Dustin Curtis

Designer, hacker, investor, nomad. Never satisfied. Deeply flawed.

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A friend recently sent me this quote from Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive who was killed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake. For some reason, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

WHILE CLIMBING CARSTENZ PYRAMID, the tallest mountain in Oceania, a fellow climber fell, lost a lot of her blood, and nearly died of hypothermia. Had we returned on the 6 day trek through the jungle that we used on the way in, she would have certainly died. To rescue her, I smuggled her through Grasberg Mine, the largest gold mine in the world. Along the way, we risked being shot by mercenaries, had our friends kidnapped and held hostage, and then were ultimately arrested and imprisoned inside a jail inside the gold mine. And I was on Mt Everest this year when an ice serac fell into the icefall and killed all but my team on the mountain. Afterwards we executed body recovery and then climbed back down...

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The Moment of Awe

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life occurred on the morning of January 9th, 2007 as I was watching Steve Jobs introduce the original iPhone. The moment fundamentally changed the way I think about technology, and I still often think about it when putting new things into perspective. No, it wasn’t the moment Jobs introduced the phone itself. It wasn’t when he revealed what it looked like. It wasn’t even when he initially showed off the software. The moment of awe occurred when he placed his finger on the screen and flicked it upward:

The content on the screen moved up, as you’d expect, but then it continued to move after he lifted his finger off the screen! It was like magic. It feels ridiculous to think about this today, because touch-scrolling with momentum has become so ingrained in our use of mobile devices, but true kinetic scrolling was a revolutionary innovation...

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What happened to Apple’s industrial design team?

It seems as though every major division at Apple has been running at full-power for the past couple of years–the raw technology coming out of the company has been truly remarkable: its A-series chips are the fastest and most secure smartphone SOCs in the world, the iPhone has the best smartphone camera in the world, the iPad has one of best computer displays ever shipped, and iOS 10 is a huge improvement over its predecessor. For most of Apple, the slow march of technological progress continues on unrelenting. But one team hasn’t been pulling its weight, at least publicly: industrial design.

The first time I held an iPhone 4, I knew it was something magical. A group of people had clearly spent an incredible amount of time obsessing over its design and construction. The iPhone 4/5 series felt less like a piece of obsoletable technology and more like a well-made tool that should last...

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The Svbtle Promise

Today, we’re launching a new feature for Svbtle members: it’s a promise that the Svbtle service and your published content will remain available on the web forever. You can read the details here: Svbtle Promise →

One of the biggest downsides of investing time and energy into using a new startup’s service is the nearly inevitable fact that, at some point, that startup will likely be acquired and shut down, transitioned into something entirely different, or even completely fail. The data from millions of users ends up being either lost entirely or the users themselves are forced to waste countless hours transitioning to a new service with similarly questionable longevity. I’ve always considered this one of my top hesitations for trying cool, innovative new services. As it turns out, that’s a major concern of many potential customers of Svbtle, too.

Hopefully, with the Svbtle Promise, we...

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The minute you believe that the past was better, your present becomes second-hand, and you yourself become vintage.

– Karl Lagerfeld

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It drives itself


Over Christmas, I was lucky enough to spend some time with a brand new, fully-loaded Tesla Model S P90D. I picked it up in the middle of San Francisco and drove it uneventfully through the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge. As I entered the open highway, a new icon appeared on the car’s minimalist dashboard–a little steering wheel. When I pulled back on the cruise control stick twice, there was a pleasant beep, and then, as if by magic, the vehicle was driving itself. It perfectly turned with the curves of the road, and slowed and sped to maintain a perfect distance from the cars in front of it. It even handled stop-and-go traffic perfectly. I took my hands off the steering wheel and watched. The car was driving itself.

I remember reading the initial reviews of Tesla’s “Autopilot” functionality and thinking that it sounded cool. Even the review videos looked cool. But actually...

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Fixing Twitter

Tech analyst Startup L. Jackson believes that Twitter’s Product is Fucking Fine and that the company’s next CEO needs to simply give the current team some room to get stuff done. No. I think Twitter badly needs to do at least five things to address imminent existential threats–things which its current team has tried and spectacularly failed to accomplish. Investor/cowboy Chris Sacca recently wrote about What Twitter Can Be; below I outline what I think Twitter should have been yesterday–and how its team has proven an inability to address or even identify these threats over the past three years.

First, for normal users, Twitter feels too much like a one-way broadcast system. It needs to feel more like a community, with meaningful two-way interaction. Right now, a reply to Justin Bieber by a 16-year-old fangirl goes into the ether, never to be seen again. There is zero incentive in the...

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Twitter CFO Anthony Noto privately analyzes Facebook

I’m surprised that more of the fascinating emails revealed by WikiLeaks about Snapchat have not been publicized. Below is one of my favorites. Twitter’s future CFO Anthony Noto sent a fairly detailed analysis of Facebook’s Q1 2014 earnings to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel in April, 2014. Noto became Twitter’s CFO two months later.

From: “Noto, Anthony” Anthony.Noto@gs.com

Date: April 24, 2014 at 9:01:27 AM EDT

To: “‘evan@snapchat.com’” evan@snapchat.com

Subject: Perspective on FB

Like we discussed last night the headline growth rate of 72% yoy with ad revenue accelerating to 82% yoy growth is remarkable at this scale and should be a real positive for the sector.

Just finished doing a deep dive on FB results

The exact opposite trend drove results than what we discussed last night. of ad impressions actually decline by 17% year over year and was off set by revenue per impression being...

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In mobile, disruption comes from above

The always-amazing Benedict Evans on patterns of disruption in mobile:

You can see this basic story over and over again in the history of the technology industry. The future always comes looking like a toy. But right now the tech industry is being reset by the mobile, and in mobile, disruption tends to work the other way around. The new thing tends to arrive looking like an expensive luxury for rich people, doing far more than any normal person would need. But over time it gets cheaper, and the new, unnecessary characteristics turn out to be very necessary, and the the old, cheaper, less capable model gets squashed.

This kind of ‘reverse disruption’ also happens with other advanced, expensive hardware technology products like the automobile, the computer, the television, etc. But the bottom-up disruption pattern is way more common, and almost universally true for applications of those...

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Dick Costolo talks to Farhad Manjoo

Dick Costolo “talked” to Farhad Manjoo today, who was only able to ask one tough question:

In a recent earnings report, you said Twitter had 288 million active users a month — only a few million more than in the quarter before. Do you worry that Twitter doesn’t have a broad appeal?

Everyone wants to know and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their world and be connected and know what’s going on. That’s what Twitter provides. So I think that irrespective of whether you want to tweet, everyone can get value out of Twitter right away.

Interesting question with unfortunate phrasing. The answer is definitely true. But I wonder what he really thinks.

Also strange that Costolo continues to reference Twitter’s bizarre run-on strategy statement with, “Everyone wants to know and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their world and be connected and know what’s going on.” You’d think they...

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