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.

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?

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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Notes from Duct Tape Marketing: Day 3

Yesterday through Friday, CreativeLIVE is broadcasting John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing, on boot-strapping or optimizing the marketing arm of a small business. Day 1 notes here | Day 2 notes here | Below are my notes from Day 3 of these sessions.

Let me know what you think on Twitter at @staringispolite

The book on Amazon

Watch the session live here: http://www.creativelive.com/live1 They have “course materials” here: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/duct-tape-marketing-john-jantsch Continue reading

Notes from Duct Tape Marketing: Day 2

Yesterday through Friday, CreativeLIVE is broadcasting John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing, on boot-strapping or optimizing the marketing arm of a small business. Day 1 notes here | Day 3 notes here | Below are my notes from Day 2 of these sessions.

Let me know what you think on Twitter at @staringispolite

The book on Amazon

Watch the session live here: http://www.creativelive.com/live1
They have “course materials” here: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/duct-tape-marketing-john-jantsch

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Notes from Duct Tape Marketing: Day 1

Today through Friday, CreativeLIVE is broadcasting John Jantsch, the author of Duct Tape Marketing, on boot-strapping or optimizing the marketing arm of a small business.  Below are my notes from Day 1 of these sessions | Day 2 notes here | Day 2 notes here.

Let me know what you think on Twitter at @staringispolite

The book on Amazon

Watch the session live here: http://www.creativelive.com/live1
They have “course materials” here: http://www.creativelive.com/courses/duct-tape-marketing-john-jantsch

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Notes from Design+Startup:Making

Just got back from a fun and inspiring night at IDEO, who hosted Design+Startup (an ongoing series of design and hacking talks with lots of pizza and booze mixed in). Big thanks to @madisonmount and @phineasb for hosting. Below are my notes from the event’s talks. They’re mostly in stream of consciousness form, though I do make some attempt to organize them. Many past events can be found in video form (nicely separated into separate talks) on First Round’s Youtube channel.

I hope these can be a helpful resource. Final note: I love talking design and hacking. If you went tonight, or want to discuss, find me at @staringispolite.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Kyle Neath on: TOOLS
Karen Kaushansky on: EXPERIENCE DESIGN
Vivian Barad on: MANUFACTURING
Brad Simpson on: DATA VIS / TELLING A STORY
Tobias Toft on: PRINTER ART SIDE PROJECT
Jeffrey Kalmikoff on: DOING EVERYTHING

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30 Days of Programming Interviews

I’m starting a new 30 days experiment! This time with my good friend from University of Maryland, Koffi Kpetigo. Each week we’re picking one chapter from this book on programming interview questions: Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions

Each chapter is themed (Arrays & Strings, Object Oriented Design, etc) so each week will be a focus on one of our top four topics. If it goes great after 30 days, then we’ll keep going until every chapter is done. Each morning, I’m waking up at the same time as before (8:30am) and doing a one-hour interview as if someone were asking me questions from that chapter. Then I’ll attempt to document that effort here, for posterity. Then, once a week, we’ll call each other up and do phone screens on questions from the “Medium” and “Hard” chapters (which are miscellaneous unthemed chapters that seem to represent the kinds of questions I’ve actually been asked in interviews.) The weeks are going to be this ordering, with today being Day 1 of the first week:

Week 1 – Chap 7: OO Design
Week 2 – Chap 3: Stacks & Queues
Week 3 – Chap 4: Trees & Graphs
Week 4 – Chap 9: Sorting and Searching

I expect I’ll get two things out of it, with hopefully a few surprise leanings thrown in as we go:

  1. More confidence in a variety of interview questions. Right now I typically go in to an interview with the belief that I’ll be able to figure out most problems, and a solid (though not perfect) understanding of common data structures. But I’ve never studied interview questions themselves, so I always feel like there’s something I’m missing. I’m definitely not one of those people who remembers their sorting algorithms, and I don’t feel like I’m at the point where I can say something like “Ok, this question falls into <question grouping>, which usually depends on <data structure here>, and they’re really looking to see if I can <thought process here>.” Even though I’ve been on the other side of interviewing for years, I still don’t feel like I’ve “pulled back the curtain” 100%. This should change that, or at least start.
  2. A couple new interview questions to use myself. I’ve been using the same one or two interview questions for a couple years now, and I’d like to switch it up. I like my current favorite a lot: it starts with basic algorithms, expands requirements in the middle, and ends up in a larger systems design conversation. But two problems I have with it are: (1) if you’ve heard a similar question for the algorithm part before, you’ll get further, and it’s close enough to a more common interview question that that’s happened a few times. I can correct for this, but I’d like to not have to. (2) I’d like to ask a harder initial question in general, so I can make a more granular evaluation of the top candidates.

Here we go!

 

500 Words. Day 29.

In an awesome turn of events, Ashley asked me to be a guest writer on her fashion and tech blog. She really enjoyed my post on the broken state of men’s online clothes shopping, and I’ve been talking to her about my experiences with TrunkClub. It looks like I’ll be doing a guest article on TrunkClub – my experience, what’s worked, and what’s not – in the next week or two. Out of curiosity, I asked her what the norms are when two writers are arranging how a guest post will work. I was interested, since I don’t consider myself “a writer” and I’m not super familiar with the norms there, whereas she’s been interviewing people for years.

According to her, you’re usually either asked to post on a certain topic, or more likely you pitch article ideas to the editor/owner of the blog. Typical terms would be that you get a link back to your site (for readers to know where to find you, but also negotiate the link text for SEO); that you link to your guest post the day it’s published; and that you Continue reading

How it feels when EVERYONE you know gets laid off

#RIPlolapps. Never Forget

Well, all my plans went out the window yesterday, when I learned that my former employer, Lolapps, basically stopped existing between 11 and noon yesterday. They laid off every single one of their game developers. Game engineers, backend engineers, artists, PMs, UX, community, QA, everyone who made games is either gone, or gone 3-6 weeks from now when the transition is over.

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