Changing the Game: Charting a Path Beyond Comment Threads

Innovation Challenge logo

Is it a “game changer?” Not every entry we support will be, but we should all be looking for ones that may be.

— from the review criteria for the Knight Foundation/Mozilla Beyond Comment Threads innovation challenge

Some consistent themes are emerging from the excellent Beyond Comment Threads suggestions, pointing to a radically different user experience from today.   Here’s the new world people are describing:

It seems to me that an API and a family of open-source implementations (in Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, .NET on the server side and HTML5 on the client) supporting all of this, with accessibility and multi-lingual support designed in from the beginning, would be a great project for the innovation challenge to support.  And there are a couple things I’d add to it as well:

  • support for various business models including subscription, advertising, sponsorship, app sales, etc.. A great discussion area should be a profit center for a news organization, and participating actively in comments should be a way for small businesses to help promote their products and for participants to help their careers
  • designed and implemented by a diverse team, and with a goal of prioritizing diversity — something along the lines of Dreamwidth’s diversity statement and How would Quora be different if it prioritized diversity? Many discussion forums today are dominated by a handful of loud voices and/or overwhelmingly male.  Diversity’s like security, you can’t add it in after the fact, so it’s crucial to design it in from the beginning.

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The agile approach to a one-page executive summary, part 1: Getting started (DRAFT)

Update, February 2: Final version posted on NWEN’s blog.

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“Tissue turgor” and pink elephants: about Y Combinator (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Work in progress! Feedback welcome

y combinator logo

One advantage startups have over established companies is that there are no discrimination laws about starting businesses. For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon. Whereas when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with.

— Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, in How to Start a Startup

Christopher Steiner’s The Disruptor in the Valley in Forbes discusses how this essay, along with Paul’s Harvard talk, eventually inspired red-hot technology incubator YC. He doesn’t include this quote, alas, and also doesn’t mention the reports in the Mercury News and Wall Street Journal of YCs #diversityfail or Tereza Nemessanyi’s XX Combinator.  I guess they didn’t fit  in with the article’s subtitle: “Paul Graham’s Y Combinator has stormed Silicon Valley and pioneered a better way to build a company.”

YC has indeed had a huge impact.   Christopher reports that YC typically puts about $15-$20K into the companies in return for a 5% equity stake; with over 400 companies in their portfolio they’re a powerful force in the tech startup world.  With the help of a lot of gushing coverage in the TechCrunch and their buddies in the tech press, 30 of their of the 36 startups in the most recent crop incubator have gotten funding since Demo Day in August, many of them over $1 million.   Collusion is soooo hot these days so it’s as good a time for a fluff piece as any.

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A showcase as a social media opportunity: thoughts for First Look Forum participants and others (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Work in progress, feedback welcome!
Revised version to appear on the NWEN blog

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“Angelgate”: Collusion is so hot right now

Scully and Mulder from the X Files

There is an angel conspiracy.

It dark, it is devious, and it is far-reaching.

The conspirators number amongst them many of the top people in the Valley, including angels, VCs, lawyers, and yes, even journalists.

We have joined together despite our differences and conflicts for a single, sinister, self-interested purpose.

To get your attention.

— Angel Investor/Entrepeneur Chris Yeh, on VentureBeat and Adventures in Capitalism

Maybe Michael Arrington of TechCrunch really did stumble into a conspiracy of “collusion and price-fixing”, with Silicon Valley super-angels conspiring in SF’s trendy Bin 38 to fend of the threat of Y-Combinator, drive down valuations, and push VCs out of the picture. Then again maybe he’s just stirring things up prior to next week’s TechCrunch Disrupt VC/Super-angel smackdown.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal covers it well on PC World; Rosa Goligan’s got a three-paragraph summary Shady Meetings, Unlawful Acts, and One Ballsy Blogger in Gizmodo.

bin38 as a circle jerk

Yeah really. Mathew Ingram’s got a roundup on GigaOm quoting Chris, Dave, Bryce, Fred, Ryan, Andrew, and Mark.   Techmeme’s got links to most of them as well as Henry, Marc, Chris, Mathew, Ashkan, Alex, Alan, Stowe, Dean and Mark — see the comments for a screenshot. And On Google, I found links to Patricio, John, Mike, Chris, Ben, Dan, and Gautham … hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here.
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A #diversitywin as an opportunity: Women talking with women (and a few guys too) at the #wwt TeleSummit (UPDATED)

Women Who Tech

Slides from the TeleSummit are available on Slideshare

The speaker list for today’s sold-out Women Who Tech TeleSummit is amazing, amazing, amazing …  @jillfoster, @digitalsista, @blogdiva, @missrogue, @randomdeanna, @conniereece along with TeleSummit organizer Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaigns (aka @WomenWhoTech), and that’s just the first hour!

There are some guys speaking as well at this year’s event, including @clayshirky and @kevinmarks along with @maryhodder, @lynneluvah, and @WomenWhoTech examining how people in a position of power judge and promote others on the Self-promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender? panel.  And I’m particularly psyched about Building the ultimate user experience, including experience goddess @ooonie of IfWeRanTheWorld (which I just blogged about in Emo-ware: What does emotional software look like? and If She Ran the World …)

Some of the other great topics include launching your own startup, diversifying your tech teams, and female ferocity.  And then there are afterparties in DC, New York, and SF. Maybe next year we can do one in Seattle too 🙂

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Women in tech startups: how each of us can help change the ratio, parts 2 and 3 (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Feedback welcome!

Part of a series for NWEN’s blog

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Links from the Arrington/TechCrunch women in tech kerfuffle (UPDATED)

WWII image of a woman: Yes we can!Even over the three-day weekend here in the US we continue to see some excellent discussions, for example Qworky advisor Gayle Laakmann’s Blame Men — And Women and Audrey Watters’ “Ambient Un-belonging” Arrington’s got another post up too.

Looking ahead, the Women In Tech teleconference on September 15 includes TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde is on the “Female Ferocity” panel.  There’s the sold-out Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta at the end of the month.  And late last week, Arrington tweeted that they were going to add an all-women panel to TechCrunch Disrupt to discuss “women’ issues”.*   So I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this …

Hopefully as we move forward, as well a continued focus on the underlying issues and realities of structural biases against women and minorities, we’ll also see a lot more discussion about what people can do. Mary’s Where to after the required reading? on Geek Feminism asks for suggestions.  I’ve got a draft response in What each of us can do; feedback welcome.

In any case I thought it would be useful to collect the links to what’s been written so far.  It’s really striking how much good stuff there’s been on blogs and Twitter (I collected some of the tweets that caught my eye in various comments in another thread**) so hopefully the list it’ll be valuable to anybody else writing about it.

First though, in a comment that the Arrington’s of the world will no doubt dismiss as pandering, I’d like to take a moment and express my admiration for the women in technology who have been doing such great work to change the ratio.  The women I know who speak out on gender equity aren’t “whiners”, as they’re so often dismissed by people who don’t want to hear what they’re saying.   They’re remarkably successful despite the huge biases against them, and somehow manage to find time for diversity work in addition to having careers, friendships, and often families.

Of course they’re frustrated when privileged guys who clearly haven’t looked at the problem in any detail deny there’s a problem, attack women and allies, and disclaim responsibility — and who can blame them?  Despite that, though, they’re a remarkably positive group … and with good reason: they’ve invested a huge amount of time and effort here over the years and it’s really starting to pay off.

So kudos and respect to you all.  I’m impressed by what you’ve accomplished and proud to know you  And thanks, too: the technology world is a much more pleasant for your efforts!

And you know, stuff like this makes a big difference. There was a very encouraging episode late last week in response to Chiara Atik’s Guest of a Guest article on TechStars New York’s ratio of 46 male mentors and only two women. When Cindy Gallop brought it up on Twitter, David Tisch of TechStars quickly reached out.  Props  all around. More of this please!

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Women in technology startups: a few things each of us can do (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Work in progress, feedback welcome!
revised version intended as a two-part series on NWEN’s blog

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Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan: the Arrington kerfuffle and women in tech

also cross-posted on Feminism 2.0

WWII image of a woman: Yes we can!

Success in Silicon Valley, most would agree, is more merit driven than almost any other place in the world. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what politics you support or what color you are….  Statistically speaking women have a huge advantage as entrepreneurs.

Michael Arrington in TechCrunch

Privileged much? *

The lastest firestorm about women and entrepeneurship got kicked off by Shira Ovide’s excellent Wall Street Journal article Addressing the Lack of Women Running Tech Startups.   Shira’s article has some fine quotes from Dina Kaplan, Yuli Ziv, and Fred Wilson, and this from Rachel Sklar of Change the Ratio:

Part of changing the ratio is just changing awareness, so that the next time Techcrunch is planning a Techcrunch Disrupt, they won’t be able to not see the overwhelming maleness of it.

I thought it was a great read.  But not everybody agreed.

TechCrunch: Too Few Women In Tech? Stop Blaming The Men. Or At Least Stop Blaming Me.

Every damn time we have a conference we fret over how we can find women to fill speaking slots. We ask our friends and contacts for suggestions. We beg women to come and speak. Where do we end up? With about 10% of our speakers as women.

Oh please.  Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan.

Yes, it’s hard.  Stop whining.  Take some responsibility.

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Go Seattle! The Innovate 100 Pitch Slam at pii2010

pii2010 logopii2010 (privacy identity innovation) got off to a fine start yesterday with a great opening reception and the Innovate 100 Seattle Pitch Slam.  While a few of the participants were from the Bay Area, Seattle-area startups Optify, InternMatch, and Pathable took the top three spots, with Tweetajob and IdeaScale also representing well.  Go Seattle!

And props to the Innovate 100 team and pii2010 for getting a more diverse group of participants than we often see in events like this.  As well as good racial diversity, two of the speakers were women — quite a contrast to the all-male feel of TechStars, Y Combinator, or last spring’s NWEN First Look Forum.

Shameless plug: speaking of the First Look Forum, we’ve extended the application deadline for the fall event to August 23.  If you’re an early-stage startup, please check it out!  If you’re thinking of applying, there’s some tips here and here.

The pitch slam started with a one-minute “Quick Pitch” competition, with Secret123, Puzzazz, Open Mobile, aNEWSme, wishpot, and InternMatch competing for the last open spot in the finals.  I was impressed by how well most of the presenters conveyed what they were doing in just 60 seconds.  The crowd went wild after InternMatch’s dramatic reveal at the end of their minute: the person giving the presentation was actually an intern!  Gotta love that.   So it wasn’t at all surprising that they moved on to the finals.

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Seattle Geek Week: a Pitch Slam, a Tweetup, pii2010, and more!

This is “Geek Week” in Seattle .  Yeah, yeah, every week is geek week here, but this is especially geeky with pii2010, gnomedex, and a host of other events.  Thea Chard’s got a good overview in XConomy.

I’ll be at a couple of events on Tuesday, August 17, and probably more later in the week.  Please let me know if you’d like to sync up.

  • at 4:30 in the Bel Harbor conference center, it’s the pii2010 opening reception followed by the the Innovate 100 Seattle Pitch Slam is on August 17.  Innovate 100 is run by Guidewire Group, which includes Chris Shipley (best known for DEMO); they’ve already done over a dozen in Eastern Europe, and this is just the second one in the US.  Judges include Rebecca Lovell of NWEN and Fran Meier of TRUSTe.  I don’t know details but it looks very interesting.  It’s $40 to attend, and if you’re looking for an interesting window on innovation or a good networking opportunity, it could be a good deal.
  • at 8:30, pii2010 and NWEN and the CFP coference are having an impromptu tweetup somewhere in Belltown.  We’re still finalizing the location; look for more info on the #nwen and #pii2010 hashtags on Twitter.  It’s no cost to attend (in this context, “Tweetup” is code for “everybody buys their own drinks”), so if you’re a night owl, come join us.

Speaking of NWEN, if you’ve been considering applying to the First Look Forum, we’ve pushed the deadline back to August 23 to better align with Geek Week.  Rebecca Lovell’s Help us Help You: The Art of the One-Page App on the NWEN blog has some very helpful advice.

And speaking of pii2010 (privacy identity innovation), if you’re doing anything related to online identity, privacy, or the social web, by all means check it out.   It’s pii’s first year, and they’ve got a really exciting program.  The pitch slam is one of several other things going on their, including a Startup BootCamp on Thursday at the space needle.   There’s a lot more information at … see you there, perhaps



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