I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.


A Modest Proposal: Dueling 3D Printer Board Game

Dear Internet,

You’ve made some pretty cool things in the past. Nyan cat and Robot Unicorn Attack are rainbowy good. What The Fox Say and that Game of Thrones song are both sing-it-for-your-neighbors-from-your-shower catchy. Cards Against Humanity is a delightful exploration of boundaries via kinetic poetry.

But, there’s a major strategic area you’ve overlooked, Internet. And I’m a little surprised. Actually, I’ll just say it. I’m a little disappointed. I know how much you love 3D printers. And I know you’ll always have a thing for board games, in all their retro-lofi glory. There’s an opportunity here, at the intersection of maker and player. At the cross-roads of two bourgeoning trends. Internet, only you can yenta two lonely fields together, to forge a brand new atavistic experience.

Internet, you need to make a board game—think space strategy, a la Eclipse—where the ships/pieces are printed in real time. Where the piece build time is the time in takes the 3D printer to build it.

You start with no pieces and as the game opens, you build lots of weak little ships. Their physical size means they don’t take much material and print quickly. That fire power buys you enough time to invest in building stronger big ships. These might take upwards of 15 minutes to build, but choose carefully, you’ll be blocking your production queue. With your 3D printer behind a sheet of cardboard, your opponent knows that you are are building, and for how long you’ve been building, but not what you are building. The whirr of your stepper motors give tantalizing hints of your strategy. Of course, you’ll be able to cancel production mid-way for an incomplete downgraded/vulnerable piece, like the partially constructed Death Star.

As you know, Internet, any good board game needs a limit resources for which to compete. Especially resources that you can steal from your opponent. As you occupy planet systems, you’ll gain more resources in the form of more filament with which to print. Lose too many planets or have your supply line to base disrupted, and your printer will go idle, giving your opponent an advantage. Ideally, you’d also have a Filabot (a machine which makes new filament from old plastic), so that as ships are destroyed, you’d recycle them back into newer ships. Now it’s an ecofriendly, low carbon-footprint, DIY, and organic game. That’s some good branding.

The game would come with a set of pre-designed models to be printed. And you could just play that way. But, there’s more flexibility. Both you, Internet, and I fully understand your dark passion for Voltron. I can’t really blame you. Space robots that form bigger space robots is the up-cycling hipsterism of the future. Some ships you build will absolutely snap together with other ships to make bigger, more powerful ships. And for the CAD-inclined, you’ll be able to design your own interchangeable parts (or even ships) to augment the game. Think of it as just-in-time Warhammer 40k. And, Internet, you love Warhammer 40k nearly as much as you love 4chan’s /b.

This is just a quick braindump of the thoughts I had in the shower while thinking about you, Internet. Where it goes from here is up to you. But I urge you to prototype a game out. Maybe get MakerBot to sponsor. The opportunity to be first to take advantages of these trend confluences is now.

I hope this time next month I won’t still be disappointed in you, Internet. And because awesome, I will fund the first $500 of a Kickstarter to make this happen.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza A Modest Proposal: Dueling 3D Printer Board Game

Psychological Pitfalls And Lessons of A Designer-Founder

It’s an exceptional time to be a product person and a founder: we are collectively responsible for—and a part of—inventing the future. In the last ten years, design has changed the face of consumer electronics. That change has impacted the way we live, from how we communicate to how we get around.

I started Massive Health as a designer and a founder. These are the most important lessons and psychological pitfalls I learned. They apply to any founder or manager who is also a creative.

Your Job Isn’t To Make A Great Product

As a founder, your job isn’t to make a great product. It’s to build a great team that makes great products. You are who you hire.

If you love doing something, under no condition should you start a VC-backed company to do more of it. You won’t. You are going to spend all of your time recruiting, fundraising, recruiting, aligning team vision, recruiting, and figuring out which fires you can safely ignore.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Psychological Pitfalls And Lessons of A Designer-Founder

The Future of Mozilla: Fast Second Follow

No one wants to be a follower. Except Mozilla.

Mozilla rarely moves the consumer needle with its own inventions. Rather, the company is at its best — and its best is revolutionary — when it takes an existing product and re-envisions it as a public benefit product, where the people making have a top-down directive to never include revenue as part of a decision making process.

Mozilla, a nonprofit, must capitalize on its record of fast-second-follow success, identifying products that have already found consumer traction and then remaking them Mozilla-style.

Five years ago, I joined Mozilla as part of an aqui-hire. I was a founding member of Mozilla Labs, and served as creative lead during the Firefox 4 release. While I am no longer on the paid staff, I carry Mozilla DNA and often find myself reiterating Mozilla mantras. Safe to say, any critique I offer here is not meant as a slight; every company has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to know how to play to those fortes. “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia”, noveslist C.S. Lewis famously wrote. And, so it goes in open-source projects: Once a contributor to Mozilla, always a contributor to Mozilla.

When Firefox debuted in 2002, Microsoft had all but abandoned its Internet Explorer development team. By streamlining and improving an existing product, Mozilla revitalized the stagnating browser space to protect the most important shared resource of our times. Today, the space is intensely competitive, with browsers from Apple, Google, and Microsoft each vying to be the fastest, most capable and most compliant. The majority of web now surfs on open-source browsers. That’s a huge Mozilla victory, and a huge victory for the open web.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza The Future of Mozilla: Fast Second Follow

You Are Solving The Wrong Problem

There is some problem you are trying to solve. In your life, at work, in a design. You are probably solving the wrong problem. Paul MacCready, considered to be one of the best mechanical engineers of the 20th century, said it best: “The problem is we don’t understand the problem.”

Story time.

It’s 1959, a time of change. Disney releases their seminal film Sleeping Beauty, Fidel Castro becomes the premier of Cuba, and Eisenhower makes Hawaii an official state. That year, a British industry magnate by the name of Henry Kremer has a vision that leaves a haunting question: Can an airplane fly powered only by the pilot’s body power? Like Da Vinci, Kremer believed it was possible and decided to push his dream into reality. He offered the staggering sum of £50,000 for the first person to build a plane that could fly a figure eight around two markers one half-mile apart. Further, he offered £100,000 for the first person to fly across the channel. In modern US dollars, that’s the equivalent of $1.3 million and $2.5 million. It was the X-Prize of its day.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza You Are Solving The Wrong Problem

Massive Health: Raised Money, Spending On New Hires

This blog post is by my cofounder Sutha Kamal, who is Massive Health’s fearless CEO. He is by far the smarter of the two of us. He has previously sat on the other side of the VC table and most recently was the acting-CTO for Fjord, which is the mobile design firm responsible for making the a lot of the mobile experiences you have every day as good as they are. As a side note, the best gift I’ve ever received is having the funds we raised for Massive hit our bank account on the day I turned 27.

Aza and I have spent the last few weeks trekking up and down Sand Hill road, speaking with investors and looking for firms and individuals who share our mission to help people get healthy, and can help us build a great company. As a result, we’re excited that we’ve raised a $2.25 MM seed round from Felicis VC, Greylock Discovery Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Charles River Ventures, and Collaborative Fund. We’ve also got some amazing angels behind us, but our PR folks have asked us to keep the list short.

And now that we are funded, we are hiring.

Our goal at Massive Health is to bring the kind of innovation we expect from the Internet world to health care. As Aza mentioned, we’re excited to encourage a design renaissance in health care. We’re also excited to bring “big-data” analysis and other techniques to discover insights that improves lives. Crowdsourcing, game mechanics, and social networking are cool, and applying it to helping someone get and stay healthy? That’s exciting. That’s powerful.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Massive Health: Raised Money, Spending On New Hires

My Father’s Final Gift

Jef Raskin, my father.

Twenty five days before my father died, on my birthday exactly six years ago, he gave me a present. He had the sparkle back in his eye—the one that had been reduced by pancreatic cancer to an ashen ember—when he gave it to me. It was a small package, rectangular in shape, in crisp brown-paper wrapping. Twine neatly wrapped around the corners, crisscrossing back and forth arriving at a bow crafted by the sure hands of a man who built his first model airplane at age seven.

This small brown package will be the final gift my father ever gives me.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza My Father’s Final Gift

Redesigning OSX Spaces: 45˚ Is All It Takes

This is a guest blog post written by reader Luka Vida, a front-end guy and computer science student at University of Zagreb in Croatia. If you’d like to do a guest blog post, send me an email.

Almost all Mac users have used, at least once, Apple’s solutions to windowing woes: Exposé quickly rearranges all open windows in an ad-hoc grid for quick perusal, and Spaces enables separate virtual desktop which lets you divide your workspace into sensible areas. It’s the second feature I want to discuss. Switching between each Space is quick and easy, but with a simple redesign tweak it could be greatly improved.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Redesigning OSX Spaces: 45˚ Is All It Takes

Privacy Icons: Alpha Release

Earlier this year, Mozilla convened a privacy workshop that brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers in online privacy. People from the FTC to the EFF were there to answer the question: What attributes of privacy policies and terms of service should people care about? This lead to a proposal presented for the W3C, among other places, which further refined the notion.

We are now ready to propose an alpha version of Privacy Icons that takes into account the feedback and participation we’ve received along the way. We’ve simplified the core set dramatically and tightened up the language. While the icons don’t touch on all topics, we do think they significantly move the discussion on privacy, as well as the general level of literacy about privacy, forward. We do not want to let perfection or devotion to taxonomy get in the way of the good.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Privacy Icons: Alpha Release

The Problem With Home

If you sit and watch people use an iPhone there’s a mistake made often and reliably: They hit the home button when they mean to just go back to the app’s main screen. Going home has heavy consequences—to recover you’ve got to find that app again, sit through its splash screen, and fiddle the app to where it was before. The home button is the grunt-and-touch control of physical affordances. While iconically simple, the one bit of information it lets you indicate is too little.

Android and Palm’s WebOS have a different but related problem. Instead of providing a home button, they provide a “back” gesture/button in addition to a home button. At first this appears to be better with its strong allusion to the ubiquitous browsing metaphor. But back on the phone is unpredictable: it might mean return to the last screen, the last area, or even the home screen. You never know where back will take you. Worse, there is no undo to “back”; without “forward” back becomes a minefield of maybes and didn’t means.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza The Problem With Home

Leaving Mozilla, Starting Massive Health

Firefox is a project you never want to leave, and Mozilla is a company of which dreams are made. No matter where I travel in the world—from Rome to Tokyo—there are engaged Mozillian communities that immediately whirlwind me to a local pub to talk shop. I’ve been extremely lucky to participate in the world’s flagship open-source movement.

After helping to shape and ship the world’s leading browser to nearly half a billion people, there’s little one can do which seems meaningful. Where does one go? It’s been an action-packed time: I’ve started projects from Ubiquity to Jetpack; designed the Firefox Mobile concept and the original W3C geolocation specification; led projects like Firefox Panorama and given a TED talk; helped scale the open source design community; and even invented new forms of phishing. The scale of impact and ability to work in the open for a public-benefit company has been a life-defining experience. The last two and a half years I’ve been inspired by, and lucky enough to also inspire, the best and brightest in protecting and enhancing the open Web—arguably the most precious resources of our time.

Come January 1st, however, I’m leaving to found a new company. Massive Health.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Leaving Mozilla, Starting Massive Health