Monday, November 19, 2007

Random thoughs not to be forgotten

People generally end up where they belong.  Statistically speaking however, many many people end up outside the two standard deviations.  Those people defy the odds and become winners and losers.

Passion is necessary in business, but a wise Entrepreneur knows how to turn it off so he can view the world from the perspective of his prospects, investors, competitors and family.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The S Chip

How much more beneficial would have been an 'S' chip - one that prevents Stupid material from being digested by impressionable minds - than a 'V' chip which Congress mandated be included in televisions to allow parents to filter violent content?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

PID loops and management

Running a business involves creating/managing many processes. Engineers have controlled processes forever using PID loops. That's the ticket: create PID loops for business processes.

It also helps explain the analogy: Turning a ship around in a harbor.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

E-Mail newsletter hell

Written to Ziff-Davis...

I get email promotions from you.  The latest is "The Best of Web Buyer's Guide This Week" I see an article and actually want it.  I go to the download site...I get lots of these, have I registered before?  I can't remember.  I type in all the normal logins...losing patience.  Do i really want that whitepaper?  I check the e-mail address you sent the original message to.  I use it to try and retrieve the soap.  It says I'm not registered.  So I try to register, it says that e-mail address is already being used.  I sure don't want to start getting two of those buyer's I give up.  The white paper might have been worth a few clicks, even a 'remind me about my password' exchange, but it sure isn't worth this.  I'm only writing this because it seems like the whole industry is stuck in a loop.  Harvest e-mail addresses, share them with your friends, affiliates, colleagues, customers, etc.   Send messages (not exactly SPAM, but not far from it - the white paper offer WAS interesting,) then make the poor slob register to MAKE SURE you've got his e-mail address...more logins, more passwords to remember, more clutter in my life... AND THEN IT DOESN'T WORK!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rather than Bill Gates

I was interested in a story about Bill Gates Sr's presentation to
Rotary International.  I've often wondered how much better-off our society would be if,
rather than attempting to emulate Bill Gates Jr, young men & women would
emulate Bill Gates Sr.  They would try their best to inspire hard work,
creativity, dedication and curiosity in their children.  THAT is a sure
deal.  Becoming Bill Gates Jr. is a long shot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Luddites & the Long Tail

On the subject of the complexity of technology (James Gaskin sent me this link)

It's important not to be sucked into the narrowmindedness of a Luddite. The reason manufacturers put too many features in your phone is that you needed feature 'F' and that got combined with features 'A' through 'Z' to aggregate demand for all the phone buyers needed to justify the manufacturer's R&D for the phone. Since they can't possibly make only 'F' phones, you need to trip over the user interface for all the other features (some of which are mutually exclusive, contradictory and inconsistent - oops!)

There is a great book on the subject: Inmates Are Running The Asylum. (I'll try to rescue it from whereever Beth Ann hides my unfinished books and finish it.)

One consequence is The Long Tail.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Entrepreneur analogy

You're skipping a stone across a pond.  Everyone skips a few times then sinks...some skip more than others, some fewer, but they all end up at the bottom.

But one skips once, twice and then a bird swoops into its path, snatches the stone from the air.  You watch as the stone climbs higher and higher until it disappears from sight.

That's what every entrepreneur sees with every venture.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


My friend Bruce Frank asked me to help his wife learn about computers. Here's what I wrote him:

1. You married a smart woman. She's raised smart kids (with your help.)
2. Technology is like a hammer - it's just a tool. Nobody is hammer dumb. She's not technology dumb.
3. On the other hand, I don't want to teach hammer, I want to teach carpentry.
4. Here's how you learn this stuff:

1. Decide on something you want to do (like build a cabinet if it was carpentry.)
2. Try on your own - use available systems (like Help, Web, friends) to learn how.
3. Get so frustrated you're about to shoot yourself
4. Get the answer from an expert (like me)

Sometimes people go to courses. They spend $300 and all they've done is share a classroom with other people who don't know anything, to learn stuff they don't care about. The $300 DID get them commitment to learn. If it takes $300 to get Linda to decide she wants to learn this stuff and take the time to do it, have her give ME $300 - we'll both be better off :)

#2 above will expose you to lots of stuff you don't need to know now, but will come in handy later. This is like foraging for knowledge. Mapping the landscape of knowledge is a critical skill.

#3 is important since the relief in #4 is made sweeter proportional to how hard you've tried. It also means you spend more time on #2 doing it yourself.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Novell BrainShare

What a feast! (Literally and figuratively.) My first attendance at BrainShare was a feast for my technology senses. Meeting with my very attentive OEM rep Craig Toyama, meeting many of the other Novell faithful, catching the SuSE/OES buzz and hooking up with Brian Proffitt from were just some of the payoffs for enduring another flight through the TSA controlled skies.

While there I also had a chance to sit down with Mike Proper from DirectPointe. Ever the consummate promoter/entrepreneur, he showed off DirectPointe's very impressive SOS product. Not a FileEngine competitor per se, but targeting the SMB none the less. It offers a very powerful looking command center. FileEngine's control system: FEAT (the FileEngine Admin Tool), pales by comparison. But, that's the point, isn't it?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rotary Club Election

Changing the way things are done can be risky, but it is generally worth doing. [Boring lead, I apologize.]

The most recent campaign for Rotary Club of Indianapolis, one of the largest/oldest in America, involved such change and risk. The change was the approach our team took: Serious, Sober, Content Rich. Our opponents continued a 22 year tradition of frivolity - Safe.

We pulled a pre-campaign stunt: introducing ourselves prior to the assigned campaign day exploiting a rule that allows a member to rise and introduce his/her guest; we used that opportunity to introduce ourselves to the amusement of the other members. We got noticed.

On campaign day, the other team assumed the stage, adorned with day-glow green tee shirts, 8.5" X 11" landscape printed keywords for campaign themes and just a few very simple PPT slides (that really only explained why they had called themselves the HAGS. Which really became BHAGS (instead of Spokes.) It stood for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. (This would make a lot of sense of you had read: James Collins and Jerry Porras's 'Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies' but from the reactions I observed, most of our members hadn't.) We never did learn about their complex 'eye' like logo. But that's for another blog about communication strategy: Keep It Simple.) [Now I need to apologize for the embedded parens.]

We, on the other hand, had a website, passed out Name Memory Cards which supported our theme: Every Rotarian Knows Every Rotarian, and presented what amounts to be a 'platform'. We developed a logo that presented key ideas, we used a Wiki to communicate among ourselves and used a 'gimmick' to demonstrate our Network theme: we paid out about 2000 feet of colorful crepe streamers 'connecting' (really wrapping) the audience in a virtual network to illustrate the way personal relationships create communication channels (ostensibly to enable members to do business with each other. I got worried that claustrophobic members would be alarmed!) But the biggest and most well received tactic was the use of a 5.5 minute video that introduced us to the audience; (economically produced by a member's video story company: There was no script - and I thought my own performance was ho-hum, but as Marshall McLuhen opined: The Medium is the Message.

One of our members created really cool name badges which included our logo; we also made silly banners that we wore like a collar - but hung backwards so when we sat facing the speaker our campaign was advertised to everyone behind us.

Another 'hit' was the text we had our announcer read. This made such an impression that some members that I regard as VIPs commented how good it was and one (the publisher of our monthly newsletter) asked for an electronic copy.

Altogether, our campaign broke with tradition and introduced a provocative goal - and that got us attention. One member remarked that he heard someone say: Imagine that: a SERIOUS campaign for the board. Imagine that: Every Rotarian should know every Rotarian. I was very pleased that those aspects of our campaign got the attention they deserved.

Finally, the hitch. During presentation, and for reasons that I'm still not sure about, the PPT displayed fine, but when I switched to the video all we got was audio and a blank screen! I felt mortified - here I was introduced as the A/V committee chair and I couldn't even get the video to play! After some fiddling around (about a minute and a half's worth) I got it running. The president of the club allowed me a 'do over' and the audience still mustered an applause when it was finished. (Multi-media is still so cool in most settings that it's OK if it comes off like starting a Model A.)

Afterwards, more than one member thought the faux pas wasn't off-putting at all. In fact, they gave me kudos for figuring it out under pressure. Luckily, suicide watch was not necessary!

Can a single election change the course of a venerable institution? I hope so. Our Rotary club is a very important part of our city and makes an impact in our world. As Margaret Mead said:
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Hopefully, we'll get elected and have a chance to transform the gimmicks of our campaign into the leadership needed to reestablish our club as an important force for good business and community building in Indianapolis.


The hallmark of good parenting (and the aim [prize] of a successful society) is raising children that are curious about the world and prepared to satisfy their curiosity. The principal feature missing in today's educational system is the development of curiosity. With it, all the assets of a connected, media rich world may be leveraged to produce insight, engagement, wisdom and empowerment. Without it, all is lost - the lavish application of the most precious educational resources will be for naught.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who's to blame?

One of the problems of owning 90% of the desktop PC market is that the productivity of the world's desktops can be attributable to one company: Microsoft. It's not possible to hide behind anonymous statistics when everyone is using your software.

A recent issue of Inforworld concluded that over 50% of users are not engaged or actively disengaged at work due to the distractions of Internet access; an IN Education Technology Commission report concludes that over 50% of teachers complain their PCs aren't reliable and tech support is hard to get. PCs stopped adding to productivity a long time ago. Today they are primarily entertainment appliances.

Can we blame Microsoft for building systems that invite abuse, waste, mischief and maintenance headaches? Yes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Vitamin Fear

Thinking about bringing a new partner into Server Partners, the FileEngine company. This partner has left fear of failure behind - he recently closed a sale of his business worth several million dollars.

I was thinking about how we could relate to each other. How our world views would be different - in fact, worried whether there would be enough common ground for us to work together.

It struck me that my life is still affected by fear. Fear of failure. But then I realized that fear leads to excitement. My life certainly isn't boring. Would having a lot of money make life boring without the fear? Maybe fear is a vitamin.