Reducing Spam

Sunday night I got a nice little heads up while cruising through my Digg feed. Apparently in Mac Mail there is a nice little button that you can put in the toolbar, using customize, that allows you to send back user unknown bounce messages to people that send you spam. Mail already does a decent job of determining what is spam and putting it in it’s own little spam folder. Now I can just go into that folder, select all, and then hit the bounce button.

A decent percentage of spam is completely forged so you’ll get back more bounce messages that the people you’re bouncing to don’t exist either. So one simple rule later, to automatically dump the double bounces into the trash and we’re off. Up to this point I was getting 50-100 spam messages a day. So it’ll be interesting to see if this makes a noticeable impact on that number, but it does feel good to be able to send them back.

Math Fun

So since I was home alone this week, with Jaimie in Austin on business, I had the chance to catch up on some math studying. Spent the time looking at two topics.

First, while poking around at B&N I found a couple of magazines for “active” traders that went into strategies for playing the market. Looking at variations in volume, volatility, and price in order to develop purchasing models. What was a bit of a shock to me though was that as scientific as these strategies were treated they were in the end just strategies. There is no knowing, there are only statistics. This treatment is shockingly similar to the ones that you might use in blackjack. In fact, the measurements of success were very similar, winning plays vs. losing plays. It’s just that it is much harder to definitively say what a winning strategy is and how to quantify if you’re successfully following that strategy.

The second area that I looked at came from a pointer from Greg Gliden here. It’s a link to the class notes for a DataMining class at Stanford where I found the discussion on determining similarity and duplication in documents incredibly interesting. This is a very hard problem and I’m sure the major search players all have their own special sauce when it comes to how to do this best. Some of the proposed solutions deal with using k-grams of the documents to create signatures that can easily be compared. There were several different approaches to speed up the process and reduce computation requirements, but it definitely gives you a feel for what Google is up to with those hundreds of thousands of servers.

No HD Ads?

Since my wife and I picked up a HD tv at the beginning of the year and started watching most of our primetime shows in HD I’ve found it interesting that the uptake in ads in HD is incredibly low. HD, when done right, has an incredible wow factor and since just getting someones attention is one of the primary hurdles of advertising why are they passing it up? With all of the stories of people watching sporting events that they didn’t even care about because the picture was so amazing it seems odd that advertisers aren’t jumping all over it.

It’s all about Execution

There have been a whole load of posts around the internet from all sorts of respected people within the startup ecosystem, but it just can’t be said enough.


Anyone can have an idea in their shower. They could envision the coolest thing ever, but if they don’t turn it into a product then it never happened. Ideas have zero value if you don’t have the execution to make them happen.

There are all sorts of examples of ideas that many people had, YouTube wasn’t the first to put video on the internet, but it was how they went going about doing it that made them successful.

If you’re in a small company, start each day going over what customer pain point it is that you’re trying to solve. Then ask what it is that you’re doing to make your answer to that pain point, ie. your product, better and more effective. If you don’t stay focused on that, you’re going to find yourself working on things with nothing to do with anything and out of money before too long.

Writing about startups

While I’ve titled this blog “Redwood City Startup” which very accurately describes my focus, I’ve actually found it rather difficult to write a whole lot about about that topic. My time and focus is definitely invested in running a startup in Redwood City, but with not being a founder of the startup, just lead engineer, I have to be very careful about what I say. It’s actually quite limiting.

I’m hoping to someday be able to go over my experiences, I’ve even started writing privately with the hope of one day releasing these posts to the public. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep things abstract.