Skip to content


Why You Want To Be A Learn-it-All

A provocatively titled article (Why Youth Has an Advantage In Innovation) argues that to innovate you have to be an omnivorous and promiscuous consumer of new stuff. Try this list on for size, does it fit?

  1. When a new device or operating system comes out do you rush out to get it as soon as possible – just because you want to play with the new features? Or do you wait for the dust to settle so that you don’t make a mistaken purchase. Or because you don’t want to waste your time.
  2. Do you use LinkedIn for all of your recruiting, or do you mistakenly think that LinkedIn is only for job seekers? How many connections do you have? Is your profile up to date? (When Yahoo announced Carol Bartz as CEO, I did a quick search on LinkedIn. She was not a registered user.)
  3. When you heard that Zynga’s Farmville had over 80MM monthly users, did you immediately launch the game to see what it was all about, or do you make comments about how mindless it is to play such a game? Have you ever launched a single Facebook game?
  4. Do you have an Android phone or do you still use a Blackberry because your Chief Security Officer says you have to? I know many “innovators” who carry an iPhone and an Android, simply because they know these are the smartphones that customers use. And they want exposure to both platforms – at a tactile level.
  5. Do you use the internal camera app on your iPhone because it’s easy, or have you downloaded Instgram to find out why 27mm other people use that instead?
  6. Do you leverage Twitter to improve your influence and position in your industry or is it more comfortable for you to declare, “why would I tweet?,” before you even fully understand the product or why people in similar roles are leveraging the medium? Do you follow the industry leaders in your field on Twitter? Do you follow your competitors and customers? Do you track your company’s products and reputation?
  7. How many apps are on your smart phone? Do you have well over 50, or even 100, because you are routinely downloading each and every app from each peer and competitor you can to see how others are exploiting the environment? Do you know how WhatsApp, Voxer, and Path leveraged the iphone contact list for viral distribution?
  8. Do you know what Github is and why most startups rely on it as the key center of their engineering effort?
  9. Have you ever mounted an AWS server at Amazon? Do you know how AWS pricing works?
  10. Does it make sense to you to use HTML5 as your mobile solution so that you don’t have to code for multiple platforms? Does it bother you that none of the leading smartphone app vendors take this approach?
  11. When you are on the road on business, do you let your assistant book the same old car service, or do you tell them, “I want to use Uber just to see how it works?”
  12. When Facebook launched the new timeline feature did you immediately build one to see what the company was up to, or did you dismiss this as something you shouldn’t waste your time on?
  13. Have you been to to see what employees are saying about your company? Or have you rationalized why it’s not important, the way the way the old-school small business owner formerly dismissed his/her Yelp review.

Other than the obnoxious title the article does make some good points. I do believe this:

"f you want to stay “young” and innovative, you have no choice but to immerse yourself in the emerging tools of the current and next generation. You MUST stay current, as it is illusionary to imagine being innovative without being current." (From Why You Want to Be A Learn-it- All

Americans Elect: Another Opinion

A month or two ago I read an article by Thomas Friedman introducing Americans Elect, an innovative concept for bringing a third major presidential candidate to the table for this year's Presidential contest. I liked it so much I wrote about in on my blog.

So it is with great interest that I came across this recent article by Gail Collins totally hating the Americans Elect concept:

"But it's too dangerous. History suggests that this election could be decided by a small number of votes in a few closely contested states. You do not want it to turn on a bunch of citizens who decide to express their purity of heart by tossing a vote to Fred Website.

Plus, the whole Americans Elect concept is delusional, in a deeply flattering way: We the people are good and pure, and if only we were allowed to just pick the best person, everything else would fall into place. And, of course, the best person cannot be the choice of one of the parties, since the parties are … the problem. (from Time to Elect the Worst Idea)

Wow. I admit that a little while ago I started having misgivings about Americans Elect. The reason was that I could see no candidates there that I knew or liked. And those that were doing well seemed very conservative. It got me wondering whether I had been tricked into donating my $25 to Republican or Tea Party front. I have no evidence of that, but for sure my enthusiasm has dropped quite a bit.

Email Rookie Mistakes

I've watched some people struggling with some email blow ups and frustrations over the years and I was just thinking about some of the ways I've developed to avoid them. I am not going into the best salutation or the best conclusion but more touchy-feely things. Here are my guidelines:

  1. Write the email as if it might show up on the front page of the paper tomorrow morning. Because it might. Or it might be forwarded to the wrong person. Or you may accidentally send it to the wrong person. Worse, to a long mailing list of the wrong people. Don't include anything that you would be embarrassed or worse, ashamed, to have to explain.
  2. Realize that the other person may not have the same email habits as you. They may only check emails once a day. Or they might receive 200 messages per day and habitually not answer many of them. They might even have a hard time typing (yes there are some.) So don't be offended when you don't get a response when you think you should have gotten one.
  3. Keep it short. People skim and scan. Don't tell your life's story. Focus on what the outcome is that you would like of the email you sent and indicate that up front. Or if you don't expect an answer, then sometimes it is helpful to say that too ("No response is necessary") Write your email like an article in USA Today. Start with the most important thing and go from there. And make it short.
  4. Remember that you can call or talk face to face. For most delicate, personal or heavy topics, it is often better to talk. This is self evident and yet I often see people who should know better opting for an email and getting into major fights, misunderstandings or hurt. And even if you go down the email route and things seem to be spinning out of control, remember you can still help by switching to a phone call or face to face conversation.
  5. Be careful about public forums, mailing list and Facebook. Remind yourself about all the people seeing your sarcastic comment or ironic statement or personal attack. Without the context and the relationship who knows what impression they get.

These guidelines may or may not apply for you. I learned them through personal experience and have the scars to prove it!

[GEEKY] Sublime Text surpassing TextMate?

I've been doing some more coding these days in Ruby.

I've had great success and fun (especially when debugging) using RadRails, which is an Eclipse based IDE for Ruby and Rails. It's quite nice.

With introduction of RVM, bundler, and so on, I've gotten a feeling that RadRails maybe too much. It seems to get contexts confused and create more hassles. I am not sure yet, but it's caused me to go back and use TextMate, which I've always had in an honored spot in my toolset.

Poking around forums and other resources there seems to be some frustration that TextMate 2 has not been completed yet, having been 'in development' for I think over two years. Also there seems to be more and more talk of Sublime Text 2 as a great alternative to TextMate. So… Here I go. I will report back.

G+ Where Art Thou?

Here is a a really good commentary on Google Plus (G+). I have to say that analyzing such a large system and a phenomenon involving millions of users is kind of a fools errand. (Remember "Everything is Obvious"). Still if you are interested in the evolution of social networks it is a good read:

"Is this Google’s swan song? Of course not. But it is almost certainly their biggest failure by a good distance. And it’s not a Flubber-like experimental miss like Orkut and Wave and the many Labs projects snuffed before their time. It corrupted Google’s primary mission, angered users, and eroded trust. Maybe the worst of it is that Google+ could have been so good. It could have been so Google.

But a series of poor choices, misjudgments, and plain stubbornness resulted in the poor thing being sent alone and friendless into bloody battle with an entrenched and veteran opponent.(from Google+: The Charge of the Like Brigade)

A good read. Recommended.

[GEEKY] Capistrano Colors

A random, highly specific and geeky tip:

If you’ve used Capistrano before, you’re familiar with the large error logs. Finding errors is, well, a hassle. You’ve got a whole slew of text, some just saying what command it’s going to execute next, sometimes errors, sometimes just output from Bundler or whatever it’s running. (from Rails Tip #8: Capistrano Colors)

Just follow the link to Rails Tip #8: Capistrano Colors) and your Cap life will be a little better.

Paul Graham: Fear and Startup Ideas

Paul Graham's new essay is "Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas." From my reading of it, it talks about great startup ideas, fear and cynicism. The meat of the article is a series of shall we say audacious startup ideas, most of which you've had yourself and in each case you may have thought: "You'd have to be crazy to try this!".

I once read, "_If you 're not a little bit nervous, you're not pushing yourself enough". _I like that mantra. It works for me. This essay is related to that thought:

"One of the more surprising things I've noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are." (from Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas.)

And if you are a certain kind of person that also may translate to always being able to find the 100 reasons why something will not work.

I've often said that if I think of my proud career accomplishments so far, in each case I tried something because I didn't have any idea what I was getting myself info. Ignorance is bliss.

Paul Graham goes a step further:

"In this essay I'm going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some. Any one of them could make you a billionaire. That might sound like an attractive prospect, and yet when I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them.

Don't worry, it's not a sign of weakness. Arguably it's a sign of sanity. The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they'd be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you'd have enough ambition to carry them through." (from Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas.)

Read the article. It will inspire you!