I saw a surgery on Sutter Street

The patient was the street. Bricks. And mortar. And wierd concrete panels. I walked down Sutter street and it was all opened up. A lone worker with a jackhammer was grinding away, like a dental assistant carving away at suburban plaque.

I have high expectations for infrastructure, and I’m usually startled to see the reality. If I tore back the black peel of the street, in my mind I would have expected smooth concrete, fiber optics, and even a grey stainless steel skeleton. Instead, here were stacks of bricks, with asphalt on top. It looked like a hot wheels track I built as a kid. You know where you put the track up on a cardboard box, and draped the other end over a shoe to even it out.

I am always interested to see what’s underneath. Ever taken a close look at a cell phone tower? Or how electricity gets into your apartment building? The wiring looks like Hamburger meat being pushed out of a grinder more than a single, beautiful cable.


Marketing – Food Delivery

3 near-identical ads. 2 un-interesting, 1 surprisingly compelling. Just change a bit of wording and formatting. Read on to find out what makes these ads curiously different.

IMG_8592.JPG  IMG_8596.JPG


TryCaviar.com is a food delivery “startup”. They’ve plastered Montgomery Station with about 20 advertisements, to encourage people to try their service.

Ad #1 – Delivery by Caviar

“Love Great Food?”

Yes but who doesn’t? This is like online dating profiles where your “match” likes “hanging out, eating great food, and traveling!”. Next. Oh and the primary headline is “Delivered by Caviar”, and the domain is the biggest thing on the poster. Blowing up the name of the business is a telltale that this ad is a dud.

Ad #2 – Ike’s Place

Name of a Restaurant! The Name of a Restaurant!

The Name of a Restaurant isn’t a headline. It says nothing. It’s like going into a crowd and saying “John!” loudly over and over again. No one cares. (Maybe if the Restaurant was well known, like “McDonalds”, this would work?). Ike’s Place Delivered would have been better.

Ad #3 – Ike’s Delivered

I liked this ad the most. It made me realize what TryCaviar was really about.

I had a vegan meatball sandwich from Ike’s 6 months ago. Memorable and amazing. They only make delicious sandwiches. The issue with Ike’s is the hour long wait. You stand in line for an hour to get one of their sandwiches. It’s *that* good. I’m excited about going again and “Ike’s Delivered” caught my eye.

TryCaviar.com – “I can sit at home and watch Buffy Vampire Slayer, and get Ike’s put into my mouth. WIN.”

Size matters?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I found the shortest ad to be the most effective. It’s not that more words is bad. It’s that with the bigger format ads, the designer added in a bunch of weak copy. With the ad on the pole, they had to trim it down to the bare minimum, and in the process they accidentally (?) came up with a great ad. I would take that ad, identify 10 other restaurants that meet the same criteria as Ikes, and put those variants on the walls of Montgomery station.

Other restaurants – Little Star

I love Little Star Pizza. There’s a set of Caviar ads in Montgomery Station featuring Little Star Pizza (swap out “Ikes” for “Little Star”, you get the point). But getting Little Star delivered is less appealing to me. Little Star is a destination, I can hang out there and have a party, and even though the pizza takes awhile, it’s a fun event. I can get delivery by calling up the restaurant, too. Ike’s really resonated with this idea of food delivery, but Little Star didn’t.

Other restaurants – Cha Cha Cha

I’d never heard of the 6 or so other restaurants before. These ads carry no value to me. I don’t care they exist, and don’t need them delivered.


As an advertiser, these ads don’t enable you to figure out which posters were effective! Simply putting a 3 digit code after the URL would be great. I guess you could look at inbound traffic where the visitor typed in the URL, but that’s tough. I checked out Caviar’s website, and Ike’s was the 3rd restaurant I clicked, even though that was the ad that got me interested. If they’re going to pursue this line of advertising, they should use more tracking to figure out what restaurants resonate with their “iconic food” campaign.

#3 is Best

I liked ad #3 a lot more than #1 and #2, and much more than any of the other restaurants featured in the campaign. I thought it was interesting that of all 20 posters in the campaign, only 1 spoke to to me. But is #3 a good ad? I’d say it works great for Ike’s restaurant. Are there other restaurants with the same criteria where Caviar.com sounds appealing?

Ike’s = insanely delicious food + long wait times + lame location + no delivery + I have heard of it

Maybe Ike’s is the only place that fits this campaign well. (Papalote’s Burritos and Tartine may good candidates for me.) But this is a pretty narrow criteria to say “X Delivered” and have it be meaningful. Overall, the message of this advertising campaign might be too narrow to bet the whole business on. But for me & Ikes, it works great. I’ll be ordering Ike’s lunch this week and watching Buffy, and in true food delivery fashion, I won’t be wearing pants.

218 Miles to Go

10 weeks ago, I excitedly agreed to hike the John Muir Trail. I’d turned down a awesome offer from a startup accelerator in Ireland, and I felt like “wow, I better do something even wilder”. When my friend Matt said he was hiking the JMT, I figured that was my shot. I didn’t know anything about hiking or camping. The camping I had done was dragging a cooler of beer and food out of a trunk, plunking it down and throwing a tent.
I’ve gotten a few good practice hikes in for prep. Jeff and I hiked 20.0 miles in one day up on the Palomarin trail north of San Francisco. And a 8.0 mile hike up Mount Tamalpias. Matt and I hiked through Castle Rock, Big Basin, and out to the coast over 3 days.
I talked with people at BioCurious about adding a degree of science to the hike. Lots of cool ideas. What I’m taking with me are 2 American Gut kits, not sure what I’ll end up doing with them.
I don’t know what I’m doing.

A surprising number of people I’ve told about my trip have the JMT on their bucket list for their life goals. I don’t, it just seems like something cool to do unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
The biggest idea I’ve had so far from hiking is that I just enjoy it. I’ve designed devices and started companies and for me all those things were about the goal, the end, the achievement. The few hikes I’ve been on have opened up a new type of enjoyment for me. I just enjoy hiking along. The destination doesn’t matter, because the destination is just a parking lot. It’s a neat feeling. A cliche is its about the journey, but until hiking I haven’t felt this way.



Posted in: JMT |

2014: Amelia Earhart flies around the world

2 guys, a garage, blah blah blah. I’ve heard this story countless times. Everything in Silicon Valley, the myth goes, starts in a garage. And every startup that has ever been within 1 mile of garage will be rich like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Aladin. Overdone.

Here’s a fresh story. There’s a woman named Amelia Earhart. She’s not the one that you’ve heard of.  MORE…

Are you guilty of recommending an article without reading it first?

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 10.22.00 AMThe headline looks interesting. You copy the link and paste it over to your friend in a chat window, or an email. I’ve done this a billion times. Most of the articles I send to friends, I haven’t read. Maybe you’ve done it too? Is this a problem? After all the article had a catchy headline, and sounded like something your friend was talking about the other day.

Scientific Publications have the same problem?

But what if this same practice carries into more serious work? Like scientific publications. MORE…

Innovator’s Patent Agreement – the rise of “Pull to Refresh”

Twitter, 2012: Patents created by employees are only for defensive, not offensive purposes. Interesting, wonder how this has played out so far, seems like a cool idea.

The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.

3/17/2012 [twitter.com link]

From TechCrunch:

The first patent to get the IPA treatment is Loren Brichter’s pull to refresh user interface interaction, which was built into Tweetie, the Twitter app that was acquired by the company and adopted as the official client.

Basically, Twitter is saying it’s not going to go after companies that are using pull to refresh, or other parts of Brichter’s patent, within their app. If someone were to claim to have created the functionality first, only then would Twitter defend itself.

Potential hole: it’s an agreement between an employee and a company, so if the company sells the patent to another company it can be used however? Or goes bankrupt?

Read the actual legal text of the agreement