Dalton Caldwell

Partner @ Y Combinator

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The Xbox developer ecosystem

Some fascinating insights from the founder of the Xbox project:

My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.

xBox’s primary critical problem is the lack of a functional and growing platform ecosystem for small developers to sell digitally-/network-distributed (non-disc) content through to the installed base of xBox customers, period.

Throwing money at media companies & marginalizing independent devs: always a winning strategy.

Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world…any lead they feel they have is simply not defensible by licensing...

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3D printing & the future of retail

Marc Andreessen recently made some bold statements about the future of the retail business:

“Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative,” he says. “You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn’t make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves. There is fundamentally a better model.”

I am not sure if I agree with this prediction of his. However, these sentiments have caused me to start thinking about how 3D printing could increase the likelihood of those statements coming true.

The death of music & video retail chains: instructive

Picture the amount of capital and energy it took to create companies that stocked and sold CDs/rented DVDs. In a music or video rental retail location, the...

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OK, Computer

Aside: I have been working on a blogpost about the major label marketing machine during the 90s, and thought of this story. Since this anecdote didn’t fit anywhere in my other post, here it is.

Some background

Radiohead is a band that first gained popularity in the early 1990s. They managed to break out and get heavy radio and MTV support for the single [Creep](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creep_(Radiohead_song). In a lot of ways they were a conventional early 90s band.

Their third album was called OK Computer. This album has been heralded as one of the best records of all time. Seemingly out of the blue, after a couple of conventional records, they came out with something critically and commercially fantastic.

I have heard that the opposite of “jumping the shark” is “growing the beard”. So yes, they grew the proverbial beard.

The anecdote

This is a story I heard from someone that...

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Some thoughts on organizational complexity

Thinking about complexity

Knowledge Representation is a central topic in the field of artificial intelligence. Research in this area tackles the challenge of mapping the external world into simplified, machine-readable models. Creating a sufficiently sophisticated model is as important, if not more, than the algorithmic processing that occurs once the model is built.

The more external states that can be represented in a model, the more complex we could say it is. Simple models can cause people to falsely believe that successful results can easily be “scaled up” to more complex models. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple.

A well-known example of this in AI was the early promise demonstrated by the SHRDLU project:

The result was a tremendously successful demonstration of AI. This led other AI researchers to excessive optimism which was soon lost when later systems attempted to...

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Understanding Like-gate

Several prominent people are up in arms about Facebook charging for access to users who have already Liked their page.

I believe this debate is missing the big picture, and what we are in fact witnessing is the unfurling of the full-fledged Facebook business model. Facebook is showing us how they will cross the chasm from low-CTR low-CPM ad-units into what investors have been waiting for since the beginning: a Facebook analogue to Google Adwords.

The newsfeed optimizer

Picture the firehose of potential newsfeed stories that Facebook could show you. There are undoubtedly candidate stories that newsfeed never shows you originating from people that you have forgotten are on your friends list at all. Why is this? In reality, Facebook is already shipping a sophisticated real-time optimizer. Every time you post a story the algorithm attempts to quantify how interesting it is, and is...

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Breaking Bad, Microsoft, & Ecosystems

Breaking Bad is a television show that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have enjoyed watching the show because of the quality of writing, acting and directing… but there is something else. I have enjoyed watching Breaking Bad because I grew up ~200 miles away from where it is filmed, and thus the backdrop that the story takes place upon is eerily familiar.

The first thing to note is that the main character, Walter White, is a Caltech-educated scientist that previously had worked at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. These are very real and historically important scientific centers. For instance, a large percentage of US rocketry and atomic bomb research and development occurred in this area. Wernher Von Braun himself was based in this vicinity for an extended period during the post-war years.

This ecosystem attracts a great deal of scientific talent to the area...

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Reflections on Startup School

Exactly two years ago, I spoke at Startup School.

It was my first public appearance since the ugly demise of the company I had spent the previous ~7 years building.

To be perfectly honest, I was deeply dreading giving the talk. When Paul Graham first invited me to speak, I pointed out to him that publicly rehashing all of the things I learned about the music business seemed a self-destructive thing for me to do: I was afraid my talk would be seen as “sour grapes” or perceived as an attempt to blame others/make excuses for my failure. I had trouble sleeping in the days leading up to the talk.

After years of having my public persona mediated by marketing and PR, I had been trained as a founder to never be controversial, to tell audiences what they want to hear, to hide my true feelings behind carefully-crafted soundbites. Sometimes I would read quotes attributed to me in press, and not...

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If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” - Kurt Vonnegut

One of the best pieces of career advice that I have received is that you should never forget to have fun.

A lie that people like to tell themselves is that once “success” is reached (ie raising money, hiring new people, reaching important milestones etc), their life will get a lot easier, and only then can they start to have fun.

Unfortunately, “success” invariably raises the stakes and life actually gets harder and more complicated… not easier.

Instead of admitting this, we try to keep the lie alive by creating a new, more ambitious mirage of “success”. Months, years, decades and entire careers can fly by in this manner.

With all of this in mind, I am trying to take a deep breath, feel the love of my family and friends and...

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We did it.

As I write this, join.app.net just met our 500K goal, with 38 hours left.

Data Export

When you are logged into the App.net alpha, we provide a button which will email you a .zip file of all of your content in a structured format. If you are an alpha tester, go ahead and try it out. It works.

Impartial 3rd-party verification of results

We are using Stripe to host/power the billing aspects of join.app.net. In the very near future I will ask an impartial 3rd party take a look at our data (while preserving all privacy of our backers) and publicly verify that the join.app.net was operated in an honest manner. There has been zero manipulation of numbers, or “stuffing of the ballot box” by App.net.

Third party app development

We are excited to see quite a few 3rd-party apps already under development. If you are interested in taking a look, here is a crowdsourced directory of 3rd-party...

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A response to Brennan Novak

Brennen Novak just wrote an interesting post that nicely sums up some of the criticisms regarding join.app.net.

At the bottom of his post, he asks me to publicly state/clarify some important questions.

Perhaps that’s biggest flaw with how App.net was presented thus far. Perhaps if Dalton had promised one or more of the following…

I am publicly stating that, if backing is succesful, App.net will support the following things:

  • Activitystrea.ms Atom & JSON feeds, as well as RSS feeds, of public posts for individual users, hashtags, etc. (Note that this is different from making them the foundation of our read/write API, which we have decided not to do)
  • Pubsubhubbub (PuSH) support (as a publisher, initially)
  • Exposing user identities with Webfinger
  • Commitment to coordinate between internal and external parties to create and support open-source “lightweight” clients in as many flavors as...

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