Archive for the ‘Someone’ tag
Someone took it upon themselves to experiment with a redesign for American Airlines with an interesting retro approach. After filing bankruptcy protection in 2011, reinventing themselves could potentially help the airline. The question now is, would this design persuade you to travel with them?
Editor’s note: Paul Stamatiou is Co-founder of Picplum, a Y Combinator-backed photo printing service, where he obsesses over both design and development. He also co-founded Notifo (YC W10) and Skribit. Follow him on his blog, PaulStamatiou.com, and on Twitter: @Stammy.
When I first visited California for my Yahoo! internship (news of which immediately hit Valleywag, remember that site?) I knew I had to move out here eventually. I came back every year visiting friends and checking out startups.
Every time I drive into San Francisco and see the skyline, it’s a strong reminder that I’m fortunate to be in a time and place where I have wanted to be for so long, with such a vibrant and strong tech community. And that Ibetter not fuck it up wasting time and being unproductive. I’m not here to talk about your startup idea, offer Backbone.js tips, discuss how to find your first customers or offer tips to pimp out your AngelList profile. I just want to say a few words on how to work. This is a post to new entrepreneurs about getting shit done.
This is all started with a tweet of mine. I was annoyed some friends that just began working on a startup were slacking off. Over 150 retweets later, I decided to elaborate on my thoughts here.
i’m going to teach a course for first-time startup entrepreneurs called stop fucking around and get back to work.
— Paul Stamatiou (@Stammy) April 23, 2012
We are in an amazing time right now — perhaps the perfect time to build companies. And it pains me to see first-time entrepreneurs flush away this huge opportunity getting caught in the hype of how cool it is to do a startup, going to endless meetups and spending entirely too much time on Maserati problems when they’re not busy cargo cult coding. Startups are a grind. It may end with having to get a job, or it may end with a big smile and a Section 280G, but either way you’ll have learned a ton.
Your workdays are sacred
Think about the opportunity cost here. You could be off making six figures but you decided to swing for the fences with your startup. That takes guts. So why would you slack off and waste time? This is not a 9-5 job. You’re only hurting yourself if you don’t suck it up and work your ass off. So please avoid all those endless meetups you go to for the sake of meeting up. Like Michael Arrington says, “use all that free time to start spending time with the serious people, doing serious things.”
Someone wants to meet during the week? Unless its actually business-related, turn it down or move it to the weekend. If they really want to meet, they will sacrifice some of their weekend too.
I will make one exception though. I’m a big believer in paying it forward. If someone needs genuine help I’m always down to lend a hand. It’s my way of returning the favor that people like George Zachary, Dan Martell, Hiten Shah and Noah Kagan that have spent countless hours helping entrepreneurs like me for as long as I can remember.
Get ready for ups and downs
You will have days that suck. Getting accustomed to this will be a challenge for any new entrepreneur. I once tracked my mood everyday for a few months while I was working on my last startup (this was when we were fundraising).
Find Your Thing
This is one of the things Marissa Mayer has mentioned for how to prevent burnout and I have found it to ring exceptionally true. What do you need to do for yourself every week to keep your sanity? For me that’s running a few hours per week and seeing the occasional electronic dance music show with my cofounder. These things leave me feeling more energized and happier, something you can’t often say about attending lots of tech meetups and conferences.
What’s your plan?
Pick some sort of task/project management tool and use it. Whether it’s Trello, Hackpad, Asana, Flow, Sprintly or what have you — just pick one. Keep track of every idea, feature request or bug but rigorously prioritize. Do not allow anyone else to use their own system, because they’ll never check the company Asana and always be one step behind.
Not sure if it’s worth your time to fix something right now? Hiten Shah of KISSmetrics once told me something a few years ago that stuck:
For those customers that email about small feature requests or tweaks: Don’t fix it until you get one passionate user complaining about it/emailing you an essay.
One thing I learned about myself is that if we set an amount of time a new feature or update should take, I’m more likely to think through everything involved and spec out all the steps. This applies for at least anything that touches the UI. For example, we recently designed and built a new share page for the new Picplum. When I first started working on it, I was in the mindset that this was going to be a simple afternoon project that I would just hook up with current layouts and maybe extending one Backbone view. Easy.
While that could have been the route we took, we decided to take a step back and define the goal of this page. What was the first thing we wanted the user to do? Did it need to use the same layout as other pages? What followed was a productive 30 minute product chat with some sketches that resulted in a much better idea of what we wanted the user to experience. I mocked up 5 variations in Photoshop, had quick back & forths on the designs then built the one we decided on.
By mentally setting the length of this task from a hasty “I need to push this tonight” to a more effective “lets plan this out and take more time if necessary” the end result was much more robust. A better product and better code that you won’t have to end up rewriting twice later on.
The opposite of this is spending days or weeks “planning” a single feature and feeling like that is actual work. Thinking about how to do something won’t actually get it built. I’ve seen one too many startups that are way too happy about all the notes they’ve scribbled down over the last week about what they want to do. Just go do them, and surprise me when you’re making real progress.
Get more feedback
I used to do this all the time: I’d spend hours or days building what I thought was the perfect feature only to realize my cofounder and I had different thoughts on how it should all piece together.
Get more feedback, more often.
But how do you get quick feedback without sounding condescending and nagging for status updates from your cofounders? Just make it a habit. Anytime one of us asks “What are you working on?” or “How is X going?” it’s not a translation for “WTF is he doing” but rather just some friendly accountability and an offer to help. Make sure you and your cofounders keep each other in check with this simple habit.
The best part about these tiny status updates here and there? Less meetings.
Keep it light and iterative. For me this is often sharing a screenshot in Campfire with Akshay or flipping my monitor around to talk through something. One thing that stuck with me is Jeffrey Veen’s talk Designing for Disaster. He talked about how to conduct product reviews and keep them constructive:
The review is not a forum for expressing opinions. It is a forum for solving problems.
Instead of I don’t like blue, ask “what is the reason this is blue?”. Ask if this is a convergent discussion or a divergent discussion. If you need a decision made, make it. If you need ideas make that clear, and have a divergent conversation.
There’s nothing worse than trying to spec out that new feature or product and ending up with more questions. “Yeah we could do that” is not an acceptable answer. Entrepreneurs need to be able to make quick decisions and move forward with them. Delaying will not make the decision any easier (unless of course you’re waiting a few days for more data on that A/B test or more visitor metrics for your data-driven decision). Make a decision, put it in your Asana, assign people to it and get back to work.
When you get stuck
If you can’t figure something out in 20 minutes, move on if it’s not blocking or ask your cofounders. My cofounder Akshay is big on this “20 minute rule” of his. If you’re spending 2 hours trying to properly bind events on a collection or figure out why your RequireJS optimized build isn’t working on production, you are both wasting time and not putting your resources to good use. By resources I mean your smart cofounders. A pair of fresh eyes always helps.
Respect the Zone
Find out how you work best. It may be a bit eccentric but when I really want to get work done I do things like hide the clock in OS X, close anything that can make sound (except Spotify of course), close all unrelated browser tabs, and make sure nothing else is cluttering my mind, like any small nagging tasks that I should probably finish first. Perhaps you need to perfect your coding cave.
Make sure you know what you and your cofounders need to be productive. If that means designating a specific “wired in” work period every day when there are no distractions, then so be it.
You can be so bad at so many things… and as long as you stay focused on how you’re providing value to your users and customers, and you have something that is unique and valuable… you get through all that stuff.
- Mark Zuckerberg
As Kara Swisher notes, Marissa Mayer has brought the first Google staffer to join her at Yahoo: Anne Espiritu, who ran consumer technology PR for Google. In other words, not a geek.
Espiritu seems happy about the move, if we can take her most recent tweet seriously:
Someone please pinch me. Just to make sure I'm currently not in a state of dream. #overthemoon
Anne Espiritu (@Anne_Espiritu) July 29, 2012
Espiritu has not yet updated any of her social media accounts. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ still show her as employed by Google, where she has worked since 2005 on projects including “proactive consumer media outreach for Google’s new social platform, Google+.”
Espiritu also worked with Google Maps and various local initiatives for Google, which probably accounts for at least part of the Mayer connection. Mayer was most recently VP for maps, local, and location services at Google.
The obvious question: Does Yahoo really need help in the PR department?
OK, that was a stupid question.
Let me re-phrase: Does Yahoo need help getting its message out more than it needs help actually creating something cool? That’s perhaps a better question.
But it’s one that Mayer will have some time — and more than one hire — to answer.
Ten Comebacks I’d Like to See
originally published in MediaPost’s Social Media Insider
It could be the Olympics, or the fear of another early ending to the Mets’ season, or Ben Folds reuniting with the other two guys as they ironically tour again as Ben Folds Five. Whatever the reason, I’ve got comeback fever. While I try to find the cure, I keep thinking about social media. Here are 10 social media comebacks that I’d love to see:
1) Facebook’s stock: As a marketer, I don’t care what Facebook’s share price is. But the price indicates that Facebook is struggling to properly value its assets and communicate that value to marketers and investors. As a public company, Facebook is more accountable to marketers. With ads now appearing in the News Feed and on mobile devices, Facebook is delivering more of what brands want without sacrificing the user experience. It will have to keep moving faster, though.
2) Yahoo’s relevance: Yahoo’s still great for display media buyers, but there was a time when Yahoo was a pioneer in search (well before Google), an innovator in mobile (well before Google), and a scrappy social disruptor (Google’s working on it). Yahoo brought together acquisitions like Flickr (alive, but in need of resuscitation), Delicious (which it sold), and Upcoming (which somehow still exists as a Yahoo brand). OK, its homegrown network, Yahoo 360 ,was a Google Buzz-esque flop, but now its one big social idea is to connect all its pages to Facebook and get people to automatically share everything they read. There better be more. This week’s updates to IntoNow are a start.
3) Hashable’s idea: Hashable had a vision of replacing business cards and making introductions easier. It relied too much on game mechanics, and the company took itself so seriously that it inspired the memorable post “Hashable is Worthless” during SXSW 2011. Someone will come up with a better way to digitally connect people professionally, and when it happens, we’ll probably see just how close Hashable was.
4) Foursquare’s mojo. Yes, Foursquare is growing, and it just released Promoted Updates. The company matters less for what it is than what it was. Foursquare was a catalyst for marketers to expand their thinking around mobile marketing, location-based services, and game mechanics. Now, when I encounter someone using Foursquare, it’s often to get $5 back on their AmEx statement. That’s a great reason to love American Express, but it turns Foursquare into a coupon pusher. I still like and regularly use it, but I want to get back to loving Foursquare again.
5) Groupon’s original approach: Groupon’s etymology derives from its origins as a group buying platform. It was exciting, in the way that winning your first eBay was exciting ten or fifteen years ago. If deals didn’t get enough subscribers, they wouldn’t materialize, much like Kickstarter projects today. If you loved it, you’d need to tell your friends. Who’s bragging to their friends they bought a Groupon now?
6) Barcode Hero and Stickybits. There was a brief time when barcodes were wonderfully weird marketing vehicles. Barcode Hero added a gaming layer to barcode scans. After scanning relevant products, I was the king of Kraft, and even the king of shoes after killing time waiting for my wife to finish up at DSW. Stickybits treated barcodes as a content gateway, so you could scan a code and leave comments, photos, and videos. While neither company was destined to be a mass market hit, it was fun looking at black and white lines and boxes in entirely new ways.
7) Chat bots: Before there was Siri, there was SmarterChild, an instant messaging bot that was a fun alternative to search engines. Before instant messaging, there was Dr. Sbaitso, a DOS program that was the world’s first mass market virtual therapist. They didn’t catch on in time for brands to take part, but Siri will have a longer shelf life.
8) Color’s concept: If Instagram was the “Blair Witch Project” of mobile apps, Color was the “Waterworld.” It had a creative premise but couldn’t live up to the expectations set by its funding. The idea of an app that displays content shared from your immediate location sounds like a great social experiment, and perhaps even an important technology underlying the future of how content will be shared. Color pivoted and is now a video-sharing app. Yawn.
9) Second Life: I have fond memories of hanging out on H&R Block’s virtual island, where the avatars of real tax advisors would answer consumers’ avatars’ tax questions. I also recall another time tagging along with some clique of avatars (this may or may not have been when I met my first virtual furry), and one of them kindly offered me some digital genitalia to make my avatar look less like a Ken doll. Second Life is still around, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it in a marketing plan.
10) Digg: Digg introduced millions of people to social discovery, crowdsourcing, and creating content that’s designed to spread through social networks rather than search engines. Now there are new owners that want to make Digg a verb again. I’m especially excited for two reasons. First, Buzzfeed is on the verge of a monopoly for publicizing stories like, “Gotye’s 50 Funniest Kittens at the 2012 Lego Olympics.” Buzzfeed needs more competition. Secondly, as much as I couldn’t stand Digg’s fanboys with their hero worship of the site’s founders, Reddit’s insular crowd of contributors is even worse, voting up photos about – what else? – what it’s like introducing people to Reddit. Digg, you can do better.
I may often get nostalgic, but not everything needs an encore. I’m perfectly happy to say farewell to MySpace, Google Buzz, the hype around widgets, and every game that resembles FarmVille. Yet the Internet is the best comeback generator the world has ever known. It rebooted Betty White’s career, brought “Arrested Development” back from oblivion, and made Nikola Tesla a scientific folk hero. Some of these social media comebacks are destined to happen. When they do, you’ll hear about it – on Digg, from friends sharing a Yahoo story, via SmarterChild, or by scanning a barcode sticker in Second Life.
It looks like someone made the colossally silly decision to buy Mitt Romney Twitter followers. Earlier this month, Romney saw an implausible spike of 150,000 Twitter followers, and many of these likely fake accounts had less than 2 followers, according to some crack reporting by The Atlantic. It is unknown whether the purchase was made by someone at Camp Romney, a clueless PR flack, or a conspirator trying to make him look bad. Regardless, fibbing politicians are a serious affront to democracy, and someone owes the American people an explanation.
Up until Romney’s Twitter spike, his account had been growing at a slow-but-steady 3,500 followers a day, prompting widespread speculation of fraud after the surge occurred in a few weeks ago.
To test whether or not the media had unearthed something legitimate, or were just aching for a cheap corruption story, The Atlantic performed a simple statistical analysis on Romney’s new followers to test if they somehow differed from both Barack Obama’s followers.
Humans typically have more followers than automated accounts, since they Tweet more interesting information and they share similar interests with other netizens. More sophisticated automated accounts will boost their follower account by following one another, but they do so in a (statistically) recognizable way, and can be ferreted out by comparing the way humans cluster together. The study concluded:
“The median number of followers for Romney’s new followers was 5, whereas the median for the comparison group was 27. This represents a stark, and statistically significant difference… the p-value on this was 0.0000.”
The “p-value”, if readers recall from their college Statistics class, is how likely an event could have happened by chance. A coin flipping heads has a p-value of 0.5, for instance. A p-value of <0.0000 means that Romney is about as likely to get hit by a meteor as his is to get 150,000 followers in a few days.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney’s fellow Republican colleague, Newt Gingrich, got in hot water for buying Twitter popularity. “Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater,” a staffer admitted to Gawker.
Now, we’ve argued that social media is an over-hyped asset for political campaigns. If no one under the age of 30 had voted for Obama in 2008, he still would have won every state but two. The fact that Obama has 17 million more followers than Romney is probably inconsequential. But, truthfulness from someone who could be the most powerful man in the world is important. Zach Moffatt, Romney’s otherwise impressive digital director, has denied that the campaign is involved in inflating its Twitter account.
But, someone is buying followers. It’d be a win for the Romney campaign and for the integrity of the office of the President if they were honest about who is responsible.
When an emergency arises in a large crowd, the bystander effect dictates that despite plenty of onlookers, your probability of getting help decreases. The solution? Pick a specific person from the crowd and explicitly command him or her to dial 911 instead of just yelling for someone to call for help. More »
Task management startup Exec launched with a pretty simple premise — let users rent someone else’s spare time for a small fee of $25 an hour. That has enabled San Francisco-based users to outsource any number of tasks through its easy-to-use mobile interface, from having Ikea furniture put together to delivering various office supplies to cleaning someone’s apartment to dropping off dry cleaning. But now Exec is trying to use its system for good, by enabling users to outsource volunteer work to one of three local charities.
This isn’t the first charity drive that Exec has put forth: In April, the startup lined up a number of popular startup founders who volunteered to let users rent their time. Over the course of a weekend, founders from companies like Parse, Reddit, Hipmunk, Sincerely, and yes, even Exec itself, took phone calls and Skype chats from interested users, who mainly asked them about, well, startup stuff. That fundraiser brought in more than $3,000 for DonorsChoose.
But this time, instead of just sending money to various charities, the startup is proposing a novel way for its users to give back, by letting them pay for its Execs to stand in and volunteer their time. In other words, for those who want to volunteer but might not be able to find the time, Exec has got your back. They need only pick a charity, determine how much time they’d like to “volunteer,” and an Exec will stand in for them. They’ll do whatever needs to be done — whether it be updating donor records, to helping to plan fundraising events, or mentoring kids.
For this campaign, Exec has picked three charities that users can contribute to: Mission Graduates, which aims to help local kids get into college; Appleseeds, a film that attempts to raise awareness of domestic violence; and Kids Enjoy Exercise Now, which sponsors sports for kids with disabilities.
When asked why Exec chose those particular charities, founder Justin Kan responded by email: “We researched and contacted a bunch of SF charities and found ones addressing a range of issues that felt that they could utilize Exec hours at the charities. We wanted to pick local SF charities because we’re still completely SF-centric and wanted to give back to the community the customers are in.”
San Francisco-based Exec was part of last year’s Y Combinator class — the third that Kan participated in. The startup recently raised a $3.3 million seed round of funding which included investors like Loopt co-founder Sam Altman, Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison, Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, Gmail creator and Y Combinator partner Paul Buchheit, Google board member Ram Shriram, Matt Ocko, Delicious creator Josh Schachter, and others.
Ever needed to quickly convince a friend to go to your favorite restaurant instead of theirs? Or maybe you’re trying to sell an idea to someone? A well crafted pitch can convince people in a short amount of time, and Forbes outlines exactly how to do it with a message map. More »
Yesterday Bing announced they have added Foursquare data to the Bing social bar.
It works pretty well.
You search for something local, be it movie theaters, places to eat, barber shops and so on and if someone has something to say about it on Foursquare, Bing may show it…
Was It Viewed? Creates Trackable Links So You Can Find Out If Someone Viewed Any URL You Choose [Webapps]
Was It Viewed? is a simple webapp that creates trackable links to you can find out if any URL has been viewed. If you sent in an online resume, asked someone to check out a video, or want to know if a friend downloaded a file, it’ll let you create a simple, trackable link that’ll let you know when someone is checking it out. More »