Posted 2 months ago

Hey, White Americans. We Need to Talk.


According to a Pew Research survey, only 37% of white Americans think the events in #Ferguson raise important issues about race.

Okay, fellow white people. We need to talk.

Let me tell you a story: I was an angry punk teenager. Not violent, but I did a shitton of…

Posted 2 years ago

Pinterest’s Minor Misstep - Naiveté, Hubris, or Hot Air?

TechCrunch posted an interesting synopsis today regarding reactions to design changes on Pinterest. To catch you up, the reaction has not been good.

What struck me most was my bewilderment of how the internet’s newest darling could actually let themselves introduce changes that many users would hate. With everything we know about building software, how could this have happened?


One possible scenario is that the good folks at Pinterest just didn’t think their changes would have much of an effect. Changes to whitespace and typeface are bound to get varied responses that can largely be ignored in favor of the design team’s leadership. However, when a change is made to a core piece of experience, such as the featured image functionality on users’ boards, how can you not consider the consequences?

Having worked at many startups, I can tell you that absolutely no change to user experience goes unconsidered. In fact, it is far more likely that hours or days of discussion will go into changes that users never even wind up noticing.


The more likely scenario is that people at Pinterest decided that the change was better™. Just as everyone at a startup thinks a lot about feature and design impact, the strongest personalities and highest people on the org chart invariably dominate the decision-making.

If Pinterest wanted to know what the real impact of their changes might’ve been, finding out would have been easy:

  1. Release changes only to a small percentage of users - the test group
  2. Measure key metrics (e.g. pinning) of test group and control group
  3. Compare changes in key metrics of test group to control group
  4. If change was positive, roll it out; otherwise, roll it back

There, done, a scientific process for avoiding the change of pissing off your users. How long would it have taken to gather that data? A few days at most? Unfortunately, it is rare that such techniques are actually used.

Hot Air

The last scenario is that the negative feedback that TechCrunch amplified into a full-blown article is simply a tiny wisp of negative response to an overwhelmingly benign change. It’s possible that Pinterest did test their changes, the responses did yield positive results, and this is all a bunch of hullabaloo about nothing.

In today’s world of social media and prolific sharing, it’s very possible that a tiny vocal minority was mistaken as representing at mostly-silent majority. This situation is all too common in all news these days and represents one of the most fundamental challenges of our time.

Posted 2 years ago

The Art of the Introduction: 5 Tips

Great connections are the life-blood of the start-up entire world, but while introducing yourself to perfect strangers is both unavoidable and required to be successful, it’s really not taking advantage of the network’s collective knowledge. Far and away the best way to connect is to be introduced.

Asking to be introduced is generally tough - one generally doesn’t know who one should meet. I’ve found the best way to get myself introduced to great people is to contribute my own introductions to the ecosystem. But before doing that:

0. Only make good introductions.

Don’t waste anyone’s time just to feel like an important connector. Moreover and especially, don’t waste the time of the people that trust you - you’ll quickly find that trust fading away. But how do you know if a connection will be good? I try to imagine the conversation: will it be fulfilling around a topic that is important to both parties?

If you’re relatively certain you’re making a good intro, please proceed to suggestions 1 through 5. These are things I do on a regular basis that have resulted in friendships, partnerships, interviews, and employment. In other words, they work - or at least, they work for me.

1. Set the tone.

Is this a friendly introduction? A purely business one? Do you think the introductees should become best of buds or transactional business partners? How you write the introduction email or make the introduction in person sets the tone for how the conversation begins. We’ve all had awkward intros in which the introducer leaves and you’re left staring at the other person in bewilderment - don’t do that to people, it’s not proper.

2. Give background.

In forming a relationship through a mutual connection, it’s very useful to understand how the introducer is connected to the stranger. Revealing your experience with the intro targets gives them instant understanding of each other in relation to you, their only common experience to this point.

3. Don’t just introduce - serenade! - but be honest.

In addition to summarizing my introductees’ stati quo, I always endeavor to quickly highlight their qualities that I admire most. It’s pretty easy to do this - just ask yourself, Why do I respect this person? Your goal is to create a starting point of mutual respect for the new relationship.

However, you should never go overboard. Not all of your friends are the smartest, most experienced, best looking genius on earth. Coming off in your introduction this way is worse than not making the intro at all. Why not over-praise? You’re cheapening your word, damaging your integrity, forcing people into absurd expectations, and creating mutual distrust.

4. Begin the conversation.

When you introduce two people, you need to have a good reason (see point 0), and the reason is that they have something to offer each other. Since you know what that is (this was your idea, after all), make it plain and simple by telling each person what that is. Something simple like “Al here has been breathing virtual worlds for years and Bo is working on an innovative virtual world widget.” There you go, instant conversation with clear values able to be contributed by each party.

5. Get out of the way.

This isn’t about you, so bow out gracefully. Don’t speak for your connections, don’t ask to remain in the conversation (walk away if in person), and don’t expect anything in return. The best feeling in the world is when both individuals get back to you in a week saying how great the connection was - so just let it happen!

So those are my tricks! I’ve not made an inordinate number of introductions, but I have been successful enough to enhance my connections’ lives in extremely gratifying ways. So just ask yourself - which of my connections would have a kick-ass conversation? Then make it happen.