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My Disappointment with Kickstarter

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I’m sort of a kickstarter junkie. I love buying stuff that is new and on the cutting edge and i like to support people building cool stuff.  I often find items on Kickstarter that are ahead of their time and i usally sign up to support them. 

However, my last three big purchases from Kickstarter have turned out to be a disappointment.  Not so much because of what i received but because of how and when they were delivered.  Let me explain

Pebble Watch

  

Why I was interested – a watch that integrates with my smartphone!  All updates come to the watch.  I also liked the Runkeeper integration where i don’t have to look at my phone when on a run.

Why I’m disappointed – I like the watch (my review of Pebble Watch) but i ordered this May 2012 and received it over a year later.  By the time it hit the market, there were better options such as the Samsung or Sony watch.  Ordering it on KS didn’t give me the option of exploring the market nor did it give me a watch before it hit the market.  It just locked me into a solution. 

Narrative Clip / Memoto

Why I was Interested – I love recording my life.  The thought of something taking photos every 30 seconds sounds awesome. I was super into it. 

Why I’m Disappointed – Again, it took FOREVER for this.  I order November 2012 and received it almost 15 months later.  Even worse they kept sending emails about how close they were – even though they weren’t actually close at all. 

Veronica Mars Movie

Why I was Interested – I love the show. I was excited there’d be a movie and wanted to support that effort.  They’d give me a digital download that i could watch at home instead of going to the theater.  That alone was worth the price. 

What I was Disappointed – The digital download was only available in this crappy Flixster player which couldn’t, unlike every other movie file i own, couldn’t be played on my television.  Thus, i had to rent the movie anyway, essentially making me double-pay for the film.  I was happy to do so, but i was still misled.  Again i was disappointed. 

To sum up, i love Kickstarter and what it does. I think it’s a great company.  However, my enthusiasm for backing projects has gone way down. I’ll probably do some more but will likely only do it if i don’t need the product in any specific timeframe and only if my desire to support the project outweighs my desire to actually get the product described. 

 

Written by Mike Lewis

April 16th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

The craftsmanship between a great idea and great product

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Saw this from Dixon’s blog over the weekend. It’s a good clip from Steve Jobs in 1995 where he talks about how building great products and thought it was worth a repost.

As the head of Product at Kapost, it really resonates to me as we often start off with a product idea and through months of discussion and design, come out at a different place – one that is always better than where we began.  I also like the talk of keeping things out of product.  In my opinion, that’s one of the hardest part of design product – trying to intentionally remove or not include parts that customers claim they want.  

The Jobs quote:

 

There’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

That’s one thing I love about product.  You need to understand design, your business, competitive landscape, your customers, technology and how to get things done.  It’s one of the more interdisciplinary roles a company has. 

 

Written by Mike Lewis

March 17th, 2014 at 1:50 pm

My New Favorite App: PaperKarma

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My brother-in-law (aka TheBoss) tipped me off to this wonderful app the other day.  It’s called PaperKarma and here’s how it works: 

  1. Get your mail from the mailbox
  2. Get a bunch of crappy catalogs in the mail – always happens to me for some reason
  3. Load up the PaperKarma app on your phone
  4. Take a picture of the catalog that you don’t want to get any more, marking who it’s addressed to (me or my wife)
  5. Upload it into the app
  6. That’s it

They then will take care of everything that’s needed to cancel the subscription.  The amount of paper that’s wasted on sending catalogs to my house is incredible.  In the past two months, i’ve used PaperKarma to cancel 28 catalog subscriptions.  Some of those were coming every quarter.  It’s ridiculous. 

Anyway, give it a shot.  You won’t be disappointed. 

 

 

Written by Mike Lewis

March 14th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Cell Phone,iPhone

Two Pieces of Business Advice

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An employee recently left Kapost (sad to see you go T) and i was out to lunch with her and she asked some advice. I thought back to two pieces of advice that I was given or things that i have witnessed from successful colleagues.  Here’s what popped up:

“90% of Power is Taken not Given”

This is a quote from my old boss Bill Raduchel.  Bill loves saying phrases like this to me, and this was one juicy nugget he spat out in 2002 when I was working at AOL.  I took it to heart. I was a product manager at the time and aspired t

Bill at the Inn at Little Washington

o have even more responsibility within the company.  He noticed that and delivered this great quote.  What he meant was that nobody is going to give me extra responsibility.  If i want it, i have to go take it and earn it.

That’s what i did. I wanted to run video services within the company.  There were lots of people running bits and pieces but nobody was owning it.  Instead of waiting for a title and position to be created, i just started acting like i was the defacto video product manager. I had weekly all-hands meetings with the other stakeholders, came up with a product roadmap, and basically acted like the product owner.  What happened? Eventually the company realized i was the product owner and rewarded me with that title.

In small companies there are too many things to do.  In big companies there are lots of ambiguity, swirl and gray space. In both instances, there’s an opportunity to do what you want.  Just be proactive and go do it.  In real estate, ownership is 9/10 the law.  In startups, doing is 9/10 the position.

Don’t Eat Alone

This is just something i’ve realized. Most of the people we hire at Kapost come from referrals.  Most of the opportunities i’ve been given in my career come from contacts of friends of friends.  The size and strength (i.e. authenticity) of your network matters in today’s work world and in your career.  I’ve seen people (Nick O’Neil) go crazy about this where they actually track in a spreadsheet the people they’ve met and want to keep in touch with and make sure every X number of days that they give them an update.  It may sound excessive but it works.  He has a ton of connections who regularly help him out.

There’s even a pretty good book, called “Never Eat Alone” which talks about the power of these connections.

Those are two things that immediately came to mind.  I’d be curious if any of you have heard any other nuggets of great advice that you’d like to share.

Written by Mike Lewis

February 28th, 2014 at 11:17 am

Earn Points with Grandma: The Postgram App

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I was visiting my grandmother last weekend.  This is the same grandmother that was spotted on the streets of Manhattan at age 90 and asked to be a model for GNC (blog post: My Grandmother is Amazing).  She was remarking about how she loves to see photos of the great-grandkids.  I have one cousin who sends her an email of a picture every day.  I left feeling like i was really laking in my picture sending.  

Then, enter the Postgram App.  With this app, i can grab any picture on my phone or in Instagram and send it as a postcard.  You enter in a message and an address and it gets sent automatically.  Viola. 

Now, my grandma is getting mail all the time of pictures.  Yes!

 

Written by Mike Lewis

February 19th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Twitter Stock and Slowing Growth

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In mid-December I bought Twitter stock for ~$45 a share.  Here’s why: 

  1. I’m bulling on Twitter as a social network. I think it has lots of great use cases that almost anyone could benefit from.  It will only grow in popularity once people start realizing what it is. 
  2. I think Dick Costolo is a great CEO and product person. I’ve watched numerous interview with him (including this great PandoMonthly one), have followed his path since Feedburner, and I believe he has the company running on the right track and is doing a great job.
  3. Twitter is just now starting to monetize but I think they’ll be able to pull in a good amount of money.
  4. When I bought their market cap was 20 billion.  At 10x multiples, that means they have to have yearly revenues of $2 billion.  That seems feasible for me that they’ll get there.

I was happy with my purchase. Then, on Wednesday night Twitter announced their first ever earnings since going public.  What a disaster it was.  First off, everyone compares them to Facebook even though they are completely different.  Second, they have seemed to have stopped growing.  Look at this chart:

That’s not good.  They need to grow.  They only added 1 million US users in Q4.  Wow, that is a crazy low number. 

So, while I am still a believer, I think it might be a tough year or two (or three) until they hit mainstream.  Trust me, it’ll be a better world when they do.  

Written by Mike Lewis

February 6th, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Why I’m Excited About the Super Bowl

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Here’s something I think is cool.

Broncos-Seahawks-Superbowl

The Denver Broncos shattered records this year as the most dominant offensive team in NFL history. They scored 38 points per game this year, an NFL record.  Their QB, Peyton Manning,  also set records for most passing yards and touchdowns by a QB in a season.  They play Seattle whose defense was the best in the league and is the fifth-best overall statistical performance of any team since 1989.

So, it will be an epic showdown of a historical great offense against a historically great defense.

If that hasn’t blown you mind enough, check this out…. the difference between the Broncos’ average-points-scored and the Seahawks average-points-allowed this season is the widest in the history of the Super Bown. It is what one website found to be “the greatest offense/defense showdown in Super Bowl history.”

So there’s that.  Let’s go Broncos!

 

 

Written by Mike Lewis

January 27th, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Games and Generation G

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Here’s a fact for you. The average IQ of the human race is increasing and the rate of increase is increasing since the 1990′s.  It’s called the Flynn Effect.

I just learned that because i watched this good TED talk about video games and gamification.

He talks about what actually makes people smarter and then argues that all the items that do can be found in games.  Items such as:

He also talks about a guy in White Bear Lake MN who was a successful businessman.  When his kids went to school, he was appalled at the education they were getting so he quit his job, got a masters in education, and took over an elementary school class.  He then replaced the entire curriculum with a video game-based curriculum.

Did it work?  Well, in 18 weeks his kids went from a below 3rd grade level to an above 4th grade level.  In only 18 weeks. It was because games for them were fun and multiplayer.

This speaker, Gabe Zichermann, talks about this generation of millenials, 126 million of them, and how they use games as their primary means of entertainment.  This has a profound effect on society, and you can see it in the dashboard of electric cars, in Nike’s website, and all over the place.

He tells the story of a guy in Sweden, Kevin, who made a traffic camera lottery system.  Before Kevin, Sweden had a system where it takes a picture of your car if it’s going over the limit, then determines how much money the drivers make, and then issues tickets at higher prices to those who make more money and lower prices for those who make less money.  Kevin re-engineered the system so it also takes a picture of those people who are driving under the speed limit and it enters them into a lottery – a lottery to win all the proceeds from the other tickets from people speeding.  This is game-thinking where you take a negative reinforcement loop and turn it into a positive. It works. The average speed is now 20% less than it was before.

Corporations will also be doing it:

The speech is great.  Thanks to Patrick for sending it my way. All of these facts point to a future that’s pretty different than it is today.  Things are faster.  There are rewards everywhere. There is a lot of collaboration. I’m actually looking forward to it.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Mike Lewis

January 21st, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Video,Video Games

Yahoo! is on it’s way back

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I had pretty much written Yahoo off.  I thought they were dead.  They hadn’t done anything new and interesting for over 5 years.  Their webpages looked like crap.  They were just treading water.  That all changed lately.  Specifically in the past 6 months, they’ve done some things that really make me think they’ll be a player in the future.

First, let’s talk about Flickr.  I’ve always used it as my default photo service where i store all my photos online.  It used to be the best (in 2003-2006) and then it got abandoned.  I still kept putting my photos there because i was locked in, but i knew it was dead.  They added one small feature a year. I had seen that playbook at AOL.  It means it’s only a matter of time before it’s time to leave.  Then something magical happened.  They pushed out a new iPhone app for it that was actually decent.  Then they updated it to make it really slick.  Then they announced 1 terabyte of free storage.  Then they announced automatic iPhone uploads of photos.  Whoa.  All of the sudden, it was one of the best photo apps on my phone.  All in about a 6 month period.

12015673175_1291382eb9_b

Second, they released a new News Digest app that is basically The Week magazine but a daily app.  It aggregates 8 to 10 recent news stories and sends them to you twice a day.  Once you’ve read the morning stories, you have to wait for the evening delivery. It’s beautifully made and is really easy to consume.  It’s not the main way I get mainstream news.

Finally, they launched a new Tech site that claims to be different than current tech sites.  The premise being that all tech sites today are focused on the top tier tech enthusiasts and people who care a lot about Silicon Valley.  Yahoo Tech will be focused on the other 90%. People who want to know what the best TV is, not which Palo Alto exec just changed jobs.  I think that’s a great idea.

So, it’s good to have another player back out there.  Someone is building new things and innovating.  I’m excited.  It seems that Yahoo! is indeed earning the exclamation point on their name.

 

Written by Mike Lewis

January 17th, 2014 at 9:46 am

The Lewhouses in 2013

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We had another great year in 2013 and here’s the video to prove it.  We wish everyone a great 2013 and hope to spend lots of time with you all.

Lots of love from Mike, Diane and Hunter (now ~16 months)

PS: If you like the song it’s “Baby” from Devendra Banhart and you get it here.

 

Written by Mike Lewis

January 14th, 2014 at 10:59 am