Friday, August 31, 2007

i've been meaning to disqus this

I don't get enough comments on this blog for me to think comments on blogs are worthless. But Joel (and Dave) emphasize an important point about the consequences of anonymous commenting.

Even the most innocent and thoughtful discussions can quickly get derailed, or never even get started (see YouTube commenting). Without accountability, it's easy for me to go around trolling or just hurling random obscenities and LOL!!1!s

Although I've heard this passes for discourse on some sites.

Plus, who's to stop me from flooding every Lisp blog as "spez" with obscenity-and-"LOL!!1!"-laden comments about the lack of widely used and tested Lisp libraries? He already has enough enemies on those blogs. And it'd be especially tragic considering the thoughtful and articulate explanation of Lisp's shortcomings (and strengths) that he already gave on our dev blog.

He doesn't need any more angry letters or death threats -- I'm the one who opens his mail.

It's with this in mind that I finally upgraded my Blogger template last night (oh boy, 2.0!) and installed Disqus for all future posts. It's a means for universal discussion across blogs and website in general.

Your identity (and reputation) follow you around and you've got a nice aggregation of all past conversations. If it gets the mass adoption they're aiming for, I suspect it would go a long way toward solving Joel's (and Dave's) problem.

Now let's get meta and discuss Disqus in the new Disqus comments.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

wow? wow...

I walked away from World of Warcraft shortly after hitting 60. I'm only human. That, and I was actually a human paladin, which should explain why the game stopped being fun.

I'll never forget when I finally discontinued my subscription, because a benign questionnaire asked me my reason for quiting. In this country, we put a lot of emphasis on not quitting. I think this makes us try harder to come up with a good excuse to quit -- hence the multitude of options for why I'd be canceling my WoW subscription.

I don't remember the exact wording, but after passing up "Financial difficulties" and "Military service," I settled on "Addiction."

Make no mistake, I wasn't addicted, but it seemed like a good answer. Certainly better than "Finally got a girlfriend."

Anyway, after submitting the form, I was comforted with an apologetic message from Blizzard telling me that they sympathized with my problem. And they offered -- only when I was ready to balance my "WoW life" with my "real life" -- to gladly take me back as a member. Sweet.

That was over a year ago. Imagine my surprise when I found this in the mail last week:

I never did get to play Burning Crusade... ride a flying mount... hit 70...

Oh Blizzard, you're good -- too good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

an nfl story that's not about michael vick

I was born into a football (American) household, so please allow me this philistine indulgence. No matter how hard I try to carry around books, like technology, and use the word philistine -- I'll always succumb to gameday Sundays.

Through chance, I became a fan of the Washington DC team with an unfortunate name, because it was the only NFL team near the town where I grew up. It was my dad's favorite team and thus it became mine. Football was a bonding thing, and it still is today (to give you an idea, upgrading dad's nosebleed season tickets was the first thing I did last Halloween).

I caught a preseason game two weekends ago and was reminded by a fellow fan of a sad fact: "In 1961, the Redskins were the only team in professional football without a black player."

The team's owner, George Preston Marshall, was an avid bigot. Incidentally, he'd also been the man who changed the team's name from the Braves to the Redskins. Integrating the franchise of our nation's capital turned out to be quite an ordeal, as the above ESPN article details.

Sitting there, watching the starters take the field, I couldn't help but wonder what the team would look like if ol' Marshall had his way. So as part of this thought exercise, I thought I'd list the starting lineups as they are and as they would be without black players.

Needless to say, it be pretty hard to fill a roster these days with such narrow guidelines (although it could be done, the team wouldn't likely be going to many Super Bowls). On that note, fans would be quick to point out that Washington was also the first team with a black quarterback (Doug Williams) to start the Super Bowl (they won, by the way -- Williams was named MVP). Ironic, no?

Granted, coaching staffs are still remarkably homogeneous on most teams, but even this is finally starting to change as we get blatant reminders about how immaterial race is to winning (see Tony Dungy). Everyone from the owners to the fans just want to win. Except Eagles fans. I think they actually enjoy losing.

Now if only we could divert all this attention (and money) we spend following football to something more productive or meaningful...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

pics or it didn't happen

Because I really want folks to see this photo from Chris & Kristen's wedding (congrats again, you two) here's a copy of today's entry from our dev blog.

As most of you know, Chris (KeyserSosa) Slowe got married this past weekend.

A few of you remain skeptical. To prove that not only did Chris say "I mod up," but that all 4 of us were in fact there, I've been asked to provide a photo.

OK, a photo can't really prove he said "I mod up" (it was a Greek Orthodox ceremony after all, so he could have said anything) but he is on a honeymoon right now with Kristen, so it's safe to say he answered in the affirmative. Anyway, here's the pic.

photo credit: Liz
You'll notice we're even standing in the proper left-to-right order of our alien manifestations in the above logo.

Oh, and before the bride and groom's first dance we did in fact hear the opening of the Star Wars theme. It was pretty fantastic.

As a service to you all who couldn't make it, here's the MIDI to help you experience the wonderful event like we did.

Now just click play, close your eyes, and imagine you're stuffing your face with beer and cake.

save our earth... and drink fiji bottled water?

This was a curious juxtaposition in my Marriott bathroom.

The offer they make to not wash towels is a solid appeal to anyone's inner treehugger, but sitting next to that imported bottle of H2O it feels a bit hollow.

I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought if I hadn't seen this article on reddit a while back: "1 liter Bottled Water uses 26 Liters Water + 1 Kg Fossil Fuel + 1 Pound CO2."

Yikes. I won't bother summarizing; you pretty much get the gist of it from the headline.

I'm a big fan of what I call "passive activism," because it makes me feel slightly less guilty about all the negative repercussions of my existence with a minimal amount of effort.

So when I'm given the chance to "help conserve the Earth's vital resources," I'm happy to oblige -- I just wonder if the Fiji Water company knows it's paying for ironic product placement.

According to my friends in Williamsburg, irony is very in right now. Maybe they even paid a premium for it.

UPDATE: Alexis still prefers drinking his Brooklyn tap water (through the filtered water pitcher in his fridge). If the Brooklyn Water Management, Co. would like to reach Mr. Ohanian for a product endorsement, please contact him via email (

Monday, August 27, 2007

someone send this thing some cuttles

Less then two weeks after championing cuttlefish as the new medium of Internet expression, Cute Overload has found the saddest cuttlefish ever.

This should be seen as a call to arms (all eight of them) -- send some cuttles, folks.

We're clearly not doing enough as a movement, so despite all the recent allegations of inappropriate Wiki-editing, I've gone ahead and updated the Cuttlefish Wikipedia entry.

Let us rally behind this sad, sad cephalopod and further the global pro-cuttlefish agenda.

UPDATE: Curses! Those Wikipedians work quickly. My addition was deleted within five hours on the preposterous grounds that it was "self-promotion." Pfft.

Let me assure you all that I am not, nor have I ever been, a cuttlefish.

*Tip of the hat to ikirigin for finding the above pic.

reddit: not a social bookmarking site

An email last week first reminded me of it and a blog entry from the weekend prompted me to finally write this entry. The earlier email was from a startup that isn't called Kirk about how we could discuss potential opportunities to work together. The sell included an offer to match real names with reddit user profiles to show what articles they've "bookmarked." This isn't the first time the site has been thought of this way, and it's a misconception we've been working on clearing up for a while.

We've struggled with how to describe reddit ever since we started it. Paul had suggested "a front page of the Web" and it was up to us to figure out what the hell it'd look like and how it'd work. was an interesting -- albeit minor -- part of the site's functionality. You could see the most popular links being bookmarked, a byproduct of the site's purpose of storing, sharing, and discovering bookmarks.

This is social bookmarking. Delicious got it right and a bunch of other sites with similarly bizarre names emulated it.

But reddit is about new and interesting content, not reference material. True, we added the ability for users to "save" links, but it's never been an important part of the site. Instead, we wanted fresh content -- any kind of online content -- to rise and fall on the front page. News, but not News.

The words "social bookmarking" may have bumbled out of our mouths here and there, but we tried to avoid it. The New York Times likes calling sites like ours "news aggregators," but that sounds a bit too mechanized; Techmeme is a splendid news aggregator, as is GoogleNews. But we heart our users (most of the time) -- they make reddit everything it is -- so it only seems fair that it's reflected in the description.

"Social news" didn't make sense to anyone back then. I'm not sure it does now, but people sure are using it a lot more. So I guess we're a social news website.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

newsweek insults me

Flipping through an issue of Newsweek today (I'm OK with admitting that) I found a scathing article by Sarah Kliff entitled "[Facebook]... And Why I Hate It."

On the surface, it may not appear to be about me at all, but look a little closer and you'll find an unconscionable attack aimed squarely at me.

She didn't even wait until after the subtitle to launch her assault: "The site nurses my worst self-indulgent instincts. Does anyone really care that I love penguins?"

Kliff must have known that I was the creator of the "I Heart Penguins" facebook group.

I've cultivated a thoughtful community of unabashed penguin lovers who have bonded to proclaim their love for these adorable birds. We've even collected 12 penguin photos and started thoughtful discussions like "what's ur favourite penguin? why do u like penguins?"

And yet Kliff has the audacity to declare we might be missing something in the "real world" with all the time we waste on facebook.

She even dares to erect the straw man claiming we spend time "debating whether penguins or bagels are more respectable."

Debate? There is no debate -- unless perhaps Sarah would like to start an "I Heart Bagels" facebook group.

Bring it on, Sarah Kliff.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

when bloggers rumble: reddit vs. digg

I was amused when I read this entry lambasting reddit, "Five reasons why I don't use reddit for social bookmarking." And not because I hoped he'd use -- after all, reddit isn't a social bookmarking site (but that's for another blog post). I enjoyed the nice photoshopping of our respective logos: +10 points for using the under appreciated dead alien logo.

Florchakh enumerated his 5 reasons and even aided the reader with the subtle visual cue of ALL CAPS. Spoiler: the 5 reasons are "reddit is UGLY, CONFUSING, SLOW, MESSED UP, and BORING."

Fair enough. I was a bit confused when I read "SLOW," as I know how adamant Steve has been about keeping the site snappy, but it turned out Florchakh was just having trouble getting caught up in our submission rate-limiter. Incidentally, it's something we use to keep down spammers.

As long as he still thinks the site loads quickly.

After digesting the feedback, I thought this was the last time I'd be seeing this entry, but I was wrong.

It turned out one of the reddit loyal, Jon Holato, decided to refute him. His entry, "Why Reddit Is Better Than Digg: My Reply To Florchakh’s Anti-Reddit Post", certainly has a catchy title. He even used one of my pieces of reddit propaganda: +11 points.

I'm not going to say which of these posts I agreed with, but Jon did use a nice analogy involving Google and Yahoo.

Anyway, before this escalates (when geeks fight, everyone looks like a loser -- trust me) I'd like to step in and offer each of you reddit shirts. If you'd like a shirt to wear (Jon) or burn (Florchakh) email me and I'll gladly mail one out to you.

Today is supposed to be a happy day, Chris is getting married, so hopefully this reddit-shirt-wrapped-olive-branch will be accepted and I can get back to liveblogging the wedding.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

youtube gets reddit-style comments, but will discussions be any less inane?

The guys had been quite isolated while building our commenting system, so I didn't see it until shortly before it went online. During development, I just trusted Steve and his assurance that "it'll be cool."

The date was December 12, 2005 (I know this thanks to the above logo) and Steve and I hadn't given much thought to comments when we started reddit. In fact, I remember discussions sometimes ending with a concession that even if we did add them, the submissions were so ephemeral that no one would bother commenting. It's a good thing we added comments -- well, I feel that way most of the time.

Little did we know that this then novel method for voting up and down comments (and ranking entire threads based on things like hotness/newness/top-rated) would take off like it did. The idea of rating comments was nothing new (Slashdot is the first that comes to mind) but I certainly had never seen anything like the now ubiquitous up/down arrows (or thumbs up/down) unveiled that day.

It must have been quite validating for the guys to see this replicated in commenting systems across the web, and now YouTube has followed suit.
It's a good thing too, considering the level of discourse you normally find. But I wonder if it's going to make any difference...

Oh well, at least I can finally vote down those ALL CAPPS!!11 abominations.

learning from linkedin

According to a recent piece of LinkedIn mail:

Fact: Adding 5 connections makes you 3.7x more likely to receive a job offer
Oh boy! With odds like that, I'd be a fool not to make 5 more connections.

I'm going to start adding this signature to all of my outgoing mail:
Fact: Telling people about my blog ( makes you 3.8x more likely to get your startup acquired
Because 3.7x just wasn't good enough.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

best usage of catbutt, ever

You don't find signs like this every day. It's a shame, life would be so much better if more companies incorporated catbutt into their logos. I wonder how the web 2.0 version of this logo would look...

If you look closely, you'll even see where they've painted over the work of some vandals presumably making the logo anatomically correct.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

early results from the redditor survey

Only because this didn't do terribly well when it was submitted from our dev blog. Here it is again, with a different font! And to those of you who have already filled it out (and likely contributed the following answers) -- thanks. This thanks will also be extended to those of you who do the survey after reading the answers of your fellow redditors, even the one who said reddit jumped the shark during "Paul Graham's breakfast."

We've gotten back some of the early results from our survey (that's right, you too can tell us about yourself!)

We thought you'd be interested in seeing these...

Q3. When do you believe Reddit jumped the shark?

  • nyeh, i dont much worry about that.
  • not sure
  • Some time this year.
  • The day Digg started censoring users over the HD DVD key
  • stupid question. Why can't reddit just be evolving into a new paradigm?
  • Has it?
  • Jun-07
  • February 14th, 2007 at 11:14am
  • Uh, leading question? Not sure it has, just yet. I guess the overall quality of posts had declined since early '07.
  • the shark had it coming
  • ?
  • sharks? where? SHARKS??? SHAAAARRRKKKKSSS!!!! (chomp)
  • Lipstick
  • During the Digg AACS key riot, the tenor of the site changed noticably.
  • When it adds a section. Then it will have jumped the shark.
  • wtf does that mean?
  • No real specific time. It's slowly been getting more like digg (with spikes here and there) as the userbase grows without having the ability to section reddit off into groups of similarly interested people. We need the new version!
  • When Digg got caught censoring stories... well, probably a few months prior but that was when it became apparent.
  • When it was purchased by Wired
  • When it became an almost-entirely U.S.-politics-driven site. I'm very interested in politics, but very not-interested in re-re-re-re-re-posted variations of the same uni-dimensional political shrieking...
  • When Digg deleted all those HD-DVD keys
  • When the digg kids surged in.
  • Yesterday.
  • I don't know
  • it hasn't yet
  • When politics, America-sucks, and cops-suck took over the front page
  • I don't understand the question. Now?
  • It hasn't yet.... has it?
  • Never!!
  • when the digg users flooded in
  • what?
  • never
  • don't know what you mean
  • Paul Graham's breakfast.
  • Probably a while ago; i would have to say, unfortunately, as soon as it became popular. Funny how that works...
  • I'm not sure it has. But if I had to pick a time when it was closest, it was when I started getting 20 political articles out of 25 instead of the nice mix of several genres I used to get.
  • Never. Reddit is a great resource.
  • May 2007 -- When Digg users migrated en masse and the front page became extremely politics-centric.
  • It was gradual. For once, I think it's fair to blame Bush: the Impeachment Day (in February, I think) was awful, and reddit never got better.
  • Within the past six months.
  • When they went to the West Coast
  • If the "new" version never comes out, yes otherwise no.
  • the time i sat next to alexis at a dinner and he was a totally self-centered, sarcastic, holier-than-thou, oh-i-am-so-cool asshole.
  • Shark, what shark?
  • I don't think it has jumped the shark, maybe it happened before I joined. I mostly stick to programming.reddit, which for the most part seems to be great.
  • Ron Paul
  • I don't think Reddit has jumped the shark yet. Asking this question is proof of that. I still have faith.
  • There has been no shark jump yet.
  • I don't think it has yet.
  • Almost when there was the Digg fiasco over the magic DRM number, but seems to have recovered.
  • I'm new here. I like post-shark reddit :)
  • i think it never even reached the shark.
  • It never really got up on to its waterskis for me. Just... it never settled in to my routine of reading; I suppose that the crowded design and not-quite-close-enough-to-useful bubble-up meant it wasn't for me.
  • After all the political crap and pictures showed up.
  • Well, you guys are still doing alright, but the quality of the front page really took a dive starting somewhere around November last year I think. Probably can't be helped though. The masses like their lolcats.
  • I don't think it has, really.
  • While I don't know real numbers, would say after it was bought by CondeNasty. Just hold up a Wired from 2000 to one from today an you'll see what I mean. But I still tell people about Reddit everyday.
  • It didnt
  • Did it?
  • Reddit jumped the shark when subreddits moved everything except politics off the front page.
  • What a pointed question! Hard to quantify with a specific time frame, but the main page started sucking since at least a few months ago. Well, noticeably at least. There were always the lingering, repetitious LOLcats and their ilk, but eventually that's ALL that the main page was. So I jumped ship to The whole site hasn't "jumped the shark", just that the main page is rather uninteresting these days (blame it on the Digg users! Haha).
  • Hah. Funny that you just assume that your users are dissatisfied. It was a gradual thing, of course. I remember all these great articles that used to be on the top all-time. Stuff about the Socratic Method, why so many numbers begin with 1, extreme learning, etc. And Paul Graham's essays, although I guess that's mainly because he was writing a lot then. Now it's mainly political stuff, and since I've personally decided that reading about politics is a waste of time, I try to stay off the site. But I get bored a lot.
  • When Ron Paul became the ad hoc candidate of interest
  • What?
  • When DIDN'T it jump the shark? Reddit jumps the shark almost hourly.
  • I believe that reddit started taking a dive a month or two before the buyout announcement. I don't think this was the fault of Reddit, but instead, the influx of new users. The programming subreddit (the only one I read daily), is still fairly decent.
  • when you sold out
  • September 2006, give or take a few months. I still hope it will recover.
  • Last summer.
  • I don't have enough information to say.
  • 4-6 months ago, give or take.
  • Needed the money.
  • I don't think it did.
  • After Digg's HDDVD rebellion
  • When the digg users came.
  • 2005
  • Not yet

Monday, August 20, 2007

confused by inefficiency: better living through technology

I like technology. I'm not obsessed with it (read: I don't own an iPhone) but I'm interested in it.

I really like technology when it makes me more efficient -- or at least feel more efficient, which I perceive to be just as valuable (read: I'd have an iPhone if the keyboard could accommodate my ogre-thumbs).

Last week a couple friends came over for some beers and a few hours later we're thinking about seeing that new Bourne movie (SPOILER: Jason Bourne is the only man alive who could not only roundhouse kick Chuck Norris to death, but also cripple Jack Bauer with a paperclip -- all in way less time than 24 hours). We find a theater in Brooklyn with a late showing and head over.

Unfortunately, half the borough was also planning on seeing a movie that night, so we found ourselves standing in a massive line to speak with one of two very tired looking ticketsellers. I have to admit, I rather mindlessly stumbled into place when a buddy pointed to the nearby ticket machines.

Of course! There were no fewer than four machines going totally unused. As far as I know, they had the exact same tickets those humans were selling, only without the line. A few finger jabs and a minute later, we were in line for popcorn.

But the thought lingered: Why were we all standing there waiting?

I know it's not because the machines only accept credit cards. There's way too much credit card debt for that to be the reason. I know how much people dislike waiting in lines. Maybe it's masochism?

A fear of touchscreens? Sure a lot of other people have wiped their fingers on it, but this is Brooklyn, groping those steel handlebars, we ride the subway into the city every morning. People die on subways.

Perhaps we just distrust machines -- or we miss the human connection absent in our isolated and increasingly automated lives?

About a year ago, a tech reporter told us that, "I'm not a robot guy." And he's a tech reporter.

I guess he's not alone. Could that many people have seen I, Robot?

I think Skynet started with automated ticket machines. That's it.

There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Stop waiting in those lines people, use the machines. Before they start using us.

Friday, August 17, 2007

the 1/2/3 rule of powerpoint

With all this talk about YC presentations, the timing seemed right for me to unveil my new PowerPoint™ rule. Guy Kawasaki evangelized his 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint to great acclaim, I figured the same could work for me and my 1/2/3 Rule.

I've given this style of presentation quite a few times over the last year since I became slightly less insignificant. The trial run was at Startup School Stanford (here's the ppt); afterward, I got some encouraging feedback and a few invitations to do the schtick again. The idea was really just an extension of a BarCamp presentation we -- err, Pierre Francois and Ian Gilbert -- did last year. This was of course a blatant rip-off of Stephen Colbert's The Word, the 2.0 version.

I don't suffer from anything particularly bad (maybe the occasional allergies) and I rarely see pitches -- so I haven't got any form of Kawasaki's "Ménière’s of the VC community" -- but I really like pictures. This is aims to be a model for a more entertaining (I didn't say informative) style of presentation.

It's very simple really. A 1/2/3 presentation should have 1 focal point on each slide, each slide shouldn't take more than 2 seconds to comprehend, and the majority of the slides should be images from one of 3 categories: ironic pictures, funny photos, or cute animals (always a crowd-pleaser).*

This style of PowerPoint presentation requires a fuckload™ of slides, but they should almost all be pictures that you can advance through rather quickly. If it's gotta be text, it should be for an emoticon -- or maybe five words tops.

Our attention spans have evidently gotten even shorter since Kawasaki's decree.

Granted, getting the timing right on this takes some practice, but I think you'll find it to be well worth it. Hint: the "preview next slide" functionality in most presentation modes is a great cheat as long as you can furtively peek at it.

If you're still reading this, I'm sorry. But your curiosity has at least gotten you this far, so let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Here's a reenactment:

(Imagine a captivated audience and me standing behind a podium, broad-shouldered and visionary.)

"When Steve and I started reddit, we were just trying to build a site that wasn't annoying -- " (click)

"-- or tacky and trendy --" (click)

"-- Above all, we wanted reddit to be simple." (click) "Dead simple."

(Too easy, I know, but I couldn't help myself.)

Throw in a couple jokes about Java and you're golden. I've pretty much recycled this same presentation about five times now, adding and removing various slides depending on the audience, so please feel free to gank.

Even if you can only squeeze a couple LOLCATs into your next quarterly earnings presentation, I think you'll be quite pleased with the results.

*One of these days, I'm doing an all-LOLCAT presentation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

y combinator demo day boston

Another geeky summer in Boston has come and gone. I've tried to stay pretty involved with the new founders, since I haven't got a startup of my own anymore and my blog needs traffic (and material).

I've been fortunate enough to have attended every demo day and I must confess, this was the best one. They had to cram 19 startups (is that right?) into a reasonable amount of time, which meant no Q&A (a wonderful thing) and only 7 minutes per presentation. We had something like 15 minutes to blab about how reddit was different from (yep, that's the kind of question we got asked back in August 05); the curtailed time allowance meant each presentation was crisp.

Oh, and the food was good too. I must have eaten ten figs and a pound of cheese & fine meats.

I'd better not comment on any of the particular startups; I'll likely be transforming a few of them into reddit logos anyway. With so many startups, it'd also mean a lot of typing. I'll just let Techcrunch handle that. I'm no Arrington, anyway -- I would fully disclose. Hehe.

But here's the ingenious part of Demo Day Boston: one week later (today), they're doing it again at the Mountain View office for the west coast investors. You could hear the clock ticking* during the bustle of all the post-demo schmoozing. Very shrewd.

Not surprisingly, PG had an apt analogy for it: like feeling pressured to ask out the charming smalltown girl before she leaves for Hollywood.

Well, they're all in Cali right now...

*It turns out Jessica had in fact placed a very loud clock in the room.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

send some cuttles

Matt Douglas, a friend of reddit from back in our Boston days, celebrated his wife's birthday on his startup's blog. I suspect he's using MyPunchbowl to plan the party.

Jessica (his wife) has evidently been quite supportive throughout his startup and this seemed like an appropriate gift on her birthday. Flowers wouldn't hurt either, Matt. Or maybe give her a reddit shirt...

Seriously though, startup life is wrought with uncertainty, but of the few guarantees is that it will test your relationships -- all of them. Some will thrive (e.g., Steve is now engaged, sorry ladies) and others won't.

You'll be counting on some kind of a support group through these times, it may even be a group of one, but it will keep you going. It's easy to forget to thank them.

So as a service to Matt and the rest of the startup world, I've created this image for you to send "CUTTLES!" to express just how you feel. It's cheaper than one of those lame Hallmark cards. (Click to enlarge)

Thanks to Liz for finding the original cuttlefish picture. I think they're cuddling. But look at that one in the back just watching... creepy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the times they are-a changin'


A friend emailed me yesterday to point out that reddit got a brief mention in a New York Times blog; Mike Nizza did the honor with an entry logging the chronological events following Karl Rove's resignation announcement.

In the meantime, news aggregation sites Digg and Reddit provide examples of pure, uncomplicated schadenfreude to complicate the two thoughtful blog post mentioned above:

* Karl Rove RESIGNS!!!
* Karl Rove Resigns - Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead [breaking news - no irony]
* Short and Sweet: Rove resigns!
I'll let you figure out which one didn't come from REDDIT!!!

Nizza even did the courtesy of linking to the two reddit submissions. I'm never one to turn down a few extra pageviews, but he didn't link through to the actual sources -- just

Those two reddit submissions were links to the Wall Street Journal and BBC.

Why not mention that those unorthodox (and admittedly rather silly) headlines were just links to mainstream media sources?

Granted, including that probably wouldn't help his nice contrast between the "thoughtful bloggers" he cited earlier in his entry and the rabble on "news aggregators." I just think the WSJ and BBC deserve a few of those pageviews, too.

Fortunately, I finally saw Avenue Q last week, so I knew what schadenfreude was. Only, I didn't think schadenfreude extended to individuals you already loathed. I don't think you're allowed to use a pretentious German word to describe something that's just part of disliking a person (and I am fairly certain most of the reddit community disliked Rove). Why couldn't Nizza have just quoted some of this thoughtful discourse.

Rove is getting the chance to spend some time with his family. That doesn't sound like much of a misfortune anyway. Would it really be so bad having Turd Blossom around the house more? Maybe he's got a kid running for office in student government...

Learn more about schadenfreude
(Sorry, this was the first vid that came up -- who doesn't like a good Evangelion remix?)

Monday, August 13, 2007

times selective

A funny thing popped up last week that I only now sat down to write about. Earlier in the week, I'd read that the wall of TimesSelect was coming down. This pleased me. It always seemed a bit counterintuitive to restrict access to your site's best content. But I'm part of that entitlement generation that wants its Internet to remain free. Where's mah cookie?

Anyway, I found a nifty little op-ed by Roger Cohen called "Is There Wisdom in Crowds?" As someone who loves a hearty critique of a tired cliche, I couldn't help but want to read it. Alas, this was where the link sent me:

The Internet has made the views of crowds more accessible while rendering them less dangerous.
To continue reading this article, you must be a subscriber to TimesSelect.

What a tease. Fortunately, there's a site called Behind the Times that specializes in getting behind the Times subscription barrier. I could finally read this Intl. Herald Tribune piece. Hurray.

Cohen gets off to a great start, comparing digg to "a few 20th-century bummers, not least in Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union and China." But this is too easy, and Valleywag has already been here, so I'll move on.

What didn't surprise me were the cherrypicked popular links that featured the inane and trivial. Granted, reddit has it's days, but we designed it simply to be a site where people find and share interesting content. If they get informed while being entertained, it's an bonus. There is an important need in any healthy (keyword) democracy for its population be informed. But we're not kidding ourselves, reddit was built as somewhere to go when you're bored at work -- any knowledge gained is gravy.

I'm still waiting for the Today Show segue from Hefner's rape denial to Mr. Blank's online disclosures. (Yeah, I cherrypicked that Hefner story, it was the top story on the Today Show website.)

But I acknowledge that the Today Show is just selling to its audience. Have you seen this show after 9am? These cherries are delicious!

I know nothing about this industry, but I suspect they measure this in ratings and advertising revenue. It's why this question asked by Cohen is such a pertinent one (and not just because it gets its own paragraph).
But it only begs the question: What makes stuff - a story, a book, whatever - a hit rather than a flop?
Ignoring his misuse of "begging the question" (thanks, PG) he has made a seamless transition to the core issue. Media is produced to be "a hit" whether it's a movie or book (as he posits) or news.

Why stop talking about news as a commodity? Oh right, I'm more comfortable imagining a producer deciding if it'd be worth financing a sequel to Ghost Rider* than thinking about an editor deciding which front page story will sell more copies...

I suspect the troubling part is that on sites like reddit, the curtain is now raised. The same mechanisms are in place, only the "consumer feedback" comes much faster.

When the audience wants LOLCATs, they get LOLCATs. Just once I want to hear Ann Curry say "Mr. Blank."

With the right mechanisms in place, reddit can give people what they want and maybe a few things they didn't know they wanted. We're still working on that, but I'm pretty sure we're not working toward totalitarianism (or is that exactly what you'd expect me to say, Comrade?).

*Answer: Of course it would be.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

build a reddit clone

My Google News Alerts alerted me to a recent ScriptLance project.

I want a clone of but I want the news posts coming from different RSS feeds that I can specify. But it should have the option for user to post sites as well.

Basically people will see new news posts and they should be able to vote for them . Vote should be in the form of Agree Disagree (should show results in bar graph with percent) . Sample :

Visitors should also be able to comment on the news in a threaded reply system. Comments should have a block feature so users can click to block in appropriate comments.
I must confess, I love saying "reddit clone." Sometimes I slip it randomly into conversations.
I want to you use this website for a non English speaking country (Thailand), and in the future other countries as well. Please design with localization in mind.

You can take the open source pligg and modify if needed.

Damn, you know, we're really close to finally re-releasing our multilingual reddits (with translated UIs). In fact, I should be translating the reddit UI into German for Chris right now...
Code must be optimise for high traffic site (500,000) visits a day.
Ambitious. I like it.

Only 5 days left to bid! It's a shame that Steve's non-compete will prohibit him from pocketing a few extra bucks.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

my favorite axolotl

This happy creature appeared on reddit yesterday with the headline of This Fish Looks Like the Reddit Logo." Now, it turns out that the axolotl is an amphibian, but that doesn't change the fact that it looks uncannily similar to our alien mascot.

Mother nature evidently doesn't care about trademark infringements.

So I did the only thing I could do. Change the reddit logo. Give mother nature a taste of her own bitter medicine.

Sure enough, this got the attention of a few redditors. And before long, the entire thing got really meta with the original source of the axolotl photo,, blogging about the reddit logo change.

All while those happy little axolotls were obliviously swimming around Mexico's Lake Xochimilco.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

i thought lisp would be fun to learn

There was a point during those early months of our startup when we tried something radical. Steve had been single-handedly building and administering reddit until this point and I wanted to help. Sure, we could discuss the site functionality together and I could whip up some mockups in Photoshop, but when it came time to write the software -- I was back to drawing aliens.

One day, Paul suggested I give Lisp a try.

First, some background:

I'd aced a couple Pascal classes back in high school and started enough Quake2/Half-life clans to know HTML and basic Javascript. I knew enough CSS to be dangerous, but was worthless when it came to cross-browser compliance (I'm looking at you, IE). I'd also taken a couple Java classes at community college and a VisualBasic class at UVA. And that was my "programming experience."

Hopefully you've caught your breath now and cleaned off the coffee/soda you've sprayed on your monitor. Don't let it get in your keyboard.

So, it was with this background that I agreed to give Lisp a try. I wanted to help Steve. And how hard it could it be? You should have seen what a Pascal master I was -- a semicolon-wielding god.

And Paul was quite enthusiastic about it. His confidence was inspiring. Only later did I learn that he was doing it because of a John McCarthy-funded recruitment program. Convert twenty people to Lisp and you get a gold watch.

Anyway, I pulled out my trusty notebook (typically reserved for doodles and bad poetry) and started taking notes.

Steve insisted I use Emacs and he set up my Lisp environment for me. I liked the GNU icon.

To his credit, Steve was uncharacteristically patient ;-) with me as he explained all the keyboard shortcuts that would make my life more efficient -- once I memorized them. In the meantime, it was going to be a frustrated series of sweaty and frantic finger pokes. By the end of that first day, I had filled my first page of notes.

If you look carefully, you can see how that day ended for me.

Needless to say, I didn't become the Lisp superstar (or even mediocre Lisper) I'd hoped to be.

In fact, I gave up quite soon thereafter. But it was for the best; Steve wouldn't have been very productive if he'd been answering my inane Lisp/Emacs questions every ten minutes.

program LIFE_OF_ALEXIS (input, output);
to_do : string;
writeln('What what would like to do today?');
readln( to_do );
if to_do = 'learn Lisp' then
writeln('Just quit now.')
writeln('Don't you have some aliens to be drawing?');

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


This blog,, has long prided itself on only publishing content we believed to be of the highest quality. We have also never shied away from giving strongly biased reviews of startups.

I'd like to stray from the traditional formula and talk briefly about a fantastic bakery here in New York.

It's called Crumbs. And it's way better than that Magnolia place you've probably heard about. Cupcakes 2.0!

Find them in Manhattan at one of four locations: Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Bryant Park, and Downtown (the best one, like a tasty center in between the East and West Village).

Unfortunately, I'm not getting compensated for this plug. But that's a good thing, right?

If you'd like me to shill for your product, make sure it's something edible -- it's much harder for the Feds to track down.

Are you listening Senator Stevens? We already knew that the U.S. Congress is just a series of bribes, anyway.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

i'm out of ideas

And I'm only 24, yet what creativity I had has deserted me faster than my senior prom date.

Let history show that I used to build week-long narratives into the reddit logos. But that is no more. I need your help. If you've got a scenario for the alien and/or the penguin to get caught up in for roughly 5 panels (days), please submit it.

Or a theme like "dress the alien up like different Transformers for a week" could work, but a suggestion like "light the alien on fire" is less helpful. Plus, fire is hard to draw.

I'll do my best to illustrate it. You'll still get all the credit. Don't get your hopes up though, logo designers don't have groupies -- Zuckerberg gets them all (or as I hear they call him, SugarMountain).

Check out the hottest | newest | top-rated suggestions for a plot. And if you think they suck, submit your own.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

greatest day of my life?

I don't mean to gloat, but I just got friended by Jason Calacanis.

The tricky part is going to be coming up with a good "friend detail" since our only interaction was during the Netscape offer to gank top reddit users. Nevertheless, thanks for the facebook friendship, Jason, I hope you poke back.

Maybe now Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman will finally start returning my calls...

Friday, August 03, 2007 winning mashup camp in style

The alien endorses the "Best Mashup Contest" winners of this year's Mashup Camp,

Taylor McKnight has now won the award two years in a row and Chirag Mehta is wearing a reddit shirt. I don't think I need to explain why we're taking time out from's important editorial duties to commend this duo.

On its own merit, is pretty cool. And that has nothing to do with the fact that ZDNet called Taylor, "the world’s hottest mashup developer". But it didn't hurt.

Basically, it's a slick way to surf through the best videos on the web. The interface feels just as smooth as flicking through channels on your tv -- if your tv also has soft corners and gradients. Now, I'm far too busy drawing aliens to spend my days on ;-) but if I could, I think I would.

Most importantly, they have a cute mascot (+15 points) that on mousehover, looks like it's cheering "yay!" (+20 points). Well done, gentlemen.

The whacked-out eyes are also reminiscent of an early version of the reddit alien.
Stay off the blow, lil' fella.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

birthday wishes and monkey steals peach

Happy birthday, Jeremy. Instead of getting you a thoughtful, hand-crafted gift, I've instead opted to put your avatar on today's logo -- a slick regifting of last year's gift.

On an unrelated note, this fantastic ninja tutorial should finally give the pro-ninja camp some ammo against the pro-pirate lobby. It appeared on reddit today without any citation. Pity. Would someone like to take credit for this?

I'll direct all my energy the Ch'ueng Mo channel of the linkjacker's body and stop his/her heart.

re-confirmed: the internet is still for porn

My earlier post of Google search queries to reddit made its way onto India Uncut. Apparently the large percentage of Bollywood-related porn searches caught their attention. Amit Varma posits that "Indian libido drives the internet."

If it means more traffic to reddit, so be it. These searchers will only be disappointed now that nsfw.reddit is down; reddit is porn-free (99.9% of the time -- damn spammers). But apparently that doesn't matter. Guess what this blog's top search query is for this week?

indian nudes
Pay attention SEOers. I'm predicting a major surge in Bollywood-related keywords appearing in website footers...

Now why doesn't Thomas Friedman write about this kind of thing?

*Tip of the hat to Siddharth (not this one) for sending the India Uncut link to me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

linked in -- to what?

Facebook captured my soul a long time ago, but there have been a number of others vying for attention ever since. The most curious (and persistent) of them has been LinkedIn.

Frankly, I didn't get it when I got my first invite and a number of "connections" later, I still don't get it. Incidentally, even reddit the alien has a LinkedIn account. Feel free to "connect" -- I promise it'll give you a fantastic recommendation.

So it's the facebook for the business world? Everyone I work with is already on facebook and all we're using it for is checking out one another's cute friends.*

But then again, I'm probably not the target audience. I'm a startup guy who is only two years removed from college. Just give me someone to poke (figuratively, of course).

Those facts at the bottom of every piece of LinkedIn mail aren't convincing me.

Fact: I don't care how many (average) connections Harvard Business School grads each have** -- actually, I probably feel less inclined to participate in LinkedIn now that they've told me.

I'm not even a Yale graduate, this ire is rooted in pure UVA indifference to Ivy. Or maybe that's just rooted in state school insecurity? Gah. Moving on...

This originated from a chat I was having with a friend of mine about social networking sites and "young people." Then LinkedIn came up.

We'd both wondered whether real recommendations, or sincere introductions, had ever been made through the site. It feels like a major success when someone pokes me back; is there really something professional to be done on these kinds of sites?

You can't even find embarrassing party photos through the site, which is really what Facebook is for -- judging potential co-workers. (Yes Jeremy, we dug deep into your photo albums)

But this site has become so popular that plenty of folks must find it useful. I'd love to know why.

Please comment if you've got an endorsement (or would like to heap scorn) -- then "link in" with the alien.

*Don't think it's true? All your friends are doing it, but don't ask them or you'll look weird.
**Answer: 58