Mar 21 2011

The Great Hacker News Lifestyle Business Flamewars of 2011

There was a great flame war over at Hacker News about what entrepreneurs should aspire to when they start their business, a lifestyle business or a VC funded multi-billion dollar valuation company like Facebook, Zynga, Google, YouTube, etc. It all started with a angry rant by Justin Vincent about how VC “holds us back from our true potential.” He rambled on to say that the idea of being the next big thing is keeps us, entrepreneurs, occupied and keeps them, I guess VCs and tech pundits, in business. My favorite line of the article is the following…

If every developer was to focus on the very achievable goal of building a lifestyle/micro business – the entire house of cards would crumble.

Another choice quote is…

The absolute truth is that each and every one of us can build a business that can support us. We don’t need to build a million dollar business to survive. We just need a regular paycheck.

If I could paraphrase the rest of the article, Justin believes that not all startup founders will have a multi-million dollar exit in so instead of shooting for the moon we, as entrepreneurs, should shot for Milwaukee, that is a $10k/month small business. So, if you know you won’t come in first in the race, complain that the Olympic commission is corrupt, that the judges take brides, and instead go play Wii Sports because you there you will get a participation badge.

The tone in article reminded me of something that Jason Calacanis complained about millennials. In This Week in Startups #47, Calacanis said…

Participation means nothing, your fulfillment means nothing, nobody cares if you are fulfilled, nobody cares if you participated. You were lied to. There is no trophy in life for participation, except your tombstone.

Things got a little heated in the Hacker News comments for this article. Paul Graham, who goes by pg on HN, said that if every developer worked on their lifestyle/micro business “the whole world would crumble, because we wouldn’t have any technology bigger than could be built by lifetstyle businesses.” After this, things got a little more interesting when Alex Payne, username al3x on HN, said the following…

There’s a middle ground between web application “lifestyle businesses” (like duping credulous customers into overpaying for a time-tracking tool styled with this month’s CSS trends) and trying to start the next Facebook. … There’s nothing wrong with being a small software company. People have been doing it for decades now. It’s boring, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t expect anyone to celebrate you for doing it, though.

At this point some “lifestyle” business operators took offense, most notably Amy Hoy, username ahoyhere, took offense in the above statement since she is mentioned in the original article and has a time tracking application that uses the latest JavaScript and CSS trends. After that Amy went on a dogmatic crusade against what she called the “dominant paradigm.”

In one side of the argument you have people that believe that as long as a business covers operating costs and brings in anywhere from $10k to $100k a month and you don’t have to do much to run the company you have the leisure of a lifestyle business. Such a lifestyle business affords you time to spend with family, participant on your children’s school activities, join a community organization, take time off to travel, in addition to being your own boss and making your own rules. I can’t knock someone for having a gig like this. People in this camp might subscribe to Tim Farris’ book the Four Hour Work Week and in the folks behind 37Signals who wrote Rework. I remember Jonathan Coulton describe on an episode of This Week in Tech (TWIT) about his music business. Jonathan has a strong following as a singer/songwriter in the self-described geek community. On that TWIT episode he said something to the affect that if you have 1000 followers willing to pay $30 for a premium experience or content then you can make a decent living (he probably doesn’t live in California).

An income of $10k/month pre-tax, pre-health insurance for a family of four and a home mortgage in California is not a “lifestyle” I would like to aspire to. Ramen profitable is only profitable if you in college. Some critiques of the Four Hour Movement rightly ask that if someone can bootstrap a business with only working four hours a week, how much more profitable will the business be if they spend more time into it? The truth is that there is a generational gap in the way of entrepreneurs think and a bubble of some magnitude in every aspect of the industry, including in the “lifestyle” businesses.

I can’t find the source but recently I read a tweet where someone said something to the effect, “You know there is a bubble because every tech conference is sold out.” The conference circuit is one popular business with “lifestyle” crowd, in particular the tech, startup, social media conferences. You know there is a conference bubble with the large number of regional and national conferences, seminars, webinars, master classes, ninja training dojo summits, product mastermind madrasas available online. For example, 37signals runs a one day workshop for 37 people at $1k, that is $37k for one day’s work, especially you can reuse the same material many times over for different batches of students. I’ve been involved for the past several years as an organizer for a non-profit which puts on a one day conference for students that nets $50k in profits.

There is nothing wrong with running a small business, especially if you can get paid by non-technical folks for a calendar with last year’s JavaScript and CSS trends or for a one day training on how to use Twitter and Facebook. I mean, if someone would pay me $1 for adding up any two single digit numbers to support my lifestyle I would outsource that shit to India and work from some mojito island somewhere. But there is something to be said about aspiring to build something great. I want the narrative of my work to speak for itself; I’ve worked in some great companies that have had lofty goals such as understand the human genome and possibly curing cancer. Those goals can’t be meet with someone working for four hours a week and $10k/month.

This country will move in the opposite direction in the socioeconomic standard that we have enjoyed if we listen to such advice, if we don’t strive to build the best businesses we can. These millennial web 2.0 designers might not even remember how there was a time before 1999 were their predecessors could have charged anywhere from $30k to $100k for a website design. Economic pressure has pushed the price of a web design down to $300-$1000 for a awesome design from some kid in Russia. Even now, these small time “lifestyle” operations are under threat by solutions from the developing world, where $3/month can afford developers there a very lavished “lifestyle.”

One of my favorite quotes from Robert Frost is the following.

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day. – Robert Frost

I believe in hard work, not easy baked cookie cutter one trick unicorn project that some folks are calling a business. You got to put in the time, differentiate your product, and think big if you want to be a successful business. It is widely known that somewhere around 50% of small business fail after 5 years, don’t let the reason you fail be because you didn’t take opportunities when they presented themselves.

In the end, everybody is free to run their business as they want and the invisible hand of Google’s search algorithm will be the judge.


Nov 10 2010

Collection of Favorite Programming Quotes

I’ve always loved to read collections of inspiring quotes. For one, you can read one quote at a time and you don’t have to worry about following a plot or losing your place in the book because each quote is self contained nugget of wisdom. At least that is how I felt when I first read Words I Wish I Wrote: A Collection of Writing That Inspired My Ideas by Robert Fulghum. Since first reading Words I Wish I Wrote, I have collected programming related quotes from blogs, books, and articles that I’ve read. Many, but not all, of the quotes that I’ve collected have ended up as a blog post here.


Nov 8 2010

Quotable Calacanis 2010

Jason Calacanis is an outspoken and unfiltered entrepreneur. Calacanis founded Mahalo, co-founded Weblogs, Inc. which later sold to AOL, co-founded The LAUNCH conference, host of This Week in Startups, founder of Open Angel Forum. Calacanis is famous for his industry rants on Jason’s List mailing list, most recently ranting about Facebook privacy mishap, the lack of commitment from Generation Y, and pay to pitch outfits. Over the last year I have collected a few choice quotes from Jason Calacanis blog posts, mailing list, and podcast. If you want more Jason Calacanis quotes be sure to take a look at the Quotable Calacanis 2009.

These people come here, they are brilliant. they want to start companies here and we kick them out after college. Or we don’t let them come to college to begin with because they might be terrorist. You know what, I take one terrorist for every 10,000 brilliant entrepreneurs that come to the country, I’ll literary will. I’ll take that risk. And if they are in this country they are more easy to catch than if they are in that country.
This Week in Startups #88

Patents are like nuclear weapons, you never use them but they are nice to have because if you have them people tend to not invade into your country because they are scared of those being dropped on them.
This Week in Startups #88

If you can afford to have the unjustifiable, then you’ve made it. It’s unjustifiable to have a jet. There is no reason to have it unless you are a president or CEO of a very large corporation.
This Week in Startups #72

Wining is altruism. Wining is the best thing you can do for the world. When you win then you can do exciting things to change humanity
the most greatest influences in our society, ultimate when history books are written, are going to be the billionaires that are going to give their net worth to solve very big problems.
This Week in Startups #72

Facebook and Twitter have users. Apple has customers. The difference? Customers give you their credit card number.
Yojimbo!

Winning is altruism, that’s the most beautiful thing you can do for somebody in the world is win!
This Week in Startups #65 Global Meetup

Power never stops shifting, and technology is making it shift faster.
Jason’s List: A Quick Sumner Update July 12, 2010

Look up smarmy in the Web 2.0 dictionary and it redirects to Zuck’s Wikipedia page.
Jason’s List for March 6, 2010

Zuckberg is everything that is wrong with the second generation of the internet: greed and a lack of empathy for internet users.
Jason’s List for March 6, 2010

Participation means nothing, your fulfillment means nothing, nobody care if you are fulfilled, nobody cares if you participated.  You were lied to.  There is no trophy in life for participation, except your tombstone.
This Week in Startups #47

If you don’t get your shit together Generation Y, it’s over for you. Your standard of living is going to suck cause you know what, your mom and dad are going to die and you know what you are going to have left, nothing, because they mortgaged their houses and they got a bunch of cars and went on  big fancy vacations and you get no inheritance Generation Y and you are not hirable.  So you are going to fail and you’ll have nothing in life.
This Week in Startups #47

I think Mark Zuckerborg is everything that is wrong with technology today.
TWiST #43 with Andy Smith

This is the the thing that people don’t realize about events, doing good events is as much about how is there as who is not there.
TWiST #43 with Andy Smith

VCs do me a favor if you are working with an entrepreneur, the three most annoying things you can do: number one is to ask about China, number two is to ask about Google, and number three is ask for the deck and the documents for the board meeting two weeks before hand.
TWiST #37 with Phil Kaplan

If you are not annoying some people, you are probably not doing a good job as an entreprenuer.
TWiST #37 with Phil Kaplan

The biggest mistake most new players make at poker is overplaying their hand. They spend so much time thinking of the ways they can win that they forget all the ways they can lose.
The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

Zuckerberg is clearly the worst thing that’s happened to our industry since, well, spam.
The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

People are creating fan pages on Facebook and then paying Facebook to send them traffic. Let me explain this one more time: You’re PAYING Mark Zuckerberg money to send traffic to HIS SITE.
The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

I feel that the law is a way for stupid people getting education about reality it’s the lowest form of education we have you can go to college or the cops can pick you up.
TWiT 248: Drowning In Connectivity

The most frustrating part is not losing a great person–which happens–but rather watching someone with promise set their career back five years in order to have their salary jump ahead by three years.
Red, Jackson, Gen Y & Loyalty

It’s not easy being me. I’ve got a version of tourette’s where instead of yelling obscenities at inappropriate times, I say something brutally honest without regard to my reputation or the other person’s feelings.
Red, Jackson, Gen Y & Loyalty

If you put yourself above the team, you’re out. If you think your “get” is more important than the team’s, you’re out. If you leave after a year, you don’t get a ticker-tape parade and you don’t get celebrated.
Red, Jackson, Gen Y & Loyalty


Dec 31 2009

TechKnow Year In Review 2009

It is that time of year where we reflect on the accomplishments of the passing year and look forward to the one to come. Here is a window into the past year in technology through this year’s popular posts on TechKnow Juixe.

Top Favorites

Fav Tutorial

Memorable Quotes

Twitter

Twitter Conversations

Year in Review


Dec 31 2009

Quotable Calacanis 2009

Jason Calacanis is an outspoken and unfiltered entrepreneur. Calacanis founded Mahalo, co-founded Weblogs, Inc. which later sold to AOL, co-founded TechCrunch 50, host of This Week in Startups, founder of Open Angel Forum. Calacanis is famous for his industry rants on Jason’s List mailing list, most recently ranting about Facebook privacy mishap. Over the last year I have collected a few choice quotes from Jason Calacanis blog posts, mailing list, and podcast.

If you are not fired up with enthusiasm you will be fired with enthusiasm.
This Week in Startups #33

If you built something based on the Twitter API, it is a hobby it is not a business.
This Week in Startups #33

As Eric Schmidt, Stalin, Hitler, George Bush, and Kim Jong Il have all said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
This Week in Startups #33

I’ve seen slot of dumb guys with a lot of passion become vey successful. I see that guy every morning when I wake up and i shave.
This Week in Startups #32

If poor people pirate stuff it’s okay, because all you are doing is training them for when they do have money.
This Week in Startups #31

Facebook proved again this week that they are either the most unethical or clueless internet company in the world. An amazing accomplishment since Facebook is also one of the most promising, and certainly fastest growing, internet companies of all time.
Is Facebook unethical, clueless or unlucky?

It is so depressing when one of our leading companies bases their ethics on “will we get caught?” and perhaps more precisely: “if we do get caught will it cost us anything in relation to the money we’ll make when we go public?”
Is Facebook unethical, clueless or unlucky?

They should have a term limit for [television] series, seven years. If you can’t tell a story in seven years, that is it. Seven years and you can have two spin offs.
This Week in Startups #28

A guy with an idea means nothing unless you have a lot of money, connections, or domain expertise.
This Week in Startups #28

You have to pick hour partner like you pick your spouse, you really have to enjoy spending a lot of time with them.
This Week in Startups #26

Wait a second, … you’ll waiting for me to take a risk, and then you’ll take a risk, that is not risk at all.
This Week in Startups #25

I think people overestimate the value of their ideas. They actually think their idea is what you are going to invest in.
This Week in Startups #25

Anybody that is a great entrepreneur has a little supper villain in them. There is a little Lex Luther in every CEO.
This Week in Startups #25

If there is any doubt, there is no doubt.
This Week in Startups #18

You are your people.
This Week in Startups #18

Starting is easy, finishing is hard.
This Week in Startups #18

Failure is the precursor to success.
This Week in Startups #18

Great entrepreneur gets a dollar out of a nickel, a donkey entrepreneur get a nickel out of a dollar.
This Week in Startups #18

The opposite of entrepreneurship is academia.
This Week in Startups #12

Failure is the common denominator amongst successful people.
This Week in Startups #10

Longevity is a big part of credibility.
Don’t Stop Believing

People’s reputations are made in the bad times more than the good times.
Don’t Stop Believing

If you can’t sell your product, it’s not a product–it’s a hobby.
Don’t Stop Believing


Dec 13 2009

Retweet November 2009

From time to time I just blast tweets about software development, project planning, team dynamics, or whatever else comes to mind. Here is a synopsis of recent tweets and rants. If you want to follow the conversation follow me at techknow and/or juixe and I’ll be sure to follow back.

Software Development

  • If bad artists copy and great artists steal then bad programmers copy and great programmers cut and paste.
  • You have to think outside our current requirements and think about solutions that fit the platform and which we can build product features.
  • Can programmer mood/happiness be deciphered based on rate of check-ins, changelist, source code diff size, amount of refactoring?
  • Software is alchemy. The magic of software is that it can turn complexity to simplicity.
  • One man’s feature is another’s complexity.

Team Leadership

  • A 10:00 PM design leads to 1:00 AM release leads to 8:00 AM FAIL.
  • There are sore losers and sour winners!
  • You may know your competitors, but do you know your complementor? Complementors are businesses and services that complement yours.
  • Know thy competitor, and get to know thy complementor.
  • The biggest risk is not taking risks.
  • Don’t be afraid of someone stealing your idea, be afraid that someone is actually going to follow through with it
  • Taking startup advice is like taking dating advice.

Product Placement

  • Google Wave does not feel like a wave, it is more like a creek and I am without a paddle.
  • I’m riding the Google Wave, but not drinking the Google Kool-Aid.
  • It’s great that Apple invest in design and multi-touch tech, but they need to invest in water proof tech too. I’ve lost two ipods to water.
  • I want to tether an iPod Touch with an iPhone.
  • The iPhone is the PC.
  • I have a growing collection of ebooks on my Kindle, in fact I have not bought a hard cover book since I got my Kindle over a year ago.
  • Recharging my Kindle. It used to be that a book recharged my creativity and imagination now I have to recharge my ebook.
  • FaceBook should just rename itself to FarmBook! All I see on FaceBook when I sign in are updates from FarmVille, Cafe World, etc…
  • Will Microsoft port Google Go to the .NET platform? Why will they call it? G++? Iron Google Go? Google Go 2010 Business Edition?
  • What will people abbreviate Google Go down to? GooGo? GoGo? Goo? Goog++? Golang? Pogo?
  • ‘Python 300’ + ‘C++’ + Googleplex + $$$ + WTF = Google Go

Self Development

  • Creditability is worth more than money in the bank.
  • It is better to work on your own ideas than on someone else’s assumptions.
  • To think outside the box it helps to first master the box.
  • Don’t do what stops you from doing what you want to do unless that is what you want to do.
  • You are damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and damned if you hesitate.
  • If you don’t have the key to success, call on a locksmith.

Quotes

  • The biggest motivation is not the money but the impact. – Matt Mullenweg/#TWiST 26
  • You can’t build everything and there is no more a killer feature. Everyone has a different killer feature. – Matt Mullenweg/#TWiST 26
  • I am the unhappiest WordPress user in the world, I think it sucks. – Matt Mullenweg/#TWiST 26
  • Having a virtual assistant is one of the greatest training for managers. – Matt Coffin/#TWiST 27
  • I only believe rumors that I start – Mike Elgan
  • Wait a second, … you’ll waiting for me to take a risk, and then you’ll take a risk, that is not risk at all – @jason/#TWiST
  • We spend more time worrying and planning for the downside than we do spend worrying and planning for the upside. – Mark Pincus/Zynga
  • A lot of what you have to do as CEO is convince the employees that you are not a normal company. – Mark Pincus/Zynga
  • If you don’t have control of your company, you are an employee. – Mark Pincus
  • The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. – Eric Hoffer