Songs of the Year – Best of 07: Number 2

Mar 16 2008

Whooops. Must have been the travel schedule. I wrote the previous posts on a flight between NY and Dallas. Without the benefit of the net I accidently skipped my second favourite song of 2007.

And it’s one that’s definitely worth coming back for.

In April of 07 the Arctic Monkeys – clearly my favourite band of the past few years – released their new album. While great, I became infatuated with a b-side from the album’s lead single.

Feature Dizzee Rascal the song continues to energize me with every listen. The hard driving guitar that is now a trademark of the band, the clever lyrics of Alex Turner, and Dizzee’s verse all add up to create an awesome song.

Had I not had a love affair with Jamie T and his entire album, this song would have been the best of 07 for me.

Check it out and let me know what you think – better than anything else on the new Monkey’s album?

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In Austin

Mar 10 2008

I’ve been out of touch with too many for three weeks. Hello? Hi. I’m here. Here for the past three weeks has been a difficult place to define.

Currently I’m in Austin. It was a long trip. Last Week I was in San Diego with Alex at ETech. It was a trip. The week before I was in San Francisco. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at night, towards SF, is something that everyone should experience.

If you’re in Austin let’s get together over a beer to discuss commercializing emerging web technologies. Drop me a note or stop by booth #228 to lock down time/place/beer type :)

And if you want to track my adventures in a more granular way, follow me on twitter. Ta-ta!

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The Change Function

Mar 10 2008

“Want the big idea? Make a product that makes everything I have easy to use”

- my dad, in response to hearing I wanted to be an entrepreneur

Eight years later the gravity of my dad’s statement is greater than ever. The impact that a product’s usability has on its ultimate market performance continues to grow.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending my entire career commercializing new technology across companies in diverse industries. The usability (or lack-thereof) has always factored significantly into the technology’s ultimate success.

If you’re not thinking about usability, deeply, and practicing user-centric design practices, actively, then, well, good luck to you!

It’s something that’s always on my mind. And so during a recent trip to Palo Alto I picked up a book on the topic, Pip Coburn’s The Change Function.

In it Coburn presents a change function to explain the adoption of new technology:

f (user crises, total perceived pane of adoption)

Where adoption occurs when user crisis > total perceived pane of adoption.

Coburn chastises a tech world for its arrogant, supplier-side approach to product development. The “build it and they will come” mentality has far too often resulted in overly complex technology being developed that ultimately fails.

Ideally, Coburn argues, companies should leverage user-centric approaches to product design. Working collaboratively with users, through quick, iterative designs, companies can transition data into information and ultimately into insight.

There are a number of interesting case studies and worthwhile questions that can help guide user-centric design. The most valuable message that the book delivers is how important ease-of-use is to a product’s success and how focusing on the user keeps the focus true.

At 200 pages the book could use some editing. It would make a good 150-page book. The message is excellent at 100 pages. However, if you don’t practice user-centric design I highly recommend this. If the message is lost on you, read it again. The lesson’s that important.

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Songs of the Year – Best of 07: Number 1

Mar 10 2008

One trend that I love to track is the progression of my musical tastes. I can literally look back over the years and see the influences that created subtle changes in taste that ultimately led to new genres I love.

The genre that has consumed my rca-cord for the past three years has been brit pop. A cool post would be explaining how I got there, but that’s not the focus of this post.

The focus of this post is my # 1 song of the year for 2007. A song that is surely brit pop, yet exhibits traits and elements of a different sound. A sound that, I can already tell, will lead me to a new genre. In that sense the song is significant not only because it was my most loved (and played!) song of the year, but additionally because it marks the beginning of the end.

The beginning of the end of my love affair with brit pop. The start of the long-walk away from the genre that has given me the Arctic Monkeys, Hard-Fi, and countless other favourite groups.

I love to connect songs to single moments in time that are rich, visual, memories. This song captures many moments, capturing a period. Like the genre shifting impact the song is having on my musical tastes, the period is best described as transitory.

Late summer, early fall. A time of transition for 25-year old Fraser.

My song of 2007 is Jamie T – Operation.

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Theme for 2008: Unclutter

Mar 08 2008

It’s important to remember that the best things in life aren’t things.

best things

My theme and focus for 2008? To unclutter my life in as many respects as possible.

The thought originated as as I packed in anticipation of the move to the US. I was forced to realize just how much stuff I had. Stuff I had no need for. Stuff that created stress.

So I set out to focus on only bringing the things that really mattered. Two suitcases made the move with me. I’ve been here for two months and haven’t needed anything. In fact, it’s been stress reducing.

From there I focused on uncluttering the rest of my life. Stripping away things and embracing constraints in a diverse area.

Focus on what’s important.

I’ve been trying to really focus on loved ones, family and friends, because there’s nothing more critical. In our connected age it’s easy to form connections with many but it’s important to invest into those that matter most.

Goodbye stuff. I’ve embraced and learned to love simplistic living. It’s rewarding.

Google Reader used to bring me piles of information. That I skimmed. I fell into the bad habit of RSS overload, too many unread items would pile up and I would put aside interesting and thought provoking pieces to “read when I had time.” I would focus on body-count: plowing through uninteresting articles to lessen the stress-creating number of unreads. I’ve paired down 100 subscriptions to 10. I’m about to give up on the reader altogether. I’m now reading more, thinking deeper, and enjoying the returns.

Inbox? I’m clearing it out before I end each day.

Focusing on the moment. Friends know that my mind is generally in multiple places, racing from concept to concept. I’m working on focusing – and enjoying – the moment. The price was dear, a costly lack of focus and heightened anxiety. This is a hard one to work on, but I’m investing into it heavily.

I’m bringing the ‘uncluttered’ theme to every aspect of my life. So far it’s been a wonderful experience.

What can you focus less on in order to focus more?

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