Jason Fried, 37Signals, at the NY Web 2.0 Expo

My notes from Jason Fried of 37Signals at the NY Web 2.0 Expo:

Software business is a great place to be . You can build anything you want. Don’t have to worry about physics, raw materials, regulation, cost of change, geographic locale

You do have to worry about some issues most people don’t worry about:
– lack of feedback loop. Water bottle is immediately apparent as a quality design. Software is too nebulous. Doesn’t have edges or weight. Can expand infinitely.
– If software were physical, what would it feel like?

Versions 3 or 5 of software tend to be the best. If you say yes to too many customers, you look like MS Office.

You should think of yourself as a curator. Curator’s job is to say ‘no’.

Listen to customers, but innovate on behalf of entire customer base

Tend to bloat over time. Hard to go back over time from bloat.

Customers only represent what they know is possible, not what is ultimately possible.

When you get a request, attach a cost to it (dollars, time, etc.).

Q: How would you redesign Microsoft Office?
A: Make it much more social. It’s fine.

Q: Who should be the curator?
A: Steve Jobs is the ultimate curator in business.

Digg, icanhascheezburger, InstantAction, FakeSteveJobs at NY Web 2.0 Expo

Following are my notes on the Friday keynotes from the NY Web 2.0 Expo

Jay Adelson, founder, Digg

We’re about to add 90m Facebook users as registered Digg users.
Collaborative filters are key to monetizing of social networks

Ben Huh, icanhazcheezburger.com
LOLcats started out in primordial soup of the internet.
Every piece of web 2.0 content came from a user.
In 4/07, 8m page views/month. Had grown from blog to web 2.0 component, because it allowed people to build LOLcats.
100% user-generated content
8,000 submissions/day.

9/07: 15m page views/month
Huh and some other investors bought the site.
Our goal: make users happy for 5min/day
6 posts a day
9am ET start, when people come to work
Strict promotional guidelines
We normalize the system

Rules: we don’t allow photos of cat on a stove with the flame on, but it can be next to the stove
3/08: 37m page views/day
3/08: launched a network: ROFLrazzi.com . Just acquired failblog.com, which is growing faster than icanhazcheezburger
Now 100m page views/month.
8 sites.
5 FTEs who moderate comments, pictures.
We lower the bar for content creation. The lower it is, the better content you’ll have.

Shawn Fisher, head of strategy/M&A for IAC
Future of video games.
Instant Action is defining the $2b online core games market.
Overall video games market is $34b

2 types of video games:
-$7b in console based: $400 for hardware, $60/game. Add an extra $50/year for cost of ownership
PC is $150/year for online connectivity, and $60/game. Much cheaper because you don’t have console cost.

Only 8% of console titles reached 650K units (breakeven on avg. investment)
It’s an expensive product, takes a long time to produce, expsnvie for users…but high engagement.
We see room for breakthrough in this market. See see new category of games: hardcore games moving to the web. Most publishers won’t focus on this — too disruptive and cannibalistic.
Altenative: full and engaging video games that function 100% in browser.
Advantages: low cost, rapid development, entirely online distrution, high engagement, free for basic access
That’s what we’re building.

New brand :instantaction. First web-based videogame platform. Multi-player game. Console quality delivered in the browser.

We fund and develop original IP.
700K registered users. 30mins./day avg. time on site.
Over 127 countries
50% users in US, 50% outside. Core demographic male 13-34.

Dan Lyons, Fake Steve Jobs

Just joined Newsweek as a columnist.
As an old media guy, attending this conference is like attending your funeral in advance.
Started this in June 06
He put Fake Steve Jobs on hiatus when he saw Steve looking so sick.
Wrote book, “options”, on his secret life.
Started blog, RealDan, which everyone says sucks.
He started the blog because:
1) had free time
2) fear. I saw what was happening to the news business. I tried to get a job on the dot-com side of Forbes, but was rejected. I was 48, grey hair.

I wanted to parody both Steve and also blogging as a form. This was mostly fiction. This was a comic strip that evolved into news.

Some people thought I was steve and wrote to me asking for features.
In a few months, I had 90,000 people reading this. That’s more readers than I had at the first newspaper that hired me. Soon I had 1.5m readers.

Rich Karlgard (Dan’s boss) launches search for who fake steve jobs is. Dan told him who he was.

Brad Stone of the NY Times broke the story. At this point, at least 100 people knew about it, so it’s not surprising I was outed.

Why does it work?

Once I was outed, this still worked. The community really liked his stuff.
– Consume & create
– Fake Vladimir Putin: a character who lived entirely on my blog, who argued with fake Noam Chomsky.
– It’s a performance space

Josh Schachter: Lessons Learned in Scaling and Building Social Systems

One of the best speakers at the NY Web 2.0 Expo was Josh Schachter of delicious, who spoke on Lessons Learned in Scaling and Building Social Systems:


Built delicious in 2003, sold to Yahoo in 2005. I just left Yahoo a few months ago.
Billions of page views/month.
4m users at time of sale

3 kinds of scale: technological, personal, and software.

Technological scale
– partition users into multiple sets (sharding, clustering). I built delicious into one big database.
– caching. Avoid going into the database.
– replicas. Must have multiple copies of the data.
– mysql issue: we got a 60x performance speedup by making some changes
– autoincrement: will hurt you later. Don’t do this.
– put proxy in front. Don’t let the dialup user take up your whole server
– sloppiness. Use an offline process to decouple interactive processes from the rest of the system.

Social Scale
– different features at different scales
– at beginning, make it easy for users to find one another. Don’t let them say ‘hi’ and see no one respond. Minimize barriers to entry and minimize transaction costs.
– as you grow, you have to design features to mitigate traffic. E.g., on delicious, the ability to follow your friends.

3 reasons a social app has value:
– utility, network effect, revenue
– Delicious initially focused on utility.
– have to provide value to the user *before* there are a lot of users online
– you have to provide these motivations in this order: 1) provide utility, 2) get a network effect, 3) monetize

For a long time, biggest apps on Facebook were Superpoke, etc. They have very little functionality, but a lot of users, because they are simple enough to spread rapidly.

App must be self-marketing without requiring sign-in.

Compare initial marketing vs. actual functionality. Initial marketing of delicious was: bookmarks for people with multiple PCs. But really, we became a search engine for bookmarks.

Half our traffic came from RSS.

Figure out drivers for infection. Firefox Extension was our biggest driver.
Choice of language matters: key to say ‘do not share’ instead of ‘private’, to discourage not sharing. ‘Not sharing’ sounds like something your mom would criticize you for.

Kids change their social network partly because it allows them to update the network to reflect their current status

Delicious doesn’t have a chat feature because I didn’t want the flame wars you see on wikipedia admin pages

Must prepare to deal with spam and abuse

Lengthen or destroy feedback loops.

If you kick off a spammer, you’ve taught them what they did wrong. But they’ll be back. So on delicious we let them use the system but didn’t let anyone see them.

When xdrive had problems with spammers, they just inserted a 20sec delay on downloading files. That frustrated them and they moved to a different system.

Make pretty URL’s; they’re easier to remember & forward.

We were one of the first sites with a public API. I used this as a tool to recruit people who might have built competitors otherwise

Scaling yourself. The first thing you do will be wrong. Iterate quickly.

Write down all your ideas. It’s good for future patent work.

If people in engineering have to read support tickets they’ll build around problems

Figure out user motivations

put the whole staff in the listening session. Measure and record everything.

Average user has 60 tags.
8% of users will use 12345 as password
Another few % will use 123456
And about 15% will use your domain plus their ID

His best observation: SMS is the next command line. The next 1b people online will only have SMS.

Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary.tv on entrepreneurship at the NY Web 2.0 Expo

Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary.tv was a *very* passionate speaker about entrepreneurship at the NY Web 2.0 Expo, although his style is definitely not one that everyone can emulate. My notes:

PP = patience and passion
“Please stop doing stuff you hate. You can lose just as much money being happy as hell.”
I took my parents’ wine business, grew it to $50m from a few million.
I beaome 1% not happy selling wine, and launched winelibrary.tv in February.
I promise you can make a living doing what you love.
Legacy is greater than currency.
It is not fun answering ‘What wine goes with fish?’ 74 x/day.
The only thing I fear in the world is internet on planes. I will retire from email when that happens.
Now repped by Creative Artists Agency. He got in Time, etc., based on quality product.
I answer all my mails personally.
I turned down 40 TV deals, because I’m waiting for bigger opportunity
The people that controlled it no longer do.
I leveraged my brand equity to publicize ‘pleasedressme.com‘.
Use all the tools – twitter, pownce.
We like reality TV because it’s somewhat real.
We’re going thru gold rush of branding.