Who’s that doggy in the WordPress 3.4 Welcome Screen?

Users that have recently upgraded to the latest version of WordPress see a welcome screen that details some of the improvements and new features in the latest release:

Starring alongside Live Theme Previews, Custom Headers and Better Captions is a very good looking golden retriever… who just happens to be our very own Darcy.

We adopted Darcy from Pets Lifeline in Sonoma County, CA when she was a little over a year old (she’s now three). She had been a puppy with a family that had kept her in a back yard and never let her see other dogs. Thankfully they eventually realised that they couldn’t keep her like that forever and we were lucky to be looking to adopt a dog at the same time.

Pete and Evan with Darcy and Stella on Blithedale Summit

Evan and Chelsea are particularly frequent visitors. The picture above (and the one on the welcome screen taken in the back of a car) is from early February, when they brought Stella for a hike with me and Darcy on Blithedale Summit and Chelsea (as always) had her camera at the ready.

Chelsea’s been looking after Darcy for the last couple of weeks while I’ve been in Europe and has some fabulous new pictures of her:


Thanks to her new internet stardom (WordPress 3.4 has already been downloaded nearly 2 million times), Darcy has a whole load of new fans now, and has been (unknowingly) receiving appreciation from lots of strangers:

And I loved the caption added to the car picture in this post. It seems some people figured Darcy out straight away!

If you want to keep up with Darcy’s antics, then you should probably follow the (misleadingly named) Daily Darcy.

Doyle Drive Demolition

Thanks to a flat tire, I found myself on the bus from Mill Valley to San Francisco yesterday (usually I take the ferry or bike all the way). It was the first time that I’d traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge since the demolition of the old Doyle Drive that connects the bridge to the Marina (and on to downtown San Francisco).

The project has a pretty cool interactive map on which you can see the work they’re doing, as well as archived webcams (click through a few days over last weekend during the demolition).

In the photo gallery I found this picture. The tunnel (bottom left) is new, but before it could be used (and accessible) they needed to remove the elevated roadway just above it. That all happened in just one weekend. There’s a lot of rubble there now!

How openness can prevail (or why WordPress has grown to what it is)

From this May 2012’s Wired magazine piece How to spot the future

Bank on openness: […] the best example may be nearly invisible, even to a dedicated user of the Internet: blogging platforms. Less than a decade ago there were a multitude of services competing for the emerging legion of bloggers: Movable Type, TypePad, Blogger, WordPress. Today, only the last two remain relevant, and of these, the small, scrappy WordPress is the champ. WordPress prevailed for several reasons. For one, it was free and fantastically easy to install, allowing an aspiring blogger (or blogging company) to get off the ground in hours. Users who wanted a more robust design or additional features could turn to a community of fellow users who had created tools to meet their own needs. And that community didn’t just use WordPress—many made money on it by selling their designs and plug-ins. Their investment of time and resources emboldened others, and soon the WordPress community was stronger than any top-down business model forged inside the walls of their competition.

Google Drive: the leapfrog

We’ve gone to great lengths to build it around an online application experience. We want this to be about creating and collaborating — and your data is there for you. I think others have taken a file/data approach, and saying you have [access to] that everywhere. It’s nuanced, but I think it’s very different.

Google SVP Sundar Pichai explaining to AllThingsD why Google Drive isn’t competing with Dropbox.

This reminded me of something I read recently (that I now can’t find anywhere, so maybe I’m making it up) about the concept of product development and Leapfrogging. Google hasn’t just launched a me-too product, but taken consumer/SMB cloud storage a step beyond the existing providers, providing an integrated data and collaboration platform. Sure, lookout Dropbox and Box.net, but I think also, lookout Singly.

On a separate note, when was the last time that Google launched something with partners in place?


Team leads are different….

Team leads are different. Your job, should you accept it, is to become what I’ve lovingly dubbed Shit Umbrella. Your goal is to find all of the peripheral stuff involved in getting the product out the door—important stuff, such as making sure the delivery schedule for the new servers makes sense for when you want to ship the product that needs them, or taking customer calls at 11 PM on a Sunday because their account quit working and they want to know why they should keep paying you, or figuring out when doing features the sales and support teams want makes financial sense—and then coming back and presenting a focused direction to all the developers so that they can get the features written without worrying about how they actually ship.

Benjamin Pollack writing about his experiences of being promoted to a team lead. It’s one of the best first-hand accounts that I’ve read of what it means to lead product and engineering teams.

I’ve seen this happen in software companies, but elsewhere too. It was one of the major reasons for my leaving the BBC: I loved being a journalist, I didn’t even slightly envy the people in the jobs above me; they were great journalists being asked to be great managers, and that’s hard — especially without support and training.


Fred Wilson on the Startup Curve

It turns out, like most success stories, the answer was simplifying the service. Taking features out. Reducing the value proposition to a clear and simple use case. This was not done in a vacuum. This was done by releasing a less than perfect product to the market, finding a few customers who wanted a less than perfect product, and then listening carefully to those customers to get to the ideal product.

Fred Wilson on how a portfolio company found the Promised Land of Paul Graham’s startup curve.

Putting the new feature where it belongs (or, testing the limits of airline loyalty)

It’s no secret that I’m fascinated by air travel and its economics. So when our entire company convened in Budapest for a work meet-up a few months ago, I made the most of an opportunity to compare anecdotes and on-board amenities across a range of different transatlantic carriers.

If I’m flying for longer than a couple of hours, these days I’ll go out of my way to pick a carrier that has laptop power available in all seats (wifi is an added bonus). Flights are immeasurably more productive if I can work, and most work seems to involve the laptop. It seems reasonable to expect that more and more people will also feel this way. In-seat power will be valued higher, and employers will appreciate the added productivity of their laptop-toting employees. Doubtless providing power to our personal screens will be something that on-demand media services could see some value in too.

Der erste Airbus A380 der Lufthansa auf dem Fl...

Lufthansa A380. Mega internet cafe, with no power supplies. (from Wikipedia)

I was interested to hear from one colleague that on Lufthansa’s new A380s, economy class passengers may connect to a wifi signal, but don’t have access to any power. That just seems silly. I have to imagine that in the overall costs associated with buying and equipping a new A380, adding power at every seat must be an almost inconsequential expense.

Airlines have a clever business model of engendering permanent passenger envy. Unless you’re flying in your own private jet, you can be certain that somebody else is always more comfortable than you, and airlines like to make sure that you know it. The entire economics of customer loyalty are geared around indulging people’s aspirations to be more comfortable in the aluminium can.

I’ll hold my hand up to being a total sucker for it. I almost exclusively fly Virgin Atlantic if I’m going from a US city to London. In return, Virgin lets me use their lounges and (according to no clear algorithm that I can discern) randomly upgrades my seat every now and again. From my flights and the use of a Virgin Atlantic credit card, I have enough miles to upgrade my return journeys (the day flights) to Premium Economy, affording me more leg room (nice) and laptop power (essential) on my 11 hour flight. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who pay for these things too — and if not individuals, there are certainly companies that will pay for it.

On the one hand, this looks like some excellent customer segmentation at work: I value using my laptop on a flight so much that I’m willing to spend in order to be able to fly with power for my electronics. By putting power only in the cabin one above the level that I can afford, an airline arouses my envy and causes me to do everything I can to be able to fly in this cabin, including giving them my exclusive business. I’m pretty sure that this is the reason why there’s no power in the back of Lufthansa’s A380; companies are only cutting costs these days, and if Jones from accounting has all the tools he needs in Economy, why on earth would the company pay for something more?

But I’m reminded of something that I heard from Kenny van Zant (twice): Product Managers can be inclined to add new product features to the pricing level *above* the one in which the majority of customers value it, the theory being that that will help move more customers up to a higher price point. But Kenny’s view is that in a competitive market, if you overcharge your customers, someone else will come along and charge the customer something closer to her valuation of that feature. In the process, they’ll win her business.

I’m really not all that averse to economy seats on planes. If I can get an exit row, and the person in front doesn’t do the (ultimate douchebag) maneuver of reclining his seat into my dinner, I can be pretty content. In Kenny’s example, I’m a low value customer that would like at-seat power. Would I switch airlines for it? Absolutely. And I think that others will too. Virgin America’s brand new fleet is equipped throughout with at-seat power: I’m certain that they recognized that a San Francisco-based domestic airline would win loyal customers very quickly by providing what is fast becoming a necessity for airline travel.


A new iPhone

To buy a Sprint iPhone in an Apple Store, the salesperson has to fire up VMWare on an iMac and use Internet Explorer to run Sprint’s on-boarding tool. Once they’ve asked you a whole lot of questions (the answers to which have been in my Apple ID for years) they then ask you them all over again as they type the details into their own system.

Pretty surprising that any company would tolerate that, especially Apple. Maybe working with TelCos is rubbing off on them…