Dear Professor,

11/26/11

Professor,

Attached is my business week paper summary.

As I mentioned in my note turned in when this paper was intended to be submitted, I have been very busy starting a company from the website I showed you in class. I am taking trips up to New York more than twice a week; sleeping over friends houses or offices where hacakthons are thrown.

Also note, because my final project proposal has changed so drastically from the beginning of the course, I have included a cover page with an updated proposal to provide context for articles relating to my proposal. Some of the articles I’ve read in Business Week have proven to be invaluable to me during this time. One article in particular got me very excited as it validates our business plan.

Although I have been slacking in class, I have been gaining real world entrepreneurship experience.

Best,
Ian Jennings Jablonowski

12/3/13

Professor,

Thanks for cutting me some slack a couple years ago.

The company I mentioned above sold to Intel today.

http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/03/hacker-league-mashery-intel/

Best,
Ian

Show Your Work

 

I don’t go to Urban Outfitters often. But when I do, I buy small square yellow books that are less than 100 pages and half pictures.

I bought “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon thinking it would help get inside the minds of users for my new project, DevPort. It turns out it inspired me to set up YAB (yet another blog). So here we are, once again.

Most of my Tumblr stuff made it over; though I’ve combined all three of my Tumblrs into a single blog found here.

One interesting note from “Show your work” is how Austin referred to blogs. He calls them “your own little corner,” which is easy enough to relate to. He also suggests using your own domain, your own site, and your own blog engine. Avoid the trendiness, restrictions, and judgements from Tumblr, Medium, etc. This is your corner and you should decide what that means.

I think I was too intimidated to post more on Tumblr knowing that all my friends, employers, and a handful of Venture Capitalists would get pinged about it. Then again, I was afraid nobody would read my content if I didn’t have a network to support it.

Well fuck it, now I have my corner and I’m going to write whatever I want.

Hacker

When I was 15 or 16 I saw the move “Hackers” and it became my fantasy. I never spray painted my computer or learned how to roller blade; I thought learning to crack was the sure path to my “Hackers” enlightenment.

As I past through different scenes: academia, hackathons, the startup life, electronic music clubs… each world offering a taste but not quite fully encapsulating my fantasy.

Over the years I’ve had this urge to create some gathering place for hackers. First it was the “Hacker Hotel,” and most recently the “Hacker Bar.” Of course, in each scenario I imagine the bunker the characters in “Hackers” hang out in. On paper, these ideas quickly morph into kushier hangouts for startup folks.

At Electric Forest this year, my friend Andrew broke out a “Tron costume” and I remember slapping his back and shouting “you’re keeping the hacker spirit alive!”

It’s all I’ve ever hoped to do, but I can’t even explain what the hacker spirit is.

It’s somewhere between startup life and touring with Phish in a converted school bus. It’s blasting Gramatik out of a speaker while riding a neon yellow bike around downtown NYC. It’s wearing Google Glass at a standup desk with three monitors. It’s smoking hookah in UV light in your dirty old basement. It’s going to the arcade everyday to play DDR. It’s starting your ancient car with a switch you wired in yourself from RadioShack. It’s being a virtual worker. It’s a warehouse full of 3d printers, laser cutters, and an auto bay. It’s doing yoga to dubstep. It’s knowing your friends as screen names first and flesh months later.

Like any culture it’s impossible to define, but you know what it means to be a part of.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(programmer_subculture)

You think you are going into business by yourself…

Came across this in my DropBox. Seems to be from a weekly school assignment where we’re supposed to write a passage based on something from Businessweek.


The challenge of starting a small business.

Rather than cite an article this week I think it would be more interesting to write about a conversation I had with a local business owner.

I’ve lived on the corner of Hamilton and Louis Street for the past three years of college. There is a local pizzeria called “Ta-ta’s” that is famous for being “the only pizza place until Easton ave.” It’s far down Hamilton Street, next to a convenience store but far away from competing pizzerias. They deliver, but not often enough to have a reputation.

The food does not have a reputation for being phenomenal, but the owner, Andy, gets a fair share of business because of his location. Andy is there almost every day. Ta-ta’s also has abnormal hours, as the pizzeria is only open from 4:00pm to 2:00am.

Because the pizzeria is so close to my house, I have eaten there quite a lot over the past few years. I’ve made small talk with Andy now and then. For a while I thought he was the smartest business man on College Ave.
He was far away from other pizzerias, he was only open during the hours that mattered for college students, and the store quickly became a regular place for underground punk rockers going to shows close by. Andy also stocks more than 100 unique drinks at Ta-tas.

I got dinner from the store last night and Andy told me I could get $5 off by using a referral code he had on the counter. I stepped behind the counter onto his Windows 95 machine and entered in my information and billing address into grubhub.com. He was very eager to get my referral.

I figured if he was comfortable letting me behind the counter he would be alright with me talking about his business a little. I was always curious about how he saw his business. Why did he open so late? Why didn’t he deliver more? Did he ever take a day off?

It turns out that Andy is an extremely hard working man. He outlined a normal day for me. He wakes up at 9:00am to go to stores. It might be the restaurant depot, Cosco, Shop Rite, who knows. He then has to go to the bank to get change (this morning needed two bank stops because he forgot something). After that, he picks up his two employees and heads to the store.

He works a full day, opening the store at 3:00pm and ending at 3:00am. After the store is clean, he drops off his employees and records the sales for the day in an Excel spreadsheet. He mentioned that he would be lucky to sleep by 4:00am to wake up the next day at 9:00am again.

I asked him, “why don’t you hire anybody?” He mentioned that he hires now and then, but has caught numerous employees stealing from the register. He said that once the employees get sick or call out, he must come in anyway. He needs a lot of trustworthy employees for this to work correctly.

Another customer came in through the door and Andy quickly zipped his mouth. His last words were “You think you are going into business by yourself, and it turns out you’re doing all the work. Sometimes you really wonder if it’s worth it.”

He greeted the next customer with a smile.

Fuck that city

“Where are you from!?”

“New York”

“FUCK THAT CITY. I moved from New York to Austin 10 years ago and never looked back.”

The was the first person I met in Austin. We split a cab from the airport to the bar I was meeting my friends at.

“New York City. I’ll tell you what. I ain’t never left anything there, so I ain’t goin back.”

Character Development

A couple months ago I made a spreadsheet called “Friends.”

I listed all the people I wanted to spend time and put them in a spreadsheet. I still feel dirty about it.

image

The truth is, it solved a problem that was becoming a larger and larger issue for me last year. My friends were becoming a victim of my inability to keep up with the intense networking system in NY.

To set the stage here, there’s all sorts of funny stuff going on.

  • Personally I’ve been tricked into interviewing for jobs or “wined and dined” in hopes I would be willing to pick up a contract gig at a cheap price.
  • A friend recently told me that he couldn’t trust the advice of a mentor because he didn’t know if he was using him to orchestrate his uprising as an industry figure.
  • Another friend who is more interested in the food he’s eating than the people he meets, but feels it’s his responsibility to continue networking.
  • I’ve been given advice “do this favor” so that this person owes you something in return.

Personally I’m not interested in playing this game.

Don’t fix what aint broke

When I was 13 I created a site called 22Pixels, a forum where teenagers like myself could share techniques for Photoshop. It was a simple PHPBB forum mostly focused around making “sigs,” signatures or content that would appear below every post a user made.

I got a young start as my dad gave me the tools and knowledge to put up a basic web page with FTP. He’s an old school hacker who runs Bootdisk.com. He would always always say “Don’t fix what ain’t broke.” It was his recipe for success.

Success

As I learned to program a bit better, I created a list of the best photoshop downloads. It was a simple robot that would crawl other photoshop sites, copy some text, transload an image, and add the link to the index. People could vote reddit style on what the best downloads were.

It worked very well. I became the top result for “Photoshop CS4 Brushes”. I dominated the market for people searching specifically with ts version in their query.

Then CS5 is released. I change my SEO to match CS5. This worked even better. My traffic grew steadily as I continued to scrape downloads from other websites.

Failure

In late 2011 I started Hacker League with two friends from college. Everything else got put on hold, and Hacker League took off. It had our full attention.

The story ends well for Hacker League, but not so much for 22Pixels.

See, as I pointed my attention toward Hacker League, I removed it from 22Pixels. I made two awful decisions because I was not giving 22Pixels enough attention.

I did not watch site growth closely and I was not aware of what was driving site traffic.

The Big Picture

When I logged into Google Analytics, this is what I saw:

This is a monthly view of traffic. For a site like 22Pixels this kind of information was worthless.

The site runs autonomously and since I wasn’t doing anything active to promote it, the monthly view wasn’t very helpful. I would check and make sure that the overall traffic was increasing, but never looked at it relative to the past 6 months or a year.

This was my worst mistake, I wasn’t even aware that the site was growing. This led me to make some idiotic decisions in 2012.

Things Break

The site had a”tags” feature. It was an awful hackjob that slowed down every page load considerably. As the site grew, it had a larger and larger impact on the site performance.

I wrote this off to being a problem with the growing database, not traffic. I decided to remove it because it was raising my hosting costs and I didn’t think it could possibly provide anybody with any real value.

But it turns out the search engines must have loved the unique page titles it provided. When it was removed, my traffic started slipping.

I wasn’t drilling into the stats deep enough to even know that this was providing decent traffic. I wasn’t checking them often enough to know that it had even changed anything.

The correct answer here would have been to rewrite the feature. To watch the stats. To understand the market.

Fixing What Ain’t Broke

When I changed my SEO for Photoshop CS5 I had great results.

CS6 was due to come out in May 2012, so I decided it was time to play my trick again. I updated one variable in my configuration and “CS5” was now “CS6”.

The graph above is the direct impact changing this variable had. It’s about 5,000 views a week difference. You can see, it took me 2 months to notice.

And when I changed it back, the stats pop back up. But my SEO already took the hit and it was too late.

What Aint Broke

The above is a graph for “Photoshop CS[x] brushes” where x is the photoshop version from CS1 to CS6.

It’s easy to see why this happened now. CS5 is the red line and CS6 is the yellow. It turns out that people had been searching for CS5 the entire time. I was 8 months early to changing the keyword.

Take a close look at the end of the blue graph and the beginning of the red (CS4 vs CS5). CS5 was almost immediately adopted and CS4 took huge hits.

Now look at the end of the red line versus the beginning of the yellow (CS5 vs CS6). CS5 slowly transitions into CS6.

Additionally, each release of Photoshop dilutes the market as I can only choose one version to stick with. At the end of 2012 you can see that people are still using all the versions of Photoshop CS!

Don’t fix what ain’t broke

The larger morals here are that

When you figure things out, don’t change them.

If something breaks, repair it so it’s back to how it was

You need to understand the difference between fixing, updating, and improving. You need to recognize the reasons for doing so and the risks involved.

You especially need to understand your market and how it will change, because it will.

Make something successful and keep it successful.. Don’t fix what ain’t broke. Stay the same and change what’s only nessesay. Do the research to find out what’s needed.

And remember, you can only focus your attention on so much. If you let something start to slip, it’s going to slide.

Present Yet Absent

The following is a response to a reading assignment for my class “Self and Society in Virtual Contexts.” We are to publish journal entries on a public blog found below. They must all include a haiku.

http://www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/virtualselvesrealhaikus

——————————–

Present yet absent
Augmented reality
We will be cyborgs

Baym spends the first two chapters summarizing the current state of technology in society. People on cell phones are annoying, dating happens online, the world is changing. Technology is a large part of our social lives and people are scared. We’re devoting tons of attention to our phones, and it’s hindering our social interaction. How can we be in two places at once?

There are thousands of engineers working hard on this problem and the answer is only a few years away. Technology is about to take an even larger part of our lives.

Phones just took the leap into the future, and now we’re constantly connected to the web with mobile data and push notifications. We have megapixel cameras, location awareness, video chat, and the entire internet in our pocket. These features are constantly chirping for our attention, and we are more than willing to oblige. Augmented reality removes the distinction between online and offline. No longer is our attention split between one or the other.

Baym asks “how can one be both present and absent?”

He uses the example of how rude it is for one to use their phone while at dinner. One is physically present but devoting their attention to a phone.

What actually defines where one is? I agree that one is splitting their attention between the real and virtual world. If you take your eyes off the phone and look across the table, you’re back in reality aren’t you? The phone is the underlying problem. Physical limitations mean we can only choose between one world or the other. We can’t attend to both the phone and our date.

Augmented reality combines the technology of your phone with a display in your eyesight. This could be glasses, contacts, or even an implant. Think of it as putting your iPhone screen into a pair of glasses. All of the things you normally see on your phone are now in your face. You can still see the world through the camera, but now your reality is going through one phase of post processing. It is augmented.

Now imagine someone sitting with a date at a table with augmented reality implants; both parties. Attention is still divided, but the consumption of information is more passive. Now SMS pops up in the corner of your vision like a Growl alert, but nobody else can even tell you’ve been pinged.

This kind of situation requires a new social norm. If it were alright to take your phone out at dinner, then I wouldn’t be writing this article and we probably would never see augmented reality. The idea that this screen is a window into a separate world is the limit, pulling out a physical object that represents “somewhere else” is rude.

What if “somewhere else” was here? What if we were both “somewhere else” and here together? What if we were always in two places at once?

If adopted, the merge of real and virtual worlds will overcome the current social dilemmas. In fact, I believe that these problems are merely an artifact of our iteration towards augmented reality. Technology is offering us great advantages and we’re having a hard time ignoring them.

With the adoption of augmented reality everyone will exist in both dimensions all the time. There is no comparing online identity with your offline identity, because now they are the same. You would see the world as you normally do, but with the aid of a computer. We will all be cyborgs navigating the real world yet consuming a virtual one.