Archive for December, 2008

Mike Shannahan, former coach of the Denver Broncos, held a press conference today to discuss his firing.

This is one damn fine way (gracious, strategic, experienced) to handle getting fired.

Of particular note is Shannahan’s grasp of what it means to “deserve” something.

On if he deserved to be let go
“The thing about deserving is it really doesn’t matter about deserve. I feel good about the job I have done. The thing is, you have to make some tough decisions when you run an organization. You have to do things that are in the best interest of the organization, and I felt that that was right and I understand the direction he went. I have no problem with it because he is the best owner in sports. What I have to do is regroup, think about the things that I want to do. Relative to this team, Pat is going to keep the offensive staff intact as much as he can. We are going in the right direction. He is going to make some changes obviously on the defensive side. He is going to do what he thinks is going to give the Broncos the best chance to be Super Bowl champs. Sometimes you have to make those tough decisions. I have been here for 14 years, I had 14 great years and it has been fun. It has been a great ride. Twenty-one years all-in-all, when you go back to those experiences I don’t give anything up. Do you deserve it? We didn’t win for the last three years. We were 8-8, heck we were a .500 team. You get judged by performance, and I didn’t get the job done, that is the bottom line. Your job is to win and to win championships and we have not won a championship in awhile. The next place I go to, that will be the one thing that I am thinking about—What gives me the best chance to win a championship?”

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I can’t remember if I posted about Stellarium before.  Sorry for a repost if I have.

Stellarium is one of the coolest open source projects out there.  In fact, I’m not sure how good a commercial version of this would actually be.  Some things are just better as academic and labor of love efforts.

If you like star gazing, deep space imaging, telescopes and generally “where are we in the universe” stuff, download this thing and play with it.

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Here we find yet another lively discussion questioning whether Agile Programming is real.

Let’s just tackle the various claims and arguments head on.

The behavior involved and contingencies bringing about leaner development are real.  The name “Agile” is marketing.   The recent economic turbulence reinforces quicker time to market and lower costs.  However, the evolution of software development was/is being shaped even if the economy didn’t stink as a result of changing needs, better tools, and better talent pools.

As for statics claiming Agile has a better methodology – those all need to be qualified by their context.  Creating software in short sprints without extensive documentation doesn’t always lead to fewer defects over the lifetime of a code base, for example.  Often the comparisons of projects cannot be done because the context of project and the eventual life of the software is so drastically different.

Generally all software development involves:

  • Shipping code that works “good enough” for intended use (good enough being defined by “criticalness” of the software”)
  • Providing documentation for others to understand what the software does (documentation takes different forms, but there is always documentation)
  • Fixing stuff that doesn’t work (all software has bugs)

I propose that if you don’t do those 3 things, you aren’t doing software development.  You might be doing  proof of concepts or experimenting, but it’s not software development without those 3 things.

Whether you engage in rapid development, you’ll eventually have to document should you want other people to understand your code. (it might be a series of emails or a wiki, but there will be documentation).  If we do waterfall but the product is missing key features, you’ll sprint to add those at some point.  Users must use the code for you to know if it works.  And so on…  the point here is that no matter how you come at a project, software development has to have certain things accomplished or it doesn’t produce workable, usable, sellable code.

Furthermore, “agile” probably happens through waterfall processes and vice versa.  You can’t very well build an entire code base from scratch and never do a build and check.  And you can’t very well scrum your way to a marketable and packaged code base.

In fact, I challenge anyone to find me a project/product completely built in one method over the other.  One of the commentators in the linked article brings up the example of salesforce.com and their service building.  They do employ some agile approaches now but the core wasn’t built via agile.

Sure, “Agile” is a nice marketing concept AND it is a useful label because it helps people communicate.  If there’s one challenge that plagues all software efforts, it’s communication.  The communication most likely to go haywire is the context in which people are developing.  So having a company, client and team understand when phases of a project are in “agile”mode is a useful thing to keep people playing by the right rules for the situation.  The term also allows us to encompass a long description in a simple word.  That has a certain economy to it.

Agile is something.  Is it something new, probably not.  Is it something you use, yes, you might not have had one word for it yet. Now you do.

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Here’s a nice intro to functional programming on Dr. Dobbs.

In any functional programming language, you are likely to encounter these features:

* First-class functions, or higher-order functions: Functions can serve as arguments and results of functions.
* Recursion as the primary tool for iteration.
* Heavy use of pattern matching, although technically it is not a defining feature of FP.
* Lazy evaluation, which makes possible the creation of infinite sequences and other data structures.

At the end of the article on page 2 you get a nice discussion of Mathematica as a functional programming language.

It’s been noted a lot lately in technical publications that functional programming will continue to grow in importance due in large part to the need for parallel computing.  Functional programming is well suited for massive parrallel computation for a variety of reasons and the article does a good job highlighting some of those.  Of course, it comes at a price to developers – the learning curve.

It’s not a trivial exercise to switch from OO and imperative styles into functional.  And the lack of huge repositories of free code makes doing a quick commercial application fairly challenging.

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The CNN article “Charting the psychology of evil, decades after ‘shock’ experiment” ought to be retitled “Charting the psychology of web reading on a Dull Friday

Stanley Milgram’s research was remarkable and valuable. It has been replicated. It has been quoted and interpreted to ad nausium. Now in an effort to sell copy during the hiatus between presidents some genius has resurrected it and given it a fancy name with “evil” in the title. Now it has a zillion hits and is replete with “coulds” shoulds” oughts, may, and other conditional phrases that allow the reader to be led down a path to a possible chance-finding of a new version of a car crash.

Words are powerful. It is a sign of Dumbness when people hoping to land on an island of absoluteness grasp on to anything that is presented as binary:

Good vs. evil

right vs. wrong

Chevy vs. Ford

normal vs. abnormal

Democrat vs. Republican

Worker vs. management

Muslim vs. Christian                                                           

etc. vs. etc

It’s here again. We use the research rather than this sadly disturbed illiterate interpretation to keep authority figures off alter boys, teachers off cheerleaders, bosses off new-hires and rent-a-dicks away from ‘civilian combatants’ in detainment.

But, because we have the 1890 concept of behavior as being based on religion, traditions, and good and evil, all these perverts continue to exist aided by the writers who need to finish off the month with a dippy article in order to look like they know how to read.

All this has to do with implied and explicit rules and a false sense of personal and divine responsibility that has been part of the teachings in schools and churches and synagogues for 400 years at least.

Pay attention to the consequences to understand behavior. Pay attention to the rules that the “other” person is working under to understand behavior. Pay attention to the knowledge that you have millions of rules you don’t know about and those rules are not likely the same as anyone else’s rules – at the moment they are your rules. Pay attention that the different rules you attend to on Monday don’t exist on Sunday.

When reading about “What the heck is going on out in the world? – consider that some grad students or volunteers got paid to be in an experiment 29 years ago. They wanted to do it right in front of all the PhDs and they wanted the money and they wanted to show they were smart and on and on.    Hundreds of rules were working including doing what you were told that our parents locked down early on.

When you define things arbitrarily – the things like evil, good, honest, hero, sinner, saint, patriot, freedom fighter, and all the other meta-terms keep their fuzziness so that you read what you bring to the article. (By the way, that is another experiment to read up on….) While having specific and empirical definitions is not going to happen, using your noggin for something more than a baseball cap rack can’t be beat.

As they say on ESPN’s NFL Countdown… “C-mon Man!

This site and this author will contribute by provided one of the many versions of “BALONEY DETECTION COLLECTION”… stay tuned…it’s coming to you and, as always, it is FREE…

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Here we see another example where people are looking for a phenomenon that doesn’t exist – EVIL.

Do people harm others in the real world and experimental settings?  sure.

Does that constitute evil? no.

The conclusion of the studies never mention evil.

“What the experiment shows is that the person whose authority I consider to be legitimate, that he has a right to tell me what to do and therefore I have obligation to follow his orders, that person could make me, make most people, act contrary to their conscience,” Blass said.

It is the junk writing and sensationalist interpretation of data that assigns the evil label.

What the subjects were doing in these experiments was behaving under contingencies.  Assigning a label of evil or hero or immoral doesn’t help explain what’s actually going on.

Get over the search for evil or good.  Get on with the search for why and how we behave.

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Could socialmode.com be the next breakout on the Interwebs?

Social Mode Crushes Traffic Expectations

Social Mode Crushes Traffic Expectations

Be part of the dream!  Comment!  Suggest! Link to us!  Put us on Digg!


Is kinda nice to see some traffic, even though all the money goes to WordPress.com right now.

Oh well.

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Ah, Ad Networks!

Glam gives us this juicy insight into what’s happening over in ad network world. It’s not going to be a fun 2009.

Despite the slower economy, Q4 was the strongest quarter we have had—we will end the year in a triple digit ad revenue growth rate year over year, and also very strong sequentially. We believe Glam is one of the few digital companies with this level of growth in revenue today. The reason is the focus on making our customers-—the agencies and brands successful online, being the number one for women, the scale of reach, premium inventory, targeting technology, custom solutions and our strong publisher network.

Unfortunately, despite their claim for best quarter ever, it’s not really that impressive.  Most online advertising in their categories went up due to holidays and more spend online each year.  It’s not Glam specific.  I see enough detailed data in this industry to know that Glam isn’t crushing it more than anyone else.

The reality is the ad networks and brand advertising online are in for a massive new year’s hang over.  The spends are spent.  The registers ring for a few more days. Then we’ll start to see what we really have.

Glam and other ad networks will lose business because publishers will slowly  get better with online sales and delivery (because they have to!) while the ad market softens in q1.  Glam’s eCPMs will be locked in a market rates because it’s buys and sells are massive and not really all that specialized.  Worse most (not all) of its network sites are bottom of the barrel publishers that will themselves struggle or go under.  In fact, 80% of them are complete SEO spam or worthless blogs and Google’s SearchWiki and other efforts are burying these sites.

(Note: You can tell when a networks traffic is mostly garbage when it hides the Site Affinities on Quantcast – those are the sites users visit in addition to the one publisher.  If you want to hide them, it usually means you are buying traffic or have lots of trashy SEO.)

Glam will not go away, but its not going to recover its valuation ever.  It has already built its business and it won’t be able to overhaul itself to whatever comes next.  Brand advertising online requires big brands and Glam won’t be able to hold on.  The race to win the advertisers is getting very tough now that the old publishers are racing as fast as possible to compete in social media and direct ad sales.

Lastly, Ad Sales is a talent driven business.  It’s about who your ad sales people know.  The technology, the publisher network, and the name isn’t really a differentiator.  So as the salaries and commissions come way down, the sales folks will bolt and take their network with them.  I’ve seen this happen at least 10 times in my direct experience and there are countless examples with Y! and others playing out right now.  Killer sales people keep the brand ad game in business and Glam doesn’t appear to be the place to earn the big bucks.  If you want proof, dig into the heads of sales and the top performing businesses, you’ll see revenue directly correlates.  It’s true in TV, Radio, Magazines and Online.

Maybe I’m wrong and Glam can buck the massive trend in brand ads taking a dive online (both in eCPM and overall buys…).  I doubt it and I won’t be buying my traffic from Glam any time soon.

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So now we’re going to have a month of debate about Rick Warren and what he stands for.

Warren has been described as the next Billy Graham, an evangelical leader with a moderate reputation and mass-market appeal — although instead of massive open-air rallies and an out-sized television presence, Warren focused on forging partnerships with unlikely allies working to protect the environment and fight AIDS.

As a pioneer of the mega-church movement, Warren looked to translate traditional evangelical messages for a wider audience. He penned “The Purpose-Driven Life,” a spiritually based self-help guide that brought mainstream best-seller status to a muted religious message.

Who cares?

This is the wrong debate.

Why is there even a religion invocation at the presidential inauguration?

Why did we have a debate at a mega church?

Why do we vote in churches?

America sure does argue a lot about mice nuts and not enough about the bigger concepts.

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LinkedIn has been a long time darling in blog discussions, VC conversations and strategery sessions.

Techcrunch brings us news of their latest shuffling of the exec deck.

It’s one of these media ventures that seems like such a great idea but really isn’t.  It has no growth potential left and is a media product that grabs user bases that really aren’t worth that much to advertisers or big exec firms – for example… the unemployed middle-aged, middle management white guys.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like LinkedIn as a place to hosted my resume and occassionally link to people.  Unfortunately, I think that’s just about what everyone uses it for, excluding marketers and recruiters.

This isn’t so unusual.  Almost all other online job boards, professional networking and recruitment sites go the same way.

Site gets announced

Some people join

It catches fire and everyone puts their data in

The recruiters swarm

People get annoyed, bored, or don’t land that dream job and most accounts/profiles age

Network/Site starts blasting out emails and alerts about people looking for you, jobs waiting for you

That powers the site for years

Revenue grows slightly but never breaks out

Next site crops up and chips away at existing sites margins

LinkedIn’s traffic has fallen off.  It basically has found the 16 million people looking for jobs it can offer them.

People not in the market don’t update their profiles.  The folks most likely to power big network connection growth, don’t need a networking site. Folks who want a bitching resume just go off and build one at their domain or facebook page.

Put all of this together and LinkedIn is another Monster.com.  It’s big, has users, might add a bell or whistle but has no place to go.   It’s fate is set and completely determined but what it actually is – a job board.  It’s only hope to grow is to somehow magically get people more jobs than any of the other methods. It won’t die as people always need networking and jobs.

I predict some old skool news media company will buy it one day and squeeze it for revenue.  It’s a safe haven for the weary Internet exec.

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