For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pushing people I know to stop “wasting their time”. And, before I go tearing down some walls, I should start by stating that I still believe that the majority of adults do many activities that are as empty and detrimental to the mind and soul, as junk food is to the body, and for no better reason other than the mix of temptation and easy reach. These are simply ways of passing time (as if you had way too much of it to pass) and numbing boredom, offering nothing in return. TV is a good example of this (not TV shows in particular, but just the wasted ad-filled hours searching for entertainment on an old medium). These I remain strongly opposed to.
That said, I have realised in the last few years that I took this too far and may have thrown out the baby with the bath water. If you are doing something that makes you happy, that relaxes you, that entertains you, something you’re passionate about or that has a positive effect on you in whatever way, even though you can’t really fit this thing in your purposeful life plan, you should probably keep doing it and don’t feel guilty about it. This is where the magic comes from and to lose this is to risk losing the main source of your inspiration.
I say inspiration and I intentionally use the word with a very broad sense here. Creative ideas, innovation, finding opportunities — all this and so much more comes from this space of “playing”, of “wasting time”. You can’t build things that people are passionate about if you don’t know or understand what these things are or if you don’t echo that passion yourself about some things in life. You use this to connect to other people, to make friends, to build love, to help view the world through a different lens. And it’s your passion that helps you care about how to make better whatever it is you are doing and gives you ideas that may turn into small projects or may turn into lifetime opportunities.
I’m working now on a project (that I can’t yet talk about) that I dismissed in university as a time waster “I don’t get”. I don’t regret any of my choices back then, but there’s no doubt that I would have had an easier time getting started now, if I hadn’t been so much against it in my younger days. If you want to help people with their daily habits, you have to know what these habits are. And if you want to build the best you can, you can’t just get your requirements from a piece of paper, you have to live the product.
So allow yourself to waste some time… the long-term benefit may be well worth it.
I woke up yesterday morning to an email informing me that Editorially is shutting down by end of May. With the memory of Everpix (who closed doors less than a week after I signed up for their service) still hot in my mind , I’m beginning to be wary of new tech startups.
No matter how much effort engineers and designers put into it, there is a learning curve with new technologies. From the point where you discover this new thing, you have to spend some time understanding how it will work for you, setting up, making your way up the learning curve and then eventually you might start to get some real benefit out of it. While startup founders can do a lot to grease the wheels, the existence of the process is somewhat inevitable for anything beyond the simplest of applications and represents an investment from the user.
I’m now starting to question whether it’s a good use of my time and energy to do these mental “investments” in early startups springing up every other week. If it’s not going to fail completely (which is statistically the most likely option), it will probably get acqui-hired and the service shut down (which to me is another form of the company failing, though I can definitely see why founders do it). The chances of this turning into a technology that will succeed and evolve and stay with me through the years seem to be slimmer and slimmer every day.
Unfortunately, developing this fear – assuming I am not the only one for which this phenomenon is occurring, – will only further decrease the chances of future startups to succeed, as they now have yet an extra barrier for attracting new users. Their failures will continue to feed the fear and now we enter a very destructive vicious circle for the startup space.
In the mean time, I’m starting to develop a counter-intuitive dislike of free or cheap services because of this very reason. With services that charge money (and not just that, but what seems to be a fair amount), I have more faith that they will be able to strike a profit and thus be successful in the definition that I am looking for as a user. Perhaps having a positive balance sheet was never such a bad idea after all.
If you’re developing for Android, sooner or later you’ll have to test your app against different versions of Android and different screen sizes and you probably want to see how these changes get reflected on all these devices simultaneously.
I won’t go into how many devices you should have and emulators vs physical ones, but instead I just wanted to write out how to get this running on all these devices simultaneously.
- Option 1 — Use ant
- Option 2a — use your IDE
- Option 2b — use your other IDE
In Eclipse/ADT, you can do this already from the run configuration. Just set the target to launch on all compatible devices (and a bit more refining is possible here, such as emulators only etc.). Didn’t seem to be able to do it from the device selector pop-up, you do have to manually edit the configuration.
If you’re using IntelliJ, it’s the other way around. I was not able to do it from the manual configuration screen, but can do it from the pop-up device selector. Just shift+select the devices you are interested in from the list and that will work. If you tick Use “Same device for future launches”, it remembers to launch on the devices you’ve selected.
When I first became aware of The Big Bang Theory, I heard what it was about, watched an episode or two and… hated it. It wasn’t so much the criticism of the show itself (though seriously, a laugh track?!), but I just hated the idea, the very concept of the story.
I saw it as yet another modern production that made fun of being smart and educated. The characters are both very intelligent and highly educated and the more educated they are, the more socially awkward they appear, to the point of being borderline autistic. The uneducated (though intelligent) characters on the show don’t help either, as they only strengthen the point that if you are intelligent, stay away from any higher education, unless you want to become an awkward geek that cannot function in society.
This type of character construction does not help tear down the stereotypes currently maintained in our society, nor help bring people closer to science and education. In other words, as I said before, I hated it. And this aspect of the show I still dislike.
But despite my desire to ignore it, it has grown on me and I laughed at the jokes (though seriously… a laugh track?!) and started empathising with the characters. Than, one day, it struck me. I had misjudged The Big Bang Theory.
The Big Bang Theory brings science into people’s homes. I didn’t realise that at first, because I don’t need a funny TV show to bring science into my home, it’s already there. But that is not the case for most people. The 6th season had an average of 18 million viewers in the US alone. I am no analyst, but I feel confident in saying those are not all geeks. These are “regular” people who are now laughing at jokes involving science, nerdy topics and D&D.
The Big Bang Theory has had cameos from noble prize winners, scientists, astronauts, geek “heroes”. Sometimes when I mention Neil deGrasse Tyson in conversations, people know him from The Big Bang Theory! Honestly, I didn’t think this was possible. It’s the geeks that always try to integrate in the “normal world”, not the other way around.
Yes, I’m still not happy with the portrayal of smart people in this caricatural fashion, but I have to admit that it gets “normal” people to watch and laugh at science and nerdy jokes and become if not immersed, at least acquainted with the “geek universe”. I can give that two thumbs up any day.
I enjoyed reading this post earlier this week, which tries to bust the myth of overnight successes in startups.
I agree and strongly support the points that Titanas made there and I would like to add another visualisation for this problem.
I’m going to start by introducing the following puzzle.
Let’s say one day I send you an email telling you that I have come up with a fantastic method of picking winning stocks. I know this is hard to believe, so as proof, I will tell you what three stocks I’ve picked for this month with my method.
A month later, I email you and point out that the stocks I’ve picked have gone up significantly this month. To demonstrate this was not random luck, I’ll share my picks for the next month as well.
These will also do well. And then the month after that also!
At this point I stop sending you free picks and ask that if you want to get further updates, you need to pay a subscription fee. Convinced by my three months streak of success, you’d be a fool not to!
This if of course, a scam, but a very useful one for making this point.
How does it work?
It’s hard to work out the trick from what you see. The catch is, of course, like with all magic and scams, in what you are not seeing.
You see the winning stocks, so you assume that I only hand-picked those and emailed you. Truth is, I sent out thousands of emails like this in the first month to different people, each with randomly picked stocks. For the vast majority of these, the stocks didn’t get any good results so I didn’t follow up. But on all the ones that did come through, I sent a second email. I applied the same logic again, randomly selecting stocks for each person. Again, I only followed-up on the winning ones. While the number of people that see the streak of winning stocks gets smaller each time, the people receiving the emails are not aware of that, because they don’t know about everyone else. I did nothing but random selections and sending a lot of emails.
This is a very useful example to use for understanding a lot of situation where our view is restricted by our lack of visibility into the bigger picture. Richard Dawkins uses it in The God Delusion, for example, to support his thoughts on why we live in a universe where all the physical constants are just right for life to exist.
I feel this is very useful for forming a more realistic view on the startup world as well.
For the most part, we only see the winning streaks. We tend to pass judgement based on this, such as what the winning ideas are like and what makes a winning team. I wonder if such a thing even exists, or we’re just lying to ourselves, unaware of the statistical irrelevance of these few success stories. I will speculate that perhaps we are trying to find patterns where none exist. Some percentage of startups will succeed and that’s what we see, the winners. But we don’t really see all the ones that have failed, so we can’t really know why the winners made it when others didn’t. It’s possible that many other startups existed, with a similar team composition, with a similar idea and a similar approach, and nonetheless failed, without any obvious reason that we can fit in our pattern. I think it is naive to make recommendations based on the winners, when that represents less than 10% of the total information we should be considering. Instead we should embrace this uncertainty as just part of what a startup is.
When you think about doing a startup, you should focus on doing the best you can with what you have in mind, work hard, enjoy the ride and don’t worry about being like X or Y. Accept early the fact that there is no key to success, no winning formula or silver bullet and that no one really knows whether your little business will be completely unknown in 6 months or will become the next big thing®. The only guarantee you have is that if you don’t try, it won’t become anything.