Hi, I'm Derek

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.

Written by dshan on May 26, 2011

Tech Is Fascinating Right Now

I agree with almost all of Steve Blank’s points in this recent interview.

#geekcred: I wrote a case study on Fairchild Semiconductor in 1997, and just this weekend emailed my father and uncles about our new tech paradigm and the certainty of Microsoft’s restructuring at some point in the very near future.

The LinkedIn IPO “absolutely” marks the beginning of a bubble — and he thinks its going to be great. He likens it to the Netscape IPO in August 1995 that kicked off four years of boom times, but notes that this time VCs actually know how to build real companies with real revenue and profit.

Crazy investors — not geeks — are what makes Silicon Valley unique. Without the “crazy” financiers willing to take big risks in hopes of chasing “obscene” returns, the valley would just be “a bunch of smart scientists and entrepreneurs sitting in their labs and their garages.”

Microsoft will start to fail within six quarters. Blank put a timeline on Microsoft suffering the kind of huge loss that drove IBM to restructure itself back in 1993: six quarters from now. He thinks Steve Ballmer is a “miserable failure” and that the board should be blamed for not replacing him. He also suggests that buying Nokia and installing Stephen Elop as CEO might be a solution.

But Larry Page is doing the right thing at Google. By letting the geeks run the show, Page is following in the footsteps of one of the earliest Silicon Valley pioneers: Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1950s.

via Silicon Valley Guru Steve Blank Welcomes The New Bubble And Says Microsoft Is Doomed.

Written by dshan on May 25, 2011

Go That Way, Really Fast

A great post I just dug up from a VERY long time ago, from StackOverflow’s CTO on how they run (ran?) their company. Still a great read for anyone thinking about building things.

Chrome was a completely respectable browser in V1 and V2. The entire project has moved forward so fast that it now is, at least in my humble opinion, the best browser on the planet. Google went from nothing, no web browser at all, to best-of-breed in under two years. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer took longer than the entire development period of Chrome to go from version 7 to version 8. And by the time Internet Explorer 9 ships — even though it’s actually looking like Microsoft’s best, most competent technical upgrade of the browser yet — it will be completely outclassed at launch by both Firefox and Chrome.

via Coding Horror: Go That Way, Really Fast.


Written by dshan on May 25, 2011

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

Written by dshan on May 25, 2011

Bad Grammar, Human Product

The stuff we use the most becomes humanized, and Apple caught on to that a long time ago…

Apple refers to its products grammatically as persons and not as objects.  If Steve Jobs is talking about an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad, he will say “iPhone does this” or “iPad does that”, instead of “the iPhone does this” and “the iPhone does that.” You would use the former version to refer to a person, and the latter to an object.Its extremely smart because its so subtle. Well bet most people havent noticed it. And yet its exactly the kind of thing that works. It sends a bunch of powerful subliminal messages about Apple. Our products are unique and very valuable. Perhaps as importantly: We dont speak about our products in the same way as our competitors.

via The Secret to Apples Success: Bad Grammar | The Atlantic Wire.

Written by dshan on May 24, 2011

Social Love, from Inspiring People

I’m not sure what this is.

I think I was pondering what became my About page and I realized I wanted someone else to write it.

So I asked them to.

A few months back I sent an email to a group of people I feel lucky to know. People from my past and present who have shaped me. People who inspire me, and people who are my foundation. People who make me laugh, people I’ve worked with…people I’ve dated.

Not everyone I emailed replied, which I expected, because when you read the email I sent them I’d imagine that a few were kind of confused or uncomfortable…

…how often do you ask people what they think of you?

It’s a raw thing to do.

The email:

I thought it’d be fun to set up a piece of my blog to represent the people I really dig, and their thoughts on my projects and writing. It’s narcissism on the surface, for sure, but it’s also my attempt to represent the breath of community I feel when I walk around various cities and spend time on the web. Some of you are bloggers, IRL friends, colleagues, or partners. I sent this to a list of people I respect and really treasure knowing.

Every person on this email is someone I’ve watched do something I’m impressed by.

Feel free to ignore. 🙂


They knew I might post what they sent me, so on some level this stuff is ‘best behavior’ kind of stuff when it comes to Who I Am; I know being a friend, family, colleague or lover to me isn’t always easy.

It’s not easy, actually.

Nevertheless, here it is, and it’s now my About Me Too page.

Below is a sample…check out this for more.

“Oh goodness where do I begin. I guess 21 years ago when I met you. Over the years you’ve been a constant source of love and amusement, a sounding board for my thoughts and questions, a politics/technology/social media bantering partner-in-good-fun and a run-the-streets-get-in-trouble-music-loving partner-in-crime. You are always the first to support and encourage your friends to live their best life and now you are living yours. You are very, very smart. Smarter than I think you let most people know…even me. You are a great dancer…I think one time some peeps mistook us for a professional dance troupe as we grooved our way into 2am. You are brave for so many reasons and I admire you. Our memories run deep and my love for you even deeper. You are my brother and my friend and our spirits will always dance.”

– Chalise, a garden fox and emotional genius, who is a best friend, sounding board, and spiritual sister -http://www.gardenfoxdesign.com/

“Dshan, I have so much love for you. You’ve got this ease about you, this way of putting your whole self and heart into the world, digitally and offline. I enjoy your laugh and your warmth. Thank you for sharing it as you do.”

– Gwen Bell – thought leader and author of Digital Warriors, who is in many ways a digital sherpa for me – http://www.gwenbell.com/

“I started reading Derek’s blog before I even really knew what a blog was. Years have gone by, and I still anxiously await each of his posts. His writing style is simple and moving; he writes at the heart of life. One of the sharpest ideafreaks I’ve ever met, Derek is a continual source of inspiration for me.”

– Nicole Antoinette, blogger and owner Shatterboxx Media, who is such a stupidly great writer and thinker that it makes me jealous often – http://nicoleisbetter.com – http://shatterboxx.com


There is more. Click here.


Written by dshan on May 13, 2011

Make A Decision To Decide

Working on a startup teaches you how to live deliberately.

It’s about making decisions quickly and defaulting towards action.

It’s uncomfortable at first. Until you operate in this particularly deliberate professional way inside of a context hyper-focused on creating something totally new, you just don’t know what it’s like to do so.

You start to see the world as one possibility after another, and you begin to challenge all of your own assumptions because you’re spending so much of your time trying to challenge the expectations of other people.

When you don’t take anything for granted and you decide to decide, you stop letting fear be an excuse to not try things.

It doesn’t mean you’re not afraid to be wrong but it does mean you stop being afraid to fail.

Failing is actually something you realize everyone is doing, all the time, in small and big ways…and not only are you not judging them for it but you notice that the happiest people you know fail hard and often. The most successful people you know fail all the time.

When you stop being afraid to fail, and you decide to make deciding and doing your default.

You also quickly realize that a lot of people are stuck.

They’re in a job or career they won’t decide to love or hate, to change or keep.

They’re in a relationship they won’t decide for or against.

They’re undecided about who they really are.

Which becomes who they are.

You need to realize that you’ll probably be wrong on things but you won’t know until you decide and take some action. You need to trust that waiting isn’t going to change things…and the things that do change while we wait are happening to us.

Letting things happen to you is very different than making things happen for you. Making things happen for you is…

…well, it’s just better.

It makes you confident and comfortable with a world you can’t predict. It makes it easier to know who you are, and to be who you are.

It becomes easy to talk about who you are, how you’re feeling, and what you’re doing.

It’s hard, too, so I get why people can’t break through the skin of their comfort zone to move forward. They can’t get into the habit of making a decision and taking some action, however big or small it may be.

The thing is, failure and missteps aren’t just unavoidable, they should be sought out. Go get them under your belt.

It’s those failures and missteps that will lead you to happiness and success.

Written by dshan on April 30, 2011

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?

Written by dshan on April 23, 2011

Why I Dont Like You

That last sentence says it all…I keep meeting food brands who want Facebook fans more than anything else, despite having zero idea as to why.

Its kind of weird, isnt it? You have to “like” a brand to complain about them? Sure, its just nomenclature, but its important to know and understand that the majority of people probably have no idea what it actually means when they “like” a brand on Facebook and what happens after that. This is not some uncommon rarity either. In fact its becoming more and more commonplace, as brands seem to be that much more interested in getting people to like them on Facebook than getting them into their own loyalty program or trying to build a direct relationship with them.

via Why I Dont Like You | Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Blog – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image.

Written by dshan on April 18, 2011

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?

Written by dshan on April 10, 2011