Sunday, March 25, 2007

Design Is Inherently About Control. Or is it?

Great blog post on the tale of two architects. See the entire post at the Logic + Emotion blog.

"Design is inherently about control"

In a nutshell: They both build a playground. One architect goes to watch the unveiling and cringes as the children play in ways he never intended. The other goes to watch and sees same but is delighted, takes notes and plans on how to integrate what's happening into the next project.

Which are you more like?

I know that, by nature, we have a vision of what it is that we're building. We know how it's supposed to be used. When your audience does things with it you never considered, is that a bad thing? And if so, how do you stop the buggers?

I would conjecture that no, it's not bad. I think the second architect has it right. One mind can imagine only so much. Many minds can imagine so much more with the same materials. The trick is to pay attention, learn quickly from what you're seeing and incorporate it into your work.

In our world of agile software development, SCRUM's, rapid release schedules and (close to) unlimited flexibility, it's a gift to watch and learn. To do this you need to make sure you're tools are in place. Watch the numbers. Pay attention to the features that get used and expand them. Lower the priority on features that don't get used (and don't get overly attached to them, even if they're "Key To Your Grand Plan"). Examine and learn from the creations people make with your products capabilities. Talk to your users regularly and make sure your development team has customer interactions. Most of all, make sure the people that design and create aren't walled off in dark cavern full of computers and Redbull.

So is design inherently about control? At first blush, it feels that way, but in the real world, it almost never is.

When the Internet Was Young

I was going through old files tonight and stumbled on something I hadn't thought of in awhile. I'd pretty much forgotten this article in Wired back in 1994 (above). 1994. That's the effective 'birth year' of the commercial internet as we know it today. This article was written about a hobby of mine that I did outside of work called OneNet (the OneNet Member Network). I started it in my garage and when I finally moved on I had about 15 computers and 24 phone lines running into that thing and there was somewhere around a 800K to a million people using it around the world.

What's interesting about this is the time that's passed. 13 years.

Now think about that a little. The cutting edge/state of the art online systems of the times were being run by guys like me out of their garages (big numbers considering these were run on Mac SE's, granted, but really they were primarily hobbies on steroids).

13 years ago. That's not really that much time. Look at where the internet is today compared to Mac's running BBS software with store and forward protocols for conferences and email.

What's really interesting is that OneNet was about mostly one thing: Community. In particular, creating online community that transcended geography. Today we take it for granted and we make up new phrases for it (like social networking) but it's all the same stuff with more advanced technology (and richer media).

What's old is new yet again.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Business of Innovation

Innovation is a interesting business. CNBC has a great series on innovation (and what it takes to BE innovative) on it's website. It's title? The Business of Innovation (of course). They have some very major business names on the show. Here's the line up for just the first show (title: Innovators & Iconoclasts):

Cathleen Black
Hearst Publications

Howard Putnam
Former CEO
Southwest Airlines and Branif Airlines

Vinod Khosla
Sun Microsystems

Arkadi Kuhlmann
ING USA Direct

It's hosted by Maria Bartiromo with help from Roger Schank (see below).

Maria Bartiromo - Series Presenter

The Business of Innovation is a series of 5 one-hour programmes produced by CNBC, the worldwide leader in business news, which explores in-depth the most important topic in the business world today - Innovation. Each program will explore a different aspect of Innovation using CNBC's global newsgathering capabilities, well-known current and former CEO's and innovation experts to dissect the topic and provide guidance for viewers seeking to innovate in their own organizations. The series is hosted by award-winning journalist Maria Bartiromo, who calls the programmes "...ground breaking in scope".

Supporting Maria throughout the series is innovation expert Roger Schank. Schank is John Evans Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, Psychology and Education at Northwestern University. He is the CEO of Socratic Arts a company that designs software that enhances working place learning and thinking. He is also the CEO of Engines for Education ( a non profit that is building a new kind of learn by doing online high school with a modern curriculum.

Each show is an hour:

Innovators & Iconoclasts
Revolution & Evolution
New Tricks & Old Dogs
People & Technology
Loners & Teammates

All are good, but if you watch only one and you're a startup guy, watch the first one (Innovators & Iconoclasts)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Single vs. Multiple Founders

Over the last couple of years, I've learned one very good lesson about startups.

You shouldn't try to do it alone.

Yes, of course, I had my team (mostly 20 somethings in their first real high tech jobs), but the burden of getting the company going, funding it and figuring out where to take it was always my responsibility.

The next time I do a new startup, it's going to be with a partner.

Ever talk to a single mom or dad? Virtually all of them will tell you it's the most difficult thing they've done in their entire lives (parenting in general can be this way, but it's greatly amplified for single parents).

Startups are a little like that. It's a new baby, created by you. Trying to do and be all things as a single founder is damned difficult.

So, with that said, and with a BoD that's very good at recognizing that single founders have a hard time of it, we've brought on a partner for me here at ClickCaster.

I wrote a post on how startups need BOTH a King Aurthur and a Merlin. That's what we've done here at ClickCaster.

More in a future post.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...