Dustin Curtis

Villain. Founder of Svbtle.

Page 9

Google’s coherent bouquet

Google owns search, but Facebook owns you. Which is more valuable for selling advertising? I think the next generation of finding things on the internet is going to require the use of both ends of the spectrum, and I believe Larry Page thinks Google is in a more serious crisis than many people realize.

A few weeks ago, Page posted something of a manifesto in his 2012 Update from the CEO. It is filled with great snippets of information about Google’s overall strategy and the philosophy currently driving the company. At the highest level, Page makes a statement about Google’s seemingly disparate products, which becomes a running theme through the rest of his letter:

Creating a simpler, more intuitive experience across Google has been another important focus. I have always believed that technology should do the hard work—discovery, organization, communication—so users can do what makes

Continue reading →

No meaningful revenue

Facebook updated its IPO registration statement with information about the Instagram acquisition deal structure ($300M in cash, and 23 million shares). But something else caught my eye, that I glossed over the last time I read it: in the strategy section, after mentioning the Instagram deal:

We believe that mobile usage of Facebook is critical to maintaining user growth and engagement over the long term, and we are actively seeking to grow mobile usage, although such usage does not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue.

I think Facebook is terrified of the usage transition from desktop PCs to mobile. A billion dollars for Instagram, as an insurance policy to guarantee that the company will have an anchor in content creation on mobile, is worth every penny.

Revenue from mobile, at this stage, is practically worthless. It might even be less than worthless, because

Continue reading →

The compounding returns of intelligence

Garry Tan brings this gem from Stephen Cohen, co-founder of Palantir, in a conversation with Peter Thiel and Max Levchin:

We tend to massively underestimate the compounding returns of intelligence. As humans, we need to solve big problems. If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get

Continue reading →

Adobe & HTML

Adobe is doing all sorts of awesome stuff for the web. I wrote this as a comment on the Hacker News thread:

If you’re not a designer, it might be hard to see, but the importance of this work is impossible to overstate. In 10 years, we’ll look back on today and think about how barbaric and stupid it was that we didn’t have re-flowable text in multi-box CSS layouts or absolute control of typefaces on the web.

I have come upon the edge of what CSS is capable of multiple times, especially when building http://dustincurtis.com, and what happened surprised me: after a while, I noticed that I had started to subconsciously alter my designs to fit within the limitations of the display technology. As I realized that the only sane way to build the layouts was to absolutely/manually position every paragraph, I slowly stopped writing and designing the articles. It was just too much work because

Continue reading →

Justin Kan: The Power of Vocabulary

Justin Kan:

When designing a new program, you are forced to come up with names for everything on the backend. Those names then tend to bleed into to common usage among the team, even though there might not be any particular reason to be consistent. For example, at Justin.tv, since we designed the system around streams of live video, we ended up with Users and Channels. When we started saving video for playback later, we naturally called these videos Archives. Now, when we talk about video, we talk about archived vs live, all because of the names we picked to describe objects in the database six years ago. […]

I think having a unique vocabulary has a positive effect towards group cohesiveness.

I’ve noticed this same effect, and that it ends up being a good thing for culture, at every company I have worked with. It’s similar to having a series of inside jokes. At best, the custom

Continue reading →

Nest Labs responds to Honeywell’s thermostat lawsuit

Nest Labs, in an amazing defense against the lawsuit by Honeywell, filed as a civil action in the US District Court of Minnesota,

This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated for decades.

The “blah-looking controller” on the market today is very often from Honeywell, which has long dominated the thermostat market, but has yet to generate a device that offers ordinary consumers as much as the Nest Learning Thermostat. Instead of countering product innovation with its own new products, Honeywell has a track record of responding to innovation with lawsuits and overextended claims of intellectual property violations. Indeed, in a prior intellectual property case Honeywell brought, the court noted that, “whenever Honeywell learned that a competitor was selling or planned to sell a round

Continue reading →

Mark Pincus on failure

Pincus in Bloomberg Businessweek:

I think failing is the best way to keep you grounded, curious, and humble. Success is dangerous because often you don’t understand why you succeeded. You almost always know why you’ve failed. You have a lot of time to think about it.

Continue reading →

Captain’s ‘incompetence’ led to the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship

From the May issue of Vanity Fair:

American captain and nautical analyst John Konrad tells Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough that the ship had already been listing starboard, toward the peninsula. When Schettino dropped the ship’s anchors in an attempt to prevent it from falling farther, he instead created the opposite effect. “You can see they let out too much chain,” Konrad says. “I don’t know the precise depths, but if it was 90 meters, they let out 120 meters of chain. So the anchors never caught. The ship then went in sideways, almost tripping over itself, which is why it listed. If he had dropped the anchors properly, the ship wouldn’t have listed so badly.”

How to explain so fundamental a blunder? Video of the chaos on the bridge that night gives insight into the captain’s state of mind. “You can tell he was stunned,” says Konrad. “The captain really froze. It

Continue reading →

Disney’s Crisis Letter

Twenty years ago, in January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney’s film studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry.

The recent release of the big-budget Dick Tracy movie had been a disappointment and, as a result, Katzenberg was desperate to recapture the magic of old and rid his studio of their extremely costly “blockbuster mentality.” This fascinating, highly quotable memo was his mission statement. Its subsequent circulation in Hollywood caused a huge stir.

Continue reading →

James Cameron meets Neil deGrasse Tyson

Titanic is about to be re-released in theaters, at 4K resolution and in stereoscopic 3D. The entire film has been “remastered,” but only a single scene was changed. James Cameron, speaking to Culture:

Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, at that position in the Atlantic, in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen. And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in.

So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15th, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie.’ So that’s the one shot that has been changed.”

I wonder how much work it took to make that change.

Continue reading →