Monthly Archives: December 2004

Book Notes: The Tipping Point

I was recommended The Tipping Point by my colleagues at Ambient Devices (who design and sell way cool technology for the masses, by the way). The book is about the analysis of how epidemics, fads, etc spread, approaching it from a social and psychological standpoint. It suggests there are four key components to a “Tipping Point Architecture” (my term): Connectors, Mavens, Stickiness, and Context.

The individual case studies and examples are just fascinating. Why did Hush Puppies turn around so quickly? Why did crime drop in NYC so drastically? Did you know 2 year olds have more complex conversations with themselves than they do others? Simply fascinating trivia, and the author does a great job with the examples, using them to kick off a chapter, leaving the reader intrigued as to the relationship between the case study and the “Tipping Point.”

Taking a holistic view at epidemics, the author really gives you something to think about in terms of Connectors, Mavens, Stickiness, and Context. Trying to open a new business? How do you reach your Connectors and Mavens? What makes your idea “stick”? How do you give it the right context (or how do you launch in the right context? What about launching a fundraising drive? In and of themselves, these ideas are not novel. But it gives a nice scope of what it takes for ideas to take off.

AOL succeeding at filtering spam

Apparently AOL is seeing a reduction in spam. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in the spam killing space.

Book notes: Does IT Matter?

I’m going to try something new with my blog; keeping book notes online as I read a book.

I finished Does IT Matter?, and it’s was a good read. Strangely enough, I agree with his basic premise: that IT does not provide competitive advantage these days. It has really stimulated my thinking about my career and where I need to take it.

My favorite quote from the book so far (p. 92): The fact that competitive advantage has become more difficult to sustain doesn’t make it less important; it makes it more important.

The book also introduced me to the concept of leveragable advantage (ok, it didn’t introduce me to it; rather it gave a name to a concept that I describe to many and get some blank stares). This is the notion that one activity or initiative is used as leverage for the next activity, and so on. In other words, each initiative is a stepping stone, and not a destination. This is a key component of my philosophy where there is no such thing as sustainable competitive advantage from a single invention. The only competitive advantage is leverageable advantage.

All-in-all, I agree with the author’s analysis of the value of IT in it’s lifecycle today. IT has become ubiquitous, and with it carries more risk than competitive advantage. I don’t agree with all of his recommendations; at the same time, I don’t think that was the purpose of his book.

I will have to go back and read the section on the commoditization of software. In general I agree with Nicholas Carr’s assessment; I would like to use his rationale to further drive companies to invest in innovative software technologies.

What I don’t necessarily agree with are Carr’s recommendations for business managers. While I agree with his conclusions on the state, impact, and future of IT, translating that to action is not Carr’s specialty. I will get into this at a later time when I have more time to pontificate =)

Nice Christmas

Spencer had a good time yesterday, perhaps because most of the stuff Santa brought him was licensed by The Incredibles, including:

  • Boots
  • Underwear
  • PJs
  • Telescope/Projector (or TV as Spencer calls it)
  • Action Figure Set
  • Interactive Omnidroid (his favorite)

Spencer even picked out The Incredibles game for mom.

But it wasn’t all Pixar. Santa brought Spencer his first Hot Wheels set, a couple of Dinosaur building sets, some paint, a Spiderman Playdough set, and even some Buzz Lightyear PJs.

Perhaps the most interesting (to Dad, anyway) toy Spencer received was the VTech VSmile video game/learning system. It’s a relatively cheap unit ($49 at Toys R Us, colorful (purple and orange?), with a controller designed specifically for kids – the joystick and action button are both large designed for hands instead of fingers.

The graphics look like the old Super Nintendo system games; VTech is probably licensing some old technology (or even using some technology whose patents have expired, maybe?) and applying it in the 3-7 year old space. Strangely enough, this is related to what I do at work in the innovation space. Rather than overserving the market (with graphics and capabilities that 3-7 year olds would not appreciate), they are delivering the right amount of performance, which allows them to drive down cost.

In the afternoon, we had friends’ over, deep-fried a turkey, and had a nice dinner. Spencer and Emma played with Spencer’s new loot. And of course Brian and I spent plenty of time on the XBox (he killed me in golf). Amy even cut Molly and Emma’s hair.

Proof that Santa doesn’t exist

I don’t know why, but I always find this funny. Maybe it takes a geek to appreciate it =)

Merry Christmas everyone!

OSGi for Eclipse 3.0 plug-ins

Did not realize that OSGi was the basis for Eclipse 3.0 plugins. I must say, that is a good idea – perhaps OSGi found it’s niche?

A little surprise someone hasn’t abstracted OSGi to XML yet. Imagine MS using an XML-based OSGi architecture for plugins to Windows…

IBM Reflexive UI

Looks like IBM is trying to follow the XAML lead. I’m curious, why didn’t they just write a XAML-to-Swing engine? Do we REALLY need YAML (yet-another-markup-language)?

That’s the problem with open-source, free contributions, etc. Everyone wants to contribute, nobody wants to reuse.

Kudos to MSN Traffic Alerts and Audi Quattro

I use MSN Traffic Alerts to keep abreast of traffic info in the area. It’s rare that I’m impacted by traffic, but always helps when I go into Chicago.

Yesterday during the big storm I kept getting timely alerts on road closings, major accidents, etc around Michigan City. Very helpful as I made my way to and from Spencer’s grandparents house the next county over.

Also more impressed with Quattro than I have ever been. Actually pushed a stuck Hyundai out of a bad spot yesterday, and did not get stuck myself. That’s sweet.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Got about 6 inches of snow over the last 15 hours or so, with plenty more expected today and tomorrow. Time to get that unused SnowBlower out… BOO YA! Will take pictures as the day develops. Especially since I expect Spencer to drag me outside for a while.

Had fun snowblowing the driveway and road twice – a foot each time. The Weather Channel had the snowfall in Michigan City as their second lead story tonight. Not sure what the official count is (and it’s still coming down a little) but I guess two feet.

This is at 11am Sunday…

And after snowblowing (noonish)…

And here it is at 3pm…

I did get the car unburied… even took it to get gas and ended up pushing someone in a rice burner out of the snow. (Side rant… if you don’t have a car capable of making it through snow, stay home!)

A post only Boiler fans could appreciate…

One of my favorite spoofs from BoilerBrian… maybe I should use this as my first podcast trial???

I bring you…


Once upon a Midnight Madness, while I pondered William Gladness,

Lumbering through a quaint and curious half court drill of yore—

By now the crowd was nodding stiffly, hoping for some dog with frisbee,

To lift their drowsy tepid spirits off the cream and crimson floor

“Damn spectators!” I muttered, “Crowding up my practice floor–

Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember! It would be a bleak December,

Crushing every dying ember of hopes upon on the hardwood floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow

From new recruits surcease of sorrow– sorrow for the lost Bannore–

For the rare and radiant fabric that the angels name Bannore–

Nameless here for evermore.

Later in my office pouting, after endless hours of shouting

Suddenly there came a tapping – tapping on my office door;

“Who could that be?” I stood repeating:

“Perhaps some cheerleader entreating entrance at my office door–

Some players’ girlfriend entreating entrance at my office door;

This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my lust grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Babe,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was moping, and was in no mood for groping,

When so gently you came rapping, rapping on my office door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door;–

Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness leering, and before long I was fearing,

The form of Connie Chung appearing with reporter friends galore;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Boilore!”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Boilore!”–

Merely this and nothing more.

Back into my office turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

“Perhaps,” said I with great perdition, “A messenger bearing extradition

Papers which will compel me to that distant Puerto Rican shore–

Let my heart be still a moment. Call my lawyer and implore,

Clemency – forevermore.”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with a great flit and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Cardinal with knee pads and bandages galore.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,

But dove with fierce unbridled passion at the ball upon my floor —

At the leather basketball that sat beside my office door–

“Mine,” he said, and nothing more.

Then this redbird stood beguiling my sad countenance into smiling,

Reminding me of hustle and passion that my teams had shown of yore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

But ghastly, grim – a bunch of losers –

is my current squad of Hooisers that I must put upon the floor

I must get these stiffs to dive upon the court once more!”

Quoth the Cardinal, “Nevermore.”

Much I marveled that this gawky – bird would be so very squawky.

Suddenly, my temper flared as my sorry quintet I deplored.

“Get thee gone or I will smite thee. Like Neil Reed, I’ll kick and bite thee

Like some other Bird that I chased from Bloomington before

Like every new IU recruit, I’ll crush your spirit forevermore.”

Quoth the Cardinal: “Nevermore.”

“So you dare such great pretense, ye? With man-to-man I will defense thee!”

But the Cardinal stood undaunted as he scorn he did outpour.

Many expletives I muttered, ones that make good mothers shudder

“Every worn out play from decades past, I’ll try them all once more

I’ll even try the motion offense – Who knows? It’s worked before.”

Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Then as I looked on in horror, at this cheerful happy Boiler

“Is that,” said I, “Your message. That you’ll sweep my team once more?”

My clothing, now was I rending. “Is this sweeping never ending?

I shall practice them at three a.m., until their tongues drag on the floor

Perhaps we’ll have a better chance if my team is tired and sore!”

Smiled the Cardinal “Nevermore'”

“New recruits!” I cried, half-drooling. “Send the old ones off prep-schooling!

Better yet, let’s call them football players, so scholarships we’ll store.”

But tune that Fife was playing, was a dirge that just kept saying:

“When we crush their spirits too, we’ll go and get some more.

When we crush their spirits too, we’ll go and get some more”

Croaked the Cardinal “Nevermore.”

So I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

As my sorry Hooiser fivesome was blown right off the floor;

The rout was just appalling, but no timeout was I calling

They will learn their lessons so much better if they lose by fifteen more!

Instead I watched my red wool belly as my belt it drooped down o’er

I shall see my waistline, nevermore!

But neither cussing nor my rending, could stop the sweep that lay pending

And my nightmare vision of Austin’s shot dropping as time expired once more.

Then I heard the Cardinal’s laughter, that shook my Hall up to its rafters

“Respite–respite and nepenthe from threepeats by Boilors!

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget these foul Boilors!”

Quoth the Cardinal, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “Season spoiler!–prophet still, if bird or Boiler!–

But if only at Assembly Hall, I could raise a banner once more,

Then,” I said meekly entreating, “I would gladly grant threepeating.”

With tear-filled eyes I asked, “Tell me truly, I implore–

Won’t I ever lift a banner? Just one? Just one more!”

Quoth the Cardinal, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “Season spoiler!–prophet still, if bird or Boiler!

I know all there is to know about the game we both adore–

Get thee back to Mackey – I will fill my squad with lackeys

Once again I will clasp the trophy that the angels name Bannore–

Clasp the rare and radiant fabric that the angels name Bannore.”

Quoth the Cardinal, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–

“Get thee back to Lafayette – To Mackey’s golden floor!”

Then with wooden chair uplifted, all my weight I forward shifted,

Hurling with great force and vigor, a chair that splintered hard against the door!

“Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy ball out from my door!”

Quoth the Cardinal, “Nevermore.”

And the Cardinal, always leaping, still is sweeping, still is sweeping

Guarding the leather ball that sits beside my office door;

And his eyes have all the baiting of a champion that is waiting,

Of the triumphs that await his teammates upon the hardwood floor.

And the banners to the rafters from my Stygian cream and crimson floor

Shall be lifted–nevermore!