How the Lost Art of Self-Direction Has Created an Army of Hopeless Job Seekers →

Ryan M. Healy writes:

If a company or boss isn’t telling these people what to do, they’re unable to function in an economically meaningful way.

And outside of doing what they’re told, the only thing they seem to know how to do is apply for jobs (so they can once again be told what to do) or file for unemployment (“jobseeker’s allowance” in Britain).

I began to think about this when earlier this month I came across the story of a young British woman who’d taken her own life because she couldn’t find employment.

At some point, “the tech industry” becomes an outdated moniker

Dalton Caldwell, founder of App.net, wrote the following on his personal blog and it got me thinking:

It’s interesting that “the tech industry” can be large enough such that a significant sub-industry can go through a full boom and bust cycle without materially affecting other sub-industries.

In the past few years we have witnessed the rise and fall of several sub-industries including social gaming, subscription commerce, and group buying. But that hasn’t slowed down what people think of as “tech” as a whole. Perhaps the ups and downs from each sub-industry are like waves at different phases, and if there are enough of them they start to cancel each other out.

With the pervasiveness of tech, and the widespread adoption across numerous industries of tech, many of these former “tech companies” become simply players in the industry they are targeting …that just so happen to have some tech behind them.

e.g. Is Facebook truly a tech company at this point? Or is it an advertising channel that just happens to rely heavily on technology?

If you think this is nitpicking, you’ve never founded a sustainable business. Deciding what business you’re really in is the heart of long-term sustainability. You have to stand for something, and it’s difficult to do that if you’re not sure if you’re a “tech company” or an “advertising channel” or something else entirely.

Dalton Caldwell’s own App.net is, in part, a response to the identity crisis and choices that some of the big “tech companies” in the social media space, namely Facebook and Twitter have gone through (and in some ways, still are). At the moment, both are in the advertising and marketing space, and this creates friction with their user base (who are not their customers).

Google, another company which faced this choice early on, managed to (mostly) balance the two, but it was not an altruistic act. It was enlightened self-interest, because happy search users in the long-run meant happy advertisers in the long-run too. The path they look, however seemingly obvious or simply it may seem now (and I still don’t think believe it does to most folks), was not the most obvious – or tempting – at the time.

Indeed, both Facebook and Twitter, equally big power players with the same resources and momentum as Google, are struggling not to piss off their users/non-customers as they work to grow their revenues and profits. They are both wholly reliant on their users/non-customers. Just like Google, they don’t extract subscriber fees from users. If they don’t walk this fence carefully, they will frustrate users too much who will ultimately go elsewhere or, at the very least, slow down growth. Both of which will hurt their actual customers (advertisers) too.

Google managed to keep the front page (www.google.com) clear of ads, realizing it was a strategic investment that made them different than other search engines. It bred loyal users, and, combined with reasonable search results, destroyed their competitors. Let’s see what Facebook and Twitter can do while they crawl across the sharp edges of the fence.

Ultimately Google viewed their search users as partners in their business model and treated them as such, while finding ways to leverage their “partnership” into greater market share and profitability for themselves as well as for their advertisers (their actual customers).

If you run a company, choosing your identity – what you stand for and why you exist and how you’re going to accomplish it in terms of a business model – is a difficult choice to make. If you don’t think about it regularly and have a strong commitment to it, it’s easy to make decisions along the way that seem to make sense, but start eroding your business model or stakeholders perceptions about you. Then it all falls apart. Nowhere is this more true than in the non-subscription/non-fee “tech company” space.

Choose carefully.

The RedHat of the Android World, CyanogenMod, Raises $7M →

The hobbyist/alternative Android distro turns legit. Even with a “for crap” install process, they’ve got more than 8 million users (probably more). And now they’ve got $7M to play with too.

Good for them. (Now they can change the name.)

Steve Kondik, the founder (he uses the handle “Cyanogen” online, hence the name), writes:

I woke up one morning and found thousands of follower notifications from Twitter about an account I had never even used. How the hell did these guys find me? Twitter was soon added to my list of addictions.

Staying up late hacking on something or another was pretty normal behavior for me ever since I was a kid, and fortunately my wife Stacie is awesome and lets me get away with it. One day, our housemate Val came home from work and told me about a couple of guys who were in her coffee shop talking about CM. She said “This is going to be big, dude. I’m serious.” I laughed and shrugged it off. I had no idea how many people were actually using this thing or what it would become, and didn’t even consider that it was spilling over into the “real world”.

Cloud Computing OpEx vs CapEx Debate Misses The Bigger Picture

The which-one-is-more-cost-effective debates that oft come up around cloud computing services miss the bigger picture.

Regardless of the OpEx versus CapEx optimization debate1, the fact is that you can establish a new business2 and outfit it with world-class IT software, infrastructure, and services for somewhere between zero and $X dollars, where X is a tiny enough number that it’s almost insignificant in comparison to the rest of the investments a new start-up must make.3

Oh, and you can integrate it in a evening, in a day, over a weekend, or in about a week. Perhaps even during your lunch hour. You know, so you can get on with the real value creating work within your particular endeavor.

Heck, forget start-ups — my family has email hosting of the caliber of a Fortune 500 company for the price of $50 per year4. And, maybe two spam messages per month get through out of thousands of emails — and I, the techie, don’t even have to maintain it anymore. It’s all outsourced, thanks to Google Apps.

That certainly allows me to spend more time on value creating activities. Fighting spammers, patching another server, and backing up and restoring data are not my ideas of value creating activities. At least when I could be spending time with my family, working in and on my business, and screwing around in whatever way I see fit to increase the joy in my life. 

There is no competitive advantage in maintaining my own mail server. These days there’s no competitive advantage to maintaining ones own server hardware – at least in the vast majority of businesses out there.

Focus on your value creating activities. Keep an eye on the rest, but don’t focus on it just because it’s the “easier” thing to focus on. Value is where the value is at.


  1. and, I’ll add, that your choices now do not rule out changing direction later on 

  2. or a new subsidiary, or a new customer offering, or a new whatever-adds-value-in-your-market 

  3. and far smaller than several years ago, in any case! 

  4. and better than even many of those companies could muster just a few years ago 

Marianne Williamson: “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are…”

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

–Marianne Williamson

A Dangerous Job →

These guys are pretty incredible. It just so happens that one of the tools they use is Google Earth/Maps, which I’m sure they find very useful, but the impressive part is their mission and what the The HALO Trust has accomplished. Talk about a dangerous job!