Introducing Kai Kingsley St. John

Originally scheduled for April 6th, my son decided to arrive several weeks early. Welcome Kai St. John to the family 3/22.

Want Sales? Think Of Couches.

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You probably have a crappy old couch that sort of stinks like apple juice and has popcorn kernels lodges in the cracks. Every time you make eye contact with your cat as she sharpens her claws on the corner of that couch, you think about replacing it…but something stops you.

What exactly is that something? Well – your mind fires up a projector and plays a horror movie for you.

In this horror movie, you have to break your couch apart, drag the pieces downstairs, unload all the hockey equipment from your trunk, load the couch into the trunk, drive the couch to the dump and dispose of it. Then you have to drive for 45 minutes to an Ikea, sit on 12 different couches to find a good one, trek across the Ikea warehouse floor, find the box, stand in line for two hours behind screaming children, buy the couch, drive it back to your house….

This horror movie causes you immediately shut down your mental projector and go back to eating popcorn, ignoring your cat and sipping apple juice. Every time.

This reaction is not unlike what happens when you attempt to sell a customer on your product or service. Even if your product perfectly matches your customer’s needs and solves their problems, the horror movie in your customer’s head about the terrible risks involved with your product will stop them from buying it.

Now lets imagine a different movie about how that couch gets replaced.

Imagine if all you needed to do to test out a new couch was snap your fingers. Your existing couch then stands up on robotic legs, walks down your stairs and returns itself to Ikea. Then you snap your fingers again and a new couch walks down the street, up seven flights of stairs and then sits itself down in your living room.

If this was the installation process for couches, imagine how many more would get sold. You could evaluate new couches every day of the week. Couch sales would skyrocket!

If you are in sales, business development or product management, you should think about couches when you design your product or promotion. The question you need to ask yourself is: How can you make your couch fly into a customer’s home as though carried magically on robot legs? How can you eliminate every single perceived risk of installing your couch  in the minds of your target audience?

Don’t like it? We will come and get it it. Don’t want to install it, don’t worry we will install it. Have an old couch? We will come to your house and get rid of it.

Maybe you can’t put robot legs on couches, but there are a lot of other options that can be explored to enhance the installation speed of your product into a customer’s “home.” Certain couches move through hallways faster: Couches that are modular and can be broken into pieces or are thoughtfully designed to fit down common hallways, staircases and other obvious yet common obstacles.

Couches with a 30-day free trial and free move-in which includes the fact that your movers will get rid of the old couch for you will sell faster than anything.

So when it is time to design your offer, deal or product – Think of couches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RISC-V Workshop

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Was down in the bay area yesterday attending the latest RISC-V Workshop. The excitement around RISC-V is palpable, people seem really engaged in the possibility of a truly open source approach to hardware. Having worked in open source hardware evangelism with makers for the last few years, this may be a game changing innovation.

Side note, just backed the HiFive1 on Supply Frame, looking forward to experimenting.

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The Strange World Of Open-Source Pancreas Hacking

This is a Closed Loop Artificial Pancreas System consisting of a compute module and a 900 MHz radio. While it may not be pretty, it is actually keeping someone alive.

Opinions and views expressed in this blog do not reflect those of my employer and are wholly my own.

I have been lucky and gotten to travel the world and meet many interesting people building many interesting hardware projects with compute modules. Some of the more interesting projects come from the the OpenAPS movement, who are using compute modules to help Type I Diabetes sufferers manage their condition. I wanted to write a blog about what is going on in the OpenAPS movement and share some of the interesting hardware projects being built by hackers to manage their conditions.

A compute module is a tiny, cheap computer you can stick into things to make them smart (and often add Linux / Windows IoT and wireless connectivity).

Open source hardware hacking of life-sustaining equipment is highly dangerous and legally vague, why would anyone take this risk? Because current government regulations have delayed the creation of convenient systems for Type I Diabetes management until several years from now. As a result, the OpenAPS “We Are Not Waiting” movement has been born.
[Read more…]

Quick Update: I Am Moving To Portland

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A quick announcement: We (my wife and myself) shall  be relocating our operations to Portland, Oregon by the end of this month for work reasons.

While I enjoyed living in Seattle for the last eight years, it is time to meet new people, eat at new restaurants, live in new neighborhoods, grow an unkempt beard and develop opinions about barley wine and pickled carrots.  Of all the cities we have considered living in, Portland was at the top of the list (at least in America) due to the weirdness, unique culture, tech scene, public transportation, creative atmosphere, small size and food. I think it will be great.

Portland, let us commence being weird together.

Business Development And Technical Evangelism Were Meant To Be Together

bizvangelismBusiness development and technical evangelism were meant to be together. After several candle-lit dinners, business development and technical evangelism should get married, settle down and have a baby. Why? Because technical evangelism is best when combined with business development.

In this article, I will introduce a new way of approaching technical evangelism which combines these two worlds, I call it: “Platform Evangelism.” My goal? To help you greatly improve your efforts to attract developers to your platform and improve how you allocate your developer marketing time.

Platform Evangelism, when done well, costs absolutely nothing and can achieve significantly greater ROI over “regular” evangelism. Furthermore, many technical evangelists can become Platform Evangelists with only minor changes. Intrigued? Read on! [Read more…]

Odd-Fellows: The Occult World of Networking

Author’s Note: I am risking myself professionally by exposing this hidden world. I will try to be vague about names, identities and places. By blowing the whistle on a powerful group of shady individuals I risk becoming an outcast…or worse. Proceed with caution if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of the arcane world of networking, for me it is too late. 

The Real Illuminati

Everyone is familiar with the concept of secret clubs, the Illuminati…the “Odd Fellows” who are supposedly running the world behind the curtains. Their work is everywhere, they are meeting in coffee shops and back-alleys, speaking in coded language while slapping “The Proles” on the back. They have “secret handshakes” of many forms and laugh amongst themselves at the plodding mass of humanity. These people exist and they are called The Networkers.

Whether or not you are aware of their existence, The Networkers are the ones brokering all of the connections, getting the deals done, filling the CEO positions, finding future spouses for others and filling up the rosters of “the cool people parties.” All of this they do with a few phone calls, Slack messages and emails which cost them nothing to send (nothing tangible, anyways).

“Networking” to most people is synonymous with unsolicited LinkedIn messages, recruiter-spam, marketing nonsense, unproductive ass-kissing and generally favoring appearances, in-crowds and credentialism over productivity. There is a lot of truth to this perception. Networking done poorly is at epidemic proportions, accelerated by the clueless application of social media and electronics communications tools. If you want a full introduction to what GREAT networking is, read this book.

In this article I will touch on bad networking, but what I am really interested in is helping more people to understand the hidden mechanics of great networking.

[Read more…]

Saying Good-Bye To Pizza Evangelists

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I have a term for technical evangelists who seem to get paid to fly around the country, stand around doing nothing at events (maybe talking for two minutes at the start over a couple slides), eat the food, man (or woman) a table, perhaps do some light networking and then depart to their next event: Pizza Evangelists. I call them this specifically because the only measurable outcome of having spent the money to send this person to an event is that there is less pizza at the event afterwards (and your company is out $5,000 dollars including sponsorship, flight, Uber and their hotel).

After supporting something like 50+ developer events over the last few years, it is my observation that Pizza Evangelism may not just be common but it may be the average form of technical evangelism being practiced in some parts of the industry. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is that many organizations have a poor concept of what technical evangelists are really even supposed to be doing at events (hint: driving adoption of your platform).

In the worst cases, this type of behavior is accepted due to no one really caring what goes on at the event in the first place or just wanting to maintain the appearance of “having covered” an event for political purposes. Really great technical evangelism is not about maintaining appearances, it is about helping developers succeed with measurable and documentable results.

If you view what technical evangelists seem to be doing from the perspective of a CEO (who think in terms of profits and losses), you are going to find a lot to hate. “Why would I pay this person to fly around the country, lavishly spending money on hotel rooms and sponsorships of hackathons and workshops if I am not seeing any ROI?  I can’t even see what they are doing at these events!” Not a good line of thinking to be running through your CEO’s mind when things take a financial downturn.

So what is the solution? Well…that part is more involved. I will say, there should be a significantly greater number of documented projects at hackathons and workshops where your evangelists are present (as well as social media activity) than the ones where they aren’t there. Hackathons and workshops are not happy hour, they are “help people build stuff” time. If your evangelist does not materially impact the number of people using (and successfully completing) projects with your technology at events they attend, you should “reconsider” that spend.

Great evangelism does not happen behind a table, it looks like this (with apologies to Steven Xing and Jeremy Foster):

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The Hackathon Bubble

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I was recently forwarded an event sponsorship for a collegiate hackathon in Europe which had a base price tag which exceeded $45,000 for what amounted to a logo placement and the honor of sending a few technical evangelists to set up a table. Lets just call this level of sponsorship ask what it is: Unrealistic and probably untenable.

Over the years, hands-on collegiate hackathon evangelism (which was once a scrappy, high-energy, efficient and affordable way to meet new developers and engage them in developer platforms) has turned into something more closely resembling open warfare of competing unicorn bubble-dollars.

As a result, we may be at the top (or even already past the top of) of a “hackathon sponsorship and developer evangelism bubble” which has been drastically inflated by these billions of excess funds which have been dumped into developer platform companies in the SF tech sector. The effects of this money has soaked through the industry on every level resulting in some very ill-defined developer marketing dollars being spent on some quite questionable things.

If you are a major company like Apple looking to hire exceptionally talented software engineers, spending $50K+ (or whatever) to sponsor a table at a collegiate hackathon to recruit engineers makes a lot of sense compared to the costs associated with hiring a single engineer in the valley…You really have to snatch that engineer away from your competition and that isn’t cheap. However, if it is your goal to drive developer engagement and platform adoption, that level of spend should look pretty dubious in value.

I remember being amazed at seeing a brand new collegiate event managing to attract more than 20 sponsors in their first attempt at finding backing. In terms a Wall Street financier might use: “The trade is crowded.” With so many platforms crowding events, it has become difficult to tell a unique story cleanly and effectively for a reasonable cost the way it used to. Judging by complaints being made by some student participants (“guys, just let us hack on projects without shoving marketing down our throats!”), the feeling may be mutual.

Over the next few years, I am expecting to see cut backs in what platform companies are able to afford (or deem reasonable) in terms of the deployment of their developer marketing dollars. Many of the techniques for turning hackathons into highly efficient marketing venues (pioneered by companies such as Twilio) were effective because they were new and affordable. It was possible to walk into a hackathon and be one of only two or three companies trying to evangelize products (and help people  learn) for under $2,500. Not so much anymore, not when everyone else in the industry has learned the same tricks and have access to piles of unicorn-cash.

Hackathons are extremely valuable as developer marketing and outreach tools, but at some point, the price really does matter. At their best, collegiate hackathons are a student-lead revolt against their institutions which allow students to learn about technology together, in a fun way. Evangelism at it’s best is an excuse to educate others about technology.  These positive aspect of collegiate hackathons will prove to be eternal, the budgets may be subject change due to market conditions though.

Disclaimer: I am fully at peace with the fact that I may be wrong on the internet.