Entrepreneurs

Over at GigaOM, Michael Wolf says 2012 will be the year the artist-entrepreneur.
Headlines look great with declaratives in them, but the truth is artist-entrepreneurs have been doing quite well for a whille now. In 2007 Radiohead circumvented the middle men and told people to pay what they want for their album, In Rainbows, directly from their site. Prince made a similar move in 2007 with his album Planet Earth and again in 2010 with the album 20Ten. In both these cases though, he gave away his album for free in national newspapers in the UK.
You might say Radiohead and Prince are big names so they can get away with bold moves like this. And this is true. You could also say this about the recent
experiment Louis C.K. did by selling his latest stand-up special, DRM-free on his website for $5, grossing him over one million dollars in a few weeks.
But what about the artist-entrepreneur nobody knows? The guy or girl with an idea, who executes the idea and then gets people interesting in backing it and ends up raising thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Wolf doesn’t address this group and it’s unfortunate, because I think it’s one of the most exciting areas on said topic. How he managed to not at least mention Kickstarter in his article boggles my mind.
I’m not saying this because I happen to have a project on Kickstarter. I originally wrote about Kickstarter and Craig Mod’s inspiring story in November 2010.
I’m happy Michael Wolf wrote his piece. It’s important to see prominent individuals taking this DIY approach, I just wish he showed this approach can work all the way down the spectrum.

Entrepreneurs

Obvious

I love as more and more details and clues are leaked regarding Apple’s future product plans, things become so obvious to these brilliant, insightful analysts.
Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee talks about Apple’s (supposed) entry into the television market (via paidContent.org):

Frankly, we are not surprised and believe AAPL should enter the TV space as this is arguably the only major end market the company is not currently participating in a bigger way.

“Moreover, we have picked up several data points indicating activity from component makers to manufacturing partners as well as AAPL’s own patent filings from at least 2005.

“We believe it makes sense for AAPL to produce Apple TV in both a set-top box as well as an integrated all-in-one version to give users choice.

Wu wasn’t surprised at all. Wonder if he was expecting this 6 months ago, or a year? I’m sure that part in Walter Isaacson’s bio of Steve Jobs where Jobs talks about cracking the TV market didn’t help you at all either.
Analysts are about as reliable as weather people. It’s only when they see the clouds on the horizon can they predict the rain.
Newsflash – I can do that too.

Obvious

Paid To Be Good

Despite the thoughtful and elegant design of the new Windows Phone OS, it seems Microsoft is having trouble getting developers to design and build quality applications.
In response to this, Microsoft Canada has launched the Developer Movement, which gives away prizes for each quality application a developer makes.
I don’t think Apple ever had to pay developers to ensure their applications were well-designed.
Where’s that Ballmer chant when you need it?

Paid To Be Good

I Will

Over the holiday weekend, we were talking with my dad about his army days, and he busted out his Signal Corps ID card. He was an electronics instructor (at age 17) and the back of the card listed the ‘Instructor’s Motto':

I will always realize that everything
I say and do influences other soldiers.

I will instill in each student a deep
sense of loyalty to his fellow soldiers,
the Army, and our country.

By my own example I will inspire him
to the highest standards of personal con-
duct, integrity, and professional skill.

Seems like a good rule of thumb for any profession.
Signal_Corps_ID_Card.jpg

I Will

Reverse In Motion

David Pogue imagines a world where car companies operated like tech companies:

Here at the annual Consumer Electronic Automotive Show, the largest trade show in the world, the carheads have again made their annual pilgrimage to see what new breakthrough vehicles will be finding their way into American garages in the new year.

Axxle, the Cupertino, Calif., automaker, is again notable by its absence. But even though its perfectionist founder, Steve Hubs, recently died, the company’s impact was everywhere at the show.

When Axxle announced its sleek, simple-to-drive iCar last year, automotive blogs like Gizmoto and Engearjet savaged it for its lack of a windshield, doors, roof and body. “Only the fanboys would want to drive a flat glass surfboard,” went a typical remark.

Well done.

Reverse In Motion

Converting Brilliance

This quote is from In The Plex by Steven Levy (via Sci-Fi Hi-Fi via Daring Fireball)

Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.

This kind of quote is to be expected from a company run by engineers. The problem isn’t that Google’s products are made by machines. Everyone’s products are made by machines. But it is’t why you should be proud of your products. And it’s not what makes your products great.
What engineers and companies run by engineers need to get past is thinking the general public cares about the same things they do. Like how (supposedly) open their platform is. Or how precise their algorithms are. Or how fast their processors are.
Engineers are very gifted individuals. I know, because my father is one.
Engineers have the uncanny ability to talk to machines. Write code. Fix car engines. Rewire houses. Help their son install a stereo into their car, explaining which wire is connected to the ignition, which one is connected to the battery and which one is grounded (I believe the black wire is ground). Oh yeah, and check to see if your speakers are in phase.
Where engineers need help is converting their brilliance into something a regular person can use and enjoy.
Designers convert brilliance. They connect dots.
This doesn’t make designers better than engineers.
They need each other to create anything meaningful or useful.

Converting Brilliance

Charts Are Awesome

Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post has compiled a slideshow of charts made by economists that illustrate the economic woes facing the country. These charts are ugly as hell, from a strictly aesthetic standpoint, but they are beautiful in the concise way they present information. Unfortunately, the content of the information is quite frightening. Below is a selection from the original posting.
chart1_bl.jpg
This chart illustrates the changing nature of work for men in the United States. As women continue to enter and equalize the workforce, competition for jobs becomes stiffer. In addition, men have been steadily performing worse in schools and colleges for decades, leaving many ill-prepared and ill-trained for steady employment.
chart2_bl.jpg
The author of this chart put in a little gallows humor to emphasize the growing disparity between corporate profits and compensation to those that generate the profits. This is a powerful chart in that it brings to mind a fundamental flaw in our economy. As it now operates, the American economy is a powerful engine of revenue creation, but not job creation. In fact, in many instances, obliterating jobs can generate more profits than adding jobs. This is an economy caught in the throes of entropy, and a question must be asked: What is the point of economic growth if the majority of Americans see no benefit from said growth, or even find themselves slipping backwards?
chart3_bl.jpg
Finally, this chart has a great title. “The Toil Index.” This shows the ever-increasing amount of hours an American has to work in a month to be able to afford rent. From just over 40 hours a month in 1950 to over a hundred this past decade, it’s heartbreaking to see just how much of our labor goes to an essential need of human existence. The reality of our economy is that we are still far better off than our ancestors, but the promise of a better life has taken a huge hit.
So, these charts are ugly, beautiful, frightening, and fascinating.

Charts Are Awesome