Dark Futures Conference

Dark Information Sharing

Here are a few links I mentioned regarding the Dark side of Information Sharing last night at Nik Badminton‘s sold out Dark Futures conference.

These are public sector/government cases in Canada, or regarding Canadians, where you have no choice on how your information is shared. There are demonstrable negative affects as a result. We should work on these.

  • You can be detained, hospitalized, and forced to take drugs for a month under the Mental Health Act in B.C (read section 5). Being detained under the MHA removes Criminal Code luxuries like right to a lawyer or a trial. Here is the case of Vince, and a few others: FOCUS Magazine: An Overabundance of Caution [PDF].
  • Crossing The Line is the case of Ellen Richardson and a few others. It is the result of the CPIC Database being shared with the FBI, who now share it with at least the DHS and CBP, who are using this data to prevent Canadians from crossing the U.S. border. You can read the Ontario Privacy Commissioner’s report here, indiscriminate disclosure [PDF].

    Federal law allows personal information to be transferred outside Canada, even without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. Once the information is in foreign hands, the laws of that country will apply.

  • Part of the UKUSA agreement that binds the Five Eyes:

The parties agree to the exchange of the products of the following operations relating to foreign communications Collection of traffic and Acquisition of information.

While each of these countries can’t spy on their own citizens, they appear to be sharing the results of spying on each other’s citizens.

Nicholas Merrill writing in The Washington Post said, “Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case…from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been.”

If you have an interest in Privacy, Security, & Technology, check out my PrivaSecTech blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Ask me your related questions on any one of those, or here, and I’d be glad to answer!

1 on 1 casual professional market fit interview

Summary of the Product Market Fit Process

For the first half of 2015, I spent most of the time on the product market fit (PMF) process, trying to (in)validate a business idea. This week at Founders Coffee I was asked to summarize what I gleaned from the process. I’ve summarized it here:

Are you passion focused, success focused, or trying to find a happy medium?

You can focus on the product, or you can focus on the market, when finding product market fit.

Establish your solution hypothesis and your target market.

In tech startups, many entrepreneurs are excited about their tech product or service, so they race to create a minimal viable product (MVP) without validating through PMF. If your goal is simply building something, that’s fine, but this this increases your chance in failure. This leans towards passion over success.

The other end of the spectrum is you can simply identify a target market (customer), and talk to them, without any product or service in mind, and after the PMF process you will identify a pain you can hopefully solve. That’s right, you don’t even need to have an idea to start a successful business. In fact, the less attached you are to a product or service, and the more you’re attached to the product market fit, the more aligned you’ll be with the customer’s values, which will likely lead to more business success.

It’s best to have an initial hypothesis on a pain you will solve with your target market, otherwise PMF becomes a longer process, as it’s so broad. The more narrow your focus, the better, from an optimization perspective.

Just like your hypothesis on a potential product or service, you also need a hypothesis on who your target market is. Most people want to default to “everyone”, but the more narrow, the better.

Is your product or service for a specific age? gender? geography? Do they have a shared interest or business? Give your target customer a name, and try to describe them in detail.

The ideal is to find a balance of a product or service hypothesis to (in)validate, with a desire to match that with customer values.

Reach out to interview

This is often the hardest step, but reaching out to interview people is critical. Start with getting referrals to your target market. You can use tools like LinkedIn, or ask your friends if they know anyone, for an information interview. There’s an automatic extra level of trust if you get an interview from a referral which you can’t beat with a cold call. It needs to be clear to your target market you’re on the market research side, not the sales side. At no time during this entire process should you be trying to sell something, and that needs to be clear to your potential interviewees. In fact, you should never even mention your product or service during the entire product/market fit process, if you’re doing it right.

If you’ve run out of referrals, it is time to cold call/email for an interview. This is challenging, but remember this interview information improves your chance of success, so you won’t let anything slow you down. You want to have optimized your cold call pitch to friends and family before live calling.
Every question and statement should be written down and rehearsed. You’re asking for a short period of time from this busy person, maybe 20 minutes, where you can ask some questions for market research or an informational meeting on topic x. Topic x should be the category your product or solution falls under. You want to establish yourself as much of an expert as possible, and allude to the value. In my case, I offered to share the results of my research with all interviewees. If they declined, they know they would miss out on the results.

I would often ask for time “over the next week” leaving the window open for busy schedules, but limiting my time on the process as well.

Draft your interview questions

I’ll write more on this later, but you want to spend a lot of time here. Again, this process doesn’t work if you lead the witness, so there is no such thing as too much time spent on drafting out bias from your interview questions.

You want to start by asking a light personal question about the role of the interviewee in the scenario. If you have a business product for example, you would ask the interviewee what a day in their job looks like, or what their role is. If your idea is an innovative new straw, you would ask them how many times a day they drink something, and ask them to describe their drinking process to you. Ask them what’s the worst thing that’s happened to them while drinking something, how many times it’s happened, and what they did to resolve it. Ask what solutions exist to resolve this, and then when they answer, why they use those solutions, or don’t.

The most important thing to remember, is you’re just as eager to invalidate your idea as validate it. At no point during the interview, should you fully disclose your product or service. Your questions should be in the general category or topic area, but not directly asking.


When you ask the potential customer about their pain points in the general topic area, you’re listening for them to identify, or not, your potential space. This process is all about listening. Ask more questions, and drill down. You want to get to the root of the pain point. I’ll write later on how to formulate these questions in advance, but essentially you want something like the 5 whys. The more the customer explains the issue, and you understand the value of what they’re trying to solve, without offering a direct solution. You’re working towards letting the potential customer identify their values, and ideal solution. By the end of a couple of my interviews, I had major potential customers interested in buying my product/service, even though at no time did I even mention one! They instead identified solutions to me, and I asked them questions to optimize outcomes for them.

Ideally you should ask to record the interview. Once asking to record, there was less openness to discussing pain points, so if you’re a great note taker, maybe you can avoid recording. I transcribed my interviews to help recall them, and then listened to them a second time later to find which tidbits I missed.

You want to note not just the words, but tone and inflection. If someone gets excited, or raises their voice for certain words or phrases, note this passion down.

As you get more experienced, you can stray off-script, but for the first 5 interviews, I wouldn’t. This way your data matches your questions exactly.

Determine Values

The most important exercise is determining values. What are the values of the customer? The feeling is very important in decision making. Do you share the same values? What are the values of their job position or where they work? What are their values around using the products or services in your proposed industry? What are their desired outcomes and objectives? What feeling do they want, or get currently?

Determining the values of the potential customer will allow you to reshape your product or service to align with those values. 

Hopefully after interviewing as few as 5 people, you can review your interview questions for the next 5 interviews. You’re ideally finding a common pain point or two, and can reshape the questions in that general directions, but not direct.

In my case, after my first 10 interviews I ended up with 8 overlapping pain points in my industry, instead of just one or two big ones. From there, I can pick one, and start the process over for the next 5 interviews. You want to continue this process until when you start to ask the high level questions, you’re getting very similar responses to validate you’ve found a genuine pain point.

In 10 interviews, you’ll have identified several pain points. By 20 interviews, you’ll have drilled down into at least a couple pain points, to determine if they resonate across interviewees and if so — you now get to decide if that’s what you want to spent the next 5-10 years of your life resolving.

Open Science Network - Vancouver

Project: DIY OpenEEG/OpenBCI

Several years ago my friend Derek (of Biospace.ca) loaned me his Zeo Sleep Manager. You put on the headband at night, and it would measure in 5 minute increments if you were awake, in REM sleep, light sleep, or deep sleep. It would show the results on the display, as well as store them on an SD card. If you wanted, you could upload it to the company website and they would add very pretty graphs and make recommendations to improve your sleep. You could also take the sd card data yourself with very little work and graph it locally on your computer, so the data stays private, which is what I did.

My Zeo Sleep Manager

My Zeo Sleep Manager (sadly now out of business)

This created a lot of learning, and interesting self-research. I learned that we typically sleep in in several sleep cycles throughout the night. I learned that I didn’t have any deep sleep in my first few days, just REM and light sleep.
Derek also loaned me the book The Head Trip – Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness which talks about the 7 states of consciousness our minds are ever in. I highly recommend if you’re interested in the subject.

As I read more about sleep, and learned that deep sleep involves a lot of physical cell work, REM is more mental/memory related. I worked out excessively the next dat and that night I slept for ~45 minutes of deep sleep. I had a party one night where I drank excessively “for science”, to see if it’s true that I would sleep less well when inebriated. I tried many different things while I had this device, and learned a lot about my sleep I had no idea about before. Sadly, I had to return the clock, and the company which made the alarm clock has since went under.

Considering how important sleep is to our lives, it’s unfortunate we all don’t spend a lot more time understanding our own sleep patterns. While there are some phone apps that record your breathing and use the accelerometer to measure your sleep, I want something with more accuracy, and more privacy.

Enter the OpenEEG project, which discusses hardware and software neurofeedback solutions. I’ve been wanting to pursue this for years, but haven’t prioritized on it yet.

Last night, I went to the Open Science Network (Vancouver bio-tech community lab) meetup, “The Concept of Open Medicine” where I brought this story up, and several people seem interested, from a few different perspectives.

Open Science Network Vancouver

Open Science Network Vancouver – Concept of Open Medicine meetup

We’re going to start planning out a project this week-end, so if you’re interested, I’ll put a link at the bottom of this article when we have a time and place confirmed. In the interim, if you have any suggested reading, or ideas, or related links, please add them in the comments below.

I plan on adding a feature to the DIY device that measures audio and light throughout the night as well, to see at which thresholds our sleeping is affected.

3:00am UPDATE: As recommended by Derek, will also check out OpenBCI and Florida Research for sensors.

10:44am UPDATE: We’re meeting at 13:00 at Matchstick Coffee at 213 East Georgia on Sunday November 1st if you’d like to join us. [Meetup.com event]

Nov 1 UPDATE: It was a great meeting, we’re going to move the discussion to the Ideas Meetings – Vancouver Chapter wiki. Feel free to join us there in the interim, or at the meeting next week at the same time and place.

Ultra Modern Condo For Sale Downtown Victoria

I have a one bedroom condo for sale downtown Victoria priced at $239,999 $220,000. They say location is important in choosing real estate, this location is perfect. You can walk to anything you need, I’ve sold my car since moving into this condo. It’s a rare perfect 100 on walkscore.com. It is zoned for work, or home, and is perfect for either, because of the location. I’m willing to negotiate a rent-to-own option, I’ve done it for others in the past with previous houses I’ve owned. It also makes a great income property, it’s currently rented at over $1400/m. As I’m not using an agent, we can both save several thousand dollars in the transaction. This is why I’m only asking cost, so that we can save ourselves a long negotiation.

Kithen Area The Kitchen Area with matching appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher and microwave)

  • Gas fireplace (Gas is included in the strata, and all that I’ve used to heat the condo!)
  • Zoned for both work or home purposes!
  • Large South & West facing windows that are over 6′ tall from the ground; maximum sun exposure in the afternoons
  • Approximately 500sq ft, feels really large when blinds are open!
  • Deck area with professional landscaping and irrigation included
  • Washer and Dryer in suite (in bedroom closet!)
  • Concrete flooring
  • Deep soak bathtub with contemporary fixtures
  • Ample closet space
  • Two secure entrances/exits
  • Appliances to be negotiated: Microwave, oven/stove, dishwasher, fridge, washer and dryer 
  • Parking not included, but several nearby lots offering parking for an additional monthly fee
  • Shared rooftop area
  • Investment property; Rentals are OK!
  • Pets are OK!


Inside at night

Cozy at night with the fireplace. Unlimited gas is included.


Cute landscaped deck Cute deck with professional landscaping and irrigation included.

Living area Living area with magnetic chalkboard wall. I’m willing to negotiate furniture included.


Deep soak tub Deep soak tub

Ultra Modern sink with concrete counter Ultra Modern sink with concrete counter

in suite washing machine and dryer in suite washing machine and dryer

If you’re interested in seeing the condo, feel free to contact me.



UPDATE from my mortgage broker:

I have a cash back program I offer the buyer of your place. It’s useful towards paying off debt and/or lowering the mortgage principle. Let whomever know to contact me and I can help you save the penalty. With as little as 5% down the condo payment is 881/mo; it’s cheaper than down town rent. And no GST! I can offer as much as $4400 cash back to the buyer. And yes rates are rising, so waiting for a price drop won’t help, you’ll end up paying thousands more in extra interest costs.

Forget Discipline, Form a habit

Forget discipline, form a habit

Perhaps the only discipline you need, is that required to form a single habit.

While there has been a long standing rumour it takes 21 days to create a habit, this is a rumour based on Dr. Maltz’s suggestion in his 1960 book Psycho-Cybernetics that it takes 21 days to get used to your new self after an operation or medical issue, such as a nose job, or having lost a limb, not about habit forming directly. “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” This quote has been spreading throughout the self-help community like a viral version of the telephone game for decades.

The one scientific paper I can find suggests, with prediction modelling, it takes anywhere from 18-254 days to form a habit. On average, it takes 66 days. Based on this, you should be able to form between 1 and 6 habits year. I would suggest you start with one small habit as a goal small, and not punish yourself while developing your habit. Making an error or two will not have a long-term impact. That being said, the reward for discipline on this one small thing, for this short term of building the habit, will be extremely rewarding.

Trying to do to many things, or even too many steps in your habit, is designing for failure. Pick one thing you know is achievable for you if you put your mind to it. Do that thing regularly, for the next 66 days. At 66 days, evaluate. By the end of the year, you’ll see yourself a whole new person, even if you’ve only developed one simple new habit. You’ll have improved your previous self, which is the ultimate measure of success, to me.

In the book The One Thing, Gary Keller writes, “Australian researchers Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng have even found some evidence of a halo effect around habit creation. In their studies, students who successfully acquired one positive habit reported less stress; less impulsive spending; better dietary habits; decreased alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption; fewer hours watching TV; and even fewer dirty dishes.”

So even by working on creating one small habit, it will have a ripple effect in regards to improving your life.