Communities Can Grow Too Quickly

I was recently granted access to a Slack community associated with a newsletter I’ve been reading for a while. The kinetic energy of new members started on the #Welcome channel and then flowed to other discussions on themed channels. Whether intentional or not, the batched admissions – we were added as a cohort – created its own dynamics. It felt like an fun event. Reminded me of bit of when a startup we’ve recently invested in announces itself to the rest of Homebrew’s founder group.

Communities can grow too quickly and lose some of the camaraderie which comes with being part of a group. There are a number of dynamics which factor into the carrying capacity of an existing community to absorb newbies. Product designers and communities themselves will build in techniques to manage this scaling – for example, a hardcoded onboarding tutorial when you start an app or even the pinned note at the top of subreddit which spells out the rules of engagement and FAQ.

Sometimes incentives will be explicitly and implicitly baked into a community to encourage successful absorption of new members. MMORPGs which early on insert a task involving the teaming of a new player and midlevel one is a frequently used element. Forums will sometimes have a moderator or guide-type which includes a badge or other notification, signaling that it’s ok for a beginner to ask them questions. When we were creating Second Life I became familiar with Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types, which I later brought into YouTube as another way to understand motivations of individuals.

richard-bartle-player-types

When a community grows too quickly, or when new members sharing a specific common characteristic swamp the existing user base, the existing norms can get disrupted. Sometimes this can be a positive strategy – like introducing a new advantageous gene. Often it can cause confusion, tribalism and outright hostility – the Brazilian “invasion” of Orkut.

Figuring out the carrying capacity of your current community, how to onboard new users and manage growth is a set of fascinating design decisions. More recently I’ve had a chance to observe how successful community/audience products like Winnie and theSkimm have thought through these questions. Have you encountered products that do an especially interesting job of managing community growth or any anecdotes from your own work experiences? Would be interested to hear them – just tweet at me.

The One Problem Most Publishing Platforms Forget To Solve

 

joanna-kosinska-669797-unsplashDo you get excited reading about email newsletter platforms? I do. And there were two notes in this week’s article about Substack which made me clap my hands. First, they’ve hired Nathan Bashaw, previously of Gimlet and Hardbound, who is someone I believe thinks about storytelling, content and software in compelling ways. Way to go Nathan!

Second, that they’re not ignoring the Discovery elements of Substack’s platform:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 2.13.44 PM

Imagine a spectrum where on one side it said “Utility Platform” and on the other end it said “Community Network.” So many publishing platforms get “stuck” on the Utility side. They keep building the longtail of software features to assist creators in serving their audience but leave it to the creator themselves to find and grow that audience.

The real value to creators – and I’d argue this is what YouTube got so right early on with Related Videos and Homepage features – is to also drive them audience. If you’re able to do this, you get lock-in, you get to share in the upside you create for them. For whatever reason, this seems especially difficult in the text space – Medium and WordPress come to mind as valuable publishing platforms which haven’t solved Discovery.

Why? Well, “Discovery” is difficult, both in design and implementation. Just lazily tossing “Related Newsletters” in the bottom of a template isn’t the most creative or effective implementation. And generally driving Discovery involves some degree of eminent domain by the company – it’s seizing pixels on the creator’s space in order to promote other content. Essentially creating a house ad unit. There’s tension in this – you kinda need to implement it very early, and make it default. Shipping it later in a product’s life, and/or making it “opt-in” (ie you get promo’ed in other people’s newsletters if you open up the same promotional space in your own), limits its scale.

So I’m glad to hear that Substack is thinking about this early and I hope they push on it a bit. My guess is it’ll be the difference between create a very nice Utility Platform vs an explosive Community Network.

What Do You Want From Me Besides Capital?

I live for that moment of flicker in an entrepreneur’s eye during a pitch discussion. The one which suggests I’ve asked a question which is simultaneously both new to their fundraising experiences AND interesting to them personally. “What do you want from me besides capital?” is flicker-producing more often than it should be. Maybe it’s because raising money itself can be such a trudge or many investors over-promise and underdeliver, that you’d be happy to *just* get capital and be done with it. But Homebrew is founded upon the belief that we’ll put sweat and reputation behind your startup, not just a wire transfer, so to me it seems like a normal question to help understand if you need things that we can, or can’t, provide.

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplash

The answers I receive typically fall across four categories:

1. “Vertical Expertise” – More hands and minds around the industry maze they’re traversing. Information, relationships, pattern matching for marketplaces, SaaS, financial services, agriculture, media, etc etc – our backgrounds and/or portfolio suggest that we might have ability to help the founders move faster and with greater accuracy in testing their market hypotheses.

2. “Horizontal Expertise” – We see lots of startups, we’ve built and run large teams. Founders articulate a certain support they’d like in figuring out operational decisions and growth challenges. Hiring, org structure, product development philosophies and so on. Most of time (~80%) this is about best practices or building a toolbox so you can apply the right tool to the right task. 20% of the time it’s about discarding the best practice to do something unique or irregular because it’s what best fits your strategy, capabilities and culture.

3. “Personal Support” – In what I hope is a mutually self-selecting outcome, we hear from founders who emphasize wanting investors they trust and feel like they can have real conversations with. Who support them as people and their growth. Who will hold the accountable to building something they’re proud of but remember we sit on the cap table, not the org chart.

4. “Venture Industry Advocacy” – Ears to the market, help with the next fundraise, assist with optimizing the rest of the cap table – before and after closing, generally the “be a translator and facilitator between us and the capital markets.” Not an outsourcing of the responsibility, but sort of a “you’re one of them, but on our side.”

 

In reality, across a multiyear relationship with a portfolio company we end up doing all four of these, but it’s important to start off understanding expectations. FWIW, I’m not looking for wrong answers per se, but there are probably two major red flags for me. The first would be a “nothing” shoulder shrug. We’re not the right investors if all you want is capital and the occasional “great job!” via email. The second would be asks that, off the bat, suggest a CEO is trying to get an investor to solve problems that the founders really need to own, or looking for validation in way that translates as “I’m not sure this company is a good idea so I’m raising money as a process to see if some VCs will tell me it’s a good idea.” Otherwise I truly am just interested in your answer as mutual pre-qualification, not grading it.

By the way, if you’re fundraising and your potential investor doesn’t proactively ask this question – or a variation of it – it’s perfectly reasonable – even advised – to say something like, “can I share some of what I hope to turn to our investors for post-fundraise?” or “for us, a fundraise is more than just a wire transfer, it’s a relationship and here are some of the things I’d like to make sure we’re both excited about doing together.” You’ll all be better for this discussion!

FAANG Anxious

Subconscious anxieties hover over my FAANG relationships

FB: eventually every product becomes 50% ads

AAPL: they’ll release a $10k iPhone I can’t resist

AMZN: beats everyone & raises prices

NFLX: they’ll realize my HunterPatel login isn’t Satya Patel’s kid

GOOG: they’ll randomly kill my fav product

Cancer is Bad. Bid On Lunch With Me To Raise $$$ To Fight It.

Lunch or coffee with me and Satya. Money goes to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.26.49 AM

Auction ends May 31st.

We are tossing in BONUS ITEMS to raise even more money!

The winner gets:

  1. Lunch/coffee with me and Satya Patel
  2. 30 minute call with Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent. She spent her career at Google, Salesforce and now venture capital. Talk recruiting strategies, compensation best practices, how to hire passive candidates, how to deal with a Google/Salesforce counter-offer to a candidate you want to land, etc

AND IF BIDDING REACHES $2500 WE’RE GONNA GIVE YOU ANOTHER PRIZE -> 

3. 30 minute call with ONE of the following founder/CEOs to get advice on whatever you want – company building, bootstrapping, raising venture capital, building a brand. These founders have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from top VCs, celebs and strategic investors – maybe their advice helps YOU land the big deal 🙂

A. Carly or Danielle from theSkimm

B. Joe from Joymode (and Klout) [UPDATE: Joe says he’ll do 60 MINUTE CALL if you pick him]

C. Dan from ManagedByQ

D. Jesse from Lumi

WOW, THIS IS LIKE YOUR OWN PERSONAL STARTUP ADVISOR BOOTCAMP ALL IN ONE!

4. Our friend DJ PATIL will also do a 30 MINUTE CALL with you if winning bid is greater than $2500. WHO IS DJ? Only the former US Chief Data Scientist who was also early exec at LinkedIn, Data Scientist in Residence at Greylock, etc etc etc – the OG DATA SCIENTIST YO.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 1.59.30 PM

ONCE BIDDING HITS $3,000 YOU WILL UNLOCK BONUS #5 and #6

5. 30 MINUTE CALL WITH JASON HARINSTEIN – CFO of Flatiron Health, and previously Corp Dev Google + SVP Strategy & Corp Dev Groupon

Holy cow. Jason was instrumental in Flatiron being acquired for a reported $2 Billion! He acquired dozens of companies at Groupon and Google. If you are thinking about how to sell your startup, Jason is one of the top advisors you can ask for. And he’ll give you 30 minutes to talk about M&A, transitioning from Wall St to Tech, how to navigate a BigCo interest in your startup…

6. LIVE INTERVIEW ON CHEDDAR ABOUT TOPIC OF YOUR CHOICE!!!

That’s right, Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg has promised to bring you on to the lead OTT channel, distributed to millions of viewers via Twitter, Hulu, YouTube TV, Roku, Twitch and more! Fire your PR agency and buy this auction package instead!

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 8.55.15 PM

ONCE BIDDING HITS $5,000 YOU WILL UNLOCK BONUS #7

7. 30 MINUTE CALL/VISIT WITH LASZLO BOCK – Google’s former SVP People Ops. Priceless!

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 2.29.13 PM

BID NOW. BID OFTEN. 

“I can tell if a podcast is going to stink beforehand if the person has a PR person asking for questions.” Digiday’s Brian Morrissey on Digital Media, VC and Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Twitter Friend. Digiday’s Brian Morrissey is a Twitter Friend. That is, we’ve never met IRL but through his tweets, his podcast and our occasional DMs, he feels, well, familiar. So I decided to ask him Five Questions and get to know Brian a bit better.

BM

Hunter Walk: What’s Digiday and how’d you end up there?

Brian Morrissey: Digiday is a media brand focused on the changing nature of the media and marketing businesses as they collide with digital technology. I joined Digiday seven years ago after many years reporting on the industry. At the time, Digiday was mostly an events-focused company. The idea was to build a publishing-focused brand with events as a revenue base while we figured out our own differentiation in a crowded market — and then added business lines around advertising, custom content and now subscriptions.

We’ve since expanded under Digiday Media to have other brands. Glossy focuses on the changing nature of the fashion and beauty industries as they collide with digital technology, new business models, and the need for sustainability and inclusivity. Tearsheet is our publication focused on the changing nature of payments and financial services. All three brands are built around offering a differentiated point of view, establishing direct connections with the audience, and making money in a variety of ways. One of the best things about Digiday is we not only cover the search for sustainable media but we live it ourselves as an independent media company without VC money. We’re about 80 people now, in NYC and London mostly, and profitable.

HW: Your Digiday podcast is one of my favorite in the media industry. I especially appreciate that you’re direct without being confrontational just for the sake of it. Can you tell within the first few minutes of recording whether it’s going to be a good discussion or not? Is there a guest or two that you especially enjoy jousting with?

BM: I always found as a reporter that the best interviews I did were outside the office over coffee. Being a reporter is about putting people at ease somewhat to find out information and something approximating the truth. So much of what people say as business executives is PR. I can tell if a podcast is going to stink beforehand if the person has a PR person asking for questions. That’s a red flag. The thing I like about with podcasts is you can’t repeat talking points for a half hour. It sounds ridiculous.

The best interviews are people I know well because they won’t take any probing personally. Some favorites: GroupNine’s Ben Lerer, Hearst’s Troy Young, Complex’s Rich Antoniello, Cheddar’s Jon Steinberg, Barstool’s Erika Nardini. I’d also include journalists since there’s an easier rapport there and allergy to bullshit: Some favorites: Wired’s Nick Thompson, The Information’s Jessica Lessin, Recode’s Kara Swisher.

HW: Homebrew, my venture fund, is an investor in several “media” platforms (such as Anchor, Cheddar and theSkimm) but I tend to think venture dollars can really mess up a media company if raised too early or too abundantly. How should media entrepreneurs weigh funding options for their startups?

BM: I hate when people answer my questions with “it depends,” but I’m going to do that here. We’ve built Digiday without venture capital. Nick Friese founded it a decade ago with savings and early 401(k) withdrawals. We have funded ourselves over the years with an exotic formula of bringing in more money than we spend. The upsides to this is you can make quicker decisions and constraints keep you from doing dumb stuff like pivoting to video. The downsides are you skimp on infrastructure and can be at risk of not being aggressive enough in meeting opportunities because you don’t want to get too far ahead of revenue.

VCs always stayed away from media models for scale reasons. The period of scale media models being attractive for VC is probably over now that Google and Facebook have vacuumed up most of the digital ad market. Too many people seem to take VC money based on that Mary Meeker slide that showed the delta between time spent on the Internet and budgets spent. Well, that delta is gone, but the money mostly went to Google and Facebook.

There are some very significant media businesses being built that couldn’t have been done without VC. But right now, I’d say the most attractive media models are ones with close ties to their audiences rather than mass scale plays. Not to talk up your book but that’s what I find interesting about theSkimm, which has a direct connection with an audience and a real brand differentiation. (Jon will be mad if I don’t mention Cheddar too. So I find Cheddar interesting.)

HW: What are some other digital media businesses you admire?

BM: My favorite media businesses tend to be those focused on an obsessive audience, coupled with a balanced business model. For Digiday, we gravitate to the business side because people ideally are obsessed about their livelihoods, but industries like media, marketing, fashion and beauty have a bigger cultural impact that attracts people from both adjacent industries and those simply into these areas. A lot of people still call this “trade,” but I don’t see it that way. Trade was synonymous with being boring and cheerleaders. There’s an opportunity and need to take a different approach as people’s work and personal lives blur.

On the consumer side, I like what companies like Hypebeast and Highsnobiety are doing, having started as streetwear blogs and now growing into lifestyle media brands. Focused brands like Hodinkee, which is all about high-end watches, interest me because the audience is obsessive. I’m impressed by Axios in the impact it has made in such a short time, even if I’d like it to stop telling me to “be smarter.” We’re coming out of an era of flimsy media models built off ephemeral, manufactured audiences that were from platforms. The media models that are best positioned now have tight connections with defined communities — and strong, differentiated brands.

HW: What’s a contrarian take that you hold about the nearterm future of digital media? 

BM: My contrarian take is that underneath all the gloom and unrelenting pressure on media that there are several hopeful signs of sustainability coming to media models. Yes, the duopoly. But the pivot to paid is promising. Just a few years ago it was thought impossible for paid models to work for digital media. We’re seeing that not necessarily be the case on the very high end consumer side (NYT, WaPo), the vertical B2B (The Information, Digiday) and focused consumer (theSkimm, The Athletic). Digital media went pear shaped when it fell in love with scale and ads. You need diversity in revenue streams. There are other models emerging off media outside of news, such as Clique Media, Glossier, Goop, Barstool.

On top of that, I think the platforms getting beat up over Russian trolls, data leaks, crushing media, etc will help align interests better. Facebook and Google will need to give a lot more to media right now. I can’t think of a time when publishers had more leverage. And many of the impacts of GDPR and laws like it are still unknown, but I think these efforts to rein in data promiscuity will combine with an inevitable swing back to context over specific audience to help publishers in the long run. How long, I’m not sure. But I’m optimistic for the future of our own business. We keep growing and see a ton of opportunities to go both deeper (new services, revenue lines with subs) and wider (new geographies, brands). The challenges are all real; I don’t think they’re insurmountable.

CoLiving & Shared Housing Isn’t Just for Urban Millennial Bros

“Luke opened the shared fridge and, since it was after 4pm, chugged his Kombucha/Soylent Keto shake. ‘I go no-solids after 3pm’ he said, something the rugged 23 year old couldn’t have imagined thinking just six months ago, before joining this shared residential collective in SF’s SOMA. ‘I pay $650 a month for a closet but the real value is being among this crew, we’ve even nicknamed ourselves the ‘Code & Hodl Crew.’ Luke flashed a goofy gang sign, where his fingers kinda made the shape of a B-T-C, the abbreviation for bitcoin.”

aquiles-carattino-572334-unsplash.jpg

THAT’S the way most stories about coliving sound today and whether or not such prose accurately represents the current state of the market, it certainly won’t be the future. My belief is that we’re going to continue seeing movement towards various coliving/shared housing arrangements, among a broad swarth of socioeconomic, demographic and geographic cohorts.

[Plug: if you’re working on ideas here – especially those not aimed at urban white young men in the tech industry – I’m interested in talking with you about early funding – hunter at homebrew.co]

Here’s a few disparate reasons why I’m a believer in the trend:

Community and Care – People are living longer lives and want to age in place, with community and care brought to them versus the centralized industrial assisted living model. Here are two examples of this trend among the middle class elderly in California and Massachusetts. Even outside of those with special needs, those with specific lifestyle choices – religious, health and wellness, ethnic – will have opportunity to live in tribes for ease, identity and belonging in an increasingly fractured and noisy world. Coliving is the new neighborhood.

Urban Density and Desirability – Urban centers are desirable again, for reasons that are pretty durable. Unfortunately in many cities, years of NIMBYism combined with general regulatory complexity and limited residential footprints result in increasing rents and home prices. Many municipalities and their occupants are going to realize that we just won’t be able to construct enough affordable housing, if “housing” means 1980s ideals of multiple bedroom home and apartments of 1,000 sq ft and up. So private bedrooms with shared common spaces, but close to the places we work and play, are going to create attractive versions of the modern boarding house/dorm. Instead of spending 50% of income on rent, or needing to endure hours of commute from city outskirts, millions of people will prefer a different tradeoff.

Economic Forces Including Combination of Wage Stagnation and Generational Real Estate Transfer – I’m not an economist. Phew, now that we can be honest with each other, this is more of a feel than any real macro analysis. BUT, seems to me that continued wage stagnation, plus decreased birth rates, plus increase in life expectancy, plus baby boomers either (a) liquidating the family residence to cover living expenses or (b) handing them down to a generation of cash poor, but now property rich, heirs, means that there’s going to be a lot of property in motion. Maybe one family homes become two family homes as owners seek to split costs or create supplementary rental income from their primary residence. Maybe residential real estate will no longer be an appreciating asset as millennials invest in other more liquid, higher volatility areas (private company equity, crypto). I don’t know which of these will continue or what the combinatorial effect looks like, but feels like there’s *something* here that smart entrepreneurs can figure out.

Access Not Ownership – Recent generations have shown less attachment to ownership and more interest in access. Experiences and lifestyles, not things. Mobility for personal and professional reasons will be prized above residence. A minority of people – especially professional freelancers – will go full subscription-based living where their monthly “rent” isn’t tied to a single address but nights of occupancy across networks of hotels or other short-term rentals. We see the basis for this in Pillow, one of our current investments.

Crunchbase News did a nice writeup of shared housing startups but from where I sit this is still an early and huge market. If you’re working on a startup in this area or have ideas that are different than mine, let me know – hunter at homebrew.co. We’re especially interested in approaches which don’t require the startup to take on leases or property ownership (although open to hearing insightful models there too).

Future of Commerce and Retail Hot Takes With Web Smith

When a guy has the Twitter handle @web, that makes you want to learn more. I’ve been fortunate enough to hang virtually with Web Smith for the last few years which has exposed me to sharp thinking about brands, retail, parenting and, uniquely in my echo chamber, Columbus, Ohio. Web’s 2PM email newsletter is a Must Read for anyone trying to stay ahead of the curve on where commerce is going (it’s free but there’s a membership program providing access to additional analysis and data resources, which I recommend). Web let me shoot him some questions and his Five Question Interview is below.

3949a157-32d0-46d9-8265-54fad35e0e3d

Web Smith

Hunter Walk: Tell us what you’re up to now and a little background about how you got here.

Web Smith: Well admittedly, I’ve bounced around a bit but I’ve had the pleasure of building some great relationships within the industry. My wife’s career is very important to her, so it’s very important to me. That means that I’ve had to set aside opportunities that would move us away from her current assignment.

Over the last eleven years, I’ve spent the entirety of my time in roles that have allowed me to execute on my beliefs, theories, and hypotheses re: consumer psychology, digital media, and D2C eCommerce.

My first startup was founded in 2008 and sold in 2010. It was an early eCommerce / media play in the action sports space. Soon after, our family moved to Columbus, Ohio for my marketing position at Rogue. There, I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of the large scale eCommerce business – specifically paid advertising and improving efficacy. Since my days at Rogue, I went on to become the cofounding CMO of Mizzen + Main and I’ve led commerce for Uncrate and Gear Patrol. I am currently serving as the Director of Partnerships for Cotton Bureau while building 2PM into my fourth startup in the eCommerce space.

HW: DNVBs – can they be started from anywhere or do you think we’ll see the majority out of Silicon Valley, or NYC and LA?

WS: I believe that retail startups are best started outside of SV, NYC, and LA but I completely understand the appeal of building in those cities. There is something about capital scarcity that helps DNVB founders manage expectations and innovate early around CAC. Often times, this is unnecessary in cash-rich areas like Silicon Valley and New York City. While they can’t be started from anywhere, per se, I do believe that the midwest is a wonderful place to build a retail startup.

HW: When you hear about a new DNVB, what’s the first thing you look for to assess whether it’s got a chance to succeed or not?

WS: The first thing that I look for is founder-product fit. Does the founder embody the brand? Is the founder _the_ brand? The more this is the case, the better shot the product company has. You didn’t ask but the next thing that I look for is whether or not the brand has a great sales mentality. Product first companies often think about creative and digital marketing more so than they think about getting the product into the right hands. I believe that engineering-first mentality is indicative of this focus and it’s not always the winning hand in DNVB startups. It takes a blue collar sales mentality to get the ball rolling towards driving an efficient $5M, $10M, and $15M in annual revenue.

HW: When you see a traditional CPG or retailer acquire a DNVB do you think they should integrate or let them run separately, perhaps even remain competitive to the company’s in-house brands?

WS: The power of a DNVB’s brand is its independence and its voice. Let’s face it, DNVB’s are more-than-likely commodity products. Sometimes, the differentiator is the brand’s voice. CPG brands that acquire DNVB’s are better suited by fostering those young brands behind the scenes, while letting them continue to foster the authentic relationships that made them M&A targets in the first place.

HW: What’s an overrated trend right now in the commerce space and what’s (or who) is underestimated?

WS: An overrated trend? Building brand-less products at the dawn of the voice commerce era. Amazon and Google’s emphasis on voice commerce will narrow options for consumers and turn stalwart brands into commodities, anyway. Why make Amazon’s job easier?

As far as underestimations go, I’d recommend that people take a look at what’s been built in Columbus. Rogue is at 500+ employees now, having never raised a dime of outside investment.A quick look at their public data and you’ll see that they’re driving 2.5M monthly visits and offering thousands upon thousands of SKUs. Their manufacturing operation, front office, retail, and fulfillment is all under one roof. And their adjacent product sourcing from Nike, Adidas, etc is bar none. There are a lot of smart, silent-but-deadly operators under that 600,000 sq. ft roof.

We’re Running Web 2018 With Web 2008 Dashboards. And That’s a Problem.

The dashboards we look at to monitor the health of our products are lagging the experiences our user communities are having.

nasa 11

Back and forth flame wars on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere register as “engagement” and high clickthrough on “new comment” mobile notifications. As cortisol levels spike and keyboards get punched and one or more users eventually abandon the service, or feel a little angrier, or radicalize into an identity at odds with where they started out, just because that’s what makes them feel like part of a tribe.

“Time on site” and “minutes of video watched” are up-and-to-the-right indicators. More is better, caveated that we also measure “short clicks” and other indications that the user can’t find something to do or isn’t getting the right answer. But so long as they’re watching more, reading more, going deeper down the rabbit hole, that’s fine. A user eating snacks engineered to take advantage of our sweet, salty urges. Diabetes and weight gain be damned.

How did our product make you feel? Measured infrequently with user research studies, pop-up surveys, NPS questions. Next wave of startups trying to use your phone’s camera and sensors to calculate emotional response. But ahead of that we’re still flying pretty blind as product designers to understand and process the realtime emotional impact of a user experience and factor that into the algorithm. This happens slowly, often as a derivative function, as personalization understands what you seem to like or dislike, but even that is too basic and behaves like a servant, not a guardian or instructor.

Maybe the most exciting roles right now at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like are about creating the metrics of 2018 and beyond. As Jack Dorsey said, defining what is a Healthy Conversation. I’m hopeful. I want to see these sorts of metrics show up on CEO Dashboards, in Board decks, as part of the default Chartbeat implementation.

Or maybe it will be the nonprofits like the Center for Humane Technology or Mozilla that can figure this out and layer their own tools over our internet experiences using browsers and plugins to alter, slow or block the mechanics of attention vacuuming. Even forward-thinking and scrupulous teams are going to need help understanding the tradeoffs inherent in *not* maximizing for a short-term exploitive growth hack or business goal.

Keep an eye on the dashboards and analytics tools because that’s where the durable truths about an organizations priorities are depicted. And we’re still using Web 2.0 hammers to build our Web 3.0 house.

A Nutrition Label for Internet Privacy. And Apple Should Lead the Way.

WANT: a more standardized, human-readable format for conveying Privacy Policies and Terms of Service.

FDA Nutrition Labels, which were only first required within the last few decades and underwent a reformatting a couple years back, seem to be a reasonable direction to follow.

nutritionfacts2016

There’s a site called TOSDR (Terms of Service Didn’t Read) which tries to simplify this complexity into a summary [Wired article].

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.23.52 AM

That’s an ok start but I’d prefer to see this integrated into the products themselves versus third party destination. Apple is in a great position to drive standardization here – what if 2018 was year of the Privacy Label in the iOS App Store? Elevate this display to the same level of importance as User Reviews. Perhaps even factor into App Store ranking and promotion. Would Tim Cook go so far as to say that Apple shouldn’t promote any app that abuses user data? Of course one challenge is that even Apple doesn’t know what’s truly being done with user data.

Simplification – and notification of changes to policies in a way that updates the label, not just a bunch of legalese – is a start towards helping consumers make their own decisions about what products to use, to trust. And would aid digital literacy. [sidenote, can we stop calling it “digital literacy” – characterizing those who don’t live and breather the minutiae of tech as illiterate is *NOT* a great way to encourage learning or show respect]

So whether it’s Apple or the US Govt who takes the lead, let’s get a simplified, standardized way to present digital nutrition data.