Bix.com is Bought by Yahoo

One of the great things about working for eBay has been all of the great people that you meet and work with. Leonard Speiser was one of the great product managers I had a chance to learn from at eBay, and now his company, Bix.com, has been acquired by Yahoo.

Here is the note on the Bix website from Michael Speiser, who I think does a nice job explaining why they are excited about the deal.

If you haven’t tried Bix.com, it’s a fun site where anyone can set up contests that people vote on. It makes it fairly easy for people to create profiles, and then upload video or pictures related to the contest. It’s like American Idol for everyone. A relatively simple idea, but executed well, and no doubt a very addictive application to add to the Yahoo family. Contests are a great excitement driver, and there is no doubt that Yahoo will try to leverage Bix with large clients who are looking to generate buzz.

One of the most interesting things about working in Silicon Valley is how quickly people can move around and do new and wonderful things. It’s part of the culture – the assumption that everything and everyone will keep moving and changing.

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I joined eBay, and that I stopped by for some advice and help from Leonard, one of the Senior Product Managers. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that after five years, Leonard decided to go off an pursue a startup.

As a funny anecdote, we had a roast for Leonard at his going away party.  Everyone had these masks made of Leonard’s face, propped up on rulers.  I actually auctioned one off on eBay.com, got it to be the “Most Watched” item on all of eBay, and ended up making $400 from Golden Palace Casino to fund a going away present for Leonard (an engraved iPod).

It’s also a great feeling to see friends go off and be successful like this. There is no better way to start the day than to open the newspaper and see good news like this.

So, congratulations to Leonard and the Bix.com team.

South Park Episode on Nintendo Wii

With many thanks to Chad Alderson for finding this episode online.

This was the South Park episode from last week. Cartman is so obsessed with getting a Nintendo Wii, he can’t wait the two weeks, and has himself frozen. He accidentally ends up 500 years in the future, and, well, typical South Park things happen.

(Update: 12/2/2006 – Due to the original video being pulled, I’m linking to the South Park Zone, which maintains links to all of the episodes from Season 10. It’s a two-part episode called “Go God Go”)

I don’t know what is more disturbing:

  1. That South Park has now had two episodes this season so close to my heart (World of Warcraft, Nintendo Wii)
  2. That Chad is reading & responding to my blog within seconds of me posting

Chad, you might be my only dedicated reader, but thank you very very much for this link. If it’s OK, I’m not going to post all the video links from your blog, although this one did make me laugh.

Subscribe to my Blog via Email: FeedBlitz

A little over a year ago, Scott Kleper wrote a post about RSS Readers.  Without reproducing it here, the basic idea was that Scott doesn’t see the need for dedicated blog readers.  Instead, he prefers to use his rich email application to read his blogs.  In fact, he basically hacked together his own solution for translating all of his favorite blogs into regular email streams.

I myself still use My Yahoo to keep track of most of my blogs, although that is definitely having scaling issues.  However, now that I have my own blog, I’ve realized that most of my friends and family don’t have any sort of regular, blog-reading system.

Sure, if I send them an email, they’ll read my most recent posts.  But they have no daily process to “check up” on a blog, or to receive notification when a new post arrives.

To them, the web is still something you use when they want something.  They have nothing set up to receive a “push” from a site to let them know something interesting is available.

Well, I think I found a solution.  Feedblitz is a great little service that makes it easy for people to subscribe to an RSS feed, like a blog, via email.  It even allows the feed owner to customize the output in some very interesting ways.

I’ve set it up for this blog, and I hope that means that more of my friends and family who are not “blog savvy” will be able to read my posts.

I’ve added the link to my right column, but if you are interested, just click the following link to subscribe to this blog via email:

Click here to subscribe to Psychohistory via email

Let me know what you think.

A Reef Reflected in a Bubble (courtesy of Eric Cheng)

Eric has posted just an amazing photo on his daily blog, and I thought I’d share it here.

Reef in a Bubble

I think it’s just an amazing shot. Having taken approximately 30,000 shots myself now, I can safely say that inevitably any photos that Eric takes are noticeably better than mine. Thank goodness for our family that he humors us with trips out to the suburbs once in a while.

Most of my shots these days are not of anything quite so exotic. I’ve been spending my time trying to get the perfect shot of my new son, Joseph Isaac Nash.

A Little Break from Blogging…

You won’t see a lot of posts from me this week.  My wife Carolyn & I are expecting our second son, and induction is scheduled for tomorrow.  As a result, I’m expecting the next week to be a blur.

As with our first son, I will likely have a Baby blog up so that family & friends can follow the action remotely.

You can look for updates on the Baby Nash website.  There will be updates there when we are ready.

Firefox 2 Gets Some Attention

Mozilla Firefox 2 Logo

Nice post from Chad Alderson today about features he likes in Firefox 2.0.

Firefox 2 Owns

I’ve already posted about my favorite unsung feature in Firefox 2 – the ability to automatically recover all of your tabs in the case the computer or Firefox exits unexpectedly. It single-handedly saved me over 45 minutes of work one night as I was blogging.

Chad, however, has picked up on spell-check and better tab navigation as his favorite features.

I’m personally attached to Firefox because I have such close friends on Mozilla team. They have a tough problem – Firefox is clearly the front-runner and thought leader for modern browser design. Others can make significant progress through imitation – the Mozilla community has to really move in new directions to keep ahead of the pack.

Firefox really popularized tab browsing, so it’s not suprising to see that they are able to take the feature set to the next level. Enhanced navigation, session recovery are all insights you develop once you already have familiarity with tabbed browsing.

It’s very interesting to me to see which features people find useful in Firefox 2, and which features they love. I predict they’ll be separate lists. I think spell check is probably the most useful feature to date for me, but thanks to that one crash, the saved session is my favorite feature by far.

Kudos again to the Mozilla team for a great launch. If you haven’t already, go get Firefox 2!

SpotDJ Beta for iTunes is Live

Actually, it went live about a week ago.

SpotDJ Logo

What happened today, however, is that Scott Kleper, one of the co-founders, added a blog post about SpotDJ and some of the insights from launching the product.

SpotDJ Makes iTunes Better

Not being a big music lover myself, it’s hard for me to completely see the opportunity that Scott sees here. I see that more as a blind spot in my own understanding of the “music lover” rather than any assessment of the business opportunity for SpotDJ. As I posted earlier, I do find the idea of iTunes as a demand-generation platform fascinating – the same way I find Salesforce thinking of their application as a demand-generation platform fascinating.

Being a product guy, however, I did appreciate this tidbit from Scott’s post about a feature that they built for personalization of profiles on SpotDJ:

One of the features that we launched with the beta was the “30 Second Random Interview”. As a registered DJ, you can go to your profile page and answer 3 randomly chosen questions (e.g. “What’s the most embarassing song on your iPod?”). Once you’ve answered all 3, another one shows up. So you can keep answering questions, and the results of your interview are displayed on your public DJ page for other users to see. People love this feature! We have DJ’s who have signed up and answered all 20 or so questions (including, oddly enough, “What kinds of spots do you record?”) without even recording a single spot yet! I think it shows a Web 2.0 truism — you can build web sites that are simply fun to use. We could have made SpotDJ just a download site, but by adding some social features and cool things to explore, we made it a fun site to hang out on.

I think Scott is dead on here, and you can bet that I’ll be bringing this topic up as we discuss new features for the sites that I’m responsible for. There is a really positive insight from the recent growth of Web 2.0 sites around the engagement that people find in sharing personal insights and information with others. I like the simple design that SpotDJ went with on this as well.

So, if you haven’t checked out SpotDJ yet, you should. And if you haven’t thought about how to allow users to better engage with your site and each other on your site, you should.

Blogs I Read: Rogelio Choy

Thought I’d give a quick shout out to another eBay-er who has a far more sophisticated and long-standing blog than myself.

Rogelio Choy

Ro spent a number of years managing market development for eBay’s developer program.  He now manages the Parts & Accessories business for eBay Motors, another one of eBay’s great tailored shopping experiences.

Ro often posts about startup activity, and hot water cooler news about web companies.

A sample of his most recent post (as of 10/22/2006) is here.

Make Love, Not Warcraft

I found this posting of the South Park episode 1008, Make Love, Not Warcraft today on Tony Chor’s blog.

Make Love, Not Warcraft

If you hate South Park, don’t bother clicking. There is nothing so redeeming about this episode to change your mind. But, if you are a fan of online gaming, you might just find this episode to be hilarious.

The video is hosted at dailymotion.com here.

As a side note, Tony Chor is a friend from college who went into program management at Microsoft around 1990. He currently is the Group Program Manager for Internet Explorer 7, so they are all celebrating their recent release.

In a funny twist of fate, another friend of mine, Michael Schroepfer, is currently the VP of Engineering for Mozilla, responsible for Firefox 2.

Small world, huh?

Tony’s blog is here. Mike’s blog is here, although he hasn’t posted in a few months.

Seema Shah has a Blahg

One of the fun things about having a blog is that you start discovering that many of your friends have blogs.  It’s interesting because somehow, before you start blogging, you are relatively unaware of these blogs.

I find that I learn so much from friend’s blogs, even when they are infrequently updated and silly.

Well, today I learned that Seema Shah, a fellow product manager at eBay, has a blog.  So much fun to read through these posts!

Seema is one of the rockstar product managers on next-generation search for eBay.  She was an invaluable contributor to the initial launch of eBay Express, and more importantly, a person who really champions innovation and actively blends customer insight with technical insight.

You might not get this all from reading her blog, however, which is why I’m calling it out here…

Ning on GigaOM & SearchBlog

It looks like Ning has been picked up on some heavyweight blogs today:

Om Malik on Ning

John Battelle on Ning

I’ll save my comments on Ning for another post, another time. I certainly think that Ning shows just how tenuous, from a technology perspective, the Web 2.0 sites hold on users can be.

In any case, I’m going to take this opportunity to share instead one of life’s little pleasures – seeing a friend’s name in print. I first met Gina Bianchini in high school here in the Bay Area, and got to catch up with her a few years ago when she accompanied another Stanford friend to one of my birthday parties.  Growing up in Silicon Valley is fun that way.
I remember hearing the news when Gina took on the opportunity, and its great to see some positive press around Ning. Like all startups, it certainly seems to have evolved considerably from its early days.

Honestly, seeing Gina’s company called out on these major blogs is just a really nice way to start the day. Congratulations to Gina & the Ning team.

Mozilla Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 is Great!

First of all, let me just say that I’m very biased here.

I’m biased because:

  • I’m a former Apple employee and Mac lover. So it’s not likely that you’d find me posting great things about Internet Explorer.
  • I’m a former developer, and so I’m predisposed to be a fan of open source projects in general, and Mozilla Firefox is a real champion of this movement.
  • Two of my close friends are part of the management team of Mozilla.

But, I just had one of those moments – those rare bad moments that distinguish a great product from the merely good enough.

Here I am, writing a post for my blog that requires dozens of links. I’ve carefully opened them all in tabs, so I can paste them in, one-by-one.

I’m using Mozilla Firefox 2.0 Beta 2. Using Beta software is always risky – things happen. In this case, things did happen.

The browser quit, unexpectedly. Not unlike other browsers, like IE & Safari, which seem to quit randomly on a weekly basis.

I fire Firefox back up, dreading the over 45 minutes of lost work… and then I see a dialog. Do you want to restore your session, or start a new one? Apparently, your last session closed unexpectedly.

AMAZING. All my tabs are there. And, with a nod to WordPress.com, an auto-save of my blog post to boot.

WHAM. No work lost. No time lost. Back in the saddle, without a minute to spare.

So, to Michael Schroepfer, John Lilly, and the rest of the Mozilla team, hats off to you. Mozilla Firefox 2.0 is a great product.

Key Links:

Scott Kleper & SpotDJ

A good friend of mine just updated his personal blog for the first time in months recently, and I thought this was as good a time as any to introduce the very cool startup that he’s been working on.

The company is called SpotDJ, and his blog post about it is here.

Scott has been a good friend ever since I met him through the CS 198 Section Leader program at Stanford, where he was one of the first section leaders I hired.  Scott was one of those great student developers who didn’t just take Computer Science classes – he really wrote code.  Shareware, mostly, for the Mac.  Even then, Scott always shipped.

Scott had the misfortune of having an internship at Apple Computer in probably the most depressing time possible – in the Advanced Technology Group, in 1997, right as the entire group was disbanded.  Since then, he’s done some pretty interesting things – working for several companies and even co-authoring a book.

Doing a startup is something that is very easy to talk about in Silicon Valley, but make no mistake about the fortitude it takes to really quit a good paying job and go out on your own.  Scott is doing it right now, and SpotDJ is evolving into something really interesting.

I love the idea that instead of bidding on keywords (Google/Yahoo), you might actually target content/advertising based on a song.  If they can crack some  success measure like cost-per-click (cost per listen?) and some demand measure like click-through (selection? rating?), it’s a very interesting way to target content/advertising in an environment where keywords aren’t the way people navigate.

In any case, check out the company, and kudos to Scott.

Blogs I Read: Jason Steinhorn, The Steinhorn Stare

One of the most fun blogs that I read is one that belongs to my friend and colleague, Jason Steinhorn.  It’s called, “The Steinhorn Stare”, I’m assuming after his now infamous poker face, captured on television as part of the World Series of Poker.

Here is a great example of why I love reading Jason’s blog:

2006 Legends of Poker

Now, I will be the first to admit, I am clearly a voyeur of the recent poker boom that has hit Las Vegas, the internet, and about half of the engineers and techies I know.  I really appreciate the way that Jason’s posts capture the subtlety and complexity of the game.  Poker is a fascinating blend of psychology and math, with a distinct advantage to those who know how to manipulate the perception of their play vs. just knowing the odds.

As a result, Poker lands squarely into my “sweet spot” of fascination – an arena where the ultimately rationale (statistics) intersects with the ultimately irrational (human emotion & perception).

So while I may never be a great poker player, I like living vicariously through Jason and other friends who participate in these events with $10K buy-ins, and who actually win.

True story: Last year, Jason & I were both managers in the same division of eBay Product Management.  At our regular Monday managers’ meeting, Jason was nowhere to be found.  He was still in Vegas, having won 2nd in the World Series of Poker, and close to a quarter of a million dollars.

That news would be cool enough, but what I liked is that Jason had faxed in the winning check – like a “doctor’s note” to be excused from class that day.

This is Jason’s last week at eBay, and he’ll be sorely missed.  But he’s off to a new adventure at another cool company, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to learn from him these past two years.

Now, if he would just post more regularly to his blog…