Profile of a hustler: Instantbight.com
David Silverman is the blogger behind instantbight.com, popularized recently for his simple 5 Question Interviews of technorati. Looking at the list you might recognize some people that I mention from time to time: Horace Dediu, Craig Mod, Ethan Marcotte and Dan Adams for example. David has been publishing these short interviews about one a day since mid-April. It is a pretty ambitious project by a guy with some inspirational initiative.
Did I mention he is in Grade 8?
I reached out to David and we decided to interview one another (here’s mine). Below are my 5 Questions to him. If you want to learn more about David , I recommend you check out his interview with Apple pundit Philip Elmer-DeWitt (one of his first interviewees) for CNN. There you can learn more about why he started the site and the story behind the name of his blog.
Q. After 3 months, how much feedback are you getting from your interviews nowadays?
Nowadays I get an average of 350 views daily. When I have a very high-profile person doing an interview with me I get upwards of 500. On the day that the CNN Money Article came out, I got around 4,000 views which was insane. All of the comments, and feedback have been positive and very helpful! I love all of my readers, and would love to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me.
Q. What interests you most about the tech world right now?
I find the tech world fascinating for a bunch of reasons. For one I am really an Apple fanboy so all of their product announces and presentations captivate me from the first signs on the rumor mills. Another reason I like the tech world is for it’s attitude. Everyone I have interviewed is so passionate and enthusiastic about their work. I really am excited about the world I am coming into and can’t wait to really get involved.
Q. Which is better and why: work for a big company like Apple or Google someday or have your own startup?
That is an amazing question. I think that if I was every offered a real, “high-up” position in Apple I would take it in a mili-second. I would not want to work for Google, at all, but I won’t get into that now. I would also really like to start my on business. I really like starting things, and leading a team.I feel that I am pretty creative so I would like to make a company that would really wow the tech world. Who knows maybe in a few years, there will be an instantbight inc.
Q. Do you have a business or product idea in mind?
For a long time before instantbight.com, I was thinking of investing time in starting a social network solely for kids ages 10-18. The network would be very entrepreneurially minded, and the focus would be on collaborating with other kids on possible business ideas. I think that kids have an edge that adults don’t on making great ideas and businesses. I would still love to do it now, so if anybody reading this is interested…let me know!
Q. What are your favourite podcasts?
I love The Critical Path with Horace Dediu. He is maybe the smartest guy I know and is so articulate. Every single one of his shows keeps my focus(which is tough with my teenage attention span.). I love how he gives real, cold, hard facts for all of his statements. I also really liked The Talk Show with John Gruber before, he broke up with Dan Benjamin. I am still not sure what that’s all about but I loved the show when they were together. Very funny.
Big Idea: Financing Space Exploration
I was up late last night and began to consider the problem of funding for scientific research. After learning about disruption theory last year I often look around and think about possibilities of disruption. Big science is ripe for it.
Because of my lifelong love of the mysteries of the cosmos I am particularly interested in space exploration. With the decline of NASA this is a very timely issue. Traditionally science and technology research has been funded with public money and guided by military concerns, particularly in the area of space exploration. Since the end of the Cold War public funding of science has been cut back year after year. Is there a better model?
In the startup space we spend a lot of our time thinking about business models, product-market fit, market experimentation, bootstrapping, etc. I love working on the next big app as much as the next guy, but there are bigger issues in the world. Bigger ideas.
If public funding for space exploration is getting sparse (or is politically difficult to access), what are the alternatives? Corporate sponsorship? Bake sales? Microryza and Petridish.org are using a crowd-funding model similar to Kickstarter. Or can we do an end-run around funding and figure out other ways to support research. For example, leverage the consumerization of research technology, spare CPU cycle donation, etc. It seems to me that an entrepreneurial mind could come up with a novel solution to this problem.
Some of the more illustrious stars in the startup constellation (specifically Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos) have taken space private using their massive fortunes. Although a great contribution, this is more evolutionary than revolutionary. True disruptions tend to be cheap and simple.
I am not proposing that we should figure out how to make a cheaper, better space probe (though somebody should be doing that), but I think we could use our entrepreneurial creativity to come up with alternative funding models for scientific and space research.
Over the next while I will learn more about this topic to see what work has gone before. I reached out to Neil deGrasse Tyson (hero!) who has been arguing the case for space for a long time. My next read is Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight. If you know of any resources please leave a comment, get me on G+ tweet me or use the contact form at the bottom of my site.
- If you need more convincing that this is a worthy cause, start with this short vid featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Everybody can be inspired by Carl Sagan
- Take a flight to Saturn to learn of some of the possibilities of modern space exploration
- Learn about Project Hieroglyph, Neal Stephenson’s call to SF writers to end Innovation Starvation
Social Network Audit
After posting my Google+ rant on Google+ I thought more about what kinds of social networking services I use, and how many I have abandoned in the past. I put them all together in the graphic above, separated into three groups (from top to bottom): Currently using (frequency from Left to Right); Infrastructure and Deadpool.
Twitter is my most used network. Tumblr powers my blog. I upload to Flickr often, where I share private photos & vids of my babies with friends and family. I use Zite for social news (I used Summify before it got acquired, Percolate and News.Me never worked out). I keep up with a lot of stuff through Twitter or podcasts. The next set of SNSs are for tracking: books, movies, music, bookmarks and locations/food/meetings (Path). Then there are a couple for pure entertainment. Finally, there are the functional networks (and Google+).
These are basically the services that I use without really knowing it. Flavors powers my site. I do upload the occasional video to Vimeo, but mostly it is used for viewing vids that people share to me. YouTube is exclusively for watching. IMDB is now used just for reference (I log all the films I watch with Letterboxd). Gravatar and Disqus are useful social utilities.
Some of these I tried and disliked, some lost out to competitors higher up in the graphic, and the rest are great but I trimmed to simplify my social networking life. As you can see, a number of services have fallen by the wayside.
Believe it or not, I have been trying to cut down on my digital attention deficit disorder. I have been pretty successful with iPhone apps. One obvious way to cut down on the number of SNSs I use is to use Facebook with a number of apps. But… still too creepy for me.
Two networks on which I have accounts but remain undecided are 500px and Diaspora. I have flirted with the former simply out of frustration with Yahoo’s lack of vision for Flickr; the latter I joined during the whole Facebook revolution of 2010. I shelved it when Google+ came out, but I am thinking about taking a look at it again. It looks like they have come a long way.
It is a valuable exercise to periodically audit different aspects of your life, and simplify where you can. Obviously “simplification” is a relative term, but it is something we can all strive for, and can lead to more happiness. To make this blog post even more pretentious, I will end with a video from an inspiring TED talk entitled Less stuff, more happiness.
LTU in Japan
For the past four months I have been doing periodic interviews with people involved in the tech industry in Vancouver and BC on my podcast Lining Things Up. So far it has been great, and I have learned a lot about local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. The show (usually) is released every second Thursday.
As I am on an extended stay in Japan, I decided to continue doing the main show but thought it would be interesting to intersperse releases with interviews of tech people based here in Japan. I reached out to a few prominent (English-speaking) members of the tech community and have begun the process. Thus, I am excited to present LTU in Japan.
LTU in Japan will be a short run show and included in the main LTU feed. If you are interested in technology in Japan, have a listen. You will be inspired by the personal stories of the interviewees, and how they got to Japan. You will get some insight on how the tech community works in other parts of the world, and hopefully you will gain some perspective on your own community.
As always, if you have feedback or questions, get in touch via Twitter or email me: chad [at] liningthingsup
A few production notes
For those interested, I have a few comments about producing the new show. First, I conducted the theme music entirely with GarageBand for iPad. It is pretty simple, but amazingly fun. Secondly, the site. I designed the main LTU site to be minimalistic, bright, and mobile friendly. It is a long, single column design that I did in one day. LTUJ is the same but different. Simple, but inverted colors and a wide design. You’ll notice, however, when you resize your browser the interviewee “cards” sort themselves to fit your screen. The ultimate result is that on an iPhone, LTUJ is a long design similar to the regular site. Once again, I whipped this up in a day, by hand using Espresso so forgive any irregularities.
Warner Bros: You are doing it wrong
The wife got me the Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection boxed (17 discs) set for our anniversary. Yes, well, she got me Lord of the Rings for another anniversary, so it is already well established that she married a total geek. Besides, it is a great present and I hope to enjoy all of the films and books with both of my daughters. I know it is only DVD, but I don’t own a BluRay player, and I do everything digital anyways. So I was excited to see that the boxed set included digital downloads! But not so fast… Take a look at this fine print:
DIGITAL COPY: Includes Standard Definition Digital Copy™ of the film with the purchase of this disc. Special Features not included. … Not compatible with iTunes or with Macintosh and iPod devices. Consumer must reside in Japan and have a broadband internet connection and a DVD-ROM drive. * Mobile Requirements: Digital copy access on mobile phones limited to supported phones using Docomo as a mobile service provider. … PC Requirements: Windows® XP Service Pack 2 or later or Windows® Vista or Windows® 7, Internet Explorer® 6.0 or above. Windows Media® Player most recent version, Adobe® Flash® Player most recent version, and Adobe® AIR™ most recent version.
Boy, that last couple of lines is packed full of exciting software that I want to install on my computer [/sarcasm].
Anyways I only have my MacBook Air here in Japan so with no disc drive it doesn’t look like I will be able to get any of the digital versions. Besides, when you go to Warner on Demand Digital copy website there are a number of other restrictions including:
※Digital CopyのダウンロードはInternet Explorerで行ってください。他のブラウザでは正常にライセンスが発行できませんので、ご了承ください。
Yes, digital downloads require Internet Explorer. Apparently they cannot license [the content properly through] other browers thank you for your understanding. (#bullshit)
I know it has all been said before. Hollywood needs to be disrupted, and not just the distribution part of the business. This is such a terrible, terrible experience. I am glad there are alternatives, but it is a sad way to treat paying customers.
Observations on the lack of “free” WiFi in Japan
Above is pictured a sign at (one of) my local Starbucks. Free WiFi is a rare thing here in Japan, at least in the form it takes in North America. There is no lack of internet access points here, but they require you to be able to login using either your home internet providers credentials, or your mobile phone provider credentials. A third way to gain access is to pay a monthly fee to a WiFi subscription service such as Wifine. None of these options is truly “free” WiFi as known in North America, since the fees for access points are buried in your monthly internet fees. That said, the form of free WiFi that we enjoy at the local café in Vancouver is not necessary here, as most people have some sort of internet provider. Though it does greatly inconvenience travellers such as myself, who have no domestic internet service profile.
It might seem extremely inefficient to serve internet access in this way. Rather than hooking up a WiFi basestation, or getting sponsored free WiFi (as Bell does for Starbucks in Canada), establishments have to make partnerships with a spread of service providers to best serve their customers. It isn’t like they have to setup different WiFi basestations, as logins all seem to be handled through web forms. Still though, it is not as straight forward. There must be some value in the complexity.
It is often said that your ISP knows more about you than Google or Facebook or any other web service. In Japan your internet service provider also knows where and when you are accessing the net when away from your home. It is just like how credit card companies can track your usage and use that information to target campaigns and products. I am not sure if the Japanese ISPs are doing this, but it seems that there is value in gathering this type of information. If they see you are accessing the net mostly in the morning at Starbucks, they could bundle some coupons for breakfast rolls in future promotion.
All this said, I am still boned. As someone outside of the system, my information is not valuable, and thus I do not get the benefit on “free” WiFi in Japan, or any breakfast roll coupons. Not that I am bitter…
b-mobile fail follow up
Following my post from a few days ago I was advised to contact the b-mobile Help Desk. The result can be capsulated in the following two tweets. I am considering my next move and any potential reaction from b-mobile.
Smartphone penetration in Japan: Some numbers
Japan’s smart phone sales — 23.3 million this year — account for 56 per cent of the total mobile phone sales of the year
Yet, TomiAhonen Consulting, based on Ipsos data, ranks Japan’s smartphone penetration at just 14% per capita, tied 33rd with Brazil and Romania in a ranking of 42 countries. They follow that number with a caveat:
Japan and S Korea: These numbers are NOT indicative of how advanced phones are in those countries, while technically are reasonably accurate measures of ‘only smartphones’
Korea is ranked 20th, with 34%. It must help with penetration when some of your national champions are some of the top handset makers. (Canada, a particularly backwards nation when it comes to mobile, is 21st with 30% penetration.)
Japan on the other hand is still struggling with smartphone innovation (see my old post about this topic here). From the Straits times:
Commentators suggest phone producers need to install a system so that users cannot use the Internet while walking.
My new project: a bi-weekly interview show about creatives and entrepreneurs in Vancouver and greater British Columbia. Just released the first episode.
Reading Gleick’s The Information, specifically his discussion about the telephone supplanting the telegraph, made me think of iOS devices and their relationship to general computers.
Gleick argues that one reason for the explosion in telephone adoption compared to the telegraph was that no new skills had to be learned. Forget learning to translate from Morse to the alphabet, forget learning how to tap out a message, forget having to draft a message and take it to a telegraph station. You just need to talk and listen. No special skills necessary. Sure, a telegraph can communicate a lot more in a smaller package compared to a conversation, but ease-of-use led to widespread adoption and a huge change in society.
Yes, general computers can do a lot more than iOS devices. However iOS devices abstract away a lot of the technical barriers necessary to operate a general computer. No file system, no saving, no DMGs. No wonder there have been over 200m iOS devices sold compared to the 54m Macs in use. The analogy is not quite perfect because general computers are still necessary to do much of the computing heavy lifting. However, with Apple finally cutting the cord I am sure we will see the adoption gap widen even further.
My Blackberry Is Not Working! - The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One
Usage is like oxygen for ideas.
I am filing this inspirational quote away for future use.
After a “two week” hiatus Dan Benjamin and John Gruber are back with a triple venti-sized episode of The Talk Show, one of my favourite podcasts.
Near the end of the ep (around the last 8 mins) Dan and John discuss the possibility of Apple customizing the iPhone for multiple carriers, especially with regards to Verizon. Dan sees Apple conceding a “Verizon settings” app and John says no way. I would have to agree with John that Apple would not separate the system software by carrier. Here are two pieces of evidence from Japan that I would like to submit regarding the monolithic character of Apple’s iOS:
1) Keitai email: When the iPhone was released Softbank had to bend over backwards (ie. building out a new mail server system) to figure out how to give the iPhone the mobile email capabilities left over from the fossilized Japanese “keitai mail” culture.
2) Emoji: Smileys are another requirement in the Japanese mobile market. The lack of emoji meant the iPhone couldn’t be a hit with the “highschool girl” crowd. Apple ended up licensing SoftBank’s set of 450 icons, distributed them globally, and actually caused a bit of an emoji revolution in North American mobile culture.
The first example is one of Apple not accommodating carriers. The second shows how if a feature is important enough, Apple will roll it into the OS itself, and distribute it worldwide.
Apple is a very US-centric company and I have long criticized it for not being sensitive to local conditions. If they won’t change the way they do things to fit local cultures and market conditions, I doubt they would do so just to get on with a certain mobile carrier.
ADDENDUM: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Apple pushing it’s own features on to carriers, eg. Visual Voicemail.