My Summer at Shelby.TV — How This Intern Got Into The Startup Vibe
Editors Note: Cornell undergrad Tsvi Tannin (left) just completed his summer internship at Shelby.TV. Get the firsthand scoop on his first startup experience below.
Entering this office in late May, I didn’t quite know what to expect from an internship at a 9-person startup. So on my first day, when I was presented with a document outlining Shelby’s core values, was greeted with warmth from the entire office, and then immediately thrown into the world of Ruby on Rails … I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed so much as I was trying to take it all in. That balance, of juggling all the cool stuff being thrown at me and effectively managing my diverse workload, has defined my experience working at a startup.
In my three months at Shelby, I witnessed the company evolve its product mission to deliver a single stream of video powered by your friends. I loved being a fly on the wall during the many conversations about Shelby’s vision and then seeing, from the development perspective, what it means to transform an idea into a product. I have a whole new appreciation for what a white screen represents, how much work it takes to craft something with purpose, and how the tiniest details can affect your overall message. I think this kind of professional experience could have only been possible at a startup. Only a startup would take a 19-year-old after after his first year of college and treat him with respect, while holding him to a standard usually reserved for those at least a couple years older than him.
There are barely any barriers when working for a small and nimble company such as this one. Instead, it’s up to each team member to make the best out of the lack of structure and define his or her own path.
At Shelby, I carved out that path for myself by launching two different projects that took up most of my summer. In typical startup fashion, I’m going to describe each of them like a minimum viable product (MVP).
Facebook Friend Ranking Algorithm
Goal: We wanted to create an onboarding flow that simultaneously allowed users to follow videos their friends are sharing on Facebook and invite them to use Shelby.
Problem: Facebook does not offer a good way to figure out who your most important friends are. So the current way Shelby was showing friends in invites was based on how many videos they shared and not the strength of connection.
Solution: I used Facebook Graph to guess who the most important people to you are. The Facebook API makes it very easy to grab different types of metadata that describe your interactions on Facebook. So I chose four categories of data that I thought would be useful- friends that you’re tagged with in photos, links that your friends post that you like, friends that you are tagged with in posts, and friends that you post content to. I first scored each piece of data based on how recently it occurred, because that’s an indicator of how relevant it is, and then tallied up how many times that event happened per user. I then did some internal testing to figure out which categories provided the best people on average and then weighed each stream accordingly. After I got the weights I just added everything up and was left with a list that ranked your friends.
Goal: Create a landing page that clearly explains the vision of Shelby quickly and effectively.
Problem: It’s hard to communicate how videos are pulled from your various different social networks into one stream of video in a static picture.
Solution: I created an interactive force-graph built in D3 that tells the story of how Shelby aggregates videos from across your various social networks into one stream of video. The graph itself is centered on the user, which is a fixed node, and is then connected to three categories of nodes social networks, people, and videos. This better communicates Shelby aggregating videos from across your social networks because it shows how the videos make it from a tweet to your stream. Plus the graph is interactive since it’s built in D3 which makes the experience more dynamic and interactive and tells the story better.
Working on these two projects has prepared to better take advantage of my sophomore year. With this real-world experience, I’ll be able to go beyond my problem sets and group projects to really get more out of my college experience. And that’s what college is really about. Taking your classes to the next level and graduating with a sense of how to make an impact in the real world.
I’m very grateful to all of the great people I worked with at Shelby for giving me the opportunity to work with them and helping me take so much away from my experience. They’re the best and are building something amazing. Can’t wait to watch what’s next for Shelby.TV!