Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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88 constellations

Do you need some inspiring associations?

Yes you do

Check out 88 constellations:

Sharing something is much faster on facebook, but I still don’t like facebook that much.




Paul Rand’s identity works

Paul Rand is perhaps America’s most famous identity designer, who developed logos such as IBM’s or NEXT’s.

Therefore it might be a shame to admit that it was only recently that I became aware of his works, nevertheless, I wanted to share appreciation of his identity document for Steve Jobs’ NEXT:

On the webpage, you need to scroll down to “identity presentations” section. Reading from photos is not comfortable but doable, especially if you are on a mac and can zoom easily.

One might find his approach to design problems rather intellectual if not pedantic, with all the detailed discussion of why this font and not another, why in italics and why in this color, but I find it quite fascinating, personally.

In fact, I found my way to this document passing from Steve Job’s record of his relationship with Rand:

Note the fragment when Jobs describes Rand’s way of working with his clients:

I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, “No, I will solve your problem for you, and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution – if you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how, and you use it or not, that’s up to you – you’re the client – but you pay me.”

This reminds me, by the way, of a common dilemma in consulting of whether we solve problems for the client or with the client.

But to finish the episode with Steve Jobs and Rand, here is the account of how the cooperation started:

Jobs had always had an eye for good design. He was especially taken with the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS, and Westinghouse, all of which were created by Yale professor Paul Rand. Rand offered to create NeXT’s logo for $100,000, but only if IBM consented.

This was an outrageous price, many times more than what Rand had charged IBM for its now-iconic logo. Two months later, Rand sent Jobs a copy of the logo and a brochure explaining every detail. For the sake of a more interesting design, Rand even renamed the company NeXT, saying the ‘e’ stood for education. The new logo (and the name behind it) lent prestige and clout to a company without customers or a product.




Random thoughts about winter and the coming year

We spend winter holidays in Warsaw, looking after all details for setup of our brand new consulting vehicle.

Details include registering company (in fact two companies), selecting accounting firm, developing company’s brand and identity.

We are trying to be quite innovative and perfectionist in each of these, except for maybe the accounting.

Everyone left for skiing and all, but we are managing these details and it’s actually kind of fun.

Ogito, on the other hand, is closed for the time when I have time for another experiment.

I guess I should be more concerned about investing lots of time and then switching to something else without obvious return, but I’m really not. I guess I like experiments.

Jokes about global warming are probably tired already, but the fact is, I can hardly recall a winter like that. I mean the situation when you lost track of how long the snow has been around – it’s been so long.

I have a feeling that a proper winter spells a very good year. I don’t have anything tangible to back up this expectation, except perhaps how the frost is killing all the wormies etc.

In any case, this year for us is about pumping all the startuping experience into consulting, which is something we know best, and we have lots of ideas how to make it even better, therefore we are quite excited about it.

This post is due to the fact that I feel like writing rather than reading on this lazy Saturday.

Preparing for the journey

First stop – probably Prague. No further plans, but I am determined to focus on Western Europe this time. Maybe Vienna and the Zurich and then Italy.

Love my new watch. Shines in darkness. No way in hell a bystander can tell a time from it.

Got my first netbook, too. Acer aspire one. Relatively large screen (11”) and keyboard. Relatively good looking. Unfortunately, with Windows on it. Half an hour of updates and tens of warnings and reminders before the thing is ready to work.

So now I am an Apple fanboy, but if I looked closer, I leave more money with Ecco.

I’m not consuming, I’m investing. There is a bigger scheme.

Only couple of things left for tomorrow and off I go.

Innovate products and not business models?

Umair Haque:

Business model innovation is often self-defeating and self-destructive. The real problem with business model innovation is that it dilutes the incentives to make good stuff in the first place. It lets boardrooms hide from the profound challenge of making insanely great stuff in the first place.

(…)

Business model innovation creates a kind of adverse selection. It offers a kind of insurance: if we can find more efficient ways to sell stuff, we don’t have to make better stuff. When we invest in selling stuff better – instead of making better stuff – unsurprisingly, the stuff we make often turns into lemons.

Another hint to focus on building great products instead of relying on business-side trickery.

(and yes Ogito, being a great product or at least a future great product, will charge for usage… maybe just after getting it to work under IE6 which, even though is a piece of junk, also seems to be favored by all my corporate, i.e. deep pocketed, friends)

Commenters note that there are cases where business model innovation also leads to virtuous loop that enables great products. I think Google and search ads business model could be one such example (although Google not exactly invented this business model).

On a side note, I’m amazed that this sort of writing came from Umair; I used to read his Bubblegeneration blog, where his articles seemed to consist in a large part of words he created himself. Must be “innovate ideas and not vocabulary” principle at work.

Ogito (soft) launched!

Today is my birthday and aside from this fact, I’m writing to announce that the project I’ve been working on for some time already, called Ogito, is now accessible to the public!

Even though it’s a pretty early version.

Visit it at http://www.ogito.eu, if everything goes fine you should see something like this:

Ogito full screen

As a matter of fact it was open for something like a week already, but I wanted to fulfill some common requests of people who saw it first. Like, that it should work on Windows. Now it works (I think), even in internet explorer! (update: unless it’s IE 6 or 5.5. then not so much. thanks for a tip Elena:)

So what it does?

Main aim is to explore opportunities to invest your free time.

Like in “use every moment”.

It will have a broad range of content – not only mainstream ones, like movies & theaters, but also less common activities, like voluntary works. The stuff it presents will come with accurate information, including exact (personalized) prices.

The content will be easily searchable, so you can look, for example, into theater shows one month ahead or find israeli movies played right now in your city.

On top of this it comes with community and personalization features.

What of all this is available now?

Everything mentioned is represented, even though in often basic shape. So, for content we start with movies in all Poland and theaters in Warsaw, search works as described but not full text yet, there are profiles and comments but not yet ability to follow other people, etc.

Anyway, see for yourself. Granted, it will improve almost daily. Use the “walkthrough” link on the right for some quick help.

Main message: send me feedback what you think!

And drop by once in a while to see changes. Coming soon: concerts and events data from Eventim.

Why is he not blogging… something must be wrong

I envy people who continue to publish on a regular basis, even in the midst of most intensive work periods.

Myself? I forget about everything else whenever I am fully dedicated to some challenging project.

Therefore blogging always turns victim of this, even though I actually very much appreciate having a record of my thoughts from the past. I would keep a record just for myself even if I wasn’t blogging.

And of course at the moment it is quite easy to forget about everything because I can fully focus on Ogito. Which by the way should have “soft launch” really really soon. I must make some break at that point.

Yesterday, for example, I met a colleague from Accenture with whom I had a very brief contact while still working. But it turned out she was checking my site regularly, until there were no updates for a pretty long time, so then she stopped visiting. I felt quite ashamed.

And another downside is that prolonged silence tends to give impression to people used to the updates that maybe something is going wrong and they become worried.

Miranda Piano

Just came back home after watching Miranda Piano’s show at Teatr Studio, then some drinking and now a bit drunk eating bread with butter and salt, the only things I found in the kitchen, hopefully bread does not have mold in it, can’t see clearly in this state.

William Shanks, according to Wikipedia was a British amateur mathematician (…) famous for his calculation of pi to 707 places, accomplished in the year 1873, which, however, was only correct up to the first 527 places. This error was highlighted in 1944 by Ferguson (using a mechanical desk calculator).

William Shanks spent his life calculating constants in the mornings and then checking his calculations in the afternoons.

William Shanks wasted his life on something that a calculator can do in two seconds.

I disliked the fact that I felt treated like an enemy sitting in the audience and now, blog‘s made it clear to me that actually my feeling was correct as we, the audience, represent insensitive senseless fat asses lives that are not even self aware of this senselessness.

(existence of the blog in itself is a surprise, not bad for a “clicker hater”)

Just read more of the blog and somehow it’s easier to get the message out of it than from the play. Maybe because I read blogs everyday while watching plays, not so much.

So now I have a feeling I miss most of the meaning from the play, but it’s not my fault, hostility doesn’t help to bring message across. (just discovered: this kind of play is called a stand-up comedy and is supposed to be funny).

Concern over meaning of life gives her high ground over ones who don’t even feel the need for life to have meaning, but Miranda’s life is not much closer to having any meaning that those of the people she scorns. In fact she instinctively hates some very things that actually make sense.

Good luck with finding that one thing.

Vanishing point

So much for the healthier lifestyle: last month I’ve been working 7 days a week, eating junk food and outputting spaghetti code (hopefully my coding is getting better with time).

In contrast, I had no time for yoga, fresh air and friends.

And of course blogging.

But blogging is already dead according to Nick Carr, so maybe it doesn’t matter so much.

I’ve been trying fanatically to reach certain milestone that I set for October, but unfortunately, in the course of work, the milestone became a sort of vanishing point.

(side note/explanation: I am currently working on an Internet application that I want to reach some usable state beginning next year)

As expected, setting for a real work allowed to stress-test the initial concept. Some changes proved to take a lot of time. For example, I thought I would be able to classify the objects that I work with into a neat set of categories. It didn’t work with the real cases, though, and I had to change the data model to allow necessary flexibility.

On the other hand, number of smaller issues that emerge in the process and have to be taken care of is astonishing (and quite scary).

Start of new year is a mid-term milestone that I will use to see where I am, after 3 months of work.

What I find optimistic, though: I still very much look forward to reaching the target I aim for. The road up is steep, no surprises here, but I believe that it’s worthwhile the more the further I go. I prefer it this way rather than the other.

Status: I’m almost done with the legal setup

Today I ticked tax office off the list, so the only thing remaining is visiting social insurance administration.

I registered for e-accounting solution (iFirma), which looks trendy, but whether they can provide enough expert support online is another topic. There is certain risk to it, but I wanted to give it a try.

I’m also finalizing desk research phase of Ogito and moving to actually talking to the people in the industry, which should be much more fun. Especially taking into account that the industry is fun in itself, by definition.

From technical side, I’m fascinated with Rails and waiting for the shipment of books from the UK.

I’m getting into ever friendlier terms with my Mac:

I discovered that I can use my legacy LCD as an extended desktop, which should be helpful later on.

City shops my data around as if there was no tomorrow

About a week ago I made the first step to formally become an entrepreneur – I went to the municipal authority of Warsaw (my district, actually) and applied for registration.

This was the first and only place that got the tip of this development, but I already received an unsolicited (but personalized with the data I gave to the office) offer from ING SME banking, and another from an accounting office.

Authority apparently has quite a liberal policy of sharing official information.

Surprise: HP wifi printer can’t print through wifi

I spent a good part of my day configuring a stupid HP printer.

Other highlights of the day included handling a visit of Ikea workers, who arrived with faulty furniture and now require another follow-up for replacement, scheduling another driving exam (last two attempts: one overslept, one missed due to calendar mistake), and watching the apartment being cleaned.

Not that productive day really. But these things need to be done to move forward so it’s not a complete waste of time either.

At least unpacking and assembling the printer (HP L7780 all-in-one) was kind of fun:

But then it turned that the best I could get from device’s wifi connection was scanning, but unfortunately not printing.

Files sent to the printer were like signals dispatched to alien civilizations, sent and gone met in a silence with no outcome whatsoever.

Maybe it’s the problem of HP’s lousy drivers for Mac.

Since printer is next to the router, lack of wifi is no big deal. But still frustrating to pay premium for functions which end up not working anyway.

Shopping in Ikea [economizing]

Ok so I’m not really great in cost saving, but at least I’m trying and that’s why I went to Ikea on Sunday.

Surprisingly the visit was a great success!

I covered almost all the gaps in my apartment (with a goal of making it a perfect SOHO office): sofa table, large book shelf, CD/DVD shelf, sofa lamp, paper trays, folders etc. Now sofa will become a secondary full-fledged work space. Or a chill-out space.

I’m still missing bathroom door, but this cannot be helped with Ikea.

By the way, isn’t it absurd that even though Ikea has: online directory, paper directory, transport facility – I cannot simply order stuff online? I think it is. I sent them feedback, and they replied that they are still developing.

Sadly, I cannot make myself try to familiarize with state health insurance… so I decided to prolong my corporate medicover coverage. Now I have to pay for it myself. But at least I will not have to worry about falling sick and not knowing whom to call.

Travel bag finally at rest

After two years of continuous traveling on different consulting engagements, at last I was able to fully unpack my weathered travel bag and put it in its resting place, hoping it will not have to be used for at least couple of weeks:

It’s was a nice feeling.

But still no luck with the backpack, which is missing after the Cuban adventure… I’m losing hope of seeing it again.

Skills no guarantee of success, but important

Lifehacker’s list of skills important to succeed:

  1. Public speaking
  2. Writing
  3. Self-management
  4. Networking
  5. Critical thinking
  6. Decision-making
  7. Math
  8. Research
  9. Relaxation
  10. Basic accounting

I don’t really agree that skills are most critical factors for success (vision is), but surely many of these are important.

The ones I personally plan to work on in nearest future are relaxation and self-management.

From September I will have no choice but to master “basic accounting”, too.

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