Daily Archives: December 20, 2013

To Everyone Who Says “All Founders Should Learn to Code”: The Real Scoop


 

Last week, the man himself, Fred Wilson published a blog post about the importance of learning to code.

His decree was simple and straightforward: If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical. In particular, if you are a non-technical co-founder at a tech company…you must get technical.

As CEO of Skillcrush, a technology education company, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I, too, know the value of getting technical from experience, both in the workforce, and also as a startup founder. I was never a non-technical founder, but I was a less-technical-than-I-am-now founder, and I am extremely thankful for all of the technical skills I have acquired in the past year and a half of building my company.

But I think that Mr. Wilson is making the process of learning to code seem easier than it is, and I think it’s worth addressing the very real, but totally overcome-able, challenges of transitioning from non-techie to techie.

I do want to note that I love Fred Wilson for all of his tech-education advocacy and I know that his intentions were only to encourage more people to learn to code (a mission I fully support!).

For everyone who is tired of hearing that learning to code is easy…

I do truly believe that most people who say learning to code is easy have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, for many, hearing that it’s easy sounds a lot more like, “duh, everyone knows how to do it” rather than “you can totally do it!”

Learning to sail-1=

Learning to sail-1= (Photo credit: Sheba_Also)

If you feel like learning to code is hard, you are NOT alone! Learning to code IS hard. And frustrating. Sometimes, you will get stuck on a problem for hours and then be annoyed when you finally discover a relatively simple solution.

This is to be expected.

One of the first things every new coder has to learn is the inevitable ebb and flow of coding. Sometimes it comes fast and furious and you will solve a complex problem in a matter of minutes. Other times it is slow and painful.

If you can accept this reality and stay zen, even when you are being smacked in the face over and over by error messages, you will have an amazing future in code!

That said, coding isn’t impossibly hard. It’s just hard in the way that anything worth doing is hard.

And if you break it down into smaller steps, it’s downright…manageable :)

For everyone who has just needed someone to help them…

It is SO MUCH easier to learn to code when you have a community of people—whether instructors, fellow students, or friends—to help support and guide you.

Over the past two years, I have spoken to hundreds of people who have attempted to learn to code. Those who succeeded often had one thing in common: they had someone to turn to with questions.

You cannot take the human element out of education and expect students to succeed (especially online).

Everyone gets stuck, discouraged, and frustrated. Everyone needs to be able to reach out to someone from time to time and get a helping hand.

And as amazing as services like Stack Overflow are, they too rely on real-live human beings to make them magic.

So plan for this reality! If you have a friend who knows how to code, ask them (nicely) if you can bug them with questions. If you know someone else who wants to learn, commit to taking a class together. And look for online resources and communities where you will be able to ask questions of real instructors (like Skillcrush!).

Take these simple steps, and your chances of actually learning to code will grow exponentially.

For everyone who thinks they aren’t young enough, mathematical enough, nerdy enough, or male enough for the tech world…

The developers I know are musicians, artists, and knitters. Some of them, all three. They are college students, mid-career professionals, and grandmas. They have photography degrees, English degrees, economics degrees, or no degrees at all!

Look, thanks to Hollywood developers writ large have gotten a bad reputation for being nerdy, awkward, and male. And although there are plenty of nerdy, awkward men in tech, there are lots of others too (and the numbers are EVER growing, I know, I am personally training an army of them).

It’s not to say that we don’t need more diversity in the field (OMG we do!), but there is no one-size-fits all model for what makes a good technologist: except an excitement for the field and its infinite possibilities.

Moreover, the skills that truly make for good technologists are not what you think.

The best technologists I know are two things: they are creative and they have a really deep understanding of what the user really needs.

Neither of those qualities have anything to do with math skills.

Remember, you are a (peaceful) warrior on the front lines…

In the 1450s Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press and made the printed word available “at scale.”

Just think of how reading, and the printed word, has changed your life.

In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the web and made it possible to share the printed word with unfathomable ease.

Just think of how coding, and being able to build web apps, will change your life.

The dawning of the digital age means that tech is for EVERYONE and everyone should have a hand in making it.

Learning tech skills is amazing, and powerful, and I want to help make it a reality for you. If you have any questions about whether you should learn to code or how you should do it, I am here to answer them.

Email me at adda@skillcrush.com, I promise to respond within 24 hours. Scout’s honor.

View story at Medium.com

 

 

Want to start? Stop thinking.


Treat an idea like a platform instead of an end point.

 

This was explained to me in a bar over a couple of Jamesons. I was talking about all the things I want to do with my life, and my brilliant brother was telling me what he’d learned over the last year of actually doing with his life.

“Stop over-thinking every idea. Just start.”

We’ve all heard lots of versions of this, but for me this came with a slightly different spin. He went on to say that for a decidedly bitter time in his life, when he’d come up with an idea that he thought was funny (he’s a comedy writer) he’d think about, massage it, and pour over every angle until he’d decided that it was garbage. Then he had absolutely no will to undertake such a shitty project.

“I’d pick a funny moment and marginalize and humiliate it in my head until I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t funny, then I’d move on to the next one.”

Talk about spiraling self doubt. You write something down, and just like an overly critical co-worker, you pick at every crevice until what’s left has been pasteurized, processed, and beaten into a mass of dark gray sludge. Then, after abandoning that decomposing mess you somehow find the drive to start another project? Yeah right. Right after I go to the gym and do a bunch of other hard stuff. Sounds absolutely exhausting.

Slowly, my brother started to realize that this was his pattern. So, he stopped over-thinking and just started doing. He’d write, or shoot some film, or (insert action here), until he had something to build on, and then he’d let it grow. It wasn’t until this unfiltered beginning that actual concepts were allowed to breathe and become their true selves. New, organic directions took shape, and the outcomes found themselves miles from, and often much better than, the original concept.

Still Unsatisfied-digital single.

Still Unsatisfied-digital single. (Photo credit: Wedlockphotos-BryannaRain Band Images-Celadon Cand)

A lot of us have grown up with the notion that if you think about something long enough and hard enough the solution/idea will eventually come. And when it does, it’s going to be a banger!

Perhaps the reality is that letting intuition guide the concept organically is a much more efficient and effective strategy. You’re already a good designer/writer/whatever, just go do that and see what happens.

And yes, that’s exactly how I wrote this.

 

 

Written by

Designer. Interactive art director. Frequent wire-framer.

 

 

 

A Definition of Brand


A brand is a living, breathing thing that is beautifully imperfect, fallible and unfinished.

The following is an excerpt draft from my upcoming book called, The Lean Brand: How Entrepreneurs Discover, Iterate and Develop Emotional-Value in the Marketplace. The book is the follow-up to Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits NYT bestselling book, The Lean Entrepreneur. Your feedback is more than welcome. More at: http://theleanbrand.me

The term, brand, has become increasingly popular and progressively misunderstood over the past few years. Throughout this time, I’ve read numerous books, articles and thoughts about what a brand is. Some have been enlightening, some have been confusing and other have just missed the boat completely. In the interest of clarity and in the hopes of conversation, I’ve decided to publish a working definition of what I mean when I say brand.

By no means is this complete or a crack at a definitive definition to end all debate. Instead, it’s intended to be a jumping off point for conversation, interaction and cerebral wrestling with the concept. It’s the best I have right now and my attempt at a contribution to bring clarity to this erudite concept in non-elusive language.

What Is A Brand?

A brand is a relationship. An incarnational, evolving and emotional relationship that exists uniquely between an audience and an organization.

It’s incarnational because a brand lives within you and within your audience as a gut feeling. Brand is present in every interaction you have as an omnipresent and ubiquitous expression of a deeper relationship.

It’s evolving because a brand is a living, breathing thing that is beautifully imperfect, fallible and unfinished.

It’s emotional because a brand is a relationship with people; and people are sensitive, intuitive beings who develop deep feelings about who you are and why you matter.

A brand isn’t a logo. A brand isn’t a visual identity system. A brand is not a product. A brand is not advertising. And most importantly, your brand isn’t just what you say it is. Although these artifacts can signal us back to a broader capital “B” Brand, they aren’t a substitute for what a brand truly is.

No, to me, brand is synonymous with relationship. Relationship is how we make sense of the world around us. Relationship is how we, as humans, relate to the products and companies we purchase on a daily basis.

For me, relationship is the only word that makes sense in the grand scheme of what I’m trying to say when I use the term brand.


Jeremiah Gardner is the author of the upcoming book The Lean Brand and works with entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to discover, iterate and develop their emotional-value. His company is Jeremiah Gardner | Handcrafted Brands. I would love to connect on Twitter.

Written by

Born in the City of Sin and raised in the City of Angels, I help translate complex ideas and products to real people. #Author, #Speaker and #Brand Craftsman.

 

Suasion or Persuasion


Are you being swayed or persuaded?

There is more than one way to convince someone that your product is better; that you competitor is worse; that your policies will change things; that your opponent is not up to the challenge. The art of convincing others is one of the most important pillars of competition – I break it down into two separate categories: suasion or persuasion.

Suasion plays on the human mind‘s many flaws and the easily exploitable nature of the masses. Put simply, it is the act of repeatedly echoing the same message over and over again in the hopes of engraining it in your audience’s mind. Blinding echoes of a political candidate’s commitment to recovery will reach the farthest voting booths.

Persuasion relies on carefully reasoned logic and constructive debate. Do not let my biased choice of words damn suasive tactics; they are equally important to most marketing departments. The two processes deliver very different kinds of results and have their uses – it all comes down to your business’s goals.

Information is the 21st century’s commodity of choice – it is accessible, addictive and pervasive. It is the suasive advertiser’s golden wake up call. I am quite focused on social media these days so I thought I would pair up our two tactics with a service. The suasive advertiser belongs on Facebook; the persuasive belongs on Twitter.

The best example of a suasive advertising medium is television. You are choosing to watch a particular television network‘s programming and advertisers know it. They bombard you with adverts in the hopes that when their product props up in your field of view, you will feel compelled to make a purchase. It is highly effective. Think of Facebook as a television network with advertisements running throughout your entire viewing experience.

This implementation of the suasive model is inherently limited: there is a fundamental lack of competitive availability. There are only so many airwave spectrums available; all of which are allocated and regulated by governments. The beauty of social media – and by extension, the Internet – is the concept of competitive availability.

Please bear in mind that this model’s implementation is limited, not flawed. I am not advocating its reform or control. Social media is one possible implementation of the model with the concept of competitive availability in mind. There is always a way – that way, is not control.

As I mentioned earlier, the suasive tactic relies on the human mind’s fallibility. Anger, depression and forceful empathy are their favorite tools. I have been watching a few documentaries recently on the state of the planet and the impact of global business. The slightest hint of sad music or hateful speeches are the surest way to lose my viewership. It will not help your cause and will likely invalidate it in the long run.

Persuasion uses logic and reason. By the process’s very definition, if two or more people debate their positions using logical arguments, and a willingness to admit one of them will have a better solution, persuasion can only lead to betterment. I entitled this post Suasion or Persuasion which may seem unfair at this point – it is obvious the two have different use cases.

Social media might be able to invalidate that. Look at what Twitter has done for us: we can engage anyone in conversation – including businesses – on the other side of the planet. More importantly, we do it publicly. If a business can engage its critics and turn them around in a public setting, it creates passionate brand advocates; if the critics bring up important points, the business can adapt. There is no downside.

Advertising allows businesses to reach out to the willing and able consumer; it allows charities to finance its efforts; it allows presidential candidates to win votes. The real question is what kind of advertising are you exposed to? Persuasive advertising wins you over and makes you a part of the team – suasive advertisements are subconscious and very invasive. That does not mean they are in any way, shape or form a bad thing.

I call it the competitive information market.

- Peregrine

Further Reading

Anything social, educational and technological – Peregrine

 — This is my personal blog: I write about anything social, educational, technological and I sometimes add in a political piece in here and …

Written by

@urbancloudpr – Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer | #socialmedia #innovation #opinion #markets | Views are my own.

View story at Medium.com

Updated December 14, 2013

 

The Spanish police and Twitter


A great example of sense, sensibility… and community management

 

Madrid-based Spanish journalist Manuel Baigorri of financial news agency Bloomberg called me a couple of days ago for some comments on the use of Twitter by the Spanish national police force, quoting me briefly in an article entitled “For Spain’s police, Twitter is the social media gun”, also published on Mashable.

This is a topic I have discussed with the media on previous occasions: here, and here, in this France Presse story. My opinion remains the same: this is a channel that allows a large number of people to voluntarily be in touch with the police, and it has a tremendous potential value. It not only strengthens the police’s image and encourages the public to cooperate in combating crime, but can also be extremely useful in the event of an emergency.

The Spanish police’s methods in getting these results, based on intense community management, shows it as a force that is in touch with the wider population, have clearly been successful. Initially prompted by a lack of resources, the initiative reflects a good balance between the need to talk the public’s language and that of sending out the right message: not all the messages, replies, and reactions that the Spanish police send out into the Twittersphere are perfectly phrased; which is unsurprising, given the pressure that they operate under, but all in all, it is professionally handled and much more successful in achieving its aims and objectives than traditional methods, typified by the rigid, uni-directional approach of most large organizations.

Taking maximum advantage of the concept of “virality”, the initiative shows a clear understanding of how the social networks function. When I first wrote about this topic, many people criticized the Spanish police for what they saw as an artificial, or forced style, as though they were trying to project a progressive, up-to-date image. Some people even thought that such an approach was not befitting for a police force. There were also those who, with little thought for the repercussions, increased the police’s workload by sending in “joke” messages, or false reports.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

The Spanish police’s task in achieving a balance between connecting with the public, its own behavior code, and not turning the conversation into an interrogation is a far from easy one. What’s more, they are doing this in real time, at “Twitterspeed”, with little time to assess their strategies and tactics.

In short, Spain’s police force has shown itself not just able to connect with the wider public, but to respond quickly and effectively to a wide range of situations. In Twitter it has found a communication channel of immense value. Its achievements should be recognized, and seen as an example to other police forces around the world.


(Disponible en español aquí)

View story at Medium.com

 

 

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Little Known Truths About Running an E-Commerce Business


What do a grandmother knitting socks, a 20-something graphic designer and a mom blogger all have in common? They’re all poised to take advantage of one of the fastest growing industries in the country: e-commerce. Forty percent of Americans will be working freelance by 2020, according to a study by Intuit, the company behind Quickbooks accounting software. A good number of them will rely on e-commerce for at least part of their income. There are dozens of viable business models for making money online, but some basic facts apply to almost all of them. Research your business to find out possible pitfalls to lower your chance of failure and increase your eventual bottom line.

 

People Don’t Read

 

No matter how detailed your descriptions and directions, you’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who skim through the page, think they know what they read and get it all wrong. They won’t use the correct mode of payment, assume they’re buying something they’re not or insist you have a company policy nowhere on your site. Your only defense is to write everything on your site in very clear and simple terms so you can point them out easily to angry customers when they come back.

 

There’s a Black Hole for Shipped Packages

 

Pack your product carefully using plenty of protection, follow your shipper’s directions to the letter when addressing the package and send it out in plenty of time for it to arrive on the stated date. A certain percentage of these packages are going to disappear. Some may show up months later with no explanation, but some will never be seen again. No amount of querying your shipper or tracking online will ever explain what happened. Accept this fact, chalk it up to a cost of doing business and be ready to ship out replacement items whenever necessary.

 

Angry Customers Can Be Worse Online

 

Image representing Intuit as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

 

Anyone in the service industry can tell you customers are getting angrier and more rude all the time. As bad as this can be in a retail setting, it’s even worse when your customer is virtual. Of course, you’ll do all you can to make your customers happy, but every business has clients who just can’t be satisfied. The fact that there is no personal contact, just a voiceless email, often gives angry customers the feeling that anything goes. It’s very easy for them to post bad reviews on Facebook and Twitter, escalating a situation much higher than a retail customer ever could. Your best bet is to keep them from being angry in the first place, if at all possible.

 

Choose the Right Partners

 

Every business has partners, from raw materials vendors to banks and credit card options. It’s important to research each choice before you commit to any relationship, as some partners will have much more to offer than others. For instance, certain business credit cards offer membership reward points for your purchases which you can save and redeem for dinner out or a weekend vacation. Check each vendor and service provider you work with to find similar deals.

 

 

 

Startup Wisdom: Be Prepared, but Enjoy the Moment


I’ve spent a lot of my life planning for the future. I guess you could say I’m practiced when it comes to thinking ahead.

In high school, I focused on preparing for college. “Rounding out the resume” as my mom would say. In college, I focused on preparing for life. It was my Freshman year in 2009 and I had just witnessed a historical Presidential election, the start of a global recession, and a dwindling job market crushing the hopes and dreams of a generation. I decided early on that I wouldn’t waste one second looking for a job. I would create my own.

My preparation for life began in 2010 when I co-founded my first Internet startup. I failed miserably. No amount of contemplation prepares you for the realities of entrepreneurship. Failing didn’t stop me though. I went right back into my prototypical preparation mindset.

Back to the drawing board. “Prepare for tomorrow or stand by and watch your life fade away into a blur of mediocrity,” I repeated to myself daily. This became the anthem to my undergraduate career. I wasn’t in a basement doing keg-stands four nights a week in college. I refused to follow the crowd. I was building things. Creating my future. I was obsessively learning about technology, business, and the realities of building a company from scratch. I didn’t read about it in books either. I went out and learned in the real world. Flash forward four years later, and half of my graduating class is scrambling to figure out what to do while I’m blessed to be doing what I love on a daily basis. The benefits of thinking ahead and ignoring the crowd.

There’s a Kevin Spacey scene from the movie Casino Jack that emphasizes my attitude about mediocrity almost perfectly. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautifully performed movie scenes of all time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mz59i898HU

The disease of the dull, a world of vanilla. No thanks, no chance.

The majority of the crowd lives in mediocrity. Following the crowd will inevitably lead to mediocrity in your own life. It’s that simple. The reality is most people settle in life. They give up on their dreams, their hopes, and their ambitions. In exchange they trade these things for security and safety, dedicating their talents to the pursuit of someone else’s dreams instead. While these people get defensive and deny surrender, it is all too often the case of sinking into mediocrity.

Personally I don’t want to look back on my life and say “wow that was really safe,” I want to look back and say “damn that was one hell of an adventure!” I find myself wondering about these things from time to time. Fear of mediocrity would often push me to live in a constant state of planning for the future, neglecting the bliss of present moments.

Talk about a paradox.

Having this type of planning vision has been instrumental to my success not only as an entrepreneur, but as a leader and CEO. I need to think ahead, be prepared for every scenario, and lead. The problem with this mindset is that it frequently transforms into a whirlpool of anxiety, overthinking, and more talking than execution. Preparedness has its place in the mind of every leader, but you can’t let your focus get stuck in a visionary whirlpool of the unknowable future.

To prevent this, after every great milestone or accomplishment I always take the time to do three things:

1. Thank God.

2. Exist in the bliss of the moment.

3. Reflect on the moment for the rest of the day.

Often times as leaders we neglect positive milestones and achievements. We are more focused on the next ten milestones and how we are going to achieve them. The corollary to this mindset is the leader who focuses too much on achievement. Reveling in success for weeks, months, or in some cases, years. Like anything else in life, this subtle balancing act is unique to each of us. Finding the proper equilibrium between living in the moment and planning ahead is no easy task. Too much planning and you won’t execute. Too much living in the moment and you’ll be sucked into complacency.

For me, taking the time to soak in the beauty of moments outside and inside of my professional career is crucial. This happens through meditation, yoga, and my writing. Find creative outlets and hobbies outside of your leadership responsibilities or risk being dragged down by your own visionary whirlpool.

This is where creative genius lies. This is where life is. This is beauty. Outside of the whirlpool. Here. Now. Just be sure to balance it.

Further Reading

There Is No That

 — Doing nothing, going nowhere

Written by

Co-Founder and CEO of @Kuhcoon. Lover of Wisdom. Geek. Weight Lifter. Introvert. Bitcoiner. @Coindesk Contributor. Hebrews 11:1