Pinterest: the database of intentions

This was everywhere last week, but in case you missed it, Alexis Madrigal's Atlantic interview with Pinterest co-founder Evan Stone is a great read, particularly if you buy into Benedict Evan's notion that we're in the pre-pagerank phase of mobile internet usage.

My contention is that Pinterest is one of the four ways that people find things on the Internet. The default, of course, is Googling (or—fine, Microsoft—Binging). For real-time searches, there is Twitter. For people or entities, there's Facebook. But if what you want to find are things, objects, then Pinterest is the way to go.

They cover a lot of topics, including about Pinterest's product differentiation; the balance of machine learning versus highly distributed editorial curation; deferring obvious revenue models as the value to consumers is still taking shape; and much more.

Ignore social media marketing*

* with some exceptions.

A great post from Jason Stoddard about the impact of traditional media coverage, with some very entertaining (and potentially controversial, in many circles) digressions on social media marketing, specifically:

  • If you’re an entertainment company, social marketing is the greatest thing since sliced cheese. It should absolutely be front and center in your plans. Every entertainment social media program we did produced 10-100x the results of an equivalent investment in conventional media
  • If you’re not an entertainment company, social marketing is really, really dumb—easily the biggest time-sink and resource-eater out there, with returns 1/10 to 1/100 of an equivalent investment in conventional media


Sorry, guys. People are on Facebook to talk to friends. Not shills.
They’re watching YouTube for funny cat videos, not smooth-talking tours of your factory set to some hip music.
They’re on Twitter to get celebrity tweets.
Et cetera. If you want to talk to your prospects effectively:
  1. Clearly communicate the unique benefits of your products on a good, easy-to-use website.
  2. Have a memorable brand.
  3. Provide fast responses to any inquiries.
  4. Take care of customer service before it spreads to Facebook.
  5. Make sure the press (online and off) know when you have something new and cool, but otherwise stay out of their face.
  6. Invest carefully in measurable marketing vehicles such as Adwords, reinvest in successful vehicles and revise or discontinue underperforming ones.
  7. Continue improving your product so someone doesn’t have a clear, unique benefit over you before you know it.
And that is that. Social media will take care of itself, at that point.
“But wait, does that mean we can pretty much ignore social media?” you ask.
To be blunt: yes.
This "ignore social media" advice is even more relevant if you are a business-to-business company—that is, selling products or services to businesses. Do not spend a single second on social media. Concentrate on the 7 points above. Don’t dismiss 1 and 2 because you’re B2B. And you’re done.

It's a great piece and worth a full read.

Via Marco Arment.

Brand management and technology

Essential piece by Ben Thompson about how technology is changing brands and branding. He touches on the implications of lower barriers to entry:

it is significantly easier today to get a startup off the ground; however, that actually means startups need more venture capital, not less, because the real challenge is marketing and/or sales (and thus, by extension, venture capital is bifurcating between very large and very small)

and e-commerce:

dominating shelf space was a core part of their strategy, and while I’m no mathematician, I’m pretty sure dominating an infinite resource is a losing proposition. What matters now is dominating search.

Great thinking and writing (as, by the way, are his very reasonably priced daily updates).

Sent from my wireless device.

I've recently found myself typing "Sent from my wireless device" at the end of an email sent from my desktop. It's shorthand for "You know this is just email, right?"

Some people react to perceived tone in email, a medium in which we compose in a hurry, usually while distracted. Emails that are written for the optimal distribution of information can seem terse, almost dismissive; and can provoke emotional reactions that get in the way of actual work.

We all need to remind one another that emails are not letters. The best email writers are careful and reread before hitting 'send' – but if you're spending hours composing emails, with sensitivity for tone instead of clarity, selecting synonyms to avoid every possibility of slight, then you're probably doing it wrong. Instead, try this: include some cues that, hey, this is email: don't read too much into it. The occasionally spelling or grammatical error, provided that it does not obscure meaning, serves the same function.

Posted from my wireless device.


A pretty simple concept (obviously based on #homescreen2014). One Billy shelf* (that's 30 inches of space) – what will you put on it?


Here's the full list, in rough sequence of when-I-read-them, from left to right:

  • Love in Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson by Alan Greenberg
  • Light in August by William Faulkner
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Essential Hemingway (mostly for The Sun Also Rises; but also the vignettes in In Our Time) by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Selected Poems by Ezra Pound (really only for Cathay; I will someone would publish this in a lovely little pocket edition)
  • Howl by Alan Ginsberg (honestly, it's in there)
  • Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • 'Exterminate All the Brutes' by Sven Lindqvist
  • Beyond a Boundary by C. L. R. James
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje
  • Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Seven Nights by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
  • On Photography by Susan Sontag
  • Chekhov's Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
  • Collected Stories by Isaac Babel (really only for Odessa Tales)
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion
  • There's No Such Thing as Free Speech by Stanley Fish
  • The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand
  • Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Ecology of Fear by Mike Davis
  • Holy Land by D. J. Waldie
  • The Control of Nature by John McPhee
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen
  • Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • Crime / Guilt by Ferdinand von Schirach

I'm assuming this is a repeat-every-five-years type of exercise, rather than an annual event. With that in mind, these are the books that fell off the shelf, through realistically most of them could easily make a comeback next time around.

  • From Hell by Alan Moore
  • The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens
  • The Beat Reader
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The White Album by Joan Didion
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Live at the Apollo by Douglas Wolk
  • A slightly thicker edition of Huck Finn

* Why a Billy shelf, rather than say 24 titles (i.e. the same severe limit that an iPhone screen has on the number of apps)? I feel like a shelf is the basic unit of measure for books, instead of a screen; but I think we should allow an e-reader screen or reading app screen. I do read in both formats, but interestingly – and worryingly – nothing I had read digitally seemed to make the grade this time around. I'm sure some audiobooks might have made the cut if I'd been more diligent about this exercise.