Thursday, December 18, 2014

Uber's Momentum Partner Rewards

I was astounded to see this move by Uber, although I guess that it was in the cards. Uber has definitely pushed towards driver services, especially with car financing. Now, Uber helps with health insurance, school, vehicle costs, and cell phone services. This is a good step forward.

As a member of the sharing economy, I have signed up for both Zen99 and I like both of them. I have COBRA health insurance (no copay, no deductible), but I'll definitely look into health insurance more closely when I get near the end of my 18 month coverage. I've been using HealthSherpa, because of the simple interface, but I wouldn't be opposed to using this sort of thing. I also think that Uber should formally partner with Zen99 to keep track of drivers' expenses. Zen99 in a lot of ways is made to target at independent contractor drivers ("partners" in Uber parlance), and I think that Uber drivers would benefit from signing up for it. They certainly have a lot of consistent business expenses (unlike the intermittent ones in the book business), and they would be able to keep track of what they were doing.

Uber has gotten a lot of (deserved) bad press lately, but this is a good moment for them. It is good for some solid happy PR, and that's always great. This shows that they are listening to their drivers and taking action based on feedback.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hour of Code, Creative Class, Monetization, Derek Sivers, and My Business Idea

Kids Coding

The future includes all kids learning how to code.

Like I said in this post, I don't believe that deep understanding the underbelly of the Internet is necessary for children. I want everyone to learn how to write an if/then/else statement. I'd be pretty happy with that. It's about teaching logical thinking, not turning every child into a professional developer.

Creative Class

I was also interested in the comment that said that creators weren't musicians, writers, etc. (What about them!? it cries.) I believe that "creators" encompass those fields. Rise of the Creative Class certainly thinks so, and I think that Richard Florida would know.

Right now is the best time for creators. The distribution channels like Amazon that take completed book from author to reader are fantastic. Anybody can write code and put it on Github. Anybody can make art and put it on deviantart or Flickr. Nobody will stand if your way if you want to release your art into the world.


I think one problem is monetization. I disagree with the way that Yahoo! has decided to start selling Flickr photos. I've been talking to the creator and owner of a site that I use now on a daily basis (and will continue to be at least a monthly active user (MAU) for, unless I launch a competing service). At most, he'll create a tip jar once he saves enough money to pay for a developer license for Highcharts. I nudged him toward the freemium model - which Highcharts might arguably use - and he said no. He will never launch a paid premium version. He'd rather people just pay when they want to.

Having been a user of Newsblur and 750words, I've seen the end-user side of the struggle to monetize. Sam has made Newsblur profitable from very early on. Buster struggled with 750words and being paid very little for the amount of work that went into it. He allowed people to buy cups of coffee in order to support the site, leave feature requests, or write any kind of note. It wasn't enough, and 750words for a short time changed to a full-pay site. Everyone had to pay. I have not switched off my subscription from then, even though he changed his mind about the 200,000 people who were using the site from the day that he decided to require a $5/month subscription.

Business Ideas

I have a business idea that combines 750words with the other site to make a monster masterpiece for writers. Ideas are worth little without execution, as Derek Sivers of CD Baby fame says, so I'm fine with talking about it here.

My idea is to create a site that mashes together 750words' dedication to daily writing habits, the new site, and formatting skills in order to output a book in ePUB and MOBI formats for authors to upload eBooks. The new business I started is based on me publishing books, and I'm seeing market opportunities. Heck, if we're shooting for the moon, let's say that it spits out CreateSpace-ready books, which I have seen only a distributor manage, no formatting software. Any book that you write can be made into a paperback with print-on-demand. If you write enough books, you will eventually see some kind of modest success. I think that if I started a site to encourage you to get to pulp speed, some of the authors I know would sign up. I'm not sure how to monetize, but I already have some ideas based on the one-man shops I've seen crop up.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vancouver Will Become a Hot Tech Center

Much like Madison, Vancouver is poised to grow as a tech center. Its close proximity to Seattle while simultaneously having looser border controls and immigration laws than the United States will help it.

With the news that Amazon will move its drone testing outside of the United States if the FAA does not allow to to fly drones, I see potential for Vancouver. Amazon has already begun to move forward in the UK, and more power to them. They've probably got other infrastructure over there.

But if I were at zero, I'd be feeling out how the Canadian government would feel about flying drones around Vancouver. Instead of being multiple time zones away, Vancouver is nearby and within easy driving distance of Seattle. Americans and Canadians generally have an easy time moving between the countries. Neil Fraser of Google had to take his niece to Canada when she wanted to visit. Two times, because the US refused to approve her tourist visa.


Canada also has a startup visa, which the US still does not have. One couple on the MMM forums lives in Vancouver for less than $1,500/month, which is a lot less than the average rent of $2,633 near Silicon Valley... and that is only rent. The affordable cost alongside the looser immigration laws will result in more startups being founded and run in Canada. The US is happy to let in well-established, VC funded startup founders, so Canada is a good jumping-off point for a lot of people.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Airplane Seating

I flew today on Southwest.

Southwest does so many things right. They offer the cheapest seating out of airports that have a lot of people. They allow you to check 2 bags for no additional charge, unlike Delta or United. You don't have to figure out where your seat is; you only have to sit. The Southwest flight attendants are good human beings, generally. I've had a couple experiences on Delta that made me feel otherwise.

The really big problem with flying Southwest is just how small the seats are. I have broad shoulders, the legacy of gymnastics when I was younger. When I was in my father's spacious Ford SUV, my shoulders were overlapping with my sister's, and hers were overlapping with her husband's. We just have broad shoulders.

Broad shoulders are a huge problem when your strategy to get into the first few rows on a Southwest flight is sitting in a middle seat. By the time that I board, there are no good seats left. There are only middle seats. As a result, I resign myself to my fate. I don't have to worry about where to put my carry-on bag, because Southwest thoughtfully has already taken it for me.

Both experiences - to and from Madison - have been terrible. On the first flight, I was elbowed in the ribs for almost 3 hours. I put my elbows on my tray almost as soon as I was able to, and I tried to scrunch. But it didn't matter. It just meant that my ribs were unprotected. 3 hours of being elbowed.

And I want to tell you that this guy knew he was elbowing me and was trying to deal with it. He spent a lot of the flight with his palms wrapped around his elbows with his arms crossed. He knew he was hitting me, and he didn't want to.

On the flight back, I did the same. I had almost the same experience, except that the woman on the aisle seat was quite broad shouldered as well. I realized that my strategy needed to change, possibly because my ribs couldn't take it anymore. I kept my elbows within my chair space. but I put my arms in their space. The woman next to me kept giving me looks - not angry looks, but looks all the same - but there was really nothing that she could do about it. Both people tried to put their arms touching mine with their palms between their legs, and I had my hands and elbows on my inflight tray table...and it didn't matter. We kept bumping.

The experience made me want to fly first class. The Oatmeal has parodied the flight experience: one and two. I've sat in first class - just once - and the amount of room that you have there is wonderful. Nobody is elbowing you in the ribs for 3 hours. You get champagne. The air stewards are kind.

It's not Mustachian - not to speak of ERE - to want to fly first class. I think that it mitigates the misery, though. My grand dream if I make oodles of money is to use private jets via JetSuite. It's the cheapest option (why they have "Smart Money Flies JetSuite"), and it's more than enough for me. I'm just so tired of hours of being elbowed.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Email Inbox Increases Quality of Life: Inbox by Gmail review

I have almost no email now. I'm a happy user of Inbox by Gmail, which is more than enough for my personal needs. Whereas I would receive upwards of 50 emails when I worked at the last software company, I receive a handful of emails a day. I can use gestures to easily archive my messages, and I can set up a time that I should see them later. And it makes me happy.

So much time in a normal company is spent on email. I don't have to deal with it. I get about one email per day of feedback on my work, and then there are 3-4 maximum emails from my bosses a week. That's it as far as professional email goes.

There are other reasons for email. I've paid attention to the people that I email.
I checked my sent messages over the last few months. In the last month, I primarily emailed my roommate, my family, the apartment managers, and my cover designers. 
That means that very few people talk to me via email. I get promotional emails, but generally speaking they are easy to deal with.

There's so much pressure removed when you no longer use email all day. Email is petty grind, and it distracts most of us from doing meaningful things. I get 15-20 emails on a normal day, and that's enough for me.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Bonanza

I've read approximately 243 Kindle Unlimited Titles this month, and the month isn't even over yet.

I read very quickly, and my whole life, I've said something like, "Oh yeah, I finished that book in a day."

The response: "Oh, but you just skimmed it, right?"

No. I didn't really learn what skimming a book was until college, and even then it confused me. It still confuses me.

With the advent of Kindle Unlimited in my life, I can pick up a book and leaf through the pages. Some books engage me from the get-go, like Enrico Moretti's book, but others leave me cold. The speed at which I can leaf through books alongside the ones that I'm reading normally has me averaging more than 8.6 books in a day. That's how fast I "skim" books, and not every one of them is skimmed. Even reading that many books still represents less than 1% of the KU library. I initially focused on romance books, but now I'm reading business and economics books with a handful of business biographies thrown in. It's a fun time.

There's a Black Friday deal to get 6 months of KU membership alongside a new Kindle. It's interesting that access to the KU library is so addictive. Once you start, it's hard to stop, especially if you have it for 6 months.
Kindle Unlimited is a very good move for Amazon, because it widens the selection of books and it draws people to the site. I am buying things that I would not otherwise buy. I wonder what the program will look like in a year.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Too Many Facepunches

Disenchanted Mustachian

I've grown increasingly disenchanted with Mr. Money Mustache and his forums. After periodic surprise outages, the user experience wasn't so great. So many new people are flooding the forums with topics I have no interest in, and the experience has definitely shifted in the last year. I still cite old MMM articles, but it's unusual for me to pull from new ones.
Mr. Money Mustache

What gives?

I read things in the forums like this: What gives? The attitude that everyone should receive a facepunch is not what I'm looking for in a community. I prefer to have a helpful, respectful attitude in any community that I am part of. The forum rules made a step towards having more respectful discourse on the MMM forums, but it's still not all that respectful.

Delusional Guy Getting a Wife in SE Asia When FI

I think that this guy has good intentions, but his plan is weird and wrong.
So I'll be very open: I'm a 24-year old single male and have no experience being in a relationship, and at this point am just fed up with the entire US dating scene (I don't really want to get into that here). However, I would like to someday get married and start a family, it just doesn't seem it will be in the US.

At this point my default plan is to FIRE around age 32, with ~$500K (today's dollars), move to Southeast Asia, and hopefully find a partner with whom I share common values and that I might be able to start a family with. $500K should make me quite well off compared to the regional average, and 32 should make me not too far above the average marriage age.

Is this plan remotely realistic or am I out of my mind? I appreciate all honest feedback. :)
It also weirded me out when tj started giving the OP advice, saying that it was fine and he'd had his first kiss at 28. It was suggested that you could ask for consent (the consensus being that kissing girls without consent was a bad idea), and he said that he thought that girls thought that obtaining consent was weak.

Future Shafted Self

I started reading this guy's original post, and it seemed legitimate. It got weirder.

mxt1033 asked: You say you have logistic/administrative/business skills, can you elaborate on those? Can you pitch those skills in two minutes, called an elevator pitch?

The original poster (OP) replied: Can I pitch those skills in two minutes? I don't think I can. Or I could but don't know how, which is much the same. I honestly hate talking about myself-- it feels self-aggrandizing and egocentric to me.

I'm so frustrated by someone showing up on the MMM forums, asking for advice and talking about their situation, and then, once people who offer real advice, just not following through on it. In order to get any kind of job, you need to convince the hiring manager that hiring you would be a good choice. If you work in a grocery store and as a pizza delivery man (completely legitimate choices), but you want to get a better job...then it behooves you to learn how to get a better job. That includes basic interviewing ability, which this guy has no interest in obtaining.

Ramit Sethi talks about invisible scripts. This guy has the invisible script that getting interviewing skills is about egocentrism. And that's how you end up at age 25, married, with two kids, and making approximately $30,000 a year with a wife who is a stay at home mother. And he still believes that he'll hit FI at age 35, despite no upward mobility plans for using his college degree.


My involvement as part of the Mustachian community has waned over the past few months. I'm looking other places for respectful discourse about personal finance and the frugal mindset, although I still occasionally read through the MMM forums. I think that part of this journey is making choices about what is the best use of my time.