For me, the hardest part has never been coming up with new, interesting or creative ideas—it’s been turning those ideas into actual things. So after years of being “an ideas guy” and relying on others to bring to life what I envisioned, I decided to take it upon myself to fix that.
Though I hemmed and hawed for days about whether or not I should commit to taking such a time-consuming (let alone expensive) course on ‘Programming Fundamentals Using Ruby on Rails,’ I ultimately (re)read a few inspirational articles and the decision became a no-brainer. One of those articles was written by Ben Parr for CNET and I think it’s well worth the read for any “non-technical” entrepreneur debating whether or not they need to know how to code. The other, which I think was more influential on my final decision, was a response by Natty Zolathe to a comment made on a blog post he had written. In his reply, Natty, the co-founder of Everlater (a travel blogging site part of the 2009 Boulder TechStars program) brought up the fact that he and his co-founder had 2 options to build their “dream” application: raise funding to hire developers or learn programming and build it themselves. Over the course of a summer they were able to teach themselves the basics of programming and ultimately develop a working prototype which they used to get in to TechStars.
While setting out to learn Ruby was undoubtedly daunting, I knew it was an investment in a skill that could pay off well beyond almost anything else I could have done with the time and money. Though I’m
fairly certain I’ll never be an incredible hacker, I have faith that I’ll at least come out of my class proficient enough to put together a rough demo or the beginnings of what it is I dreamed up. After all, as Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
So here you have it. My very first computer programming problem solved using Ruby. Had to start somewhere.
The demo video I created for Atlist - a website and mobile application I’m in the early stages of developing. Atlist is a fun new way for friends to find, share and decide on where they’re going together. PASSWORD: poing2012
It was a nice run Foursquare. Really, it was fun while it lasted. But it’s over. Starting today, I’ll be using Facebook Places for just about all check-ins. Here’s why I’m leaving Foursquare behind.
For the past 2 years, I was a casual - admittedly not a heavy - Foursquare user. Like most, there was the honeymoon phase where I cared about collecting badges and racking up points. But after a few weeks, “checking-in” simply became a way to show off to my friends where I was. And, for a while, it did an okay job at doing this. In the moment of being at a venue, my friends could easily see where I was by pulling up their activity list or map.
But, that’s really the extent of Foursquare – seeing where your friends are located. And although it’s great in the moment, a Foursquare check-in is only of value for the few hours you’re actually at a venue. While any of my 111 friends could peruse over to my profile and get a sense of what kinds of places I’ve been to, it ultimately has no lasting value.
This is in stark contrast to the newly redesigned Facebook Places and Timeline. With the new Timeline, Places not only becomes more prominent, it’s given a completely different role – one reminiscent of the “Where I’ve Been” application where users can browse the places they’ve traveled. However, with Places, the areas you’ve been aren’t just cities or states you’ve visited, they’re where all of your Facebook activity actually occurred. They’re where the moments of your life - through check-in, post or picture - were captured. Facebook has evolved the check-in beyond just a fleeting way of letting your friends know where you are to become the way to catalogue your life through the places you experienced it.
It’s a lofty and ambitious goal, but one I feel ultimately enhances the Facebook experience. When coupled with the fact that I have ten times as many friends currently using Facebook than Foursquare, checking-in to a venue with friends becomes more than an anomaly and instead something that’s practical.
That being said, Facebook Places has a long way to go: the experience is no where as fluid as Foursquare, the database isn’t as robust, and the real usefulness is a bit buried. However, as time goes on and usefulness of Facebook Places begins to disseminate from friend to friend, I believe Facebook will be able to optimize and refine this offering, eventually turning it in to a critical part of the social network.
Writing your first blog post is hard. I thought up a few topics I wanted to cover, even drafted a few out, but none of them felt like The First. Then it happened: Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, passed away at the age of 56. So, with that, my first blog post is dedicated to him - someone who lived out his dreams and in the process changed our lives and the world. It’s something that I’m working (not hoping) to achieve myself so that one day, when I die, I know that I too will have inspired someone to “put a ding in the universe.”
I didn’t know Steve Jobs, but I did know his work. Whether it was an Apple computer in school, iTunes on a PC, a Pixar movie, my first iPod, my Macbook, my second iPod, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, or my latest purchase, the Macbook Air, Steve Job’s impression was felt in each and every one. He was a CEO, but foremost he was an innovator and a visionary - everything he did, whether success or failure, pushed the boundaries.
Evident in every product and communication under his reign was a clear understanding of the interplay between technology and human nature. This delicate balance was epitomized by the usability of a GUI system, the realistic expressions of computer animated characters, the seamless download of an MP3 and the touch of ones finger to control a window of possibilities. As Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak summed up nicely in a recent interview, Steve Jobs understood one thing that many CEOs, and ultimately companies, fail to realize: you shouldn’t just create products that people use, you should create ones they love. Sure, this was the way Jobs sold more products for Apple; but, in the process and on a grander scale, he vastly improved the experiences people had doing things they already did: using a computer, listening to music, communicating with friends and family, and of course, creating and enjoying content. The brillance of Steve Jobs was that he spearheaded products that seemingly felt and functioned more human than anything before them.
Perhaps even more inspiring than his uncanny ability to meld tech with nature was his ambition to do things bigger and better than everyone else. What Jobs saw and acted on was something he brought to the core of Apple - the ability to think different. By challenging the conventional, he oversaw the development of computers, phones, movies and even advertising that broke the rules and redefined categories in their entirety. And although many have realized this as a key to success, unlike the rest, Jobs had the determination to unwaveringly execute and test the market.
From his 2005 Stanford speech we learned that he constantly innovated to satisfy his own needs, not for anyone else. However, in his own pursuit and conquest to push boundaries, he brought thousands of people along for the ride to experience it too. To quote the final words of his commencement speech, despite never meeting the man or working with him, I’m thankful that I bared witness to his “hunger” and was a beneficiary of his “foolishness.” The inspiration, direction and lessons he left with the world, myself included, will last far longer than any product ever could - even an Apple one.