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Posts Tagged ‘full time job’

Rise of the Tech Bandits: John Gruber & Joel Topolsky, the Cool Kids

May 20th, 2012 05:04 admin View Comments

Editor’s note: In the Summer 2012 issue of SAY Magazine, Dan Frommer chronicles the history of tech blogging. For the rest of this week, Richard MacManus, who founded ReadWriteWeb in 2003, will be looking back on the early days.

In our final look at the leading tech bloggers of this era, we profile a couple of guys who have cornered the market in a certain brand of hipness. Gruber is the ultimate indie voice in Apple news, with his one-man blog Daring Fireball. Topolsky is the leader at The Verge, a new style of tech blog that makes heavy use of video and colorful imagery. I haven’t met either of these two fellows, but I admire their blogs for a similar reason: both have established themselves by doing something unique and different.

An excerpt from Dan Frommer’s Rise of the Tech Bandits:

Gruber, a Web programmer initially and now a storyteller, journalist and Apple-geek figurehead, started the site as a hobby in 2002 and made it a full-time job in 2006. “I’ve wanted to write about this stuff as long as I can remember,” he says.
Through his website, 400,000 RSS subscribers and 200,000 Twitter followers, he’s a healthy one-man media company — the shining example of how self-publishing can work online. In addition to running small banner ads, Gruber, 39, also sells a weekly sponsorship for $6,500 — and he’s almost always sold out. If he’s actually getting that rate, Daring Fireball could be pulling in at least $400,000 a year. To borrow one of Steve Jobs’ famous punctuation marks, “Boom.”

At first glance, Daring Fireball and The Verge have little in common. Daring Fireball has a minimalist design, based around the color grey. The Verge is bursting with colors and its homepage is crammed full of stories. Daring Fireball is written and designed by one person: John Gruber. The Verge has a large editorial and design team, with Topolsky at the reigns as Editor-in-chief. Daring Fireball focuses on one topic: Apple. The Verge casts a wide net across all technology.

But the two blogs have at least one important thing in common: they are originals. Nobody covers Apple like Gruber – his mix of Apple fanboy-ism and penetrating analysis is both endearing and insightful at the same time. The Verge may cover the same things as other gadget blogs, like Engadget and Gdgt, but it has brought a new design aesthetic to the tech blogosphere. Dan Frommer summed it up well in his Rise of the Tech Bandits article:

The Verge is not just another gadget blog. There is the look — an apparent nod to sci-fi novels. Topolsky, 34, and Patel, 31, cite influences such as early Wired, Computer Shopper and videogame magazines such as GamePro and Mondo 2000. There is the production quality, especially in video reviews, which far surpasses the competition. [...] And there is an offline talk show, On the Verge, shot in a New York theater.

Too often, success in the media is thought to be had by copying other, previously successful, tech publications. After Mashable got popular by covering anything and everything PR agencies sent its way, newer tech blogs followed suit. When TechCrunch bullied its way to some big stories, other bloggers raised their voices and began to shout too.

But the biggest success stories are usually originals. Sure those brave ventures fail more often than not, but every now and then we get a unique voice like John Gruber or a game-changing new product like The Verge. Thank goodness for independent media!

Source: Rise of the Tech Bandits: John Gruber & Joel Topolsky, the Cool Kids

Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week

March 16th, 2012 03:15 admin View Comments

Businesses

Barbara, not Barbie writes with this quote from an article at AlterNet about how the average work week is becoming longer, and why that’s not a good thing: “… overtime is only effective over very short sprints. This is because (as Sidney Chapman showed in 1909) daily productivity starts falling off in the second week, and declines rapidly with every successive week as burnout sets in. Without adequate rest, recreation, nutrition, and time off to just be, people get dull and stupid. They can’t focus. They spend more time answering e-mail and goofing off than they do working. They make mistakes that they’d never make if they were rested; and fixing those mistakes takes longer because they’re fried. Robinson writes that he’s seen overworked software teams descend into a negative-progress mode, where they are actually losing ground week over week because they’re so mentally exhausted that they’re making more errors than they can fix. For every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there’s one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn’t. Our rampant unemployment problem would vanish overnight if we simply worked the way we’re supposed to by law. We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits.”

Source: Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week

Ask Slashdot: Advancing a Programming Career?

January 13th, 2012 01:25 admin View Comments

Programming

AuMatar writes “I’ve been a professional programmer for 10 years. The startup I work for was recently bought, and while I was offered a full-time job, I opted to accept only a six-month contract. At my most recent job, I was lead developer for a platform that shipped tens of millions of units, leading a team that spanned up to three geographical areas I’ve done everything from maintenance to brand new apps. About the only thing I haven’t done is been lead architect on a large system. What else is there to look for in the next job so it won’t just feel like the same challenges all over again? I’m not interested in starting my own company, so I’m looking for suggestions assuming I’ll be working for someone else.”

Source: Ask Slashdot: Advancing a Programming Career?

You Don’t Need A College Degree to Be a Great Coder

January 7th, 2012 01:00 admin View Comments

quality_code_matrix.jpgOkay, so we all know that both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg never finished their Harvard degrees, and look where they are now. But for the rest of us who just aspire to have a full time job, let alone an equity share in a hot startup, is a college degree really necessary to code? Maybe not, according to this blog post from Good Technology.

Erin Biba, who wrote the post back in November, asks: “Programming isn’t accounting. It requires creative thinkers and problem solvers, people unlikely to thrive in the confines of a college classroom. So why do hiring managers apply traditional methods to a nontraditional job?”

Exactly. And she cites a recent study by Dice.com that puts the number of available tech jobs at more than 84,000. While not all of them are programmers, certainly a good portion of them are. It is a good time to be a nerd.

The stories about the perks at Google and Facebook are now the stuff of urban legend. I was recently in the trendy SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco, and visited a typical 200-person tech firm that had the required bicycles, snack room, and catered lunches and dinners. So why do hiring managers insist on the sheepskin (that means the actual diploma, for those of you too young to remember the reference)? Tradition, perhaps?

I went shopping around a few typical college Web course catalogs, looking for the kinds of software engineering classes that would teach kids today how to do a Hadoop cluster or learning CSS/XML. I came up empty-handed. Granted, I didn’t spend hours on this research.

Take a look at this course listing from the University of Texas at Austin’s Computer Engineering Department. Disappointing, from a place that has an active software community. Or how about this list of classes offered at the University of Urbana-Champaign, where the Web browser was invented? You can find plenty of advanced computer research happening on campus, but teaching something practical to undergrads? Not in the catalogs that I could find.

Both Vatterott and ITT Technical Institute teach Java programming as part of their certificates, so there is some hope for those who have the time and money to afford these expensive programs. But not on every one of their campuses.

As the software market heats up (and you have noticed that it is heating up, right?), the idea of a degree becomes less and less necessary, especially if you can prove your coding chops and demo what you have actually built. As you can see from my brief exploration, sometimes a CS degree doesn’t mean that you can actually program, and many schools are woefully behind on teaching the sorts of tools and techniques that the bread and butter of modern Web apps.

Granted, teaching programming skills is a lot more than offering a course in Java. But you need both the theory of software design and the actual language instruction too. It would be like teaching French by only showing what art you can find in the Louvre and d’Orsay museums. In the meantime, we need a better match between courseware and software practice, and better understanding by hiring managers of what is important.

Source: You Don’t Need A College Degree to Be a Great Coder

2011: The Year the Free Ride Died

December 29th, 2011 12:00 admin View Comments

free-ride.jpgOut with the old, in with the new. One of the “old” ways of thinking that finally kicked the bucket in 2011? That users could get a free ride with Web services with no catch. As Robert Heinlein famously said, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL). This realization isn’t new for some, but the realization should finally be kicking in for mainstream users as well.

The combination of Google’s housecleaning spree, relentless Facebook redesigns and privacy gaffes, and popular services being bought, being ruined or just going dark, users should be getting the hint: The free ride is over and the bill is due.

Don’t Be a Free User

Services and software that has no revenue model at all makes me nervous as a user. The problem isn’t unique to Web services. I’ve watched well-supported FOSS projects grow and prosper (Firefox, Linux, Hadoop, Apache, etc.) while hobby projects that I’ve taken a liking to eventually sputter and fail because the lead (usually only) developer or developers couldn’t swing development in addition to a full-time job.

For mature, well-supported and innovative services, you need money. What’s more, you need a direct correlation between satisfied users and income. Ad revenue doesn’t cut it.

I particularly liked the post by Maciej Ceglowski on the Pinboard blog asking users to join “the anti-free-software movement.” The idea? “If every additional user is putting money in the developers’ pockets, then you’re less likely to see the site disappear overnight.”

Ah, but what about sites that don’t have a business model or don’t provide paid accounts? Ceglowski says “Yell at the developers! Explain that you are tired of good projects folding and are willing to pay cash American dollar to prevent that from happening.”

I also like the Minimal Mac idea of just mailing money to a service to force services to allow users to pay directly.

Years ago, I was an enthusiastic user of Delicious (back when it was “del.icio.us”). If the developers had asked for a monthly or yearly fee, I’d have happily paid up. Instead, it went over to Yahoo and … well, very little happened. Despite all the noises Yahoo emitted after the announcement, very little actually happened with Delicious and eventually, Yahoo decided they really didn’t want it so badly after all.

As our own Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote on the relaunch under new management, “the best parts of the old site have been lost… maybe we should all just go grunt and Like things on Facebook after all.”

You’re the Product

Marshall was being facetious, of course. Facebook is the last site that users can depend on. Facebook has only one consistent feature that its customers can depend on, and that’s its users.

Oh, wait. You didn’t really think that you were Facebook’s customer base, right? When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and others you’re the product.

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” (TANSTAAFL) ~ Robert Heinlein from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Over on Facebook’s “about” page for advertising the company says “the people who built Facebook wanted it to be free for everyone. It now costs over a billion dollars a year to run Facebook, and delivering ads is how Facebook pays for this.” That billion dollars a year isn’t coming from its users.

Facebook doesn’t exist to connect its users to one another, Facebook exists to connect users with advertisers. You’re not getting a free ride on Facebook, you’re paying for it by seeing a barrage of targeted ads. You’re paying for it by letting Facebook mine your personal information to sell data to marketers.

That may be OK, it’s certainly not a new concept. You don’t get TV shows for free, or radio programs or much else. The big difference between Web services like Facebook and other ad-supported media is that you’re making an investment in Web services that’s hard to move to another service.

I’m not the first person to make that observation, but this seems to be the year that users are finally starting to realize it en masse. Even my friends outside of the tech industry have started to remark on frustrations with Facebook, and taken note of why they have no control.

Taking Action

Realizing and acting are two different things, of course. One of the final straws, for me, was the gmail redesign this Fall. I switched to Gmail years ago because it was so much easier than managing my own mail server. Not to mention, the Webmail interface was better and more convenient than Thunderbird or Mutt.

Little by little, Gmail is less appealing to me. So I’ve resolved to make the switch in 2012 to hosting my own mail and setting up my own Webmail. And I’ll continue looking for and supporting services that I find useful, like Dropbox, Evernote and Instapaper. All of which I pay for now. If a service doesn’t have a way for me to support it directly, and isn’t depending on my support, I’m going to be very wary of depending on it. I’d recommend you do the same.

Source: 2011: The Year the Free Ride Died

Twitter: Consider This Your Intervention.

April 14th, 2011 04:45 admin View Comments

This is the post I haven’t wanted to write for weeks. This is the post no one wants to write. No one wants to say Twitter is in trouble. That’s like shooting your best friend’s dog.

But I’m increasingly convinced that Twitter is operationally in trouble, for a lot of the same reasons that Fortune’s Jessi Hempel outlines in her cover today, and other reasons I’ve been hearing about for months.

The signs:

1. Three CEOs in less than three years is never a good sign. Jack Dorsey was the clear visionary of this company, and as we’ve seen with Square, a visionary beyond Twitter. Evan Williams was the guy who saw the promise of Twitter, invested his own money in it and made sure it actually became a company. Without either of them, Twitter would not exist. But the two couldn’t coexist at the company.

So what does the company do? Well it tried Dorsey running it; it tried Williams running it and for a variety of reasons– some documented and some not– neither worked. Everyone I’ve spoken with in the industry and at the company says CEO #3, Dick Costolo, has what the others lacked– he’s an amazing operator. But that’s a Sheryl Sandberg. Twitter needs a Mark Zuckerberg if it’s going to be more than acquisition bait. It needs a product visionary, which leads us to point number 2….

2. A product visionary, at a minimum, is a full time job. At most great technology companies the product visionary is the CEO– think Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Zynga’s Mark Pincus, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and of course Facebook’s Zuckerberg. Plenty of research has shown that when a product-oriented founder stays the CEO the company tends to excel. But for a variety of reasons, this doesn’t always work out. That doesn’t mean a company is toast. Titles are just titles. In an earlier era, Sandberg might have been named Facebook’s “grown up” CEO ala Google.

But at a minimum, a company centered around a surging, beloved, disruptive product needs a full-time, in-house C-level executive who is focused 100% on product– not only 40 hours a week, but every second of every day. Despite early reports when he stepped down, that is not Williams. He has stepped into a board member and advisor role, eyeing his next thing. And, as Fortune reports via unnamed sources, that is not Dorsey.

And really, that Fortune story shouldn’t be a surprise, although Dorsey denies telling anyone it is a short-term gig. Of course Twitter’s product visionary can’t be Dorsey– he has a full-time job running Square. Square– while a potentially a more disruptive company than Twitter– has a long way to go on distribution, business model and execution. Time-sharing Square’s product visionary– long term– just hurts both companies. If Dorsey is going to do a great job at either, he has to pick.

There are few examples of even the best entrepreneurs and CEOs managing two more-than-full-time jobs. Steve Jobs comes to mind being CEO of Apple and Pixar, but he was clearly more hands on at the former. He wasn’t brainstorming Finding Nemo or sketching out fish, while he was dreaming up the look and feel of the iPod. Elon Musk comes to mind with Tesla and SpaceX, but he always conceded it wasn’t sustainable and recently has stepped down as CEO of Tesla.

I’d heard speculation earlier this week that Dorsey might pick Twitter, stepping into a chairman role at Square and leaving the day-to-day responsibility to Keith Rabois, who has had plenty of startup experience with PayPal, LinkedIn and Slide. If you want to stretch the Jobs analogy, that’s was essentially his path in leaving Pixar and returning to Apple for redemption and glory. But if I had to bet, I’d go with Fortune’s sources and guess Twitter is the more temporary post.

That means Twitter needs to find an amazing product visionary– stat.

3. This is more important for Twitter than it might be at a lot of tech companies because product is the thing that is unequivocally working. Sure it has glitches, and sure it hasn’t shown dramatic innovation, but it doesn’t matter. People love it. It has transformed how the media works. And it has the one thing Facebook lacks: Celebrities all over the place. The reason Twitter is worth billions of dollars is the product.

It makes sense that Costolo would be focused on revenues and operations– those are his strengths and Twitter’s weakest spots. Revenues are higher than many expected, but lower than most Valley companies valued at several billion dollars. And I’ve heard from a dozen sources that Twitter has been a mess operationally. I’ve heard there’s a rift between older employees owning most the stock and working fewer hours than newer employees hired by the hard-charging Costolo. And that makes sense, given the three CEOs the staff has been hired by and variously reported to.

Most people I’ve spoken with seem confident Costolo can fix these problems. But what gives him cover to do that is the product continuing to grow and delight its users. Twitter absolutely can not afford to get complacent at product as it’s turning this corner. If it does, it risks looking uncomfortably like MySpace in its glory years– an innovative product people loved with loads of celebrity cache that had no innovation and was out-gunned and out-maneuvered by Facebook.

4. Please don’t settle for the acquisition, Twitter. On a day-to-day basis I use Twitter more than any other Web 2.0 product, and it’s transformed the distribution of TechCrunch. It’s the realization of the early promise of Digg’s mission to up-end the media business. I would hate to see it gobbled up as a pawn in the war between Google and Facebook. Twitter is better than that. Twitter is more important than that.

When Williams was running it, the odds seemed remote– barring an obscene offer from Google– because Williams had been down that route before with Blogger and didn’t exactly relish the experience, even being a part of a smaller, more nimble and pre-IPO version of Google.

But now Williams is gone. Dorsey is half-there. I have an uncomfortable feeling that if the product void isn’t filled by someone dynamic, Twitter will start to sputter and that several billion dollar purchase offer will be impossible to turn down. I don’t want to be alarmist– Twitter isn’t at that point now. But it’s at that crossroads now, where it needs to get back on the path to building the next great public Web company or pick the path of inevitable acquisition.

Twitter has a great board, a stable CEO and the goodwill of nearly all of Silicon Valley. This doesn’t have to end badly.

Source: Twitter: Consider This Your Intervention.

Apple Hiring a Team to Build “the Future of Cloud Services”

April 13th, 2011 04:00 admin View Comments

apple_logo_150.jpgA new job posting on the Apple website indicates the company is looking for the position of “Cloud Systems Software Engineer.” The job, first discovered by Apple Insider, is a full-time job at the company’s Cupertino campus.

Apple says it’s looking for an engineer “who has built high-performance, scalable and extensible systems.” That engineer will join the team that is building “the future of cloud services at Apple!” That exclamation is from the original posting, which in a nod perhaps to some of the questions raised by our Mike Melanson about what exactly constitutes “the cloud” has now been expunged of all cloudy references, replaced with the word “Web.”

Of course, the name change is more likely a response from the super-secretive Apple. Indeed, the listing – in either its original or altered form – gives very little detail about what Apple is up to with “the future of cloud services.” Or the future of Web services, as the case may be.

Of course, Apple has offered “cloud services” for quite some time via MobileMe. But there has been much speculation, including a story in The Wall Street Journal, that the company will launch an enhanced version of MobileMe this year that will include cloud storage for photos, music, videos and so on. According to those reports, an updated MobileMe would give users the option to stream their digital content to their iPhones and iPads, eliminating the need for local memory on those devices.

With the recent launch of the Amazon Cloud Drive and its ability to stream music, both Apple and Google are certainly feeling the pressure to make a similar service available.

cloud-110413.png

Image via Apple Insider

Source: Apple Hiring a Team to Build “the Future of Cloud Services”

Ev Williams States The Obvious: He’s No Long Fully Committed To Twitter; Thinking About What’s Next

March 29th, 2011 03:20 admin View Comments

As we confirmed yesterday, Evan WIlliams is taking a step back from his day to day duties at Twitter. Williams just published a post, titled ‘An Obvious Next Step’ on his personal blog explaining the reasoning behind his decision.

From his post: The reason I left Blogger/Google when I did is that I felt it had reached a place where it was on solid ground and in capable hands (at the time, Jason Goldman’s as product manager). Though still an independent company, I realized Twitter may be at a similar point today. So, as was reported in various places yesterday, I’ve decided to scale back my role at the company. (I’m still involved, but it’s no longer my full-time job.)

Williams will continue to serve on Twitter’s board of directors and will advise the company and employees when needed. While he says he’s ‘not ready’ to talk about his next venture, the New York Times reported yesterday that Williams is mulling a new start-up idea.

As for Twitter, co-founder Jack Dorsey is back at the company, helping lead product strategy. And as Twitter turns five, the changing of the guard (or the return) will debut tonight as Biz Stone and Dorsey make a joint appearance on CNN’s Piers Tonight.

Williams did ‘venture a prediction about what’s next for Twitter: It will be bigger and better.

Source: Ev Williams States The Obvious: He’s No Long Fully Committed To Twitter; Thinking About What’s Next

Should Entrepreneurs Trust a VC Who Is Also Founding a Company? (TCTV)

February 23rd, 2011 02:43 admin View Comments

There’s an age-old debate in Silicon Valley over whether or not you have to have started a company before to be a great VC. While many of the best VCs in Valley history weren’t entrepreneurs, the bias is heavily on investors who know firsthand what entrepreneurs are going through. But what about VCs who are building companies at the same time they are backing them?

It’s a growing trend as serial entrepreneurs want to invest, but not go quite all the way over to the dark side. There have always been angel investors who dabble in deals while they keep their day jobs, but being a partner at an institutional venture fund while doing what’s considered more than a full time job of building a company is something new. And it’s interesting that this is happening as most prominent angels are making being an angel their only job. We’re definitely in a period of redefining all the normal venture capital rules and roles.

But are there inherent conflicts entrepreneurs should be aware of? One of the more successful at this balancing act is Tony Conrad of True Ventures. He was hanging around TechCrunch yesterday, so we decided to grill him on how doing two more than full time jobs well is humanly possible.

Source: Should Entrepreneurs Trust a VC Who Is Also Founding a Company? (TCTV)

What Can a Lawyer Do For Open Source?

December 30th, 2010 12:46 admin View Comments

zolltron writes “I have a friend who went to law school. He really enjoyed intellectual property law, and he seems to genuinely regret that he didn’t end up as an IP lawyer. But, what’s done is done, and he’s not going to radically change career trajectories now. But, I think he might be interested in volunteering a little of his time if there was an interesting project he could get behind. Computer folks are always trying to figure out how to get involved in open source even if it won’t be their full time job. So, now I ask you Slashdot, how can my friend use his expertise to help an open source project?”

Source: What Can a Lawyer Do For Open Source?

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