Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some of My Best Friends Do Outsourcing

It isn't as bad as doing drugs. I don't encourage this kind of bad behavior, but I don't sever ties with those who do.

For TheHackerCIO, following J. Paul Getty's principle ("if you have a business, make sure you're the one running it") is an absolute essential. I can collaborate with those who outsource, but I'm probably not going to collaborate in a way that involves outsourcing -- not even with my partners!

Because I want my partners also to be the ones running the business they have with me. And I want to work with companies who are technology-centered. So, for they to outsource their core competency amounts to having a business and not running it.

But, if they want to also mess around with having businesses but not running them, the loss is theirs, so long as they don't try to mix me up in it.

I Remain,


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Advice on Becoming A Consultant

I've been asked about what is involved transitioning to consulting. There are many aspects from which one could answer, but the single most important one is financial: have cash in the bank. If you're going to consult, you're going to have down time. And the only way to cope with down time on a regular basis is to compensate for it by having several months of living expenses put away, so you can ride it out.

From my experience, there is an almost straight-line correlation between cash-reserves and length of time spent as a consultant. Also, an inverse straight-line correlation between debt and length of time spent as a consultant.

So, especially for someone further-on in his career, you really need to consider whether you have the financial reserves to be able to tolerate a shift into this mode of working.

I Remain,


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Killing the Vampirestats & Adsensewatchdog

A while back, I blogged about the pond-scum who were big "readers" of this blog. They've been eclipsed by the increased readership, but a colleague pointed me to an excellent blogging website that showed how to eliminate the problem altogether.

All you need to do is put the pond-scum into a little javascript script that redirects them elsewhere, and they need never pollute your statistics again. After adding in this little script, just below the <head> of your template html:

<script type='text/javascript'> 
     var block = [&#39;;, 
        &#39;; ];
      for (var b = block.length; b--;) 
        if (document.referrer.match(block[b]))
          window.location = &quot;;;
I got no hits this entire week! And, the monthly and all-time stats are also frozen at the level they were at when I added the script. So, eventually, they will clear out.

Anyone starting a blog should add this in right away. And to read more details about it go to the site where I learned the trick.

I Remain,


Monday, January 27, 2014

Notes on a Hackathon

Hackathons are about integrating Entrepreneurialism, design, and development in one highly condensed period of time. This last Startup Weekend was  a "themed" one, so that it attempted to focus all of that into "education" projects.

Startup Weekend has gotten pretty big over the years. The statistics they cited last weekend were:

  • 1250+ events
  • 556+ cities
  • 113,000+ attendees
  • 115+ countries
I already blogged about my "pitchfire" (60 seconds) pivot to education, and getting enough votes to get into the running. What happened next was the formation of teams. And here was a tremendous problem. Although I got votes, they were apparently sympathy votes, as I couldn't get people to join my team! I managed to get commitments from some members to spend part time on helping me out, while they worked primarily on other projects.

What made this all the more astonishing to me, was that I turned out to be virtually a lone developer! I only saw one other team actually working to develop a product.

So, I worked alone -- well, not really alone. I helped out the teams I liked the best (as an unofficial coach), and sat with one of them, while I worked on my own project. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get enough completed to demo it.

I actually surprised myself at how far I got. I think there were 7 hurdles to getting my project implemented, and I broke through 5 or 6 of them. If I hadn't already been tired going into the weekend, I could probably have pulled an all-nighter, and delivered. And I'm happy with that. It's information to put into my arsenal for next time.

I liked how the Startup Weekend organizers would periodically interrupt the Hackathon and require group leaders to give their pitch again. The practice and repetition led to better honing of the ideas.

So, I had mixed emotions about the final presentations.  To begin with, they had 4 minutes to present, and 4 minutes for questions. That's huge! And, not surprisingly, the presentations were very interesting and relatively good -- almost all of them. But when it came to the "demo", or the portion on which they actually executed, there was nothing but vaporware. I could have presented, if there was no requirement for an actual achievement. At the other Hackathons I've been to, everyone would have been disqualified.

I suspect that this is just characteristic of Startup Weekends. They are more concerned with Customer Validation, and putting together a good pitch-deck, than with actual development of a prototypical product. And all of that is good, but it needs to be married together with actual development. A real product needs to result from the work.

I Remain,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Do a Hackathon?

I can think of lots of reasons to go to a Hackathon:

  • to experience the Startup-lifecycle in a compressed time frame.
  • to see new technologies in use.
  • to brainstorm with other entrepreneurial technologists.
  • to have closer contact with business ("idea") people.
  • to push your code-sprinting capabilities to the limit.
  • to be in an environment where people passionately pursue their values.

But my colleague, Troy Miles, points out  here that he likes Hackathons because they put the fun back into development. That's what he does daily. What a wonderful reason! Because technology is fun! And working really, really hard to achieve a lot in a short period of time is one of the most fun things imaginable.

If you do decide to do a Hackathon this year,  and I hope you do, Troy has some advice on preparation; but so do I!


First of all, fellow technologists, it's presentation, presentation, presentation.

If you don't go a good "firepitch", you won't get a good team.
If you don't present well to the judges, you won't even get consideration for your work!!!

If you're a technologist, you need to focus on your presentation skills more than anything else.

And I have a very practical tip. First off,  you need to hone your "elevator pitch." This is true for startups in general, but also very true for Hackathons. You have, typically, 60 seconds to pitch your idea. How do you prepare for this?

First, acquaint yourself with speaking at different speeds. Court reporters typically train at around 200 to 225 words per minute, which can be viewed on youtube here.

So, you can probably fit in somewhere around 200 to 250 words into your minute presentation. Then write it and calculate your words!

Second, get your stopwatch and time yourself. And don't say "uh." There isn't time for it & it won't do you any good.

The same principle applies to whatever time is allowed for your final presentation.

I Remain,