I love and keep a close tab on two things: Mixed Martial Arts and Startups. In both, I find a common phenomenon that bugs the s**t out of me. I call it the Astronaut’s Talk. This is not exclusive to MMA and the enterpreneurial scene. It is everywhere: In career days, to self-help programs, to sports.
The Astronaut’s Talk is the summative advice (given by someone who is, granted, a bona fide champion or success) that ”if you work hard, your dreams can come true” or “if you do what I did, you can be like me”.
I cringe each time I hear an Astronaut’s Talk by the winner at the end of the fight, or by some sports star to little kids, or by a successful entrpreneur at a startup event. I hate it because not every MMA fighter can become the champion, not every kid can become a Michael Jordan, and not every startup will become Facebook. I am not saying it is impossible, but I am saying it is too easy for the “Astronaut” to forget to share the not so sexy or glamarous factoids led to his/her wealth, fame, or success.
Hey astronauts: Tell me both the good and the bad. Tell me how your prior failures, near misses, and bad decisions. Tell me about your mentors and the people who guided you. Tell me how you have to borrow and make ends meet. Tell me how you were desperate and broke. Tell me about both luck and pluck… Tell me you’re human.
Ah, I have been distracted… Having a lot of fun in my new role as an evangelist at Microsoft. My job is learn the hottest and shiniest technologies coming out of Microsoft (Windows 8, Windows Phone, Windows Azure, etc.) and show folks (specifically startups) how they can leverage these platforms for they businesses.
There lies the problem…
Every time I learn one new thing (push notification, semantic zoom, php in Azure, live tiles, background agents, etc.), I get 5 ideas on how to how to use it. Then the laptop fires and it’s another late night… hey, at least I have something cool to show for it at the end…
Here’s a sample of my late nights…
Vocabularist for Win 8 (to be published): Vocabularist (video)
- features XAML FlipView, snapped view, share charms, parsing JSON objects, live tiles, etc.
PeopleNews for Win Phone 7 (published): PeopleNews (video)
- features background agents, live tiles, parsing RSS feeds, etc.
I’ll be happy to show anyone how the functionalities in these apps are done.
Now in 2012, in this modern age of blogs and tweets and such, I would like to introduce an entry into my axis of spam and scam… (Ask me about the eBay/Western Union, or the Who’s Who scam.)
Bogus Kudos. This is specific to blogs, and there is a Twitter equivalent here. Here’s the deal: You gathered enough moxy to blog and share your thoughts with the world. Within days, you get a kudos comment to a post. Nice. Then another. Shit, I am good. Then another five. Hmm… Before you know it, you are getting dozens of kudos a day from strangers on how wonderful they think your post is.
What’s going on? Well, turns out that if and when you approve the kudos to proclaim and bask in the glory of poignant and mellifluous writings, the approved comment along with a URL becomes part of your WordPress site. Now, that gets picked up by search engines, which will rank the website higher because it got “mentioned” frequently by blogs. To give you an example of the scale, WordPress reported that there are over 800,000 new posts… today.
It is not hard to identify Bogus Kudos. Here’s what to look for:
- No mention of the actual content/topic of your post, just general words.
- Praise of your content or writing style
- Promise to bookmark, return, or promote
- A URL to a website associated with the sender
these are less infrequent but are tell-tale signs:
- Preceding statement that they are new to blogging, etc.
- extra spacing between words in sentences . probably result from bad coding in generating random text.
Here’s an example:
“I simply want to mention I am beginner to blogging and site-building and really enjoyed your website. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You surely have perfect posts. Bless you for sharing your web site.”
Looks like e-crap like that aren’t going anywhere and as soon as a new mass communication technology surfaces, spam will be there in a new incarnation.
Back in September at the BUILD conference, Microsoft announced and released a developer preview of the next version of Windows. I have been itching to jump into coding up an app for the nascent platform, but didn’t really have the time. I was neck-deep wrapping up a SL4+WCF+SQL project at work.
That was then… Now (or about 15 minutes ago), I finally got to whipping together a functional (I didn’t say beautiful, not yet) Win 8 app using the publically available developer preview! Believe it or not, I took my “wildly-popular” Windows Phone 7 app, Vocabularist, and pretty much copy and pasted the C# code, rewrote a few lines, whipped up some new XAML, and after some minor tweaking (specifically the async calls and application setting), viola! Vocabularist for Win8! Well, more accurately, a developer preview of Vocabularist for Win8 ;) A couple of first impressions/thoughts:
- Love the SOA paradigm. Build your service right and use any client (yep, including Win8) to consume it.
- Those of you who have played with XAML (in WPF, SL) will be right at home.
- Be patient. It is a preview. There’ll be more. Soon.
- Download the samples
- Jump in and try!
Much to my wife’s dismay, I love Tom Cruise’s performance in Minority Report. (She placed a temporary ban on Cruise’s movies in the house after he acted like an orangutan on Oprah. Then there was the Matt Lauer interview…) In the movie (in case you have not watched the film… gasp!), Cruise’s character is seen manipulating video files and documents by waving and making gestures. It was amazing to watch. But, alas, it’s fiction. Or is it?
When it was revealed to the world in 2008, Microsoft Surface was touted as bringing that fiction closer to reality. (Yours truly was part of the team ) Shortly after we were done patting ourselves on the back, our colleagues in Xbox introduced the Kinect in late 2010 that blew everything (including the Wiimote) out of the water. (Yours truly was also part of that team ) If Surface took us one step closer to Minority Report, Kinect took like five. It was… sick.
Fast forward just one year to the present. Microsoft ups the ante by calling for startups to take the Kinect to realms (beyond stroking big cats to applications that changes the way we work and live) in a three-month program called the Kinect Accelerator. The program is made possible by obviously the folks from Kinect and the people who put BizSpark together…. Alright, last one: Yours truly is now part of that team
Ten sick startups, with $20K and a ton of resources, will (a the end of the program) deliver demos and pitches to investors, V.C.’s, etc. Check out the program details on the website and go crazy thinking about the sick possiblities…. and put in an application by Jan 25, 2012!!!
For the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to sample the enterpreneur/startup population in Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Las Vegas… primary through a very interesting build-a-company-over-the-weekend program called Startup Weekend. One of the marketing slogan says it all: “No Talk, All Action”. The other mechanism by which I was able to meet the brains behind the startups is at where all the day-to-day ”action” happens, specifically at the Coloft (run by a wonderful husband and wife team, Avesta and Cam) in Santa Monica. Places like Coloft provide not only the physical space for folks to work in, but also the opportunity for networking, which is perfect for startups.
While I walked away with many insights, I think the one that stood out was the one articulated by Michael Arrington at Founders Showcase recently. Many people think that having a successful startup is about having and pitching the perfect money-making and seismic-disrupting idea… the next Facebook, the next FourSquares, etc. But what seem to be of greater and lasting value to investors seem to be the talents behind the ideas. The people. The team. A General Manager at Microsoft used to tell me “It’s all about the people”. I believe that adage and I believe that even more now.
So a few weeks ago, I found out (to my horror) that someone lifted the pictures and description of my already-sold car and attempted to “sell” the car on cragislist, along with a cock-and-bull story about how “her” son who had just returned from Iraq died, etc. At least one poor fella from Yakima wired over $7K via Western Union as full payment for the car which is valued closer to $11K on KBB. No one could help. Called FTC, FBI, and the local authorities. Each told me to call the other. After halting the runaround, I decided to try to see if I can at least geolocate where this is coming from. I responded to an ad that Craiglist had not taken down and sure enough got a response from a ”Tiffany Parker”. I wrote back and expressed my sympathies and added that I could not see the pictures that was posted, and if “she” minded posting them to a free picture website. Of course, that site was hosted on some free website and the upload site really has a PHP awaiting to capture the person’s IP address. I have yet to catch anything and I suspect “she” caught on to my game.
Anyway, here’s part of the message I send. WARNING: If you click on the link, I will know your IP address, and SEAL team 6 will be dispatched
“My laptop and email has been acting weird showing pictures. Can I trouble you to upload one or more pictures to this free site: http://photos.bugs3.com/uploadpic.php?account=21ufs? Preferably one showing the front of the car?”
Love to hear if you have other creative ways to fight back.
As I told my manager, I was blown away not just by the caliber of the 10 startups who showcased their solutions to investors yesterday at TechStars Demo Day. I was shocked to witness the palpable rock-concert excitement coming from the hundreds of investers, sponsors, and other attendees packed into Showbox SoDo. It was like that Bieber kid took the stage with an audience of teenage girls. Technology/market disruption was definitely a goal for these 10 nascent companies, and to represent Microsoft in mentoring and empowering startups (through programs like BizSpark) like these to disrupt the market and change lives is a true honor. If you are part of a software startup, we have to talk.
I didn’t make the list. Sorry. On the top of the list is the man who co-founded the company that I work for. Many asked if I have met Bill Gates in person because I work at Microsoft. Well, no — I’m simply not up there. But technically ‘yes’: I saw the back of his head during an event I do love meeting and talking to people who have had exclusive face-to-face encounters with the world’s most powerful person. I know a really nice guy at the Gates Foundation who drives third-world country agricultural development initiatives, and he was telling me how he was very impressed by Bill’s genuine interest and acumen in all things, not just software and computers. The only other person that he met in person at the Foundation who matched Bill is ranked #14 on this list. Guess who?