Why Can’t Twitter Be The Kansas City Star?

bernie

A while back everyone was talking about “the death of twitter”… frankly, I never saw it that way. Twitter is useful, they have technology on their side, people want to use it… and the only problem is that it isn’t a 10,000,000 lbs gorrilla? so what? Let me tell you a secret: neither is facebook, or myspace, or snapchat or whoever’s next. The market cap, and valuation for all of social media is ridiculous. (On a side note… facebook’s “monthly user” stat that they hold up as a banner is a sham). Social media only makes money because of advertising… and guess what, people generally don’t like advertising. If I had to make a single prediction in my life… I would say advertising is going to change to something more product/content focused. In a nutshell, people don’t like being sold, but they love to buy- and our way of advertising doesn’t fit the future.

So we all know the valuations/ and revenue are bullshit, but My question is: Why can’t twitter be the Kansas City Star? The KC star at its peak was a well revered REGIONAL magazine. Analogous to Dogfishhead or Stone brewing, if you follow beer. They did great news, and made a reasonable amount of money till the end of newspapers happened (circa early 21st century). Ernest Hemingway, Harry S. Truman, Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Disney, and Bill Vaughan all wrote for the star.  Whats wrong with twitter doing something like that?

 

Re: How do I know if I’m a good programmer

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Just got a glimpse of this article and immediately felt the need to put some dialogue out there in the world on this topic. Dan Slater I believe makes a naive assessment of the job – but it is probably the single most commonly held belief in the software engineering/ development. GOOD CODE == GOOD PROGRAMMER.

Let me preface that I don’t believe I am a GOOD “coder”. I can be sloppy at times, I don’t think far enough ahead in the future, I prefer to have things done to done-right, and that’s not even getting into the algorithm/ design-pattern / optimization arena. With the aforementioned in mind, I believe I am a pretty good developer. I can build anything that I want to (that doesn’t require a team), and the things I have built are typically still doing their job years later.

The belief that Good Code is the pinnacle of a programmer’s achievement is obtuse (I don’t mean that maliciously). Code, programming languages, tools, etc are all just a means to accomplish something. The ability to accomplish that something is the real gauge of a programmer’s skill.

It is certainly not wrong to value the skill of writing good code… any more than it is to appreciate a difficult guitar solo, or a great woodworker. But at the end of it all, even the best Steve Vai guitar solo just doesn’t beat Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”, and Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t give a shit about the nails that got used.

I believe it to be true and I will reiterate that “the best code, is the code that you don’t write” (numerous sources => e.g. https://blog.codinghorror.com/the-best-code-is-no-code-at-all/). The measure of a programmer should be an “Archimedes lever” type assessment => how much positive change in the world can you accomplish with as little exertion as possible.

Normally, I would leave off here… but I think it’s worth touching on a dichotomy that exists in the dev world, as it’s related. Because “Great” developers/ engineers tend to care more about GREAT CODE (like Mr. Slater) and less about business goals, there is a belief in the world that Coders (the people) are just tools to accomplish the required nerd things needed for REAL business to happen. This belief at its best is inefficient, and at its worst, it’s disastrous for accomplishing things that actually matter. Just like code, business (or any practical endeavor really) is a skill set. We should stop treating a skill (albeit a difficult skill) as though its magic powers or something. The real magic power is giving someone their limbs back, or putting man on the moon (done with very little code originally).

So to be a great programmer do yourself a favor- appreciate good code, but focus on things that matter more.

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship, free markets, and running face first into the future

So some weird stuff has been going on in the States lately. Not that things were all that normal before… but there seems to have been an inflection point for Americans and perhaps mankind sometime since the great depressionV2 recession that I can’t pin down. I have some theories about it (which I won’t get into publically until I can convey them articulately) but I think it’s worth opening up a side argument about complexity and entrepreneurship.

So I have previously challenged capitalism for its inherent conflict with human progress- a seemingly obvious concept if you believe progress to be a linear affair and that we are all players into the greater contribution (which I don’t believe now). But lately, I have a new question for capitalism: how does entrepreneurship work when the only non-intrinsic-value markets are becoming progressively more complex?

In pre-information age entrepreneurship was simple. You as a human identify a problem, come up with a solution, then serve this solution to the market. Women need a better petticoat? Find an example petticoat, go home and physically sew a petticoat, then go try to sell it (door2door, inexpensive retail location, etc). Easy as apple pie. After you sell a couple, you can figure out how to scale the operation.

Fast forward to 2017+ … Women need a better petticoat. You find an example petticoat online for $4. Awesome! Now you go buy some fabric. The fabric for the better petticoat costs $20… hmmm. Okay No problem, these will be artisan petticoats. You build the petticoat. It’s a really good petticoat. Now time to sell it. You try door to door… people aren’t home because the average work week is now 47 hours for both men and women. Okay, no problem, you try retail. Well the average rent for a retail location is $20 a square ft. hmmm… that would be like 20 petticoats a day every day @ $50, just to make rent. Okay, No problem… we’ll go online! You jump on Shopify, and set up your store. Fantastic! except wait… no one is coming to the site. hmmm… okay, no problem… we’ll run some ads! So you jump on adwords and accidentally use broad match for everything blowing through your budget in under a week. You learn what broad match is. Okay, this is starting to get a little frustrating. To help answer this problem you search around to see if anyone knows how to get “organic traffic for your site”. You talk to 10 people that are all SEO experts, they all charge you $100 for an hour of work. You get 0 people looking to buy until the very last SEO expert- your conversions spike! Great news… until you find out that it was a click farm in India. WTF??? Okay… this is too complicated, you have the best petticoat on the market. Let’s just put it up on Amazon and see what happens, they only have cheap petticoats on their site. Amazingly after all of this you start to finally sell a fair number of petticoats on Amazon! Hooray, time to scale operations… so you get to the hard work of sourcing, and manufacturing and you start to finally see a real profit… Which is the exact moment that Amazon releases an exact copy of your petticoat except they sell theirs at $45 instead of $50. Fuck.

Sorry for the elaborate story. Here’s what I’m getting at though… if its easy to think of or easy to do, the people that are really making money off of it are making their money through supply-chain, distribution, or services. Thus, the “easy” entrepreneurship has gone bye-bye. There are tons of huge opportunities in Bio-Engineering, Tech, Data Science, etc… but you don’t wander out of your house one day learn how to do those things and have a product out by Friday. Building products, businesses, and services that scale now takes years to train yourself how to do it, as opposed to a long weekend like it used to.

So I’m wondering how capitalism is supposed to work now… a slightly above average 2017 7th grader knows more mathematics than a PHD did 100 years ago, and thats the kind of kid that will someday get rejected by google because they aren’t smart enough to be working on “Google” level projects.

You want to build an app that has a chance to be a success? That will take 3 years of learning how to code if you’re smart. Want to start a data science business? 7 years of school, followed by 5 years of enterprise level engineering. Want to build a pharma compnay? Better start with 1 Billion dollars for R&D (no joke). Of course, none of these things will teach you the complex world of entrepreneurship… they are just the foot in the door to be able to even try to build a company. Sure you can compete in a space that’s all based on intrinsic value (I.E. a t-shirt company) but that’s like trying to beat 100 people to death with a large hot dog- even if you win, you never really win.

My money says… the entrepreneurship game has changed. The real question is: what happens when “normal” people can’t build businesses anymore? What happens to our society when 99% of people are fighting the intrinsic value game and 1% have to be super smart and have access to a lot of money? I don’t have an answer but my gut tells me that we’re starting to see the beginning of it right now. Middle-class erosion looks real, unavoidable, and pretty scary. Right now might be the last chance to get on the life raft… and just remember when they filled up the liferafts for the Titanic, they left most of the seats empty so the wealthy people could have room.

Getting Married

By the way… looks like I’m getting married! Details soon to follow.

Why aren’t you posting????


Okay, Okay… chill out. Just a heads up on why the new stuff coming from this blog is greatly delayed:

1) I am in fact writing (quite a bit actually)… however, I am trying to put the majority of that into longer term projects. Specifically, I’m trying to refocus my effort on longer pieces, and on a newsletter that should send at the end of September (hopefully).

2) Spare time at the moment is harder to get than a rifle out of Charlton heston’s (finally) cold dead hand. Currently in the mix is a full time gig, Storm Cloud, a software product, 3 meetup groups, a GF, and a long list of smaller things/ projects that can’t even get mention but still take up a bunch of time.

3) This blog was originally constructed on WordPress, as much as I love WordPress for what it is… it is absolutely holding me back from doing some more fun things with the blog like data visualization, applications, and surveys. Total bummer! I’m looking at a bunch of different options including writing my own little thing, but the short explanation is that technological decisions are also holding me up.

4) My writing seems to be getting slightly more deliberate and elongated. I’m just not digging shorter pieces or quick one-offs as much. They were fine for blowing off a little steam or putting up some resources online… but these days I’m really preferring longer, data-heavy pieces. I think everyone is actually. I’ve been tracking the articles that I’m reading these days and I’m almost completely ignoring pieces below 500 words. The vast majority of what I’m really getting into AND bookmarking (the true litmus test) are above 1500 words.

5) A lot of my opinions suck. I have gone back and read stuff I’ve written a couple of times now. Frankly the quality was lacking. Ideas/ Originality are where I want to be… but the production value was like Michael Jordan’s baseball career. I’m not going to take the work down (for now) because it was definitely a moment in time, and I like having people get some infusion of the weird in their lives, but future work will be more refined.

Soon… super soon…

Why Autonomous Vehicles need to be able to kill people? Seriously?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently published: “why self driving cars must be programmed to kill” http://www.technologyreview.com/view/542626/why-self-driving-cars-must-be-programmed-to-kill/ in their technology review, and putting it lightly its become cocktail conversation for the tech world with people generating very strong opinions either for or against. These have become Large passionate debates about the morality of artificial intelligence, and what the moral implications of how “SkyNet” will affect our lives…

Killing people through computer programs is certainly a topic worth talking about but I’m going to go ahead and say that it has little to do with autonomous vehicles. I’m going to further go ahead and (while preparing myself to be blasted by internet scrutiny) say that this article in the MIT Technology Review is probably the dumbest article written by smart people this year.

Quite simply, because of our cognitive bias’s created by being human, we have difficulty realizing that there is no reason why a autonomous vehicle would even need to be in the situation to kill people. This would be akin to deciding whether or not to abort a pregnancy when you are a virgin (mother mary, and incubus aside), or what to do if you are struck by lightning on the moon.

The difference between Autonomous vehicles and people is that an autonomous vehicle would just not put itself in the situation where it would have to make a decision to kill a person.

Fair enough its a great mental exercise, but the automobiles just don’t have to make the same decisions that people do. If doing A leads to having to choose between two bad options: B and C, just don’t do A. Its that simple.

You may argue that we can’t control everything and you are right… but because there are enough factors that can be consistently controlled to mitigate an extremely unlikely outcome, there is no statistically significant probability that an incident need occur. It isn’t technically impossible, but it will be “impossible” in terms that utilizing proper logical analysis won’t allow.

So for the love of god… get autonomous cars on the street already… I’m sick of people dying in drunk driving accidents or having to pay $100-$200 a month for car insurance because people like to text when they are driving. CARS don’t have to kill people at all … they won’t. People certainly do a fabulous job of killing other people though- 30,000 to 50,000 a year if memory serves correctly. Those are 50,000 lives saved and countless other lives of handicapped, elderly, injured, etc that will be improved exponentially.

So you want to be a freelance web designer?

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The job could be one of the greatest jobs ever… but there’s some Gotcha’s I want to put out in the world, and Help people understand the gig.

But before I dig into it… I want to specify that “web designer” is different than “web developer”… for me, I had to move into the “web developer world”- I still love design and have a healthy appreciation for it, but “web design” alone didn’t fit my personality. In short I care more about doing things, compared to the concept of how things are done.

For Starters, Freelance is different than Business owner, which is different than Employee. I have done all. This is not to say that Freelancers are lone wolves out there doing everything themselves.. those type of people will fail. Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong…Find me a person that does Design, Development, Content Generation, SEO, SEM, Research, Social Media, Editing, Sales, Marketing, etc All on their own, with no help, and makes more than $50/hour Consistently. You won’t, I promise you.

What you will find instead are individuals that have resources for all of those things and executes well enough for most of those things. Friends, other freelancers, vendors, etc… all play a part in a freelancer’s work. So in many ways it is a business… but the difference is the business has an individual as a lynchpin. (Many Real businesses may really be “freelancers” masquerading as businesses)

A freelancer work flow starts with Sales… I’ve been blessed with a lot of sales experience, so I won’t go into the tactics, but I will say that the hardest part for freelancing in web design isn’t getting work… its actually very much the opposite… the hardest part is turning down projects/ knowing when to say no.

I’m actually quite a pussy on that front, so like a bad girlfriend I just make it too expensive to be around me if you are a bad project. Thus I don’t ever say “No” I just bump the cost 20% above their max. For those of you that are unfamiliar this is called price discrimination.

Inherently people don’t like price discrimination… but a funny thing happens when you practice it. People become easier to work with. You take your normal awesome client… they make life so easy that you unconsciously will forget about it sometimes… those are the clients that I always put extra hours in for. I time track everything so I’ll give a 20% to 30% addition on the time that I spend compared to what I bill for. Now the Bad clients, when you charge them normally… they suck 20%-30% more time than you will account for- it sucks. But if you charge for that extra time… for whatever reason they see you as more valuable, and will listen to you more. Crazy Right???

Thus my Balance works like this:

Great client = Give for free 20% to 30% more time to a project.
Bad Client = Pad your Estimate with 20% to 30% in what you charge.

If an expected bad client is really a good client you will spend more time on the project. If they are a bad client they will take more time from you by force. I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “where the normal pricing comes in?” Thats when someone is expected to be a good client and turns out to be a normal/ mediocre client.

So again… the (for me) the hardest part of sales was saying no. Clients won’t understand this… but you need to evaluate your own projects and what the quality is compared to what is out there… then charge a fair rate for what you are building. And then know when to say no.

I should probably say something about marketing your business… but then again. If you don’t know how to market your business with all the resources out there, you probably shouldn’t charging to market other peoples businesses. I will say… don’t be cheap, the second you can afford to spend money marketing start doing it and do it well.

So Lets say you land a client what next?

Well don’t forget to track your time… but a general work flow looks like this:

  1. Lots of Communication
    Establishment of Requirements
    Writing the requirements down/ communicating requirements through email
    Research Phase
    Design- Research
    Design- mockups
    Design- Graphical Elements
    Content Writing
    Content Editing
    Content Formatting
    Process Feedback
    Plugin/Script Research
    Development/ Coding/Prototyping
    Building Color Scheme
    Typography
    Layout
    Navigation menu
    Footer Development
    Page layouts for each template
    Searching for correct Photography (even when assets are provided, you always end up finding something)
    Photo Editing (min optimizing assets)
    Photography assignment
    Conforming media tools (responsive images, centered image class, responsive videos)
    Social Media Connectivity
    First Review
    Second Review
    Accessibility review
    Development of Little used pages (404, search, archives, etc)
    Print Stylesheets (if required)
    Documentation
    Preparing for Deployment
    Testing
    Functional Testing (real people)
    Device Testing (all major browsers, IE9+, iPhone, android, iPad, Large screen, small screen)
    Automated testing (Daydream + nightmare.js, import.io/, Karma, Mocha, gremlins, etc)
    Fixing bugs
    Finished product documentation
    Minification of Assets/ Reduction of http calls
    Deploying test site (subdomain) for client review
    Somewhere in there will be the 10% => all of the crazy stuff that you don’t expect to have happen
    Deployment
    Environment Setup / Migration
    Setting up XML site maps, analytics, robots.txt
    Deployment Review (in person) (more…)

Burton Snowboards – The Anti- Apple

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One of the most disturbing aspects of design trends over the last decade or two is the cult of Apple, and the various sound bytes that they use to be able to convert people into their design aesthetic => my specific issue is with this hyperbolic “minimalism” mantra that they have been spoon feeding Americans for the better part of 20 years now.

Now its important to note I am not against “minimalism”, “simplification”, “usability”, or any of the other things that Apple likes to focus on with their products and marketing. In fact, I actually see them as very important design aesthetics and mantras. What I am against is the notion that minimalism is the sole design aesthetic, and that it is somehow the greater good thus a reason to build a dogma around it.

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Minimalism should be in context. Where would we be without Picasso’s cubism or Cézanne beautiful use of color or Van Gogh’s deep detail that required careful consideration. It was only later in Pop-Art and Minimalism movements that we felt the need to reduce twice over as an “antithesis” for many of the busy and colorful artistic movements from before.

Thankfully, when I was reading Purple Cow it Came to me that one of my all time favorite companies, Burton Snowboards is actually an exact opposite to Apple inc. Here are some examples:

Major Features of Apple:

Minimalism
Plain high contrast colors
“easy to use”
User friendly
Design over Technology ( consistently a technology laggard technically by specifications)
Very few products
Larger than life CEO

Major Features of Burton:

Active Designs
Products that are harder to use => Snowboarding over skiing
Extremely colorful
Technology leads to design
Many products and varying features to each product line
CEO that prefers to be out snowboarding

Burton’s approach is pretty much the exact opposite to Apple but their brand and products are every bit as strong as Apples (they just function in a smaller marketplace). For Example, Burton is aggressive about creating the best technology where as Apple traditionally sells technology that is 20% slower, less powerful, and smaller in capacity than the existing marketplace. Burton is very “active” with their designs and they consistently out design their competition (competition that focuses on Minimalism). Additionally, they have tons of products- yes they primarily sell snowboards but you have many choices within the Burton environment.

I think there is a lot to what Burton is doing that other Companies could learn from, and I would urge people to consider their design Aesthetic in context.

Apple is great, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones that can get it right.

Wedding Hacks

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  • Practice over-smiling cause the day of you will smile more than you ever have in your life, which will literally hurt the next day if you don’t actively practice smiling a lot
  • Be prepared to answer these questions frequently in an interesting or different manner:
    “Are you excited?”
    “so when are you going to have kids?”
    “so whats next”
    … you will be asked them a lot, and if you don’t have fun answers, the questions will actually start to annoy you which can create a small amount of tension with loved ones.
  • The cheapest flasks are coleman, and can be found at target for $7. Buy at least 3-5 of these and fill them up with things you can drink straight. Assign a flask to each of your wedding party, and make them responsible for having the liquid disappear.
  • For the invitee list:

  • make sure that you get a couple of people that ignite parties on there… A wedding is a ritualized party. Some people are better at partying than others. People that make for a good time ARE MORE IMPORTANT to your event (the thing your will remember for the rest of your lives) than relatives you see once a year or less.
  • For the Photographer + band etc…
    Use Escrow.com. Otherwise they might ruin your night by making you run all over asking people for checks or to go find your checkbook. Or even have to worry about it on your honeymoon. As long as the money is there its easy.
  • Plan activities on the honey moon. This falls on the dude.
  • On your gift registry: good set of knives, good set of pots and pans. If you have friends that you know don’t have a lot of money, assign special gifts to them that take a lot of time, but not a lot of money. IE. Taking funny photos with disposable cameras printing them and get the prints, etc
  • budget out and contract specific times to socialize with your friends. This is a really big deal. Try and knock out family stuff before your friends show up.
  • Do your thank you cards when you send out your invitations… makes your life soooo much easier. Yes this is less personal, and you’ll have to make adjustments, but life quality goes up so do it anyway.
  • Buy her white canvas allstars for the reception. Whatever $1000 dollar shoes she’s wearing will more than likely not be broken in yet.
  • Turning 30

    I’m celebrating my 30th birthday November 4th. I am completely flabbergasted that I have lived this long. So in honor of my 30th I’d like to put out to the world a list of things that could have killed me, or could have led to situations that could have killed me. * Fell off a cliff at a rock quarry into a foot and a half of water * Broke my back snowboarding (later broke my clavicle snowboarding) * Fist fight at our christmas formal that Heavy B saved me from having a 1.75 bottle of Jack Daniels smashed through the back of my head. * Having a old guy crash through the window into our retail location with his car. * 3 car accidents * 1 near car accident because we were having a 6 person Nerf gun fight in a mini-van I was driving, but its okay because we won * Almost hit by a NYC subway * Food poisoning in Tianjin China. * Almost drowned surfing hurricane swell at Salt Creek (double overhead) * Guy at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown pulled his gun on us * Almost drowned by pod of dauphins * Hit a deer with a car in Minnesota * United almost crashing the plane on my way home to California (totally not kidding) last December * Not really life threatening but I feel like its worth mentioning I was almost Deported back to Canada (I have dual-citizenship) * Fell off a rooftop in Philadelphia