What I learned from Caloom

Last Sunday I made a painful but needed decision to stop a project which I had been working on for many years with some great people. I like to thank the great people involved in the last leg of the project: NE and KV

If you (N and K) ever read this blog and like your name public then fine but it all is not important. Important are the principles, patterns and weak signals that I picked up and had to understand and learn from. Therefor, not many names.

In 2005 I left TeliaSonera where a very interesting and prestigious career path was laid out for me weren’t it not torpedoed by 2 jealous and incompetent colleagues. I went to work at some point with stomach pain, tears in my eyes. I knew something was wrong there but had no experience in working at a large corporation.  I got an apology from the responsible VP who misjudged the matter when it was unfolding. This episode left a deep scar.

if you get pains in your body: something IS wrong

if you feel sad day in day out: something IS wrong

these are signals take them serious, seriously

That year a dear friend (SM) suggested to join me in a research project on energy and while having a lot of better things to do but no wisdom to choose the right one, I joined. This was a fascinating ride in many ways as it showed me that I could be seriously wrong but be convinced I was right: cognitive dissonance. At some point (this was around 2006) we both learned how energy and finance and “the economy” were intertwined and that soon aspects of our financial world would begin to break down.

If you are convinced based on your intellectual analysis, step back and consider you might be completely wrong.

If you believe 1 story so much all other stories are written by evil and manipulative people: take a big break as you seriously need it

In around 2008 we stopped working on this project and I was full of energy to turn my gained understanding into a service useful for the wider public, steering away from the ongoing “let’s make a service and sell it to google” mentality so prevailing among starters and financiers.

Follow your heart, your intuition as it will bring you to a better place … eventually

Soon I got the idea for what turned out to be Caloom: a service-platform that let you quickly design a service to sell, find, discover, rent, borrow stuff, anywhere, anytime by anyone. In other words: what + where + when + who +worth (a value) –> 5W

this came in a flash, a moment of clarity after having spoken to about 80 people/ organisations about their needs: every request could be broken down in 5W

It was build in one summer by HL, a genius programmer who actually just stopped doing code as he was “sick&tired” of the scene. He liked the idea and through a friend and family member (RH) he began and completed it, except for the last bit as he had to start his new studies. This last bit, the “buy” button as I tend to call it would have made it possible for me to get paying customers, there were plenty committed to buy and use this. I talk about larger NGOs here with memberships ranging from 10k till 100k+.

This was hugely frustrating, to have something nearly done and customers waiting and not being able to deliver

So I started to find people to work with me. Well, that was a roller coaster. Promise after promise after promise and me waiting diligently, patiently and hopefully for about 3-6 weeks for each programmer to add something to a server and later Git. Many thought it was easy but they one by one wanted to skip the code that was already made and which worked. I needed time to find a new programmer which could take weeks, then waiting which took again weeks and all in all I stopped counting at 15 programmers, 3 years and many thousands in debt in both lost income and pay to those who did something.

I was convinced that in the end I would find this 1 programmer that truly understood the concept and the implications and would pour her or his heart into it as well: Mistake on my side

It is not about them, all had good reasons for not continuing. It is about me as I didn’t pick up the sometimes weak and sometimes blatantly blunt signals sent out by them.

“I want 50% of the shares”
“I want to redo everything as language-X is much better”
“Sure, this is easy”
“I start in … days as I now have something to finish (3 times in a row)”
“I need 5000€ a month”

And there were more of those but I can’t remember. Still I went on and I found a great programmer (KL) who could do magic. We implemented a part of the vision for a few customers (Aalto University among others) and it is still running (update: it stopped late in 2015) as far as I can see. But it turned more and more into his project and I lost between 5-10k as I was convinced he needed the money more and I would get it later.

You work, get paid

Stick to your guns and don’t change course halfway 

Don’t be afraid to hurt others as they might hurt you, sometimes all is unintended

Luckily I found NE and KV and we had a great productive ride for about 6 months. Then the project became a drag, no focus, loss of vision, constant little changes, new people coming and going leaving useless code behind that NE had to clean up. No fun for none of us. I was far from productive as I felt like having to motivate the others while my feeling was all were in this together for the same reasons and with the same motivation. I lost my energy. Life turned out different.

Do 1 thing and do it well, only then think about adding something else

I tried to find ways together with NE’s marvelous support to get to do some coding myself but I was still stuck at getting the same code to run the same way on my Mac and MacBook and for some reason if it worked on one, the other stopped. We changed not so long time ago to once more another approach: Docker. It worked in the end but it broke the last straw in me. Each time I started the VM I had this fear of once more something unknown to me was going to happen.

Get control over the tools you use, if you don’t have it, learn it first otherwise don’t use them

Some day not long ago we had a very good meeting with a consultancy and it seemed they understood what we aimed for in the long run, which was very different from the original concept but I dedicate another blog post on that evolution. That same day I met a potential collaborator, a designer-coder-dataviz expert. The meeting was interesting in many ways but I left with a feeling of WTF am I trying to accomplish? I have no heart in this anymore, I have solved this so many times over in my mind that I do not see the point anymore to explain it properly.

Follow your gut feel

Follow your heart

An aside

During the past 5 years I got more and more involved in studying and above all experimenting with how our reality works. It looks as if digital-physics is on the right track. I began to develop very interesting ideas about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and beyond. In the last week, the day after the above meetings, I proposed something to a (public) person I respect a lot, Tom Campbell. And as always his reply was succinct and opened many more doors that even he could probably imagine. I found the probable answer why AI as done now has little value aside of clever computation.

Everything fell out of place and back into place like in a Sci-Fi movie. What I aimed for over the past years was already naturally solved and there was no need for me to further this. I could do the things I really loved. Caloom was not needed anymore, it probably wasn’t needed for a longer time but I couldn’t see it. Because it wasn’t needed a part of me wanted to pull out, the intuitive part. But I felt guilty for not finishing it, felt obliged to the others involved and I felt many other useless and even destructive emotions. Now I begin to recognize them again.

if you don’t wake up in the morning with a huge surge of energy to work on your project: think twice then
if you feel you need to motivate others so they do you want them to do: this is seriously fucked up
trust your intuition, once again

Another aside

a few weeks back I was in Estonia where I gave a lecture and workshop (details in other blog post soon). That was a turn-around moment for me as well. Without any effort and basically no preparation I stood there and did some magic. You can put me anywhere and let me talk about creativity in the larger sense and I do fine and better than fine. I do not mean with creativity making drawings, building with LEGO or similar, I mean Creativity as a part of who we are as humans.

The lecture and workshop, the meetings and the email exchange with Tom plus the enormous strain this all has had on my family was a 1+1=2 moment: enough is enough

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