Lean Startup Lessons Learned (Part 1 of many…)

Posted May 13th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Startups, Technology

My company, the Department of Behavior and Logic, drank the kool-aid and have become disciples in the Lean Startup movement championed by Eric Ries and Steve Blank, among others. Coming from a game development background where we’d work years on games and tools before anyone used them has meant it’s been a real challenge for us to embrace all the practices of the Lean Startup. We’ve cringed as we’ve let people use with our software much earlier than we’re used to, but the feedback we received has been incredible… even after showing it to just a handful of potential customers.

As we’ve started collecting feedback and slowly make our first trip around the Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn cycle we’ve had a few insights that are helping us find our way, and might help others as well. I’ll try to make this a series of blog posts as we learn more following the principals of the Lean Startup.

One of our first insights is how important it is to constantly balance our vision with the feedback we’re receiving. As others have discussed, the Lean Startup is not about blindly following what your customers tell you. You must have a strong vision, and take all the feedback with a grain of salt and filter it against your vision otherwise you risk reaching a “local maximum“.

Sometimes customers don’t know what they want… or they have a skewed view of their problem. You must trust everything they are saying as 100% true, but only from their particular point of view and based on what they currently know. The larger truth is something you must search for within their feedback and balanced with your vision. This is an art, not a science, and it’s tricky to find that balance.

Second, I see two (if not more) types of feedback you get from your early users and they are going to lead to two types of learning… learning about yourself/your software and learning about the customer.

It’s likely that a lot of the first feedback you’re going to get will tell you more about your software than about the customer. This was definitely true for us. Our early users gave us great feedback on the obvious (though not initially obvious to us) user problems with our software. This feedback made us slap our foreheads and think “duh, of course this doesn’t make sense”. We listened to a lot of this feedback and quickly had a list of “rough edges” that we clearly needed to remove from our software.

In reflecting on this feedback I started to realize that while it’s super valuable learning, it’s only part of the picture. While valuable, it’s almost entirely helping us learn about ourselves and our software. These rough edges and the feedback they generate are getting in the way of even more important learning… learning about the customer!

Both types of learning are important don’t get me wrong, but learning to tell the difference between the two is critical. We could very easily get lots of feedback about what’s wrong with our software and think we have learned about the customer. This would be a huge mistake. We’re only going to learn about of customer when we see them dive deeper into our software. When their focus shifts from the software itself to what they’re trying to do with it, we’ll get see how they choose to use it and start learning about them.

That’s it for now. Gotta get back to sanding the rough edges, so we can get to the deep learning…

S.T.O.P. Case Study

Posted March 12th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Startups

An article last week on VentureBeat called Crowdstar launches rapid expansion to gain ground in Facebook games, got me thinking some more about the S.T.O.P. process I wrote about previously. The article was particularly interesting because Crowdstar is a company run by Jeff Tseng who I worked with for almost the entire time I was at Secret Level. Jeff and I were among the handful of people who guided Secret Level during much of it’s existance, and I got to know him very well personally and professionally over that time.

As the article illustrates, Jeff and Crowdstar are doing very well. Well enough that a question any entrepreneur would ask themselves is “wow, did I miss a big opportunity?” I mean, I was in the same environment as Jeff for over five years prior to him leaving to do Crowdstar, should I also be doing something in social gaming right now? The answer is no.

First off, Jeff saw the social gaming trend long before any of us at Secret Level did. He talked about this trend to some of us and showed us the signs, but Jeff clearly had a vision of social gaming’s potential way beyond what we could see. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume we saw it too. Would it have made sense then for us to go into social gaming instead of what we’re doing now? Again, the answer is no.

Let’s go back to S.T.O.P. and start with Jeff’s strengths. Jeff is a great game designer, great at breaking down why a game works, is willing to change direction very quickly, and is amazing at putting together prototypes rapidly. All of these strengths fit perfectly with the uber-fast moving social gaming landscape. Combine these strengths with the wider social gaming trend, and you have one hell of an opportunity to go build a company like Crowdstar. Provided of course that you’re passionate about it, and Jeff definitely is.

So now let’s look at the same equation from the perspective of the founders of the Department of Behavior and Logic. Our strengths are tool related, and we always had big visions for how the right tool could change the way people make interactive content. A friend at Microsoft once said that talking to us was different from talking with other game developers. He’d say… “everyone else tells me about their great new gameplay mechanic… but you guys always talk about your game authoring tools”. Our strengths simply don’t line up very well in social gaming where the name of the game is putting things out quickly and then optimizing them. We’d probably spend all our time focused on building the best social game development platform while others would release game after game and end up drinking our milkshake.

So for us, adding our strength to the social gaming trend does NOT produce an opportunity. And even if it did, we’re just not that passionate about the social gaming space. I can see why it’s hugely successful, but at the end of the day I could give a damn about owning a virtual fishtank. It was simply never going to hold my attention and make me excited to get up every morning.

I wanted to write this case study because I believe people tend to see opportunities are largely external events and think it’s about taking advantage of them. Trends are external events, but they only become opportunities if that match what you have inside. If this match doesn’t honestly and truly exist… it may still be a great opportunity, it’s just an opportunity for someone else. In this case it was an awesome opportunity for Jeff and he’s making the most of it.

The Business of Politics: Meg Whitman and The Startup Visa

Posted March 3rd, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Politics, Startups

There are two interesting campaigns occurring right now that try to combine business and politics. I believe they illustrate the right and the wrong way business and politics should mix, and only one will prove to be successful.

I’ll start with the “wrong mix” example. Right now, the people of California are being inundated with campaign commercials for Meg Whitman who is running for Governor. Meg Whitman is the former CEO of EBay. The basic premise of her campaign is that she was successful running EBay, and therefore she’ll be successful running California.

I believe this is a deeply flawed premise.

People succeed in business by getting very good at solving problems. The people who rise to the top, like Meg Whitman, have a LOT of experience solving problems. Unfortunately, this success often leads to hubris. These people start to believe they will be successful anywhere, and can solve any type of problem. When looking at their own history of success they minimize the their years of experience in their specific field and the domain expertise they have accumulated. They start to believe they were successful based almost entirely on their raw talent, and not on their years of practice doing what they eventually succeeded in.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about this phenomenon in his book Outliers, and shows how years of practice, not raw talent differentiates those who succeed. Gladwell exposes the myth of the prodigy by showing how a person’s environment and their hard work play a much bigger part in their success than people tend to believe. In Good To Great, Jim Collins explores a similar myth on the business side, the savior/celebrity CEO. Collins’ research showed that bringing in a successful CEO from outside a company rarely produced great results, yet again and again companies look outside for a savior, buying into the myth that success in one environment will predict success in another.

If Meg Whitman were to become Governor of California, I would expect her to find that it’s very different trying to get something done on the inside than it is criticizing from the outside looking in. The world of politics has its own rules, and it takes years of practice to become good at it. Just like software development, it takes a lot of practice to know the political system well enough to get things done. Talent alone will likely not be enough for Whitman, and she will find herself in a position where she has very little practical experience, no domain expertise, and will get very little done. She should stop buying into her own myth and ask Arnold about his experience transferring his Hollywood success to Sacramento, or someone like Daniel Snyder who thought being successful in business meant that he would be successful turning the Washington Redskins into Super Bowl Champions.

So how should the talent and insight of business people be used in the political realm? Take a look at what’s happening right now with The Startup Visa. Here we have a group of very successful entrepreneurs who identified a real problem with the visa process when it comes to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business (and create jobs) in America. Then they decided to do something about it.

Instead of taking the approach that they should go into politics and show all the stupid politicians how it’s done. They are working WITH established politicians like Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) to get the bill created. They know their own strengths (seeing the problem, coming up with a solution, and building buzz and support on the internet) and respect the strengths of the Senators (navigating Washington and getting a bill passed). They are not buying into the myth that their own success in technology and business proves that they will be successful in politics and legislation.

Understanding success in this way should show that The Startup Visa has a much greater chance of success than any administration Meg Whitman would put in place if she were to win. The tactic taken by those people behind The Startup Visa should serve as a template for all those people who want to solve a problem in an arena other than the one they are in.

The head, the heart, and the gun.

Posted February 19th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Politics

Last Fourth of July, former NFL Quarterback Steve McNair and his girlfriend were discovered dead, the apparent victims of a robbery/shooting. I tweeted a message to Peter King, a columnist covering the NFL, encouraging him to say something about gun control in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column. Peter King tends to have liberal political views, and on the occasions where these views find their way into his column, he’s quickly attacked by people who either don’t share his views or simply don’t want politics mixed with their football news. On this occasion I felt a mention about gun control was appropriate and justified, and I wanted to encourage him to say something to counter all the negative feedback he gets about his political comments.

ME: @SI_PeterKing I know people knock you for the political comments, but do it! Mention gun control! It’s a comment that needs to be heard!

Soon after sending the direct tweet, I was surprised to get a response from a total stranger who must have somehow seen my tweet to Peter King…

STRANGER: “Mention Gun Control” comment to Peter King. Yes, if McNair had a gun he might still be alive and his would-be killer dead.

I responded and the conversation began…

ME: Or if we lived in practically any other modern country the headline would be “McNair stabbed, recovering at hospital.”

STRANGER: FantasyWorld to expect no guns.Why is there ANY criminal gun use in countries where restrct?Should be NONE with ban, right?

Sensing that this could easily turn into a typical internet conversation where people don’t know each other, are essentially anonymous, and thus regress to extreme and juvenile insults, I decided to make a final point in a respectful way and shut down the conversation. I was happy to see that this could even be done on the internet and felt proud that civility could be reached between two strangers with very different points of view.

ME: I get your points, and agree getting to 0 guns is not realistic, but I don’t see more guns as the solution… Other countries with gun laws may not have no gun crime, but they do have much much less. Regardless twitter is not a good forum for well intentioned debate. I hear your points, and respect them, even if I don’t agree. (4 tweets combined)

STRANGER: Agreed. Thank you. Good Luck :)

This conversation with “my stranger” has stayed with me over the past 7 months. In the days following this exchange it came to light that Steve McNair had been shot by his girlfriend who then turned the gun on herself. I wonder if these new facts would have changed my stranger’s mind about his comments. Does he really think Steve McNair carrying a gun would have protected him from his own girlfriend?

Of course I’m not sure how my stranger actually thought more guns would have improved the situation even if it was someone else holding the gun. Let’s say it was some robber who shot them… did my stranger envision a scene in which Steve McNair is able to draw his gun… get into some sort of shootout (perhaps leaping behind cars thanks to years of perfecting the quarterback sneak)… and like a character from an action film emerge victorious over his “would-be killer”? A shootout with bullets flying? Is this really a better situation? If this fantasy wasn’t already hanging by a thread, adding the fact that the “would be-killer” ended up being Steve McNair’s own girlfriend surely pushes this scenario into the realm of the absurd.

Despite studies that show having a gun in the home increases the risk of someone in the house being killed by a gun, there are still huge numbers of people who want to own guns to protect themselves. Many, like Ted Nugent, believe that the solution to gun crime is not less guns, but MORE guns. This makes very little sense to me, and in trying to understand how anyone could think this, I’ve come to a conclusion that I find enlightening…

My beliefs come largely from my head, where statistics and logic shape my thinking, but there are many people whose beliefs are driven largely by their heart where their emotions and gut instinct guide them.

Thomas Jefferson wrote an amazing letter where he described a conversation between his head and heart. As in many things, Jefferson embodied a central American struggle, the tug of war between the head and the heart. I believe these conflicting views are at the center of so much of our political debate and division today.

When “Headocrats” try to debate with “Hearticans” they bring out facts, figures, and statistics. They are baffled when the Hearticans are not swayed by their logic. The obvious problem here is that the Headocrats not respecting where the Hearticans beliefs are coming from… and end up speaking an entirely different language. Headocrats are speaking in terms that appeal to the head, because this is what makes sense to a Headocrat. This approach will never change the views of the Hearticans, it only drives them further away.

In the gun control debate, I see how personal emotion and anecdotal evidence end up being much more important than statistics to people who follow their heart. They feel safer holding a gun. A story about some guy who defended his house is more telling than a hundred studies regarding the safety of guns in the home. These are what drive their beliefs. My stranger has more faith in the emotion of the hollywood shootout than studies of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Beyond the debate around gun control, I also see this pattern emerge in the debate regarding gay marriage. One side talks about what is legally fair and equal protection under the law, while the other side at it’s core just feels that being gay is wrong. The head and the heart are speaking past each other.

Thinking in these terms helps to explain why you see people like Dick Cheney or the mayor of San Diego become more “liberal” when it’s their own child who is gay. Suddenly emotion pushes them towards a different belief, and they see the light. This is something all the logical arguments, all the academic studies, all the facts could never do. Part of me wants to call these people hypocrites, but in reality they are acting as they always have. They are following their gut and emotion.

I believe it is important that we follow both our heads and our hearts. We will be better people if we embrace the role they each play in our decision making and belief forming process. While I may feel more comfortable in my head, I have learned to trust the instinct of my heart and to listen to it. When my gut tells me something isn’t right I believe it, and start to use my head to understand that emotion better, and to try to validate it in some way.

I think the political landscape, whether on Twitter or in Congress, would be greatly improved if people recognized these two approaches to the world, and like Jefferson respected them both. This respect would not in itself change anyone’s point of view, but it would certainly improve our understanding of each other and would greatly improve the quality of our debate.

Democracy won’t produce more Spielbergs

Posted February 12th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Technology

As the means of media production have gotten cheaper and more accessible, there has been an accompanying belief that this access would unleash a new wave of “masters” and change the landscape of popular media. Tools like “prosumer” HD cameras and computer editing systems like Final Cut Pro became cheap enough that high school students could create feature length films. People assumed and declared that a whole new batch of Steven Spielbergs must be right around the corner. Likewise ProTool and other home recording systems would revolutionize the music industry since bands would no longer need labels to make records and get heard. The next Rolling Stones would appear fully formed out of their garage.

I experienced this excitement personally as a film student in the early nineties. At the time, the hype around low budget independent filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez led us to believe we were entering a world where everyone and anyone could be a successful director. As a film student, this was an exciting view of the world to buy into. Unfortunately, it was not a correct understanding of the trends at play, and thus the conclusions were wrong.

The belief that democratizing the means of production will create more masters is flawed because it places too much emphasis on the tools used by the masters and not on the masters themselves. More specifically it glosses over the drive and ambition that made the master a master in the first place.

Take Steven Spielberg. Legend has it, when he wanted to break in to the industry, he literally broke in. Depending on which story you believe he either put on a suit and waltzed onto the Universal lot, waving at the security guard as he walked by, or jumped off the tram during a Universal Studios tour. He found an empty office, and moved in. He spent the next few weeks walking around the lot watching people make films. Opportunity was not handed to him, so he went out and took it. I would argue that this drive has much more to do with his success than access to cheap equipment would.

People become masters DESPITE the obstacles because they have this drive. If the real next Spielberg is sitting in a high school somewhere, getting a cheap HD camera and editing software is not what is going to enable them to “break out”… they are going to figure out how to break out regardless.

This is a bit of an odd point for me to be making seeing as how my company is actively working to open up mobile application development to everyone. I am clearly not against the trend of democratization of the means of production… I’m for it, believe in it, and am trying to make it possible in the app space. I’m simply challenging our expectations regarding the effect this democratization is going have, and hopefully pointing out where the true value in this trend lies.

Democratizing media production means enabling a whole group of people that previously could not share their vision whether it’s in film, music, videogames, or app development. The scope of this vision is not the important thing, it does not need to be the biggest or even the most important visions from a cultural standpoint. All these new creators’ visions are important and valuable. Perhaps they just make the creator happy, or maybe their family, or a small community of people… it doesn’t matter, the act of sharing your vision is an incredibly important thing.

One of the great things this act of creation does is break down the barriers between consumers and creators. If by peeking behind the curtain of media creation it improves the understanding and critical eye of the consumer, the process has been worthwhile. It also bring the joy of creation to more people. Maybe they didn’t make E.T. or Sergeant Pepper’s, but they did make something of personal value. And the quality of what some of them have made is pretty damn good. The funny Star Wars inspired short films on YouTube or songs on MySpace are impressive and fun even if they aren’t going to be winning any awards or lead their makers to their first “major motion picture” or a performance on the Grammys.

Democratization does amazing things. We are a better society when more people are part of the creative process. Ideas that were to small or niche can find success thanks to the Long Tail and make other people happy. Let us celebrate these things and enjoy the “small batch” creations we all get to experience that we once could not.

But the Steven Spielbergs and the cultural phenomena they create… Those guys were going to figure out how to make it happen anyway.

Business Model Simple Engine

Posted February 10th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Startups

Last week I wrote about S.T.O.P.ing before you start a business. I believe the S.T.O.P. process or something like it is a critical early step when thinking about starting a business. This post is about the next step, another test you must pass to make turn your idea into a successful business. It’s about getting to the heart of how you’re going to create the life blood of your business… money.

Here’s the thesis…

A business model is a simple engine that converts value into money.

I like thinking about business models this way because it clearly separates the process of producing value from the process of making money… and they are two very different things.

Yet people often confuse them and mistakenly think that producing value is enough. I can think of many situations where someone’s business idea would have passed the S.T.O.P. process, where the business produced real value, but sadly it was not a viable enterprise. I believe lots of businesses fail for this reason, and I see this problem now in many of the not so great business ideas I have had over the years.

It’s understandable, even admirable… our passion burns so bright it blinds us to the fact that the business is not going to make money. We’re so passionate we focus only on the value we are creating. We are so in love with that value we never take the next step and see if we can create a business model that, like a solar panel converts sunlight to electricity, converts that value into money.

It’s one of those cold hard truths we don’t want to believe, but VALUE isn’t enough. Once you’ve figured out how to create value your next job as an entrepreneur is to start working on that simple engine… to keep tinkering with it… until finally it starts pumping out enough money to make your business viable. This can take a while. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are clearly very valuable, but they are still working on converting that value into money.

And what if in the end you can’t make it work? It doesn’t mean you idea has no value… it may just be better suited to a non-profit or hobby than a business. I think that’s the larger silver lining to this hard truth.

By separating the process of creating value (what you do and make) with the process of making money (what the business model needs to do) you literally separate the definition of value from money. Value now means more than monetization, and you can appreciate the value you create in the world with our without a viable business model.

Hey you on the phone… whose customer are you?

Posted February 5th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Technology

In the current evolving mobile space there is a core issue that drives perceptions of the market and the strategies of all major players. That core issue comes down to determining whose customer the mobile user is, and who that customer is loyal to.

Traditionally this question was relatively simple. I was a Sprint customer. I had a phone, I made calls, when I got my voicemail Sprint welcomed me, and every month I wrote a check to Sprint. However this “loyalty” started to shift as soon as my phone became less of, well, a phone. When I started to use my phone for email as much if not more than for making calls I started to think about my phone differently.

When I got a Blackberry I stopped even calling it a phone. It was my Blackberry… my primary contact was my Exchange server via RIM, and wait… what carrier was I using again? Oh yeah, I switched to Verizon to get the device and features I wanted. As I became more and more dependent on this device, my loyalty switched, I was now loyal to my hardware manufacturer RIM. Their new phones would dictate when I would change my mobile environment.

And I did make a change. I bought an iPhone. Which of course meant switching to AT&T. With the iPhone I was soon downloading apps. I was playing games. I was living in the software. And with Apple’s classic minimal design… the device even started to disappear a little bit as I focused on the software. If it wasn’t for that pesky bill I got every month, I wouldn’t even know I was on AT&T.

Oh, wait, that’s not true. I was reminded each time I had a dropped call, I had to pay outrageous roaming fees, or an App was rejected from the App Store because of AT&T’s urging. All my interactions with the carrier were now negative ones.

It seems the further my use of the phone and experience drift away from phone calls the more I resent being tied to the carrier.

Now, I am not exactly a standard user. I’m a geek, early adopter, and power user. My iPhone is as much a part of me as is my email address, facebook profile and twitter account. To over simplify and stereotype… I would expect there are plenty of “average users” who own the “feature phone” that came free when they signed up for service. I expect that they see things very differently.

At best that phone is like a fashion accessory that they change in the same way they change which shoes they wear… either for style or because they are worn out. They probably don’t know who made their phone, and beyond adding phone numbers and maybe changing the ringtone, they don’t spend much time with the phone’s OS and software.

But statistics say this customer is changing. They too are buying smartphone and expect to get their email on the go, just as getting calls on the go has long since been viewed as a luxury. More casual consumers are getting iPhone and yes, they are downloading apps.

The question is, will these customers start seeing things differently? Will their loyalties shift? I think the answer is yes… and I think the carriers know this… and I think they are scared shitless. They are trying to stay relevant by creating their own App Stores and providing videos you download from them. They push exclusive phones that you can only get on their network. But the tighter they try to hold us, the more of us who slip through their fingers.

We see their app stores as standing between us and the developers of those apps. We resent their exclusivity that traps us when we simply want to have the phone and experience we desire. We want them to act like the after-thought that they are and stay out of our way. We want them to be dumb pipes.

And then my AT&T bill comes in the mail and I’m reminded that despite all the changes in my phone habits over the years, and despite the best efforts of Apple and Google, I am still tied to the carrier… regardless where my loyalties really lie.

Before you start a business… S.T.O.P!

Posted February 4th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Business, Startups

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with Gary Vaynerchuk and told him about a simple tool/process I came up with while I was starting my new company. He listened and said “You should do something with that!” I decided to take his advice in two ways… First, I started this blog and was inspired to do so in part by his great book Crush It. I highly recommend the book, and while I am not starting this blog to be my business as he outlines in the book, I do agree with what he says about developing your personal brand. Second, I’m writing this post so I can “do something” with this tool/process by sharing it with you.

Before diving in, I should say that I am a not a fan of cheesy acronyms, and was a little horrified to realize I had come up with one, but it’s useful and easy to remember so I decided to embrace my cheesy side. And like the cheesiest love songs, I think there’s an element of truth and value here.

There are a lot of questions you should ask yourself before starting a business. There’s no way I could cover them all, and will not even try to. But as I started this questioning for my own company, there was one set of questions that I found to be a useful place to start, and they come from the following four words:

S.T.O.P – Strengths, Trends, Opportunities, and Passion

Strengths – What are your strengths? What are you good at and what skills/experience have you collected over the years? Answering this question honestly and having a true understanding of your own abilities is the place you should start. It will ground you and your thinking. If you don’t have this self awareness, you’re going to find yourself fighting against the last enemy you want when starting a business… yourself. You won’t know the kinds of partners that will make you better, and won’t understand what you’re bringing to the table. In Gary’s book he talks a lot about DNA and knowing your DNA. I we’re talking about very similar things here.

Trends – What are the current trends that make this moment a good time to start your company? All business ideas are effected by the environment they find themselves in, and understanding how your company fits into this environment is critical. Are you solving a problem that is only now starting to appear in your industry? Have customers only now become comfortable with a type of behavior that your business builds upon? Are you entering a market that is growing so fast that opportunity is falling from the sky?

Opportunity – This question is based on the previous two. Given your strengths and these trends, what opportunities exist for YOU? I believe true opportunity exists at the crossroads of these strengths and trends. Customer interest in hybrid vehicles is a great trend, but if you don’t have any strengths when it comes to the auto industry, it’s not an opportunity you can take advantage of. It’s simply an opportunity for someone else. Similarly, if you’re a great pie maker, but fewer and fewer people are eating pie, this might not be a good time to start a new pie company. Maybe you can find a trend that works with your general baking strength? How about bread?

Passion – Finally you must answer this simple question… Are you passionate about this opportunity? It is not enough to have a good opportunity. It’s not enough to want to make money. You need to be truly passionate about what you’re doing to be successful starting this business. Sure there are probably exceptions to this rule, but the reality is there are too many challenges to overcome in starting a business to succeed without having passion. Passion is the gasoline that will power you over that next hill. Passion is what will keep you up at night thinking through a problem or brainstorming your next steps.

If you answer all of these, and still believe you have a great idea for a business, congratulations! I believe you have passed a critical first test! Now you can move on to all the other questions you need to ask to turn this idea into a real business. Questions about your business model to figure out if you can make any money from this idea (which I’ll address in a future post), and how exactly you’re going to get the idea off the ground. The good thing is most of the other questions can be solved through hard work. If you S.T.O.P.ed, and lived to tell the tale, I believe you have the foundation to solve the rest.

Why I’m glad Scott Brown won.

Posted February 4th, 2010 by Reeve and filed in Politics

Disclaimer: This is about political strategy and messaging, not about any specific issue or legislation.

In the days after the special election in Massachusetts I was disappointed. I was sad that it appeared Health Care reform was DOA, and I was sad to see a seat long held by Democrats go to the Republicans. I was also disappointed in the Democratic party who seemed to have really misread the public. I could see the growing anger with the Democrats in congress, why hadn’t they?

However, as some time has past, I’m starting to realize what a good thing this election result could be for the Democrats.

Having a 60 vote “super majority” in the senate does a few things…

First, it makes the party with the super majority drunk with power. They can do anything, they don’t need to compromise, and all the worst tendencies of the party come to the forefront.

Second, it gives the opposing party a perfect outsider story to tell. They can be against whatever they want, while at the same time playing the part of the victim. Since they essentially have no power they can always point to the party in power and say… look, they locked us out.

Third, for the Democrats if they pass something (like the stimulus bill) they look like they are shoving it down the nation’s throat, and if they can’t pass something (like health care) they looked like idiots that can’t get their act together.

Seems like a lose-lose situation to me, especially in the eyes of independents who I tend to think want respectful and effective government. If this situation had continued through the mid-term elections those independents would have drifted further and further from the Democratic party, and the seat losses would have been colossal.

So now the Democrats *only* have a 59 vote majority in the Senate. They’ve sobered up after a stinging defeat. They can’t ram anything down Congress’ nor the nation’s throat. To pass legislation they only need to convince one Republican to overcome a filibuster… the easiest number shy of 60 votes. And MOST importantly… the Republicans’ bluff is about to be called.

The Republicans can now filibuster whatever they want. They really can say no to everything. But now there is a price. Voters will see that they are the ones stopping work from being done and actually getting in the way of respectful and effective government. The Republicans can no longer play the role of the victim, they are now part of the process and need to deliver.

If the Democrats were smart they would start moving on every piece of sensible (it must be sensible to the “average American”) piece of Democratic legislation they have. If it’s sensible they should be able to get one Republican vote and avoid a filibuster or even call the bill bipartisan. If they can’t get that one vote and the Republicans play politics and filibuster then those independent voters will likely blame the Republicans for not getting things done. The Republicans must either work with the Democrats or hold the process hostage and pay the price in November.

Now that sounds like a win-win situation to me.

I apologize in advance…

Posted February 3rd, 2010 by Reeve and filed in General

To me the idea of having a blog has always felt like having a journal. It’s something I’ve always liked the ‘idea’ of having, but it never really fit my temperment or habits. The few times I tried to keep a journal when I was younger I would inevitably write for about three days in a row, followed by a long silence. There would be one more entry where I proclaimed “OK, I’m really going to write everyday now!” and then I would never write again. But here I am, starting a blog. What changed?

First, when Zak (www.zakattacktaylor.com) joined Jeremy (www.cocoaconvert.com) in having a blog, I became the only person at our start-up the Department of Behavior and Logic (www.dobl.com) to not have a blog. That was a surprise and made me think again about blogging.

Second, I had just had an idea that I thought would make a good blog post. I have ideas all the time and honestly haven’t been putting them anywhere, and realized I probably should. In thinking about this some more I recognized that I already had about 5 blog posts in my head, so I might as well put them somewhere.

Third, I realized that posting to Twitter had gotten me into a habit of commenting on life, and I think I actually have a need now for a regular outlet not limited to 140 characters. And finally…

Fourth, I’m not going to care about writing regularly. I’ve tried this before with the journals, but the reality is I WAS putting pressure on myself. Journals don’t really make that much sense unless you write consistantly, and they’re for an audience of one. The blog will let me write when and if I have an idea, and I can link to it when nessesary and maybe have an audience bigger than myself. But who knows?

So, enjoy the next three posts! After that I promise nothing.