Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are Google+ posts indexed by Google for public searches?.

Am I allowed to ask a stupid question here?   I realize I should know this for the overdose we get of all things Google here, but I haven't been able to find a definitive answer - either here, or on Google search where that query gives results that are several years old.   I know people who follow me can see my posts if they have their search set to the default "personalized" - but what about the rest of the world.  It is a simple question so there must be a simple answer - does anyone know?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why is it so hard for solopreneurs to form teams?

I asked this question on Hacker News, but got no response.  Then I started to write this up for the entrepreneurs community but decided to not post it just yet.   I decided to post it here as a zero draft anyway. 

As I have mentioned here I am working on "venture acceleration for solopreneurs" material - possibly an ebook, and this is part of "the why".    I think there are probably lots of reasons - one simply being that as an adult, everyone tends to be in different "phases" of their life and it is hard to sysc up exactly.  Some people may just be starting a new corporate job, or the business interests don't align exactly, or family issues,  differences in finances and available time - many factors that make it difficult to "match up".    That's way venture capitalists often go after young adults in their 20's and get them to form small startup teams  they are much more likely to be in the same "place" in life, and are also more easily controlled by VC money,  

So here is the thing - for this project, at least, I am not focusing on trying to get a team going,  I am exploring how far an solopreneur can race ahead without one, but I still need to know this.  In my research, I am amazed that no one says why - there are just thousands of articles on "How to Build a Great Team".   Also, might be good to have some bullet points on "the downside of having a team" - and the advantage of going solo - moving faster, etc.   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Google for Entrepreneurs"

Rough draft of a post I plan on making tomorrow on Google+.   Now that I have been blocked and censored by "Google for Entrepreneurs" I can be a little more free to write what I am really thinking.  This is still highly filtered - I am not saying some of the things I really suspect, but something smells funny and Google should investigate.  About the nicest thing I can say at this point is this program is not worthy of Google.

As I mentioned last week, I have been blocked and censored from commenting on the so called "Google for Entrepreneurs" page so have decided to look into it a little more.  This is still filtered writing - I am not saying everything I suspect here, but this since they expect only praise and cheer leading on their own profile I can speak a little more freely now - though I do understand I will likely be attacked by the many people trying to 'score points" with Google.

Pearls before Swine

"Google for Entrepreneurs" doesn't generally respond or even acknowledge comments from Google+ users and instead take a "pearls before swine" approach here and assume that everyone will think everything they do is awesome.  This approach actually seems to work for them - everything they do really is massively reshared and praised.   As I mentioned, one of the SUL (suggested users list) people takes this to absurd lengths and and will even praise their crappy videos before he could possibly have watched them.  Honestly, I wish they would just hire him and get it over with, because it is pretty nauseating to see such extreme ass kissing.  Be that as it may, but there is at least one person out there who thinks that with "Google for Entrepreneurs" maybe "the emperor has no clothes" and if anyone at Google cares, it should be investigated. . .  

I found this story from last April of last year that may shed some light on what is going on there.  It is about their first meeting and how billionaire Steve Case waltzed up and down the aisle plunking $100,000 checks on everyone there.    Naturally everyone there,- and maybe other people as well - thought this was awesome,, and that is certainly understandable.   Perhaps people imagined themselves getting one of those $100,000 checks - that is just human nature.   I was disturbed by this, however, though I really couldn't put my finger on why.  

Screwing up the System

Then it hit me - this story reminded me of something from my own past - a time long ago when on a vastly smaller scale I had behaved in a similar fashion.   It was when I lived in Egypt for a short while on an U.S. Agency for International Development project in a town about 200 miles south of Cairo.   I went to a cafe with a friend to have some of their great Turkish coffee and try the hookahs, and not being accustom to Americans the waiters fawned over us while several of their friends sat nearby so they could practice their English.  

When I went to leave, I apparently left a tip that was FAR too large.  The exchange rates between the dollar and Egypt's developing world currency at the time had made me a rich man and I was reckless with money.   I don't know how out of bounds I had gone, but the honest waiter chased me down the street to return the money even though it meant nothing to me.  I thanked him but let him keep most of it anyway. 

On reflection, I realized what had happened.  These people were barely eking out a living, and I had screwed up their system .  I had given one of the waiters an undeserved windfall in front of his friends and associates -  more the maybe more than the shop owner had made for that entire week.   I hadn't been "generous" with money, ,I had been an asshole. 

So why should this bother me?  Yes,  Steve Case was an asshole, as I had been, but no harm no foul right?  These people got immediately rich from their association with the "Google for Entrepreneurs" people  - why should I begrudge them that good luck?   Well, maybe it is because I have seen this movie before and this "generosity" might not be quite as harmless ass seem at first  

The failed "Startup America" Program

Steve Case was the person most responsible for the failed "Startup America" program - one of the worst things the Obama administration has ever done.   Ostensibly designed to help small American startups it was closed and exclusionary due to Case's infatuation with what he called "gazelles" - small, fast growing firms that venture capitalists could quickly cash in on.  While they used funding from the government, and even the Office of the President to promote it, they made it clear that unless you were already successful and growing fast you "need not apply".  From a public policy standpoint, it was absolutely abhorrent. 

I didn't really learn this until after I has attended every single one of their video conferences and read everything I could about the program,  that they wouldn't let me join because I didn't have "two full time employees or co-founders".   It was ridiculous - they wouldn't even let me register on their damn website, and it wasn't until I made lots of noise at the SBA that they relented and let me join just to keep me from causing them any trouble.   Lots of other people were pissed too.

What I finally was able to join, what I found shocked me - their membership website was essentially a giant "coupon book" - the corporations "sponsoring" this program saw it as an opportunity to exploit small business and sell them their crap at a discount, not help them.   Google, for example, offered half off on Adwords as long as you paid them at least a $1,000.

Everybody - and I mean everybody (except those directly profiting from it) absolutely hated Startup America.  It was an unmitigated disaster and eventually they shut it down, but not before it had done a huge amount of damage. Supposedly set up as a "public private partnership" they would tout their government status while at the same time saying "we are the private sector guys".   This provided them the justification for using the program to try to implement Steve Case's vision of a system that would allow them to cherry pick the "gazelles".   

The government got blamed for their failure, as always happens and it will be many, many years before the United States does anything to try to help small startups again - if ever.  These guys poisoned the well..    I know what I am talking about with this one - a similar situation happened in California with the old "California Trade and Commerce Agency" - greedy and selfish people tried to take over this program for their own advantage, and to this day, California still doesn't have an effective economic development program. 

Those who can't learn from the past, are condemned to repeat it.

Finally, they shut it down - one of the supporters - the Kauffman foundation, apparently realizing their mistake, withdrew funding.  The government realizing that public policy objectives - like actually helping small business entrepreneurs, weren't being met also withdrew their support.  After that, there almost seemed to be some kind of agreement to pretend it never happened.  I always thought there should have been some kind of objective "post mortem" on it -  I could have written it myself, but why?  Many of the people who exploited the system profited greatly from it, so I am hardly inspired to be the good citizen - no percentages in that.    Still,we have to remember:  "those who can't learn from the past, are condemned to repeat it'.

That should have been it - a sad chapter in American business history had come to a close - except unfortunately it isn't quite over.  Without even any apparent soul searching about all the hurt and damage they had caused, Steve Case simple rebranded "Startup America' as "Up Global' - and made it even more about him -  same crappy values, same exclusionary attitude and apparently still set up to funnel money to venture capitalists, from 'gazelles" while throwing everyone else under the bus.

At a time when entrepreneurs desperately need help, and innovative creative thinking was desperately needed, Google could have played an amazing role and really helped.  What "Google for Entrepreneurs" decided to do instead was to take the lazy way out "partner ad "co-brand" with" UP Global - to use Google's money and influence to shore up a program that had failed for very good reasonsThe same old crap, on a different day.  

The Greatest Good for the Smallest Number

I spent two years of my life trying to get involved with Startup America - never successfully, because I wasn't "a gazelle" but at least they would talk to me and a few times even listen.  I have also spent two years trying to communicate with "Google for Entrepreneurs" - not with the same level effort because it was obvious the they consider themselves to be too important. to talk to someone as lowly as me.   Still, even with referrals from other Google employees, I was never able to get them to respond to a single question I had about the program or for that matter even acknowledge my existence - except for being blocked for not being sufficiently fawning over them.    

Since being blocked and censored by "Google for Entrepreneurs" I can't even see what they are up to without logging off of Google, but I will give my raw opinion.  Yes, my experience with the "Google for Entrepreneurs" program is that it is run by rude and arrogant people, but that is not really the important point - there are lots of rude and arrogant people in the world but they are not all using the resources of one of the world's most powerful corporations to limit our opportunities.  Somebody had to say something.

Money used intelligently can do wonders - it can save peoples lives - and livelihoods, and even change the world.    Money used foolishly can be harmful and destructive.   Steve Case bouncing around the country giving $100,000 checks to people he likes isn't helping, and Google supporting this "cult of personality" isn't helping either.  They are once again taking the "greatest good for the smallest number" approach that proved to be so disastrous with Startup America and that many of us had hoped was gone for good.  
Years ago in a cafe El Fayoum Egypt I was an asshole with money - but at least I learned from it.   Now "Google for Entrepreneurs" and Steve Case are doing much the same thing, but they apparently have learned nothing from earlier disasters.  These people aren't helping to build an entrepreneurial community, they may be helping to destroy it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Google for Entrepreneurs

I have apparently been blocked by "Google for Entrepreneurs" - here is the post I plan on making on Google+ tomorrow.    I didn't express it here, but my "gut feel" is that there is something corrupt about this program

*Google for Entrepreneurs*  I have apparently been blocked by "Google for Entrepreneurs"  I have thought for a while that this seemed to be a poorly managed program but was careful how I expressed it.

Apparently they have become so accustomed to people sucking up to them that even mild criticisms are considered to be unacceptable. It hardly matters what I think though  - anything they say or do is _massively_ praised here - they even seem to have a few people who specialize in that on almost every post.  I recall once when they posted a bunch of videos that were being praised and reshared before anyone could possibly have watched them, as I did - you could tell by the time stamps.

To the extent that "Google for Entrepreneurs" can even be called "a program" is borderline -  it is a "greatest good for the smallest number" program that seems to be one designed more to benefit Google employees then anyone else.  I am not sure what I said that was so horrible that it caused me to be blocked, but something smells funny, and I don't say that lightly.  I read every post, watched almost every video, and went over every page of their website over a period of several years - I doubt if many people can say that.  Not once, did I see any way for me or anyone remotely like me to get involved or even a way to apply - it is obviously for the benefit of their friends and associates, who may profit greatly from it.

I have no doubt at all that the "Google for Entrepreneurs" people think of themselves as being totally awesome.  Why wouldn't they? - people are constantly telling them how great they are and anyone who has a different take they can censor.   With all this praise they get my opinion hardly matters, and maybe no one cares, but I do wish to publicly express my disgust with the "Google for Entrepreneurs" program.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The WebRTC Data Channel - finally i get it

*The WebRTC Data Channel*.  i was just about to "repurpose" this community to plain old "Social CRM" when I came across this article.  I would still be intensely interested in building such an application, but not being a developer - and not having identified an "angle of approach" I had to move on - but have been gaining a great deal of understanding of what commercial CRM's do.   

When we were collaborating on this project - or trying to, I noted we hadn't answered that most basic of questions "where is it?".    Team collaborators kept falling back on client service models and we only vaguely decided that it "would be in the app store" - which left unanswered the question, "where is the data channel?" - and how would peers even know another peer exists?    n 

Perhaps the other team members really did understand this - I didn't.   Even with my hippy notion of "peer to peer" something seemed amiss - the tech giants would never allow what I was proposing- not without getting their fingers in it at least, and a number of other things "just didn't add up".   

Then I read this article and suddenly I get it - or at least see a path forward, and I recommend any members of this community who are still interested in this project read it and also do the demo - it is short and quick.  The author correctly notes that the standard has been changing - causing lots of confusion, and also what we had noticed here - that the audio and video channels seem to get all the attention - no doubt because they are more "sexy" but I continue to believe there are huge opportunities in that boring data channel.   Here is a statement the author made that suddenly caused me to "get it":

"While WebRTC is direct peer-to-peer communication, it requires a centralized server to handle the initial delegation of the two peers. There needs to be a 3rd party that helps the two peer-to-peer clients preform the WebRTC handshake. In this case, we have used Firebase. You can use WebSockets, HTTP calls, or anything else that you'd like. Firebase works nicely for this so we've used it here". 
Now, if you have tried their demo the first thing you might have noticed is that they connect you with another peer computer through what they call a "shared identifier" or code word - but in functional terms that is identical to our "interests" keyword.   In this case, two matching "identifiers" will launch a chat client, but shouldn't be conceptually all that different from our intentions to push "interests' like "stamp collecting" through that channel, which would bring up a list of other stamp collectors.   

So who is this mysterious entity building the intermediary for RSS peers?    Go ahead, click the link - I dare you, and read their first announcement to learn who is behind it.   In a way, I am almost relieved - when something looks to good to be true, it usually is. 

Still, after all this time, i am convinced an opportunity remains - and there is a silver lining - few people understand the data channel and the attention remains on video and audio - and since those are bandwidth hogs the pricing is set up for those applications, but data is a miniscule fraction of that - we could probably operate a large network fairly cheaply.   If you are really ambitious start a firebase account and go through their tutorial - they have a 5 minute quick start and while is really is for developers, I can at least see that is it possible now. 

I still don't see "the way" but I can sure see further down the path. 

Note: This post was written for a private forum where we are discussing the possibility of a "Social CRM" over WebRTC.  Contact me if you want more info

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Small Business Friendly Pricing

This is one of those things I have been intending to write about for years, but the post I have had in mind was going to be awesome and definitive, so naturally I never wrote it.   I am going to crank out a crappy post instead, just to do it, and type out a few thoughts - in this case about CRM app pricing - maybe I will come back here and update.

First, the no-brainer - let us start for free, and not with a "trial version" - trial versions suck, and two week trial versions are ridiculous.  Many pps these days often have a great deal of complexity and steep learning curves- that is expensive to us.  We need to be able to quickly get into the app, decide if it is for us and not lose a single minute of work we have put into it it.

A company that gets it wrong in this respect is Salesforce - they start at $50 a month for a limited version and only a two week time period.   No effing way Saleforce - i don't want to have to pay you $50 a month for my own data for the rest of my life- not even though you seemed to offer me some special deal    They are really leaving the lionshare of the small business community - independent small business market to others with this dumb pricing scheme.

A company, in the exact same CRM industry that gets it right is Insightly - 2,500 contacts - definitely enough to have value, social media integration and top notch technical support for free, and thereafter just $9 a month per user.  That's good, but not perfect - there is a "barrier to entry" for team formation there.  A team of three could form, and then when they hit their forth member everyone has to pay - so now it goes to $36 a month - a big jump and not insignificant to many solopreneurs, who may want to be on many teams.  I think there is a way for the CRM service providers to do better than that - encourage team formation in a way that will actually increase their paying user base.   For example a single payment that would allow you to be in as many groups as you want.   I have to assume they have already thought of that so perhaps I will ask them.

I saw another one - Free CRM I think, that was free for 12 users so that seems to be how companies in this industry are pricing - primarily by ?users" rather than by number of records of some other measure.

Lot's of implications to this, but I need to think on it a bit

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Google+:Usecase Fail; Keeping up with Friends & Associates

Part One of a Series: "The Long Slow Painful Death of Google+

The recent brutal and dishonest troll attack on my character on Google+ has convinced me more than ever that it is critical to get off that platform as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  At the same time, I want to do what I can to salvage my considerable investment there - it took a great deal of time and effort to get my 67,000 followers, and 65,000 member business community - these were not gifted to me like that despicable  excuse for a human who launched the most recent attempt at a smear campaign who was actually put on Google's corrupt "suggested user's list".  

I still remember his last comment after sticking his nose in my business and making his disgusting allegation - that I am "making Google look bad" by posting goofy G rated pictures of women in bikini's.    People have the right to think is is absurd that someone would think I have such power, but that is the way many people on Google+ actually think in the culture Google has created there - especially now that it has become dominated by "social media professionals".

Every general will tell you that a retreat is the hardest military maneuver to execute, and getting off a social media platform like Google+ might require almost as much energy to get off as it did to get on, all the more so because Google makes this as difficult at they possibly can and along the way you realize that they own just about everything you thought was yours and give you almost no control over your own information.

I am going to be documenting this process, and along the way I will tell you why I am leaving, and what I am putting in its place.  This post is just about the "why" - and is part of an analysis of  "use case fails" on Google+.    Lots of use case fails come to mind right off the bat - "posting what you want' - you can't do that on Google+  because of the culture there - in fact the only thing totally safe to post on Google+ is posts about Google+ itself - or praise of Google.

The one I will mention here, is the one you might have thought was their primary mission - "keeping up with friends" - because if the poor design of Google+ this is almost impossible.   They use a "continuous stream" - there is not "next page' or "mark this read" to know when you have caught up with friend's posts.   What you see instead on Google+ is "people you follow who post frequently". If a friend only posts every week or two you will probably miss it - unless you take the time to go directly to that friend's profile - something that Google's poorly designed user interface makes tedious.

This reduces "keeping up with friends" to a probability function - if you are lucky, you will see them but only if they post fairly frequently.   Now, there is some evidence that people are posting less - at least I sure notice that from my friends.   That means with fewer posts you will be seeing more posts from the same people, the stream will become less interesting (already happening - the difficulty of reading a card based system  - another use fail)    

So is this a "death spiral" - it is certainly starting to look that way.   It is important to note though, that the system can fail for almost everyone and still not fail for Google.  As much attention as is given to Google "shutting things down" I don't think they will shut down Google+.    It could happen,  A close look at the architecture show that it may even have been designed to account for possible failure - the lack of integration between Google Contact Groups and Google Circles, but things are still pretty integrated and it would be messy.  

More likely we will see what we are seeing now - zombie profiles and ghost communities - and notification messages that go forever unanswered.   I no longer know what it is like to be a new user on Google+ but I would recommend it to no one knowing what I know now - I assume they make some kind of similar "suggested users list" of people they say you should follow.   These aren't your real friends - they aren't even potential new friends.

The fact is, for the use case of "keeping up with friends and associates" Google+ has failed.   The good news is, that smart people know this, and systems are coming on the market that address this exact issue.   More on that later.