March 3rd

On the left is the FDA’s proposed update to the nutrition facts that are displayed on most packaged goods in the United States. Overall, it’s a very welcome update in terms of readability, but it worsens the overemphasis on calories being the ultimate measure of nutrition.
I’ve proposed some slight modifications on the right in an effort to eliminate some redundancy while disclosing more helpful information about the food item:
The FDA version mentions the serving size twice. It’s a bit unnecessary, so I combined them into a single line. It’s the same information, just condensed.
I added a horizontal stacked bar chart that outlines where the calories come from. Calories from fat are much different than calories from protein. The chart makes it easy to see, at a glance, how the macronutrients are broken down.
Overall, the FDA modifications are well done, but I wish they added more  information that reflects our current knowledge of nutrition, rather than continuing to focus on the antiquated metric of raw calories.

On the left is the FDA’s proposed update to the nutrition facts that are displayed on most packaged goods in the United States. Overall, it’s a very welcome update in terms of readability, but it worsens the overemphasis on calories being the ultimate measure of nutrition.

I’ve proposed some slight modifications on the right in an effort to eliminate some redundancy while disclosing more helpful information about the food item:

  1. The FDA version mentions the serving size twice. It’s a bit unnecessary, so I combined them into a single line. It’s the same information, just condensed.
  2. I added a horizontal stacked bar chart that outlines where the calories come from. Calories from fat are much different than calories from protein. The chart makes it easy to see, at a glance, how the macronutrients are broken down.

Overall, the FDA modifications are well done, but I wish they added more  information that reflects our current knowledge of nutrition, rather than continuing to focus on the antiquated metric of raw calories.

February 28th

How to make an animated GIF in 10 seconds

  • Download LICEcap.
  • Hit record.
  • Done.

A few days ago I attempted to convert an MP4 video to a usable GIF I could post in our knowledge base. Lots of manual layer massaging in Photoshop and two hours later, I got something half decent.

Then I discovered this LICEcap thing. It records a section of your screen and outputs directly to GIF. That’s it! It does that one thing really well.

Icing on the cake: it’s made by Justin Frankel, the creator of Winamp and Gnutella.

February 28th

How to get honest feedback

Volunteer the negative.

Scenario A:

John: “Hey Mike, I’d love to hear what you think about our product. The more honest you are, the better! I’m ready to listen.”

Mike: “…well, I think the product is great!”

Awesome! Mike says everything’s great. It’s safe to say John’s job is done, right? Not quite.

John didn’t define the scope. Because he asked for feedback on the product, Mike doesn’t really know where to begin. Does John want feedback on the user experience? The design? The available features? How a certain feature worked? John (and the product) would be better served asking specific questions about an aspect of the product.

John also didn’t create a safe environment for honest feedback. Saying “please be honest,” still keeps most people guarded. Even if Mike usually speaks his mind, not many people willingly hurt the feelings of others. Volunteering a ‘negative’ aspect you’re already aware of can help set an example of the type of feedback you’re looking for.

With these things in mind, let’s see how it sounds if we try to correct for them.

Scenario B:

John: “Hey Mike, I’d love to hear what you think about our product. Our submit buttons look strange, don’t you think?”

Mike: “No, I actually think they look good. I’m not sure about the form inputs, though. They’re not vertically centered, and look kinda weird.”

John: “Got it. Anything else with the signup form? Are we asking for too much information up-front?”

Mike: “Yeah, I’d remove the phone number requirement.”

Even if John weren’t looking for feedback about the submit buttons, he set the tone. By being the first to throw the gauntlet, it keeps things informal, honest, and conversational. A perfect playing field for true feedback.

This all gets thrown out the window if your company culture doesn’t reward honesty, of course.

February 21st

February 19th

How to feel like a hacker in the movies

  1. Go here.
  2. Furiously mash the keyboard.
  3. Press CAPS LOCK repeatedly.
  4. Press ALT repeatedly.
  5. Occasionally say “oh no you don’t,” and “playing hard to get, huh?”

January 30th

It doesn’t matter how many non-repeated letters, non-consecutive numbers, and unique symbols are in a password that’s new every 6 months and not similar to the previous 10 passwords if attackers have no need to crack it.
Marco

January 15th

Nest’s acqusition

I’m not terrified of Google. Maybe I should be, but their actions haven’t set off alarm bells in terms of privacy for me personally.

Their acquisition of Nest is a great move, and the $3bn price tag is justifiable.

While I’m not concerned about Google having access to my Nest data, it’s naive to think Nest’s privacy policy will prevent Google from accessing it. Even Nest’s privacy policy dodges the question:

Will Nest customer data be shared with Google?
Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services.

Okay, so if sharing with Google “improves Nest’s products and services,” the customer data is fair game, according to these terms. I don’t think it’s very difficult for Google to justify why accessing Nest data is beneficial.

Nest is silly for even beating around the bush with this. They should just come out and say “Google owns us now, so it’s no longer Nest vs. Google. Nest is Google.”

Regardless of the semantics of Nest’s policies, has there ever been a company in the history of business that wasn’t allowed to view the information of something it owns outright?

December 13th

The year of desktop Linux, or Rapture, whichever comes first

2003 - “Linux should pass Apple in market share for desktop operating systems on computers.”

2004 - no? Well we just added a bunch of drivers for video and network cards, so surely this is the year. 

2005 - we’re getting sick of everyone saying every year is the year, but THIS year is the year.

2006 - Windows Vista sucks, which means it’s our time now.

2007 - okay ‘07 is a wash, but 2008 is going to be the year for sure.

2008just kidding, Linux has already won and we just missed it!

2009 - it’s a silly argument and let’s stop, ok? Linux is obviously huge.

2010 - the dream is dead, guys. There will be no desktop Linux this year.

2011 - actually, it’s not coming, ever.

2012 - wait… I just realized I read the bones wrong. It’s this year!

2013 - okay, remember how I said last year was the year? Well this time a guy at Intel said it’s this year! So surely!

EDIT:

2014 - we’re only a few days in, but congratulations, guys. 2014 is the year of desktop Linux.

December 4th

The Exit Fallacy

Right now, some investor is asking some technology startup the infamous question, “what’s your exit strategy?” The likely response falls into two categories:

  1. We’re going to go public
  2. We’re going to get acquired

For many just starting up, the idea of mapping a path to IPO is so daunting, so far away, that #2 seems like the more realistic, achievable option. “We’ll just build a great tool, get acquired, and go do the next thing…”

In reality, successful acquisitions are very rare, and mapping the stars that need to align for an acquisition to happen is an exercise in chaos theory.

Here’s a minimum list of requirements that need to be met for a deal to go through:

  • your company has a technology the acquirer wants
  • your company has a team the acquirer wants (usually paired with the above)
  • acquirer is convinced buying you is a better option (read: cheaper and faster) than building it themselves
  • acquirer has the culture and stomach for doing a deal
  • acquirer has an internal sponsor who can convincingly sell upper management on how your company can help them
  • acquirer has upper management that can sell the board on why the deal getting done is critical
  • acquirer is convinced doing a deal now is the right time
  • acquirer has the capital to acquire you
  • acquirer has done an acquisition before
  • the acquisition terms are agreeable for all parties

Shockingly, the most common “exit strategy” in practice isn’t an exit at all: “we’re going to stay private.” Said response is also a great way to have an investor hang up on you.

It’s understandable. Investors need you to exit for their investment to yield any worthwhile return, but why should you care? Investors have convinced entrepreneurs that plateauing at $20mm with 100 employees and healthy margins is a bad thing. It’s not $100mm. It’s not still growing exponentially. It’s not turning into a miniature city.

They’re right, it might not be an amazingly sweet deal for them, but it’s often the best deal for founders.

While you’re mapping the plan to IPO, or acquisition, include a “stay private” plan and work backwards. You might be surprised where you end up.

November 22nd

Get the other people out. When you want to do something creative, the others are not your friends. The world is not rooting for you. They don’t agree. They see you up, they will pull you down.
Iggy Pop