I am Protopian

From Noah Brier:

I was reading Kevin Kelly’s Reddit IAmA from last year and I really liked his definition of “protopian”. In response to the question,

“As a radical techno-optimist, what do you think is something people believe technology can/will do that you think it can’t?”

Kelly answered,

“I am protopian, not utopian. I believe in progress, that things are getting better by a little bit. I don’t believe that we can eliminate problems without introducing new ones.”

December 18th, 2015

In pursuit of boredom

Right now, at this moment in time, there has never been more things competing for your time.

It’s a weird world, where at the end of the week, people are so drained they simply want to do nothing. Not from physical exhaustion but mentally drained, consumption absorption I call it. Some ‘dated’ studies suggest we read 54,000 words/day, or see/hear 100,000 words/day.

I daresay for a typical knowledge worker this is not uncommon.

What this means is the death of boredom. No matter where you are, with an internet connection you have access to entertainment.

But so, recently, thinking about this, I’ve been pursuing boredom. Where I’ve done everything I need to do and there is simply nothing to do and I’m stopping that habit to seek out something just because it’s there. An amazing feeling.

It’s in boredom, that we sit, we think, we come up with new ideas, we get creative, we get proactive!

And that is increasingly a rare skill. See if you can get bored in the next week! It’s a worthy pursuit.

 

November 28th, 2015

Free pizza at the gym

It’s the anti-gym gym, once a month Planet Fitness offer free pizza at the gym.

A friend of mine, who was a member, said it actually did entice them to go to the gym. Knowing he could have pizza afterwards.

And I guess that’s the idea at Planet Fitness, the market needs an entry level, for the casual gym user.

And pizza + gym, they’re too concepts which don’t meld together, they sit un-naturally in your mind. So you pay more attention.

And I like that.

Update: This post, synthesizes a discussion on Planet Fitness, how they use this and other tactics, to maximise gym economics, that is get as many members that don’t attend frequently as possible.

November 20th, 2015

My favourite books, for fellow entrepreneurs

Give how much I read, I thought I may as well share my curated favourites. This page is designed so you open a few tabs, then go through them, I have hooked up Amazon affiliate links, so if you grab anything, it helps me get a few more books 🙂 I hope you don’t mind.

If you’re not sure where to start, simply buy all the books in a section, why not? Investing in yourself is the best investment (and return) you can make, an extra $30-$50 will only return dividends.

My most recommended books

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

This talks through the process of creating something from nothing, it just gives you that prod you need to keep at it. Another second read by Steven is Do the Work, also excellent.

Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon

This encourages us all to collect and then curate ideas that interest US. You, being the key filter, it’s about the things you like, that inspire and motivate you. As these are what help provide the input to all the work we create.

The Dip, by Seth Godin

Tremendous read, it’s for the moments when you’re evaluating, should I continue or leave this project. Often I find, the projects that you care about the most, to then read this book are the ones that you should absolutely stick with. But buy it, give it a read now, then revisit as you need to.

 

For people on the start of a journey

For first time entrepreneurs

  • Built to Sell by John Warrillow A checklist of what makes a sellable business, co-incidentally they are also what makes a strong business. An important read even at the formation of a new enterprise, then every 18 months. I read it, and then used it as a checklist of things to improve on.
  • The E-Myth by Michael Gerber One of the most popular small business books, it helps founders adjust their mindset to building systems & processes, which create repeatable value – and steps them through how to do that step by step.
  • Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss An early favourite of mine, helps you focus on what’s most important, and maximise effectiveness.
  • Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self Alan is the co-founder of Fast Company, over the years he’s picked up some interesting insights, a favourite of mine is “Crisis is opportunity hidden in disguise”. Worth a quick read.
  • Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur Similar to Rules of Thumb, this book by Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, authors of the infamous customer service email – shares some thoughts & ideas on how to think about your business.
  • 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch Timeless classic, identifying the 20% of causes which create 80% of the outcomes. I’ve done this time and time again. Where can I as a founder focus my time most effectively. What one or two things if I achieve those, the rest don’t really matter.

For downtime

For travelling

  • Vagabonding by Rolf Pott An inspiring read to help you get out the front door and travel more frequently. Some great tips on travelling cheaply but also to be more daring in your travel.
  • The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau Hand in hand with vagabonding, Chris shares great tips for travelling, as well as sharing his journey on going independent. Lots of learnings all round.

For business stories

For leading 

For Culture

  • Rework by Jason Fried This is how millenials think, I hate using the term – but if you’re a founder/entrepreneur this is worth a read, if you’re wanting to adapt your culture to the emerging workforce a great place to start.
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh A reminder of how the customer is king, practical tips for building a culture around that.
  • Maverick by Ricardo Semler The business book in early experiments in radical transparency and empowering staff to grow the business.

Best biographies

For business planning

On international business & entrepreneurship

Economics

On design

On investing

On change

Workbooks, some guided workbooks to help you achieving a specific goal or project

On business growth

Great stories

On creativity

On excellence

On marketing

On War Stories

Challenging Thinking

On startups

 

November 1st, 2015

Refreshing Twitter

Twitter is having a second go at it, with one of their co-founders Jack Dorsey returning to the helm.

Whilst you have the ability to follow Obama, Snowden, Lebron. The challenge has been, sorting through the tweets, to see, to have and participate in the conversations.

The refreshing thing about the platform is, it is about talking, about listening, whereas Facebook is about sharing. They can look the same, but the experience is different. Twitter is about the now, getting as close to having a real unfiltered conversation.

And now, is the last frontier of the internet, it is the ultimate shared expression – the now.  If they can just nail it, so that that experience is more accessible, we’ll see some exciting times ahead.

And in a broadcast internet, that’s what we need.

October 5th, 2015

My three most recommended books, for people making something from scratch

The three books I recommend the most, for those on the journey of making something from scratch, whether that be a career change, a startup, a personal project… these all fit the bill.

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

This talks through the process of creating something from nothing, it just gives you that prod you need to keep at it. Another second read by Steven is Do the Work, also excellent.

Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon

This encourages us all to collect and then curate ideas that interest US. You, being the key filter, it’s about the things you like, that inspire and motivate you. As these are what help provide the input to all the work we create.

The Dip, by Seth Godin

Tremendous read, it’s for the moments when you’re evaluating, should I continue or leave this project. Often I find, the projects that you care about the most, to then read this book are the ones that you should absolutely stick with. But buy it, give it a read now, then revisit as you need to.

September 8th, 2015

The mobile experience, is the inverse of desktop (kind of)

So, I swapped to Mac, around 5 years ago now, I’d held out on Windows for a while.

One thing, I noticed was, on a Mac your workflow was more horizontal.

You Command Tab between apps, and kind of revolve around them.

But when I was on Windows, it was more start + stop.

You minimize and open Windows.

But so, when you play with Windows Mobile, it is more like the Mac experience and ironically IOS is more like the Windows experience (start + stop).

It’s just an interesting thought, some of these formats work better at different parts of the lifecycle. As your users become more expert, you can evolve the experience, the challenge is keeping that sense of mastery whilst making it easy to start from scratch.

September 4th, 2015

Appliances drive electricity consumption

It’s the most basic of analogies, but, if you were power company, the growth of appliances, powered by electricity changed everything.

You went beyond lighting, to sitting in the background enabling households to increase their quality of living.

This rings true, for the App Store on top of the iPhone, Developers using AWS, Websites on the internet.

Give people the tools to build, to solve real problems for your existing customers and they will.

August 10th, 2015

I couldn't agree with Bill more

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 5.28.59 PM

That sense of patient urgency, whereby you are yourself, working steadfastly towards what’s required.

 

July 15th, 2015

From a books internet to a television internet

The web we need to save is a post by Hossein Derakhshan, who is an Iranian-Canadian blogger who was jailed for 6 years, around questionable charges. Finally pardoned, he returned to the internet and he shares some thoughts on how it’s changed.

Indeed, when I started this blog, you sought and discovered new bloggers, content and shared them through posts.

Now, the internet pushes content to you, via feeds. Scrolling a feed is analagous to watching tv, as you spend more time with it more content comes to you.

The Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies.

The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

When I log on to Facebook, my personal television starts.

This, is, to me indicative of the internet becoming mainstream as a media channel. To his point, it’s turning the internet into a television channel, rather than a book based internet.

It’s compelling read, challenging and provoking. Let me know what you think, I’m still mulling it…

July 15th, 2015

The trend of microskills

Fueled by companies like General Assembly & SkillShare I’ve noticed a bit of a trend: training for microskills.

People going out, proactively (or paid by employer) learning a few niche skills that help them do their job better.

They don’t need a whole degree, a certificate, just how to improve their presentations, or learn the latest updates in PhotoShop.

This knowledge, is often unregulated, informal but matches a practical skillset or need. General Assembly & SkillShare just offer the platforms to match the supply and demand.

 

July 14th, 2015

A difference in culture, the cost of time

Reflecting on my Time post from 2011,  one thing I’ve noticed in terms of cultural differences between the US and New Zealand is how time cost is viewed.

For private companies in the US if they can speed up time to a goal with money, they’ll do that.

In NZ it’s different people wait a little longer. Two sides of the coin.

 

You might infer that time is less valuable in NZ, but that’s not the case, it’s just different approaches to business.

The opportunity cost is less as the competitive landscape isn’t as deep. In the US, you have direct competitors, then indirect competitors who can launch in to your space overnight, you’re not fighting on 2-3 fronts, you’re fighting on a dozen.

Underpinning this the pay off is a lot larger, if you can make that move before others, you get a jump on the market.

I’ve found it quite curious and insightful, so thought I’d share for those I know on either side of the Pacific.

 

July 9th, 2015

The habit of collecting

A valuable habit I’ve developed over time, is collecting things.

Collecting little ideas, designs, ways of saying things, quotes, lists, blog posts, notes.

Anything that for some reason keeps my eye, almost like a digital scrapbook.

It’s now at this point, that’s really paying dividends, that cool product tour page I saw a few years ago – bam Evernote still has that, or the speakers I like, over on Pinterest. Or the hiring notes I have from our first employees (nuts).

But the most valuable thing about the collections, is when I can share them, mix them up, take inspiration from all sorts. I really like that. It makes my work now even better than what it would have been – if you don’t yet have this habit, give Steal like an artist a read, it’ll help bring to life what you can do with your collections.

..

ps

One thing I haven’t cracked, is digitising a decade of notebooking. Now my notebooks aren’t always insightful but they transport me back to a moment instantly, what was I thinking then?! If you have any experience with this or ideas, I’d appreciate it. -Ben

 

July 8th, 2015

Apple should make a Apple Music API

The challenge with streaming 5 years ago was that there weren’t the agreements in place, now most rights holders have solved that. There is now a standard rate, which Apple, Spotify and others base on.

The next challenge, is then, now that the wholesale rate is fairly standardised, how do you innovate on top?

It would be incredible if Apple opened up a API (or a full SDK) where anyone could request a song, or a beat, or a sample from Apple, then they pay on a volume like pricing. This then would mean developers could build new innovations on top, want to make a running app that plays music based on weather and speed – suddenly you could. Or a recipe app that plays you Sinatra whilst you cook…

Think of, Twilio but for Music.

Every single app could add the dimension of music, for a small fee.

Please Apple, do this.

—————————

Update: @d_jones points out that Feed.fm currently offer this – music as a service.

 

 

June 23rd, 2015

Piracy is now just an option in consumers minds

Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon, Apple, ThePirateBay.

Like Spotify has done for music, I think the TV & Movie industry as made some real in-roads to providing greater options for consumers.

Getting those options outside of the US is yet to come to fruition but it is getting there.

And same-day releases…better, but still more a ways to go I think.

 

 

June 9th, 2015

What are you doing all the way down here? You could:
- View my about page
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