Maybe the economy isn't quite as dead for startups as we thought...

Paul Graham commenting on YC Demo Day for Winter 2009...

The audience today was one of the most encouraging signs I've seen that the recession is not going to shut down the startup world. Not just the number of people, but the degree of interest they had. You could not have told there was anything amiss with the economy if you didn't already know.

I love -- they have done an incredible job finding and helping people subscribe to comments that would otherwise be lost completely to the ether.

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable by Clay Shirky

Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

There's nothing sadder than setting a goal and completely failing at it. A lesson from GM.

IN THE EARLY years of this decade, General Motors had a goal, and it was 29. Determined to boost its flagging profits and reverse a long, steady fall from postwar dominance, the automotive giant did the natural thing: it set a goal. The company pledged to recapture 29 percent of the American market, the share it had ebbed past in 1999. The number 29 became a corporate mantra, and some GM executives took to wearing lapel pins with the number emblazoned on them.

It didn't work. GM never did regain 29 percent of the market, and today, facing the possibility of bankruptcy, it looks even less likely to do so. The lapel pins are gone, and that number isn't much heard from the company.

Immediate user action and engagement for first timer users is absolutely key. An example from Usenet...

For oldtimers who received no replies, 84% posted again. For oldtimers who did receive a reply, 86% posted again. For newcomers who received no replies, 16% posted again.

What's startling though is the effect getting a reply had on newcomers posting their first time. When looking only at newcomers, getting a reply increased their likelihood of posting again from 16% to 26%. That's a 62% increase!