Instead of giving U2 $100m

(just found this draft I hadn’t published, interesting that a few of these have now happened anyway)


Things the internet would have preferred Apple do over U2 being given $100m for an album nobody wants.

Would U2 have made $100m from fans buying the album? Unlikely. What else would we the internet have preferred apple have done, or spent that money on..

  • A longer battery iPhone
  • A normal sized iPhone 6
  • Give us iTunes Store credit to spend on bands we like
  • Or even more interesting, give us credit to spend only on new or indy bands, or based on purchase history only bands we’ve never bought before.. or just autofill our iPhones with the same
  • Tell us what we really want to know about the Apple Watch; battery life, charge time, etc
  • Improve working conditions at Foxconn
  • Invest in switching to recycled materials
  • Make the iPhone truly resistant to dropping
  • Not buy Beats, maybe Bose or Seinheiser? Ooh, controversial, I know
  • Invest in alternatives to rare metals in electronics
  • Raise the revenue share for artists
  • Hire some people that understand the internet and set them to work on Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iMessage, Notes, Pages, syncing, location, interoperability, web services.. do I need to go on?
  • Make headphones that don’t leak
  • A retina MacBook Air
  • Hand $100m to [RED]
  • Make protocols for iMessages, FaceTime open

Alternatively, let’s ask U2 to give the money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now, about the tax they’re not paying…


The rules of science, sounds a bit like agile

In his recent continuation of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos series, Neil deGrasse Tyson laid out the the rules of science:

  1. test ideas by experiment and observation
  2. build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail
  3. follow the evidence wherever it leads
  4. and question everything

“To make this journey we’ll need imagination, but imagination alone is not enough because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine. This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Agile, in simple terms, is about learning fast by having assumptions and testing them, incorporating data and user research into that loop, being adaptable to change, and it being ok to be wrong.


Lean Founder

Semi-autobiographical, in no particular order, being a #LeanFounder:

You don’t need that new laptop, a refurb will do, but your current laptop is fine until it dies.

Plain eggs on toast is cheaper than eggs benedict, and better for your waist.

Walk whenever you can.

Traveling for a meeting? Make the rest of your time there count.

Don’t travel at peak times.

Don’t go to every event, meetup, or conference.

You will be paid the least, and probably last.

Make breakfast at home, include lots of fruit.

Swim, ride a bike, and do Yoga, Pilates, or Taichi.

Sleeping on friends floors is cheaper than renting an appartment, but not as good for your sanity.

Take at least one day off a week.

Stop drinking lager, it’s more expensive than Ale or Whisky, and it’ll only give you a hangover.

You don’t really need that premium Spotify account.

Keep on top of your accounts, keep them simple.

Actually learn how to make Ramen.

Ask for help.

Answer others calls for help.

Listen to everyone who offers advice, but make your own decisions.

Stay hydrated.

Don’t buy Photoshop, Pixelmator is like a modern Photoshop 4.

Don’t buy Microsoft Office, you can get it for free from Bizspark.

It’s not about you. But your startup is a reflection of you.

Don’t expense everything, when it comes from your pocket you might reconsider that taxi ride.

You don’t need expensive business cards, order a small run of Moo cards. Iterate.

Understand your termsheet, it’ll save you in the future.

Understand your cap table.

Know when to say ‘fuck it, I *do* have time for this [important personal thing]’.

Design your own logo, you might surprise yourself.

Don’t get held up by pixel perfect design.

You can iterate your copy.

Leave your admin till the evenings, spend the time you have with your team on product.

Carry a toothbrush and a spare shirt.

Use coffee shop loyalty cards.

An employee will cost you 20% more than you planned.

You don’t need an Aeron. Yet.

Cut your own hair. Or don’t cut it at all.

Pay your bills as they arrive. Letting them stack up isn’t good for anyone.

You can buy your Apple Care anytime in the first year. Wait.

Keep that FaceBook tab closed.

Don’t be concerned with inbox zero, it’s replying that’s important.

Do your VAT (tax) returns quarterly.

Sublet office space or desks, better still join a coworking space instead.

Have an occasional luxury.

Github, Dropbox, Google Docs, and Skype are your friends.

Keep your email short, your time, and theirs, is scarce.

Get to the point.

If that meeting opportunity happens, jump.

Know your shit. Read everything you’ve written, and read it again. Then write it again. Have answers. Be considered.

Use your competitors’ products. This is free research. They are learning and experimenting for you.

Use your own product. Otherwise WTF?

Have a note for everything. Organise and reduce these. Every thought was generated for a reason. Track this.

Have a spreadsheet for everything. They are guides. Know your numbers. Iterate these. Model scenarios.

You do have the time, stop watching reality TV and soap operas. In fact, sell your TV.

Make sure people remember you. Put a real photo of your actual face on your card.

Failing is an option, but not an aspiration. Understand why you failed. Don’t do it again.

Use that free Google Adwords credit they send you. A/B test. Learn what converts. Test your branding and messaging.

Start reading financial blogs.

Stop reading Reddit.

Learn your stakeholder’s vocabulary.

What do your stakeholders drink? You’ll know if you’ve spent time getting to know them.

Blog or tweet about what you learn and you’ll learn even more.

Spend time with other founders. Only they will understand what you’re going through.

Keep your shoes clean.

Be as transparent and upfront as possible, then you can have proper conversations rather than games of guesswork.

Your lawyer and accountant have a lot of knowledge, but you can help them learn too.

Hold on tight.




Decentralising online transactions

Or “online cash” – since I don’t have to hand my physical cash to Visa so they can give it to you for that coffee I just bought. Of course they’d like it that way, hence the push of “mobile wallets”, owned by guess who! (If not owned, reliant on the infrastructure of – this is not a step forward)

Flattr just announced they’re becoming a normal* payment gateway. With some caveats, and differences, that make it more interesting, but the important thing is – we get it now :)

Anyway, one of the comments reminded me I’d done a lot of thinking about how you decentralise the transaction of cash, in a simple sense all that’s happened is that a number in one row of a database is going up and another is going down, right? This should be easy. And I suspect most of it is.

Here’s the brain-dump: (was going to be a comment on that TC post)

Gratz to the team :)

Although this might appear to be a step backwards, towards traditional payment mechanics, the current players need to be disrupted by replicating current behaviours, with better practice, and with less barriers to mass adoption. And more options are always better, the current choices of PayPal or Google Checkout are frankly appalling. We use them because we have to. This slows innovation because we’re locked in. There are also lots of horror stories, do some Googling.

Now of course true p2p is the holy grail, as it were.. maybe build something out on bitcoin? I hear they’re doing well, it just needs some UX work, what doesn’t!

(We’re heading into a time when everything is distributed (like the work to distribute DNS) and trust will be king, services will compete on it, and where choice will be free, doesn’t that sound like a utopian future for humanity?)

Truly distributed services will always have that problem, trust. So there needs to be a system of nodes and providers (anyone and everyone is a node, and anyone or everyone can be a provider), you trust a provider based on other existing proofs. i.e. Twitter could be a provider, you trust them, right? Or your bank (yeah i know, ack), or the guy who runs your local residents group.

You then enter your provider at the point of payment with your unique identifier in a oauth/openid style interaction (Email address? More trust proof), that then gets looked up in the network, and payment is authorised.

Balance and transaction info is stored encrypted and distributed in the network, no node can be locally read. Each unit of currency holds a transaction history against itself, who last owned it, who owns it now, and where it was last transfered. Each unit is also unique with this triplet of info. that uniqueness can be looked up too, records are stored and replicated DNS-style. PGP cash?

And so it goes. money is democratised.



This has been a hard thing to articulate, and I’ve rushed through it here, I’ll try to elaborate more if I work out how to :)

* Normal in that you can make a payment of any amount, previously it was a percentage of your monthly pot based on the ratio of pot size to number of payments. They explain it better, I’m sure.



Update: I stopped writing this post, it got too long, and I got bored. Also, it looks like Meebo might have just pwned RockMelt anyway, with their MiniBar. This is an ever-changing space, and will require a followup post!


It’s too early to form a proper opinion on this one, but here’s some initial thoughts.

From CrunchBase: (read more)

Rockmelt is a social web browser built off of Chromium and boasts deep integration with both Facebook and Twitter with it’s “Edges” which are filled with friends that are online and feeds that you follow complete with update badges.

Completely achievable with a browser plugin? I think so.

It also sports what some believe to be the next big search revolution. Unlike Google’s universal navigation field, RockMelt has a dedicated search field that shows complete search results as a drop down overtop web pages. This is helpful when switching between different search results from one single query.

So the search is displayed over the page you’re on. Again, this is just a plugin, right?

I don’t know of any plugin that got almost $10m investment. But a browser, ooh, now that’s compelling. I wonder which one have the widest adoption, the easiest path to become a user, the smallest change in behaviour required. The answer these days, is a webapp, Not an installable piece of software. (A discussion for another time maybe) But for the sake of this argument, I would bet that plugins have lower barrier to entry, technically, but emotionally, people are more likely to be compelled to try out a new browser.

So it’s a browser with FaceBook, Twitter, and some kind of clever search thing going on, right? Well yeah, basically.

UX and bugs aside (those are solved with time, iterate and deploy, small and often), there are a bunch of interesting things to note. I’m not even going to touch on the so-called social features. What I’m going to talk about are the decisions they’ve made so far, and where I think that means they’re heading.


The integration with FaceBook goes too far in my opinion. The first time you open the app, you’re asked to connect it to FaceBook. Every time you open it it connects to FaceBook.


Not only does this slow you down, (not to mention being offline?), but let me put this simply, to use your browser, to access the web, you have to first login to FaceBook. As some have mentioned, this may just be how things work now, we give up some data for a perceivably more valuable return, we think we’re the ones winning.

That is basically Google’s business model. It’s also FaceBook’s business model, but RockMelt’s? Aren’t they giving it all to FaceBook? Anyway, that’s just half of the story. What if FaceBook is down? You can’t browse the web? As I tweeted:

when #facebookdown, taking Facebook Connect & fb social plugins with it, how do you log in to all those other websites then? now do you see?

This potential single point of failure is just unacceptable. Anyone building a browser in 2010 should know better. No doubt this will change. This probably won’t matter to most ‘normal’ users until it’s a problem. When you’re at a gig, you only notice the sound engineer when he fucks up. But will a ‘normal’ person ever use RockMelt? No. Unless FaceBook buy them. Which may well be the plan here.

Your data

Where is it?

Well some is in the browser: browsing history, bookmarks. Is it being passed to FaceBook? I doubt it. Why would they? Access to the data is a reason to acquire (and a reason FaceBook would build a browser, like Google with Chrome, extra reach).

Some of your data is still in FaceBook, or Twitter. Which is fine I guess. As fine as it would be anyway, at least.

Is RockMelt going to do anything clever with these two sources.. now that’s a question. With the permission models that we all accept now, apps are able to do things that would have been considered evil if it was based on cookies. We ticked the terms box, right? Yes, there are technical, and legal, things to consider here, but essentially there is an opportunity to do something cool, and now your users are ok (technically) with you doing it.

Certainly what you’re not getting at this point is any sort of backup or sync of your data to a service in the cloud. Why not make all your browser bookmarks FaceBook Likes? (ok, a few reasons, it’s just an example of integration)

Why a browser?

So you want to connect to the places you hang out most (for some reason). And you want to let something watch you the whole time while you’re online, for some sort of benefit (that might not be clear yet). And you probably spend 99% of your time in only a few places.

I guess it makes sense to use a browser that allows you to do those things. But this comes with baggage.

Firstly, you have to install it. Who does that anymore? Installed apps have to be updated. Your users may be on several different versions of your stuff. Rolling out fixes takes quick action on your user’s part. And bandwidth to deploy. And then there’s the various OSs that it might be used on. Aren’t we favouring webapps to solve these problems?

How about a compromise, a browser plugin. Sure, you could do all the same stuff, while not having all the same issues. But plugins? Until they’re called apps, people won’t care. There’s a thought..

Meebo have just done this, with the Meebo MiniBar. What took so long!

Additional: (just sayin’.. look how close we’re getting to how all this should be!)

Notice the Meebo bar ON FACEBOOK OMG! Surely I’ll be able to drag, drop, share, blah.. pretty soon. If people do that anyway?


RockMelt could simply be a webapp. We have a few things already that do most of what it does.. Cliqset, Brizzly, to name a couple. What does it take to do basic browsing inside it? Or for a plugin (app) to work closely with it’s web-based parts to bridge this gap.

The reason I would make it a new browser is easy. You’re always using it, without even thinking about it. Assuming you’ve installed it, set it as your default, and stop clicking that Firefox icon in your dock. When you occasionally need the thing this new browser does, the button is there. But most of what it does can be done on the FaceBook or Twitter sites themselves, so as long as you don’t forget that they exist, what do you need a special browser for?

We should be abstracting the browser layer away entirely in my opinion. As we’ve basically done with the OS. RockMelt is highlighting that most of what we do is on the web itself.



Reuse and invisible familiarity in design

Some great backstories about things you see or hear everyday. Content used so much it becomes public domain, or more, part of the cultural landscape. Recognisable sometimes only subconsciously, but as a layer that stimulates familiarity, and builds on associations we have with certain genres, environments, emotions or experiences. I wonder if the associations we have with those things, the subconscious emotional connection to a film, or a piece of music, are only perpetuated by the familiarity, having lost original meaning. Or maybe simply reinforcing attachment to a feeling that isn’t really there.

Or maybe they just feel right. These are early memes.

(I’m not going to talk about IP and licensing in this post, but the first video covers it very well)

The “Amen Break”

A drum loop sampled and cut up so much that it almost defines how we physically connect to music.. saying “this is how your body moves”. Hard not to tap your fingers to, you’ll start hearing this in music you own, and realise it’s one of the things that makes that piece what it is.

The “Willhelm Scream”

Somebody get stabbed, or fall off a cliff? Shady figure behind a curtain? This is how you’re supposed to scream. As the story goes, this particular sample is now an in joke, or calling card, of sound engineers in the know. We probably don’t notice it, but they get to nod knowingly at each other, while producers utter “that’s it, that’s the sound I want, good work!”. And it is the sound they want. It conveys exactly what they need it to, because it’s familiar. We, as viewers, know exactly what it means and how we’re supposed to feel. It’s like mist over a lake, or a ripple in a glass of water.

“The Recurring Prop Newspaper”

Then there’s the pure joke. Which probably started as laziness. Or reused because it was augmented somehow to be useful on set, to hold something like an actors lines maybe?

But by now I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a PDF floating around producers email lists (Is there a resource of this stuff? There should be). So does this have an emotional side-effect. Probably not. But you can be sure the content of the newspaper has nothing to do with the plot of whatever it is you’re watching. You’d think that might guarantee it not to be misleading or distracting, but the opposite might be true. How can something interesting to a character in a scene not be interesting to the viewer, or relevant to the story? Maybe we read too much into this..

(Borrowed from Slashfilm)


So is all this in the aid of familiarity, a joke, laziness.. or do they just work? The Amen Break started as convenient, and awesome. Now it’s basically a default framework, on which the layers of a track are built.

When you apply this to interface design it’s easy to see similar reasoning about consistency and familiarity. We often strive to create “invisible design”, design we just know how to use. It’s not intrusive, it’s clear and well known, and doesn’t require instructions. Like a close box, or an “OK” button. We think about libraries and best practice, but we sometimes forget emotion. People like to be at ease, when they already know how something works, the barriers drop.

Sometimes these things change. Why is the save icon in your word processor a small image of a floppy disk? If you were born in the ’90’s it’s likely you have no idea what that is, what is that supposed to suggest is the function of that button? The answer? Well it’s increasingly becoming to change the paradigm of “saving”. The familiar pattern on the web has started to become automatic, or background saving, having an inherent revision history. Collaboration on a document is also having an effect. No-longer is there a save-and-hand-over, stop > send > wait > receive > edit > repeat, process.

So this has become invisible, just like the Amen Break. We see it, it is fundamental to the experience, but we get it straight away so see past it. Clever stuff. But you can’t purposely create these memes. Memes create themselves. A collective acceptance, even viral. We’re rats in a maze we’re designing.