Stan Faryna is working on an apocalyptic novel-mmorpg-movie that asks the big questions about why are we here, what shall we do, and what can we hope for. He is an author, design wonk, entrepreneur, online strategist, problem-solver, and servant heart. Stan is on Facebook and he’s @Faryna on Twitter. You can help him help Nisha Varghese here.
How did you end up in Romania?
Just before I came to Romania, I was down and out. A client had just stolen my development team and my software (software that saved one of their businesses) – not to mention they didn’t pay their bill. They laughed at me from behind the most expensive lawyers that money can buy.
They destroyed in one month a business that I had built from the ground up in five years. Did I mention the blood, sweat, and tears that went into those five years? [smile]
At the invitation of a college buddy, I came to Romania to help him with his advertising and marketing campaign. He was making snack foods. Working with various big name advertising agencies here on his project, I observed that these agencies knew nothing about advertising and marketing. They did, however, have intense design and technical talent.
I immediately recognized the significant competitive advantage of such talent. Nonetheless, I lacked the fierce ambition and opportunity to put such advantage to work. These would come in their own time.
After several visits to Romania to do small projects, I eventually fell in love with a pretty, young woman. I decided in my heart that I had to marry her and this meant that I would have to live and work in Romania. Now I had a fierce ambition!
As I was building my new client list, I paid special attention to my clients’ most mission-critical problems and objectives, their financial capacity to innovate, and their willingness to make big, bold moves. I spent time with the right people. I went to expensive lunches and dinners with them on borrowed money. I visited them at their homes on the weekends, played with their kids and pets, and built a strong relationship of trust with decision-makers and the people supporting those decision-makers.
I also served them better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else. I did sophisticated, complex things for them for free – again on money borrowed from family and friends. I made everything I did for them look easy and I made big name competitors look stupid. I even solved bugs in my competitor’s software. For free. And I helped my clients fire my competitors.
More importantly, I made decision-makers look smart, savvy, and deserving of ever more kudos and promotion. That’s job number one as a consultant and contractor.
Two years into the relationship with one of my new, big clients, I proposed an awesome mission-critical solution that would innovate the enterprise. It took me a year to imagine it, describe the technical solution, write the technical description, and design a user experience that made sense to people afraid of technology. I came with a 10 slide power point show, five copies of a 100 page proposal, and a bespoke suit. I walked away from the presentation with a bank check for one million dollars.
I bought myself a business class ticket to Bucharest, got on the airplane, and came to Bucharest to find my dream team and, more importantly, figure out how to get that pretty woman to marry me.
How do you believe the online landscape will change in coming years?
Change is what happens online and it happens fast. Rapid advances in the hardware allow increasing faster advances in software design and solutions. The break-neck speed of software advancement allows go-getters to try out new ideas and, ultimately, to fail or succeed fast in a highly competitive environment. It’s a feeding frenzy where no one knows where or when the bottom drops out or rises in any particular position.
It sounds exciting. And the online thing is exciting – do not doubt it! It’s the greatest show on Earth. Everyone wants a seat whether that means just a tweet, a video that goes viral, fans on Facebook, in the basement with a start up, or on deck in the big guns of the fleet a la Google, Facebook, etc. Some even want to be the next million-dollar blogger – some as in some millions of aspiring bloggers from all over the planet.
The names of the services and platforms may change. But the same investors behind the trends now will be behind tomorrow’s trending applications. For example, the same investors that backed Twitter are also backing Klout for all the right and wrong reasons. Therefore, the same motivations, imagination, and expectations for outrageous valuations will continue to fuel the madness, the wonder, and the excitement.
Influence, for example, has always dominated this online game of thrones. If you have ever played a tower defense game (desktop tower defense for example), you know that you have to build the most economically efficient path structure possible to kill the maximum number of incoming monsters.
That’s what the big boys have been doing for the last 15 years. Ever building and rebuilding the most economically efficient path structure possible where they have a force-multiplication of the most influence (fire-power) on the long tail of users coming through an elaborate labyrinth of trends, aspirations, and expectations.
Play a few rounds of Desktop Defender and you’ll get what I’m talking about.
That’s what social means to the machine: the Fortune xxx, governments, and black hat wizards.
This is not going to change. Can you game the game better than any of the heroes of the leaderboard? That’s tomorrow’s game. Beyond the game, however, is the possibility for online communities that have great influence, have impact, and change the world for the better. That wonderful possibility excites me.
You understand “community” in intimate ways. Why are some online communities successful, and others not?
The most successful online communities are game communities. They need each other. They honor, serve, and enjoy each other better than any other kind of community. There are gaming communities that pre-date the 1994 infant web which would become the wonderful wild web that we know today.
The least successful online communities are all about internet marketing, pyramid marketing schemes, and making lots of money. They rise and fall on a dime because they often represent people that tend to make the least investment (emotional, economic, social, etc.) in anything that they do.
Smart communities are the future. Smart communities will disrupt the game as dictated by the game masters. They will be taste makers, influencers, and forces of nature – human nature. Smart online communities will be change makers.
The challenge in building smart communities is getting people to make a dedicated commitment to such endeavors, to driving change, and to making our world a better world. An hour a day is a lot to ask. And yet an hour a day to change the world seems such a small price to pay.