Aksel Lielmanis, executive director of marketing at WB Entertainment Canada, opening the event accompanied by orcs. (Photo by Evan Bergstra)
Last Monday was the Canadian Launch of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. This is the sequel to the incredibly successful Shadow of Mordor which was released in 2014.
Full disclosure, I haven’t played Shadow of Mordor… and even though I grew up loving the idea of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, all my attempts to read Tolkien’s books have resulted in mental paralysis within a few dozen pages. Despite this, it never stopped me from buying more books because I fundamentally supported the world and imagination it inspired in me. Similarly, my experiences with Peter Jackson’s interpretations of the legendary material, suffered similar results. I DID, with my fellow media peers (yes, I consider myself press when it serves me), get hands-on time with Shadow of War at the launch event.
This is not particularly a game review because I am not your best source for that. With that said, however, as games go, it is beautifully executed with lots of really subtle design details that make it worthy to look at for extended periods.
In general, launching new products is its own kind of war... and putting out a sequel comes with particular challenges.
Though it makes total sense for a company to invest in a known property, it’s a balancing act when attempting to make something that is to repeat or exceed prior success. You are playing with a lot of external variables that can also weigh in and adversely impact those rudimentary goals. Off the top of my head, I think of things like audience fatigue, the ebb and flow of fashion, too much of the same, getting beaten by something fresh and novel, or just plain timing.
Well, The whole Tolkien mythos has been a consistent money-maker AND Monolith, it would seem, has invested effort into a long-term play with the ‘Nemesis System’ to make more unique player experiences. Their accolades with the original Shadow of Mordor garnered more than 50 industry awards, including recognition for innovation.
Hmm… what is the “Nemesis System”?
According to the internet, Nemesis System is:
"Every enemy players face is a unique individual, differentiated by their personality, strengths and weaknesses. These enemies are shaped by their encounters with the player to create personal arch-enemies who are unique to every game play session. Players must out think each distinctively different enemy they encounter to infiltrate the ranks and dominate within the dynamic world that remembers and adapts to their actions and choices. Every enemy in the game has their own name, rank, and memory. These enemies will continue to do their own jobs and tasks even when they're off screen; the game progresses in real time even if you do not interfere, and as such an enemy you meet in one game play session may suddenly have achieved a higher rank the next time you meet him. If the player does not kill an enemy in an encounter, this enemy will remember the player and change their tactics and conversations based on the encounter. The enemy will also grow more powerful and learn new immunities. Killing them will also net the player more experience points."
Okay, that sounds pretty fascinating.
Monolith spokesperson, Andy Salisbury, interviewed by Marissa Roberto, host of XboxAllForOne. (Photo by Evan Bergstra)
Andy Salisbury, the Monolith spokesperson who flew in from Seattle had this to say: “ Nemesis at its core is the game play aspect. No two players have the same play through, ever. As we moved forward in Shadow of War we wanted to double down on that. We went further with new orc tribes, which are sub cultures in Mordor; a member of the Feral tribe would speak to their personality and combat styles; Dark Tribe is more focused on dark arts and dabble in necromancy; and Machine tribe pop these smoke stacks to fire the industries of Mordor.”
I was curious how the team at Monolith approached making a follow-up title.
Andy said, "The success of Shadow of Mordor took us off guard. It’s so incredible because we put so much time in and care so much about it.” He prouder added “We even have a Tolkien scholar on staff, she actually has a degree in it.” Which makes sense for the amount of lore and crazy detail that Tolkien generated in his lifetime.
"It’s was a big opportunity,”, he continued, “So we wanted to make smart decisions and build upon everything we thought was best of Shadow of Mordor."
"The day we finished Shadow of Mordor, we started working on Shadow of war. The team was excited on how it was so well received, but going one step further and building on what we had done.We had a clear idea of where to focus attention.
"Monolith are consistently cross disciplined. Members all get together in a room - producers, writers, animators, designers, UI team, every member of character and cinematic team - helping to build it as a group."
I asked Andy if his role was an important asset to the Product Management team. His answer was pretty perfect, “I’m sure I want to think so, but I definitely know they had such a strong vision for what we were doing, so even though knowing what the fans are thinking and what they are up to is part of the process, they built on it the most natural way they could.”
It was interesting to have Andy represent Monolith and the game from a community perspective. In many businesses, community is the core to success… finding frantic, loyal subjects… getting one going, growing it, and maintaining as long as you can is how the game is played.
I would like to believe that there is some kind of magic when you have earned the accolades of the masses, and yet it is a delicate beehive collecting pollen and making honey; with all the related metaphors you can think of from nature, beekeepers, to colony collapse disorder.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War lookS to be a promising extension for Monolith and WB... In stores October 10.
Good times were had! So Thanks to #WBGamesCanada, LexPR, and all the games peeps.
A fitting battle cry from fellow media attendees Jonathan Scarr & Paul Hunter, respectively.
A few weeks ago, Randall reached out to talk about an assignment for a Digital Engineering story.
In March, John Maeda, head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automatic, presented in 2017 Design in Tech report at SXSW. Randall was looking to share some more insight on how current trends were affecting businesses and industrial designers.
Coincidentally, I've been preparing for an upcoming talk for D3DLive in Boston where I want to share my particular witty views on common design processes and my particular approaches to holistic design, so we had a pretty fun discussion on the topic.
Check out his published article here:
After months of research and world building... I'm proud that the framework has successfully provided foundation lore, generated 10 weeks of games for the first professional sports league on Mars, and allowd two weeks of newsroom activity with journalists and artists brining the machine outcomes to life!
It has been a fun and intense exercise, so making it live for the world to see feels like some kind of minor achievement. The REAL CHALLENGE will, of course, to be to find a way to keep it going, for people to not think it is shit, and for it to remain a fun and intimate project for myself and all the incredible contributors. Only time will tell!
Naturally, I will keep you posted!
The future is coming. In the future, there will be sports. We will design those sports; We will simulate those games; And we will experience the world of tomorrow, today.
Pre-launch: September, 2017
Meta Olympia is a sport-fiction entertainment property that combines the qualities of fantasy sports with science fiction to deliver a daily online news experience that reports on leagues, teams, players, and games from the future! Think of real-world properties like ESPN, SBNation, or Player's Tribune.
To capture the non-deterministic and statistical aspects of real sport, the world is simulated by an engine that generates on-field gameplay and outcomes. Like an old-school ticker tape, the simulator provides the key moments and events of a match. This, in turn, is interpreted by real-life humans, reporters and concept artists, that bring the story to life (akin to the illustrated newspapers of the mid-19th century).
Timeframe: +60 years in our future Scenario: The inaugural season of the first professional Martian league (MAFL) playing a derivative of football (soccer).
WHY AM I DOING THIS?
Extrapolating the future...
The basis of this world takes in account our past and present to predict a viable alternative near-future. This as a design exercise in shaping a world of tomorrow. The pilot focuses on Mars and Aero Football, but the property in intended to expand to cover a spectrum of future sports.
In 2077, Mars has been colonized with over 100,000 people spread across a dozen settlements; each with their own unique cultural blend. The majority are Earth expatriates, but there is a steady growing native-born population.
Producing and maintaining a hospitable atmosphere is an omnipresent condition for life on Mars. Efficient use of space and resources is just the way of life. Large public spaces are few and far between and often limited to social or agricultural purposes.
Mars is actively 'under construction' with numerous long-term engineering projects and thriving industries fuelling the inter-planetary economy with Earth.
Martian Aero Football League...
Aero Football is a derivation of traditional soccer, adapted to accommodate the unique conditions of Martian play. The MAFL is founded in 2075 and the first season begins in 2077 with 8 clubs representing the largest population centres. With 1/3 gravity, new rules, and augmentation, this familiar sport becomes even more spectacular than its Earthbound predecessor.
Constraints with habitable interiors makes Aero Football an outdoor sport. Stadiums and pitches are carved into Martian soil.
With only a fraction of Earth's atmosphere, players don pressurized EV suits for life support and protection.
The ball is packed with tech; though enhancement play is prohibited in competition, this ball is capable of hovering and physically replaying itself.
There are human referees that usually manage from control rooms while on-field assist and robots are on pitch.
Sports are a human story....
Each player will have a profile that outlines their skill level, potential, and varying performance parameters. Of course, they will be given a face, body description, and (to some degree) a personality outline. These individual attributes will contribute to their team and, thus, how the games will be simulated.
The MAFL will have Earth-born athletes as well as those that are 1st and 2nd generation Martian-born. The sport is also mixed gender. All of this will open lots of questions about physiology, body types, and this will impact player performance.
I hope you enjoyed this sneak preview of Meta Olympia.
If you think it's cool.. please vote for my SXSW session proposal "Designing Worlds to make meaningful Fake News". It will share the unusual journey that culminated into Meta Olympia.
Co-creators: Chris Cheung & Bing Lin Contributing artists: Jacques Pena, Jessie Lam, Mark Torres, Kurt Kaufman, Rámon Peréz, Nimit Malavia
Thanks to: Tinker Hatfield, Jay Shuster, Brent Pittman, Don Varga, Pascale Audette, Kevin Strike, Daniel Roizman, Rob Aitchison, Dan Pressman, Tim Hanson, and Ramón Pérez
In business, we all spend a lot of time with people, lots of different types of people. Some are very, very great, like giants from legend while others are so very small that you might mistake their particular accomplishments as insignificant. Each and every one are, however, fundamentally the same template from chemical composition, psychological configuration, to biologically predisposition to peak and degrade within specific tolerances. Everyone navigates through life, trying to find their way before the clocks strikes midnight.
What is amazing about all this sameness is, everyone’s journey is an unfathomable amalgamation of distinct variables, constraints, and choices. None of us live identical lives and none of us react to the same stimulus in the same fashion, therefore, our experiences are completely unique.
Giants and specs-of-humans alike need the occasional helping hand, even if, at times, it is the back-end of a hand.
On the professional side, there’s no lack of data with respect to career development. Go internet for yourself and find endless statistics like 70%-80% of employees at any given company would rather be doing something else; that between 30-40% of them blame the lack of career progression for the rut in their life; or nearly 40% of managers admit to having no clue what their direct reports career goals are or should be. Clearly, expecting the system to take care of you might be a stretch.
As the title goes, I've selected 3 words for this post's primary ingredients, so let's see what classic alliteration can cook up.
Mentorship is pretty awesome.
It is regarded as an essential part of personal and professional development by many high-achievers. I'm not a high-achiever, but am a strong advocate of it too. Had it not been for other people graciously nudging me along the way, I can only imagine my path would have been much lonelier and darker.
There is plenty of good advice on mentoring, which is useful because being a good mentee and/or finding the right mentors can be a challenging sort of dating scene. Here are 3 articles that I feel provide useful insights... I have summarized key points for you convenience:
10 Reasons Why a Mentor Is a Must, Inc. Magazine, Jan 9, 2016
1) Mentors provide information and knowledge
2) Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot
3) Mentors find ways to stimulate our personal and professional growth
4) Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going
5) Mentors are disciplinarians that create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves
6) Mentors are sounding boards so we can bounce ideas off them for an unfiltered opinion
7) Mentors are trusted advisers
8) Mentors can be connectors
9) Mentors have the experience you can learn from to prevent making the same mistakes as beginners make
10) Mentors are free, which makes them priceless in more ways than one.
8 Successful People Share How To Find A Mentor, Fast Company
1) It’s about the person, not their position
2) Don’t always expect a relationship - Mentors come in all different forms
3) Instead of insisting on coffee or dinner meetings, be flexible
4) In addition to looking up for mentors, look to your right and left
5) Your mentor usually find you (not the other way around)
6) Don’t always look for someone you like
7) Don’t ask a CEO for the roadmap - ask for advice on how to navigate
8) Remember to give and Take - Don’t be a greedy mentee
9) Mentorship is not a life vest
Mentorship Is Key To Career Success For Young Professionals, Forbes
1) Don’t be afraid to seek out mentorship
2) Learn to recognize the accelerators in your life
3) Remember that mentorship is a two-way street
The term is most often used in connection with artists and creative endeavours, but it is equally valid in any professional context. I’m a huge fan of this type of motivation because there is an intangible chemistry about it. It is distinctly human, emotional, and even magical in that such forces can even exist.
I’ve often been impressed by the symbiotic relationships that form among musicians, actor, director and even startup collaborators. In a land where we have such bounty of exceptional and generically over-qualified professionals, it can be these kinds of emotional connections that swoop in for the win.
In business, there are many stigmas with following the heart, yet so much success is reliant on irrational passion, tenacity, and conviction to believe in impossible things. Muses are there to inspire, to be the catalyst of wonderful ideas and outcomes that would otherwise not happen.
Being or finding a muse is certainly more difficult than that of a mentor. By definition, a muse is a rare and special thing, practically mythical. It is, however, not pointless to aspire for such intimate and powerful human connection. I can tell you from experience, that forming these types of working relationships is real and it empowers doing amazing, if not impossible, things.
1) Inspiring others is, in itself, inspiring
2) It doesn't have to last forever to be terrific
3) You don't need credentials to be this kind of awesome
In writing this, I must confess, that despite having great mentors and muses in my life, I actually think it is the monsters that have contributed most significantly to my professional development. As Newton’s 3rd law states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
1) You are going to fall, a lot
2) You will be repeatedly told the things you cannot do
3) Scary things trigger urgency
4) There are a lot of dicks out there; so much so that it’s quite possible the world probably can’t function without them
With these sorts of things in mind, we should all make extra effort to find ways to exploit these abundant resources for positive gain.
After all, mentors are hard to find and when you have them, there is no guarantee they won’t steer you wrong; muses can become a crutch or the magic can simply evaporate or turn sour… but with monsters, it’s all pretty straight forward; expect obstruction, demoralization, and disappointment as default. Knowing shit is fucked up and people are assholes can be liberating...
This is the stuff quality anti-role-models are made of! How else are you supposed to know what not to be like until you have experienced it first hand?
In the end, you are the only constant in the equation – It’s your life and yours alone. Whatever ratio of mentors, muses and monsters you manage to collect (or whether you get it all rolled up into a single brilliantly psychotic person), it comes down to how you choose to apply these influences and derive meaning into your career and life.
The secret is simple: *Find out which really motivates you most (or least)
Yep, this is shit on my desk; but it isn't an ordinary turd.
I didn't do anything gross like fish it out of the toilet or save a coil of dog shit deposited by Pixel, my mighty Boston Terrier mascot.
This particular piece of shit was squeezed out of a crocodile's ass 10,000 years ago, thus it is petrified, free of odour, and mostly harmless, unless, in some unlikely circumstance, I decided to drill it at someone's face.
At this point, you are probably wondering, what the fuck?
Well, I do have a business point to make eventually, so stay with me on this ride as there is so much we can learn and enjoy from it.
As a metaphor, shit is an obvious and versatile business tool. It is such a compact and direct means to convey the magnitude of a poor assessment, whist also providing an embedded secondary measure of disgust in the inflection and tone of delivery.
You can tell, I hold the term in high regard and use it quite liberally, however, this is but a tangential tribute.
This piece of shit was excreted at a very amazing time; this was formed in the Neolithic age. For humanity, this is a pretty fucking big deal!
Often referred to as the tail end of the Stone Age or the New Stone Age, this was the period where stones were polished to manufacture new types of tool, the appearance of pottery, the construction of megalithic structures, monuments, and permanent shelter.
From even my shitty surface-level online skimming of this timeframe, it is obvious that this catalytic shift boils down to the gradual adoption of agriculture. Moving away from a nomadic or transhumance existence to a more sedentary lifestyle was the direct result of learning to farm. Just think of it, rather than having to set up camp, work your balls off to exploit resources, breakdown camp, then carry all your shit to the next place to set up camp and do it all over and over again... people could suddenly invest into establishing shit with their time.
According to Ancient History Encyclopedia, agriculture affected how human society was organized and how it used the earth. With the capability to cultivate and stockpile food for long periods of time, people could invest the intellectual resources to develop new technologies and then improve them over time.
Agriculture equals more food and, it turns out, less preoccupation with finding food results in more people, more complex social organization, which in turn makes more people and more complexity, until voilá, you find yourself reading this article on the internet.
This crocodile is minding its own business, like it has since the Cretaceous period, and takes an innocent and probably unexceptional dump, unwittingly enabling some human to postulate the significance of its excrement 1000 decades later.
Okay, now, you might start to see this post really is about the shit referenced in the title photo above; only, it is representative of all the figurative shit that each and every one of us do. And yes, we produce a lot of it, which really is a blessing and a curse.
In our personal and professional lives, we amass heaping piles of experience, featuring both failures and achievements. Busy and forward-thinking lives don't typically have affordance for reflection or strolls through memory lane, but I'm proposing that there is a lot of value to making the time to take stock.
The first time I had to roll back time was before moving to the UK. It was a little more intensive than updating a resume because I didn't have a resume to update. That happens when you are serving a long tenure and have an inward view of yourself with respect to the organization you serve, so I had to go full-blown archeological dig of myself to find the relevant pieces of information that communicated who I was, how I directly contributed, and what my competencies were.
It wasn't a nostalgic task because I was pulling shit together against the clock and a little worried with representing the right content as to meet the immigration criteria, but this was such an important exercise to take stock and remember ghosts from projects-past.
I'm talking about the forensic evidence and the marks that we, as individuals, leave behind. Our CV, LinkedIn profile, creative portfolios, our affiliations, they are a few of the pieces of the historical record that define who you have been.
I literally just saw a post on Instagram quoting JFK "For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.". It is a decent enough quote and what is timely about seeing this is, how it deliberately expresses "those who only...", so not implying that you shouldn't "look to the past and present".
Context setting is pretty fucking important, so plowing forward without any regard of where you have been or having some introspective view on who you actually are seems ridiculous.
Recently, I started documenting projects that have been important to me. It started with my last 4 most recent projects. The format was a one-slide summary for each item that included timeframe, project background, an image or related snapshot, key collaborators and why I thought it was significant to my career. I was surprised that before I knew it, I was on slide 28 and had already gone back as far as 2003.
I'm not finished with it yet and have started to interlace personal milestones because my desire is to map key points in my development and visualize common themes, consistent behaviours and recurring ideas and interests. Also, when I see it in this format, I don't just see a church or state view of myself... I get an holistic historical snapshot.
I have to say, this has affected how I view myself and how I run my business. It lets me reflect on the projects that failed and the moments that made them great, it reminds me of the circumstances that drove why I made decisions one way or the other, and it presents me with patterns that I can interrogate and critique in 3rd person fashion.
Naturally, it's a work-in-progress, never really meant to end or result in a singular conclusion or epiphany. But as the everyday shit continues to pile on, making a point to reflect on the things that matter from time to time, keeps healthy conduits between your past, present and future.
Last words with respect to my petrified crocodile shit. It was a present from my wife and came fully wrapped and wasn't a gag-gift even though it is completely nonsensical as I don't collect fossilized shit. This alone elevates its value significantly above all other petrified or fresh mucous-coated shit.
I'm pretty sure that our friend, the crocodile, had no idea that something so insignificant as its feces would survive millennia to find a home on my desk to inspire so much thought and provide so much joy. This reinforces how a little shit can go a long way.
~5 minutes read
A machine is going to take your job away… again!
This theme never seems to get tired, but this time, when it happens, it will trigger a chain reaction on civilization as significant as harnessing fire. It is the dawn of an age that will fuck with our minds on a whole new scale. And yes — tick tock — it’s almost time to cull the herd!
We’ve all been reading stories about it for years, watching all the keynote speeches, embraced the hype, and made our purchase decisions to fuel giants, so each of us, in our own way, has participated in the nurturing of the machine. We have been feeding it, placing our trust in it, surrendering our identities to it.
After all, machines will be machines… and for the most part, guided by external forces; they are, until now, tools in our service.
It’s understandable that when you read articles about artificial intelligence, they usually fall into one of two extremes, A) wonder with optimistic hope and B) the ‘we are totally fucked' Skynet camp.
This is the way we tend to operate. We all hate an ambiguous 3 star movie review and how many of you are happy when friends respond with ‘maybe’ to your dinner party invite? In every way, it is easier to extract and derive meaningful feedback from polar extremes.
As Dekkard put it… “Replicants are like any other machine - they're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem.”
The problem with this, and this whole article, really, is it doesn’t really have anything to do with fucking robots!
When I grew up, there was a lot of people that didn’t dig sci-fi as a genre. At the time, those that loved the shit tended to be social misfits, and were rightfully ridiculed, which in turn motivated them to take over the world. Thus, today, sci-fi is completely mainstream. For those late to the sci-fi party, do you ever get the sense you’ve missed out on the backstory of our present and the rudimentary survival training that came with it?
The shit is now.
According to an American trend study conducted in 2014 by Pews Research Center, Science and Technology ranks among the top 3 interests. It’s on top of Business, Sports, Entertainment, Religion and Government… with only local community events and health ranking higher.
We, as a civilization are booking it, full steam towards smart, autonomous, self-aware machines. Once this tips, a whole shit load of ‘holy fuck’ will unfold because the amount of change impacting daily life will be at unfathomable proportions… Think of the legislative and regulatory perspective, the economic impact, and, on a human emotional level, are we remotely prepared?
When you walk in on your partner fucking a self-aware machine, is that adultery? If you are the ASFR-type and fall in love with your robot companion, will your marriage be recognized by the state? How do we feel about hunting self-aware machines for sport and pleasure; is it cool? Will machines be our new slave class? Will they need human rights?
As the cantina dude at Mos Eisly said, “We don’t serve their kind here!”
It’s like opening a big ass can of tapeworm caviar.
Some people write how ‘we’ can steer this technology and make good social decisions. For sure, I support this kind of positive proactive approach as much as I oppose evil… but there is no shortage of examples where good intentions result in calamity… and, let’s face it, who is ‘we’ anyway? This stuff will be decided by organizations that have monetary measurements and line items for good deeds won’t balance the books.
It really isn’t about the robots…
Humans don’t like each other so much, we never have. We tolerate each other to maintain enough of a social fabric and cohesion so we aren’t alone to fight groups that we tolerate even less. In 2015, Wired published “Why people care more about pets than other humans” citing research by two American universities. What resounded most to me from this article was our ‘special concern for creatures that are innocent and defenceless”. In many of the experiments and research, humans demonstrated “the lowest levels of emotional distress” from victim scenarios involving human adults. This isn’t a smoking gun to support my point because I really don’t need any additional reinforcement beyond what I see, hear, and read on a day to day basis, it’s just fascinating that there are so many circumstances where we value animals over human lives.
Let's throw an inanimate object into the mix… save your phone or save a stranger scenario. I can only assume it would be a lot tougher decision than many would care to admit. If there was NO social consequences, I predict entire cities (if not civilizations) could be sacrificed to avoid the minor inconvenience of replacing a SIM card and having to set up a new device.
Now, from a workforce perspective, I don’t think anyone reading this has not been exposed to an employee, a business partner, co-worker, or boss who is certifiably useless, unreliable, or downright contemptuous. According to recent reports by Gallup, worldwide employee engagement remains dismal. 70% of people are just disengaged, unhappy, and have little to no trust in their bosses. They just don't give a shit.
Even though I am a sucker for a good underdog story, the reality is, I haven’t experienced enough turn-arounds where a disengaged under-performer becomes a super-star or even an asshat demonstrating slight improvement in attitude or partial reformation. Have you? Top that off with your most performant members bailing on you for better opportunities, it is typically an uphill battle on the HR front. Now how appealing would a nice reliable machine-force be to replace all the fuck-faces that most undermine your chances of success?
I get why we are fearful. Robots are scary not only because they can be better than us in many, if not all, functional ways; 1) they can be deployed in a manner that can take away your livelihood-as-you-know-it (btw, you are likely okay with them taking someone else's), 2) their purpose is programmed by an organization or person you do not entirely trust, 3) at one point, they will not require any human intervention at all to self-perpetuate, 4) they will learn to fear us like we fear ourselves, 5) they will evolve to become complete assholes too.
With any great invention or new innovation, any manner of good or nefarious purpose can be applied.
Benefit and hazard are ultimately in the eye of the beholder. Same scenario will mean something different to each individual. So, there can’t be common consensus to these coexisting states. The sudden and widespread obsolescence of entire categories of employment will suck for a lot of people. Even those who were awesome at performing their function will find it difficult to transfer their skills as all similar jobs would have also been eradicated. For others, this will simultaneously present massive opportunity and shit piles of money will be made.
For this reason, I don’t have an opinion on the good or bad of it all… throughout time, jobs have disappeared and new demands have driven needs that require new forms of expertise to be developed. The wheels of progress are going to keep turning regardless of my personal sentiments.
What I do know, however, is there will always be something to be worried about. The panic-du-jour will be robots one day and once we’ve come to terms with that (if we survive it), we will find something else to fill in the void that is somehow that much more terrifying.
I find solace in the illusion of preparedness.
My survival regime includes active participation in tech to earn some baseline of credible opinion, watching lots of sci-fi movies imagining they are real-world scenarios, studying news and history documentaries pretending they were created by screenwriters, and then making and saying shit as though tomorrow really matters.
After all, for now, it's still all about humans.
I was fortunate to be invited to the Canadian launch of Injustice2 and had the unexpected opportunity to meet and chat with Ed Boon.
Okay… for those of you who are into games, Ed Boon was one of the guys responsible for Mortal Kombat, the truly legendary arcade fighting game. It was released in 1992 by Midway and became, as we all know, one of the most successful fighting titles, spawning sequels and movies; not to mention forever influencing the genre.
I’m not an overly nostalgic type, but as I get older, little historic milestones like these are becoming more personally significant to me. I still remember the first time hearing ‘FATALITY’ and seeing it on the arcade floor in downtown Toronto… it was different, a little unsettling, and so irresistible.
Even though Ed’s worked on a lot of different titles, he will always be most known for his contribution with MK. This is one of the rare instances where when I use the term game-changing, it is not only used correctly in-context, but completely accurate... he, indeed, changed the face of fighting games!
Presently, the much anticipated sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 becomes available on May 16. INJ2 was developed by Netherealm Studios, which rose from the ashes of Midway Games in 2010, and is published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Nader Iskander, Product Manager of Video Games at Warner Bros pulled together a classy event. In addition to 4 demo stations, open bar and excellent catering, he invited local DC artists, Francis Manapul and Marcus To to create Injustice 2 inspired original art, giving the evening an authentic comic-con and gallery exhibit vibe.
The main attraction was, of course, INJ2, with Ed Boon the worthy Netherrealm representative and also director of the title. You can view the full Q&A with Ajay Fry, courtesy of Nyteworks’ YouTube Channel.
When things settled down a little later in the evening, I was able to get a few minutes with Ed. Even though he’d already been through droves of media and fanboys, he still had the enthusiasm to dive into a fresh conversation.
Aside from typical banter, I only really had one questions: I asked him what it was like to have worked on fighting games, almost exclusively, for so many years, particularly already having had such meteoric success with MK. I was glad he seemed to like the question, like it made him reflect back a little.
“It’s just so completely different.”, he said. “I don’t feel like I’m working on the same thing because of it.
“When we were working on Mortal Kombat, there were only the 4 of us.”
I have to add here that these dudes also had a ridiculous timeline and were expected to compete with Street Fighter II, but all I could say was “That’s amazing, man.”
“Today,”, he continued, “when you count everyone at Netherealms and include external resources that came in and out throughout development, we had nearly 400 people on the project.”
We both had a moment there, each of us mumbling to each other “100 times” with a bit of amazement at the sheer scale against MK… “100 times”.
Now, I have to say, I’m a pretty big supporter of hiring talent, paying them what they are worth, and giving them a great challenge. Injustice 2 IS totally gorgeous in design, execution and with incredible game-play, so it definitely looks and feels of an endeavour of such magnitude. In parallel, it also only serves to enhance my respect for Boon and his 3 original cohorts when they were given that fateful Midway assignment in 1991.
“I was the only one coding for 1, 2 and 3”, he said. “I can’t compare the experiences.”
I got the sense that he, not only, likes what he does for a living, but he was genuinely enjoying the ride. Perhaps it is the evolving nature of his contribution, the excitement of new innovation, re-envisioning DC properties, or just the challenge of refining the fight. As I often write about (and am fixated on) change, these few minutes with Ed were fascinating. Whatever it is that keeps him going, it was inspiring.
I wrapped up by congratulating him on Injustice 2.. and then, again for Mortal Kombat. I recanted what I wrote at the beginning, “I still remember the first time hearing ‘FATALITY’...” and, I added, “Thank you for making that happen and setting the bar on violence for me and all the following generations.”
Yep, that sounded pretty odd, but it wasn’t. Then we laughed the way dudes laugh in recognition of an awesome deed done.
Injustice 2 is available for Pre-order on PS4 and Xbox One: https://www.injustice.com/purchase
Photos by Chris Cheung and Evan Bergstra
~4 minute read
It's been exactly one month since I started on Patreon and, I have to report, it isn't turning out as I expected. It is, however, possibly something so much better in ways I did not imagine.
Crowdfunding isn't a new concept. If you look back at its historical usage through time (call it donations, bonds, or tithing) , it is a basic method of collecting capital. It doesn't have to happen on a large scale either – think of boys growing up in the 80s, pooling their coins to co-invest in their first dirty magazine; and even here we see it is not without problems because no fucking way is Jimmy going to take it home with his shitty 25¢ contribution!
Most sources point to Brian Camelio, a Boston-based musician and programmer, for triggering online funding platforms with the advent of ArtistShare in 2003. Its first crowdfunding project was Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden which raised $130,000, allowing her to pay musicians, rent the recording studio, produce, and market the ablum. It was then distrubuted exclusively through ArtistShare and won her the 2005 Grammy for best jazz ensemble!
Today, crowdfunding is pretty much everywhere and fall into 5 primary categories: Lending, Donation, Reward, Equity and Real Estate. Based on industry reports, crowdfunding growth is just plain on fire -- Kickstarter has exceeded $3B in pledges; 2015 hit a total funding volume of $34.44B; equity crowdfunding could reach $36B by 2020; Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext said equity crowdfunding “will be the future of how most small businesses are going to be financed.”.
This is serious shit!
For me, on a professional level, this is important to have a handle on. It is not only relevant for my early-stage clients, but to myself and large organizations too as it is having a broad impact across industries.
A month ago, while researching ecommerce and crowdfunding, I just realized there was absolutely no barriers for me to shift into practical, hands-on research. Just reading about this shit get's pretty academic after a while. 30 minutes later (really), Patreon account was made, fully populated with About, Rewards, Goals and a tingly, naive hopefulness that, magically, people would not be able to resist my clever projects and fork over their credit card numbers.
Decades ago, I supposedly said, on more than one occasion, "it would be great if there was a way I could harvest a small percentage of my friend's earnings so that I could concentrate on more ambitious things." Understandably, this was all very obnoxious and no one found it remotely amusing. In retrospect, I'm quite happy with how things have transpired in my life, my legitimate career, and corporate exposure as I firmly believe paying my dues has afforded me a modest level of perspective, if not some rudimentary wisdom.
How fucking insane is it to find myself actually doing what had been joked about so long ago. Unbelievable... and awkward too.
Patreon is interesting because its platform allows content creators to build their own subscription service. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms that help creators raise a single round of funding, Patreon enables recurring fan support.
Though my decision to just do it was impulsive, I already had all the ground work. My business had work-in-progress from my existing projects and Patreon seems to be a completely low-risk, complimentary channel to my existing business plan. The fact it was low-risk afforded me to be nonchalant about it... without great expectation, what harm could it do?
Okay, so I said it didn't turn out how I expected. This is true, not because I had little to no actual expectations, but because I didn't realize how much the act of committing to the platform would impact my expectations of myself!
This reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend, Patrick Byrne (an excellent business & M&A consultant at www.5-zero.ca). He was talking about the importance of commitment. That this fundamental state (or statement) can drive individuals or businesses to actions that have a direct impact on positive outcomes... Or, using a relatively recent sporting example, the Patriots, he claimed, despite being down 21-3 at halftime Superbowl LI, came back on the field committed to win. Okay, I've watched movies about epic coach pep-talks... why can't it be that simple? We all know this analogy only works because they totally came back to win it, so let's just go with it.
In my case, even though my Patreon adventure started off as a shits'n giggles experiment, I instinctively play it out as a full real-world scenario. This meant not leaving it as a dormant account, but going through the recommended motions of inviting friends to be initial patrons. It is awkward enough asking your closest of friends to 'subscribe' to you, but even more so when you know how much they hate subscribing to anything. Once half-a-dozen of them did me a solid, that is when it all clicked for me.
I'm taking people's money, damn it. Not just any anonymous, random people, but people I care about. And shit, they care about me and want me to succeed, despite stealing their money on a monthly basis. BOOM!
Yes, this may be a means to generate sustainable income. The platform is certainly capable of supporting recurring revenue and many people offer the right services that do amazingly well. In 2016, Patreon featured top creators that earned more than $150,000 and because it is subscription, they are more likely than not to make that much or more next year.
My discovery about the platform, though it pales in comparison with monetary gain, is the value of a gated community. I have but 11 patrons, but in my first 30 days, they have become a welcome part to my creative process, like muses. When I rolled out my newsletter reward at the end of April, I did an entertaining recap of noteworthy activities and shared sneak-peaks of what was in store for the weeks ahead. It wasn't like writing a press release or a blog, rather, it was like writing a letter to friends or advisors. Then, I moved on to make my 2nd reward, a collectible greeting card. Perhaps it was the virtue of doing it the first time for a small exclusive group, but I fucking loved doing it. Finding that meaningful, personal angle and hand-crafting it, which draws upon cognitive and physical skills that differ from my day-to-day activities, was simply rewarding.
My patrons deserve quality shit. That's my job.
Of course, this reward is still en route to most of them, so I have no testimonies to prove my shit doesn't suck. Until then, I'm going to stick with the positive sense of self-gratification and pat myself on the back for a job well done.
On May 4th, I held my first company event, a fancy soiree that I called Meta Olympia Night with the purpose of reviewing my project to-date. It was bound to happen eventually, but having mentioned it in the patron newsletter the prior week, I was super motivated for it to happen and with the flare that truly reflects the business as I aspire it to be. I confess, I suddenly find myself regarding my patrons as though they are advisors; their opinions matter that much more than an average human being.
In this manner, my attitude on social media has also been affected. They are two different things entirely, but now when I think of sharing content, Patrons become a factor. By comparison, standard social media likes are like empty-calories. No doubt, participating in that ongoing popularity contest has its purpose, so all I'm saying is, patrons satisfy a parallel purpose that I previously was not aware of.
It is early days still with lots of new discoveries to come with Patreon and other services. Considering my business model doesn't dependent on outside investment, crowdfunding or otherwise, my first exposure to crowdfunding has been enlightening and encouraging. I'm planning on continuing to use and exploit its service as a versatile membership network, where I can bend it to support my process and exercise a healthy cadence of micro-milestones.
Best of all, I feel pretty fucking good today. I'll take these little victories that come along the way. Success can be a lot of things when you let it and especially when you don't obsess on the failure.
P.S. Thanks to my awesome Patrons! This article would have been totally different without you guys.
Develop3D posted the speaker videos from their 2017 D3DLive event, which is excellent because I missed so many of the 42 other sessions. Martyn wrote a great round-up article last Thursday that summed up the show, its continuing growth, and confirming 2018's date and venue.
For the sake of posterity, the Mighty Matters session is embedded here for your viewing pleasure (all 40 minutes of it).
When I got back from D3DLive this year, I wrote a short post on Medium that I called The Virtures of Getting Out There that expressed my genuine satisfaction of getting back on a stage mixed with the general apprehension of public speaking. Presenting is not only an essential business skill, but is an extremely rewarding creative process and, if you want it to be, a high-performance tool.
This morning, I got off my ass to write this post to wrap up my whole 2017 D3DLive adventure. In doing this, I noticed something interesting about myself and my behaviour. Now that the video is available, I have absolutely no interest in watching myself. For sure, I think it is valuable to evaluate one's performance after the fact, but reality is, just not something I am compelled to do anytime soon.
When I was searching for the video embed link, however, I found an old interview with Rain Noe of Core77. This was from 2010, back when I was responsible for Autodesk's SketchBook product line. I remember doing this, but I actually have never watched it in its entirety until this morning. I'm happy to report, the viewing experience did not induce self-loathing, overwhelming feelings of embarrassment, or inadequacy.
I think this is a positive sign.
Similarly, when hosting a dinner party, I often find that I am so focused on the food preparation and execution that I just don't have a desire to actually eat. Dissimilarly, there really is no equivalent to digesting food prepared 7 years ago as opposed to watching some old archived digital content.
I am pretty sure I don't have any hard rules on the length of my viewing embargo for this sort of thing, but clearly, I prefer a generous soak-time before any self-viewing. This is certainly a personality-thing; probably with traces of a generational-thing too as today's youth are being raised with a default, perpetual self-broadcasting mentality.
Communication IS a fundamental -- we live in a society, damn it -- but knowing what voice you have, how you can use it, and, if you want, pushing your affinity in this discipline, is a pretty fucking amazing way to enhance your capacity with respect to sharing with others and, in doing so, learning a shitload about yourself.
*Reasonable facsimile transcript of 3D3Live talk can be found here.
Become a Patron!
~2 minute read-time
I've watched enough horror movies to know the intensity that comes in those moments when main characters approach a mangled body, with only a flashlight in-hand, and one of them turns to ask 'Is it dead?'. I don't care how many books you've read, how many degrees you have spraying out of your ass, or how many companies you've founded and flipped, THESE are the high-tension scenarios that make business unpredictable and fucking exciting!
That body is either a business, a product or someone's career, of course. And in real life, approaching this could-be-corpse can be equally intense.
There are a whack-load of other what-if scenarios that can play out, but these are the one's that immediately come to mind. They are all super fun to think about, but I really only wanted to talk about A, B and C... the nearly dead, presumed dead and barely alive.
In my career, I've been mostly given mangled bodies (I am sure many of you have similar experiences in this department), but I have a definite sweet spot for the against-all-odds comeback story. You need a certain amount of optimism when presented with this type of business problem because it just isn't pretty to begin with. Even the process of triage – determining risk, amount of investment, and tactical approaches – gives absolutely no certainties, and yet, it is exactly for this reason that it has so much potential for great reward. When something isn't certainly dead, you never really know what will happen.
Here are a few almost-died things that I want to give props to.
According to Fortune, vinyl records sales are at their highest levels since 1988! Com'on, that is pretty fucking awesome. To make $416M means there is a whole lot more to it than hipsters and nostalgia. Whether that be collectors, audiophiles or whatever, the medium certainly pulled itself from the fire and is proving it can co-exist alongside the many flavours of digital distribution.
Digital channels wrought havoc on the print industry and a lot of print shops totally crashed and burned in the race to the bottom. It was painful and it's still a struggle, but what didn't kill it, looks to have made it stronger. Digital and physical are not mutually exclusive and those that have been able to leverage the mix are offering higher-margin services and more specialty print services to a more loyal client-base. Once digital-only creative agencies are seeing a new surge of demand for printed products, definitely proving there is not only an occasion for it, but an irreplaceable tactile and emotional value.
Okay, this franchise was never at risk of death, but on a personal level, it was pretty dead-to-me. The post-Disney era was a welcome surprise, restoring a child-like enthusiasm to the saga, which quite frankly, I never would have guessed was possible.
So hail to stuff that fade away, somehow endure, and crawl back from the brink to return to the land of the living.
As the saying goes... it ain't over till it's over!
Corpse sketch by Chris Cheung.
Thanks to Eric Mason for his album shots and Astley Gilbert LTD for shots taken on print floor.
- The following is a reasonable facsimile of the talk delivered at Develop3D Live, March 28, 2017
- Approx. 20 minute read... for entrée-portion food for thought
All images property of Mighty Dynamo Inc. and MAY be used so long as attributed to Mighty Dynamo and respective artists or hyperlinked wherever possible.
When I start this kind of thing, I always need some foundational concepts to build on. I liked motion because it is a simple and a real representation of change over time. When you are in motion, there is activity, something is happening. When you're at rest, well, not a whole lot is happening.
MOTION: change in the position of a body with respect to time or another body.
The physics of FORCE is another key aspect. We all exert and are constantly reacting to forces imposed on us (physical and psychological).
Newton’s second law explains how the velocity of an object changes when it is subjected to an external force.
LIFE is meaningful as it pertains to our personal lives, but also in how we personify inanimate and even intangible things. After all, we apply liberally: building lifecycle management, corporate stages, product end-of-life, job life planning...
The condition that distinguishes a person, a career, a legal entity, product or service from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.
Let's begin with an individual.
We can plot a person's life against time in, say, 20 year increments... They are born and they typically have an operation life of about 80 years. Optimistically, I've presented it here in excess of 90 years. For the purposes of this discussion, let's say that the front-end and the very back-end aren't as "productive", but lots of crazy stuff happens in between.
A career is a subset of a person.
It deserves to be extracted and presented on its own because we all know a career can take on a life of its own. Of course it overlaps our most productive and functional years and many careers can be so demanding that it actually consumes a personal life by the sheer force it exerts. Careers can have many segments, changing of roles, promotions, moving to a new organization, and gaps in employment.
A business is a legal entity.
Most businesses have very short lives, but many do stick it out to survive to make a go of it. A very select few scale up to become resilient empires that last decade upon decade.
Products & services are sometimes referred to as 'babies'.
Similarly, they can be but a blip on the radar suffering poor mortality rates or they too can make a decent run at it, making or breaking the companies that produce them.
Nothing exists in isolation.
When we swap in vectors along the life cycles, we can start to imagine how the dynamics can play between these 'lives'. Each have their own forward momentum, but the direction and magnitudes are changing due to their own respective circumstances while also influencing each other. When forces line up, the math can result in high-fives all around... But when they aren't, it can mean a ton of resistance, conflict, and just plain piles of shit. It is easy to see how a failure in one will cascade to affect all the others.
Now, let's jump right into the spaceship metaphor. The gigantic ships represent massive enterprises and this scales all the way down to the tiny crafts that represent the sole proprietors and very small businesses. These big ships have bridges where the Captain and officers command, there are engineering bays, a place for marketing and communications. All those people are, naturally, the crew (or employees) and the torpedoes represent the products or services they offer. Smaller ships are much more streamlined with a proportional complement, but regardless of size, some have lots of ordnance and other just a few or one.
My background is industrial design, but I transitioned into tech soon after school and have spent the greater portion of my career at mid and large corporations. I've been involved with design, manufacturing, M&E and the Arts and my path evolved to managing products, teams, integrations and eventually the strategic aspects of an organization. These experiences have forged much of my perspective on business, my career, and how I approach my life.
About a year and a half ago, I decided to divert from my previous trajectory and dedicate myself to my own pursuits, so Mighty Dynamo is my little ship.
So, in the diagram above, I'm that tiny one with the circle drawn around it.
My business is split into two distinct parts. A consulting practice and the development of my own products and intellectual property.
My clients are awesome and they are very diverse, representing different markets, sizes and stages. They all have their own vectors and I come in with a tractor beam to help increase the magnitude of their respective vectors.
For my own torpedoes, my internal projects, I am working on 3 primary things: 1) a non linear story writing engine 2) a sci-fi-sport entertainment property and 3) a social responsibility design series.
The 1st, is still work-in-progress of the back-end, but to be honest its business model as a standalone product is weak. This is totally okay though because it is intentionally being built by my people as reusable components that ultimately will feed the 2nd, 3rd and potentially other products in the future.
Even though I'm not particularly a 'sports guy', the 2nd project is super exciting to me. It is an IP mashup of non-deterministic, statistically-driven storytelling via concept art and traditional journalism. It brings to life our near off-planet future, today. If it sounds cool, it is because IT IS, but what makes it actually exciting is its business model doesn't stink.
The 3rd, was inspired by an amazing project that I helped pitch in 2011. Along with my friend Candice Uyloan, we were able to bring together two companies, Autodesk and manga publisher Viz Media to respond to the tsunami disaster in Japan. It was such a rewarding experience to apply our combined resources for a common purpose and common good. Don't get me wrong... I'm not a saint and neither is Mighty Dynamo a non-profit... but, if I cannot inject this type of core value into my own company, then what the fuck is the point, really? So, for this reason, I dedicate a portion of my time to develop design projects that have the intent to inspire solutions for big, nasty world problems.
So, if i have done this right, all of this stuff should sound pretty awesome... And yet, I am often quite torn and of two minds; tremendously motivated on one-hand yet countered by moderate to overwhelming terror on the other. This got me thinking... I want to be able to share more than my personal testimony, so I created a quick survey to canvas the entrepreneurial 'friends' in my network.
Of the 33 respondents:
- 76% were either dedicated to their business or multiple ventures
- 18% ran a side business parallel to full-time work and
- the remainder were freelancing types
Key motivators for starting a business:
- 76% of respondents were self-motivated
- 24.2% were encouraged by friends, peers or family
I also asked two open questions: 1) what they like about being a business owner and 2) what they didn't like about it. I found a free word cloud generator and dumped in all the comments in to get visualizations of common themes. To extract emotional sentiments, I found Tone Analyzer, a free Watson powered bluemix demo app (if you haven't played with this, you should... try pasting snippets of other people's emails to you or transcripts from political leaders to see if you think it assesses tones accurately).
Words like FREEDOM, WORK, and FLEXIBILITY had the most frequent use, however, by analyzing the tone of the comments, in addition to tones of JOY, Watson detected traces of ANGER and DISGUST. Isn't that interesting?
The negative word cloud illustrated concerns around INCOME, that they have to work harder/longer, and UNCERTAINTY is a common theme. Watson's tone analysis picked up FEAR and ANGER.
Okay, after doing this, I became thirsty for more... this was just half the story. I cranked out another survey in Google Forms and fired it off targeting the full-time employed.
I had a good mix from of respondents coming from small businesses as well as those at mega corporations with tens of thousands of staff.
Their general sentiments towards work was a pretty even blend:
- 22.6% Happy-face
- 22.6% Indifferent
- 16.1% Eager and excited
- 16.1% Frustrated
- 16.1% Bipolar
- and great to report only 6.5% felt sad-face about work.
When asked, what they would do if they got shafted, the majority would look for similar or different full-time opportunities, but a sizeable 37.5% would consider starting their own business.
I was quite surprised by words like LOVE, WORK, and GOOD overshadowing the frequency of things like BENEFITS, but it was all pretty straightforward and the tone analysis: simply JOY.
For the negatives comments about full-time employment, no surprises here either... lots of things identified as LACKING (leadership, development, etc.), PEOPLE appeared at equal frequency as a negative as they did as a positive, and I would have been skeptical if SHIT didn't make it in there.
The crazy thing with Watson's tone analysis was the traces of JOY. So even when given the anonymous freedom to vent and say all manner of negative things, a bit of joy made it through.
This exercise was totally for shits-and-giggles, so don't call me on all the methods... but how cool is it to be able to get this type of quick barometer reading. Perhaps your circle of contacts, representing a different demographic, would have different attitudes. In the least, there is a small kind of something in all of this... even if it is just not feeling alone in the mania.
So this is a nice slice of the human condition. How about extrinsic factors?
Well, I picked 3 things that I think are significant trends
- Economic & Employment Factors
- On-Demand Everything
- Cultural and Attitude Shifts
When my dad immigrated to Canada, it was 1968. There he is at the airport and this other shot is him standing in front of the new futuristic City hall that had just been completed 3 years before, designed by Finnish architect, Viljo Revell.
At this time there were 3,533,966,903 humans on the earth. He came and played the classic immigrant story of working hard to learn a language and find a job. He worked for one job his whole career.
That is less common now... and there are more than double the competition... the population is 7.5 BILLION people, damn it!!!
Here are some call-outs from the British Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The number of employing businesses in 2016 grew by 14,000 and the number of self-employed increased by 84,000. Small businesses represent the largest of employment population and account for 33% or £1.2 trillion of annual turnover in the private sector. The majority of population growth since 2000 has been due to non-employing businesses, which accounted for 89% of the overall increase.
Similarly in the U.S., the government reports that 40% of the workforce is made of contingent workers. That's a 36% increase in the last 5 years!
And what is amazing to me is, the majority, 51% of small business owners are between 55-80 years old.
In my home country, Canada, small businesses account for 87% of net new job creation. In the last 10 years, that is 1.2 million jobs (of which 47,000 jobs in the manufacturing space and 137,000 people like me in professional and technical services).
78% of people leaving full-time are becoming contingent workers. This prompting Intuit to target this rapidly growing market.
Another warning: by 2020, 40% of jobs will be lost to automation!
So, contingent workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses are, by far, generating the bulk of new job creation in the rapidly changing landscape. This combined with the trends of accessibility and democratization is completely levelling the playing field.
On Demand of Everything!
As a small business owner, I decided to pull together a list of subscription services that I rely on. It was a really, really long list... I have things like GitHub (I'm not even a developer), Amazon Computing Services, Google Apps for my email and collaboration services, MailChimp, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Invision, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and even stuff like Shopify, Square, PayPal, Jira, and iTunesConnect. This stuff isn't expensive either and it gives me the infrastructure and capabilities to collaborate with cross functional people or teams, make shit, distribute shit, and market the fuck out of it with the same fidelity as I was used to at a fortune 500! How fucking cool is that?
When you then look at the equivalent of on demand humans, it gets outrageous and the magnitude of it all explodes. All of these individuals have their intrinsic talents and are buffed with countless tools and services that magnify their independent capabilities, but also have the access to interconnect with others to operate in concert. Boom! Mind blown!
We all know people like this. In my last year, I have works with many new and many 'old' people from my past who have become this type of nimble on-demand human or business. Let me share just a few examples...
This is Clint. He's just incorporated UXpert two months ago, but he's was a seasoned freelancer building his base. He's not just talented in design and UX, he comes from a high calibre stock having developed skills and leadership at start-up and powerhouse corporations, so he knows his shit. His operation is about 5 people with potential to scale to 10+, and he's able to provide not just execution, but the process and business expertise to help a client make smart decisions. He feels he has a modular offering that can adapt with the ramping up and ramping down nature of projects at medium and large corporations and can fill in gaps that would be difficult, if not impossible, to staff up with an experience crew.
ChiCha is a partnership with Guillermina and Mariana. They are based in Buenos Aires and both came from major agency and corporate backgrounds. They both tried freelance, but found they were working all the time. After forming their business partnership, they were able to take on more clients, create better work, control their hours and scale. They deliver consistent work that exceeds their client expectations and are able to serve a global base. I met them on a project with a common client and love working with them, especially because their cultural background and experiences deliver different and unique outcomes.
Ryan Schmidt was the co-founder of Meshmixer. After selling that to Autodesk, he was one of their top research scientists. Last year, he decided to found Gradient Space, not to replicate what he had accomplished with Meshmixer, but to take his learnings and expertise in 3D design to create components that can allow himself and others to more easily create complex 3D products. He's been experimenting with native VR CAD that can run on game consoles.
This type of talent is not recruitable... and if you did find such a person, most companies wouldn't be able to afford him... that is, as a full-time resource. Now, he partners with clients to make products that advance his research and proprietary components. So someone like me theoretically has access to this level of brain...
Then there is Leonard. His background is publishing, tech and M&E. 6 years ago he co-founded Ballistiq Digital, a professional services agency with expertise in web experiences and platform building. This business grew because of their ability to work with big brands and deliver bespoke web apps and online solutions. About 2 1/2 years ago, they boot strapped ArtStation, a community for artists in the M&E and creative spaces to showcase their work. This side product exploded and they are now north of 1200 Alexa rating, with an average of 2.8 million monthly uniques.
As a side note, I actually used ArtStation to recruit some of the talent for this article/presentation. One ad for freelance concept artist brought me 1200 applicants in 7 days! It was unbelievable.
Imagine how ease it is for freelancers, small business, hobbyists or entrepreneurial-tourists like this to line up their resources to get shit done.
When they assemble, they can behave like a mid-sized operation. They can quickly and easily form new business entities, and they don't even have to do it upfront... they can launch products or find funding even before sitting down to have a serious talk about how they want to structure the business.
Large companies can equally benefit from (or be punished by) this wide-scale on-demand trend. There are significant operational efficiencies to be had and the choices of how to augmenting resources via agencies or even smaller specialized consultants opens many new opportunities, so, there are plenty of good reasons to maintain healthy networks and trusted allies.
Different businesses and organizations have their own strengths and weaknesses based on their size, structure, and the stage they are at.
Little guys can be resource strapped... so collaborating with cash-rich organizations is beneficial.
Big-ass flagships can be risk-adverse and unable to navigate changing climates or combat new adversaries, whereas little guys are, by nature, super agile, free of legacy and bureaucracy-lite. They are ideal for suicide missions to test uncharted waters, experimenting and when they fuck up, the casualties can be controlled.
Small and start-up operations are also ripe for acquisition, so another avenue for innovation or talent acquisition. According to Charles Rim (former Google M&A), 90% of Google's transactions were small, less than 20 people and less than $20M.
In general, I'm not a huge fan of the way the term innovation is often used. For sure, innovation is great, but "wanting innovation" or claiming to be 'innovative' is pretty meaningless.
I believe innovation needs to come from within. Within an individual and woven in the culture of an organization.
For example, it drives me nuts how many offices have adopted a kind of abomination of open concept space where humans are placed in close proximity of each other, particularly when done in the name of 'improved collaboration'. Read the studies... yuck! Old school design studio, on the other hand, were also open concept, but there was buffer and affordance for privacy (big ass drafting tables were awesome proximity shields). Even without bringing into play introversion and extroversion, having someone within earshot (not to mention smell-shot) is completely counter-intuitive, stifling creativity (along with common decency).
Like our minds and muscles, shit needs to be exercised and practised. Nurturing creativity and fostering innovation is similar. Building muscle involves strain and damage, followed by healing and strengthening. I firmly believe that this is how great ideas and new solutions get born. So you need to come together and slog it out with co-workers, but you also need them to get the fuck out of your face.
Innovation on a personal scale is similar. As individuals, we need the room to explore and experience many different things. Only in this manner do we build the framework from which to connect dots together and draw inspiration from one thing to apply to another.
For individuals... I think it's really essential to be on top of what's going on... both inside your head and all around you. Keep tabs on what you want because you know it changes all the time. Know what you are capable of to understand your limits and also the aspects you can grow and develop that keep you relevant.
Keep your values as many jobs and situations can have expectations that can conflict with them. When experiencing opposing vectors, you need to consider doing something about it or evaluate your options. The 'be true to yourself' quote, though rudimentary, is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Make sure to have a perspective, and a lot of it. Take the time to observe the world and develop an opinion. When you encounter situations that are alien to you, being able to draw upon your experiences is your first line of defence.
Do you suffer moderate anxiety about the robots? They are already here in so many ways, but the subsequent generations of AI and robotics will radically impact so many facets of our lives. Professions, en masse, will become obsolete and the landscape will be unrecognizable to what is familiar today, BUT, keeping a bit of perspective, you won't be blindsided by it and, as history serves, new needs WILL arise.... the cycle plays on.
This makes it all the more necessary for each of us to develop our intrinsic abilities and amass the experiences that prepare us and make us unique compared with our human and machine counterparts.
Similarly, for small business, be aware and know your risks. On a personal and business level, what can you stomach? What are your measurements? Set them and revisit them. How does your mission and vision drive value and create new opportunities?
Opportunity is like an endless revolving door that is fuelled by change. Niche markets, uninteresting to large public organization at one point, can explode to become a cultural norm. The future can't be what we see today and smaller organizations are prime for experimenting and introducing novel solutions that push the boundaries.
If you work at a large organization that doesn't have one, an Innovation plan can be useful. It doesn't even have to be right, but it forces the dialog of how you can keep ahead of the game. It can happen internally, in collaboration with partners, be a mercenary team, or inform your M&A strategy. Just remember that culture comes from top down, so innovation really needs to be internalized regardless of the approach.
Leverage the new resource dynamics to your favour and get the right players on your agenda. It is low risk to test external talent and experiment without diverting focus from your core teams. When you use external forces, try making part of the mandate the expanding your knowledge-base. Highly skilled consultants are a wealth of knowledge (with more potential impact than you marathoning TED talks over a weekend).
Change is imminent... Bad shit happens. It's okay that it gets you down, but a pool of misery won't do anyone any good in the long-run. Pick up the pieces, learn from it and get the fuck up!
If you weren't ahead of it before, embrace the change. Find the flesh-based humans and the machine allies you need to thrive in the world.
Just remember... The world has no shortage of needs and problems. Come on, you know that even most of the existing solutions out there are total crap in need of a solid kick in the ass.
The future needs to be and IS defined by you, specifically, and especially not that other asshole none of us can stand.
The cycle of life is change, it needs new ideas and new business to be born into the world, so what are you waiting for, get out there and make sweet love.
P.S. According to Tone Analyzer, this post is equal parts JOY, ANGER, and SADNESS.
P.P.S. Contributing Artists:
- Tom Lopez
- Nimit Malavia
- Skottie Young
- Jessie Lam
- Mark Torres
- Chris Cheung
People, as human beings, are pretty straight-forward.
Legitimate businesses, such a sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships or trusts, are legal entities and have the capacity to enter into agreements, assume obligations, incur and pay debts, can sue and be sued, and can be held responsible for its own actions... They are empty vessels that come to life through people that accept responsibility and act on its behalf, which is super fascinating.
It is a fantastic puppet show where sole proprietors can magically use terms like 'we' and mega corporations with thousands of employees can invent artificial personalities from corporate values that, in turn, speak as 'I' through clearly defined brand and tone-of-voice guidelines.
I think it is useful to acknowledge and understand the many layers and facets of this topic whether one is interacting with, or on behalf of, a legal entity. Sometimes, I think of them (legal entities) as living creature or beast where the human aspects represent organs, tissues, and all the guts that sum up the whole... But I am also a fan of spaceship metaphors because we, as humans, remain constant (as humans) and retain all our familiar attributes and colourful behaviours AND the ships present all the facade, scale, and structure of business.
For example, we can pretend someone (the captain) creates a company (which is a ship) and we can imagine the recruitment of a crew to help steer it on some grand voyage, ill-fated mission, or into battle for some kind of righteous financial-based war.
In this fashion, big companies would be these massive star cruisers with hundreds of crewmen to keep her operational; conglomerates would have entire fleets with ships of all shapes and sizes maneuvering in concert to some master plan; and small to medium sized businesses filling out the spectrum.
You get the picture... it is pretty cool.. a cosmic theatre with all the thrill and drama one could imagine – From the head-to-head conflict of powerful adversaries vying for some finite resource, the small town kids building their own shit-box to make a run for the ultimate prize, the mercenaries ready to flip their flags for the right price (or cause), right down to the ramifications of mutiny or the gut-wrenching loss of a beloved Captain sending a ship into a downward spiral.
Today, ships are changing.
That vessel you spot in the distance, whether it has a silhouette big enough to eclipse a small star, or perhaps it has a profile no larger than an escape pod, you can't over or underestimate what you are up against.
That massive ship may incredibly be steered by a tiny, super-efficient crew capable of doing more, better and faster than an entire fleet.
That harmless looking micro-craft with the unproven pilot approaching... it could very well have the stuff you just weren't built to defend against and teaches you a quick lesson in obsolescence.
On the flip side, it's hard to feel sorry for that cocky son-of-a-bitch who flew his ship too close to an armada flagship before realizing he didn't have the power to escape her gravitational pull and was shattered into bits skipping across her hull.
This space opera perspective does it for me.
You can throw me any scenario of M&A, talent poaching, dysfunctional teams, recession, scandal, IP litigation, VC funding... we can totally ignite our imagination on many, otherwise, uninteresting aspects of business. It can be a total slog out there and it's easy to become complacent or lose sight of what's happening around us. Finding the tools, interests, and approaches that keep you, individually, motivated and engaged in your work is really your own responsibility. The beauty of it is, if you do it right, not only can it spawn a lot of new ideas, but it can inspire those around you... making you awesome, if not moderately insane (which comes with the territory).
*Illustrations by Tom Lopez.
Having recently closed out Mighty Dynamo's 2016 financial year, I've been reflecting on life as a small business dude compared with my alternate lives at mid-size and large corporations. Naturally, I am all in on what I am doing NOW, but in general, I think there are just so many different pros and cons that map against an individual's life stages and personal circumstances, that it is a bit of a revolving door.
With that said, however, I've decided to find out more about this. It is important to satisfy one's curiosity and in this case, insights could, in some shape or form, be used to help someone else along their own magical mystery ride.
Share your view!
The surveys are about 12 questions, so only takes a couple of minutes to complete.
Smart-ass, non-scientific, insights to follow!
We've all heard the story about the little train that could. Well, I'm here to tell you that most can't. And, you may be actually lucky if you are onboard one of those because a shitload of others just completely derail, hurling bodies and twisted wreckage everywhere.
You think that is ugly? Well, what if most of the trains that do make it are packed with total assholes! So, you are more likely than not to be shanked or made to endure such unspeakable acts that you're such a psychological mess afterwards that you wish you were shanked to begin with.
So what does this all mean?
Perhaps it is a classic exercise to expect the worst while hope for the best. The world consistently needs a small, healthy population with the right combination of ambition, optimism, and ignorance to give it a go even against the most dismal of odds.
I'm no fan of risk, but I'm even less interested in static scenarios. From what I understand, death sounds like a super static situation, so I'm inclined to believe that the living portion should have an abundance of movement before that finale approaches. However movement is defined, in this context, it needs to be subjective and personal.
For me, one example of this is, in fact, an engine. For a year and a half, we have been slowly building the back-end to an online platform, not dissimilar to things like Medium, Watt Pad, or Google Docs. What it actually is, is still abstract, but what it can be and the actual form factors it can take is insanely exciting. We believe it will at least become an account-free writing platform (that we affectionately call Terminal Writer), a pliable memo tool (cleverly known to us as Memochi and a story development tool designed to handle multi-contributors writing against non-linear timelines to a single universe (we just call this one story-engine)
Presently, the engine is this website.
So, I can't tell you what train we (myself and my collaborators) are on, not clairvoyant. And even though we my not be able to advert disaster, we have made deliberate choices to control as many of the starting conditions and establish counter-measures to manage this ride as best we can. This doesn't make us super fast, it may not make us interesting (yet), but it does manage our financial and emotional risk without impeding our fundamental values and ability to make progress or change. Because of this, I believe, whole-heartedly that our train will make it.
I think I can.
We think we can.
Access to strong visual talent is priceless for virtually every industry, particularly those that don't think they need it.
In our case, we unequivocally NEED extra creative hands-on-deck, so it's just a matter of who, when and how to make it all work. As some of you probably know, it's a bit of a bingo-night when it comes to resourcing for a project. You need all the stars to line up to get the right person at the right time, so a practical approach is to find and build that creative network that widens the pool.
I fired this puppy out last Sunday, it gets approved within a couple of hours, and boom... 7 days later, we are sitting on over 1000 responses (and counting). Full disclosure: I've always been a super fan of ArtStation AND I collaborate with the dudes on a regular basis, but, even still, wow am I impressed.
Me and the crew have gone through about 250 portfolios and the quality of the pool is really looking super good. It will take a few more days to scrub through all of them before we can make any decisions, but, man, it's already hard to choose.
If you are one of the artists who reached out to us, thank you. We promise to go through each and every submission with the attention it deserves.
If you are an artist looking to log a few extra hours of creative time, we'd love to hear from you HERE. The genre is primarily sci-fi slanted, but we are interested in having access to a broad range of different styles and approaches.
Last but not least... Kudos to ArtStation!
There's nothing like a good excuse to be among your peers. When it is packaged up as a trade show in a city like San Francisco, it's a pretty solid formula for fucking good times.
Last week was GDC. It's been a long time since I've last attended that show, but thanks to my collaborators at ArtStation, there was extra legitimate motivation. In fact, I don't need a lot of excuses to hit up San Francisco; It is the hub to tech powerhouses, a massive ecosystem of VC with accompanying start-up fodder, and it is an epicentre of creative talents fuelled by some of the world's top studios in design, publishing, games, film and advertising.
Having previously worked at a company who's head office is in the Bay area, I logged my share of visits. More importantly, what keeps me coming back time and time again is a base of truly exceptional friends and contacts that have tipped the balance so that all the actual yuck and terrifying qualities of that city pale by comparison.
We aren't talking about the collectable variety of friend in the social media context. Everyone should aim to attain and maintain meaningful and substantive friendships, ones grounded in trust. Regardless of how the lines are drawn, whatever level of intimacy, shape, or size of it, when shit goes South, your friends are those that you can count on in their own unique and respective way.
The value of friendship is pretty easy to qualify. On the other side, it is handy not to have any enemies, but let's face it, there are lots of happenstances in life and business that can lead to less favourable sentiments. Like any good story, it is usually impossible to shake these antagonistic characters out of your plot line.
For the most part, many varieties of enemy are mostly harmless. In fact, they can offer a number of useful side-benefits... For example, as anti-mentors, they provide you with the perfect model of what not to be like, a benchmark from which you can analyze and develop against. Beyond this kind of counter-intuitive self-help, it is also your responsibility to find appropriate techniques to manage your personal adversaries. If an enemy knows how to push your buttons and bring out the worst in you, you'll need to fortify your own self-control to resist potential downward spiral. Your reputation is precious, so protect it. A solid baselines to work with include civility, professionalism, and even legal considerations.
Maintaining enemies is a lot of emotional effort and in the many layers of 'its a small world', you cannot just rely on friends to succeed in life. Similarly, you may need the support of a rival and that will probably be a battle you play against yourself as much as your perceived adversary.
Ultimately, friends and nemeses are floating points.
Life is short. You can't have enough friends. You can be your worst enemy. Never say never. Live to fight another day. Eat more fruit.
There it is... A regular dose of self-awareness and a healthy attitude can go a long way in helping to navigate through the burning shit piles and assholes that come hand-in-hand with life and business.
We are surrounded by time capsules. They are literally littered all around us in countless forms, like history-landmines waiting to explode in our faces with any manner of good or bad consequences.
Today, I'm happy to report that memory lane is accident free and reverse-traffic is moving better than normal. In fact, we thought we were just going backwards for a little, but we somehow veered right into a god-damn dimensional portal and it's fucking taking us through yesterday and blasting us into a candy-land circus of uncharted space.
I love detours for exactly this reason. Many times, this can happen through other people, sometimes it wells up from within, and other times the triggers can be an unexpected sequence over a period of weeks, months or even years.
Recently, gravity has been slowly drawing me back to 2011, to a specific project. It was conceived with (at the time we met) a total stranger. I was hosting a gallery exhibit and we had just met, but somehow, in those brief moments, we knew with absolute certainty that we were going to do something to help with the Tsunami recovery in Japan.
Her name is Candice Uyloan and she was (and is again) director of marketing at Viz Media. The project, we named Art for Hope and we pulled together artist from around the world to publish an anthology with all proceeds going to the relief efforts of Architecture for Humanity.
Okay, history lesson over and back to forward momentum.
This weekend, I stumbled on the digital file of Art For Hope on an external drive. Haven't looked at it for years even though I have been periferally thinking about it (the purpose, the people, the details of how we launched it, the media, the other people, Fukashima Daiichi, all of it). Reading it wasn't nostalgic in nature (and when I say reading, I mostly mean looking at pictures with only sprinklings of words) . I found my mind had drifted forward, processing and scheming something rooted in the past, but searching for all the different aspects required to justify something resembling forward propulsion versus any desire to recreate the past.
I got it!
I'm going to fucking do it. It is more likely than not going to end in disaster, but fuck it, it will be cool in the end.
So, I'm sorry to say, I don't have any magic reveal to wrap this post up. This was just a friendly service announcement about how time and ride analogies can somehow help and mentally enrich us. This is a recurring theme, so you will hear it again with slightly different analogies and anecdotes.
Here, how about we close with the original forward I wrote from Art for Hope as it can be perceived as fitting...
The devastating power of a tsunami is well-known.
And while a sense of hope following a disaster is intangible, it similarly can build momentum to become, in and of itself, an incredibly powerful force.
On behalf of the Autodesk and SketchBook team, I would like to thank VIZ Media and all the contributing artists who made this anthology a reality. And most of all, by buying Art for Hope, you have fulfilled an equally important role in this project. Your donations will contribute to the ongoing relief efforts.
P.S. My vision of hope is centred on children. When you see or hear of news of this nature, you cannot help but think of family. In my sketch, I modelled the children after my own daughter and son, ages six and four respectively. As a parent, I always desire their happiness and well-being, so drawing them amid a tsunami expresses my most genuine sense of hope... It was even important for me that their expressions depicted happiness, that their safety is never in question.
September 19, 2011
Our experimental Store is live and open for business, so it's a pleasure to introduce...um...STUFF.
One could argue that the world doesn't need more stores, but this actually isn't about shopping more. We believe in LESS; that it's the little things that matter. So long as the little things are the right things for particular people, in this fashion they become special, mighty... mighty matter.
A good example of 'less' is Gemology Illustrated. It is part of our The Sparkliest brand; a shamlessly tribute to the love of precious stones. Diamonds are a huge industry, just massive, but despite this, in many ways, the category is underserved. With Gemology Illustrated, we present 6 vivid renditions of iconic diamonds that celebrates their optical beauty and wondrous properties. Though these were not forged in the belly of the earth over millions of years like the originals they pay homage to, their value is born from the artist who captured her own genuine passion for these stones to share them with the world: available in a variety of affordable form factors.
Mighty matters, so shop MiDy! www.midy.store
Mighty Dynamo Inc., incorporated January 23, 2012, was originally conceived as a holding bay for product concepts, stories, and ventures. It was an independent side-operation that ran parallel to my then full-time engagement with Autodesk.
It may seem like a lot of bother to incorporate purely with the objective to protect unformed concepts and ideas, but there are numerous factors that can contributed to this being a good idea. An active imagination, ample curiosity, and a modest level of ambition made more than adequate rationale.
The beauty of it is, the company, like a child, can be born with all manner of expectations, but it is, ultimately, defined only through its actions, successes and failures (the emulation of actually living). Interestingly enough, even though the entity was largely designed to be inactive, the act of forming it has directly influenced all subsequent choices that have lead to this very moment.
Today, Mighty Dynamo is a growing design studio and strategic consulting practice. It's deliberately small, but the right size to keep me and a crew of part-time staff, partners and freelancer collaborators busy.
The client work is dominantly assisting early-stage companies or kickstarting new initiatives at established organizations. Mighty Dynamo provides value by accelerating the conceptual phase (what the fuck are we doing?) as well as the 'get shit done' phase involving recruiting, out-sourcing, product strategy and go-to-market.
The goal of our in-house projects are to produce original products, no matter how seemingly insignificant or disconnected. I'm an advocate of leveraging personal passions as a differentiator, so you'll find us funding and working on everything from printed goods, physical products, story IP, digital apps, and even event productions.
As an objective, I want Mighty Dynamo to work with amazing people on interesting projects, big or small, to find clever solutions to crappy problems, to laugh (a lot), feel urgency when urgency is warranted, and get a whole lot of shit done.
Chris Cheung is the founder and executive director of Mighty Dynamo Inc. With more than 20 years of experience driving B2B and B2C products, Chris is a proven creative leader in technology, design, and the creative space. He's been a successful agent of change at organizations such as Alias, Autodesk, and The Foundry. As a speaker, he has hosted creative conferences worldwide, presented workshops at TED in Long Beach, and had 2 minutes of fame on Apple's Keynote stage in 2012. His current projects are a deliberate balance of strategic consulting, partnering on bootstrap projects, and in-house development of really shit, but totally awesome, ideas.
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