This blog entry crossed my inbox last night: 7 Qualities of Good Marketing Strategy. In the “Testable” section, they write, “If you’re going to fail… fail fast, fail early, and fail small.”

I think “fail fast” and “fail early” are redundant; my preferred three fails (with a bad taste of non-grammatical in my mouth) have been “fail fast, fail safe, and fail cheap.” Fast makes natural sense; prolonged failure is clearly unappetizing. Safe is crucial, too: let’s make sure no one gets hurt physically or (too) emotionally. And cheap is a good way to preserve your gig if you are testing things at work. Even the most inspired boss will have a hard time accepting a $1M failure, regardless of whether your resignation accompanies the news.


Raining in Baltimore.

A few things I either learned or was reminded of while traveling to Baltimore this evening.

  1. I live in a beautiful town (Traverse City), but it would really benefit from some cultural and ethnic diversity.
  2. Both airport men’s washrooms I visited indicated that men clearly cannot aim. Can not. Can’t. Nuh-uh.
  3. Starbucks stores that brew bold after noon are the best Starbucks stores. (However, watch out for 2., above.)
  4. Noise-reducing headphones work very well for noise, but what we really need are talk-reducing headphones. Or talk-eliminating headphones, which would cost even more but be worth it, no doubt.
  5. If you can read this, the WordPress app for iPhone is really very nice.
  6. The air vents in DTW are exactly the same ones as those at Interlochen’s Dow Center for Visual Arts, and they are an aesthetically wonderful design. Very aero.
  7. Truly ubiquitous wifi will make the world a significantly better place.
  8. It is possible to miss your family before you even leave the house. Does that emotion have a name?
  9. I can’t keep up with magazines unless I travel. Layovers help.
  10. Carry-on portion distortion is the new epidemic and must be addressed. I think that guy has his groceries in that bag. Check your bag, folks, it isn’t that hard. Really.
  11. Speaking of cultural diversity, my Ukrainian cab driver was very happy to tell me how to drink a lot and not get drunk. His opinion was that American’s can’t drink because they don’t eat while they are drinking. Apparently, this is the key: Eat a lot, drink a lot, you don’t get drunk. I don’t think he was drunk at the time he was telling me this, but I am not sure.

I already look forward to my return trip.

And now, to bed.

Thoughts on TEDxDetroit.

{Just a draft for sharing links.}

Venue: Detroit Film Theatre @ the Detroit Institute of Arts

Site: http://www.tedxdetroit.com/

Uncut videos available here: http://events.powerstream.net/000/00126/20100929TEDxDetroit/

8:00am – 9:00am Arrival Experience & Check-in

  • Performances by Dixon’s Violin, DJ Primeminister, and Cirque Amongus.
  • Networking and photographs in the Great Hall and Rivera Court.

    9:00am – 10:30am Session One

    • An Awesome Beginning with Justin Sailor & Friends


    • Jeff DeGraff – Dean of Innovation – Competing Values.
    • Geoff Horst – Chief Science Officer – Algal Scientific Corporation.
    • Bil Moore – Solutions Consultant – Strategic Products & Services.
    • Music by Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr.
    • Rick Devos – Founding Partner – ArtPrize.
    • Jocelyn Rainey – Founder – J Rainey Gallery.



    “When you change the vision of our young people, you change the thought process. Eventually it changes the heart, which ultimately changes their lives, and they become the change we need in the world.”

    10:30am – 11:15am Break

    • Share, interact, explore art, technology at TEDxLabs

    11:15am – 12:30pm Session Two

    • Karl Gude – Infographics & Social Media Instructor – Michigan State University.
    • Paul Savage – CEO – Nextek Power Systems.
    • Will Smidlein – Boy Wonder – Null Fear.

      13-year-old web developer and entrepreneur “child prodigy.”

      • Music by Joybox Express.


      • Dianne Marsh – President – SRT Solutions.
      • Jessica Care Moore – Founder – Moore Black Press.
      • Stephen Clark – Interactive Anchor/Journalist – WXYZ-TV Channel 7.

      12:30pm – 2:00pm Lunch Break

      • Share, interact, explore art, technology at TEDxLabs Shades will be creating a mural in the courtyard.
      • Performances by Cirque Amongus.

        2:00pm – 3:45pm Session Three

        • Anuja Rajendra – Creator and CEO – BollyFit.
        • Kami Pothukuchi – Director of SEED Wayne – Wayne State University.
        • Jerry Paffendorf & Mary Lorene Carter – Founders – LOVELAND.


          • Herman Moore – Entrepreneur & Hall of Famer.
          • Music by DJ Primeminister.
          • Jim Scapa – CEO – Altair Engineering.
          • Paul Nielsen – Founder – Wunderground Magic.
          • Steve Kahn – Director Math Corps – Wayne State University.
          Professor Steve Kahn is the Director of the WSU Center for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, a series of programs designed to produce success for Detroit students as they pursue their education from elementary and middle school through high school and college. Built by Dr. Kahn, the two cornerstone programs of the Center, the WSU Math Corps at the middle and high school levels and the WSU Emerging Scholars Program at the college level, have received not only local, but national recognition for their dramatic results. Professor Kahn has received many honors and awards for teaching, as well as for his work in support of the Detroit Public Schools and the students of Detroit. Most recently, the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America awarded him the prestigious 2003 Distinguished College or University Teaching Award. A part of the Wayne State faculty since 1981, Dr. Kahn holds a B.S. in Mathematics from SUNY, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Mathematics from the University of Maryland.

          3:45pm – 4:30pm Break

          • Share, interact, explore art, technology at TEDxLabs.

          4:30pm – 6:00pm Session Four

          • Music by Jill Jack.
          • Ben Bator – Founder & Author – Texts From Last Night.
          • Henry Balanon – Founder – Bickbot.
          • Dave Blair – Performance Artist.
          • John Hill – Director, Alumni Career Services – Michigan State University.
          • Erik Proulx – Film Maker – Lemonade Presentation to Public Art Workz.
          • Dan Gilbert – Founder – Quicken Loans & Bizdom U.
          • Music by Invincible.
          • Victor Green – Director, Community Relations – Wayne State University.
          • An Awesome Ending with Brandon Chesnutt & Friends.

            Proust and the Squid

            I’ve been enjoying the wonderful Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf the last few weeks. I’m almost done with the book (it is one of those books that I will regret finishing) and highly recommend it if you are interested in the brain, reading, or learning in general. One of my favorite quotes is about, of all people, Socrates (p. 78):

            In the last analysis, Socrates lost the fight against the spread of literacy both because he could not yet see the full capacities of written language and because there would be no turning back from these new forms of communication and knowledge. Socrates could no more prevent the spread of reading than we can prevent the adoption of increasingly sophisticated technologies. Our shared human quest for knowledge ensures that this is as it must be. But it is important to consider Socrates’ protests as we grapple with the brain and its dynamic relationship to reading. Socrates’ enemy never really was the writing down of words, as Plato realized. Rather, Socrates fought against failures to examine the protean capacities of our language and to use them “with all our intelligence.”

            Though there were many things in this segment of the book that I found fascinating, learning that Socrates was against the development of reading and writing was certainly the most surprising. Ms. Wolf’s comparison of his perspective on reading to the adoption of technology rang particularly loudly with me as someone who deals with the use of technology on a daily basis.

            It is hard to imagine what the world would be like without the art, history, and communicativity of the written word, one of the most profound technologies ever developed and certainly one of the hardest to learn. I’m confident that many of the tools that we see evolving today — and which many people are reluctant to adopt — will be taught in the kindergarten of the future, right along with the alphabet.

            The Three Rules for Debugging Your Java Environment

            It has been a while since I was an every-day-all-day Java developer and since that time (vi on Solaris or HP-UX) tools like Eclipse have made the Java environment greatly simplified. However, just this week I was reminded that, even in this easier world, there are three rules I came up with way back then that still apply when you are debugging a ClassNotFound or other sort of environmental error:

            1. It’s your classpath. Go through your path a character at a time if you have to.
            2. It’s permissions. You don’t have read or write access to something. Look through every line of code that accesses a resource and validate that you have the proper permissions to get to it.
            3. It isn’t permissions? Sorry, it really is your classpath. Go back to rule 1!

            The Birthplace of Agile

            A nice post on an early agile-like team:


            I’m referencing it in case you have “earlier documented descriptions of Agile teams.” 1981 is pretty early, but I can imagine that the earliest software development teams were more like agile than they were like a more formally structured “waterfall” or “heavy weight” (remember when agile was called “lightweight?”) methodology.

            Failing Fast to the Apple Extreme

            Due to a job-inspired relocation a few months ago, we’ve been spending many weekends and holidays at my in-law’s so that we can be with family, visit friends, and generally keep in touch with the area that we have considered home since birth. My in-laws have a beautiful home that had one problem: no internet access. Given that I, and my wife, and even our 12-year-old (ToonTown, YouTube, and the Wii), are essentially connection-dependent, I set out to find a low-cost, good-enough solution to our intermittent but uncompromising needs.

            In our new home, we are AT&T DSL subscribers, and have been very happy with the reliability and speed of the connection (especially compared to the a Comcast broadband we left behind at our old house; Comcast doesn’t serve our new hometown). We have a 2Wire DSL Gateway feeding an Apple Extreme providing wireless and a printer to an iMac, two MacBook Pros, an old PowerMac G4, the Wii, the PS3, and an iPhone. Works flawlessly.

            So, the first attempt was to get AT&T DSL at Grandma’s house. At the time, they were offering offer a low-bandwidth plan for $10 / month for the first year. Sign us up! We opted for the self-install route, so a box arrived in a week or so, we installed it, we learned the lesson about having to filter every phone in your house, we learned the lesson about not forgetting about filtering the alarm system, and we were plugged in.

            With one computer. Time for wifi. A trip to the local Best Buy, maybe my favorite store, and we were the proud owners of a low-cost, good-enough Belkin Wireless G Router for $40. SSID established, password configured, voila.

            It worked for about an hour. Suddenly, though the wireless connection was strong, the bandwidth slowed to a trickle. Hmm. Didn’t really see anything wrong, so restarted the router.

            It worked for a few more minutes. Ok…. Let’s try restarting the modem. That worked for a while, then didn’t. Restart, repeat, restart, repeat. That first weekend was a frustrating one. By Sunday morning, I decided to have AT&T come out, and they were able to visit that evening the check the line. We weren’t home, but they left a note on the door saying that we were too far from “the loop” for DSL to work in our area. The handwritten instructions were to return everything in the box. Sigh. Ok, so, the $10 / month deal was too good to be true. Should have know that. Fortunately, I never throw the boxes that come with electronics away, so we were good to go. Goodbye DSL filters, goodbye modem, goodbye trickle-y internet connection.

            A few days of research revealed that there really weren’t a lot of options left to us. Given that my in-laws were already Comcast cable subscribers, I gave in and ordered Comcast. Their lowest-cost plan is $25 / month, a lot more expensive, but it seemed worth it if it would, well, if it would actually work. Another self-install model box later, a router factory-reset, a new SSID just so no one would be confused. Voila! We were back in business.

            For two hours or so. OMG. Router reset. Modem reset. Router reset. Still flakey. This is a nice way to spend a weekend. Alright, let’s plug in directly to the modem to see if it is the wireless. Hmmm. Works fine. Check for firmware updates. Nope, on the latest. Ok, check the review. Ah. Looks like I bought the wrong router; the reviews indicate similar problems, no easy resolutions, and general unhappiness.

            About a month had elapsed since I bought the Belkin, but I still had the box and the receipt and decided to go back to Best Buy and try again. Since I didn’t have a good connection, I didn’t have the time to do the research I normally do before making an electronics purchase, and since I still had the “low-cost” mentality, I was trying not to just buy an Apple Extreme or Express, I upgraded to a Linksys Wireless-N Router. Seeing “Cisco” on the box bred some confidence to the decision given my experience with Cisco in the enterprise. It was on sale for twice what I paid for the Belkin, but it was an upgrade from G to N and would hopefully actually work.



            Ok! Back home, plugged in, new SSID, new password, everyone connected (and a little crabby with the whole situation, myself included). Let’s get caught up on email, Facebook, ToonTown, check some movie times, etc. Two hours later, it was still working well, and the low-bandwidth connection from Comcast seemed speedy enough. Time to get out of the house and forget about it.

            Naturally, the wireless was dead when we got home that night. It is a sign of just how connection-addicted you are when you are somewhere without a reliable connection. I love my iPhone and the 3G in metro-Detroit was very strong, but you still need a good laptop connection to really get your fix (it is too bad that iPhones don’t support tethering in the US yet; it is the only thing I miss about my BlackBerry). I plugged back into the router to do some more research, and learned that even the Linksys has some not-particular-positive review. Wow, that is surprising to me.

            But: uncle, white flag, I give. It would only be another $20 to upgrade to the AirPort Express, which should provide all the wireless energy that we need. Router back in the box, drive back to Best Buy (thankfully, there is a Starbucks on the way), Linksys returned to the same customer service representative who took back the Belkin (“You’re back already?”), Airport in hand (for, surprisingly, $10 more than they charge at the Apple Store, but I’m tired of driving around), back home, plugged-in, and, of course, it works. All evening. And in the morning. No restarts, no reboots, no familial crabbiness. Flawless bliss.



            The ultimate solution is more expensive that what I was looking for: $25 * 12 = $300 / year for service, plus the $109 for the Express. If the original solution had worked, it would have been $120 / year and only $40 for the Belkin. At least I tried to save some cash. I failed, pretty fast, and in the process I reconfirmed that I am a fan of Best Buy and Apple.

            And I reconfirmed that the fail fast model works.

            The only lasting question is: How darn many times will I have to learn this lesson?