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Fellowforce, outsourced innovation

Now it’s getting difficult, because though I set up as second blog for “visioneering” stuff, some topics just feel like being posted on both of them.

One is Fellowforce, a site in which you can solve a challenge posted by a company and get rewarded if your idea wins.

1bln+ people market

Article in the New York Times by Gary Rivlin. Stories about entrepreneurs who got rich extremely fast, but still keep on building new companies.

Interesting part:

?It?s easier to start the next company than it was in the past,? said Marc Andreessen, who was a co-founder of Netscape Communications in 1994, when he was 22. It is also potentially more lucrative than it was even a dozen years ago, said Mr. Andreessen, who despite a net worth estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars is now at work on his third start-up, a social networking company called Ning.

?For the first time in history, you have a global market of 1 billion-plus people, all connected over an interactive network,? Mr. Andreessen said. ?The opportunities are bigger than ever before.?

Yup. But also see the quote on working 15-18 hours a day. Got to have these hours first, though.

It’s all right to rebuild and work hard

It’s been a while since I read something work quoting on Guy’s blog, but today I found lots of good stuff in this guest post by Glenn Kelman:

4. Good code takes time. One great engineer can do more than ten mediocre ones especially when starting a project. But great engineers still need time: whenever we?ve thought our talent, sprinkled with the fairy dust of some new engineering paradigm, would free us from having to schedule time for design and testing, we?ve paid for it. To make something elegant takes time, and the cult of speed sometimes works against that. “Make haste slowly.”

5. Everybody has to re-build. The short-cuts you have to take and the problems you couldn?t anticipate when building version 1.0 of your product always mean you?ll have to rebuild some of it in version 2.0 or 3.0. Don?t get discouraged or short-sighted. Just rebuild it. This is just how things work.

Right on time. There is one more hidden gem in this post but I will not comment on it.

Ideas’ inflation

The recent thing is Truemors, a site founded by Guy Kawasaki.

The idea of the site is to allow people to post and vote on rumors, short snippets of content which may or may not have anything to do with truth.

So far it’s filled with spam and auto-promotional stuff.

I don’t find anything special in the idea, but it get some publicity because of its founder. If it gets anywhere, it’s because of this asset, as it was rightly noted on Deep Jive Interests.

This newest idea of a site makes me think.. if I couldn’t have a better idea for a site.

Simple vs “it just works”

Read some comments of Torres on simplicity, relating also to Don Norman’s “Simplicity Is Highly Overrated”.

Never too much talking about simplicity.

I’m a fan of simple things. But does simplicity sell? Sometimes I wonder. To give example from consulting playground, I like to make excel models which are straightforward and well commented and pyramidal in structure, so they are easy to follow from the top to the details. Typically excel models are anything but easy to follow and it takes less time to build a new model than to understand one made by someone else. Then again, maybe complex models that you cannot understand seem smarter in the end.

Don Norman:

Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won?t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more. Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity. You do it too, I bet. Haven?t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.

Why then:

People buy ipods? I bought ipod. I doesn’t even have a radio. Even my nokia phone has a radio.

People do not buy hybride products? They do buy things that do one thing well.

Why Google rules and not the portals?


Simplicity is primarily around the first-run user experience and making sure to optimize the high-volume scenarios. A great example of this is Microsoft Photo Story 3. This tool makes creating videos out of photos a complete no-brainer, even for someone who has never touched a digital camera.

Simplicity is something that everyone wants… but not forever. The simplicity of Photo Story is actually limiting once you want to do something a little more advanced, like running a macro or applying a custom transition. For that you need Windows Movie Maker 2 or Adobe Premiere.

I would argue (and I do quite often) that simplicity in the long run is over-rated for most users, especially for users who actually know what they are doing. (…)

The MSN Search team did loads of research while developing their search service, and what they found is a testament to this. They discovered that search engine loyalty isn’t earned through stellar results for routine queries, but rather through an amazingly unique response to an off the wall query. (…)

Now, “it just works!” is something completely different – and even more important in my opinion. When you plug your digital camera into your Powerbook and your photos are automatically copied into iPhoto, it “just worked”.

It feels strange to me, listen Microsoft people talk about simplicity. And that they did a lot of research into this. Surely they did a lot of research, focus groups and everything on branding. Look at the results. Still, though, for the theory, fine.

Simple on outside, complex in the inside (if you insist), that is, features are there. I’m not Korean and my toster doesn’t need lcd. But I use Google as a calculator and no one I know does it.

No need for vision to get rich

Gazeta Wyborcza published an interview with Tad Witkowicz, one of the richest Polish immigrants (worth estimated USD 250m).

In your life, did you follow the golden rules from the various business gurus?

– Yes and no. Such advice is sometimes a trap. When I was bracing for launching my first company, I was reading a ton of books about business, tutorials, memories of the famous managers. And I was becoming more and more frustrated. Everyone wrote that you need to have a grand, breakthrough vision, which you follow consequently.

While I never had any vision. I thought – damn, from the start I’m probably doomed for failure.

So what did you do, without this vision?

– Some time ago Ray Strata, the founder of a known technology company Analog Devices, told me: “Do not believe in what they write. Later, while writing a book, it is easy to attach impressive vision to the memories and even believe in it. But in the beginning, a normal person doesn’t have any grand visions.”

Big picture, team work

I like this fragment, Joel on Software, reviewing “Dreaming in Code”:

Eyes work using a page fault mechanism. They?re so good at it that you don?t even notice.

You can only see at a high-resolution in a fairly small area, and even that has a big fat blind spot right exactly in the middle, but you still walk around thinking you have a ultra-high resolution panoramic view of everything. Why? Because your eyes move really fast, and, under ordinary circumstances, they are happy to jump instantly to wherever you need them to jump to. And your mind provides this really complete abstraction, providing you with the illusion of complete vision when all you really have is a very small area of high res vision, a large area of extremely low-res vision, and the ability to page-fault-in anything you want to see?so quickly that you walk around all day thinking you have the whole picture projected internally in a little theatre in your brain.

The article then somehow gets into considering team work issues. Now, this one I feel quite often (even though not related to programming):

I can?t tell you how many times I?ve been in a meeting with even one or two other programmers, trying to figure out how something should work, and we?re just not getting anywhere. So I go off in my office and take out a piece of paper and figure it out. The very act of interacting with a second person was keeping me from concentrating enough to design the dang feature.

…but I always thought that it is some kind of proof of my bad team working skills and do-it-yourself approach.

Learning innovation from Toyota

I would to start with a note on elegance, as an introduction to Toyota’s innovation practices. But the best I read on elegance recently comes from Joel on Software. Joel quotes Alain de Botton book on architecture, explaining elegance on example of two bridges:

The bridge is endowed with a subcategory of beauty we can refer to as elegance, a quality present whenever a work of architecture succeeds in carrying out an act of resistance?holding, spanning, sheltering?with grace and economy as well as strength; when it has the modesty not to draw attention to the difficulties it has surmounted.

Back to Toyota’s document: “An elegant solution is one in which the optimal outcome is achieved with the minimal expenditure of effort and expense.”

What links elegance to innovation? ?Simple is better. Elegant is better still (…) Great innovation requires understanding and appreciating the concept of elegance as it relates to solving important problems.?

Toyota practices for creativity:

1. Let Learning Lead
2. Learn to See
3. Design for Today
4. Think in Pictures
5. Capture the Intangible
6. Leverage the Limits
7. Master the Tension
8. Run the Numbers
9. Make Kaizen Mandatory
10. Keep it Lean

Elaborated in ?Elegant Solutions? by Matthew E. May, link by Guy Kawasaki.

Side comment on branding

With names, first impression is not always the right one:

Nintendo has also clearly won the PR war. While everyone initially ridiculed Nintendo for its choice of name, the Wii brand has proven to be a bonanza for the media in terms of generating clever headlines. The puns have continued to flow thick and fast. Coining the term Wiimote for the Wii controller demonstrates what a great choice of name Wii turned out to be.

Wii takes first round from PS3, eleven rounds to go

How iPod was made

Team effort.

Wired: Straight Dope on the IPod’s Birth

You bet: a “Polish Nokia” will emerge

Article in Gazeta Wyborcza (Polish):

W Polsce narodzi się gigant high-tech?

A topic dear to my heart: will we at last have a high-tech startup with a brand known worldwide? Say, till 2008.

Dariusz Wiatr, former McKinsey and Andersen Consulting partner, says no.

Tomasz Czechowicz, who runs MCI Management fund, says yes (but means whole region rather than only Poland).

Blink’s story of a missed opportunity

Thanks to Otis I read another interesting failure story.

Blink, a social bookmarking site, had the idea and the money to become what is now – back in 1999. Yet, they missed the opportunity.

Some observations after reading:

  • Knowing what works today, it’s easy to forget that there had been hundred of ways to do it wrong
  • Particular details can drag the implementation off the right course, even if the idea in general is right on target

The comments to the article give some more reasons for the final outcome, including lack of development focus and too early timing for the social bookmarking idea to gain foothold (though it seems that Blink managed to acquire more clients that has now).

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