top-down or bottom-up is a classic question with many potential contexts.

how do you model your company?  without question, bottom-up.

how do you view economic policy?  already the answer gets more gray and depends on personal feelings.  which way you lean will direct your answer.

how do you display a feed?  this question doesn’t seem to have a definitive answer and it’s the one that got me diving into this no mans’ land of product philosophy.

i have to bash twitter from time to time because it sucks at so many things (their persistent notifications problem befuddles me).  yet, twitter is still one of the first places to go to see “how did they do it”?  and twitter is the epitome of the top-down or bottom-up question.

the twitter new feed is top-down -- with the most recent posts at the top.  yet in the very same app, they use bottom-up for direct messages -- with the most recent messages at the bottom.

whenever using any product, i love to ask the question of “why did they do this?”  and i find that the answer usually falls into one of two buckets:

  1. genius product insights from amazing design, ux, and customer involvement

  2. copying someone else

the problem with copying is that while you know it works (at least you hope it works since at least one other idiot did the same thing), you also have no idea into the why.  you don’t know if that was done for legitimate, customer-centric reasons -- or simply because that company shipped it that way for whatever reason, or lack thereof.

after going through my phone, the one trend i can see that determines top-down or bottom-up is what i’ll call “purposeful interaction”.

if the product is simply displaying new content that you’ve (implicitly) subscribed to or followed, then it just flows on top…  examples being:

  • twitter (news feed)

  • podcasts

  • instagram

  • soundcloud

  • email

if the product is more like a dialog, then every new message goes to the bottom… examples being:

looking at these examples, it does make sense for purposeful interactions to be bottom-up -- because you want to see the last message you're replying to when your keyboard pulls up.

of course, there are products that are starting to evolve beyond a simple top-down or bottom-up.  facebook is top-down, albeit highly filtered and algorithm-laden.  but then there’s examples like disqus, quora, or reddit which try to elevate the best content to the top -- whether that data is two seconds or two years old.


Authorjonathan hegranes

without question, my favorite part of any product is the feeling you get from using it.  sometimes this means an extra feature or a cool animation.  sometimes it’s the fact that nothing happens at all.  sometimes it stems from not letting you do something, in a good way (i’m looking at you, twodots).  sometimes it just makes you feel good.

the beauty of this feeling is that it endears you to the product in a way that cannot easily be copied, and more importantly ties you to that product for much longer time frame.  

i’ve long admired this in products… back when i worked at disqus, i did a thing at an all-hands where i jokingly trademarked the “point of tap” as *the* opportunity.  and a lot of my recent thinking about the right interactions has led me to dive into this more deeply.

we all do the same things every day, whether it’s buying a cup of coffee or downloading a new app or logging into a site.  and all it takes is a little bit of magic to pretty much forever connect with that person for life.

philz coffee does this by not only making you an amazing cup of coffee, but when they hand it to you, they say “make sure it’s perfect”.  how perfect is that?

headspace does this with the absolute perfect loading animation…  not to mention their videos are spot on.

taking lunch as an example, there are variables that lead up that moment where we order or take our first bite.  and then there’s how we feel afterwards that is more of a direct correlation of the product / service we just consumed.  but in the middle is a no-man’s land of either magic or blah.  

we don’t always realize the blah, but you’ll respond to the magic -- consciously or subconsciously with your heart, mind, and wallet.

the other fascinating thing about this is the same process can still feel really different.  i’m still not sure why this is, but a commit to github via the terminal just feels better than using the github app.  buying a taco after waiting in a long line feels different.  getting surprised / amused at something mundane feels really different.

alexis ohanian and tim ferriss (on tim’s podcast) go into this a bit, and kevin (aka, best twitter handle ever) had some really good examples in sam’s startup class.  #mustwatch

i realize this (magical ah-ha state of utter stupid bliss) is both really hard but really easy to do.  in the end, it’s a game changer and something i’m striving for / focused on intently.

Authorjonathan hegranes

my last three phones have been android, and i’m a very happy, satisfied user -- even proponent of android.  but i’m still switching back when they announce a new phone on tuesday.  basically what aaron levie said…

my biggest gripe about ios / my biggest love of android has been about choice.  i wanted -- and still do want -- to be able to download whatever app i want, to choose my default apps, and to have the kind of freedom we’ve come to expect from our laptops.  software is eating mobile, and this is clearly the direction of both platforms, albeit ios at a slower pace.

but for too long i’ve probably been wearing android-colored glasses.  every piece of data i saw, i would conclude that it benefits android.  at least until benedict evans (subscribe / follow / read everything you can that he puts out) slapped some sense into me.  he posted this chart on global handset sales…

to which i concluded that android was the way of the future.  he quickly set me straight.

he's right that you have to do both, eventually.  but where to begin?

the crux of my decision to go iphone was really about app development.  i don’t think it’s possible to design for a platform you don’t use each and every day.  mobile is where i spend the bulk of my team these days and it’s time to make the switch.  hopefully a few blog posts down the road, you’ll *really* see why.

andrew chen wrote a great piece recently about why android needs a billion dollar success, and he has some great ideas on how to make android-first a reality.  depending on your market and traction levels, android is a natural evolution, but it’s not the starting point in most cases.  the one exception is when your app is google-dependent or one of the banned topics on the itunes apple store -- such as bitcoin.  but per benedict’s point, apple is still the most fertile ground to launch most apps.  

i still believe the direction is moving in android’s favor, and some of apple’s recent decisions -- such as backing patent trolls -- has turned off a lot of its most fervent supporters.  but my multi-year hypothesis doesn’t have much relevance on a near-term market decision.  thus, you’ll find me on tuesday constantly refreshing the apple store page, waiting to place my order for an iphone 6.


Authorjonathan hegranes

from websites to twitter @ handles, and a host of other purely digital properties that are bought and sold on a daily basis -- domains have become their own asset class.  

some people collect domains like their stocking a wine cellar, while others are simply looking for the right place to hang out a shingle.  for entrepreneurs, sometimes we start out in a fixer-upper… starting our domain with “get” or slapping a non “.com” tld at the end.  e.g. my friends at prime are currently rocking the url -- but i’m sure it won’t be long until they own

with any luck, we all move on up to the east side with a beautiful domain and matching twitter handle, but getting there takes time, money, and some creative negotiation.

having been a part of a number of such transactions, and advised numerous others, i wanted to document my latest thinking on how to structure such deals.  

note, i’ll use the term ‘domain’ to include twitter @ usernames, websites, and the like.  and yes, we all know that you can’t really buy twitter @’s, but you can “buy” them through consulting-type deals.  and as with any of these transactions -- whether strictly allowed by t&c’s or not, creativity and openness can create win-win deals for buying and selling domain assets.  the key is to be honest, especially with yourself, about what you are giving up and what you are receiving in return.


1) assess the value of your domain

whether a domain hoarder (collector), or starting a real business -- it’s natural to think that you just scored a domain worth well more that you paid…  people have told me i owned $20k domains, but until you have a real offer, so what?  it’s just a made up number, like an appraisal on a house no one wants to buy.

have you built up seo?  does your site generate regular traffic?  do you have a mass of engaged followers?  is their innate value in your domain (i.e. it’s short, pronounceable, and at least close to a real word)?

in short, what is the buyer getting besides just the domain?  if something, document it.  if not, realize it.


2) how does your value translate to the prospective buyer

mba classes will talk about batna -- the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.  basically, if the buyer doesn’t get your domain, what are her options?

can he just allocate that money to buying keywords and siphon the traffic?  does she already have a backup domain, or is it mission critical / strategic?

knowing and preparing for this will help both sides come to an equitable deal.


3) win / win

if you’re honest about #1 and #2, then a true win / win deal isn’t unheard of.  with creative deal making, both sides can get what they want.  

i saw a great example recently with opendoor, the real-estate startup that just raised $10 million from everyone.  at the bottom of their site, you’ll notice a link  that says “looking for opendoor networks” -- which takes you to a site lovingly coded in html circa 1999.

keith rabois or opendoor can comment on the specifics, but my guess is they came to an agreement with the former owner of where they not only exchanged cash, but also tried to offset any lost traffic with a link to opendoor networks, which can now be found at  in all likelihood, opendoor networks has never had more traffic.

which leads to my last point…


4) schmuck insurance

no one wants to sell a domain that turns out to be worth billions.  

sometimes you know with whom you’re negotiating… e.g. if you owned and someone came knocking -- chances are it was the startup

but many times you don’t… such as the guy who sold to the now $17 billion and counting company.

to combat this, think about terms to give upside to the buyer, or at least limit the downside.

on the downside, maybe you sell the domain for less than “face value”, but with a balloon payment or clawback in x years -- where you can get the domain back if the buyer doesn’t make it.  chances are he won’t.

on the upside, think about equity as a way to align interests and give the seller option value should you take her domain and turn it into billions.  missing a point on your cap table won’t matter if you’re hugely successful, but it could make getting that elusive domain that much easier.

curious to hear your thoughts on ways that you have structured domain transactions, as well as any other resources that you want to share.

one of my favorites is the affectionate domain snob jason calacanis on twist.

Authorjonathan hegranes

traditionalists will never win, especially in sports.  with the camera technology that we have today, we see the action like never before -- but that’s also made the viewing public more demanding in how the game is played and how the game is called.  

we want every call to be right.  we expect every call to be right.

soccer, yes soccer (i’ll get to that in a sec), is a great game with an amazing history, and perhaps most of all a terrific vernacular.  but as we wont to do from time to time, it’s time for america to improve or at least “improve” (for our sake) the game of soccer…  with a few tweaks, i think this sport could become more than a once every four years fascination in this country.

-embrace the term “soccer”

stop fighting for the name football.  that's a losing battle.  plus, sports with “ball” in the name are kinda boring… hockey, tennis, cricket, golf, ping pong, you name it -- they are all better names than baseball, basketball, and yes even football (whichever football you’re talking about).  


ronaldo questioning whether or not he was offsides...

ronaldo questioning whether or not he was offsides...


we don’t need a rule change here, but rather just how the rule is interpreted and called in a game.  basically, just keep your flag down ref.  if a player is borderline offsides, don’t call it.  in essence, the tie goes to the runner -- where the burden of proof is substantial in order to call a player offsides.  the result? more goals, more aggression, and more excitement.

-sudden death extra time (overtime)

the boring part about soccer is that “prevent defense” can start before half time.  and even in “extra time”, you’ll often see the lesser team just trying to get to penalty kicks where any team can win.  so keep the two 15 minute extra periods, but make it first goal wins.  voila.  no longer can a team sit back and hope for penalty kicks.

-more refs

at least for the world cup, let's add more referees… baseball goes from three or four to six in the playoffs.  and in soccer the pitch is fucking huge.  let’s add a few more refs to get all the angles -- especially those flops in the penalty area where another set of eyes or two can change a game.


no challenges.  no stoppage of play… just a team in a booth or off site (much like hockey or baseball or college football) that reviews key plays, fouls, and flops in near real time.  if they see something to overturn, they call down to the referee.  with the amount of dead time with free kicks or penalty kicks or “injuries”, there’s more than enough time to get every call right without slowing the game.  and just like in football, if a team is afraid of a call being overturned, they can hurry up.


so while you’re watching the final today between germany and argentina -- enjoy the match, take in the vernacular, and consider how a few tweaks just might make this game more exciting for us all.

what would you change?

Authorjonathan hegranes

of my long list of favorite posts by @paulg, “do things that don’t scale” has been top of mind for me lately.  i usually have this link on speed dial, but i’ve shared, discussed, and debated the post a handful of times just the last few weeks in meetings and advisor sessions.  it turns out the hardest part about this concept is putting it into action.

*actually* doing things that don’t scale is harder than it sounds.

as engineers, it’s instinctual to want to find a way to automate once and forever.  for lawyers, it’s easy to glide down a slippery slope to get to a potential outcome x quarters down the road.  for investors, it’s natural to think about how a company can build out its product / service to the delight of millions.  for leaders of an organization, we're always looking to do more with less.

but none of that matters until you are at scale, or at least dutifully strolling down the golden brick road to building a massive company.

back around 2010 when i was hustling as co-founder of @workables, we practiced the unscalable.  we were a finalist for techstars boulder and got our way into techstars for a day where they also used our workables for the event.  the boulder team dug the service, and asked how we did it… after we told them, they naturally asked, “but how will that scale in more cities, for more users, etc, etc?”

paul graham, founder of yc, has seen the unscalable done to perfection -- and his post from last july has some killer examples from which to learn.

if you’re hacking away on your own venture, practice this.

if you’re head down at a startup, practice this.

it won’t always be the easiest sell internally, but adopting this experimental and experiential attitude into your culture is one of the few ways i know to get to the promised land of product-market fit.


ps, hoping this strategy works for newborns, as well... i'll report back.

Authorjonathan hegranes