Author Archives: Buster

Personal Challenges

We’re always looking for ways to better engage the software in your head that actually changes behavior rather than just gives you a new tool or feature. The influences of peer pressure, reputation, and other social contracts are a lot more powerful as motivators than sms reminders and blinking task bars.

Along these lines, as people are creating their goals and New Year’s Resolutions, we’ve added a simple feature called the Personal Challenge.

personal challenges

A personal challenge is like anything else on your list of 43 things that you want to do before you die, except you give yourself a deadline and consequences. This goal then jumps to the top of your list and is highlighted with the date and consequences there for everyone to see. You can’t remove it from your list anymore… you can either mark it as done, or give up on it. You have now become accountable… and a bit of your reputation is on the line.

Choose something that you really want to do because you can only have one personal challenge at a time. For more info on motivating yourself by creating public consequences for yourself and staking your reputation on the line, you can watch this talk I gave at Ignite Seattle a few weeks ago: How to use technology to get what you want.

Try out Personal Challenges by logging in, going to your profile page, and clicking on the link in the left column to “learn more” about the brand new personal challenge and see if it doesn’t change the way you think about your goals. No more dilly-dallying.

A small 2-person team from Seattle has started a cool site called which uses 43 Places to give context to the places for sale. For example, for this loft condo near our office (a building I considered purchasing a unit from when I was looking a couple years ago… can’t beat the .5 blocks walk to work), you can see that Barca, Value Village, and The Stranger Offices are all nearby. It’s using lat/long data from 43 Places, and probably just a block too far from Caffe Vita for it to show our favorite coffee shop.

Unlike Zillow, they have more houses listed in western Washington because they have some kind of official broker status that Zillow doesn’t. Also, the way they pull information in from a bunch of different sites to get nearby businesses, parks, schools, and bus stops. Pretty awesome. If you are thinking of building something that would be improved with 43 Places data, check out our comprehensive api.

Got 2007 resolutions yet?

A quick request. If you have thought about your 2007 New Year’s Resolutions already, could you tag them “2007 resolution” on 43 Things for me? Thanks!

Oh yeah…

A big internal milestone was passed yesterday. Woo!

Not the best bet I’ve ever made

coin flip

There’s this article that talks about the role of emotions in risk taking. As an example, they have this experiment where they ask people whether or not they’d like to risk losing $100 for an opportunity to win $150 on a coin flip. Personally, I don’t think I’d ever turn that down unless I didn’t have $100 in the bank. Any takers? However, when I asked my coworkers about it they said no more often than yes. In the article, most people also said no.

The explanation for this is that most people are more sensitive to failure than success. Losing hurts more than winning feels good. It sort of makes sense. We posted about it a bit on our other blog.

Today, we went to this new restaurant in Cascade called Feierabend and Josh and I ended up drinking a German liter of beer each. The topics had already covered the difference between alcoholics and drunks, the whiskey diet, celebrity sightings, what exactly makes a goal acheivable, and Russian spas, so it was time to start making bets. Josh challenged me to the bet where we’d flip a coin and if it was heads I would give him $150 and if it was tails he would give me $100. Because whatever mechanism that keeps most people from making even safe bets was left out of my brain, I accepted, Daniel flipped, the coin rolled off the table onto the bench, and came up heads.

Now I owe Josh 50-75 coffees. That’s randomness for you.

The Robot Co-op Turns 2!

2 year anniversary

Two years ago today was the first day that we gathered together in our new offices in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and considered ourselves to be “working”. Today, we can all finally check off the goal, “Start a company that lasts longer than two years.”

Since then, we’ve tried hard to blur the lines between work and play. All of us had recently come from various levels of the totem pole at big successful companies, and we all knew too well the hidden cost of a successful company: lots of employees, policies to ensure efficiency and trust, meetings and paper trails to ensure information distribution, and lots of cracks to fall through and get lost in if you weren’t careful. We had an opportunity to seek success on a much smaller scale, with a different set of goals, and a different set of tools. Fast and loose! Here are a few of our favorite tricks for the company:

  • Bring your own computer.
  • Sit around one big table. Make communication easy.
  • No discussions over mailing lists.
  • Meetings take place at the pub, or as a standing meeting.
  • Use paper and notecards instead of documents.
  • Share the stereo.
  • Walk or bike to work if you can.
  • Eat lunch together. Play credit card roulette.

And here are a couple of our favorite tricks for our products:

  • Make it more fun than useful.
  • Embrace constraints.
  • Build something you’d use. Use what you build.
  • Don’t overmonetize.
  • Rely on the software in your head rather than try to replicate culture in features.
  • Design as you build. Keep the cost of change low.
  • Be in it to win it.

The culture here at the co-op has definitely evolved over these last two years into an almost cult-like belief system. Cults are more interesting than companies anyway. In the meantime we’ve launched five websites, and have also had enough time in our spare time to teach political theory courses at the local college, release albums and go on tour, sky dive, lose 100 pounds, go on meditation retreats, travel around Europe and Brazil, learn Jujitsu, raise chickens, and generally iterate fast and loose on the goal of learning how to amplify life.

Announcing: A new blog to celebrate the future!

In that spirit, we’re launching a new blog today on the topic of mutual-improvement… our take on combining the worlds of life hacking, self-help, productivity, happiness, and goal-achievement. Here it is:

Mutual Improvement Blog

Read about the inspiration for the new blog, grab the RSS feed, and stay tuned for something new, ambitious, and wild in the spirit of everything else we do here.

Of course, all the thanks goes to the people who use the sites, and who have inspired us along the way. Thank you for the first two years! We’re just getting started…

A quick lunch with villagers

A good friend was in town yesterday and had lunch with us at Ballet. He spoke of recent travels to India, Thailand, Providence, and Ballard. Along with the Pork Special, I was still digesting the madness of Foo Camp from this last weekend.

Mood pizza

Wouldn’t it be great if those hypercolor t-shirts from the 70s and 80s came back in style, but instead of merely recording the locations of your arm pits and other sweat glands in bright colors for all to see they instead displayed your morale via some kind of turquoisetooth connection to the interweb or maybe just by tapping your right shoulder for warmer happier colors and your left shoulder for the cooler sadder colors? At night you could drape your t-shirt over your computer and upload your mood swings to your blog, or something super futuristic like that.

Further research after lunch into the technological advancements of mood-displaying clothing garments led us to biofeedback rings and eventually back full circle to realizing that the classic mood ring is most likely still the most pure incarnation of this particularly wacky human desire.

I smell a shipment arriving at the co-op shortly.

Experience coma

My mind is a bit of a jumble after being tossed around in whirlpools, waves, and the San Francisco social scene for the last 16 days. I feel like I’ve been dunked and am just now able to take my first whole breaths. Our lunch conversation at Ballet today seemed to be similarly swirly and lightheaded as everyone was either newly returned from adventures or planning new adventures in the near future. This is one of the signs that this company is working… we’re all gaining momentum in some way or another towards something weird and unknown.

It’s going to take me another day or two to confabulate all of my recent experiences and conversations into something entry-worthy, so for now I’m just going to drop various tasty morsels into this blog entry box and see how they get digested over time.

In the short braindump session, we talked about everything from Eric Hodel rescuing dead cats (do you have a picture, Hodel?), to Todd and Bob ’s scuba diving, to Daniel and his highschool reunion, to my own SF Rock Paper Scissors tournament and river kayaking, to Todd’s Landmark Forum experience, to Bob’s migration to Scotland, and Josh’s yearly escape to Manzanita.

I need a chaser.

Luck, Fortune, and Chance

I have to think of a theme for my Toastmasters meeting next week and one I’ve been considering is the theme of luck. .. a favorite topic of the Robot Co-op, inspired early on in part by the wonderful book Fooled by Randomness (read it). Today, at Bimbo’s Bitchin’ Burrito Kitchen, luck led Bob to pay for our gut bomb of a lunch, and because he claims I cheated (even though I was only looking out for his own self-interest), I get to write the blog post about it.

Josh, a learned student of the classics, brought up the dichotomy of chance and fortune in the context of luck. Chance, the random distribution of good and bad events; Fortune, that fickle lady who determines if you will land on the lucky or unlucky side of the distribution.

Todd, myself, and Bob believe that luck is basically a mislabeled package of personality traits like resourcefulness, boldness, and a positive affect. Feeling lucky often begets being luck… but only when the game is not entirely one of chance. Lucky people seem lucky because they can inspire themselves and others to bring about desirable events… no supernatural blessing required. But, because resourcefulness, boldness, and a positive affect do often lead indirectly to good fortune, the word luck has become an easy label to place on the larger phenomenon. Josh, on the other hand, didn’t appreciate the sloppy bending of the dictionary sense of the word. Which is understandable. I think it’s somehow MySpace’s fault.

In true games of chance, like Roulette, I think we all agreed that feeling lucky has no correlation with how well you’ll do in the game. Sure, you can try employing the Martingale betting strategy or wear a computer that detects flaws in the wheel and takes advantage of them, but as Einstein might have said, “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it.” Or, I guess, by quitting when you’re ahead.

In the end, Josh and Bob agreed on some idea of fortune, but I think I was processing a burp at the time and can’t remember what it was exactly.