After a week of closed commenting sections, Gawker released its new commenting system today, and it’s a doozy. Nieman Lab has a great rundown of the changes, including a computer algorithm that sifts through the comments and looks for ones to feature, as well as “a new inbox [that] focuses attention on all replies to a user’s comments… the original commenter must explicitly approve a reply to allow it into the conversation.”
Nieman Lab reports that the proprietary system is officially called Powwow, but interestingly enough, the actual discussion threads themselves are called “branches.”
Not much is known about the Obvious Corporation, the new-ish, incubator-ish company that’s the brainchild of Twitter cofounders Ev Williams and Biz Stone. Their website is sparse and coy: the only companies that they are publicly known to be working with are Lift, a social network for human potential, and dialogue platform Branch. They also announced this week that they’d invested in Neighborland, a site that seeks to create meaningful connections between neighbors.
The Obvious Offices are located in downtown San Francisco, near the Powell St. BART stop, just around the corner from the Apple store, which is convenient because everyone at Obvious uses Apple products. Macbook Airs, iPads, Magic Mice and Apple wireless keyboards: Tim Cook would not be disappointed.
The climate for Internet startups is heating up. Startups are closing rounds faster, getting popular more quickly, scoring higher valuations and getting acquired with increasing greediness. As local luminary and angel investor Chris Dixon notes, the preponderance of hockey stick growth among the top tier of startups is creating a heavy set of expectations that weighs upon the littler startups. These A-list startups are like the impossibly pretty cheerleaders or the improbably studly jocks who discourage the rest of the high school with their sheer existence. They’re the “it” startups, and they can do no wrong. In other words: they’re hot.
On a handout provided at the “How to Hire Developers in a Competitive Market” workshop a few weeks ago, a long list of descriptors attempted to serve up some insight into the psyche of developers. Among the more typical dev stereotypes like “tenacious” and “innovative” were more specific terms, like “sensitive BS detector” and “anti-establishment.” Oddly missing from the list were “Kegerator obsession” and “distaste for donning footwear.”
But we’ll get to that.
Much like unicorns or rent-controlled apartments, software engineers are a rare, fascinating breed. Many are sensitive to sunlight, only wear hoodies and boast a blood composition of 90 percent Mountain Dew. Unencumbered by emotional irrationality, they operate primarily on logic, using highly complicated algorithmic equations to make even the simplest of decisions, like which sushi place to order from. They are obsessive, strange and brilliant, and they make some of the most beloved products in our modern world.
You Must Remember This
Too busy to check your daily Betabeat? Here are the highlights from last week, as selected by the editors.
Branch is billed as a curated discussion platform, but we’ve also found it to be an excellent tool for eavesdropping.
Today, Josh Miller–the founder of Branch who thinks San Francisco is ‘too nice‘–started a conversation on the platform entitled, “Houses, Schools, and Town Squares – Building Next Generation Social Products.” Several tech heavyweights chimed in to discuss a metaphor coined by ex-Facebooker and current Path CEO Dave Morin that compares Facebook to a town square–prompting Eric Fisher, who wrote Facebook’s Social Design Guidelines to help you build great social experiences, to protest that the social network is actually “centered on individuals and their friends which is a very self-serving, egocentric model.”
Alley vs. Valley
Attention, everyone. Josh Miller, Princeton dropout and cofounder of Branch–a curated discussion platform backed by some big name financiers–would like you to know that he has decided to return to New York (cue thunderous applause).
In an earnest missive penned for PandoDaily, Mr. Miller explains that he has decided to leave the Obvious Corporation’s San Francisco HQ to move back to New York, where Branch first started. Jason Goldman, COO of the Obvious Corporation and ex VP of product for Twitter, is heading to New York with him, where they can continue to work on Branch with the help of that sweet $2 million they just pocketed.
When you’ve got Evan Williams, John Borthwick, and Max Levchin chatting it up on your “curated discussion platform,” it’s probably just a matter of time before the high-powered investors,
incubators makers, and other loosely-defined collectives come a’ calling.
Today, Branch, the startup that initially launched in New York City as group blogging service Roundtable, announced that is now partnered with Obvious Corp and picked up investments from Lerer Ventures and SV Angel. Although Branch has been working out of Obvious headquarters since the beginning of this year, the startup will move to Betaworks this summer. Cofounder Josh Miller’s announcement is somewhat obliquely worded, but it sounds like Rick Webb, Lucas Nelson, Ryan Freitas, and David Tisch also joined the round.
The size of the round wasn’t disclosed. However, this Form D SEC filing for Roundtable Media (the startup’s original name) filed by Joshua Alexander Miller, seems to indicate that the size of the round was $1,999,997 and fully subscribed. The address on the Form D, for example, is the same address as Obvious Corp. According to the Form D, the funding was an equity round with seven investors and the date of first sale is listed as February 15th. We have reached out to Mr. Miller for confirmation.
Some of the top minds in the startup world have been sharing deep thoughts in plain sight on the Internet for anyone to see. Your host for this chance to peer across the dinner table of the tech elite? The conversation platform Branch. (For when 140 characters and an @ is not enough . . . is an imaginary tagline we’re toying with.)
The startup, originally launched as the group blogging service Roundtable in New York City picked up early traction from industry insiders and recently reemerged with a shiny new interface.
Conversations stem from a particular question, like this one from Twitter/Obvious Corp’s Evan Williams wondering about the downside of parallel entrepreneurship. That line of questioning yielded a particularly compelling series of responses from Betaworks CEO John Borthwick, PayPal CTO Max Levchin, MySpace CEO Mike Jones, and former Mozilla CEO John Lilly, with an invitation for Fred Wilson to join.