You know how the saying goes. When you assume you make an ass out of you and me, and that isn’t very far from the truth. Every time I’ve worked with people - hell, even when I work alone - assumptions that were made caused miscommunication, misinterpretation, late deliverables, and in some cases some pretty heated arguments. All because someone assumed they knew something that they didn’t.

Assuming is especially prevalent within a close group of people. At a company with two to eight people a lot more will go assumed. You’re sitting right next to each other for a good portion of the day, of course everyone knows what you’re doing and you obviously know what they’re doing.

The same applies for a department. A group of developers or product managers will often assume they know everything about each other’s projects, issues, or ideas but that rarely is the case. 

I’ve found the best solution is to communicate everything. If I had to give one piece of advice for how to work better with people I think this would be it. 

No one is ever going to blame you for communicating too much. Most likely they’ll welcome the communication and you’ll be reinforcing something that’s important. This will also help them communicate your message to others.

If they’ve heard it once too often all they have to say is “Thanks, I think we’ve already covered this.” 

It seems rather simple, but much harder to remember and practice. 

I had coffee with someone who’s interested in joining a startup today. They’re currently at a larger company where they’ve been doing really well. I wanted to know why they wanted to leave and join a startup, so I asked.

They told me that they wanted to be in an environment where there was urgency to get things done and challenges. They wanted be part of the startup life. 

There’s a stereotype associated with startups. That you work hard, work late, things are always changing, and everything you do is important. It’s not that that isn’t true - but it’s not true all the time.

A startup is a company that is hoping to become a scalable and successful business. It’s a company that wants to make the right move, not just any move and can take its time and be deliberate about its actions. Everyone wants to join a startup to get away from how traditional businesses work, and startups want to join the ranks of successful businesses. 

I don’t think that everything about the startup stereotype is negative. It’s definitely made businesses think about their culture and how they can compete against startups in attracting new talent and that’s a good thing. But the startup stereotype has also made it easier to make bad business habits acceptable and misinterpret what it means to be a startup.

Today Gillian and I took a visit to urgent care. She went to bed with really bad pain in her hamstring and when she woke up, it was worse. We wanted to make sure we ruled out all the possibilities and get confirmation that it was a muscle strain and not something worse. We decided that CityMD was the most convenient and logical choice. 

At CityMD the options of what are available are limited. We both forgot about this. It’s basically a doctor’s office so outside of very strong Ibuprofen you’re pretty much out of luck.

After waiting several minutes, a couple of Ibuprofens, waiting several more minutes, and some inspection of Gillian’s leg we left CityMD with four prescriptions. After getting home I went to a pharmacy, got the prescriptions filled, and finally Gillian could take something to ease the pain and relax the muscle. It was 11, we had arrived at CityMD a few minutes after nine. It took two hours, two cab rides, and a quarter mile walk to get Gillian what she needed. 

I recently watched a sci-fi show called Black Mirror and a particular scene in one of the episodes stuck with me. (Spoiler Alert - kind of) The plot is that everyone has a a small device implanted in them that records every second of their life, and allows them to watch it again. You can get a better idea of what I mean by watching a small clip of the episode here

During this episode a character has been drinking and gets into his car to drive off. Before starting the car the device informs him that he isn’t in a condition to drive and if he does drive he won’t be covered by his insurance (doesn’t specify auto or health). Brilliant. 

A person’s choices and current state help inform the insurance company of how to best provide a service. Now what if that insurance company was a full stack healthcare company? 

Sync your Fitbit with your healthcare company so they can get a sense of how much you exercise. It’s proven that exercise leads to a healthier lifestyle so the healthcare company lowers your premium. 

You’re in pain? You launch your health care’s app on your smartphone and are instantly connected to a doctor. A few minutes later the medicine you need is on its way right to your doorstep. 

I don’t pretend to think that creating a full stack healthcare provider would be easy but it would be unbelievable and absolutely necessary. But it does make sense that your healthcare would be a controlled and great customer experience. 

Yesterday I spent a few hours at Orbital, my friend Gary Chou’s latest endeavor. It’s in Kickstarter’s old office and I find that quite fitting for what Gary is trying to achieve. 

What Gary is trying to do is create a space for independent creators to use for all different types of purposes. Ideally Gary sees Orbital as a great fit for creators who: 

  • Have a high level of skill or proficiency at their craft
  • Are financially self-sufficient or want to be very soon
  • Want to be part of a community of creators

The hope with getting these types of people together is that “if you can get highly proficient creators into a sustainable orbit (hence the name), they will be able to pursue opportunities that others may not.”

I can imagine a group of three very diverse creators all running into each other at the kitchen and accidentally several hours later they’ve started to create something new.

One of my favorite things that Gary is trying to do with the space is “offering experiential courses that are more about coaching people”. I love this idea and find that experiential courses that are guided or led by proficient creators or mentors in that space teach students way more than traditional instruction or skill based classes. 

The space itself has three floors. The first floor is a common area where you could sit down on a couch and talk with others hanging around or have an impromptu bar meeting with someone who’s just passing by. The second floor is a quite area with dedicated seating and private rooms for calls, discussions, and working together. The third floor is outfitted for events such as classes, off-sites, or what have you. 

I’m really excited for Gary and Orbital. Hopefully I find myself back there again very soon - preferably teaching a class. 

I check the Google Analytics of this blog every day. Usually it’s right after I post. I love watching the real-time visits and seeing where the first five visits (or at times the just one) are from.

I’ve been comparing visits month to month and what I’ve found is that it’s been hard to top January. I barely got above January this month. 

February vs January: -27% Visits
March vs January: +8% Visits

Being a bit curious I dug deeper. January, February, and March look very much the same, averaging about 12-14 visits a day. But, January has two anomalies January 1st and January 2nd. 

January 1: 46 Visits
January 2: 47 Visits

That’s about three times the usual number of visits a day I get. So what’s special about these two days? I checked the posts:

January 1: Learning - I write about how I want to learn more in 2014 and one of the more memorable things I learned in 2013.

January 2: Inspired By The Internet - A post on how the internet has influenced new media and enables creation.  

In my opinion neither of these posts are that far off from the content I post daily. But what I think was different was how most people feel after the new year.

The new year is full of new opportunity and perhaps we’re just a bit less cynical and jaded. We’re more accepting of one another, support each other’s new endeavors and resolutions.

But, it seems like that feeling only lasts about two days. The number of visits I got on January 3rd was five.

Brad tweeted about Raph Koster’s blog the other day on his thoughts about the Oculus sale. Raph provides an interesting perspective on the Oculus acquisition which I recommend reading. You can read it here

Raph points out that Oculus is about presence, and that’s what makes people engage. It’s an excellent point. You want to feel part of the group, part of the conversation, part of something. That’s presence. This is his take on Facebook’s reason for acquiring Oculus. 

Facebook is laying its bet on people, instead of smart objects. It’s banking on the idea that doing things with one another online — the thing that has fueled it all this time — is going to keep being important. This is a play to own walking through Machu Picchu without leaving home, a play to own every classroom and every museum. This is a play to own what you do with other people.

I agree with Raph that it’s about creating the right medium that enables presence. The internet at the end of the day might be powered by technology, but it’s always been about people. 

I ask this question in every employee interview. It’s a great ice breaker question and helps jumpstart the conversation. I absolutely love it.

As I sit here, relaxing in my living room my mind wandered on to this question. I realized that I’m not sure I can answer the question. I don’t have a clue what my favorite product is.

I figure that if I ask the question in every interview I hold I should at least be able to answer it as well. So I’m going to think about this tonight and at some point write a blog about it.

But until that happens I’m curious to know, what’s your favorite product?

I found myself talking a lot about timing today. It’s something in my opinion that’s often overlooked when building products. 

There’s a lot of talk about solving problems, finding the right audience, building the right features, and growing the business. But none of this matter if it isn’t the right time. 

The Sega Dreamcast was a video-game console ahead of its time. It did okay but not nearly well enough to live on and solidify its presence in the console space. It had internet connectivity and an online platform to connect with other users, but at the time most households were still on dial up  modems. If you look at XBox live today, while it looks more advanced than the Dreamcast’s online platform, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t very similar in concept. 

It isn’t easy to definitively know if it’s the right time. Most of the time I answer this question I rely on my instincts to inform me. But regardless of the answer, it’s important to ask the question. Is now the right time? 

Everything a customer can see is part of the product. Your website, email, customer service interactions, receipts, and boxes are all part of the product. The best products create a seamless and complete experience by focusing on the details of the product. 

There are two products that I recently experienced this with. Coincidently they’re both food related products. Those products are Tonx and Good Eggs

Tonx, is about providing fresh roasted and delicious coffee to customers. The slogan on their packaging is “We source. We roast. We ship. You brew.” Every package comes with a coffee card that is beautifully illustrated and includes the roast date, location of the coffee, and a great description of the flavors you’ll experience. 

Good Eggs wants to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide. Their welcome letter tells a story about your groceries. The journey that they embarked on to reach your door step and what direct effect your purchase has on local farmers and foodmakers. Their packaging is reusable and is designed to encourage you to reuse the packaging by returning it to Good Eggs. 

Without any of these details Tonx and Good Eggs would just be another product trying to outshine their competition. But through these product details they’ve made me fall in love with their product, and I will be their customer for a long time - unless they break my heart. 

I met Scott about three to four years ago. I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is talking with him for a long time about games at the W hotel next to the Moscone Center during GDC.

He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met in the game industry. That night at the W, Scott played one of the games we had been working on, listened, and gave me amazing feedback - all while everyone was partying downstairs at the bar. 

That night Scott also told me about what he was working on. He recently left his job at Microsoft to start Heart Shaped Games and make his own games. Scott talked about creating games with incredible passion. The first game he was working on was Hero Generations. A few weeks later I was playing an early version of the game and I loved it. 

Today, almost three years later Scott is still working on Hero Generations. He’s released a Kickstarter project to fund his final vision for the game and I of course will be backing it. You can watch Scott’s Kickstarter video at the bottom of this post.

It’s rare to see this combination of passion and persistence but it’s clearly present and Scott and Hero Generations. I wish nothing but Scott the best of luck and have no doubt that Hero Generations will succeed.