Sunday, September 30, 2007

no word from senator lieberman


I guess I shouldn't have expected a response. If only he had called me and left me an equally explicit voicemail. I'm sure Lieberman has left a few drunk-dial voicemails in his day. That would have been incredible.

And yes, I'm leeching this headshot image right from -- I dare them to goatse me...

sherri "world is flat" shepherd gets a thank you from a chicago schoolteacher

As part of my commitment to deliver the highest quality of reporting, I wanted to give this update on my Sherri Shepherd project. She was widely mocked after telling the audience of The View that she didn't know if the world was flat -- not only that, she "never thought about it."

In light of Ms. South Carolina's recently solution for helping American schoolchildren find the USA on a map, I knew the real fix for all our educational failings was simple: globes.

So in Sherri Shepherd's name, I donated a globe and "hands-on mapping activities" to her hometown of Chicago through DonorsChoose. They even let me email Mrs. Shepherd with a message:

Dear Mrs. Shepherd,

Mr. Ohanian has funded a proposal at in your honor and wrote you this message:

Mrs. Shepherd, I felt so guilty watching the clip of you on The View that I was compelled to donate a globe (and geography kit) to your hometown. The world is indeed round. I hope no other school children in Chicago have to grow up thinking otherwise. best wishes, Alexis
One of the nice parts of DonorsChoose is that the teachers whose projects you fund will likely email you directly with a brief not of appreciation. It's a nice touch. I just got the CC of what Mrs. Shepherd received:
Dear Mrs. Shepherd,

Thank you so much for funding our classroom with Mapping Our Way To The World! I know that my students will be so excited to receive our new materials and start learning about the world all around them. I hope you will enjoy reading our thank you letters! Thanks again, [redacted]
So far, no response from Sherri Shepherd.

the perfect excuse

I was chatting with a pal of mine, Scott, when he reminded me of a fantastic line that will work in every awkward situation. If a conversation gets difficult, remember the words of Christian Bale in the classic film, American Psycho.
[Just after breaking up]
Evelyn Williams: Where are you going?
Patrick Bateman: I am just leaving.
Evelyn Williams: But where?
Patrick Bateman: I have to return some videotapes.

This sage advice will get you far in life. Trust me.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

obama barack'd new york

I've never been to political rally before, but Obama is just so damn charming that I had to attend his Washington Square Park event this past Thursday. I was not alone. I walked by people lined up for blocks way longer than when I waited for my Wii. To give you an idea of how packed it was (and how overwhelmed the planners were) here's the line to get through security. This was the view after about 30 minutes of waiting.And here's how far I got one hour later.Let that statue on the left indicate the progress I made after 60 intimate minutes with my fellow sweaty and tired line-waiters. Good thing I had Speaker for the Dead to read.

They eventually gave up on the security detail once Obama was about to take the stage. At this point, the crowd's attitude could be described as marginally rowdy. Once the gates came down, the mood quickly switched to rock-concert-euphoric as people young and old dashed through the checkpoint.And if that wasn't enough, here's the scene once Obama's intro music started (note: that is not me screaming).

This also happens to be the intro song Kucinich uses. He doesn't quite rock it as well.

Once Obama got on stage, you got the feeling he could have said anything and still gotten an ovation.

The rest of the rally went as expected. Obama is remarkably charismatic -- alarmingly so. And the response he got from the crowd (of at least 20,000 by my guesstimate) suggests that I wasn't the only one succumbing to his high CHA. Granted, I've never been any kind of a rally before, but there was an emotional response from this crowd that trumped the best rock concerts I've been to. Even Metallica.

I'm still not convinced, but if you're going to vote with your gut next November (assuming we still have elections, heh) this is the candidate who will not only say all the right things -- he'll say them so damn well.

Friday, September 28, 2007

breaking reddit, terry tate style

Got a delightful email from a satisfied "I broke reddit" shirt owner.

Hey man thanks for the T-shirt, tried it out the other day and one of the girls I know thought it was the "cutest thing ever" her words.
Nice. He even sent a pic for our store

Modeled "Terry Tate style." Break reddit, increase office productivity, get girls.

losing my ted virginity, easy as 1-2-3

Kinda. It's not like I went to the real TED event, but I did get the chance attend the 2007 TED Salon (that's fancy-talk for smart people parties, which means there's no dancing). If you're a first-timer like I was, just make sure you don't let anyone know -- it's worse than what they make you do at Rocky Horror.

Anyway, I was able to get in thanks to a lot of pleading. I've watched countless talks online and this particular event was to discuss "Hot Science: Radical Ideas to Combat the Climate Crisis." Radical, dude.

The highlights for me were the bookend presentations by Michael Oppenheimer and Juan Enriquez. Oppenheimer's presentation was depressing (as promised) but quite engaging nonetheless. Looking at his slides (and considering how long he's been warning us) I hope Gore sent him a "Thank You" note after An Inconvenient Truth.

On presentation alone, Enriquez was easily the most compelling. I was enthralled. And I think it had a lot to do with his adherence to my 1/2/3 rule (take that, Guy). He prefaced his talk with a warning, that we were the guinea pigs for a new presentation. Aside from a couple minor timing glitches, he rolled through a parade of flickr photos (all attributed, too!). The bits of text that did make it on the screen stood out and there wasn't a dull moment from start to finish. Walking out, all I knew was that we ought to be drawing our energy as efficiently as we grow our crops (what he was talking about during all those pretty pictures). Damn you, 1/2/3 rule, you are an engrossing one.

But the quote of the night came from Russ George, which the TED blog kindly recorded:

We have a bunch of aberrant applications in this planet, jamming a lot of errors against that primary operating system, and it's threatening to reboot and give us that blue screen of death, threatening a reboot back to 16 million years ago.
So is it time to hit CTRL-ALT-DEL?

*Oh, and if you think I remembered the first and last presentations best just because of that primacy and recency effect, you're probably right, but don't ruin this for me.

ziitrend is on to something

Techcrunch recently covered a hot new web 2.0 startup called ZiiTrend. At first glance, it may appear to be another Inkling Markets, but it has a twist.

DISCLAIMER: So you can't accuse me of "pulling an Arrington", let me say that I'm friends with the Inkling Markets guys (they're also YC alums). In fact, I've been a friend ever since they launched -- over a year ago.

Back to ZiiTrend, I really like their logo. I've been harping on the Inklings to get a more futuristic-looking mascot since day one.C'mon guys.

ZiiTrend doesn't have this problem.In fact, I think they have fantastic taste in mascot design. I would have made the eyes a bit bigger, though. People like things with big eyes -- like babies, puppies, and cuttlefishes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

fuck you, senator lieberman

WARNING: This entry has been rated unsuitable for children under 17.

And you thought I hit a new low with the taxi snapshot. Yesterday was a busy day on reddit, while users discussed the ramifications of Lieberman-Kyl’s Iran amendment passing, a self-post surged up the hot page.

Tell Reddit: Fuck You, Lieberman

You've got admit, it was to the point. As it floated up around the top 10, I decided it was time to take action. If reddit tells me to do something, I'm powerless to resist.

So I called Senator Lieberman and passed along the message. Even his voicemail message sounded insipid as he stumbled over a few words (don't they at least do a couple takes so it sounds crisp -- or at least so it doesn't sound like a parody?).

Anyway, I also wanted to illustrate a seductive effect of this social news movement. This power to affect the news is an tempting substitute for real action. Why leave they keyboard now that you’ve voted an important story up?

I'm certainly not the first to raise this concern (Colbert did a much better job with his The Word, Solitarity) but thought it was worth reiterating -- even though I don't have a solution. Maybe The Guardian will let me write another op-ed about it. I'll probably need a solution first...

I've also always wanted to say "fuck you" to a politician's voicemail. Woo-hoo.

Wait a tick, by blogging about this, I've only perpetuated it. Gah!

sex in the city: a romantic ride in a ny taxi

Here's a charming scene from the floor of my NY taxi this morning.Now, I'm not certain, but I think that's a cigarette butt.

Oh, and there also appears to be an interesting Pfizer® pill container beside it. Hmm, I've never seen one of those little blue pill containers before, but I'm suspicious... Working for a healthier world™, eh?I was going to make a joke about a "New York minute," but didn't. You're welcome.

They give out Pulitzers for photography, right?

but where do copykittens come from?

BREAKING: I've learned the origin (or at least a plausible one) of "copycat" courtesy of Yahoo! Answers.

According to Somnambulist
The expression may have originated from observing the habits of kittens that learned by imitating the behaviors of their mother. Copycat has been in recorded use since at least 1896, in Sarah Orne Jewett's "The Country of the Pointed Firs" but the expression could be many decades older.
Phew. This had been vexing me for the last three minutes since I wrote this.

posterboys for yc? (emphasis on boys)

This has been a good week for reddit in the media. Not only am I allowed to get on my soapbox for 500 words in the Guardian's Comment is Free, but BusinessWeek is also running a story on the Y Combinator copycats (I've always wondered about the etymology of "copycat"). A complement to this piece was a brief write-up of the reddit history.

Ahh, nothing like a hearty dose of reddit nostalgia and a big YC hug. I was tickled to see this quote in the article:

Ohanian says it took several months to convince Huffman that "he didn't want to take the very appealing job close to his girlfriend back in Virginia, and to instead try living with me in near-poverty for some indefinite period of time."
Couldn't have done it without you, Steve (thanks for letting me borrow him, Katie).

But I think I was most pleased with the use of that picture from our first month out of school (I think Steve and I were 21 and 22, respectively). Can you tell?

*I also don't know who the photo credit goes to, but I believe it's Trevor Blackwell. Sorry you didn't get any props in the article, Trevor; hopefully mine will suffice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

comment is free -- so free even i can do it

I was recently given the opportunity to write a piece for the Guardian's Comment is free. It was odd writing in a format that I knew wouldn't be on a blog with a smirking avatar on the footer. They even asked for a professional-looking photo. I was a little disappointed they didn't go with this version. Oh well.

All in all, it was a great exercise. You can read the article here, or if you're the kind of person who buys/downloads the "director's cut" DVD, you may want to read the un-edited version I submitted (note the reddit propaganda baked right into the original headline):

"I read it on reddit" -- the future of news?

Thanks to a Project for Excellence in Journalism study published last week, there’s been a flurry of discussion about “social” news lately. The report compared the top stories from the major user-news sites with the headlines of the mainstream media. Several commentators have noted “the interests of users was markedly different to that of traditional editors.”(1) This shouldn’t shock anyone. Traditional news sources rely on editors to try and supply content their readers demand -- we’ve just got a much more efficient mechanism for it (click the up/down arrow) and a much broader range of content.

What most people writing about this report overlooked is the impact this movement is having (and will continue to have) on how news is consumed. Admittedly, while sites like reddit more effectively deliver the news their readers want, they presently still rely quite heavily on the traditional media as sources (and whipping boys, depending on the day). However, as these online destinations become the front page for more people, news-seekers will no longer be reliant on editors’ choices. With a medium as fast and as rich as the Internet, combined with proliferating sources of accurate and timely news, the value is shifting away from the corporation. For instance, the Gray Lady can’t keep getting by solely on her reputation. Brand matters less and less -- power is shifting toward the individual journalists in her newsroom and across the world.

It means that news organizations must acknowledge they cannot monopolize the news as easily as they used to. Counting on people to read the front page of the X, "because it's the X," won't suffice. Quality of content -- not branding -- will become the metric for reputation. And why not?

Furthermore, there is something to be said for the content that can only be found when hundreds of thousands of people are scouring the web. The traditional media can’t replicate the delight one feels when serendipity conjures up an interesting link. How else would I have found a picture of the Milky Way from Death Valley, laughed about this newspaper gaffe, or learned the math behind dating pools?

As I see it, the greatest threat to this fledgling movement is from within. These sites are communities like any other, and can become just as insulating. It's part of the dilemma behind giving readers news they want versus news they ought to know (according to editors). We've deftly avoided solving this problem by letting readers decide for themselves. From our perspective, active consumers of news are inevitably better informed than passive ones.

Not to bring up a sore point with my gracious hosts, but back in 1776, thirteen rowdy colonies championed freedom of the press – today we’re all struggling for freedom from the press. Let’s hope we can do some good with it.


the complexities and nuances of lolcat

Doomeru Woebashi of The Resigned Gamer recently discussed the intricacies of lolcat with me and felt it'd be instructive to share them. Please pardon the pedantic nature of this entry; I feel such a subject should not be so carelessly passed over. Mr. Woebashi used this recent icanhascheezbuger entry to illustrate his point.
Where the layperson sees only a wet, unhappy cat, the student of lolcat sees a complex philosophical rumination.

The more you know...

lolcats have sold out: advertisers strive to show they're still "with it"

This is not a laughing matter -- let alone a lol one.

Looking forward to the new Geometry Wars: Galaxies?
A video game with "geometry" in the title -- who wouldn't?

Well, as if that wasn't enough to ensnare any high schooler, they've also got a lolcats ad campaign.

Highlights include this poorly-photoshopped tv with angry cat:

A cat looking bored as hell while its owner games like a champ (not a good sign):

And the ever-popular demon cat. Look closely, part of its tail appears to be severed. That ain't right:

As if it wasn't enough to take this dated Internet meme and produce some exceptionally unfunny ads, they even botched the lolcat syntax. Didn't one of these advertisers have a 14 year old they could have called over to "help daddy make an ad?"

Once this appears in AdAge and the rest of the advertising world jumps on the bandwagon, it'll stop being cool. And then what will be the next sell-out Internet meme? Hmm...

Big tip o' the hat to S.I. for sending me teh lols.

spamming for the sake of spam

I really don't think spammers are trying anymore. Behold this gem from Casey Preston (

Casey - 100% results.

Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lolGy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.Gy, lol.
Everyone knows it's poor form to put your own name in the subject line. Tisk tisk.

And am I not worth including even one link? What's the point of this second-rate, bush league spamming?

Monday, September 24, 2007

reddit evolution

After a day devoid of alien, the process of creating a new one would need to start from scratch.

And that means evolving the alien from a few cells (yes, those are supposed to be cells, not floating eyeballs) in some primordial ooze. Fortunately, our time-traveling mascot will be able to expedite this process so it only takes a week. I understand such things normally take much longer.

Cells are dividing. See, Ellen (evolutionary biology PhD student) I'm finally doing that alien evolution series you suggested so long ago. I just couldn't wait until Darwin's birthday. The next few days could get interesting; natural selection isn't always pretty. I thought it'd be best to explain before the logos got even weirder.

I wasn't kidding when I said this would be an epic doodle series, Homer wishes he could see this -- well, he'd probably wish he could see.

typing too much pirate

My BlackBerry's SureType® technology thinks "A-R-E" should be "Arr."

aliens vs. redditor

Kinda. Two weeks ago, our alien mascot was trapped on LV-426 before being rescued by the USCM. After donning a pink shirt for the weekend, the week started out fairly innocuously.

Maybe it was just some gas from those terrible army rations.

Then it suddenly became clear that this wasn't just gastrointestinal issues.

Instead of producing the complicated animated .gif depicting the chestburster erupting from the alien's stomach, I opted to go right to the last frame. If you're curious to know what it looked like, here's the original scene from Alien. Trust me, this was really scary back when it first came out.
The result? A reddit-alien alien.

Modeled after the almighty Queen, we needed Ripley.

It turned out Ripley was dead (and cloning her again would be too much trouble -- besides, it didn't turn out too well in Alien Resurrection) so we got a predator.

Cue triumphant predator roar.

(thanks to "Anonymous" for this great suggestion)

And now what? At the moment, we're mascotless...

Friday, September 21, 2007

best ad ever

You may have noticed some ads here on redditAll. I've signed up with AdBrite not to find blogging millions, but to see just how broken online advertising can be.

They are sending me some fantastic advertisements.Let's see here, I used the keyword "geek" in describing the blog. So that explains the MySpace-ish photos of the fake blond (apparently we have a weakness for fake blonds).

The three question marks really entice the viewer. What could be so important to merit three question marks???

And there's something to be said for ALL CAPS. I suspect there's empirical evidence proving humans are more likely to follow written instructions when written without lowercase.

What could be the product behind this savvy advertising campaign?

Did you guess pheromones? +5 points for you.

I'm awarding this campaign the first "best ad ever" gold star award. Hopefully it'll be the first of many.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

flickring hope for global pirate appreciation

Yesterday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day and even flickr got festive.This is the same flickr that switched its release from "BETA" to "GAMMA" in a savvy move that reminded me of a certain web 2.0 mock-up (emphasis on the mock) that I'd seen months earlier...

But if it hadn't been for flickr, I'd have forgotten all about this important Pirate holiday. I didn't want to risk derailing this epic logo series I've had running for the last three weeks, so I improvised. Always one to respect and celebrate different cultures, our alien's final words were in pirate.

Yes, a chestburster did indeed pop out of it's tummy. This logo epic is not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

a modest proposal, really: donating a globe to a school in Sherri Shepherd's hometown

Some folks got onto the forum of Sherri Shepherd's website to discuss her comments about the world being flat. Needless to say, it's pretty harsh.

Looking back on what I wrote this morning, I felt a bit guilty.

But this gave me an idea. I wanted to actually donate a globe to a public school. I was recently introduced to a fantastic site, DonorsChoose, which lets teachers create proposals for micro-philanthropists to fulfill (thanks, Joel).

I searched for projects including "globe" in Los Angeles (Mrs. Shepherd currently resides in L.A., according to her MySpace page) and didn't come up with any results. But I wouldn't be thwarted that easily, so I searched Chicago (the city of her birth, according to Wikipedia).

There I found an elementary school teacher who needed funding for a project called Mapping Our Way To The World! Perfect, this teacher wants to buy a globe and "hands-on mapping activities" -- hopefully that means Risk.

The whole process only took a minute and hopefully these kids will now graduate knowing the world is indeed round. Or at least they won't have an excuse not to.

Thanks, Sherri Shepherd (I donated it in your name).

rubbing it in, my fantasy superiority

Last year, despite how much I love professional football, I was dead last in my NFL fantasy league. Steve would regularly remind me of this fact. Even months after the season ended. It was my first try at fantasy football and the idea of drafting the entire Skins lineup seemed like a good idea at the time.

It's like putting all of your eggs in one basket, only dumber, because you've put the basket in the middle of a busy freeway.

This year, we switched away from Yahoo! to a startup called Fleaflicker. So far, it's been a much improved experience for two important reasons. Not only is Fleaflicker a superior site (with a cool mascot, too) -- I'm also currently at the top of my league.

I'm not sure how long this will last, so I'm writing about it now to properly rub it in. You'll notice that Steve (spez) is second, which really just makes him a loser.I'll keep the updates coming as the season progresses. That is, until I start losing, in which case you won't hear anything more about it. Steve doesn't have a blog, so this story will disappear faster than a Gitmo detainee.

a simple solution for america's educational failings

The reddit community is aghast at what co-host Sherri Shepherd of The View said when asked if the world was flat.
"…I Don’t know."
She "never thought about it," but she has in fact thought about "how I’m going to feed my child."

As a twenty-four year old without children, I have the time to ponder the shape of our world. She doesn't. I consider being able to feed just myself an accomplishment.

What's more frustrating is that Whoopi keeps wasting her time probing about the shape of the Earth. The ladies of The View could have been using that time to discuss the nuances of string theory (Elizabeth Hasselbeck is a huge Brian Green fan).

Besides, so-called "intellectuals" like Thomas Friedman have only muddied the waters. His very popular (and evidently very misleading) book, The World is Flat, probably caught Mrs. Shepherd's eye.

Just whose side are you on, Mr. Friedman? It's time you were held accountable, but that's for another day.

Now, before we go burning Mrs. Shepherd at the stake (that's what scientists are for) we should consider the broader implications of her comments. It reveals the failings of our education system. Juxtapose Mrs. Shepherd's comments with those of Ms. South Carolina:

"[...]some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future."
Not only do Americans not have maps. Those that do can't use them. Worse, they think the Earth really looks like that (flat and all squished out -- c'mon, Greenland looks frigging huge!).
My solution? Globes in every classroom!

kudos to dan kennedy

Leave it to a blog on the Guardian's comment is free to be the first "mainstream media" report I've seen to make the proper distinction between "social news" sites (like reddit) and "social bookmarking" sites (like*. Hurrah!

Dan Kennedy's recent piece, From the Daily Me to the Daily We, certainly makes a nice plug for NewsTrust (I'm evidently woefully out of touch, as I hadn't heard of them before) but it also addresses the nagging issue I've had with the PEJ report and have already blogged about too many times.

The study examined Digg, Reddit, and, each of which operates somewhat differently. Digg and Reddit let users vote up or down on stories submitted by users. is a social-bookmarking site: the more people who bookmark a particular site, the higher it rises in the rankings.
Now, if only we could get this explained on TechCrunch -- then everyone would be saying it.

There was another heartening quote in this piece, that came from the PEJ director himself, Tom Rosensteil: "I think that to some extent websites like Digg and Reddit represent something really meaningful."

Dan & Tom, I'd like to send you reddit shirts. Hopefully this will be more successful than my attempt to clothe Andrew "[reddit] is particularly inane and dangerous" Keen.

*Bored readers will be interested to know that I nearly ran out of quotation marks in this sentence.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

pink shirt solidarity

Having been both a bully and bullied growing up (more of the latter, really) it felt great to read this story from a Canadian high school. Given the response not only on reddit, but from the greater online community, I think a lot of folks were impressed by David Shepherd and Travis Price.

The alien even decided to wear its pink shirt all weekend long.

I contacted the journalist, Ian Fairclough, to applaud him for reporting the story and ask that he pass along the collective congrats of the reddit community to those two high schoolers (see, even a cynic like me appreciates a feel-good news story every now and then). According to Fairclough, the article was a major traffic success compared to what Nova Scotia's Chronicle Herald usually gets.

To think, it's likely I'd never have seen it if it weren't for a bunch of redditors.

Anyway, we've sold out of most of our merch, so with our new shipment will come the long-awaited pink reddit shirt. Really, we've gotten a lot of requests from this in the past and the first two shirts are going to be sent to Shepherd and Price.

Shameless marketing plug? Or genuine show of appreciation? You decide!

a kind offer from a tardy vc

With all the buzz about TechCrunch40 -- both self-aggrandizing and critical -- the timing of this email couldn't have been better. Steve and I had a phone conversation with this unnamed VC firm well over a year ago; just yesterday, Steve got this friendly follow-up:


My name is UNNAMED VC ANALYST, and I am an analyst at UNNAMED VC FIRM. I was hoping to touch base and reintroduce you to US, as I believe you spoke to a couple of my colleagues, VC #1 and VC #2, a few months ago. As investors in a variety of internet companies, WE HAVE a tremendous amount of expertise and depth in the software, e-commerce and infrastructure space. Reddit has recently been getting quite a bit of exposure and traffic, and I would love to discuss your growth and plans for the future. WE ARE a $3 billion venture capital/private equity firm, and we focus exclusively on internet, software and software-enabled service companies. If you would like, you can take a look at our website,, for further reference. Some of our portfolio
companies include ...

Again, I would like to speak to you more about Reddit, as well as reintroduce you to US and our unique advantages. Please let me know when you are free to speak this week. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Maybe we should get back to him and "do lunch"...

Monday, September 17, 2007

i scratched my blackberry :-(

Some of you may scoff, but I love my BlackBerry 7130c -- I love it so much I've dropped and scratched the hell out of it for the last year and a half. Although I don't have any children, I suspect this is the same way a doting parents show their love.

But no matter how hard I try, it just won't break. Those Canadians are crafty.

How am I supposed to appreciate this phone if I can't buy a new one every three months?

(Yes, this is news.)

dogbert gives a tutorial on marketing

Yep, that's marketing. Props to SemiLOOSE for submitting this to reddit. I'm going to be walking around the office all day saying "Makes you appreciate life!" (and laughing).

Steve and Jeremy are going to hate me.

Or I'll make them appreciate silence...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

threat level rising

Run! Hide! Threat Level has hit a new high -- the blog, not the frivolous approval rating adjuster pictured to the left. This Wired blog (admittedly one of my favorites) hit 1 million pageviews last month. And deservedly so. It's a damn fine blog.

I also happen to be a friend of Ryan Singel (full disclosure is how I roll), so don't take my biased word for it. Read the blog for yourself.

If for some reason your AdBlock isn't on, you've likely noticed the house ads we run on reddit as we ramp up with advertisers. As a fan of variety, I wanted to design a house ad for Threat Level. The idea struck me as I was getting on the B train one night, fortunately I had my trusty notebook handy to jot it down.

Despite how easy it is to get all the parts you'd need for an LED Mooninite, things appear to have calmed down in our old town. Or maybe the Boston bomb squad got the memo about Mooninites and LEDs. Either way, I suspect this ad helped a few folks keep up with privacy, security, and crime online. And that's a good thing.

mr. yuck, meet mr. chuck


After my condemnation of the anti-teddy bear warning sticker on my paper shredder, a number of concerned parents emailed me for help. They had read my suggestion for a more effective warning label and wanted to see it created.

So in the style of the classic, yet fear-inducing "Mr. Yuck" (he never did marry), I brought Mr. Chuck to life.Some people have already gone so far as to call my contribution heroic, given the number of adorable kid fingers it will likely save.

I don't think of myself as a hero; I'm just a designer doing his job.

No word yet on when these will go into mass production.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

aliens encounter

When we left our intrepid mascot, its deportation rocketship had crash landed on a distant moon.

The lone survivor, our deportee assess the alien landscape and takes a moment to regain composure.

Some of you (the nerdier ones) probably deduced the location of our mascot from my clues. The rest of you should just be thankful you're not this obsessed with the Aliens series.
Having spent the last two years just standing around, reading reddit, our pudgy alien is no match for these drones. It's captured alive and brought to the queen's lair.
The United States Colonial Marines save the day, pulse rifles blazing.
Growing up, I was really addicted to this sci-fi universe. Can you tell? I even read the Dark Horse novels -- and studied this. If you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a M56 Smart Gunner (who wouldn't?).
Thanks to the USCM heroics, our mascot is safe. Or is it...

Find out Monday. For now, just admire the alien's pink shirt. We hate bullies.

Friday, September 14, 2007

reddit is a special site, our users know this

And not "special" in the euphemistic way.

I've never been so happy to be bumped off a flight. Waiting in LAX with some spare time and my beloved evdo card, I hopped onto reddit and was so pleased with what I found.Earlier today, pragma submitted a self post that directed redditors to keep the link at #25 on the front (hot) page. I know of no other sites that function like reddit in this regard -- stories are alway rising and falling on our front page, most never even make it to #1, or even the top five.

Go ahead, load reddit. Ten minutes later, hit reload and watch things shuffle around; perform this vigorously throughout the day, our advertisers will love it.

I suppose Steve and I benefited from our ignorance of the competition when we started reddit. We just did what made sense. The first time Steve pointed me to the site on our dev server, he had to explain to me just how the hotness algorithm worked. It involved basic arithmetic, so all I remember is what we'd agreed upon -- stories needed to rise and fall. What we simply thought was a better user experience turned out to be pretty unique.

I guessed it helped that we didn't know about any of our competition until a month after we launched.

The model you'll find everywhere else is easy to explain: once a new link gets X votes (say, 50) it jumps to #1 on the front page and will enjoy a hearty dose of traffic. The next new story to get X votes becomes the new #1 and the old one drops down to #2. It's like any blog, only those first X users are selecting the next story.

On reddit, links have to work their way up to the #1 spot, fighting their way up against down votes and time (yes, hotness involves time - stories that aren't getting votes up are always cooling off). If as a result of this neat experiment, you've figured out our algorithm, Steve has already promised to change it. Heh.

Perhaps we (read: I) haven't done a good enough job explaining this in the past. Thanks for giving me some encouragement today, reddit.

UPDATE: I've just landed and it's still the #25 story. Hurray.

Oh, and a clever redditor (danweber) did something awesome. Hopefully it'll never happen again ;-)

CORRECTION: Apparently, JelloShotz did it first. Props to you, sir.Fry is without a doubt the hottest thing on reddit tonight. Who says you need to go out on a Fryday night to have fun?

(-25 points for me on account of that pun. I'm sorry.)

wired nextfest 07 sneak peek: part 1

The other reason I flew out to L.A. this week was the offer to see the future a little before everyone else. I even got to play before those 10,000 school children stormed the L.A. Convention Center.Instead of pummeling you with my entire report, I'll break it down into two more manageable parts. Think of it like splitting the Oreo in half. Well, it's probably more like a Hydrox. With that in mind, let's begin.Kickass Kung-fu gave me the biggest workout I've had in years. Well, except that one time Steve and I played in a pickup basketball game near Davis Sq. The man who invented full court basketball obviously never tried running up and down a court for thirty minutes straight. Is that you, Dr. Naismith?I rest my case.

Anyway, it basically involves punching and kicking air to fend off virtual attackers. I think I even saw them give the school children a 2x4 for a more potent swing. I was getting Streets of Rage flashbacks. If you can sneak a massive lead pipe in, you'll be all set. Oh, and they even included a Mortal Kombat uppercut. Nice touch.

The founder I spoke with, Ari, even thoughtfully listened to my suggestions -- fatalities and projectiles (there's nothing more embarrassing than trying to do a Hadouken and have nothing happen). I'd even settle for animalities.

He also took the above photo for me. Fortunately for me, he didn't capture my attempt at a Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku. I learned my lesson.

The other lesson I learned was even more obvious: Robots -- especially samurai robots -- are not to be trifled with. I've seen that Tom Cruise samurai movie; if human samurai could do that much damage to a gatling gun wielding army, imagine the destruction samurai robots would cause. They'd be unstoppable and anachronistic.

Sure enough, there was a samurai robot in attendance. Behold Kiyomori:

It walks and sits, eh? Cool, but why did you give it a samurai sword and body armor? Kiyomori wouldn't be walking around with a katana unless they were training it how to use it -- or it already knew.

We need to find Miles Dyson. Now.