The elevators to the BuzzFeed office are magnificently slow. Each fits about six people comfortably, and they trundle and groan up to the 11th floor, where the company’s ops, tech and marketing people sit. “Considering how fast the company moves, it’s amazing how slow its elevators are,” quipped one dapperly dressed man as we all awkwardly waited for the doors to open.
Betabeat was visiting the BuzzFeed office for the first time to attend a real-life roundtable. Hosted by Branch cofounder Josh Miller, the event included beers and mingling among some of New York’s prolific tech reporters and entrepreneurs, as well as a discussion with Twitter cofounder Ev Williams and BuzzFeed’s own cofounder Jonah Peretti.
With UPenn making moves on the title of “Stanford of the East” and Eric Schmidt advising Cornell on the evolution of its new tech campus, NYU doesn’t want its students left behind in the college tech revolution. Hence the school’s new partnership with Codeacademy. Students in the Steinhardt School’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication (MCC) can now opt in to a ten-week course where NYU professors and Codecademy instructors will teach them how to code.
Last night, gangs of glammed-out New York techies and science enthusiasts trekked uptown to the Rose Center for Earth and Space to take in a stunningly optimistic program presented by Gizmodo and the American Museum of Natural History. The event was planned and hosted by Gawker Media founder Nick Denton (with the help of Brew PR), who appeared so eager about the “celebration of technology and discovery” that he tweeted about it numerous times prior to the event, published a grandiose blog post on Gizmodo reveling in the glorious achievements of science, and sent out an email to attendees: “This evening should be inspiring and fun,” he wrote.
“I’ve never seen Nick so excited for a social event,” one colleague remarked.
And who could begrudge Mr. Denton his excitement? The event was everything he claimed it would be–and perhaps more, depending on how many free cocktails you indulged in. Hosted by Ellen V. Futter, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley and Mr. Denton himself, the gathering was as swank and inspiring as expected.
If Wife Swap is one of your guilty pleasures (ahem), then you might get a kick out of Founder Swap, a project created by the makers of Scroll Kit, Kate Ray and Cody Brown, [Editor's note: along with Jonathan Basker of Betaworks] which aims to inject fresh talent into startup teams. On June 1st, New York-based early-stage startup founders will swap places with the hope that the project will help foster new ideas among the participating companies.
Love in the Time of Algorithms
Scroll Kit, the latest brainchild from the Bushwick-based team of Cody Brown and Kate Ray, demoed their new product at last week’s New York Tech Meetup to an admiring crowd. As Mr. Brown’s elevator pitch goes, the publishing tool lets anyone “make magazine-style layouts for the web and iPad without knowing how to code.”
Now that they’ve got your attention, they decided to have some fun with it, by putting the DIY back in Valentine’s Day love notes.
EARLIER THIS MONTH, ON A SUNDAY MORNING, the startup world woke up to that rare stripe of news which quietly sends shockwaves reverberating throughout an entire culture of people: Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 22 years old, had passed away. The cause of death “appears to be a suicide,” noted a San Francisco police officer who spoke with CNN. A forthcoming coroner’s report will make a final determination. Mr. Zhitomirskiy was one of the four co-founders of Diaspora*, once breathlessly hyped in a May 2010 New York Times article as a “cry to arms” against Facebook, in a story that employed a classic tech narrative: four brilliant young men, on the verge of changing the world, subsisting on ramen and pizza.
Y Combinator’s Hacker News link to the item racked up pages of comments, many devoted to shouting down those who wanted to have a discussion about depression in the technology and startup community, noting it as an inappropriate moment for that topic. One user noted that a breaking news thread announcing Mr. Zhitomirskiy’s death was “a terrible place to have a discussion about ‘the stresses of life … related to tech.’”
Another disagreed: “We don’t talk about suicide in society very well let alone within the startup community. Founders find themselves in extremely stressful situations and living lifestyles that exacerbate the effects of this stress.”
This second comment read in contrast to the first, whose final suggestion on the matter was to “have that discussion inside your head” for the time being, and then go talk about it some other time.
Cody Brown and Kate Ray graduated from NYU in 2010, taught themselves to code and built Kommons–a platform for crowdsourcing questions through Twitter and attempting to peer pressure an answer from public personalities. It didn’t, as they say, get traction. So they built another thing, “Nerd Collider,” a platform for hosting text-centric discussions between experts on the web, sort of like the New York Times’s Opinionator blog. Their latest product, Scroll, is a simple single-page HTML editor that allows publishers to lay out a fancy-looking page that mimics the flexibility designers have for formatting on the printed page. Bonus: the web page is automatically-formatted to look as good on the web as it does on the iPad.
The Tao of Steve
After the news about Apple founder Steve Jobs death broke last night, Betabeat reached out to a few members of the New York tech community and asked them to share their thoughts and impressions of the ultimate CEO. Here’s what they had to say:
“Magnificent coinage from @CodyBrown: ‘digitalvegetarianism,‘” Jeff Jarvis tweeted recently. If you Googled, you might have thought he was referring to the L.A.-based lifestyle blog and SEO experiment, but actually Mr. Jarvis just got it wrong. The “coinage” is digital veganism, a phrase start-up founder and recent NYU grad Cody Brown has been slinging around since even before his roommate quit Facebook and Twitter in a public huff.
We had heard Mr. Brown refer to the open source, decentralized anti-Facebook Diaspora as “digital veganism” before. But what does it mean? We asked him to explain.
NYU media grads turned start-up kids Cody Brown and Kate Ray just launched a thing called Nerd Collider, a white-label site for discussing specific things with specific people. Similar to Quora, Nerd Collider nests responses with some comments hidden by default; it also has a voting system and requires Twitter authentication like the Q&A site.