Stille waters, diepe grond, onder draai die duiwel rond.

I was scrambling through a deep canyon on Sunday on Snoqualmie’s South Fork and ended up at this beautiful quiet pool that looked very deep and had a very nice brookie that grabbed my thin mint streamer after a few casts.

I was reminded of an Afrikaans expression:

“Stille waters, diepe grond, onder draai die duiwel rond.”

It’s the Afrikaans equivalent of “Still waters run deep” but it doesn’t really translate that well. Literally it translates as: “Still waters, deep ground, beneath the devil goes round and round” – but it loses its punchiness in translation.

Afrikaans is a language with a rough history and I think because of this it’s rich with idiomatic expressions, some of which would make a sailor blush. [so I won’t share those with you].

Another one: “Hy kan nie ‘n bokkom braai nie.”

Translates as: “He can’t barbecue a dried and salted mullet” – doesn’t translate either because you have to have lived on the west coast of South Africa and seen what a bokkom looks like and experienced the sheer genius of west coast braais (bbq’s) to understand what an insult this really is.

The scary history of Aspartame and the scary people behind it

I was driving from OC in California back to Seattle yesterday and was listening to NPR on Siruis which I’m completely addicted to. There was a brilliant interview with author and Professor Devra Davis who recently published The Secret History of the War on Cancer which I’m probably going to buy. The show was called “Chemicals, Cancer and You” – follow the link to listen to it.

She chatted about the history of Aspartame, the sweetener in most diet sodas. Kerry (my wife) has been drinking diet soda for years (and talking about quitting for years) and after hearing the interview she’s just dumped all her remaining soda and is moving to iced tea with unrefined sugar (evaporated cane juice).

The Aspartame discussion is towards the end of the interview – perhaps 15 minutes before the end.

G. D. Searle and Co developed Aspartame in 1965. In the 1970’s the safety of Aspartame came into question after Tumors were found in rats that had been given aspartame. A grand jury was convened to investigate the drug. They never finished their work. In fact several senior people who worked for the FDA and who were involved with the investigation were recruited by Searle and the investigation into the health risks associated with Aspartame simply went away.

The guy behind it all? Searle’s Chief Operating Officer, Donald H Rumsfeld.

The story of the little bird

A little bird was flying along one day heading North. As he flew it started getting colder and colder. Soon it started raining. The rain turned into freezing hail.  His wings froze and he fell out of the sky like a stone. He thought to himself “Oh lordy I’m frozen stiff, I can’t move, I’m falling at 200 miles an hour and when I hit the ground I’m going to shatter like a piece of glass.”.

As he finally lost all hope he hit the ground. But instead of shattering into a billion little birdy bits, he landed in a large and very fresh pile of cow dung. He couldn’t believe his luck. And it was warm too! As the storm raged around him his wings started to thaw and his ice-cream headache disappeared. In fact he started feeling better than he had felt in a long while. He felt so good that he started wiggling about and he even let out a few chirps.

A cold and hungry fox passing by  heard the chirps and quick as a – well, as a  fox – he leapt on the cow-pile and gobbled up the little bird.

The moral of the story is:

1. When things seem really really bad don’t lose hope.

2. Everything that looks like shit and smells like shit isn’t always a bad thing.

3. When things are going well, shut the fuck up!

[My dad gets credit as the source of this story]


Monday mornings are our busiest in terms of traffic. We also get a ton of new user signups over the weekend which means that our numbers get a huge bump every Monday. So I reeeeally look forward to Mondays.

Locomotive Breath

My Texan cousin-in-law and I were partying in SoCal recently and we got chatting about favorite songs. He mentioned Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull was his favorite. I just heard it for the first time, and, um, wow! If you’re into hard charging gritty 70’s tube amp rock then you want to check this out. I love the constantly driving bass guitar in the background.

More Facebook debate.

There’s an interesting conversation thread going on at publishing2 regarding Facebook apps. This quote from Dave McClure, who I know from the days when my job search engine used to compete with his job search engine [and who I have the greatest respect for].

Interesting use of one data point to provide the proof for a wide-ranging empirical assertion.

i guess as a comparison, i can give you 90 other data points from students in the Facebook Apps class i’m teaching at Stanford this fall who would offer a contrary perspective. they have formed 30 teams of 3 to build apps and learn about using Facebook as an launchpad for startup entrepreneurship. i doubt any of them feel like they’re wasting their time, as you suggest.

I’d love to know the assumptions behind Dave’s course.

10 Million profiles have your app installed (See the graph on my recent blog entry)

Each of them gets 3 hits per day on average.

A CTR of 0.04% to your own website (based on FB’s ad CTR)

= 12,000 pageviews per day or

360,000 pageviews per month.

At $10 CPM (adsense is more like $3) you earn a grand total of:

$3600 per month with 10 Million Facebook users using your app.

Just for fun, increase that to 30 hits per day per profile and you’re still only earning $36,000 per month. Hardly a VC worthy investment.

But what really bugs me is the strategic implications of being a remora to the great white shark that is Facebook.

To me, building a business around a Facebook app feels more like being an eBayer both in terms of the hard ceiling on your businesses scale and the total reliance on the facilitator you’ve hitched yourself to.

What am I missing?

Why you might not want to have a “Facebook strategy”

Tim Oreilly has done some data crunching and has a graph showing the distribution of Facebook application use. He describes it as a long tail which is misleading because there is no way for any one business/entity to aggregate the long-tail into something useful – besides Facebook themselves which illustrates how smart their platform play is.

But it’s great data. Combine this with the average ad CTR of 0.04% on Facebook (which is relevant for widgets because they’re subject to the same CTR’s) and it makes one wonder why anyone would want to play in that sandbox.

The other interesting thing about the graph is that it’s a who’s who of Facebook:

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Inspiration for innovators

One of the first books I ever read and one that has had a profound impact on my life was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. If you recently left the flock or are planning on leaving, I recommend you find a quiet corner and draw strength from Jonathan.

I think that this book should replace Sun Tzu’s ‘The art of war’ as required reading for entrepreneurs. I was recently watching a video of Sergei Brin giving a talk at Berkeley. One of the students in the audience asked him if thinking about competitors like Microsoft keeps him up at night. He replied that he doesn’t worry too much about competitors and that thinking about the incredible opportunity that he has is what keeps him up at night.

Here are the first few paragraphs of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a
gentle sea. A mile from shore a fishing boat chummed the water. and the
word for Breakfast Flock flashed through the air, till a crowd of a
thousand seagulls came to dodge and fight for bits of food. It was another
busy day beginning.
But way off alone, out by himself beyond boat and shore, Jonathan
Livingston Seagull was practicing. A hundred feet in the sky he lowered
his webbed feet, lifted his beak, and strained to hold a painful hard
twisting curve through his wings. The curve meant that he would fly
slowly, and now he slowed until the wind was a whisper in his face, until
the ocean stood still beneath him. He narrowed his eyes in fierce
concentration, held his breath, forced one… single… more… inch…
of… curve… Then his feathers ruffled, he stalled and fell.
Seagulls, as you know, never falter, never stall. To stall in the air
is for them disgrace and it is dishonor.
But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings
again in that trembling hard curve – slowing, slowing, and stalling once
more – was no ordinary bird.
Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of
flight – how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it
is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not
eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else. Jonathan
Livingston Seagull loved to fly.
This kind of thinking, he found, is not the way to make one’s self
popular with other birds. Even his parents were dismayed as Jonathan spent
whole days alone, making hundreds of low-level glides, experimenting.

The book is published in its entirety here.