SF Bay Area day trips with no car (or planning!) needed

I had breakfast yesterday, one table over from an adorable older couple from Pittsburg, so obviously Ashley​ and I made friends. They had such a great SF vacation plan. All their day-trips were tours with no car needed (to Napa, Carmel, Pebble Beach, Muir Woods).

Why don’t we do these day-trips while living here?? Not just “let’s be tourists in our own city!” – I didn’t realize you don’t need to spend the time/$$ on car, hotel, planning yourself.

Have you done a great day-trip like this? Or know a good site to find them? I’ll update this post with the best ones I hear from or find myself. Ideally:

* leave from downtown SF
* provide all transport/food/tours
* NOT a party bus
* diverse fellow tour-takers

Typing Instructors for coding

I’ve been thinking a lot about typing lately. I skipped typing class in high school because… well mostly because it was in between me and programming class, and I wanted to program, damn it! The principle of the school was convinced: I’d had a 286 or better since I was in elementary school, that seemed legit. I could type fast enough, wasn’t looking that often, and I’d get enough practice while coding anyway. So I skipped two semesters of pre-reqs and jumped into the deep end.

I was half-right. Typing didn’t keep me from graduating with great grades, or getting great jobs. But 15 years later, I was at that same plateau. I could mostly touch-type in email and chat, but when programming, sometimes typos meant I couldn’t quite get into flow. I’d hit hiccups on number signs, symbols, and more involved vim commands (Is anyone out there touch-typing commands like this?

 :10,$s/\.oldClass/.newClass/gc

 

Whatever tools you use… master them.

My intern host at Google told me once “whatever tools you use… master them.” This conversation was about text editors, but the keyboard is an even more basic tool. Long story short, I developed a new-found appreciation for the fundamentals.

So I went looking for the idea programming typing instructor. This is subjective, obviously, but my ideal would be fun, relaxing, self-paced, effective at teaching me, and it would weight symbols like these more heavily:

 < > [ ] { } . ; $ ^ && || # @ = + - " '

 

Here’s what I came up with, roughly in order of how much I’ve used them and how much I can vouch for them:

Z-Type: The uber-relaxing typing game

http://phoboslab.org/ztype/

This fits most of the bill. It’s not self-paced, and it doesn’t do symbols, but it’s so fun and relaxing, I actually wanted to play. When’s the last time you really enjoyed a typing instructor? If you could use some brushing up on your basics, come back here from time to time.

GNU Typist: Console-based typing instructor

macbook-console> brew install gtypist

 

GTypist works right from the console on any linux system, and has several courses to choose from, all of which feel super logical. I guess you’d expect all that from the people at GNU! You can choose from a simply QWERTY overview, to detailed courses (symbols!) and even DVORAK and international options.

If you’re early on, go for the “Q” courses (Quick Qwerty). If you’re more advanced, skip straight to “T” courses (Touch Typing). They all show the keys they add in, so you can jump right to the symbols you want to practice.

Keybr: Online typing instructor with an AI twist

http://www.keybr.com/#!game

Keybr just launched on ProductHunt last week. What I like about Keybr is that it starts simple at your own pace with just the homerow. Then it never ends. You just start typing, and the “AI” notices how well you’re doing. If you’re speeding along typo-free, it’ll add a new key to the mix. If you need some work, it gives you the time to master what you’ve got before moving on.

You can also log in to save your progress and pick up where you left off. No need to install anything, just a browser, and you’ll pick up right where you left off.

Typing.io

https://typing.io/

Probably the least fun or relaxing of the group. But the most realistic for programming. You select snippets of code (real open source code!) in your choice of languages, and that’s what you type.

This is the “jump into the deep end” option – you get thrown in with all possible characters. But you do type real code, without the usual pauses to stop and think interrupting you. So if you just want practice real life coding (complete with semi-colons, brackets, and terrible variable names) then this is for you. You can upload your own code samples as well, in the paid version.

Some things I wish existed (maybe they do)!

A typing instructor for vim. Maybe a “Guitar Hero” style interface where hjkl movement keys are falling down the screen, along with things like w, ^, d3d, /searches, and :commands.
A more relaxing typing instructor that never ends. Z-Type above is great, but it’s set up like an arcade game. It starts at boring, gradually gets harder until pushes you to your limit, then you fail, then you start back at “boring”. I’d love something that combines elements of Z-Type and Keybr to give me something I’d continuously love to play. Maybe elements of calm.com for epic relaxation.
Something that could tell me if I’m using the right fingers, not just hitting the right keys (this would need to account for how the typical typing instruction is broken for the left hand). Not sure this is possible with software alone. Webcam? Special gloves? This one’s a long-shot.
“Quantified self” for typing. I’d love to track, over time, how much I’m fixing my bad habits during the rest of the day, not just while I’m in a typing instructor. This could be a background task running on my machine that checks for WPM or typos. Ideally it would combine with tracking which fingers I use for which keys.

Chrome-like Tab behavior in Vim on Mac OS X

Google Chrome has trained my brain that Ctrl+T, and ⌘+⌥+[arrows] will move me to the next and previous tabs. I wanted vim to work the same way. In .vimrc:

""""" TAB BEHAVIOR
" Ctrl+t to open new tab
" Note: this overwrites a shortcut for the tag stack, if you use tags
nnoremap <C-t> :tabnew

" Chrome-like shortcuts for prevtab and nexttab
" (Meaning ⌘+⌥+[arrows])
nnoremap <ESC>[1;9D gT
nnoremap <ESC>[1;9C gt

YMMV on the exact mappings to use, see below on how to figure it out for yourself. I found a lot of solutions that didn't work for me, including pressing the key combo in vim under Visual Line mode, so it would show me vim's notation for what keys it's getting. But the problem was three things failing in some combination:

-- The terminal was mangling the input before it got to vim

-- Vim wasn't showing me the starting "^[" (escape key)

-- Vim wasn't displaying the [1; section of the input either. Just ":9C" or ":9D"

After a lot of searching, I finally found this simple solution to figure out what the terminal is actually sending, and translate to vim speak, all in one. Using the terminal on my Macbook Pro, it's surprisingly simple:

> sed -n l
[Press whatever key combination you want]

The output it showed me was “^[[1;9D”, so my key signature to map was “<ESC>[1;9D”

You can see my entire .vimrc file on Github. Hat tip to Adam Morse for the warning on Ctrl+T and the tag stack.

New Years’ Resolutions (WIP)


I’m realizing my (work in progress) New Years’ resolutions could apply as much to product as life. Would love to hear from people, on here or on social media, with thoughts to help me refine my thinking on these? Got good ones of your own? I’d love to hear them!

1. Simplify
2. Ship or Shelve
3. Measure
4. Everything in Threes

1/ Fewer distractions, fewer (but more important) goals, delegate the less important. Meditate on what matters. Want only to not want.

2/ Breadth, hobbies, experiments are great, but find an end point. Whether great or not, finish it. (eg open source, art-, or side-projects)

3/ Pick what success is ahead of time, even the next small step. Have goals in mind. Be specific. Ideally, measurement is automatic (see #1)

4/ Code: Refactor on 3rd use. Books: read on 3rd recc. Buy someone lunch the 3rd time you hear about them. It’s all noise until 3rd time. Act on what makes it through the filter.

Biggie Smalls – Juicy (Startup Edition)

So… this happened.

Some nights you accidentally “Weird Al” a whole Biggie verse about startups. We’ve all been there. *cough*. Here’s the original, play it and read along!

Push notifications on Tiiny, Kevin Rose’s new app

Tiiny is a fun new mini-app by Kevin Rose’s new company, which creates a wall of fun looping micro-videos from your friends and follow-ees that somehow feels very familiar…

It’s new, so there’s a TON of notifications on the app, which gave me some serious notification fatigue. But perhaps more interestingly, I don’t even remember allowing push notifications. At first I thought I was crazy, but it came up again on the ProductHunt thread. In a (very informal) poll I just did around the office, only 1 in 6 people remembered allowing push notifications in the on-boarding flow.

But it turns out we all definitely did. The notifications popup shows at the exact moment that we’re shown the wall of our friends loading.

The notifications popup shows at the exact moment that we're shown the wall of our friends loading

My working theory: it’s a novel instance of classic misdirection. We’ve been trained by years of popups to quickly dismiss them (Sure you want to close this tab? Review our app! Really delete this file? Join my mailing list!…). Combine that with the powerful draw of gifs popping up in the background, most of which are faces looking directly at you, and you’ve got a powerful misdirection effect. If this is actually a repeatable phenomenon, then with great power comes great responsibility. What do you think: real phenomenon or coincidence? Evil genius, or happy accident?

Ag. A (somehow even) faster grep

The Silver Surfer (creative commons image)

The Silver Surfer (Marvel Comics)

I still remember when I used ack for the first time. It was shortly after I moved to SF, and Brian Rue swore by it. I was as skeptical before trying it as I was blown away after – usually at least 10x faster than grep, and better at ignoring useless files by default.

Adam Morse just told me about Ag (aka “The Silver Searcher”), which somehow embarrasses ack on performance, the same way ack embarrassed grep years ago. It also knows about .gitignore files, and can plug in to vim and TextMate just like ack.

On mac, it’s just…

Install homebrew

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"

 

Install Ag

brew install the_silver_searcher

 

And you’re off! (other install methods available). I don’t have time for extensive performance tests, but at first glance, ag looks 20 times faster than ack, and 200 times faster than grep

time grep -inrH “testing” . time grep -inrH “emissary” .
real 0m2.875s real 0m2.922s
user 0m2.420s user 0m2.358s
sys 0m0.170s sys 0m0.230s
time ack testing time ack emissary
real 0m0.303s real 0m0.293s
user 0m0.267s user 0m0.265s
sys 0m0.026s sys 0m0.024s
time ag testing time ag emissary
real 0m0.013s real 0m0.014s
user 0m0.007s user 0m0.008s
sys 0m0.009s sys 0m0.009s

Quotable Objectified (the Film)

I really enjoy the film Objectified. Every time I watch it, I find another nugget of wisdom I want to remember and integrate into the way I think about product and design. But as time goes on, my memory fades. I recently re-watched as a part of the fantastic HackDesign.org online course. But some time later, I often find myself asking questions like “what was that quote about objects you really love that get better with time? I think it was a guy from IDEO…”

I can try Googling parts of the quote I remember, and I might find a blog on it online. Even if this works – and it often doesn’t – how can I find that snippet to re-watch? I’m still faced with re-watching the movie to find that quote, or skipping through, hoping I get lucky.

This page is an attempt to solve that problem. Over the last year, I’ve collected all my favorite quotes from Objectified the film, in chronological order, including time stamps. I hope this makes it easier to find that elusive quote or moment of insight on the tip of your tongue.

By the way, you can buy Objectified on Amazon for only $2.99

 

Objectified on Amazon

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Notes from Rob Bailey’s #StartupBD Keynote

10 Bizdev Hacks
Rob Bailey, CEO of DataSift

1 – Ride the wave
More fun than swimming
Think about underlying trends your company is riding (not creating)
Think about partnerships that can attach you to waves
(e.g. Datasift w/ Twitter, Twitter w/ iOS)

2 – Get to know your partners
What are their strategies?
Backchannel on where they’re going (birthday parties, events, meet ups)
Position yourself as helping them get to where you know they’re trying to go
(eg. Datasift finding Marketers will invest more the more they understand the channel. So Datasift spent time explaining twitter to CMOs)

3 – Ask a ton of questions
Know police interrogation techniques
Either to use them, or avoid them being used on you
(Hey your revenue’s around $10M right? gets you a lot better than “what’s your revenue?”)
Former usually gets you at least a “higher” or “lower”
Questions let you not reveal your position.
2-3x more questions asking than answering

4 – Use social to stalk, er, learn.
LInkedIn is great, but people are more guarded.
Everyone should have LInkedInPro (best is everyone who’s seen profile)
eg. Which VCs most interested? If 5 VCs had seen his profile, but were saying they weren’t that interested, that’s prob just negotiating tactic
eg. a VC of one of their competitors posting a pic of new office space
Follow your clients/competitors’ bosses on Twitter
Watch who’s tweeting AT a company, see their clients
Spikes in pos/neg sentiment
Hiring: Looked for BD people in SF with Klout score >= X
Jobvite posts – VCs like seeing you’re hiring
They’ve definitely used Instagram, twitter, Facebook for subtle

5 – Learn from smart engineers
Ask your smartest engineers who their smartest engineer friends are
“Jam sessions” with engineers, UI people on product have been “most productive hours of his life”
Helps to understand the tech side of business

6 – Hire an expensive law firm.
They have 2 law firms. “Honda” and “Rolls Royce”.
Almost always use Honda
NDAs, normal stuff.
Big deals, corp structures, limitation of liability, etc: Orrick
Difficult to agree on a term: Called Gunderson (his lawyer at the time) – who’s the best smartest person on X at the firm? 16 minutes in, he nailed it.
Use their awesome conference rooms if they’re in the city
In general – think about side things you can get out of your vendors

7 – Find unconventional ways to open doors.
Twitter is in its quiet period pre-IPO
He posted big blog post about importance of twitter IPO
Timing worked out such that media asked him for quotes and such
Twitter really appreciated it, even though they couldn’t have asked them.
Twitter competitors called him up to talk about what Twitter was doing.
Basically just take advantage of every angle

8 – Get everyone pulling for your deals
Eng, product, legal, office manager, everyone should know why you’re doing it
eg. Eng planning before deal, not after.
Engineers could also get drinks with other engineers, end up finding out useful info
Like how interested they are, what aspects are important, what’s feasible technically

9 – Look at every BD deal for M&A possibilities
Urban Airship deal with SimpleGeo came out of nowhere
Big company M&A can take years to build relationships

10 – Have fun!
Think it’s stupid and obvious
But you work really long hours
Remember you’re doing what you love, working with really smart people

Q&A

Q: Any companies that seemed like competitors but ended up doing frenemy/coopetition deals?
Factual – started out competing on places DB, ended up convincing execs that building their own places DB was bad idea.
Talked with their BD guy, met Elad Gil at a conference randomly, that’s what ended up working.

Q: How do you decide deal terms?
Align incentives
Look at similar deals elsewhere?
“fair is where you end up”
Start with what you think will be representative, rebalance as you go to represent value being exchanged

Q: Reaching out?
Host or go to events, hackathons
Blog posts
“I want these 30 companies to call me. What do they want to hear about?”
Webinars (e.g. with Guy Kawasaki who was one of their investors, or other big name you’re connected with)
Never cold calls.
Sometimes a big company in their space closes massive investment round, they might send a whiskey bottle and say we should talk. But it would come from CEO, not a sales guy.

Funding Fireside – Sammy Shreibati of SaveUp.com

My company, Emissary, works out of a great co-working space called the Founder’s Dojo. We organize periodic fireside chats with great people in the startup world. Below are my (raw/unedited) notes from our first talk. The topic was pre-seed and seed funding, with Sammy Shreibati of SaveUp.com


Advice to entrepreneurs looking to raise?
Create momentum.
Don’t tell them who you’re talking to. They won’t collude but they’ll get together, share notes, etc. They’ll eventually get there anyway, but no need to speed the process up.
Expected value of that situation is not necessarily worse, but it’s not a better outcome for the entrepreneur.
***Getting to the first term sheet should be your goal***

SaveUp’s 1st round
Talked to 15 investors in 2.5 weeks
Mid-2011, “frothy” time when lots of deals were happening
TrueVentures (seed), Blue Run (series A for Paypal)
Mostly Sand Hill, some SF.
Felt good to go up to them and say we’re talking to others
Once you get first term sheet you’re good.
Pre-product: bought adwords for different keywords, sent traffic to email signups, showed analytics as proxy for interest. This also got Sammy to really believe in it.
Reminds me of http://www.paulgraham.com/convince.html
There was also a ton of literature on Prize Linked Savings which is the inspiration of SaveUp. That helped pre-product.

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