Archive for July, 2012

The power of an audience

I know Brett Slatkin from my work on PubSubHubbub back in the day. Brett wrote a great post about why he has his own website. I think it’s an interesting discussion to have in a world where increasingly more content lives on third-party properties like Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. Brett lists his reasons as being:

1. Having a home

When I want you to know something, I’m going to talk about it here. This is where you’ll be able to find me over time and space. This is my home. People in the neighborhood used to just drop by to see folks and catch up; this site serves the same purpose for me. It’s something we can depend on so we can always be in contact.

2. Expressing myself

This blog is a creative outlet for me. I designed how the pages look and choose the content in each post. If the site is ugly or hard to read it’s my fault, but I’m proud of it anyways. I like that readers get a feeling from my site that’s unique to me. I like that my content and how it’s conveyed are a single package that I’ve created myself.

3. Internet citizenship

We call it the “web” because our sites all interconnect with links. Hyperlinking is what gives the Internet its richness. Following links has helped me learn so much. So I want to give back. I want to cite others and be cited. I want to contribute to the web’s complexity. My own site lets me do that.

Each of his points resonate with me. But for me, there’s one reason that trumps them all: the power of an audience.

I remember showing Twitter to a friend in the early days. Like many people, he told me that he just didn’t get it. Why would anyone care what he was eating for lunch? Later in our conversation my friend mentioned that he was looking for a ticket to a sold-out event that evening. Being one to never pass up the opportunity to show off, I pulled out my phone and promised I’d have a ticket for him in 5 minutes. My Twitter followers came through for me and my friend got a first-hand demonstration of the power of having an audience. He signed up for Twitter that same night.

The fact that Marissa Mayer, Mark Cuban and thousands of other people follow me on Twitter is really cool. So are the friends I have on Facebook. And the people who are subscribed to this blog. Having an audience is an incredibly valuable asset no matter where you build it. It blows my mind that almost half a million people have visited this site. I love the internet. It’s a way for ordinary people like me to have a voice in the world. I don’t take that for granted for a second. As always, thanks for listening and reading along. It means a lot.


Working hard to be lucky but not working too hard

When I was young people used to ask me what I what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a cheeky young lad, I’d tell them “I don’t know. It hasn’t been invented yet”. Little did I know how true that statement would end up being. Technology has evolved so fast. Most of the stuff I do on a daily basis wouldn’t have made any sense if I’d tried to explain it 10 years ago. If I went back 100 years and tried to explain it, people would think I was nuts.

I just read Jud Valeski’s post about his 3 steps to Software. Like Jud, my journey to software began with making little blocks dance around the screen with some BASIC programming on an Apple IIe computer that my dad bought my me. I’ve shared the story of how I became a programmer before and how I too became addicted to building software. There’s something incredibly powerful in building things that matter and having the chance to really impact the world with your work. The amount of influence one man with a laptop can have is mind-boggling. Yep, we’re lucky. I can’t think of a better time in history to be alive.

Earlier today I had the following exchange with Vinicius Vacanti on twitter:

While I’m certainly a believer in hard work and putting yourself in the position to be lucky, I’m not convinced that just working hard is enough. You see, at my last company, I worked my butt off for 3 years. I went 3 years without a vacation, 3 years working nights and weekends to make my dream come true. But in the end it didn’t matter. EventVue failed. Since then I’ve tried to have more balance in my life. I’ve learned to close the laptop and go outside. Today I spent my afternoon rock climbing at Castle Rock and building some new friendships. It was a much needed break after a long week of work.

I have an addiction to building things. I work hard. Although I don’t write code as much as I used to, I still get immense satisfaction from staying up all night cranking out some new functionality for Torbit. I love surprising customers with 5 minute response times to support emails that come in at 3am. Part of the reason I work so hard is I feel like I’ve been handed the best hand of cards I could ever imagine. It feels irresponsible to not make the most of it. At the same time, I’m trying to find more balance in my life. As Micah Baldwin said, I want to make sure I’m running to the right place, not just running hard.

While my search for work/life balance often feels like a losing battle, it’s helpful to have role models to emulate. Brad Feld is a living example that it’s possible to work hard and still find balance in life. Go read Brad’s post about falling into the busy trap if you haven’t yet. Elon Musk is another example of someone doing incredible work. As the founder of both Tesla and SpaceX, it’s hard to imagine a busier guy… except he’s sitting on a beach in Hawaii right now.

If Elon Musk can take a breather, so can you.

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