USV puts news on their home page

Union Square Ventures has a new home, and it's a dandy!

Down the left edge is a news flow that works more or less like Hacker News. Anyone can submit a link, upvote or comment. Comments are managed by Disqus, a USV company, btw (we also use Disqus here for comments).

There are the usual three components to a post: title-link-description. You can add tags. You can view the news flow in either reverse-chronologic order or ranked by number of votes.

The community is small, so the ranked page is not so interesting at least not yet. And there aren't many people submitting links. They've had ten submissions so far today, as I write this as 10:15AM on a Thursday. But it's only been around for 12 days, and Fred Wilson's blog has a sizeable audience to tap. I'm guessing the word really hasn't spread yet. (A side-effect of there being no culture of software reviews in tech.)

They have an RSS feed for the newest stuff and another that has just the hot ones. I added the full feed to my personal river, so if you watch that for your news, you'll automatically get all the links in the USV flow. Oddly the white-on-orange RSS icon in the upper-right corner of their home page does not lead to a feed. This is a bad idea. What little consistency there is in the RSS world should be preserved.

I asked a series of questions yesterday to find out how their editorial flow works, and in the process learned a bunch about how it was implemented. Nick Grossman, who developed the software says "The app is python + tornado + redis + mongodb + bootstrap + jquery." They say it will be released with an open source license. There is a bookmarklet and an Android app, Chrome extension and they're working on a Firefox extension. I imagine that Fred Wilson's dislike of iPhones is responsible for the lack of an iOS app?

Update: Fred Wilson commented below that there are technical reasons there's no iOS app yet, no religion.

Why this is significant

I used to have a standard home page at until 1997 when I moved my Frontier News page up to the home page. I realized then that the home page of a site should be the fastest-moving page on a site. It's the easiest to get to, and what most people want is to quickly find out what's new, so why not make it easy for them to get what they want?

Since figuring that out, and having it be an unqualified success, I've been preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen. I actually pitched this idea to a VC firm in the 90s, Kleiner Perkins. But it's taken this long for one to actually do it, and it's no surprise that it's Union Square. They've always been a bit ahead of the others in the VC business.

So you might extrapolate that other VCs will either run USV's software once it's released open source, or commission their own, or perhaps even start a company or two in this area. The remaking of the home pages of our blogs to handle news links! What a concept. Long overdue, imho.

Now all this assumes that USV's idea will work, and there's no guarantee that it will. People who post links need to feel that they're going to get a reward for it, either in more community cred, or flow for their ideas, or attention from a leading VC (a much-sought commodity). They've already said that pitches are permitted, so expect a lot of that. I love the fact that this will incentivize people to use blogs over social media sites, thus adding strength to the un-silo'd web.

I'm not sure if they realize that they've set up a mini-Twitter on their home page, but they have. And it has a feed. So I'm pretty happy about this.

News organizations take note

I've long felt that the home page of every news organization should be a reverse-chronologic list of on-site and off-site links. Remember, people come back to places that send them away. I've made direct pitches to a number of news sites, and they all said no. But this may light a fire. If a VC firm can innovate in news by giving the people what they want, why can't they?

There are reasons why they've had trouble doing it. Usually it's because of a strong separation between their development and editorial parts. The news people are not empowered to make major changes to the sites, and often seem to not understand the relatively simple tech behind news aggregation, and I assume the technical people don't see why news should be a fast-flowing thing on their home pages. And owners don't see why they should give flow to others. If USV's new system works, they may see why it's a good idea, which it is, imho of course.

But there's much more that can be done after the nice start that USV has made. If you want ideas, go back through the archive on Scripting News, and think about how you can deliver more to your readers by giving some semi-permanent love to the bloggers and other news organizations that you read. There are worse things than having readers come to your site to find out what's new on your competitors' sites.

The blogroll concept was just a start. Think in terms of collections of feeds and you'll be going in a good direction.

Posted: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 14:09:32 GMT