One of the easiest ways to foster personal accountability is to make others aware of your intentions. Tell a group of cyclist peers that you're going on a two hour ride today, and I'll bet you do it. You may even invite a few just to make sure it happens. If you're a developer, and you've told the client they'll have "feature X" today, you'd better make it happen.
It seems we all have huge and ever growing to-do lists. We add things left and right, from paying the mortgage to picking up pickles at the grocery store. We get bogged down in the minutiae, often missing the most important thing on the list because something else always takes precedence. Sound familiar?
For many, getting started is the most challenging aspect. Check email, do the Facebook and Twitter. Check out Google Reader (yeah, maybe that last one is just me). But then it comes time for work. You know, work, the things that provide the income necessary to keep doing whatever it is we do. They're all to-dos, yes, but something will always be the most important.
The same holds true for our personal lives. If you exercise, then making sure you get the right amount of time in for the day may be the most important thing you're going to do.
The most important thing is going to vary widely per person, and per day, but the gist is there. There are always important things that we really need to do. It's that one, single most important thing - be it work or play - that when checked provides a sense of accomplishment.
Imagine if, of all of the things you'll do today, you always did the single most important thing on the list. Maybe a challenge - a public challenge would make it more fun. One really important thing per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn't sound like much, but it could add up!
Here's the proposal. At the beginning of every day (yes, seven days a week) we tweet the single most important to-do on the list for the day. A meeting, an action item, a ride, picking your child up from school, whatever - just tweet it. Add the hash tag #1onmylist - which of course means "number one on my list." Then, once completed, follow up with a tweet that simply says "Got #1done!"
For example: " I'll get billing done today. It's way over due. #1onmylist "
Then follow up with " Got #1done! Billing sent. "
I encourage you to abstract the details: "Have to get the proposal for Whole Foods done by 3PM" becomes "Have to get a proposal done by 3PM." Likewise, "Manipedi with David and Brad at TechStars" might just be "Manipedi." :)
What do you think? Want to see where it goes? What's number one on your list today? Tweet it!
Posted in: Ideas by Michael.
This idea came to me as I was listening to C.C. Chapman's podcast Managing the Gray. Specifically, the episode was Bringing the Social Back - a look at how the face to face aspect of social networking is disappearing. Those of us that live in the social media bubble can relate - the only time I see many of the people I follow is at a tech event, or in passing at a coffee shop*.
I propose that we organize and promote a global potluck barbeque. Let's pick a day (the same day everywhere, and roughly the same time), and on that day we gather at day long parties and actually get to know one another. No planned pitches, no selling, no fundraising. Let's get to know the people we see in Twitter and Facebook. It's a pretty crazy idea, I know, "socializing."
The gatherings could be in someone's backyard, or in a park with a grill - wherever you think is appropriate, and family friendly. Each event would need a host or an organizer, and there could be multiple parties in the larger cities or metro areas.
Here are a couple of Saturdays I've picked (from thin air): July 11th 2009 or August 8th 2009. If you have a better day, let's chat, this idea is totally open and I'd love the feedback. I wanted to schedule them far enough in the future that conflicts are less likely.
For Boulder, CO I'm thinking Eben G Fine Park.
It's a big idea that'll take a lot participation, so who's in? Do you want to help organize an event near you? Leave a comment below! Let's get started!
*In Boulder it's pretty easy to hang out with the people. It's a small, charged community, with lots of events and things to do. That said, I'm not sure people are getting to know people outside of their normal social circle. I'd like to see that change, starting with my participation in said events. See you soon!
Posted in: Ideas by Michael.
I wrote this as an email to a good friend of mine shortly after I returned from a 3 week family road road trip. I've tweaked it for public consumption, but for the most part remains the same.
We traveled through 13 states (4,500 miles) to see family and just spend some time together. It was an eye opener. I saw more of the country than many people will in their lifetimes. It was particularly interesting because of the current economy of course, the impact of which was more evident on the southern leg of our trip.
When I was about 7, I lived in a small town on the Mississippi called Helena, Arkansas. I've been back many times since, and have watched it decline from the prosperous farming town it once was, to a town with a 24 hour curfew in a certain section.
I've spent many an hour thinking through the reasons for this decline, and what follows are my thoughts. It is a long read, but I wanted to get these thoughts out here. I offer thoughts on a potential first step to solution at the end.
If you have comments or thoughts, please leave them. I'd love to open a dialog on this and see what others are thinking.
My thoughts on why small town economies are depressed - in no particular order.
Walmart - Money spent at Walmart goes to Bentonville, AR, and doesn't circulate locally. Within the township, any number of shops existed where Walmart now thrives - from drug stores, to hardware, electronics, and grocery stores. Each of those businesses employed people, which provided real money for the economy. Even the trucking infrastructure is privately operated.
In larger areas, Walmart is just one of many common big box stores. They don't displace smaller shops where smaller shops have never existed - think suburbia and sprawl. But in small towns they're simply devastating.
Farming subsidies - I don't know the exact history of this yet, but based on what I do know, the local farmers have essentially shut down operations instead choosing to take hand-outs from the government. They used to provide jobs and revenue - again for the local community. Sure, the farmers are OK, but the workers are not.
Welfare - Much like metro communities, welfare has become a way of life - instead of being the help that was needed in crisis. Children that are born to a family receiving welfare are more likely to continue to rely on welfare as they become adults. It is what they know, and are provided little incentive to change it.
Apathy - "This is the way it has always been, and I can't change it, so be it. We get along." Simple things like trash along the roads, to collapsing structures, to seeing people do the wrong thing while silently standing in fear - all contribute to an unremarkable living experience.
Dignity - The vast majority of these people are good, hard working people that simply have nothing to do and nowhere to work. Churches help maintain a positive social structure. They have family and I think ultimately want better for them. But given the struggling economy and the reality of their current situations, they struggle with their pride and dignity - many do things they're not proud of.
Casinos - People go to these places for entertainment, but how many are hoping to win big to solve their financial problems? Even people that don't work will find a way in to these places in hopes of winning big. Money spent in the casinos doesn't stay in the community, it goes to a corporate office in another state. Sure there are jobs, but there aren't nearly enough to support a town of 14,000. Some of the revenue also goes to the state, but the state clearly isn't investing it back in to the communities from which it originated.
Drugs - Of course there are drugs. Drugs are the way a select set of people are hoping to survive or maybe even better. Drugs are escapism at the core, but the damage it causes to a small community is devastating. From increased budgetary considerations (law enforcement, etc.), to violence, crime, unsanitary conditions, etc.
Consumerism - As we drove through Mississippi, it was interesting to see a pimped out car in front of a building with a collapsing roof. I believe that advertising and lifestyle, while not problems unique to these communities, contributes more here. Kids want to make money to buy things that give them a certain appearance. I've been there and done that and get it, but I no longer have that desire. I wonder how one can discourage that in a younger generation. How can you teach the 4 year olds in the town to spend responsibly? How can you show a high schooler that earning money to support his family is a far better thing than having that pair of $150 shoes?
While these are huge issues to tackle, I believe that as a part of a grand plan they can all be addressed.
Imagine a scenario where a message is sent to the Obama volunteers of one of these towns. The message simply directs the recipients to post flyers inviting everyone that reads the flyer to a general town meeting (we even provide the flyers). The meeting's organizers are simply listening to the needs and desires of those that show up. You know by the fact that these people are in the room, that they are there to affect change. Real change. You'll also know exactly what they need - and while it may not be possible to address everything, you will know what the hot items are.
City leaders would be invited, but are not encouraged to come. My view on this is that the leadership of these towns are the very people that are responsible for the current conditions. The casinos possibly paying leadership under the table, Walmart affecting the town by proxy, etc. Even if it isn't true, it will be the perception of the people that may want to come. Eventually the two can come together.
We could provide a simple set of directives for those that show up... go out on a weekend and pick up the trash along a main road. Find a few structures that need to be dismantled in order to clean up a street. Provide some really basic stuff to see if, and how they respond. We'd build a real community - not based on the boundaries of a township, but based on participation, pride and the genuine sense of accomplishment.
This is the way you free yourself from debt, or lose weight. One small step at a time. Anything that fixes the problem quickly will fail as it doesn't fix the problem... it fixes the result of the problem.
It turns out that while we lived in Helena, my father Bob tried to convince the cities that this was coming. The city governments were more concerned about maintaining their power than providing the residents with a plan for the future. I knew he was involved in "The Great Debate" but I never knew what it truly meant.
What do you think?
Posted in: Ideas by Michael.
In order to help survive poor business decisions made over the last 40 years, the big auto makers are seeking a federal bailout to the tune of $25 billion. I simply don't believe that it is the place of government to bail out failing companies. If a failing company is to survive, it is the job of that company to adapt to their market, or simply die.
I understand the implications of allowing these companies to fail.
The parts makers would have to tighten up their operations, or file for protection themselves. The workers would be forced to see what the UAW and their strong arm tactics have led to. The already terrible economy in Detroit would likely collapse, and the resulting unrest could lead to some nasty, unforeseen chaos.
There are lots of reasons these companies are failing of course. From the terrible decision by all three to allow the UAW to enslave them, to the ever changing needs of their customers. The skyrocketing price of fuel and the continued uncertainty in that market (the price is perfectly reasonable now, but I'll leave that for another post) have led consumers to conserve, and to buy cars that have better fuel efficiency. Some even argue that Detroit has made great cars over the last 20 years and their customers don't feel the need to upgrade. Ok, whatever.
Now for the solution. If you follow the path, the failure of Detroit can really be linked to the escalating costs of fuel and the public's general distain and contempt for big oil. Therefore, I think the big oil companies should step up to the plate and take responsibility for their mess.
Last quarter, Exxon-Mobile had a net profit of $14.83 billion. Royal Dutch Shell had a net profit of $8.44 billion, and BP's was $8.04 billion. Combined, those three alone had profits of $31.31 billion - in ONE QUARTER.
What are the market caps of GM and Ford? GM's market cap was $1.89 billion, and Ford's was $4.01 billion, as of this post. That means that any one of those companies could outright buy an auto maker (or both for that matter) with a single quarter's profits. Think about that for a second.
In summary, those three oil companies, just a few of those responsible for the chaos in Detroit, could bail out the US auto industry with a single quarter's profits.
Thanks to Mike Malloy for planting the seed for this post.
This is an entry I made on the thefives blog. It summarizes everything succinctly.
I wanted to give you all an update on the status of thefives.tv. The support for this project has been nothing short of amazing. We have 5 confirmed hosts, and three referrals that I've yet to hear from. Based on the number of hosts we have, I'd think the audience for thefives.tv is definitely there.
I've been asked a few times what the goal of the project is. I think it is important that everyone understand what my motivations were for wanting to get this thing off of the ground. I like people, and I like to hear their stories. I like the idea of seeing someone covered in tattoos and learning that they're a brain surgeon. I want other people to know that people aren't what we see, they're people - with different backgrounds, and problems, and families, and ideas - no matter what lives we make up for them. Understanding this may help others to be more respectful of their peers, and may encourage more thought and conversation. That is my goal - thought and conversation. What about you? Why are you involved?
LET'S GET STARTED, NOW!
Let's pick five questions from the list below, then make this thing happen. I envision three or four minutes of interviews, but if they're longer or shorter, they certainly won't be turned away. The idea is to give you the opportunity to talk to as many people as you want, while keeping the length of the production manageable and something fun. Remember, this is all about fun.
I'll take the videos and add pre and post roll branding for thefives.tv. I'll handle the credits, blog translation, and the encoding/uploads of the video to YouTube. If this gets too time consuming I may need some help. I'll arrange storage for these videos and give you instructions for where to upload them when you're ready.
The content will be released under the following license:
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States .
The tone should most definitely be as playful and fun as the subject being interviewed allows. Take a few still photos of the subject if you can. This will add additional interest to the subject.
I've had feedback that some of you may not have the "proper" equipment to get started. I'm not worried about production quality, but more about the message that the interview sends. So, if you're like Jon Sullivan, you'll use a Macbook Pro's iSight focused on two people or a digital camera's movie mode to shoot. You may have a tripod and a DV camera (they're under $200 at Amazon). Jon and I even talked about doing Skype video interviews with a complete stranger and recording that as content for the project.
Ultimately, as long as we can hear the interview and get some idea of who you're interviewing, make it happen and don't worry about quality right now. The deployment target for this early content is Youtube, not a 100" HDTV.
I'm excited to say that participants are 50/50 on the sexes. The experience of the team varies from professional actors and people that make a living behind a camera to people that just really like to talk to other people. This variety will really add to the feel of the project.
The last thing I want to say is that it is time that we all start the process of meeting each other and working together. I set the domain http://thefives.tv to forward to the Ning site. Each of you need to create a profiles there so we can move these emails to that site. That way things can happen without me.
Without you this thing would still be an idea. Your participation is really appreciated. Thank you.
See the original post here: Project update: thefives.tv
I was listening to a podcast about a new concept for having news reported. The concept is that people put money into a pot, and when the pot reaches a given amount someone will write a story. The stories, from what I remember, aren't about typical local news, but more about local investigative journalism.
One of the arguments the creator mentioned was that local TV, newspapers, etc. spend a lot of time covering national and global stories, and have left meaningful local coverage mediocre. I don't read newspapers (or their sites for that matter), and seldom turn on TV news - but the times that I have seen them, he's spot on. One of the reasons I stopped reading/watching is that local news is about sensationalism... murder and mayhem, and celebrity.
Enter the blog.
When I stumble upon local blogs, they're usually covering topics of larger scope (maybe national) but with a local twist. How does the story affect them and what is the author's perspective on it. Sometimes though, it may be a story on a local sporting event, or a meetup of some kind. In my circles, these things also cover lots of business subjects... investing, entrepreneurship, etc. No matter the subject, there is a local flavor to the stories.
Create an aggregation site that blog authors subscribe to (free of course) with the express goal of providing a local "newspaper" powered by the citizens of a given market. You would be able to drill down in a Craigslist style navigation to a city or town, then see stories in given subject areas from people that actually live and work in that area. All of the typical newspaper categories would exist: business, sports, arts, movies, activities, etc.
When an author writes a story, they would have to apply it to given categories. The readers could gauge whether or not the story is actually on topic, and stories and authors could be rated for quality. These ratings would determine what floats to the front page, digg style. If you want to have fun, you could offer a payment for the author based on the revenues they generate for the site... but that is a bonus for participating, not an expectation.
If you decide to build this, let me know... I'd subscribe to the RSS feed at the very least.
What do you think?
Here's a funny one. Imagine being able to ask a historical figure a question about life. You'd probably start with one figure, then add them as you find experts that want to participate.
Of course this only works if you can get obsessed scholars to participate... but if they're that obsessed it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine that they'd want to participate. They'd love to share their knowledge.
"What do you think? Obama or Clinton?" could be asked of a virtual John F. Kennedy. Or "What should our next move in Iraq be?" to General Douglas Macarthur.
Bracken suggested that the site pick a figure a week, then have users vote on the best question for that figure to answer... I like it.
What about you? If you build this, let me know!
I've been AFK for quite a while, focusing my work time on HyperSites exclusively. It is better than ever as a result... but now it is time to spend my off hours building my passion.
My passion is called Social Ingenuity. It is a huge project that centers directly in the social networking space. It has a few fundamental differences compared to most of what we're seeing in this space. First and foremost, it will allow people to leverage their social networks to build companies.
Social Ingenuity is so big in fact, that I've come up with a great way to get started slowly. Rather than try to build a monster application to support the company, I'm going to start it locally. This will allow us to find great talent to start the global version properly.
I'll have more news soon, but if your curiosity has been piqued, have a look at Social Ingenuity. Ping me with questions.
Posted in: Ideas by Michael.
I've come up with a term, and I'd like to start a conversation around it.
We're all familiar with the word "age." Typically this word is used to mark a place in something's chronological progression. For example, I'll turn 39 next week. Or a bottle of wine is 39 years old. My americano is ten minutes old.
I was trying to come up with a term that I could use to describe a phenomenon I've witnessed wherein a person is locked in to a particular workflow when it comes to productivity or communication. It can also be applied to how one views the internet and the tools available to them.
The time was about 1997/8... the world was significantly different. LCDs were for laptops only, Altavista was the search engine (or Yahoo! soon). Documents were created in Word, and stored on a server in the office, and possibly backed up personally on the good ole floppy or Zip disk. Email became the way to reach the people. Voicemail was hot too. Digital music was an up and comer, but the audio quality was horrid.
Today, I don't have Microsoft Office on my computer, I use Google Docs. Sure I have Pages just in case, but my documents are stored (and shared) with Google. Speaking of Google, are there other search engines today? Sure, but the big one is Google. Email is too slow, instead we've become a Twitterverse. It is instant, and always on. There are times that I could email, text, or IM someone, and instead choose to direct them with Twitter. Now is best, thanks. My wife has a 21" widescreen LCD as a secondary screen with her laptop, and I know plenty of people with those cheesy 30" LCDs (heh).
Ok, ok... the term. It is "Internet Age." Someone's Internet Age reflects how long ago they were introduced to the internet. I've noticed that typical people, certainly not those in the startup community, use the tools available today in exactly the same way they did when they were first introduced. Go ahead, ask someone that was introduced to the net in 1999 or so if they're on Facebook. Or if they know what Twitter is. Ask them why they use Office, or why they're using Yahoo to find http://www.google.com
One's Internet Age will tell you a lot about how they like to be contacted. If they're 3 or younger, IM is too slow... text them. From 4 to 7ish they'll prefer IM over email. Six to 10, email is still the preferred method. Over that, they'll check their email once or twice a week, so you'd better leave voice mail.
What do you think? The ages may be off a bit, but have you found the same thing?
Someone make textcastr.com please. Yes, the domain is available.
The service is simple. A user creates an account at textcastr.com, enters their user names at twitter, pownce, facebook, etc. Textcastr.com provides their SMS short code to the user... messages sent to the short code are then relayed to the appropriate services.
The way you get the message to the available services will depend on the service of course. Twitter and Facebook have APIs, Pownce? No one knows yet.
There. Take it. And be sure to let me know when I can sign up.