Treppenwitz

Literally, ‘the wisdom of the stairs’. The striking reply that crosses one’s mind belatedly when already leaving, on the stairs. People are often angry because they did not have the fitting answer directly during a conversation. The term is old, but it was made popular by W. Lewis Hertslet who published his book in 1882 entitled ‘Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte’. In that book, he writes: “Like to a petitioner who is just leaving after an audience, a piquant, striking words occurs to history almost always delayed.”

Web 2.0 Hates (Rural) America

With all of the red state/blue state discussions of the election season, it’s probably no big surprise that kids dropping out of the Ivy League are less than concerned with the plight of being young in rural America.  Imagine having to drive miles to school, to see friends and going to the mall is an occurrence for special occasions? Not that anyone there necessarily laments this existence, in fact, they wear it as a badge of honor.

But with broadband access spreading to places where it was rare a few years ago and with families investing in at least one home computer for their kids, social web applications could really harness the separation of rural communities by developing projects that keep kids in these communities.

I realize that in order for the kill rural app to show up, it would have to be developed by a person or group who experienced rural living and appreciated the simplicity. They’d also have to find ways to use Web 2.0 to galvanize people and motivate them to get involved. The most logical extension of this are local newspapers. More and more of them are adopting these clunky CMS programs that allow them to publish to the web and (presumably) use the web as a platform to generate ad revenue.  But the execution almost always falls flat for a host of reasons.

But that brings me back to the plight of our young friends in rural America. No one cares about what they’re doing, they pick up trends from the cities — late — and don’t really have any way of being heard from in any significant way. Rural communities and states are scrambling to find ways to create jobs to keep their kids. It’s a problem that’s being played out around the world, so American agrarian communities are not somehow excepted. There is a resounding hope that one could leverage the web as a way to stifle the mass exodus and yet, that’s not happening and I doubt it’ll happen anytime soon.

The inspiration for this scatterbrained post came when I stumbled upon this site, another one of the millions of online hookup sites that purport to help you meet the hot friends of your friends. They won’t call it that. They call it “networking” or whatever. But really, it’s just glorified stalking and the stuff is creepy. Let’s be real.

I recognize that folks just go the way of the trends and if one site sells or gets valued at a billion, that 10 copycats a day are born trying to outdo them and 50 more are out there trying to somehow “improve” on the same concept.  When will people start to mine the niches looking for stuff that people can actually use? There are still just a fraction of folks on earth who use the web for much of anything. It’s certainly not an indispensable part of their lives like it can be for some of us.

The future of the web will startups comprised of people who decide that it would be fun and meaningful, to build stuff that people can actually use. There are tons of these cropping up there, with sharp folks doing extremely creative things to help reinvent the way we do business from day to day. If you’re looking for an untapped market, look at rural America. What you do with that is your business, but…just like the world’s poor are folks who can and will leverage technology when they get the access, micropolitan areas have the same potential and promise.

Stay the course and close the deal

The hardest part of finding any measure of success is staying the course. Setting a game plan isn’t as difficult, because if you know what sort of destination you’re looking to reach, you can begin to think about it takes to get there and chart a course. It’s after charting the course that things get difficult. Not for the things you can see, but for the stuff you can’t.

For every good idea, there is a VC in the way who thinks that the idea sucks. For every passionate bloke, there is someone along the way to tell him that he ought to be fishing or doing something more conventional.

The reason I’ve made it this far is really on blind faith. No real models to go on, certainly not a lot of money and lacking a real idea of how to accomplish some of the things I’ve accomplished to date.

As I move forward, it becomes easier to move in a positive direction — even when things are difficult — knowing that there is some good reason for all of this. Sometimes you have to check yourself when it seems bleak or when things seem almost impossible. One thing I’ve learned from all of my years of playing tennis is that scoring points and even winning games isn’t the difficult part. It’s winning sets that lead to winning matches that always caused me the most problems in high school and college.

In this particular case, closing the deal isn’t so much a problem as I’m trying to calm down and use what I’ve learned to date to make it happen.  We’ll see how it all turns out…stay tuned.

Kenna ~ Make Sure They See My Face

Giving credence that it takes two to tango, The Neptunes show their prescience in their production of Kenna’s sophomore release Make Sure They See My Face. Say what you want about Pharrell and his embrace of the rock star life, the guy is a musical genius.

Channel surfing one night I heard this track on Letterman.

I thought it was a new N.E.R.D. track, but didn’t catch the first part and discover that it was actually a track off Kenna’s album released last October, the single entitled Say Goodbye To Love. It’s a really good pop song. That’s all you can really say about it. It’s the sort of pop music we never get to hear anymore. It harkens back to the 80s fiercely, but the bottom line is that it’s pretty sweet.

Kenna is an Ethiopian-born, American-raised singer who really likes music. It’s clear because he can’t pick a genre. The record labels hate that, because then their marketing folks don’t know how to pitch you to a public that they believe are too stupid to listen to stuff they like on the same album. Well, Kenna takes that thing to a whole new level. He tries to be his own person on Makes Sure They See My Face and yet, wants to make everyone get tricked into believing U2 released a new album too.Kenna

If you don’t believe me, fire up the track “Be Still” or “Baptized in Blacklight” and you’ll be sure it’s not anyone but U2. It might have been a clever trick to get the radio stations to pick up some of these tracks or get some rebel DJ to dig the album and play it and get everyone hooked on it. That’s still possible, I guess. But doesn’t exactly bode well as a real strategy for artist growth.

But make no mistake, Kenna is a real deal. He’s talented as hell and he’s not just being buoyed by the production team he’s employed in childhood buddies Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. No sir, he’s one of those unique talents who are supposed to be suppressed and have the hope killed out of them before they make it this far, so the labels can keep giving us the retreads they want us to rock out to.

Other tracks on the album that are worth listening to are “Wide Awake” and Neptunes production finger-print “Loose Wires/Blink Radio” which is a club jam that harkens back to the early 1990s and summers I can recall vividly on the Jersey Shore. (And I mean that as a compliment) “Sun Red, Sky Blue” is another really good pop song. Other standouts include “Phantom Always.”

The entire album is worth listening to from start to finish, because it’s meant to be an experience, I think and it sounds more cohesive that way, even if some of the tracks leave you not sure you want to hear them at first.

This album is best described as an abstract concept album that has so much going on that you’ll either love it or absolutely hate it. I doubt there will be much in-between, because you’ll either get through the whole thing and appreciate the artistry or you’ll despise the scatterbrained nature of it.

I don’t think it’s perfect by any means, but the ambitiousness of the entire concept, the execution and artistry are really what put it together for me in the end. Most artists wouldn’t have the talent or vision — let alone the courage — to release something like this.
[rating:5]

Negotiating your deal and other tips

This is a follow-up to my post on How To Become A College Web Person.

I got the idea for this whole series after noticing back when I was looking for jobs a few years back, that there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there for folks in non-teaching positions at colleges and universities. I don’t profess to this being the only way to do it, it’s just intended to give some who might be doing their first deal, a glimpse of what the process is akin to and hope it helps ’em…

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you probably got hired or are going to get offered the job in a few days. Usually, they’ll make an offer right there and give some time to think about it. If they don’t give you time to think about, ask for at least 48 hours (or more, if necessary) to come up with an answer that you won’t regret.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for the decision-making process:

Have a number in mind: Before you even get offered the job, it’s important to do your homework. If you know what the market rate for the job is, coupled with whatever experience you bring to the table..you can estimate to some degree how much you ought to be making. Keep in mind whether it’s a public or private institution. Smaller, private institutions generally don’t pay as much as public schools. Public schools often have salary schedules that outline how much you can make at your pay grade. That takes a lot of the negotiating out of it and basically, you need to decide whether that number is enough for you or not.

You’re not a bad person for asking: For a job where the salary offer is dependent on experience, I think it’s far better to secure the job and an offer, before asking specifics about salary. The reason is simple. If you’re perceived in anyway to be “only about the money” it’s not going to make you an attractive candidate. If you’re taking the time to interview, you must want to work there and if money is the only reason you’re there, they might decide you’re not worth their trouble to begin with or choose someone who they feel is a better fit. But once the offer comes, be sure to ask how much they’re paying you.

Never accept it on the spot: Don’t take a job without thinking about it. I don’t care if it’s your dream job. Tell them thanks for the offer, make sure to ask about salary and benefits and ask for at least a day or two to mull over it. You want to consider where you are now and really evaluate once it’s no longer just an idea, but an actual offer, whether you want to make the move or not.

Tell the truth, but don’t show them your cards either: Here’s an example of this. Say you have a good job and a good situation. You get offered a promotion at a place you wouldn’t mind being and it’s an otherwise good fit in another state. Only one problem, they offer you a lot less than you’re making currently. What do you do? Well, you don’t take the pay cut, that’s for sure. You tell them that they’re short. They might ask by how much. The question there isn’t “How much less do you make than what we’re offering you?” The question is, “How much less are we offering you than we should be offering you in order for you to take this job.” Those are distinct differences and can be the difference between an easy transition to a new situation and a rocky one. The key is knowing the difference.

If you know you’re going to be looking to relocate, start saving early: Moving is a pain. There are no two-ways about it. Sometimes, the right opportunity can come along when you least expect it. If you’re not financially prepared, it can set you back rather than ahead, no matter how great the job is. You owe it to yourself to start saving at least 3 months before you start putting out applications to places too far for you to commute from your current location. That way, it gives you time to prepare for a possible move. And you end up staying where you are? Well, invest it or something.

The bottom line to this random smattering of tips, is to keep in mind that you only have control of these process once. You’re never as wanted and pursued when you’re on the outside than when you’re inside. Even if you can grow your stock and make yourself a valuable asset, you have to come in like a diamond to be treated like one — without acting like you consider yourself royalty. After all, anyone can do what we do. We’re not irreplaceable and while we all have our special and unique talents, there are plenty of other folks out there hoping you mess up so they get the chance to sit in your seat.

Once you’ve found where you sit, you owe it to yourself to make sure your seat is padded as comfortably as possible. Good luck.

So, what do you do?

Sticking with the entrepreneurship kick, I was over here working on the next big thing and goofing around on the web stumbled into the Radar DDB home page, after reading this blog post. No need for anything other than giving the people what they want. Fast, easy and succinctly. Tell ’em what you do and give ’em a way to give them a way to get in touch quickly. I love the simplicity, which brings to me the idea of what prompted me to go surfing sites in the first place. Web 2.0 companies and those in the whole ‘new media’ genre as a whole have so many different ways of explaining themselves and talking about what they do and how they do it.

While I love jargon and tech-speak as much as the next guy, it can get convoluted after a while depending on what you’re reading and when. The real question people were most common about asking — especially those people I know in non-tech settings — is this question: “So what does your company do?” When people go to your web site, it’s no different. It doesn’t matter if you know what your company does. Even if a few people you’ve worked with to date understand what you’re doing, that’s cute..and it still has no real relevance if newcomers you might be targeting don’t understand what it is you’re offering them.

I will admit to being about awful at this, when I started out building my earlier companies. Our real problem in the early days was trying to do too much or being bad at defining what it is we were good at. It makes no difference if you’re a team of eclectic individuals with a myriad of talents and skills. You have to isolate and narrow down what things that particular collection of people do well if you’re going to get anywhere with that particular group.

We found things got better once we stuck close to home. We identified the niche in which there was the most demand for our skills and the most opportunity for success. As I sit on the cusp of assembling a new group for new adventures, it’s an instructive lesson for us to spend some time really honing the focus of what we’re trying to do. By letting that be the engine that moves us forward, it ensures everything around us is built on the foundation of a question that’s the same whether you’re pitching in an elevator, at a cocktail party or telling your grandmother.

“So, what do you do?”

This Startup Life

At my core, I’m an entrepreneur. Not because I have some overzealous desire to serially create enterprises that thrive and have success or for other reasons, but simply because I enjoy creating things and building organizations of similarly focused people who are driven to do uncommon things. It’s been something I’ve been doing since well before I can remember and as an adult, I became initially distracted with doing things in a “conventional” way before the inner essence of what I’m about came to the surface as it always seems to, even if you’re not trying to find it.

I was watching a show on the History Channel not too long ago, talking about the growth of the oil industry due to the demand for gasoline and how it really just took off in the past 100 years or so. What was most interesting about the documentary, was the fact that it mentioned maverick guys with just a few nickels to rub. Sometimes, it would take these guys six or seven years to strike it big and despite experts telling them that certain fields held no promise of oil, they would toil anyway on a hunch that there was.

It was almost immediate to the parallels of the web craze and how we are in a wild, wild west frontier on the World Wide Web. People are striking it big and many more are trying to figure out ways to do it. My cynicism for the buzzwords, for the insular nature of development and how it often fails to relate to the lives of ordinary people; is likely borne out of the fact that I’ve always worked on my own in the field or in relatively small firms where tech savvy hasn’t always been at a premium.

When you grow up carrying business cards before you’re a teenager, it’s almost pretty obvious what you’re supposed to do with your life. Yet, I’ve spent years trying to forge a more conventional path towards something that’s easy to explain to people who have a hard time with the abstract. Each time I did this, I ran a parallel track where I was continuing with my passions. It was as if they were just waiting to emerge at the right time and make whatever I was doing on the conventional track so unbearable that I had to give up and pursue my dreams.

The payoff is evident and the success is imminent.