Understanding your introvert

Landscape
Photo by Difusa

Most people imagine that introvert is a synonym for shy, but it's more accurate to say that they're someone who is recharged by time spent alone, and drained by company. That definition fits me – it's not that I lack social skills or dislike time spent with others, I just have a limited stamina for social gatherings and thrive in one-to-one conversation and quiet time.

When I saw this old Atlantic article on caring for your introvert it rang very true. I don't agree with the complaints about oppression – in the computer industry introverts are well catered for – but if people understood more about introversion life would be a little easier. My friends have got used to the fact I like nothing better than just quietly hanging out with them, but that's confusing for a lot of people I meet. I'm not shy, and don't mean to come across as arrogant or stand-offish, I just lean towards a high signal-to-noise ratio in conversation, which means a high thinking-to-talking ratio too!

Video of my NewTech talk

Craig Kendall has just posted video of my talk at the Boulder/Denver NewTech Meetup. It’s a five minute tour through what I’m building with Mailana, followed by some very sharp audience questions.

Thanks to Craig for doing all the production, and Robert Reich for organizing the show. It’s a fantastic resource for the Colorado tech scene, building the community that’s a big part of why I’m moving. I look forward to attending a lot more.

Life beyond death

Deathshead

Photo by Bill McIntyre

A lot of my favorite technologies are allegedly dead. You don't get more unfashionable than Usenet, but I was just able to get an answer to my story ID request in under 10 minutes from rec.arts.sf.written! Show me a web tool that can match that. Email's another technology that's been written off, but it's still the central electronic communication channel for most people.

I'm not a mindless luddite, I love shiny new toys as much as the next geek, but I try to learn from how people actually use computers, rather than how I'd like them to. I remember an Enterprise 2.0 technologist describing how he used a wiki to create all his documents, and was frustrated that the rest of his company wouldn't do the same. He didn't get that while wikis are a great innovation, as word processors they suck.

Users generally push back on changes for a reason. If you're getting strong resistance that seems senseless, that just means you don't understand their requirements well enough. Go back and stare deeply at how they use the old solution. You'll usually see why they keep dragging that corpse around.

Santa Cruz Island on Flickr

Santacruzplane

One of the toughest parts of our relocation to Boulder is moving away from Santa Cruz Island. It's a 100 square miles of old California, just an hours boat ride off the LA coast. Our last trip out was to help the rangers with some trail maintenance for a few days, and one of the crew was an old friend Dave Edwards. I learnt that Dave had been coming out to the island for 25 years, long before it was a National Park while it was still a private ranch. He had a CD full of photos dating back to 1987, and we had a fascinating evening flicking through them. Part of my fascination with the place is watching the transformation as nature recovers from the ranching of the last century. Every trip we see more lush native vegetation and animals now the pigs and sheep have been removed. You can see the changes even more clearly in Dave's photos.

Also staying in the ranger's huts was another David, a research biologist working to re-populate the small Scorpion Rock with native plants. He explained how a tourist snap from the 1940's had been the key to figuring out what the original native mix was, before the invasive species wiped them out. That got me thinking, Dave's photos might be useful for something we'd never imagined, if only they were available to the right people. The best way I know of getting them out there is throwing them onto the internet, so I got his permission to upload them to Flickr. Hopefully future students of Santa Cruz Island will find some valuable insights, while the rest of us can just enjoy flicking through them.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/petewarden/sets/72157616449754152/

Foxfleece

Photos from my first day as a Boulder resident

Deer

Today I picked up the keys to a little house in Boulder and started moving in. I was initially very confused by all the white stuff falling from the sky (we don't get that in Los Angeles) but I'm slowly adjusting. The day has mostly been a blur of unpacking and floor-mopping, but the neighborhood deer paid me a charming welcome visit, ambling slowly through our front yard. I was very surprised, we're well into the town (near Norris and 21st), but according to the locals this isn't uncommon.

A trip to the local Safeway produced another unexpected delight:
Britishfood

Unlike any mainstream California supermarket they have an entire section devoted to British food! Maltesers have pride of place (we've proven by extensive experimentation in our D&D group that Whoppers are far inferior), the gap in the Dark Chocolate Digestives (terrible name, divine cookies) is from me snatching a packet, and they even have cans of the appalling but amusingly named Spotted Dick dessert. There's Heinz Baked Beans, the only brand for authentic Beans on Toast (the name is the recipe!), pickled onions (horrid and stinky), and most dangerous of all, Liquorice Allsorts. I see some serious dental bills in my future with this sort of temptation…

One-pager for Mailana Inc

I'm working on a short description of where my business is at, and I'm publishing what I have so far, in the hope I'll get ideas on improving it. The audience is potential investors and other partners, and the goal is to just to start a dialog, so I'm keeping it short and snappy. Let me know in the comments what you'd think if this landed in your inbox.

Mailana Inc
"You guys should talk"

Mailana produces actionable information from your
electronic conversations. It analyzes email and IMs to answer questions
like "Which of my friends know this person?", "Who in my circle knows
about this subject?" and "How can I connect with somebody at this
organization?"

The public Twitter demo has won praise from people like Tim O'Reilly, Brad Feld, Brian Solis of TechCrunch and Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb.

The system also runs against Microsoft Exchange,
downloading and analyzing the email messages for a team, department or
an entire organization. The information is then used to create
suggested profiles for each employee, forming the basis for a much more
detailed internal version of LinkedIn. Exposed through Outlook and
Internet Explorer add-ins, this stops companies reinventing wheels and
unlocks wasted potential resources within the business.

Mailana Inc was founded in July 2008 by Pete Warden,
previously a Senior Engineer at Apple. Its goal is to improve the world
by getting the right people talking to each other. With a fully working
code-base that's been deployed in real companies, it's currently
looking for partners to help as it moves from a science project into a
commercial proposition.

contact: pete@mailana.com

blog: http://petewarden.typepad.com/

How InsideView turbo-charges a sales team

Insideviewscreenshot

I was chatting with Ian Goldsmid about what information sales people need about their networks, and he pointed me towards InsideView. They take the cornucopia of information available online about people and companies, and distill it into a very focused set of tools to help you sell, a little like Gist without the email connection. Imagine seeing that the sales lead you're contacting used to work at Cisco, so you can talk about their successful use of your product. You can also look at which of your existing customers know a prospect, maybe their testimonial would help make that sale.

Looking through their blog and other material (like this interview with their CEO Umberto Milletti) I was struck by a few things. First, there's obviously a big market demand from sales folks for better tools. Their Salesforce integration gets a 4.8/5.0 rating from customers, with 73 reviews containing comments like "Awesome tool!" and "Great for prospecting". With over 200 organizations using it in-house, with a cost starting at $1200 annually per seat, they're obviously delivering a lot of value!

Second, Umberto reports a lot of success with Salesforce's AppExchange as a distribution channel. I find that very interesting, because I'm convinced that most startups live or die on their distribution model. It doesn't matter how good your product is if there's no efficient way to get it to people who will benefit from it. I will be poking into the details of the Salesforce platform, but so far it seems very promising. The sales world is a domain I don't know much about, but it is obviously a natural market for tools like Mailana that offer rich ways of exploring social networks.