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What I Learned from the First Round of Ship Your Side Project

As you may remember, earlier this year, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and I ran a six-week bootcamp for midcareer tech professionals called Ship Your Side Project.

Our thesis was that there are tons of people out there tinkering on passion projects who have maybe gotten a little side tracked and lost steam, but with just some structure and accountability, they could launch a v1 of their project. The 300+ upvotes we earned on ProductHunt and the thousands of visits to our site told us that we were onto something that might have legs. Continue reading…

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Unpacking Product Insights from Pokémon GO

As you probably have heard, Nintendo has partnered with game developer Niantic to launch a wildly popular game for iOS and Android called Pokémon GO. The game has already reached over 21M daily active users, dominated the in-game purchasing market, and players are spending more time in the game than on Facebook. It even stopped traffic in Central Park as players abandoned their cars to chase after a rare water Pokémon that had appeared in the vicinity.

Rather than emulate existing Pokémon games for Nintendo’s handheld devices [1], this game uses AR (augmented reality) to place your character in a map that is modeled after the real world. From time to time, wild Pokémon will appear on your map — when you tap on them, you are taken to a feed from your phone’s camera and you see the Pokémon superimposed on top of whatever is in front of you. This is the AR piece of the game and it means that other people playing the game can also “see” the same Pokémon you’re looking at if you’re both in the same location. Continue reading…

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What the Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me

Note: While I don’t expect to be writing about these topics frequently, I felt compelled to share some thoughts in light of not just recent events but the many related things that have been happening over the last few years. These are my opinions and do not represent my employer or anyone else — Jason

The events of the last week have been horrifying, infuriating, and deeply saddening.

Two black men, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile, have been shot dead by police officers. Men who were not resisting arrest, not posing a threat, and who should not be dead. Their final, awful moments, filmed on mobile phones, have been seen millions times. Then, during what was otherwise a peaceful protest in Dallas, five white police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who appears to have been motivated by his frustrations with how black people are treated by the police. My heart goes out to all of these victims and their families.

Where do we go from here? I don’t see any easy answers. Continue reading…

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Tennesse Williams on Success and Struggle

I recently read a short essay called “A Streetcar Named Success” by Tennessee Williams, the renowned mid-twentieth century American playwright who wrote A Street Car Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. The essay talks about how life became a bit disjointed after he became “successful” and started living a life of luxury — living in a hotel and getting room service all the time. He started hanging out with different people, found it difficult to be creative, and just felt more detached from the world.

One does not escape that easily from the seductions of an effete [1] way of life. You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will now continue my life as it was before this thing. Success happened to me. But once you fully apprehend the vacuity [2] of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. Once you know this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies, that not privation but luxury is the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the little vanities and conceits [3] and laxities that Success is heir to–why, then with this knowledge you are at least in a position of knowing where danger lies.Tennessee Williams

For Williams, it was only when he relocated out of New York and to a random town in Mexico, where no one knew who he was and he had to struggle a bit more in his daily living was he able to find his creative energies again. While not everyone needs to go to such extremes to keep themselves, his point is well taken.

Even nearly 70 years after it was published, the essay a great reminder that while we often struggle to achieve a life of freedom and ease, we need struggle and hardship to keep ourselves going.

Read the whole thing here: On a Streetcar Named Success

Definitions for some of the more obscure terms:

[1] effete = pretentious [2] vacuity = emptiness [3] conceits = excessive pride in oneself