Blog

#Introduce yourself in slack

Hey all, I’m a Principal and Head of Product at Neo.

I won an Emmy (2 really) for Creative Direction in Virtual Worlds. I was a Product Manager at  GroupMe, first employee of Hilary Mason’s Fast Forward Labs, product consultant for Hot Potato and founded a pair of startups including pushd which is still alive without me. I’m a T shaped generalist with deep experience in mobile product management and creativity.

My Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/chriscarella

I also make stuff - https://www.producthunt.com/@ccarella/products

Building Without Code

Tara Reed has this great post about building Kollecto without writing code. I think building without code is ultimately the future and Betaworks just released Dexter, which put this topic on my mind. So I decided to build something without code today and chose a personal utility I call MessageBot. MessageBot uses IFTTT to receive hashtagged sms messages such as #note, #todo, #people and adds them to a corresponding file on Google Drive. Additionally its sends you the weather report every morning; a useful message that also ensures MessageBot will be at the top of your sms client to start of your day. Finally it sends a weekly email to remind you of all the todos and notes you've added and people you've met that week.

Its the first step to building myself a personal-CRM and it helps me continue my experimentation with sms-first apps. Especially cool is that I did this from my iPhone. The setup is relatively straight forward so I'll just post some screenshots.

 

 

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An upcoming retreat

OK, I'm cheating on this #NYCBlogClub thing... as a reminder, a group of us have challenged each other to post 1 blog post a week for 12 weeks. This, being Monday, is technically week 4 but I missed my week 3 post but I'm going to post it today and consider it week 3 ;)

I have a lot on my mind and a perfectly timed vacation starting this Thursday. I'm headed to Amsterdam again. I've been 12 or 13 times; I don't really know, I've lost count. People always ask me, why Amsterdam but the answer is as complicated as anything you love. It was the first European city I visited and instantly expanded my worldview. It was were I realized the United States is a baby compared to most of the world. Its the place I fell in love with art. After years of trying to understand art, I took a detailed tour of the Rijksmuseum which ended with me standing in front of The Night Watch and like an epiphany combined with a deep emotional connection it all just started making sense. Its an easy city to travel alone. Everyone speaks my native tongue (english), there are tons of other travelers looking to make friends and the Dutch are friendly people.

I sometimes use Amsterdam as a tool for my personal/mental health. I value creativity and can't imagine doing my job(s) well without it. I also find my creativity wanes as time goes on. I've more than once decided to take a last minute vacation there to recharge. The weather, the people, the world view, an apartment in the Jordaan, the cafes on canals and the art brings me home feeling recharged. But this trip is different... I'm feeling full of creativity and need to decide where to focus. 

So there will be a lot of scribbling and sketching in notebooks trying to figure out what is really important to me and what I want to spend my time on. Art Mischief had a good year but I find myself the lone member again. I'm finding my entrepreneurial & business interests fulfilled at Neo and I'm realizing I don't give back to the world as much as I like. I want Art Mischief to be a force of good and I have a few ideas on how to make that happen but each one will take an intense amount of focus.

Now, I get to find out if a trip I often use to let my mind wander can also be used to internally debate the things I want to work on in an effort to find focus.

 

Side projects for personal development

I'm thinking a lot about my side project, Art Mischief, today. Art Mischief is an organization dedicated to making art more accessible. Our passion is street art, grafitti and contemporary art and the project was born out of our interest in helping many of our artist friends make a living. It might be hard to see that mission via our Instagram and Newsletter but our initial goal is to build an audience of fans who we can introduce to artists, artwork and shows. 

Art Mischief has some legal protections because I run it from my llc, Super + Fun LLC, but its run as a collective with volunteers contributing time towards what they are passionate about. Because of that, things are run more loosely and everyone can easily be granted access to any part of the project. Which brings me to why I'm thinking about it a lot this weekend. One of our trusted collaborators, due to a personal issue, logged into our Instagram account and deleted the last years worth of photos. 

So how do I feel about it? Disappointed to say the least. It's a minor setback for Art Mischief. We had an amazing collection of art posted over the last year but Instagram is ephemeral; it matters less what you posted last week and more what you post tomorrow. The value this person has contributed to Art Mischief over the last year vastly outweighs the damage done but in the process, they've wiped out their best portfolio. At least they can take with them everything they've learned.

When I was younger, I used to focus on side projects as my next potential startup. Working nights and weekends were going to make me rich! As a result, I was impatient and anxious to quit my job and turn something that should not have been a business into a business. It put an unreasonable amount of pressure on the project and collaborators. Some of them were prematurely turned into startups and strain was put on friendships. But side projects have always an amazing experience. What has been true of every one is that I have learned a tremendous amount.

So now, I work on side projects for personal development. It gives you an unparalleled level of creative direction since you don't have financial or market demands. It gives you the maximum amount of flexibility to work on the part of the project you are currently interested in. It allows you to optimize for learning on a weekly basis while pushing along your long-term strategic plans. Maybe most importantly, it makes it easier to find collaborators and ask your network for specific help. Here is an example...

I work with amazing people at Neo who are very good at their craft. I often oversee project teams with individuals who are WAY better at what they do then me. I know when and why to call on them but have nowhere near the level of expertise that they have at their craft. Scott McLeod heads marketing at Neo and is an amazing growth hacker. Before leading marketing, Scott and I worked on a project together where he was a designer and growth hacker. It was my first time working with a growth hacker and I was enthralled. His tactics worked, he was absurdly knowledgeable and I had to learn more. I knew what he was doing, how to explain it to the client and when to use it but was weak at it whenever I had to try it myself.

I asked Scott to join me one Saturday to teach me how to growth hack Art Mischief and he was happy to help. We spent 4 hours setting up all the tools and outlining a strategy and then touched based daily on Slack to tweak things or just check in. A few months down the road, I call on him much less frequently and understand the techniques I use at a very deep level.

Now I bring that skill set back to Neo, the companies I advise and my friends building things. I would have never gotten the opportunity to develop these skills so deeply at my job; it just wouldn't have ever been a productive use of my time.

This is why I encourage all of my friends and coworkers to have side projects. Not so they can build the next great company during their free-time but so they can learn, work on and exercise all of the new skills they tell me they want to learn.

#NYCblogclub

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So... I'm blogging. It's been a loooong time. Sure I had this popular post on Medium a few months ago, but that's the kind of blogging you do for work or to promote a product. This is different.

The last time I regularly blogged was around 2007 when I posted my last entry on The Daily Graze, a blog about my insights, theories and experience in the second wave of virtual worlds (i.e. Second Life). It's been fascinating to watch the excitement around the Third Wave of Virtual Worlds (i.e. Oculus) and the same ideas being discussed again. That blogging experience was both positive and negative. The positives were that I built an enormous amount of credibility which was good for my VR company but was even better for myself since I got to fly all around the world talking at Conferences. I even got to sit on a panel about Virtual Worlds and MMO's at Harvard with World Series MVP Curt Schilling. In the end we both ran our companies into the ground. That brings me to the negative experience of blogging. It turned out that a lot of the stuff I was shouting from the rooftops as the truths and wisdom of a 27 year old kid turned out not to be true. Or at least not true at that moment in time. Virtual Worlds crumbled and my opinions about sharing my theories online crumbled with it. I feel like too many people take blogs like Fred Wilson's as Truth instead of Opinion. I felt like my blog was a little like that at the time and I let people down.

But I like writing and I don't have many outlets to do it, so a blog feels right. I believe in Julia Cameron's Daily Pages, where just the act of writing daily opens up new pathways of creativity in the brain. I'm feeling like I'm in a highly creative period of my life and want to foster it and keep working at it. Creativity is like a muscle. We all have it but only some of us choose to exercise it.

i joined a group of creatives, technologists and entrepreneurs in NYC called #NYCBlogClub. The goal is to encourage each other to write one post a week for 12 weeks. I wanted to start writing and I found a peer group. I'm getting wiser as I get older. 

I'm writing this post from my iPhone while streaming Drake via Apple Music to a Bluetooth speaker. 2007 this is not.

I'll be blogging as me, which is a hybrid of Chris Carella and Chris Mischief. Chris Carella is my legal name but ironically it feels like my professional name. Chris Mischief is the name I use in the art scene, on creative projects and for my hobbies outside of tech. It feels more like me. I'll blog a lot about my identity, technology and the arts. The posts will be opinions and experiences but not advice or truths. I think even my closest friends will learn a thing or two about me in the next 12 weeks. Enjoy the ride. 🚀