Today, we’re taking a big step forward with RunKeeper 4.0 for iPhone! The launch of Apple’s new operating system, iOS7, gave us the opportunity to make the app feel lighter and cleaner, as a way to focus on your data and progress. In fact, the phone even feels lighter while you’re out for a…
We feel heartbroken. What is usually the best day of the year in Boston was ripped apart by violence. We had a few members of the RunKeeper family running the Boston Marathon, and many more cheering them on, and we are so thankful that everyone on our side is safe. It hurts us deeply…
"You never get a second chance at a first impression."
It’s frustrating how many people either don’t care about, or dismiss the importance of a user’s perception of their product. It doesn’t matter if someone is hearing of your product for the first time or if they are a seasoned user, the perception they have of the quality or usability of your product is EVERYTHING. Even if the code is beautiful or you have done some really crazy hacking to get something that shouldn’t be possible to work, if the user perceives it as clunky or unreliable or slow, you’re sunk.
Many people completely neglect this fact. I know so many people (and products) that seem to focus on it being built or coded really well, or how well intentioned their efforts are in how they’d like it to work even if it doesn’t deliver, or the expectation the user will understand that it’s a “really hard problem” and be understanding of it.
Ok that’s probably a little dramatic… some will depending on how you handle that relationship with them, but the general public is absolutely flooded with options, have a very short attention span, and fleeting loyalty. If you rely on them thoroughly getting to know your product, and all other competitors products before deciding who truly is best, you are missing out. Big time.
One problem is many technical people see marketing as the art of tricking someone into buying something. The belief by many is that only the products that suck need marketing’s help. Completely untrue. It IS true that some products can’t deliver on the perception delivered by marketing and promotional efforts, but that doesn’t mean ALL marketing is disingenuous. The solution isn’t to avoid marketing, it’s to build a better product that can deliver a reality that matches the perception.
Companies that avoid marketing fail or create an incredible uphill battle for themselves. Companies that know how to market a favorable perception of a product that they can’t deliver on will enjoy short term success but it won’t last.
Truly great companies know how to leverage both, and match both the perception of the product with the reality of the product at a high level.
True Innovation: How to Build a Faster Horse without Building a Faster Horse
Innovation is supposed to be the primary focus of so many companies these days, yet I’m frustrated by the number of people or companies who claim innovation when what they’re doing isn’t truly innovative. Specifically, there are a number of companies out there who are basically photo copying someone else’s product and focusing on a different market segment. MAYBE good business, but certainly not innovation.
In addition, it’s amazing just how many people (myself included at times!) think they “know best” when it comes to the products and services people want. Even Steve Jobs got it wrong some of the time, and he’s widely credited with having a pretty great track record of knowing what the general public will want before even they do.
But I’m reminded of a quote I’ve heard over and over again throughout the past 6 years I’ve spent working among different startups and developing a number of different products:
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." - Henry Ford
Now, customer feedback is invaluable to ANY business as a gauge on what to build and what problems to solve, but customers themselves tend to think in terms of what already exists and want someone to build better versions of what they already know. They often include the means as well as the ends in their feedback or product, which just as often limits the ability to truly solve the underlying problem in the easiest or best way possible. But disregarding customer feedback entirely is, in my opinion, one of the chief reasons so many companies end up failing in the end. Many smart people let their egos get the best of them, and they end up building something they think is awesome but doesn’t end up really solving a problem that anyone has (or that anyone has yet).
So what’s the deal? This guy Henry Ford seemed to do alright for himself, so how’d he do it? The answer is customer input should provide you with the ends, but it’s up to you to step back a bit and create the best means possible to achieve it.
In the case of Henry Ford, his customers were identifying the existing means of transportation and requesting ways to make it better. While this provided a good indicator as to what those customers were looking for, it was Ford’s job to take the existing means out of the equation, and decipher what customers really wanted in an effort to truly solve the problem they had. This required some true innovation (actually invention in this case) where the solution to the problem everyone thought they had was something they would never have thought of on their own.
This applies even more to company’s today where customers have much more of a relationship and dialogue about not only the kinds of products and features they are looking for, but the problems they need solved. Not to mention, the marketplace for any given product is much more competitive than it was back then.
The moral of the story is, you should ALWAYS respect, appreciate, and seek out customer feedback and input on your product. If you know how to listen and what to listen for, they will tell you everything you need to know in order to solve the problems they know they have with products they never thought they would need.
There’s a reason my side projects have favored the Twitter platform: I’m a fan of the service, and earnestly want to improve the experience of her users. No more: Twitter is a hostile partner to developers and has bluntly terminated my projects without so much as a reason.
This is the second song we chose for our live covers series. We chose this song because Michael Jackson was and always will be a huge inspiration to us. Song filmed/edited by our homie Ricky Gonzalez contact: @trickygonzalez and mixed/mastered by our homie Ryan John. Enjoy!
Last year I set up 5 goals for myself for 2010, and while I missed the mark on a couple, I achieved others. Let’s review:
1. Run 500 miles over the course of the year. - Did NOT achieve this (I consciously gave up on this goal early on). Running requires a lot of time and dedication, and unfortunately while I have a lot of dedication it’s to other things I love, and I don’t have a lot of time because of that dedication. I have a tendency to over commit to too many things and not focus, and I needed to streamline my priorities and focus to do 2 or 3 things well instead of 5 or 6 only kinda well. Running simply fell down the list of priorities and as much as I would love to run a marathon someday, I don’t have the time to commit to it at this point. Someday.
2. Record my well overdue album, whether it’s by myself or with a band. - I took strides here, and I definitely made FAR more progress in this area than I have in the previous 5 or 6 years, but alas no album. HOWEVER, I did enjoy a brief stint in Thank You Forever and will be eternally grateful to those guys for giving me the motivation to get back at it. I also have written enough songs to fill two albums over the course of the year, have plans to actually put those songs to use in a new band (and album) in 2011, AND I did in fact release one song that seemed to go over pretty well. You can listen to it on my website (http://www.tomboates.com).
3. Play at least 1 live show with a band. - DONE. In fact I played around 6. Expect more from me in 2011.
4. At least 1 new remix per month. (www.facebook.com/djdirtywater) - I have actually accomplished this, but not all of them are public. I have around 10 unreleased (because they are slightly unfinished) tracks kicking around, on top of the 5 or 6 I did in fact put out this year. Again expect these out some time in 2011.
5. Clean up my finances. (I do have specific goals here but I didn’t want to divulge details about my finances!) - Done for the most part, but you could ALWAYS improve this. I look to improve even more in 2011.
So that’s not a bad progress report. Where I didn’t meet my goals there were valid reasons for not achieving them, and in some ways I learned a little bit more about myself and my priorities. All great things. So, what am I looking at in 2011?
1. Cut the Fat - 2010 taught me a lot about focus. I am a classic over-committer, committing myself to do 8493 things when I can only really do 3. Over the course of the year I have been slowly cutting things out of my life that while I really enjoy doing them, I simply don’t have the time for them if I really want to be successful with the ones that really matter. I still have some room for improvement here, so look for me to drop even more of what I’m doing in 2011 in favor of the more important things.
2. Put out an album - I had this on last year’s list, but didn’t achieve it (despite the amount of stuff I wrote!). This will be achieved this year, I promise. Hopefully for both my personal music, and a DJ album.
3. TomBoates.com/DJDirtyWater.com - Getting these sites up is crucial to phase 1 of my master plan. Those who know me know I am an aspiring musician and entrepreneur myself, and getting these sites up (TomBoates.com especially) are crucial to the evolution of those ambitions.
4. Do a better job of networking - I feel like I’ve improved upon this a lot, but I could be better. I’m a natural introvert so it’s always tough for me to get out there, but it is also fairly imperative to my success, and also hugely important for me to learn as much as possible. If you are in the Boston startup/design/music/tech community, I want to meet you this year! Let’s make that happen.
And the big one…
5. I’m giving up AMP and replacing it with Vitamin Water - Wipe the shocked look off your face. I have never NEEDED to have an AMP the way most people NEED a coffee in the morning, and in fact there have been plenty of mornings along the way where I didn’t actually have one and been fine with it. I simply like the taste of it, and it became habit to have it as a morning drink. Truth is though, for a long time my name has been synonymous with AMP and to be honest as much as I enjoy drinking it I hate that it is part of what defines me. I’m sure it will take a little bit to get the caffeine addiction out of my system so I won’t be going cold turkey, but by sometime next week I will be Amp free. (aside from maybe as the occasional mixer in an adult beverage, which most people know I don’t consume very often). Some time over the summer I started replacing my daily soda with lunch (on top of the AMP in the morning!) with vitamin water in an effort be a little more healthy, so I’m going to replace both with Vitamin water and see how it works (I also always have a problem with not drinking enough water… so hopefully this helps all of that).
So there you have it. I am publicly accountable for all of these things. What are YOUR new year’s resolutions?
A simple and powerful concept that I believe every human being should embrace, regardless of religion, belief system, height, weight, color, or location. It’s this fundamental principle that I believe is at the core of Ricky Gervais’ point in this article, and I couldn’t agree with it more.
The beauty of life is in how different everyone is, whether it be species, gender, skin color, sexual orientation, hair color, eye color, language, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), or whatever, and how all of that can come together to create the world we live in. It’s BEAUTIFUL when differing opinions and beliefs can coexist. Why must people embark on endless journeys to get other people to believe what they believe? Or make other people feel wrong for believing differently than them? Or hell even KILL someone simply for believing differently?
When I proclaim my belief in something, why do people assume that it automatically means I’m judging them or saying their differing belief is wrong? I’M NOT. You are more than entitled to believe whatever it is you want to believe, and I am more entitled to believe differently. Having an awesome discussion about the differences in our beliefs will often result in “agreeing to disagree,” and you know what? That’s ok! We’re still both human beings who have just as much of a right to our opinion as the other.
To extend on this article though, step out of the “religious beliefs” category and see this in terms of ALL categories. Hate pop music? That’s cool, but it doesn’t make someone who loves it stupid. Red Sox fan? Cool me too. But does that mean I should hate a yankees fan or route against them? No. It means I should route for the Red Sox. Don’t believe in gay marriage? That’s cool too because no one is forcing you to marry someone who is gay. Telling someone who is gay they can’t get married simply because they’re different than you? Not cool. Feel like everyone should use Facebook how you use it? That’s nice, but I’m going to use it how I want to use it, and you can decide whether or not you still want me as a Facebook friend or not based on that.
If there’s one thing that bothers me most in this world, it’s that so much of what we do and who we are is defined in other people. Can’t everyone just stand for themselves and who they are? Why must people go to such lengths to make other people feel “wrong” just so they can feel “right”? If you really believed in whatever you said you believed in, you wouldn’t need other people to confirm it for you by believing it too. And by getting someone to feel like they’re wrong for what they believe in, and pushing them to believe the same as you, are you really validating that your belief is the “right” one?
Better yet, is ANY belief the “right” one?
No. Because “right” is relative. Your happy is much different than my happy. Your idea of tired could be my idea of ready to go for a run. Your idea of what tastes good is guaranteed to be different from what I think tastes good, even if we can agree on a lot of similar foods we like. If you believe the sky is in actuality green, who am I to say otherwise? Unless I can see it through your eyes, nothing can prove that the sky is not green to you. More importantly, you believing the sky is green should have NO effect on my belief that the sky is blue (aside from possibly a moment of questioning and introspection where I re-examine the sky to double check to see if my belief should be modified or not).
Bottom line is: whether you’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, American or Asian. No matter what the topic, NOTHING entitles anyone to say what they believe carries more weight than what someone else believes. Period.
For those who don’t know, the act of “shorting” a stock is the act of betting a stock will drop in price and profiting from it’s decline. If you really want a good example of how it works, you can learn more here.
2010 is an election year. YESSSSSS!
This year’s elections really set me off. Not only is there not a candidate I actually believe in this year, but my political interest issues started many years ago when I just became so annoyed and frustrated with how EVERY candidate was just acting out the “politician” role they were supposed to, following whatever plan they needed to in order to win. I never EVER feel like anyone is actually thinking for themselves, or speaking their truth, or standing for what they TRULY believe.
And why is that? Well, it’s because our political system is kind of like an “influence stock market.” A politician’s job (at least at present… not in an ideal world IMHO) is to do and say whatever is necessary in order to gain more influence (and/or money). The more influence/votes they get, the higher up the chain they move (and the more money they make). At one point, a politician’s value was seemingly tied to the value of our country’s stock (as our country’s stock went up, so did the politician’s value). But as of late we’ve seen a disturbing trend of politicians who choose to short our country’s stock while still increasing their own political value.
But while that view makes politicians sound like terrible excuses for human beings, how can we as a capitalist society really blame them? We live in a society where we are not only taught but encouraged to do whatever is necessary to get ahead. A world where the dumbest guy from your high school could be worth $12.6 million right now simply because he knew how to get it. All these politicians are really doing are finding ways to look better than everyone else doing the same job to move up the food chain, even if it means lying or cheating their way to the top. How many of us can say we’ve NEVER lied or cheated to improve our situation? How many of us wouldn’t do the same in their position? As defiant as some might be to tell me they wouldn’t, I believe the vast majority would do the same (as I’ve witnessed just about everyone I know consciously make the same types of decisions on a daily basis).
I feel like there was a day when there was a bit of honor and pride in running for office, standing for something, and doing things the “honest” way, but those days have been gone for some time now. Economics 101 teaches us of the laws of supply and demand and politicians have become aware of the increasing supply of lazy voters alongside the increasing demand for political and social figures to tell them what to think. Because of this, politician’s have realized it is more convenient to say whatever is necessary to get your vote NOW and not follow through on it (or change their opinion to whatever gets them more influence/votes) later. If there is such a high demand of voters who need political figures to tell them what to think and how to vote, it makes the decision real easy for politicians to “take the easy road” and say whatever is necessary to gain more influence.
So where does it leave us? Well there is no immediate fix for such a broken system at large… but in the meantime I beg of both voters AND politicians to STOP SHORTING (Y)OUR FUTURE!
If you run for office, remember that you’re not just running to improve your own position or situation but you’re representing America and trying to do what’s in the COUNTRY’S best interests. What you do in office will have an impact on generations of future americans and not just the people who are eligible to vote for you now. Implementing policies that will blow up 4 years from now just to win over the voters of today in order to be in a higher office when that happens is an AWFUL decision to make.
If you’re voting, do yourself a favor and EDUCATE yourself. It is NOT acceptable to just believe whatever Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart say. You CANNOT treat politics as just a nuisance and just run with the first thing you hear. Think PAST what is in just your own best interests and factor in what is in the community or country’s best interests. If we don’t work as a team to turn things around, the people who choose to “profit” off of our country’s stock plunging would love nothing more than to ride it into the ground. *cough* George W. Bush *cough*
And while I am sick to my stomach that I basically have to vote for one person simply because the other person would be worse, it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that you vote for someone. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away, and the act of not voting won’t make anyone question how to improve the broken system, it will just make it easier for the person you believe in least to win. That is NOT a recipe for a better future.
I have confidence that someone or something will come along to improve our political state some day, but if you choose not to vote now, there might not be much of a country left to govern when that time comes.
A while back I read an article from Esquire that was an “Open Letter to Men”, written by Christina Hendricks (of “Mad Men” fame) and I appreciated that she took the time to lay some things out there that either I didn’t know or I didn’t pick up on before (especially when her points were later validated by several female friends of mine). If you didn’t know already, I’m a big fan of being open and honest about things, so her taking the time do be open and honest was appreciated.
But what about you women? After reading it I got to thinking that someone should write an “Open Letter to Women” that was equally as informative, but being that I can’t think of any other guy who would spend the time to do that, here I am to pick up the slack. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know this article makes generalizations about BOTH genders. The problem here is that every person is different, and I simply cannot make the points that need to be made while covering each and everyone’s feelings on each topic. My intention is NOT to say that all men/women are the same, but to make a broad point that covers most of the gender in question. If you don’t think you fall into a certain category, or disagree with what I think, you’re probably right and I’m fine with it. :)
Men don’t want to be your self-esteem. - If you don’t think you’re beautiful, chances are we won’t either, though we will still say it so that we don’t upset you. Confidence is the most beautiful thing about a woman. We want to spend time enjoying your beauty with you, not trying to convince you.
We want you to wear high heels, no matter how tall you are, but not if all we’re going to hear is complaints about how much they hurt - I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the high heel shoe was invented for aesthetic reasons, not as a way to tack on a few inches to your height. Whether you’re 5’1”, or 6’3” the aesthetic factor still applies. However, we’d rather you wear some comfortable flats or something than spend an entire night listening to you whine about your platform stilettos.
We find pornstars and strippers attractive for a reason - Calling them “skanks” or “trash” isn’t going to make us suddenly realize we aren’t attracted to them. However, just because we find them sexually attractive doesn’t mean we don’t find you more attractive in other areas. Rather than trying to change what we’re attracted to about them, try embracing and unleashing your inner pornstar/stripper (to a level you’re comfortable with and embrace). We will love every minute of it.
Blow jobs are to men, as flowers are to women - You know how getting an unexpected bouquet of flowers can make your whole day? We don’t do that because we really enjoy giving flowers, we do it because we know it will make you happy. The same should apply in reverse.
We like being “the man” - Whether it’s who is more athletic, who has the nicer car or house, who has the better job, etc., men are naturally competitive with each other (some more than others, but on some level we’re all competitive). We want you in our corner to not only make us feel like the man, but to make sure everyone else knows that you think we’re the man as well. Publicly calling us out as inferior to friends or other males, even if you’re “just joking,” is something we don’t appreciate.
You like discussing problems, we like solving them - When you come to us with a problem, we want to help you solve it and are annoyed if we can’t. If you just want to vent about it and don’t have any intentions of “fixing” anything (which in my experience is more often than not), calling up or visiting one of your girlfriends is probably a better decision.
A girlfriend without girlfriends is just a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend - Men and women handle friendships differently. Get a group of women together and chances are there will be a lot of talking involved… but get a group of guys together and chances are there is minimal talking and more watching TV or playing video games. While the best relationships are built on friendship, expecting us to fill the void left by a lack of female friends is the wrong way to go, and we WILL resent you for it if you try.
Hope that helps. If any guy feels like contributing to this open letter, let me know. Have thoughts or comments to share? Feel free to leave a comment!