Category Archives: Business

brain malware – ars technica

The logos were repeatedly displayed, but only for milliseconds at a time, a span so short that subjects weren’t consciously aware of them. By measuring the brain signals at the precise time the images were displayed, Bonaci’s team was able to glean clues about the player’s thoughts and feelings about the things that were depicted.

https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/01/in-not-too-distant-future-brain-hackers-could-steal-your-deepest-secrets/

Completely possible in the near future.  Buy brain branding / influencing malware on the dark web. Coming to an AR game near you. 

Or reverse the sensors switch to UP and tiny shocks delivered for negative feedback to images as well. 

I don’t view this as science fiction. This will happen unfortunately. 

It’s a hack more insidious than the “infect two friends to get your data back.” Speaking of the infect-two-friends malware everyone says “I would never do that!” I point out that it’s really “infect two people you know” malware and not everyone you know is a friend. If a person is broke and they know their ex will open their email, and they can plausibly deny sending it, you know the rest of the story. 

Why Tendenci Chose Python over PHP

This blog is a WordPress blog written in PHP. And WordPress, when secured properly, is a great platform.

So why did our team choose to rewrite Tendenci Open Source and in the Python Programming language? It is a question I get asked a lot. We’ve never been a company that likes to talk in the negative if at all possible, yet it is important to talk about the megatrends going on given we work with associations and nonprofits.

which_web_programming_language_is_the_most_secure_

Source: https://www.upguard.com/blog/which-web-programming-language-is-the-most-secure

security-report1

Source: http://info.whitehatsec.com/rs/whitehatsecurity/images/statsreport2014-20140410.pdf

security-report

Source: http://info.whitehatsec.com/rs/whitehatsecurity/images/statsreport2014-20140410.pdf

Popularity of a language is a trend, and what you want is as many developers familiar and liking the language of your open source project as possible. This means you have a better chance to have a secure web site and therefore a more secure future.

To be fair – as Disraeli said – “lies, damn lies and statistics” – so there is no one perfectly secure language any more than there is a perfectly “safe” hammer. There will always be operator error and programmers make mistakes.

So we’re not saying Python is perfect, and all of us have used most of the other languages on those charts at some point. We’re just saying we are pleased so many other programmers also like Python and Open Source. THAT is the best that can be done to secure your future online. Secure code that you can examine yourself and even host yourself!

What is “x” competitor’s achilles heel?

tendenci-mobile-responsive-standard
In the course of owning a business you get a lot of phone calls from investors and venture capitalists. It’s a game, but a fair one if played correctly in that whatever your revenue, their criteria is just about twice yours. When we were 1M they were looking for 2M companies. When we were 2M they were looking for 3. When we were over 3 they were looking for 5, etc…. But they knew that when they contacted. So why?

Because knowledge is power. In an industry like membership management software there isn’t much transparency because so many companies are private. So they call. The calls are always polite. It’s important to remember they are frequently just due diligence by the firm as they negotiate to purchase a competitor in your space. Again, there is nothing wrong with this if knowledge is shared both ways.

Business Owner action item: as the business owner it’s up to you to ask the questions as well. Start with the simple stuff like “where do you see the industry going in 5 years?” etc. Trading information can be helpful, for both parties and if you are the smaller fish you better be more nimble anyway

How do most of the calls end? Typically the same and both parties knew it when the call started.

“well let’s stay in touch and touch base in a year.”

If you did your job and asked questions of them as well, then hey, that’s fair. In the VC world the “it’s not you, it’s me” breakup equivalent is “we are looking for someone a bit larger and with higher profits so call back”. But both parties knew that when the call started, it’s just the polite way to end the call. What highly profitable business owner wants to sell? Not many that I know of. It’s an attempt to be polite.

But, sometimes something interesting happens. Specifically I had someone ask me an interesting question recently about a competitor. It was a bit out of the blue which tells me it was on their to do list more than mine. The investor rep asked:

What do you see as company-x’s Achilles Heel besides being on the Microsoft platform?

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting the question and I prefer to not say bad things about competitors. Usually they are good people trying hard in a competitive environment. We hang out together at NTEN, SXSW and for some of us OSCON. They really are good  people. So I didn’t answer the “Achilles Heel” question fully. This is me correcting the record.

Yes, they have a problem. Why? Because in one of my History classes while getting a BS in POLS from Texas A&M University we studied Carnegie Steel. Given I like history,  let’s look at it through the lens of “what would Andrew Carnegie do?”

In 1870 Carnegie decided that instead of being a “capitalist” with diversified interests he was going to be a steelman exclusively. Using his own capital, he erected his first blast furnace (to make pig iron) that year and the second in 1872. In 1873 he organized a Bessemer-steel rail company, a limited partnership. Depression had set in and would continue until 1879, but Carnegie persisted, using his own funds and getting local bank help. The first steel furnace at Braddock, Pa., began to roll rails in 1874. Carnegie continued building despite the depression—cutting prices, driving out competitors, shaking off faltering partners, plowing back earnings. In 1878 the company was capitalized at $1.25 million, of which Carnegie’s share was 59 percent; from these policies he never deviated. He took in new partners from his own “young men” (by 1900, he had 40); he never went public, capital being obtained from undivided profits (and in periods of stress, from local banks); and he kept on growing, horizontally and vertically, making heavy steel alone. From 1880 onward, Carnegie dominated the steel industry.

Still with me? Because from that dominance he sat at the top of the food chain. And then inexplicably they poked him. Why? WTF?

Carnegie had thought of selling out and retiring in 1889: his annual income was $2 million, and he wanted to cultivate his hobbies and develop the philanthropic program that was taking shape in his mind. But the threats that now came from the West as well as the East were too much for his fighting spirit and his sense of outrage, and he took the war into the enemy camp.

Sooooo… Carnegie then did NOT retire but rather took the fight to them. He took the fight to them with the advantages and business knowledge of his industry that he possessed. Now back to our story…

He (Carnegie) would not join their pools and cartels; moreover, he would invade their territories by making tubes, wire and nails, and hoop and cotton ties and by expanding his sales activities into the West. He ordered a new tube plant built on Lake Erie at Conneaut, which at the same time would be a great transportation center with harbors for boats to run to Chicago and a railroad to connect with Pittsburgh.

The competition surrendered, but at a much higher price than they would have otherwise.

Thus originated the U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901, through the work of J.P. Morgan. The point was to buy Carnegie off at his own price—as he was the only disturbing factor that held back “orderly markets and stable prices.” The Carnegie Company properties were purchased for almost $500 million (out of the total capitalization of the merger of $1.4 billion); Carnegie’s personal share was $225 million, which he insisted upon having in the corporation’s first-mortgage gold bonds. At last Carnegie was free to pursue his outside interests.

Why, how, could the competition have so badly misjudged things? They missed the megatrends/macroeconomics and underestimated their competitor. Realize one dollar of capital in the hands of experience is far more powerful than ten dollars in the hands of bankers.

It’s quite simple really. Carnegie had lowered his costs and built up his capital to the point that the competitor’s moves were an “event” and his response was simply a “choice”. A freaking choice. If that doesn’t make you nervous then I didn’t explain it well.

From the start Carnegie was willing to pay the price to win. Who knows, maybe he was just bored? Regardless the competition was in over their heads with a combined company run by bankers without the institutional knowledge of a steelman.

The bankers accepted their losses. But their misstep meant they paid a significant price for not researching the market, researching the trends, and especially for not understanding the machine Carnegie had built. It wasn’t just the capital, it was years of best practices developed by Frick and Carnegie that allowed him to win. A business is complex. Business practices are maintained by people, not Viseo flowcharts or Powerpoint.

Pick your fights.

Further – the only thing more complex than a business is communities of people like the open source community. You can’t buy them off or learn the social norms in a year or two.

[redacted]

Back to the phone call – in this case, the competitor the investor asked about is one we see occasionally in the sales process. They have some aggressive affiliates but I can’t say I’ve had a bad encounter with their CEO or one of their employees. So yes, I know them. I know how our product is differentiated with greater functionality. (having a better product does help – but they would say the same thing).

SWOT analysis if it got aggressive?

Well I can back into the competitors costs using the usual methods like salary survey sites and looking at their network. There are people who will research these things for a very reasonable price. Add to that the fact that they are proprietary AND require two year contracts just makes it easier. You wouldn’t want to sign your nonprofit up with a proprietary solution if you knew there was a better solution that was also open source, right? (data says 90% want use open source or “roll their own” – NTEN).

Maneuvering around their market positioning would be as strategically challenging as going around the Maginot line. Easy pickings – IF someone wanted a fight.

If this sounds arrogant, it isn’t. It is just me acknowledging how the future would put the very existence of our company in question if we hadn’t changed. I did what any self-aware responsible and knowledgeable CEO would do. We did a pivot. And WordPress and Drupal are great examples to follow.

The bigger question is why other leaders didn’t see open source coming?

Our competitive position – Tendenci has driven our costs down and gone open source in a group of competitors trapped with huge employee expenses, high proprietary licensing costs, shared servers which amplifies security risks, and constant turn over in their work force. Meanwhile hack attacks are sky rocketing and insurance and benefit costs climb.

Add to that programming isn’t something you can throw money at – it just takes time and adding more keyboard-monkeys just slows down the innovators.

To the person who asked the question – my answer is this:

Company X’s achilles heel is they exist at the whim of a better positioned open company with an aggressive strategy. You don’t have to win every prospect, you just have to force the competitor to sell below their cost. And wait.

The rest is details.

Tendenci will continue to rise because it is exactly what nonprofits and government agencies are asking for. Freedom. Respect. Dignity. Openness. Love.

Tools to help the cause first and our company second.

PS – if you are an investor in that company, don’t worry. I have no intention of implementing the above strategy right now as this is a case of “there is no spoon.” What is next is far more interesting to me. There is some amazing stuff on the horizon. I just wanted to come clean on how vulnerable some companies are. And yes, in a SWOT analysis or a prospectus, you should probably cross reference their technology with tech trends. I guess that is a question for the attorneys and IANAL.

A tribute to Stephanie Smither

smithersA tribute to Stephanie Smither who recently passed away. I met her doing volunteer photography over the years with the Orange Show and the Houston Art Car Parade. Normally I would say “we have lost a great one.” While that is be true, it seems far more appropriate to celebrate what she gave us when she was here. I’d rather say –

We have all gained and learned from Stephanie Smither. A person both kind and generous. A lady who was an example of how to carry yourself with grace but not be afraid to get your hands dirty building art and helping people. She had mettle. I am thankful for all she gave to Houston. A supporter of the arts in Houston, she was also a person you wanted to hang out with at the Orange Show Gala. She is a person who will be remembered for the good things she did. 

Yes Stephanie is leaving a great legacy in Smither Park.

smither-park-in-progress-schipul

As a photographer behind the lens, I can not say I knew her that well. My loss. Unless the saying “judge a person by their actions” is true. If so, then all of Houston knew her well. She even connected with my kids through Smither’s Park when we volunteered to do some aerial photography of the Orange Show when the Smither Park wall was first being built! She liked Oranges and Drones before drones were cool? Duuuuude.

smithers-drone-schipul-photos
Schipul Aerial photos of Smother’s Park at the Orange Show

I don’t think I ever saw Stephanie when she wasn’t smiling and laughing. I was usually hiding behind a camera lens, which sometimes is a great way to view the world if you are an active volunteer and have a history with an organization.

From the Chronicle:

About 400 people jammed the Menil Collection Thursday night to celebrate with donor Stephanie Smither the opening of an exhibition (As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither) marking her gift of 50 important works of folk art to the museum.

Gift-from-Stephanie-and-John-Smither-to-Menil-Collection

Sunday morning, they were saddened by her death but also applauding her colorful life, lived passionately and well.

Smither, 75, died Saturday night at home in Houston, surrounded by her family. She had been in declining health since a double lung transplant two and a half years ago.

Paige Johnson, one of Smither’s three children, said her mother told doctors in January they needed to keep her alive until June 9 for the opening of the show, “As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither.”

“It was her life’s dream to have her collection at the Menil, to have it recognized by such a beautiful and important museum,” Johnson said. (more)

From: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/houstonchronicle/obituary.aspx?n=stephanie-smithers&pid=180330773

Stephanie Kerr Smither    1941-2016

Stephanie Kerr Smither, “Nana” will be remembered for her beautiful smile, loving her family, the marriage to her childhood sweetheart, inventive cooking, and always being the last to leave the party! She surrounded herself friends and beautiful objects, was wildly adventurous, fun loving, gracious and a courageous lady. Nana will be remembered for her big hugs, which she gave generously. Nana passed away June 11, 2016 at home surrounded by family and wearing her favorite turquoise rings.

Stephanie was born in Jacksonville, Texas, to Frankie Zou Gaston and Stephen Austin (“S.A.”) Kerr, May 4, 1941. Raised in Huntsville, Texas where her parents founded Kerr’s Department Store; she spent her days helping to run the store with the daddy she loved. As a young girl she learned the piano, enjoyed baseball and fell in love with her childhood sweetheart – John Henderson Smither. Their favorite place to “park” was Pritchett Pasture, now Interstate 45, where she helped John feed his cattle. Her sister Zou said, “it is hard to remember her before John!” They married while students at the University of Texas at Austin. John was in law school while Stephanie taught at the Texas School for the Deaf. Upon graduation, they moved to Stuttgart, Germany with their two children where John served in the Army. These were fond memories traveling Europe, in their VW bug with kids in the back. They settled in Houston and raised three children. Stephanie was active in the Blue Bird Circle, The Houston Garden Club and Westminster United Methodist Church, though what she enjoyed most was staying at home supporting John and her children with their endeavors.

Stephanie, a “sophisticated hoarder” or (consummate collector), was always on the hunt for handmade and one-of-a-kind objects. She was known for her bright orange lipstick and big jewelry, without which she felt underdressed. She was also known for her creative tablescapes, beautiful penmanship, and famous Smither Salsa. With her East Texas accent, someone said, “Stephanie was the only person she knew who said ‘hush’ in four syllables”. At Christmas her house was filled with carved Santas, her tree covered in her handmade needlepoint angels and the smells of homemade fudge and peanut brittle on the stove. Nana stayed busy all year making the grandchildren’s Christmas stockings and their annual needlepoint ornaments.

She and John loved hosting dinner parties and she delighted in cooking scrumptious gourmet meals. They always ended the evening with Stephanie playing the piano barefoot while John and their beloved supper club of 50 years sang into the wee hours. Stephanie thought if people left her house before midnight it was a bad party!

Her favorite activities included cheering for her grandchildren at sporting events, being a “mean” liar’s dice player, taking her grandchildren to exotic places, playing Mah Jongg, and spending time with family and friends at Sunset Lake in Huntsville, Texas.
The family wishes to express their gratitude to her generous lung donor and his family, Houston Methodist Hospital, Dr. Scott Scheinin, Dr. Osama Gaber, Dr. Thomas Kaleekal, Sydney Bridges and the staff for their heroic effort over the last 2 ½ years. She was able to fulfill her lifetime dream of overseeing the creation of Smither Park, gifting her art to The Menil Collection and completing a documentary about her years as a collector of Visionary Art. In addition, she was honored as one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of 2015 by Houston Woman Magazine and as the 2014 Texas Patron of the Year by Art League Houston.

We know Stephanie would also like to thank all the sweet supporters of Smither Park and the artists who were so dear to her. Thank you also to the staff at The Menil Collection who were so wonderful to work with on the current exhibition.

Stephanie felt blessed to spend her last two evenings at the celebration dinner and opening of her collection at The Menil. She was radiant and so touched by the public outpouring of support. Afterwards, family and friends returned to her home for her famous SmitherRitas. She had one last toast, retired to her room, and eased into her final slumber surrounded by family and friends with the joyous sounds of the party below.

She treasured her children and their spouses, John Kerr Smither, Ashley and Curt Langley, Paige and Todd Johnson, and her grandchildren who affectionately called her Nana: Amon Smither; Austin, Madison and Jack Langley; Wells, John David, Pierce, Hill and Blake Johnson; her sister and brother-in-law Zou Kerr and Boyd F. Cherry; sisters-in-law, Martha Smither and Trudie Smither, nieces and nephews, Robert Smither, III, Sallie Crotty, John J. Smither and Mary Kate Jefferies; great grand nieces and nephews Kate and Stephen Crotty and Cole Smither. She was preceded in death by her parents S.A. and Frankie Zou Kerr, her husband John H. Smither and two brothers-in-law Robert B. Smither, Jr. and Wilbur L. Smither, III.

The memorial service celebrating her life is Thursday, June 16th at 10 a.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Rd, Houston, Texas. The graveside service will be held at 5:00 p.m. in Oakwood Cemetery located at 9th Street and Martin Luther King Drive in Huntsville, Texas. It was Stephanie’s wish that everyone celebrate her life by wearing a bit of her favorite color, orange.

For those desiring, contributions in Stephanie’s memory may be made to: Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation, P. O. Box 4384, Houston, TX 77210-4384 (in honor of Dr. Scott Scheinin for transplant research; Nora’s Home for transplant patients and their families, 8300 El Rio St., Houston 77054 http://www.norashome.org, Smither Park, 2402 Munger, Houston, Texas 77004 http://orangeshow.org

Published in Houston Chronicle from June 15 to June 16, 2016

Here is to the power of the Orange Show, the people and the place, to bring people together. Thanks y’all. I’ll be back out there when I get a camera again.

orange-show-drone-photo-schipuls

My Final Thoughts – like so many other great people in Houston, I wish I had gotten the chance to truly know her beyond photography. Running into Stephanie, whatever the event from the Art Car Parade, to the Art Car Ball, to an Orange Show event or at an event commemorating her donations to create Smithers’ Park next to the Orange Show Monument. Smiling.

She was consistent – she was generous of her time and money, she was true to her word, and by God she loved the color Orange! And the color Orange not only looked great on Stephanie, I am quite sure it loved her back.

I predict Orange will be very big this fall.

#peace

 

We are the refugees. And why are there Nike’s on your doorstep?

The refugees are us.

We in America do not have a spotless history or a moral fall back to point to manifest destiny as a justification for our historical actions. Nor can we claim they are purely in the past given the racist and misogynistic vitriol of the current election season. In 2016 we still see these words and actions come up. As Passover is upon us, it is clear we have reached a physical place of bounty, but not, regardless of beliefs, achieved

As described by Wikipedia:

So when Jews retell that story at the first night’s traditional festive Seder, “these are not ancient, crumbling dusty issues that don’t have relevance today,” says Rabbi Eric Greenberg, a spokesman for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. “We can see this is actually happening now to many people, including the Syrian refugees.”

It’s a connection that resonates for Shadi Martini, 44, himself a Muslim Syrian refugee who now lives in Farmington Hills, Mich. A hospital manager in Syria, he had to start over after leaving in 2012. In the U.S., he began supplying humanitarian and medical supplies to those in need in Syria.

“We worked with everyone who offered help, and some NGOs were from Israel, and that was a big surprise,” says Martini, who is currently senior Syria adviser for the Multifaith Alliance. In Syria, which is in ongoing conflict with Israel and today has only a tiny Jewish population, he had no exposure to Jews. It was also a surprise to learn that welcoming and coming to the aid of the stranger “was a pillar of the Jewish faith,” he says.

Rev. Channing E. Phillips, (left) Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and Topper Carew on April 4, 1969, the night of the first Freedom Seder.

In Freedom Seder, Jews And African-Americans Built A Tradition Together

The connections between the journey of the ancient Israelites and of refugees today are being emphasized in online readings from American Jewish World Service, whose mission is to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world, and HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit that focuses on protecting and aiding refugees around the world.

Since the Seder is famous for promoting discussion, including the four questions, it was natural to ask four questions for 2016.

Why should we add readings?

Because the stories of today’s refugees echo the long history of Jewish stories of being expelled throughout history, says Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. That history includes being forced from Spain in 1492 and from Nazi Europe in the 1930s. All these instances, past and present, have to do with “individuals and groups asserting their rights to be and live where they are” and remind us of times and places “where the government is saying we will deprive you of the rights that other people in this country have.” When the Haggadah, the text that is read at the Seder, instructs us to remember that we were strangers in a strange land, she says, that means it is “our responsibility” to reach out to refugees in need.

What are the modern-day plagues?

The Haggadah lists the 10 plagues visited upon Egypt as the Pharaoh refuses again and again to let the Israelites go. To provide insight into what displacement means today, the HIAS supplement lists “10 Plagues Facing Refugees in the U.S. and Worldwide.” The list — which includes violence, dangerous journeys, poverty, lack of access to education, anti-refugee legislation and loss of family — is accompanied by facts and figures.

Have we done enough?

Another seder favorite is the song Dayenu, whose refrain proclaims that any single one of the miracles that led, step by step, to the exodus would have been dayenu — Hebrew for “enough.” “It’s a great lyric” that speaks of gratitude and appreciation, says Messinger. The AJWS version provides a different twist, which acknowledges that in addition to appreciating what is being done, there is still more work ahead. One verse goes, in part:

If the world responds only to the cries of the wounded, but does not stay to help them heal…
It will not be enough.

However, if we sustain our support until stability, peace and independence have been attained…Dayenu! Then it will be enough.

Why is there a pair of Nikes on your doorstep?

In a new ritual, HIAS asks Seder participants “to place a pair of shoes on the doorstep of your home to acknowledge that none of us is free until all of us are free and to pledge to stand in support of welcoming those who do not have a place to call home.” This acknowledges that “we have stood in the shoes of refugees, and as we’re celebrating our freedom we are committing to stand with today’s refugees, and take a stand,” says Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, vice president of community engagement at HIAS. You can choose your own moment to place shoes at the door, but one possibility is at the Haggadah passage that reads, “My father was a wandering Aramean.” This suggests “the essence of the Jewish experience: a rootless people who have fled persecution time and time again,” says the HIAS supplement. “When we recite these words, we acknowledge that we have stood in the shoes of the refugee.”

On being crazy and Elon Musk almost having a nervous breakdown

You feel like a failure. You know, a failure like Elon Musk. To quote the irresponsible risk taking and brilliant Mr Musk:

“The end of 2008 was really really terrible. I never thought of myself as somebody who could have a nervous breakdown…. I came pretty close honestly in 2008 the day before Christmas…. We just barely made it.”

Q: “So you did have those experiences?”
A: “We had multiple near death experiences. Like death on the nose. Not just in front of you.'”

Q “What’s it like when you go all in and you are about to lose?”
A: “It’s quite a terrible emotion actually.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-on-failure-tesla-bankruptcy-2014-11

So maybe Elon is crazy. He risked his own failure and thousands of people’s jobs. But he isn’t a failure. He rebounded pretty well it turns out. Because he was willing to face death and total failure and keep fighting. To use his words “death on the tip of your nose” and then salvation one hour before Tesla would have gone bankrupt.

One hour. One single hour away from complete devastation.

#dude

(addendum)

“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”
– Joshua 1:9

“agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear”

The Emperor’s New Clothes – Advertising and Web Design Agencies are walking around naked convinced they are fully clothed in the finest of attire. Why?

This – “PepsiCo’s Brad Jakeman Suggests Shops Have Not Kept Pace With Change

emperor's new clothes
Emperor’s New Clothes – somebody should tell them.

“My particular peeve is pre-roll. I hate it,” he added. “What is even worse is that I know the people who are making it know that I’m going to hate it. Why do I know that? Because they tell me how long I am going to have to endure it — 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds. You only have to watch this crap for another 10 seconds and then you are going to get to the content that you really wanted to see. That is a model of polluting content that is not sustainable.”

and

“The agency model that I grew up with largely has not changed today,” he said, noting that he has been in the ad industry for 25 years. “Yet agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear … they are looking at clients being way more promiscuous with their agencies than they ever have.”

and

“We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?”

Here is the thing. EVERYONE KNOWS HE IS RIGHT! Now, given the incredible pain we went through transforming a web agency fully into a cutting edge open source software company, I fully realize the reasons behind the resistance. I’ve lost employees who went to agencies that I fully know will fail.

Maybe I was too early on converting Schipul – The Web Marketing Company into Tendenci Software. But the decision, the direction, the move itself? The tectonic shift in media? The virtual and global workforce coming together every day through online tools? No, I’m not wrong about that.

If you are married to the classic ad-agency model, or even web-design company model, my only advice is to chase down the third world companies and clients. Why? Because you now have a very real first-world problem; your business model will fail and your owners know it. #firstWorldProblemsCanBeABitch

This isn’t to say the solution we are going after with Tendenci is the perfect approach. I don’t think anybody knows what will work in the future.

However we DO know what won’t work. Looking at the old agency model, it’s a game of dead-man-walking. If you work there, get your money, save your money, and train like crazy because education is a lifelong journey and it is your responsibility to be ready for “the next.” It’s frustrating as I don’t know the “next” any more than anyone else.

I’ve failed a lot in the last two years. I have a PhD in failure at this point. I say this even as the company is turning around and back in the black and growing again. (Thank you to all of our new clients! Thank you to everyone who believed in us and stuck by us. We are going to have you SOOOO prepared for the “next” it’ll be incredible.)

What I did know is that I had to get my clients and my employees off the Titanic. Ironically many didn’t understand and instead left for variations I call “Titanic 2.0”. Still, I do believe our formers will be fine because they are lifelong learners. I just hope they are getting ready now. The game is changed and nobody, nobody, knows all of the new rules yet.

Maybe that is the bigger issue? If you invent a sport like soccer, you start by setting the objectives. The objective is to make a goal. Then you choose the size of the field. The size of the goal. The number of players.

Then the subtleties – rules like “offsides” – to keep the game exciting.

You don’t try to make the game identical to some other game because the public (remember the consumer? the ones with the money?) will be bored. And won’t watch. You must evolve. Evolve or die. It’s that simple. And it hurts like hell. Yet….

Make no mistake – the first decision when you invent a new sport is “what is the objective” and everything else is derived from that. If your company hasn’t figured out that the agency model is broken, then they definitely aren’t working on the subtleties. And as usual, the devil is in the details.

Has Open Source Tendenci and our team been through a lot? Yes. But it would be malpractice if we were still selling fluffy social media consulting retainers with timer based twitter posts in 2015.

Seriously, you are still selling “Social Media Consulting”? Seriously?

PR is strategy – everything else is a vehicle to execute on that strategy. There is absolutely no differentiation in being able to operate hootsuite because you can be replaced by a 16 year old. Clients aren’t stupid – they WILL figure this out.

Yes, I know people still make money selling fluffy “I can operate facebook for you”, but, just how long are clients going to be stupid enough to pay for that?  Why would you pay for that when the next generation is doing hard-deletes?

As quoted above: “agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear”

It’s hard to follow a leader. Harder to follow one that is ahead of the curve. I’m probably wrong. But I’m not. Titanic 2.0 will sink just as surely as Titanic 1.0 did. And the CEOs and clients will push the weak aside and take the lifeboats. And then, well, where will you be?

sunset

#myTwoCents #ImUsuallyWrongSoYouShouldIngoreMe

15 years to fail

In 1960, the average major corporation lasted for 60 years—but today, it gets wiped out after only 15. With billion-dollar budgets for technology, marketing, and big data at their disposal, why are flagship public companies failing faster than ever before, and industries experiencing major disruption?

(source)

The Year of the Horse

As we approach a critical mass of the open source version of Tendenci, it is very fitting that it is in the Chinese year of the Horse. From http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2014.htm

Horse is one of Chinese favorite animals. Horse provides people quick transportation before automobiles, so people can quickly reach their destinations. Horse even can help people to win the battle. Therefore Horse is a symbol of traveling, competition and victory. That’s why Horse is connected to speedy success in China.

Horses like to compete with others. They pursuit for their freedom, passion and leadership. That implies that people will have busy schedule for their goals in the year of Horse. Horse hour of Chinese Horoscopes is from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. Sunshine generates lots of heat during the Horse hour. Therefore, horse is connected to heat, fire and red. Horses like the social activities, because horses like show off themselves. Since horse is a social animal and red is also connected to love, therefore. horse is treated as a Romantic Star in Chinese Horoscope.

and

Genghis Khan built the Mongol Empire by horses. The Mongol Horses were a smaller breed, they were bred for endurance, not for speed like stallions. Genghis Khan conquered Eastern Europe so quickly. Because Eastern European countries never realized Mongol cavalry can arrive their territories so fast and they didn’t have enough time to prepare the defense. They said each Mongol cavalryman had three or four horses. They will change another horse when one got tired. So Mongolian horses can take turn and get some rest. Mongol cavalryman even knew how to sleep in the saddle. That’s why they can travel long distances without stopping. We know horses can sleep while standing. Mongolian horses have a better sleeping skill. When they ran in a group, the horse in the center can sleep while running.

Horse is intelligent animal. Horses need to be trained to become useful to human. Human can make Horse famous. Without human’s guide, Horse just a wild animal. It doesn’t know where to go. There is no destination in its life.

Indeed there is destination in life. And it is worth fighting for. I’m in. I’m humbled by my mistakes. That is the past. We live in interesting times and the destination is what makes such a curse irrelevant. The Mongolian Horses know the way. Steady wins the race.

django can make some weird db schemas. just sayin.

When you have awesome people and less than awesome results, it is usually one of three things

  1. leadership (me),
  2. processes or
  3. design (in the global sense of project design patterns).

I set all three as CEO for our rewrite of Tendenci to the open source software platform for nonprofits. Thus no matter what, I take 100% of the responsibility for delays between 2009 and 2014.

To be clear, I’m pleased with the progress on Tendenci, self hosted or our hosted solutions. Basically the team kicked ass on Tendenci 5.1 and I’m proud of them. It was definitely a cumulative effort from many people, past and present, addressing an incredibly complex problem – people.

Tendenci is about people, it isn’t a shopping cart selling shirts (and shopping carts can be complex, just nothing as complex as human behavior).

Tendenci is designed to be as simple as possible, but no simpler. The “minimum viable product” of 2009 is not something our client base wanted to hear about in 2014, even if the new version of Tendenci does mobile and much more. People don’t like to go backwards from what is now called “agile” development.

Lesson 1 – if you want to get REALLY agile – only build what people fund.

Yes, only build funded modifications. (Or contributed pull requests as time is money.) It’s amazing how many people will suggest a great mod. Everyone uses the web so clearly they are experts sharing their wisdom of how it should be built. As if driving a car makes me qualified to build one. And when you say 4k for the mod suddenly the programming module they desperately need isn’t relevant and they find another way.

Why? Why charge for modifications? Priorities. It tell you what people value. And we did that very well from 2001 to 2009. Resulting in a stress tested solid product. But proprietary because 2001 was a bit too soon to start building open source web apps. We had to start over if we wanted to be open source, so I pulled the trigger.

Then I tried to simplify things a bit too much. Things got a bit too Web 2.0 with blocks and giant fonts losing all data density in the display. Upsetting our power-users and looking clunky on screen. My bad. (the good news is it is mostly fixed now.)

Why is oversimplification such a fail?

Think about your car’s dashboard and controls. Look at them when you next get in your car. Incredibly complex information, right? Vast amounts of it. Presented while you are going 70 mph. Just wow. If what is fundamentally a horse (staying with the horse/car analogy briefly) with no visual controls, has evolved to this level of complexity, then exactly how simple can you make Association Management Software? Well, it isn’t a simple problem. 20,000 users on a web application is much more complicated than a car. Or a shopping cart.

Tendenci – because humans are complex. Groups of humans are even more complex!

So why this post? I’d like to start sharing what I learned along the way. Why this is one step in a long journey. And hopefully our clients and employees and the entire open source community will benefit from it. If not, then those who prefer destruction over creating something, those who laugh at people still tilting at windmills, then they will have won and there will be written documentation of my folly.

All I can do is tell you a bit about the journey. Record it along the way. And schedule blog posts over time.

Disclaimers: For the purpose of this series of posts I make no apologies if I speak Geek or brutalize the English language with poor grammar and typos while using pseudo-code to express programming concepts, all mixed up together with abandon in horrific run-on sentences. It happens. Go read another blog if it isn’t your thing. This one is mine.

As for the database schemas – I’ll cover that in a future post…for now suffice it to say I have had to relearn the primacy of MVC is MODEL-CONTROLLER-VIEW in that order. And it takes discipline to do that with Django. More later….

Car Dealership Franchise Contracts are Socialist Monopolies. Duh.

Order Button
Order button on the Tesla Motors Web Site
Car Dealership Franchise Agreements are Government Sponsored Monopolies. Oh please. Stop that 2k tax per car per family. Yes, I said it. For that matter so is the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, etc…. so let’s just call a Spade a Spade. (And speaking of “Spades“, while not a gambler myself, the last time I checked the casino industry was more open to competition than car dealerships. Go figure.)

If you want to save about 2k per car purchase – check the link on car dealership monopolies … It’s about time the monopoly of dealerships was seriously threatened with…. um….. CAPITALISM. FREEDOM. APPLE PIE. THE AMERICAN WAY. So why do we have socialized / monopoly car franchises? History and cronyism my friends. No. Other. Reason.

Free Enterprise is a good thing folks. I recognize the need for regulation (the tragedy of the commons) to protect our commons (no Benzene in the rivers for example – that’s a good regulation.)

But can’t we let competition keep up with technology? Why can’t I buy a car direct from the manufacturer? Name one rational reason besides protectionist laws from the stone age? (with apologies to my friends who might still be at UCS or ReyRey).

I work on the Internet. The speed of innovation is so radically fast and the threats to your business model are constant. And our business is 17 years old because WE ADAPT. Yes, people who can’t adapt that fast leave the company, but…. you know, it’s called competition for a reason. Adapt or die unfortunately.

So it will be interesting to see which manufacturer invalidates all of it’s franchise agreements with the dealerships first by allowing direct sales. Because whoever does it first, those dealerships will sell the MOST cars.

Yes, at first the dealers will be upset, and then, it’ll be alright. Everythings gonna be alright. And dealers know they make most of their profit from Parts and Service anyway. (OK, and Used Cars & F&I but we can’t fix it all at once I guess.)

http://beta.slashdot.org/story/207413

Brackets editor – new to me

Brackets editor by Adobe. OK, I assume they purchased it, but it’s under their brand. Link:

http://brackets.io/

After download on the Mac, if on Maverick, it will prevent you from running it. Instead of using Alfred or Spotlight, try instead:

1) Download
2) Install in apps (click the dmg from the step above)
3) Go to apps, find brackets.app, and hold CTL while you click it. This should bring up the option to “Open” as well. Do that.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 2.08.36 AM

4 days untethered – and it was kinda nice

If you sent me a text or called me on the cell since last Monday, I didn’t get it. It seems I’ll never get it either. The cause? I’m an idiot and left my cell phone on the roof of my car. It is now, I suspect, being slowly ground into the feeder road of I-10. mobile-phoneI lost a month of photos but that’s about it, and of course it was locked and, well if you know me, it was locked down. Not that it matters if it is in parts and pieces being massaged by Pirellis.

First – How was it for me? Well, I spent four days without a cell phone. And it was refreshing.

Second – While I was seriously tempted to continue the lifestyle of what was once called “being a normal human being with freedom” I came to the conclusion that my responsibilities said otherwise.. I am now tethered, monitored by PRISM again, consuming Soylent Green again like everyone else and accessible at all times via a small rectangle when it skitters across the desk vibrating. A compliant-monitored-geolocated-citizen here to serve you.

Still, four days of knowing I couldn’t reach the tribe for help, nor they me, was actually relaxing. They are quite capable. I’m the air-head. Yet I’m also pretty fault tolerant so I wasn’t too worried about me. It was the “I’ve committed to these people” factor, the DUTY factor, that made me pay the egregious cost of a cell phone without the contract benefit given it was a replacement.

Bottom line. I love freedom. I also understand that it comes with responsibilities. And as much as I wanted to opt out, that isn’t fair to everyone else in my current role. We all have a role. And those roles change over time. I get that. So I have my mobile back.

Oh, and if you sent me a text in the last week I did not receive it. Check the feeder road or resend it.