The Idea Dude


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Final reflections for 2006

So ends 2006, a whirlwind of activities, a launching of dreams, a roller-coaster of the very best kind. A year ago, I arrived back from Atlanta after a 2 year gig with a fuzzy outlook for the year. It was also a turning point in my life as I made a commitment to blog consistently and regularly. From that, 6 months later, I embarked upon a journey with a good friend, Tony aka Tealeaf and TheGoodBlogs was born. But before I cross the threshold into 2007, a couple of thanks are in order:

  • Firstly to all our members, you have made TheGoodBlogs an amazing community that I am so proud of. I know what we have done works because personally, I found so many good blogs through this adventure. Everyday, each of you leaves behind a tiny bit of legacy that is more far reaching than you probably realize. Your words are sources of inspiration, encouragement, laughter and insight. Even on the days when there seems to be nothing to say, your presence says you exist, you share and you will touch someone out there.
  • Next, a thanks to all my friends, advisors and mentors. You never questioned my vision or my dreams. Every word was one of encouragement, every criticism made was constructive, intended to help me (and TheGoodBlogs) become better.
  • To my good friend, Tealeaf, it's been a awesome journey. You were and continue to be my wingman at TheGoodBlogs. I am so thankful never to have to look if there is someone on the other side of the rope as we make up treacherous climb up Mount Web 2.0.
  • Finally, to my wife and kids for letting me live the dream. I hope to reward you a thousand-fold one day for your patience, love and understanding. When your kids say, "Dad, you're not unemployed, you're just not making money!", you know they understand the concept of startups, entrepreneurship and treasure hunts.

To all of you who read this blog, in the words of the new generation...

May your 2007 be filled with a gigantic cornucopia of awesomeness!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Take it beyond where you found it

This dude spent the last couple of days on slopes of a Mont Tremblant as a welcome break from TheGoodBlogs (hence the late night emails some of your received, the sun never sets on TheGoodBlogs). I had the privilege of sharing the ride up the mountain with a 60+ year old who told us the conditions of the black diamond wasn't too bad! just a 'little' steep in places, he said with a twinkle in his eye. What was impressive was that he was snowboarding. After skiing for 50 years, he figured snowboarding was easier on his body and picked it up 5 years ago. Then he went on to tell us about how neat paragliding was and yes it was really quite safe. We were all suitable impressed, although my son was a little concerned when I asked to borrow his snowboard next year.

So all of this not only inspired me (no, I didn't go down the diamond run) but made me think of risk. Risk is one of those things that is so often miscalculated because we add our personal foibles and paranoias which really skew what the real risk is. For example, people are twice as likely to die from falling out of bed than being struck by lightning (read that in Time magazine a couple weeks back). Yet we think it is riskier to walk around in a storm than going to bed. Often our fear of something or lack of knowledge means we assign more risk to certain things than others when the reverse may really be true. So is starting your own company really any riskier than joining a new startup as an employee? Not really, I would argue the chances of failure is pretty much the same. So is it riskier to start our own business because we stand to lose more money on our own or perhaps it is the fear of failure and being labelled as such that makes us assign a high level of risk to our own initiatives. I believe one of the reasons that my kids took to skiing and snowboard much quicker than I did was not only the fact that their center of gravity was much lower than mine, but because falling was part of the fun and they didn't think about how stupid they may look wiping out in the snow or breaking a limb or too. Yes, too much knowledge can be paralyzing.

So as we close on 2006, my challenge to all of my fellow bloggers is to promise yourselves to do something you never did before in 2007. It doesn't have to be dangerous but there may be more an internal fear that has stopped you all along. Perhap it is standing up and speaking in front of a crowd, or learning to ski (lessons recommended), asking for that date you always wanted. Once you start, you'll wonder what the hullabaloo was all about.

There's a movie called Crossroads about a boy wanting to be a guitarist. The movie itself isn't in my opinion that outstanding other than guitar duel with Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio. But there is a scene that the mentor of Ralph's character says, "Take it beyond where you found it". So for 2007, take it beyond where you found it, exceed your own expectations, learn something new, make a difference in someone's life and savor every waking moment.

Excuse me... there's a pair of Heelys (them shoes with wheels) in my closet waiting for me....

Friday, December 22, 2006

TheGoodBlogs is #1

After months of trying, we finally did it! Searching for the term "good blogs", puts us in the #1 spot on Google. At least for now!

Our nemesis? An article published on in 2003 which doesn't exist any more if you click on it. The sweet irony is the Forbes blurb which says "As yet there isn't a particularly good mechanism to search for good blogs on specific topics. As you might expect, there's a good deal of junk to sort ...". Alas in 2003, TheGoodBlogs didn't exist. To all our loyal members, you helped put us there. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

8 ways to make people feel like a million bucks

I was reading John Maxwell's 8 ways to make people feel like a million bucks. John took it from a leadership perspective. I wanted to do my own list with a little help from him. Maybe this is my meme but it is a list of principles I try to live up to. Some days I fail miserably but consistently trying is half the battle won. So here goes, TheIdeadDude's 8 ways to make people feel a million bucks.

  1. Let people know you need them. Everyone has the ability to contribute to your life no matter how small it may be.
  2. Acknowledge. Most people are happy to know that you heard them. Even though, you may not agree, every one has a right to be heard.
  3. Recognize. Be generous with praise. If someone did something wonderful, don't hold back the praise.
  4. Share a memory. It becomes your own special connection. A part of history that cannot be undone.
  5. Let them invest. Too often, we're too proud to ask for and receive help. Giving is the best tonic in the world.
  6. Giving is not a negotiation. Never give expecting to receive something or anything of equal value. If you do it's not giving.
  7. Invest time. Spending the first and last 30 seconds of your conversation on the person is a minute well spent. It means you care and they are special.
  8. Initiate. More than half the population will not be the first to initiate any contact of any form. They are as apprehensive as you are. Every time I do, I find more often than not, a warm, funny, sensitive and intelligent person.

On that note: stop by and read our blog at TheGoodBlogs, we're sponsoring a wish at on behalf of new and existing members.

BTW: Here's my holiday rant. It is appropriate given the topic today. Doing my holiday shopping, I am frankly appalled at how poorly trained people are at serving people. And that's the irony, they are not selling goods, they are serving people. What grinds my gears (My son makes me watch Family Guy!) are people who are so willing to take my money but at the same time, won't look me in the eye, smile and give me their undivided attention for the 30 seconds I'm in front of the till. What messsage do you think they send when they scan your purchases without a greeting, chatting to their colleagues and no thank yous or goodbyes! I don't blame the staff but the management who scratch their heads every quarter wondering why their sales do not meet expectations. They are responsible for ensuring that their employees understand and are trained to be first and foremost ambassadors for the company.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How do you build communities?

Ben Yoskovitz has a terrific writing project this week. He challenges all bloggers to answer the question, "What did you learn this year?". A tough question for me because the list would be pretty long. After 20+ years working for the man, Tony and I took our destiny in our own hands, 1 July this year. TheGoodBlogs was born. With a couple of terrific advisors, (how can one not think of these folks as your friends and confidants when they look you in the eye and say, "I'm not sure where you're going with this, but I see your passion and I'll support you all the way!"). So here are some of the things that come to mind about what we learnt at TheGoodBlogs this year and continue to live this every day.

  • The power of 2. If you're embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, make sure you take along a great partner. (Having a towel and knowing that the answer is 42 is not enough). I always likened creating startups to climbing a mountain, you need to have a lifeline to someone and you don't want to keep looking back to see if he's still there. Thanks Tealeaf, aka Tony.
  • Establish the core values from the start and agree upon them. The business models may change, the marketing message may change and even the execution path may deviate, but your core vision and values should never waver. Tough decisions are much easier to make if you focus on doing the right thing so as not to compromise any of these values. For us at TheGoodBlogs, it was three things, building a strong and loyal community, providing a service that helps bloggers promote each other and take every opportunity to delight the customer. Note: we love money, we want lots of it, but it's not part of our core values.
  • Turn every problem into an opportunity. Every email that came because we had a bug or a feature was confusing, we used as an opportunity to start a dialog. We even fixed blogs before the bloggers became members and the problems werent't related to us. But to hear comments like, "...that was an online first for me", makes it all worthwile.
  • Small things matter. We care about blog we accept and every email we receive. On the other side, it is not just a blogger, it is a human being. Respect for your customer means we spend a vast amount of time ensuring we fit into blogs with a minimum of fuss and overhead. Putting your widget on someone's blog is like going into their house and adding new curtains, for the blogger, it's personal.
  • Question every assumption every day. We've seen TheGoodBlogs evolve even in its relatively short lifespan. There are no sacred cows and things that were true at one point in time changed as we grew with our users and understood the dynamics of the blogosphere much better. It takes courage to say something that was working is now no longer appropriate or don't fix something that ain't really broke. The only question to answer is, "what is the right thing to do?"
  • Pick no more than one important thing to do at a time. So often I start the day overwhelmed with emails, bug fixes, new features. The mountain always seems so high. The way I deal with it is internally ask myself, "if I could only do one thing today, what would it be?". Invariably, I get to more than that one thing, but it gets me over the paralysis of so much to do and so little done.
  • Nothing comes for free. Want a great idea, think for a lifetime. Want a customer, go get one. Success stories like MySpace and YouTube lulls us into thinking that some magic spark will come along bring 50 million users. How did they start (MySpace)? by going to bars and signing up bands one at a time.
  • Give without expecting a return. More like a life lesson here, too often in business, it's a negotiated process, "I'll give you this, if I get that back". If you gave without reservation or expectation, it all comes back, maybe not immediately but in buckets. Giving is a long-term investment.
  • Wind it up and let it go. Too often we try to perfect a feature or doting parents unable to let go. There's always the paranoia of maybe the public won't like it. If you're going to fail, fail fast.
  • Distinguish between strategic and tactical. Which is really making sure how to set short term and long term goals and doing stuff that matters. Then understanding that you want quick results from tactical tasks and willing to wait longer for strategic initiatives.
  • Don't dwell on things you can't fixThe saying, 'it is what it is' is really a mental note for us to move on when mistakes happen.

That's my list for today, thanks Ben for challenging us to reflect on 2006.

So how do you build communities? one blog at a time... which is truly relevant for us because today we launched a feature more bloggers were asking for, "how do I create my own group and put the blogs I like in there". At TheGoodBlogs, we know let you do just that, to create your carnival channel or your special interest group. Check out our announcement here

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Peter Coffe at eWeek had the following list of 25 Kill Apps of All Time. Didn't agree with him on some of them but it did make me think back to what tools were indispensible at each point of my life. This is my remember-when moment...

  • The early years: who can deny Wordstar, VisiCalc, dBase II as the pioneers of what we take for granted as office suites today.
  • Programming languages: If you battled with the early Basic interpreters and C compilers, you would have appreciated what Borland bought to the table with Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo Prolog in terms of speed of development and their integrated development environment.
  • First generation Microsoft Office, being a non-Mac user, Word for Windows and Excel were my staple tools because of their WYSIWYG approach and ability to exchange data through DDE.
  • Operating systems: Having spent too much time with real-time systems such as DEC with their RSX-11 OS's, Dos and Windows x.0 were poor substitutes. IBM made a faux pax with OS/2 although it was so much superior than Windows 3.x. At least Microsoft redeemed themselves by scalping Dave Cutler and team from Dec and the birth of Windows NT marked a new era for Microsoft, finally, a true preemptive, multi-tasking systems. Linux made the notion of cheap enterprise OS a respectable option.
  • Browsers: In the mid-80s we spent a lot of time scraping websites (where was RSS when you needed it). Perhaps you would remember Microsoft's CDF format when XML was acrononym no-one knew about. I lived through the IE/Netscape browser wars when the the only certainty was incompatibility (has anything changed?)
  • Handhelds: I managed to pass-up on the early Apple Newton because I couldn't afford it (like everything else that Apple or Steve Jobs sold in the 90's, didn't you lust after the NeXT cube with it's Postscript display?). But did own a Palm V and a PocketPC over the years.
  • Laptops: Owned one of the first Toshiba color laptops with a 8inch screen, 25 MHz and 20MB hard disk. Weighed about 3 times as much as my cell then which was a Nokia brick. Other Toshiba laptops followed, they had a philosophy in those days that if it was high end it was also damn heavy (and that's not including the battery charger). These days a slim Thinkpad X series does the job.
  • Memory: You're old if you remember Apple's floppy disks where 143kB and you had to punch a notch in the disk to use the other side and Dos 5 1/4 floppies held 320MB of data. The Apple IIe was less than a 1 Mhz. 64kB ram was luxury. Today, my son's PS/3 has probably more processing power than the Cray not too long ago. I took me 2 hours to ray-trace a fractal landscape on my Apple IIe. Today, you can play a game at 32 times the resolution with real-time smoothing, anti-aliasing, shading and multiple light sources with 10 other people over the Internet. Don't get me started on the 25GB Blu-ray disk capability!

Sometimes I have to remind myself and my kids, life wasn't black and white like the Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy.

The interesting thing about this exercise is probably 50% or more of my readers will probably have no clue what I'm talking about, that's progress!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What are Jelly Blogs?

If I had to rename TheGoodBlogs (the chances are nil!) but hypothetically, it would be called The Jelly Blogs (assuming it wasn't parked already). Tony and I spend a good portion of our time, looking at the couple hundred blogs that we have in the network every day. When we first started, we read each one, something tough to do these days. Using the widget, we each probably look at 30-50 blogs at random every day. For me, it is like dipping into a bag of jelly beans. Sure we have favorites but to not try the others would be a travesty for any jelly bean connoisseur.

Today we passed our 9 millionth blog promotion, that is the number of times we have promoted a blog through the widget since we started a handful of months ago. So whether you're into banana-flavored business blogs or spicy cinnamon Blogsisters or blueberry technology blogs, or the tasty popcorn art blogs, we have a pretty decent variety that will satisfy most people.

Many of our members arrive by word of mouth (or should I say word of blog). Every blogger has his or her own community cultivated over many months of cross-posting, sharing of stories, etc. It is a joy to see bloggers finding each other. If TheGoodBlogs are to reach any tipping point (taking Malcolm Gladwell's model), we need mavens, connectors and salesman. We certainly see blogs that other blogs seem to act as a reference points in starting conversations, we also see other blogs that take these and expand and embellish the points of view acting like salesfolk, propagating interesting topics. Finally, there are the connectors who enjoy dropping by blogs to leave comments and their calling cards or simply commenting on their own blogs about other great blogs. Everyday there are conversations, in fact, thousands of ad hoc conversations.

Another phenomena that we have been able to witness is the the concept of blog islands which I've talked about before on this blog. i.e. each blog is an island with finite number of inhabitants (blog visitors), it takes either the blogger or a reader to span two islands at which point inhabitants flow freely between the two islands. It is a win-win situation because business flows both ways. The phrase 'I found you through TheGoodBlogs' is surprisingly common. Beyond readership, we've managed to be opportunistic matchmakers, facilitating relationships that didn't exist before. One favorite VC question is invariably, what is your barrier to entry? The only answer that seems to hold water today is not patents, technology, or people but the corporate assets are the fiercely loyal communities you manage to cultivate and hold.

As for the picture... it is a mash-up of all our category icons at TheGoodBlogs...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Are you insular or promiscuous?

I got a kick out of Jules' post on insular bloggers. A rather belated response due to TheGoodBlogs activity over the past couple of days. (Yeah, we trying to squeeze a couple more features before the year is out.) However, I did keep the idea spinning around in my head for a while. Our behavioral blogging patterns if left to their own devices will reflect our real-world behavior. i.e. there are some who draw energy from observation, discovery, comfortable being alone with a good book, while others draw energy from other people, these are the ones with cellphones chock full of numbers, who cherish every business card they receive and religeously call you once a week to see how you're doing. Neither is right nor wrong, however, they would impact the rate at which you accumulate readership. Tongue-in-cheek, I left a comment for Jules and said the opposite of insular blogging must be promiscuous blogging. Heavy MySpace users would understand that concept naturally. The point being that self-marketing is something most of us don't do naturally. The ones that do it well understand that it is a discipline. Sales and marketing people are trained to get 10 leads a week, to get business cards at shows, to make new contacts. Brand marketing is no different and you, as a blogger, has an online persona and a brand. How you cultivate it and whether you even care to is a matter of personal choice.

I think what is fundamental bad about the blogosphere today is that the high profile blogs like Techcrunch and their like create an artificial bar (intentionally or unintentionally) that unless your blog is making money, gets 10,000 visitors a day and is quoted by the popular few, you're not a good blogger or a successful one. That my friend, is one of the Blogosphere's biggest self-inflicted myths. So Guy, it doesn't matter if you're #1 or #100 on Technorati, I love your work equally well. But here's a link to get you to the top anyway.

Speaking of brand management, there's no photo or name at The Idea Dude. I wanted the blog to speak for itself (maybe a blog 101 faux pax), nevertheless that was my choice. However, you'll find an interview I did with Ben Yoskovitz who has a new blog at B5Media. It may be the only one I'll ever do but I was impressed with Ben's genuine enthusiasm for startups and his professionalism in preparing the interview. I met Ben through TheGoodBlogs and he has his own blog at Instigator Blog. If you're an entrepreneur, you should seek him out and maybe he'll give you a bit of spotlight too!

When I started TheGoodBlogs, I could probably count on one hand people I had met through blogging. Today, through trading comments and emails, I can say that I need to borrow a couple more hands and throw in some feet to boot. I didn't find them on a MySpace train, I found them organically through TheGoodBlogs. The strangest thing is, even though these relationships are virtual, I feel like I've known them forever. Perhaps, all you really need in life is a few good bloggers to keep you company along the blogway!

Friday, December 01, 2006

12 Widgets We Love

In the tech world, we're obsessed with widgets, in fact, that's the whole basis of TheGoodBlogs. So it's refreshing to see widgets that are not digital artifacts residing on your computer screens. Fast Company has a terrific slideshow called Widgets We Love. If you love the Apple 'sunflower' desktop concept, you'll love the sleek electric scooter, or the armadillo light that twists, or the knife block call "theEx".

My favorite? The dutchtub! see above, it's a portable, durable take anywhere tub that is heated by burning wood on the side. The heat is circulated through the coils that wrap around the tub. I can see Steve Jobs buying one of these!

PS: Design tip: They should have stuck a grill on top of the fire and have a barbeque at the same time! All of this on top of an Alpine slope. The only other accessory? Heidi...