Daniel Rhodes

in perpetual search of product-market fit.

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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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Facebook and Search

It’s unlikely in the near term that Facebook would seek to challenge Google directly in web search.

This assessment is accurate. Facebook would not have a competitive advantage by doing web search. In fact, searching the web and sending people away from Facebook is the antithesis of what they are all about. Instead, there are many opportunities for searching within its walls and thus making it easier for people to stay within Facebook or Facebook powered sites, which is exactly what they are working on.

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Fiction, Feedback Loops, and Mirror Neurons

From Annie Paul in The New York Times:

[Fiction] is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

Much work has been done in the past 20 years on mirror neurons and how they inform our social behavior in almost every conceivable way. It is even possible that certain substances trick mirror neurons into becoming more sensitive and therefore make them more addictive. Operant conditioning is another area, possibly linked to mirror neurons, where behavior is learned.

As somebody who works on developing social products, I often think about feedback loops and how they engage people. What makes an app addictive? What makes...

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Don’t be Google

At some point in the recent past, the Mountain View brass realized that owning the Web is not enough to survive. It makes sense—people are increasingly using non Web-based avenues to access the Internet, and Google would be remiss to not make a play for that business. The problem is that in branching out, Google has also abandoned its core principles and values.

I think this sums up the bizarre behavior coming out of Google in the past few years. Such behavior is consistent with other industries where the barriers to entry are high and the result is that companies must act with a heavy hand against other companies in order to stay afloat, leaving their customers to suffer by the wayside. Viacom, Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast come to mind.

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