fighting the lack of good ideas

creating vs consuming

One of the biggest issues facing Western societies is that they are all consumption-oriented.

Not enough time is spent creating – all [most] people want to do is consume: entertainment, food, money, fun…

We all want shortcuts. We all want to be at the level where we don’t have to think to accomplish work. We all want to have fun instead of working. Some of us have fun while working, but most people just want the day off.

One of the biggest drawbacks to a consumption-based economy (like most western economies – and certainly how the United States’ economy is currently structured), is that consumers feel compelled to consume ever more. We have to have the next best thing out there. Keeping up with the Joneses.

I think far too few people create in our society, because it is so much easier to consume.

I know I don’t create nearly as much as I consume – I wish I did, but I don’t … yet. One of my personal goals is to move that balance in my life more towards the creating end from the consuming one – little things along the way certainly help: mentoring, teaching, volunteering, growing a garden, etc.

What ways do you see that folks can create more and consume either less in gestalt, or at least less from others because they’re contributing themselves?


At the beginning of 2008 I interviewed with a little outfit* in Annapolis to become their head of support. (This was just a month after interviewing with FogCreek.)

Oddly enough that day, one of my former colleagues at Opsware who had moved-on was my tech screener. Needless to say, that aspect of the interview I passed with flying colors 🙂

When all was said and done, however, I did not end up with the position. I was not happy their stated goal was to be bought out in 18 months. I had just ridden through a not amazing acquisition, and was looking forward to working for a company that wanted to grow at least mostly organically.

In discussing places we might want to move someday recently, my wife and I mentioned a bunch of places we don’t want to go – like Maryland and DC. Annapolis is right smack dab in the middle of that whole capital mess.

Had I ended up with that job, I likely would not have met my wife – and that would just be No Goodâ„¢.

While it didn’t look it at the time, that was certainly a for-the-best moment for me.

* a company I now have some major philosophical differences with – yet another reason I’m happy i didn’t go

passive income is not a business plan


Shortcuts are great.

But only when you know the long way.

Without hard work, the short cut will seem hard.

Passive income seems to fall into this category.

Some people think panhandling is a form of passive income. It’s not. The panhandler works for his money – he talks to people, shakes a cup, whatever: he gets your attention, and tries to make you give him what he wants.

I have a Google AdSense account. I am also an affiliate with a few other places. I put Amazon links into some posts. From those links, if any purchase is made, I get a small percentage back.

But they are NOT a business.

They’re a shortcut. They’re fantastic – but in the last several years of having an AdSense account, I have yet to see a check from Google. In the past several years of having an Amazon affiliate account, I’ve paid for about three books.

You hear of high-volume sites that make all their money off advertising revenue – advertising may or may not be “passive”. But to maintain a high-volume site takes work. Hard work. Lots of it.

You [generally] don’t magically get traffic just because you are the smartest person in the world (I should know, I get on the order of only a few dozen hits per week! :))

You get – and keep – traffic because you have content or a service that people want to use. That they rely on. That they interact with in some meaningful way.

My friend Jay maintain[ed|s] AIMFix. For quite a while, it was THE best (and only) tool which would remove viruses which spread via malicious links across IM networks – dominantly AIM. I wrote a small library he used (at least for a while) in that program.

He put a metric butt load of effort into that tool, and made a little money from the “passive” advertising he had on his site.

Then traffic tailed-off, and so did his AdSense revenue.

So many businesses are started online with the premise that they’ll “make money from ads”… with nothing more of a business plan than that. They fail almost universally.

Businesses succeed when they follow the tried-and-true path of “work-deliver-earn”. And, “spend less than you earn” [ref].

If your only plan for earning money is to park a bunch of ads on a domain, you may make a little money for a little while. Especially if you’ve managed to register a reasonable typo domain (eg “ or “”).

But you need to have a reason for people to want to come back. To engage. To use what you offer.

Make something I want. Give me a service I need. Provide me with content I’ll return to.

Or maybe, just maybe, build something I can buy and hold.

startups and thinking clearly

I have a great deal of interest in early-stage startups: they’re generally the most interesting to watch, and if they play their cards right, have the best opportunity to Win Bigâ„¢.

Y Combinator is a seed fund organization started by Paul Graham. I first heard about them several years back when a couple friends and I actually went through the process of applying to Y Combinator for seed funding for a potential startup. For various reasons I can no longer recall, that didn’t work out for us, but I still follow them somewhat regularly.

Allen Stern had an article I just found today (though it was published 3 months ago) referencing not only Y Combinator, but the value of the questionnaire that needs to be filled-out before they’ll consider funding you. There was a follow-up posted two days later, that’s well-worth reading, too.

It’s fascinating to see both the idea for Dropbox, a service I use daily, and reddit shown in the early stages. Reddit’s initial application was turned-down, though not because reddit was a Bad Ideaâ„¢, but because the initial idea was just unworkable. Dropbox’s application and the precursor application to reddit. In fact, when you read those stories, you see that while the initial application from the reddit founders was turned down, they were still invited to the first round of startups if they could get a better idea.

There is indeed much truth to the statement that ideas are worthless – it’s only the implementation that counts, and it’s likely to change scores of times before it’s done.

Really makes you want to go start something fun, doesn’t it?