I'm super surprised by this, and Kevin Rose just lost a couple of points of respect in my book. Must be nice to have investors who will throw money at you, so that you can give a half-hearted effort at something (or maybe less than half) only to shut it down a few months later to "try something else".
It's like ADD at the business level.
Terrible decision. I don't even think anyone even tried to make this a success.
In fact, I think it shows a lot of discipline to stick to what they said they'd do.
I think a very valid argument can be made that this is the problem with the Milk model. The fact that they're funded without a product mandate means that they have a nice safety net so instead of pivoting a product and trying to fix what they have, they "shoot it in the head" and move on. There's no incentive to try to make what they have work. This isn't discipline, discipline is about making the hard choices and its easy to put a product out to pasture, its in fact the opposite. There's no reason to be disciplined when you're just playing with other people's money.
This is pretty much the opposite of what YC does which is give a smart team just enough money to live and make them fend for themselves. You're a hell of a lot more disciplined when you're clawing and scrathcing just to be ramen profitable.
I'm not saying terminating a project that didn't meet expectations is wrong, I'm just curious about the lasting implications.
I figured it would be killed after how little people in my area were using it and I knew what I was getting in to, but I think I'll still let other people be the test dummies next time.
It's no longer about million dollar ideas, it's not really about execution of solutions either, it's about teams wandering around in search of something.
And maybe inevitably Kevin Rose will stumble upon the real purpose of Milk and spend time on it and make it a success. And the mistakes he made will just be papered over while what worked is left to be studied.
That's the real point anyway.
I call bullshit.
Sorry, but the idea behind Oink simply wasn't very compelling.
I am actually turned off by the fact that Kevin managed to get investors in his own private sensory incubation tank which has no problem walking away from everything.
The mantra of fail often is being confused with continual failure.
Not everyone plays it but a lot do. It's the easiest point of entry for when you don't have the know how, lack experience, don't know enough people to do things such as launch rockets, design electric cars, optimize doctors, or achieve world peace.
Actually, what didn't work is very valuable. That's the whole point of things like customer development/lean startup. You learn why something didn't work so that you don't repeat your mistakes, and chart a course for something that you think will work the next time.
Really? 4 months to gain traction? I wonder how they come up with this number?
Person 1: "have you seen this new app?"
Person 2: "Oh, cool. I'd try it out, but I read on [insert tech blog] that they're practicing lean startup methodology so I'll wait to install it until after their series-A"
Yes, I know that's a strawman argument, but I have a hard time seeing people really thinking like this at all.
What changed it for me was to look at it differently:
1. If all products that were ever built were 100% good and successful, we'd be living in a different world. But, we don't. Fact is that most of us make a few good products (if we are lucky) and a lot of bad ones. It is the natural way of things, you can't control it. What you can control is how we go about doing it and how much it costs.
2. Money is raised for a lot of reasons. Money is spent for a lot of reasons. Not all worthy causes/products get funded well, same is the case for the unworthy ones. A lot of money, be it that most of it is wasted, tills the ground better and raises the odds for something good to come out of the flood of bad ones. Would you rather have no good ones at all in trying to ensure ONLY good ideas get funded and sustained?
3. You can use the same $$$s in different ways: blow it all up in one go, make different (smaller) attempts at it with clearly defined parameters for failure and success. Those two parameters are very subjective. Especially as product people we tend to keep products alive for much longer than we deserve to keep them.
4. Most important perspective for me: if you think you can do it differently, stop talking about it and have a go at it. Attempting (and even failing) to do half of most of the people we love to criticize brings about a sea change in perspective. It is always different in the trenches.
Using money to fund ideas that may or may not pan out is an interesting concept and kind of cool and if they decide to throw out ideas that don't work rather than stick to it that just defines what milk is.
And in contrast to the Milk model, you have sites like Delicious, Flickr, and even Digg itself which still operate even after the original founders have moved on.
More to the point, what percentage of potential users for their next app will know about Milk's philosophy (or care) when they see it in the App Store's "Featured" section?
It might make the news, and it's a good talking point, but I can't help feeling the naysayers are just stuck in an echo chamber on this.
Business is an art. And great artists know that moving forward often requires you to say "this didn't work, let's start again."
"If you want to live your life ... as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away." — Steve Jobs
"____ is an art" is often used as an excuse when ____ is being approached with a total lack of discipline...
Some authors rewrite their books over and over again. I know in the crafting of a story that held firm to my vision, I had over 30 or 40 rough drafts that went into /dev/null. I will never know if any of those drafts were better than my final story, but my art is is in holding strong to my vision, and to be willing to discard, rewrite, ruthlessly edit, and endlessly revisit every single one of my assumptions about the plot, characters, mood, structure.
That is art, and no amount of armchair commentation will capture the beauty, frustration, and joy within this process.
Yes. It is possible for an artist to spend an entirety of his/her life reworking one single piece. and yes - it is true that within this work, he/she would have said no a million times to a million possible decisions, and restarted from scratch a million times.
People are saying "you need to stick things out to build a business" -- but Milk is sticking to their original strategy, and is in the process of searching for a truly big business.
People are calling Kevin Rose and his team a bunch of hipsters, but I'd rather that than the nerdy meta-hipsters who are everywhere online these days.
I really like the Milk model. It's another twist on the incubator/accelerator concept, alongside stuff like YC or the Samwers' Rocket Internet. A startup that looks like an investment firm -- instead of risking it all on one product, they're looking for a portfolio of products, to better increase the chances of finding that one breakout hit. And like VCs, they're not interested in small successes.
Sure, you can point out their model is unproven and might not work. But there's no need to hate them for trying something new.
Maybe it's because most HN'ers don't have that kind of luxury of scope with their own startup endeavors, which understandably causes a level of resentment?
Sure, as a founder you can pivot, but that's not the same as launching discrete apps/businesses, being able to test them out and then shut them down if they are not popular.
Most people only get one bite of the cherry.
If the signs are there (which they obviously are internally) then better kill it now and start on the next thing earlier than draw it out longer. I think people are getting Oink and Milk confused. Milk received the capital which makes killing Oink more of an internal decision.
I think it's a wise. Also it's a little interesting people are commenting about the effort behind the product. Sure the timeline is short, but I feel it's the effort that really makes Oink stand out and fall harder.
Our internal analysis of share/engagement metrics was showing that our own users were way more engaged than Oink's. We were expecting that if they noticed us in the market they'd have been working on rev 2 of the product - gathering intel from products like ours and integrating it - rather than shutting it down.
Slashdot had moderation for comments, but no similar mechanism for stories. Digg had the voting system for stories and for comments.
I don't know the Reddit history that well, but as I read recently in a PG essay, it was originally slated to be a food ordering application on your phone.
I do not know when they pivoted, or when their idea to pivot came, but I _suspect_ that their pivot was at least partly inspired by Digg's early release.
Oink was maybe useful when items were attached to locations. As soon as people started like Macbook Pros and other free standing stuff, it became completely pointless for me. (Too cluttered and not enough recommendation value.)
We've had a few businesses approach us cold after being cheered, asking if they could offer some sort of coupon, or other offer to users who cheer on their business. That's something we haven't really figured out how to run with and/or monetize yet.
I can't really explain what gets these users hooked, but you can see the sort of engagement we're seeing here: http://chee.rs/1433322
We've been waiting for them to fix this for a while. I hope that it arrives around the same time as SSL support for custom domains.
Explore the space between selling virtual sheep to OCD-inflicted grandmas and shoving the local butcher's billboard in your loving users' faces.
Maybe oink just wasn't driving the engagement they wanted (or something).
But I really do appreciate that they offer a way to download my data as I've done it and discovered a beer I'd forgotten about: http://www.meantimebrewing.com/our-beers/meantime-wheat
Instagram hopes to prove you wrong.
The price for being a cutting-edge digirati is that many of the services you use, will not survive. If you can't deal with that, wait until they go mainstream and have some viable way to stay alive. Don't complain about it.
Yes, Kevin has raised money on his name - but why all the hate? Let him do his thing and you do yours.
Try launching a product and building your own, rather than criticizing other efforts. Either way, bootstrapping, getting funding, pivoting, abandoning is not easy. Doing it with such public scrutiny is even harder.
Take a chill pill and take solace in the fact that you are in the digirati that can even see these things. Your mom likely doesn't even know what Oink is. If you would rather be like her, then stop hanging out here and complaining.
I think people are getting tired of using apps to tag stuff, take pictures, "like" this and that, etc... It feels like we are working for a company and not having fun or create anything, and Oink! just gave me reason to think this way even more firmly. There's no market for this anymore, because we don't have that much time to spent in dozens of different communities, and so,the less populated die.
So please, if you want to build something, please work on something real and that actual solves something, not another Flickr meets Facebook/twitter app.
And they got a bunch of publicity, but ask yourself this question: of all the apps you reach about in Techcrunch, Mashable, etc, what % do you actually use? Publicity doesn't always translate to lots of users. They probably got a ton of initial downloads from curious geeks, but that's about it. Their churn rate was probably ridiculously high.
Publicity is pretty good for 1 thing for sure: search engine rankings, and Oink wasn't a website.
I do see where they're coming from though. The reputation system was supposed to balance this out. Kind of like social news websites where people submit tons of links. Somehow through upvoting things become relevant no longer noisy and I'm pretty sure that's what Oink was going for. It was all very well designed.
I think a lot of people who used it didn't treat it that way. They treated it as another review site, which it also was. But treating it that way makes it such a chore to "build" and so eventually we all lost the point of it all.
I'd really be interested in seeing what next they build.
I am suspecting this episode will offend people who are working real hard on what they think is are more important ideas and are struggling to get finding, only for Kevin to throw away millions for fun.
What I saw with Oink was this X axis (the number of items to be rated) growing faster than the Y axis (the number of ratings): in effect, noise growing faster than signal.
They weren't aggressive enough in filtering out duplicate entries and/or working with businesses to upload their catalogs onto Oink so users didn't have to add (and re-add) them. Not saying it was an easy task, but essentially this is the main challenge to such a product.
Sounds like they are trying for a shotgun approach (didn't the company behind Angry Birds do the same thing? I don't know the official business term for this methodology). Where they have an internal API/system to roll out an idea FAST, then see if it gains any traction within their internal goal (whatever short period of time they set for themselves), and if not, scrap it to move onto the next thing...?
I think that works great for little one-off games. But with websites where people are expecting it to be around for years? Will that burn users too often, too fast, and sully your reputation? I don't know. I'm curious.
(imo, I don't know if I'd have put those two sentences in the shut-down notice - sounds like they were just experimenting with the site to see if they could make a quick buck, weren't really serious about it unless the $ or pageviews started flowing, and the users were just the guinea pigs...but that's just me.)
I wish them success, but maybe they should spend more time thinking up a quality idea instead of sitting around on a bunch of couches drinking beer and tea appreciating the brilliance of their hipsterness through their macbooks.
What the Font was unsuccessful in determining it.
Edit: Kevin Rose said he would kill off any project that wasn't gaining traction and he did just that. This is what I was referring to.
If on the other hand, you find out only 1 person is still using it after a month, that means it's a product fit problem, and sticking to your guns is probably futile.
If they kept Oink alive until it took off (if ever) they wouldn't be able to build the next thing.
When it launched I played around with it for a few weeks before eventually uninstalling. Reason being, when you can check-in to places via FourSquare, recommend food/items you like from restaurants via Yelp, why would you use a system like Oink (especially when it has a smaller social-footprint than the aforementioned services)?
Maybe this app was awesome for you Bay area folks, but in NYC I never found much when I used the “find nearby” feature. Their interface was also inundated with too many data points as well (see there item detail screen).
I think the next wave of apps, now that we're experiencing check-in fatigue, is "passive utility" apps (Highlight, Sonar, etc). Their value can be ascertained with little friction (literally all you have to do is walk by someone) and there's tremendous room expansion on its core concept (dating based on shared interests, linkedin introductions based on shared contacts, etc.).
How many Apple products have failed? How many 37Signals products failed?
This is an interesting case. It seems like the group designed, built and shipped a pretty slick ratings app all in a bid to gather data. Rather than mine existing databases or pay other companies to license their information, they were able to garner attention via the app launch and gather their own.
if this is indeed the case, they should have been upfront about it. This is like taking users for a ride. 'Now that we have enough data, we're going to shut this thing down'
They "inferred" it from this quote:
We are extremely grateful for all of your effort finding and rating the best things in the places around you. We’ve discovered thousands of awesome pizzas, pastas, coffees, teas… and roller coasters, zoo exhibits, paintings, sculptures, vistas… and sodas, salads, sliders, soups… and so much more.
That's reading into it way too much.
Oink was a beautifully designed app. If they just wanted to gather info, I don't think they would have spent so much time making it look good.
I think it just didn't work out the way they wanted it to, they are learning from this experience and quickly discarding what doesn't work and moving on to the next thing.
I knew Milk was going to do multiple apps - I didn't think they'd delete their old ones before they started on their new ones.
It now seems apparent they're looking for 'the one' that sticks and they're not interested in building a portfolio of products with a strong fan-base. I would have thought keeping their early-adopter user base happy would have been a really valuable asset.
I feel they'll get a less favourable uptake for their next app now, so if Oink didn't get the traction they were looking for they might struggle more next time.
For better or worse, this is kindof a blip on the cosmic radar, even in the tech world.
I dunno how I'd react if I was an investor - I guess you invest in a guy like that because you're long on him, and in that case, the failures don't matter as long as your equity carries over.
Plus, its not like Rose cant just move on anyways. He's got plenty of $$ and connections to fund his next venture.
Timing aside, this method of "putting a bullet in its head" (which is not even a good expression to use colloquially), was a terribly callous way to treat their current users too... Especially given the fact that for a few thousand dollars a month (max) they could have kept the system rolling in the cloud indefinitely, without investing any time in it. They then could have put out feelers to find it's users / content a new home... (For example, our new start-up chee.rs would gladly have welcomed oink users -- in fact we're working on a quick oink importer as I write this. :)
Or, even if they weren't interested in transitioning users to someone else, they could have kept things running at least until their next big idea came along to announce to their users: "Hey we've got this new great thing, come on over and now that we have it, we've decided to finally and reluctantly shutter Oink, because we hadn't seen it gain much traction. Sorry about letting you down... blah blah blah."
Much better for PR than "We put a bullet in your head and moved on... But, we hope you'll join us again for another round as soon as your headache subsides."
I guess this proves that even a great design and great execution are not enough, you also need a clever idea huh. What do you think?.
Was Kevin Rose involved in Pownce? That felt like another "meh" effort from the former Diggers.
But actually I am still surprised how quick this got axed. As a user you gotta ask yourself these days if it's worth investing a lot of time and content into a new app. An App that might be shut down, just because the builders want to go try out a new idea.
To give Kevin Rose some credit here, he always state up front that Milk was going to "try" different ideas and move on to another if one wasn't bringing the right amount of traction.
Now I hoped that the transition over to a new idea wouldn't mean the instand death of the previous and that's probably the biggest surprise here.
We will see what happens with their next effort.
While I understand there is a large amount of effort involved in transacting something like that, certainly there is a legitimate & appropriate organization out there who could foster and grow the community that is Oink.
This action would mildly address the concerns about continuity and trust in product longevity.
Although they were taking quite a while to put it out.
How ethical is this to set something up to obviously collect 'free data'?
I don't like Kevin Rose, but c'mon, at least find some more creative insults.