Posts on May 2015

Choosing Greatness

A funny thing happened on my 1-year anniversary at LISNR. Spotify, in an effort to maintain its ranking as biggest and most popular streaming music provider in an increasingly competitive and commoditized category relaunched it’s service to provide more than just streaming music. Not only did they add streaming video, podcasts, and other media they also added music relevance. The ability to connect with content, recommendations, even the right music for your run based on what you’ve listened to in the past and the world around you. Spotify launched a product that LISNR scrapped last September.

That’s right. In September 2014 LISNR had a working prototype of a product (branded “NGINE”) that provided content recommendations based on the world around you. What you’ve listened to in the past, where you were, how fast you ran. LISNR had content partners lined up. And LISNR had 3 of the largest streaming music providers in active conversations around licensing this technology as part of their streaming music app. And we shelved it.

Strategy is one of those elusive terms. Each week I find a new “definition” of strategy that I like. But the one that has stuck with me since the beginning of my career came from one of my early mentors. Simply, Strategy = Choice. My mentor would tell you more – that it’s technically the economic definition of strategy, and he’d go into some examples of game theory. But it all boils down to the ability to make choices. And in late 2014 LISNR chose greatness.

In Q3 2014 our organization had 3 different business models. Three different focus areas. Three different “proof of concepts” that we were selling to prospects. We had over 30 pilots in market in our then 18 month existence. But we hadn’t shipped a single product.

Fast forward to early February 2015. That same 20 person team had a product in market with a CMS portal surrounding the core code base. In a one-week period in February the LISNR team rocked the stage at R/GA TechStars Demo Day, presented to digital marketing leaders in sport at National Sports Forum, and sat on a panel with RocNation and SuperFly at Digital Entertainment World.

Three months later we sit named as #12 on the CNBC Top 50 Disrupters list. We have stayed true to the core business model developed in Q4 2014 allowing us to drive an amazingly accelerated rate of bookings. And we have a plan that will scale the technology capability and team’s ability to serve the market growth over the next 12-18 months.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

LISNR, Turn Down For What? Nothing.

September, last year, I became enlisted into the most unique company I have ever known. What makes this company different? It is the community and the culture.

LISNR is about being better than enough. This is being recognized by our customers and is really beneficial to its employees, community, and is a must. Without a living culture, no company can get the talent to maintain its course. It is by our culture that we have attracted the talent that has grown into our workforce. This is more than just a group of people; we are a family, a team. We have grown into a family that believes in our cause and become stitched together at the seams. This patchwork is united by commonality and driven by not one, but us all. United, LISNR has stood, is standing, and will continue to stand.

Unification through happiness

“Become happy, which will then help you become a success”1 (The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace, 2012).

The stats of working in a place concerned with your happiness, according to the research from the Wall Street Journal and iOpener Institute as recorded by the United States Geological Survey Department2, is:

  • Employees believe they are fulfilling their potential up to double that of their peers
  • Around 65% of employees have more energy
  • 58% of employees are more team oriented and helpful
  • Employees align their values with the company’s values up to 98% more than their peers in other businesses
  • Workers are 10 times less likely to take sick days
  • And most importantly to the bottom line, 85% of happy employees are more efficient at their work than the alternative

(List paraphrased from The Science of Happiness: How to Build a Killer Culture in Your Company, 2013)

Happy, Disruptive People

Untitled

Above is a picture of those stats come to life in a culture of individuals who have achieved success from a healthy, happy workplace. These very people are what helped LISNR to become the #12 disruptor company3 (Meet the 2015 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies, 2015).

So how did these happy people become so happy?

  • Engaged leadership who understand that the employees decide the culture (Leadership guides, does not dictate)
  • Employee meetings on deciding the culture (We set the parameters)
  • Happiness Committee (Because we are that dedicated to happiness)
  • Training opportunities (Encouraged to grow with hack-a-thons, mentorships, and pair programming)
  • Agile Development Strategies (You know it!)
  • We roll deep when we decide to go places (Employee engagement)

LISNR is its own company derived by a people who believe in the company values, establishes a culture that is involved in the local community, and most importantly, care about each other and our mutual success. As our culture grows, our success will grow, exponentially. We won’t be turned down for nothing!

Sources

1The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.leadertoleaderjournal.com/sample-articles/the-importance-of-happiness-in-the-workplace.aspx.

2The Science of Happiness: How to Build a Killer Culture in Your Company. (2013). Globoforce Limited. Retrieved from http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/ecd/mentoringreadinglist/Science_of_Happiness.pdf.

3Meet the 2015 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies. (2015). CNBC. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/102609977

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

PyCon 2015: Are we still changing the world?

(Join the conversation on Hacker News.)

Last month, I was thrilled to represent the LISNR Engineering team at PyCon 2015 in Montreal. Though I’ve been a proponent of Python since I first discovered it in 2008, this was my first PyCon.

But gearing up for the conference, I was bittersweet.

I ❤️ Python

Over the past seven years, I’ve worked with Python for school, personally, and professionally to build everything… from blackjack games to computer vision trackers to projects in pattern recognition, information retrieval, and MapReduce, to web apps to most recently backend APIs at Lisnr.  In short, it’s become my favorite high-level language and my default language for nearly everything.

Is Python dead?

But lately I’ve been feeling bearish about Python.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear that Python is: (a) thriving, (b) experiencing a subtle decline, or (c) losing relevance on the web.

On the front cover of its handout of case studies, The Python Software Foundation boldly proclaims:

“A programming language changes the world.”

– The Python Software Foundation

The debate revolves mainly around two other languages: Ruby and Node.js.  Though Python and Ruby are syntactically similar, they are philosophically different, and Ruby is younger.  Rails was, and still is, a leader in web apps, with some even arguing that Ruby itself is geared toward web development.  Node, or io.js, unlocks stronger scalability (i.e., better concurrency through asynchronous I/O).  Event-driven web app architectures are touted as the future of server-side development, especially efforts which advance anti-monolithic components, which the Node community tends to do well.  [And, yes, we do have Tornado and Twisted in the Python world, but I digress…]

From conversation with developers locally and on the coasts (and also the front page of Hacker News), I felt concerned that our community was stagnating in favor of the other two.  Though we will always have the standard library, the third-party package ecosystem is a big factor in deeming any language suitable for new projects.  Are we losing relevance to a newer generation of tech?  Should we start considering a new default stack?  Should I actually start learning ES6 now?  These are some of the questions on my mind on the way to PyCon.

The Hacker News front page trends toward making everyone feel like their stack is obsolete if every component isn’t the latest and greatest hyper-specialized bleeding edge.

Has traction changed?

Looking at hard data from Stack Overflow and GitHub, of the top 10 programming languages, there are six suitable for backend web app development: JavaScript, Java, PHP, Python, C#, and Ruby.  Additionally, the top 5-10 languages don’t change much (or quickly).  Spoiler alert: Startup buzz is just trendy.  [One potential exception that will likely happen in the next few years is Go, but since it’s relatively lower level and really focused on concurrency rather than web apps in general, it’s more complementary to Python, than immediate competition.]  So, in all that: Where do we fit?

On silver bullets and hipster stacks

Most technologists argue against the existence of a universally best piece of tech — No Silver Bullet.  Instead, we should opt for the best tech to solve the problem at hand, even when it’s not our favorite.  Luckily, the problems I solve regularly are flexible enough that any top language, or a less popular one, will do.  Good developers are knowledgeable, but we’re also opinionated and human (i.e., biased and occasionally irrational).  I think this can be one of the hardest battles faced by forward-thinking developers because: (a) it’s easy to stick with what’s comfortable, and (b) the Hacker News front page trends toward making everyone feel like their stack is obsolete if every component isn’t the latest and greatest hyper-specialized bleeding edge.

Python isn’t falling off.  I say that with confidence from both the data measuring GitHub and Stack Overflow activity, and the strong community I experienced at PyCon.  Everyone uses Python.

Python is not just for web apps

On Saturday, my friend and fellow Pythonista David Felix and I sat down at a random lunch table. We started talking about sessions relevant to our work: APIs, security, scalability, deployment, etc.

Grams for the grams. #meta #PyCon #pycon2015 #instagram @instagram

A photo posted by Taylor Edmiston (@kicksopenminds) on

Me with David after discussing Django with an Instagram engineering lead.  Meta.

One of us brought up a pain point about the default caching configuration with memcached in Django not considering header params, then drifted into more advanced web app topics we’d like to see talks for.  When we asked another attendee at the table how he uses Python, he responded, “You know, Python is not just for web apps.”

It’s a patently true statement that’s easy to forget in the tunnel vision of solving your own work problems on a daily basis.  He’s right.  So I stepped back to ask myself: Who uses Python?

Everyone uses Python.


Taylor Edmiston is the Lead Backend Engineer at LISNR.  You can reach out to him or follow on Twitter @kicksopenminds.

LISNR is an emerging leader for building powerful experiences around presence using data-over-audio.  You can learn more about our tech and request beta access at lisnr.com.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.