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Will we ever solve the niche appeal vs. universal acceptance problem? Lots of stuff has this problem: Movies, TV, music, games (all entertainment really including Facebook.)

That's what this article highlighted the most to me. It's hard to make something that feels small and personal and quirky yet appeals to everyone. If you make something beautiful and targeted inevitably someone says "Hey! You should expand!"

I had this conversation with the owner of a tiny Japanese steakhouse in Tokyo where I had the best steak of my life. There were only like 8 tables and I was there alone so he sat down with me and we talked for a half hour. He told me how many times he had been approached to expand to other cities or the US over the 30 years they'd been open. But he didn't want the stress and he didn't think he could deliver the quality of meal if he did. Sushi and ramen places are like this in Japan too. They may be the best but they often stay small.

I think we've lost track of that in the USA and particularly Silicon Valley (or maybe we never had it.) Would we be happier if Facebook had stayed elite university only and there were 100 social sharing websites for different niches? I dunno. Probably not. But I think we're also learning that one size fits all social is not as interesting on a massive scale as we thought it would be. Path isn't doing that well either though. Maybe the best we can do is subreddits. God save us.




>>I think we've lost track of that in the USA and particularly Silicon Valley (or maybe we never had it.)

I think you're right about SV being focused on scaling ideas at the cost of losing the quirkiness of something small. But, rather ironically, I find that most of the smaller restaurants in SF seem to lack that special quality that can make mom-n-pop shops so great. Unlike the little udon shops you mentioned from Japan, these small businesses in SF seem to be focused purely on scraping by; I rarely find a place that seems like a hidden gem. (Maybe I'm spoiled; used to live in NY and the food options there are drastically better. Often I would stumble upon tiny restaurants that would be fantastic.)

I don't even know if I have a point to all of this, I guess I'm just saying that restaurants in San Francisco do charge high-end prices, but often offer middle-of-the-road quality.


> Maybe the best we can do is subreddits. God save us.

Sub reddits are just Usenet on the web but worse, rather than anything social.

Maybe if Reddit added a profile page with some social stuff (for paying users?) they could destroy Facebook.


Eh, I feel like most people on reddit like being anonymous on reddit.


Well, those people wouldn't be affected. Even those people with a profile could still create throwaway accounts for those other subreddits.

There are a few sub reddits where people are sharing real life information, so maybe confirmed profiles would be beneficial for them. I don't know if that just adds a bunch of cost and not much revenue.


I really think it would just ruin the simple, anonymous beauty of reddit to start involving identities. Leave that for IAmA :)

People go to reddit to get away from reality.


Part of what makes Reddit so good at what it does is that it doesn't try to be more social. By assigning very few pixels to users and making signup easy, the focus stays on the content of the discussion.

The idea of subreddits applies more generally. One piece of software, one account, many communities with different foci and norms. A more social forum could do the same thing.


Sub reddits are just Usenet on the web but worse, rather than anything social.

This may be why you are being downvoted, but:

Maybe if Reddit added a profile page with some social stuff (for paying users?) they could destroy Facebook.

Is of course very interesting, and probably much discussed at Reddit. Anonymity issues/pseudonyms is probably a determinant factor.


It wouldn't destroy Facebook, it would destroy Reddit.


Exactly. Reddit could fit real life profiles and anon pseudonyms equally and powerfully.


In general, social networks tend to settle at establishing a norm of either pseudonymity or verinymity. The two don't mix very well; users either feel cloistered or overexposed based on the normative behavior they observe.


Quora allows very public profiles and very private Anon User identifiers equally and powerfully..


The tradeoff 'niche appeal vs. universal acceptance' is a feature, not a bug.


If you're saying it's a good thing that you can't have both, I'd agree. But if you believe PG that Startup = Growth http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html then "solving" it might involve simply not being so startup or growth obsessed in general.


I could be wrong, but it seems it's only recently that the idea of a business that goes from zero to hero in six months has been taken seriously.


The endless tiny bars, restaurants, shops in Japanese cities made me realise how vibrant huge cities can be. I wish my city Melbourne was more like that. For sure in the case of Japan it is to do with limited space and dense population, but zoning rules, cost of rent, cost of liquor licensing etc. surely all influence the viability of such tiny businesses...

Melbourne does alright but could be better. The way liquor licenses are designed skews the market towards fewer, much larger bars.

EDIT: I wasn't really thinking about your larger point when I wrote this - but I agree with my sibling - the tradeoff is a feature, not a bug. I think Tokyo and Kyoto are remarkable cities because they are not winner-take-all markets: the amount of niches the cities support is incredible.


> I wish my city Melbourne was more like that

In contrast to SF, Melbourne is way more interesting in terms of great small bars and restaurants to find. I tell people that Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in the world to eat for the variety and authenticity.


Pardon the tangent, but what is the name of the steakhouse? (In case I find myself in Tokyo.)


It's called Gyu An and it's in Ginza. It will set you back about $100 for a kobe steak multi course meal but if you've never had real kobe wagyu, it's worth it at least once. It's the most affordable place to get real kobe in Tokyo and it's a very cool little family run place. The owner is from Kobe and gets the beef from his neighbor's (I think?) ranch. If you have unlimited money, Dons de la nature is apparently the best place for steak in Tokyo but it costs multiple hundreds for a steak.

Here's the tripadvisor for Gyu An: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1066444-d1677235...


Thank you very much. I will definitely check it out.


I remember the pleasure of hopping on BITNET and communicating around the world. Communication was somewhat ephemeral (socially, as much or more so than technically) and often effectively anonymous.

And I remember the pleasure of sitting down at a cafeteria table with whatever collection of good friends had agglomerated there that evening. Maybe with one of their friends whom I did not yet know well.

Different axes. Different contexts. I enjoyed both, but generally didn't try to glue them together. (Though our centralized computing did lead to early, local social use of email, TALK, and whatnot -- amongst friends.)

Complex societies -- like complex programs, as it happens -- rely on multiple contexts, scopes, sets, etc.

This universal, "social" web can run contrary to the fundamental building blocks of our society(/ies).

After the initial rush of a dramatic expansion of some of these axes, I think people start to figure this out for themselves, even when absent from a broader discussion on the topic.


Google search doesn't seem to have this problem.


Google are facing a giant backlash about this with their personalized search results. Google can provide universally-relevant results to all of us easily, but they were (rightly?) afraid of being out-competed in the "niche-of-1" market. For now, their personalized results are stuck in the uncanny valley, just like advertisements are.


Can you explain how the uncanny valley applies in this context?


The uncanny valley refers to the point where something feels almost-but-not-100% realistic, and that evokes a sense of discomfort in people.

Google's search results are now almost-but-not-100% personalized, and that evokes a sense of annoyance in people.

[Disclaimer: Not the OP]


[Also not the OP] One of the ways you can see this in action is with re-targeting. If you visit somewhere like SEOMOZ or www.shoesofprey.com (with cookies enabled) you will start seeing advertisements for them pop up everywhere. It feels strange (especially since I am a long way from teh target market for something like Shoes of Prey -- checking them out as an interesting Australian startup does not mean that I want to buy a custom-built pair of high heels)


Maybe they mean "Not quite convincing"?


>their personalized results are stuck in the uncanny valley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

I'm not entirely sure what you meant to say in that last sentence, but I know you didn't mean to say "uncanny valley". Stuck in limbo, perhaps? (whatever that would mean)


Maybe "creepy" - I search for an item, and Google shows me ads for that item for the next month; I keep searching for that item, and Google learns to tailor its results to what I want.

Some people find this useful. Other people find it creepy.


I find the creepiest search ads are ones that direct me right back to the context of a site I was already surfing on a few minutes earlier. E.g. I was looking at the Amazon Sci Fi book section for example. Then, via google adsense on some other blog page I'll now see an adsense ad for Sci Fi books on Amazon. This has happened to me a couple of times now.


I'd hesitate to call Google search entertainment or community-building (social) though. Those are the two characteristics where universal appeal is difficult that I meant to highlight.

Google is really good at universal systems that produce quantitatively better results when the user input is minimal and the output is easily optimized.

You could argue my restaurant example is an input-output problem. Good ingredients in. Solid, repeatable kitchen process. Good food out. Unfortunately, food preparation is a manual process involving high levels of individual skill and has an inherently large variance. That's why running a restaurant is a people problem. The tricky output is the ambiance. Food is important but restaurants are also social entertainment. Combine those two and that's why niche restaurants are almost always better than chains (imo of course.)


Sure they do. Think about all the other search engines people use. With only a few exceptions (Bing, DuckDuckGo), they are niche. If I want to look up a restaurant, I might use Yelp but I'll use a different search engine for a different niche. It's the same pattern, just in a different form.


Maybe we should come back to technologies that are not branded. Like email but with votes, short messages, groups etc. Like Wave but without Google.




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