Category Archives: Personal

Lean Startup Method improves my showers!

I’ve been doing a little bit of reading, and opted for a quick weekend in LA to give myself a crash course in the Lean Startup method.  Why?  I wanted to develop some of my own abilities and instincts to move faster to a product/market fit.  In my review of the last 3 years starting an open source DB company, I realized I was WILDLY under informed on what customers really wanted, needed.  I am determined that, whatever I do next, I will spend MUCH more time working on customer development and product market fit than feature and solution development.  The Lean Startup Method allows you work through, in a rough and tumble way, to QUICKLY disqualify your current business model/solution as viable.

That’s a pretty stock answer/elevator pitch for the Lean Startup method.  What in the world does it have to do with my showers?

There are these people; inventors, entrepreneurs, creative types that get ideas ALL the time.  They get an idea, they think about it’s place in the world.  They think how’d they build this product.  They think about what it would look like.  How awesome it would be, etc.  Many, myself included, typically see problems/solutions all the time.  At the moment, I have no fewer than 15 ideas for new business that vary from Food Preparation, to Easy Re-ording of Groceries, to population/search analytics, to improving pace of play on golf courses, utility trading, etc.

These ideas percolate; I think about them in the shower.  I think about them in the car.  They pick at me; I think about how great they could be.  I figure out a piece of the puzzle, put that into a mental cabinet and then go about my day.  Days later, it pops back into my head, and I start working on another aspect of the idea.  I call this my own Entrepreneurial Porn.  It’s fluffy, stimulating but is a lazy time consuming alternative to actually building a business.  I only stop thinking about an idea after a year or so has passed since I thought about it, or I find some critical problem with the SOLUTION that means it won’t work.  This comes after a significant amount of mental power/effort is expended.

Here’s the real curse:  I invent new ideas (into the queue) faster than they head out (solution won’t work).  I turn over and spend many of my waking hours (probably sleeping ones too) thinking about, and creatively looking upon ideas that will go nowhere.  Emotionally I feel like I’ve wasted this time and feel guilty about it, and it increases frustration internally knowing I’m not building a great business because I’m spending too much time on Entrepreneurial porn.

My hope now is that Lean Startup Method will provide  me the ability to banish these ideas from my shower time, driving time, and other moments that I could be thinking about  viable businesses, my loved ones and be a more present during the day.  I now have the ability to spend a few hours (or day or two) to figure out why the idea won’t work; then I don’t have to spend the thoughtless and wasted hours of time mulling over the solution.

Point in case on the curse; while I write this blog from 38,000 ft I just got a new idea inspired by observing a woman using her Windows Tablet.  One more idea to try and exorcise!  Entrepreneurial Devils be Damned!

Off Topic: My First Airplane Solo

I’ve wanted to fly since I was 14.  I started training in 2004, but cut it short when I moved from Boston to Seattle.  The wife was kind enough to give me a swift kick in the butt telling me to go get the license now; doing so later in life will be more difficult.

In May I logged 15 hours of dual instruction at Boeing Field (short 15 min drive from my house) and yesterday I soloed the 172 Skyhawk N52139 for the first time.

I was expecting the solo to be intense; thinking intensely and hearing my instructors voice in my head with all the things that have to happen all at the same time to get the plane safely on the ground.  Instead, I found that after the training, I know how to simply “fly the plane” and was just doing what I knew the plane needed to land softly without much thinking.  After 2 touch and gos and a full stop landing both me and my instructor concluded I’ve acquired the “walking and chewing gum” skills when it comes to flying.

I’ll be continuing training hours over the next couple of months.  I’m aiming for September for getting my license so I can take my wife places with me in the plane.  After all, her encouragement is what got me going on this old aspiration; least I can do is fly her to dinner in the San Juans.

Off Topic: meme (me)

From Mr. Casters this morning. A blogger equivalent of “send this mail to 10 people you know” :)

1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture.
3. Post that picture with NO editing.
4. Post these instructions with your picture.
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So, from Tully’s Coffee on Alki Ave this morning…. :)

Zipcar buys Flexcar WOO WOO

Zipcar and Flexcar are both car sharing companies. For background on the concept, read about it here.

My wife and I share one car for a variety of reasons and it works out really well. We end up walking a bunch more. We take the bus downtown. I work from a home office so I don’t need a car for a daily commute. Foregoing expense of a car used only once or twice a week. Lots of reasons. Car sharing has been a great way to have the “extra car” when we need it. If I need a car in the middle of the day, I reserve one online for a couple of hours, run my errands, come back and drop it off. My wife and I LOVE the concept for so many reasons.

Now that I’ve buried the lead:

I’m THRILLED that Zipcar is acquiring Flexcar. Why? Completely selfish reasons.

I lived in Boston so my first car sharing experience was with Zipcar. I thought their “execution” on the operations side was excellent. Great website. Great card/entry system. Great refueling. Great phone interface. Great billing system (can see when I used what). Everything was great. Then I moved to Seattle.

Zipcar wasn’t in Seattle, but Flexcar was. I signed up with Flexcar and have been solidly underwhelmed with their operation. Sure, it’s the same sort of thing and its been quite similar but hands down Zipcar was much much better. Flexcar had weird lock boxes and keypads. Refueling numbers on your reservation. Flexcar website doesn’t do positional location of cars (you have to know your neighborhood). Flexcar requires you use your Member ID (2039884) to login instead of a username (ngoodman). I’ve used Flexcar for the past three years and, well, it was adequate.

The news that Flexcar has been acquired (release says merged, but Zipcar is x3 the size of Flexcar) by Zipcar is AWESOME. As a customer of BOTH companies I’m absolutely thrilled that I’ll be able to get the same Boston experience I’ve been missing here in Seattle.
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Woo Woo Zipcar.

Irony: Good Service to Bad Service to Good Service

Or why Speakeasy now sucks.

Let’s set this up (and tune out if you’re not in for a customer service rant).

Cable companies have historically done an exceptionally poor job about treating customers well. Chalk it up to a condoned monopoly, stagnant business model, etc. We’d all heard the horror stories about the cable appointments missed, must be there between 8am to 5pm three weeks from today, etc.

Speakeasy, a rather hip DSL provider (VOIP, data solutions, and DSL service) has always had grand service. Call them and they are helpful and smart. The other people on the end of the line aren’t people reading scripts taking orders, these are people that know what they’re doing. I first became a speakeasy customer in 2000 and have recommended them to several people.

Speakeasy, or more specifically COVAD (their subcontractor for doing installations), muffed up my DSL installation order when I recently moved. Suffice to say that the COVAD dispatcher who berated me for not being available for an appointment that I never knew about was what unfortunately the deciding factor to leave a company that I had, otherwise, had a good experience with. So, having spent approximately 5000 USD over my lifetime as a customer (I get their top shelf DSL with all the bells and whistles) I had to say no more I’ll make other arrangements. Called and cancelled the move.

I was surprised then to find the 49.00 “order charge” on my last invoice for the cancelled order. Clearly they’re not going to charge me for having an awful customer experience which already caused me to cancel my service with them. Yup! Called to ask to have it removed. Nope. Pointed out that I’ve been one of their top shelf DSL clients. No dice. So, here a company which used to be savvy, hip, and customer focused is now trading 50USD administrative fees for happy big spending customer satisfaction (5000 USD).

Speakeasy; you had much potential to be different. But, like other phone/utility providers you’ve crossed over and you pretty much blow. Sold your soul to the nickel and diming “concession this and administration that” fees.

The irony is that when I called the Cable company who has historically done exceptionally poor in terms of responsiveness and customer support they responded exactly the way I would have expected the new, hip company to. Called two days before my installation, asked if they could do Internet in addition to Cable. No problem. 10am (when they said they’d be here) they showed up, polite, courteous, helpful, and 30 minutes later Cable + Internet up and running.

There you have it. Old companies can renew their service focus and end up wowing a customer. New companies can let their service slide and lose customers over silly stuff. Goes to show that a focus on the customer is the thing that matters more than the size and age of the providers. It’s timeless for new and old.

Well, I noticed

My workday goes much smoother because I listen to a variety of Online Radio stations. Today they all went silent or played public awareness campaigns from SaveNetRadio.org. People have been wondering if anyone will notice. Well, like the title says: I noticed!

I don’t know all the mechanics, but it comes to this. A lot of these small, boutique-ish online radio stations will shut down because the cost structure of the compensation will be, in their opinion, unsuitable.

I, for one, being a proponent of open content, software, and standards think there must be some underlying disconnect between the “Copyright Royalty Board” and broadcasters.

These small, hobbyist online broadcasters are part of larger shift in broadcasting/economies. Web 2.0-ish user generated content and participatory systems of consumer and producer.

The CRB probably needs to take another look at what it’s doing to see if it’s just trying to hang on to old ideologies in a new world.

I support Net Radio. :) You should too.
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Honest Reflection: Am I done blogging?

Has anyone ever experienced “Bloggers Block?”  You know, where you have plenty of things to write about, but are unable to select a topic and put some metaphorical pen to paper?  I’ve been experiencing this since my return from extended holiday.

I arrived back and started work again at Pentaho.  There’s been a bunch of developments at Pentaho (more open source features, key customer successes, etc), there’s been some interesting open source moves (licenses, alliances, etc), some interesting BI moves (vertica, hyperion acquisition, etc).  Basically, I have a Blog Backlog of probably 25 or so juicy, page plusers.  Things I would dig into, opine about, and hopefully help disseminate some useful information.

So… What’s the problem? 

I just can’t.  I’ve sat down and I look at my blog client and I just can’t seem to pick one, and write it.  None of it seems worthy enough to be the first, or most interesting, or … Pick any reason, I’ve come up with it for why not to write on a subject. 

Now that I’ve committed the cardinal sin of Apologetic Blogging (I aboslutely HATE reading blog posts entitled:  Sorry I haven’t posted in a while) perhaps I should just turn it in.  In fact, with so many people blogging these days it’s almost refreshing to hear “I don’t blog anymore.” 

So I ask myself the question honestly: Am I done blogging?  Is it worth the time?  Is it worthwhile?  Do I receive enough enjoyment from the writing to continue?

I don’t know.  However, implicitly my next (possible) blog will answer that question, yes?

Back from Holiday

After a wonderfully refreshing extended holiday to South America, I’m back. 

I sit today in front of my laptop, looking out the window at a swarthy, rainy Seattle day.  The surprise?  I’m kind of excited to get back to work, connect up with all my coworkers/partners/customers, and check out the new Pentaho releases while I was gone (Kettle 2.4.0, yippee).

Just sooooo much to blog about!  Best get through that Inbox so I can do some real work tomorrow.  :)

Going on a long walk

Someone once said

If you want to clear your mind go for a long walk.  The longer the walk, the clearer the mind.

That’s good advice I say, and some that my wife and I are taking.  Not that we need to clear our minds, but it’s our honeymoon of sorts we’ve been planning for almost two years.

We’re headed off for a two month trip to South America (Argentina and Chile).  We won’t be checking emails, blogs, phone messages.

Signing off the Matrix for two months.  Catch y’all in March!