State of the industry. An
on Creative Good's layoffs,
and shift towards smaller, tighter engagements, has an immense personal
relevance for my new venture.
More notes on IA. I've
finally finished writing down my notes
from the Reflection and Projections panel at the ASIS Summit.
Read about the Future of
Information Architecture, and the Pain
My four food groups:
Raw-to-rare protein (sushi,
sour cream, cream cheese, sauce for walnut prawns)
normally don't share such things, but for some reason I feel the
urge to write that I just ate 3/4 of a pint of Ben and Jerry's New
York Super Fudge Chunk.
starting a company. It
all started November 8, when I sent an email to a small group of
friends, subject line "Loose Consulting Group." Employed
at Epinions, I knew I'd be leaving by the end of the year. The independent
life was calling me, and I saw that it was calling many others,
too. A spark across a synapse, and I thought, "Hey, let's be
independent together." And the idea of a company formed.
charter was to be at the nexus of user experience and business strategy.
This small group of seasoned experts would earn revenues through
consulting, publishing, and conferences. We'd still lead independent
lives--the last thing I wanted was to set myself up in a situation
where I wouldn't have the freedom I'd have as a free agent (thus
the name "Loose Consulting Group"--the original idea was
that we'd be a loosely gathered network of folk... the idea evolved
into a bit more.)
must have been right, as all six others whom I emailed signed on
to make this happen. (Sadly, one later had to leave the effort,
as obligations took her elsewhere.) It became clear we'd all been
thinking the same thing, and the email served as a catalyst for
action. (Never ever ever underestimate the power of a single piece
spent the past couple of months turning this set of bullet points
in an email into a limited liability company. We've had day-long
meetings, weekly evening meetings, phone calls, animated email conversations,
discussing company strategy, logistics, opportunities, concerns,
dreams. The meta-qualities of company-forming fascinate me. Partnership
agreements, facilities planning, identity development, corporate
positioning, communications, revenue models, and tons more. I'm
so grateful to have found such an amazing bunch of colleagues to
help navigate these seas--as an individual I'd have never gotten
out of port.
And anxious. I'm proud of the work we've done so far, and am confident
it will pay off. At times, I think I'm crazy for giving myself this
responsibility--wasn't I happy enough as an independent contractor,
an interaction ronin, with only myself to answer to? Yes. But I'm
greedy. Not for money, but for opportunities. And in banding together,
all of us fully believe that the whole will be greater than the
sum of the parts. That we'll get better gigs, more intriguing problems
to solve. Most tantalizing is creating a structure that will support
non-consulting revenues. A crystallizing sentiment is that we all
seek to educate, to inform. We believe that being a company can
help us publish newsletters, reports, and books, can provide critical
mass around which a conference can be held.
thing that has been possibly the most gratifying about this new
venture is how the team has banded together. (And forgive me if
I don't announce the names of team members or the name of the company...
we're still a little bit before launch.) At every step, when there
has been a decision to protect the individual or serve the team
as a whole, we've opted for team. Our partnership agreement is a
be written as plans continue to unfold. I hope readers of peterme.com
understand if my personal site publishing continues it's irregularities
for a bit. There's a lot going on here at headquarters.
In the meantime,
if you or yours need some kick-ass user experience consultation
from a Dream Team of sorts (modesty has never suited me), perhaps
you'd like to drop me a line?
I had no intention of posting my "starting a company"
announcement yet. Not that I'm unwilling to let the cat out of the
bag, but I need to edit what I've written first. I thought I had
posted something else. Dreamweaver tricked me. Anyway, I'll have
something up soon (maybe tonight) about what's going on. Forgive
Links from elsewhere. From Gleanings
we were pointed to Downloads: The Internet
Moving Image Archive. This is a treasure trove of video tasties
largely culled from Rick
Prelinger's collection. Folks who remember Voyager
know of Rick's work through the Ephemeral
Films and Our Secret Century CD-ROMs. The videos are mostly
educational, training, and corporate films, capturing a snapshot-feel
of the time that you don't get from the more rigorously produced
Hollywood fare. I've had the pleasure of working with Rick and his
films, and I'm excited to see them made widely available.
over to Stating
The Obvious. It's good to see Michael back in form, with some
delightfully relevant posts. Perhaps fatherhood is calming him down
a bit. ;)
Flash meme of the week. Though not nearly as widespread as the
YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US is definitely catching on among Web
hipsters (I was pointed to it twice last Thursday). Inspired by
the bizarrely-translated intro to the video game Zerowing, the collection
of manipulated images set to a thumping techno beat and a speech-synthesizer
drone is an exemplary snapshot of our pop cultural Zeitgeist. What
I find primarily intriguing is the ingenuity of the imagery, the
cleverness in the *perfect-looking* text, the commentary on our
text-saturated environment (something our brains aren't particularly
wired for... not lots of billboards on the African savannah), the
implied conspiracy threat (reminiscent of They
Live), and that the whole affair was a grassroots effort.
There's a pretty good thread
about this flick on Plastic.
and sundry thoughts. Spent the afternoon with best bud Trav,
shooting the shit on the usual topics (movies, the internet industry,
business models, content management system design, girls, etc. etc.).
Among the topics was "modern day folk hero"--he's working
on a story that features such a character. And I realized that the
first person who came to mind when I heard the phrase "modern
day folk hero" was Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster. For
what that's worth.
morning I had breakfast with Scott, preparing for our SXSW talk.
Subjects were ranging, though the focus was mostly around the economic
issues of the digital delivery of content. I find that more engaging
that discussing the digital design of comics, because, well, I pretty
much agree with Scott about comics design (we formalists stick together),
whereas I'm far less certain that he's on the right track with digital
delivery. He acknowledges that micropayments would be only one of
many revenue generators, but a key one, the essential step wherein
artists encourage potential patrons to 'try' the work while breaking
even on their costs. Scott sees the essential payment process as:
A little (5-10%) for free --> a little more (10-20%) for a
micro --> and the rest for purchase/subscribe.
Scott sees it as untenable
for creators to give away all of the first 20% or so--the costs
of everyone 'trying' something for free could impoverish the artist.
But, it would definitely NOT be a world of only micropayments, filled
with variable pricing--after the patron has paid a small amount
to try it, she would then cough up some flat free for the full deal.
SF Scott Alert! Scott
McCloud is speaking on Saturday the 17th at 12:30p at the Alternative
Press Expo at Fort Mason Center. Only $6 admission. If you're
thinking of heading there, email
When I read "forage" I think of squirrels. To read
for Information Foragers: A Behavioral Model for Information Seeking
on the World Wide Web".
This paper explains and elaborates a behavioral model for understanding
how people look for information on the Web. The first half briefly
reviews a wide range key research to provide a broader context
for understanding human information seeking behavior and a starting
point for further exploration. The second part proposes a model
for organizing design ideas based on this research.
Let's do some crimes. My
Media Nugget review of Repo Man has been published. It's
among my favorite on that site--I'm particularly satisfied with
the Dr. Strangelove connection, a link I've not heard anywhere
else. Both are bleak black coming-apocalypse comedies defining their
Christina speaks out. Christina
adds her own ideas to my first set of thoughts on IA.
Thoughts on Information Architecture. Spurred by my participation
on a "Reflections and Projections" panel at the ASIS 2001
Summit, I'm writing up a series
of notes on trends, pain, and the future of IA.
Understanding Scott McCloud. I don't think I've mentioned it
here yet. On March 10, I'll be interviewing Scott
at South by Southwest. It's important to note that March 10 is the
day before the "main" interactive conference. So, if you
don't want to miss this great opportunity to hear Scott, plan accordingly.
be moderating a panel on the cultural implications of interface
design, featuring Steven
Johnson, Martin Wattenberg
(creator of the SmartMoney
Map of the Market), and Raoul Rickenberg.
sends along this
delightfully affirming article from the L.A. Times.
One Sunday afternoon, Lori took Sean out to eat. There, in an
Armenian burger joint with belly dancers, she saw famed physicist
Stephen Hawking, who uses a wheelchair because of amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. That
summer, Hawking had become Sean's hero.
Hrm. I've felt a bit of an asshole for my Feb 1 comments about
Pyra/Blogger. It had been something brewing in my mind for awhile,
and the conflation of events spurred me to write it. I don't mean
to denigrate the efforts of the Pyra folks--I know it's a sad time
for them; that the work they did has had an amazingly positive impact
on thousands of people; that hindsight is 20/20. Matt
wrote up a really smart "insider" look at what happened.
Well worth reading.
loves REI. One of my big takeaways from the ASIS Summit was
that industry experts agree: REI
has a really good online store. The site came up in 3 separate presentations,
in each independently noted for its expert presentation of content.
As the industry turns. A couple of recent incidents in the Internet
Industry have struck close to home. Earlier this week, Epinions.com
laid off 24 people. Nirav, the CEO, sent
a letter to the community outlining the reasons. This move is
not surprising. When I left the company last November, I had discussions
with my boss about how there were too many people at the company,
particularly considering the direction it was taking. This doesn't
make the decision to let people go any easier--from what I've heard,
the last couple days have been a profoundly sad time--though, remarkably,
even those being laid off understand the decision and are accepting
are less about finances than they are about restructuring. The company
is receiving more funding, they're actually hiring people
for sales and quality assurance, and they did what they could to
move people from departments that were being closed down into new
positions. Epinions is just trying to be a good, smart, and responsible
business, and that often means making hard decisions.
is down to one man. I'm friends with the Pyra folk, and the
last few months have been very hard on them. There was a brief ray
of sunshine with the Blogger Server Fund, showing the love and dedication
of the user community, but love and dedication and $10,000 just
gets you a couple of servers, not a sustainable business. A colleague
said it best, and perhaps most brutally, when he said that it seemed
that Blogger was run as "a hobby." Numerous avenues for
garnering revenue could have been pursued--none were. For me, that's
always been the most perplexing aspect of this whole endeavor. It's
as if there was simply a mental or organizational block toward accruing
money. Which is fine for a hobby. But, and this is bleedingly obvious,
not for a business.
most eye-opening aspects of working at Walmart.com is how it
is all about money. I've never worked in such an environment
before (occupational history includes universities, cd-rom publishers
run by communists, elite design agencies, and irrationally exuberant
dot coms), and it's startling. I wonder if this is the environment
most people operate in. Frankly, this cold water slap of market
reality is refreshing.