Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for the ‘time’ Category

What are your get the New Year started rituals, habits or practices?

Posted by shannonclark on January 2, 2013

Philly Street

Do you do anything every first business day back from the new year break?

Do you try to get down to inbox zero for the new year?

Do you try to clear out RSS feeds, evaluate podcast subscriptions?

Try something new to start the year?

For me here are my goals and new habits for the new year.

  1. Clear my inbox, currently hovering just under 2000 emails – going to try to get that down to <100 by the end of the week
  2. Zero out my RSS feeds for the new year and likely unsubscribe from dozens (hundreds?) of feeds I rarely read last year – giving myself space for new subscriptions
  3. Try to write a blog post (or more than one) and schedule others to get myself into the habit of at least one blog post a week for 2013 (so check back with me in 2014 to see if I make that – goal is at least 52 blog posts to or
  4. Visit at least one new cafe or restaurant a week for 2013. Today I’m at The Wooly Pig on Hugo St in SF – a new cafe and a whole new street to me (haven’t been here before) Great food, good coffee, free wifi (in a tiny space) = a definite winner to start the new year. 
  5. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Every year I meet 100’s of people, some years 1000’s, and while I always form new friendships each year I’m not always great about staying in touch with old friends. Not just via once a year birthday greetings here on Facebook but by actively engaging with my friends – catching up on the phone, meeting up in person. In 2013 I’m going to try to reconnect with at least one old friend each week – and meet at least one new person each week (whether they become friends isn’t the primary goal)

Posted in digital bedouin, personal, time, working | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Defining yourself through your priorities

Posted by shannonclark on May 27, 2009

This is a post mostly for myself, a reminder of what my priorities are, a checklist of sorts for myself in the future when I have the resources to follow up on these priorities.

In a strange way this is also a bit of a personals ad – a woman for whom these priorities resonate noting both what is and what is not on my list would, if she is single and at least relatively close to me in age, be a woman I would like to meet. (A man for whom these resonate might be a good friend – but my interests lie in the opposite sex).

In particular a few key priorities for many Americans which are decidedly not on my list.

1. Anything religious. I’m an Atheist, my budgets and priorities have no money at all for religion. Plenty of other worthy causes and organizations whom I would strongly prefer to support, groups whose goals are more closely in alignment with my own.

2. Beyond a very small amount of wine, mostly for dinner parties, no alcohol or for that matter other drugs (legal or otherwise – medically needed ones the exception). I don’t drink much – which has probably over the past decades saved me a great deal of money. Nor do I smoke or consume any other drugs.

But enough of the nots, what are my priorities. This may be a bit random – I’ll seek to  impose some order on this list and it is not in any particular order, but I am trying to be comprehensive. In general I’m looking at my life on a per year basis – what would I spend money on if I had it to spend. Not just for the act of spending it but because what I spent it upon held meaning and importance to me.

My priorities, in no particular order:

Shelter Currently my one real indulgence, I have a large apartment in SF capable of both hosting many friends (large downstairs space w/couches/airmattresses for up to 7 friends). With more resources I would also like a second place in NYC (or London) and perhaps a third place somewhere quiet & remote but w/great Internet connectivity, likely in a large forest somewhere.

Furniture – I have expensive tastes – prefering timeless, very high quality furniture. If I had the money I’d like to indulge myself and actually, for the first time in fact in my life, live in a place fully furnished – and not with furniture found on the street. So this is a one time purchase, but then as I add other places to live I’d expect to also furnish them well and occasionaly to replace items I own (this would be the height of luxury for me – my parents still have, ugly, furniture from my mom’s college days – stuff they have moved across the country and back)

Clothes – at the moment I buy new clothes of any type rarely, mostly just once every few years and then rarely spend all that much. That said, like with furniture my tastes in clothing run expensive. With enough resources my goal would be to get over my hangups here, to finally only have clothes that fit well and are comfortable (and yes this means very few of my current staple – free logo t-shirts from trade shows). I doubt I’d ever be replacing my wardrobe on a seasonal basis, but I would like to have a wider range of options and to have more stuff that makes me feel great when I wear them.

Glasses – I currently have only one pair of glasses, purchased many years ago. Instead I’d prefer to have a couple of really nice pairs, plus at least one or two pairs of prescription sunglasses. I don’t wear jewlery but do wear glasses, so would probably splurge a bit here, albiet with my tastes running to stylish but without logos. Ideally I would have a spare pair of glasses in every place I live, as well as sunglassses and spares to travel with.

Health Care – from expensive dentistry which I am slowly working on but with more resources would do at a faster clip, to having full comprehensive health insurance this is a necessity I have been avoiding for far too long.

Transportation – Since 2004 I have not owned a car, rarely even renting one. But living in CA this is a position which is increasingly hard to sustain. At a minimum I want to just budget a reasonably large amount each month for renting cars (or using ZipCar) and get back in the habit of driving. But ideally I probably want to get a car, something exceptionally reliable (I don’t want to get to know a mechanic on first name basis), automatic (I refuse to invest the mental energy in learning how to drive a manual – or in the attention it requires). Almost certainly this means a non-American car (I’ve never owned one and have hated driving every single American car I’ve ever even briefly driven). But I haven’t shopped for a car seriously in years – walking around I’ve be interested by some of the newer Volvo’s, have in the past mostly owned Acuras (2 plus one high end Honda), and like some of the Infiniti’s and Mercedes Benzs which I see around SF (generally the smaller, sportier ones, often hatchbacks). My ideal car gets very good gas milage, is inexpensive to operate (less concerned about the initial cost – this is assuming I have the money to just buy it outright), isn’t overly costly to insure (I have no sense at all what insurance will cost me in CA). Probably it will seat four adults in a pinch – with the ability to store a bunch of stuff in the trunk – though ideally without it being visible (a drawback of many hatchbacks) as I would likely be parking on the street fairly often.

For me as well visibility while driving is a really, really, really big deal. I hate a lot of modern cars, such as the Prius, because I find they have really obnoxious blind spots, at least for me, plus physically I find myself in pain when I have driven them in the past (something about the seat and layout really, really does not agree with my body. I also seriously do not like the other trend I’ve seen in many otherwise interesting cars of moving the dials to the center of the dashboard instead of in front of the driver – really don’t like that all and find it beyond distracting – and also physically uncomfortable (Scion’s fail for me here, as does alas the Mini, wasn’t a big fan of the Honda Element the few times I’ve driven one either)

I also want to be able to just buy a nice bike. I’ve been intimidated by the cost – mentally I still think bikes should be 100’s of dollars, not the 1000+ they can easily be these days. I’m also not entirely sure how to handle riding a bike in San Francisco on the hills of the city (since I live on one, impossible to avoid) and I’ve never figured out the whole bike helmet thing – how to handle having one with me when I’m using my bike. I think this is in part a generational thing, I grew up before helmet laws so never really rode a bike with one all that much. It is also a factor of not having an office to ride my bike to/store it at. Instead I would expect to be riding to cafes, dealing with the scary prospect of locking up an expensive bike on the streets of San Francisco, and then repeating for as many stops as I had in one day.

So even with lots of money, not sure when/if I would get a bike, the stress of owning one here in San Francisco might be too much for me.

I would also, will get to this in more detail below, want to travel a lot. Between the East & West Coasts at a minimum, but probably also traveling globally far more often than I do now. For a few weeks a year at a minimum, but ideally more than that. Some of the time for conferences and events (again more below) but I would also want to travel just to travel, go to places I haven’t yet seen, or to places I have been once but really want to return to (India comes immediately to mind). I might even want to live abroad for months (or years) at a time.

The later depending on personal relatioships and work of course.

Events – At the moment I mostly attend conferences here in San Francisco, when I can get a press pass or know the organizers and can get in for free or at a discount (often helping with the event). However there is a long list of events I would want to attend if I had the funds and resources (which include the time and business purposes for some)

  • SXSW – full, platinum pass. Yes, 10+ days, film, tech and music, but this is very high on my list of must do soon as each year my experience there just gets better and better. Next year (2010) I’ll be working the conference for one client (at least, perhaps two or three) so this will probably be very doable. But with the resources I want to just stay at a great hotel, right downtown, fly on flights that don’t make too many stops, and otherwise not scrimp on my conference experience.
  • TED – Yes, this is expensive (really expensive). I might not be able to get into the main conference, but while I love BIL, I do want to go to TED and be part of the whole experience. I might start by going to TED Global or the like but sometime soon, in the next few years I hope, I plan on saving up to “do” TED. (best case I get invited as a speaker first)
  • PopTech – I have been to PopTech twice, haven’t been back in too many years, but I miss it. I want to have the money (and the time) to attend again.
  • Picnic, Le Web, LIFT or another tech conference or two NOT in the US – I have never been, but friends help organize these events, speak at them regularly, and report back about how great they can be. There are smaller events happening in Europe as well which appeal to me, the point being I want to get myself out of the US more often – and I want to experience non-US perspectives on a more regular basis.
  • A full Film festival – not just a few films at SXSW, but I want to give myself the luxury of attending a film festival and just seeing dozens of films in a short period of time. I’m not sure which festival I want to attend, there are many great ones (The Toronto Film Festival would be one that has a lot of appeal)
  • A Renaissance Weekend – I’ve been a few times, but like PopTech! haven’t been back in too many years. A great event, really interesting people, and people whom I haven’t seen in far too long. If I had the money I would both want to attend some of the smaller events held in Santa Barbara or Monterey as well as the New Years Eve far larger event.
  • San Diego Comiccon – I’m tempted to try to attend this year in fact, but sometime soon I want to make it to this mecca of all comic book conventions.
  • WorldCon (and one or two other “big” Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions) – I’m a huge science fiction fan of all genres though most especially literature. I don’t go for the costuming or for the purest geeking out, but rather relish the chance to get to know writers and editors (and other creators) whom I respect. So my preference tends to be for the smaller, more focused conventions such as World Fantasy Convention over larger, more media focused events. But ideally I would like to be able to attend more conventions without scrimping when I do so – so just going ahead and having a nice hotel room adjacent to the convention center etc.
  • A Doctor Who convention – perhaps one here in the US, even better one in the UK (or heck both a US and a UK conference). I’m a huge Dr. Who fan yet I haven’t been to a Dr. Who convention in decades.
  • One or two new events each year. Stuff I haven’t previously been to – perhaps a great music festival such as Cochella, a convention for an academic field I’m interested in, something like the New Yorker Festival in NYC or a conference focused on Social Good. There are many, but my hope is to have both the money and the time to attend conferences a bit outside of my comfort zone – where I’m there to absorb the experience. Hopefully with a “native” guide to the experience. In some cases I might go as a speaker or participant (which is always a good way to attend) for others I might go with or for a client. But my goal is to get to more new events and experiences.
  • Still a bunch of important tech conferences – AdTech SF & NYC, Web 2.0 Expo (at least SF, perhaps NYC, possibly the Summit), TechCrunch 50, MacWorld. If possible I’d like to get a few more – stuff like the D Conference happening this week or Internet Week in NYC happening next week.

Food – this is a big deal for me. I take food seriously. Starting by mostly eating as a locavore. Most of the food in my home I buy from local merchants, primarily at local Farmer’s Markets or my local butchers. With a bit more resources I would keep my kitchen more fully stocked with the foods I enjoy (fresh seasonal fruits etc). I would also eat out more often and at a higher end of restaurant than I usually get to at the moment. I’d love to eat at places with chef’s tastings more often, to get to the many specical meals and dining events that occur on a regular basis. Here in San Francisco as well as in NYC and as I travel. For me serious food is one of my main pleasusres in life and an artform I really appreciate – both in the creation of it myself (I’m a very good chef) as well as in appreciating the skill of serious chefs.

I also do love great foods of all types – I’ve happily traveled great distances to try little hole in the wall places, restaurants far off the beaten track.

I would enjoy going to more food related events, a Slow Food Convivia for example and I could well imagine planning an entire trip around getting a reservation somewhere (el Buli for example would be among the places I would love to dine, though by no means the only such place).

I have mastered the somewhat dubious art of ordering so as to get great food but not spend a ton of money, often by being highly selective in what I order, by passing up on many elements of a meal. I’d really like to be able to put this aside, even if only a few times a month, and just embrace what the restaurant does well and really experience it (not the alcohol perhaps but everything else). Ordering the Omakase at a Japanese restaurant instead of just the chirashi etc.

But in many ways my tastes don’t run to the extravegant, I’d rather an amazing local grapefruit in season than a the most expensive cavier. That said, when I entertain I have also now mastered the art of stretching my budget via careful choices, ideally I’d like to be able to support local farms a bit more, to buy the prime grade meat over the choice etc.

Living in San Francisco one of my small but very pleasant pleasures is being able to get great, serious coffee from now almost literally dozens of choices throughout the city. I’m also a big fan of tea, however in recent years I haven’t been as focused on teas as I have been on great coffee. With more money I would want to have great means of making coffee at home (currently I have no reliable means at all) and instead of random tins of now fairly old teas I would like to stock fresh, great teas.

Kitchen – while I love my current apartment in many ways, the kitchen is not one of them. In an ideal world in a year or two I will find a place which has nearly as much space as my present space but which has a truly fantastic kitchen. For me this would be:

  • Modern gas stove, ideally six burners – Currently I have gas, but it is an old and somewhat unreliable and in any case cheap stove. I would much prefer to have more burners which get hotter than my current stove and which I could control more finely.
  • Double ovens – I am a serious cook, often as I cook for dinner parties I literally run out of space in my oven. I’ve love to have two ovens so I could bake in one, broil in the other.
  • Serious dishwasher – currently I don’t have a dishwasher at all, for the previous decade when I lived in Chicago I had a dishwasher, but more often than not it didn’t work very well.
  • Double Sink – Currently I have one, deep but relatively small sink. I’d really like to have a double sink, ideally with a garbage disposal.
  • Plentiful and easy to maintain countertops – I would like to have more plentiful space to spread out and cook, to have room to entertain while I cook, space to cook with someone else at the same time without tripping over each other. This means great countertops, it also means a logical layout and flow for the kitchen as well as plentiful storage.
  • Upgraded pots and pans – I have mostly great pots and pans, but don’t have a lot of them and a few of what I have could stand being upgraded to higher quality versions. I am also lacking certain key and useful dishes, such as a serious cast iron post (Le Creuset probably) which I could bake in and do much more in. A great wok is another (I have one but it isn’t very good and I lack a place to store it).
  • High end, serious kitchen gadgets – at the moment I have basically no kitchen gadgets at all, no mixer, no food processor, not even a simple blender or hand powered mixer. I don’t need lots of gadgets but I would like a few of the more basic ones so I could expand the range of what I can make – a mixer for more serious baking for example.
  • Duplicates of the basics – I have three spatulas at the moment, one set of tongs, only a few (albiet very high quality) knives. No wooden spoons etc. Mostly this is a combination of trying to only have high quality products in my kitchen and of simply not having much space, with more resources and I hope more space, I would fix this and finally have enough of the basics so I can do even more serious cooking.
  • A few special treats – I use a great local Balsamic but I don’t have any really aged balsamic, likewise there are many other products I would love to use but don’t stock in my kitchen for a lack of funds. Ideally I’d like to have a range of local olive oils, restock my spices on at least a yearly basis and keep the staples I stock at high levels of quality.

Books – I have a book habit, even today I buy around 100 or more books every year, in some years many more than 100. I read a lot but my list of books to read keeps growing, hurt by my habit of buying more books than I read most weeks. With more resources, however, I would want to do a few specific things with my book buying habit and collections.

  • Just buy the hardcover editions of my friend’s books. Since I have 100’s of friends who are authors (seriously not exagerating) I currently pick and choose whose books I buy and not infrequently in some cases I wait for the paperback editions. Ideally I would prefer to buy most of my friend’s books and to suppor them by buying them in hardcover and ideally via pre-orders or online purchases around the time of release so they see the best spike in purchases possible.
  • Be more serious about a few of the my collections. Earlier today, for example, I chose not to buy a copy of Asimov on Shakespeare, though it is among the many books I have always wanted to own a ocpy of. With more resources I would just buy such discoveries without as much worry, building up I would hope a more complete collection of Asimov’s works, as well as many other books and authors I wished I had more works by.
  • Buy most of the Doctor Who books, both as they are printed and filling out my collection going backwards. I have not bought most of the recent books though I am huge Dr. Who fan and would really like to support the show and the creators and authors.  This includes buying the back catolog of Big Finish Audio Adventures and subscribing to the new editions as they come out.
  • Buy a few graphic novels and comics on a more regular basis. Probably sitll would mostly focus on trade paperback editions but there are many great artists and creators working whose work I would like to support more strongly. Starting with finally finishing my collection of Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman which is a series I should have read decades ago. But I would like to be getting great series such as Fables on a regular basis as well. Oh and the new Dr. Who series of course…

Magazines (and perhaps newspapers) – currently I subscribe to The New Yorker which I have subscribed to for nearly two decades. I would like to support a number of other great publications:

  • Monocle
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • N+1
  • Asimovs
  • Analog
  • Business Week
  • Granta
  • Paste
  • and ideally a handful of other great publications, perhaps a gaming magazine or two, other great literary publications, possibly again subscribe to the New York Review of Books

On the topic of newspapers, at the moment I don’t see a great local paper anywhere in the Bay Area. I think the Wall Street Journal has declined considerably. I could perhaps see subscribing to a newspaper again in the future though I’m uncertain which or in what manner. The New York Times I might subscribe to while I am in NYC.

Technology – For the past few decades I have put off upgrading my computers for about a year or two too long, Enduring machines at the end of their life and often running an older OS for far too long. I have also frequently compromised and haven’t had resources which would have, in fact, helped me be more productive.

  • Get a second monitor for my desktop setup. A 24″, full HD resolution screen, probably from Apple. This is one of those things I should have done a long time ago as it would add greatly to my productivity.
  • Always have a current, updated, modern laptop. Here I face an issue, there are serious issues I have with Mac laptops (weight, lack of a trackpoint, reliance on a trackpad) My ThinkPad is still fairly powerful at the moment but that will be changing rapidly in the next year or so. I should really have a second laptop and should invest in upgrading my current laptop (larger hard drive, probably installing Mac OS & Ubuntu).
  • Have a real gaming PC. I have never had a gaming PC in nearly two decades of owning computers. Given my interest in gaming this is silly. I should have a high spec, high quality, quiet, fast and upgradable gaming rig with great monitors and a suite of modern games (or a gamefly subscription so I can try many games, as well as a Steam account)
  • Breakdown and get a real, modern, HD TV. In fact get one for my bedroom (for the first time, seriously, in my entire lifetime) as well as getting either a very large screen or a very high resolution projector system for my downstairs. Get real speakers to go with these systems (also for the first time in my life)
  • Get the modern suite of accessories for a TV – TIVO, HD source(s), BlueRay player (or a PS3), an Apple TV (or Miro box etc), an Xbox360, probably a Wii. All stuff I’ve never owned – ever.
  • Get serious headphones instead of making do with cheap ones I got for free at a trade show somewhere. Both for my iphone and for my ipod and some great over the ear ones for around the house.
  • Get a bluetooth headset, probably a Jawbone for when I am driving (and more generally for walking around the city making calls)
  • Get an HD capable, small video camera. Perhaps a Flip or the like but I should be shooting video on a more regular basis
  • Get a digital audio recorder capable of serious podcast creation. This might include serious microphones and a small mixer.
  • Get a Skype capable headset for my laptop and desktop computers. I rarely use Skype though I really should be using it more often.
  • Upgrade my iPhone to the new version when, as seems most likely, it comes out in a few months.
  • Invest in a network backup solution for my computers and automate this process so all of my systems are backed up on a regular and automated basis
  • Get a modern, networked, duplex capable, color laser printer.
  • Get a fast scanner and start to migrate to a fully paperless (and backed up) lifestyle.
  • Get a serious digital camera – both an upgrade to my small pocket friendly Lumix and ideally also larger more serious camera with lenses. Also get some great lenses.
  • Invest in serious software – Adobe Acrobat for example, but also video editing software, current editions of Office products etc. Also useful utilities and productivity software (and also make use of the tools I buy). But stop avoiding buying software and then only making do with partial solutions to problems I have (free themes for my wordpress blogs vs. more serious but non-free themes etc)
  • Invest in online services that add value to my life – take full advantage of Plaxo, pay for a serious online backup service, consolidate all of my domains into one registrar and register other relevant domains on a more regular basis etc. This last one might actually make me more money than it costs me.
  • Get more iPod docks and/or make my music more networked so I can stream it to what I hope are serious speakers (I haven’t ever owned real speakers or even one good sound system)

Personal Services – at the moment though I go to a serious hair salon, I do so on a very infrequent basis, generally weeks after it would have been sensible. I should go on a far more regular schedule, never letting my hair get completely out of countrol. Additionally I should invest in personal health and wellness services – pay for a real serious massage on a regular basis (as I write this I can feel the knots all across my back). I have also always avoided gyms though I shouldn’t – I should invest in the clothes to work out (at the moment I don’t even have gym shoes or any clothes suitable for a gym), in a membership (or two) and in a personal trainer to motivate me and to ensure that I don’t hurt myself while focusing on being healthier.

Music – In the past few years I have bought more music than I have in years past, mostly digitally and primarily through great services such as Amie St. I would like to buy more music which I enjoy – completing my incomplete collection as well as supporting newer groups and artists I’ve discovered in the past few years. Ideally I would like to also attend live shows on a far more regular basis probably a few times each month as well as select larger festivals. I have clients in the music industry so some of this is even work related.

Entertainment – I’ve alluded to some of this in the above sections but I would like to on a more regular basis support many creators I really appreciate – buying the Dr. Who dvds but also DVDs (or more probably BlueRays – or better yet HD downloads) of TV shows and movies I love. I would also like to have and use memberships at local institutions (in SF and perhaps in NYC or other cities – art museums etc) and get to them on a far more regular basis. Also get out to the Opera and to live theatre.

Charities – At the moment other than a few small donations and volunteer help with some events, I have not been able to support charities to the degree I would prefer. If I had the resources my selection of charities to support is a bit eclectic:

  • Creative Commons
  • EFF
  • Clarion – science fiction workshops
  • The Carl Brandon Society
  • Wiscon/Tiptree – Feminish Science Fiction
  • one or more charities focused on literacy
  • effective charities (or for profit but mission driven businesses) focused on addressing homelessness
  • Architects for Humanity – one of my favorite groups
  • – amazing resource
  • other focused, highly efficient art (especially of the printed word) groups and organizations

I’m sure I’m missing many worthy groups, but these are a few that reflect my priorities – literacy, support for effective global change and creative technology thinking about worldchanging issues, highly focused local efforts to address seemingly intractable problems such as homelessness, and small but effective groups such as the Carl Brandon Society and Clarion which support Science Fiction writing, especially from diverse voices.

If I had the resources I would probably also, anonymously, support a number of other efforts and projects – often offering capital support (assuming I had the funds) to help groups become more effective and ideally in many cases more self sufficent (and not entirely reliant on only donations or only on market returns that would often be counter to the group’s mission). I would also not draw a firm line between non-profit and for-profit groups, offering support without much concern whether I could specifically get a tax deduction.

My own projects – this is a touchy subject, some of these might be how I fund all of the above, others will probably never be funding sources and may always be a money sink. I have to balance out my time and attention as well so a few of these ideas and projects may have to be delayed or my active involvement minimized.

  • MeshForumI organized a MeshForum in 2005 and 2006, but haven’t held one in a few years. I would like to hold another multiday conference on the study of Networks as well as more MeshWalks which are conferences held mostly outdoors and in motion.
  • tbnl – later this year I would like to publish what I hope will become a quarterly publication focused on great, timeless stories. A mix of fiction & non-fiction but all with an emphasis on great storytelling. A celebration of spending time with content the print editions would be very well made and the focus would be on long form (though not novella length) pieces with only relevant and value enhancing illustrations or photographs.

So there you are 5000+ words on my priorities at the moment. This is a long post, I don’t expect most people to read it in full, it ia highly personal post as well, perhaps I should have just written it and kept it only as a draft. I’m certain I have missed something important – of course I would have other things I spend money on (gifts for friends and family for example) but these some of my most important priorities.

Posted in personal, time, working | 2 Comments »

Tasks for a new startup – and Startup Weekend SF

Posted by shannonclark on April 5, 2009

Saturday was a busy day. Spent at Startup Weekend SF.

Today will be an even crazier day as in less than 24 hours I will be taking 4 pages of notes sketching out a whole application and putting together a mess of parts and web services into what will be a compelling and useful service for many people. After I post this, my evening (well early morning) will be reading API and data format specifications and working out how to build out our first functional pieces.

However just having a great working application is not all of the tasks that a modern, web 2.0, 2009 edition company needs to do to be successful. Here for my own use (and my teams) as well as I hope for many other entrepreneurs is a checklist of tasks we also will have to try to do this weekend. Please add anything I have missed in the comments below!

[and before you mention it – legal structure & incorporation, partnership agreements etc are indeed important and if as we hope it does Radioki takes off we will complete them, we are building this in the context of pre-existing friendships as well as the Startupweekend open & collaborative ethos]

  • Register your new brand domain. We did this Saturday afternoon. Nothing at yet, but that will change rapidly.
  • Sign up for Twitter for your new brand. I’ve set up @radioki follow us to get updates on our progress, access first and we hope a few other surprises.
  • Set up an internal tool for documentation and collaboration. We chose the very simple and easy to sign up for and use PB Wiki as a repository for our team notes, drafts, pseudo code, internally important data etc.
  • Establish a simple version control system. Even if you have just one developer, work with a version control system everywhere you can (which is pretty much most things). A wiki for internal team documentation gives you version controls & who made what change data tracking inherently (assuming you as I would suggest use a private tool for that collaboration)
  • Register for all of the relevant API keys your applications will require. These days this can be a very long list. In our case we have at least three major API’s which we will use, multiple web services, Javascript frameworks, web hosts, domain registrar and much more which we need to sign up for and use.
  • Establish early on (as in before we launch) customer support & feedback channels. Almost certainly in our case this means that we will create and set up a GetSatisfaction for Radioki (using the free version first until we have a business model to support more) – note, when we complete the next task, we have to go back to sites such as Twitter and GetSatisfaction and upload our logo there as well.
  • Design a logo and pick a basic design pattern. Be comfortable with this being basic and expect it to change, but to launch quickly create a simple (even text only) logo to use at your avatar image across the web, to use on your home page, and along with it a basic color palette and design style for your overall web presence. Expect to change this but spending a few minutes early on in the process helps you create a clean, consistent look across web services and sites.
  • Set up corporate email addresses. Even if all you do is have them auto-forward to your regular email, yourname@newcompany is useful and is used as proof of employee status by some sites such as GetSatisfaction.
  • Join the appropriate networks as the new corporation. In the case of Radioki this means Facebook but because we have a strong Music component also means active engagement with (and especially MySpace Music).
  • Update the personal sites and network profiles of all founders. When you launch your personal site and blogs should note this and the profiles of all of the founders (and early employees if you have any) should be updated to reflect involvement with the new company. This is a signal for people who follow you on each network or who read your blogs that you are working on something new.
  • Link back to and thank publically as well as privately all the services your new company uses and works with. Besides being just common politeness everyone who builds any service wants to see it used and welcome thanks and updates about how their solutions are being deployed. Also many API providers offer directories of applications using each API. Building relationships with each company your solution relies upon and works with can also lead to lots of helpful advice, guidance, updates about new features and opportunities for promotion.
  • Remember to add contact information and background to your new company site. Yes, focus on getting the service built and launched, but also remember to include who you are who are building the company as well as how to reach you and who to reach out to for any media who might want to contact you. Photos of the core founding team are great as are short bios. All serve to humanize what can often be a dehumanizing process (web applications for example). And yes, real names and a corporate mailing address do combine to give lawyers someplace to send stuff – but it also gives journalists, bloggers, investors and future business partners someone to talk with as well.
  • Build logging and analytics into your site and application from the beginning. Deploy Google Analytics or another similar product on your new domain from before you share the URL with anyone (hmm we’ve broken this one so have to fix this quickly) For your main application make sure that user actions are logged so you build up a history of interactions. In our case this means ensuring that every search query entered is captured. Ideally you also log what output (or if something failed what error messages) resulted from that interaction.
  • Reach out to your friends. A new project whether big or small is perhaps the best excuse to catch up with your friends old and new. In fact I love it nearly every time a friend sends me an update about new projects or companies. Often these updates are the first time I’ve heard from someone.
  • But don’t forget to also reach out to the media. Start with the media who are also your friends. If you friends also covers your space then reach out to them on a personal level. Don’t send your friends mass, blast emails if you can avoid it – if not, then follow up (or send in advance as well) a personalized note. Do not rely on your friends having your contact details handy – include a direct phone (cell phones are great) as well as your personal email address.

And those are just the relatively simple, basic stuff. When a new company is launched a whole additional set of tasks get added nearly immediately. A few things to think about relatively soon.

  • Corporate banking relationship. This will require legal incorporation in some form (or will require initially to work off a founder’s personal accounts – opening up reams of tax/legal complications. However such a relationship is a key part of being a real business – it gives you a way to sell to people via giving you a means of depositing checks.
  • Corporate legal relationship. Establishing a legal relationship, even if a relatively simple and low cost relationship is another part of being prepared to be a real business. A lawyer may early on be called upon to help with incorporation, reviewing various agreements and you hope reviewing customer contracts or investment documents (or best case both).
  • Building out the non-functional parts of your new site. What I mean here is collecting excerpts of blog posts and news articles & embedding audio or video coverage. This also includes keeping a new corporate blog up-to-date and continued use of the corporate Twitter account etc.
  • An ongoing PR relationship. Of course with a firm who knows your business area, with whom you can work closely and who gets your product as well as process. Great PR firms add incrediable value.
  • Telling a clear, updated and ongoing story. If you (or co-founders or early employees) are not great storytellers or public speakers then likely your PR firm (and perhaps other advisers) will need to help with this but especially early on it is vital to have a clear story about the company and your new, emergent brand. This story should be short and clear (oh and compelling)
  • Have a business model (or two or three or four). You do not have to implement the business model immediately, nor do you need to share it with anyone (though your co-founders should also know). But having a business model in mind can be exceptionally helpful as you evaluate what to use/not use, what to build/not build, what to track/not track

And yes, this list is long and incomplete.

I skipped over raising money, I skipped over legal incorporation (rarely a good reason not to just incorporate as a Delaware C corporation). i skipped entirely over office space. Until an income is generated a large number of boring but important tasks are delayed (salaries and benefits for example).

For now, sleep then back to work.

Posted in economics, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, meshforum, meshwalk, mobile, time, web2.0 | 7 Comments »

a business idea – radio schedules 2.0

Posted by shannonclark on December 1, 2008

I’m old enough, just barely, to recall a time when local radio schedules were printed in the local newspaper. As a kid I used this to track down “old time” radio shows and Dr. Demento. Today almost no schedules here in the US are available in any form, individual stations may publish them somewhere on their website, and a few specific shows publish a schedule of when their show may be syndicated, but there is nothing (at least that I have found – if there is please leave a comment) as good as the extremely well done The Radio Times in the UK.

So a thought for a modern 21st century twist on a very old idea – simple, location & timezone aware radio schedules – probably driven via a community powered wiki like tool (with options for “official” schedules from any station interested). Schedules which would be published in many formats – with full, open API’s to access them (as well as iCal subscription links and probably RSS feeds including search driven feeds).

I’m thinking a website and likely iPhone app (probably for other devices as well). And it should be platform neutral so have options to also display Internet radio stations, streams, satellite radio and also podcast links for shows which have them (many commercial as well as non-commercial shows do).

And ideally there could be many interfaces to this data – time & day & location being just one.

Not neglecting very basic data would be key here – call letters but also the actual dial location (or locations) & URL’s etc. Best case also some estimate of reception for a given geo location – though this is wildly hard.

And don’t neglect AM and non-English stations (heck don’t limit this to US stations).

I suspect I am far from the only person who has moved to a new city and now has no dial sense – ie I don’t know where to find radio stations which I might be interested in or specific shows on those stations.

Anyway a thought for a service which I’d love to see – and a reminder that factual data isn’t copyrightable (so while show descriptions might be the fact that a show starts at a given time on a specific station is not) plus I suspect anything which helps rebuild audiances/build them will be welcome.

Consider this idea cc-atribution licensed. Feel free to turn it into a commercial project – though if you do I’d love to be involved and even if not, would appreciate some attribution. 

Done well I think such a schedule could seriously help terrestrial, online, and satelitte radio. It could also include other “scheduled” audio (and perhaps video) content – so might also include the expected release schedules for podcasts, video series, online shows and more. 

A bit of my background, for many years I worked on and build calendaring systems and served on the IETF iCalendar working group, including a brief stint as an editor of the RFC for iCalendar. I’ve been thinking about calendaring issues for many, many years. I’ve also been a lifelong radio and audio entertainment fan. I even did audio sound effects for a college production of the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, iTunes, mobile, networks, podcasts, time, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

How the world has changed in my lifetime already

Posted by shannonclark on August 10, 2008

I was born during the last months of Richard Nixon’s administration, as a child I assumed that the world would end in my lifetime (at least humanity) probably due to an all out nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.

In high school I learned typing alternating between manual typewriters and computers (Apple II’s) and in a year long programming course actually learned Fortran including all the features leftover from the days of punchcards.

Telegrams had mostly gone away by my childhood but people still had a mix of rotary and the newer touchtone phones, long distance calls were expensive and a somewhat big deal, pagers were only for doctors (and drug dealers) and cell phones not even a term – it was “car phones” and those too were rare. Music still came on records or cassette tapes.

Before high school I remember the big deal that tape added to early personal computers (the ones before that had had nearly no way to save your work, you typed in your code each time). I learned programming theory via flowcharts on large format printouts from the courses my mom taught at the local community college. In high school the programming class was taught on a much upgraded PDP-11 which though we had terminals all throughout the school was not connected to any other network but did double at the high school library card catalog, stored on the then huge 400 MB large platters hard drives. I recall as well the transition from large floppies to small floppies to CD-ROMs. Buying a 100MB hard drive for our home was a huge investment.

Now I throw away anything smaller than 2GB when I get memory sticks free at conferences and I fully expect that my next laptop purchase may have close to 1TB of storage built-in.

As I grew up elected officials were primarily white, usually Protestant, men. To a degree that is still true here in the USA, but my home state of Illinois has elected to African American Senators in my lifetime (and I was honored to have been able to vote for both of them) and it is very like (and I certainly hope it will be the case) that Barack Obama will be elected the President of the United States later this year. And a growing number of women hold major elected offices around the country, even without the ERA ammendment (remember that?) women have made major gains during my lifetime. As the child of two generations of very successful and high achieving, college educated women I am very pleased that my generation and those after it will face a far more open world – indeed in my lifetime women have beome the majority of students in graduate school in many fields (and I think overall).

In high school I took history courses on Asia and on Russia, both were courses that had at times been relatively controversial in the school, the teacher told us stories of how he had obtained English language materials, materials which in some cases were explicitly propaganda materials from what were then seen as our enemies. As a child I recall both the scares of WWIII and of a great emphasis on WWII, I spoke with vetarens WWII and recall their stories.

While my family did not have a TV for most of my childhood I do recall when people still had, some at least, black and white TVs, when all television was over the air and cable only slowly grew popular. For a brief moment in my childhood newpapers still printed radio broadcast schedules and I grew up listening to radio dramas both broadcast over the air and on cassatte tapes which I collected. I also had a very strange clock radio (both now and even then) which would pick up the audio tracks only of TV broadcasts, so I grew up listening to Rocky & Bullwinkle as I woke up each morning, the many different characters bluring in my just waking up mind.

When I first started buying books for myself, sometime in elementary school, new paperbacks were still just a few dollars and many used bookstores would sell them for less than a dollar. Now a new mass market paperback (which as a child was pretty much all there was in paperback form) costs $7 at the low end and often far more.

And I’m probably of the last generation to remember buying gas for less than $1/gallon when I first got my license, though to be fair prices often hovered just above $1 for the most part.

Though we never visted him, my Uncle Jimmy lived in Berlin when it was still a divided city and we heard stories of his artist’s lifestyle there and I remember when the wall fell and the USSR started to breakdown and crumble, one of many major events as it would turn out in my lifetime already. As a child having grown up under the spector of the Vietnam War I somehow always assumed that the next war we would enter as a country would be the big one, WW III and would likely mean the end of everything. Instead in my lifetime we have been in three fairly major but also relatively limited in scope wars and a number of other conflicts and engagements (First Iraq War, Haiti, Panama, Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Second Iraq War not to mention ongoing skirmishes in Colombia and President Reagan’s Contra stuff and I’m probably missing some smaller skirmishes as well). We have been a busy and all to militeristic nation even as the world has changed radically in my lifetime.

India, China, and the Soviet Bloc were all quite isolated countries as I was a child, Now the USSR is no more (the current war between Russia and Georgia which is occurring as I write this not withstanding) and though China is still “Communist” it is the third largest economy in the world and India is not far behind it. And Europe which was somewhat neglected when I was a child is a booming and strong economy with a strengthening Euro and with massive changes resulting from greater mobility and open borders internally to the EU. South Africa which was the focus of great preassure throughout my childhood also abandoned Aparthied and opened up in a far more peaceful process than most people assumed would happen. As I write this only North Korea is almost entirely isolated from the world economy, Cuba and Iran are for the most part isolated from engaging with the USA by our laws but do participate to a lesser degree with the rest of the world (and Iran in particular plays a major economic role).

Dozens of countries have emerged (or more accurately in many cases) reemerged in my lifetime and have started to make their way in a more complex global economy than the simplistic picture which was depicted in school when I was a child – the “first world/third world” split is no longer so clear or so relevant. Though the US hasn’t entirely caught up with these changes when you engage with media from outside of the US the amazing change in the globe can start to be glimpsed.

In college I was among the first people to have a computer in my dormroom connected via an ethernet connection to the Internet – i.e. an always on connection. I was on the Internet when it was still a non-commercial space, a place mostly restricted to universities where not every student had an email address or a way to connect to the Internet. I was amazed one day when I was awoken by my computer beeping at me as a result of a chat request from a student in Singapore and from my dormroom I ran an online game with 1000’s of users from three continents. An early precurser to the types of games and online interactions now seen inside of Second Life.

I started online before graphical browsers, reaching my first “webpages” via Gopher and I resisted using Netscape in favor of the faster if non-graphical Lynx browser for many years. I remember using both Yahoo and Google when they were still university research projects. In short in my adult lifetime I have witness the many evolutions of the “web” from complex and obscure academic playground to the worldwide, mass institution it is today.

I found my early jobs and apartments (and much more) via using paper classified ads in the daily newspaper and in the weekly alternative press. Something which in the past 15 years has almost entirely disappeared in much of the US and which the rise of online sites such as Craigslist and countless specialty sites (for dating for job search, for home buying and more) not to mention Ebay have changed forever. Buying a computer used to involve buying the large, multiple inch thick Computer Shopper and comparing the best packages and deals, it was a complex and difficult process. Today it remains a vastly more complex and obscure process than it should be (perhaps Apple computer excepted) but now you do that process online not via searching a paper magazine.

Speaking of print as a child I turned in hand written assignments for quite a long time. It was only into high school that computer printed papers become relatively standard and were usually printed on computer paper which would then involve seperating each page. Then laser printers became affordable and fairly common so I printed a great deal. But more recently I am far from being alone in having managed to go back to a nearly paperless lifestyle – my printer stopped working two years ago and I have yet to replace it, with the rise of always on connectivity I just keep documents online instead of printing them out and my various computer screens are now so high resolution that I read most things on the screen directly.

In summary in my still fairly short lifetime the world has changed considerably. Much of what seemed fixed, seemed certain, from the cold war to “long distance calls are expensive” has gone almost entirely away. It is both exhilerating and a bit scary at times to think about how much more the world will change in the next 30+ years, how what seems certain today will be rendered silly or foolish in the future.

I am not a Futurist but I end with a few areas I think bear a lot of thinking about.

  1. How does the use of technology keep changing when all the technical bits become nearly free and nearly endless? i.e. already storage is so vast and cheap that it is rarely wise to scrimp, computational power is likewise vast and abbundant, and while bandwith remains a bit of a bottleneck it too is rapidly beoming faster and ever more readily (and all pervasively) availalble – I read that in Japan they are starting to  test wireless cell data services exponetially faster than even 3G,
  2. When the world is really all connected and living and working with each other it is vital that US shake off old stereotypes and very very broken assumptions. For example in the US it is still common to depict blond haired, blue eyed, overly buxom, fair skinned women as the physical ideal of beauty even as on a global scale by far the vast majority of the world have both a very different vision of beauty and a much wider range of physical features. The population of the planet has, I think, nearly doubled in my lifetime and the full impact of those numbers hasn’t really echoed here in the US yet. China is now over 4 times as populous as the United States and India is not far behind.
  3. Design will continue to be ever more vital and important. By this I mean that one of the amazing impacts I’ve witnessed already in my lifetime is the growing importance and pervasiveness of design in all aspects of life, as the production of physical goods becomes easier and also less constrained what differentiates goods and services is the design. As well as more of the world has a chance and opportunity to interact and to work for and with each other and as well to learn from and be influenced by each other the pace of innovation is accelerating with impacts seen even in some of man’s oldest and most basic of tasks and technologies (innovate means of moving water or of heating a cooking while burning simple and basic fuels for just two examples).

In short I have already lived in interesting times and I think we haven’t seen anything yet.

What has changed in your lifetime? What assumptions about the world did you grow up with which you might want to revist and rethink? I predict as you start to think about it you will find that it is more than you originally guessed, this list is by far not complete and I’m only in my mid-30’s.

Posted in digital bedouin, futureculture, geeks, internet, personal, time, web2.0, working | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The Passage of Time and productivity

Posted by shannonclark on May 13, 2008

I have been too busy the past few weeks to blog as frequently as I would like, but as I sit this afternoon in a new cafe I just discovered (my Yelp Review of Coffee Bar) I have noticed that my perception of how time is passing varies. The past few days have been highly productive, lots of things to do, calls to take, emails to send, meetings to schedule (and reschedule) all as follow ups from many weeks of conferences and evening networking events.

Today time seems to be passing slowly, though I am thinking deeply, reading, writing, and researching, all things and modes which frequently involve me blinking and seemingly discovering that the day has passed me by and I’ve missed lunch and may not have budged from my computer for hours. Instead today I have found that I look at the time and though I expect it to be approaching evening, it is still only mid-afternoon and have lots of time to finish my other tasks of the day.

This got me to thinking about how we perceive time – and how this perception of time impacts our productivity – especially as an entrepreneur.

Like many tech people I have the ability to focus deeply on a topic that interests me, focus to the extent that I can skip meals, stay up all night, and avoid/procrastinate other important tasks. By no means is this a uniformly positive trait. I don’t, however, have Asperger’s Syndrome, but I have been know since childhood to at times forget about all else while deeply involved in a particular activity.

But in the interest of Getting Things Done (and yes, I’ve read the books) I have in the past few years learned a few tricks which appear to finally be paying off, at times in big way. In the past few weeks, I’ve been finding my productivity has been increasing (and in turn that feeds back on itself).

Here are a few of the tips and tricks which seem to be working, which are helping me get into that productive flow state where not only do I get a lot of work done, I do so without wasting a lot of time in the process.

  1. Dress for success. This may seem trite, but I have noticed that those days where I just wake up, toss on a t-shirt and sit at home very casually in front of my computer, often without shaving, though I do get work done, I’m not usually all that productive. In contrast, today I am well dressed, in a very nice (and in this case also expensive) designer shirt, good jeans, great shoes, even a matching belt. It is a small thing perhaps, but knowing that I at least look put together and at least reasonable successful helps me be, in fact, organized and successful. The key here is not purely outward perceptions of how you dress, rather it is finding a style that makes you feel confident and successful and comfortable at the same time.
  2. Stay hydrated. Another seriously basic tip, but one that I have noticed has a very real and deep impact on when I am very productive and when I am not. At home it is all too easy for me to sit down in front of my computer and five or six hours later get up, having neither eaten or drunk anything during that time. In contrast when I am out and about and pay attention, make sure that I am drinking many glasses of water at regular intervals over the course of the day, I find I am far more productive.
  3. Vary your posture and pay attention to your surroundings. At home I can sit mostly still and move only very little as I focus intently on my computer screen. Today at this cafe (and before getting here) my environment and posture has changed frequently. Every few minutes I have looked up, looked around, refilled my water glass, moved to the other side of the table and more. In short by giving my self mini-breaks every hour, I am more aware of the passage of time, am physically far more comfortable, and by being aware of my surroundings (more on this below) I am also considering myself in them.
  4. Surround yourself with others who are getting things done. This doesn’t have to be co-workers or even people who are working on the same things you are, but being around many people who are having meetings, closing deals, studying intently, writing rapidly and in short working and accomplishing things rubs off. It helps me, at least, focus on keeping up with the others around me. They are being productive, so I feel pressure on myself to also be productive.  This is a good form of pressure, not too intensive but enough that it keeps me from drifting into too many LOLcats or floundering at what to do next.
  5. Have to-do lists that you refer back to on a regular basis. A key aspect of GTD, at least for me in my rather casual practice of it, is in the keeping of task lists. The knowing that I have a list (or more usually multiple lists) on which I have braindumped all of the many, competing tasks that I have to accomplish. By knowing that I have these lists (and further that I have the lists with me, very important if rather basic) I know I can always refer to them if I find myself stuck for what to do next.
  6. Cross off at least something from your to-do lists every day. The difference between a productive week and an unproductive week can be as simple as going for many days without crossing anything off your lists. For one, this suggests that your to-do items are too broad, require too much time and work to complete. Consider breaking down big tasks into the incremental steps that it takes to get them done – if before you can clean your house you have to replenish missing cleaning supplies, that shopping task should be on your list ahead of the cleaning task. Knowing that you have accomplished something, even as “small” a task as getting to the post office and buying stamps, starts you down a positive trend of getting tasks done. I have a list which I generated after an event last week on which I wrote down everyone from that event with whom I need to follow up, in the past couple of days I have crossed most of those names off that list – have followed up with them and have meetings with most later this week. That continual progress inspires me to finish those tasks, to follow up and track down everyone else on that list as well.
  7. Snack and eat healthily. Again, rather basic, but it is very true that you are what you eat. When I find myself stuck at home eating fast but not very good for me foods, often with lots of carbs (cereals, candy, etc) while I may get a short term boost of energy I find myself later that day crashing and seriously unproductive. In contrast, today I have eaten quite healthily with meals that have a good balance of carbs and proteins, with very little sugars and a good balance of foods. As a result going into the time I am usually crashing (3pm-5pm) I am being highly productive and alert.
  8. Get some physical exercise every day. This is advice I do not keep enough myself, but today, for example, I walked about 2 miles after lunch to get to the cafe where I am at the moment. On my way here I made a lot of phone calls, replied to emails via my iPhone, and caught up with many other emails and news, so it was not “wasted” time (I also listened to some great podcasts) but the seemingly simple act of getting even that light amount of physical activity was energizing. I really should do more and more intensive physical activity on a daily basis (a long swim, rock climbing or the like) but even just walking a few miles every day is very helpful.

As I noted, many of these tips are rather basic and all might be helpful for everyone. My perspective is that of an entrepreneur, working a job which does not require me to be in the same office every day, a job that I could (perhaps) equally do from home, from an office, or from cafes. My personal choice is to spend much of my time in cafes, I like the buzz of people around me also working and accomplishing great things. As my company grows I do anticipate having an office of our own and that I will spend more time in that office.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, geeks, personal, time, working | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Who we are is what we follow

Posted by shannonclark on March 26, 2008

Robert Scoble says the secret to Twitter success is who you follow.

And I agree with him (though I only follow a fairly carefully selected ~170 people on twitter at the moment, that is growing every week.

But this post is not about that meaning of “follow”, rather I have a theory that is a bit broader, related to a past post of mine about Time & Attention.

This afternoon as I left my apartment and picked up my mail on my way out the door, I had a new issue of the New Yorker magazine waiting for me, as I took it out to take with me I had the thought “now I’m three weeks behind on my New Yorker reading” in short in the unit of time “unread New Yorker magazines” my count went up one to three (or four if you count an issue I “only” haven’t yet read the fiction story. I have been a New Yorker subscriber since college, reading almost every issue cover to cover, skipping only the event listings and for the most part the poems. And yes, that’s a lot of words and a fairly significant amount of time I’ve invested into appreciating the magazine.

Which got me to thinking – there is a group of fellow subscribers and readers of the magazine with whom the unit of measure “how many weeks worth of the New Yorker you haven’t yet read” would be a common bond. A bond of a unit of measure which in turn, is a bond that reflects something important about us – namely one shared aspect of what we pay attention to, what we follow.

At the moment March Madness is in full swing here in the US, a few days ago my friends were buzzing about setting up their “brackets” today my friends at times are complaining about their partner’s obsessions with the games (or about the wins and losses of the teams they selected). In contrast, however, I have paid almost no attention at all to March Madness, I don’t know who is winning or losing, who made it in, who was favored, or what has been happening in the first series of games. Here is a place where I am not following what a large number of my friends are following – either directly or indirectly as a result of their partners (I use partners to be gender neutral here).

But I am deeply aware of the political calendar, in the past few months I’ve been paying active and close attention to each primary election, and likewise a fairly large portion of my circle of friends has been doing the same – some of us working directly for a campaign, some following actively via Huffington Post, some via DailyKos, some like myself via Andrew Sullivan and some by more mainstream news sources. All of us also using various social mediums – twitter, facebook, email, our own blogs and podcasts, to help raise awareness and share stories and bits of news or speculation which we find compelling. In short with the US presidential election there is a strong and common thing many of my friends and I are following. And yes, some of us at least are long time political junkies, we did much the same things the past few election cycles.

For many people in the US and more broadly in the “Western” world this past weekend was Easter and one set of my friends and family was paying attention to that, preparing for the Holy Week celebrations, buying hams for Easter Sunday dinner, painting eggs and hiding them for their children etc.

For another set of my family and friends last week was Purim, a Jewish holiday and occasion for fun and drinking and the baking of Hamentashen.

I’m not religious so I was caught a bit unaware this year by Easter and by Purim. Made aware of Easter in fact by the signs in my neighborhood butchers shop that they would be open on Easter Sunday. Shopping at a local Safeway (large supermarket chain) I also noticed that Safeway had set up as they do each year a section of kosher for Passover products and across the way had their Easter candies and products. So naturally I assumed that Passover was also soon to happen.

In a call last week to my business partner, who is also Jewish but more practicing than I am, he informed me however that Passover this year is not until April due to the once every seven years additional month which is added to the Jewish Calendar to keep the lunar calendar generally in sync with the seasons so major holidays don’t fall in the wrong seasons.

I suspect, however, that someone at Safeway had some fairly simple set of rules for the buyers – when you start putting out the Easter products also start stocking Kosher for Passover items.

Via Twitter, though also via my friends blogs, Facebook statuses, personal emails and other communications I am noting even more acutely what (and at times specifically who) they are following, what Holidays they are celebrating, what conferences they are preparing for, speaking at, planning, what albums they are waiting to be released, what performances musical or otherwise they are attending or at times what they have just bought tickets to in advance. In short I can see the many ways in which what we are paying attention to overlaps and as interestingly more and more I can see some of the multitude of ways in which it does not overlap.

And via tools such as Facebook,, and yes, Twitter, I can choose to start to follow, start to pay attention to some of the same things as my friends and I can signal out to them what I am following.

My shared stories on Google Reader, I suspect, paint a different picture of me than many people might assume. Via Google Reader for the past year I have, perhaps, mostly been signaling my political views – sharing a lot of stories from Andrew Sullivan, sprinkled with an occasional tech story. I do not, however, share everything that I am paying attention to, for instance, I don’t always share every story about advertising which I am reading and following – those instead I star for my own future reference, those I might share in a more manual fashion with my business partner or some trusted advisors.

At present I am a part of, following and paying attention to many different yet sometimes overlapping worlds. Professionally I am entering into the advertising world, so I am spending more and more time and attention following that world – and I need to find more and richer sources, subscribe to more print magazines and blogs, attend even more industry related events. I continue to be interested in the wider world of the Internet and “Web 2.0” and that too is a professional as well as personal interest, so I am aware of many of the upcoming conferences, read and subscribe to many related blogs, and frequently attend events. I’m also quite interested in the future of music and more broadly in the future of media and to that end I follow and participate in some industry discussions, attend events, read blogs, etc.

I’m also a science fiction fan of select TV shows, occasional movies but mostly of novels. So I’m also paying some attention to when various authors I like have books published, I attend a small set of science fiction conventions each year, and I am a fan of a few select TV shows (mostly Doctor Who and Torchwood). I am not, however, as tied into this world as many of my friends, friends who subscribe to monthly magazines (which in many cases they also publish and write for), friends who attend not the one or two conferences I attend but far more, friends who aren’t just fans of but are professionally engaged in the world of science fiction and fantasy.

And I could go on, I’m a foodie so I pay some attention to the weekly farmer’s markets, to restaurant openings and closings, to special events related to food, but I don’t follow it as closely as I might like. I missed, for example, that a major restaurant I had been told about a few months ago was finally opening this month in NYC, had I been paying closer attention I would have timed a trip to NYC in time to get to be there for the “friends and family” previews (my sister’s boyfriend is writing a cookbook with the chef so I’m fairly sure had I known to ask I could have gotten in, along with the “VIPs” for as one food blog called it the hottest ticket in town). Now I’ll have to try for a reservation along with everyone else each time I’m in NYC or might be.

My point with this post is to suggest that what and who we follow shapes us, it helps to define us in a very deep and powerful manner. Whether it is the calendar of events of our religion, or the publishing schedule of our favorite magazine, the rhythms of our lives are set by what we follow.

And in turn when our rhythm is in sync with that of another person the chance of our also being friends goes up. 

I would prefer, strongly prefer, to date a woman (and if you are reading this via a feed etc, I’m a man and yes, I’m single at the moment) with whom I had many overlapping rhythms. Though as well I would hope that we were not entirely in sync, that she would follow and pay attention to some things which would be new for me, and likewise that I might follow and introduce her to new events and sources. For that, I think, would be ideal – ongoing new discovery and mutual sharing of passions and interests. Over time we likely would overlap more and more – would schedule ourselves to do things together – but hopefully as well we would constantly be discovering the new as well – new people to suggest new ideas to us, new sources of information, even entire new fields of study.

Posted in advertising, digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, personal, politics, reading, time, working | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Inspiration when single – an entrepreneur’s guide

Posted by shannonclark on February 15, 2008

As I write this it is Valentines Day, restaurants are full, hearts are everywhere, and couples are kissing and holding hands. On twitter a cool graphical hearts feature has been getting a lot of use (at least amongst my friends). Friends who are parents report that their children are excited about giving cards to all of their friends.

But this post is not just about Valentines Day and how I am single today as I have been for by far the majority of past Valentines Days (I’ve only had a date on Valentines Day 4 times in my life – and I’m 33 so do the math, fairly pathetic).

No, this post is about how and where to find inspiration when you are single and an entrepreneur. Something I have been thinking a great deal about (and struggling with) for the past few months.

I do not like being single. I know there are some people who do, some people who enjoy the “freedom” or for whom being “single” means lots of dating, lots of somewhat meaningless relationships.

But that is not me. And though I respect my poly friends, I am probably not poly (heck just being in one relationship is such a rare occurrence in my life the concept of having multiple relationships at the same time is well nigh unthinkable).

The world, however, is structurally set up for people to be in relationships – to be couples, not to be single, especially not as middle aged adults (I’m not actually comfortable calling myself that but at 33 going on 34 I’m no longer “young”). Prizes every where are for tickets for 2, homes and lifestyles and deals and expectations everywhere are that past some period of early adulthood most people will settle down into couples (and then in most cases into families).

I overheard a group of people at a restaurant a few weeks ago talking about dating, with one of the guys at the table talking about how hard it has been for him to have gone 30 days without sex. Don’t get me started on that (let’s just leave it at I broke up with my last girlfriend in the spring of 2006 – I’d be thrilled if it was “just” 30 days..) . But from the conversations at this table (mostly guys but one woman) the expectations there were that they all would and could date and date frequently and that “dating” led to sex on a regular and frequent basis – whether with the same person or multiple partners.

What does all of this rather personal stuff have to do with business?

Or with being an entrepreneur?

Well there is a key question for everyone to answer – what (and who) are you working for?

What do you want from your career? Why do you want (and need) money? Fame? “Success”? In short what is success for you? And how does that drive you? More crucially how will you know when you get there?

And then, if answering all that your path is to be an entrepreneur, how (and can) you get there?

If you are not single you have some fairly simple answers to the above questions – many people would answer that they work to provide for their partner & for their children (or future children). As they work, a partner is someone whom you can lean upon, someone who comforts you when you are down, someone who helps balance out your life – and on a very simple and practical aspect, someone who can take some of the load of life off you when necessary.

Now I don’t just mean couples who have a traditional (though not so much these days) life of one partner working, one “keeping the home/raising the children” even with both partners working one can usually take some of the chores of life from the other – cleaning the dishes, arranging for dinner, picking up the dry cleaning, paying the family’s bills, waiting for a delivery, etc.

But if you are single what do you work for? Who (or what) can you rely upon for support?

Where, in short (okay in long form), can the single entrepreneur draw inspiration?

I’ve been asking this of myself for the past few months. The life of an entrepreneur can be mentally challenging, you rarely if ever can be “off” – I only slightly jokingly describe it as “you always have something to do when awake, and when you are sleeping you dream about it” but that’s not all that far from the truth. Yet, besides “work” you also have a life – all the small, little things of living which collectively add up, which all take time and to a degree attention.

Here in Silicon Valley many entrepreneurs (and others) are fans of “Getting Things Done”. A part of that system is to create contexts, to think both about your very long term goals and your tasks for the next hour. And yes, from a tactical standpoint GTD can be very helpful and from the perspective of a process, of a way to think through what you are working on, what your goals and requirements are it is very helpful.

But from a deeper, personal level it only helps with the tactics, you still need to find what your personal source of inspiration is, to have an answer for yourself what you are working for, and to find some alternative (or alternatives) to the help that someone in a relationship gets from having a partner (or as I noted, partners).

For me I have historically had great friends and a great relationship with my family, both my friends and my family have offered me an emotional outlet – someone to talk to about what my goals are, to vent my frustrations, to relax with when that’s what I need. But two years ago I moved from my long time hometown of Chicago to San Francisco. At the time I was in a relationship (she followed me a month later) but a few months later she and I broke up and she moved again (to Mexico). We’re still friends, but now I’m in a new city, far from my immediate family, and though I have many friends here I don’t have the same type of friends as I had back in Chicago (i.e. friends whom I had helped move, whom I had known for years, had helped through crises and in turn had gotten help from).

So for the past year or so I have been seeking answers – been looking to myself for why I am an entrepreneur, what I am looking to do both in the short term and in the longer term. In part I also have been looking at myself. I still hope not to end this year single – I do think being a relationship is a better state for me than being single – but I also have to find answers that work for me if I’m still single.

This is a post without easy, simple answers but here are a few which at times help me, not to say I always keep my own advice, so in large part this is also to be a reminder for me as to what I should be doing, what I can change over the next few months which might, just might, help.

  1. The life of an entrepreneur can highly varied, build into your week some regularity. Lately every Wednesday morning I have been having breakfast at 9am at Chow on Market St. (and inviting anyone to join me).
  2. Don’t let your personal space go neglected – if this means dropping off your laundry and paying someone to do it vs. doing it yourself do that. A cleaner could be a great investment – but even just always (and see point 1 schedule this) spending an hour or less cleaning and imposing order on your living space helps considerably.
  3. Don’t let you go neglected. Get exercise, eat healthy, schedule regular doctor and dentist appointments (all of which can be very hard when being an entrepreneur, especially the last two before your new company has group medical plans, one of the early things you should do for yourself and your first few hires).
  4. Even if you can work entirely from home, don’t. Sure, work from home some of the time, but even more so as someone single, getting out of the house and having face-to-face human interactions is really, really important. It is all to easy to order in, to keep really odd hours, and blink and realize a week has passed and you have barely seen another human in person. This is not healthy.
  5. Every few months do a brutal clearing out of junk from your life. Donate all the free t-shirts & schwag you have collected (so you aren’t tempted to just get by wearing poorly fitting free logoed t-shirts). Clear out of your kitchen expired foods – but also unhealthy temptations. Recycle pile of newspapers and magazines. Online this means hitting a reset on your RSS feeds, it also means unsubscribing from mailing lists you haven’t read in months and stopping emails from vendors & analysts you never read or reference. In 2006 I moved so many times this happened naturally, in 2007 far too much clutter & junk accumulated in my life both online and in my home.
  6. Find a small set of peers and find a way to gather, in person, and talk openly and deeply with them on a regular basis. This can (and should) be hard, but seek this last point out. By peers I really do mean that, find people who are or have been doing something similar to what you are doing – other founders (perhaps though in other industries) and find a way to gather in a small group on a regular basis and talk. This might be over a dinner or even a card game – and the point here is NOT to do business together (if anything that might hurt the goal) rather the goal is to have a group of people who can tell you that you are being stupid, who can give you tough truths. Someone in a relationship hopefully has that type of honest from a partner – but especially as a single entrepreneur it can be very hard to be told the harsh but helpful truths. And it can be hard to find a way to speak out loud about ideas you are considering. I haven’t yet found this precisely, but periodically over the past year I have, at times, had some really amazing conversations in small groups which scratched the surface of this issue – conversations with friends who told me tough truths – who challenged and even yes confronted me. This can, should, be hard. But I’m serious, seek this last bit out.
  7. Don’t go overboard but build into your week some  personal pleasures. No, I don’t mean reading even more blogs on your industry – no matter how passionate you are about it. What I mean here is you should keep up with some of the things which are why you live – are what you take a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment from. For me this is great food and good writing (especially science fiction). To a lesser extent it is also staying current on US politics and a bit of everything else by reading the New Yorker every week. On Saturdays I try to get to the local Farmer’s Market (both so I have healthy snacks and food to start the week and for at least one great meal that week). And even on weeks when I can’t finish a book I try to listen to two of my favorite podcasts – one a one hour discussion of music (Sound Opinions) and the other a weekly podcast of great short science fiction & occasional fantasy stories (Escape Pod).

However even sticking to all of the above won’t help if you don’t find an answer for yourself as to why you are an entrepreneur – i.e. what you are trying to do. This is tough – but seek out an honest answer for yourself and set those goals. At some point in time being very aware of your own goals and reasons will help you make a tough decision – when to stop, what to sell for, when you have “won” etc.

If you are in a relationship I think you should be honest with your partner and discuss your goal for your venture – but being single it can be harder to share your goal(s). Share it publicly and you might divulge something which could hurt you in the future (i.e. when someone is potentially investing in your company or considering buying it). But even without sharing all the details and specifics at least as an exercise for yourself write these goals down – even if only on paper and in the privacy of your own home.

Revisit these goals on a regular (at least once a year but I’d suggest more like once a month) basis and see how you are making progress towards them.

Keep in mind why you are doing what you are doing and, in fact, you have a greater shot at achieving it.

For me, again without naming numbers, here are after much thought what I want – why I’m trying to start something big.

  1. I want a lot of freedom and flexibility – for me this does take some real resources. I want to be able to say no to a lot of people – I want to make my own choices.
  2. In many respects where I want to live are not cheap places – nor, in fact, is it a singular place – I want to live and put down roots in more than one city (indeed perhaps in more than one country).
  3. Eventually I do want to be a father – I feel I could be a good one – and thus at some point I want to be able to give my children the opportunity to pursue (and excel at) their dreams.
  4. I want to build many things which will outlast me – and in doing so I want to help a great deal of others (individuals and companies).
  5. I want to see my ideas tested – that is I have (and I suspect always will) have many ideas, I’m an entrepreneur in part because I want to take those ideas and see them turn into reality into actual products and services which help others and impact the world. I then want to keep repeating this – and to help many others do the same (take great ideas and make them real). At some point I suspect this means I’ll be either an angel or VC investor myself – but to get there I probably have to see a few of my ideas through to success first.
  6. And I want to teach. I’m not sure where, but my fantasy of “retirement” has always been to get a PhD (or not to need one) and to teach – but to do so on my own terms and without needing to play political games (“publish or perish” etc). I think I can be a great teacher – but I also want to do more than just teach – I also want to do.

What are your inspirations?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, networks, personal, startupcamp, time, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

10 things to do in the next decade

Posted by shannonclark on September 13, 2007

The usual format might be “things to do before you die” but instead of that, I’m going to list a much more immediate set of life goals.

  1. Improve my health. Lose at least20lbs, 40 is even better, figure out an exercise for my upper body like my walking 3-4 miles a day for my legs – my legs are in great shape, my upper body not so much. Also some long put off time with a dentist. Target – by end of 2008, dentist by end of 2007
  2. Visit Turkey. I spent most of my time in college studying Byzantine, Ottoman and Armenian history. Yet somehow I have never been to the part of the world I spent so much time learning about in depth. Target – by end of 2010 have spent 2-4 weeks exploring Turkey
  3. Have a home that feels fully furnished. For over a decade my living space has been furnished in a mix of free, cheap, and only slightly functional furniture. I haven’t ever had a fully “finished” room in any home I’ve lived in on my own. Takes money, sure, but also just spending the time and getting it done finally. For the moment this means: buying rugs, buying dressers, desks, chairs, lights, curtains, and a few other pieces of furniture. Target – by end of 2008.
  4. Travel in Asia. I have been to India. Once. I need to go back there for many more weeks. Also to Singapore (to eat especially), to Tokyo & Japan, to Hong Kong, to China, to Thailand, and to Vietnam (where I never took up an invitation from the Ambassador to the US to visit him in Vietnam!). Target – at least one trip by end of 2009, many many more each year there after.
  5. Start a family. Tricky without a partner (female in my case) but by the end of the decade with or without a partner I hope to be in a position to have a family. Which does mean adoption possibly if I don’t have a long term relationship (probably a marriage but that choice is a mutual one). Target – by 2015 take steps if not already in progress.
  6. Attend conferences I have long wanted to attend. Best case as a speaker, but in any case stop reading about them and attend them. Specifically at the top of this list is the TED Conference but there are a few other events I have long wanted to attend which are similar (Rennaissance Weekend’s New Years Even event, Davros, The Aspen Institute’s conference, Poptech -which I have attended in the past). On a related note, I want to have the time (and money and partner) to “do” a film festival – pay to go, get a festival pass, see lots of great films all at once. Probably not Cannes but rather a smaller but great festival such as the Santa Barbara Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival.  Target – attend at least one of the conferences on my list, even if I have to pay for it, by 2008.
  7. Eat meals at a couple of places I have long wanted to try. I have eaten many, many great meals. Cooked some myself, paid for others. But there are a handful of restaurants I have long wanted to try but have not – French Laundry, El Bulli, Masa (In NYC). Total cost for these three meals (assuming I go with one other person and pay for her) is likely about $2500 or so ($1000+ for just Masa). Of course El Bulli would require flying to Spain and French Laundry renting a car (don’t own one) and probalby staying somewhere overnight in Napa Valley. So the total cost would probably be higher still. But in the scheme of life and my personal passion for great food, worth it.  In addition to these very high end places I want to get into a lifelong habit of cooking more for my friends, as well as trying at least one great (and yes sometimes fancy) restaurant each month. It is all to easy for me to fall into a pattern of eating only at inexpensive, mostly ethnic, restaurants, often by myself. Target – share at least one great meal at one of these three restaurants by the end of 2008
  8. Write my book on Economics. Since about 2003/2004 I have been telling friends that I wanted to write a book, since 2006 I have felt ready to write the book. I have offers of introductions to publishers and book agents, I have to get serious about writing a book proposal, pitching the book, selling it and then writing it. For me writing it means getting it published, so this to a degree requires the help of others to achieve, but I am confident in my abilities to both write a great book and to sell it. I do, however, have to follow up and get it done. Target – 2007/2008 I have a bunch of business activities which will keep me rather busy, so a realistic goal here is to have the book in print by 2009, though I do hope it is sooner than that.
  9. Get my degree. I do not have a college degree. I took time off from college, worked for a while, then went back and nearly finished but got busy with work and starting my own company. I never again in my life plan on working for someone else (the exceptions being if a company I’ve started is bought or I hire someone at one of my companies to be my “boss”. See my related list below, I don’t ever expect to need my resume. So this is entirely for myself. Beyond my BA at some point in my life I fully expect to get a PhD as well. Though that may not be in the next decade as I anticipate business will keep me rather busy. Target – by 2010.
  10. Build a long lasting, great company which changes the world. Yes, this is not atypical for many entrepreneurs, but it is one of my long ranging life goals. I don’t want to build a small, “lifestyle” business. Sure the money could be nice but though I do want to build a great company in part to get the flexibility and freedom that comes with wealth and resources even more I want to build something which is self sustaining and worldchanging. A company which impacts many people – possibly in part by employing them, but even more by helping lots of other companies and people to earn money, make a great living and have an impact. I am a capitalist (see above, the book I am writing is on Networked Economics after all) so I want to do this in part by building a self-sustaining great global company. With the resources this will, I hope, bring me, I also will continue to do projects such as MeshForum and MeshWalks which also help change the world. Target – this will be an ongoing part of the next decade, but we have I hope started along this path this year, so it starts in 2007

These are ambitious goals. And beyond these I have numerous smaller, shorter term goals. Organizing my library, catching up on great books I haven’t yet read (and/or going through my 150+ some books “to read” and selling/donating the ones I will never actually get around to reading).

There are some former life goals which I have met, many in this past year.

  1. Buy a custom suit. When I was in India a few years back for a friend’s wedding, I achieved one of my former goals, I had two suits (and a bunch of shirts) custom made for me. These are amazing, great suits and the shirts and suits give me pleasure everytime I wear them. Well worth the cost (which was less than buying an off the rack designer – not even couture or high end – suit and shirts and the fabrics, construction and quality are all higher)
  2. Be able to visit NYC without needing a hotel room. Eventually I expect, possibly in the next decade, that I have a place of my own in NYC and even live there for some of the year (and hopefully still have a place in San Francisco and likely one or two other homes at least one of which is outside the US). But earlier this year I started having enough friends in NYC and near NYC that I have not needed a hotel room in New York though I have visited there many times in the past months.
  3. Have a home where I can host friends. Growing up and even to this day my parents often opened up our home to guests. We hosted exchange students, visiting musicians, friends and family. For me, the ability to be a host, to share my home with my friends (and help them avoid needing a hotel room) has always been part of what it means to be an adult. But it was not until this year that I have had both a large enough space and the furniture, bedding etc suited for hosting friends. Just a few weeks ago I hosted my business partner, his wife, their 7 year old daughter, and their newborn son. I now have enough beds to accomodate up to 6 guests (a pull out twin sofa bed, two twin studio sofas which can combine to form a king, a fold down full studio sofa, and a queen air mattress with room to use it.  Just this weekend I’m hosting a client of a friend of mine who is a fellow founder of a bootstrapping startup, in town to present at a conference but looking to save money. Being able to do this gives me a great deal of personal pleasure.
  4. Have space for my full library. I own over 1400 books. Most weeks I buy 3-5 new books. Have for most of my adult life. When i lived in Chicago I left many books at my parents, when I moved to the Bay Area in 2006 I fully expected I would have a hard time finding an apartment with lots of wall space (and indeed most places I looked at did not have much). My current apartment has nearly 100 feet of wall space which I can fill with bookcases. I have much of my library out on shelves already, in meeting my goal of furnishing my home a part of that will be expanding my bookcases to accommodate the rest of my collection, something which is, thankfully, among the easier parts of my goals.
  5. Help my friends change the world. A few years ago, back when I lived in Chicago, though my personal network was large and I tried to have an impact (and did manage to hold a great conference in 2005 thanks in no small part to my extended network) I little imagined that I would routinely read about my friends in the Wall Street Journal, in the New Yorker, in the pages of many other business magazines. Or that I would see their books in bookstores everywhere, including airports, and on best seller lists. But in the past few years that has become almost routine. And as a proxy measure for the impact my friends are having it seems a reasonable one. My friends now are routinely speaking at conferences, being interviewed on television, running worldchanging companies (and blogs) and in short helping change the world in countless ways. My small contributions give me great pleasure. And no, thse are not “frienda” in the weak, social network sense of the word, these are folks I’ve invited to my home for brunch, whose children I have met, whose bbqs I have attended. I keep pinching myself but we are changing the world. And that’s really cool.

I have a busy decade ahead of me. I plan on revisiting this post from time to time. It is my public reminder of what I am really trying to do.

Posted in meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, time, working | Leave a Comment »

Time, attention and our social networks

Posted by shannonclark on August 28, 2007

What we pay attention to, what we care about, shapes, influences and defines our social networks.

(by Esther Dyson)

Consider the most basic units of time – timezones and the definition of the week. Broadly speaking the timezone(s) we focus our attention upon define (mostly) our primary social circles. This is not always, as Cory Doctorow points out in his book Eastern Standard Tribe, the same as the timezone where we live – but it is usually.

Likewise, how we define when the week starts and ends is a major factor in defining our primary social circles. Here in the US this may seem redundant – the weekend is Sat & Sun, the week Mon – Fri (usually thought of as the week starts on Monday, ends on Sunday.

However for religious Jews or Muslims here in the US and for most of the Middle East, the week starts on Sunday (which is a workday, not a day of rest) and ends on Saturday, with Friday being part of the weekend – and Friday night (sundown) to Saturday night defining the holy day each week.

In the US most religious Jews and Muslims have to accommodate the US pattern, so they work on Friday until before sundown.

And for many of us (myself included) who are non-religious Saturday and Sunday are “the weekend” but do not have a significant difference – one day or the other is not a special “day of rest” or imbued with religious meaning.

But think about how just a simple fact about how you perceive the week defines crucial social differences. If you treat Friday night as a religious occasion whether or not you know each other in any other respect you have something vital in common. Of course if you are Jewish and another person is Muslim many other differences might soon show up – but you start from a common view of time – one which is different from the majority here in the US.

Further, if you treat Sunday as a religious occasion – i.e. you focus on a regular “go to church” activity most Sundays – separate from which church you attend (or even if you make it to Church most Sundays) you share something. You might also fall into the category (limited mostly to the US) of thinking “Sunday afternoon = Football” which would be a further grouping. These groups have some overlap – but not 100%.

My point is that a common perception of time defines potential groups. If you and I do not share many of our focuses and definitions of time – if what you consider important about 2008, about each Sunday, about next month, about the end of Summer etc are all different from what I am focused on, then we are in some literal way from different worlds. We may still find overlap, find a set of common interests and create common foci but it will be much harder.

If, instead, we build from a set of some common interests – as defined by what we are paying attention to and how we perceive different times, then we are very likely to have other bonds – and most likely we will share with each other things we are paying attention to – and find more and more ways to overlap our schedules and our attention.

Let me illustrate this further with a discussion about the month of August/early Sept.

In Europe many people think “Aug = holiday”. Not quite literally true, but seemingly entire cities and companies go on holiday at the same time in August.

In the US, if you are a parent (or a student) then August usually means “last month of Summer, school is going to be starting soon”. Often the end of summer is the Labor Day weekend here in the US.

Here in San Francisco (and to a degree in other places) the end of August is defined for many by “Burning Man”. Even if you are not going, the fact that so many people from San Francisco are spending the end of August at Burning Man shapes how the city works (and how many Bay Area companies work).

I am part of many different mostly non-overlapping social networks. Labor Day Weekend and the days around it are, each year, an exercise in choosing from amongst a large set of possible networks. Many friends are going to Burning Man. In years past many others went to the SCA’s (Society for Creative Anachronism) annual Pensic War (which I attended twice in the early 90’s). Many other Labor Day weekends I have attended the World Science Fiction Convention (was in Anaheim last year, this year though many friends are there I’m not going to Japan). This year there is also a local gaming convention, Conquest over Labor Day weekend which I’m sure many friends of mine will attend and which I am considering attending.

Another, more private social network (of sorts) which holds events four or five times a year usually holds an event around Labor Day weekend, this year in Monterey (which if I had planned a bit in advance I probably should have attended).

And even more so than in years past as more of my friends have children, especially school aged children I am more aware of the fact that school is starting up again.

As a Chicago Bears fan I am also following the end of pre-season and the beginning of the regular season.

As a Chicago Cubs fan I’m also following the ongoing season and cheering as August comes to an end and the Cubs are still in contention (a rare occasion indeed).

As a business person and entrepreneur though I am not on vacation this year at the end of August, I am aware that many people are, so though I continue to work on building my startups the end of August is, perhaps, best spend on the multitude of tasks which do not require replies from others (many of whom might not get back to me until sometime in early September.

And that is just what comes immediately to mind as I write this towards the end of August.

At the beginning of September begins a series of Jewish Holidays. Though I am not a religious Jew, I am Jewish and increasingly aware that many of my friends are as well, so I am more aware than I was in the past of when the major Jewish holidays are.

In the stores at the moment for the most part they are dominated by Back to School sales. In a few weeks, these will be replaced by Halloween sales, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas (here in the US – clearly not Thanksgiving sales in other parts of the world).

I do not own a TV, so though I am vaguely aware that we are still in the “summer” season on TV (and thus in a time of generally few original or new shows) very soon we will enter the “fall” season and new shows will resume airing. I am not, however, aware of when this will be. Instead, I am more focused on when a very small handful of shows I do care about will be broadcast (but in most cases this is not until sometime next year – i.e. 2008).

A small side note. A telling definition of time is whether you think of the year as starting and ending on the calendar year (i.e. for most of the West starting on Jan 1) or if you are more focused on another “year” – such as the school year – so starting in the fall, usually end of Aug/early Sept and ending in the spring in May or June. For many people similarly you might be focused on the football or baseball seasons (or other sports – basketball, college football, golf, and soccer/football among many others have their avid fans). For each of these you might think of the “year” as being defined by the start and end of a season – not a physical season but the sports season.

So Sports, Religion, School, Hobbies and Work all define to a large extent our perception of time – and thus create and are created by the groups by which we define ourselves. When we overlap, at least in part, with others, we have a starting point for a common bond. You might be following the San Francisco Giants and I the Chicago Cubs but the fact that we are both aware of and paying attention to the baseball season is a starting point for a common bond. If, instead, I paid a lot of attention to baseball (I don’t but am at least aware of it to a degree) and you paid no attention to it all, then we see the world and time in different ways.

Of course we might still be friends and overlook this difference between us, but our view of reality is different.

So why this lengthy discussion – full of places I should have linked but haven’t yet (I’ll try to go back and add some links)?

Our current tools do not do a good job of helping us map our own perceptions of time – or find others who share these in a broad sense. Sure, a tool such as Upcoming or Facebook might show us people who are following a specific event which we are also following but they do not help us see bigger pictures and patterns. Nor do we add to most such “social networks” the broader, bigger picture patterns of perception of time which are so vital.

Consider 2008. When I think of it, I immediately think “presidential election”. A bit later I might think “new seasons of Doctor Who and Torchwood”. Pressed still further I might start to think about specific activities in 2008 which I plan on attending, SXSW 2008 in Austin TX, Wiscon in Madison WI, etc.

There are many other answers, each showing a bit about what you are paying the most attention to. For some you might focus on new cars (starting sometime in the Fall of 2007), you might think “new version of Madden Football”, you might think “when I graduate”, etc.

I think it would be a really fascinating experiment (and perhaps a useful service on some dating sites) to ask some fairly open ended questions that capture elements of your perception of time. And then in a fuzzy manner use these to start to show how/if you overlap with others.

So, you might go from the very broad “when does the week start and end”, “what do you do every weekend?”, what do you think about Mon – Fri? any regular things you wait for/think about each week?

To more specific questions – “what are you looking forward to next week? next month? next season? (and which “season”(s) do you think about?)”

I know that most likely anyone woman (I’m a single straight man) who defines her week by a religious observation is most likely not for me – though if that observation is not on Sundays the chances are much better. Likewise someone who is mostly focused around consumer patterns (new fashion seasons, new seasons of TV, various “Hallmark Holidays”) but not around personal interests – whatever they are is also unlikely to be for me. I pay some attention to food seasons, what’s fresh and available at the local farmer’s markets – someone who shared that passion of mine would be fairly interesting to me.

Especially if she also paid some attention to overlapping passions – science fiction, writing etc. Even if the events she followed were different than what I followed (heck, might be something I’d want to go to myself).

As I write this I’m thinking of countless other things people wait for, people follow and pay attention to – concert schedules, seasons of theater, sports schedules, tax years, public company earnings calls, annual conferences for various industries, etc.

We need to find ways to think about what we pay attention to – and to find others who share, at least some, of our view of the world.

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