Saturday, January 4, 2014

Swag and Sewing Machines

Pictured above is only a tiny sampling of the thousands of dollars worth of Swag: induction mats for telephones, headphones, brain-wave sensors, smart-watches, and all kinds of other sensors and cool gadgets had to be given away to the developers at the AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon.

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

TheHackerCIO is willing ....

But it's amazingly tiring: we spent nearly three hours listening to "lightening talks" and pre-qualifying them for the hardware give-aways. The contestants had to "show connection", as the lawyers call it, between what they were developing and the hardware. It wasn't enough to say, "I'm kind of developing something that sort of helps out in some nebulous, undefined way." When we got those, we had to turn the contestants away.

They need to firm up their concept. The Swag is there to support the development effort. Anything left over, would be given away, of course. And some judges were easier going than others. TheHackerCIO was pretty easy. There was another pre-qualifier who was a real bad-ass.

This Hackathon is centered around wearable technology. Sometimes you have to see this kind of thing to catch the vision. Or at least it's much easier. It always seemed toy-like to me, before. But now, I'm starting to get it.

At first, I was startled to see this machine at a Hackathon:

But if you're doing wearable technology, it makes perfect sense.

I Remain,


TheHackerCIO does Vegas

TheHackerCIO just did Silicon Valley.

Now he's doing Vegas. Got some strange looks, on arrival at the Palms Casino Resort. 

Not sure this was the right t-shirt to wear...  Pretty tired after a long drive ... 

But ...

What's Hacked in Vegas ain't gonna stay in Vegas! 

I hope not, anyway. I want winners that go viral. 

In about 8 hours, the AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon will begin; that's Saturday morning. Registration opens at 8am. Lightening talks begin at 11am. For those newbies who are using this series on Hackathons to self-educate, a "lightening talk" is a very condensed presentation. Sometimes people refer to these as "elevator pitches." The idea is that you should present the essence of your Startup in the time it takes to ride an elevator.  

Condensing the corporate value-proposition is an excellent exercise. It focuses the mind. It's a sort of acid-test of your play. If you can't captivate people with your offering, you are scarcely going to make it in business. Or attract the capital to try. Or attract the people to work with you. 

At a Hackathon, the elevator pitch is typically reduced even more than what you might use in your real-life Startup. Sometimes they allow only 30 or 60 seconds to present! Generally, in real life, the "elevator pitch" can be a bit more relaxed.  The Hackathon "Lightning Talk," also tends to be more developer oriented. Most idea-pitchers -- even those with developer skills -- don't come with a full team, and need to attract coding talent. So while the concept must be clearly articulated, it may be more technical than the ordinary Startup "elevator pitch." 

But before I get drawn into this, TheHackerCIO needs some rest. It wouldn't do to be too tired for the Lightening pitches. 

I Remain, Sleepily ...


Friday, January 3, 2014

Put "Hackathon" on your New Year's Resolutions!

You can hardly expect TheHackerCIO to restrain himself from plugging Hackathons. So I'm going to take the advent of a new year as an opportunity to re-shout the truth:

If you work around technology (or want to), 
You need to go to a Hackathon this year!
Do it! Plan for it Now!

Maybe a couple. Or more.

I've been increasingly impressed with what I've learned from Hackathons.

The biggest and most unsettling thing I've learned from Hackathons in 2013 is that there are a whole new slew of agile techniques and frameworks out there that allow an order of magnitude faster development speed for production of an MVP.  In comparing the 2013 competition to the prior years event, development velocity was stunning.

In one particularly telling example, a contender failed to attract a developer after his initial presentation on Friday evening at 6pm. On Saturday afternoon, at a time when I would have told him he might as well join up with another team or go home, he pivoted to a completely new idea, attracted a co-developer, and they not only completed their demo-quality MVP.

They won second place.

Now that would have been utterly unthinkable the year before. In 2012, I remember the CloudHero team valiantly struggled, hoping to add one last feature prior to the final presentation.  As they worked, I stood outside the door, ready to signal them the moment they were on. Inside, a dedicated team member stood poised to hit the enter key, thus issuing the VCS command that would wipe out any work and leave them at the last stable demo. This had been a 48-hour effort.

In 2013, many teams had a near-demo quality version of their MVP up the first night before they went home! Now it's increasingly more common to see 1 day hack-nights. The whole pace of code development is now able to be performed more rapidly. This kind of environment is really important for Startups to know, and consequently for CTOs to be aware of. But you can't really know this if you don't have your finger on the pulse of the development world. Just taking my own example, as good as I am, I would have wrongly advised that 2nd place contestant!

TheHackerCIO uses this as a technique for keeping current with rapid and agile trends. It makes him better at technology recommendations to early stage Startups. It helps him to know what new technologies, frameworks, and packages should be put onto the list for play during the year and eventually, hopefully, to master.

It helps focus the mind of the technologist on every aspect of the startup experience. And it's not just for developers. I could write volumes about this, and no doubt I will post quite a bit more about it this year!

But for now, resolve to do a Hackathon this year. I beg you. For your own sake. So you don't become irrelevant. Maybe I'll start The Great Hackathon Challenge, to encourage everyone to do a Hackathon.

Hackathons weigh heavily on TheHackerCIO's mind right now, because he is about to go to the AT&T Developer's Summit Hackathon. It's this weekend, in Las Vegas. You should at least spend some time reading about it. All the winners from the AT&T Hackathons are invited to the big event at  the beginning of the year, to compete for the final prize. I'll be a judge at this Hackathon, but I'm hoping to give mini-presentations and advice to the contenders, to help them maximize their chances and do the best they can! I'm an inveterate Sensei! And, I can't even apologize about that. I love to teach and help. I love to see success and improvement. I'm selfish that way. But judging should be a new, fresh perspective. I'll provide more details after I get up there in Vegas, since once more, I have to hit the road ...

I Remain,


Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Time to Never Delegate

I have an important principle for your career; an original insight from TheHackerCIO:

Everyone always stresses the importance of learning to delegate. But it's equally as important to know when NOT to delegate.

Never delegate if you fear you can't do something. Keep the responsibility; own the problem even if you seek out help to accomplish the task. Yes, this pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that's not a problem. In fact, that's the benefit!

If you delegate from fear, you will avoid all of the learning. And today, continual learning is the number one issue. For everyone.

I Remain,


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

TheHackerCIO Does Silicon Valley

What better way to start the new year than with a tour of Silicon Valley?

Every good geek should do a pilgrimage here at least once in his hacking career. I've been lucky enough to work here and be in the area a number of times.  But I'm usually too busy meeting with clients to actually play the tourist. Also, the technology firms and startups aren't geared toward tourists -- most of the sites will only be markers in the ground, or, if you're lucky, a small museum and gift-shop in the lobby. 

To assist the busy Hacker, I've developed this itinerary, which TheHackerCIO has now tested and proven that it can be done in one day. You can probably fit a few extras in, but it's better to spend that time at the museum. Or at Stanford University.

As with touring any area, you need at least a rough geographical orientation to begin with. We'll be starting from the north at Redwood city, and moving generally South and east through 
  • Palo Alto and Menlo park, then moving down to 
  • Mountain View, then down to  
  • Cupertino and Santa Clara,
then finally, we'll find that we *do*, in fact, know the way to San Jose. But we'll be getting our peace of mind all throughout all of Silicon Valley, not just in San Jose. :-)

A.  We start, appropriately, for a long-time DBA, with the back-end, namely the Oracle headquarters.

B.  Then we move on to the Facebook Headquarters at 1 HackerWay. You should be aware that this used to be the old Sun building, and they preserved the sign on the back of this one! 

You have to back off into the brush a bit, but for those who miss the high-end servers might feel a little nostalgic:

C.  The ultimate iconic startup garage is a must-gawk, where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP. You can read about the restoration effort here. Off to the right is the shed where Bill slept, while they were producing their first product, an audio oscillator, which was ordered by Disney for use on Fantasia. Everyone has their own candidate for "birthplace of Silicon Valley," and this HP shed is definitely on the short list. 

Then you should head into Stanford University, and at least take a drive around the campus, if not spend a whole day there, as I did, the day before I tested this tour. 

D.  After that, head down to Sand Hill Road, the Venture Capital life-blood of Silicon Valley. I counted at least 25 VCs in just this one complex! 

E.  Nearby,  Xerox Parc Place is nestled, where the whole notion of a mouse and GUI was invented along with the Smalltalk and, thus,  Object Oriented languages!  

F.  Then, on to the site of the Shockley Laboratories, where production of the  first transistors began. The site is marked by this signpost, which considers it the Birthplace of Silicon Valley. 

G.  Unfortunately, all that remains is a signpost indicating this historic location. Likewise, the first breakaway company, Fairchild Semiconductors, where the "Traitorous Eight" -- defectors from Shockley's company -- led the first commercially successful semiconductor firm. Likewise, all that remains today is a plaque. This is candidate #3 for "Birthplace"!

H.  Then its time for some lunch and a visit to the Computer History Museum:

This museum is lucky enough to have a working reproduction of a Babbage Difference Engine! While we were there, we got to see the volunteers calculate a section of logarithms. The only other working copy is in the London Science Museum, but only here do they regularly operate the device. In Silicon Valley, volunteers are readily available for such cool & geeky endeavors. Here is a still of the Engine, with it's parts still displaced from the difference calculation:

I.  Onward to the Googleplex. We've spent a lot of time in the car, so it might be good to get some exercise. If you're lucky, like TheHackerCIO, you might find a spare bicycle to take for a spin. No tour or museum here, unfortunately. Plus, with the protesters who envy the money made by Google employees, the security is only likely to increase. 

J. Y-Combinator is the accelerator of Paul Graham. It's the gold standard for new, lean startups. You might not get a huge funding round here, as you would from the VCs, but you're going to get far better than an MBA from the advisors he'll put you in with! 

L.  Intel has a nice little museum about the development of the chip and it's miniaturization through the years. 

M.  Ebay seems almost like a mainstream institution these days. 

N.  Apple has an infinite loop around their main campus. But this one leads to practical parking, not to a hung system. 

I'm sure that you could (and should) put together your own tour of Silicon Valley, but if you're too busy to do it, this one is a good starting point: well balanced between historical sites, museums with more substance to digest, and some major highlights along the way. For additional resources, consult Geek Silicon Valley, although be forewarned: it's getting a bit out of date.  The addresses are provided below, together with a Google Map. So, enjoy ... and ...

Happy New Year!!!



TheHackerCIO's 1-Day Tour Guide to Silicon Valley
A  1.  500 Oracle Parkway, Redwood City, CA
B  2.  Facebook Inc., Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA
C  3.  367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, CA
D  4.  3000 Sand Hill Rd, West Menlo Park, San Mateo, California 94025
E  5.  3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA
F  6.  391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View, CA
G  6.5 844 East Charleston Road, Palo Alto, CA
H  7.  1401 North Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, CA
I  8.  1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA
J  9.  320 Pioneer Way, Mountain View, CA
K  10. 487 East Middlefield Road, Mountain View, CA
L  11. 2200 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara, CA
M  12. 2145 Hamilton Ave, san jose
N  13. 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA

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