How Steve Jobs handles trolls (WWDC 1997)

An audience member at WWDC in 1997 trolls Steve Jobs in front of everyone, but Steve responds with grace. (Bold emphasis mine.)

Question: I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms how, say java, in any of it’s incarnations, addresses the idea (inaudible). And when you’re finished with that, perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last 7 years. 

Steve: You know, you can please some of the people some of the time, but…. One of the hardest things when you’re trying to effect change is that people like this gentleman are right in some areas.


The hardest thing is: how does that fit in to a cohesive, larger vision, that’s going to allow you to sell 8 billion dollars, 10 billion dollars of product a year? And, one of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. And I made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I got the scar tissue to prove it. And I know that it’s the case. 


And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with “What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?” Not starting with “Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that?” And I think that’s the right path to take. 

Hat tip Dharmesh Shah at and Vic Gundotra's Google Plus

What Babe Ruth teaches startup founders about conviction and recruiting true believers

October 1, 1932: Third game of the World Series, with the Yankees taking on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Two strikes, two balls. The Cubs are one strike away from stopping the greatest slugger who ever lived.

Babe Ruth points to centerfield. That's where the ball was going to go. The pitcher grips the ball, winds up the pitch and fires a curve ball. With a swing and the crack of the bat, the ball sails in that direction. Going, going, gone. He homers the ball 440 feet into centerfield, just as predicted.



This is possibly the finest example of conviction ever displayed. Babe Ruth's conviction is illustrated in two parts -- telling people you're going to do it -- then doing it.

This should mean a lot to you if you're a startup founder. That's because telling people you're going to do it means believing it and getting others to believe. If you are hiring or looking for a cofounder, my number one advice is to look closer at the people you already know and trust. Few teams seem to push on this nearly enough. 

It seems as though people are afraid of transferring their idea into other people's brains. But that's the entire point of what we're trying to do -- when trying to put a dent in the universe. People close to you are always the best people to try to recruit. As an added benefit: If you can't get your best friends to join, maybe you actually are crazy or wrong. This is your best way and sometimes only way to tell. 

I know you are thinking... people have their own stuff going on. Close friends have jobs and sometimes their own startups. But let me tell you -- if you really know this other kind of world that you have in your head is going to exist, then you are doing them a huge disservice not to tell them about it.

If you can infuse your belief into others, then you will succeed. We all know that true believers can move mountains. Small armies of true believers can conquer mercenary armies of any size. This is why small teams of half a dozen people can take down goliaths.

OBLIGATORY STEVE JOBS REFERENCE: Steve Jobs has called himself a recruiter in interviews. This is not surprising. Everything past the first earliest stage of the garage is about care and feeding of the organization. The company. Steve Jobs is a master at making true believers, and true believers can do truly great things.

As for Babe Ruth... I consider him one of my most revered startup heroes.

From a speech first delivered at Designer Fair last Friday -- thanks to Enrique Allen for the invite and for coming if you attended! Also thanks to Dustin Curtis for inspiring the ideas in this essay over lunch.

Lessons from a stolen laptop: Let this be a warning to you my friends

Friday night, Steph and I were hanging out with good friends in downtown SF... ironically enough, watching blockbuster car heist movie Fast Five. Around midnight, we headed back to our car and found that our car had been burglarized... both of our laptops were gone, along with a number of other random things the thief must have thought were valuable or resalable. No sign of forced entry. The police mentioned that Honda Accords were often burglarized since thieves sometimes use a 'master key'  that unlocks all doors for a particular car-- they case the area and strike. 

Two homeless guys witnessed the whole thing, but the thief was nonchalant enough that they just walked right up and looked like they owned the car. We got a physical description: 5'10" caucasian/latino man in a baseball cap going from the club at 111 Minna to another down the street. It happened just 45 minutes before we got back to our cars. 

Both Steph and I were shaken a bit. Neither of us had ever really been the victim of a crime of this magnitude before. The worst was that Steph lost a hard drive that contained years and years of her past writings, photos and memories. The rest may well be covered (*crosses fingers*) by my renter's insurance policy, but TBD. 

We headed to the police station immediately to report it and file a police report at South Station. The officer was helpful and polite, but didn't hold out much hope for us. 

I *did* install Prey, an open source spy tool for exactly for tracking down laptop thieves. I flipped it into "Missing" mode and hoped the thief would slip up. By the morning, we had a few reports from the software. Steph and I sprung into action. But it looks like we're dealing with pros here -- or at least not complete amateurs. Unlike Joshua Kaufman's successful recovery of his laptop from a thief in Oakland, the thief was smart enough to block the webcam...

That was all we saw. We did, however, track him/her to this specific location in San Francisco, just blocks from Civic Center BART in the Tenderloin. The address was 280 Golden Gate-- at least on the map, it looked like it was a deli of some sort... but we arrived to see the deli closed and boarded up. Above the deli was a seedy San Francisco SRO motel, and the track went cold. The cops shrugged their shoulders but were sympathetic. Not enough info to track down the thief. They advised us to just keep watching the software to see if we could catch the thief in the open. 
Unfortunately, the suspect must have wiped the machine, or just hasn't used it since. The homeless guys who witnessed it told us that the laptops and various things were probably all sold by the next morning, each for about $100-200. "Anything for a crank fiend to get a fix," they said.

I've pretty much given up any chance at recovering our stolen stuff at this point. We've been trying to look at the bright side -- we've learned some lessons, we're alive, we're safe, and tomorrow is a new day.

A few straightforward lessons that I hope you can benefit from:
    Use Dropbox, Backblaze, and make sure everything is backed up to cloud. Your data isn't safe unless its in the cloud. It's 2011 -- you have no excuse. 

    Invest in Apple Time Machine or other backup tools -- for anything larger than what you can place in the cloud.

    Install Prey or Hidden, no matter what. It might just let you get your stuff back and get justice. Maybe.

    Never ever store anything of value in your car AND trunk. Assume your car has no locks and is accessible to thieves. I had always assumed it was perfectly fine to throw valuables in the trunk. I know better now. 

    Thieves may steal your identity if they've got all the info stored on your computer. If you're a victim, sign up for free fraud alerts. You could probably skip LifeLock and the like; according to Consumer Reports, the Fair Credit Reporting Act states we get the benefits of these services for free

    Boy was I ever relieved to know I had renter's insurance. I picked it up last year through GEICO, which resells Assurant Renter's insurance. I'll let you know later with a strong recommendation if the claim goes through smoothly. 
Stay safe, friends! An ounce of prevention here is worth... well, in the case of data, once it's gone, there is no cure.

Google Circles is high work and low return: Why Groups are the right way to organize people

Google Circles is what would happen if Twitter forced people to organize people into Twitter Lists the second they follow someone. 

Yet this underscores the fundamental problem with Circles. They're just mine and only I get to see them. In fact, they're even more closed off and private than Twitter Lists, which at the very least show up in your profile, and turn into a way to discover more people who are similar.

On Twitter, you can see how many lists people have been added to, thus turning it into both discovery and social signal. Since Twitter is like high school, social signaling is critical to being able to identify and follow influentials. This fits the social graph of Twitter perfectly, and incentivizes the exact kind of behavior Twitter for which it has always been used.

On Facebook, Groups are the preferred way for people to self-organize. When someone adds someone to the group, it is a shared alteration of the experience. I would argue this is the ideal form of online self-organizing behavior. With Twitter Lists, most of the benefit goes to the user who created it -- while with Circles ALL of the benefit goes to the person who created it. This is one-time work that cannot be reused. On the other hand, with Groups, users who are added to a group can organically add additional members. Once you're in a group, assumedly that group continues to get better over time. A group can arise organically around specific topics. 

Ultimately what this amounts to is a shared reality. In the same way Wikipedia becomes better after every single edit forever, Facebook Groups provides a shared reality that, given proper management by the admins, will always get better. And that will always beat Google Circles because it spreads the work of organization over many people instead of just one. 

In summary:
  • Twitter Lists provide social signal and discovery. High level of effort, but at least there's some modicum of gain to be had. 
  • Facebook Groups provide a semi-public shared space that automatically gets better. Low level of effort but high amount of social benefit. 
  • Google+ Circles force people to do a lot of work, but that work is pretty much only useful to themselves. High level of effort and low level of return. 
If you're Google, this seems like the wrong end of the spectrum to be at. High work, low return. That's the opposite of what we've come to know about successful social structures online. 

The achievement sound

Ever notice this sound when you unlock something on Xbox Live? Isn't it amazing how satisfying it feels? Play it back a few times. For gamers, this is like hitting the little button in the cage that dispenses crack.

Now that you have access to this Youtube video, you can hit that crack button as many times as you want.

If you're creating a service or game online, think about the sounds that you can associate with peak experiences. Human beings are emotional creatures... the more we are aware of how these emotions can be associated with sounds, sights or actions, the better we can design things that are pleasurable and addictive.

Why the new task UI in Taskrabbit has great behavioral design

Taskrabbit is a cool service that helps people list local tasks that they'd like to hire people to do. It's also a great example of behavioral design-- helping users not just complete the task but want to do it as well. 

Here's the new task UI:

1) Great copy is great communication

Copy is UI, UI is copy. The only way you can explain what's happening on the screen is by the text and elements on the screen. They work together. You must explain what's going on, and what's next. Yes, you know what's happening, but you're the creator of the UI. Users have no such context.

Remember that as a designer, you must design with intention in mind, but evaluate what you create with beginner's eyes. Often in YC office hours, PG will point out glaring holes in people's designs -- but it is because he has honed this skill of viewing a web page with the eyes of a novice, even if you've been talking about the idea with him for hours.

Clear your mind, read what you've got, and if it doesn't make sense, then explain. Rinse, repeat.

2) Great use of contrast to determine what's important and what's more information 

You'll notice the darkest pieces of information (highest contrast) are the headers for the specific inputs. "Title of your Task" for instance. It's big, it's dark, and it commands the most initial attention. This establishes a visual hierarchy. All things below that title pertain to that particular input. There's proper padding between inputs so that the grouping is further reinforced. 

Some products mistake extreme brevity for being simple. Wrong. You should strive to have enough text to properly guide the user to their task. A long block of text that is undifferentiated won't be read, of course -- so your main tool here is to make the important stuff bolder, larger, and command more attention. Then write additional text in a smaller, lower contrast font.

If they care, they'll read it. If they don't, they won't. And that's just OK. The important part is that people complete the task. 

3) Show a lot of examples

It's the worst when UI doesn't show an example at all. It's the rudest experience. Imagine a brusque waiter, or a bank clerk who can't be bothered to help you with what you're trying to do. That's what you're doing when you don't show more examples. 

Yes, that even means helping people with writing titles.Notice how Taskrabbit drops a greyed-out tip right there in the textbox.

DO THIS. There's nothing that will orient a user more as to what they should put than text right there inside the textbox they're about to fill out. Don't forget to clear it when the textbox gets focus, though.

4) Progressive Disclosure

See those little links at the bottom? They're optional. And they don't take more space than they need. If someone wants it, they'll click. If someone doesn't want it, they won't. 

This is virtually your only tool to create things that are both powerful and simple. Use it everywhere and you too will be both easy to use and powerful. 


Remember, UI is a conversation that you have with your users, hundreds if not thousands of times a day. But if you can make that conversation go well... it'll be a few million times a day soon enough. 

Again, props to Sarah Harrison, @sourjayne, Taskrabbit Director of UX. I am impressed. Two thumbs up, way up.

Like this article? PS, you can follow me on twitter here.

Facebook newsfeed rollups: Attention hoarding behavior

Noticed this on my minifeed recently: 

94 items from Twitter? This may well be an unintentional consequence of rolling up message updates per Facebook Application. Lord knows there are a lot of apps out there like Farmville that produce an incredible amount of noise. The natural way to limit the impact of other apps on the overall Facebook experience is to collapse these.

But at the same time, it is quite a profound way to greatly limit the effectiveness of other apps on the platform. 

Facebook is well within its rights to do this. It certainly isn't new, too. It is advantageous behavior. Facebook activity is regarded as premium and gets more attention. As Twitter consolidates power and cuts out third parties from the attention stream by telling people not to create twitter clients anymore, it makes total sense that Facebook incentivize use of its own authoring tools. 

Anytime attention is pooled together, there's value. Like water in a desert, creators of apps of all kinds will seek that attention anywhere it can get it. Whether it is after a Google Search or on a habitual reload of a StumbleUpon page, cmd-tab to Twitter App or dopamine-seeking Facebook visit.

It is a profound metaphor. As app creators, we seek this attention, and to pool it, to divert it, and to control it... Attention, like water, as life-giver. Attention, like water, as enabler. Attention allows us to create our cities and charge rent on the whole thing. 

It so happens that some of the nicest cities to spend time in are created out of the public good (Craigslist and Wikipedia), while others are twisted up corporatocracies (examples left as an exercise for the reader). 

Panoramas are the next level in photographic representation

I can't believe I'd never seen this before. My housemate Alok showed this to me yesterday. is probably one of the world's foremost websites for super high quality panorama photos. 

For instance, the only high quality known panorama of what it's like at the Summit of Mount Everest:

Definitely click through to see the full panorama, it is breathtaking. Apparently this was taken with 3 exposures stitched together. Over a hundred people have died trying to climb this mountain just to see this sight.  


A few other amazing ones -- ever seen a sunrise on a snowy beach in Denmark? This one is especially remarkable because you can't observe the observer. 

Or how about a panorama of what Neil Armstrong saw on the surface of the moon? Along with nice audio of exactly what went over the radios during that famed Apollo 11 flight.

Whether it is the zen nature of an observerless observer or the sheer visual splendor of places you may never go... I for one am a fan of panoramas. If deepening our appreciation for life and art can be brought by a dedication to truer representations of experience, then panoramas are just one of many artistic mediums to achieve that. 

Sagan Series: "Are we to venture out into space?"

So beautiful. The Sagan Series is a tribute project by Reid Gower

We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth, and the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little terraqueous globe as the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds. We, who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; are we to venture out into space?

By the time we are ready to settle even the nearest other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us; necessity will have changed us. We are... an adaptable species. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars. It will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses; more confident, farseeing, capable and prudent. 

For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness. What new wonders undreamt of in our time, will we have wrought in another generation, and another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered, by the end of the next century, and the next millennium? 

Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system, and beyond, will be unified, by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the universe, come from Earth. They will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross, before we found our way.

Transcript by Eddie Choo

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It brings a tear to my eye.