Thursday, April 26, 2007

like youtube for text

It's become cliche, but this catchphrase probably isn't a bad one for Scribd to have -- especially considering YouTube's success. Plus, their mission sounds noble enough "create the world's largest open library of documents": +4 points for saving me the trip to Alexandria, but I think that library closed anyway.

Granted, it's got some familiar copyright-infringing issues that make it so sinfully popular (and useful!) but it's worked before. It certainly hasn't appeared to worry investors, who have reportedly made frenzied attempts to invest. And who could blame them? (Guys, I hope you at least got a lunch out of one of those VCs first). Considering all the traffic they've been getting, me thinks the VCs were dropping 'bows on one another for this investment (this has neither been confirmed nor denied).

I even got ganked on a writeup I sent out to the YC mailing list published on it -- it's quite flattering, really. Apparently a bunch of publishers don't feel the same way (or so says my editor girlfriend). You've likely heard about what it's like to date a book editor, it's all true, every Saturday night is a new adventure.

The only downside is that they're still a bit hesitant about watching their industry die away as fewer and fewer people read books. But who needs books when you can read text within text websites? (+6 points to Scribd for finally making .pdfs suck a little bit less)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

wufoo? it builds forms -- duhh

Building forms -- even unattractive and hard-to-use ones -- is an epic pain the ass. Even I know that (my first and only attempt at writing a Lisp web app was a very broken form). Just writing the HTML for one is mind-numbing. Enter Wufoo.

Making a slick form is absurdly easy. Plus, it's got stat tracking and an activity log baked right in. They've also just turned on some mobile-friendly tools so you can keep track of activity wherever you are (+3 points for showing the OCDs some love).

And did I mention they have a mascot? And it's from the past!

Yes, it's a website with a T-rex for a mascot: +10 points for mascot and an extra +7 for the anachronism-factor.

Wufoo also apparently picked up some awards at the recent Under the Radar Conference -- undoubtedly because of their mascot choice.

*an epic tip of the hat to Matt Knox

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

octopart - if you're not omniscient, it's the only way to search for electronic parts

Seriously, this is a fantastic site. And not just because it eliminates the need for all those titanic part catalogs. Anything that's still being done with phonebook-sized tomes -- especially in the tech world -- is long overdue for an technical solution. Granted, I've never actually used Octopart, since I don't ever need to buy electronic parts (due to ogrish hands and a morbid fear of soldering irons) but Chris (KeyserSosa) Slowe has -- and says Octopart is quite useful.

But maybe the praise of an experimental atomic physicist isn't good enough for you. Sure, he's a "scientist", but what would a bona fide electrical engineer think about the site? Well, Chris happened to pass the URL along to one (I think they must all have a secret network, for breeding purposes). The EE was quite impressed with the price comparisons and the extensive results on keying in an obscure mfg number -- all this only two days after the site had launched. +10 points for impressing an engineer and a scientist in the same day.

If you've been putting off building your own LED Mooninite, the wait is over.

And when you're giving your first press conference to discuss hair (after the court hearing), consider giving a shoutout to the gradstudents who started Octopart.

PS. +6 bonus points if you can tell what kind of schematic that is in the background of the logo.

Monday, April 23, 2007

buxfer reddit? the english language is doomed

Time for another week of blatant Y Combinator startup promotion in the logo doodles. The Winter Founders wrapped up a month or so ago and I extended them the same offer I made to the Summer Founders. Not that it's likely to bring them much traffic, but along with the logo, I'd promised to write an objective, thoughtful, and hard-hitting review of their site. Here goes.

The first thing one notices about Buxfer is their fantastic choice of name (i.e., "I've got no buxfer you, Steve, please spare my kneecaps"): +10 points.

The second thing one will notice is that it's actually a pretty handy way to track one's money (+5 points). All this despite not having a mascot (sorry, -5 points).

The third thing to note is how annoying it is -- despite how grammatically correct it may be -- to keep saying "one" when you really want to just say "you".

The visualizations are very sexy: the pie charts are tasty and the line graphs come with sliders and mini-histogram. But it's not style over substance, there is quite a bit of depth behind all of it -- data visualizations that even a history major can understand and use.

+15 Bonus points (because you need them) if you've got OCD and need to keep track of everything you spend. Or if you're an accountant. Either way, Buxfer is just the thing if you're jonesin' for an amateur CPA.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

out of ideas? whip out the over-whipped web 2.0 whipping boy

This is overdue, I know, especially considering today is Earth Day.

Someone (I forget who) a long time ago (I forget when) suggested (I forget how sarcastically) that I explain the rationale behind the doodles in this blog, since I don't do much else with it.

It was another Monday and -- even after the second cup of Flavia -- the ideas weren't coming. Much easier than thinking, I decided instead to rely on a time-tested standard: picking on web 2.0 design trends.

Convenientally, it also proves that, yes, I am capable of creating a reflection in Illustrator.

Granted, the reflection is a nice start, but it needed some blue -- web 2.0 blue.

Now with starburst! The alien is clearly dismayed.

I don't know where the alien got that ray gun.

This wasn't how I'd planned on ending the week (I really ought to start thinking these things through) but Kurt Vonnegut's death on Thursday pushed me toward this Slaughterhouse 5 homage (although I feel sort of dirty calling it a "homage").

He has long been one of my favorite authors. Although in hindsight, I suspect he would have been at the very worst appalled and at the very best disappointed with being remembered in a website logo.

You will be missed, Mr. Vonnegut, but so it goes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

american alternative

The last time I was in San Francisco, riding a bus out of the Haight, a group of six high school kids got on behind me. Despite not having been raised with younger siblings, I've gotten used to hanging out with young people. I feel quite comfortable around them.

Sprawled across the seats, this particular group looked just like an American Apparel ad: young, interracial, and apparently high. They were all clad in a colorful set of distinctly AA hoodies and shirts. Giggling, poking, pushing, laughing, they were all oblivious to the rest of us on the bus.

It almost felt voyeuristic, only I was in the ad with them -- wearing the same brand of sweatshirt. That, and I was definitely not high. But one out of two isn't bad.

So with all this lucidity, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. Not just because I was sober, but because I liked American Apparel simply because they manufactured shirts here in the USA. And more importantly, they're not being manufactured in foreign sweatshops (presumably the working conditions here in the States are more humane -- sweatshops suck, where ever they are). All of our reddit shirts have been American Apparel for that very reason, even though it costs us a bit more.

Why is it that I don't know of any other companies doing it? Even mainstream business magazines have reported on American Apparel, so they must be doing well. We even parodied their ads on Gawker with a set of our own.

Seriously though, where's their competition?

Please email me or leave a comment if you know of other companies that are producing clothing here in the USA (or, heck, Canada). I don't have a clue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

going soft? add bees!

I chose to welcome spring this year with a daffodil (harder to draw than you'd think).

Following that, I began receiving a few emails saying that I was going soft. It was apparent that folks missed seeing the alien get tricked, injured, and generally abused. Everyone likes an underdog, I guess.

The guys came up with a great April Fool's prank, which censored swaths of the site's text. So I needed something the following day to really convince folks that the doodles were losing their edge.

To do so, I couldn't hold anything back. I don't know much about flowers, or even plants, but I know that they don't get much more harmless. They aren't carnivorous, they aren't very scary looking, I don't even know if they do photosynthesis -- god forbid they consume a bit of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. Still need proof? Just do a Google image search for daisy (but make sure SafeSearch is on, because things change dramatically by page 2). What could be less threatening?
Enter the lone bee, bumbling along.

See kids, there's a lesson in every reddit doodle: don't pick flowers. The bees need to have sex with them.
The bee felt a bit slighted, so naturally it returned with a swarm. Again, just like in real life.
And not to leave anything out from this biology lesson, I even took the time to include the stingerless & disemboweled bee carcasses littered on the ground.

The moral of this week's logo doodles? Never go outside -- ever.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

pierre would be so proud

Steve surprised me with a link yesterday to a site called Octopz. Some of you may remember that we'd considered calling reddit "octopop". (The site would ironically have more than 8 popular articles on the front page.) As you know, we stuck with reddit, but we developed an affinity for all sites named octo-anything.

But not only is this startup -- which I know absoutely nothing else about -- named Octopz, it's also got an octopus for mascot.

They've undoubtedly learned from the lessons of Pierre Francois, one of the most talented web-designers/visionaries of our day. Behold his work:

As mascots go, subclass Coleoidea is so hot right now. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with Pierre, do yourself the favor of setting aside the 17 minutes to watch this and bask in his genius.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

your account is disabled: what it's like to be booted from facebook

The day facebook tore down its ivy walls and let regular Universities join was a big deal for me. I have a few friends at those schools (entirely for networking purposes, of course) and had already heard about the thrill of a first poke. Nonetheless, it took a few "real life"™ friends to convince me of the site's merit once it came to UVA.

"I know we're already friends, but now we can be facebook friends!"

I was convinced. I needed an online repository for all my friends, real or otherwise.

Time passed and I became bored of my own identity (Alexis Ohanian). Plus, I'd also started reddit with Steve, so I thought our alien mascot (pictured above, only usually less angry) needed an account. I used my school email account and within minutes had put together a nifty little auto-biography that I felt was just narcissistic enough.

Over the last two years of reddit's life, our alien had become fairly popular. It received friend requests from a number of people, as well as other notable mascots -- like the Fog Creek Kiwi. Always cordial, the reddit mascot always accepted, even after the friend details revealed the debauchery of past nights:

"I hooked up with the reddit mascot in 2005 and it was out of this world"

"I travelled with the reddit mascot to the City of Love (not philly)"

Only a few weeks ago, I tried logging into our alien's account (we share everything). I was informed that the account had been disabled and to contact to get it reactivated.

But why? What had our mascot done? Its only crime is adorability (and perhaps a bit of know-it-all-ness, but I think that comes with time-travelling).

It took a total of 15 emails with 3 different people to prove who I was and get an explanation (yes, and just like Mark promised at Startup School, the first one was responded to immediately -- by a robot).

Fake names are a violation of our Terms of Use. Facebook requires users to provide their full first name and at least one letter of their last name. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited. Nicknames are only permitted if they are a variation of your first or last name.

Is it because we've been so tight-lipped about the alien's real name? Or are they really trying to crack down on facebook accounts with "fake names"? Does this mean I'll lose my friendships with Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich? (Wright State and Texas A&M students, respectively) Is my status with all six of my Jessica Albas in jeopardy?

I'd rather not think about that right now. I should have just said "reddit" is a nickname for "Alexis" and "mascot" is the anglicized version of "Ohanian".

What's become of reddit mascot? It's been renamed to "Alexis Ohanian". That's right, I'm now married to myself. Sigh. I may be an only child, but this is a bit much.

Monday, April 09, 2007

the gorilla - my crowning achievement

A while back, when Justin was just a guy wearing a camera (the feed hadn't gone live yet) they were looking for a logo. The fundamental part of any logo -- any website -- is undoubtedly the mascot. In fact, I think Emmett and Justin attributed the end of kiko to the absence of a mascot (c'mon, that calendar with only 6 days in a week was hardly a mascot).

So when they asked me to try making a gorilla mascot for their guerrilla tv campaign, I was happy to help (because I love puns). Once the logo was done, the emoticons had to follow. Now stop reading this blog and go watch!

(I got 20% equity for the design work!)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

craigslist proves its worth [yet again], reddit open house a success

Well, we got rid of almost everything (and made $110 for TBTS in the process). There are still a couple futons and a computer chair left, but I was quite pleased to see that we helped furnish the homes of as many folks as we did. A top-10 redditor even dropped by and left with a few new (old) things. No karma-for-cash was exchanged in the process, don't worry.

He also had some good ideas for reddit's future, with the kind of perspective that the four of us on the "inside" could never have. Maybe we should do this sort of thing more often. We don't have enough furniture to do it again, but perhaps a bar/restaurant would be a more suitable location... or hell, maybe the Wired offices...

Since planning this sort of thing doesn't involve any programming, I guess it's my responsibility. Stay tuned.

A big thanks to everyone who turned out (or couldn't, but still sent an email lamenting not being able to make it to lovely Somerville, MA). I've gone ahead and matched the $110 we raised, which I donated to TBTS just a few seconds ago. Brain cancer's days are numbered.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

smoking lounge

These things are depressing as hell. I just remembered that after walking by one in the airport today.

It's like a terrarium with seating. Only it's full of smokey death. And there are no turtles. But there are a few really sad-looking people inside -- instead of really sad-looking turtles.

Don't smoke [cigarettes], kids. There are massive companies counting on you to help keep those plexi-glass cells full (really, I've seen the powerpoint slides; their customers have a bad habit of dying).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

visiting somerville this saturday? of course not. but you're missing an open house

We had to vacate our beloved Davis Sq. apartment pretty quickly after we sold reddit, so we left all of our "furniture" behind. I type "furniture" because it's not exactly a collection you'd probably want to furnish your home with unless you were a few cheap recent college-grad startup founders. Nevertheless, we're trying to find a home for all of it so it doesn't end up in the dumpster. I'm going to be back at 265 Elm St., Somerville, MA (a block from the Davis T stop) this Saturday, April 7th, from noon to 4pm. Steve and I need to get rid of all our stuff, so we're asking that you name your price for everything.

We don't want the money, though, any cash we collect is going to be donated to the Brain Tumor Society. We hate brain tumors.

Steve's not going to be there, but you could be the proud owner of the cheap table he used to write reddit on, or the recliner he napped on! We've also got a fine street sofa that Chris, Steve, and I carried up three flights of stairs with the alcohol-enhanced strength from a long night at People's Republik (yes, the same sofa that newly Internet-famous Justin Kan used to pass out on covered in Sharpie). OK, so it's just the same crummy furniture you'd find at any open house. But I plan on having some beer there, too.

Anyway, it'd be nice to see some of our friends from the Boston startup scene, since we left too quickly to have a final rooftop party (maybe that was for the best...)

And to prove that I'm serious, I even put up a craigslist ad.