jake levine

I'm fascinated by what humans do with the Internet, and by what the Internet does with humans.

I'm the Founder of Electric Objects. I'm lucky enough to be working with a great team to fulfill what I believe to be a compelling mission: we're going to put the Internet on your wall.

Before Electric Objects, I was the General Manager of Digg, a betaworks startup. We tried to understand and improve that ways that people find, read and talk about news stories. We (betaworks and News.me) acquired Digg in July 2012. Full story here and here.

While working on News.me, I co-created Last Great Thing with @jvanslem. We asked 20 super smart people to tell us the last great thing they saw on the Internet. The experiment lasted for about a month this past Spring. If you're bored on a Sunday, check it out.

Prior to working on Digg and News.me, I was Entrepreneur in Residence at betaworks. Before that, I worked in Strategic Development at TheLadders.com, learning a lot about product strategy, business development, and investor relations. My first job out of school was in the Technology Investment Banking group at Morgan Stanley.

I went to Wesleyan. Now I organize a series of workshops, internships, and events for a group of like-minded Wesleyan students and graduates in New York called Digital Wesleyan.

I like to think about topics like identity, discovery, and net neutrality, and I often write about them on my blog. I've also contributed to Harvard University's Nieman Journalism Lab, Reuters, Business Insider, and the New York Observer's Betabeat.

In my spare time I build fun things like BreakupText.

This is my favorite picture.
A few of my favorite articles are below. All the things.

Don't Learn How To Code, Learn How To Make Things

You know what is fun? Making things. Turning a spark of creative insight into a thing that you can show people — a thing that people can use and from which they can derive some iota of pleasure or utility. Start with a simple website. Basic HTML and CSS. No product is too small. In fact, the opposite is true. If you don't know how to build the first version of your product in a weekend — a usable working version, don't try to build it. Programming is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You should be trying to do as little of it as possible to make the thing that you want.

The Broadcast-ification of Social Media

There is an inherent tension in social software between content discovery and the quality of conversation around that content. Group conversations get worse as groups grow, and groups grow as group discovery improves — if it's easier to find something, more people will find it. Therefore, the easier time I have finding good conversations, the less likely those conversations are to be any good (e.g. Reddit front page vs. Subreddits). Paradoxes should be named, so let me know if you have any good ideas.

Facebook, It's like Instagram for Birthdays

It's important for every company to have an ambitious goal, and for a company that insists on owning every relationship in some kind of one-dimensional version of my life, birthdays fit the bill. Congratulations Facebook, you've built THE KILLER BIRTHDAY APP. They own the birthday market, which, as far as I can tell, has a massive addressable audience (numbering in the billions).

It's Time for a Social Network Neutrality

The network neutrality / common carriage debate is one of the most important debates of our time. At stake is the freedom to innovate, the freedom to listen, and the freedom to speak. To date, arguments for or against common carriage have focused largely on the relationship between Internet service providers and content creators, but a new threat is emerging.

"The Internet is My Religion"

Today, I was lucky enough to attend the second day of sessions at Personal Democracy Forum. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. As a social web / identity junkie, I was excited to see Vivek Kundra, Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor, and Doc Searls. I hadn't heard of many of the other presenters, including one whose talk would be the most inspiring I had ever seen on a live stage.

Discovering Serendip

Serendipity, in other words, is a form of passive discovery. It describes relevant information that is pushed to the user, in contrast to search results, which are pulled via the act of explicitly surfacing one's intent. It replaces the exchange "I want this: ok, here you go" with "I thought you might like this: thanks, you're right."

Curating the Curators

The broader the audience, the more difficult it will be to produce a slice of content that is relevant to all participants. With distributed social curation, however, that same relationship (between size and relevance) is not even contemplated.

You Don't Know It Yet, But You Want It

The history of relevance on the web is therefore the history of a long steady march towards the holy grail of discovery - consumption without intent: content that you don't even know that you want.

Banking on a Startup Life

Looking back at my experience (or, let's be honest, the lack thereof) and after fielding the question about 74 times from rising Juniors and Seniors in College, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts on the similarities and differences between the two experiences. I don't know if I've had anything like a "typical" experience in either case, so I won't claim that these "lessons" are universally applicable. Still, to the extent that there exists, somewhere out there, someone who is exactly like me, this might prove helpful.

If Facebook is an Open Platform, Then the Web is a Walled Garden

I fundamentally believe that no single social web service can accurately represent the identity of a human being. In the offline world we present different personalities in different social contexts. There is a nuance to identity in the offline world that is not easily replicable in a single, catch-all, generic, online social experience. I can't quite crystallize why this is important, but my hunch is that this human nuance is critical to meaningful social interaction.
Here are some things that I love:

Sanebox removes all of the unimportant junk from my inbox, and sends me a digest everyday of the emails that it catches. I can decide to move any of them into my inbox at any time. It does a remarkable job of catching the stuff that is not quite spam, but not quite read-worthy. I pay for this product.

Another email management tool, Boomerang lets you quick tag any email you send or receive for follow up. On the day of your choosing, the email re-appears in your inbox. I pay for Boomerang.

Things is my current task manager of choice. It's less complex than Omnifocus and more visually appealing. There's no perfect product in this category but this works for me.

Sublime Text 2
My current favorite text editor. It's a nice step up from Textmate for those of us who fear VIM.

The most beautiful game I've ever played. Just play it.

Here are some things that I made:

Electric Objects
We're building a computer for art.

An iPhone app that makes it easier to break up with people by text message (made w/ @laurenleto).

A leaderboard of your distance travelled. The first web client built on top of the Moves API. (made w/ @qarren and @constancias).

A personalized vinyl store based on your listening data from Rdio or Last.fm

Inspired by Stellar.io, a discovery tool that lets you see what your friends are liking on Tumblr.

We asked 20 people in 20 days about the last great thing they saw on the Internet (made w/ @jvanslem).

A word cloud generator for your most frequently tweeted words (made w/ @alexmr).

A game that challenges you to name 10 things that aren't Skrillex.