Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Startupville: Start with a skate board.

Imagine a Fortune 500 company trying to build a car.  

Because the company has lots of resources, they likely have a customer research team dedicated to understanding what the customer wants. They have lots of engineering experts each of which is able to produce products of technical complexity. Finally, and probably most importantly they have a culture which rewards accomplishing big things, often before they hit the market. As a consequence, at a large company a car would probably be developed one functional component at at time.  However, the risk here is that the customer never wanted a car, and you build the wrong thing.

By contrast a startup has almost no resources, and is usually evaluated by customer growth rate.  This has the virtuous side effect that product is constantly being guided by customer need. In Startupville it's essential you are always building something the user wants to achieve their goals, in the car analogy, you'd progress by building a skateboard, then a scooter, etc.

Building skateboards is a no brainier at a startup, but may also be the optimum solution for your project at a fortune 500 company.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Startupville: Staying motivated as a solopreneur

TLDR:  When you're disheartened, do something that you can control and succeed at. Succeeding recharges your motivation and lets you take another run at your most important problems.

Staying motivated is easy when you're having wins, or executing again a plan you believe will succeed.   Unfortunately, there will be long stretches where you won't have wins, and the longer it has been since a win, the farther you will be from believing your plan will succeed.

When it's been too long since I've had a win, my motivation will tank, and I'll find you stop doing much of anything.

For me to get back on track, I need to start working on things I can control and succeed at.   Often that means working on things that are less important then the things that have me disheartened. Except that's a fallacy.  See, the thing that's most important when I'm disheartened is finding my mojo.

So, when you're disheartened, do something that you can control and succeed at. Succeeding recharges your motivation and lets you take another run at your most important problems.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Time.Ltd:Mortality Software

*This post is a work in progress, in the madman/architect phase, if you'd like to help flesh it out, I'd love the help.  please add comments or ping me.*

Why mortality software?

To be satisfied we need to live in accordance with the person we want to be.

Unless we know who we want to be, and act deliberately to achieve it, our satisfaction will be infrequent, and often accidental.

Mortality software helps you understand who you want to be, and supports you in being that person. In a nutshell, making your satisfied.

The first step for mortality software is helping you figure out the person you want to be and your values.

Who do you want to be? What are your values?

To figure out who you want to be, write your eulogy.  To make it easier, figure out the roles in your life. Imagine the person who would speak to each role of your life during your funeral.  What would you want each person to say?   That eulogy is the person you want to be.

Now imagine how you'd want people to remember the way you acted, especially during ambiguity, challenges and crisis.   Those behaviors are your values.

Your roles, how you balance your between them,  and your values are the person you want to be, your north star.

Most people who have gone through the eulogy process have found it incredibly difficult. Morality software will make the eulogy process easier.

Many people find this hard to imagine, so here's as a simple example. The eulogy module can start by presenting you different people and their values. Based on how much those people and values resonate with you, mortality software can suggest values that might appeal to you.

What else should mortality software do?

Becoming the person you want to be starts, by figuring out who that person is. Next it decomposes becoming that person into at different levels of abstraction and time scales.  Here's an example:

Time Horizon
Eulogy and Roles
Two year
Supporting  Projects/Accomplishments
Supporting Behaviors/Habits
Quarter -> Month
Decompose above into reasonable chunk
How to allocate time between roles
Decompose above into reasonable chunks
How to allocate time between habits/behaviors
Month -> Week
Week -> Day
Skill/Habit Practice Schedule

Mortality software will be both forward and backwards facing. By this I mean it will help you plan what you need to do to achieve your eulogy, and also help evaluate how effectively you are achieving your goals.   It will help you reflect, often helping you realize your initial eulogy requires change, or your behaviors require change.

Why call it Time.Ltd?

I conceived of mortality software when I realized my life is finite, and thus limited. I initially named my future mortality software package, but that did not feel actionable.  Instead of thinking our life is limited, we  should think our time is limited, and thus we should make sure we are using it
well.  Thus, I renamed my future mortality software Time.Ltd.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A richer model of happiness - Pleasure/Flow/Satisfaction

Happiness is a coarse term, and often leads to cumbersome discussion and confusion. Martin Seligman provides a more granular model of happiness: pleasure, flow and satisfaction.   This model will be useful as we discuss positive computing. 

Pleasure is the happiness of doing what feels good in the moment.  It's the happiness of consumption.  Eating, drinking, buying something.  Pleasure is easy to achieve, but the happiness is lost within minutes. 

Flow is the happiness of being engrossed in a a challenging, enjoyable task.   It's the happiness of production. Making art,  baking cookies, working on a project.  Flow takes effort to get started, but the happiness last the length of the task, often lasting hours.

Satisfaction is the happiness of  being the person you want to be.  It's the happiness of identity.  This happiness is deeply personal, for me it's being a deliberate person who can put a smile on a strangers face.  Satisfaction takes significant effort, but the happiness can be unshakable and permeate your being. 

Positive computing will need to address each of these aspects of happiness to best serve our users. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Cool Tools: DVD Burning

Last time I tried to burn a DVD, finding the right software was a mess and I gave up. This time, I found a tool called imgburn and it just works.  

The default installer bundles malware with the download, so be sure to use the custom installation options, or use chocolatey to install.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Soft Skills: Writing as Madman, Architect, Carpenter and Judge

Writing breaks down into 4 distinct phases:  brainstorming, organization, writing and editing. To  reinforce the distinctness of these  phases, think of writing as four distinct jobs:  Madman, Architect, Carpenter and Judge.   Maximize your efficiency by doing each job, distinctly, deliberately and serially.

Each  job has a specific goal,  and  that goal should be your  sole focus during while doing that job.  Do not do the next job, and do not go back to previous jobs.  To reinforce the distinctness of each job, consider using a different tool, and physical reminders of each job.

As madman, your job is brainstorming.  Take your brain's musings and get them down on paper. Maximize creativity, find as many interesting ideas as possible. As madman don't waste time "arguing" or "revising" what you're spitting out.  Personally, I use pen and paper when  I'm the mad man to prevent  myself from revising, editing, or organizing my thoughts.

As architect, your job is organizing. Take the madman's ramblings and distill them into an outline. Decide what you want to say, who your audience is then, produce a model and outline via aggressive triaging. As architect don't waste time on "how it sounds" or "how it looks".  Personally, I use point form lists in OneNote when I'm the Architect as it allow me to  easily see and organize the structure of my writing.

As carpenter, your job is writing the paragraphs, sentences and words.  Take the architects outline and turn it into to paragraphs and sentences.  Decide the tone, the examples, and start writing. As carpenter don't waste time on spelling, grammar, or excessive rewriting. Personally, I turn off the spell checker when I'm the Carpenter as to prevent me from fixing typos that I'll likely rewrite anyway.

As judge, your job is editing.  Take the carpenters masterpiece and make it consistent, and error free.  Make sure everything is correct and be critical.  Personally, I turn the spell check on at this phase, but I'm terrible at judge, and usually enlist the help of others when doing this job.

By splitting out the different jobs of writing, your writing should get clear, faster, and more rewarding.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Startupville: Reading list

Books I recommend:

Start small stay small  - How to build a realistic software business.  
Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition design - Value prop, and business is king. This book is a must read.  Be sure to by the print book as it's full of pictures and diagrams. 
V is for vulnerable - A cute book on the attitude you need to survive as an entrepreneur.  
Lean startup - The book that kicked off how to run a startup
Traction - A treatise on customer aquistion strategies or how to get traction.

Books I'm reading now:

Zero to one - In progress looks great. 


In progress
Paul Graham - Paul is the founder of y-combinator and his writings defined the startup industry.
Brad Feld - One of the other best loves VC's. Often talks about funding, very interesting.
We don't sell saddles here - A treatise from the founder of Slack.

How to think about MVPs - A classic picture of how to build an MVP of a car. 

Commonly recommended books I could not finish:

Startup Owners Manual - Steve Blank - Steve is a smart guy (Mentor of Lean Startup Guy) and arguably the inventor of customer development,. However, I find his writing and this book meandering. I wanted to read this book but could not finish.