Top : Cool
Home | Add Site | Change Site | New | Cool | Top Rated | Random | Email Updates | Search
I'm doing a talk tonight in Toronto at an event called Sprout Up. During the presentation I plan to reference a few links online, so I'll put them here.
Last week, I was asked to do a question and answer session with Erin from Sprouter. She wrote an article based on the interview, but I thought it would be interesting to also publish the questions and answers in full. On Friday at 11a PST, I'll be answering questions live on the Sprouter site on my profile. Hope to see you there.
A: I'm not sure I really thought about an entrepreneur as a distinctive type of person. My parents encouraged my siblings and I to do business-type endeavors from a young age, but always with a focus on the craft as opposed to the economics. So, we ran lemonade stands when we were little, baked bread for a nearby campground in middle school, and grew flowers and melons one summer in high school. In all of these things, the goal was to produce something of quality that people would want to purchase. Then in eleventh grade (1996, I think), some friends and I started a web business in the attic of my parents' century-old farmhouse. With no small amount of struggle, that business eventually morphed into a company called silverorange. But, back to the original question, I'm not sure I'd even call myself an entrepreneur first and foremost ? I'm a designer who helped start a few companies.
A: Back in 1996, some friends and I started a little company called Whitelands Studio. We had figured out that the Canadian government was offering grants for teams to digitize museums' collections. So, for several summers we secured grants and worked with a local museum to create websites showcasing their exhibits. This was great work (and it paid better than flipping burgers!) and we learned a great deal about building websites and running a team, which was the reason the grants existed in the first place. After a few years, another local company contracted us to work on a fairly ambitious e-commerce system. Ultimately, that system turned out to be to be ahead of its time, but our teams worked well together and we merged teams to form silverorange in 1999. Since 2007, I've played a more back-seat role in the team. The other founders and I meet occasionally to discuss broad strategy.
A: Great question, but a big one. Prince Edward Island has a population of ~120,000 people and is a two hour flight from large cities like Montreal and Toronto. There are only a few web companies that operate from Charlottetown, so you can be both physically and intellectually isolated in many ways. But! It's a beautiful place and the lifestyle there is very relaxed and extremely affordable. Recruiting talent is surprisingly easy with good computer science programs. It's absolutely possible to start a world-class company there, as silverorange has proven, but there are some challenges.
San Francisco, on the other hand, has obvious benefits such as strong networks, ready cash, and a culture where risks are encouraged. However! It's very expensive, it's much easier to get distracted from your core work (building products!), it's easy to get sucked into a fishbowl mentality, recruiting is much more competitive, and peer pressure can push you to take stupid risks.
A: Maybe. Digg was my first experience in a small startup and also my first time leading a design team. I benefited greatly from having deep experience in many types of projects before joining Digg. So, if a first-time entrepreneur already has experience building and shipping products, I'd say wholeheartedly that they should join a small startup. However, someone who has little real-world experience would do well to work with more senior people, perhaps. Just don't go to a huge corp where you risk being ignored ? find someone you greatly respect and convince them to take you on as an apprentice.
A: I learned a great deal at Digg as the company grew from just four of us to almost 100 when I left. I learned the value of hiring great teams and how difficult they are to create. I now put much greater emphasis on recruiting, even when I feel too busy to put the time into it. I also learned a lot about decision-making with larger teams. When you're less than 10-14 people, making decisions by fiat is very efficient, but as teams grow it becomes immensely more difficult to still make decisions efficiently without alienating people whose opinions should be heard.
A: We built Pownce with just three people and two of us had demanding full-time jobs. So! The primary thing I learned is... don't start a company when two thirds of you have full-time gigs. It was a demanding couple of years and when I look back, it's incredible how much we actually got built with our small over-worked team. We also learned a lot about community engagement at Pownce. We had a wonderful, passionate, and occasionally rancorous group of users and we had a great relationship with them. From early on, we put emphasis on staying engaged with the community and we brought in a great part-time community manager to help us stay on top of things. This attention made a great deal of difference for the company. Do I think Pownce was a success? Well, I think the product had a great deal of unrealized potential. But! It was a good ride and we all learned a lot from it, which we've exercised in projects since.
A: Starting Milk was a pretty easy decision. Kevin and I had been discussing creating this kind of company for several years and suddenly things aligned where it was possible to go ahead and do it. We've both wanted to work with a small group to execute on several ideas that we've had percolating. Milk gives the ability to focus on several challenges at once with the kind of nimble team that can build kick-ass products.
A: Make friends. I frequently hear from people who have the 'greatest' idea ever and they want to know how to get it built. Ideas really are cheap, building is hard. So, build it yourself or become friends with people who can build it with you. Hiring people to build your product is exactly the wrong approach ? it's expensive and you'll end up with an inferior product. Don't know how to build an app or don't have any friends who can build it with you? Then you're doing it wrong. Quit running around trying to raise VC cash so you can hire that dream team. Go hang out with product builders until you're friends with them and you've learned some technical skills as well. And more thing. Don't 'network' to find technical people ? go out and make real honest-to-goodness friends.
A: Build things. Coming up with the 'greatest' idea isn't as magical as you think it is. Writing up a business plan isn't very helpful. Go out and make a product. Maybe that product won't be your big thing, but you'll learn a ton and each successive product will get continuously better.
A: We're going to take our own advice and build! We have one large idea well into production, another smaller idea three quarters complete, and a few more large ideas in the hopper. Milk doesn't have a five year plan or even a two year plan. We're going to make several projects. When one of them is a success, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Seriously, we're unabashedly figuring it out as we go along, which I think it's the only rational approach.
A few weeks ago, David Gillis interviewed me for UX Magazine. It was one of the first times I've had a solid reason to pull together some of my thoughts about designing the user interface for a game. What's particularly interesting to me are the parallels and contrasts of designing a game's UI vs developing a web application UI.
Anyhow, I actually don't plan to go into great depth into the issue here today, but considering this space has remained long dormant, this is a nudge for myself to perhaps start writing down my thoughts on some of these issues in a more formal way. I'm really looking forward to speaking at In Control Orlando early next year and hopefully I can gather enough ideas to build a new talk.
Rob Goodlatte and I presented a talk on designing for new-user experiences a few days ago at the SXSW conference in Austin. We discussed getting people invested in your web application, finding the 'aha moment' and getting to it as quickly as possible, developing increasingly large feedback loops, and educating your users.
I promised to post the slides, so here they are. The slides are fairly sparse on copy, but luckily Julie from Facebook took extensive notes so you can actually follow along and get something out of the slide presentation even if you weren't there. Thanks so much Julie for doing that — you must have been typing like a mad woman during our talk.
I believe that the SXSW people were recording the talk (microphone squeals in all their glory) and if it comes online, I'll add the link here. Thanks to everyone who squeezed into that little room! Your feedback and critique would be much appreciated.
An update with the transcript originally posted on Facebook follows.
Woooohoooo! At midnight last night, the press embargo was lifted and we announced that Tiny Speck is building a web-based game called Glitch. The short of it: it's a web-based massively multiplayer game mostly in Flash — think World of Warcraft meets Super Mario Bros crossed with a mishmash of online social games and a splash of Dr. Seuss. Check out the teaser trailer and stick your name into the form to get in for early access to the game. I can't wait to let players in to kick the tires.
Daniel Terdiman, a CNET journalist, has written a series of articles explaining the backstory to the game's development. He had great access to Stewart during the past months and the articles give an insightful look behind the scenes.
I'm super excited that we've launched two new sites with two new logos at the same time last night. The Tiny Speck corporate site has been updated and Glitch is now live. For now, both sites are nice, concise one-pagers. It's a lovely challenge to create something unique and concise in the one-page format. I love designing with constraints and that's what one-page-sites are all about.
This was also one of the first times I've started using more CSS3 in public. I've been warming up to RGBA, rounded corners, minor transforms, and advanced selectors more and more. Hopefully we'll have time for a solid practical discussion of these techniques at my workshop next week in Wellington, New Zealand, at Webstock!
We always seem to get lucky with the conditions at baseball games. Well, except for the condition of the guy nearby in the crowd at Blue Jays games. Always the drunk idiot. Otherwise, it's been swell. Like last Sunday. Hoffman coneys. Empire Amber. I've cream for the kids just as a decade ago. An attentive crowd. Knew when to ooh and when to ahh. I am now rooting for Rochester's Jorge Polanco. He looked like he had it all going. Their first baseman is already gone. Kennys Vargas is already back up in the show. Afterwards there were fireworks and patriotic songs. Is that what sets them apart from us? Patriotic songs? Maybe. Even at the mall the next day Ray Charles was singing about America as I shopped for shoes.
Previous celebrations: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2014 and 2015. Unlike last year, this March comes in after a soft winter. Plenty of warm stretches and only one heavy dump of snow in mid-February. No viral plagues. In the furnace room, weights were lifted and planks were even planked. The season's seeds have been in hand for weeks with the package of parsnips showing up just yesterday, last year's crop a few weeks from harvest once the thaw comes. Maple soon.
"He's up by seven," he shouted to the kitchen through his mouthful of toast, the autumn morning light glinting on the plate and mug on the side table.
"Ketchup and what?"
"No - he's up by seven! The kid is up by seven points with Nanos, Ekos and all the other Greek gods!!!"
Nice? What's that supposed to mean. The Governing Party is back on track, at the front steps of kicking the dullards out and all she can muster up is "nice"? He rubbed his chin. Thought for a bit. The Kid's made a big move in the last few weeks. The commies have faded back just enough to provide the necessary support. Another sip of coffee. A leaf fell outside the bay window. Been a long time. Unfold the Globe. Fold it the other way. And all Hap pulls out of his bag of tricks is a stupid cash register clang. Cornered himself. He's cut so much he has nothing much left to cut to tempt the 905. Thought he was cornering the others. Folks are ready to spend. Could be. Could be they're just sick of Hap. Hap looks sick of Hap come to think of it. Toast. Chew.
"Sure thing. You splash some caff in the decaff today?"
"Not with your heart."
"Jeese. No kidding? Got a bit of zip going today."
The new Nanos numbers this morning were not good. Another small slide. When he had called a friend's office later he hadn't been in yet. The voice on the phone had used the words "death march" even with weeks to go. Weeks to go this time could mean weeks to go of this. Or, worse, an "anyone but the NDP" move to the Grits leaving us in the wilderness. Again. It had stung hard to have to listen to Elsie Wayne so often.
Limited upside. Great. And the boss let the message out that he's not perfect. What an interview with Joe Rockhead the other night! I am who I am and that's who I am. People want a Syrian grannie in every church... for God's sake. Somewhere they know they can drop off Timbits or a casserole or a blanket or something to feel good about themselves. Why is that too much to ask?
By the end of 2016, this part of the internets will be no more. The blog posts are being moved to the new home of A Good Beer Blog but this place, this tool that has done such a good job helping me share my thoughts will be turned off. After 3,431 posts and over 13,000 comments on this one blog, time has done what time will do. The server is old. It sits in the offices of my pals, former clients and former co-workers at the web development firm silverorange. For almost 14 years, they have been the greatest server masters a boy could wish for. They have taught me much - and also taught me to figure it out by myself when needed. I will be forever grateful.
Two bits of related US big craft beer industry news this week. First, Japan's Kirin has acquired about 24.9999% of Brooklyn Brewery for an undisclosed sum on largely undisclosed terms. Second, Stone Brewery is laying off 5-6% of their workforce. How about we look at the latter first. Part of the news release states in part:
...the onset of greater pressures from Big Beer as a result of their acquisition strategies, and the further proliferation of small, hyper-local breweries has slowed growth. With business and the market now less predictable, we must restructure to preserve a healthy future for our company...
This is interesting. For some time I have been going on about the schism in craft beer. So long I bored myself with the obviousness of it. This statement confirms it. There are three sorts of craft: macro craft, big craft and micro craft. The one in the middle has the shortest shelf life. Boosters will deny it, but the sales slump for big craft has been a thing for a while. So steps have had to be taken and this is what it looks like after things change at the heart of a business. They are not alone. Remember, just last April, Stone tried to suggest that the outside investment funds they took on were "craft" investments. Silly PR committee. No one believed it. The immediate response today from Jason Alstrom reflected what might be going on: "Typical corporate response ... Does not sound like Stone at all. They are having a tough time wearing those bigboy pants." The CEO is blamed but the Board and ownership set out the tasks for the CEO to complete. Likely for very good reasons given the tired brand and founders.
In the other notable story, Brooklyn has taken Kirin's cash. The transaction's obvious and awkward effort to avoid hitting the 25% share level led me to review the Brewers Association's definition of craft. An American craft brewer must be independent and to be independent...
Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
Notice that careful placement of "or" in that definition. Clearly, it is possible to control more of a craft brewery than owning the same relative measure in shares. How does that occur? By the transaction for the sale of shares including a shareholders' agreement that effectively bars the corporation from doing many things without consent of the otherwise minority shareholder. As a result, the BA's 25% ownership rule is meaningless in the world of creative financing and investment. Strings shall be both pulled and used to tie things down. Jason Notte commented on Twitter on the distinction between ownership and control as a factor in establishing the independence of a brewery:
I often wonder how deeply @BrewersAssoc dives into the details. They have a lot on the plate without auditing every deal.
The Devil is in the details, they say. If the Brewers Association is not able to keep up with the implications of the realities of business like investment terms why bother having the definition at all. Maybe that is the plan for 2017. These are, after all, the days and months of change. The big names of big craft are mostly moving out as the money moves in. It seems that only the man of yogurt is sticking around to bask in the twilight of these dusky days for big craft even after cashing out in his own way. He must be holding out for something more - but what?
I choose the Gose style in particular since it can be approached in so many different ways. Want to talk about the history of the Gose? How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions? How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland? Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity? (OK, that might not be your opinion of the Black IPA, but you get the idea.) Of course, we're all on the look-out for a good Gose, so if there are any you particularly like, we'd love to hear about them.
You will see that I put German in quotation marks. Gose isn't really a German style any more than Black IPA has anything to do with India. One of the most telling things about gose was set out in a recent tweet by Ron Pattinson:
Changing times. I used to wish more Goses were brewed.
Ron pretty much reintroduced at least the English-speaking world to gose with his 2007 post "Gose" but what he described as gose in that post is not really what is called gose today. Does it matter? I live in a town, a region without regular access to Gose. When I think of comparables, I have always ensured I have backup gueuze in the stash but I have never hoarded gose. Not because gose is not interesting. It's just that most gose is not gose. It's a Gatorade alcopop. In just 2010, I could describe gose as "now lost" in my review of a book by Stan - though it was beginning to make craft brewery appearances in a truer form months later. In 2011, it was noted by Pete and Stan that the Oxford Companion to Beer missed, among many things, any reference to gose, though Garrett explained. Then the word "gose" - if not the beer - took off. It was already worth ridicule in 2012. By 2014, I was being offered low alcohol, salty Sunny D in one of the best beer bars in Toronto. Infantiled fruity gak. By 2015, it is the sign of the end times.
I have had lovely light, tangy, sea pinched gose. When it is done with respect, it is singular. Sadly, as with too much with craft beer, the low path is too often taken. The easy option selected. In the hands of a thoughtful brewer with a sense of tradition there is a memorable play of wheat, salt and herb that satisfies. It is fulfilling in a way that never attracts the idea of moreish. If I could I would put a small clay jug of cool real gose on the Thanksgiving* table this weekend to drink along with the turkey and cranberry. If I dared trust the word on the label. Which I don't. So I likely won't. If I could find it.
*Of which the New York Times is suddenly obsessed.
Confession. I have fed Stan in my home. I have been asked by Stan why he bothers discussing things with me. My name appears in this book. I am very fond of Stan. All of which may influence my opinion of his writings, of this book. Along with the fact that this was a review copy kindly forwarded from the publisher. Can't help it. Heck, if I run the photo contest again this Christmas I might just give it away as the only prize. I'm like that.
But let's work around that for the moment. As with his other books for the Brewers Publications series, Stan has written a practical guide. Starting with the second half of the book, we see it contains discussions on foraging, a directory of ingredients one might consider adding to a beer to capture locality in the glass and, then, a collection of brewing recipes - including one for an 1835 Albany Ale supplied by Craig which has its roots in a report to the New York State Senate from that year which I discussed now over six years ago. It is flattering but at the same time something I consider important. Beer and brewing in the north end of the Western Hemisphere has a history which goes back at least 439 years - not counting the Viking expeditions. You would think it was invented by the immigrants who moved here after the varying successes of the 1830s revolutions in Europe. It wasn't.
Much to his credit, Stan goes even further back and documents one beverage of one of the peoples who were here before European colonization: corn-based tiswin of the Apache. He also ties late 1800s Okalhoma choc with the Choktaw people who were relocated in the genocidal trail of tears two generations before. There would have been others - but they were not by any means pervasive according to a Senacan cultural botanist pal of mine. Yet it is hard to believe that the brewers of New Sweden in the 1650s making beer from local pumpkins, corn, persimmons and watermelons didn't learn something from the locals.
What the depth and breadth of Brewing Local conveys is a picture of a complex and largely unexplored understanding of indigenous vernacular brewing on this continent. It is an exciting time to have an interest in such things. Stan emailed me earlier this year that he would have included my idea of "four eras of cream ale" had he come across it in time. I suspect I hadn't even written it in any proper manner before he saw it. Months later, I got to hunting around "cream beer" dating back to the early 1800s with the hints of its pre-lager existence, its earlier German immigrant foundations and its potential links to later 1850s Kentucky Common. All of which might also be worthy of a footnote or two in this book. Had I written it. Had someone - anyone - looked it up. There is so much yet to be pursued.
Which is a good thing. Which makes for a very good book. Because the book is both history and guide, both a "how to" and also a "why" which ties a lot of things together in a way that hasn't been done before. It's a part of a bigger collective work in progress. [I don't find fault that Stan, for example, doesn't mention the reason I think steam beer is called steam beer but that is also part of the bigger working out of things. I could be dead wrong.] Does this make it a milestone book in North American brewing history? Could be. I'll have to read it a more few times to form a full opinion on this book. You should, too.
The tweeted response from Nickel Brook Brewing this morning read "how bout them pumpkins?" It was sent in reply to today's hurried announcement of A Good Beer Blog's Pumpkinness Assurance Certificate Program. The program was launched after many many minutes of study and consumer outreach consultancy upon reading this post by the venerable Boing Boing which explains:
Pumpkin is too watery and stringy to can, and the USDA has an exceptionally loosey-goosey definition of "pumpkin," which allows manufacturers to can various winter squash varieties (including one that Libby's specially bred to substitute for pumpkin) and call it "100% pumpkin."
WHAT??? Boing Boing was/were just quoting an article at Food + Wine which contains this bombastic statement: "pumpkin puree is not pumpkin. It?s squash." Oh gourd - no... we live in a land of LIES!!! Now, as Stan testified a few days ago, pumpkin beers are more popular than the chorus of complaints would have us understand. He told us to look at what people are putting in their shopping carts. Sounds like he should have told us to look at what brewers are putting in their mash tuns.*
How many pumpkin ales are actually being made of this year's pumpkin patch crop as opposed to last year's bucket of miscellaneous variety gourd glop? How many other ingredients in your beer could be treated with such callous disregard? I posted a tweet bearing witness to the scene at Cambridge Brewing Company near MIT in Massachusetts on 18 August 2013. You can click on that thumbnail to see the volunteers at work. How many other craft brewers put in the effort that Nickel Brook and CBC are putting in? Speak up! Do you know of one? Send in some compelling evidence and we can issue an official Proof of Pumpkinness Assurance Certificate Notification. For an unnecessarily large fee I am sure I could even draw, sign and mail a certificate to someone. And make sure you ask to see the paper before you buy your next pumpkin ale. Accept no imitations.
*By the way, I get it. I have seen a Blue Hubbard Squash. I have even grown them. Ugly as sin even if tasty as all get out. No wonder they keep them hidden from view. Might make the greatest ale in the history of mankind but no one is putting that on the label.
The difference between America and Canada is that Americans don't care what the difference between America and Canada is.The second concerns a point that Adams is trying to make:
Adams' method was established in Fire and Ice: he notes at one point that in the U.S. SUVs outsell minivans by two-to-one, whereas in Canada it's vice versa. That's a fact. The fancy is in the meaning he appends to it. "This is a stark difference," he writes, "whose roots can be traced directly to the differing values of our two countries." This assertion seems to have no basis other than a casual assumption that Canadians are more environmentally responsible and thus more concerned with "excessive gasoline consumption, pollution and safety violations."Dhaliwal as a Hamas warlord in a three-ton Cadillac Escalade. Mint.
Isn't there a more obvious correlation? Minivans are cheaper than SUVs, and Canadians have less disposable income than Americans. It's easy to be "socially responsible" if you've got no choice in the matter. On the Continent they're driving around in things the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger's cup holder, so presumably they're more "socially responsible" still. In Canada those who can afford SUVs buy them, it's just that their numbers are smaller. Remember Herb Dhaliwal? Well, no, you probably don't. But a couple of years back M. Chrétien made him minister of natural resources, and he certainly got through a lot of them. He drove around like a Hamas warlord in a three-ton Cadillac Escalade. That's bigger than my SUV and I'm in favour of global warming. The difference is that the high living of a Liberal cabinet minister is confined, north of the border, mainly to Liberal cabinet ministers while down south it's more widely available.
News and Views
Other blogrolls and aggregators
I’ve known Hon. Richard Brown since he was a city councillor in Charlottetown in the 1990s; later on our work lives overlapped when he was working as a systems engineer in the public service and I was working with government on its website. Today he’s both the Member of the Legislative Assembly for my district in downtown Charlottetown and the Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry.
The Iceland Tourist Board is using the upcoming closure of the country’s three McDonald’s franchises as a tourism marketing opportunity:
Iceland is set to lose all three of its McDonald?s locations, all in Reykjavik. Frankly, it always puzzled us why people would want a Big Mac anyway, what with world class gourmet restaurants on every block, the freshest seafood on the planet, and the water ? don?t get us started on how crisp, clean and pure the water is.
I moved into my office on Fitzroy Street in the fall of 2003; it wasn’t too long after that that construction on what insiders called the GOCB ? Government of Canada Building ? and what we now know as the Jean Canfield Building, g
I had an interesting conversation this afternoon with Mike Proud. Mike is the Manager of the Prince Edward Island Office of Energy Efficiency, the provincial agency charged with helping Islanders reduce our energy consumption. Mike’s got a good handle on the Island’s energy profile, and way in which we can use our energy more efficiently. Watch the video of our interview.
As part of my Notes from The Last Time series I sat down last week with Kirk Brown for a conversation about Prince Edward Island, energy, the Institute of Man and Resources, and what lessons we learned from the 1970s energy crisis that we might apply today.