Super Normal

Innovation often starts with the ordinary


I regularly get asked the question: What do you think of <insert social app here>? This question is usually followed up by another question which goes something like: How would you design a great social app?

Of course, nobody has ever actually asked me this. That’s because I’m the co-founder of Path, an abject failure that has been more humiliating and damaging to my reputation than anything I can think of. Nevertheless, I recently became aware of a book called “Super Normal.” I didn’t read it, but I have gained valuable insight from my superficial understanding of the philosophy it imparts.

Picture a bucket. No, picture an old-ass bucket, a real piece of shit. Now imagine it had a better handle and a spout and stuff. It’s still a bucket, but as the customer interacts with the bucket the familiar fades away and it something new is left over. The customer is delighted by this bucket that is no longer a piece of shit.

That’s Super Normal, folks. As I was trying to imagine this hypothetical bucket and apply the theory of Super Normal to my hobby as an investor and entrepreneur I had a eureka moment. Isn’t a social networking app just a shitty bucket when you really think about it?

What if you improved it by limiting your network to professional contacts? Hey, it’s LinkedIn! What if you could only post in 140 character bursts? Twitter! Filters for your photographs? Hello Instagram.

I wish I had known about this probably-great book when I invented Path. My twist was that you can only have 150 friends. It’s a little uninspired, I know, but you can’t tell me it isn’t Super Normal. If I had stuck with that, my claim that Path approaches anything close to unlocking massive value would be much easier to swallow. Perhaps it would even be true!

As a creator, I feel constant demand for innovation from the world. This puts immense pressure on the creative process and often times can have a dampening effect. When people ask me how I drove Path so far into the ground — unlike my opening question, people really do ask this a lot — I try to explain this to them.

But that’s all in the past. I can see it so clearly after reading the jacket of this book. Forget about spamming your address book, and laying off 20 percent of the company, and our recent round of investment from a company that literally caused a natural disaster.

Try this instead: a social network, but you can send virtual stickers that you have to pay for.

Thanks to Brit Morin, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sam Biddle, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Kanye West, the staff of Pando, Edward Snowden, and the President of the United States for reading drafts of this.

Next Story — Social Media Style Guide for Journalists
Currently Reading - Social Media Style Guide for Journalists

Social Media Style Guide for Journalists

A free guide for all journalists and writers


April Fools’ Day
Also April Fool’s Day. Traditionally observed by news outlets by spreading as much misinformation as possible.

apostrophes
Arcane remnant of Old English. Avoid where possible.

attribution
Preferred, but optional.

Benny Johnson
Sociopath.

BREAKING
Used primarily by news outlets as a wry commentary on the state of journalism.

Buzzfeed
Standard-bearer for the ideal manifestation of journalism.

capital letters
Optional.

crowdsourcing
As unpaid interns have gone out of vogue crowdsourcing has become the favored method of soliciting unpaid labor.

ellipses
Ellipses can be useful for ending thoughts you don’t have the intellect to finish.

fanboi, fanboy
Prefer fanboi when lying.

good tweet
Phrase used to indicate a bad tweet.

Hacker News
A good place to promote incredibly offensive articles.

hateread
Term used to indicate articles longer than 800 words.

Henry Blodget
Publisher of Business Insider, dog.

ICYMI
Acronym for “in case you missed it.” Typically used to re-promote articles of low quality that failed to meet pageview goals.

literally
Used to indicate something that is not true.

lmao, lmbo
Are you Max Read? Then it’s lmao.

manual RT
A technique used by journalists who don’t know how to use Twitter; avoid at all costs.

Medium
Clearing house for writing no publication in their right mind would run.

MT
Modified tweet. Used to signal a quote that has been edited to fit Twitter’s 140 character limit, often without regard for context or intended meaning.

Pando Daily
A startup marketing company often mistaken for a news publication. Avoid.

Reddit
A community of pedophiles and misogynists; used for free publicity by the morally bankrupt.

smh
Shorthand for “something.”

social media editor
A lifestyle, not a job title.

stand by for news
Phrase used to create hype for news that would otherwise be ignored.

thinkpiece
Shorthand that roughly translates to “part of a thought.”

troll
See trolling

trolling
See troll

uhhhh, ummmm
Often used to preface good counterpoints.

weird twitter
A collective term for a subset of Twitter users who are not funny.

Next Story — Open Secret
Currently Reading - Open Secret

Open Secret

Secret’s founders are all talk

When Secret launched with its customary Techcrunch press release, one of its founders apparently described it like so:

He said that the point was to share things you wouldn’t otherwise attach to your name.

As anybody who has used the internet for longer than five seconds will tell you: this is a dangerous road to go down. One that will require careful thought, a good deal of empathy, and safeguards for the kind of people who usually find themselves on the receiving end of “things you wouldn’t otherwise attach to your name.” Say, grossly misogynistic insults about coworkers, for example. The presence of Alexis Ohanian, one of Reddit’s co-founders, as an investor was a hopeful sign: we’ve all seen the kind of dross Reddit encourages.

It was surprising, then, that the only safeguards Secret had in place at launch were ones which protect those posting secrets. Don’t worry: you are guaranteed absolute anonymity no matter what you post. Secret told Horvath they would remove the secret in question. According to her tweet, they did not.

It took more than a month for Secret to implement any kind of disincentive to bullying — and it came only after Julie Ann Horvath was pushed to quitting her job at Github. The solution was detection of first names in secrets, the use of which would prompt a dialog cautioning the poster against defamation. It doesn’t, of course, prevent the user from continuing with their secret.

The most recent fuck you is the addition of shareable URLs attached to each Secret — it’s as simple as swiping left! In its post, Techcrunch said that “what makes Secret stand out is that you’re communicating primarily with friends.” No longer is that true.

What makes Secret stand out now is its open existence as a platform for bullies, the victims of which its founders and investors don’t seem to give a fuck about, having made only the most cursory of attempts to ward them off.

Questioned by Paul Carr on Twitter, Garry Tan, another investor, said “give the Secret team a chance to build it at scale.”

“What would you tell those being defamed while we give the secret team a chance to scale?” asked Paul.

Absolutely nothing, apparently. Tan didn’t even bother replying.

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