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Maintain Or Build

April 2nd, 2010 by Seth Kenvin

Week Of Deep Thoughts Post #5

Exciting day! First one back in the office, seven days after surgery. Among commute, lunch out & some other stuff, probably put half a mile on the crutches. Feeling strong & looking forward to continuing recovery. Also looking forward to finishing this series of posts. Five straight days of identifying issues & writing opinions, while also doing the post-surgery rehab and trying to keep pace on the rest of the job. Phew.

Also exciting today were some interactions with customers to schedule meetings in a couple weeks to go over some new functionality we’re building right now. But there was also some interaction with customers about fact that our online service could be faster. Yes, it’s true. Apects of video.Market7 should be faster. And we’re on that too. This is a pivotal dilemma among software companies with emerging bases of customers — how to balance getting out the next set of services that drive higher usage and attract the next customers, with also constantly maintaining and enhancing the performance and reliability of what’s already provided.

As a start-up guy, I admit to a bias towards the thrill of conceptualizing and building new functionality in response to our expanding understanding of user needs. But as a maturing start-up guy I also increasingly recognize the need to complement that innovation with constant, diligent evaluation of how’s our performance and what we can do to optimize what our customers already have. So my deeply thought answer on this fifth day’s question is to balance constant emphasis on both maintain and build.

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Being Yourself

April 1st, 2010 by Seth Kenvin

Week Of Deep Thoughts Post #4

Good doctor’s visit today, and the knee pain felt yesterday has lightened up. Planning to spend a few hours tomorrow in the office! But I still have to spend quite a few hours with a machine moving my leg, and will still get one more prone-written post of deep thoughts delivered to close the week.

This fourth day of the workweek is the first day of April, which during the last few years has been escalating to become one of the pinnacle annual moments in the tech industry. It seems that the majority of substantial Internet companies put out some sort of fake announcement or site modification today. Google put out at least ten (making the home page “Topeka”, some by Youtube, docs, Gmail etc.). And many companies’ jokes were some kind of perposterous claim of their impossibly partaking in a trend such as introducing their own ChatRoullete derivatives or making their sites 3D.

To quote the hackneyed techie phrase, “meh”.

There certainly are aficionados of internet April Fool’s pranks, but in my exchanges with some industry people during the day, it seems that there’s increasing ennui at these compulsory attempts to partake in some annual wackiness. They tend to be ridiculously easy to spot, so they generally fail as pranks, and they tend to exhaust beyond stamina some fairly obvious line of wit, so they’re often also weak as jokes. A few are admittedly creative in their execution though. But overall, it seems that hundreds (possibly thousands?) of person-hours in the tech industry are now channeled into this yearly exercise towards a day in which each company comes across largely the same as the next.

Exhibiting humor is great, but it doesn’t have to be done in a particular way at a particular time or its function as humor is prone to fail. It can achieve the opposite result of efforts to show a company has personality — instead the company seems to imitate the industry’s consensus of what corporate personality is supposed to be. Be funny when inspired and make that inspiration distinctively your own, and likewise spontaneously & vividly share your insights, principles, passions and so on.

This horse I’m on in this post is getting pretty high. I’ll get off of it now.  It’s hard to riff on a different controversial topic every day for a week! I suppose setting myself up for that compulsory exercise is consistent with the very annual April foolery I criticize here. If you’re not persuaded by what’s written in this post, please go through the whole thing again bearing in mind throughout that it’s just meant as a joke.

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Pads as phones as main platforms for all applications?

March 31st, 2010 by Seth Kenvin

Week Of Deep Thoughts Post #3

Five days after surgery and for first time some pain is felt. Nothing too acute, feels like a thigh bruise, a bit above the knee. Appointment with doctor tomorrow, we’ll see what he thinks. For now I’m tired & uncomfortable, so today’s deep thoughts are short.

Again staying with the news, the initial iPad reviews have been coming out today. Considering this platform, along with the energy that’s in Android & iPhone app development, some are speculating a future in which portable, wireless devices with minimal hardware peripherals, including no physical keyboard, will increasingly be the environment for all computing.

All computing of course includes a broadening range of activities. Watching video? Agreed that seems great on a pad that’s light, easily held & presents content brightly. But I’d rather write a blog post, even as short as this one, with the benefit of a keyboard. Laptops have been with us in just about their current forms for a long time now, I suppose two decades, and the hinged keyboard motif is due for some innovation before long. But right now the screen-only pad does not appear to provide a solution for many tasks that require not just consumption, but also user input & interaction including much on our video.Market7.

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How Much For Free, How Much For Pay

March 30th, 2010 by Seth Kenvin

Week Of Deep Thoughts Post #2

Today’s deep thoughts in a moment, but first some knee surgery levity. Met a customer this morning who gets surgery on a torn meniscus tomorrow (my op was for new ACL & repairing some femur damage) — best wishes Michael! Anyhow, we arrived at destination simultaneously, from different directions, converging with each of us on crutches. That gets heads in the room turning.

Drawing topic again today from stuff in the small-n news right now. Firm moves being made by big-N News Corp to insist on for-pay journalism on the internet. Closer to our company’s home is the weak commitment and shrinking programming from video content owners for Hulu, despite lots of viewing, is in large part driven by desire to retain capabilities for monetization from viewer pay.  Closer still, as a software company, we face dilemma of maximizing our user base with ability to use our stuff for free versus maximizing revenues by making sure all’s paid for.

Our posture emphasizes for-pay usage, and we prefer maintaining that from the outset of our growth, instead of jeopardizing momentum by switching later. New users can sign up and try the full range of video.Market7 services for free, at decent capacity, but the limitations are set such that usage can’t practically extend beyond doing a single, not-gigantic, video production project. One could argue that by not giving away more during our early existence and maximizing user base we are in fact not optmizing our revenue prospects. We feel differently and think it’s best for start-ups to orient ourselves by intelligently & always understanding how users tangibly value offerings, and to adjust operations with consideration of that.

Lots of people seem to expect News Corp to face some difficult come-uppance  while trying to reverse its own participation in getting consumers to expect news on the Internet for free. That may be a good point. We’re picking a practice of having usage for-pay from the get-go with no switch in model anticipated.

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Ethics And Profits

March 29th, 2010 by Seth Kenvin

Week Of Deep Thoughts Post #1

Per the sub-headline here, a plan was that during this week after just getting a knee operation, I would be mind altered by Vicodin and could daily offer brief opinions on various weighty topics with chemically enhanced color. But Dr. Colin Eakin’s precise hands have me quite literally feeling no pain, so here are the first of those thoughts, in full sobriety.

Let’s start with Google eliminating China presence as a topic. Some of the controversies about this include whether the company is putting principle above fiduciary duty to its shareholders, whether the “do no evil” ethic can be selectively applied here whereas there are other areas it is arguably diluted (ex: constructing profiles based on observation of personal on-line behavior), and whether it all might just be posturing while selecting a more tactical retreat versus tough, local competition.

This post’s quick analysis acknowledges such compromises as potential factors and salutes Google nonetheless. Even if not absolutely purely, the company is overtly embracing principle that is consistent with the identity it’s cultivated. That identity is in fact reason why many choose to trust much of our online lives to Google. And by & large there is evidence that it’s been thusfar abided. So, in fact Google’s public embrace of principle is a driver of its popularity and hence its success, and this weighty demonstration could bolster such positioning perhaps with greater benefit than its ofsetting & significant consequences.

Market7 has yet to reach stature where our demonstrable abidance of particular principles makes much impact on our success, but we do have resolution of what some of those principles are. They motivate us (another factor that may favor Google here — internal, cultural pride in the workplace) and we look forward to the day we can exercise them (likely in  less Star-Wars-esque manner than the Google slogan) to the business benefit of our company through generation of extensive goodwill among multiple key constituencies.

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