Build Something Build Anything


I was fortunate enough to see Jason Glaspey give his "Build Something, Build Anything" talk, and although I've previously published the notes from his talk, I took some fresh notes again today.

Jason Glaspey
Build Something Build Anything
Why you should work on side projects
@jasonglaspey
  • Works at Urban Airship: platform for mobile apps
  • Always working on little side projects and jobs
    • Massive impact on career
  • People see the Internet differently
    • having lunch with someone: realized they had an entirely different perspective of what the Internet is: the internet is good for directions and screwing off, and that’s about it.
    • Jason was frustrated for days trying to articulate why he felt differently, and finally what he concluded was: the internet was a source of hope
    • People should just believe that anything is possible. 
      • She wasn’t different because of the Internet, just more efficient and faster.
      • Don’t let people like that be the ones to define what to build on the web
    • Knowing what we do is different than the way it used to be. It’s not just about convenience, but it’s about making a difference.
  • Clay Shirkey: 2008 Web 2.0 Expo
    • Introduces the term cognitive surplus
    • Check out the video of his presentation.
    • Going back to the industrial revolution, people were living differently for the first time. People were moving into the city. There wasn’t theatre or arts or things to use up people’s time. They were intrinsically uncomfortable. People would roll gin carts up and down the streets, people would get drunk until they had to go to work the next day.
    • It was only after a while that people learned how to use free time: that they could create art, go to cafes, etc.
    • There was another similar revolution in the fifties with the introduction of the 40 hour work week. People didn’t know what to do with all this time they had in the evening. Sitcoms sprung up to occupy people’s time from 7pm to 10pm.
    • Then came Wikipedia. Where did all the time come from to build Wikipedia?
      • Doing some calculations, he found that in 2008, about 100M hours of effort went into building wikipedia.
      • Americans spend 100M hours watching commercials every weekend.
    • People are starting to turn off the TV and build something instead.
  • Some examples
    • Again and Again: Song by a group called the birds and the bees.
      • they didn’t have a video out.
      • Dennis Liu was a 23 year old college grad trying to become a full-time director/creative. He was a producer at an ad agency, and wanted to produce an Apple commercial. On his own, he build a commercial / music video showcasing Apple technology, set to the song Again and Again. It was a huge success: accomplishing both a music video and an apple commercial.
      • It took him from being a guy working in the accounts department, somewhat stuck, to a really successful promotion at a new company, getting to work on more creative projects.
    • What is Google Wave: By Epipheo Studios
      • Put a video together explaining what Google wave is. Made a super simple video using basic line animations. He was funny and himself. 
      • The thing he did was to solve a problem: everyone trying to understand what Google wave was.
      • He was hired by Google to build more videos. He built a company out of it, now they have a 15 person company.
      • All he was hoping for was an invitation to Google Wave, and what he got out of it was a 15 person company and contracts with Google
    • iPod Touch by Nick Haley
      • 18 year old London kid made a video for the iPod Touch, because he thought it was the coolest thing, and there were no ads for the iPod Touch. He loved his product, and he has lots of time.
      • Apple heard about the video, and loved it. They flew him out to California, to have a Pro version made. (Essentially the same exact video.)
      • Here’s a guy who doesn’t have a marketing team or a PR agency, just had the tools to create and share something cool.
    • unthirsty
      • we’re broke, we’re thirsty, we need to find a happy hour...
      • they put it on the web, and soon other people started adding happy hours to it.
      • they hired a couple of designers, and did 3 or 4 revisions of the site over a few years.
      • there are thousands of happy hours listed.
      • it was wonderful to see it take off.
      • what is success?
        • They sold it, not for a ton of money, but something.
        • but huge cultural, community success: invited to conferences, meet people, get hugs on the street, get invited to interviews.
        • Got hired by an interactive shop based solely on the reputation of having done unthirsty.
        • At the point prior to this, doing a bunch of lame websites, and afterwards getting to do high profile stuff.
    • Jason on Cars
      • Would get to drive high performance cars once a week as part of his job.
      • Put up a wordpress blog on his experiences driving the exotic cars. 
      • After he left his job at the magazine, he asked the car folks if he could keep getting the cars so he could blog about it.
      • The car folks shrugged their shoulders, checked the blog, and then said yes.
      • For two years he got a new exotic car each week. On Thursday a guy would show up in his office with a new car key, and take away the old car. He’d write a 300-400 blog post, and that was it.
      • He gets a few hundred bucks a month in advertising, and a new exotic car every week.
    • Bacn.com:
      • An experiment in “can we build a company in three weeks?”
      • “Why not, let’s build something.”
      • They had full-time jobs, but they were bored. They wanted something fun to do.
      • So they started the business, launched the store, acquired bacon, etc. All in three weeks. Just for fun.
      • They got invited to write a book: From idea to Web Start-Up in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com. Now he has a book on Amazon.com.
      • Sold the site to a competitor.
      • “Oh, you’re the guy who sold bacon.” --> much more valuable than “oh, I could build that for you.”
        • It’s a more interesting story, a more convincing story.
        • It’s not just a story of you following orders, it’s a story about you doing things because you care about it.
    • Paleo Plan: Launched in 3 weeks
      • Threw up WordPress, spent $100 in adwords, to find out whether people would pay for it or not.
      • Now it’s a $9.99 subscription service. He hired programmers, he hired a paleo dietist.
      • Not much traffic initially. But did a redesign, continued working on it, and by March it was making more money than anything else he had every done. 
      • Now he spends an hour a week, and makes a great second income.
    • Lots of failures, we don’t need to talk about.
      • laptopia
      • to smoke a cigar
      • snotips
      • revolution cyclewear
      • on and on...
  • The point is to keep trying.
    • All of them had some success.
    • Some of them were really small successes: e.g. learning “don’t sell t-shirts online”
    • Don’t work on something that absolutely, positively has to be up. You’ll never get to take a vacation.
    • Just keep trying.
  • You don’t have to broadcast your failures
    • Make them count
    • Get there fast
  • Other successes in Portland
    • Mugasha
    • 30-hour day: raised a bunch of money for some charities.
    • Sunago - Scott Andreas: always had two full time jobs, and doing fun stuff on the weekend. 
    • PDXBoom: crowd sourced map of sound: put a pin on a Google map with the intensity of the sound. Was able to find a pipe bomb that had been set off in a park, based on the loudness clustering on the map.
    • Avatari: Sam Grover
    • @ was wrong: Michael Richardson
  • The tools are free. It’s fun. Let’s do something to get excited.
  • Questions to Ask Yourself
    • Is this for art?
      • Are you using for an outlet to be creative?
    • Is this for money?
      • Are you trying to make money?
    • Don’t confuse the two: art and money. You can’t do both. Let your outlets be your outlets.
    • Is this for your career?
      • Will do this help build your skills or reputation?
    • What does success look like?
  • Talk to everyone. Week out bad ideas early.
    • Jason focuses on low risk ideas: a few hundred bucks and a weekend.
  • Ways to get started
    • Partner with someone.
    • Expect this won’t work. Expect you’ll be trying something else soon. Build!
    • Test (with Adwords) and prove a model
    • Start with a simple prototype.
    • Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out right away.
    • You can adjust as necessar once you get going.
    • Publish a work, tell people. Publish again.
    • Don’t take yourself too seriously. This should be fun.
  • USE THESE:
    • Wordpress
    • Cheap cameras and flip cams
    • Simple audio/video tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • How?
    • Building 50 cups.
    • There was a pottery class. The instructor split the group into two parts. He told the first group that they would be judged entirely on the quality of one piece. he told the second group that they would be judged entirely on the quantity of output. If they made 50 bowls, they would get an A.
      • The first group labored over making a bowl. They were so petrified of screwing it up, they made lousy bowls.
      • The second group made so many bowls, so many flopped, and they learned from their successes, and in the end they produced the best bowls.
    • You don’t want to be the person who almost launched that one website.
  • Questions
    • Q: How do you get traffic to your site?
      • It varies: for Paleo, I use Adwords. the money i spend brings in more money, it’s a profit. For unthirsty, we got great organic search results: no one else has a blog post on “Vancouver Chiles Happy Hour”.
    • Q: How is it different for things that deliver a social value?
      • Paleo has a huge community: they are people who have decided to be healthy in a particular way. They’re friends think they are crazy, so they get a lot of value from the community. on the other, it’s harder to form a community around unthirsty, because there’s no social value to bring a drunk.
      • Are you catering to someone’s identity, and can you strengthen that by catering to it?
    • Q: You mentioned that your T-shirt thing didn’t work. Maybe we’re in the same place. Did you have any idea on what you would have wanted to do if you wanted to make it work?
      • The barrier to entry is so low to that market. Anyone can make, market, and sell it. So you have to find a novel way to sell it. There’s a white underwear, white sock, and white undershirt subscription service. It’s totally plain. But it’s sold in a novel way: you need these things replenished on a regular basis.
      • What about doing that for ink sales? Shouldn’t they just come to your office, house based on what you use?
      • Threadless shows customers wearing their t-shirts. That’s how they advertise. Is there some way to do that for printers? To tie in to the community of customers?
    • Q: something about advertising.
      • If I am selling something, like bacn or paleo plan, then there’s no advertising.
      • But for giving away information, then i do advertising.
      • People don’t want to see advertising for things they pay for.
      • Subscriptions are great because the money keeps coming in. Beats advertising. People just stay subscribed, even if they stop using the service.
      • Every person should get great customer experience, because they have friends.
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