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It’s as simple as that February 9, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
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One of the big ideas I’m working on right now is a statement: everything gets easier. It brings together a few chains of thought, but primarily Fred Wilson’s notion of life being “end to end digital”, and something else I saw summed up brilliantly on Tumblr from Amanda Mooney – it was a John Maeda quote that went as follows:

If there were a prerequisite for the future successful digital creative, it would be the passion for discovery.
The fact is, the future does not belong to the people building walls around complex things in order to keep them complex, it belongs to those who recognise the sooner everyone understands something, the sooner we innovate and get to the next thing, and so sets about trying to demistify that which is currently complex. It belongs to the passionate and curious, wherever they are.
I was reminded of this reading AVC today and seeing Fred Wilson talk about a company called Twilio. From their own site:
Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you’d say “aw, forget it!” Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic…and together we rule the world.
That is just a simple example of the kind of application Twilio has, and maybe a telephony app doesn’t excite you, which is fine. But the point is important – everything gets easier. This also creates a new ecosystem of value that others can build upon; but that’s for another post entirely.
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I need some time to ease my mind February 6, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in Uncategorized.
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When I was writing Digital Strangelove, it was born largely out of work being so busy that I didn’t have time to write semi-daily about the things I was thinking, and I’m starting to feel like I’m all clogged up again in my head – a week where one of your days runs over the course of 18 hours will do that to you.

Anyway, enough of my complaining, I’ve wanted to write this for a couple weeks, and I’m excited to now as I feel really strongly about it. Your friend and mine Fred Wilson was interviewed in January and one of the questions asked was “What common mistakes do start-ups make?” He responds with this:

One mistake  see people make is that they hire out the development of the technology…I think that’s a huge mistake. I think the companies need to have the engineers as part of the core founding team…and a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it.

Back in March 2008,  wrote the following:

I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.

At the time I was thinking about the future of a start-up I was working in at the time, Hippo Jobs. Hippo had made a range of decisions ranging from ones I agreed with to ones I didn’t agree with at all, but that is going to be the case in any workplace where you are an employee and not an owner, and I don’t pretend for a moment to fully comprehend the situations that lead to some of those decisions.

What I believed then and believe now however is exactly what Fred said; a company needs to be in control of its lifeblood and make everything else someone else’s problem. When Yahoo! finally outsourced its search to Microsoft, it acknowledged what everyone else had long known – they were not a search company. Mind you, neither is Microsoft, which is why I can’t see them taking that battle to Google in a meaningful way.

Hippo had chosen to work with Areeba, an innovative and talented dev shop in Melbourne, Australia. The issue was never the quality of the work, it was a team that cared about the product in a way that was more than a job. Where Fred says “a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it“, listen to it. He also says the key engineer(s) need to be founding members of the company, which again I agree with.

At the end of the day, ideas are a dime a dozen, and you need the people who can execute to have as much skin in the game as you have; anything less is a recipe for disaster.

See video below, quote begins at 4:48.

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I want it ’cause I want it ’cause I… October 29, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, web 2.0.
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I have sometimes enviable, sometimes not enviable position of being THE digital guy in a small start-up dominated by traditional media folk. The ridiculous thing about the situation is it is a web-based business, and as such you would think the place should be flooded with people who live and breathe this stuff; the reality is the CEO, from a traditional media background has mixed feelings about online, even if he himself can’t deny that it is the future, the whole future (and nothing but the future).

Being the Lone Ranger though does have its advantages. For example, I’m always the guy who finds the cool new thing to show. I run our weekly WIPs each Monday morning and always make sure to show people something they haven’t seen before. The role is part educator, part evangelist, and if I wasn’t the guy who people stared at when there were site errors, it would be perfect. They haven’t quite gotten their heads around the fact that you can be the digital guy and still not know how the code actually works; telling them it’s about understanding the philosophy behind coding more than knowing the code itself is an exercise in futility. Plus, I have guys who are good at that, and there’s no room for doubling up.

This morning I showed them a great video titled “The Machine is Us” (found via Ian Tait’s CrackUnit). This lead immediately into a conversation about YouTube and the web and how we should be more involved. Now, this should excite me, the fact that the company I’m trying to inspire to do things differently gets animated and discusses the medium’s potential.

But it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t because instead of talking about how our company can get more involved, how we can talk to our audience and even what we want to say to our audience, people get bogged down on the medium. My company wants to be on YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace etc. because it is web 2.0 and we should be doing it. Not because they’re excited about the conversation, they’re excited about the medium. And if we have learned anything, it’s that mediums are the least important part of the conversation.

Or, as was stated much more eloquently on Gaping Void, “The main thesis is that it’s not the wine per se that is interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around the wine that is interesting. And that is true for all social objects. People matter. Objects don’t.”

Until my company figures that out, the conversation is going to be decidedly Web 1.0. Of course having said that, that’s why it’s also an enviable position that I have. I get to focus that conversation, it’s my job to make people excited about that. I have the good fortune to make a living by getting people turned on to possibilities they weren’t aware of before; I don’t know too many people who can say that.