August 24, 2018
The Invitation

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation

August 22, 2018
Personas

The concept of personas in marketing has been around a while and some companies are quick to point out how great they are about creating these various “buyer personas.” Some like to get cute with their naming conventions and they use catchy little titles like “Marketing Mary” or “Sales Sam” or “Buyer Bob.” But at the end of the day there is a massive and fatal flaw with this ridiculous and incredibly time-consuming busy work. And the overworked marketer suffers.

A rose by any other name

Creating a persona is nothing more than a marketer wasting their valuable time to create a segment for their marketing campaigns. They are attempting to do the exact opposite of what they should be doing as a marketer. And the overt, egregious trumpeting of the elaborate process of creating personas as a pinnacle in marketing automation is a travesty. No flashy website with cute animations and the ability to change a background color makes up for this embarrassing display of antiquity.

Working backwards

These brands which herald the buyer persona as “the hot exciting thing” and tout the benefits of creating multiple buyer personas for their audience using some kitschy web app are doing nothing but slowing the progress of marketing automation. They misunderstand not only how to use modern technology but they fail to properly encourage marketer’s in their knowledge and understanding. Don’t get sucked into their trap. If you stumble upon one of these SaaS companies claiming to work in “marketing automation” and offering this type of service…run away.

You see the problem here is these companies fail to understand the very concept of marketing automation. They may have pivoted from other products and services to focus on marketing automation because the trend is hot and the space is growing…but they have not shifted their thinking fully to embrace the true meaning of marketing automation.

Personalized Marketing

Of course the idea of personalized marketing is a common one and these faux-marketing automation brands would have you believe you can use persona and personal interchangeably when considering marketing automation…but there is a massive difference. A persona groups everyone together by a “bucket” mentality and then allows you to market to the entire group as a single persona.

I understand their thinking but disagree with the conclusion. Personalized marketing should allow you to target the individual, not the group. Personas might give you an idea how to market to a group and help you segment an audience, but please, please don’t consider this the solution to your marketing efforts. And please don’t consider this to be personalized marketing automation.

Look forward and think different

Rather than focusing on shiny new terms for old methods let’s consider the future of marketing automation. Let’s put the power of marketing automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and everything else in today’s modern marketer’s toolkit to work to create a better future. Let’s think proactively about how marketer’s can maximize their talents. Don’t waste time doing mundane, outdated, repetitive tasks which could be completed by an intelligent marketing automation platform. Let the machine do the work of learning your audience and personalizing the experience. The intelligent platform can create individual experiences, not grouped, bulk, one-size-fits-all persona experiences.

Because let’s be really honest – The future is personalized marketing not persona marketing. 


 

I should conclude by saying there is nothing inherently wrong with personas. In fact, they are valuable tools if you have no idea who your audience is and you need a thought exercise to help you analyze who your target market should be. But don’t consider this your solution when implementing marketing automation. Personas serve a vastly different purpose.

August 21, 2018
Riffing

I’ve been doing a lot of coding and a lot of reading lately (I hinted to this in a previous post). As a result I need to apologize for not posting as frequently as I would prefer to post. Today’s is just a short thought as well. One of the books I just finished (so you know that means you can expect to hear about it Friday) was on the subject of originality and creativity. The idea of a solitary, lone genius working in a vacuum to create something revolutionary is a wrong idea. This misguided belief is prevalent and pervasive and also completely false.

Shortly after finishing that book I had a meeting where this thought was reinforced in a very relevant and direct way. The ideas were flying and the creativity in the room was high. It was an incredibly fun and motivating time. Some people refer to these sessions as brainstorming, or riffing, but regardless what you call them I can personally attest to the immense value and creativity which can start in those meetings. That’s a key emphasis. Start.

There are a few other thoughts which surface as a result of that interaction but I won’t take the time to share those with you here. Instead I’ll merely allude to the idea that the great idea may not come during one of those meetings directly, in fact the ideas generated may be completely and totally wrong. But they can spark something inside you which could grow into something unique, creative, and useful.

August 16, 2018
Ignored

In case you missed the recent news I feel its worth mentioning and drawing your attention to it again. This headline shouldn’t surprise you. In fact, I read it and felt vindicated in my constant and growing borderline paranoia. This is a problem but a solution is coming. I am so incredibly fascinated by this topic and can’t help but wonder how many times we have to hear about things like this before as a society we decide enough is enough.

It is my opinion we will see a shift in thinking once an alternative is made available and most importantly made easy to use. This is why I get excited…but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that in the future.

I admit I’ve been a bit quiet lately because I’ve been heads-down actually writing code! It’s been a real personal indulgence lately to dig into the world of programming again and I’ve lost a bit of my blogging (and reading) time because of this increase in code-creating…but I think I am on to something and I can’t wait to share it with you.

In the meantime, read this article. Add this one to the ever-growing list of similar posts that are being shared with greater frequency each and every day…and ask yourself…is this the tipping point for you? Aren’t you ready for a change?

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

https://apnews.com/828aefab64d4411bac257a07c1af0ecb/AP-Exclusive:-Google-tracks-your-movements,-like-it-or-not

August 14, 2018
Originality

orig•i•nal, n A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity.

Years ago, psychologists discovered that there are two routes to achievement: conformity and originality. Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo. Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better. Of course, nothing is completely original, in the sense that all of our ideas are influenced by what we learn from the world around us. We are constantly borrowing thoughts, whether intentionally or inadvertently. We’re all vulnerable to “kleptomnesia”—accidentally remembering the ideas of others as our own.

By my definition, originality involves introducing and advancing an idea that’s relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it. Originality itself starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn’t stop there. Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality.

  • Excerpted from Originality by Adam Grant

August 13, 2018
Mautic is not your average JOE

Mautic has always been a strong marketing automation platform, but one thing I’ve continually pushed for is the ways in which Mautic will be leading the way into the Martech future. We have the opportunity now to set the bar for what marketing automation software looks like in the future. I’ve already talked about a few of the technical ways in which Mautic is creating the next big thing in marketing automation with the 3rd release of our software. But I haven’t talked as frequently about the ways we believe marketing should be done differently from the perspective of the marketer.

To be clear, this is a topic which I have spoken on more than a dozen times and shared with hundreds of people, but I think it is important to also post a written description of how I believe it will function as well for those who prefer to have something in writing.

Mautic’s campaign builder

The current campaign builder in Mautic is powerful and robust and incredibly flexible. In fact, we’ve won UI awards for our campaign builder and others have copied the layout and functionality more than once. It truly is a remarkable part of the Mautic platform. And yet, if you were to ask me what I think of the campaign builder I would tell you it’s broken. The layout isn’t necessarily broken or how it works (it does a wonderful job of allowing a campaign to be manually built and each outcome path to be defined and then created step-by-step). No, what is broken is the thinking behind the campaign builder.

Side note: Before I go further it is important to mention that in order to be able to create the future of marketing we had to begin with creating a marketing automation platform which offered feature parity with existing tools. This meant even though we knew it could (and should) be done differently, we couldn’t start with something so uncommon.

When I say the thinking is broken I mean the way in which campaigns have been historically thought about and built is wrong. But as with everything this is just part of the natural progression of things. Computers used to take up entire rooms. No one imagined you could take something so big and shrink it to the size of a desktop…or fit in your pocket. And yet now we have phones with magnitudes more power than those early computers. I said early on we would see this same exponential leap happen in marketing and I’ve said it to the point of annoyance to those closest to me that the current way of managing campaigns will soon be laughable. What antiquated thinking in an age where uniqueness and individuality is sought after and praised so highly.  To think that every one should be grouped into a segment and then sent the same messages at the same time on the same channel is asinine.

Mautic’s future campaigns

There is a better way. There is a way which changes how marketing automation is done and where the marketer is empowered to spend their time on better parts of their job. Marketers shouldn’t be stuck dragging messages across a canvas and connecting outcomes and decisions and messages with little arrows and lines and setting up a path which everyone must follow. What a waste of valuable time and intelligence.

Marketing automation should truly be automated. Marketing automation should take advantage of technology to blend the power of marketing intelligence with the power of the marketer’s skills. Let each do what they are best at doing. And at the same time create a unique and personalized experience for every single individual.

Marketing automation campaigns should be unique experiences. A marketer should never have to attempt to create a special path or journey for each person, but every person should have a unique journey. That’s where marketing automation becomes relevant. The marketer can craft the right messages and the right content and create the elements for the journey. The marketing automation software should orchestrate the experience. The software should build out the journey for each person unique to them based on their learned and expected personal profile.

Gaining wider attention

This concept is one which is finally beginning to gain wider attention and interest from others in the marketing automation space (not necessarily by service providers – other than Mautic) but rather by those analysts and individuals who are able to see what are coming next. Those prognosticators of marketing automation are pointing to this concept of a journey orchestration engine as the future of marketing automation.

David Raab, founder of a leading marketing research firm, has coined this term journey orchestration engine, or JOE, as the label by which to refer to this concept of an adaptive, learning, and personalized marketing journey. He speaks about the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to accomplish this goal. And I could not agree with him more. He has very accurately described the exact solution I foresaw; and agrees with the rather primitive current marketing automation campaign builders. He describes what Mautic has already been proclaiming is the future of marketing automation.

Mautic 3 changes everything

This is why I am so excited about our next version of Mautic. No longer are we stuck in the old days of marketing automation software demanding hundreds of hours of tedious data entry and campaign creation. We are no longer forced to use a behemoth system taking up a veritable room. Instead we have the speed and power of an agile marketing automation platform where marketers create the elements and the platform orchestrates the journey. And with the amazing Mautic mobile interface it’s quite literally all held in your pocket. Mautic 3 accomplishes all this and much more. Interested in learning more? Follow my blog to be notified when I share future posts on the subject.

August 11, 2018
Food For Thought

‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.’

Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 22 October 1945

August 9, 2018
The Importance of Directions

There’s something oddly comforting about directions. A sense of confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. And this gives a feeling of confidence and empowerment to the directions-follower. Good directions offer guidance and support when needed without making the follower feel like they are being terribly restricted and still able to maintain a sense of freedom. Oftentimes good directions are almost naturally intuitive or make the follower feel as though they may have already known the right way.

But bad directions? Or missing directions? Few things are worse for the user experience. Regardless of whether the path to take should be intuitive. The label of intuitive design should be made by the follower…not the one in charge of leading the way or offering the direction. Directions should never be ignored. The result will always be a less than ideal user experience.

August 7, 2018
Alexa

I read a fascinating news article yesterday which highlighted something incredibly interesting about the use of Alexa in the real world. Curious? Here are a few stats:

  • Amazon has sold more than 50 million Alexa-enabled devices.
  • Only 2% of those people have made a purchase through Alexa.
  • And of the 2%, more than 90% never used it again for shopping.

Wow, that’s some terribly rough statistics for the voice-activated shopping future of the world Amazon suggested.

Source: https://www.theinformation.com/articles/the-reality-behind-voice-shopping-hype

August 7, 2018
Why some tech fails

I’ve been doing a good bit of research lately on a topic that I admit I didn’t know nearly as much about as I should have. But thankfully I’m a fast learner so I’ve been able to pick up on it quickly and probably catch up with the majority of you. I was struck by a couple of thoughts though as I learned things and want to share them with you. First though I’d like to premise this by stating again, for the record, I don’t have all the answers. What follows are my opinions. Have a different opinion? I’d love to hear it.

Re-Discovering a Technology

The latest topic of study for me has been surrounding the technology and terminology associated with RDF. If you’re reading this and know what RDF is already I want you to pat yourself on the back, you’re smarter than I was. If you’re more like I was then you might appreciate the following brief definition.

RDF, or Resource Description Framework, is a standard model for data interchange on the Web. RDF has features that facilitate data merging even if the underlying schemas differ, and it specifically supports the evolution of schemas over time without requiring all the data consumers to be changed.
– https://www.w3.org/RDF

This is a W3 standards definition. And though it sounds complicated at first, don’t panic. It’s not really. Here’s the shortest of possible summaries of what it means. Hang on we’re going to introduce a few new terms. This is a way to identify data with unique identifiers to be used on the web. This means the data can be read, understood, and interpreted by machine and human and to know specifically the context. Those unique identifiers are ways across the internet for data to be consistently shared.

Other related technology topics

But that’s not necessarily the topic for this post. Rather, as I was understanding this subject I learned many more keywords, terminologies, and technologies. Here are a few of the topics I’ve covered.

Owl, or Web Ontology Language, is a Semantic Web Language designed to represent rich and complex knowledge about things, groups of things, and relations between things. OWL documents are known as ontologies.
– https://www.w3.org/OWL

 

RDFS this is the schema for RDF, or in other words, the language by which simple RDF vocabularies are represented on the web. Other examples include OWL, mentioned above, are built on RDFS and provide language for defined structures.
– https://www.w3.org/2001/sw/wiki/RDFS

 

SPARQL is the query language for RDF. It has a second usage as a protocol, however for most intents and purposes it is considered a query language primarily.
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPARQL

The truth I saw as I studied these various standards is that these topics don’t end with this list. There are many more acronyms, protocols, definitions, standards, and use cases which can be studied and learned about. While I admit I was aware of most of these topics (though never used deeply) I can also admit I don’t know many who discuss them outside academia and institutional use cases. And now we get to the true topic of this post and the subtle yet growing realization I had as I dug deeper and deeper into this rich set of possibilities.

The technology adoption problem

The question I asked at the beginning of this post, was why do some technologies fail? What causes them to not be adopted and to grow even though the possibilities for the future are massive? As I said in the beginning, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here’s what I believe we can see in this instance and in others where good technology seemingly fails.

Side note: I should request absolution here, I’m not suggesting RDF, OWL, SPARQL and the rest have failed. Rather, they were not recognized for their true value when they were released.

Why technology “fails”

The answer comes through two separate yet related aspects. The first of these comes from the nature of certain technology. The concepts while not foreign are certainly challenging. As the technical skills and prowess required to master a particular topic grows so does the level of difficulty in adoption. The time required to understand and learn the skills necessary to use the technology is a self-limiting factor for growth and expansion. This is the first challenge technology must overcome in order to find a foothold for growth and adoption.

The second is similar, as I suggested, and related because without good documentation and sample use cases the learning curve identified previously is not made any easier. The documentation and subsequent examples (examples really do make the world go round) mitigate some of the friction associated with new technology use. People like to have a very deep and easy to understand method for learning new things. This goes much deeper than I can get into in this particular post because there are many different ways in which a new technology can be learned (Snapchat famously created the quintessential example for shareable design).

Lessons to be learned

And so, coming back to the topic at hand. These incredible technologies may not have “failed” fully. There is still hope to see this incredible technology take off and take over the world. Perhaps in the case of RDF (and the rest) the problem can still be solved, and perhaps now is the optimal time for such a technical topic to again be explored, expanded upon and implemented. Perhaps all which is needed is a couple answers as described above. And perhaps you should continue following my Tech Tuesday posts. 😉

August 6, 2018
Fighting feature bloat in open source

I’ve grown up in open source, I learned how to code in open source and my thinking about software was founded on the principles of open source. Needless to say as things went along I realized there were some interesting and unique problems associated with open source software. But before we dig in there’s a couple of things we need to address.

First, I love open source. If you can’t tell or don’t know I have dedicated my time and my talents to promoting and furthering open source. And anything I share below is not because I don’t believe in open source or the way the software can change the world.

Second, my background is a mix of math, science and art. To quote a well-known and massively overused line…”I have a unique set of skills.” 😂 I joke, of course, but the truth is there are times when my design-sense takes over. And as I see open source software and the way the code is created I can’t help but realize there’s a problem that exists in many of these projects. There’s an element that gets overlooked and completely ignored far too often in open source projects. So here’s a problem I’ve seen and a few of the determinant factors. 

Problem: Open source projects tend to gravitate towards feature bloat and disregard the power of minimalism and simplicity.

Group decision making

One of the greatest and most exciting parts about an open source community is the ability and opportunity for anyone to rise to a position of leadership. Communities are a fantastic way for individuals to find and discover their leadership talent. In a community everyone has equal opportunity to grow into a role or a position and to assume responsibilities. Usually these come from two factors: either you’re naturally gifted, skilled, or inclined towards a particular subject and as such you are quickly moved into a relevant position; or you have a personal desire to volunteer in a particular area because of personal interests. 

Regardless of the reason, communities usually allow for individuals to explore every possible working group (or at least the best communities do). But this wonderful opportunity can also be an incredible Achille’s heel. If there are too many people in a group, too many voices on one particular subject the decision making becomes increasingly difficult.

In fact, I would almost venture to say it becomes exponentially more difficult with each new voice added to a discussion. Of course this topic of group decision making is not one to be addressed here as it would be a full blog post in and of itself. For the sake of simplicity let me merely suggest large group decision making leads to feature bloat in open source and this is something we should attempt to avoid.

All things to all people

The second cause for this rather disagreeable outcome of a feature-bloated product in open source tends to be the reciprocal evil for the inherent good when a large number of disparate people focus on a single idea. Whenever there is an abundance of voices there is also a corresponding abundance of opinions. 

This abundance of voices and opinions is not a problem and as I have suggested this is one of the reasons why open source tend to be so successful. This is the power of the community, this yields a greater opportunity for identifying the most desirable solution. The problem arises when the notion of selection is neglected. What I mean by that is when the various ideas are not distilled down and the “best” one chosen the result is a superfluity of options and alternatives. This is not simple or minimal. This is feature bloat.

Open doesn’t mean all-inclusive

This third reason is not so much a different reason but an expansion on the previous. When there is a great number of suggested alternatives there is also a desire to please as many people as possible. Therefore, in an effort to demonstrate “openness” or “inclusivity” all the options are made available and all the features are added. And any time when there are this many “all”s used in a single sentence the outcome is inevitably feature-bloat. 

It is wise to understand that the idea of open does not in and of itself mean all-inclusive. There is nothing wrong with a community selecting what features to add and what features to refrain from including. This is not a negative and should not be seen as a derogatory response to a particular suggestion. Instead when the focus of the community is centered on the same outcome even in case of a denied feature inclusion there is a fundamental acknowledgement and acceptance of the solution for the greater good. 

I would even go so far as to suggest those communities where you see options being added for everything, where toggles, switches and alternatives are included for everything there is perhaps a greater root problem. In these communities there exists a lack of strong, shared vision and a leadership team capable of making decisions based on that vision. 

The power of simplicity

We all tend to recognize the beauty of simplicity. We are quick to appreciate the power of a good, clean, easy-to-use product. And yet, when faced with making the hard decisions of inclusion vs exclusion we often waiver and become more lenient in our decisions. We should ensure the power of simplicity is not only recognized but held as a requirement for the product created. 

The problem is magnified in open source where again a multitude of voices can influence the product. Great open source communities are aware of and are able to require the power of simplicity in their product.

Why open source wins

Over time the value of open source and the power of the community has become well-known and acknowledged. It is easy to understand the many benefits found in a community of impassioned volunteers. As a result open source software has grown increasingly popular and increasingly commonplace in companies around the world. There is less and less a debate about whether open source software is better than closed source when it comes to these areas. However, open source wins completely when it is able to balance this power of community with the power of decision making. Coupled together the force of these two is unstoppable and the product unbeatable.

Open source wins because it’s a better software solution. Open source dominates because a community and its leaders are aligned on a shared vision and focused on a single goal. The best open source communities fight feature bloat with each release and constantly evaluate their decisions in light of their goals. 

August 6, 2018
Busy, Busy, Busy

I’ve written about it before and I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t think I’ve ever done so in relationship to being a good leader. So that’s our lightning fast podcast topic for today! Are you busy, busy, busy…doing nothing?

Great leaders make the most of their time. Of course just like anyone else they lose time on things and they don’t always make the right judgement call on a particular task or project. But as the great quotable Deadpool says 4 or 5 moments are all that define a hero. In this case though great leaders make the most of their time, most of the time.

Great leaders realize that just being busy is not the same as being productive. There’s an old quote by Mary O’Connor I’ve shared before on my blog which says,

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.”

This the fundamental truth we heard in the song at the beginning and in this quote. How you are busy is what matters. Great leaders are busy doing things which result in meaningful outcomes. They are busy working on those tasks which directly contribute to their success. Great leaders do things which make their ideas become realities. They realize they are working towards a goal and every second counts. So the question for you is simple….Are you busy, busy, busy…doing nothing?

August 5, 2018
Finite or Infinite Games

I know this is not a new concept or even a new video. But I would recommend taking an hour (56:05 to be exact) and listen to this application of the concept of finite vs infinite goals and objectives.

 

Side Note: Are you a great leader saying THIS is what I stand for? Or are you simply looking around, pointing, and saying “Not THAT.”

P.S. Want a short version? Simon also spoke on this topic at TED.

August 4, 2018
If Dreaming Is Dangerous

“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.”
― Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

August 3, 2018
Marketing Salt

I make a mean breakfast omelette. I don’t claim to be much of a cook or a chef, but I will say I know how to make a good breakfast. This has partly come from practice. Lots of practice. Given the strict diet I have chosen I end up eating a lot of eggs and breakfast always ends up being an omelette of sorts. Now I know you’re not reading this post because you are particularly interested in my breakfast habits or my diet. (Although, if you’re interested I’m happy to write up a post about why I eat what I do.) No, I don’t believe you’re here for the food. So let me draw the relationship and relevance to marketing.

Distracted? Yeah, sometimes…

As I was saying, I make a mean breakfast omelette, but some mornings I’m a bit distracted. As many of you know and would also relate to, I have a lot going on. This means my mind is usually working on a couple different things at the same time. And as you have heard before, there is no such thing as true multi-tasking. We are fast-switching between our mental apps. Well, this morning I wasn’t switching quite fast enough. My brain got stuck in the middle of a Mautic app and the result was a failure to add an important ingredient to my omelette.

The Missing Ingredient

You’re probably already aware of the ingredient given the title of the post, and you’re correct. Salt. I left salt out of my eggs. Now, I added  a good bit of other seasonings (this is one of my secrets…lots of flavor!) but I neglected the salt.

As I sat down to eat I was instantly and acutely aware of this failure. And as my brain tends to work I immediately related this to the app my brain seemingly was still stuck in the middle of processing – Mautic. Or less specifically, marketing and marketing automation.

Related to marketing and its evolution

Marketing automation continues to evolve, marketers are growing in their understanding and use of this software and how it can be implemented to improve their marketing practices. I enjoy watching this growth (and I really enjoy seeing how Mautic contributes to this growth in exponential ways). In fact, I think we start to see a shift from simple automation to more advanced personalization and that’s a very important and interesting advancement.

Marketing salt

Let me explain now how my brain works and how I saw the relationship. I think of these exciting new marketing techniques to be a lot like salt. More specifically, I’d consider personalization to be the salt of marketing. Get it? It’s quite simple once you start to think about it. I can sum it up in two opposing sentences.  Too much and it’s terrible, it ruins the dish,  and it’s very noticeable. Too little and the result is bland, unappetizing, and easily discarded. See what I mean now?

Just as with salt, if you have too much personalization in your marketing you start to sound creepy, your personalization becomes very easily noticeable almost to the point of obnoxious, and it ruins the entire marketing effort. In similar fashion, with the absence of personalization in marketing the result is a generic, uninteresting and more easily forgotten marketing effort. Personalization makes it interesting and … dare I say … Personal. People remember things that are relevant to them.

The greatest chefs and marketers

And so, much like a chef must carefully recognize and implement the correct amount of salt in their dishes to highlight the flavor of the food without drawing unnecessary attention to the seasoning itself; in the same way a great marketer must carefully recognize and implement the correct amount of personalization in their marketing, highlighting and improving the marketing without drawing unnecessary attention to the personalization.

Thankfully I believe I’m a much better marketer and technologist than I am a chef…unfortunately I must now end this post and return to my omelette which is now salt-less and cold. But maybe I can remedy that…

August 2, 2018
Nothing

Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.

August 1, 2018
Automation Days: Brazil Edition

As my evening winds down I am sitting here putting the finishing touches on a couple of talks I’m about to have the privilege of delivering at two different Brazilian Automation Days. This is an incredibly exciting couple of events for several reasons. First, in case you weren’t aware of the power of the Brazilian community let me share just a couple of stats that point to the size and significance of this awesome group of Mauticians.

A Few Mautician Stats from Brazil

The Mautic community in Brazil is quite special to me, their support and their passion for Mautic has been immense from the very beginning and the earliest days of our community. I will never forget my amazement to discover the size and activity of this group. I had no idea more than 3,000 Mauticians were actively engaging and helping one another with their marketing automation and Mautic. And their growth has only increased. Mautic Brazil now has over 5,000 Mauticians! That’s phenomenal. And perhaps even more phenomenal is that this group is ridiculously active and encouraging in their support for others.

In addition to holding the title as one of the largest Mautic communities the Brazil Mauticians are also highly active in contributing to the community as well. Some of these Mauticians have led efforts and teams within Mautic (e.g. our Mautic Docker container) which have furthered the global use of Mautic tremendously. Others have taken to contributing to the Mautic community blog to help educate about Mautic and marketing automation.

What’s An Automation Day?

Now you may be wondering what an Automation Day is. Let me explain, Mauticamps are the ongoing monthly meetings of our local community groups (and there are dozens and dozens of these happening every month around the globe). But the Brazilian community recognized they’d like to do something a little greater. They wanted to bring together some outstanding speakers and spend more time together than what a standard Mauticamp might allow for. In short, they wanted to create something special.

We’ve decided to call this an Automation Day. Our goal is to promote Marketing Automation in all its facets and increase the usage and understanding of the Mautic software. But in addition, we have decided to spend a little bit of time talking about something else I believe is extremely exciting. We’re expanding on the concept of an Automation Day to also include some time to discuss an open source CRM, Saelos, and how it contributes in the automation of the sales cycle.

My Talk Topic

As you might imagine based on the above paragraph, I am going to be talking on two topics in one session (talk about a lot to go over!) I am excited to share about the plans and process for Mautic 3 and how things are unfolding as we prepare for this massive undertaking. I am also excited to unveil and share the features and functionality of Saelos. What I really think is exciting is beginning to explore how these two separate platforms can integrate together to create a seamless automated experience.

Check back over the next few days as I’ll be sharing more updates after each event along with my slides and pictures from this incredible community.

July 31, 2018
Handling Criticism

I started this particular podcast preparing to do a 4 minute forethought on the topic of diplomacy. But as is usually the case when one goes spelinking – one thing led to another and I was struck by something that I know I have heard before but felt it’s worth sharing for anyone else who might need a reminder as I received.

Even more than being diplomatic there’s an element of diplomacy which is exhibited through how a great leader handles criticism. And going down that path leads to some very relevant and fascinating, even thought-provoking subjects and interviews. And I couldn’t reference them only and wrap things up in a 4 minute lighting format so I simply have to include at least two of these interviews and take this into a longer ABT podcast. (ABT is the Always Be Thinking podcast I publish rather infrequently when I just can’t help but wax eloquent, or as some might say, jump on a soapbox about a particular subject).

So here are my thoughts around the subject of criticism with two interviews included for your reflection. I hope you find this as valuable as I did. If it’s new to you then consider every word, if it’s familiar then I hope it will be a powerful reminder as we all strive to be better leaders in our day to day roles.

How a great leader handles criticism is a fascinating subject and there are several instances, I believe, which demonstrate how a great leader can handle criticism. There are of course many who would point to the manner in which Steve Jobs handled criticism in a live interview during a product announcement.

But, there’s a second question and response from a different interview from a very different person I’d also like to share on the subject of how a great leader handles criticism. The late Eleanor Roosevelt responds with elegance.

I think it’s quite obvious from these two examples how a great leader handles criticism. Even in these two very different examples – in fact, I think about as different as you could possibly get – we see the same character qualities. The quality of humility, self-degradation, or at the very least acknowledgement of their own short-comings. What an incredibly powerful testament to what I believe to be a key principle of being a great leader. Remember, it’s not the critic who counts….but the man in the arena.

July 30, 2018
Plans

Undesirable inevitabilities should never lead to unprepared outcomes.

July 30, 2018
Advertising

How do you know when advertising has gone too far? This is the constant question which continually comes up whether it’s in real-life B2B marketing or even in the digital world of Hollywood blockbusters. For example, I’m reminded of that scene from the recent movie, Ready Player One.

“We have determined that we’ll be able to fill 80% of the user’s display with advertising before inducing seizures.”

We all laugh at a line like the above when its used in the movies. And I admit, I laughed as well. I mean what a humorous and ridiculously preposterous line…right? Right?!

But then I find myself staring at a screen like the following and I wonder, who’s laughing now?

Can you find the content?

July 30, 2018
Episode 28: Bravery

Bravery is an interesting trait in a leader. Many times in the past people would associate bravery with fearlessness. Thankfully we’re seeing a shift in thinking in recent years in this regard.

There is a growing recognition that bravery is the acknowledgement and appropriate response to fear. But what does bravery look like? I’m glad you asked.

Bravery in leadership can be exhibited in a number of different ways. Here are a few of the most common ways a great leader exhibits bravery.

  1. Great leaders exhibit bravery by standing up for what they believe regardless of the consequences.
  2. Great leaders recognize bravery means accepting damaging things and dealing with them instead of running from them.
  3. Great leaders demonstrate bravery through consistency. That’s an odd one right? But it ties in with the first, bravery means continually standing up for what they believe in. Day in, day out.

    Great leaders show bravery in the face of fear. They take their fears and put them in their proper place. They don’t ignore them, they don’t pretend they are not real, and they certainly don’t run from them. Instead, great leaders put fear where it belongs. Acknowledged and brought under control.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart

July 29, 2018
The Language of CRM

The weeks fly by and there never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything done I’d like to get done. But then the weekend comes and I get a chance to catch my breath … and take a deeper look at my side projects. This has evolved into Saelos Sunday posts like this one. Things have been growing with Saelos and we are closer to a stable release than ever. As I have spent my nights and weekends on Saelos I have come to realize something. I’ll share that revelation at the end of this post though…so stick around!

Let’s jump right into what’s happened in the last week in Saelos. I have some very exciting updates for you. There have been three major progress points and one very special mention to share this week. Let’s look a bit more at each.

Translations

Okay, so this is the first and biggest announcement for this week’s Saelos Sunday! We now have language translation capabilities in Saelos. That’s right, all you polyglots capable of contributing to Mautic – you can now join in. We can’t wait to have you step up and show off. Language translations was one of the biggest milestones still to accomplish before a stable release of Saelos so I am personally quite excited to have this completed. 

Note: This is the underlying framework making language translations possible. This is not all of the translations. For that we need you!

Interested in helping? Join our Slack channels to find out how to get started.

Exports

The next feature I am excited to share this week is another one that’s been frequently requested. Exporting information. The benefits of exporting data is an important one in an open source world. Your data is never locked in and you are in complete control of where it’s used. Exports gives you the power to take data from a specific view.

Basic Reporting

The next feature from our checklist for a stable release was the ability to incorporate basic reporting. This is in our first iteration an expansion of the exporting functionality listed above. I won’t go into too much detail here except to share that there will be more improvements to this feature in the weeks to come and I would love to see our community members who are interested in reporting step up and find ways to improve this feature. 

Saelos Superstar

Lastly, there’s an incredibly important person I’d like to recognize this week. One Saelos volunteer has been doing an enormous amount of work this week focusing on pushing things closer to a stable release. 

Naomi C. Bush is this week’s Saelos Superstar. She’s contributed in a variety of ways…and I believe it’s important to mention .. the majority of these contributions have not been directly code-related. That’s right, Naomi is proof there are many, many valuable ways to volunteer in Saelos without necessarily writing code. Interested in learning more? She will be more than happy to share as she has demonstrated personally to me in the past. So join our Slack channel and ask!

Remaining Tasks

Now, that brings us finally to a review of our Stable release checklist and what remains to be done before we can release a stable version. The great news is this list gets shorter each week. I am very excited to say we are within reach of our goal!

  • Languages and accessibility
  • Inbound message handling
  • View exporting (Reporting)
  • Integration support
  • Documentation

Count them with me! Only 3 remaining items before a stable release. We have come a long way and we are fast approaching the finish line. Naomi is focusing her attention on Documentation and I expect we’ll see great things there very soon. She’d love your help I’m sure! The other two remaining tasks are more code-related so if you are so included just ask for more information and how you can best help. 

Is this the week? It may be! That depends in part on you.


And finally, the realization I have come to and have begun to start to see evidenced in our growing Saelos community is the need for more volunteers capable of focusing their time and attention on Saelos. Naomi is the vocal proof of several things: First, people in our community are eager to see updates and consistent, dedicated improvements. Second, there are community people who want to be more involved and are capable of doing more.

We need more active contributors. We need to up the status of Saelos beyond just a weekend project into something greater. Our community is growing and eager to continue growing. We can no longer be a weekend project. We are fast becoming a substantial open source project and we require more focused attention. I’ll be dedicating more of my time as well to what we have started to ensure we continue to grow as we should.

July 27, 2018
Finding motivation

Everyone has challenges and hard times. If you’re living the startup life or any sort of entrepreneur, self-starter mentality then you know exactly the very unique challenges associated with this life choice. This is the environment I live in. And many of you do as well, I am sure.

Each week I post a Reading for Success post reviewing the 3 books I read over the past seven days. But this post and these reviews I discovered don’t tell you the full story behind why I do this. And as you know, I like to identify and share the why behind things.

As I was saying, we all have challenges and struggles. We face obstacles which may seem insurmountable and we may find ourselves believing all hope is lost and there’s no reason to continue our current course of action. These feelings threaten our success and steal our motivation. In order to be successful we need to find ways to overcome these feelings and find the motivation to continue working. Success comes to those who don’t give up, who never stop trying. There’s an entirely different message to be drawn from that last sentence since, of course, we want to learn and grow and change our actions to be smart – but that’s a post for another day.

This week rather than sharing merely the books I read I’d like to share with you four ways to find motivation and then tie that into our Reading 4 Success series I publish each week. So without any more elaborate of a lead-in, here are four ways I believe you can find your motivation and stir that passion inside you to keep going.

Find sources of encouragement.

There’s incredible value in being able to find and identify sources of encouragement. Whether that’s taking the time to look back at your past successes or listening to the stories of others and recognizing the ways your work has impacted their lives – these sources of encouragement help you keep things in perspective. These words or feelings of encouragement help to bolster your spirit and strengthen your resolve.

Now, sometimes it might be hard to find sources of encouragement for your own work (particularly if you’re just getting started) so there need to be alternative ways to seek out encouragement. For example, you may find encouragement in the work of someone else. Listen to their stories of success, or rather, listen to their stories of failure after failure on the way to success. This can be a massive source of strength when things are looking bleak.

Identify creative outlets.

There are a couple different ways in which this can be considered. Creative outlets are an awesome opportunity to allow your brain a chance to rest from the day-to-day challenges you face. The freedom to be creative and explore the world often yields positive side effects on the very challenges you have been facing. Sometimes your brain simply needs the opportunity to not think about a particular problem before you can solve it. So what are creative outlets? There’s a beautiful world full of them. Here’s just a smattering:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Kickboxing
  • Bowling
  • Skating
  • Board games
  • Movies
  • Concerts
  • Theater
  • Writing
  • Reading

There truly is an infinite list of creative outlets. The key is to find those outlets that are best for you and your brain. You absolutely don’t have to pick just one. In fact, I’d recommend having several you enjoy doing (and that’s key – you have to enjoy doing them).

There’s value in some of the things you choose requiring physical activity as these help your entire body while also requiring your mental focus (taking your thoughts off your current challenges).

Build a trusted network.

There is more to finding motivation then could ever be found in a single soul alone. We’ve all heard the old saying “No man is an island.” And yet we so often tend to think that if we’re not sharing something positive or something successful we need to keep it to ourselves. (I blame social media in part for this major flaw in our thinking.) 

Now, I’m not saying go share your grievances and your deepest darkest fears with the world at large. Rather, you need to build a trusted network of close friends and trusted compatriots who understand the depths of the challenges you face, the daily struggles you are undertaking and know best how you “tick.” These are friends who are able to relate to you and know what you need when you need it most. Sometimes that trust network will offer you advice, sometimes they’ll merely listen. These individuals are incredibly important to finding your motivation.

 

Take a deep breath (or two).

The last suggestion I’ll give for when you are struggling and need to find your motivation is to simply stop, take a deep breath (or two) and clear your mind. Call it meditation, call it a silent prayer, whatever your preference the goal is a clear mind. So whether you do this once a day, once a week or once an hour…there is immense value in these deep and cleansing breaths.

Now, quickly let’s tie this all back in to the topic of this post. My goal is to explain some of my why for sharing what I am reading and what I learn from these books.

Reading

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time then you can probably guess where one of my creative outlets lies. Books. I find reading to be a source of encouragement as well as a creative outlet. And to be honest I also find reading to give me an excellent opportunity to take a deep breath. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, this week’s Reading for Success is a bit different because I want to share with you just one of the books I read this week but more importantly I want to give you a glimpse into why I read and why this book was helpful to me.

The Third Door

This book is the only one I’m going to highlight this week because it lead me to share everything above. Alex Banayan wrote The Third Door, as a means by which to uncover other successful people’s paths and their secrets to success but realized some powerful truths about himself along the way.

Alex tells a wild tale full of color and excitement which leads the reader along a crazy journey through the lives of well-known celebrities in his quest to understand what made them successful. The truth of the journey led to a series of unexpected revelations about himself and a very different conclusion than what he expected.

I’m not going to spoil this one for you, but let me tell you, this is a book worth your time to read. And it’s an easy read at that. Trust me. You’ll laugh, you’ll contemplate your choices, and you’ll hopefully find some motivation!


The other books from this week:

 

July 26, 2018
Demo

As I continue my conference experience sharing for the week I think this is a good time to share that I actually do more than just read, write, and work! But of course, even in this entertainment I couldn’t turn off my brain. Google Cloud Next 2018 is a massive conference with tens of thousands in attendance (this year was their largest year ever with over 25,000 attendees!).

On Wednesday evening Google put on a show. Not just a show, but an entire fairground, complete with a ferris wheel, graviton, food tents, and of course a massive headliner band. The evening was full of incredible sights and sounds and a chance for everyone to unwind and decompress after several straight days of intense conference sessions. The evening was wrapped up with a private and incredible performance by The Chainsmokers. And this amazing experience is what causes me to write this thought.

As I stood in the midst of a veritable sea of cellphone cameras I couldn’t help but join in taking photos and videos of this personal and powerful concert. And even as I took the photos I knew I was witnessing something magical. No, I don’t mean the artists on stage (yes, they were incredibly talented), nor do I mean the music or the atmosphere, or the weather (it was chilly!). No, the magic I witnessed was held in my hand. Here in the twilight evening, lit only by the flashing strobes from the stage, with my phone thrust in the air, while being jostled by hundreds of other excited fans, jumping enthusiastically, singing at the tops of their lungs; I snapped these pictures.

What’s the magic you ask? This was possibly one of the world’s most intense demo. Google was providing the most comprehensive and grueling environment to showcase the technology (both software and hardware) their world-class engineers had created. Each of these photos was shot on my Google Pixel 2 XL. Now I could tell you they did an amazing job, but instead I’ll let you  look at the pictures above and reach the conclusion for yourself. 

Thank you Google Devs. I couldn’t have been more pleased with this product and this live demonstration of the low-light, anti-jitter, fast movement, instant-focus, and AI-driven photography technology you’ve created.

Of course, after being #TeamPixel from the very first day, I was already very well-aware of this awesomeness. 😉

 

July 26, 2018
Proactive

I’m continuing to share little thoughts and snippets from my time here in San Francisco and as a conference attendee who also organizes and runs events I tend to pay extra close attention to the details (not to mention I am somewhat predisposed to observing the little things – because they matter).

This next thought comes from a recent interaction I had with one of the many event staff who happened to be overseeing one of the snack areas. As you might imagine the food bars are one of the hottest and most trafficked spots of an event particularly during that early mid-morning coffee and snack rush. This rush always puts a strain on an event to ensure there is food present and available for the swarming masses. As you might also expect nearing the end of this rush the supplies are dwindling. Event staff were clearly trained to direct traffic to the areas where food could still be found and share with them what food was present.

Sharing this type of availability information is the default, this is the expected, this is considerate and “does the job” effectively. But one member of the events team was going the extra mile. While everyone else was distractedly (and maybe robotically) pointing people to tables with the repetitious comment, “Fresh fruit and granola bars are all that remain” this young woman was going the extra mile. She was being proactive. She stood out to me. Because she was offering more. Her sentiment was the same as everyone else but she added something to the end of her comment. With a smile on her face she was adding, “There will be more snacks available at 10:30.”

Seems small right? Almost inconsequential. And yet this is so often the case with the proactive “surprise-and-delight” mentality. Sharing what is expected and what could be found is good, providing extra information about what is coming next and what time to expect it – well, that’s greatness. That changes attitudes, that informs people. That brings people back.

July 26, 2018
Episode 27: Foundation

Great leaders recognize the importance of a strong foundation. They understand this foundation is a basis by which they think, live, and work. Without a strong foundation when the stress of the job comes they will stumble, fall, or give up. What does a strong foundation mean?

What does it look like? Here are 3 principles I believe you can find in the foundation of every great leader:

  1. Great leaders have built a strong network of trusted friends, and allies.
  2. Great leaders have identified ways to handle stress before they are experiencing it.
  3. Great leaders have created a realistic plan for what they expect to achieve.

July 25, 2018
Exclusive

Here’s a quick thought which struck me this morning as I continue on my week-long conference in San Francisco. I fully recognize the time and effort required to build a demo for a presentation. I also realize there is value in repetition and there is the very real chance that many in the audience have not seen a particular presentation.

But at some point the reuse of the same content in multiple presentations tends to make the delivery polished but the demo stale. I would suggest a better solution is to create multiple similar yet different demonstrations. By doing this you can more than likely re-purpose a good bit of the underlying infrastructure while still creating a new and fresh demo experience for the audience. The story stays the same but the appearance can be varied.

As I’ve been learning more and more recently there is incredible value in the familiarity and the new. Creating a balanced mix of both is the best solution to grab the audience attention while not overworking the setup behind the scenes. This approach allows you to work smarter not harder as a presenter.

There’s value in exclusivity. There’s worth in a unique experience. Take the time to be thoughtful about each presentation, how it’s delivered and what content is re-purposed.

July 25, 2018
Episode 26: Perfection

The idea of perfection is a tricky one for leaders especially. Leaders want to strive for perfection but not at all costs. There comes a point where goal of perfection can stand in the way of progress. Rather than perfection, I’d suggest great leaders recognize the pursuit of excellence.

And that’s worth noting, the pursuit of excellence and perfection are different things. The difference lies in the focus. Perfection focuses on how things look and what others see. Excellence focuses on why things look a certain way or why a task is done. You’ve heard me talk many times before about starting with why. Even in this we should recognize striving for excellence comes before striving for perfection.

Waiting for perfection before releasing (in the case of software), or not accepting anything other than perfection (in general) is a dangerous mindset. Great leaders recognize the constant pull of perfection but rather focus on the pursuit of excellence instead. Great leaders recognize pursuing excellence ignites the soul while pursuing perfection can destroy the spirit.

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” – Harriet Braiker

 

July 24, 2018
Applied Technology

There are so many benefits provided by the advanced technology of today, but as I attend a conference in San Francisco this week I am reminded of a very real problem. Listening to session after session talk about the incredible advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the power of a cloud, serverless architecture all becomes completely irrelevant and nothing more than an over-simplified, idealistic utopian future when we can’t apply these technologies to problems which exist today.

User Case Studies

And before you think “well what about the user case studies?” Let me say, I recognize there are valuable real-life uses where this technology has been implemented and done so successfully. But I have a suspicion regarding these implementations and use cases. I would propose these use cases have been the focus of months and months of intense efforts by dozens of individuals focused on these very specific implementations. In fact, what this does do, in my opinion, is demonstrate there are very intelligent individuals who can, when devoting their entire working time to architecting a single solution with specific technology, create incredible bespoke solutions.

But this is not applied technology. This is not an easily distributed, readily deployable improvement in technology for everyone. These are carefully curated examples. Curious why I would suggest this is the truth of these advanced technologies? Humor me by reading on about how I came to this conclusion.

Plan & Prepare

I mentioned at the beginning that I am attending a large conference in San Francisco. The focus is heavily bent on these incredible technologies and their implementations in the world today. I am joined by over 25,000 other interested attendees and more than 4,000 conference staff all focused on coming together to learn more and share their stories. This massive crowd registered for this event months and months in advance in some cases. Even in the case of the late-comers, the conference organizers were aware of exactly who is attending and the total attendee count at all times.

These conference organizers were also acutely aware of the size of the various venues and keynote rooms available for this event. The simplest of mathematics which my brilliant 6 year old son could discern through basic subtraction is simple: the attendees will not all fit. Pardon my sarcasm, but let me explain with a bit more detail.

If we have the availability of this advanced technology which can properly manage our servers and our cloud infrastructure to perform complex load balancing across available containers in order to reduce friction in the user experience and provide a seamless, high-speed experience for each individual, why can we not do the same in the real world? This same technology could be easily applied to real-life, physical world settings and route individuals to the proper location in a load-balanced solution.

Applying Online Strategies

I recognize not every attendee would have downloaded the conference app, but these would be the anonymous users (in a cloud environment) and they would be handled through a standard protocol much as an anonymous website visitor. But for the known contacts, or in the real-world, those who have identified by downloading the conference app, a customized user experience should be not just possible but implemented with a focused effort.

For example, a notification pushed to my device through the app that there are no more available seats at Venue Location X, and I should proceed to Venue Location Y for a particular keynote session would be the correct user experience..

The ironic thing is this level of preparation doesn’t just help the user and make their experience better. This also significantly helps the conference organizers, and those poor staff members tasked with the unenviable job of directing traffic.

Still In Progress

Until we see the benefits of our advancements in technology put to use in standard, everyday applications such as this I don’t believe we have truly recognized and implemented technology into our lives effectively. This is applied technology and apparently we still have a long way to go.

July 23, 2018
The Art of Marketing

We’re all familiar with those catchy songs, you know, the songs you hear one to many times. The “ear worms” which tend to stick in your head and you can’t seem to escape their lyrical lasso no matter what store you enter or what elevator you ride. We also tend to recognize those brands who have subtly placed their logo or brand-mark within the purview our daily lives. Some of these brands we begin to associate with familiarity and appreciation. What an interesting dichotomy arises here. On one hand we have repetition leading to annoyance, and on the other we have a sense of comfort and happiness. What leads us to appreciate one and despise another?

Art or Science

This question and others like it are the constant subject of marketers everywhere. This study and understanding of these seeming “quirks” in human nature tend to make us believe there is more art than science in this pursuit. But this art is one which can be mastered. Just as the painters of each generation created masterpieces worthy of our contemplation and the subject of careful study by others, so too marketers today can become master artisans of their craft creating works of art which others can appreciate.

This art of marketing, however, is deeply founded in an understanding of human behavior and psychology and a better recognition of the reasoning behind why humans do the things they do. As a supporting case, let’s explore in greater detail the question posed in the opening paragraph. Why does repetition cause desire or disgust with seemingly undefinable contradictory results? Let’s start by understanding what forms this repetition can take.

Focused and Unfocused Repetition

Upon closer observation we can legitimately segment this repetition into two distinct categories: focused and unfocused. That might sound confusing at first pass so here’s a brief explanation. A focused repetition is one where the repetition is the object of the consumer’s attention. They are focused specifically on the thing being repeated and their attention is drawn to the subject, and perhaps even to the fact of its repetition. In this case the consumer is acutely aware they have seen or heard something one time, two times, etc…

The second type or repetition we’ll call unfocused. This is those items which are repeated in the background. The consumer is relatively unaware of the repetition as their focus is on something else. Maybe the song plays in the background of the Uber, or maybe the advertisement shows up in the television above the bar during happy hour. Regardless of the how or where, the unique quality of this manner of repetition is the lack of direct attention and focus given the item by the consumer.

New vs Old

Now with that understanding it’s important for us to consider how repetition works in the human brain. By nature humans are fearful of the new and the different. A natural sense of self-preservation keeps us from appreciating or drawing close to something unfamiliar. We are wary of potential danger. By this same token we feel comfort with those things we know and we find an equal and opposite sense of “safety” with those things we know. This brings us to our first challenge as marketers. We must find a way to make the unfamiliar familiar. We must make our “new and exciting” product something “old and familiar” at the same time. But this is harder than simply making new things seem old. This is hard because of the “dopamine effect,” a concept which by now many are quite familiar with.

The dopamine effect is the sense of euphoria which arises when a person discovers something new and exciting…in a positive way. The result is a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride. A joy which is not too dissimilar from a high one might get from a drug (hence the symbolistic reference to a ‘dopamine hit’).

Are you starting to understand the difficulty present? A marketer must understand these competing forces exhibited by a positive “high” emerging from something new and the familiar comfort wrapped up in something old. How does a marketer manage this intricate balance? The difficulty of this problem is often what causes many to believe the art of marketing is more black magic than a direct science. But there is great news for aspiring marketers. The truth is found more in science than art and better understanding of these principles means marketers can learn the skills to make their marketing more effective.

The Art of Marketing: An Applied Science

We should return now to the idea of repetition. We spoke previously about the focused and unfocused nature of repetition. When we now consider the question regarding new versus old and human behavior in the light of focused and unfocused repetition we can start to see how the science of marketing can be applied to the situation and make our marketing more effective. Let me explain what I mean.

If we understand that repetition when presented in an unfocused and indirect manner can become familiar without being obnoxious or intrusive we can begin to understand how we might be able present a new idea in a familiar way. Rather than a focused repetition of a marketed brand message thrown in someone’s face which can be disarming or off-putting because it’s new and different there’s a more subtle means of sharing a brand message slowly and thoughtfully which can lead to a familiar and positive feeling by the consumer. But this is only the beginning into this study of the art of marketing. It’s a fascinating subject and one I think worthy of further discussion.

I trust you’ve found this post interesting and relevant and hopefully shed some light on the truth of the science behind the marketing. I know I’ve only begun to touch on this fascinating topic and I plan to share more thoughts and insights in future posts. I know I’m certainly learning as we go and I believe we’re all in this together!

 

July 23, 2018
Episode 25: Celebrating

There’s a very fine line between celebrating and boasting. I can’t remember where I first saw the discussion, but the topic centered around one of the loudest mouths in history, the unmatched, unforgettable Mohammad Ali.

I’ve written about him on my blog and there are many, many positive lessons we can draw from his example (confidence, strength, courage, self-worth just to name a few). But one aspect of Mohammad Ali which I would doubt anyone could contradict was his celebrating. In fact, I would venture so far as to suggest his celebrating was actually something a bit more than simple excitement over success. He was boastful. He bragged on himself. This brings me to my 4 minute thought for today. Great leaders celebrate. Great leaders don’t boast. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked (or at least thought the question…)

  1. Great leaders share successes and celebrate for the right reasons. WHY am I sharing this information. Is it simply to make myself look good? (That’s boasting)
  2. Great leaders consider how they share success, is there a better way to share (Filter).
  3. Great leaders recognize celebrating success should be focused on the right object. (What’s the object and why do others care – does it benefit them in some way?)

July 21, 2018
Blindfolded Marketing

“Have you tried our app?” This was the opening line I recently received from a local grocery store chain. Innocuous at first glance and if you didn’t know any better wouldn’t be given a second thought. A quick keystroke and the email was deleted forever, never to be thought about again. But I did give it a second thought, and a third. Because I realized the painful truth about what had actually just happened. I understood what this seemingly inconspicuous email represented.

This simple marketing email spoke volumes to me about the marketing and internal workings of this grocery store. It told me a tale of broken and disconnected company struggling to understand their customers and yet failing to have any level of visibility into their lives. This one message said even more though. It told me they didn’t know who I was, where I was, or what I was doing in their store. In truth it told me their marketing department was tasked with an impossible undertaking – identifying and growing a customer base…all while being blindfolded. 

We all know how difficult it is to perform tasks with a blindfold on and as far as I know there’s only two times when this blindfolding is a good thing, playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at a birthday party, and when considering lady justice. Marketing departments didn’t make the list.

In fact, marketing should have the best possible insights and understanding into their users because this is how they are able to market effectively. But with a single email on a Saturday morning I realized just how difficult this is for many companies to understand. Broken tools, multiple separate systems all leading to disconnected datathis is the true life of a marketer today. How completely sad, and how overwhelming for the person simply trying to do their job.


Curious how I know this and what led me to this conclusion? Simple. I visited the grocery store, discovered savings available for “members only” on a variety of product stickers and proceeded to go to the App store to download their app, from within this app I created my account, setup my profile, selected coupons, added items to my shopping list and then used the app during the in-person checkout at the register. See the problem? If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, re-read the first line of this post.

July 21, 2018
Top

Everyone loves cutting down the guy on top. I heard that originally in a country song, but it came to mind in recent news due to an article I read about Google and DuckDuckGo. Of course I’m not advocating for Google, in fact, there are many things they could do (and should do) differently, and I absolutely believe the future looks very different for Google and every other current tech monopoly (but that’s another post for another day). Instead I want to just quickly point out that when someone’s doing well, everyone else tends to seek out fault a little bit more intently. And another adage which also seems to come into play is the old saying regarding “kicking someone when they’re down.”

In case you’ve missed the news, Google was recently hit with a massive $5BN fine by the EC for anti-trust practicesI’m not weighing in on that discussion. Regardless of how big the company is that is a heavy fine.

But just because they’re getting hit with something heavy doesn’t mean everyone should pile on with every complaint they can dredge up. DuckDuckGo should demonstrate a bit more discretion in this case.

Reading the article caused me to go visit the website in question and I have to admit I was a bit surprised by what I saw.

That’s right, Google not only gives a full explanation for the domain name provenance (not required), but also provides extra links (extra mile), offers alternative advice (helpful), points to the competition directly (generous), and even sprinkles in a bonus link (humor).

Come on, let’s all have a little respect here. Even if we don’t agree with everything Google does; there’s a point where we should appreciate what they do…when they are under no obligation to do so.

July 20, 2018
Episode 24: Advocate

Great leaders care about others. They don’t focus only on solving their own problems or finding the solutions their business alone needs. Great leaders seek to raise other people up and draw attention to their needs and situations as well. Great leaders find ways to help solve their problems and issues. Sometimes this is through their business, but many times this is as simple as advocating for others and raising awareness to their needs. A great leader is able to recognize the stage and audience they have and then use that audience to serve a greater good. Leaders advocate for others.

Taylor Swift is a great example of this. She’s always been a strong a advocate for others in the music business. She uses her notoriety and fame to raise awareness and advocate for artists and musicians everywhere. When Apple made a strong move to offer a service which would harm many new, undiscovered, and struggling musicians she wrote the following:

Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

She went on: “These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.”

Good leaders realize they have an opportunity to help others… great leaders recognize it’s their responsibility to do so.

July 19, 2018
Light Patterns

We hear a lot of talk these days about dark patterns, on the web, in apps, in UI and design. If you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s a quick example:

Dark patterns take a variety of forms and the example above is considered “Confirmshaming” – notice the “No thanks” option? There are several different types of dark patterns and thankfully they are becoming more and more recognized by users and the companies who employ them are being called out for their bad behavior.  You can see a full list of types here:
https://darkpatterns.org/types-of-dark-pattern

But I think it’s one thing to recognize and correct bad behavior. It’s a completely different thing to offer examples and suggestions for good behavior. I think we should take a more positive approach towards recognizing and offering good examples. In addition, maybe we should also start praising those who embrace light patterns. And maybe we should start to reward the companies who choose a user-centric, helpful and informative approach to their users. Wouldn’t the result be a better environment for everyone?

July 19, 2018
Episode 23: Influence

Each week I undertake a bit of a historical deep dive into the life of someone I would consider a Thinker. These thinkers are often leaders as you might imagine. You will of course agree with me that not every great thinker is a leader, there are differences and the relationship is not a bi-directional equivalency. The reverse though I believe is quite often true. Great leaders are often thinkers.

I focused this week on an individual who may not be immediately recognized as a leader but I think even in this we do him an injustice. John Mauchly was a leader in a very important way and exhibited a leadership trait which I believe we would do well to learn from and understand better. Great leaders understand the importance of helping others find success. They recognize their position and knowledge can be used to influence others.

  • Great leaders show discretion in how they share their opinions and ideas.
  • Great leaders use their position and knowledge to benefit others.
  • Great leaders help others find success and notoriety.

July 19, 2018
ENIAC, Programming, and Open Source

As some of you will know already I am spending the week at OSCON in Portland, OR. This is the 20th anniversary of this event and I have enjoyed the information-packed sessions, the crowded expo halls, and the insightful keynotes. I suppose this has pushed open source to the forefront of my mind with some additional emphasis this week and I feel it should only be fitting to let that influence my reading and research for the week as well (let’s be clear I pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe open source so for many of you the emphasis may seem fairly minor, potentially bordering on inconsequential!). Regardless, I’d like to focus on a Thursday Thinker who epitomizes the characteristics and traits of open source. And as I am prone to do, I am focusing on someone from the earliest days of software.

In previous weeks we have highlighted those individuals who may or may not receive great public recognition for their contributions to society or the incredible “thoughts” they had about modern life. This week is no different. Even if you are heavily steeped in an open source life and history this individual may not be someone you immediately recognize or consider a great thought leader. He was, however, incredibly influential in his day and many from the time period would have instantly known his name and the things for which he was responsible.

John Mauchly (1907-1980)

Our Thursday Thinker for this week was full of big ideas and was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in. Possibly most importantly he held to his beliefs about the nature of software and its freedom of availability and usage. John Mauchly was in this regards one of the earliest open source advocates and proponents in the age of computer software (though not directly in a way you would suspect). But before we look at his greatest contribution let’s focus for a second on his background and influences.

John was interested in science from his earliest days and excelled in his high school classes, particularly those dealing with math and science. He was known for being willing to tackle hard problems and you could always find him tearing things apart to understand how they worked before re-assembling them fully functioning. He was particularly good at electrical systems and would often help others in the neighborhood when an electrical problem would arise.

Education and research was always something considered important in the Mauchly family and the pursuit of sciences was a part of his life from the earliest days when his father accepted a position with the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C. Upon high school graduation he successfully applied for and received a scholarship to attend John Hopkins to study engineering. Once there however his interest in the study of applied sciences caused him to switch to a Physics course of study and in a rather untraditional fashion he bypassed his undergraduate degree and successfully completed his Ph.D. instead.

John’s First Big Idea

After several years of teaching in a variety of positions John met an individual by the name J. Presper Eckert. This encounter would prove to be significant in his life as this influence and relationship quickly grew into a partnership as Eckert framed a particularly difficult problem surrounding the use of vacuum tubes.

It was less than a year later when John wrote a memo outlining the the potential to create what he called a “general purpose computer”. Remember at this time the computers which existed were mainly tape-driven programmatic functional machines capable of single purpose problem solving. John’s ideas around a general purpose computer were relatively new at this time and yet based on his outline could be understood and developed. There were several “big ideas” which came from this memo including the concept of digital electronics without the moving mechanical parts of other historical computing devices. In addition he theorized that the speed could be increased significantly. (Yes, for those of you who know me or have read about my borderline obsession with speed this was particularly compelling to me.)

As a simple example of the computer’s speed, eventually John’s creation would be put to use in military applications for the understanding and prediction about missile trajectories where it could calculate results in 30 seconds. It would take a person over 20 hours to solve the same set of equations and reach the same conclusion.

John ended up partnering with Eckert and together they took the idea and made it a reality. His great idea was successfully built and the course of computing was changed forever. This computer would later be named the ENIAC and is today recognized as the first true general purpose computer.

John’s Legacy

But as with many of our Thursday Thinkers we find that John didn’t stop with that single great idea or that one single invention. He held strongly to his beliefs as well and his background in research and the sciences informed his thinking on the nature of computing and how the knowledge surrounding these new machines should be shared and made available to others for the sake of progress and knowledge. John believed in the value of sharing information. He understood this combined mentality of an “open” nature to discovery and learning would only serve to better all of mankind. In this sense John (and Eckert) were believers in the concept of open source before the term was ever officially coined.

This belief was tested when the Moore School (where John and Eckert both were employed) changed their opinions on patents in an effort to maintain commercial rights to the development of future computer systems. John and Eckert both vehemently disagreed and resigned from the school.

There’s a very important side note here as well which speaks to John’s character and sense of honor. Even though he resigned he continued to fulfill his obligations to the school which included a lecture series on the topic of computer design. This series was incredibly well-attended and many of the leading minds of the day were in attendance. Among the crowd sat the creators of the next computer system which would eventually replace the ENIAC.

John’s Influence

John’s work didn’t end with his time at Moore School but rather this only accelerated his thinking on a variety of subjects and topics. And he continued to push the boundaries of the new technology he helped to create. Eventually he moved from the hardware side of computing to the software side. Here he is credited with being the first to use the idea and word “programming” for the verb associated with computers.

His focus on the software of computers eventually led him to theorize about and eventually create the first programming language ever used on a computer. (Yes, a second “big idea”!)

But there is one aspect of John’s life which should gain even more recognition than this incredibly long list of accomplishments. John never lost his desire to teach and encourage others to grow in their knowledge and understanding. He believed deeply in the value of sharing information and was the person responsible for hiring an individual who now stands as the more recognizable first-ever computer programmer, Grace Hopper.

This long and prolific list of accomplishments clearly demonstrates John’s validity to the title of Thursday Thinker. I was consistently struck with defining moment after defining moment while studying John’s life and I realize I can’t do justice in a simple blog post to the many ways his work and his life have influenced our world. I hope you’ll consider looking more into John Mauchly on your own and recognize the incredible ways we continue to benefit from his work.

July 18, 2018
Direction

The other day (actually several days ago now) I was using a popular ride-sharing service and noticed the driver had just left my location at the airport when I requested a ride. I watched as his car turned around on my screen and made its way back to me. When I got in after exchanging the necessary small talk I asked him why he was leaving the airport without a fare. I told him in my mind it seemed to be a great spot to wait for the next rider as there would always be people coming off a plane.

He laughed before sharing with me his thought on the subject. It struck me instantly as interesting and I made a mental note to throw a quick TL;DR about it. Here was what he told me.

He said, “Every day I wake up, I find a rider looking for a trip to the airport or some other equivalent distance away from my home. Then, instead of sitting and waiting for another fare in a single spot (like the airport). Then I start making my way home again. I don’t move fast, and I certainly don’t ignore riders. Instead, I’ve found my mood improves, my attitude is better and I’m generally happier because I’m always ‘heading home’.”

This driver had realized the excitement over “heading home” at the end of the day, could be a way to make his entire day feel better. He wasn’t sitting stagnant in one location, he wasn’t waiting for another rider. He was going home. And inevitably he’d pick up a fair, which would take hime someplace else. He’d complete their route and once again “head for home”.

I thought there was something strangely positive in this thinking and approach and appreciated this rather unique way of focusing his mind on a positive result. It’s all about direction, it’s all about how you choose to see your future and how you get there. This positivity can be applied in other ways and areas of life too. What’s your direction? Are you headed where you want to go? 

July 18, 2018
Episode 22: Firefighter

To quote the infamous character created by the U.S. Forestry service, Only YOU can prevent forest fires. This was the marketing message and strongly endorsed outreach effort created In the longest-running public service advertising campaign in the United States history. Smokey Bear, was eventually protected by U.S. federal law, the Smokey Bear Act of 1952 and continues even today to serve as an instantly recognizable marketing campaign.

In fact, According to the Ad Council, 80% of outdoor recreationists correctly identified Smokey Bear’s image and 8 in 10 recognized the campaign Public Service Announcements.

But this is a 4 minute podcast about leaders. So, a slight modification of the quote might yield a rough paraphrase, “Only great leaders can prevent fires.”

Putting out virtual fires in the company (or community) is often an unrecognized quality of a great leader. This thinking ties in closely with the philosophy shared yesterday where we discussed how a great leader is able to view things from different perspectives. In today’s thought, a great leader is able to KEEP things in perspective. And prevent unnecessary panic and fear while at the same time identifying how to effectively “put out” the fire. Great leaders are fire-fighters.

Modern Software Decentralized Web

July 17, 2018
Exploring the Progression of Modern Software (Part 3)

If you’ve been following along in this series we’ve been discussing the progression of modern software. We’ve tracked the progress of how software has been created and developed over the course of the last 50 years and we’ve dug in deep on some key philosophies behind this journey. If you haven’t read the previous posts I’d highly recommend you read, Exploring the Progression of Modern Software Part 1, and Exploring the Progression of Modern Software Part 2 before continuing in this post. Trust me, it will help make the following sections far more relevant and interesting.

Now, I know you have been on the edge of your seat (or at least I imagine many of you have been) waiting to hear how I conclude the cliffhanger where we left the last post. Before I answer those mysteries and resolve the questions in what I suggested to be an extremely elegant manner it is important to recap what we’ve learned up until this point.

The Vehicle

First, in Part 1 we discussed the software vehicle. In this regard I refer to the idea that there are several tools by which software could be accessed, this was on a single machine, on a server (or cloud) environment, and lastly in a decentralized manner. These methods are the vehicle by which software could be carried to the user.

The Engine

In Part 2 we explored the next important concept around the evolution of software and we called it the software engine. This engine was how software was powered and we identified three engine-types: closed source, open source, and blockchain. I know to some the third engine is an interesting one because it is not often perceived as different from closed or open source but there are some unique properties of blockchain which I believe warrants the label of a unique software engine.

Part 3: The Driver

This means so far we have covered the software vehicle, and the software engine. Both of these aspects focus on what the software company has created or envisioned for their software. But there is an extremely important part of the equation we have not yet addressed. The driver. There must be someone behind the wheel of the software. This is the software user and although the user has been previously overlooked in the software development process (relatively) they are the focus for this third and final post in this series. Let me explain why the user is so critically important.

The purpose of software

The user implements the software and dictates the purpose of the software. In essence the software should service the needs of the driver, carrying them to their destination in the fastest possible way. Software was created to serve the user. This was the original intent and yet with each iteration this goal became a bit more obscure. In fact, we quickly lose site of the original goal of software and instead we witness the pursuit of a variety of sub-goals. As our technology has improved from a hardware perspective (which is an interesting side study) we have shifted our software focus from the primary objective. But let’s continue our study now regarding this user aspect of the progression of modern software.

The No Data Era

This is the era where it all began, just as with the other posts in this series it is important to keep in mind the overlap between this era and the others (in relation to all three components: the vehicle, the engine, and the user). It is also important to remember the purpose of software as we go through this journey and as we consider the use (or misuse) of data throughout each era. If we hearken back to the earliest days of software we are also hearkening back to the earliest days of hardware as well and thus the hardware of the day is of equivalent importance. These early computers were physically incapable of storing information. They were simple functional machines. Then we witnessed the migration to tape-based programming and the concept of punch-cards. During this period as well the concept of in-memory storage or the stored-program computer was non-existent.

If we stop and think about it for a second what we can easily understand then during this era there was no data storage. This was the No Data Era. As the hardware became better and improved over time we slowly saw the incorporation and creation of stored-program software. These computers held on-board memory which was capable of recalling specific protocols or routines and executing them (let’s not forget to mention the size of these beasts either! Large refrigerator all the way to large rooms were the norm.)

During the No Data Era there was no thought (or rather no mainstream thought) surrounding the storage of personal data. The focus was purely on stored procedures and the ability to store functional information. The no data era was in essence completely private, held no concept of singular vs multiple storage locations, and as a result infinitely secure given there was nothing to secure!

But things move fast in tech and the No Data Era didn’t stay devoid of data for long. Soon the hardware was ready for the software to progress. And progress it did – rapidly. Soon software could be written to perform vast and complex functions and eventually multi-routines and finally completely software systems to carry out all manner of tasks. These tasks required data entry by the user in many cases and then the software would store this data locally in-memory to be used in later computations. Throughout all of this proliferation of software a few of the core tenets remained. This era can be summed up easily with the following three words.

Three Word Takeaway: Single, Private, Secure

The Social Data Era

As I alluded to, this software progressed quickly. Very quickly. At times I can’t help but wonder if this progression occurred more quickly than we anticipated or prepared for. Moore’s Law defined the rate at which the hardware could be improved and the software was quick to accommodate this frenetic pace of development.

Along this software progression the data collected continued to grow. In fact, due to the improvements in storage capacity the software expanded its data storage as well. Soon we reached an inevitable tipping point. I’d suggest this tipping point occurred when the cost for data storage became so inconsequential many neglected to even consider the amount of space their data might consume. Software companies formed to create advanced software systems. These software tools were light years more advanced than their predecessors from a previous era. This mass data consumption became the sole focus for larger companies as they began to correlate the value of data consolidation with direct monetary benefit.

In this era, software became once again the vehicle but in this instance, a vehicle for a different cause. Rather than a vehicle by which the user could move faster to accomplish a task, the software became a vehicle simply to collect and return as much data as possible to the company providing the software. These companies soon learned if they were to give away the software they could raise adoption rates and increase the data collection. They began to place the value of the software in the data collected rather than a monetary fee for usage. But the user was unaware of this subtle shift in philosophy. Instead, the user merely saw the monetary cost of the software decrease until in many cases the software was free of all fiscal cost.

Do not let the subtle nuance of that previous sentence escape you. Fiscal cost is the key word. You see, the cost never left the software, it merely changed forms to a currency the user didn’t recognize. The user paid with their data instead of their dollars. (Or Euro etc…I use dollar for the alliterative effect alone.) This is the Social Data Era. We live still for the most part in this era.

In this era we see three key principles which as you may now begin to imagine correlate to others in previous eras. They are as follows:

Three Word Takeaway: Many, Semi-Private, Semi-Secure

I’m being highly generous, too, with the notion of semi-private. In essence this is the era of public data. The progression of modern software has led into an era where the user has relinquished their potentially most valuable and yet misunderstood asset – their personal data.

The Personal Data Era

All of this leads us into what I believe is the most exciting era we’ve ever known. There’s certainly much required for us to fully realize this era and see the true value come from this time in modern software but the rewards are many. A veritable plethora of opportunity awaits us, a type of utopia where the user and the software company are both capable of finding success.

I’ve hinted at what this era holds in both previous topics as well as in the previous section in this post. The answer sounds simple but the progression to achieve it may be far more complex. The answer is personal data. Privately held data by the user with a true understanding of the value and worth of this data as it should be properly attributed. There are a few reasons why this next era in modern software progression may be seen as a difficult progression to be made. Allow me to articulate on them briefly here:

The User Learning Curve

Humans are sometimes a stubborn creature of habit. We form opinions or hold beliefs about things and then obstinately refuse to re-evaluate until we are obligated to do so by some external force. This is the situation we find ourselves in when considering the value and use of personal data. Although I would suggest recent developments, such as GDPR, have served well in encouraging this transition in our internal thought processes, there is still a long way to go before the awareness and realization of the true wealth found in personal data is recognized by society as a whole.

This learning curve is steep and fraught with difficult points. Items such as the continued availability of “free software” where software is void of fiscal cost yet provides powerful features and addictive appeal make this acknowledgement of the true cost difficult to reconcile. The user doesn’t want to sacrifice the supposed free dopamine delivery system for the sake of data. I think of this challenge similar to the detox treatment a drug addict must undergo when they desire to “get clean”. Users must begin to recognize they are paying with their digital lives each time they seek another “high”.

The Software Company Profitability

The second struggle which occurs when attempting to shift thinking into a new software era involves the software companies. These companies, as outlined in the previous section, have built their profitability models around the consumption of user’s data. They have employed every trick possible, some even dipping into “dark patterns” in their attempts to maximize data collection.

Interestingly enough the software companies have deemed the data to be the valuable asset to be collected while the user has dismissed the same. Ironically, the data is far more valuable to the user than it is to the software company! I know there will be some who would disagree with this point but rather than belabor the point in detail I’ll provide a very short explanation for my stance on the subject.

Software companies have long held data to be the pinnacle by which they measure their success and their profitability. They suggest the larger the dataset the better their ability to maximize a positive sales outcome. One need only look at the weak value provided by machine learning, the increasing troubles regarding signal vs noise and the concept of dirty data to see this perfect picture is marred with the practical reality of the situation.

My coup d’etat in this argument lies in the recent news shared by Google regarding their Alpha Go project. After many successful and increasingly intelligent implementations they have arrived at a software variant exponentially more powerful than every predecessor. And the most damning revelation to those data-whoremongers lies in this single revelatory discovery: The software performed at these superior levels with zero pre-defined datasets. The conclusion is simple, the data was not the key for the software company, the algorithm was the solution.

I find this a fascinating and beautiful twist of fate, the very thing first explored during the creation of software, the algorithm and functionality, has once again come back in this perfected modern software.

The Future of Personal Data

From here the conclusions are easy to draw. The writing on the wall is clear: when the data is owned by the user and used by the user they are able to leverage their personal data for their own wealth and success. The data is truly the means by which an individual can increase their worth. And this can be done without negatively impacting the software companies who now find their true value to be in the algorithm and software functionality. They are able to charge appropriately fiscally for access to their superior algorithms, processing capabilities and functionality.

How poetic that the same data which is now hoarded, unused, and inefficiently manipulated by the software company and neglected in value by the user is actually the perfect currency when the roles and positions are reversed. What a beautiful juxtaposition.

This journey in modern software progression doesn’t end here. There are definite outcomes and results from these findings which lend itself to identifying the means by which modern software progresses. The direct implications of this understanding lends directly to what the future of software looks like. Even more exciting, I believe this defines the future of our digital economy as well. And that idea is world-changing.

July 17, 2018
Episode 21: Perspective

Great leaders are able to extricate themselves from the minutia and see the big picture. This isn’t big-picture only thinking. This is an important point to make note of. This does not mean to suggest a leader is a grand ideas, big thinker only. No, in fact it means quite the opposite. A great leader is able to synthesize their incredible world-changing ideas into meaningful steps and equate them with the minutely small day-to-day functions and tasks. In a sense they are able to hold this dichotomous view in their head where they see not just the daily grind but also the fully completed goal at the same time. There are other types of perspective a great leader maintains as well. Here’s a quick three.

Great leaders see the large picture and the details simultaneously

Great leaders are able to relate to the perspective of the customer

Great leaders are able to communicate in the language of the employee

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.

Disclaimer:

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.)

Transition Success

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.

Thank you

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
Monday

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
Hen

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 cat.
“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
  • Documentation

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
Rubber-Ducking

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
Sharing

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
Sensitivity

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.

Research Paperhttps://arxiv.org/abs/1706.09479
Open Source Codehttps://github.com/uber/sql-differential-privacy

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
John Bardeen

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.

BCS Theory

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).

John’s Legacy

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
Together

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
glass.venue.smiles

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.

Modern Software Decentralized Web

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

Exception: However, there’s a slight caveat with the last point of “secure”, as the only reason for this perceived security was due to the closed source nature of the code and accompanying data. There was an unfounded, misconception this closed source somehow equated to “secure”, however, as the reports of hacked SaaS platforms grow increasingly more common this point tends to falter a bit more heavily. Hence I’ll leave this as a “perceived” benefit. Simply put, I believe this is a case of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” – if the bugs aren’t shared, you don’t know the bugs exist.

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.

Note: Due to the prolific number of well-written articles on the topic of blockchain and the overwhelming volume of information available I have not included links throughout this section of the post. I trust you to go spelinking on your own for more data. If you have questions, or would like my opinions on where to start, let me know and I’ll be happy to point out a few great sources I believe get it right.

 

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.

Many

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”.

Private

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….

Secure

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
Free

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
Unbinged

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
Unmoderated

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
Behavior

“People’s behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs, and motives.”
Thomas Mann

July 8, 2018
Desire Paths

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:

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.
Wikipedia

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
Switching

“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
Next

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

art understanding whyThe 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

gathering understanding why meetingThe 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
Inspiration

Inspiration can take many forms. Sometimes it’s a slow burn in the back of your mind building each day into a well-formed thought or plan. Other times it may be something as simple as a firework popping in your brain into resplendent and immediate color. Be on the looking for inspiration however it forms!

 

Living on a prayer

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

Creativity in Leadership

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.

using javascript to improve the user experience

July 3, 2018
Improving usability with simple JavaScript

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”. 

Okay, but like all magic tricks, this JavaScript to improve usability is so simple you’ll shake your head when you learn how it’s done. But I don’t want to keep the secret to myself. I love to empower people and help them learn new things for their own benefit. Or as I’ve shown with Mautic I like to reveal what’s behind the curtain. (Open source for the win!) Keep reading to learn how it’s done.

The prestige

I admit it, I stole this section header from one of my all-time favorite movies. In essence, the prestige is the secret; it’s how the trick is done. So, here’s how this JavaScript trick is done:

  • 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-10level-25level-50level-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.

  • The final step involves using a little JavaScript fadeToggle action to show or hide the spans based on the level- XX of the particular location of the slider.

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.

The Best Open Source Leadership

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.
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

lessons from a sales leader

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 wellyes, 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 workThe 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.

The beginning of artificial intelligence

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). 

Norbert’s Legacy

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.

Artificial Intelligence

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

Modern Software Decentralized Web

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.)

Two Paths

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!

The future of martech and how to do marketing automation

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!

Value and Importance of Time Management

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

Time Relativity Einstein GodelThis 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

The Order and Importance of TimeI cannot say for certain if Amazon was the instigator behind the second book this week, The Order of Timeby 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 TimeThe 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

Successful people and how to planAs suggested previously in synecdochical fashion, my final book this week should be read non-sequentially as listed and you should interpose My Morning Routineby 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

Reading for Leaders

June 21, 2018
Episode 10: Learning

Radia Perlman

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.

Radia’s Achievements

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.

Radia Pearlman STP

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:

Algorhyme
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

 

AI and Machine Learning SpaceX

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 extensionAnd 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.

No regrets Amazon Bezos Advice

June 20, 2018
Episode 9: Regrets

June 20, 2018
Ranting

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
Crisis

“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.”

Be Unique - I Am Unique

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.

Coca-Cola Logo History Unique

 

McDonald's Logo History

Nike Logo History

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
Elephant

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

Recognizing What Matters: old power new power thinking in moments

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.

Look at that, this week I gave you the common concept up front! Let’s now look at how I came to this concept through the books read this week.

The Power of Moments

powerful moments and how they impact usThe 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: ElevationInsightPride, 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 idea of changing your mind and depressionThe 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

New Power

living in a hyperconnected worldThe third and final book for this week is entitled New PowerHow 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.

Connectors, Crowds, Castles, Cheerleaders

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:

Understand old power vs new power

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
Connected

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

JCR Licklider and the Human Brain Interface

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 ARPAwhich 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
Watched

The social networking platform also admitted that it collects information about operating systems, hardware, software versions, battery levels, signal strength, available storage space, Bluetooth signals, file names and types, device Ids, browser and browser plugins (which is almost all of the information available on and about your device), from the users’ phones, TV and other connected devices.”
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