“How Ta-Nehisi Coates built the best comment section on the internet—and why it can’t last.”
The similarity is that Bitcoin is a transportation infrastructure that is decentralized, efficient and based on an open protocol. Instead of transferring packets of data over a dynamic network in contrast to the circuits and leased lines that preceded the Internet, Bitcoin’s protocol, the blockchain, allows trust to be established between mutually distrusting parties in an efficient and decentralized way.
A must-read for anyone trying to build or expand a tech hub outside of Silicon Valley. It rings true for Austin, that’s for sure.
no company has a culture; every company is a culture. A startup is a team of people on a mission, and a good culture is just what that looks like on the inside.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters
That statement is easy to dismiss, thinking “yeah, of course”, but few companies truly understand the truth contained in those words. Culture cannot be bolted on, but it can easily fall by the wayside if left unminded or is de-prioritized in times of growth or crisis. The effort to repair it later takes years and culture rarely runs as deep as it did in the early days.
Be mindful of your team, your startup and the internal reflection provided by your culture. If you want to build a great company, you cannot afford to let it slip.
Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can. Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters
This passage has been top of mind for me as I search for my next challenge. It highlights the joy and the energy that comes with a startup. It also notes the tremendous pressure that comes with building a different future (much less convincing people that it is the right future to build).
“Nimble” is easy to throw around. It sounds good, but it requires significant energy in practice. Yet, when I think about those teams where I’ve found the most success and felt the greatest reward, nimbleness and agility were core to the team’s foundation. Solving hard problems requires a dogged pursuit of new ideas but it also requires the ability to discard concepts that were once deeply held.
Being nimble requires an elastic mind and a bias toward action, prioritizing progress over process.
It brushes aside the formulaic cycles that can come with some success.
It requires energy and a thoughtful outlook.
And, in the right environment, it returns more energy than it required.
I am actively looking to join a great team who understands this and who in turn are looking for a product leader that is passionate about user experience and building a different future. Here’s my LinkedIn profile if you’re interested in my background. Please reach out if you’d like to talk!
The thing you want to buy reflects a different way of thinking, which has value, but that difference is at odds with the culture you already have. Like an organ transplant, natural antibodies will fight against having the new organ fit in. And the more you do to force it in, the less of what you wanted to acquire in the first place remains. The vast majority of acquisitions fail for this reason. Few executives recognize the paradox, or think themselves immune to it.
Scott Berkun in The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work
Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems — climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation — like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley — accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance — will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure.
Neal Stephenson from Innovation Starvation
The dirty little secret that they never realized is that free speech and making people feel welcome are both perfectly noble ideals that are in conflict with one another and if you choose to side with the former in every possible circumstance, even if it means antagonizing rape victims, even if it means alienating women, even if it means going against your own stated goals, then you’re not a martyr for free speech. You’re just an asshole.
“faceless007on the NeoGAF message boards
And that cuts to the heart of the “Dickwolf” situation. I’ve read Penny Arcade for a couple of years now, and have enjoyed it for the most part. I’ve praised the creators of that strip for PAX, the conference that they’ve built, specifically because it was so inclusive and so different from the norms of video game and tech industry behavior. Sadly now, I can support neither in good conscience. There is no room in my world for a view that rape jokes are acceptable. Sure, you have the right to say it, and if you have a platform, you can use it to make those jokes. But I’m sure as hell not going to applaud you for it.
Frankly, the horror that rape jokes play upon is magnified when they come from a source that women thought was not only safe, but a beacon of light in a community that is all too often dark and harsh. Mike Krahulik should have been better than this. We all should be better than this.
Thanks to my friend David for pointing out the post quoted above.
This is a note more to my future self, but if it helps you out, I’d love to hear about it.
To train SpamAssassin to recognize spam, run this command via SSH:
sa-learn --spam --showdots path-to-junk folder
On my host that translates to
sa-learn --spam --showdots ~/mail/silverspider.com/alex/.Junk/cur
cur is important as it contains the actual messages within the Junk folder.
The “showdots” flag provides a progress indicator so that you know it’s working. It isn’t required.
Running this command in the terminal will look like this:
sa-learn --spam --showdots ~/mail/silverspider.com/alex/.Junk/cur ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ......................................................................... ... Learned tokens from 514 message(s) (514 message(s) examined)
It’s just as important to tell SpamAssassin about non-spam messages, also known as ‘ham’. This ensures that it can recognize good messages and not inadvertently mark messages that you want to see as junk.
To train it using the contents of my inbox, I run this:
sa-learn --ham ~/mail/silverspider.com/alex/cur/
Running it for a subfolder is pretty straightforward, so long as you remember to include ‘cur’ at the end. If you have a space in a folder name, you need to escape it with a backslash. Here is the command to train it to recognize good messages in a folder named ‘Social Media’:
sa-learn --ham --showdots ~/mail/silverspider.com/alex/.Social\ Media/cur
I’ve used a Multi-column app for Twitter for a few years now, as it is e one way for me to compartmentalize and prioritize the people and topics that I’m interested in. Of late, I vacillate between Tweetbot and the new, Twitter-owned Tweetdeck, both of which are solid, while having a couple of flaws that keep me from adopting either 100%.
This is a bit frustrating, but also provides an opportunity to break down what does and doesn’t work for me in each app, with the goal of outlining the changes that would result in a “perfect” app for my needs.
I’m not going to enumerate over all of the feature of each as their respective Web sites can sell the products. Instead, I’ll highlight some of the features and gaps that impact how I use the apps. For reference, I use both on two different screens: a 13″ MacBook Air and a 27″ iMac. I’ll leave a review of the mobile apps for another day.
Columns & the Timeline
Tweetbot’s column layout is clunky – if I add another column, I have to minimize and maximize the app in order for it to appear. I’ve found reordering of columns to be more intuitive with Twetdeck. Plus, in Tweetbot, the main Timeline column cannot be moved – I prefer to have the first column display a subset of the overall list of people that I follow. Tweetdeck provides this flexibility.
Tweetbot’s display of attached media, such as photos and videos is cleaner, showing the thumbnail to the right of the text. But, this is also the place where it shows my avatar when I tweet, so I don’t see the thumbnail. While this isn’t a huge deal, I post quite a few images via Flickr and Pinterest, so I like to see the thumbnail to confirm everything is working as expected.
Tweetbot’s integration of history syncing is a killer feature for me, as I access Twitter on four different devices. Tweetdeck lacks any form of cross-device history sync such as Tweet Marker
Muting & Filtering
Tweetbot’s Hashtag mute functionality is excellent and convenient to use. All it requires is that I right-click on a hashtag, select Mute and choose a duration. Tweetdeck’s filtering capability is strong, but it is buried, so it isn’t convenient to use when I want to mute a specific hashtag.
I miss the column functionality of the old Tweetdeck, which didn’t rely on Twitter lists, but instead allowed you to create a column that is post-filtered. The problem with using Twitter Lists, is that they don’t include @replies between two users that I follow. So, if @patramsey replies to @atxryan, that tweet doesn’t appear in a List, even though they are both in it. The conversation will appear in my main timeline. Neither app provides the functionality, but I still see it as a gap.
“I wanted to be able to send pictures and videos and stuff like that in e-mail…And by the way, when people would ask me, ‘Why do you care so much about putting media into e-mail?’ I always said because someday I’m going to have grandchildren and I want to get pictures of them by e-mail. And people’s reaction was to laugh and laugh.”
Nathaniel Borenstein from The MIME guys: How two Internet gurus changed e-mail forever by Jon Brodkin
Borenstein is one of the co-creators of the MIME protocol, which has made it easy for us to include photos, videos and other attachments in our email for twenty years.
Close Mail.app on both machines, and then find the file
~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/LSMMap2 on the old machine and copy it into the same location on the new machine.
This is useful on those occasions when you need to copy or move OS X’s Mail’s rules for filtering spam from one account to another, or from an old machine to a new one when you don’t want to use Migration Assistant.
The same can be done for any Rules (copy
MessageRules.plist) or Smart Mailboxes (
SmartMailboxes.plist) you’ve set up.
Accurate as of OS X 10.7 (Lion)
If you haven’t read the excellent How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work in the New York Times, you should do so now. The story describes a seismic shift in technology that many haven’t noticed until only recently.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
Charles Duhigg and Keith Brasaher- How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
It’s also worth reading Why China Wins after you’ve read the first article for additional context:
Go to the lobby of the Sheraton Four Points in Shenzhen — or a dozen hotels like it. Table-after-table is a white guy from middle America trying to make his company competitive again sitting with a Chinese factory head or “fixer” who can get them into the right factories. It’s not unlike wandering into Cuppa Cafe in Palo Alto and seeing table-after-table of VC sitting with hopeful entrepreneurs.
It shocks me that people always assume the Chinese can only make inferior products when Apple– the gold standard of well-made products– is made in China. Sure, China can make shitty products for cheap. But it can also make the world’s best products. Again, like Silicon Valley can produce a bloated, uninteresting startup like Color and a nimble startup like Instagram that millions love. The startup machinery doesn’t make a company great or bad. It just makes whatever is put into it, more efficiently than any other place. Ditto China and manufacturing.
Sarah Lacy – Why China Wins
If you haven’t tossed all of your old assumptions about quality, innovation, China and the future already, you should do so now. If you want to be prepared for the future, you can’t carry old expectations as baggage.
Note: This is a bit technical, but it does work if you’re comfortable modifying a bit of HTML via your browser’s development tools.
I’ve recently needed to translate some PDFs from Chinese to English in order to understand some workflows and wireframes from a partner. Google Translate provides a great jump start in providing context, though sadly, the rendered translation doesn’t like to print, typically only outputting the first page. As I needed to maintain the layout to compare to the original wireframes, pasting the translated text into another app wouldn’t work.
So, I began mucking around with Chrome’s developer tools and found a quick solution, which comes down to one change: Remove
position: absolute; in
And with that, I was able to both print to PDF and the printer.
“We would not have become a global superpower without the contributions of immigrants who built the railroads and canals that opened up the west, who invented ground-breaking products that revolutionized global commerce, and who pioneered scientific, engineering, and medical advances that made America the most innovative country in the world.
“But make no mistake: we will not remain a global superpower if we continue to close our doors to people who want to come here to work hard, start businesses, and pursue the American dream. The American dream cannot survive if we keep telling the dreamers to go elsewhere.
“It’s what I call national suicide – and that’s not hyperbole. Every day that we fail to fix our broken immigration laws is a day that we inflict a wound on our economy. Today, we may have turned away the next Albert Einstein or Sergey Brin. Tomorrow, we may turn away the next Levi Strauss or Jerry Yang.
This is far too true, and it saddens me to see the growing anti-immigration drive and calls for isolationism. The United States is powerful because of the risk and work of the brave men and women who came to our shores over these last few centuries.
To turn away the next generation only serves to weaken our future on every possible front.
Simply put, it is a betrayal of our core principles as a nation.
It’s a betrayal born of complacency and fear.
We can do better.
We’re all programmers now. We all have to decide what to post next, what to point to next, what to launch next. Is there a skill in dreaming up Must-See Thursday nights, or in establishing a season of Shakespeare or even in deciding what’s on the special list at the restaurant? I think there is.
This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over these last few years working at a high-tech media company. Crafting, combining and scheduling content is just as important as, and not that different from, writing code and designing interfaces.
If your work hits the screen, you’re programming at some level.
Hiring the right people is critically important in a quickly growing startup. Each new hire can significantly change the company in a good or bad way. There is a saying that A players hire A players and B players hire C players and I am a big believer in only hiring leaders, future leaders and key contributors. B players hire grinders and losers. The difference between a grinder and a loser is work ethic, grinders have it, losers don’t, but neither have ambition. That being said, anyone can change, but don’t hire them until they do.
On a side note, knowing some of the great people at Infochimps, I can attest to the fact that Nick and Flip walk the walk when it comes to recruiting talent. They’ve put together one hell of a team that anyone would be proud to be a part of.
Take a couple of minutes to read Nick’s full post as well as the other pieces on his site, it’s good stuff.
Michael Lopp, one of my favorite bloggers, has a couple of books out. The first, Managing Humans (Kindle), is a compendium of his blog posts about geeks and software engineering stories. It’s a great read. The second, Being Geek (Kindle), is fresh and insightful material focusing on the career of software engineers, and given the close similarity, I’d say web developers as well. If you’re an engineer, developer or coder, you should buy and enjoy this book.
I’ve read 42% of the book (I love the Kindle for surfacing that info) and I’m taking my time to allow my brain to apply the lessons to my world. I’ve been a geek my entire life, and I’ve managed geeks for over a decade, but I still have a lot to learn. Being Geek has made me better at my job already and I fully expect I will start it over as soon as I’ve finished it to catch details or angles I missed the first time through.
Not a Geek, but You Work or Live with One?
Read his post The Nerd Handbook. I think that’ll show the value of his perspective and provide enough encouragement to pick up a copy of the book. A deeper understanding of your colleagues worldview and motivation is never a bad thing right? Right.
From Chapter 15, “A Deep Breath”:
I admit it. I love it when the sky is falling. There is no more delicious a state of being than the imminent threat of disaster.
During these times, I’ve done great work. I’ve taken teams from “We’re fucked” to “We made it.” Yeah, we had to cancel Christmas that one time, and there was that other time I didn’t leave the building for three days straight, but it was worth it because there’s no more exhilarating place to hang than the edge of chaos. We’re wired to escape danger.
There’s a reputation you get after successfully performing the diving saves. You’re “the Fixer.” You’re the one they call when hope is lost, and while that’s a great merit badge to have, it’s a cover story. It’s spin. See, someone upstream from you fucked up badly. When the sky falls, it means someone, somewhere underestimated the project, didn’t make a decision, or let a small miss turn into a colossal disaster, and while fixing a disaster feels great, you’re not actually fixing anything.
Management by crisis is exhilarating, but it values velocity over completeness; it sacrifices creativity for the illusion of progress.
Michael Lopp, Being Geek
It isn’t easy to choose from the passages I’ve highlighted in the book, but I believe that should provide a glimpse at the content focus and writing style that you’ll find if you pick up a copy of Being Geek. I hope you do. You and your team will be better for it.
I just pledged $35 to a Kickstarter project – the first time I’ve participated in the site, but certainly not the last. The PadPivot, shown in the video above was too awesome not to support. That, and I want one. A lot.
For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, I’ve provided a quick description below.
So first off, yes, I am blathering on about a product I’ve never touched. In fact, the PadPivot doesn’t even exist beyond prototypes. But I know that it will come to life and in part due to my small contribution on it’s Kickstarter project. That’s pretty damn cool. The video does a far better job than I would have describing it, so I won’t go into detail, but I find both the product concept and its funding method very exciting, so I thought I would share.
A quick description of the PadPivot for those who may not have time to watch the video:
Kickstarter is an ingenious concept brought to life. The goal is to ease the creation of ambitious creative ideas like films, music, stories, events and physical products. Every project has a clearly outlined goal, a set amount of money to raise, and just as importantly, a finite time to raise it in. As they put it “A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.”
When a project is set up and launched the public has the ability to become a project “Backer”, by pledging anywhere from a dollar to hundreds. As a Backer, you select a level of support, pledging X amount, usually tied to a level. The levels are tied to rewards that the project is required to set up. This is part of the model is brilliant, and as you can see throughout Kickstarter, well thought out. For example, read their blog post on the topic of reward pricing to see the role it plays in the overall success of a project.
As I noted above, I opted for a $35 pledge level, because I wanted one of the PadPivots and I thought it worth a bit more than $25 (my thinking at the time was that I would help them hit their $10,000 just a little faster. Yeah, they blew through that in no time at all – at the time of writing, they have over $19,000 in pledges from 454 Backers.
So far, I’ve mentioned pledges a lot, but that isn’t exactly the same as actually buying something. This is another point where Kickstarter has built a solid foundation. Backers are only charged when and if the project reaches it’s Pledge Goal. As a Backer, you know where your money is going, and you feel much more confident that you aren’t throwing your money in a black hole. Kickstarter calls it an “all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully funded or no money changes hands.” I can get into that.
In this case, if they hadn’t raised the money by March 14th, 2010, my account wouldn’t have been charged. As they did hit the goal, they will begin production, using my funds alongside that of the other Backers.
More Kickstarter Projects
I haven’t pledged to any of these. Some of the projects are complete, including a couple that rocketed well past expectations early. While others may well earn my money, once I have time to dig a little deeper.
A ” searchable ethnographic database built from the lyrics of over 40,000 Hip-Hop songs from 1979 to present day. The database is the heart of an online analysis tool that generates textual and quantified reports on searched phrases, syntax, memes and socio-political ideas.”
Take a new touchscreen iPod Nano and transform it into a watch. As the creators noted “The idea to use the Nano as a watch was an obvious one ever since the product was announced. But we wanted to create a collection that was well designed, engineered and manufactured from premium materials and that complemented the impeccable quality of Apple products. Not just clipped on a cheap strap as an afterthought. “
Also check out the Lunatik for a video.
As you can see on the project page, the makers of the Glif, a tripod mount and stand for the iPhone 4, wanted to raise $10,000. They pulled in $137,417. The product has proven very popular since its release into the world – an excellent example of a simple, useful and elegant idea brought to life.
Kickstarter has posted about many awesome projects on their blog as well. Check them out for inspiration.
Just a quick note for myself, that I hope others will find useful.
To set the modified date of a file in OS X to a value in the future (useful if you want something to always be sorted at the top or bottom of a date listing), use this command in the Terminal:
touch -mt 201212120000 [path to file]
The date format is YYYYMMDDHHMM (Year-Month-Day-Hour-Minute), so in my example above, I’ve set the modified date to midnight, 12/12/12 (December 12, 2012).
Bonus tip: if you don’t want to type the full path to the file, type
touch -mt 201212120000 and then drag the file onto the terminal, which should write out the path for you.
Bonus tip #2: the command will work on any *NIX system, though I don’t expect the same holds true for the drag-and-drop file path.