Mon, 14 Sep 2009 14:45:00 GMT

Conditioned Happiness

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiment where he trained dogs to salivate when they heard a bell. He did this by preceding every feeding with a bell ring. Eventually, the dogs began to associate the presence of a bell ring with the arrival of food and would start salivating even though no food was presented.

This is an extraordinary phenomena that is also present in humans. Pavlov's experiment was artificial, but we as humans have several natural associated responses. One that is especially useful is the association between smiling and happiness. The mind treats the feeling of happiness and the action of smiling as synonymous occurrences. Typically, happiness precedes smiling, however, it is not necessary that it happen in that order. When smiling happens first it can invoke a feeling of happiness without any other qualifying events.

This association can work wonders when doing things that you don't want to do or after a serious of unfortunate events. For example, when I was learning to snowboard I would always smile and laugh to myself whenever I fell. It allowed me to make it through the hard parts so that I could enjoy the fun parts.

So, smile more!

Thu, 10 Sep 2009 20:29:00 GMT

Where to Start?

When you run a race the rules are simple. You start at the start line and you finish at the finish line. Your only goal is to get from one point to the other. Software development is nowhere near as simple.

Yesterday an underclassmen friend of mine asked, "I want to build an application, where do I start?" Being in his position at one time, I can see where he's coming from. You have no defined start line or finish line and there are an innumerable amount of paths you could take. Schools do a very excellent job of showing you how to get between two points that they specify, but in the real world those points aren't nearly as well defined. That is why software development is more than just coding. Software development is about defining the constraints of the race and then, running the race.

Every project starts with a problem that needs to be solved. It is necessary to translate that problem into a set of goals. Once you have defined what your goals are, you have established a finish line. To pick your start line, select the most important goal that is the core of your project. For example, if you're creating a to-do list application, the most important feature is obviously the ability to create a list. Something like search may be nice, but it isn't critical. To build the path between start and finish, keep selecting a new start line after each goal is completed. Every goal is in essence its own race. Each race can be broken down into smaller goals. By breaking a project down into its most basic elements, it becomes much simpler to build than when thinking of the project as a whole.

Sat, 05 Sep 2009 23:38:00 GMT

Being Remarkable Does Not Equal Quality

Seth Godin often talks about building a remarkable product, which, by definition, people talk about. One thing that stuck out to me recently while reading Purple Cow is when Seth Godin says:
The opposite of remarkable is very good. Ideas that are remarkable are much more likely to spread than ideas that aren't. Yet, so few brave people make remarkable stuff. Why? I think it is because they think that the opposite of remarkable is bad or mediocre or poorly done. Thus, if they make something very good, they confuse it with being virus worthy. Yet, this is not a discussion about quality at all.
This is a very interesting concept. Being remarkable is not a measure of quality. Building a very good product is not the same as building one that people will talk about.

For instance, take Basecamp by 37 signals. In their book Getting Real, they talk about how they stood out from competitors by being the simplest web-based project collaboration tool. They explicitly excluded features that other's thought were required for project collaboration. They weren't successful by being better. They were successful by being different. If instead they had tried to be better than the competition, they would have been indistinguishable.

Don't waste your time trying to be better. There will always be someone better. Instead focus on being different; being remarkable. If people are talking about you then you have a better chance at success.

Tue, 01 Sep 2009 23:36:00 GMT

Word of Mouth With Added Weight

When I was in high school, my friends would recommend music to me. But they didn't stop there; they also burned me CD's to listen to. I discovered a lot of bands that I still listen to and patronize because of my friends recommendations. However, their recommendations alone would probably only have persuaded me to listen to a fraction of the music that I ended up liking. The real thing that pushed me over the edge was the fact that I could try out what they were recommending to me. I didn't have to go out and find it and I didn't have to risk spending the money on something I might not like.

As a marketer, the goal is to win over the majority with your product. The way you win over the majority is by making your product remarkable so that the early adopters will want to talk about your product. If you want your salesmen, the early adopters, to do a good job selling your product you have to equip them with the right tools. Someone is not going to buy a $500 dollar licence for software or spend 3 hours filling out forms just to use a product based on another persons recommendation. The barrier is too high. Make it easy for your salesmen. Give them the CD's to hand out. Upload your videos to YouTube so they are easy to link to. Only ask for the bare minimum for someone to register on your site. When you make it easier for your salesman to make the sale, you will benefit.