A very exciting bit of personal news: I’ve joined betaworks as entrepreneur-in-residence. Led by the incredibly gifted John Borthwick, betaworks is forging a new, ambitious, wildly interesting model for creating and scaling innovative tech companies. It’s become a real center of gravity for the start-up scene in New York, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
To get a sense of betaworks, check out the amazing list of companies it has invested in — for example, Twitter, Tumblr, Airbnb, Branch, Everlane, ideely, GroupMe, Groupon, Kickstarter, Path, Tweetdeck. Its studio companies include Digg, Bitly, Chartbeat, SocialFlow, and Findings, with others under construction. (I’ll have more to say about what I’m working on in the not-too-distant future.)
Huge thanks and a fond farewell to Tumblr, David Karp, and all my former colleagues there. I’m really proud of what my teams — international, outreach, communications, community, editorial, user support, marketing — pulled off since I joined last year. Personal highlights: the amazing Storyboard blog, the Brazil launch, the human-friendly terms of service and policy docs, a new policy on self-harm, the SxSW extravaganza, the fight against SOPA, and the vast global cohort of new Tumblr blogs and partners we brought onboard. I’m especially grateful to everyone who joined those teams on my watch. Tumblr’s a terrific company, and an important platform for creativity, free speech, and community. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Brasil: By the Numbers
Brasil! It’s Tumblr’s second-largest country, and, last week, the site of two giant Tumblr celebrations, a 1,500-person meetup (#tumblrcuritiba!), and — get ready — a One Direction flash mob (at our Tumblr meetup). Here are a few highlights from the nation that’s the size of a continent. (And yes, gringos may spell it with a Z … the locals, not so much.)
Emily Parker has a terrific piece in Foreign Policy today about the notable Schadenfreude surrounding Facebook’s (so far) slumping post-IPO stock price. I got a couple of emails today asking me to explain or elaborate on my quote in Emily’s piece.
So rather than write something new, me being lazy and all, here’s the full comment I emailed to Emily.
The antagonism toward Facebook at the moment is pretty amazing, and quite palpable. Also, largely irrational, in my view, with a caveat below. Facebook is an enormously useful (and free, to users) service, and an important part of the global Internet ecosystem; for those reasons, I and most of my colleagues in the NYC tech community are rooting for Facebook to succeed and thrive as a public company.
The irrational part of the antagonism strikes me as (1) a product of the normal human reaction to seeing other people get fabulously wealthy before your eyes, and (2) therefore likely to be temporary.
The rational part of the antagonism, though, seems to be a product of Facebook’s emerging status as a utility. (Indeed, Facebook used to describe itself as a “social utility”, which I think captures its role and value pretty accurately). As with any utility, many people join Facebook because they feel they have to — for them, it’s just too useful, with too many users, to avoid. But people never like utilities — e.g., cable companies, phone companies, electricity and water companies, public transport, etc. They always feel jerked around, under-appreciated, and under-serviced by utilities.
Personally, I think Facebook has been innovating impressively, taking chances, building a great ad business, and trying hard to keep its users informed and unsurprised and equipped with powerful and granular controls over their data (unlike in earlier years, when Facebook made privacy changes suddenly, confusingly, and without meaningful user options). Nevertheless, because people seem to regard Facebook as a social utility, rather than a source of joy or delight — something they need, rather than something they love — they rapidly take for granted its amazing features and get grumpy about the company’s perceived (and, in my view, unavoidable, at Facebook’s scale) indifference to them as individuals.
Top: A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Cangan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square, on on June 5, 1989. The man, calling for an end to violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.
Center-left: Workmen try to drape the portrait of Mao Tse-tung in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after it was pelted with paint, on May 23, 1989.
Center-right: Bodies of dead civilians lie among crushed bicycles near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989.
Bottom: Three unidentified men flee as a Chinese man, background left, stands alone to block a line of approaching tanks, in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, on June 5, 1989. The man in the background stood his ground and blocked the column of tanks when they came closer, an image captured on film by numerous other photographers and one that ultimately became a widely reproduced symbol of events there.
See more. [Images: AP, Reuters]
23 years ago today, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army violently cleared Beijing’s Tiananmen Square of protesters, ending a six-week demonstration that had called for democracy and widespread political reform. The protests began in April of 1989, gaining support as initial government reactions included concessions. Martial law was declared on May 20, troops were mobilized, and from the night of June 3 through the early morning of June 4, the PLA pushed into Tiananmen Square, crushing some protesters and firing on many others.
The exact number killed may never be known, but estimates range from several hundred to several thousand. Today, China’s censors are blocking Internet access to the terms “six four,” “23,” “candle,” and “never forget,” broadening extensive efforts to silence talk about the 23rd anniversary of China’s bloody June 4 crackdown. Here is that story, in images and words. Please share it widely.
Very cool time lapse of the cupola windows on the ISS opening as the Moon rises over the horizon (and the unseen Sun probably setting). Astronaut Don Pettit pops up in the windows with a pair of space shades on to catch a view of the event.
Of course, the ISS moves so fast around Earth that they see 16 of these every day, so I’m sure he was all like “Yaaaaawn. Another moonrise/sunset.”
(via Bad Astronomy)
See, this is what I wanted 2012 to be like.
6/4/1989- Chinese Army Troops Storm Tiananmen Square To Crush The Pro-Democracy Movement.
Almost to the end, the students thought they could win. As troops closed in on Tiananmen Square before dawn on Sunday, the unarmed protesters defiantly stood their ground. But two hours later, as gunfire echoed outside the square, the last holdouts gave in to despair. “We can’t let any more blood flow,” someone shouted over the loudspeaker. “We must leave.” The last 1,000 or so students wearily walked out of the square, many of them in tears. At that point the Army stormed down the streets toward Tiananmen — tanks, armored personnel carriers and trucks full of troops, spitting gunfire in all directions. They smashed through the protesters’ frail barricades and charged into the square, where they demolished the students’ provocative statue, “the Goddess of Democracy.” Angry civilians poured into the streets shouting “You beasts! You beasts!” The soldiers shot back, killing 500 to 1,000 people and leaving the democracy movement in ruins.
Newsweek June 12, 1989
Someday, the truth about June 4, 1989, will be as familiar to Chinese schoolchildren as the historical mistreatment of Indian tribes or the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans is to today’s US schoolchildren. Facing the mistakes of the past is something no great nation can avoid forever. As it grows in maturity and self-confidence, China will get there, someday. Until then, each year brings another June 4, a day for remembrance of the victims, condemnation of the perpetrators, and respect for the hopes and aspirations that animated those few sunlit months of public protest in 1989.