On November 18, I spoke at the Silicon Valley Bank CEO Summit. They just posted video from the event. Here's a link to all the videos. And here's a link to my earlier blog post that gave some more info and pictures of some of the people in the Defining Moment story that I told.
I spoke at the Silicon Valley Bank's CEO Summit today at the Microsoft Nerd Center. They asked us to talk about defining moments, so I relayed a story about a key moment in the creation of the Avid Media Composer. Even though this is a video, it's just the audio track with a few photos, so go ahead and turn it on while you do something else. This blog post doesn't reveal the story.
In 1997, Avid made a poster commemorating its 10th anniversary. They found this old photo of the four earliest employees of Avid. Left to right is Eric Peters, Jeff Bedell, me, and Joe Rice. Joe plays a prominent role in the story I told.
Recently, Joe held a party at his house and most of the way back Avid crowd was there. Mark Overington was there, and informed me that he took the original photo from the 1997 poster. So we decided to re-create it, with Mark as photographer once again. Jeff had already left the party, so Scott Glorioso was his stand-in before photoshopping. Above is my rough Photoshop of the recent version of the four of us.
Here's the photo we took recently as the source for the Photoshop work.
In the video, I mention my boss at Apollo, Mike Gallup. I ran into him at an event, and got this interview. The full blog post is here.
On November 9th I put up a blog post saying "Smartphones Are Making Us Think Small Thoughts." I found that for any quiet moment, I was immediately, (and addictively) turning to my iPhone for a hit of email, NY Times, instant messaging, or Twitter. I found myself thinking differently. Thinking smaller. I set out to tame the smartphone beast.
I decided to take action. Actually, drastic action. I went to the AT&T store and asked for a "downgrade." I turned off the data and phone plan on my iPhone. I paid over $200 for a dumb phone with no commitment (so I could eventually get my iPhone 4S upgrade…no I'm not giving up of smartphones forever!) I'm here to report that the experiment is working, and that I'm learning a ton.
I found out that there are two applications on the iPhone that I cannot live without. Luckily, these are not addictive at all, but they are useful: Calendar and Contacts. There's just no way that a dumb phone, even one with a pop-out keyboard, can handle either of these tasks. So, I have successfully re-created my PalmPilot days. I have a device that I carry that does a great job of calendar and contacts, and it even syncs automatically over WiFi to all my desktop machines. Very nice.
Even though the iPhone has no data or phone plan, it still can search the web when there's WiFi. So I had to take another step: I removed all the addictive apps, which actually turned out to be a small list:
-- NY Times
-- Fluent News Reader
-- Txt (killed when I ended the AT&T plan)
Interestingly, that took care of it. Yes, I still have Safari when there's WiFi, and yes, I could look at the NY Times website. But I don't. It's not there all the time. And it takes too long. I can't just whip out my iPhone, click an icon, and get a minute or two of news satisfaction.
The same is true for email. Here's what I get when I hit the email button now. A start screen, because I went into settings and turned email off. If I really had to send an email, I could go into settings and turn it on. I could be back in the email business in a few minutes. But I don't. It just takes too long, and instead of using up that couple minutes in email every free moment, I'm reminded that I'm changing paths. (By the way, I had to turn email back on to get that screen image. It was quick, and no problem to do that in an emergency.)
What have I learned? Lots. First - dumb phones have really, really bad interfaces. Mine, the Samsung Evergreen, comes with a 157 page manual. And it needs it. Everything you do takes many keystrokes and many menu hits. Each time I use this thing I remind myself that I'm part of a human experiment aimed at increasing creativity, and that's why I gave up my iPhone.(mostly except contacts and calendar) It turns out that making an interface without a touchscreen is really hard. AT&T and Samsung have teamed up to provide a particularly convoluted interface.
This is a screenshot from a well-produced 8-minute YouTube video that shows how the Evergreen phone works. Go ahead and watch a minute or two and then you'll know what I'm going through in the name of science. (By the way, I think they call it Evergreen cause when you throw it away, you don't have to feel guilty cause they've made it recyclable.)
I've learned some interesting things about contacts. When I first got the phone, I was told I could take it to Staples and move my contacts over from the iPhone. But I had 2800 contacts there, so I went through and culled it down to the people I might likely call. That brought me to 144 contacts. I never went to Staples, and I'm saving names in the phone as I go. I have about 20 names, and that seems pretty good. Hmmm. A factor of about 100. My contact list goes back to my PalmPilot days -- around 1998. Thirteen years of contact accumulations with nary a major culling.
Lastly, there's the benefit of delayed gratification. I believe that smartphones are killing our ability to accept delayed (or maybe better yet, non-) gratification. One of my goals in this experiment was to break the instant information pipeline. This part of the experiment is working well. With the iPhone I've found myself expecting instant answers to any little query that pops into my head. "Was J. Edgar Hoover really gay, as the movie portrayed?" "What is the status of the Fukushima 5 and 6 reactors…the ones at a distance from the worst hit ones?" "When does 30 Rock premiere this year?"
The answers to all of the above? I don't know. And I haven't looked. And maybe, just maybe, I'm better off not knowing.
My new phone is a dumb phone.
My name is Bill, and I'm a smartphoneaholic.
Every spare, quiet moment I have is given over to the wonders of the smartphone. It's usually a toss-up between reading the New York Times, or checking email. If both have been picked over, I have a wider-ranging news app called Fluent. After that, there's Twitter. And by then, the period of quiet time is over.
I believe that this imitate time with my smartphone has helped me think many small thoughts. In fact, I've come to believe that I'm losing something important. I'm losing that time of day dreaming. I'm losing that time of looking around and thinking. I'm less likely to even make a phone call and talk to someone. I'm more likely to stare into the smartphone, read small articles, read emails, and think small thoughts.
Take a look around at the poses of people and their smart phones. They stand near each other, glowing screens in their hands, literally lighting up the face with an eerie blue.Their heads are down, their posture submissive. One doesn't think about how to change the world in these moments. No. I believe you're thinking about your next email or your next tweet or your next article.
Why are smartphones so addictive? I think it's because they offer such instant gratification. Got a question? It's answered instantly. Want to send a message? Send it instantly. Got a minute? Fill it instantly.
Since I always loved Star Trek, I can imagine some diabolical, evil commander in a far away galaxy reporting on the progress of their latest attempt to subjugate the Earth. "Commander, the smartphone project is working even better than we had projected. Millions of people are now addicted to the phones. Humans are already becoming more submissive. Our eventual takeover will be easier than we had planned. And, both of our projects, Apple and Android are ahead of plan. Oh, and the Apple one has $80 billion in the bank."
So today, I went into the AT&& Store and met a very capable sales person named Bob, and I told him I wanted to "downgrade." He said it was the first time he heard that, but he quickly understood what I wanted.
My goal is to slow everything down. Make sure that it's just too slow to get to the NYTimes, too slow to look up that arcane fact, and too slow to read email. Bob assured me that this phone would fit the bill on all counts. And so, I have a dumb phone in my pocket now. My iPhone has been neutered. It says "No SIM." If there is WIFI nearby, though, it is still dangerous and addictive, so my goal is to leave it home.
The Evergreen has a pop-out keyboard, so I can still send text messages…which I don't do all that often. More importantly, it's fun to hold the phone in one hand and open and close the keyboard.
The Internet is so slow and takes so long to start. But it makes great phone calls, and I can send and receive an occasional text. Perfect.
And, I have 30 days see how I like this new world. If I don't, Bob assures me I can return the Evergreen, and upgrade to an iPhone 4S's.
"Commander, I've picked up some early signs of downgrading!"
"Give it 30 days. They cannot resist the smartphone"
Great video by Amy Black of MassTLC that shows some of the vibe from the event this Friday. What a great crowd, and what great energy! Includes cameo appearance by Jeff Taylor of Monster.com and DJ fame.
If you're one of the 800+ people registered for tomorrow's MassTLC Innovation 2011 unConference, you're in for a unique opportunity that combines expert startup advice with the power of ancient mysticism. Don't miss Jason Calacanis' "Startup Exorcisms and Healings". The Reverend Jason will perform his work right after lunch, in Session 3.
Yes, the really did have karaoke at the DartBoston MassTLC Pre-Party at Storyville. And good live music too!
Lots of folks gave it a try. Even with a full martini, I was still too shy. Maybe I need two for next time!
Bill and Connector Co-Chair Tuan Pham. I shot a lot of the photos in B&W. I never use a flash, so check out what can be done if you try really hard!
To see all the photos, click here: https://picasaweb.google.com/110927372783322061802/20111026DartbostonMassTLCPrePartyAtStoryville?authkey=Gv1sRgCOXIs6Kf_bjXxQE
See all the photos and a couple videos here https://picasaweb.google.com/110927372783322061802/20111021VampireHackathon?authkey=Gv1sRgCNDexvCh-OzsVA
There was plenty of candy, coders, drinks, pizza, and code writing at the Vampire Hackathon. I left at 3:30 am, and everything was going strong, with over 60 hackers still slicing away at their keyboards.
Nick' innovative furniture design for Anything Goes Lab includes an amazingly comfortable "pillowsac" that attracted two folks from MassChallenge's Montreal-based finalist invup, as well as person who described herself only as a "groupie."
Meanwhile, Nick's two level design allows an important conference be held in the loft right above the pillowsac. This is a "casual meeting area" not a bed!
While there was plenty of drinking and eating, like any good hackathon, what really happened was a whole ton of coding.
Unable to figure out how to wire money to England, an American company decided it was easier to pay Memrise founder Ed Cook in cash and let him move the money the old fashioned way...in a pocket. No, it wasn't a drug deal...it was for running a memory workshop in (of course) Las Vegas. (Yes, he told me that, and yes, I believe him.)
The New York Times is reporting that HP's board will fire Leo Apotheker and replace him with Meg Whitman, founder of Ebay.
Starting in 1975, I designed electronic circuits, and came to revere Hewlett-Packard. Every time I saw one of their products, it was elegant, amazingly capable, and fairly priced. The company was just a fountain of innovation and energy.
Even today, after a decade of bad management by the Board, it is one of the largest technology corporations in the world. And yet, it has just dumped its tablet effort, and is talking about abandoning PCs all together. It says it will focus on software, when that accounts for only 2% of its revenue, and it is one of the most skilled hardware companies in the world.
I feel that HP is one of our national treasures, and it pains me in a somewhat personal way to see the company go through wave after wave of bad decisions from its Board. Is there any way to stop the insanity? An intervention? A stockholder revolt? Or will HP just die a multi-decade death of a thousand cuts?
I intend to help people see the simplicity in life. I love to observe my own life, and the lives of others, and develop simple theories that are easy to understand, easy to use, and pretty reliable. This is my first in what what I hope will become a useful list:
BW1: The things that you're going to do happen quickly. The things that you're not going to do take a long time.
Have you ever had that pet project that you've thought about for years, but never done? It always seems like a good idea, and you often work out some of the elements in your head, but you never seem to do it. And yet, you never say you're not going to do it. I believe these "take a long time" projects (at least in your head…during gestation) are actually quite expensive things. They take up important brain cells, and they block creativity for what you really will do. And yet, they never get shot down because they seem so "good."
I propose it's time to do some shooting. Especially now that the fall is here, summer is over, we're all back to work, and we're ready to get stuff done.
Try it. Here's the steps:
1. Take an idea that you've been thinking about for a long time, and that is pretty darn important to you, but …well… is taking a long time.
2. Consider this: You're now thinking about something that is not going to happen. Simply because it's taking you so long. And I believe it's taking you so long for some pretty great reasons that you're not fully in touch with.
3. Think about project and say "…x… is not going to happen. It's over."
4. Do it again. "….x …. is not going to happen."
5. Notice a rushing feeling in your head. This is those brain cells being freed up, and creative juices beginning to flow.
6. Soon a new idea will come to you that you'll do quickly.
BW1: The things that you're going to do happen quickly. The things that you're not going to do take a long time.
Please send me your stories that go along with (or counter to ) this theory. (firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comment section…which everyone gets to see)