I know I said a while back that I don't go to many trivia nights, but it seems evidence is mounting that trivia nights are the only social events I attend. They make me feel a little stupid because I know so little about trivia.
That was Tuesday. It is now Friday.
On Tuesday night, I started writing something a piece about the next round of activities for VIVA. Instead of finishing that piece on the blog, I started writing instructions to Ian and Syed about how to automate our data labelling process. For those in the know, labelling of data is one of the key things that we have to do to treat the information that comes into VIVA in order for events to be properly categorised, and therefore recommended to people. It is the difference between telling someone they might enjoy Swan Lake rather than just any opera (or any live performance). So far, this has been a manually intensive process, but now we are looking to automate that.
As a result, I never ended up writing a piece about the next round of activities for VIVA, so... another day!
All the startup advice I have ever heard tells people to be niche - look after one very small segment of the market, and then grow from that segment.
VIVA has taken the contrarian stance to that advice. As a result, our marketing has always been challenging. Charlotte used to say, "it's really hard when you don't know who to target."
Nobody wants a generalist (product).
Ian and I caught up with Anthony from The Last Pickle on Friday morning for a coffee - shout out to the database geniuses!
VIVA is nowhere near ready for Cassandra yet.
"What's a good transition point?" Ian asked.
"Probably when you are getting into the terabytes. You should start planning when you have 500 gigabytes of data," Anthony replied, without flinching at the size of the databases.
For the layman, myself included, a terabyte of text in a database is about:
I do not know when VIVA will have or need that much data, especially since we designed the whole system to capture the least volume of data for the maximum amount of information. Maybe if you include pictures and videos, then we will hit that threshold a bit faster, but the design of VIVA at the moment is not to store pictures and videos on our own database.
I am sure Ian, Syed and I will have lots of fun designing the next evolution of VIVA's backend.
Joyce and Oliver have been spending every Friday with us at Pyrmont for the last few months. They have been amazing marketing interns!
I realised last week that I have been spoon-feeding them information, rather than getting them to run their own research... and so I have taken them off the task of producing creatives, and set them running on a deep dive task into researching market segments in Sydney.
We only managed to chat for an hour or so between my meetings, and it was then I realised how many of VIVA's algorithms are based on the same principles as those brain teaser questions that management consulting firms ask at interviews, things like, "how many ping pong balls can fit in a 747?" That is a blog post for another time.
Lurnea's graduation presentation was on tonight at Academy Xi, where she showcased her work alongside her six classmates, Vienna Chen, Roger Saxby Heath, Wharton Law, Amanda Maykot, Mark Potter and Tobias Robinson.
I wished I stayed longer to chat to everyone.
There is a sort of exhaustion you feel only after travelling. I imagine this is what time travel feels like... (ignoring that time travel in the conventional fictional sense isn't possible based on our modern understanding of science, but pretending time travel is possible, then this is what I imagine it must feel like)
Time is a big, huge, enormous topic, and a theme I return to contemplating almost every day.
Time is the only objective constant between people. We all have the same amount of time (an aside, even though we each have the same amount of time, we do not all experience time in the same way, and that is where things become really interesting, but more on this when I am not exhausted).
This equality is why time is the one thing that we try to measure with impeccable precision using VIVA. Rather than measuring social networks, spending habits or search terms, we measure time. This is how VIVA will provide reliable information... because we remove everything from the equation that has nothing to do with time. We measure two fundamental and comparable things - our propensity for what we want to do with our time, and the value we give to our time - and then we build personalisation algorithms on top of those foundation principles.
Or, maybe I am exhausted because I caught a cold in Melbourne.
This philosophical drivel will have to wait for another day.
Data Skeptic has become one of my favourite podcasts.
I refused to listen to podcasts until a few months ago, but the combined influences of Reece at WWF and Tina at Sydney Festival convinced me to give them a chance.
My prejudice wasn't against podcasts specifically, but against anything purely aural. I think it is because I cannot see what I am getting into until after committing the time to listen - there is no window shopping, only unknowing commitment and the risk of disappointment.
Some people love the exploration and possibility of discovering something delightful in the soundscape of the world. I don't know why I have never been one of them... I love new experiences. Maybe it is a time thing. Maybe it is an allergic reaction to the risk of disappointment.
Yesterday, I found Kyle Polich at Data Skeptic had released a new podcast about recommender systems. This is a significant thing because VIVA is powered by our proprietary recommender system, and because I do not have a long history in the machine learning industry, every bit of information about what is at the cutting edge of this machine learning technology matters to the fate of VIVA. Well, I am happy to report that VIVA still seems to be at the cutting edge.
The news warranted a break, so Allan and I went to The Buena for a trivia night.
(despite the consistency of this week and last week, I have only been to trivia twice in the last few years - this week's trivia was much easier than the last)
I wanted to write about the power of "community" today. It has been on my mind all weekend. After uncovering a few more Indian companies who have built scrapers that aggregated all events data from Facebook, Meetup and other sites, I spent the bulk of my Sunday pondering why they have not succeeded even though they have collected a wealth of information.
The answer, I think, is "community".
Pat Maloney at JMC Academy was the first person I met who used the word "community" in this context. Before meeting Pat in March 2017, everyone used the phrase "network effect". I realised recently that hunting for "network effect" is like trying to win the outcome without identifying the cause. Almost analogous to trying to win a million dollars at the casino without knowing which game to play.
I will leave the rest of that story for another time because a story published on HBR caught my attention this morning. In a tangential way, the article reaffirmed one of the underlying reasons we created VIVA, and what we are trying to achieve with the technology behind it - we want to improve how humans experience the real world.
When we were working on our branding with Tony more than a year ago, we decided the four key pillars for VIVA's branding:
A lot of people have asked - "what the hell does efficient mean?"
Efficiency is about improving the quality of user experiences - eliminating wild goose chases from bad data. Data quality was one of our key concerns when building VIVA. How do we give users better information than they can find on Facebook or Google? Our hypothesis was that if we can deduce more reliable information than would be available on Facebook or Google, then we can use that more reliable information to give more reliable recommendations. Our design philosophy was centred on this idea of improved reliability.
"... and that's why I have been writing a blog every day. Today's will be about community and data quality."
"It will be interesting to see if you still want to write about that when you get back."
Jac refused to have her portrait taken.
"No, Bad Wu!"
I put up one funny message on her Facebook wall years ago, just once, and she has not let that go.
"Fine. Just a photo of the coffee cup then..."
I am glad that I am writing a blog post every day, because today, I found I lost track of what I achieved this week.
I have come to measure my sense of self-worth through three metrics - the number of new users on VIVA, the number of new event organisers signing up, and the volume of knowledge I consumed that week - notice the distinct and unhealthy lack of any personal or social indicators.
My mental health aside, I wish there were more data nerds in the team (in the same country - sorry Steve) equally willing to drool over maths and machine learning. Is this a case of "social math"?
Along comes Ian, the newest pseudo-member of our team. Ian is the husband of a friend's friend recently arriving from the UK. We emailed for weeks trying to find time for coffee, bouncing time proposals back and forth, dodging puppy-care, child-care and other appointments, and finally meeting this morning at Harris.Miller.
Lucky for Ian, I had finished the draft VC pitch deck at 1am last night, and so I could give him the summary of our vision for VIVA accompanied by graphics and charts. If I were to toot my own horn, I think Ian was impressed. Maybe it is childish for me to be giddy someone else is excited about our idea... but I am!
Or maybe I am excited that I can talk maths with someone else (in the same country - sorry Steve). I can already feel the surge of motivation to read the textbooks Nishant shared with us a few weeks ago.