Apple Acquires Rapid-Fire Camera App Developer SnappyLabs

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Apple has acquired the one-man photo technology startup SnappyLabs, maker of SnappyCam, sources tell me. The startup was founded and run solely by John Papandriopoulos, an electrical engineering PhD from the University Of Melbourne who invented a way to make the iPhone’s camera take full-resolution photos at 20 to 30 frames per second — significantly faster than Apple’s native iPhone camera.

I first noticed something was up when we got tipped off that SnappyCam had disappeared from the App Store and all of SnappyLabswebsites went blank. Sources have since affirmed that the company was acquired by Apple, and that there was also acquisition interest “from most of the usual players”, meaning other tech giants. I don’t have details on the terms of the deal, and I’m awaiting a response from Apple, which has not confirmed the acquisition.

But based on Papandriopoulos’ scientific breakthroughs in photography technology, it’s not hard to see why Apple would want to bring him in to help improve their cameras. The stragic acquisition of an extremely lean, hard technology-focused team (of one) fits with Apple’s MO. It typically buys smaller teams to work on specific products rather than buying big staffs and trying to blend them in across the company.


Papandriopoulos built his burst-mode photo technology into SnappyCam, which he sold in the Apple App Store for $1. After I profiled the app in July, Papandriopoulos told me SnappyCam jumped to #1 on the paid app chart in nine countries. Sales of the app let him run SnappyLabs without big funding from venture capital firms.

Back in July, Papandriopoulos told me he had a eureka moment in “discrete cosine transform JPG science” and had essentially reinvented the JPG image format. In a blog postnow taken down, the SnappyLabs founder explained

John Papandriopoulos“First we studied the fast discrete cosine transform (DCT) algorithms…We then extended some of that research to create a new algorithm that’s a good fit for the ARM NEON SIMD co-processor instruction set architecture. The final implementation comprises nearly 10,000 lines of hand-tuned assembly code, and over 20,000 lines of low-level C code. (In comparison, the SnappyCam app comprises almost 50,000 lines of Objective C code.)

JPEG compression comprises two parts: the DCT (above), and a lossless Huffman compression stage that forms a compact JPEG file. Having developed a blazing fast DCT implementation, Huffman then became a bottleneck. We innovated on that portion with tight hand-tuned assembly code that leverages special features of the ARM processor instruction set to make it as fast as possible.”

By bringing Papandriopoulos in-house, Apple could build this technology and more into its iPhone, iPad, Mac, and MacBook cameras. Photography is a core use for smartphones, and offering high-resolution, rapid-fire burst mode shooting could become a selling point for iPhones over competing phones.

And in case you were wondering if Papandriopoulos will be a good fit at Apple, he once dressed as an iPhone at a San Francisco parade.


For more on SnappyLabs, read my profile of the startup

Your Badge, Please: Why 2014 Will See A War Over Professional Identity

Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn want to log you in at work.

Owen Thomas December 20, 2013 Predict

ReadWritePredict is a look ahead at the technology trends and companies that will shape the coming year.

Pour your coffee, sit down, and log in: It’s the routine of hundreds of millions of knowledge workers.

As businesses add a crazy quilt of online services to the tools we use, those logins keep piling up. Information-technology managers—when they don’t just throw up their hands—have long dreamed of a nirvana called single-sign-on, where one login rules all. And increasingly, those login credentials will live up in the cloud, managed by some Web giant.

Three companies are on a collision course, jostling for control of the keys to our professional identity. They are Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn.

The Google Way

Google Apps is the primary way Google insinuates itself into a business. For $5 per user per month, Google offers email, storage, collaborative documents, and more. All of that comes with a Google Account—the key to other Google services, as well as apps that have integrated with Google. (Google recently eliminated some roadblocks to using Google Apps as a login.)

Sundar Pichai oversees Google Apps and Android—a potent combination. Sundar Pichai oversees Google Apps and Android—a potent combination.

The tradeoff with going Google is that some of Google’s initiatives—for example, pushing Google+, its don’t-call-it-a-social-network thing that lets you connect and share with friends online—may clash with the sensibilities of corporations.

Yet the integration of Google accounts with Android apps may appeal to those looking to mobilize their workforces. And the price is hard to argue with. The missing piece here is for Google to find a way to make company-specific versions of Google+ that are private and secure for internal information sharing and video chat—and to deal with the frustrations experienced by users who have both personal and corporate Google accounts.

Microsoft’s Cloud Is Rising

While Google may have a head start in Web-based productivity apps, Microsoft is not resting on its big workplace franchise in Exchange email and Office apps. In fact, it may have found a clever, little-noticed way to bring Office users into a vast online directory.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has a clear cloud vision. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has a clear cloud vision.

In the 1990s, Microsoft ventured into the dangerous waters of creating a universal Web login when it unveiled Hailstorm, later known as Passport. After a torrent of brickbats from privacy and antitrust activists, Microsoft retreated—but Passport quietly lived on, eventually becoming the Microsoft Account, the service people use to log in to Windows today.

There’s a little-known enterprise version of the Microsoft Account called Windows Azure Active Directory. It is a version of the directory tools Microsoft has long offered to businesses—but up in the cloud, in one big database of employee logins. If you use Office 365, you have an Azure Active Directory account.

At a press event in October, Microsoft’s cloud chief, Satya Nadella, one of the internal candidates to become the company’s next CEO, unveiled a vision for how Microsoft could bring together its powerful desktop-software franchise and its budding cloud services.

“Every time someone signs up for Office 365, they’ve populated Azure Active Directory,” Nadella noted. Microsoft is also encouraging It managers to sync their old-school “on-premises” directory servers with Azure, adding to the accounts Microsoft tracks. Microsoft says it has 2.6 million organizations and 261 million users in Azure Active Directory.

Nadella mused about the “notion of having an enterprise directory that’s fully programmable and accessible through interfaces” to software developers. In other words, that Microsoft login might not just be the tools to your work email and Office apps online—it might become the way you access hundreds of third-party apps, especially on devices running Windows 8 or Windows Phone. Already, Microsoft integrates Azure Active Directory with Salesforce, Dropbox, Box, and other apps.

Don’t count out Yammer, either. While the online-collaboration tool has mostly been quiet as a subsidiary of Microsoft, which acquired it last year, it had been preparing a big push to lure app developers to use its accounts as logins. Microsoft could revive that strategy, either independently or as an arm of the Azure push.

LinkedIn’s New Connections

If you’re still thinking of LinkedIn as a place to hunt for jobs, catch up: The professional network has been refashioning itself as the hub of its users’ daily work lives.

Right now, LinkedIn users post updates publicly. But LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has been talking about how his employees have access to a special version of the site where they can share updates and collaborate internally—an unreleased competitor to Microsoft’s Yammer.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sees your connections. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sees your connections.

In 2013, LinkedIn also rolled out a new contact-management feature and a host of mobile apps—including a controversial one, Intro, which essentially inserts LinkedIn as a middleman for your email, adding details about your correspondents to every message.

LinkedIn also owns Slideshare, a tool for sharing business presentations, and runs Pulse, a Web and mobile app that pulls together the news headlines your colleagues and peers are reading.

And for some time, though it’s far less known than, say, Facebook’s tools for logging into apps, it has offered a platform that lets developers log users in using their LinkedIn profiles.

Put it all together, and LinkedIn has many of the same things Microsoft and Google do: a professional identity that’s portable on the Web, and tools for email, contacts, and collaboration around information.

LinkedIn has one key advantage over Microsoft and Google: It is organized around the modern way we work, where not everyone has the same ending to their email address. The network of contractors, vendors, and partners who swirl through our daily lives may not be in the same single-sign-on directory. But odds are they’re on LinkedIn.

Battles Inside And Out

Microsoft and Google, of course, have been in open warfare for some time, and crow about stealing each other’s customers. No surprise there. But it will be interesting to watch if Microsoft insists on keeping Windows Azure Active Directory on Windows Devices—or makes a play to get in the world of Android. That will likely be a test of whether Microsoft’s new Devices group, bolstered by the addition of Nokia’s handset business, has the upper hand—or if Nadella’s cloud army will be triumphant.

Google, too, has its internal battles to fight. Google Accounts are where Google+, Google Apps, and Android all intersect. Google CEO Larry Page has tried to cut down on internecine warfare by pushing out Andy Rubin as Android chief and installing Sundar Pichai, who now oversees Google Apps and Android. And Google+ chief Vic Gundotra has been persuasive in pushing his sharing tools as a “social layer” throughout Google. But making Google’s services work smoothly inside and outside of corporations may require some serious architectural changes—and not all Googlers will be happy about it.

LinkedIn has the least to lose and the most upside here. And one of its virtues may be that it is neither Microsoft nor Google. Already, it has made a very interesting friend in Apple, which welcomed LinkedIn inside its Mac OS X operating system. Though we haven’t seen many examples of apps taking advantage of this, it’s an interesting beachhead that few have taken notice of.

Others Waiting In The Wings

Could others make a play for this market?

Twitter is an obvious contender. It is popular as a login option, particularly with apps that let users generate or share content, like news readers. And many enterprise apps are integrated with Twitter. (Take, for example, the content-management system which published this story on the Web and on Twitter simultaneously.) For many users—particularly journalists, marketers, and celebrities—Twitter has also become their public-facing persona online.

Yet it’s hard to reconcile Twitter’s town-square feel with the cloistered campuses of corporations. Twitter may end up always being a megaphone, not an intercom.

Salesforce, too, is worth watching. In 2012, the software maker launched Salesforce Identity, and it opened up the service to app developers a couple of months ago. It’s less of a source of identity like a Google or Microsoft account, and more of a bridge to various online accounts, but it could grow to become something more.

What’s clear is that becoming the way people log in to work applications is increasingly valuable, as more and more of our tasks shift completely online. Those who check our IDs aren’t just gatekeepers: They hold the keys to hundreds of millions of users who could become customers for the next great enterprise app. As such, the war over professional identity matters to employees, managers, and app developers. It will be an epic contest.

Photo by Flickr user wonderferret

Getting Started With Google Chromecast: The Unofficial Manual

Got a new Chromecast? Here’s the manual Google should have put in the box.

Adriana Lee January 04, 2014 Play

As the new year arrives, many of us are greeting it with shiny new gadgets, courtesy of the holiday season. And one in particular has been a noteworthy hit—Google’s Chromecast streaming device, which is still holding strong as Amazon’s bestselling electronic.

Unlike many other new gadgets this year, this $35 TV dongle—which can “cast” or send streaming media to your television from the Internet—is incredibly affordable, making them perfect gifts and stocking stuffers for early adopters and non techies alike. The only downside for the latter: There’s no manual in this box.

That’s pretty common with electronics these days. Software updates so often and swiftly, core features can change from one minute to the next. Still, if your parent is wondering where to plug this in or your spouse can’t figure out how to “cast” shows from that trusty mobile device, then pass this on as the unofficial, missing manual.

Begin At The Beginning: Setup

On one end of the USB stick-like device, you’ll find the HDMI plug that goes into your TV. (If the space between ports is crowded, owners can use the included HDMI extension cable.) The other end features a micro USB port, where the charge cable would plug in, if necessary. Older televisions may not power Chromecast, but later models with more recent versions of HDMI might be able to supply the necessary electricity.

To find out which one you have, plug it into the TV first without the power cable, and see if it comes on with the television. If not, then you know you need to plug in the charge cable and wall adapter/power brick. (Don’t forget to choose the appropriate source on your television.)

Next, you’ll need to add your Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network. You can do this a couple of different ways, either by downloading the Chromecast mobile setup app on your Android or iOS device, or the desktop application. (You don’t need to do both, unless you want to have Chromecast settings control across all of your devices.)

Once Chromecast has been plugged in and the setup app has been installed, launch the application and follow the prompts. Be sure to have your Wi-Fi network name and password handy.

One look at your Google gadget tells you why these steps are necessary. The dongle has no keyboard, button or interface of any kind, so there’s no way to add the gizmo to your network without something acting as the input for it. In this case, it will be your mobile phone, tablet or computer.

Essentially, Chromecast creates its own network, and your mobile or laptop joins it, so they can communicate. Once that happens, you can use the ancillary device to name your Chromecast and add it to your wireless Internet network.

That’s App-tastic!: Discovering What To Cast

When Chromecast first launched, there were only four apps that worked with it. Now, there are 14, including Google’s own YouTube, Google Play TV & Movies and Google Play Music. Not a huge selection, but they cover some of the biggest and most popular offerings. Beyond those mentioned, you can currently use Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Pandora, VEVO, Red Bull.TV, Songza, Plex, PostTV, Viki and RealPlayer Cloud. Bear in mind that most of these require subscriptions with the individual services.

Google created a dedicated page listing Chromecast-friendly apps, and you may want to bookmark it. Over time, as more apps support the device, they’ll likely be added there for quick reference.

Once you have an app that you want to cast from, the task is simple. Just launch a compatible app and look for the cast icon.

When you see it, just tap that and choose your Chromecast to begin casting the content to your TV screen.

Here’s what it looks like on a Netflix video playing on an iPhone.

It’s the same icon in HBO GO, but in a different position.

And Pandora.

You can also stream videos and music using the related websites on your laptop, thanks to the Chrome browser.

Casting only works from the Chrome desktop browser (computer) or the individual supported apps (mobile). They also let you play, pause, scrub or adjust volume on the TV stream, like a remote control. Just be sure to have the specific app on screen (or website on your computer), when you need to change playback settings.

Note that you can’t cast website videos via Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer. It also won’t work using any of your phone’s Web browsers. This means you can’t use your phone’s Chrome browser app to cast.

Advanced Chromecasting tips: To stop TV casting and resume playback on a device, the user simply needs to select the Chromecast icon (on their mobile or laptop) and choose their device. The video or music stream will pick up at the same point the TV left off.

If several mobile users are on the same Wi-Fi network, any of them can also take control of the stream. They just need to launch the same app that’s casting and tap the Chromecast icon on their devices. In the case of YouTube, multiple phones and tablets can even see and add videos to a unified “TV Queue,” which works like a playlist. (Once joined to a YouTube Chromecast event, the “TV Queue” appears inside the app. Tap it to see what’s playing and what else is in line to play. Search for other YouTube videos, and a “+ TV Queue” option pops up.)

Other Ways To Cast

The section above outlines the primary use for Chromecast, which receives the stream directly from the Internet. Since the transmission doesn’t go from your phone or computer to the TV, there’s no hit on battery life.

Additionally, you can cast something directly from your computer to your television—whether a full Chrome browser tab, a compatible media file or your whole desktop screen. But be warned that it will zap your battery and, if it’s an older model, the laptop could struggle with this task.

Tab casting and desktop casting are experimental features, but they can come in handy if you want to share photos with a room full of people or pipe your own videos to the TV. You’ll need the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser to make this work. Once you add it to your browser, you’ll see the Cast icon you’re already familiar with sitting at the top of the browser window, near the URL bar. Bear in mind that tab casting can transmit audio, but desktop casting does not.

Tab casting is rather interesting for another reason. Thanks to this feature, anything you can open and play within a Chrome browser can play on your television. This includes many unsupported video sites—particularly at full screen playback—as well as select video files (including H.264 MP4 files and WMV vids), audio clips and songs, and images. You can open computer media files in Chrome easily, whether by dragging and dropping them on your Chrome browser or, within the application, going to “File -> Open File…”

Plex and RealPlayer Cloud also allow you to send your own files to Chromecast now as well, and they offer cloud streaming (to all of your devices) as well as organized libraries or folder structures, so you can find specific items easily.

The Google streaming stick’s affordability and relative ease of use has made it very popular among mainstream consumers. And the company’s recent Chromecast hackathon and rollout of new apps bode well for a future of widespread Chromecast support, making for a very happy year for online streaming fans.


Feature image by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite. 

Addition: A few Chromecast users have contacted me to report glitches with their units. Indeed, I have also noticed hiccups in my own Chromecast streaming as well. But in my case, the blame fell on an inconsistent wireless signal in my home. The device is entirely Wi-Fi dependent, so if your signal’s not strong or inconsistent, this could cause problems. Other users, with routers placed in the same room with their Chromecasts, tend to have smoother operation with their units. So if you experience issues, check your Wi-Fi signal and router placement.

How Technology Simplified My Move To A Big City

Apps can make starting over a little bit easier.

Selena Larson January 04, 2014 Social
Uprooting your life to start anew can be daunting. I came to San Francisco without a plan or place to live, and, after traveling to the city just once before I made a decision to move, the unfamiliarity was mildly uncomfortable. Which is why I relied on my iPhone to help me navigate the San Francisco hills and slowly become a Bay Area local.

From finding an apartment to making new friends, mobile devices can be the best way to connect with and discover cities around the world. I used all these apps exclusively on my Apple device, but most are available on Android, too, unless stated otherwise.

Do I Really Want To Live Here?

Before solidifying my California residency, I took a couple trips getting to know San Francisco and the quirks in various parts of the city. I found out quickly which neighborhoods I would like to live in, and which to avoid.

But instead of staying in hotels or traditional bed and breakfasts that cater to tourists, I used Airbnb. The Airbnb application lets users rent rooms or apartments from hosts who own the properties. While many people lament the quality of Airbnb digs—a closet-turned-bedroom isn’t that comfortable—the service helped me get a feel for the neighborhood without committing to a one-year lease.

Of course, there’s more to loving your neighborhood than just having a great apartment. Community discovery applications like Yelp and Foursquare provided suggestions for local hangouts for eating, drinking and exploring.

Foursquare recently updated its app to help users better discover new areas. It now pushes recommendations based on your location and previous check-ins—for instance, when your flight lands in Portland, you could get a notification containing the top restaurants in the area.

Finding A Home

As anyone who has moved to San Francisco knows, finding an apartment is almost impossible. I imagine it’s equally stressful in any big city, especially when you have specific criterion that need to be fulfilled.

It’s a good thing there’s an app for that.

Enter Lovely, the mobile application that makes it easy for renters to find their home. Lovely aggregates rental postings from around the Internet, including pulling listings from Craigslist. Lovely places them on an interactive map so you can immediately see where the rental is located, a list of apartment details, and view photos directly in the app. You can also set push notifications to be alerted when there is an available apartment in a desirable area.

I relied entirely on Lovely to find my apartment, but there are other services like Trulia and Craigslist Pro that can help with your search. And if you’re looking to furnish your new space with inexpensive furniture, Ikea’s augmented reality application can help you decide what furniture and home accessories look great and fit right in your living room.

Getting Around

After finally settling into my new apartment, my next challenge was figuring out how to get around. In many urban areas, residents rely on public transportation, or car services like Uber or Lyft—though you will rack up a hefty tab.

Google Maps has its own public transit directions, but if you prefer a separate application—and sometimes a more reliable service—there are a number of transit apps that can plan your trip.

NextBus, a Web-based application that’s optimized for mobile devices, delivers real-time transit information for cities across the country. Unlike Google’s transit data, NextBus regularly updates arrival information and changes arrival times when the buses fall behind. In New York and London, City Mapper is the ultimate transportation app, providing information on trains, buses and bike routes. And the iOS application Smart Ride available in a number of metropolitan areas around the world delivers up-to-date arrival alerts to improve your commute.

If you’re like me and sometimes need personal wheels, Zipcar can provide them. With Zipcar, you can rent a car via a mobile device and pick one up wherever is convenient. Using your smartphone and a card that unlocks the vehicle, you can be up and driving within minutes. Additionally, affordable prices make an occasional Zipcar much cheaper than upkeep on your own vehicle.

A New Social Life

Here’s secret no one tells you about getting older: It’s really tough to make friends.

When I needed to create a new social circle, Twitter was my lifesaver. It was easy to reach out to strangers and begin to have spontaneous conversations about San Francisco, technology and the Bay Area’s best nightlife in just 140 characters. Eventually, the group of friends I built on the service became friends offline, too.

There’s a new trend overtaking personal relationships—meeting each other online. It’s no longer considered “weird” to have met your partner on the Internet. Dating applications like Tinder, OkCupid, and Grindr take the awkward out of ice breakers and open up new opportunities to meet potential suitors.

I quickly found out I wasn’t the only transplant in San Francisco looking to grow my social group. Sosh came highly recommended—the iOS and Web app available now in San Francisco and New York, and soon to be available in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle, is an event and activity discovery app that lets you source ideas from friends and tastemakers in the city. And Nextdoor, a private social network exclusive to your neighborhood in a select geographic area, is an easy way to get to know your neighbors as well as keep your home and community safe.

Thanks to the handful of apps in the “social” bucket on my iPhone, my network of friends slowly grew.

And they helped me fall in love with the city I now call home.

Here’s what makes for good PR

Let’s get on the same page, shall we?

We came across a great read this morning written by Amy Westervelt, titled: “Stop complaining about your PR firm, here’s how the media works,” and it instantly struck a chord with us. Guess there’s no surprise here.

In our line of work, we’re often called on to generate a large number of PR opportunities for our clients. We do this strategically and tactically whether capitalizing on the days news, releasing new data, earnings calls, and more. From the very beginning of a client engagement, we try to work with our clients to explain the PR process and manage expectations so as to maximize the relationship and avoid any trouble or misunderstanding down the road. However, we all have had those clients that no matter what you say or do are just so narrowly focused on “just get us the hits now, we hired you, so make some magic happen,” that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

We have a saying at WISE PR, a good PR program should be like “Rolling Thunder” off in the distance. You should always hear it in the background and it should make itself known — all the time, not just when there is a single big event, which is akin to a “Firecracker” that explodes on the scene yet fades just as quickly.

No matter where you fall on this debate, the amount of work you put into PR is the same you will get out of it. PR does not work in a void. It requires collaboration and engagement from the client as much as it does from the firm. That said, there are some key areas that must be addressed to make the PR machine run smoothly and successfully:

  • PR does not work in a vacuum: Hiring an agency does not automatically mean that you’re going to see an increase in earned media. Putting a press release on a newswire does not count. Good PR takes a sincere collaborative effort on both sides — client and firm — to truly develop a PR strategy, maximize the press opportunities and achieve the subsequent business goals, whether its awareness, increased sales, share of voice, thought leadership, capital raise, an exit, etc.
  • Establishing relationships: That’s the essence of PR at its core. We advocate for our clients and insist that they establish and cultivate their own relationships with media which we initiate on their behalf. The reality is that you’re going to work with them moving forward and it’s vital that you make yourself available whenever there’s a request for information, an interview, meeting, or comment on a broader industry trend/news.
  • Creating content: Words alone are not going to instantly make media cover your story. We need to think about the bigger picture and give the media what they need from the start. This includes digital assets, whether it’s photos, videos, infographics, etc. all with the ability to fully shape the story and give media better context to understand and showcase the coverage to their editors first then to their readers. Press releases are fine, and serve as a fact sheet, but not every announcement will get coverage. Blog posts are fine as well and provide content to link back to. All of the content that’s created is designed to drive traffic back to your site or social channel and improve SEO.
  • Are you drinking the kool-aid: Is the story that you’re asking us to pitch that compelling beyond the four walls of your conference room? why should anyone care? If you can answer that, then there’s likely a story there.
  • Case studies: A restaurant is judged on its food and service. A tech company is often judged on the clients that it has and sometimes on the amount of money they raise. However, media really just wants to know “can you backup your story” with case studies and proof points? If not, don’t bother, media will not care about your product.
  • Speed is essential: We need to be first to respond to breaking news — propose data, comment, etc. — directly to media. If not you, then media will go on to their next source on their list and that person will be perceived as the subject matter expert and not you.

These are some important points to address in what it takes to make a successful PR program. We live in a very data-driven 24/7 news-cycle so it’s more vital than ever to break through the noise, but also bear in mind that good PR is a work in progress and needs to be effective, agile, and savvy to truly make it work. But it also requires the client to also be committed to its success by being an active participant in the PR process.

Written by

MD, West Coast; VP, Media Relations @WISEPR @johnny_mac

Published November 20, 2013

3 Reasons We Need to be More Obsessive in 2014

A take on New Years Resolutions.

1. Being Obsessed Means You Actually Want It

The truth is – talk is really cheap. It only takes a second to retweet a link about working out or being healthy, but it’s a full-time thing if you really want to do it. If you are genuinely looking to lose weight in 2014 then make it you. Go all out. Do it. Be obsessed.

The key distinction between people who get things done and those who don’t is that they live it. Want to be fluent in spanish? You don’t want it if you’re not practicing everyday. You just kind of want it. You’re not obsessed. Want to learn web development? Wake up each morning an hour early and practice on or on Breathe it. Be obsessed. Want to do X in 2014? Be obsessed. I guarantee you’ll do it, and then some. If you’re obsessed with something, you’ll see unparalleled success. There is no secret. It’s that simple.

Take risks and you’ll get the payoffs. Learn from your mistakes until you succeed. It’s that simple.

Bobby Flay

2. Obsessed Means you have interests, Not “Pinterests”

I gotta say, Millennials tend to get a bad reputation of having shallow interests. And I’ll admit, it can be somewhat accurate at times. Myself included. Instagram & Netflix are not a hobbies, as much I, and others sometimes want them to be.

But…could be? Yes.

If one was obsessed with photography or film, that is. In 2014, go out an become a nerd in that thing you’re interested in reading about. Become obsessed with with the subject of your favorite twitter account. An interest is not something you that you want to dabble in, but something that you breathe.

Go out and make a film. Go out and write a song. Go out and start a blog. Even if the first attempt is bad, become obsessed with what you envision it to be and then get it there. In 2014, Netflix, Spotify, and Twitter don’t count.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not…

…But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.”

Ira Glass

3. Obsession Creates A Personal Brand

This is something you have to actually worry about. In 2014, you’re going to have to differentiate yourself to get that next job, position, or recognition. Or maybe you just want to be different to be different. Regardless, you need to let people know who you are. The world is becoming more and more competitive, chaotic, and ruthless. In 2014, you need to have a strong personal brand.

Being obsessed is the way to do it.

The fact of the matter is that people don’t want to hear about how you like technology all that much.

Maybe your mom. That’s about it.

But, people listen to those that are obsessed with technology, that blog about technology, and “make it them”. Being obsessed with something creates such as strong connection between you and your obsession that other people will remember you more often, and you’ll always have more credibility when it comes to that subject matter. It also opens the doors to new opportunities, and it makes you the “go to person.” In complex social networks, being that person is very important for personal growth.

Branding is no longer for Fortune 500 companies and Madison Avenue agencies with excessive budgets and inadequate tracking.

Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records.

Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name.

Going to a job interview? Ditto.

Tim Ferriss

In 2014, I dare you. Be obsessed.

Written by

A healthy mix of nerd, sexy, coffee, and ambition. Representing @the_cospace, @PennStatePLA, @InnobluePSU. I like coffee and tacos.

Lessons from an asshole. How I got sued for a parody twitter account.

It must have been the summer after Twitter launched. Several of our employees and I were putting it to use. We were having fun with the new medium.

One day, our building’s maintenance guy walked into the studio (as he often would) to give us a lecture about leaving the building door open on the weekend. He was an interesting individual who was rumored to live on a pallet in another building across the street. Nobody knew his real name. He simply introduced himself as the name of an animal. For the purpose of this story, I will refer to him as Snake, which has zero connection to his fictional and/or real name.

Snake was an interesting guy. He was the sort of person who wanted you to know he was important because he wore a large keychain on his waste that probably had keys to a good number of buildings and offices in the downtown area that our studio resided. In general, he was a nice enough guy. He had his moments though where he’d accuse our employees of leaving doors open, parking our moped on the sidewalks (none of us owned one), not properly throwing out trash, and just about anything else he could point the finger at us for.

Anyhow, one day Snake came in while I was in the middle of a sales call and started accusing us of doing something wrong… while I was on a call. I was a little frustrated and had to shoo him out of the studio so that I could focus on my call. Afterwards, the team laughed a bit as this was par for the course with our experience of interacting with him.

At a nearby coffee shop, the baristas would share their own stories of interacting with the infamous Snake. He was well known in the neighborhood for this sort of thing. Just about anyone who knew Snake… believed that he saw himself as a vigilante who was trying to clean up the filth in the neighborhood.

Having already created a handful of fake twitter accounts (i.e. alanpartridge is my most popular one), I decided that Snake needed one.

The twitter version of Snake quickly became a hit in the studio. I shared the account username/password details with the employees, the baristas, and before we knew it… Snake had about 40-50 followers from around the neighborhood and several folks were tweeting as Snake. In fact, the CEO of one popular tech company in the neighborhood sent an email to his entire organization with a link to it, “You have to check this out… this is hilarious!” In response, we shared the account information with those people too. Snake was viral… well at least in a 3-4 block radius.

This inspired me to take Snake’s account on a whirlwind of stories. We gave Snake an online persona that hinted at a very disturbed history but would also show that he was quite the intellectual. Snake was a huge fan of Sartre and Proust.

Admittedly, some of the tweets were really dark. Snake hinted at having trouble cleaning up blood stains, having an embarrassing sexual encounter in an elevator, getting blisters on his hands from shoveling without gloves, etc.

As an example, Snake tweeted on Christmas Day…

“Today marks seven years since I let go of her hand, which would explain why I don’t cross bridges anymore on Dec 25th.”

As you can see, vague… yet suggestive of some dark subject matter. Morbid even.

This account was marginally active for a little under a year before we moved out of the neighborhood.

About a year later, one of the baristas contacted me to warn me, “Hey, Snake found out about the twitter account. He’s pissed!”

Immediately, I felt this huge amount of guilt. Here I was, thinking that Snake was unlikely to know much about the internet… let alone twitter and now our inside joke (that was public-facing) was read by him.

I remember trying to rationalize why I felt it was okay at the time. Snake was always nagging us and we used humor to cope with it. I had taken this way too far and got caught doing it. Embarrassed, I tried to track him down to apologize in person. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find him and he was gone for a few weeks.

At this point, my major worry was that I would get a very upset Snake showing up one day to talk with me. I deserved it.

What I didn’t expect… was the rest of the story.

Apparently, Snake was a bit of a black sheep in his family. His mother, we have since learned, is a lawyer. A friend of his mother (another lawyer) helped Snake sue our company for Invasion of Privacy (Appropriation of Likeness, False Light) Defamation, and Emotional Distress.

The total lawsuit amount? $200,000 USD. (Yep, you read that right.)

Until this point, I never knew Snake’s real name.

I had to find us a lawyer. We needed to figure out whether Snake had a real case or not. What was the likelihood that someone could sue someone for creating an obviously fake twitter account about someone who referred to himself as… Snake? Most people that I spoke to said that they would have a hard time getting a win… but what would it cost us to figure that out?

Without a doubt, I was a huge asshole. …but was I financially liable for damages?

What we learned after speaking to a few lawyers was that this could potentially become a legal nightmare. Did we really want to spend the money fighting this or should we settle on some monetary value for damages. I spent a lot of time looking for social media related lawsuits, but this was 2010 and there wasn’t a lot published yet. After a lot of back and forth with our lawyer and insurance company… we ended up negotiating on a slightly more reasonable settlement.

Was it the right decision? Was it fair? We’ll never know.

If anything, I hope that it help Snake get into a better position in his life.

In the years that have passed, this story still comes up from time to time. A lot of close friends know about this… but many don’t. It was a hard lesson in how being an asshole can have huge ramifications. A lesson that I’ve been quite embarrassed to share. I recently felt compelled to share it because I thought it might encourage others to think a little harder before they do something like this themselves.

Unfortunately, I never did get a chance to personally apologize to Snake.

I’m sorry.

Written by

Lover of single malt scotch. Founder and strategy geek @PlanetArgon, a creative web and mobile agency. We dream, measure, and make cool stuff.

Published January 2, 2014