Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kevin Rose, Dot-Commander

I'm sure everyone remembers last month's BusinessWeek hype piece on Kevin Rose at Digg.

A bit late to the party, Swiss magazine Weltwoche features Kevin Rose on the front page this week.

Their subtitle: "The Internet is hot again – and Kevin Rose is the Dot-Commander". I was happy to see that their article (German) was a lot less hype-y than the BusinessWeek piece. They also paid a visit to Bill Gross in L.A. and talked to Nicolas Dengler of CoComment and Lars Hinrichs of openBC to add some local perspective.

Next up in Weltwoche: The Reddit alien.

Other People's Conference Notes

No time to blog much, so I figured I'd keep you guys entertained with some links.

It seems like the Future of Web Apps conference in San Francisco was better than its European cousin I attended earlier this year.

  • Evan Williams, founder of Odeo and author of the ingenious "Ten Rules for Web Startups" shared his perspective on "How Odeo screwed up" and didn't follow his very rules.

  • Carl Sjogren of gave a talk about The Road to Google Calendar. He highlights the relentless focus on the user experience. They were even using MySQL and PHP in the early stages! I'm surprised.

From the RailsConf Europe, here's a writeup of Dave Thomas' talk "On Risk". There is much FUD surrounding Rails even now, I'm happy he addresses that.

Friday, September 08, 2006

BarCampZurich Update

A quick update on BarCampZurich, the unConference I'm helping organize. It takes place on October 28, 2006 in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • We finally found space for the BarCamp! We'll be at ETH Zurich, in the CAB building. There will be WLAN (free) and a bar for snacks and drinks (free once we find sponsors). There's room for about 100 attendees.

  • Corsin and I have been hard at work recruiting speakers and attendees. Our efforts have paid off: Our speakers now include famous Swiss entrepreneur and investor Nicolas Berg, Douwe Osinga, one of the guys behind Google Trends, as well as Cédric Hüsler from, the guys behind the popular collaborative editor SubEthaEdit, and many others. The number of signed-up participants has doubled in the last 24 hours.

  • If you want to help promote BarCampZurich, put one of our pretty banners on your site or blog. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Go to and sign up! I'll see you there in October.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Going to Google

I've accepted an offer from Google and will start working at the Zurich office in November. As a big fan of Google, I have fond memories from my internship there 2 years ago. As an alternative, I had thought about joining a number of startups, which could have been far more lucrative, but potentially less enlightening.


Rest assured that this decision was made in an Excel sheet with pros and cons and expected net values with estimated probabilities.

My great fear with Google is that it may have become a corporate behemoth, along with all the stupid rules, book-sized guidelines, and people who merely serve as bottlenecks. If they are, Freedom Fighter Gabor will be in deep, deep, trouble. If they still have the friendly attitude from 2 years ago, things will be great.


This is the first point in my life where I had to decide between becoming an entrepreneur and becoming an employee. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you escape the gravity of average performance: There are huge variations in the output of recent university graduates. But big companies, even those claim to be a meritocracy, cannot pay these kids by actual output.

The reasons: First, performance may be hard or impossible to measure – what's the value of a new algorithm? Second, having huge differences in pay between employees may lead to social unrest. And third, some of the highest-performance kids do not actually know that they're worth much, so why pay them more?


The only way to get paid according to your market value is to directly address the market. That's exactly what startups do. But there is a huge amount of luck factored in. Personally, I'm fine with risk. The problem of being an early employee at a startup, however, is that you get substantially lower stakes than the founders, but put in comparable amounts of work and carry a similar risk.

So why not start a startup myself? Well, you need to have the people, the idea, and the money. I had been thinking about this intensely, but at all times, at least one component was missing. And with one of my potential cofounders joining me at Google and the other one going to a startup, that idea disintegrated. Maybe another time.


Marcus Foster has a good point: Once employed at a high-profile company, you have to self-censor. I'm not sure what the policy at Google is these days, but getting fired for blogging about company secrets is not one of my ambitions.

I still have plenty of topics for essays and thoughts I want write about. Once I've handed in my thesis on October 3, I will try milk every last bit of thought from my brain and commit it to a blog entry.