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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook & The Internet


Envision individuals in creating nations thinking Facebook is the passage to the Internet. They might log into Facebook to gain access to email, Wikipedia pages, climate data, and sustenance costs. In the event that they needed extra administrations like the capability to stream motion picture, they can purchase it with a basic navigate Facebook.

That is Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Internet.org.

At the Mobile World Congress on Monday, Zuckerberg outlined some of his arrangements for making headway with Internet.org, the activity headed by Facebook to carry Internet connectivity to poor nations around the globe.

While Zuckerberg touted the philanthropic vision of his organization’s objective to associate the following one billion individuals, its vital to note that the task isn’t right for the sole purpose of carrying fundamental administrations to those that don’t have it, but instead carrying a huge number of extra eyeballs to Facebook and its promoters.

“[we are] making it with the goal that we can build the measure of up-offers to memberships when they’re utilizing these fundamental administrations,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote. “They will go to a connection that isn’t incorporated in the essential administrations bundle; a popup that says, alright in the event that you need to expend this, you need to purchase this information plan.”

Facebook is making a long haul guarantee to both information bearers and promoters Zuckerberg said the following one billion individuals to accomplish Internet access won’t be as well-off as those as of recently on Facebook, in this way making it harder to adapt the organization’s administrations. Zuckerberg said the interpersonal organization will sponsor Facebook, Messenger, and different administrations like climate or fundamental news and data, and after that give up-offers in requisitions to convey the entire bundle like a door drug. Those up-offers are the place transporters and Facebook profit.

“The motivation behind why they’re not on [the Internet] is they don’t know why they might need to get access to it,” Zuckerberg said. “[we will show] individuals why its objective and bravo to use the restricted cash that they have on the Internet.”

How Whatsapp Fits Into Internet.org

Facebook as of late used $19 billion to get the versatile informing provision Whatsapp, a requisition Zuckerberg cases will be one of the few administrations to store up a billion clients later on. He guaranteed that, without anyone else present, Whatsapp is worth more than what the organization paid for it.

In creating nations like those Internet.org is focusing on, numerous individuals depend on SMS correspondences because of an absence of information administrations. Whatsapp is as of now prevalent in numerous developing markets, incorporating those in South America and Asia where Facebook’s development was stagnating.

While blasting in fame, Whatsapp was confronting weight to adapt. It as of recently had a membership based plan of action, yet keeping in mind the end goal to handle the onrushing of clients, Whatsapp would’ve required to keep tabs on building out a plan of action. With the Facebook obtaining, Whatsapp was given the chance to center only on development without stressing over income models, since Facebook is taking care of everything.

The Next One Billion

“Joining the world” is Facebook’s vision—one that can’t be attained without the backing of different associations, including the six telecom organizations it collaborated with for the Internet.org activity.

Zuckerberg said the association is searching for an extra three to five accomplices to carry ready for, that will wager huge that Facebook subsidies of social administrations will pay off by up-offering their information plans. In most immature nations, 2g and 3g information systems are as of now accessible; individuals simply don’t comprehend the quality of the Internet yet.

“One thing I think is not difficult to underestimate is that most individuals on the planet don’t have admittance to the Internet,” he said.

In place for Facebook’s technique to work, it will make Internet moderately competitive, and furnish motivating forces like free Facebook access—for individuals to utilize it. Less expensive base, simpler openness and up-offering extra information utilization will at last develop the organization into a worldwide Internet supplier.

A Facebook telephone may have fizzled in the U.s., however it may very well work in universal markets. By utilizing Facebook as an on-incline to the Internet, the following one billion individuals will utilize social logins to control different applications, as well as their whole Internet utilizat

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Internet.org Sealed The Deal On What’s App


More than a couple of individuals were shocked when Facebook said it might pay $19 billion for informing application startup Whatsapp, however today Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he accepted it was really worth more.

“Assuming that we can benefit work with Whatsapp [and] develop it, it will be a colossal business,” he said today throughout a keynote presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He additionally shed a touch of light on why Whatsapp, headed by prime supporter Jan Koum, got intrigued by a Facebook retreat — from every angle, a tie-up that Koum in 2012 guaranteed was not a way he might have needed to take: it was a result of Internet.org, the Facebook-headed activity to carry web connectivity to creating economies.

“Why were we eager to do this together? It was the Internet.org vision and how we can interface the world,” Zuckerberg said. While Koum and Whatsapp likewise appeared to have had the same humanitarian inspiration driving their reality correspondences mastery desire, it might have not been conceivable for them to execute on it as effectively as they will with Facebook.

“In the event that they finished this as a free organization they might have needed to keep tabs on how to construct the organization out, to scale it, yet now they can concentrate on how to join the one to two billion individuals.” He accentuated that Whatsapp might remain totally autonomous however have admittance to all of Facebook’s assets to develop.

Yet one thing that may not develop whenever soon is Facebook’s portfolio of obtained informing new businesses. Asked by somebody in the crowd if he might attempt again for Snapchat — an organization that Facebook evidently has attempted to obtain more than once — Zuckerberg at first totally blanked the inquiry. At that point, when questioner David Kirkpatrick carried it up a second time, he shed a touch a greater amount of a reply.

“Look, when you’ve barely purchased an organization for $16 billion (not checking the Rsus), chances are you are likely done with your acquisitions for some time,” Zuckerberg said.

“With you, I don’t have the foggiest idea,” Kirkpatrick replied.

Today Zuckerberg additionally laid out considerably more insight about how he sees the part of Internet.org.

The thought, he said, is to create an assembly of fundamental web benefits that might be for nothing out of pocket to utilize — “a 911 for the web.” These could be a long range interpersonal communication administration like Facebook, an informing administration, perhaps pursuit and different things like climate.

Furnishing a heap of these complimentary to clients will work like a passage pill of sorts — clients who may have the ability to manage the cost of information administrations and telephones nowadays simply don’t see the purpose of why they might pay for those information administrations. This might provide for them some setting for why they are essential, and that will lead them to paying for additional administrations like this — or thereabouts the trust goes.

“What they imagine for bearers is that it will be dependent upon them to choose what fundamental administrations could be free. Our model and what we’re attempting to raise is putting in an onramp is better for the web and their models. It’s something that we can work out and have a considerable measure of decision in,” he said.

Zuckerberg — who geeked out on particular references to how portable systems might be fabricated and the financials behind Internet.org (there are three zones here, he said: the generally speaking foundation, diminishing the measure of information that is, no doubt utilized, expanding provision productively) — was clear in conceding that Internet.org won’t be a lucrative try from the begin. At the same time he was likewise extremely hopeful.

“I can’t portray any model for the close term of how this might function for publicizing model…  I think we will lose cash on this for some time,” he noted. “Be that as it may we’ve been doing this for just a couple of months and individuals utilizing information within Philippines [where Internet.org has banded together with Globe Telecom] has multiplied from that point forward…  From what we’ve seen and rate of change we’re greatly certain this will be gainful.”

On the proficiency of information administrations alone, he utilized the illustration of Facebook itself. A year back individuals utilized 14 megabytes for every day on Facebook, he said. Right away, with enhancements in packing on their versatile applications, that is currently down to 2 megabytes. The point is to cut that down to 1 megabyte one year from now. (Onavo and its information clamping innovation additionally becomes possibly the most important factor here.)

Zuckerberg was identifying with a room loaded with bearers and he knew it. For somebody who expertly helped lead his organization through raising money and an open offering, now he’s turning his regard for getting purchase in from another class of speculators: he’s searching for between three and five more telcos to convey national activi

Kim Dotcom Answers My Questions. The Backstory.


About a month ago, like any other person who follows the tech news cycle, I saw that Kim Dotcom— former Megaupload founder and entertainment industry public enemy number one— was gearing up to unleash a new music service called Baboom.

I figured anyone who could create something as massive and well-liked as Megaupload was probably onto something, and this was right around the time the much-hyped Beats Music streaming service was getting ready to launch, so I checked it out.

What I found, somewhat disappointingly, was that Baboom wasn’t fully up yet. The site was still in pre-beta. But what was there was the ability to download Kim Dotcom’s debut album Good Times.

Now of course the initial thinking when hearing that a German-Finnish hacker-cum-entrepreneur fighting RICO charges from the United States Department of Justice has made an album is, well, how could this record possibly be good? I mean, what are the odds of that? Turns out, they’re pretty damn good.

I downloaded Good Times with absolutely no expectations, but found myself almost instantly captivated by its cheerful and fun sound. Without much thought at all, I realized after a few days that I was listening to it a lot. Was this the best pop album I’d heard in a while? Potentially.

I scanned the Internet for articles about Kim Dotcom’s new LP and noticed that in the United States, not a single serious music outlet had published anything about it. If there was mention of it at all, it was a short blog post about Baboom and then a link to the record. Nothing else.

There were some reviews that came out of Europe, but they were mostly negative. It seemed like reviewers were writing off the record because music critics like to write off anything that sounds remotely accessible. They definitely don’t take well to people outside of the ‘serious’ music community making good music. That made me want to do this story even more. At a point, it was all I could think about.

So on a lark and without commitment of a media brand to publish a story, I sent an email to the address on Kim Dotcom’s twitter account, telling him a little about myself and how I was interested in interviewing him. At no point at all did I think that my email would be ignored. I’m sure that Kim gets a million emails a day, but I was pretty convinced he would see this one. I have no idea why; call it a hunch.

But just for posterity’s sake, after I sent the email, I tweeted at him to let him know I’d reached out, like I’m sure many people do. Low and behold, a friend of mine— Pep, a creative branding and marketing consultant, whom I know something like 10 years— saw the tweet, and sent me a direct message. He told me that he was actually already talking to the people behind Baboom, and that he could put me directly in touch with them. I told him what my ideas for an interview were, he reached out to the appropriate party, and just like that, it was game on.

I mention this part about Twitter because journalists often have this thing about secrecy on big stories, this idea that they shouldn’t let you know what they’re working on. When I worked full time in magazines, it was all about keeping the cover a secret. God forbid anyone find out what you’re doing! These days, awash in media everywhere, it’s the complete opposite. You almost have to let the cat out of the bag to get things done. It helps galvanize the community of friends and supporters that surround your brand, and finds people helping out when you least expect. You never know who’s watching. I love it.

Kim Dotcom agreed to an interview, but the problem was I still didn’t have a media outlet interested in the story. So I quickly made a list of 4-5 premium brands that would be potentially interested, and started firing off emails to editors.

Considering the fact that 60 Minutes ran a story on Kim in early January, and that the guy was basically untouchable, I thought editors would leap at the chance to get in on this. I mean, this is a guy who, two years ago, found his New Zealand mansion raided like an Al Quaeda compound over pirated movies, music and software. Why wouldn’t you want to talk to him? That’s a story!

But the state of media in the United States is, I dunno… not in a good place. Kim is vilified as this guy who was once behind a major piracy organization, and people didn’t really want to touch this thing. In my interview with him, he said that behind-the-scenes he’s been labeled as ‘toxic,’ and that’s the sense I got from talking to editors. Everyone was acting like they were 5-years-old. Like Kim Dotcom had ‘cooties.’

Well, everyone except Complex. I have to hand it to them. I gave them my pitch, and while everyone else was happy to tell me to fuck off, they were into this, and so they became my brand partner on presenting this story. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have a long history of publishing hard-hitting journalism with Complex. It’s obvious why they’re winning. If you have a decent idea and at least some modicum of talent, they’re in. I’m extremely proud it’s published there.

A few days later, I hopped on Skype with Kim Dotcom. It was 3 AM in New Zealand, and he was settling in after a long day. We talked for about two hours and he was extremely forthcoming and chatty about pretty much anything that I wanted to ask him.

We talked about his music, about the N.S.A., about Google, censorship, the music industry, copyright law, the Department of Justice and the future of the Internet. I’m usually fairly reserved with praise— it’s easy to be impressed when you’re the one asking all the questions— but I definitely got the sense that Kim knows where things are going.

Read part 1 of my interview with Kim Dotcom at Complex.com

If you like this please click “Recommend” below. Questions, comments, inquiries? Email me PAULCANTOR@gmail.com or call/message me directly at 917.470.7221

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What I gained from working at Tumblr


December 2010

December 2010

Whew. Yahoo’s $1B acquisition of Tumblr has brought a lot of commentary, opinions and analysis out of the woodwork. It seems everyone has something to say about the event.

This will not be a top 5 list. I don’t have lists of top 5 things I’ve learned, or mistakes Tumblr made, or microbrews the engineers like. This is a meandering series of observations that I am trying to work out with myself — they’re lessons, yes, but they’re also the causes that effect me to view technology, product development and company culture as a petri dish of immense fascination.

It’s about being the only person to have worked at Yahoo, at Flickr and at Tumblr.

It’s seeing the ways that small actions can be a great force for right or wrong, how personalities can have an immense effect on a company, and in turn, on millions of users across the world, and how no matter what the press simplifies as the cause for major events, the reality is nuanced, given to movement in inches that topples the boulder rather than a Herculean push.

This is my first Medium post. I figured if there’s a place for introspective ramblings, it’s this platform.

I joined Tumblr as the 2nd wave of hires, as the 10th or 11th employee. I consider the 1st wave to be Jacob, Peter, and John as well as a few others. The first wave had helped David build Tumblr to be this gorgeous and addictive thing that was growing fast. Marco had just left to start Instapaper. Jared moved on to build GroupMe. And Meaghan had decamped to Kickstarter. There would be 3rd and 4th and 5th waves and so on. But in the early days, when it was 10 to 20 people, there was something really really special – we were on a rocketship changing engines in mid-flight..

SXSW house – picture by David.

I came to the job as a fan. I had emailed Tumblr on a whim, telling them of my admiration and absolute belief that it was going to be the next big thread in the social fabric of the Internet:

As I find myself discovering daily Tumblr awesomeness, I thought, “This is exactly the place where I want to help build and make better.”

A few months later, John called me on the phone while I was in Argentina and a few weeks later, I met David and the team and instantly felt at home.

I joined to take the product further, to help David execute his vision as he took on the large responsibilities of being the CEO. Tumblr was growing fast and David was needed to build out the engineering team, to scale operations, to manage fundraising and marketing and — basically, according to Marco  — all the things he didn’t really like to do. And I was brought in to handle the one thing he did like to do, which was to envision the product and design. (Whoa!) I thought I was going to teach the guys a lot, having worked for years at building another pretty cool platform, Flickr. Instead, it was me to learned tons, mainly from David himself.

Walking from USV’s office because we ran out of meeting space.

It was humbling to work with David. And sometimes challenging to my ego. He has an incredible way of bringing you into his orbit. Even with all of the other things he had to worry about — the downtimes, decisions to bring in senior level management to control parts of his baby that he never had to worry about before, orienting Tumblr around creators instead of being a mass-market blogging tool, figuring out the international markets and growing community vectors like fashion, arts, music and so on — he was so on top of product that on most days it felt like I was two steps behind thinking through all the ways in which people would love or hate the features that we planned to push.

And important to me, we were all friends when the company was small. We went to lunch together, we played card games after work — the guys even went to my wedding in the middle of nowhere, Maryland. I was changing the world with a bunch of people I could go have drinks with — and we did! So many features and ideas came around the dinner table in those months. I got kind of fat.

Last hurrah at our wedding

More than anything, I loved the quiet hours, after everyone had gone home. David would sit on the couch and sketch in his notepad. Then he would walk by my desk and asked, “Hey, can we catch up on product stuff?”

Invariably, hours later, we’d both get stupid excited about the new stuff that we could build. I’d suggest things, and I can count on one hand when David hadn’t thought about it already.

David was perpetually excited about Tumblr. I have never seen his enthusiasm wane . Everyone who worked at Tumblr were all in love with the product and used it every moment — but David had us all beat. He lived and breathed the product.

Matt Hackett & David Karp

Looking back, some of the things we built were awesome – and I’m glad to have added a bit of Flickr DNA to the features — kind of funny considering now Tumblr will be Flickr’s cousin in the Yahoo family.

The EXIF information attached to each photo – that was a refraction of my obessession with an image’s contextual data. Having curators for the tag program – that was a reaction to Flickr’s Explore feature, where algorithmns can only turn up so many similar HDR images before human sensibilities have to take over. Reworking the photoset to show all the images instead of a lightbox photo – another reaction to the standard lightbox/slideshow experiences that were in vogue at the time. Starting a developer/API program – also a useful lesson I learned from Flickr.

There were some things that I wished I had done differently, had pushed for harder or done more forcefully. Controlling our own mobile destiny faster is one of them, and I’m happy to see Tumblr rolling out so many awesome updates on their apps recently. It’s also a measure of satisfaction to see so many items on the roadmap that we talked about getting shipped by a bigger, stronger and talented team of 175 people.

Lunch on most days.

In the end, Tumblr is David and David is Tumblr. From every word on the blog post (e.g. he hated to use “best”) to the sheen on the dashboard’s buttons, David’s imprint is all over the company. It’s hard to have two strong visions at play, and the way the team is structured now, with product engineering building things and product design visualizing things — makes a lot of sense for the company’s growth. From all reports, if Marissa is true to her word to give David the independence to dream his great dreams, I think Tumblr’s best days are ahead.

Tumblr – as with any company or product – isn’t about a featureset or even the numbers.. or in some cases, even the users. It starts with the people who dream up something different, who love what they’re doing and can’t wait to share with the world their crazy ideas. It’s the engineers and designers and support staff and salespeople and office managers and marketers who come to work each day to build something better. And at the heart of Tumblr is a founder who is also its hardest working employee.

Camp Tumblr, picture by David

David also gave me the itch to chase after my vision. And now, starting on my own journey to build something new, I’m even more amazed at what Tumblr has accomplished.

Building something new is hard.

Doing anything that you can to keep it growing and going and persisting is something else entirely. And I have high hopes for Tumblr’s place in the world.

So here’s the lead, buried way at the end. What did I gain from working at Tumblr? Clarity of vision triumphs in the end. Build something new. Be original. Do what you love. Empty truisms? On most days, yes.. but when real life events punch you in the face with the reminder that “yes, ye skeptics, striving to be good can work out”, then I’m willing to pause a moment and listen.

Why Facebook is Killing Silicon Valley


We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…

— John F. Kennedy, September 1962

Innovation
I teach entrepreneurship for ~50 student teams a year from engineering schools at Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia. For the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps this year I’ll also teach ~150 teams led by professors who want to commercialize their inventions. Our extended teaching team includes venture capitalists with decades of experience.

The irony is that as good as some of these nascent startups are in material science, sensors, robotics, medical devices, life sciences, etc., more and more frequently VCs whose firms would have looked at these deals or invested in these sectors, are now only interested in whether it runs on a smart phone or tablet. And who can blame them.

Facebook and Social Media
Facebook has adroitly capitalized on market forces on a scale never seen in the history of commerce. For the first time, startups can today think about a Total Available Market in the billions of users (smart phones, tablets, PC’s, etc.) and aim for hundreds of millions of customers. Second, social needs previously done face-to-face, (friends, entertainment, communication, dating, gambling, etc.) are now moving to a computing device. And those customers may be using their devices/apps continuously. This intersection of a customer base of billions of people with applications that are used/needed 24/7 never existed before.

The potential revenue and profits from these users (or advertisers who want to reach them) and the speed of scale of the winning companies can be breathtaking. The Facebook IPO has reinforced the new calculus for investors. In the past, if you were a great VC, you could make $100 million on an investment in 5-7 years. Today, social media startups can return 100’s of millions or even billions in less than 3 years. Software is truly eating the world.

If investors have a choice of investing in a blockbuster cancer drug that will pay them nothing for fifteen years or a social media application that can go big in a few years, which do you think they’re going to pick? If you’re a VC firm, you’re phasing out your life science division. As investors funding clean tech watch the Chinese dump cheap solar cells in the U.S. and put U.S. startups out of business, do you think they’re going to continue to fund solar? And as Clean Tech VC’s have painfully learned, trying to scale Clean Tech past demonstration plants to industrial scale takes capital and time past the resources of venture capital. A new car company? It takes at least a decade and needs at least a billion dollars. Compared to IOS/Android apps, all that other stuff is hard and the returns take forever.

Instead, the investor money is moving to social media. Because of the size of the market and the nature of the applications, the returns are quick – and huge. New VC’s, focused on both the early and late stage of social media have transformed the VC landscape. (I’m an investor in many of these venture firms.) But what’s great for making tons of money may not be the same as what’s great for innovation or for our country. Entrepreneurial clusters like Silicon Valley (or NY, Boston, Austin, Beijing, etc.) are not just smart people and smart universities working on interesting things. If that were true we’d all still be in our parents garage or lab. Centers of innovation require investors funding smart people working on interesting things — and they invest in those they believe will make their funds the most money. And for Silicon Valley the investor flight to social media marks the beginning of the end of the era of venture capital-backed big ideas in science and technology.

Don’t Worry We Always Bounce Back
The common wisdom is that Silicon Valley has always gone through waves of innovation and each time it bounces back by reinventing itself.

[Each of these waves of having a clean beginning and end is a simplification. But it makes the point that each wave was a new investment thesis with a new class of investors as well as startups.] The reality is that it took venture capital almost a decade to recover from the dot-com bubble. And when it did Super Angels and new late stage investors whose focus was social media had remade the landscape, and the investing thesis of the winners had changed. This time the pot of gold of social media may permanently change that story.

What Next
It’s sobering to realize that the disruptive startups in the last few years not in social media – Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Google driverless cars, Google Glasses – were the efforts of two individuals, Elon Musk, and Sebastian Thrun (with the backing of Google.) (The smartphone and tablet computer, the other two revolutionary products were created by one visionary in one extraordinary company.) We can hope that as the Social Media wave runs its course a new wave of innovation will follow. We can hope that some VC’s remain contrarian investors and avoid the herd. And that some of the newly monied social media entrepreneurs invest in their dreams. But if not, the long-term consequences for our national interests will be less than optimum.

For decades the unwritten manifesto for Silicon Valley VC’s has been: We choose to invest in ideas, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

Here’s hoping that one day they will do it again.

Read more Steve Blank posts at www.steveblank.com.

Before You Build, Understand the Demand


I’m a huge fan of Lean Startup thinking and believe applying the scientific method to the design process is a profound and essential concept.

However, I have a minor beef with the popularization of the “Build > Measure > Learn” methodology, or at least its name:

Calling it “Build > Measure > Learn” leaves it open to the misinterpretation that something has to be built before you can measure or learn anything of value.

This is definitely not the case. Understanding the underlying demand a product exists to serve is crucial and much more important than understanding the effectiveness of the product itself.

Iteratively building out a product is just one of many, many ways to explore and define that underlying demand. If it’s the only one you’re using, you’re artificially limiting yourself to a single, lengthy and very expensive method of inquiry.

Building something is the most expensive way to validate your assumption that it should exist.


Lots of Ways to Understand Demand

Here’s just a small sampling of ways to quantify demand without having to actually build the thing to find out:

  • Pre-Sell It
    There’s no sound quite like a check being cut. If you can get someone to buy it before it’s even built, that’s a very strong indicator of demand.
  • Fake doors
    If the feature was built, where would they go to click through and use it? Add links in those locations as if it already existed and point them to “coming soon” screens. See how much engagement those links get.
  • AdWords Testing
    Run AdWords campaigns whose copy describes what your feature would do. Point them to landing pages designed to capture contact info. Measure demand in clickthroughs & signups.
  • In-App Surveys
    It is generally inadvisable to only pay attention to what customers say instead of what they do, but you can gather some great insights by asking people questions within the context of your app.

All of the above require either zero or minimal engineering hours to pull off. Some of them cost some money to carry out, but compared to the cost of actually developing something, it’s a paltry sum.

You may think taking these steps would slow your company down, but that would only be true if your definition of progress was something as limited as “building things”.

If you instead define progress as “delivering value to the customer”, you can see how these approaches actually speed things up by avoiding the time-suck of developing things that don’t have a demand.


Building is Investing

What these all have in common with iterative product development (the “build” in Build > Measure > Learn) is that they’re investments of time, money and effort applied to better understanding what it is that people want.

When “building” is thought of as an investment in understanding rather than an inevitable, necessary step, it becomes clear that it’s only one of many options, and not always the most desirable one at that.

To remind myself of this, I’ve stopped calling it “Build > Measure > Learn” and started calling it “Invest > Measure > Learn” instead.

This reframes the method to something that I feel is more accurate to its spirit, and serves as an ongoing reminder to always employ the most effective and efficient options to validate my ideas.

When I build, I’m placing a bet that I’ve accurately identified and understood a demand. Using all the tools in the “understanding demand” toolkit significantly increases the chances of that bet being a winning one.


Fin


I hope you enjoyed the article!
You can follow me on Twitter at @SamuelHulick to find out whenever others just like it come out.
I'm also writing a book on User Onboarding!

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Microsoft’s Aggressive Platform Push


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Microsoft recently announced a number of changes to its Windows 8.x and Windows Phone platforms that underscore it is doubling down on Windows.

Breaking Friday was the news that Microsoft will lower the per-device cost to OEMs to ship Windows 8.x on less expensive devices. Bloomberg’s Dina Bass wrote that for devices that sell to consumers for $250 or less, Microsoft will charge $15 for use of Windows 8.1, a 70 percent decline on previous rates.

This allows OEMs to enjoy far stronger margins on low-cost Windows devices, making the Windows world more attractive to the ever margin-strapped device manufacturer world. Also, this brings the cost of Windows on cheap tablets more in line with the cost of Windows Phone on smartphones, an important change given the coming unification between the two core Windows platforms. Microsoft is still coy on the matter, but its executives have essentially laid the plan bare publicly.

This morning at Mobile World Congress Microsoft announced a sheaf of new product changes to both Windows 8.x and Windows Phone, including improvements to the core desktop experience of Windows proper, and aggressive moves to extend the capability of OEMs to build Windows Phone handsets.

In addition to a ready-to-go template, and work to allow Android handsets to run Windows Phone more simply, Microsoft listed off a grip of new OEMs that are on board to work on Windows Phone itself; if the platform is to live and die by partners, as it has thus far (both flavors of Windows), making the lives of those partners easier is simple calculus.

The announced Windows 8.x changes — detail remains light, expect more at Build in a few months — and the Windows Phone platform improvements continue the company’s bet on both Windows, and its ability to grow a platform of its own. This means Microsoft is wagering that it doesn’t need to retrench to lean on Android, for example, an idea that some externally have floated.

What you need to keep in mind is that work Microsoft does now to improve Windows Phone is work proper to its strategy to unify that platform, and experience with Windows RT. So, the work that the company is doing to better support keyboard and mouse users is almost separate; that work is in a different use-case silo.

Lowering the cost for Windows on low-cost devices could help the company foster a new cadre of devices that will eventually run whatever the Second Windows is; so the new OEM group supporting Windows Phone implies future hardware support for what comes next. That’s important.

All the above — and I’ll have more for you in the coming days — indicates so far as your humble servant can divine from lumpy tea sediment that Microsoft hasn’t changed its course in betting that a unified Windows experience across device classes with a firm shared application development environment is a strategy worth following.

Can Windows Phone take on Android or iOS in the short-term? No, at least not in terms of developer buy-in. But a unified Windows ecosystem that helps developers build once and deploy diversely to a growing set of devices could be something different altogether, in the medium and long-term.

Microsoft is not out of the arboreal subset, but it is wagering on building something big of its own, instead of depending on others. In the platforms wars, there likely isn’t another option. It remains a question of execution.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER DELL INC. UNDER CC BY 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN CROPPED)

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/23/microsofts-aggressive-platform-push/

How to Succeed as a Millennial Without Really Trying.


Patchwork careers, debt and an indie soundtrack.

The Kids Are Not Alright

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I grew up being told that if I did well in school, participated in a slew of extracurricular activities, volunteered, didn’t “mess around” too much with the opposite sex, didn’t spend all my money on clothes and got into a good college, that I’d be “alright.

So, I checked off all those things and more on my Path to Success Checklist! and then—life happened.

When sophomore year of college I got sick. Really sick. It would take three years to figure out what was making me sick (spoiler: rotting appendix) but the point is, when LIFE interrupted my plan, suddenly that was it.

Game over.

Even as I was moaning in agony on a stretcher in the emergency room, I was still dutifully conjugating Russian verbs and sending reassuring emails to my professors, who were alarmed when I suddenly *gasp* missed a class. “I’m sure it’s nothing!” I told them, my lips curled up in a painful grimace, “I’ll be back in no time! Send me assignments, I can still do work. I can still be good. I can still matter. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to ruin this for me! Because I worked hard for this so nothing will take it away! Right?”

Well, that’s the thing that no one tells you when they’re filling your young mind with all these bullshit life equations:

HARD WORK = SUCCESS

Sometimes that’s true. On a small scale, mostly. You have to allow for a margin of error, an element of unpredictability. When we start reducing life to a series of concrete mathematical concepts—because it feels better than considering that which is unknown to us about the future — we are really setting ourselves up to fail.

After I began to heal, having lost everything that “mattered” in my life, I decided to just do something, anything to feel like I was rebuilding my life even in a small way.

I took jobs here and there. I moved around a little. I fell in love.

And then, I said to myself: what is the most important thing, from a practical standpoint, right now?

The answer, given my health, was health insurance.

So, I applied for a paper-pushing position in a hospital where I would be given health insurance and 40 hours a week of doing something. Best of all, if I had a flare up of illness, hey, I was just an elevator away from the ER.

I was given this job because someone believed in giving me a chance. I didn’t have a completed college degree, but I would do whatever needed to be done. In this case, what needed to be done was a lot of filing and staple pulling.

So, for 40 hours a week, I pulled staples.

For this I had (slightly) above a minimum wage, health and dental and vision, and the nagging feeling that I had sold my soul to the devil somewhere along the line and this must be some kind of hell.

So, I decided that I was going to work on top of work: while I pulled staples, I perked up. I listened hard. I learned. And when opportunities arose, I asked for them. I asked for more. I did everything I was asked to do, no matter how mundane, and I did it damn well. I didn’t complain (at work anyway) and I respected everyone from the guy who mopped the floors to the CEO of the hospital.

I didn’t act entitled to anything more than what I had, but I made it known that I was eager to learn— and would gladly take an opportunity to do so.

After six months, this was rewarded. I got a promotion. And from there, I just kept climbing up the ladder. And I went back to school on the hospital’s dime. And I started writing on the side for extra money. And soon my writing became part of my job.

And then, it was my job.

My day starts at 5:30 am, I spend a half hour responding to emails, Tweets, other social media interactions. I go get my morning coffee. I get in to my office at the hospital at least a half-hour before the eight hour clock starts, so I can organize paper, really listen (not just half-listen) to voicemails and chat with coworkers. For eight hours, I do some things that I really like and quite a few things that bore me beyond belief. For this, I am paid. Then, I go home and write. For this, I am also paid. I peruse Tumblr to de-stress. I read a few pages of a book. Then, I sleep. Many nights I have to take some kind of sedative to shut my brain down, but eventually, I am dreaming.

I’ve realized, though, that I benefit from that eight hour day of mindless tasks. My most creative ideas pop up when my hands are otherwise engaged and my mind can wander around to new places. Around the 50th staple, I get an idea for a novel I might write someday. By the time I’m home at night or on the weekend mornings when my coffee steams in my hand and the sun rises over the bay, I can crank out two or three solid articles— because for 40 hours I could think about how to craft each phrase while simultaneously flipping through large stacks of paper.

I work in a hospital all day and I write mostly about health and healthcare. I live and breathe my work, and it’s not always fun or interesting or “fulfillment” but my bills get paid — and then some. I have earned the freedom to write. I have some security that I didn’t have when I was on the former path to success. I created my own definition of success, and rapidly achieved it— because I was willing to improvise.

I’m twenty two years old. I have three jobs, a pension plan, health insurance, my own car, a nice apartment in a safe neighborhood, a partner who really gets me, and above all else, the slow by steady return of my health and sanity. I achieved all of this by not doing anything I was told would bring me this kind of success but instead, I just did what made sense to me in the moment . . . and hoped for the best.

That being said, do I have “free time?”

No. Not a lot of it. Do I want any? Not particularly. I worked hard to be able to combine my interests and passion into something that I can earn a living doing, so I have the satisfaction each day of knowing that I can get paid to do things that also feel good to me, and are enjoyable.

I didn’t achieve that by waving around a college degree or a proper resume. I got here by knowing my place, working hard and taking opportunities when they were given to me, holding them in my hands like delicate little eggs that did not guarantee any kind of real protection from cracks.

As Gen Y, we were really done a major disservice in our youth. Being constantly praised and built up to believe that we would all succeed if we did everything on our Checklist for Success!, we emerged expecting everyone to fawn over us when we had a college degree! Why no one prepared us for the far more complicated reality of Real World Living is beyond me; but here we are, struggling while our parents and teachers cluck at our “lost potential.”

We are a generation that grew up being promised we were special, and instead we entered adulthood already feeling we were just disappointments before we’ve even had the chance to really live.

I challenge you to shed the paradigm that you will be successful. Instead, think about what will make it easier for you to do the things that you want to do: if you can spend eight hours a day pulling staples so you don’t have to worry about healthcare and paying your rent, then you can and will find ways to do the things for which you have a firey passion.

If you are truly passionate about something, it will seep out of your pores and demand to be felt by everyone around you. Eventually, it will become part of your day to day routine, even if you think it’s impossible.

Passion always finds a way; but it has its own timeline, and anything you do to try to speed it up is only going to exhaust and frustrate you.

Don’t give up; not just on what you truly want, but also the seemingly useless and boring things that you have to do “just to get by” — everything has potential, every single opportunity is a piece of your puzzle. It’s just a matter of figuring out where it fits — and revealing the picture it creates.


Abby Norman writes and drinks coffee on the coast of Maine. Tweet her @abby__norman. You might like another piece of hers on Medium, Hush, the tale of an introvert trying to live as an extrovert.

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Journalism As A Career Is Tainting The Quality Of Journalism


 

There was a lot of good economic news this week. Amazing M&A transactions, rising stock markets and even Spain getting an upgrade from Moody’s. And yet when every weekend comes I know I will read another journalist telling me that while a lot seems to be going pretty well, that deep down, the world is falling apart.

Venezuela, Ukraine, will not be seen as minor pockets of violence in the most peaceful period humanity has ever lived in, but as signs of much worse to come. Or the Groupon share collapse will not be seen as Groupon under-performing but as an indication of the first air coming out of the economic bubble.

And again I will shake my head and think, where do media organizations find these apocalyptic writers? But today something dawned on me, something quite obvious but that I hadn’t realized before.

It is not the world that’s falling apart, it is journalism that is falling apart. It is the world as journalists know it, that is falling apart. Newspapers, magazines, laying off people, losing ad revs to Google and Facebook, closing down, disappearing. TV news networks losing audience to reality TV. It is people giving up paper for a tiny, mostly free little screen in the palm of their hands. It is people’s publishing in which so many volunteers do for free what journalists get paid to do that is destroying their livelihood, that is undermining the foundations of what used to be known as professional journalism. And the little professional journalism that is left is a winner takes all situation, all readers flock to a few sources like The New York Times and even those winners have barely managed to survive. With smaller staff. All professions have to adapt to changing times but few as much and as quickly as journalism. It’s like the world knows it needs journalists but has not found a way to fit them into the age of news as mobile snippets on Twitter.

So next time you read some surprisingly negative news think that the maxim of what goes up must come down is many times not true. It is not true in the stock market over decades, and it is not true of all the objects that humanity has already shot way into space and are not coming down, ever. But what is true is that many a writer who is forecasting decline has sadly met decline, personally. And that is permeating into what you are reading.

Photo: khawkins04/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted by:Martin V.

How Job Descriptions Suffocate Innovation


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if there was a silent killer lurking in corporate corridors? A seemingly benign and well meaning concoction, cooked up by unsuspecting human resource departments with deadly consequences. A mandate for order, control and classification, which leaves no employee untouched or leader blameless. I’m talking about the humble job description – in my view the biggest motivation and innovation strangler in any organisation.

At first my declared distaste for something as innocent and accepted as a list of an employees duties and responsibilities appears like shadow jumping or blatant headline grabbing. Yet the fact that I’ve maintained this crusade against job descriptions for over a decade is, I hope, proof of substance behind my wild rantings. As a CEO I was so deeply against placing someone into a neatly labeled box for years at a time that we developed an alternative employee management system. This simple mind shift became a key driver in propelling our business from 3 employees to over 1,000 in under a decade.

So what is this radical human resource theory? Simply this: Change from command and control job descriptions, that merely list the role, duties and KPI’s, to giving an employee ownership over a constantly evolving group of Prototypes and Projects:

  • Prototypes are the elements that make up someone’s responsibilities that are ongoing in nature e.g. Accounts Payable or Online Security.
  • Projects are responsibilities that have a defined end date e.g. Accounting Software Implementation or New Product Launch Event.

Rather than delve into the intricacies of how these ‘Ownership Responsibilities’ work in practice, let me rather relate how the inadequacies of traditional job descriptions are countered by treating employees like business owners within your organization. As I see it there are six areas where traditional job descriptions (JD’s) suffocate innovation:

1. Ripe and Rotting – because traditional JD’s group all of an employees functional responsibilities into a role they cause very linear, accidental and elongated promotion opportunities i.e. you wait until your boss is promoted, made redundant or dies before a vacancy exists for you to advance. A major cause of staff attrition is leaving ambitious employees ripe and rotting rather than allowing them opportunities to be green and growing.

  • A benefit of implementing Ownership Responsibilities is that employees can have incremental promotions on a monthly basis. Reshuffling their projects and prototypes to give them more responsibility, growth or to recognize performance. Employees will aspire to take responsibility for outcomes rather than a position on the ladder.

2. Bozo Creep – traditional JD’s rarely result in demotions. To drop a level is a significant step backwards and requires an involved counseling / warning process. Hence employee structures created without the ability to routinely demote result in “Bozo Creep” – where companies become full of employees promoted to their maximum level of incompetence.

  • The advantage of having Ownership Responsibilities is that an employee can be demoted on a monthly basis by reshuffling their projects and prototypes, or holding off awarding coveted projects until performance is realised. The end result is a healthier meritocracy.

3. Boss Mentality – traditional JD’s are often used in the performance appraisal process to help a manager assess performance, behavior and KPI’s. This becomes a very oppressive top down approach, and unless you are in a measurable role, can lead to unfulfilled expectations, disputes and a demotivated workforce.

  • Ownership Responsibilities use performance measures taken from project management methodologies to assess time, cost and quality outcomes that are set by the employee at the start of the period on their own projects and prototypes. i.e. staff manage up (to their own often inflated expectations) rather than leaders having to manage down (on KPI’s set by the manager). Resulting in employees more likely to stretch and prove themselves.

4. Inertia to Change – traditional JD’s cause inertia because once employees are given specific responsibilities they expect them to be set in stone, and of course fight to keep them. These static and linear organizational structures are often inflexible to change without a major re-structure, resulting in businesses being slower to capitalize on new opportunities, or respond to changing market conditions.

  • Ownership Responsibilities are reviewed on a monthly basis allowing each employee’s group of prototypes and projects to be quickly reshuffled as required. This is particularly valuable for fast changing small businesses, and to prevent expensive corporate-wide restructures.

5. Defensive Game – traditional JD’s encourage employees to play safe, keep their head down and action the minimum required to keep their job. This discourages risk taking, or conjuring ways to make their role redundant, or acting like a business owner in the interests of the organisation.

  • The best way to encourage employees to seek ways to do their roles better, faster or cheaper is to give them Ownership Responsibilities. Where the reward is to hand over part or all of their old responsibilities to someone else or freeing up their time to focus on the next project or prototype. Essentially winning at the game of business rather than playing not to lose.

6. Employee Silo’s – traditional JD’s encourage managers to keep their employees focused on their own function, division or area of expertise. e.g. marketers only look after customer growth and accounts people only look after finances. This doesn’t give people new opportunities for growth or fresh eyes to look at old problems, nor does it encourage skill diversification and upskilling.

  • Ownership Responsibilities allow for easy cross department involvement. Employees can be on project teams with other divisions or responsible for something significantly different from their traditional role leveraging latent skills and / or experience e.g. the receptionist could also be responsible for running the lead tracking prototype or the accounts receivable clerk could be on the project team for the new web-site implementation.

In my view job descriptions are responsible for suffocating innovation in both large and small organisations. The solution is to give employees ownership responsibility by dividing their role into groups of constantly evolving projects and prototypes. You will find that not only will innovation flourish – staff morale and efficiency will take a major leap forward.

If you found this post interesting follow me for an expansion of this concept in future posts.

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto

Posted by:Creel Price