Saturday, 11 October 2014

Black on black

One of my favorite design techniques is black on black. I think I like the fact that it takes a couple seconds for your eyes to adjust. Check out this logo black on black.
While this gets to the point of black on black, if you are looking for a more practical example. Check out the image below.
You can see that the image pops a bit more. This is because of contrast.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Don't think technology will make you unemployed? Ask a musician how it is going for them.



 This video sums up how technology will affect jobs in the future. Most people think that this won't affect them that their job will either be protected by the government or the business they work for.

Think again.

A lot of areas are going to be affected by how powerful technology is going to get. I always say to people:

Remember that your job can be outsourced to a machine at any given time, for any given reason without warning.

Comparisons are usually drawn to the industrial revolution on how machines will take away jobs but there is a more recent and much more relevant example. The example is of course music. People may argue that the music industry is much better off because of the free downloading from Napster.

For the super stars it hasn't changed but for the everyday musician it has become worse, much worse. Music was never a good career choice for anybody but in the past it was possible to make a good living if you were smart about it. Most of the income would usually come from teaching but if you were motitvated and smart there were other ways to make money.

Technology made the distribution of music free and frictionless which was different from being paid and restrictive. The major difference between the two systems is that record companies use to constantly fund new music. Not everything would make money but they would fund new music. That means more jobs for the production process such as engineers, session musicians and even studio assistents.

With less money coming in the record companies could not fund new music. This new technology changed the way music was consumed. Of course the consumer didn't care at all. Free music, sounds great. What people didn't realize is that this new distribution model would not just simply make music free but completely change the social and business perception of music.

This is what people do not realize when a task becomes outsourced to technology. Not only is the task outsourced but the social perception of the task will change forever. When autonomous cars hit the streets the profession of the taxi driver will not be even considered a job.

With music the biggest fallout of the downloading debacle is the fact that money and music and not even in the same sphere anymore. These two ideas do not mix. In people's mind. Here is the major fallout of what free music did to music's profitability.


Life could be better for musicians. Recently I realized that a lot of musicians reach a ton of people. I was watching a very niche music video and it had 2 million views on YouTube. This amount of views will give you only a few thousand dollars in revenue. Not a lot. If people could make 50k plus from 2 million views then you would see people hiring other musicians and supporting the production chain as it once was.

Now the argument that musicians can "Make their money somewhere else" is usually presented. Well, there are two problems with this. One, the fact that you have to "find a new monitization system" or "sell T shirts" means that the product itself doesn't really have a lot of profitability. Of course you could upload your song to youtube and get 10 million hits and maybe make a few bucks but to the average musician it won't matter.

Two, because music is associated with free people do not want to spend money anywhere, even concerts which is where a lot of money was made. Add to the fact that getting a DJ is cheaper and easier than hiring musicians and you see where this is going.

Your job could look like this very soon.
Free is a great tool to leverage business. Store give out free samples all of the time but they are only samples. What happens when your job can be done by a machine that costs virtually nothing? Well your job becomes outsourced.

How do you deal with this problem? Tune in next time and I will tell you how you can avoid this scenario.








Monday, 18 August 2014

Making a lot of small free to play games for mobile

Mobile games seem to be getting simpler and simpler. It makes sense, people don't play the game for very long and most of them are used as a distraction. 

What if, you made a lot of free to play games that took about 20-30 minutes to beat? It's free so most people won't care about the price and you get your app out the door. If you have links to your websites and links to more games, people will come back for more. 

On top of this your total app store download count goes up with every free game released. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

No matter who you are, start a blog if you want to improve

If you want to improve something, anything you should start blogging.

There are so many disciplines that benefit from blogging. Creative disciplines can greatly be improved. When you blog, you create something. If you blog everyday, you create something everyday. Creating something everyday is key to improving.

Back when I was a guitar teacher I told students to practice 15 minutes a day everyday. It was better than playing 30 minutes every other day. The students that practiced everyday got better. It is a very simple and effective way to get better.

If you blog everyday and producing something it can help you get better. The more your produce the better you get. Actually, the improvement happens in between projects. What happens is that you produce something and then you figure out what you can do better. The more you do this process the better you get at whatever you want to do.

If you want to become a creative writer then write a paragraph everyday
If you want to become a good illustrator then draw everyday
Want to learn how to use Photoshop then produce something everyday
Want to learn Illustrator then draw something everyday
If you want to get better at photography the take a picture and upload it everyday
If you want to make games, then make a small game everyday
If you want to make websites, make a small website everyday

There is another benefit to blogging everyday. You get in the habit of getting things done. This is something I had to learn and it was hard. I one summer in University I spent 12 hours creating. All day everyday. This lead to my first entrepreneurial product: 17 educational books.

After that I was ready and able to create more. If you want to create spend your entire day creating. You especially need to do this if want to do it for a living.

How do create a blog? Simply go do blogger.com and create a blog. It takes about 10 minutes to setup. After that star blogging an blog away!


Friday, 15 August 2014

Why write so many essays in school?

Most students write a lot of essays in high school. The only reason is that the government wants you to so they force it on you. It makes sense. You have to write a few pages and defend an argument. Writing essays is a great way to improve your writing.

The only problem is that you will most likely never write essays again after school. A while back on this blog I talked about how students can write blogs instead. The more a student writes the better (more on this later).

One other activity students can do is write sales copies. Email marketing is a lucrative field. I do it almost every day. Writing essays is another area where school hasn't caught up with reality. In reality, you could be training students to be effective members of the 21st century. To do that you have to select the practices of the past which are obsolete and discard them.

A great exercise would be to ask students to pick a product and write an email trying to sell it. It works out an entirely different part of writing and is really under utilized. With anything creative all you have to do is do a lot of it and you get better. It sounds contradictory but the more you produce regardless of quality the better you get.

The other activity that should be encouraged is to write a blog. This is the best way to get students to write. They can write about anything they want to. It would be very easy to mark this. The more blog posts and the more words the higher the mark. There has to be a few rules to this but essentially this is how it works.

You can even ask students to put their work into the Hemingway app. I will be doing that with this blog post.

The debate about writing specific content and reading specific content revolves around the quality. Well in the 1940s, there was a similar debate about comic books. The consensus was that if a person is reading then it is better than causing trouble or other non intelligent activities. Today a lot of teachers still scold kids to not read graphic novels. Who cares, they are reading.

The same thing happens with writing. All you have to do is give people a forum in which they find interesting and they will do more of that activity.

Writing essays is great but there is room for improvement. Instead of writing 100% essays that students hate, write something more interesting. Since this is an international blog. I am sure people from Europe are confused with this post. In North America, the school system is set with an 19th century attitude.

Simple adjustments can have a profound effect.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

There are too many games and there will be way too many games in the future

If you haven't checked out this episode from extra credits, go watch it.


It's a good episode. The episode tries to ask the question "are people really getting mad because there are too many games?". A very good solution is presented and that solution is better match making. It makes sense that people want to play a game that they are in the mood for and to have software match it up. It fails to take into the account this problem:

Saturation is the bane of content production. 

 I always say look at where the music industry is today and that's what the game will become. Sure there are stars making millions but there are many people not making any money at all. If you want to produce album ready music you can spend about 500 dollars for the software needed.

While games are expensive to produce the cost is going down and when the cost goes down the quality dips as well.

This isn't bad it's just the way it is.

Sure there will be a few people who make money on their computers in their home. It will be great for some but for many it will be a shock. It will be a shock for people who are used to a game having X features and X budget and to have this game not do well.

Music matching like the game matching above has been around for a while. The biggest problem is that if you want to listen to AC/DC you don't want to listen to a band that sounds like AC/DC you want to listen to guns and roses.

This will work a little differnt for games. But nobody is going to want to play a clone of Candy Crush.

The best bet is have a blog that recommends good games.If you are a game developer get ready for this explosion of games. There are 33 million books on amazon and 14 million songs on iTunes. How many games will there be on the app store in 5 years?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

When I learn online I feel like I have a huge advantage over everybody else

Lot's of people want to learn the traditional way. They want to physically go to a classroom hear somebody speak, do the homework ask questions etc.

Learning from your own home on your own time is so much more efficient. I try to learn something new on a daily basis and I only learn online. Why move your body anywhere to exercise your mind?

Not only are the tools of better quality, it is simply more efficient. If you have ever learned by watching a video, you can actually speed up the video to 1.5 times the speed. Once you do this you can never go back to videos in normal time. It just isn't worth the time.

Online learning is for people who simply want to get from A to B as quickly as possible. It trims all of the excess baggage when it comes to learning and just focuses on the content. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

One of the most overlooked advantages to learning with video

Some people love learning by watching videos. One of the most overlooked reasons as to why this is important is the fact that you can watch videos at a faster pace.

When I was making an XBOX 360 game I needed to update my knowledge in C#. There were no post secondary classes that had a course on how to do this and the only course was available through a DVD. The DVD was made with Visual Studio 2005 and we were already in 2009. It was obsolete but most of the information I needed was there.

I was watching the tutorials and going though them one by one. Then I realized that VLC player has a feature that could make your videos play faster. At this point in time I could fly through the videos.

Why go to a lecture in real time when you can watch something at 1.66 the speed. This was my favorite speed to watch videos at. Whenever I watch a tutorial today and it isn't spead up, I don't like watching it.

This is a huge productivity feature nobody talks about. Few educators ever talk about productivity and fewer implement it. 

Watch your videos at a faster rate to learn more in less time.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Is the term social a buzzword?

It seems like everything new is social this and social that. Do start ups really want everything to be social or is it just a buzzword? Should every idea have a social component to it? The core concept is that if people talk about your idea/product/app then it will gain more traction and people will enjoy it more.

There are certain products that are social and certain products that are not. Having a cool cafe can be a social business, your Facebook game about zombies is not.

What about education. Everybody likes to make education social. That is people getting together in a place and sharing their marvelous ideas together and they come out of the experience feeling really positive. Being social and collaboration are extremely important but over emphasis won't get you that far. At the same time over emphasis on being social is just as bad and underemphasis.

Think back to your college days. There were people who locked themselves in a room and studied or produced and there were people who played bridge, world of Warcraft or magic cards depending on how old you are.

Who was more successful in the long run? If anything the asocial people sat down and learned some skills while the social socialized. Turning fantasy into reality is difficult to do so talking about it will get you only part of the way. Actually sitting down and following through will be much more beneficial.

Being asocial is just as bad . Often times people do not even go out to meet people. They just sit in their room and create. While this will get you a good product, you do need to meet people run your ideas through filters.

Where do you draw the line? Because I create technical stuff like apps, games, and creative stuff like music and movies. I can say that if you want to be successful sit in your room, turn off the phone, turn off the internet and get stuff done. This will be a huge advantage to you because most people would rather just fantasize about the future in a coffee shop. If you can get something out the door you put yourself in a whole other category than those who do not.

At the same time, you do have to go out and meet people and you do have to go out and get your ideas tested. Working in a bubble is never good and you need to expand your horizons. Be wrong a few times (or many times).

If you want to create things, I would say be at lest 50% asocial and 50% social. Although in my experience people who are at least 70% asocial tend to be more successful. Any combination above 70/30 will be beneficial. Personally I am about 90/10. After seeing how many people flutter away their time socializing I personally tried hard to go the other way.

I love socializing but not all of the time. Personally, I am really at home in my office. It is my favorite place to be. I guess that makes me an introvert. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Does using technology keep you mentally sharp in your old age?

When you get older your mental capacity shuts down. I recently read an article saying that your StarCraft 2 ability goes down at the age of 24. It makes sense because there is a lot going on when it comes to a StarCraft 2 game.

It also makes sense that when you get older you are not mentally as sharp. It's harder to learn new things as you get older. Even simple things can be harder than it sounds. I recently played a game to teach kids math. In this game 1-5 animals went into a barn and 1-5 animals left. You had to pick how many animals and what kind of animals remained in the barn. This sounds really simple right? For me I got it right but it was doing the task was much harder than I anticipated.

I have also noticed that older people who are into technology are more "with it". This leads me to believe if somebody is using the most current technology for some reason they are more cognitively able.

When you start to think about it it makes perfect sense. Technology changes all of the time and you have to find a new way of using it. When I upgraded from iOS6 to iOS7 there were a few things that I found hard to do. By using this technology I learnt how to do something new. When you use technology more this happens all of the time.

The short answer is that people are learning when they are simply using technology.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Do music lessons and organized sports make kids future focused?

We have all heard of the marshmallow test you give kids. You give the kid an option to either have one marshmallow now or two later. Most kids eat the first marshmallow but some kids wait. The idea here is that the kids who do not eat the first marshmallow are future focused. They know that if they wait they will be rewarded in the future. This concept works for everything from career planning to savings. 

The core concept is that if you put in the sacrifice today the future you will be better.

If you are a parent and you gave you kid this test and they failed, the good news is that you don't have to jump off the balcony because your kids going to wind up working in some low end job. 

You can really teach your kid to be future focused. You can always talk about being future focused and furthermore you can actually be future focused. You could start saving and working on a new skill.

In implicitly, you can sign you kid up for music lessons or organized sports. Both of these in implicitly teach kids how to be future focused. By putting in the practice today, you will be better tomorrow. Eventually, the kid will understand and see the results of this.

Friday, 11 April 2014

How do you compete with companies that get more than 10 million in funding.

It's no surprise that tech startups in the last few years have received more funding then they are worth. If you are interested you can always google a company with the words "startup capital" or "investment funding". You will be surprised on how many ideas get million dollar evaluations.

What's worse is that now reality hits and these companies and they are not as profitable as they would like to be. That's every business's problem but at the same time. Making even 100 dollars can be challenging let a lone 10 million.

If there is any lesson I had to learn in life it is the lessons that ideas are worthless without execution. I always say whatever happens in reality is what really happens. What happens in your mind never happens.

This is of course a hard lesson. In university a professor told a story about the muses in class. If you don't know the muses are the gods of inspiration. They would "talk" to people and inspire them to create. It's very perceptive as creative people tend to have a flash of inspiration.

Later that day a friend said to me "John I really think the muses talk to you. You have so many ideas". In university I discovered coffee and I did have lots of flashes of inspiration. Suffice to say, I am an idea guy. If you flash forward a few years until after I graduated, I was confronted with the 2008 global financial crisis and the harsh reality of nobody caring about your ideas. It wasn't until about 2 years after I graduated that I heard that I could get funding for my ideas.

It seemed simple enough, I could pay myself more than I was making and of course money cures all right? Anybody who actually produces and tries to sell a product will realize that even 1000 dollar loan is hard to pay back let alone a 500k or 2 million dollar loan.

I thought about it but declined. Luckily. I said, there is no way I could get a good ROI on any investment.

How do you compete with companies that get funding. Simple. Produce a product, sell it, listen to your customers, stay small, improve and repeat.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Why does school need to be so unproductive?

We talk about productivity a lot. What does it even mean? In economics, productivity means the rate at which you can produce products. If you are more productive you can can produce products that are better quality for cheaper and today with people thinking about the environment, it means to be less harmful to the environment.

How does this apply to education? Productivity in education would center around these points
1. How fast the students learn
2. How easy it is for the teacher
3. How expensive is it?
4. Overall happiness for both students and teachers.

Currently most school systems are not productive. This is not surprising because most schools use standardized testing. If schools marked produced products instead of standardized test, then we could measure productivity better.

Instead we can focus on the delivery of the material. Most teachers spend their time making lessons for the students. That means teachers spend all this time making material that is about 90% the same. It would be much better if the lessons were made pre hand and the students could then watch the videos. They would still go to class, but watch the lectures in class. If they didn't get what the teachers were saying the students could go watch the videos at home.

This makes life easier for so many reasons. The first is that the teachers don't have to make lessons plan each night. The second is that the students can watch the videos as many times as they need. Lastly, it frees up the teacher to help the students who need help.

This makes the classroom way more productive. It also makes life easier for a teacher. That may not seem important, but having employees that are not stressed out is really important. A lot of teachers end up burnt out or with even more severe mental problems.

When it comes to mental problems you have to treat them like physical problems. Often times you hear "you wouldn't tell a cancer patient to just deal with it and cheer up". Going with that line of thought, you wouldn't work at a factory that has poor air quality and can give you lung cancer. If you did get cancer and the factory was at fault you could sue them. Why would you want to work at a place that was mentally hazardous in the same way the factory is physically hazardous.

It's only a matter of time before a teacher is going to sue a school board for this reason and win. Frankly teaching the classroom is not fun, tiring and physically exhausting.

All roads point to the online education revolution.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Does dyslexia make you more productive?

It's no surprise that lots of entrepreneurs have lysdexia. If you read through a lot of biographies it comes up again and again. Recently I was watch shark tank and I heard Daymond John say that he was really dyslexic, couldn't read and didn't go to college. His networth is also 250 million. That's a lot more than people I know. You might also think that this might be a one off, but if you talk to a lot of entrepreneurs you find that they do mention just in passing that they are somewhat dyslexic.

Does dyslexia make you more productive? Consider what you would be doing if you were not reading, you would be probably out talking to people and possibly making something. Those two ingredients are perfect for entrepreneurs. On top of that the ideas you would be formulating would be practical ideas versus theoretical ideas.

Entrepreneurship is all about doing and much less about thinking. If thinking practically will always trump thinking theoretically.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

This picture really says it all.


When it comes to life your 20's should look like the picture above. So many people change paths or change careers. Ultimately its for the better. The next big idea is just waiting to be discovered and age is not really a factor.

You can start a new idea today with no experience necessary. All you have to do is get started.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What do startups really spend their money on?

In the last post we talked about what not to do when you get your project funded. If you don't know the silicon valley tech startup bubble is either deflating or about to pop. What this means is that mediocre ideas are getting overvalued and getting more money then they are worth.

For example, I could go to an investor with a mediocre idea like: "Let's make educational iPad games for kids and get a lot of funding.

In the real world it doesn't really work like that. You have to build your product first, make some sales, then go to an investor for capital. Although sometimes tech companies can do this process a little differently. Generally you want to make sales first before you go ask for money. The invest is there to leverage your business not make your business.

What are all of these startups spending their money on? Advertising. I see it everyday on my Facebook page and in the ads on the internet. Startups that have too much funding spend a lot of their cash to get the word out.

This is why I don't like to advertise. I can't compete with the "Educational iPad games for kids" start up that just received 2 million dollars pre revenue. It's not cost effective.

For people like me this bubble deflating is going to be a great thing because what you see on the advertising sites will be established companies with profits to actually pay for their advertising. It brings down the noise and it highlights the businesses who are actually profitable.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

How to make sure your project is a success especially with financial backing.

I have never asked for financial backing for my company Mammoth Interactive. There have been several times where I could have asked for funding and probably received some financing. Especially because in 2008- ~2013 there has been a startup bubble and arguably a kickstarter bubble. This bubble of course is startups and projects getting too much funding for what they are worth. Personally I think this bubble has deflated a bit and that is really good which is a topic for another article on how startups spend their money.

Today we are going to look at a kickstart project that has been put on hold and we will talk about some of my failures and why I made the decisions I did. This is going to be an educational experience for all.

The project that we are going to look at is Exploding Rabbit's Super Action Squad. Now, let me be very clear that I am in no way trying to laugh, make fun of or ridicule the creators. They have actually made some very good points which I want to highlight. In fact I made the same mistakes. The only difference is that I didn't take people's money and make mistakes with somebody else's money.

You can read the article on how their project is being put on hold here. I would go read it because it really highlights what can go wrong in a project and so many of my projects went south because of the same reasons.

http://www.explodingrabbit.com/news/super-action-squad-is-being-put-on-hold

I would suggest reading every word it has very good advice let me put in the bullet points here. I will talk about my perspective on these topics and my failures.

Inexperience
Lack of understanding of scope
Unrealistic estimate of cost
Being apart of an in effective team
Software tools
No pre-production
Inexperience
This has got to be the number one reason why any project fails. Remember that failures are GOOD if you learn from them. I certainly have. This is why I plug making a small project and releasing it so much at Mammoth Interactive.com. If you have taken any of my courses, you will know that I plug this constantly.

How do you get experience? Simple just do it! Releasing a small project is the best way get experience. Plus what you do is put yourself ahead of all of the overeducated people who hang out at the coffee shop all day.

As silly as it sounds you want to release as many projects as you can and learn from each project. The more you release the better you get. What you do have to put in is time. The more time you put in the better you get. If you have a job try and work part time and work the remaining hours on you project, you will learn so much by doing this.

For me, I needed to learn to code in new programming languages so I bought some DVDs and I put in the time and out came an XBOX 360 game. I made tons of prototypes before that came out but in the end I do have an XBOX 360 game in my portfolio.

You are never too old to learn something and you don't have to go to a class to learn it. You can do it on your own. Now more than ever you can learn faster with online learning.

Lack of understanding of scope. 
This is a big one. The Exploding Rabbit article details this very well. For me this happened a lot and I will tell you about some of the times I had completely misread the scope of a project.

The best part of a project is the part where you discuss features at a coffee shop or a restaurant with some friends / business partners. This part is amazing because coming up with ideas takes about 1 millionth the effort it does to implement these ideas. Most of the time ideas are worthless without execution. Really what you should be looking for is execution of ideas and not simply ideas.

When I was 12 I took a programming course in visual basic at my local university. I thought visual basic mean "Let's make a 3D game". Sadly it was not and I legitimately thought that I could make something similar to Neverwinter nights in my room on my 486 computer. This didn't happen and the game never came to be released. Instead I made a small text based adventure game.

On a side note, I always say that if you have an idea of what you want to do, scale it back 95-99% and that's what will be released.

Flash forward to 2010 after I released my XBOX 360 game Circa, as soon as I uploaded it and as soon as it came online for people to play I started a new project. This project was going to be an overhead shooter that took place on a space station around Saturn's moon titan. It had an awesome plot and I knew that for sure this would make it big. After all Circa was a mild success and if I made a bigger game with a bigger scope then my career would skyrocket.

I programmed the mechanics, made the levels and started making the art. Along the way I constantly kept adding more and more features. I said "Let's add more because more features equals more sales". I couldn't be more wrong. This is why I practice subtractive production techniques. You can learn more about them at Mammoth Interactive. com if you don't know what subtractive production techniques are.

Always always always set the scope at the beginning of the project. Otherwise you are going to get out scoped. Which is what happened to this project. As I added more features the game became harder and harder to handle. Eventually, I woke up one morning and I looked at the work that needed to be done in order to get this game to about 80%. It was too much and I abandoned the project. At least I didn't waste other people's money. If I was in school, I would be punished for "failing" but going through the process I ironically would learn more than what I would learn in school. I learned the hard way that you should always set parameters at the beginning of the project.

I then worked on my next project which was a 2D platformer set in the 1920s. It also had a great plot. I wrote the script, programmed the mechanics and hired an artist to do the animation. Everything was going well. I thought that after my failure last time I would surely release this game. I was ready to put in the last 10% of the project. I was so excited. Then, Microsoft upgraded the XBOX 360 framework to a new version. It broke my game. In order to make the 2D platformer I had to use an engine and a lot of the back end libraries were not compatible. As a result I had a broken game. I was defeated and frustrated again. This time for a completely different reason my game was not to be released. It took 6 months for other people in the community to fix the problem. I had then moved on to another project. At this time, it wasn't as worth it to release a game for XBOX and I was working on iOS projects at the time.

This is 2 major games that were canned because of two different reasons. At least I learned this on my own instead of taking investor money or crowd funded money.

For the next few weeks I worked on a sequel to Circa called Circa reloaded. I was frustrated with the environment so I turned to iOS instead.

Unrealistic estimate of cost
This is another big one. Games cost at least 5 figures to make. It has to do with the interaction of art, software and user experience. I would say most of the time games cost 6 figures to make. Of course big companies that have the infrastructure can lower this but for the most part when you are making game budget 6 figures to do it properly.

The Exploding rabbit game should have cost around 300-400k not 53k. People think that they can spend about 2k on a game and become a millionaire. This is false. Occasionally you can get a simple game like flappy birds and make it big. Those are usually anomalies.

Being apart of an ineffective team
If there is any source of frustration that I had with development of any kind whether it was a game, app, video or music it was working with people who are ineffective. Most of the time when you work with creative people you will quickly realize that most people are useless. Often times these people don't even show up on time and when they do their performance is spotty and they don't have a work ethic.

Being super eager when I was 22 and fresh out of university, I quickly came to realize that most people under 30 have other priorities even if they say they want to be a _____. Their priorities are elsewhere. This is mainly why I worked alone. I couldn't deal with the malaise of the typical millennial attitude. I really wanted a job but this was 2008 and of course I was caught in that no experience no job conundrum plus a giant recession.

The flip side is that working with people who are 35 and older can actually get something finished. The flip side is they usually have a family and their priorities usually are conflicted between family and career.

I would say that if you can find somebody with ambition willing to go with you on the same journey as you, take it. Working with people is a lot better than working alone. If you can't find anybody, then work alone, it will be much better in the long run.

Software tools.
Before you even start a project look at the tools needed to complete the project. Choosing the right software is so important. In your project scope you need to
1. Find the platforms you are deploying to
2. Find the software tools that can do it
3. Find the tool that is easiest to use. Drop features if you have to.

If you are developing as an independent always go for the easiest solution. Software development is hard.

No pre-production
Pre production is important because it will plan out the scope of the project. Great game companies will do a ton of pre production. The best analogy I can think of for this is the way construction is done. When I was in University, I took a job landscaping. I put up an entire suburban park in one summer. It was a great learning experience. Most of the work was done before we put in the trees and the grass etc. In fact, the visual components were completed in a very short amount of time. You have to think of your software production the same way.

Conclusion
Where am I today. Well about a year after I released Circa for the XBOX 360 I started to release iOS games and several of them went to #1 on the app store. How did I do this? Experience, failure and a lot of perseverance.

Mammoth Interactive is a profitable company today with no investor funding. My reputation is not tarnished with failed projects, wasted crowd funded or investor money. Learn from your mistakes and drive the next project. If you believe in yourself you can do it!



Friday, 21 February 2014

Coding schools and education regulation.

First of all what is a coding school and second why are they regulated?

Well coding schools have popped up all over the place especially near silicon valley in California. What they are is a bootcamp like class where they take you from knowing nothing about coding to being a hirable developer. After all, knowing how to code is important and can land you a job. I am always surprised that even if you know CSS you can land a decent wage and by decent wage I mean like 60k a year. For those of you who don't know CSS is not that hard to code in.

What can be wrong with this? Coding schools offer a class for a skill set that is in demand. Not only does it help create jobs to teach the people how to code but it students can go get decent paying jobs. More jobs equals a better economy and who doesn't want a better economy?

According to local governments there is a lot wrong with coding schools. Perhaps because they are somewhat expensive perhaps because they offer no accreditation. I first heard about a coding school in Ontario Canada that investigated a coding school.  They have since then sorted everything out but I still thought it was unnecessary. We will get to why coding schools shouldn't be under investigation in a minute.

Then I heard that a lot of the schools in California threatened some schools to shut down, pay a fine and refund the money! Now this is getting serious.  Im sure that not every coding school is fantastic but the good ones get penalized. There is one simple reason why coding schools should not be under investigation.
They do no offer accreditation!

People know that going in and that's why they go. I should point out at this point that going to a coding school is in some ways better than getting a degree in computer science. Coding schools give you hands on training for relevant problems on the first day. CS degrees teach you more theoretical knowledge.

If I was 18 today, I would go to University and study something that I thought would expand my personal horizons. During the summer I would go to a coding school. Each system has something that the other lacks. As a young person you need the personal development just as much as you need the specific training. Your career will be better as a result.

If I was 30 and just need a job, I would go to a coding school because time spent in school is money lost.

Why are the governments shutting these things down. If I put on my tin foil hat, I might think that "Big Education" or the "Education Industrial Complex" has something to do with it. Maybe in the USA this could somewhat be the case as the colleges and universities there have a ton of money to lose. At the same time these coding schools show the American dream. They offer a better product for less, simple as that.

Taking off my tin foil hat, I can see that what is happening. There is a generation gap and a disconnect between what policy makers put in place and what job seekers need. If you want to learn to code you can go to these coding schools. Or you can hop on line and code today.

My classes help you with this. I offer a lot of courses that teach you the basics of programming in 1 hour and also offer classes that help you get apps to the app store. You can subscribe to my courses for a dollar!

https://mammoth.usefedora.com/course/subscription/?coupon=dollarmonth

Or you can start learning to code for free here.

https://mammoth.usefedora.com/course/Learn-to-code-in-30-minutes/

This will get sorted out. If you know how to code you have a job, simple as that.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Starting an online school

Like business ideas or babies, everybody has an idea on how to re-invent the education system. I constantly get emails from several online schools saying they want my material. Most of the other instructors that I know get the same emails. I will go over the process of what setting up a course on their website entails and then I will go up and then go over how to make any business process easier. 

Like I said above. Everybody has an idea on how to make education better so naturally there are a ton of online schools popping up with everybody's specific plan. Some of these schools have venture capital and others do not.  In another post I will talk about why a simple UI change isn't going to change education. What most of them need is teachers and content producers. Since they are in short supply they will take what they can get. Here comes the expensive part. You have to 

1. Put all of the courses up on your website
2. Pay somebody to do that
3. Make sure nothing goes wrong
4. Make sure it is a good user experience.

Now imagine this from the teacher point of view. As a teacher you have to put your course up on 10 different sites and make sure that nothing goes wrong. This is really costly, even if you are using somebody else's money, it still costs a lot of money to put up the courses. So much money is being wasted by having all of these different schools in different places. What makes much more sense is to put the courses up once and have other people sell it. 

Most people of course do not want to do this simply because they have an idea on how school is supposed to be. 

The major business lesson here is to make any process simpler and to not let start up costs go through the window. Even if you do not have to pay for the startup costs on the other end, that money can be better spent on advertising or anything else. Even if there is unpaid interns doing the job, the money can be spent somewhere else. 

Instead of setting up a school, the schools are already set up all you have to do is point your customers there. This way we can all enjoy the profits and stop running around in circles trying to set up courses on every different site. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Why you shouldn't think that your business is going to go big


Every time I see a startup they want to go big. They want to go Google big, Amazon big, Facebook Big. Their pitch has all of the pie in the sky features which would be impossible to implement on a small budget.

Going forward after investment, every founder has very profound visions of what they want to do. I get all of that. I have visions and big plans and ideas that could probably go Google big, Amazon big or Facebook big.

Then I get hit with reality. I have no funding and limited resources so how can I make money today. I get the sense that most startups or business do not want to do this. They want to deploy the next Google, Amazon or Facebook.

What is even worse is that a lot of companies start with lots of man power. Hiring people is extremely expensive so why do it? Aside from the money the biggest and worst part about this approach is that the founder usually has ideas that cannot be implemented at all and there is a disconnect between vision, reality and production.

What can you do about it? Simple. Start lean continue to function lean and don't macro right away. Start small and thing about how you can make money today. Once you start to learn how to make money today you can learn to scale that process. Once you can scale the process you can start to think bigger and the problems mentioned above won't happen. On a side note, if you are the founder of a company. Make sure you do some grunt work at times. It shows that you care about the company.

Tomorrow: why starting an online school might be harder than you think.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Your degree doesn't matter (mostly)


Whenever you talk about education with people (especially educators) there is a mentality that a person will only be able to learn something in a classroom. It has to be officially taught by a mastered and 100% fully accredited. Well, if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, then yes, school should be this way.

However, this not only sucks the fun out of learning, it tells people that the only place you can learn is in a classroom. Surprisingly having a degree in one field and pursuing another is not exactly uncommon. After all philosophy and english majors have to do something after they graduate.

University is really supposed to teach you about how to think and not what to think. Most people make this mistake when they enter. It is really about improving your cognitive problem solving abilities. If you went to school to learn the bigger picture on how the universe operates then chances are you will be successful in life. If you went to school to get an A on that multiple choice test then chance are you might find a well paying job.

When you get out into the real world you start to find that people have very different degrees than what their job title is. You find a disproportionally large amount of philosophy majors, english majors and music majors who program. This is not only because programming is in demand. It is because you learn quite a bit of knowledge in those mentioned above degrees. In some ways a standard CS degree doesn't teach you some of the more important parts you would learn in a philosophy degree.

Most tech degrees just teach you the A-B route. This is all well and good but you first of all need to know why you are going to A-B and you also need to know how you can improve A-B. As cliche as it sounds most tech degrees are very short sighted. The biggest issue is when technology changes and what you have learned is no longer useful.

Lastly, if you are smart enough to pass your degree without cheating you have all of the tools to make in the real world. The only problem is you have to shed what assumptions you have by going through the system. Once you can rid yourself of "education goggles" you can make it if you want to but only IF you want to.

Don't use your degree as an excuse for lack of success. Even civil engineers have a hard time finding work. That same person can go start a company, learn to code, or just simply get a job doing something else.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Why developing by yourself is less fun but more profitable.

I mostly do all of the work myself when it comes to making apps. The main reason for this is that I personally love to save money. Even contracting out the simplest features can get real costly. Whenever I do outsource I still do most of the work and only outsource a very small amount of work.

This is the way I like to release apps and make money but most people don't do it this way. They make sure they work in a team and get venture capital. Im sure there are tons of studies that say teams are more successful than individuals. At the same time there probably are not studies that show the efficiency of teams versus individuals. If there were, Im sure you would see that individuals can be more efficient.

If you haven't checked out Derek's Sivers' blog at sivers.org, I highly suggest you do. Derek Sivers was a musician/entrepreneur who started CD Baby. His views are incredibly insightful. When Derek was a musician he made his money by diversifying his performances. Here is his pricing chart for his music services.
  • 1000 for the 5-piece funk band
  • 600 for a duet performance
  • 450 for a solo performance 
Notice that he gets paid more for his solo performances. For 3 solo performances he would have to do almost 7 band performances. Here is the chart if he did one performance of each per week in 1 month or 4 weeks.
  • 800 for the band
  • 1200 for the duet
  • 1800 for the solo performance
Clearly the solo performance was the most profitable. There is another element that needs to be taken into consideration. The solo performance would be easier to put together and way less expensive. All he would have to do is write some songs with his acoustic guitar and sing. The band experience is much more complex. Even the duet adds in another level of complexity that makes the performance much harder. 

Which one is the most fun? Working with people you like to produce something is always way more fun. At the same time it is worse individually. The band makes the most money in total but as you can see for far less work you can be more profitable

When you decided to make apps you have to decide what you want to do. Do you want to go it by yourself and make more money for less work or do you want to have fun in a bigger team? For me I choose more profitability. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Why you should pay for your office space

It may seem contradictory to say that you should pay for something even if it is offered for next to nothing. Generally, I would tell businesses that this is a good idea but for startups it's a bad idea. I will explain in detail what the difference is between a startup and a business. 

You should pay for your office space because it gives you a motivator to be profitable. If you haven't seen my last post about not spending venture capital on trend office spaces, then you should go check it out. 

When you have to pay for office space in someway shape or form you have to find a way to become profitable and fast. Bills come in on a monthly basis so you should start to find a way to make income on a monthly basis. That way you do not go into debt. 

Certain business models favor the monthly income and others do not. If you want to make a AAA game you are going to have to find the funding for several years of development. If you want to make a website that sells good you can start selling very quickly. Of course anything with a membership is great because you get the money at a fixed time interval whether it be a month, a quarter or a year. 

Some of you might be reading this and wondering where on earth would you get free office space. Well, depending on the city you are in it could be sponsored by the government in some way or it could be donated by a larger corporation. Either way, it does exist. Sometimes these places will have very inexpensive office spaces. This is much better for you because at least you are paying something.

If you live at home and you get the parental discount move out immediately. It sounds so counter intuitive but you should really try and make it on your own. Among millennials there seems to be this idea that if you do not get a good job you shouldn't settle for a regular job so because "I" am so awesome, "I" am going to start a startup. 

That should be a whole other topic but if you really want to make it on your own then you should move out of your parents house and enter the real world. 

When you start paying rent on a monthly basis you start to think profitability on a monthly basis.  

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Why you shouldn't use your investment capital to fund your trendy office space

Working for Google, Microsoft or Apple is really fun. They have a great office experience and they do it this way to keep people hooked on the company. Fun, trendy office spaces also make the job feel much better. It is certainly better than working in a cubicle in a big room.

So let's say you are an out of work millennial, who maybe studied underwater basket-weaving and is surprised when Google doesn't return your email when you apply for a job. Instead of getting a job you decide to come up with an idea that needs venture capital. Let's say this idea will bring underwater basket weaving to the masses with a trendy iPhone app. So you manage to secure a million dollar investment from an investor.

What should you do with this investment? Work on the product? Secure a distribution channel? Do market research? Advertise?

How about spending all of the money on a trendy office. The kind of office that you wanted to work at Google or Apple. That would be alright except for there is one major thing you forgot to take into account. Having a good office space is something you earn and you shouldn't expect it.

The first major reason you shouldn't get a trendy office is that office space is ridiculously expensive in major cities. Sometimes the trendy office spaces are more. Im sure there are a few exceptions people can find but office space can be your biggest expense and for most unproven startups, its an expense that you shouldn't take on.

Instead, find a room with a table in it and go from there. Even bad office spaces can cost several thousand dollars a month. Remember profitability should be your first concern as a startup.

Tomorrow we will talk about why you should pay for your office space.

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