words on the internet

i'm will dennis. these are my movie reviews and thoughts. i don't proofread before publishing so forgive the editing or lack thereof

Month: August, 2014

Words Are Dying

My 3rd grade teacher once told me that each page of your book should have 1-4 words you don’t know. Less than 1 and what you’re reading is too easy. More than 4 and it’s frustrating.

As the revolution of user generated content continues — blogs, tweets, listacles, photo apps, facebook posts — I’m left wondering if our collective vocabulary as a society is beginning to rot.

Technology, in its relentless march towards convenience, is progressively eliminating our need to write our own words.

Spell check is partly to blame. Twitter deserves some scorn. Autocorrect. Google’s predictive serach isn’t helping. Predictive typing is coming full steam to your text messages on the next iPhone.

We’re living in a world where the need to wield language is being eliminated and, where not eliminated, standardized and therefore sterilized.

Keep your emails short. Don’t use words people might not know. In business and in life, misunderstandings can ruin a project, a career, a life. I’m being alarmist but you get the point.

We’ve prioritized simplicity and communication over specificity and nuance. We’ve prioritized colorful emoji over colorful language.

It’s disconcerting because, like other, I believe our ability to think is often constrained by our vocabulary. Our lexicon is a sort of glass box that houses our ideas.

In an era where a digital thesaurus is at your fingertips, I’d like to see people get the same delight at inserted a unique synonym into a text as they do a funny gif.

As fans, builders, and consumers of technology, perhaps we can push language once again to its Shakespearean boundaries.

My name is Will Dennis and my current favorite word is “gloaming” — it’s a noun that describes the time after sunset but before dark. I think of it as the time that fireflies come out.

I’m currently building Hopscotch. You should follow me on Twitter here.


An Argument for Building Multiple Apps at the Same Time

I believe more small start ups should build multiple consumer social products at once.

I’m not going to blindly advocate for a labs model, or an in house incubator. I don’t think these models make sense for small teams in most industries or verticals.

I am, however, going to make the argument that when building a specific type of consumer product — consumer social networks — parallel development of multiple products is likely the right strategy.

Even 6 months ago this would have been a bad idea. I now believe building apps in parallel is the right approach for consumer social apps for a few key reasons.

The first reason is that consumer preferences demand dead simple apps — apps that do just one or two things really well. Instagram and snapchat are great examples. You can also see companies like foursquare and facebook currently unbundling their flagship apps to simplify their experiences. Yo, whether a long term success or not, has garnered attention and usage for its simplicity.

The second reason is the time needed for an mvp has drastically changed over the last 12 months. Mobile infrastructure as a service, whether it’s backend, social, or messaging has finally emerged. Services like Parse, Firebase, Layer, and Hull are comodifying a lot of mobile tech that had to be build in-house 12 months ago. Prototyping concepts has gone from months to days.

The third and final reason that parallel development makes sense is that market adoption is still the main obstacle for breakthrough consumer apps. Unfortunately for developers and startups, the timeline on which mainstream adoption happens — if at all — is highly variable. If you’re instagram then it can happen quickly, if you’re snapchat it can take 6 months, and if you’re whisper it can take a full year. Simply put, apps that break the mold often need time to find their audience or for their audience to adopt the behavior.

The opportunity for parallel development really emerges from the timing mismatch of the second and third reasons above: It is quick to build an app (Yo) but it’s often slow to pick up (Whisper). Building, releasing, and marketing extremely simple apps in a tight, disciplined cycle may be the best option for hitting it big in social. This cycle allows you to stomach the risky experiments for long enough to see if they resonate.

Truly game changing apps emerge from a mix of risk taking, experimentation, patience, persistence, and serendipity. They often look crazy or weird when they first launch.

Parallel development lets you ship more crazy ideas and watch them for long enough to tell if what you’ve built is actually a niche art project or possibly the next Facebook.

Our small team just finished Techstars NYC with an app called Hollerback, which we’ve since decided to pause development on. We’ve been experimenting with parallel development of a few consumer social apps and the results are promising so far. If you want to take a look at our latest experiment Hopscotch, you should sign up for early access here. We think it could be big ☺

Of course, you should also follow me on Twitter