The most well-known game in the world

Retro gaming: Pac-Man

Retro gaming: Pac-Man

I think that Pac-Man is one of the most iconic games ever made. Who doesn’t know Pac-Man?

This was one of my arcade favorites too.

Pac-Man was designed to be never-ending but unfortunately due to a bug level 256 becomes corrupted and is impossible to finish. To get to level 255 while collecting all the bonus fruits is called a perfect play. Several people have shown this to be possible. The record for completion is 3h 28m which is insane if you ask me.

Here’s a video of someone doing it in 5h 25m to get to the perfect score of 3,333,360.

Google’s Pac-Man Doodle to commemorate Pac-Man’s 30th birthday was estimated to be played by 1 billion people.

Of course, you can play it online. I chose Ms. Pac-Man since the original wasn’t available. It was the sequel to Pac-Man.

Notes:

  • only works in desktop browsers
  • Shift = insert coin
  • Enter = start
  • Arrow keys = move

It’s good to have one

Plan B

Plan B
I’ve a rule and that’s to always have plan B no matter how certain particular path, project or goal is. I’ve a few good reasons why I do that.
 
Sometimes I hear “back to the drawing board” and I’m surprised that developing plan B is not commonplace. In my world, there should always be a plan B.
 
Plan B forces me to develop alternative options. I learn a lot from those alternative options and often can improve plan A as well just by developing them.
 
Plan B also helps me to evaluate plan A. Sometimes I figure out that plan A shouldn’t be plan A at all.
 
Plan B enables me to change tacks when plan A fails. This is the most obvious one of course.
 
But the biggest one is that if I can’t develop a viable believable plan B, there’s something odd about plan A. That’s the most valuable lesson here. If there is no plan B than plan A is wrong. It should always be possible to develop plan B and preferably you could come up with plan C, D, etc. If you find it hard or impossible to do, you should seriously think of plan A. It might not be the best plan you’ve ever had.

EDM/Trance

Year mix 2018 by Armin van Buuren

Year mix 2018 by Armin van Buuren
I love EDM and more specifically the trance genre. It goes by many names like progressive trance, uplifting trance, electro house or psytrance and I’m sure there’s a rationale behind it but I just call it trance.
 
Every year for almost 15 years, Armin van Buuren produces the year mix of the best trance music released that year. I always look forward to it.
 
Here’s the video:
 

Keep your eye on the prize

The path is never straight

The path is never straight
One of the things, I’ve learned with running startups is that the path to any strategic goal is never straight. It looks good on paper, but in reality, there was always bumps on the road or setbacks on the negative side and creative solutions and new insights on the positive side.
 
If you’re too rigid in your execution, setbacks and bumps are problems and delay your execution while you’re blind to potential interesting and novel solutions to problems.
 
I always try to keep an open mind and be flexible on execution while keeping my eye on the target. We should always try to move forward and come closer to the overall goal, but rarely you walk down the path you set out for yourself and that’s ok.
 
With this mindset, there’s even value to be found in setbacks. You learn from them and you adapt. The problems you never go away, but with an open mind you can change tacks and get to your goal regardless. It’s less exhausting too.

Classification is more flexible than folder organization

Digital archive and tags

Digital archive and tags
There used to be a time I meticulously kept a contact list, but nowadays when I need to reach someone I spoke with before, the information is at my fingertips. I stopped maintaining my contact list a long time. Now I just search.
 
This was never a conscious decision but it kind of happened. I do keep meticulous digital records of everything, but I no longer organize them as meticulously as I did in the past.
 
I scan receipts with my phone and put them in a folder on my Dropbox. Documents either live in Google Docs or on Dropbox in a generic folder. Contact information lives in my email and calendar.
 
Search has really changed the game for surfacing content which we used to find using an organization like folders and lists.
 
My dream would be that I can just dump everything into the cloud and not even figure out where to put something – not even a generic folder. The problem is that you do need be to surface a document which means you’ve to think a little about classification. Today this means a top level or secondary level folder and the filename. But those are proxies for what I really want and that’s something like tagging. I love to be able to just classify anything based on a few tags and no longer think about filenames and folders.
 
Tagging has been tried before by Google in both their Gmail – they still call it tags but they operate like folders – and Docs products. They tracked back from that because people found it confusing.
 
Maybe now the time has come to revisit that again. People’s behavior changes over time and they were really early. I can imagine it could be an overlay to the current folder structure where people have a choice and are not forced to use it.
 
If you let go of structural organization and rely on search, tags make so much more sense than anything else. Here’s to hoping.

The heartbeat of a company

Cadence

Cadence
If you release products, it’s good to have a cadence in your company. The cadence is a regular interval to bring products to market. Apple is famous for it with their yearly cadence on releases of most of their products. Also interesting to note that when an Apple product isn’t on a cadence like their MacBook line, the products aren’t as good as their other products.
 
Cadence is company and product-specific. Apple’s one time per year cadence works for them but doesn’t necessarily work for others. Everyone should determine what their own cadence is.
 
Another example is Ubuntu – the Linux distribution. When Ubuntu started, they announced they would release a new version every six months. Initially, they got a flack for that because in general, the consensus at the time was “it’s done when it’s done.” You see that a lot in engineering-driven organizations. But Ubuntu pulled it off and other open source projects have followed suit.
 
Microsoft was famous for not having a cadence at all. They suffered from that though. Windows Longhorn which ultimately turned into Windows Vista took a long time to come to market and development was even “reset” mid-way to limit feature creep and expectations. For Windows 10, Microsoft finally went on a bi-annual cadence.
 
Cadence is important for a few reasons. First, it gives the company a clear goal – we release on a particular date. Second, from this set goal, we get two things; predictability and focused decision making.
 
Predictability is helpful because it sets expectations about what to expect for everyone involved. From your own staff, your suppliers and customers, everyone can adapt to your cadence and there are no surprises. Any part of your organization can gear up to launch and there is no discussion on when that’s going to happen. Instead, everyone can focus on what the launch entails. Nobody is caught off-guard except from a dropped feature or two, but that’s ok since the focus was solely on the scope anyway.
 
Cadence also focuses on decision making because it takes a variable out of the equation. Development takes time and often it is hard to accurately predict the time necessary to develop a feature or product. By taking out time, you relieve a lot of pressure to deliver. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s easier to decide if something is in or out when the cut-off time is not under consideration. You can then focus solely on the cost and the scope which is often a more healthy discussion.
 
I recommend anyone in a product-driven organization to consider cadence. There is no right or wrong in the interval and it depends on the product which cadence makes sense. Even companies like Supercell famous for their Clash genre of games has monthly updates.

Displays are the next frontier

Xiaomi’s foldable phone

Xiaomi’s foldable phone
This week Xiaomi posted a short video of foldable phone prototype. It’s a super interesting concept.

OLED displays have no need for a backlight which allows for pure blacks and high contrast, but it also enables flexible screen displays as Xiaomi showcases here. Samsung showcased a similar concept in late 2018.
 
Both Apple and Samsung use OLED screens in their flagship phones. The OLED displays look better than LCD display but they can also be bent which makes it possible to have very narrow to non-existing bezels.
 
You can roll up the screen like the giant LG TV of last week or you can fold them. We’re still figuring out how to use this technology effectively.
 
Personally, I don’t think a foldable screen for a phone like shown by both Samsung and Xiaomi is going to be that successful with the design concepts they’ve shown so far.
 
I’m more curious how this technology can be applied to create new categories of devices. For instance, you could create a display wristband or laptop where both the screen and the keyboard are a display. It’s going to be interesting what we are going to be doing with this technology. I don’t think we have seen the future yet, but it’s cool everyone is excited about it and actively working on ideas. I can’t wait what’s next.

Find those diamonds

Retro gaming: Boulder Dash

Retro gaming: Boulder Dash

Many hours I played Boulder Dash on my Commodore 128. It’s a puzzle game and the objective is to collect all the diamonds. You’re digging tunnels to get to the diamonds, but the tunnels also make boulders collapse into your tunnel. You’ve to make sure you don’t get trapped and get to the diamonds by smartly building your tunnels while making sure none of these boulders lands on your head.

You can finish the whole game in 20 minutes if you know what you’re doing:

I chose the NES version to play online. It works well and has good graphics.

Notes:

  • Only works in desktop browsers
  • Enter = Start
  • Z = Select
  • Move = arrow keys

Defeating spam

robert [at] schouwenburg [dot] com

robert [at] schouwenburg [dot] com
Remember there was a time where we spelled our email addresses as <name> at <domain> [dot] com on forums and websites? It was a low-security method to confuse spam email harvesting bots.
 
I’m sure that email harvesting bots got smart enough to recognize this and were able to extract your email anyway.
 
But more to the point, I have my email on my website nowadays with a proper mailto: URL and it makes no difference. I don’t get spam. Let me rephrase, I don’t get spam in my inbox. Spam filters have become really really good.
 
Moreover, if you go to Have I Been Pwned website you quickly realize that most email addresses are out the open through hacks. There’s really no point anymore. Your email is out there and spammers will be able to get their hands on it.
 
I’ve great respect for the all good people who work on spam filters. Thank you.

Growing your startup

Separation of responsibilities

Separation of responsibilities
One of the biggest challenges in a fast-growing company is that you’re in a constant mode of re-organization – or at least it feels like this way. People become teams, teams become departments. Roles and responsibilities are in constant flux and that in itself creates tension inside the organization as I wrote before.
 
Another aspect is how to structure you’re organization. When does a team becomes a team? What does that team do?
 
An important guideline for me is to create teams with opposing goals to create a healthy tension inside the organization with regard to how to reach particular strategic and tactical goals.
 
To give a simple example, Finance’s goal is to keep spending in check and within budgets while Engineering wants to hire more developers and increase spending on cloud services.
 
It’s healthy for any organization to have those discussions and it works better when those discussions are not a single person’s head. Everyone has bias and by separating responsibilities you can bring those decisions out in the open.
 
When you’re scaling your organization and thinking about organization structure, it is good to keep that goal in mind. Often it is not even about throwing more bodies towards a problem, but being smart about roles and responsibilities. Open discussion between teams with opposing goals often leads to better decision making. It forces each team to articulate and push for the best possible outcome.
 
The one thing you do have to watch out for are compromises for the sake of compromises. This a typical problem with large corporations where decisions by committee become the norm. This is a cultural problem and not an organizational one. Running a business involves a certain amount of risk-taking. Separation of responsibilities does not preclude risk-taking.