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How to turn 'NO' into 'YES'

In this blog, I'm going to share how I first learned to turn a "no" into a "yes," and some of my earliest, most powerful business lessons that have served me for 30 years.

If you don't ask, you don't get. And if you get a "no," find another way to get to "yes." I first learned both of these things when I was an undergraduate at MIT. 

I created my first "start-up" organization during my sophomore year at MIT back in 1980. The group was called Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) -- an organization that I'm proud to say is still going strong today. I started it when I found out there was no pre-existing space organization at MIT. At that very first "founding meeting," 30 people showed up, and at the end of the meeting we had a charter, a constitution and a mission. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine started a chapter at +Princeton University (Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame later became president of that chapter), another friend started a chapter at Yale. After an article appeared about SEDS in Astronomy and in Omni magazine (which used to be one of the top science magazines), I received hundreds of letters from undergraduates at other campuses wanting to start chapters.

SEDS ultimately became a national and international student space organization, with 100-plus chapters around the world. Running an international organization out of my fraternity living room was no easy feat... especially in those pre-Internet days when communication by phone was cost-prohibitive and the only other option was snail mail. I'm fond of saying that SEDS was the ultimate MBA, teaching me everything I needed about leadership, finance, management and fundraising.

My first lesson in fundraising came when I set out to raise the massive sum of $5,000 (remember, this was 30 years ago!) to cover the cost of printing and mailing the International Chapter Newsletters. Through friends and faculty I had a few fundraising meetings set up, but in each case, as I got close to asking for the money, I ultimately didn't. For some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to make the "ask." 

I had heard the phrase, "if you don't ask, you won't get," and I now understood exactly what that meant. Ultimately the first step in raising funds was to overcome my own personal fear of rejection. My next meeting turned out to be with the President of Draper Labs. Draper Labs had been the famed partner to MIT in creating the Navigation & Guidance Systems for the Apollo program, and if there was ever an organization that should support SEDS, surely it would be Draper.

Committed to making the actual ask, I gave the president my pitch with all of the passion I could summon. I knew at the end of my presentation that I really had done my best, and I was quite hopeful. 

But at the end, when that awkward silence that followed my pitch finally broke, his response was disappointing: "Peter, I love what you're doing and would love to support you, but Draper Labs is a nonprofit; I'm unable to give you the money you want."

At that, I nodded in acceptance and was literally walking out the door when I remembered another piece of advice: Don't take no for an answer. 

I turned back to him and said, "I have one more question: 'Those newsletters I'm trying to get printed -- any chance you have the ability to print them here at Draper?'" He said he did. I continued, "And, any chance you could mail them out to our chapters for us as well?" He said he could.  

Ultimately the cost and scope of Draper Lab's contributions of printing and mailing over the subsequent years well exceeded $50,000. A $5,000 turn-down was converted into a massive success by remembering two things:

1. There is ALWAYS something you should take away from every fundraising meeting you hold;

2. Sometimes, the donation of goods or services is much easier and more valuable than cash.

Today, whenever I take a fundraising meeting that doesn't result in an investment, at a minimum I'm committed to extracting value from it. That value can come in multiple forms:

1. Ask them why they didn't invest or contribute. Learn from them!

2. Ask them under what conditions they would invest or contribute.

3. Ask them whom else you should go to and ask for an investment.

4. Ask them for an introduction!

When you invest your time in having the meeting and you're coming from a place of passion and commitment, almost everyone will find some way to help you. 

In my next blog I'm going to explore why 100-year-old, billion-dollar companies go out of business... the difference between Linear vs. Exponential Thinking.

NOTE: As always, I would love your help in co-creating BOLD, and will happily acknowledge you as a "contributing author" for your input. Please share with me (and the community) in the comments below what you specifically found most interesting, what you disagree with and any similar stories or examples that reinforce this blog that I might use as examples in writing BOLD. Thank you!
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The largest DDoS ever seen (300 Gbps) has impacted shared infrastructure.  Perhaps now people will start taking the threat seriously?
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Have you ever wanted to take a snapshot of a linux process, maybe to run it again later, or to migrate it to a new machine? Here's one weird tip on how to do it.

There's two important facts about linux to remember for this: everything is a file, and, linux represents processes as files under /proc.

To backup a process, we can simply use tar. An example, backing up your current shell session:

$ tar czvf shell-$$.tar.gz -C /proc/$$ /proc/$$/

Simple, no? (Those paying close attention will note that we've deliberately avoided including the process's directory in the tar-file, because this would complicate the restoration process below.)

Restoring this process later is slightly trickier  because we don't want to accidentally overwrite any existing process. So, pick a random number, and do:

$ mkdir /proc/<randomnumberhere>

If that fails, then phew, we just avoided overwriting an existing process. Try again. When that succeeds, we've found a free process number for your snapshotted process. It's time to unpack the snapshot:

$ tar xzf -C /proc/<newprocessnumberhere>/ shell*.tar.gz

Ok, now the snapshot is in re-instated, but how do we get the process actually running again? Simple, we just send it the CONTinue signal:

$ kill -CONT <newprocessnumberhere>

And we're done. It doesn't get any simpler than that, right!?

Please note: this has only been tested on linux, i can't promise it'll work on any other OS.

(+Cory Altheide, because i think he'd appreciate this)
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Discussions about DRM often land on the fundamental problem with DRM: that it doesn't work, or worse, that it is in fact mathematically impossible to make it work. The argument goes as follows:

1. The purpose of DRM is to prevent people from copying content while allowing people to view that content,

2. You can't hide something from someone while showing it to them,

3. And in any case widespread copyright violations (e.g. movies on file sharing sites) often come from sources that aren't encrypted in the first place, e.g. leaks from studios.

It turns out that this argument is fundamentally flawed. Usually the arguments from pro-DRM people are that #2 and #3 are false. But no, those are true. The problem is #1 is false.

The purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations.

The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

Content providers have leverage against content distributors, because distributors can't legally distribute copyrighted content without the permission of the content's creators. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, what would happen is that users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it, letting them do so in whatever manner they wanted.

Here are some examples:

A. Paramount make a movie. A DVD store buys the rights to distribute this movie from Paramount, and sells DVDs. You buy the DVD, and want to play it. Paramount want you to sit through some ads, so they tell the DVD store to put some ads on the DVD labeled as "unskippable".

Without DRM, you take the DVD and stick it into a DVD player that ignores "unskippable" labels, and jump straight to the movie.

With DRM, there is no licensed player that can do this, because to create the player you need to get permission from Paramount -- or rather, a licensing agent created and supported by content companies, DVD-CCA -- otherwise, you are violating some set of patents, anti-circumvention laws, or both.

B. Columbia make a movie. Netflix buys the rights to distribute this movie from Columbia, and sells access to the bits of the movie to users online. You get a Netflix subscription. Columbia want you to pay more if you want to watch it simultaneously on your TV and your phone, so they require that Netflix prevent you from doing this.

Now. You are watching the movie upstairs with your family, and you hear your cat meowing at the door downstairs.

Without DRM, you don't have to use Netflix's software, so maybe just pass the feed to some multiplexing software, which means that you can just pick up your phone, tell it to stream the same movie, continue watching it while you walk downstairs to open the door for the cat, come back upstairs, and turn your phone off, and nobody else has been inconvenienced and you haven't missed anything.

With DRM, you have to use Netflix's software, so you have to play by their rules. There is no licensed software that will let you multiplex the stream. You could watch it on your phone, but then your family misses out. They could keep watching, but then you miss out. Nobody is allowed to write software that does anything Columbia don't want you to do. Columbia want the option to charge you more when you go to let your cat in, even if they don't actually make it possible yet.

C. Fox make a movie. Apple buys the rights to sell it on iTunes. You buy it from iTunes. You want to watch it on your phone. Fox want you to buy the movie again if you use anything not made by Apple.

Without DRM, you just transfer it to your phone and watch it, since the player on any phone, whether made by Apple or anyone else, can read the video file.

With DRM, only Apple can provide a licensed player for the file. If you're using any phone other than an iPhone, you cannot watch it, because nobody else has been allowed to write software that decrypts the media files sold by Apple.

In all three cases, nobody has been stopped from violating a copyright. All three movies are probably available on file sharing sites. The only people who are stopped from doing anything are the player providers -- they are forced to provide a user experience that, rather than being optimised for the users, puts potential future revenues first (forcing people to play ads, keeping the door open to charging more for more features later, building artificial obsolescence into content so that if you change ecosystem, you have to purchase the content again).

Arguing that DRM doesn't work is, it turns out, missing the point. DRM is working really well in the video and book space. Sure, the DRM systems have all been broken, but that doesn't matter to the DRM proponents. Licensed DVD players still enforce the restrictions. Mass market providers can't create unlicensed DVD players, so they remain a black or gray market curiosity. DRM failed in the music space not because DRM is doomed, but because the content providers sold their digital content without DRM, and thus enabled all kinds of players they didn't expect (such as "MP3" players). Had CDs been encrypted, iPods would not have been able to read their content, because the content providers would have been able to use their DRM contracts as leverage to prevent it.

DRM's purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is satisfying that purpose well.

As a corollary to this, look at the companies who are pushing for DRM. Of the ones who would have to implement the DRM, they are all companies over which the content providers already, without DRM, have leverage: the companies that both license content from the content providers and create software or hardware players. Because they license content, the content providers already have leverage against them: they can essentially require them to be pro-DRM if they want the content. The people against the DRM are the users, and the player creators who don't license content. In other words, the people over whom the content producers have no leverage. 
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This story broke last week, but the Atlantic has the best arguments about why such a simple thing can be so scary. 

#nsfd  
Its targets extend beyond suspected terrorists—and some rhetoric that the First Amendment would protect is singled out.
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Finally registered for Tough Mudder.

Information link: http://toughmudder.com/
Donation link (goes to Wounded Warrior Project): https://register.toughmudder.com/tm/#event/18017/page/donate/fundraiser/r10900256
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+ben levitt Have you considered this for your plane hobby?
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From having a few RC planes, I can confirm this requires absolutely no life, a lot of money, and hundreds of hours of training.
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+Mike Conley You might appreciate this.
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Wow.
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Google #Reader  is the way I do about 90% of my daily web reading. This change makes me very sad.  Any suggestions for a replacement RSS aggregator? 
A few minutes ago, Google announced that they're killing their RSS feed-aggregation service, Google Reader, on July 1st. There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience. Google Reader is now trending in the United States on Twitter and as Mike Whybark points out, "Fuck you Google" is ...
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