This came up in conversation tonight and I figured I’d post it. Whenever people talk about design constraints I always think of the scene in LA Story where Trudi talks about how she chooses jewelry:
One of the first things I always teach my clients is about the point system. You should never have more than seven things on. You know, like your earrings count for two points, those daisies count for three points. But the best thing to do is, right before you go out, look in the mirror and turn around real fast, and the first thing that catches your eye, get rid of it. I mean, I had this thing in my hair before I left, remember? And I pulled it right out, ‘cause as soon as I turned, gone! Marilyn Monroe did that.
Tried to find it on YouTube but didn’t have the patience. If anyone tracks it down leave a comment and I’ll add it.
A decade or so later, Charles MacArthur, writer of a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, asked Chaplin how to make something so tired seem new: “How, for example, could I make a fat lady, walking down Fifth Avenue, slip on a banana peel and still get a laugh? It’s been done a million times,” MacArthur asked. “Do I show first the banana peel, then the fat lady approaching, then she slips? Or do I show the fat lady first, then the banana peel, and then she slips?” Chaplin’s answer: “Neither. You show the fat lady approaching,” he said. “Then you show the banana peel; then you show the fat lady and the banana peel together; then she steps OVER the banana peel and disappears down a manhole.”
…if you look at the most successful sites which link out — Fark, Reddit, Techmeme, Memeorandum, Drudge (and Drudge above all) — they’re all incredibly ugly. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s actually as much a feature as it is a bug. The ugly is good, because it drives you away. And the reason you go to that website is to be driven away.”
With that in mind, “we’re aggressively anti-pageview,” Salmon says. “We don’t want people to stay on that site. We just want people to go away.”
I’ve been doing a pretty bad job blogging lately. That’s partly because I’m insanely busy with Percolate and partly because I’ve been doing a lot of writing on Percolate. (After all, if you don’t find your own product useful why are you building it?) Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to do a quick link wrapup post over here. If you’re so inclined, here’s another invite code you can use to sign up. On to the links:
I’ve definitely been feeling this as well. It’s like we’ve reached a point where I see more congratulations on Twitter for raising a round of financing than launching a product. Caterina Fake nails it here: “I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs in their 20s who are knowledgeable about the valuations various Y Combinator startups have attained, know the names of all the angel investors in the Valley, have in-depth knowledge of the Facebook diaspora and their doings, have opinions on various Zynga acquisitions, and know exactly how to get Andrew Mason on the line…it boggles the mind. These are good things to have in your tool kit. But I want to hear about things out there that they love. About loving the thing they’re building. There’s less of that. Nevertheless, Anil remains ‘optimistic that we can make this mindset the default.’”
The post isn’t terribly interesting, but what they’re sunsetting is (to me at least). Most notworthy in my mind (though probably not in anyone else’s) is Image Labeler. For those that don’t remember, it was a computer teaching game where two people in different places teamed up and tried to come up with the same label/tag for whatever photo they were looking at collectively. Score was based on how many photos your team could get (successfully gave the same label). I know it wasn’t a big initiative, but I think research games are super interesting (I thought of Brand Tags in this category) and this was a great example.
Just an amazing article on how Oregon has used fancy uniforms to attract recruits and rise to the top ranks of college football (they’re on TV right now as a matter of fact). Love this quote from Phil Knight: “The whole thing happens on TV now … The final game of the NCAA basketball tournament is better than any runway in Paris for launching a shoe. Kids climb up next to the screen to see what the players are wearing.” This is a fascinating look at the power of branding.
I wrote 1,000 words on this tonight that I’m not sure what to do with. The gist of my opinion is that most agencies don’t make their own stuff because they can’t. For all the talk about ad campaigns becoming more like products, they’re very different things and the culture/structure of agencies just isn’t very well oriented for building products which require long-term commitment and ability to put off a payoff for long periods of time. Obviously digital agencies are better positioned to do this than traditional ones as they tend to employ more makers and building products on the web is a hell of a lot cheaper than building products for any other medium. At the end of the day, though, agencies are not inventors, they are diffusors: Their core competency is in how to convince people to buy products, not how to build them. Digital agencies are getting closer, but they’re still a long ways off. Many of my thoughts are in this post I wrote last year about innovation.
This is actually an update to a paper I linked to three years ago about the best strategy for boarding an airplane. Not surprisingly it’s not the way they’re doing it now. In the end, “He found that the most efficient boarding method is to board alternate rows at a time, beginning with the window seats on one side, then the other, minimizing aisle interference. The window seats are followed by alternate rows of middle seats, then aisle seats. He also found that boarding at random is faster that boarding by blocks.”
This is a counterpoint to Fred Wilson’s “User’s First, Brands Second” that essentially argues a) that this strategy has left many startups with no business model down the road and b) one of the examples Wilson uses in Foursquare actually had a pretty good brand/business strategy from day one and leveraged that for user growth.