Life at Intersections

Building Synack, formerly of userfox (YC S11) and match.

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Online Education should be inspired by Video Games

The evolution of education is an interesting one to watch. We have several experiments going on (treehouse, coursera, edX and others), each of them producing some interesting numbers I’m sure. Numbers I do not have visibility into. From observing friends and family and my own behavior, I am going to go ahead though and place a strong bet: The percentage of people signing up for an online course and actually finishing it is probably in the low single digits.

So what would get me more interested in finishing my course? The same thing that gets me to finish that video game I bought last week: Easy on-boarding, a painless way to save my progress, getting roped right back into where I was, even after being absent for some time and hearing from my friends how awesome this gets down the road.

Imagine a streamlined education store, instead of a collection of different vendors, that each...

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More by Bjoern

Emails are the new landing pages

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Not too long ago landing pages were terrible. They weren’t optimized for anything, had no clear call-to-action and in most cases it was hard to discern what the product actually did. Then somewhere around the year 2009 something magical happened: Someone had the idea to run a/b tests and build a conversion focused landing page, one that would be easy on the eyes, came with nice product screenshots, customers logos and an ‘As Seen on TechCrunch’ graphic. Signups increased and soon everyone noticed and started doing the same thing, because it worked. It’s now 2013 and this same optimization is starting to happen in another part of the funnel: Emails.

The classic scenario is to send a welcome email to a new user after she has signed up for your service or product. I bet you are doing this right now and you have no idea if the subject line or the layout you chose delights your users or...

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The Era of Web Comebacks

Comebacks are a popular event in many of life’s categories. The most popular ones are usually by musicians that publish one more album or boxers that go in for one last big fight. But lately I’ve seen these happenings in another industry: The Web.

At userfox we were recently approached by a product that a few years ago used to be extremely popular. Which made me realize that many popular web brands that were kind of down and on their way out made a comeback of sorts these past 18 months. Myspace.com turned into this music discovery network, digg.com has regained more relevance after its v1 site reboot and a big purple giant in Sunnyvale is in the middle of doing a comeback in small steps.

A comeback is the return of a person of public interest, a style or fashion in the midpoint of media interest. The term is predominantly used in politics, sports and pop music. In the...

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It ships when it ships

Predicting when a task will be completed is hard. Engineers have struggled with this everywhere I’ve worked, including me. Some overestimate the time needed to build a certain feature and others might greatly underestimate their actual work load. But is this even a real problem? No, not really.

Not sure who started these artificial deadlines for things, but they make no sense. Even when dealing with an all-hands-on-deck situation, there isn’t a real deadline in the room. The goal is to ship a fix asap. Similar to a soccer game when your opponent leads 0:1 and there are only 5 minutes left on the clock. The team will try everything to score asap. But outside of such pressured situations the team simply focuses on ball possession and making good plays. There is nobody asking the players at what time they will score the first goal. Not before the game and especially not...

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