April 18, 2011

What the youngsters are up to and why you need to care.

I unglued my nose from the Project X programming grindstone yesterday to spend 5 hours of quality iPod-enabled drive time to and from a freebie Microsoft event (ReMix08) and I'm glad I did. Not because I learned a more about Microsoft's Silverlight, although that was what this event was billed as.

la jolla map
Scott Guthrie's keynote was good - but I'd watched it in March from the comfort of my Aaron chair live from Mix08 and the only new thing I picked up was Microsoft has added a small but important (to MSFT) goal to SilverLight 2's to do list - being able to upscale code directly to WPF.

And unfortunately, Seema Ramchandani (the Microsoft program manager making sure Silverlight runs well on Macs as Windows boxes) who was supposed to dig deep into Silverlight 2's code took a detour into Presenter's Hell when her AV support people apparently forgot how to route video from a Mac between her morning and afternoon sessions.

What really impressed me was the panel discussion, "The Future of Social Networking".

I know, I know, you as a microISV or a developer working long long days think, "Why would I spend time on Twitter, Pownce, Facebook and get constantly interrupted, poked and distracted? What's the benefit unless I'm developing yet another social network that might turn into an $850 million impulse buy like Bebo did for AOL?"

While anyone who's been in this industry a while can see that social networking is well down the dot.bomb road, there is a hard core of realness there for microISVs and non-social networking startups: Internet-enabled social networking has changed how under-30 year olds live/think in a lot of the developed world. Those MySpace teenagers and Facebook college kids continue to get older: in 2.5 years, one half of the U.S. workforce will be under 30 years old.

MicroISVs and startups (except for Paul Graham's hatchlings and the like) tend to be in their 30's or older: they've had time to develop their technical skills, learn to despise bosses and get some experience in what is laughingly referred to as the Real World. They don't instinctively get what these youngsters (called customers) are into. But they need to: it won't be the wrinkly old execs that are going to find new software for their companies to buy, it's going to be some new hire who's going to check you out with their network first.

Same issue, different direction: how do you write a desktop app that won't get cracked or a SaaS that won't go out of fashion in a matter of weeks? You build it so that it has an organic social network inside of it that connects with the larger mosaic of social networks.

As Dave McClure of 500 Hats (no relation) pointed out yesterday at that panel, 'online social networking is about real needs and wants: getting laid, finding a job, making the right decisions'. (no relation, really)

While he drove the rest of the panels somewhat nuts, he had a good point: social networks like Facebook are all finding new ways of addressing intrinsic human needs in our physically increasingly unsafe, fragmented, segmented Real World.

MicroISVs who pride themselves in being tone deaf about social networking are missing more than a good non-coding distraction: they may be missing their future.

April 16, 2011

"So why no posts, Bob?"

My apologies. Between death-marching on Project X and various consulting engagements, my blog writing here has suffered. Never fear, I've been busy lining up more good guest posts on subjects near and dear to microISVer's hearts.

Speaking of consulting, I have to say that the spiritual food that's keeping me going (not to be confused with Soylent Green - ok, sick joke.) has been testimonials like these:

"On a lark, I reached out to Bob to take advantage of his consulting services. While we'd invested a ton of time thinking about how we built and marketed our product, I figured that getting a sharp outside perspective with Bob's background could be useful.

In the span of an hour and a half conversation, Bob suggested several "slap-ourselves-on-the-head-why-didn't-we-think-of-that" ideas that have dramatically changed the way we talk about our business. In addition, he suggested a brilliant way to monetize our business that had never occurred to us before. Never underestimate your ability to be so close to your own business that you can't see the right path.

If you have a chance to work with Bob Walsh for a few hours, take it!"

-Tony Wright, founder of RescueTime

October 04, 2010

Slam job

350px smash
Anyone reading this blog knows I'm a strong advocate of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology, so this morning when my iGoogle home page turned up a new piece in Wired about Allen and GTD, I was eager to read it.

And read it I did. First came the shock - Allen had been a herion addict and a psychiatric patient?!? - Then with growing anger: seething, boiling anger, rage and outrage.

Wired had done a slam job on Allen.

Here's how to write a slam job boys and girls, but if you really want to see a master at work, read the profile by Gary Wolf.

First, hook in the readers who are interested in who you are profiling targetting with a run down of the person's success: 600,000 copies in print, many software apps, web sites, blogs and communities that share what the person advocates.

Now carefully start working in little slings and darts, like: "Some of them come to seminars like this. Allen himself is unsure if it helps."

Next, Be sure under the guise of describing what the victim advocates you trash what they advocate by distorting it, for example, by saying GTD is about 3 rules and this axiom:

Humans have a problem with stuff. Allen defines stuff as anything we want or need to do. A tax form has the same status as a marriage proposal; a book to write is no different than a grocery list. It's all stuff.

Keep tossing in those little snide darts;

  • "Allen has almost nothing to say on these topics..."
  • "Where earlier gurus tried to help their followers make their deep personal commitments explicit and easily accessible to memory, Allen is selling a kind of technology-enabled forgetting...."
  • "His techniques allow him the pleasure of having, much of the time, nothing on his mind."

Now that you've loosened up your audience, it's time to get down to the hard work of demolishing the man's reputation:

The only thing Allen was allowed to have in his possession at Napa State Hospital was a spoon. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was pretty accurate," he says of the time he spent as a mental patient, "and Napa was one of the good hospitals."

That ought to grab their attention! Let's see, what else should we say about a man who makes a large part of his living advising corporate clients? I know!

Bookbinder and Allen became close. Bookbinder taught him karate, and soon Allen was using heroin, too. He left his marriage, abandoned his academic training, and eventually found himself out on the street, practically penniless, "crucified psychically," as he would later put it, "absolutely at the bottom physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually." Worried about the radical change in his behavior, some of Allen's friends had him committed in 1971. At the mental hospital, Allen received stark lessons in simulated obedience. He learned to hide his psychiatric medication under his tongue instead of refusing it or spitting it out, and he studied what the medical staff seemed to want of him, so that they would pronounce him cured.

And if that doesn't do the job, Wolf next gleefully spelling out Allen's connection to one Sri John-Roger, New Age cult figure, concluding, "Allen was, and still is, a minister in the church."

And on and on in a similar vein.

This is a despicable slam job, Wolf, too well done to be anything but intentional. You've done a great job of taking the facts and quotes Allen freely gave you and creating clever links between them and various cons and cult leaders, of taking what Allen believes in private and using it to hang him in public - a co-mingling that to my knowledge Allen has never, ever done.

Anyone interested in GTD reading this piece and this piece alone would conclude Allen's a new age con artist/addict/nut case and run miles to avoid him.

Yet the truth is quite a bit different, isn't it? How many Fortune 500's are ongoing clients of David Allen? Why did his book sell 600,000? Why are there so many people from CEOs to stock clerks and everything in between who say GTD has been a practical, useful way to be more effective and has not one bit of the cultness you try to rub off on it?

This is a slam job, nothing more. Wolf should be fired.

August 30, 2010

A small, tiny favor to ask: vote for me.

Vote Button

You may have heard about the upcoming Business of Software Conference (10/29-30, San Jose, CA), and my first (extremely, horribly bad) video effort to win through your votes a speaking slot there.

It was so bad it would have been banned by the Geneva Conventions (assuming we still follow them). So bad, I asked Neil Davidson if I could replace it with a new effort. Neil was kind enough to let me take the old video behind the digital woodshed and send it to a better, happier place and put up my new video, which I did yesterday.

The new video combines cutting edge images - supplied by other people - with little tiny words that work on television with a new plan of what I can talk about during my 18 minutes of fame: how to write a blogging plan for your software company or product.

In the process of retiring my first video effort, my score (fairly) got reset to zero, zip, zilch. And because it took me a month to get up the guts to point a camera at myself again, there's only a few short days before voting closes.

So here's the small favor I'd like to ask you:

Go to find my video, click the rightmost star under it and vote for me. You might even want to spend two minutes watching it - others braver than me say it's actually quite good.

After the conference I'll post my presentation here as a series of major posts with more detail and the presentation itself if I can at YouTube.

I hate to ask for favors, but I'd really appreciate it if you could take a minute and vote for me now.

May 15, 2010

Time for a hiatus.

A few days ago I got Seth Godin's latest book, The Dip - it's all about knowing which things you have to push through to completion to make a difference and learning how to quit those things that need to go, or go on hold, so you can concentrate on the key few things you really, really need to do.

It's time to put this blog on hold. I need for the next several months to concentrate on a new project of mine and that means, regretfully, pushing the pause button on this blog.

It's not easy doing this - I started this blog several years ago and it's hard letting go, even if I plan to come back. But if I want to get through Godin's Dip on a major project of mine, it's the right thing to do.

Thanks again to all the people over the years who've commented or emailed me about my posts here. And rest assured, you'll still find me very actively blogging and less so at , plus a post a week.

Please reserve a tiny corner of your RSS reader for ToDoOrElse.com - if things go something like according to plan, expect to see this blog restart around Fall '10.

April 09, 2010

Putting email on a leash, the battle continues

Email continues to be what I hate the most about online life – and the one app I can't do without. If you're looking for a dirt simple workflow to clear out your dreaded Inbox, have a look at "Clearing Your Inbox with Minimal Pain" by Narendra Rocherolle over at Web Worker Daily.

I like how Narendra has found and documented a simple way to really process email, not just shuffle it around. If you've not yet found the right process for clearing your Email collection point (Inbox) every day, this is a post you should read.

April 03, 2010

Keeping up with the world of books

A friend of mine remarked this weekend that while he didn't have time read all the good business books that come out each month, so he's glad his company provides through a business book summary service the gist of what's new and notable. While I've never been willing to pay the $150 a year some of these companies want for their summaries, I recently found a great free alternative: WikiSummaries.

To judge the quality of these community-created, freely editable book summaries, I checked out the WikiSummary of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. While it lacked the flair and human interest stories of the original, the WikiSummary definitely explained what The World is Flat was all about, chapter by chapter, idea by idea.

Presently there are 111 summaries at WikiSummaries, most dealing with business, politics and current affairs. Definitely a good way to save some money and time next time you're in the mood to bookshop.


  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    Once or so a workday.
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv for information and resources.


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