October 20, 2007
Highlight of the Day + My startup had quite a day at a big industry conference. Nice to see the great industry and press reaction to what we are working on. With that said, all the kudos in the world mean nothing if you don’t deliver an amazing and intuitive product to customers. Back to work for us! FCS approaches with alarming speed... + Man Weekend!!!!! Lowlight - None yet. I’ve designed the next few days to be lowlight free ;-) My Day as a Song Welcome to Paradise - Green Day Random Thought “Castles they might crumble, dreams may not come true, you were never all alone, because I will always, always love you“ - Plumb jibber jabber I’m writing this from 4J on the way to Seattle. After the “man”, me, has been stuffed into the back of countless planes in coach for business over the years, it was nice to finally submit my name for an upgrade and actually get it. They say that rank has its privileges, but when everyone has it, airlines status is nearly meaningless. It is so hard to burn the accumulated credits these days. But I got an upgrade on Man Weekend! Man Weekend involves flying to Seattle to stay with my buddy Michael Gilmore, who is one of the most talented visual designers in the world. He works at Microsoft on the core Windows experience, most recently on Vista. Microsoft, you are lucky bastards to have him, but know that I covet his services. Take care to give him an excessive comp package or my next startup will raid him without mercy. I’ve got eight people I’d immediately call if/when I start another company, and Mikey is one of them. Much like Battlestar Galactica, you have to stay tuned if you want to know the identity of the remaining seven. And yes, more than one them read this blog semi-regularly ;-) Are you a Cylon?! Tonight’s agenda is to catch up with Mikey’s family, drink some good wine, and play Xbox 360. Oh yes, no Man Weekend is complete without video games. Tomorrow it is off to UW football versus Oregon. Oh yes, rivalry time! Much football and drinking is in order. It is expected to be chilly and rainy, which just plain kicks ass for watching football. Football is a fall sport. Sunday is supposed to have trout fishing in it. Enough said. A hearty thanks goes to my wife for covering the fort while I get out for a little R&R. You are one classy lady!!
October 15, 2007
Highlights of the Day + Al Gore and a Nobel Peace Prize. I know it is old news, but I'm still quite pleased. Karma is a bitch, Mr. Bush! Lowlights - The sun is going down earlier each day. I suppose in my ideal world I'd be packing up for my home in the Southern Hemisphere? - The fact there are not at least 32 hours in a day ;-) My Day as a Song Midlife Crisis - Faith No More Random Thought A group of insanely smart people who have complementary personalities and a great idea can change the world. The rest is just execution... jibber jabber I read that the average engagement ring costs $3500 to $4000. I also re-read the old line that one should spend an average of two months salary on an engagement ring. 17% of your annual salary?! I found an interesting twist on that old line which indicates that one should spend an average of two months of combined salary on an engagement ring. Maybe the modern adaptation was written by a DeBeers. I'm surprised at these numbers only because I think an increasing number of people are crushing the $4000 limit. I increasingly see women wearing the BHD, aka the Big Honking Diamond. These solitaires visually appear to easily top 2 carats, and I swear I've seen more than a few that look to hit the 4ct mark! These put the BH in Big Honking! Ok, let's apply demographic bias to my limited sample. Yes, I live in the Silicon Valley, and my days of hourly wages are long, long gone. The average income in this area is much higher than the national average. But I see BHD almost everywhere I go. Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, you name the city. One could argue that I travel to areas with similar demographic traits as my home, and I struggle to completely avoid that bias. It would be logical to say that the occurrences of BHD increases as household income increases. Two months of combined income is a sliding scale, and at some point it effortlessly buys a BHD. I argue that I see a higher percentage of middle and upper middle class women with BHD than their standard two months of combined income should allow for, but that would be an subjective opinion without more extensive research. My question is: "What drives a couple to purchase and a woman to wear a ring whose value is higher than many compact cars?" I think about a ring on two dimensions, aesthetic and performance: Aesthetic A definition of aesthetic is "concerning or characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste". If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then aesthetic could be the personally defined junction of artistic value and good taste. It is in the aesthetic that I find the greatest defense of the BHD. Every once in awhile you see an engagement set that is artistically amazing, a true work of art. Asked about these rings, I hear the words "custom jeweler" more often than not. If an engagement ring is beautiful, unique, and crafted by an artisan, it is hard to argue with the size of the stones set in the ring. I hope and believe that these couples are expressing their love for each other with a unique and personal artistic expression that fits their budget. A BHD solitaire hanging in orbit above a woman's knuckle does not meet my aesthetic requirement. It might be considered beautiful by the society at large, but is that "beauty" artistic or performance based (see below)? If the beauty is the cut and clarity of the stone, isn't that just an expression of your net worth (see performance). It surely isn't unique, given that BHD in a simple "I'm huge and blinding, can't you tell" setting are commonplace today. One could argue it takes an artisan to mount a BHD in a simple gold or platinum setting that highlights the stone, not the ring, but I believe that this skillset is actually mechanical engineering, not art. It takes a fair amount of structural expertise to keep that much stone safely ensconced around a woman's finger. Performance Is this truly the measure of a wedding ring's value, it's performance value to both the man and the woman? Let's start with the symbolic meaning of a wedding ring (at least within the cultural confines of the largely Judeo-Christian USA). A wedding ring expresses the undying love and exclusive bound between a married man and woman. Why do men select the BHD? A simple wedding band would meet the symbolic meaning of a wedding band for both men and women. Most men's wedding rings are simple gold bands. So what drives men to attach a Honda Civic (equivalent value?!) to their wife's finger? Love? As mentioned earlier, at some income level that "Civic on her finger" is a small fraction of annual income, but many BHD appear to be nice chunk of the couple's annual income. Love doesn't require 25% of annual income to be fully expressed. Is that BHD about the woman or the man? Is the BHD actually another form of alpha male marking? Does it really say "Guys, the man who is married to this woman is strong enough (in 21st century hunting terms) to bring home significant bling. He is an economic powerhouse, so don't even think of flirting with her!" The BHD's power for the male is asexual. It subtly (or not so subtly) says to other men that this woman has a mighty "provider", and it says to other women that the spouse is a mighty "provider". BHD is a huge visual advertisement for the economic virility of a wife's spouse!? Why do women desire or wear the BHD? If a simple wedding band meets the symbolic requirement of being wed, what is the attraction of the BHD for a woman? In a world where crime isn't a if, but often a when, what possesses a woman to wear a $25000 bill on her finger? There are few more concentrated expressions of wealth easily accessible to a thief. BHD also aren't physically practical. Ever crawled on a floor after a kid wearing a 4ct ring? Many forms of simple physical labor, even those done by white collar employees, are impractical while wearing a large ring. It's like large fingernails; impractical but societally pleasing. BHD crushes the symbolic requirement of a wedding ring, they certainly don't divert the attention of the criminally motivated, and they aren't incredibly practical relative to everyday activities. Yet I've met many "practical, grounded, unpretentious, and safety conscious" women who proudly display the BHD as a glaring exception to their normal personalities. The BHD is not in conflict with who they are!? Not being a woman, I can only pose questions. Is the BHD as a male "marker" not only acceptable, but preferred? Does it say "Ladies and gentleman, my man is an economic stud. I'm incredibly well provided for and my man loves me 4ct deep". Or is it a self-empowering statement? "Mine is 4ct and flawless, just like me". Does BHD create differentiation amongst women, between families/couples, or between the spouses that (helped) acquire them? Why the heck am I even thinking about this? Is the wedding ring just another societal status symbol? Is the BHD just another symbol like driving a Mercedes, flying first class, and wearing designer clothing? Is it a more powerful cultural symbol because it implies positive differentiation for both the wife who proudly wears it and the man who proudly gave it? A wedding ring is deeply personal and emotional, but have societal pressures driven us to the least common denominator of a BHD as the proper expression of our love and affection? Maybe the BHD is just the point of the spear that impales me with the knowledge that aesthetic and function are often drowned out in the cultural and societal wave of perceived superiority. This perceived superiority is manufactured by the DeBeers to sell small stones whose main attribute beyond scarcity is a Mohs hardness scale of 10... Alpha male marker, positive image amplifier, or an everlasting expression of love? All three. You make the call.
at 11:17 PM
October 11, 2007
I am working at home today and enjoying every minute of it. I'm working on PRDs (Product Requirement Documents) in the Conceptualization phase of a new project, so I need the peace and quiet of my home media "laboratory" to brainstorm about the future. I've optimized my home office for this exercise, with the following essentials being close at hand:
- Internet access for competitive analysis, market research, etc.
- A whiteboard for mindmaps
- iTunes with my entire music collection playing quite loudly. Disturbed and Sarah McLachlan facilitate two different thought patterns ;-) I try and change the BPM of the background music while writing to stay energized
- My notebook. Every feature idea, bug, and random concept I think of or hear from co-workers, customers, friends, etc. gets written into my notebook. I've always got three or four business ideas and concepts for the next versions of existing product in this thing. I use the Logitech Digital I/O pen to capture everything digitally in case some terrible fate befalls the beloved notebook. I just read an article about Francis Ford Coppola's house in Argentina being robbed and his losing the script for his latest movie.
at 9:32 AM
October 06, 2007
Highlights of the Day + Finishing Halo 3 in co-op mode with my best friend Kevin in one marathon 9+ hour session. We started Friday night, and watched the credits at 6:30am Saturday morning. Nonstop minus one bio break!! My daughter stumbled into the media room in the morning and was shocked that we had stayed up all night to play a game. She doesn't know what Halo 3 means to two ex-Bungie employees. I was at Bungie when Jason and the gang first conceived Halo, and laud them on yet another amazing game. I haven't found all the terminals yet, but love the homage to Marathon. Marty, the music and effects are amazing! I almost made my song of the day a track from Myth, but decided to pay my respects with a Chicago band from the era... + Mucho Achievements points for my Xbox Live score! Gamertag : sircoolio Lowlights - None. After playing Halo3 for that long, the only thing a man can long for is sleep. My Day as a Song Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins Random Thought I'm so far from where I where I need to be - Kelly Clarkson "Hole"
October 05, 2007
Highlights of the Day + I'm pretty sure I interviewed a prototype of the ideal product manager, the kind of person who shouldn't leave the building without an offer letter. Articulate, hyper-intelligent, passionate, balancing rational and emotional product management. The interview left me contemplating a new way I could prioritize features, building on an idea from the interview and another from a similarly inspired conversation years ago. A great candidate is someone you believe could immediately inspire you and your team to even greater creativity and product. It reminded me that "A" people must hire "A" people... + Watching the second episode of Chuck. Chuck is the shiznit! It has become the family TV event of the week. Lowlights - Al Gore might win a Nobel Prize, but America absolutely needs him to run again for President. I'd quit work tomorrow and join the campaign if he announced his candidacy. When will we stop being the world's police and start focusing on the environment and educational supremacy? My Day as a Song Somewhere I Belong - Linkin Park Random Thought "Ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain, and one hundred percent reason to remember the name"- Fort Minor Mental doodle If you could peer into someone's mind and see the story of their lives, could any good come of that power? The more I think about this, the more I believe that the balance of that power would be dark and dangerous. What would you see? You'd discover:
- Mundane but public information
- Innocuous but private information
- Opinions and emotional state
- Secrets, both positive and negative
October 02, 2007
Highlights of the Day + Playing with my son, whom I affectionately call "Nick Nugget". He recently started walking and is so much fun to be with. He laughs, plays, and beats his Pappa with a straw. Life is about the little treasures and moments... + Design reviews: Some people dread design reviews because of the discourse and potentially negative feedback, but I absolutely love them. Few things are more stimulating (@ work & legal!) than vetting designs you have pored your heart and soul into. It's invigorating to successfully defend a design's merits, but equally as gratifying when the design doesn't hold water and needs improvement. Why? Because a design is not about the designer. It is about creating something that is intuitive and delights the customer. When constructive feedback takes your design to the next level, that is a good feeling. + Bouncing interesting ideas off smart folks. One person can have a great idea, a few people can create the next great thing, and the consensus of a crowd is just a least common denominator... Lowlights - Realizing that if we had spent all the money directed to the Iraq war(s) on renewable energy sources and conservation, we wouldn't be dependent on the Middle East and the climate situation might be a bit less terrifying. Isolationism is sounding better and better. Maybe America needs to go to its room for a "timeout" where we can think about what we did wrong... My Day as a Song You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees Random Thought Why don't Hollywood and sport stars hire "mortality handlers" armed with power of attorney, sole access to the client's spending money, and a taser? $200K burdened cost/year versus losing $10MM+/year in salary, endorsements, and merchandising? If you have no moral compass or are stupid enough not to keep your indiscretions concealed, just hire someone to keep you out of trouble. Less posse, more corral! Jibber jabber Spent the later evening soothing my inner "Disco Eric" with some classic Bee Gees (Greatest, Tales from the Brothers Gibb). Also did some surgery on a Palm PDA, pictured below in some state of disassembly. This one had a damaged screen (not sure what compressed the LCD to the point of significant damage), but with a new screen from PDA Parts and a T6 driver she is as good as new!