Why Wesabe Lost to Mint

Marc Hedlund, one of the founders of the personal finance tracking website Wesabe, has put up an excellent blog post about why his company lost to the more popular Mint service, in spite of being the first mover and having other important advantages. It’s not dispassionate, but it’s engaging and a fair analysis.

Most interesting to me is when he compares Wesabe’s security practices to Mint, and describes how he believed that would be enough of a differentiating factor in the marketplace.

Everything I’ve mentioned — not being dependent on a single source provider, preserving users’ privacy, helping users actually make positive change in their financial lives — all of those things are great, rational reasons to pursue what we pursued. But none of them matter if the product is harder to use, since most people simply won’t care enough or get enough benefit from long-term features if a shorter-term alternative is available.

This kind of account is critically important for people starting companies that aim to clone other services, but with more privacy, security, freedom, or any other particular virtue. It’s possible to succeed with that sort of business model, but it’s something that has to be approached with care and humility. Hedlund’s post is a great guide of how not just the long-term, but also the short-term interests of the users are important for creating a successful service.

Professor Robert Thompson is always in the New York Times

Nice catch by the NYTPicker, a blog devoted to “the goings-on inside the New York Times.” Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University has been quoted over 150 times in the paper by 78 different reporters, on about as many different topics.

To these 78 NYT reporters, Thompson has offered a convenient shortcut past that necessary evil of journalism: the expert quote. Thompson’s superior ability to deliver short, pithy comments on a wide spectrum of topics, on deadline — along with his handy “professor” title — has made him indispensable to the hordes of NYT reporters who’ve desperately dialed him for that all-important dollop of hot air.

That record, spanning over 20 years now, seems to make him the Greg Packer for the academic set.

Grimmelmann and Ohm’s “Dr. Generative Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone”

James Grimmelmann and Paul Ohm have published “Dr. Generative Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone,” a spot-on review of Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet that fills in some practical blanks left by the original.

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Responses to Malcom Gladwell’s social media article

Malcom Gladwell’s New Yorker piece about his skepticism of social media’s role in social change has brought out the heavyweights, and in the past few days there’s been some really great writing about the idea. Anil Dash, in particular, raises the point that the actions of the Maker community are actually political, even though it usually just looks like they’re having fun.

We have had an enormous and concerted act of social disobedience play out over the past half-decade, where millions have decided that the present regime of intellectual property law and corporate control over the way we communicate is no longer tenable. So, every day, with the click of a button, people from all walks of life are ignoring the law and protesting in public, simply by uploading content to YouTube or Facebook or anywhere else.

Eric Harvey responds to Dash’s piece with some skepticism of his own, saying that maybe these things shouldn’t be described as a “revolution,” but rather “something that middle-class people with lots of spare time on their hands and a healthy disregard for corporations do.”

Lots of smart stuff coming out, and I expect to see more. Regardless of the ability of social media to produce social change, it sure is a good way to disseminate writing about itself.

Best Game Ever in Bing Crosby’s cellar – history and the analog hole

Stories like the discovery of Bing Crosby’s copy of the previously lost Game 7 of the 1960 World Series are fun, and not totally uncommon. Earlier this year the National Jazz Museum acquired the Savory Collection of about 1,000 discs of radio broadcasts of jazz greats that had been recorded from radio broadcasts by an enthusiastic audio engineer, and a bootleg of a Woody Guthrie concert that surfaced a few years back is the only known recording of him playing live.

Crosby, the singer and movie, radio and TV star, had more foresight than the television networks and stations, which erased or discarded nearly all of the Major League Baseball games they carried until the 1970s.

Today Major League Baseball is notoriously strict about the rights to their games. It makes you wonder how much of this history we could lose as companies attempt to close the analog hole and average people lose the ability to record their media.