Thursday, March 26, 2009

The cable company doesn't charge you $10,000 for the box

Seat-based software licensing has to stop

As I told a colleague at CMS Watch, the cable company (very wisely) does not charge you $10,000 for a cable box. Instead, they give you the cable box (and even install it for free, on site). Then they charge you a nominal monthly fee (if $100 a month, plus or minus $60, can be called nominal) for content. After 8 years, you've paid the cable company $10,000. But you've paid them in a manner that's acceptable to you. And in the meantime, you're free to switch to something else, or cancel.

IMHO, the way to price enterprise software going forward is to charge a monthly subscription fee for support. That's right: give away the software for free. Charge only for support. And maybe charge something here and there for high-value specialty add-ons (your connector-du-jour), but mainly for support. To account for scalability, maybe set fees on a per-server or per-installed-instance basis (but certainly not on a per-CPU or per-core basis). Install an instance of XYZ CMS on one box, pay one monthly fee. That's how it should be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Start-ups = Shortwave radio

Start-up Static, a post by Joel Sposky at

The problem is that trying to copy one company's model is a fool's errand. It's hard to figure out which part of the Starbucks formula made the business a smash hit while so many of its rivals failed. In investing, the phenomenon of looking too closely at success and not at all at failure is known as survivorship bias.

Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y Combinator - Startups... "all fail for the same reason: People just stop working on their business." Um, yeah, well, sure, and most people die because their heart stops beating.

Paul Graham, Jessica's husband and partner in Y Combinator, has tackled this subject on his website. "The biggest reason founders stop working on their start-ups is that they get demoralized," he writes. "Some people seem to have unlimited self-generated morale. These almost always succeed. At the other extreme, there are people who seem to have no ability to do this; they need a boss to motivate them. In the middle there is a large band of people who have some, but not unlimited, ability to motivate themselves. These can succeed through careful morale management (and some luck)."

Joel Spolsky then goes through a great analogy:

In my mind, an entrepreneur is like a kid playing with his first shortwave radio. He takes it home and turns it on, and what does he hear?
Nothing. Static.
This might be demoralizing. So he tries a different frequency.
Nothing. Static.
Meanwhile, the determined founder will start playing with the dials -- rethinking the menu, trying new promotions, and adjusting prices. And what he'll find is that, just like the tuner on a radio, certain aspects of a business can be off by only a little bit and then, one tiny adjustment, and BING! The thing starts working.

Note: The analogy works much better when you read the whole thing.

Daily Routine, versus Splurges

Post on The Simple Dollar - Splurges, Habits and Projection

Which scenario sounds more appealing?
About two mornings a month, I take my laptop to a local coffee shop that I adore, pick up a tasty morning treat and a cup of coffee, and sit here in this pleasant environment writing for a few hours.

I make a daily stop at a coffee shop for breakfast. I sit in there each and every morning, drop $7 on a breakfast sandwich, a cup of coffee, and a paper, and read it without much real joy.
A splurge is healthy every once in a while. It’s an irregular expense - not one that you spend money on every day or even every week. It also fills you with joy when you do it - and you still feel happy about it a day later. In short, you derive quality of life from that purchase.

A habit is never healthy. When an experience (particularly one tied to spending) becomes routine and normal, it should either fulfill a basic need in a simple way or it should be reconsidered. If it doesn’t add genuine value to your life - or if there’s a cheaper option that could add the same value - then you shouldn’t be spending your hard-earned money on it.

Take some time and really look at the things you spend money on regularly. Are these things really bringing you happiness - or are they tired routines centered around something you can’t really recapture? You might be shocked to realize how many of your spending choices are really dictated not by your true wants and needs, but by the wants and needs you’ve projected onto those purchases.

Command-Control vs Respond-Embrace-Own

Post by Zane Safrit on AmEx OPEN FORUM

Respond-Embrace-and-Own Economy Drives It.

Once upon a time, in an economy not too long ago, life was simple. And in that simple time, smart executives at companies issued simple commands to employees and customers. And the commands were clear and simple and good. Employees followed these commands and built products and services and global brands around them. Consumers came to trust the brands with confidence and comfort they experienced.

The command and control economy is no longer possible. There are too many tools, too many media outlets and too many conversations for a brand and its management to effectively command and control. Commanding and controlling it is as effective as commanding and controlling the shape of a water-balloon. Squeeze it here. . . and it squirts out over there. Squeeze it tighter and the balloon, your brand, is gone, leaving a mess to clean up.

What about those brands that understand this change and how it impacts their brand? IBM’s embrace of the Linuz engineer community is an excellent example of a brand’s success in our Respond-and-Own economy. IBM reached out to the tens of thousands of engineers and the open-source evangelists for the Linux operating system. Now, those tens of thousands of engineers and their passion for Linux drive IBM’s growth. And IBM’s embrace of Linux and its engineers drive theirs. They responded to the changes in their industry. They embraced the evangelists for this change. And their brands are bigger as a result. Bringing in each other under their tents, Linux under IBM’s and IBM under Linux’s tent, only served to make their tents bigger, stronger, more unflappable.

More companies will find their foundation of command-and-control is crumbling or disappeared. The question is will they react or respond? Will they react with commands to control their brand. Will they fight to retain ownership of their crumbling building resting on an imploding foundation. Or will they respond and invite the millions of micro-media sites, consumers and employees, to share in building and owning their brand?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Animated Infographics

Amazingly dense in terms of information imparted per second.

Little Red Riding Hood

SlagsmÄlsklubben - Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

inspired by Royksopp - Remind Me
(Sorry - unable to embed, per poster's request)

Friday, March 20, 2009

You and Your Research - Richard Hamming

Yes, THAT Richard Hamming
Bell Communications Research Colloquim Seminar, 3/17/1986

This talk centered on Hamming's observations and research on the question ``Why do so few scientists make significant contributions and so many are forgotten in the long run?''

This is an extremely edited list of excerpt - my original list of excerpts would have been 10 times longer. If you are at all interested by any of the excerpts below, I would highly recommend reading the entire transcript.

Now, why is this talk important? I think it is important because, as far as I know, each of you has one life to live.

And I will cite Pasteur who said, 'Luck favors the prepared mind.'

...often the great scientists, by turning the problem around a bit, changed a defect to an asset.

'Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest.

You should do your job in such a fashion that others can build on top of it, so they will indeed say, 'Yes, I've stood on so and so's shoulders and I saw further.'

'It is a poor workman who blames his tools - the good man gets on with the job, given what he's got, and gets the best answer he can.'

If you chose to assert your ego in any number of ways, 'I am going to do it my way,' you pay a small steady price throughout the whole of your professional career. And this, over a whole lifetime, adds up to an enormous amount of needless trouble.

Amusement, yes, anger, no. Anger is misdirected. You should follow and cooperate rather than struggle against the system all the time.

If you really want to be a first-class scientist you need to know yourself, your weaknesses, your strengths, and your bad faults, like my egotism. How can you convert a fault to an asset? can be a nice guy or you can be a great scientist.

If you read all the time what other people have done you will think the way they thought. If you want to think new thoughts that are different, then do what a lot of creative people do - get the problem reasonably clear and then refuse to look at any answers until you've thought the problem through carefully how you would do it, how you could slightly change the problem to be the correct one.

If you want to be a great researcher, you won't make it being president of the company... When your vision of what you want to do is what you can do single-handedly, then you should pursue it. The day your vision, what you think needs to be done, is bigger than what you can do single-handedly, then you have to move toward management. And the bigger the vision is, the farther in management you have to go.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Status Check: Religion in America

Article from Times Online

Americans are losing faith, though; and those who have it are moving out of established churches. The nonreligious are now the third biggest grouping in the US, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the just-released American Religious Identification Survey. The bulk of this shift occurred in the 1990s, when they jumped from 8% to 14% of the population – but they have consolidated in the past decade to 15%.

In many ways the most interesting dynamic is that between mega-church, politicised evangelicalism and atheism. Mega-churches have emerged in many suburban neighbourhoods in America and serve as community centres, as social-work hubs and as venues for what most outsiders would think of as stadium-style Sunday rock shows, in which religion looks like a form of fandom. Charismatic preachers – like the now disgraced Ted Haggard or the politically powerful Rick Warren – have built massive congregations... In 20 years, the number of Americans finding identity and God in these places has soared from 200,000 to more than 8m... This is not, one hastens to add, an intellectual form of faith. It is a highly emotional and spontaneous variety of American Protestantism and theologically a blend of self-help, biblical literalism and Republican politics.

As one evangelical noted in The Christian Science Monitor last week, “being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence”.

What one yearns for is ... at least an understanding that religion must absorb and explain the new facts of modernity: the deepening of the Darwinian consensus in the sciences, the irrefutable scriptural scholarship that makes biblical literalism intellectually contemptible, the shifting shape of family life, the new reality of openly gay people, the fact of gender equality in the secular world. It seems to me that American Christianity, despite so many resources, has ignored its intellectual responsibility. And atheists, if this continues much longer, will continue to pick up that slack.

Goals, Action, Happiness

A guest post by Albert of UrbanMonk.Net on ZenHabits

The Internal Goal

But why do I mention happiness and success in the same breath? The true goal behind what we pursue is often internal – and most of the time, this internal goal is simply to be happy. If you don’t believe me, try something simple: Look at a current external goal you have, and then begin to trace it down.

Turning Our Goals Around

And then what? Once we see our internal goals, try one thing. Turn the goals around – achieve the internal goals first. And if, after that, you still want the external goal, you’ll find it that much easier.

This road becomes easier to tread when we realize that internal goals are always achievable if we put in the time and effort. External goals can be subject to limitations that cannot be overcome, no matter how hard we try. It would be almost impossible for a sickly fifty year old to become a professional boxer, for instance. But if the man’s true, internal, goal was to build confidence, it does not matter how frail or old he is – it is always possible.

The Impermanency of Purpose

This becomes more important when we realize outer purposes are ultimately impermanent. Our external purpose changes to reflect our inner. Purposes are not permanent. Nothing is. Stop looking for something to do for the rest of your life – it might be possible to find something that lasts forever; but most likely it will simply change in accordance with your internal state and needs.

Deeply realizing that goals are impermanent will also contribute to our inner peace. Here is one to stimulate thought – if you are seeking fulfillment through your external purpose, what happens when it comes to an end? It is certainly admirable to aim to be the best parent you can be, for example, but what will happen when one day your children become old enough to leave the house? When that happens, one can cling to the purpose, resist, and suffer. Or one can simply let it go, and continue in peace.

The Need for Action

Naturally, there is a time for planning and thinking, but there is also a time for action. Many people who are seeking or rethinking their life purpose stay stuck in the introspection. Maybe they do this to avoid taking risks, for fear of leaving their comfort zone, to avoid disapproval, or any other fear. And in doing so, they remain stuck in a rut.

Sometimes, the best way to find a purpose in life is to go out there and take action, even if we don’t know what we are doing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Simple, and Creative

And to steal a word from Mike Rowe's TED talk, peripeteia

For reference, the other word he uses is anagnorisis