Analytics Need to be Actionable

We live in an interesting world. Everything we own is connected to the internet. Your watch is online. Your thermostat is online. Your home scale is even online. They all provide some kind of data or analytics about some aspect of your life.

The problem is that most of the analytics that these services provide are pretty useless. So i took less steps today then I was supposed to.  So what? What does that mean to me?  So, my app got more downloads today than yesterday.  So what?  Why did it get more downloads?

Analytics need to be actionable. You can’t just provide me with a data point.  You need to do some sort of analysis based on that data point and make a recommendation about how you want me to change my life going forward.

I’d love a pedometer that figured out based on my the trajectory of my activity if I’d hit my goal.  If it looked like I wasn’t, it should prompt me to get off my ass.

Let’s make this happen.

What data do you consume that’s relatively meaningless?

My Process for Reading & Sharing Content Online

I have a myriad of online sources that I consume on a daily basis. If you look at my iPhone, it’s all apps to read stuff.  Once I find something I like, I share it via social media and my email list.  I thought I’d share my process.


Everyday I’ll keep an eye on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  Often, someone will share a link that’s interesting.  If it’s something that takes a while to read, I’ll save it to “read it later app” Instapaper.

I’ll also read the New York Times, BuzzFeed, TechMeme, and my RSS feeds in Digg, along with the Digg home page.  Again, if I find interesting articles that I can’t quickly consume, I’ll save them to Instapaper.

Once the kid goes to bed and any chores are done around the house, I’ll plop down with a glass of red wine or a beer.  As I unwind, I’ll plow through my Instapaper queue.

Sharing Via Social Media

I really like sharing to all the different social networks and I like getting stats about what stories people click on it.  Buffer has been filling this need nicely.  Plus, it takes the articles that I find and it drips them out over the course of the day.  It makes me look smart all day long versus in short bursts, which is how often I’m reading.

Sharing Via Email

To pull together links for my email list, I’ve created a folder within Instapaper.  When I think an article would be of enough interest to stick in someone’s inbox, I share it to that folder.  When that folder hits critical mass, I start a new email to Justin’s List, which I write with MailChimp.

So, what’s your process for consuming and sharing content online?

Using My iPhone 6 As A Pedometer via Jawbone UP

I’m a big fan of quantified self and using data to help me understand my personal behaviors, especially health data and behaviors. While I’m not in horrible shape, I’m not in the best shape and constantly working to develop better behaviors.

I played with a lot of the fitness band/pedometers. I bought the Nike Fuelband back in 2012. Earlier this year, I experimented with the Fitbit. Both were neat but… After a while I stopped looking at the data, which means the data especially stopped having any meaningful impact on my life, which means I’d barely remember to charge it.

When I got my iPhone 6, it came with the capability to be a pedometer by itself. So I started using that with the Jawbone UP app. It’s worked really well.

While its not going to be as good as a wearable device that’s always on me, using the Jawbone UP iPhone app gets close enough where it can give me an indication of how active I’ve been. I do purposefully try and take my phone with me wherever I go so I can get the best data possible. I can also log my sleep and what I’m eating.

Plus the iPhone has the benefit of being a multi purpose device. I use it for tracking more than just tracking my steps. So I’m not going to set it aside like I would the wearables because it wasn’t providing enough value.

Twitter Lists Have Become My Favorite Twitter Feature

One of the most underrated features on Twitter has also quickly become one of my favorite. It’s Twitter Lists.

Twitter Lists is a way to stick different Twitter accounts into groups and then see all their posts in a dedicated feed. This is great if you have a group of accounts that all tweet about a similar topic and that you’d wanna see what they’re saying together.

For example, I have a Twitter List for people that tweet about St Louis stuff. This includes news outlets, sports teams, restaurants, neighborhoods, politicians and more. Seeing all their tweets together gives me a picture of what’s happening in the city. It’s given me great ideas for weekend adventures with the family.

Unfortunately, during the simplification of Twitter in order to make it something that can garner more mass appeal, Twitter Lists has become a pretty buried feature. But it’s worth seeking out.  You can find them when you click over to your profile when you’re signed in.

I have other Twitter Lists like…

There’s one called VIP. It’s tweets that I absolutely can’t miss. I wanna read every single one. It’s family, close friends, and co-workers. This lists and its members is obviously private.

There’s my STL Tech list of people in the St Louis tech and startup community.

There’s my Food list. It’s famous chefs and food media sites that I love to follow. Food is one of my passions. 🙂

I need to build out a few more. They’re that useful.

Do you use, follow, or create Twitter Lists?

Innovation in Coffee Brewing

If you know me, you know that I’m always on the hunt for the best cup of coffee. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve collected six different methods for brewing coffee and have my morning coffee routine down to a science.

On Product Hunt the other day, there were two coffee brewing products. I love that people are looking at how they can innovate around the brewing process. It’s going to continue to make great coffee something that’s accessible to more people.

Nomad is a portable hand powered espresso maker.

The acaia pearl is a scale that hooks up to your iPad and will walk you through each step of the process to do a pour over.

Do you have any coffee gadgets?

Watching TV After Its Been Aired

Both Lauren and I enjoy certain TV shows, as a way to unwind after a busy day. The fall has become a favorite time of year because that’s when the new shows come out.

But I was thinking about how we consume television. Last year when we lived in Las Vegas we opted to not get cable and so we watched everything online via Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video. It worked really well. Our lives were our lives and it often didn’t coincide with live TV schedules. We could watch tv on our terms.

Now living in St. Louis, it was actually cheaper to have cable TV plus Internet over just Internet. We still mostly watch tv after the fact, either through the DVR or the online video apps that I mentioned before.

Especially now that we have a kid, we usually get time to watch one tv show a night, after the kid’s evening rituals.  We’re then both zonked and ready to pass out. So we’re especially watching tv after the fact.

It’s disappointing to miss out on live TV though. TV networks have been really getting behind using Twitter. Tv shows have official hash tags for fans to talk about what’s happening. Plus the actual stars from the show jump into the mix. When you’re not watching the show when it aires, it feels like you’re missing out on something.

It’s interesting to see how out consumption patterns are changing. Despite what the networks throw out, I have the feeling that people will continue to move towards watching tv when it’s ideal for them.

How & when do you watch tv?

St Louis-Based Pint Size Bakery’s Salted Caramel Croissants

There’s this adorable little bakery in my neighborhood called Pint Size Bakery. We’ve been there a number of times for various bake goods and they’re all delicious.

If you go online and look up the shop, every says you have to try their salted caramel croissants. So the last time I was in there, I asked and they only make them on Saturday mornings. They usually come out at 10am and there’s a line. These are the St Louis equivalent of the cronut.

I was intrigued. So we came this morning to kick off Saturday morning errands. And yes, there was a line. So we waited.


I get up the counter and I asked for the salted caramel croissants. It had sounded like they may have been out and I was too late. I was in luck. I got the last two. Yes!!!!!

So… My mini review: they are incredible. They’re absolutely worth waiting in line for. There’s the salty with sweet. They’re flaky and gooey. There’s definitely a level of pastry complexity that you’re not going to get from your average baked good.

This place is an example of what I love about St Louis. There’s so many different little independent shops and business owners doing great work all over the city. It’s been a blast to discover and get to know them as Lauren and I explore.

Podcasts I Listen To

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post a few days ago about how podcasts were becoming more popular again and how plenty were actually becoming profitable businesses.

I’m a huge fan of podcasts, especially audio podcasts. I love being able to take typical mundane tasks like driving, exercising or cleaning, and flip on a podcast. It turns that boring task into something where I’m engaging my brain.

I was thinking about the podcasts that I listen to. First and foremost there’s the gold standard of podcasts and that’s the work that’s done by Leo Laporte and the TWiT Network.

I have been listening to Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech Podcast since it was called Revenge of the Screensavers. It’s just Leo and his friends talking about hot topics related to the tech industry. It comes out every Monday.

His network has produced a number of other shows which have become staples for me. There’s MacBreak Weekly which comes out in Wednesday’s. There’s This Week in Google which comes out on Thursday’s.

Throughout the years I’ve tried a number of other podcasts. Now I’m also listening to the Product Hunt podcast, Alton Brown Cast, and Andreessen Horowitz podcast.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so which?

Tips for Flying/Traveling with a Baby

So my wife and I just took a trip to Washington, DC for the week and we took our 3 month old, Miles, with us. It was definitely a daunting notion to travel with a baby but it ended up working out really well. Thought I’d share some of my tips & observations.

  • Give yourself extra time.  Get to the airport an extra hour before you usually would.
  • We got a structured baby carrier and used that to carry the baby through security and on to the airplane.  It worked really well.
  • If you can time feedings, time it so the baby is going to sleep for as much of the flight as possible.
  • If the kid is going to be awake, feed him or put a binky in his mouth during take off and landing to prevent ear popping.
  • Much like a roll away bed, lots of hotels will provide you with a crib for your room.
  • Unlike at home, the crib and the bed were in the same room at the hotel. So we used white noise to help give is cover as we moved about a room.
  • When putting a car seat for the kid into the rental car, it felt more secure to lock it in with a seat belt than the actual car seat base. So bringing the car seat base wasn’t an issue.

What tips would you give?

What is Community and How Do I Build One?

A really common job title that you’re starting to see crop up in corporate America is “community manager.” Marketing departments are striving to build “community.” But… what do they mean by community? Can companies have one? How do you get one? Can you buy one? What‘s the value of a community?

What is a community?

A community is a group of people that have come together for a common cause or purpose. They’re united in wanting to accomplish something. They support eachother in doing that one thing.

For example, you likely have a neighborhood association. This is a community of people that want to maintain your neighborhood as a great place to live. They’ll schedule meetings, hold events, and raise money to that end.

As a new dad, I’ve been looking into a lot of dad groups. These are amazing communities where dad’s can give advice, help, and support eachother as they walk through this new chapter of their lives. (Coincidentally, this is a market opportunity. There doesn’t seem to be disapproprinate amount of new mom stuff vs new dad stuff.)

Can corporations & products have communities?

Yes and no.

No in the sense that a community doesn’t just form of people that are passionate about a product. People don’t care about what a product is. People care about what a product does for them and how it enhances their life. Thus in the same manner, as we talked about earlier, communities form around a common vision, purpose, or goal.

Apple is famous for not marketing the specifications for their computers, tablets, and phones(like their competitors do) but showing people using Apple products doing the things that they’re passionate about. Apple users are part of the greater creative class. They’re tinkerers. You see this manifest itself in the most concentrated sense in things like Apple User Groups.

WordPress is the blog/content management platform produced by the team at Automattic. It’s powers a good portion of the internet. They have user conferences across the globe called WordCamps. At these conferences, WordPress user get together to discuss the latest innovations within the platform and its extensions.

But I contend that WordPress community isn’t really about WordPress. It’s a community of users that contribute to a product that gives users a platform for more effortless self-expression. This higher purpose is what captivates people around the world to be part of the WordPress community.

Yours Probably Already Exists.

So, now you’re thinking… I gotta go build a community for the higher purpose that my product wants to advance. HOLD UP! Chances are the ideal community for your company already exists.

I was doing a mentoring for a company in Northern California that distributed children’s books via tablet devices. Their ideal audience is moms. There are so many mom groups, mom blogs, mom forums. There are so many communities of moms supporting other moms in every city in the world, it’s hard to know where to start. I told the company founder about a story time that happened at an independent bookstore that wasn’t far from their office.

An incredible resource for finding offline communities where they exist already is The site is a platform for groups or communities of a common goal to come together, communicate, plan, and meet with one another. It’s become very successful and thus has an incredible directory of communities that already exist across the globe.

Why Does My Company Need To Belong To A Community?

By being the chief user of your product and being part of a community, you get to meet and interact with real people that are facing the problems that your product is solving. By being an expert in how to solve the problem, it positions you as a leader. It’ll help you to identify potential customers which will lead to more signups and sales.

What does your product do? What communities are you apart of?