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so the fcc won’t let me be or let me be me so let me see

Today is Net Neutrality Day. You will see this loading icon on many of your favorite sites from Netflix to Tumblr to Google to Dwolla.

I don’t write this because I have a huge blog following in the tens of thousands. I don’t write this because I have a breadth of wisdom that can add to the discussion around Net Neutrality. I write this because I know for a fact that many people who read my blog are not necessarily of the tech world. And today you are more important than anyone else.

On a very basic level, we live in a world where all of the Internet is treated on a level plane and all websites are downloaded in the same speed. There is a proposal that the FCC is actually contemplating where Internet Service Providers will be allowed to charge companies more money to get preferential treatment on the web. If my explanation sucked, check out John Oliver’s ridiculously amazing explanation of what is actually going on here

Let’s be clear here. Net Neutrality Day is not just about faster website load times. Net Neutrality Day has to do with corruption in the FCC and the current powers that be. Net Neutrality Day has to do with the world we live in today, where the Internet provides a world where you don’t need thousands of dollars to start a business.

This is not the first time the government sided with monopolies. Bell Atlantic, for example, ran wild for an entire generation and did whatever they wanted—but that period was also a time where innovation was squashed and hoarded and kept from the public.

Link

fight4future:

Hey there,

Exciting news! The Internet Slowdown net neutrality protest planned for September 10th is really taking off. This morning, a dozen of the world’s largest websites announced that they’re joining in a big way. Sites you know and love like Etsy, Kickstarter, Wordpress, Vimeo,…

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against all odds, up in the studio

I’ve written a ton about how I view my blog and why I keep one (I’m too lazy to provide hyperlinks at this moment). But I’ve always loved writing. To craft something as transcendent as emotions and knowledge into tangible words, effectually constructing a picture through words is an art I’d always admired.

Recently I’ve been extremely inconsistent in my writing. I would make it a point to write a minimum of two posts every week and send it over to Alex for just general advice before publishing them. Now I’m sitting on a couch past 3 am at a friend’s house in Georgia typing away randomly while simultaneously switching tabs to read ESPN articles and looking up to blank out on the random movie playing at the moment.

To keep my mind sharp, I’ve been learning how to do new things. Rock climbing. Surfing (okay, but like once though). Coding. I’m heading to a point where I am filling my mind with noise by keeping too busy and not just sitting down to let my brain sort itself out. I know that literally running on an average of less than four hours of sleep a night and constantly allowing my mind to race and thoughts to jump from point A to point C without any routing through point B aren’t sustainable activities I can continue to allow in my day to day.

I don’t know to which direction I would be taking my blog in the coming weeks (I really don’t want to delay anything I aim for for more than a month; writing it will hopefully keep me accountable here). I was going to release one that I coded from scratch a few months ago but I hated how ugly it was (Bootstrap) and how I organized it (three different journal types ranging from travel to tech) that I actually scrapped the entire coding.

I still think writing is important and had it not been for Alex selflessly annoying me to annoy him to proof my posts, I wouldn’t have kept a repository of my thoughts and gleanings from the tech world. I wouldn’t have ended up as an editor on Rap Genius. I wouldn’t have had my own blog on Huffington Post. I just have a difficult time seeing it as a consistent part of my life anymore and something that I find hard to get excited about anymore. 

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the most common trait of highly successful people

Before I write what I want to write, I want to acknowledge that this post includes my most intentionally link-bait-y title ever. When you compare a small sample of different objects, you can find similar characteristics and prove *any* kind of point.

Since being determined to break into the tech scene since 2012, I relentlessly hunted people scattered all over New York bent on getting to know whoever would meet with me, whoever was already in active pursuit of where I wanted to be professionally. If people from SF were stopping by NY, I would try to schedule something with them as well. There are a ton of things that many of these people had in common but once I developed relationships with them, there was something that stood out above the rest.

They embraced failure.

Not in the sense of the whole “Fail Fast” cliche. But they weren’t afraid to admit when they had made a mistake or had failed in something that was important to them. They weren’t afraid to be caught with their pants down.

They didn’t glorify failure.

It’s not as though they enjoyed failure by itself, they acknowledged it as an unnecessary evil wherein they would learn valuable lessons. They also didn’t hesitate to admit when they couldn’t learn from certain mistakes, resulting in their humbly asking those closest around them for help in dissecting *why* X, Y, and Z went wrong.

We often think we can handle failure. We often think of failure as a minor setback in theory but when failure arises, it’s the lingering feeling of nails on a chalkboard. Failure is the worst. And failure often gets too much credit. But the ability to acknowledge failure and take on that responsibility to turn it into something beautiful is what honestly separates the few from the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong- those few don’t necessarily become the next Elon Musk, they don’t become the next founder of the greatest rocket ship of the 21st century. But they do inspire. They all leave a legacy, whether to a crowd of millions or their own children. But they affect generations. They are a highly successful people.

Tags: failure
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but first let me take a selfie

Last week, a story about an Irish bar’s accepting applications only via Snapchat made the rounds. While it received a lot of negative comments, I thought it was a decent idea for people trying to make an impression. I do think the idea needs a bit more fleshing out but it’s a good concept in the hiring industry considering recruiters primarily look at a given resume for an average of six seconds.

Creating an America’s Got Talent-esque level to move the CV and resume portion of the recruitment process to level two would be a tremendous benefit to the company. There are a few things you cannot get from an interview. You can definitely try your best as a recruiter to gather information but at the end of the day, determining whether the person will get the job done and whether the person will fit the culture are, in large part, gambles. An application involving a Snapchat won’t quite solve that problem but it would certainly help filter a lot of noise around that.

Having just a few short seconds or even a snapshot would require creativity, a sense of humor, and the ability to communicate concisely and effectively. It would reduce the amount of people spraying off template resumes and increase the level of thought for a simple shot at an interview.

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the sport of startups

It was May 2006 when I went to the IZOD Center to watch the Nets play the Heat at home. It was towards the end of the season but the Nets were on fire with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson leading the team, while the Heat was on the hunt for redemption from the previous season’s loss in the playoffs. There were a ton of dunks and showmanship. There was a time when Dwyane Wade passed the ball to the ref to set up an inbounds play but the ball ended up hitting the ref in the nuts, causing the entire arena to chuckle. I was just a few rows behind Jay-Z and Beyonce, as tickets to the IZOD Center were significantly cheaper than Knicks tickets and my sister scored a deal on two tickets. I went with my best friend at the time.

But then there was one play where Vince Carter had the rebound and sprinted to the other side of the court with no one on him for a fast break. Everyone held their breaths for a magnificent slam dunk in which only Vinsanity would be capable of doing, only to be let down by a weak and safe layup. The home crowd naturally booed him. He went on to score over 40 points but his team lost to a Heat team with greater depth under head coach Pat Riley.

I’m pretty sure that was the first time I began to think (in my naiveté) about how boring it must be for athletes to execute on some of the more showy moves for the sake of the audience. Even if they are judged primarily on that, they are missing out on being able to watch it themselves and enjoy it as they are too busy thinking of all the technical details to make sure everything is going smoothly.

When I ran shows in college, I didn’t have the sense of whether a show went well or not. I’d have to hear it from others and take their word for it as I was too busy running around making sure everything was going the way they were supposed to be going. Directing and communicating with everyone involved didn’t allow me to watch the show through the eyes of everyone else.

Every time I watched sports, particularly the X Games, I had trouble appreciating the show because I tried to empathize with the athletes trying to put on a show for the audience; doing their best to make the moves appear as seamless as possible, when it required much strength and finesse to execute.

A few weeks ago, my coworker, Jordan Lampe, whom I’d known since before officially joining Dwolla but never had a chance to actually hang out with, took me surfing—something that I’d wanted to learn for quite a bit, more so this year than ever before. Jordan, admittedly, is not an expert in it yet; he’s still a novice. The waves were pitiful, and my performance was even worse. Yet an hour that consisted of mainly lying on a board floating in the water quickly passed by and though I stood less than a handful of times, learning the science of it was the most fascinating part. Constantly trying to read the waves and understand how to ride it while trying to balance on a piece of wood was actually the fun of it.

The exhilarating feeling of trying to surf stuck with me and I can’t wait to find the time to get back on the board again. But it was that feeling that really changed my mind about athletes. The adrenaline you get from making the most of those few short seconds to execute something beautiful is the thrill of it. It’s more exciting for the athlete than the audience. Sure it’s extremely difficult and requires a ridiculous amount of hard work. But those few seemingly short-lived moments between the artist and her instrument become a profound secret between the two that no one else can take away.

This is why startup people glorify their work. At least the people I know. There’s a thrill in not just executing but executing the right way. Creating something is great. But the process of creating in the most optimal way possible is what’s worth obsessing over. The most genuine and the smartest people in startups are completely aware that most startups fail. Yet they are the first ones to run into problems and tear down roadblocks. There is no appreciation in the final work without going through the execution. Otherwise it’s just a fun app or an interesting product. Nothing more. Producing what is needed and adding a brick to construct a vision into reality is what allows people to do the fun stuff and the dirt work.

It’s only through deep immersion in the work that makes the artist able to stand back and see the final result as appreciable, beautiful, and personal.

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Fantasy Food

I’ve done Fantasy BD twice already and I’m due for another one soon. I have a few ideas but I just haven’t fleshed it out yet. So in the meantime, I’ve decided to publish a Fantasy Food as sort of a Bonus Track of sorts until I can sit down and flesh out my thoughts. The main reason I am writing about this now is because three years ago, I had the idea of an SNL skit where Smart Car tipping will be the urban cow tipping (literally my words). Several people suggested I write about it but I never did. And now that it became a reality, I have to admit I’m a bit sad—so here goes.

Taco Bell recently came out with a breakfast menu featuring a taco with a waffle shell and sausage and eggs as the “filling” of the taco. I haven’t tried it but it sounds ridiculously heavy and unhealthy and, therefore, 100% American. What made me like the idea, however, is the waffle taco. It’s a great idea with a lot more potential than just filling it with traditional breakfast meats.

Like what, Brian?

How about teaming up with KFC and having a delicious, artery-clogging, heat attack-inducing, chicken and waffles taco. The reasons are obvious:

1. Chicken and waffles are delicious. Do you need any other reason?

2. Chicken and waffles are extremely popular—more than most think. When Lays ran a Facebook poll on crowdsourcing an idea for their new potato chip flavor, the two that won were Chicken and Waffles and Sriracha. Sriracha is the Vietnamese hot sauce with the rooster logo on the bottle that adorns the dorms of every college student next to a box of cold pizza. It is safe to infer that it was mostly college or young kids who voted on this poll.

Capitalizing on a chicken and waffle taco seems to be a no-brainer when it comes to catering to college kids. Taco Bell advertises that they are open late. Great. #beermunchies

The partnership isn’t impossible nor farfetched; both companies (along with Pizza Hut) are under one umbrella company YUM! Brands (remember the “Think outside the buns” slogan?). It would be easy to hash out a cross-company marketing campaign with the Taco Bell branding (since it’s technically in the form of a taco). There are many Taco Bell and KFC joint brick and mortars that already exist as well and marketing would be a breeze.

Just imagine. Being able to eat a chicken and waffle meal where it’s acceptable to use just your hands and drizzling over some honey over it.

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humble mumble

Humility is a coveted trait among employers yet the common perception of it is often skewed by outsiders. In the networking scene in all sectors of the business world, you encounter an array of different personalities and peoples from very different backgrounds. There are some people who are blatantly just proud people but there are very proud people that mask themselves in the stereotypical characteristics of humility and are wrongly perceived. This is fine because humility is not a natural trait to have. We are naturally want to puff our chests out and make the world know who we are. I speak from experience. Humility is learned, often the hard way, and the faster you learn it, the better as it is one of the greatest impetus for growth not just professionally, as a human.

Humility isn’t about being shy or being unsure or being wishy-washy on certain issues. I’m naturally a quiet guy. I am an introvert—Alex Taub and I had sort of a Penn and Teller chemistry when it came to BD meetings. But just because I was quiet during those meetings didn’t mean that I was at all humble. There were moments where I thought I knew better and others were wrong.

The common misperception is that humility and confidence cannot go together, that they are polar opposites. The reason for this is that humility is stereotyped by the quietest guy in the room, the skinny kid who is picked on by bullies in the schoolyard—whereas confidence is stereotyped by the loudest guy, the dude with the bed hair buying the girl at the bar a drink.

Humility is understanding that you don’t know everything but what you do know, you know well and you want to show that. There is confidence there. Yet the humble one is willing to leave room to be proved wrong and will not be offended if he is. Argument is not his game; sharing is.

Having confidence in humility means you don’t want to command and conquer; it means you know where you’re headed and you see your potential partner playing a role in helping you get there and allowing them to bask in their goal with you. A humble person can be competitive as much as the next guy but winning for the sake of winning is not the objective; it’s a confirmation to self that winning requires the participation of others.

Tags: humility
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And Stop Letting Corporate News Tell Lies to Your Children

Once you stop doing something that you routinely did, it’s hard to get back to it. Like missing a day at the gym, it’s hard to find that rhythm again. That’s what happened with blogging. I had written unfinished thoughts that I had meant to finish but never got around to doing them. But here I am on a Thursday night, way past my bedtime, typing out a post to send to Alex to proofread.

I was on the subway, on my way home from work, when I read an article by Andrew Sullivan. Now my commute is usually about 60 to 90 minutes one way and I made the mistake of reading this on the early part of it. When I had finished it, I was seething. When you are crashing from seven cups of coffee and a long day at work, your jaw stays clenched and your mind begins to wander all sorts of directions.

Journalism is all the rage these days. From various startups beginning the pop up and old traditional news sources being taken over by Internet-era entrepreneurs, all the signs point to the industry’s ripening for disruption. These obvious signals even prompted Marc Andreessen to go on an epic tweeting streak that ended up in an highly insightful blog post. He covers many issues with journalism today but one of his most noteworthy points, upon which he expounds on more, is about cheap, grimey ads in the journalism space (“One Weird Trick” or “Doctors Hate Him”).

But what hit the back of my head like a heavy shovel was something I was always aware of, and what had always drawn me to investigative journalism, was that corporate power had taken over the media. I remember reading of, and subsequently watching a documentary of, journalists who had uncovered the horrors behind Monsanto (background) and how their careers and livelihoods were threatened as a result. Their own employers turned on them for doing their jobs better than the rest. I can’t remember the name of the documentary but I was in high school, at home, watching it and just in disbelief that the director was conducting these interviews with the journalists’ faces hidden. I remember saying out loud to myself, “After all these years, they’re still afraid?” It just didn’t make sense.

Now here I am, sitting on a crowded subway, reading the article by Andrew Sullivan, published a few days ago. It reflected on how severely the corporate world had penetrated the journalistic market. “Native ads” in the journalistic world took on a whole new meaning when published articles were sponsored by these corporations, unbeknownst to the readers. In the Information Age, we are being fed lies at a faster pace than ever. With the life of media (not just journalism) dependent on the financial backing of corporations, political agenda has taken precedence over integrity. Poison has seeped into the lifeblood of journalism, peddling dishonest drugs and diseases for the sake of greedy gains.

It is absolutely time for a change. Journalism is not failing because information is becoming free. Journalism is failing because it’s no longer an art and has betrayed the trust of its audience. Journalism stopped giving its believers a reason to care.

When our heroes or heroines got hooked on heroin
Crack raised the murder rate in DC and Maryland

We invested in that, it’s like we got Merrill Lynch-ed
And we been hanging’ from the same tree ever since
Sometimes I feel the music is the only medicine
So we, cook it, cut it, measure it, bag it
Sell it, the fiends cop it, nowadays they can’t tell if
That’s the good sh—, we ain’t sure man
Put the CD on your tongue, yeah that’s pure man
- Kanye West

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traveling

I used to love traveling a lot but it’s become draining. Taking a week break—still will be traveling but need some time to settle…