The New Phonebook’s Here! The New Phonebook’s Here!

 

 

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“Things are going to start happening to me NOW!”Oh, how I love titles!  The one I really yearn for is the one that Paul McCartney, Elton John and some other no-names have achieved.  “Sir Paul”.  Of course I’m not British and I really haven’t achieved such greatness, but one can dream.

A couple weeks ago, I helped host ‘Xconomy Detroit’ in the Compuware Building with two-hundred of my new closest friends.  The title of the event was “Mobile Madness in the Motor City” and we celebrated, collaborated d commented on the state of mobile innovation.  Mostly, it was a fun event to meet new people who are as passionate about technology as I am.


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As a special treat, they invited me to be an “Xconomist“.  Now, I don’t know what the responsibilities of an ‘Xconomist’ are but I hope there’s a hat or a uniform involved.  I am expected to write some articles on the ‘xconomy’ and I think my first duty will be to design the uniform that I believe Xconomists should wear.|—————— prototype —————————->


Seriously, what I like about Xconomy is that they are a group of people who understand the power of meeting face-to-face and having relevant discussions about topics.  We had a great group of folks in Detroit with my favorite topic being battery technologies.  So please check out Xconomy while I ponder (seriously) what it means to be an Xconomist and how we can host more cool, valuable events.P-Cz

Do You Dream in Code?

 

 

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I do.  It mostly happens when I’m trying to problem-solve in my sleep. Typical nerd thing, I’m trying to change a situation or someone’s behavior by coding a solution.  Of course there’s no solution and the dream-coding doesn’t resolve anything, but I do find it interesting that I dream (and think) in code when it comes to problem-solving.

I’m not sure if it’s how our brains are wired, but each of us has abilities that express themselves when we dream.

An example.  I cannot remember the lyrics to any song I’ve heard over the years.  I know people who hear a song once and then can sing it back.  I hear a song and do not hear words but I can instantly play it back, including all separate parts, on a keyboard.  Weird.  It’s just how I’m wired.  When I stress out I reach for exit-routines, methods and code-fragments that will clue me in to a solution.  I use my coding techniques of taking a walk so that my subconscious can deal with the issue and usually some kind of solution unfolds.  We’ve all been there, but are dreams different?


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We’ve all had STRANGE dreams.  Dreams of running away from something, flying, falling, etc.  My dreams usually come after five-hours of sleep, and they wake me up.  Very vivid, in color, many times about tornadoes, which mean (never mind, don’t go to your dream book)…

My dreams about coding are the same type of dream I have about playing the piano.  Problem solving, only the problem never really gets solved.


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So, let’s turn it around to the art of programming.  EVERY time coding happens, a problem should be solved.  If not, valuable time is being lost and talent is being wasted.  If you approach your development efforts this way during your sprint planning activities, you will make sure that your are prioritizing tasks properly and will be able to deliver demonstrable value at the end of the sprint.

Another thing I found; if programmers are working on tasks that THEY understand provide value, their brain will be engaged much more than the hours they put in at the keyboard.  Hopefully, they will problem-solve in their sleep, be more productive, write better performing code, and have less defects.

As the Onion Magazine once famously headlined; “I Had a Really Weird Dream Last Night”.
P-Cz

What does ‘Horseless” and “Wireless” Have in Common?

 

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I, like many Detroiters, will make my way sometime this week to the North American Auto Show.  It’s a fun event and, although I’m a ‘truck guy’, I’ll enjoy checking out the latest offerings that I can’t afford.

Last week, Compuware hosted “Mobile Madness in the Motor City”, an event from Xconomy, which featured entrepreneurs, marketers and developers to celebrate innovation in mobile development and applications.

It occurred to me, as I opened the event, that if we were having this gathering one-hundred years ago, we would have called it “Horseless Carriage Madness”, which today seems absurd.

If you look at the history of the auto-industry, you’ll see that it was about one-hundred years ago when we STOPPED using the term ‘horseless carriage’, because it was obvious that automobiles were the future and we needed to leave the old terms behind.  We went from selling disruptive-innovation(horseless), to technology(horsepower) to design(horsefeathers).  Even today marketing messages change as design and technology advance.  Somehow I’m beyond demographic relevance, so these messages have no effect on me.  To me a vehicle is a functional device that gets me from point-A to point-B.


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So, let’s talk about ‘mobile madness’;  why are we still saying things like ‘wireless’ and ‘mobile’?  OF COURSE it’s wireless and EVERYTHING is going mobile.  And DON’T talk about performance in technical terms, that’s just silly.  The smart marketers are already talking about the value that these technologies have on your life and lifestyle.

My annoyance with this is that until we break the semantic gymnastics, we’ll be stuck in innovation stagnation.  Stop using terms that have a limited relevance lifespan and either invent something new or take it to its lowest denominator.  And don’t get me started on “CLOUD”!

That’s all for a Monday where I should be on holiday instead of in the office working on NodeXL.
P-Cz

Teaching Programming to Kids

 

9132130It has long been established that there is a link between music and programming skills.  My educational background was primarily music, from playing ‘by ear’ as a toddler, the dreaded piano lessons, gigging as a church musician, playing rock-in-roll keyboard god, to playing accompanist to some very good singers.

I discovered programming quite by accident.  I was holding down a job as a night operator at a local hospital when one late night a programmer asked me to make a change to his program that was causing production issues.  I was instantaneously hooked and immediately grasped the correlation between music and coding.

I immediately combined my two passions and built a music synthesizer, hand-wiring the circuit-boards and hand-coding assembler into the CPU to talk the magic new language of MIDI.  Music, like programming, requires visual comprehension, interpretation and execution.  If you’re a musician you can program.  And, vice-versa!

So, what does this mean to the shortage of programmers today.  Well, everyone has figured out how to recruit music-majors in colleges and how to recognize aptitude for programming.


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How about teaching?  I contend that we are teaching children technology skills MUCH TOO LATE!
Our kids are learning how to read music and play instruments at an early age, so why aren’t we teaching them how to code?Is it because we believe that they must reach a level of math proficiency before they can engage in coding?  Nonsense!  Is it because there is a lack of teachers that can teach early childhood development?  Probably.  But it really does start with the basic acceptance of computer programming as an important skill to be learned at an early age and changing curriculum in grade-schools.

I am a proficient pianist because I started at an early age and developed a passion that’s as natural as breathing to me.  I became a proficient programmer because I was able to leverage my musical abilities across the disciplines.  I became prolific at both because of the 10,000 hour rule, I coded, I played, I coded computers to play.  I looked at programming apps and song-writing as a creative outlet, and still do.   I probably will keel over some day at either a piano or computer keyboard.

Back to education.  I am involved in several teaching initiatives and am frustrated by the resistance I get when trying to introduce programming in the same light as music education.  There have been many attempts to cross this chasm, but there has been limited success.  If you search on ‘programming for kids‘, you’ll find many classes and products designed to help kids.  My favorite is FIRST Lego League, but this still doesn’t teach what I’m looking for: HARDCORE CODING for KIDS.

Well, this is where I’m asking for feedback.  I am looking for success stories that will help me with my mission.   Please comment or send me an e-mail.  I’d love to talk to you!

P-Cz

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Posting out the week – Why Stats Lie

 

 

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Maybe I should say “How Stats Lie” or “Stats That I Don’t Like Lie”.

The weekend is upon us and I have TOO many books to read (I’ll go into that on another post).  I’m determined to finish reading “The Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver.  This is a fascinating book and it really makes you think about the barrage of statistics that we’re fed and the difficulty in finding the accurate data on which you can make statistically reasonable decisions.  I’ll save my final recommendation when I finish the book, but on that topic I ran across the following article in WIRED, titled “Brown-Eyed Men May Look More Trustworthy

You can read it for yourself, but it’s a lot of blah-blah-research-look-what-we-found.  Whenever I read about the results of some study I ALWAYS wonder “who paid for this”.  Usually it’s someone whose interest is served by the publication of the article.  In this instance it’s NO DOUBT some brown-eye-dude who did the research and wrote the article.


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Why would they take on us blue-eyed folks with statistical nonsense?  “historical mate preferences”?  What does that mean?  Of course he tries to cover his tracks by saying “I’d warn against any social application of the research,”.  YIPES!  I need to go out and buy some brown contact lenses?  But will that fix the underlying problem?

If you love data and statistics as much as I do, I highly recommend that you study up on the latest product sets related to big data, such as Hadoop and the analytical and visualization products that support these big-data systems.

The reason you need to spend time on educating yourself is because we can now instrument almost anything and store massive amounts of data, allowing us to perform real-time analysis on the data.

So, I guess we can now easily write apps that will tell you the ‘trusti-ness’ of men based on their eye-color.  I guess if I had done the research the  article would have titled “Blue-Eyed Men ARE More Trustworthy” or “You Should Trust Blue-Eyed Men” or “Bald-Headed Men Are More Handsome”.

What a silly post!  Have a great weekend!
P-Cz

Over-Rehearsing Your Pitch

 

 

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I, for one, am happy the holidays are over.  Not that I didn’t enjoy myself.  I took the week off, spent time catching up with my family, read a ton of books, saw some movies, slept more than five hours a night, and decompressed.  I even stayed up-to-date on e-mail without stressing out.

But, I was pretty much played out when it came to holiday music.   We had a holiday-music concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in mid-December.  We do this about once a quarter – it’s a good morale boost, it brings people together and, OK, we love to jam.  We have a room in the Compuware building garage (appropriate) where we can practice before/after-hours and it’s a lot of fun.   One problem with this concert was that we built a set-list of over 60 songs, which became tedious and boring, especially since we all already knew the songs.  However, we practiced diligently and had great dress-rehearsals, which should have been my clue that we’d struggle during performance.  The performance went off great, but it just wasn’t as fun as the preparations, which means : I OVER-REHEARSED.


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The problem with over-rehearsing a performance, whether it’s playing the piano or pitching your ideas, is that you lose the spontaneity that comes with risk-taking, improvising and riffing on a theme.  If you know your stuff and have practiced diligently, you want to let loose during your pitch so that your value, knowledge and enthusiasm comes through.

Every picture that someone took of our performances, I look like I’m ten-years-old practicing, my concentration was that intense.  I played well; didn’t make any mistakes; but I really didn’t have as much fun as I should have, and that was my own fault.  I was so worked up into ‘getting it right’ that I didn’t communicate the joy that was to be part of the experience.  Mea-culpa.  I redeemed myself in a church-concert where I totally let loose and took risks, ‘pitching’ with abandon, although it was probably because I didn’t take the time to rehearse.  I know better, because I play every week in a situation where I practice a new song ONCE with my vocalist, and then we perform.


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“Two Pair of Spandex Pants” on the “Twelve Heavy-Metal Days of Christmas”
Lesson-learned for presentations, especially when you’re ‘pitching’ to me?  Know your stuff, but don’t over-prepare your presentation, except when it comes to the financial numbers!

P-Cz

For more pictures:
http://dml.smugmug.com/Events/CPWR-Carol-oake/27080734_LRzh4z#!i=2272174013&k=LP79Gpt

RACI & Football – What’s on my mind on a Friday

 

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What does the RACI matrix have to do with football?

Well, if you’re a tailgater, the responsibility assignment matrix is a very important thing.  If you don’t get it right you’re not going to have a good time.

Why do I care about RACI today?  Because our organization has progressed into a Business Unit organization and I am building a model that will give appropriate responsibility assignments to the individual business-units and the cross-BU operating groups, like IS, Legal, Finance, Administration, etc.   It is very important that everyone agrees who is responsible for each service that is provided because each business-unit must be clear on the services that they are outsourcing to the operating-groups or to outside services.  If you’ve never done a RACI matrix before, you can learn more here.

Roles and responsibilities are important for organizations of any size, and laying it out in a format that everyone understands is a good way to clearly define roles.  Startups should take note – a simple RACI matrix can save a lot of time and misunderstandings.  A RACI matrix combined with a core-vs-context analysis helps clarify just what services are needed and should be outsourced.

So, really, why RACI & Football?  Because this weekend is the beginning of the NFL playoffs and I intend on watching all four games.  This is my rationale for working on my laptop while watching the games.  I get to do my take-home work while enjoying some playoff football.

Hope your weekend is more exciting!
P-Cz

Programmers & Salesfolks

 

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“I believe in Programmers and Salesfolks”.

This started for me back in 1981, when I began working as a consultant for 3PM, a SaaS technology company near Detroit.  3PM became known for their hosted pharmacy solutions and I was part of a team that broadened their portfolio to build a stand-alone Pharmacy system (back then everyone wanted to get away from SaaS!), Medical Billing System, Laboratory Management System and Durable Medical Management System.   When 3PM was acquired by McKesson in 1983, I acquired these three properties and started SoftCare, Inc.

So much for history, but it was during these early days of the products that I established strong relationships with the Sales Team who went out selling our products and services.  It was a time before Agile development and Lean Startup processes, but this is how we operated.  Every day, the lead SalesRep, Ted, would come in and tell me about his challenges in closing deals, especially “if we only had this feature”, or “we’ll close the deal if we make a technical commitment”.  At the time, it was very frustrating because to make changes to the software took a lot of work, coding, testing and deploying.  But we were trying to ‘cross the chasm’ and we had to make a lot of concessions to make customers happy.  So, we were very hard and established extreme discipline to our development methods to be as nimble as possible while maintaining quality.

It worked.  These products were innovative, solved problems and had value for our customers.  I won’t go into the whole story here, but the best lesson I learned is that good salesreps, who listen to their prospects and customers, provide a wealth of information.  And by GOOD, I mean salesreps who actually close deals.  They were the ones I listened to, and to this day, I’m most happy when joined at the hip with a great salesperson.

Lesson to startups?  First, Hire the best salespeople you can find and establish relationships with people who know how to sell.  It’s the difference between having a great product and an innovative product.  Innovation is market-driven from customer feedback.  And your salesfolks are the front-line individuals hearing from your customers.  Second, look at your competition.  So many companies have bloated themselves with staff who have nothing to do with product development or sales.  It’s these old business-models that you can kill.  Stay lean, mean and connected!  Third, remember your Lean-Startup disciplines – always be ready to pivot!

Great programmers + great salespeople = success.
P-Cz

Managing the 2013 Startup Pipeline

 

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OK, it’s not a pipeline, it’s a funnel.  I don’t know where we get these silly metaphors anyway; they fulfill a mental visual, but never tell the whole story.

It’s now a new year and time for me to look for new investment opportunities.  But first, I need to finalize my model, to save time and increase my probabilities for success.

Last year, I proved that investments with a technology focus are much more predictable than current investment models, but I need to formalize the process, mostly to save time and wasted energy.

Back to the pipeline.  It’s not where I want it to be; I need a strong backlog of prospects with great ideas, motivation and technology.  Last year was a good year with a lot of interest, but not enough backing technologies and internal talent is scarce, and booked.  So, my first priority on my backlog is NOT great ideas, but great talent and technology!

If you want my attention, pitch yourself first and the problem you’re solving second. I am VERY interested in ANALYTICS, so if your solving a difficult problem that utilize a lot of data, I’m interested.  Contact me at Compuware Ventures.

Let’s get 2013 rolling!
P-Cz