Computer Guy

Computer Guy
Sunset at DoubleM Systems (, Del Mar, California

Monday, January 28, 2013

How Bad do you want it?

You don't have to be into football, or weight training, or anything physical to understand the theme of this video clip.  The message applies to writing code, or building a company, or just about anything else you can imagine.  The bottom line is the same.  When you ask yourself "How bad do you want it?" the answer has to be so powerful that you can not fail.  I remember feeling this way...

Wishing you every success!  Now get back to work.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Fall of Facebook, When, Why, How

I'm thinking about the Fall of Facebook, when, why, and how it will happen, and how soon it will be simply a worn out punchline in trivia quizzes, a pop culture flashpoint in the early 21st century that lasted for a few years and was gone just as fast.  I think it would be worth writing a series on the Fall of Facebook.

Other title concepts: 
The Great Facebook Implosion of 201x.
The Facebook Disappearing Act
Facebook Evaporation Day
Facebook Face-plant
Billionaire today, punch line tomorrow.
Facebook Emigration Day
Facebook Independence Day

The Rolling Facebook Evacuation Plan
People in each time zone transfer to new service at certain hours of the day to balance the load on the servers.  It is estimated that Facebook could be a ghost town in 24 hours or less.

Here's an interesting teaser by Cringely.  Link.

Friday, January 25, 2013


"Motivate" is Principle #6, but knowing and doing are a long way apart.  

A highlight of today was receiving another of the excellent posts from Stephen Lynch, COO of on this very topic of motivation.   The book he recommends sounds interesting.  Here's his latest:

Good news. The key to motivating your people turns out to be largely within your control. It has nothing to do with money or incentive systems, or even recognizing your people. The top motivator of employee performance is in fact - "progress".
What does a good day at work look like?
On days when employees can see they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support from their manager that helps them overcome obstacles - their motivation and their drive to succeed is at its peak.
On days when they feel like they are spinning their wheels, or encountering roadblocks - their moods and motivation are lowest.
Research documented in the book The Progress Principle shows that:
Management behaviors that INCREASE employee motivation:
  • Set clear and meaningful SMART goals
  • Provide the necessary resources, support and encouragement
  • Protect your people from irrelevant demands and distractions
  • Roll your sleeves up and help them out
  • Make progress visible
  • Recognize and acknowledge people who make incremental progress toward their goals every week
Management behaviors that DECREASE employee motivation:
  • Change the goals
  • Be indecisive
  • Withhold the resources they need to be successful
  • Cause setbacks or create roadblocks to impede their progress
  • Create intense time pressure
  • Keep your people in a state of constant crisis
  • Not let people see that they are making measurable progress every week
Eliminate the barriers to execution.
Note – these negative management behaviors have a greater effect on people’s motivation than the positive ones, so you need to pay close attention to this list. Work to eliminate the negative first.
What sort of management behaviors are exhibited in your company?
How well are you tracking the progress of your people, and making their performance visible every week?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Habits! Start good ones, end bad ones...

Right about now is when a lot of New Year's resolutions are starting to be forgotten.  Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to start.  That's why I am working with an iPhone app called Lift to help me be a better me.  Here are a few things they have learned by analyzing a few thousand users' habit forming activities:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Appreciation goes a long way

It has been demonstrated that people are more motivated by appreciation/recognition than money, even me!  So it's nice to hear some good words every once in a while, isn't it?  Well then, why not spread the love around and tell a few of the important people in your life how you really feel?  Not just your employees, but what about your accountant, attorney, IT guy, wife/girlfriend?

For example, here's an email I received from one of my Protégés late last week:

Thank you for everything you do, I feel like there isn't another person on earth as qualified as you which is why I don't have an advisory board yet :) I think you have moved my standards too high!  (ND)

And here's a message that came in this morning:

FastMikie, remember our brief call last Sept/Oct/whenever? Following your funding advice, I was able to raise over $100K in less than 5 weeks through non-traditional channels, 5 personal investors out of 8 attempts at an overall APR of roughly 4.9%. Not too bad, huh? Now I can launch both ventures... We already have 5 sponsors (my IT guy is having trouble keeping up) and things are looking good. Thanks for the advice! (RM)

I think you can guess how good that makes me feel.  Now it's your turn to see how good you can make someone else feel.  Go for it!  

I'll bet even YOU will feel better for it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

15 Basic Rules for Startup Business Development

My favorite VC blog features a guest (Foursquare BD guy) post on "Startup Business Development 101" and lists the 15 Basic Rules you need to know.  Too long to summarize in this space, so click here to read it all. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sharpening the saw

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses habit #7: Sharpening the Saw, regarding self-rejuvenation. The advice is to balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, meditation, yoga, and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.

In this spirit of renewal, and in alignment with the New Year and the resolutions traditional at this time, I got to thinking how I could improve my own life, especially as it relates to my coaching/mentoring of entrepreneurs.

The books shown in the photo above are a few of my planned short term reading materials.  If you know of others, please let me know.

Additionally, I will be working toward a certification program for coaching, because, well, because I can.  Some of my mother's best advice was to aim to be the best at anything I chose to do.

What are your plans to Sharpen the Saw?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All medal winners have coaches. No exceptions!

Sometimes the simplest truths seem so shocking.  At least that's how I reacted to this quote by Leading Element:  

All medal winners have coaches.
No exceptions.

And that just naturally leads me to ask:  Do you have a business coach?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps

Fred Wilson, one of the best VCs in the business, speaks on the basic principles of successful web (and mobile) apps.  It doesn't get any more clear than this!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Startup posts of 2012

Look no further!  Here is an excellent collection of the best startup posts of the year, all in one place, curated by the startup/Lean guy at Harvard. Many different topics, all very good stuff.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make

#1 Spend more time on the not-to-do list
Strategy is the art of sacrifice. That’s why you may consider creating a larger clearing for what really matters by first identifying, and then avoiding, what matters the least. Your time is a treasure to be invested. Creating a list of things that you are not going to do, allows you to invest more of your treasured time on the few things that matter the most.
#2 Essential first, email second
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? For many of us, it is looking at email. We wake up with a renewed mind and spirit, ready to take on the world, and then we immediately allow ourselves to be distracted by an insignificant email. Instead, wake up, take on the most important task of the day, and then (and only then) hit the email.
#3 Resolve to think about “Who” instead of “What”
Do you work for a “What” business or for a “Who” business? Successful companies run the risk of focusing too much on their current products and distributors thus—the “What”—losing sight of the constant and dramatically changing needs of their customer base. (The “Who.”) Insurance, pharma, health care, higher education often listen too much to their agents, doctors and professors. The real innovation starts with the end consumer.
#4 Resolve to find your purpose
As my friend Simon Sinek will tell you: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Starting a career, a company or any kind of journey that is based firmly on your purpose is foundational to success and happiness. If you don’t know your company’s purpose or even your own, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions.
#5 Resolve to support a cause
If you’re reading this, chances are you are one of the rare people who know how to start things. Fortunately, there are people like you who have already started causes that make the world better—they feed the hungry; they save the rain forest; they fight cancer; they do good things. There is virtually a cause for everyone, and contributing will make your year happier. Promise.
#6 Resolve to invent more choices
Here’s a secret that happy people know that I learned from my friend Dr. Dan Baker: You can’t feel grateful and fearful at the same time. And one certain way to become afraid is to feel trapped by any situation. The remedy is choice. The more choices you feel you have, the less trapped—and happier—you will feel. So this year, resolve to do a bit of brainstorming every time you feel unhappy.
Walt Disney had Roy Disney, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Orville Wright had Wilbur Wright. Wherever there is great innovation, there is a Dreamer and an Operator; an Idea Monkey and a (Ring)leader. First, determine where your passions lie, then go find an equally passionate partner, then go change the world.

#8 Resolve to get outside your jar 
You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar. The sad irony of being an expert is that it keeps you from seeing possibility. After all, you know what works, what doesn’t, what you can afford, what’s been tried in the past. Instead of relying only on your expertise, learn how to find other experts solving similar challenges to the ones you are facing. Go ask them what you may be missing.
#9 Resolve to be the creator
What is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles? These three simple questions will keep you from being victimized by any situation. Creators change the world. Victims just bitch about stuff.
#10 Plan vacations (now)
You have probably heard the saying, “Life is what happens when you are not paying attention.” Unfortunately for many of us, we let this become true. Do yourself a favor and plan your vacations for the next year today. I promise you that the days around your vacation will fill in nicely. I also promise you that you’ll have something to look forward to and the life that happens during your vacations will be precious.

(source: Forbes)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Strategic Planning

Many business books and articles present case studies about successful companies and endeavor to find common themes we can learn from. Unfortunately, good luck and forces outside the control of the business leaders can play a bigger role in these success stories than the authors care to admit. Also, success can be a very fleeting thing, and many authors have been embarrassed by their reference companies going from “great to bankrupt” in the space of a few short years.
A study by Booz and Co. took the opposite tack and studied “losing companies” to see if there was anything we could learn from their mistakes. Here is our take on their findings:
It's all about Strategic Planning!
Poor strategic decision making and failing to properly recognize the risks associated with chosen courses of action (or inaction) are the issues most responsible for destroying shareholder value.
Making matters worse, the sources of strategic risk have greatly increased. The rate of technology change is accelerating which is bringing forth new products / services and even completely new business models at a faster rate. This means you need to be hyper vigilant and learn how to adapt faster.
And it’s not just your competitors and disruptive new entrants you need to worry about. Your suppliers are changing their behaviors; your customers are changing their behaviors, even society as a whole is changing. Add to that changes in the political and regulatory environment and you have a rapidly shifting strategic landscape that needs to be anticipated and navigated.
Major causes of strategic blunders that destroy shareholder value:
  • Being caught flat footed when a competitor introduces a superior product
  • Being caught flat-footed by a major industry shift (e.g. digitization, technology change, changes in the political and regulatory environment)
  • Introducing new products / services that fail to gain traction and soak up valuable resources
  • Unsuccessfully entering new markets
  • Failed mergers and acquisitions
  • Major changes in the cost of inputs
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Customer service failures
  • Fraud, accounting problems, ethics violations, and other failures to comply with laws
  • External shocks (e.g. natural disasters / website attacks) which we may not be able to control, but we should make contingency plans for
SWOT Analysis.
It seems the "losing companies" did a poor job of understanding their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
In particular, the leaders of losing companies did not properly take into account the difficulties and risks associated with their chosen courses of action (and yes, even maintaining a “business as usual” formula is a strategic choice that has its own risks)
Here's how to perform an effective SWOT analysis.
Don't be a loser.
To prevent your company from joining the list of losing companies, business leaders need to do a better job of assessing their strategic environment. The rate of change will continue to accelerate, which increases the level of uncertainty in strategic decision making – and both the upside and downside of these risks should be factored in to your decisions.
Events cannot be accurately predicted, but they can be anticipated. Ideally, look for strategically resilient options that will give you the agility to roll with the punches.
At we recommend to all our clients that strategic planning should be done very thoroughly once per year, and then reviewed and updated quarterly to ensure your One Page Strategic Plan remains relevant in light of the changing environment.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ten Principles for Managing a Young, Growing Business

(Originally published in 1983 as 
The Ten Commandments of Managing a Young, Growing Business, 
these principles still hold true.)

I. Think Straight

Maintain a detached point of view. Managing a growing business requires unyielding dedication that can consume the body, impair the senses and warp the mind. Such effects are harmful to the individual and the enterprise. Clinical objectivity is the only preventative. Growth implies and entails risk. Risk begets failures as well as successes. Wide perspective gained through nonbusiness experience or study helps one endure the pressures and accept with equanimity the results, good and bad, of business decisions.

II. Travel Light

Limit the number of primary participants to people who can consciously agree upon and contribute directly to that that the enterprise is to accomplish. There are many reasons people become involved in young, growing companies as owners, investors, or key employees. The broad range of satisfaction sought runs from an opportunity to personal expression on one end of the spectrum to capital gains on the other. Unless there is compatibility between what each primary participant wants out of the business, debilitating conflict is likely to ensue. The process of trying to consciously agree on the purpose of the enterprise is often difficult and revealing.

III. The Customer is King

Define the business of the enterprise in terms of what is to be bought, precisely by whom, and why. Businesses are organs of society that perform tasks associated with providing most goods and services the public decides it wants. Under the capitalistic system, a business can prosper to the extent it performs its particular tasks effectively and efficiently. The nature of the tasks to be performed usually changes over time as those served change. The successful company predicts and responds to the needs of its chosen customers. Customers, therefore define the business. At all times, some customers are growing in their ability to buy, others are declining. The astute manager ascertains which is which.

IV. Write It Down

Prepare and work from a written plan that shows who does what, by when. Until committed to paper, intentions are seeds without soil, sails without wind, mere wishes that render communication within an organization inefficient, understanding uncertain, feedback inaccurate, and execution sporadic. Without execution, there is no payoff. The process of committing plans to paper is easy to postpone under the press of day-to-day events. In the absence of a document, fully coordinated usage of the resources of the business is unlikely. Each participant travels along a different route toward a destination of his or her own choosing. Decisions are made independently, without a map. Time is lost, energy squandered. Do it, Document it, Delegate it.

V. Hire Experience

Employ key people with proven records of success at doing what needs to be done. People do what they like, they like what they know. Experience adds depth to knowledge. The best indicator of how a person will perform in the future is how he or she has done in the past in the same or related activity. Criteria for selecting key people is dictated by the plans, the blueprints for the business. The plans reflect the operational objectives and the intentions of the primary participants. The interest and capabilities of a new person must harmonize with both. If experience is not required, hire Attitude. Hire slow, fire fast.

VI. Motivate

Reward individual performance that exceeds agreed upon standards. Performance above the perfunctory level is a discretionary matter for each employee. Most people have alternative off-the-job ways of using excess energy or talent. Channeling such excess into activity beneficial to the business requires a tailored approach to each individual. A manager must first insure that there is understanding of the minimum results to be achieved. Then, for performance above the minimums, forms of compensation important to the performer - or in some cases, teams of performers - must be used.

VII. Conserve Energy

Concentrate all available resources on accomplishing two or three specific operational objectives within a given time period. Enterprises have finite resources. A smaller company achieves competitive advantage when playing for limited, explicit gains in a marketplace of its own choosing. Specialization breeds an organization sensitive to opportunities and quick to act. But any advantage withers if follow through is weak. It will be weak if resources are dissipated. Resource dilution is a sure formula for mediocrity, a state of being that aspiring growth businesses cannot afford.

VIII. Let There Be Cash

Project, monitor, and conserve cash and credit capability. Cash flow is the blood of a growth business. A company's ability to continue is determined daily, not at year end, by the contents of the checking account rather than the financial statement. Keeping money in hand or readily available for both planned and unplanned events is not only prudent but necessary in unsettled times. Cultivation of financial sources is an enduring duty.

IX. Be Not Greedy

Expand methodically from a profitable base toward a balanced business. Optimism is both the poison and the antidote of the growth company manager. It may be possible to accomplish all things, but not simultaneously. With limited resources, sequential growth over time is the judicious prescription for prosperity. Seek logical, incremental extensions of existing activities, but avoid a growth for growth's sake psychology. Bigger is not automatically better; more is not necessarily merrier. Make managing a competitive advantage. Increase customer dependency on the enterprise.

X. Test

Anticipate incessant external change by continuously testing adopted business plans for their consistency with the realities of the world marketplace. The past will not come again. Neither isolation nor insulation from tomorrow is possible. The problems of the times are the opportunities of the times, as always. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

© Copyright 1983, 2002, 2010 - all rights reserved

Now available in handy Pocket Guide.

Word Cloud of The Ten Commandments of Managing a Young, Growing Business

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Laws of Computing and Software Development

The Laws of
Computing and Software Development

The speedup gained from running a program on a parallel computer is greatly limited by the fraction of that program that can’t be parallelized.

Anderson's Law (Law of Computability)
Any system or program, however complicated, if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more complicated.

For every scientific (or engineering) action, there is an equal and opposite social reaction.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.

If you don't know what your program is supposed to do, you'd better not start writing it.

The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

The user base for strong cryptography declines by half with every additional keystroke or mouse click required to make it work.

Ellison’s Law of Data
Once the business data have been centralized and integrated, the value of the database is greater than the sum of the preexisting parts.

As the rate of erroneous alerts increases, operator reliance, or belief, in subsequent warnings decreases.

The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change.

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and the size of the target.

There does not now, nor will there ever, exist a programming language in which it is the least bit hard to write bad programs.

If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled, and no one dares to criticize it.

Bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power.

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

The cost of computing systems increases as the square root of the computational power of the systems.

Hartree’s Law
Douglas Hartree
Whatever the state of a project, the time a project-leader will estimate for completion is constant.

The time to make a decision is a function of the possible choices he or she has.

The time to make a decision is a function of the possible choices he or she has.

Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out.

A task always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

smart(employees) = log(employees), or “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.”

In cryptography, a system should be secure even if everything about the system, except for a small piece of information — the key — is public knowledge.

Eric S. Raymond
Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

People under time pressure don’t think faster.

Lubarsky's Law
There's always one more bug.

In network theory, the value of a system grows as approximately the square of the number of users of the system.

Yes, you can; but what is the goal?

M. McCafferty
Do Good Now, make it better later.
(Sell the software you have, including the bugs; improve with the profits.)

The number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double in about 18 months.

If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

Software is a gas; it expands to fill its container.

The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time

The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.

Osborn’s Law
Don Osborn
Variables won’t; constants aren’t.

Be conservative in what you send, liberal in what you accept.

Suggested by Joseph Juran, named after Vilifredo Pareto
For many phenomena, 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes.
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Pesticide Paradox
Bruce Beizer
Every method you use to prevent or find bugs leaves a residue of subtler bugs against which those methods are ineffectual.

In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

The utility of large networks, particularly social networks, scales exponentially with the size of the network.

The cost of a semiconductor chip fabrication plant doubles every four years.

Sixty-sixty Rule
Robert Glass
Sixty percent of software’s dollar is spent on maintenance, and sixty percent of that maintenance is enhancement.

The time it takes your favorite application to complete a given task doubles with each new revision.

For just about any technology, be it an operating system, application or network, when a sufficient level of adoption is reached, that technology then becomes a threat vector.

Ninety percent of everything is crud.

You cannot reduce the complexity of a given task beyond a certain point. Once you’ve reached that point, you can only shift the burden around.

Weibull’s Power Law
Waloddi Weibull
The logarithm of failure rates increases linearly with the logarithm of age.

Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs that cannot so expand are replaced by ones that can.