Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I was checking out tweetstats today and realized that it's a fairly good indicator of things I've focused on over the last year and perhaps I could use this as a mirror to reflect on what I might do differently in 2009. I've included the Wordle for 2008 along with a litany of words I would like to appear more/less in 2009.

(deep breath), here goes...

2009 resolution words:
  • fun - while I had a lot of fun in 2008 I apparently didn't tweet enough about them. Next year the fun will be more celebrated.
  • socialmedia - at the core of my business. This was actually fairly big so really trying to continue the trend. I hope to tweet or retweet what's going down in this area.
  • run, swim, bike - all words that will symbolize (my obvious ;) preparedness for some tbd tri event in 2009.
  • metrics - collective intellect is an analytics company. I want to start pushing out some of the more interesting and curious metrics we uncover in the social media landscape
  • meeting - these are fairly mandatory, but hopefully can do with less of them in 2009 and more action
  • blog - retweets of great found blog posts and especially more of my own blog posts
  • writing - ahem, yeah, I need to do more of this overall. not just blogs, but poetry and more (sort of a teaser, I know).
  • music - love finding new artists to listen to. Let's ramp this up a bit ... with a little help from my friends.
  • sucks - seeking balance. post more on the useless, inane, amateur, unfriendly, buzzkill encounters with life. honesty and transparency with humor.
  • yoga - I think I'm destined for this one. I've had a few people wanting to get me into some yoga moves. Do I not look flexible enough??
See you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boulder Ignite 2

With Ignite2 just around the corner, had to give my home girl Tara some props for getting up and giving this presentation comparing the tech startup to doing comedy at the previous Boulder Ignite. I wasn't able to attend the first one but this video is brilliant. Sorry I missed it Tara and will see you all tomorrow night at numero dos.


In early November I had the pleasure of attending the WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) conference out in lovely Las Vegas. Aside from my streak of bad luck in the Vegas casinos the event was fun, well run, informative, and laden with people wanting to crack the social media code for developing and running a successful word of mouth marketing campaign. There were widget companies, PR firms, advertising firms, SEO, SEM, measurement firms, affiliate network companies, and damn near everything in between. But the hottest thing had to be the dog parked in the lot.

The Oscar Meyer wienermobile has been around something like 70 years and still generates smiles, cameras, pointing, and now tweeting. I befriended two of this year's hotdoggers and got the total legit ride in the wienermobile down the strip. The song was blaring and people were looking. This thing just screams word of mouth. well done hotdoggers, well done :)

For those who care the wienermobile blog is alive and well and tracking the vehicle's trajectory at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

VU Meter Flicker Sound

I have dozens of poems and not sure where to go about publishing them, so at risk of alienating the entrepreneur/technologist/socialmedia/triathlon crowd ;) perhaps I'll put a few here. Any and all feedback welcome.

A VU meter flickers.
Out of habit
I cannot walk
Or cry, or shout.
I can no longer
Walk along the deserts
Or tropics of your
In code we trust.
No longer taught
By the hands, the lips,
The bones of our elders.
Indeterminancy corrupts
The spirit yields
To non life forms
Now mobile and embedded
In our structures.
With prescient care she approaches
Wan and recently lost
From the umbilical pixels
Born anew into
Smooth and painful
Analog space.
Her hand now upon my chest
Exploring downward
Hoping for acceptance
Teeth bared I'm
Awakened Awakened
To this new world of old.

copyright 2008 Tim Wolters

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Real Example of the Power of Social Media

The above ad for Motrin went up on their website late yesterday afternoon. After only 20 hours and a huge blogger and twitter outcry, was taken down. Here's a link to one of the bloggers who spoke out. David Armano has provided a more complete analysis of the entire event along with some advice for brands.

Times are indeed changing for companies. Social media's reach and influence is broad and word spreads quickly over loosely knit networks of passionate people.

In addition to David's advice I would say

  1. Get to know the social media community. Find the bloggers in your target market.
    Reach out to them. Ask them what they think of your campaign messaging.
  2. Baseline the community talking about your products and services with social media measurement applications.
  3. Monitor increases in discussion volume and sentiment. Live monitoring will provide an early warning system if an adverse reaction to the campaign forms.
  4. And most importantly, reach out to the community when warranted. Motrin must be commended for their genuine outreach once they determined the ad wasn't being well received.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

11+ tips to help survive the downturn from John Doer

Came across this blog entry from recording the 11 things John Doer says entrepreneurs should do to survive in an economic downturn. I've copied below and you can get to the full post here. Thanks for blogging this Christine.

  1. Don't take a meat cleaver to the core of your business; use a scalpel when making changes.
  2. Cut once, and cut deeper than you need to.
  3. Keep 18 months of cash flow, being conservative on cash flow from revenue.
  4. Defer facilities expansion – don’t spend money on tech or physical expansions.
  5. Reevaluate R&D priorities.
  6. Renegotiate all contracts that you have, even leases.
  7. Remember that everyone in the company needs to be selling the value proposition.
  8. Offer people equity instead of cash – e.g., equity bonuses.
  9. Secure the cash with things like government-backed securities.
  10. Figure out what the leading indicators are for your business so that you can react quickly when things don’t turn out.
  11. Communicate honestly with everyone, including all employees, and don’t sugarcoat things.
I really like 11 and think it builds respect and trust. We're all in the boat together after all.

I would say two additions are:
  • Truncate deals that are not core to your value proposition. Unless you are still firmly in experimental mode with plenty of cash and small burn SELL WHAT YOU HAVE! Also goes back to the tenets of Focus, Focus, Focus
  • Pay attention to cost of sales - do you need to travel or can more be squeezed out of inside selling efforts?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama leading in the blog wars

Collective Intellect posted our take on the election from a quantitative evaluation of social media perspective. We compared Colorado blogs to blogs across the nation to determine both the buzz around the candidates and net sentiment towards each candidate. The result was a Barack Obama lead by nearly 10 percentage points. Read the full blog post here.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Sent from my iPhone- Just finished up an interesting breakfast with the head of
research for SAP -thanks Vista Ventures!- and walking to work caught
this shot of boulder creek. Has been a beautiful fall here and puts
the financial climate in perspective. Have a great Halloween everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama - Palin

Sent from my iPhone- Saw this sign in an optical shop window in NYC. Too funny.

Techno trash

Sent from my iPhone- note the Enterprise Java Beans book in the lower left of the
picture. Just below it are a stack of Encyclopedia Britannicas from
the 70s. Apropos.

Hotel Lobby, Redeye Daze

Sent from my iPhoneHanging out in the lobby of the west side central park Woogo. Caught
the redeye into NYC this morning for a quick two days of meetings. Am
thinking through a blog entry on search but feeling a little fuzzy ;)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

focus, focus, focus

I'm sure all of you have seen the "RIP goodtimes" slide deck from Sequoia a couple of weeks ago. Well here's another deck that someone presented last week at the Web 2.0 Expo in Europe. It underscores some of the recommendations in the Sequoia deck but also gives a positive spin on why this is the best time to make advances in the market. Stay Lean, Stay Strong, Deliver Value. These are tough times but the worse the situation, the greater the opportunity.

Thoughts on European Start Ups

From: cape, 4 days ago

Thoughts on European Start Ups
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: startups vc)

SlideShare Link

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Banner Ad Protest

I noticed this morning that my blog is now almost exclusively running a banner advertisement for These guys are a well funded interest group to promote conservative values and while I share the fiscal responsibility portion (i.e. libertarian) of the conservative agenda, the kind of pro-war fear mongering this promotes is sickening. Check your blog ads. Until google allows me to edit which ads appear in the banner I'm taking 'em down...

Of note, as reported by the Politico, the Democratic Chairman of the DCCC, Chris Van Hollen, has taken notice of Freedoms Watch:

According to Van Hollen, one of several factors that helped Republicans in Ohio was the third-party money spent by Freedom's Watch, a conservative organization headed by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. The group spent in the six-figures on an anti-Weirauch attack ad accusing her of supporting "free healthcare for illegal aliens."

"As we saw again in OH-05, our main competition is likely to be Republican 527s, not the NRCC. This cycle Republican 527s have pledged more than a quarter billion dollars toward beating Democrats," Van Hollen wrote in the memo.

The chairman predicted that Freedom's Watch is prepared to spend "an additional $200 million" against Democrats this election cycle.

Further proof that Chris Van Hollen still doesn't really know what he's talking about, Freedoms Watch is actually a 501(C)4 and not a 527.

But seriously: $200 million to help defeat Democrats, folks. That's going to change the landscape for 2008.

The mission of Freedoms Watch:

Freedom's Watch was formed to promote the common good and general welfare of the American people by supporting mainstream conservative public policies. We engage in grassroots lobbying, education and information campaigns, and issue advocacy to further our goals and objectives. We also seek to create coalitions and collaborate with like-minded groups and individuals to further our common goals. Freedom's Watch provides a credible conservative voice and strong leadership on pressing domestic and international issues to keep America strong, safe, and prosperous.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Signs you are no longer in a startup

You wake up one day and the company you started is no longer in it's infancy. This didn't really happen overnight but somehow it feels like it. I sat down with another local entrepreneur for a cup of coffee the other day and created this list of signs that you're no longer in startup mode. That doesn't mean you don't still have a sense of urgency or passion, just that you've passed into another phase of company building and all that comes with it.

  • You have meetings about meetings
  • You have revenues and are less worried about eyeballs or page views than revenue growth
  • There are people working at the company you haven't yet met
  • The whiteboards are better than the mylar sheet you can buy at home depot for $20
  • More than one conference room
  • The board is made up of more investors than entrepreneurs
  • Sales people
  • A second office somewhere else on the planet
  • COO
  • A formalized vacation policy
  • Not sure what other people at the company are doing over the weekend
  • Rotten food in the fridge. (also a sign that people are beginning to think that others will take care of things)
  • Printer is almost always out of paper when I go to print something (see previous point)
  • Someone you randomly meet at a conference has heard of your company
  • Other companies are calling your company seeking partnership
  • Expense checks are doled out on schedule
  • More than one floor in your office space
  • Company events have become more generalized to meet the interests of the larger group
  • You've become self conscious of saying "fuck" in the office
I'm certain there are at least 100 others I've left off...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Context, the new foo

It's a beautiful New England early fall evening, the sun is setting behind the trees as I make my way up the coast on an Acela regional train. The world is made and remade moment by moment in a clear stream of context. Each contiguous instant derives some, if not most, of it's meaning the previous instant. This is how the human brain makes sense of the world. By recognizing the temporal patterns that occur in events, we recognize what should happen next. For instance when I watch someone throw a ball I intuitively know how high it will go relative to other objects and where it will likely land. If the ball were to hang in the air after the throw we would suspect that the laws of physics had been suspended or perhaps feel like we had gone to sleep and passed into the dream world. This type of unexpected event would leave us on edge, uneasy, confused and untrusting of the world around us. I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.

The hanging baseball is a constant problem in the world of software. In fact it is more of an annoyance than cognitive dissonance since we are so used to this problem. We see it so often that we come to expect the problem. What I'm talking about is losing complete context when we jump from one application to the next. There are simple cases like when searching for airfares on Kayak, you find a flight on United and when you link off to the United site it DOESN'T have the flight you selected from Kayak at the top. Or you are searching for hotels on another travel site and it doesn't maintain the check-in/check-out dates in-between searches. Tougher instances are between web apps, like booking airfare on one site and then going to another to book hotels. Knowing full well that you just booked a roundtrip flight to Seattle, the browser should automatically fill in the city and check-in/check-out dates for you. And these are just the dead simple things software should be helping us out with by maintaining context and anticipating what we need next. This not only helps the individual but should lead to better targeting of advertisements providing advertisers with more effective communication to their audience, better click through rates, and higher ad revenue for site publishers. There are so many of these examples it could drain the entire coffers of VC funds for the next 10 years.

Think about the way in which we manage contacts. I look them up in my Mac Address Book but then I need to go to half a dozen places to gather information before I make the call. I want it to automatically fetch any information in about the contact, their notes, the last time they were contacted and by whom. I also want it to pull up any emails I've sent to them recently and any to-do's i have entered around this account. I want a link to their website up and ready, a stock quote handy, and any recent news items and blog posts. I WANT MY SOFTWARE TO BE INTELLIGENT. Not that crazy HAL kind of intelligence that reads lips and wants to kill me, or the manic-depressive Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide, but the uncomplaining intelligent assistant who anticipates my needs, brings it all together and makes my life simpler. Is that really too much to ask?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First gen iphone redux recall

Loaded the iphone 2.0.1 firmware up the other day and must say I've seen a dramatic improvement in the freezing and other problems I described in my previous post. Good job Apple for getting a fix out there fairly quickly. Please bake the next major release a bit longer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Crazy Dog Company Hike

Just finished another annual Collective Intellect company hike. This year we started up at the Moffat Tunnel East Portal. This is really close to Rollins Pass and where the train passes through the continental divide. Was a beautiful day and a wonderful hike. We had been going for about two hours and paused while some of the guys who were camping for the night pitched their tents.

About four of us where standing around talking near one of the lakes when a golden retriever came bounding out of the woods and right up to us. Goldens are normally very congenial dogs as everyone knows but this one dove straight into the backpack of one of the hikers, fished around for a couple of seconds and came out with a peanut butter sandwich vised in it's mouth. I think everyone was frozen in shock except for Paul, who just looked down and deadpanned, "That's my sandwich." I jumped in and tried to pry the sandwich from the dogs mouth when I heard the owner start to yell at her dog repeatedly, "drop it, Drop It, DROP IT!"

The dog finally did drop the sandwich and the woman handed the mangled package back to Paul. Paul asked if he could go ahead and give the dog the sandwich and the owner, completely serious, said, "He doesn't eat people food" I was about ready to die with laughter at this point and told her that her dog certainly new what he was doing and looked like a natural at the people food business. Perhaps it was one of those situations where you just had to be there but we were all in tears laughing. Classic moment of the hike for me. And much better than previous classic moments where we were almost struck by lightening!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NYC show of force

On the corner of fashion ave and 34th. About 10 police cars in a row
all with lights and sirens on. A passerby said it was a "show of force"

Thinking about rage against the machine lyrics...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Orange Rhyming Birthday

I awoke this morning, on my birthday with the Jets to Brazil song Orange Rhyming Dictionary running through my head. It's raining in Boulder, I'm not with the person who has given me so much love over the last year, my parents are in town, and my aunt just passed away so they'll need to leave early to attend the funeral. It's one of those birthdays, or just one of those mornings where everything doesn't quite feel in sync.

Jets to Brazil Lyrics
Orange Rhyming Dictionary Lyrics

Saturday, August 09, 2008

iphone subway music debacle

I'm ready to trade my iPhone 3G back for my old iPhone. It's slow, the native apps freeze up, the signal isn't as good. This one needs to go back in the oven for a while. My most recent "fun with the iPhone" occurred last Wednesday on a trip to New York City. I was staying on the upper west side around 96th street and needed to get downtown to Soho. I jumped on the subway, ran through the turnstile and got on the train. This was probably going to be about a 15 minute ride or so, so why not try out the new Tetris game on my iPhone I thought. I fired the app up, it got about mid-way through the opening credits and froze. I hit home. I hit the tetris app again. This time it got all the way through and as the first block started to trickle down froze once again. I hit the home key. This time, instead of going to the home screen it decided to pop into itunes and start randomly playing songs. And it was completely frozen. Couldn't turn it off, couldn't change the volume, couldn't change apps. It started off playing some Coltrane which the people traveling with me may not have minded, or so I imagined, but by the time I got to my destination it had switched to hard core Metallica. I had never hard reset my old iphone so tried a combination of buttons and nothing. I was pretty much stuck just covering the speaker ports. You might ask why I didn't plug in my headphones, but I didn't have them. I finally got to the office where I was headed, checked the internets and reset the damn thing. (wow, I really sound like a Luddite!)

Try again Apple!!

On the upside, I really dig the UrbanSpoon app. I haven't actually visited a restaurant yet that it recommends, but damn cool app.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CTO Series - Describing the Problem

In a prior blog post I talked about the necessity of keeping a log of business ideas. Many ideas will die on the vine, consumed by wrongtime-wrongplace syndrome, lack of knowledge, or passing interest. A few however, will take on a life of their own. You will start to envision how this idea could come to life and why it changes everything. It grabs hold of you. In most cases, or perhaps the best cases, it solves some personal pain point in your life. Once the emotional hook is set it's time to take a rational view of the idea and start to develop a business plan.

The first step is to describe the problem in an unbiased way. It's easy to become biased once you become emotional about your idea. Think about whether the problem is generalized or specific (to you), whether others would consider it to be a problem or an inconvenience, who benefits from the solution, who doesn't want the problem solved, and why the problem has not been solved before. With all of these things in mind do a brain dump. Write whatever enters your head. Try to write 1000 words or more. Write the good and the bad, the fears, the warts, and the gems.

If this exercise hasn't frightened you from your emotional perch then it's time to boil the text into two to three sentences with the final goal being to come up with one perfect aha sentence. First highlight all of the sentences that are hurdles to implementation. These might look something like, "It will take more than 24 hours to scrape the entire web" or "the packaging will be too expensive to safely transport the vegetables across the country". These will be used in the next major step, Identifying the Solution. Throw the hurdles out for the purposes of the current exercise. Of the remaining text highlight the sentences that sound like they cause pain, "When searching the web people have to sift through too much crap" or "Vegetables at my local market are always nearly rotten."

Take the litany of pain and transform it into two to three concise sentences restating the pain. This is where you pull in some trusted advisors and talk them through the idea and pain points. See if they agree or have other ideas about your pain points. If they turn their nose then you should take another hard look at your idea. Was there something obvious you were missing out on. Think about the idea some more and perhaps put it back on the shelf for a little while, attaching all of the notes you've made. Ideas need momentum in order to become real. They feed on other's enthusiasm. If the people you trust get excited, they will be willing to help you in the future, which will lead to other doors being opened. Once you've passed this test boil your problem down to a single compelling concept or pain point if possible. Use the concept as your first slide of your business plan deck. Keep all of the sentences you like describing the pain symptoms. They will become your talking points. Now fire up your favorite mind mapping tool or pen and paper and go!

Veni, vidi, vici!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

business plan or powerpoint?

Here's the transcript from an IM conversation I had with a friend today regarding business plans.

friend: hey, you have any business plan docs laying around?
friend: that you could share
TimothyJ: you want some sort of template?
friend: no, looking for a real one
friend: that people actually used
friend: and that doesn't suck
friend: i can find templates, but I'd like to see what a real one looks like
TimothyJ: ok. let me see if i can dredge an early copy up. i'm not a huge fan of business plans however. I think there's an internal document you create for brainstorming purposes and then you boil that down into slideware
TimothyJ: you can pretty much use Guy Kawasaki's art of the start as a template for that
friend: ah, interesting
friend: well most of the standard stuff that people put in there is BS
friend: projections of revenue, hiring, etc
friend: but seems like investors want it
friend: even though they know the #s are wrong
friend: way way wrong
friend: vision isn't BS of course
TimothyJ: state your problem, why you are uniquely positioned to solve it, IP, market size, how much it will cost to ramp, a good plan for doing that ramp on a milestone basis
friend: ya, sounds reasonable
TimothyJ: yeah, the investors want to see it's a big market to go after so that's the top down market analysis
TimothyJ: then you do a revenue swag based on percent of market with some sort of ramp the investors can swallow
TimothyJ: first year is to nail down early adopter accounts (and build out product)
TimothyJ: not big revenue expectations
TimothyJ: 2nd year (in your model) would be channel sales relationships and proving out the sales/delivery model are repeatable
TimothyJ: 3rd year is revenue growth, showing scalability
friend: that sounds like a reasonable model
TimothyJ: brainstorm all that, condense it into a deck, and then go practice pitch it to a friendly vc
As you can see, pretty straight forward stuff. I think people get too caught up in creating a comprehensive business plan. In a software startup you need a thesis (the problem), you need to figure out why you have a clear chance of building out what's needed (risk mitigation), and why this grand product will cause people to separate themselves from their money (high value). I think the business plan is a great exercise in force thinking through the business. It just changes so many times over the course of the first 18 months or so it's better to think in terms of slide decks or mind maps.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Henry rollins and me

Wow, one of my punk idols used to stay, at this, the last available
hotel in Soho.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Passive voice is a form of aggression

This sign was posted on the bathroom wall inside Forrester. I'm not
sure what destructive behavior the employees are engaged in but I love
the graffiti comment scrawled across the top.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Forrester Meeting

I had a great meeting with Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell today. Josh has a lot on his hands lately with the announcement that Charlene Li and Peter Kim are leaving. Was an informative meeting and always great to work with the people at Forrester. Good luck Josh.

Where am I?

Reasons Collective Intellect is the best

I was in a meeting earlier this week strategizing on an RFP response.
My 9 year old daughter was at the office with me and asked me to
explain what we were trying to do. I told her we wanted to explain to
the other company why we were the best solution. Several minutes
later she pushed a notebook towards me (see above). Incredible! I'm
going to have to put her on payroll...

Looks like the pic is kinda hard to read so here's the list:

1. The best employies [sic]
2. They pull the best info together
3. They pick the finest blogs
4. They give information about everything
5. They give info about the company, it's competitors, and the company's stregths [sic]

truly awesome :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I was interviewed the other day by local Colorado marketing blogger Marie Rotter about how Collective Intellect is helping companies track, understand, and engage with social media. It's fun doing interviews with bloggers who are trying to spread the social media word. Very meta I guess. Social media on social media.

I also, ordered Charlene Li's book called, "GroundSwell" off of Amazon today. I recently sat on a panel with Charlene, looks like it has great reviews, and am looking forward to sitting down with it somewhere over America in the near future.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Found this gem on Metzger's blog this morning. Instapaper let's you store things in a folder that you want to read later. It sort of a simple workflow that just creates a list of things and let's you work through it, crossing things off as you've read them. Great idea and much better than bookmarking. The only things it's currently missing IMHO are tagging and sharing. I want to tag things inside to delicious so that I can retrieve them again in the future and I'd like to either share my whole folder, or tag items as shared and share that folder with the public, or email one or more of the items in my list to other people. These shared lists I would then like to widgetize and put up on my blog or facebook page. Let's see if Instapaper is listening...

CTO Series - Out of the Goo

At the outset a company needs a huge amount of energy from a very small set of people to have any sort of chance of making it through the first year. My companies have been fairly complicated software affairs and so much of the energy input has been in the initial product buildout to sufficiently demonstrate the idea. So, in those early heady days of whiteboard brainstorming, myth making, protean moneyless, nothing-else-exists, insomniac haze, everything draws your attention. Servers need to be built. There is no data center so the servers sit half tilted on the desk next to you humming away. Source control needs to be set up. The beginnings of an architecture need to be laid down. You set up the company's email and website. There is no marketing, no sales department, no one booking your flights. You beg and borrow from friend's time to help with various aspects. You push friends and family to the limits of their patience. And you code like crazy, pulling all nighters when you're on a roll and some thorny problem is nearly within your grasp. You're in every aspect of the product, pushing each just far enough along to get that primal system to crawl up out of the digital goo limping into reality.

Key take-aways:
  • The early days of startups can get you distracted in a thousand directions so build a plan
  • The plan should be optimized to get you into discussions with *real* customers as soon as possible to validate the value
  • Don't fall in love with your plan, it will change, perhaps daily some weeks
  • Build top 10 lists. There's a hell of a lot to accomplish. Figure out what matters most to the plan and create a top 10 list.
  • In the list take on the hard problems yourself, delegate the easy ones
  • Lead by example. Push people but don't expect them to work harder than you do.
  • Have someone tend to the business. Incorporation, setting up health insurance, getting office space, chairs, and printers, and a checking account are not where you add value
  • Communicate. Constantly elaborate on the vision to any one who will listen and primarily anyone in your startup. This will help you in the evangelism phase later. Things that seem like really great ideas in your head sometimes fail the test when you have to communicate them out loud. This forces you to think through the problem in greater detail.
  • Don't get distracted. Don't look at your email when you're focusing on the product. If someone has a question that doesn't need to be addressed right away tell them you'll get back to them. Let people know when it's ok or not ok to come ask you questions. Wear a set of headphones when you don't want to be interrupted even if you're not listening to anything. Most people won't bother you if you have headphones on (same as on a flight).

Once this is accomplished the road show begins and you spend a lot more time talking to people than writing code. In order for your company to survive you must raise money, either by selling some form of the product, or taking in venture capital. This slows you down to a crawl but gives a lot of perspective on the value of your creation and gives you time to digest the market and what might be important. It also preps you for the next stage in the company's development, R&D growth. Rest here on the bank for a just a moment. There's a lot more evolution coming.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Twitter Micro Markup

Just like the semantic web I think Twitter would benefit tremendously from introducing a micro markup language that monitoring tools could use to pick up data more accurately. It's a fairly hard problem to parse blogs and tag them with semantic and qualitative data. Now think about shrinking that text down to 140 characters and you really don't have a hell of a lot to work with. If we introduce an abbreviated name-value system inside our tweets we can convey a ton of rich information that will be easier to get the message across to the companies and services that anger and overjoy us, events we're attending, observations we make, etc. It's time to take the next step with Twitter.

I think it would be simplest to put an abbreviated 2 letter type code at the start of the message with a sentiment symbol next (+ = good, - = bad, / = neutral), and the subject that you will be talking about. For instance I just got back from a trip to Minneapolis. My flight was delayed again (probably my fourth flight in a row on United that was delayed).

I twittered the following: "RV-UAL another trip, another flight delay on United". In the first 6 characters I know that this is a review of United Airlines and it is negative. Simple, brief, easy for both humans and machines to parse and interpret.

The codes I'm thinking of are:
OB = observation
EV = Event
RV = Review

If it's an event, perhaps the standard could be to create the event in facebook and snurl it for the event subject. what are some others? Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Horoscope du jour

You know how sometimes you check your horoscope and it just seems so dead on it's freaky. I was out at a local coffee shop (my favorite, The Cup) and happened to glance down at today's Boulder Weekly while waiting for my delicious sandwich. It was the horoscope page and being a person of superstition I picked it up. Here's what it said:

This would be a perfect time for you to write your ultimate personal manifesto. I'm talking about composing a sweeping statement of the core ideas that fuel your lust for life. To get you in the mood, take a look at the following lyris from Danny Schmidt's song "Company of Friends."

I believe in restless hunger
I believe in private thunder
I believe in inspiration
I believe in slow creation
I believe in lips on ears
I believe in being wrong
I believe in contradiction
I believe in being smitten
I believe our book is written by our company of friends

This could be the song of my life over the past year. I need to get to work on that manifesto right away.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Idea

I wanted to start writing a little bit about the role of a CTO in a startup company. There's a wide range of behaviors in that role from the more execution oriented engineering manager to inventing a fair amount of the technology to a visionary steward who directs the company towards the optimum market value. I have played many roles in multiple companies across this continuum and wanted to get a few thoughts down that may be of help to others out there trying to make sense of this elusive function.

A CTO is the Chief Technology Officer in the company. In more well established companies this is a contributing role that would typically report up through the Chief Information Officer (CIO). In a technology startup, the CTO role is critical for the successful launch of the company. It all starts with the idea, and in many cases the CTO is not only the founder but the individual who had the idea and the knowledge to determine whether implementing the idea is likely. For the moment though I would like to set aside the notion of solution probability.

Ideas often start with personal pain. Engineers, or rather inventors are inherently lazy. When confronted with a problem, an inventor will ironically go to great lengths, often expending much more energy than giving in to the brute force approach, to try to find a short cut solution. The brainstorming that follows traverses a series of what if's with numerous cerebral dead ends. The beauty of this stage is in the search for the possible and you may have no f*cking clue how likely a solution is but are making probability guesses based upon incomplete knowledge. For instance, in my last company, Dante Software, I had just finished reading the O'Reilly book on Perl for Bionformatics. I was currently the CTO of a Web 1.5 services company where we built Commerce, Content, and Community sites. I'm going to give myself a smallish bit of credit here for incorporating community directly in the site, although I didn't recognize the importance it was going to play in the future. Anyway, we would continually have issues with system performance and outages that impacted the business. The aha moment came after reading the bioinformatics book and realizing that the web business and it's integration to traditional parts of the business had become specialized and the interactions complicated enough that a similar model in bioinformatics to track protein-protein interactions for disease detection was not all that far off from what I was trying to solve. That is, I wanted to detect problem conditions that could impact the business before they became problems for my customers without having to know what alert thresholds to place on every possible metric in the underlaying IT stack.

Now I have a big hairy problem. There's nothing out there solving it (as far as we know). And there's a solution model in a completely different space that looks like it might be adaptable or at least used as a guide for my problem. Aha, idea born. This could work! The next step is to reverse engineer the problem and map to the proposed solution to come up with a reasonable guess as to how it might work. Then researching whether something already exists that may be close enough or could get there faster than you. And SWAG (silly wild ass guess) how long it would take you to prototype. But these are market and time to market questions. I'll address those later. It's a great feeling just to sit with your idea for a bit and relish the brilliance of it before taking that next scary step of analysis. This will be a long road. Right now you need to build up your confidence to herculean levels :)

I remember once telling a VC at this stage about an idea and they said how about company X, haven't they been working on something similar for the last few months. Knowing the people in the other company and having an inflated sense of confidence in my ability to get this idea off the ground, I looked him straight in the eye and said "We'll crush them". ;)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

History of Wikipedia

One of the things we monitor at Collective Intellect is Web 2.0 technology and trends. I came across this video using our tool today. It's a great piece on the history of wikipedia and how Web 2.0 changes our collective future. Web 2.0 is the ultimate democratization of information on the planet and that changes everything. It is indeed an exciting time to be alive!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

the moon has no name

My daughter Emma was working on a science project today focusing on the solar system. She was wondering whether the moon had any other name than "moon." As it turns out, no. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia.

Unlike the moons of other planets, the moon of the Earth has no proper English name other than "the Moon

This struck her as grossly unfair. Being a person of action she decided to campaign for our moon to be named and added the following to the wikipedia discussion page on the moon.

etymology addendum

I propose that the moon be given the name lyftstan (pronounced lift-stan). This would roughly translate into the phrase sky rock in Anglo-Saxon. Since the earth derives its name from Anglo-Saxon and unfairly does not have its own name this seems like a good choice. Any other thoughts?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

primaries too close to call - but we did

We just posted a primary prediction on our corporate blog for Texas and Ohio. While it's very close, our man Yordy has put his name on the line and made a prediction.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bitch is the New Black

Tina Fey is absolutely brilliant. Tina returned to host SNL this past weekend and took back her position as Weekend Update anchor. (TG the writer's strike has come to an end). Talking directly to the audience in a tight shot, she whipped out the best stump speech for Hillary that I've heard. Unfortunately the video has been pulled from YouTube and I couldn't find it on NBC's site but here's the transcript I found on MyDD:


FEY: And finally, the most important Women’s News item there is, we have our first serious female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton.

And yet, women have come so far as feminists, that they don’t feel obligated to vote for a candidate just because she’s a woman.

Women today feel perfectly free to make whatever choice Oprah tells them to.

Which raises the question, why are people abandoning Hillary for Obama?

Some say that they’re put off by the fact that Hillary can’t control her husband, and that we would end up with co-presidents.

‘Cause that would be terrible, having two intelligent, qualified people working together to solve problems. Ugh.

Why would you let Starsky talk to Hutch? I wanna watch that show, Starsky.

You know, what is it, America? What is it, are you weirded out that they’re married?

‘Cause I can promise you that they are having exactly as much sex with each other as George Bush and Jeb Bush are.

Then there is the physical scrutiny of her physical appearance.

Rush Limbaugh, the Jeff Conaway of right wing radio, said that he doesn’t think America is ready to watch their president quote “turn into an old lady in front of them.” Really?

They didn’t seem to mind when Ronald Reagan did that.

Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch.

Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is.

And so am I and so is this one. (pointing to Amy Poehler)

POEHLER: Yeah, deal with it.

FEY: Know what? Bitches get stuff done.

(Amy says yeah and starts nodding her head, together they get in a rhythm, with Amy saying in response, more yeahs, uh huhs, with a 'you go girl' style)

Like back in grammar school,

they could have had priests teaching you but, no,

they had those tough old nuns who slept on cots

and who could hit ya and you HATED those bitches

But at the end of the school year

you sure KNEW the capital of Vermont!

So COME ON Texas and Ohio

Get on board, it's not too late!...


Friday, February 22, 2008

Academy Award blogularity

Just wrote up a blog entry analyzing what the blog crowd thinks about the movies and individuals nominated for the Academy Awards on Sunday night. We built out topics that covered each movie/individual that also talked about the Awards. We were then able to pull out the ones for each topic that favored the movie/individual versus whether the author thought they would win the award. We also did one case where we weighted the blog influencers more in this voting scheme. There were some pretty interesting results. I've posted the best movie here. To check out the full listing go to Collective Intellect blog.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

fuck it, I'll fund that

Was just sent this hilarious post on t-shirts for VC's. The site is for real. Too funny. I especially liked the story at the end about how David Cowan at Bessemer Venture Partners passed on google. I also noticed that they have an homage to my friend Brad Feld with a "treadputer" shirt.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Incredible Mii

I was playing the Wii this weekend with my daughter. It turns out she is fascinated by creating Mii's at least as much as playing the games. There is endless body hacking potential and just like real life we're never quite satisfied with the way we look. There's also a Mii parade so if you're a networked Wii then your Mii's can wander off to other Wii's and join their parades. At one point Emma saw a couple of bubbles appear over two Mii's just milling around. Perhaps they talk to one another when we're away? The Singularity is near and it has a jaunty bounce.

internal dialogue at work

I've been slowly increasing meditation time each week and am now doing morning and night. I can only seem to stay focused on my breath for a few seconds when my mind starts to wander. At this point, quieting my mind against the onslaught of hypertext hyperthought is daunting. My only hope is in the fact that I do recognize that it wanders and can bring it back. I've been counting my breaths to 21 and starting over to try to focus and this seems to help but then I will inevitably start to focus on the counting of the breaths instead of the breath itself.

I'm an information junkie so everything captures my attention and nothing holds it. Since beginning the meditation practice I've noticed this at work and with other tasks as well. I can't just hold myself to the task at hand. My mind is racing along the thousand things I need to do in my personal and work life. How will I get them all done? Oh, I forgot about that task and it needs to be done today. Drop the current task and focus on the new one. Someone calls, someone twitters, or im's or drops by my desk. And the process starts all over again.

The last time I was in meditation class, two weeks ago, the instructor talked about being in the present moment for each thing we do and used driving as an example. We often put ourselves on autopilot while driving and are rarely present unless something out of the ordinary happens. The instruction was to really think about driving while driving. I need to put this into action at work to fully engage a task, driving other thoughts from my mind before moving on.

Another class tonight. I need it :)

one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What's up with bathroom attendants

I guess this is rant day, since following my time suck post I have a not so serious question about bathroom attendants. What is the deal with you guys? What purpose do you serve? I'm pretty sure I can get the soap out and turn on the faucet for myself. I do it often. And can I please get a towel that you haven't touched? Thanks very much. And now I'm supposed to tip you?

I know you guys have to make a living but come on.

Time Suck #3: Parking

Holy *%&(((^$$$&^ what a pain in the ass it has become to park at DIA. The last time I parked there (which I do practically every week) I drove through all of the west side short term parking, spending about 15-20 minutes trying to find a spot. I finally exited the parking structure to go find a spot in long term which was also full. I then had to go park at the off airport long term parking lot and take a bus in. You might note that this is just a special case of the driving time suck, but it can actually be infinitely more frustrating since you drive around in pointless circles thus aggravating time suck into time suck rage.

I'm not sure what the solution is other than to say, save the planet, save your sanity, and if possible take public transport. I have not taken this advice myself but am seriously considering it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Money:Tech 2008 Panel

I sat on the "Building a Better Information Beast" panel at O'Reilly's Money:Tech conference this week in NY. Other participants were Randall Winn of Capital IQ, Kevin Pomplun of SkyGrid, Renny Monaghan of and moderated by Rob Passarella of Bear Stearns. The panel was a good one and Rob was a very engaging moderator. I'm still not quite sure why Salesforce was on the panel but what the hell right? Capital IQ is an obvious choice for a next generation Bloomberg. They have most of the data, can acquire what they don't have, can move faster than Bloomberg, smart guys, etc. SkyGrid is in the midst of closing their A round and want to be the unstructured information aggregator, probably most directly competive with InfoNGen. Near the end of our discussion Rob asked the panel how all of this would come together. Would companies need to assemble it themselves out of the pieces or will someone emerge that will bring it all together. The obvious answer is the latter. It's too big of a market, too big of an opportunity for someone not to put this all together. The big question is when. The data companies need to make their data more open and "mashable." and then will need some way to link context between the data sets. The obvious answer for the financial market is by ticker+exchange or some more consistent code like a cusip since tickers change from time to time. This is a fairly complicated problem with unstructured data however since you need to determine whether what people are talking about should be assigned to a specific ticker. For instance if someone is talking about Chinese manufactured pet food, should you assign this to all pet food tickers? Should you just assign to the pet food tickers that private label the Chinese manufacturer's product? Should you not assign to a ticker at all? As it turns out contextual integration is fuzzy. There needs to be a variable association from tight to loose that we commonly refer to as relevance in search. You can also think of this as "relationship strength." We've attempted to do this with our ranking engine at Collective Intellect but in order for this to work in a mashable way we will all need to agree on a common key in the information taxonomy and a normalized value for relationship strength in order to bring all of this information together in a meaningful way. We're getting there and work at companies like Metaweb are helping to think through this but I'm afraid we're still years away.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

There Will Be Blood

The movie was amazing. Daniel Day Lewis is an artist. I also thought Paul Dano was good as the preacher, although the symmetrical lashing he gives Daniel Day Lewis' character in the church is not nearly as powerful repayment as the scene where Daniel Day Lewis promises to bury the preacher much earlier in the movie slapping him down into the mud thick with the oil they both need. The dialogue is spare and the moments of silence leave you on edge, sort of like Cage's 4'33" piece. The soundtrack is wild, going from manic percussion to somber violin. It was extremely effective but unlike any movie I can put my finger on. This movie will have you on the edge of your seat for the full 2.5 hours and leaves you with a sense of despair, not necessarily about life, as you get with No Country For Old Men, but for the diametrical characters and choices they make living on the edge of their belief systems.

I'm Finished...

Monday, January 28, 2008

shambhala meditation

Just attended my first class on Shambhala meditation at the Shambhala Center in Boulder. Normally my mind is running several times the speed of sound and the G's my brain cells are pulling are starting to wear me down. I don't know if you've ever seen Over the Hedge but there are many days when I feel like Hammy the squirrel.

I've been a tourist of Buddhism and eastern philosophy since my late teens and decided it was time to try to take this passing interest to a new level AND enjoy the benefits of quieting the mind for a few minutes each day.

This first evening was very good with some introductory instruction on posture and focus on the breath. Shambhala has two forms of meditation: Calm Abiding and Contemplation.

Through calm abiding meditation we train in cutting through distraction and
bewilderment so we can use mind’s natural qualities of clarity, peace and compassion to enrich our own and other’s lives. more info
We learned about Calm Abiding tonight and will be working through Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's book, Turning The Mind Into An Ally. There is serious rockstar worship going on among the students for Sakyong Mipham and at one point someone said, "just getting close to him makes you feel at peace." Now I don't know if I buy all that, but I did come away from the first class feeling much more at ease with myself in the world than I've been for a while. It should be a great learning experience progressing through the course. And bonus, one of the instructors is a software engineer who just might be looking for work. Another serendipitous recruiting opportunity!

company blog switch over

We just changed blogging platforms from movable type to wordpress at Collective Intellect, so now we are here. I would say overall the switch was a pretty good experience. It was fairly straight forward to import the old posts and after digging around I was able to quickly hook up google analytics, Lijit, and Twitter Tools. Twitter Tools is pretty cool because you can configure it to auto-twitter everytime you create a blog entry and it creates a TinyURL on the fly for you. Conversely, when you twitter (and you can twitter right from the blog page!) it will either create a blog entry for each twitter or create a digest of your twitters at the end of the day. This is the exact kind of interaction that will make the abundant social web survivable. Teach a man to twitter and he'll twitter for a day, teach a man to integrate twitter with all of his socialness sociality online environment and he'll twitter long after he's forgotten what twitter was :)

The only thing that I haven't figured out is why someone with "author" privileges can't post a picture or a link. I had to set people up with admin permissions before they were allowed. Yes, before you flame me, I'll flame myself for not looking it up in the documentation.

So check out the new CI blog and subscribe. We have some pretty cool stats we're pulling to predict primary results. Look for more of these predictions as well as some pretty interesting analysis we'll be doing around the superbowl coming up this Sunday!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mad World

Took a cab ride this morning and the driver's name was Daniel Darko. I just hope I don't start having visions of giant evil bunnies.

Analyst Briefings

Just did one of those taking-my-medicine company rituals of doing an analyst briefing this afternoon while hanging out at Laguardia airport. As luck would have it the flight was delayed so was able to do the full hour. This should probably be labeled as another time suck post because you tend to get much less out of the conversation than you give. Perhaps it should be a double time suck because I was also waiting on a delayed flight. Doh! Don't get me wrong, I think these people are smart and do perform a necessary service, although it's sort of a grift. They download your information, pop you into their competitive model, and then resell the information you've given them to other companies. How cool is that? Anyway, the call went really well and I think I explained and defended our service righteously. On to the next task, writing up software requirements! Yay!

Time Suck #2 - Meetings

Meetings can be a huge time suck if not run efficiently. It is very easy to drift off topic and not find your way back for large chunks of time. It's best to reserve certain times of the day for meetings so that there are more contiguous blocks of productive time. At Collective Intellect we do dev meetings only in the afternoon, while the majority of business meetings are in the morning. Have a set agenda, make sure everyone knows it beforehand, show up on time, guide the meeting quickly back on track if it starts to wander, schedule for no more than 30 minutes, and probably best advice is to not even have a meeting where an email exchange would suffice.

fyi, an excellent post from the past by 37 Signals on the same subject can be found here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Time Suck #1 - Rush Hour Traffic

I started writing down a list of all the things in life that take more time than the value they add to your life. If attention is the new currency, then these things are all liabilities on the balance sheet.

#1 - Driving in Rush Hour Traffic
This has got to be the black hole of time sucks. Rush hour traffic should be avoided at almost any cost. Most of the time your schedule can be arranged to avoid such nastiness. When it cannot, carefully evaluate that event for attention ROI taking into account driving time. The horror, the horror...

man blind date

I met last night with a guy I was introduced to by mutual friend Seth Levine named Tim Merkel. We had a long conversation over draughts of Guiness about ideas and company formation. As it turns out Tim is doing professional services for the product my last company (Dante Software) created which was later purchased by WebMethods, and then again by Software AG. Tim's a great guy and was interested in how I came up with the idea for Dante and how we launched it. We were hitting it off great and the waitress came over to take our appetizer order. At this point we both had different but overlapping ideas about what to order and were busy deferring to the other when it struck me that this was so similar to the Seinfeld episode where Jerry has just met Keith Hernandez and Hernandez asks him to come help move his stuff. Kramer and George are both appalled that Jerry would succumb, having barely formed a relationship with Keith. It's the male equivalent to going to bed on the first date. Very funny episode. Anyway, just made me think of that awkward moment on the first date when you're picking out food at a restaurant. Sorry for the dating reference here Tim, but I think we had our first man date. I hope you had a good time Tim; maybe we could do it again sometime. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

coffee and marketing

I've been helping on the marketing front and as far as I can tell there are five primary components:

  1. Evangelism - If the market is not mature you need to create a value proposition that will resonate with buyers and educate the market. Note, this can take a while and is also why it is good to have competition. Didactic distribution.
  2. Positioning - Know your product vs what other people are selling, accentuate the differentiators using as many keywords as possible. Note, this can be over engineered.
  3. Landing - Build a compelling website and landing pages that are informative, appealing, and again, have lots of keywords. Design as a funnel to gravitate people towards certain pages that will result in a trackable lead.
  4. Analysis - analyze where people are coming from, how many leads each source generates, and the quality of those leads by how many translate into prospects and customers. Use this analysis to improve lead generation and lead quality.
  5. Coffee - Purely anecdotal but every good marketing person I talked to likes great coffee :)

Happy Marketing!

Coffee art courtesy of The Cup in Boulder

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Larry David endorsing Obama

I think it's hillarious that people even acknowledge celebs endorsing particular political candidates. I mean can you imagine the number of candidates who would pay Britney to endorse their rival?? Huffington had this post today about Larry David's endorsement of Obama. I must say they are at the least, entertaining.

From Larry David:

"I mean, haven't we had enough with Bushes and Clintons and Bushes?" he continued. "The country needs a shower, a good, long, hot shower. That's what Obama is, a hot shower. So fresh you can smell him. Delicious."

Predicting polling outcomes

One of the flat out coolest things about the technology we're working on at Collective Intellect is the analytical output. We have a model in place using our proprietary sentiment algorithm and volume to analyze blog posts leading up to caucuses and primaries. It is fairly accurate in it's predictions, much more so than just analyzing traditional media. You can check out the full post on our company blog that goes into more detail and see below our summarized results of the NH primary.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

yoda or ET?

I have this wonderful painting of Yoda hanging up in my condo (yeah, pretty geeky I know). Anyway, the owner of the condo is trying to sell the property so I have to endure showings about once or twice a week. Anyway, the tourist of the week took one look at the painting and said, "ooooh, it's E.T." Who the hell mistakes Yoda for E.T.???

Quarterly Management Meetings

Meetings, meetings, meetings. They're sort of a necessary evil to running a business. People need to communicate in order to synchronize efforts within and across groups. They can be a huge time suck. At Collective Intellect we were having weekly management meetings. These became laughable at some point due to the overall activity in the company. People were either traveling or knee deep in some project or other with too little time to formally sync every week.

Through the tangible and immediate need to get projects done the team has naturally moved towards more frequent, informal hallway, and highly efficient meetings. So the meeting needs have become more about steering than rowing. We recently decided to solve this gap by instituting quarterly management meetings. This is a technique we borrowed from my last company.

After being purchased by webMethods in 2003 I became part of the management team. We held quarterly meetings that were one quarter strategy and three quarters execution planning. We applauded the accomplishments from the previous quarter, discussed the failures, and talked about what we wanted to accomplish in the next quarter. Each department would present how they planned to support those quarterly goals. We would typically do two days and have dinner together on the night in-between. The dinner was a great opportunity to blow off steam and enjoy each other's company out of the trenches of day to day business.

We've had one of these thus far at Collective Intellect. It wasn't perfect. We've got work to do. But it's a great step forward in the maturation of the company.

Friday, January 04, 2008

hay field ice storm

Driving across Kansas last Thursday I came across this eerie hay field scene. I seem to be mesmerized by ice covered nature lately so thought I would share.

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