Notes from Indie Publishing Demystified

This weekend I’m attending the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. One of the sessions I attended today was Indie Publishing Demystified presented by Matt Gartland (@MattGartland) of Winning Edits. For those who missed the session, my notes are below. You can also read the Winning Edits web site or follow @WinningEdits on Twitter. Continue reading >

How To Write a (Useful) Blog Post in 30 Minutes

This week I launched a new blog called Lean Decisions to help people make better decisions. In preparing for the launch, I wrote a month’s backlog of articles by writing one post a day. Since I have limited time, I had to learn how to write fast. Keep reading to see what I learned.

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How to Express Appreciation

Do you tell others often how much you appreciate them? Does it come across sincere?

I struggled in the past with expressing appreciation. Especially with employees, but also with loved ones, colleagues and even strangers.

I aim to get things done. Once I complete a task or project, I’m onto the next one. I used to forget to stop and appreciate the people and things around me. To take a moment and express a heartfelt thanks.

And even when I did, it often felt empty. I knew I needed to appreciate my employees, and I did. But I didn’t do it effectively. I just said “thanks”, and left it at that.

For my Leadership Asheville class, we each had to choose a personal development goal. I chose to learn how to appreciate and encourage others more. Read on for some of the lessons I learned over the past year.
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Boston Startup Weekend Presentations

Startup Weekend stormed through Boston once again this past weekend. With almost 150 attendees and 17 teams making it through the weekend, the energy was high.

Sunday night each team presented their business to a team of five judges. Each team was given five minutes to present and three minutes to answer questions. Awards were then given by the judges for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, Best Design, Most Technical Achievement and Most Fun. In addition, there was an Audience Choice winner and awards for best use of Twilio and Cloudmine. You can see the winners here.

Below are my notes on each team’s presentation and questions the judges asked that I thought would be insightful for people who’ve never attended a Startup Weekend, plus some I didn’t have time to edit out. When possible, I also included part of the answers by each team.

I didn’t transcribe any of this exactly, nor was I able to type as fast as people were speaking, so expect errors. I aimed to capture the gist of what teams presented and what judges asked, rather than the specifics.
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Mavens, Aggregators & Miners: Expanding Social Dynamics Terminology

In building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, we often talk about the roles people play. Do we have enough investors, entrepreneurs, seasoned executives?

Roles give us a language for talking about gaps in our ecosystem, and the complex interactions between its participants. By defining roles, we simplify the web of human interactions into concepts we can grasp, and through this comprehension, take action to improve the system.

When talking about the social dynamics of an ecosystem, it’s important to have a shared language to ensure we’re discussing the same problems and creating common solutions. To be useful in teasing out the important dynamics of a system, our shared language needs to be specific and actionable.

To aid in recent discussions, this article reviews terminology laid out by Malcolm Gladwell for analyzing the spread of change, relates that to social dynamics in an economic development context and then elaborates with other terms that may be useful in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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The Danger in Google’s New Privacy Policy

Google announced a new privacy policy and terms of service today. Buried within, was this innocent sounding, but insidious language:

We may use the name you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account. In addition, we may replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services. If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo. [emphasis added]

Essentially, as of March 1st, Google can change your identity and expose your details to others without asking you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

No opt-out. No recourse other than to stop using Google services entirely.

Google has made clear they would prefer everyone use a single online identity, which they control. Two years ago, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO at the time, during a panel at Techonomy stated:

“The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity,” Schmidt said. “In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it.”

Governments demanding everyone have a single, verified online identity has dangerous consequences. Google voluntarily forcing people into a single, verified online identity before governments demand it is just plain evil. Continue reading >

1 Motto + 7 Verbs for 2012

Each year, as the old year winds down and a new year leaps excitedly at us, I set aside time for introspection. To review the past year and envision the new year. In the past, I set goals for each year, as many of us do. I’d type my New Year’s resolutions and post them on the wall. Then promptly go about not fulfilling them.

Three years ago I started making a new type of New Year’s resolution. Rather than focus on goals, I focused on behaviors. I set specific, measurable activities I needed to perform on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I then tracked how I was doing in a spreadsheet.

For the most part, this worked. I now exercise daily, eat healthier and write regularly. I’ve lost weight, developed better friendships and am overall much happier.

Due to some major life changes, though, I stopped consistently tracking my resolutions in early 2011. Surprisingly, it hasn’t affected my activities–they’ve become habits, not just resolutions.

Thus, this year, I’m trying something new again. Instead of behavior-based resolutions, I’m choosing a motto as an overarching theme and 7 verbs that I aim to explore this year. I have thoughts in mind on how to explore these, but am purposely leaving myself open to experimentation.
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The Conveyor Belt Decision Pattern

Conveyor BeltA friend of mine recently bought a house with her husband. It wasn’t their ideal house. The kitchen and bathroom hadn’t been updated since the seventies. And they weren’t ready yet to make an offer—their old house sat on the market. But they had researched and looked at a couple dozen houses and knew this was a rare opportunity. So they pounced.

We often think of house buying as a multiple choice decision, with all our options laid out in front of us. We weigh and evaluate each option, then pick one to make an offer on.

More often, house buying follows a conveyor belt pattern, with options appearing and disappearing continuously. At any given point, we might only have a handful of options we’re evaluating. But there are always more options on the horizon, or old options we can re-evaluate, if they’re still available.

The decision-making process can go on…forever sometimes. Knowing when to make a decision for a good outcome, or even what a good outcome is, can be tricky.

Read on to learn more about the conveyor belt pattern, dangers to watch out for, and strategies that can help when you find yourself making this type of decision. Continue reading >

Avoid This Advice From Robert Scoble

Don’t take business advice from Robert Scoble. At least not this advice.

He means well. But some of the advice he gives could cost you money, or even sink your startup.

Since Robert’s post has been circulating around my entrepreneur circles, I’m writing this post to provide an alternative set of advice burgeoning entrepreneurs might follow.
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6 Business Model Canvases from Startup Weekend

Two weeks ago I attended Business of Software 2011 and saw a talk by Alex Osterwalder on the business model canvas, a tool for documenting and exploring business models. Then last weekend I attended Charlotte Startup Weekend 3 and explored the business model canvas in more depth.

If you’re not familiar with Startup Weekend, it is an event where programmers, designers and business people team up to create a startup business within 54 hours. It starts on Friday night and ends Sunday night when each team presents their business to a panel of judges. You can read more about my experience at Startup Weekend Boston here.

I participated on the WiFi Crowd team with eleven other people. During the weekend, as we discussed the business model, I downloaded the Business Model Toolbox app onto my iPad so we could use it in exploring our business model.  Business Model Toolbox allows you to quickly create business model canvases and document the key parts of your model.

We used the tool to help us think through our business model. But I was on the tech team and didn’t get a chance to use it as much as I had wanted. So, during the presentations, I decided to attempt to document each team’s business model based on their presentation. In this post, I present the results of that experiment. Click any business model below to see a larger version.
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