Posted: April 19th, 2013 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Startups, Thoughts | No Comments »
This post is one of personal reflection, so it may not pertain, or even make sense, to most. But if you’ve ever known yourself to have a slight rebellious streak, it just might.
My Kindle tells me I’m at 46% percent of Steve Job’s biography. Now, for any of those who haven’t read it, the book at first seems frame Jobs in a negative light. He cries, he whines — he’s the guy that almost always gets his way. Yet, I constantly found myself in awe of his eccentricity. At some point reading through Jobs’ adult life, I realized there was no slander or overt praise occuring; rather, the author painted the truth of Jobs’ life in its raw, stark form.
I identify with Jobs. That’s perhaps what scares me the most. True, there are many philosophies of his with which I don’t agree. For instance, his obsession with counter-culture or his aptitude for negative reinforcement. But I cannot help but notice similarities between comments made of Jobs and those made of me by people in my immediate circle. And it’s not just about the perfectionist streak; I share with him a similar definition of perfection and the inability to allow any other future than that perfect vision to come true. If it doesn’t, expect a meltdown.
The similarities continue. The inability to think in any other way than binary. And its corollary, the inability to deal with the ‘gray’. His obsession with design, with purity, with elegance. His lack of complete understanding of social realities and norms, or at least the ability to abide by them. The belief in his early death. The desire to take any product, company, or other complexity and boil it down to an idea so simple that any unsuspecting audience has little choice but to intuitively understand.
With every page turn I encounter a parallel into my own life: in women, in friendships, in mistakes, in failures, in the horrid but unconscious ability of bending the truth to our own will (read: lying without knowing you are). But all of these, I believe are simply effects of the same root cause: the desire to change the world on a large scale, and the unwillingness to see any other reality but that one.
No I don’t think I am nor will I ever be Steve Jobs. And have no desire to be. But if I can make even an ounce of the impact that Steve Jobs made on our current reality, I’ll consider myself successful.
To infinity and beyond.
Posted: January 26th, 2013 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: Advice, All, Thoughts | No Comments »
“If you expect something in return for being a nice [person], you’re not a nice [person].” –Paraphrased from Reddit and probably countless wisened individuals.
The subject of “being nice” has been on my mind for a couple weeks now. The beauty (and beast) that is the New York subway is that everyone is too busy to wear their daily mask of courtesy. Only smile for those who you need to impress, right? Or at least it feels that way sometimes. Don’t give a damn for those who you subconsciously consider beneath you. But on the subway we see everyone’s true colors; we see how people act when there isn’t much to benefit from being nice. Someone holds the door open for you, let’s you pass when you’re in a hurry, or smiles at a fellow passenger — true signs that these individuals are nice when no one’s looking.
Another popular saying is that one should “observe not how they treat you, but rather how they treat the waiter.” Or cashier, or taxi driver, or otherwise. The majority of the people who’ve read this probably agree with it. That same majority probably believes they live it. And yet only a minute fraction actually do.
No, I don’t think I’m part of that minute fraction; I very much have a breaking point. The point at which the stresses of life hit so hard that my own negative emotion spills onto others who really don’t deserve it. But I’ve learned and more realistically continue to lean to keep that breaking point lower and lower (or higher, depending on how you look at it). Luckily I’ve had some great role models to emulate along the way.
Like most of my posts, there is no point or purpose in writing this, only the hope that we’ll smile when unnecessary, be kind when no one’s looking, and see the good in people before the bad. There’s enough negativity in the world. The best I can do is not spread it around.
Posted: September 10th, 2012 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Medicine, Startups, Thoughts | No Comments »
Those of you who know me personally know that I’m half deaf. It’s not really a source of embarrassment or even significant difficulty. Often, it’s quite hilarious. (Jokes involving ”can you hear me now?” verizon commercials, or what’s been designated the “Tim move” wherein I move you to my right side so I can hear you.) But it’s often easy to forget how powerful the gift of a sense can be.
Any product you interact with, whether an addictive “I should be working” website or a simple can opener, caters to your senses. Meaning, someone on the other end of your use as the consumer had to intelligently design and be considerate of your specific needs. I used to think product design was easy; as consumers it’s easy to be critical. It’s probably the hardest part of my job so far. Once you’ve doven into your project, you no longer can view it objectively.
Well this post is about one simple feature and consideration Apple made and just how powerful such a feature can be.
I usually only listen with one headphone in, since only one ear works well anyways. When I went to adjust the sound settings on my mac, one of the prominent settings is the left-right pan. Maybe PC’s have this too, or maybe there’s an external app that might let me control how much volume goes into each ear, but it was one of the few settings I could change in the mac sound settings — I couldn’t not notice it.
So I decided to jack up the volume into my left (deaf) ear as loud as it could go. And while my hearing is nearly non-existent in that ear, the volume was high enough that it vibrated the bones in my ear, bypassing my defective ear canal. In short, I could hear. (To preempt suggestion for hearing-aids, they don’t work well for my type of hearing loss. I’ve tried.)
I began panning back and forth between left and right and for one of the first times in my life, I felt I had directional sense (this is what you lose when you only have one good ear), a taste of what hearing what two ears must be like. The emotional response was unexpected, but how odd it must have looked to see someone tearing up with near giddiness at the joy of a pan function.
Now this is definitely an extreme case, but I share it to illustrate a single point. Your design matters.
Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: Advice, All, Meddik, Startups, Thoughts | 1 Comment »
In response to Sorry Dan Shipper, you are wrong.
@crranky, you are wrong. (post linked above)
Dan Shipper, you are wrong (referring to The Now Syndrome).
Jeff Atwood, you are wrong (referring to Please Don’t Learn to Code)
But you’re all also right. Step back and see the full elephant.
Preface: I’m still very much a novice when it comes to both programming and start-ups, but I’ve learned much in my short time in the field. The “how do I find a technical co-founder” conversation has become a well-choreographed mantra for me, and as my audience is generally composed of physicians and medical students — people who (like in many other fields) have little time for.. well, anything.
To recap, Dan in his post says that:
When I ask many non-technical founders why they haven’t learned to code this is a pretty common response: I don’t have time, I want to get this out now.
He then goes on to explain the ultimate decisions these non-technical founders face: to hire a dev or to learn to code. From their perspective, the former seems like the more time efficient option. They then spend monumental amounts of time trying to find a developer, spending more resources than they would have if they’d just learned to program in the first place.
@crranky rebuts in his post, saying that there sometimes there are legitimate unsurmountable constraints. He/she says that learning to code isn’t a ‘few months’ ordeal. He compares it to learning to become a physician or some other profession. It’s not just a one-off task.
I want to learn to code. But what if I’m not built to be a coder? Guys, am I missing the point here?
So, Dan and others, they’re not false constrains, really, seriously, they are not.
This discussion reminded me of Atwood’s post, where he asked people to “please don’t learn to code”. He does advocate learning a little code for the sake of understanding what code is, but does not want everyone to market themselves as a developer.
The “everyone should learn to code” movement isn’t just wrong because it falsely equates coding with essential life skills like reading, writing, and math.
As someone who didn’t pick up web development until December 2011 for the purposes of starting a company, let me reiterate the answer I always give non-technical founders.
- Learn to code. @crranky, the point of this is NOT to become a full-fledged developer; becoming one does involve some very real constraints. However, high level languages + architectures like Ruby on Rails and Python / Django has made building a simple app almost trivial. I’ve yet to meet a single person who is incapable of going through a basic tutorial. Follow the recipe and you’ll automatically learn something passively. If you’re not willing to take a few weeks or months to at least attempt to build the product that solves your problem, then apologies, you’re not ready for the hustle that’s necessary to start a company.
- You’re learning to code for understanding, not to become your own dev team. @Dan, you separated the ‘find a dev’ tasks into hiring a coder or learning to code. They’re not separate tasks. Your chances of finding a good dev increases exponentially if you know how to hack something together, if you’ve coded before. It’s not just so you can speak the speak and fool your hires with fancy technical words. No, it’s to prove yourself and your developer partner that you understand the pains and difficulties of development. You understand that developers don’t code for the sake of coding; it’s a tool to solve a problem that you and your developer both believe in. Your tools might be your sales ability; his are a terminal window and a text editor. Your tools are different, but your vision should be the same.
- Jeff, the ”everyone should learn to code” movement sure might be sullying github with more poorly written code than ever, and I agree that learning to code b/c you want the nice paycheck and lifestyle is ridiculous (it’s the same reason I deter people from arbitrarily going pre-med even though I’m a medical student myself). However, I very much do support companies like Codecademy or others that “try to get technical” (in the words of Fred Wilson) — the keyword here being ‘try’. No, not everyone is made to become a professional developer, but tools like these make it easier for people to get out of their comfort zone, to show that they have the balls and gumption to do whatever they need to to solve their problem… even a seemingly monumental task like coding. The companies just make that tasks a little less scary and offer the window necessary to the 1% of people who would not have otherwise thought of becoming devs, even though they’re adequately suited for it. Ultimately, if they’re not made to be a coder, they naturally won’t be one for long.
tl;dr. Learn to code for understanding. Stop whining. Sack up.