Jan 31 2006



Just ordered it. Happy freaking day.

Arriving on or about March 3rd.

Jan 31 2006

Why eBooks are complimentary, not revolutionary

Michael Hyatt, in a recent post predicted the death of traditional book publishing… someday. Deep Keel disagrees.

Although I’m usually all for technology revolutionizing existing industries, here I’m not so sure it’s going to happen the way Mr. Hyatt thinks.

For one, I dislike his iPod analogy for several reasons:

1. Listening to music on an iPod is vastly superior in all ways to listening to it on a CD. Yes there’s a ‘quality’ hit, but honestly… who cares? The core, the guts of the song are there, and that’s what counts. I can listen to my iPod or a CD – I have a choice.
— E-Ink has many advantages and disadvantages in it’s current state.

2. When I bought my iPod I could put all the music I already owned on it. It made my existing (large) investment more useful and portable.
— Currently only new books available on eBook form could be put on an e-reader. No-one is unveiling a program to let you download books you already own and I doubt anyone will (Amazon might let you do it for a small charge?).

3. Just as Sony is being raked over the coals (and taken to court) for going too far in trying to protect its content, publishers will go too far and make their books less useful in trying to protect them from average citizens. Although the iPod supports DRM (iTunes store) it’s normally used to play non DRM content. DRMed content (iTunes) is also available in non DRMed forms (CDs).
— Treating your customers like criminals is a bad business strategy. I can lend a book to a friend, how do I lend an e-book? How do I check out an eBook from the library? How do I buy an eBook as a gift? These are some of the key features of a BOOK- ease of lending, libraries and gift buying are all reasons books are bought today- and big reasons in many cases.

4. iPods are a fashion/social statement.
— An eBook reader as a fashion statement? Maybe — but it’ll have to be really cool. The Creative Zen has more features than an iPod… and one tenth the market share.

Will eBooks be big? Sure. Will we see a plethora of eBook readers in the next few years? Sure. Will the traditional publishing system collapse. Hardly. It will have to adapt, but not nearly as much as the music and movie industries will. They are all content, but they are valued and consumed in completely different ways.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But so could Mr. Hyatt 😉

Jan 28 2006

Chicago- Day 2- Getting Real Workshop

I woke up, got ready, checked out of the hotel, stashed my luggage in my car and headed out to find the Gleacher Center. After walking a few blocks in the wrong direction (ahem) I found the right street and ended up… at the loading dock. Apparently there are some two level parts of Chicago. I was on the right street, just on the lower level.

Imagine sixty geeks sitting in a room, the vast majority with Macs, and you have an idea what it was like. There was a documentary about an architect playing as a prelude. The continental breakfast was way better than the hotel (unfortunately I had eaten at the hotel). I grabbed some real OJ (thank god – the minute maid crap at Embassy Suites was killing me – I am a total OJ snob) and a Coke to start my morning right 😉

The workshop was great. Although I have heard a lot of their ideas and mantras in bits an pieces on their blogs and by listening to various interviews, it was good to have it all in a cohesive and entertaining presentation.

They allowed us to use a pre-release of Campfire (online chat done right) during the entire workshop! This allowed us to chat amongst ourselves, have a running commentary (which got almost Pentecostal during David’s session), and talk to the 37s folks not actively presenting. Read my Campfire post for more info.

The presentation style was very natural- short phrases really big on screen fleshed out in a natural conversational style. Lots of laughs were had and everyone enjoyed themselves. The room was mostly entrepreneurs and people from small companies so some of 37signals more controversial ideas (no functional spec, don’t wire frame, etc) were widely accepted and there was little to no pushback from participants.

David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby on Rails) was a lot of fun. As usual, he showed gorgeous ROR code and talked about the advantages of being a happy programmer, working smarter instead of harder, and “kicking ass angel style.� He talked about how PHP is the devil and other assorted good versus evil comparisons.

This is part of the reason for my recent decision to switch. I realized that I really want to use ROR for personal development – that it will make me a happier programmer, and to really be happy using ROR I need to be on OS X using TextMate. So… here I go!

Lunch was amazing- the event was catered by Wolfgang Puck catering. I regret not sitting with the 37s crew – I was about to, hesitated, and then didn’t. They all sat together which was a bit intimidating (I wish they had spread out more). Others did sit with them and had great conversations I’m sure. I had some good conversations at my table.

The afternoon delved into more of the business side of things- customer support and marketing among others. It ended with “What we might have wrong� – not surprising for 37s – they definitely don’t think they have found the only way, or even the right way to do everything. Some would say it takes guts to stand in front of 55 people who just paid to hear you talk and list off things you could be wrong about. I’d say it takes more guts (and a healthy does of ego and deception) to not do that.

I found myself looking hard at the last few months of my life- realizing that the joy had gone out of programming for me in many ways. I also realized that simply building web sites for clients as a freelance gig was not a challenge for me anymore and that I really needed to stop. I still enjoy my day job as it allows me to flex more of my muscles and really be involved in the strategy for a site.

The next challenge for me is launching a public web app – a really useful (and hopefully profitable) web app. I’ve built them as internal projects for clients and employers, but never for me. I’ll be keeping my day job and will be building some web apps there (some for limited release and hopefully some for wider release).

One of my favorite momens of the day was their mantra: “Half way, not half ass.” I really identified with this as I struggle to start things (being a procrastinator) and I never want to do them half ass (being a perfectionist) which can be paralyzing at times. Realizing that getting half way is better than not even starting is a freeing concept. I had heard it before, but I think this time it sunk in for good.

So to sum up: the workshop rocked, DHH is my hero, I’m switching to Mac and ROR, and I hope to be a happier programmer and first time entrepreneur in 2006.

Jan 27 2006

The Switch Pt 1

I’m going to do it. I can’t hold back any longer- it simply must be done.

I’m going to switch to a Mac.


Now that I’ve made the decision, it really gets interesting. I’ve been hesitating for quite awhile as switching for me is a big deal (and not just for my ego).

Here’s the steps I see in switiching:

The easy part:

  1. Take a deep breath. Exhale.
  2. Buy a pimped out MacBook Pro.

The hard part:

  1. Get a two button mouse (must have right click)
  2. Cross platform upgrade my Adobe apps to Mac
  3. Somehow get a Mac license for Sorenson squeeze
  4. Figure out how I’m going to get all my email moved over
  5. See if I can transfer my Office license to Mac
  6. Find the best Windows emulation software for OS X (so I can still run Sony Vegas as needed)
  7. Figure out how to transfer about 480 GB of data on external and internal NTFS drives to HFS formatted drives (yikes!)
  8. Sell my notebook
  9. Sell my desktop
  10. Breath a sigh of relief

Am I forgetting anything? I’m sure I am…

You can follow the ongoing saga of my switch in The Switch

Jan 27 2006

Campfire warms my heart

UPDATE: Campfire is live!

Campfire, the next app on deck for 37Signals, rocks. I can say this with certainty as I had a chance to use it all day today. The folks in the Getting Real workshop had access to a pre-release version to chat in during the workshop. The sub-narrative happening in the chat was almost as fun and informative as the presentation (I said almost!).

Campfire is chat as a collaboration tool. I know chat has been done before and there’s IRC, web chat, IM chat, etc… but chat has never been done as nice, or as simple as Campfire.

The difference in campfire is that it’s chat done right (fast, sleek and colorful). It logs all conversations and keeps them around in a nice filterable form for future reference.

Campfire makes it easy to get everyone in one (virtual place) and… well… collaborate. You can share URls and upload files for everyone to see. It’s all ajaxed so it’s quick to respond and never refreshes the page.

I can see this becoming a daily destination (it already is for the 37s guys).

I think I’ve figured out the 37signals secret — take an average everyday technology and make it a joy to use. It’s that simple.

BaseCamp = blogs for project management
TadaLists = todo lists made fast and fun
BackPack = wikis for non geeks
Writeboard = document versioning made easy
Campfire = IRC/Chat for getting things done

I wish I could show it to you, but we were asked not to show screenshots. You’ll just have to trust me- it’s very nice (and very 37s).

Jan 26 2006

Chicago- Day 1

I’m blogging offline tonight as the hotel charges $10 for internet access — ridiculous. Sure, it’s 90% profit for them, but it’s a really poor customer satisfaction move. I can guarantee I won’t be coming back to this hotel (I will look for free WiFi next time). If I was a businessman needing to do work from my room, I guess I’d pay it, but $10 to check email and blog? No thanks. I’ll have WiFi at the workshop tomorrow so I’ll post this from there.

The drive (about 7 hours) felt quick- an iPod on shuffle can do wonders. I listened to a bunch of Venture Voice podcasts to start the entrepreneurial juices flowing today.

I also was able to play with my newest toy more- it’s a Garmin GPS 60. After telling it where I was headed it quickly figured out distance, ETA, and began tracking my journey. I had to add some major cities along the route to get an accurate measurement (94 doesn’t go in a straight line). It was nice to have a constant update on where I was and how far I had to go.

I arrived in downtown Chicago around 8pm and found the hotel. After a bit of down time I headed out to find dinner. I almost went to the hotel restaurant, not wanting to get lost, but I’m glad I didn’t. I stumbled upon Emilio’s Tapas and knew it was the place.

Tapas is Spanish . I had a macaroni dish with ground lamb, peppers and mozzarella and a chicken kabob thing. I also ordered a cabernet which was delicious. A triple layer mousse desert topped things off. The atmosphere and music were top notch. Two thumbs up.

While I was at the restaurant Bob called to see if I was at Nye’s Polonaise Room in Minneapolis hanging out with Eric (I obviously wasn’t at Nye’s). Then Jen (Bob’s wife) called to see if I was at Nye’s (again, I wasn’t). I love irony.

On the surreality of hotels
I seem to forget the alternate reality hotels exist. Somehow I’m always surprised by the $4 (or $10) bottle of water, the $3 candy bars, and ridiculously priced room service (don;t even get me started on parking prices around here!). I wonder when we’ll have a Jet Blue style hotel chain (excellent and cheap) or if we’ll see Japanese style mini-hotels arriving in metro areas anytime soon.

Time for bed- I have to be up early tomorrow. The geekery begins at 9am!