Airbnb is to hotels what low-cost airlines are to the airline industry

This summer we were fortunate enough to visit one of my favourite cities, Paris, on two separate occasions. In June we went for a holiday in Champagne and stayed in a hotel in Paris for two nights and in August we stayed in an Airbnb flat in for just over a week.

The contrast between the two experiences made me think of how the airline industry was before “no frills”, low-cost airlines came around. The level of service even at a sub standard hotel is almost ridiculous. A member of staff sits in the lobby 24/7, they make your bed and clean your room every morning and if you dump your towels on the floor, you’ll get fresh ones the next day. And the tucking. Lots of tucking. I’m with George Costanza on the whole tucking business. Put me down for a non-tuck, please.


At Airbnb we paid roughly same amount per night to stay in an entire apartment with two bedrooms and lots of toys for our daughter as we paid for a tiny hotel room in the same neighbourhood. And if you’ve stayed with a two year old in a hotel room, you’ll know which one I preferred.

Airbnb isn’t just a posterchild for the new “sharing economy”. It is also serving demand for “no frills” accommodation that the hotel industry hasn’t really embraced to the same extent as the airline industry. I wonder why the hotel industry hasn’t also been disrupted by a low-cost, no-frills offering other than Airbnb.

This month’s best internet rant

Discovered via A, the best rant you’ll read on the internet this month is this talk given by Maciej Ceglowski, founder of Pinboard:

On Poland vs San Francisco:

It struck me as I looked out window for hour after hour that everything I was seeing—every car, house, road, signpost, even every telegraph pole—had been built after 1990. I’d been visiting Poland regularly since I was a kid, but the magnitude of the country’s transformation hadn’t really sunk in before. And I felt proud.

In spite of all the fraud, misgovernment, incompetence, and general Polishness of the post-communist transition, despite all our hardships and failures, in twenty years we had made the country look like Europe. The material basis of people’s lives was incomparably better than it had been before.

And San Francisco:

if you visit San Francisco, [the extent of the homelessness and poverty] is something you’re likely to find unsettling. You’ll see people living in the streets, many of them mentally ill, yelling and cursing at imaginary foes. You’ll find every public space designed to make it difficult and uncomfortable to sit down or sleep, and that people sit down and sleep anyway. You’ll see human excrement on the sidewalks, and a homeless encampment across from the city hall. You’ll find you can walk for miles and not come across a public toilet or water fountain.

… You can’t even get a decent Internet connection in San Francisco.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but you don’t have to agree with a rant in order to appreciate it.

Datasmoothie feature preview: Adding visualisations into reports

At Datasmoothie we’ve been hard at work building what we sometimes refer to as “the for data”. In essence, Datasmoothie allows you to hook raw data into our servers (via an upload or a direct database connection) and then gives you access to an easy to use editor to create beautiful stories, reports and dashboards with aggregated results that have been automatically calculated for you.

One of our a-ha moments is when someone has uploaded a data file that might be a long list of answers to questions like “do you think the advertisement was funny?” and they realise they can add visualisations into a report at the click of a mouse.


When the user clicks on the chart button in our report editor she is presented by a list of questions, each reflecting a column (often called variable) in the data, where each column represents a data point. Here the column represents an answer to “was the ad funny” where people have answered form a scale to 1-5 according to how strongly they agree.

Sharing this kind of result with clients used to be a matter of labourious copy and pasting into Excel, Word and Powerpoint. And even then a recipient would have to wait until they got to their desk in order to view a report. Datasmoothie removes the need for all that copy and paste work on the production end and allows a user to view the results on a mobile on the receiver’s end.

Prediction: In ten years we’ll have ten different iPads

Screenshot 2015-09-11 11.45.30

Apple just unveiled the iPad Pro. Yesterday, the Verge reported thus:

Apple has unveiled its latest addition to the iPad tablet lineup during a special press event in San Francisco this morning. Like the rumors suggested, the iPad Pro is a larger version of the traditional iPad. Apple CEO Tim Cook says it’s the “biggest news in iPad since the iPad.”

I’ve moaned about this before, but Apple has succumb to the very disease Steve Jobs cured it of: Over segmentation. If you’re looking to buy an iPad and go to the Apple home page, this is what you see:

Screenshot 2015-09-09 18.58.03

Say what? I just want an iPad. They should only be offering two versions, Air and mini. Instead they have four and I have no idea what the difference is.

Steve Jobs’ biography tells the story of how he took the reins of a failing Apple in the late nineties and cut the product segmentation to only four categories: Desktop pro, desktop home, laptop pro, laptop home.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPad Pro sounds sexy. Especially because it blurs the lines between a laptop and a pad, even though previous predictions about how the iPad would disrupt the PC seem ridiculous in retrospect. But sexy or not, it smells of over segmentation – they should drop at least one air and one mini to clarify things for the consumer. At this rate, we’ll have ten different iPads within ten years. Which means I’ll be even more paralyzed by choice when it comes to upgrading my 2nd generation iPad than I am already.

The slideshow listicle: When metrics win and common sense loses

Telegraph listicle

As an avid Arsenal supporter, I’ll read almost anything the UK newspapers write about them. I’ll read The Guardian, Telegraph, Times and even papers I otherwise try to avoid like Metro and the Evening Standard. Of all these papers the Telegraph has some of the best sports writers around, which makes one particular feature of their online presence even more annoying: The slideshow listicle. The Slisticle?

A listicle is an article that’s actually just a list. List + article = Listicle. Like Buzzfeed’s 28 Most Middle-Class Things That Happened In 2014. A slideshow listicle is the same except every entry is a slide so you have to click “next” each time you want to see a new item. Like The 50 Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows Ever. Great content – horrible user experience.

Why does the Telegraph and other outlets publish content as a horrible, unusable slideshow? Probably because they count every click as a new pageview. Each time you click, the banner on the right reloads and shows a new ad. And banners are usually paid for by impression.

It’s a classic example of people focusing on the metrics, in this case impressions, and forgetting to think about the experience. Slideshows don’t even have to be bad. Techniques like pre-loading can make them absolutely tolerable. But there are a lot of bad slideshows out there used only to generate pageviews.

I never thought I’d say this but: Bring back the listicle.


Mapping the fortunes of Silicon Valley

Silicon valley

The Economist did a great piece on Silicon Valley a couple of weeks ago and along with the article they posted an excellent interactive map on their website.

The map shows the geographic location of lots of companies based in Silicon Valley and the size of the bubble (no pun intended) is the value of the company.

Sometimes a map like the one above can tell such an interesting story, this one being the story of the world’s biggest cluster of tech companies. The map shows Apple, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Dropbox, Electronic Arts, LinkedIn, PayPal, Adobe, EBay, Netflix,, Twitter and Stripe to name but a few – all located within a 30 minute drive of one another.

It looks like a very exciting place to be for a tech founder. But it also looks like a place where it’s hard to find development talent to work on your startup without paying through the nose. The map also has a “play” button that shows how the companies have evolved from the start of the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Check it out and click “play”.

Hadley Wickham: The statistics celebrity and R programmer

Yes we can (plot)

Hadley Wickham is famous.

The kind of famous where people at statistics conferences line up for selfies, ask him for autographs, and are generally in awe of him.

Sureley that’s the best kind of famous. Or at least the next best kind. Dan Kopf posted an interview with Wickam recently titled Hadley Wickham, the Man Who Revolutionized R on Pricenomics (discovered via Data Elixir).

It’s a great read both for R enthusiasts like myself (this blog’s most popular post on Google, the heatmap of London school inspection results was done in R) and also as a general interest story.

What’s it like to be a rock star in a narrow field, in this case, R programming?

It’s utterly utterly bizarre … To be famous for writing R programs? It’s just crazy.

Not that crazy. Wickham is probably the single most prolific contributor to R and his code is being used at Google, Facebook, Twitter and even the New York Times. If I run into him at a conference, I’ll most definitely try and go for the celebrity selfie.

Facebook has 113 open data positions

Screenshot 2015-08-02 11.51.56

If you’re interested in data you should subscribe to the Data Elixir newsletter, curated by Lon Riesberg (@lonriesberg). He recently highlighted Facebook’s career page for Data and Analytics folks.

Facebook have a whopping 113 open positions for ads, finance, IT, Instagram analytics, monetization, product analytics and growth, to name a few. It’s just one of the indicators of how important data analysis is for every aspect of running a major company.

Women in tech: It’s not just a pipeline problem

Rachel Thomas, math PhD, software developer and instructor at the Hackbright Academy recently wrote an article about women in tech titled “If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention“.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 41% of women working in tech eventually leave the field, compared to just 17% of men. In the post, Dr Thomas tries to identify why:

I’d rather wake up early than stay up late, and I was already thinking ahead to when my husband and I would need to coordinate our schedules with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. Kegerators and ping pong tables don’t appeal to me. I’m not aggressive enough to thrive in a combative work environment. Talking to other female friends working in tech, I know that I’m not alone in my frustrations.

So, it’s not only a matter of encouraging women to go into tech and creating role models (Ada Lovelace Lego figure anyone?) but also a matter of retaining those who actually do join.

If you would have asked me yesterday I probably would have talked about women in tech being more of a pipeline problem. I didn’t realise the retention statistics were so poor. Last time we hired a developer in Iceland, only one (very promising) application we received was from a woman. When we asked her to come in for an interview someone else had already snapped her up. But even if there is a pipeline problem, the post highlights that there’s also a culture problem that those of us in tech should be aware of when we do manage to snap up the female talent in the field.

Pitch deck collection

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.21.13

I came across this via the private Seedcamp Slack channel and it’s been very useful recently. It’s a collection of pitch decks various different companies have used when they have been fundraising.

Alexander Jarvis’ Super Awesome Pitch Deck Collection

It includes pitch decks from LinkedIn, AirBnb and Foursquare. One of my favourites is from MixPanel, who raised $65M from Andreessen Horowitz recently. MixPanel state their problem more succinctly than most:

Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.

The collection also features lots of less well known companies, some who have been successful and some who have closed shop. If you’re looking for inspiration for your deck, the Certified Super Awesome Pitch Deck Collection is not a bad place to start.