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Last Build Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2016 23:59:11 PDT

 



Do talk to Corp Dev

Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:04:09 PST

I've read Paul Graham's "essays" for years, and usually agree with him, but for some reason in the last month I've disagreed with two of them.   The most recent one he has titled "Don't Talk To Corp Dev" and although the title is slightly misleading, I think it's silly and, well...wrong.

I think what Paul actually means is "don't get sucked in by corp dev" which is a much different thing than "don't talk to them".  He's concerned about the economy of attention you have while running a startup, which I do totally agree with.  And I too have seen companies sucked in too deep by corp dev discussions, and a few companies killed when transactions didn't go through (for legitimate reasons) and the company had no working capital with which to operate after the process.

That said, my advice to startups I advise is "Get to know Corp Dev folks as early as possible" - and I say this for a number of reasons:

1)  Corp dev folks are connected to everyone, and they move around a lot.   If you strike a good relationship with them, they are good people to know.  For instance, the two people I did the FeedBurner deal with at Google now run corp dev at Facebook and Groupon, and I still talk to other corp dev folks from other companies we dealt with that we didn't end up selling to 7 years later.

2) Raising money and selling your company aren't that much different.  In both cases you acually are selling your company - in one case usually about 30% of it, and in the other case 100% of it.   When the time comes to raise a round, I believe it actually benefits you to test the waters for all possibilities, as more demand is more demand, and that's what drives up your stock price and thus valuation. It also allows you to play "if you aren't a seller, then you're a buyer" with your existing investors when appropriate.

3) If you don't sell your company now, you might at some point in the future.  Actually you don't want to ever sell your company, you want it to be bought.  A subtle difference in words with a huge difference in price.  There are certain companies that are really killing it, really strategic for the acquirer, or just great businesses that get acquired.   Even in those cases, my experience is that there is still a "human" component to many acquisitions.   The relationship you have with the acquirer matters.  Not only with corp dev, but also with other internal "champions".  The point being, you never know when these things will heat up, and I think it's better to have already forged relationships with the right people when the time is right.

Okay, so to sum up:  Network with corp dev; don't get sucked in unless you really think it's the best possibility for your company and you can quickly get to a term sheet (or not).

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I think the key to using Slack is no DMs

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 21:26:08 PST

We've been using Slack quite a bit for communication at Blinkfire Analytics, and I'm starting to learn what's effective and what's not.  We're a pretty distributed team, and spend a bit of time visiting customers and partners.



I sent this message to my team at Blinkfire Analytics (in Slack) because I really think it's been a great tool given we are working in a highly distributed environment, and I am travelling from office to office much of the time.
Communication - In a distributed environment like we have and will continue to have, it's super important to over communicate what you are working on, what you are having trouble with, and what you have accomplished on a daily basis.
Slack is the best groupware tool I've used in my career, and I love that the team has found creative ways to use it and communicate  ( Great profile of Stewart, here: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/the-most-fascinating-profile-youll-ever-read-about-a-guy-and-his-boring-startup/ ) - but I think the key to making it work is that 99% of the conversations have to be public.   In fact, if i can figure out how to turn off DMs in it, I'm thinking hard about it.   Really, the only conversations that should be private are HR and in some cases, corporate finance related.  If you have to ask me or anyone else a question that isn't HR related, you should do it in most relevant public channel so we can all learn from the answers and know what's going on.
Many times, I get a DM from a team member, and I ask them to switch to the public channel.  Most of the time, the team benefits from seeing these private conversations turned public.

Interestingly, we haven't had to pay for Slack yet, and it made me question their "premium" vectors of charging not for the number of users, but for data archival and the number of connected services, but after using it for a few months, I now think it's genius.  I also know they will have us as a paying customer really soon.






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If you are a startup and aren't using eShares, use eShares

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 21:11:48 PST


One of the great things about being in the Foundry Group family again is the mailing list they provide for all their founders.  It's such a great way to share ideas, and ask questions of other founders.  And it's so simple.

Today someone asked about 409a valuations at the seed level and my answer was basically, "do not pass GO, just start using eShares" to manage your cap table, shares and option grants, as well as your 409a valuation.

For those of you who don't know what a 409a valuation is - when you issue options to employees, the board has to agree on a strike price for the options that are granted.  It's usually equal to the fair market value of your common stock.  Here's another definition.  Sure, they can look at comps and come up with the number themselves, but in my experience, it's much better to have a third party do this.    It makes the number non-negotiable, and well, it's CYA.

Normally, when you raise money you will get 900 emails from some of these firms offering to do your 409a valuation.  Ignore them all, and go to eShares.   They do the same thing as a service based on a monthly fee, and I think it's much cheaper in the long run than continuing to get this done.

They also do a number of other things, such as making sure your cap table is in order.  When you investors ask for your cap table, you just export and send.  Done.

You can also play with "what if" scenarios in your cap table as you are figuring out how to raise your next round.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell already - I'm a big fan of eShares being on the list of SaaS companies I use on a daily basis.  For a few hundy a month, it's totally worth your time as a startup CEO or COO.(image)


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Or you can just work with the other 95% of engineers where they are

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 20:49:06 PST

I recently read Paul Graham's post on immigration and the need to import the best engineers into the states.   I think it's absolutely true that immigration reform needs to happen and I have experienced how messed up the visa process is for immigrants in tech startups, but I also think the workplace is changing in such a way where we can now work more globally as teams.

In fact, I'm living this right now as we are building Blinkfire Analytics.  As it stands, half of our team is in Chicago, and half of our team is in Valencia, Spain.   This is not an "outsourcing" relationship. We work as a team remotely using a combination of video technology (Google Hangouts) and live text/HTML messaging channels ( Slack).   These two enabling technologies, and primarily the former which is allowed because of the availability of high bandwidth, are game changers for remote teams.

There are a a number of things I have put in place to make this work:

1) No audio calls

To me, video conferencing is infinitely better than audio on the phone, almost to the point where I shun a regular phone meeting these days.   If someone suggests a phone call to me while they are driving in a car, I immediately ask to reschedule as I find these calls to be useless 95% of the time, especially if it is a conference call with multiple parties.  So I insist on video meetings that are remote.

2) You still need in-person visits

As good as video is these days, it's not a replacement for in-person meetings.   So we still have built into our plan travel back and forth between locations.  What is true, is that video conferencing is much easier once you have met someone face to face.   I learned this working at Google where we often had to work across locations.  I was much more successful visiting remote offices and meeting people face to face, and then flying back and working remotely.

3) Only keep people who can work in this environment

Some employees can work this way, some can't.  Do your best to find people who can work with others remotely.  They are usually driven, motivated, and will get on the plane to do #2.   It's all about communication.   If you choose to work in a distributed fashion and an employee can only work with people who are sitting next to them, or they lose focus when not with others, let that person go and move on.

This is generally working well, and it's been a great way to attract really talented engineers that would be much harder to find in Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter.

Working globally in a distributed environment is not seamless, however.  Even if engineering talent is quite a bit cheaper outside the US, there's definitely some overhead in having multiple locations, and international ones at that.  For instance, you have to pay two sets of lawyers, accountains, payroll systems, and there's always this nagging set of tax consequences you never feel good about.

Nevertheless, it seems to be a better alternative to me than fighing with the US Government on getting talented engineers visas, green cards, or citizenship.  We now live in a global economy.  Deal with it.




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How Apple can turn the U2 fiasco into a business model

Sun, 21 Sep 2014 06:44:27 PDT



I've been somewhat fascinated by watching the whole Apple / U2 fiasco over the last few weeks.  In case you missed it, as part of the iPhone 6 announcement, Apple worked a deal with U2 to give every iTunes user a free copy of U2's new album, Songs of Innocence,  by automatically placing it in the user's iTunes library and allowing them to download it for free before a certain date.

Now, I've been a U2 fan ever since the mid eighties, so I was quite grateful to Apple and U2 for doing this, but many people were not.  I get this.   If they put a Jay-Z album in my account, I probably wouldn't want it either, and would probably find a way to delete it.  It would probably annoy me.

Seeing this article about how this whole move prompted a huge sales bump in U2's back catalog, though, it got me thinking about my whole music consumption and purchasing experience these days. As where I just used to just walk into a store and pick something that seemed to be marketed to me and would take a chance, these days I typically listen to something on either Spotify or Google Play, and if something grabs me I'll usually still buy it, and in many cases I will buy a bit of the back catalog.  Sometimes in one sitting, sometimes bit by bit over time.

Putting these two things together, Songs of Innocence is just and ad for the rest of U2's back catalog, and for those that like U2, it seems to have worked. The problem was that the ad was totally untargeted, and users generally don't like ads that aren't targeted to their interests, or their purchase intent.

The thing is, Apple also has this thing called iTunes match, where I can upload my entire library to iCloud.  This allows them to pitch me music I might like.   For bands that are similar to what's in my music library, why not allow me to opt-in to having Apple sell my music library as targeting to bands whose albums I don't own, and putting in albums from those bands that might make me buy the back catalog?

So the money would flow like this:   the music label would pay Apple to target me and put their album in my collection for a month, and if I download it I get to keep it.  Hopefully, I would buy more of that band's back catalog and then the band would make up the cost of the placement and more.  Hopefully they bought a fan.

I don't know all the numbers to actually work out if this would be a viable money maker for any of the parties involved, but it feels like there would be something there if done right.

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Full text of recent interview with Built In Chicago

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 05:46:55 PDT

A lot of interviews I do are by email.  I prefer it that way actually, but I always think it's helpful for readers to see the full text of the interview.  Most publications tend to have word limits, and my responses tend to be wordy, so a lot ends up on the cutting room floor.  This time I'm posting the full responses to the interview with Built In Chicago that recently wrote this article regarding Blinkfire Analtyics. Here it is. Enjoy.1. How did you realize that there was a need for Blinkfire in the marketplace?Working for Google, I worked on the Doubleclick products which enabled large media companies to sell advertising on their properties, and allow large brands to find that inventory.   After leaving Google I started looking at the sports market and noticed two things were happening.  First, sports franchises were becoming digital media companies themselves, producing large amounts of both written and video content to satisfy their existing fans and attract new fans.  Second, by distributing this content through social media, they were dis-intermediating the existing sports media companies in many ways because the fans were now coming directly to the leagues, teams, and players for media content on Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Instagram.    Sponsors and brands want to buy as much reach as possible, but they need to have metrics for this, so as the money follows the eyeballs to these channels, there seemed to be a great opportunity to better track their sponsorships.  At the same time, social media is becoming more and more visual, so we really saw the additional opportunity to provide a better solution than any existing social media analytics solution by tracking the brands people interact with in video and images, in addition to text.2. What were the most significant challenges you faced on your way to this funding round?Like any other funding round, it's a matter of finding that lead partner that you want to work with and believes in the founders and the team.   That wasn't the biggest challenge as I worked closely to the Foundry Group partners while we were creating FeedBurner, and I've stayed in contact ever since. Getting that critical mass to all come together at the same time was perhaps the challenging part.   We were actually oversubscribed from the amount we originally wanted to raise, so it was a bit of a challenge to choose the final investors with whom we wanted to work and we thought would accelerate our progress the most.Additionally, we used AngelList as a platform to fill out the FG Angels syndicate.  In the end, it worked great, but it was a wild ride as you can see the sausage being made in how the investments get backed.   You have to set a limit, so there's a lot of backing investors trying to get a bigger piece, some dropping out, others trying to go around the syndicate fund, and other interesting things that happen in real time while the fund gets filled to your limit. 3. Now that you have the money, where do you plan to go from here in the next year or so?Our mission is to be in the middle of every digital transaction that happens between the brands and publishers (teams, leagues, players in our case).   We think we can use computer vision to tie together online and offline campaigns in a way that fills out all 360° of the circle in the way these publishers sell to their sponsors.  So we're going to do that.But to me, the most critical part of building a startup is building the right team.   It's about finding people who are really passionate about something that's going to drive you on the right vector toward success.   For us, that might be a person who's really passionate about sports, but it also might be an engineer who is super passionate about design, or databases, or pattern matching algorithms.  So I'm aggressively putting together that team.&nbs[...]



Amazon, I really want AutoRip for books

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:14:14 PDT



I read most of my books electronically these days - it's just easier and more portable.   That said, there are certain books I still prefer in paper format.   These are usually the ones that are "high design" with lots of pictures and diagrams - where the layout counts. They are just better in paper format.

But the biggest drag with these (literally) is their size.   My backpack needs to be as light as possible.  I hate carrying around books.

I don't understand if I buy the paper book from Amazon why I don't get the Kindle version as well.

Amazon, you made this happen with the music industry;  when I buy most physical CDs I get the MP3 version automatically put in my account.

Please, make this happen with books too.(image)


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Three is the magic number, for messaging clients that is

Sun, 02 Mar 2014 20:43:50 PST



I've found it interesting that throughout my career, the number of messaging apps I use simultaneously has been about 3. Three is a magic number.

There are always challengers to break into the top 3, but the core number has remained about 3. I'm talking about mostly synchronous instant messenger clients.  This doesn't include email or things like Linked-In In-Messages.

I'm also convinced there will never be unified messaging. The road is littered with companies who have tried.

Instant messaging is a commodity by itself, but the social network attached to the messaging system is not, because there is value in the social network attached to the messenger.  It's probably also the case that a person can handle at most 3 social networks at a time.   I haven't thought more about that, but it's probably true.

The other observation is that popularity of messaging apps seems to extremely localized across either geographic, cultural, or lingual boundaries. At the start of my career, there was Aol Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger!, and ICQ. The first two were split across whosever Mail product you used, and ICQ was pretty much for the rest of the world. Over time, I think MSN Messenger supplanted ICQ, especially in Asia because they supported extender character sets.

These days the 3 are Google Hangouts (Talk),  Apple Messages (SMS) , and Avocado.

What's app is waiting near the ring to knock out one of the contenders soon, for my co-workers in Europe.

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Google still has the best feed reader

Sun, 02 Mar 2014 07:31:21 PST

Yes, we all know Google Reader was shut down for good on July 2 of last year.   It's creators went on to do great things, and are still at it.  Users had an emotional attachment to Google Reader; it was the best for those that understood RSS. Many were upset at its sunsetting.  That's well known.What's less well known is that Google is rebuilding a smarter newsreader, from the consumer point of view.   What I don't understand is where it is hidden: inside the Google Play Library under "My News".  For the last year, I thought this was a place for Google to sell magazines to compete with the quite weak iOS Newstand, so I never ventured into Play News. But yesterday, I actually wanted to buy a digital copy of a magazine (hard to believe I know) - and discovered that Play News is so much more than a digital magazine stand.   It's a news reader with a feed reader underneath.In fact, they do a pretty good job of mixing both together.  But just as a basic newsreader it's pretty damn good.You can navigate to the publications you like, and this part is genius, it will auto promote the publisher's mobile app if it appears in the Play store.    Little golf claps for the PM at Google who created this feature.And underneath, yes there is a feed reader.   In fact, here's how this blog looks inside of My News:So yes, RIP Google Reader, but let's hope Play News combined with the news that appears in Google Now can fill the void.    Google has always been good at creating relevant news products, they've just been really poor at marketing them.  Let's hope this incarnation stays alive.Update:  This app is actually called "Play Newstand" and does have it's own icon in Android if you dig into all your apps.I didn't correct my flawed name uses above to underscore Google's lack of branding.   Getting the name to dsiplay without an ellipsis as "Play News..." isn't easy. [...]


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The failed Tumblr experiment

Sun, 23 Feb 2014 23:13:48 PST

I'm not sure why, but we decided to use Tumblr for our blog for +Blinkfire Analytics.  I think we just wanted to try something different and perhaps a little more modern, but it ended up being a big mistake, so I just finished migrating it back to Blogger.

Tumblr is clearly a great place to run your pornsearchphrase.tumblr.com blog, but not a great place to run a business blog.  Search engines don't seem to like it at all, and the inability to add any metadata around your content is a bit crippling.   Plus, Tumblr stopped supporting FeedBurner redirects for some reason breaking all sorts of user's feeds and podcasts.  Three strikes and you're out.

Luckily, we mapped a custom domain name to the Tumblr, so switching was pretty easy, though a bit roundabout.

1) Turn off the custom domain mapping on tumblr

2) Create an account at wordpress.com and import your tumblr blog

3) Export from Wordpress.com to your desktop.

4) Use the http://wordpress2blogger.appspot.com/ app to convert your export file from #2 to a blogger.xml file

5) import file from #4 to a new blogger blog

6) add the custom domain to the blogger blog

7) change DNS to point your custom domain to blogger

Now, to add some new content there...(image)



Firefox is still the leading browser for my blog readers

Tue, 14 Jan 2014 21:55:46 PST


This blows my mind.  I haven't used Firefox for years.   The bubble in which I live has everyone using Chrome.      Chrome is third.

What's even more amazing is that Firefox isn't a default browser on either Windows or OS X.   Users had to choose it.(image)


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Android is now winning for me over iOS

Tue, 14 Jan 2014 21:47:06 PST


I'm preparing to switch over to Android for good. Since the release of the Google Nexus 5(image) , I've been carrying both an iPhone 5, and the said Nexus 5. Essentially, I use the iPhone for my personal phone, and the Nexus for work. But I gotta say, I barely even use the iPhone. The Nexus and KitKat are just so ingrained into my work and lifestyle, being connected with Gmail, hangouts and my Google accounts, that it's really just my go-to device for almost everything. KitKat is so easy and smooth, and iOS 7 is just, blah. Android has been making quantum leaps between versions (granted, they've been playing catch up), where the only interesting feature that has been added that's interesting on iOS7 is easy access to the flashlight.

Even on the music side, where I think Apple and iTunes have traditionally led leaps and bounds above Google Play, whenever I add something to iTunes, Google Play Music picks it up and uploads it.  It's available on my device sooner than it is on iTunes match because of how iTunes match refreshes on the device.

On the tablet side, I've seen the same thing.  I barely touch my iPad, and instead gravitate to my Google Nexus 7(image) every night. And the Nexus Wireless Charger(image) is pretty amazing and convenient.

Now, every company I work with still develops an iOS version of their app before the Android version, so I'll still need to keep the iPhone around - but I'm getting tired of carrying two phones.

I'm ready to switch for good.(image)


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Using GitHub for (almost) Everything

Thu, 12 Dec 2013 20:42:54 PST

I've spent a lot of time in the past hunting around for the "best" product development "management" tools to use for my various entrepreneurial ventures, as well as the companies I advise, invest in, or otherwise work with.  When I talk about management tools, I'm specifically talking about tools that support:

  • product requirement docs (PRDs)
  • product roadmap and enhancement priority lists
  • bug tracking
  • task tracking
  • release and milestone tracking
  • code reviews
  • code versioning and release management
I've tried using separate tools for each part of this stack thinking that for instance, a specific tool for tracking tasks would be better than a tool that had task tracking as auxiliary feature, or that keeping a priority feature list in excel would be easier to manage and sort separate from code features.

However, in the last year or so, especially with the way we have the distributed team structured working on Blinkfire Analytics, I've come to the conclusion that GitHub is really all we need.   Now, all my data points come from teams of less than 10 people, so I don't know how this scales yet, and there are of course some documents that are perhaps better suited to be Google Docs, especially if they are simultaneously collaborative, but otherwise GitHub is doing just fine.

My general product management process is to enter features (designed or not), tasks, bugs, and questions for discussion as "Issues" in GitHub, and create labels such as these:


and then to tag each issue as appropriate.    Separately, we create "Milestones" that tie to major feature or PR releases, and list those as well.  For instance,  there might be a "Pen Blog Post on Follower Feature X" as a task tied to that release milestone, and that would be tagged as a "blog post".

Every change and comment goes out to a mailing list that all team members are subscribed to that keeps everyone in the loop.

We've still had a few times where a design doc was appropriately penned in Google Docs - but that's okay - because it's been easy to embed or link to within GitHub.  

Let's see how far we can take this and how many people we scale to before GitHub becomes a limitation.




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Yes to running to get to know a city

Tue, 15 May 2012 12:39:10 PDT

I couldn't agree more with Brad Feld on this one - running around a city is the best way to get to know it.   In fact, I make a point in every city I go to, new or not, to explore as many mornings as I can by taking a nice long run.  I'm an explorer in general when travelling, but running is of course a bit quicker, and I make mental notes of places to explore more later in the day.

Interestingly, I find that I can run almost twice the distance in a new city on a trip than I can at home.  The new sights, sounds, and smells somehow take away the boredom of running the same paths you've been on many times.   I actually am not much of a runner, but always run when I travel.

My favorite cities to run around have been Tokyo (which is totally safe, and even more interesting if you run at 6am when all the bars are closing and the streets are filled with drunk teens), Barcelona (which you can see a bunch of different districts in one run), London (which has some great parks to run through), and San Francisco (there's nothing like a run on the entire Embarcadero in the morning).(image)



Chromebook just got infinitely better, and this is the future of Android

Thu, 12 Dec 2013 20:40:05 PST

I've been using a Samsung Chromebook Series 5 500C for some time now, but to be honest, I was getting ready to sell it because I just couldn't get used to having only one browser open at time.  Especially with multiple Google accounts, it just didn't mirror how I work on my Mac with multiple Chrome profiles for every Google account I use.  Fifteen full page tabs just feels weird.The newest release into the Chrome OS dev channel just changed all that.  It allows for multiple Browser windows to be overlapped, and includes a ribbon launcher on the bottom of the screen that makes this feel more like a computer.To get the newest release, you go to the wrench, select "About Chrome OS", select "more info..." and choose "Dev - Unstable".  The next time your Chromebook looks for updates, it will download this version, which although it is called "Unstable" has been pretty stable for me.This all got me thinking...this is probably one of the biggest reasons I don't take a tablet seriously for getting real work done.  That is, the multitasking presentation that exists today on iOS and Android just doesn't make sense for how my brain thinks about multitasking apps.  I need to see the multiple windows to remember they are there.The closest I've seen to this being solved is Chrome on Android.  There's an affordance that's always there to tile the multiple windows, and it just works so much better than having to remember that button is down there to see the other programs that are running on Android.   And having to double button on iOS - I wonder how many people know that is there.   The simplicity of iOS doesn't work for me. My brain craves something more complex.If Google can solve the multi-window problem in Android like they have in Chrome for Android, and merge that with Chrome OS, then I think they will actually have a powerful weapon against Apple.     When I can effectively use my Android phone as a Chomebook, then this starts to all make sense. The Motorola Atrix kind of has a feature like this when you dock it, and although it looks pretty klunky now, perhaps this is one of the things that Google really bought from Motorola mobility, especially if they patented it.I expect the next iteration of the Xoom tablet, to be a Google tablet, sold like they started selling the Galaxy Nexus yesterday.  I expect Chrome to be front and center on said tablet, to pave the way for the Chrome OS/Android merge, with this Moto docking technology coming in the background.Chrome on Android is already so good, I definitely use it more than I use native apps on my Galaxy Nexus, so this doesn't seem like a stretch.This post was written entirely on my Chomebook.[n.b.:  this is all conjecture - I don't have any knowledge of this as a strategy from my time working at Google] [...]


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Breckenridge at Dawn

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 17:09:40 PDT

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DSCN0826, originally uploaded by steveobd.
I've been playing a lot with HDR photography. Here's one from a recent trip to Breckenridge from the foot of Peak 8 at dawn.

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30 Minutes was all I could take with a Windows Phone

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 07:58:57 PDT

Every six months or so, I get this urge to try a Windows Phone again, so today I took my SIM card out of my LG G2x and popped it in my htc HD7 to try it out again.  I was going to try to use it for a week, but  I couldn't use the phone for more than 30 minutes and I had to rip the SIM right back out.

It's got one thing going for it:  it's super snappy and fast.  Way faster than both Android and iOS.  And I love fast.  But otherwise, this is the worst user experience around.

One of the reasons I got the urge to try the phone again was that I needed to check something in my hotmail account, which I rarely use.   Even after logging out and logging back in with my Windows Live account, the phone continued to show me that I had no hotmail messages even though when I went to double check on the web, I clearly did.  You want apps that just work, and I got apps that just didn't work.

I went in to update the 10 or so applications I had installed, as the phone told me they were in need of update, but I got a "Windows Live service is down" - sorry.

The IMAP client to Gmail is just horrible.

Maybe this is the best experience around if you have an Exchange account, but I don't get it.

The "Metro" UI to me doesn't work because it wastes too much space.  I don't need title bars and fonts that take up 10% of the screen.   It works okay on the Xbox, but not so much on a phone.

I think a lot of this does have to do with perspective.  I saw this article by Danny Sullivan, who I respect and think knows what he is talking about, on how Android needs a better email client and it is amazingly the opposite of what I think.  

If you use Google apps or Gmail as your primary method for calendar and email management, there's nothing better than the Android interface, and actually the iOS mail client is terrible.   It doesn't bring the Gmail experience to iOS at all, but then again, I don't think Google's iOS Gmail client does either, as it doesn't support multiple accounts (last time I checked).

At any rate, I've seen the new Lumia phones, and although they are nice, I can't see myself ever using one of these phones.  

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Where Microsoft is really getting hit hard: new developers

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 10:32:03 PDT

I've been talking to a lot of college engineering students these days, both through NUvention Web and also via other ties into Northwestern, and the one thing I've noticed is that Microsoft is a company that is totally absent from their periphery when it comes to programming enviroments and technologies.

When you give students a chance to build something, using Microsoft technologies isn't something that would ever even enter their mind.  First choices seem to be Ruby on Heroku or Python on Google App Engine.

It makes me think Microsoft is in a world of hurt from the developer standpoint.  Try finding a new college computer science major who wants to learn .NET technologies.  I haven't found one yet.  This seems to me to be a problem for the longevity of the company, as engaging developers is important.

This isn't a surprise to me, but I'm just recording it here as another data point.(image)



It's all about thin

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 07:26:52 PST


While cleaning out my basement last weekend, I found my first laptop.  It was a Thinkpad 750Cs with a passive matrix screen, and a 170MB hard drive, I believe.  Yes, that's MB.

I was working for Andersen Consulting at the time, and working 16-18 hour days on top of an hour and a  half commute, so working on the train was absolutely critical.  This could barely run the ParcPlace Smalltalk distribution we were developing our architecture on at the time, but it was still useful.

I haven't touched this machine in years, but besides it being really really heavy (I can't even find a google search that will reveal what it weighs) the first thing I noticed about it was that it has almost the exact same footprint as my 11" MacBook Air.

I've used smaller and bigger laptops, but I find this size is about right for what I need.  The utility of that dimension hasn't changed.   But the thinness is what has and makes the MacBook Air such a useful too, especially for travelling.   Apple really got this right.

I find it's the same thing with phones.  Thinner the better.   They can be a little bigger on the height and width, but the depth has to be as thin as possible.  That's probably why I'm enjoying the Galaxy Nexus right now.  Huge screen, great for email and reading books on the Kindle application, and thin enough to be unobtrusive in the pocket.

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Sony and AdWords Remarketing Really Want me to Buy a Nex-5N

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 20:30:59 PST

A few days ago I did a search for the "Sony Nex-5N" camera, and most likely clicked on the promoted (when ads move from the right column to the top, they are called "promoted") text ad that Sony is running on Google search.   This took me to Sony's site on the Sony NEX line, as expected.I didn't buy the camera from them, but they sure want me to.   In fact, whenever I go to any site that has a block of Google AdSense text ads, there's an ad for the Nex-5.  Here's four examples from sites you probably recognize.from PCMagfrom LA Timesfrom Chicago Tribunefrom CNETSpooky?  no.   Is Sony reading my mind?  Invading my privacy?  no.This is Google AdWords remarketing at work. And it's working beautifully.  It's like my own private reminder that I want to buy this camera as I browse the web all day long.  It's stuff like this that is making Google's Display business $5 Billion per year.  From the AdWords help:Next, a small piece of code called a remarketing tag is embedded on your homepage, for example. This code tells AdWords to save visitors to your "Homepage List." When people visit your homepage, their cookie ID is added to the remarketing list. Once the remarketing tag is in place you can create an AdWords campaign that targets messages only to people on your "Homepage List" while they browse the Web. Your remarketing messages won't be shown to people who aren't on the list.The remarketing tag can be embedded on any page within your website, not just the homepage, so you can develop more detailed audiences. For each remarketing list that you want to create, embed a different tag. If you want to create a "Homepage Visitor" list and a "Completed Conversion" list, you need two separate tags -- one to go on the homepage, and one to go on the conversion page. Learn more about remarketing and users' cookies.There's a balance between creating very detailed and broader remarketing lists. While detailed lists allow you to further target your message, you'll get the most scale and volume with broader lists. Read more on strategies for your remarketing lists, and learn how to tailor your creatives to these lists.I'll let you know how the camera is. [...]


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Chrome for Android...wow

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 14:10:29 PST

One site Multiple Tabs Syncs with your DesktopSynced bookmarksSome quick thoughts on Google Chrome for Android:Awesome user experience.   For a beta, it's incredibly polished.  The animations on the Galaxy Nexus are smooth, and just beautiful.   This is the mobile browser you want to look at. You can't see it in the stills, but when you dismiss tabs, they fly off the screen at an angle.  Really slick.The best execution of multiple tabs on a mobile browser I've seen.It pre-fetches websites it thinks you want to read next - if you want it to. The default is not to do this on the mobile network. ( I wonder if it generates ad impressions for pre-fetched pages, or if they've created an API with Doubleclick to delay impressions somehow. )When there are no tabs open, your recently closed tabs are there in a list.According to html5test.com the browser implements 343 out of 475 of the necessary actions (compared to iOS5 Mobile Safari doing 305) and it does seem to render most websites better than anything else I've seen on a mobile device.And it's fast.  I'm sold.It sure seems to me that the rate in which Android and its collection of apps and services are improving is faster than the rate in which iOS and its apps and services are improving.  I personally find myself grabbing my Galaxy Nexus over any other phone about 90% of the time these days.   My iPhone is getting jealous for sure. [...]


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Sharing Affiliate Links on Pinterest part of their model?

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 16:56:19 PST

I got an invite to Pinterest the other day, so I decided to play around with it to see what all the hubbub was about.  The road is littered with web clipping services and bookmarking engines but this is the one that has seem to have found its niche, especially with the female demographic.So I found a few guitars I liked, and pinned them up.   To my surprise, I seemed to get some immediate engagement with people I neither followed nor followed me, which got me thinking...wow, what a perfect affiliate link vehicle.So I decided it was worth a test.   I found some pictures of camera bags I like, and generated some affiliate links for them via the Google Affiliate Network.  I pinned them up.Then I saw the related links: and thought, wow, okay, so obviously someone else has thought of this too.Accidentally or not, as it turns out there are a ton of affiliate links from GAN in Pinterest:(unfortunately for whoever the original publisher was, most of the links are broken because of an encoding issue - the links on a lot of these products seem to have the ampersand URL encoded in the link so they don't work.http://gan.doubleclick.net/gan_click?lid=41000613802215716&pubid=21000000000517668)My first thought was, wow, they're gonna get spammed, big time on this.  But again, as it turns out they already know this.This is from one of the boards in the search above.  They've already detected that the links go to GAN and warn the user as such.So smart, this is part of the plan.  See how products convert on the affiliate networks, and then probably create their own affiliate network.  I'm guessing that's their business model. [...]


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How does the MP3 album cost more than the CD?

Sun, 05 Feb 2012 17:38:31 PST



Really, how does this even happen?  It seems nuts in this day and age that any MP3 album would cost $17.98 anyway, even if it is a double album.   But for the CD to be less is even more ridiculous!(image)


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MacBook Air 11 inch vs 13 inch battery life

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 11:02:52 PST

A little over a year ago I wrote about how the battery life on my 13" MacBook Air was really great, a little over 6 hours when it was new.  Plenty of juice to last a Chicago to San Francisco flight.

More recently I began using an 11" MacBook Air, to save a little weight in the backpack and to make it fit a little better on the airplane for those times when the person in front of you decides to recline their seat at full speed without warning, and thus crunching your laptop screen.  (Karma would put such people in front of a 3 year old on their next flight who likes to kick the seat and open and close the tray the entire flight).

Now, this is not an apples to apples comparison because I have wifi on in flight versus not, but the 11" MacBook Air has a substantially weaker battery than the 13".   At a 97% charge, I'm getting a 2 hour and 40 minute time, which I've found to be pretty accurate after a couple flights.



Dimming the keyboard after 5 seconds of inactivity gets me another 27 minutes.   This gets me about what I need for a Eastbound flight from the West coast to Chicago, but not a Westbound flight where it's sometimes an hour longer.




Here's hoping that airlines that are good enough to have in-flight wifi will also consider providing power outlets.  Actually, I need to read a few books an relax for the last hour anyway...


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Motorola Xoom won't boot?

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 19:47:22 PST



My Motorola Xoom a few times has decided to just shut itself off and put itself in a state whereby pushing the power button will not turn it on.

The fix:  hold down the power button and the "volume up" button for 3-4 seconds.   

Not sure what causes this, but this always seems to fix it.
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