Thursday, February 28, 2008

redesigning resigned gamer

I'm not a very fashionable guy when it comes to design. I don't even like rounding the corners in my handwriting (although I did spend a full day trying to render a div with rounded corners in only CSS [no images] back in Summer 05). I failed and never looked back.

That said, when two buddies wanted to shed the Blogger-look of their game review blog, Resigned Gamer, I told them I'd be happy to help.

I don't have a 'before' photo, but I tried to keep the rough look and feel they originally had but still move away from the dreaded blogspot-first-impression.

Maybe one of these days I'll finally post something for their site. I keep telling myself I won't buy anymore games and then I end up with a GameFly subscription. Like that's a compromise...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LOLpresentation - the dream becomes a reality (and it actually works?)

Ever since I did my "1/2/3 Rule" parody of Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, I've thought about doing an all-LOLcat PowerPoint presentation. Granted, I wish it were a "Keynote" presentation, but what can you do?

Friends of mine know that I'm not one to speak idly, so it was only a matter of time after I said "one day, I'm going to do an all LOLcat presentation -- a LOLsentation (because it also kinda looks like LOLsensation." That time came earlier today at the Magazine Publishers of America Magazines 24/7 digital conference.

I was given the opportunity to speak on a panel with Tariq Krim (Netvibes) and Chris Cunningham (appssavvy), moderated by Adam Sherk. Our section was called "Letting Go of Your Brand: The Rewards of Untethering Your Content," which prompted me to title my 6-min presentation, "the hardest part is letting go (OH NOES! I HAS LET GO!)"

Plus, the LOLcats were actually relevant to the discussion, in that they're the epitome of user-generated content, wholly organic and the result of a bunch of strangers collaborating over the Internet. No marketer could have ever dreamed up something like this.

It'll hopefully make some more sense when you see the slides, but without my voiceover, you probably will be as confused as those poor conference hosts when I sent them my slides in advance.

Frankly, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but as the laughter faded after the first LOLcat, I knew things were going to be OK.The kind folks at mediabistro seem to have liked the unorthodox presentation medium as well.

from "LOLCats Ease Pain of Pushing Mag Content Online"

Even though most mag execs in the room likely didn't know what they were looking at when the first image of the popular online meme fusing strange pet pics with preposterous POV-cat captions hit the magnum-sized screen at Manhattan's New World Stages, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's slides of the infectious online felines in his presentation within the "Letting Go of Your Brand" panel hopefully helped some attendees take the bitter pill of unmonetizing and better distributing magazine content online in better humor. His was easily the morning's most engaging presentation, making life a bit more difficult for co-panelists...
To be fair, Tariq and Chris nonetheless gave great presentations (Tariq even brought an adorable < $200 Chinese laptop; his only mistake was not etching a cat riding an invisible bike on the lid). Cats are amazing creature. I cannot stress that enough. If Da Vinci could have painted in cats and if Michelangelo could have sculpted in them, I think they would have. Thus, I strongly encourage you to include just a couple LOLpictures in your next presentation. You won't regret it. Please feel free to gank slides or ideas -- they weren't really mine to begin with anyway. If a video version of the presentation makes its way to me, I'll be sure to post it. Thanks to the venerable Icanhascheezburger for the images and Scribd for their magic paper.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

vote for the world's worst dictators

I've been doing my best to spread nifty reddit polls throughout Condé Nast and I keep getting surprised with what folks come up with. Most recently, Parade has been dabbling with our polling tool. I certainly never would have imagined it'd be used to vote for the worst dictator, but sure enough, there's Kim Jong-Il holding a solid #1 spot with an up-arrow beside him.

Mugabe certainly made headlines in 07 for the appalling conditions in Zimbabwe as the country's economic collapsed. He holds the current number 2 spot.

I feel like King Abdullah has gotten a bit robbed, he deserves bonus points for combining dictatorship with such a close friendship with the U.S.A.

Perhaps too busy hunting down bin Laden to help with campaigning, Musharaff now has some "democratic obstacles" to deal with in Pakistan now that his party got flogged in this recent election. Maybe '08 will be a bad year for military-backed rulers? Let's hope Bhutto's death wasn't in vain.

(Kudos to Parade defending the decision to run the interview after her death -- exposing a number of new people to her life and legacy, I'm sure.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

i can has reddit?

Excerpted from the reddit blog:

Oh, and did I mention that we've now got LOLreddit translated?

Go ahead and change your interface to LOL; you'll never go back. Thanks to chungkaishek and bobby200 for helping me get this translation just right.

Additionally, if you're a LOLscholar, you'd better not miss the LOLpanel at this year's ROFLCon. (A shameless plug, as I'm panel moderator)

exposing the secrets behind how to get a story on the reddit front page

There's no shortage of SEO and online marketing tutorials out there for website-owners who want to reap all the traffic that comes with being high on the reddit front page. But none of them know what I know -- the secrets I'm about to share with you. Behold!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

keep your eyes on the threat level

I'm an unabashed fan of the Wired blog, Threat Level. And when I found my third consecutive baggage inspection notice, the idea for this ad popped into my head.

The reddit community seems to have liked it. Hopefully it'll convince a few new readers to take a look at this fantastic blog.

Really, if you're in any way interested in (like the tag line says) privacy, security, politics, and crime online -- subscribe the RSS feed now.

Friday, February 22, 2008

feel good friday

You may remember the OLPC ad I designed to run on reddit last December during their Give One Get One campaign. If not, here's something to jog your memory:

The ad did pretty well:
299K Impressions
1200 clicks
.4% click thru rate
Hopefully every single one of those 1200 clickers were so compelled by the gleeful alien that they bought & donated a laptop for the campaign. Unfortunately, we don't have accurate metrics on that.

All in all, the Give One Get One campaign raised over $35 million and over 100,000 laptops are on their way to kids in poor countries.

And here's a heartening article on the effect these laptops had on a Peruvian village. Good thing we're finally translating reddit's UI...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

reddit noir

"The rain keeps up it's patter late into the night. Reminds me of my ex-wife. And that i'm thirsty... all i've got left is water."
This was what was going through the mind of artist (and redditor) M. Koperwas when he created this dark take on our affable alien. If you think about it, being a mascot who spends every minute of its life in the top-left corner of a website isn't the most fulfilling life. Especially when you have to smile all the damn time.

It seems plausible that in another life, the reddit alien broods on a rainy street corner with a scowl and a cigarette. I love it. Thanks for the submission, M.

Monday, February 18, 2008

diebold democracy? i'd rather go back to pottery shards

Last week was the first time I'd ever voted in person. Absentee ballots from college in Virginia just never felt right; it was a thrill walking up to my old elementary school to participate in some democracy. Only it was Diebold democracy.

You see, Maryland uses those hip, new -- deeply flawed -- electronic voting machines. After a couple touchscreen selections, I could see how the interface had its advantages (although it wasn't really all that well designed). But once I'd finished voting, that was it.

No little slip of paper, nothing, just a sticker thrust on my chest by a retiree. I asked him how he felt about these new machines. He immediately became defensive and remarked about how for all the decades he'd been voting in Maryland, he never got a slip of paper at the end. Fine, but when holes were going into ballots that were dropped into boxes, you at least had the tangible knowledge of having voted.

Sure, anything could have happened thereafter, but I know how exploitable those electronic voting machines are. It was at this point that I caught myself sounding like a conspiracy theorist -- both from the words coming out of my mouth and from the expression on his face.

I acknowledged that it's obviously not his fault, he's just a volunteer manning the polls on what would likely be a very long, boring day. I only hoped it was something he was worried about, too. It just seems like an issue that every American -- regardless of political leaning -- would care about.

Maybe he'll see this recent report on Fox News (not a typo):

(thanks, reddit)

when cuddlefish attack

Not on the cuddlefish bandwagon yet? This video will change that.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

americans hostile to knowledge, but what does this excerpt say about nytimes readers?

reddit pointed me to a recent New York Times article on anti-intellectualism in America. OK, so it may not be the most original subject, but certainly worth another analysis.

Author Susan Jacoby got the idea for her recent book, "The Age of American Unreason", on 9/11. The Times reports:

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”
I couldn't help but wonder why journalist Patricia Cohen would preface the anecdote by explaining that Pearl Harbor was "the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II."

Along with ruining the punchline, doesn't this imply that there'd be New York Times readers who'd have missed this historical blunder?

Surely this was done as a courtesy to the many non-U.S. readers who may not (although likely do) know about this significant event in our country's history as well as for those Americans who'd have just scratched their heads. It just seemed rather ironic given the context.

Although, I wonder how many Americans back in 1941 were thinking of the similarities between between that infamous December day and the Battle of Port Arthur...

Bonus: Check out the readers' comments

Friday, February 15, 2008

reddit nostalgia: whence came the name?

A recent self post on Hacker News asking "How did you choose a name for your startup?" got me all nostalgic, so I thought I'd share my response:

We knew the site would involve reading what's new online, so I would spend classtime thinking about domains involving something like "read." It was also during this classtime that I first doodled the alien in the corner of a notebook.

I was in my beloved Alderman library when "reddit" came to mind, as in "I reddit on reddit" (although this slogan was courtesy of PG). I'd also registered reditt because I couldn't decide which one was better. Granted, I was worried about how poorly it was spelled, but it seemed easy enough to remember.

For a time, it was just added to a long list of potential names. We spent the first month of YC without a confirmed name, but I always stuck with reddit despite being repeatedly told how terrible a name it was :-)

Finally Steve acquiesced and we went with reddit. This was after wasting a solid 2 entire days just hunting for domains -- not a great use of time, I must say.

It was also before instantdomainsearch, which I highly recommend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

something more romantic

Fine, so the reddit logo may not have lived up to your romantic expectations, but hopefully this will.

(From a recent dinner conversation I had with a friend about his girlfriend)

Huu: She got me an erotic cake for my birthday.

Me: That's great!

Huu: Yeah, it was pretty funny, but it tasted terrible.

Me: You sound surprised. Erotic cakes are known for having
poor taste.


Huu: I'm so happy you weren't there to say that.

happy valentine's day??

It's not that I'm in a particularly bad mood or anything, I just had to do something to juxtapose Google's sentimental logo choice. Plus, no one got the alien an unholiday card.

Maybe things will get better for our alien hero tomorrow, but like any good drama, our protagonist must first hit his nadir.

Like I was telling the IRC channel, my life would be so much easier today if Dick Cheney would've just shot another old man in the face like back in '05. Oh well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

xobni gets a shoutout from big bill @ microsoft

It's inbox backwards, a company started by a couple pals of mine from Y Combinator. Adam and Matt are turning this into quite a big deal. Bill Gates is no Steve Jobs when it comes to presentations, but having the word "xobni" come out of his mouth is definitely some kind of an accomplishment. (See, even Bill pronounces it Zahb-nee, not Zohb-nee).

I've proudly had my Zahb-nee button (over on the right) ever since they rolled it out, which I'm certain has been crucial for all of their success. That's a nice "unique display area" you've built, pity I still use Gmail, but I know there's no shortage of Outlook users who'd love to make their email habits significantly less painful. Congrats, guys.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

attn eff donors: autographed comics and signed postcards are on their way!

Due to a wide variety of circumstances, I only just this week got all the supplies together to do the mass mailing of all the prizes from this December's reddit & xkcd fundraiser. Sorry it took so long, but at last they've all been mailed out.

Look how happy I was after returning to Somerville to pickup the XKCD comics.Then behold at the glee that came with getting team reddit's signatures on the postcards in San Francisco.

(I used these images taken with Photo Booth to prove that I hadn't forgotten about the redditors who emailed asking about their prizes.)

Thanks again to everyone who participated, especially our friends Randy and Derek over @ xkcd -- I hear that webcomic of theirs is really taking off.


Fact: Jeremy even signed his while wearing an EFF shirt (+10 bonus points!)

happy darwin day

There's a certain evolutionary biologist (and avid redditor) in my life who always reminds me about Darwin Day and I always forget to do a logo for it. Not today.

Apparently this gentleman (who looks a lot like the bearded-dude on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) is like her boss, or something?

Chuck Darwin seems like a cool guy, although I don't know how he'd feel about the Darwin Claus cards I made. Or what about the infamous "awards" named in his honor? He'd probably have a good chuckle and say something like "Oh, those Internets..." and then get back on the HMS Beagle to play with some finches or something.

Anyway, happy birthday, your bicentennial is next year -- I have 365 days to come up with a more clever logo. I tried to draw a party hat on his head, but it kept making him look like a wizard.

Update: Spore's launch date (Sept 7th) was announced today (coincidence?). We'll see if it holds -- or evolves -- in the coming months...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

move over, piggy. happy new year (of the rat!)

I know this is old news if you live in China (or anywhere over there in the future), but it took a little while longer for the sun to get over here to the east coast of the U.S.A.

Hopefully that Chinese character in the logo actually means "rat."

reddit: an investment guide?

This is not an investment blog and I while I may pass as a "startup guy," I'm by no means a capable guide for investing. That said, I recently noticed an unexpected benefit from having read reddit on a daily basis since its inception.

My only goal for investing is to not screw myself. If I've accomplished that, I'm happy. At some point last year, 'my guy' told me he was looking into some options for a remaining chunk of my portfolio. But he was having trouble, since I'd blacklisted a number of companies.

He was running through some suggestions and suddenly "gold" popped into my head. I'd been reading the "U.S. RECESSION!!!" headlines on reddit for quite a while, so it made sense to invest in something with some inherent worth. Everyone loves bling-bling, especially Ron Paul.

So I bought into iShares COMEX Gold Trust (IAU) at $67.17 a share.

Today, it's right around $89 (for about a 33% gain). Who knows where it'll go from here, but for the time being, "Thanks, reddit!"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

to all the super-haters

Quite a few redditors went out of their way to point out that they weren't watching the Super Bowl, but our traffic logs reveal an interesting dip in traffic. Kudos to Chris for noticing it.

Some of us were multi-tasking, but quite a few redditors left their monitors to watch the game after all. I suspect the calls from the living room convinced a number of even the most steadfast redditors to catch the drama of the 4th quarter.
(time in EST)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

q&a on reddit, YC, and the future of news

Lerone Wilson, director of the Real World: Geek Edition also known as Aardvark'd, did a bit of Q&A with me for his journalism grad school thesis. He's writing on how the internet is affecting the dissemination of news. I'm not sure how much of this will end up in his final paper, but I'm certain few of you would ever get to read it. So in case you're interested, he gave me permission to publish it.

What has it been like seeing Reddit become so successful, so fast?

Well, it's obviously been quite satisfying, which I think is indicative of how much demand there was (and still is) for improvements to the way we consume news. Or more broadly speaking, the way we learn about what's new in our world.

Did you ever envision yourself accomplishing what you did, so quickly?

Perhaps -- any startup founder has to be a little delusional -- but I also once envisioned myself as an astronaut landing on Mars, so I wouldn't give it much credence.

In retrospect, what was the value of YCombinator? Would Reddit have been possible without their assistance?

reddit would have been possible, but it would have been much more difficult. In fact, it probably would have a very different community and thus be a very different site. We benefited quite a bit by having so many of our early users be thoughtful and well-educated readers of someone like Paul Graham.

If it weren't for YCombinator, we'd also never have met someone like Chris Slowe, who's been as good of a friend to Steve and me as he's been a valuable asset to reddit.

Are you surprised at how much time people spend reading/posting on Reddit?

Considering the amount of time I know we spend reading/posting on reddit, no.

For a lot of people, sites like Reddit and Digg are their primary sources of news. Do you see this trend growing? What are your thoughts on the future of news sites - should editors be uneasy about job security?

As a business-guy, I certainly hope this trend continues to grow. As a citizen, I hope people still complement reddit with alternate sources of news.

News sites are going to evolve. I believe the greatest strength of a site like reddit is the brand agnosticism. By that I mean the value of a news source is no longer the brand "New York Times," but the content itself. A link will do well on reddit based on its own merit -- no one evaluates the brand. And why should CNN be everyone's source for a news event in SmallTown, USA when there's a local newspaper there that will offer a much better perspective?

This just means the gray lady can't keep getting by on her reputation, but she's got newsrooms full of talented journalists (who've always been the most valuable asset in the company) who should see this as a great opportunity.

Editors needn't start updating their resumes anytime soon, as sites like reddit have a symbiotic relationship with traditional news sources -- a significant percentage of our content comes from them and I suspect they're happy to receive all the pageviews.

reddit does what news sources have always done -- give readers the stories they want to read (it's a business, after all) -- we just do it much more efficiently.

*edit: While I believe the vast majority of news sources are run like profit-driven businesses (because they are businesses), I wish it weren't the case. I believe there's an obvious reason why some of the best news sources (e.g., The Guardian and PBS) aren't for-profit enterprises.

Monday, February 04, 2008

super bowl, super raspberry-turtle

Granted, plenty of redditors were obviously not watching it, but we actually did see a dip in traffic thanks to this U.S. holy day. All of team reddit was watching, half of us with laptops, but watching nonetheless. What was predicted to be a landslide turned out to be a fantastic upset and four quarters of great football.

I've had a tradition of making the following Monday's logo celebrate the victorious team (and every year I keep getting told the Vince Lombardi Trophy looks too phallic) but this year I found my inbox full of requests for a raspberry turtle logo (you have to see the photo). I think I'm going to cave and do that one tomorrow. The tiny turtle/raspberry combination is too cute to pass up -- it combines two of my favorite foods.

Just kidding!

(Well, not entirely, I do like raspberries. And there's usually more turtle to eat when they're a bit older.)

Oh, and did anyone else notice the number of dot-com ads? Jeremy pointed this out right around the second SalesGenie ad. This bodes very well for 2008...