, I’ll explain it to you later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

musings and reflections over udon

If I know only one thing, it's that there is plenty I don’t know.

Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying a dinner with a journalist (a fellow technophile and soon-to-be published author) and another startup founder (a proven one at that, having successfully sold off his first startup).

There is a lot to be said for experience – in any field – which is something a couple of recent college grads (Steve and I, for instance) don’t have. Ever since we received our diplomas and started "real life," it was apparent that there were many things that formal education could never have prepared us for. Before I could even finish scanning the menu, it was apparent from the conversation around me that this would be another lesson in humility. This has been a common theme ever since the summer began.

What we lack in experience, I like to believe we have in a willingness to accept our own ignorance and learn whenever possible. Admittedly, there’s a latent, unshakable feeling that you are just a rounding error in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, this was an easy pill to swallow. Our worst-case scenario is great for us. We will have gotten the chance to work on a fun project and have had users actually thank us for it, not to mention all the people we'll have met and things we'll have learned.

Back in the Japanese restaurant, there I was, without a single business card in my wallet: the ultimate entrepreneurial taboo.

Oh well, the miso soup was already here and the conversation had already gotten interesting. Handing out the remaining 950 or so business cards I have left may be a bit harder than I thought...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

paul graham and captain jack sparrow join forces at last

One of us assembled an elaborate costume through various online purchases and spent a week growing a semblance of a goatee; the other put on a polo shirt & sandals and carried around a copy of Hackers and Painters.

Despite this Halloween injustice, here's the picture to prove that the two of us don't spend our entire lives in front of a computer. Steve (as Paul Graham) is the one on the left.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

red eyes, white flakes

The Mustang made it back in one piece, despite the epic chase sequence that occurred somewhere in the hills of San Francisco [reenactment footage not necessarily accurate].

After a few days loaded with meetings, you begin to get tired of hearing the sound of your own voice, but the answers to familiar questions come even faster as you’ve honed your delivery. By the time we found our gate at SFO, those cramped airline seats were starting to look very comfortable.

Our red-eye flight got into Logan in the early morning and we were bombarded with massive, fluffy snowflakes. Only a day earlier we had been enjoying the mild climate of Palo Alto, now we saw the first ominous signs of the winter ahead of us. We’re bound to be productive – considering how infrequently we leave the apartment already – as long as we have enough canned goods to sustain us.

There’s going to be a busy week ahead of us, but we’re enjoying a day off today. This day off could be attributed to jetlag, but we’re in fact hosting a Halloween party tonight. All work and no play…

//thanks to for the footage from Bullitt. Despite what Steve may say, he looks nothing like Steve McQueen

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

reddit goes west

We're in Kal-ee-for-nya (according to my mother) until a red-eye flight takes us back to Logan on Friday night. One thing worth noting: Avis will not only rent to the under 25 crowd, they'll also offer you a Mustang upgrade for only $3 a day. We had to choose between a Chevy Cobalt and a 2005 Mustang hardtop.

Maybe we should have gotten that optional insurance policy...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

lunch, an excuse to go outdoors

You begin to need reasons to leave the apartment. Yesterday, lunch was it. We had a meeting scheduled and it was up to us to choose the location, so the Au Bon Pain at Harvard Sq. seemed to be an appropriate choice. Ever since our first night in Cambridge, this hulking cafe has been a landmark etched into our heads and butchered by our tongues. "Oh yeah, the uh-buh-pah, it's right next to the Harvard T-stop."

We set out for the cafe a good 10 minutes earlier than we probably needed to (but better early than late for these sorts of things, right?). This was a pretty tame "fall" day in Cambridge, mind you, so it was cold and only lightly raining. I hesitate to even call it "fall," given that I have seen little evidence to show that this region of the U.S. even experiences what we in the Mid-Atlantic would refer to as "fall" (or autumn, in some circles). It seemed like over the course of a week, the weather went from sweltering to frigid and dreary. This, I was later told, was the transition from summer to winter.

But back to lunch, one crucial mistake was that we had no idea who to look for, nor had we given him any description of what we looked like. We were just the two awkward guys standing outside in the drizzle. There are only so many ways to play off this all-too-typical exchange:

"Hey, we're Steve and Alexis from reddit."


"Reddit? What? Who are you? What do you want from me?"

We did eventually find who we were looking for and we even got treated to lunch. It’s nice to get a meal every now and then that hasn’t already been pre-prepared-cooked-and-packaged.

You might be startup-founder if you consider adding milk to cereal an act of “food preparation.” Many don’t even put in that much effort.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

polyphasic sleep: a groggy journey toward higher productivity

You never feel like you're being quite productive enough, so something that promises only 2-3hrs. a day of sleep seems like a really great idea. Steve found this link on reddit a day ago and got the idea to make the switch. Apparently, da Vinci, Edison, and Jefferson practiced this method with great success -- we've set our bars much lower.

The nocturnal lifestyle is already a natural part of our existence, so it wasn't a very hard sell, especially if it would mean more productivity (and ultimately, more time for WoW). Our new sleeping schedule would replace the "monophasic" sleep of mere mortals with 6 power naps spread throughout the day at 4 hour intervals.

Needless to say, there is typical about a week or so of intense psychological stress and fatigue as you punish your brain into believing that it only needs these small chunks of rest. We didn't even make it long enough to hallucinate. This morning, only 3 naps into our lifestyle change, our roommate found us slumped on our respective keyboards.

Biological need for sleep: 1
Steve & Alexis: 0

Thursday, October 20, 2005

how we got here, where we're going

It all started this past March with a talk aptly entitled "How to Start a Startup" being given at Harvard by Paul Graham. An application and a series of interviews later, we were fortunate enough to be admitted to Y Combinator's Summer Founders Program. A few months have passed and it looks like Steve (spez) and I (kn0thing) can keep living this dream for about another year (notwithstanding a sudden increase in the cost of frozen pizzas). If you're interested in the inner workings of startup life -- or you're my mom, and are wondering what your son is doing with his life -- hopefully we can provide you with some insight, or at the very least, entertainment.