How Google Works

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It’s always hard to tell how far a company’s ideals are from the reality of what is truly applied in practice. With Google’s over 50K workers, it’s tough to imagine the ideals laid out in the book are carried out through each and every employee. I sure hope so.

Whether they are or not, I found the concepts put forth compelling and exciting. Their definition and support of what they coin as “smart-creatives” paints a pretty accurate picture of what the doers, thinkers and makers in the SF entrepreneurial scene are made of. Their layout of methodologies and practices that replace the old corporate mindset with those based on “first-principles” are is truly after my own heart. To hell with tradition and “shoulds” – the world is more dynamic than ever and a management team that is as dynamic and forward thinking is necessary to stay ahead.

This book is a must read for entrepreneurs, managers and those ready to partake in the new generation of our technological workforce. Yes, there were inconsistencies in some sections and from time to time it sounded a bit self-promoting, but for the most part it provoked the formation of great questions and thoughts for our book club.

Fair warning, if you are a recent MBA student I would suggest putting of reading this for a couple of years. There are many references to how the Google way is able to overcome what they consider poor methodologies MBA students are taught to implement. Since I was reading this while taking some personal growth online MBA classes it was clear that the two visions for what creates success diverge.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Google-Works-Eric-Sc…/…/1455582344

You can see my running read book list on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/sshadmand/books

 

 

Product Review: Duolingo a free language learning app

Duolingo_logoBased out of Pittsburg Pennsylvania this app was created by the founder of reCaptcha and has taken a truly new approach to learning foreign languages.  For one,  as compared to other tools like Rosetta Stone that costs its customers hundreds of dollars per language, Duolingo is free to use!

Beyond just being free, the app has done an excellent job in gamifying the language learning process with daily challenges, points, and levels. One simple feature that caught my eye was they option to “test out” of individual levels avoiding the need to review an entire section you may know. I’ve been using it for the last three days and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here are some screenshots of gameplay:

screenshots_duolingo

There is a second mission to Duolingo’s story that makes the app even more unique. In the backend, while you are using the app to learn a language, their algorithms are simultaneously using your answers to help improve translations for websites and other documents!

If you are interested in picking up another language Duolingo leaves you with few excuses not to start today. Adios y gracias!

 

Sean Shadmand Presents for NewCo’s Yahoo Content Series


Last year we really enjoyed opening our office up to OpenCo and revealing how we think and work as well as how we see technology transforming the world we live in. We ended with a look at “2023” and what all that may mean over the next decade. This year, after we were asked to present again under the new NewCo brand we took a different approach. In our talk today we hosted a thought experiment, taking a philosophical journey into what is content, how we know the difference between good and bad content, and how we can use that information to create the next set of products (or just appreciate the ones that come out a bit more.)

A talk about content in only one form of t would be sadly ironic. So, if you missed it we recorded and are presenting a few forms of the talk for ya.

 

I used this snazzy little tool that records voice on my iPhone and syncs the slides as a remote while giving a preso. Check out the tool at  http://penxy.com/ or the final resulting “talking slides” at http://penxy.com/hyw

 

 

Slide Notes

(Min 14:00 in Slides Above)

This year for NewCos new track named Yahoo’s content series we’ll take a different approach and start off by asking a more fundamental (seemingly obvious) question.

What is content?
For the most part we know it when we see it. It’s the substance or material we deal with in a speech, images, tweets, or memes. It can look like this [Essay], or content can look like this [Donald Trump tweet].

As we have access to more and more content in our daily lives the question that becomes more and more important to viewers is whether this content is worse or better than the previous one? Many will say the latter is awful, yet we read content like this in droves everyday. Why?
Let’s upgrade the question a bit and ask:

What is good content?

That’s a pretty tough question to answer but an important one too. As more and more innovative products come out we can get caught up in critiquing or dismissing one from the next. One super popular dismissal is the “I don’t care about you eating waffles on Twitter – I hate twitter it’s just noise”. When we take this point of view we can miss out on some amazing developments in our culture not to mention some amazing opportunities that come from that level of access.
Fair warning this discussion is gonna get philosophical. We’ll keep diving deeper into questions like that around content.

I know – we all love a presentations structure that involves action items, best practices or check lists ready to go by the time we leave.

Sometimes though it’s important to step back before you ask, or answer, a deeper question. After all the concept of “good” and “bad” is one of the oldest philosophical conundrums in existence. Furthermore is it even the right question to ask at all? Let’s see what we discover…

So let’s get dirty and start our philosophical journey by restructuring a very – very old question:

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

We may be quick to answer: “of course it makes a sound. I’ve heard a tree fall and heard its sound – my presence is not required.”
But the question’s more of a thought experiment than anything else. What makes the question interesting isn’t the science of sound but the philosophy behind observation and reality of what sound is without an observer. Thought experiments like that can uncover new questions that may live beneath the surface that are able to more directly answer more monumental questions.

So let’s use our time together to dive into a thought experiment around content and see where we end up

If information is created but is never shared for others to see it is it still content?

I mean if content can stand on its own without the communication aspect…
Would you say then that all the hundreds or thousands of ideas and thoughts locked in our heads are actually hundreds or thousands of pieces of content then? Maybe.
Or maybe content is so inextricably tied to sharing that the two can’t maintain the definition on their own.

Hmmm.. Okay…if that’s the case then what side is more important in determining goodness? How well it’s distributed OR how well it’s formed and presented?
On one hand can we determine how good or bad content is if no one ever sees it? And, on the other hand, how worthwhile is content that everyone sees if it’s not useful or actionable? Content is more than text, sound, or an image in and of itself. In its most basic form it’s a projection of our thoughts that we thrust out into the world. As Maslov would probably put it: it’s a basic human need that makes us social and allows us to self-actualize.
If Descartes was alive today he may devise a whole new Cogito (“I think therefor I am”) to “I Share Therefore I am.”

We always hear there are no good or bad questions. And we are all unique – all our thoughts are important reflections of ourselves (which you may realize after thousands of dollars of therapy.) So why are we so driven to deem content good or bad if it is fundamentally a projection of self? Hmmmm… Interesting but I don’t think we’ve dived deep enough yet to form an answer… Let’s take another dive…
Let’s deconstruct content even further and ask

WHY is content?

(Min 23:00 in Slides Above)

(not a well formed sentence I know but you get the idea.)
Content is a transferring of our minds and being into an everlasting form.

It gives us eternal life and has so for thousands of years. In that regard it is one of the most advanced technologies ever created in the world. Our short finite lives are made infinite!

As the acronym YOLO so eloquently states, “You only live once” – but with the entire world filled with all these projected minds in the form of content we can live many lives vicariously through others.
If those concept are too abstract for your fancy and you’re more of the practical type then let’s frame it this way: Content gets stuff done more quickly. The faster we communicate the faster we can act between us.
I give you information locked in my head – you give your version back to me –
and like DNA all our contributions result in a greater overall result that may have taken ages had we attempted to think through it all on our own.
So with that I present my first thesis: The figuring out how to label content as good or bad comes from entirely the wrong place. The real question should be how do we use THIS content or THAT content? Where can we put each bit of content to allow our thoughts a chance to live in the open so that anyone can get the value from it if they so choose?
Content is simply a medium we use at the moments we have thoughts to overcome our inability to be able to be inside one another’s head.

The real endeavor is to cut out the middleman completely and just exchange thoughts. And until we can do that our goal is to shorten the time it takes to transfer our emotions, ideas, and – our lives – as much as possible. Ultimate efficiency, eternal life, and dare I say maybe even peace will be achieved in that final move. It won’t be about us dealing with good and bad content it will be about us accepting all thoughts as a chance to achieve those ultimate goals.

If you appreciate the reality that a single mind is the ultimate goal then it will give way to clues to foresee what product, or content society will embrace next. I’m not saying we will achieve singularity tomorrow,
nor am I here to rally everyone to start making change so we do something – because it is inevitable whether you like it or not. I am here to help add to a map on how and why content exists so we can navigate what comes our way, or create useful products along the way.

The real problem we are attempting to solve in almost all products created today is: how do we decrease the inefficiency impeding us from what can be called a mind meld. Each new product attempts to close that time-gap from one persons mind and emotion to the next.

Still not convinced that is the ultimate direction?– lets take a break from the abstract and look at our known history for validation…
In the beginning it was the lack of the written word, passing down information through story. It got the job done but it could take a lifetime or more for anyone to have a chance to see ones work or hear ones thoughts in order to make use of them. It was also super lossy – changing with each storyteller and generation. The written word helped us set those words in stone so although interpretation was still at play the base from which we worked was identical to those that could read the original. Unfortunately there was only one original so it still took a while to get it circulating and – you break, you buy.
Then, boom, the creation of the printing press! Anyone with an idea could have a shot of distributing their thoughts in ones lifetime – rich or poor, academically educated or not –– well, as long as you could read or had someone that could read to you. An example of how powerful an easily copied text can be is seen in the 1500s when the Christian world’s perception of their religion was altered because of a German Friar named Martin Luther and the content he shared. Powerful yes,

but it still took 2 YEARS for his thoughts to circulate in his community. Could you imagine waiting 2 years for your questions or ideas to be circulated?

How frustrating for us to imagine?! At that time not only did communication work on a schedule like that but the perception was that not everyone needed to read or share content in the first place because the common folk were too dumb to make use of it. What value could they bring to the table?

We look back then and see a travesty around the freedom of information – but does our generation think all that differently? When we created AppMakr the same objections came up – “not everyone needs an app.”

The prediction was we would maybe make 4 apps a month. In our first day we had requests to make thousands. Against all doubt we knew that it has always been true that the power of distributing content should be given to the people “good” or “bad” – it was our guiding principle. … But I’m jumping ahead …

We’ve seen the drive to democratize content and speed its ability to be distributed for hundreds of years since the printing press.

Getting our thoughts out to the world in years
to weeks, to seconds with radio and TV. But then a problem still remained – instant is great but everyone should have a voice and the access to hear it – not just the privileged – we still wanted more.
And so the Internet was born: Instant transfer of anyone’s thoughts to anyone willing to access it. It was given the perfect term: “getting connected.” And our path to do so continued.

From dial up to Wi-Fi, from PC to laptop, from Laptop to phone. We are decreasing the time it takes for each of our thoughts to get out there.

The iPhone was also thought of as a fad by critiques after its release – for years large corporations wondered how they succeeded. Many missed that its main achievement was to further decrease the time and complexity it takes for us to create, share, and ingest content from anyone saying anything more instantly.

Whether it’s a lifetime to years or 3 seconds to 1 second. If you can decrease the time it takes to get ANYONES mind into the open you are on to something.

Of course we all hear the call to arms that everything is so different now, and bad, and chaotic – we are so much worst and impatient than in the past! I offer a different perspective, things are only different in the tools we use but our yearning and desires are exactly the same: “Hear me!”
Or, may I please have access to what is going out there.
Our heads are no more immersed in that desire today.
Than it has been in generations before us. We are just able to achieve those goals more practically.
Data has always been thrust upon us.

We are simply trying to make it ALL more manageable from one person to the next.

What we’re driving towards is a moment where my thoughts are yours in the same moment. Think of the frustration you’ve ever felt when you just wanted someone to understand what you were trying to convey but left only with words and gestures and maybe a white board. How awfully inefficient it is! Just get in my head for a second so we can move on! The channels we’ve seen are just manifestations of that desire we have. It’s still far away but that IS the direction we’re headed and have been headed since the word “I”.

Anything that shortens that gap for ANYONE to get ANYTHING to ANYONE ELSE is following that trajectory and delivering goodness.

Is it asking too much? Are we really so much more impatient than the past?

Why is a month too long to wait but a minute juuuuust short enough?

What is it compared to?

Cutting the time in half is cutting time in half when you move forward – period. And it will always take twice as long as it does now to those looking back. It’s not time thats a problem – time is relative. 

All content that is caged is bad content because it doesn’t have the chance to allow someone to try and make their mark, live vicariously through shared story, or help them self-actualize. Sure with this digital tool there’s great power, fear and concern in how we will handle it all but it’s not about getting rid of some of it based on it being good or bad. Content is a tool to convey our thoughts – and we have all kinds of them that seem like garbage or gold from one person to the next.
It’s the difference between this
and this. Same tool different purpose
This is a knife
and so is this. And there are tons others out there. More and more a minute with a better edge or handle or metal or balance. They’re the channels we use to express ourselves with one another more quickly.
We connect in less time by decreasing the physical distance between us and our technology.
We connect with less clicks or gestures.
And yes sometimes that stream of consciousness means we trade breadth of connection about something trivial and seemingly painful to read
for accuracy and depth of critical information that is otherwise caged. Never the less, in both instances we are connecting more effectively. Believe me when we do end up truly “connecting” our thoughts it will be scarier and far noisier than today but innovators will be propelled to figure out how to appreciate and allow for that connection to build from – not work on tearing them down. And each passing generation will have a higher bandwidth they can handle than the last.

So. Maybe it’s not about whether the content is good or bad quality, heck maybe it’s not even about how much it gets shared –

maybe it’s always been purely about how many people are connected and how quickly they can achieve that connection.

Content and sharing are the two fundamental ways we are able to do it today – they are the means to the ends. They are our rocks, and knives, and arrows for lack of any other available means. But they themselves is not the goal. So, maybe good content could be defined as ANY-THING that connects ANY-ONE in less time or complexity then what is currently out there.
From stones
to books
to TV still lacking the option to connect or comment
To the websites and blogs where interaction intertwined itself with the content being shared.

Once communication and distribution became instant we shifted our strategy to decrease the time-gap between exchanges by limiting the amount of content exchanged when conveying a thought in the first place.
Those thoughts, emotions and ideas were created and deployed more quickly and frequently with statuses, and 140 letter max tweets – a real stream of consciousness was born. And that consciousness was further fed with the ability to post even if you weren’t by a computer.
So who are we to judge even shorter content still?

The end goal is about getting a feeling, thought and/or emotion to whom ever you want or as many people as you want with the least amount of friction.

So why is Yo so surprising?

Less characters and a quick intuitive interface has created a quicker connection between people. In first principles we aren’t searching for depth in substance – we are searching for a mind meld.
With 2 clicks I can convey “yo I’m thinking of you”, or
YO “I’m in town” – if the message is received and the minds are linked then it is content and it is valuable and it is good.
Yes, there is beauty in the creation process and that shouldn’t be forgotten, but let’s also recognize that the PROCESS was originally created to convey the idea with the tools available at the time. Losing site of one is as destructive as the other. The art comes from the need and some of our needs are satisfied within the art.
Which could be why memes are so powerful. Quick, efficient, creatively assembled, instantly connecting complex an otherwise tough to describe moment of humor or feelings with others through a shared experience we can relate to.
We can have taken the concept of video and trimmed it to its essence in a 5 second clip.

if you are afraid to share because to many people will see it then
a product removes that barrier so your security can be guaranteed with ephemeral storage.
We want to be closer still and our tools are extensions of that. Now we are cutting out the middleman entirely (pun intended) and letting our body do the communicating for us – instantly.

It’s amazing – in the pursuit of closing the time-gap between us we’ve managed to jumped right over our stream of consciousness and found a way to release what our body is saying even before our consciousness realizes it; a whole new level of getting connected.

So I that I think our thought experiment has yielded a conclusion for the question on what is good content:

GOOD CONTENT IS: ANYTHING THAT CONNECTS ANYONE’S THOUGHTS EFFECTIVELY IN LESS TIME OR WITH LESS COMPLEXITY THATN IS CURRENTLY OUT THERE.

So if nothing else keep that in mind when you see the next best thing and wonder why.

 

Thank you for keeping an open mind.

=============================================

We used the Google On Air tool (basically Google Hangouts but for public live streams that are also automatically uploaded to Youtube when the broadcast ends.) This is my 3rd attempt to use On Air in some live stream capacity and it finally worked well! The trick was setting up a second computer than from my own with more memory. Long story short, here is the presentation using that product:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_64IZjmIY8&edit=vd

On Air Event Page: https://plus.google.com/events/c1ginlf8oufe9pkl6mcq38tb1mc

The 6 Books That Shaped How I Think and Work

gettintoyes
Getting to Yes
The first biz related book I read as a child. I learned early on that negotiating wasn’t just an art of cleverly persuading your counterpart  to yield to your will (which I believe many old and young try to do) but instead it taught me the notion around doing your best to find a situation that benefits both sides of the fence. This book is also filled with tactics and lessons that give you a whole new perspective on what is really happening when a buyer and a seller meet and a tool belt too.
thedipThe Dip
The first startup book I read almost a decade ago. It is a short book but a frank and honest one too. The dip sets a tone and map for what’s in store when creating a startup. I remember when I ended up facing a dip or two  along the way there was comfort in knowing that the rollercoaster ride was just a necessary step in a path towards…?
5tempsFive Temptations of a CEO
This book was suggested to me by the (former?) CTO of Zynga. Unlike most business books that are bullet point lessons and biographies this one is written as a fictional story of a man that has the conversation of a lifetime with a stranger on the subway. Often times when making harsh and rash decisions about setting expectations with employees, or when trying to manage my emotions or ego, memories of this book are triggered. It has helped me more than once find my way back to center.
madetostickMade to Stick
Fantastic book for those of us that didn’t come from a marketing background (although I am sure it is valuable to those that did too.) Often when I write letters, blogs, taglines or give presentations I use the lessons from this book to get a feel for whether or not it will “stick” with my audience and use some tactics to drive a message home.
reworkReWork
By the time I read this book  I had already learned many of its concepts through my own trial and error. Nevertheless it made my top 6 list because of how well it articulated those learnings. Reading this book is like sharpening your knives if you know the lessons of a startup already or it is a great set of building blocks to work from if not.

stumbling-on-happinessStumbling on Happiness
Boy did I love this book. It was given to me by my good friend Daniel and it was probably the fastest book I ever read. Dan Gilbert combines psychology, philosophy, history, and science beautifully to give a candid and thought provoking look at what happiness really means and why is it so different for everyone. I find myself referring to the lessons in this book quite often around relative happiness, how our imagination can be terribly misleading – but being aware is a big help!
Some other books of note:
The Fountain Head: A controversial book that seems to be either hated or loved. Which ever side you chose to be on I would be surprised if it was not called powerful. You don’t have to believe in the writers philosophy benefit from a perspective into  the power of ideals, confidence, and certainty in oneself.
Thinking fast and slow: A large dry read at times but making it through was worth it. I learned a lot about how great and poor the mind can be all at once. I learned not only to be more cautious with my assumptions  but a sense for where that cautions is needed more and why letting go can be a powerful tool as well.
Freakenomics: To see the world through the eyes of an economist is a gift. Thinking in terms of noise reduction, drawing data from samples and parallels and using statistics to prove how powerfully wrong our assumptions can be was thoroughly entertaining the whole way through.
The tipping point: I didn’t fall in love with this book like others but it definitely deserve a read for its historical observations around business that have succeeded and failed and the factors and people that contributed to them.
 4 hour work week: I hold the lesson passed down in this book around work/life balance with me. I truly believe that we should be working to make less work and using that reduction as a badge of honor instead of the more classic concept that more hours equal a better output.
Hard things about hard things: A glimpse into the mind and life of a entrepenuer that almost lost it all on more than one occasion and the lessons he learned about running a company are packaged up nicely for us to lern from with far  less scars

Work. Life. Love. Balance. Stories From Startup Folk

Startup LoveI saw this article posted by a friend on FB by Scott Weiss a VC at Andreessan Horowitz called Success at work, Failure at home

To me pulling back the curtains behind a life, relationship or personality allows us to see the truth: that there is no such thing as the “perfect life” to aspire to. Instead we are all simply working hard on the goal of being the best people, friends and mates we can be. So don’t be so hard on yourself, learn a little, and share a lot.

With that in mind his post inspired me to post this learning from my own life as a serial startup/”entrepreneur guy” in a relationship.

 

Why You Can’t Optimize for Intimacy

The style of conversation that helps drive interaction, trust, and motivation within a business and its employees doesn’t translate completely with a person you have an intimate, loving, sensual, and sentimental obligation to.

Some things do translate well. For instance, the patience and even keeled temperament required to maintain a level of respect and openness is important to both work and home lives. On the other hand the levels of distance and tone you employ can have a stark difference between the two environments.

As an example, working on an emotional issue with a significant other doesn’t work well with checkins, progress updates, and check lists (which can be cold to a person you sleep next to every night.) While on the other hand focusing deeply on emotions doesn’t work well when communicating clear objectives and goals with peers and employees (that you hopefully don’t sleep next to – ever.) Again, there is some overlap, but the differences are monumental.

For me, being a startup guy in a relationship is a constant lesson in understanding those differences; not focusing on “optimizing” for your relationship but simply nurturing it together.

So in short as the title says: do not optimize for intimacy. And I know if you are a startup person you are thinking right now “I disagree, of course I can if I just…” Stop right there. I know you “can” – but don’t. — I know you think you can – but don’t! The other person may be feeling more focused and diligent (yay!) for now, but probably feeling less connected, heard, loved, or nurtured over all. Even worst they may be feeling like they are at work – and not in a “intimate relationship.” (boo!) :-p

 

 

Erec Makes A Fire: A Children's Book About Entrepreneurism

What is the book about?

Erec Makes a Fire is a story of how a group of kids stumble upon a cave covered in ancient wall writings depicting the story of how a unique young cave boy (Erec) accidentally created his first great invention: fire. The story shows how, even in the most simplest of times, one is able to form a business, sell a product, and create a success. The book is written to subtly embed one of the most fundamental parts of business in a child’s mind: leveraging an opportunity when finding demand in your community for something, and providing a supply for it. Even before cash, computers, technology, LLC formation or business entities, business and entrepreneurs thrived through observation and invention,  and they still do so today. This story helps teach youngsters, and remind the parents reading it, that entrepenuerism is all around us and to keep an eye out for one’s own personal “fire” opportunity.

Why did I write the book?

As a person who loves the world of entrepreneurism, I also love telling a story around how anyone can turn a will and an idea into a business. I have enjoyed telling that story, and giving tips on how do it best, for a number of years through various mediums such as interviews in print, in person, and on TV.

Now that more and more of my close friends are having kids I want to share that passion and story through a form that their kids can benefit from. I noticed there wasn’t much out there in the world of children’s books that took business concepts and simplified them into stories kids could love, as well as learn from. So, what what else was I to do as an entrepreneur but to fill that void. Erec Makes a Fire is the first in a hopeful long series of books that builds a foundation of business mindedness in our children.

Beliefs that inspired

Two major beliefs of mine contributed greatly to the creation of this story: Fist, immersion is a great key to early developmental learning, and secondly, kids are extremely capable of learning and understanding complex concepts early on, especially when it is told through story and analogy.

In regards to immersion, I believe that even if a child does not understand a concept introduced to them directly, being surrounded by that concept will help them become more comfortable with the subject matter as they mature. This makes the principles taught far less foreign to them, and therefor more easily consumed when they grow up, as compared to those learning the same concepts for the first time later in life.

I also believe that children can grasp complex concepts, like supply and demand or finance, far earlier in their lives than is generally taught today. I have always been amazed at how kids pick up core concepts so deeply. Yet, adults at times “protect them” from complicated concepts for worry of it going over their heads. Supply and demand can have complexities within – yes, but the basics are – well – basic and building stories around those concepts can most definitely be consumed by children. Look how well they understand other stories we give them like ones around “how to share”, a concept that I find many adults still struggling to grasp. I remember sitting with adults during dinners as a kid while they talked to one another about their businesses around me. Over time and many family diners a grew more familiar with many of the things they talked about while still being a child. Although I was unable to articulate my perspectives on the subjects at the time I mades notes to remind myself that one day, when I got older, I would remember that: that kids get more than you think.

Stickers
Sticker Collection Available Through KickStarter

Erec Makes a Fire is a new kind of children’s book that immerses young people in concepts they should be given the chance to understand early in life sothat they can have a foundation for understanding it more deeply as they grow up. As such the company under which the book is created is called “Small People. Big Ideas. LLC”

How and When Can I get it?

The first few copies will be made available as gifted items through a fundraising drive on KickStarter. I have my initial proofs and prototypes complete. Based on how much I can raise through KickStarter I am shooting to making it available by the summer of 2013. There will be special gifts given out through KickStarter in addition to the books themselves to make thing more interesting, such as: signed copies; custom printed copies; packages including digital, print  version and stickers; as well as custom designs where our artist injects a characterization of your child  into a character in the book! Books will be made available through softcovers, hardcovers, and ebooks.

About Kick Starter:

KickStarter is a crowd funding platform that allows projects to get funded before they start. It is a great way to start a business or project up and works perfectly with the Erec Makes A Fire book as the funds are only released if the book gets enough demand. The simplest way to think of KickStarter is this: think of those PBS drives on TV, the “If you pledge more than $50 you get this free tote bag” type of promotions. For a project like mine my gift will be an early copy of the book and other creative unique offers mentioned above that only funders will be able to receive. You can read more about KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics#Kick 

Erg: Erec's first customer as a Sticker
Erg: Erec’s first customer as a Sticker

Why Did you Spell “Erec” with an “e” instead of an “i” ?

The names of the book are witten with some historical significance in mind. Homo Erectus and Homo Ergaster are the scientific names for the two homonids believed to be around during the time period fire was discovered. So, the characters names in the book take each half of each of those names: Erec, and his friend Tus are the first two characters introduced. Followed by his first two customers Erg and Aster.

Slides of Creative Process

Original Idea Draft
Original Idea Draft

Draft Rewrites
Draft Rewrites

Preliminary Sketches and Character Development
Preliminary Sketches and Character Development

Backdrop Scene Development Sketches
Backdrop Scene Development Sketches

Story Board Final Sketches
Story Board Final Sketches

Final Sketches Converted to Digital
Final Sketches Converted to Digital

Final Layout Colored for Publishing
Final Layout Colored for Publishing

The books as shown in Large Hardcover and Regular Sized Soft Cover

Erec Makes A Fire: A Children’s Book About Entrepreneurism

Erec Makes a Fire was successfully funded on Kickstarter! Thanks for all your support.

What is the book about?

Erec Makes a Fire is a story of how a group of kids stumble upon a cave covered in ancient writings depicting the story of how a unique young cave boy (Erec) accidentally created his first great invention, fire. The story shows how, even in the simplest of times, one is able to form a business, sell a product, and create a success. The book is written to subtly embed one of the most fundamental parts of business in a child’s mind: leveraging an opportunity when finding demand in your community and providing a supply for it. Even before cash, computers, technology, LLC formation or business entities, business and entrepreneurs thrived through observation and invention,  and they still do so today. This story helps teach youngsters, and remind their parents, that entrepreneurism is all around us and to keep an eye out for one’s own personal “fire” opportunity.

Why did I write the book?

As a person who loves the world of entrepreneurism, I also love telling a story about how anyone can turn a will or idea into a business. I have enjoyed telling that story, and giving tips on how to do it best, for a number of years through various mediums such as interviews in print, in person, and on TV. Now that more and more of my close friends are having kids I want to share that passion and story through a form that their kids can benefit from. I noticed there wasn’t much out there in the world of children’s books that took business concepts and simplified them into stories kids could love, as well as learn from. So, what else was I to do as an entrepreneur but to fill that void. Erec Makes a Fire is the first in a hopeful series of books that builds a foundation of business mindedness in our children.

Beliefs that inspired

Two major beliefs of mine contributed greatly to the creation of this story: First, immersion is a great key to early developmental learning, and secondly, kids are extremely capable of learning and understanding complex concepts early on, especially when it is told through story and analogy.
In regards to immersion, I believe that even if a child does not understand a concept introduced to them directly, being surrounded by that concept will help them become more comfortable with the subject matter as they mature. This makes the principles taught far less foreign to them, and therefore more easily consumed when they grow up, as compared to those learning the same concepts for the first time later in life.

I also believe that children can grasp complex concepts, like supply and demand or finance, far earlier in their lives than is generally taught today. I have always been amazed at how kids pick up core concepts so deeply. Yet, adults at times “protect them” from complicated concepts for worry of it going over their heads. Supply and demand can have complexities within – yes, but the basics are – well – basic and building stories around those concepts can most definitely be consumed by children. Look how well they understand other stories we give them, like ones around “how to share”, a concept that I find many adults still struggling to grasp. I remember sitting with adults during dinners as a kid while they talked to one another about their businesses around me. Over time and many family diners a grew more familiar with many of the things they talked about while still being a child. Although I was unable to articulate my perspectives on the subjects at the time I mades notes to remind myself that one day, when I got older, I would remember this: kids get more than you think.

Stickers
Sticker Collection Available Through KickStarter

Erec Makes a Fire is a new kind of children’s book that immerses young people in concepts they should be given the chance to understand early in life so that they can have a foundation for understanding it more deeply as they grow up. As such the company under which the book is created is called “Small People. Big Ideas. LLC”

How and When Can I get it?

The first few copies will be made available as gifted items through a fundraising drive on KickStarter. I have my initial proofs and prototypes complete. Based on how much I can raise through KickStarter I am shooting to making it available by the spring of 2015. There will be special gifts given out through KickStarter in addition to the books themselves to make things more interesting, such as: signed copies; custom printed copies; packages including digital, print  version and stickers; as well as custom designs where our artist injects a characterization of your child  into a character in the book! Books will be made available through softcovers, hardcovers, and ebooks.

About Kick Starter:

KickStarter is a crowd funding platform that allows projects to get funded before they start. It is a great way to start a business or project and works perfectly with the Erec Makes A Fire book as the funds are only released if the book gets enough demand. The simplest way to think of KickStarter is this: think of those PBS drives on TV, the “If you pledge more than $50 you get this free tote bag” type of promotions. For a project like mine my gift will be an early copy of the book and other creative unique offers mentioned above that only funders will be able to receive. You can read more about KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics#Kick 

Erg: Erec's first customer as a Sticker
Erg: Erec’s first customer as a Sticker

Why Did you Spell “Erec” with an “e” instead of an “i” ?

The names of the book are witten with some historical significance in mind. Homo Erectus and Homo Ergaster are the scientific names for the two homonids believed to be around during the time period fire was discovered. So, the characters names in the book take each half of each of those names: Erec, and his friend Tus are the first two characters introduced. Followed by his first two customers Erg and Aster. Just in case though, we made sure Eric Makes a Fire works too 😉

Slides of Creative Process

Original Idea Draft
Original Idea Draft

Draft Rewrites
Draft Rewrites

Preliminary Sketches and Character Development
Preliminary Sketches and Character Development

Backdrop Scene Development Sketches
Backdrop Scene Development Sketches

Story Board Final Sketches
Story Board Final Sketches

Final Sketches Converted to Digital
Final Sketches Converted to Digital

Final Layout Colored for Publishing
Final Layout Colored for Publishing
20130211-P1090359
Printed Proofed Books
Sticker (kids) Proofs
Sticker (kids) Proofs

Get in to the cheering section and like us at http://www.facebook.com/ErecMakesaFire, and subscribe to email updates as we neat the big release here (http://signup.erecmakesafire.com)!

Chrome Tip: Multi-profiles and Offline Docs

You may have already used the Chrome incognito profile, but what you may not know about is the fact that chrome now allows you to create and use multiple profiles on your computer. While incognito us used to specfically ensure that no data is stored or tracked on your system based on the sites and pages you visit, profiles allow you to better manage the various ways those pages are stored either online or off. Here is how to use them.

Incognito Mode:

Incognito mode ( i.e. the mode with the browser icon as a sunglass and hat wearing fellow in this blog’s screen shot ) prevents pages you visit from being tracked, stored in history and clears all cookies from your session once the window is closed, no matter what the site you are visiting has set. There are many reasons why you may want to do this. The cite version: You and your girlfriend use the same computer and you don’t want her to know about the surprise earrings you have been shopping for her online. The not so cute version, well, let’s just say you can avoid getting in trouble like Jim Levenstein does in American Reunion. (BTW, that movie is not worth seeing even if to only get the joke)

To enable incognito mode go to the menu ( ) option in the top right corner of your Chrome browser and select “New Incognito Window” or press Command+Shift+N . Also note: Chrome in your app on your mobile device has the same options and works the same way.

Signing in to Chrome

Chrome can connect to your GMail account, and doing so allows you to do things like sync bookmarks between devices, as well as allow you to edit your Google Drive documents stored on the cloud even while you have no internet connection available. This tool came in handy recently when I came up with some ideas for a document I was working on while at a hotel that didn’t have wifi available. I simply made the changes needed and when internet resumed the doc was synced and merged to my online version of the doc. By signing in to your Google account on chrome a default profile for your computer ( i.e. the mode with the browser icon as a head with no face in this blog’s screen shot ) will be automatically assigned to you and connected to the account you signed in with.

To login to your Google account in Chrome go to the menu ( ) option in the top right corner of your Chrome browser and select “Sign In”. You will then be given the Google login page. Sign in as you would with your GMail account and you are all set.

Enabling Your Chrome Profile to Work on Docs Offline

If you haven’t used your Google Drive already you should really take a second to get to know it. Not only can you store 5GB of files of any type for free in your Google Drive AND use them as a local drive on your computer and phone just like Dropbox, BUT you can use it to create and save documents of various types that you can use to collaborate on simultaneous with other users.

To explain the latter more clearly through example: We use Google Docs at Socialize at all our meetings. During the meeting we create a google doc and throughout the meeting anyone can add, append, change or update the way the notes are taken all at the same time. You can see one another typing as you type and often times most of the meeting will be completed in silence while everyone adds their notes to the doc. Collaboration is saved and shared in a document instantly.

But I digress…

To enable your Google docs to have offline access first go to your Google Drive (http://drive.google.com). On the left hand menu select the “more” drop down to reveal extra options. Finally click “offline docs” and enable. Your drive will sync your docs to your local Chrome profile. Note: If you do not see the “Offline Docs” in the “more” dropdown, and you are using Google App for work, you will need to either enable the feature in your Google App’s Admin portal, or get your sysadmin to do it for you. It is located in the Google Drive sectionof the Admin’s “Settings” tab.

Multiple Chrome Profiles

You are probably just fine getting your Google Drive working on your default Chrome profile to work on offline docs, just as I was for quite some time. The problem is that when I tried to enable offline docs for my personal Google Drive documents, as well as my work docs, the Google Drive system did not allow it. Chrome only allows one offline sync per Chrome profile. To fix this problem you will need to create an additional Chrome Profile on your browser ( i.e. create a mode with a different browser icon like the one with the Ninja in this blog’s screen shot ), and then enable Offline Docs in your Google Drive while in the correct profile.

To add additional profiles to Chrome go to the menu ( ) option in the top right corner of your Chrome browser and select “Settings”. Scroll down to the “Users” section and choose “Add new user.” Once you have added a profile correctly your Users section should look something like this:

Switching Between Profiles

To switch between profile simply click the icon for your current profile in the top right of the browser and choose the profile you wish to use. Once selected, a new browser window will open with that profile enabled.

Efficiently Inefficient: Processes that can improve quality and quantity of life

For our latest project at Socialize Isaac and I are going to increase the release cycle even further and go from a few releases per group per week, to a few releases per day. I find moving more efficiently and quickly over the years always takes a few non-intuitive jarring mental steps. (If they didn’t we would have been way more efficient as a society way earlier on in history).

Here are a couple things that always seem to be the foundation of inching your way up the efficiency hill.

1) Get to a point at which you truly trust your results, not just feel good or secure about them, but quantitative based results that have a quantitative “I trust this” number. This is what I call the “don’t look over your shoulder moment”, because if you’re looking over your shoulder to make sure nothing has gone wrong, you are not looking forward to make sure new things go right. This accomplished with unit/itests tests, or in our everyday lives marking your calendar or adding a reminder. Even at managing people in the office, time and time again setting up employees to be trusted and autonomous, with a simple audit system to make you aware only if something is wrong, has proven time and time again to produce happier, more creative, more productive employees in a company that can scale. Basically every one wins big when you make sure you create process that handles things that are set to let you know if you need to take action, and quite %100 otherwise.

2) Really reconsider what you’re are willing to bare in mistakes. This is usually a major brain switch moment. Sometimes people can work 100x more efficiently and productively if they just allow themselves to be wrong for a totally fixable 1 minute per year. Yes your server may go down once a year, but instead of working hard to make sure that never happens (which is impossible), work hard to make sure systems are in place to recover super quickly. The funny thing is when you accomplish #1 above, mixed with this #2 item, you start performing better than you could have imagined.

3) Remove process that is there to support the more intuitive faux “warm and fuzzy” feelings that keep 1 and 2 from happening.

4) Always push yourself, and those around you, to test process that offer efficiency gains even if you don’t feel comfortable at first. Comfort is often the foundation of slowness, and trying new things even against your “better judgement” are the only ways to break free.

 

For you nerds out there, here is the article from github Isaac passed on to me that sparked our latest evolution in product releases. Although this post and its sentiment are, in my book, universal throughout life and business and not code.

http://scottchacon.com/2011/08/31/github-flow.html

There is no better quote to reference then your own, made from the source:Not the facts, just the data

Here is another post in my series of “Not the facts, just the data”. This post came after an argument I had with someone I care about. Make no mistake that this is not a rebutle but just a perspective on data vs. facts, and arguments vs. politics.

The biggest argument I stand being, from my point of view, is this: Do not trust or love politics, love your people, peers, country, and family.

Politicians on either side of the coin will use data for their agenda. If you get wrapped up in it, and start believing what you are *told*, through sound bites and ads, you will be misinformed 100% of the time. More information isn’t tantamount to a depth of information.

This is why I have learned not to trust politics, they bet on people not reading the full story (as wel only have so much time in the day) and try to create anger and conflict to make people mad enough to vote how they want. It feels like THAT is what has gotten worst over the years, not so much what is happening in the world, just the way its agenda is given to us. China does it by cutting off information, the US does it by overloading its people with one sided information.
The good news is that with the advent of the Internet it is now so easy to get the data and documents from the source, and fight back as a citizen saying “don’t use me for your agenda”. No need to go to the library and send letters requesting data that may take days or weeks; it is available now if you are willing to read it.
As my methods to get to the data evolve, I try and follow some procedures to navigate past the political propaganda.
First, If I find a “fact” that I am researching on any news site, I look for the citation for the “fact” so I know where it came from, and then look that fact up from it source to read it myself. If there is not citation, I start over. A citation does not make it data, it just helps you get a path to the source. Secondly, if I find the source I read it, if I cannot find the source I look for the source directly. At this stage in the evolution of my process I have deemed .gov sites and non-profit census bureaus as a final source. In some situation you can never be sure unless you count the numbers yourself, but I have found the most consistency at that level. Yes I know that even the government stats, non profits, and census bureaus can lie but if I can find some consitancy at that level I am pleased.
Lastly, how to spot a fact with skeletons in its closet that should trigger an investigation like the one above before having the debate.
Well, the main thing that triggers a fact check to me are statistics, and references to bill being voted on. Why? Well, over the years I have found that stats have a high potential to be screwed. Or example, what constitutes “1 year” – Fiscal year or calendar year etc. Another example is is the stats extrapolated from previous data or data that has already happened. Another read flag is the use of tag lines,  sound bits and general words like “taxes”, and “everyone”, and “higher” — higher then when and what for whom? Also, the reference to bills, are tough to believe from something like “he voted to….” After living in DC and working on capitol hill with you realize that both sides of the fence will quote the same document at different parts and come up with completely different conclusion. It is impossible for both are either to be entirely right, but both sides would never realize that they both *think* they are 100% right. As my readers and friends know by now, one of my big rules of thumb is: If experts disagree it is time to make your own decisions. A bill is written by many people with many agendas for their state. They are stiuffed, written and re-written over and over to try to get as much as they each want to get in it, and keep out as much as they don’t. They do this hours and hours everyday to come to a final document that is then voted on by all parties. It is very important to remember that time line, for no document has one message, and if it passed their is a big chance that both parties voted yes on it (unless there was a big split with few deciding votes). Point being, much could have gone into a document and so much more history to that document then any sound bite could articulate.
So, one of the bills that was brought as a point of contention was based on a sound bites saying “Obama voted on late term abortion”, and it was said that the bill was made to let mothers have the right to kill a baby after it is born alive. Well, personal, I did not know about that bill first hand, and that I promised to look it up. Speaking from my own perspectives I don’t like the sound of it, but I want the source and document first before my personal conclusions on that vote are spoken.
This is one of the actual bills voted on for Illinois referenced. It only took a few minutes to bring up. It was indeed named “Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act”, so that is a true data point.  As it turns out was voted on 44-7 (almost everyone agreed in both parties, that decided to attend). Also there were 5 present votes. What does a present vote mean?
 The “present” vote is in effect a “no” vote, but it is a “no” vote that sends a message. The “present” vote is used by lawmakers in situations where they agree with a bill in
spirit, however the current version of the bill is not good enough to vote “yes;”
The bill, in my first hand summary, would be this:  A bill for late term abortion *if* it will kill the mother to have the baby, but still says it is illegal otherwise. But please, do not take my word for it! Read it here:
So it is important for me to see just how complex a bill can be, in addition to how complex it is to create, finalize,vote on and pass, on it.
Another topic was immigration. Stats are the hardest data to really find concrete numbers. There isn’t a list of people that are counted ever. It is def not as easy to get to the bottom of as a document being references. Old census bureus that have been around and referenced over time by both parties is, to me, a better place to start than from a news site, network, or politician.
So here is census data from the Pew Foundation on immigration stats, highest in 2007, and leveled off down by a million the following years.
It is important to note that data usually doesn’t come with a “should”, “good”, “bad”, or “won’t” list of words around it. Why did it go up? That is as complex as why did it go down? And as you will see that once why is added to statistics rarely does a group of experts agree. There are so many variables, and that is where debates and politics I suppose have a place. But I would implore you all out there to start the debate after the data is presented, and be sure not to find yourself repeating an ad or politicians claim that a statistic is “up” or “down” until you read it for yourself from the source.
I think my new strategy will be to make sure that before I argue on big issues like this, especially in DC where the ads and politics are so ripe with contention, I will just say show me the document we are arguing over before getting involved. If we do, maybe the citizens of this country can take back their right to be informed, and to make decisions without political agenda being the force that drives them.