... they will come.
I heard that famous movie quote again on a YouTube documentary about a Noah's Ark creationist museum in America. (Spoiler alert: And of course, nobody came.)
I think that is a big lesson I have learnt about product development in the past year. Building something from nothing is a good first step, but if the project trajectory is off the target by even a few degrees... well, how much you miss the mark depends on how far away that target is. The lean startup mantra of iterating a product over and over seems to be a good guide on how to overcome the inability for people to make accurate estimations of where a targets is.
Steve and Evan are both big fans of iterating products.
Andrew of Hello.Television (and all-round champion) must be too. We had a beer yesterday to chat about what our respective businesses are doing this year. So far so good, in the 18 days that have passed so far... but we must now iterate VIVA again.
Syed and I are due to chat this Sunday about the next improvements... and I hope that will bring more people to use VIVA more regularly.
I have been a little quiet on the blogging front. Sorry. Also we have been quiet on the social media front... sorry for that too.
Most people are still on holidays. I have made use of the spare time to consider a few other ideas that fluttered onto my desk over the break - like having lunch with Steve and Tim discussing a potential new project.
I presented the forest of ideas to Evan over breakfast last week. He made a good point, one that a lot of others have made to me, "Dude, you have to pick one."
I think that's the difficulty - there are so many big ideas, and then sub-ideas under each big idea, and then sub-sub-ideas under each of those... looking at VIVA, we are already juggling about five sub-ideas, and about 40 sub-sub-ideas. Even doing one will take many hours. Most of our time in the past two weeks have been spent carefully looking at how we can better service Sydney Festival. New ideas are emerging from the analysis, and so I will have to share them with the team in the coming weeks. I want to first sketch the Photoshop mock-ups before sharing the ideas, since some of the implementation are subtle. There are a few big ideas on the horizon for how to make VIVA better, but I am not yet sure the best ways to tackle these ideas.
So far this year, I have made no mistakes writing the date, no inadvertent reversion to 2017, no accidental mixing of the years... and this bothers me. I always mess up the years for the first few weeks of January, writing "xx January" followed by whatever the year was before.
I find myself asking, why am I so comfortable slipping into 2018?
Work has been a mishmash of too many things...
When Tze Ting and I caught up for coffee yesterday afternoon, I had just come back from my morning's meeting with Webhaus. The boys were planning out their world domination plans, while I simultaneously counted my quickly diminishing free time. I was a little concerned about how I will sustain VIVA amidst the tornado of other opportunities this year.
I dislike the title "serial entrepreneur" - the association the title has and the people who self-profess to be "serial entrepreneurs". Eeek. Gross.
I am a believer in doing one thing and doing it well... and so this week has distracting me from the goal of making VIVA better. That is over for now.
Sorry for the absence friends, but I am back properly now.
I was up in Brisbane for a holiday, and I had a nagging feeling that I left my fridge door ajar in Sydney.
Spoiler alert: the fridge door was closed! Phew!
But we are back to work!
So stories like Leigh suggesting that we should take advantage of the hype around cryptocurrencies by launching our own VIVAcoin that can be spent in-app, or lengthy chats with Nick about the state of the world will have to wait.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
We have been off celebrating with friends and family.
Syed and Hassan released a version of VIVA a few days ago (just in time for Christmas) which is waaaay faster than the previous versions. They rewrote all the script from the ground up to get the speed improvement. Right now, Android seems about twice as fast as iOS - which is unexpected, but pleasant! Syed is going to look into why iOS is slower than Android... but not for a few more days!
We are taking the time off!
Have a great break, everyone!
Tony makes a great drop of vino...
... or so I think, because I haven't tasted this particular wine.
We caught up a week ago, and I haven't put up any stories, posts, or ... well ... it is almost as if I have gone underground completely for the past week.
OK... I admit it. My productivity has dropped waaaaay down since our boat party a week ago.
The past seven days has been a little bit of a mental holiday for me. The usual tasks of business development and marketing have been near comatose levels. It feels like everyone is either busy or away at this time of the year, and so our motivation to contact people is also waaaaay down. I keep thinking, why bother people when they are busy?
I feel that is the wrong attitude, but it's Christmas! It's our favourite time of the year, and so we are giving ourselves a little slack... and as I write that, I am certain that is definitely the wrong attitude to hold. This is the time when I can work uninterrupted on new ideas and improvements.
At this time last year, I was deliberating whether to stay at the law firm or to leap out to run VIVA. The urgency I felt a year ago seemed absent in the last week... but not today!
The most important thing - product.
I harp on about this all the time - product, product, product... what do people want? How do we help them get what they want?
All of us in the team think about this a lot. Sometimes, I feel like we think about it so much that we lose sight of the core agenda, and run off on tangential quests to find fancy loots when we should be focused on saving the princess and slaying the dragon.
The AWS startup guys asked me to describe our business in one line. After a few attempts, I wrote "we help people discover fun things to do". That isn't perfect, but it is close... it is like Mario at the end of World 1-4... we think we have beat Bowser and saved the princess, but there are more worlds to conquer and more refinements to be made.
Hmm... this is the first time I have used the dragon and princess analogy, and I like it a lot.
Oh... I like this a lot... this analogy is my Christmas present to myself.
Nick organised a Christmas party for us to sail around Sydney Harbour on a luxury yacht... and it was amazing!
I was not a fan of boat parties because they meant we were stuck together without any means of escape (I was never the strongest of swimmers - there is a long and embarrassing story about how I learnt to swim at the age of 14, but I think that is best saved for if and when we are having a beer) - what if it is terrible? What do we do? Of course, the answer is you do everything to turn the situation around so that everyone is having a good time.
I am a fan now. I think we are going to make all of our future Christmas parties boat parties.
In other news...
Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.
It gives me a great deal of hope that people are increasing turning away from social media. That is a really long story, and I am not in the right head space to go into that idea for now.
Would you believe that I used to be great at writing blog posts and stories a few years ago? ... me neither.
This blog post is about equilibriums.
Sometimes, words go missing from my mind. Ideas try to hook into words to make themselves tangible, but fail to grip onto anything, and instead send the letters clashing around my mind like in a pinball machine. Those are good days. My mind feels alive, and I start to believe again perhaps I am not as stupid as some evidence might suggest.
The thoughts sometimes lead to actions... but only sometimes.
We took a day off yesterday. We spent the afternoon seeing New Breed by Sydney Dance Company, and the evening at Kat's birthday barbecue. It was probably one of the most relaxed days both of us have had in the past months.
A year ago, I started working on VIVA full time believing that I would visit one venue or one event every day, and then spending the rest of my time working on the business. On average, I think I have visited two venues or attended two events every week... which is on par to when I was a lawyer. Spending a lot of hours working seems to have become a habit. This led to an interesting (and very recent) observation:
We each have an innate and immutable level of sociability.
There is a body of psychology research about the effect of winning the lottery on human happiness. The research showed that the external stimuli pushed and pulled on our level of happiness in the short term, but with the passing of time, we return to something like an innate level of happiness.
I think sociability behaves in a similar framework where each of us has an innate level of desire for being social. We may change our behaviour in the short term, our longer term behaviours return to a natural equilibrium.
If this is right, then this is very interesting... one of the hypothesis we used when we built VIVA was that happiness is directly proportional to sociability. Our goal was to make the world a happier place, and so if we increased sociability, then we increased happiness. BUT, if sociability returns to an equilibrium the same way that happiness returns to an equilibrium, then it would be foolish to expect that VIVA can change the behaviour of users to increase the quantum of social interactions permanently.
So, how will VIVA improve user happiness?
I wrote to Sam earlier today, "Hey man! Let me know if you want a break and come to the boat trip tomorrow. The offer is open, if you feel like it, alright?"
If we can take VIVA to the level of knowing when someone can benefit from being social, then even though we may not be able to permanently increase their happiness, we can help give them a temporary and necessary uptick in their happiness... and maybe that is the best we can hope to do.
"So you went to the Christmas party on Monday?"
"I thought you wrote that on the blog."
"That's next Monday. Oh, it's probably my bad writing."
"I might not have read it right. I read pretty quickly."
"Nah, it's probably my writing. I tend to write all of these things in bed. Tap, tap, tap. Go."
I should spend more time on these blog posts, and write about more insightful things. The trouble with trying to write insightful things is that I don't want to pretend to be a subject matter expert - on what? Marketing? Technology? Startups? I have formed some ideas on those subjects, but writing about them in the abstract seems like an entitlement that has to be earned through hard work. Or, I could write about business sensitive topics like partnerships and growth strategies, but I don't want to share those topics on a public forum until afterwards.
A faster version is coming!
Syed called me just before Andrea arrived for our catch-up drinks. He and Hassan have changed some of the code from CakePHP to something else... and the load time is now 2 seconds.
I missed what this magical code is when he told me on the phone, so I will have to follow up later.
A few months ago, Dalibor and a few others told me how notoriously slow CakePHP is. Unfortunately, I am not a techie (#notatechie), so I don't know the reasons why one language would be slower than another language. The use of the slower code is a legacy issue from the start of the build. We have been working out way out of this, but it hasn't been completed yet. I met an ex-Google engineer a few weeks ago, Francois, who is working on a project that may solve that coding problem. I hope he succeeds.
The Webhaus boys invited us to join them on their Christmas cruise next Monday, so I extended the invitation to Tom as well. I was hesitant to take the Monday afternoon off to celebrate Christmas, but it seemed that almost all of our business customers are either taking a holiday break or facing major Christmas ache, and so I feel like I can take some time off too.
Our business is on track for this quarter, despite the changed market landscape causing us to duck and dodge. I am trying to shift the VIVA-mobile into the next gear, but this car did not come with an instruction manual, so I keep - what's the phrase - missing the clutch? Grinding the clutch? The positive news are that the ride still runs, and it is looking like it will be smoother.
How to better capture our minds...
A tangential thought has been nagging at me for a few days.
A few days ago, I woke from a dream, a fully scripted eight episode series about someone solving a puzzle that spans 50 years and across wealthy American aristocrats, and promptly forgot all the character names, the nuances of the plot, dialogue, and almost everything that made the idea worthwhile, and it occurred to me that we need a better way to capture thoughts, experiences. I have been so obsessed with using VIVA to create experiences, I forgot an equally important part of the equation - capturing and remembering experiences.
I spent a few hours this afternoon sketching a product outline of what something would have to do - and it is much more than Facebook or Pinterest. I don't have the solution yet, not even close, but I know it isn't VR and AR... whatever the solution is, it is going to have to replace the notebook, and be much faster and effective. Maybe it is just a notebook, but I am still thinking through it.
There must be a better way... and I must figure out how.