1. “We want to do this for strategic reasons.” This is corporate-ese for, “I have no idea why we’re doing this. My CEO met your CEO at a boondoggle conference and told me to talk to you guys.”
The attractively simple thesis of The Change Function is that most tech-nology ventures fail because tech-nologists manage them. Technologists think their business is the creation of cool technologies loaded with wonderful new features. They think this because they are engineers who thrill to the idea of change. By contrast, Coburn says, "technology is widely hated by its users," because ordinary folk loathe change. Therefore, any new artifact, no matter how much its various features might appeal to technologists, will always be rejected by its intended customers unless "the pain in moving to a new technology is lower than the pain of staying in the status quo."
Or in Pip's geeky formulation:
The Change Function = f (perceived crisis vs. total perceived pain of adoption).
Last year I talked about The Koolaid Point -- the point at which enough users become passionate that others accuse them of "drinking the koolaid." I offered no ideas for what to do when it happens other than "celebrate" and--the focus of yesterday's post--be brave. Don't give in was my main point then. But there is something else we can do when detractors start criticizing our users. Something so simple I was too thick to see it.
Lessons From The Death Of A Web 2.0 Startup:
Google Is The New Microsoft: Back in the day, lots of software companies made sure that their business models kept them out of the cross-hairs of Microsoft. They didn’t want to get stomped on. Today, though this is still the case in some sectors, Google is a much more formidable (and scary) competitor. Google has all the power of a multi-billion dollar company, but a lot of the nimbleness and energy of a startup. With Google’s introduction of Google Calendar, Kiko really didn’t have a chance with it’s original business model.
Phantom authority, self–selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: The case of Wikipedia by Andrea Ciffolilli
Virtual communities constitute a building block of the information society. These organizations appear capable to guarantee unique outcomes in voluntary association since they cancel physical distance and ease the process of searching for like–minded individuals.
In particular, open source communities, devoted to the collective production of public goods, show efficiency properties far superior to the traditional institutional solutions to the public goods issue (e.g. property rights enforcement and secrecy).
This paper employs team and club good theory as well as transaction cost economics to analyse the Wikipedia online community, which is devoted to the creation of a free encyclopaedia. An interpretative framework explains the outstanding success of Wikipedia thanks to a novel solution to the problem of graffiti attacks — the submission of undesirable pieces of information. Indeed, Wiki technology reduces the transaction cost of erasing graffiti and therefore prevents attackers from posting unwanted contributions.
The issue of the sporadic intervention of the highest authority in the system is examined, and the relatively more frequent local interaction between users is emphasized.
The constellation of different motivations that participants may have is discussed, and the barriers–free recruitment process analysed.
A few suggestions, meant to encourage long term sustainability of knowledge assemblages, such as Wikipedia, are provided. Open issues and possible directions for future research are also discussed.
LinkedIn is an online service offered to enable professionals find and connect with other professionals more effectively (the “LinkedIn Service”). Whether looking for a job, a lead for that next deal, or an industry expert, LinkedIn users can make contact with thousands of professionals who are users of the LinkedIn Service.
Venture capital, he added, "makes sense for very few companies. When you're in something that requires a lot of money to start or where time-to-market is critical, then maybe it makes sense."
For that reason, Holt puts venture capital as number seven on her list of funding sources for new companies -- and she has led three startups. Before turning to venture capital, she will try to tap personal savings, debt, angel investments, government loans and grants and even financing from potential vendors and customers. Mousimi Shaw, for her part, increased her student loans to help start Sikara & Co., a jewelry maker.
More so than other types of investors, venture capitalists insist on telling you how to run your business, said Rodger Desai, chief executive of New York-based Rave Wireless. Their recommendations can seem shortsighted, even wrongheaded. "A lot of VCs have never managed anyone or worked in an operating company. So as a founder, you do have to fight for what you believe in. You're the only one who really knows."
Although I'm not promising we'll do all or even most of these things, here are some first thoughts on what a truly transparent media organization would do. (Some of these are based on my experience in open-sourcing my book research on this site, which worked great. Why not apply the same lessons to a magazine?)
The Long Tail is the transition from a hit-focused marketplace to a millions of niches marketplace. While the majority of profits previously were made by selling a handful of products (the hits) to a lot of people, now millions of products are being sold to smaller amounts of people based on niches.
Brains are turned on by puzzles. Brains are turned on by figuring things out. Brains are turned on by even the smallest "aha" moments. And despite what some of you (*cough* men *cough*) might believe, the brain is more turned on by seeing just the arms of a naked woman behind a shower curtain than it is by seeing all of her. So if you're trying to engage someone's brain, don't show everything. Let their brain connect the dots.
|Nice essay riffing on a recent Scientific American neuroscience article called The Neurology of Aesthetics.|
It’s easy to assume that unconferences, the popular trend in tech-sector events, require little thought on the part of session organizers. The myth is that by choosing to do an unconference, special magic will trickle down into all the sessions, blooming into dozens of beautiful flowers of enlightened communal experience...
|Scott Berkun's blog has rapidly become a must read for anyone interested in small business/innovation. Highly recommended.|
One thing I have learned in my experience with startups is that if you are not careful, you are as likely to experience as many challenges with your co-founder(s) as you are with the business itself. The following are some of the most important questions that should be resolved as early in the process as possible. In most cases, these issues only get more difficult over time...
1. How should we divide the shares? ..
2. How will decisions get made? ..
3. What happens if one of us leaves the company? ..
4. Can any of us be fired? By whom? For what reasons? ..
5. What are our personal goals for the startup? ..
6. Will this be the primary activity for each of us? ..
7. What part of our plan are we each unwilling to change? ..
8. What contractual terms will each of us sign with the company? ..
9. Will any of us be investing cash in the company? If so, how is this treated? ..
10. What will we pay ourselves? Who gets to change this in the future?
#40 - Why smart people defend bad ideas
By Scott Berkun, April 2005
We all know someone that’s intelligent, but who occasionally defends obviously bad ideas. Why does this happen? How can smart people take up positions that defy any reasonable logic? Having spent many years working with smart people I’ve catalogued many of the ways this happens, and I have advice on what to do about it. I feel qualified to write this essay as I’m a recovering smart person myself and I’ve defended several very bad ideas.
|Scott's Blog is quickly becoming a must-read daily site for me. Here's an older but excellent essay.|
There is one pattern in the tech sector that is so common, and so under-explored, that I’m compelled to talk about it here. I call it the start-up inflection point.
The basic premise:
- Small engineering start-up is born, does well, hires like mad.
- Heavy hiring bias for self-driven solo programmer prodigies.
- Company grows; scores of engineers running around.
- Soon primary challenge isn’t quality programmers: it’s organizing them.
No matter how self-directed programmers are, eventually their utility declines as ambiguities in direction, roles, goals and ownership become increasingly distracting and frustrating. The company is changing because of scale effects - but scale effects are hard to recognize, predict or compensate for. HIring more brilliant engineers won’t solve this problem.
My article 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job has quickly become very popular, so I figured it would be nice to write something about the realities of self-employment as well. Since there are so many myths about self-employment (especially among lifelong employees), a good place to start would be to dispel some of those myths.
Q: "Do blogs fit there?"
Joel: "Tell me whose blog. On my blog, I don't attempt to blog for the purpose of marketing."
Q: "So PR is free and low price. It may be your blog, or it may not be."
Joel: "I don't think a blog can do marketing"
Q: "Well, what would you say about Joel on Software then?" [joel's blog]
Joel: "Ah! You see this is sort of different. Joel on Software is editorial not on the subject of my business."
From "What Business Can Learn from Open Source" (http://www.paulgraha....com/opensource.html)
The third big lesson we can learn from open source and blogging is that ideas can bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top. Open source and blogging both work bottom-up: people make what they want, and the best stuff prevails.
Does this sound familiar? It's the principle of a market economy. Ironically, though open source and blogs are done for free, those worlds resemble market economies, while most companies, for all their talk about the value of free markets, are run internally like communist states.
There are two forces that together steer design: ideas about what to do next, and the enforcement of quality. In the channel era, both flowed down from the top. For example, newspaper editors assigned stories to reporters, then edited what they wrote.
Open source and blogging show us things don't have to work that way. Ideas and even the enforcement of quality can flow bottom-up. And in both cases the results are not merely acceptable, but better. For example, open source software is more reliable precisely because it's open source; anyone can find mistakes.
|Paul Graham wrote a book called "Hackers and Painters" (http://www.paulgraham.com/hackpaint.html)|
he publishes interesting essays online that might be worth a read.