The Startup party is over

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Sun, June 02, 2019 18:34:29
If I told you I was going to start a company with a friend, build the product in a few weekends, put it out, get hockey stick exponential growth and within two years it will be valued at more then one billion dollars. Is that realistic? At any time in history you would have said i was insane, with one exception.

The period of say 2002 to 2014, was a unique time, brought on by broadband, a maturing web, free software, low-cost commodity hardware, and the advent of the smartphone. During this short time It was possible to create a billion dollar company out of your bedroom, and It enabled a herd of unicorns, that in many ways transformed the world. Spotify, AirBnB, WhatsApp, Twitch, Uber, Lyft, Twitter, Facebook, Github, Instagram, Snap.... We all know the names of the companies that where born during this period.

The problem is that people don't get that the party is over. All the obvious apps/websites have already been built. The large companies are too established to be threatens by a weekend project. All the low hanging fruit has been picked off. YC keeps having bigger and bigger classes, but the successful companies we associate with YC success are a decade old, because its almost impossible to build anything meaningful in 10 weeks any more. Today I would argue that you should expect it to take five years to build anything that matters.

Yet our culture still think its ten years ago. Everyone expects a release in 6 months, and 20% month over month growth at scale. We take as gospel lessons from successful people in podcasts, books, lectures and films who talks about how to start a business, in a world that no longer exists. We have become a generation of founders and VCs who have a fundamentally warped idea of what it takes to do something significant.

Whats worse is that people think this "Silicon valley approach" should take over the world. All the before mentioned unicorns are solving a fairly narrow band of problems around connecting people and services and extracting arbitrage from existing things. They are all based on software. You cant apply the same timelines and growth expectations on things like transportation, energy, aviation, housing, or blood tests. Again and again, I hear silicon valley companies big and small announce they will disrupt the physical world, only to quietly give up a few years later when it turns out that reality is hard and that the incumbents aren't as stupid as they thought.

Silicon valley likes to tout companies like Tesla and SpaceX as examples of how silicon valley can-do attitude can change the world. But neither of them are good examples of what founders and VCs are looking for, in terms of growth, return on investment, and most of all timeline. They both exist because Elon put his own money in to them, and persisted for 15 years, something almost no one seems willing to do.

I want to change the world, but real problems are hard. There are huge opportunities, in transportation, energy, computing, healthcare, manufacturing, but none of them can be solved on the kind of timelines and expectations that the startup community have. So many companies I see have great ideas, but aren't realistic and serious enough to realize them. I worry that we wont solve these solvable problems, because everyone just want to party like its 2009.

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Supply side service

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Mon, June 18, 2018 17:10:54

If you where starting a ice cream shop how would you like it to be like? I'm sure you want lots of flavors, you want really nice seating to enjoy the ice cream, maybe organic locally sourced ingredients, what about free samples? You probably want this because you like me are the occasional customer of a ice-cream shops. Once you become a proprietor of a Ice-cream shop however, its easy to see how its cheaper to have fewer flavors, low quality ingredients, no free samples, and why should you pay rent for space for people to just sit around? If you run an ice-cream shop for long enough you will entirely forget what it is like to be a customer, and your entire world view will be based on how hard it is to run a ice-cream shop. This is when your ice-cream shop starts to suck. This is why most big brands and chains suck.

I call this going from "Demand side service" to "Supply side service" and its everywhere. Products and services go from being great to being easy to make and deliver. The free market and competition is suppose to deliver ever better products, but we are instead its delivering greater profits at the expense of worse quality.

I see this everywhere. The post office complaining that its too hard to deliver mail, Customer service where you get automated messages telling you to look it up online, staff no one took time to train, fast food meat that isn't really meat. I work in tech, so that's that I notice supply side service the most. Every product is made monetize my data, advertise to me, get me to subscribe. Buy a smart TV and you have to spend an hour setting it up, and none of the steps make the experience better for you, its all about making it better for them. Don't get me started on the Supply side service of removing ports... Every interaction with a tech product has become a game of "spot the devious monetization they are trying to hook you in to".

Go look up "art nouveau architecture". We will never make buildings like that again. Think of that. With all our tools and technology, advances in design and economic growth, we will never do something as good as we did 100 years ago. Don't tell me no one can afford buildings like that, people pay $10million for an apartment and still get supply side service. The reason we don't make great things, isn't because there aren't any rich people. Making crap is how we make rich people. No wonder the owners of Walmart are the richest people in the world. During last years holiday shopping season I happened to be looking in the art book for Dishonored2 and I realized that nothing I could find in the fanciest department store, held a candle to the props in that book. I usually don't want a lot of stuff, I used to think its because I'm not materialistic, now I'm wondering if its because no one makes anything good enough to be wanted.

I am a demand side supplier, I want the things I make to be great. The good thing about when companies start delivering Supply side service, that's when they start taking their customers for granted and can be out competed. My hero's like John Carmack, Linux Torvalds, Elon musk, Steve jobs and Kelly Johnson, pushed the envelope because their goals have been to make something great, not to make something cheaply and just good enough to sell. They will never be understood by business people because they don't care that much how hard it is to make, their entire philosophy is, if we make it good enough, people will want it enough that the economics will work out. They are not looking for the path of least resistance they are looking for the greatest result. It takes a lot of focus to always imagine yourself as the customer, most aren't even trying.

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A Culture of Conspiracy

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Fri, June 08, 2018 20:03:35
I like to think of myself as having a fairly evidence based world view. I aspire to judge the world around me like a scientist. As such I require evidence, references, and peer review. I tend to be very skeptical about conspiracy theories. About a year ago I read Christopher Steele's now infamous Russia dossier, claiming Russia's FSB helped get Donald Trump elected. What was just as shocking as its content was that I instantly bought it.

The fact that I have believed in this has bothered me a fair bit, so I have been trying to figure out why I believe in it. I will in this post try to explain why and how my world view shapes how I gauge the plausibility of a story. Lets be very clear here, very little proof has been produced to substantiate the claims. If proof emerges that disproves the content of the dossier, I wont dispute it. Everything as far as I know could be made up.

So why would I believe it? Clearly given that I don't share Mr trumps politics I could be biased simply because I want it to be true, but I don't think that is it. I don't believe in common conspiracy theories about other politicians I disagree with. I could say that it "smells" true, but that might be the least scientific way to judge something. "Feeling" or "wanting" the earth to be flat doesn't make it so.

Lets start with the obvious, conspiracies do exist. Watergate, Iran Contras, Enron, the plot to kill Hitler in 1944 and Bernie Madoff are all historical facts. They are however easily outnumbered by the conspiracy theories that have no factual basis, so its prudent to be very skeptical. It means that we need to think hard about what to believe in, especially since conspiracy theories flourish so easily online.

One important marker that tells me this is true is that it never goes over board. Trump is offers lucrative contracts, but he turns them down. The Russians have "Kompromat" on Trump but they never use it. If you make up a Conspiracy theory you don't cut out the juiciest bits. Almost all conspiracy theories are out to discredit someone, and this one is way too off the mark to be useful if it was made up.

My main hint that this is real is the smell of office politics. This is the reason I wanted to write this, and Its also something I think is very important in order to understand the world in a broader sense.

If you have ever worked with other people on a project you know that decisions and actions are very rarely as well coordinated as thy should be. Different people have different ideas and pull in different directions. Ideas are approved or shut down because of from whom they emanate, what group they belong to, their status, what group will benefit or get credit. Conspiracy theorists often ascribe super human coordination to the group of people who are executing the conspiracy. When have a group of people ever been perfectly in line and synchronized? It doesn't happen. If a Conspiracy hinges on people working perfectly together, then its probably not true.

When reading dating profiles, CVs and other self descriptions, I have learned to not read what is written but read the person who chose what to write. You can lie and say you are 6 feet tall, when you are really just 4.8, but you cant escape the fact that you though stating your height was a good idea. That is inescapable, and tells me something deeper about you.

The Steele report sounds like the kind of venting you would hear in a bar from a friend talking about how messed up things are at work. I think a fair bit of the content in the dossier is not very accurate. You could disprove a specific thing in it, but it may still give the over all conspiracy weight. If your friend at the bar tells you management did something stupid today, are they lying? Probably not, but they are probably also not privy to all information and they are only telling you their side of the story. If the boss was there telling you about their reasoning for the decision it might not sound as bad. This is hear say, not facts. Your friend in the bar, may not have all the facts, and may have some things wrong, but they are still probably capturing the culture and issues at their job pretty accurately.

Hunter S Thompson's reporting was once called "The least factual, but most accurate account". I can tell you a story about a someone that is not true but that still accurately reflects a persons personality and motivations. These are assertions about culture.

We often attribute too much intelligence to conspirators. Some how I'm supposed to be convinced George W Bush was the master mind behind 9/11 but he couldn't pronounce "nuclear"? Conspiracies or any kind of illegal behavior emerges from an environment where it is accepted. This is where culture comes in. If you have spent a decade thinking about how to invade Iraq, of course you are going to try to use 9/11 to that end. Bernie Madoff didn't start out as a fraud, but once you are in a culture of success its easy to start hiding losses to retain that culture. As the losses grow you go further and further and soon you you are doing things you once couldn't imagine yourself doing. People don't ask questions because they want to believe what they are told. People don't lie to create conflict, they lie to avoid conflict.

Its what Nick Davies describes as "the Conspiracy of power recognizing power" in his excellent book "hacked off". We envision long tables where powerful men meet in secret to decide the fate of the world, but in reality there is no need to meet. Most powerful people know without asking what actions will be supported or opposed by other powerful people. If you plan to propose a tax cut for the rich, you don't have to ask rich people if they will support you in the next election. If you plan to invade one of the oil riches countries in the world, you don't need to ask oil companies if they are onboard. Facebook told their employees to pay anyone who could make content to generate engagement, and before they know it an army of people are trying to write the most shocking headline about Hillary they can, because that's where a culture of anything-goes-as-long-as-it-generates-clicks eventually takes you.

I have a saying I keep repeating about foreign policy and it goes: "All foreign policy is really domestic policy". If you want to understand a country's foreign policy, you must understand, that it doesn't have a foreign policy, it has an amalgamation of policies driven by different people, sometimes pulling in the same direction and sometimes not. Each individual person, has their own objective, like appealing to a specific electorate, sucking up to the boss, outmaneuvering the boss, helping friends, keeping enemies down or trading favors. Some are ideological, some are not. Culture is important because it is the thing that can make the majority pull in the same direction. The same goes for understanding Companies, Parties, or any other organization.

The content of the steely report is the product of a Russian culture of an over zealous security service. Putin is an old KGB man so in he has created a culture where everything can be solved the KGB way. They didn't plan any of this, they video tape lots of people who stays at their fancy hotels, why not? tape is cheep. It just turned out that one of them decided to run for president of the US. Russian hackers probably try to steel e-mails from everyone, and once the DNC emails landed on their desks, why not leak them to Wikileaks? Russia has attempted to discredit democracies for years, it was just their luck that they found a candidate that slotted neatly in to this narrative. On the other side we have a campaign with a culture of anything goes as long as it pleases Trump. This is not a story of a grand plot, its a story of people who where so busy wining one race, they forgot that there was other things they could loose at in the process.

And this is the point. When the campaign says there was no conspiracy, I think many of them believe what they say. I don't think they recognize that what they did was a conspiracy. There was no secret meeting between Putin and Trump in a hill top castle where they signed a fellowship in blood and used table sized maps to carve up the world between them. When Trump JR shares his email conversations, he thinks that they prove that all they did was meet some Russians to get dirt on Hillery, not conspiring with a foreign power. What he is not recognizing is that the this is what a real conspiracy looks like.

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Are we ready for AI we dont understand?

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Thu, May 24, 2018 14:05:43

Some day in the future a little girl in a red dress, runs out in to the road and gets hit by a self driving car. A few weeks later a young boy with a red jacket on the other side of the planet gets hit by another self driving car from the same maker. A few months go by and the pattern is clear, the AI for some reason doesn't understand that kids dressed in red is something to not drive in to.

If this was a faulty break pedal, airbag or ignition switch, the problem could be found, fixed, and cars could be recalled so that the issue could be addressed. As costly as this might be, the punitive damages a car maker could face if they were to knowingly ignore a faulty car that would hurt or kill people would be far greater.

However, with Neural networks and machine learning, the AI driving the car was in large part not designed by an engineer, it was trained using millions and millions of miles of traffic data recorded by cars with cameras and other sensors. The Neural network looks at this data and tries to find patterns in traffic and the responses expected by the driver.

The problem here is that if something goes wrong and we have accidentally thought the machine that its OK to hit kids if they wear red cloths, its very hard to figure out what in the millions of miles of data made it think it was OK. There is no line in the code that can easily be fixed that says:

if(kid && color != red)

This causes a huge liability problem. If you go in front of a judge and say that there is no real way to know why the AI drove in to the child, and that its not something that can easily be fixed, No matter how good the overall safety record is, the judge will order all cars off the road until the company can guarantee that it wont happen again. With Machine Learning you cant really make that guarantee. Saying "If we keep training it will probably get better at not hitting kids" wont really cut it in a legal or PR context.

We are going from a paradigm where we understand the code, but the code doesn't understand the world, to paradigm where the code understands the world but we don't understand the code.

Our legal system is based on the idea that we are each responsible for what we do and that we know what we are doing. Its almost impossible to guarantee anything that comes out of a machine learning algorithm no matter how high it success rate is. In our society we demand that when things go wrong we can find the issue, have it fixed, so that it doesn't go wrong again. We allow for mistakes, but there is a reason why we don't allow for repeated mistakes.

If I was in the legal department of any company basing their tech on machine learning I would be very worried about this. What kind of promises can we make, and how responsive can we be when something is wrong with a product no one really understands in depth? What happens when your translation system is sexist, or your camera system cant see black people?

A great feature of technology is if we can understand it. If we understand its capabilities and limitations we can trust it, to do somethings but also know what it cant be trusted with. A steering wheel is understood, we know when to blame its maker and we know when to blame its user.

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How to defeat Internet giants

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Mon, April 23, 2018 20:25:34
I have been thinking for years about my project Unravel on how to redesign some fundamentals of the Internet. To my delight, I now see a lot of other projects that in some way of another are trying to take on how the Internet works, and the large companies that have come to control it. There seems to be broad agreement that something should be done, but there is not so much agreement on what should be done. In my mind that is a good thing. The more things that are attempted the better the chances are that someone succeeds. Taking on some of the richest companies in the world wont however be easy, and will take a lot of work, so I thought I would share some advice to anyone else out there trying to change the way we use the Internet.

Don't depend on economy of scale.

I hear so many pitches that includes: "Once we get to scale we can...". You don't have scale. Facebook has scale, Google has scale, Amazon has scale. If scale will make your product great, then you have already lost because your competitors have it and you don't. Your platform needs to be useful even if only one person, or maybe two uses it. Instagram didn't start out as a social network, it was a filter app. It was useful even if you were the only one using it. Unravel is designed so that I will use it every day, even if no one else does.

Nobody cares if you are nice.

I see a lot of people attempting to create the "nice and friendly" version of existing services. Nobody will ever trust you to be nice. Google used to say "don't be evil", but they don't anymore. Not because they decided to be evil, but because there was no way of defining what is evil. Everyone thinks they are making the world a better place so that doesn't make you special. If you run a service of some scale, you are going to piss people off. There is content out there that some will ask you to censor, and some people will be outraged if you do censor. You cant win that one. All the big internet companies are trying to be nice, but they are failing because of the structures they have built.If your entire image is to always be nice, you are just going to make it worse for yourself, when inevitably people will start to question your actions. If possible have nothing to do with what people do with your platform. Delegate to your users if possible.

Monetization wont save the Internet.

Journalism isn't in a precarious state on the Internet, because there is no money to be made from content on the Internet. There is plenty of money, journalist just cant compete against click bait, cat videos, incendiary opinions and fake news. The Internet has become what it is because the incentives have asked people do do these things in order to make money. If your platforms pitch is that it will enable people to make money (or worse tokens,) it will attract the same people who ruined other platforms, and they will work just as hard to game yours. My advice would be to keep money out of it.

Use psychology, not rules.

Go to Wikipedia, look up a controversial political figure, and then go to the discussion page. Then go to twitter, and search for the same political figure. The former will be a mostly sober discussion about wording, attribution and fact checking. The later is likely to be a cesspool of insults and name calling. Any user who can sign up to twitter can sign up to be a Wikipedia contributor. So why are they so different? Could it be that on twitter the wildest punch line gets retweets and likes, where as anything on Wikipedia, that isn't balanced and references gets quietly deleted and rewritten? If you build a platform you create the incentives, and the right incentives will beat any ban hammer.

Find your competitors profit center, then build a future without it.

What ever you build, your competitor can build too. They most likely have more resources then you do. If you get traction they will copy you, unless that is, if you make something they would never do. Almost all massive corporations that has fallen, has fallen because they refused to embrace the technology that threaten their profit center. The music industry didn't embrace the Internet to protect the CD. Apple didn't take on Microsoft to protect their hardware sales in the 80s. Xerox didn't want to get in to computers to protect their photo copying business. SGI didn't want to compete against nVidia because they made too much money from their expensive workstations. If you want to slay a dragon, figure out hat they would never do, then do that.

Or as Keyser Soze put it: "To be in power, you didn't need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn't."

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10 years of LOVE

LovePosted by Eskil Thu, December 01, 2016 08:09:07

Today is the 10th anniversary of the development of my game LOVE, and I think it's time to tell the story behind it.

I was working in academia and as much as I love science, I was getting tired of not doing something real. When you do research about something like video games or video game production, you never really know if the solutions you create would work in the real world. I was considering doing something completely different, but then i realized that it would be a waste to not use my skills, and in the end i really love making games. One late night, after coming home from a conference, I started a new visual studio project called project love. I worked on it all night. The name stuck and so did the game.

I was way in over my head, but I liked it. I decided to do everything myself, engine, networking, graphics, sound, physics, gameplay and procedural generation. It may be the most ambitious game project anyone has ever attempted, but none of that was really a problem. 3 years later I released an alpha.

I was very excited, but there were some problems. I fixed them, and then there were more problems. I kept fixing problems, but the game just didn't work. No players came, the server costs started to outstrip the income. The press loved my game, until they played it. It wasn't without merit, it just didn't come together. It turned out that I had vastly underestimated the design challenges in the creation of the kind of game I wanted to make. I was essentially trying to invent an entirely new class of games.

At the same time someone else, with my resources, in my city, made a very similar game: Minecraft. The difference was that his was a game people wanted to play. When you work on a big game there are many people you can blame if things go wrong. I had no one. The fact that someone else did it proved that it wasn't an impossible task. I was just not good enough.

I thought I wanted to make a commercial game, but at every turn where I had the opportunity to make it commercial or design it the way I wanted, I chose the latter. Many people have told me I needed to market the game better or make it easier to learn, but to me this was always secondary. To me, the game simply wasn't good, and until that was fixed, why bother trying to attract players? I spent almost 4 years trying to fix the game, and while improvements were made, it never worked.

All of this was really hard on me, and I got fairly depressed. After 7 years, I finally gave up. Love was just associated with too much pain. I had wasted 7 years and so much money. I didn't want to be a game developer any more. When I told people what I did, people would inevitably say "Oh, like Minecraft? I love that game".

At my lowest point I was at GDCE and Robin Hunicke (who BTW is awesome) gave a talk about the hugely successful game Journey that had just come out. She told the story of the horrible development of that game, about the infighting and the pain that it caused. I thought to myself: would I rather have had that experience, having a terrible time making something successful, or do what I did: have fun making something no one else cared about. That's when i realized that I had done the right thing. I followed my dream and I enjoyed the process, more than the result. Minecraft fucked me up, but not as much as the guy who made it. I got passed it, and I came out a better person. He is no longer my nemesis, I feel for him.

The last few years I kept a note file with ideas of how I would change Love, but I was scared to go back. I worked on the pivot model to be able to finally understand how games work. Last year, I decided to take a few weeks off to fiddle with Love. Just to see if I could apply any of my ideas and how it would feel, I was kind of surprised by how good it felt. And I was even more surprised by the changes I made. For very brief moments, Love started to sing.

I don't know what it means yet, and I don't dare think I have cracked it, but for the first time in many years I'm excited about it. So yes, I guess this is my announcement that I'm occasionally working on Love again (for followers of my Twitch stream it hasn't really been a secret). I was planning to make a video showing off what I'm working on, but I don't feel ready, so I wont. Maybe I will some day. I don't have a timeline or a release in mind. This time I know I'm doing it for me.

My next project is Unravel, and I can't even imagine it being successful, but I know that it will challenge and intrigue me for years to come. In the end I am a scientist and an artist. I tried to not be but I am. I will always rather boldly go where no one has gone before, than be one of the popular kids. I'm not convinced I will ever make something that anyone will ever will like and use, I will probably never be rich or famous. But you know what? I'm going to live a really good life.

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EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Thu, November 10, 2016 08:54:25

A few months ago I was sitting on the subway, and a homeless man sat down and started talking about how Muslims are ruining the country. He kept asking people to agree with him, just a little bit. No one would. No one. I felt something I haven’t felt before when confronted by racism. I felt sad for him. He wasn’t ideological. He was lonely, rejected and he was looking to belong. He wanted for once to feel like he was accepted among decent people, that for once there was someone else who was the trash, not him.

That’s is what racism often is. A way to belong, a cry for help. Its a cry we aren’t very good at answering as a society.

You don’t have to be homeless to feel like you have have been given a rough deal. Sometimes it feels like every group is under assault from someone. Some groups are recognized as having a rough deal, some not so much. Many feel like there is someone fighting for everyone, except for them.

The hypocrisy of women claiming to be for equality then going on to only bash men used to bother me. It doesn’t any more. Its not a literal expression of an ideology, its an expression of frustration. Its a way to find belonging. As a white man, I’m entirely OK, with women sometimes saying they hate men or black people saying all white people are racists, because I understand the frustration, and the need to vent. I understand that its a most human expression of how it sometimes feels, even if it isn’t entirely factually accurate.

In a time where the rich and famous have moved in to our social circles its easy to feel like you are not living up to impossible standards, of beauty, political correctness and influence, and when it is easier to find your own group of like minded, we finds comfort in our own tribes. The truth is that everybody hurts, that we are all vulnerable and insecure in different ways, and we are all looking to fit in somehow.

When we are defending our group, it is easy to slip in to a mind set where the only way we can win, is by having someone else loose. We feed the ones who hate us by hating them back. Our main motivation in politics is no longer about to enacting change, or to win over others, but to belong.

I wish we would talk more about principles and less about who they should apply to, but our society isn’t made up of philosophy majors, its made up of people who express how they feel. Feelings aren’t always logical or follow ideological rules. I’m a pacifist, but I can still feel like punching someone on a rare occation. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite to feel that way, it makes me a human.

If we really want to heal, we must try to acknowledge peoples feelings and that they are real and worth caring about, even if they manifest themselves in opinions that we may find unacceptable.

The stonewall riots was a momentous moment for the LGTB movement. It was an expression of rage that had build up over a long time, and for the people involved it was a tipping point that meant so much. What it wasn’t, was a good way to put forward their cause to the average New Yorker who looked out their window to see people throwing bottles beating police officers and breaking windows.

No, much of the great progress made by the LGTB movement has been made slowly on a very personal level. By showing that the nephew still is the same guy who likes to throw ball and go fishing and hiking, after he comes out as gay, we make progress. By engaging and being a good friend, neighbour and family member, by not being combative, that little girl who happens to like other girls, does more to change society then any gay pride parade ever could. Its painfully slow but it is working. When somebody says they “hate fags, but that that guy is ok”, that means that they are on a journey to something. They haven’t yet arrived, but there is an opening. Its easy to focus on the “hate” and the “fag” bit, but maybe we should focus more on seeing if we can find a second gay guy that could also become “OK”?

I think there is a lot we can learn from this. You don’t change the mind of a racist by calling them a racist.

I think it would be very good idea for Black lives matter, to give every police officer in the country a standing invitation to share a one on one breakfast on any day. Not to argue, not to tell them what they are doing wrong, but to start building a connection, to listen as much one shares ones own experiences. That is a very hard ask for people who feel betrayed by a system. Everybody wants to be accepted, but none of us are very good at accepting and listening to the people who’s opinions we don’t share. As a society we all need to work on that.

To me, making a human connection is more important then changing your mind. To be honest, I don’t care if we disagree, I’m not here to judge you, call you names no matter how different our opinions are. I want you to know that no matter how much we disagree, I will be here for you, I will listen to you and I will take how you feel seriously. If you need help in some way I will do my best to help you. I want you to belong, if with nobody else, then at least with me. And maybe, just maybe some day you will accept that all people of my kind aren’t as terrible as you once used to think.

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For those who care and matter

EverythingElsePosted by Eskil Wed, May 18, 2016 09:38:08
The world of technology and media has been cut in two camps, One camp is for those who care and matter and the other is for those who don't. This is a massive divide that allude almost everyone, and depending on what side you cater to, your actions should be be vastly different.

A simple way to differentiate the two is to compare Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has 1.5+ billion users and twitter has stopped growing at 300 million or so. You would think Facebook is the winner, but the truth is that they cater to two entirely different user groups. Despite that twitter only has 300 million users, they have the 300 million who matter and care. When a politician has a big announcement to make twitter is the obvious place to do it. Facebook might be big, but what ever happens on facebook doesn't matter. If you are a public person, your twitter handle is your online entry point. A Facebook user don't care too much about privacy, want a curated list of things presented to them and don't want to bother with settings. The twitter user on the other hand wants to control entirely what shows up in the stream and wont mind taking the time to configure it, they may want multiple accounts, and run something like tweetdeck. A Facebook user would never pay for it, but is happy to see adds, while a twitter user has an add blocker installed and would pay a fair bit for a Pro application with more settings and features. Neither twitter nor facebook get this so they are trying to be each other.

My mom will use her yahoo mail account until she dies, and frankly it works great. Yahoo isn't cool and never will be. She just doesn't care. Every change and new feature is just an annoyance. If Yahoo understood that, they could get rid of everything except server maintenance, and show my mom adds for the rest of her life and be the most profitable company ever. But again yahoo doesn't understand who they are for either.

Take the PC market, everyone says its dead in favour of mobile devices. Yes, a huge part of the population no longer need a PC, but then look around your room and recognize that almost everything manufactured in the last 20 years was made on a personal computer. The houses we live in, the cars we drive, the music we listen to, the films we watch, and yes, all of our mobile devices and their apps where made on a personal computer. So yes not everyone needs a PC but if you care enough to matter its a must have. Windows 8/10 is one huge proof that Microsoft don't understand who their customers are.

If you are a low level artist or performer Spotify and Youtube are great, but if you have an audience of 100.000 or more its terrible. For comparatively little money you can build your own distribution destination and take control of everything. Moving from Spotify and YouTube to your own app may loose you 90% of your audience, but if you are Taylor Swift and the revenue per user goes up 100 times, you will laugh all the way to the bank.

Tidal might be a shit app, but once your favorite artists new album will be exclusively available there you will gladly download it. No one will ever win the media store war because the artists who care and matter will always break out on their own. Luise C.K. has done it, so has Ellen and many more will follow.

People who care are willing to pay.

I think their is a huge opportunity to create squarespace-for-X companies that build the tech and infrastructure that people who care and matter needs to break out on their own. They want to collect E-mail addresses, have their own end user licence agreements, store and organize their data, use their own business models, and have the ability to put a notification on your home screen when new content is released. Once you become powerful you want control, and most ecosystems wont provide that, because they are designed to cater to and profit from people who don't care or matter. People tell me that if you are PC game company you have to be on Stream, but among the truly successfully like League of legends, Minecraft, Heartstone or World of Warcraft none of them are on steam.

My current project, Unravel is all about catering to users who want to control their data and comunication, so no, I'm not out to kill Facebook, I just want to turn them in to Yahoo.

You may think this is elitist, to say that only some people care and matter, and yes, whether we like it or not it reflects the fact that not everyone is equally influential, and that not everybody cares about everything. What is wonderful in the digital realm is that anyone who can afford a phone to sign up for Facebook, has the option to instead buy a PC and sign up for Twitter.

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