Posted by txbc on October 19th, 2009 in Blinkbits
When we were at iPhone Dev Camp this summer the running joke was ‘the phone app is the new web site.’ Perhaps you recall the dot com days when you had to have a site, even if you weren’t quite sure what you were doing there. Well, the phone is the new web site. And it’s not just the iPhone & other smart phones driving this discussion. The combination of social apps, local interactions and mobile devices (what Fred Wilson calls the golden triangle of interesting web work right now), should have you thinking twice about what you’re doing for phones.
A lot of Blinksalers are photographers, for instance. So, you might take a look at what commercial photographer Chase Jarvis has done. He’s simultaneously pushed a new application (Best Camera), a book about photos taken with an iPhone, and a community site anchored in the photos people take with the app.
The key thing is that the set of projects is not about the technology, but about Jarvis wanting to change the way people think about making images.
“I’m trying to shift the perception that an image is about megapixels and dynamic range and all the things it’s not,” he says.
Or, consider how designer Mike Rohde has taken something he does all the time (makes sketches to visually capture conference presentations) and made it much more widely available via a mobile app. After making his visual notes of loads of conferences available via his site & flickr for a long time, Rohde teamed up with interactive conference SXSW and an iPhone dev shop to create Sketchnotes, a free app that showcased his visual notetaking from SXSW 09.
Not only do you see lots of Twitter chatter about the Sketchnotes app itself, but Rohde’s promotion has started to create an expectation that most conferences are going to have this kind of documentation, and advances the general goal he has of promoting visual thinking. It surely can’t hurt his design practice, as well.
Even if making or piggybacking on an app doesn’t make sense for you, think hard about how you can use existing mobile apps to connect to your best customers. Lots of local retailers have jumped onto Twitter, for instance. Hype aside, it’s a super simple way for them to communicate (for almost free) to people who want periodic updates delivered in the way they want them delivered. Don’t get caught up in the numbers game, either. While we hear a lot about accounts that have massive numbers of followers, maybe you just want to be able to give real-time updates to 5, 10, or a 150 of your peeps. Gourmet ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe, for instance, does a simple homemade flyer at their store inviting people to follow along for updates on daily flavors offered.
So, get cracking. People are walking around with these supercharged phones now. People who want to hear from you & know what you can do for them. How are you making your expertise available in bite-sized, real-time chunks? Might be something there.
Posted by txbc on October 2nd, 2009 in Blinkbits
Erika Hall had a great line about the perks of working for yourself: you get to choose which 20 of the 24 hours you’re going to work on the business.
And it’s true that the iconography and imagery of entrepreneuring is filled with scenes of people sleeping under their desks, eating horrible food late at night while they ready presentations or new batches of code. Caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
So it was an interesting thing to see Caterina Fake claim “Working hard is overrated”. As one of the founders of the beloved photo-sharing site Flickr, and a founder of a new decision service, Hunch, Caterina has probably seen her share of startup sprints. She just doesn’t think they are necessarily that effective.
We agreed that a lot of what we then considered “working hard” was actually “freaking out”. Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn’t have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn’t — and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time.
Ok, so how many of you recognize yourself in that paragraph? I’m a big fan of the maxim “You can do anything, but not everything,” and yet microbusiness owners seem to wear their burdens like a badge of accomplishment. Trying to do it all. At once.
How much do you fiddle with your to-do list? Try out new ‘systems’ and software to make sure nothing falls through the cracks? Block out a chunk of a day to do something really important only to have it blow up when the electronic grapevine brings news about a new doodad a competitor released, a new technology you might want to use, something changing in the financial climate at large. So many things invite distraction & freakout.
And it’s a balancing act, because I don’t think the solution is to unplug and act like Emerson. Hide out and cultivate your own little garden. There is so much to be gained from staying in the flow of what your peers and customers and colleagues are thinking and seeing and working on. But it can’t pull you away from what’s really important.
More from Caterina:
Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen.
How do you do it? How do you stay connected to what’s important yet focused on the real thing you need to give attention to?
Posted by txbc on in Blinkbits
We were all up into working on the next generation of Blinksale (about which, much more later in the coming weeks), and it was clear that we were talking about way more than invoicing. We started really looking hard at the entire workflow solo service providers and microbusiness leaders go through as they prospect, win, service and bill for their products & services.
As I looked at that cycle, I wondered aloud at who is really talking about the unique challenges microbiz owners face? My friend Stephen Anderson and I talk about this all the time: that when you start working for yourself, the least complicated thing is the actual work that you’re great at doing. It’s all the other stuff that becomes such a challenge.
So, where is the Peter Drucker for microbusiness?
Jason Fried, founder of design shop-turned-product powerhouse 37Signals, writes frequently about lessons learned as he works on growing his small firm. Many of the posts from their long-running blog Signal vs. Noise, made their way into Getting Real, a self-published book on their design process and management ideas. The 37s have recast Getting Real into a new book aimed at all small businesses, and it’s set to publish this coming March.
You can certainly find microbiz expertise in small chunks all over the Web. Gary Vaynerchuk churns out videos constantly sharing lessons he learned in growing a multi-million dollar wine retailer. Copyblogger is a great resource for improving your online appeals. Joel Spolsky writes about hiring, workflow and product lessons he’s gleaned running a small development shop. Fred Wilson’s blog is a play-by-play on how he thinks through investment scenarios for his five or six person VC firm, Union Square Ventures. If you look hard enough, you’ll find lots of people sharing a little bit while they work on their own thing.
So, maybe, that’s the answer. You’re the microbusiness experts. You. The freelancers, the groups of independents working together to build something, the teams of five. Or, gasp, the ten or so who manage to run something as game-changing as Craigslist. The story of great microbusinesses is being told all around us, a little day by day. Just not in one, easy-to-find spot.
So, Blinkbits. We’ll find & bring you great stories, tips, tools and tactics you can use to make your microbusiness more awesome. More rewarding. More profitable. If you have ideas of your own you want to share, or things you’d like to hear more about, let us know.