I've spent the past three days in Omaha, Nebraska at the Big Omaha conference. It's undoubtedly the premiere conference in the US when it comes to entrepreneurship. I was excited by the speaker lineup this year, as I am every year, but pleasantly surprised to see that 500 Startups' Dave McClure would be taking to the stage.
Here's the thing – Dave has a potty mouth. We all know this. Omaha knew this before he took to the stage, and he even forewarned people both verbally and in his slides that he would likely use language that some people would deem to be offensive. Before he got deeply into his presentation, he gave people the opportunity to leave. I say this not to excuse his choice of words, or his actions, but rather to set the stage.
Dave was talking about how things aren't quite as good as they could be, and giving examples of ways that industries could be easily changed. In one such example, in which he was interacting with a member of the audience, they were talking about the iPhone. The audience member was defending its place as a wonderful piece of technology that didn't suck, and Dave was looking for the reason that it did, which ended up being battery life.
She responded that the battery life didn't suck, to which Dave quickly shot back with the statement of “you're a lying b***h.”
Suffice it to say, especially when addressing a female, his choice of words didn't go over well. Valleywag picked up the story, and I won't link it because it's trash. Twitter in general wasn't too happy with Dave, and the 700+, very active Twitter users at the conference made no bones about expressing their displeasure.
This confused me. Primarily because Dave, after leaving the stage, immediately began the process of doing the right things – He apologized publicly, using the hashtag, to make sure that it was in the stream. He apologized directly to the attendee to which his ill-chosen words were directed, and he spent the good part of the rest of his day talking with people about how he can better communicate without being offensive.
But you won't hear about that in Valleywag or from the diarrhea masses on Twitter because the vast majority of them weren't there. They're all speaking about an event that happened that they only heard about in the third-person. But that won't stop them from trying to be a pundit, because it's the disgusting nature of how the Twitterati work. Real, live humans were involved in something today that will change the way that they see things, how they interact and how they view one another. You can't comment on that, with any sort of authority, unless you were there to experience it yourself.
Dave did something incredibly stupid today, and he paid for it immediately. I also believe that he, quite fortunately, learned a very important lesson today when it comes to choosing the words that you use. While vulgarity may be his method of operation, there's a point at which it can become directly insulting, and I have a feeling that he'll stay far away from that line in the future.
I won't defend Dave's actions, because I think that he was completely in the wrong for what he did. But to compare this situation to that of Adria Richards is to invoke stupidity beyond words. At no point did the person to whom Dave's words were directed attempt to have him removed from the conference, and at no point was Dave in danger of jeopardizing any company except for his own. No witch hunt was enacted, and it took a matter of minutes instead of days for the (admittedly foolish, needless) insult to begin to be rectified.
Words have power to them, and that power can build or break. Today, Dave McClure had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day…and he deserved it. I desperately hope that we, as the entrepreneurial community, will bear in mind the forces that can be driven by the words that we say, and that we can use those words to build one another up at every turn. As someone who works tirelessly toward bettering the world for startups and entrepreneurs, I hope that Dave will grow from this and understand what happened today in a light that he might otherwise not have seen.
P. S. – The title is in reference to an amazing book, which you should read.
If I had to consider what my personal version of hell would be like, it would be senseless arguments, baseless debates and uneducated ranting, shoved into my face at all hours of the day.
It would be updates from “friends”, concerning things that nobody cares about such as little Billy's first poo poo of the day (there will be 4 more such updates from this person in the next 24 hours.)
Oh yes, and between the times when I'm trying not to wretch from the vile filth that these so-called friends are spewing forth, I'll be shown ads. Ads for things about which I couldn't possibly care less. Because targeting only works if your audience is being truthful about themselves and allowing you to see it, targeted ads largely fail on me.
That's exactly what Facebook has decided to provide, with the release of Home and its companion phone, First.
Can we marinate, for just a moment, on the stupidity of having to tell your friends “Yeah, it's an HTC First”.
OK, but what is it after it's an HTC? You see where I'm going with this?
My personal version of hell. And Facebook wants me to pay $99 for it. Or I can get it from the Android Market in a few days.
Perhaps I should give my executioner a hand with that noose. It seems like a much better option than having Facebook any further involved with my life. There are, after all, many reasons that I left.
On a typical day, I'm awake by 6:30 am and sitting at my computer. I spend around 14 hours looking at a screen and sometimes I move away from my computer to sit on the couch with my iPad. To say that I've experienced eye strain would be putting it very lightly.
I'm a big fan of League of Legends (psst, that's a referral link), and I noticed Dyrus (one of my favorite top-lane players) wearing some funky yellow glasses about a year ago.
I know that these guys spend countless hours in front of a monitor, but I also know that they do a lot of sponsorship deals so I wasn't fully convinced of the validity of what Gunnar was doing.
Then I met the people from the company.
They've put tireless research into the design and fabrication of their lenses. There's a lot of thought behind why they are the specific colors that they are, how they work and why they can benefit computer users. I was at least sold enough to try a pair for review.
It took a couple of days to really notice the difference, but I think that's because headaches and sore, dry eyes have become so normal to me that I don't really recognize when they're happening. At least I didn't until they were gone.
Suddenly, on day 3, I had that ah-hah moment where I looked away from the computer at 11pm and I didn't feel exhausted. My eyes didn't burn, my head didn't hurt and I generally felt that I had more energy left at the end of the day. I hadn't specifically changed anything else in my daily routine, so the Gunnars are the only thing to which I can really attribute the improvements.
In the weeks that have followed, I've made it a habit to wear my glasses when I'm at the computer. The one day that I forgot them? The headache reminded me to put them on. I noticed it.
Before this turns into an ad for Gunnar, let me say that there are likely other products on the market that work well too. My only experience is with this brand, so I can't speak to any others.
There's a lot of talk lately about standing desks, changing habits and other ways to help those of us who sit on our butts in front of computers live better and longer. But I think that while we're paying attention to those things, we need to also focus on how easy it is to forget about our eyes. After all, without them the entire process of working on screens becomes considerably more difficult.
Do some research. Find out for yourself if you're experiencing direct or indirect effects of eye strain. Decide which course of action that you want to take, but please do something if you are.
Disclosure: Gunnar Optiks provided me, upon request for review, with a set of its Crystalline glasses while I was at CES.
Further Disclosure: I'm addicted to them and nobody at Gunnar is paying me to write this. I just feel that they've helped me, and I hope that they (or any other brand) can help others as well.
I'm on a bit of a vacation this week from the world of tech, spending my time instead being Mr. Husband and Mr. Homeowner. I can't help but chirp up, however, on the subject of Google's newly-launched Evernote competitor, Keep.
In case you're not keeping up with the Angry Nerds crowd, people are pretty mad that Google decided to rather abruptly shut down its RSS service named Reader. The backlash of that is still ringing strong, with smart people like Om Malik telling Google that he won't be using Keep because he can't trust that it won't meet the same fate.
I can't speak to Google's long-term plans, but I do think that Keep will stick around. In the grand scheme of things, where Google makes more money by understanding user behavior, a service such as Keep makes perfect sense.
In case you've missed the news, Google's amazing-service-du-jour is Google Now. It's the “living in the future” app that many of us have been wanting. Though its results start off somewhat lackluster, the more that you use it, and the more that it knows about you, the more amazing it becomes.
Google Now is impressive because of semantics. It knows what you've searched, where you are and what you're doing (roughly). With this information, it can offer information, rather than just providing data.
Semantics are the holy grail to Google. As Matt Cutts has often talked about, one of the most interesting challenges for search is understanding what someone means when a searched term is a synonym for another. Google, via Android (and also some iOS apps), your personal account and your history on both already knows a lot about you. But there are personal semantics that are missing.
What do you care about? What sorts of things do you find important enough to keep for later? If you save loads of articles that reference freshwater fish, and many more that talk about cooking or healthy lifestyles, Google is likely to be able to draw the connection that you enjoy eating fish and it can provide better contextual search results for you. While there's a chance that you're a fan of aquariums, the semantics make the difference.
With Keep, Google is opening the door to a layer of information about its users that it hadn't previously been able to reach. Is Keep safe from the swinging axe of product death? Nobody can answer that just yet. But what's definitely true is that, to Google, Keep is a much more important product than Reader.
Remember, kids, when it comes to Google, you are the product being sold.
It's like an iPad. But smaller. And I can hold it in one hand.
Compared to my iPad 3, it's impossibly light.
I'm mildly annoyed by the lack of Retina, but I'm getting over it quickly.
If I were going to work on it all day, I'd still want a 10-inch iPad.
The battery life is still shockingly good. The amount of money I'd pay for a phone that could manage this is…well…a lot.
People said that this was the real iPad. They're right. It almost seems like Apple needed a couple of iterations with bigger devices to get the ideas right. Once they did that, they could move the size down.
I don't really remember when it started, but for quite a few years now I've been unable to sleep more than about five hours. It doesn't necessarily matter how tired I am, at the five hour mark my body decides that it's been long enough and I have to wake up. Now.
I hear people joke about insomnia, or narcolepsy or any of the other few sleep-related issues and I'm pretty certain that they can't possibly have experienced any of them. In the realm of first-world problems, there's really not much that screws up your day worse than being exhausted, going to bed, then waking up feeling as if you've not even slept.
There are a few factors that contribute to my sleep deprivation that I can adjust or fix. Here's what I know for sure:
I'm overweight – Though in fairness, even when I was in athletic condition I didn't sleep very much. But being overweight makes you hurt when you sleep, and my existing sleep apnea is only exacerbated.
My bed sucks – Those people who harp relentlessly about the importance of buying a good bed? They're right. Listen to them. The one that is recommended to me will apparently cost around $2,000. Who can afford that??
I have serious FoMO – In the tech world we talk about the “Fear of Missing Out”. I have it. I want to be awake and active in the world around me. Sleep seems like an interference.
A sleep study could help – I've been told a few times that I should do one. But they're cost prohibitive even if you have insurance (depending on your insurance). Without coverage they range between $3,000 and $6,000.
Something has to change. This is what I know above all else. I have no problem getting to sleep, I just can't seem to stay that way.
So for now, it's 8am and I'm already 3 hours into my day after going to bed at 1am. It seems like a good day for some Faithless.
On Wednesday, I'm scheduled to speak to a Meetup group here in Nashville. The talk will focus on how you can make yourself and your message heard, in a time when we're seeing more noise than ever before.
It's the idea of being a big fish in a little ocean.
But funny enough, when I do these things in Nashville, I find myself to be the invisible fish. Most of the people who attend have perhaps heard my name or read something that I wrote on TNW, but there's a near 100 percent chance that I've never met them.
It's that interesting conundrum of being slightly anti-social, combined with working from home. The buzz around my office is created by my wife, our dog and four pet rats. There's also Tully, the fish. But he's pretty silent.
Nashville's technology scene, as it were, is somewhat sparse. There's a huge social media “scene” – where everyone knows everyone – but the geographic restrictions of living miles apart leads to very few of us tech folks being in the same place at the same time.
That's one of those unique advantages of living somewhere like San Francisco, New York or (for an extreme case) Boulder. When you put a group of entrepreneurs and tech folks within close proximity to one another, interesting things tend to happen.
I sometimes wonder what I'd accomplish if I worked in an office with my TNW folks. We've discussed the merits and downfalls many times, seeing as the whole of the editorial staff works remotely. We've generally come to the conclusion that we'd accomplish a lot of nothing.
But back to the subject at hand. I find a strange bit of irony in the fact that I, the person who probably knows fewer of Nashville's tech people than anyone else, am going to speak to them about how to reach out, communicate and get their message heard.
You could, in fact, call it almost hypocritical.
But there's a difference between your AFK life and the one that you live behind the monitor. Sure, you may be the same, genuine person no matter where you're representing yourself, but the rules of the game change dramatically.
You can, in “real life”, be the invisible fish. Yet when it comes to your online persona, your message and what you have to say, it's still entirely possible to be the biggest fish in the ocean.
Over on TechCrunch, Mike Arrington wrote something that I endorse wholeheartedly. He says that Cnet staffers should be leaving in droves over the fiasco surrounding the Hopper and now another product that they've been instructed that they can't review.
We can soapbox all we want about this, and those of us who do have editorial independence might somehow look down our noses at those who don't. But the harsh reality is the people who aren't walking out are real people, with real responsibilities that depend on having a real paycheck in order to meet them.
Would I leave TNW if I were ever instructed to do something that I felt was morally wrong? I'd like to think that I would. But I also have mouths to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. The moral high ground is a great place to stand when life is sunny.
So I'll urge you this – Don't admonish the people who are still there. You don't know their situation. You don't know whether or not they're laying awake at night, struggling with finances and the decisions to be made. Unless we're in their proverbial shoes, we can't understand their position.
Reality. Sometimes it gets in the way of doing what you want to do, when you want to do it.
He's absolutely right. There are instances in which this can be perfectly OK. A lot of the OK versus not OK decision will come down to what you as a user expect to give or get.
I like the idea of Quora blogs. The way that Quora manages to close the six degrees of separation is fantastic. There will be many people who will use Quora's blogs and more knowledge will be shared. This is ultimately positive.
But I don't want to be one of them. I like my work, my thoughts and my feelings to all be within my own control. I blog on Svbtle because I trust its creator. If that trust breaks, I'll leave the platform. And that's OK too. It's a personal decision.
Libby from Branch noticed that I stated that I won't use that service either. Again, it comes down to the same reasons. I think it's a marvelous platform for discussion, it's just not how I want to discuss things. Branch feels, to me, like trying to carry on a conversation in a cafeteria. I prefer more one-to-one communication. Even if there are 500 people reading this right now, I'm connecting with each of them individually. That feels like talking, and I like it.
I prefer to blog. I like that I can step up, write a few words and people can pass by to read them. If they have a reply, I hope that they'll blog their thoughts as well and we can link our discussions to one another. I don't often have the opportunity to do a real-time, threaded discussion, and Branch begs to be used in that way.
So I avoid it. But maybe you shouldn't.
There's merit to these discussion and blogging platforms that are coming out in droves. Many of them suck, but a few of them are incredibly good. If that is how you wish to communicate and share your thoughts, then please do.
Call me old fashioned, but I really like what I've been able to write because of WordPress, Movable Type and Svbtle. I'll read Branch discussions, I'll read Quora blogs. Then I'll link to them. Because something about that seems very much like the Internet to me.