Making computers more human at Universe. Previously built Lore.

  1. Win at All Costs

    Via Quora

    Aaron Levie is down to a 4% stake heading into the Box IPO. How does he feel watching DFJ and USVP laugh to the bank after 10 years of sweat, blood, and tears?

    Aaron Levie: So far, I have yet to bleed while building Box (well, one time I was late to a meeting and cut myself shaving). And honestly, if anyone is regularly bleeding while building a software company, I would have some serious questions about their strategy and if they’re executing properly. Definitely lots of tears and sweat though. Start your company because you want to change the world, and the rest is gravy.

    Aaron has made it his goal—no matter what—to build Box into a huge, important, impactful company. This is the latest example of that. This kind of relentless drive is rarer than you’d think. 

    TAGGED: writing business startups

  2., Year 2000

    I found some cool Apple product videos from the early 2000s. Here are the highlights:

    Read More

    TAGGED: tech apple startups writing

  3. Fast Company: The Ingenious Business Model Behind Coursekit, A Tumblr For Higher Education →


    Cool article about us in Fast Company

    Blackboard, and other LMS, are like the BlackBerry—they rely on wholesale adoption by large organizations, much as the PDA was once approved by corporations and issued en masse to their employees for free or at a discount. Coursekit is more like the iPhone: designed to appeal directly to the end consumer. In this case, Coursekit is betting that individual professors will find it more streamlined and easier to use than the reviled Blackboard. They piloted with profs at 30 campuses this fall, including Stanford, and currently have students serving as evangelists at 82 campuses.

    Like this part too:

    When you look at Coursekit as a potential Facebook or LinkedIn for education, it’s not just a piece of the $500 million LMS market they’re gunning for; it’s a chunk of the $500 billion higher education market. Online institutions could operate entirely through the site; brick and mortars could use it to enhance recruitment, retention, and student services.

    (Source: loreblog)

  4. Represent Coursekit at Your School

    Coursekit will be available to any instructor in the world, for free, in a few weeks. To help spread the word at schools, we’re hiring “Campus Founders” to evangelize the product and represent us. These are students who are passionate about improving the academic experience. 

    It’s an awesome way for students to get a taste for life at a startup while making some money. More importantly, you’ll be on the frontlines of a major change in education. 

    Read more here:

    Apply here:


    TAGGED: coursekit startups writing

  5. Meetup and 9/11

    Really nice note by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman:

    Fellow Meetuppers,

    I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

    Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn’t bother me.

    When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.

    A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities?

    We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.

    A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11.

    Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing.

    Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s powerful stuff.

    It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks to everyone who shows up.

    Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren’t for 9/11.

    9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new community together!!!!

    The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting started with these Meetups.

    Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)

    TAGGED: 9/11 meetup startups technology writing

  6. On Hiring

    A big part of my job is recruiting, yet we haven’t hired a single engineer at Coursekit. The cry you hear from entrepreneurs, that hiring is impossible, is true. But only partially. 

    You see, we’re looking to hire extraordinary people. The brightest in the world. People who can help us build a company. People who want to devote themselves to something world-changing. They’re motivated, brilliant, and they share our passion. 

    I don’t think there’s a shortage of computer science graduates. Hiring the best people, by definition, will always be a challenge.

    When we speak to a candidate, we want to be blown away. I don’t care about your experience or your degrees. Have you created something incredible? How hungry are you? Would I want to work for you? 

    We’re trying to extend class beyond the lecture hall, to change what education looks like online, to make classes about people again. We want to power every class, school, student, and educator, while building the largest academic network.

    We won’t let the bar drop.

    It’s tough, but I’m confident that we’ll build the team we need. 

    If this speaks to you, and you’re looking to make a difference, email me at joseph (at) 

    TAGGED: hiring startups entrepreneurship tech writing

  7. Lightening

    Let’s look at three things that happened in technology in the past 8 days:

    1. Facebook introduced Messenger, a potentially game changing communication platform.
    2. Twitter added Activity and a more robust @user tab, adding much-needed transparency to its deep social graph.
    3. Google bought Motorola, a radical move that can have massive implications in the mobile space.

    Each of these can have a profound impact in how millions and millions of people communicate and consume and create. It’s amazing how fast things move in this business.

    TAGGED: startups entrepreneurship tech writing

  8. Here’s to Today’s Thinkers

    Neal Gabler, in Sunday’s New York Times

    Ideas just aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world. […]

    If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.

    While this article has an intriguing title, and a nice photo, Gabler misses the mark. First, the article was written in the Sunday Opinion section of the New York Times, a platform for ideas like few others. The medium of the article (a big idea itself) subtly undermines its message. But besides for that, I fundamentally disagree with the premise that ideas are in short supply nowadays. 

    We live in an era of democratized ideation. I haven’t been deemed a “thinker,” nor am I a professor. But I have a blog, and I write my ideas on it. People actually read it. Go back just 15 years, and there’s no way I could’ve meaningfully responded to Gabler’s article. I’m one of millions of bloggers who create new ideas. The best ones bubble up through clever algorithms and social filtering. 

    It is true, as Gabler says, that we consume loads more information than ever before. But we aren’t passive consumers. We respond and we engage. That is the bedrock of social networking platforms. Share and discuss. Maybe these are micro ideas. Maybe 99.99% of them could never touch the intellectual highpoint of Norman Mailer. But why should idea creation be limited to those who have fancy titles? 

    And to say there are no big, groundbreaking ideas is ludicrous. I mean, look at how people interact today. It’s fundamentally different than it was a decade ago. The world is smaller. We can consume the arts from devices that fit in our pockets. Comedians can burst out one-liners to millions of subscribers. 

    But Gabler rejects the notion that entrepreneurs are today’s thinkers: 

    No doubt there will be those who say that the big ideas have migrated to the marketplace, but there is a vast difference between profit-making inventions and intellectually challenging thoughts. Entrepreneurs have plenty of ideas, and some, like Steven P. Jobs of Apple, have come up with some brilliant ideas in the “inventional” sense of the word.

    It’s crazy to discount world-changing technological achievements because people make money off of them. Speak to any of the entrepreneurs behind the most influential tech companies. Not one of them is motivated by his paycheck. They’re our generation’s Einsteins.

    We’re in the middle of the Computer Revolution, and naturally our society’s biggest ideas will come from within it. Technology today is fundamentally rewriting the way we’ve lived for thousands of years. Doesn’t that warrant a new way of thinking?

    And, since when do we look down on people for making their ideas happen? The article is written from an intellectual’s tell-and-don’t-do perspective.

    This said, a trip to the dark world of Twitter’s top-trending list uncovers a world of mostly incoherent, grammatically-incorrect, petty banter.  But here’s the thing: this kind of behavior isn’t new. We’re not getting dumber. It’s just that we’ve never encountered these people, and their thoughts, before. Social networks, and the internet, are a lens into the majority of the world who don’t have thinking jobs. To a seasoned intellectual, this could be frightening. 

    But to suggest that we lack ideas is to say that we aren’t changing as a society. And that’s as far from the truth as it can be. Never in the history of the world have we as a civilization moved so quickly. Our Zuckerbergs have influenced this world many times more than the white-haired “geniuses” of the past.

    TAGGED: big ideas einstein entrepreneurship nytimes neal gabler opinion thoughts startups writing

  9. Deeper Wells

    I recently replaced my no-brand contact lens case with one from Bausch and Lomb. When I used it I noticed that its wells were significantly deeper than those of my old one. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like B&L makes them larger so that people use more solution; chances are, it’s solution that they make. 

    While it’s slightly annoying, it’s certainly clever. I got over it quickly, but it got me thinking about the differences between corporate America — the P&Gs of the world — and the tech economy. 

    Large, publicly traded corporations in the US are all about optimizing. Every little bit. Even the $2.99 contact case. But the most successful tech companies have the exact opposite mantra: give the product away for free, monetize later, lavish employees, perfect the user experience at all costs. 

    It makes sense. We’re still in the early days of the internet and we simply haven’t reached the point of market saturation where squeezing every cent out matters. More important is building huge networks and keeping them engaged. The costs — no matter how expensive they seem – are nominal compared to how they scale. 

    TAGGED: product design tech startups entrepreneurship writing

  10. The Social Internet

    While I don’t remember the first dotcom bubble, I know that it was the result of wild exuberance for this new thing called “the Internet.” The Internet (but really the world wide web) would change the world, and you could get a piece of it. Just call your stock broker. No one really understood what it was – just that it had the power to change every part of your life. 

    This proved to be the problem. While the net did fundamentally change the world, it did so in ways people didn’t expect. It fell short in most areas and skyrocketed in others. Online economics played out differently. Web pages became web apps. The internet of the late nineties brought great things – Amazon, Google – but it completely missed the real power of the internet: social. 

    While people understood that the internet was a network in which anyone in the world could connect to anyone else, the early internet was way more about businesses, or “web properties,” interacting with people than people connecting to people. I guess this thinking was inherited from the centuries-old logic of professional (as if) publishers feeding content to stupid consumers. 

    But Facebook has shown us the true power of the internet – what we call “social networking.” It can facilitate revolutions and put people in business. It turns amateur writers into journalists and basement hackers into wizzy entrepreneurs. When you combine identity systems with content creation and the right relationships structure, magic happens. 

    In fact, I’d argue that the social internet is much larger than the dotcom internet. Humans are social creatures. Our lives are our relationships: at home, at school, at work. Social networking augments our existing relationships and helps us create new ones. 

    I think we will see a very similar parallel play out in the financial markets. We’ve gotten a taste already, but there’s much more to come. Social networking is magical – but it’s magical in the same way the dot-com era internet was magical. We know there’s tons of potential to build great businesses, but we don’t know how those businesses will actually look. 

    I’m not worried about companies like Facebook. Facebook should be valued at $100B+, with its 750mm active users. The problem comes in with irrational exuberance that will follow hundreds of other businesses. 

    But the last thing I want to see is people discounting the ideas of social networking. While I’m sure the markets will react erratically, the fact is that by giving people a presence in a network with a defined mission and the tools to create and engage, amazing things happen. 

    TAGGED: social networks coursekit tech startups writing

  11. Structuring Plus

    As posted on G+:

    Dan and I were thinking about the structure of Google+’s network earlier today. Google seems to be doing two things: 

    1.  It’s creating a rich-content public network. Almost like if Facebook had asymmetric relationships. What’s happened is that people are using G+ to blog (like this). That’s a very compelling idea: build a full-out social network with an asymmetric structure backed by the magic of Google, which attracts first-time users and pulls them back every day. 
    2. They’re organizing content around groups. The idea that people want to share different things with different groups is probably true. It’s human behavior. We’ve seen it happen with vertical social networks like LinkedIn. Google’s way of doing it is interesting. If you put me in your friends’ group, but I don’t put you in mine, you won’t see my non-public content. If you put me in your group and I put you in a group - the overlap is what we both see. This can be confusing. Do users know what’s happening when they add me to a circle?

    The way I see it is that Google’s going for both of these major ambitions at the same time. I think they could have done either one individually and have had more of a sure bet. The question is: can social network segmentation co-exist with a public, asymmetric one? We shall see. 

    What’s also interesting is how Google has the ultra-rare ability to overcome the chicken and egg problem. They have done a brilliant job managing the rollout. But I do wonder - if G+ is successful, how much of it is going to be because it’s a better version of Facebook with Google muscle or because it’s a groundbreaking new social paradigm. 

    I write this on my phone in bed as I can’t fall asleep. I haven’t done this on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr ever. Something about this product just feels right.

    TAGGED: google plus social networks networks startups tech writing

  12. On Twitter

    When Apple announced that Twitter would be heavily integrated into the upcoming iOS release, it got me thinking of the future of the company, its network, its platform. 

    Twitter is like the telephone system because any person is accessible just by knowing his/her ID. It’s different in that:

    • Twitter controls the whole platform
    • Twitter uses usernames instead of numbers, which are usually easier to remember
    • Tweets are public, even after they’ve been broadcasted to a user’s followers
    • A tweet can be sent to an unlimited number of followers
    • It’s asynchronous and not a zero-latency conversation

    There are clearly other reasons. But, fundamentally, what’s interesting about Twitter is that anyone can follow anyone else (besides for private accounts of course). That’s its magic: Anthony Weiner can send a picture of his crotch to tens of thousands of people from his Blackberry. 

    It’s also amazing because it, as a medium, is made for the lowest common denominator of technology. It’s just text – and just 140 characters of it. It was originally designed that way to work via SMS. Which to me is a huge part of why the platform is so powerful. Someone in rural China can have millions of followers but no PC. 

    I think the reason why this is so interesting to me is because of how this compares to Facebook’s network and the futures of both companies. Facebook is a closed network. Relationships require consent from both people. One can only friend a person, not a brand or company. To see any person’s photo you must be logged in, even if the photo is public. 

    As a result, Facebook is a more intimate network. People post a lot more of their lives on it, and it’s therefore more rich. You can post a photo, video, or link, and they’re formatted as such. Facebook can only be truly consumed on and the company’s apps. 

    Apple added Twitter to iOS to be a communication option on the order of email. You tap the arrow button on a photo and you can email it, or tweet it.  

    I’ve always thought of Facebook as the future digital identity for everyone on earth. But maybe Twitter can be it. I think we’ve always thought that because Tweets are just 140 characters of text, it can never be as robust a network. After all, “Twitter is just one feature of Facebook.” But the complexity of a platform’s core product may not dictate ubiquity, and value. Telephony isn’t complex, nor is email. 

    This is all just food for thought. Facebook is widely considered ten times as valueable as Twitter right now. It has a much better grasp of who my friends are and who I like to talk to. So right now, the valuations make sense. But I don’t think it’s crazy to think about how it can be a huge, telephone-like network.

    If anything, Twitter teaches us so much about the design of social products. That’s why I find it so fascinating. 

    TAGGED: twitter tech startups social product design writing