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 § 37 comments § permalink

There is a worldwide epidemic happening, and I feel like someone finally needs to say something about the problem: email hoarding. We’re all guilty of it. It’s easy to rack up thousands of emails over the years. We can’t keep living in a world up to our eyeballs in mail, so what can we do about it? I decided to take the challenge head on and achieve Inbox Zero.

After searching around for a solution, I stumbled across SaneBox. It does what it implies: bring sanity to your inbox. It uses an algorithm to understand my past behavior and move less important emails out of my inbox and into a folder named SaneLater. If something’s in the wrong place, I just drag and drop it. That being said, it’s right almost 100% of the time.

It does way more than just filter though. As an entrepreneur, my favorite feature is SaneReminders. It lets me know when a contact hasn’t emailed me back, so I can be sure to follow up at the right time. It also has one click unsubscribe and snooze folders, which are an added bonus. Best, it works anywhere I check my email – phone, laptop, tablet, etc.

If you want to join me in the Inbox Zero revolution, you should definitely check out SaneBox.

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 § 3 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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slovenian talent: look around before you look around

August 12th, 2013 § 11 comments § permalink

Slovenia
Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

Statistical office of Republic of Slovenia has announced that we had a terrible brain drain in 2012. Surprise surprise, who would have known.

We have been seeing signs of it for the past 18 months. First by people temporarily living abroad, deciding they are not coming back. Later people living in Slovenia, who started seriously thinking about leaving. And finally, when we started hiring a lot of engineers, and a lot of people ‘just started’ working abroad.

Of course, a year from now, Statistical office will report that the brain drain was even higher in 2013, all the media will write about it then, and the country will have lost another 12 months when it could have done something.

I have several issues with this situation, which worries and saddens me a lot. But I want to write about just one today – opportunism vs rational thinking.

Yes, the crisis is annoying, yes the economy is still winding down, yes you lost ton of job last year or the clients you’ve been calling on for the past decade have stopped ordering or paying. All very true and solid reasons for looking to change something, in order to defend the quality of life you got used to. And I understand completely that working abroad is a rational option in this decision-making process. I’ve done that, and the decision isn’t easy.

After all, constructing a nice way of life took you a couple of decades, right?

Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

But moving or working abroad shouldn’t be your default answer. It doesn’t have to be. I humbly call on you to try hard to find options to work for globally focused companies in Slovenia. By relocating yourself and your family you are risking as much as you are hoping to gain, but only the ‘gain’ is visible in the offer you have on your desk.

This is one of rare situations in which I’m arguing that it’s smart to be a bit more conservative. But fact is, that if you are deciding between bad past in Slovenia and shiny one offer from somewhere else, you are comparing human fish to dolphins. Try harder to add the lynx and the salmon to the table, and then evaluate you options.

In other words, companies like Zemanta, Celtra, 3FS and similar, are amazing, global, product companies. We are unlike anything you have worked for before in Slovenia. We are all looking to hire a lot of talent. We are all paying well above average and we are all growing. Consider applying for jobs with Slovenian startups, before you decide to change everything in your life.

And dear readers, please tell your friends that as well. I know 20% of them are thinking about moving right now.

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Podjetnikov credo, 1776 (via bukla)

August 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

20130803-142851.jpg

20130803-142851.jpg

are slovenia and US failed states?

June 28th, 2013 § 6 comments § permalink

Slovenia
Slovenia

Slovenia (Photo credit: phault)

I bet you’re instinctive answer was yes. how cynical of you. it seems everyone’s favorite sport last two years in Slovenia has been complaining about life and politics, without having any broad perspective on the state of the world.

Slovenians seem to live in a mental bubble, where they compare their own poor fates and lives with the imaginary paradise.

Foreign Policy actually does a proper analysis of all countries in the world every year, and ranks them from most failing to least. they even create a color-coded interactive map of failing states for all the cynics and others, who like to complain a lot.

Short answer to the question from the headline is no, Slovenia is 16th least failing in the world, based on indicators like quality of living and such. read the methodology if you care.

I love datasets like this one, if you assemble them with care and if you actually make them complete, they have the power to perform reality-check.

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The real reason for Apple’s new HQ ?

June 24th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (Photo credit: Kashmir Global)

Apple‘s new HQ build site opened this month, after some delays and quite some rise in costs. A lot has been written about it since Jobs gloriously unveiled the plans in Cuppertino last year, and all articles seem to gravitate towards one of the two conclusions:

  1. it’s going to be grand, beautiful, cutting edge office space for generations to look up to
  2. it’s a sign of the beginning of the decline of Apple, just like it happened to all other IT giants

Everyone agrees with the first point, but the cynical second point sounds like a stick in the mud. Sure Jobs wanted to build a monument for himself, but how can people possibly assume he was at the heights of his intellect, reinventing the whole home computing industry, and at the same his judgment clouded by a simple human sin of vanity. I don’t believe that Jobs would approve such an expensive project without a very deep and in Jobsian manner convoluted brilliant plan.

I was reading a very in-depth article covering more details of the story in Bloomberg Businessweek that exposed much more details than any before – about the builders, the challenges, the approaches. They even performed interviews with employees to shine some more light on how this spaceship is really going to be built and how it’s going to look like from inside. These interviews give a new clue about the possible real reason for the project that’s more expensive than WTC.

Supposedly all the insides will be assembled with a pre-fab modules for “bathrooms, utility closets, and banks of offices complete with carpets and window treatments”. nothing special, except that Jobs wanted high precision and attention to detail everywhere, so these pre-fab modules will be supplied by a purpose-built factories. At the same time, the building will have one of the largest private arrays of solar panels and a number of other technical advancements in construction and furnishing.

What if Apple’s new headquarters is not just a beautiful monument to the creator, efficient way to house 13000 employees and homage to HP labs and California, but also a pilot project for the next grand stage in Apple’s business expansion? After successful move-in, they will be left with a lot of public attention, a tested supply chain, solved first set of technical challenges to leapfrog one of the largest industries on the planet.

So to all you cynics out there, what do you think Jobs would do? Waste $5B and risk the success of his life work to build a building, or leverage it to expand business?

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