For Your Election Night Fun

Election night is around the corner and with it comes all the fun. You can either watch the talking heads make early predictions (such as calling New York State within a minute after polls close) or you can head to the intarwebs for some fun. Unfortunately, we won’t have the Tim Russert whiteboard to keep us company this time around.

First you’ve got Twitter Vote Report which is seeking to pull together reactions from Twitter users. You can use the “hashtag” #votereport for tracking and project participation, or follow suggestions by the volunteers behind the project:

If you currently use Twitter, send a message after you vote that begins with #votereport (this is critically important for ensuring that your message gets to the right place.) Then write some or all of the following:

  • #[zip code] to indicate where you’re voting; ex., “#12345″
  • #machine for machine problems; ex., “#machine broken, using prov. ballot”
  • #reg for registration troubles; ex., “#reg I wasn’t on the rolls”
  • #wait:minutes for long lines; ex., “#wait:120 and I’m coming back later”
  • #good or #bad to give a quick sense of your overall experience
  • #EP+your state if you have a serious problem and need help from the Election Protection coalition; ex., #EPOH

You can also text messages to 66937 and begin your message with #votereport or use the TTY service by calling (567) 258-VOTE/8683. An iPhone app is supposedly coming as well.

And if you want to torture yourself, Katie Couric is hosting a webcast immediately after CBS broadcast coverage ends. You’ll be able to pull this up on CNet and CBSNews.com.

CNN, meanwhile, is pulling together all spectrums of the blogosphere at Washington DC café Tryst for live blogging and reactions. The two blogs mentioned by the New York Times are Huffington Post and Red State but undoubtedly, there will be a good representation by DC-area political bloggers producing content for their sites and CNN.com.

Election Map is using Google Maps to currently solicit predictions as to how the states will fall. Presumably, they will rollover to an election results map as well.

Of course, there will be the normal banter on Twitter and FriendFeed and you can probably find a “Results Party” in your city where local webheads will group together to watch the results come in.

My prediction? It will be over by 10pm and Obama will take 42 states.

DC Needs a Fred. Any Takers?

FredWilson cropped.pngProfiled in Sunday’s New York Times, Union Square Ventures‘ Fred Wilson is a legend of contemporary venture capital — a title previously reserved for West Coast luminaries like Moritz and Doerr, and maybe a couple others. At Web 2.0 Expo in New York last week, Wilson was greeted with cheers usually reserved for celebrities. . . or rock musicians.

We don’t need a celebrity here in DC. But it would be great to have a venture capitalist with a fraction of Wilson’s passion, commitment, and drive. It’s not so much that he’s an investing legend. . . what’s amazing is his sheer devotion to his companies, his followers, and everything Web 2.0.

By his own admission, Wilson’s had his share of bad calls. But most of that goes back to The Bubble, when he was at Flatiron Partners. I was at a startup (liveprint.com) pitching Flatiron in 1998. I met Wilson briefly back then, as well as the firm’s the most vocal partner, Jerry Colonna; the partner who ended up leading our investment was Bob Greene.

Flatiron’s highest-profile investment was probably deliver-to-your-door service Kozmo.com. I remember getting a Kozmo.com hat. Kozmo raised $100M, before its legendary implosion. I left liveprint.com after the first Flatiron (~$3M) round, before an additional ~$40M bought all those Aeron chairs, and the chairs were acquired (along with the rest of the company) by Kinko’s in a transaction so complicated that no one knew what they had until a check arrived in the mail.

According the NYT profile, Flatiron wrote off a third of its investments.

But Wilson returned, humbler and smarter. To me, he’s the quintessential early-stage VC. Why? Because he’s so focused on his space, and passionate about his companies. True, he’s been accused of shilling for them . . . but from an entrepreneur’s standpoint, the benefits of having such a high-leverage, high-profile investor on your team is literally worth millions (not to mention what you’ll save on not needing a PR firm.)

Just watch Wilson work. He uses nearly every one of his portfolio company’s products — twitter (6,571 follow him @fredwilson), disqus, tumblr. Add these to his blog (A VC), and he’s one of the most prolific posters on the planet.

DC needs a Fred.

Or maybe a Josh. Josh Kopelman, though less vocal than Wilson, has put his money where his mouth is, on behalf of the venture fund he founded just outside Philadelphia, First Round Capital. In fact, First Round has made no fewer than 57 early-stage investments, nearly triple USV’s portfolio.

Or maybe a Bijan. Or a Brad.

And this isn’t just about attitude. There are clear metrics here. Several mid-Atlantic firms talk about their ‘seed’ programs. But the litmus test is: name the ones routinely doing investments in the $250k – $1M range. For most firms, the funds are just too large for the math to work — invest a $250M fund $500k at a time, and you end up with 500 startups in your portfolio. That’s a helluva lot of board meetings.

Which is why First Round usually doesn’t take a board seat. (Most VC firms have a six-seats-per partner limit.) This is about volume (or more accurately, statistics). Quicken the cycle of investment, trim the due diligence, invest more with the gut . . . and let the odds work in your favor over a larger statistical sample. Though time will tell, based on initial exits, it seems these guys are doing pretty well.

So while it’s good to see them on the East Coast (Silicon Valley has sufficient players that none is noteworthy) — and Baltimore, DC, and Northern Virginia are certainly within their flying radius — it’s just not the same as having our own local VC hero. I mean, how sad is it that a local meetup was organized for DC Fans of Fred? (Full disclosure: I was there, and met some great, like-minded entrepreneurs.)

And perhaps more than anything else, these guys get Web 2.0. Unlike most VC firms, USV is not only not afraid to invest in pre-revenue companies, they will invest before a revenue model is even figured out (twitter, tumblr, disqus). So who out there will claim this mantle? Anyone? Anyone?

99.96% Uptime is Bogus Marketing

Reliability Update

Twitter has been making great progress in terms of uptime and
reliability. Fail Whale sightings are far less frequent these
days thanks to our efforts but we still have a long journey
ahead. Last month we saw 99.88% uptime and so far this month we
are at 99.96%. Our engineering and operations teams have been
taking a very methodical approach to improving Twitter. We’re
using the word “craftsmanship” to characterize our work here at
the office. Reliability and dependability continue to be top on
or list of key goals.

The above passage is from an email from Biz Stone at Twitter today. After a horrid June, things could only go up at Twitter HQ. Fortunately, it looked like they got serious about the uptime issues they had their and things have been better.

In the meantime, they purchased the super reliable and speedy Summize and branded it with Twitter branding at search.twitter.com.

This could only be a good thing, right?

Well, you’d think. Except the purchase of the super speedy and efficient Summize has only driven the tool into the pond. To be fair, it’s not horrible, but it suffers from the same weaknesses that Twitter does.

That is, it can’t keep up.

As an example, I’ve been following #dnc08 and #rnc08 searches on Summize to watch what people are saying about the political conventions. During the high traffic tweet windows during the evenings of the conventions, Twitter is reliable. That is, they are reliably late. Usually 1-2 hours behind the actual tweet stream.

This is completely unacceptable, and it is complete spin, I guess in the spirit of the conventions, for Biz to tout 99.96% uptime.

Let me be clear, when things are slow and not performing up to standard, you cannot claim 99.96% uptime. Technically you can. Uptime is technically defined by if the web server serves a 404 Page not Found (or Twitter Fail Whale in their case) or a 200 Page found status code.

But from a common sense user experience, this is not uptime. And to claim so is disingenuous.

I appreciate the efforts Twitter has put into improving, but why are we fighting the ability to use the tools during high-demand times. In essence, that makes the tools completely useless.

I look forward to better results, but my skepticism remains in place about Twitter. They do not have the staying power to make it.

I have been on a 3 month hiatus on Twitter blogging. I have refused to blog about it, but there’s another post that has been in the back of my mind for some time. What happens when companies and businesses trying to use Twitter as a marketing and communications tool cannot. What happens when your brand relies on the communication lines and those communications lines dying?

Another day, another post. For today, the spin needs to be exposed.