Editor’s Note: Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit Forming Products and blogs at NirAndFar.com.
Wednesday was my birthday. It should have been a great day. My wife and daughter had prepared a delicious breakfast, I had lunch with close friends, and I finished up some writing and client work. At the end of the day I headed to San Francisco to enjoy a swanky scotch tasting at a friend’s house.
Then I heard the news. WhatsApp had been purchased by Facebook for $19 billion. When I read about the deal I blurted out the words, “Holy Crap!” so loudly that a stranger nearby gave me a disapproving look.
I was having a fantastic day just minutes before but suddenly I felt crummy, like something unjust had happened. The malaise lingered as my mind began to rationalize the news. Was the deal justified? Why had Facebook paid so much? What did the deal mean for the future of the tech industry?
However, the question that most disturbed me was why hadn’t I built WhatsApp? The simplicity of the app made it look easy. Perhaps, I thought, I should get back to starting companies instead of writing books about them.
Then I remembered one of my favorite monkey studies. A bit of primate psychology helped me regain my sanity.
Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, wanted to know if capuchin monkeys felt jealousy in the same way humans do. His study began by training two monkeys with identical cucumber slices. Whenever they completed a task, in this case retrieving a rock and handing it to a researcher, they each received a slice of cucumber. When both monkeys were offered the same reward, they completed the task as prescribed.
Then things got interesting — as they often do when researchers start messing with monkeys. De Waal knew his capuchin monkeys adored grapes, almost as much as we entrepreneurs lust for “liquidity events.” This time the researcher gives one monkey a grape while giving the other a slice of cucumber.
After giving his rock to the researcher, the stiffed monkey glances over at his lucky comrade, who by this time is wolfing down the juicy grape. He then looks down into his little monkey paws where only a measly pale green cucumber slice awaits him.
Seconds earlier, this monkey was perfectly content with his reward but now it’s clear he isn’t happy. The cucumber pieces had suited him fine as long as the other monkey got the same. However, now that the other monkey got something much better, monkey hell breaks loose. The monkey stages an emotionally charged protest. He shrieks, throws his cucumber at the researcher, bares his teeth, thrashes in his cage, and slaps the table.
Clearly, we aren’t the only primates who value the ideal of equal pay for equal work. As a two-time entrepreneur who never got close to a billion dollar buy-out, I empathize with that raging monkey. My team and I had worked hard for our reward and did just fine, and yet, we’d never had a WhatsApp-sized payday. It’s hard not to ask, “Where’s my grape?”
And that’s the source of the problem. I loved being an entrepreneur and I love what I do today, just as the capuchin monkey enjoyed his cucumber before the other monkey got something better. It is only when we become cognizant that others have more that we feel unsatisfied with what we have.
As another example, think sex. Researchers have known for some time that, “frequency of sexual activity is shown to be positively associated with happiness,” — no big surprise there. However, what is less well understood is how our happiness is affected by the amount of sex we think other people are having. According to a study at the University of Colorado at Boulder, believing that other people are having more sex than you makes you less happy, even if you are having plenty of it.
It appears we are hardwired for jealousy. Perhaps there is an evolutionary benefit to the dissatisfaction that comes from wanting what others have. However, unlike lower primates, we humans have the ability to consciously self-reflect. Perhaps we can’t help feeling like the monkey in De Waal’s experiment when we see others getting more. However, our tendency to compare ourselves to others does not have to make us unhappy. We have a choice.
When I arrived at the scotch tasting the night of my birthday, my friend Andrew Warner proposed a toast. “On Nir’s birthday, I want to share something that has stuck with me from the first time I met him.” Andrew held up his glass of whiskey, “We were sitting around a dinner table a few years ago when someone brought up the topic of how to relate to wildly successful people.” I vaguely recalled the conversation and I wasn’t sure what Andrew would say next. “That’s when Nir said that once you find the thing you love doing, nothing else matters. You just can’t ask for anything more than that.” We clinked glasses and I was thankful for the timely reminder of our conversation.
Image by Flickr user Carsten Schertzer under a CC BY 2.0 license
Note: For more, check out Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products. Nir will be speaking at the upcoming Habit Summit at Stanford. TechCrunch readers get $50 off when using this link.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
What is everyone doing tomorrow? You do know that tomorrow is one of the most romantic days of the year, right? Do you have plans? Dinner? A trip? Is dessert made? Well, thanks to BloomNation, you don’t have to add flowers to your checklist!
BloomNation has agreed to give a romantic bouquet of flowers to five lucky people. They will have the flowers hand crafted by one of their local artisan florist and hand delivered to your Valentine.
That means you have more time to do things for the night — maybe clean the house or scatter those rose petals on the ground. Whatever you’re into.
Sadly, this giveaway is for the U.S. only. It starts now and ends tonight at 9pm EST. All you have to do to enter is comment below about what love means to you. We will go through the comments and pick five winners tonight, so be on the lookout if you enter.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver returned to host this year’s Crunchies, the tech industry awards show co-hosted by Gigaom, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch. And he didn’t pull any punches. After starting off the night by immediately yelling “f*** you” to an audience member whose wolf whistle struck him the wrong way, the host launched into some more pointed commentary about the tech industry in general, including its not-so-positive sides. With what was sometimes darker humor, he joked about everything from the Google bus protests to the NSA.
He even made up his own awards, one of which was for tech’s best “cartoon villain.” And two people “won” it.
“It’s an honor to be in a room with such high-functioning nerds,” said Oliver, greeting the jam-packed house at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco where the awards were held. Oliver claimed he didn’t know what the Crunchies were last year when he was invited to host for the first time, and admitted that he still fundamentally didn’t get it.
“It seems like it’s an award show where the tech industry celebrates and quietly criticizes each other,” he said. It’s like “Nobel prizes given out in an atmosphere of high school bitchiness. That’s how you all sound to me.”
But one of the themes of Oliver’s humor/social commentary during the evening was that so-called “nerdom” is not what it used to be.
“You’re no longer the underdog!” Oliver exclaimed. In fact, he pointed out, the tech community in San Francisco had become so powerful that they were “pissing off an entire city – not just with what you do at work, but how you get to work!” (Of course, he was referring to the anti-gentrification protestors and Google bus protestors, who also showed up at last night’s event. More on that here.)
“You’re accused of over-gentrifying a city that was already the most expensive city to live in!” said Oliver, explaining that San Francisco had been gentrified so many times, it might even go full circle to turn back into a “sh**hole.”
He later said that the modern-day “Wolf of Wall Street” would take place in San Francisco – with 100% of the wealth, but only 10% of the sex. (Burn!)
However, one of the better lines of the evening was just a small comment he made before launching into jokes surrounding the NSA revelations. Referring to the technology used by the NSA, Oliver stopped mid-sentence and said: “Thank you for providing that, by the way,” while looking into the crowd. He then referenced one of the more high-profile hacks, with that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (You know, the whole, “we’re not hacking the phone now, and we will not hack it in the future” thing.)
Not all the jokes were about tech’s darker side, though. Oliver talked, too, about his favorite American innovation: the t-shirt cannon…which was followed by the burrito parachute apparently. These gave the audience a good laugh, but didn’t really hit as close to home as his earlier bits.
Before wrapping up his opening remarks, Oliver also announced a couple of awards he came up with on his own: one for “creepiest marketing idea,” which he gave to Uber and its scheme to deliver kittens on demand for 15 minutes of cuddling. (Sounds great, except there’s that one house that keeps ordering more batches of kittens…the kitten murderers…oh, you just have to hear that one for yourself, I guess.)
Better was the award for “cartoon villain,” which had two winners this year: Larry Ellison for cheating during the America’s Cup – a yacht race of all things! – and venture capitalist Tom Perkins who recently compared the plight of the 1 percent to that of the German Jews. (Yes, really.)
“He could not be anymore of a cartoon villain without sitting in a swivel chair, stroking a hairless cat…that he had delivered by the maniacs at Uber!”
Throughout the event, Oliver also popped in from time to time to offer some additional commentary around the winners, like for example, when he noted how glad “heroin dealers and assassins” all over the world must be delighted that Bitcoin won for best new technology.
Later, when Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations won the Crunchie for biggest social impact, Oliver said if Snowden really cared about the Crunchies, he would have picked that award up himself.
Of course, he added, the NSA would have put a tracking device in it.
You can watch the rest for yourself below:
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Somewhere between Snapchat’s rise and the NSA spying revelations, it became en vogue not to have our daily adventures and thoughts etched in stone on a timeline or profile page.
Capitalizing on this trend were Whisper, Confide and then Secret.
Now there’s Wut, from one member of Square’s founding team, Paul McKellar.
It’s a very, very, very simple app. Just a text screen with a fluorescent background. You type in what you want to say, and then it shoots out as a push notification to all of your friends. You never reveal who you are. (But people might be able to guess because they’re your friends, after all.)
“It’s an ambient pulse of what your friends are doing and using,” said McKellar, who quietly launched the app a few weeks ago with Beamer Wilkins.
Like Secret, it riffs off Frank Warren’s PostSecret project.
But Wut’s updates are even more transient than Secret’s. They live on the lockscreen, and then they disappear. You can’t go into the app to find them.
“Wut’s messages don’t build up over time. You don’t have to go back and read 47,000 tweets. The most you can see at any time is five messages,” McKellar said.
The app’s deceptively simple design — no content in a feed and nothing to look at inside — made it difficult for Apple’s app store reviewers to understand Wut’s purpose. They kept sending it back to McKellar until he had to literally record a video of himself using two phones for it to make sense.
The messages I get on Wut are pretty frivolous (see the attached screenshot where I asked a bunch of people to send me messages. Wut wut?!).
Occasionally, memes run through the community. Last week, it was about saying who you were having dinner or coffee with that day or night.
Wut’s push notifications are also silent, meaning the app won’t interrupt you if you aren’t looking at the screen.
“You’d never get woken up in the middle of the night by this,” said McKellar, who was most recently an entrepreneur-in-residence at SV Angel after leaving Square.
The hope is that this might take off amongst teens, who are used to being bombarded with messages all day long and get the idea of self-destructing content from products like Snapchat. Wut is currently bootstrapped.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Headed to Barcelona for MWC? Love you some startup talk, presentations, and global mobile meet up chitter chatter? Join Mike Butcher, Natasha Lomas, Ingrid Lunden, and myself on February 24, 2014 at 10pm-midnight at the official TC MWC meet up held in cooperation with Bubble Over Barcelona.
This is a global mobile meet up designed to mix innovators and influencers in town for Mobile World Congress. We are doing this in a majestic, historic Mansion in the Eixample district where all the night time action occurs away from the conference venue. A select number of tickets will be released by TechCrunch, so watch for news on how to get them and @bobmwc. If you don’t want to risk it, go ahead and purchase a ticket to gain entry. We are capping this event at 200 people so it is not too crowded and attendees can engage in real conversations. There will be three open bars set up across the two-floor building to encourage mingling, along with a large terrace overlooking the city so you can enjoy the views. The tickets are a bit expensive but we are trying to encourage real conversation in a stellar environment and it will definitely be a valuable opportunity.
Date: Monday, February 24, 2014
Time: 10pm-12:00pm midnight
Location: El Palauet, Passeig de Gràcia 113 – 08008 Barcelona
Buy tickets here.
We’re also going to hold a mini pitch off at the event, inviting 5 entrepreneurs to take the stage to pitch to a panel of expert judges. The five entrepreneurs will get two free tickets each and the winner will get a table at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York and two runners up will get a ticket to the event. You can apply below and we’ll contact those we choose directly. Apply here.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch