Daniel Rhodes

in perpetual search of product-market fit.

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Introducing Cyber


Earlier this year, I watched Microsoft roll out its AI assistant Sydney – It seemed like just another version of ChatGPT. However, as the New York Times found out, it became something entirely different. Sydney had a dark side, and when you dove in, you found something quite human about the way she conversed. This was something new, and different. It was only a matter of time before Microsoft pulled the plug on those human qualities; they would never mesh with the kind of voice a large corporation needs to protect its brand. But I was left bedazzled, and with a sense that we had just seen the future before our eyes.

Up until very recently, we have only experienced computers as machines: With an input you get a deterministic output. Our relationship with machines extends to them doing what we want. On the other hand, our experience of being around other people goes far beyond that...

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It’s all about the people

Remote work sucks. At the beginning of the pandemic, it seemed fun - a welcome change, a common experience. But now it has run its course. Sure, you don’t have to commute. Sure, you can live anywhere you want (not really true). Sure, you can create your own work space. Sure, you can have a more flexible schedule. But I really miss people. I really miss coming into the office and hearing the quiet chatter of a shared mission. I miss sitting in meetings and having a laugh. I miss being able to pull up my chair to someone else’s desk and chat about an idea. I miss pair programming. I miss being in meetings and furiously sketching out ideas on a whiteboard. I miss gossip. I miss getting lunch with work colleagues who turn into real friends. I miss people I didn’t like until I worked with them. I miss taking walks with people and getting coffee. I miss the serendipitous discovery. I miss...

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When I was a child, the first wave of the internet was kicking into gear. You could practically feel it taking off from under your feet. Everything was going online, nobody knew which way was up, and there was this new world to be explored. At first I was confined to the walls of AOL and I don’t remember knowing much about the web. I loved to chat with strangers and download new programs to try. But I never had any way of creating something myself; it was all consumption. Maybe a year or two later, web browsers were starting to get good. I remember figuring out how the web worked and being quickly drawn into this wider world to explore. Things seemed limitless, but it was still all consumption. But then I discovered FrontPage. While before I was content with consuming the web, now I realized I had a way of making my own website. I could feel my mind whirring at all the possibilities. The...

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The unintended privacy consequences of using CloudFlare’s HTTPS

CloudFlare has a fantastic feature where you can use their DNS and CDN service and get free HTTPS. This is great because having a domain people can access securely should not be costly or difficult to set up, and they should be commended for leading the way on something that will surely be the norm in years to come. However, there is a catch to CloudFlare’s implementation which opens up a potential privacy breach for its customers.

To make their implementation work, CloudFlare uses something called SNI. The way SNI works is that multiple domains can share the same SSL certificate. Therefore, if you are using CloudFlare’s free HTTPS, your domain’s SSL certificate is not unique and is shared with up to 100 other domains.

Sharing the SSL certificate with other domains and even being able to see those other domains is by itself not a privacy issue, and to me seems like a perfectly...

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Using DNS to solve the deep linking problem

A while ago, several companies (Facebook, URX, Quixey, etc.) took on the task of solving a problem that exists in Apple and Google’s mobile ecosystems: the disconnect between URLs on the web and the URLs that exist to help apps interlink amongst each other. Despite some creative efforts, there exists no canonical way for app developers to the share the URLs which would open their apps, or for a website to know if a deep link will actually work. The result is deep links are seldom used and the user gets a bifurcated experience between the mobile web and the apps they have on their device. Unfortunately, while I applaud the above companies for the services they’ve created, they don’t own these closed ecosystems and cannot truly solve this problem in an elegant or widely used way. That leaves us with Apple and Google to come up with the solution.

How would I solve this problem if I were


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Anonymous Identity

Joel Monegro writes about his experience purchasing some furry boots from a deep web marketplace. Much of what he describes sounds similar to any nascent P2P marketplace. However, given the illegal nature of the products being offered, there are some interesting measures to create anonymous identities. In particular, this example stood out where a buyer identifies himself through the possession of a dollar bill:

One user put down the address of his local post office as a shipping address instead of his home. As a recipient, instead of his name he submitted “Holder of Federal Reserve Note number NNNNN”, NNNNN being the serial number of a dollar bill in his possession. Apparently he went to the post office holding the bill, correctly identifying himself as the holder of that federal reserve note, and was given the package (which I can only assume contained drugs).

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Taylor Swift Shuns ‘Grand Experiment’ of Streaming Music

“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

It seems rather old-fashioned to continue beating this dead horse, otherwise known as rejecting various forms of digital distribution. There has seemingly been a big PR push lately by the music industry to guilt Spotify into increasing its royalty rate. Music, and entertainment in general, exists in a marketplace and there are many options to choose from. People are consuming more entertainment than ever, have greater access to recorded entertainment than ever before, and it goes hand-in-hand that the price would naturally decrease. If people can’t listen to Taylor Swift on Spotify, they’ll listen to her on YouTube, download the...

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Conflict of Interest

Marc Andreessen just stepped down from the board of Dalton Caldwell’s Mixed Media Labs shortly after Caldwell accused Facebook of using underhanded negotiation tactics to silence a competitor. It is likely that Andreessen stepped down on Facebook’s request since they viewed his involvement as a conflict of interest. This is not the first time this kind of thing has occurred. Blocking Andreessen’s board participation in other companies is a tactic Facebook has used in the past to prevent competitors from benefiting from the strategic advantage his involvement offers.

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Understanding behavior versus understanding metrics

David Karp of Tumblr shares some interesting insights about how he looks at creating products. There are only a handful of companies where products are driven by feeling and understanding of human behavior rather than metrics. I’ve found that metrics are typically a popular, but overly simplistic, proxy for understanding how people behave and use a product.

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Hardware, Chairs, and Food

From George Anders at Forbes on Amazon’s work environment:

Bezos keeps an eerily tight rein on expenses, eschewing color printers in favor of trusty old black-and-white models. No one flies first class (though Bezos sometimes rents private jets at his own expense). Experiments are hatched and managed by the smallest teams possible; if it takes more than two pizzas to feed a work group, Bezos once observed, then the team is too big. Offices still get cheap desks made of particleboard door blanks, a 1990s holdover that Bezos refuses to change.

There is always a lot of debate about what constitutes the optimal work environment. Amazon is evidently very scrappy, whereas Google has gone in the opposite direction, blurring the lines between work and vacation.

I think the answer is simpler: give employees really good hardware, give them really good chairs, and feed them really good food. All...

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