Last nights Inspirathon was great. For those of you tuning in without pretext. Inspirathon is a “A Movie Night For Thinkers.” We show some thought provoking/alternative method/human achievement videos and discuss them. The following are my thoughts on the last one.

Good things:

  • We topped out at the right amount of people.
  • Everyone was very friendly and nice.
  • We watched some very interesting videos.

Things I would change:

  • We have to set up a buzzer system for people to hit. This way we have a symbolic mechanism for killing unstimulating videos.
  • We have put an upper limit on video duration. Thirty minutes max.
  • We have to introduce videos and ask why people have chosen them. Some videos needed lots of pretext.
  • We can’t show videos that are thematically similar in a row.
  • We have to discuss after each video. And a long discussion. Not necessarily to reach a conclusion, but to integrate the video into our minds, and to discover related avenues that come to mind while speaking.
  • We might want to pole people about what they want to see at Inspirathon.
  • There should be half as many videos as we watched this last time.
  • The event should start at 5.30 pm on a Saturday, with a BBQ and an earlier ending. I just don’t drink caffeine, sorry.

If anyone has comments to improve Inspirathon, or tips from running their own movie/clip nights, please comment!

I’ve cobbled together a simple little Ruby on Rails app. I’m going to leave it up for a couple of days running on my machine and then replace the link with a screenshot. This app was generated out of some meditations over randomness and success. I mean this literally, I was actuallying sitting in Zazen when a flurry of website ideas hit me and I had to rush to write them all down.

The app itself produces some interesting results, but see for yourself (just a screenshot to get the point across, I’m no longer hosting it). If anything breaks, give me a buzz. And if the site is running slow, then it means the app is popular and my machine is getting nailed, or I’m downloading something (I will try not to). Thanks and as with all alpha projects, sorry in advance.

Reading Timeclock

June 26, 2007

I recently thought of a nifty Firefox plug-in that would give you average or personal reading times on blog entries or whatever else you select.

In small blog entries, it is very easy for me to estimate how much time I’m going to have to put in. But in very long articles, my estimation ability drops away. Giving me a software means of estimating reading time would be optimal.

So the product looks like this:

  1. Install the app.
  2. Take a little test that tests your average words per minute.
  3. Or go with a default wpm calculation taken from either a database of the tools’ users or some research data.
  4. Whenever you see some block of text, select it and hit our button or right-click on the selected text.
  5. An estimated reading time appears in the toolbar.

I would be interested in working on this with anyone who finds it interesting enough to see it to completion. Or better yet, point out the Mozilla plug-in if it already exists.

Vivid Flying Dream

June 22, 2007

This is my first flying dream. I’ve only had jumping dreams where I can jump to enormous heights, like over trees and buildings. It’s funny since I wasn’t even that into Superman. But like Superman, I guess I eventually graduated from leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, to full on flying.

The way I propelled myself was with an excessive moment in my arms. By swinging my arms backward, down toward my hips, I could give myself thrust.

I started on the Santa Clara campus. Whenever I dream of Santa Clara it is a mix of the SCU layout and a lot of the feel of Stanford. I was flying all over school, into and out of buildings. Most people didn’t notice, but some would point me out if I was getting really high.

My flying around was important to some tests necessary for a spaceship I was building. Eventually the school administration asked me to not fly around so much. I was sorely disappointed in them and decided I would fly anyway.

The most peculiar part of this dream is the recurrence of a tower that I felt I had seen in past dreams (though which I can not remember). It’s a black medieval tower, hollow except for a staircase. Tourists were inside it.

I’ve had recurring dreams before, but never a recurring artifact like the tower.

Pivotal Moment Stories

June 19, 2007

Doesn’t it seem like you can have two stories in your life? There is the story you had before your success, which has its own rhythm and set of characters. And there is the story you have after the success.

I was thinking of heavily celebrated entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, JP Morgan, and Disney, who were normal people before they succeeded in business, and suddenly became mythologized super beings.

I think an alternative story needs to get heard more often, at least this new story is more inspirational to myself:

There was this guy who had a vision of doing things a different way. He was actually pretty poor at transmitting his vision, largely because the conceptual components necessary to transmit the vision easily would not come into full existence until the vision had been realized. Most of his friends encouraged, but did not believe in him. His parents always believed in him, but even they did not understand him very well.

Eventually the protagonist changes the world when everyone catches on to his good idea. The story is still the success story, but it is heavy enough on the unpleasant reality of being viewed as slightly insane and going in the wrong direction.

Success seems to me a lot like surfing, where wave after wave appears to come and you have to paddle every time, even when the wave does not materialize. If you look out at the ocean, and you see people doing this, but you only look for five minutes, you may just think the people are crazy because the purpose of their paddling is not obvious.

I think the worse part of it is that in creating ideas to drive companies there is not even the advantage of seeing a swell. It is more like you are paddling in the middle of entirely calm water. Of course, the people who are successful are paddling all the time, moving from place to place, claiming a big wave is coming.

This is why it is good to surround yourself with people who have a similarly distorted view of reality. It makes it easier to keep going. You all believe the wave is coming.

I’m So Famoused

June 18, 2007

There is a giant picture of my friends and I in the San Jose Mercury! Pic

I’m the guy to the left of the guy with the blue shirt. The article is good. You are lucky when they get fifty percent of the truth onto the page, but the reporter did a fairly good job. I’m just a bit worried that the next DevHouse is going to get inundated because of the article. Still, it is great that the amazingness of the event is recognized.

The auspicious goal of my company is to provide all education to all those who want it, for free.

It started off as a project to create a dynamic share system for groups of people on the Internet to start companies. Goals and work would be assigned value by groups, and based on that value you would earn smaller or larger shares of the company. This idea was ultimately impractical and we had to think of a new one.

I walked around with an uncertain feeling in my stomach after realizing the idea was not viable. But after quick discussion I blurted out the new course, to provide all education to all those who want it, for free. And more specifically, through a decentralized, non-institutional mechanism where people were in charge of educating themselves, rather than being educated by others.

Many prototypes have gone by as we have tried to figure out how to do this. I’ve created a lot of crap, especially when we headed toward content generation. Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that people will generate content in whatever way they prefer and the real goal is to find that content in a truly convivial way.

It is for this reason that we’ve recently decided to distribute our idea as a Facebook app. This means we don’t have to bother with social network infrastructure. It also means we are part of an established network. Facebook’s reaction over time to third party developers will ultimately be the decider of whether we stay on an external platform or migrate to our own.

Currently, we are still working on the app. But I expect to release a version of it within the next week. This version will entail a way to put up learning quests were you establish the goal and parameters for its pursuit. Your friends can see the quests you are currently on and can aid you in your quests by giving you information and links to more. This first version is highly simplified, but right now we are focused on providing immediate utility.

I’m hoping this very simple idea will have a synergetic unpredictable effect. Ironically, no matter how it goes in the pursuit to help others learn, I will have learned something myself.

I was over at Chipotle’s a while ago, and their simplistic menu inspired me to think of a new type of restaurant. There would be only three things on the menu:

  • Random(Vegetable)
  • Random(Meat)
  • Random(Drink)

Vegetable, meat, and drink are the different seed values you use to get a random dish. So if you order Random(Meat), you would get a random item from a list of meat dishes not available to the consumer.

Immediate objections to the lack of specific choice were raised. To answer that, your receipts would have the dish number. So when you come back, you can order specific dishes you liked or assuage picky eaters.

Knowlege of Knowledge

June 4, 2007

The countries which were able to take advantage of optimizing methodology, first applying it to machines (Industrial Revolution) and then to human work itself (Productivity Revolution), were the countries who succeeded in creating wealth and its accompanying leisure. The adoption of this method is a cultural and therefore educational change.

Now we are entering into a period where disciplines are being created faster than we can learn them. In my case, the example is computer language, with new and effective languages popping up over night. The languages which are being taught in college will be outdated by the time you leave. It’s like having to learn Greek and Latin before you can learn the anything else, a tradition in need of decline.

The first people to apply optimizing methodologies to knowledge and learning itself, will be the masters of knowledge, the capital of our time, and will be the next to create a dearth of wealth. However, this will not a be a national change. The Internet allows a community dedicated to this task to cross national barriers for near-zero cost. So the next educational revolution will be created by an Internet community intent on optimizing the path to knowledge.

Not coincidentally, this is what I am working toward at my company Foobity. I’d turn this into a plug, but we don’t have anything we can show anyone yet.