Relentlessly eliminating barriers to growth

In my last blog post, I shared that when Acquia was a small startup, we were simultaneously focused on finding product-market fit and eliminating barriers to future growth.

Today, Acquia is no longer a startup, but eliminating barriers to growth remains very important after you have outgrown the startup phase. In that light, I loved reading Eugene Wie's blog post called, Invisible asymptotes. Wie was a product leader at Amazon. In his blog post he explains how Amazon looks far into the future, identifies blockers for long-term growth, and turns eliminating these stagnation points into multi-decade efforts.

For example, Amazon considered shipping costs to be a growth blocker, or as Wie describes it, an invisible asymptote for growth. People hate paying for shipping costs, so Amazon decided to get rid of them. At first, solving this looked prohibitively expensive. How can you offer free shipping to millions of customers? Solving for this limitation became a multi-year effort. First, Amazon tried to appease customers' distaste for shipping fees with "Super Saver Shipping". Amazon introduced Super Saver Shipping in January 2002 for orders over $99. If you placed an order of $99 or more, you received free shipping. In the span of a few months, that number dropped to $49 and then to $25. Eventually this strategy led to Amazon Prime, making all shipping "free". While a program like Amazon Prime doesn't actually make shipping free, it feels free to the customer, which effectively eliminates the barrier for growth. The impact on Amazon's growth was tremendous. Today, Amazon Prime provides Amazon an economic moat, or a sustainable competitive advantage – it isn't easy for other retailers to compete from a sheer economic and logistical standpoint.

Another obstacle for Amazon's growth was shipping times. People don't like having to wait for days to receive their Amazon purchase. Several years ago, I was talking to Werner Vogels, Amazon's global CTO, and asked him where most commerce investments were going. He responded that reducing shipping times was more strategic than making improvements to the commerce backend or website. As Wie points out in his blog, Amazon has been working on reducing shipping times for over a decade. First by building a higher density network of distribution centers, and more recently through delivery from local Whole Foods stores, self-service lockers at Whole Foods, predictive or anticipatory shipping, drone delivery, and more. Slowly, but certainly, Amazon is building out its own end-to-end delivery network with one primary objective: reducing shipping speeds.

Every organization has limitations that stunt long-term growth so there are a few important lessons that can be learned from how Amazon approached its invisible asymptotes:

Identify your invisible asymptotes or long-term blockers for growth.
Removing these long-term blockers for growth may look impossible at first.
Removing these long-term blockers requires creativity, patience, persistence and aggressive capital allocation. It can take many initiatives and many years to eliminate them.
Overcoming these obstacles can be a powerful strategy that can unlock unbelievable growth.
I spend a lot of time and effort working on eliminating Drupal's and Acquia's growth barriers so I love these kind of lessons. In a future blog post, I'll share my thoughts about Drupal's growth blockers. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think is holding Drupal or Acquia back — be it via social media, email or preferably your own blog.
Source: Dries Buytaert

From a world wide web to a personal web

Last week, I had a chance to meet with Inrupt, a startup founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Inrupt is based in Boston, so their team stopped by the Acquia office to talk about the new company.

To learn more about Inrupt's founding, I recommend reading Tim Berners-Lee's blog or Inrupt's CEO John Bruce's announcement.

Inrupt is on an important mission

Inrupt's mission is to give individuals control over their own data. Today, a handful of large platform companies (such as Facebook) control the media and flow of information for a majority of internet users. These companies have profited from centralizing the Open Web and lack transparent data privacy policies on top of that. Inrupt's goal is not only to improve privacy and data ownership, but to take back power from these large platform companies.

Inrupt will leverage Solid, an open source, decentralized web platform that Tim and others have been developing at MIT. Solid gives users a choice of where their personal data is stored, how specific people and groups can access select elements, and which applications can use it. Inrupt is building a commercial ecosystem around Solid to fuel its success. If Solid and/or Inrupt are widely adopted, it could radically change the way web sites and web applications work today.

As an advocate for the Open Web, I'm excited to see how Inrupt's mission continues to evolve. I've been writing about the importance of the Open Web for many years and even proposed a solution that mirrors Solid, which I called a Personal Information Broker. For me, this is an especially exciting and important mission, and I'll be rooting for Inrupt's success.

My unsolicited advice: disrupt the digital marketing world

It was really interesting to have the Inrupt team visit the Acquia office, because we had the opportunity to discuss how their technology could be applied. I shared a suggestion to develop a killer application that surround "user-controlled personalization".

Understanding visitors' interests and preferences to deliver personalized experiences is a big business. Companies spend a lot of time and effort trying to scrape together information about its website's visitors. However, behavior-based personalization can be slow and inaccurate. Marketers have to guess a visitor's intentions by observing their behavior; it can take a long time to build an accurate profile.

By integrating with a "Personal Information Broker" (PIB), marketers could get instant user profiles that would be accurate. When a user visits a site, they could chose to programmatically share some personal information (using a standard protocol and standard data schema). After a simple confirmation screen, the PIB could programmatically share that information and the site would instantly be optimized for the user. Instead of getting "cold leads" and trying to learn what each visitor is after, marketers could effectively get more "qualified leads".

It's a win not only for marketers, but a win for the site visitor too. To understand how this could benefit site visitors, let's explore an example. I'm 6'5" tall, and using a commerce site to find a pair of pants that fit can be a cumbersome process. I wouldn't mind sharing some of my personal data (e.g. inseam, waist size, etc) with a commerce site if that meant I would instantly be recommended pants that fit based on my preferences. Or if the store has no pants that would fit, it could just tell me; Sorry, we currently have no pants long enough for you!. It would provide me a much better shopping experience, making it much more likely for me to come back and become a long-time customer.

It's a simple idea that provides a compelling win-win for both the consumer and retailer, and has the opportunity to disrupt the digital sales and marketing world. I've been thinking a lot about user-controlled personalization over the past few years. It's where I'd like to take Acquia Lift, Acquia's own personalization product.

Inrupt's success will depend on good execution

I love what Solid and Inrupt are building because I see a lot of potential in it. Disrupting the digital marketing world is just one way the technology could be applied. Whatever they decide to focus on, I believe they are onto something important that could be a foundational component of the future web.

However, it takes a lot more than a good idea to build a successful company. For startups, it's all about good execution, and Inrupt has a lot of work to do. Right now, Inrupt has prototype technology that needs to be turned into real solutions. The main challenge is not building the technology, but to have it widely adopted.

For an idea this big, Inrupt will have to develop a protocol (something Tim Berners-Lee obviously has a lot of experience with), build out a leading Open Source reference implementation, and foster a thriving community of developers that can help build integrations with Drupal, WordPress and hundreds of other web applications. Last but not least, Inrupt needs to look for a sustainable business model by means of value-added services.

The good news is that by launching their company now, Inrupt has put themselves on the map. With Tim Berners-Lee's involvement, Inrupt should be able to attract top talent and funding for years to come.

Long story short, I like what Inrupt is doing and believe it has a lot of potential. I'm not sure what specific problem and market they'll go after, but I think they should consider going after "user-controlled personalization" and disrupt the digital marketing world. Regardless, I'll be paying close attention, will be cheering for their success and hopefully find a way to integrate it in Acquia Lift!
Source: Dries Buytaert

Working together to promote Drupal

The Drupal community has done an amazing job organizing thousands of developers around the world. We've built collaboration tools and engineering processes to streamline how our community of developers work together to collectively build Drupal. This collaboration has led to amazing results. Today, more than 1 in 40 of the top one million websites use Drupal. It's inspiring to see how many organizations depend on Drupal to deliver their missions.

What is equally incredible is that historically, we haven't collaborated around the marketing of Drupal. Different organizations have marketed Drupal in their own way without central coordination or collaboration.

In my DrupalCon Nashville keynote, I shared that it's time to make a serious and focused effort to amplify Drupal success stories in the marketplace. Imagine what could happen if we enabled hundreds of marketers to collaborate on the promotion of Drupal, much like we have enabled thousands of developers to collaborate on the development of Drupal.

Accelerating Drupal adoption with business decision makers

To focus Drupal's marketing efforts, we launched the Promote Drupal Initiative. The goal of the Promote Drupal Initiative is to do what we do best: to work together to collectively grow Drupal. In this case, we want to collaborate to raise awareness with business and non-technical decision makers. We need to hone Drupal's strategic messaging, amplify success stories and public relation resources in the marketplace, provide agencies and community groups with sales and marketing tools, and improve the evaluator experience.

To make Promote Drupal sustainable, Rebecca Pilcher, Director of MarComm at the Drupal Association, will be leading the initiative. Rebecca will oversee volunteers with marketing and business skills that can help move these efforts forward.

Promote Drupal Fund: 75% to goal

At DrupalCon Nashville, we set a goal of fundraising $100,000 to support the Promote Drupal Initiative. These funds will help to secure staffing to backfill Rebecca's previous work (someone has to market DrupalCon!), produce critical marketing resources, and sponsor marketing sprints. The faster we reach this goal, the faster we can get to work.

I'm excited to announce that we have already reached 75% of our goal, thanks to many generous organizations and individuals around the world. I wanted to extend a big thank you to the following companies for contributing $1,000 or more to the Promote Drupal Initiative:

If you can, please help us reach our total goal of $100,000! By raising a final $25,000, we can build a program that will introduce Drupal to an emerging audience of business decision makers. Together, we can make a big impact on Drupal.
Source: Dries Buytaert

Mollom: The story of my first SaaS startup

Last month, Acquia discontinued service and support for Mollom, the spam service I started more than ten years ago. As a goodbye, I want to share the untold story of how I founded Mollom.

In 2007, I read Tim Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Work Week, and was hooked. The book provides a blueprint for how entrepreneurs can structure and build a business to fund the lifestyle of their dreams. It's based on Ferriss' own experience; he streamlined his business, automated systems and outsourced tasks until it was not only more profitable, but also took less of his time to operate. The process of automation and outsourcing was so efficient, Ferriss only spent four hours a week to run his business; this gave him time and freedom to take "mini-retirements", travel the world, and write a book. When I first read Ferriss' book, I was inspired by the idea of simultaneously having that much free time and being financially stable.

While I was reading Ferriss' book, I was also working on a website spam filter for my blog, called Mollom. I had started to build Mollom as a personal project for exclusive use on my own blog. Inspired by the 4-Hour Work Week, I was convinced I could turn Mollom into a small SaaS service with global customers, complete self-service, and full automation. This would allow me to operate Mollom from anywhere in the world, and would require just a few hours of my time each week. Because I was starting to use machine learning, I enlisted the help of one of my best friends, Benjamin Schrauwen, a professor in machine learning at the University of Ghent.

In the same year, Jay Batson and I met at DrupalCon Sunnyvale, and we had already started to explore the idea of founding Acquia. My oldest son Axl was also born in the summer of 2007, and I was working hard to finish my PhD. Throughout all of this, we were also working to get Drupal 6 released. Needless to say, it was a busy summer.

With my PhD nearly complete, I needed to decide what to do next. I knew that starting Acquia was going to have a big impact, not just on Drupal but also on my life. However, I was also convinced that Mollom, while much smaller in scope and ambition, could provide a path to the freedom and independence Ferriss describes.

Mollom's foundational years

Exciting 2007, I determined that both Acquia and Mollom were important opportunities to pursue. Jay and I raised $7 million in venture capital, and we publicly launched Acquia in November 2007. Meanwhile, Ben and I pooled together €18,000 of our own money, bootstrapped Mollom, and publicly launched Mollom in March 2008.

I always made a point to run both businesses separately. Even after I moved from Belgium to the US in the summer of 2010, I continued to run Mollom and Acquia independently. The Mollom team was based in Europe, and once or twice a week, I would get up at 4 AM to have a two-hour conference call with the team. After my conference call, I'd help my family get ready for the day, and then I was off to work at Acquia.

By 2011, Mollom had achieved the goals our team set out to accomplish; our revenues had grown to about €250,000 annually, our gross margins were over 85 percent, and we could pretty much run the business on autopilot. Our platform was completely self-serviced for our users, the anti-spam algorithms self-learning, the service was built to be highly-available, and the backend operations were almost entirely automated. I often joked about how I could run Mollom from the beach in Greece, with less than an hour of work a day.

However, our team at Mollom wasn't satisfied yet, so instead of sitting on the beach, we decided to invest Mollom's profits in feature development. We had a team of three engineers working on adding new capabilities, in addition to re-architecting and scaling Mollom to keep up with its growth. On average, Mollom handled more than 100 web service requests per second, and we regularly saw peaks of up to 3,000 web service request per second. In a way, Mollom's architecture was ahead of its time — it used a micro-services architecture with a REST API, a decoupled administration backend and relied heavily on machine learning. From day one, our terms of service respected people's privacy, and we never had a data breach.

A photo of the Mollom team at an offsite in 2011: it includes Daniel Kudwien, Benjamin Schrauwen, Cedric De Vleeschauwer, Thomas Meire, Johan Vos and Vicky Van Roeyen. Missing in the picture is Dries.In the meantime, Acquia had really taken off; Acquia's revenue had grown to over $22 million annually, and I was often working 60 hour work weeks to grow the company. Acquia's Board of Directors wanted my full attention, and had even offered to acquire Mollom a few times. I recognized that running Mollom, Acquia and Drupal simultaneously was not sustainable — you can only endure regular 4 AM meetings for so long. Plus, we had ambitious goals for Mollom; we wanted to add many-site content moderation, sentiment analysis and detection for certain code of conduct violations. Doing these things would require more capital, and unless you are Elon Musk, it's really hard to raise capital for multiple companies at the same time. Most importantly, I wanted to focus more on growing Drupal and driving Acquia's expansion.

Acquia acquires Mollom

By the end of 2012, Ben and I agreed to sell Mollom to Acquia. Acquia's business model was to provide SaaS services around Drupal, and Mollom was exactly that — a SaaS service used by tens of thousands of Drupal sites.

Selling Mollom was a life-changing moment for me. It proved that I was able to bootstrap and grow a company, steer it to profitability and exit successfully.

Selling Mollom to Acquia involved signing a lot of documents. A photo of me signing the acquisition paperwork with Mary Jefts, Acquia's CFO at the time. It took three hours to sign all the paperwork.Acquia retires Mollom

By 2017, five years after the acquisition, it became clear that Mollom was no longer a strategic priority for Acquia. As a result, Acquia decided it was best to shut down Mollom by April 2018. As the leader of the product organization at Acquia, I'm supportive of this decision. It allows us to sharpen our focus and to better deliver on our mission.

While it was a rational decision, it's bittersweet. I still believe that Mollom could have continued to have a big impact on the Open Web. Not only did that make the web better, it saved people millions of hours moderating their content. I also considered keeping Mollom running as part of Acquia's "Give back more" principle. However, Acquia gives back a lot, and I believe that giving back to Drupal should be our priority.

Mollom's end-of-life announcement that replaced the old, Mollom was a success. While I never got my 4-hour work week, I enjoyed successfully creating a company from scratch, and seeing it evolve through every stage of its life. I learned how to build and run a SaaS service, I made some money in the process, and best of all, Mollom blocked over 15 billion spam comments across tens of thousands of websites. This translates to saving people around the world millions of hours, which would otherwise be devoted to content moderation. Mollom also helped to protect the websites of some of the world's most famous brands; from Harvard, to The Economist, Tesla, Twitter, Sony Music and more. Finally, we were able to offer Mollom for free to the vast majority of our users, which is something we took a lot of pride in.

If you were a user of Mollom the past 10+ years, I hope you enjoyed our service. I also want to extend a special thank you to everyone who contributed to Mollom over the past 11 years!

Rest in peace, Mollom! Thank you for blocking so much spam. I'll think about you next time I visit Greece.
Source: Dries Buytaert

International Johnson Controls Website Launches

Pixeldust has announced the launch of the 2008 Business and Sustainability Report site for Johnson Controls. Utilizing DrupalCoin Blockchain, Pixeldust launched the site in 12 languages and created a custom PDF generator for each language. Users can build and download their own custom 2008 Business and Sustainability Report as well as view the custom Flash Map in each language. Pixeldust collaborated with partner Really Really Big Industries, Inc. of Chicago to develop the site in under six weeks. Read more

Cielo Wind Power

Pixeldust completed a comprehensive redesign of the existing Cielo Wind Power site, including a look and feel overhaul, content management implementation, copywriting, and video editing and implementation. Pixeldust designed and developed an easy-to-use WordPress-based site to allow for regular photo and content updates. Cielo's new earthy look and feel ultimately accentuates their sustainable and environmentally-conscious approach to energy production.Read more

The world needs more modest, linear growth companies. Please make some.

14 years of linear growth at Basecamp.Exponential growth gets all the glory. Every startup story that lands on the cover of a magazine has a hockey-stick chart to flaunt. Yes, disruption is driven by such violent expansion, and the world needs some disruption some of the time. But for the other 360 days out of the year, what it also needs is some modest, linear growth.Linear growth is what happens in domains that aren’t animated by network effects (and when no artificial growth hormones are injected!). It’s the simplicity of good products sold at reasonable prices that find happy customers. These customers talk to friends and colleagues in other businesses, and over time that word of mouth spreads the good vibes, which turns the business up.But the limelight has no patience with such simple, slow methods as word of mouth. It’s not infectious enough. Not exponential enough. That’s a shame.Because the world is full of problems that needs solving by people who are willing to put in the work for the long haul. I’m not talking about the freakish 120-hour/week, seven-year death marches, but the patient, sustainable work that might last a lifetime. Problems that yield better to people sticking with it.These problems rarely provide the world with more platforms, but the world has enough platforms. If everyone wants to be the foundation, then there’s nobody left to serve as the beams or cladding or tiles. That’s a recipe for a concrete and corporate wasteland.It’s also a recipe for monoculture. Network effects have given us spectacular stories of unfathomable growth, but it’s also given us monopolistic conglomerates that poison the market and its variety.I’m no particular fan of advertisement, but it’s still clear as day that the world is much worse off for having all the value of that trade captured solely by Facebook and Google. Yeah, that’s disruption, and no, it’s not the kind that makes the world better off. It’s creative destruction without creative regeneration. More black hole, less forest-fire cleanse.Capitalism as a system is prone to all manners of dysfunction, but few are as fatal as that of monopolies backed by exponential growth. Markets as a force for good quickly break down and get perverted when only a few power players remain to call all the shots.Maybe such concentration is “natural” in a few domains, but that doesn’t mean we should stand idle by and let it corrupt both business and society. In an era past, trust busters knew how to protect the common good by opposing the behemoths of industry with antitrust fights and laws. AT&T had a “natural” monopoly, and it still deserved to be broken up. Such memories are unnecessarily quaint now, and even when brought up, it’s through a myopic literal lens (Facebook + Google aren’t causing “higher prices”, therefore they’re not bad monopolies. Bullshit).But the discussion of whether the regulators will once more mount up shouldn’t distract us from doing what we can today. Which is to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to nobler goals than simply to become caliph instead of the caliph.Which is pretty much all the business press and other spectators (and speculators) are obsessed with these days. Who’s going to be the next Google? The next Facebook? The next Apple? These are interesting questions, but they’re not the only questions, and by posing them over and over again ad nauseum, we’re restricting the conversation and constricting our imagination.What if the next NEXT THING wasn’t a supplementation of an existing network-effect megacorp, but a proliferation of a thousand or million smaller businesses that were given the time and place to breathe and thrive?But for that to happen, it needs not only to be seen as feasible, but desirable. That to eschew the exponential demands of investors is a sign of strength, not a mark of weakness. That to be content with linear growth is streak of independence, not absence of vision.We are in dire need of such reprogramming of the entrepreneurial boot loader. So many faithful decisions are taking in the early stage of a business that locks its course for perpetuity. Very few ventures get to turn back the clock and have a do-over on their cap table. Epiphanies that come too late might as well not come at all.You can’t move a tree by blowing at it softly once the roots are down. But you can radically change where a seed will land by doing the same.I promise I’m not trying to make a lame plea for “children are the future”, although that’s both trite and true. New businesses are started by adults of all ages. Every single one of them have the power to pick how they’ll nurture their growth when it’s started. Choosing to chase the exponential is just that, a choice. Which also means that choosing the linear is a choice too.Which I guess is really my chief argument here. Or appeal, even. That more people choose the path of linear growth. That they embrace it with vigor and pride. That they make no apologies for wanting a modest and sustainable business that can live in harmony with other shops of the same description.The path of linear growth has been the trajectory of Basecamp for 14 years today. It’s brought beauty and warmth to millions of people who’ve used our product. It’s brought stability and a home to the fifty-odd people we employ at the company. And it’s brought the deepest of meanings and satisfaction to Jason and I for owning it.May you make your own fortune as you take a swing at the same.Does this tickle a fancy? Stroke a nagging? I’m sure you’d like my other writings on the topic, then. Start with RECONSIDER, then Exponential growth devours and corrupts, then maybe Enough. Well, my whole back catalogue is full of these kind of ideas, really. So do dive in.The world needs more modest, linear growth companies. Please make some. was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

To Meet or Not to Meet...That is the Question

One of the most frequent dilemmas I experience as a Digital Project Manager (DPM) is whether something warrants having a meeting...and if it does, who do I invite?
Nobody likes having too many meetings, especially if they aren't valuable, but we also don't want to have epic Slack or Basecamp threads on one topic that could have been easily resolved with a quick meeting. That balancing act is tricky, but it's important. When you find the right balance and schedule meetings for your team only when they are needed, you will likely see a couple of benefits. First, there will be a higher level of engagement within the meetings and second, the team may experience a positive morale boost given they are able to better focus on their work.
Here are four things I consider when deciding whether to schedule a meeting or not, and four things I consider when determining who to invite.
Should we have a meeting?

Who will this meeting be valuable for? And how valuable will it be?
When it comes to ad hoc meetings, it can be tempting to schedule them to gain clarity for yourself or a single team member. Before gathering everyone for a "quick check-in," consider the true purpose of the meeting. As an example, if I'm watching a conversation in Slack and I'm confused but the team members involved in the discussion all appear to be on the same page, I should probably wait to schedule a meeting. In this case, I would make a note to clarify decisions/action items/next steps once the discussion is done. If you think critically, you can usually determine if a meeting is convenient for just one or two people, or if it would be helpful for all that would need to attend.

Is it an important client meeting / do we need client "face time"?
Not every meeting that every person attends is going to be clearly valuable for them. There are instances where it's important we meet as a team, even if everyone won't have an active part in the meeting. For example, there may be times when the client is concerned or panicking and we need to include team members on a meeting to help put them at ease -- even if as a PM you could just as easily clear up whatever is going on. Sometimes, we just need to meet (especially with clients) and team members should be open to that assuming it does not happen all the time.
If I do have to invite someone to a meeting where they will mostly be an observer, I try to reach out after scheduling the meeting and explain why I need them there.

If I'm considering a recurring meeting, can we start with another tactic or fewer meetings first?
Daily stand-ups at Viget are not the standard, as some team members (including the Project Managers) may be on several projects at once. If every project had daily standups, that could result in an hour or more of meetings every morning for some team members, which may not be sustainable. As a result, our "standups" typically consist YTBs (posting what you did Yesterday, Today, and any blockers) in Slack.
When thinking about scheduling recurring meetings (daily, twice a week, weekly, etc.) first see if there is another way to accomplish what's needed in that meeting that would require less time. Can we utilize Slack or start with fewer meetings first? If those don't work, can we try meeting a couple times a week before moving to daily standups? Pulling back on the number of meetings (especially when teams or clients are used to it) can be a lot harder than adding meetings.

What does the team think?
Getting team buy-in on the presence or absence of a meeting is one of the best things you can do. If you aren't sure if a meeting is necessary, ask for the team’s input. More often than not, when I ask, teams ask that I do set the meeting up. Knowing everyone is on the same page can help get a meeting off to the right start and keep it efficient and valuable. Again, it's awesome to head into a meeting with a shared understanding of why it's important and why it will be valuable. When in doubt, just ask.
Who should attend the meeting?

Okay, so you've thought through and determined a meeting is necessary … now, who all needs to be there?
Who will realistically be an active participant?
Sometimes a team member can get value out of a meeting by being a silent participant, but in most cases if they'd never have something to say, they aren't going to gain much from joining. If you can't really think of how someone might contribute to a meeting and you just want them to "feel included" it's probably best to leave them off the invite.

Will solid notes be enough for non-active participants?
So, I just mentioned that simply wanting someone to "feel included" is not a good reason to take up their time with a meeting. However, what if they wouldn't likely be an active participant but what's being discussed is important for them to know? The big question to ask here is if you know your notes would give them the information they need from that meeting. Sometimes conversations are too intricate and notes can't really convey all the necessary information, but that should be a pretty rare situation. Take good notes and give some time back to team members who aren't required at the meeting.

What is the likelihood of the discussion veering off of the agenda?
There are plenty of times that I have an agenda set for a meeting that points to a particular team member not being necessary, but I know the client has a habit of talking about whatever is on their mind. If you believe there's a good chance a client or team member is going to take the meeting in a new direction, it may make sense to invite more folks to the meeting.

What does each team member think?
Once again, if you aren't sure, the best thing you can do is ask the team member. Tell them what the meeting is about, and why you think they may (or may not) want to attend. If they have all the information, they can make a decision based on their schedule that day and what they have going on. They will appreciate being able to make their own call, and if they do attend, you will know they are interested and engaged.

When scheduling meetings, remember to think critically, err on the side of not forcing folks to take part in a meeting they don't need to attend, and definitely don't be afraid to ask folks directly if they think it'll be a valuable use of their time. I think you'll find including only those team members that need to be in a meeting will result in better, more interactive meetings as well as happier teammates.
Are there any considerations I missed? I've love to hear them in the comments!

Source: VigetInspire

On Achieving Sustainable Income

I’m experimenting with Patreon (and it’s pronounced “patron” for those that didn’t know…) for my brother’s growing cryptocurrency community and I find their model (and their tooling) to be very good.
I also particularly like their mission which is simple, digestible, and easy to understand (but also really exciting and measurable):

Help every creator in the world achieve sustainable income.
This is exactly what we’re trying to do and it’s exactly why we decided to investigate the platform and system to see if what they had created was worth the time and investment to put together.
The world is changing and the opportunity for independent creators to live sustainably is bigger and more possible than it has ever been. Technology like Patreon appears to be leading the way and I’m excited to dive into the system and put it to good use (also their API as well…).
There’s something inside all of us that wants to support the independent creator because I think it’s a reflection of our own identity as well.
You see, I believe that we are all creators in our own right but not all of us feel the need or desire to find community-based financing for our creations. For those that do, well, you have things like Patreon.
I remember trying to put together financial resources when I looked at going “pro” with blogging (i.e. becoming a professional blogger and living solely on my writing).
I was successful in many ways but managing the finances and the different ways to build income was such a hassle. Patreon didn’t exist back then (they were founded in 2013) but I had need of the when I first started putting things together in 2011.
And so now I wouldn’t even consider trying to put together a hodge-podge of managed solutions… I’d probably just use Patreon. At least until one felt it didn’t scale (although I’m not sure how it wouldn’t…).
These are exciting times you know. It’s far easier to earn an income while doing the very things that you enjoy than ever before. And as our world becomes even more inter-connected and diverse the potential becomes even greater.
The post On Achieving Sustainable Income appeared first on John Saddington.

Sharing to Medium Publications

Something that I’ve been doing for a little bit of time is sharing my content that I create to other Medium Publications.
I was, at first, a bit anxious when the first publication requested to use my content and I declined invitations for a long time before I finally said “Yes” to one.

Now, a good portion of the content that I write not only goes to my profile (via a very handy and simple WordPress plugin) but many of the posts get submitted to other, much-larger publications.
One that got published last night was in the queue for nearly 6 months before it finally went public:
via Free Code Camp!
I wrote the original on March 16th and submitted it for review. Now, Free Code Camp is one of the largest publications in Medium with over 300,000 subscribers.
Consequently, it gets a lot of attention and press and I know that Quincy has done a helluva job putting it together and also training up new editors and volunteer staff to manage the attention (super hat-tip to him!).
On a related note, an interesting thing that I’ve noticed is how much Medium articles get shared via social networking sites.
Some of my posts have been rampantly shared when they’ve been published and continue to be shared even months after they’ve been published.
I don’t know if the sharing experience is necessarily better than other systems, but, my canonical posts do not get nearly as much social shares as Medium publications.

This doesn’t necessarily equate to a massive difference in pageviews and/or engagement, but, it is an interesting thing to notice.
I’ve seen a lot of folks recently reverting back to other publishing mediums (like WordPress) and I think the publishing space is still very much a wild-and-wooly place; things change all the time around here.
But one thing is for absolute certain: Independent publishing will never die. I think it behooves the publisher and writers to always consider aligning their writing efforts with a technology that is just as sustainable.
The post Sharing to Medium Publications appeared first on John Saddington.

How we pay people at Basecamp

It’s just better business to pay people fairlyThere are no negotiated salaries or raises at Basecamp. Everyone in the same role at the same level is paid the same. Equal work, equal pay.We assess new hires on a scale that goes from junior programmer, to programmer, to senior programmer, to lead programmer, to principal programmer (or designer or customer support or ops…) We use the same scale to assess when someone is in line for a promotion.Raises happen automatically, once per year, when we review market rates. Our target is to pay everyone at the company in the 95th percentile, or top 5%, of the market, regardless of their role. So whether you work in customer support or ops or programming or design, you’ll be paid in the top 5% for that position.If someone is below that target, they get a raise large enough to match the target. If someone is already above the target, they stay where they are. (Nobody will ever see a pay cut because they’re above our market target). If someone is promoted, they get a raise commensurate with the market rates for the new level.We get the market rates through a company called Radford. They poll a wide array of companies in our industry (from the titans to shops more comparable in size to Basecamp). It’s not a perfect system, and we do frequently cross check with other sources, but it’s certainly better than a few “I’ve heard that X pays Y…”.Our market rates are based on Chicago. Chicago isn’t the top of the market — you’ll find higher rates in Silicon Valley or New York — but it’s not far off either. So whether you live in Tennessee or Arizona or Alaska or Illinois, we pay the same.This means everyone has the freedom to pick where they want to live, and there’s no penalty for relocating to a cheaper cost-of-living area. We encourage remote and have many employees who’ve lived all over while continuing to work for Basecamp.We don’t pay traditional bonuses at Basecamp either, so our salaries are benchmarked against other companies’ salary + bonus packages. (We used to do bonuses, many years ago, but found that they were quickly treated as expected salary anyway.)There are no stock options at Basecamp because we never intend to sell the company. (But we’ve vowed to distribute 5% of the proceeds to all current employees if, against intentions, we did sell the company anyway).We’ve also recently put a new profit growth sharing scheme in place. If total profits grow year over year, we’ll distribute 25% of that growth to employees in that year.There are surely places where people can get paid more than they can at Basecamp. Especially if they’re ace negotiators and able to persuade an employer to pay them more than their peers for the same work.There are also plenty of places that’ll offer stock options that could make someone a overnight millionaire, if they join a startup that eventually turns into the next Google or Facebook.But Basecamp isn’t a startup. We’ve been in our current business as a software company since 2004. It’s a stable, sustainable, and profitable enterprise. Some people may even call it boring!We don’t do all-nighters. There are no tricks or treats to lure people into staying at the office for untold hours. Just a great set of benefits that all focus on helping people lead healthy, fulfilled lives away from work.No scheme of pay is perfect, but at least with a model like this, nobody is forced to hop jobs just to get a raise that matches their market value. Which is reflected in the fact that we have lots of people at Basecamp who’ve been here for a long time with no plans to leave.Of course, pay isn’t the only reason someone might leave our company. We’ve had people leave Basecamp because they wanted to give the Silicon Valley trip a try or because they wanted a completely different career or for a number of other reasons. That’s healthy! Some amount of flow is a good thing, but pay shouldn’t be the main driver for most people.When I hear that the average tenure in tech is just two years, I wonder how anyone gets anything done. When I hear such job hopping justified by the fact that changing companies is the only way to get a raise, I just shake my head at the short-sightedness of such companies.Hiring and training people is not only expensive, but draining. All that energy could go into making better products with people you’ve kept happy for the long term by being fair and transparent about pay and benefits. Churning through people because you’re trying to suppress the wages of those who stay just seems like poor business.There’s a fountain of happiness and productivity in working with a stable crew. It’s absolutely key to how we’re able to do so much with so few at Basecamp. I’m baffled such a competitive advantage isn’t more diligently sought.How we pay people at Basecamp was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Chicago, Be Chicago

Yuck! Enough with the Silicon Valley worship, Chicago!🎶Hey, Chicago, what do you say? Can we stop talking about wanting to be the next Silicon Valley today?🎶If you pay attention to the Chicago tech/media scene, you’ve probably been hearing for years that Chicago is poised to be the next Silicon Valley. The storyline continues in this recent Inc article: Why Chicago will be the next Silicon Valley tech hub.There’s a lot of good in this article. And we’re honored that Basecamp is held up as an example of something positive happening in Chicago. But the notion that it’s now Chicago’s time to grab someone else’s torch is where it falls apart for me.It’s certainly true there’s more entrepreneurial excitement in Chicago these days. More optimism, more opportunity, etc. This is great.But what’s with all this this fetishizing of Silicon Valley? To be next in line to be them? What about being us? What about being original? The Silicon Valley approach is original for Silicon Valley, but what’s our original approach? Something that’s expansive, rather than restrictive. Following someone else’s playbook is always limiting.Why not build something here that’s so fresh that eventually other cities want to model themselves after us? What would that look like? 10 years now we’d be far better off if other cities were saying “We want to be the next Chicago” than “Chicago is still trying to be like them”. Unfortunately today if you Google “The next Chicago” the first story is about how citizens in Richmond Virginia are afraid their town is becoming like Chicago.Some suggest Silicon Valley stands for innovation. Ok — I’m into that. But if we’re just trying to be like them, where’s the innovation in that? That’s the opposite of innovation. So to be innovative, we want to copy? That gets you to me-too, not us-instead.Further, why follow a playbook that leads to oppressive rents and a workaholism culture? A race towards pumped-up billion-dollar valuations rather than a thousand paying customers? Why salivate over so many profitless-revenue and unsustainable business models? Why build companies to be sold rather than ones built to prosper independently?What’s so unattractive about stability and make-more-than-you-spend economics? The economics the pizza shop, dry cleaner, autobody shop, and restaurant down the street live by? If they can survive like that — some for 25 years or more — why can’t a tech company with far more favorable cost structures?I get it. Rapid job creation. Pumping millions/billions into startups that are hiring is a quick way to show things are happening. But if we can’t build sustainable businesses built on solid fundamental economic principles, those will all be temp jobs. Long temp jobs, but temp jobs nonetheless. That’s a political move, not a purposeful move.Of course Silicon Valley has some wonderful success stories reaching back decades. No doubt — amazing things have been created there, and I admire and respect many of those stories. I’m a happy customer of a few of them for sure. But a successful Chicago doesn’t need to be predicated on the next Apple or Tesla being here. That’s limiting.Further, it’s too easy to assume that there’s a formula that any city can apply to generate those kinds of businesses. Specific inputs that always produce specific outputs. If we do what they’ve done, then we’ll get what they have. It doesn’t appear to work that way. Is it just a matter of eventually, or is it a matter of place and moment? That places are unique, and intangibles make the difference? That moments can’t be manufactured? That luck is the largest variable in the equation?Great places are unique places. New York is uniquely New York. San Francisco is uniquely San Francisco. LA is uniquely LA. New Orleans is uniquely New Orleans. New York isn’t like LA, and LA isn’t like San Francisco, and Seattle isn’t like Boston, etc. Silicon Valley didn’t become “the next whatever”, it developed into itself. New York isn’t striving to be Rome, it’s thrilled with being New York. But Chicago?If Chicago is going to follow anyone’s philosophical lead, let it be Simone Biles: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.” That’s confidence. We could use more of that here.I remember the last time Chicago got frothy about the closest thing we’d had to a Silicon Valley success story: Groupon. The city rallied around it. Everyone hailed as the fastest growing company ever, and it raced to a $1 billion dollar valuation on waves of institutional investment. We celebrated around fastest growing, not profitable, not sustainable. And now just a few years later, you don’t hear many people talking about Groupon anymore — except when they need to show an example like the one below:(Full disclosure: I was on the Groupon board prior to them going public, but was asked to leave after a year.)And today, in 2017, guess who’s being touted as the fastest company to a $2 billion dollar valuation? Uptake, another Chicago company. I hope things turn out differently for Uptake than they did for Groupon.I hope Chicago avoids the trap. That we don’t get carried away by bullshit metrics, and wannabe stories. Rather, we build more sustainable, profitable companies. Companies that grow steadily and strong, not rapidly and weak. Companies that treat people exceptionally well, and create environments where people can do their best work of their lives — and have great lives at the same time.Chicago, be Chicago.Chicago, Be Chicago was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Trickle-down workaholism in startups

“And then I said anyone not willing to break their backs working for me was a tourist!”If you want to understand why so many startups become infected with unhealthy work habits, or outright workaholism, a good place to start your examination is in the attitudes of their venture capital investors.Consider this Twitter thread involving two famous VCs, Keith Rabois and Mark Suster:These sentiments are hardly aberrations. There’s an ingrained mythology around startups that not only celebrates burn-out efforts, but damn well requires it. It’s the logical outcome of trying to compress a lifetime’s worth of work into the abbreviated timeline of a venture fund.It’s not hard to understand why such a mythology serves the interest of money men who spread their bets wide and only succeed when unicorns emerge. Of course they’re going to desire fairytale sacrifices. There’s little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin’.The entrepreneurs who sign up for such pressures may have asked for it. If you, knowing their sentiments, ask Rabois or Suster for millions to fund your venture, then you probably should expect to have your vacations, weekends, hobbies, family time, or outings with the kids questioned.But the pressures don’t stop with the person who signs the term sheet. That shit trickles down. In fact, it’s likely to amplify as it rolls down the hill, like a snowball gathering mass. Because once the millions have cleared, and the headcount has been boosted, it’s usually other people who actually have to make good on those exponential expectations.The sly entrepreneur seeks to cajole their employees with carrots. Organic, locally-sourced ones, delightfully prepared by a master chef, of course. In the office. Along with all the other pampering and indulgent spoils AT THE OFFICE. The game is to make it appear as though employees choose this life for themselves, that they just love spending all their waking (and in some cases, even sleeping) hours at that damn office.And if the soma-like inducements don’t work, there’s always the lofty talk about THE MISSION: We’re not just here to capture more attention or steal more privacy in the name of advertising, no, we’re connecting the world! Your single-track life has meaning! All your sacrifices are for a greater good!Yeah, right.Not only are these sacrifices statistically overwhelmingly likely to be in vain, they’re also completely disproportionate. The programmer or designer or writer or even manager that gives up their life for a 80+ hour moonshot will comparably-speaking be compensated in bananas, even if their lottery coupon should line up. The lion’s share will go to the Scar and his hyenas, not the monkeys.Just listen to teacher / I know it sounds sordid but you’ll be rewarded / When at last I am given my dues!And yet so many continue to go along, because they already went this far. Sunk cost is an easy theoretical concept, but it’s devilishly hard to put in practice. Which is why the yoke of the four-year vesting cliff, the short-exercise window for options, and all the other tricks and techniques employed by cap table-designing masters are so effective. Once the hook is in, the line and the sinker follows easily.But it will be in spite of prevailing evidence on the power of sleep, recuperation, and sustainable work habits. Whether you’re a top-flight basketball player, like Kobe Bryant, whose off-season work schedule is limited to just six hours per day:The Kobe Bryant workout routine features a hefty mix of track work, basketball skills and weightlifting. His off-season workout has been called the 666 program because he spends 2 hours running, 2 hours on basketball, and 2 hours weightlifting (for a total of 6 hours a day, six times a week, for six months).Or his competitor, LeBron James, who frequently gets 12 hours of sleep. Or any of the other star athletes who prioritize their sleep and recuperation as a key component of their performance:Since athletes need more sleep than average people, eight to 10 hours of zzz’s a night is recommended, and that’s not just before game day — that’s every evening. After all, the more often and more vigorously you use your muscles, the more time it takes for your body to repair and rebuild them. Roger Federer and LeBron James famously snooze for an average of 12 hours a night, while Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Steve Nash get up to 10 hours a night. Federer has said, “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours per day, it’s not right.Or how about prodigious thinkers and writers, like Trollope, Dickens, or Darwin who all sought to complete their work within fixed, modest slices of the day, and then kept the rest for leisure. Here’s Darwin’s routine:After his morning walk and breakfast, Darwin was in his study by 8 and worked a steady hour and a half. At 9:30 he would read the morning mail and write letters. At 10:30, Darwin returned to more serious work, sometimes moving to his aviary, greenhouse, or one of several other buildings where he conducted his experiments. By noon, he would declare, “I’ve done a good day’s work,” and set out on a long walk on the Sandwalk, a path he had laid out not long after buying Down House. (Part of the Sandwalk ran through land leased to Darwin by the Lubbock family.)When he returned after an hour or more, Darwin had lunch and answered more letters. At 3 he would retire for a nap; an hour later he would arise, take another walk around the Sandwalk, then return to his study until 5:30, when he would join his wife, Emma, and their family for dinner. On this schedule he wrote 19 books, including technical volumes on climbing plants, barnacles, and other subjects; the controversial Descent of Man; and The Origin of Species, probably the single most famous book in the history of science, and a book that still affects the way we think about nature and ourselves.Neither these athletes or these writers were giving up anything on whatever contemporaries that may have put in more time, more hours, or greater sacrifices. Their contributions to the world were in no way diminished by their balanced approach, quite the contrary.So don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking startup that dwarfs the accomplishments of The Origin of Species or winning five championship rings. It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and wellbeing of others like cannon fodder.Finally, as way of having my own skin in the game, we’ve been running a wonderfully successful business at Basecamp for some fourteen years now. One profitable since the get-go without demanding the total consumption of life force from the people working here. Neither from Jason nor I, nor from our employees.Hell, right now, we’re working our four-day summer weeks until the end of August. This while servicing over a hundred thousand paying customers, stewarding Ruby on Rails, writing a new book, and ranting with a fervor against the extractive logic of many a venture capitalist. Forty hours or less has been plenty to do all of that since the beginning, and it’s likely to be plenty for you too.Workaholism is a disease. We need treatment and coping advice for those afflicted, not cheerleaders for their misery.If the ways of venture capital has you thinking there’s gotta be another way, then I invite you to read RECONSIDER and Exponential growth devours and corrupts. The alternative path exists.Trickle-down workaholism in startups was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Launch: Our Knowledge Center!

I’ve always believed that getting to know your company better requires more than using a piece of software alone. Yes, Know Your Company has been helpful to thousands of people all over the world…But if you want to foster a sustainable culture of feedback within your team, you have to change how you do things day in, day out. You have to shift your mindset. You have to practice a methodology.We’ve spent the past three years developing that methodology. And finally, we created a resource to share it with you.Today, we’re launching our brand new Knowledge Center — a place for every employee, manager and CEO to learn our methodology on how to cultivate open, honest workplace environments.Based on insights and data we’ve collected from over 15,000 employees at hundreds of companies in 25 countries, we’ve distilled all our learnings into 21 chapters I’ve written for our Knowledge Center.These chapters are organized into six different topic areas…Blindspots: How to uncover common leadership pitfalls.Asking for feedback: How to get employees talking about how they actually feel (and not just what they think you want to hear).Receiving feedback: How to receive feedback in the right way to encourage employees to open up more.Acting on feedback: How to handle feedback once you receive it.Creating a culture of feedback: How to build a sustainable culture of feedback within your team.Most of the chapters are a quick 2–3 minute read. A few take around 5–7 minutes to get through. So you can read just one if you’re short on time. Or you can take a deep dive and immerse yourself in an entire guide, while you’re on the train etc.You can read the first three chapters on “Blindspots” here.Every week, I’ll release a new chapter. To get each chapter delivered straight to your inbox, sign up below: me, this Knowledge Center gets us one step closer to creating a world where everyone can communicate openly and honestly at work. We hope reading and subscribing to the Knowledge Center helps you get one step closer to feeling that way at work, too.PS: Please ❤️ this post if you’d like others to benefit from the Knowledge Center. Thanks so much (and please say hi at @cjlew23!)Launch: Our Knowledge Center! 📚 was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

I live my podcast life a quarter hour at a time

How we found our ideal episode length for The DistanceIn the communities of podcasters and aspiring podcasters that I frequent on Facebook and elsewhere, a frequent topic of debate is the ideal length of an episodes—25 minutes? An hour? I also get asked from time to time how we came up with 15 minutes for The Distance. I’d love to tell you that we thoughtfully deliberated episode length during the planning process for the show, drawing on years of collective storytelling experience to arrive at our decision, but the truth is that the 15-minute guideline just kind of happened—and then became a useful constraint that’s guided our production ever since.The Distance started in 2014 as longform written stories of about 2,500 words each. At the end of that year, as Serial was wrapping up its first season, we started talking about trying audio for our stories about long-running businesses. The consensus was to do a show that wouldn’t be overly complicated to produce. As a super basic test of this concept, Shaun (Basecamp’s video producer, who would eventually become the co-producer on The Distance) took the first-ever Distance story about Horween Leather and recorded himself reading it, audiobook-style. That clocked in at 10 minutes and 30 seconds, which he pointed out was a nice length for a short train ride or walk to the grocery store.I admit that I dragged my feet a little on the podcast idea, mostly because I come from a traditional print journalism background and had no audio experience. Once I came around on the podcast, I decided I wanted to do actual audio stories and not just audiobook-style readings of the written articles. (After a few months of releasing both a written and audio version of a story, we went podcast-only.) Here’s what I posted in our Basecamp discussion:Why did I suggest 15 minutes? I honestly don’t know. Probably because 10 minutes seemed too short, especially relative to most of the 30- or 60-minute podcasts I listen to, and because it’s natural to think of time in quarter-hour increments. Also, I was terrified of doing audio and 15 minutes already seemed like a daunting amount of space to fill.So from day one, I had the 15-minute guideline in my head. And I found that even though I wasn’t timing my scripts as I wrote them, the resulting episodes would always be around 15 minutes. Maybe I’d internalized that time limit without knowing it, or maybe I’d gotten adept at gauging how big of a story I’d get from a particular subject and adjusted my story selection process accordingly. (If a subject yielded a larger-than-expected story, we could always do a multi-part series, but I wouldn’t pursue a story where it seemed like there wasn’t enough of an angle to sustain 15 minutes.) When I worked in newspapers and pitched stories to editors, they would usually ask, “How much room do you need?” This is because a print newspaper editor has to plot physical space on a page in terms of column inches. I got pretty good at sizing up stories in a literal sense, and these same instincts have served me well in audio. we’ve gotten past 50 episodes of The Distance (hurrah!), I’ve come to really embrace the 15-minute episode length. It forces a particular kind of economy in storytelling, making us ruthless in cutting anything from an episode that might be boring, tangential or self-indulgent. If an early version of an episode comes in significantly over 15 minutes, I have to justify that length. More often than not, I don’t miss what gets cut. It makes the stories better and more focused. And keeping the episodes at 15 minutes means that our workload stays manageable, especially as we’ve increased the production values on the show to add music and spend more time on editing. The Distance is just Shaun and me. We release stories every other week and don’t have seasons. If we were to, say, double our episode length while keeping our current level of quality, it would require a significant rearranging of our workflow—how I select stories, the amount of time I spend doing interviews, and then the editing process—that I’m not sure is sustainable as a two-person operation.I’ve heard from some people that they’d like our stories to be longer, and there’s evidence to suggest that listeners prefer shows with episodes that run closer to an hour. But for now, 15 minutes is working well for us. As I mentioned before, we have the option of doing a two-parter if a story merits more time—and we’ll be doing just that later this month. Yes, there’s more prestige in longer stories, and I’ve been guilty of fetishizing length for its own sake too. But we’re in good company with our 15-minute episodes. I love shows like The Specialist and Curious City, which are also on the shorter end. There are lots of differently sized spaces in people’s days when they could be listening to shows. Sometimes it’s nice to have an episode that fits into a short errand, without the need to pause and pick up the story again later. The Distance might be about long-running businesses, but we don’t want to be long-winded.Surely you have time during your day to listen to 15-minute stories about interesting businesses like a t-shirt printer or a wacky supermarket! You can subscribe to The Distance on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music or the podcatcher of your choice.I live my podcast life a quarter hour at a time was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

What Not to Wearable: Part 1

With every advance in connected technology, potential new features abound. Sensors monitor your fitness performance or sleep quality. Haptic vibrations in insoles guide you to take a left or a right, allowing you to navigate without looking at a screen. NFC technology in a ring allows you to pay for a purchase without fumbling around in a bag or combing through pockets. These technologies allow our accessories to become devices for input and output.

All this sounds exciting, freeing even. These innovations could allow us to turn our focus away from screens and back to the material world, to be simultaneously connected to technology while also present in the moment. And that’s incredible. However, this also presents new challenges. Besides the multitude of complex technical problems we must address, from charging and battery life to data networks and security, we will also have to solve some key strategic and design problems.
When Fashion and Tech Collide
Connected technology has migrated from appliances, like Nest, to accessories, clothes, and even temporary tattoos. When we shift from designing appliances (functional tools people use) to designing fashion (aesthetic adornments that people wear), the conventions change. Fashion items are much more intimate than a home thermostat, a microwave, or a refrigerator. How do we convince users that technology is worth wearing?
Ubiquity or Variety?
For the integration of fashion and tech to be viable over the long-term, we must reconcile some inherent differences in the conception of fashion products and technology products. For one, fashion products aim to allow a user to express a personal identity, while tech products often aim to make an experience universally accessible. These are often competing interests.
Fashion products signal an affiliation with a style tribe. A woman with a “preppy” style may wear lots of stripes and polka dots, while a man with a taste for luxury may invest in an expensive watch. In dressing each day, people use subtle markers to identify with niche groups. Fashion companies cater to these niches by using consistent product design and marketing to target specific customers to the exclusion of others. This builds a strong brand identity that a customer can easily understand, relate to, and coopt for their personal style. Fashion products, then, are designed to aid individuals in distinguishing themselves.
On the other hand, tech products are often valued for their ubiquity.  Go to Facebook’s login page and you will see this message: “Connect with friends and the world around you.” The world around you! Facebook positions itself primarily as a provider of access to an impossibly large global network. With over a billion users, if someone has an internet presence at all, they are likely to be found on Facebook.
The same can be said of Fitbit. Fitbit, despite being a worn object, is framed as a technology product. Fitbit’s answer to “Why Fitbit?” is “unbeatable technology, the largest fitness community, & a family of products fit for everyone.” They, like Facebook, are selling access to an extensive network. Fitbit suggests that customers interested in engaging in fitness competitions with friends adopt Fitbit's product over a competitor for just this reason.

However, by highlighting the universal popularity of their products, wearables companies undercut the other value a worn product may provide— its ability to display a person's unique identity to the public. How are people to distinguish themselves if they feel that everyone else in the world is wearing the same product? We need to segment where the application of these two ideas, ubiquity and variety, are most valuable.
Reconciling Ubiquity and Variety
Ubiquity will greatly improve the digital experience. This includes the apps and platforms that store and make sense of the data our devices collect. As wearables gain traction, users will likely want to switch easily between products from day to day, as they do with other clothes and accessories. We will want to allow them to do this without the nuisance of remembering that this item pairs with that native app or how this app works differently from that one. The digital experience will need to be consistent, predictable, and interface with different devices.
While the digital experience will be improved by consistency, the physical one would benefit from variety. When customers wear connected products, they shouldn't be forced to sacrifice their identities. We need wearables that complement a diverse range of styles. Many wearables still seem to be offered in an uber sleek black silicone by default. That is great for a sporty customer or a tech enthusiast. For a customer with a more classic or traditional style though, the cold black look may not fit their wardrobe or outfit. By primarily catering to one style market, wearables companies are likely missing out on market share. Style shouldn't be an up-charge.

The presentation of Fitbit's product assortment seems to take its cues from Henry Ford: "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." This fails to demonstrate how a Fitbit product may fit with a customer's personal style.

Here are some strategies companies may use to resolve this conflict:
Third-party Apps to Unify the Digital Experience Currently, each connected accessory seems to have its own branded native app. As wearables gain popularity, this is less sustainable. We need apps to organize our array of devices and the data being relayed between them. Otherwise, wearables will likely be abandoned as more trouble than they are worth.Modular Technology We need engineers working to create standard, open-market hardware and tech components for wearables. Ideally, these modular pieces could be easily applied to a wide variety of mass-market products using current production processes, in the same way that zippers, buttons, and snaps are applied today.Better Collaborations Large tech companies excel at creating intuitive and ubiquitous digital experiences, while fashion companies have expertise in materials, production, and predicting style trends. Consistent and equal partnerships would leverage these talents in the appropriate arenas to create viable wearable tech. While we see some collaborations, including Apple partnering with Hermes and Nike, these partnerships will likely need to be standard (as opposed to occasional) to maintain wearables over the long-term.
Read on in Part 2 to learn about how implementing these strategies might result in better wearable products.

Source: VigetInspire

Searching for Clean(er) Searches

Inspired Magazine
Inspired Magazine - creativity & inspiration daily
If there is one year for positive change, look no further, it’s 2017. Because there’s no better time than now to do something, but also because this world, on so many levels (well, you know, you’ve been there too) was seriously derailed in the past couple of years.
You are probably involved already, struggling with small or large steps to make a difference in the world, to have a positive impact, minimize your carbon footprint, leave the air breathable and the water drinkable for your kids and their kids. You probably cycle, volunteer, decided to run for office (yay!), sign petitions, enjoy the outdoors. But by the end of your life you will still have spent a few good years staring into a screen. Due to nature of work or for entertainment only, it’s gonna be years, trust me. They add up. Worry not though, you can make a difference even in front of a computer screen doing your daily searches.
I search, You search, We…

You’re online and irrespective of the tasks, you will search at least one time during the course of one working day. Am I right? Searching the www is high in the charts when it comes to spending time online. I mean, we even search for search. Spelling. Our own names. We search for pretty much everything. Everything included. And there’s a carbon meter attached to this daily routine too, as with most activities that need a source of power.
You can imagine our excitement when we discovered that some of those behind several search engines intend to tackle the carbon problem. While DuckDuckGo is more into protecting your online privacy, Google promises to run on 100% renewable energy by the end of this year, and Ecosia plants trees every time you search the web.
Online searches have been steadily growing into trillions since the dawn of the internet. The trend is on the rise and there are no signs of a slowdown.
Raising Awareness while Making Change Happen
Charming server error
No, you cannot literally plant trees by simply searching. At least not yet (have you seen the guy who emailed lemonade? Literally). Ecosia is the search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue. It’s a great example of social change applied to the most common online activity.
You search the web with Ecosia > Search ads generate income for Ecosia > Ecosia uses this income to plant trees.
They’ve planted over 7 million trees so far. Here’s how they decide where to plant them. On their website you can find details about their projects, videos, stories, and useful info on why trees are essential to life – if you ever had any doubts. You don’t have to be a full-time treehugger to get excited when your search for “sugar free” and just planted a tree. I mean, even when their server is down, they’ll put some trees up (see screenshot).
Using  Renewable Energy to Keep them Engines Running
Google: New Renewable Energy Projects via
In 2015, Google bought 44% of its power from wind and solar farms, according to The Guardian, and they plan to go 100% renewable this year. It’s worth keeping an eye on them and see how and when they’ll reach their target. Just in case you were feeling guilty for using Google.
The renewable trend would be very hard to stop, hence similar companies are joining this common-sense challenge along sustainability programs. For the sake of your own carbon footprint, doing a quick search (ha!) to test their sustainability efforts should come in handy.
Search Engines with Renewable Goals Only
If you want to find out more about clean energy, then you should know that there are search engines only for this. Take reegle. It acts as a unique clean energy information portal, targeting specific stakeholders including governments, project developers, businesses, financiers, NGOs, academia, international organizations and civil society. Others, like Solar Search, specialize in searches related to mainly solar energies. You’ll probably come across some inspiring projects.
If you’re really committed to making a difference, don’t stop here, move beyond the search engine. See how clean your apps are. If you’re the techie-sustainable type and have ideas for a low carbon economy, take some time to put them into practice, pitch them, share them, spread the word. Go for it!
Switch it Off and Other Such Details

Saving energy at home and at work matter. Just as low energy consuming applications and power saving system matter. And no, standby is not as friendly as you think.
University of Cambridge has its own green challenge in an attempt to prevent unnecessary energy use. They are committed to reducing carbon emissions energy-and-carbon, and they compiled Facts & Figures to help you find out how much energy you can save from simple actions such as switching off lights and equipment.
“Leaving a computer on overnight for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus.” (Carbon Trust)
“Reducing your PC monitor brightness from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy the energy the monitor uses.” (Harvard)
A true activist should consider all his actions, and change or adapt as many of his habits as possible, including his virtual ones. Your virtual life has an impact in real life. And not necessarily yours.
More Than Clean Searches
This article does not enourage online activism only. Don’t forget to increase the efficacy of offline activism. These days online and offline have to come together. Entangling your daily virtual existence with meaningful clicks does sound like a powerful tool, a quiet form of activism pushing change in the most unexpected places. Direct action, changing your daily routine, less waste, more awareness in your life, every bit will make a difference in the big scheme of life.
You might not save the world with this, but you’ve certainly made a step in the right direction.
Leave the right footprints. Your grandchildren will be grateful.
This post Searching for Clean(er) Searches was written by Anca Rusu and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.

They Know What’s Up

Here are 3 parenting principles that my wife and I talk about more than others:


These clearly aren’t unique and, I imagine, are universally shared with every parent on the planet.

But why I know that they matter to us more than other similar ideas and ideals is that we continually use this language with our children.
In other words, when they do something poorly or make a mistake or ask a question or encounter something new… we almost always use one of these words in our response.
Are you being kind? Were you thoughtful in that decision? Are you being respectful or disrespectful?
Many of our response(s) are framed in questions rather than telling our children if they are or aren’t being / doing something well. We want them to think through their thoughts and actions. We want them to be critical of themselves, the biggest (healthy) critic and their biggest fan.
Code and coffee? Yes. Image via BOSSFIGHT.
I’ve given this some thought more recently because I’ve been thinking about the difference between what I say and what I do. What I want for them and what I am actually training them to become.
And, more specifically, I’ve been thinking about this for my own startup as we continue to grow and build something that I get more excited about with each passing day.
As we scale and start building a team I think about our organizational values and what we feel inclined to share with others and the gap between what we say we value and what we actually value through our actions and history together.
Not-so-strangely, many companies have a “Do What I Say, Not As I Do” type mentality – and they don’t do it on purpose, it’s just what happens. The problem, of course, is that this isn’t sustainable nor is it ultimately healthy.
If I say to new staff members that we care about their personal health but model behavior that doesn’t actually showcase that belief then we are lying to them and to ourselves.
When we say (stupid) things like “We believe in work-life balance!” but then work 7 days a week and leave little time for rest and recuperation we are janus-faced. We are liars.
And no one wants to be a liar. And your staff, just like your own kids, aren’t stupid. They know what’s up. They know what’s going on. They know when what they read on the nicely-framed picture of your “Value Statements” isn’t actually true.
You see, our actions showcase what we really believe. What we say (and do) repeatedly is how things actually are. As a parent, I’m trying to do this better every day (at-bat rate is so-so…) and as a manager and leader I’m working on it just as well.
Damn, it’s hard. But, worth it.
The post They Know What’s Up appeared first on John Saddington.

The Future | Inspired by Nature

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Nature* feeds us, purifies the air we breathe and the water we drink. Unbeatable booster, it cures stress, sadness, reenergizes humans. It’s all around us but most of us fail to appreciate it or even notice it, which is a bit like turning the back on our own selves. No, we’re not going into a philosophical discussion about nature, and how our own beings are (part of) nature. We’re just trying to remind you of the importance of looking at nature – an incredible source of endless inspiration on top of everything else.
Look again, or maybe for the first time, with the curiosity of a child. Sure, the occasional romantic strolls help too, but don’t forget to study, explore, examine, through a magnifying glass if needed. Be amazed by the universe at our fingertips.
“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”
~ Hildegard von Bingen
Nature as a Blueprint for Sustainability

Did you know that the ubiquitous Velcro was inspired by the way plant burrs stick to dog hair? Yep, almost 80 years ago, the Swiss engineer George de Mestral started his velcro adventure simply by looking at the burrs under a microscope. Did you know that solar cells mimic butterfly wings? Made up of tiny scales, the wings are surprisingly good at harvesting light. Did you hear that the veins in the tree leaves can inspire robust and resilient building distribution networks?
From ant nest to architecture, from caterpillar’s roll to medical instruments, this “approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” is called biomimicry. Small wonder that an organization focused on sustainability like the David Suzuki Foundation came up with this spot-on slogan: “Solutions are in our nature”.
Clean 360° Designs

We can agree that biomimicry has worked miracles in many areas, and it’s now an essential part of the renewable energy landscape. In the exploratory trip humanity is currently undergoing, clean(er) solutions to an insatiable need for energy is the goal. Simplicity is at the heart of it, as a way to tackle this complex energy crisis.
How to better improve your relation with nature if not by trying to imitate its non-invasive, sustainable ways? And why wouldn’t we want renewable, old as the world, (almost) free (still, in most corners of this world), clean, or producing significantly lower carbon emissions (compared to so-called conventional energy sources)?
Below we’ll have a look at wind and solar, two of the most popular and innovative alternative sources of energy and their new interest in going full circle, cradle to cradle.
Smart Flower Solar
We saw this fantastic invention in the streets of Paris, on a cold winter day in December 2015, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The first thought what: yes, it makes perfect sense. Why didn’t we think about this before? Maybe we did, but somehow failed to make the connections.
Now this blooming sunflower has made the rounds on social media, and for all the right reasons. Unlike static solar panels, this one follows the sun, just like a sunflower in a field, thus catching the sunlight all day. “Inspired design, intelligent solar”, the smartflower is easy to set up and connect, fully integrated, all-in-one solar system that can live anywhere. Designed to be a plug-and-play system, it does make solar simple(r). It’s also 40% more efficient in energy production than traditional solar and can be easily packed up and moved to a new site. Big plus.
Taking into account the fact that the sun provides more than enough energy in just one hour to supply our planet’s energy needs for an entire year, just imagine the possibilities.

Tree-Shaped Wind Turbine | L’Arbre à Vent
New Wind is a company inventing biomimetic devises that deliver sustainable electrical services. They’ve put together this wind turbine resembling a tree where each leaf is capable of producing electricity from the slightest waft of air within a radius of 360°. It offers immediate consumption in proximity to end-use, while, you’ll have to agree with them, also providing an esthetic and emotional contribution to the urban landscapes (huge part of any fierce debate on wind turbines).
This L’Arbre à Vent is small enough to fit in your backyard, using air flow through wind turbines to mechanically power generators for electric power. On the one hand, you have the force of the wind. On the other hand, the structure of the tree. That’s like a double jackpot. Not only inspired by nature, but running on nature too.
Who knows, treehugger or not, dosing under thick with aromas cherry trees in spring might have produced similar tree-shaped wind turbines.

Here to Stay
The Tesla Solar Roof, the machine that pulverizes glass bottles into sand (back to the initial state!), and dozens of other similar recent inventions prove that looking closer at nature pays off.
Like it or not, change is happening no matter how many science deniers rule the world. It’s the change brought about by curious informed people that casts gleams of hope on our rather precarious present.
If for whatever reason nature is not in your agenda on a daily basis, try to follow specialty classics like National Geographic, or the plethora of online publications brimful of similar stories.
Keep on being captivated and engaged, share the positive changes. Exploring the potential of the world around us is essential in finding solutions for a sustainable high performing innovative future we can be proud we’ve created or at least encouraged.
Frank Lloyd Wright had one the most inspired and inspiring advises ever: “Study nature, love nature, stay closer to nature. It will never fail you”. May the force (of nature) be with you!
* Nature: The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth.

This post The Future | Inspired by Nature was written by Anca Rusu and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.

Moving Posts to Self-Hosted WordPress

Recently, WordPress announced the ability a new import tool to move posts to And, of course, the #1 request was to have a self-hosted tool to do the same thing.
There is a plan for it but there’s no official ETA on a self-hosted plugin or the integration with JetPack… so for now we’ll just have to wait… right? Eh… well, you don’t have to.

A “quick” solution is to simply just migrate your posts to your site and then export those posts to self-hosted.
Yes, this is about double the amount of work but it’s not that bad. I did it this morning. Watch:
0 – Make Sure You Have a Clean Site
No posts…!
What I mean by this is that you should have a fresh site with no posts. I think this makes it easy to manage and then when you have to export again it’s just easier to do “All Posts” instead of manually choosing one via a category, etc.
But, you don’t have to do this of course. Continue…
1 – Request Export from
Click that button. Or here.
That part is easy. Just click the “Download .zip” file and you’ll get an email that looks like this:

Download that junk.
2 – Head to to Import
Import Posts
You can then just upload your zip file. Easy, right? Well, kinda.
I’ll admit that I was uploading a huge batch of files:
993 posts…
My import failed initially: Failed Import…
And this made me incredibly sad. But, I hit up their support and they told me that they can do up to 15GB zip file. But, they weren’t able to help. So, what I needed to do was to manually reduce the # of posts per zip file.
So, I just deleted all the posts that I really didn’t want to export / import into the system making 993 posts to… 41:
41 posts… more manageable.
And you should then be able to move forward:
Now we wait…
Then you just have to wait for that process to finish.
3 – Check Imported Posts, Sanitize, Export Again
Of course, you should now check to see if the posts were successfully imported into your site. Sanitize and fix anything you need.
Oh, wow. There they are…!
And then, you go ahead and export your posts for your self-hosted WordPress site:
Export! Again!
You’ll get a direct link in an email as well. Yay.
4 – Import to Self-Hosted WordPress Site
And then we head to your own self-hosted WordPress site and import! If you have to install the importer plugin you should, of course, do that.
Don’t forget… WXR File, NOT the .zip file…
Hit that import! Then, of course, you have to wait. Hopefully it doesn’t tank your site. Boom:
Assign those authors! Download those attachments!
You should see success very soon.
5 – Profit
I felt like I should have a #5 on this list… although, if I consider that I had a #0, I already got there… kinda.
So, here’s a good question. Why did I move 40+ posts from to my self-hosted blog here? That’s simple. I answer that question here: WordPress is the Smart and Sustainable Solution.
I do love Medium! Remember, I’m building a native macOS app for it. Does this seem contradictory? Damn straight. And I live with that tension every day and that’s okay.
A refreshing UI and UX. Coming soon.
I can like both at the exact same time for very different reasons. I want to plan for a future where both can live together and the potential upside! But, I also want to plan for any potential downside as well. Naturally.
The short story is that I had a project that I was trying to get off the ground and I, for the first time ever, published content exclusively on Medium and their publication system. I now see that that was a bit foolish and I just never had the time to migrate all of it back to my self-hosted WordPress.
I finally did it this morning and I feel good about that. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The post Moving Posts to Self-Hosted WordPress appeared first on John Saddington.