Sunday, July 15, 2007

8 ways I'm sorta bored with the internet

  1. Big parties are boring.
    I know it's kinda trite, but when all the new people show up to a scene it gets a little old for the old people. I was a new person getting to SF in 2000 just as things started to fall apart, and now I'm an old person who's a little cynical and curmudgeonly. It's not that I don't want fresh people in the party, it's just that I don't want to go to their party because they're excited about things that I'm already feeling done with.

  2. I don't feel like socializing and talking about work.
    It was better when I had some product/service to sell, but now I'm doing consulting and the work is coming in without much promotion, so going out and doing social sales at startup parties just isn't that much fun for me.

  3. I'm bored to tears hearing about other people's web products.
    Pretty much every idea I hear sounds terrible or impossible. Everyone wants to make roughly the same 3 products with a slightly different slant. I'm sure some of them will be successful and I'll seem like an idiot for thinking the idea was boring, but I've really come to think that the success of a product has so little to do with the quality of the idea, team, strategies, etc that it isn't worth talking about.

  4. I'm cynical.
    For evidenced see #3. I know that cynicism, or even realism, doesn't mesh with the startup world. You have to believe a few things for startups to make sense:
    a. Since I'm smarter/faster/better than everyone else I can beat them even though I'm an extreme underdog. I can be the exception and succeed where nearly everyone else fails.
    b. When I succeed I'll make piles of money which will make me happy. (For more on this see #5.)
    c. While I'm doing this I will make the world a better place, even though the nature of business is to make money above all other things. (ok, this one might be a little more cynical than I actually feel.)

  5. I don't want to be rich as badly as I used to.
    You may or may not know that I grew up pretty poor. We always had a house and food (good food, actually) but my clothes came from the thrift store and I went to public school and got free lunch. At a pretty young age I decided I didn't want to keep living that way and I started earning money with the express goal of becoming middle class with a clean house and a fancy car, like a Toyota Corolla. I was successful, and by the age of 20 I had my Toyota and cool electronic toys and a nice set of knives.

    In my early 20's I had to come up with the next goal, and the logical step seemed to be getting more money and being super rich. It was internet time and I saw other people making a lot of cash so this didn't seem to far fetched. And it had already worked once -- I had been poor and adding money had made me happier, so more money should make me more happier, right? After working on that goal for a few years I've started to look around an realize that the people I know who made lots of money don't seem any happier because of it, and some of them seem much less happy. I guess I just have no reason to think that I'd be any different from most people who go from being poor to being rich: they get depressed and confused. I could go on about this but I'll save it for later.

  6. No matter how cool your software is you still use it on a computer, which is fundamentally kinda boring.
    I've compensated for this a little by working in mobile, so at least you can use my stuff outside. But if you're outside why not climb a tree or something rather than reading news feeds or texting all your friends to talk about climbing a tree.

  7. I'm not nerdy enough.
    I've never been fascinated enough with technology to talk about it for its own sake. I sorta envy people who like things just because they're newer and better. It must be great to be one of those people, because every week something new comes out and you can get excited about it and dissect it and make a linux version. I just can't get into that.

  8. It worked.
    I've been interested in new technologies because of the impact they could have on human interaction and communication, and I wanted to spread the word by making cool apps. Well, it looks like the word is spread. The mobile social internet (which is really the major thrust of my career) has been recognized as the next big thing. The iPhone hype has even reinforced my theory that the mobile browser is the place where the internet will happen on a big scale. And I'm talking about a really big scale here, like 3 or 4 billion people, not a hundred million.

    Of course, the funny thing about this is this: now that I've done all this stuff enough to get bored with it I'm finally actually qualified. The last thing I want is an internet job designing another stupid mobile social application and the recruiters are calling every day. I don't mean to complain or to gloat, but I really want to do something different and I have no concept of what it might be. Any ideas?


Blogger Tim said...

Good post. Yeah, as we get older, like it or not, the smart ones start to look at their life and experiences in new ways. After living in Africa for not very long I've become very cynical. Sometimes too much. Like an "even though I'm in development, I'm not convinced it will ever work unless Africans actually care enough to change themselves" kinda way. Anyway, here's an idea: come visit us in Africa where comfortable it is not and a contrast to S.F. it is! (purely selfish I know) --Tim

10:17 PM, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan Grubb said...

Not a bad idea Tim. Some friends are working on a Bikes for Rwanda project that fixes old bicycles and sends them to Rwandan coffee farmers. Seems like it may be a bit more immediately fulfilling than building yet another web product...

3:58 PM, July 18, 2007  
Blogger Isobel said...

I take offense at your comment in #5 about going to public school, like that's a bad thing, or somehow inadequate. Didn't your public schooling serve you well? Didn't you have some really rocking teachers? Don't you know some cool things about cows and water and Spearman rank correlations that you might not otherwise have known? Did your teachers not care about you, try and stimulate you, and send you on your way with all good wishes? So tell me, Jonathan, what was so terrible about public school?

7:52 PM, July 24, 2007  
Blogger Reuben said...

Isobel, I'm pretty sure Jonathan listed attending public school in tandem with getting free lunch simply as an example of his growing up without money. Nowhere do I see him levy criticism against it. On the contrary, he seems to be expressing disillusionment with some aspects of the life he pursued in response to growing up poor. I feel like you're missing the point.

Nice post Jonathan. Four words for you: mobile flashlight freeze tag.

12:05 PM, July 25, 2007  
Blogger Jonathan Grubb said...

Reuben is right about the public school thing -- it was an example of not having money rather than not getting a good education. A good percentage of the people I work with/around went to expensive private schools and had plenty of money for college. I went to public school and a cheap college that paid my way, but which I dropped out of because it was lame.

If I'd listened to some of my smarter public school teachers I would have applied to great schools and worked the financial aid system to go for free. I'm now confident that I could have done it, but the confidence came a decade too late.

On balance my public school experience was great and set me up for all the success I've enjoyed so far. There were more bad experiences than good (creepy high school health teacher, I'm looking at you), but the good ones more than made up for it.

My elementary school, Travis Heights in Austin, had some incredible teachers (as well as plenty of duds). Carlos Gonzalez was the highlight there. I mostly remember his parakeet and the fact that he played the guitar, but I'm sure there was some good education going on too. But, you know, I was a second grader, so who knows. The parakeet was named Gonzo.

Fulmore Middle school was an absolute pit. The single bright spot was Tamara Sbelgio, who later told me that having me in her class was one of the few things that kept her from quitting in the middle of the year. We left Fulmore at the same time, and she is now running a nonprofit that helps girls make the transition from middle school to high school. ( She helped me make that same transition by encouraging me to apply to the Liberal Arts Academy, a magnet program at Johnston High School.

I'm pretty sure I learned more useful information in this program than most people I know learned in college. Don't get me wrong, I was unmotivated, never studied, failed classes, and graduated with a C average. I was not a good student except for the fact that I was so interested in the particular things that interested me.

There were a lot of great teachers there, but two stand out at the moment. One was Marsha Russell, who ditched the state-sanctioned war-based world history curriculum and taught us art history instead. Much of my appreciation and most of my knowledge of art came from her class, and I think about something I learned there pretty much every day. I also still hum the tunes she taught us to identify artists... Monet likes nature, Degas likes the dancers, Renoir likes girls... I can sing it for you if you want.

But the best education I've experienced so far was Freshman Geography with Isobel Stevenson. It's harder to describe why her classes were better than other classes, but it had something to do with her genuine interest in the topic and her ability to engage with her students in a way that was respectful and challenging. More than anyone else in my young life she made it clear what she expected of me, and she expected plenty. As she mentioned we spent a lot of time on climate and water, which she told us would be the big political/social/technological struggles of our generation. When I watched An Inconvenient Truth is was a nice refresher on what I'd learned when I was 14, and a friend in law school told me that water is the one of the hot new legal playgrounds for california attorneys, so I guess he was pretty much on target. There's more I could say about Isobel, but this comment starting to sound like some kind of acceptance speech. I'll just say that she's the best teacher I've ever had, I'm sorry for disparaging public school, and I'm honored you read my blog.

9:33 PM, July 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Theme in your posts? Money. Look beyond that someday. It seems you are getting there - and I wish you continued success - but money should be used to improve the world, not just your self-worth.

12:46 PM, August 25, 2007  
Blogger Wiley said...

Howdy from another Austinite.

11:19 PM, August 26, 2007  
Blogger John said...

Great post, Jonathan. I shared your experience from public school, little money, etc. all the way through to the valley in 2000, and on to the mild euphoria of making enough money and the boredom of making more than that. My (temporary) solution was to do an extended trip on the (relatively) cheap and try to connect with the experience without leaning as much on money as a comfort. Had the added benefit of not taking place primarily on a computer or other gadget - blog posts, dig. cam. and late-night comfort IMs aside. Great while it lasted, but now working my way back to SF. Moths to a flame. Let me know if you find a more permanent cure.

7:45 PM, August 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you might give academia a try. not much money in it, and even if your research only ever gets published in journals no one has ever heard of, you can take solace that your teaching is having an impact. it's what I decided to do a couple of years ago.

7:04 AM, August 28, 2007  
Blogger sean said...

sounds to me like you are bored with San francisco, not teh Internets.

8:26 AM, August 28, 2007  
Blogger aynne said...

A very good post..
Its very easy to get caught up in the parties until you find yourself standing in the middle of a room, drink in one hand and a finger food in the other blinking at the 20 somethings talking about their start ups being sold to some mega portal/search engine and feel like it's deja vu (all over again)

I especially like what you said about money. The most useful thing I have learned is life is pretty sweet when you choose to live modestly and travel frequently.

10:39 AM, August 28, 2007  

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