Sunday, June 29, 2008

Birthday wish

Today my oldest turned 6 years old. There's something about this kid, lots of amazing things, actually. I could go on and on.

Before we sang "Happy Birthday" I told him to think of his wish. Just as we finished singing, he quickly blew out the candles. I thought he hadn't time to think of and make his wish. But before I had a chance to say anything, he started hopping up and down and said "OOOO, I really want to tell you what I wished for! It already came true, anyway."

So we told him it was ok to tell us. He said "I wished that everyone I love would be happy."

And right at that moment, we all were.

Happy birthday, Jackson.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cost-benefit decisions

Every decision you make has an associated cost. It may not be monetary, more than likely its not. The trick is to make decisions where the benefit really is greater than the total cost. This week was an exercise in big cost-benefit decisions.

One example: in building one of our demos, I'm assuming a certain amount of monetary cost. The problem is, the process is costing me way more at this point. Costs are tricky--obviously time is a cost, but frustration is a cost, as are good vendor relationships if you lose them. All three of these "hidden" costs are what are causing me rethink the current demo building process in favor of a more streamlined process.

Course corrections are not just warranted when your budget is at risk. You should be looking at all of your costs and adjusting to make sure that your decisions aren't costing you more than you are willing to spend...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Concert etiquette

Honestly, I don't think I've ever read a commentary on going to a concert that gets it more right. Thanks Russ.

I always thought that perhaps I was just getting too old (cue visual of me shaking an old lady fist at the youngsters) to enjoy all of the bs you have to put up with at a live concert. Please, if you are one of the jackasses that ruin the experience for the rest of us, I implore you to read the article above with the highest level of self-reflection.

If you know one of these people, please forward the link along, for all of our sake.

New blood

The Tandem rockstar group has been stewing in our own ideas for awhile. When you live with an idea for a period of time, you get comfortable with it. You stop looking at it from new angles. You, in a way, start believing your own hype, that your idea is the best it can be.

It's dangerous, because as soon as you present your ideas to others, they will see the value that you see, but they will also see ways that it could be better.

If you take your idea and build it and start showing it to prospective customers without letting people pick apart your ideas first, you'll probably get a couple sales. And then someone who sees what you are doing and has the means to improve on your idea will do it, and probably make more money than you.

Yesterday I had an all day strategy meeting on our new products. A new Rockstar is entering the fold, and getting his feedback on our product ideas made me see them in whole new ways. We're early enough in the process to easily incorporate his feedback. I'm reenergized about starting to talk about these products with customers. I think it'll be awhile before anyone could seriously challenge us, and I would be surprised if anyone could build a better mousetrap as quickly as we've been able to put together our products.

It's a critical step to get new eyes on your ideas. The more insightful feedback you can get early on, the more viable your idea is likely to be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keeping up appearances

We're continuing to make progress on our demos; the Design Docs are done, the wireframes in place, and the specs outlined. Now we're at the scary point that we start defining what these things actually look like.

You know when you meet someone on the phone, but have never actually seen them? Based on their voice, and the content/context of your conversation, you start to make assumptions about their appearance. Text chatting is even more far removed and allows your mind to make assumptions purely on what people type.

When you do finally see the person, your mind often has to reconcile your assumptions with reality. Sometimes people look exactly how you expected them to. More often, they look much different, and you are surprised...sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not.

We're at the same point with our demos. We're defining styles as much as we can, but to a certain extent, these products haven't shown us their faces yet. I'm looking forward to *meeting* them in person.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm a big fan of trinities. We have a product in demo development for B2B, and another DTC (direct to consumer) product following close behind. All weekend I've been thinking about doing something perhaps a little more noble, based on a great conversation with a fellow Rockstar on Friday. A third leg of Tandem Learning to flesh out the trinity, perhaps.

We are a learning company, and as such, I'd like to think we're not limited in the types of training that we do. So, we're now exploring some ideas to use virtual world technology for therapy--my background in speech pathology got me thinking about the stroke patients that I worked with to rebuild communication skills. My fellow Rockstar has met all kinds of interesting people who use virtual world technology to work with kids with autism, and people with various disabilities that use virtual worlds for all sorts of interesting purposes.

I'm feeling decidedly optimistic about the third leg of the Tandem Learning tripod...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Form versus function

Had a great meeting today with the guys who are going to build our 3D graphics for one of our first demos. We had an interesting conversation about how real an environment has to be for people to "believe" it, especially when you are interacting with other "people" in this environment.

I do think the style of the avatars and their environment need to be consistent to be believable. I've become immersed in Second Life, as have many others, so I definitely think that style works as believable. I think the more cartoonish it gets, the easier it is for people to distance themselves from the interactions.

Ultimately, for our product, it may be the market that decides. More realistic = more money. If people see the value and are willing to pay for realism, then we may have a REALLY cool-looking product on our hands...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You can do a lot in a few hours

Things that you can do in a few hours:

  • Outline a new product idea
  • Build a cool hangout on your Second Life island
  • Write a chapter of your book
  • Find new office space and set up appointments to go see it
  • Catch up with all of the people you've been meaning to call or email
  • Identify client advisory board members
  • Write a proposal
  • Skim a business book you've been meaning to read
  • Take your kids to the park
  • Do your expense report

Things that distract you from doing these things:

  • Email
  • Phone calls
  • IM
  • Surfing the Internet
  • Talking to people that walk by your desk

I vow to more of the first list than the second from here on out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's all about the avatar

Once I finish my first book, God willing this summer, this is the topic of the second one. I wrote an earlier post about what I think the Internet will be like in 5 years (or at least a quick approximation of such) and a very smart gentleman I know added some additional thoughts and commentary on the matter in his own blog.

What my prediction is around, more than the actual style of the content being presented (2.0, 2.5, 3.0), is the nature in which we will all eventually interact with digital information. And my prediction is that we will all eventually have an online identity other than a screenname or login ID. I predict that soon, we will all have an avatar and how we interact in the digital frontier will largely be guided by these digital personas.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I've been exploring Second Life. For awhile, I was obsessed, trying to understand the parameters of the media, the interactions, and quite simply, how people were using it. Then I moved on to what I thought people COULD use the technology for, and started exploring those ideas.

The one constant throughout all of these interactions was my avatar. I spent a bit of time getting her to look the way I wanted, and if I do say so, she's a pretty decent looking chick even for Second Life standards. Early in my Second Life, I did experience all of the physiological responses that research says people do. I started experiencing shyness in certain situations, feeling uncomfortable in others. I began to feel so protective of her, and her identity, that I decided it was impeding my research-minded explorations, so I developed another avatar (an "alt") with the thought that she would be able to do the dirty work that I was uncomfortable with my original avatar doing. I started to feel guilty when I logged in as my alt, feeling like I was denying my first avatar airtime and experiences. My alt didn't have any SL friends, and that was lonely. And I found that even as my alt, I wanted to frequent all the same old familiar places in SL.

Right around this time, my husband decided it was time he checked out this virtual space that has been occupying so much of my time. He made his own avatar, and even though he SAID that it was just a cartoon, after I made his av look like him, he was particular about the clothes he was wearing. He was jealous of other avatars hitting on my avatar. Let me state this AGAIN: My real life husband was feeling jealousy related to my avatar being hit on.

I had thought about identity and virtual worlds before, how the avatar driving your experiences adds a level of complexity and motivation not seen in any other type of digital interaction. Even in most gaming, you don't take it personally when you "die." But we are approaching an time where our digital lives will so integrate with our real lives that I predict they will be nearly one and the same.

Its an exciting time to be building in the virtual world space, and testing the water on new applications. But ultimately, its all about the avatar. When more people figure that out, our digital world will never be the same.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The mixed-up world of Second Life

Working on plans for our product we're developing in Second Life, we were talking to a Second Life developer today. He was asking what our design style was, and my honest answer was I hadn't really thought about it. I've been so focused on the strategy, I haven't had much time or energy to think about the style.

The funny thing is, and this is what the developer said as well, is that usually, all people think about when they are building in Second Life is the style, not the strategy. I think that's why there are so many "ghost towns"...just because you build something cool, doesn't mean people will come. You need to think about what would cause people to want to use your product, who would want to use it, and they tailor your product and messaging for that group.

For our Second Life product to be successful, we need to attract people who AREN'T already in Second Life. We have to show them that what we are offering is valuable, and Second Life is simply the delivery vehicle. Our product needs to transcend Second our marketing needs to focus on the product not the tool.

I've visited a lot of cool Second Life ghost towns. I'm not looking to build one for myself.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The future of the Internet

There are a lot of problems with this concept in its current form, but I bet you $5 that in 5 years, this is how we'll experience the

The only thing that we need now is avatar interoperability. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE AVATAR...

Office space

I don't have any affection for TPS reports or flair, but finding new office space is my new part-time job. We need to locate somewhere semi-convenient for everyone, close to public transportation, and close enough to me (since I'll probably be the only person there every day...). This is not as easy as it sounds. I have a couple general areas in mind, but in the midst of our first product demo "projects," this isn't the best time to be taking property tours.

I have a vision in my head of what our office space might eventually look like. Now if I can just find that space located near a train stop...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


There's some sort of magic in the first year you are married. Everything is exciting, figuring out your partnership with your spouse, each others roles and responsibilities. You're both happy and scared at the same time. What if you can't make each other happy? How do you deal with the inevitable problems that arise? How can you balance your new life together, taking each other into consideration, with your individual goals, wants, and needs?

I think our little corporate adventure is experiencing a similar adjustment in our first year. We rockstars really are rockstars, each with our own strengths and weaknesses, experience and expertise. We're all committed to making this work. Inevitably, though, there are tensions. Who's taking care of what? Is anyone upset if I take this over? Is this my responsibility or yours? Will (s)he be pissed if I give a brutal critique? What if my style is irritating to someone else?

We just have to remember we're all working toward the same goal. We all want the same thing. We're all smart people. So, like newlyweds, we're just going to have to learn each others' little quirks, and hopefully love each other all the more for it. In a corporate way, of course.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New ideas

It's nice to have a good idea every once in awhile. Its even better if you have more than one good idea going at a time. We've got a two-horse race going in our product development projects, and even as we have two ideas that we're going to be working on simultaneously, I'm already thinking of what our next product/project might be.

For people starting a company, you can't have too many ideas. Of course, if you pursue them all at once, you do risk losing your focus.

But its nice to have new ideas on the back burner, ready to pursue and talk about when the time is right. You just never know when you'll have an opportunity or need to pull out one of those ideas to keep the business moving forward and your momentum and energy going. When you run out of ideas, that's when you're in trouble...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm going camping

When I started this company in February, I assumed that I wouldn't be taking a vacation this year. It does seem to be the case that my schedule is not going to allow for a whole week away somewhere, at least for awhile. But I am desperately in need of a vacation, if just for a bit, to get away and reset my mind.

Flashing back to when I was a little girl, I spent a whole summer living in a 16 foot trailer at the state park in Petoskey, Michigan. My dad had been transferred there, but we didn't know if we were going to move there yet, so we just lived in the trailer for the summer. We spent every day we could on the beach. I learned to make killer smores. My sister and I hiked a lot through the trails in the park and rode our bikes around and around. We took a lot of cold showers (although we did learn when the best times were to catch hot water in the park showers). It was one of the best summers of my life.

Flashing forward, I've become a little more high maintenance. I like my vacations to include optional room service and definitely air conditioning. We tend to go to cities, not the beach. And I can't imagine having to take a cold shower every morning.

And yet, I have been thinking a lot about roasting marshmallows (I like mine burnt a little) and making smores. I want to go hiking. I'd love to just lay on the beach. So we've booked ourselves a camping trip, although just three days, so I can do just that. I'm fairly certain there's no wi-fi in our "rustic" cabin, and I'm also fairly certain I will be taking a cold shower. It sounds downright heavenly.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Instant gratification

Yesterday the Rockstars were going to go to a "virtualization" conference. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Turns out virtualization has more to do with data back up than virtual worlds. Luckily, we saw the session schedule before we all showed up there, and decided that we should have a little "Tandem Summit" to get stuff done instead.

So, we worked on the plan for our first product. But all day, in the background, I'm thinking this is going to take too long. I want something fast and easy, something that shows our capabilities and expertise, and something that will start generating revenue. Last week, one of my co-conspirators and I had a really great chat about strategy and the state of things, and we came up with a little idea. That little idea is very different than anything I've ever done, but I find it exceedingly more interesting. Its direct-to-consumer, and I know nothing about that. And its all I can think about.

Even better, I think this new idea can be done really quickly. I feel like our bigger product plan will be huge, but it will take awhile to implement. The whole gang is on board and we're moving full speed ahead. On the side, I'm liking the excitement of playing fast and loose with my instant gratification product. So maybe we'll have two products by the end of this year...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


One of my fellow Rockstars sent me this over the weekend:

Alison Covarrubias has a favorite piece of advice for the aspiring entrepreneurs in her Ladies Who Launch groups: "If you don't feel like you're going to throw up, you're not taking enough risks."

So I'm feeling a bit better about my constant state of nausea.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My so-called Second Life

I've been spending too much time in Second Life. It started out innocently enough, exploring different islands, reading articles about cool things to see. Then I started shopping. I discovered camping, but that wasn't enough to generate very many Linden$, so I paid to upgrade my account and got some money to spend. But I soon grew bored; I could only travel around by myself for so long before I started looking for people to talk to.

Since I have opened myself up to talking to people in Second Life (SL), I have learned more than I would have ever imagined about how people interact in virtual worlds. Some people are just who they are (or so it seems) in real life (RL). Some people are in it for the full-on role-play. Some come to talk to people, others come to disrupt conversations. I've talked to people from all over the world, and been amazed at the coincidence of meeting people who live a stone's throw from me. I've talked about politics, religion, bathroom habits, raising kids, the cult of Second Life, and what Scottish men really wear under their kilts. I've met a shocking number of actual pimps who use SL to find customers. I've gone dancing, stayed up too late "drinking" and watched the virtual sun rise and set. And, as much as I think you probably can, I've made several SL friends.

But there's a danger of living too much in this fantasy world. People come and go easily, much more easily than in RL. Anonymity can mask reality. Judgment is skewed, risk-taking is not so risky. There's not much accountability for bad behavior. It makes for an intoxicating lure of endless possibilities without consequences. Except the consequence of sacrificing your RL for your SL. It is a balance you need to be mindful of, yet its this blend of attributes is what I believe holds the key to understanding how to motivate people to use virtual worlds for training, engage in the collaborative processes that are possible, and increase the opportunities and outcomes for learning in virtual worlds.

I've just bought an island in SL, and I'm ready to start building our first endeavor for training. I don't know that much about the building process yet, but I'm looking forward to learning. More importantly, I think what I've learned about interacting with others in SL will go a long way towards helping us be successful in this "world."