Random thoughts from the HQ in Santa Monica

{ Mahalo by Mermanic }

1. I’ve been so happy over the past week… I wonder if the puppies have anything to do with it?

2. When you create a startup you’re creating your own world. I highly recommend that when you do this you build a world that you and your team want to live in. For example, I don’t like working with folks who punch a clock and who do average work. I’ve always resented folks who do average. So, when building the team at Mahalo I just asked everyone up front: are you interested in a balanced life or in obsessing over building a revolutionary service? People will opt out if you tell them up front–and over and over again at the company–that your startup is for folks looking to do amazing work.

3. In relation to point two, we’ve created a system here at Mahalo that rewards the folks who do excellent work and give the folks doing very good work a road map of how to get to excellent. If folks do “ok” or “good” work we just tell them that they should find a new place to work. We do this with six month reviews. The upshot of this is that if you get rid of average to good folks it makes the very good to excellent people more incentive to stay. Excellence breeds excellence, and average work drags down the excellent folks (i.e. “why should I do excellent work if the person doing OK work gets to be here as well?”).

4. We’ve got an amazing team of ~50 people here. Folks are having fun, working hard, and learning a LOT. It’s been just over 100 days as a public product and we’re soooooooo far along. Really feels like we’re in the zone. Can’t imagine how great the next 100 days will be.

5. Robert Scoble pointed out this week that there was almost no coverage of the DEMO conference after MASSIVE coverage of the TechCrunch40 conference. I noticed this as well, and I can tell you the reason: we had better companies presenting better ideas. This stands to reason when you think about: a) we didn’t charge folks, so we got first shot at the best companies, b) because we didn’t charge we could have really early stage companies with bigger and riskier ideas, and c) when you have great companies the press stays to “see what’s up next.” It didn’t hurt that we had Google, AOL, Yahoo, and Facebook all make announcement at the event as well.

6. I think this might be the last year of the DEMO conference, or at least in it’s current incarnation. My personal goal in starting and partnering with Mike on the conference was to kill the “pay to demo” virus. As I’ve said, I find that concept offensive as an entrepreneur. That being said, I think DEMO had like, what, 50 companies pay ~$20,000 to present… so, I think if folks are willing to do it then maybe it will always exist?

7. I’ve decided to not talk about politics on this blog. It’s just not worth the effort.

8. I hate politics. My personal believe system says that if you want to change the world go ahead and do it, and don’t use political channels to do it. If you want a community garden or park I suggest going out, raising money, and building it. Why wait for the government? I think the fact that so many people feel that the political system is the way to get things done is a HUGE problem. If you want to get things done just do them. If you don’t have the means to change something then go find the means to do it–but political systems are the worst for getting things done.

9. After working on the open internet I don’t think I could ever work in a closed system where you need to ask for permission to do things.

10. Folks are reporting that AOL is moving to an advertising network model. That’s kind of smart… ad networks are great businesses and AOL certainly has a lot of advertising assets. That being said, I don’t think the portal strategy is dead. In fact, I think Google is building a next generation portal and Yahoo is about to revamp their’s. Facebook is a portal strategy as well. Perhaps the thinking is that AOL is stronger in advertising then in portal development, so play to the strengths.

11. Propellers traffic–according to Alexa–is greater than the Netscape.com domain. This tells me that Netscape.com benefited GREATLY from switching to the social news space. In fact, switching stopped the three year decline. The problem was, of course, that you can’t see an increase on an Alexa chart when you have two things occurring at once: a) the netscape browser default audience going away and b) the social news service audience growing. So, I feel some vindication over the “netscape was a failure meme.” Netscape is a growing and thriving community and it will be a top 500 site over the next year if AOL keeps investing in it–which I hope they will.

12. And yes, I feel some vindication that Digg’s latest group of features were “copied” from Netscape. Digg added messaging and relationships a full YEAR after Netscape. Of course, no one will ever say t hat Kevin copied us–but that’s ok. They will never say that Kevin copied Pownce either. Frankly, I think it’s cool to evolve each other’s ideas and create competition. I just think the digg crowd treated our hardwork unfairly because we were doing MASSIVELY innovative things in social news that DIGG itself incorporated a year later. I wonder if digg will start paying their top user next?!?!? 🙂

13. All that being said, I think Kevin Rose is great guy and very smart. We actually have a nice time when we hang out and have plenty of things to talk about. it’s funny how the media pits folks against each other for sport.

14. Related to that random thought, some how I’ve be labeled as “anti-Facebook” by a large group of the media. Just because I felt overwhelmed by Facebook doesn’t mean I’m anti. A lot of folks have felt overwhelmed by the Facebook onslaught of 2007, and Zuckerberg himself talked about how they have to pull back the throttle on application spam. So, for the record: I love Facebook. I use Facebook every day. I am NOT anit-Facebook, in fact I’m pro-face book.

15. That being said, I think if you build your company based on a Facebook application you’re a fool. If you want to build a real business on the web you need to have ownership of your brand and destiny. If you want evidence of this talk to the AOL information partners when AOL switched from as rev-share to advertising based (circa 94/96). It was PAINFUL. Some day Facebook will be publicly traded and how they operate is going to be based on SHAREHOLDER value, not Facebook application developer value. That’s just the way it is, and frankly the way it should be.

16. That doesn’t mean building Facebook apps isn’t a business or that you shouldn’t do it. It’s a great thing to do if it bring people back to your core product or service. However, I would build your business with the contingency of “what if our Facebook traffic went away?”

17. I really need a vacation I think. I’ve been burning it for months now….

18. I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life right now.

19. The 4400 is a great show, you should catch up.

20. Law and Order SVU was great last night.

21. I’m going to be in a movie with Josh Hartnett next year. The movie is about–wait for it–August of 2001 in Silicon Alley. Yes, I play myself.

22. This is the second movie I’ve done. The other was with Peter Sarsgaard and is called “Center of the World.”

23. I give Valleywag 48 hours before they post clips from #22.

24. I think I’ve said enough for today.

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