COVID19 & the Stockdale Paradox

A year ago, when this all started, I saw a post on twitter (and of course I did not bookmark it, so no chance of finding it now).

In it was a great piece of advice to “not think about the date when this would be over”, but that “it would, someday, be over”.

I have since learnt that this is called the Stockdale paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stockdale

The core quote, for me, being;

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be

For the last year, I have been sharing this advice, and the thought that I see all of us as having lived in three time periods; the pre- times, the during- times and the post- times.

I am writing this now, as it could all go horribly wrong in the next few months.

  • vaccines are starting to get rolled out, but the supplies are limited for now, and how long will immunity last for?
  • people are remembering how the numbers went right down last summer, but have started going out even though it barely even spring
  • new, more infectious variants are popping up every few weeks, and far too many people are still moving around, helping spread them
  • far too few governments have been willing to take the very hard boarder and quarantine rules that have allowed New Zealand and others to remain virtually virus free

If all these factors combine, we could be in a similar place in 2022, but now with a massive spike in mental health issues and rising civil unrest, due to people’s fatigue over multiple failed promises of when this will all be over.

So stay safe, and, remember…

At some point this will be over, and we will meet in the post-COVID times!

And for some context, this pair of tweets shows how we can’t predict the future

Categories: interesting conversation, learning | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Please stop sucking

So, after seeing people making similar “errors” multiple times at the Startup Sauna Warmups, and also at the last couple of Pitch-It events.

The classic format for a pitch is:

  • slogan/tag line
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • $
  • team
  • traction
  • ask
  • Slogan/tag line

And the places where people seem to go wrong most often is:
* Problem, Solution
Most people spend WAY too much time explaining the problem, if you have a good slogan it can explain both the problem, solution and the value that you offer (i.e. “we are mint.com for cat pictures”). If you have not yet thought of a really good slogan, probably the best way to quickly explain the problem is a short personal story, or then a couple of questions to the audience. If you go the question route, be prepared for what to do if no-one recognises the problem or answers the question.

Another way to think of how to easily explain the problem&solution part is as the answers to “who has the problem, how does our solution solve it and why would they give us money”

* Team
Rather than showing us pictures or job titles tell us why this team is better than a team with a similar set of CV’s or what are the things that can not be copied, i.e. what is the “Unfair Advantage” or USP of this team

* Ask
you should always tell the audience what you need help with currently. This could be as simple as asking for some tweets or likes, but it is better to be very explicit with what you need and why you need it.
The other reason to have an ask in every pitches that it gives the audience an easy way that they can pay-it-forward.

* Starting and Ending
NEVER start with an apology (weak language skills, no time to prepare…), as this causes the audience to have a downwards emotion (and so you are already failing, as you want the audience to be as excited about your thing as you are). A simple “Hello”, or starting with your slogan is the best start, as it is a clear indication that you are starting your pitch.
In the same manner, a simple “thank-you” indicated that you are ready to hear the audiences applause. Asking “Thanks you, any questions?” gives a mixed message about when the audience should applaud.

* The slides themselves
It is no longer good enough to just open some slide software and start writing points. This was barely acceptable in academic or corporate life, but it is almost never acceptable in a pitch. Regarding how the slides look, the best starting point is Presentation Zen.
The best advice I can give, is to think of the content, and work with analogue methods first and only in the last step actually make it into a digital asset. Another benefit of doing it this way, is that you know the structure of your presentation, as you will have gone over it multiple times long before actually making the slides.
Remember, you do not have to use exactly the same deck to present with as you might send to someone, because almost all presentation formats have a notes panel that you can put relatively large amounts of text into, or you can hide slides.
If you have a different name for the project you are pitching from your company name, only show the project name on the pitch slides. The company name can be on the first and last slides, but should be a smaller font (i.e. “Foobar, an example.com product)

So now you have heard all the things people do wrong, why do people pitch and how can you get all the relevant points into such a short time?
Remember, one of the main purposes of a pitch is to get someone interested enough that they want to hear more, or could tell a third person what your thing does (approximately).
The other thing that many people don’t seem to understand is that in order to deliver a good pitch you need to have thought through all parts of your thingie so that it is really clear to you exactly how it works currently. This seems to be because it is only once you fully understand all the parts can you explain it clearly and simply using everyday terms.

Here are the slides I use when going through this. You will need to see the notes page to make sense of most of them.

Categories: learning | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Build a startup in 48 hours?

There seem to be many variations on this theme; startupweekend, Garage48, Buildit, Game Jam, Service Jam….

But, almost all of these events seem to ask people to sign up, and select one of their grand sounding titles (Developer, Designer, Visionary etc).
I think it would be better if they used titles that described what you would be doing during the weekend, so this could be something like; Code Monkey, Pixel Pusher, Powerpoint Princess, etc.

This way, only those people who *really* want to come and learn something would turn up, and would have something of the correct attitude (not too serious, lets work together, etc)

On another note, many of these weekends used to emphasise the possibility of founding the next world changing startup there, now at least some of them are mentioning that you should be expecting more of a learning experience.

Categories: interesting conversation, learning, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recent learnings – mostly technology related

Been a while since I posted anything here, but these are sitting in my notes waiting to get stored somewhere better, and the pile got to a size where I might as well put them here.

Skype and Growl

How often when watching a presentation, have you seen the little pop-ups telling you so-and-so went on or off-line?
Well, that is because the person was probably using Growl, and forgot to sign out of skype. I think that this is due to the fact that the owner of the laptop has *two* places to turn off and/or tune notification – in both Skype and Growl.

Speaking of Growl, turns out they have finally started to charge for the software, but only via Apple’s App store (means using iTunes, which I never do).
As the earlier version had been release under an open source license, someone has tidied it up and fixed some Lion specific bugs, and put it out there for the world. You can find it here

Web development:

As part of my new job I have been on a bit of a learning sprint around HTML and CSS.
I understood the basics, but having no reason to have to experiment with things had not tested that knowledge. Other people had always stepped up much faster, and I always enjoy watching others work, and saw no reason to compete with people 🙂

CSS – Fundamentals

If it starts with a dot is a class i.e it is something which might occur multiple times on a page.
If it starts with a hash/pound it is an ID, i.e. something which can occur only once on a page

To get things set correctly use either Opera, Chrome or Firebug (for Firefox and Safari).
Opera and Chrome are easier as they have the option to right click on anything and “Inspect Element”. Once the inspector window is open, you can change or add CSS properties and see what it does to the web page. This is very useful.

Testing Web pages in IE on Apple Macs

Oh, and speaking of useful, when doing web-developement, it turns out that there are still people using IE.
Minor problem if you work on a Apple Mac, as there is no version available.
Luckily, Microsoft makes some Virtual-PC images available for zero cost specifically for this purpose. But, you can’t run Virtual-PC on a Mac, but you can run VMware Fusion or VirtualBox. VirtualBox currently being cost free, is often preferred, but VirtualBox can not read/start these images.
After much searching, I found a post that describes how to convert Virtual-PC images to VirtualBox ones. It does this via a shell script that does all of the heavy lifting for you.
My testing has so far been limited to starting the VM, and it does boot, and you can click round in it, but as it only has 256MB RAM allocated, it is s-l-o-w 😦

Categories: learning, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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