Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • Ever since I was a teenager, I've wanted to work in technology. In 1997 after training to get an MCSE, I finally realized that dream, working at Intermedia Communications in their NOC. Since then, I spent more than a decade in the healthcare IT space, learned to be a developer, built a couple of failing startups, finally exited one, and am now working on startups in the crypto space. Along the way, I learned the importance of community building, and benefited from figuring out how to gain visibility online.

      Social media had a lot to do with that.

      Over the last decade, however, I've seen two things:

      - Startups leaving my area to go to Silicon Valley to raise money or grow (Hell, Wikipedia was here for eight years before heading to the valley in 2008).

      - Technology (and STEM in general) being judged by the bad behavior of a small group of privileged white males mostly located in Silicon Valley.

      I've watched quality development teams leave year after year seeking the money and connections that come from being in Silicon Valley, and then watched them get sucked into the toxic culture there. And as go the founders, so goes the product.

      So it comes as absolutely no surprise to me to watch monster startup after monster startup get called out for bad behavior, toxic cultures, and products which don't do much to foster a truly universal conversation not run by trolls or spammers, given that they're all based there.

      Dan McComas recently said:

      "I fundamentally believe that my time at Reddit made the world a worse place. And that sucks, and it sucks to have to say that about myself."

      He founded RedditGifts, one of the most positive communities on the internet, and it only went downhill after being acquired by Reddit proper. The move to the Valley changed everything. He also said:

      "I don’t think the existing platforms are going to change. I do believe that new platforms could be started up, could operate better, could be more mindful, and could create better infrastructure and platforms for the large public. But in order to do that, I think that one of two things needs to happen. I think that the venture capitalists need to kind of reframe their thinking on how these companies look as they start up and grow. I know firsthand that at least the investors that I worked with at Imzy are not ready to undertake that path. Imzy shut down, we still had $8 million in the bank, and we had raised $11 million. I know firsthand the palate of these investors, and from my experience, the majority of Silicon Valley investors are all the same archetype. I think that somebody needs to come along and change their thinking on that. I don’t think that that’s going to happen."

      Imzy fundamentally was a community based on trying to solve some of the problems of social, with tight moderation, and a strong community stance against bullying and hate speech, run by someone who cared deeply about those topics after seeing the cesspool Reddit had become.

      The problem is not social. The problem is Silicon Valley, and its privileged insular group of high dollar investors who fundamentally decide what lives and dies, and whose metrics have nothing to do with fostering a better conversation, and everything to do with growth at all costs.

      I'm tired of having technology companies on this coast be smeared by the bad behavior of overgrown frat boys on that coast. I'm tired of five venture funds fundamentally shaping the future of technology in this country. I'm tired of bright eyed youngsters with good intentions getting ground up by the machine that is the Valley. And I'm tired of Valley culture shaping what are supposed to be global platforms.

      I have zero brand allegiance. I'm happy to move my entire online presence to this platform if it really solves the problems at large. But if this platform is also funded and based in Silicon Valley, I have zero hope of that actually being the case.

      @Chris @Scobleizer tell me why I'm wrong.

    • Chris, I will give you my own two cents and opinion here. One of the things that makes Cake interesting to me is that Chris MacAskill is the founder. I don’t know how well or if you know him but I’ve known him for a while and I can tell you that even though he is in Silicon Valley he is most certainly not the stereotypical Silicon Valley frat boy. He’s a thoughtful, optimistic, and genuine person. He also cares. I think if you look at what he and his son Don did with SmugMug over the past 15 years or so you’ll see it’s a different kind of Silcon Valley Culture there. Communities will take on a life of their own though and your point about reddit becoming a cesspool is well taken. I do hope that Cake flourishes and builds the type of place where all are welcome and transcends the negativity that social networks can become. Just my two cents. :)

    • Your two cents is worth at least a buck to me. You were one of the folks we all followed on Plus early on (along with Trey Ratcliff and a few others), and although I don't know Chris at all, I feel like I've apparently missed out, because he seems to have a strong reputation.

      And if my complaining about the flaws of Valley social platforms is my first real post on a platform that goes on to unseat some of the bigger more toxic platforms, hey, I'm fine with that. :D

      I do, however, want to make sure that we call out the real issue early on. "Growth at any cost" driven by VC checks is the real reason these issues exist. Social platforms only ever censor content when the cost of bad PR is greater than the revenue generated by the pageviews. I am a fervent supporter of the first amendment, but also see how free speech arguments have allowed the sewers of online conversation to thrive. These platforms are global, and even framing them as "Silicon Valley's social problem" misses the point in my opinion (and much love, @Scobleizer . You know I dig what you do.)

      If we want a better global social platform, we MUST frame the conversation accordingly.

    • I don't think Cake will pursue a "growth at any cost" culture. I have no idea what sort of funding they've received exactly, but I would not be surprised if at least initially it is just being backed 100% by Chris MacAskill himself. If you look at what he and his son Don did at SmugMug you will see that while many in the Valley were focused on "growth at any cost," they were focused on building a profitable subscription based business around photography with a big focus on customer support. More of a slow and steady thing. While Flickr and others grew much bigger and faster, they stuck with their core values which in hindsight proved quite sustainable, perhaps even much more than others who grew much faster (like Flickr who most recently was actually acquired by SmugMug).

      As far as censoring speech, I think that Cake should build the tools to both allow us to censor our own experience (i.e. block/mute/hide/etc.) as well as give us the tools to encourage and reward good behavior by others. Of course, like any community, as it grows it will face growing pains and dilemmas and as much as I used to believe in uncensored communities, I now see that there will always be a role for community management, even if it requires censorship at time.

    • I'm interested in the companies using blockchain to decentralize activities and capabilities that major tech companies and media servers never had any business managing. For example, Facebook becoming the marshal of fact and fiction due to being one of the world's largest sources of media--albeit paid media--and generators of viral content.

      By using blockchain, innovative (and I will clarify that I don't bandy around that term all too often) companies like Sovrin, Blockstack, Trunomi, AdEx, Kind Ads, Prover, Factom, Zohem, Adledger, EOS are effectively proving the concept that media markets, permission and consent management, and determination of veracity can and should live outside the walled garden environments.

      That's a brilliant move, and one start-up social networks should embrace. Let social networks focus on humans; let people delight people. Not only will that create an optimal digital social experience, but, even more critically, it will also move the accountability of managing data, consent, and authentication into a technology that is best suited for the task.

      Bonus: less conflict of interest, less potential of "inadvertently" taking advantage of the consumer, less mismanagement of data, and, finally, less dissonance between the goals of the platform as a social space (like "help people make lifelong friends") and their revenue goals (like "the average advertiser should spend at least $5 CPC").

    • I am understandably interested in decentralized applications, but social media in particular presents some unique challenges in that arena. I was ready to go all in on Diaspora until I read the install guide. Yeesh.

      If it's going to be decentralized, it has to be so in some meaningful way, which means secure nodes using 100% end to end encryption, and it has to solve the fundamental issue of blockchain ledger integrity versus policies like the GDPR right to be forgotten.

      The second one especially is a pretty significant obstacle.

    • I don't think Cake will pursue a "growth at any cost" culture.

      Absolutely correct. We've talked about this a lot while building Cake, and we agree it would be a big mistake to do this.

      I have no idea what sort of funding they've received exactly, but I would not be surprised if at least initially it is just being backed 100% by Chris MacAskill himself.

      I'm sure @Chris will chime in with details when he has a chance (busy day!), but we have taken some seed-stage VC funding as well as a significant investment from Chris himself.

      As far as censoring speech, I think that Cake should build the tools to both allow us to censor our own experience (i.e. block/mute/hide/etc.) as well as give us the tools to encourage and reward good behavior by others.

      It's like you're reading our minds. 😉

    • I mean, if you feel like making that argument in a court in Brussels, feel free, but if I was building a consumer based data stack right now, you better believe I'd be accounting for GDPR enforcement.

    • I'm at liberty, I just can't remember because I'm the guy who sits around writing code instead of meeting with VCs. @Chris lets me answer the tech questions, so I'd better let him answer the money questions. 😄

    • Hi Chris,

      My first job in the Silicon Valley was working at NeXT for Steve Jobs, in developer relations. It's true, he was hard to work for but what we adored about him was he was possessed with greatness at all costs. The operating system we built, NeXTstep, and the movie Pixar made were both way late. Sun, HP and IBM ran circles around us in speed of development and we heard all the scary things about being the first to scale, yada. It was terrifying.

      But we worked for Steve and it had to be insanely great. The investors would have to wait. I drove a $10 million check from Steve to Ed Catmull at Pixar when it would have collapsed after Steve couldn't find any investors (not even Disney) who would put up with the pace of development of Toy Story.

      But NeXTstep was so well crafted, that when Apple bought NeXT, it drove their renaissance because it became OS X, iOS and Watch OS. I don't know Elon, but my impression is the same: he's always late but it's greatness at all costs and he makes some damned fine cars. I even think Amazon had to exhort Jeff's investors for years for patience while they built something great. Even Slack was a long time in the oven because Stewart was so intent on getting all the details right, and he gave his investors some scary years.

      I hate the culture of move fast and break things. "If you're not embarrassed by your first product, you've shipped it too late."

      And so I too have worried our investors and exhorted patience and like Elon and Steve, had to put up my own monies. We've raised $2 million so far from Shasta, NEA and people I know—and I've put in about $1 million so far. 😬

      For the next round, which is inevitable, I want to find someone who realizes how important a problem it is that we're trying to solve and why it takes time to do it well.

      When Chris Anderson bought TED, he said it felt like something he could give his life to. That's how I feel about this and it's what I'm actually doing.

      I have a feeling that the founders of Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo & Snap were all very young idealistic men—very talented—but controlled by their investors and no one could really see what could go wrong in Myanmar and Egypt if they went for hypergrowth at all costs.

      God I miss this guy and his insistence on magnesium cases and exactly the right color of black, frustrating as that was at the time.

    • For what it's worth, today I learned about some commonality between AdvRider (of which I am a relatively longstanding member, if mostly lurking) and SmugMug (of which I am not a user but have heard many nice things, even back when it had a rather dodgy user interface :) ). I'm also an early adopter of Flickr which I have all but abandoned somewhere around the Yahoo acquisition, but am cautiously eyeing it ever after SmugMug bought it. Social-wise, I go waaaay back towards early Fidonet (well, early for Russia, that is 1989/90) and have seen, built, moderated, left to live (and die) quite a few online communities (and I have to say that a good online community almost always has, or creates, or enhances an offline one). Learning that the founder of AdvRider is behind this platform made it a very easy decision to register and take a look, and so far it looks promising. Early days almost always do, though :) but IMHO as long as the focus will remain on people and their thoughts and conversations, and not on what to serve them instead of those, I think the hopes can be high or at least bright.

      As to self-censorship tools, as a volunteer admin/devops at FreeFeed, one of the open-source resurrections of FriendFeed, I concur that the judiciously applied mechanisms like hides and bans (and for moderators, possibly, more involved tools) add a lot of quality to the experience and civility of the conversations. I'm pretty sure anyone on our team would be happy to share on the experiences or design decisions or anything really.

    • Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs are the new Robber Barons, the most notable of human also fancied themselves great Philanthropists and Humanitarians. There's not much to choose between Connecting the World and the White Man's Burden. And it's not like most of these guys have great personal reputations as socially well adjusted human beings. Zuckerberg's antisociality is notorious and self-confessed, and he's the same guy who said privacy was dead and then bought up all the neighboring houses to have more for himself and his family. Larry Page was the guy who never even wanted a Secretary he so hated working with people, while Brin was apparently under the impression that his female employees were a Dating Pool, and Schmidt made the perfect Scrooge McDuck to please the money money in the early years. Dorsey can't seem to decide if he's in the Freedom Wing of the Free Speech Party or Zuck's Baby Bro getting to the same place just a bit slower. We keep calling these things Social Networks, but they're really Social Engineering Networks, on the same principle as the guy who fast talks a company employee into giving him a password for 'Tech Support'. They're not built by people who gets sociality, or even would want to get it because they usually have some idea of 'A Better Way' that just-so-happens to fit their own social maladjustment.

      /rant

      And hey, Chris, checking this place out!

    • Good post /rant. You can always edit it if the Voice-To-Text screwed it up. There is a menu dropdown to the right of each post to do so.

      P. S. Welcome to Cake!

    • I'm not sure this really works for me. Just want to check everything out that anyone seems to have jumped onboard with. I like the Topical approach, but it may be a little too topical for me. And I can't edit Replies? That seems... unfortunate, since I use Voice-To-Text and sometimes just make typing errors and really like being able to fix them.

    • Keep in mind that this is still very much an early Beta, and there's a significant features roadmap ahead. Getting involved in the conversation now can help shape what those features look like.

    You've been invited!