The New Gatekeeper

15 Dec, 2015

I had originally intended to publish this on July 19, 2016, but I was promoting Newslines and didn’t want bad juju. After seeing this article I decided to publish.


A few days ago I saw on Twitter that Jason Calacanis had launched 3.0. I followed the link, which led me to Product Hunt, a site that lets people vote on the best new apps and websites. The site helps people see new products, but it’s also very popular with the press and venture capitalists, because it outsources how they discover new products.

On Product Hunt I saw discussions about and, both news aggregators. Both are focussed on current news and use a team of paid contributors to add and edit news. I would have liked to join the discussion, not just to promote Newslines and our alternative approach, but to learn more about those sites’ goals. But even though I’ve been a member of Product Hunt since it started I was not allowed to comment; you have to be invited to comment.

Over the past year, as we have added features, I have also submitted Newslines three times to Product Hunt and — nothing. Newslines was never made available to be voted on or discussed. We even made a newsline of Ryan Hoover, the founder and CEO. I sent a link to him and he liked it, but still nothing on the site.

After seeing that was featured, I sent an email to Hoover saying: I have a competing product, wouldn’t it be good if your readers knew that there was something out there that, at least, competes? Wouldn’t it be good if at least I could comment?

Today I sent a Tweet expressing similar sentiments. I sent another email on Monday.

No reply.

Inside, Circa, Infobitt, Grasswire — all news curators — have strengths and weaknesses. We can debate the merits of Newslines versus their offerings, but at the very least a competing product that curates news AND has a revenue share system for contributors AND the world’s first system that allows people to be paid to edit others’ work, should at least get some mention. It’s really disappointing to have a superior product, actually out in the market, only to have it ignored, while others get attention.

Then I saw that Hoover had added to Product Hunt. From the comments it appears as though he and Calacanis are friends, which made me wonder about the selection process. Are well-known entrepreneurs and friends-of-Ryan getting favored access? Are Y Combinator (an accelerator that invested in Product Hunt) companies also get more than their fair share of attention? Are Hoover’s other investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, getting extra boost for their products? Hoover has submitted 273 products to the site, but there is no statement of his potential conflicts. I also don’t see any ethics statement on the site.

I get it: young guy makes an interesting product and it attracts the powerful and he wants to please them by promoting their stuff. But power corrupts. What started out as a way to introduce new products is now just contributing to the Silicon Valley circlejerk. If you are in, you are in. The people who are in are all happy, they think nothing is wrong — it’s business as usual. The rest of us, outside the Hunt, are kept in the dark despite the merits of our work. Hoover has not only outsourced the discover of products for venture capitalists, but he is also extending the power of their relationships.

Surely, due to the various conflicts of interest, Hoover should clarify his relationships, and recuse himself from promoting products on his site, and create a system that anonymizes contributions. Otherwise he’s just the latest in a long line of gatekeepers.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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