Horseback Riding in Brooklyn?

When I was 15, I joined my high school’s horseback riding club. My high school was in Brooklyn, New York. I took two buses from Bay Ridge to Prospect Park. We would saddle up our horses, walk them down the cobblestone road on Caton Place, walk them across the big traffic circle and then hop on and gallop through Prospect Park. It was madness: 100-pound teenagers on 2000-pound death monsters speeding towards joggers and people with strollers. When we were done we would wash them down, put the saddles away and ride home. No one would sit next to us on the bus. Our boots and jeans were filthy.

I loved it.

Last night after working with our exec team in NYC, I visited the stables. They’re still there! I met the owner and he told me how much the place had changed. They fixed the broken skylights that were just covered with tarps to keep the rain out all these years. They fixed the electric. When I was there in the ’80s, they had a long chain of extension cords that led back to one outlet. They raised the ceilings. They cleaned up the ring. They changed from straight stalls where horses can’t turn abound to box stalls. And they changed the name from Kensington Stables to Prospect Park Stable. It was amazing to see it all and talk to JQ, the current owner, and his daughter who has been riding there since she was a kid.

How to Articulate a Whale

Here’s a fascinating story about Peter Wayne Moe and a team of more than a hundred people preparing the Longbranch Whale to hang at Seattle Pacific University.

I ask Sandilands where he learned to shoot a crossbow. Was he in the army? Was he a sniper? “Of course not,” he says. “I’m Canadian.”

That was one of the coolest things I read in 2022.

“I’m Glad My Mom Died”

I’m Glad My Mom Died” is an incredible, well-written book — filled with gut punches. Highly recommended.

Early in her book, Jennette McCurdy’s mom flips out because her daughter might want to be a writer instead of an actress. Writers are frumpy and fat. Actresses are pretty and skinny. It’s sad, because by this point in the book it’s obvious that Jennette is an INCREDIBLE writer.

I have so many friends who are authors — journalists, bloggers, marketers, novelists. Jennette describes painful things in a casual, clear way. Several times I was struck by a story, stopped reading and realized my mouth was hanging open.

If I hadn’t known about all the abuse in Niki’s childhood, I’m not sure I could have appreciated what was going on with Jennette. Like how other people’s fertility problems didn’t fully register in my 20s the same way they did after our eight miscarriages.

My respect for the people in Jennette’s life who continue to look out for her is immense.

🙏 🙏 🙏

This was originally a tweet thread here.

Clipisode joined Automattic

I spent half my career building content management systems that competed with WordPress. The first half of my career WordPress didn’t exist.

I met Matt Mullenweg in 2004 at SxSW when WordPress was less than a year old. In 2009, I was thrilled that one of my software platforms was used to run 14% of the top 100 blogs. I thought that was a big deal. Today, WordPress powers 43% of the top 10 million websites. And it’s growing.

When people ask me about Matt, I say that we have a lot in common. We both make software for creators. We both have been running distributed teams for decades. But business-wise? I’ve built two dozen publishing platforms that have generated tens of millions of dollars in value. My last platform raised $100M during the pandemic. Matt has built one publishing platform. He has always given it away for free. And his company is worth billions. Maybe I was pricing mine wrong?

At the end of last year, I showed Matt what we were doing with Clipisode. We had launched two native apps that had thousands of users and we were working on a big web dashboard for our brand customers — another CMS. But it could still be a few years before the business fully took off and we’d already pivoted a couple of times. We had patient investors, but we were starting to talk to bigger companies about an acquisition. One was our biggest competitor in the celeb+fans video space. Matt and I talked about his company Automattic. They own Tumblr. They own WooCommerce. They have a platform called WordPress VIP for high profile, high traffic sites like NBC, CBS, Al Jazeera, Capgemini, Salesforce, the White House, TechCrunch and News Corp. All of these divisions had challenges, but the ones VIP was going though mirrored a lot of the work I did with Crowd Fusion.

Automattic acquired Clipisode in January and we shut down our social video platform. I’m now the CTO of WordPress VIP.

Running a startup, I wore a lot of hats. At VIP, it’s like I suddenly hired a killer sales team and a big customer success organization — an explosion of talent. I don’t have to do accounting or marketing. I talk to customers, but I’m not pitching anyone or closing deals. I’ve got a global team, so my calls often start at 6am, but I was already working with people in Taiwan, Singapore and Pakistan when I ran Clipisode.

And my commute is exactly the same.

“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

— Ted Lasso

I tell people that I’m the Ted Lasso of WordPress. I’ve spent so long competing with WordPress and so little time using it that when someone mentions a plugin conflict I feel as lost as Ted Lasso when people talk about “offsides,” “relegation” or “the pitch.”

But running a big global engineering team and scaling websites for creative people at big companies is pretty universal.

Tick, Tick… Boom!

[minor spoiler ahead]

My daughter and I watched Tick, Tick… Boom! We loved it. Andrew Garfield can sing. Vanessa Hudgens is a star. So underrated. And the Sunday brunch scene filled with legends from Broadway was a delight.

But one scene hit me hard that I wasn’t expecting.

It’s well known that Jonathan Larson died before getting to see his musical Rent open and go on to win Tonys and make millions of dollars. Before that he wrote Tick, Tick… Boom! Before that he spent eight years working on a futuristic rock musical called Superbia. There’s a scene in the movie where people finally get to see Superbia performed. The crowd loves it. He’s expecting that investors will love it too and write him a check and Superbia will be a career-defining achievement. But no one does. He’s crushed.

He asks his agent for advice. What is he supposed to do now?

You start writing the next one. And after you finish that one, you start the next. And on and on. That’s what it is to be a writer, honey.

It’s time to start writing the next one.

Clipisode is shutting down

Clipisode was a ridiculously easy way for brands and stars to get videos from anyone, anywhere. It worked simply by sharing a link. No one had to download, install or join anything to send you a video reply. Clipisode even worked inside apps like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. You could go from idea to collecting videos in just a few minutes.

Clipisode began as an app for iPhone and Android that let you combine an unlimited number of video clips sent in by other people. But long videos with 20 replies from random fans weren’t very watchable, so we made a new app called Answers RN that was designed for doing quick AMAs where you shared out each fan video combined with your reply. Those apps got thousands of users, but they didn’t set the world on fire. Plus the brands and agencies that were paying us really needed a big web dashboard to manage hundreds of video replies, not an app. So in 2020, we released our brand manager.

When a Clipisode campaign worked, there was nothing like it. Our demos felt like a magic trick. Someone who had worked with mobile developers at both Snapchat and Apple dove across the conference table mid-demo, shook my hand and said, “I didn’t know phones could do what you just showed me!” Ogilvy’s head of digital said the project we did with them was the best performing UGC campaign he has seen in his career.

It was a wild ride, propelled by videos from stars and creators like Brad Paisley, Peyton Manning, Greg Cipes, Colleen Ballinger, Miranda Sings, Brian Posehn, Steve Burton, Bradford Anderson, Pete Wentz, Kira Kosarin, Kevin Frazier, Chris Melberger, Chris Pratt, the Property Brothers, Sylvia Brindis, Kevin Bachelder, Clare Mackintosh, Paul Secor, Sarah Moran, Aderson Oliveira, Mod Sun, Lil Nas X — and their fans.

Continue reading “Clipisode is shutting down”

The most popular software for writing fiction isn’t Word. It’s Excel.

I wrote that in 2011 and it got a bunch of attention. Then every few years someone with a lot of followers would discover it and retweet it and it would get a bunch more attention.

I’ve seen it quoted a bunch, sometimes attributed to “anonymous” but usually tweeted without attribution or rewritten as “More fiction is written in Excel than Word.” I see those because people often tag me in the thread. One guy tweeted it 6 years later and got 8,000 retweets and 25,000 likes.

It’s a good thing I don’t tweet for a living.

I’ve seen it in startup pitch decks. One investor has used it in three posts on his fund’s blog and he always shares it with, “Someone once quipped…” Every single time. And he knows me.

That tweet will be on my tombstone unless I come up with something better.

Wish me luck!

The Death of Sonos Has Been Delayed

UPDATE: Sonos CEO Patrick Spence sent customers a great reassuring email today. They won’t be bricking older devices and they will make sure mixed networks with old and new devices work. Like I said before, I’m optimistic. I love Sonos.

I have loved Sonos for years. They were one of our advertisers when my friends and I owned Engadget, but I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt working on my first big startup and I couldn’t afford their magical “music for every room” smart speakers. By the time we sold our company, the prices had come way down. How ironic. I could finally afford their fancy gear and now it didn’t cost as much.

Today we have them in every room: a big Playbar on our living room TV, two Play:5s, two Play:3s, a Sonos One in every kid’s room and a Connect:Amp bridge that lets us play music on our backyard speakers. From our phones we can play anything we want anywhere in our house. Our family bounces between Spotify, SiriusXM, Pandora, YouTube Music, SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, podcasts and local radio stations.

Sonos is magical. Their customers rave about them to anyone who’ll listen, the same way people rave about Air Pods, Tesla, In-N-Out, Instant Pot and DisneyWorld.

And right now, they’re screwed.

Continue reading “The Death of Sonos Has Been Delayed”

I’m Buying the Foo Fighters

Gary Vaynerchuk is known for many things. One of them is that he wants to buy the Jets. He often explains that he doesn’t expect to buy them and probably wouldn’t be happy as an NFL owner. But setting a goal of buying the Jets drives him.

So I picked a similar goal:

Gary kindly replied:

The Jets aren’t for sale. The Foo Fighters certainly aren’t for sale. And we don’t know what we’d do with them if we owned them. But man it’s going to be fun trying.