Fast Company recently launched their Influence Project, an ambitious endeavor that aspires to answer the question: “Who are the most influential people online now?” It’s a pedestrian enough concept- measuring participants’ influence by the propagation of their personal URL. The catch: It’s easily the most poorly designed design and implementation of this concept to date. A few points:
- The site takes a full 1:20 to load, if it loads at all. The balk rate will be phenomenal. Moreover, if someone clicks on a participant’s unique URL and decides not to wait for the Flash monstrosity to load, the click is lost (I tested this a few times). This effectively weeds out anyone with a job or a life, which makes one wonder if the project will ultimately reveal the most influential single unemployed people online (in attracting this audience, The Influence Project may actually cause a brief drop in traffic to icanhascheezburger.com).
- The UI is gratuitous and meaningless. It’s a cluttered collection of profile pictures, each sized to indicate the owner’s “influence.” It leaves one begging for TouchGraph.
The most striking thing about this project is that the extraordinary friction in user experience will yield an outcome that the most influential people online won’t pay attention to. Hopefully the results will be summarized in a format that is more accessible than the project itself.
Jeff Jarvis penned an interesting piece on how Facebook should handle the current fiasco. Among his more poignant recommendations is that Facebook ought to “recognize how much their defaults matter.”
While this seems like great advice on its face, the thing that is so troubling about this whole episode is that Facebook, at its scale, knows the value of op-out more than any company in the world. Facebook understands that most people won’t bother to opt-out, and those that try to opt-out will be confused by the process and implications. Facebook is deliberately trying to increase the value of profiles, drive traffic, and increase the reach of its ad network.
The simple notion of having them delete your email address after you’ve already deleted your profile couldn’t have been made more complex.
Facebook, in response to the maelstrom, has suggested that: “You’re pointing out things we need to fix.” The problem with this defense is that it’s disingenuous. No small amount of thought that went into to disaggregating features and regrouping them into a morass of default opt-out options. In fact, since the new privacy features accomplish exactly what Facebook wanted, the fix to which they’re referring is not the design or outcome, but rather palliative: more carefully masking their intentions to avoid a quell.
Facebook has become a complex and invasive list business masquerading as a trusted platform for personal interaction. The mass market deserves better.
Charlie Crystle recently wrote an interesting post about honest self-representation among entrepreneurs. Assessing roles and contributions in early-stage startups can be tough. Ideas tend to morph quickly, there can be a lot of input from different communities, and The Cult of the Inventor tends to dictate history.
Because startups go through several phases before achieving exit or maturity, key contributors who join along the way often have little appreciation for what came before them and little appetite for what has to be done after they leave. And there’s no shortage of ego in the mix.
The term founder can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Founders usually:
- Create and shape an idea
- Create a company
- Fund or get funding for the company
- Bring in resources to help execute on the plan
There are myriad books and articles on founders and founding but here’s some dumb advice to anyone who has worked at an early-stage startup and hopes to leverage that experience into another opportunity:
- If you joined a startup as an employee with a paycheck and others worked long and hard, often without compensation, to create what you’ve joined, give credit where credit is due. You may think that you’re creating all the value going forward, but don’t underestimate the value of what you’ve been given to work with.
- Don’t inflate your role; don’t diminish the role of anyone else. It may seem tempting to claim sole ownership of something you worked on; it may be equally tempting to marginalize the achievements or involvement of someone else. This is usually transparent, and while it won’t help you, if discovered, it will hurt you.
- If you were an early employee, but didn’t found, co-found, help conceive of, incubate, encourage, or inspire the creation of the company, don’t say you did. There is plenty of glory and compensation for being an early employee, architect, product maven or leader. And, while being a founder per se probably won’t open any doors, saying you were one when you were not will definitely shut doors.
- Be careful about characterizing your involvement in fundraising, and be
prepared to support any claims you’ve made with references. The people who raised the money are the people the VCs/investors believe were instrumental in their investment.
A final note, which should go without saying, but sadly, can’t: When it comes to characterizing your background and that of others, don’t be a jerk. Even if you think you came into a broken situation and turned things around, or if think you created something that someone else subsequently came in and destroyed, simply focus on your achievements in the context of the team and own your mistakes. Avoid assessing blame or implying fault- it will only raise questions and engender ill will and it won’t help you.
I’ve had the Amazon Kindle for just over two weeks. Having followed E Ink for a few years and having played with the Sony Reader, I was a skeptic. Not so much now. A few observations:
- It is smaller and less odd looking than it appears in photos. This is attributable to the angles used to acheive the form factor.
- The display, as anticipated, is great, even in direct sunlight.
- The design and usability are quite good; there is some unpredictable latency.
- While “always on” it lacks simple sharing functionality, presumably because of DRM.
- Whispernet makes it a standalone device- I’ve not had a need to tether it to my laptop.
- The overall portability makes it great for business travel.
The business model has been beaten tirelessly (and often not well), so I won’t address it other than to suggest that anyone who still uses Gilette as a proxy for a consumables business model should pick up a head cleaner for his/her VCR next time he/she is at the local radio store.
Critics who pan the device for lacking a color display are missing the point. The baseline here is ink and paper and a bound publication or newspaper.
Outside of typography, print publishing has arguably seen no consumer-facing innovation or product management for the last five centuries (graphic designers will likely disagree). This, coupled with the fact that most coporeal publications are buried in artifacts of production and efficiency (or lack thereof), means that the reading experience has never been about the reader. The Kindle is meaningful attempt to change that.
Will authors, publisher, and rights holders follow suit quickly enough (or at all) to make the Kindle a success in the mass market? I won’t speculate. For the moment, the Kindle has a spot on my nightstand.
I’m at LAX waiting to board SQ011 to Narita, and I’m posting this from a Nokia E61, which has emerged from the drawer as the most versatile world phone I’ve had. This will be an interesting trip and I’ll attempt to blog it as I go. More to come…
From the Washington Post:
“Drinking and driving is never a good idea – least of all when the vehicle involved is a multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle or a high performance jet aircraft,” said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Science and Technology committee.
You can read the story here.
In the last few days, the poets have surfaced in an unexpected way in the blogosphere. Fred Wilson quotes Whitman, and Fake Steve (FSJ) riffs on Shelley.
If you live in the US, have a happy holiday.
If you don’t live in the US, imagine everyone you know in the US with a beer bottle in one (or both) hand(s) in reasonable proximity to a smoking grill. It might be a good time to send them an email assuming that if you don’t receive a reply within a few hours, you’ll conclude something that enriches you at their expense.
Walt’s review the the iPhone gives a great assessment while highlighting what we’ve always known to be the issue: Apple is great at what they do and the phone itself is a breakthrough, but ATT’s network leaves something to be desired.
On a lighter note, an interview with the first guy in line in front of the Apple store in NYC from FakeSteve.
Charlie touches upon the situation leading to the renaming of my blog here. The Prius has become a badge of good intent for some who would otherwise not suffer inconvenience for the sake of the environment. It’s also part of a more serious series of life changes for many of us.
Lest we forget, for some it’s a car that gets essentially the same mileage as an ’86 Honda CRX. For others it’s a way to buy into the carpool lane. I’ll take the intent.