Yelp Named One of Best Company Names of All Time

Posted by | technology | One Comment chooses Yelp as one of the best company names.

This gives me some personal satisfaction, having come up with the name and having to push for it to be adopted.

When we were looking to do a Yellow Pages based company at MRL Ventures, where we incubated Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman wanted it to be called Yocal whereas I wanted Yelp (as a contraction of yellow pages and help). In the end, Jared Kopf got out his personal credit card and bought the domain directly, for $4K, while everyone slowly came round to the idea of

“Yelp definitely has an emotional quality to it,” Altman says. “It’s an exclamation and it really emphasizes what the site does, which is aggregate reviews from all these extraordinarily passionate people. You get these connotations of a high-pitched cry coming from a dog or animal or something like that. It’s a name that really connects to the people on the site in a humorous way.”

Interestingly, the very qualities that Altman sites, i.e. the emotional cry of Yelping, like when you tread on someone’s toes, were the reasons why other people on the team were uneasy about using the name. Which shows either that the pejorative can often become the most positive or that you can post rationalize anything.


The Internet Olympics – at least for people in the US

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China is a long way from anywhere in the US, and even San Francisco, with its Chinese immigrant history and psychological proximity, is nearly 1000 miles farther from Beijing than London is (London – Beijing: 5060 miles, SF – Beijing 5900 miles).

This counterintuitive fact is a result of just how vast the Pacific is and it means that following the games live will be difficult due to the time zone difference. As a result, here in the US, to keep up with the games, the internet will play a bigger factor than ever before. The Official Google Blog has a first stab at a roundup of places to go.

Meanwhile, on Smashing Telly, we have a video clip history of previous Olympic opening ceremonies.

Apple users rage at iPhone 3G plans

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Reading the comments thread on this Gizmodo post about iPhone 3G upgrade terms and the Anger is palpable. But the interesting thing is that there is absolutely nothing new here – subsidized phones linked to exorbitant line rental is the norm. The difference is that the world of computers and laptops is not like that, and the iPhone is part of that culture.

Apple is no longer a renegade company. With iPods and the iPhone, you are conservatively locked into all sorts of things, from being unable to backup, to having to run iTunes and upgrade it every few days, to being unable to roam with a different carrier and having to have double the unusual line rental contract. All this makes for a big opportunity for Google, who will not compromise with the carriers, just as Apple will not compromise with design.

Glassdoor is smashing.

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I rarely disagree with OM, but is something that looked marginal at first, but really profound the more I examined it.

In case you missed what they are about, Glassdoor lets you see salary information as long as you let them know your salary info, anonymously.

Here’s what I like about it:

1. Its very strongly viral and symmetric (readers are publishers), since its based on ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’.
2. It does what the Internet does best – creates a flow of information that used to be proprietary and exclusive.
3. The information has an extremely high value-per-bit ratio.
4. The place where this information resides is extremely fragmented, so the anonymity genuinely covers people.
5. The concept could be extended to anything with a pseudo hidden price and tawdry haggling mechanism – from enterprise software to cars.

In short, I love it, the most elegantly simple startup I’ve seen in a while. The challenge, as with most internet ideas, will be to deal with useless data and spam.

Doomsday Machine Goes On Sale

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As of June 5th you can buy an electronic machine that builds a copy of itself for $150
The fact that you have to buy a kit of electronic parts rather than some seeds and a watering can, means that there is some way to go.

However, its pretty interesting. Link.

iPhone 3G my 2c.

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3G is a must have for more sophisticated cellphone markets
iPhone was never that interesting to a European audience without 3G. With the US economy in the tank shiny US gadgets need foreign markets (I’m in Europe at the moment and have had my existing iPhone switched off since I’ve been here).

All GPS devices, including the better than average Dutch Tomtom, are crap. Finally the promise of a great UI and value ad apps.

3rd Party Apps.
The distribution model and developer tools look great. Heads need to roll at Rim for falling so far behind here – hell they are the Microsoft of Mobile and DOS was all about the 3rd party apps.

Great price point – but caveat emptor, the subsidy could mean nasty rate plans.

Will never be an enterprise device
It still looks like a luxury device and without a keyboard, Blackberry’s are still the right kind of crappy for a business audience, just like the inferior DOS OS. The enterprise focus is nice but will never bring dominant business market share.

Rate plans?
Where are the details about AT&T rate plans for 3G iPhones? I hope there are no nasty surprises.
OM Malik raises some pertinent points about 3G load – which makes me think there may be an expensive, bandwidth capped plan.

Upgrade contract
Reading the small print, even merely upgrading from an existing iPhone means a new 2 year contract. Other phones do not make you do this.

.Me integration
People who use things like .Me sit in the sliver between Gmail/Flickr etc. users and Outlook users. There is too much of a switching cost to make .Me anything other than a distraction.

The Vulcan-like grip that Apple software has had to have to have over hardware products to satisfy the record companies make it difficult enough with multiple iPods. With cellphone carriers it may be worse. Multi country iPhone roaming charges are a criminal rip-off, and swapping multiple SIMs (something that is a 2 second job with most phones) means software issues.

The Limits of Wikipedia

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My hobby is an obscure branch of thermodynamics that has meant I seem to have spent an unusual amount of time reading Wikipedia articles.

What I have found is that Wikipedia is amazingly accurate (contrary to what some would claim) but very badly written (something that isn’t often talked about as a principal flaw).

The accuracy of Wikipedia is usually challenged for topics which have a subjective aspect that people refuse to acknowledge (such as historical events, religion, social sciences), the stuff I have been looking at tends to be less subjective, since it is backed up by far more evidence and has a method for reaching consensus. Here the unusually high level of accuracy of Wikipedia is apparent.

To say that something is badly written is a more difficult thing to prove, however rather than try to do so, I’ll suggest an explanation as to why this would be a plausible outcome. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica is regarded as something of a classic, having more articles written by experts in their field than any other issue. In many ways it is the antithesis of Wikipedia.

Reading the 1911 Britannica, for equivalent entries about science and the results are obvious. Wikipedia is more verbose and less clear, and this is what I think is happening:

Wikipedia will always attract a certain percentage of people that the vanity reward of being published would not normally be offered to.

Less intelligent people in technical circles seem to like to make things appear more difficult and use a proprietary language or jargon (computer programmers are often terribly guilty of this) because the language of the craft is relatively hard to master and those that will never go beyond the craft to the art will protect their mastery of the craft.

Less obvious than the above is the fact that people who really know what they are talking about can invent new and better ways of describing things, whereas people who don’t will have to regurgitate accepted wisdom for fear of being wrong on the bits they are re-interpreting .

This last point is the principal reason that, for hard to understand scientific concepts, Wikipedia ironically really falls down, more than for supposed inaccuracy in contentious subjects.

The Great Facebook Apps Disaster

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Facebook looked so set to be the winner amongst social networks that it took what looked like a logical step to cement itself as a platform – become a platform and encourage third party software.

The problem is that it has become a platform for an endless sea of horrid little gimmicky crap that makes Windows shareware look like SAP, and irritates you like a viral infection in the endless arms race to go, well – viral. This is a major cockup since it goes straight to the core of what Facebook had going for them. Facebook had a UI that was actually professional, whereas Myspace was by its very nature gimmicky crap.

Even as Facebook will almost certainly correct itself, some of the damage is already done. With a decline in growth at a time when they are still much smaller than Myspace, their march to dominance will now never be as pristine as Google’s, and some of that decline is surely due to the fact that Facebook has become kind of annoying due to the application platform.

The fault of the failure of Facebook platform of late, is due to the platform itself, not the apps, to say otherwise would be to blame the tools rather than the workman. Because Facebook’s precocious founder, Zuckerberg claimed that the Facebook developer platform would change the world and he had the audacity to snub the likes of Google as recently as this week over access to the API, this is a failure that competitors will probably never let him forget.

Amazon launches grid database – final component for a zero hardware startup

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Amazon SimpleDB has just been released as a Beta, its like S3 but for databases, allowing structured queries. What this means is that you don't need to worry about database clustering or possibly backup (although I have never gotten a decent answer to the question of whether you still need to backup S3 data). This potentially provides a beautiful solution for startups - EC2 as application servers, SimpleDB for structured data and S3 for binaries. It is not clear whether SimpleDB can be used, somehow for efficient full text search. If only S3 had a front end like Squid to enable automatic cache on demand for binaries, and there were a better front end to instantiate, configure and manage EC2 instances, then Amazon would be the default choice for most startups.
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Newly released map of the Internet with accurate statistics, by Amazing Britney S. Crotch and Top 10 definitive Brad CSS Tableless 911.

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There seems to be a worrying trend of people who actually believe that the Internet is benign. That it contains primarily useful information and will make stars out of people who make wooden educational toys or sincere bands from Portland. Those of us that have been working in the Internet since before the Web, know a different story. Here is a Newly discovered map of the Internet with accurate statistics. And here are the names of the authors to help you find it in future: "Amazing Britney S. Crotch and top 10 definitive Brad CSS Tableless 911": Internet traffic and content by percentage: The World Wide Web: Porn: 22% Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan, Ron Jeremy, Eric Estrada: 21% Finding Porn or Paris Hilton: 14% Trying to Find other stuff: 8% Information about how to build web sites without tables and with rounded boxes: 7% False Apple rumors: 6%...
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Digital Curation, the opposite of Social Media

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The Curate's Web Jason Kottke points to an excellent review by Alexander Bohn of Ffffound, a newer visual bookmarking site based upon the same principal as Wists, but with a supremely visually literate, design focused, community rather than a craftster one. Social Media When we developed the idea of visual bookmarking in 2005, it was fashionable to look at publishing as being purely democratic - all readers were publishers and everything was 'social'. We created the term Social Shopping (hip word meets $$$) as a joke, and people took it seriously. Two companies did versions of it, and one sold for $40M. And the very best of luck to them, too. But there is something fundamentally wrong with sites that are driven by a passion for the business model at the expense of the content. In the long term these don't work as businesses. Digital Curation Something different and much...
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