Just read this piece in Slate, and couldn’t agree more. If anyone has talked to me about my startup ideas, they know how I feel about MS Word and other traditional word processors. They’re riddled with useless features that 90% of people don’t understand. They try to do too much, and that which they do offer, is often done poorly. Most people use Microsoft Word or Pages because they need to do things like, take notes, compose essays, and in some rare instances, do some kind of copy editing. But the reality is that none of the most popular options out there do ANY of these well. They’re slow to boot, slow to move and slow to change. They need to simplified, and they need to perform functions that fall within the proper use cases of the people actually using them.
I’m working right now on trying to change this. As a student who has been forced into using Microsoft Word, Pages or Google Docs for the greater part of his life, I know there’s a better solution. I want to make it happen. If you have a similar interest in revamping this part of the software industry, feel free to drop me a message.
I woke up to this post this morning by Jenna Wortham saying Facebook had acquired Instagram for $1 Billion.
My initial response was that my jaw-dropped: 1 Billion? It was only a month ago that estimated valuations were half that, and not long before that Instagram was still running on $7.5 Million funding. So in a matter of a few months, Instagram has gone from a team of 10 people working in Twitter’s old conference room to being acquired for a billions dollars. Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Facebook is an extremely capable company. I admire Mark Zuckerberg’s ability to run it so well. But I just can’t help but think that in the long run, this is going to ruin the Instagram experience. As a photographer and appreciator of aesthetics, I loved that Instagram was the one social network where people told stories of their lives 100% visually. When I went to NYC, I documented my favorite moments (and views) on Instagram. When I went home for spring break, Instagram’s photo filters helped me illustrate how wonderful it was to be home. There was something quaint, beautiful and intimate about the service. It enabled people to tell share their life moments artistically.
I think part of the reason why I’m disappointed that they sold so early is because I knew how small the Instagram team was. This knowledge perpetuated the intimacy of the service and served as a model for a startup in my favorite stage - successful and growing, but with the team minimal and tightly-knit. They were growing fast (in users) but taking their time growing their team. It was a great startup success story. I suppose you could argue that their acquisition is a culmination of just how successful they are. But I’m going to miss the old idea of Instagram as a small team of workers devoted to minimalism and simplicity. I hope they can remain a bastion of this simplicity in their new 3,000+ person company.
Bijan Sabet on point as usual. Great post.
Many startups in our portfolio hire their early team by focusing their recruiting efforts exclusively on their community.
In the early days, Twitter and Tumblr heavily favored hiring folks that were active and engaged users of their respective products.
It’s one of the best filters around as far…
My god, this testing process is tedious. Here’s to hoping they go through with it all quickly.
Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, explained that the current guidelines require that an airline must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.
It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the same thing. (No wonder the F.A.A. is keeping smartphones off the table since there are easily several hundred different models on the market.)
I never got into Pandora. There’s a lot of reasons as to why, but I think the biggest one is that whenever I entered in a song to be matched with my music taste, I never found that many songs that I liked from their results. It’s like they almost had it, but not quite. And I think I know why.
Music is a very visceral experience for people. Songs remind us of times, people, places and things that are dear to us. When I listen to Jimi Hendrix, I’m reminded of warm August evenings driving around the beautiful San Juan Island as a kid in high school. When I hear The College Dropout by Kanye West, I think of riding the bus to basketball tournaments as an 8th grader (I also remember originally thinking his name was “Kayne”…but that’s unrelated).
But Pandora (and other music matching engines, like iTunes Genius) guess our tastes based on arbitrary categories. “This song has trumpets, is jazzy. Let me show you another song that has trumpets and is jazzy.” But people don’t think of music like that. They think, how does this melody make me feel? The Roots’ albums, How I Got Over and The Tipping Point are by the same artist, are both underground, jazzy Hip Hop with live drums and guitar integrated into their production, but anyone who listens to those albums recognizes a markedly different feel to them. How I Got Over is darker, much heavier. These are attributes that don’t necessarily fit well into a genre distinction.
This is why I think that companies like Pandora will ultimately lose to services like Rdio and Spotify (and even Soundcloud to some degree). It’s simply because these companies use the social inclinations of your peers to help you find music. When I listen to a song on Rdio, there’s a list of people who have listened to that song on the sidebar of the music player. I can click on those people, regardless of whether I know them, and investigate their listening history, their top artist listens and other music they enjoy. And guess what? The songs these people like are often much closer to the songs I want to listen to. These services integrate the human element of music, the most important part of deciphering musical taste. An algorithm can guess how you feel based on factual patterns, but it cannot feel the emotional implications of the music itself.
So if your someone who uses music as an emotional marker for your life, or someone who just loves the feel of certain types of music, stick to the recommendations of humans, not machines.
PayPal, a service I hate, rolled out an answer to Square (a service I love) today. I sincerely hope that this doesn’t cause greater adoption of PP. I wonder if the payments also take 20 years to process like they do online or if they’ve optimized it to have them process in Square’s markedly svelte time frame.