When we started building DeployButton, we wanted to scratch our own itch and solve for our own needs. This summer, our team atLizi decided that we needed a less expensive web host for our site(s). Like many of you, we’re a fast moving consumer web team that likes to iterate and put lots of new things out to “Build“, “Measure“, and “Learn” to validate that we’re making something people want™.
Jacques, aka “@railsjedi“, created a really sweet system to power our continuous deployment, using Github, Linode, and Opscode Chef. I’ll save the more technical post for later, but for the layperson, this essentially means that as soon as someone has committed working code into a master branch of a source code repository, it automatically gets deployed to the server, and the whole team is notified.
Our team relies on a few tools for group communication, one of them being Hipchat. Hipchat allows for deploy hooks that can notify us when different things happen, like code being checked in, and deploys starting/completing. This is a great way for the team to 1) stay abreast of what’s going on with the code base, and 2) know which “application state” users are looking at in the event that an error occurs (Errors also have http hooks that notify us in the chat).
Little did we know, but the night that we finished and submitted our final version to the RailsRumble repo, we got to the front page of HackerNews. Soon thereafter, we had over 15K visitors come to our site, and over 6K who’ve used the product already! We knew then that our product had struck a nerve and might fulfill a need for a wide assortment of people: independent WordPress builders, small-midsized web consulting shops, to weekend hobbyist Rails devs.
Over the next few months, we’ll be improving DeployButton to have many creature comforts that we’d want to see in a product like this, since we need it anyway.
Follow along in our progress here, @DeployButton, and tweet to tell us how you use continuous deployment at your startups and enterprises.
Oh, and if this is still “cool” to do, Like us on Facebook and we’ll let you know first about beta releases to our product
Apprenticeships used to be the way that people became masters at anything. Master craftsmen, master artisans, master chefs, and master sushi makers. This story on NPR today reminded me of the importance of apprenticeships, internships, and on the job training to further career progress. It wasn’t until reading this story that I thought about the relationship between apprenticeships and the batches of graduates from “accelerator” programs.
Today, accelerator programs are largely exclusive. In fact, their popularity has risen in part to their exclusivity and privilege. The exclusivity stems from the fact that after the period of “acceleration” is over, the ability to raise capital is much higher. After the apprenticeship, the apprentice just has a “job”, most likely for the master. (more…)
You bleed when you’re on the “cutting edge”, especially when it comes down to user adoption of technology. It’s telling when established companies like Apple, who are considered “masters” at market timing get it slightly wrong. Releasing a voice activated “assistant” product that users seem disenchanted with is okay to do as a test when you’re a large company with diverse revenue streams.
It’s not ok as a lean startup when you have limited resources and not much time to test your assumptions with users. I wonder sometimes if the world is really ready for voice activated control of their world. We can’t all be Scotty.
Obviously, this is just a joke. But, people really want this. Why wouldn’t they? The premise of a search “engine” needs to change from one that digs through a number of crawled results into one that provides people with sufficient contextual information when and how they want it.
Secrets people can’t or don’t want to divulge are a common thread behind Thiel’s most lucrative investments such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as several other breakout companies of the past decade. The kinds of truths Thiel discusses — the kinds that create billion dollar businesses in just a few years — are not held exclusively by those with deep corporate pockets. In fact, the person most likely to build the next great tech business will likely be a scrappy entrepreneur with a big dream, a sharp mind, and a valuable secret.
But today, as software continues to eat the world, service industries are being upended by upstarts. A new crop of companies like AirBnB, DropBox, and Square exploits secrets gleaned not from industrial design, but from interaction and systems design. These companies remedy old problems by designing interfaces to create new user behaviors.
Change the Interface, Change the World
Whenever a massive change occurs in the way people interact with technology, expect to find plenty of secrets ripe for harvesting. Changes in interface suddenly make all sorts of behaviors easier. Subsequently, when the effort required to accomplish an action decreases, usage tends to explode.
Though we’re living through an age when new insights about user behavior abound, the methods for building a long-term business advantage has narrowed. The kind of secrets that build big businesses today must support a plan to build a network effect business. Without a network effect strategy, secrets don’t stay valuable for long.
“So much of art.. so much of creation is discovery. And you can’t discover if you can’t see what you’re doing”
You have to be able to try ideas as you think of them
…”That’s what it might be like to write an algorithm without a blindfold on”…
Every new medium that someone creates should have a much tighter feedback loop between the creation and what it is you’re creating.
I think I just learned something very, very important as a developer and creator by watching this video. I realize that half of being a good programmer is about keeping things in short term working memory. That’s incredibly hard when you’re a visual/spatial reasoner. Bret’s experience trying to keyframe in Flash is not dissimilar to how most people learn new technologies and languages. His realization that a robust feedback mechanism is a necessary precondition for people to “stick with it” and follow their creation through to completion.
Oscar Wilde has said that there’s an abyss between the mind and the pen. I’ve agreed with this for years, but now I recognize that there’s more granularity in the process than I previously understood. It’s not just that there’s an “ability” gap between what the mind perceives and the hand creates, but a gap that exists between what the hand creates and what the eye then perceives. Seems like a huge revelation to me.
Here’s just one example where Bret just nailed the deficiencies in the commonly accepted perception of a programming text editor.
This has implications for inventors of tools that other people use to build from. If you are building an API or tools that you’re expecting someone else to grok and use, make sure that they provide salient feedback as quickly as possible to the creators. If this were accepted as axiomatic, you’d bring the joy back into creating, and you’d have a lot more people building for you.
Bret is fascinating, honest, and compassionate. You really just have to watch the entire talk to appreciate it.
If I can help it, this is how all of our teams work from now on.
“Yada yada yada…. It all boiled down to one core concept. Pairing designers with developers“
Ultimately this boiled down to one core concept: pairing designers with developers. Constant interaction with developers is what sparked Bootstrap and continues to drive its development over a year later. From whiteboarding ideas to coding rough prototypes, collaborating across disciplines is what made Bootstrap successful for internal use at Twitter. This process informed the development of nearly every feature in Bootstrap and has worked remarkably well over time.
Building Bootstrap in this way meant communication was key and most design work happened in code. Since the final deliverable for Bootstrap is always code, it made the most sense to work there as often as possible to communicate our ideas. This put one into the mindset of a good developer, encouraging succinct components, but with the visual polish and thoroughness one expects from a dedicated designer.
The formal structures supporting education haven’t changed appreciably in the past several decades. The world continues to move at a dizzying pace and knowledge & information are created faster than ever. Aggregators like search engines and social filters allow for self discovery, autodidacta, and expansive learning beyond the confines of any static medium that preceded the world wide web. Unfortunately, these tools have created a host of other problems including perverse self-filtering, misinformation, and the quandary of distinguishing signal from profuse noise. This talk will share original research from the IIT Institute of Design on homeschoolers, adults in macrobiotic cooking groups, scrapbookers, and Girl Scouts. We will define what we refer to as “reflection deficit disorder,” an inability to reflect on multiple interests, vocations and hobbies in their whole, and why this is a problem.
Normative thinking around entrepreneurship is around solving a “problem” that people have. Many great online experiences aren’t borne from a solution to a problem. What “problem” did facebook solve?
Here’s a useful startup lesson I learned about ideation:
A little while back, I drove down to Portland with Vinita and my buddy Rich and to check out the food cart scene there. On the way there, Rich played his music. Rich has great taste in music, but sometimes it gets a little monotonous listening to one person’s music the entire time. On the way back, we used my grooveshark mobile app (Yes, I got lucky and downloaded it before it ever got pulled) to listen to music. The way it worked, I got to pick a song, then Rich got to pick one, and we alternated back and forth. It eventually became a little game — Who could play once-popular but now uncommon and engaging music on a consistent basis? There was certainly peer validation in the little exercise. Someone would play a song and the other person would do the equivalent of “Liking” the song or some sort of unspoken/unseen “fist bump”.
Fast forward a few weeks later and both Rich, I, and several other friends I know are head-over-heels in love with Turntable.FM, which provides a very similar experience in a number of ways.
How does an entrepreneur learn from this? Well, by now you’re already hopefully living and breathing the PG/YC religion of *making stuff that people want*. A crucial characteristic of making stuff that people want is understanding real world behaviors that are fun and interesting (often social) and using them as inspirational fodder for the creation process.
It seems like many of the great consumer internet startups take a certain real world behavior that people do and extrude them into the real world. Turntable.FM did this beautifully.
If you liked this post, follow @ashbhoopathy and I’ll hit you up with another UX roundup to learn how to make sticky experiences like TTFM.
Last night I participated in a brainstorming session at Hacks & Hackers Seattle. I am extremely interested in the future of journalism and content creation/production. A huge reason is that my startup, BetterAt is focused on leveraging forms of content production to disrupt the adjacent and currently sleeping education industry.
I had a great time and learned a lot from hacks (that’s the actual slang term for a journalist, I was told) what types of things they were interested in from technologists. It was a great networking event because it wasn’t just sitting around and shooting the breeze, but we actually spent time brainstorming and defining what we thought the next phase of innovation would be in web video that could help tell stories and enlighten consumers.
Interestingly enough, the elephant in the room that there wasn’t much talk about is monetization. I was shocked that many people just weren’t as interested in figuring out a better monetization model for content other than residual forms of advertising. To me, it seems like in order for this industry to continue existing at the current level, there needs to be focus on curation, saving people time, and providing unique points of view, and getting people to pay for it will naturally follow.
Each team at #hhsea had a different “topic” to choose from — Our team focused on how using HTML5 video could improve journalism. The “winning idea” from our group was a “Ctrl+F” for video. To be certain, it’s not that video search doesn’t exist. There are great companies who are digitizing and annotating the actual “substance” of the videos to make them searchable. What we suggested is that the actual video itself be the atomic unit of production, not the article — And as easy as it is to search through an article by hitting “Ctrl+F”, one should be able to search through the video, “address it” directly so that even a tiny snippet can have a handle. Kind of like what the NYTimes Emphasis tool does, but for video.