Take time to focus on long term goals

2 April 2014

In Caddy Shack II Randy Quaid’s character is famous for saying “Don‘t hit it long … No, no, wait. Don‘t hit it short … Wait, hit it long but let it go short”

So, which should you focus on? The long term or the short term?

The somewhat obvious answer is that it is good to learn to take time to focus on both.

Today I was invited by my friend Dave to attend an Economic Outlook Breakfast that was held by NBT Bank in Scranton. Why did I go? (see this, and this) At this breakfast Ken Entenmann was the speaker and he, in a pretty entertaining way, showed how forecasting economic upturns and downturns can prove to be pretty fruitless and also how to focus on the long term rather than worry about the short term.

It can become easy in our digital age to get wrapped up in how quickly the world moves. And, it is true that if you don’t focus on what is happening right in front of you that you may indeed miss an opportunity or find yourself behind. However, there is also the very true reality that not all that much has changed week over week or even year over year but that to recognize some trends you’ll need to look at decades of time.

How might this apply in starting a business, or building a product, or creating a team? While it is very important to make sure of the day-to-day, it is equally important to raise above that level periodically to see how things are going long term. And then make any needed adjustments to make sure you’ll hit your longer term goals later on down the road.

What will your team be working on in 6 months? If, in 6 months, your team is doing exactly what they are doing today — will your business have accomplished what you wanted it to? What small adjustments can you make today, this week, this month, or this quarter that will only have a measurable impact in a year?

Perhaps you could take a morning or an afternoon each month and focus on questions like this. This way you’ll be able to focus on the short term without sacrificing the goals you may have for your business long term.

I do try to do this for our team, however, I was glad to be reminded to do so at this morning’s event. Thanks for the invite Dave!

Make unread counts optional. Or, Brent Simmons ruined me and I’m OK with that.

1 April 2014

There’s some conversation about whether or not applications such as Twitter, email, or RSS clients should have unread counts on their icons. I seem to think yes, but perhaps Brent Simmons ruined me years ago.

When he built NetNewsWire he never intended for people to think they had to keep up with every post from thousands of different feeds. He recently wrote:

And there was a tyranny behind keeping track of unread items and showing an unread count. People reacted in different ways, but many people felt like they always had to go through everything.

Did he ruin me? (I was a NetNewsWire user for a very long time and it was likely the first RSS reader I had ever used.)

I don’t know. But, I’m inclined to think that if people, like me, want to subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds and follow a lot of Twitter accounts … and still read every single post (again, like I do) they should be able to do that. Balance that with the fact that I feel that each developer should have an opinion and that it should be reflected in their applications and we’re in pickle… should these applications have unread badges or not?

It turns out, it can be solved pretty easily. Make it optional.

As developers of these applications you can decide to turn the unread count on by default or off by default, but at least the end user can choose for themselves.

Let’s start talking again

31 March 2014

For the past several years the trend has been swaying away from open, real, face-to-face communication — especially in tech culture.

No meetings, remote work, less email, more chat.

Over the last few months our team has been working hard to create a coworking community in Scranton, PA. We’ve been reaching out to freelancers, creative people who work from home, businesses, universities, the Chamber of Commerce, local incubators, etc. I’ve met more people living and working in Scranton in the last few months than I have in the decades leading up to this point.

This has led to our small coworking community being more aware of what people are up to. What people are up to. It is an important thing. We had no idea that there were already some local people trying to start a shared space for working together. Were they trying to do exactly coworking? No. But that’s OK. They are trying. And we didn’t know because we, in our infinite ignorance and lunacy, felt like everything that was happening in our area should somehow be reflected in a web site or Twitter account online and that we would find out that way. Whether you live in Scranton or in downtown Manhattan this is simply not true. Yes, it is 2014. But the majority of real life still happens offline.

This has led me to think that we should start talking again. I don’t think we should reverse the trends that have been set; such as trying to be more productive by having less meetings or allowing someone from Chicago to work with a team from Scranton. However, we need to be careful not to allow ourselves to have our heads in the sand. We need to make sure we’re not missing what is going on around us for the sake of our Twitter streams.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, our blog — these are all tools that should help us communicate about what is already happening, not the tools where these things should start. Things start by talking to each other.

Yes, it is more work to subscribe than to follow, but that is OK with me

27 March 2014

Fred Wilson, in A Founder’s Notebook, describing how “hard” it is to subscribe to a blog that isn’t on Tumblr but is on the open Internet.

My only complaint is that its not on Tumblr, where it would be an instant and easy follow. It takes more work to follow a blog when its on the open Internet (when you don’t use RSS. i don’t).

Sigh. He’s right, of course, but … sigh.

In the heyday of Google Reader it was the exact same amount of work to subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed as it is to follow a Tumblog on Tumblr. Just one click. But now, with the RSS market so fragmented and waning it has, indeed, become more work to subscribe to blogs on the open Internet than it is to follow on Tumblr or Twitter.

There are initiatives in motion to help with this, but, like so many other great things on the web (see: microformats), they may simply never catch on at scale.

For those interested in how I subscribe to blogs both on the open Internet and elsewhere; I’m currently using Vienna on Mac as my feed reader. I do not read feeds on my iPad (though I used to) or my iPhone. I only read on Mac and filter things into Unmark to read/watch/buy/listen later. For me to subscribe to a blog is pretty painless; copy the URL of the blog, open Vienna, click Subscribe. (I don’t even need to paste.) So it is three steps rather than the one step that Fred needs to take on Tumblr.

I’ll take that hit for blogs I love to be on the open Internet any day.

You should go to meetups

26 March 2014

Last night I joined Kyle Ruane, Michael O’Boyle, and Bruno Galvao and drove two-and-a-half hours to Brooklyn — simply to attend a small tech meetup.

If you’ve been subscribed to my blog for any amount of time you’ve probably seen that I go to a lot of meetups, even some that are 12 hours away, and I’ve had the privilege of presenting at some of them. Why? Why make a long drive for a 1-hour tech meetup just to turn around and drive home?

There is a lot of energy at meetups. The presenters are generally at the beginning of their product cycles and they have a lot of positive energy to make something happen. Those in the crowd all have their stories, their ideas, their goals. And, in addition to those building startups you’ll generally find lawyers, venture capitalists, programmers, marketers, etc. who are willing to offer their help for your project. It is a very, very good way to meet people that you’ll likely work with.

Photo: Tejpaul Bhatia, Founder of Chatwala.

I can’t recommend going to meetups enough. Even if they are a little out of your way. It will be worth it in the long run. Also, it will help you with your echo chamber.

Oh, and just for posterity, last night the presentations at the Brooklyn Tech Meetup were done by the following companies:

  • JackPocket - A new way to play the lottery.
  • Chatwala - A 10-second video messaging app.
  • Rukkus - Quick, cheap way to buy event tickets.

The Brooklyn Tech Meetup is simple, fast, and well attended. I recommend.

CMS recommendations

24 March 2014

There are a lot of CMSes out there now. So what should you use? Should you use just one CMS and live with it for every project? Should you choose different CMSes based on the project your working on? My recommendations for CMSes vary and are biased (since I’m one of the team behind Barley CMS). But here they are anyway:

  • Barley CMS - Use Barley CMS for small/medium sized sites that have pages, blog posts, different content types like photo albums, contact forms, etc. Here is a great third-party testimonial for Barley CMS.
  • WordPress - Use WordPress, with the Barley for WordPress plugin, for more complex web sites that need to be highly customized (think large scale media sites with tons of authors).
  • Cinematico - My friend Jason Schuller has released Cinematico and I think it fits a very important niche. If your company has a YouTube or Vimeo channel and you simply want a web site to showcase those videos (creatives, artists, makers, etc.) then this is a great way to do exactly that. Combining Barley CMS and Cinematico would just be amazing.
  • Ghost - Are you a hacker that would like to have a blog while at the same time learning how to hack a static-file CMS? Ghost is your toy.
  • Craft - Want to download your CMS? If you’re building a very simple site Craft may be your huckleberry.
I think it makes much more sense to use the tool that best suits the needs of the project you’re working on. Barley isn’t right for every project but neither is any other CMS. Try some of these other CMSes out and hopefully you’ll have good results.

An example of how terrible Wix is

21 March 2014

Sometimes we’re asked: “How do you compete with Wix, which is free, with Barley CMS?”

My answer is usually “You get what you pay for.”

If you need an example of how terrible Wix is, check this out. A nice watercolorist named Stan submitted his art to my Watercolor Gallery to be featured. He tried to tell me his URL when he filled out my submission form. This is what he wrote.

I have been doing watercolors for 8 years now. My website is www. watercolorstan@wix.com/watercolorstan.I would like to participate in this gallery.

I thought this was a simple mix up. A typo. But it turns out he is confused as to what his URL is because, well, Wix is terrible.

Stan’s URL isn’t watercolorstan.wix.com or wix.com/watercolorstan. It is watercolorstan.wix.com/watercolorstan

Have you ever? In your life?

Try Barley. One thing I can promise, it isn’t nearly as terrible as Wix is.

Side note: I’m looking forward to featuring Stan’s amazing work on my gallery soon.