Dustin Curtis

Designer, hacker, investor, nomad.

Page 3


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

– Karl Lagerfeld

View →

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...

Continue reading →

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...

Continue reading →

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...

Continue reading →

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...

Continue reading →

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...

Continue reading →


Most revolutionary new technologies follow a similar evolutionary path from utility to fashion.

When the automobile was first mass produced in the early 1900s, it was practically impossible to use and literally impossible for most people to purchase. It was horribly underpowered by any comparative standard except the horse. For the first thirty years or so, the car slowly improved in style, power, and comfort. Each new model was principally defined by its technological improvement–slightly better performance, more comfortable interior, or lower cost. By 1935, the car was more or less feature-complete. By then, the entire Oldsmobile line had electric starters, comfortable transmissions, and a well-sealed passenger cabin.

It was in the mid 1940s that something remarkable happened: buyers of cars transitioned from focusing on features–like horsepower and suspension design–to exterior...

Continue reading →

Nick Denton’s Crisis Letter to Gawker

Nick Denton runs Gawker Media, one of the last bastions of truly independent online media in the world. And despite healthy traffic growth during the past year, Denton thinks 2014 was a year of vague regression for Gawker: not true growth, but rather a slow devolution of voice and rigor. Denton wants to see Gawker as the leader of truth and honesty in online media, but his competition is Top Ten Nip Slips from Buzzfeed. When your product is ostensibly intellectual, how do you compete with hits of cocaine? Gawker finds itself today in a tough place, where the challenges are new and unusual.

The letter below, which Denton sent to all Gawker Media employees today, faintly reminds me of the ones sent by Jeff Katzenberg to Disney in 1991 and John Walker to Autodesk in 1983. Every once in a while, you have shake things up. And the announcement has to be as inspiring as the shakeup itself. I...

Continue reading →

Amazon’s Echo Chamber

I used to give Amazon’s consumer hardware strategy the benefit of the doubt. I liked the original e-ink Kindles, even though they were made out of cheap plastic. I kind of understood the first Kindle Fire tablet, even though it was a piece of junk. But as Amazon has released more and more pieces of junk over the past couple of years, I’ve lost faith. The Fire Phone, for example, is not just bad; it’s so terrible that it’s dishonest of Amazon to sell it to anyone. There are zero people on Earth who would be better off owning a Fire Phone instead of an Android phone. I’m not exaggerating–go find one to play with, and you’ll understand. The hardware is abysmal and the software is embarrassing. You would have to be delusional as a manager to launch it and tell people that it is a well-made phone. What does that say about Amazon’s consumer-side brand and strategy?

It’s extremely hard for me...

Continue reading →

Privacy vs. User Experience

Apple is going to realize very soon that it has made a grave mistake by positioning itself as a bastion of privacy against Google, the evil invader of everyone’s secrets. The truth is that collecting information about people allows you to make significantly better products, and the more information you collect, the better products you can build. Apple can barely sync iMessage across devices because it uses an encryption system that prevents it from being able to read the actual messages. Google knows where I am right now, where I need to be for my meeting in an hour, what the traffic is like, and whether I usually take public transportation, a taxi, or drive myself. Using that information, it can tell me exactly when to leave. This isn’t science fiction; it’s actually happening. And Apple’s hardline stance on privacy is going to leave it in Google’s dust.

In a recent public letter about...

Continue reading →