So much stuff has happened this past month.

  • We got a customer for the RingWing
  • We found a manufacturer
  • We shipped a bunch of RingWings to HIMSS in Chicago
  • We got the RingWing website to a useful state

It has been amazing organizing all of this. Sometimes I totally thought I wasn’t going to make it in time. The process of discovery, of challenging my own ignorance, has been so worth it. The feeling of positive stimulation I get by doing what seemed improbable is so cool.

All the while I have been trying to exercise, see my girlfriend, and socialize. I want my life to stay balanced. The days where I am handling things best are where I am keeping everything in play. If I don’t exercise on the Wii Fit or avoid talking to friends, I get a crappier day.

Visit my website: http://www.theringwing.com/ I am so glad it’s done! Check out the video we did showing off a few of the things you can do with the RingWing:

I’ve quit my job as a programmer and started a company making RC airplanes. We’re making discoid VTOL aircraft. And by discoid VTOLs I mean airplanes that look like UFOs and takeoff vertically. Our first vehicle is called the RingWing.

This is so mega exciting. I love writing software, but software can sometimes be dissatisfying because it’s hard to know if you’re really making progress. Since software has no touch, smell, or spacial embodiment, you can’t feel it with your whole body. And it only feels like it’s coming together when it starts to produce the final results that the user will need. On the other hand, hardware development is viscerally satisfying even when you’ve messed up because you’ve still created a tangible artifact. There’s something to touch and feel the weight of.

A long time ago, while I was still in college, I did an internship at a rocket and space vehicle company called Xcor Aerospace. This was really a life changing experience because I got to work on things that would lead to space technologies that would bring the cost of going to space way down. Down to the level where you and I could travel to space. And it was thrilling because I got to work on very tangible devices. Rocket launches on television only give a small portion of the sensory experience. When you’re standing next to a rocket and it starts up, it emits this incredible shockwave that passes through your body rocking you backward. The experience is entirely unique.

I think heavier sensory participation is one of the reasons the only company I founded and got to a revenue stream was a company making leather holsters for the Gameboy SP, called Padholsters. More of your body is telling you if you’re making progress. I’ve started software companies, but they never got to the making money part (very important in business I hear).

I’m also super excited about the people I’m working with. My cofounder, Ryan Fowler, is an aerospace engineer. We’ve been friends since I met him during college. And his wife, Jen Fowler, does a good job of yelling at us to go make money, whenever we get distracted.

We’ve gone through a lot a different prototypes so far. Most of them can be charted on an ever increasing line of development and a few of them have been entirely off the mark. We’re getting there. The craft is slowly looking cooler and more efficient. You can see our development blog for the RingWing at www.fp-aero.com.

The Ultimate Corporation

April 29, 2008

The Ultimate Corporation is one that reinforces my excitement and happiness. I want to wake up in the morning turned on. No snooze button or other foot-dragging. What are the characteristics of a corporation that is not simply good, but great to work at?

Characteristic 1 (Foster community, avoid faction and alienation):

This is achieved through limited population. Many companies confuse growth with development. This results in bloat that eventually murders a company. I’ve thought over different optimal maximums for limiting growth which I’ve written about here and here. I think the number is somewhere below 150. And my current attitude is to let employees decide where that number lies under that maximum. Growth beyond this number necessitates a new business division to be physically isolated and separately run from the original seed company.

Characteristic 2 (Structure for creativity):

Have 20/80 splits of time on the hourly, weekly, and yearly scales. This means 20% of a person’s time every day is allotted to their own initiative. One day of their work week is exclusively for their own projects. Two months out of the year, they leave and are payed double their salary. Half of that goes to them, and the other is invested in a company idea of their choice. Those two months aren’t enough time to start a company, but they are enough to get the ball rolling, and to see if the project fails or succeeds. If it fails, they return. If it succeeds, we either spin them off into a new company or if it makes sense, absorb the project into the main body.

Characteristic 3 (Create trust through transparency):

Everyone’s wages are transparent to everyone else in the company. If someone isn’t pulling their weight and getting payed a lot, then it becomes obvious they should decrease their pay, or be fired. If the CEO is getting payed one thousand times what the janitor earns, then it is obvious that something is wrong (Or maybe the CEO is generating a billion dollars in revenue single-handedly, and is justified, however unlikely, in such pay).

Characteristic 4 (Acknowledge dynamic rhythms)

Let people get to work when they want and leave when they want, as constrained by the necessity of synchronous times for socialization and laboring. Employees decide this for themselves. Moderated by an appreciation for safety, this incentivizes speedy work, thus reducing costs.

Characteristic 5 (Profit is health, so make sure everyone knows it)

Employees get 33% of the profit the company makes. It’s harder to hire someone useless if you can see them eating your bonus.

Characteristic 6 (People work best under leaders they choose)

Employees elect their own bosses. Either from peers, or from outside the company. If the boss isn’t doing a good job, the employees oust him.

This article was inspired by many companies, including Gore Associates, Semco, Google, and HP.

On a tangential note, I recently read the HP Way, and though the book’s forward has the occasional vacuous corporate speak, the rest of the book is quite good. I did not know that HP essentially started off boot-strapping, rather they started off with a general idea of how they wanted the corporation to be. What their values were. Of course they knew they would be heading in the electronics direction since they had both been students of radio technology, but it’s not like they had a specific product in mind. That approach, more than anything, is what inspired this post. After all, as a self-interested party, it is about what a company does for me, and a product is only part of that.

It’s been a couple of days since our first launch of Foobity. It was lackluster, but that’s what I expected. We haven’t really done much with it yet. Regardless, I consider iteration one a success because of how much I learned.

The next iteration will have a comprehensive competition creation feature. Each competition will have subtasks. For each of these subtasks, a competition creator will be able to assign a point value and a refresh rate. The refresh rate controls how often a player can achieve that subtask. We will also have subgoals that work for subjective tasks as well. Points will be awarded by the competition creator after someone has typed in some effort in response to a subgoal. Overall, more power will be handed over to the competition creator, as this is the person willing to put in the most effort anyway.

Case #472

What to do when something someone says causes you to doubt what you are doing.

Example

You finish a webpage and ask a family member for feedback. They respond with a torrent of confusion and criticism. You spent hours on this and it made you feel awful that they are hanging onto easily fixed details. They don’t see the beauty of what you’ve done, and you start to doubt that beauty exists.

Response

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Remember that everyone around you is an idiot. No one gets your vision because you’re better than everyone else.
  3. Then after your ego has rubbed the wound for a bit, remember that your critic said that for a reason. Go and figure that reason out. Do some opportunity cost analysis to see if it’s worth fixing or if their criticism should be treated as anomalous.
  4. Then go and seek more criticism by being brave with the publicity of your ideas. Develop a large ego-callous until you don’t need steps 1 and 2.

Note: This is not actually from a real book. Although maybe if I can think up enough of these it might actually become one.

A Prototype of my New Site

November 6, 2007

I’ve released a prototype of my competition site. Here is the competition to name my site. You can win a book.

Please tell me what you think. It is obviously a work in progress.

Company Name Competition

October 30, 2007

I’m making a website that will let you make competitions to achieve your goals. I need a name for this site. In the spirit of what the site will do, I’m hosting a competition to name it.

The prize will be a book of your choice over twenty and under fifty dollars. I and my partner will be judging the competition. The name should not be a hassle to type into your browser’s address bar. It can’t already be taken by another company or website. And the name need not be related to the company concept, as long as it is good.

Either email me (primevector *at* gmail *dot* com) or write it in the comments for this post.

Make sure to include:

  • A way to contact you
  • Your suggested name (submit as many names as you want)

The competition will end on November 7th. I will announce the winner and send the prize off at that point. I will try and contact the winner a few times, but if that doesn’t work, the prize goes to second place, even if we don’t use that suggested name.

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.

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.

Why Do Leaders Exist?

May 22, 2007

Why do leaders exist in the first place? I think this originally had to do with emergencies, which are perceived moments of resource scarcity. Let’s say you graph a population making questions and decisions. And lets say it adopts a bell curve distribution. I think the non-emergency versus emergency would look like this.ecomp

In an emergency, resources appear scarce and people give up questioning, planning, and judgement to a minority whose size relative to the population depends on the scale of the emergency. This lines up as many resources as possible behind one plan of action for maximum effect.

Obviously this isn’t the only reason leaders exist. Although it might explain why leaders are sometimes the cause of crises or support perpetual crisis states. Leaders offer inspiration and non-emergency group cohesion. At their best, they establish culture and structure useful limitations around power.