• Wilson Miner - "When We Build"

    We shape our tools and our tools shape us.” As more of the tools we live with every day become digital instead of physical, our opportunity – and responsibility – as designers is multiplying. We live in a world of screens, and we are the ones who decide what goes on them. We are in a unique position to have an impact – one that lasts longer than the next redesign or the latest technology. What happens when we stop thinking of ourselves not just as developers or experience designers, and take up the mantle as a new generation of product designers for a digital world?

    Recorded at Build 2011

  • Happy birthday! Who are you?

    I don't really have 1,146 friends, but as of today, and according to Facebook, I do.  Professor Robin Dunbar says I can only maintain 150 friendships (which is where Path's 150 friend limit comes from). Whether you agree with that or not, there's a high likelyhood that you have a number of "friends" on Facebook who you have a vague-at-best knowledge of who they are.

    For me, this is a symptom of not wanting to have to constantly decide who's friend request I'd accept and whose I wouldn't over the years. I've met lots of people at conferences or events, through work or travels, so it's just been easier to accept everyone than to spend the time figuring out if I actually know them.

    There are ways to get a signal of whether a request is coming from a completely random person, but the only work-free option Facebook offers up is displaying the number of mutual friends you have in the friend request UI.

    While it would seem that the easy fix would be to go to your friend page and simply unfriend the people you don't know, Facebook actually makes this process pretty painful. Beyond it taking multiple clicks to unfriend someone, you end up with option paralysis when looking at a large group of people and trying to systematically decide who stays and who goes.

    I have a solution: unfriend people on their birthday.

    This is a process that will take a full year from the day you decide to start. Since there are rarely double-digit numbers of people's birthdays in a single day, it's much more manageable. You're simply presented with a few people per day via Facebook's birthday notifications on your homepage to choose from. See a name you don't recognize? Unfriend. Simple as that.

    Plus, I'm pretty sure that when you unfriend someone, it automatically pushes them to subscribing to your feed (unless you choose to block that person), so the chance they'll notice the change in relationship status is very low. Obviously, this only works if the person you've friended has chosen to display their birthday, but once you've fully pruned your list, the people you don't recognize will become a lot more obvious to you.

    So there you have it. Get your Facebook social graph under control in manageable, habitual way in 365 days. Give it a try!

  • You can't quit being an entrepreneur

    An article titled "When You Should Quit Being An Entrepreneur" was posted yesterday morning on Business Insider. It struck a nerve, so I wanted to put some of my thoughts down.

    The word entrepreneur has become so common, most people actually have no problem spelling it.  In that time, what the word means has taken on two definitions. Explicitly, being an entrepreneur means:

    A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk. (source)

    However, over the past 10 years or so, an entrepreneur has implicitly come to mean someone who creates. A maker.

    As Zach Klein pointed out this morning on Twitter, this is something we’re going to start to see as positions within companies – previously referred to as an “intrapreneur”. It’s not uncommon to see “entrepreneurial” listed on a job req as a desired trait of a potential employee.

    This is entirely different than the explicit definition that seems to be coupled with being a founder.  I, myself, am often referred to as an entrepreneur, but have never founded a company. This is with the exception of a sun-setted skinnyCorp music project called 15 Megs of Fame that I technically co-founded with the founders of Threadless while working there.  Even in that case, this was a project I had an idea for, brought to the table, and we decided to do it. Had I not been a co-founder of that company, it would have simply been another internal skinnyCorp project that I came up with an idea for, as a entrepreneur/intrapreneur/maker.

    I do (sorta) agree with the last two sentences of the article, however.

    Maybe it's time to help someone else make their dream really big. Tomorrow's companies depend on it. Plus that corporate experience could be what makes your next startup a success.

    I'd like to found my own company someday. But without having worked in (and with) startups over the last 10+ years, I wouldn't feel ready. I know more than a few people who are serial founders, but have never actually worked for someone else.  While I disagree that the experience should be corporate, I do agree that the best way to learn what to do (or not to do) is by experiencing work from the perspective of an employee.

    Just as it doesn’t make sense to build a product for a market you know nothing about, being a manager without ever have been managed puts you at a major disadvantage.

    To wrap up, I want to point out that Alyson praises the team at Gowalla for throwing in the towel and admitting “failure”.   Sure, in the battle of check-ins, Foursquare has come out on top. This has nothing to do with Josh Williams quitting being an entrepreneur. You’d be crazy to think he won’t continue to be one at Facebook.

    You can’t throw in the towel on being an entrepreneur – at least not if you follow the implicit definition.  To be one is to be driven by a deep-seated passion of being a maker, and that passion isn’t something you can just quit.

  • Ten Favorite Albums of 2011

    OK, so technically there's 11 albums. To be even more specific, there's 15 releases in total. There were a bunch of great EPs that came out this year, but since I'm not counting them as full albums, I included 4 of those separately. It was a huge year for metal. I could have easily done a 25 favorite albums of the year in that genre alone. All of the metal releases blew away the non-metal releases that came out in 2011, so my entire list of full-lengths are all metal.

    Last year, "dubstep" exploded onto the US music scene, despite most of what everyone thought was dubstep, well, wasn't. Throughout this year, there was a mega-ginormous amount of great new dubstep, electrostep, and electrohouse releases.  A good amount of artists put out full lengths, but of them, one was (in my opinion) leaps-and-bounds better than the rest. That's the "stand out" album below, and the reason there's an extra favorite album. Plus, it's my blog, so I can do whatever I want! 

    So, with no particular prioritization, and no further adieu... here are my favorite releases of 2011.

    ††† (Crosses) – EP † (Spotify)
    Glitch Mob – We Can Make The World Stop EP (Spotify | Rdio)
    Knife Party – 100% No Modern Talking EP (Beatport)
    Silversun Pickups – Seasick EP (Spotify | Rdio)

    Full Lengths
    Mastodon – The Hunter (Spotify | Rdio)
    All Pigs Must Die – God Is War (Spotify | Rdio)
    Trap Them – Darker Handcraft (Spotify | Rdio)
    Entrails – The Tomb Awaits (Spotify)
    Kvelertak – Kvelertak (Spotify | Rdio)
    Red Fang – Murder The Mountains (Spotify | Rdio)
    Tombs – Path Of Totality (Spotify | Rdio)
    Embryonic Anomaly – Rings Of Saturn (Spotify | Rdio)
    Demonaz – March Of The Norse (Spotify | Rdio)
    Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestian Lineage (Spotify | Rdio)

    Stand Out
    Nero – Welcome Reality (Spotify | Rdio)

    For your listening pleasure, I've made a Spotify playlist of this entire list (with the exception of Knife Party, which isn't available on Spotify). You can listen to that playlist here.