We’re finally starting to see real, viable solutions materialize for getting college credit for free online classes. It’s happening slowly considering that the demand for free classes online is so high, but you can’t really fault the brick and mortar institutions for the lack of pace. Many of the universities that are participating in the effort to go digital are also some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious organizations. We can’t forget that they’re businesses too, and you can’t expect them to upend the industry they’re leading all at once without a rigorous approach to testing and measuring what happens when you give hundreds of thousands of people instant free access to what used to be reserved for a privileged few. That said, one big answer to how students may start to get credit for free online courses are starting to emerge – Proctored tests.
This happened to me again last night:
I’m getting out of a cab and, as I pull out my debit card and reach for the clunky card swipe attached to the cab divider, the cabbie turns around and says “oh no, I use Square”. Then he takes my card, pulls out his iPhone, and rings me up with a smile. Five seconds later, I get a text message saying that I’ve paid.
“Saves me a ton of money,” he says. With this, I pay 2.75%. With that thing (points to the card swipe in his car), they take me for a ride.
I first got my square account when the company was first announced. Back then, you couldn’t charge less than $100 bucks, so it wasn’t useful for most of the transactions an individual would want to use it for. I’m glad Square has overcome that hurdle. They are really solving a problem that needed to be solved, and they’re creating so much opportunity for individuals and small businesses that didn’t previously exist. Hat tip to Jack Dorsey and the Square team. They’re making a difference, and it’s awesome to see the smiles on people’s faces that they’re helping.
This 99U talk is a goodie. Jason Goldberg breaks down the thinking and execution behind Fab.com’s famous pivot from gay social networking site (Fabulous) to a design-centered online marketplace. He mirrors what I hear a lot of successful entrepreneurs talk about when they finally reflect on what worked – the importance of authenticity, creating culture, maintaining focus, having a sense of purpose and creating joy and happiness for customers. I also appreciated the “go ahead and start from scratch” advice. I’m a little sick of hearing people in the start up world talk about iterating their way to success no matter what the starting point is. From where a lot of startups stand, iterating out of a crappy business model doesn’t make sense, it makes waste. There’s a message embedded in what Jason is saying, and I think it’s that the core mission has to resonate with users, and the solutions you come up with have to create delight. Without those things, you’re dead in the water.
As people transition through various stages of education into the workforce, they face increasing hurdles to secure employment and career opportunities. There’s been a lot of public criticism about how the education system here in the U.S. is broken and, not surprisingly, it has a lot to do with cost. Across many industries and trades the price of buying an education has risen so high in the last 20 years that the cost of earning a degree eclipses what you can earn post-degree. Naturally, a lot of young people are rethinking their need to seek formal education as a direct result. Rightfully so. Most importantly, we’re starting to see broader negative consequences materializing across the country – skills across the population in important categories like math and science are declining in the aggregate, for instance. Not good. Clearly something’s got to give.
Currently about seventy-five million young people are unemployed globally and are looking for work. I don’t know the statistics in the US, but in the UK there are apparently around 1 million people between 16 and 24 who are unemployed. As I’m typing this, OpenIDEO, Barclays and The Work Foundation are supporting an open challenge to crowdsource solutions to help young people move into employment. They’ve framed the problem as one that applies mostly to the young, but I’d argue that it applies to anyone in the workforce who’s been laid off or would like to make a career switch that forces them to start over. The OpenIDEO challange is currently in the ‘refinement’ stage, so it’s a great time to start following along and joining the conversation. This is just my take, but I found that fewer solutions than I would have expected focused on different ways to get training cheaply, and more than I expected focused on helping students find a path through job discovery and trying out new careers before committing to a plan of action. Hat tip to Vishal Shah – I thought his solution in particular “The Uninternship” had a good mix of novelty, utility and promise.
This talk by Timothy Prestero is right on the money. He makes great points about designing products for impact, and highlights some important lessons learned about what it takes to actually take something from design through to the point where you’re actually making a difference with what you’ve built. There are some great reminders in this talk on the importance of seeing a project all the way through and designing for real-world use, rather than accolades.
I took a break from the office today and tried something new. Instead of working from home, which I do a few times a month, I headed over to WorkBar, a popular co-working spot downtown. All things equal, it’s been a nice change of pace and atmosphere – everything that I hoped it would be. There are probably 30-50 people here, and it’s surprisingly quiet. Everyone seems to be getting stuff done on their own, and respecting the airspace. There’s free coffee (I recommend the “Love Buzz”), tea, Vitamin water and even beer in the kitchen. There are conference rooms you can duck into for phone calls and meetings. The wifi is quicker than what I get at home (speed tested it this morning at 54mbps) and the chairs are super comfy – just the right amount of lean and give (hat tip the designers at Turnstone).
I could definitely get used to this co-working thing. You get the friendly, casual atmosphere of a Starbucks without the crappy wifi and melee of people, and all the facilities of an office, without the boring taupe cubes and constant disruption. I honestly didn’t think co-working would be like this. I secretly thought this was going to be a mostly counter-productive space where people came to have an excuse to socialize when they should be working. It’s definitely not that. I get it now.
I can’t speak for other co-working spaces in Boston, but WorkBar is kinda awesome.
This was a personal mini project I did for fun last night. It’s an adaptation of “The Designer’s Handshake” that was written in 2009 by Emily Pilloton in one of my favorite design books ‘Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People‘.
I was leafing through the pages of the book one day, found this bit inspiring and I just thought it would be a cool to put it up on my wall near my desk, so I made this and posted it to Behance. Thanks, Emily!
Adobe’s new subscription-based pricing structure for the Creative Suite (CS6) and Creative Cloud scare me a bit – not because it’s not a great deal, because of what it signals about the way that software might be priced and purchased in the future across the market. At face value, the Creative Cloud sounds great – $50/month for immediate access to the latest version of just about everything Adobe makes, and then some. That’s if you sign up for a full year, which comes to $600 annually, per person. Month to month plans are $75/mth. Photoshop alone retails for $699, so for a lot of creative professionals this seems like a no brainer. Even if you commit to a year as an individual, and cancel after 6 months, you’ll only owe 50% of what’s left on your contract to get out (6 months would cost you $300 + $150 = $450 ).
Adobe is smart. By making the entire suite affordable, they’re counting on you locking yourself into a product that they can license and maintain in real time. So what’s the big deal?
This is a question I find myself coming back to often. As longer form sharing starts to move to central platforms like Google+, should we be migrating our activities to where our friends’ eyeballs are? I dig what Google has done with plus. I think they’re opening the door for longer form content sharing in a way that Facebook or other social networks haven’t. From an interaction standpoint, posting to Google+ generates far more discussion, feedback and attention in real time (that’s been my experience so far). The flip side is that in the long term, you don’t really own your longer posts and after only a short time, they disappear into the stream, never to be found again. I suppose it comes down to personal preference and whether you’d rather have more real-time conversations than build a library of articles that you own and control.
To those of you who have subscribed to this blog, how would you rather consume long form (for this blog)? Thoughts or opinions either way?
I watched a short Stanford entrepreneurship lecture on Udemy.com today given by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur. In the second section, Steve comments briefly about ‘first mover advantage’ and why the difficulties of being the first mover can hinder, rather than hurt your startup. This is for reasons like having to spend a lot of time and effort creating the market and educating users, and learning hard lessons when testing assumptions that no one has ever tried before that don’t end up working (which slows you down). Instead, Steve suggests that being the first mover might not be as good as being the first best executer:
It doesn’t mean you never want to be the first mover, but the historic Stanford ‘first mover advantage’, I think, over the last decade or two, has found out to be a divide by zero problem; It’s just wrong. You don’t always want to be the first mover. In fact, you typically want to be the first fast follower. And if we take a look at all the companies that presented here this semester, you’ll find out that they were all incredibly great fast followers. Was Amazon the first mover? How about eBay? How about Google? Were they the first movers? No. None of these guys were first movers. They were first best executers, but they certainly were not first movers. – Steve Blank
I’ve heard seasoned entrepreneurs offer the advice that, as a founder, you should assume that, at any given moment, there are 2 or 3 teams out there working on something close to, or exactly what you’re working on and that execution is the real differentiator that determines success in the end, which is why execution matters so much. For a variety of reasons, I find Steve’s words very comforting.
This morning I put together this little mind map on my iPad using Adobe Ideas. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a learning platform specifically tailored for creatives might look like, and how we might (HWM) create an online community for that platform that people would aspire to be part of. Given that the core of great branding is the expression of the right values, I started brainstorming there, asking myself “what types of values and traits might provide a good foundation for growing such a community?”. That exercise produced this. It’s incomplete, but I thought it was worth sharing.
If you had a place where you learned online with others, what type of community would you be proud to be a part of?
Like many web designers and developers, I’m almost completely self taught. I started years ago with books, manuals and blog posts because that’s all that was really available. Now we’ve got an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to learning. Im a visual learner, so I find that video works best for me learning this stuff. Being able to watch someone show you how something complicated is done is so much faster, easier and enjoyable.
For the last few months I’ve worked my way through 38 badges on Treehouse, which has been great. At an average 6-7 minutes per video, and about 5 videos per badge, that’s around 20 hours of content. I’ve learned a lot, and the fact that the content is delivered in a thoughtful, structured way has really made the experience good.
In this 30 minute video, Photographer and filmmaker Andrew Zuckerman shares some lessons from his time creating the Wisdom project, in which he interviewed “elders” around the world, including Chuck Close, Bill Withers, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Massimo Vignelli, among many others. Zuckerman talks about the anxiety we feel as we start a new projects, how fear can help us get things done, and the importance of honesty and good, old-fashioned hard work (surprise, suprise). You can thank the99percent team for this one.