Make no little plans
“Make no little plans,” spoken by renown architect Daniel Burnham, made real for me by my friend Nate. Nate Bihlmaier died three weeks ago and since then, I have been trying to capture my memories of him, and learn from his wisdom.
In his application essay to the Harvard Business School, which Nate’s family shared with his friends, Nate chose to write a cover letter introducing himself to the admissions board. It must have been one of the most authentic and humble essays that they received in 2010. I remember that question, and avoiding it, knowing whatever I wrote would not contain enough of the soul-baring stuff that would make it outstanding. Whatever I wrote would end up containing unnecessary flourishes and I’d read it years from now and be embarrassed by my 27-year old self.
“Make no little plans,” as Nate shared in his essay, was a motto that he gravitated towards. As I embark on my job search, soul search, I have also adopted that motto. Being a Harvard Business School grad, I hoped for job security and opportunities that would allow me live anywhere in the world while doing something really interesting, whenever I wanted. The reality is, obviously, that it takes a lot of work, to find something I truly meaningful and impactful. It is tempting to compromise; and a huge number of us change jobs within our first year out.
Maybe in a few years, I’ll be able to look at my work life and my personal life, and be self-aware enough and strong enough to share it in a hypothetical admissions essay. In the meantime, I don’t wish to have grandiose dreams, but I don’t wish to compromise. There are many companies where I can put my years of work experience and passion to work, where I am that person that can make a difference. As Nate said best, “There is no reason, I discovered, that I too could not also play a role in making a real change in the world.”
Pinterest’s Exciting Monetization Potential
It’s funny to get the title ‘Pinterest Queen’ amongst friends and professors.
I hold the title proudly because it’s a ridiculously difficult job to complete. All that pinning, researching, experimenting is so distracting I spend hours thinking I’m being productive when in fact, I’m just clicking from one pin to the next…
People always ask me what’s the big deal with Pinterest?
Well, there’s this article I wrote, and this one. But it comes down to the potential. Some media sources report that Pinterest’s growth is leveling off, but whether or not that’s the case, what’s important is that it provides a unique, innovative and valuable service.
Specifically, Pinterest allows its users to categorize and save the web’s images in a way that’s useful for them. It transforms web searching into discovery. It enhances their lives through its product. I get heart palpitations from writing these words.
Having interviewed heavy users and brands who use Pinterest, many love its ease of use and usefulness, but are excited by continued product development. The product is still in its youth, with opportunities to include improving the mobile experience, going international, and continuing to refine the user experience. Pinterest has the opportunity to finally bring the window-shopping/ discovery process online, in a sticky and delightful way.
People follow up the “what’s the big deal” question with, “how do they make money?” There are so many possibilities (but also other priorities), I get *extra* excited when I think about the potential Pinterest provides to brands.
Some say it will get too commercial once it starts monetizing. To this I retort,
Ah-ha! Not if the way it monetizes is actually valuable to users.
Having spent three years working in Yahoo’s advertising display product, I know how brands target and how consumers react. When not targeted well, ads are disruptive, intrusive and ignored. The worst thing Pinterest can do (and I think they’d never do it), is degrade the user experience in order to monetize.
Pinterest has the opportunity to change the relationship between brands and consumers. Because consumers are on the site searching and discovering, brands can showcase not only their products but what their brand represents. Chobani, Lilly Pulitzer, Whole Foods, do a great job at this.
No other social networking site allows consumers to discover and connect with brands, nor in a 10 second browse, gain such a clear understanding of what the brand represents. Aspects of this relationship have developed via Twitter and Facebook, but it’s limited by users having to search for the brands first. And brands are getting smarter and smarter with how they are using Pinterest. I love Oscar de la Renta’s real-time bridal show pinning:
I get so excited by Pinterest’s potential to improve the lives of its users, to bring delight into the online shopping experience, to connect consumers with brands.
Brands get so much value from their presence on Pinterest, and the incremental referral traffic, that they are willing to pay for it. Pinterest has the opportunity to monetize via referral links, its own marketplace, campaign management tools, analytics about user profiles, white-labeling the platform or hosting on behalf of brands. The best part is, if executed with the user and his or her priorities in mind, these opportunities all improve the value Pinterest adds to the user’s life.
When they look back at this era, Internet historians will mark Facebook’s Instagram acquisition as the symbolic moment when the Great Shift was confirmed. Significantly, it also came soon after Steve Jobs’ death. The device that Jobs created had, within the space of five years, allowed a 551-day-old company with 14 employees to become worth $1 billion.
On April 9, 2012, Web 2.0 lost its mantle as the most important Internet paradigm. We are now starting the Age of Mobile. Web 2.0 Is Over, All Hail the Age of Mobile (via courtenaybird)
ifttt should be running the world
Or at least, everyone should be using it.
If you haven’t used ifttt (pronounced “ifttt”) yet, quick, visit ifttt.com. Already got the premise right? It automates activities on the web for you, it makes life so much more efficient. This is what I have been dreaming of.
What is ifttt?
ifttt (acronym of ‘if this then that’) was designed with ease of use in mind - so that even grandma can use it. It allows users to set up a if-then statements that trigger certain actions.
- If forecast calls for rain tomorrow, then send me an email alert
- If someone tags me on Facebook, then save the photo into Dropbox
- If I send ifttt a text, then call my phone so I can pretend I need to do something urgent (friends are also useful in this instance)
ifttt uses APIs to connect with websites and apps (‘channels’) so you can automate tasks (‘recipes’) with those channels (such as Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail). It authenticates using OAuth where applicable, or stores passwords in an encrypted database. The simple front end, desire to make my life easier, it just seems so trustworthy.
Why should it run the world?
Don’t you think that computers should be smarter and adaptive? I was always frustrated by computers not being able to better anticipate my needs. If I have used the same programs over and over, it should surface those to the top or open them as soon as I turn on my computer. It should constantly scour the web for good deals once I have searched for an shown interest in a product.
ifttt gets us one step closer! In its current state, ifttt makes our digital lives more manageable. Its potential though, is to bridge the online and offline.
- If my local baker bakes his famous apple pie, then sms me!
- If it’s past sunset, then turn on my porch lights.
- If I book an international plane ticket, then call my credit cards to inform them
The potential to integrate with channels outside of the digital and help us better manage our tasks is endless. And, that will be the case especially (and only) if ifttt becomes a platform on which users can create endless permutations of activities.
A service that is innovative, user-friendly and well-intentioned should be wholeheartedly embraced. ifttt, I give you a huge virtual hug! one day, i hope i can create a recipe that gives you a real-life hug.
So why doesn’t it run the world yet?
Stay tuned for my next post…