December 30, 2012

An introduction to data visualization

I've recently discovered something called Infographics which could be explained as the art of explaining something difficult in a picture. This something difficult could be a lot of numbers, or an event such as the sinking of the Titanic. The goal of the Infographic is that someone without any knowledge within the subject the picture is explaining, immediately should get what the picture is about. If you need an example, you should visit which is an Internet service where you can show the finished Infographics you've made.

So, how do you create an Infographic? The reason I'm asking is because there's a competition going on at Kaggle where the goal is to visualize the school system in Colorado, and I'm participating in that competition. I've never made one before, so this will be a summary on how to do one. To learn how to make an Infographic, I've decided to read some books and watch some online tutorials on YouTube.

The best book I've found on the subject is Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte, and it was recommended to me by Tim Ferriss in one of the Random Show episodes. Edward Tufte is a professor at Yale University and has written several books on the same subject. Envisioning Information is a quite small book, around 130 pages with many pictures, and it explains how to represent a rich visual world on "flatland" where flatland is something flat such as paper, but could also be a memorial and similar structures. One example is how to represent a subway system on a map to make it fast and easy to understand if you have never entered the subway before. A tourist in London should immediately understand,without any confusion, how to travel from the hotel to Madame Tussauds.
Edward Tufte explains that to envision information, you should work in the intersection of image, word, number, and art, using visual principles that tells us how to put the right mark in the right place. Here are some of the visual principles from the book:
  • Avoid "chartjunk." Chartjunk is the art of decorating a chart with "fluff", such as unneeded pictures or dark grid lines, to make it look more interesting, but the chart will also be less credible to the spectators. Decorations are never needed, and if the numbers are boring, then you've got the wrong numbers. You can still use techniques such as colors, typography, layout, and similar, as long as you avoid unneeded junk.  
  • Respect the audience. Consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. The audience may be busy, but they are alert and caring - not stupid. 
  • To clarify, add detail. Thin data may lead to suspicions: "What are they leaving out? What are they hiding?"
  • Clutter and confusion are failures of design. It is not how much information there is, but rather how effectively it is arranged. 
  • Use a panorama. A panorama deliver to viewers the freedom of choice that derives from an overview, a capacity to compare and sort through detail. When appropriate, you can combine a panorama with a more 2-dimensional picture.  
  • 1 + 1 = 3. White space is something. Add more shapes, and thus spaces between the shapes, and the amount of noise will increase exponentially. On white backgrounds, a varying range of lighter colors on the shapes will minimize the clutter.   
  • Avoid color damage. Pure, bright or very strong colors should be used sparingly on or between dull background tones. Light, bright colors should not be mixed with white next to each other. Color spots against a light gray or muted field highlight and italicize data, and also help to achieve an overall harmony. Use colors found in nature to represent and illuminate information since these colors are familiar to the human eye. Gray is regarded in painting to be one of the prettiest, most important and most versatile of colors. 

To create an Infographic, you will need some kind of software, and I believe that Illustrator is the most common software used by the designers of Infographics. One good, and free, replacement software for Illustrator is Inkscape
The YouTube tutorials I've found on the subject are:

December 29, 2012

Books I've read in 2012

This year, I've read the following books:
  1. 100 things every designer needs to know about people
  2. A long way gone
  3. Aldrig fucka upp
  4. Coders at work
  5. Crossing the chasm
  6. Den som dödar draken
  7. Don't make me think
  8. Envisioning information
  9. Escape from Camp 14
  10. From Beirut to Jerusalem
  11. From dictatorship to democracy
  12. Glädjedödarna
  13. Great by choice
  14. Handelsmännen
  15. High performance web sites
  16. Historien om IKEA
  17. How to think like a computer scientist
  18. Insanely simple
  19. Jag vill förändra världen
  20. Kon-Tiki
  21. Krigare
  22. Lägg ut
  23. Mindhunter
  24. Minecraft: block, pixlar och att göra sig en hacka
  25. Mining of massive datasets
  26. Moments of truth
  27. No easy day
  28. On writing well
  29. PHP in action
  30. Programming collective intelligence
  31. Pulitzer
  32. Selling in a new marketspace
  33. Skjut inte på journalisten
  34. Steve Jobs
  35. Stenbeck
  36. Tesla: man out of time
  37. The design of everyday things
  38. The lean startup
  39. The miracle of mindfulness
  40. The numbers behind Numb3rs
  41. The publisher
  42. The thank you economy
  43. Total recall
  44. Trust me, I'm lying
Let's hope that I didn't waste any time!

December 27, 2012

The Traveling Santa Problem

I've participated in the "Traveling Santa Problem"-contest over at Kaggle, and the goal of that contest was closely connected to the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP). The idea behind the TSP is to help a salesman to find the shortest route through a number of cities, and the salesman can only visit each city once. You can use the solutions to the TSP in real-life as well, often connected to different logistics-areas, but also when manufacturing circuit boards.

This is a plot showing the 150,000 different cities (or chimneys in this case):
The easiest way to find a solution is to begin at one random point, and then find the closest point to that random point with the help of Euclidean distance. This is the plot when using that method, using only 5000 chimneys:
As you can see in the plot above, the method using the least distance will miss some points, and in the end, Santa will have to travel back to chimneys very close to chimneys that he has already visited. To solve this problem, you can use an Hilbert curve combined with the least distance method. An Hilbert curve will "snake" its way through all the chimneys, and at each Hilbert-point you can calculate the shortest path through that box. The plot will then look like this using all of the 150,000 chimneys:
It took about 30 minutes to generate this path and the distance traveled was 7,646,647. A random solution would generate a distance of 1,290,678,097. I then tried a Simulated Annealing algorithm to improve the path without much success. The problem is that we have 150,000 chimneys and it takes too long time to generate a better solution.

If you are interested in the Python-code used, you can find it here: github

November 22, 2012

How to install PyBrain on Windows

This is a tutorial on how to install PyBrain (and other Python packages) on Windows 7. It sounds like it would be easy, but could be tricky if you have never done it before.
  1. Download the zip-version of PyBrain from and unpack it at some location that's easy to remember
  2. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32 and in that directory you will find a file with the name cmd.exe. (You can also press the start-button and search for cmd.exe)
  3. Right-click on cmd.exe and choose "Run as administrator" - this is important or the install will complain that you don't have the proper privileges to install PyBrain
  4. This part is tricky if you have never used DOS-commands before. Now you need to navigate to the folder where you unpacked with the help of DOS-commands. To jump down one step you print "cd.." in the window, and to jump up a step you print "cd name_of_folder". To begin with you probably see something like C:\Windows\System32> and to jump down to C:\Windows>, you just type "cd.." and then press the enter key. If you don't know which folders to choose from in a specific directory, you can write "dir" to display the folders and files
  5. You have now navigated to the PyBrain-folder containing the file To install PyBrain you just write " install" (or "python install"), and PyBrain will now be installed on your computer! 

October 22, 2012

One may have a worse view from a work window

A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout. from Gary Yost on Vimeo.

This beautiful video features Gary Yost who is working as a volunteer fire lookout at Mount Tamalpais, California. It seems like one may have a worse view from a work window.
I've been a Marin County Fire Department volunteer lookout for two years and deeply love the mountain and the peace it brings to us here in the Bay Area. Perhaps this 6-minute video will convey some of the emotions I feel when sitting (and sleeping) on her peak.
Here's another video from the same mountain and photographer:

Mt. Tamalpais Fog Timelapse Tests from Gary Yost on Vimeo.

October 19, 2012

Creative ways to clear landmines

One often forgotten threat to humans around the world is landmines. Nearly 20,000 people are being killed by them each year, and many more are being crippled. One can currently find 110 million landmines across 70 countries. To make a landmine, you have to pay $3, but its is 50 times more expensive to clear one. Here are some creative ways to clear landmines:

Mine Kafon
The Mine Kafon is a new way to clear landmines, and has been designed by Massoud Hassani. He was born in Afghanistan so one can clearly understand why he wants to solve the threat of minefields. Roughly 10 million landmines have been buried throughout Afghanistan. So to solve the problem, Massoud Hassani designed the Mine Kafon which is a device that you roll out on a mine field. The device will now roll though the minefield as it is powered by the wind, and when it hits a mine, it will simply explode. But the entire device will not be destroyed, some parts can be used again to build another device. It features a GPS navigator so you can see where it has been rolling around before. One problem is that it will not clear the entire minefield since you can control it, but it will clear maybe 50 percent of the landmines, and that will save lives - or you can clear the rest of the field with another more dangerous method.

The Mine Kafon (teaser) from Callum Cooper on Vimeo.

The Danish company Aresa made a genetically modified flower that was supposed to detect mines in a minefield. To clear a minefield, you planted plants on the minefield, and when one of the plants came in contact with nitrogen dioxide (a compound released by decaying chemicals used in explosives), the plant would change its color to red. The company has now been given up the idea to continue with this project, but I believe that it was a good idea, and someone else could perhaps continue with it.

The HeroRat is a trained Gambian pouched rat, and the rat is not a kamikaze rat, the rat will probably survive the process since the rodent is using its excellent smell to find landmines. They are being trained by the company Apopo, and one rat will cost €6,000 to train, and the training will take 6 months.

Source: BBC, WorldChanging

October 11, 2012

Martyn Ashton on a road-bike


I'm currently owning a French Sunn mountain-bike, and one of the reasons to why I bought a mountain-bike and not a regular racer is because I once believed that you couldn't ride with a road-bike in the forest. I thought that the mountain-bike was more all-around. Now, I've been proven wrong!
Martyn Ashton is the rider in the video and he's a mountain-bike rider, but he's now found a Pinarello Dogma 2 which is the road-bike that won the 2012 edition of Tour de France. The bike is handmade in Italy and you have to pay $16,000 to get one. 

Source: ESPN

How to hack the air

In 1989, NASA released a report with the name "Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement." The goal of the report was to research different indoor plants to see if they could be used as a tool to solve indoor air pollution problems on Earth. The indoor air pollution has its own name and it's "sick building syndrome." The report estimated that 30 percent of all the buildings are suffering from this sick building syndrome.

The background to this problem is as follows. In the 1970s, a series of energy crises occurred. The worst crises of this period were the oil embargo of 1973 when several countries in the middle east didn't want to supply the US with oil because the US supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War, and the 1979 crisis caused by the Iranian revolution. The result was that the price of oil increased with several hundred percent.

Because of these high energy prices, everyone decided to reduce the fresh air exchange to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings. The workers in these new buildings began to complain on various health problems, such as itchy eyes, and headaches. What contributed to these problems were a combination of the airtight sealing of the buildings, and the design and manufacturing of the equipment and furnishings used in the buildings.

The best solution to these problems is to use indoor plants. The Indian researcher Kamal Meattle gave a Ted talk in 2009 with the subject "How to grow fresh air." He began his research when he became allergic to the pollution from the air in New Delhi. You can measure air pollution with AQI, where 0 is no pollution and 500 is then highest level of pollution. An AQI below 50 is considered to be good, and above 200 is considered to be very unhealthy. The AQI in New Delhi is between 320 and 380, or hazardous on the AQI scale. Do you think this sounds bad? Then visit Shanghai, China, where the AQI could be 600.

Kamal Meattle came to the conclusion that he needed three types of different plants to clean the air in his indoor environment. In total, he would need about 12 plants to be able to live in a sealed bottle without any ventilation. This was per person, so if you are three persons living in the house, you will need 36 plants. But if your city AQI is lower than the AQI in New Delhi, and if you don't live in a sealed bottle, you will not need that many plants. A common rule is to use one plant per 100 feet^2 (9 m^2) of house. Kamal Meattle also installed 1200 plants in an office building, and the result was that the number of headaches decreased with 24 percent.

When you have realized that you need to use indoor plants to clean the air, you need to choose which plants to use since some are better than others. You also need to check if the plant is dangerous to your kids and your cats, how often you need to water them, and if they can survive in darkness or if they need sun light. You can find a complete list here: List of air-filtering plants. Remember that a plant may be considered to be non-toxic to your cat, but your cat may still get sick if the beast eats all of your plants.

A plant that is considered to be easy to take care of is the Snake plant (mother-in-law's tongue), it cleans everything except ammonia, but it is poisonous to your cat. It was also on the list used by Kamal Meattle in his experiment.

Snake plant. Source: Wikipedia

Another plant that is easy to take care of is the Spider plant, but it is less good at cleaning the air, but it is non-toxic to your cat.

Spider plant. Source: Wikipedia

The best air-cleaner is the Peace lily, but the plant needs water regularly, and it is poisonous to your cat.

Peace lily. Source: Wikipedia

So the task to choose an optimum plant is clearly not an easy one. I myself bought a Spider plant last week (the price of the plant was like $10 so an healthy environment is clearly not expensive), and I'm currently trying to hunt down a Snake plant. The apartment is small, and the AQI is within reasonable levels, so two tough plants will hopefully be enough.
Source: The New York Times, ASPCA, Using houseplants to clean indoor air

October 7, 2012

Slow and steady wins the race

A new book by the author Jim Collins is out, and it's called Great by Choice - Uncertainty, chaos, and luck - why some companies thrive despite them all. The book is basically part 4 in a series of books on why some companies are different from other less good companies. I've used two of his earlier books: Good to great and The fall of the might, when I analyzed the rise and fall of the company Digg. The new book analyzes why some companies are surviving a state of chaos, such as the credit crunch of 2008, and spikes in the price of oil, while other companies perish under the same conditions. One thing we know for sure is that the chaos in the world will continue, as it always has, but how can you prepare yourself and company when the next chaotic event occurs?

One example of a company that has endured misery in the period 1972 to 2002 is Southwest Airlines. The company began with three airplanes, and if you had invested $10,000 in the company in 1972, you would have had $12 million by the end of 2002. The return of the stock was 63 times better compared with the stock market. How did Southwest Airlines survive despite all the events that occurred during the period, including fuel shocks, strikes, recessions, terrorist attacks, when so many other airlines have struggled for their survival?

To find out why, one can travel back in time to 1911, and visit the explorers who was about to make a race towards the South Pole in the Terra Nova Expedition. The race would be of equivalent length as if you would have traveled from New York to Chicago, and back again. One would make it, and the other would make it to the South Pole, but didn't make it back home again. The one who would make it was the Norwegian Roald Amundsen who said:
"Victory awaits him who has everything in order - luck people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time - this is called bad luck."
Amundsen arrived in December 1911, 34 days before his competitor the Brit Robert Falcon Scott. They were both of the same age, and had roughly the same experience, so why did Amundsen make it?

The first big difference between the two was that Amundsen was better prepared. Amundsen took the bicycle from Norway to Spain just to practice how to survive, he lived like a shipwrecked even though he wasn't, he studied the maps and stories from previous expeditions, and he lived with Eskimos who knew how to survive in a  rough environment. Scott on the other hand was a Royal Navy Officer and didn't practice in the same way. He decided to choose horses instead of dogs, he brought with him motor sledges that were untested. The result was that the horses died, and the motor sledges stopped working in the cold, so Scott had to drag his equipment by himself. Meanwhile, Amundsen's dogs were traveling at high speed toward the South Pole. Thanks to his studies of the maps and previous expeditions, Amundsen could find a more efficient way to the South Pole.

Foreseeing unexpected events. Before the race had begun, both team built supply depots on the way to the South Pole. Amundsen decided to place black flags in a wide array around his supply depot, so he was sure that he wouldn't miss it if there was a storm. Scott on the other hand placed only one flag at his depot. Amundsen stored three tons of supplies for his five men and could survive if he missed a supply depot, while Scott stored one ton of supplies for his seventeen men and couldn't miss one of his supply depots. Amundsen brought four thermometers, while Scott brought only one and that one thermometer would eventually break.

The 20 mile march. Each day, the goal of Amundsen was to travel a distance of between 15 and 20 miles (24-32 km). If the weather was bad, he tried to travel 20 miles, and if the weather was good, he traveled 20 miles and rested the rest of the day to regain his energy. Scott didn't have any goals at all. If the weather was good, he would go as far as possible until he was exhausted, and if the weather was bad, he would sit in his tent and wait for the good weather to come back.

Amundsen at the South Pole. Source: Wikipedia

September 24, 2012

Split of a second (crazy norwegians)

This is Split of a second - a breathtaking and nicely done documentary. It features a crazy Norwegian throwing himself out from a cliff and glides like a squirrel to the ground. Each jump involves a minute of flying time and they can only make seven jumps in seven days.

September 22, 2012

5 must read books about how you can sell and market your company

This is the distribution of your time when you are building a company:
  • 5 percent is the idea behind the company
  • 25 percent is the building of the product or service
  • 70 percent is the selling/marketing of the company
The number one reason to why a new company fails is that the founders of the company can't sell the idea. Some ideas can sell themselves if the ideas are good enough, but most ideas need some help to spread around the world. The best sellers can sell the worst idea, while the worst sellers can fail with the best idea. So, if you are building a company, you need to learn how to sell. Here are five good books about selling:

Crossing the chasm by Geoffrey Moore. This book is considered to be a bible if you would like to market a newly created company. The essence of the book is that when you are marketing a new company, you need to do it in several steps depending on the size of the company. Each step involves a certain type of target audience and you need to market differently to each target audience. Between step 2 and 3, there's a chasm you need to cross to reach step 3, hence the name of the book.  

The thank you economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. This book will tell you how to market your company by using the Internet. The author of the book used Twitter - and Twitter only - to market his wine business. He used to interact with people on Twitter, solving their problems involving wine, and he became some sort of expert on wine, and got more customers.

Influence by Robert Cialdini. The book will tell you how you can use different psychology principles to affect people. This book explains why the book above, "The thank you economy", actually works. One of the psychology principles covered in the book is "authority". The essence of the principle is that we as humans follow authorities. If we see someone in a black suit crossing the street despite a red traffic light, we follow him across the street. If we see someone wearing shorts, we wait until the traffic light turns green. This is what Gary Vaynerchuck did, he became an authority on wine, and his customers followed him. To be able to sell your business, you need to become an authority within your area. This book is similar to the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and if you have the time you should read both. 

101 successful sales strategies by Stephan Schiffman. If you have never sold anything before, this book will give you an introduction to the art of selling. You can use the strategies from the book almost everywhere in every business area - not just online.  

Selling in a new market space by Brian Burns and Tom Snyder. This book will tell you how to sell something new no-one has ever heard about before. One example here is how to sell Trejdify. You can't tell someone that Trejdify is a social news site similar to Reddit where one can share and vote on the best business news. Almost no-one in the target audience will understand that. What you need to do is to change the description of the company to something people can understand. We changed the description to "online business newspaper where the readers are choosing the content". People will understand "online business newspaper" better compared with "social news site". 

Update! Since I made this list, I've discovered another good book on sales. It's called The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

The book's content is similar to other sales books - always prospect, write to-do-lists, etc. (That's is actually a good thing - it means you've learned something.) But it includes a few other pieces as well - including how to recruit sales people. 
Maybe the most important concept in the book is what is called "The Stadium Speech." The idea is that you should know enough to be able to sell your product/service to an entire stadium filled with people. What the author tells you to do is to change what you are selling. Let's say you are selling a kitchen. Tell that to the stadium and 95 percent will leave the stadium because they don't need a new kitchen. What you need to do is to change what you are selling into something else, such as "How to become a better chef." If you tell that to the stadium audience, then far more people will stay and listen to what you have to say. Then you just have to sneak in that kitchen you are selling into the presentation about how to become a better chef.   

September 18, 2012

Never trust a journalist - or why we need services like Trejdify

I've recently found a research paper on the subject on which party Swedish journalists are voting on compared with what the people in Sweden are voting on. This is the result:

Party Journalists People
V 15% 5%
S 14 28
MP 41 12
C 4 5
F 7 7
M 14 34
KD 2 3
SD 1 3
Other 3 1

We can clearly see that there is a big difference between what the people in Sweden are voting on compared with what the journalists in Sweden are voting on. I believe that this is an important fact and that we don't always get the full picture from the newspapers.

The party most favorable by journalists is MP (Miljöpartiet) - or the The Environmental Party the Greens translated to English. If you remember the earthquake in Japan in 2011, and the following Fukushima disaster, you might also remember that the news about the nuclear power plants spread around the world and everyone were terrified about the events. The stock market crashed and some people in Sweden bought those Iodine pills that are supposed to be good if you are exposed to dangerous radiation. Sweden is on the opposite side of the world from Japan, and the dangerous nuclear radiation from Japan could not have spread to Sweden. Many journalists compared the Fukushima disaster with the Chernobyl disaster - but you can't compare a Chernobyl reactor type with a reactor type from a modern nuclear power plant. This is what happened at Chernobyl:
"These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe."
A modern reactor doesn't have a graphite moderator - the graphite has been replaced with water - and water can't ignite. So the spread of the dangerous radiation can't become as great as the spread from the Chernobyl disaster. Why didn't journalists mention this when scientists during the Fukushima disaster mentioned it? You had to dig really deep through the Internet to find out why the spread of dangerous radiation could not have reached Europe. I'm not saying that nuclear power is not dangerous - of all the nuclear power plants in the world, 20 percent have dangerous graphite moderators, and I believe that we should close these power plants. Living close (within 30 km) to a nuclear power plant is also still dangerous.

In the end many countries decided to shut down their nuclear power plants. One other interesting fact is that the MP party in Sweden also want to shut down the nuclear power plants. Is this a conflict of interest? Can we expect that journalists write objectively about nuclear power - or will their writings be influenced by what they themselves believe in?

This is exactly why we need social news services like Trejdify, Digg, Reddit, and Hacker News. These content aggregators publish articles made by journalists and amateur bloggers. The big difference is that it is the people - not the journalists - that determines which of the articles are the best.

September 15, 2012

Random Show Episode 18

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 18.

Ep18 THRQ7 from Glenn McElhose on Vimeo.

Lessons learned:
  • TF explained how you can find out whether a book is good or not by reading the most shared quotes on the Amazon Kindle site


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here:
The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

September 11, 2012

What can the airliner SAS teach us about how to focus on our customers?

Source: Wikipedia

The book Moments of truth tells the story of how the Scandinavian airliner SAS went from an aircraft-focused company to a customer-focused company. Yes, you heard right, SAS used to prioritize their planes - not their customers. The book was written by the former SAS CEO Jan Carlzon, who was also responsible for the change of focus in the 1980s. I don't believe that it was the intention of the old SAS to not focus on their customers, no-one at the company did it on purpose. Many organizations today believe that they are focusing on their customers, but in reality they are focusing on their products.

If you are going to focus on your customers, you have to let the employees at the floor make up their own decisions - and it will always involve taking risks of making the wrong decisions. Sure, you may lose money short-term - but your customers will be more satisfied with your company long-term. If 10 million customers are meeting five employees each time they interact with the company, the total amount of meetings will be 50 million. You can't control these 50 million meetings with standardized rules and instructions from the top.

Lose money short-term while making money long-term
An American businessman stayed at a hotel in Stockholm before he went to the Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm. At the airport, he realized that he had forgotten his ticket at the hotel.
The old way: SAS would have probably said something like: "No ticket, no flight!"
The new way: SAS gave him a temporary ticket while sending a car to his hotel to pick up his lost ticket. The ticket from his hotel arrived before the aircraft departed from Arlanda Airport. SAS probably lost money since sending a car to pick up a ticket is not free, but the customer was happy and could tell his friend about the event.

Speak the same language as your customers
Make sure your customers are understanding what you are saying. SAS offered a 50 percent discount to everyone aged below 27.
The old way: The discount was named Y50. No-one understood what it meant and no-customers used the discount.
The new way: The discount was re-named to the Hundred Note. The price of the ticket was 100 SEK, and everyone understood the meaning of the Hundred Note. The Result? 125,000 more customers the first summer.

Provide a service and a product
When you are oriented toward your customers, your are probably in the business of providing your customers with a service in addition to the basic product.
The old way: SAS is in the airline business.
The new way: SAS is in the service business, transporting people in the safest and most efficient way possible.

Adapt the product to the customers - not the other way around
The old way: The planes at the Copenhagen Airport were being positioned at the departure gate that was most convenient for the planes. The customers had to move around the terminal to find the plane.
The new way: The planes had to be moved around the airport to the departure gates most convenient for the customers.

Test if it works
Go on a holiday to see if everyone can take responsibility
The old way: Jan Carlzon took a two weeks long vacation at his country house. But as soon as he arrived, the phone began ringing, and it kept ringing with unimportant question from people at the office. After a couple of days answering the phone, Jan Carlzon had to go back to the office.
The new way: Jan Carlzon took a four weeks long vacation and the phone was silent during the four weeks.

July 13, 2012

The rise and fall of Digg, and what we can learn from it

The inevitable happened yesterday, the remaining parts of Digg were acquired by Betaworks for $500,000. At the top of the peak a couple of years ago, Digg was almost acquired by Google for $200 million. We have since late April suspected that Digg would fall when their engineers left the company for work at the Washington Post. Digg was the first large social news site and has the same business model as Trejdify, so this is a good time to analyze what happened, and what we can learn from it.

The rise of Digg

Let's start from the beginning. Digg was created by Kevin Rose in 2004, and soon became one of the largest websites in the world. To analyze why this happened, we can use the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.We have earlier applied that book on Trejdify and if you want to read more about the book, please read this article: Time for Trejdify to regroup. These are the steps on how to take a company from good to great applied on Digg:

  • Level 5 leadership. Was Kevin Rose a level 5 leader? He created the company from scratch, and he probably did it to make some money from it, but he also wanted to build a great product. He was the founder, and founders are often level 5 leaders.
  • First who... then what. This is hard to analyze for someone on the outside, but I think Kevin Rose only hired A players in the beginning. 
  • Confront the brutal facts.
  • Hedgehog concept. All the early features added to Digg, such as the Diggnation show, did fit within the Hedgehog concept.
  • Culture of discipline. They followed everything above during the buildup of Digg.
  • Technology accelerators. They launched various features, such as the widgets to Digg a story automatically from another blog, and the Diggnation show was possible thanks to faster Internet speed.

The fall of Digg

The author of the book Good to Great has also written the book How the mighty fall. The book is about how a once great company declines toward the doomsday. Here are the five stages of decline (it may be possible for a company in decline to skip a stage) and what happened to Digg at each stage:

  1. Hubris born of success. People become arrogant and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.
    • Digg: Digg was once one of the most popular websites on the Internet, and if you are the most popular website, you may think that you can do whatever you want. After the release of Digg 4.0 in 2010, users began to leave for other websites such as Reddit. Maybe Digg got arrogant and didn't think they needed to test version 4.0 among real users before releasing it? After the release, it was impossible to bring back Digg 3.0
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of more. Companies make undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or they try to grow faster than they can hire great people. When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall.
    • Digg: Kevin Rose said in one of the episodes of the Random Show that because Digg grew so fast, he basically hired everyone he found, a decision he said that he later regretted
  3. Denial of risk and peril. Leaders at this stage ignore negative data, and focus only on the positive data. They blame external factors for setbacks, rather than accept responsibility.
    • Digg: The users complained about the new design and that various features had been removed. You could hear users say: "I used to use Digg, but the experience, especially on mobile, just kept getting worse and worse!"
  4. Grasping for salvation. Companies at this stage tend to hire a leader that's supposed to save it, they try different bold strategies, creates products or acquires companies that doesn't fit within the Hedgehog concept.
    • Digg: Alexis Ohanian said about Digg 4.0 that the version "is cobbling together features from more popular sites and departing from the core of digg, which was to give the power back to the people"
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death. The setbacks starts to erode the financial strength of the company, and key persons abandons the company.
    • Digg: 37 percent of the staff had to leave Digg in 2010, Kevin Rose left the company in 2011, and the engineers left the company in 2012 for work at the Washington Post 

What can we learn from it?

  • A Digg engineer said that Digg 3.0 couldn't be brought back after the release of Digg 4.0. One lesson learned is to make sure to test a new version among real users before releasing it - or make sure that you can bring back the old version. 
  • Never think you are smarter than your users. Just because you are the most popular guy in the block doesn't mean that you soon may become the least popular.

What's the future for Digg?

  • Betaworks are about to turn Digg back into a startup, with a low budget, a small team, and fast cycles. The book How the might fall proved that it is possible to reverse a company in decline, and to do that Betaworks need to use the concepts from Good to Great. 
  • I personally think that they should focus on quality news. The reason to why we created Trejdify is that the business news section on Digg is terrible. Today you can find articles in the business section like "Which Fighting Style Kicks The Most Ass?" and "Can juicing help improve your skin?" which has nothing at all to do with business. 
  • The current largest competitor is Reddit, but Reddit also has a bad reputation among some people, because of various sub-reddits that are rather "extreme." Digg can probably find users among those who prefer a less extreme website.
  • Many traditional newspapers are struggling for their survival, and the investor Warren Buffett believes that newspapers should only act locally - not globally (The future of traditional newspapers according to different experts). Can Digg become the online newspaper who act globally aggregating content from all the local newspapers?    

Source: TechCrunch, TechCrunch, Wikipedia, Betaworks

July 11, 2012

Time for Trejdify to regroup

Trejdify has been online for about 6 months now and its now time to regroup and make sure that we are pushing Trejdify in the best direction. Many companies have the tendency to add features that doesn't fit the underlying business model, mostly because they don't have the time to reflect on what they are doing. Soon they realize that they have gone too far from the original model and are about to fall over the cliff because it's too late to change. The plan is to regroup every 6 month, since we don't want to end up in the cold water below the Golden Gate bridge.

Today, we are going to use the book Good to Great by Jim Collins to make sure we are doing the correct decisions. Good to Great is considered to be a classic, and the book is about a research project on how a company can go from a mediocre company to becoming the best company. The author has written several other books with the same theme, including how to build a company that can survive for a long time.

This image is showing a summary of the findings from the book:

Level 5 leadership. The definition of a Level 5 leader is:
"Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious - but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."
First who... then what. This chapter is mostly about people. The point is to first decide who you need, before you decide where you are going with the company. It is also important to remember that employees in general are not important - what you need is A players. If you hire B (or C) players, the A players may move away to another company with A players.

Confront the brutal facts. The point of this chapter is to never hide the current truth about your company. If you notice that your customers are running away from you, you need to accept that you have a problem.
"Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality."
Hedgehog concept. The point is that you need to understand what you can be the best in the world at - not what you want to be the best in the world at. You also need to understand what you cannot be the best in the world at. This image summarizes the Hedgehog concept:

Culture of discipline. What you need to do is to follow everything from the points above, especially the Hedgehog concept. Ignore all the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that doesn't fit within the underlying business model. A great company will have many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Also make sure that you have a "stop doing" list which is more important than a "to do" list.

Technology accelerators. What you need is carefully tested technologies - never use fads. The most important point is that the technology has to fit within the Hedgehog concept.

Good to Great applied to Trejdify
The Hedgehog concept:
  • What are you deeply passionate about? We are deeply passionate about the way people reads business news. We generally think that people are reading the wrong news: people are reading short-term news they don't really need, when they should be reading articles they can learn something from.
  • What can you be best in the world at? We can be the best in the world at delivering the best business news. We can't compete with companies like Bloomberg who are delivering all possible news, but we shouldn't either since most people don't need all possible news - they only need the best news. They don't have the time to go though all the regular news items each day after work - they get exhausted by it, so they don't read any news at all.

Culture of discipline. This is actually harder than you think. Trejdify used to have a tool section, where you found a Trading simulator and a list with links. Did they fit the Hedgehog concept? No!

Technology accelerators. What we need to do here is to test different new technologies. We have tested Twitter before with a good result, so we are going to keep the Twitter account. We are currently testing Google+, Pinterest, and Quora. One other technology that we are going to test is Machine Learning to improve the way we discover business news. The important point is that all these technologies fit within the Hedgehog concept.    

July 8, 2012

Dancing On My Own

This video was not intended as a description of the process you have to go through when you try to find new customers - it was filmed at a music festival. When you have begun the process of dragging in new customers to your company, it will be difficult in the beginning so you have to "dance on your own" for a while. But as you struggle, you will hopefully find a few customers that will "dance with you." But when you have a few customers, they will attract more and more customers. The psychological principle behind this is called social proof.
The principle of social proof was described in the book Influence by Robert Cialdini. It says that we humans determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. 95 percent of us are imitators. This is a short-cut we are trained to use because when a lot of people are doing something, it is the right thing to do (not always). 
  • We laugh when we hear laughter
  • You can put some money in the tip jar to make people leave more money in the tip jar
  • Advertisers like to write: "Fastest-growing" to say that many others think the product is good
  • Create a long waiting line outside a club to make it seem more popular
  • Write fake names in a name collection

You can also use this principle to reduce your fears. If you are afraid of dogs, you can watch how other people are playing with their dogs and you will notice that dogs are not that bad after all. But remember that other people may be wrong, such as in Germany in the 1930s, so be aware of this psychological principle and use your own judgment. 

June 15, 2012

Are social news websites a waste of time?

Reginald Braithwaite has written an interesting blog-post about social news. Social news websites are news aggregators that uses the crowd. The crowd post links they like and then vote on the best links - in other words a service similar to Trejdify.

One of the problems with these news aggregators is that they consists of a crowd, and people in a crowd tend to believe in one thing and this thing becomes almost like a bubble. If someone submits a link with a different point of view, the people in the crowd will probably not vote on that link. Google has a similar problem. The most popular link on Google is the first link - but is the most popular link always the best link? Is it a waste of time to use Trejdify, Google, and Reddit?

Reginald Braithwaite thinks its not a waste of time. The bubbles existing in these news aggregators and in Google, they tend to overlap and intersect. The common view tend to change over time. The members of the crowd are becoming more exposed to new ideas and are often leading the way to a new point of view - before they who are not using the news aggregator. Common media such as regular news papers are slower since a couple of journalists can't compete with a big crowd. Reddit is the largest social news website and they have like 2 billion viewers each month - how can a regular newspaper compete?

Source: ragnwald's posterous

June 12, 2012

Designed by Apple - How did they do it?

Steve Jobs believed from the beginning that great industrial design would set the newly created company Apple apart from its competitors and make its products distinctive. The computer Apple II featured a colorfully simple logo and a sleek case as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Apple II with a colorfully logo and a sleek case. Source: Wikipedia

While at a conference in Aspen, Steve Jobs was exposed to the spare and functional design philosophy of the Bauhaus Movement. The Bauhaus, a German word meaning "house of building", was a school founded in 1919. Fine art and craft were brought together with the goal of problem solving for a modern industrial society - a society of mass production:
  • There should be no distinction between fine art and applied industrial design
  • Design should be simple, yet have an expressive spirit
  • Emphasized rationality and functionality by employing clean lines and forms
  • God is in the details
  • Less is more

Steve Jobs always liked the Braun products by Dieter Rams.
"What we are going to do is make the products high-tech, and we're going to package them cleanly so that you know they are high-tech. We will fit them in a small package, and then we can make them beautiful and white, just like Braun does with its electronics. all comes down to this: Let's make it simple. Really simple."

He also enjoyed a lamp by Richard Sapper. I'm not really sure, but the lamp was probably a Tizio, as seen in Figure 2. He also liked the furniture by Charles and Ray Eames.

Figure 2. Tizio lamp by Richard Sapper. Source: Wikipedia

Design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. It is sometimes difficult to make a product truly simple since a simple product may feel unfriendly. One has to make the products intuitively obvious. The products should also be playful - not cold.

Steve Jobs was also attracted to the Japanese style, much thanks to his devotion to Japanese Zen Buddhism. He thought that the most sublime thing he has ever seen are the gardens around the Japanese city Kyoto as seen in this video:

Invisible details are important. Steve Jobs didn't like the look of the memory chips inside the Macintosh computer and said:
"When you are a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you are not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You will know for sure that it is there, so you are going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."

The Apple designer Sir Jonatan Ive is also a fan of the German industrial designer Dieter Rams who always said:
"Less but better"

Both Steve Jobs and Sir Jonatan Ive have always embraced minimalism. Apple's design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure:
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" 
...a quote by Leonardo da Vinci. The definition of simplicity is sometimes misunderstood, but Sir Jonathan Ive once said:
"Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can't imagine any other way. Simplicity is not the absence of clutter. It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges (including manufacturing) and come up with elegant solutions."

Here's a video clip from the documentary Objectified where Sir Jonatan Ive talks about design:

In 2012, a new book was released about Apple's design process. The book is written by Ken Segall who used to work at Apple together with Steve Jobs doing marketing stuff (he came up with the name iMac when Steve Jobs originally thought that MacMan was a better name), and the title of the book is Insanely Simple - The obsession that drives Apple's success.

Steve Jobs is often thought of as being relentless and demanding, but according to Ken Segall, he could also be funny warm, and even charming. There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and being brutal when it comes to design decision. You should always ship products that you are 100 percent proud of and never waste your or someone else's time.

"The work you showed me last week was sh*t. I knew it was sh*t, you knew it was sh*t, but you came all the way out here and showed it to me anyway. That's not acceptable and I never want it to happen again. Ever."

To achieve simplicity, you'll need the following (according to the Insanely Simple book):
  • Start with small groups of smart people, if you add more people, you will add more complexity. Give these talented people real responsibility, and they will work some crazy hours and deliver quality thinking. Steve Jobs had a rule that there could never be more than 100 people on the Mac team. In a smaller team, it's easier to "think different."
  • Pick carefully and focus on the important things. Innovation is saying no to a 1000 things. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO, he slashed away many of the models Apple had. You can today find only 2 laptop models made by Apple, but you can find 23 models made by HP, and 18 models made by Dell. Trying to please everyone is a good way to please no-one, or as Steve Jobs said:
"Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains."
  • Aim realistically high. Apple didn't begin with the iPhone, Apple began with the simpler iPod. Your project has to end on time and deliver what you have promised. 
  • Zero is the only number that's simpler than one. The iPad features only one button, but now when Siri is here, Apple might have products with zero buttons. 
  • Choose a good name, with perfect clarity, it will tell customers who you are and what you sell. One side note here is that the inspiration to the name NeXT comes from a speech by Bill Gates who used the word "next" to describe new technologies being developed by Microsoft.   
  • The first solution is the beginning and not the end, or as Steve Jobs said:
"When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions." 
  • A bad idea remains a bad idea no matter how you try to simplify it, or as Steve Jobs said:
"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations." 

Update! If you want to learn more about Jony Ive and Apple's design process, you should read my review on the book Jony Ive - The genius behind Apple's greatest products.

Source: London Evening Standard, Steve Jobs

May 31, 2012

Learn something new to find new ideas

One way to find new ideas is to learn something new, so yesterday I decided to learn more about html5 game development. It's often easier to learn something if you make a game of it since it's more fun and easier to experiment. The first thing I did was to try out a remake in html5 of the old game Command and Conquer. The result was that the computer screen broke down while playing the game, and deleted 1 week of work which I had forgotten to make a backup of in Dropbox.
The question is however if it was the game that destroyed the computer, or if it was a random thing. One thing learned from the book "Design of everyday things" was that it is easy to connect events that doesn't have a connection. I'm currently too afraid to try that game again with my new computer...

If you are interested in html5 game development, you might want to watch this tutorial:

May 26, 2012

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman


I've just finished the book: "The design of everyday things" by Donald A. Norman. The book is considered to be a classic if you are interested in design from a usability perspective - not how to design good-looking products. It was written in 1988, so some parts are quite old from a technological perspective. For example, the author explains the functions of a computer mouse - a then revolutionizing product. However, the largest part of the book is timeless and is still useful in 2012.

Here are some important points from the book:
  • Well-designed objects are easy to interpret and understand. They contain visible clues to their operations.
  • Warning labels and large instruction manuals are signs of failures, attempts to patch up problems that should have been avoided by proper design in the first place.
  • Designers know too much about their product to be objective judges: the features they have come to love and prefer may not be understood or preferred by future customers.
  • Touch a computer terminal just when it fails, and you are apt to believe that you caused the failure, even though the failure and your action were related only by coincidence.
  • New products are almost guaranteed to fail. It usually takes 5-6 attempts to get a product right – but a new product is “dead” if it doesn't catch on in the first 2-3 times the product is launched (everyone believes it to be a failure).
  • The paradox of technology: The same technology that simplifies life by providing more functions in each device also complicates life by making the device harder to learn. But the principles of good design can make minimize complexity and difficulty.
  • If an error is possible, someone will make it. The designer must assume that all possible errors will occur and design so as to minimize the chance of the error in the first place. Errors should be easy to detect, they should have minimal consequences, and, if possible, their effects should be reversible.
  • The reward structure of the design community tends to put aesthetics first – not function
  • The best computer programs are the ones in which the computer itself disappears, in which you work directly on the problem without having to be aware of the computer.
  • One important method of making systems easier to learn and to use is to make them explorable – to encourage users to experiment and learn the possibilities through active exploration.
  • Don't take away control. Automation is dangerous when it takes too much control from the user. It can eliminate a person's ability to function without it – a disaster if the automated mechanisms of an aircraft fails.
  • To make something easy to use, match the number of controls to the number of functions and organize the panels according to function. To make something look like it is easy, minimize the number of controls. Hide the un-relevant controls.

April 20, 2012

Joseph Pulitzer and Henry Luce

Trejdify is a little bit similar to a newspaper - so it is probably a good idea to learn something about other publishers. Two famous publishers and entrepreneurs were Joseph Pulitzer (as in the Pulitzer price) and Henry Luce (as in Time, Life, Fortune, Sports Illustrated). If you would like to learn more about those, you can read the following books:
You may also get a short introduction to Pulitzer and Luce by watching these videos:

April 17, 2012

Avoid the news and live a better life

Found an interesting article with the topic: "Avoid News - Towards a Healthy News Diet" - written by Rolf Dobelli. The essence of the article is that we as humans are not designed for the types of news we often receive from television and regular newspapers.
"...most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking."

  1. News misleads us systematically. Media focus on terrorists when chronic stress is more dangerous
  2. News is irrelevant. If you avoid news and something important happens - you will probably hear about it anyway
  3. News limits understanding. The facts behind the news are not important - what we need to understand is why something has happened - and it is hard to find out exactly why something has happened
  4. News is toxic to your body. We become more nervous by reading panic headlines
  5. News massively increases cognitive errors. "Terrorists are dangerous" when driving a car is more dangerous
  6. News inhibits thinking. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you
  7. News changes the structure of your brain. When we have found an interesting news piece, we can't concentrate unless we read more about the news piece
  8. News is costly. If we don't need news pieces - why are we wasting our time reading them - when we could do something more productive?
  9. News sunders the relationship between reputation and achievement. The people you watch on television are not always the people who have contributed most to our society
  10. News is produced by journalists. Most of the journalists are copying each other
  11. Reported facts are sometimes wrong, forecasts always. Many news stories include predictions, but you can't predict anything in a complex world
  12. News is manipulative. Journalists are not always independent
  13. News makes us passive. We sometimes get depressed by reading about things we can't influence
  14. News gives us the illusion of caring. 
  15. News kills creativity. Some people may not become entrepreneurs because they have read somewhere that 9 out of 10 companies fails 

Conclusion. The solution is to read books and thoughtful journals instead of gulping down flashing headlines.What we need is to read magazines and books which explain the world. The world is complicated, and we can do nothing about it. Go deep instead of broad and enjoy material that truly interests you.
"Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is relevant in any society. We need more hard-core journalists digging into meaningful stories."
This is exactly why we created Trejdify to find out what you really need to read and to avoid the flashing headlines. Notice that we have cleaned Trejdify from information such as if the S&P500 is up or down - which is information you don't always need. Sometimes it's depressing to learn that the stock market is down with 5 percent. The focus is on reading and learning.

Source: Avoid News

April 5, 2012

March 22, 2012

Another life saved by modern technology - this time it was Twitter

It happened again. Yesterday, another life was saved by modern technology - this time it was Twitter. We have written a post earlier about how Facebook and Skype have saved 8 people's lives. This is what happened:

The story involves 3 main characters - 2 of them are anonymous here since their twitter accounts are still available online:
  • @woman - the person who wanted to commit suicide
  • @man - the person who alerted the police through Twitter
  • @yb_sodermalm - the police officers who are using Twitter in their service

Here's the conversation (translated from Swedish):
  1. @woman: I'm alone at a hotel in Stockholm and everyone who cares about me are in Skåne (southern part of Sweden). There's only evil here
  2. @woman: sorry
  3. @man: @yb_sodermalm trying to reach @woman now! Hotel in Stockholm
  4. @yb_sodermalm: @man @woman why?
  5. @man: @yb_sodermalm talking about committing suicide
  6. @yb_sodermalm: On Twitter? Which hotel? If you found out - call 112 (911 in Sweden)
  7. @yb_sodermalm: @woman Hello the police from Södermalm (part of Stockholm) here. We want to help you. Where are you?
  8. @woman: @yb_sodermalm I'm at the rv hotel. can you help me? room 629. i cant take it any more
  9. @yb_sodermalm: We are coming immediately. Don't do anything stupid!
  10. @yb_sodermalm: We have arrived to the woman - she is physically unharmed

March 19, 2012

Similarities between creating a startup and the stock market


  1. You can spend a lot of time with it - and you can still fail. When working at a startup, you can easily spend 80 hours a week trying to create a great company - but you can still fail. The same when investing/trading stocks, you can draw complicated charts, read every line in the annual report - but you can still fail. 
  2. No-one knows anything. There are many "experts" claiming they know what the next big idea is or how the stock market is going to behave the next year. The truth is: no-one knows anything. Gold may go up tomorrow and Twitter may be the next social network - but no-one can tell what is going to happen in the future.
  3. It is not as easy at it seems. You hear a lot about those who made money trading stocks and those who made money creating startups - but the failures are often forgotten. Those "over-night" successes are not as common as it seems.  
  4. There's no magic formula. You can read many books about trading and many books about startups, but you can't find a formula which guarantees your success. It is possible to find guidelines from books like "The Lean Startup", but those guidelines don't guarantee success. The same with the stock market, it is possible to use what the trader Paul Tudor Jones used and the theories the investor Warren Buffett used, but you are still not guaranteed to make money from it. 
  5. Different sectors are more popular than others. Common startups today are social networks and sites where you share stuff. Everyone watched the movie "The Social Network" and many people believe they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg. The same with stocks during the IT-bubble, everyone saw how much money everyone else made investing in IT-stocks. 
  6. It is possible to make a lot of money from both. Warren Buffett made money from investing in stocks and Mark Zuckerberg made money from creating a startup.
  7. Ups and downs. When trading stocks you experience hell and heaven from one day to another - the same with startups. One day you think that you are going to get killed by Google, the next day you think that you are going to kill Google. One day you think that you are making millions from investing in stocks, the next day you think that you are going to lose it all because the market is moving against you. 
  8. Cut your losses short. When trading it is important to cut your losses short and sell when you have a loss if something unexpected has happened. Many people are saving the position and they hope that they are going to make the money back if they wait. But what if the investment is Enron which never made it back? The same with a startup - know when to change direction. You may have lost money, but you need to take the decision to sell, and be able to fight another day. 
  9. You might get killed in one day. Google might release a competitor and the stock you have invested in might have cheated with their risk analysis - like Enron and Long Term Capital Management - and you might lose everything in one day.  
  10. The boring stuff are probably the best. Invest in boring companies like Peter Lynch did and create a startup involved in something boring (but with less competition). But when you make money in the end, it's not boring anymore.