I code, design, and scale products to solve major problems, create serendipity, and open new possibilities. This page is a portfolio of my past work and a summary of some insights I've learned along the way.
While advertising is the currently dominant revenue model for consumer social networks in the US, my work revolves around the intent graph, which I believe will leapfrog Ads as a model far better for users and far less corrosive for platforms. To prove that thesis, I've architected, built, and launched several online communities that enable users to share their intent privately with rich context into a list of needs they are passively searching for or working towards over time. We then try to surface all the best options and providers available on the market, not just those advertising at the moment. Those retailers, service providers, and vendors then compete to fulfill the needs for a share of sale. Users get to save money, and retailers/manufacturers don't eat up their margins on the huge "advertising tax" speculating on keywords and discriminating on customers. They just get sales if they have the best offer. As a result over 30% of item visits from DreamList result in a purchase, and only 2% of items on average have been returned to retailers after purchase (considering 10-30% of US retail is usually returned). People buy what they really want on DreamList. More importantly, on top of tangible results, the act of giving: whether it's time, money, gifts, attention, knowledge, or even a hug to one-another, is a glue that holds relationships together. So our users help each-other fulfill dreams together, surface better solutions for others, and see their own goals move closer to reality while they sleep. Here are the online properties I've created or grown over time:
DreamList helps families build and support their village, even if loved ones live far apart. It is a platform for collaborative lists that works like a shared brain for families and teams. Needs, wishes, future plans, trips, external registries, purchases, memories, voice recordings, or large pursuits open for partial contributions by loved ones are all ways you can collaborate on with full control of your privacy and no advertising or indexing on search engines. DreamList was designed to be a trusted spam-free partner for families but it has grown to be used by office buyers, charities, and disaster recovery teams doing direct giving for families since hurricane Harvey.
Originally, DreamList started as a new kind of online wishlist and registry. You could add not just any item from the web, as well as larger goals your family is saving towards: from classes, to museum memberships, 529 plans, a renovation, or even furniture. On special occasions friends and family could then buy or contribute towards the things that are truly meaningful to you.
Over time we enabled multiple administrators to manage lists together, which became very handy for parents, extended families, office buyers, foundations, disaster recovery teams, schools, and even churches directing goodwill to families in need all over the world. In 2020 the site is a powerhouse for virtual gift drives done by for-profit and nonprofit organizations all over the world to make a Virtual Christmas 2020 possible despite the pandemic.
Before launching the site, we prototyped and benchmarked multiple different architecture stacks, list designs, color combinations, CDN services, and even front-end frameworks. As a result, DreamList exceeds expectations in performance, speed, SEO, and gift purchase conversions for our users. We work hard to make it better every day.
DoerHub (currently in redesign), connected people deeply interested in learning and working on even the narrowest problems within science, medicine, business or tech, to find like-minded or complementary peers. Connecting to others interested in niche topics is usually incredibly difficult geographically. However, when done online it compounds your growth and gives you peers who are just as motivated and as deeply skilled as you. We surfaced intent and helped users see complementary matches by depth and breadth of niche interests using a new visual discovery algorithm and some Natural Language Processing. From the start, DoerHub helped teams form and win funding at startup competitions. It was also successful in helping many find jobs that benefit from their niche pursuits.
Instead of titles, the site recognized that humans are multi-layered species with different interests that vary with time. For each interest, we go through multiple stages.
The more interests you have in common with another person, the closer the bond and the more likely you are to amplify each other to grow. When those interests are complementary, you get to learn from them in disciplines they've mastered, while you share your insight in other fields they care about over time. Connecting brains in even the most remote parts of the world with peers digging into similar problems ranging from startups to research helped both solve problems and create community to keep morale up for the movers and shakers of our day.
I've been coding since I was 8. Before branching off to build a startup, I used to create and manage online products for NBA.com and build core libraries, election displays, search, gamification, and even a Times Square billboard as core web developer at Turner Broadcasting (working on CNN.com, Cartoon Network, TNT, NBA.com and other major media sites). I worked as a rich media apps developer on the flash ticker flippers, video players, and election results displays on the CNN homepage, Times Square Billboard, and sub-widgets across Time.com and other sites Election results ticker in Flash. I worked on the Times Square Billboard rich media mashup of real-time feeds. The Michael Jackson memorial service broke concurrency view records with a live video player we built for CNN. I also worked as a developer on the CNN Billboard seen on the video, and since I never got a chance to see it in person, it was nice to see the two projects overlap in this frame. A few of the NBA.com projects I pitched, wireframed, launched, monetized and managed with multiple development teams and vendors. The Social Spotlight NBA.com experience I created after becoming obsessed with the mesmerizing effects effect ticker flipper displays in old airports and an art installation at Stanford GSB. The product ingested twitter feeds and had higher duration of stay than any other site experience, including the NBA Video page. It was promptly featured and sponsored from the landing page of NBA.com for years to come. In 2014 the NBA Social Spotlight won a Webby award. This is how the Social Spotlight was displayed on the homepage.
I see online products from multiple dimensions - as an engineer making the impossible possible, as an architect turning exponential loads to linear, as a product maker turning linear growth to exponential, and as an artist - connecting unspoken desires into shareable delights, and few things make me happier than product feedback and growing business curves.
More about Diana:
Photo of Antennas on tin shacks in the Varna slums by Anna Hristova. I grew up in a small rural river town in Bulgaria without English teachers or traffic lights. When cable came to our town in 1994, I learned conversational English by watching Cartoon Network. At the time, just after the fall of Communism, tin shacks in even the poorest of gypsy communities in Varna were lacking running water or sanitation, but they all had small satellite dishes on the roof. I realized how much stories and media feed the soul to keep spirits up, even when the body is suffering.
My friends and I competed to get into language schools to study the languages that had the best content on cable (only 2 channels were in Bulgarian). The internet blew me away with its ability to connect brains anywhere on the planet. I taught myself how to code by using my rudimentary english and w3schools.com, and volunteered at internet cafes to be allowed to build web sites after hours. A few years later I won second place at the first Bulgarian National Olympiad in Information Technologies. A wonderful small US College accepted me, and I moved to the US to do more of what I love. Coding is the new literacy. If writing gives you self expression, coding gives you the ability to invent products and services used by billions of people.
If you can build, you can shape your world, not just talk about it.
(In case you're wondering, I did tell Cartoon Network's teams, their CMO, and Ted Turner himself about the impact of their work. Per his book, Ted actually lost control of his company because of risks he took in order to purchase a massive media content library for Cartoon Network.).
All my best,
P.S. Throw at me any and all feedback about the sites above. I bring my own bandages :)