Monday, October 29, 2007

zombie sneak attack!

With Halloween approaching, this late submission to the "redditors draw the alien week" just had to get some love. Zombie love.

It even came with a great email:
I noticed the little alien one day on my brother's blue powder t-shirt. He were always wearing it and I never really knew what it was until a few days ago. My brother sent me a link to this website. I think he's one of your daily readers and he knows I love to draw and create stuff.

Then I picked my pencils and drew up a Zombified Little Reddit Alien.
Why zombified???? I don't really know! I just love to draw that kind of gore thing heheheh

Just take a look over here:

Oh also, me and my brother who's always wearing that weird blue powder shirt... we got a project together. It's called Skin Circus and we provide free MySpace Layouts based on Various Artists Artworks.
There's some pretty cool, albeit twisted, stuff on his site, so check it out if you're short on Halloween inspiration. Felix LaFlamme is a 27 year-old from Quebec, which would have French-speaking zombies. Canadian zombies, armed with Tim Horton's coffee and hockey sticks, would be quite a menace, eh.Thanks Felix, I'll be looking for you when the zombies finally attack.

we're number twenty-one!

In a shameless effort to drive traffic to (universities get more revenue from AdSense than alumni donations these days) some researchers in the Carnegie Mellon CS department calculated which blogs were the best sources of the freshest content. They probably hoped that every site on the list would write about (and link to) the findings.

Well done, Mellons. I'll bite.

Using a bunch of math words, they describe their process, but the results are here. As you no doubt guessed from the title, reddit came in at #21.

Considering reddit is the place where lots of this new content gets discovered, not created, I was a little surprised to see it ranked so high. That said, we also just barely edged out #22, the widely-read Soccer Dad blog. But don't click on that link! We can't let him pull ahead.

These findings are just the thing to get the team motivated this week, as the #20 spot is being held by our longtime rival, The Jawa Report. Once those Jawas started blogging, the Internet really jumped the shark. Back to Tatooine, you scavenger scum!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

virgin: like flying for the very first time

OK, it's not nearly that exhilarating (or awkward).

Despite not being selected as a Virgin American, I wanted to see what all the hype was about. It's true that you can play Doom during it -- only it also felt just like the first time. Given the choppiness of the game, the hardware of the in-flight system feels worse than the 486 SX I had back then (oh, how I longed for a floating-point unit).Despite the gaming shortcomings, it's a pretty nice flying experience. I managed to finagle myself into an exit row seat, so I could be sitting next to a morbidly obese, crying pig baby and not give a damn. But these seats are comfy and it turns out there's no one sitting next to me.

Getting on the plane felt like walking into a club, the lights are dimmed, those that are illuminated all glow fuchsia, and a bunch of sweaty, scantily-clad youths are gyrating against one another to the dope beats of Kanye.

OK, one of those was a lie. But it did feel like I should have waited in line for an hour, got judged by a bouncer before paying a $20 cover and finally being let in, only to wait in another line just to get a drink.

All in all, not a bad flight. Jetblue still has free animal crackers and those mysterious blue potato chips going for it, though.

If you're looking to fly west on a trip out to seduce a VC or to return to the sanity of the east, it'd be worth trying Virgin; they're low-balling airfares at prices so cheap, you'd think they were indifferent to profit -- like a web 2.0 startup!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

reddit alien gets put to work for wired

With redditors drawing the reddit logo all week, I had some extra time to make a few ads for the folks at Wired to promote their HowTo wikis.

I love getting feedback on these ads I make, so they've all been submitted to ads.reddit and are awaiting your constructive criticism. You will not be getting extra karma just for saying nice things.

Friday, October 26, 2007

geekporn: where did you think laptops came from?

Is it just me, or is this keyboard is having too much fun? Thanks for sending me the pic and thereby scarring me for life, Doomeru.This old Apple ad feels like a computer Kama Sutra.

redditors doodle: friday

Well, I let redditors doodle the logo for this entire week and still no pink slip. I'd call that a success. Our final submission of the week was actually the first we received (bonus points for pro-activeness) -- from R Stevens. No first name, very mysterious. But who can complain about someone who submits a pixel-art logo?

R was going to plug XKCD, but figured it would be frivolous considering everyone reading this blog (and reddit) would already have Randall Munroe altars in their bedrooms. I know I do. So instead...
I draw DS every day and Red Robot shows up a lot:

Exploding Dog's the guy I share Red with:

Scary Go Round uses Red sometimes to great effect:

...and Octopus Pie is pretty much the best new comic of 2007:
Quite the webcomic grouphug.

And did I mention that he sells shirts like this?
Be careful, R, once we start breeding with the robots, they're going to become even less discernible from humans. We don't want that kind of a future. At least we know what they dream of -- that means we can destroy them.

But in the meantime, a little harmless (read: safe) fun with a robot can't be too dangerous, right? I thus have no choice but to endorse your t-shirt.

And with that, Do-It-Yourself reddit alien week has ended and we (me in particular) would like to thank all of you who submitted. You've done wonders for my workload ;-)

The five of you who were selected will be receiving an email from me with instructions on how to receive your obligatory complimentary reddit shirt.

loldeconstructed: conzidr dis an intervenshun

Is it art that imitates life, or life that imitates art?
(source: icanhascheezburger)

Oh, lolcat, your sagacity is only matched by your hilarity.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

redditors doodle: thursday

I was really hesitant to post this. Marc Yelloz submitted this on Tuesday, after we'd vetted the first batch of logos and I plugged them into a private reddit poll to let the rest of the team vote them up/down.

I should have never told Marc how impressed we were, because he proceeded to send a few more. They were all lovely, but the problem is that each one puts me one step closer to being out of a job. So at great professional risk to myself, I decided to upload his first submission for today's redditor doodle (and will put his other two submissions online this weekend).

He didn't have a site to plug, but that's OK; I'll use this opportunity to thank "repptide: The Tide of Opinion" for advertising on -- thanks! But all the props in this entry really should go to Marc for his swell doodles.

Confession: This movie scared the hell out of me the first time I saw it. And the next six times. To this day I refuse to use white plastic trash bags because they remind of when that task force came to take away E.T.

Bastards.Conversely, I suddenly have a craving for Reese's Pieces...

(I wonder how much they spent for that product placement.)

lolsignage: parisian emergency exit

Judging by their signage -- despite living a socialist country -- the French aren't particularly kind to people in wheelchairs. And this was the sign in a children's science center, the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, which I think means "Darwinism doesn't happen on its own, children."It appears that in the event of an emergency, the wheelchair-bound are to be left to their own devices while the walking flee.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

redditors doodle: wednesday

Until yesterday*, this one was team reddit's favorite, so putting it here in the middle of the week seemed like the highest honor (traffic usually peaks for the week around Wednesday).

ElbridgeGerry creatively doodled this endearing chalkboard alien. Appropriately, Elbridge wanted to support his favorite charity,, which a number of submitters also asked to plug.

DonorsChoose is indeed a splendid charity -- it's a great execution of a clever concept. I've done some shameless promotion of it in the past, ever since Joel Spolsky turned me onto it.

Celebrities are using it, too. The View host, Sherri "world is flat" Shepherd, is herself a donor -- a Chicago public school classroom received a globe and geography kit in her name. (And according to her comment, I'm getting lots of Heaven credits for it. Yay!)

Alas, Mrs. Shepherd did not submit a reddit logo.

*The inquisitive among you are probably wondering "why until yesterday?" The answer to that question will come tomorrow...

Don't get your hopes up for anything too interesting, you'll just be disappointed.

guess who's racking up heaven credits? -- a reply from mrs. sherri shepherd

Wow. I really didn't expect this, but it looks like Mrs. Sherri Shepherd found my blog and took the time to reply to my posts and donation.

Quick recap: After declaring on The View that she wasn't sure if the world was flat, the Internet had a hearty laugh. Coming so soon after the Ms. South Carolina debacle, I knew something had to be done. The solution was obvious: globes in every classroom. Fortunately, there was a DonorsChoose teacher from Mrs. Shepherd's hometown that requested a globe and geography kit for her classroom. The donation was made in Mrs. Shepherd's name and with her contact info.

I included the following note:

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
The teacher even took the time to write a thank you letter, which Mrs. Shepherd also received.

And I thought that'd be the end of it, until I saw this this comment:
Hi Mr. Ohanian

I didn't know that you'd done this until my 'oh so wonderful' father, after reading all the stuff that's written about me, stumbled upon your blog. Thank you so much for your donation of the globe and geography kit to the school. I'm glad to see that my 'brain farting' moment prompted someone such as yourself to get up and do something positive. You're racking up those Heaven credits! God Bless You and have a great day! Sincerely Sherri Shepherd
But is it really her? My mother always told me to never turn down Heaven credits when they're offered, so maybe it doesn't matter.

I wonder what the exchange rate of Heaven credits to U.S. dollars is these days...

drankkit: what's new on reddit's meetup tour

After $10 million in venture capital funding and two years of development, we're finally ready to unstealth! is positioned to become the online leader for tracking the 2007 reddit world tour. It will be updated as new times and locations are announced as well as become a repository for all the old photos and write-ups from past meetups. Whether you're a forward-thinking early adopter or just a nostalgic luddite, you'll find something here for you.

SF was a great success, so Wired is keeping the gravytrain chugging along. The next open bar event is on October 31st (7-9pm) in Boston -- Somerville, to be precise -- and the details (along with being on drankkit) are on the dev blog, as well as on MyPunchbowl, facebook, yelp, and going. Phew.

No need to RSVP, just make sure to get a nametag once you arrive -- it's your ticket to the free booze. Oh, and be sure to get a commemorative pin from us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

websites i can't eat without

My personal heaven: a wall of hummus
(conveniently in the Whole Foods at Union Square)

So I already plugged our favorite Thai restaurant in Boston, but as I struggled to write a restaurant review, I was reminded of all the websites that do it so much better.

With that, here are 3 crucial sites for all things food (did I miss anything?):
  • Yelp - Citysearch is an abomination. And the sooner you go visit Yelp, the sooner Citysearch will finally die. Yelp is full of user-generated, wisdom-of-crowds-style reviews of just about everything in your city, but restaurants alone make the site worth a visit. This site will one day get bought for a lot of money. And bravo to whomever buys it.

    In the meantime, if the founders are looking for more investors...

  • Chowhound - If you're more of a foodie looking for a real treat, this is the more exclusive alternative. It's little more than a glorified forum, but the recommendations are from folks who all love food way more than you do, which is a good thing. Put on your fancypants for this one, it'll be worth it.

  • Open Source Food - Feeling ambitious and want to cook? Welcome to the future of recipe sharing. Even if you're as unwieldy, ignorant, and cowardly in the kitchen as I am, you'll find something worth trying that you're actually capable of making. And it'll probably turn out better than you think. Added bonus: this site is so pretty it hurts.
Now go eat something.

redditors doodle: tuesday

Team reddit really liked this submission. Hopefully the Sesame Street folks won't sue us; their lawyers are notoriously vicious -- and have perfect spelling!

John Lund designed this homage to his favorite Sesame Street puppet, Ernie. No word on how jealous Bert is feeling right now.

John also asked me to include the following:
Shout out to the letters "C" "R" and the number "7."
I've never been a fan of "C" but I wholeheartedly support his decision to shout-out "R" (preferably in lowercase, but oh well).

Know why I like "7"? Because seven ate nine.


I hate myself for having typed that. Thanks for an otherwise great submission, John. Enjoy your 24 hours of quasi-fame on the Interwebs!

welcome to the fakebook

Speaking of facebook, I've inadvertently friended a spammer.

(No, it's not Jason Calacanis.)

Allie Dimeco seemed like a plausible enough name, but it looks like he/she was too busy giving out free drinks (the facebook app she's spamming) to come up with an original facebook photo. Allie ganked the pic from a real girl, who even called her out on her wall. That's gotta be awkward.

Assuming these two girls are not identical twins who happen to also take identical photos, one of the two is a fake. I'm going to take Lindsay's side.As disheartening as this is, it's my first encounter with a genuine facebook spammer. Looks like it's time to start getting vigilant about facebook friendships. But how will I know if it's the real Natalie Portman trying to friend me??

I wonder how much longer until we hit a MySpace-esque critical mass of spammers...

I had a MySpace account long enough to regularly get friended by "Tiffany," a blond with glamor-shot profile pic and purportedly "awesome" webcam.

I hear she now has her own channel.

Monday, October 22, 2007

redditors doodle: monday

The first winner of redditors doodle the logo week.

Tim Peckham from Toronto sent in this lovely take on the reddit alien. He also mentioned in his email, "Love reddit! Read it every day," which I can assure you had nothing to do with our decision.

Tim used his promo opportunity just to plug the site he used to doodle and his tumblr blog:
I like to draw using and then just screen grab.

So let me go ahead and give Canada some props. I hope some folks at immigration are reading this and will look kindly upon my future citizenship request (I call this "Operation President Giuliani").

Hope to meet you at the Toronto reddit meetup, Tim.

Oh, and there's some more Tim-related work at and

what reddit taught me about startups: fuck facebook, make real friends

I've already explained how fortunate we were to get that email from Kourosh back in Feb 2006, but I'm often asked how that email ever made it into my inbox.

Was it some savvy marketing? Advertising trick? PR scheme? Pure business acumen? Illicit activity?

None of them (although some days I wish my life were interesting enough to include illicit activity for the purpose of increasing business).

Through another YC startup founder, I became friends with a NYTimes reporter. She was this founder's guest to a Halloween party we threw that first Halloween. I was just sober enough to make a good impression. We hit it off and although she never wrote about reddit, she did me the much bigger favor of lending her sofa whenever I'd visit New York (I had a small rotation of very understanding friends whose sofas I slept on; I haven't forgotten their generosity -- a gentle reminder to all those friends of startup-founders-needing-a-place-to-crash).

On one of those Fung Wah journeys to NY, she introduced me to a freelance tech reporter who I met for coffee and cannoli one night in Little Italy. We became friends too, and it didn't seem right to write an article on reddit since we were friends. Understandable. But unbeknownst to me, she mentioned a cool site called reddit to one of her editors. This editor happened to work at Wired. And go figure, she was also Kourosh's wife.

So it wasn't long before the director of CondeNet biz dev was hearing from both this freelancer and his own wife that a certain social news site with an alien mascot might be worth contacting. And we know how persuasive women can be (see: MacBeth).

Then this showed up in my Gmail:

I'm a friend of [aforementioned freelancer]. I'm also the director of biz dev for CondeNet, the internet arm of Conde Nast [...] I'm intrigued with your technology and was hoping to set up a time to talk about possibly working together. I'm open the rest of the day today and Thursday, but will be traveling for a week starting Friday. Do you have time for a phone call? Also, are you based in Boston?
Go ahead and make a few new friendships (read: not facebook friends). Just don't think about these relationships through the lens of "what can you do for me?" -- not only will it doom you from the start, you'd never even guess what might happen anyway.

*Updated to add some more detail to the story. And link to a photo of Steve and me that first Halloween. He's the one dressed as Paul Graham.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

a simple and useful website -- with a great name

I got word of a nifty web 2.0 startup last week that actually adds value to my life.

Doing a lot of travel for work is indeed fun, but it means a bunch of frustrating confirmation emails and trips between Gmail and Gcal. Taking those trips is significantly less fun than the one between SF and NY. Jetblue gives out little cookies. And animal crackers.

Here's the best part: it's dead simple. Just forward them your next confirmation email and an itinerary will be created. Once you view it, it'll ask you if you want to register (but yes, you can easily opt-out -- an excellent design choice) and collect all your future trips in an easy-to-read format.

Google, please copy this or just go ahead and acquire the site. In the meantime, I recommend the rest of you forward your next confirmation to Oh, did I forget to mention that this site has a fantastic name?+19 points for the name (-1 point for not going with "trippit")
-2 points for not recognizing my Amtrak confirmation (only 2 points because of how lame Amtrak is)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

some sage advice on business and life

In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake.
-- Michael Scott, regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, sales guru and management genius.

Friday, October 19, 2007

oct 22-26: redditors doodle the logo week

I have a pretty awesome job. Frankly, it's kinda absurd. According to the CondéNet org chart, I'm technically a "product manager." This is a curious title for me, as I much prefer "cofounder." Furthermore, we've never really been a company with much of an organizational hierarchy. Hell, there's never been more than 4 of us.

It'd be a pretty pathetic org chart.

But my favorite job has always been doodling the reddit logo. After two years, there have been a lot of logos. Yep, I totally ripped Google off. Only on reddit it's taken to an extreme, we won't do it just for holidays -- it's much more random than that.

Despite all that freedom, I still managed to run out of ideas. Fortunately, redditors contributed some great suggestions, which became parts of an epic logo series.

And now here I am still looking to get out of doodling the logo next week.

I recently got an email that reminded me just how expendable I am:

I've had this taped to my home office wall for many months. My
youngest son liked the alien on my Mac OS X dock (where he saw it as
my icon for Adium...thanks for that!). So here I present what he
drew when he was 4 (he is now 5 and has moved to copying the
characters in his Pokemon book)...

by Will.

BTW, he calls him "cute guy."


// tim
Will's drawing absolutely made my day. Not only did I want to showcase his talent in today's logo, I wanted to give other artists the chance to try their hand at doodling next week's logos.

So if you can work some magic within a 120x40 pixel .png file, email me over the weekend with your take on the reddit logo and I'll put the first 5 I get best 5 (as selected by our distinguished judges) online over the next 5 days starting Monday. Don't worry, you needn't be a Monet or a Lichtenstein -- just don't be a Kinkade.

I'll also do a quick blurb on my blog for each logo, which you can use to plug whatever you want.

Here are the quick n' dirty requirements:
  • 120x40px .png file
  • the word "reddit" should be visible
  • creature vaguely resembling the reddit alien
  • brief description for me to post along with your personal shout-outs and/or self-promotion

loldeconstructed: thumbcat is evolving

It was only a matter of time before cats started developing functional thumbs. It won't be long until they develop the ability to handle a pool cue.

Next comes gambling. Think stray cats are a problem now? Imagine what will happen when half of them have gambling debts and the other half carry around pool cues...Nature always finds a way, people. Didn't anyone else watch Jurassic Park?
Choose your side wisely.

I'm going to be stocking up on Friskies and catnip.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

they'd digg reddit shirts

I wasn't joking when I offered to mail some reddit shirts to the digg folks who drankkit at our meetup.

reddit carepackage
(I suggested they could also use them for burning effigies if they didn't want to wear them)

Isn't it wonderful to see how free beer can bring people together?

Now all we need is a gang of Lispers to come to one of our next meetups and make amends with Steve for switching to Python...

corrections and retractions

We at apologize for reporting some misinformation regarding Fuzzwich. We learned of this mistake during drankkit and would like to regain your trust.

In an entry from earlier this week, I wrote the following:

*Note: You may have noticed Ron Paul and the reddit alien still exist in separate fuzzwich universes and thus cannot be in the same mini-vid together; this was likely a conscious decision made in order to protect the balance of existence, one we must accept as for our own good.
This statement is false. I was just lazy and didn't page through enough characters to find the reddit alien. It is indeed in the politics section. Ron Paul is, too.

No word yet on the universal ramifications of this design decision.

And just in case you need proof, masterchef produced this mini-vid:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

as if free beer weren't enough to convince you to show up

Today's logo celebrates the aftermath of our first reddit meetup (it was an open bar).

But not unlike a miracle weight-loss ad, this "after photo" has much less of an effect without a "before photo."

(big thanks to OneInchRound for rushing us this order -- you guys rock)

We tried to hand out these limited edition commemorative "drankkit" pins to as many redditors as we could last night. If we missed you, sorry, you'll just have to track us down at one of our later stops.

Or, if flying across the country just for two hours of an open bar and a pin doesn't seem worth it, email me and prove you were in attendance: describe no fewer than ten web 2.0 startup pitches you heard.

They're only to be awarded to folks willing to come out for our sugar-daddy-Wired's open bar event -- the last eBay auction I saw had them going for ~$75 each. That's geek for $75 worth of bacon.

Just think of what would happen if we handed out pins and stickers everywhere went.



valleywag mocks: reddit sf meetup officially a success

It's a little known fact that Justin was just like this long before Steve Huffman never used to carry him so lovingly, though.

I warned friends that I'd lose my job if Valleywag didn't cover our open bar meetup last night. I even considered telling them Julia Allison would be in attendance.

But they wrote about it anyway. Suckers...

Although I wish there had been a bit more snark, the photos they took are much better than my flickr set (tagged "reddit-sf-meetup" if you'd like to share your own). Same pics on facebook, too.

The event last night was by our measure a success -- much free beer was consumed and we got to meet a bunch of redditors. We even had a spammer show up. That must have meant our event was worth spamming. I've been told that in SF, this is one of the highest compliments you can get.

Thanks to all of you who showed up. And for not getting into any brawls. No one wants to see geeks fight in real life. Especially drunk.

Oh, and it was a treat seeing a few diggers in attendance. There are some reddit shirts being mailed to them right this moment.

**Big thanks to Kristen for taking all of the above flickr photos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

loldeconstructed: i iz planning revenge

Time for another edition of loldeconstructed. Doomeru deconstructs a lolbunny from icanhascheezburger:

Just a wet bunny? Or is it really something more sinister?...

reddit alien fuzzwiched


This started with a casual writeup of fuzzwich, but the fuzzwichers followed up with some emails to me. I hoped they were writing to say they'd added Mike Gravel, but when I found out that wasn't the case, I asked if they'd satisfy another one of my prurient fuzzwich desires: a reddit alien.

Over a weekend, in true startup-balls-out-fashion, they built and animated our little Sith Lord. So what are you waiting for? Go on and make a fuzzwich mini-vid with the alien. Then if you're feeling brave, share it in the comments.

Oh, and I've naturally created a reddit logo to commemorate this historic -- no, monumental -- day. Rejoice!

(Thanks again, fuzzwich!)

*Note: You may have noticed Ron Paul and the reddit alien still exist in separate fuzzwich universes and thus cannot be in the same mini-vid together; this was likely a conscious decision made in order to protect the balance of existence, one we must accept as for our own good.

Monday, October 15, 2007

the breadpig is back

Back when we were trying to come up with domains for reddit, we were running searches on an expired domain site. The name escapes me now, but it seemed like a good place to find a domain, since all of them had at one point -- presumably -- been selected by a human being.

We knew the site we'd later call reddit would involve lots of reading, we tried searching for "read." Somewhere in those search results was breadpig.

Sprawled on one of our battered recliners, my voice buckled with laughter as I read aloud "Breadpig!"

Steve also found it quite amusing. To think that someone registered with the hope of doing something with it. Just imagine what kind of startup that would have been...

It just so happened that a friend of mine from Hong Kong was also in the room with us. She didn't find it nearly as funny. I tried explaining it to her:

"You don't understand, it's a breadpig."

"Why is that funny?"

"Imagine a bread-pig, you know, bread and a pig."

"I understand. That's not funny."

It must have been a cultural thing. She probably left our place that night thinking I was an idiot.

But it didn't matter, I registered the domain and it became a running gag around reddit HQ. Steve eventually described his vision of the breadpig, a pig with bread wings, and I drew it. We've since printed exactly three shirts featuring this mythical beast that always elicit confused looks and even the occasional "Umm... What is a breadpig?"

So imagine how upset we were to learn that thanks to the horrendous UI of, our precious domain didn't get auto-renewed.

I've been living the last year or so with a gaping void in my soul. The spammy landing page the new owner put up just twisted the knife in a bit deeper -- it was advertising bread makers.

On a whim, I checked the WHOIS tonight and found an orphaned domain. I've warmly welcomed breadpig back to my bosom and am pleased to announce the relaunch of as it was meant to be.

Internet, you're welcome.

a new best ad ever is crowned

I thought I was clicking on an article from reddit, but what I got was a wonderful advertising experience.

The good folks at decided I needed to learn about a new Samsung phone offered from Verizon. And the kind advertisers at Verizon insisted this was "A Deal To Flip For."

They were right, it wasn't just a flip phone -- it was a dual-hinged flip phone.

It was such an exciting offer, it eclipsed the article itself. Really, I couldn't see the article, it had eclipsed it.

The animation danced and blinked, enthralling me. Even if I could have found the ad's close button, I wouldn't have clicked on it. I didn't even want to read the article anymore. Suddenly I couldn't even remember why I was on; it must have been destiny that brought me to the Samsung U740.

And for this stellar display of online advertising, I'd like to award Verizon the Best Ad Ever award. If you're following this with your fantasy league, gets an assist.

Move over, pheromones, there's a new champion.

blog entry written, logo doodled, environment saved

I got an email back in August from Collis Ta'eed about something called Blog Action Day:

The premise is that if thousands of bloggers all publish on the same day, on the same issue we can make a difference in the conversation on the internet for that day.
I was skeptical to say the least, and told him so in my reply. That said, I also told him I wouldn't mind doodling a reddit logo that vaguely referenced saving the environment and wrote something in my personal blog about whether or not this would actually work.

After all, I really do like this planet and I'd made reddit logo doodles for even more frivolous things, so I figured why not. It all seemed like the perfect bit of passive-activism to make my heart grow a few sizes larger.

He probably didn't expect something like this for a logo, but I had to wrap up the storyline that Jeremy started. Redditors will not tolerate plot holes. All I needed to do was get my head lopped off so that a higher power could intervene.

Inquisitive readers will question why an obviously Sith reddit alien (hence the Force lightning) would be saving the world. Perhaps it's only to do some unspeakable evil to it, but there's no denying the reddit alien wants to help the environment. Darth Jeremy and Darth Chris don't recycle.

Well, thanks to some reporting over at Wired (remember, we now have the same parent company) I learned this isn't exactly a grassroots-dot-org-style movement. Sorry to say it, but I didn't know this until it was told to me during the interview. This PR stunt isn't just for mother nature (although she's had a serious image problem after Katrina) Ta'eed also runs a for-profit website hosting startup. Yet Blog Action Day is being sold as a not-for-profit and is, after all, a dot-org. Does this undermine the lofty idea? Or should I just go back to doodling aliens?

There are a number of participating sites I respect (like Lifehacker) and organizations I wish I could respect more, like the United Nations. The Day has obviously caught on. Will it make a difference? Or are we all just marketing pawns?

There. Phew. I've done my part -- how about YOU? (See? No one likes that person.)

Just watch us find out later that had we all just turned off our computers and went out for a walk, we'd have done more good for the environment...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

what reddit taught me about startups: making more money (really??)

WARNING: These are still just the memories of a nostalgic startup cofounder. None of these are to be taken as guides for how to run your own startup. Except for anything involving a mascot -- you really ought to have one.

That said, I bet you didn't even think there'd be any more of these, let alone a sequel to "making money." Well, no one expected a sequel to The Matrix and look how well those turned out...

I was happy my Joel Spolsky shout-out made it into the BusinessWeek article from a couple weeks back. With a simple suggestion, Joel started us down the path that would eventually lead to an acquisition (I knew I should have titled this entry "Joel Spolsky: The reason why reddit got acquired"). He had remarked during a YC dinner (I think) that he was tired of sorting through all the link recommendations he'd get emailed from his readers.

"Create a for me to send them to!" he suggested (probably not an exact quote).

Steve was likely in the middle of some big update or new feature, so it was a couple months before joel.reddit went online and the Joel alien was born.

Hmm, this is neat, we thought, someone actually can use "reddit technology" (I still feels silly typing that) for their own community. Maybe we could make money from this?

This must be very disheartening, reading that so much of our business grew and adapted along with us, but it's true. A few months later I'd be fielding requests from someone wanting to license reddit for traders -- how's that for random?

We made a few more 'subreddits' for our friends and for other interested startups, but didn't give it much more thought until I got an email from Kourosh of CondéNet (spoiler: he is now our boss).

Admittedly, I hadn't heard of Condé Nast, but my phone rang not long after replying and we talked for a bit. He had noticed our white-labeling efforts and wanted us to build him a celebrity gossip version of reddit ( What he wanted to build sounded pretty feasible and he must have liked what he heard, because the conversation ended with an invitation to fly out west and a visit to WIRED (not screaming -- it's kinda like how reddit is always in lowercase, silly style guides).

That licensing deal turned out to be very fruitful for a few reasons. First, it gave us enough capital to live for at least another year (hell, it made us "profitable" -- although that's not saying much when you're just a few guys in an apartment). Second, and more importantly, it opened the door to a relationship with CN that would eventually lead to an acquisition.

Fortunately, the job wasn't even all that difficult. The design was handled entirely by them and Steve single-handedly hacked lipstick together in a less time than it took me to draw a week's worth of logos.

OK, that's not entirely true. He used two hands. Only Mr. XKCD types with one hand.

And thus the courtship dance with Condé began...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

what reddit taught me about startups: making money (really?)

WARNING: I have a distorted perspective on startups, as I've only started one, and it happened to do well. Everything you're about to read is probably hogwash. So please don't go around saying "Alexis from reddit says we don't need to make money."

Say Steve told you.

It's been said before (although I wonder how encouraging it is to the new YCers who hear it) but here I go again: we didn't start reddit worrying about how to make money. Those first three months, Steve and I were in that Medford apartment just trying to build a good website; if it were popular enough, we'd be able to make money from it.

This refrain worked for a while, especially once we'd secured angel funding (all in all, we took less than $100,000) and we knew how little we spent every month in rent, food, and servers (in that order).

In January '06, Bill at Federated Media emailed Steve and me about selling banner ads for reddit (see how I wish I could take credit for generating this business connection?). At the time, the Google and AdBrite text ads we'd been half-heartedly running were bringing in literally a couple dollars every month. But we were always insistent on keeping the front page free of ads, so we'd always kept ads on the less-trafficked comments pages. Sure, it meant significantly fewer pageviews; we wanted the best user experience.

So we agreed to run skinny 120x600 skyscrapers (about as low-rate as a banner ad gets) on our comments pages. It was the smallest, most discrete ad we could run. I had a nifty admin tool to approve/reject any banner ad and before long we were getting a steady stream of new campaigns they'd sold.

To the credit of FM, checks in the hundreds started arriving (I know, as handler-of-things-non-technical, I kept the books). The final check we received from FM (we let the splendid Wired ad sales team take over post-acquisition) was for just over $4,000 -- that's a lot of Sam Adams.

Keep in mind that those comment pages got only a small fraction of reddit's traffic. When we finally put 300x250s on the entire site, we were pleased to see very little negative feedback. Most redditors probably have ad-block on anyway, heh.

I didn't intend for this to sound like an FM fluff piece, but they really did do us a solid. Then again, we never got offered a FashionBug ad campaign ;-)

And it was shortly after this relationship got started that another fortuitous email appeared in my inbox, this one from Condé Nast...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

fuzzwich is like ytmnd 2.0 with style (and now a politics section)

FULL DISCLOSURE, to avoid PAA (Pulling An Arrington): I was a member of Y Combinator, as are the founders of Fuzzwich. I am not in any way invested in their startup or their success. Granted, I'd like them to succeed, just as I'd like any YC startup to succeed.

Except for, I really hate those guys. They still owe me a beer for their gorilla.

UPDATE: The last time I was in SF, the crew did indeed buy me a beer (2, in fact) as well as dinner. Fatwa over.

The concept of Fuzzwich is simple: easily build a quick and professional(enough)-looking animation, share with friends and family, bathe in their praise, repeat. Admittedly, despite how much I like the pixel art look of the site, I didn't quite get the concept at first.

It all made sense to me once I compared it to the 5 iconic letters of my Internet upbringing: YTMND.

"You're The Man Now, Dog" (long story) has always been a staple for finding quick n' dirty viral .gif animations, be they geeky, catchy, inappropriate -- or all three. This site single-handedly spawns (and/or beats to death) all kinds of Internet memes.

If Fuzzwich can become that source for anyone -- not just those of us who care about esoteric geek culture and don't mind reading that heinous WordArt-looking text -- who wants to create something cool to share, they'll be in a great place. I'm convinced that by flattening the learning curve so that such "creativity tools" were painless enough, even Steve could create some pretty neat things. And Fuzzwich does it with style, too.

But why does my spellcheck keep telling me "Fuzzwich" isn't a word?

To demonstrate the site's potential (and show off their recently created politics section -- take that, JibJab) I've created a minivid scientifically-proven to provoke any reddit user. It took me no more than 7 minutes; I had to get the song just right.

Hint: there's a Ron Paul figure included. No Mike Gravel character yet; I hope they can animate the rock toss. Or better yet, maybe they should add the reddit alien...

We all can't invest the time and energy of Andy Samberg and the SNL Digital Shorts crew, but it doesn't take much to create a viral online vid. Besides, Fuzzwich is about sharing creative works, not walling them in. We'll see how long this clip of "Iran So Far" (a tribute to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) lasts on YouTube...
Oh, Mahmoud...

eat like a startup founder: free thai iced tea/coffee with some great pad thai

Once we got our angel funding, eating out became a much more routine experience for us. We finally got back up to our old belt sizes. One of the places we loved most for grub was Benjapon's, near Davis Square (the greatest of squares, despite not actually being a square).

Steve and I (often with Justin and Emmett) would visit regularly. This was after kiko sold, but before launched, so they had a lot of free time (the 4 of us beat X-Men Legends). Anyway, Steve was a big fan of their pad thai; I usually stuck with the pad thai, but also switched between the drunken noodles and assorted curries. None disappointed. We really love this place. It's hard not to, everyone there is wicked friendly.

(Can you tell I've never written a restaurant review?)

FULL-DISCLOSURE: Neither Steve nor I am Thai, but we know yummy Thai food when we taste it.

Anyway, I've tried to keep in touch with the owner (guess what her name is) since we moved away last year (OK, I'll tell you, it's Benjapon). Since I know most of you are probably money-conscious startup founders in the Cambridge area, I thought it'd be worth mentioning her restaurant "startup" (not in the Paul Graham-sian sense of the word, but a startup nonetheless). Then I thought I could sweeten the deal by offering to pay for your thai iced tea or coffee (get it? They're sweet).

I suggested it in a recent email and she took me up on the offer. So if you order from Benjapon's this month and say "reddit sent you," I'll pay for your drink.

Hurry, before it gets any colder ;-) you'll just want that warm Thai food even more (yes, they deliver).

better than ponies, wired pays for an open bar

Word has gotten out about our upcoming San Francisco meetup. It took 3 submissions for my announcement to finally get some traction -- thanks to a suggestion from raldi. Apparently starting a reddit submission headline with the words "Free beer!" does a lot to help its chances.

We've also now got open invitations on mypunchbowl, facebook, and yelp (thanks gasface) so I think we can consider the web 2.0 community notified.

Feel free to bring friends, they don't even have to be redditors, just tell them to lie if they bump into us. We should have nametags too, so you can write your username and even your most recent karma score. Just don't bring your own marker and go around changing people's scores.

As promised, we're also planning on having meetups over the next two months in Boston (but we really mean Cambridge), New York, Detroit, Toronto (hopefully, those loonies are no joke these days), Chicago, and L.A. Oh, and we may even do one in Sydney.

Sorry London, there have been a lot of requests, but your beer is just too warm ;-)

(I'm going to get thrashed for saying that, I know it.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

cmdrtaco may have a point

In an interview reflecting on 10 years of Slashdot (wow, has it really been that long?) Malda notes:

Look at Reddit. It started small with smart people. As it's grown, the stories went from links to interesting stories with well-thought-out articles, but now it's denigrated to "Here's a neat picture." The attention span of the crowd behind it has degraded over time.

The hottest 5 links right now may be photos, but I don't know if it's necessarily a reflection of our community's attention span.

Wanna go ride bikes?

what reddit taught me about startups: "because it's your damn job"

WARNING: I've learned everything I know from 16 months at a startup and HBO miniseries. Trust nothing.

Why do I look back so fondly on startup life? Selective memory? Nah, then I wouldn't be able to write an entire blog entry on it -- there must be more to it.

Don't get me wrong, life at Condé Nast has been extremely accommodating, but there's something special about a small team in a cramped apartment living room. Then again, my previous job was manning the booth in a parking garage, so even the smells-like-dude living room was an upgrade.

It's not the body odor I miss, but the startup mentality. No salary? No insurance? No weekends off? No problem.

At a startup, no one needs motivational posters*. You work because it's your damn job and you don't want to let down the person at the desk beside you.

There was never an instance where the site went down or a bug turned up, that Steve said "You know what, it's late and Friends** is on, so I'll get around to it tomorrow." He fixed it. He may have cursed a lot while doing it, but it got done.

If we needed some stats from Chris to send off to a potential partner, you could always count on him to say yes -- and actually do it. Still working on his PhD during the day and pounding the keyboard for reddit at night, he basically just made us feel guilty for needing to sleep.

That's not to say it's radically changed since joining CN (and this isn't a passive-aggressive rant against some of my co-workers) it's just inherently different. In fact, Jeremy didn't even get the chance to share an intimate workspace with us, he joined us after we got our airy Wired office. But he hasn't had any trouble fitting in -- even if Steve has had to shovel him a bunch of grunt work while this rewrite gets pushed online (really, it's happening this week). It just gets done.

Yes, I think I've nailed the root of my nostalgia: There's something special about being in that always-sinking-boat of a startup and being able to count on all the folks sinking with you. I'm purposefully avoiding the "like a squad at war" analogy because I'm not audacious (or stupid) enough to directly compare startup life to combat; sinking boats are much more appropriate for a lifelong civilian like me.

But if Band of Brothers has shown me anything about real warfare, it's the remarkable camaraderie -- something that even the very metaphorical "life & death" nature of a startup faintly echoes.

And hopefully it'll be the closest any of us ever get to the battlefield variety.

*We now have this poster on the wall of our Wired office. Heh.
**Fact-check: Friends was no longer on television when we started reddit in June 2005. This quote is obviously fake.

Monday, October 08, 2007

ask to steal my design, will you?

This email was a first for me:

May I steal your design?

I'm designing my personal website, and I really liked your page layout on Is it chill if I more or less copy it? You would, of course, get cited in the page source. You can see my rendition at: [redacted] . The site isn't yet complete, and I still haven't made it index.html, so nobody's seen it yet.

I didn't even think people visited that website, let alone wanted to gank the design. He even had the courtesy to email to ask if it was OK. What's happened to the Internet lately?

So as you can imagine, here was my response:
Re: May I steal your design?

Who the fuck do you think you are emailing me? Don't you know who I am? Of course you can't use my design ideas. I invented them. I own them all.

That shade of green I use, #90EE90 -- that hexadecimal -- belongs to me. The line-spacing, the small caps, the background-color property on the hover, they're all the property of Alexis Ohanian.

What if everyone went around "getting inspired by" (i.e., stealing) other people's designs? Huh? Real creativity would die, that's what.

Thanks for putting a rusty shiv in the abdomen of creativity. Jerk.
UPDATE: Judging by the comments below, I see a few of you didn't realize this was a joke (and that I didn't actually send that reply). But thank you for articulating your thoughts. To reinforce my point and prove that I'm not in fact that much of a jerk, I've included my actual reply.
Re: May I steal your design?

hey [redacted],

By all means, gank away.

I do appreciate you letting me know, though. There's that cliche about imitation and flattery :) so I'm quite happy you've decided to borrow some of my ideas. It's totally chill.


loldeconstructed: i has a buffet

This seemed appropriate given both how hungry I am right now and the fact that I'm in Paris. I think this is a hamster, no word on whether or not it's a French hamster, but it is enjoying a buffet, which makes it about as French as the clientèle of Golden Corral...

This adorable picture from icanhascheezburger illustrates the lamentations of a massive food surplus. Good thing gluttony isn't a sin... = classy

Go ahead, click on, a typo-version of our site.

Impressed? Well all certainly were when we saw the link show up on reddit yesterday. Since he/she even had the courtesy to not include contact info for domainsquatters (i.e., wasters of the Internet) to bid, and has kept the WHOIS anonymous, I have no way of thanking them other than publicly.

If you're reading this, classy owner, please email me so I can thank you properly. In the meantime, enjoy a tip of my hat.

auf wiedersehen

Note to self: drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated before going to bed. (Btw, this isn't Steve; it happens to be a German friend we made. He shall remain nameless, because I don't know his name.)
And off we go back to the land of watered-down beer.Well, Steve's going back to the States and I'm off to France, so it's basically true for both of us.