We are So Lucky, Indeed

Just listened to a great commencement speech by Michael Lewis (aka: my google search nemesis).  The end of the speech is great.  He talks to the graduating Princeton class about luck and the role it plays in life.  Here’s the transcript.  I loved it:

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

I couldn’t agree more.  I feel completely lucky to be on the earth at this time, in this country, with my family and with all the other things that have fallen into place for me.  It’s great to stop every now and then and acknowledge it.

You can watch the whole thing video:


DollarShaveClub Video

Some videos are just too good to not share here.  This is a real business and a great ad.  Well done sirs. 


Best SuperBowl Commercial Not Playing in the SuperBowl

This is a Budweiser ad created for Canada to play during the SuperBowl, but only in Canada. I’m not sure why it’s on there, but it’s one of my favorite ads i’ve seen in a while.  I love it.

It’s a recreational hockey game where Budweiser organizes a flash mod to surprise the players.  It’s pretty great:

Yes, I’m excited for the Timberwolves

I’m a big NBA fan.  Each year i get excited to see how the MN Timberwolves do and i’m especially excited this year.

The only way to become great in the NBA is through the draft.  It’s the only way to get the true superstar and you need the true superstar to win a championship.  You have no idea when you draft Dwanye Wade or Kobe Bryant if they are going to be All-NBA or out of the league in 5 years.  Some players fizzle, some grow to superstardom – you never know.  But one thing you do know is that if a player becomes an elite player, the Timberwolves will NEVER get them unless they already had them.

This year i’m especially excited because we have two new rookies that could be the next players that set the league on fire.  They are Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.

Both were drafted high (Rubio at 5, Williams at 2) and both were touted to be one of the best in their class.  How they will actually perform, nobody knows.  But i’m pretty frickin’ pumped to see Rubio leading fast breaks with Williams and Wes Johnson on one wing and Kevin Love trailing for 3’s and rebounds.

Check out this video. Just a few years ago people were talking about Greg Oden as one of of the best draft picks in recent memory.  The number two pick – Kevin Durant – was considered risky.  Well, here’s a video of him taken yesterday when he went absolutely insane.  I’m hoping some of that similar draft luck comes to the T-Wolves.



Funniest show on TV right now? Easy, it’s “Children’s Hospital”

There’s a program that has only 10 minute-long episodes that’s on only at midnight once a week on the channel Adult Swim.  It may be random, but man is it glorious.  I challenge you not to love this show.  Check out this quick episode:

The show is created by Rob Corddry – who most of you know from Comedy Central – and the storyline centers on the staff of Childrens Hospital, a hospital for children, named after a doctor named Arthur Childrens. The hospital sporadically (and usually without reason) is mentioned as being located within Brazil, despite making virtually no effort to conceal that the series is shot in Los Angeles, California. Corddry is part of an amazing ensemble cast portraying the doctors, which includes Rob Hubel, Ken Marino (Party Down), Megan Mullaly (also from Party Down), Malin Akerman, Henry Winkler and many other commedians you probably know such as Michael Cera who does the intercom annoucements in the hospital.

The show is now in it’s third season.  I personally think the 3rd season has been the funniest so i would jump directly there if you can.  Enjoy my friends.  It’s aways such a treat to find such awesomeness.

The Film Unstoppable is Bad

Denzel makes a predictable train movie – again. Chris Pine seems like he’s on the train trying to think of the best story he can say about his wife that we’d find even remotely interesting. He does’t succeed.

Honestly, instead of seeing this film, you should just watch the SNL parody (below). It’s the same thing but funny. Movie 4 out of 10. Parody: 9 / 10.

Two Videos

I’ve seen some interesting videos of the past weeks that i thought i’d share.

The first video is a kids Middel School football game. Watch this video and keep in mind that the coach and team planned this play for whenever there was a penalty against his team. The plan was that when his team got a 5 yard penalty, he would start yelling that it is actually a 10 yard penalty. He’d yell really loud. That’s what’s happening when this video starts. Watch away:

This guy wrote the following statement and then submitted a video. It’s fantastic:

As a kid growing up in a time where mutants reigned supreme in the city and lasers accompanied by wailing guitars were standard, I felt that a homage was required. What better way to show your love for such a thing than a polygonal unicorn emerging from the hood of a countach. I paid my dues.

Fred’s 10 Golden Web-App Rules

This past weekend i watched this video from Fred Wilson about what are the 10 Golden Principles of a Web application. Fred has been an investor for over 20 years and is on the board of some of this decade’s premier companies such as Twitter, FourSquare, Tumblr, Etsy, Delicous, and more.

The 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps from Carsonified on Vimeo.

  1. Speed.  Fred sees speed more than a feature. Speed is the most important feature and he argues that this is more important with mainstream users an early-adopters who are more forgiving.  Everyday users have no tolerance for slugish apps.  I heard the same thing from Google when they presented at Techstars.  They measure everything and if it’s slow, they fix it.  Fred mentioned pingom as something they use to measure every portfolio company.
  2. Instant Utility.  If a user has to spend too long to configure the service – it won’t catch on.  YouTube is a great example of how it won by providing instant feedback rather than delaying the gratification.
  3. Voice.  Consumer software is media today.  Consumers approach in the same way the approach magazines, tv shows, etc.. Software has to have a personality and if it has no attitude, then it won’t catch on.
  4. Simplicity.  Just one main feature at launch.  Fred points to Delicious as a perfect example of this.  Make the app super simple and then go from there.  There are lots of good posts on how to focus on this.
  5. Programmability.   Make your app accessible from other developers.  This means read+write API’s and if’s not “write” it’s not an API and might as well be RSS.   Allow other developers to add energy, data and richness.  In Fred’s mind this is absolutely essential and he’s hesitant to invest in anything that isn’t programmable.
  6. Personalizable.  You want make your app infused with your user’s energy.
  7. REST URLs.  Make your app easy to navigate – give everything a URL. This also makes is discoverable from Google.
  8. Discoverable.  There are millions of web pages and web applications.   This point means SEO but it also means that your app itself should be self-promoting.  This means social media and branding.
  9. Clean.  This is UI requirement.  You need to be able to come to the page and be able to immediately determine what to do and what’s going on.   It has to be inviting and simple.
  10. Playful.  An app should be fun to use and it’s use should encourage future use.  Weigh Watchers is a good example as it establishes points and goals and getting the points and acheiving goals is something that should be embedded in each application

There one more interesting point he spits out at the end about the name and brand of a company.  He talks about how important it is to him that the company purchases the actual name of the company.  For example, Foursquare was playfoursquare.com and they insisted that they change.  He also insisted that del.icio.us become delicious.com.

The 10 principles are interesting to think about and a good checklist for any startup to have.  I’ve definitely been guilty of ignoring some of these in my past work.   Interesting stuff