Friday, December 22, 2006

predicting the future (because we can't all have time traveling aliens)

Sorry I had to get so "TIME Magazine" on you, but today's logo was timed with the redesign of inkling -- another poster child for the wisdom of crowds: -2 points to myself for the cliché foul.

Despite how buzzword-prone their startup idea is, prediction markets are sexy right now for a reason. When implemented correctly, they can be quite informative -- or at the very least entertaining -- whether it's about who will be the Democratic Presidential nominee in '08 or who will win the Super Bowl. After all, none of us is as smart as all of us (despite what you may have read, I came up with this).

I've still be hurting from the $48,805.55 (in inkles, a fake currency -- thankfully) that I lost during last year's academy awards (thanks, Crash). Building and managing your own prediction market is cake if you're one of their corporate clients or Jane Internet-user -- although I've never tried as a corporate client... or as "Jane" for that matter, but it worked fine for me.

They've also just opened up worthio, which is much like a reddit for stocks, but clearly built by some folks who actually know something about the market.

And what their mascot lacks in detail (I believe they were going for the abstract-enough-so-anyone-can-relate look) it makes up for in quantity: +1 for lots of pretty-colored people-shapes.


YC Week is done for now, since the week is over, but it'll resume once we get into '07 and I inevitably run out of ideas again.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

rock beats scissors, snipshot beats bloated software

Back when my only image-editing software was PaintShopPro 5 (last summer), I would have loved a slick web app to do it from my browser. Even now that I have Photoshop -- with its hefty loading time -- I still find myself heading over to Snipshot for quick and dirty image edits. Perhaps giving us a glimpse into a future devoid of desktop apps, Snipshot cuts out much of the hassle: -1 point to myself for actually typing that.

They're also Canadian: +2 points for being Canadian. My biggest concern at the moment with this startup is that their mascot (the scissors, presumably named Snippy?) isn't quite as anthropomorphized as it could be: +1 for only having a pseudo-mascot. But I'm convinced they can overcome this, even if their mascot is guaranteed to lose in a game of rock, paper, scissors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

inbox backwards

OK, so I haven't actually used Xobni -- despite how much time I spend in email -- since I'm both allergic to Outlook and very addicted to my web-based Gmail. But I have seen enough demonstrations to know that Xobni can show you some things about your emailing habits (and the habits of those you email) that are sure to make you stroke your chin. Learn the optimal time to email that special someone, measure your own laziness with email replies, or even realize you're not spending enough time reading those emails from mom -- all with pretty graphs. Efficiency really is a beautiful thing.

They've also got a visibly excited mascot: +2 points.

If The Man has you running Outlook and you'd like to be spending less time in the office, it might be worth sending these fellas an email.

Alternatively, if you are The Man, and would like to hit those performance goals and nab that bonus, it might be worth sending these fellas an email.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

which alien do you likebetter?

The premise? Select the pictures you likebetter and learn a little something about yourself (w00t for keyboard shortcuts and arrow keys).

I have no idea how the brain works, but it'll start guessing things about you based on your selections (it does this just like a real brain, by turning pink: +2 for pink-flashing brain).

However, brain aside, likebetter doesn't appear to have a mascot: -1 for no mascot.

Then again, there are games you can play with your friends to find out just how good of a friend they are. Consider this a good quarterly tool for reevaluating your relationships (and just in time for holiday gift giving!). I'm learning how well my girlfriend knows me right now...

There are also channels for specific things, like puppies, kittens, bands, and as you may have noticed, even reddit logos.

Bryan was so kind as to create the last one just for us, since I'd always been curious about what the most popular logo doodle was. Maybe we'll make some merch out of it or something, so please vote -- in general, too. Democracy is cool.

Monday, December 18, 2006

reddit alien glues jams, rocks out

So, this all started with an email to the YCombinator mailing list offering to doodle some YC-startup-themed logos. I also offered to throw in a brief write-up. To do this, I wouldn’t even try to use any of their competitors, or do any kind of objective review, but rather speak from the gut. Now, it’s going to be hard for me to match the hyperbole of Michael Arrington, but I’ll try.

Speaking of TechCrunch, it gave JamGlue some love last week, but I can assure you it was all well deserved. I had registered shortly after they first launched a limited release to the YC folks, but admittedly hadn’t gotten a chance to really play around with it. I would have had this thing written 45 minutes ago if I hadn’t been feverishly remixing my entry for the The Submarines Remix Contest. Seriously, as someone with virtually no musical talent whatsoever, I was surprised by how engrossed I was in tweaking Super Mario mixes, laying down NIN beats, and adding more cowbell. (Sorry, you should have known that was coming).

I’m also big fan of the mascot, the most accurate measure of a website’s usefulness: +3 for rocking-out mascot.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, JamGlue seems to have all the tools one would need to become a computer-chair DJ. The Flash mixing board is snappy and snazzy, all you need to do is come up with a DJ name (feature request: automatic DJ-name-generator). Plus, It’s all under the Creative Commons license (+1 for the musical utopia). Does the reddit alien think this is the future of remixing music and will revolutionize the web? Perhaps... since we can't all have the advantage of time travel, it's hard to say for sure, but the music industry sure could use a remix.

And now some dope jams I think would make a great addition to anyone’s "mood music" playlist:

Remix-embed Me and My Mario by tiny avatar wisefool

Remix-embed borat he like you he like sex by tiny avatar bert111

In case you were curious, yes, that is a Metallica shirt the alien is wearing. And no, you can’t find any Metallica mixes on Jamglue. *sigh* Lars, I’m so disappointed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

this was supposed to be another fluff entry

As most of you know, it's been a pretty turbulent week for us. We’re sorry for the trouble our negligence has caused. Our hope was to be as forthcoming we could be as quickly as possible – and I believe we were. There were some voices of understanding and forgiveness from the community, which we were grateful to see, but we know that we’ve got work to do.

Steve (spez), who built reddit, has been bearing the brunt of this in the comments pages, but this was a decision we’d both – wrongly – agreed to make back when we were holed up in our apartment last summer. This was our mistake; we fucked up and we’re learning from it.

Admittedly, I’m biased, but Steve’s the one who would cook Aaron breakfast in the morning, help Chris with revisions of the recommendation engine, and even let me win a few times at Blitz.

The fact is that Steve has been the guy from day one single-handedly keeping reddit online, even sleeping with his laptop for the first few months to do so. My contribution to the actual website you use starts and ends with the alien in the corner. When there are DNS troubles, I’m trying to figure out what to doodle, Steve’s on the phone with the tech folks.

Phew. OK, I’m done. None of that is an excuse for what happened, it just needed to be said.

Anyway, I was hoping to have spent this post talking about all the cartoon references from this past week’s logos, so here goes…

By the time I was able to figure out how to end last week's series (thanks, Mr. Watterson) it dawned on me that I could spend an entire week ripping off paying homage to my favorite cartoons.

Naturally, Calvin & Hobbes -- my all-time favorite -- would be first, despite how adamant Bill Watterson was about not commercializing his cartoons (sorry).

One of our users found a neat little hack to display backwards text and it seemed like a good enough reason to have an intermission from the cartoon theme.

Gary Larson's cartoons were so wonderfully dark, I don't think anyone would be surprised if that cow had something to do with the outage.

Tom Tomorrow has probably had a little bit too much material to use for the last six years, but his cartoons continue to be as pointed as ever. I also have a hunch he likes penguins, which makes him good people.

This was a reference to the first xkcd cartoon I'd read, which Steve had forwarded to me. Now I'm hooked; it's both entertaining and instructive.

Up next is Y Combinator appreciation week...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

time machine

I'm not sure how this could actually be an instructive blog entry for anyone, but my hope was that it'd at least be moderately entertaining. Admittedly, reddit hasn't changed much since we started it 18 months ago -- excluding random logo doodles -- but it has changed nonetheless.

I can't help but wonder what Pierre Francois would have to say about this.

Oh well, come and laugh along with us...

This was just a static html page so we could play around with the css. It was the first version of what would become reddit. Back then, it was called snew, as in "what's new". We'd have used as our domain name, but the owner is apparently using it for other things (?).

We switched to something a bit less conventional for a "news site", since we weren't trying to build a traditional news website. The alien was still in its infancy -- I wanted it to be even bigger. Steve said no.

This was the first version of reddit that was actually online. This screen capture is dated June 23, 2005. I can only imagine what those first users were thinking...

Actually, I know what they were thinking because they were all friends and family of ours. Frankly, most were probably wondering why there wasn't a mascot on the site.

Most of our early design scribblings happened in PaintShopPro 5. It was a shareware copy and yes, I was on a PC running WindowsXP at the time. This was a late-night idea for the user profile before we even had user profiles (or users, for that matter).

July 1, 2005: Thanks, byrneseyeview. I'd forgotten about this one I'd uploaded a little while back. I believe the yellow bar indicated 'hotness' and the orange-red bar indicated total score. If you remember when reddit looked like this, you are truly l33t.

July 2, 2005: The bars have been vanquished! We've arrived at a layout that's pretty similar to the reddit of today -- a list of links and lots of whitespace. But where are the sort options?

A friend of ours from school, Connor, had suggested a few layout ideas, including this newspaper-esque layout. At the time, there'd been a great deal of discussion about whether or not we should have topics and if we did have them, how they should be created and organized.

As you can tell, we didn't listen to Connor, but to his credit, he's still our friend.

July 13, 2005: Still had interesting/boring links for voting and the new sort options are relegated over to the far right (squint, you'll see them).

July 14, 2005: The sort options were quickly relocated and we'd added arrows to 'boost' the story. We demoed this version to the other YC startups and I'll never forget the sage feedback we received. "More head and less shaft" (regarding the arrows, of course).

July 27, 2005: The RTM button! (If you know what that is, thanks, you've been a loyal user for way too long) This was a precursor to the [hide] button.

August 10, 2005: Here's what our first profile page looked like. See how long it takes you to find the profile buttons...

September 17, 2005: Starting to look familiar now, but look carefully, there are faint circles around each arrow (wtf?).

October 22, 2005: We eventually changed the [recommend] button to [share] since it wasn't quite clear what recommend meant -- especially once we turned on the recommended page. The names of the sort buttons got truncated and [top submitters] grew to a broader [stats] page, but those un-rounded buttons have stood for the last year.

Granted, there are certainly improvements we'd still like to make to the reddit UI and overall design, but we'd like to think we've made some progress.

I know my biggest regret is giving in to a 120x40 pixel logo. But these sacrifices make us better people, or so I'm told.

And here's a bonus image!

We weren't always on the best of terms with the alien...