Year: 2015

Book A Month 2016: January

With 2016 right around the corner it is time to put together my list of books that I will be reading during this upcoming year. While I don’t know the entire list yet, I do have the first four picked out in no particular order:

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton

When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

January

I don’t remember exactly when I heard about Elon Musk first (although I think it was around the time I first watched this) but this past summer I stumbled upon Wait But Why right as Tim Urban started his series on Musk. After reading through those (which I highly recommend you do as well) I became fascinated with Musk’s mission and drive.

There are other books about Elon Musk but this is the only one that the author was authorized to write, which means there are hours and hours of interviews behind it making it the best one available. After reading the first chapter already, I can say that it is worthy of the accolades. Ashlee Vance is very open about the process and has a very relaxed and casual writing style that makes this an engaging and fun read. Before I get too carried away I will get back to reading and let you know how it turns out.

-Adam

Reading a Book a Month: The Innovators

For Christmas last year I received The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. It is almost a year later and I am just about to finish it, which is fairly pathetic. While it is the longest book I will have read so far, it is a bit longer than average at 560 pages, it shouldn’t have taken me this long to read. Couple this with how I have recently added 29 books (and counting) to my reading list and I will never end up reading everything I want to read.

In an effort to remedy this I am going to be reading a book a month starting in 2016. I haven’t decided which books those will be but you can bet your fanny that the ones I end up reading will come from the list I linked above*. To kick things off let me give you a short review of The Innovators.

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

What is it about?

Starting in the 1800’s and coming up to the first decade of this century, Isaacson describes how we went from Ada Lovelace’s idea of a counting machine, to the founding of Intel, to Ev Williams creating Blogger and everything in between.

What did you like about it?

As someone who is starting out in the tech startup industry, it was refreshing to take some time to understand how we got to where we are. Isaacson does a very good job of dumbing things down such as how silicon transistors work so that I get how they work but he doesn’t go into so much detail that I get bored and put the book down.

He is also a wonderful storyteller. In breaking up each chapter into bite sized chunks I was better able to grasp how the individual parts fit into the larger scheme of things. With each chunk he would take a person or group of people and write a mini biography about them, glue those stories together and by the end of the section I had a very confident grasp on how say AOL came to be. There were also a lot of audible “Oh so that’s how that happened” and other such phrases since I had a basic understanding of how digital history happened after 1950 but The Innovators helped connect the dots.

What did you not like about it?

I have two main complaints with The Innovators but in no way should these stop you from reading it if you have been interested so far.

My first gripe would have to be with how history goes, so it has less to do with Isaacson than it does with my lack of interest in how things worked back in the day. Getting through the first couple chapters was a bit of a struggle since I had to remove my familiarity with a smartphone and think in highly simple terms. The first couple chapters are more about concepts and wooden counting machines than what I would consider technology as a 21st century Millennial.

My other annoyance would be with the second half of the book. The first half felt very put together and fluid as he went from topic to topic. In the second half there are parts here and there that sound like he wrote it before the section or chapter before it. What ends up happening is terms he has already explained are re-explained or he uses different terms to talk about something he was describing earlier in the book.

Considering those are the only two negative factors, I would definitely recommend giving this book a read especially if you are interested in entrepreneurship, computers, coding, etc.

Look forward to a similar post in early January on what book I am going to read next.

-Adam

*I have since discovered that Amazon removes items from my wish lists as I purchase them. Fret not my friend as I have kicked things off a bit early which you can read here. This includes the books excluded from my Amazon list.

Dating Robots – Coming January 19th 2016

drlogo

Is it possible that, in the future, a robot could be so similar to a human that it would be impossible to know the difference between the two?

That is the question I asked myself which led to me start Dating Robots. I have recently become obsessed with this reality that is closer than most of you might think.

In 15 years there will be humans traveling to Mars.

Read that a couple times and fully appreciate what that means. And now put it in context. We went to the moon with less technology that resides inside of my iPhone. Imagine what will be possible during our voyage to the Red Planet with the technology that is being built and will be built over the next 15 years.

It is fair to say that I am extremely excited for what the future holds with regard to technology. To express this love I created Dating Robots, a publication that will explore what will be possible while we are still alive.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to read the first, of what will be many, short stories that attempt to answer, or at the very least, entertain ideas like the one above.

Once January 5th comes I will be posting new entries on a regular basis.

-Adam

Feel free to reach out with any comments or questions.

Publications I Can’t Live Without

While many people look at Sunday as the day of rest, I look at it as the day of reading. It’s the one day of the week that I have enough free time to sit down and go through my ever-growing Safari reading list. Besides the startup/VC blogs, three publications constantly find themselves in that list and they consistently have fantastic content.

Vox

Starting with the 2012 election, since that was the first time I could vote, I have constantly had one ear listening to politics. The problem I had with reading and hearing about political news is there is a knowledge barrier. Gaining access to the articles is easy but the problem is understanding what they mean when they throw around things like “The US and China are engaging in a cap-and-trade program again…”. A what-now?

What Vox does is combine the headlines with the background so you actually know what is going on and you don’t have to do multiple Google searches every time you read an article.

Note: subscribe to their newsletter, they do an excellent job outlining the top headlines succinctly so you can get back to living your life while still being in-the-know.

Wired

For science class in sixth grade we would have to pick out an article from a magazine and then write a summary and our thoughts on it every so often. I would always write about Popular Science since they would talk about the latest gadgets and developments in the different science fields. Wired is the same thing but with better writing and a thoughtfully designed pages that make for an enhanced reading experience.

Note: I despise looking at ads. I find them to be intrusive and clutter up a page. Because of that I subscribed to Wired and get an ad-free version sent to my iPad. Speaking of ads, if you hate ads like me but want to still pay for the content you are viewing, check out Contributor by Google.* Instead of seeing an ad, you see a box saying, “Thanks for being a contributor”. Paying $5/month blocks hundreds of ads a month but you don’t feel you are cheating like when you use AdBlock.

Wait But Why

WBW is hands down the best place for amazing, long articles that will change your perspective for the better. I discovered Tim Urban’s website this summer right before he published his epic three part story on Elon Musk and his companies. He takes a concept – be it Tesla Motors, Graham’s number, or mundane Wednesdays – and breaks it down until you have a complete understanding of why it exists and what makes it important. Plus he adds in comical drawings that make things like artificial intelligence easy to digest.

 

-Adam


 

No, I am not being paid to write about any of these, I just truly enjoy their content and want to spread the love. Plus, the more people reading WBW and using Contributor means they will be around longer so I’m partly doing this for my own selfish reasons. But after you check them out you won’t be able to blame me so go check them out.

*You may need an invite to join, if so, leave a comment and I can send you one. For whatever reason I have 50 that need a home.

A Genuine Interview

I’ve never quite understood the interview. It’s fake.

We dress up in clothes we rarely wear and often don’t feel comfortable in. We put so much importance on a single block of time which results in tons of build up, stress and anxiety. Why are we creating this fake environment instead of showing our real selves?

When looking at a full time job, a third of our day, if not more, is going to be spent in the office working with these people who we are dressing up to impress. During all those hours we are portraying the true versions of ourselves since we are doing what we, hopefully, enjoy. While the interview feels gross and awkward.

Let me take a step back. There are examples where dressing up in our Sunday best makes sense, specifically when the interview outfit and work day outfit are one and the same.

However, I’m talking about jobs where in the interview we are dressing up and for the average work day we are putting a slight bit of thought into our outfit and that’s it. These unofficial uniforms then carry over to the overall culture.

The first time I met the CEO of National Galactic (formally Colupon) I wore a button down and jeans. My average outfit during the week? A button down or sweater with jeans (it gets cold in Connecticut). And during that first meeting at our local Starbucks, it was a relaxed conversation where we were getting to know each other and the opportunity at hand. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, I was simply being myself.

On the other hand when I worked at Apple in retail, during every part of the interview process I felt obligated to dress up. Wearing those clothes made me feel uncomfortable and made the experience more formal than it was. When I started working there, dressing up was optional. Wearing shorts or jeans with our Apple shirt was the norm. Almost every day I worked there it was a fun and engaging experience, which is the exact opposite of the interview process.

Again, one size doesn’t fit all but I think there is room for us to rethink what an interview is and how it plays into the overall culture that the company is cultivating.

Review: Apple Watch

This device needs no introduction. If you don’t know what I’m wearing on my wrist in that picture, then skip this post. I recommend this one.

Apple Watch Sports 42mm Black
Apple Watch Sports 42mm Black

After having my watch for almost 2 months, here is what I think of it.

TL;DR – I think this is a great first step for Apple’s watch but there are some core improvements that will bring it into its own.

 

“What are those core improvements, Adam?”

Well dearest reader, let me expound.

Processor

This aspect is two fold, the first being the processor residing inside of the 42mm device, which plainly put, is simply not powerful enough. Basic functions such as opening the Activity app, displaying the glances view, or even loading the settings app take twice the amount of time they should. The apps by nature are lightweight but still not enough so for the weak processor Apple put inside. Apple knows this and will show us a lovely graph over the coming years

The second factor being how painfully slow apps that primarily use my iPhone take to load. Even on the glances view, the screen will shut off before the glance view will finish loading. And while app logic will soon run on the device rather than the paired iPhone, with the processor being the way it is, I’m doubtful we will see much of an improvement.

Not all actions take more time than they should, some are rather snappy such as going between menus. But this device is meant for interactions that consist of seconds which is currently being used for only loading.

Taptic Engine

This is my most loved feature of the Watch. With my iPhone, 90% of the time it remains on silent as to not disturb those around me but this has resulted in many missed calls because I haven’t felt the vibration. With the haptic feedback being applied directly to the forehead to my wrist I know when a notification has come in without bothering anyone else in the process. With that said, there are times when I am on a walk, driving, or when I have my arm such that gravity isn’t pushing the watch against my wrist that the vibration isn’t enough to get my attention. This creates a similar phenomena to when my phone is in my pocket and I swear it vibrated but hasn’t. Although sensitivity is at the highest setting, a more powerful engine needs to be in the future versions.

Battery Life

I was pleasantly surprised with the length of the battery. Most times I am getting two full days out of it, given I have it off while I am sleeping. As someone who charges their phone every night and since I don’t plan on wearing it while I sleep, taking it off at night to charge isn’t a problem. Battery life in any device could be improved but for Apple Watch it’s not necessary to increase its lifespan.

Everything Else

At first I thought the phone feature was useless but there have been times where I walked away from my phone or it was hard to get to and answering a call on my watch was the easier and better option. The speaker needs to be improved if Apple sees it as a real feature (which they should).

The sounds are perfect. None of them are annoying, they are quite nice actually, and I know exactly what each means. Light sleepers won’t be woken up by the alarm sound which is why we should be able to choose which sounds play.

Predictive text is very helpful when all you need to respond to a text with is yes, no, ok, an option (e.g. “Should we get pizza or tacos?”), and similar short, simple replies. Replying to messages with my voice works but when it doesn’t or it takes to long for Siri to figure out what I said (due to my distance from my phone or the network connection) it ends up making the interaction frustrating and thus, I have stopping using it.

“It’s our most connected device ever” that statement is true but after the novelty factor, I have forgotten I can tap people’s wrist. And to be honest, I don’t know why I would. And drawing a picture on the tiny screen is hopeless.

I have played two free games, Four Letters and BoxPop. Both are great games for the Watch. They are quick, fun games that are perfect for filling a 3-5 minute gap of time. They run surprisingly well but a faster processor could definitely improve the experience.

Why did I get one?

The answer also satisfied why I still use it. While it is a good notification manager, with great exception to the fact that if an email notification is “dismissed” that also means that I have “read” the email. Since Apple Watch can’t handle most dynamic content that is in today’s newsletters, I haven’t read a thing except for code.

Why I got it and still use it is for the activity tracking. Consumer Reports showed that it is the most accurate out of the leading watches. The process of tracking an activity and monitoring it during the exercise is straightforward and comprehensive. And the awards are a great surprise after an exhausting workout. Even though my watch isn’t the best at tracking when I have stood up or not, once you tell it you are working out it is a very diligent tracker.

Should you get one?

Wait for the second or third version to come out and then submit your order. The model I got plus AppleCare (I’ve had some close calls since I forget it is there when reaching my hand into a tight space) came to $230*, $460 for non-Apple employees. Currently is the Watch worth $460? No. $230? Yes, but only because it is integrated into the Apple ecosystem and is a good activity tracker.

Once the Watch finds its niche and its true purpose (I’m looking at you third party developers) and gets the improvements noted above, then this will be the number one watch on the market, hands down.

 

*I worked for Apple Retail starting in October 2014 and left shortly after being able to order my watch for a discount. The timing was a lucky coincidence.

On Writing a Journal

For the past several days I have been writing a journal of what I did that day, what’s going on inside my head, my thoughts on what happened and what is going to happen. I started doing this because I was disappointed with how much I forgot about a trip to the Mediterranean my family and I took almost two years ago. In an attempt to fix that I am going to write about everyday so that I have a record of it and so it builds up my long term memory of those events.

What I have already noticed is that I am in fact retaining more since I am living it and then recalling it many hours later. But more importantly I am fully analyzing how I am feeling and jotting it down as I find their meaning. By doing so I am getting to the root of why I am feeling a certain way and how I can fix it or help ensure it happens more the next day.

In writing it down I am making myself accountable for my thoughts and my plans. I don’t want to be someone who writes about my plans who then looks back in 6 months or longer and sees many empty promises. That is not who I want to be and having a record of my plans is the only way to ensure I act on them.

Currently I am starting work on my next project, Feast, and I need to be accountable for my plans and ensure I act on them so progress is steadily being made and lessons are being learnt as quickly as possible. This journal is going to be an invaluable tool for Feast and for all aspects of my life.

Even after just a few days of writing, I highly recommend you try it out and see what happens. Because no one else can see it, be as open as humanly possible about how you feel and what you are thinking. If anyone needs help creating one, leave a comment and I’ll get you on the right track. Mine is a WordPress blog that defaults to private posts and I get an email every night reminding me to post.

-Adam

Why Feast?

In February 2016 I ceased operations after determining the market would be too difficult for me to enter based on my knowledge and entry into the industry. I still believe in the product but it was time to admit defeat and take what I learned into my next venture.


 

I was sitting on a beach in the Dominican Republic in August of 2012 reading Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody and I had an idea.

Fast forward almost 3 years, 2 attempts at starting How Was It/FeastBot (it’s previous names), and Feast is finally becoming a reality. But why Feast? Why am I devoting every waking hour to a review app? Like any good story, there are a couple reasons.

I have tried this before. Colupon was the biggest learning experience I have ever been through and I don’t regret a single second of it. Part of what we were doing was trying to give the average, small business owner some feedback on how they are doing from qualified customers. This is still a need that I feel needs to be filled better than the incumbent is doing so but more than that, Feast zeros in on a need that is not being filled at all. There is no way for a waiter/waitress (or as I refer to them, servers) to know how they are doing, how to improve and how to get the most out of their job regardless of whether they plan on working there for months or years.

I’m writing this wearing my brand new Apple Watch and the main reason I got it is to track my activity during the day. It is providing me feedback so I know exactly how big of a lazy person I am and providing me with reminders to get up and get moving. And then at the end of the day it tells me how I did so tomorrow I can improve. Now tell me how a server improves currently? I don’t have an answer for you because there is no outlet for them.

A server can keep an eye on how much they are getting in tips each day but that is by no means an accurate measure of performance. Every week there is an article on a server getting a hundred dollar tip from a wealthy regular just because they were feeling nice that day. Every month there is an op ed somewhere that explains how poor we are as a culture in tipping properly. And we have all heard about the disrespectful group of teenagers that leave a “tip” of several hundred coins. Short version, tips are meaningless and completely subjective.

A server can also look to their supervisor and ask them how they are doing. Two issues here:

  1. Who does that? No one.
  2. How can a manager know how someone is really doing when they are busy dealing with CS issues and have 10-20 other servers to keep track of? They can’t.

Based on the logic above, Feast is needed and needed badly. So why me?

For the past 6 months I had the wonderful opportunity to be apart of the awesome group that makes up the Danbury Apple Store. This dedicated group relies on their NPS to tell them exactly how they are doing; what they are doing right and where they have room for improvement.

Each Apple Store has many people working everyday and it is impossible for the managers to know exactly how well a particular Specialist, FRS, Genius, etc is doing without the NPS in their back pocket (see point 2 above multiplied by several factors).

This experience has shown me how well a store can function when the right measures are put in place and how it should be in the restaurant industry.

Even though new startups are popping up each and every day, there are still problems that need to be solved and Feast is going to allow restaurant owners and managers to see a fuller picture of their operation and giving them more time to focus on providing the best experience for their customer.

-Adam

If you want to get involved, as I can’t do this alone, please head to feast.software and send me a note. I’m looking at you developers, sales people, graphic designers, and restauranteurs/people that know owners and managers.