Monthly Archives: October 2009

Dislike

The ability to moderate comments and user created content on a website is not a new technology. Slashdot has had comment moderation for over a decade. As the ability to vote on user generated content has grown more popular, so too has the inability to vote down or “dislike.”

The most common example is Facebook, which introduced a “like” button, which was really just a ripoff from Friendfeed. While Facebook is the most widely known case, I find the lack of moderating down comments on Yelp even more annoying.

On Yelp people will write reviews that are completely idiotic. A negative review because the restaurant was busy, or because the weather was bad, or because it was a chain. Yelp only gives people the ability to “compliment” a review, so moronic reviews never get put in their place.

Has our society become so insecure, that we cannot take honest feedback when it comes to our online contributions? Does every child get a medal? Life is a two-way street; online moderation should be the same way.

The marketplace for startup funding is something that has always fascinated me. Venture capitalists seem to behave like trendsetting hipsters trying to go to the next “it” club. Once the new “it” business plan is identified, VC’s will gladly fund mediocre startups that resemble or piggyback to “it” regardless of their potential for long term viability.

In the mid to late 90’s “it” was any business plan that involved e-commerce. You could write a business plan to sell dogshit online, and “it” would probably get funded. The Napster phenomenon caused a funding frenzy towards P2P startups, even though their potential for revenue was mediocre at best. The success of Myspace caused a funding boom for anything to do with social networking, even though that business model is extremely questionable. Today, the “it” trend is probably cloud computing.

Venture capitalists are like hipsters looking for the next “it” nightclub, but most of the time they end up with a bunch of “me too” companies that go nowhere, but get funded with buzzword laden business plans. Some of the most successful startups in the history of technology are boring companies in established markets.

Was there really anything exciting about Google? Search was already being done by 20 different players in the late 90’s. Search was boring. I’m surprised they didn’t get passed over in order for a VC to fund the next Pointcast screensaver.

The point is that some of the best startups are boring companies, that do boring things, in already proven boring marketplaces.

The Wall Street Journal had a sobering article about the changing face of employment in the United States. Many of the jobs lost during this recession will never return.

The U.S. hasn’t seen a contraction as deep as this one since before World War II, and employers have cut workers faster than history suggested they would even in a recession as deep as this one. Private-sector payrolls today are lower than they were at the end of 1999.

In addition to replacing 7.2 million lost jobs, the economy needs an additional 100,000 a month to keep up with population growth. If the job market returns to the rapid pace of the 1990s — adding 2.15 million private-sector jobs a year, double the 2001-2007 pace — the U.S. wouldn’t get back to a 5% unemployment rate until late 2017, Rutgers University economist Joseph Seneca estimated. And that assumes no recession between now and then. “Even with some very optimistic assumptions, it’s a long road back,” Mr. Seneca said.

Perhaps one bright spot of note is the constant change of employment. Many of the jobs that exist now, did not even exist a decade ago.

In 2003, Treasury Department chief economist Alan Krueger, then at Princeton, calculated that a quarter of U.S. workers at the time were in jobs the Census Bureau didn’t even list as occupations in 1967.

25% of all jobs in this country did not exist a few decades ago. On a personal note, what I do for living did not exist a decade ago. There were very few IT people focusing on datacenter automation, and the commercial use of Linux was in it’s infancy. Time will tell if positions like mine exist twenty years now. However; if there is one positive note about the volatility of the job market, its the fact that five years from now there will be plenty of new positions that do not exist today.