What about Trying To Avoid Trying To Avoid Failing? Win?

New post on Seattle 2.0 today:
Congrats on becoming an entrepreneur, get ready for misery. Dave McClure’s extended rant telling you what an idiot you are to want to do a startup is a wonderful summary of all the many things that can and will go wrong with your new baby. It instantly reminded me of a great story in "D-Day, June 6, 1944"  by Stephen Ambrose. He writes of a private Charles East of the 29th Division, who was "told by his commanding officer on the eve of D-Day that nine out of ten would become casualties in the ensuing campaign[.] East looked at the man to his left, then at the man to his right, and thought to himself, You poor bastard." If you want to do a startup, you have no option but to think this way, because you will fail. Your business is not the exception; your technology is not a revolution; your team is nothing special. You are going to fail. And the worst thing you can do in the world is try to prepare for that fact.  >>
There have been quite a few posts going around about failing in startups. This feels like just a giant pendulum swinging back and forth, encouraging and discouraging people to leave large companies and go do something else. For whatever reason (economy I assume), we are way back in the "don't even try it." camp right now.


Social Webs

New post on Seattle 2.0 today:
We are all narcissistic whores. The Interweb has done it to us; it’s impossible not to stare into the pond when there is nowhere else to look. As a result, we spend far too much time watching river of social data for every mere mention of something that we care about or, worse, gazing at our navel because no one is talking about us. So we listen, and talk, and every so often it pays off in just a little bit of an echo to make us feel like someone cares if we live or die. So is this a screed against new media? Not at all. There is a point to all this, and not only is it valuable for you, it’s crucial for your startup. >>
I wish I could say that it's been nothing but successes for me, but this is what I've learned so far - get out, get out get out because you never know what's going to hit.


Don't Sizzle Fat, Sizzle-Lean

New post on Seattle 2.0 today:
Lou Gerstner had it wrong – the question is not whether or Elephants can dance. They can dance very well. The problem is that they’re usually listening to entirely different music than you are, and, if you’re not careful you’re going to get stomped.
Out of everything that's been involved with being the world's largest collection of sound bites and short quotes, the partnerships with the studios has been the most challenging and newest experience for me.


The Gnomedex Experiment

The surface guys at Gnomedex have said that if you do a blog post that contains the word "Gnomedex", you'll be able to grab it and play with it. This blog post accomplishes that goal (3 times over!).


Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Game

New post up on Seattle 2.0:
Content farms are insanely hot right now, no matter what the chattering classes would prefer. These companies, who churn out large bodies of low cost and low quality content in order to win search results, have completely overwhelmed the professional content producers in the search engine result game. Yet, despite all the hatred, these same journalists cannot seem to coverthemenough. The biggest question is, are we truly on the verge of a new content world that will kill the market for quality content? And, more importantly, do you have any chance of rising about the low quality noise? >>
To be clear, I think that content farms have their place - but if anything content is TOO well produced right now - there's just no way the business will work when the real quality content (and Google) wakes up.


Strange Things Are Afoot At The Circle-K

New post up today on Seattle 2.0:

Professionally produced media is undergoing dramatic changes driven by recent major business development deals. Some examples:

However, in the rush to disrupt the existing models, people are forgetting the lesson learned in the music industry; aggregation of content provides the best experience for users and the biggest profit opportunity for the owners. Simply said:  aggregation wins. >>

Whenever business model trumps user experience, the end users suffer. And that opens the door to your competitors.

Sadly My First Title Was Too Tame

New post on Seattle 2.0 today:

Fanatic users are not as hard to find as you may think. A successful entrepreneur could do worse than spending all day and night recruiting them. Yet, all but a few entrepreneurs fail miserably when it comes to finding, talking with, and winning these incredibly valuable partners. How do you avoid this all too common mistake? >>

There were endless jokes about tea bagging, but I thought I’d take the moderately safe road. I heard an interesting comment the other day about your public persona – either be totally open or create a new persona and stick to it. Kevin Smith has done the former, Jason Calcanis has done the latter, and both are extremely successful. The funny part is that I’m not really trying to hide anything, I’m just not interested in having something vulgar be in the title.

Body Parts And Other Good Design

New post up on Seattle 2.0 today:

"The only 'intuitive' interface is the nipple. After that, they’re all learned." – various attribution, most commonly to Bruce Ediger

While there is some debate (especially among new mothers!) how intuitive the nipple is, the nipple is the perfect product. It fits exactly to spec, even without user testing and with a variable user group. It's extremely portable and instantly available in a wide variety of environments (hot, cold, wet, dry, etc). It's (mostly) instant on, and (mostly) intuitive, and works without even thinking, when one or both users are half asleep. But best of all, it was designed with a singular purpose for a very select audience segment, and, for that segment and that audience, it is a wholly complete solution. >>

Marvel as I work even MORE body parts into a single blog post! Plus, I get the chance to mention the OXO cups (again) – man do I love those.

Jack Be Nimble-ish

New post up on Seattle20.com today:

Agility, in the world of software, is the focus on iterating quickly on customer demands, releasing regularly, and getting accurate customer feedback to start the process all over again. Instead of spending countless weeks and months gathering requirements and then putting together the absolute perfect product, the idea is that you release a MVP— minimum viable product —as soon as humanly possible and then change it based on what you see people doing with a live version of your product. There's a lot to love about this philosophy: it's creative, it's easy to test, and, best of all, it throws all the old ways of doing things under the bus! More >>

People who look to agile software development as a panacea are just as mistaken as those who think it’s a load of crap. Best part of today’s blog post – did you know that beer is 11,000 years old?

The DEFINITIVE Phone Review!

Obviously the big news this week is the iPhone 4. So, without further ado, let me review … the Blackberry Curve 8530!

Basically, I was getting sick of T-Mobile and, worse, the absolutely horrendous G1, and needed to get something. I fully expect to be back on the Smartphone side within a year, so I up and got the cheapest contract I could (1 year) on the best carrier (Verizon) with the best phone that does what I need (e-mail, and minimal browsing).

Here’s what I have discovered, in no particular order.

First, the Blackberry is so undiscoverable and non-intuitive, I have no idea how it ever caught on. Every action is buried under a single ‘magic’ button, with no indication at all what you’re going to get when you hit it. Options? Forward email? About? Just doesn’t make sense.

The keyboard shortcuts are so unexpected that there are literally thousands of pages out there that do nothing else but recount all these hotkeys – which are totally necessary because without them, the phone is basically unusable.

The browser is bad. No, “bad” is the wrong word. Remember cowboy movies from the 40s where everyone good is dressed in white and everyone bad is in dressed in black, and you knew exactly who was really bad based on how much black they were wearing? Now imagine in the middle of the movie, all the people dressed COMPLETELY in black got together in some mountain cave to recount all their evil deeds. The MC of said gathering would be EXTRA bad; he’d likely be a fat banker of some kind, have a mustache and a monocle and fold his hands together when he talked, a la Mr. Burns. Now imagine you got all those mustached bankers together, from all the evil caves in all the world for some networking event in Transylvania. The owner of the castle where they were having their hor d’oeuvres and recounting how much they had swindled out of grandmothers and orphans would be some ULTRA bad guy, potentially even half vampire or something equally evil. Now imagine that guy fucked the devil and they had a baby. And imagine THAT baby fucked Hitler, and THEY had a baby.

That child, roughly speaking, is very close to being NEARLY as FUCKING HORRIBLE AS THE BROWSER ON THE BLACKBERRY CURVE IS.

I say this with no exaggeration whatsoever, I have had a worse browsing experience in the past week than I did in 1992, when all I knew how to use was gopher on AIX 3.2. I have no idea what RIM was thinking, but the quality of the display, the rendering speed, the download speed and the “support” for anything beyond reading a pure text page on your local machine is so bad, I don’t know why you would even bother. In fact, when I accidentally click a link in email, and it opens the abortion they call a browser, it makes me want fly to Ontario and just start punching everyone I see there in the face for being located in the same city as the people who designed this thing. Though, candidly, it’s probably a bit generous to even say “opens” since all the “browser” really does it show me the goddamn loading screen for five fucking minutes. And, Opera Mini, the “solution” is even worse – because all I get to do is LOOK at a screenshot of what may or may not be a web page – it’s so slow, and zooming is so weak as a UI metaphor, why even bother. 

Apps – yee-ikes. Yeah, there are some apps out there. But they are so far behind everyone else in the world, it’s a joke to try and compare them. My browsing experience on the phone or on the Web looking for some simple solutions (a voice recorder, a stop watch, etc) was miserable. I found what I was looking for, but there were so many garbage apps, so many projects that haven’t been updated in years, and so few ratings (to help me figure out which were real and which weren’t) that I wish I hadn’t started looking in the first place.

And with all that bile, it is the single greatest email tool ever created. How and why Outlook and/or the iPhone don’t use these metaphors are beyond me. For those that are unfamiliar -

  • U = next unread
  • Delete key = delete (is there a way to go to next unread message?)
  • R = reply
  • L = reply all
  • F = forward

I can navigate through an unlimited amount of mail as fast as I can mow down zombies in an FPS. For this purpose, and this purpose alone, it is AWESOME. For everything else, let me tell you, do NOT look into the abyss -- they don’t have enough Bactine in the world to heal your wounds after coming back.