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It was such a nice day today, I packed up my laptop and made the trek to one of my favorite coffee destinations. I would have felt guilty for letting such a lovely day pass without spending some time enjoying the gift it While walking, the lyrics from Between The End And Where We Lie by Thrice starting to play through my head. Not the whole song, but the line
all of my dreams, always find me
far beyond these fake fluorescent skies
This got me thinking about the places and things that lead to me to think of new ideas. Combing through my memory for the past few years, I realized most of my ideas were brought forth by problems or obstacles that I faced, but were without an elegant and easy to use solution. It wasn’t sitting in a cubicle underneath the fluorescent skies of an office that inspired new ideas and creativity. It was new experiences, which provided new insights that allowed me to discover problems that could be solved much more elegantly. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I guess my point is get away from the office and try new things, meet new people, listen to new music and go new places. Heck, even take break and go for a walk around your office. Maybe it will help you see things differently and give you a fresh perspective. Ok, an afternoon walk probably won’t be a life changing experience, but it can definitely help kick start the brain or bring a new freshness to the day. Enjoy the sweet sky pic below.
One of my goals is to write more. I have tons of great ideas hit me throughout the day, but I have trouble expanding and unpacking those ideas into descent a decent sized blog post with interesting insights. If I wait for perfection, the perfect idea, the perfect post, I will spend a long time waiting and never write a thing. That’s no good! So, I’m going free style. I’m just going to start writing stuff down and posting it. Sort of like one of those rap battles, where someone spouts off whatever comes to mind.I learn by doing, so it’s time to DO.
It’s time to stop consuming. I found myself aimlessly wandering the web consuming massive amounts of content, news and memes. I was eating up the valley drama of all the latest tech companies. I was compulsively checking Reddit, Hacker News, and TechMeme in search for more tech gossip and news. I had become caught up in the tech soap opera. Yes, it exists (Try reading Tech Crunch for a while). Anyway, I decided I wanted to go from a consumer to a producer. I wanted to go back to creating things, not always reading about people that create things. I’ve always wanted to become a decent writer, so spending hours a day reading online articles wasn’t helping me achieve that goal. I’ve also wanted to learn and understand ruby on rails. Once again getting lost on the internet wasn’t helping the cause.
I saw a really great article come through hacker news about someone who was in the same boat as me. They said that when they wake up and hop on the internet, the first thing they do is write something or produce something. This gets them in a producing mind set for the day. I thought that was cool and I hope to begin my days with producing instead of consuming. It will be tough at first. And what I produce probably wont be of the best quality. But I think by forcing myself to produce instead of consume will end up being much more rewarding.
The economy is changing. It’s fluid. As technology changes so does society and the way we go about our work and daily lives. If a business doesn’t adjust or make the right moves, it gets left behind. This shift in technology also opens up the door for new competition and the ability to dethrone industry gorillas. Microsoft missed the boat on the Internet and got dethroned by Google. Now Google is playing catch up to Facebook in the social networking space. You better be on your toes to keep up with the pace of innovation these days.
My favorite part of the last few years is seeing old companies and old business models destroyed by the Internet. Partly for poor customer service, but mainly for lack of innovation. I love seeing a small team of people in the back room of a tiny apartment disrupt an entire industry and the giant corporations within it. It’s David vs. Goliath, and I’m pulling for David every time. I don’t like seeing corporations trying to squash innovation with politics and lawyers (enter SOPA). The economy is changing, and business’s need to change accordingly. If we create a climate of that discourages innovation and entrepreneurship we will miss out on a lot of great ideas that will never become reality.
I heard the quote the other day, “Piracy is a service problem.” There is a lot of truth in that. People like to pirate movies. However, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and other companies help bring down piracy by providing solutions for the right price. Pandora and Spotify are doing the same for the Music industry. This is just the beginning. The Internet is new and innovation is rampant, let’s not do anything to stamp out this fire.
If piracy continues to be a problem we need to get to the root of it. We need to create better services at the right prices. Old business models need to evolve. New business models need to be explored. Maybe the problem is more human then technological. Maybe a person is simply broke and had no money to afford digital goods. Like the theif who takes an Apple to stop his stomach from grubling of hunger.
There is so much opportunity in this new economy, I hope our greed doesn’t get in the way.
After 13 years of pure awesomeness, Thrice announced that they were going on hiatus. It has been both an honor and joy to be a Thrice fan for the last 10 years. Their music has been one of the most influential parts of my life and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication and work ethic to make such great music (and be such great people). Most often then not my best design work has been accompanied by a Thrice song. In fact, much of the way I craft a design and user experience can be attributed to the lyrics/music of Thrice. I can’t say enough good things about this band. If you are a fan then you know what I mean. If you have never heard their music then consider yourself lucky that you have 7 epic Thrice albums to please your ears and mind with. Thrice has been going strong for 13 years and decided to take a break from being a full time band so they can spend more time with their families. I couldn’t think of a more legit reason to take a break.
In fact my first blog post was about their song The Melting Point of Wax. The song was a huge inspiration and sort of became an internal anthem for me as I launched my first start up. I’ve been working on something called “42” off and on for a while now to share the ideas, inspiration, tips and other things that I have learned along the way. It’s not finished, but I think it will show you how influential Thrice has been on my life.
I’ve always disliked running. I found it boring and pointless. I would rather do any other form of exercising other then running. But that all changed when I stumbled upon this video. It’s the Will Smith speech at the 2005 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. I know, it’s not the most likely place to find inspiration, but Will Smith makes a good point about running.
So one day after work I decided to give his advice a try. I laced up my shoes and hit the park. After about 2 minutes into the run that voice came to life. It started saying “why are you running?” and “you can stop anytime you want.” It felt like every 10 seconds I would have to tell this voice to shut up and that I was going reach my mark before I stopped. The battle between body and mind was intense, a test of will I wasn’t expecting.
Our culture is built around saying ‘yes’ and satisfying that inner voice. When things get difficult and that voice says ‘just quit’ our normal reaction is to obey it. Look around and see how many people given up on their dreams or goals because they get difficult. Because they are so used to giving into that voice that says quit. But, like Smith says, when we start running it forces us to say no to that inner voice telling us to quit. We get used to saying no. We get used to pushing the limits. And this spills over to other areas of our life. It’s a pretty cool idea and it helps get you in better shape. Oh, reading is important too, it’s just that I really liked his take on running.
So Netflix is more or less spiting itself in half. It’s shedding it’s DVD by mail business and renaming it Qwikster (no relation to Friendster). The majority of news and opinions that I have read have been brutal on Netflix. Oh, let’s not forget the stock market pounding down the price of Netflix to a fraction of what it once was. When I first read the news on techmeme I’m guessing I had the similar reaction of most people “Netflix just did what. WTF! Are they crazy.”
But, after digesting the news and reading Reed Hastings blog post I agree with what he did. The decision two split the company into streaming and mail delivery had to be one of the hardest decisions to make. Heck, I get anxiety at the grocery store trying to decide between whole milk and skim milk. So I want to give Reed Some credit for making a tough decision. We will look back to this day and say, “good call Reed” or define this day as the day Neflix began to fall apart. I’m going to say that we look back and admire the ballsy move made by the Netflix CEO.
Surface level, the move sounds crazy, but when you begin to really think about things it makes sense. The DVD by mail business has most likely peaked. It relies on the US Postal Service which is not looking so hot right now. The DVD business is only in the USA. The DVD and Streaming operation were already acting as separate units. Intense competition. And it’s clear that streaming is the future. The majority of new signups are for streaming only packages. It’s going to be a race to see who can capture the market for streaming. Now that Neftlix has shed some weight, it can fun fast and fiercely into the world of streaming.
This means Netflix can work on acquiring better content. Everyone and their grandmother knows this needs to happen fast. I can only watch so many documentaries before I become paranoid about everything in this world. I few more comedies might help the situation. People will stream Netflix on their, iPad, Smartphone, Xbox, Wii or some other device. Streaming movies has the potential to reach every home and every individual in the world. Why wouldn’t Netflix run full speed at this opportunity? No matter what happens, we should all be grateful we no longer have to pay $5 for a movie rental and then $5 more because we forgot to bring it back in 24 hours.
Most all of us have goals or things we are working toward. However, many of us never end up reaching those goals. Why not? What’s keeping us from our destination. One of my goals is to become a decent at writing, to become a wordsmith, to be able to clearly communicate thoughts and ideas through written words. I’ve never excelled in English, my vocabulary is rather weak, oh and my spelling is terrible. I could go on and on with excuses, but I wont. My biggest fear and what usually holds me back is producing bad work. Something that other people would point at and say “don’t quit your day job.” Stuff that I’m embarrassed to show people because they would be able to pick it apart and find numerous faults with it.
When you think about it, no one starts out by being an expert in anything. We excel at our craft or hobby by hours upon hours of practice. Sometimes that practice is intentional and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we progress so slow we don’t even realize we are getting better at something. Then one day we look back and are able to see the amount of progress. It’s quite amazing. We have to look and see how far we have come, not how far we still have to go. I forget where I heard that statement, but it has a lot of truth to it.
So sometimes motion is meaning. Just simply starting something and not caring what others will say. Hopefully, this will create momentum to carry you into learning something new. Don’t worry about perfection, take your passion and start running. That passion will fade if neglected, so don’t wait for perfect circumstances, start now.
So that’s what I’m going to do with this blog. Just start running (writing) and see what happens. Good or bad, I hope to keep to it.
First of all I’m really thankful TechCrunch decided to live stream all of TechCrunch Disrupt. My favorite part of the day is when they do office hours with Paul Graham. During this portion of the day, one start up co-founder sits down and chats with Graham about his start up.
Graham asks the tough questions that many of us fail to ask ourselves. He helps people work through their ideas. He helps people really think about their start up and the reality of what it is and where it might want to go. It’s really cool to see. If you have ever worked for a start up you know how easy it is to lose focus or be unrealistic about an opportunity that just isn’t there. And best of all Graham does this with class and with a good intention of helping each entrepreneur find their way through a crowded start up scene.
I think now it’s time to ask myself many of these same questions. Who is going to use this? What do we do really well? Is there a need for this? Why would someone start using my site instead of another site? What should the next move be? Is there a future for this? This is just a sample of questions Graham was asking. When you start asking questions like this it seems to force you to think deeply and critical about your start up. It removes the rose color filter and allows you to see things for what they are. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it really hurts. Enjoy the office hours.
I think deep down we all knew that one day the cloud could break. We hoped the day would never come, but secretly we all knew it had to. So when I woke up and found out Amazon AWS was down, I cringed and hoped that the good folks at Amazon could fix it fast. After a few hours of wandering around the office and cleaning my desk I headed home to grab the golf clubs and hit the links. I guess the cloud going down isn’t that bad after all.
This is the first big Amazon outage that I can remember and I think it shows us just how important Amazon’s role is in the future of the web. When Amazon AWS went down, it took down some of the most popular sites on the web. Reddit was down. Quora was down. Hootsuite was down. Oopon was down. Heroku was down. And I know there were many other sites that went down. I hope the good folks at Amazon learned a thing or two from the outages today.
Despite the outage. Amazon AWS is still an amazing service that allows so many web companies to be successful and scale with ease.