Jun 30 2011

Microsoft BizSpark

In the era of Apple fanboys and opinionated Ruby on Rails developers, it might not be cool to use Microsoft tools and products. It seems that startup will tend to use Ruby over .NET, Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, OS X or Ubuntu in lieu of Windows. I’ve never been dogmatic about the technology I use. I’m a pragmatic programmer and the fact of the matter is that a large number of computer users still rely on Microsoft products. In the financial industry, Excel spreadsheets are traded like baseball cards. Microsoft realizes that they are not the cool kids in the block, at least amongst Silicon Valley startups, and perhaps that is why the started the Microsoft BizSpark program.

I’ve been one to always chase my customers and users, not trends and fads. That is why, I’ve been a huge fan of Microsoft DreamSpark and Microsoft BizSpark. Microsoft BizSpark is a program that allows small startups have access to many of its products, frameworks, tools, and resources for free.

Microsoft BizSpark Software Download

Microsoft BizSpark Software Download

Through BizSpark you can get access to applications such as Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Office for Mac 2011, Microsoft Windows 3.1 through Windows Vista, and much more for free. There is no need for your CTO to look for serial numbers for Windows Server 2008 on Google and warez sites. BizSpark gives you legit licenses to key Microsoft products.

I’m a huge fan of any company that supports startups and software developers in general. I can’t say enough nice things about Microsoft BizSpark, even if they paid me. And not, they didn’t pay me but I am a proud member. I only wish that the Microsoft BizSpark program also included hardware.


May 31 2011

CEO of You

I’ve worked for large companies and I’ve worked with small companies. There is a big difference in your day to day responsibilities when working in either of these environments. In a large company, you know your rank, your salary pay, and your place in the org chart. In a large company, you can predict product releases by the conference room schedule months in advance. I remember working on a project in a large organization and I wanted to add a boolean property to a single database table but the there was so much bureaucracy in place that that it took two meetings and the review of the local database expert who used his tenure to carve out a little fiefdom for himself.

It’s completely different in a small organization. In a startup, there is no room for bureaucracies, or org charts with more than two levels, or egos of experts but at the same time everyone is the CEO of something. In a company of less then 10 people, there is no room for middle managers, everyone has to manage themselves, everybody has to be a CEO of something. In such an organization, you may have to be the technical lead, the hiring manager, or the vice president of phone system, or directory of version control, as well as the senior technical writer, and even maintenance guy. In a small organization you have to do it all. In a small organization, when printer is stops functioning you are the printer expert. When the phone system stops functioning, you need to take the lead.

I’ve found that this approach also works for other aspects of life. There are people that wait for a scheduled meeting to to figure out what they need to do next, I like to get done.


Apr 18 2011

Retweet March 2011

From time to time I just blast tweets about software development, project planning, team dynamics, or whatever else comes to mind. Here is a synopsis of recent tweets and rants. If you want to follow the conversation follow me at techknow and/or juixe and I’ll be sure to follow back.

Software Development

  • Worst than coder’s block is coder’s shiny tech infinite loop.
  • I got 99 problems and a bug ain’t one.
  • I’m a rockstar ninja guru mofo byte code copy editor.
  • If you could Myers-Briggs test your code what type would your code be and what type of developer would that make you?
  • Are you test driven or bug driven development?
  • Spiderman had his spidey sense and I have my buggy sense and it is tingling.
  • Software bugs can byte my shiny metal ass.
  • Code is a continuum.
  • Mo data, mo problems.
  • Let there be APIs.
  • “Hello, World” is a programmer’s first program. Blog engine is a web developer’s first web app. Consultant’s first product, time management application.
  • Duh, #debugging.
  • Code is never complete.
  • Code less, debug less.
  • I’m a bandwagon programmer!
  • This is not the code you are looking for.
  • I break for bugs.
  • My code runs more than you.

Team Dynamics

  • Passion is not a fruit, it’s a seed.
  • Pitch your passion.
  • Self help gurus first help themselves.
  • If you are waiting for tomorrow you will always be waiting.
  • In the evening be exhausted, in the morning exhilarated.
  • Great ideas don’t join country clubs.
  • Inside a large risk is a large reward, you just need to know how to unwrap it and then monetize it.
  • Meetings begets meetings
  • It’s not how the ball is pitched to you, it’s how you hit the ball, duh #winning.
  • Replace “what if” with “when and how.”
  • The way you think of a problem affects the way you think of the solution.
  • Everybody lives in there own bubble, expand yours.

Product Placement

  • I’m confused as to which photo service we are all supposed to use this month, flickr, picasa, twitpic, instangram, picplz, plixi, color, etc
  • Color app seems like Bump for pictures.
  • Why is the director of the FBI emailing my AOL email account from a io domain?
  • 3G forecast: partly spotty with chances of AT&T fail.
  • Out of all of Apple’s products, Jobs’ best revenue generating product must be the iPhone earbuds. At $30, it has $.50 of material.
  • I’ve lost count, would Google Circles be Google’s third or fourth social networking attempt?
  • Outlook should have a Save As option to save as a Word document.
  • What Google giveth Google taketh away with one change in their algo.
  • Ikea has made a killing by selling designer cardboard.

Quotes

  • Standards are paper. I use paper to wipe my butt every day. That’s how much that paper is worth. – Linus Torvalds
  • Seeing companies promote their Facebook fan page in advertisements reminds me of when companies promoted their AOL keyword. – @bencasnocha
  • Every software package expands until it can send email. – Zawinski’s Law
  • One great rock show can change the world. – School of Rock

Questions

  • How many tweets does it take change a light bulb and start trending?
  • Do you live in the moment or in a hurry to get to the next moment?
  • Is #SXSW the equivalent to #Woodstock but for social media experts and tech hipsters?
  • Forget Scientology, what Hollywood religion is Charlie Sheen practicing where he is a warlock and lives with goddesses?
  • If William of Occam worked at Gillette how many blades would Occam’s razor have?
  • Is Chris Brown the next Dennis Rodman?

The Valley

  • There is a “lifestyle business” bubble.
  • To VCs, startup founders are like dogs to be sorted by pedigree.
  • Is it a bubble if you can’t afford to invest in a seed round?
  • Everybody is scared of a little bubble.
  • Forget about building a better mouse trap, think about building a better people trap.
  • Some party like a rock star, I party like a VC.

Technologist

  • Single sign-on is something that should be native in the browser.
  • Love thy neighbors, like thy Facebook friends, and retweet they twitter followers.
  • People like liking.
  • Tell me what smart phone you have and I’ll tell you everything about you, especially of you have it unlocked.
  • Terms of Service do not void your constitutional rights.
  • Love thy neighbors, like thy Facebook friends, and retweet they twitter followers.
  • If there ever is a a zombie attack just remember that the Googleplex has the biggest brains, Hollywood and Washington not so big.

Tweeple

  • Mr. Zuckerberg, tear down this walled garden.
  • Mr. Jobs, fix my iPhone.
  • I think Aaron Sorkin should write a treatment for a movie based on Stuxnet.
  • Jeff Bezos to serialize his brain and store it Amazon’s cloud and allow developers to access it via an API.

Japanese Earthquake

  • My heart goes out to the Fukushima 50 and all the search and rescue workers.
  • I have the same feeling, level of disbelief and sense of magnitude, about Japan now as I did about New York after September 11.
  • Earthquake + Tsunami + Nuclear + Meltdown = (Me Praying for the People of Japan)^8.7
  • Wow, the Japan quake at 8.9 is 700x stronger than the Haiti earthquake.
  • There is no match to the “shock and awe” that Mother Nature can produce in matter of minutes.
  • I <3 Japan
  • Stay strong Japan! If there is any country that can recover from two nuclear bombs, multiple Godzilla attacks, and a 8.9 quake Japan can.

Jan 16 2011

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

One of my favorite podcasts is Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders put out by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a lecture series with guest speakers from across different fields and industries. David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals, Mark Pincus of Zynga, Robing Li or Baidu, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and a great many of other founders, entrepreneurs have spoken at Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. So when Tina Seelig, the person that runs the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, came out with a book I knew to put it on my Amazon wishlist. Sadly no one bought me anything off my wishlist so I bought it myself to read over the winter break.

A lot of the stories and lessons Tina dives into in What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 she talks about lectures she gave back in May 2009 and in April 2006 at Standford’s Entrepreneurship Corner.

In What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, Tina gives some important lesson on creativity, opportunity, and having the right attitude to invite both creativity and opportunity in what you are doing. For example, she speaks of having her students develop failure resumes and to highlight lessons learned from making mistakes. Her reasoning behind failure resume can best be summarized by the following quote from her book.

It’s a quick way to demonstrate that failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you’re stretching your abilities, doing things the first time, or taking risks. We hire people who have experience not just because of their success but also because of their failures.

Aside from taking risks, and not being afraid of failure, she speak a lot of about having the right attitude to invite the correct atmosphere for success. A persons perspective is important to success, in one because each person defines what they consider a successful venture. Like in the movie The Social Network, where the Sean Parker character says “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars is cool.” For some people success is defined by having 500 million obsessive-compulsive users, and for others it’s about having 1000 paying customers. It is often the case that people let others define their success, but the truly successful are those that define their own success. And defining success has a lot to do with a person’s values and attitudes.

I took a lot of value away from What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. For example, create a failure resume in Google Docs. I’ve also learning to try to negate the effects of negative thoughts, especially when trying or learning something new.

Here are some choice quotes from What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20:

  • Problems are abundant, just waiting for those willing to find inventive solutions.
  • Steve Jurvetson, a partner at the venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, describes failures as the secret sauce of Silicon Valley.
  • Students are told that it is much better to have a flaming failure than a so-so success.
  • On reflection, there appear to be five primary types of risks; physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual
  • Experts in risk management believe you should make decisions based upon the probability of all outcomes, including the best- and worst-case scenarios, and be willing to take big risks when you are fully prepared for all eventualities.
  • Being too set on your path too early will likely lead you in the wrong direction.
  • Planning a career should be like traveling in a foreign country. Even if you prepare carefully, have an itinerary and s place to stay at night, the most interesting experiences usually aren’t planned.
  • The harder you work, the luckier you get.
  • Even when we think we’re paying full attention, there’s usually so much more to see.
  • I realized afterward that thinking about how you want to tell the story in the future is a great way to assess your response to dilemmas in general. Craft your story now so you’ll be proud to tell it later.
  • A few years ago I took a creative writing class in which the professor asked us to describe the same scene twice, the first time from the perspective of someone who has just fallen in love, the second from the point of view of someone who has just lost child at war.
    You shouldn’t take yourself too seriously nor judge others too harshly.

Dec 29 2010

Threadless

I recently received the Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World’s Most Inspiring Online Design Community book. I’ve never submitted a design or voted for a design on Threadless but I wear shirts and I’ve always been a fan of their products. The book was in my wishlist and someone in my family bought the book for me as a gift. The book is full of great designs which have been used on Threadless shirts over the past ten years. While reading about how Threadless started and the company culture one thread, pun intended, stood out. The community is the key to the success at Threadless. Threadless started out in a thread post in an online design forum where designers submitted designs for review and the best one was printed. As a business model, it seems very straight forward, but you can’t stress enough how important the community is to the company. As a classically trained software engineer, I approach everything from the aspect of technical specifications and software requirements so when I see a site like Threadless I think of the software features, like voting, commenting, etc. But reading this book I realized that Threadless is not a technology solution, but a living community. Fostering communities trumps technology. As engineers, we often quote and misunderstand the saying, “If you build it they will come” to mean technology focused website. At least, this was Google’s mistake with Google Wave, they built a great technology but no one came. I now believe that what the saying is referring to is not technology, but community.

Here are some other things I learned from the book. Threadless included free stickers with every order. Stickers have been used for years to spread word of mouth, and it pre-dates viral marketing. Stickers are a physical real world viral marketing vehicle. Everyone that has been to a developer conference has seen a conference speakers’ Mac Book Pro full of web 2.0 logos and stickers.

Networking is really important. For Threadless, this meant sharing office space with fellow designers and developers. Creating shared experiences builds community. Participating in events is fostering community. Provide the tools and means for the community to spread the company message and brand. Jeff Howe, who is credited with coining the term crowdsourcing, said the following in an essay in the book. “It takes a special company to understand that their ego – their creativity, their brilliance, their ideas- are welcome, but not necessary.  What’s necessary is the room in which the party takes place.”

Threadless

Threadless Designs

Here is my favorite quote from the book. “Jacob and I also began teaching a course at the Art Institute of Chicago.  That made us feel a little better about dropping out of school.”


Dec 10 2010

The Right Domain Name for Your Startup

It used to be that single the most important aspect of starting a new business was location, location, location. With online businesses, this translates to domain name, domain name, domain name. The domain name of you business is important for several reasons, because it will be your de facto business name, because this will be one of the avenues of how users find you, because there is a short supply of good domain names left, because you want to stand out from your competitors, etc. But in addition to finding a good domain name for your business you should see if it’s also available on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and any other relevant social networking site. As soon as I buy a domain name, I try to lock up the twitter account, the Facebook page, the Tumblr and WordPress blog for that domain.

Depending on the business or product or simply to proactively protect your business from competition and spammers, you should think about snapping up domain names that reference your company or trademarks. For example, try to buy the .net, .org, .me, and other TLD versions of the domain name you are considering if available. In addition try to lock up domain names that reference your company or product in a disparaging way.

Because most single word domain names are already taken, people often combine two words or more. It is common practice to not hyphenate two or more words in a domain name. But when placing two words together be careful that it doesn’t accidentally read something different than what you intended. For example, There is s site called Therapist Finder whose domain name is therapistfinder.com which can also be read as The Rapist Finder. The is a website called Speed of Art whose domain name is speedofart.com whose domain name can also be read as Speedo Fart.

Try to avoid using a name that ties your product or service to a particular technology. Find an inspirational name that denotes a feeling of though about what you are doing but not the technology you are using. For example, Twitter is a great name for their product. No most people use Twitter with mobile device apps over 3G, but SMS was a key aspect of Twitter in the early days. The word tweet denotes so well what people do on the service, they simply post a tiny comment. Once Twitter became a success and they opened up their API to third party applications then you saw the opposite, company formed around Twitter and named themselves a such like Twitpic. Twitpic is successful despite their bad choice of name but they it does narrow people’s view on you. In the case of Twitpic, they also have the problem that they misspelled the word tweet with twit. Twit has a completely different meaning than tweet.

Another example of a company name that relied heavily on a particular technology was PodShow. PodShow later rebranded itself to Mevio but only after the whole podcasting industry was threatened by Apple copyrighting and trademarking the term podcast. The term podcast itself relies on Apple iPod product line. The industry as whole talked of using netcast instead of podcast, but that never took off. By rebranding themselves to Mevio, the company speaks to broader audience, does not tie itself to one technology or open itself for legal dispute over trademarks or copyrights issues. In the case of Mevio, the name suits it well. The prefix is me and postfix vio sounds like the last syllable of video.

In the current state of search, short and clear domain names are known to get more Google juice to complicated, hard to spell, hyphenated domains. Your domain name should be easy to say and understand over a phone, it should evoke your industry, product, or service. The right domain is worth its price for the right entrepreneur. Not to take anything away from the founder of diapers.com, but I believe that the domain name had a lot to do to the online retailers credibility with customers which ultimately lead to diapers.com being purchased for over $500 million dollars by Amazon.

Owning the right domain name can help to take your business to the next level.