Yet Another Todo App

YATA is Yet Another Todo App.

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You start at a high level with all your tasks in a tree of tasks and sub-tasks. If you check one off it gets striked out and will automatically be deleted in 24 hours. You can edit tasks. Here you have the big picture.

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Next, you can look at just the leaves, the things that need to be done at some point. These are the end tasks which have no children. You can highlight important leaves here.

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Last, you can focus on just the leaves that have been highlighted and work on just those today. You can go through, check off those tasks and tomorrow return to the overview to choose what to work on again. This view shows only the things you want to work on, and hides the complexity of everything else that’s going on.

If you want to play with it, YATM is here.

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New Year, New Roles

It’s been a wild two-and-a-half years at Telenav helping bring OpenStreetMap to the consumer. We shipped consumer turn-by-turn navigation in the US with Scout which was for me a big first – a turning point of showing OSMs true potential.

As the OSM project at Telenav has grown the need for the visionary founder has shifted and I’m stepping back from full-time work at Telenav. I’ll be still helping part-time and helping with new projects going forward. 2016 is going to be a fun year with a great team at Telenav (including all the bright folks we brought in from Skobbler) and I know they’ll continue to push out more OSM goodness.

The algorithm and the failing kickstarter

I launched a kickstarter yesterday and it’s not doing well.

Here’s my basic algorithm:

  1. Try random things at zero cost
  2. Find the ones that work
  3. Scale those

We really can’t predict what will work or not which is why speed is so important – the more things you try the better since you’ll hopefully find something that will work. Boyd talks about this in his OODA loop. You observe your situation, orient yourself, decide what to do and then act upon it. Then go back to the start. He posits that if you can do this quicker than your opponent then you’ll win.

So let’s observe the situation.  This kickstarter raised about $600 in day one, with a fairly huge amount of publicity amongst map people.

Let’s orient given prior knowledge. The last two kickstarters did $1,600 in day one. They raised just under $15k and $10k total. It’s not super likely this one will reach $5k given the curve and what little we’ve had today (day two).

So it’s decision and action time. I’m pretty sure that:

  1. The prices on the kickstarter are too high
  2. The print images aren’t compelling enough

The prices are easy to drop and simplify. I’m thinking of just having one print at $40 or so since that’s the median price for this kickstarter and the last poster one.

As for the images, I’m working on continent-wide instead of city images. I’ve fixed some of the drawing issues. The thickness of the lines drops as log10() and I’ve changed that to log() which is nicer. I’m also working on aliasing and changing the color from “just black” amongst other things. Here’s an image of all the roads going to london:

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There’s a bunch of work to be done here, but it gets the point across. My guess is that continent images like this will be more compelling.

The interesting question is how to get feedback. Asking the existing backers makes partial sense since they committed money but on the other hand, we need to figure out why people who didn’t back it didn’t back it. Feedback welcome of course.

Part of the reason for this whole thing is that the printer I bought for the last project is dead and needs to be replaced. This isn’t compelling in and of itself. Remember the “try random things” part of the algorithm? Well in a sense, yes, random things need to be tried since we can’t predict very well the chance of success. But, there are a couple of things to consider.

If we have two ideas A and B we may as well go for the bigger one. The reason for that is that it has more ways to succeed. A bigger idea may contain some element of a successful idea. A smaller idea has a lower chance of success and a lower overall level of dollars to attract. The cost remains the same: zero. This is because that’s what I’m going to spend since zero means the maximum number of ideas to be tried. Anything above zero restricts the number of ideas.

Second is opportunity cost. Picking the smaller idea costs the potential gain of a bigger idea. Doing a $5k kickstarter is the same as doing a $50k kickstarter with a 10% chance of success. But the $50k idea has a higher potential payoff and the same cost (zero) with a higher number of sub ideas that might spark some following.

There’s also just less competition. Doing anything commercial with OSM right now is hard because there are irrationally funded startups doing everything for free and owning the whole space. Competing with free is hard. At the other end of the spectrum I really love Thing Explainer simply because out of the billion books published this past year, it’s so unique. It’s not another tween vampire romance. Doing unique and big things is the way to go.

Is the cost really zero to do a kickstarter? No. It costs my time and so on, but it’s about as low as you can go.

Back to failure. The typical valley thing is to embrace and love failure. But that’s really just a way of avoiding it the same as treating failure as bad. The secret is to know failure sucks and push through it as a process, not to pretend it’s good or bad. It just is.

I tested a bunch of ideas last year and most of them failed. Nobody remembers any of them. Anyone remember Fake Mayor? That wasn’t even a failure, that sold for actual money. Anyway. I have a bunch of data on the ideas that succeeded and really I should have done one of those as my next kickstarter, or one of the other really big ideas I have laying around. Next time. (And, next time might mean next week at this rate).

(As an aside, I want to do a book about how to test and build ideas for super cheap using the internet, I think it’d be interesting).

So. The plan is to either pivot this kickstarter, kill it or restart it with simplified rewards in the next 24 or 48 hours. What do you think?

(It should be noted that some semi-pivoting by putting the above image on the kickstarter and so on is simple and free so I’ll do that in any case, but it’s not really a full pivot).

New Kickstarter: Every Road

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I have a new kickstarter live now: Every Road! Every Road is a unique poster print of every road leading away from your house (or any other point). Above you see the bay area, driving away from the Ferry Building at the NE of San Francisco. Here’s the same thing driving away from a point in the Sunset:

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The roads get thinner as you go and lead to a tree-like structure. Each print is totally unique to you. Here’s driving away from Buckingham Palace in London:

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Here’s walking everywhere from Wall Street in Manhattan. Notice most route on Manhattan end up walking North and branch out across each side:

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Here’s the same thing, but driving:

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Notice how it leads to a totally different map because driving leads to quicker routes along the edge of Manhattan and then driving inward to each point. As opposed to walking, where your maximum speed doesn’t change depending on what road you’re walking on.

The data of course comes from OpenStreetMap, more details are at the Every Road kickstarter!

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is a device for turning your phone in to a VR headset. When combined with headphones it’s pretty immersive.

If you haven’t yet, buy a Google Cardboard unit at amazon or eBay. eBay units can be had cheaper, around $2 but can take forever to ship from Hong Kong. Mine was $1.80 and took 3 weeks to arrive.

Or, get one free from Lowes:

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Lowes have a vending machine next to some iPads. You can use the iPads to design your perfect kitchen and then get a free cardboard unit dispensed. Download the app, login and you can view that kitchen in 3D as if you’re there. Luckily my local Lowes is one of the few with these units – maybe they’re hoping that nobody will notice in rural Colorado.

You’re going to see more people give these things away for free like the NYT did recently.

The experiences available via the VRSE app and others are pretty mind-blowing. Most are short 3-6 minute video productions using bubble cameras that put you in the middle of the action. You can look all around and pretty quickly lose connection with reality – great for flights.

The cost of VR hardware is now zero but the content is going to be a while in coming. There’s some great tasty treats out there and we’ll get to the point of paying money at some point for longer works I’m sure, including games and education.

I’ve used an Oculus DK2 and honestly, it’s not worth it compared to the cardboard unit. The DK2 may have slightly better specs but frankly who cares when the tradeoff is adoption. A DK2 costs real money and needs to be hooked up to a PC, cardboard means anyone can get started with a device that practically everyone owns – your phone.

What is it?

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What is it? is a free iPhone app for recognizing objects. You point it at things and the app will recognize the stillness of the scene, vibrate, take a photo and tell you what the object is. It’s “always on” and watching on purpose, just point your phone at something and it will attempt to recognize it.

And if it’s wrong, you can fix it by tapping the flashing text and typing what it is.

The app relies heavily on ImageIdentify[] from Wolfram Research. You can play with their website here on a phone, tablet or desktop device. The backend of the app is powered by the rather wonderful Wolfram Cloud which makes building something like this very easy.

Using Wolfram Cloud isn’t far from using Mathematica, and you can deploy APIs trivially from both:

CloudDeploy[
APIFunction[{“image” -> “Image”}, ImageIdentify[#image] &]]

That’s about all it takes. The system returns a URL and you can then use that to make requests against. Mathematica and the Wolfram Cloud go way, way beyond this basic example of course. I can’t recommend enough that you play with this stuff. In a couple of weeks there’s a new book coming out on it too!

Today, this app has some decent if limited capabilities. The goal is something better than a star trek tricorder – something that will tell you the species of a leaf or the model year and trim of a car.

Lending Club & OpenStocks

Lending Club

I’ve been researching a few stocks recently including LendingClub which I now own. It got me thinking – why isn’t there a wiki of all this information?

For example, one of the interesting things for me to follow is the SEC Form 4 filings of a firm. This is where people who have some major position in a public company have to make public if they buy or sell shares. For example, if you learnt that the CEO was selling or buying shares that would be useful to know. It’s an indication of whether they’re personally invested or not. Similarly, if the whole leadership team is buying or selling then that tells you more and so on.

I just read through all of LendingClub’s Form 4s going back to when they went public in December 2014. I’ve summarized them in the OpenStocks wiki here. Each Form 4 is pretty dull. It contains who’s selling or buying, what it is they’re selling or buying (stocks, options etc), when and for how much. There can be footnotes to explain transfers and other things like that.

Aren’t there things that automatically parse these forms and spit this stuff out? Not really. Yes, they exist, but they tend to be terrible at interpreting the information. For example when someone in the leadership team of a company gets some shares they will often put them in a bunch of trusts. This can make the automated software misreport their holdings and lead you to think they have less at stake than they do.

What we’re doing is compressing information and time. It took about 4 hours to read the Form 4s for the last year, wikifi them, do a bit of research on the people and so on. We need to compress that time and energy in to a buy/sell. The first intermediary step is to tell a story using the Form 4’s as recovered DNA in Jurassic Park, and then filling in the holes. And hoping no dinosaurs eat you.

Thus. LendingClub went public after giving hundreds of millions of shares to their VCs who acquired rights to them in the A, B and C rounds. Some of the VCs also bought some at discount. The IPO price was $15. Six months or so later they gave a bunch of shares to their board. Then the VCs started selling them in lots of 2 or 10 million shares here or there. All this selling probably depressed the price, but the VCs have to do it to return capital to their investors. It’s likely this selling will continue.

In the last couple of months a few insiders have been selling shares for “new Tesla” to “new apartment” levels of cash ($100k to $500k or so). But those sales are dwarfed by their options and holdings across their trusts and so on. They’re sitting on tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Incidentally, all the leadership team plus their board have excellent careers and lots of credibility to lose. This kind of selling looks acceptable. Maybe they just want a new Tesla or to send a child to college or whatever.

The quarterly earnings were a few weeks ago. They turned a small profit of about $1MM on profit of $110MM or so on $2.something billion in loans for the quarter. The decimal places don’t matter to me much. The graph with all the numbers screaming upward does.

The costs are all flat as a percentage of revenue if you go look at their filings. But, the revenue has been going up. A lot. So they’re hiring like crazy. If you look at glassdoor, the reviews are all pretty good modulo complaints about the rate of growth. At some point they’ll amortize the staff and other costs over growing revenues (e.g. they won’t need to keep hiring).

The earnings call laid lots of heavy hints about a new product in 2016. My bet is that will be mortgages. Eventually LendingClub will offer every aspect of finance and they want to ship 2 products a year. So far they have personal loans and business loans. There’s a lot more out there from credit cards to kickstarter. Mortgages just feel kind of big and obvious and leverage the existing client base really well. Plus, they have so much (p2p) money they need to find places to put it.

LC aren’t at war with the banks, which is very nice. Instead they’re partnering all over the place to help banks find uses for their capital and help their customers find loans. All very win-win.

There’s negative stuff to find too which I leave as an exercise for the reader.

OpenStocks

So – why not put all this stuff in a wiki? I can’t find anything like it so I built one at OpenStocks. It’s very early.

It’s interesting to think what an open source community would look like, blended in to the investment space. Well it would have a wiki, and a mailing list right? And it would have some sort of chat area and a github repository. And it would have code and tools.

I view the wiki as the first step, informing the next things to be built. It’s fairly obvious that the public lack the tooling to understand investments, and open source code would fix that. If you’re a huge investment bank then you can pay people to read all those forms or write code to summarize them. It would be interesting to see what happens when you do that in a community.

Part research tool, part opinion, part software, part community. And google ads or something to pay for it. Mainly it’s just the things I want available when figuring out to buy or sell.

UPDATE

Via blogging about this I found Rank and filed, Sumzero and Value Investors Club which are all way more advanced and already running compared to the wiki idea.

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