PeopleCount probably won’t ever launch without backing. My current cold-letter to potential funders is below. You’re welcome to forward it to anyone who’d like to help fix American democracy.
Like the Moody Blues said, “We’re all looking for someone.” I’m looking for a team and funding. The funding is just another way to create a team. Continue reading
Real political transformation
PeopleCount is the real deal. It’s a real solution to our worst political problems and empowers citizens to make Congress fix the rest. It empowers not just citizens and incumbents, but hugely empowers challengers. They add ideas, keep incumbents honest, and pressure them to perform.
And PeopleCount doesn’t just empower challengers to win. It empowers whoever wins to rise above party politics and serve the people.
Our political system is in bad SHAPE
Right now, our political system has the PERFECT shape to deliver the results we’re seeing. Our current system is ineffective and invites corruption and dishonesty.
With PeopleCount, the shape of the system will naturally pull for accountability. It’ll naturally improve our political system. Plus the PeopleCount organization will work hard to serve people. We’ll keep molding it to serve people, not parties or philosophies, and support finding great solutions.
And we’ll deliver breakthrough accountability for an organization. We will be accountable to you. We’re not in it for profit, but I’ve spent my savings on this. We’ll set up a bonus system that will only pay out with citizen approval.
Currently, America has NO system for finding, developing and delivering improvements to politics. No system for delivering accountability. PeopleCount is committed to being that system.
Sports in the woods, or in an arena?
It’s sort of like an arena for sports. When sports were played in tilled fields, it was natural to be wild and playful. There were limits to what was possible and players often got hurt. An arena, with its stands and referees and lines and scoreboards invites scrutiny, fairness and real rules. It’s an environment that pulls for better sports.
PeopleCount creates an environment that pulls for accountability, honesty, transparency and serving the public good.
I’ve done 99% of the planning and 75% of the work. In a very real sense, its success depends on the next 99% of the planning and work. I’ve prepared for launch and created plans that will grow it quickly. The work involved in that growth is daunting. PeopleCount needs a team.
Please put some real time into considering this. Please read some more and suggest some ways you can help. I’m an engineer- I’m not a marketer or a writer. I’ve done a fair job at those, but not enough to even run a crowdfunding campaign, much less launch. Please help.
If you saw a real political solution you wouldn’t know it without doing some homework, some challenging thinking. Please do that. Please read my Nuts and Bolts article, and a few others of note on on my blog.
Then tell me how you’ll help. To start with, please put your name on our mailing list and make a donation. Let’s make real transformation happen.
This is an introduction to PeopleCount and myself. It’s one (860 word) article, and points to a 2-part series about The Nuts and Bolts of PeopleCount, and a 6-part series about how Political Accountability is in our Blind Spot. PeopleCount is about a new paradigm for politics, one that can start in a few months, if I can get some support… Continue reading
This is about the nuts and bolts of the first version of PeopleCount. It’s very simple.
Imagine a non-partisan website about political issues. It’s purpose is to serve you.
No personal data is ever shared with others.
Here are the nuts and bolts:
Guide to the PeopleCount Blog
I’m a lousy entrepreneur. That means I’ve fail a lot and redo a lot. In the last post, I listed a bunch of myths, plus a rule, that make entrepreneurship harder than it needs to be. This one is about my weakest weakness.
Every team needs a sales person. I’m okay giving a presentation, but not great. People distract me. If they interrupt, I easily forget to keep moving the presentation along.
And I’m too bright for my own good. I’ll be giving a presentation and someone will ask a question. The answer springs up in my imagination like a long, winding road. I don’t know how much to tell them. And there are some interesting sites along the road. I’ll squint a little bit as I sift through what to say. People easily mistake that for looking confused or concerned.
Salespeople lie. Usually not in a bad way. They gloss over the unnecessary details, smudging the truth a bit, finishing the pitch. Of course there are more details, but they’re not appropriate in a sales meeting. My brain chases after details like a Labrador Retriever chases squirrels.
I’ve learned is that contractors need to be micromanaged if the task isn’t extremely simple. If the slightest detail isn’t specified, they’ll make something up or fake it. And every small task should end in a new test passing. Otherwise they’ll think it’s done when it’s not.
Have you heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect? This is where incompetent people will over-estimate their competence. They understand something, so they assume they understand what’s needed. There’s a corollary: “…high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.” I made that mistake managing others. I assumed they understood what I told them and that they understood the spec I wrote.
A lousy entrepreneur is who’s available
Maybe, with enough time, I can get PeopleCount off the ground with no funding and no committed help. It’s almost demo-able right now. One part is missing but I may be able to get a company to give me some software for free for the first half year. (Fingers crossed.)
But my brain keeps screaming: You shouldn’t be doing this alone! It’d be great to have a team of 4- someone doing sales, marketing, presentations and networking, someone designing the web pages, and a political science person helping with the content. Meanwhile, I work on the back-end and generate the vision to drive us all.
But for now, it’s all me… Plus I’ve got taxes to do and am looking for full-time work to calm my wife and son… Oh, and I need to finish the book. I’m sure there’s more. This is who’s accountable for transforming politics.
Please help. In 30 seconds, for no money, please put your email address on my announcement list. If you want to make my day, and strike a blow for America having a government that’s accountable to the people, make a donation, too.
PS: The next post will be more upbeat…
An entrepreneur is often very different from an inventor. Lots of people assume that: If someone has a good idea for a product or service, they’ll be able to build it. It’s not true.
Myth: A good inventor can be a successful entrepreneur
People assume that if you have “a great idea,” you can be successful.” It’s not true at all.
What’s true is that investors look for a good idea and either some kind of success already or the team has had success in the past. There are a million things that need to be done decently and some of them need to be done well. Rarely does a team of two even succeed. Pretty much the only time a single person succeeds is if they’re expanding a consulting business that already has a customer.
Entrepreneurs are similar. Unless you’re already a buddy of theirs, they assume the project isn’t worth doing unless you have everything but their part covered and they get a salary. They don’t say, “How about I come on board tentatively and help you put together the team.”
Myth: There’s a large, nurturing entrepreneur-support community
This isn’t true either. There is a entrepreneurial-team support community. But I haven’t found any help in forming a team.
I went to a few events, but found no support. There are people to talk to, but they’re mostly either busy or looking for something in a particular industry. Plus they’re all listening for standard businesses.
My guess is that the only way to find a team to do something new is to work on it either at a college or with buddies right after college. And you have to launch and prove it before any investors will be interested.
There is a large entrepreneurial community. And they have books and tutorials galore. But none seem to address the problems I’m having…
Myth: Everyone can network
Everyone assumes that social interaction isn’t a problem. I’m pretty normal socially, but not completely so. I’m fine when I start working with people at a job. But with meetings I’m not so good. I’ve been pretty nervous recently when I’ve pitched. I’m super-focused on the product and it takes a lot of work to switch back to the person I’m talking to.
And I can easily pause and have a flurry of thoughts go through my mind. The first risk is that I’ll lose track of what I was saying. The second is that I’ll think I said something that I really just thought. That can be confusing to the audience.
Unfortunate: Entrepreneurs shouldn’t act desperate
Occasionally I’m desperate. I can shake it off and realize it’s just the brain again, generating nerve-wracking scenarios. But it comes up at times. And everyone says not to show that at a meeting.
It’s unfortunate because it means I need to lie, or cover up. It turns out I’m actually accountable for being confident. (It’s not fair!)
Myth: If you can’t, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur
This is a big one. Really, if you can’t, you just think you can’t. I couldn’t do most of the things I’ve done. And it shows in the extra time it took and the failures I’ve had. But each time I managed to find a way around them.
But it’s an uphill battle. Please support me. In 30 seconds, for no money, please put your email address on my announcement list. If you want to make my day, and strike a blow for America having a government that’s accountable to the people, make a donation, too.
I’m publishing my daily progress. You’re welcome to check up on me… Blogging makes the site easier to find and helps me feel connected. And I’m looking for a job – (J) means I applied for a job and (B) means I published a blog post, (d) is a draft. Next:
- Implement new default settings for content (then view all in web UI)
- Split graph into per-answer graph.
- Add data so graphs are interesting
- (Publish a November newsletter)
- ?? Maybe I should ask people on LinkedIn for references?
Th 11/17: Phone interview.
W 11/16: Emails today, and some content (BB)
T 11/15: Fixed display! Worked on content. Created transcript for a video.
M 11/14: Interviewed. Mostly passed…
S 11/13: My son helped me straighten out my todo list (B)
T 11/8: Election, sigh…
F 11/4: Wow- 12 days without an
Th11/3: (J) Began newsletter… (Last entry till the 16th…)
W 11/2: New content is displaying in browser, a few errors remain (J)
T 11/1: Much of it’s working, fixed the json writer at 1am…
M 10/31: It’s coming together- need to write a json writer, too (bb)
S 10/30: Struggling to finish a blog post…
S 10/29: I thought I was on track to finishing, but need to use a new json parser.
F 10/28: (b)
Th10/27: Did some of it, maybe most, but bugs remain
W 10/26: Finish fixing syntax of json files containing draft content. -done (bbb,JJJJJ)
T 10/25: Gave a presentation to my Representative!
PS: I’m looking for a job to avoid taking too much from my meagre retirement savings.
Today is Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016. I gave a presentation to my congresswoman today around noon. (Apologies for the length. This is 1700 words- 3.4x normal…)
Last Thursday, the appointment had came through.I talked to a friend- he was excited for me. I spent the day trying to outline the talk, but kept writing things and realizing it was too much.
Friday I focused on trying to finish a demo. The web pages need a bit of work, and the content needs a lot. I had forgotten how much work goes into good questions. And sometimes I start looking up information about the issues and that can take a long time. When I did this a few years ago, a volunteer helped me. That was before I learned that corporations weren’t allowed to use volunteers. And now my family is too nervous about money to let me pay someone minimum wage, so I’m on my own…
Saturday I spent most of the day finishing an application for a fellowship and possibly an investment. I had read all through the website and didn’t find the dates, except that the application was due on Monday. Finally, at the end of the application, it said that the final selection was in June. That’s probably too late, but I sent it off anyway.
It’s a 2-year fellowship and they give $80,000. It didn’t say, but it sounded like per year. They said if there are 2 founders, they give $90,000. I was puzzled why they’d give more for two people. Also at the end of the application I saw where it said the amount is for two years, so it’s $40,000/year for one person (and $22,500 per year for each of two people.) That’s real money, but not enough to save me from needing a job… But the possibility of an investment is still there.
Luckily, Sunday my friend called back. He was horrified that I didn’t have the slides yet. With him listening, I was able to do a high-level outline. Then I prepped some food for dinner. I did more for an hour, then decided to spend just an hour on the demo. Big mistake. Suddenly the afternoon was over. He called. I had made a little progress. With him on the phone, I did most of the rest in about ten minutes. I shared the slides with him over Skype screen-share, and he trimmed them way down. It was so much better!
We talked again Monday morning and I outlined the changes I wanted to make. They took a while. I took a break which ended up being two hours. I couldn’t decide between 3 changes. When he called in the evening, it still wasn’t done. But with him on the phone, I finished most of it.
Tuesday morning he called and I gave him the presentation again. It needed a few changes, but those would be enough. He had heard some new things in the presentation and was even more enthusiastic about my success. We hung up and I finished the changes. I printed them while I showered and dressed. I got ready to leave, but they weren’t printed! My wife helped me to fix the printer, but we couldn’t. I saved the slides to pdf and put them on my website.
Presentation: I got to her office early, at 12:35 for the 1:00 appointment. I’d only have 30 minutes. The receptionist gracefully printed the slides for me. The congresswoman came back from lunch early and we started at 12:47.
I put the slides on the table: Creating Accountability in Politics
She was interested. A few times she talked about her experience, the huge efforts that she and her staff went to to be accountable. She reads over 300 messages from constituents every day. Other members of Congress are amazed. I presented a full model of accountability- the relationship between a boss and an employee. Then showed what that might look like for voters and a representative. Then showed how PeopleCount makes it easy. And then how it adds pressure to make it happen, and rewards when it does, and even makes it easier to replace an incumbent in an election. Mainly, it’ll ensure that Congress passes widely desired legislation, like overturning Citizens United and passing anti-corruption and anti-gerrymandering legislation.
She liked it! We talked till 1:30. She’s intrigued and supportive. Members of Congress are not allowed to endorse a product, but she’s almost willing to make some connections for me. Almost. She thinks I need to have to at least show it works on a small scale. Sigh…
To me, that’s just wrong. It’s the standard answer. It’s “best practice” for investors. Standard answers and best practices support the world we have. They support startups of teams in college, or young adults living in a garage, or serial entrepreneurs funding their new business themselves or with their flush connections. Best practices kept PeopleCount from being successful for the last four years. They ensured that Obama would regret Congress not being less divisive, as he said in his last State of the Union address.
She’s much more respectful of protocol than I am. She respects the people she’d introduce me to and wants to give them something more substantial. That’s normal.
Then I think of Obama, with big regrets that he couldn’t make Congress more productive and less divisive. If someone had a way to fix this he’d want to hear about it early. He’d find a way to support it. Especially if it’s odds of succeeding without support were small. (If I had had support 4 years ago, Citizens United would have been overturned by now, anti-corruption legislation and anti-gerrymandering legislation would have been passed, too.)
I sort of hated it at the end when she gave me encouragement. It’s certainly nice that she liked it. But without action, it doesn’t help at all. I don’t think encouragement even helps my attitude. I took a minute just now and did a bit of introspection. I think my brain thinks it makes the people giving the encouragement feel better. “I can’t donate, but I’ll pray for you.” I think my brain resents that. Plus the pretense that they’re doing enough.
I just saw- my brain thinks only I am making a decent effort at this. She’s working her butt off reading 300 letters a month atop a full schedule and huge workload and my brain thinks it’s not enough. Maybe I can blame that pettiness on listening to Trump too much. But it’s good to see- I’ll let that go…
My son is after me to apply to jobs. He worries even more than my wife. If I go back to work, I’m not going to be able to work on PeopleCount much. And I’m going to hate it. Every hour, in the back of my mind will be regret. Maybe even resentment. I can let that go, but it takes effort and my productivity is diminished, making working more stressful…
To me, the real reason to go back to work is small-mindedness. It’s the belief that “we need money. and it’s bad to borrow against the house, because PeopleCount won’t work.” It’s self-defeating…
The problem is, and has been, that I’ve needed help to get to launch. I could use about $50k to hire someone to help me finish and manage the workload. I could really use about $130k for the next 6 months. $50k (at least) for me, $30k for software contractors. And that’s without marketing costs… Even better would be to have a real partner. I keep trying to do it without sufficient resources…
Back in the car, I called my friend. He was mostly pleased. He took her side, launching into a “best practices” rant. Of course she has a valid point of view. But it could have turned out differently. And it still might. My congresswoman now has a new possibility for politics that works. There’s no knowing who she’ll talk to or what she’ll think of to say. And I can still write to her. Maybe I should even add a new slide…
And I thanked him. Profusely. I’ve always know that I shouldn’t be doing this alone. Except when I’m working on software or problem-solving, I work much better when I’m interacting with someone. But a partner continues to elude me… This time, he kept reaching out and it was enough.
And then my friend asked to borrow my car. He has his own start-up that hasn’t gotten off the ground. They have a team, but no demo yet. And they’re broke- credit cards maxed out. At the beginning of this month he expected to start living in his car, and then a friend donated the rent. Today the CEO’s car just broke down. My friend doesn’t want to lend his car because he might have to live in it soon…
My ritual before sleep is a bit of meditation. So many little bits of panic and fear, resentment and regret, blame and accusations, even shame and hopelessness, Feelings of being alone, abandoned, wishing life were over. Sadness at people’s inability to see, and my inability to paint a picture that works, or make enough progress. I let them all rise up. It’s okay. You’re just a brain, computing. The results of all that thinking and fearing are just thoughts, conclusions, guesses, fears. All those calculations are accurate, based on what you know. I accept them as the thoughts they are. You’re doing fine. You sent me all your messages, you’ve done you’re job. I’ll take responsibility for the rest.
It quiets down. And the truth is that we’re still eating and still healthy.
And we’re creating a life worth living. We’re even giving humanity the ability to design its own future. Not just the politicians or the scientists or the wealthy technocrats, but all of humanity, together. What did Helen Keller say?
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
Life goes on. Possibilities abound. Sometimes I think possibilities are so numerous because people are so blind to them, so brainwashed by what they know. The latter seems true, but even if more people were open-minded, possibilities are infinite…