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On Techmeme’s “death”. Please. Get over it.

December 4, 2008 Leave a comment

I love TechMeme as much as the next Silicon Valley jerk, but seriously. There’s a reason people refer to us as the echo chamber. I’m amazed that people are getting twisted up over the guy hiring one editor to remove spurious stories or help manually improve relevance signals. 

BIG DEAL. So what?

Umm, there’s a lot of folks who think that Wikipedia is being boosted by hand by Google. I don’t know if its true but Wiki’s increasing coverage via Google makes sense when viewed that way. Google also crawls a whitelist of sites much faster than the average Joe-Blow site (WordPress.com gets crawled very very frequently, for example). 

ISN’T THAT A GLARING EXAMPLE OF BIAS??

Get over it. There’s no automated brain behind this thing.

Categories: silicon valley, snarky, tech

Yammer, what are you good for (for my workplace)?

November 24, 2008 3 comments

The New York Times came out with a story about microblogging in the enterprise. It makes references to Yammer, Present.ly, and of course, Twitter. Most of the interviewees are companies that have adopted the services – Rubicon Project was the one that stood out for me. 

As a few of you know, I’m a recent convert to Twitter and am slowly getting wrapped up in the missionary evangelical zeal that I mocked for so many months. When Yammer went live, I tried to get the good folks at Kosmix involved and so far the “launch” has been a miserable failure. A few updates trickle in here and there. No one has been instantly “hooked” onto the service. Several folks have come by my desk and made it a point to roll their eyes (these are the crusties who still don’t use Twitter, so we can ignore those data points) at me. 

Why, I wonder, would a service like Yammer draw glowing reviews from Rubicon and fall flat at Kosmix? Here are some details that I could come up with:

  • I have been unable to articulate a clear value prop to folks on our end. As a Twitter user, I “know” that Yammer will be useful to us but I’m unable to pinpoint exactly why and am unable to sell it. 
  • The service spread virally through our office and lots of folks signed up, then posted a message saying “What the hell is this?” and then bailed. 
  • Kosmix is 65 people with almost everyone located onsite. To top that, we’re a VERY instant message heavy culture, more so than the 2-3 other places I’ve worked at. People dont perceive the need for an additional IMish service. 
  • We’re horribly open door and the joint resembles a fish market right around 1130 am every day. There are about four hallway conversations occurring at high pitch and ping pong balls flying around as shots go awry. We know too much about other departments, not too little. The founders are very accessible. We eat lunch together every Friday. Getting updated isn’t usually a burning problem. 
  • We’re small. I can see Yammer being more valuable at the 100+ level with lots of sales people that are remote and see engineers once in three months (my previous company). 
  • We’re NOT a Twitter heavy culture. There around 7 people who are heavy Twitter users. More than a few others share a bewilderment at the Valley’s obsession with Twitter (you know who you are). 
Categories: silicon valley, tech Tags: , ,

On the survival of startups

November 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Anand (our co-founder) just cranked out a cool post for GigaOm that attempts to defy the doom and gloom pervading the tech blogosphere. Sun cuts 6000. Yahoo! cuts 10%. Mahalo spruced some ungodly percentage of folks and Seesmic hits 33% of their workforce. 

Needless to say, I’m happy to see Kosmix continue down a path of prudent and cautious growth – I mean, we’re treating things as business as usual, working hard, playing ping pong and being ultra-lovable web geeks. What has changed is that since no one is looking at their stock portfolios on Google Finance anymore, productivity has probably taken a slight uptick – all in all, not a bad state of affairs. 

Read the post if you’ve got five minutes. I didn’t know some of the stuff around VC firms carrying zombies around on their portfolios and that was pretty educational. 

Also, stay tuned and keep an eye on Kosmix.com. We think you’ll like what we have to show over the next few weeks.

Categories: silicon valley, tech

Saumil’s Guide to Riding Caltrain Like a Champ

November 20, 2008 3 comments

I suffer the ignominy of riding Caltrain four, sometimes five days a week. I live in SoMa and work on Castro in Mountain View. Sure, both locations are supposedly “convenient” to the train but then why is it that I feel like my life is being spent in the company of granola-ass crazy pocket protector could-use-a-shower-badly Caltrain freaks? Because, well, I guess it is when you spend 10 hours a week riding the rails. 

So – here’s the deal with Caltrain, put together in a bullet list of rants, hacks, tricks and tips. Enjoy and profit!!

  • Follow http://twitter.com/caltrain if you use Twitter or refer to the webpage before you get on. 
  • The morning bullet trains are great if you don’t work on your laptop. If you do, having 40 minutes is simply not enough to get a lot done. This is especially true when you’ve got jerkoffs hassling you about the tickets and the damn conductor braying over the PA system about every damn stop every 3.5 minutes. 
  • If you are on your laptop, take the slower trains and get more shit done. Plus, the slower trains are emptier and you have to deal with a smaller quantity of MORONS. 
  • If you’re bringing a bike, try to steer clear of the morning bullet trains. The bike car gets packed FAST. Plus, the imbeciles that run Caltrain frequently put in just ONE bike car with 16 bikes on it. Translation: they’ll tell you to, ahem, leave your bike somewhere or take the next train. Nice work, tools. Real well-managed. 
  • Why the hell doesn’t Caltrain have a coffee bar on the train? Staff it during the morning hours and it still turns a profit. 
  • If you’re riding one of the older model trains from San Francisco, make sure to walk at least 3 cars back before boarding. Why?? Because the first one is the bike car, the second one usually smells and the third one is a first one that’s tolerable and therefore packed. 
  • In each car, there are 4-6 seats (2-3 rows) that have extra leg room. They have enough leg room that you can pop open a laptop comfortably. Look for them in the back of the car.
  • Caltrain is obviously very granola. If you like wearing fluorescent straps on your pants so you dont “ruin them with your bike” (mmm news flash, those pants aren’t that nice to begin with), you’ll fit RIGHT IN. If you’re like me, however, you’ll cringe silently in despair.

I’m switching out of Kosmix RightHealth

November 16, 2008 Leave a comment

For those of you that know me (and several of you that don’t but have met me at conferences, events and other unsavory events that are unmentioned), you know all too well that I’ve spent the last two years obsessing over Kosmix’s RightHealth site. I hesitate to ponder the number of man hours that have gone into poring over photos spider bites, looking at videos of skin rashes and reading articles about every obscure condition known to mankind. 

It has been a rewarding and fun time. In the last 2 years, I’ve seen us go from a million uniques to well over ten million uniques – mostly on account of the good work of folks on our team. I’ve seen our company build a new platform and have spent an inordinate amount of time poring over user analytics data like abandonment, ad clicks per visit, page views per visit, net promoter score and other inside-baseball-web-geekery that a minor number of people seem to care about in the real world. 

Finally, while I’m no physician, I’ve attempted to piggyback on doctors’ superior social status by trying out the “I’m here to save lives.” pickup line at bars. So far, it has not worked out as I had expected. 

It is therefore a bittersweet experience to hand over my baby to a colleague. As for me, I’ll be switching over to lead Product for a newly minted group within our little family. This group is called “Kosmix Publishers and Consumers” (or the horrendous shorthand “Pubsumers” if you prefer). I’ll be working on traffic acquisition via strategic partnerships and other distribution channels that remain unnamed and unseen for now. I will also be far more “outbound” and you can expect me to be Cheerleader-In-Chief for Kosmix going forward. Pom poms *not* included. 

Send me email if you know of folks who’d be interested in partnering with us.

Categories: life, silicon valley

Venture Capitalists and Business Cards

October 27, 2008 Leave a comment

I have never met a VC whose business cards weren’t printed on expensive heavy-as-lead paper. The minute they hand to me, like a precious gift being conferred upon a mere pleb, my hands and arms buckle under the weight. 

And since you can’t make a reasonable joke about business cards without this coming up, no, I don’t equate fancy business cards with American Psycho. Not always, anyways.

LAWL Update: Went to an Accel event last night and ran into a couple of girls who work at Accel. I mentioned the Accel business cards and their faces beamed with pride like I’d adopted a puppy that I rescued out of a frigging tree.

Categories: life, silicon valley

More things that piss me off about Google Knol

August 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Okay, I’m pissed because I care. Or something like that.

You see, as a purveyor of fine health information, it is my job, nay, my calling, to wade through the trenches of health websites. There’s good ones (WebMD, Mayo, NIH sites, etc.) and then there’s the really bad content (don’t even get me started).

That’s why I was giddy like a 13 year old going to see Hannah Montana when I first previewed Google Knol. Seeded with a few hundred health topics written by physicians, the content quality and depth is unbelievable. It puts Wikipedia to shame. It puts everything else out there to shame.

Only problem? Doctors write when actively courted by Google (who doesn’t love a little love from our overlords?); they probably stop writing when they find that the AdSense ads surrounding their content monetize at 10 dollars a year.

Yeah. Doctors are people too, and sometimes wretchedly money-grubbing people. Fair enough.

So to really measure Google Knol’s quality since takeoff last week, we need a better way to navigate and access the site.

  • What were the last five (or five hundred) Knols created? If they were about how to sell snake oil as opposed to medical topics, uh, I’d kinda like to know so I don’t syndicate that.
  • How many Knols exist overall? Note that Wikipedia provides a pretty easy way to get to that number. Its called a full database dump and my company Kosmix uses it. Knol? Umm no. Evil much??
  • Nav for the site is pretty retarded. I mean, look at this: http://knol.google.com/k/knol/directory-000#. Where is the categorization?
  • Good Lord, there isn’t even a way to SORT the goddamn link above!!!
  • Final offense: the title says “Collection of Featured Knols”. That means that the tip of the iceberg could be shiny and pretty while the rest of the iceberg is trying to sell me Viagra on the cheap. Come on, Knol, stand behind your product!
Categories: silicon valley, snarky, tech Tags: , ,