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Startups: your web site sucks (scobleizer.com)
45 points by sant0sk1 on Sept 6, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

Well, FWIW, I am presenting at DEMO this year. We do actually have a video link right on the front page of our web site, and yet he claims that only one did, and the one he linked to wasn't us. http://paragent.com

I was tempted to post a comment, but I would rather avoid directing his vitriol directly at our company at this point. DEMO is a HUGE commitment for us. 18K is nothing to sneeze at, and a substantial part of our budget. However, living in the midwest, it is very difficult to form the kind of relationships that occur naturally on the east and west coasts. DEMO is an opportunity for us to meet face to face with many people we otherwise we never get to meet, and have some chance of attracting attention. Who knows if DEMO will have been worth it - I'll let you know after it is over. Undoubtedly, it will either end up in a best-of or worst-of compilation.

Well, I'm no Scoble, but my opinion is that your site looks great. Best of luck at DEMO!

I second that. I can only hope we have some of the design sense your startup has.

And good luck at DEMO, I look forward to watching your video once it's posted.

Aren't most of these sites using 'Demo' as the launch platform? Therefore, why would they be expected to have more than this up before they launched. Maybe the policy of releasing the list of Demo presenters on the weekend before the conference is more the problem than the presenting sites websites.

Would Scoble have been pissed if he showed up at the Olympics in June and there was no sports going on? Patience young grasshopper.

Man, how is this guy so famous? This is poorly organized and poorly written. It's one step above stream of conscious.

As others have noted in his blog comments - up until a few months ago his site was absolutely terrible and now he's already on his high horse.

Glass houses.

Don't worry he's not actually famous he's just tech scene famous, which is similar to winning the special olympics. Ask your Mom, non CS college professor, Grandpa or neighbor who he is. They won't know.

The short of it is, in all honesty, the only way I know of this guy is through news.yc. The long if it is I avoid the high traffic sites like techcrunch and reddit, as I really don't feel I get much value out of them, for part of the same reason I stopped reading slashdot some time ago. News.yc is my main source of startup news at this time. Even then, I think the stories/news links have been getting more diluted with crap since I started visiting here. (I'm to blame too, as I've submitted some fluff myself).

Well, except there is actual money to be made in being "tech scene famous." He owns a house in Half Moon Bay, probably earns a nice six figure salary to do whatever the hell it is he does, gets lots of freebies (he was at frigging Davos), and probably speaking fees. Of course, I don't know, there might be actual money in winning the special olympics.

And I'd bet any CS college professor (that's any good) doesn't know who he is, either.

True, but eventually most talentless hacks are filtered out and even if Scoble isn't, he's still an epic joke. There's money & free goodies to be obtained winning the special olympics as well.

Also from my understanding, he used to be largely sponsored by Seagate right? I don't get what value he brings to sponsors - seriously. When Arrington or Fred Wislon recommend something I at least check it out.

When I think of Robert Scoble I think: "too many cheeseburgers, annoying perpetual laugh and bad writing" NOT "I better buy whatever he recommends."

What does he actually _do_? I still don't understand. As far as I can tell Robert Scoble is the Washington DC or Paris Hilton of the tech scene.

My experience is that in the Bay Area, there's a critical mass of "talentless hacks" that basically support each other and create barriers to entry for actual talented people. Scoble is their king. Sarah Lacy is queen.

That being said, there's a ton of really talented people in the same area, just that most of them have either cashed out, work for Google or Apple, or are so busy building stuff that they don't have time to blog crap.

I'm going to quote you one day - that's a phenomenal line.

I'm blushing ;-) Though seriously I was in the center of it all for 2 years so I think my impression is, at the very least, an honest opinion. Which is something that seems exceedingly rare in the Bay Area.

Maybe TicketStumbler should stay in Boston longer than previously anticipated (we're already staying another year); I don't do well with bullshit.

Scoble's site still sucks. He's a Dunning-Kruger poster child.

Your post made me laugh out loud. God this has been fun to watch.

BTW: congrats to you and your brother for quitting your jobs.

"Man, how is this guy so famous?"

Because he has several hundred feeds in his RSS reader and engages lots of individual bloggers in conversation. You'd think that if you started a new blog, you'd have to get it really big before guys like Scoble would link to you. But in reality if you start a new blog then Scoble will probably be the first one to link to you, because all he does is read blogs and link to the posts he likes. Then people link back to him and his own site gets popular.

I still don't think "famous" is the right word to describe him.

The conversation, early adopter aspect Scoble brings is kinda cool. The throwing stones from a glass house aspect isn't.

Yeah DEMO blows and it's ridiculous to charge startups 18k to present - but obviously the startups saw enough value in it to participate.

Agreed. Scoble is one of the most obnoxious people in tech.

give the guy a break, nobody asked you to read or accept what he wrote

And no one asked him to blindly rip and shred numerous startups after looking at them for less than a minute.

i'm not excusing his lousy attitude. He should be more careful assuming he has an audience. What I understand though is that it's not his first time to demonstrate such attitude.

I don't quite understand why Hacker News is giving attention to this guy.

He is just trying to market himself by trashing newcomers. His # 1 reason for the sucketivity of these startups is "Almost no company on this list is using video". This comes from a guy whose job title is "video blogger". His entire career revolves around camera and camera related stuff. Has this guy done any real tech stuff other than 'assemble computers' ?

I would be very surprised if Robert Scoble has ever assembled a computer.

His nickname comes from how he would configure machines with vigor, or something -- he would "Scobleize" machines. He did plenty of putting together machines, but he's certainly not a developer.

Interesting. I am surprised. His website's about section is, ironically (considering the subject of this thread), almost 50% a disclaimer.

What a twit. Most of those sites seem fine and the one that's not in English is actually a company and there's an English version of the page (should be highlighted, but still accessible).

I agree that the guy is being way harsh, but after looking through some of the sites I wasn't too impressed.

If I were an investor I'd want to see a little something more than what I saw today.

2 years ago he wrote the exact opposite: http://scobleizer.com/2006/03/04/the-role-of-anti-marketing-...

His point (a good one) is more about positioning and less about design. i.e. How startups you describe what they do. I think he's right-- most startups (most companies, really) are woefully bad at communicating in a way that their customers understand. The closer you are to a topic, the less likely you are to be able to put yourself in the shoes of someone who isn't.

I went through all the company webpages as well... and I didn't think they were all as bad as Scoble makes out. I have to agree with some of his gripes, but on average, the sites were pretty good.

Some of these companies are genuinely cool too, mainly the hardware startups like Adapx, microstaq, fusion-io. I also liked TravelMuse, GreenSherpa, Quantivo and Telnic.

Side note - I noticed that quite a few of these companies are based on the fuzzy social networking premise of "share this with your friends" (or "unified collaboration environments" as QTask so eloquently puts it) plus a twist (such as more security, creating lists, increased productivity or some revolutionary algorithm to share important info). The way I see it, this is a tough space to compete in. The twists usually aren't compelling enough for people to not only migrate over from the big players (facebook, myspace et al), but also convince all their mates to do so as well. One day a company may come up with something that is, but I suspect it'll have to be a big innovative step change, a game changer, not just small incremental baby steps.

Scoble's article might seem arrogant, but when I visited the sites that he critiqued, I found them to be under par as well - they dont communicate what they do and many are just plain ugly, IMHO.

What is the point of this article? It reads as "here's a minor nitpick about everything." I can't think of anything else to say.

The article conjures up a mental image of a high school student at a party who takes a shit in the punch bowl and expects everyone to be proud of him. Instead, everyone ignores him. (Let's be that "everyone", eh?)

I disagree about video. You don't need video to explain what you do on the front page of your site.

Video can be a bit 'spammish' IMHO Sure, have some video tutorial or something linked off the front page.

My website sucks, too. And you know what? I really don't care.

I'm building a secure backup service. I'm not building a website. After signing up and downloading the client code, there's no need for people to visit the website.

Yes, a website says something about a company. I'd rather have a website which says "I'm too busy writing code to make this look good" than a website which says "I care more about looking good than about the service I'm providing".

You're selling a service- if the design of the website fails to relate that service in a way that draws people in and makes them want to purchase, you fail. If the design of the site does draw people in and make them want to purchase, you succeed.

It's a question of effectiveness, of if you'd be able to sell more effectively via a good website.

That's probably only true if your customers are individual consumers. When we were selling to enterprise customers, we realized most of them didn't even look at our great website. Most of the selling were just done with good old fashioned salespeople that contacted the Marketing VP and chatted with him.

That's like saying "I don't have to take care of myself or look good, girls will like me anyway because I'm a great person" which is nice, but completely not how the real world works.

It really depends on what you are doing. If all you are providing is a simple vehicle for people to get files and some basic information, then you could even get by with the most basic web page. Do you have Windows and like free software? Then chances are you use PuTTY:


This site sucks, as in, its not fancy in any kind of way, but it does what it needs to do.

Another case in point is zlib (if you're not familiar with it, you'd be surprised at all the software that uses it):


So there is some REALLY useful software behind some sucky websites. Point: you don't ALWAYS need a super cool website to provide your goods or services.

But the difference is that these sites are more or less niche sites. People will use them regardless of design, as that's what tech people are like.

However, Some of the sites linked are poor - it would be prudent to look at the sites linked in more detail (ie more than just a glance at the home page) before deciding to attack Scoble.

For example, the Plastic Logic (sorry if anyone here works for them, but I'm just trying to show something) is very poorly designed. I'm actually surprised that a company that is "technology related" would launch a new site that is circa 1995 web design.

Clicking through to the product page shows an image that is roughly 200x300 that takes an incredibly long time to load. Upon further inspection, it turns out to be 10 times larger (a 2.25mb file) that these guys uploaded and resized with html instead of resizing in a graphics utility.

I honestly don't know anyone who would do something like that anymore.

I think the way Robert handled his post could have been more professional, especially since there may be a conflict of interest with him judging at TC50, but he did have a point - some of the site designs were not in line with some of the markets they are trying to attract.

Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you. Props for putting together a good service but you can't have a bare bones website these days. That doesn't say that you're too busy to make a good looking website it says that you're not thinking about the marketing side of your business.

A potential customer might take a look at the site and think, "what's this? If they can't make a decent looking site why should I believe they can make a decent product?"

Taking the time to make a great website might not be something you're interested in, but find a friend or pay someone to make it for you.

What about a website which says "my service is successful and lucrative (and therefore probably useful) enough that I can hire a good web designer"?

"my service is successful and lucrative (and therefore probably useful) enough that I can hire a good web designer"

That would be dishonest at the moment. :-)

When tarsnap is lucrative (which implies "after it gets out of free beta") I'll probably revisit the issue of website design. :-)

I'm not sure that saying you're too busy writing code to deal with every other aspect of your business really is a good thing.

That being said, if you intend to sell your service to nerdy Unix sysadmins, not having a shiny website requiring all the annoying plug-ins probably is a good thing.

I suppose he has a point if you're a regular Scoble reader. I hardly know him (I know of him though), so I'm exactly sure what his complaints are targeting.

Websites that aren't catchy enough, because they don't have videos? Or they're not in English?

I would have taken to the article better had their been a bit of constructive suggestions to correspond with the general whining. But perhaps the rest of his articles always go over that kind of thing?

seems like for most of them his main concern is that the site isn't launched before he got there. He seems to have dismissed them even before they launched.

I think his main concern is that they're not TechCrunch50 sites (he's a judge or something, though he seems to have forgotten the disclaimer he used in one of his first Demo-trashing posts).

I think all these sites should put a picture of scoble in the header. Just like he has.

People should just be like Gordon Ramsay with his attitude toward food critiques; he kicks them all out of his restaurants.

Scoble fan here.

I don't know how much pageviews these startups would get without Scoble telling that they suck.

Scoble started conversation. Many agreed the thesis, many don't, everybady CHECKED. It is like mini DEMO for these companies. How this could be bad for them?

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