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Gillmor Gang: Over the Freaky Line


The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, Keith Teare, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor — watched in amazement and not a little fear as Mike Arrington baited @Scobleizer from the Friendfeed chatroom. What started as a Mr. Greenjeans-like pulling of various Google I/O tablets and weird music balls from out of his pants suddenly went south in a hurry when @jtaschek noticed Arrington in the chat.

Normally we don’t call this out, but Robert’s Rant starts at somewhere around the 36 minute mark. Arrington wanted us to make him a clip and a ringtone out of this, but it’s late and I barely have enough energy to write this. Maybe tomorrow. Feel free to download the file on iTunes and cut Mike a version. Enjoy at your peril: Not safe for work or anything else for that matter.

@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @kteare, @jtaschek, @kevinmarks

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

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So What Do I Do With My Food Now? Eat It? [Instagram Is Still Down, Bad Jokes On Twitter Ensue]


Oh yes, the social media food humor is rolling in — eat it up, people. According to Twitter’s real-time search, Instagram being down, as a result of an Amazon Web Services storm-related incident, is unleashing a cornucopia of Instagram-related food jokes, at a rate of about one every couple of seconds.

They’re a little cheesy (sorry!) but do underscore just how much the photo-sharing app is used (or, least how much it’s used by the kind of folks who also take to Twitter when they have an issue with the world). And how much it’s become a part of life’s everyday small events, perhaps more than any other social media app.

According to Twitter, the most-tweeted Instagram-down-food joke so far comes from Jason de Plater (and I love that his name even has a food pun in it! how cool is that?), with currently over 5,000 tweets.

It’s a nice example of how something can go viral on Twitter: de Plater currently has less than 1,000 followers, compared to over 13,000 for a guy who has penned another popular Instagram-food-down tweet, Nicholas Austin Maroney, aka @YourFavWhiteMan, currently at nearly 3,000 tweets.

Yes, there are thousands more like it! Including a nice meta-jibe from our resident hilarious comedienne, Alexia.

Others are trying to advance the joke a bit:

Gotta love a VC who’s thinking like a chess player, a couple of steps ahead of the crowd.


Instagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take photos, apply a filter, and share it on the service or a variety of other social networking services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Flickr, and Posterous. The application is compatible with any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above or any Android device running Android 2.2 or above.

In an homage to both the Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras, Instagram confines photos into a square…

Learn more

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Could Instagram And Other Sites Avoid Going Down With Amazon’s Ship?


When we heard about Instagram (and other sites) going down when Amazon Web Services’ North Virginia hub was hit by a storm — not the first time AWS has gone down (April 2011 was another notable outage) we couldn’t help but wonder: could  it have been avoided?

Mike Krieger, one of the founders of Instagram, once presented a great slideshow describing how Instagram was able to scale up so well. “The cleanest solution with the fewest moving parts as possible,” has been one of the guiding principles for the photo-sharing app, bought by Facebook in a billion-dollar deal earlier this year. Could that too-simple architecture have played a role here?

We’ve reached out to Twitterverse and beyond to get some thoughts on that.

Disclaimer: Without knowing the exact ins and outs of Instagram’s architecture, it’s hard to say why Instagram and other services, like TechCrunch’s database, are still down while other sites that had been affected, like Pinterest, Netflix and Heroku, appear to have started working again (although some say they’re still having problems).

Dominik Tobschall, the co-founder and CEO of Munster, Germany cloud-based contacts startup Fruux, notes that there is a way to run services so that they are not hinging on the health of one physical data center, but that the bigger the service is, the harder that can be:

“Since everything that can go wrong always will go wrong with technology, it’s important to deploy applications in a way where you always have in mind ‘if power or connectivity or anything else fails in an availability zone, all servers in that zone might power down/be disconnected’ and ‘if a comet hits the datacenter, there is a huge earthquake or whatever, all servers in that region might power down/get disconnected.’

“The only way to protect an application from downtimes is to run machines in multiple availability zones; additionally run machines in different regions; have a good automatic (or quick manual) failover methodology in place. But it’s incredibly hard and the bigger a service is the harder it gets.”

Reader Nicholas James made a similar point. In his view, there is an inverse variation between high latency (distributing the operation of your cloud service across multiple regions means if one goes down you have other places where it will work) and the ease of replicating a database (it gets harder the more you have).

With a service like Instagram, reliant on a worldwide network of users uploading thousands of images (of food and more) everday, it may be that this kind of replication is impossible.

Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud services company Box, notes that the simplicity of Amazon’s infrastructure-as-a-service model is compelling but also takes a lot of control out of a company’s hands:

“At the end of the day, the cloud’s availability will come down to its physical infrastructure being available — it looks like Amazon’s data center in Virginia experienced a power failure, which knocked out a number of its systems there. For the applications built on top of Amazon, sometimes negative consequences from these events can cascade through your infrastructure (e.g. when one service goes down, it then overloads another service that was otherwise fine), and in other cases some apps just don’t have resilience for these events built into their software.

“AWS doesn’t necessarily promise to handle these situations gracefully for you; because it’s a provider of infrastructure as a service, you get pretty low-level access to the technology (vs. making it super abstracted). That comes with huge benefits, but equally has consequences if the infrastructure disappears. That said, AWS has a pretty great track-record for uptime, but of course given their popularity, when they hit a snag the entire internet notices.  At Box, we don’t use AWS for any primary infrastructure, and we run out of a number of our own datacenters to ensure fault tolerance in the event of a physical system experiencing issues, so that helps.”

“That’s the nature of relying on someone else for your website storage or application hosting. If your host goes down, so do you. Although AWS doesn’t go down too often, it might be prudent to have a backup that’s not based on AWS.

“The main selling point for AWS is that it’s cheap. Wicked cheap. It allows the little guy to compete with the big boys. Even a simple colocated server will cost upwards of $300 USD/month for a good one. AWS lets you have your data in more places at once a la carte, so you don’t have to pay for what your’e not using. It allows you to scale your app/website without worrying about infrastructure.”

Vineet Thanedar, another one of our IT heroes, tells me that CrunchBase’s hosting is managed by EngineYard (which runs on AWS). “While AWS is back up, Engine Yard is still bringing up all their instances across clients and fixing issues. Engine Yard has thousands of customers.”

Barry Nolan, the CEO and co-founder of in-app messaging specialist Converser, pointed me to a great note from the Twilio engineering blog that explains why Twilio, which also runs using AWS, was not affected during a previous outage.

It’s a technical post but is full of examples of how you can architecture a service so that downtime in one place doesn’t bring the whole thing to a crashing halt.

So that people can get on with eating their meals and drinking their lattes.

[Image: Aussiegall, Flickr]


Instagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take photos, apply a filter, and share it on the service or a variety of other social networking services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Flickr, and Posterous. The application is compatible with any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above or any Android device running Android 2.2 or above.

In an homage to both the Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras, Instagram confines photos into a square…

Learn more

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HackerRank: A Social Site For Hackers, Complete With Challenging Launch Page


If you’re a startup aficionado, you may be getting tired of the same old launch pages. You know, the ones with a big, splashy image, a message about how something awesome is coming soon, and a box where you can enter your email address. If that’s the case, then you’ll probably get a kick out of the sign-up process at HackerRank.

The team behind the site plans to start sending out beta invites next week for “a fun social platform for hackers to solve interesting puzzles, build quick hacks, code game bots and collaborate to solve real-world challenges.” In the meantime, it’s doing something a little different with the launch page — the page features an interactive terminal, where, yes, you enter your name and email address, but then you’re invited to participate in a sample challenge, facing off with the computer in a candy-grabbing game.

There’s no coding required, just a taste for logical puzzles — and clearly some users have that taste, since the leaderboard shows players who have won the game more than 1,000 times. (I got a bit hooked this morning, but sadly I’ve only won twice.)

HackerRank comes from the same Y Combinator-backed company that’s behind InterviewStreet, which holds CodeSprints for programmers can solve coding challenges and earn the attention of potential employers. Co-founder Vivek Ravisankar says he realized that there was an opportunity to “build something bigger” here, because programmers weren’t coming to the site just to get a job. They were having fun too, as indicated by the fact that they were spending an average of two hours on the site. So the team decided to build something more fun and social, where programmers solve challenges, collaborate, and see how they rank.

Ravisankar emphasizes that HackerRank is going to be very different from InterviewStreet: “It’s not going to be a jobs site.” The only way companies are supposed to get involved is by providing data sets and problems. (Y Combinator backed another hacker ranking startup called Coderwall, but Coderwall’s more about aggregating accomplishments from other sites, not providing the challenges itself, and its planned business model will be related to recruiting.)

Oh, and if TechCrunch readers want to be among of the first to join, you can send an email to with your biggest hack, and the 50 most interesting ones will get access next week.


Interviewstreet helps you to create customized programming tests (in any language) and evaluate candidates based on their programming skills before proceeding for an interview. We have built a codechecker which would evaluate an applicant’s code, checks against a set of test-cases letting you know how optimal his code is.

This acts as a time-saver for companies as you interact only with candidates who have cleared the benchmark.

Learn more

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#waywire, Cory Booker’s Personalized News Startup, Uses Video To Give Youth A Voice


“There’s an oligarchy in the media and that needs to be broken up” Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker tells me. So he’s building #waywire, a news site that features original and syndicated video content, but that also lets viewers record and share their responses. “Traditional news sources aren’t in any way talking to millennials” Booker says, so #waywire is designed to deliver them content from their perspective. It’s now taking registrations for its upcoming private beta.

#waywire want to challenge old media outlets like CNN, but also create a news discovery alternative to Facebook and Twitter. It’s bold ambition convinced First Round Capital, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter and other angels to fund #waywire’s $1.75 million seed round. And the startup has exclusively told TechCrunch that Oprah Winfrey and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner are also investors.

Booker believes “There are practical solution to [creating] more jobs, lower crime, better education. If more people could find their voice and be part of the national dialogue, we could solve these problems.”

As the mayor New Jersey’s largest city, once named “The Most Dangerous City In The Nation” by Time, Booker is no stranger to big problems. Nor is he a stranger to innovative solutions, as the steward of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark’s public school system.

To make his idea for #waywire a reality, Booker has recruited some co-founders with deep digital experience. including TechCrunch’s own former CMO Sarah Ross whose also worked with Katalyst Media and Yahoo. Nathan Richardson, former president of Gilt City, CEO of ContextNext Media, and head of Dow Jones online will be #waywire’s CEO.

When it eventually launches, #waywire will pull in data from your social sites like Facebook and Twitter to help you build a personalized newswire of topics you care about. #waywire plans to start by creating 10,000 minutes of original video content hosted by all-millenial newscasters, which will be combined with clips syndicated from established outlets.

While the company has yet to release any screenshots, Richardson tells me these pieces of professional content will appear flanked by video responses from the #waywire community and your networks. You’ll be able to shoot video responses to offer up your own opinion, and then share the news and your rebuttals to social networks, making #waywire inherently viral. Plus, there’s a badge and reward system that lets aspiring anchors and editors become part of a trusted set of curators who determine which content is highlighted on #waywire.

Richardson gave me an example of the content you’ll see on #waywire. “Say I see this post from a traditional media source on something like healthcare, but don’t understand what it means to me. {On #waywire I’d get] a millennial point of view. ‘Oh, you just graduated and can be on your parent’s healthcare plan until you’re 26. You just scored.’” You can see a promo video explaining the need for the product here.

As a voracious but busy news reader, I worried that video which can’t be scanned like text might make #waywire difficult to quickly browse. Richardson assured me, though, that there will be written summaries beside official clips to help you deciding whether to watch.

And if you’re scratching your head about why the medium is so critical, you might be older than #waywire’s target audience, the YouTube generation who are growing up with video as a format for creation, not just consumption. “All the research shows millenials want more video content” the startup’s CEO tells me. The fact that the startups name is a hashtag should indicate just how serious it is about courting young digerati.

Still, turning #waywire popular enough to change the world will be no easy task. Millenials are already saturated with stimulation. Facebook and Twitter have built brilliant mouse traps for attention, and their text and photo-focused inputs erect smaller barriers to participation than webcams and video. #waywire’s content is inherently sharable, though, so if it reaches critical mass as a news discovery tool, links to it could be pumped out across the social web.

And thankfully, Mayor Cory Booker is relentlessly inspirational. He tells me “Right now, we don’t have enough voices in the national dialogue, and it’s causing slowness in the pace of change. I want people to raise their voice, find something they’re passionate about. With that spirit we’ll see a country that moves further and faster down the pathway of change.”

Sign up for early access to #waywire’s private beta

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