How to Solve World-Changing Problems

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 8:10pm -- Isaac Sukin

The other day I read an article about global warming, and something about it keeps bugging me.1 My initial reaction was that someone would figure it all out; someone always does. But "someone" doesn't seem to be getting very far this time, and this is a big, important, world-changing problem. So, I thought, why is that "someone" not me?

You have an idea. You need a website. Now what?

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 - 3:46pm -- Isaac Sukin

I have the unusual distinction of being a programmer in a business school that is currently experiencing something of a startup fever. Penn also happens to have a relatively small but enthusiastic CS community in which I consider myself active. One result of these circumstances is that I am frequently approached by students1 who have ideas for a business or have started a business that requires a website, but who have no idea where to start. I've been on the other side of that table too, hiring contractors for startups I've worked on. Here's the basic outline of how I answer this common question.

How you should accomplish getting a website built depends a lot on how fundamental the technology is to your business, how complex it is to build, how much money you have to spend, and what tradeoffs you're willing to make between quality and time.

Making money from the fallout over SOPA and PIPA by questioning assumptions

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 - 3:55pm -- Isaac Sukin

Recent discussion sparked by opposition to the SOPA and PIPA bills has mostly been along the lines of "piracy is bad because it hurts the entertainment industries, but SOPA and PIPA go too far..." I agree with Jonathan Coulton that statements like this make too many unproven assumptions. So let's start from the beginning.

Assumption 0: People should pay money for art

I think most people would agree with this assumption, although for most of human history that wasn't true.

Questions I'll Ask Your Startup

Mon, Jan 9, 2012 - 1:49pm -- Isaac Sukin

I talk to a lot of startups. I have a lot to say about what (not) to do if you are on the hiring side of this exchange, but for now I'll cover the minimum set of information you should be prepared to discuss if you want to hire a developer for your early-stage company. This is the first real interaction you'll have with a potential coworker. If you struggle with convincing someone to join your company, you can bet you'll struggle with convincing someone to buy your product or service, so you should be prepared with the information a potential hire will want to know. These are questions I will pretty much always ask you about your startup in an interview, and they're pretty similar to what a VC would want to know. When I say "I" below what I really mean is "any developer" but it's more convenient to write in the first person.


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