Richard Hamming (from "You and Your Research"):
1. What are the most important problems in your field?
2. Are you working on one of them?
3. Why not?
Paul Graham's (from "Good and Bad Procrastination") generalization of Richard Hamming:
What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?
edw519's generalization of Paul Graham:
Work on the most important thing until it's not the most important thing any more.
I have developed this excellent/horrible habit of not being able to focus on very much of anything if there was something more important hanging over my head.
Excellent in keeping me from trivial pursuits. Horrible at meal time, bed time, other people time. I'm still a work in progress.
Often times when people talk about money they are talking about resource gathering. At some point the resource gathering turns off and the money becomes an easy proxy for points.
So I'm not sure that creating another Lisp is less cool, but it can't be easily measured. What if IBM uses your Lisp for everything they do, how does that compare to another guys Lisp that has 6.5 million downloads. Who is cooler?
Of course, when I say 'good' I don't mean in the moral sense. Imagine you were to design a way for people to keep score and they had to use tangible things. What would make one tangle item better than another? Here's a quick list I came up with...
1. Easily transferable. Money fulfills this because it can be transferred electronically. The physical good need not even exist. Money when talking about it as a point system is strictly an abstract. Put another way it is a stored value that can later be redeemed for big macs or Jane Austeen books.
2. It must be difficult to acquire. Money you can't just print (Well you can, but it is mostly worthless). The difficulty makes it more of a way to keep score in the game of life. There needs to be a way to prevent someone from adding to their score arbitrarily.
3. You must be able to keep score at small enough intervals. Keeping score by buying big macs becomes unproductive when you get into the millions of dollar range. At the same time keeping score in the form of luxury cars becomes impossible in the thousands of dollar range.
That's why I said money is good. Not in the moral sense that those who have more money are better people or some form of Prosperity theology. Just that money has many of the traits needed to provide a way to keep score.
No, not really. You said money is "an excellent points system". I inferred that if it was the case, the price of current products sold on the market should reflect well their inherent value, which I think it doesn't.
Money is is too ductile and doesn't involve enough the "donor", a bit like "vote by SMS for your favorite star". The voting system itself is still not involving enough the person giving the vote.
My favorite "point system" is "feet-voting": the best city is the place where people move to, the best country is the one that people want to go to live, raise their kids, etc. This evaluation was used during the Warring State period in China, and it induces the kings and feudal lords to enforce justice and proper retributions. If not, their administrate will move away. Trying to force them to stay by forbidding expatriation will push them away even stronger. And this voting-with-your-life thing is such a deep decision from the voters that we can trust them to ponder long-term consequences.
Granted, this evaluation cannot apply to each and every case, but in the web services it has a clear equivalent in how many users stay on a site and use it.
Money is good since it provides a reference point, a solid ground for measurement and comparison. Although often you need to take into account some non-obvious stuff when you compare two amounts of money (esp. prices), it still does work.
For ‘inherent value’ each person would see their own price tag. And I'm sure my tag would reflect smaller amount for Jane Austen's book than yours.
And feet-voting is good if you can judge on a large scale, which is not always applicable. Edit: by the way, most people would feet-vote for a big mac rather than a book (that is, if we were able to conduct a really unbiased experiment with random selection of people).
Seriously? If you had to be thrown on a desert island and bring only one thing, would you bring a short term belly chemical satisfaction asset like a big mac, or a long term spirit satisfaction asset like a Classic book in your mother tongue?
However, what is unfortunately much more common is day to day hunger. I'm willing to bet that most people (myself included), after a few days of not eating, would rather have the Big Mac than the Austen book.
I love literature, but it won't keep me alive.
For money to be a good point system, everyone with a wallet would have to be sensible and make good market choices but unfortunately the case is, for the most part, the exact opposite.
On top of that I would argue that (for example) Khan Academy is much more valuable than most of the investment firms, but investment firms are worth more $$$ than Khan Academy will ever be.
Let's be constructive: what would be a better point system?
My point was that money is a factor, but not because it can be converted into signed limited edition Jane Austeen books for your private island. It is because it serves as a point system when you play the game of life.
Sure, we should think about how someone got the money. But that isn't what the question is about. The question is about how does an individual judge that something is cool. For many, it's about keep score. For a large subset of those money serves as a valid point keeping system.
The value system you are pitting against money is completely subjective and therefore somewhat useless as a points system.
As a quick experiment with my girlfriend:
Do you know who Linus is? => Uh, No.
Do you know what Linux is? => Yeah, it's your system.
Do you know what IBM is? => Yes, it's a computer company.
It's pretty clear to me that outside of our nerd/geek bubble at the society level those that make more money are cooler.
You have to work in order to make money. And to make a lot of money you need to work a lot, or at least harder. To do that you need to know how to use your time well.
Understanding some meta aspects of work is very important. And sometimes studying nerd lives can give you how they manage those meta aspects which affect the actual aspects which make them money.
Health is a good example of this. "Doing" could include, for example, taking a drug. It may solve the surface problem, but its side effects are unknown and could have negative consequences that are harder to correct.
On the other hand, behaviors can be removed (i.e. remove carbs, remove soda, remove sugar, etc.). Maybe their immediate effect is less apparent but they are systemically more valuable for everything and far less is open to going wrong.
The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. ... No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.
-- Richard Feynman
read the whole letter, it's very inspiring: http://scienceblogs.com/thescian/2008/03/what_are_worthwhile...
Just saying that even this simple heuristic doesn't seem to help me :-(
But if you're doing a software product, focus on building out a great feature or talking to your customers before you start wasting time on a pretty logo.
All this at the end boils to down to do managing a todo list well.
I might be wasting time writing code when I can best contribute by taking care of 'overhead' so my team isn't blocked - there's an anecdote here somewhere of the PM who would buy coffee for the team so the team can focus on producing code - or i might be wasting time taking care of 'overhead' that doesn't matter yet (planning the optimum office layout) when I can best contribute by writing code.
To know whether or not you're wasting time, you have to know what makes one work "fake" and the other "good", and my list may be vastly different from yours.
The one thing that I do think is important though is business cards. We got business cards before we even got 1 line of code written. It just seems like an established way to exchange info at events more so than using "bump", I think.
Note that communicating with such expert sometimes can take more time and be more frustrating than if you did this yourself. It's not all black and white.
The expert often knows how to communicate more effectively than a non-expert would anticipate, because she has seen all the common issues before. That's what expert means. When a non-expert encounters a problem for the first time it always feels like a uniquely strange and complicated new thing. But more often than not an expert will listen to you describe your problem for two minutes, reach into a drawer and pull out a standard design that fits 85% of your use case, adjust the settings on the five standard knobs to cover another 10% of your use case, and then focus on the remaining five per cent... or, perhaps, just deliver the solution to you and let you tinker with the remaining five per cent.
It's hard to appreciate this process until you've been through it several times in different contexts. Because one of the things that non-experts are not expert at is: Knowing what the experts can do for you. Telling the difference between a problem that benefits from lavish amounts of personal attention and one that can be solved in ten minutes by someone for whom your problem is a daily routine and who knows just what to ask.
>> Founder equity splits
Also, if you have problems working out founder equity splits, you probably have the wrong team.
I would suggest a startup to, yes, first focus on the product. Once the product is done though, they should focus on the small, "trivial", details.
Clearly you are going to be meeting tons of people and telling them about your startup if you are really serious about it, so not having a well-designed business card from day one is just throwing away tens of thousands of dollars worth of leadgen.
In all seriousness I'm 100% sure people care more about the product/idea of your startup more than the gold lettering on your business card. If you can prove me wrong than I'm going to get gold lettered business cards to get people to invest into my (fake) startup.
"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing"
(I think its faster than reading the whole QA session linked to in the original post.)
Through my experience in my business I've been able to point them in the direction this article suggests. Basically, we only spend time on things that clearly get a goal achieved. The rest we just leave until we absolutely need it. There are things that need to be finished correctly right now that don't have an obvious impact on later success but those things are far fewer than one might think.