Weekly Review #93: All-powerful Wechat, clever Instagram data, and Chatroulette zombie FPS

If you read one article this week, read A16Z’s rundown of Wechat as The One App To Rule Them All. As the sole American in my Chinese company, I can safely say that this app blows any Western counterpart out of the water, and here is exactly why.

Likewise, Jordan Kong explains why Wechat happened over there, not here – China has better wifi and phablets, Wechat offers better devtools.

Tech

Lots of startups: Gone App – take pictures of your old electronics, they take care of the selling and pay you. Startup Timelines allows you to explore the formative years of some of the biggest companies. Improve Presentation gives you Powerpoint templates to create stellar stuff fast. Wedgies lets you poll people online, in real time, and the Knock Knock App seeks to fill the hole Bump left behind – tap phones next to each other and share contact into.

FrontApp predicts that email will become more messaging-like, AI assisted, connected to more stuff, and multiplayer. I agree.

Austen Allred’s Hacker’s Guide to User Acquisition guide isn’t done, but the Instagram and PR chapters are done, and they’re high quality.

Lifehacks

Always Sunny in San Francisco lets you explore the weather in SF neighborhoods using real time instagram photos. I wonder what other uses real time instagram data could be put to?

 An Entrepreneur interview with my father from September 2000 shows that not much has changed in Productivity in the past 15 years – meeting efficiency, process over product, and a fun culture remain important. Only change is that now you can attach things to emails :).

Bryan Franklin creates a dichotomy for entrepreneurs – create what I want, or what they want? Pt Barnum vs Henry Ford, or Larry Ellison vs Steve Jobs. His solution – become your customer, then create what you want.

Fun

Moby Dick was Translated into Emoji. You’re Welcome.

Star Wars + Daft Punk – Darth Punk. Cool!

Guy lets strangers control him through ChatRoulette, in an IRL FPS zombie shooter. Incredible!

Marketing Job Hunt

I’ve been delving deep in the online job search for the past week, and yet it feels wrong. My personal experience and every business blog I’ve ever read dictate that the best roles are found through personal networks, not on a classified listings site. So I’m reaching out to you, dear readers, to see if you know somebody who can make use of me.

Ideally, I’m looking for a marketing role at a small to medium sized company near San Francisco, with a consumer/B2B product. I want to work for a company I believe in, which (probably, not necessarily) fits within those specifications.

Companies I’ve been looking at include Pinterest, Patreon, Product Hunt, Mattermark, Autopilot, Houzz, Gumroad, Secret, Vayable, Eventbrite, Braintree, 42floors, Evernote, Klout, Hootsuite, Lovely, Scribd, Buffer, and HackerRank.

You can read more on my qualifications on LinkedIn, but in short, I’m a creative growth hack aficionado and proven content marketer. I product managed a Kickstarted self published book , wrote articles for travel industry leader Matador Network, and helped grow a venture backed startup (Onmyblock) to 11 employees and regular weekly transactions. Hopefully my website and Twitter speak for themselves.

Rationale

Location – Like the rest of the young technorati flocking to the city, San Francisco is preferable to the peninsula, due to the current balance of Silicon Valley power and the fact that I grew up in Palo Alto.

Role – I’m quite experienced in general marketing due to past internships. Plus I’m very good at creating content due to this blog, writing the Life is a Game book, and time at Matador Network . I’m trying to avoid sales or customer service, though if they were ‘renaissance style’ positions where you’re encouraged to iterate rather than be a hamster on a wheel that could be interesting.

Company size– If it’s too small, then it’s unlikely for there to be a need for nontechnical me (as was the case at my last job), and if it’s too big, you become a cog in the machine and learning prospectives suffer. That said, if it still has that startup culture, a big company could still be valuable.

Company type – Some phrases that keep popping up in the listings I’m looking at are ‘growth hacking’, ‘data driven’, ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, ‘optimization’, ‘content marketing’, and ‘product manager’. Some words that describe the companies include ‘software as a service (SaaS)’, ‘mobile app’, ‘lean practices’, and ‘agile methodology’. An ideal employer is one that would be featured on Y Combinator’s Hacker News, Growthhackers.com, or Product Hunt.

For my entrepreneurially minded friends who ask why I don’t just start my own company – it is tempting. Yet I believe that right now the best thing I can do is learn tons hands-on in the heart of Silicon Valley, leaving me better equipped to do my own thing in a few years. Then again, that’s the same argument that keeps people locked into their job, afraid to take the jump. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

If you know of a role, company, or person that comes to mind after reading this, please let me know at ‘corey at breiers dot com’. Much appreciated!

Weekly Review #37: French Girls, marketing hacks, and meaningful drugs

Fun useless new app of the week goes to French Girls, where you post selfies and draw those of others’. Lots of slipshod quality out there, but when they’re good, man oh man they’re good. (PS I thought the name was genius, but even people who’ve seen Titanic don’t pick up on it!)

Andrew Chen reminds us there are only a few ways to scale user growth, and they are below. That’s it!

  • Paid Acquisition, Virality, SEO, Sales

I did some poking around into marketing, which led to Buffer’s massive list of words that convert, ConversionXL’s massive guide on landing pages, and Kissmetric’s comprehensive review of over 20 case studies on psychological copy. Great resources to refer back to.

The founder of Growth Hacking Sean Ellis preaches:

  • Traction is everything (Tinder cofounders visited sororities to onboard them, THEN went to the frats. effective)
  • Optimize the product for marketing (virality is not a feature. it’s built into the product)
  • Survey like crazy and learn about users
  • Think beyond content for inbound marketing (growthhackers.com exists to preach his product Qualroo)
  • Always Be Testing

An old New York Times articles questions whether the financial industry is actually valuable, and has far more evidence than I do to support our mutual conclusion.

Sam Harris has an insightful and incite-ful article on Drugs and the Meaning of Life, with, as usually, something to offend everybody.

  • If (my daughters) don’t try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.
  •  I’ve never met a person who smokes marijuana every day who I thought wouldn’t benefit from smoking less (and I’ve never met someone who has never tried it who I thought wouldn’t benefit from smoking more)

Alex Vermeer has a fantastic summary of Seth Godin’s Linchpin – here’s some key takeaways:

  • Depth of knowledge combined with good judgement is worth a lot.
  • Top 8 motivation factors for creative professionals: senses of challenge, flexibility, stability, money, personal development, peers, culture, and location.
  • The easier it is to quantify work, the less it’s worth. Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how.
  • Or if you ask Tim Kreider, ‘art is that which is done for the hell of it. The essence of creativity is fucking around.’

Dubiously legal adventures on the UC San Diego campus

I spent two years living on the UC San Diego campus, and I feel confident that I explored all the fun things the area has to offer. I never thought to write out a guide for them until after my year abroad in Barcelona, where I wrote up everything I discovered in every location I went, in the hope that it could help others find the same cool things. No reason why I shouldn’t do that back home!  This selection skews toward the adventurous/dangerous, but that’s what I’m drawn to.

The Stuart Art Collection– This is the formal name for the collection of art that is scattered around campus. You probably already know the famous pieces – the talking tree, the Sun God statue, the Warren Bear statue. But there are many more than those. Some of my favorites are the Green Table in Muir, etched with dozens of quotes taken completely without context, The La Jolla Vista view, which is tucked away in Revelle and is a great place to look at the nighttime skyline, and Fallen Star, the blue house you may notice jutting off of the top of the engineering building. The pieces vary in excitement, but it is a worthy few hours to go around and check them all out of you haven’t yet.

The Philosophy Building’s West Staircase – You may be familiar with the famous Graffiti Hall, a staircase absolutely coated with paint of all kinds within Mandeville that was, sadly, recently painted over. But few people know about the western staircase of the Philosophy Tower in Muir, which is coated from floors 1 to 8 with very intimate scrawlings. It’s graffiti done not with a spray can but with sharpies and pens, meticulously scratched out in spindly script across the walls. There’s veritable diaries of people dating all the way back to the 70s, detailing a sad day they had, a quote that they like, or maybe just an impressive full size sketch of a monkey. It’s an hour well spent to take your time and read everything all along the staircase from the bottom to the top. If nobody’s looking maybe you can find some empty space to add your own

Old tunnels map from 1996

The Steam Tunnels – These are famed in myth and rumor, but they actually do exist, although they are not as exciting as you may think other than the fact that you’re not allowed down there. They run in a rough rectangle with the points at Geisel, Muir, Revelle, and the Biomedical campus. Last I heard, the manhole in front of Geisel and in the Biomedical area are still open, but you need a crowbar to open them and a time when absolutely nobody is looking, which is tricky. I wouldn’t use the Biomed one because theres a security camera right next to it. The manhole in Muir next to the hump in front of Main Gym doesn’t open up all the way, but you can get it wide enough to shimmy your way inside if you really try.

Once inside, you’ll notice that everything is well lit, and very very hot. You’ll sweat up a storm, and don’t touch the red hot pipes on the interior side. Other than that, have fun running down hundreds of meters of identical tunnel that are eerily quiet and still, except for the random odd industrial noises that will make you jump. Theres a smattering of graffitti down here, but not enough to make it worth the trip alone. Full size doors open out into the basement of AP&M, the basement of Geisel, and into the Revelle corner, but that last one is padlocked. Keep in mind that it is illegal to enter these tunnels and I hear you can be expelled if caught in there.

Salk Institute Road – There are plenty of goodies to be found on or around this little path just south of the road to the Gliderport. Walking down it towards the ocean you first encounter the Estancia hotel and spa on your left, a snazzy complex that includes a hot tub in the northwest corner that, while not open to non guests or at night, can be easily used if you don’t mind stealthily hopping the single fence that leads to it. It’s a classic midnight mission from freshman year.

Continuing onward, on your right you have the Salk complex, which is worth poking around at least once for the weird 70s architecture of the building. Many of the walls are see through, and the central courtyard looks like something out of that David Bowie movie Labyrinth. Keep walking straight past the car gate, and you’ll eventually arrive at a small utility platform that has a nice wall to sit on and look at the adjacent cliffs, the waves, or the decadent mansions in La Jolla Farms (one of which is a dead ringer for Tony Stark’s mansion in Iron Man).

Bonus points to you if you can figure out how to get underneath this utility platform, which actually goes down 4 stories into the ground. Again, there’s not much down there of interest, except for several huge industrial machines that switch on and off at random and give you heart attacks when you’re not expecting them. There’s no lights down there, so make sure to bring your flashlight (or a crowbar – this place is straight out of Half Life).

Continuing down the cliff past the end of the Salk Institute trail is what is popularly known as the Ho Chi Minh trail, a sketchy path used by surfers to get down to Blacks as directly as possible. The path wanders down sandy hills, through slot canyons, and includes both a spot that requires you to walk across a narrow beam and another that necessitates using a rope to  rappel down the last 20 feet. Don’t use this trail to get to the beach if you’re carrying a lot of stuff, but it is a fun adventure.