Michael Miller is an award-winning designer and computer graphics analyst, as well as a recognized expert and innovator in computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), graphical user interface (GUI) techniques, mega-scale interactive media project management, and virtual communities. He is also author of a wildly popular book, The Webmaster's Guide to Glory! How to Win the Top Web Awards. The beekeeper of The Beeline @ bton.com, Míc, as he is known on the Internet, is a native of Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Míc attended Indiana University as a psychology major on an athletic scholarship. With the help of his coach, Bob Knight, Míc transferred to the University of Colorado, Boulder to pursue architectural studies. He graduated from the design college with honors and was distinguished as the first senior to author a masters-level thesis.
This is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.
[Internet Brothers] Is the Internet responsible for moral subversion as some in Washington, D.C., would have us believe? Wasn't the Internet responsible for the Littleton, Colorado, Columbine High School shooting tragedy? Isn't every other web site pornographic or steeped in hate as the fear-mongers believe? Internet Brothers sees the opposite. We see a web of communities. Perhaps you would care to offer your opinion.
[Míc Miller] I don't mean to question that city's expertise on moral subversion, but I don't think so. Columbine was caused by a group of out-of-control kids that manifested with two taking deadly action. My question is: Who let these kids lose hope? Shootings, porn sites, hate literature, and its kind are symptoms of a degenerative society. This universe has only two directions, evolution or de-evolution.
As Socrates put it, "City is people." If we swap "city" for "Web" and teach Soc to surf; I'd like to think he'd go along with it. The Web continues to form hamlets and clans motivated by geo-political reality, socio-economics, and shared interests. If we recall our communal history, there's a great irony here. It's another clue to me that Someone Out There is not only clever, but has a sense of humor.
[IB] Time. There never seems to be enough, particularly for the grunt work of owning a web site; the never-ending battle to attract new visitors and keep the old ones coming back. What can you suggest for streamlining daily, weekly and monthly activities we MUST do to keep up?
[MM] The trick with Time is learning how to make it your ally. Time is relatively constant, but our perception of Time is constantly relative. Learning to use Time wisely is, to me, the purpose of Life. It is also something we have to figure out for ourselves. As for streamlining routines, I'd say, learn to prioritize and use compensatory strategies.
[IB] Let's say we could give you a blank check, the finest graphic artists in the world, the most technically inclined database programmers out there, the best copy writers on the planet, and the creativity of Michelangelo. How would you start a new internet company from scratch?
“I'd start an internet company by finding out what people really want and need and go from there.” —Míc Miller
[MM] Couldn't you just give it to me and let me show you? Okay, let's talk theory. First of all, someone is needed to identify a problem statement whose "solution" would be considered marketable. Then, after some encouraging background investigation and preliminary research, objectives could be visualized, reasoned and refined. Next, the core multidisciplinary team would form the hypotheses and parameters for an "optimal solution." At this point, the core team brings in others with the specializations needed to help create the "solution." Working models are developed to a prototypical state and tested in every way possible. If it's still green lights across the boards, limited production runs can be made and test marketed or field tested. If sales and/or feedback are positive, ramp up production and marketing. If not, it's back to the drawing board until it "flies right."
Now, this is a methodology that has been used in the Industrial Age. You said "internet company" and that's Information Age. The formula can be the same except for factoring in the gap between solution provider and end user. Selling a simple appliance for less cost is one thing. Selling a complicated appliance that costs more is another matter. Today's Internet "solutions" usually incorporate third-party "solutions." When the end user faces too many learning curves, the "solution" isn't that productive. The videocassette recorder is an early example of a smart appliance that showed this gap. On the other hand, a smart appliance can actually bridge this gap as the Macintosh computer proved.
To get back to your previous question on Time, we all can use productivity solutions if they are just that and don't require Zen mastery of too many tools and commands. Professionals may be resigned to the nature of the beast and do the best they can with what's given to them. However, casual and infrequent users won't learn them because it takes too much time and that is, to them, counter-productive. They are overwhelmed, scared, frustrated, demoralized, and have anxiety attacks. In fact, marketers now tell us to avoid using the word "learn" because of its negative association. Quite a Catch 22 for the Information Age, isn't it? All in all, I'd start an internet company by finding out what people really want and need and go from there.
[MM] You're very welcome. Keep up the great work, guys. IB has turned into one helluva site.
Míc Miller is author of The Webmaster's Guide to Glory! — How to Win the Top Web Awards. We sincerely thank Míc for taking time out of his very busy schedule to share his experiences with us, and with you. Please stop by The Beeline to thank him in person.
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Return to part 2 of Internet Brothers interview with Míc Miller.