If you can see this, you’ve made it — I moved SplatF to a new host on Wednesday.
Long story short, Dreamhost — which has actually been a solid, reliable host for my personal sites for almost a decade — wasn’t cutting it anymore for this site. Too much downtime and flakiness for what I was paying them for a virtual private server. So I’m trying out a new server at Linode, which I hope will be more reliable and faster.
Thanks for your patience, and apologies in advance if there are any quirks.
Clarity is important to me. (Well, it’s no. 7 on my list of 10 steps to better writing.) I don’t expect everyone to understand everything on this site — some level of business and technical fluency is probably necessary — but I consciously try to avoid jargon, clichés, and business-speak.
Anyway, this “Bizspeak Blacklist” by Bryan A. Garner at Harvard Business Review is pretty great. I already avoid almost all of these terms, such as “core competency” and “impactful” and “at the end of the day”. (Although I have a personal fondness for “paradigm shift” after reading Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions twice in 2000, during a weird part of my life.)
But I’d like to add a few more:
- “bullish” and “bearish” (Tired, obscure.)
- “latest and greatest”
- “value proposition”
- “lifestyle business” (Easy way to sound like a jerk.)
- “it is what it is”
- “tipping point”
- “hockey stick” (Referring to growth.)
- “killer app”
- “remains to be seen” (Though I probably say “We’ll see” and “Who knows” too much.)
I won’t pretend I’m perfect, but please yell at me if I write any of these. And I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list over time.
Update: Here’s another list from the Washington Post, via Jim Romenesko, via Paul Oswald.
Related: 10 Steps To Better Writing
‘Skeuomorphism’ Curiosity Fades Fast:
Looking back on Twitter’s seventh birthday.
Twitter is observing its seventh birthday today — that is, it’s been 7 years since Jack Dorsey’s stirring “just setting up my twttr” tweet. In Twitter’s celebratory blog post, it says it now has “well over 200 million active users creating over 400 million Tweets each day.”
It’s impressive that Twitter is still here and still doing great — an extremely rare success. Twitter has permeated society on a level that only a small handful of tech companies ever have. And it certainly has had several opportunities to screw up.
Here are seven things that might have killed Twitter, but haven’t. (Yet.)
- Irrelevance. This is what kills most companies — they never get traction in the first place. Imagine if Twitter never moved past “just setting up my twttr”-type tweets. (My first was even worse: “giving Twitter a chance”.) Even the early stereotype lunch-summary tweets were something. Now Twitter is all they talk about on TV. And when’s the last time you left the house without seeing a hashtag printed on something? There is, of course, a good chance that Twitter will fade, à la MySpace, Friendster, AIM, etc. But today, it’s still on the way up.
- Competition. Fage was the first Greek yogurt brand to catch on in the U.S., but Chobani zoomed past and now dominates the market. Twitter was one of many simple message-sharing services, and for years, new competitors were often labeled as “Twitter killers” — from Jaiku and Plurk to Friendfeed and Google Wave. Facebook has copied many Twitter features over the years, and Instagram has arguably captured some of Twitter’s potential. But Twitter still stands solid.
- Infrastructure. The “fail whale” was cute but not funny. Twitter’s flakiness could have cost it dearly.
- Leadership. Twitter has had more than its share of leadership changes, including three CEOs in its 7 years. Luckily, it hasn’t had a bad one yet. Dick Costolo — pictured above — has led Twitter very well since taking over for Evan Williams. Many people disagree with some of his small- or mid-sized decisions, but the big-picture plan seems to be working. Twitter’s business is now real and not a punchline. (Twitter also has the benefit and curse of conducting itself more publicly than pretty much any other company — on Twitter, of course.)
- Acquisition. Twitter has had at least a couple chances to sell out, cash in, and become the obligatory social network for some big, potentially clueless company. As I like to say, “Windows Live Chat Bird”. Few of those acquisitions work very well. YouTube is probably the best-case scenario. But Twitter possibly could have been a Bebo, or a MySpace, or worse — toast. It has been smart, ballsy planning to stay independent. (It has helped that enough people have wanted to buy up Twitter stock over the years, so that shareholders who have wanted to sell theirs could do so without the need for an outright “exit”.)
- Distraction. Twitter has made some small mistakes over the years, and has fixed them. But it hasn’t made any really, really big ones yet. Twitter is shipping. And it has grown its feature set, employee ranks, and user base while staying mostly true to its original concept. There was never a foolish plan — that we know of, I guess — to bump the character limit to 280, or to buy a headphone company, or to start manufacturing Twitter-branded VCRs. Twitter’s acquisitions mostly seem to have gone well, and Twitter even turned on advertising without a revolt. Today with Vine, Twitter is now taking on an extracurricular, but I think it’s complementary enough (and small enough) to be digested. This isn’t to say that Twitter shouldn’t dream big or think of ways to maximize its brand and impact. Something involving Twitter and TV actually probably makes a lot of sense. But it also needs to stay focused on what’s made it work so far. And Twitter has generally done that well.
- Ecosystem. Twitter’s early developer base was broad, pioneering, unique, and proud. For a while, I thought one of Twitter’s best possible business models could be to lightly tax all the transmissions flowing through its pipes, the way AT&T or FedEx does. It has since — correctly, probably — focused on building an advertising-based media business. And it has seized considerable control over its ecosystem, from buying Twitter apps like Tweetie and TweetDeck to tightly restricting what developers can do with their software. The tech press has portrayed this with much drama, for various reasons. And it’s still probably too early to tell how things will eventually shake out — this is an area to watch. But so far, Twitter seems fine.
Anyway, happy birthday Twitter. Enjoy the balloons. Because your next project is to reach a billion users — without people getting bored with this thing.
Irresponsible speculation about Google’s management change.
Why is Andy Rubin no longer running the mobile platform he created? Who knows. Probably only a few people know the real reason. Maybe Andy doesn’t even know. This sort of stuff is complicated. Maybe we’ll read about it in Steven Levy’s next book, or maybe we’ll never find out. So it goes.
But even from the outside, it’s easy to see that the Android situation isn’t ideal. Yes, it is the world’s “most popular” mobile phone platform, if you sort by the number of people using it, and that’s an impressive achievement. But it certainly isn’t making the sort of impact — on the world and on Google itself — that it perhaps could or should.
- Android has done little to radically disrupt the mobile industry. The majority of power still belongs to the same telecom operators that ruled five years ago, and many of the same handset/component makers. Google has helped Samsung boringly ascend and has accelerated decline at Nokia and BlackBerry. It has perhaps stopped Apple from selling as many phones as it might in an Android-free world, and has helped prevent Microsoft from gaining a solid foothold in mobile. It has allowed bookstores to create serviceable, semi-popular tablet devices. But phones are still bought and sold pretty much the same way they always have been, for roughly the same price, and wireless service is still something people pay a bunch of money for. There are no free, self-driving phones with ad-subsidized service. There are no hippie P2P data-sharing schemes for unlocked Androids. There are few mobile hardware hobbyists or tinkerers. Many Android users don’t even do anything interesting with their phones. Everything is still so normal, so unremarkable, so un-Googly.
- Android has done little to give Google more power. It has helped maintain Google’s dominant share in mobile search and its early lead in mobile advertising. But you could say that about the iPhone, too. Actually, way too much of the conversation is about how little power Google really has over Android. Samsung famously snubbed the Android brand at its Galaxy S 4 event, and the question seems to be when — not if — it’ll make its own “forked” version of Android to further reduce Google’s influence. Amazon has basically taken all of Google’s hard work and run away with it. In the fast-growing China market, you can guess how much Google services matter. Some of this was by design: Android was launched as something for everyone to tinker with, customize, and use for their own devices. And to some extent, all of this is good for Google — it gets more people using the Internet on more mobile devices, where they’re likely to see Google’s ads. But things have also changed since 2007. If the future of the mobile business relies on services — everything from messages and calendars to cloud storage, media streaming, app stores, and health/fitness — Google needs to assert more control over its platform. (And possibly retract some of the freedoms it has granted.) It’s sometimes on shaky ground now.
- Android has done little to make Google more profitable. If anything, it’s made a huge crater in the balance sheet with the Motorola acquisition. (And has inadvertently made Microsoft a bunch of patent-licensing money, too.) Now, as I argued when the deal was announced, Motorola could actually prove to be an excellent business model for Android, if it can become the dominant Google phone vendor. (Imagine some or all of Samsung’s profits as Google’s, instead.) But so far, that hasn’t happened. Yes, Google is making some money from mobile search and banner ads, YouTube ads, etc. But probably not nearly as much as it could.
What does all this mean? Well, maybe it’s time to do something dramatic and change the rules.
Maybe it’s time to cut back on what gets open-sourced, handed to Samsung and Amazon for free. Maybe it’s time to demand a big chunk of the profits that Google’s work is generating. Maybe it’s time to keep the best stuff for itself, driving profits through Motorola phone sales. Or maybe it’s time for Android to fade away and the next generation of whatever to rise up?
Maybe Larry Page wanted Andy Rubin to do something that he didn’t want to do? Or that Larry didn’t think he could do? Or maybe Andy really just wanted to work on something else with fewer people answering to him. We’ll find out eventually, or not.
Either way, it’d be most surprising now if things just stayed the same.
We’ve seen flight-booking maps before, but this one lets you see where you can afford to fly for “free” on American Airlines frequent-flier miles. Type in your departure and return dates, where you want to go — Europe, Hawaii, Beach, Ski — how many miles you’d like to spend, and boom, it generates a map of places you go.
As The Points Guy notes, there are some quirks and limitations. It would also be nice, for instance, to have some flexibility on dates built in. But in general, I’d like to see more tools like this, not fewer. A good start.