What have I learned in 20 years of IT…

I began my IT life as a helpdesk professional. I moved from the helpdesk to running an internal IT system (mail) and eventually running some IT programs beyond the mail system.

My job was to create an environment where the mail system was operational at probably a 95% SLA. Now, I didn’t own the remotely connected systems and found out very quickly why that didn’t work for mail systems. I pulled the new mail system completely to the corporate office because of that. I was ahead of my time, in that the systems we had didn’t effectively support a centralized email system, but I was trying to solve a bigger business problem at the time.

Our company was running most of our business at that time on an AS/400 system. Based on that, most business services except for email were centralized. The problem was the company didn’t grow organically. It grew rapidly via acquisition.

I would learn that lesson well. It was the first big lesson of my IT career. Decentralized non-organic growth causes the development of remote political factions.

It is not the only lesson I have learned in my career. In fact, it is one of many I have learned. Some, I learned the hard way trying to solve problems before they blew up and causing a bigger problem. Other times I found out the hard way that someone else’s error was going to cost me an hour. Once until 2 am on Christmas Eve. Sitting in an office in Columbus Ohio, and needing to be in Bloomington Indiana for Christmas day. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much as I drove all night.

It is not the only lesson I have learned in my career. In fact, it is one of many I have learned. Some, I learned the hard way trying to solve problems before they blew up and causing a bigger problem. Other times I found out the hard way that someone else’s error was going to cost me an hour. Once until 2 am on Christmas Eve. Sitting in an office in Columbus Ohio, and needing to be in Bloomington Indiana for Christmas day. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much as I drove all night.

Communication was the first thing I learned. Not how to, but the overall importance of communication. How we communicate is always important. What we communicate is also critical. I hope all of us know why we communicate. But when is always the one that gets us into trouble. Communicate early, often and clearly to reduce the stress for others.

The importance of planning was my next lesson. I cannot tell you how many migrations I have planned that because of the plan didn’t end up in the ditch.

Finally the last and possibly most critical lesson I have learned is that when people are frustrated they don’t say what they mean and what they say isn’t always mean. It is simply said in the heat of the moment. Water, people says off the duck’s back!

I carry these lessons with me to every technology project I am a part of and involved in. They keep me moving forward and help me keep the project moving along as well!


Old IT guy

I am waterproof, and so is my raincoat!

Technology and water seals, sometimes really critical. There is, of course, the argument water resistant versus waterproof. What it truly means in most cases is how deeply underwater the item can go. Waterproof would normally include a rating (300 feet, or 100 feet etc). The same is true for shock proof versus shock resistant. 

I actually feel sorry for people that are stuck with broken screens. Our smart devices are so critical path now, a broken screen forces you to limp along. Luckily the reality of voice control is improving every single release. Cortana, Alexa and Google Home are all improving every time we turn around. It is interesting to me, that Cortana is improving but the original Microsoft technology (Kinect) is actually being decremented.

Why am I musing on this topic? Well in part because I noticed about five days ago that my time-lapse weather video was cloudy. It had rained for three of the previous four days so I thought it was just rain. I then reached out to tech-support just in case. I cleaned the lens but it stayed cloudy. It still looks a little cloudy to me, even though the images were a lot more clear yesterday than they had been. I will keep my eye on the images to see if they get better or if they have issues. Beyond posting my daily time-lapse video I am also posting Prom video, some of which is pretty funny. Mostly because I think the parents were struggling to let go, and the kids were ready for the rite of passage.

P4280096(The image is of the boys in tuxes. I guess now correctly called men in tuxes).

When my kids were little I bought a shock proof, or shock resistant camera (The Olympus TG-1). The kids like to take pictures at events and small children drop cameras. Better they drop a camera made to fall than my cellular phone. We upgraded about a year or so ago to the TG-4 the latest in the line. Now because if I drop it, it doesn’t break, it also is waterproof. All the pictures and video of prom were taken with the Olympus camera. I didn’t break out the Canon because I forgot to charge the batteries :-(.

I’ve also been troubleshooting a clogged nozzle in my 3d printer. I have to say it has been a tough tech support week. I miss being able to print things on the printer.

Now, bringing up two tech support issues will anger the tech support gnomes, they will make sure I have at least four or five issues next week so we will end the tech support woes section right here.

Yesterday is over. By the way is was well over 80 degrees in Germantown MD yesterday and quite pleasant. It wasn’t the Washington DC traditional summer combination of humidity and heat. I post a new feature I call yesterday’s weather every day on my YouTube Channel. You know, if you are ever in need of knowing what the weather was, yesterday. So far in more than 45 days of predicting what weather was yesterday, I am yet to be wrong!


I am waterproof!

Full of sound and fury without an enterprise architecture transitions signify nothing…

I talk to a lot of very serious cloud people every single day. They talk about the many solutions and offerings within cloud solution providers. We can do this; we can do this! It reminds me so much of when I started out as a consultant. Back in the day, I was competing against Lotus Notes (before it became Domino). I was coming from an upstart and selling against the biggest IT company in the world (they aren’t anymore, but they are still huge). 

People talked about performance and capabilities. They talked about the reality of offline access to information. The guru’s got deep into the inner workings of both systems. That made it easy to simply change the conversation.

Fast forward 18 years, and it is time to change the cloud conversation just like the email conversation of all those years ago. The days of specialization are going to end. Companies and government agencies are going to realize that they need translators. People that can take the capabilities of a solution and push that into business conversations. 

I see ads all the time for AWS experts and Azure experts. Just like way back when. Then it was Lotus Notes experts. That eventually became Lotus Domino experts. Or MS:Mail experts or CC:mail experts or Microsoft Exchange experts. All of them becoming online email professionals. But the other side of the conversation is what changed the directions, not the technical.

When I see a company preparing for a change and asking for deep dive engineers for the transition I know they are going to struggle. Why? I’ve done that many times. It is not about depth within any one cloud provider. It is about understanding the what, and more critically the why of transitions. 

Why are you moving? From a technical perspective, you would say we are trying to modernize the technology stack and reduce our cost of ownership. Those are the easy answers. But the reality is, you won’t save money unless you take a hard look not only at what you have now but how you are doing it. Again, going back to the Lotus Notes days, I used to talk to customers all the time about the reality of what they were doing.

Certainly to complete your migration you need experts. People that know where all the nuts, bolts and screws are in a solution. Those people are critical. But before that, you need someone that understands the why of transition. I watch top heavy migration after top heavy migration struggle. I see huge cloud transition frameworks that don’t help. I see the customer’s asking for solutions that are obviously planted by a vendor (we can do this, you want this in your organization right?). None of these mapping back to an overall view of the enterprise. 

I have a good friend that spends a lot of time building and sharing the what and how of enterprise architecture. He helps customers prepare for migrations by mapping what they have, what they need and what they are missing today. 

That isn’t depth knowledge of a cloud provider. That isn’t depth knowledge of the inner workings of the business or organization you are in. That is an understanding of how to find what people use to get their jobs done. After that everything else is, well just tech talk. Full of sound and fury, it doesn’t mean anything to a business user.



Make today the day you backup all your digital photos… #digitalbackupday!!!!

What is a camera now? I know, that what was isn’t anymore in the camera world. I grew up in the days of film. The film, frankly, made cameras expensive. You paid for the film. You paid to have it developed. Then you paid because, over the years, you had 100’s of pictures and nothing to do with them.

But camera’s themselves are undergoing a huge change right now. UV, Thermal, 360 and drone based cameras continue to land and expand their beachhead. More and more of them every single day. I just posted an argument about whacking selfie drones out of the air with a selfie stick, not because I am an old person angry at technology but because it feels like a violation of my personal space.

The other side is the rise of cellular phones and by extension mobile cameras. I have some pictures captured years ago on my old Windows Pocket PC phone cameras. Some of them are pretty grainy. The problem with cellular phones as cameras is twofold. The first is they are made to be held against your face, not at camera focal length. They also do not have viewfinders. The quality of pictures increases significantly with a viewfinder.

Your cellular camera is a tool however and an important one. The number of images captured every single year continues to grow. Where once people took 200, 300 or possibly 500 pictures a year. My father loved to take photographs. He took roughly 589 photos a year for approximately 45 years. I say that only because we scanned all those pictures and slides. But my father was an avid photographer who was kind of good. I am an average to less than average photographer, but at this point, I am averaging nearly 4000 pictures per year or a significantly larger per year average than my father who as I said was an avid photog. Plus, of that average, he boosted it significantly taking 2000 pictures a year towards the end of his life by using digital cameras.

iPhone picture taken two nights ago. Better quality by a significant amount in just over 12 years.

The number of pictures taken per year is going up. Today, just today I uploaded three new photos. One is a YouTube (blurry) image from my time-lapse weather station. The other two are 360-degree pictures of my office taken this morning when I was playing around. There are many more days where I take 100, 200 or more pictures. In the film days you had to worry not only about the cost, but did you actually have more film in your bag. Now, unless you don’t have a large memory card, you only worry about well nothing! 

I acknowledge that my personal quest to end cellular cameras as the only camera carried by people was a fools errand. I do, however, still caution you to back up those pictures in more than one place. The more copies you have, the more likely you are to have those pictures ten years from now!


founder #digitalphotobackupday

on being a technology nomad…

I have a dear friend that calls herself the nomad of technology. I was there, at the meeting the day she told an entire group of people that. They all stared at her like she was crazy. “What,” they asked virtually in unison, “is a nomad of technology?”

“One who wanders the sands of change and finds the right granule of sand, the only grain of sand that solves a problem.” was the answer.

Imagine, standing in front of a sea of sand seeking just one grain. Just the right one, that in finding it ends your journey. It seems so fitting, so perfect a mantle for what it is I sometimes do. My friend is along the same path, the same journey so at times we stop when our paths intersect, and we ponder that. Not the intersection of paths, those often happen, rather the single grain of sand we seek.

It is, by the way, never the same grain of sand. We, each in our way, seek only the perfect grain of sand for the perfection of the thing we are polishing. Feverishly trying to get genies out of lamps!

I hear people frequently, those who eloquently stand and deliver great statements. Tears are streaming down their faces as they portend of being touched by greatness. Changed, forever, they proclaim by technology. They are not those seeking sand. They are the ones who are blinded by the sunlight, and instead erect giant tents and send others out to find the sand. Why? They do not see the grains, only the sea only the undulating surface of the sand.

“Find me,” they shout “the perfect grain of sand!” But what do you need it for? What does that grain of sand fit?

“I want it to run in the cloud.” They reply. As if running something in the cloud removes all the complexity from moving. It is easy to simply pick up your systems and drop them into the cloud.

“I want my sand in the cloud!” They say again. So, I take a handful of their sand and throw it up into the sky.

“There,” I say “It was, your sand, in the cloud for a moment.” But there is so much missing from that dream, that reality. Nomads know that cloud is simply one oasis in the desert. One place to stop and there are many oases to see. They sit there in the sand, each one offering some semblance of what is possible.

My throwing your sand into the air though that isn’t what you wanted, is it? You want cloud applications. But, you don’t have the budget to rebuild them, do you?

So let’s randomly throw your sand up again and whatever sticks as is in the cloud, is in the cloud. The rest we have to talk about!


Of the lost tribe of Technology nomads

Of reviews and review scales…

I restarted doing movie reviews again, posting them to Niume. I thought I would take the first few lines of today’s post and share my rating systems for technology and movies. I also do restaurant and customer service/business reviews on Yelp so I will add that scale as well.

First movies:

1-5 where 5 is a must see movie and 1 is well a movie you can skip. I am reviewing older movies now, so I will only be sharing movies that are 4’s and 5’s. Right now I am working on my favorite movies in specific genres.

Now businesses/restaurants:

Maximum of 5 stars, with a scale from 1 to 5. If I rate a business or restaurant a 1 star, it is horrible or the customer service is unacceptable. A 5 star restaurant has good servers and good food and can lose the 5th star if we return and the service or food isn’t as good. 5 star means we are going to go back to the place!

Technology Reviews:

I recently changed my technology review delivery. First off I moved from my old system to a newer easier to understand system. Basically I only review items that I find valuable and useful. If I am sharing a review of a crowd funding project my rule is I have to be a backer. My second rule on technology reviews is I also have to use the item in question.

Based on that I now qualify my reviews with my in the bag, in the office, on the boat, at home or in my pocket. That way you have a better picture of not only where I use the device but also how critical it is. When you buy bigger pockets to carry specific devices, you know that device is critical!

Wrap up:

Reviews are always my opinion of products, services and delivery. They are wound around the scale I use, but are intended as my presentation of what I think about the products or services in question. My taste, my opinion and my personality drive the reviews!


long time reviewer…

Digital Rude, and Cyberbullying…

I promised myself I would not launch political tirades on this blog. I have in the past, but I promised myself that I was staying away from the concepts of processes of politics. I did yesterday, however, post about the sheer frustration I have with the way people are treating crowdfunding creators currently. I am not sure why people are doing this.

First off, always off, seriously this isn’t cool, the reality of social shaming. Hey, I understand that sometimes people are wrong. Sometimes mistakes are made. Based on that raising the issue on a social platform like a blog is fair. You, as the blogger have the right to your opinion. The creator of the project has the right to their opinions. It is an opinion that your opinion is better than anyone else’s. In fact, opinions, are merely that, opinions. So stand behind your opinion, post a blog and move on. These constant and sometimes incredibly rude social attacks are starting to make me realize that we need to grow up.

I know that I have in the past taken things personally that I shouldn’t have. I step way from the keyboard, and I consider both what and how I approach what happens next. It isn’t that I am perfect, I am very far from perfect. I have come to realize that a constant and ongoing public attack doesn’t do anyone any good. It simply makes everyone nervous.

Yesterday I posted about the reality and the risk of crowdfunding. There are no guarantees in life; crowdfunding goes even further down the path of no guarantees. I understand that for something to spring to life it takes time. Look I am not going to say that I haven’t reached out to some crowdfunding campaigns and asked about delays. I groan when the email arrives discussing another delay. I was frustrated and posted the email sent around from the PopSlate II team when they closed down the campaign without a single item being shipped. Yes, that made me mad. I didn’t however, go seeking out the personal social media accounts of the creators and shame them. I didn’t go on the offensive and post horrible things. I just sniffled, published the letter and moved on.

My grandfather always told me two things. The first was look before you leap. The second was make sure you understand where the other person is, first. I have lived by those two rules ever since the first time I heard them more than 45 years ago. I do not shame people publically. I am, you will notice complaining right now in my blog about the behavior of individuals on social media. I am not using the Twitter handles or sharing their profile addresses. I am not posting their emails. My rule for names in blogs has always been incredibly simple. If I use the product, then I talk about it. If I back the project, then I talk about it. If they have horrible customer service, I talk about it. I do not stalk their social media I post my issue right here on this blog.

I read the hateful and cruel comments made by people in expressing their opinion, and I feel sorry for project creators. I understand that the new models of innovation put them at risk. There is no R&D department of XYZ company protecting them. There is only them. Why is it that people feel they can openly attack someone they don’t know without recourse?

Why is trolling not a crime? It is as hateful as just about anything else. I decided more than five years ago that I would no longer allow comments to be posted on my blog without my moderating them first, why? Because some of the troll comments were beyond hateful and I wasn’t going to share them. In the US we have the principal of free speech. But free speech is only a right if you protect it for others as well. If you resort to personal attacks of other people, do you accept personal attacks in return? Michelle Obama said one of the greatest things last year “They go low, we go high.” I am not, sure enough, people understand what it means to go low. If you attack someone on social media, without giving hem voice, you are going low.

The more I think about it, the more this social shaming strikes me as bullying. Calling someone out by name, shaming them is a form of cyberbullying. Sad in the end.


It just makes me sad…

Why innovators struggle and please stop yelling at them!

There are two ways of thinking about technology. These two go back to the very beginnings of what we now call IT. The reality of is the network up or is the network down. The adage electronics only fail when they are on, or build redundant systems to avoid failure points, remain the same now as they have been for many eons of IT systems.

The thing is, it isn’t always that way. Yes, we can build systems that designed from the ground up to consider and effectively create a path to success. But the reality all things fail, including manual systems that rely on users. What happens when Bob, isn’t around? This is where the reality of CSTEAM comes into play. STEM education and now STEAM gets us a framework for education. How do we deliver training to users that are not only targeted but also efficient!

We use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) and provide that via a connected environment that encourages information flow. I call this reality CSTEAM. It encompasses concepts shared in three of my books in the past years.

• The Syncverse

• The Innovators Dilemma

• Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer

The reality of information flow is value. One of the trends in the past five to ten years is the move of innovators away from big business. They have begun the transition to crowdfunding projects. But the risk for the project creator is the reality of the harsh world of crowdfunding. I have watched campaigns start, and the sue birds didn’t even let the campaign finish. I have seen massive social media campaigns started against campaigns. Plus, with a company (IBM) that is struggling to find its way in the digital world now diving directly into crowdfunding as an Indiegogo Partner, I think at best the ground is unsteady now.

If information is the critical piece, then how it moves within the system becomes the end game. Most people don’t know that you need to balance not only your total addressable market (TAM) but also the COGs (or cost of goods sold). We don’t always think about the fact that making something requires a manufacturing plant (or our garage)time, effort and shipping. It also requires advertising, contingency systems and if there is a software element, developers. So TAM and COGs become the worst enemy of getting a product shipped.

CESAll of this then baked around the other reality of innovation. You aren’t building all of the systems in the crowdfunding world for your eventual market. In fact, you are building a much smaller amount. Your cost per unit will be lower later. Your profit margin will be higher. The Boston Consulting Group and the experience curve have shown this to be true over and over. The more you build, the better you get at the building. But when you are small, struggling to get that project across the ever moving finish line, it is hard to step back and smile. You are the little guy, not the mythical David with a shot at bringing down Goliath; there are many other metaphors that fit better here. The best one is you are 4, and the cookie jar is a way to high to reach without an adult. When you are a small company, you are beholden to the manufacturer. They, control your destiny. You, sadly, have little if any impact on their destiny so as they tell you about delay after delay the best you can do is smile and nod.

That information about manufacturing and how it works is not available when you are outside the confines of a large R&D department. Well, it is available, but it is not written down and easy to get to if you aren’t in the safe confines. You have to know where it is.

The reality of innovation is you are taking a chance. A CSTEAM system for innovations would be something of value. I think I know exactly what it would look like!


Innovator, dreamer

On making a weather mistake…

Yesterday I experienced a weather failure. We were preparing to take the dogs for their daily walk. It is something we’ve done for the past three years with both dogs. They, the dogs, love the walk. I checked the weather forecast and then my weather station, and in both cases, it seemed that the original weather prediction that rain would roll into our area around 6 pm were correct. We ended up heading out on a walk around 4 pm. (I start my work day early). As we reached the furthest point of the walk from our house, the thunderstorm arrived.

IMG_0158So we got wet, and neither dog is a huge fan of rain. We had just decided to cut the walk short when the rain stopped, and blue skies returned. So we ended up taking a full walk, but the last 1/2 of it was while soaking wet!

In my childhood, I got good at knowing when a thunderstorm was coming. The ominous line of black clouds in the sky darkening the horizon was normally a real clue (I wrote a poem many years ago that was published called “The last known painting of Skyler Blue” my impressions sitting and watching an impending thunderstorm).  This storm rolled through violently and very quickly. That typically happens when you are closer to a large body of water, and we are only 56 miles from the Chesapeake Bay.

Simple math here – this is why you have a Micro-Weather station at your home. Conditions can change rapidly. In that rapid changing, you can get caught outside without an umbrella and a dog that doesn’t like thunder, much.

In the summer those electric moments after a thunderstorm are magical. The air charged with Ozone, and the temperature drops. 5 or even 10 degrees in the summer taking you from 95 degrees to 85 degrees. A nice respite to a hot summers day. In the spring that temperature differential, that change is often even more extreme. It went from 81 degrees the high of yesterday to 71 before the sun went down, and 51 by this morning. 

If you check out our YouTube channel to catch my yesterday’s weather video post you will see that as of 3:30 there were no clouds at all at our house. In fact, if you look you will see that at 4:00 pm no clouds. They literally rolled in and out incredibly fast.

Luckily modern cellular phones and smart watches are water proof. Shirts and shorts, as well as soaked shoes, will dry. It only takes time!

(now Raven and Dylan glaring at me because they were wet, and neither of them likes thunderstorms, took longer to go away than my wet clothes took to dry).


wet weather mis-=prognosticator

Of innovation, innovators and lagging readers…

I am trying an experiment today, as much because I can as because of need but also just to see. I’ve been chasing out some issues lately, and I am focused today on seeing in fact if my theory is correct. The first thing is the order of posting. I have been posting on one of my two blog sites first for the past couple of weeks, just to see if my initial theory is correct.

So far, that initial theory is in fact correct. But sadly there isn’t anything I can do about that reality. It is what it is. Blogs are a lot like dogs. If you have a dog, it owns you. Or in my world, I believe that dogs are family members, not something you own. Based on that reality, it is really important that you treat the dog as a family member.

In the past 11 months, I have talked to and worked with 22 different Kickstarter and Indiegogo Campaigns. For the most part talking to them about a realistic TAM. TAM is the total addressable market that any one device can actually each. No, you cannot say your TAM is 100%. In part because at a 100% TAM the US, EU, and other large economic groups would start coming after you as a monopoly. Secondly, no one gets 100% of a market. The best you can hope for on a first run basis is 100% but that blue ocean reality isn’t as likely. Plus, it would only apply to your first run, all later runs would have smaller and smaller share.

I won’t bore you with the process to arrive at a proper TAM. It is quite long, tedious and frankly boring. What I will tell you is that success with any innovation involves being honest not only with what is possible but also with when it is possible.

In my book on innovation, I talked a lot about the concept of creating an innovative idea. The concept of the book was that the reality of innovation and innovators has changed in the past ten years. When I started my IT career (after leaving public school teaching), innovators tended to work for the R&D group of large companies. In so doing, they were able to do two things. First, they were able to learn the ins and outs of the manufacturing process. They were also able to have an organization focused on making money determine the potential TAM.

It was not a perfect system and it began failing. Innovators were frustrated by the slow rate of movement by large R&D departments. Crowd-funding pushed them out of the nest and into the wild. But in many cases, the baby bird innovators hadn’t yet learned to fly. They didn’t understand the manufacturing reality, and they didn’t understand TAM. They pushed their dreams out via Crowdfunding sites and in many cases waited for a miracle.

The Miracle wasn’t going to happen. That meant they were stuck. Dreamers don’t like moving towards their dreams, and the avenues were no longer open. So they went to a new crowdfunding site and tried again. This time they stopped, they listened, and the didn’t assume the miracle would happen. The found the Superbackers in the space they were in and got them involved and engaged beforehand. They, the Superbackers on Indiegogo and Kickstarter actually can drive eyes, potential backers and provide excellent guidance and advice.

I have to say this new market is interesting, exciting and fun to be a part of, rather than waiting for a large company to release the next big thing! Seeing the creators build and deliver the next big thing is a lot more fun.

Seeing the TAM of a small device blossom and become something viable is impressive. I was very happy with the original Pebble Watch. I saw that crowdfunding success grows into a company. Sadly, they sold that dream to Fitbit, but the idea was still strong. The innovation ended up having a market and being a successful dream.

Sometimes that is all you can hope for.


innovation dreamer