Monthly Archives: June 2016

“Dogs Are People, Too”: What I Learned At Big Boulder 2016

This week I had the fantastic experience of attending the 2016 BigBoulder conference, thanks to the largesse of our partners over at GNIP. This was my first time attending the conference and the Big Boulder Initiative deserves a round of applause for the great job they did. Boulder’s best hotel, the St. Julien, was a gracious host, the food and drinks catered to a variety of tastes, the talks covered a wide range of pertinent issues in the social data world, and of course informing it all was the vibe of Boulder — even though I have lived here for twenty years, I still can’t get over how spectacular a venue it is. And if that wasn’t enough, the Dalai Llama was also staying at the St. Julien. Talk about a vibrational charge!

The BBI has already blogged about the talks in some detail so I won’t rehash a job well done; rather, I would like to share a list of thoughts, observations, and “things overheard” (without “last person” attribution). I have kept the list short, but truth be told, the conference generated a whole host of thoughts and ideas. So, without further ado: 

  • Dogs are people, too.
  • Brad (a real guy) does a better job than Radian Six at measuring sentiment. No one should tell Salesforce that.
  • A lot of folks are watching Mr. Robot. Is life imitating art?
  • If not art, then life often imitates (or is shaped by) Twitter — at least during political crises.
  • Pictures can tell a story — if we can see them.
  • Empathy — in design and presentation— will be a key element.
  • There are multiple truths.
  • We have miles to go before we sleep.
  • Bots are the future. But they still need Brad.
  • Algorithms are biased.
  • Now what?

Here are a couple of suggestions for the BBI for next year (assuming unlimited time and budget):

  1. It would be great to have a meeting planner capability where attendees are able to schedule meetings with other attendees prior to the conference. That may have been available and I was not aware of it.
  2. How about some workshops for brainstorming specific problems?
  3. What about a start-up competition? Start-ups would get ten minutes on the stage to make their presentation. Attendees could vote on the winner.

Look forward to seeing you all at Big Boulder 2017!

— Mark Schroeder

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Lessons Learned at Boulder StartUp Week

Last week, I was happy to attend a session at Boulder Startup Week on “Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Startup Realm“. The topic was especially intriguing since it combines my two vocations as Startup Founder and Meditation Teacher, and it featured three great speakers: Tom Higley of 10.10.10, Sarah Jane Coffey of, and Brad Feld, Managing Director of the highly successful Foundry Group (AND a strong advocate for revolutionizing the publishing industry).

Of the many insights I gleaned from the talk, there were a few that I found especially relevant to Find My Audience, our company and our users.

The first was a comment made by Tom that the insecurity endemic to startup life can often manifest in a form of “weaponized anxiety,” where a person’s (or organization’s) fear of failure gets projected onto other people in what is essentially a violent attack. The only way to disarm weaponized anxiety is to recognize your fears, own them, and turn them into excitement.

Just as an author faces the often-terrifying “fear of the blank page,” everyone who works at a startup is subject to persistent, daily insecurity, the knowledge that the basic existential matters of their work (financial security, viability of the business model, ability of the individual to contribute value to the company and the company to contribute value to society), are under constant question.

Writers learn to face this uncertainty as a matter of course, without reactivity or blaming their discomfort on someone else. Who else is there to blame? Instead, they embrace it every day as the juice of their creativity. Those of us who work in startups can learn a lot from that approach.

The other insight I found helpful was the call for authenticity in one’s emotional struggles, especially with one’s colleagues. A culture of “productivity at all costs” and relentless drive almost always leads to burnout, frayed psyches, and broken professional relationships, if not families!

Sarah Jane was especially poignant in her honest account of the wages of relentless, self-critical perfectionism; Tom was eloquent on the need for leaders to help create a culture that allows everyone, especially themselves!, to admit when they are pushing past their capacity; and Brad was inspiring in sharing how he works to neutralize his obsessive tendencies by giving himself the freedom to NOT DO what his schedule seemingly demands. (Sounds like an especially effective form of ad hoc Cognitive Behavioral Therapy!)

These speakers did a great job of restoring the personal dimension of technology work, a domain that famously risks turning individuals into machines. Being authentic about our skills, our capacities, as well as our emotional tendencies, is the only way to build a company with a healthy culture and, I would argue, a product with heart.

Authors of course know a lot about being authentic. Whether we are writing a novel, or software code, we need to speak from the place of our deepest human truth, flaws and all.

–Paul Agostinelli

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By |June 6th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments