y combinator demo day boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

send some cuttles

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

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

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

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

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

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

the times they are-a changin'


A friend emailed me yesterday to point out that reddit got a brief mention in a New York Times blog; Mike Nizza did the honor with an entry logging the chronological events following Karl Rove's resignation announcement.
In the meantime, news aggregation sites Digg and Reddit provide examples of pure, uncomplicated schadenfreude to complicate the two thoughtful blog post mentioned above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

times selective

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

Anyway, I found a nifty little op-ed by Roger Cohen called "Is There Wisdom in Crowds?" As someone who loves a hearty critique of a tired cliche, I couldn't help but want to read it. Alas, this was where the link sent me:
The Internet has made the views of crowds more accessible while rendering them less dangerous.
To continue reading this article, you must be a subscriber to TimesSelect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Answer: Of course it would be.

build a reddit clone

My Google News Alerts alerted me to a recent ScriptLance project.
I want a clone of reddit.com but I want the news posts coming from different RSS feeds that I can specify. But it should have the option for user to post sites as well.

Basically people will see new news posts and they should be able to vote for them . Vote should be in the form of Agree Disagree (should show results in bar graph with percent) . Sample : http://manager.co.th/Home/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9500000094325

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

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

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

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

my favorite axolotl

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

Mother nature evidently doesn't care about trademark infringements.

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

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

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

i thought lisp would be fun to learn

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

One day, Paul suggested I give Lisp a try.

First, some background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, I gave up quite soon thereafter. But it was for the best; Steve wouldn't have been very productive if he'd been answering my inane Lisp/Emacs questions every ten minutes.
program LIFE_OF_ALEXIS (input, output);var    to_do : string;begin    writeln('What what would like to do today?');    readln( to_do );    if to_do = 'learn Lisp' then        writeln('Just quit now.')    else        writeln('Don't you have some aliens to be drawing?');end.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i'm out of ideas

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

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

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

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

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