Why you should go to the Business of Software Conference Next Year
Most people, having already paid $2000.00 of their hard earned money, and then having flown, driven, or otherwise travelled to Boston to attend a conference, and then having paid an additional $250/night plus $33/night parking and "tourism taxes" to the Seaport Hotel -- most people, after all this, are unlikely to say that it was a waste of time and they should have stayed home watching the remaining salvaged episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix.
In fact, I found it quite useful.
The talks by Clayton Christenson (author of The Innovators Dilemma), Rory Sutherland (expert on Behavioural economics) and the dozens of entrepreneurs (both serial and parallel) were all very fascinating and useful, and they were all broadcast for free, and they will soon be up for streaming, for free.
So why go through all of this effort to physically go to the conference?
One of the conference rooms at Business of Software 2011.
What the the World Trade Center in Boston lacks in number of bathrooms, it more than makes up for in hallways. It has roughly 1000 miles of hallways in which you can bump into successful business people. And every one of them is trying to meet you and get your take on important, urgent business-related matters like, "Have you seen an empty bathroom?"
Seriously, when not at the conference, and people ask what I do, I have learned to say something like "I do computers". People here understand when I talk about NoSQL databases, SaaS models, and programmer development tools. The amount of time until their eyes glaze over is well over the 60 second mark.
You also get some inside info. People aren't shy talking about their pricing. How much does the super-mega-ultra corporate option cost? The one where instead of a price, it says "Call"? These people will tell you, because they don't get to talk about it much, and they are honestly trying to help.
I talked to C.E.O.s, and C.T.Os, of 3 to 30 person companies. I talked to VPs, Cloud Engineers, and Intrapreneurs of big companies. For many, this is the first opportunity to talk to an outsider about their businesses. It is like psychotherapy. Often they would come to a sudden realization. "Hey," a micro-ISV would say, "I just have a fear of releasing the next version because it's missing some difficult features. I should just do it anyway!". If you go to this conference, you probably already know what you should do to improve your business. But having Jason Cohen, or some seasoned CEO tell you in person moves it up onto the todo list.
- Disruption - Disruption is big. If you're not disruptive, you might as well be selling mainframes and typewriters. Companies are disrupting each-other at an astounding rate. Sometimes, while one company is busy disrupting an industry, another one will sneak up behind it and try to disrupt it when it is not looking. That is why companies need to be agile and pivot frequently.
- Metrics - The info-geeks have taken over. Founders are demanding dashboards for their business, updated in real time. But not only for themselves -- every click of the web site, and every cancellation is streamed to every employee to give an accurate picture of the health of the company. A special version containing only the "Customer Happiness Index" and a huge happy face is streamed to the investors.
- Crowd-sourced employee recognition - At least three companies are working on this. It can be hard for bosses to identify their best contributors to allocate bonuses. The idea is to crowd-source this from their workforce. "So we'll give them a button -- so whenever anybody does something nice, other people will just push it and they get a -- a pony point --- yeah! And then I just have to add them all up to find the best contributors!" If you've worked at a large company for more than a year, you already know what an awesome idea this is. Just rename "pony" to "stab" and invert the score.
- Skype - Ask anybody, in tiny or large companies. Odds are that they bypass their Enterprise Collabosoft GrouperWare system and secretly use Skype to communicate. Just a minute while I go privately Skype to people about why Microsoft should acquire my startup.
- Dishonesty - Jason Cohen gave a talk about how honesty in business can differentiate you. If you are a small company, he says, you should not try to hide it. Companies will be refreshed by your truthfulness, and it sets the correct expectations at the outset. Most of the attendees believe honesty is a great idea. Companies should all be honest! Because Jason Cohen says it pays! But if you are in a uniquely special business, such as storing data securely in the cloud, or selling software as a service, or selling licensed software, or you offer a limited or very diverse product line, or you have competition -- in these very special situations, honesty definitely will never work. At least, that's the going opinion.
I hope you're convinced of the value that Business of Software has to offer, and I hope to see you there next year. I should be finished Doctor Who by then.
Drawing Graphs with PhysicsTo my surprise, I found that there is a very simple way to arrange graphs that can be expressed in only a few lines of code, using force-directed placement...
Finding Bieber: On removing duplicates from a set of documentsUsing a locality sensitive hash, you can mark duplicates in millions of items in no time.
C++: A language for next generation web appsOn Monday, I was pleased to be an uninvited speaker at Waterloo Devhouse, hosted in Postrank's magnificent office. After making some surreptitious alterations to their agile development wall, I gave a tongue-in-cheek talk on how C++ can fit in to a web application.
Finding awesome developers in programming interviewsIn a job interview, I once asked a very experienced embedded software developer to write a program that reverses a string and prints it on the screen. He struggled with this basic task. This man was awesome. Give him a bucket of spare parts, and he could build a robot and program it to navigate around the room. He had worked on satellites that are now in actual orbit. He could have coded circles around me. But the one thing that he had never, ever needed to do was: display something on the screen.
Installing the Latest Debian on an Ancient LaptopThe challenge: Install Linux on a really old laptop. The catch: It has only 32 MB of RAM, no network ports, no CD-ROM, and the floppy drive makes creaking noises. Is it possible? Yes. Is it easy? No. Is is useful? Maybe...
5 Ways PowToon Made Me Want to Buy Their SoftwareEven though I saw through their tricks at every step along the way, I am now a customer and proud of it. It is worthwhile to look at what they did, because these are simple things that you can do to improve your software business.
Minimal usable Ubuntu with one commandIf you install the default "ubuntu-desktop" you also get with it a gigabyte of crap that you will never use. But if you don't install the ubuntu desktop, you get a system with a text-only login: prompt, and it's not clear what to install to get it to a usable state.
I have an irrational need to optimize my Ubuntu installation. I did some investigating and came up with this method, which gives a minimal graphical 1.2 GB install, with gnome, networking, and no applications.