Seattle Startup Weekend – SkillBit

February 3rd, 2008

Last weekend I participated in this thing called Startup Weekend in Seattle. Basically, there were over 100 people attempting to create a startup company (basically a web app) going from concept to launch in just over 50 hours. It was pretty intense.

The weekend started Friday evening with everyone sitting at tables of 5-6 people. Each person shared their idea with the table. They were then written down and one person took the ideas and pitched some of them to another table. The other table decided which 1 or 2 ideas were worthy. These ideas were collected at the front in paper form then randomly distributed to different tables. Each table read the idea on the paper separately and voted either yes or no to the idea. Only about 5 ideas made it past this stage. My theory is that ideas on paper in a sentence or two don’t get people nearly as excited as if someone else was pitching it to them. We ran through that again to get a different set of about 5. So, 10 ideas total. Each of these 10 was pitched to the entire group by the person who originally suggested it. We took a vote on all 10. You could vote either yes or no to each one by either raising or not raising your hand. There were about 4 that made it past this round. Next, there was discussion about each of these 4, and different people talked about the merits of each. Then, a final yes or no vote from everyone and we came out with a clear winner. We were going to build a RideShare that actually worked and that people actually used.

So… now to figure out exactly what we are building, and who else is building similar stuff. An hour or so into this, and the business development people come back with their findings on the competition. They determine that there are some strong competitors in our area, namely Goose Networks. They are doing a lot of the stuff we would be doing and it would be difficult to differentiate ourselves. So, we took a vote if with this new information we should switch ideas. Most people thought we should switch, and so we decided on the “ for Enterprise” idea.

Basically we would create a web application that would allow small to medium sized businesses get a better sense of what skills their employees had to better utilize these. Each employee in the business gets a profile which has basic information plus their answers to certain questions the boss had asked. So, the boss could ask something like “What languages are you fluent in?”. Each employee would answer this question and their answer would show up in their profile. Then, later you could search through the system to find an employee fluent in Spanish to talk with a new client. This is just an example. I’m sure there are plenty of questions you could ask to get useful answers to help in finding skills in your organization. What are we going to call this? We call it SkillBit. The skill part is easy to understand. The bit part represents the simplicity of the software and lack of features I suppose. As with any good web application, it does one thing, and does it well… hopefully.

We have yet to launch SkillBit publicly, but you can sign up on a waiting list to get an announcement of when it launches.  If you want more details about how the weekend went, you can read the Seattle Startup Weekend blog which was posted two by two people throughout the weekend.

Yahoo Falling

February 3rd, 2008

Over the last year or two, Yahoo hasn’t been doing so well. Their CEO, Terry Semel, stepped down last year. One of the founders, Jerry Yang, took over and embarked on a 100 day review of the company looking for ways to improve the situation. Recently he announced that they had evaluated priorities and will be laying off a good chunk of employees. Just after Yahoo’s most recent earnings report, Microsoft announced an unsolicited takeover bid. Microsoft is definitely taking advantage of the fact that Yahoo’s stock has recently fallen significantly recently. The offer is more than twice their current stock price making it seem like its a really good offer. We’ll see what happens. Will Yahoo accept the offer? Will Microsoft be able to acquire the company without breaching any laws?

Public Transit on Google Maps

February 3rd, 2008

I don’t know exactly when Google Maps added this, but now you can get directions from point A to point B using public transit instead of using a car in certain major cities. This works pretty well. You search for directions between two street addresses, and click “Take Public Transit”. It then gives you three options coming up in the next few minutes to take a bus. It shows you if any transfers are necessary. It shows you how long each option will take and when you have to leave and when you will arrive. It of course shows you the route on the map and which bus numbers to look for. I’ve started to use this pretty much every day. I don’t always leave work at the same time, and I want to avoid waiting at the bus stop for too long. There are a couple bus stops near where I work, so I have to choose the right one to minimize the waiting time. I use this new feature pretty much any time I want to go anywhere because, like I’ve said before, I don’t have a car. I use Flexcar when the bus just won’t do.

MacWorld 2008

February 2nd, 2008

I watched the MacWorld 2008 Keynote by Steve Jobs, and frankly wasn’t as impressed as I’ve been by the last few. I guess its hard to follow the announcement of the iPhone.

The MacBook Air is pretty cool, but how much value is there in getting a laptop that small? I consider my current MacBook to be thin and light enough to not worry about it. The screen and keyboard looks to be the same size, so the amount room it takes up hasn’t really changed. The extra multitouch gestures are again cool, but with the current applications, don’t appear to be that useful. Maybe I just don’t use the right applications. Maybe it will enable entirely new applications that we haven’t seen yet. That would be cool.

I think the movie rentals on the Apple TV will be a game changer, especially since you don’t need a computer anymore. But, since I’m a technology guy, I’m not that impressed because I don’t see any new technology here. It’s all about the content deals with the major movie producers. I’ll bet that it was the content deals which was causing Steve Jobs to keep saying that Apple TV was Apple’s hobby project. He couldn’t say anything about what was in the works, so he was putting off the fact that Apple TV wasn’t doing that well.

Time Capsule I think was a smart move for Apple. People really need to backup their stuff. It needs to be really easy to do. I think that adding a hard drive to the home router is a good way to go. I personally don’t need it because I bought a Drobo and hooked it up to the Airport Extreme. So, I have two redundant 500 GB hard drives in there so that if one dies, I don’t  loose any data. So, I can use it not just as backup, but for primary storage.


February 2nd, 2008

A lot of stuff has happened since I last posted, both in the world and in my life. I’ve been hesitant to blog about it mostly because I have to spend time doing it for, what seems to be of little benefit. I’m not even sure who really reads this. I know my family reads it, some of my friends might read it, other folks out there interested in Google Maps stuff might read it, and maybe some other random people out there might read it. I’m going to try to post more often, and am going to do a few quick posts right now.

Kindle Review

December 4th, 2007

After a few hours of playing with the Amazon Kindle, here’s what I’ve found so far.

It’s way too easy to accidentally hit the huge side buttons. You have to try not to hit them by always holding the device at the bottom and being careful to put your fingers somewhere where there isn’t a button.

Getting free 2 week trial subscriptions to newspapers and blogs is cool, but it looks like I have to remember to go and cancel them if I don’t want them. Getting previews of books is cool too. At least those don’t automatically get bought after 2 weeks.

The Kindle is indeed lightweight and easy to read. Although its still possible to get glare on the screen, its far less than on other types of screens, and looks great even in direct sunlight.

The back cover is really hard to get off, but I guess it was designed that way. At least it doesn’t come off as easily as the side buttons get hit. The battery and memory card slot are behind the back cover.

It comes with a book cover that is pretty cool, but it falls out too easily. They should have made the locking mechanism tighter.

You can start using the Kindle as soon as you get it. It doesn’t come charged, but it works while its charging so that’s not too bad. The Kindle is tied to your Amazon account when you buy it. So, from the home page where a list of all your reading is there was a personalized letter from Jeff Bezos. In the upper right, it says Kyle’s Kindle. I would assume yours would have your name on it instead.

The Kindle saves your spot in every piece of reading you have and shows you how far you are in each item on the home screen.

Something that isn’t talked about as much is the Ask NowNow service. From the Kindle, you can type in a question, and someone will browse the internet to find an answer for you. So, if you are driving around looking for a place to eat you can ask your Kindle “what’s the best place for burgers in Seattle?” and it will give you answers from 3 different people. In this case, the answer is Dick’s Drive-In at 111 NE 45th St. The people answering also listed several other places and gave a link to the CitySearch page where they got the results. I’m assuming they just used Google to search for “burgers seattle”. Which, I guess I could have done because the Kindle has a web browser.

Yes, that’s right, the Kindle comes with a web browser. It displays text and images in black and white. So, Wikipedia does indeed work, but not that well in my opinion. It says it supports javascript in advanced mode, but regular Google Maps doesn’t work. The non-javascript version sorta works, but the Kindle cuts off images if they are at the bottom of the first screen of a web page with no option to scroll half way. You either go to the next screen full, or the previous screen full.

The Kindle has a cool ‘screen saver’ type thing which gets activated after a while of non-use. Alternatively, you can activate it manually. I don’t think its actually saving the screen at all, but it does lock the kindle so that you can’t accidentally press buttons.

There is a back button! This is great for when you want to look up something, go to another book, check something on the web, then want to go back to wherever you came from. This not only works in the web browser, but in books, newspapers, in the menus, etc. So, its actually not that difficult to go to different sections or articles in the newspaper. You don’t have to click ‘next page’ a bunch of times. You just click the name of the section or article, read a little into it, then click the back button and you will be taken back to the list of articles or sections.

I bought a Kindle

November 24th, 2007

Yup… that’s right, I shelled out $400 for an oversize PDA with a black and white screen that has a refresh rate of about once per second.

On the other hand, it has a free wireless internet connection wherever you go, replaces the weight of over 200 books, and has a screen which looks more like a book than a computer screen.

What’s Wrong With Yahoo?

November 24th, 2007

Jerry, this is what’s wrong with Yahoo:

Annoying Yahoo Banner Ad

Google Maps Easter Egg

October 12th, 2007

Try typing in these queries into Google Maps in order. You’ll get a kick out of the results, as long as they haven’t changed anything by the time you read this.

seattle to redmond

seattle to redmond, wa

seattle to redmondmond

UPDATE: I guess they fixed it. The first query used to be translated into “seattle to red st” or something like that with no “did you mean” option. The second would turn “redmond, wa” into “redwa”. The third option would be translated into “seattle to redmond” and give you the correct directions.

Save As in Netbeans

October 11th, 2007

So, my roommate Kevin was working on some Java code for this project we are working on. He’s using the NetBeans editor and I just got a kick out of what he said. Apparently, the version of NetBeans he is using simply does not have a ‘Save As’ feature.

I did a little Googling, and found this NetBeans tips and tricks page which suggests a 7 step work around for ‘Save As’. Awsome.