All posts tagged geek

No Place For Shitting On Someone’s Work

I’m really impressed at Jason for coming out and saying this, especially because he’s always paid so much attention to building great products and simple interfaces. Seriously…put up or shut up…make something or go home.

Where the heck were you when the fucking page was blank?

The above quote by legendary copywriter, Paul Butterworth, was cited frequently during critique sessions when I was in school. Looking at the end product it’s impossible to know the journey that the designer took, to appreciate what went into it. You don’t know about the constraints, the compromises, or external forces that shaped the design before you. Certainly the end user is not going to be privy to those details either, but as a designer critquing the work of another designer you should know there is more to it. No one is trying to make shitty software. They’re doing the best they can with the constraints they’re given and the talent they have. Not everyone is a maestro. Maybe these folks are just beginners. Is that how we welcome them into the fold? The point is, they’re making something. That’s awesome.

via There is no place for just shitting all over other peoples work – 37signals.

Defining “Community Building”

I’m incredibly fortunate to be a member of a small Facebook group of thought leading “Community Builders“.

In my opinion, that term deserves quotation marks simply because it’s widely thrown around, and at this point it’s largely undefined.

I actually hate Facebook less because of this group of “Community Builders“.

It’s a group that basically comprises thoughts and questions about being a “Community Builder” or “Manager”.

It’s a discussion about managing people’s expectations, loyalty and happiness as a day job, in the context of the transparency and access that the web provides. It’s a group that’s small and intimate by design, and it’s fortunate to include people managing some of the internet’s largest communities. I would namedrop if it was appropriate but obviously it’s not.

Anyway, the subject of Community Building came up a short while ago and I wanted to repost it because it’s interestingly literal; at it’s core is a question about “Communities”…from someone who I know and respect in his approach to and respect for the “space” (another word that simply deserves quotations because it’s so awful). He’s an unsung hero of Community.

This was his question to the group:

When you’re first starting off building your community (literally a handful of people), how do you demonstrate the value you envision the community eventually creating for members?

How do you community build?

The first response was from Ryan Paugh, who embodies the undefined concept of “Community Builder” better than any written definition I’ve ever seen:

I think that trust is most important. After that, passion. After that, it’s all about fulfilling your promise so people keep coming back for more.

Which got me thinking and keeps me thinking, but this was my response:

I agree with Ryan on passion; if you’re an early member of something you’re passionate about, show it. But…there is no value to defend. A community doesn’t have value until the community decides so. That’s the misperception of community building…it’s not sales. It’s bringing people together and figuring out what they are together, and where the value is as a result of the community they appear to be building. In an early community you’re just a community member…you’re not orchestrating. You’re listening, and celebrating. As a member, you’re sharing your vision of the value that’s happening, but you’re doing that to inspire input, because in the end you don’t own the community.

What do you think?

Because I’m thinking there isn’t an answer right now.

How do you do community building?

I think my answer is that doing community building is building something new for people.

You think they’ll like it.

What’s important to the field and tools and people working at it is how you do that successfully.

Being successful and delivering incredible value for the people you’ve brought together (on and offline) is about listening to them, and letting them be who they want to be. Letting them show you what makes them happy…and then working hard to keep making them happy.

The best people I see working in “Community” are incredibly humble and dedicated to the delight and inspiration of others.

A number of them are in quiet, thankless early stages of their communities. A growing number are at the top, well known, and deliberating trying to define what it means to be great at being responsible for communities. Deliberately trying to raise the bar on the role someone plays when they’re fortunate enough to become responsible for a great community.

The best people I see working in “Community” are still debating how to do “Community”.

I like that.

I like that because I think that means that the best minds in “Community” realize that it’s not about them.

*all emphasis is mine

The iPhone Is Secretly Tracking My Location? Cool!

There’s a lot of debate right now about the iPhone tracking file that hackers uncovered a day or two ago.

But we should care about the implications of a rich file of geographic data living on our iOS devices offering no customer benefit, creating digital footprints that we can’t erase.

– Why You Should Care About the iPhone Location-Tracking Issue

Apple’s pretty much in the wrong on this one and they’ll find a way to encrypt the file and this will go away, so I’m not too worried about it. I don’t really think it’s worth you being worried about either.

However, the file is actually pretty cool.

The hackers (@aallan & @petewarden) who discovered it wrote a program to show everyone their own data, to solidify the “creep factor for everyone”. Obviously I had to see this…where have I been over the last year or two?

I zoomed in for the image above, showing my adventures around Vancouver.

Below is a wider view…looks like it’s got my SXSW travel and San Diego, which was well over two years ago.  Conspicuously missing is San Francisco and New York, which is puzzling because I was in both cities last year.

It also appears to have me running around the Midwest, which means that data is from my old gig living in Chicago, before I moved to Vancouver. The file is in iTunes, so it’s lasted through three iPhones.

[click on image for bigger view. for bigger view of the top image click here]

I don’t travel enough…all my points are on North America.

I have to say, it’s cool enough for me to want an app to track me without my having to do anything; I can think of a whole bunch of awesome ways to make use of that data usefully (albeit with my permission).  I’m using Daytum to record where I sleep every night (hap tip to Brad Feld)…this could theoretically let me know where I’ve slept for the last three years.

We’re constantly generating information that could be used in cool ways and I know that scares some people, but for me the way tech can sit in the background and provide some modicum of value to us (get out of our way and do cool shit) is what excites me about technology.

So anyway, what’s your map look like?

Reputation & The Battle For Our Identity

This quote and link is a must-read piece from Twitter’s (and Blogger’s) founder Ev Williams, regarding digital identity.

Online identity is still a messy problem with lots of opportunities. I predict we’ll continue to see further integration of the five pieces by all major players, as well as more attempts to outsource these services across the Internet.

Hopefully we’ll also see more attempts at decentralized services that offer these features, as well.

Will there be a day when there’s one true identity system? While the big guys will keep getting bigger, I don’t think identity will be “owned,” per se—at least not on the open Internet. As we transition to a mobile-dominated Internet (and a more closed one), things are going to play out much differently, however.

via Evan Williams | evhead: Five Easy Pieces of Online Identity.

Identity is something that any technology builder thinks about early in the development of their product, and it’s an element that remains top of mind as that product evolves. Effectively authenticating, representing, and personalizing every user’s experience with your product is fundamental to the role it will play in their lives.

Meanwhile, in a broader sense, identity remains a fertile battleground on the web that will affect the future of your business.

Remember when you saw Facebook Connect pop up everywhere, alongside the now ubiquitous Like buttons?

The traction of the Facebook social graph has been impressive, and regardless of your feelings as to whether it’s a positive or negative development, it’s done a lot to further the conversation about our individual identities on the web. After early privacy missteps you don’t have to look much further than unproven startup Diaspora’s $200,000 heyday to infer that at least some of us find the idea of a centralized identity model concerning. At the time they merely suggested they’d build an open identity solution that wasn’t Facebook.

Facebook is by no means the only authentication solution available, and the identity landscape continues to develop. Williams breaks that landscape into five distinct areas…all of which, he points out, are currently and will continue to be hotly contested. Authentication, representation, communication, personalization, and reputation; important elements of ‘who we are’ offline and thus integral to our online and mobile experience as it matures.

At Foodtree, we’ve been thinking quite a bit about representation, personalization, and reputation lately. After a very thought provoking conversation with Tom Williams just over a week ago about that last one, I found this comment from Ev particularly poignent:

Though talked about a lot, reputation is probably the least developed of these five pieces in the online world. In the offline world, though, it’s built into all our interactions and choices. To me, this suggests it will get more important online when we figure out how to do it right. Ebay is the classic example of making reputation a large part of identity. Many other services have an internal reputation score of some sort, usually as a way of combating spam and other abuse.

via same.

As my comment yesterday on a great Techcrunch article from LiveFyre‘s founder Jordan Kretchmer made clear, I think that reputation is the next frontier of our digital presence.

What we know and care about is fundamental to who we are; our relationships, happiness, and self-worth. Who we’ve made ourselves into, and who we want to be, is what drives our decisions every day.

What this means is that niche communities and conversations will always have a place in our digital identities, and will continue to help us define who we are to ourselves and to other people. Today the web does a mediocre (at best) job of “floating” expertise and passion across applications and platforms; your reputation in a niche community rarely carries any true weight outside of it. Maybe you religiously comment on the New York Time’s website. Maybe you’re a respected member of the Reddit community. Unfortunately Facebook, Twitter, Google, and nearly every other platform doesn’t really care (unless they want to sell you something, in which case they use that insight for themselves).

This isn’t about empowering self-importance, either. This is about current solutions missing key elements of our daily experience. It’s likely that among your closest friends, each person has their ‘thing‘. My friends wouldn’t ask me about the upcoming baseball season. I don’t ask them where to find free music online.

All in all, as technology matures and becomes better at letting us immerse ourselves in its benefits, I think we’ll increasingly demand that it leverage insights as to who we are and why we matter.

Personalization has become a hotbed of innovation, especially in the mobile space. Reputation on the other hand is lagging, and that’s likely the case because it’s the most complicated of the five elements. At Foodtree, as we work with our community to deposit and share deeper insight into our complex food system, we think it’s important that contributors are ‘acknowledged’ wherever they go online…not just within our community. After all, they’re working for the greater good, and deserve that recognition.

I think reputation (and of course personalization) will play a major role in true value creation, delight, and ubiquity for tomorrow’s technologies. It is those three things which embody the inherent potential of technology for human beings.

Don’t believe me?

Answer me this: As it relates to your daily happiness, how important is your Picture ID, business card, or phone number?

Now, how about the fact that your barista has your single origin drip coffee ready each morning when you walk in to the cafe, and regularly asks you for tips on the great music you’ve been listening to?

Radiohead: What Happens When ‘Serious Listening’ Is Your Brand

Hands down the best description of Radiohead I’ve read anywhere.

They don’t have much to complain about in that respect: They’re the one band who can self-release music like this and have people lined up to put down money for it, and that gives them a whole lot of freedom. So can we just take a moment to marvel at how totally unlikely this is? Radiohead have a large, broad, devoted fan base, on a scale most proper pop stars struggle to muster. They have this while making a kind of music that, when it’s coming from anyone else, tends to get dismissed as marginal, obscure, and pretentious, or even a pointless, hookless, self-important snooze. They’re the one act normal rock fans trust to introduce them to sounds and ideas from further afield — from electronic music, experimental music, contemporary classical, wherever. No other band makes so many fans turn quite so studiously patient and open-minded. It’s as if the world has agreed that this is the one flagship group everyone will turn to for that experience — the band people will enjoy taking seriously, approaching slowly, and pondering as art rather than entertainment. The whole concept of “serious listening” has somehow become this one act’s brand. How improbable is that?

The funny part is that they basically trained the world into this, by spending their career moving in the opposite direction from most of their peers. Most bands like this start off as something marginal, then grow into popularity. Radiohead kicked off by proving they were a good big rock band — then started pulling their many fans, some of them kicking and screaming, off into new places. They taught people how to enjoy that. They made music good enough to satisfy their left-field music-geek peers and their everyday fans at the same time. Their main emotional register — which sits somewhere between abject world-weariness and a kind of itching, wriggling-in-your-skin discomfort — has turned out to be more relatable, to more people, than anyone would have guessed. And their election as the arty rock group of consensus means we get to watch something really rare and amazing: A band that can do whatever it wants, and do it really well, and have it matter on a big scale. Maybe it’s a little arbitrary that this band is Radiohead, who are far from the only musicians doing things that are high-minded or sonically inventive — but it’s a very cool thing to have one act like this be “big.”

via Radiohead’s The King of Limbs: What Happens When ‘Serious Listening’ Is Your Brand — Vulture.

Loving Again And Again

We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven’t even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these loveable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman

I love this, despite wholeheartedly disagreeing with Chuck’s conclusion that there’s a winner here. There’s no control forfeited to your template person, and I’m not even sure the person who shapes your perception of love is all that responsible for anything but their (hopefully) admirable qualities…the rest is time, place, and your internal self.

More than once I’ve tried to articulate something like this to someone who’s either never been in love or thinks that real love is only real if it lasts forever and supersedes any other relationship you have in the future…as if falling in love is only proven by its permanence.

It feels to me like a combination of fears, this perspective. Fear that this idea of love allows for the love you have today (or might have tomorrow) to fall short of forever. Fear that your standards for love should be so high that only one experience should ultimately meet them, and the resulting fear that the only way to recognize and defend the one you want to last is to make (and attempt to live by) a cosmic ultimatum.

There’s nothing unromantic about the idea that you have and will love more than one person in your life. It doesn’t undermine your chances at that forever thing…it doesn’t undermine your forever thing if you have it today. Chewing on this also lets you release your past with people, shedding that lingering ‘maybe‘ about exes in favor of you, today.

It’s also helpful, I think…the battle of love is a tough one, and at times it can seem like one of life’s cruelest illusions.

At times it can seem like a drug you can’t quit.

At times it just works, and seems like the fresh air you’re breathing as you navigate your life…an ether of support and happiness blanketing your world. I think the point is that you can trust the good and the bad…breathe deeply at both ends of the spectrum and know it’s all part of the process that doesn’t have to be black or white, one or none…

The people who shape your perception of love are your heart’s teachers. Letting them go is hard. Seeing how important they were shouldn’t be.


What Is Beauty? What Is Success?

This entire article is something you simply must read. This is a wonderful expose on Jake Plummer’s commitment to being as human as he knows how to be. He was a quarterback in the NFL and walked away from a $5M contract because it wasn’t making him happy anymore.

In April 2004 Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Two weeks later, at the funeral, Jake [Plummer] walked to the podium wearing a suit and, in honor of his friend, flip-flops. He had been mulling what to say for weeks, and though at the time he meant the words as a testimonial to his friend, in hindsight they hinted at the path Plummer would choose. “I was in the store the other day and I saw PEOPLE magazine, and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or America, and there was a picture of Pat,” Plummer said. “It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, its not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you youre right or wrong. Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing lifes little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies. Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no facade—what you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”


You and Me, Blue Valentine

In my opinion, one of the most interesting music stories in a decade.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams made a beautiful movie called Blue Valentine (which you should see) and in it they featured a gritty, hauntingly beautiful doo-wap song called You and Me.

Naturally, everyone who sees the movie goes home and looks for more info on the song. There is literally none.

Gradually, details begin to unearth. The film garnered two Golden Globe nominations and Michelle is up for a Best Lead Actress Oscar, so it’s not like nobody saw this movie.

Nevertheless, this song was discovered in a box of tapes at an estate sale in Columbus, Ohio, and no one knows who the lead female vocals are.

Love it.

The story doesn’t have as much weight unless you listen to the song first, because you’ll recognize the beauty of it right away. It’s so telling of the music industry, and how hard it really is to turn talent into success.

When Sevier explained that it had been part of an old box of tapes, bought at an estate auction years earlier, that he’d purchased and re-released as a CD—and then licensed “You and Me” to a movie company, she said she cried.

Saturday, she went to Easton to see the movie. “When I heard the song, and Jay’s voice as backing vocals, I just really, really fell apart,” she said. “I loved the movie, but it was like a bitter, sad happiness because Jay wasn’t here to see it.”

Glodean remembered Jay telling her about that day in the studio. “Oh, he was in a good mood. He was telling me how you never know what might happen when you walk in a studio, and how this girl was there—she sounded so good, and like Jay, just loved to sing. He asked her to sing his song. He thought it might be released.

He told me, ‘I didn’t know what we should call ourselves. I had my hand in my pocket and only had a penny and a quarter in there. I said, ‘We’ll call the band Penny and the Quarters.’”She doesn’t recall, however, who Penny might have been. “Only Jay knows,” she said.

via The Other Paper > Front > Finding a Quarter.

Like It or Not, WikiLeaks is a Media Entity

A really great read on the WikiLeaks controversy, which I think everyone should pay some attention. The significance of what’s happening is undeniable in its relevance to the way we expect our media to behave.

So what makes WikiLeaks different from the New York Times? There are the obvious things, of course — the latter publishes a print newspaper, is a member of a variety of self-regulatory bodies involving the media, and is a venerable institution with a long history of journalistic integrity. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, is a shadowy organization with an uncertain history, opaque motivations and publishes only online. That said, why are we so eager to protect one and not the other? WikiLeaks’ stated intention is to bring transparency to the political process and expose wrongdoing. Isn’t that the same thing the Times does? And yet one is being hounded by government agents, forced to remove its documents from Amazon’s servers and blocked from using PayPal, while the other is free to publish whatever it wants. What if the Times were to store some of its content on Amazon’s EC2 servers or use PayPal for transactions — would it be subject to the same treatment? And if not, why is WikiLeaks?

via Like It or Not, WikiLeaks is a Media Entity: Tech News «.

One in Five Facebook Employees Has No Imagination Whatsoever

Interesting perspective on the flow of talent from one of the web’s best companies across the street to the other one. I know of some headed to Twitter, which I think might be a more noble pursuit.

Of course, Facebook is one of the few truly great Internet companies, and it’s easy to understand why anyone would want to work there. But if you’re going to leave the security of the world’s greatest software company, why not leave to try something hard, something raw, something completely different? A successful run at Google is the Silicon Valley equivalent of diplomatic immunity in Lethal Weapon 2:  every venture capitalist wants to give you money and any startup wants to hire you.

You could help someone who actually needs it, you could do something that hasn’t been done before. If you fail, you won’t be poor, and you won’t be unemployed long. I’ve heard Facebook is hiring.

via One in Five Facebook Employees Has No Imagination Whatsoever | Redfin Corporate Blog.