The little tweet the blew up

What’s Product Hunt?

What changed

This ad was somewhere between place #6 and #8 that day — I forget exactly where

What got people fired up

That’s a lot of activity 🙀🙀
  1. Ads powers the “free” internet: sadly, this is how the internet grew on us, with users expecting things to be free. In my view of the world, this produced quantity, not quality. And never forget the dogma of the “free” internet: if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.
  2. It’s a company and it needs to make money: in hindsight, this was poor choice of words on my end. Greed is definitely a strong and maybe unfair term and it doesn’t correctly capture what I was feeling. It was more a disappointment that they allow the top products list to be tainted by companies which have an advertising budget vs. independent creators.
  3. Sponsored products are few & non-invasive: while true, this again goes back to the change in semantics. It’s a big difference to say “we never take a single dollar of ad money” (although PH never claimed this AFAIK) to “we’ll take some ad money”. It can change a company’s priorities.
  4. You’re a communist/you don’t get how capitalism works: these were pretty hilarious comments. I work for an investment startup for crying out loud — it would have been quite a laugh if I didn’t believe in capitalism. But again, here’s the “greed” choice of words coming back to haunt me.

What I think about all this

  1. I am 100% in favor of revenue-first companies. I’ve never liked the model of “let’s grow as big as possible and figure out monetization later”. This usually ends up yielding products that are ad-supported and shady practices that harvest your private data to improve ad targeting. Some of my favorite examples of such companies are Basecamp (who recently made a public claim that they’ll be a 100% Facebook-free business) and Whatsapp (whose co-founder was openly anti-ads from day #1). If you make a great product, people will want it and they will pay for it.
  2. We need a paradigm shift in powering the “free” internet. Although we can’t go back in time and change the paradigm, it looks like there is a positive change happening, with people opting to actually pay for quality content and products, often directly to the creators. Further, there are many new ways of rewarding internet users for using digital products or marketing directly to users, in a privacy-conscious way.
  3. Greed is a real thing. If you’ve lived a bit in Silicon Valley, you’ll relate to this. Companies that are built from nothing and sold for a $10–20 million are considered almost failures. Even getting into the 100s of millions is no longer an exceptional result (yeah, maybe you’re cool but why aren’t you a unicorn?). I don’t get this. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a modest middle-class household and making a few millions sounds like a big deal to me (especially if the higher upside comes with sacrificing health, quality non-work time, and other craziness). Instead, I much prefer companies that Bo Burlingham refers to as Small Giants: companies that choose to be Great, instead of Big.
  4. Ads are a terrible thing. OK, take this with a grain of salt. I’m quite a passionate minimalist and only purchase things that I truly need (and extremely rarely things that I want). With that in mind, ads are 100% incompatible to my ideals. The best things (even better: experiences) that I’ve had have come from passionate referrals from people whose opinion I trust (and never from ads). This is why I’ve liked platforms like PH: they are a great, viable alternative of promoting your product without having to bombard people with ads. Truly great products are those that people can’t stop recommending to their friends and they don’t need ads.

Do I still like Product Hunt?

  • Premium, paid services for makers: they have already been exploring such options with services like Ship. There is a lot that goes in building a great product beyond the core (design, marketing, distribution, etc) and there could be definitely an opportunity here. You can think of it like the AWS of product building and launching: you focus on the core value you’re providing to customers, while getting the out-of-the-box support for all the other (hard) things.
  • Patreon-like “support the maker” feature, where PH takes a cut. People who make cool products need to cover their life expenses to keep building and improving their products.
  • Steemit-like “reward for participation” feature, where they can also take a cut, while rewarding users for bringing positive value to the platform.

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Co-founder & CTO @ AgentRisk. Former infra-tech guy (storage, networks). Startup nerd. Always building cool side-projects. #LongLA

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Alex Loukissas

Alex Loukissas

Co-founder & CTO @ AgentRisk. Former infra-tech guy (storage, networks). Startup nerd. Always building cool side-projects. #LongLA

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