On marriage equality

The message we send to young gay New Zealanders, plus their friends and family, needs to be front and centre of the imminent debate for marriage equality.

Anxiety, fear, embarrassment, shame, guilt, rejection, pain and suffering are familiar emotions for the vast majority of young gay men and women growing up in New Zealand. The selfish, ignorant beliefs of a shrinking minority are robbing our young people, who have their whole lives ahead of them, from the love and acceptance most New Zealanders take for granted.

When following the debate, forget about the act of getting married. Forget about men and women walking down the aisle. Forget about the preservation of an institution. Forget about whether the fundamental legal rights are already taken care of by civil unions. Focus instead on the underlying message we'll send to young people if we continue to treat same-sex attraction as a lesser form of love, different and separate from the love enjoyed by the balance of society. Look around you and you'll see that our current beliefs are causing unhappiness for many, and in extreme cases they're costing lives.

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posted by Dylan on 29 July 2012, 12:22 pm in ,

Update on nzflatmates

Good news! Since revealing last month that nzflatmates received just six voluntary donations from members in a little over five months, I can now report that we've received an additional 52 donations in the short time since writing that post. While we're still a way off where we need to be, it's certainly trending in the right direction.

Here's how we did it.

The first change was to stop using the word donation and swap it out for contribution. When members deactivate their profile, instead of asking for a donation we ask for a contribution at a price they think is fair. This saw an immediate increase.

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posted by Dylan on 19 July 2012, 10:20 am in

Create your dream life

In the last couple of weeks two of my closest friends have both independently of each other made huge life-changing decisions. Instead of coasting along in one direction, they're both heading somewhere completely new. They've made decisions that will matter 10 years from now. The kind of decisions that attract attention and where you can't hide from the outcome.

And it's got me thinking. Our goal in life should be nothing more than finding the courage to follow our hearts and create the life of our dreams.

It looks so simple on the screen. Follow our hearts. Create the life of our dreams. But how many of us really do it? I'm not talking about doing things you'd kinda like to do or merely acting on a preference. I'm talking about big dreams and big decisions that are uniquely you and ensure you end life with a smile on your face and no regrets.

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posted by Dylan on 2 July 2012, 9:46 pm in ,

The nzflatmates experiment

When we relaunched nzflatmates earlier this year we took the opportunity to conduct a small social experiment. We made the service completely free, but invited people to make an optional donation when they deactivated their profile. We were interested to learn how many people would would pay vs. not pay when presented the choice to do either.

The results were less than spectacular. A total of 10,311 profiles have been created since the new site went live on January 6th this year, and of those six (6) have made a voluntary donation. Not a typo.

The good news is that revenue from display advertising made almost enough to cover hosting and other miscellaneous expenses, but it's clear we're going to have to do better than six donations to cover the time spent working on the site by myself, friends, co-workers and contractors.

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posted by Dylan on 19 June 2012, 2:02 pm in

A moat for your castle

The best way to protect your business from hungry competitors is to think of your business as a castle, and happy customers as a defensive moat around the perimeter that keeps the competition at bay.

If your customers are happy, your competitors must work twice as hard to entice them away. They're unlikely to switch for the sake of a few dollars, and they'll ignore unsolicited advertising shouting for their attention. 

Keeping customers happy starts and ends with looking at your business through the eyes of the customer. Put the customer first and give your team permission to care. The rest takes care of itself.

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posted by Dylan on 16 June 2012, 11:44 pm in

Decisions that matter (and those that don't)

I've been thinking recently about choices and how they affect happiness. Choices require decisions, and decisions require effort and come at a cost. In the 21st century we have choices unlike any preceding generation. We demand choices in every aspect of our lives, and I'm starting to wonder whether it makes us any happier. In fact, I wonder if it makes us happier at all.

It wasn't long ago that deciding what to watch on TV was a choice between TV1, TV2 and TV3. These days we can choose between 25+ Freeview channels, 80+ SkyTV channels and thousands and thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows via iTunes. Want to read a book? Forget your bookshelf or even a library, fire up your Kindle and choose from any book ever written. Want to buy a TV? Sure - what brand? What size? LCD or LED? Or how about Plasma? Want to buy a car? OK, what make? Model? What colour? How big do you want the engine? Manual or auto? Leather or half-leather? Red stiching or orange? 

But of course it's not just the trivial things. We now have choice over what to study (and where), who to marry (and when), where to work (and for how long) and what religion to follow (if at all). We even have a choice over the shape of our bodies (plastic surgery) and how long we're going to live (medical insurance and medicines). It wasn't long ago that these decisions were effectively made for us. The choices were few, if at all. 

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posted by Dylan on 28 February 2012, 10:34 pm in ,

Lessons from Webstock

I don't usually go to conferences. Webstock 2012 was not only my first Webstock, but the first conference I've paid to attend. 

It was great.

Above all else, Webstock does a brilliant job of inspiring you to do great work. The event itself is run to a super-high standard which infects and inspires both the speakers and the attendees. It sets the stage for brilliance. The execution of the basics is world class on every level. The web site, the communication with attendees, the programme, the ID tags, the goodie bag, the venue, the graphics to introduce the speakers, the guest speakers, and of course the all-important after party. Every detail was thought through and highly polished and it motivated everyone to step up.

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posted by Dylan on 19 February 2012, 12:14 am in , , ,

RIP Phillip Cottrell

I'm saddened by the news this week that Phillip Cottrell died of the injuries he sustained from an assault walking home from his regular shift as a journalist at Radio NZ in Wellington. While details of the attack remain sketchy, Police have revealed that Phillip was a quiet, unassuming man who died for the sake of a few dollars taken along with his wallet. 
It was also revealed that he had a degenerative bone condition, or "brittle bones".
As someone who lives with the same condition (I don't know Phillip's exact diagnosis) I feel especially moved by this tragedy. Over the years I've experienced dozens of broken bones including arms, legs and vertebrae…mainly from simple falls that most people get up and walk away from. 
I can appreciate first-hand the terror Phillip must have felt as his attackers approached him. He stood no chance of defending himself, and would have known his fate before the first blow hit his fragile body. I wonder whether he pleaded for his life.
Phillip's death serves as a reminder to everyone that our actions often cause unintended consequences. Police have labelled this a murder, but chances are the attackers never meant to kill him. I don't say this to excuse what they did (any assault of any kind is inexcusable) but rather to highlight they probably had no idea of his condition and that their blows would prove fatal. They've probably assaulted dozens of people before, with their victims barely making the back page. 
Unfortunately this time, they chose the wrong target.
"Treating others as you'd like to be treated" is a worthy philosophy in which to live your life, but I wonder whether it goes far enough. We're not all equal, and we're not all strong in the same way. Whether it be verbal abuse, seemingly innocent name-calling, bullying, physical assault or anything in between, we need to be mindful that not everyone is as strong as we think they are. Some people wear their weakness, or their difference, on their sleeve. Other people bury it deep within. 
RIP Phillip Cottrell. 

I'm saddened by the news this week that Phillip Cottrell died of the injuries he sustained from an assault walking home from his regular shift as a journalist at Radio NZ in Wellington. While details of the attack remain sketchy, Police have revealed that Phillip was a quiet, unassuming man who died for the sake of a few dollars taken along with his wallet. 

It was also revealed that he had a degenerative bone condition, or "brittle bones".

As someone who lives with the same condition (I don't know Phillip's exact diagnosis) I feel especially moved by this tragedy. Over the years I've experienced dozens of broken bones including arms, legs and vertebrae…mainly from simple falls that most people get up and walk away from. 

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posted by Dylan on 12 December 2011, 11:44 pm in

It's not 1999 any more

Lance Wiggs blogged yesterday on Air New Zealand auctioning themselves to the lowest bidder. I added my own thoughts in the comments, but I thought I'd take a moment to explain why I think Trade Me is wrong to assume they will continue to be the default venue of choice forever and ever amen. 
Trade Me works because it has the greatest number of buyers and sellers. If you want to sell something (e.g. a heater) you want to sell it in the marketplace with the greatest number of people looking to buy a second hand heater (Trade Me). If you're looking to buy a second hand heater, you want to shop in the marketplace with the greatest number of second hand heaters for sale (Trade Me). It's a "winner takes all" cycle that's difficult to break and it's allowed companies like Trade Me and eBay to remain dominant for over a decade despite their relative lack of innovation compared to would-be competitors.
But the thing about auctions, is that you only need two people to want it badly enough to achieve a fair market price (add a Buy Now, and you only need one). In the case of Air New Zealand auctioning international airfares for $1 reserve, there will be no shortage of people willing to suffer the pain of taking 30 seconds to sign up to a new site in order to place a bid. It's worth it, and Air NZ wouldn't be choosing alternative venues year after year if it wasn't working for them.
And this leads me to my second point. Trade Me is often considered the default venue for selling just because it has the highest volume of traffic. This is a lazy argument. It's qualified traffic that really matters. You don't need millions of visits a month to sell a handful of airfares at $1 reserve. Likewise you don't need millions of visits a month to be Mighty Ape and sell more copies of a new release videogame than Trade Me or any other NZ retailer. People might not visit Mighty Ape to buy a second hand heater, but they'll visit to buy a copy of Skyrim or Battlefield 3.
You just need to look at how specialist e-commerce platforms are destroying eBay's core business in the USA to realize that the world is different today than it was a few years ago. Customers have billing relationships with multiple e-commerce providers, and finding them is just a click away thanks to Google and Facebook. In fact, the way Facebook allows e-commerce providers to leverage the social graph and instantly build trust is eroding the network effect advantage that eBay and Trade Me have enjoyed for over a decade. In 2010 you can build a new site and fill it with customers much more quickly than you could back in 2005 or 1999.
Trade Me may indeed still be a better fit for Air NZ, but it would be arrogant to assume that's because Trade Me has more traffic. Air NZ don't need Trade Me's natural traffic to run a successful auction, and that argument flows through to a growing number of vendors who are looking to start selling online.

Lance Wiggs blogged yesterday on Air New Zealand auctioning themselves to the lowest bidder. I added my own thoughts in the comments, but I thought I'd take a moment to explain why I think Trade Me is wrong to assume they will continue to be the default venue of choice forever and ever amen. 

Trade Me works for most people because it has the greatest number of buyers and sellers. If you want to sell something (e.g. a heater) you want to sell it in the marketplace with the greatest number of people looking to buy a second hand heater (Trade Me). If you're looking to buy a second hand heater, you want to shop in the marketplace with the greatest number of second hand heaters for sale (Trade Me). It's a "winner takes all" cycle that's difficult to break and it has allowed companies like Trade Me and eBay to remain dominant for over a decade despite their relative lack of innovation compared to would-be competitors.

But the thing about auctions, is that you only need two people to want it badly enough to achieve a fair market price (add a Buy Now, and you only need one). In the case of Air New Zealand auctioning international airfares for $1 reserve, there will be no shortage of people willing to suffer the pain of taking 30 seconds to sign up to a new site in order to place a bid. With Facebook Connect - you can now sign up to site with a single click. It's worth it, and Air NZ wouldn't be choosing alternative venues year after year if it wasn't working for them.

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posted by Dylan on 2 December 2011, 1:50 am in , ,

On procrastination

I've pondered recently the true impact of procrastination and come to realize the real problem isn't that you get less done by procrastinating, it's that you're less happy during the time you spend avoiding doing something unpleasant.

Consider for a moment the prospect of going to the gym. Few of us actually look forward to going. It's uncomfortable and quite frankly, boring. Promise yourself you'll go in the evening, and you'll spend most of the day dreading the thought of actually going. Your mind will wander, you'll complain to other people and wind up being less happy throughout the day than you might otherwise have been.

The same applies to most anything unpleasant. Filing a tax return, having an uncomfortable conversation, doing the dishes, finishing an assignment and so on. There's no doubt you'll wind up doing all of these things anyway, you'll just make yourself unhappy thinking about it beforehand. 

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posted by Dylan on 7 September 2011, 2:13 am in

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