Everyone is going crazy for social stuff online. I think it's really good stuff, and there's lots of room to grow in it, and there'll be more successes and more adoption of current stuff.
However, I think the real winners are building something entirely differently right now. They're building for whatever gets hot after social.
Normally if you read an article like this, they'd make some predictions, most of which would turn out to be wrong. I won't do that. Instead, I'll point you to one of the more interesting industries to look at for this sort of thing - mobile phones.
Phones were interesting for me because I was traveling a lot, and I got to see the sort of phones that were popular in Japan when the Motorola Razr was the hottest phone in the United States.
The Japanese phones were three times larger and much clunkier, but had a lot of features. The Razr was stripped down - it did calls, texts, and that's pretty much it. And it had bad battery life.
If I'd paid more attention, I probably could have predicted the rise of larger, more-featured phones like the iPhone in the USA. That's the thing about hindsight - it's obvious afterwards.
So, right now smartphones are in, and the main improvements are happening in apps, web-browsing, and general "look and feel" and experience type stuff. I wonder what comes next?
See, I'm fighting off the desire to give predictions (most of which will turn out to be wrong), but customers always want longer battery life. Also, there's been a huge surge in apps than sync phone, web, and PC like Evernote and Dropbox. However, Evernote and Dropbox require a bit of technical savvy to get going. Not much, but enough that it's too much for a lot of people. In-built sync'ing might offer a lot of value, so maybe that's built into the next generation of phones.
It's actually not all that hard to start paying attention and trying to make predictions. Observe what's getting used a lot already, or what people want to do but the technical isn't quite there yet. Streaming video is obvious in retrospect - yes, of course people would want streaming video. As soon as broadband internet started getting adopted widespread, that was the time to start building streaming video.
If you guess wrong about the next craze after the current craze, you might well wind up making a useful niche product that caters to a small market segment, or being able to sell or license your technology/patents/whatever as part of the whole to a larger company.
But I think these are questions you've got to stop and ask yourself every month or two if you're in a growing, unstable industry. What's the next hot thing after the current one? When consumers get bored of reading about social and the press start looking for a new angle, what will it be?
If you're building that now, you become the go-to example in all the media stories, you grab a lot of early market share, and you start out with a year or two of advantage in front of competitors.
It's a fun exercise, too. Play with other people's phones, or go through their web browsing history and see what they're using. Look at science and technology magazines and see what's getting invented. See what prices are falling on, and what things with falling prices have compliments that are going to get more popular. Travel a little bit, and see how things are done in other countries, and if they'll be adopted in yours.
It's a fun game. You only have to do it in your own industry, but it's fun to play around with it and make predictions in other industries too.
Great email from Frank R. - read the whole thing, there's good insights here.
A month later, I'd say I've become at least somewhat more productive, mostly in terms of my working environment.
I read GTD cover-to-cover and was able to implement most of the principles so that everything I need to do is being captured somewhere. One challenge I'm finding is not knowing how organized to keep my list. I use My Life Organized and categorize based on Home Actions, Work Actions, and then break them down further by category. So for work, this would be each customer name as a category, for home, it would be each category (such as Finance, Fitness, Interpersonal, etc.) Under these categories would either be subcategories (so Taxes and Banking for Finance, Diet and Training for Fitness, etc) and then Next Actions. I'm wondering how far I should go in terms of categorizing things into categories/subcategories - do you have a similar system?
I noticing I'm referring to the list often - sometimes 5-10 times an hour - and a lot of the items get stuck. As in, no action is happening because I'm putting the same things off over and over again; a classic case of procrastination. My solution to this was to make a next action as specific as possible. So if a next action had said, "Fix the application from crashing", I'd change it to, "Modify the whatever module with error trapping." This technique has worked well in most cases.
I gave a talk at PAX Dev recently on the skill of staying with unpleasant emotion. My basic argument is, if you're not comfortable staying with fear and anger, then they control and influence your actions in bad ways and you make poor decisions.
Here's the video of the talk. It's just under an hour long:
I had more material for the talk than I could fit in an hour, so a bunch of stuff got cut. One of the big things was my thoughts on production - the discipline in game development responsible for schedules, coordination, and logistics - and how a skillful relationship to negative emotion is especially critical for producers.
Before I left Bungie, I had a conversation with a friend there, a producer with whom I had often disagreed. He spent a lot of time working with data to make predictions about the schedule. I was teasing him about how elaborate his spreadsheets were. I told him I didn't use them very much for my team.