Monday, August 30, 2010

Launched A Little Startup: Email Without The Inbox

Update: Yeah, this didn't really go anywhere, so I'm letting the domain expire. Worthwhile experiment though.

After years of consulting for other people's startups, reading Hacker News, and being inspired by entrepreneurial Rubyists like DHH, James Golick, Marc-André Cournoyer, Peter Cooper, Jeremy McAnally, Indie Labs, Nate Talbott, and so many others, I finally got off my butt and launched a small startup tonight.

Presenting Email Without The Inbox:

Email Without The Inbox does exactly what it says on the tin, to use the British expression. You get email without an inbox. To be clear, I got the idea when I noticed how many freaking times I logged into Gmail to send somebody an e-mail about something and instead ended up completely distracted, with my concentration gone. Frequently, I would end up with my concentration so blown I forgot to send the e-mail that I had logged in to send in the first place. I'd have to log back in again to send the original mail - and more than once, I fell into the exact same trap and got too distracted to send it, for the second time.

That is no longer a problem for me - and it doesn't need to be a problem for you ever again, either. I can log in to Email Without The Inbox, send whatever mail I need to send whenever I need to send it, and still do the Tim Ferriss hyper-productivity thing of only checking e-mail twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Discover the rejuvenating focus and clarity that come from being organized and on-task, and say goodbye to the frazzled stress of perpetual distraction.

This is the second incarnation of this idea for me; the first was called Zero-Distraction Gmail and ran on my laptop as an inbox-less interface to Gmail. Email Without The Inbox works for anybody, not just Gmail users, and has a slightly fancier UI. "Slightly" is the operative word here - the site is minimal and determined to remain so. I am planning to add the ability to import your contacts, of course, as well as some JavaScript to make selecting contacts effortless, but I decided to launch without that feature so I could have the app live tonight.

Check it out! I'm very happy with it. It's awesome and it'll only get better.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sketches Of A Tiny Dog

This is Cowboy.

Cowboy's about the size of an Adidas shoe.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Magnificent Footage Of Hummingbirds Being Characteristically Unreasonable In Slow Motion

My parents put up a hummingbird feeder on their land in New Mexico, and it soon became the site of intense hummingbird battles for food among the three local hummingbirds. So they put up two more hummingbird feeders, and the hummingbirds would rotate all day long, fighting over the first feeder, then the second, and then the third. Hummingbirds are insanely aggressive, so much so that the Aztecs believed a warrior who fought fiercely and died in battle would meet his reward in reincarnation as a hummingbird.

This video has some audio with people talking, but I put the audio on mute. I highly recommend emulating this decision. The decision rewarded me immediately with silent, gorgeous, slow-motion footage, but rewarded me even more generously later on in the video, when the scientists start shooting lasers at the hummingbirds for no discernible reason. (You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

Of course the reason would have been discernible if I had listened to the person explaining it, which is why I recommend putting the audio on mute. Since I didn't know the reason, I got to make one up. Some things are just too interesting to bother with the real explanation. My conclusion is that these scientists are training the hummingbirds to take on Al Qaeda, and/or armies of giant robots.

What "Sent From My iPhone" Means To Me

Matt from 37Signals says:

Let’s be honest. “Sent from my iPhone” really means “I’m not going to bother to proofread and correct this because it would take me an extra 30 seconds.”

But that's not what it means to me at all. Here's my translation:

Steve Jobs gave me a place where I could say anything, but set it up with a default that gives him free advertizing every time I send a message, and now I'm giving him free advertizing every time I send a message.

I don't see the lack of proofreading as a flaw; if anything, mobile e-mails are better, because they're shorter and they get to the point. (The ideal e-mail may in fact be a tweet.) But giving Steve Jobs free advertizing is kind of a dumb move. Nothing against the guy, I love almost everything he does, but I think literally every single person who's ever sent me a "Sent from my iPhone" e-mail has had either a tech startup or an acting career to promote. You can in fact use that free advertizing space for yourself; it's kind of the norm nowadays.

It reminds me of something Tony Robbins said at TED: "Decision is the ultimate power." The only reason your e-mail is Steve Jobs' free advertizing service is because Steve Jobs (or someone in his army of minions) decided to put it there, and you never decided anything different. Changing the default is near-effortless, but it's not something many people do; that tiny space between effortless and near-effortless functions like a vast interstellar voyage. It's very similar to the reason why I charge high prices for my videos; I've read the economics, and the gap between free and paying one cent is much bigger than the gap between paying one cent and paying one hundred dollars.


If you are in [startups] for the money and you aren’t a founder, you’re sticking your head in the sand.

"Starcraft 2 Secrets" eBook: Caveats

Update: I'm very glad to say that the creator of this product responded to an e-mail I sent him. He tells me he's updated the product to address these concerns, and he's set up a product registration widget, so that buyers automatically get their product updates.

Update 2: OK, I got the new version of this. It's awesome. The strategies guide is 249 pages; there's also a 57-page Campaign Guide which covers 29 missions for the "story" version of the game.

This is a Starcraft 2 ebook.

I'm selling this thing via an affiliate link, but I'm actually going to point the little blog ad at this caveat/review post, because I bought this and I have to say, on the one hand, it's 103 pages full of strategies, so I feel OK selling it, but on the other hand, the sales page is kind of bullshit. It claims the ebook tells you exactly how somebody went from newb to top-ranked in a very short period of time; instead, it's just a catalog of strategies. These strategies may be the way that this rocket to greatness happened, or the rocket to greatness may not exist. Without trying out each and every strategy, I can't say for sure. I can say for sure that the promised story is not told. Worst of all, the book promises free upgrades, but doesn't collect your contact information to send you free upgrades, or provide you with contact info to request them.

By the way, I don't even own the game - I bought the ebook so I could review it and sell more copies, and also to see how easy pwning newbs would be (because I know from experience that a good "insider"-style ebook will rocket you to greatness). I figured I'd buy it and then buy the game.

As an aside, I've always used walkthroughs. With a game like Portal, I'll only look at it if I have to; with a text adventure like Lost Pig or Varicella, I won't even bother exploring for a second. I just go straight to the walkthrough. The whole game ebooks market is awesome in my opinion; and even this book is pretty good overall, it's just that the marketing totally misleads people, which is a very unfortunate place to fall short.

This is from the affiliates page for the ebook:

It mysteriously refers to Starcraft 2 as a "casual Facebook obsession." (My highlighting.) Anyone who knows anything about Starcraft 2 knows that you don't play it on Facebook. The missing link: the same guy who created this product also made ebooks for FarmVille and Mafia Wars. It's a pretty safe bet that he copy-pasted this page; likewise, the sales page for this Starcraft 2 ebook contains claims that aren't fulfilled in the ebook and indeed a few which don't even make sense. I think he copy-pasted the sales page as much as the affiliates page, or more so, in a desperate scramble to get something online while Starcraft 2 is still new.

One thing that kind of sucks about Internet marketing is that, because many of the individual methods can be easy, you get a lot of fly-by-night types looking to make a quick buck. That being said, I'm still happy to recommend the product as a strategy catalog, not an overall guide to success, because it is a pretty comprehensive catalog of strategies. It's 103 pages, there's about 20 pages of intro/background stuff, and the remaining 80-ish pages are split more or less evenly between Terran, Protoss, and Zerg strategies, specifically builds and rushes. If you're into Starcraft, you might want to buy it, but I have to be honest with you, the sales page is complete bullshit.

As someone who sells videos about Internet marketing and recently blogged about the paradox of an awesome spammer, I have to admit, this stuff frequently looks bad, but to be honest, it's no different from the disgusting proliferation of Java or .NET. As evil and horrible as .NET is, I can't do anything about the fact that people who call themselves programmers sometimes use .NET and call it programming. They offend me by their existence, but what am I supposed to do about it? Kill them? It's tempting sometimes, especially if you read Reddit, but it's not exactly practical or spiritually evolved. The situation's the same with inaccurate or dishonest sales letters, and spam. People who do Internet marketing in bad ways make the whole thing look bad, but only to people who are fixated on the negative in the first place.

Anyway, putting aside all that negativity, what we have is a sales letter which is inaccurate, and possibly dishonest (but in my opinion more probably just lazy), for a product which is pretty detailed, pretty specific, and pretty thorough, and which includes lots of links to YouTube videos illustrating or demonstrating the strategies in question. So, with that massive caveat, I'm happy to say if you choose to buy it, buy it here, from my link.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Internet Marketing Video, Version 2

In December 2009, I announced that I would launch a new mini-business every month of 2010. This didn't quite happen; instead, every month, I've launched either a new mini-business or a product (and more usually it was a product). I had anticipated lots of ridiculous tiny web businesses, like Zachary Burt's inane but apparently profitable AwesomenessReminders. Instead, I went first for the easiest money possible: Internet/information marketing. The Ruby community is packed with people selling great information products, from the PeepCode juggernaut to Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs's JavaScript Performance Rocks!, to screencasts and ebooks from myself, Marc-André Cournoyer, the RailsEnvy guys, the Pragmatic Programmers, Ben Orenstein, Antonio Cagiano, and others. I quickly found it very easy to make money with a programmer career coaching program and video sales on a wide range of topics.

Speaking of these videos, a few months back, I put out a video called Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks. A lot of people told me they liked the video and learned from it, which I'm very happy to say always happens with my videos; however, some people told me the opposite, which had never happened before. This was the only video I've ever created which ever got negative feedback, and not only that, but also the only video which ever got refund requests (2, if I remember right; maybe even 3).

This was obviously unacceptable. If you put out a bunch of videos, and people praise them, and you put out one which generates negative feedback for the first time ever, you want to fix that. So I decided to create a new, better version, and I'm releasing that new, better version today.

To create the new version, I looked at the feedback from the old version. People wanted to know actionable specifics which they could use to make money online right away. They didn't like the focus on broad principles in the original video; they wanted to get something built and have money coming in as quick as possible. So the new version includes an overview of running affiliate ads for Amazon, iTunes, and Clickbank; a detailed report on how to run Google Ads; a business/lead-generation model very popular in the information marketing world, but which I haven't tested yet; an illustration of how complex and systematic e-mail and information marketing can get; plus the thing I think will be most popular: detailed information on how to sell screencasts on your blog, including nuts-and-bolts info about how to put the screencasts together in the first place.

To support this last piece of information, I'm also including a free video I shot last week, called Simplified Product Launches For Lazy Bloggers, which explains a simple way to sell screencasts online, as well as a 20-minute excerpt on presentations from my programmer careers video, How To Get A Kickass Job, Making Six Figures Working (From Home) With The Stars Of Your Community, Even If You Just Got So Fired That The Cops Hauled You Out Of The Building In Handcuffs. Many viewers of this "Handcuffs" video told me this section on giving presentations was their favorite, and until today, you could only get this section by buying the $97 "Handcuffs" video. I go into repetition, visuals, holding the attention of your audience - including some of the relevant neuroscience of attention - and even the basics of how to use typography to establish a visual rhythm (and why doing so yields better comprehension and engagement for your viewers).

I'm also including the original Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks as a bonus, which is an hour and a half of the broad principles behind Internet and/or information marketing, paired with a two-hour Q&A video where I answer questions from buyers of the original video. It's worth reiterating that although this video was indeed the only video I ever created with generated refund requests, it also generated a lot of praise - a lot of people liked this video and found it useful.

Also, I recently put this sub-package - the original Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks, plus its followup - on sale, at a massive discount, only last week. If you bought this package at this epic 75% discount in the past few days, I'm also going to offer a discount on the new version; e-mail me for the details. (Give me a day or two on that, however; got a busy schedule and some WiFi issues at the moment.)

I also created two promo videos to lead up to this video's release; you also get those two promos, along with PDFs for the slides in each of them, and a PDF of all the slides in the new version 2 Internet marketing video. Basically, I'm determined to make sure that when you buy this, you become absolutely thrilled with it. To accomplish that, I made the video as specific as possible, packed it with details, and added a ton of bonuses. I'm also using a no-questions-asked refund policy; if you're displeased in any way or for any reason, all you have to do is ask. You can literally demand a refund because your cat farted. (I make no assertions that your cat will not in fact fart, I'm just saying that you have that much lattitude.)

This video (and its entire package of bonuses) will be priced at $197 after Monday, but is on sale at $97 until then.

Buy Now

Your typical results are impossible to predict, and could involve not making a single dime, but could range between no money at all, to small Amazon profits for minimal effort, to hundreds or even thousands. Ruby programmer Marc-André Cournoyer's made thousands with his ebook on creating your own programming language; another Ruby programmer, Ben Orenstein, made at least $1300 in revenue with his screencasts; and more prominent Ruby info marketers have made more. I myself usually make $4K to $5K when I sell a screencast from my blog. If you spend $97 to find out how to do this, and turn it into $1300 or $5K, that's a well-spent $97.

Buy Now

(Fair warning: download might take a while, as the file size is epic.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who Would Win In A Fight? Internet Marketing Vs. Giant Robots

This is of course a promo for my followup to Internet Marketing for Alpha Geeks, which will be released tomorrow, along with an impressive assortment of bonuses. However, it's also a fairly cogent explanation (probably my most cogent) of a long-held, semi-obsessive secret theory, that the smartest way to use programming to make money is to write a robot entrepreneur to go out there and start businesses for you. I think it's worth watching.

Consider: there was a hacker who used a neat AI technique to write a Twitter spambot which responded to tweets about books by offering people relevant books off Amazon, with built-in affiliate links. The experiment netted him about $400 (and netted Amazon about $7000). Twitter eventually shut him down, and I can't fully endorse spam, but in some ways, this is the most perfect software business possible, as I understand software and business, because this guy essentially wrote a robot salesman paired with a robot product selector, turned them on, left them running, and didn't have to do anything further at any point.

Anybody who's spent any time thinking about venture capital is aware that investing in lots of different entrepreneurial ventures is a very effective way to make money. Imagine, for the sake of argument, an AI experimenter entrepreneur like this hacker, who spent all his time writing robot salesmen and robot product selectors (and found a way to do it without spamming anybody). This person would be a weird hybrid of the boot-strapped entrepreneur who starts his own business on his own code, the venture captialist who sponsors numerous entrepreneurs, and the tinkerer guy from Blade Runner who used to "make friends" by building lots of different robots. After all, why should investing in entrepreneurs be a multi-millionaire's game only? We're basically already at a stage where anybody with a little spare time and a lot of programming talent can (at least in theory) write their own robot entrepreneurs.

I hope people aren't opposed to the idea of robot entrepreneurs. Firstly, that's prejudice and discrimination, and secondly, corporations are already people under the law. Why shouldn't entrepreneurial Python bots be people under the law too?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sites Which Dominate Niche Markets

The other night, at LA Ruby, I ended up telling the same story to two different people about two different industries. Joe O'Brien of Edge Case asked me about my interest in acting, and we ended up discussing how Hollywood now basically runs on a small number of web apps which everybody uses and which would not impress any Ruby geek with their Ajax, their clean HTML, their fast response times, or their beautiful design. Later I talked with Pat Maddox about my interest in Internet marketing, and told him how that industry to some degree runs on a small number of web apps which everybody uses and which would not impress any Ruby geek with their Ajax, their clean HTML, their fast response times, or their beautiful design. Or, to be perfectly honest, with any other characteristic either.

I hate to write a blog post that seems to endorse the "it's Facebook, but for dogs!" mentality of so many silly entrepreneurs, but I could name a lot of totally crappy web apps raking in tons of money by providing trivial features, badly, to very specific audiences. The money lies in those audiences. These apps capture the network by providing exactly what the network needs, and then they make a lot of money. The winning part of "it's Facebook, but for dogs!" isn't the "Facebook" part, it's the "for dogs!" part, and really it's the "for" part, more than any other part, that brings home the bacon. It's probably better to do exactly what your customer needs, but in an incompetent way, than it is to do something which nobody needs, better than anyone would have ever thought possible.

The only problem is that we geeks fucking love doing something which nobody needs, better than anyone would have ever thought possible. I'm not going to hammer on these kinds of projects. It's difficult for me to criticize when the number one thing I'm known for is very close to science fiction. But let me just say that this is why the Agile Manifesto values customer collaboration; more than anything else, you need to know what your users want.

It makes me wonder about GitHub, actually. GitHub's a terrific site running on terrific code, and I'd always assumed its success came from this, but now I think the success comes from giving a niche market exactly what it needs, and the fact that it's a terrific site running terrific code is just a nice side effect of who the target market happens to be.

Replacing "Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks"

My video Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks had one fatal flaw - it made for a terrible acronym. I'm replacing it this Friday with a much better, more specific product, which explains my failed attempt to sell ebooks through search advertising, a detailed, popular information business model which I've studied but not experimented with yet, and my success at selling screencasts. (Among other things, I go into the nuts and bolts of search advertising and screencast creation.)

Who Would Win In A Fight? Internet Marketing Vs. Zombie Dinosaurs

I'm replacing Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks with a new, better video. It goes on sale Friday. Here's a promo which examines...


music: "love you bring" by prefuse 73

Related blog posts: How Angel Investors Are Destroying Young Gullible Programming Talent

Friday, August 13, 2010

How To Impress

Secrets Of Superstar Programmer Productivity: Planning

You're going to want to hit the "full screen" button on this one.

I created this video to promote Time Management For Alpha Geeks, my hourlong video on time management, which I initially promoted with three free videos. Time Management For Alpha Geeks is really the last video in a four-video time management course, with the first three videos (and now this fifth bonus video) being free. You can check out the other free videos here, and you should buy Time Management For Alpha Geeks, because it's great.

Ask yourself how much more money you can make when you become more productive. If my productivity training saves you time, how much is your time worth? How much more can your time be worth as you begin to use it more effectively? Time Management For Alpha Geeks costs $97, and if you translate that into hours - by taking your hourly rate or your salary and doing a little math - you'll realize it's a terrific price.

Buy Now

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Simplified Product Launches For Lazy Bloggers

I've made at least $14,000 selling videos on this blog, probably way more. It doesn't take a lot of work. I've developed an incredibly simple system, which I'm giving away here for free.

How Satan Got His Big Break

Once upon a time, before Satan became the superstar demon he is today, he had to do grunt work like any other demon. One time he signed up for a simple job: the Room of 1,000 Demons. The Room of 1,000 Demons stood right before the Door of Enlightenment, in a great Labyrinth in Tibet. The demons served as guardians to prevent anyone from entering the Door, but they were forbidden from using violence.

One day an aspiring adventurer made it all the way through the Labyrinth, and entered the Room. 999 demons immediately began to assail him with all his worst fears. They embodied the bully who had stolen his lunch money, the father who had beaten him, his fears of sexual inadequacy, his fear of dying, and tigers, dragons, and monsters. But one demon did no such thing: Satan.

Instead, Satan cosied up to the aspiring adventurer and told him, in a kind and friendly voice, "It's not your fault if you give up. Look at all these demons! Nobody could have seen this coming. You got farther than anybody else before." Satan fed the adventurer excuse after excuse. "You could have done it when you were younger, but nobody would blame a guy your age for giving up. You could have done it if you had gotten some help, but nobody was here to help you! It's not your fault." The adventurer summoned all his courage whenever one of the other demons presented him with a fear to terrify him, but when Satan offered him an excuse, the adventurer listened.

Eventually, Satan came up with the perfect excuse. The adventurer thanked Satan profusely for clearing everything up for him, and ran out of that room, never to be seen again. He spent his life telling everybody who would listen - which was not very many people - that he had almost attained Enlightenment, but it wasn't his fault that he didn't go all the way. And Satan got an immediate promotion, being placed in charge of the Room of 1,000 Demons. Satan ordered everyone to use his technique, and soon the Room of 1,000 Demons became the Room of 1,000 Excuses. After that, thousands of years went by before any adventurer attained Enlightenment.

based on an idea I stole from here

Superstar Programmer Productivity Videos


original blog post, with notes


original blog post, with notes


original blog post, with notes

Update! A new video:


original blog post, with notes

Epic Lawsuit Waiting To Happen

The tire pressure monitors built into modern cars have been shown to be insecure by researchers from Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina. The wireless sensors, compulsory in new automobiles in the US since 2008, can be used to track vehicles or feed bad data to the electronic control units (ECU), causing them to malfunction.

Earlier in the year, researchers from the University of Washington and University of California San Diego showed that the ECUs could be hacked, giving attackers the ability to be both annoying, by enabling wipers or honking the horn, and dangerous, by disabling the brakes or jamming the accelerator.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RubyConf Antarctica

If you're going to RubyConf Uruguay or RubyConf Latin America, you're going to be in a pretty good position to visit Antarctica. One of the best ways to get there is to take a cruise ship from Ushuaia, a port city at the southern end of Argentina. It takes about ten days. Met someone recently who did this and the experience sounds incredible.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blackstar Warrior

via boingboing

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lattice (Drop7 Clone In Ruby)

Drop7 is my current favorite game.

I used to get on the leaderboard with it every day.

It's best on the iPad, because of the bigger screen. I started writing a clone of it in Ruby.

Unfortunately, I soon discovered Chain Factor, the original Flash version which Drop7 started life as. For days after I discovered Chain Factor, I didn't do any work on my Ruby clone. Or anything else, really.

I can't say I was surprised. I got on the leaderboard immediately, and at one point, two of the top ten scores for basic mode daily were both mine.

I've open-sourced my Ruby clone, and any further dev I do on that will happen in public on GitHub.

I made the Ruby clone mainly to figure out how to build a JavaScript clone, but since the Ruby clone includes an actual command-line game, I'm going to show you a video of how to play it. But first check out this video of the real game, on the iPhone:

Here's my command-line clone.

As you can see the command-line version lacks the special effects of the iOS version. No shock there, I hope. I've also created a very basic Web UI:

However, this part of it is unfinished, and too unfinished to even open-source. The CSS, HTML, and colorization JavaScript are included as part of some example files in the testing directory (because some of the tests are difficult to visualize yet effortless to illustrate), but the Web version is unfinished and may remain so.

As much fun as I've had with this thing, I'm going to recommend that you just buy Drop7. However, if you want to play with this, the code is on GitHub.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may know I've been studying acting for years. I recently hit a point where I feel I can stop saying "I'm studying acting" and start saying "I am an actor." That means it's time to go on auditions, or maybe that it was time to start going on auditions a good while ago. Either way, one thing an actor needs to go on auditions is headshots - professionally-done photos that show what the actor looks like and give an idea of his castability.

Here are a few of mine.

This is the one that will probably go to soap operas:

And this is the one I'll use for mob movies:

I shot these on Sunday, with John Brantley Cole. Very happy with the results!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Disagree With George Carlin

I worshipped this guy in high school. George Carlin was the MAN. But this, I disagree with:

First of all, a lot of what he says about the super-rich aggressively pursuing the destruction of the middle class is true, but contains a giant, dangerous, and frankly reckless logical fallacy: aggressive actions do not imply a united front. We know this because so many people protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraqis and Afghans might imagine that every one of us is out to kill them, but it just ain't so. Likewise, when John Kerry ran for President, he told the world that the Bush tax cuts had made him even richer than before, but he wanted to repeal them because they just weren't right. He wasn't the only guy like that in the whole country, not by a long shot.

The other reason I disagree is because of this "American Dream" bullshit. My dad came to this country without finishing his degree, started a business out of his garage - literally out of his garage - and was driving his red Ferrari down the streets of one of the wealthiest towns in America within the space of five or ten years. (We lost a lot of that money eventually, but "families are always rising and falling in America.") I myself read a bunch of "get rich quick" ebooks and quit my job months ago. It's been touch-and-go, there's no doubt about that, but I did it, it was way easier than I thought it would be, and I'm sure people would have told me I couldn't have done it. Starting a business in America still kinda rocks.

I see this magazine whenever I buy broccoli. It's kind of insane, absurd, and demented saying that the American Dream is dead when you can't even go grocery shopping without being reminded of Oprah Winfrey, a multi-billionaire black woman who was born in the ghetto. How many multi-billionaire black women who were born in the ghetto do you think there were 100 years ago in this country? Admittedly, there's only one today - but there's more than one black multi-millionaire who was born in the ghetto today, and that wasn't true 100 years ago. It's absurd to even imagine it happening 100 years ago. The whole black thing is a bit of a tangent, but then again the whole woman thing is a tangent too, and neither of these terrible historical legacies slowed Oprah down. I mean if I can show you people doing something, and doing it against enormous odds and for the first time in history under their particular circumstances, then I think it's a bit ridiculous to say that the thing in question is an impossible thing.

Carlin's onto something, of course - the situation with the middle class is awful - but I disagree with where he takes it. And it's kind of absurd seeing this video re-tweeted and linked on Facebook by programmers, when I know for a fact that many of us who work from home on flexible schedules are still in our pajamas at noon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

ying / yang

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Startup Idea Voting Platform / Economics Of Participation

wappr, from Netizens Media. I'm blogging this simply because it's come up so many times that I'm sure it'll come up again. I've never thought this was a good idea, but I've heard it suggested by many people many times. (By the way, if you've suggested this to me and I've nodded as if I thought it was a good idea, I have to apologize for misleading you; I was only being polite.) I can see how it might be entertaining to build, and useful to share in private among a very small group of very carefully chosen people - for instance, your co-workers at a great company - but I can't imagine why anybody thinks this makes a good app for a large audience. Startup success is rare; ideas without execution are valueless. An app of this nature is a system for harvesting items of no value, and it is difficult to create value by harvesting and cataloging items of no value. You can't make it up on volume.

You can see from visiting the site that most of the ideas are trivial and/or ridiculous. These are the three most popular current app ideas:

1. I wish there was an app where you could report a car whose alarm has been going on for hours, and car thieves will read it and steal the car

2. I want an app that I can play where I destroy everyones farmville. Like unleashing locusts or severe droughts.

3. I want an app that passively records an evening's conversation and then turns it into a tacky powerpoint.

Obviously, this is fun, but you're not going to make a million dollars with it.

For the record, this is not incidental; it's inherent to the economics of participation, and guaranteed to happen for any such app, in the same way that trolling and groupthink are guaranteed, by the economics of participation, for Hacker News/Reddit/Digg-style community-upvote aggregator sites. Contributing ideas without contributing work is very, very low-cost, and the likely payoffs - people dissing your idea, or praising it and then doing nothing about it, or praising it, building a startup around it, and failing to get anywhere with that startup - are likewise minimal. Consequently a system of this nature will attract only people with time to waste, and not even people with lots of time to waste (who tend to do more interesting things with that time than people who only have a little).

Speaking of no time to waste, I've got to wrap this up; I'm late for something important to me. Long story short, I think it's very important to look at the economics of participation when evaluating social software. I've worked for a few startups, seen a few do well, seen one do very well, seen several fall on their faces atrociously, and noticed some patterns. I always look at the economics of participation, and I think everyone who wants to build a startup around social software should do the same.

Better Late Than Never

Big thing I've figured out recently: if somebody wants to play a fierce, competitive game of "Who's The Biggest Asshole?" with you, it's okay to let them win.