July 16, 2018
Mautic Community Contributions
I am truly hopeful that nothing I share in this post steals any thunder from Mautic.org’s announcements later this week (and early next) but I can’t contain my excitement another minute. I’m absolutely amazed at a few recent developments in Mautic and I have to tell you and everyone else what exciting things I’ve seen going on in the Mautic community.
Let me issue a quick disclaimer though first, read this, not every contribution to Mautic involves code. There are literally dozens of ways to be deeply involved in our community without ever touching a single line of code. I can’t stress this enough. Our community has blog authors, social posters, forum moderators, Slack contributors, doc writers, site builders, Mauticamp organizers, other event coordinators and general enthusiasts of all types.
Recognizing Our GitHub Gurus
In this post, however, I am going to focus on those who have been toiling away in the code cave. Those technical titans who spend their time writing code, testing code, labeling code and doing all other things GitHub based.
You’re probably wondering why I’m so excited about our code contributions and the community involvement in GitHub. I’m excited because this release demonstrates our community taking control and ownership of the full Mautic code.
Don’t misunderstand, Mautic has always been and will always be community-led and community-focused. The code, the product, is our product. But, as you might expect as with any project just beginning there is a need for someone to take the lead and maintain the momentum. There needed to be some driving force encouraging the project to become a product. (By the way, that subtle distinction is worthy of a post all on it’s own and you can expect a full write-up on that in the coming days/weeks.)
Because there was this fundamental need, Mautic, Inc volunteered ridiculous amounts of developer time to focus on our project. They donated resources and untold numbers of engineer-hours to help us achieve our product. While this helped our community tremendously this was not the long-term desire of our community (or even Mautic, Inc’s goal) for our future.
I recently shared a post written about Magento which holds incredible value and insight into this philosophy and thinking. And this starts to show why I am so excited. Recently the decision was made to make a strong community push to give this control fully over to the community. Mautic, Inc graciously stepped back from various lead positions in order to make way for community volunteers to assume other positions of leadership. (To be very, very clear Mautic, Inc continues to dedicate resources solely to our community and project. And they will continue to be one of our largest contributors.) But that’s not why I’m excited either.
Why I am excited
I am excited because the community contributions have exploded! We have seen new volunteers step up into leadership roles, contributing more in the code, testing, assuming responsibility for encouraging others to get involved and generally filling the gaps across our community. This community response is incredible.
What this means for Mautic releases
There are a few important notes to focus on as a result of this transition. First, Mautic 2.14 understandably took longer to release than a typical release. As with any transition there is a lot of knowledge and information to be shared and transferred between individuals. This also means a significant amount of process work to ensure things are done in the right and best way. Moving forward these releases should run smoothly and on the typical schedule.
I am personally not disappointed in any way with the 2.14 timeline. You should not be either. This release represents a massive undertaking. In fact, just to put it into perspective, here’s a couple of stats for this release. Please note these stats will change as beta freeze is anticipated to be released tomorrow!
- Mautic 2.14 has 95 merged pull requests (so far) with an additional 52 pull requests still pending.
- Mautic 2.14 has more than 235 code contributors.
- Mautic 2.14 includes 36,000 net additions to the code.
And more! Can you believe there’s even more? But I won’t tell you what the specifics are just yet. You’ll have to wait to hear about those in the official announcement of the release. But quite simply put, this release is massive.
Lastly, I’ll just simply end with an enormous thank you to each of the contributors who have stepped up and filled a spot. You have proven that our community is incredible and even more importantly, you have demonstrated our community is capable. Empowered with the tools and opportunities, you have assumed the roles and responsibilities of leadership with determination and strength. I can’t wait to see our next release (and the next and the next and the next).
July 16, 2018
Every day is a fresh start, I get that. But I think Monday holds a slightly elevated level of this ingrained human inclination towards optimism. Monday is (for most) the start of a new week. A chance to start fresh. A new opportunity to become more of the aspirational self they desire to be. Whatever happened last week is done, it’s behind you, it’s gone. Today, right now, this is the first day of an exciting new chapter.
How will you spend it?
July 16, 2018
Episode 20: Questions
Great leaders ask questions. But not just any old question, great leaders ask thoughtful questions that require thoughtful answers. Usually this means staying away from yes/no answers. A great leader knows how to ask questions which will illicit the most honest response. That’s an interesting idea. Here’s what I mean:
Great leaders know when a question is difficult and phrases it in the way which encourages honesty by giving the person answering the easiest way to say the hard things (the thing they worry most won’t be the “right” answer).
Great leaders are also quick to understand how questions can empower others to take ownership and responsibility.
Great leaders recognize there’s no weakness in asking questions and understands that asking questions is a way to lead others to finding a similar solution (or exploring alternative thinking to their own).
July 15, 2018
I posted recently a blog post encouraging community involvement and I used a classic fairy tale as the motivational allegory to illustrate a practical and easy to understand equivalency. But as I was writing the post I was struck with something that I believe I should highlight and focus on. It was too derivative of a point to draw out in the original post so I’m posting it separately as a TL;DR here. And I apologize it may be slightly longer than my typical short posts.
The story I shared was The Little Red Hen. And if you want the full story then you can read the post shared earlier. Instead, there is one line in particular I emphasized in the story as I shared it. Perhaps you caught it, probably you didn’t.
And she had an idea for something to be made.
It’s a simple short sentence and it’s right near the beginning of the story. But this line really made me think. In the story the little red hen does all the work herself and only when the product (bread) is completed does everyone else want to take part. But maybe the little red hen actually didn’t do things right. I’m not trying to point fingers, but she might not be the best community manager in the world. In fact, I might go so far as to say she’s actually quite terrible as a community manager! Let me explain.
The little red hen missed what I believe to be the single most important factor when building a community or gathering helpers to join in with her in doing the work. She neglected to share her vision.
The community manager has to do much more than tell people of work to get done. The community manager has to share the vision and encourage, inspire others to share that vision and join in a combined dream.
Imagine if the story had been written differently…
One day the Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat. And she had an idea for something to be made. She quickly called her friends: the cat, the goose, and the rat and told them she had an idea she wanted to share. When they all got together the little red hen laid out a plan. She had found a grain of wheat, but this little grain of wheat could become something incredible, something nourishing, something mouth-watering and tasty!
She told them she knew it would take hard work and a number of different steps to turn that little grain into something they could all enjoy; but if they all worked together and used their strengths they could make it.
The little red hen then did something spectacular, she asked her friends what they thought. She wanted to know if they liked her idea? Did they agree a slice of soft, hot, bread sounded delicious? What could they do to make it better? The cat said she thought she could find some butter and this made the goose realize she’d seen a jar of strawberry jam which they could spread over the bread. Even the rat began to think about what he could do and how he could help.
Now, with a shared vision and a common goal (a delicious slice of hot bread with melted butter topped with cool strawberry jam) they all knew what needed to be done and grew more excited with each step of the process. They took turns watering the seed, they shared the load carrying the wheat to the mill, they all pitched in milling the flour, and throughout the entire time they laughed and told stories and encouraged one another through the hard times….
And just like that the little red hen learned how sharing her ideas, encouraging questions, and sharing a dream helped grow a community of close-knit friends focused on working together for the greater good.
I’m not saying this is the perfect analogy and I would never suggest that a classic fairy tale was written incorrectly. But I couldn’t help but realize how easily this story could unfold differently if the little red hen had focused a bit more on communication and community.
Community management and involving others throughout a process and reaching a shared vision isn’t easy but the rewards are so much greater than sitting alone eating a piece of dry toast.
July 15, 2018
Saelos Sunday: The Little Red Hen
Well it’s that time again, for all you eager individuals waiting all week for the Saelos Sunday post. Here it is. Although I must admit I am anxious to see how many of you will truly appreciate the context of today’s update. But perhaps that’s presumptuous let’s get right into a Saelos update and see where it takes us! Perhaps you can bolster my optimistic spirit in regards to our young community.
I’d like to share a story with you this week; it’s one that many are familiar with and probably the awareness of this short allegory rises disproportionately in the world of open source communities.
By the way, this post is particularly meaningful as I’m currently attending the Community Leadership Summit before OSCON (Open Source Conference) where the idea of community involvement is a constant topic and focus of many sessions.
The following is the story of the Little Red Hen. If you’re familiar with it already then I would imagine you can skim quickly down through the content, if it’s a new story for you then please read it carefully and consider it’s application in the context of open source communities.
One day the Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat. And she had an idea for something to be made.
“Who will plant this?” she asked.
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Not I,” said the rat.
“Then I will,” said Little Red Hen.
So she buried the wheat in the ground. After a while it grew up yellow and ripe. “The wheat is ripe now,” said Little Red Hen. “Who will cut and thresh it?”
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Not I,” said the rat.
“Then I will,” said Little Red Hen.
So she cut it with her bill and threshed it with her wings.
Then she asked, “Who will take this wheat to the mill?”
“Not I,” said the cat.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Not I,” said the rat.
“Then I will,” said Little Red Hen.
So she took the wheat to the mill, where it was ground. Then she carried the flour home. “Who will make me some bread with this flour?” she asked.
“Not I,” said the goose.
“Not I,” said the rat.
“Then I will,” said Little Red Hen.
So she made and baked the bread. Then at the end of the day, she said, “Now we shall see who will eat this bread.”
“We will,” said cat, goose, and rat.
Now, the story of the Little Red Hen doesn’t end there…but I’m going to leave the ending out because I believe in our community the story could end differently. Because I believe we should never get to this point in a community. I know, many of you are sitting here wondering, how could this possibly relate to Customer Relationship Management and the world’s best open source CRM software. Here comes the application.
Saelos is an open source project. It holds the potential to be a major shift in the existing CRM landscape and provide a powerful, robust software tool for thousands (if not more) of businesses around the globe. There is tremendous opportunity in the software. But there’s also tremendous opportunity in the community as well. An opportunity to be more involved, to contribute to something you believe in. Did you notice in the short children’s story above there were different animals saying “Not I”? They aren’t all the same, they are each different and I can’t help but imagine they would each have different abilities and skills they could offer in the making of the bread.
In just the same way as the fairy tale, each of us have different talents, skills, and abilities. When we bring our unique talents together in a community we have the potential to create something amazing. The product we create reflects the uniqueness and specialness of the people who formed it. In a way, our product is a reflection of our community, and we can tell the world who we are by the work we do together.
In the story, when no one else helped the Little Red Hen completed the project on her own (and kept the rewards for herself). In our community the project doesn’t get completed without the help of others. We need everyone helping, we need everyone contributing.
Many have asked when the next release of Saelos will be available. I’ve shared in recent weeks the next release is the last release (hopefully) before a stable version 1.0. I also have shared the items needing to be done before the next release can occur. Here’s that list again, copied and pasted for your convenience:
- Languages and accessibility
- Phone extensions
- Inbound message handling
- View exporting (Reporting)
- Integration support
These are critical items. And before you write yourself off as non-technical there are several items on the preceding list which have nothing to do with the code and everything to do with Saelos. Language translations are a massive part of our community and the thing which will help our CRM to truly scale globally.
Secondly, documentation writing is needed. This truly is a unique opportunity because I have met those wonderful individuals in the past who truly enjoy writing documentation and they are of vital importance to a project’s success. This is a perfect example that communities require all types of people.
Saelos needs you; whatever your special abilities might be. Would you consider joining with us in our community as we work to build a world-class CRM capable of empowering businesses around the globe and creating an ecosystem where individuals can support themselves and more? You’ll be glad you did and I guarantee your life will be changed forever.
July 14, 2018
Some of you may be very familiar with the term. I have used it a lot in the past but I think for those that might not have heard the term let me share why I like the idea of rubber-ducking so much.
First, gotta start by understanding the term. It’s a verb and involves the general idea of talking to an inanimate object (e.g. a rubber duck). This is not because you’re crazy (though others might think so); instead this is a chance for you to verbalize thoughts, hear them out loud, and process through information in a different way. This is often done for the purpose of bettering your thinking on a topic or improving your points and how you share them.
Second, I can’t tell you the number of times i use this technique in a single day. There’s immense value in getting your ideas out of your own head (even if it’s only to that empty chair sitting next to you).
Lastly, there’s an even better version of rubber-ducking. This involves bouncing your ideas off another person. But there are some strings attached to this version. Your person has to be “your person” meaning they know they aren’t there to criticize or chastise your thinking. In fact, sometimes the recognize their purpose is merely to listen. As the idea sharer you have to feel safe to say whatever you are thinking no matter how ineloquent or scattered those thoughts might be. Your person has to be the right person to be able to do this. If you have someone like this you are blessed.
When you get to the end of your verbal stream of consciousness there’s the opportunity for your person to ask questions. Not challenge you (remember you need to feel safe). Instead, they may ask for more explanation or a repeat of certain thoughts. This is why having “a person” is better than a “rubber duck”.
Regardless of the method, the outcome from engaging in this activity is highly beneficial and I recommend you add it to your thought process daily!
July 13, 2018
Episode 19: Focus
Great leaders understand the importance of focus. The ability to set aside distractions and pursue a single goal. There’s a couple important side topics with this idea of focus. First, it doesn’t mean blindly following a vision with no listening to other’s or outside advice. Nor does it mean an unswerving approach to problem solving. There are always times when a zig here or a zag there becomes critical for success. Focus involves a concentrated effort to exert self-control and will-power over innate desires to wander or be distracted by flashy, momentary interests.
The Story of the Marshmallow Children.
July 13, 2018
Here’s your interesting thought for the day. Shamir’s Secret Sharing. This topic of secret sharing I believe holds immense value for the future of passwords and encrypted data on the decentralized web. Consider this approach in an applied environment akin to the P2P file-sharing of yesterday. In this new ideal system you could have a decentralized fully encrypted setup where private data could be stored securely in a public blockchain or other distributed, decentralized format.
Shamir’s Secret Sharing is an algorithm in cryptography created by Adi Shamir. It is a form of secret sharing, where a secret is divided into parts, giving each participant its own unique part, where some of the parts or all of them are needed in order to reconstruct the secret.
If you’re interested in learning more you can see the mathematical algorithm on the associated Wikipedia page.
July 12, 2018
I Need Your CRM Feedback
This is a bonus Saelos mid-week post, but that’s because I need your help and I need it urgently! I’m doing a quick feedback loop about CRM platforms and I realized there’s no better audience than my personal network of friends and followers. I need your ideas, your thoughts, and maybe most importantly…your complaints!
That’s right, this is a free pass to gripe, complain, and whine about the shortcomings, faults, and flaws of your current software. You know your friends and co-workers usually don’t want to hear about the problems you’re having (we all have plenty of our own). But today is your day, and this moment is your moment. Unload on me. Share your ideas, thoughts, and problems. I’m listening!
Okay, okay, that’s all you get. No more moaning and groaning, get back to your day and keep your chin-up, your feedback has been heard and you may soon have answers to your problems!
July 12, 2018
The concept of data privacy and security grows daily in importance and urgency. I’m personally heavily focused on these topics and I find particular interest in relating them to things such as open source code. There’s a lot to be learned and there are many different paths which could be taken. This recent paper took a novel approach and I loved the concept of elastic sensitivity.
Elastic sensitivity introduces the idea of approximating local sensitivity of queries with general equijoins. This elastic sensitivity is an upper bound on local sensitivity and thus can be used to enforce differential privacy using any local sensitivity-based mechanism. Ultimately, this yields generalized results with negligible performance loss and increased privacy without significant loss of accuracy in query results.
If you only read one research paper this week. Make it this one. Here’s a snippet to make you more curious:
This paper proposes elastic sensitivity, a novel approach for differential privacy of SQL queries. In contrast to existing work, our approach is compatible with real database systems, supports queries expressed in standard SQL, and integrates easily into existing data environments. The work therefore represents a first step towards practical differential privacy.
The best part? The researchers have released their work as an open source tool for computing elastic sensitivity for SQL queries.
Want me to elaborate further? Drop me a note and I’ll expand this one into an actual post. I think the idea is incredibly interesting.
July 12, 2018
We return now to a topic and an area where I have personally experienced significant growth in recent months. Perhaps I am growing wiser as I get older! I have come to realize there is a good bit of value to be found in learning from leaders in the past. I’ve also come to realize this is not necessarily the same as studying history (I still struggle with that ‘history’ one myself). Instead, I see there is value in learning more from those who envisioned great things, and who believed the world could be greater. In particular, I believe those thinkers who are not immediately recognized or well-known have some unique experiences and thinking for us to learn from, in part because they are not the well-published or bragged-about successes from the past.
I recognize there is a significant skewing of my Thursday Thinkers focused on those involved in technology, mathematics, or physics. Given my fields of interest, background, and expertise I find this to be a natural fit. I promise in the future to broaden my horizons and include thinkers from various other backgrounds and industries. This week however will not be the start for this shift as I have been studying the life and times of a man responsible for theorizing and subsequently creating the underlying mechanism beneath most of today’s modern technology.
John Bardeen (1908-1991)
Today’s Thinker is a man who has some amazing success and a story that is unlike anyone else’s in history. In fact, John accomplished something never done before and never done again. I’ll give you the background of his life first and then we’ll explore his contributions upon which all of our technology is built.
John was an American physicist and electrical engineer. Although he was not completely obscure in history (he was listed in LIFE’s 100 Most Influential Americans of the Century) he did not receive the accolades and ongoing legacy as some of his more vocal peers. He was never one to seek the spotlight and was known to look for others with which to share the credit.
“The combined results of several people working together is often much more effective than could be that of an individual scientist working alone.”
– John Bardeen
But John’s greatest accomplishment which makes him singularly unique in the world and sets him in a league of his own is his monumental achievement of being awarded two Nobel Prize in Physics. While historically there have been five others who have gained the recognition of two Nobel’s, no one else in the world has ever achieved this twice in the same field.
But what did John contribute? What did he do for the world? What was his great thinking? Here are the two contributions which changed the course of human history and laid the groundwork for all of modern technology.
The Transconductance Resistor
Did you read that title twice? It’s a bit of a mouthful, which I would imagine is why John did something else, he made up a word. (Apparently I’m not the only one!) You may be more familiar with the term, transistor, which was quickly adopted and used by everyone. Now, this work was done alongside two others, but John’s contributions were instrumental in this invention and its success.
In case you need a brief review, the transistor took a form factor of only 1/50 the size of the vacuum tubes of the day. This decrease in size changed the final form factor for all types of electrical devices.
But this was only the first of the two contributions Bardeen made to our world. The second proved to be even greater. And this second creation stands to be of even more importance due to the fact that John was leading the charge, in thought leadership. And now you see why this second item is the contribution which I believe elevates John to a Thinker.
Even the title of this section suggests what John did was revolutionary and forward thinking. John created a theory. He formulated an idea based on his knowledge around him and what he perceived to be next in the world. His theory was based on the concept of the microscopic effect caused by condensation of Cooper pairs into a boson-like state resulting in a state of superconductivity.
I know there’s a lot of scientific words in that last paragraph, but the physics are too interesting to leave out. I have a predilection towards these topics but I’ll save the quantum and string theories for another post.
This theory of superconductivity introduced some fundamental ideas dealing with the relationships with transistors but also with quantum liquids and more. This early theory set the stage for much of what we understand and have further developed about superconductivity (and even today we struggle to fully explain and understand the effects and consequences from these theories).
And just to be clear, this work and theory in both transistors and superconductors set the stage for all of modern electronics; from phones, to computers, to microchips. John’s legacy was well-recognized by some and the Chicago Tribune even made the following statement:
“…what greater honor can there be when each of us can look all around us and everywhere see the reminders of a man whose genius has made our lives longer, healthier, and better.”
However, as time has passed many have forgotten the contributions made by John and others like him. Not only did he create innovative new building blocks, such as the transistor; but he wasn’t afraid to think. His ability to “see the future” makes him a Thursday Thinker.
“Science is a field which grows continuously with ever expanding frontiers.”
– John Bardeen
July 12, 2018
Episode 18: High Standards
Great leaders hold those around them to higher standards. Not only holding others to high standards but they also lead by example. Great leaders expect themselves to perform at peak performance as well. Sometimes this leads to burnout, sometimes this leads to breakdown. Strong leaders are able to handle
these self-imposed pressures and find ways to balance them in their own lives as well as in those who follow them. A good leader understands the values of holding high standards and implements them in life. A great leader makes them fun and an attainable, achievable goal which can be conquered daily for a greater sense of self fulfillment.
- Great leaders set high standards for themselves first and then for others who follow
- Great leaders recognizes by setting high standards they attract instead of detract the right people
- Great leaders make high standards achievable and repeatable
July 11, 2018
The combined results of several people working together is often much more effective than could be that of an individual scientist working alone. – John Bardeen
July 11, 2018
Always Be Thinking: Loyalty
Sometimes building brand affinity is as simple as recognizing which company rules can be bent for the sake of the customer. The resulting goodwill sentiment and brand loyalty can yield far far more than any rewards program. This personalizes the brand and makes them feel approachable. Then a company will be perceived as a cool friend… instead of another greedy corporation intent on making a profit at the expense of the customer. The customer doesn’t maintain a strict guarded profile mistrusting every action and a real relationship can be established.
July 11, 2018
I just discovered something which has apparently been around a little while. The concept is specific geolocation based on 3×3 meter squares and 3 word assignments. As I have learned, this is the thesis behind what3words.com which has mapped the entire planet in a 3×3 meter grid and then assigned each a 3 word “name”. This level of specificity on a global scale is mind-blowing and has use-cases in a surfeit of applications.
If you’re thinking what I thought at first…what about other languages besides English, then you’ll be interested to hear this team has created this nomenclature in 14 languages and growing all the time.
I can tell you personally this has tremendous opportunity to provide real value in so many instances. Even down to the simplicity of where to meet someone to watch the Boston fireworks. Or, where to gather the next time you’re lost in Fenway park.
You can take a look at the map and find your address here: https://map.what3words.com – or the next time you’re in my little town outside Boston and want to grab a coffee you can say, I’ll see you at glass.venue.smiles
July 11, 2018
Episode 17: Decision-Making
There are 4 important points regarding decision-making related to great leaders. Here’s a short list, before we focus in on the final and what I believe to be the most significant.
- Great leaders understand how to separate emotions from rational choice when making decisions.
- Great leaders know some decisions will be wrong
- Great leaders make challenging decisions
- Great leaders help others make decisions
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, shares how he believes it signifies he’s doing a good job as a leader when others make the decisions.
July 10, 2018
Exploring the Progression of Modern Software (Part 2)
Okay, I am so excited to get back to this topic. If you haven’t yet read the preceding post in this two-part series, then I’d recommend reading Exploring the Progression of Modern Software (Part 1) before continuing. I’ll wait. Done? Welcome back. That post gave us an incredible first half to this topic and I was absolutely gutted to have to leave it before I could finish my thoughts on the subject. But it’s Tech Tuesday again so I am now free to publish Part 2 in this short two-post series.
As a brief recap in case you didn’t take the time to read Part 1 (I know who you are) or if you read it last week and need a refresher before continuing here is a short synopsis:
We examined the history of software progression from the earliest days and we focused on three specific era’s in the evolution of modern software. Those areas are:
- The Personal Computer Era: In this era we examined briefly how in the earliest days software existed on a single machine, or single location software. The three words we associated with this era were: Single, Private, Secure.
- The Server Era: At this point software evolved into existing on a server instead of a single computer and as a result we called this: a many-location software system. The three words to think about with server software were: Many, Semi-Private, Semi-Secure.
- The Decentralized Era: Lastly, we discussed the current and future-focused view of decentralized software labeled as many-location software platform, both private and secure. And for this era we chose to focus on the following three words to highlight what the potential could be: Many, Private, Secure.
Okay, now hopefully we’ve had a nice convenient reminder about what Part 1 was focused on exploring; in essence the vehicle which held the software. In Part 2 we want to now explore not the vehicle, but the engine by which the software runs and the evolution which took place “under the hood” so to speak.
I’ve broken this part into three convenient sections as well. Each of these era’s relates slightly to the corresponding era from Part 1. Without any further delays let’s jump right into the first and oldest era.
The Closed Source Software Era
Many of you may balk slightly at my definition of these eras as there is clearly overlap in the world still today across all of these, but as with the vehicles of box, server, and decentralized, so too the engines overlap and there are times when several different models exist at the same time. Regardless, what I would like to explore is a generalization of the common mindset and thinking in the business world over time. I am the first to recognize the early successes of open source and am certainly not trying to start any flame wars about what came first or was more dominant. (Hopefully that is enough of a disclaimer to subdue any angsty commenters!)
Closed software was the go-to solution for businesses both from a monetary standpoint as well as a trusted implementation due to the accompanying support and trusted “business model” of the time. The perceived values of this era included the ability to have a single vendor responsible for the software, trust that the information was held privately by a corporation and as a result was somewhat secure given the “closed source” nature of the code. (Notice this is regardless of the vehicle being either box software or server software, traditional SaaS.)
The three words to sum up this era are therefore best described as: Single, Private, Secure
The Open Source Software Era
Next what we see is a gradual shifting and acceptance of the open source software model as an acceptable business model and software solution. Both for companies seeking to generate revenue selling services, support, and software around open source solutions as well as enterprise and others trusting open source software as stable for implementation in their business.
Again, I won’t belabor the point that this era co-existed with the previous, I’ve said enough on that already. Simply put though, there are plenty of news articles, blog posts, and media sources to demonstrate the growing acceptance of this era of software as fundamental and beneficial for any SaaS company. The benefits for open source included the ability to incorporate the talents and skills of a larger community of engineers or developers focused on modifying and improving the code; the open nature of the code allowed for bugs to be identified quickly and patched faster than in closed source as well as the perception this could be done better by a global audience than a single company, and open source allowed code to be taken and used in a variety of alternative environments.
As a result the three words we could use to sum up this era include: Many, Semi-Private, Semi-Secure
The Blockchain Era
This is where things get interesting. As with Part 1 we are now about to move into an era which is only just beginning to come to fruition. We are on the cusp of something new and revolutionary. As a result the points I’m about to share may be controversial. You may disagree, and that’s okay. I’m not suggesting anything I say to be fact, but I believe, based on my experience (limited as it may be), there are signs which can be clearly seen and we are best when we learn from our past and use our history to make intelligent decisions about the future. Given my experience in open source and the ridiculous, countless hours of study and research into the subject I believe what we are seeing is indeed the beginning of the future. The next era in modern software has begun.
I’d like to start as I did in Part 1 with the three words which best describe this modern, future, software “engine”:
The three words associated with the blockchain era are as follows: Many, Private, Secure.
Let’s explore what each of these words relates to in this new and intriguing era.
When we consider the topic of Many in the context of the blockchain era, we find there are quite a few similarities to the open source software era. This is in part due to the closely related nature of the code. In both eras the code is available (predominantly) as open source able to be viewed and modified by anyone. This means the software can experience all the same benefits as traditional open source software. But there are additional benefits as well. Unlike open source software, blockchain software, or DApps as they are coming to be called, are decentralized apps. This means not only is the code worked on and contributed to by many; but the software itself can be run by many. This achieves the maximum potential benefit imbued in the concept of “many”.
The second word we’re associating with the blockchain era is Private. This point actually has a few potential beneficial futures available. First, we find blockchain software has the potential to be run in a multitude of environments (including in a private blockchain). Second, blockchain software even in the main blockchain has incredible opportunities to be private in nature, depending on the final implementation of the protocols identified by the point below. Which leads us then to our final word….
Lastly, we find that the potential for a highly Secure era is beginning to be identified. This point is tricky because in the earliest iterations the blockchain era follows many of the same paths as the open source era. But as the various protocols are defined in more detail we are able to recognize those shortcomings and improve on those failure points for a more secure and highly encrypted software infrastructure. This software holds the keys to a potentially (virtually) unbreakable encryption level.
While there are still a fair number of questions surrounding blockchain software and the development of DApps, I am confident we are experiencing the next era in modern software progress. The future of software will come from these explorations.
I realize now there is actually a final point to be made in this series, one which I believe holds serious consequences for modern software developers, implementers, and SaaS businesses everywhere. In fact, I believe this final realization holds incredible impact for existing software businesses and calls into question a terrible practice we have incorporated without even a second thought throughout all SaaS companies.
The ramifications of this blind de-facto choice are far-reaching and highly devastating. Recognizing this fallacy helps us bring the problem to the surface and then allows us to resolve it in an extremely elegant manner. Check in next Tuesday for the final installment in this series.
July 10, 2018
There’s a common misconception in the world that anything which doesn’t require a fiat currency as payment for goods is somehow considered to be “free”. However, there are many other ways in which a business can “charge” for something. The beauty of this correlation exists when a business is able to capitalize on this feeling or sentiment that they are getting something for free when in reality they are simply paying a price in a different “currency”.
I’m reminded of this in particular today due to the unique and highly successful free marketing campaign held by the restaurant, Chick-Fil-A. If you live in an area where this chain operates then you probably are very aware what today is. For the rest of us, today is colloquially known as Cow Appreciation Day. 🐄 In other words, should you choose to assemble a few bovine accoutrement (dress like a cow) and plod into one of their establishments you will be
herded towards rewarded with a free meal.
The allure of free at the low, low cost of your personal dignity and a few cow spots dotting your personage. 😉 Bravo to Chick-Fil-A for a brilliant and highly successful marketing campaign. They have identified a marketing campaign which maximizes their brand visibility while also meeting the free mentality of their customers.
July 10, 2018
Episode 16: Confidence
The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan once said,
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.”
This level of confidence is a requirement of a good leader. Even with a statement like the above we still see confidence exhibited in his attitude and his game play. Good confidence is not arrogance. Here are three defining qualities of confidence:
- Confidence acknowledges failures
- Confidence is persistent
- Confidence requires practice
July 9, 2018
Commencing Core Monthly Meetings
I am so thrilled to be able to write up the follow-up from the first Mautic monthly core meeting. Before I give you the details about the meeting itself (which will eventually live on Mautic.org’s working group meeting notes) let me share why this meeting is so important. Even if you’re not super interested in the specific meeting notes I believe there’s value in reading through the first part of this post.
What this meeting represents
I have shared in the past about the importance of the Mautic leadership being owned by the community. And recently this has come front-and-center as Mautic.org announced their call for leaders. There’s several reasons why this leadership by the community and for the community is so critically important (and also why this is so difficult for any community to implement and maintain).
I shared an article recently which highlights this struggle very aptly. I’ll let you read the post in its entirety on your own. As a brief summary Magento recognized a significant problem which plagues many open source communities – only a few developers from a single source contributed the majority of the code.
And the response by Magento was both insightful and important:
… Magento created the Community Engineering team with the basic goal that it would listen to and review pull requests. Today a significant majority of pull requests are accepted, but the initial rate of acceptance was lower. Over time, this initiative, which started as more of a “let the community be heard” exercise, evolved to “wow, much of the innovation in Magento is being driven by our community.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: the reason Mautic is able to achieve such clear success comes from the many who have shown the way in the past. In essence, we stand on the shoulders of giants. When we learn from other open source communities we implement tried and true successful strategies. We improve our community. Finally, the result is to give back our stories, learnings, and successes as well.
These other open source experiences taught us as a community the importance of putting more of an emphasis on the beliefs we held. Mautic from its inception has been committed to being community led. Unfortunately, as is typically the case when moving fast, plans and execution can have slightly different outcomes. One release led to another and Mautic fell into a pattern without even knowing it.
This core meeting represents a change to this oversight and a renewed commitment to our core values.
What this meeting contains
Now that we have a good understanding about what this meeting represents we need to get into a bit of the specifics about what this meeting contains. Remember, if you’ve read the various posts about Mautic working groups you’ll recognize that each working group (like #core) will maintain their own meeting schedule and agenda. The topics and purpose of this working group will differ from others but there may be some elements which remain consistent throughout. But because this is the principle example for working groups the meeting contents are shared below:
- Quick recap of topics to be covered
- Review of current release progress
- Outstanding issues or concerns for the release
- Release timeline
- Next release and release leader planning
That’s pretty much all there is to it! Of course items will pop up along the way as they always do, but one of the most important aspects of the meeting is to ensure you don’t stray to far from the agenda. In #core we determined these meetings should not be used to discuss outstanding questions or “new feature requests” unless they are specifically related to the next release.
Important: Every meeting should have a moderator and a specific time limit. The moderator ensures the discussion stays on topic and remains within the time allotted.
Core Meeting Notes
And here we’ll get into the specifics of this meeting and this group. Because this was the first one there’s a certain amount of leniency and extra forgiveness offered for any lack of process or focus however in this case I don’t believe that was necessary. The meeting began on-time and touched on each of the items mentioned above. Specifically here are some details:
- Alan Hartless is the release leader for 2.14.0, he discussed what remained before a beta could be announced. Specifically, the campaign “jump-to” feature was needing some finalization before it could be tested. (Side note: I’ll take responsibility for the delay in 2.14 due to this feature, I requested we delay until this feature could be added).
- The 2.14 release has quite a few outstanding PR’s still awaiting testing. Specifically 58 open pull requests are marked for 2.14 with most requiring a test confirmation still. Currently, the goal is to announce 2.14 beta on July 17 and release 2.14 on July 24.
- The 2.14 Beta period was determined to be held open for only the period of 1 week for this release given the amount of significant testing being done beforehand. But community members are definitely needed to see this beta tested successfully.
- Finally, the 2.14.1 release leader was discussed and announced…but I won’t steal the Mautic.org thunder. You’ll have to watch their blog to hear that news. (I can’t tell you how excited I am about this announcement!)
As you can hopefully see this is an exciting opportunity for the community to come together and make a difference. Every voice is heard and everyone gets to participate. This is our community. This is our code.
This was the first of many #core meetings to come and if you’re interested in joining this particular working group and getting involved in the release strategies from a technical perspective, I’d encourage you to put the next one on your calendar. Otherwise there are many other working groups you can become a part of to get involved. I’ll be sharing some more super exciting news about that in the coming days!
July 9, 2018
I think I made up the title, but that’s okay. I think I like what it means and apparently I’m getting better at making up words. Here’s what I mean by unbinged. We all agree some things in life are worth waiting for, or said in a different way, some things are too good to consume all at once. You want to savor it, soak in it, enjoy it. Some times you need to give your mind a chance to develop a thought or an idea.
For this reason I think Netflix should release a new feature called Binge Lock. Here’s what it would do. As a viewer I would have the choice on a particular series to select Binge Lock. If I choose to activate the feature Netflix would not allow me to watch more than one episode per week of that series. And there would be no way to turn it off…for that series.
I was thinking yesterday about AI and how we are in danger of a world with an unmoderated AI because it will appeal to our revealed self instead of our aspirational self. This is a perfect example of that. I know I would love the “ideal” of making myself wait for something, but when the system gives me an auto-playing “Next Episode” in 30 seconds this appeals to my revealed self (sadly, one which loves the idea of instant gratification).
A feature like Binge Lock would give me the power to develop my aspirational self a bit more.
As a nice side benefit Netflix would have a way to encourage more chatter about their shows, the idea of “spoilers” becomes real again, and who knows maybe subscriptions would increase as well.
July 9, 2018
Episode 15: Accountability
“Passing the buck” originated from a ritual practiced during card games. Card players used to place a marker, called a “buck,” in front of the person who was the dealer. That marker was passed to the next player along with the responsibility of dealing. Eventually “passing the buck” became synonymous with passing on responsibility.
President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here.” It meant he accepted accountability for all the decisions of his administration. Truman’s stand exists in organizations today but, unfortunately, as the exception rather than the rule.
- Accountability means honesty
- Accountability means saying you’re sorry
- Accountability means seeking advice
July 8, 2018
The danger of unmoderated artificial intelligence is that as it learns human behavior it will adapt and modify its output to serve the revealed self of the individual rather than the aspirational self; understanding greater satisfaction is derived from pleasing the revealed self, although often in juxtaposition to the greater good.
July 8, 2018
“People’s behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs, and motives.”
— Thomas Mann
July 8, 2018
Yesterday I finished up my somewhat exhaustive study on my latest topic of interest. And by exhaustive study I mean I went spelinking. (See what I did there? It’s like spelunking, only for links.) Yep, I think I’m going to coin that as a new word and start using it. Not sure what else is considered common vernacular these days for going down the rabbit hole of link-following in pursuit of knowledge on a particular topic. From here forward this act shall be known as spelinking. Anyways, before I distracted myself (and you) with the creation of a new word in the English language I was about to share with you the topic which I’ve been finding quite interesting lately.
As many of you know I am obsessed with the user experience, the user interface and how a product is created in order to maximize the positive feelings of the user. (User, user, user what an interesting term. I recently heard this quote and find it fitting…)
“The only businesses where customers are considered users are drug dealers and technology companies.”
As much as that might be a topic which I would love to dive into more, I will save the technology drug idea for another post. Instead, let’s return once again to the topic at hand. (Can you tell this is a Sunday post? We’re a little less formal on the weekends!) The topic for this post is as the title suggests: Desire Paths.
(See how I capitalized both of those words? This signifies importance of the phrasing, as opposed to sentence capitalization which demonstrates something completely different. But that’s the subject for my Google vs Apple post coming soon….)
Desire Paths are an interesting concept.
In the real world desire paths can be demonstrated by something like the following picture:
As you can see the definition should be rather obvious from the picture, but in case you prefer words over pictures (some of us do), here’s a Wikipedia definition for you:
A desire path is a path created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal foot-fall or traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.
Then, in simplest terms, the desire path is the fastest and easiest route to get from point A to point B. Usually these paths are identified by the individual navigating the path. And these paths are most noticeable when they stand in opposition to the pre-defined “regulated” path previously constructed by the original designer/developer.
Digital worlds have digital paths too.
Oops, see that word I slipped into that last sentence? Designer. That’s right, desire paths don’t live just in the hard and fast physical world of roads and walkways. Desire paths can live just as easily in the digital world. The digital experience of users can also be filled with desire paths. They may look slightly different but they exist none the less.
At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with Saelos since this is a Saelos Sunday post. First, you shouldn’t be so impatient! This concept of desire paths is a fascinating one and it is well worth your time to understand this concept and its implications. You’ll be better off because of this knowledge and you never know when you’ll stumble across a desire path (either digitally or in real life). And when that moment comes you’ll think, “Aha! I know what this is!”
Paving the way
But second, and I understand, more importantly here is how I think desire paths are relevant and in fact critical to Saelos (and other software apps). I want to see desire paths in Saelos form. I want to see users create new and exciting ways to get things done with Saelos. The best way to make a software application easy-to-use and widely adopted is to build it in the most intuitive and understood way possible. When you lower the barrier to entry or reduce the friction involved with learning and using a new application you increase usage and improve the user experience (drastically).
Allowing for desire paths
Let’s get specific though, how exactly do you allow users to find and create desire paths within a software application? It seems like this is a rather hard to understand concept when we move from the physical realm into the digital landscape. But with a little thought you’ll begin to understand just how easy it can be. Allow me to give you an example.
Saelos has already been released in a beta form. This means you can download it today and begin using it. Is it perfect? Heck no. Is it complete? Absolutely not. But what you have is the framework, the bones, the gravel paths of a world-class CRM application. Why do I say gravel paths? Because they have not been paved yet. There is still time for users to create their own paths, to improve the product by how they use it, and once those paths have been identified they can be paved and the product can be complete. Still not specific enough for you? Don’t get frustrated, I’ll get more specific.
Saelos implements a tagging system.
In fact, I think I’d venture to be so bold as to say Saelos implements an incredibly powerful tagging system. But what makes this specific tagging special is the flexibility. Rather than creating a rigid system for how tags should work within Saelos I designed them to be very extensible. Basically, I created a couple paths for how you might use tagging in Saelos but I didn’t lock anything down. The idea being with a feature like tags I want to see how people use them and what makes the most sense. I want to see what the desire paths are which form naturally by users.
Give paths now, pave the road later.
Really, it follows the thinking of release early and release often. Or, just ship it. This mentality to not wait until perfect before releasing only means what you do release is flexible and capable of adapting to what users want. Only after those desire paths become evident should we go back and pave the way. In other words, after tagging (and other features) are put to use we will better know how to improve them and make them even more user friendly. So whatever the software system you’re designing or creating, always be thinking about desire paths. They allow you the opportunity for your users to define the product and make it perfect. And everyone ends up happier. Listen. Then ship it. Then watch.
July 7, 2018
“Every time you shift your attention from one thing to another, the brain has to engage a neurochemical switch that uses up nutrients in the brain to accomplish that. So if you’re attempting to multitask, you know, doing four or five things at once, you’re not actually doing four or five things at once, because the brain doesn’t work that way. Instead, you’re rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.”
– Dr. Daniel Levitin
July 6, 2018
I’m constantly reading the tech headlines and always looking to see what’s new in the world of interesting tech. I am particularly interested in seeing what new or innovative things have been discovered or worked on. I like to think about how they might be used in the future and how new tech can be applied to old problems. I absolutely loved reading about itty.bitty sites. I have no idea at the moment of the many use cases for this idea but it’s a fascinating concept!
July 6, 2018
Reading for Success: The Art Of
This week was a holiday week in the United States. On Wednesday July 4, we celebrated our independence as a country. This particular holiday comes equipped with fireworks, late night parties, and depending on your personal preferences a variety of typical “summer” and “outdoor” activities.
I think interestingly enough due to the middle-of-the-week nature of this particular holiday celebration this year the nation as a whole seemed to take a more casual and relaxed approach to the office and to work. Days were quieter, the pace less frantic, and the general busyness of people seemed to be slightly less. (Honestly, to me it was slightly reminiscent of the slower more family-focused approach to living I think tends to be more commonly seen in European and South American cultures).
I personally appreciate a thoughtful approach to life and to work because I believe it starts to put things more into their proper place. It’s almost as though the purposes for meeting with others and sharing time with other people becomes a little more focused on the “right things”.
I also found this idea to be one which perhaps was more immediately evident to my thinking based on the reading I did this week. As you know I like to share three books with you centered around a common theme and this week is no different. Here’s the interesting common thread I am going to propose for these books:
Life is as much an art as it is a science. Whether it’s how we meet and share life with others, how we handle our own lives, or thinking deeper about the underlying why behind it all. Even in the age of data – art and our creative brains are an extraordinary force for shaping our world.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
The first book for this week has sat on my shelf for a while. Although I’ve skimmed parts of it multiple times, the aggressive nature of the title, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, had kept me from highlighting it in a weekly post. I read it more in depth this week and am excited to share with you some key takeaways.
In this book the author Mark Manson seeks to share his opinion and thoughts on how to live a good life in a somewhat counterintuitive approach. Mark is known for never softening his punches or being particularly politically correct. He’s far more interested in making a difference and encouraging others to improve their lives by being incredibly real, honest and transparent about themselves and their feelings.
While the style of the writing is meant to be familiar and personable Mark still manages to mix scientific quotes and data with his relaxed approach to language. Although he doesn’t share revolutionary new thoughts he does encourage a revisiting of and thoughtful introspective approach to some common themes. (Themes I’ve even written about myself in the past though perhaps with a slightly more formal approach.) Here’s a couple of highlights:
- Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.
- Certainty is the enemy of growth. Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are. Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.
There are of course many more of these ideas and I’ve only pieced together a few snippets to help give you an idea of the thoughts Mark presents. The takeaways are clear. Don’t try to live a fake life where everything is perfect and nothing bad ever happens. Rather, seek to be truly happy by appreciating all of life for what it truly is, the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why It Matters
The second book this week covers the topic of meetings, why we hold them, how we hold them, and why they matter. In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker addresses this idea and others based on history, culture and human nature around the world. She focuses on thinking more about meeting with purpose and understanding the implications of each interaction.
Priya says this near the beginning of her book, “Gathering—the conscious bringing together of people for a reason—shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world.” This is the basis on which she then continues to draw meaning and value from meetings, interactions, and the underlying need for humans to gather together.
First, I need to say as someone who dislikes meetings and the purpose or lack of purpose which seems to form the basis for many such meetings, I was hesitant about how I would feel about this book and its focus. I was relieved and surprised to see the values Priya holds to as meaningful and relevant were very much in alignment with my own. This book speaks to a thoughtful and deliberate approach to meetings and gatherings. She encourages passion, debate, and even heated discussion suggesting that in the proper context and with the proper boundaries these are all very important and necessary parts of meeting.
Priya’s focus and goal is a simple one: Always seek to identify your purpose for gathering. And in all things, be aware of when and where to draw the finish line and then walk over it with those you are with.
The Book of Why
As I am oft prone to do I have saved my favorite book of the week for last. Not to be confused with a similar “why” book which I refer to frequently, this book, The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl is an incredibly smart book discussing the idea and science behind cause and effect. This is a very tricky topic which Judea handles expertly and with a skillful deftness.
Judea tackles the challenges of correlation versus causation and soundly defeats this decades-old incantation chanted by scientists intent on not picking a side in a debate. He does so in a compelling manner and all while exploring not only yesterday’s but perhaps even more interestingly he does so in light of tomorrow’s opportunities. I speak specifically about artificial intelligence.
As many frequent readers to my posts will recognize the topic of machine learning and artificial intelligence is one which has gained significant attention and has become a common topic for our weekly “what’s ahead” posts. I almost hesitated to include this book in this week’s reading because I enjoyed it so much and believe there is much to draw out to share, but I will probably follow up with another post regardless to focus on those things. Here’s a few high level takeaways:
- “If I could sum up the message of this book in one pithy phrase, it would be that you are smarter than your data. Data do not understand causes and effects; humans do.”
- The book is centered around the concept of “the Ladder of Causation” which includes observation, intervention, and counterfactuals. This leveling up mentality around causation is the basis for the modeling found throughout the book. Judea uses causal diagrams extensively to provide a visual representation of the mathematical and scientific thoughts surrounding causal effect.
- The understanding and recognition of the value of causation in the theory and science of artificial intelligence is the key to unlocking the true power of this machine learning. Judea focuses on the concept of Bayesian networks as a central factor for proper and true artificial intelligence.
I’ll leave this book review with a quote from the author:
I believe that causal reasoning is essential for machines to communicate with us in our own language about policies, experiments, explanations, theories, regret, responsibility, free will, and obligations—and, eventually, to make their own moral decisions.
– Judea Pearl
All in all, this book is amazing. I couldn’t put it down and I would highly recommend others read it with thoughtful intentionality. I’ll be using it for more in a future post but trust me when I say it’s worth the time to read.
Art and Understanding
The understanding of “why” has incredible implications for what we create as individuals. I realized in retrospect there is incredible value in placing these three books together in a single write-up. Cause and effect come into play repeatedly through the creation of art, expressing creativity in our own personal growth and in better understanding our relationships, gatherings times, and meetings with others. Whether you read the above books or not, I hope these take aways are helpful for you and relevant to your life. Maybe the next time you meet with someone or think about saying “yes” when you should say no, you’ll think of this post and these books.
July 5, 2018
July 5, 2018
Episode 14: Commitment
Leaders have to do things that others may not have to do, and may not ever see. Leaders have to maintain a level of commitment to an idea, a plan, a process, even a person beyond what many would even consider doing.
- Leaders commit to the plan (but recognize change is inevitable and important)
- Leaders commit to the people (but again recognize not every fit is the right fit)
- Leaders commit to the process (trusting the gut is important but sometimes that’s indigestion)
If you are a leader, the true measure of your success is not getting people to work. It’s not getting people to work hard. It is getting people to work hard together. That takes commitment.”
– John C. Maxwell
July 4, 2018
Episode 13: Creativity
Leaders recognize creativity isn’t always a “lone inventor” practice. Genius can come from many contributions as opposed to only one.
- Leaders empower others to identify good ideas
- Leaders encourage contribution and idea sharing (tolerant to opposition)
- Leaders understand the value of scaling their creativity
Creativity is not a mystical talent but a carefully cultivated tool. Wielded by the best leaders in the world to accomplish incredible things.
July 3, 2018
If you read my blog much or listen to the podcasts you know I tend to talk a lot about active listening. (In fact, I just referenced this Sunday.) But the idea of active listening is only the first step in this journey. Beyond the act of listening actively you need to follow-through with the next step. I consider this next step equally important. This next step is applied listening. This is where I take the listening I’ve been involved in doing and actually use it to affect something I am doing. I apply the knowledge I’ve gained.
Oh, but there’s lots of room for learning still, and today is no different. What you’re about to read is my Tech Tuesday post. Last week we dug in deep and explored polynomial code computing. I’ll save you the mental struggle of wading through another concept at the same depth this week and instead explore a more applied technology. In fact, we’re going to take things extremely simple this week and look at something I wrote over the weekend.
The idea is simple. I wanted to take my applied listening and do something with it for the purpose of making this blog in particular easier and better for my readers.
The idea: applied listening
Real life example coming at you. My blog posts usually come in at around 1,000-1,200 words with some going even longer. That’s a lot to read, not necessarily when taken individually, but when put into the context of a week’s worth of daily posts…it can be overwhelming, and possibly a bit daunting. I was faced with a dilemma. The depth of each post is important, and there’s valuable information I’m conveying typically without demonstrating an unnecessary verbosity.
But not everyone has the ability to devote the time required to read a long post each day. In fact, my best friend once mentioned no matter how much they hoped to be able to, they could never keep up with it all. And this resulted in a negative experience for them! The exact opposite of what I hoped to accomplish. I want my readers to feel inspired, motivated, and most importantly in control of their time. When the length of my post dramatically and directly contributed to the opposite effect I felt I was the one failing them!
I wanted to find a way to resolve this conflict and provide a better user (reader) experience while at the same time not sacrificing the quality or content of my message. This leads to my proof of concept below.
The proof of concept:
There are existing plugins which will report the average reading time of a post. These are somewhat helpful in providing information to the reader about the length of time to anticipate a particular post requiring. However, in my opinion this reading time message is merely passive usability. I’ve written a good deal about the notion of active vs passive. (Don’t get me started on this in regards to artificial intelligence!) I call this passive usability because the basic message is merely, “Here’s what’s happening, deal with it.” Somewhat beneficial but not necessarily proactively helpful.
Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to the top of this post (if you’re not reading this on the actual post page, click through to the single post instead of the homepage). As you can see, my subtext is slightly different and a bit more specific. There’s an included link asking a question – got less? I believe these two little words and the included functionality take this usability from passive to active. What you have now is active usability because the message now says, “Here’s what’s happening, want to change it?” See the difference? Beneficial while also empowering and proactive.
At this point I was going to tell you to try it out. However I am 99% sure the minute I referenced the subtext in the previous paragraph you’ve already played with the technology and seen what it does. I hope your first response is delight mixed with a hint of intrigue. If that’s the case then I’ve been successful in changing the experience to a positive “reader experience”.
- First, I’ve written my post in its entirety as I normally would, then I use a special toolbar formatting option I wrote in the editor that allows me to wrap words, sentences, and paragraphs of text in span tags. Each span tag includes a special class name, such as, level-10, level-25, level-50, level-75, etc… any digit between 1 and 100 can be used in association with the level- portion of the tag.
- The second step implements a rather standard jQuery UI slider element (I’ll admit this was the first time in a very long time that I used jQuery UI…I almost didn’t believe it was still actively used!). This slider UI begins at 1 and has a max value equal to the total reading time of the post.
Side note: Total reading time as I mentioned previously is easy enough to figure out using an average words-per-minute read time. Nothing super special in here honestly. It’s a basic equation.
It’s really that easy. 3 simple steps and you have a “surprise and delight” experience for your readers. But since I’m all about the value of time and the essence of simplicity and convenience I wrote a plugin to perform all this work and all my job consists of is merely selecting the appropriate spans from the toolbar, the plug-in does everything else.
And finally, let’s open source everything.
Of course I plan to open source this plugin so everyone can see the code and have a go at it…and hopefully make it better! Before I do there are a few things I’m still improving before I want to share it, basically cleaning up the code and implementing something I added just yesterday (take the page url and add an “anchor” such as #3 to be automatically given the 3 minute version of the post). It won’t be too much longer and I’ll share the code and I’ll be sure to post an update so you can try it for yourself!
Have a great Tuesday and remember, simplicity is key, sometimes the best usability is also the easiest to create. Finally, remember sometimes what looks like a magical user experience only takes a few lines of code and a little bit of extra thought.
July 2, 2018
Changes to Mautic’s Leadership
Recently the Mautic community shared an incredibly important blog post on their site. I’d recommend you read the full post for yourself but I will give you the summarized version here to make it easier for you. Here’s the lowdown: Mautic community has grown super fast in the past 2 years. When the organization and leadership team were initially formed there wasn’t much of a community (as you would expect). This meant an inordinate amount of work was done by a few people. Again, this isn’t a problem, it’s how everything starts in the beginning.
Mautic began with only a handful of dedicated individuals, most working together during the day and also contributing to Mautic’s open source platform every chance they had. Today, the Mautic community has grown significantly since those early days but the leadership hasn’t necessarily changed at the same pace to reflect the same rapidity of growth.
The most recent blog post shared in the Mautic community was a call for leadership volunteers. There was a call for a series of changes to be made to the teams, organization, and release processes. All of these changes need to be made so the Mautic community might be better represented in the leadership team.
The reason for this change
You may be wondering why this change matters. What makes this governance model so important and why should you care. If it’s not immediately evident the true purpose of the Mautic leadership teams is to distribute power to as many strong, capable, community volunteers as possible. Mautic believes the best decisions can be made for the largest group of people when the leadership represents those diverse people and their interests. When one company is more represented than another company the open source community and it’s direction may be suspected of defining a path forward skewed too heavily towards one particular viewpoint.
The Mautic community rightly recognized this situation and have decided now is the appropriate time to make changes to the leadership to better represent our strong and growing community of volunteers. Personally I find this every exciting. This announcement demonstrates the dedication and commitment of our contributors. We have grown as a community to the point where the vision for our future is shared. I find it exciting because the dreams and ideals I envisioned for Mautic are no longer held alone.
The benefits of open source
And yet even that reason (distributed representation) doesn’t necessarily take into full account the underlying motivation for changing leadership structures and empowering volunteers. The underlying premise which sets the foundation, or belief, that distributed representative control is better begins with open source. Open source has long been proclaimed the winner in the software world. Companies of all size and scale now implement open source software at all layers of their infrastructure (software stack).
More than 90% of all software either contains open source components or is comprised completely of open source.
A large number of these companies would also seek to share their software as open source in an attempt to harness the values and benefits of open source communities. But, these corporations hope to see value without accepting the full definition of open source.
I recently read an amazing article about the Magento community and how they changed their open source approach to increase community contributions. As I read the post I discovered many similarities to Mautic’s own journey (As I expected I would; my friendships within the leadership circle of Magento kept me fairly well-informed as things unfolded over the years.). Here’s the intro snippet to the article, which I believe summarizes the previous paragraph:
The theory of open source is community-driven development…Most open source projects actually attract very little community. As much as a project like Linux or Kubernetes attracts deep developer involvement, most open source projects toil away in obscurity, the labor of love of a single developer. For commercial open source projects that do see significant contributions, like MongoDB or Red Hat’s JBoss, virtually all of those contributions come from developers on a single company’s payroll – Source
This lack of distributed decision-making, and missing community contribution at the leadership level causes many of these smaller open source communities to not achieve the stratospheric success otherwise possible. (Interested in what I mean by this definition of success? I lean heavily on the influences of Jim Collins, shared in books such as Built to Last.)
I believe the only true and right way to build a proper open source community is with a strong, shared vision held passionately by a diverse, equality-driven tribe of leaders. There’s wisdom in a multitude of counselors as the timeless proverb states.
Mautic understands the value of open source
Thankfully, Mautic is not like many other open source projects. We are building a community with this focus and concept in mind. We have set lofty goals and laid a framework to help us achieve them. This improvement to the leadership process is the next step in our journey to success. We believe we are building something to last. We believe as another old proverb states:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Mautic has always had the right motivation and goal as a community. Our leadership even in the early days recognized that we needed to go fast to establish ourselves and to demonstrate to the world there was something truly unique, truly special in Mautic. And now we have reached our first of many milestones, we shift to going the distance. Mautic is intent on going far. And we are going far together.
This new leadership and organizational structure proves this point perfectly. If you haven’t yet taken the time to read the post, or haven’t considered the role you might consider playing in Mautic’s future I would urge you to take a moment and contemplate the possibilities. Your unique skills, special talent, and incredible gifts when shared in community allow you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Find that sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment by seizing the opportunity to become an influential part of something changing our world today.
July 2, 2018
Episode 12: Honesty
July 1, 2018
Three Lessons from a Sales Rep
Recently I was talking to a sales rep and as we strolled along I did what I normally do and I made small talk. Usually this means I just ask a bunch of questions because I love hearing people talk. It’s an amazing feeling when that moment occurs in a conversation when the slightly-distancing wall of formality falls and you break through to the actual person.
If there’s one thing I’ve been working hard to learn more it’s this idea of active listening. My definition of active listening is simple: Active listening is hearing plus thinking. That thinking part seems to be fairly consistent in my writing and speaking! Anyway, listening to her talk I began to learn. I learned what she liked and what she didn’t like in her job. I began to realize I had a firsthand opportunity to experience the pain of being a sales rep. Of course, this led to me asking some questions about what tools she used in her job. (Again, I’m doing the listening so she’s happily unaware of what I spend 21 of every 24 hours a day doing!) Here are 3 things I learned from my 30 minute conversation with a sales rep.
Sales requires lots of data entry
Okay, now I am going to imagine many of you rolled your eyes when you read that headline, just as I paused my keystroke as I typed the words. This one seems almost too obvious to mention. And yet, this is an important point to consider because of the many implications held in the reality of this phrase. Data entry. Those two words strike fear in the hearts of sales reps (and pretty much everyone else as well…yes, I’m ignoring the data nerds in the room for a minute). Why does the concept of data entry cause us such angst? I’d suggest there are a few reasons for this deep-seated disgust.
- Data entry is unpleasant because it requires thought about the format of the information entered. Our wildly creative brains struggle with clear constraints and stringent requirements. We love free-form entry, we hate forced and perceived unnecessary restrictions.
- Data entry is unpleasant because it takes so much time to complete. The tedious point-and-click from input box to input box leaves our non-linear brains bored and easily distracted.
- Data entry is unpleasant because many current systems are redundant, complicated, or in some cases completely and totally broken!
When this process takes an unnecessarily long time or when there is a feeling that the purpose is unclear or the tool incomplete there is a greater propensity to underperform the task of data entry. In the end the data suffers, the individual’s success suffers and ultimately the business suffers! Bottom line: Sales must utilize proper data entry!
Sales requires lots of research
As I listened to Kathryn discuss her job details there was a moment of realization which hit her just as much as it did me. At one point we were talking about the information she was gathering to put into her reporting tools and she made the following comment.
“This information is hard to gather and difficult to enter, but the entire business is built on gathering this research. Without my data entry, the company doesn’t know where to build their next product.”
– Kathryn, my sales rep
When she said it out loud I saw the realization spread and she understood at least to a little extent the importance of all that seemingly meaningless data entry. Sales reps do tons of research. Of course, sometimes that research is to help them sell better and sometimes it’s used somewhere else in the business. But every great sales rep understands the importance of doing their homework before a call. They know the more they know the better they can be in building a relationship and hopefully making a sale.
This research also implies another important point. Sales reps spend a disproportionate amount of their time doing research instead of talking to customers and potential customers. In Kathryn’s case the ratio was on the scale of hours to minutes.
Sales requires better tools
Yep, you knew I was ending here. I mean, this is Saelos Sunday after all! As Kathryn and I walked and talked we finally came around to the all-important discussion of software tools. Because I’m a process guy I really got excited at this point. I wanted to hear how she went about her job and more importantly why she did things the way she did them. Several interesting points came out of this particular part of our conversation. I’ve done my best to remember them and write them down for you here:
- Sales reps need software that works. I feel almost stupid for saying that, but the reality is that in many cases the software doesn’t work. Either the software doesn’t work the way it was designed, or far worse, the software doesn’t work the way the sales rep does. This idea of a software tool fitting the business instead of the reverse is surprisingly uncommon. SaaS tools are designed for the masses, but by doing this, the unique aspects of each individual company are lost in a sea of vague generic functions which fit the broadest possible audience…because that is how the SaaS company makes their money!
- Sales reps need software that works well with others. Make no mistake, this is a very different point from the previous point. Working and working well with others are two very distinct features. Software that lives in a silo simply means the sales rep has to do more work themselves and more duplicate work. The practice of duplicate work is the anathema of sales reps the world over. The best software systems are those which interact silently, instantly, and consistently; syncing data across various platforms.
- Sales reps need software that works ahead. This always makes me think back to those times in school when I was really feeling the “groove” and worked ahead in my homework lessons (Don’t give me too much credit, those moments were few and far between!). For software to “work ahead” it needs to be intelligent. Intelligent software follows self-determining processes and pre-defined workflows to move customers and deals successfully through the sales process. Software needs to utilize those computational resources which humans don’t have to do this. By taking advantage of the strengths found in modern technology the best sales reps are able to maximize their time and increase their efficiency.
My important takeaways
I offer this title a bit impishly since I wouldn’t necessarily consider my takeaways to be of utmost importance to you, but in an effort to offer you insight into my thinking and to summarize these lessons I’ll proffer my thoughts for your reflection.
Sales reps are unique and each have different challenges and responsibilities based on their particular job, vertical market, or industry. But in spite of these differences there are some common, shared, requirements which make them able to perform at their peak. Software is involved in almost all of those requirements. Outstanding sales reps need outstanding software. I believe what the open source community forming around Saelos is creating accomplishes lofty goals. We’re intent on solving problems, meeting needs, and fulfilling these requirements. We believe we can do this through cutting-edge sales software.
We seek to make data entry effortless and simple. We organize and return data efficiently and automatically to minimize wasted research time. We write intelligent software which works ahead and takes advantage of modern technology and empowers people to do what they do best…communicate with others.
Interested in the future of Saelos? Want to be a part of this growing community of passionate people? See for yourself why we believe software can save the world.
June 28, 2018
Thursday Thinkers: Norbert Wiener
Often I think we equate certain technologies and certain fields of study with modern times only. We look at what we believe to be the future and begin with the premise the concept is under active theoretical development and never existed prior to this current moment in history.
Often, I think we could be proven wrong.This week’s Thursday Thinker is yet another example of someone who saw relationships, connections and correlations long before others of his time.
One such topic seems to grow only more popular with each passing day. Artificial intelligence and the concept of machine learning has sky-rocketed into public view in recent years with a glut of startups focused on this area.In my personal opinion I believe we saw a bit of the peak in last year or two. During this time some jokingly suggested you merely needed to include this catch-phrase in your “pitch” to secure venture capitalist funding.
But the reality of the history of artificial intelligence is far more interesting. You see, long before the startups of today were proclaiming the superiority of machine learning and artificial intelligence, (yes, those are two very different yet slightly related topics) individuals like Norbert Wiener were theorizing on what artificial intelligence meant and how it would revolutionize computing.
Norbert Wiener (1894-1964)
As with many other great minds and as I would proudly like to point out, Norbert spent a significant amount of his most profitable years in the Boston, MA area. He was a brilliant individual who graduated from Tufts College with a BA in mathematics at the age of 14. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard only three years later for a dissertation on mathematical logic.(In case you’re curious, as I was, in this paper he was the first to publicly state that ordered pairs can be defined in terms of elementary set theory).
I think it would be safe to say Norbert meets the criteria to be considered of above-average intelligence (tongue-in-cheek, he truly is labeled as child prodigy). He continued his studies across Europe spending time at Cambridge University, and the University of Göttingen. Eventually he returned to Boston where he lectured on philosophy at Harvard, became an engineer for General Electric, and wrote for multiple publications including the Boston Herald, and Encyclopedia Americana. It might be easy in moments of biographical review to ignore the global cultural climate and affairs, but this would neglect to properly emphasize the true impact and significance of Norbert’s life. World War I pulled him away from academic life and thrust him into a military mindset. This affected him greatly and weighed heavily on his emotions. He felt his intellect was neglected and his abilities in the theoretical largely ignored (if not retarded by these altercations).
After the war Norbert returned to Massachusetts where he secured a position at MIT and continued his teaching tenure. But this would also be short-lived as World War II would once again cause a halt in his career.
But not one to allow his situation to completely stop his progress, Norbert used his time in WWII to work on automatic aiming and firing of anti-aircraft guns and eventually leading him to invent the Wiener filter. (I’ll spare you the math, save to say this theory is still in active use today across a wide variety of applications related to information modeling.) Continuing his work in the field of information theory resulted in his formulation and creation of cybernetics.
Simply to sum a few of his more notable accomplishments, Norbert is known for being an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes (as highlighted above), electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.
Perhaps one of his greatest theoretical works (again, in this case I refer to a part of his career which was not fully realized within his time) was his theory and concept regarding artificial intelligence. Norbert made some bold claims in this space and some predictions that have lead to the basis for how we view artificial intelligence today. He was one of the first to suggest that any and all intelligent behaviors were the result of specific feedback mechanisms. These mechanisms could then hold the potential to be simulated by machines.
“The world of the future will be an even more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.” ― Norbert Wiener
He joined forces briefly with a few others in a research team he recruited at MIT to study this theory and to delve into the many aspects of cognitive science. Together, this team made significant contributions to what we now consider the basis for computer science and ultimately artificial intelligence.
Norbert’s contributions to the field of artificial intelligence are simply one aspect of his incredible and powerful process of thought. His humility, willingness to share the spotlight with others, and desire to see a field of study pushed forward without thought for a personal agenda leads me to consider him one of our great historical minds and truly worthy of being named a thinker.
The simple faith in progress is not a conviction belonging to strength, but one belonging to acquiescence and hence to weakness.
― Norbert Wiener
June 27, 2018
Exploring the Progression of Modern Software (Part 1)
I wrote recently about learning from the past and I’ve spoken about it on a podcast a couple of times about the lessons we can learn from looking backwards as we prepare for moving forwards. And as I try to limit my future-thinking in my writing (hence, the What’s Ahead Wednesday series) I think about putting my own comments into practice. What does it look like to examine our past as we set our sights on tomorrow? What can we learn? More importantly what trends can we see which when extrapolated allow us to predict the future.
In this post I want to share with you what I’ve found to be one of the greatest personal revelations on this topic. I was talking about this with a friend the other day and the notion dawned on me mid-sentence. After I finished I went home and I mulled over it for a while. I rolled the idea around and I played with it, massaged it, worked on it. What follows is my first pass at articulating it. Is it complete? Absolutely not? Is it perfect? Far from it. But perhaps the act of writing my ideas down and sharing them will trigger your thoughts. Maybe it will start a conversation. Maybe the future starts right here.
Side note: If the sentiment in that paragraph above appeals to you, then you might love one of my favorite books of all-time. Before you think I’m going to recommend a 600 page tome for your weekend reading assignment, listen closely. The book is called simply, “What do you do with an idea?” I’ve shared this book on my blog in the past, used it as motivation when speaking at conferences, shared it at Mautic more than a few times, and I recommend it to everyone. If you don’t have a copy – buy one. Today. In print.
Examining software’s historical progression
Now, I always hesitate before sharing some of these thoughts because I fully recognize what is about to occur is a gross generalization of the fully history. And I also hesitate knowing the vast knowledge and personal experience many of my reader’s have in this space. Many who have knowledge far beyond my own. To quote another, “I speak as a fool” or at least suppose myself to do so. With that very strong word of caution, here is a rough generalization of a thread of continuity I can see occurring as we explore the historical progression of software development over time.
The Personal Computer Era
Things began on a computer, a single computer. Systems were stabilized, functions formed, and programs proliferated. All within the box of a single machine. Advancements were made to increase the CPU, the RAM, the motherboard, but all the software was created to live and run within the beige box sitting atop a desk in front of the user. This was single location software.
But this environment did have a few benefits as well. In addition to being easy to update (usually a floppy disk with the latest version), the user had full control over their information and their data. Nothing left their computer unintentionally and very little left intentionally. This meant these single-location software systems were private. The user data was stored locally and used locally. This closed data system was by its very nature private.
There’s an additional benefit to single-location software. Usually (of course there are exceptions to the rule) this software is secure. Whether this comes from the environment as a forced, by-product the outcome is the same. Software in this stage was typically considered more secure. Hack attempts existed, but they took different and more complex forms with higher level of effort.
Three Word Summary: Single, Private, Secure
The Server Era
The next step in our software evolution saw the migration from single-location software based on a user-computer, to a many-location software based on a server, or server cluster. I realize we’ve taken a giant step forward, we’ve passed by the smaller step of single-location software in the days of the early internet. This was transitional phase (to use the evolutionary term). And although unlike evolution we still see very clear examples of this transitional phase living today, they are far-and-away the minority. As a result, I suggest this next step in modern software progression is the creation of a many-location software system.
Just as with the original, box, single-location software we started with; here to there are a few benefits and detriments which accompanied this shift. While the highlights are evident (faster processing time due to volume and access of high-end compute power, immediate global accessibility, instant updates, constant availability, etc…) I will focus on two other factors which represent shifts from the previous stage.
In juxtaposition to the single-location computer-based software from the early years, server-based software is at best considered to be semi-private. In most cases you might even argue this software is less than semi-private and inclined more to be semi-public. The user’s data is available to the user, but, owned by the software system. This is a major shift from previous. If the data is no longer the users’ then it is by definition no longer fully private.
Finally, in our current stage we are also seeing these many-location server-based software systems are considerably less secure. One need only look to the headlines within the last month to hear multiple stories of data breaches. As the software systems in this era continue to hoard data they exponentially increase the size of the target for malicious attacks on their software. Even though these companies attempt to provide constant fixes and updates and improved security, the bottom line is evident: This server software is semi-secure.
Three Word Summary: Many, Semi-Private, Semi-Secure
The Decentralized Era
Finally, this allows us now the opportunity to begin to explore the future. Currently we are living in the end of an era. We are watching the archaic SaaS dinosaurs of today’s data-driven economy falter. I would be so bold as to suggest we are on the cusp of an event. I believe we will soon see the software equivalent of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. This is a bold statement, but consider this: if we lived in the age of the dinosaurs, would we have seen it coming? More likely we would have scoffed in the face of such mass extinction! Who could imagine this destruction given the sheer size, considerable strength, and ultimate dominance of such magnificent creatures! (And yet here again, history appears to repeat itself.)
The exact path we take remains to be seen. However, I believe there are two potential paths, but both lead us to the same outcome. First, we may see, as in the age of the computer to the age of the server, a transitional step form to bridge the gap from here to the future. Or we may have some event dramatically shift the landscape overnight. I can’t say for certain which will occur but I’ll share my opinion as I alluded to earlier. I believe given the size, dominance, and control exerted by the existing server-based software companies who are enjoying life as is and don’t see the value of a further evolution (again, this can be identified based on what motivates or drives them – aka, how they make money) the only logical path involves a cataclysmic, seismic shift in the landscape and the economy.
Regardless of the exactitude of the path, I believe the outcome remains consistent. Based on our history as we’ve defined it below we can extrapolate what the idealized future might look like. In this case we’ll start with the three word summary and work backwards.
Three Word Summary: Many, Private, Secure
The next logical progression of modern software takes the best of every past iteration and era of software. This means we should expect to see a many-location software platform, both private and secure. And if that definition doesn’t immediately strike a familiar chord then I’d recommend reading more on the subject of the decentralized web. These are just a few of the core tenants of this software philosophy.
Many-location refers to an expanded and improved upon implementation of the current age of SaaS server-software. This is the natural next step in the following progression: single computer, single server, single-provider cloud, multiple-provider network.
Private refers to the location and storage of the data. This can be done separately and distinctly from the software provider. This point also includes a multitude of encryption possibilities, blockchain stored sovereign identities, and so much more.
Secure refers to the trustworthiness of the software, a decentralized software allows for trusted, verifiable software solutions. Smart contracts and immutable ledgers add an unprecedented layer of security to this decentralized software future.
To be continued…
I did it again, and I apologize. I didn’t mean to go this long and the hardest part is I’m at exactly halfway through the explanation of this theory. I believe there’s a second piece to the puzzle. An equally satisfying piece which fits perfectly into the picture and reinforces the original thesis statement. I hope this has intrigued you and caused you to think about what this future looks like.
What do you disagree with? What do you find compelling? Have I missed anything which might further substantiate this line of thinking? Let me know! I’ll post the next installment soon!
June 26, 2018
Pardon the Math, Polynomial Code Computing
I feel obligated to begin this post with something that I will rarely due. I’m issuing a disclaimer. What you are about to read is intense. But before you get all titillated thinking I’m about to post something scandalous and make you blush – don’t panic. I am not posting anything explicit. Rather, what follows is a deep dive into a topic I only recently learned about but am completely fascinated by. Okay, here’s your disclaimer:
Disclaimer: The post you are about to read contains math. And not your run-of-the-mill, basic, 1+1 arithmetic. We’ll dive in deep into some advanced concepts. Don’t let it scare you. Force your mind to think about the implications and expand your horizons.
The high-level concept
Computers and information systems today process information in a typical somewhat linear fashion. In the early days problems of speed and scale were solved by throwing more hardware at the problem.
This concept always brings to my mind the possibly mythical, certainly embellished, tales from the Google vaults. In the search engine’s time of growth explosion they found it was cheaper to merely add more servers into their data centers in new locations then to take the time to remove and replace the dead ones as they failed.
Regardless the veracity of this seeming tall-tale, the underlying principle holds an element of truth. Everyone knows if your website is running slowly the first thing you do is add more RAM to the server (followed closely by increasing your number of CPU’s). That’s your quick history correlation. Bottom line: Adding more machines was the solution for slow servers and delayed processing.
This is yesterday’s solution applied to today’s problem. This is wrong thinking. There’s a better way, which brings me to the paper I’ve been studying and the research being done around the concept of polynomial coding as it applies to optimal designs in matrix multiplication. And finally, we get to the high level concept:
Rather than taking the historical approach of adding more machines to continue the functional processing of slow or lagging machines and still limiting the solution until all processes across all machines have been resolved, polynomial encoding creates a high-dimensional coded matrix to arrive at the solution in an optimized computational strategy where the minimum possible recovery threshold for the distributed matrix is determined to allow efficient decoding of the final output by the data requestor.
The product code matrix approach
I recognize that last sentence is an abomination to the English language but this is a mathematics-based post and not a grammar dissertation so I humbly ask for your clemency. Let’s take a look at what this solution means in a diagram (you knew it wouldn’t be a math post without a diagram right?)
In this (terribly drawn) example I’ve sketched a 1D maximum distance separable (MDS) code on the left (where we have 3 workers computing the solution) and a single worker failure; and on the right we have a 9 worker matrix based on a √ N by √ N layout with a 4 worker failure (this second example is considered product code).
These matrices lead to the following equation for recovery threshold:
In essence we can see that the product code approach is a significant improvement over the 1D MDS exemplified above. But the question now becomes, is this optimal. Does it naturally follow that an increase in the number of workers improves the optimization of the computation?
The researcher discovers a surprising fact and upon some rather ingenious applied mathematics comes to a very different conclusion. Qian Yu, a PhD student proposed and then wrote a paper sharing his theorem and proof for identifying optimum recovery thresholds.
Identifying optimum recovery thresholds
Through the use of polynomial codes Qian demonstrates the optimum recovery threshold can actually be achieved in as little as mn. Here is the main result from the paper he published:
For a general matrix multiplication task C = ATB using N workers, where each worker can store 1/m fraction of A and 1/n fraction of B, we propose polynomial codes that achieve the optimum recovery threshold.
He then determines polynomial codes only require a decoding complexity almost linear to the input size.
I will save you the work associated with proving this theory and will leave the fundamental mathematics associated with the polynomial matrices for your review of the original paper. The implications from this discovery are vast and far reaching. It would be a terrible understatement to suggest this be only a step-wise improvement in our computational processing abilities. This is an exponential, order-of-magnitude improvement.
The Practical Implications of polynomial coding
I’ll leave you to contemplate this original work on your own and will instead only highlight a few obvious implications from this revelation in our thinking around computational coding. In current technology our processing happens linearly. We scale things linearly. Through the introduction of polynomial code we can achieve optimal design in record time, because the result is not a simple linear scaled tied to N, number of workers.
The practical implications of this development can be seen in those computationally intense fields first (think machine learning, or artificial intelligence). Or consider also the fields where “big data” players have traditionally found strength by “increasing bandwidth” or in more proper terminology, increasing N (number of workers). As Qian has proven the introduction of polynomial code to the distributed matrix multiplication problem revolutionizes these industries and many more. I have no doubt these findings will have ripple effects though every aspect of the internet as we know it today.
I recognize the depth this post extends beyond what many will find time to review, but should you be interested, here’s the research paper addressing the topic. I encourage you to expand your mind and push your thinking to explore new concepts and move your horizons!
June 25, 2018
Making Marketing Automation Productive
I can’t help but look forward constantly to the future of MarTech and what the world will look like. At times I have an incredibly clear vision of what needs to happen and what our ever-expanding abilities with technology will allow us to do. At times I am faulted for ignoring the past and not living in the present quite enough. With abashed hesitation I must accept the slight truth in the statement. I have a deep desire to see Mautic lead the way into the exciting new opportunities which lay just beyond the MarTech landscape today. I believe our open source community and product is capable of reaching points other software platforms simply cannot attain.
But it would be ignorant of me and reckless if I never stopped to remember the goals, consider the past, or explore the present situation of marketing automation as I prepare for the future. I hope you’ll join me through the following short paragraphs as I take a moment to reflect on these three areas (and then of course dive back into a quick chat about what’s coming next!).
Marketing automation’s goal
In any retrospective subject of thought it’s helpful to start by gaining perspective. This perspective typically comes in the from of reviewing the motivation and goals behind a particular course of action or in the case of a product, the problem it attempts to solve. Marketing automation is a solution to a problem (or rather, it is supposed to be). The problem which marketing automation intends to solve is the overabundance and proliferation of personal relationships maintained across a constantly growing set of social media and digital communication channels.
The goal for marketing automation software was simple. Make the marketer’s life easier by automating the communication and day-to-day relationship nurturing which had quickly become an unwieldy,, impossible mountain of tasks. Marketing automation sought to alleviate this stress without losing the personal touch of a handcrafted email delivered at just the right moment.
There’s a couple key ideas in that last sentence. Marketing automation was meant to automate sending a multitude of messages to a growing number of potential customers. But this wasn’t the only focus, the idea existed that these messages should still be personal and feel unique to each potential customer.
Now, that goal has shifted a bit as the technology and society has changed, but we’ll return to that notion a bit later.
Marketing automation’s past
The first marketing automation tools were weak and unimpressive, but that’s not to say they didn’t solve a part of the problem. And there’s nothing wrong with this approach. As is often the case software evolves over time. Companies intent on ‘scratching their own itch’ built tools to be used internally and then discovered others might also benefit from these same tools. So they began to sell them. They created a product to meet a perceived need. And they did so hoping to realize the goals we shared in the beginning.
Practically speaking this mean we saw marketing automation tools which handled processing a lot of contacts and sending them email messages. The “fancy” tools went a step further and allowed these messages to be customized with mail-merge type of functionality. The final piece of this marketing automation past occurred when these tools allowed those messages to be delayed and sent at dates in the future. Now we’ve got the concept of automation. Of course today we would scoff at this idea of marketing automation but at the time this was revolutionary.
Marketing automation’s present
As time passed the companies built to help the lives of marketers slowly grew the concepts and ideas of marketing automation into a superior vision. Today, marketing automation could be better defined as follows:
Marketing automation automates the sending a multitude of messages across a wide number of unique channels to a growing database of potential customers all while making each message personalized and relevant based on the comprehensive digital online profile of each individual.
Marketing automation has come a long way! It’s exciting to look around and see what marketers are able to do now as a result of the current marketing automation tools. Well, maybe I should set the context on that phrase a bit more precisely. Marketers are able to do some incredible things now. Tools, like Mautic, give the ability to send relevant messages based on an individual’s digital footprint very specifically and effectively. Unfortunately, the vast majority of marketers have not yet taken full advantage of these features.
Practically speaking this means much of marketing automation has not evolved beyond mass email sending. Many still use these marketing automation tools just as they did in the past and have not grown at the same rate as the software. This tends to suggest the marketers need either more training and education, or the tools should adapt to be easier to use and understand. Either way, the marketing automation implementations of today are not living up to the potential of the software tools available.
Marketing automation’s future
This realization of the current usages of marketing automation tend to overshadow and intimidate our ability to look ahead at the future of the product and the technology. Recognizing the hurdles we still have to overcome to use today’s software effectively limits our ability to chase the future from a technology standpoint. We need to double-down on understanding, learning, and improving our use of marketing automation as marketers. Only once we are using today’s technology to its fullest are we free to explore what comes next.
But (you knew there was going to be something else, right?) this does not mean we should limit our thinking about the future. We cannot ignore the future and the advancements in technology occurring all around us. Mautic is devoted to seeing and creating the future of MarTech. We are the future of MarTech. My point is merely that we have an obligation to our community and marketers everywhere to do this in the right way. As I share my thoughts about where marketing automation is going and what we are creating in order to lead the way we must continue to educate and help marketers do marketing automation better.
I am extremely excited to share something later this week which demonstrates this belief in continuing the advancement of marketing automation today. Mautic is continuing to bring people together around the world and improve the lives of marketers everywhere. Stay tuned if you want to learn more!
June 22, 2018
Reading For Success: The Value of Time
Most of you have been following my blog for years now and you know the topics that are most interesting and important to me. You could probably rattle off a short list of the typical subjects which I tend to gravitate towards and wax eloquent on for yet another 1,000+ word post! One of these cornerstone topics has surfaced yet again this week in the form of our next installment in our Reading For Success series. Every Friday I share with you insights I uncovered from the books I have read over the past week (for better or worse – remember you’re getting what you paid for).
Last week we discussed the importance of recognizing what matters, and the week before that also closely related to the same. As such I am sure you half-expect today’s R4S to follow along the same line. But that’s linear thinking. That type of thinking suggests time is follows a straight line and the past (behind us) informs us about the future (before us). In this case you would be mistaken.
This Week’s Theme: The Value of Time
This week we are digging deep into a personal favorite topic of mine: the study of time; or maybe to phrase it differently the value of time. As I shared at the beginning, this is a topic which resides near and dear to my heart and you’ll find me frequently sharing thoughts and opinions on the subject. As my list of shelved books waiting to be read have deemed it to be so, this week I focus on the value of time and the many implications time has upon our lives. Hold on to your seats, we go pretty deep this week.
When Einstein Walked with Gödel
This book, When Einstein Walked with Gödel, written by Jim Holt gives away the depth about to be encountered merely by reading the subtitle; Excursions to the edge of thought. As such I admit this book has been calling my name for a while but due to the many business and personal development books I’ve been reading I have not allowed myself the indulgence.
Soaking into something so comfortable and familiar as a look into the essays of Albert Einstein is a treat; and requires less effort than other books I have recently undertaken. This week however as I was determining the topic and books available I simply could not withstand the draw any longer. My deep love for thinking and the value found in pondering the deeper concepts of mathematics, physics, and our universe should come as no shock given my education and personal interests and this book was a mental delicacy in which I found numerous morsels of intellectual delight. Here’s the highest and easiest summarization I can muster:
In this book Jim focuses on a number of deep-thought essays published by Einstein, Gödel, Mandelbrot, Turing, Dawkins, and many many more. Given the diffuse knowledge of the authors the subjects also span time, space, relativity, the cosmos, even dipping into philosophy.
This book is not for the faint-of-heart, however, the concepts are explained well and shared with enough humor and secondary detail to make the reading enjoyable for even the slightly-less technically entertained reader (a.k.a. ‘non-nerd’). I was reminded of some of the lectures I had soaked in early in my career and was able to renew my deep fascination and appreciation for earlier thinkers. Not to mention, the physics and mathematical computations involved in the study of time are endlessly enthralling.
The Order of Time
I cannot say for certain if Amazon was the instigator behind the second book this week, The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli. However, I imagine you may find this as a recommended purchase should you explore the first title we just finished. I suspect this power of suggestion influenced my library accordingly and I’ll begrudgingly thank Amazon later for their algorithm prowess later.
If you follow along reading as I do then I think it only fair to warn you the depth uncovered in the first book mentioned previously is only exacerbated in this novel. In fact, I would recommend not attempting an immediate journey directly into this book, but rather break things up a bit with the third book we shall review in a few paragraphs. After this brief interlude return then to this book and fortify your mind for the journey beyond.
I have not read many books that stretch my analytical and scientific thinking to the extent this book did. Carlo does a masterful job using colorful imagery and practical application to convey incredibly difficult thoughts in an attempt to simply a topic as complex as any studied by humans in all of history. The concept of time. Carlo divides his book into three sections: The Crumbling of Time, The World Without Time, and The Sources of Time. The author begins by an exploration of what modern physics understands about time and how our understanding has evolved, followed by a reflective look at the implications of these findings on our world today, before closing with how we take this new understanding of the ambiguity of the concept of time and yet still contrive meaning from our surroundings and differentiate our past from our future.
I fear I will be unable to summarize this book adequately so perhaps I’ll share only one compacted thought in a feeble attempt to whet your mental appetite.
What is happening “now” in a distant place? Imagine, for example, that your sister has gone to Proxima b, the recently discovered planet that orbits a star at approximately four light-years’ distance from us. What is your sister doing now on Proxima b? The only correct answer is that the question makes no sense. It is like asking “What is here , in Beijing?” when we are in Venice. It makes no sense because if I use the word “here” in Venice, I am referring to a place in Venice, not in Beijing.
If you ask what your sister, who is in the room with you, is doing now , the answer is usually an easy one: you look at her and you can tell. If she’s far away, you phone her and ask what she’s doing. But take care: if you look at your sister, you are receiving light that travels from her to your eyes. The light takes time to reach you, let’s say a few nanoseconds—a tiny fraction of a second—therefore, you are not quite seeing what she is doing now but what she was doing a few nanoseconds ago.
If she is in New York and you phone her from Liverpool, her voice takes a few milliseconds to reach you, so the most you can claim to know is what your sister was up to a few milliseconds ago. Not a significant difference, perhaps.
If your sister is on Proxima b, however, light takes four years to reach you from there. Hence, if you look at her through a telescope, or receive a radio communication from her, you know what she was doing four years ago rather than what she is doing now….There is no special moment on Proxima b that corresponds to what constitutes the present here and now.
Our “present” does not extend throughout the universe. It is like a bubble around us….How far does this bubble extend? It depends on the precision with which we determine time. If by nanoseconds, the present is defined only over a few meters; if by milliseconds, it is defined over thousands of kilometers. As humans, we distinguish tenths of a second only with great difficulty; we can easily consider our entire planet to be like a single bubble where we can speak of the present as if it were an instant shared by us all. This is as far as we can go.
I apologize for the length of that excerpt, however the implications and revelations found in even this simplified extraction from the greater work is deep and impactful. As Carlo states, “...it is the most astounding conclusion arrived at in the whole of contemporary physics.”
I must restrain myself from continuing on with this particular book, the theory and concepts proposed are eye-opening and world-altering. If you had to read only one book from this week’s selection – make it this one.
Side Note: If you are unable to read this book, you also have the awesome opportunity to listen to one of my favorite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, read this work!
My Morning Routine
As suggested previously in synecdochical fashion, my final book this week should be read non-sequentially as listed and you should interpose My Morning Routine, by Benjamin Spall between the previous. This is an enjoyable easy-read filled with anecdotal advice and real-life notes from dozens of successful individuals.
This compilation of ideas covers all manner of time management, meditation, self-control, personal awareness, mental health, and a host of other topics. I have often found it fascinating to dig into the lives of well-known respected individuals and learn about their particular habits and routines. This book provides the perfect gateway by which to do so. As an interesting aside, I would recommend the real value in studying the lives of others is not to merely copy a routine of a successful person, but rather, the true value of a book such as this lies in the insights into the thinking behind the decisions made for a particular lifestyle or routine.
Your goal should never be to merely attempt to be someone else by copying their habits and life choices. Instead, choose to be yourself, choose to seek out what matters most to you as an individual, what resonates with your personal worldview and then seek to live in such a way as to accentuate and nurture the best version of you possible. I’ve shared this thought before, but it bears repeating: every person is unique, with unique talents and abilities. There is no other you in the world. Don’t attempt to be someone else. Instead, be the best you possible.
Incidentally, although significantly less mentally-intense compared to the previous two books, I felt this title also conveyed an underlying theme around the importance of time. In this case the application is far more practical and far less theoretical. Rather than attempting to understand the nature and meaning of time (or as we now know, the absence of the construct) in this book we focus on how we use our time most effectively. What routines and habits allow us to capitalize on our strengths and maximize our personal talents in the most efficient way possible. In this sense this book also deals with an important topic related to the subject of time.
I apologize for the length of this post as it extends beyond the typical, however, summarized book reviews are quite difficult to provide and still capture the full beauty and power found in the eloquence of the authors. In some cases they required upwards of 800 pages to accomplish their point. Regardless, I do hope you enjoyed this post and consider expanding your thinking on the meaning of time. I would suggest any of these three books are well-worth your time. As Carlo suggests, there really isn’t any such thing as time.
June 22, 2018
Episode 11: Passion
June 21, 2018
Episode 10: Learning
June 21, 2018
Thursday Thinkers: Radia Perlman
As we continue with our special Thursday Thinkers series I am pleased to bring a fresh name to your attention. This week is personally exciting for me to share with you for a variety of reasons.
Frequently when we look back on technologists from the past it’s quite easy to think of this field as a man’s domain where anyone of any stature or of any repute was by default of the male gender. This irks me on so many levels both personally as well as professionally and I have made it a point of mine throughout my career to emphasize the equality of the sexes. I am always excited when I stumble upon a new individual whose technical prowess was previously unknown to me, but I am doubly intrigued when I discover a prominent female demonstrating not only adequation but superiority in the realm of the highly technical.
Today’s Thursday Thinker is no rare exception but rather an effulgent example of this distinguished honor. Radia Perlman, in spite of her personal affront to the attribution, has been labeled by some as the “mother of the internet.” (Though if you were to ask her about this she will adamantly deny this label with no shortage of revulsion.)
Radia Perlman (1951- )
Radia grew up as the daughter of two engineers. She excelled in school in both mathematics and science and found neither to be especially challenging. She was first introduced to computers during her high-school years when she took her first programming class. Upon graduation she studied at MIT and continued her exploration into computer programming through the LOGO Lab (this is the modern day MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory). Now, with the backstory somewhat behind us let’s dig into some of the amazing things she’s accomplished.
One of her projects consisted of developing a programming language so easy a “baby could do it” – quite literally, a 3 year old could program in this language fondly named TORTIS (Toddler’s Own Recursive Turtle Interpreter System).
This lead to one of the earliest notable achievements of Radia as she has since been described as a pioneer of teaching young children computer programming.
After undergraduate school she continued on in her studies, focusing her attentions on the field of network protocol design culminating in a doctoral thesis entitled, Network layer protocols with Byzantine robustness. In case you weren’t yet convinced, Radia is a thinker.
Spanning Tree Protocol
If there was one concept in particular which attributes most to propelling Radia into the stratosphere of technological thinkers and cementing her authority in the analogs of internet history the Spanning Tree Protocol is without a doubt the item you will inevitably stumble upon.
Here is my best attempt at making this advanced concept something which fits the constrains of my post today while still conveying the gist of the work performed.
I’ll begin with a diagram which I can only assume convolutes the situation far more than clarifying it. But we need a visual representation to start. We need to understand the depth of knowledge she possesses and the skill with which she navigated these complex situations.
After her initial studies in network protocols and how information is transferred on the internet she identified a scaling problem. If one network node began to transmit bad packets (pushing bad data into the network) there was a very real likelihood for the entire network to be taken down irrevocably. Her work allowed for the network to be repaired after the node was removed. But she didn’t stop with this advancement. Next, Radia tackled the problem of a self-healing or self-stabilizing network which would be able to continue to operate correctly in spite of a bad network node still in existence on the network. Her work in this regard made it possible for the modern internet to scale.
As you can imagine the internet “network” contains an almost innumerable nodes with an almost equally innumerable amount of “bad actors” or failing network nodes sending out false information. Radia built a protocol or system to allow the entire network to continue successfully without failure in this incredibly complex and ever-expanding environment.
Radia’s Outlook on Technology
But we can’t merely look at past technical accomplishments when discussing our Thursday Thinkers. We must also explore how these individuals think differently about the internet and technology.
Recently Radia was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. Her speech at this event was a chance for her to share her views and beliefs on the internet and technology. I would encourage you to watch the video (it is not incredibly long). Some of the key points Radia highlights are particularly interesting. She believes all networks should be self-organizing, and that configurations shouldn’t be able to be misconfigured. She believes things should be incredibly easy to use. The internet has to be absolutely robust and completely fault-proof.
She also speaks to the freedom of information and the many pitfalls and dangers which can stem even from something as seemingly innocuous as free information. Finally, she speaks to the challenge of the many diverse cultures of our world cooperating together in the internet. This amazingly difficult challenge exists and yet the internet works astonishingly well.
I hope you will take the time to do a little more reading into the many incredible areas where Radia has spent her life and her energy. With more than 100 assigned patents, studies in the areas of public key infrastructure, data expiration, distributed algorithms, and resilient networks the list of topics to explore is extensive.
I personally found her insights in the areas of data expiration and public key infrastructure to be particularly interesting given the ongoing discussion and my own personal dedication to the Web 3.0.
We would not be where we are today without the incredible thought and determination from people like Radia to envision the future and then create it and I trust you find this as inspiring as I have!
Oh, and lest you forget Radia’s love for children and her desire to make things whimsical, entertaining and education I will leave you with a poem she wrote and included in her Spanning Tree Protocol:
I think that I shall never see
A graph more lovely than a tree.
A tree whose crucial property
Is loop-free connectivity.
A tree which must be sure to span
So packets can reach every LAN.
First the root must be selected.
By ID it is elected.
Least cost paths from root are traced.
In the tree these paths are placed.
A mesh is made by folks like me
Then bridges find a spanning tree.
– Source: An Algorithm for Distributed Computation of a Spanning Tree in an Extended LAN
June 20, 2018
Machine Learning, Human Ignorance
An interesting juxtaposition seems to be forming in our culture and society today. The news is overwhelmed with announcement after announcement about the next great thing that has happened in the world of artificial intelligence. The milestones are being reached in record fashion and the changes are mind-blowing. Meanwhile, we also hear about the growing struggles between individuals, political unrest, and cultural strifes. As a society our attention has shifted inwards on ourselves more than ever before. We focus on the next dopamine drop, endorphin elevation, and adrenaline accelerant. We’ve lost the will and the power to think.
This frightful decline of human intelligence and the obsolescence of thought in an age of rapidly evolving artificial intelligence and the advancements in machine learning invokes thoughtful introspection on our culture.
What should we take away from this precarious situation and what lessons should we learn?
Machines will continue to get smarter, faster
If there’s one fact that’s certain, it is that machines are getting smarter and they are getting smarter faster. One needs only look at the advancements made by some of the world’s largest companies and the announcements made in their artificial intelligence endeavors to see the reality of this. One of the greatest examples which I love to share is in regards to the Google Alpha Go team. Here’s a snippet from a recent press release they shared:
Over the course of millions of AlphaGo vs AlphaGo games, the system progressively learned the game of Go from scratch, accumulating thousands of years of human knowledge during a period of just a few days. AlphaGo Zero also discovered new knowledge, developing unconventional strategies and creative new moves that echoed and surpassed the novel techniques it played in the games against Lee Sedol and Ke Jie.
– Source: Deep Mind (emphasis my own)
But this is only the beginning. In a matter of days this system learned more than all of human knowledge. And it continued to learn; the system created new moves that humans had never played before. While some look at this as just a game, it represents something much greater. The underlying premise that machines can and will learn faster than humans is sustained.
Humans need to consider our unique abilities
Usually a statement like the previous brings fear and panic within people and the result is an irrational attempt to then limit our technological advances. Rather than taking a rational approach we instead focus on how to impede our own progress. We focus not on our strengths but instead on how to retard the strength of our systems. In any other environment we would look at this purposeful slowing of progress as luddite or backwards-thinking.
I suggest we should instead focus on our unique abilities. What are those things we are quite far from imbuing into machines? Feeling, emotion, passion, empathy, or perhaps of even more importance: the ability to determine causality.
Causal reasoning is easy for you because you are human, and you were once a three-year-old, and you had a marvelous three-year-old brain that understood causation better than any animal or computer. … we have to teach the computer how to selectively break the rules of logic. Computers are not good at breaking rules, a skill at which children excel.
– Source: The Book of Why (emphasis my own)
I could elaborate on this point…but as you can tell from my source, I don’t want to steal my thunder for my Friday post! Just know this book is awesome and I’ll share more with you at the end of the week.
Our focus should be on collaborative benefits
I’ve written about this previously, and I expect this will be a frequent topic in the coming months as it’s on the absolute forefront of my mind. This is the future we need to be focused on. This concept of collaborative benefits. How do we improve the future of humanity through an embedded intelligent relationship with computers and artificial intelligence? We are better when we focus on our combined strengths and how we collaborate and share strengths. When we place our human qualities in parallel with the computational powers of computers we can achieve phenomenal results. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite posts on this topic:
Creating computers that can think will be our greatest invention yet—they’ll allow us to outsource our most important and high-impact work. Thinking is what built everything we have, so just imagine the power that will come from building ourselves a super-intelligent thinking extension. And extensions of the people by definition belong to the people—they’re of the people.
– Source: Wait But Why: NeuraLink (emphasis my own)
Again, I have written about this before and will be writing on it in greater depth in the future so I’ll spare you the diatribe here. The key takeaway is simple: a future of combined human and computer intelligence empowers the human race to achieve unparalleled success and significant advancements as a civilization.
Be brave, be smart, be thoughtful
In conclusion I would leave you with a simple three step directive. Rather than being afraid of the unknown and hiding from the future or denying our species the excitement of what could be, revel in the possibilities, explore the future with an intelligent and thoughtful approach. When we do this we will achieve great things. We set a course for the future that advances our world and creates an ever-expanding universe for generations to come.
June 20, 2018
Episode 9: Regrets
June 20, 2018
It’s easy to think that sometimes we just have to let out our thoughts and everything will be okay. It’s also easy to think that there’s no harm in ranting. Don’t be fooled. The words you say are important, they can affect people. Even if you simply need to vent some frustration, find a safe place (or a safe person) with whom you can do this. If you just start unloading on whomever is close by you risk damaging a relationship, or at the very least, their opinion of you. Don’t foolishly share your spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff heated feelings. Even when ranting, think before you speak.
June 19, 2018
Episode 8: Improving
June 19, 2018
“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
June 18, 2018
How to be unique in your marketing
In today’s marketing world you’re often told that you should be unique in your branding and in your corporate identity. You’re told your company must be different in order to be successful. You must be unique and special and focused on a niche market previously untapped. And without fail this never ceases to brings to mind a rather paradoxical quote I’ve heard which says:
“You’re unique- just like everyone else.”
I laugh every time I hear the quote because indeed it holds a level of truth. In your branding you do want to be unique, and so does everyone else, including your competitors.
How to Be Unique
The reasons you want to be unique are numerous, you want your company to be easily recognized, remembered and repeated by your potential and past customers. Let’s look at several ways you can be unique in your marketing and branding.
Your Logo Is Important
First you should be unique in your logo. Sure, now days you can go and pick out a logo for a couple bucks and have a brand. But this logo that you picked up at some discount website is not a unique brand symbol. It doesn’t represent what and who you are as a company. Your logo is much more than just a symbol or cute graphic. Your logo is a fantastic visual representation of not only what you are as a company but more importantly, who you are. You want your logo to be unique and memorable, and you want your logo to be timeless. I’m sure we can all think of other logos which have withstood the test of time and still today stand as representations of the company for which they were created. Of course over time things will change and refinements may be made, but some of the most classic logos have stayed relatively the same through generations.
That last one, Nike, is timeless. We can see even over decades these brands have altered very little about their logo (except for the early days for McDonalds). These logos are both classic and contemporary.
Designing your logo can be difficult because there are so many opportunities to go after the latest trend and what might be currently hot in design and marketing. Your logo should be something you thoughtfully consider and carefully craft.
Your Follow-Through Is Important
Secondly, you can be unique in the services and support you offer to your existing customers. Sure, it’s rather easy to be outgoing and friendly to the potential customers because you want their business. But once they are a customer, that’s when you have the opportunity to be unique. Treat them with respect. Be personable. You will stand apart from other companies because of your connection to your customers.
There are some other companies which have made their name and reputation on their customer support. One such company, Rackspace , offers the tagline, “Fanatical Support”. Then they hold themselves accountable by advertising they answer the phone with a real person in under 15 seconds. That is absolutely unique and memorable.
Your Marketing Is Important
You can be unique in your marketing. Marketing is your opportunity to express who you are as a company. It’s your chance to show the world the culture and the community associated with your company. Your marketing should reflect your values and your abilities and provide a unique insight into your company. Your marketing takes time, thought, and practice. Yes, your marketing takes practice. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can speed up this process by learning from others. Determine what resonates with your target market, but more importantly be true to your company and your vision. If there’s a disconnect between the two then there’s an opportunity to evaluate if you have correctly identified your ideal customer. Your marketing is not something to take lightly and certainly not something you ignore.
Your Reputation Is Important
The last area I want to look at today is your reputation. Your reputation is what others think of you. There’s a number of great quotes on reputation but I remember one by Abraham Lincoln which I particularly like.
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Reputation reflects on your character and your reputation is unique to your company just as your character is a unique trait of your business. Unfortunately there are some who would ruin their reputation in an attempt to grow their market share, discourage competition, or otherwise just attempt to ‘get-ahead’ in business. And as the quote says:
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
– Benjamin Franklin
You may be aware of the recent news story regarding Uber and their somewhat questionable recruiting practices and other aggressive efforts to kill their competition, Lyft. That story is a very real, very recent example of this exact principle. I have always admired Uber, they had the “cool factor” in my book and I would share their services with others whether they were interested or not. After this latest revelation I hesitate a bit before being willing to advertise for them. A single marketing campaign can ruin a reputation. And ruin a company. Be sure your reputation is important and a great way for you to be unique.
You can be unique in your business. The world is waiting to see what you offer … and what makes you different. Don’t be afraid to show them.
June 18, 2018
Episode 7: Motivation
June 18, 2018
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
June 17, 2018
Episode 6: Self-aware
June 16, 2018
Episode 5: Listening
June 15, 2018
Reading For Success: Recognizing What Matters
We made it back to Friday! Congratulations for all you accomplished over the last 5 days. (7 days if you’re a weekend warrior.) We have all experienced things this last week that have shaped us and made us more unique. We’ve learned things, we’ve probably failed at things, and we’ve hopefully grown and improved in our growth as individuals. Quick question, can you identify anything specific you learned? Can you identify any particular moments that jump out at you as memorable? Lastly, have you found any way to grow as a result of the world’s new powers?
(I bet you found the last one to be a bit harder to discern what I mean, but hopefully by the end of this post it will make more sense.) This is the next post in our Reading For Success series which I run every Friday. (You can read last week’s post here, and keep following the trail backwards if you like.) Let’s dig into the posts this week and see what we can learn. What’s the common concept threaded throughout these three books?
Common Concept: There are certain moments which stand out as unique in our lives, they impact our thinking and they cause us to change our minds about something, usually driven by some powerful current in today’s technologically-advanced society.
The Power of Moments
The first book I read this week entitled, The Power of Moments, by Chip & Dan Heath discusses the idea of defining moments, how to recognize them, identify them, and in a business perspective attempt to create them. The authors use some fantastic story-telling to convey their ideas about moments. To begin with here is their definition of a defining moment:
“For the sake of this book, a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.” – The Power Of Moments
Throughout the book we explore the foundational 4 elements identified in a defining moment: Elevation, Insight, Pride, and Connection. Every defining moments consists of one more of these elements. Here’s a very brief synopsis of each:
- Elevation: Defining moments transcend normal events; they are in some form or fashion “extraordinary” in the truest sense of the word.
- Insight: These moments make us “re-think” our situations or see ourselves and the world differently. That “spark” or “aha” moment.
- Pride: Defining moments are those times when we are personally proud of an accomplishment or achievement. When we exhibit our ideal character.
- Connection: Lastly, defining moments are frequently tied to social events or occurrences. They involve others and the relationships we share with them.
These defining moments are not completely serendipitous and with a proper definition and understanding of the recipe and its ingredients it is possible to carefully craft a defining moment. The authors give true stories and real life examples to help enforce each of their points above (both positively and negatively). Overall I found the book to be easy to read and created a defining moment for me (as I assume was the intent).
How to Change Your Mind
The second book for this week was one that I wasn’t immediately drawn to but felt that even faced with the lack of some visceral positive reaction it would be a good “stretch” book for me personally. I’m glad I did. Although perhaps not immediately apparent the core focus of this book will challenge your thinking and encourage you to re-think (or evaluate) your basis for beliefs.
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan doesn’t have the type of title that just immediately grabs you. In fact, it feels a bit like the author has thrown as many buzzwords as possible into the subtitle for the sake of Amazon search optimization. Regardless, after reading this book I found there were several fascinating thoughts I was able to take away.
The author discusses the use of psychedelics, the misnomers and myths spread about its usage and the resulting mistrust in any useful clinical or medicinal benefits (partly held to this incorrect view of the subject).
Through detailed interviews with scientists focused on revisiting the potential values of psychedelics as a form of therapy for a variety of mental illnesses the case is presented to be entirely possible to reset the mind, and change the way we see the world. Most importantly Pollan challenges himself throughout the book to not make assumptions without facts and to use science to properly set a worldview and to formulate an opinion. Lastly, he encourages the reader to be open-minded about the possibilities of changing your mind.
Changes to consciousness and behavior based on the manipulation and transformation of molecules is possible and understanding this relationship dynamic can teach us about our minds and ultimately how we change our thinking.
Takeaway: After several decades of suppression and neglect, psychedelics are having a renaissance. A new generation of scientists, many of them inspired by their own personal experience of the compounds, are testing their potential to heal mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction. Other scientists are using psychedelics in conjunction with new brain-imaging tools to explore the links between brain and mind, hoping to unravel some of the mysteries of consciousness.
– How to Change Your Mind
The third and final book for this week is entitled New Power, How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected world – and How to Make it Work for You. This book was endorsed by some incredible entrepreneurs and society leaders. To be perfectly honest, it was the foreword by Richard Branson which convinced me to read this one.
As always, we should start with a bit of a definition, the authors define “Old Power” and “New Power” as follows:
- Old power works like a currency . It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.
- New power operates differently, like a current . It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.
Throughout the book the authors then proceed to offer example after example of successes and failures related to these two approaches to business as well as community. They don’t advocate entirely for one approach over the other which is a welcome acknowledgement that one-size doesn’t fit all.
Sometimes a picture (or chart) helps to understand and define things so I’ll share two graphics from the book which might lend some aid in forming an understanding of the topics in this book. This matrix-style approach above is carried throughout the book with a variety of axes. Another style of chart employed frequently throughout this book is a comparison graphic as seen below:
Ultimately I found this book to be an easy one to read and a very insightful one as well. I’d recommend this book for everyone in management either in a business or in a community. The insights and takeaways are invaluable in learning how to better empower and organize people around an idea and use the thinking and culture of today to carry a movement.
Bringing it all together
I’m always surprised (I know you’ve heard me say that before) how different books which come from completely different sources tend to find a way of working together to help inform my thinking on a particular topic. This week was no different, from a personal study on an individual leading to a book recommendation by Richard Branson, to the well-timed article on Harvard Business Review, to yet another New York Times Best Seller. Inspiration is all around us.Serendipity is not as happenstance as one might expect, and all it takes is a little thought, a little careful attention to detail, and a little curiosity to explore the world around us with a desire to learn.
June 15, 2018
The paradox of the connected world is that we have more ways to reach people but it’s becoming harder to connect with them.
June 15, 2018
Episode 4: Fear
June 14, 2018
Thursday Thinkers: J.C.R. Licklider
This is the inaugural post for a weekly recurring series I’m starting called Thursday Thinkers. The purpose of this particular series will be to draw out and highlight individuals throughout history that have contributed amazing things to the furthering of our world (usually through math, sciences, technology, but don’t hold me to that.)
In particular I hope to focus on individuals that many might not be familiar with. The hidden or perhaps forgotten thinkers of our past which have impacted our lives in tremendous ways. For those that love history, this should be a wonderful series for you. For those who love “knowing things” (you know who you are) I hope you’ll find these posts filled with useful fodder for your next round of trivia. For everyone else, keep reading, I’m sure you’ll find something you appreciate.
Without any further introduction, let’s jump right into our first Thursday Thinkers individual profile:
J.C.R. Licklider (1915-1990)
The American computer scientist and psychologist was informally known to most as simply “Lick” an affectionate nickname given to him by his colleagues and friends. He also has another nickname which you may hear dropped in conversation by those who are more familiar with his work and his many contributions to modern computing. To these individuals he’s also been called “Computing’s Johnny Appleseed”. This particular moniker is a fair appellation due to the strong and prolific work he did in establishing the basis for information technology.
Lick’s illustrious and comprehensive contributions
Many would consider Lick to be an ‘ideas’ guy. Though he was not directly responsible for contributing to the creation of the internet or furthering its development, his many ideas served as the basis on which much of modern personal computers and the internet were built. He was critically important to the funding and managing of research related to interactive computing and the relationship between humans and computers. The most well-known result of this came by the work of Douglas Engelbart who created the system where the computer mouse was invented.
In addition to this, Lick also played a vital role as the director of ARPA, which most will recognize by it’s more modern name DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. One of his major achievements during this phase was the funding of Project MAC (a mainframe computer sharing resources to up to 30 simultaneous users sitting at different “terminals”)
But his work didn’t stop there, he continued to think about and fund the furtherance of this project as it evolved into ARPAnet, and in 1962 he postulated the earliest ideas of a global computer network. This memo entitled, “Intergalactic Computer Network” described in detail almost every aspect of the internet today, including the theory of cloud computing.
Whew, what a list, and I only picked up a few of the highlights! Clearly the work of JCR has impacted our world in a positive way. But there’s one area that I only briefly mentioned earlier that I would like to return to quickly.
The human-computer relationship
Did you notice the bold sentence in the paragraph above? The concept of the relationship between humans and computers. Today, we are more familiar with this language if we use the more common vernacular, artificial intelligence. That’s right, Lick predicted very early on the incredible importance and role this would play in the future of our world. But he didn’t stop there. In his paper, “Man-Computer Symbiosis” he digs into this concept into much greater depth and if you are so inclined I would definitely recommend reading this fantastic research paper.
Side note: I found this to be the “aha” moment for me while researching and studying Mr. Licklider and his work. It’s easy to be enamored with modern theorists and vocal entrepreneurs (e.g. Elon Musk) who vocalize their thoughts and opinions on the future of artificial intelligence. I believe it is of equal importance to recognize the historical work and prophetic work of these early visionaries.
Lick described the concept of a brain machine interface. Rather than the notion of a disparate robotic intelligence which would compete with humans in the future, Lick focused on the possibilities of a brain machine interface (a hybrid human-ai). This is the same thinking shared by companies such as NeuraLink and others working today in this exciting forefront of artificial intelligence.
I share the views put forth by Licklider (and by extension Musk) when he describes this symbiotic relationship as the next step in our digital frontier. Here is a brief summary:
“Man-computer symbiosis is an expected development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership. The main aims are 1) to let computers facilitate formulative thinking as they now facilitate the solution of formulated problems, and 2) to enable men and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations without inflexible dependence on predetermined programs. In the anticipated symbiotic partnership, men will set the goals, formulate the hypotheses, determine the criteria, and perform the evaluations. Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking. Preliminary analyses indicate that the symbiotic partnership will perform intellectual operations much more effectively than man alone can perform them. Prerequisites for the achievement of the effective, cooperative association include developments in computer time sharing, in memory components, in memory organization, in programming languages, and in input and output equipment.”
– J.C.R. Licklider
Lick’s visionary auguration
The absolutely mind-blowing part of this summary is not Lick’s view or method by which the two systems would collaborate (as astonishing as that might be.). No, the truly spectacular aspect lies in the fact that J.C.R. Licklider made these statements in 1960.
For these reasons I could not think of a better first individual to commence our Thursday Thinkers series. I hope you have enjoyed learning more about this revolutionary individual. Mr. Licklider was clearly a thinker. And we are forever changed as a result.
June 14, 2018
Episode 3: Discernment
The ability to discern which details are most important and how to spend our time (as well as who to trust) is a mark of a true leader.
June 13, 2018
June 13, 2018
June 13, 2018
Apples, Oranges, and Communities
“You’re only focused on the developers.” The comment stung but only for a second. I was deep in conversation with a few Mauticians when this supposed truth bomb was dropped in my lap. But rather than devastating me, or causing me to explode in a defensive nature, I let the comment soak in. I rolled it over in my head and attempted to evaluate the truthiness of the words. Here are the conclusions I came to as a result.
What am I focusing on?
I appreciated this reminder about how vitally important it is to focus on the many different type of community member. In other words, not everyone is a developer. I’ve been working in communities and developing communities for the better part of the last decade. And still, still I struggle with remembering this valuable fact.
I’m an engineer at heart. I love creating beautiful code and I love creating process. I love the ability to create order from chaos. Or create functionality from nothing. In addition to just the code I am hyper-focused on the presentation. I’ve written about the topic of UI/UX frequently on my blog (Most recently I wrote about the concept of UX writing). So, code + design are always the first and foremost on my mind.
I’m sharing things about myself in order for you to have a better understanding of what comes naturally simply by default for me. In this situation these are the things which influence my responses and my “top-of-mind” areas of focus when considering community and community growth. I would suspect you are each similar to me as well, albeit with different focus items.
This is the reason why the comment which turned it into a conversation was so important to me. The statement made me look inward and evaluate how I was doing as a Mautic community leader and how the Mautic community was growing. Were there areas in our community being neglected? Were we as a community overlooking valuable contributors and passionate volunteers simply because they didn’t look like everyone else?
And all of that brings me to my somewhat unusual blog post title. I always hesitate to share common idioms in an effort to not bore you with something I assume you already know. However I’ve found there are usually one or two who appreciate the quick response of something they remember only vaguely.
Why are we talking about fruit?
The phrase I refer to in my title says, “Like comparing apples and oranges.” This classic phrase is usually called upon when someone is attempting to compare two items which are clearly different. The point being that the person making this comparison is neglecting or overlooking the rather obvious fact that at the most basest of levels the two items are simply incomparable.
And of course the final item in the title refers to our communities we live and work in. Comparing community members or making the base assumption that every community member looks the same (aka has the same skills and talents and focus) is just as flawed as fruit comparisons.
How does a community grow?
When we reevaluate our thinking about our community and we look with a fresh focus on the diversity found in skills, talents, and abilities we see something more than differences – we see strengths.
These strengths, these unique qualities, when they are recognized and encouraged, result in community growth. And this little secret is what everyone is seeking in community growth hacking. A community typically forms around a common set of shared values (Seth Godin’s Tribe mentality). When we recognize this foundation then we can turn our focus to our differences.
Reference: Tribes and the reality of the worldview.
Why are differences so important?
The previous paragraph leads me to ask this next question. Do differences actually make us stronger and help us grow faster? Isn’t the opposite view, of a unified approach, better and more productive? The seeming contradiction however ignores the fact of a strong shared foundation of values. There is a basis of unified beliefs and a shared vision (this is the why of the community). The differences are the unique additional qualities of each person. And here’s the reason it matters, wrapped up in a biblical expression:
“If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:17 (CEV)
Simply put, if everyone is the same (an eye) in a community (body) then there are all sorts of things (the act of smelling) which cannot be done. In other words, we lose out on incredible and valuable functionality. This implies therefore the inverse is an increase in functionality. Our differences make us stronger.
Mautic celebrates differences
The conclusion of my short mental journey down this path was a realization of two facts. First, Mautic is an incredibly diverse and unique community. We share a common set of beliefs and goals, but beyond that we each have unique talents and abilities. Mautic as a community embraces those differences. Second, while I was reassured after this mental exercise I was not neglecting any particular subset of our outstanding community, I was thankful for the opportunity to review my actions and motives.
If I could leave you with a word of encouragement as you are in a community (or possibly building a community) – consider your differences. Seek to support, encourage, and empower volunteers by highlighting their strengths. Do this and I guarantee you – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to hack your community growth.
June 12, 2018
My Favorite Netflix Open Source Code
We’re kicking off Tech Tuesday with this post! I will probably post code discussion (I had a second post I wanted to share but is 2 just simply too many for one day?) on these days. I’ll also post some topics that are more studies of other technical projects, or as in today’s example, share a tech resource I find useful, instructive, or otherwise helpful. In this post we’re going to explore one of my favorite brands. Let’s examine Netflix as a brand and a company separate from the ubiquitous service they provide.
For the uninitiated, Netflix has 149 open source projects listed on Github. Clearly they believe in the philosophy of open source. It’s certainly exciting and refreshing whenever large organizations demonstrate their transparency by open sourcing their various tools. In my opinion this is a great example of a “rising tide raising all boats”…or to use another popular analogy “sending the elevator back down”.
Anyway, the difficulty of selecting a favorite project is dramatically increased by the sheer number of projects to choose from. In an attempt to give a fair representation first, I’ll share some general stats based on their existing projects statuses and then I’ll share my personal favorite. (Spoiler: my favorite is different than the general population.)
There’s a number of ways to explore popularity of projects on Github (where Netflix and millions of others store their open source code), but the main ones are forks and stars. I would go further to say their order of relative importance is also as I have listed them here. By this I mean, someone who has forked the code is more likely to be demonstrating an intent to do something with the code, while a starred repository may simply be a bookmark to reference later or merely to “favorite” the open source code. Regardless, I think it’s not a bad idea to look at both of these metrics in regards to Netflix’s repositories (open source projects) and by this get a feel for which projects are considered the most popular by the open source world.
As a bit of background, I did some digging to begin with to ensure I was looking at the best way to gather this data, because I certainly wasn’t going to attempt to build a list of stars and forks from their main repository page by hand…I’m a programmer by heart, so I’m lazy (although others consider this brilliance). As a result of my Google-fu and my somewhat lacking Github website knowledge, I finally came across the pages I link to below which made my job ridiculously easy.
Based on this filtering here are Netflix’s 5 most forked repositories.
- Netflix/Hystrix (2,814): Hystrix is a latency and fault tolerance library designed to isolate points of access to remote systems, services
- Netflix/eureka (1,361): AWS Service registry for resilient mid-tier load balancing and failover.
- Netflix/zuul (1,044): Zuul is a gateway service that provides dynamic routing, monitoring, resiliency, security, and more.
- Netflix/SimianArmy (929): Tools for keeping your cloud operating in top form. Chaos Monkey is a resiliency tool that helps applications tolerate random instance failures.
- Netflix/ribbon (517): Ribbon is a Inter Process Communication (remote procedure calls) library with built in software load balancers. The primary usage model involves REST calls with various serialization scheme support.
Based on this filtering here are Netflix’s 5 most starred repositories.
- Netflix/Hystrix (13,920): Hystrix is a latency and fault tolerance library designed to isolate points of access to remote systems, services
- Netflix/SimianArmy (6,544): Tools for keeping your cloud operating in top form. Chaos Monkey is a resiliency tool that helps applications tolerate random instance failures.
- Netflix/eureka (5,570): AWS Service registry for resilient mid-tier load balancing and failover.
- Netflix/zuul (5,323): Zuul is a gateway service that provides dynamic routing, monitoring, resiliency, security, and more.
As you can see from the above, the two lists are remarkably similar, and yet they aren’t identical. I’ll leave the debate and resulting inferences for these deviation as an exercise for you. Now, I’ll share with you my personal favorite open source project from Netflix.
My all-time favorite has been around a little while and most recently is also bundled in one of the repositories above in addition to being a standalone project.
Netflix/chaosmonkey: Chaos Monkey is a resiliency tool that helps applications tolerate random instance failures.
To understand why this is such an incredibly brilliant repository and something which demonstrates the sheer genius of the Netflix operations team, you should read this article: Netflix Chaos Monkey Upgraded – Netflix TechBlog – Medium. Here’s a highlighted quote from this post:
“We created Chaos Monkey to randomly choose servers in our production environment and turn them off during business hours.”
…I can’t even begin to explain how cool this is from a programmer’s standpoint. (“Cool” after the utterly terrifying part has been resolved and there’s a sense of confidence in the infrastructure and codebase.) Basically, the name comes from the idea of unleashing a wild monkey in the Netflix data centers to randomly rip apart instances and destroy connections — all while Netflix continues serving customers without interruption.
Now, to be fair, the Simian Army repository above is the evolution of this concept, as in this project they have also included the Latency Monkey, Conformity Monkey, Doctor Monkey, Janitor Monkey, Security Monkey, 10-18 Monkey, and finally the upgraded Chaos Gorilla.
If you’re interested you can find a write-up of each of these simians on the Netflix Tech Blog on Medium (one of my all-time favorite Medium blogs to read…voraciously).
Because their desire is to create a resilient, faultless environment and they are willing to subject their production environments, in real-time, under load, to these types of random chaos tests, this is by far my favorite open source project from Netflix. And then they made it open source so everyone can benefit. This improves (or should improve) the code quality and infrastructure of every major company, product, and team working on the internet.
June 12, 2018
Episode 2: Failure
This is the second episode of the daily 4 minute lightning podcast, Forethought, four minutes, 1 key thought to start your day.
June 11, 2018
First Things First: How to Handle Priority Paralysis
I recently spoke about decision paralysis, in the terms of the consumer and the marketers response to this crippling sales detractor. We had some great understandings and takeaways as a result of that post. (Or are least I hope you got something profitable from it!)
Quick Reminder: Implementing marketing automation correctly and segmenting an audience allows marketers to limit the number of choices seen and hopefully prevent the onset of decision paralysis.
While this post is not necessarily about decision paralysis the resulting behavior is remarkably similar. As referenced in the title, this post focuses on priority paralysis. Priority paralysis is actually something which can occur with everyone regardless of their role or position. Let’s look first at what I mean by priority paralysis and then explore what ways we can mitigate the problem or at least the pain associated with the phenomena.
How to identify priority paralysis
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting, staring at your task list and not sure which to tackle first – you’ve experienced priority paralysis. Maybe you’ve snapped out of it relatively quickly and gotten to work. If so congratulations, you’ve found a way to work around the problem. But how many times have you instead swiped up and started browsing social media, or reading the news headlines, or opened your email instead? If you’ve performed any of those actions you’ve fallen into the paralysis trap and you’ve been caught by the distraction dragon.
The distraction dragon (and the other critter you’ll read about later) are inspired by perhaps one of the greatest blog posts I’ve read in the last year. The Procrastination Matrix by Tim Urban takes a very light-hearted and easy-to-read approach to tackling the problem of procrastination. I recommend this post highly to you. And I believe the concepts he has outlined in his post dovetail nicely with this point in our study here. (Interested? If you have a spare 30 minutes go read it and come back. You’ll be better for it, I promise.)
Continuing on with this thinking, it is important to recognize that delayed action is still paralysis. The distraction dragon is there to distract you from the prioritization you should be doing. You think you’re moving (and thus productive) because you’re engaging with the distraction dragon, but you’re not moving any closer on your journey to proper prioritization.
Those who know me or have had the (mis)fortune to work alongside me on something know my deep-rooted desire for speed and handling things quickly. I am not advocating the only way to beat priority paralysis is with immediate action. It’s not the accomplishing of items on the task list alone that counts. Taking time to arrange your priority of items and providing more detail on each one is a huge step towards success.
Three simple steps to beat priority paralysis
I don’t believe these are the only ways to overcome this obstacle but I have found these three things help me greatly as I struggle myself.
1. Be specific and gather details
The first and possibly greatest way to be successful in prioritization involves a full and complete understanding of the list and the details of each item. I can’t stress this point enough. The reason why I think it is so important lies in the fact that I believe it’s so easy to be deceived! I wrote just yesterday in a book review about the value of a number and metrics. But here is the important point: Partial detail is never good enough. What I mean by this is simple: Don’t be fooled into thinking some of the details is enough.
Aside: As a personal example I was speaking internally at Mautic about our practice of prioritizing certain support items. Rather than being specific we talked about introducing a representative labeling system instead of surfacing an exact number. I instantly recognized this as a subtle way to get caught in priority paralysis.
The instant we introduce a layer of abstraction which lacks specifics we add obscurity and prevent our ability to properly prioritize.
The confusion critter is the best friend of the distraction dragon. They complement each other, but to your detriment! These little fiends like to scurry throughout your processes and your thinking and drop little fuzzy blocks. Fuzzy blocks are those areas where the details are missing, you have an idea of the shape of the problem or the item on the task list but you’re not sure what it really looks like. The confusion critters love these because they trip you up and make you focus on them and their best buddy the distraction dragon instead of the priorities.
2. Identify both short and long-term goals
The second way to defeat priority paralysis is to look ahead at the short-term and long-term goals you’re wanting to accomplish. Anytime you are able to raise your eyes up and look at the goals you are aiming for you will have better insight into how to properly organize the tasks immediately in front of you.
The best explanation I have for this comes from Principles by Ray Dalio. In his extremely well-written and popular book he touches on a number of important concepts, but one of them which I find immediately relevant is his ‘Five Step Process’ for success. In case you don’t have the time to read this tome, I’d suggest something even easier (again, takes 30 minutes but you’ll thank me for it). Watch his recent mini series on Youtube. It’s ridiculously good and captivating. Pay particular attention to Episode 3.
Takeaway: Each of us has to choose goals based on our own values and decide on the best path to achieve those goals. We need to identify how we approach them to achieve them when problems stand in our way.
If we get caught stumbling over the fuzzy blocks laid out by the confusion critter or start focusing on the distraction dragon instead of those goals we have taken our mind off finding the best path to achieve our goals. In other words, we neglect the goals and don’t prioritize our tasks based on that viewpoint anymore.
3. Start something on the list
I originally started this point with the more simplistic title: Start something. But then I realized how completely ambiguous that left things and how easily it lent itself to the distraction dragon. The better, and more specific title includes “on the list”. If we don’t start something on the list we are not taking a step down the pathway to success and achieving our goals. We are paralyzed.
Starting something on your prioritization list is an interesting idea because starting something means actually working towards your goals and you’re going to face a serious inner struggle at this point in your journey. You’ll be faced with a choice. A dilemma will appear before you. This is a question quagmire. I call this a quagmire because you’ll be faced with determining which task to start. The ground gets soft at this point. You’re starting to feel the onset of priority paralysis because all of a sudden you’re being forced to pick something. Don’t fear. Don’t sit still and sink into the question quagmire.
But there’s a reason this is the third step in conquering priority paralysis. You can start something on the list at this third point because you have successfully completed the first and second steps above. You are equipped to handle the slow downward pull of indecision. This question quagmire will attempt to grab hold of you by the feet and keep you from moving, pulling you slowly into priority paralysis. But if you know all the specifics, and you have your eye set on the goal you are out to accomplish you can respond to the question quagmire with an answer. This is your definitive first step.
Moving quicker with practice
Once you have successfully fended off your distraction dragon, the confusion critters, and walked confidently across the question quagmire you will start to be free from the paralysis of prioritization. You’ll grow ever more confident in your abilities to take a list of tasks, work through these same steps and properly organize them in a priority which will help you accomplish your goals. And then comes the exciting part: this gets easier each time. You’ll continue to grow and improve. You’ll be faster at avoiding the confusion critters and their fuzzy blocks by starting to identify the important details earlier. Once you know these details the distraction dragon will hold no interest to you because you’ll clearly see he is not obstructing your path to your goals. He won’t be blocking your way to prioritizing what you need to do next.
Each time you wrestle with the challenge of prioritization and successfully take the first and second step, the question quagmire will shrink. You’ll grow more and more confident with which item you should start on first. However, don’t be discouraged if you should choose wrongly, there’s nothing wrong with stumbling; as long as you get up, analyze what happened, and learn from it. Ray speaks to this as well in his book and ultra mini-series. (Have you watched it yet? Do it.)
I hope this helps you overcome the priority paralysis. I certainly learned a lot about myself as I wrote this post and found the points above helpful for me as well. We’re all learning on this journey. Let’s learn together!
June 11, 2018
Episode 1: Netflix
The very first episode of Forethought, a daily 4 minute lightning podcast. Today we take a brief look at Netflix, but not the part of Netflix you're thinking about.
June 10, 2018
Important lesson. Stay creative. Don’t go easy into that dark night of adult-life-blindness.
June 10, 2018
Saelos Sunday: Take Notice!
As I hope you have come to expect, Sunday is our day to explore what new and exciting things are happening with Saelos, the open source CRM. Last week we looked at download counts and stability statistics as we get closer to a stable release candidate. This week rather than exploring some of the numbers surrounding Saelos I want to talk to you a bit about something new from a design perspective and what we’re focusing on for our next release.
If a picture is worth a thousand words…
Then what is a moving picture worth? Take a peek at the graphic below to see the exciting new notifications element in action.
What we’re creating is something classic, something familiar, and something truly groundbreaking. We’re creating three things in one. Not an easy task, and particularly challenging when our desire is minimalist and a clean, simple user experience. Don’t be fooled, there is nothing simple about creating something minimal.
- Classic: Notifications have existed in software systems in some form or fashion since almost the very beginning of their creation. They provide a way for the system to notify the user of important information.
- Familiar: We also recognized that in-app notifications on the web are something most modern systems have by default and we wanted to ensure that we provided these notifications in a way users were familiar with and comfortable seeing.
- Groundbreaking: But of course we couldn’t stop by simply creating the same classic and familiar notifications as everyone else. Saelos is focused on revolutionizing the sales and CRM industry. We saw notifications as one simple way to do things better.
I’d like to take moment and expand on the final point “Groundbreaking” in the list above. With Saelos we wanted to identify a way for notifications to be better, more powerful, more useful. As a result we spent significant amounts of time analyzing and observing how current systems worked as well as what functionality would be most helpful (and intuitive) for users as well.
Why we believe notifications
- We believe notifications should be informative not intrusive because we shouldn’t be disrupted or interrupted from the tasks we’re working on. Every unnecessary distraction we prevent makes our minds better.
- We believe notifications should provide single-click access direct to the specific, relevant, items. We believe our time is valuable and our single biggest resource, and we don’t want to waste it.
- We believe knowledge is power. More than just knowledge, this knowledge must be at the right time, and instantaneously. This is actionable, powerful, knowledge
Here’s how we use those beliefs:
We’ve created instant, non-disruptive notifications, in real-time, with the right information. We are empowering sales teams to both know more and do more.
The next step for Saelos
I’m sure many of you are wondering (or better said, watching) with eager anticipation for the next release which brings us one step closer to a stable release. I share that excitement but want to caution you at the same time. We are building something not only to compete with and improve upon existing CRM systems, but we are building something meant to endure. And as much as I hate the expression, “good things come to those who wait…”, this is one of those moments.
To be more specific, there is a short list of tasks and outstanding items that need to be finished before we can confidently release a Saelos 1.0 Release Candidate. Here’s what I see remaining:
- Languages and accessibility
- Phone extensions
- Inbound message handling
- View exporting (Reporting)
- Integration support
Sounds simple right? I told you it was a short list. But it’s still a list of things to be accomplished and then tested prior to being released.
If you see one of the above and you’re interested in helping out to get things completed faster, please let me know! We could absolutely use your help.
June 9, 2018
Tech Tuesday: History Repeats Itself
I’m certainly not suggesting anything about your age if you know specifically what machine is shown in the above picture, but I suspect there are a few of you reading this post who know exactly what this was and what it represented in tech history. If you are one of those lucky few, I ask your forgiveness for any potential errancies in the post that follows or any assumptions made which are not entirely accurate.
These Tuesday posts are my chance to highlight technology. Usually they take on a more technical form and discuss topics on a more programmatic or procedural basis. (In fact, some of my posts have been labeled downright boring as a result of the amount of math involved.) I hope this Tech Tuesday post will take a rather complex topic and make it slightly less technical. Before I get into how the picture above applies to technology today and what I consider a highly relevant topic, let me tell you a short story.
Once upon a time…
Once up on a time a group of incredibly bright mathematicians and early computer programmers got together to discuss a problem. Rather, they wanted to explore the possibility of making some of their theories a reality. You see, there was a project at MIT called Project MAC (no relation) and a few engineers from a company called General Electric and Bell Labs got together and began to talk. They were excited to see about the potential of building a super computer. A massive undertaking capable of solving all manner of problems and storing data. This new system was called Multics and was an operating system designed to handle complex situations, dynamic linking, procedural calls, and live part-swapping. Multics even supported multiple processors (rare in this day and age).
The list of features found in Multics continued to grow and expand and as you can no doubt begin to tell pointed to the scope and magnitude of this operating system. It was grand and magnificent and all-inclusive. But that’s where things began to become a problem.
Multics vs. Unix
As the Multics operating system grew and expanded it became larger and more monolithic in its framework. It added functionality and features for dozens of different applications. Around this same time a new operating system began to take shape as well, one entitled Unix. This OS was simpler. Still powerful and in fact in many cases derived a great number of features and functionalities from the discoveries and work done on Multics. But Unix did something very different.
Rather than creating an operating system that contained all the features in a single package, Unix was built with the concept of a package manager. The ability for an engineer (or systems operator) to selectively add the packages and features desired for their unique application. In this way the power of Unix was delivered in smaller discrete packages and distributed independently rather than as a single all-inclusive package.
And as you are probably very well aware, Unix exploded in growth. Not only Unix, but Linux, MacOS, and even indirectly Windows NT all came about as operating systems offering different features and appealing to different audiences. But Multics? Well, as you may surmise, Multics slowly disappeared from use. the shortcomings of the monolithic all-inclusive platform giving way to the lightweight microservice approach of it’s successors.
Monolith vs. Microservices
This leads me to my thought for today and the the associated title of this post, History Repeats Itself. You see, what we have come to see in many modern software packages or SaaS products is this same concept that a singular monolithic platform is somehow superior. There’s the misconception that a sole all-inclusive product must provide a better experience because it “does it all”. But in this way I am reminded of a quote:
History repeats itself, but in such cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done.
– Sydney J. Harris
Just because we are now calling this solution SaaS (it’s the latest and greatest iteration of software delivery systems) it must be superior in all ways to anything else. And just like that, we have taken for granted this suggestion because it’s wrapped in such a clever disguise. And if we don’t recognize the truth we will repeat our past.
Instead, we can be smarter, we can demonstrate wisdom and we can keep the damage from occurring by simply stripping away the disguise and recognize the similarities of our situation.
If we are to learn from our past and create a brighter future we should begin now to push the limits of what our software systems do. I refer in this case to microservices. We’ve discussed this previously here in recent posts. And though the concept might be intimidating at first glance (new things often are) the results are powerful and forward-focused. We can create lightweight, fast, and powerful software systems that take advantage of what we’ve learned in the past, both the earliest operating system achievements as well as the recent learnings from SaaS solutions.
And this is an interesting point that should be mentioned. One of the most well-known voices in today’s software development has written some fascinating articles on this subject, Martin Fowler, one of the personal guides in my thinking has said it like this:
A more common approach is to start with a monolith and gradually peel off microservices at the edges. Such an approach can leave a substantial monolith at the heart of the microservices architecture, but with most new development occurring in the microservices while the monolith is relatively quiescent.
– Martin Fowler
He goes on to make a statement which at first glance may make some very concerned and even sad, but I think it’s important to realize there is an end that is better for everyone; the product, the community, and the people using the software. There is a purpose.
Another common approach is to just replace the monolith entirely. Few people look at this as an approach to be proud of, yet there are advantages to building a monolith as a SacrificialArchitecture. Don’t be afraid of building a monolith that you will discard, particularly if a monolith can get you to market quickly.
– Martin Fowler
This resonated with me deeply. This is how we have begun developing things at Mautic. We have created a strong foundational platform, we’ve identified what works and what doesn’t and we’ve created a codebase tested and constantly improved structurally. Now as we look ahead at Mautic 3 we can be proud of Mautic 2, how it helped us arrive at the point where we are today and how we can go boldly forward into tomorrow.
Mautic isn’t perfect. I’m not sure it ever will be. But we have been following a plan, a process by which we can continue to improve and dominate the MarTech space. We have set a course for success and we have determined to become progressively better each day, each commit, each release. I hope this helps others see the path we have set, the reason why I believe we will be incredibly successful, and offers to all the assurance that this is a course we have crafted with forethought and purpose.
June 9, 2018
June 8, 2018
June 7, 2018
Reading Weekly Wrap-up
Happy Friday everyone! The reading this week ended quite different than I thought it would when I began. I actually love weeks like that. I don’t know if it’s because I dislike routine or if I just like the idea of change. (Ironically enough I hate surprises!) I didn’t foresee when the week began how impactful the week would be. And I don’t mean simply for my reading habit but for the world, specifically the open source world.
In case you missed my Monday post, about the Microsoft GitHub acquisition, I’d recommend going and taking a read, it was quite the story and I saw a lot of interest in the topic. This $7.5 billion transaction caused a lot of questions and concerns in the open source community, mostly due to Microsoft’s storied history. As a result of this semi-controversial start to the week my book selection took a slight different direction.
This week’s theme: “Knowing What Matters”
As with previous weeks I found a common theme though this week I believe it’s a bit less serendipitous and a bit more expected given the announcement made. (Although I would suggest the conclusions I draw are still very interesting and aligned along a particular line of thinking.) Let’s jump right in!
The first book I picked up this week was one that I had sitting on my bookshelf (virtual of course) but I hadn’t started yet. Factfulness, by Hans Rosling had come across my path I believe from a best seller’s list and the impactful, bold cover caught my eye and although I am the first to tell you not to judge a book by it’s cover – the typography lover inside of me was instantly attracted to pick this one up.
But what encouraged me to start reading it this week was due actually in part to the Microsoft headlines which then led me to Bill Gates news which eventually led me to his announcement this week about paying for a copy of this particular book to any graduating student who might be interested.
Now that is a lead-in story right there isn’t it?! Okay so what is it about this book that captured Mr. Gates’ attention to this level? Let’s pick out just a few highlights:
- Things are better than they seem: Hans points out through a series of charts, graphs, and data plots the severity to which our perception of the world is skewed. We have held onto the fatalistic thinking of approximately 50 years ago. And even worse we’ve passed these static misconceptions on to the next generation.
- Measurements matter when in perspective: the author is not suggesting that everything is perfect, nor does he suggest we “look at the world through rose-colored glasses“. Instead the point being made is we can better appreciate the negative and the positive when we put the measurements in the proper perspective.
- The dangers of human instincts: Humans are incredibly smart, highly educated, and yet score worse than chimpanzees (or pure and random guessing) on the various survey questions asked throughout the book. This comes from our overdramatic worldview instead of a fact-based worldview. Our instincts, left unchecked, tend towards drama beyond fact.
Ultimately this book is the author’s attempt to encourage the reader to not be embarrassed by their dramatic tendencies, but rather use data (Hans and team uses a lot of data) to inform a factual viewpoint, control instincts and replace misconceptions. Overall a fantastic read.
Measure What Matters
As you can probably guess I read a lot of books from the NYT Best Seller’s Lists. Measure What Matters, by John Doerr carries a subtitle that intrigued me: “How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs”. Catch the subtle link to the first book in that subtitle? Yep, the Gates Foundation. Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation is referenced heavily in this book.
Now, before anyone feels too bad, I need to say I’m a very very big advocate for removing acronyms from most common vernacular. They tend to make people feel dumb when instead it’s simply an unfamiliar subject matter. Don’t feel bad – you can’t be a SME (subject matter expert…see how annoying that can be?) about everything!
- What is an OKR? This is simply an abbreviated way of saying Objectives and Key Results. See, not that big a deal. What is meant by the term is a type of protocol for companies, teams, and individuals for collaborative goal-setting. Objectives are simply WHAT is to be achieved. They are concrete, meaningful, action-oriented and even inspirational. Objectives are the way to fight against feelings, overly dramatic views, and poor execution. Key Results are the ways objectives can be benchmarked and measured. This is the manner by which we measure HOW we get to the aforementioned objective. Incredibly important to a key result is the ability to be measurable and verifiable.
“It’s not a key result unless it has a number” – Marissa Mayer
- Continuous Performance Management: The second half of the book focuses on the contemporary alternative to annual performance reviews. (Watch out here comes another acronym) CFR’s which stand for conversations, feedback, and recognition are how this idea of continuous performance management is implemented and evaluated.
This book is jammed full of real-life case studies and stories from some of the world’s best known companies. Split into two parts (OKR’s and CRF’s) the true stories illustrate how these two theories are related and when both are functioning deliver a complete system for measuring what matters.
And now we come to the final book for the week. I hesitated to include this book in the list since technically this was a re-read but felt that it absolutely fit into the sub-theme for the week. Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella caught my eye as particularly timely this week. In case you didn’t know Satya assumed the role of Microsoft CEO in 2014. This book is his thoughts.
I can’t imagine stepping into a behemoth corporation such as Microsoft and hoping to “right the course” or “turn the ship around”. It’s almost an unthinkable monumental challenge but as I read through Satya’s story I found myself becoming convinced if anyone could conquer this challenge, Satya could.
- Learning to Lead: The first few chapters in this book share incredible thoughts on leadership and seeing opportunities. Satya discusses the power of innovation, teamwork, and transformations when led by an empathetic leader.
- Recognizing what’s important: Satya shares what he learned along the road to change and what it required both as a leader and as an established company. The power of a shared mission, a vision that empowered every person and rediscovering the soul of Microsoft.
- Looking at the future: In the final part of the book Satya begins to explore what is required in the years ahead for the changes to Microsoft’s culture to be realized and their mission fulfilled.
Obviously, as you can now see the sub-theme for this particular’s week of reading involved a subtle thread of Microsoft’s influence in the world. From the recent announcement of Microsoft’s latest acquisition to the words written almost presciently by Satya Nadella:
Over the years, I’ve found that openness is the best way to get things done and to ensure all parties feel terrific about the outcome. In a world where innovation is continuous and rapid, no one has time to waste on unnecessary cycles of work and effort. Being straightforward with one another is the best way to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome in the fastest time possible.
– Satya Nadella
But, Microsoft’s journey is only the secondary theme for this week. Were you able to pick up on the primary motif carried throughout this week by these three books? It comes down to a simple concept:
Human emotions, feelings, and their endeavors are heavily influenced by their worldview; and only with proper facts, knowledge, and wisdom can they accomplish those things which matter most.
June 6, 2018
Recently I posted on Twitter a personal observation about growing older and learning to appreciate the value of disagreement and even of a heated discussion. Maybe I’m growing up or maybe I’m just getting older, regardless, I’m beginning to understand (I’m a slow learner) it’s not always a negative, desperate situation when there’s a conflict. Not every conflict has to be immediately resolved and there doesn’t have to be the notion of a singular solution. I’ve written before about the ability to hold opposing views in one’s mind and maintain relationships. This lead me down a course of thought based on an adumbrative conversation I found myself engaged in with a close friend in the Mautic community.
A conversation with something missing
In this chat there wasn’t so much a significant difference of opinions indicative of a more systemic problem; rather we were exchanging differing views of a situation and each attempting to persuade the other to recognize our rightness. Halfway through this verbal volley I was struck with a realization. My deepest problem. The one thing keeping me from being able to accept or deny the veracity of his points was what I believed to be the lack of facts. What I needed was the logic, the reasoning, the facts behind the opinion being expressed.
Aside: To be clear, I didn’t believe simply knowing the facts would immediately invoke my unwavering agreement and/or support for his statements. Those conclusions would remain to be drawn.
The idea behind fact-based feelings
I know it sounds a bit odd initially to suggest something so strange as fact-based feelings and the meaning may be obtuse at first, but here is my thinking behind such a statement: Opposing views are not the problem, nor are differences of opinions; but without a valid foundation of factual information it becomes very difficult for those feelings to be appropriately conveyed.
Returning to the conversation I was in the midst of I realized what I was attempting to extract as we continued were the facts which were causing the feelings. And I believe this same problem exists in many other interactions as well. There becomes an increasing importance to have at least some basis level of fact for what you believe.
Debating without facts
Whenever there is a lack of facts in an argument and you’re working completely and solely from the premise of feelings it becomes increasingly difficult to not only convince someone of your viewpoint but to even get them to listen with an open mind. Facts are the crucial foundation upon which your feelings can be based and subsequently your point made.
Based on this understanding, even if those facts may lead you to a drastically different outcome from someone else who hears those same facts, the simple act of fact-based debate lends credibility to your argument and opinion. This also gives you a tacit basis you can support and defend (passionately and with feeling).
Yanni vs Laurel anyone?
Admit it, the title caught your eye right? In case you missed it, a viral internet meme captured the attention of everyone with a simple audio recording of a distorted voice saying a name. The results were fascinatingly bisected. And the twitter “wars” raged on. Staunch supporters for both names were adamant in their belief the voice was saying only the name they heard. Here’s the original, offending tweet question which started the craziness:
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) May 15, 2018
This is a perfect example where a fact-based argument lends credence to a viewpoint even when the resulting interpretations are polar opposites! The reason I say this with such confidence is due to an effect known as Bistable Audio. Bistable audio can be perceived in two separate ways. In essence this is an auditory illusion. Here’s another example:
Listen to the audio file above. Do you experience a switch in the tune?
— Media Licence: Music vector created by Freepik
Bistable stimuli can be perceived in two separate ways. The sound you hear can be heard in two ways: as triplets of an A-B-A pattern or as two simultaneous streams of an A-A-A-A pattern and a B-B-B-B pattern. Come on, that’s just cool right?!
Now let’s return to the Yanni vs Laurel auditory anomaly. As it turns out, there’s a physical (and factual) explanation for this phenomena! Based on your age and hearing acuity you will actually be able to hear different frequencies. This quality of this particular meme was so distorted it lent itself to multiple frequency distributions of audio and as a result a different outcome based on the individual’s sense of hearing. (Fact-based!)
I find this to be a particularly fun and light-hearted (even slightly-humorous) example to the premise of this post; because both sides are arguing with feeling … but both are based on fact!
The elephant in the room
I’ll leave you with one final anecdotal example. Many are probably quite familiar with this age-old parable. In fact, it’s become so common as to have it’s own Wikipedia page.
A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable.” So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, “This being is like a thick snake.” For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “Elephant is a wall.” `Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
Each of these men perceived the truth differently and as a result based their feelings and subsequent argument on their “version” of the truth. They were all right…and all wrong at the same time. But the basis of fact allowed them to argue passionately each from their own point of view.
Base your debates (and feelings) on fact.
Conflict is inevitable. Humans have the essential ability to reason and draw conclusions. Based in facts and encompassed with feelings they postulate and theorize their worldview to others, engaging in debate, attempting to persuade, coax, and entice those opposed to concede their view. In all of this, the basal element is fact. Without this fundamental foundation the arguments will be meaningless and nothing more than a benign insignificant waste of time and emotion.
June 5, 2018
June 5, 2018
The Power of Passionate People
Stop for a second. I could almost bet money that you read this title and instantly thought about open source communities. Of course it’s entirely possible that inclination towards open source is entirely my own due to my deep and enduring focus on building lasting communities and the power of open source. But I have to believe that within all of us there is a notion that passionate people belong in communities. We naturally associate the outpouring of passionate work with volunteers. But as I asked at the outset of this post — I’d like you to stop and think more about this.
The composition of a passionate person
Let’s start by exploring what the make-up of a passionate person actually looks like. We are I am sure all familiar with the rather standard top three dictionary definitions of passion; but if we look down the list a little further we’ll see other common definitions. One in particular stands out to me:
passion [pash-uh n]: (6) A strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything. — Dictionary.com
So our standard notion of passion needs to be expanded for our everyday understanding and usage. In practice then a passionate person is one who exhibits strong enthusiasm for something. This is the idea we are taking into consideration today when discussing the composition of a passionate person. Someone who is crazy over accomplishing their mission. A person seen as extravagant and maniacally focused for their impassioned actions.
But there’s something else that’s relevant when discussing the constitution of a person exhibiting extraordinary zeal for a subject. An individual may demonstrate this level of fervor in one area of their life while trudging through the mundane daily rituals of a dozen others. In essence what I am suggesting then is an individual can be both passionate and dispassionate, depending on their environment and any particular facet of their life. There is no overarching global “passionate” status whereby people are measured.
Passion therefore is not contingent solely on the person but also on the particular aspect being evaluated with the person. The responsibility for passionate behavior lies not only with the person but also within the object eliciting the passion. (whew, that was deep!)
Power exists within everyone
Every person contains some element of power within them. This power takes on a variety of forms and is exhibited in a variety of ways depending on circumstances and settings. Power in the sense of energy, strength, mental efficacy, etc… We all have a propensity for exhibiting strength and we seek out ways to showcase or prove our power. As humans we have an instinctive desire to find outlets by which this (and by extension ourselves) can be validated.
Applying these principles
Now if we take these concepts and put them into practice what we find is a rather natural conclusion. When a person is empowered they exhibit greater passion. Their built-in desires have been fulfilled and this causes feelings of excitement and enthusiasm (aka passion). In this way then we can see a virtuous circle begin to form. The more empowerment felt, the greater the excitement.
As you can see from the previous paragraph this lends itself first and foremost to communities. In these circumstances individuals are able to be promoted purely based on a concept of meritocracy. This isn’t of course as easily reconciled in standard business environments. This is due in part to the injection of monetary reward (every job pays a salary) and the instant that some fiat currency is introduced into the equation the predilection is completely shifted off of empowerment and passion. But perhaps this shouldn’t be assumed so quickly.
Starting with why
If you’ve read my blog at all in the past you know I have a borderline obsession with the concept of starting with why (Hat tip to Simon Sinek for introducing me to this concept). Obviously this applies rather easily to community environments where individuals volunteer their time and join a particular “tribe” because they have an enthusiasm for the shared central tenets of the group. But applying these same concepts to a “for-pay” business arrangement it becomes even more interesting.
In this compensated environment “starting with why” begins to rebalance the equation. When a business is able to start by sharing their vision and the reason behind the mission they are undertaking they are able to identify those eager individuals interested in fighting for the same beliefs. In this way, even businesses can begin to build a culture and an organization which forms a tribe instead of merely providing an occupation. And things begin to change.
The best and most incredible companies are those who have discovered this principle. These are bastions of business who are intent on building an empire. A company that is “built to last”. This is by no means an easy task and for every single success story there are hundreds of corporate carcasses strewn by the side. This is such a rare trait we frequently celebrate those who have discovered this holy grail of passionate, empowered workers. We study them in business schools and we analyze their every move. Too often in doing so we take a far to analytical approach and quickly neglect the rather intangible values which have predicated such success in the first place.
But there are enough of these exceptions to the standard to lend credibility to the possibilities. And so we continue to strive. We strive to identify the roots for success, and we strive to implement them in our own businesses. And although this success looks different for each business the common thread of empowered employees lies at the heart of most.
Empowered employees are those imbued with passion for the vision and motivated by the same foundational “why” as the business.
More than monetary gain
I think it is only appropriate to end this post with one last commendation. While the reasoning I have listed above tends to appear at first blush to serve only the needs of the business and encourage financial reward, the truth is much, much greater. Far more than any balance sheet, or revenue bookings, these passionate people build companies which stand against the test of time, providing futures for thousands of others. Creating opportunities for the improvement of life and the enablement for personal success.
What is the true power of passionate people? As the famous Mr. Jobs shared in the now timeless motivational video: These “crazy” ones are the ones who change the world.
June 5, 2018
June 4, 2018
June 4, 2018
Microsoft, Github & Changing A Reputation
Today another headline has captured the minds of many in open source as it seems that yet another open source centric company has been acquired by a private one. Only a couple weeks ago we heard the announcement of Adobe acquiring Magento, arguably the biggest open source e-commerce platform. My good friend Dries wrote a great piece on the purchase so I don’t feel it’s necessary to rehash it too much. If you’re interested you should absolutely read his post: My thoughts on Adobe buying Magento for $1.68 billion | Dries Buytaert. And now, this last weekend the big news appears to be the announcement that Microsoft is acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion.
Woah, but I thought Microsoft was the enemy
Perhaps one of the most talked about part of this news is Microsoft’s previous statements about open source (particularly Linux). I thought long and hard about this as well as considering my own opinions and inclinations towards Microsoft in this regards. I knew of this deep-seated animosity and dislike for Linux and simply assumed this belief continued deep within the Redmond walls — and in spite of any outward overtures of support, and dare I say “love”.
I thought about Satya Nadella and the work he’s been advocating so heavily for at Microsoft since he stepped in as CEO. And I reflected back on the book, Hit Refresh, his autobiography. This caused me to pick it back up and skim through my highlights. This note caught my eye:
“Dogma at Microsoft had long held that the open-source software from Linux was the enemy. We couldn’t afford to cling to that attitude any longer. We had to meet the customers where they were and, more importantly, we needed to ensure that we viewed our opportunity not through a rearview mirror, but with a more future-oriented perspective.” — Satya
I realized I needed to return to this book and dig in a little deeper as I was now more curious than ever to see how this recent acquisition news played a role in Satya’s overarching vision for Microsoft’s future.
I am glad I took the time to do a bit of research on this topic and glad I returned to this book to see those points that I found interesting back when I first read it. As part of this background refresher I also spent a few minutes looking over Microsoft’s historic acquisitions. The list is quite long as you might anticipate. This obviously ended in the most recent news of Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn. And at a price tag of $26 billion dollars I would hope no one has forgotten this transaction yet.
At the time of the LinkedIn purchase, there were questions about the motivations behind this move as well, but again, it’s easy to understand if you consider the approach of Nadella as he looks to the future version of Microsoft:
Satya wrote that he has a “bias” for focusing investments on advancing services such as LinkedIn and Office that help people create and “become more productive rather than software that is simply entertaining — memes for conspicuous consumption.”
Wrapped up in that quote we begin to see a bit of Microsoft’s motivation for this purchase as well. It fits the plan they have strategically set for their future direction. GitHub stands as one of the greatest online destinations for individuals to demonstrate and share their productivity. Following this logic it is easy to see why GitHub holds so much potential value for Microsoft, but what about for GitHub?
GitHub has a long and storied history itself mired in fast success, public stumbles, and the ever-present churning in an attempt to grow revenue. They continued to take larger and larger checks from investors in their search for a path to success. They knew the product direction but they struggled with how to best capitalize on the financial side of things.
For the statistics and numbers junkies reading here’s the financial lowdown on their position. GitHub was valued at approximately $2 billion dollars based on their funding (they’ve raised $350 million historically) and their revenue numbers in 2017 were slightly more than $200M in ARR.
In more recent news (last year) the current CEO, Chris Wanstrath announced his intention to resign. His resignation, unlike his predecessor’s, was not forced by any scandal but instead due to his interest in product development and testing. His announcement and subsequent search for a replacement CEO has lead to fruitless searching and things looking bleak for GitHub’s leadership team.
Clearly this is the story of a company in turmoil. Rumors about possible IPO’s and potential suitors were growing more common by the day. It was evident that for GitHub’s success something had to change.
Open source impact
Of course the reason this particular acquisition has been brought to my attention is due to the open source community. And as I alluded to earlier, the prevailing “anti-Microsoft” opinions of many in the open source world are growing more vocal. But what does this acquisition mean for open source? I think this question is one which would be answered quite differently today than it would have been a few years ago. Again, under Satya’s careful curation we’ve seen a shift in Microsoft’s culture and views towards open source. (This is no small feat!)
But as the press appropriately admonished: Any grand future vision must be met with real and consistent actualities. Microsoft has done just that. I believe a quick look at Microsoft’s current views on open source point to their intentionality:
Microsoft has over 15,000 contributors on GitHub (the greatest of any single company). The company said that over 6,000 employees contribute to open source projects, and have released over 3,000 open source projects. Microsoft’s open source programs office tracks nearly 10,000 open source components, everything from NPM packages to Linux distros used by Microsoft teams. — Source
All of this forces me to think more about what this recent news means for open source and even more personally, for me as a result.
People change, so can businesses
And this is where the learning comes in; the personal challenge to grow and rethink long-held opinions. We all know that people can change. It’s not easy, takes ridiculous amounts of will-power and dedication and ultimately only the test of time will prove the veracity of the change. But in the end, people can change. And if people can change, so can businesses.
Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya, has been focused on rediscovering their soul as a company. They have redefined their mission and outlined steps which help investors and customers to grow the company. As Satya shared:
“In order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul—our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done. Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.” (emphasis mine)
All of this speaks to the core desire to return to what the soul of the company should truly be and the first step in that journey was admitting the failures and missteps which had befallen them over the years. But businesses can change, they can grow, and they can evolve. Perhaps this acquisition is yet another demonstration of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to rebuild their brand and their reputation. The work they have been doing and the emphasis they have been placing on open source is evident.
As I shared earlier, only in time will we know if this is genuine. Until then the open source community, and the world, will watch with diminishing skepticism as actions attest to intentions. And unless something causes a break in this fragile yet growing trust in a company rediscovering itself — our response should be cautious support.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from Satya’s book.
“Over the years, I’ve found that openness is the best way to get things done and to ensure all parties feel terrific about the outcome. In a world where innovation is continuous and rapid, no one has time to waste on unnecessary cycles of work and effort. Being straightforward with one another is the best way to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome in the fastest time possible.” — Satya Nadella
June 4, 2018
3 Success Factors of World-Class Marketers
Questions that ask for a specific number of answers or bullet points are always harder for me to answer because at times it can be quite difficult to narrow down a veritable multitude of possibilities into whatever random discrete number of points is required. However, at the same time I appreciate the somewhat “forcing” nature of the question as it requires thought and intentionality over which factors (in this case) are of ultimate and penultimate importance. This style of question requires a greatest to least measure of success and in theory this isn’t all bad. (Just keep in mind that in practice there are many more criteria which may prove to be required for a world-class title!).
Understanding what makes a marketer world-class
As always when beginning a response like this it is important to consider what criteria we are using by which we measure success. There are certainly a variety of metrics that marketers are held to depending on their position, industry, and audience. It would be unfair in one instance to judge a marketer’s success on adoption rate of a product if the product has a free level offering as the barrier to entry is relatively low. On the flip side it’s also unfair to judge a marketer’s success on public visibility of a product if that product maintains a very niche market (such as government customers).
Understanding therefore the criteria by which success is measured requires a bit of case-by-case recognition and evaluation. As such, in this response I’ll highlight instead what I believe are 3 common success factors which can be seen predominantly across all marketing professionals and which are clearly evident in the marketers that many consider to be capital marketers.
1. The ability to listen to the audience
Okay, I’ll probably ruffle feathers with my first suggestion here due in part to the recent tweet storms that have been brewing around this individual. And although many would not immediately consider Elon Musk to be a world-class marketer I would suggest that in fact he exhibits many of the traits of one. This includes his ability to listen to the audience.
Almost everyone is aware of Elon’s proclivity to tweeting and his often rapid-fire responses to customer questions and suggestions. While his primary role may not be one of a marketer, his ability to listen to the audience and tailor his marketing message (or company direction) as a result is easy to spot and hard to deny its success.
If there is anyone in the third row, turn off air recirculation. Third row cooling happens by air entering from the front and exiting through the vents in the rear bumper.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2018
Yeah, that should improve soon. Software team has been buried in Model 3 bringup and tricky bug fixes, but that’s mostly done now.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 4, 2018
You're right, this is becoming an issue. Supercharger spots are meant for charging, not parking. Will take action.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2016
I could go on here but I think you get the point. Regardless of your current opinion of Musk’s tweeting, there is no denying he listens to his audience.
Reasoning: When a marketer listens to their audience they are better able to tune their messages and improve their marketing strategies.
2. The ability to empathize with the audience
The second aspect of a world-class marketer involves their innate ability to connect with and subsequently empathize with their audience. Now, you may notice I called this an “innate” ability but that’s not really the complete truth. This is not so much a natural gift as it is a finely-tuned by-product from successfully listening to their audience as described in the initial success factor.
Notice though, the act of listening, while valuable, is more than just “hearing”, this second success factor implies that the listening results in action. The ability to understand the thinking behind the voice of the audience. This discerning nature is the second characteristic of a world-class, top-shelf marketer. We’ll talk about the specifics of that action in the final factor below.
The example I would share with you for this point is the Ogilvy marketing campaign for Dove, entitled, “Real Beauty”. This decade-old campaign only grew more powerful in time and in less than a single month after launching the Dove Real Beauty Sketches it became the number one viewed online video ad of all time. There’s a whole host of blogs, publications, and write-ups on analyzing this campaign, why it was successful and the marketing genius behind it. I’ll leave that for you to explore later.
Reasoning: When a marketer empathizes with their audience and speaks to them in their “language” or otherwise tells “their story” they are able to truly connect with the audience in a meaningful way.
3. The ability to offer value to the audience
The final point in this top three list for cream-of-the-crop marketers I have to give to the ability of the marketer to add value to the audience. This in essence is the culmination of the previous two factors and a host of others not mentioned here. Adding value means you have listened to your audience, you have empathized with them, and you have strategically determined the appropriate time and method to share your message with them in a way that provides real value.
Too often in marketing their is a semi-prevailing (frequently denied) practice of automated bulk messaging to entire audience segments without regard for proper understanding and intelligent messaging. Unfortunately the advent of marketing automation tools has only caused this abuse to grow more evident.
The final real-world example of marketing done superbly well relevant to this point I’ll suggest is Jony Ive from Apple. Although, as with our first example, some may consider Jony a polarizing character, his style getting frequently parodied due to overuse — it’s hard to fault him for remaining consistent in his work and subsequent marketing. Jony consistently draws the audience to more than just another product. He focuses on the message surrounding a product, he emphasizes the value of what he’s doing as it relates to the audience!
The notion of how Apple markets their products is certainly one you will find discussed incessantly on marketing and product blogs the world over. I’d recommend researching the ethos behind their messaging if you haven’t done so already. They don’t focus on features they focus on the customer’s experience and how their product adds true value to a person’s life.
“It’s a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people that you are making these products for. I think we see ourselves as having a civic responsibility to do that. It’s important. It’s right. It’s very hard to explain why.” — Jony Ive
I recognize this is by no means a comprehensive list (I was forced to choose only 3) and I’m also aware that there may be disagreement on the top 3. As I stated in the beginning there is an almost innumerable set of factors which when all working together complementary create a world-class marketer. However, regardless of the exact ordering, I think you will find it difficult to create a case where these three factors are not present in the world’s best marketers.
June 3, 2018
June 3, 2018
Saelos Sunday Stuff
Here we are on another weekend, and it sure feels like they come fast and furious these days. I don’t know if it’s just me or if time is actually speeding up. (And anyone that dares to suggest this relativity has anything to do with my age will be summarily disavowed.) Regardless, it’s Sunday and as they have come to be affectionately known, it’s a Saelos Sunday.
There are so many things I’d like to share with you but in an effort to draw your attention to one particular and important statistic I’m going to focus on only one slide. In this way we can share in the excitement of the meaningfulness of these statistics.
Before you get all stressed out because I’ve use the word “statistic” more than once in the previous paragraph, let me calm you down by sharing a picture with you (pictures make everything better).
Now, I confess I said I would be focusing in on “only one slide”, but I’ve been a bit sneaky — if you’ll notice this slide actually shares two very important facts in a single slide. Let’s first look at the downloads. It’s quite exciting to see the numbers climbing so significantly with each release. This means the world is beginning to discover Saelos: a new open source CRM.
As you can see from the picture, the Beta 3 release had only 32 downloads, Beta 4 had 86, and then Beta 5 scored an overwhelming 395 downloads! Now, we are currently in the middle of Beta 6 and we’re on track to see more downloads than any other previous release with 306 downloads.
But the stability of Saelos is the second critical factor that is displayed in the slide above. You’ll notice that with each release the time period before the next release has grown. Whenever there is a lengthening time between releases it usually means one of two things, either the software is not being developed at the same speed as previously, or the bugs being uncovered are becoming fewer and fewer.
I am happy to report in Saelos the number of issues that have been uncovered has been shrinking with each subsequent release. This shrinkage is quite common in the development of a product, particularly one proceeding through a beta process. As a result this slows down the number of releases and also demonstrates an exciting fact: Saelos is getting close to being released as a Release Candidate.
In case you’re curious or need a refresher on process. A software product following proper versioning goes through multiple beta releases (determined by the number of issues uncovered in each release) , then a release candidate, then a stable release.
As I mentioned, based on these statistics Saelos is getting close to a Release Candidate. This is an exciting moment. If you are currently using Saelos then this should be a welcome announcement — a stable open source CRM ready to be implemented in your production environment is coming soon.
If you’re wondering what it will take for this to happen then I’m glad you’re thinking about it! Our community needs issues reported when there are bugs found (this can be submitted on GitHub); fixes for those issues submitted as new pull requests (also on GitHub); and any last minute feature requests (with code attached!) to be included in a stable release.
Lastly as you prepare for this upcoming release you should make sure you’re keeping up-to-date with the announcements being made. There are several ways you can do this and I believe in though our community is still quite young we do a great job communicating on a variety of channels. Pick your preference: You can subscribe to the Saelos email, join the Slack group, or register your account on the website (truthfully speaking it wouldn’t hurt anything to be around on all three).
One More Thing
I know it sounds a bit forced but forgive my headline nostalgia for a moment. There is one last thing I’d like to share in this Saelos Sunday update. Even though our community is very fresh we have already seen incredible volunteers contributing in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes I just have to sit back and contemplate the awesomeness of those individuals who believe in my vision, who personally agree with what I’m trying to accomplish and are willing to join forces with me in reaching for these lofty goals.
I’ve spoken before about the power of the “first follower” and this is a perfect example of how relevant and important these early adopters, advocates, and strong believers are to our success. This week in particular I’d like to draw special attention to one special Saelos Superstar.
Luiz Eduardo has contributed countless hours to improving Saelos through code, through distributions, and through community growth. His dedication to spreading the Saelos Story far and wide is evident in the vast and widespread work he has undertaken on behalf of our community. I hope you’ll join me in thanking him for his hard work and dedication to Saelos. And I trust his example will encourage you to find ways you can also become more involved in the Saelos community. (Not sure where to start? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you some ideas.)
June 1, 2018
Self-Help Reading Week: Russell, Randy, Leslie
As I shared last week I like to find some common theme that runs through the books I read each week and in retrospect I found this week to have a theme of self-help or personal growth or self-improvement.
It’s Friday again! This week flew by, as is usually the case when the first day of the week is a holiday. Since I posted last week’s Reading 4 Success post on Tuesday it feels as though this post comes even quicker this week. As such I apologize if you feel inundated with book reviews and recommendations. My intent is never to overwhelm you with yet another summary of a book. Rather, I strive to add value to the summaries I share and bring some semblance of a “takeaway thought” to each in order to help put your mind in a favorable disposition towards one or more of the author’s works I’ve uncovered.
Bottom Line: I want to encourage you to explore the world of literature in greater detail and to make the art of reading something you include in your daily habits. I promise you it changes everything.
Reaffirming my thinking and purpose behind these review articles is also a way to ensure my writing stays meaningful as I share with you the various books I’ve read in the previous 7 days. This week in particular the theme of the books I read are an excellent case-in-point for this purpose.
I’m labeling this week the “Self-Help Series”
As I shared last week I like to find some common theme that runs through the books I read each week and in retrospect I found this week to have a theme of self-help or personal growth or self-improvement. I recognize this particular topic or theme could be applied to any number of books and personal stories but this week in particular I found the label to be apropos.
Without further delay, let’s explore three different author’s views on the subject of personal growth.
Leslie Odom’s book, Failing Up, takes us on a very personal approach to self-improvement outlining how to find success in failures by studying his own journey of successes (or should I say failures) in his life. Leslie discusses the ways he was forced to grow and improve in his journey as an actor and facing difficult choices along the way. (Just as a brief background, Leslie is most well known for his role as Alexander Burr in the Broadway show Hamilton). He includes various life lessons including the power in saying “no”. A few memorable highlights of mine include:
“Everything changed in an instant the first time I really gave myself the room and the permission to fail spectacularly.”
I think this quote sums up one of the major takeaways Leslie hopes to leave you with after reading his book. He also shares the idea that “Preparation is the sign of your intention.” (This one is a personal favorite of mine from the book). The encouragement that Leslie seeks to leave you with is the concept that constant self-improvement comes from being willing to set yourself free, to take chances, but all of this happening with a dedication to being prepared. This isn’t wild, unfounded risk-taking; this is planned, prepared, intentional striving after success without fear of failure.
The second book I want to share with you this week was Recovery, Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand. I have to admit I have a personal like and dislike for Russell due to his somewhat inflammatory manner of dialogue and his personal penchant for lewd language in his somewhat pedantic diatribes. I dislike the use of strong language as the main vehicle to communicate a point, but at the same time recognize the value in pushing my own thinking to look past conventional differences and explore the concepts shared instead. Even in this way I suppose Russell is forcing my furthered self-improvement.
In Recovery the writing centers around the concept of a 12 step process or journey that Russell underwent. His tendency to verbosity and superfluity of language which he tends to employ to enhance the writing at some points distracts too much from the point he wishes to communicate. But, in spite of this flowery approach Russell does a fantastic job communicating his thoughts (as I have always found him to do).
As I filter through his words a few striking concepts surfaced for me. Russell alludes to his initial desire to seek help from his addictions slowly evolving into a deeper and more meaningful acknowledgement of personal realizations and his own ‘depravity’. He acknowledges perfection may be something unattainable and perhaps a better and more reasonable aspiration would be a manageable and then beautiful life.
There are some books that I pick up and instantly recognize a style of writing, of thinking, or just general philosophy I immediately resonate with on a personal level. Randy writes very much with a type of ideology that I personally advocate for frequently. Unlike the previous book which pushed me to think differently, Mad Genius by Randy Gage is very much the opposite. Randy’s approach, thinking, and suggestions were all easy to digest and I found myself frequently nodding in agreement as I read. (Truthfully it was probably more of a soft under-my-breath grunt of agreement, but that just sounds far less intelligent don’t you agree?)
Randy’s book focuses on what lives inside each of us but is rarely tapped into by most people. The idea of thinking through things, questioning reasons, and tackling problems. When Randy speaks about questioning things what he really refers to is the notion of discovering the “why” behind the way things are done. (I’m sure you can see now the reason I found this book particularly enjoyable. Exhibit A, Exhibit B)
This book is far more prescriptive than the other two and speak to very specific challenges or “tasks” that the reader might endeavor to improve themselves and find their hidden “Mad Genius” as the author likes to label it. Overall, I found myself in agreement with most of the book and while the concepts were not new to me I found them to be a fresh approach to thinking bout some of the same interesting topics I spend a good deal of time thinking and writing about. I would definitely recommend reading this book. But…
Reading about self-help is only the beginning
Why are self-help topics so popular? This is a question I see asked frequently and the bookstores attest to the validity of such a question with the overabundance of books and tutorials and guides on how to “be a better you”. Clearly humans have a deep-seated desire to be better than they are. While I don’t necessarily suggest this to be a bad subject or one that should be avoided I don’t believe simply reading books on the topic will make the difference.
Rather, the reading of various self-help principles only provide the first step towards change and personal growth. After the reading comes the application. I believe this is where the struggle becomes more evident for most people. Breaking old habits; forming new habits; the changing of what has become part of our daily lives and person is much more challenging. Everyone has probably heard the concept regarding forming habits. Quotes, such as the following, overrun the internet:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Indeed, studies have shown it takes 21 days to form a habit (at least the easy habits). So while we recognize the work required to form a new habit, the amount of effort to improve oneself is not without its challenges.
I am always glad to read a new book on the topic of self-improvement and find great value in the different outlooks and opinions shared by the various authors. I appreciate the sometimes contradictory viewpoints and the encouragement to expand my own thinking. Beyond the simple reading of new ideas I hope the application of what I read becomes more a part of my daily life and informs my habits.
Similarly I hope you will find these book review posts to provide you direction as you seek out new material to consume and new topics to stretch your mind. But this is only the first step in the journey and I would encourage you to continue your growth beyond simple reading or review of others opinions. Take the more challenging path of self-improvement and start forming new habits!
May 31, 2018
Creating MarTech Glue
If you're a digital marketer then you know the struggle. You know the gaps in your marketing stack. Those ever-widening cracks as the MarTech landscape expands. Mautic is creating the future of marketing automation with this new advancement we are calling MarTech Microservices. Want to learn more about what this means for marketer's everywhere? Read this post.
Yesterday I published a post about Filling In The Marketing Gaps and I hinted at returning to a topic I have grown increasingly excited about. I want to share just a few more thoughts and details along with some graphics which I hope will make things easier to understand. I promise, after this post, if you’re simply begging me to stop I won’t post anything further on the topic for a little while. The challenging thing is I’m seeing what I believe to be an invigorating and innovative spark for moving the future of MarTech. And Mautic is positioned on the forefront of it. As a result of all this pent-up excitement I end up thinking about the topic and by extension writing about it frequently. The topic as I’m sure you’re well aware is one we are calling MarTech Microservices. Mautic is creating the future of marketing automation with this new advancement.
The Next Generation of MarTech
There’s a lot of words in there and I realize I’ve completely obliterated the key 6×6 principle (6 words and 6 lines max on a single slide). Let me pull out a few salient points from this particular slide.
Mautic is positioned to become the leader in the MarTech space, based on an open architecture, a flexible framework, and a sustainable path for future expansion and growth.
As I shared yesterday, the very foundational core of Mautic positions us uniquely to step into this role as a leader, pushing the boundaries of what we know to be marketing automation today. Mautic 3 will give our community the opportunity to demonstrate what this future looks like by creating a headless, serverless marketing automation tool. This means a variety of things and I’ve shared it before (ad nauseam?). The purpose of this post is to take those concepts and make them easier to understand exactly what it will look like.
A Complete Marketing Automation Package
This is the first and greatest point that needs to be made with Mautic 3. Mautic will continue to provide the absolute best, most cutting-edge, full-solution marketing automation solution in the world. Even as we explore the many and exciting ways that Mautic 3 will technically change the MarTech landscape and revolutionize many of the services which marketers are already using; we will continue to offer an incredible all-inclusive Mautic product.
Mautic will grow and become better with each release and Mautic 3 will build on the learning as well as the technology of each previous Mautic release. Rather than losing value with this major release we will be able to build upon our history.
Continued expansions through plugins, a renewed vision for the various “builders” (emails, marketing messages, and landing pages) and countless additional valuable improvements through across the platform – some seemingly inconsequential and some more noticeable. (Does this interest you? I’ll share more specifics if this is a topic you find intriguing – leave a comment if you do!)
A Complete Marketing Automation Platform
Okay, this is where things get exciting. This is where Mautic 3 is completely and totally revolutionary. This is where everything changes. This is where the future begins to become the present and ideas become realities. Can you tell I’m getting excited? Because this is the inflection point. This is the Mautic 3 platform.
The title for this section belies the true differences between the previous section and this one. Package to Platform. An incredibly subtle difference in words, but an incredible impact for marketing and technologists. A package is a bundle of things, a group of objects. In this particular case, the marketing “package” is a bundle of two objects: a frontend user interface and an API driven application layer. The Mautic 3 platform refers to these two individual objects. Keep reading to learn more about what this means.
Two Marketing Automation Tools In One
Here is a more direct look at these two completely unique and standalone parts of the Mautic 3 platform. Each one of these tools is capable of functioning completely independently from the other.
This idea of two tools in one sounds far more complicated than it really is. Remember if you get worried or confused — return to the first point above: Mautic is a complete marketing automation package. There’s no need to feel differently about Mautic 3, and certainly no need to worry.
The power of combining two discrete tools affords the marketer the opportunity to be as demanding as necessary for their unique business environments. Mautic is flexible.
If you’re not sure what this bifurcated approach enables then I’d recommend posting a comment or letting me know! But first, keep reading and see if the next few sections explains things better.
Mautic 3 User Interface
The first of these two tools to explore is the Mautic 3 user interface, or commonly thought of as “the frontend”. The user interface (UI) is the part of the Mautic platform the marketers directly interacts with. This involves all the beautiful drag-and-drop functionality of the campaign builder. The powerful and intuitive navigations. And everything related to what is visually displayed in the browser or app.
Feature Highlight: Did you see what I did there? (I said “app”) We have big plans coming for Mautic 3 in this regards both mobile, desktop, and far far beyond.
As the slide above indicates, this marketing automation tool can be used with any “backend” system (you may understand this part more with the next section). Simply put, if you have your data in a different location, or different database, by adding a simple API layer you can take advantage of the Mautic 3 user interface with your own system.
Mautic 3 API
The second tool available in the Mautic 3 platform is the incredibly powerful API. Again, as with the previous “frontend” tool this API platform builds on the previous success of Mautic 2. Rather than a complete rewrite (I trust this will encourage some of you) Mautic 3’s API will expand upon and continue to extend what was done before.
Feature Highlight: Mautic 3’s API is powerful and robust due to the open source nature of the code. Every aspect of the entire platform is required to be available via this API.
When you have an API that is completely and totally capable serving every aspect of the marketing automation system you are capable of using this tool in a wide range of applications. As highlighted in the image above, Mautic’s API can be used to power a variety of other outputs. Regardless of the interface, Mautic can power the backend data processing.
Just as with the previous section, this API can then be implemented by the discerning marketer into a wide variety of different use cases. (For those with a question – this is meaning of a “headless” system)
Diving Deeper into the Mautic 3 API
It is usually at this point we tend to get into the deep and technically challenging part of the Mautic 3 topic and debate and cause some consternation for people. Let’s rehash how we got to this point very quickly.
First, we have a full marketing automation package in Mautic 3, this package can be used as one tool. Second, this package is actually a marketing automation platform consisting of two distinct tools: a frontend user interface, and a backend API. Each of these tools can be used on it’s own. Now, we have gotten to this concept of microservices. If we look at the API tool we can imagine breaking things down with even greater specificity and consider the concept of discrete functionals components.
In the graphic above I’ve highlighted three possible examples of these microservices. The takeaway is simple and incredibly powerful at the same time.
MarTech Microservices are discrete functional improvements which enhance the marketer’s role across their entire digital marketing stack.
These microservices are the glue which bind together the entire vast and confusing MarTech landscape. They can be used independently of the full marketing automation package (point 1 above).
The Mautic MarTech Glue
This is why I get so excited about Mautic 3. We’ve taken a flexible and open source framework and the concept of being adaptable to every marketer’s unique business workflow and magnified it times a thousand. We have the opportunity to take MarTech into the next phase and to enable marketer’s not only through the use of a new and powerful marketing automation package but to seamlessly bring together their entire marketing suite of tools into a single cohesive system with Mautic MarTech Microservices. And this can be expanded even more as we look into the future a bit further.
Mautic fills the gaps between the various and disparate systems in use by a marketer. Mautic does this with the ultimate in flexibility. By no longer existing as only a monolithic platform Mautic is able to fill in the space, adding value, and connecting marketing tools and more across the organization. — Filling In The Marketing Gaps
If you’d like more information not this particular section I recommend returning to my post from yesterday where I shared more detail.
Flexible, Open Source, Connected
Here’s where we bring it all together. Final thoughts on the topic. I’m going to try to summarize the content above and distill it down to the core fundamental points in as clear a terminology as possible. So here goes.
- Mautic is a marketing automation package which offers a full and complete marketing automation experience for businesses to use as an entire system to handle their omni-channel marketing automation needs.
- The Mautic platform consists of two tools: a beautiful and intuitive marketing automation user interface and a powerful and robust marketing automation API framework. Each of which can be used independently as needed in various marketing environments.
- The Mautic API framework contains discrete marketing automation microservices which can be implemented independently of the rest of the platform to enhance existing marketing tools and services.
These three core principles enable the marketer to experience a truly unified digital marketing experience. But it’s important to recognize how these 3 core principles are made possible. This unique ability to be both monolith and microservice at the same time is only as a result of the underlying foundational architecture and beliefs of the Mautic community and Mautic product. Those foundational truths are:
- Mautic is flexible to be used in a variety of means as required by the unique requirements of each marketer.
- Mautic’s open source code means every aspect is available for review, use, and improvement. There are no black boxes. And full transparency exists across the entire system.
- Mautic is capable of providing marketers with a single, unified, connected system for their digital marketing. Being open source and flexible gives Mautic the unique ability to add meaningful value “in the cracks“ left by other systems.
I hope this has helped to make things a bit more clear and also to showcase what Mautic 3 will involve. More than anything, I hope you are beginning to see the vision for what the future of MarTech looks like. Not only the vision of the future, but a better understanding for why this is so important, relevant, and meaningful. The digital marketing landscape is changing, growing, and expanding. What we believe, what drives us to create Mautic 3, is our uncommon, sui generis ability to be the glue to bring it all together and improve the lives of marketers around the world.
May 30, 2018
Filling In The Marketing Gaps
One of the biggest features and benefits of an open source platform like Mautic is the extreme amount of flexibility and customization that is possible. Open source gives incredible power to each business to create a tool that works for them (rather than the business working to fit the tool). Marketing automation historically never had this level of flexibility before Mautic was created and so in that sense I’m excited to see how quickly the marketing landscape has been improved by Mautic.
The crazy part of this Mautic journey personally is the feeling that this has been both instantaneous and interminably long at the same time in achieving this milestone. In reality we’re probably somewhere in between. Mautic has progressed from an alpha release, beta, a stable 1.0, and then a number of releases to the Mautic 2.x series. Along the way we have educated the world about the powers of open source marketing automation and learned a great deal about how to create a world-class marketing automation platform.
Current Status of the Mautic Platform
Today, I am excited to see the widespread acceptance of open source marketing automation as a natural and significant advancement for the MarTech “Forest” (a concept I’ve written about previously). Open source uniquely allows businesses to create campaigns, workflows, integrations, and processes that match their unique requirements. I’ve had the privilege of hearing story after story from those who have found success in a software tool that fits their needs. It’s extremely rewarding to know Mautic is empowering these individuals to do things the way the want to.
Looking Ahead at Marketing Technology
As I consider the landscape today and look ahead at what the future of MarTech looks like I realize there are still ways we can help marketers do even more. What we have done so far is the first step in my opinion. We cannot stop at this point and rest in our success. We cannot pause our forward momentum and progress and consider ourselves to have achieved our goals. This is the beginning. And we must always be looking at what comes next.
The Next Step in the Mautic Journey
I’ve shared the next step recently when I discussed, announcing Mautic 3, and then I shared both technical advancements (yes, I’ve heard this is a highly technical post), and business benefits, timeframes, and even more suggestions based on what I believe is coming next in the marketing space.
There is one particular aspect though which I inherently feel we should focus in on as we discuss marketing technologies, and what moving forward actually looks like. I believe Mautic changed everything by offering an open source flexible platform. I believe being flexible, integrating, and supporting marketers in whatever tools they choose to use from the “MarTech 5000”. This belief compels me to continue to refine and improve what open source marketing automation means. This is some of the reasoning behind my thoughts on Mautic 3. Let me explain with a graphic. This is a sneak peek from an upcoming blog post but I think it perfectly outlines my point.
I love this graphic because it provides a visual representation for a rather abstract concept. In fact, it also provides a picture for the title of this post as well. Mautic fills the gaps between the various and disparate systems in use by a marketer. Mautic does this with the ultimate in flexibility. By no longer existing as only a monolithic platform Mautic is able to fill in the space, adding value, and connecting marketing tools and more across the organization.
Flexibly Adding Value
I highlighted the key phrase in that last paragraph. Adding value. You see, by focusing on filling the gaps Mautic does far more than just connecting various tools in a blind or “dumb” connection. Rather, Mautic enriches the data, adds value, creates additional knowledge, simplifies processes, and improves the marketer’s intelligence into their audience.
Open source gives Mautic the uniquely powerful position in being able to offer this level of customization and separation. Separation in the sense that you can use some of those services without others. I referred to this in previous posts with a term, microservices, and this leads me to the eventual concept and drive behind some of my philosophies for Mautic 3 and marketing automation microservices.
Important: While Mautic 3 has the ability to provide various functionalities as microservices, there is also a full Mautic 3 marketing automation platform as well. (Not to mention an independent robust API platform and an incredible independent UI as well)
Even as I write that I realize there is so many more things I want to share with you on this topic. But I hope this post at least whets your appetite for learning more about Mautic 3 and the reasons behind why what is being proposed for this release is so important. I’ll be writing much more on this topic as well as sharing a full slide deck that highlights the various relationships in more detail. The image above is only one slide in this forthcoming post and I’m very excited to share it with you. Mautic is once again improving the way marketers work and interact with their tools. Stay with me, things are about to get good.
May 29, 2018
Reading List Recommendations
I decided rather than post my weekly reading list update on Friday I would wait and post on Tuesday instead. Given the long holiday weekend in the US I had my expectations that this would afford me a bit of extra time to read. Excitingly enough I was correct and have a few more books I’d like to add to this post. In addition to my usually non-fiction reviews I’m also sharing some of the fiction books I was able to find time to indulge in as well. I hope you’ll find something in here that will inspire, encourage, or motivate you to pick up a new book as well.
Business books & a common theme
Just as I have done in weeks past I’ll start by sharing the three business books I read this past week and after the summary and takeaway from each I’ll share what I believe might be considered a common thread between them. Interestingly enough, this week, as with weeks past, I am not purposefully selecting books that I believe share a common theme. However, I have been once again pleasantly surprised with how these three disparate books and authors have some common themes and relevant points shared.
This book was one I picked up because the subtitle completely caught my eye. The full title of the book is Accelerate, Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. The subtitle jumps out at me because of the challenges and opportunities Mautic is encountering as we continue to grow at such a rapid pace. Thankfully I was able to enjoy reading this book as Mautic has overcome many of the early struggles we had handling such great growth. I say enjoy because I wasn’t forced to scour the pages in an attempt to uncover some instant fix in the midst of a crisis!
This book was only recently published and has been receiving quite a bit of publicity (at least in my circles) so I was quite eager to read it, particularly given the individuals recommending it. I can now solidly add my own name to that list and say, if you are in any technology-related position in any organization, you should absolutely pick up a copy of this book. In fact, any time I read a book and discover the amount of my highlighted text exceeds the un-highlighted I know I have read something truly meaningful. That being said I don’t have any idea how I’m supposed to shrink down things into a simple handful of bullet points. Here is the best I can do for you:
- Practical Application: This book has performed incredible studies into real-life use cases and organizations and extracted useful results from them.
- Process Makes Perfect: To twist a common saying, the authors focus on creating the best processes for scaling a successful organization.
- Psychometrics and Surveys: The authors focus on collecting data through surveys (some consider this questionable or too subjective) and then applying science to study the results.
I feel terrible offering three meager snippets for a book of this quality but also recognize I cannot paraphrase the entirety of the book here. I can only suggest you pick up a copy and read it yourself. Whether you’re concerned about deployment processes, employee satisfaction, product stability, or just a better understanding of what other highly successful organizations do, this book is a must read.
The process by which an organization accelerates the development and delivery of software improves profitability, productivity, and market share as well as improved effectiveness, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
The second book I read this weekend was technically a bit of a re-read since I had read it once before and I don’t frequently take the time to read a book through a second time but this book is one that serves such a practical nature it’s more of a handbook or manual then it is a book. The book, SPRINT by Jake Knapp is a playbook for how to successfully “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”. There are many reasons why I recommend this book but let me give you just a few:
- Plan and Execute: The author uses a story-telling narrative as he shares how to organize a team, identify a specific problem, and create a prototype in only one week.
- Pick a Path: Storyboarding, brainstorming, idea sharing all play a role within the team as a path is outlined to solve the problem.
- Prototyping: In this week of incredibly fast iterative development it’s important to recognize the outcomes anticipated and focus on getting insights. A prototype rather than a polished finish product is the week’s goal.
I should be clear: this book is not referring to agile development sprints. Just in case there’s confusion I realize it’s important to mention this book and its outcomes are applicable to any organization and any problem. The author is quick to point out the principles and processes here can be applied to any industry and any problem.
Ultimately, this book provides a fascinating and highly specific 5 day (almost hour by hour) journey through a process to go from idea to customer-tested prototype.
Human + Machine
The last of the non-fiction books I read last week was a more future-focused look at how humans work alongside artificial intelligence. In, Human + Machine, Reimagining Work in the Age of AI the authors Paul Daughtery and H. James Wilson focus on how a future work experience looks like as we begin to realize that we are not competing with AI for all jobs but rather how we will work together in a mutually beneficial relationship to accomplish a goal.
I personally enjoyed this book as I am constantly thinking about and sharing how I believe AI will revolutionize the marketing automation space and what machine learning really means (beyond just fancy marketing jargon that some companies like to throw around).
The authors break the book into two parts, first studying what advancements we have already made in the world of artificial intelligence today. They point to the seamless and even elegant interaction between robots and humans in factories where previously these machines were completely restricted to assembly line motions. They continue to draw the reader to conclude how much “AI” we are already consuming today. This serves to emphasize their point that we are currently already living in this humans and machines symbiosis.
The second half of the book is where the authors take more creative liberties to explore what this future looks like if things continue at their current pace. They explore many of the topics which strike fear however unfounded in the hearts of workers everywhere (The imagined future where all jobs are owned by AI). Instead of such a bleak outlook the writers focus instead on the many benefits and attempt to set straight a realistic view of this future world. This is where things get interesting for me. The book focuses on a concept colloquially termed “the missing middle”, or ways of working which currently don’t exist in today’s economy.
This book is a thought-provoking study into how businesses will achieve the greatest success when machines and humans work as allies to create a process which takes advantage of complementary strengths.
As I selected them and read throughout the week these three books did not seem at first glance to have any real correlation. However, as I read them I was struck by what once again seemed to be a common theme.
The Common Theme: Process
The concept of process was pervasive in these three books, whether in product departments of an organization, in how a sprint is handled, or in how machines and humans work together for the betterment of the business. Across all these different thoughts and areas of focus the singular idea of the importance of a clear process was immediately evident.
Personally I admit I may have been slightly predisposed to this notion as the concept of processes is one I personally study heavily, speak about publicly, and even write about with some frequency (The Importance of Process, An 8 Step On-boarding Process, The Importance of Planning, The Importance of Planning: Practically Speaking just to list a few examples.)
As a result of this personal interest I found these three books to touch on unique yet similar aspects of this concept in fresh ways (or in the case of SPRINT, refreshing ways). If you have not read one (or any) of these books, I would certainly recommend you consider adding them to your bookshelf. I would recommend them in the order in which I’ve written about them here and depending on your field of focus might recommend switching #1 and #2. However, if you’re in the technical side of an organization you simply must read Accelerate.
Too often we get caught up in the details of a particular problem and fail to either look at the bigger picture or more accurately, we fail to see how the part fits into the whole. We lose sight of the process. These books helped remind me that the process is critically important as businesses grow and develop.
Bonus: Fiction Fun
Okay, as I said in the beginning due to the long holiday weekend I was able to read a few more just-for-fun books as well. Rather than doing any sort of write-up on them I’ll just share the titles with you in case you’re curious what else I read.
I’m a bit of a mystery thriller fan and love reading a good book with a “twist”. Regardless of your personal interests, I’d recommend anything by James Patterson, he’s a very easy-to-read fiction author (not to mention phenomenally prolific and I find myself inspired by his drive and work ethic). Whatever your pleasure-reading preference might be I encourage you to find a new book, new author, or new topic.
May 24, 2018
Recently I’ve received more than my fair share of emails relating to my privacy and other businesses. This left me contemplative. I began to wonder what this data might look like in graph form. Given my proclivity for data and data interpretation I decided to quickly create a graph that I felt was truly representative of the situation as I have experienced in my inbox.
I recognize we are all unique and we each have different online habits and subscriptions, so your particular results may vary. Below is simply my estimation from personal experience, although I would believe it feels similar for many of you.
Clearly the situation has escalated in recent days and the result has been nothing less than an overwhelming sense of comfort knowing just how many businesses care about my privacy!
I will admit that some of the subject lines have been slightly intimidating or even threatening but I rest assured this is simply their extreme desire to see my privacy protected and sometimes that heartfelt desire can appear as a threat.
As a result of this wave of interest in personal privacy I realized as the recipient I also have an obligation in this situation. If others are so extremely dedicated to protecting and promoting my privacy and take the time to demonstrate this through a barrage of increasingly frequent emails, then it is not just my responsibility, but my duty to respond accordingly.
In order to put the minds of these many concerned businesses at ease and allow them the freedom to sleep in peace at night without the weight of worry over my personal privacy I am choosing to assume that responsibility myself and relieve them of that burden. I’d encourage you to do the same. Let us allow these businesses the opportunity to focus on improving their products and their businesses instead of how they manage our personal data. Let’s give them the freedom to move forward unencumbered without the albatross of our personal information hung around their necks.
The preceding is my light-hearted response to the influx of emails received in the past 24 hours as “the deadline approaches”; in all seriousness this does present a significant opportunity to evaluate your sharing decisions and the implications of who receives your data — Think about it.
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018
The Power of Small Words
First, small words doesn't necessarily refer to size, or even length. Consider a different interpretation, eg. brevity, or conciseness. Second, I have a very strong affinity for all things user-experience related; in fact I consider the ability to make a beautiful user-experience paramount to a successful product. I have always considered the UX (user-experience) to be solely-focused on the design and the process flow of the app, product, or website. This week I believe I was corrected in that somewhat erroneous thinking.
I recognize that normally Friday is the day of the week I usually share what I’ve been reading and this week will be no different, but today (Thursday) I simply have to jump into a topic on which I have been reading a significant number of articles recently. A topic which has not only held me captive but also caused me to return to the concept repeatedly throughout the week. Curious? Let me give you a few more hints before we talk more about this particular topic (no peeking ahead!).
First, small words doesn’t necessarily refer to size, or even length. Consider a different interpretation, eg. brevity, or conciseness. Second, I have a very strong affinity for all things user-experience related; in fact I consider the ability to make a beautiful user-experience paramount to a successful product. I have always considered the UX (user-experience) to be solely-focused on the design and the process flow of the app, product, or website. This week I believe I was corrected in that somewhat erroneous thinking. Or better said, not that this thinking was wrong, but it was incomplete.
You’ve got to be at least slightly inquisitive now as to what I may be referring, have you gotten any ideas? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This week I have been thoroughly overtaken with the concept of UX Writing.
This idea of UX writing as an area of expertise was something I may have inherently understood and recognized at some level, but this week it was defined, exemplified and emphasized in a whole new way. This mental awakening was both eye-opening and thought-provoking and I simply had to share my thoughts on the subject with you. I hope if this is something you haven’t heard of that you find it equally compelling. if you are already aware of (or better yet implementing) UX writing in your business then I commend you for your forward thinking. Regardless, I hope you’ll find value in my highlights below.
Google Gets UX Writing
The first example I want to share with you was from a Medium article I read which gave several great real-life use-cases for UX writing. I would encourage you to read the full article if you find this topic interesting (and honestly, by the time we’re done — you should). In my opinion whenever I think about good end-user documentation I think of the work Google has done.
Google has come to realize the best way to see something adopted is to provide documentation and guidelines for what they believe to be best practices. This is what they have done in the past with Material Design, Android UI, and a wide variety of other projects. As a result their documentation is rich with examples and real-life implementations (including specific do’s and don’ts) . The best way to explore UX writing then is a specific example as Google defines the topic
This single example perfectly outlines what Google believes is at the heart of good UX writing. Good UX writing is clear, concise, and useful.
Wait, back up, what is UX writing
I gave you the Google example at the start of the post for two reasons, first I thought this was so informative and useful regarding a practical application I simply had to share it first; second, I believe learning by example is one of the best ways to understand a difficult topic.
Here’s a good definition of what UX writing involves:
The topic of UX writing consists of three major components: the UX design & usability, wire-framing, and user interfaces. But this isn’t the only three specific areas. Influencing each of these areas and critical to UX writing as a whole is the ability to relate these concepts with the essentials of behavioral psychology and human decision-making. (Remember my post from last week? Interesting tie-in here).
The core principle is similar to what you’ll find in the work of UX design. The goal is to enhance the user experience, to make them feel delighted, and ultimately, to make them feel knowledgeable about your product (even if they’ve never used it before!) Anything that distracts from that goal is a problem to be addressed.
Microcopy: The concept of microcopy is at the heart of much UX writing, it refers to the short multi-word phrases or sentences that appear throughout a website, app, or product. Button text and links are the most common types of microcopy and the types most marketers typically focus on in A/B testing. But there are many, many more usages of microcopy all around us. And these little words are incredibly important.
Another example of UX writing, in the form of microcopy comes from Airbnb, who does the following on their homepage:
The search bar prompts users to “Try Boston.” This addresses 4 key concepts of microcopy as defined by Adobe XD. It is short (brevity), provides an example (context), encourages a search (action), and speaks to Airbnb’s brand (authenticity).
But, should I really care
I know you’re thinking to yourself, but is this something that really matters. Let’s be real, how big of a deal can something like this really make in the scheme of things? I’m glad you asked. I have read post after post throughout this week highlighting specific conversion increases as a result of proper UX writing. Examples like:
- Changing Book Room to Check Availability lead to a 17% increased CTR
- Changing Request a Quote to Request Pricing lead to a 161.66% increased CTR
- Changing button text from Almost done to Review Order lead to a 39.4% increased CTR
Each of these two-word changes lead to massive increases in the Click-Through-Rate and eventual conversion of a site visitor to a sale. What a massive difference can be made by simply paying attention to the words we use. As I believe Google so aptly stated, clear, concise and useful.
Very quickly, let me add that these specific examples are not prescriptive (don’t go changing every “request a quote” button to “request pricing” and expect to see a CTR spike!) But they are indicative of the value found in good UX writing.
As I said in the beginning, my objective was to simply share a topic I have been fascinated with over the course of this last week and found resonated deeply with the UX goals I value. I hope if this is a new area for you it has also excited you and maybe encouraged you to dig in a little deeper into the topic and how it may help you. If you are already aware of these benefits, I hope this serves as a refresher for you and you’ll step back and look at ways you can continue to improve.
At the end of the day, I believe the best user experience occurs when all of the extra distractions are removed, the user is empowered, confident, and feeling good about themselves and the product. Just as I want to share things which excite me so businesses can find ways to be better, I want to share an experience with end-users that give them that same sense of power and control. Sometimes, those two little words, as small as they might be, can be the difference between a sale and a visitor.
May 24, 2018
May 23, 2018
How do you know when marketing automation is missing…or done completely wrong? This is the type of question that many may wonder about. Well, thankfully this week is the absolute perfect week to explore the successes and failures of businesses with their marketing automation.
How do you know when marketing automation is missing…or done completely wrong? This is the type of question that many may wonder about. Well, thankfully this week is the absolute perfect week to explore the successes and failures of businesses with their marketing automation. Why this week? I’m glad you asked. Because this Friday is the Y2K of the digital marketing era. What we are about to experience is potentially one of the most calamitous or greatest non-events in digital marketing history. I am of course referring to the GDPR legislation which goes into effect this Friday, May 25.
Not what you think
But what does this have to do with marketing automation? Contrary to your first thought I am not discussing the reasons why marketing automation is adversely affected (or even positively affected as some companies attempt to put a positive spin on losing their precious data). Instead, I’d like to focus on a different aspect of GDPR and how you can use this week in particular to determine if the companies you know and love are, first, using marketing automation, and second, using marketing automation correctly. Let’s go exploring.
What is GDPR
Okay, I’ve written about this previously on my own blog, and there are approximately 1 billion additional articles written on this topic from every major (and minor) company on the planet. I am absolutely not going to get into that defining and discussing aspect in this post. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t handle yet another post on the topic. Here’s the shortest definition I can find:
GDPR gives residents broad rights over how data is handled, including the right to ensure that data is collected in a manner that’s accurate and secure with appropriate levels of consent. Individuals also reserve the right to have data erased, a.k.a. “the right to be forgotten”, and the right to data portability – meaning that data subjects can request their personal data in a commonly used and machine-readable format in order to give it to another data controller, and where feasible can require you to transmit it directly to the new data controller – Source
If you handle European Union residents’ personal data, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements apply to you.
Okay, make it through that? Or better yet, did you skip it because you already read it somewhere else? I’m okay with either answer, to be honest, and I don’t blame you. But read the bold text. That’s what we care about. In fact two words in there jump out: European Union.
My Exemption Clause & Personal Indemnity
Before I go much further I just need to put this little aside in here. I’m not claiming this to be an adamant statement or even that all companies are misapplying things in this way. There are of course some nuances, various circumstances, and reasons for these emails. That is not within the scope of this post and I absolve myself from blame in those cases.
My supposition is that in spite of all the possible excuses there are many companies misusing or inadequately implementing marketing automation due to either their interpretation/understanding of GDPR, their marketing system shortcomings, or their incorrect usage of this software.
The Error in Marketing Automation
PSA, We’ve Updated our policies
— Daniel Jackson (@cloakedninjas) May 22, 2018
The Bad Breakup
The second type of email is the real problem, by now you probably have seen one (or a dozen) and you will quickly recognize it based on the subject lines that read as follows:
“Let’s Stay Connected!”
“We need to talk, let’s not lose each other.”
“Are we breaking up?”
“The clock is ticking”
“Make sure you’re on the list”
“Can we keep in touch?”
Okay, I just can’t handle writing any more out. Needless to say they run the gamut from pleading to threatening in their tone. Tongue-in-cheek, they sound almost like a bad breakup with an unstable ex. This second type of email is where there’s a problem.
If the business is effectively using their marketing automation software then there is tremendous value in the concept of segmentation. This is a feature which lies at the heart of many aspects of marketing automation and demonstrates the true value of the software in the sense of automating personalized marketing messages. If a business is not properly using segmentation and personalization of their marketing messages…well, they’re doing it wrong. And when they do it wrong, the result is email spam. Lots and lots of email spam.
SPAM: unsolicited usually commercial messages (such as e-mails, text messages, or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places
You know what this means? Marketing automation is not being done right. Businesses should be segmenting, personalizing, and sending appropriate messages to their audiences.
Please, again, read my caveat, there are valid reasons for mass-sending of the now infamous GDPR email; but there’s also mass abuse of this as well and the result is SPAM. If a business has the capabilities and the right marketing automation software to properly segment their customers and contacts, the result is targeted messages with relevant information for interested audiences.
And that’s the real solution here: proper segmentation should allow a business to send the correct GDPR message to the part of their customer and contact base that is most affected by the regulations and changes. Not everyone needs to get blasted with the same email — particularly when it doesn’t affect them.
The unfortunate results
There’s a couple of unfortunate results which come from this behavior. First, the business is far less likely to get people to click on their email and as a result there is a higher likelihood of removing completely unrelated contacts from their database (unrelated = untouched by GDPR regulations). But perhaps second, and even more important, this SPAM messaging approach gives a less than ideal customer experience and makes the recipient think less favorably about the business. I don’t know about you but each time I get one of those emails now I look twice at who sent it. In many cases my view of the business is diminished as well.
Marketing automation is powerful stuff. Used correctly marketing automation can make the marketer’s life easier and the customer’s life better. However, if used wrong it has the exact opposite effect. And that’s not good for anyone. If you use marketing automation, use it wisely, if you don’t use marketing automation, consider this a strong reason why you should.
May 21, 2018
Wow, we have certainly progressed quite a long way in our mobility and mechanism by which we get from point A to point B. What a wide variety of methods and each one seemingly more advanced, and more technologically improved than the last. What a testament to our achievements as a human race and our ability to create and to innovate! But wait...
Recently this past weekend I was standing at my open balcony doors (the weather was truly wonderful) and I was admiring the sunset and the beauty of the river and road below when I was struck by a most interesting thought. I want to try and share it with you, so forgive me if something is lost along the way or I don’t make perfect sense. I hope the thought will be conveyed.
Here’s what I saw as I gazed out into the world. (And yes, I think it’s an unusual occurrence and one I haven’t actually witnessed before.) On the river, were several people in kayaks, a rowing team out for an evening practice run. Joggers on the running path around the park, several cyclists in full gear pedaling along the edge in tight single line formation, a handful of cars waiting to turn at the intersection while a motorcycle sped through the exchange, pedestrians pushing strollers, the MBTA (“T”) Orange line rumbling northbound, while the purple commuter rail clattered past at twice the speed, and a airplane droned overhead as it pulled away from Boston Logan International airport headed for some unknown distant destination.
It sounds crushing, and a little chaotic, but this is not the picture I want to paint for you. Yes, there was certainly a lot going on, but the noise was not unbearable, the scene not one of pandemonium. As a matter of fact everything moved seamlessly and with a sense of elegant precision.
What I really hope you see in this microcosm is something truly phenomenal. Here captured in within my gaze was a snapshot of the evolution of transportation over the past 200 years. Did you catch them all? I’m sure you did as it was quite the overwhelming paragraph. We had everything from walkers, runners, bicyclists, motorcycles, cars, boats, trains, and airplanes.
My immediate first thought was as I’m sure yours might be too — wow, we have certainly progressed quite a long way in our mobility and mechanism by which we get from point A to point B. What a wide variety of methods and each one seemingly more advanced, and more technologically improved than the last. What a testament to our achievements as a human race and our ability to create and to innovate!
But wait, as I said this was my immediate thought. And it was after this thought that the truly interesting idea began to form. We have all these advancements, the ability to travel literally around the world. And we have an incredible opportunity to not only travel from point A to point B but to do so swiftly. And yet, we don’t travel via airplane everywhere. Clearly airplanes are the fastest means of transportation (in the scene I described earlier). But it’s not the most practical. Similarly, we don’t necessarily always jump on a train, or into a car for every jaunt outside. There’s a reason for this. We use the most practical method for the journey.
Each mode of transportation has different benefits and different reasons which make it an acceptable (and still widely used) method for moving from where you are to where you want to be.
Specifically, you’re not going to hop in an airplane to get from your house to the local grocery store (any more than you would get in a car to go through the park). Or to put it a different way, the time it takes to lace up your skates versus the time it takes to just walk from your front door to the mailbox might make the skates equally impractical. It’s not always about speed in the context of the vehicle, but in the context of the situation.
I apologize for this part of the post but this is something I can’t seem to stop myself from doing: applying these ideas to other areas of life. In fact, I think this is partly due to my instinct to focus on core principles.
Marketing software is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. The space is growing in complexity and advancing in technology all the time. But speed isn’t everything and the latest technological improvements aren’t always the right choice. Instead, just as with our chosen method of transit — we should use the most practical method for the specific journey.
So the next time you’re evaluating a marketing platform, or a marketing tool, make sure you’re considering the journey you’re on and the most practical way in which you should get there.
May 20, 2018
Marketing Automation and CRM
There's often confusion and questions surrounding the necessity for both a marketing automation platform and a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This post highlights the values of each and why both are important for business growth, continuity and ultimately success.
One of the more recent announcements in Saelos was in regards to the first plugin written for the Saelos platform. As you can probably imagine, this plugin focused on the relationship between Mautic and Saelos (for rather obvious reasons: I’m a bit of a Mautic fan). But this plugin represents so much more than just another CRM to marketing automation integration. This “Mautic mix-in” forces us to ask the question: what’s the difference between marketing automation and customer relationship management? Should you use both these systems? (and what’s the difference) I know I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, so on the off chance that this is something you’re curious about as well….read on.
What is marketing automation
I’m not going to lie, writing this headline and starting this paragraph I almost cringe a little. I feel I’ve read a million articles answering this exact same question. I really don’t want to go down that same path answering the same question so in order to preserve my motivation to keep writing, I’m going to give you a callout with a definition of marketing automation and then share some slightly different thoughts about marketing automation.
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. — Wikipedia
That’s the Wikipedia definition of marketing automation. It’s a bit dry, possibly a little outdated, and even a bit vague. But this is the same general consensus you’ll read over and over. I think there’s a missing element here. I have heard it touched on when I meet with others, or attend conferences (like the awesome SiriusDecisions Summit).
Marketing automation has an incredible task of also being the manager of the brand. Sharing the voice of the company with the world, as broad as everyone and as specific as each individual. Just as we talk about the customer’s voice – the company has a voice as well. Marketing (in most instances) takes the primary role in conveying this voice to the public, to future customers, and to existing customers. (This is your first hint in answering the question)
What is customer relationship management
If the idea of answering the question about what marketing automation does is a difficult one to write about; then I’m sure you understand the even greater reticence I have regarding this paragraph’s title. What is customer relationship management (or as most everyone in the world knows to be a CRM)? Again, I’m taking the time-saving method of giving you a definition you can find yourself with a 2 second search and then I’ll give you a thought or two about my take on something different to consider.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth. — Wikipedia
Again, thank you Wikipedia, you’ve given a wonderful definition that’s both highly explanatory and equally difficult to easily digest. (Side note: I love Wikipedia and get sucked into the site at least once a week)
So CRM systems have been created to manage the customer (and future customer) and improve relationships with them. This is probably the point where confusion starts to creep in. It appears that the CRM is doing the same thing as the marketing automation tool. “Manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers” — yep, sure sounds like overlap. But I actually believe there’s a subtle nuance here to be explored and understood better. CRM systems are focused on customer retention and sales growth, aka closing deals and making sales. (Second hint in answering our question)
Why you should use both systems
Okay, we’ve got excellent “book” definitions of both marketing automation and customer relationship management systems and rather than introducing clarity it seems we’ve only made things more convoluted and increased the questions surrounding potential overlap. But I left you hints along the way, lets get into this now and see why you should have both a marketing automation system and a customer relationship management system.
We read how marketing automation is designed for marketing on multiple channels and carrying out automated tasks. We then saw that the CRM is designed for managing relationships and increasing sales growth. When it’s filtered down to those two sentences there seems to be less overlap. This is step one. We have to understand not what each system does, but what their purpose is. And now that we have this knowledge let’s build on it to understand why you should use both systems and possibly more importantly why they should be linked.
The “Voice of the Company”
If you believe in the marketing automation being the voice of the company than you will naturally agree that messages sent by the company should be shared with that voice. The value of a unified company voice is incredibly important and has been the topic of books and blogs the world over. If you don’t have a strong link (continuous bi-directional sync) occurring between marketing and sales you won’t have a unified voice. But, why is this true? Let me explain.
Brand management & single communication source
Marketing automation handles the brand, we discussed this already and determined that this management of the company voice was one of the key functions of a marketing automation platform. Or to put it a different way: Marketing handles the communication for the company. This leads us to the reason why you should consider using both marketing automation and customer relationship management platforms (Big deep breath, this is what you’ve been reading for…):
A CRM manages your interactions and relationships and your marketing automation is responsible for sending the messages.
This means your sales team should be sending messages to their customers, and future customers, through the gateway of your marketing team (Remember, they manage the brand and the company voice). This is where we begin to see the slightest crack starting to form in the world of today’s software systems and where I believe Mautic and Saelos begin to differentiate. (Does that interest you? You should subscribe to my blog and I’ll tell you more about it in a future article)
Source of Truth
The source of truth for each contact record lives in the CRM, because as we learned today the CRM is responsible for managing the relationship; but this doesn’t mean the marketing automation system should have less information. Instead, the marketing automation platform must know everything about the contact, plus be able to correctly determine the best channel, time, and message to be sent to them. That message might be a marketing message, but it might also be a sales message coming from the sales team directly.
Two systems, two purposes, one connection
All of this understanding and enabling between the CRM and the marketing automation requires an integration or mechanism for this data to be shared openly between these two systems…a plugin (or in Mautic term’s, a mix-in). And this two-way sharing of information between marketing and sales is what happens today, but it’s not complete yet. We have not yet seen the complete integration between the two platforms (primarily because both are fighting, incorrectly, to be the source of truth).
Why data control isn’t the answer is a great topic and I’d love to say more, but I have written entirely too much for this post; expect to see a separate post soon!
And so, hopefully as you’ve read through the purpose and focus of these two systems you begin to see the value in both as well as the extreme importance placed on linking the two of them together. The answer to the question should you use both systems is a solid yes; because each system has a unique, distinct and important focus.
What comes next is even more exciting. I’ve hinted at it throughout this post, so if you want to know how Saelos pushes CRM and marketing ahead elegantly and beautifully you’ll need to keep reading.
May 17, 2018
The Marketing Choice Paradox Resolved
I believe the proper understanding and implementation of human psychology in marketing automation Is missing in many businesses today. This leads to inferior results and increased marketing efforts to achieve success. Alright, I'm giving you half the conclusion, you'll still have to read through to the end to get the other half!
I love to read, in fact I read a lot. I’m in the middle of one book right now that I can’t wait to tell you about, but unfortunately you’ll have to wait to hear about that particular book for another day. Instead, I’d like to share with you something that I’ve been thinking about recently. Something I have spent time pondering and something I think all of us, and especially marketers, would find value in considering.
Are you ready? I’m going to need you to hold on today because rather than going down one of the typical paths I follow I want to take this post and step off-topic a bit. I’d like to share with you a thought or two and draw examples from not just one book, but three that I have finished recently. I’m going to attempt to cram ideas and concepts from three seemingly disparate books into a single post. But I believe each of these share common themes and when taken together prove to be very informative and impactful for marketers.
Before I start pulling bits and pieces from these three books and demonstrating how I believe they are related let me tell you the conclusion (isn’t it great when you get the conclusion first?!). I believe the proper understanding and implementation of human psychology in marketing automation is missing in many businesses today. This leads to inferior results and increased marketing efforts to achieve success. Alright, I’m giving you half the conclusion, you’ll still have to read through to the end to get the other half!
I would never be so bold as to suggest my ideas are new, or revolutionary on this topic and many great marketers, psychologists, authors, and scientists have devoted large portions of their careers to this study and the many nuances of this relationship. But, everyone has a unique perspective based on their background and their life experiences, and so with that lens in place I would like to share with you what I believe is commonly overlooked when exploring human psychology not necessarily in marketing alone, but specifically in marketing automation (you had to know that would be my focus!).
The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz
Let’s dive in with the first book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Barry wrote this book several years ago but the truths have only become more pronounced with each passing year. His premise is around the negative effects of choice. As most would already believe and tend to consider to be “law” the idea that more choices is better. It’s an easy mistake for a variety of reasons but my goal is not to share with you the theories of the book, you may find those for yourself. Instead, I’ll share with you quickly two negative side effects from choice that Barry presents.
First, choice produces paralysis rather than liberation, to many choices makes the decision making process harder rather than easier. And Barry backs up this statement with a variety of studies and surveys from notable and trustworthy sources.
Second, if the paralysis is overcome the resulting decision leads to a less satisfied result. Barry suggests that for a variety of reasons even after making a decision, the greater the original choices the more dissatisfied the individual is with their selection. More options simply means it is easier for the imagined alternatives to induce regret which subtracts from the satisfaction of decision making.
Those are some powerful statements, and leave some question about what a proper balance should be between freedom of choice and limited options. Schwartz draws one humorous conclusion which holds truth (because doesn’t every joke contain an element of the truth). He shares the secret of happiness to be low expectations. There are several reasons for this statement but I’ll leave those also to your discovery as you read his book.
Takeaway: More choices causes a great deal of anxiety, depression, discouragement, discontent, and other negative feelings in the decision-maker.
The Book of Human Emotions, Tiffany Watt Smith
Let’s jump immediately into book number two, The Book of Human Emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith is a relatively recent publication that I thoroughly enjoyed. I am a big fan of words, I’m constantly attempting to expand my vocabulary and Tiffany had some amazing words in this book. As much as I would love to share some with you, I think I’ll keep all of them to myself (unless you read the book!).
Instead, I’ll share with you why those words were in the book and perhaps that will pique your interest just a little bit more. Tiffany suggests that human emotions are more than physiology. Biologies and cultures influence our cognitive emotions as well. She references Lisa Feldman Barrett who says, words and emotions are dynamic. As humans define or discover new words for emotions a rush of new feelings are sure to follow. This is a fascinating concept and the examples in the book are mind-opening.
But how does this relate to our first book with a paradox of choice. I hope you begin to see the thread that’s forming. Our supposed freedom in choice results in a wide range of negative emotions. Understanding those emotions is the next step in our journey. Our emotional languages tell us not just what we feel but also what we value.
Takeaway: When we name our emotions we do more than just define a word; we imbue them with meaning, weighted with our cultural values and expectations and we use them as a vehicle for our ideals. Our emotions represent a powerful connection between how we think and how we feel.
Drive, Daniel Pink
Our final book we will look at today is Drive, by Daniel Pink. I would imagine that this book may be one you have heard of or even read yourself as it has quickly become a classic that sits on many shelves. Daniel does an incredible job defining how we think about motivation. He goes into great detail defining the many facets of motivation before distilling things down into the three main elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Daniel is quick to share his conviction that we must resist the temptation to attempt to control people and instead do everything we can do instill in them a deep-sense of autonomy. The concept of the carrot and the stick approach no longer works in the world. Work is more complex, tasks are more difficult, they evolve constantly, and in many cases are more interesting.
People will spend countless hours to gain mastery in a particular skill with no external financial gain, expensive jobs are left for “meaningful” work in other sectors where the “reward” is not strictly monetary. The motivation therefore is driven intrinsic motivators more than external.
Motivation based on purpose comes when people are passionate about a particular subject. That passion increases engagement and this in turn makes them more motivated in accomplishing their goal.
Takeaway: People are motivated by a number of factors but almost unequivocally across the board all motivation is generated more by internal forces rather than external drivers.
Bringing It All Together
Okay, we’ve dug in through a lot in the last three major points and even without reading the books I trust you have gotten a good feel for the concepts found in each (At least if I’ve done a decent job explaining you should have). So what does all this mean and how do these three very different books relate? The astute reader may have already begun to put the pieces together, if so, then I hope to confirm your suspicions.
I believe a common thread can be drawn between them: Motivating factors come from inside each person where their emotions and feelings guide their decision-making. The effects of human psychology are therefore highly relevant not only to marketing but specifically marketing automation.
Marketing automation today is nothing like what it has the potential to be and very few businesses use it effectively. Why? Because most do not take into account the topic of the first book we reviewed. The paradox of choice.
Marketing automation handles the automation of marketing messages to the contacts, all the messages, all the landing pages, and all the interactions, engagements, promotions, offers that each contact receives. Marketing automation handles this through campaigns. These campaigns are formed from segmented groups of users (typically). And this is where we begin to see the relevancy. Improper segmentation results in an overwhelming number of “options” or messages to a contact with some (or many) being completely irrelevant or off-topic and thus do nothing more than introduce paralysis and decision-making angst.
As marketers we should take full advantage of our knowledge of human psychology not merely to increase our success (though that should be a natural outcome) but to be the most effective marketer possible for the good of each contact as well. Now, let’s get even more practical.
Marketing automation gives us the power to intelligently send the appropriate message to our contacts. Rather than sending an overabundance of messages on a wide variety of topics each message should be tailored to craft the perfect experience for each contact…with the right number of decisions.
Ultimately proper messaging through marketing automation avoids the paralysis of choice, encourage positive emotions, and motivates the contact to make decisions based on their intrinsic positive feelings. And all this comes from the proper attribution of the known traits of human psychology applied to the concept of marketing automation. The marketing choice paradox resolved in a most elegant fashion! I hope this post has been a thought-provoking change of pace from my usual topics and I trust you have derived some value from this diversion.
May 16, 2018
Marketing Automation Microservices
Recently I was on the phone with a good friend of mine, he’s not directly involved in a technology sector and as such it makes our conversations incredibly fun, light-hearted, and many times /not focused/ on the highly technical discussion and debates I normally find myself sucked in to. This particular chat however ended up steering into my work and some of my recent blog articles and he made a comment that caught my attention. He said, “Hey man, at some point can you explain what exactly are you talking about with Mautic 3 and this new version you’re constantly getting excited about?”
I’ve written a good deal lately about Mautic 3, from my initial thoughts on the subject, a business benefits piece, to a pretty technical introspective, and even a timeline for how I think it might unfold (yes, it’s aggressive). Being a good friend he had read all these articles, and this meant he knew what I was talking about and what I was doing, but he didn’t necessarily have a strong understanding of what it meant and what it actually would do. What he was asking was a very good question and exactly what I like to hear.
I get great advice from lots of people, but some of the best advice comes in the form of a question, and comes from those that are not too close to the situation. Those questions are the best for me. They help me to re-focus, or maybe to state it better, they help me to step back and see the forest, not just the trees.
The Marketing Forest
I hope this post will be a less technical and better view of the marketing automation forest as I see it. First, I think this is an extremely important point to not overlook. Maybe you don’t call it a forest, necessarily, maybe you prefer to call it a ‘landscape’.
I need to take a quick moment to tip my hat to the incredible work done by Scott Brinker (@ChiefMartech) and his team creating the marketing landscape each year. If you haven’t taken a moment to appreciate it – do it).
Regardless of what you call the space, it’s overwhelming, and as Scott suggested in a recent blog post the space is only going to continue to grow. There will not be a mass consolidation of marketing tools but instead a proliferation as more and more are introduced. This leads Scott down an interesting line of questioning and thinking. I call it interesting because he begins to touch on the very thing I have been speaking and writing about . I’ll touch more on that in a second, but first, let’s talk about the implications of such an expansive (and constantly expanding) marketing space.
Expansion means competition
What we see occurring in the marketing space is not uncommon nor should it be something to be afraid of. Instead, the increasing number of companies entering this market improves the customer experience. As more and more services are offered the customer will (hopefully) find a better and better solution to their problems. At least that’s the idea. If businesses happen to overlap, competition comes into play and the product will improve. (also there is the side effect of potentially lowered prices as well!) .
I’m always a fan of competition, I believe it has been well proven that such competition results in a better environment and experience for everyone. This also encourages companies to be better and better.
There’s a second outcome I see as a result of this massive and somewhat exponential growth. As Scott suggested, and as I’ve talked about many times previously – with so many options and companies available in this space there becomes a greater problem to be solved, a greater need to be met. This is where Mautic is uniquely and (dare I say it) perfectly poised to meet the need.
I recently read an article published by KPCB recently which shared the number of marketing tools that a single enterprise business uses. It’s mind-blowing. Care to take a guess? If you guessed 10-15, you’re off by a mile. If you thought 25-50 you’re getting closer (and by closer I mean halfway to right). The number of different marketing technology services, platforms, or products that an enterprise uses is nearing 100 unique systems. This is the product of an 8,000 tree “marketing forest”. But while some may see a problem; I see an opportunity – a massive opportunity.
I see an opportunity of epic proportion that only an open source, agile, API-driven marketing automation platform can attain. You see, a proliferation of tools means there needs to be some manner for communication between them, some exchange platform for the data to be shared, and other advanced data transformation to be performed.
What this marketing disconnect needs is a connector. Something that can seamlessly integrate with all those tools, fluidly fill the gaps between them, complement them, and improve the marketer’s experience. But this shouldn’t be another app with a fancy UI. Even more importantly this can’t be another platform seeking to be the “data holder”. The one place where all data must be kept (i.e single source of truth)
Side Note: This is a point worth more consideration. Almost without exception every existing platform seeks to be the source of truth. They believe only by owning the data are they able to “win” the competition to be best. Therefore, everything they do is to protect and extend this perceived trophy.
Big Data Is Not the Answer
This point is a big one. Many businesses today focus on big data (or at least they used to). What do I mean by big data? I’m glad you asked. Big data means collecting as much information on as many people as possible. Once all that data is held the theory is that predictive analysis and data scientists can extrapolate potential results and thus make smarter marketing decisions. But there is a shift in the tide and this commonly held belief is wavering.
Interesting Read: If you’d like to learn more about what causes this change in thinking, I’d suggest reading this article: Mastering the game of Go without human knowledge.
If the collection of more and more data is not the answer, what is? What is the solution that makes marketers more successful and handles the overabundance of different and disparate tools currently existing in the marketing forest? Enter marketing microservices.
I realize there are some that fully understand what a microservice is and what value it offers. For those I apologize if I make it sound too simple or oversimplify the technical nature of the definition. My goal is to summarize in such a way that everyone feels comfortable talking about marketing microservices.
Personally, I’ve always seemed to learn best with examples and clear instructions. The simpler the better. (The popular subreddit: explainlikeimfive is a personal favorite of mine as you might guess.) And so I’ve picked a hypothetical marketing microservice to be used. And as you might imagine this is something Mautic is preparing for part of M3.
A Marketing Microservice Example
Almost every marketer I know and every system of record (you know, the place that wants to be the source of truth we explored earlier) has a common dilemma. In fact, marketing automation platforms in particular struggle with this issue on a daily basis. The problem is recognized but the problem is not easily solved. Curious? For our example, we’re going to assume the issue is contact record de-duping. The ability to recognize and remove (or merge) duplicate contacts in a database.
This is a problem everyone wants to solve but everyone takes a slightly different approach and everyone has found equally varying levels of success. A marketing microservice would allow a marketer to send contacts to a headless, marketing automation microservice provided by Mautic, which would de-dupe the records and return the result. Everyone wins.
The result is a marketer with a cleaned database of contacts, existing platforms don’t have to worry that another tool is “fighting” to be the “source of truth” and Mautic has provided a valuable microservice to fill-in a gap. Once again we have the idea of filling in the gaps. A clear opportunity for a fluid connecting of marketing microservices providing highly relevant, extremely efficient, valuable, results.
Side note: Interesting side effect, when the data storage is irrelevant the marketer is empowered to do things better, without worrying about switching costs, data privacy concerns, and which platform is /the/ platform for their data. This changes everything.
And this is only one very simple example of the power and capabilities of a headless marketing automation platform. Don’t let the slightly unusual terminology throw you off – it’s only a technical way of saying, a platform which fits in with other existing tools seamlessly and painlessly, complementing, strengthening, and simplifying existing marketing stacks and allowing the marketer complete control over where and how their data is stored, manipulated, and displayed. But that’s a lot of words! So I shortened it to headless marketing automation.
I hope this has helped to showcase what a marketing microservice is and how it can completely revolutionize the industry. All of the incredible power of marketing automation where and when its needed. No more data security and storage concerns. An improved experience for marketers. Finally, a solid, robust way for 100 different and disparate systems to begin effectively talking to one another and improving each other. This is the type of thing Mautic 3 is prepared to handle. This is the opportunity Mautic, an open source marketing automation platform, is uniquely able to address.
If you haven’t taken a look at Mautic, I suggest you do so now! Maybe after reading this you have some great ideas for other ways marketing microservices can add value in the overwhelming marketing landscape. Join in the discussions being held, add your voice to the Mautic 3 development process and become a part of something bigger than yourself, something that will truly improve the lives of marketers everywhere, and change the way the landscape is viewed.
I’ve been to a fair number of conferences so far in my life and I don’t see the trend slowing down any time soon. Between the excitement of the Mautic – Open Marketing movement and the ever-growing community supporting the world’s only open source marketing automation product, I’m on the road a lot. But don’t think I’m complaining. Not for a second. I enjoy the opportunity to share Mautic with the world. But that’s only half the joy. I also get the tremendous privilege of attending conferences and seeing how others think about the MarTech landscape and the business of sales and marketing.
But every once in a while I have the chance to attend a conference that goes a bit deeper. It’s always fun when that realization dawns on me that I am witnessing an event that has been organized down to the smallest detail and attention has been placed equally on every part of the experience.
This last week I had the tremendous privilege of attending SiriusDecisions in Las Vegas for their 2018 Summit. Now I should preface that I had built a bit of a preconceived notion about this particular event. I had heard the stories. The quiet whispers that this was the marketing event. And of course I took these suggestions in stride and with a sense of reserved acceptance. Not until I was able to witness this conference for myself would I make my decision on its ability to deliver on these lofty reviews.
This was the mentality I had as I landed in Vegas for the conference kickoff on Tuesday. What followed was a 3 day showcase of precision, skill, and aptitude on the topic of sales and marketing. Every aspect of the conference was focused on maximizing outcomes for attendees, sponsors, and speakers alike. I had the great privilege of spending one-on-one time with incredible individuals like, Chris Frank from Cisco, who took his time to explain to me how he leads the complex demand generation strategies for WebEx with revenues north of $1bn. Hearing his thought leadership on the ways he saw the marketing landscape and how businesses should be positioning themselves for the future of marketing left me contemplating strategy for hours to come. Or, Becca Shaffer from LevelJump who shared how the scrappy startup life was the ideal breeding ground for quick innovations and success. These individual meetings “serendipitously occurred” due to the intentional and strategic workings of the conference organizers.
And then there were the sessions. Case studies from global industry leaders openly sharing their successes, and their failures, all for the benefit of everyone else. This open spirit of sharing resonated deeply with me as I often say I default to open and sharing everything with others. This was the mentality and attitude of the speakers and presenters at this event. What a refreshing change of price to hear a global multi-billion dollar corporation share “lowlights” (as opposed to highlights). This attitude made me think of a quote I of which I am particularly fond:
“Be humble to see your mistakes, courageous to admit them, and wise enough to correct them.” — Amine Ayad
I forget when I first heard that quote but it has stuck with me, this is the open and honest nature I strive to hold myself to and I was surprisingly pleased to see this same concept on such display at Summit 2018.
Beyond just case studies, and thought leadership though, Summit 2018 gave me excellent practical applications which I could immediately begin to apply to my own thinking and work. This is where I began to realize the true value of an event like this. Show me others who have been successful and I admire it. Give me something to think about and I appreciate it. Teach me how to do something better myself and I am forever changed. That’s the promise Summit 2018 was able to deliver on; with precision and forethought.
Perhaps one of the greatest highlights of the entire conference was the keynote presentation by the world renowned photographer, Platon. His ability to tell a story through his photography and to carry the audience on a journey though laughter, anger, sadness, and a sense of inner resolve was masterfully delivered. He challenged us to think about what a true leader looks like. He told story after story carefully weaving a common thread of servant leadership throughout. Picture after picture, individual after individual he unfolded and shared a philosophy on leadership which kept everyone on the edge of their seats until the very end.
Tony Jaros, president and chief product officer for SiriusDecisions introduced Platon with an almost prophetic statement when he stated, “You’ll want to put your phones away for this next hour. I promise you.”
The next 60 minutes flew by in a mesmerizing showcase of personal stories and deep inner reflection. It was truly a memorable experience. We were changed as an audience, transported from global destination to destination. As Platon anticipated and masterfully orchestrated, our differences were put aside, and we were collectively moved by a singular feeling of compassion. Regardless of personal convictions, biases, and beliefs, we were united under this common cause. When the lights finally rose at the end of the session breaking the spell the room sat in hushed, almost reverent respect for what had just occurred.
My respect and appreciation for the staff and organizers of SiriusDecisions has been raised to new heights and I find myself whole-heartedly agreeing with the reviews and feedback I received from others before I attended. It will remain to be seen what level of ongoing benefits will come from the many meetings I had with others, but I am confident tremendous value has been returned on this investment. The relationships and connections formed go far beyond a casual business relationship and extend deeper into an intrinsic long term value.
If you have an opportunity to attend a future SiriusDecisions conference I highly recommend you do so. Whether it be for learning strategy, finding encouragement, or changing your thinking SiriusDecisions will deliver.
May 13, 2018
Saelos Sunday Update 2
Here we are on the weekend again; and I love the weekends. Partly due to the fact that the schedule tends to be more relaxed, and partly because this means I get to spend some time on Saelos! If you’re just getting to my blog then you should do some reading on other posts before continuing, check out the Saelos announcement, a peek at the technical advantage, the previous update, and then let’s talk about what’s coming next.
Today I want to do two things, first give everyone a quick update on the status of Saelos today (hey, this is an update post) and second, I want to share a little bit about a benefit that Saelos provides and why I believe it’s so incredibly important in the world today.
Saelos Growing Organically
Okay, so first is an update on where Saelos is today. Things continue to progress at a pretty good rate. I wrote last week about a Saturday project I undertook building a dashboard for watching a GitHub repository and monitoring growth. I applied it to Saelos to get an idea how things were looking. Here’s the screenshot:
Here’s the lowdown from that snapshot. First, Saelos downloads are exploding! The growth is tremendous with over 250% increase from the previous release. Second, 2/3 of the issues have been addressed already in the last release and working through the rest as quickly as possible. Lastly, Saelos has a total of 50 stargazers and 9 forks already. This is ridiculously fast uptake and I’m very excited to see this kind of growth continue. Oh, and by the way, the downturn in that one release was because we pushed the next one so quickly there was no time for the Beta 3 to be adopted!
Monopoly Should Only Be A Board Game
All this growth is exciting and the fact that, yes, there is a real need and desire for a super strong open source CRM. Honestly, just a super strong CRM (open source just happens to be the best mechanism in the world). But not a run-of-the-mill standard customer relationship management software that only functions in a small business environment. (Don’t get me wrong Saelos works brilliantly for SMB.) No, what everyone really needs is an option.
There’s nothing worse than a monopoly in a market. And let’s be honest with each other. Currently there’s a bit of a monopoly in the CRM market. And this has lead to stagnation, lack of innovation, and an overwhelming sense of despair. Why? Because when you’re an 800lb gorilla (or maybe that’s a bear named “Codey”…) you keep iterating on the same outdated mentality and philosophy and grow by acquisition alone. The result is frustration, despair, and heartache for businesses and sales teams everywhere.
So how does a cartel get overthrown? By no longer buying their product. But let’s be more realistic. It’s not quite that simple because businesses need a CRM. They need some system to manage their customers and those relationships (not to mention potential customers). And so simply walking away from a software platform is not an answer, something must fill the gap. Enterprise businesses should have options, reliable, capable options which can function at scale. This transition isn’t going to happen overnight. Rather, I believe, the best method for opening the floodgates for businesses is to create an alternative that offers immediate successes. Consider small wins. Super small wins. In fact, maybe we call them micro wins.
CRM Micro Services
Let me be the first to say I dislike talking about other software because what I prefer to do is talk about our software and why Saelos is different. And why Saelos is better and ways in which Saelos stands apart, and functions differently than other systems. And so let’s talk about Saelos and the future of the customer relationship management space. I hinted at my ideas at the end of the last paragraph and in the title to this one.
As technology has advanced we’ve ridden the waves of box software, to hosted software, to software as a service. Even the irony of a ‘no software’ software company is hard to overlook. But as we continue to move forward in technology and software we see the landscape continue to change.
If we step out of CRM and look at technology in general we see the shift from hosted software, to containerization, and then server-less software (or functions-as-a-service).
But specific vertical markets like CRM have not made these same advancements, in part because monolithic software companies have found massive profits in their markets and have not been interested in pushing the limits of technology (or even keeping up-to-date with those technology advancements). There’s a second reason why some of these same improvements haven’t been applied to these markets and that’s due to the inability of closed source software to be able to fully capitalize on these changes.
This is why open source software has a particular advantage for businesses. Run your own containers, run your own server-less infrastructure, or even your own function-as-a-service with open source software.
I believe Saelos as an open source server-less CRM gives rise to the future of customer relationships management. I believe we will (and should) see a proliferation of micro-services in the field of CRM. Use the tool that’s right for the job, pick and choose the best parts of each platform to make your business successful. And in this way, Saelos brings immediate success and improvements to businesses that have existing CRM systems already.
And if by chance a business or organization does not yet have a good CRM in place, or is ready for a complete overhaul and change to their current system, than Saelos provides an amazing platform upon which to build. That’s the true beauty of Saelos, use the frontend, cutting-edge UI, use the advanced API backend, or simply use the functions you need. Saelos works perfect in each of those settings.
I am really excited about the future of Saelos and all it has to offer. If you haven’t yet taken it for a spin, I suggest you look for yourself and see what the future holds.
The last thing I’ll leave you with for this quick update post is a very simple and easy call-to-action. If you like this content and want to be kept in the loop regarding all things Saelos then you need to fill out this short form and you’ll get an update newsletter direct in your inbox each time once is created.
That’s it. I’ll do my best to keep the Saelos Slack channels updated as well as the newsletter and if you are following my blog here, you’ll also get updated whenever I post something here too.
May 11, 2018
May 11, 2018
Mautic 3 Proposed Timeline
The next major topic everyone is very interested in relating to Mautic 3 is the proposed timeline for when things will be worked on…and maybe more importantly when they’ll be available to user. I totally understand this desire and want to do my best to answer this question but I truly hope that everyone understands this is not a black-and-white topic and something that can be easily answered. Why? I’ll answer that quickly and with two words: because developers. I say that in jest but the reality is not too far off from that joke.
In an open source community the release of new versions of Mautic are completely and totally reliant on the time and attention of the volunteers in the community. This is a massive strength for us because we have such a large number of volunteers, but can quickly become an Achilles’ heel when it comes to timeframes. Volunteer work as they are able to. This means while I will propose a series of steps below for the Mautic 3 timeline I will not attach highly specific deadlines or timeframe (at this stage).
Now in the future as we begin to move through this process and as we begin to accomplish certain milestones or goals we will have a better understanding of how things are flowing and can at that time begin to establish some rough timeframes for completion.
With this disclaimer in place let’s take a look at the various steps in a Mautic 3 release timeline and what is involved with each step.
This is where we’ve been living. This is the active ongoing discussion that has occurred in the core channel of our Slack group and if you haven’t been involved in that process, I recommend logging in and sharing your thoughts. This phase is anticipated to have controversy, differences of opinions, and different strategies proposed for how everything comes together.
I’ve written a fair bit lately on this topic as we discuss different options. Starting with a discussion about what Mautic 3 might look like, to the technological advances Mautic 3 might achieve, to the business benefits created by Mautic 3.
The desired outcome from this phase is a shared understanding and an agreed upon vision for what we want to accomplish as a community. And I would merely suggest compromise is important to keep in mind as we all work together for the good of the whole (I’m speaking that admonition to myself as much as anyone else.)
The next phase after the discussion phase is a team formation. This shouldn’t take very long but there will be a time period where we want to evaluate who is involved in this team. Anyone in the community can be involved but there are certain traits which will provide greater value to the team. Things such as a strong ability to see solutions in addition to problems. We want problem finders, but not without being solution finders too.
Side note: Problem finders are critically important to our success but if there are only problem finders are also /critically detrimental/ to our success. We must have problem solvers.
Secondly, having technical abilities and interests are vital to this team as well. I’ll try not to make this sound too obvious, but without developers we can’t create Mautic 3. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not writing this one on my own!
Consensus on Course
I know it sounds silly to appear that we’re returning to the discussion phase but that is not the idea behind this step. In this step we are taking the outcomes from the discussion and beginning to outline how we (as a team) tackle those challenges and begin development. We also identify what is possible and not possible to complete in a timely manner.
Did you catch that? This is the point where we begin to discuss overall timing for successful release of Mautic 3.
We discuss where we want to go, what resources we have, and what is a reasonable time frame to get there. This is what I mean by consensus on course. The direction is set previously; here we focus on timing and specifics.
Core Areas And Distribution Of Tasks
Next the team begins to identify those specific items that each developer or couple of developers is interested in focusing on. I think this is a particularly important phase because we will make the most progress and find the greatest success when everyone is working on something they love. If you feel passionately about a particular area you will put everything you can into it, and will be able to take incredible pride in the end result. And you’ll know that the end result is something that has been done well. Because you care about it.
I am driven by this mentality on seeing others doing what they care about because I do what I love every day. I am committed to seeing others in our community free to focus on the things they are passionate about as well. Do what you love or move on to something else. This isn’t a duty, Mautic isn’t a chore, it’s an opportunity. Yes, at times Mautic may be a /challenge/ but that only makes the outcome better.
Key things to be examined at this stage will be specific areas and leaders for each: Every functional and foundational part of Mautic will need to be addressed. Examples: Campaigns, Segments, Contacts, Companies, Email Builder, Landing Page Builder, Messaging and Channels, Plugins, etc… Let me be clear that is not an exhaustive list. Not by any stretch.
Technology Proof of Concept
Once all the areas have been identified and work is clearly defined the next step takes place rather quickly. In my opinion this is a key validation step in the entire process. The idea of a proof of concept is focused on creating a representative example of the final product.
The goal of a proof of concept should be to confirm the path and technologies chosen to be implemented or clearly identify the ways the current approach is wrong and what should be done instead. That last sentence is super important. It’s more than just showing something doesn’t work. In the case where there is a misalignment of expectation and outcome, an alternative approach should be identified. (Remember earlier? It’s not just problem finding, it’s problem solving)
Once as a core team we are able to evaluate whether the proof of concept has given us the necessary results we can move on to the next step. Keep in mind that each major component must meet a minimum level of expected result for the progress to continue.
Go Go Go
This is the exciting phase. This is where everyone is turned loose to start creating Mautic 3 code. We have a direction, we have a plan, we have a solid proof of concept and we are prepared to create the future.
As we create new things it is critically important that we include testing at every step. This something that was not done as effectively as well as it should have been done during Mautic 1 and even Mautic 2. I can only imagine there was a collective groan emitted by everyone when reading this part. Writing the unit tests and functional tests associated with new code is only interesting to a very select few. (I hold massive respect for those who find pleasure and personal fulfillment in creating these test processes and procedures.)
This phase is also where collaboration is important. Without proper collaboration we will find ourselves working in silo’s too much. We can’t work without collaboration and sharing of information. Do not let the importance of this collaboration be lost as we look at the next phase below.
Silo Alpha Testing
Because we will be creating tests as we build new software we should be able to test our code as we go as well. I’m referring to this as silo testing because it can be done within each functional unit without having to be applied to the greater product at the same time. Again, an API driven micro-services marketing automation platform gives us the ability to do this silo’ed testing
During this stage we will also be refining and modifying this code as we go either to make sure it functions optimally or because we have seen additional improvements we can make as we create Mautic 3.
Bringing It All Together
Everyone gets excited at this particular step. Here we are bringing each of the individual pieces together and begin to evaluate what Mautic 3 looks like. This community core team gets the first sneak peek at what Mautic 3 will present to the world. Yes, this will be an exciting day.
As part of the process of bringing all the pieces together we will repeat some of the steps we undertook during the Silo Testing phase above. We will again evaluate and refine the product based on the interactions between the various parts and identify ways in which the whole of Mautic 3 can be improved to be more than just the sum of the parts.
Important: This should not yield any massive surprises to the team because it is understood that communication and collaboration has been occurring frequently through each of the previous stages.
Alpha Release Deployment
This is the first of several celebration stages! Here the core team wraps up and presents to the community the alpha version of the brand new Mautic 3. This is a milestone moment not just for the core team, and not just for the Mautic product, but for the Mautic community and the world of marketing automation at large.
The Alpha release is the first fully packaged version of the final Mautic 3 product. It will not be without issues. Did you read that? If you’re following the process of Mautic 3 development and you’re not part of the community core team creating this product it can be easy to miss everything that has gone into this process. And it can be easy to point to problems. May I encourage you to exercise discernment and caution as you do so. Feedback is of course welcomed and encouraged. But everyone should maintain the proper perspective and understanding of the status of Mautic 3 at this point. This is an Alpha release with known issues to be found. Do not use in production.
So, if you’re skimming through this article looking to find specific dates I’m sure you’re disappointed. But you shouldn’t be. Instead let me encourage you to scroll back up and read through the points with a bit more intentionality. Then you’ll understand why the dates are not listed. It will not be until we have reached Consensus on Course that we will have a better understanding and a first attempt to outline specific dates.
Let me reassure you, when we get to that phase, we will absolutely and unequivocally share some preliminary dates and deadlines. Without a clear goal we will meander without enough of a sense of urgency.
Now, if you’re still reading and want just a ballpark idea of dates, the following is my opinion on dates and relevant release points.
- Discussion: May 15
- Team Formation: June 1
- Consensus on Course: June 7
- Core Focus: June 15
- Proof of Concept: July 15
- Go: September 30
- Silo Testing: October 7
- Alpha Release: October 30
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion only and is not a finalized roadmap. If anyone attempts to quote these dates as “official” you’ll be immediately and unequivocally corrected!
Please also notice I am not showing beyond the Alpha, as we get this far into the future it becomes more and more difficult to identify deadlines and milestone dates. I have ideas and goals in my own opinion which I think would make for an amazing 2018 but will not share those with you yet. I believe as we move along these steps we will be able to gain more clarity into what is possible and along that path I will feel more comfortable to share specifics on other areas of Mautic 3.
I hope this helps give you greater visibility and understanding into what I believe would give us an incredible future and the path I believe would help us get their. Don’t be disillusioned this will not be easy; but I am confident that the rewards we will reap will be well worth every day spent, and every problem tackled. I hope you’ll agree and you’ll join me as we create the future.
May 10, 2018
The Business Benefits of Mautic 3
Longer posts are always an undertaking. It involves a lot of thought and attention to detail to make sure the information I share is clear and easy to understand. There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes for a finished post to come across as simple. So, usually before undertaking a post like this I like to take a deep breath, a big stretch, and smile. Something about staying positive before wading into the deep end once again.
I should say also, the smile comes from the amazing volunteers in this outstanding community. Together we are building an amazing platform that stands out from the crowd and differentiates us in a number of critical ways.
One of the biggest ways we can demonstrate our expertise lies in our ability to push the envelope and advance new thinking in the landscape of marketing automation. Yes it may be a daunting task, but I would suggest that our community, and our open source approach to marketing automation is the only way this level of growth can be achieved in a stable fashion. We have an opportunity that no one else has. And it’s our duty to push this space forward. It’s our obligation to change the world of marketing and give everyone the tools to market effectively using the latest in technology.
With that quick bit of motivation to get us started, let me dive into the business benefits of Mautic 3. I’ll follow that up with a proposed timeline for this product improvement as a separate post.
Let’s start by exploring the business benefits by making this shift to the next major release of Mautic software. I want to highlight that these six benefits I’ll suggest are not necessarily distinct only to a Mautic 3 release. However, in each case I believe the greatest growth and leap forward would be realized in a major version release.
Stay with me to the end; I’ll discuss in a little more detail tomorrow the idea of migrations and how those would and should be handled with a transition like this.
Speed (Should I say Agility)
At the risk of sounding extremely cheesy I noticed as I typed up these benefits that many of them ended in the same suffix and sounded like they fit together. The marketer in me could not help but then adjust the one outlier (Speed) to also fit this same mnemonic. Thus, for point 1, we have agility, or speed, as an improvement that the end user would experience and thus become our first business benefit. Faster is better (in almost everything – yes, I realize there are exceptions to every rule). Moving to Mautic 3 for our platform will enable us to completely gut parts of the system that have experienced significant slowdowns in the past. Those areas where we see bottlenecks in processing times can be alleviated and the problems with overall system performance can be improved.
Of course we could see improvements in the current branch (Mautic 2), however, due to the discussion that has been held it has become evident that the greatest improvement to speed can be done with a re-write of several areas of the platform. This begs the question – if we must re-write core parts of the platform regardless of the branch in order to improve our speeds, should we not make the necessary improvements to improve speed everywhere and better structure our underlying architecture for the future at the same time? The argument is an easy one to make, in particular when considering our existing infrastructure is reaching end of life for support and we have fallen significantly behind the latest current release (by multiple versions). This must be addressed.
An improvement in our overall speed continues our competitive advantage as we already enable businesses to complete processes in a faster manner than other marketing automation platforms today. This furthers our lead in this area.
The second area where a Mautic rewrite gives us a business benefit lies in the flexibility of the platform. We already built Mautic in an open source way that allows businesses to create a marketing automation workflow that suits their unique business needs but that was always step one in a multi-step plan. The next step in that journey involves giving the business even more flexibility to manipulate and control their data.
Mautic 3 enables businesses to take advantage of existing data stores, and other sources of truth beyond the Mautic database by enabling the separation of frontend from backend code and functionality. Any database that incorporates the necessary API endpoints will be able to take advantage of the Mautic 3 frontend (and vice versa). I spoke specifically to this point in a separate blog post which I would encourage you to read if you’d like to know more about this point.
Mautic was created from the beginning with the concept of mixins – the addition of functionality to the core platform through a Mautic Marketplace which closely resembled a CMS extension directory. This was a fantastic first version and demonstrated that the desire and interest from a community and business perspective clearly existed. With the launch of the new Mautic.org website at the beginning of 2018 we saw a massive uptick in the number of integrations and their downloads.
Businesses wanted this ability to integrate. We wanted to continue in this direction with an overhaul to the existing mixin (plugin) infrastructure and architecture in Mautic 2. But this is still only a step in the journey. Extraction of the existing mixins from core and the unique repositories linked to each mixin allowed for faster development and release of individual integrations. Mautic 3 pushes the software even further in this regards. This is done by doubling down on the API integration layer and the manner in which these mixins talk to the backend (and frontend) of the platform.
I’ll touch on this point in greater detail below as this serves to become a very unique selling point for Mautic and a massive differentiator for our platform in the market. Let’s look at that next as we discuss defensibility.
One of the most challenging obstacles in any company (or community) is understanding and identifying the manner in which the software being created is defensible.
Side note: When I use the term defensible I am referring to our ability as a community to offer something unique that our competitors will never in reality be able to achieve or offer to the same extent as we can.
Understanding what makes a product defensible is a challenge in and of itself and often is very difficult to do in the earliest days of a community. Therefore Mautic 3 is the opportunity where we can begin to apply our learnings in the marketing automation space and begin to clearly define those areas and functionalities where we are unique and defensible.
And this is where the excitement builds for me. This is the culmination of our learning, our open source core, and our ability to push the marketing technology landscape further. Our defensibility is found tucked into many of these business benefits I’ve shared already and will share in the next two points. The underlying mechanism and ability for our open source platform to be split and used interchangeably either from a frontend UI or as a backend API gives us the unique and defensible ability to be the first ever truly open source, API driven, suite of marketing automation micro services.
I know you’re probably very interested in hearing more about this but I’m going to simply say, you’ll have to wait for that specific blog post if you’re interested in digging in. I promise you I’ll publish it soon, because when something is this exciting I have a very hard time keeping quiet for long.
The concept of extensibility as different from integrability is nuanced and tenuous at points. But I would suggest the differentiation is clear enough to allow extensibility to be a separate business benefit. Just as integrability allows the software to work seamlessly with other tools “plugged into it” the idea of extensibility allows for the core functionality of the Mautic platform to be extended to additional areas and implementations.
This underscores the notion that an open source API driven marketing automation micro services platform can do far more than any monolithic platform ever could and allows for the functionality of the platform to extend far beyond the limited reach of existing tools.
Extending the platform requires an API first approach as recommended for Mautic 3. This level of abstraction provides the tools and system interoperability necessary for this business benefit to be properly realized.
The final point I’d suggest as a business benefit for moving to Mautic 3 is a tricky one, particularly because it requires more than simply creating new software. In order for Mautic 3 to be substantially superior to the existing latest release of Mautic and provide additional business value in the sense of a superior stable product implies several fundamental truths. First, Mautic 3 can’t be merely “new code” – it must be tested code. By this I mean while the code may be new, this does not require it to be either untested or unstable.
New Mautic code will not be merged into Mautic 3 until it has the appropriate unit test coverage and functional tests. Otherwise we run the risk of experiencing the same flaws and bugs as Mautic 2. Very fast releases of new features but this surpasses the number of fixes provided to reported bugs.
Therefore, in a release of Mautic 3 we can create a solid, and fully-tested platform capable of being improved upon as needed without fear of the potential to break something unrelated with each new feature release. Overall the stability of the platform is massively improved, the documentation excels, and the usability demonstrates an excellent product. (Read this post I shared recently on the topics of stability, why I think it’s important and what benefits it will provide us.)
May 8, 2018
Balancing Startups and Stability
I’m constantly talking about startups, but also about stability. It sounds like two things that are constantly fighting with each other in an ongoing back-and-forth struggle for supremacy. There’s benefits to either force taking control, however when the balance is struck between the two I believe you see true power and velocity. As a result, rather than letting one “win” or spending all your energies pushing one over the other, it’s better to keep up with a balancing act. Here’s what I think that looks like.
There are so many excellent aspects of living like a startup. Of course the startup mentality has been glorified and turned into this unrealistic standard by which every dreamer or entrepreneur with an idea strives after. What is this startup mentality? Incredibly fast development times, lots of PR and buzz, excitement, energy, passion, working around the clock, releasing new features all the time, oh, and let’s not overlook…breaking things. Constantly.
Based on that list of ideals let’s expand on them a bit to draw some conclusions about the specialties and shortcomings of the startup mentality.
- Fast Development Times: This is one of the greatest strengths of a startup. No other business can hear the voice of the customer and respond with quite the same speed as a startup. Whether that’s because of the closeness to the customer (Every customer is the only customer to a startup), or the flatness of an organizational structure where changes can be made practically in ‘real-time’, or due to the relatively small existing customer base where changes don’t have to take into consideration existing use cases.
- Passion: Startups exhibit a passion for accomplishing the outrageous. This feeling of incorrigible confidence in their ability to change the world (though often mocked) is the foundation upon which a startup is able to legitimately re-imagine how things should work and improve them.
- New Features: The last specialty of a startup I’ll mention is their ability to create new features. This relies heavily on the first two points, passion mixed with fast development/response times creates new and improved features and never-before-seen things. Startups are particularly adept at this and often are able to unseat older more established businesses as a result.
But there is one aspect of the startup that I do not highlight as a specialty or a positive aspect. Breaking things. That’s right, startups break things. all. the. time. Not a strength. In fact it’s the opposite – which is why I consider stability to be the yin to the startup yang.
The benefits of stability are deep and obvious but I’m going to address them anyways. Whenever building software that people come to rely on, one of the biggest and most important issues relates to stability and usability. In fact, stability is considered of such importance that it serves as the underlying foundation for a variety of other business attributes: usability, user experience, stickiness, reliability, excellence, and even success. Now for symmetry’s sake here’s three defined a bit more:
- User Experience: When software isn’t stable the user experience is often one of the first and most notable things to suffer. If the user isn’t able to do what they expect because of bugs, broken things, or problems the result is a negative experience that ends in a lost customer.
- *Excellence: Just as the user experience is affected by stability so too is the general consensus around the quality and excellence of a product (and ultimately the company). If a product continues to break or lacks stability the company’s image and brand suffers drastically.
- Success: As mentioned this is the end result of a cumulative effect from everything listed above. Which means lacking stability ends up in failure. Success is contingent on a number of factors, but stability is without a doubt one of the greatest. A stable, growing product promotes a positive user experience, it speaks to excellence, and it ends in success.
For these clear benefits stability is of great importance for a business of any size, even the startup business. Therefore it stands to reason the greatest success comes from balancing both of these concepts.
There’s several factors that require consideration when striking a balance and while this is not the one and only reason I’ll share with you one important factor you should take into consideration.
But first, there’s an important lesson to be learned here: This balance is not a 50/50 split. That’s right, in this case balance does not have to be an equal, straight-down-the-middle split between stability and startup thinking.
One aspect that needs to be strongly considered when balancing these two involves the target audience. Here’s what I mean. If you’re creating a product for the consumer (end user), for example an app, a service, or a low-price per transaction product, you will address this balance differently than if you are focused on an enterprise level, higher cost of acquisition product, goods, or service.
It seems obvious, but I think many times we tend to forget this difference. Please take note: I am not advocating low cost does not need to be stable. Instead, it’s still a balance but with a greater priority placed on the startup side of things rather than the stability side of the scale. Make sense? If you’re only spending $50 on something you’ll appreciate the speed of development, new features, and passion of the team and community more so than some minor stability issues. You’ll be more forgiving of them. If however, you have a $50,000 purchase you expect it to be absolutely stable, reliable, and excellent. Again, you still want new features, passion, and speed but you discount those items in favor of the user experience and a stable, reliable product.
So, the next time you’re considering your own balance between startup thinking (throw new features at the wall and see what sticks) vs stability (make your product excellent and bug-free) – consider your audience.
Have other ideas or ways this balance can be evaluated? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.