Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are You Really a Leader?

The following transcription from Dee Hock's Birth of the Chaordic Age says it all. Whenever I'm asked about leadership, I always fumble around with some incongruent response that only makes sense to me. What I really need to do is memorize this and just regurgitate it.

If you lead a team, consider this.
Leader presumes follower. Follower presumes choice. One who is coerced into the purposes, objectives, or preferences of another is not a follower in any true sense of the word, but an object of manipulation. Nor is the relationship materially altered if both parties accept dominance and coercion. True leading and following presume perpetual liberty of both leader and follower to sever the relationship and pursue another path. A true leader cannot be bound to lead. A true follower cannot be bound to follow. The moment they are bound, they are no longer leader or follower. The terms leader and follower imply the freedom and independent judgement of both. If the behavior of either is compelled, whether by force, economic necessity, or contractual arrangement, the relationship is altered to one of superior/subordinate, management/employee, master/servant, or owner/slave. All such relationships are materially different than leader/follower.
The remaining paragraphs do an amazing job picking that apart and diving into how "there is no spoon."

Somewhat aside, this is an amazing book.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Main Stream Media And Me: A Year Later

A year ago I cut myself off from going to mainstream media sources for content consumption (with the notable exception of the New York Times in paper form Sunday mornings). I'm here to report that I generally feel more calm, balanced, smarter, and informed. I also feel more aware than ever of just how tied our media consumption is to financial interests. It's been great to disassociate from that to some degree.

I've found it pretty challenging to find regular good sources of "news" and interesting media content. The sad practice that Techcrunch introduced us to so many years ago is now the "norm" for new/alternative online media outlets (such as Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and Medium (kinda reluctant to put Medium in here, but not really.?) and their ilk). Algorithmic content creation, and/or content farming (Techcrunch's original M.O.) that incestuously drives the SEO beast plagues online content creation in the name of "clicks." It's a sad state of affairs out there unfortunately.

I still like my idea around effectively representing the journalist. It'd be a small piece of the puzzle, but an increasingly necessary one as we consume more and more content en-masse that is created by a) machines directly or b) humans that have no journalistic understanding whatsoever. Having an understanding of who/what, and ultimately why, created the content is crucial.

Anyway, I've eliminated mainstream channels of content from my flow. I rely on Feedly to surface content from sources I curate myself (individual's blogs who I care about, Ars Technica, products I care about, companies I care about, etc). I increasingly prefer email "newsletters" that I proactively subscribe to, to provide regular doses of content from curators I care about. That list looks like:

  • https://www.brainpickings.org/ - to eat my regular spinach and broccoli.
  • http://bizwest.com/ - for Colorado-local stuff
  • https://redef.com/ - for music, style, and media stuff
  • http://www.nytimes.com/newsletters - for nytimes digital stuff
  • http://nuzzel.com/ - I use this a little bit, but not much.
  • http://www.boredpanda.com/ - my dirty secret
I use Instapaper and Pocket to collect things that I want to "read later." I use Highly to markup and share content I find interesting with my friends as well as Twitter/Facebook communities.

About Twitter and Facebook. Twitter Moments (and Apple TV app) has become a solid go-to when I'm curious about what's happening "right now."

Facebook is the trashy magazine one flips through to numb their mind by the pool. It's also a great place to stay connected to longtime friends/family. If you consider it a news source, I worry for you to the same degree I worry for Fox News viewers.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

(Timeless?) Music Today

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile. A conversation with my brother today finally motivated me to do it. He has two kids (9 and 5); mine are 14 and 11.

A few nights ago our family spent the evening with another family. Drinks were had and my buddy, a musician, fired up some Gun's & Roses and Kenny Rogers on the Sonos (via Pandora). The adults all wailed along while playing air guitar. The kids giggled and pointed at us. The next day my son asked me why his generation doesn't have such timeless and iconic music. As we parents do, I responded without any preparation, on my feet, with something like this.

Creation

Twenty-plus years ago, producing music for the masses required a lot of capital, and relationships with distribution channels. So, a musician would desire and aspire to access record labels (who had said capital and relationships) for "record deals." Convincing a label to sign your band meant you had to be pretty great at producing a quality product that would likely appeal to the masses. In today's tech-easy framework, a lot of good (not necessarily great) music can be produced relatively easily. In some cases, with nothing more than a laptop. So, there has been an explosion in artists who can create decent music. Yesterday, there were simply fewer bands that could produce material that was fairly easily consumable.

Distribution

This is where things have shifted most significantly. Yesterday, distribution was accomplished via radio plays, physical media sales, and concert halls and arenas. Importantly, the pinnacle consumption of music, a concert/arena, was something the community would experience together, in a room, with the band itself. Obviously these "shows" still exist today, but when you consider the shifts in access to music, production, and costs, the large-scale shows (arenas) are the stuff of marketers; of manufactured content with no soul. The smaller venues are the only place to see live music with soul, and therefore by definition, the number of people that can share the same live experience together is orders of magnitude smaller. So, this collective bond that thousands or millions of people can establish and share over the course of a band's "tour" (a year or two at a time), has vaporized.

I don't think Streaming actually has much, if anything, to do with the lack of iconic/timeless music production. It obviously has had a massive impact on consumer cost-to-access music, and what musicians get paid, but the connection with timeless/iconic bands isn't so clear to me. I could probably argue that better, cheaper, access to music via Streaming would promote more great bands across an even larger consumer-base. I might argue that because we have such ready access to nearly _all_ music now, that our need/desire to build up, and save up, to go see a big show has dwindled. But, I suspect that interest has waned more because the large-format shows have been commercialized to the point of no longer being as interesting as they once were.

Access

Our kids access music through Spotify, Pandora, and Soundcloud. They listen on over-the-ear headphones, or via speakers driven by Sonos (built-in amp or line-in to a receiver). They have fallen victim to Streaming's general lack of "offline" or "download" support, and realize this when we're in the car somewhere sans cell-tower coverage. That's when they ask me to fire up my music which I diligently downloaded (Spotify Offline).

Equipment

Coincidentally I introduced my son to Boulder's high-end audiophile showroom today. I needed a component and he was out running errands with me so, I took him in. I introduced him to an engineer who spends his hours tuning amps and speakers and furniture placement and sound baffles and cables and such. I showed him McIntosh amps with tubes and phonographs as beautiful as the female form. We sat. We listened. He came to understand why I take my drivers and amps so seriously. That was a fun parenting moment. I remember when my own dad took me in there when I was a kid. I haven't been the same since.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Day In Pictures: A Wonderful Thursday

My early bird. She gets up a little after me.

Biker Chic. She thundered in during morning coffee meetings and graciously let me take her picture. #badass

Lovely Gayle. Lovely catch-up.

Annie. Relaxed after some well used time-off.

Casey (with PrintReleaf) building the right software to reforest Earth.

Jordan (with PrintReleaf) building the right business to reforest Earth.

DL Thomas demoing Nitro Kaffe Coffee for us at Techstars. Dangerously good.

Brown. Getting all of the pieces to work optimally; the hardest job.

Zack Mance who's moving to Boulder from NY to hang with us and create software.

Dan. Adapting to a growing team; sharing the knowledge and passion.

Ryan. Serializing data more efficiently while playing pinball.

Michelle. Diligent. Clear. Consummate professional. Default: happy (always breath of fresh air). 

Joey. Knows more about global telco packet traffic/scale than you. Katie says he still owes us rent.

Smart Techstars Tech Meetup crew talking Machine Learning at Trident Cafe (thanks to Andrew Hyde!).

Those eyes.