Tag Archives: Business

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

Bushel to the Rescue!

So I heard about Bushel on a podcast i was interviewed for. I fell in love.

I’ve had a long standing family rule, use the devices I tell you to, and you get support, use something else, and you’re on your own. My mom until recently was a PC user, she was hella on her own!

Then she got a macbook air. I have lots… and I mean LOTS of macs. The conferences have 4 for session recording, i have mine. I have 2 mac mini’s, various iOS devices, my wife has a Macbook Pro and iOs devices, etc.

Work and family devices, managedI can now manage them all. No more “Gah, you have 3,542 updates waiting” or “Why don’t you do X?”

Between bushel and Screens (i just the other day remotely helped my mom, not by trying to understand what she was seeing on the screen, but by seeing the screen directly.) I can make sure everyone uses strong passwords, disk encryption, and more.

What’s nice, I can establish different schemes (called blueprints in Bushel), so i have work computers managed one way, family machines managed another. This is especially awesome since work machines can all have the same settings, and this let’s me manage that much easier than touching each one.

Setup is easy, you toggle on “open enrollment” go to a website on the device, install the certs, done. (Well done on the client, you have to do some Apple stuff as far as management certs, approval, etc. But just once)

What’s nice, you can use it for free for the first few devices. See if you like it. If you do sign up, use this link.

 

Conference lunches…. They don’t have to suck

Conference food… There’s typically two types of conference food;

“Oh my god, this conference has really good food” and,

“Let’s just go somewhere else (and spend our own money), this event has crappy food”

More often than not 360|iDev (and 360|Flex in it’s day) were usually the former. I’ve always thought that conference food shouldn’t be gross, it shouldn’t be rubbery chicken, and steamed veggies. It should be something that people go back for seconds for, it should be something people actually talk about, as much a valued part of the event as the content. I’ve mostly been successful at that.

That’s not to say I’m batting 1000 (I think i used that reference right), there are times when the meal fails to deliver, either i picked poorly, or the venue wasn’t up to the task.

The last two years I’ve taken my approach to conference lunch a step further, offering something few events offer; choice.

While having everyone eat lunch in the conference space has value, I think it’s more valuable to get attendees outdoors. For a few reasons, in no particular order;

  1. Attendees have more choice in what they eat, which is either impossible or stupid expensive within the conference center.
  2. They can meet new people by ending up at the same place as others, but not so many that it’s daunting.
  3. They get to enjoy what the host city has to offer
  4. I get to support local businesses, which is a huge part of my business. 360|Conferences is a Denver, CO company and whenever I can I want to support other Colorado businesses.

 

It’s easy to do an event, it’s harder to do events that don’t suck.

Denver Startup Culture

tl; dr;

Is Broken, but fixable.

the long form:

I got into a Facebook fight with a CEO the other day. He was mad i said a blog post on his site was click bait (which it was, but the popular term is content marketing). I was mad because it doled out praise for “making Denver Startup Week happen” to a group of people that certainly did participate in the week, but only 1 was a member of our actual team that drives the event, AKA “Making it happen”. As a member of the team that makes it happen i was a bit insulted. Not that i was not included, but that my work was being ascribed to others. Coincidentally in an effort to quantify my time, I track it (not 100% well, yet), this year i spent approximately 160 hours on Denver Startup week. Had I billed for that time it’d be over $10,000. That’s not a small investment on my part, it’s larger than several sponsorship levels in fact. I don’t say that as a “I do more than you” just as a statement of what i  do, and it’s relative value.

The next day (i kid you not) i see a blog post by builtin Colorado that says there’s no coworking in LoDo. When in fact I helped launch Uncubed, which started in RiNo but has been in LoDo (15th and Blake) for mmm 3 years now, and has existed longer than built in Colorado. Several other places were mentioned as “nearby options”, all are commonly written about in Builtin and/or Tech crunch because they raise money (which to be clear is totally fine).

That’s the crux of what I think is broken in our community. A focus on money raised. On exits. Not on who’s building and running businesses. 

I think raising money is fine, I think selling your company for tons of money is fine, i think talking about those things is fine. They’re obviously economic drivers, they creates jobs, etc. They’re sexy and attract attention.

But.

We’re making our focus around the “Denver startup community” solely about who’s raised how much, how much did the company sell for. We talk about how much VC money flooded Denver in a given time period, but we’re ignoring those companies that form, and continue to exist that don’t take VC money. Uncubed Started with no money from anyone but the three founders. 360|Conferences, started with nothing at all. Last year we had revenue of about $250,000.

We’re not talking about companies that have been around years, are profitable, are doing things. Sure they’re less ‘sexy’ and often (but not always) employee fewer people, but they’re contributing to the Denver community just as much (and I feel more) as the latest well funded Tech Crunch darling, that may or may not even exist next year.

So, all that said, I think that’s now the goal for my blogging efforts. I don’t know if that will be here on my blog or if I’ll spin up something new. I’d like to get a few folks to help me cover things. There’s more to the story of Denver’s amazing startup scene than is being talked about, and I think it’s time we fixed that.

Want to know more, stay tuned. Want to help, let me know.

So I think I’m close to done with Fitbit

Not because I don’t like it, I like my fitbit, a lot! I’ve had one since the money clip looking one (Ultra? One?), which i eventually lost and got a replacement for in the form of the new model, which i got $50 off courtesy of Fitbit support, which is a really cool thing they do.

I’ve got many family members using Fitbit, lots of friends, even my dog has one (how they haven’t made a dog specific one yet is beyond me).

So why leave?

Silo’s. I hate ’em. Mostly though I hate multiple silos (and am well and truly at the bottom of the Apple one), more so when they don’t play together, even a little. Like ’em, or hate ’em Apple is getting a better and better stack, and their silo, while a silo, is shiny and pretty awesome. My Mac and my iPhone talk to each other, my Watch talks to my iPhone. While not perfect, the nice outweighs the not so nice.

And then there’s my fitbit, which for no clear reason, still won’t talk to Apple.

I just got my Apple watch and I’ve been comparing it’s health features to my fitbit, namely step tracking. Right this moment my fitbit shows 11,549 steps for the day, my Apple Watch shows 11,706. Which is actually a bit odd, the other day it was about 100 less than my Fitbit. Point being they’re close. Close enough as to make not a big difference in my step tracking goals.

Each morning i get up and work out (weekdays) and after that I weigh myself. Normally i do this in the fitbit app. I used to have another app that read fitbit data, and then shared it among other apps (It wasn’t the sync bridge thing, just an app that could read/write both Apple and Fitbit info), and also shared with Apple Health, i don’t use that app so i uninstalled it, so now there’s a gap. I have to enter my body fat % and weight manually in to two apps. Not the end of the world for sure, but why? If Fitbit had a legitimate reason, I might be ok with it. Other things read and/or write to Apple Health, fitbit (still) doesn’t, and hasn’t provided any good reason. Protecting their silo?

I haven’t chucked the fitbit yet, and likely won’t for a few more weeks at least (mostly out of liking to compete with friends and family), but I’d be happy to keep on fitbit’in (is that a term?) if they’d un-silo their data. Heck don’t read in Apple Health data, just share yours. It’s not that hard, and I can’t imagine how you justify not doing it. It costs you nothing to let HealthKit read steps, calories, etc.

We’ll see. I’ve become attached to my Fitbit but double entry is the pits, and Fitbit doesn’t have much to push me it’s way, when ALL other data is in Apple Health.

Drawing a line in the sand is cool if you have a legitimate reason to, but “just because” isn’t a good reason.

Wearables, silos and how Pebble missed their shot

So I bought an Apple Watch. I knew I would eventually. I basically was holding out to see if they released a new one at their recent event. They didn’t so i bought one. I immediately put OS2 on it, since much of what I didn’t like was OS1.

There’s still much I don’t like about AppleWatch; like not being able to glance at my wrist to see the time without raising my wrist in a “checking the time” motion.

Do I miss my Pebble, yes. I liked the watch faces, I liked the glance-ability of the screen, and I suspect I’ll like not worrying about charging it each night.

As i unpaired my Pebble i reflected on what I thought about that watch and wearable tech in general (my fitbit is on the cusp of being set aside). It’s slimmer, it’s IMO nicer looking. It has a battery that does the job. It was more personalizable. That’s it though. After that it’s missed opportunity after missed opportunity.

Pebble launched with a cool expansion port to allow for smart bands. What might those be? even more battery life, heart rate monitors, who knows. Turns out, nothing. The SDK for the port apparently is only now, months, MONTHS later, coming out in limited release. At a recent hackathon the winning use of that port… a laser pointer. A god damned laser pointer. They had Devices, even 3D printers on hand to make things, and we get a laser pointer?

Pebble had a great lead on Apple, and while I suspect much of it’s failure is partly on Apple and it’s SDK limitations (since Android is more interactive), I think Pebble rested on it’s laurels a lot. I’m sure they were working, but as a consumer I can’t say on what. Porting their new OS to the old hardware is a nice touch for owners of that old hardware, but at what cost? Interactive SMS replies? not yet. Siri? nope. I get taking care of your old customers, in fact I think that’s a great thing about Pebble, but it doesn’t seem to have been very well balanced against making sure the Pebble Time was an actual Apple Watch competitor, which it’s not.

Huge missed opportunity. Reading notifications is neat, controlling my Nest is neat (and not possible that i can see on AppleWatch) but not enough to make it a sticky thing. Not enough to make it a long term thing. There’s a lot in the Apple watch I don’t care about, but as both platforms mature Apple is going to overtake Pebble.

So now my pebble (twice kickstarted) is hanging on my bulletin board as a memento. My Apple Watch is my daily watch, for now anyway. I sometimes opt back to my classic watches, but the Pebble, that ship has sailed, right into a sand bar.

 

360|iDev 2015, What an amazing thing we did.

So i just finished my big event of the year, 360|iDev and wow. What a rush (as always).

TL;DR; So honored to share a room with so many awesome people being awesome. Making amazing things, being parts of amazing teams, etc. I honestly feel this event not only has a positive impact on my life each year, but also does on others, which is humbling to say the least.

There’s an amazing photo pool here.

Now the long form.

I start planning 360|iDev the moment the preceding event ends, so yes, I’ve already begun work on next years event.  A 4 day conference with 55 speakers, 400 attendees and a handful of sponsors isn’t something that comes together in a few weeks.

There were a few good, and one bad thing this year. One of the things I like about doing 360|iDev is that we bring about 400 people into Denver, more than 85% of whom aren’t local to CO. Many who aren’t local to the United States. Sure when compared to city wide events, that’s nothing, but to me it’s a big damn deal.

360|iDev is my bread-n-butter. It keeps enough money coming in, my wife hasn’t forced me to get a job… yet, LOL. I get to see people from around the world that i may only see once (maybe twice if I’m lucky) a year. I get to show off my home town (by claim, if not birth), and show everyone why Denver is so awesome, why it’s where I’m where I am.

There was a lot of great stuff this week, much of it conference specific, so I’ll talk about it on the conference blog, but some of it more personal and Denver specific.

Lunch (good)

Last year we ate lunch outside the hotel because yeah $50/person for conference lunch is stupid and well hotels are often stupid. One place however can’t handle 400 ppl, no matter what they think or say. Lunch last year wasn’t awesome. Long lines, long waits, etc. As experiments go, it failed.

This year I had 3 (4 on Tuesday because of Civic Center eats) options for attendees. Lunch tickets were available for each place, people picked what they wanted to eat. It was awesome to see groups form on the fly each day to explore someplace new. We spread the lunch tickets, so no single vendor had more than 150 people a day. So far (bills are still coming in) it looks like i spent half as much this year as last, and had 3x more options for people. That’s awesome!

The only thing that went a bit sideways was my failure to account for vendors not being open on weekends. Out of 3 only 1 was open on Sundays. Oops.

Local Community (good)

One of the things being downtown has afforded was the opportunity to spread some money around vs. bottling it up in a hotel chain. This year we spread about $18,000 to local restaurants in the downtown area. I think that’s pretty awesome, i know i’m not a rain maker, but i think any time I can give money to local businesses, that’s a great thing. Not only am i not paying for over priced hotel food, but I’m boosting (in a small way, sure) the local economy.

While small, i think every dollar helps. I think as a conference organizer, it’s my job to not just dump money into the pockets of a massive hotel chain. It’s my job to better the city that is hosting my event. Whether that’s financially or even just from exposure like not keeping everyone indoors all day and night.

Police (Bad)

During lunch on Tuesday, the attendees ate lunch at Civic Center Eats. A few attendees were enjoying their meal on the grass when some Denver PD officers came over. Sadly instead of assuming these folks weren’t criminals, vagrants or some type of malcontents, they treated a group of international visitors to Denver like criminals, demanding they all present ID while telling them they were sitting in the wrong grass. Not cool Denver PD, not cool. I get we’re trying to revitalize the grass in the park, but maybe wrap that section in tape, vs. the handful of tiny ass signs. Also maybe, just maybe assume people (wearing conference badges, even!) aren’t trying to kill the grass or break the rules and start with “Hey guys, can you move elsewhere, this grass is off limits for now.” vs. oh i dunno, accosting people eating their lunch, making them all present ID before letting them go.

back-side-black-textAs someone who brings people from around the world to Denver, i’m not super thrilled that happened. Small incident, yes? bad experience for people in Denver the first time ever, yup. In the end we all joked about it, but is that really what Denver wants people to remember about it?

I have much respect for law enforcement, I know their jobs are hard, but that’s not an excuse. Be better please Denver PD.

If you’re one of this years’ attendees, thank you, really, truly, thank you. Being able to do this event, and make even a small living is huge! I can’t thank every single speaker, sponsor and attendee enough for being a part of something so truly amazing. Conferences are hard, harder still when balancing making a living, with making an awesome experience. I already can’t wait until next year.