I Don't Trust You (with my Inbox)

Being someone who is fundamentally against data collection, mining, user profiling and all the other lovely things that advertisers and service providers like to do, there comes a point where just talking about it is not enough. In light of this I decided to attack running my own mail server on a Raspberry Pi and succeeded in freeing my data from the man once and for all. I think you should too and here is what you stand to gain:

  • Real, ‘pick it up and take it away’ ownership of your data.
  • High assurance of it’s secure transit. With properly configured TLS nobody but you and the recipient mail server can read it.
  • The knowledge that your data is not being used to target ads at you, or worse siphoned off at rest by the omnipotent agencies of the day (although you can’t control your recipients inboxes, so tell them to read this too).

Assuming you can master the setup (or rope in someone who can), the price of the mail service you are using can now be measured in dollars and cents (likely very few of them) rather than some measure of how much privacy your free mail host’s privacy policy affords you.

Here is an excellent guide to get you started.

As for the price of running my Raspberry Pi mail server, ~$3.93/year.

On Moving to a New City

So I moved to Toronto, 13,879km from ‘home’ and here is what I found.

Firstly, ‘home’ is where you feel comfortable, so work on that right away. Make sure you know where everything is, where you like to hang out and spend time and where all of your necessities are. Nobody wants to look at a map when they are at home so getting this figured out quickly is key.

Friends. I have never been a person who you could call a socialite (or anything close) and so I’ve only had to maintain a few relationships since I’ve been away but even with that said, it’s hard. You need to make the effort to get in touch, and not blame the other person for not doing so. It’s a two way transaction and friends like spending time because they get something from each other, don’t stop giving your half. This will show you who really cares about you, and maybe also who you really care about.

Family. The thing I miss most about Auckland.

Hobbies. Don’t sit at home in your downtime and do nothing. Moving to a new place is (and has been) a great time to start a new hobby or give your old one some more attention. Check out my photos taken since I have been here.

Work. Resist the temptation to let work replace your downtime or hobbies. We all know how that is going to end and workaholics never win any prizes.

Routine. If there was anything you really wanted to set in your daily routine (same as hobbies), get this sorted now.

And finally, go do stuff you normally would not. You’ll learn new things (about yourself and in general), have new experiences and you might even make some new friends in the process. If not, nobody here knows you anyway so go nuts.

An Open Letter to Nikki Kaye

My name is Ethan, I live and work here in Central Auckland.

I am writing to you to express my concern about the GCSB Bill amendment vote this evening and I hope you will take the time to read this.

New Zealand has long been known for it’s beautiful landscapes and wildlife and been a model country for developing nations to aspire to. We are considered to be safe, peaceful and rational in all of our decisions and we have been championed internationally, over and over again for making hard but necessary decisions, based on the strong moral compass we all possess collectively as New Zealanders. New Zealand is a desirable place to be.

This bill stands to change that. I believe this bill will both divide New Zealanders from their government and from each other, as they will live in fear of being spied upon by their state. Whether or not this spying is a reality for each of these people, this bill will make them fearful of such actions. At the public meeting in the Auckland Town Hall last night on this topic I heard multiple people in the audience express this concern and even a few people who believe they are being spied on already. Please do not give them any more reason to be fearful of their leaders.

John Campbell’s poll on New Zealanders’ support of this bill had a record number of respondents on this issue, which is clearly one which New Zealanders’ find important as well as compelled to comment on. This poll ran for a full week and just 11 (5,879) percent of us supported the GCSB bill, with 89 percent (46,790) opposed. If we apply this percentage to the number of votes you received this election, over 13,000 of your supporters oppose this, and over 30,000 voters in that same electorate alone oppose this bill.

Please, I ask you to vote on behalf of the interests of your supporters and your electorate tonight.

Yours Sincerely,

Ethan Rose

Emailed to nikki.kaye@national.org.nz and mp.aucklandcentral@parliament.govt.nz at 7am this morning.

What it's like to work at a startup

Add 1 part idea, 1 part ambition, 5 parts effort and 5 parts actually caring. Stir over heat for a few years. Results may vary.

I imagine this is something like what the founder and first few people on board must feel like in any startup. Deciding to make a cake, adding the ingredients and then following some vague instructions which they made up along to way to see just what kind of delicious treat they can muster. I have been lucky enough to jump onboard the team at Vend somewhere around the middle of the baking process and two years in it looks like something really tasty is rising in the Vend oven.

There are a bunch of really great things about working with this team of people which I think any startup can learn from.

  • People are your best asset. Nothing is going to work without smart, passionate and dedicated people who are willing to put in the hard yards so they can share in the wins. Get your people invested, any and every way you can.
  • Listen to your users. Vend could be building the best POS no retailer ever wanted to use if we didn’t listen to the users and really take on-board what they want and need.
  • Don’t forget to have fun. If there is any time a company can have fun and lay exactly the kind of path they want to be strolling on it has to be in the early days.

And it’s everyone’s job description to bring delight to our users any and every time we can.

In another more traditional industry where I might be given a limited range of options with which to carry out my support role (because hey that sounds too hard, too time consuming, too “not how I would do it so why should you”), here I am empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done and come out with a happy customer (and this makes a happy support person) so it’s a win all round. Hiring support people shouldn’t be an exercise of finding people who will best follow rules rather, who is best at breaking them and bending them with the ultimate goal in mind. Being encouraged to work this way is extremely satisfying.

Finally to sum up the day to day perks of being part of a young company making its own way - loud office music, lots of coffee and lollies, standup meetings and people working freely together are awesome. Cubicles, hierarchy, bureaucracy and closed doors are not, and are nowhere to be seen here.

What You Really Mean

Big brands, telcos, airlines and banks - this one is for you.

People are intuitive. They know what you really mean to say and they know when you’re not saying it.

Honesty is so, so important. Both honesty and setting the right expectations would have to be the two most important and central values that all brands should encompass. If something goes wrong or someone isn’t happy, that can be sorted. If the right expectations were not set at the beginning, the only thing anyone can do is say sorry. Think of a time that you paid for a service or product that went on to lie to you in some way. Now tell me that you ever trusted that brand again.

A relationship that is built on trust and honesty is one that will be long-lasting and beneficial for both parties. Customers don’t think of your brand as a collection of intangible ideas, images or words, they think of it as a personality they can relate to. Answer questions up front, be a friend and offer up something your customer will appreciate, rather than denying them what they are really looking for. Be friendly to other brands, no-one likes a bully. Be clear about what is important to you and take a stand when it’s required.

If this post reads like a self-help, how to be a good friend manual, that’s exactly what it is.