Jun 28, 2013

Clothing Optional

Is it alright to say the Emperor has no clothes?



I seem to receive quite a lot of flack when I make it a point to state the obvious. Being a trend forecaster isn’t exactly the most rewarding job, since most of the time what you say is either wildly misinterpreted or causes people who have the most to lose from you being correct to turn their ire and scorn on you.


A lot of the time it’s just a thankless position to be in.



Yoshiko's Alley_001



I’m not necessarily in a position where the point of being a synthetic environment S.M.E. is about recognition or praise, but instead it’s about trying to push an industry forward and break the stigma of failure that keeps repeating. That being said, you can only lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Even worse, a lot of times you’ll find that they’ll just rear up and kick you in the chest for trying.


So, too, we find a similar situation with a lot of things that I openly discuss. Whether it be about Second Life, HighFidelity, or other more mundane things like why avatars shouldn’t all be unrealistic proportions and heights.


In the case of Second Life, the Linden White-Wash campaign baffles me. It is fully in their right to insist on rose colored glasses and surrounding themselves with people who will gladly be in agreement with whatever they have to say, and of course it is in their right to surround themselves with only the people who will readily praise them.


But is that really beneficial in the end?


No, this is hardly the case.


When you read the articles online about Second Life, the negative aspects are what you read most often. Proponents of Second Life call that lazy journalism or that if they’d all just give it another chance they’d see how great it is. But the truth is somewhere in between what Linden Lab insists is reality and what the rest of the world outside of that rose tinted bubble says.


Keeping in mind that Linden Lab did throw pretty much everyone under the bus at one point or another leading up to today. Whether we’re talking about educational sims, opensim, third party developers, and even many companies that had a Second Life presence, Linden Lab leeched the hell out of all of them and then threw them all under the bus. Make no mistake, that’s what they seem to be doing best.


From a social media and marketing viewpoint, Linden Lab is doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing if they wanted to truly make things right and rebuild their credibility. Gary Vaynerchuk aid it best in 2011 (and ongoing) when he was talking with the brands he was representing, I believe Pepsi being one of them. There was a conversation about them having done something that was clearly despicable and it had turned into a social media backlash. When they asked Gary what they should do, he imply asked “Were you actually wrong?”


They replied “Yeah, but …”


There is no “Yeah but…” – “Were you actually wrong?”


See, the point Gary was making is that if you try to establish a PR bubble and whitewash the situation, you will actually do more damage to your reputation than good, because a majority of people will see through your bullshit and ignore your prepackaged reality to state things as they are, and not how you’d like them to be.





What is the benefit if you convince a few hundred people to constantly praise you if the rest who aren’t so prone to drinking the kool-aid are talking to the other 6 billion people on Earth? Even when it comes down to the JIRA, there is some serious white-washing going on and trying to bury the things that don’t coincide with their reality away from public eyes where it could make them look bad.


A perfect example of this is the difference between Mesh Deformer and Materials. Mesh Deformer was funded by the community, worked on and arguably completed long ago. Linden Lab locked down the JIRA in order to bury the things they didn’t want known publicly or to stifle that very type of community involvement – hence the whole Shared Experience and red-tape bullshit and hoop you have to jump through now just to get anything approved and done if you are dealing with Second Life. Before it was an organic evolution that left the best to be adopted in the whole, but Linden Lab was losing that game because they simply didn’t want to play nice. Their own viewer is not exactly one that people (given a choice) actually use, and so you saw how Linden Lab actively (and maliciously) started screwing everyone over.


Changes to the licensing that forced TPVs to play by Linden Lab’s rules and if they didn’t like it they could go scratch on the OpenSim grids. Implementing some sort of control channel that people who want to implement anything for a TPV viewer dealing with Second Life have to get some sort of approval from Linden Lab and (what amounts to) kissing their ass sufficiently.


Which brings us back to the difference between materials and mesh deformer.


Not to say that Materials aren’t nice (they are), but Mesh deformer is actually a solution to a widespread problem that has been paid for, worked on, and is (as far as anyone can really tell) ready to be implemented. But after maybe a year sitting in limbo with Linden Lab dragging their feet, treated like the black sheep bastard child they wish would just die and go away, it remains in the JIRA and unimplemented. In stark contrast, a new feature that doesn’t really fix anything gets expedited openly.


This is how the game is played now… either kiss their ass and do as they say, or you can’t participate. I don’t like how this works because it is wholly disingenuous and a corporate douchebag maneuver on their end any way you look at it.


So is it any wonder that trust is broken and the rest of the world has little good to say about Second Life?


Aside from the occasional PR fluff piece in order to (try to) make Linden Lab look good while sweeping the rest into the closet out of sight… one cannot readily blame the media for their negative perception of Second Life as the “They’re still around?” mentality. The only good press they seem to be getting in the real world (outside the rose tinted world) is the involvement with Oculus Rift which amounts to Linden Lab attempting to leech off of something else that is enjoying a bunch of hype in order to look cool again by comparison.


More or less that’s pretty much like hanging out with Macaulay Culkin right after he made Home Alone but before anyone realized he was hanging out at Neverland Ranch. It’s only hot until the hype bubble bursts and then nobody is really going to want to touch it with a twenty foot pole.


If there is any example of this asinine delusional thinking of PR, one only has to watch the Rod Humble “interview” with the Drax Files. I put interview in heavy quotes because from what I know, the questions were pre-submitted for Linden Lab to decide what they will and will not answer, and there was no room for anything that would deviate from what they were dictating would be the conversation. It was, for all intents and purposes, just a 5 minute promotional video dictated by Linden Lab ahead of time.


Now, if you want to talk about shoddy “journalism” – that’s what it looks like.


While I do enjoy what Drax is doing with his show, the Rod Humble interview wasn’t worth the time to be watched. It wasn’t a big deal, to be honest. Just PR fluff and a perpetual public relations bullshit piece that answered nothing other than how great they were and how everything is peachy. I’m kind of disappointed that Drax played along with that charade because the charade does more of a disservice than had he refused to interview Rod Humble unless he was open to questions that people *actually* wanted answers to.


That’s really what need to happen if you want this Fairy Tale to have a happy ending. You can fuel that charade all you want, but it doesn’t cover the real issues at hand nor does any of that actually get solved. So while the Second Life people who get attention from Linden Lab think they’re special… they aren’t. In the real world, where people aren’t catering to Linden Lab for favoritism, they tell it like it is because they are after the truth of the matter, not favoritism.


There is, of course, lazy journalism where they just copy the press release and call it a day – but you have to realize that they really don’t give a shit about Second Life anymore and any time they are put on to write about it, what they really want to write is


“Has-been company Linden Lab, (maker of Second Life), who threw nearly everyone under the bus or left them out to dry with a mountain of hype they couldn’t live up to, wants us all to pretend that never happened and write something flattering about them again.”


In the real world, Rod Humble doesn’t get to influence what is written about Linden Lab or Second Life. At least not to the totalitarian extent as they do with the bloggers and TPVs internally for that rose colored bubble they live in.



Which brings us back to the other point of what good is controlling maybe a thousand people going to do you if billion of people on Earth think otherwise?


Ergo, the Emperor has no clothes.





Then we talk about HighFidelity, which is inevitable at this point. It’s actually a good thing I wasn’t at the Burn2 event where he was being interviewed because I would have (without hesitation) tore HighFidelity apart, and the line he was selling.


Philip at Burning ManDoes that make me a bad person? Not in the least. That doesn’t even make Philip a bad person, because I can separate the business hype bullshit from the person. It is no worse than somebody pointing out (again) that the Emperor has no clothes. It doesn’t matter how many people want to scorn me for it, or threaten to stop following me on social media, or how they’ll never read this blog again.


The Emperor still has no clothes. And here’s the picture to prove it.


It’s not an opinion, it is fact.


Right out of the gate, HighFidelity is stating a contradiction in plain sight on the website for what they plan to achieve. They believe voxel technology is the future (which is true), then explain that what they are doing will allow a high fidelity detailed virtual environment visible into the horizon using sparse voxel octree methods.


This is where we back the train up a moment because sparse voxel octree won’t do that – at least not to my knowledge nor most game industry knowledge. Why do you think there was such a huge fallout when Euclideon announced unlimited detail in software mode in 32 FPS on a laptop?


The underlying restriction is that sparse voxel octree is excellent when it comes to single objects, which is why it is awesome in medical imaging and widely used. But the underlying issue is when you start adding more and more unique objects to the scene, which is essentially what you are going to do when building a virtual world (duh)… then the memory and computation requirement starts skyrocketing.


There is one of two trade-offs you can have at that point:


1. Either you can reduce the fidelity of the rendered environment


2. Apply brute force computation (Super Computer)


Prior to Euclideon and the Unlimited Detail engine, point cloud data had to be pre-rendered for presentation up to a half hour or a few hours in advance, and when it came to real-time visualization it was severely limited or outright broken if you dealt with too much data.


Euclideon, despite the world screaming they are a hoax, went ahead and just made that a reality – a company named Aerometrex (a geospatial visualization company in Austrailia) partnered with Euclideon to use GeoVerse. Sitting around crying about how you or I cannot get our hands on a demo is petty and childish at best. The reason isn’t because the technology doesn’t exist (like a lot of people want to insist) but because you’re simply not worth their time to bother with.




Apparently a little less impossible than everyone thought


At the same time, when originally proven wrong that Euclideon didn’t have the engine to begin with and that what they were claiming was impossible, it makes little sense to then change your tune and say “Well, see? They released GeoVerse, but they’ll never release a game engine! It’s impossible!”


I’ve even seen a lot of talk about how GeoVerse was the goal all along and that Euclideon never was going to release a game engine from the start. Which I say to those people: Bullshit.


I know this is wrong, and that Euclideon is working on the game engine still, because I actually asked Bruce Dell and I’ve seen some of the preliminary work with that game engine.


Here was his reply as of April 16, 2013 in case you were wondering:



Hi Will


The answer to this question is that Euclideon is not just working with Geospatial industry.
We have been working really hard and we are making both a games engine that is heavily based on laser scanning, as well as a full game.

Regarding static visualization, we have always had the fall back position of Euclideon backgrounds with polygon characters, but we still choose not to use that fallback position and both our engine and game will be using unlimited detail based animated characters.


We feel that on the one hand we really are over due to release something for the games industry, on the other hand i think that when people see what it is we have been doing here they will feel its rather a big leap forward over what exists and I hope every one will feel it really was worth the wait.

Kindest Regards
Bruce Dell



It’s pretty obvious at this point that HighFidelity doesn’t have access to Euclideon’s Unlimited Detail engine because of how they are structuring things on their end. Back to the two tenants that give it away as listed above:


Either you lower the fidelity to compensate, or you brute force the computation with a super computer.


If he had something like Euclideon, then HighFidelity would require neither trade-off in order to reach photorealism to the horizon. This puts HighFidelity squarely into the realm of sparse voxel octree or an optimized variation at best.


Which brings us to why HighFidelity needs to use the Seti@Home distributed computing approach and why Philip thinks you should run your spare computer and bandwidth to process the world for him. With sparse voxel octree doing what he states it will be used for, he has no other choice but to throw a super computer at it.


Clearly he cannot afford a super computer, so the bright idea is to spin it in a way that seems like all of you will be altruistic and be his servers for him. It’s a pretty sweet deal when you think about it – no overhead of running servers, everyone else foots the bill and CPU load of a photorealistic voxel persistent universe.


The problem with this (aside from the absolute asinine assumptions) is that if there aren’t enough people to process everything, it is still going to severely degrade in appearance to compensate, or it is going to choke even a high end computer trying to keep up.







This is beside the point of all the asynchronous bandwidth you’ll be using and processing to “participate”. I think it’s pretty clear from the Skylight Viewer that Linden Lab tried (and failed at) that a large majority of users aren’t in a position to be chewing up that much bandwidth on a constant basis, and not as many people as he’s thinking actually have spare computers laying around just to process the world for HighFidelity.


But the underlying problem is simply that a lot of things were taken very very far out of context, and then applied to a business model with incomplete or willful ignorance of the subject at hand. The only reason he got away with it is because he’s Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life. It’s a case of reputation versus reality when it comes right down to it.


If there is any reason why that aggravates me, it’s because the entire industry is poised to pay (once again) for Philip’s snake-oil sale. If the industry already is in a world of hurt from the Second Life round, what do you think the damage will be if they all get thrown under the bus again with hype and false promises?


To add insult to injury, Google Ventures is one of their investors, as well as Linden Lab themselves (so you can take a wild guess what Linden Lab is thinking).


If you come from the research side of things, you look at a situation like this and think:



This guy… took many years of research and valid trend forecasts for technology, wildly misinterpreted it or willfully ignored the conclusions, and then told Google Ventures and Linden Lab that an entire industry worth of research from countless PhDs around the world are wrong, and successfully raised a few million dollars in capital out of the gate without so much as a prototype.



So is this just whining? Not at all – I’m pointing out the blatantly obvious problem with HighFidelity and how even the claim of a decentralized collaborative virtual world system not existing anywhere on Earth is a flat out fabrication.


I have the ~200MB worth of source code and research paper from INRIA that says otherwise, named Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse, sitting on my external hard drive.


Even better is the lecture I gave for Loyola Marymount University for Dr. Richard Gilbert and Dr. John Dionisio’s class where we specifically talked about a decentralized methodology to apply for a scalable Metaverse, and that turned into a topic as part of the published research paper in Association for Computing Machinery (which should be out in a few weeks).


Am I worried about it?


No, but that isn’t going to stop me from saying the Emperor still has no clothes.


Me, personally… I have nothing to worry about. I’m going to be highly amused and entertained watching this ship hit the iceberg.



titanic header



When you need a super computer to run your new system… something is seriously wrong. I don’t care if Google Ventures and Linden Lab are throwing money at him, all the money in the world, and all the biggest names didn’t stop the Titanic from sinking, remember that. Don’t fault the guy for pointing out the damned iceberg.


History Lesson…


I find it interesting that whenever I make (what seems to me like) blatantly obvious observations about the current and future of a technology, and more often than not it comes true, I still to this day get people throwing some sort of hissy fit about it. Like I somehow stopped being right about things all of these years… which for a majority of the time I’ve been surprisingly on the nose about it all. It isn’t new to me to have somebody acting like I have no credibility (or even blatantly laughing and stating I don’t) only to watch them get damned quiet when they are forced to backtrack that sentiment later on.


ActiveWorlds is a classic case of this. In 2007 I left a list of things that company needed to do if they wanted to regain their ability to compete. After all manner of shitstorm and people declaring I had no credibility anymore, the company banned me from their forums and made a joke out of it.


The funny thing is -


From 2007 onward to today, they started actually implementing everything I told them they had to. Recently, they got to the “make citizenships free, and work off of microtransactions” recommendation, along the way implementing PhysX, and making other changes that were listed in the forum post I left for them while I worked at VR5 Online as their CTO.


The last thing on their list is to rebuild the ActiveWorlds engine using something updated like UnrealEngine or Unity. A modern engine for modern times.


The same thing happened to BlueMars when in the beginning I told them they were destined to fail for following the same model as Worlds Inc in the 90s. They again were typical in telling me I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about and they knew better.


Again, the same situation for Atari as what happened with ActiveWorlds, where they were left with a clear plan of action to avoid ruin and didn’t implement it until they got desperate and after the fact they scorned and laughed.


I said the same thing to Bruce at Avaya/webAlive during an IEEE meeting and he (predictably) told me I didn’t have any credibility. I had told him that Avaya/WebAlive was akin to the web VRML/X3D push in the 90s where everyone was saying (surprise!) VR is the Future of the Web! This is also why I don’t think Virtual Worlds Framework really has much of a future in that regard either, because we already have standards for 3D on the web but nobody uses them anymore.


If anyone was truly interested in 3D on the Web, they’d have made a WebGL version for X3D and VRML, extending it for modern graphics.


You don’t hear much from Bruce anymore about Avaya/WebAlive and for good reason. He realized I wasn’t bullshitting.


I have a long and extensive history in this industry for being able to call this stuff in advance, and very accurately. Yet, just as predictably, people are quick to tell me off or say I have no credibility when I make these predictions.


What people choose to believe and the truth have yet to be properly introduced.


This I why I have no love for Oculus Rift or even LeapMotion.


Oculus Rift is riding on a lot of hype, but at the end of the day it will revitalize the VR industry in the same way as every other virtual reality headset from the 1990s onward to today. How many of you own a VFX Headset?


The answer is close to zero.






Oculus Rift will enjoy the same success and adoption rate as the VFX 3D Headset. It’s not going to reignite the virtual reality industry or save it. It’ll enjoy some hype for awhile, and it’ll be just what it really is – A Fad.


I give the same designation to Leap Motion technology. The first thing that came to mind was the CueCat scanner back in the turn of the century. Nobody owns one today, and to wit – technology exists that makes Leap Motion obsolete before they even get out of the gate, using your exiting wi-fi router to give you gesture control all over the house. But even in a limited fashion, there isn’t going to be a wide adoption rate for Leap Motion because the same people who would use it for gesture based control would also opt for a touch screen tablet.


And I’ll even give it the benefit through the whole idea of 3D space… it is an inefficient way to work for hours on end, holding your hands and arm out like that versus at rest on a mouse or keyboard.


It just doesn’t have a long term use. If you’ve ever held your arms out for more than fifteen minutes, this would have been blatantly obvious already.



Choice of Reality


I get all kinds of flack for this stuff on a constant basis, but what irks me most is when people base their contention on things I actually didn’t say. It’s one thing to be pissed off for something I did say (even if you’re still wrong), but too many spend their time lately having an attitude for things they entirely invented that I said.


Even worse is when they have to prop that up with denying I said things that I actually did say!


Some people just have a warped sense of reality, and choose to believe things they make up in their head.


Not for nothing, but I’m not interested in arguing against your imagination. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even care if people follow me on Google+, Twitter, or Facbook. It’s a mild suggestion at best, and it’s there if you feel like it.


I’m writing this stuff as an honest assessment from my years of experience and from the vantage point of having an excellent track record for being correct. I’m not sugar coating things, or drinking kool-aid just to make people happy. I’m just stating things as they are regardless if people like it or not.



What am I doing about HighFidelity?


I’ve had this question asked one too many times lately, so I’ll answer below before I lay this insanity to rest:


I’m going to let that ship slam into the iceberg, and if I’m lucky most of you will be on board when it does. Maybe then somebody will get the point.


That isn’t to say they aren’t doing some interesting research, or that some of it will be applicable to future systems. It’s just to say that it doesn’t really matter if they’re serving lobster on the Titanic or not.


In the meantime, I guess the old saying applies:


If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.


Contrary to popular belief (sorry Nebadon Izumi) I’m not just sitting around and “whining”. There’s this pesky thing called an NDA which says I am legally not allowed to disclose what I’m working on (and have been for the past year). That tends to happen when you’re involved with Lockheed Martin, et al.


But if you’ve been paying attention to anything in this blog since the beginning, you wouldn’t have to ask what I’m working on… now would you? At the very least, what was said here over the years precedes the NDAs I’m bound to.







Figure it out, Sherlock.


And if this blog disappears entirely, you know why.

Jun 14, 2013

Everything Old is New

The future of digital media is analog



David Bowie

In a recent announcement through the channels of David Bowie, an exclusive V&A Limited Edition Orange 180 gram audiophile vinyl has been made available as a pressing of 500. Numbered on a gold sticker.


This may seem like no surprise to a typical hipster who prefers those vinyl versions and goes record hunting at the local shops who cater to them, but for the digital media industry this should seem like a revelation.


In the era of piracy and lost sales, the real take-away from the new millennium since Napster and Pirate Bay is less about piracy and more about there being no free ride in the media industry.


After all, digital distribution came with this wide-sweeping notion that costs could be reduced or nearly eliminated while the prices remained the same. Throw in some DRM (Digital Rights Management), and lock it down to a cloud based service with limited access while charging a rental fee to access that media and what they thought would be a gold-mine turned into a massive backlash instead.


What I see when I look at the media industry is that they simply got very greedy and very lazy at the same time, which is a dangerous combination. For all the years the RIAA/MPAA cried bloody murder about all the lost potential sales, they still see steady increases instead of declines. For all of the half-baked courtroom battles and propaganda telling the public they’re stealing and the poor artists are starving… well, it turned out they were lying then as well. They weren’t even paying the artists what they owed them.


We still see this mentality today, though you would have thought it would have been relegated to the back burner by now as a failed debate that causes more problems than it solves, but alas we need only look at the recent announcement by Microsoft concerning Xbox One to know some people never learn their lesson in a timely manner.


For the longest time I’ve been saying that the real future of digital media is actually analog and experience. I made a mention of it with the Greenday concert for VH1 where they did a small VIP sort of gig to a cozy audience. Those are the sorts of things that are the future. Sure, the artists can sit back and make a new album once every ten years, but should they expect to live off those royalties indefinitely? Does the back catalog really make sense in today’s society?


A good example is the media format changing regularly. Records, then onto 8Tracks, then cassette and then CD and then SuperCD, and now digital formats where there are more digital formats both proprietary and open source than we can really keep track of. They all have one thing in common, and that is to say with each format we’ve been essentially forced to repurchase an entire music library to keep up. Maybe this is planned obsolescence in action but it’s shady at best and just plain lazy at worst.


Do you know how many times I’ve purchased Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon?


7 times.


Only two times was it because of a scratched CD, and the rest because of format changes.


But then, it’s like that for most media throughout the evolution. If you’re around long enough to remember, you probably owned the albums when they first came out, then the 8Track, then the cassettes and then the CDs. Then of course there are the Digitally Remastered collections and re-releases with maybe one song on it that was previously unreleased or something.


It’s obnoxious.


Don’t even get me started on the whole “Greatest Hits” scam or the Compilation CDs.


Here’s the future in a nutshell:


Digital media has a half-life and should be treated like marketing. You sell some stuff to the fans who will support you, and a lot of things are going to get “pirated”. Instead of treating it like a total loss, you rebalance it on the books as the equivalent in promotional marketing and call it a day.


Then you make the money on live events and tangible merchandise, like these vinyl pressings and concerts. You build an audience based on experiences and so forth. Because you can’t pirate being at a concert… you can bootleg the video, and you can pass around the audio… but actually being there is an experience you can’t digitally duplicate.


Holding the actual album and the booklet in your hands, while you could get a bootleg pressing, those who would pay for the tangibles wouldn’t want anything but the authentic stuff. The quality tangibles over the infinite copies of digital versions that run like water in the modern world.


That’s how the future will be.


The same goes for digital goods in a virtual world as well. The digital stuff is a marketing writeoff and the ROI comes from the tangibles. So you allow those brand names to proliferate in the virtual worlds freely and ask only for leads to the tangible versions to give people a choice.


In the future, we’ll stop mixing up piracy and marketing.


Of course, we’ll also make the artists actually work for their paychecks again. None of this bullshit about releasing an album in ten year gaps. No, get your asses out there and actually work for it. Everyone knows how fast you can write a pop song and compose the melody… we’ve seen the Youtube video where they did it in under a week.


This is one of the times you’ll see me actively supporting the purchase of music, so go grab yourself a limited edition vinyl while you can:



Jun 1, 2013

Zen and the Art of Business

Sometimes doing nothing means everything



corporate meditation


"On the whole, it is patience which makes the final difference between those who succeed or fail in all things. All the greatest people have it in an infinite degree, and among the less, the patient weak ones always conquer the impatient strong."
                                                                                                                                         - John Ruskin




I’ve been in plenty of board rooms over the years, and have dealt with many rooms filled with executives. The one thing I’ve learned in negotiating and business is simply that patience, along with calculated actions for the long-tail, are far more successful than knee-jerk reactions and short term.


Let us say you have an idea for something, maybe a product or service. Yes, it behooves you to plan out and engage in due diligence, but when dealing with the people who can aide you in that endeavor, it often will seem like things aren’t going the way you would like. Maybe they show disinterest, or they would prefer you to position yourself more to their liking and in line with involvements that they already have under way. This is the point when you should understand that not everyone has your best interest in mind and are looking for how what you can offer will benefit them – even if it means wholesale disregard for what you bring to the table.


Whenever this happens, just remain diligent. This sort of reaction is the first sign of negotiation, and they are feeling you out to see just how passionate you are about what it is you are presenting. Can they get away with picking and choosing from what you offer in pieces “al a carte” and if so, can they convince you to do all the work while they reap the benefits? This is a competitive negotiation tactic and it is something you should not tolerate if you truly believe in what it is you are presenting.


This is simply how business works, and especially negotiations. The goal is to see how far in their own favor they can negotiate, especially when it leaves you at a severe disadvantage. To figure out if instead of a mutual partnership they can instead negotiate their way to having you work on their projects by incorporating parts of your own and foregoing the whole.


My advice to would-be entrepreneurs is simply to hold your ground.


In any endeavor, if you fully believe in what you are offering, then the prospect of tearing it up to do something else unrelated should be out of the question. One would not expect a person who is offering a fighter jet to agree instead to make the tires simply because a company needs tires but not the jet. Your willingness to act out of impatience and desperation to appease is your Achilles’ heel and they are looking specifically for that chink in your armor.


In all negotiations, you can either be competitive, collaborative or subordinate. If you are subordinate and they are competitive, then you may as well be their rag doll. You seem desperate and easy prey for them. When I say “Hold your ground” what I mean is to keep things neutral in negotiation whenever possible. Don’t concede to one extreme or the other for their sake. You are there to negotiate, not dictate your plans nor be a subordinate to their pre-existing plans. The purpose is to come out with a mutually beneficial agreement which reaches both their needs as well as your own.



Negotiation Tactics



In all negotiations, somebody is in control of the conversation and direction. If it isn’t you when your ideas are being presented on the whole, then you are sure to walk out of those conversations with results that wholly favor them and not yourself.


In a way, patience is your ultimate ally in proceedings. It is better to stand your ground if you truly believe in what it is you are bringing to the table than to show an eager willingness to jump through hoops in order to appease their pre-existing projects while wholesale ignoring your own.


Always ready to jettison the cargo at the drop of a hat leaves you with an empty ship any way you look at it. Instead of carrying your own ideas and projects, you will find your ship replaced with everyone else’s cargo.


That doesn’t mean you should be inflexible on the whole, it just means to have a sense of perspective when you are discussing things. If you walk into a meeting and you say “Here is the product/service I’m working toward and I believe it is mutually beneficial if we were to collaborate” and they reply with “Here is our own product/service and we’d like you to use that instead of yours.” then you can either bring the negotiation back to neutral or make it clear that you aren’t interested in foregoing your own system/product to elevate theirs.


In short, don’t appease one sided negotiations.



Plot a Course


There is (of course) some amount of work up front you should have done before getting to this point.


The first course of action is always to define your product or services. This is to mean writing out a business plan. What are you looking to provide, what do you need to accomplish this, what are your milestones, how much working capital is required to get to the first milestone, and how long until your ROI (return on investment) kicks in? Also to note, you should clearly define your markets and how you will position yourself within them to make money as soon as possible. Once you have this under control, you are now ready to seek partnerships and aide to that endeavor. Whether this be through raising capital or strategic alliance, you have your foundation already in place.


If you haven’t done this already, you are sowing the seeds of a foundation which is as solid as the shifting sands. You will find yourself willing to change your course in a moment’s notice if you think you’ll have their favor. If you have no official position to stand on, then you better believe the other party will define that position for you, and it won’t be in your favor.


Even a sand castle looks impressive until the rising tide washes it away.



sand castle



The second course of action is to figure out where you will do business. If you are seeking investors or to raise capital, then there needs to be a company for them to write the check to. Barring this, you won’t find much interest going forward until you do. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest idea since sliced bread in that business plan if you aren’t providing potential investors a means to write that check. Another consideration when you are setting up the company itself is to identify who is already on that executive roster. Are the key players in your business qualified for the environment which you have them participating?


The other question to answer is to identify what you are lacking. If you come into it thinking you can wear all of the hats, you are sadly mistaken, and setting yourself up for failure. Understand both your strengths and weaknesses, and play to your strengths while delegating your weaknesses to people in your team who have a proficiency in that area.


The third course of action is to look for ways to raise the capital or get your business underway for at least a prototype or initial phase for roll-out. This may include things like angel funding, or it may be government grants or things like SBIR (small business information requests) if you are looking to deal with the military or even National Science Foundation. Keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that anything they state they need in SBIR lists will match what it is you are looking to provide. Try to identify in this case the SBIRs that closely resemble what you want to provide as possible. If for no other reason than it will help fund the R&D of components of your product in the meantime. If you are seeking grant money (and there is often quite a lot to be had if you know where to look and apply properly), then you will more often than not find that this route is more lenient for requirements than an SBIR. In the realm of government grants, you might just find the requirement to be “Technology business run by a woman”.


If you are at a phase where all you have is a business plan, then that should be enough to work with angel investors, but this isn’t an easy route and requires the utmost diligence and patience. Keep in mind that angel investors get thousands of proposals on a regular basis and everybody acts like what they offer is the thing that will change the world – even if it’s just an Android app that farts. Be prepared to define exactly why your idea or product is better than the rest and why they should give a damn.


SBIRs or grants may provide the initial working capital to start working on a prototype or initial roll-out of your business demonstration, but these are as reliable as the angel funding route since there is a lot of work up front and you are far from guaranteed in winning those grants or SBIRs.


If you are in a position where you are working with angel investors to get things together so they can raise capital, don’t write it off and continue looking elsewhere. You’ve found your avenue for advancement, and you need to focus on it. If you’re acting with a sense of attention deficit, and are unable to focus on what you have in front of you, then you will sabotage your own efforts. If you are working to raise that capital, then everyone else becomes a customer after the fact – so don’t waste your time and efforts chasing maybes and vague notions when you are staring at a definite.


This in itself is just good business practice. Effectively making decisions and focusing on the goal at hand. Never spend twenty hours doing something for a maybe when you can choose to work 3 hours for a definite.






This is the point where quite a few people fail miserably. You finally get that meeting with Mr or Ms Big to discuss your business and how they can help it along, and you are met with indifference or constantly put off/rescheduled.






Yeah… we’re going to have to move that scheduled meeting to sometime on *coughs* so we can move this forward. Something came up that is of the utmost importance, but your meeting is very important to me. We’ll get back to you on *coughs* to let you know.



Don’t panic. This is a negotiation tactic in the business world, and more often than not it is done on purpose. The other alternative is that they simply don’t value your time – in which case see the prior post about the 150 hour work day to get a grip on what is and is not worth spending your time on.


The message they are trying to send is that they are more important than you, and that you are on their schedule and at their beck and call. You should be honored they found the time of day to talk with you at all because (gosh!) they’re just so darned busy! It’s a lot like the psychological tactic of having their chair behind the desk raised higher than the ones you will sit in on the other side. It’s simply a psychological power play to give them an upper hand.


By the time you actually do get into a meeting with them, they are going to act disinterested at best, but maybe polite. They’ll mention maybe that they are working on other things and ask if what you are doing can benefit those things. Maybe they’ll focus on just a sliver of what you are offering and try to approach you with an al a carte method. Are you willing to wholesale ignore your offering to appease their pre-existing projects?


I’ve been in meetings where they’ve shown such disinterest that they arbitrarily miss the meeting, or have to be rounded up down the halls and dragged into the conversation kicking and screaming. Even then, they are just killing time and being polite at best, offering nothing of interest to the conversation at hand and simply running out the clock.


My response to those types is simply writing them off.


Sometimes, they really are busy – so a little bit of leeway is in order here. But if you find yourself in a position where you are constantly being put off, having to pull teeth to get anything meaningful, or just constantly chasing them down, then it’s time to let them stew on it and walk away. If they are interested, then they can come to you. In the meantime, you shouldn’t be wasting your time begging for the time of day out of them and instead should be dealing with the people who actually are interested without the bullshit games.




Passive Agressive Meetings



It’s wonderful that you have a new service and product that could revolutionize the industry. Tell us how what you’re offering will help us finish our pre-existing projects, for instance – this one part of what you are talking about would be useful to an existing project we have ongoing, even if it is completely irrelevant to the conversation at hand.


Are you willing to forego what you are trying to achieve in order to make us look good?





If you really do believe in what you are bringing to the table, the answer should be a flat “No”. This will likely surprise the ever living hell out of them, that you are so confident in what you have to offer that you know it will work with or without their involvement, and that you will be available if they change their mind. You are giving them the opportunity to be involved early on because you believe it will benefit them, and you are doing them the favor. It is a mutually beneficial situation if they are willing to honor that, but if they wish to make it a one sided endeavor in their favor, then you simply state it like it is and wish them a great day.


Make it a point to outline that you are working with others to bring this about, and leave the option on the table if they want to be involved. Under no circumstances should you allow others to waste your time.


In one fell swoop, you’ve turned the table.


After all, do you really want to work with people who are so self-interested that they would tear your hard work apart just to benefit themselves and throw you the scraps in the end? If you answered yes to this hypothetical question, you don’t deserve to be in business.




If you have a novel service or product, it is in your best interest to apply for patents to cover it or to draft a NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement) to be signed by parties who will be privy to the details of what it is your are doing or looking to do. In most cases, investors don’t care about NDAs and won’t sign them (Guy Kawasaki is an excellent example of predatory investing) and those are the people you should walk away from. Any investor who is truly on the up and up and not just looking for predatory investments (ie: investments where they drop money in, even when you don’t need it, only to put their name on the company and own it so they can sell it off), will instead understand and want you to protect the whole since they will possibly be a part of it.


As Guy Kawasaki once said – “Investors want to see a business where there is already people at the trough.” They want to see you making money already and they are more than happy then to give you money and have you sign away your rights to it all because they bought you a server.


The question he never answers is from a purely logistical standpoint; who in their right mind would sign it all away if they are making money and stable? This is a case where the investors are there when you don’t need them and are happy to take the lion-share and credit of your efforts thus far, but they’re never around when you actually need them in the beginning… when you don’t have the money but actually need it.


You want people involved who actually give a damn and are proactive. The sort of people that are there in the beginning when you are starving, because they see the potential in it all and want to feed it so it can be strong and highly successful. Not the sort of people that act like vultures looking to swoop down after all is said and done and take credit for doing jack-all nothing.


It’s easy to spot those people in the beginning. They are the ones asking to see the demo and showing no interest in helping it get to that point. They want a finished product and expect you to make it for them on the vague notion of “maybe they’ll take a look when you do all the work first and finish it.”



Little Red Hen







In the tale, The Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. But no animal will volunteer to help her.


At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance.


Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. However, she declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work, and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for anyone else.


The moral of this story is that those who show no willingness to contribute to an end product do not deserve to enjoy the end product: "if any man will not work, never let him eat."



In the process of finding partnerships and willing parties to help produce the end-product, you are invariably going to find people unwilling to be involved unless you’re already finished with it and they can enjoy the end-product alone. Those are the same types of people who are predatory investors. Whether this be about time and sweat equity or just outright monetary investment. They want to do as little as humanly possible and take as much credit and reward as they can stamp their names on.


This will manifest in companies or entities that will simply refrain from involvement until you are finished (We’d love to see a demo), to people who are quick to supplant what you are doing with their own endeavors (That’s really amazing. I’d like to offer something completely different for you to use). Others will feign interest at best but will drag their feet in non-committal manners, indefinitely hemming and hawing in fake repertoire with no real intention to follow through. In a lot of cases, they’ll just be quick to appease their own needs without any consideration for yours – for instance, them having existing projects that can benefit from a portion of what you are trying to do but utilized out of context.


The best analogy to that last portion is if you invented Meeroos in Second Life, and while you are trying to raise capital to make it into a viable product, somebody comes to you and says: That’s a really good idea. I’m working on selling cars but that script you wrote would be great for what I’m doing! Are you willing to work on my project instead?


Now you understand the al a carte methodology, which for all intents and purposes is a lateral negotiation at best and changes the focus to their own needs entirely.


As for patents, you can file for a provisional patent for a few hundred dollars and that gives you about 1 year from filing to actually file a full patent. This would usually be enough to entice first round investors later on, so the $20,000 or more to file the patents later on shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve negotiated investment to cover it.


Otherwise, if you find yourself in a position where filing a provisional patent is out of the question (maybe too expensive or you don’t understand how), then being incorporated with an NDA is your best option from there.



Zen and the Art of Business







“Yeah… I’m going to need you to show up to this meeting I’ve scheduled arbitrari-“


“Not now. I’m just about to beat my high-score in Tetris. I might be available later on, but there’s no guarantee. I’ll let you know.”


“When will you let me know?”


“Later. Now, if you don’t mind – you’re killing my concentration here. I’m going to need you to move along. I’ve got a meeting with the Bobs in a bit.”



There’s a reason I’ve been using references from Office Space in this blog post, and it’s generally because (in a manner of speaking) it shows the right approach to dealing with passive aggressive and non-committal executives.


Two can play this game, and when you stop buying into their manipulative bullshit, they either walk away or they find a reason not to waste your time anymore. Eventually they’ll get the point, and if they don’t, then it’s not your problem.


You have a goal, and it is simply to facilitate your product or service into fruition. They are either going to help you achieve that through proactive means, or they can stop wasting your time with the Little Red Hen situation. If you can negotiate a mutually beneficial situation with them – maybe they want access to just a portion of what you have for their benefit – then you tell them if they help you build what you need then you will gladly work with them to give them what they need from that product or service. If it’s not a mutual benefit, then there’s no reason for you to appease them.


That is how they can get what they want without throwing you and your product or service under the bus to get it. You’re better than that, and now is the time to start acting like it.



Doing Nothing


Sometimes, the best response is no response at all. Talk less and listen more. Be willing to assess the situation and give it the time it needs to sort out. When you provide information to people, don’t expect them to jump immediately to your whim. It might take a few days or a week for them to mull it over and formulate a response or plan of action to make their next encounter with you fruitful.


Being busy and keeping busy are two different things. The difference is whether or not you are effectively using your time or if you’re just filling the hours of the day to seem like you’re accomplishing something when in reality you’re just spinning your tires.