This Friday: Startup Crawl – Book Your Schedule, Reserve Your Tickets

March 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

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#190: Twenity – lansiranje - NOVOLETKA, 21. De...

#190: Twenity – lansiranje – NOVOLETKA, 21. Dec 2011 (Photo credit: Kiberpipa)

Slovenia has incredibly healthy startup community, with probably largest amount of global startups per capita. Most of the public is still unaware of how different (and healthy) work environments these young and fast-growing companies are.

After super successful first startup crawl amongst Ljubljana startups (last October), when literally hundreds of people came to visit some of us, the InternetWeek.si team is rallying us together again, in an even more awesome all-day startup festival.

As of today we have 24 super interesting startups opening doors for visitors, ranging from global super stars like Outfit7 and Celtra, to most ambitious newcomers like Sqwiz, Dietpoint and Oculus.

Let me rephrase this – this Friday you have an unique opportunity to see how Outfit7 and Celtra look like from within and talk to them in person!

A totally unique chance if you are looking for a better job (in various roles, not just engineering), if you are a journalist, consultant, or just a worried parent of a high-schooler that likes internet a lot.

This year we are also not only limited to Ljubljana anymore – we have startups from Ptuj, and Kranj participating as well.

So, here’s a recipe for you for this week:

  1. TODAY: go to internetweek.si and checkout the list of participating startups
  2. TODAY: BOOK A TICKET with the ones that you are interested in – the quantities are limited, with some of them very limited
  3. FRIDAY: go have a chat with some of the only creators of jobs in Slovenia
  4. FRIDAY EVENING: after party in LP in the center of Ljubljana

If you are a startup as well, and are wondering why you are not on the list, all you have to do is send an email to the internetweek team!

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good week for science, bad for UX

February 13th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

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Leopard watching two lions

Leopard watching two lions (Photo credit: Calle v H)

these days i’m under a strange combination of feeling victorious and nostalgic over challenges that used to make me seriously irritated and frustrated. tasks that i used to do much more frequently and really hated the convoluted way in which they were implemented.

several relatives asked me to help with different problems each:

  1. I had to update online bank certificate on a 4 years old mac mini running Leopard. it turns out, the bank doesn’t generate a valid certificate on firefox 12 anymore, and newer firefox version require Snow Leopard. *sigh*. download ISO (wait few hours), too large for DVD, copy to external drive, reboot, wait an hour ’till it upgrades, move the access point because the internet stopped working, download new versions of chrome and firefox, get the darn certificate, everybody happy.
  2. I had to convince an abandoned windows XP machine to connect to DHCP router – remove all obsolete dial up ‘connections’, create lan connection, ping, doesnt work. switch cable, switch router, ping, doesnt work. open LAN properties, add TCP/IP, open TCP/IP properties, set to ‘obtain IP address and DNS automatically’, OK, close, warks! [thanks wikihow - http://www.wikihow.com/Set-up-DHCP-Network-Settings-on-Windows-XP]
  3. I had to get new government-issued certificate for access to e-taxes. even though this is a whole different registrar that under (1), i noticed the emails and instructions were word-to-word same. good news is, that means i knew what to do immediately, bad taste left because of fake competition. bonus? the user now has three certificates from two issuers on the system, all made in the same name, with the same ‘name of the certificate’ that shows in the dropdown box when logging in, making it hard to guess which is the right one for each service. and it gets even better. one of the services accepts the wrong certificate as the right one. probably someone on the other end was equally confused and matched the wrong ID. *sigh*
A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM...

A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM IN HERALD SQUARE – NARA – 548272 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so much for the ancient technologies that still don’t work as expected. but there were some bleeding edged ones as well:

  1. my fancy new fitbit force wouldn’t sync. it just wouldn’t, for almost two weeks already. reseting the tracker or reinstalling the apps wouldn’t work. but the apps themselves made the whole process ultra frustrating, because of constantly changing behavior – random messages about not finding the tracker (that never moved anywhere), that it can’t find the server (even though @support claimed they are up), that the password is wrong, really didn’t help with debugging. and not everything was fitbit’s fault – once in the process, i tried logging in with facebook, which opened an oauth window, which was fixed size, but facebook loaded some security questions which were larger, which led to loading whole facebook, which was even larger. in the end, connection happened, but the app still wanted the same darn password. the tracker is now syncing, but the final step to this was to ‘add another tracker’, instead of ‘sync tracker’.
  2. and finally, i had to connect windows 8 laptop with external bluetooth speaker. this connection worked for months, and suddenly stopped working without explanation.  clicking on the speaker icon in taskbar and on devices and settings in left bar only brought up useless information. then i noticed bluetooth was disabled altogether, and it refused to switch on. so we rebooted (clicking on ‘start’ to shutdown was stupid enough, but now you have to click on ‘settings’ to find it, which is even worse). sure enough that switched the bluetooth magically back on, but the speaker still wouldn’t play anything. it turns out, the speaker icon in the taskbar had to be ‘right clicked’ (on a touch-first OS mind you), to reveal a ‘playback devices’ option, where you can switch the default device. and even that didn’t make the music come from them! i had to click on the darn speaker again (left click), and set the app-specific volume to more than 0. why i can set volume by apps, but not the output device as well, is beyond me.

all in all, it was a good week for science :) everything magically works, and it seems there is some progress in the art of UX – these days most problems are actually solved by rebooting everything and letting the defaults kick in. ten years ago you had only 50% chance that would solve it.

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that h...

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that he is a mouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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If you want to understand the life of a startup entrepreneur, watch this video

January 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

New York
New York

New York (Photo credits: www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

The author is Terrence Kawaja, an investment banker in NY, who knows everyone and in spare time creates more or less funny spoofs of popular culture.

This is his latest video, which is essentially a rewording of the famous ‘sunscreen’ song. I find it incredibly accurate, chaotic and sincere description of everyday life of a startup entrepreneur.

aspiring entrepreneurs, angel investors, employees, their families, everyone should understand the ups and downs that we go trough, and this video de-mystifies it appropriately.

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Lou Reed Was Not My Idol

October 28th, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

Live in Concert (Lou Reed album)
Live in Concert (Lou Reed album)

Live in Concert (Lou Reed album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lou is the first rock’n'roll legend I cared about to die in my lifetime. I feel lucky I have at least heard him live once, in Ljubljana. Sadly the friend that was with me then is not here anymore either. So that concert only exists in my head now.

Sometimes I wish he was my idol, because that would mean I was a musician, hopefully one of the 30.000 that bought the Velvet Underground‘s first album and went on to create their own bands.

Also, I would have to have been growing up in New York, to really appreciate his ways of navigating that particular urban jungle. I had a glimpse of that decisive city in the recent years, but the previous five decades live in his songs.

Cynically speaking, and I’m sure Lou would get a great laugh out of it as well, the great thing about being a rock’n'roll legend this century is that you don’t have to worry about your close ones. Immediately after you die, the new sales of your works make up for a great inheritance. iTunes and digital distribution made that really easy, even for the indie bands. If the Velvets were just starting now instead 50 years ago, and Lou died, it wouldn’t make much of a difference for him.

I hate cynicism. But I love Lou Reed.

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Move on! Next week! Internet Week Ljubljana!

October 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Proud to announce that my favorite startup community has matured to the stage, where we had to organize Internet Week – a whole week packed with events of various kinds, by several partner organizers, on multitude of topics. We are sponsored by the Digital Champion of Slovenia.

Startup CrawlOne of the highlights of Internet Week that’s going on in Ljubljana at the moment will take place on…Oct 23 2013restreaming.me

You should all take time between October 23rd-30th, and go visit at least a handful of the events, and get to know the community better. At Zemanta we will be hosting startup crawl next friday, when everyone is welcome to stop by for drinks and chats about the future of the web publishing.

I was fortunate to see how Internet Week NY developed, from it’s modest first year 2008, to an overwhelming festival of entrepreneurship it is now. I hope Ljubljana will follow a similar path, as it is the only way to the future.

Oh, and if you want to promote your event as well, give me a shout. happy to add it to the list. ;)

Join us. Move on.

Sanebox – A Better Email Experience

September 23rd, 2013 § 36 comments § permalink

I’ve been using email for most of my life (boy that makes me feel old) and email has improved in three key ways since then:

  1. mobile access
  2. threading/conversations
  3. search

But it’s still a mess, perhaps more today than ever before.  An average person spends 28% of their time processing email, and virtually everyone continues to fight with their inbox every day. Just look at the number of folks trying to achieve inbox zero.

A little while ago my friend Dmitri Leonov told me about a product he was working on that would save me from email. And he did just that.

The product is called SaneBox and I love it.

SaneBox does a number of things. It looks at your relationship with your emails and decides what’s important to you based on your past behavior.  It then moves your unimportant emails out of your Inbox into a separate folder, and summarizes them in a digest. It’s smart, it evolves and it’s done automatically.

SaneBox does other stuff too (lets you unsubscribe with 1 click, snooze non-urgent emails until later, etc) but those are the killer features for me. Best of all, everything works anywhere you check your email (on any provider or device) just by adding a folder, instead of forcing me to use another website or app. And if SaneBox makes a mistake, I can just move the email to the correct folder to train it.

If you suffer from too much email like me, give SaneBox a try.

 

10 reasons why windows 8.1 still dissapoint

September 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

after two months, i’m finally starting to see the other side of the new windows.

  1. IE 11 in metro UI is very interesting browser. why wouldnt we put tabs on the bottom and make them into thumbnails? why wouldnt we make browser black? the whole app feels much more comfortable than safari or chrome or opera with their ‘efficient’ focus. however, IE currently doesnt show rounded corners. even worse, it shows absolutely fugly X marks across every windows/div that should be rounded. it’s amazingly fugly. and amazingly annoying over time, to the point that i had to switch back to chrome.
  2. chrome on the other hand is crippled. plugins only work in desktop mode, which means i have to switch from metro every time i want to use flash or hangouts. also, in hangouts, my built-in camera doesnt work. i realize it’s not windows problem, but ironically it will add up to a potential decision to switch OS again.
  3. apps keep crashing. both evernote and trello and chrome, the apps i need and like the most, are unstable. i realize it’s because i’m early to use them, but still – it’s unacceptable to loose a note in evernote. repeatedly. i was forced to switch to desktop version of evernote, which is, meh. i really like metro one.
  4. despite efforts from apple, my macbook air seems to be unsupported – it started ok, but now less and less functions still work – brightness control (of any kind), earphones output, usb dies from time to time, and i still didnt figure out how hibernation / suspend work. lucky for me it’s mainly plugged into power these days. the brightness problem is hard on my eyes and might make me switch back in the end.
  5. the powershell is limited in width. that’s just incomprehensible to me. it’s hard to program this way.
  6. all my music is in itunes. i feel locked-in a bit, into ugly, non-metro itunes. disappointed by apple, but again, it might affect my decision.
  7. the computer sometimes just shuts off while i’m away, and i find it rebooted without explanation. it’s not hugely annoying, but it leaves bad taste and makes you feel insecure.
  8. there are no upgrades and fixes! well, to be honest, there was one. i couldn’t tell what changed. i’m waiting on them every day, since this is a year long preview, i assumed it’s because they want to actually fix these problems. at least the rounded corners or something.
  9. desktop mode is still, well, everything we hate about windows – bloated with features, severe lack of smart defaults, free-for-all platform that i dont want to use.
  10. mail and calendar dont really work with google account. i barely managed to get read-only calendar working, and it took me two days to enable two-factor authentication gmail account to work, which sadly stopped working after first month. i still didnt figure out how to fix it, and am forced to use chrome for mail now. i really miss that email client, even though it doesn’t support the ‘archive’ feature of gmail.
… all of these problems are slowly creeping up on me, making me feel more and more miserable. what hurts the most is that as a user, i can feel that the designers and coders and testers did not have me in mind when building this product. i feel neglected, alone and sad, because my gmail account doesnt work. i’m not so special – there must be hundreds of thousands of people just like me, who are ignored by such great people who designed this amazing product.
and this is the key lesson i got from these two months of the experiment. the users feel if you think about them, or if you dont. it’s felt in the details from their everyday life, not the overall design and decisions like buttons vs. tiles. those are really just the start.

10 reasons why windows 8.1 is better than os x right now

September 13th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

i’m performing an experiment on myself this summer – i switched completely to the new windows 8.1 when it came out, and have used them exclusively. to be honest, i didn’t think i’d last a day, but then a week passed by, then a month, and i still wasn’t missing the os x.
i have a long history with OS’s. i started with dos and windows 95 of course, then used linux exclusively for 10 years, recently have been using OS X exclusively for 4 years. these switches were usually related to the changes in the work / fun i had with my computer. last few years i’ve turned into an office hog, with occasional perl and django programming. the point is, i know my way around different OS’s as a power user, and it’s been ages since we’ve seen any real innovation in the space.
so i did it. and i was fascinated. here’s why:
  1. great apps designed for touch, means they are clean on desktop. i dont have windows tablet, but i sure appreciate that i can use the same apps, that were designed for fingers, on my computer. the fact that all these great apps were redesigned from scratch for this new experience, gives them amazing usability advantage over the apps that started with ‘windows’ paradigm. evernote touch, trello, maps, and similar, are simply joyful to use. there is nothing but what i need from them on the screen at any point in time. nothing. nada. zilch. no buttons, no menus, no chrome, not even sliders. only me and the content i want to focus on. you can feel that the whole UI is designed for monotasking, and is driving you towards that, no-add usage patterns, that end up in lower blood pressure and better sleep.
  2. gorgeous email and calendar client. built on top of the previously explained monotasking UI paradigm, they finally did a good job with the basic apps. remember the revolution apple mail and calendar did ten years ago? the same leap is happening here.
  3. just enough stacking windows. i understand that back in the eighties, the big war of the OS’s was exactly about the ability to show windows that overlapped. but i feel so much better in the new metro UI with windows that can only stack next to each other, and can only do so on three places on the screen. smart and efficient default, that makes the user feel safe and in control. want to take notes while doing a skype call? no problem, just stack ‘one quarter’ of the evernote touch next to skype, and you can do that without being left with horribly looking set of overlapping windows, taskbar and desktop peeking trough holes.
  4. live tiles and start area. i was impressed when apple introduced launchpad into os X- the concept they learned worked on tablets worked just as well on desktop. but they stopped there, and microsoft didnt. it makes so much more sense to go all in, and make it the default screen, that is designed to give control to you fingertips. this time for real. and guess what – squares with sharp corners and text are just fine, i dont need stupid circular icons that don’t mean anything. building ‘dashboard widgets’ straight into the tiles themselves, is the ultimate simplification that basically merges four OS X features: launchpad, the dock, dashboard, task bar. beat this apple!
  5. works out of the box. it only rebooted twice and it just worked. i could start clicking around, setting it up in many useless but joyful ways. also, the new booting fish progress bar is cute.
  6. burns less battery. really, this is a big one. in today’s world of bloated software i really really appreciate OS that is economical.
  7. charms are small featurettes available trough a right pane that shows when you move the mouse to that edge. they are actually pretty useful – as opposed to os x’s random social media and notifications bar, charms are tools – print, scan, share, setup, search. it’s the same genius that was behind the apple icon in the fixed menu bar ten years ago, just better.
  8. new metro control panel – apple’s control panel with great search highlighter was brilliant. new metro control panel is better, because you dont really have to search it to find stuff – it’s so much simpler, and so much cleaner, that it takes you no time to find and change a setting. and there are no settings available, that wouldnt be obviously necessary, while everything else apparently just works so i dont have to think about it.
  9. external screen behaves by default either as a continuous desktop or two separate metro areas, giving you great flexibility to arrange a work environment, without loosing the benefits of cleanliness and monotasking focus.
  10. social response. it’s really fun to observe how my colleagues one by one noticed the hated OS on my machine, had a cynical or puzzled or worried comment, listened to my explanation and demo of these features with tilted head, and left with some respect in their eyes and a glimpse of excitement and hope. when you see these feature work properly, they are impressive.

as a bonus let me just add that everything else that used to be good at windows is still good, and more stable. my next step is to get a windows phone and see how they work together.

keep in mind, that i’m trying to behave as a somewhat normal user – i need my computer to give me a reliable and predictable access to web, mail, spreadsheets, notes, music, cloud, pictures, news and some other things. no power user crap this time.

Hacking avc.com

August 20th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We launched a fun new featurette today—the tech circle. You can read more about it on our main blog, and on Fred Wilson’s blog, but in essence it is a showcase for our latest product, the content discovery network.
This was my first product launch again in years, so I couldn’t sleep really. But not simply because something was going to go live.
Since Fred was leading the pack with his blog post, and since Fred blogs early in the morning, we had to flip the switch on his blog before he wakes up. Because all blogging tools are somewhat old, the best way to do that is to actually put some code into the design of the site.
I’ve had Fred’s google analytics access for a while now, and now he shared his blog access as well. So I had the honor to hack my way trough Typepad’s opaque templating system. Of course I first tried on a test blog, and of course the templates changed on the live blog as well while I was still figuring out how it all works. Hopefully nobody noticed. :)
Anyways, our recommendations have now connected together a group of very interesting product people from very different backgrounds. Would love to hear your comments on it, and would love to hear if anyone would want to start a new circle with some of your blogging friends.
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we need a new profession: startup engineer

August 19th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Startup screen
Startup screen

Startup screen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Economic crisis is still the dominant topic in Slovenia, with worrying news and indicators popping up daily. At the same time, Zemanta has never been better, and is actually growing fast. Of course, because we are active on global market, rather than dependent on local economy. Except in one aspect – hiring.

We are looking for several new exceptional colleagues in our Ljubljana office. brilliant, smart, ambitious software developers. It’s not surprising that a lot of people are applying for the position, and I’m very happy to see that many of them actually fit the profile we are looking for.

I’m starting to call it startup engineer, to differentiate it from other software development jobs, like traditional IT, systems integrations or website development. many students coming from the universities here are not aware of the difference, and I think we, the startups, have to be very loud about how differently we work. here is a short list of the type of differences, would love to compile a longer one with your help:

  1. problem-solving: we are a product company, building a product of our own. there is no external client inventing and changing the specs all the time. there is no map of where we are going. we are learning with every step what the next step will be. thus there are not many repetitive tasks. every day actually brings new challenges. some people don’t handle such uncertainties well. startup engineers thrive in the challenge.
  2. freedom and flexibility: to a large extend we don’t care when and how you work. we expect you to do what it takes to understand the challenge well enough, to tell the other how you will solve it. hours, days, languages, locations are up to your judgment. some people cant handle this freedom. startup engineers love the freedom and grow with the responsibility.
  3. curiosity: the world is changing with incredible and accelerating speed, and we need to stay a step ahead of it. we need to understand the emerging technologies before they become standards. it takes extra time and energy, that doesn’t necessarily pay off always. startup engineers experiment and learn, because they cannot not to. sometimes that’s called being brave.
  4. global view: even when working on local problems, startup engineers have to understand the world at large, keep in touch with global trends, and think how the flap of the butterfly in silicon valley will affect us here and now.

there are several practical challenges that we are facing when trying to communicate why working in a startup should be attractive option:

  • I wish in the future, people looking to work as developers, would be aware of this difference well in advance. ideally even before high school, so that they can optimize their learning for the style of work that suits them best. we see a lot of very compelling candidates, that unfortunately end up working for banks and IT companies, simply because they don’t know that being a developer can mean very different things.
  • there is a prejudice that startup jobs are not stable enough, so specially young candidates are discouraged from applying for them. I find this mentality particularly cynical and obsolete. not only have I met a lot of very stable and healthy startups over the years, also the ‘stable’ companies are laying off incredible amounts of people these days, and government jobs are less and less secure as well.
  • some candidates, if they happen to know about startups, are convinced that they are not good enough to qualify. they don’t realize that what we need is first and foremost smarts and curiosity, and not PhD quality of theoretical puzzle-solving. at Zemanta, cultural fit is much more important than skills and experience. don’t negotiate with yourself.

I wish we could make this, ‘startup engineer’ a formal post-graduate university program. there are practical skills they could learn, to accelerate their growth, but these will change from year to year. more importantly, by having it as an option within formal educational system, we would be raising the awareness and actually giving some of the students a fair chance to realize their potential. creating it in collaboration with the actual companies would make sure the students end up with a bit more practically useful knowledge built on top of computer science fundamentals, and give them direct access to a pool of employers, that have been doubling every year.

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