CEOwnership

•October 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This blog post by former Wesabe CEO Marc Hedlund is a breath of fresh air.  So often leaders don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and missteps.  They blame the market, the customers, their competition, anything but themselves.  Marc on the other hand says “you know, maybe it was me, after all I was the guy calling the shots”.  I like his honesty and I like his suggestion that others try to learn from what happened with Wesabe and Mint.

http://blog.precipice.org/why-wesabe-lost-to-mint

What is a Bastard?

•May 7, 2010 • 1 Comment

Often we ask ourselves hard-to-answer questions, like, what is a bastard exactly?

So we start philosophizing, with metaphysical postulations, incomplete aphorisms, and inconsistent sophisms that only make one more and more sure that the only true thing is that a picture is worth a thousand words.

In the photo below, the guy on the right is a member of a bomb squad in the middle of a deactivation, just doing his job.

The guy behind him, well, he’s a bastard.

Way to Go-oogle!

•March 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today I was setting up a Google Voice account.  During the account creation process I got one of the bot-proofing “type the word in the picture below” items.  The word choice was epic!

Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music

•February 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Check out this 3 minute TED video where Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) demonstrates how our brains are hardwired for music using the Pentatonic scale, even though for hundreds of years Western music has been based on the Diatonic scale.  It is crazy cool.

Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music

For the non-musicians out there, get your music geek on:

Diatonic scale – Wikipedia
Pentatonic scale – Wikipedia


The best part of this for me was that for 2 hours after I showed this to my son, he was wondering around the house improving melodies on the pentatonic scale.  Mind blowingly cool!

The 7th Deadly Sin: Sloth Programming

•November 12, 2009 • 1 Comment

As I work here on my laptop I have a bunch of apps open but they are idle, not opened since yesterday:  a word processors, spreadsheets, two email clients, two web browsers with 34+ tabs full of html, java, and flash.  Today all I’m using today TextEdit (writing this blog post) and iTunes (currently playing some Rodrigo Y Gabriela), and I’m reminded of something Sun’s CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, said – “Most modern user-applications are over-served by Moore’s Law.”  What he means is that getting yourself more memory and a faster processor isn’t going to make iTunes play your songs any differently or your email tool do something interesting while waiting for your slow fingers to type the next character in your sentence.

Software-bloat-gone-bad

Frankly, the work I do most of the time (reading email, reading web pages, creating word documents and spreadsheets, listening to iTunes) would be perfectly well served by my 7 year-old PowerBook G4 (and it was way back then).  What annoys me is that I’m running on a modern 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, by all rights a screaming machine, and my computer is doing NOTHING right now, yet the system is running at 64% of max!

Faster processors and larger memory have made software developers LAZY BASTARDS!  They write big fat bloated apps that have memory leaks galore.  My modern machine easily has 8x the processing power and 4x the memory of my old laptop, and that lets me run more apps at once, but not too many more because while “idle” they continue to suck up more and more resources.

The only truly “active” app on the list is iTunes, in 5th place and using only 3.2% of 1 CPU.  Safari, which I haven’t touched in 2 hours is choking up 97% of 1 CPU.  WTF?!

Software-bloat-2

Dear programmers of the world… Being “green” shouldn’t just be about recycling your soda bottles and writing software to run the smart grid, it should be about not wasting ANY resources, including the “free” ones like the unused memory and CPU cycles on my laptop.  I could argue that efficient, clean code would consume less CPU, meaning less power consumption, saving battery life, which in turn means less electricity is used charging the laptop, but it shouldn’t just be about that.   You should be embarrassed that your app runs amuck and requires your customers to restart it (or worse, reboot the whole machine) periodically to clean up after you.

Imagine if other objects in your life worked like that.  Suppose that if you left appliances on for more than a week they began to consume more and more resources (electricity), after two weeks your refrigerator might be sucking up 80% of the entire capacity of the wires coming to your home, the toaster would be getting hot even though you haven’t used it since last Tuesday’s breakfast, pretty soon you’d have to go unplug your devices, or even trip the main breaker to reset everything and get your electricity usage back down to the tiny percentage of resource utilization that is warranted by idle devices.  You wouldn’t tolerate that!  Nor should you of your software!

Moore’s law doesn’t give you carte blanche to write sloppy code.

My dream is of a day when I can get away with a cheaper, lower-power laptop because there just isn’t anything I need it to do that warrants a more powerful device.  As my freshmen comp-sci professor used to say “All computers wait at the same speed.”   Frankly my typing just isn’t fast enough to wear out a dual core 2 GHz box, even with a little flamenco music on the side.

 

And the 8th deadly sin is… PIZZA!

The Gabe Dixon Band Fishbowl

•November 8, 2009 • 1 Comment

Amazon holds periodic promotional events, for lack of a better phrase, where a featured author or artist from Amazon.com is brought in to talk to employees over the lunch hour.  They do this every 2 weeks or so; I attended my first one this week.  The Gabe Dixon Band came in and performed a fantastic set for us.  Gabe played piano and Jano Rix played percussion using only a guitar body.  The music was great.  Gabe has a high smooth voice that reminds me of Jason Mraz, and he’s a hell of a piano player.  His songs have smart, interesting lyrics – no popcorn to be found (yea!)  He did some mellow stuff and a few hoppin’ songs that had us all clapping along, and he closed with a “sing-along” where he taught the crowd a “wooo hooo” sort of line, very fun!

Jano’s percussion was incredible.  His method was based on hand motions on a guitar.  He placed a clothespin across all the strings, right over the sound hole and when he smacked it with his fingers it sounded for all the world like a high-hat.  He’d use the heel of the same hand to pound the guitar body just below the hole which produced a deep base drum sound.  With his other hand he’d tap his fingers against the side of the guitar, producing a higher pitched drum sound, and periodically he’d let the ring on his finger smack the side giving a nice snare drum rim-shot effect.  You would have sworn there was a drum kit in the room, or at least a drum machine.  It was amazing to watch.

I went home that night and downloaded the band’s self titled album.  It’s only $6.95 and worth checking out if you like piano rock.  Good stuff!

Thoughts from the Fuselage: Part 4– July 2009

•August 14, 2009 • 3 Comments

Thoughts from the Fuselage: Part 4 – July 2009

The final(?) installment

Ideas, thoughts, musings, and drivel captured while commuting by air.


(a slightly belated post – completed on 25 days ago)

July 3rd

Due to my screw-up, Sandy and I are on separate flights heading home.  She’s onAlaska-airlines-4@AlaskaAir and departed at 5:05.  I’m on Southwest 905 and departed at 6:40 – 30 minutes late, on a ground hold due to big thunderstorms in Denver.  Poor Sandy *hates* flying and not only had to go alone but also is flying into a potentially ICK landing… and now she has to wait 90 minutes at DIA for me to arrive and drive us home.  Sigh.  I suck.

We have the clearest skies I’ve seen yet leaving Seattle.  I booked both Sandy and I on the starboard side of the plane and we have absolutely AMAZING views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood. *W*O*W*

Diggin’ me some Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King album.  “Shake Me Like A Monkey” is pure funk genius!  Those horn riffs kick butt!  I’m gonna play that again!

Traveling in Crocs is comfy enough but removing them to walk through security was not at all pleasant.  Walking barefoot across dirty floors full of people’s nasty feet filth is just not a good thing.  Dear TSA, can you please get over this ridiculous shoe removal nonsense?  If you can’t detect a knife in my shoe WTF makes you think you’ll detect one in my pocket?  Either make us all go through naked or let us leave our clothes on, KTHXBYE

I’m enjoying the album SNL 25th – The Musical Performances Vol I

I dunno about your political leanings and I’m always careful not to start down that slippery slope with friends, but I can NOT stop smiling about the Sarah Palin resignation.  “Executive experience” my ass, she was mayor of a town that was smaller than my high-school before she somehow (her looks) got her hands on the unsuspecting Alaskan government. She is a stolid soundbite slinging sanctimonious stooge; a babbling beauty buzzword bingo bluestocking.  The girl couldn’t find a cogent sentence if a Russian wrote it on a sign in his front yard.  Palin isn’t qualified to run a Jiffy Lube much be a heartbeat away from the big chair.  Thank gawd she is over (for now, until they make her the female Rush Limbaugh).  Oh wait… you say she’s a Leviticus zealot?  Well never mind then!

Who put all these clouds over Oregon at 35,000 feet?

Watching my favorite Podcast – Tiki Bar TV.  Today I’m enjoying Episode 42 – Fishbone.  This one’s not as pure as some of the others but it’s funny (and not kid safe).

I was NOT expecting to listen to SIR-MIX-A-LOT today, but my iPod served up Baby Got Back and now I’m down wit dat.

We had an exciting landing today – just before we touched down the plane started slewing from side to side in a nasty wind shear.  The pilot pulled up and gunned the throttle.  It took several seconds the plane to really respond and climb out.  We circled around twice and made a 2nd landing pass with almost the same results.  The pilot battled through it and put us down for one of the smoothest landings I’ve seen in weeks, but it was pretty dicey before we touched down!  Applause from all aboard, well deserved IMO!

July 7th

Hey, it’s my first flight of the month –> New in-flight magazine!!!  W00t!

Counting Crows “Baby I’m a Big Star Now” – one of my favs!  By the way, that name “Counting Crows” – is “counting” a verb or an adjective?

Ever since airlines started charging for food on the planes (beyond the miniscule packet of kibble) more and more people just bring their own.  Everything from fruit to dried oatmeal (which they mix in a cup of hot water from the drink cart) to nasty Egg McMuffins that they carry on the plane.

You know that Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is a limerick right?  The whole song, verses and chorus too.

This is odd… Elvis Costello doesn’t show up as an artist on my iPod, yet I have at least 5 of his songs and I can find them all by title, but not by artist.  Bug?

The guy next to me is reading Tony Hillerman, very cool.  I’d strike up a conversation but he’s reading and I’m working, so no good can come of that.

DKO’sIntangible Attraction” – the funk horn lines at the end are fantastic!

The girl next to me is reading “Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea” and laughing constantly.  It must be good.  But she’s laughing a lot.  Loudly.  A n n o y i n g l y . . .

July 17th

Who the hell put Wham on my iPod?!  (Freedom)

Today begins my last commute to and from Denver.  I’m on the last flight out today and come back to Seattle on the first flight Monday morning.  At that point I’ll be “going home” to Seattle.  I must say that overall the 3 months of commuting was quite easy and there’s a part of me that will even miss it.  In fact… I’m gonna go blog about that.

I woke up this morning and watched the news… King 5 decided it would be funny to play a full 30 second bumper of Copa Cabana!  OMFG that sucked.  The song was in my head the entire day.  I tweeted about it and tortured a few other souls too.  Several folks tried to help me with other songs to clear my head, including @King5Seattle – who punked me with another bleeping Barry Manillow song – I’ll get her!   The “winner” was @ThinGuy who for entirely other reasons stuck Hollaback Girl in my head about 3 in the afternoon.  That is different but not at all better.  Ugh!

@CollectiveSoul’s “Adored” is so amazing.

Hey look, Lake Dillon!

(Denver’s drinking water source, on the other side of the Continental Divide)

It’s really depressing to see the pine beetle damage from the air.  The thickly forested mountains of my youthful camping trips are no more.  It’s like the moon in spots down there.

July 20th

I said goodbye to my home in the dark hours of the morning and drove out of Longmont for the last time.  As I crossed the final streets before the highway KBCO was playing to “Linger”  by The Cranberries.  I’ve never been so sad.

Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” was playing in the plane as I boarded.  I’d forgotten that song… and for good reason!  Ugh.

It was a tough weekend without much sleep.  I had an unplanned nap for the 1st half of the flight.  I guess I fell asleep on the tarmac, missed takeoff completely.

Chingon’s “Malegania Salerosa” – I have no words to describe how awesome this song is.

I’m hammering away on project plans, issues, and risks this morning… not many fun thoughts to add here…  I can see Mount Hood and Mount Adams out my window, both perfect volcanic cones – that’s pretty cool.  Rainier  and St Helens are just ahead.  The pilot is throttling back for decent… spotting Rainier is the signal that it’s time to get ready for landing.

Today Seattle’s light rail is up and running for it’s 1st ever “for pay” service day.  The rail terminal at SeaTac isn’t done yet, so there’s a shuttle bus that takes you from the airport over to Tukwila which has the closet light rail terminal.  I’m tempted to try this because today I brought 2 carry-ons and a big checked bag (bringing some final items from home that we didn’t want to wait for when the family arrives this weeked).  Getting on the 194 with more than one small bag is a huge PITA, but on the other hand it’s the devil I know.  I’m sure the light-rail will be much roomier for bags and passengers, but I have NO idea where the shuttle bus will be nor how getting on it with bags will work.   Hmmmm….

3’s & 7’s” by Queens of the Stone Age – good rockin’ morning music.  I love the guitar lines and the power bridge.

Wow, there’s been some significant snow melt on Rainier in the last week!  I tell you, if you’re flying to Seattle make sure you sit on the port side of the plane so you can enjoy the views.  It never loses it’s magic.  I swear the pilot must have to correct the level of the plane as everyone leans to the left to look out the windows.

The woman next to me is making her 1st trip to Seattle.  She lives in Denver with 2 daughters still in school.  Her oldest daughter (19) is married to a soldier who is stationed in Seattle and is shipping out to Iraq this week.  She’s here to support him and help her daughter get settled once he leaves.  As often as I think my life is difficult at times, it pales in comparison to those who are sacrificing for our country.  Perspective!

On Building A Community – Top Down? Bottom Up?

•August 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

I really like Brad Rourke’s thoughts on community growth, both for views of online communities and for his clever translation of those ideas into place-based communities (ie: towns)

http://blog.bradrourke.com/2009/06/17/my-taxonomy-of-community-participants-the-90-9-1-principle-in-person/

(With thanks to @johncr8on for finding and sharing it via Twitter)

The 90-9-1 rule implies 2 ways of growing communities:

Top down:  If you add more leaders you’ll generate more participants and followers.  In essence, adding leaders helps moving some of the 90 into the 9 and draws outsiders into the 90 from “the buzz” around the community.  Adding a super-star to your team not only makes the team better but she becomes a recruiting magnet.

Bottom up: If you add more people into the community through the 90, some of them will step into the 9 and perhaps into the 1.  A growing community attracts talent and some of them will see and fill voids in the the community’s abilities.

I fundamentally believe both approaches are correct.  But if you want to grow a community, which one do you put your energy into?

<I’m going to talk mostly about on-line communities from here on, but I’m confident you can generalize this to place-based communities just like Brad Rouke did in his post.>

The bottom up approach requires a grass-roots effort that likely will only happen via 2 means.

1) A culture that already embraces communities –  You won’t get anywhere if the culture on the periphery of the community doesn’t believe in participation.  If you’re surrounded by isolationists they aren’t going to just “see the light” and join in the community as participants at any level.  Changing culture requires patience and glacier-like power to wear barriers down over time.  This is not a place you can individually have a lot of influence.

Simply the worst video of all time

Simply the worst video ever

2) “Viral growth”
– Frankly I think this has become the battle-cry of the overconfident and the communication avoiders.  Viral growth does happen – communities spring up overnight from nothingness but as Malcom Gladwell points out in The Tipping Point – capturing lightning in a bottle is amazingly tricky and is almost never happens on purpose.  If you’re counting on viral growth to build your community you may as well buy a lottery ticket and count on it to build your retirement account.  If it happens, count your blessings, but don’t be surprised if you’re still working at 70.  You can put the structures in place so that it might happen, but you can’t make it to happen.

I contend that bottoms-up growth isn’t the place where your effort is going to guarantee results.

Top-down growth on the other hand is a place you may be able to make some headway.  You need to add more leaders (and by extension more editors) to grow your community.  The “easiest” way of doing this is by finding existing leaders outside your community and recruiting them to join.  You need to find the rock stars, the people that others respect and look up to, and you need to get them participating visibly in your community.  I say “easily” because that is no small feat, but it is something you can put energy into and have some success with.

Looking specifically at blogging, you need to get thought-leaders in your space involved in your community.  It is through the writings of these “cool kids” that others will be drawn in.  Some will read, and some of them will respond, and some of them will over time think “you know, I’ve got a lot of passion and energy around this community, I should be writing too”.  You begin to build a buzz around this group and others will be drawn in from outside the community to join the 90.

If you doubt that approach go look at Wil Wheaton’s blog and twitter feed, or Lance Armstrong’s, or Chris Brogan’s.  Each of them is “a cool kid” in their space, and others who care about that space (geek culture, cycling, social media) gather around to see what they’ll say next.  They’ve built massive communities, many of their “followers” contribute to the conversations, and some of those contributors have gone own to start successful communities of their own.

Still not buying it?  Check out The Jim Rome Show sometime.  Here’s a rock star sports commentator – some would argue that he’s grown bigger than many of the athletes he interviews.  He’s built an almost cult-like community of self-proclaimed “clones”.  Millions listen to his radio show and thousands comment via email and SMS to the interactions of hundreds of callers responding to Jim’s thoughts on sports.  Some of those clones now have their own radio shows (a few quite good). (feel that 90-9-1 pyramid?)

This is the essence of building a community from the top down. You don’t have to be a rock star yourself, but you have to be able to recruit the rock stars if you’re going to make headway.  This is where you can direct your individual energies – either in becoming a rock star yourself (good luck with that, it takes time and practice) or in finding others and drawing them in.

When you’re planning ways to grow your community you need to think where your energy can have the most impact.  It’s my contention that top-down is where you can make a difference as an individual.  You can (and should) work to encourage a bottom-up growth pattern too but this is really done by being a cog in the wheel, playing the part that you want others to play more than through direct recruiting – just don’t expend too much of your energy here… and for goodness sake, please don’t sit on your hind end and wait for your community to “go viral”.  Trust me… great ideas and products fail to grab mindshare every single day while crap like “Candy Mountain” goes viral – please don’t bet your community’s success on such astro-aligned alchemy.

In the mean time, I’ll be thinking of you growing, with your top down…

Bottoms Up

Thoughts from the Fuselage: Part 3 – Late June 2009

•July 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Thoughts from the Fuselage: Part 3 – Late June 2009

Ideas, thoughts, musings, and drivel captured while commuting by air.

June 26th

Today we open with The Thompson Twins’ “Doctor Doctor” – one of my favorite songs.

AlaskaJet3

The flight attendant slipped into a gestapo German accent for the “Turn off all your electronics for takeoff, arm the doors and cross check” announcement.  Wicked funny.

I’m on the starboard side of the plane and have a FANTASTIC view of Rainier on the way out of Seattle!  It never gets old!

I’m sitting next to an amazing little girl.  She’s “almost 8” and is traveling alone. “Don’t worry, I’m used to it, I do it all the time”.  Her mother lives in Seattle with her boyfriend and her father lives in Denver with his girlfriend.  She lives with mom but flies back to Denver for 4 or 5 times a year for  holidays, spring break, and a month each summer.  Her mother is able to bring her to the gate and stay with her until she boards the plane.  Her father will pick her up at the gate in Denver (“he has a special security pass so he can come get me”) and in between the flight attendants and fellow passengers take care of her.  She’s just an angel – and a worldly little traveler.  She has a lanyard with a holder for her boarding pass and ID.  She has a water bottle in the seatback, a rolling backpack under her seat and a little knit purse with her that holds a pink CD player with a Rascal Flatz CD, a little cinderella book, a stuffed horsie, a tin of tic-tacs and some coloring pens.  When the flight attendant comes by and gives her special instructions for using the oxegen mask she says “Boy, that’s a lot to remember!”  She’s very matter of fact about the whole trip. I’m so impressed with this little road warrior.  It makes me think we might be able to fly one of Orion’s friends out to stay with us on occasion.

Flying Southwest today – they do a fine job but it’s just not the same vibe as @AlaskaAir.  This sad Coke isn’t getting it done, I want my Jones Soda!

The guy next to me took an interest in my “moving to Seattle” story and gave me a great pep-talk on the area, activities, and lifestyle.  He was born and raised in Colorado but now he considers the North West his home.  Nice.

I’m betting you love Sublime’s “Santeria“.  And I’m further betting that you sing or hum along with the catchy melody but have never really listened to the lyrics.  If I’m right, then you’re in for a shock on your next listen cuz that song is D*A*R*K!

I’m singing along (ok, mouthing along) to Little Big Town’s “A Little More You” and the girl next to me asks me what my favorite song is.  I tell her that sometimes it’s whatever song I’m listening to right at the moment.  She says “my favorite song is anything Country & Western” which is perfect – I hand her my headphones and with a big smile say “then you’re gonna love this song!” and hit the re-start button.  She loved it and told me I need to check out Darren Motamedy, a sax player she loves. (He’s a teacher at her school – she says go to darrenmotamedy.com)

Couple across the way from me is all snuggled up together.  Can’t decide if it’s cute or annoying.  I will go with cute for now.

June 29th

Traveling with my wife who’s coming to Seattle to see our new house – we put an offer on it with her having only seen it online.  She’s going to get the kids registered for school, signed up for hockey and ballet, and get us organized for our move in July.  She’s riding along on my weekly commute, up at 5:00 this morning for the first flight out to Seattle and coming home Friday after work.  She’s traveling light as I’ve been bringing a few of her things out over the past weeks.  This makes it easy to zip through the airports.

Today it has been utterly cloudless from DIA all the way to eastern Washington.  I don’t know if it will stay clear all the way into seattle, but I’ve seen more scenery today than on any other flight I’ve taken.  There is still quite a bit of snow on the peaks of every mountain range we’ve crossed and Colorado is as green as I’ve seen it in 10 years or more.

Woman next to me is balancing her checkbook in a paper register.  I didn’t know people did that anymore!

This weekend was hard!  We’re starting to feel the gravity of the end – many of the things we’re doing are “the last time we…” see friends, eat at restaurants, etc.  Ugh!

Seeing the Snake River and the Columbia River for the first time.  They are so big!

Lessons In Web Design

•July 22, 2009 • 1 Comment

With thanks to @lskrocki I got a pointer to @emzee (Matt Zellmer), one of the rock stars of web design at Sun Microsystems.  He tweeted his take-aways from a conversation with Jared Spool on the design lessons from Amazon.com.  There’s gold in this Twitter stream:

  1. Lead with content – reviews and ratings of reviews are impactful
    • Don’t copy another site’s (Amazon’s) [reviews] without fully understanding how they really work
    • On average 1 in 1300 buyers write a review
  2. Don’t fear new ideas
  3. Reduce time user spends in admin functionality while increasing time on goals
  4. Don’t do huge redesigns – people hate change (BH: Are you listening Facebook?)

Web Design