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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