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Dalton Caldwell: We Did It (daltoncaldwell.com)
178 points by J-H on Aug 12, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

Congratulations to Dalton and the entire team at App.net! They deserve every penny.

Dalton's steely resolve through this entire process has been an inspiration to me; it takes a lot of guts to go out on a limb and ignore all the haters. Even if App.net as a platform doesn't take off I still consider this project a success.

Naive question, but how do we know they deserve every penny?

I would like to publicly admit my total wrongness and congratulate Dalton on his success with this project. You have won my backing and I'll be there 'apping' with the rest of you guys.

This was the somewhat popular but incorrect comment I made previously: http://hackerne.ws/item?id=4278378

Much love. Props.

> I'll be there 'apping'

Let's hope this doesn't become a verb. Tweeting is bad enough, but "apping"?

It will be called "tweeting on app.net".


haha was totally tounge in cheek, but seriously i wonder what the verb will be? if it does well there will have to be one eventually...


posting... they are calling it posting

Congratulations from me, too! A very impressive result in such a short timeframe.

In danger of asking a silly question, I do wonder about this bit though:

In the very near future I will ask an impartial 3rd party take a look at our data (while preserving all privacy of our backers) and publicly verify that the join.app.net was operated in an honest manner.

I might not be seeing the forest for the trees here, but how would anybody actually go about doing that? If you don't release identifying information (which I assume would include names, credit card numbers, and so on) how would anybody be able to verify?

I'm not, in the slightest, implying there was any wrongdoing, I have no reason to believe that App.net is inflating any numbers or isn't "operated in an honest manner". I'm just genuinely curious to know how it would be possible to independently vet that all transactions were legit (or whatever it is you're trying to prove).

Am I correct to assume that the best anybody could do would be to say that "the numbers looks right"? Or maybe something like "the amount of money transferred via Stripe to App.net is in the right ballpark"? If people can do better, how so? Again, genuine question.

What follows is a layman just "thinking out loud." (But isn't that what Sunday afternoons are for?) When I use the term "auditor" I'm implying "employees at a firm" rather than "a single individual."

What App.net desires is for a trusted third party to say, "Yep, they're legit." So first, you would select an auditor who has a good reputation financially, technically, and ethically. Presumably, you'd line up a couple of secondary sources to publicly reinforce the auditor's reputation and bless the auditor's methodology.

It's been literally decades since I took any accounting classes, but I think you would need to follow the entire chain of some transactions, and this would necessitate showing real investor/customer data at some point. If you can secure that investor's/customer's permission, then sharing the data becomes a non-issue. How you get that permission becomes the issue.

If your auditor's reputation is strong enough, their name alone may be sufficient to secure permission. But you can also take steps to create a "security narrative" designed to put the investor/customer at ease.

You'd need to give the auditor access to your data, while preventing the possibility that they could leak this data. So the auditor would work in your offices, on your machines.

You'd provide laptops so that you can disable all peripheral ports. You'd secure the laptops to the table. The machines would have no optical drives. Those machines would net boot, have wired LAN access but not WAN, and no wireless access at all. They would run the software the auditors required but nothing else.

You'd confiscate phones and cameras from the auditors before they entered your audit environment. You could go a little crazy and record video of the auditors at work, with cameras angled so that you can see what notes the auditors are taking but not what screen they're looking at while they're taking notes. You could go a lot crazy and prove that the auditors are not sitting in front of any windows, thereby exposing data to high powered lenses across the street.

You could sanitize the data your auditors see, so that the auditor initially sees "Backer N" or "Vendor Y" instead of an actual person or company name.

Armed with some variation of the above security narrative, when the auditor says "I'd like to talk to backer N or vendor Y," you can present that narrative to the backer or vendor to secure their permission for auditor access to the information. I wouldn't be surprised if the average backer gets impatient and grants permission well before you're done explaining the security narrative.

The 3rd party needs to be someone who is trustworthy in two senses:

1. They can be trusted not to misuse the authorisation they will be given to Dalton's Stripe account. The Stripe API (https://stripe.com/docs/api) does indeed give access to identifying information.

2. We can trust them not to misrepresent the facts on behalf of their client (i.e., Dalton).

I've no idea what kind of institutions Dalton is thinking of, but reputable accountants should fit the bill.

What would make sense is that the auditor be reputable and have access to all the sensitive private information. The auditor would check as many samples as they need to satisfy their conclusion that join.app.net met the $500k legit.

Since the auditor was reputable and signed a contract to attest the $500k, the auditor would be careful to not divulge any of the sensitive, personally identifiable information.

What I wonder is, why would anyone care?

Did Svbtle change its font recently? The text looks terrible. It's blurry, poorly aliased and some of the letters have full-out gaps in the strokes.

When viewed in Windows, of course.

I think they must have done, I also don't remember it looking so bad before.

Seeing quite a few sites and blogs now getting a bit careless with CSS @font-face rules and seemingly not bothering to test their sites in Windows.

More on it here: http://blog.webink.com/why-fonts-suck-windows-hinting

Yeah, so many of the Mac designers / evangelists who screamed the loudest about "Designed for IE" and other web evils have come full circle, and adopted a mantra of "Looks good on my MacBook with Safari, ship it!"

Yes, it used to be Proxima Nova served with Typekit.

Ah, thanks for the info, perhaps they should switch back. Looks like they went home-brew to save cash (or to be more unique). Seems wrong to have to use the Readability bookmarklet to read a Svbtle blog!

My browser (FF on Win7) still renders as Proxima Nova.

Yep, it's been changed back. =)

Many web fonts seem to look bad on Windows, I think in part due to many websites being designed on Macs. This one looks particularly bad on Chrome, but Firefox isn't so bad.

Is this an argument for users disabling web fonts? I don't think there are very many situations in which they provide a better user experience. A few days ago we got the "Wikipedia Redefined" article[1] (in which the capital "I" looked like a capital "J"[2]).

I don't think we have to go whole hog and completely ignore designers' intent, but if usability is being compromised I think it makes sense to take advantage of the fact that we're doing the rendering on the client.

1: http://www.wikipediaredefined.com/

2: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4354000

Congratulations!! Incredibly excited, still waiting for that killer app.

EDIT: I purchased it weeks ago, but you get the idea...

Just completed the sign-up, but still get "We don't recognize that username. This is probably because you haven't been invited to our alpha yet. To request an invitation, please email join@app.net." when I try logging in.

xwowsersx, please send an email to join@app.net and we'll get you set up with your login information. The backing process and the alpha.app.net access are not automated yet, we still need to grant your user access to the alpha.

Done, thanks.

I'm glad they're going to have someone verify it. It seemed really strange to me that they rolled their own crowd funding platform for one use.

Why didn't they go with a third party like Kickstarter in the first place?

There is a FAQ on the site. It says:

> Why aren't you using Kickstarter?

> We wish we could, we <3 Kickstarter. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter Terms Of Service explicitly prohibits raising money for this kind of service.

Diaspora used Kickstarter to raise money. Lots of other similar software projects have. Just seems weird to me.

Against Kickstarters TOS. They only allow "creative projects."

I don't think they ever asked KS. A variety of similar projects have been presented and funded there.

Wait, and your reasoning is that Kickstarter should just "open this one exception"? That'd be like opening a can of worms instead.

My reasoning is that it wouldn't be an exception based on past projects they approved. I think it would have been approved if it had been submitted, very likely through the normal approval process.

Congrats. Looking forward to joining the alpha. Interestingly enough, I was skeptical about App.net before I paid the $$, but now I am all excited about it. Maybe you've got something going there :D

Well I admit it. I drank the Kool-Aid. Partly to grab my twitter handle, not that I think it was in any danger of being scooped, and partly to see just what is happening on the inside of the walled garden.

I can't comment any further, my password I signed up with doesn't seem to work, and the password reset feature also appears broken :) I will reserve judgement for now.

You definitely did drink the Kool-Aid:

"I paid for a product, I can't login, and I can't fix things so I can login. But I'll meekly 'reserve judgment' rather than lambasting what should be a fairly important issue."

Bets on how soon someone will imitate this approach to the platform business in other areas?

>>There has been zero manipulation of numbers, or “stuffing of the ballot box” by App.net.

Why would he even suggest that? I wouldn't have expected such behavior.

Some people suggested this would happen, see: https://twitter.com/aaronsw/status/234628499690885120

If you get full funding if you hit the goal number, and zero funding if you don't, then there is usually a point where it makes sense for the project itself to contribute enough money to meet the goal. Spend $10k to get $500k for instance. With Kickstarter, there is a third party that can monitor for that, where if you roll your own Kickstarter, no one will know.

Mission Accomplished!

I watched the video, and I still don't know what app.net is. "Social platform" is all I got, that's extremely vague.

Twitter, that you pay for, that has no adverts and that is developer friendly with the API.

I think that's a good summary: https://alpha.app.net/

I think thats a narrow short term view of it but easy to assume given the surface information. Messages need to be succinct and understandable in familiar contexts and i think Ost of the opinions are based on 'ad free twitter' which isnt the big excitement in the app.net community. Im cross posting. Im a supporter but not an employee. I have read a lot more in depth and here is my take. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4373394

But are developers going to have to pay for use of the API? And users will have to pay to use apps that use the API right?


"Why would people pay to tell other people what they ate for lunch?"

Twitter and Facebook were fun when not everyone and their parents were on there. I'm hoping that the price tag keeps a lot of the people out who don't have anything of value to share. So far, from what I've seen on the alpha site, the conversations are way more interesting to me than most banter on Twitter. The higher limit of 256 characters helps too. I look forward to using App.net, whereas I find the Twitter experience increasingly frustrating.

Twitter's growth hasn't affected the quality of my Twitter experience at all. I just don't follow people who post crap. Is this a real problem people are having, or is it an invented justification for something they want to see succeed?

There are lots and lots of very valid arguments for both sides of this question. Personally, I think it's both. Even if it really isn't a real problem, that doesn't matter I don't think. What matters is if you can make enough people believe it's a problem. In life, perception really is reality in many cases. I'm reminded of the old saying "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend" for some reason too.

But to directly answer your question, I think at this point the only truly honest answer is...

We'll see.

The quality of content in a community is always higher when the community is smaller. Twitter conversations in the early days were all high-quality, too.

Social networks live and die by whether your friends are on them, though, and while I get the appeal of "keeping out the riff-raff", I'm having a really hard time swallowing the idea that you can reach critical mass (without which your product will fail) by charging for a product that people are used to getting for free.

If the team can reach critical mass, then awesome. But I think that it's going to be nearly impossible to sell to anyone but the subset of the early-adopter crowd who have a bone to pick with Facebook and Twitter, which is a very passionate, but very limited audience.

App.net has 8,000 paying customers and $550,000 in annual revenue, so I think we can say it already hit critical mass. For App.net to succeed, it didn't need millions of users, because the company is not dependent on venture capital or advertising.

I also don't see it as a typical social network, but more like a publishing platform for short posts — a mix of a micro blog, link log and photo album. I'd rather compare App.net to Tumblr and Posterous than to Twitter. Also, if readers want to respond to posts, they can do so on their own blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Charging subscribers an annual fee might become the service's biggest strength. I think it guarantees that App.net will attract very little passive users, the ones who sign up will actually use it.

"..because the company is not dependent on venture capital or advertising." -- Uh, yeah it is. They took millions from VCs.

I stand corrected. According to Crunchbase, they took $5 million from Andreessen Horowitz.


> App.net has 8,000 paying customers and $550,000 in annual revenue

Many of whom were backers who were sufficiently curious to pay to get access to / see the product. The real kicker will come at renewal time, and how many of those customers remain.

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