I can kill u with my eyez (Taken with Tuxedo Kittie)
‘Pie IX’ by Suuns is my new jam.
So why has [the Adria Richards debacle] become such an ungodly fight? We seem to have approached a point where any actual sensible discussion of questions raised by this situation is borderline impossible. The positions are polarising to such an extent that—rather than just accepting what the vast majority of us must surely know to be true—everyone’s being pushed, or pushing themselves, to the edges. The arguments now appear to be that either Adria fucked up and for this reason she deserved to get rape threats, or that since she got rape threats she cannot possibly have fucked up.
These are both ridiculous positions! These are insane positions! These are totally irrational positions! In our attempts to find meaning in this event we’ve got people trying to find a neat narrative that wraps everything up elegantly and cleanly. But such an attempt is doomed to fail here. No one comes out of this cheerfully. There is clumsy human self-importance on the one side and a great swathe of unpleasant, unwashed, dickish, abusive and disgusting morons on the other. —
On being adult about childish behaviour… | plasticbag.org (via buzz)
I kinda wanted to write something about the whole [Adria Richards debacle], but as the above paragraph neatly encapsulates the whole situation is now such a train wreck it seems hard to imagine how any good could come out it.
The things I wanted to explore about the situation were - what was it about Adria Richard’s actions that so enraged certain elements of hacker culture ?
(And no I don’t mean the fact that she is a woman and black, there is no defence for the people who attacked her on those levels)
Nerds vs. Hipsters
SXSW - Its all about the ideas right?
I think we all agree that the days where an app could ‘break out’ at SXSW are over..
Even three years ago it was just Foursquare solidifying its status as cool (vs Gowalla), two years ago GroupMe was the dubious contender (its still a great utility, just not a radical concept..), last year we had ambient location forced on us, and this year I think we all still felt so dirty about that (apparently Highlight has pivoted to become a popsicle vendor) that no-one even tried to make a claim - seriously, did anyone try to write that blog post?
I feel sorry for anyone trying to cut through the noise at this point - esp given that todays true breakout metric is having your ‘find friends’ feature turned off by Facebook / Twitter.
So with this said.. what was new this year?
Numerous panels on space flight, the line completely around the convention centre for Elon Musk’s keynote, and drones on display at Viceland show that we might be following Thiel’s lead and pointing our technological vision back towards the physical world (and away from the consumer internet products we are all busy using).
But Google Glass was also hot on the minds of most, even though it’s panel was in such a small room it was full *before they even let anyone in*.
On the thread of glass; one of the most exciting new ideas I caught wind of was from a panel someone told me about, but that I didn’t attend - for a seemingly innocuous app that reads your pulse using a smartphone’s camera & flash.
Crude right now, but the idea of using biometric sensors as another form of input is the tip of something huge.
Just say if Glass succeeds (more on that further down) then we are going to have a device where we are constantly immersed in information.
We are going to need, as Denis Crowley might say, ‘Better Filters’.
By tracking pulse you can probably get a fair idea about whether someone is stressed or relaxed, active or passive.
A gimmicky example of an implementation would be to feed that data into iTunes so shuffle / playlists can respond to your mood.
But as far as filtering information goes - its going to be really handy if your device knows that now isn’t the right time to flood you with push notifications (because you seem stressed).
Take this a bit further down the track to when your sensor can also read things like blood sugar level - I bet advertisers would love to know when a person is hungry or dehydrated..
And yes, the ‘Quantified Self’ types are gonna get pretty excited.
All this is still a way from reality - but I can see the tip of a future growth area here.
Will Glass succeed though?
One panel showed a pertinent slide comparing Glass to a Bluetooth phone headset. Ouch..
Both offer a more convenient way to use the functionality of your phone. But bluetooth headsets never went anywhere because they look retarded and almost everyone seems to agree that anyone wearing one is a jackass (who ironically almost never receives phone calls).
In its current form Glass may well have the same fate (even though its waaay cooler than a BT headset) - only the people who want to make a statement that they embrace ‘future communications’ will wear them.
I don’t think people are going to adopt google glass en masse when they are released this year - even if they do manage to make them look less Star Trek.
A comparison to Apple’s Newton might be in order - everyone could see that it would be very cool to have a digital notepad with them at all times, and that you could be connected and check emails etc.. But it was still early days.. both for the technology and the networks that support it.
There were around 14 years between the Newton and the iPhone.
I think those cycles are getting shorter.. but for immersive AR to be a reality I think there are still some barriers to be broken:
While I used to think that contact lenses were the ultimate form of AR I am starting to come round to the idea of it being based in glasses - its very easy with glasses to signal that you are not ‘wired in’. You can simply wear the glasses up on your head like you would with sunglasses.
No matter how future struck we become I don’t think people are ever going to want to live without some level of direct, unbroken, personal communication.
You cant have a good conversation with someone while you are both staring at your phones, and I think for AR to go mainstream there needs to be a way for people to signal to each other that they are actually paying attention between stints in the collective consensual hallucination that life becomes.
The other thing people are excited about (So long as they are carrying tacos as opposed to guns and surveillance cameras) is drones.
It seems like we might already be hitting a point where anyone with Seamless.com bookmarked and an Amazon Prime account can feasibly buy most of what they need online and have it delivered.
The guys from Fueled set up our accommodation in Austin almost totally via online shopping - a stash of air mattresses, general supplies, and 45c (net price) cans of soda were waiting on the doorstep when they arrived.
As this becomes a cultural norm are drones the ultimate answer for small scale deliveries?
Its not gonna be that hard to add a way for drones to drop things at most urban dwellings, and it seems feasible that sending drones on delivery errands could be both manageable and economically viable.
The hardware is already pretty close to being a commodity (when its the same price as a bike?), the remaining barriers are mostly legislative, social, and operational.
Operationally we probably need some sort of centralised (or intra drone) protocol so if there are a lot of them up there they don’t crash into each other.
Maybe we also need some infrastructure? Drone charging stations on the rooftops? Or do peoples drone letterboxes have charging stations also?
Socially we need to establish what is acceptable if drones are to inhabit our skies en masse (ideally no guns or surveillance cameras, realistically probably just no guns..).
And legislatively god knows what, but I assume there are going to need to be some laws (since the world is still run by people who like laws), which may also tie into the first idea of airspace control.
That could take a while, but my feeling is that the social and operational barriers could fall quicker than you think, especially if the drone traffic lanes are high enough to be out of general perception.
It looks to be going the other way for now, but I think ultimately lawmakers want drones too (for spying & shooting.. assholes..) and will see desire for delivery and toy drones as a good way to inch this towards public acceptance.
The drones on display at Viceland navigate via GPS to within 2 feet of accuracy. They automatically compensate flightpaths for wind (although this obviously drains batteries faster) and can be set to recover in all sorts of ways if they loose signal / are driven badly.
Whats that tapping on my window? Oh, its a drone with some pizza. Better go.
SXSW Takeouts, life lessons, etc
Every year I resolve that next year I will approach SXSW with more of a strategy, and every year I resoundingly fail to do that.
I am still bootstrapping a small company and to be honest I just don’t have the time to prep.
What would having a strategy entail?
Planning for some outcomes.. Investors to meet, companies to partner with, new sales deals, maybe speaking on a panel, pulling a launch stunt (good luck with that..), or even hosting a party (something best left to those with VC to burn, or some very friendly sponsors).
All these things may well be worthwhile, but they aren’t essential, and possibly the vast majority of conference attendees are going with the flow too - making concrete plans is hard at best, at worst some kind of crime against ‘SXSW serendipity’ (Quote SXSW organiser).
A few things though for next time:
-Having a bike at SXSW is really good..
My friends at Fueled house set everyone up with a local rental and it was less than a 15 minute pedal to the city.
It doesn’t matter who the hell you are, no one is getting a cab at the end of the night without a long walk to the outskirts (try the spots near the bridges where cabs return to the city from the suburbs), blind luck, or some form of treachery. Same goes for mid-morning & dinner time.
Did anyone actually manage to claim their free Uber ride? I had more luck with the official Austin yellow cab app.
Riding a bike home at dusk / end of night is kind of awesome..
-An RSVP alone to any of the major parties is practically worthless
Once a party hits capacity the people in line are just another metric for whoever did PR to claim success.
You can stand there for over an hour and watch as people who know the PR people walk to the front of the line and get in while everyone else is stuck.
On the plus side I did get to meet @fat (Jacob of Bootstrap fame) while in the line for the Foursquare party. It seemed like someone was trying to help him get in to no avail, he gave up and wandered off around 20 mins before me and my friend also got fed up and left.
<Insert token rant about how SXSW is no longer for the people who actually build things etc..>
Ultimately if you don’t have an in you may as well be creative because if the line is not moving theres no point joining it.
I sorta accidentally skipped the line for the ‘house party’ on night one by being herded in with some people who had just arrived on the Wired party bus.
I got into Hype hotel a couple of times just by standing next to the exit using my phone and stepping in once the guard turned their back.
Good options if you aren’t equipped with the grace to ‘dance your way in’…
For the big parties either get there early with an RSVP or plan ahead - call your friends who work at those companies the week before and try to get them to add you +1 to the VIP list.
Or try this radical strategy - go to the small parties of good startups that haven’t fully hit the big time. You might actually talk to interesting people and not spend half your night standing on the street feeling pissed off at the world.
-Just because its free doesn’t mean you should drink it all
Mmm, delicious free cocktails (and a fair amount of watered down crap & beer in plastic cups).
First night at SXSW, may as well indulge right?
Gah. Induced me to prime friends with a code phrase ‘Wheres the fire’ if I was seen to be drinking too rapidly from then on.
That night also happened to be the night I chose to walk and Austin chose to rain like hell.
Nothing like getting soaked to the skin and arriving at home in a semi coherent state to make you feel like you are getting off to a bad start.
Some might say this is what south by is all about, but at a certain age you can only handle so much punishment.
Keep the consumption in check and you might actually make that morning panel (who’s idea was it to put MG Seigler on at 9:30am? I made it BTW)
-Create a combined calendar of must dos..
Trying to remember your plans by switching between Eventbrite, email, SXSW schedule app, and countless others isn’t going to work..
Make a summary schedule of all the things you dont want to miss.
I forgot a few parties & panels I would have really liked to have attended, and I also should have noted a few people I wanted to make an effort to hang out with in advance.
-Your phone will die..
Not sure how those battery extension packs fare, but my recommendation is to always carry the little mini wall plug + USB cable for your iPhone. That way anywhere you stop that has an outlet you can charge.
At the end of the day, even though I felt like around two of my party nights were a total fail, looking back at the whole event its still an overwhelming blur of experiences.
Without any plan at all I met a ton of new people, made a few good friends, ate a lot of tacos, and oh yeah, saw some great panels and films, which will be the next post.
p.s. - On the taco front.. hit up Turf & Surf.. Non traditional, but hella delicious. I ate there two nights in a row, the fish tacos and the pulled pork both make me want to get on a plane back to Austin already.
Doing show and tell with your rocket videos.. That must be fun! Ps first showing of @spacex reusable rockets landing! #sxswi @ Elon Musk Sxsw Keynote (Taken with Snapr)
The idea of a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ is a big thing in the startup world.
Its often understood as being a necessary form factor only because startups have limited resources and must prioritise.
This is true, but there are other things that are just as crucial about an MVP:
This brings me to the comparison between Vine and Loopcam. They are different apps in that one is for short video sequences, and one is for short gif’s - but in my opinion both have the potential to be ‘the solution’ for sharing/watching moving pictures from mobile.
Video on mobile has never really worked for several reasons:
Vine & Loopcam solve all these problems by making it easy to create short bytes of moving images & upload them in a compressed format.
Both apps also bring a little extra magic in that the clips can have a playful animation like quality.
Vine is perhaps a little more grown up in that its clips contain ‘real video’ and sound. But I think we can agree that people like gifs on the internet too.
So why has one taken off so much more than the other?
Some obvious reasons - one is an SF company with the PR clout of Twitter behind it, and the other is an independent (but funded) startup out of Berlin.
But these things can only count for so much, they can’t ultimately make people use your product en-masse.
Vine is a much better MVP and it deserves its success.
Lets take a look at their main feed views side by side:
Arriving in Vine we see nothing but a single feed. Even if you don’t follow anyone yet it is populated with ‘Editor’s picks’ - so there is quality content from day one. There is a button to create a new clip, and there is a dropdown to switch to different views if you really want to explore.
You are presented with nothing but the essential - funny clips, and a button to create your own. Its as close to being perfect as anything I have seen - better even than Instagram.
Compare that to Loopcam. You have a feed view which is quite similar, but a few crucial differences:
And then things get even worse as you flick through the different tabs (as people have a habit of doing..)
So there you have it.
60% 40% of the movie is boring. Any one I recommend the app is likely to flick through these tabs and think :( not awesome..
Things like this seem like simple mistakes in hindsight, but the truth is its very hard to hit the nail on the head, and sometimes you don’t know it until you see it.
I am three years into my start-up and only just starting to feel like I get it. For years our product has been too convoluted, and right now its in an awkward state of transition from one thing to another.
But I think from watching another brilliantly lean MVP take off (The first one was Instagram) I have learnt my lesson finally.
Its time to cull the baggage and radically re-think our product to only be what it is *now*, and to be very clear what we are offering to people who use it.
This is something I am going to apply to several apps on our platform.
I have been redesigning all week, and coming up to a 3.0 release Snapr that will have less in it than it has ever had before (Although it will finally gain its own set of filters!).