Monday, December 29, 2008 and and are both examples of social networking gone horribly wrong. Here's a Tip for future business -- stop asking for free things and giving nothing in return. Worse, stop doing that and then expecting to charge people on top of it all.

The general reason social networking sites exist in my humble opinion is to connect people and be as un-intrusive into that connection as possible. The site spams my email in-box every so many days trying to make me believe that someone is searching for me, or viewing my profile -- only two people have ever viewed my profile, yet I've gotten countless messages letting me know this fact as if it's news -- it's not every time -- the count is two and will likely remain two for quite some time.

I suppose lonely people wanting to believe that there are people out there looking for them fall for this feature. It's possible it gets them revenue at these moments of weakness. So far, however, it's had an effect quite the opposite from me. It's clogged my in-box with garbage and I see hardly anyone on there that I know. I don't see the site taking off anytime soon.

Why is this? Why isn't taking off?

Because they want to charge for me to use the site while I build my network. It's that simple. To get the most basic functionality out of the site I've got to pay -- to view people's profile, I have to pay. To "find out who" has been searching or viewing I have to pay.

Another obvious complaint about this site is the amount of personal data they're collecting along the way -- If I search for someone in a prior search the site then tries to notify me that this person has shown up in searches ... later.

All I can say is creepy.

I don't want people knowing that I'm looking for them. I may just be testing the search engine waters (it's partly how I determined that the site is under-populated) -- and honestly if I have to pay to look at their profile I could give a rat's butt at the end of the day.

All of my personal information they want for free -- they don't want to reciprocate in the social transaction by giving me anything in return.

I can only imagine what a premium service from this site is like.

All of this is moot, however, as there's something that's going to take the place of both classmates and at the end of the day -- it's called '' and it's already won. All of the features in comparison are better, you don't have to pay a dime and they have a classmate finder at that's extremely easy to use. I'm writing all of the classmates that I've located on and and telling them to join me on facebook. There they will be able to view my profile, look at my photo albums and find out, truly, what I'm up to from a social perspective. Oh, and they won't blow away posts with external links - like say, -- nice feature guys! It took about 30 minutes for me to help my wife connect her on-line photo album with a reunion event.

At the end of the day, using facebook, we'll all be able to connect to and view the profiles, pictures and posts of people that we care about -- all in exchange for providing our personal information. Sound like a deal?

My strategy for For incoming email I'm hitting the spam button from here on out.

Enjoy, guys.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Coming Gasoline Crisis Isn't Liberal or Conservative

I recently joined the Facebook group: 1 Million Americans for a $1/1 Gallon Gas Tax ... Save The World, NOW!

And immediately earned the scorn of a couple of friends.

This blog posting is about two problems:

1.: We're hooked on fossil fuel.
2.: Americans are hung-up with partisan idiocy, so much so that simple, good ideas get a bad rap.

Where we are: Americans as a nation are addicted to fossil fuels. Disclaimer: I'm addicted just as badly as everyone else (Man I love horsepower!)

But I'd have to be an idiot not to see that whomever controls the oil-supply has this nation by the balls.

So I did what I thought was a good thing -- I joined a group on Facebook that deals directly with the issue in a good way -- add a dollar tax to gas that will be used to stimulate the business of alternative fuel. Why would I, a rabid capitalist, do something like this?

Because I think this is exactly the kind of function that I think a government should be executing. They shouldn't be running around bailing out auto makers and bankers, essentially socializing our country and rewarding bad behavior -- they should be working on matters of national security in the best way possible. When it comes to fossil fuel, it's come down to an obvious matter of national security. Adding a buck to the cost of a gallon of gas in this context is the opposite of a bail-out -- it's about penalizing energy consumption of fossil fuels to make way for something safer, and in our national interest. What remains to be discussed (other than the idea of the input of the funds) is how long this tax should be in place, and who would get the cash. More on that later.

I've been for this idea for years -- I've said it many times. It's not a popular idea -- no one wants to pay more for gas -- it's going to be somewhat painful. But if you think about it, the alternative to the situation is one where someday down the road we have our productivity grind to a halt because lots of people want cheap gas in the short term.

Do I have any partisan motivations for this behavior? Let's make this official: I'm not a democrat or a republican. I find partisan politics where two sides line up and yell at each other like they're right and everyone else is wrong, stupid and distasteful. I think it's exactly this kind of stupidity that has brought our nation to the brink of disaster over the past few years. It has kept us focused upon fighting two sides of a losing struggle when we, as a collective unit, could have been solving some real problems.

I urge people that think of things like gasoline running out as a liberal or conservative issue to step away from the partisan bong for a couple of minutes, let the smoke clear, and think about what kind of situation their son or daughter is going to be in come the near future. In this near future they're very likely going to be attempting to find gas for their car to get to work -- and it will simply be gone or so ridiculously expensive that they cannot afford it.

Now, some people might want to say "Market Correction" here, and just expect things to work themselves out -- new fuels will emerge at that time, in other words, or possibly there will be an abundance of cheap electric vehicles or hydrogen available. But far more likely, if we don't do some preventative and strategic work to get in the right place, energy-consumption-wise, there will be a huge problem where lots of people are stranded, can't get to work and the economy (worse than now) will land further in the crapper than anyone can imagine.

That's not a fear -- it's a reality with a very highly potential. It's not too late right now to do something smart -- something like raise the tax on gas and stimulate alternative forms of energy distribution as it pertains to automotive transportation.

So, back to the situation where you or your kids can't get to work -- the present excuse "Hey, it was a lot of fun yelling "Liberal", "Tree-Hugger", "Stop helping Big Corporations" and "Redistribute the Wealth" back then -- that excuse isn't likely going to mean a lot to your wife or your kids at the future date and time.

Is the excuse of today going to work, 5, 10, 20 years from now, in other words -- the excuse: "Hey, don't worry about your life coming essentially to a grinding halt -- I did it for the fun of yelling the party line!".

They're going to look at you like an idiot -- because you were listening to people like Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken and Anne Coulter, rather than using your brain to solve problems -- like how the heck are we going to get 'un-addicted' to fossil fuel?

I've had the idea long before this stupid Facebook group (which is worth joining in my not so humble opinion) that we should raise the tax on gas and get with the alternative energy program. Hydrogen, electric cars, solar cars, bio-diesel -- all of these things are potential realities. None of them are going to be cheap when it comes to switching over.

It'd be nice to imagine that these alternative business models are simply going to get traction and come into existence due to the usual market forces. The fact is that in a solution-centric way, oil has a virtual monopoly. It makes it too hard for something competitive to emerge to replace it, in other words. Sure, you are free to chose -- you can always chose not to use gas -- if you rule out the fact that you already own a gasoline consuming car, that most of the fueling stations sell gas, that most of the mechanics know how to work on gasoline-powered vehicles and so on.

I'm simply skeptical given the scale of say, adding a few hundred thousand fueling stations, for starters, that the usual speed of market response will be there when we need it.

Is taxing gas and creating new potentials such as this "re-distributing the wealth" as one person suggests? Not in my opinion -- the item being used, gasoline, is part of the scale of the problem. If we tax the rich people that made huge bucks on the last oil speculation run, and then in turn created these new alternative fuel interests (effectively giving that money to someone else) -- then, yes, I'd agree with the "re-distribution" description of the situation.

But even more to the point -- "Joe the Plumber" is more of a fictional idea around something stupid people want to believe in, than he is real. I know he's a real person -- but the fact is that all of the yelling about what Joe believes is pointless if we run out of oil. The oil isn't going to be on the side of the democrats or republicans -- it's simply a complex chain of polymers, after all, and will have no partisan feelings about being or not being in the conversation.

This is the bottom line -- Being energy secure as a nation is a good idea.

The money for making new business of this magnitude is hard to find -- but we have just been through a huge run-up where people were paying 4 bucks a gallon for fuel. Now it's dropping toward a dollar a gallon and I hear SUV sales are on the rise. Great -- just what the doctor ordered -- more people thinking about the next 10 minutes of joy ride instead of the next 20 years of potential insecurity.

This, in my humble opinion, is exactly why things like government exist -- it's what I'd expect them to do in our national security interest -- find some way to make a dis-incentive for the masses to make the place just a little less dependent (that's sarcasm) on the whims of the folks that control the oil supply (that's mostly people outside of our country these days, in case you've been in a coma for the past 10 or so years).

I urge people to stop looking at everything with stupid, partisan glasses. Resist the urge to say "no way!" because it's a tax, for example. I'm not for a permanent tax here, by the way -- just until a certain level of security is reached. Also, the cash should be carefully controlled by non-partisan interests (read: some kind of democratic, scientific and objective controls for passing out the cash -- not some pork-barrel reward or dole). So, how to determine this threshold? Say when we're 80% dependent upon energy generated inside of the borders of this country. At that point the tax would be repealed.

Back to the partisan end of things -- for example, this idea would potentially create new industry and that's also good for our present situation -- as a rabid capitalist, I think this is a great idea -- more competition in the energy market. That slant on this issue, by me, however, could be cast in a partisan light -- so you don't hear me focus upon it as a reason. Rather, the dire needs of our present energy situation put this in an entirely different light -- one that has to do with our security over the long haul.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Elliot Spitzer Gets A Column on Slate

See: Too Big Not To Fail. Forget any scandal about the man, please -- his opinion, in my opinion, is dead-on. I remember Elliot's work in shutting down organized crime (otherwise known as monopolies) among other shining moments.

His comments about the banking industry bailout is work worth reading.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death, The Universe, and ... Nothing.

A few years back, right after my grandfather died after a months-long struggle in the hospital, I was sitting at a family reunion in attendance of two of my aunts as they spoke about death. They were talking about how they wanted to go, very much in the same manner as someone picking out the kind of car they would like to own.

One Aunt was talking about how she'd like to have a quick heart attack and get it over with. The other one said she'd rather pass in the night in her sleep.

The conversation was going back and forth as I remember it for about 10 minutes as I sat mortified that they would talk about death so casually. I finally said "I want to be dropped from a plane."

That pretty much ended the conversation.

As funny as this sounds, I'm realizing that I missed an opportunity to have a good solid discussion about the subject with two people that cared. Death, it seems, makes us all uncomfortable. Often bandied about by political parties as agenda items, death is not an easy subject, even today, to converse about. I'm a good 10 years older now, and after witnessing two more deaths in the family (my Mother in-law and my Father in-law) I realize that the people with the most experience with it are closer to it. As children we're not typically roped into any real discussions on the subject both out of respect and fear -- no one wants their kids to be mortified and it's understandable.

You would think that adults would be more prepared for it than they are. As usual, the people with the most valuable input now for me and the recent experiences I've had are the ones in retirement. They've seen the most death, they're closer to it and they've obviously given it more thought.

All of this is clear in my mind as my wife's mom passed yesterday at noon. It was a long struggle -- she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure last year in the spring and they gave her (at that time) no more than a month or so. Hospice came, made her comfortable and we all said our long goodbyes. Months passed. The hospice people aren't really setup for engagements that last for that length of time -- so they eventually had to pack up and go.

Speaking of hospice: I honestly can't imagine going through death without these people. The hospice in our case was Hospice of the Valley in Youngstown -- and they're angels in my humble opinion. The nurse on point for both deaths is an amazing person who was there for both deaths -- a caring soul who has a heart of gold. People can have an impact on your life that words cannot describe.

Back to this last situation -- as my wife's Mom came near to death the hospice people were called back. They arrived, did what they could to make her comfortable, and finally, yesterday, she passed on. Death was a release and I honestly cannot imagine how painful it would have been without the aid and comfort brought by hospice.

We spend a lot of time thinking about Life -- we spend very little time as a society thinking about or preparing for Death. It's a difficult subject and it's made complicated by right-to-life agenda, the medical and legal establishments. I understand more now why Kevorkian is so passionate about this subject. Face it: Quality of Life (er, Quality of death? -- not in our vocabulary.) doesn't quite have the ease of conversational value (in the context of our media) that it should. Things like Britney Spears underwear, for example, get a lot more attention.

Don't believe me? Google search on the word "Kevorkian", and you get about 890 thousand hits. Google search "Britney Spears Underwear" and you're at about 3.5 million hits.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the aversion to death and all things death related. I'm merely pointing out human nature. A lot of people are probably saying "Thank you Captain Obvious", in other words, to this observation.

Back to the recent situation and why I'm writing this entry. The person in question had multiple (about 3) opportunities to die. At each of these moments, there was too much ambiguity and not enough preparation. This isn't a criticism of the people on point (my wife and related family) -- it's an observation of the circumstance. It's hard to have a conversation with someone near death about what to do when they're close to dying and unconscious.

I know what some people are thinking: "Living Will" -- and my wife's Mom has a living will that clearly says not to resuscitate. No, it's a bit more complicated than that due to the situation. If, for example, she was having a heart attack, it was next to impossible to sit down and say "We're just going to sit by and watch you die". Possibly if they (the family) could have had a conversation about what to do in that circumstance, things might have been different, in other words. The situation is complicated by an obvious problem: Someone wishing to be left to die of a heart attack, comfortably, can't really get a hospice-like service engaged that quickly. So, when that occurred, the ambulance was called, she was rushed to the hospital and of course, the doctors in those situations will do what they're trained to do -- keep people alive.

All of this is hard to comprehend unless you've been there. It's hard to watch a slow painful death when it takes hours -- it's even harder to watch when it takes years. I don't see an easy fix for this. Death is heard to gauge, hard to talk about and even harder to legislate. You're out of control of the situation and normal problem-solving skills, while handy for dealing with the side-effects, don't help much in this context as we're geared (wired, so it seems) to keep people alive by default.

The living will is a good device to make sure people don't keep bringing you back into a bad situation -- it's unfortunately, in my humble opinion, not enough to ensure comfort and quality of life. Complicating matters is the simple fact that no one wants to converse about death. Worse, the conversation, if possible, would need to be documented and take place while you're able to think clearly. Finally, even if there were controls that could document your full wishes when you're near death, our society isn't geared to help people die quickly if they want that as an option.

All of these points trouble me. I return to the punch line from the beginning of this post -- the more I think about it, the more it sounds like the best option for me. Quick and full of acceleration -- not a bad way to go, actually.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fun with TypeAnalyzer

Ok, two references to something really cool has piqued my interest. Essentially, there's a web service in beta called "TypeAnalyzer", which aims to analyze your personality based upon the text from the URL you pass into it.

Using my blog as input produced the following synopsis as to who I am:

ISTP - The Mechanics

    The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

    The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

I have to comment here -- "Yep, that's me ;)"

It's interesting to me that I've gravitated to Rosetta (Formerly Brulant). Rosetta has the highest genius quotient of any place I've ever been. I haven't done the policeman / firefighter gig, but I do own 2 rather fun vehicles and have upon occasion found myself having to use the cruise control on them more as an override than for the purpose of eliminating the manual "chore" of regulating speed. The reason for this is related to a phenomena of a dawning recognition, as hard as you might find this to believe (but trust me, I'm not making it up), whereby I look down and have a cow at the numbers that the little needle on the dash are indicating at that moment in time. The last one was in excess of 110...

In other words, TypeAnalyzer seems to have a pretty good lock on a lot of my personality traits. It's interesting that it does this from analyzing my text and that it can pull it off in a rather short amount of time. I'm sure this thing could be useful for all kinds of insanity -- you're interviewing a person and want to understand them, or maybe on your present or potential boss.

It's a fun gadget. I aimed it at my resume to see what came up:

ENTJ - The Executives

    The direct and assertive type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and how to get things done. They are talented strategic planners, but might come off as insensitive to others needs and appear arrogant. They like to be where the action is and like making bold and sweeping changes in complex situations.

    The Executives are happy when their work let them learn and improve themselves and how things work around them. Not being (sic) very shy about expressing their ideas and often very outgoing they often make excellent public speakers.


Well, I have done a lot of public speaking events and it's rather obvious that I do have lofty career aspirations. This is potentially another view of me. I decided to aim the thing at all of the articles I've written for

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

    The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

    The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

Maybe that's a reflection of my abject terror of making factual errors in my stories that I publish in my role as a journalist for the site.

For the fun of it, I took it down to just one of my stories (FeriCyde Chat: The Linux Virus Threat List for 2005), a joking number in which I pretty much lambaste facets of the industry under the guise of warning the readership about viral threats. I need to do a current one, it's always a popular format. Anyway, the cool thing is that it came back with the same analysis as the first pass at my blog, so I was happy.

Regardless, it's a lot of fun. If you've done a lot of writing on the web, it's probably not a bad idea to do some introspective snooping on your work for the heck of it.

Many thanks to Doc Searls who as usual wrote something to get the ole brain in gear. His article on TypeAnalyzer can be found here.

Happy ThanksGiving Everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Muscle-Car Melt-Down

I find it totally ironic as a follower and lover of all things Pony-car that Chevy is about to ship the new Camaro right around the time that Chrysler is releasing the charger for the masses. Here we are, approaching 2010, and the big three are about to get the pony-car formula right!

Horsepower, engineering, look and feel -- it's all good. The Mustang tweaks have been kinda lame, actually, in comparison. But the irony is this -- they're all about to go belly-up. Ford stands the best chance of survival of the three, but it hardly matters -- all these cool pony cars may not survive the next round of hybrid-mania.

I'm really kind of torn about it too. Honestly the whole fossil-fuel thing is getting kind of old. Congress should be bailing out -- of the bail-out game. It's ironic, and unfortunate that the big three are here, but honestly you can't say that it hasn't been a long time coming.

Fuel prices are at an amazing low too -- but everyone pretty much knows that this isn't a long-term gambit we're testing here. We need to be looking at getting out of the combustion-engine game. The sooner the better for national security. The problem is that with low fuel prices come throngs of people that want to be driving the family (or just themselves) around in a 5000-6000lb monstrosity. The prediction that this was a short-lived game to be playing isn't exactly rocket-science. Sure, there's demand -- for the next 10 minutes to the next ten months -- heck even the next ten years. But sooner or later you'd have to be an idiot to not see the end of the cheap-gas era.

Ford has, for example, been for years dumping out lots of cool SUV-like things. Honda just started a couple of years ago shipping the Fit. Nissan has the Versa. Toyota has the Yaris. All of these vehicles appeared at roughly the same time. Why? Were the Japanese auto manufacturers some kind of sage gurus with magic Chrystal balls in the closet?


Obviously they were doing something proactive about the coming crunch. They're all playing the hybrid space. It's not like all of this is outside of the realm of Detroits' manufacturing prowess either. GM even shipped some electric vehicles a while back (leased them to buyers who loved them).

The reason Detroit is on the rocks, in other words, is related to the really cool Muscle cars they've just shipped.

Don't get me wrong -- I love em all!

(But I don't think I'm going to be alone in avoiding the purchase of them like the plague.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Social Media as a Marketing Vector

You might want to weigh in on this poll. There's a lot of cool stuff going on with Social networking. Facebook, Myspace and Linkedin are all the rage for a lot of people. I for one have Linkedin as one of my multiple home pages -- if you don't have this setup with Firefox or the latest version of Internet Explorer, you're really missing out -- basically when I pop a new browser window, 7 or so pages load at once, so I can check all the things I care about in my life simultaneously. Linkedin is one of those pages.

I check facebook probably once a day (it's not a default page) -- from a work perspective it's just not as valuable. Great for distractions though.

What's budding is the value of using this technology to market products. It reminds me of the old interactive TV idea. Remember this? There was once going to be a time when TV had like an attached keyboard and you were going to be able to do cool stuff to supposedly interact with what was going on. I won't go off track here much -- things like the Cue Cat, for example, prove that getting traditional marketing channels to be more interactive are difficult at best.

WebTV was, from what I could tell, an attempt to kind of go that direction. It just didn't make a whole lot of sense at the end of the day. Why? Mostly because TV infected the Web first, and I would add that as a second vector, the Web is far more interactive and entertaining than any set of "channels" with interactive componentry. The concept isn't exactly dead -- it's just not exactly something all that effective -- the reasons why will become more clear as the concept of Social Media in the context of interactive marketing are exploited going forward.

Microsoft is supposedly reworking the WebTV concept for Version two (due to ship sometime soon).

Don't hold your breath on that one...

Social media as a marketing concept is different in a lot of ways. Social media itself is basically another set of nebulous vectors aimed at connecting people. When you look at the potential to harness it to get the word out for new products and ideas, the differences (in my opinion) stand out:

  • Less centralized control.
  • More motivation by the target audience to use the service to their ends.
  • It's more or less a free service to the people that use it.
  • No hard-wired anything (hardware, software etc -- you just need an internet connection and a web browser to join the party).
  • It's basically a blank canvas from a format perspective -- anything goes.
  • People are more emotionally connected to it.
I think this has a lot more potential to work, for all of the above reasons. I think traditional marketing people may be totally frightened by some of the vectors mentioned above -- mainly the decentralization of the beast. In the old days of TV, magazines and traditional marketing this wasn't the case so much.

Sure, you were free as a public citizen to create your own radio, TV station or magazine -- but that's not quite the same thing as creating a facebook page or updating some information on -- and yes, I think this analogy applies.

It's very much the same kind of decentralization that Linux has brought to the operating system world (see, I knew there was a way to drag Free Software into the conversation). That world is better (in my humble opinion) and I think this kind of marketing is going to be better for all the same vectors.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time asks: Is GM worth Saving?, which I think is a leading headline. Like "Aren't these puppies cute?", it leads the reader to a conclusion before they begin to read.

Where's the headline like this: "Is Tesla, the innovative electric car maker worth saving?" No where to be found on there. GM has for years had tons of cash and potential. They, along with other US automakers, have had opportunities to focus upon continuous improvement of their products. They have potential -- but it's going to be a bumpy road for them.

Handing them cash to fix the problem may sound like a great idea -- after some banking bail-outs by the government, why not major automakers?

This is the "logic" being applied.

Anyone that knows me personally knows that I've not been a huge fan of GM products. I've owned exactly one GM product in my life -- a 1974 Nova that my wife had when we got married. I didn't purchase the car. It never let me down but when I sold it there was an amazing list of things that had broken on the car.

  • The interior lighting.
  • The door latches inside the car.
  • The hinges.
  • The speedometer.
  • One of the rear leaf springs.
  • The fuel gauge.
  • The body (lots of rust).
  • The rear brakes, including the parking brake.
  • The ventilation system.
And that's the short list. I joked at the time that the only thing that worked was the engine, transmission and rear end. It was a road hazzard. At the time I lived in Niles Ohio, the epicenter of General Motors loyal buyer-base. Surrounded by Lordstown employees (a plant that made cars) and Packard Employees (At the time, the place where the wiring for most GM cars was manufactured), I had an easy time unloading it for a few hundred bucks. Some kid came along with stars in his eyes and drove off happily in the thing.

And, short of a Corvette, the GTO and the new Camaro, there hasn't been much they've made that even came near drawing my attention. They talk a lot about making electric vehicles (and did at one time pilot a few in California), but honestly for the size of the company and the amount of engineering talent on tap, the sad fact is that they haven't been all that innovative.

Now we're talking about cutting them a check. For what? A reward for not being innovative? That's my call.

We're starting to find more and more reasons to reward executives for a lack of sound leadership (that's my concern) by doing things like this. And I think the long-term health of our economy is being jeopardized by actions like this.

Of course, it's going to take some serious examples of why bailouts are bad for the health of the country before anyone will totally understand this -- honestly I think we're (America) being too protective of things like GM and as a country we should be more protective of new innovative things. Tesla, for example, is far harder to get going, and in the long run, far more likely to truly be innovative.

What we're experiencing is the antithesis to the dot com era -- instead of a lot of people hyping stuff that will never pay off and sucking down massive amounts of VC, we're seeing the government putting things that are failing on life support. Wild speculation here: Both ventures, despite living at opposite ends of the funding, political and lifecycle spectrum, are huge wastes of capital.

Will GM survive? Why not let the market decide that one?

Let's hope I'm wrong about the cash, but experience tells me otherwise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Social Media Zeitgeist

Several years ago, one of my friends, Brian Thompson, sent me an invite for this thing, called "". I remember seeing the invitation in my email and thinking, what the heck is this?

Fast forward to today. I'm over at over 400 connections and has pretty much become a lot of things for me -- my resume is obsolete -- oh, yeah, I still update it pretty frequently -- but it's almost irrelevant. Why? Because my resume is to LinkedIn what the old search engines are to Google's search algorithm. That is, obsolete. Why again? Because my resume says nothing about who I know or who I did what with way back when.

Linked-in has become a lot of things to me. It's a way for me to stay connected and to know at a glance who's doing what, where and with whom. It's a digital extension to my (pretty outgoing) geek personality. It's a Rolodex of sorts. It's a nifty spamming tool as well...

Blogging came about a different way. I used to write a lot for technical publications (Linux Today, LXer, Linux Planet) and that was a creative outlet. As I became somewhat less connected to Linux as a focal point (some might use the words "less obsessed") I began to find myself wanting to write about things that were completely unrelated to anything technical. I realized that I needed to blog the stuff and started doing that as a natural progression.

FaceBook was something different. I came across FaceBook like this, looking over a co-workers shoulder one day: "Oh, hey, that's like linked-in, but for friends." Yes, this is intended to be funny. I decided to create a FaceBook page at that point, after realizing that there was indeed value in being digitally connected on the friendlier side of things.

And now something similar is happening with Twitter. I'm assimilating it today. I'm not going to try an sell you on it (although if you want a good reason to start using it, with some idea of the kind of banter you're going to be exposed to, here's a good article by Adam Cohen -- DISCLAIMER: Adam is one of the partners at my firm, a marketing company, who's really into social media.)

Of course, no good technology gets swallowed by me with out it being complicated (improved?) by more technology -- so I also recommend reading this article on how to update Twitter using a shell script. For those of you non-Linux/Unix geeks out there, just ignore this portion of the article. You'll sleep better not knowing what you're missing out on, being able to type command-line-level things to update your cool web gadgetry.

So, now I'm able to update my blog, facebook and tweet -- all at once. If only I could get this thing to update the status message on my corporate messaging/mail client at the same time.


If you're really bored feel free to twitter @fericyde -- bonus points if you can pull it off from a shell prompt ;)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Driving Down The Ole' Punch-Card Trail

Maryland and Virginia are switching back to paper ballots. (see 2 States Plan to Ditch Electronic Machines, Part of a Rapid National Reversal)

I've talked about this before in a different context. We're about 4-5 days out now from the 2008 elections. We have all of this technology surrounding all kinds of important infrastructure -- and yet when it comes to voting we seem to lose all sense of the gravity, complexity and competency needed to make for transparent, trustworthy results.

Sad to say, but as a rabid technologist I must once again say that it's time to have the U.N. monitor our election process. Oh, and toss the electronic voting machines until an open, secure and verifiable framework can be established to right this situation.

The reasons for this are many:

  • The people running the election booths are simply not technologists in their day to day lives (on average) and the process by definition isn't a day to day process. It would be different if this were something done every day by people who understood all of the moving parts.
  • Given the above scenario, it's not all that hard to argue that if there is a flaw in the technology, it wouldn't be all that hard to imagine someone with nebulous intention getting into the system and skewing things -- it wouldn't be all that hard for them to get away with it, given their audience.
  • The technology is flawed and opaque -- it needs to be verifiable and transparent. Having proprietary vendors making something as important as voting machines is completely unacceptable.
  • The process is one of the most important processes we (as Americans participating as democratic citizens) undertake.
  • We've had to many dubious failures in recent history -- if we don't clean this act up people are going to stop believing in the process and the government in general. This is already happening to a great extent -- but the damage, I would wager, is reversible.
It might be something ludicrous, looking at Maryland and Virginia as examples -- one of my co-workers laughed at it, for example -- but a small bit of research will more than open your eyes. I'm not a gloom and doom kind of guy -- I am, however, very willing to look at a flawed system and suggest improvements. Oh, and I'm fairly pragmatic. Punch cards work, they're hard to reverse and they represent a paper trail (visions of me jamming my old WATFIV and WATFOR Fortran programs through a card reader run through my mind -- ahhhh, the terrible old days of IBM mainframe computing and JCL!).

We, as a budding Democracy of 200+ years (yes, that's sarcasm) have to be better than this.

Maryland, Virginia -- kudos for stepping out there for all the right reasons.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Would Darwin Do?

He'd read Ron Laneve's blog.

My company (Rosetta) is a crazy fun place to work -- Ron is the reason I'm there. The company is crazy busy too -- we recently started a merger and the work has kept Ron from sharing a lot of thoughts, but I'm sure it won't be that way forever.

Ron's blog is about evolution and talent acquisition. As I get more involved in recruiting, I see that the challenges of growing an organization and keeping it in one piece are formidable -- and that it's an evolution of a third order. Our brains making conscious decisions where trial and error made the original decisions (that's the first order of difference). But the working pieces of the collective "we" that make up Rosetta, or any company for that matter, fit together to solve problems in ways that often just make sense. This is a lot of what evolution does as well -- it's just that the things that end up working together in our realm have metrics and sentient thought to reward the final outcome (and that's a second order of difference from evolution).

To speed things along, we're out for the best and brightest evolutionary components. The conscious choice to pick really good evolutionary material, is, in my opinion, the third order of difference -- it's one the reasons it's tough to work here (you're being compared to some really brilliant people at the end of the day) -- but it's also more than enough to make up for any and all hardships. Smart people laugh their way out of problems that mire others in years of confusion.

Read Ron's blog. He's doing more than cooking up text -- the company is evolving into something new. The view from that dashboard has to be exciting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tesla on the Rocks -- but we'll bail out Fanny Mae

Tesla is on the rocks.

Maybe you don't know about the company -- it's goal is to make electric car -- something we kind of need in this day and age. Due to financial problems and marketplace concerns, it's now in trouble and shedding employees.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but our energy future is more precarious than the funny money and legal issues of the financial system in the United States (and I'd argue, the world as a whole).

How can our government take a passive interest in this while they get all active and socialistic about stuff like the financial market? This is something obvious to me -- find a way to prop this company up for a while -- new things like this are hard to start. They can't easily be reconstituted if the company dies.

They bailed out Chrysler corporation when it was on the rocks. They want to help a bunch of bankers continue their party. Where are they when our energy future and innovation are dying at the same time?

Answer: No where to be found.

This country is supposed to be about freedom, capitalism and innovation -- we're not going to have the freedom until we break free of fossil fuels. We have to back the innovation of Tesla -- the choice is that or watch it die. Talk about money in the bank -- their idea is amazing and the fact that they got as far as they did with as little as they have is amazing to me.

I hope somewhere in the coffers of bail-out cash there's room for Tesla to have a little slack as well.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Someone commenting on Resumes ...

Agrees with me. Sort of.

The perspective is one of a technology professional lamenting that people can't understand him from his resume. I've recently commented upon this in a talk I did at Ohio Linux Fest -- there's too much technology and complexity for a typical recruiter to sift through when looking for specific qualifications. I'd wager that the issue is only going to get worse by orders of magnitude every couple of years or so. There's so much change in the technological space that keeping up is pretty much worthless.

Enter Linked-in. The issue is that it helps people understand context along with qualifications and experience -- and that makes a huge difference. Is your resume obsolete? Yes and No (My apologies to Rob F. for this reference). You need a resume if you're going on a job interview. You don't necessarily need one to get found on-line (the most important place).


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Deconstructing the current recruiting problem...

I just returned from Ohio Linux Fest (OLF).

My talk this year was aimed at Linux (Free Software) and Open Source types -- and how to manage a career in that context. My brother, for the first time in his life, got to see me doing a public speaking gig. His comment was that most of my talk was universal. I was glad to hear this, as I meant to give, basically, a high level overview of what most people (tech, and he's one of those, just not with Linux), miss, in the context of what their job really is.

Which is to say, it's not just a job -- it's way more than that. Most tech people, however, treat their career and where they're at with it, with all of the thought of what they're wearing that day. If you were at OLF, you would know how funny this truly is -- everyone was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt.

(Oh, except for me -- what do you expect)

Anyway, the problem is that a lot of them wake up one day after 10-20 years and ask questions with answers that all sound a lot like "too late". My talk was meant to do a couple of things:

  1. Wake these people up, and give them a lot of good advice in as short a time as possible.
  2. Get some of them to think about working with me at Rosetta.
The first thing above is truly alt altruistic of me. The second one is very selfish, and I admit it. They both exist in the same reality.

Honestly, the present recruiting problem I'm up against is a first for me. In the past, when I've needed talented people to come work with me it's been pretty easy to find them. Things lately have gone pretty crazy at work and now all of a sudden I'm in a space where I'm looking for more people and it's not all that easy.

And it turns out, I'm not alone. At Ohio Linux Fest this year there were a couple of vendor tables that were purchased by people that were strictly there to do something similar to what I was doing -- they were there looking for talent.

Talent, it seems, is the real new currency. I predict that it won't go down in value anytime soon.

Lots of things are contributing to the problem:

  1. More technological and functional breadth: there's, every day, more stuff being added to the collective unconscious of the typical organization. More technology, sure, but also stuff like ITSM methodology, for example, which isn't a technology, but a functional requirement. As more and more "stuff" gets added, and more organizations attempt to figure out what to do to find people that know how to do this "stuff", the typical recruiter has a harder and harder time finding people that meet the requirements of the moment.
  2. More churn: People are simply bouncing around more. I think this is good, because honestly some people don't belong, for example, in IT these days. It's pretty grueling, and if you're not cut out for it, or not passionate about it, you honestly need to find something else that fits the bill.
  3. The same amount of talent: Let's put this another way -- a general rule is that talented people are born, not made. You can help talented people learn new stuff, but for certain types of work, it's more about finding talented people to train -- a "generic" resource, with no talent at all, is not going to be an item that can be ramped up into the job at hand.
All in all, these things are causing some serious choke points for me (and obviously lots of other people as well).

All in all, the show was awesome. If you haven't made it to Ohio Linux Fest and are into Linux, man are you missing out. The event was pretty eclectic and chock full of good reasons to be there. I learned a lot about new things by listening to buzz and as usual, met a lot of really good people that were great contacts.

I learned that I wasn't alone on the talent acquisition front as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There is no Shortage of Clueless Tech Journalists

How Linux lost the battle for your desktop

Every few minutes it seems (ok, I read one of these about 2-3 times a year, linked from either Slashdot or Digg), some clueless journalist spouts about how Linux has "lost the battle" or (my favorite) -- the Linux Desktop, R.I.P.

And every year, Linux penetration gets a bit deeper -- sure some serious penetration on the server side, but honestly, the "desktop" hasn't been "won" or "lost" and saying something stupid like this begs the question:

Is the Windows desktop even relevant anymore?

I think the answer can be had all around us. In hand held devices (not just embedded Linux ones -- Blackberry, heck even Windows CE devices count here) that are not standard Windows desktops. Macs. Embedded web browsers found in devices that aren't running Intel chip-sets. The ASUS Eee PC, which has been selling (with embedded Linux) like hotcakes -- oh, wait, it's not a "desktop" either. It's a long list.


Yeah, Vista. Vista is a smoldering failure and an example of Microsoft group think. Heck, they think it was a failure of marketing even. It's not a failure of marketing -- it's being branded by faithful Windows supporters as "Millennium Edition II" -- in other words, lots of people are rolling back to XP in droves.

The failure of the Windows desktop is always eminent -- just ask Bill Gates who will tell you in previous interviews that they're always worried about this. When they lose this battle (it's not an "if", in other words) it will be because of a failure inside of Microsoft to recognize the severity of the situation.

For what it's worth, I don't quite think that Microsoft desktop management people are all that stupid. I do think they're going to have to do something about Vista.

And I hardly think the "battle" for the desktop is far, far from over.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pony Car Depression Coming to a Dealer Near You

I remember the 70's muscle/pony car depression with a clarity that most teenagers of this era cannot fathom. We're, like it or not, entering a similar age at this time, brought on, strangely enough, by almost similar pressures. To understand, one must go back -- way back -- to the year 1971. In that time, gasoline prices were going up, and cars were getting bigger and smaller at the same time. Ford had just introduced the Pinto (ugh) and, like a lot of Detroit auto makers, they were extending the sheet metal on their larger lines all the while adding things at the bottom that were whiny boxes of crap (this is the abridged version of what I have to say -- I'm deliberately leaving out a lot, thankfully).

Bear in mind that I'm viewing a lot of this through Mustang-colored-glasses. The deal is that a lot of this extends to cover all of the pony car space. Everyone was worried about the rising cost of insurance prices and the increasing demands that pollution control systems were placing on the industry in general. Between these two forces, anything of joy from a pure muscle perspective was somehow losing its soul. The Corvette became a shell of its prior self -- but it was at least somewhat true to the original formula.

In 1974, Ford made the Mustang into a Pinto derivative. In general, all of the auto makers added so much in the way of wheezing pollution controls and de-tuned a lot of the engines (lowering compression, for example) to the point where nothing seemed all that exciting. The R&D dollars were being spent on priories (lobbying, for example, was a priority).

And then the gas crunch hit (1975 or 1976 -- it's a blur to me, I was younger then). Things began to look really bad for someone who remembered the Muscle cars of the 60's. My dad and I are very much car guys, and we talked a lot about it at the time. As Detroit entered the Boxy era (Citation, Fairmont, K-cars -- remember these "appliance on wheels" products?), I lamented that the good old days were mostly behind us.

And my Dad assured me that one day they would get back to doing things with style, that had power and so on. And he was (as usual) right.

The Mustang returned with a vengeance. The Chevy Camaro, though lacking a usable back seat (key to being a good pony car, I'd argue), was a rockin' ride. Chrysler produced a bunch of things that were weird, fast and sporty (but no pony cars).

And then everyone but Ford quit. The Mustang remained the lone pony car competitor. You can argue that Ford has a heck of a product with the current gen Mustang -- I honestly think that they're not facing enough competition these days. There are some cool products -- the GT500, Shelby GT, California, Bullit -- but without some good competition, they are mainly competing with themselves. When you look at the line-up of product this year, it's not really all that changed from the stuff they were producing in 05.

So, I'm actually contemplating something that will surprise quite a few people. I'm going to seriously consider buying a new Camaro. The damn thing is gorgeous. It will all depend upon price and usable back-seat space, though. Quality is in there somewhere too.

What about the Challenger? The new Challenger is beautiful. It looks like a modernized version of true muscle -- until you get up on the thing and realize that it's *huge*. And no Automatic transmission. And 8k of dealer markup (where I was looking in PA). And that brings me to my final point.

Chevy gets it. The recipe for a Pony car includes just a few simple rules:

  • Front Engine -- 6 banger or a V8 -- both options -- in that order.
  • Seating for 4.
  • Rear-wheel-drive.
  • Two, and only two, doors.
  • A long hood, and a short trunk.
  • Some noise would help... [note: the car doesn't have to be all that sophisticated]
The Challenger fails because there's not going to be a low-buck version. Say what you want, but one of the reasons that the Mustang is so popular is because a lot of people can afford the 6 banger. They may want a GT or a Cobra, but sensibility creeps in or their budget (and possibly their insurance costs if they're young). This is important -- every one of these cars is a rolling advertisement for the automaker and the product. People see them and want them for that reason, I'd argue.

I'll wager that you're probably going to see a few new Challengers -- they'll be on dealer lots or at auto shows (likely trailered in, in that case). You're rarely going to spot someone driving it down the street to work, because they're so expensive and there are so few of them. They will become the auto equivalent to rare collector coins. Pulled out in shiny cases, shown off for a few minutes of glory, and put away for next time.

My Mustangs are not these objects -- I drive them to work. I enjoy them (both are V8's, a Mach 1 and a GT). I smile every time -- they're practical fun. They are just barely practical in many respects, but surprisingly, the Mach 1 gets better than 25 miles to the gallon during the summer.

All of this is being written, though, like we're seeing a new era emerge (new Camaro, for example, new Challenger). What we're seeing is the death of the latest generation of the Pony car wars. There will be few, if any, hybrid versions of these babies (it would disqualify them anyway). R&D costs are not going the way of the Mustang or Camaro like they are the hybrid competitor space. There will be a ton of innovations in that realm and in the alternative fuel space in general. What we're likely witnessing is a time very similar to my retrospective of 1971.

Chevy and Chrysler are arriving pretty late to the party, in other words. The Pony car era -- the latest round -- is about to morph. We're going to see a lot of change, and some of it won't be quite as pretty and elegant as this past round (that's my fear, anyway).

Here's to hoping that I'm really wrong...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Ok, so I no longer work for Brulant -- no, I didn't change jobs again (still in consulting, and probably will be for a long, long time). My company, Brulant, has been merged with a really cool Marketing company called Rosetta. The name changes, but a lot of other things remain the same.

Check out Ron Laneve's blog post on the subject.

The Rosetta / Brulant merger is a good thing in a lot of strategic ways. It brings us to a wider marketplace and it gives me more reasons to smile these days (and there were already quite a few of those). Look for more news as time permits -- but things just got even more intesting ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Running 150 MPH...

Dear diary,

It's been too long. So sorry, just too much going on.

For starters, the whole work-work balance is out of control these days. I'm simply over-run by work. Striking while the iron is hot may be a good strategy, but my blog, my Mustangs, my wife and most importantly, my poor dog have suffered. The blog -- it's an electronic thing, so it doesn't care. My wife, she can understand my career being in a heightened state. The Mustangs -- they will always be there. But Sammy (my 4 year old Samoyed) -- he won't understand.

So I'm finally getting some of my life back (this is, however, the calm before the storm). I've been taking the dog (and /dev/wife) for more walks in the park, and we've had some really fun weekends of late. Sammy is a joy -- too bad he doesn't understand English, but it hardly matters. He's the most communicative dog I've ever had.

The Mustangs -- the Yellow GT convertible is starting to show some of its age. Various issues abound. The GEM (Generic Electronic Module) is leaking electrical juice to the point that if it sits for more than 4 days, the thing is deader than a doornail, power-wise. I've spent some time diagnosing it and don't exactly know where to go next, but know that replacing the GEM is not a trivial task. "Why don't you pay someone to fix it?" you might ask? Well, I did, and they didn't. Instead they replaced the battery, a coil-over pack (likely malfunctioning due to a bad battery, not exactly needing replacement, in other words), charged me $300.00 bucks and assured me that they had fixed the problem. This despite me explaining the issue and assuring them that the battery was not the culprit.

What do I know? A lot, actually. Not just my intuition told me they were full of crap. I spent some time narrowing the scope of the drain with the help of my dear friend Joe Romayo (Thanks Joe!) And -- I've found a work around -- I pull the GEM fuse in the engine bay when ole' Yaller is going to sit for more than a day or so. Works for now. One day I'll find whatever short or blown component is the culprit and this too will go away.

Somehow the car has survived 150k+ miles of wild roller-coaster fun. I haven't exactly babied this thing either, but people are astounded that it's got that many miles. Other annoying things -- the throw-out bearing is going to die someday -- but since it's been making noise since it was new (just not this loudly), I'm not going to worry about it too much. The air conditioning is now only partially functional (probably a $300 dealer trip), but for the most part the car is holding up amazingly well. The latest mods, however, make it only good for short trips with /dev/wife. Things like louder exhaust, Richmond gears (man do those things howl), lowering kits, suspension kits, KYB shocks etc -- all of these things make it less hospitable on anything but short bursts.

The Orange Mach 1 is another story. It was leaking radiator fluid and I discovered that the culprit was something that had made some kind of trip through the inside of the engine compartment. Whatever it was, it tore a bunch of small holes in the radiator on its way. Again, I could take it somewhere and have a garage mechanic do the work -- but I don't trust mechanics anymore. If it was under warranty this might be a different story, but essentially I had visions of them telling me that the motor was a molten pile of slag. Let's not forget, the Mach has a full aluminum composure -- block and heads are made of the stuff. It was running fine other than leaking fluid like a sieve. Take it somewhere in that state, however, and I run the risk of some moron running it dry, melting it down and then accusing me of bringing it in, in that state. It's not something to leave unattended, running, whilst one tries to figure out what's causing it to overheat, in other words. And yes, I'm saying I can easily see a mechanic doing this in this day and age. Rather than risk it, I "simply" got a new radiator, and over the course of a few precious weekend days, replaced everything that needed replaced in that area. I also swapped out the stock rubber for some offset 18" rims and tires -- black.

We're living in an age of personal irresponsibility. Too many times I'm paying for work that's simply not being done. Stuff is too complex for the average Joe -- and it's not getting any simpler, I'm afraid.

And yet, somehow, I'm not doing so bad -- so why really complain?

I guess I'm not complaining -- just observing. I'm a lucky guy -- I may be over-run by work, but I chose this route and it's a heck of a ride. Sorry I haven't written more often. I plan on attending (and not speaking) at Ohio Linux Fest this year -- simply no time to add anything, anytime soon. Hope to see you there (register at ).

Joe Barr and Dwight Johnson

Some closing thoughts. The Linux community lost two souls recently. Joe Barr, a dear friend and a terrific author is gone. He died just a few days ago. Dwight Johnson, an avid enthusiast and one of the two founders of died earlier this year of cancer. Both people are sorely missed. If I have any regrets it is not spending more time cherishing the people who have helped make the world a better place. I'm running 150 MPH (but not with the Mustangs -- just with life). Things scream by at times. Only upon reflection does the magnitude of change manifest itself.

I'll try and slow down more often. I will promise to write more often too. Talk soon,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bill Gates, Socially Clueless again...

Ok, can't resist pointing out just how stupid this quote is: Love it. Comparing Microsoft software to the pharmaceutical industry.

Hmm, how do I love this quote? Let me count the ways.

  1. Microsoft software truly is in many ways like a drug. An addictive drug. You buy it once, and find yourself needing to shell out extra money every so often to buy the exact same thing again (albeit with a new label and very few additional features, but of course, for more cash).
  2. Microsoft, as much as it's like the drug industry (see above), it's not innovative. As a matter of fact, the whole idea that Microsoft is an inventive company is truly a misdirected concept. Rarely does Microsoft make something innovative -- they bundle a lot of innovative concepts -- ones that other companies and individuals have created. The sad fact is that they haven't really delivered a truly innovative new product in a long time on the operating system front.
  3. .
  4. Software isn't like a drug in a very fundamental sense -- the distribution model is completely different (or it can be, rather) and unlike drugs, it is composed of tons of interlocking parts that as a whole expand upon the other interlocking parts.

    If you could step into your local wal-mart, purchase a few thousand "bundled" drugs to create a completely new drug that fixed just your symptoms, this analogy might hold. Sadly, if it were a Microsoft model, this drug would promise to cure the common cold on the box as a feature. When taken, the patient (let's label them "the victim" here) would find themselves with dozens of new viruses instead.

  5. The GPL-licensed products that come bundled with Linux are constantly getting new features that come from all over the planet. There are tons of people making money from their use (just not people holding others at gun-point at the point of "sale" of the Linux "product"). Lot's of people are employed as systems administrators, for example. Those people haven't lost their jobs and there's very little danger of this as the infusion of new technology from the implementation side of the fence just doesn't seem to be slowing down.
  6. If you follow the argument above, you can see that the real "loss" is just Microsoft's -- companies like RedHat, IBM and Novell and others are making cash just fine from Linux. Apple has also seen benefit using Free Software (non-GPL, but it's a point that they're making out just fine and adding features like crazy). What Gates is bemoaning is the fact that GPL software forces a down-stream effect of not being able to charge monopolistic prices for software. Gee, we're all feeling sorry for you there Bill.
I am resisting the urge to counter that Microsoft is like Big Oil or some other industry. The truth is that Software is a different industry and that the GPL is here to stay. Get used to it Bill -- think about this for a while -- why don't you turn the Windows API into something usable that bolts on top of any operating system? -- Linux or Apple, and leave the OS-driving to the professionals. Please don't jokingly suggest that Vista is an OS -- it seems more like a badly written memory-tester with the ability to launch a few programs. Give up on the whole world-domination thing and just go with the flow.

You're doing some cool things on the charity front -- give the public a break on the monopoly front (they can use it -- fuel is getting expensive). Gas is not cheap, in other words, but the hot air you generate sure makes it seem that way.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Having friends along for the ride...

Recently it occurred to me that I'm having the time of my life.

It's hard to put things in perspective, but I'll do my best to summarize it. About a year and a half ago, I was coming out of a depressive funk (real depression, by the way) and dealing with several life issues.

One of them was relating to a family issue that has (for the moment) resolved itself -- out of my control, the problem required a lot of prayer and diligence. I had to hold the line on some things and to exercise "tough love" on a scale most mortal parents would not be comfortable with.

A second item was the depression itself -- I've said it and blogged it in the past but it bears repeating that yes, even something as painful as depression can end up being good for you.

A third item that really threw me for a loop kind of revealed itself yesterday to be something that was put there to help me understand what would happen to me today. You have to trust in a higher power -- things like this cannot be planned or predicted. Everything I went through in context more or less helped me understand something that a friend and coworker was experiencing. As I said to them later, it's nice to know you're not alone. I might not have understood had I not ridden the same storm.

And finally there was this nagging problem of a simple broken promise. You see, a few years back some rather basic contractual obligations were made to me that through a bit of complex fault and blame transfer, were broken. I spent the better part of a year trying to resolve the inequity (so to speak) and near as I can tell, the party involved simply didn't want to acknowledge his or her duties in this context. When I would bring up the facts of the matter, they would make statements about how I was making them feel "uncomfortable" or holding them hostage.

It was a simple matter, but yet somehow, through some seriously slow (and ineptly executed) process, the party that should have been accountable for delivery simply delivered to someone else. In the end I honestly have to admit that I was a bit insulted.

Well, I'm not anymore. If I were a vengeful sort (I'm not by the way), I could not have planned what has happened since then. Words fail me.

I think I've expressed enough here for the parties in question to know who they are and I'd like to officially state that they were indeed doing Gods work (Albeit, in a rather shifty, backstabbing and morally suspect way, but, heh, at the end of the day even that's something that's brought comic value to my life).

I'm officially saying that I honestly don't care anymore.

Why would I say this? A multitude of reasons, but let's start with the fact that I love what I do. I'm surrounded by creative, successful and fun-loving people and I'm glad they're along for the ride. And I'm right here, right now, thanks to where I've been and quite honestly even the down side of everything I've mentioned above wasn't all that bad so I have a lot to be thankful for. My own creative abilities have enabled this ride -- the fact that I've created space for others to be creative and enjoy their work is huge icing on this cake.

Finally, and even higher on the irony scale, some of my favorite people have followed me here (dare I use the word "lead" somehow?). This makes me understand that regardless of meaningless charts (and really stupid certification-clogged signatures), at the end of the day reality has bestowed upon me the goods that others though were theirs to deliver. I think I like it better this way -- and I really don't have a choice in the matter, so why not love it for what it is?

Gratitude is under-rated. I'm grateful to be here and to have such cool friends in my life. I'm even more happy to see those around me growing and being rewarded for their success.

One of my best friends is starting a really cool blog -- look for some posts in the near future outlining talent acquisition and even more importantly, how to keep talented people in the game.

Talk soon!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ten Dollar CDs

Walmart is at it again.

They want the Music cartel to lower their prices so they can move more product and not lose money on the products on the shelves. Normally I have a hard time with some of the high-pressure tactics that big businesses take pushing each other around -- but in this case, I gotta ask a few questions that have rather difficult answers. Maybe I just don't understand.

If I walk into about a half dozen retail shops, I can usually find a decent DVD for 10 bucks or less (no, we're not talking a recent release here -- but we're not talking old Andy Griffith Show re-runs either). In other words, I can find a Movie, on DVD, for 10 bucks easily.

But go for a similar vintage CD and it's going to be 12-14 bucks -- sometimes higher.


  1. A movie arguably has creative staff several orders of magnitude higher from a production stand-point.
  2. The soundtrack -- the derivative work from the Movie for the background noise to accompany the moving pictures, has to take similar effort to the production of most CDs.
  3. The format: DVDs have to have higher production costs. The amount of data from a binary perspective on a DVD is typically 4 gigabytes, versus the theoretical 700 megabytes or so on a typical CD.
  4. The editing: Editing video chapters and movie scenes, the work to create the DVD package and so on for a movie -- all of this from my perspective is a lot harder than the sound divisions found on a typical CD.
So the bottom line from my perspective is clear -- why, if every indicator from my perspective shows that the movie production houses are not losing money shipping a CD at 10 bucks, can the record industry not do something at least at a similar rate? Maybe they need to have a movie produced about every album that an artist puts out, showing live footage as the artist performs the work. Then have the movie houses ship the product and pay the artist similar to movie stars (something I hear isn't really happening these days).

Someone out there has to have some idea why this is all out of kilter -- or, like I said, maybe there's some hidden production cost for a CD or some huge donation facility for the movie houses that's funding their DVDs on the shelf today.

Walmart is arguably the 900 lb gorilla in this game -- but maybe they're on to something with this one. And I do agree with the gist of the article -- Apple makes money with the i-Tunes store because consumers sense value paying a buck a song. The value equation seems really tilted when you compare movies versus CDs. Consumers are pushing back and saying "I don't see 14 bucks a CD as a value."

One thing for sure, though, Walmart, the 900lb Gorilla is shoving another 900lb gorilla around. Look for some serious stomping here in the days to come.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another voting scandal in Ohio

The people that make voting machines are in my back yard, almost literally. I drive past them every day to work in Canton Ohio (Diebold). As a fervent believer in automation and almost all things technical as progress I have to vote here (and I don't just mean in the elections) -- I have to say I'm completely and totally against Voting machines being used in our elections.

I'm completely serious.

It's time to go back to paper ballots and I'd even go so far as to say we need the U.N. to monitor our elections. Ken Blackwell, the chief of elections for Ohio recently (at least the 04 elections) -- and a republican (he ran as a republican candidate for governor last year, and lost) -- Ken Blackwell was in charge of our voting processes last round. Really sound question here -- how can we trust a voting process in a "two-party" system (some people call it a democracy, but they need to do some research here)? Answer: We can't these days if the machines are as complex as they are, the voting is done with machines made by people with dubious goals, and the people in charge of the voting at the polls don't understand the technology. For these and obvious other reasons, I say it's time we stopped using technology, as there's simply too much at stake, namely our future as a society where we have some choice in our government.

Toss the machines, bring in U.N. Inspectors and then let's architect a system that works -- process and technology -- and one that's transparent, auditable and owned by the people, and not some "party" -- democratic or republican -- the temptation to skew the results is simply too high and near as I can tell it's become something similar to the "re-district" game, whereby some new elected power shift occurs, and the latest party in power tries to move the district boundaries in a state around so that the voting goes more favorably next time. Again, a statistical approach that makes it seam like the real election process is working, but in reality, it's been titled on the board in someone's favor.

Voting machines and new technologies at the booth provide, near as I can tell, an infinite number of new possibilities in this arena. Paper ballots at least would remove the latest round.

The latest scandal involves candidates names dropping off the machine in question (and in many counties from the article). This is compounded by the fact that there's no paper trail on the Diebold machines -- this from a company that makes ATM machines that print a continuous log when you use them. So, let's get this straight -- the cash in an ATM is important enough to audit, but we're going to take away this capability for a process that effectively hands the keys to the world (and the buttons to destroy it as well) over to someone, a process *that* important, it handles *that* and it doesn't log a thing? Oh and we're going to trust a dedicated party member to oversee the usage of such a thing in a non-partisan manner.

Get real -- get rid of this insanity now. We can salvage the technology later if we can come up with a way to make it idiot and fool proof -- for now we have some serious election needs and yes, we probably need the U.N. to watch it all. Sad day...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Elliot Spitzer

The scandal is all over the news. Governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer is a user of prostitutes and he's resigned.

It's always rough to watch something like this in flight. Bill Clinton being caught with an intern, for example, gripped our nation and lots of people made huge news of it (Even talk of impeachment).

I'm caught, though, with mixed feelings here. As bad as his behavior is in this context, the really sad news is that no one is looking back at everything that guy did to fight corruption -- it's all about his cheatin' ways these days.

Elliot Spitzer took on many things -- one of them was Microsoft. He did what a lot of law enforcement people wouldn't do and he did it well.

He's going to get run through the ringer for being a John -- but I will forever remember the crusader that fought for the right thing at the right time. I'm sorry to see this as an end. I hope for his sake that he's able to come to some kind of terms with this and in some way get back to what he used to do. Maybe this is an unrecoverable set-back, in other words, but I hope not.

Elliot Spitzer was and is, for what he did as a crime-fighter, still an admirable person in my eyes. No, I don't think prostitution is admirable or acceptable behavior. His personal problems aside, though, the good he did as an Attorney General was massive good compared to what amounts to a serious character flaw.

Unfortunately for our society we are hell-bent on feeding a media frenzy around things like this. Britney Spears, Anna Nichole-Smith or the latest celebrity train-wreck of the day all take the public eye off of real problems. Real heroes are forgotten in the backwash of mud and flame.

Elliot Spitzer is the latest train-wreck and the media will run this story for all its worth.

He's still a hero in my eyes. Elliot, you'll be in my prayers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Creation and Destruction of Inspirational Power

A recent conversation with a friend makes me aware of something dark I'm carrying that simply should not be there. It's there due to my nature, I'm sure, as a sensitive person who likes to think that everyone in the world is on their own path toward being something creative.

Let's face it -- not everyone is. Not everyone is on a path to grow. Not everyone is on a path toward any kind of enlightenment. Not everyone can create. Not everyone is inspirational. Inspirational Power is something a lot of people desire in their lives, though. I strive for it in my life.

When you can't, there's the alluring fall-back toward something else. Maybe theft is the wrong word but I can't help but suggest it.

In the past, when I've been troubled by something I've attacked it on multiple fronts. I talk with my wife and friends. Whatever. Often I'll blog about it. My next few posts will deal with this subject.

Linux is doing well these days. I'd love to talk about my recent experiences watching my wife use her ubuntu laptop (and load software all without dear old me in the picture). Not that that's all that boring -- it's just not news.

I'll try to keep this light and not involve any faces and names. Inevitably though I'm sure some people will be drawn to events in my life and go away sure that I'm talking about a particular individual. Trust me, this happens to everyone in some capacity. I plan to put a name on the face of the problem, but I will not be putting any names on human faces.

For over time I've discovered that inspirational power simply can't be stolen for any length of time and I've alway somehow come out as the winner in the game (there's that male paradigm rearing its ugly head again). I will also explore just why this would depress me.

Thanks for listening,