Developers and Apple

It looks like Apple have been doing some thinking about the challenges of a growing developer community. In their fashion, they aren’t telling us much, but at least the change to WWDC ticket sales process and promised availability of session videos during the conference were good steps.

Now they have quietly announced a series of Tech Talks starting in the fall.

Enthusiasm for WWDC 2013 has been incredible, with tickets selling out in record time. For those who can’t join us in San Francisco, you can still take advantage of great WWDC content, as we’ll be posting videos of all our sessions during the conference. We’ll also be hitting the road this fall with Tech Talks in a city near you. Hope to see you there.

News and Announcements for Apple Developers

Still not much in the way of detail, but knowing Apple, there’s a whole planned out strategy behind this. I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more about an expanded developer education and outreach program by the time WWDC is over.

What Lean Startup Is Not

I feel for Eric Reis. He seems compelled to say, in every talk, right in the beginning, “Lean is not ‘cheap’!”

I’m sure it’s because he gets hit with this constantly. Just yesterday I was reading about Education startups and a well-regarded startup founder and investor was quoted as saying that startups in the Education space need to be “pudgier”

“One of the things I feel strongly about is that everybody
pushes the notion of a lean startup,” said Katzman, who founded
the Princeton Review, online education company 2U (formerly
2tor) and his current startup Noodle Education. “And I’m kind
of in favor, especially in the education space, of a pudgier startup.”
John Katzman, as quoted in GigaOm

Katzman goes on to say some pretty smart things about the complexities of the Education market, but this “pudgier” statement has nothing to do with Lean Startup.

I believe the “good mix of people with deep backgrounds in education and business” Katzman calls for would do well to validate their assumptions and develop their product using the Lean Startup approach. Katzman seems to agree — he goes on to recommend strategies very much in keeping with Lean Startup. The video is worth watching.

Katzman makes a great example because he’s an experienced entrepreneur who actually agrees with the Lean Startup approach, whether he knows it or not. This is a guy who knows his stuff, who knows how important it is to listen closely to customers, who tells great stories of realizing after just a few usability tests that his assumptions were wrong. This is a guy we should be listening to, other than his mischaracterization of Lean Startup.

Make Something That Matters…

to Someone.

Thats the core of the Lean Startup. You start with your customer and the job your product is going to do for them. Does it solve a problem for them? Engage a passion? Develop your ideas about this (your Hypotheses) and test them. Keep at it, learning each time around, until you have a minimal product that is a viable solution for those customers — the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.

I like the approach taught in the LUXr Bento Series, a set of workshop boxes that teach a user-experience based approach to Lean Startup. It’s methodical and incorporates tools that promote good team dynamics and clear thinking. This method is taught at some of the premier startup incubators and in my workshops. You can also now get the program directly from LUXr

Future Computing

Predicting the future of computing is difficult, and these days possibly the word “computing” itself brings along baggage of its own.

Today’s computers don’t spend a lot of their time computing. What we find useful in them is farther removed from computing in every succeeding generation of these systems.

Think about the implications of Moore’s Law. When computing power increases so quickly, things change. At 10x computing power, everything is faster. At 100x computing power, new things become possible.

It’s hard to imagine the “new things” that 100x computing power makes possible. We’re saddled with our old conceptions of user interfaces, input devices, and of work itself.

Today, there is a lot of argument about touch interface devices, and the future of “real computers”. Real computers are, of course, the ones that we’re used to. They are powerful machines that have keyboards and mice, controlling window and icon based user interfaces in which we do serious work. The touch interface devices are different, and clearly only good for consumption, right?

Or are they? What if these new touch interface devices are capable of more? What if other interfaces are possible? What is it about the keyboard and mouse that so necessary to “serious work”?

A keyboard is a very poor interface device that we’ve learned to use extremely well. The common QWERTY layout of the keys was originally created to prevent jamming of the swinging arms of machines called typewriters. Most of us would have a hard time typing on a mechanical typewriter today. But we are so used to the key layout, that even when a demonstrably better keyboard layouts are invented[cite] that will make us faster and more efficient, very few of us put in the effort to learn to use it. Similarly, the mouse is a pretty poor pointing device — but it’s what we’re used to.

Reimagining even something as simple as text input is very difficult. We tend to jump to flights of fantasy; solutions that sound like something out of 19th century science fiction. If we’re lucky, we’re as prescient as Jules Verne, but having a good concept for the distant future doesn’t always help us get there.

We do know that people who are disinterested in computers and technology take to the iPad immediately — they just “get it”. The touches and gestures are easy to understand, not because they map conceptually to how we manipulate real objects, but because the engineers and designers at Apple have attended so carefully to the responsiveness of the interface and the way objects on the screen move and change. There’s a lot of computing power going into making that all just right, and a lot of brain power that went into the details.

You don’t get to a result like iOS on the iPad by asking people what they want. You get it by re-imagining what they need.


The Internet Is Worth Protecting

I’ve been on the internet more than half my life. I consider myself a digital native.

Today many people are protesting the SOPA and Protect IP Act legislation that threatens the internet. This threat is real, as this legislation breaks some fundamental things about how the internet works. If you are interested in the technical details and arguments against this legislation, many have written about them. Here’s an interview with my friend Elliot Noss on CBC Radio talking about why his business has “gone dark” today.

This is a big issue, so I’m going to share some of my thoughts on why the internet is so important.


The Internet Is Made of People

From my early days on “Usenet”, what drew me was real people and their ideas. Usenet was a big distributed forum for people to talk about subjects ranging from computers (comp.sys.sgi) to rock climbing (rec.climbing) the game of go ( People on computers all over the world, connected on the internet and with dial-up UUCP connections, would talk about these topics, and it fascinated me. There were THOUSANDS of people out there!

Fast-forward to the early-90’s and this new thing called “The World-Wide Web” came along. I was at SGI when I first saw it, on an Irix machine running a browser built by some guys at a university. The Web quickly grew so big that whole businesses were created just to index it all.

The internet grew all sorts of businesses, many of them crazy. But for me, it was still about people. When I came to Silicon Valley many years ago, I knew I was going to be surrounded by brilliant people. Now, with the internet I can find them wherever they are… no matter where I am — The people AND their ideas.

The Internet is Made of Ideas

My internet wanderings have always followed my interests. I found people out there talking about topics that interested me. It was wonderful! But no group of people ever stays “on topic”, so over time you get to know people and understand their ideas about the world. Exposure to new and different ideas makes your world bigger and richer.

My wife an I are aficionados of “Podcasts”. They are really just radio or TV shows, but packaged for the internet. But you don’t just watch what’s on, like we did back when there were just three channels on the TV. You get to pick! We love to listen to smart people talk about interesting ideas, so we listen to TEDTalks. I like computers and tech, so I listen to shows from the TWiT network and 5by5, and we both love good story telling, so we listen to The Moth and This American Life.

All over the world there are people with something to say. More than any other invention, the internet allows people with ideas to be heard; to spread their ideas. I believe this will make the world a better place.



The Internet is What We Make it

What we do, say, and look at on the internet makes it become what it will be.

Let’s use Google Search as an example. Google’s original search algorithms considered page linking structure as an indicator of value and intent. It was a way of measuring what people thought and what they valued. Google’s PageRank algorithm also considered that a link from a page with a high PageRank conveyed more PageRank forward to the linked page.

a page can have a high PageRank if there are many pages that point to it, or if there are some pages that point to it and have a high PageRank – Brin & Page,

In the intervening years, the Google algorithms have been improved and changed. Many of the changes are intended to reduce the influence of certain cynical forms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that seek to raise search listings artificially. Notably, the Google Panda update use machine learning algorithms to detect non-useful sites and reduce their search ranking.

At its best, SEO is about optimizing websites so that they are easy for search engines like Google to catalog and rank, and so that they earn the strong ranking and visibility they deserve. But there is a lot of SEO that is really just tricks to try to get attention. When the search engines fight back, the internet gets better. They all try. And when people choose quality content over link farms, they can succeed.

Quality content comes from real people. Whether they are making a funny cat video or writing an important essay, real people are behind the best on the internet.


The  Internet is Important, But…

What is really important is US. You and Me. The ideas we share, the things that make us laugh, cry, and think. For this, the internet is just a medium. But it’s a medium that connects us throughout the world in a new way, spreading ideas and culture and making the world a better place. (Yes, that’s a long video, but Joi’s talk is worth every minute.)

The internet is under attack by corporations that are trying to protect their failing business models. They want you to believe that the internet is a problem to be fixed. Don’t believe them.

The internet is for making people heard, for allowing us to connect to one another. Don’t let the non-people take that away from us.



Liberating your contacts from Facebook

Here is a simple method of getting your contacts out of Facebook and into your Gmail.

It starts with Yahoo! Facebook allows exporting of contacts to Yahoo!, reportedly through a lucrative arrangement. You will need a Yahoo Mail account, but they are free: ? – and click “Signup” if you don’t already have an account.

in your Yahoo mail, there is a Contacts selector in the left column. it looks like this:




Once you have selected Contacts,  Select Tools -> Import, as shown:



You will get a dialogue like the one shown below. Select Facebook:



Facebook will ask you to confirm that you want to share contacts with Yahoo!, click “Okay”.




Yahoo! will report success, including the number of contacts imported.




Now you export the contacts, using a very similar method. This time, select Tools -> Export, as shown.




Choose an export format in the dialogue shown below. Yahoo! CSV works best for importing to Google.



Yahoo! checks to see that you are a real person by asking you to transcribe some mashed up letters:



Once the export is complete, open and log into Gmail, select Contacts, and then More Actions -> Export. You will get an “Import contacts dialogue like the one below.



Choose the file, and I recommend also adding these to a special group at the same time, which will help you see them all. Google seems to do a pretty good job of merging duplicates, but having them in a special group will help you check and fix any problems. (I had no problems from my import.)





Congratulations! Your Facebook friends’ contact info are now all in your Gmail!












I Shared What?!?

This is a sophisticated crowd at the Internet Identity Workshop, full of people who are very aware of the issues around identity, security, and privacy.

Joe Andrieu is showing his brilliant and simple tool “I Shared What?!?”. Login at and see what gets shared with apps on Facebook when you allow them access to your account. Just go through the signup and permission process as with any faceook app, and then use the tabs on the right side to see all the information you’ve shared. You can even change the sharing permissions and explore the changes.

Here’s what it looks like… (I chopped off all the juicy stuff below. Go look at your own!)




Great products start with meaning


Great quote from Jeff Bezos on the connection between great products and meaning:

I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it’s not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that’s not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you.

Excerpt from: Jeff Bezos’s mission: Compelling small publishers to think big – Fortune Tech


Enthusiasm – the real “Focus”

MG Siegler at TechCrunch wrote a great piece a couple days ago on the role of enthusiasm. I think he’s dead-on, but I’ll add my little bit of advice: Make sure your Enthusiasm is the right kind.

The Enthusiasm you need is really a deep love for what you’re doing. This is the kind of enthusiasm that gets you up early full of energy and ideas.  A quote from Siegler’s TechCrunch piece:

… When co-founder Biz Stone says he thinks Twitter can change the world, it may sound crazy, but it’s not, because he believes it.

[From The Importance Of Enthusiasm In Any Product]

This kind of Enthusiasm goes beyond just the rush of being part of something successful. It’s a belief in something that’s not only bigger than you, its bigger than your product or even your company. The best kind of Enthusiasm comes when you truly believe that what are doing matters.

In the most stark form, the wrong kind of enthusiasm is the kind that comes only when you are growing and successful. This celebratory enthusiasm is cheap. It will not focus your effort on making great products, on working diligently for your customers, or on building a great team. It certainly won’t sustain you through any rough patch in your business. When you are successful, growing, and getting a lot of fabulous press, it’s very hard to separate the enthusiasm for success from the Enthusiasm for what you are doing.

Enthusiasm and passion are so important, no matter what you do. If you don’t feel like you have that towards the company you are with, you should seriously consider leaving.

Better yet, if you have the power in your company to start something that you are passionate about, do it.

[From The Importance Of Enthusiasm In Any Product]

This isn’t just about making it easy to go to work every day. It’s not just about keeping your energy high. This deep Enthusiasm brings that elusive “focus” that often seems a cliche’.

When you are truly Enthusiastic about what you are doing, you have a deep understanding of what you are creating and why it’s important. You are constantly refining that concept of why your company and product matters.  It helps you make the right decisions for customers. It informs your marketing and sales efforts with that sense of purpose. And it makes all the difference when you need to make those tough choices about what you are NOT going to do.

Enthusiasm is the real “Focus.”

Bringing you the news

Importance of “filters” has been over-stated. As my friend John Pederson puts it:

Managing your own filter is critical. The other kind of filter that lets things in vs. preventing things from coming in.

[From Dean Shareski on attention.]

A filter is a screen that keeps things out. My information problem isn’t solved by keeping things out. What I need is to bring the right things to me, and that’s different.

What I want is not a filter, but good editors that bring me the news that I need to see. These editors could be a staff of professionals, but there’s also a role for technology in bringing my news to me.

There are already several services that try to do this, but none of them is really as easy, ubiquitous, and natural as I would like them to be. WIll someone solve it?