Dan Sweet

How To Keep Up With Industry News In 3 Simple Steps

Imagine a leisurely lunch followed by a stop at the espresso machine on the way back to your desk. Suddenly, your boss’s boss strolls up and your mellow afternoon vibe instantly fades. Boss^2 makes some polite small talk and comments on a recent industry event.  You respond by … staring blankly? This happens to people all too often, and it is completely unnecessary. With three simple tweaks, you can be the master of the latest news in your field and securely enjoy your espressos from now on. Read on to see how I keep up with industry news.

Disclaimer: I work on battery innovation, strategy and finance in my day job and I also have some geeky leanings in my personal interests. Apologies if the topics I mention sound deathly boring. Please take away the concepts and the tools and just replace the specific sites and topics mentioned with your much more interesting content!

• Always be learning
• Use “spare” time efficiently

Step 1 – Source Basic Content with a Combination of Apps, Email, Blogs:
Stitcher – Great mobile app for listening to podcasts. Download it via your app store of choice.
– Subscribe to “This Week in Startups” podcast (2x / week – 1 interview with a startup founder or investor, 1 news roundup)
– Add other podcasts of interest (I like WSJ this Morning, NPR Hourly News Summary, etc)
Digest emails – Tend to send daily or weekly emails that might surface interesting reads I have missed in my normal workflow. Medium.com, Quartz.com, Digg.com, Slideshare.com, Quora.com, Twitter.com Sign up on the individual sites? (Not sure how I started getting these.)
Quora.com – I search on Quora to research new areas, find subject matter experts to follow on Twitter, share opinions, be amused, connect, etc.
Blogs – I used to use RSS via Google reader to follow 30+ blogs regularly. Now if they write something good, people in my network tend to tweet it and I’ll see it. If I want to “catch up” on a specific person I’ll go to their blog directly. AVC.com, Feld.com, cdixon.org, bothsidesofthetable.com, bhorowitz.com, a16z.com, bostonvcblog.typepad.com, reidhoffman.org (all prominent VCs or entrepreneurs)

Step2 – Take Conscious Steps to Build in Serendipity:
Twitter.com – I use it almost exclusively through mobile app. Sign up at Twitter.com. Facebook is the people you know. Twitter is the people you wish you knew. I either get things directly from Twitter (via random browsing) or from a product/service that lets me log in with Twitter. That product then knows my taste graph based on who I follow on Twitter and can serve me relevant content.
LinkedIn.com – follow companies and Influencers you are interested in to get good content in your news feed and digest emails.
GetPrismatic.com – algorithmically-sourced news from around the web –define topics you are interested in and get relevant news automatically in an infinite scroll newsfeed style – I use it primarily on my desktop.

Step 3 – Give Back by Curating and Sharing:
Bufferapp.com – Chrome Browser extension allows me to easily comment on and share any Chrome tab to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any combination thereof.
Evernote.com – I use the Google Chrome Web Clipper browser extension and “Save Full Page” anything I want to be able to access in the future via a keyword search on mobile or desktop. Sign up at Evernote.com for free.

Simple Steps to Integrate Into Daily Life
• Mowing the lawn, buying groceries, commuting – listen to audio via Stitcher
• Downtime btw meetings / lunch at desk – GetPrismatic.com – open a bunch of interesting stories in new tabs then scan and close 90%, archive 5% via Evernote Web Clipper, share 5% via Buffer with appropriate social network.
• Brief downtime away from a desktop – click through to a story from a digest email in my inbox, or open mobile Twitter app, read interesting links, RT, see what buzz is about.
• Sitting on couch watching TV with the wife – Same as downtime btw meetings above.

Dan’s personal content sources below:

Entities I follow on LinkedIn that might be of general interest:
People: Tim Brown, Reid Hoffman, Paul Kedrosky
Companies: YouTube, Microsoft, Dwolla, P&G, Evernote, Netflix, Twitter, Amazon, Uber, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Cintrifuse, Dropbox, Lego Group, Greycroft Partners, @WalmartLabs, Metamarkets, dunnhumby

My “Interests” as explicitly defined by me on GetPrismatic.com:
YouTube, Mobile Technology, Online Advertising, Silicon Valley, Marketing, Data Mining, Poker, Google Chrome, Statistics, Machine Learning, Startups, Productivity, Android, Data Visualization, Venture Capital, Management, Innovation, Procter & Gamble, Artificial Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Google, Computer Science, Duracell, Facebook, Batteries, Robotics, Twitter

The 100-ish most-followed people I follow on Twitter: (generated using twitonomy.com)


That is it.  Go sign up for some accounts, follow some people, subscribe to some podcasts, etc.  Do some listening, some reading and some sharing. Please leave a comment below sharing your favorite resources for staying current.

Most importantly though – go enjoy that espresso with confidence!

2012 Goals, review of 2011 goals

Last year I did a similar post imaginatively titled “2011 Goals, review of 2010 goals“.  Here it is again for 2012:

2012 Goals

End the year down  30+ pounds
Continue building my Python, SQL, R skills via side projects

Get “1” Rated
Meet quarterly with mentor(s)

These goals look almost identical to my 2011 goals for a reason.  I felt like I was working on the right things and just want to keep progressing.  I delivered on all of my work goals in 2011 while also making significant progress on several of the personal goals.  I’m looking to “go live” with some of my side project work in 2012.  I’ve bought the domain name datajuicing.com for this purpose as well.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

If you haven’t heard of The Cult of Done, then you need to check this out. Working at a huge corporation, there are no shortage of people who will add you to the invite list for their standing weekly meeting if you so much as look at them sideways. The Cult of Done Manifesto is a reminder to get your work done and move on to the next thing. I love the encouragement to stop thinking and planning and just DO.

Actually doing something takes balls. It’s much easier to design requirements or write scope statements or document desired outcomes and key resources that will be needed. Technology today often makes it possible to produce a finished product in the same time it used to take to sketch a draft of what a product might be. I get that process is mission critical in some contexts. I also get that a lot of people default to process because they are lazy. I like the “Manifesto” angle and find it personally helpful to cultivate a certain level of disrespect for and animosity towards people and institutions that default to process over doing.

The poster version of the Cult of Done Manifesto is pasted below.
1. Print it out.
2. Hang it up.
3. Go DO something.

The Cult of Done Manifesto - poster

2011 Goals, review of 2010 goals

…or, how being a parent kicked my butt.  I did a review of 2009 goals post before I made my 2010 goals post last year.  I missed on many of them but still hit on a good number of them in 2009 and came away with the realization I needed to dramatically reduce the number of goals.  I simplified for 2010 but still missed almost all of them.  2 for 9.  I went a little big too big in 2010 as a new parent with an expectant spouse, lesson learned.  On to 2011, with two kids this time!  Fewer goals and a little more modest.

2011 Goals

Drop 30+ pounds by end of July (brother’s wedding)
Build a basic functioning web app (thinking Python / MySQL)
Keep learning (complete a MIT OCW course)

Get “1″ Rated
Meet quarterly with mentor(s)

Contributing vs. Consuming

I’ve struggled to find the balance between contributing and consuming.  Folks like Fred Wilson write a blog post every day.  That is some serious contributing.  Over the last two years I have read blogs consistently but have never found the time to post consistently.  Serious consuming. Recently, I’ve been striving for a better balance between contributing and consuming.

Over the past couple months I’ve begun commenting on blogs more frequently.  I’ve struggled as I’ve attempted to share my point of view.  It is difficult to balance being concise, sharing your experience, saying something meaningful, using humor, and being persuasive.  I’ve found the experience of commenting regularly (primarily on Fred’s blog A VC) has forced me to think more carefully about how I communicate in writing.  The experience has made me more determined to actually write posts myself and stretch myself further in this area.

Thoughts on writing:

1 – Writing well is a differentiator. (Check the 100+ comment threads daily on A VC.  The same people consistently write the most interesting comments, receive the most “likes”, generate the most discussion, etc.)

2 – Commenting, or posting yourself, builds the skill.  (classic skill-building grunt work here)

3 – The right tools help a lot. (I really like the Disqus/IntenseDebate comment systems.  Avatars, likes, threaded replies, etc.  It all comes together to make the commenting experience much more fulfilling.)

Net, I’m pledging to comment and post more.  I encourage you to do the same and put conscious effort into building this critical business skill.  In that vein, leave a comment below if this post has resonated with you.