Join hundreds of founders, investors, and hackers at The Alley for an evening of awesome people, groundbreaking startups, and illuminating conversation, celebrating the future of social media and the innovators behind it.
Co-produced with longtime friend and collaborator Michael Gold, Founder & Executive Producer of #techdrinkup, you’re invited to join us at the first and only NYC #sfbeta of the year.
#sfbeta provides a curated group of startups with the opportunity to demo throughout the evening. Startups with a social media focus: apply to demo today.
Moskowitz offers counterpoint by way of gaming startup Valve, who in a move of considerable transparency, published a self-critique of their laissez-faire, DIY-ish philosophy:
Asana, and other companies, organize themselves around a culture of “distributed responsibility,” whose details they share generously on their blog. In this culture, domains of expertise fall into the hands of single individuals, where one person is responsible, say, for onboarding, another for CSS, and so on. The approach suggests a peer-to-peer culture of decision-making, rather than that of a traditional, top-down hierarchy.
Dustin’s notion of a good manager, perhaps reflecting a broader perspective shared by many in Silicon Valley, is as follows:
At the end of the day, good management qualities (empathy, attentiveness, honesty, wisdom, among others) trump philosophy, but some thought and planning can go a long way towards creating a culture that best supports your people and the goals of your company.
Interestingly, however, such qualities — while certainly admirable, and indeed desirable — may have little to do with effective leadership, or so suggests empirical research. “In Praise of Dullness,” a widely touted column penned by David Brooks in 2009, suggests that many of these soft-core qualities have little to do with effective leadership:
Steven Kaplan, Mark Klebanov and Morten Sorensen recently completed a study called “Which C.E.O. Characteristics and Abilities Matter?”
They relied on detailed personality assessments of 316 C.E.O.’s and measured their companies’ performances. They found that strong people skills correlate loosely or not at all with being a good C.E.O. Traits like being a good listener, a good team builder, an enthusiastic colleague, a great communicator do not seem to be very important when it comes to leading successful companies.
What mattered, it turned out, were execution and organizational skills. The traits that correlated most powerfully with success were attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness and the ability to work long hours.
In other words, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as C.E.O.’s. Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive.
These results are consistent with a lot of work that’s been done over the past few decades.
Granted, Brooks focuses on CEOs, rather than managers, but I think that a similar principle applies in both cases: good leaders are individuals who are organized, consistent, critical, and hard-working, irrespective of their personalities.
The conclusions, while perhaps counter-intuitive, seem to be consistent across a wide body of research. Should this change the way startups organize themselves?
Maybe. I think that both Brooks and Moskowitz have valid points. The research cited by Brooks focuses on leaders of large, traditional, hierarchical organizations, where the qualities that constitute effectiveness may be defined, or at least shaped, by the broader culture of the companies.
Startups like Asana, meanwhile, are smaller, nimbler, flatter, and more collaborative than those highlighted in the cited studies. Given a company where the team evolves quickly, where each member wears numerous hats, where personal growth matters as much as dogged persistence, and where mentorship factors crucially into leadership, is a new kind of manager emerging? Moskowitz writes:
At Asana, we value transparency, balance, working together as peers, and investing in each other, and we try to apply these values to our management culture. We think that good management requires balance. We try to give people the freedom they need to contribute at their full potential, while also providing the support that helps them grow to become even more capable.
Our approach is “distributed responsibility,” exemplified by our AoR (Area of Responsibility) program. Instead of having all decisions flow through the management hierarchy, we go out of our way to distribute them as evenly as possible across all employees. At the same time, our approach emphasizes personal growth, especially through mentorship. I believe the most important contribution of a manager is to serve their reports by unblocking them, mentoring them, and pointing them in a direction that best serves their needs and the priorities of the organization.
Without suggesting too deterministic an outcome, the management culture at Asana certainly seems to be steering the company towards success.
Thanks to a hat tip from #sfbeta Managing Producer Dellaena Maliszewski, I recently stumbled upon the Experiments section of Google Analytics, a nifty and powerful tool that helps webmasters test multiple versions of a single page, in order to track and optimize performance. Think Optimizely, but, like, run by Google.
Smack dab in the midst of the page appears the phrase, “A page along the goal funnel,” contextualized in wonderfully recursive terms:
Your experiment can focus on any single page that helps visitors accomplish a specific goal.
Via the goal funnel, obviously.
Dropped into a succinct bullet point so nonchalantly, reverberating with a distinctive, subtly poetic, yet cosmically meaningless timbre, “a page along the goal funnel” enters the sociotechnical milieu with subtle grace and a twinkle of arrogance, becoming the liveliest phrase to dance about the internet since Williams-Sonoma popularized the light mist of tangy juice.
On the eve of their twentieth anniversary celebration, Eiming Jung and Michelle Delaney of 111 Minna Gallery joined me to share stories from their long and celebrated history.
Opened when SOMA was a ghost town, before Yerba Buena gardens existed — let alone the coffee shops, thriving startup headquarters, and parklets — Eiming decided he wanted to open an art gallery.
What started as a simple home for art quickly evolved into a bar, a coffee shop, a private venue space, a thriving nightlife hub (with guests like Thievery Corporation and Moby, among others), and soon, a restaurant, all accompanying the venue’s extensive, floor-to-ceiling remodel that just took place this summer.
Minna has also become a veritable community space for San Francisco’s startup scene, hosting #sfbeta for more than six years, along with events for countless companies, including StumbleUpon, SixApart, eBay, and many more. The gallery’s now-central location has played a strong role in creating the vibrant hub around 2nd & Minna street, the neighborhood that many of the city’s best known tech companies call home.
We thank and celebrate 111 Minna and the amazing staff and team who make their magical space possible. Drop by anytime for art, amazing music, delicious coffee, and, of course, the next #sfbeta.
Sex-positive activist, filmmaker, FTM model and porn star James Darling woke up yesterday to a 30-day Facebook ban for not showing, but simply linking, to a wonderfully self-explanatory video called Unicorn Gangbang, posted to the FTMfucker website.
The banning comes as the newest controversy caused by the social network’s anti-nudity and anti-sex censorship policies, which activists, feminists, and free speech advocates have widely condemned — particularly when it comes to breasts, which are fine to show if you’re male, but not fine to show if you’re female — and unclear where the rules stand if you’re FTM. According to Fred Wollens, a company spokesman,
Unfortunately, exposed breasts are against our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. At the moment, we have absolutely no way of rationally delimitating “non-sexual images posted by women” from other potentially pornographic nude images. It’s incredibly difficult to come up with any sort of workable standards around non-sexualized vs sexualized nudity particularly for reviewers faced with hundreds of thousands of reports every week.
On November 17, 2012, Facebook admins threatened another group with suspension, The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, a movement where Arab women posted self-portait photographs wearing limited to no clothing, in protest of their religion’s strict sartorial standards.
Feminist individuals and groups regularly report harassment from Facebook officials, while their own complaints directed at the site’s more misogynist content are rarely taken seriously. Huffington Post columnist Soraya Chemaly discusses how Facebook content is rife with slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and glorification of rape culture, which rarely trigger the forms of censorship and threatening language to which female activists themselves have become accustomed:
According to Facebook’s interpretation and adherence to its own policies, they will not take down Boobs, Breasts and Boys who love them, unless the boys are babies since they do take down photos of breastfeeding mothers. They will not take down [Controversial Humor] rape pages, but they will remove a photograph of a woman crossing the street in New York City because she is topless (legal in New York, but not the sovereign state of Facebook). Obscene being defined by Facebook as a breast not in service to a man. Maybe it’s not a breast problem at all, but a nipple issue. Maybe Facebook lawyers are scared or put off by nipples. This isn’t offensive. At best it is sloppy and stupid and incoherent and, at worst, overtly sexist and misogynistic.
Considering these actions are taken by the same company culture that popularized brogramming, shall we truly be surprised?