Results tagged “startups” from kwc blog

Book: Microserfs


I read this book because I figured it was one of those must reads. Software engineering simply isn't one of those professions used in popular media, with a few exceptions like Office Space that come close, so given the opportunity to read a book that is not only about software engineers but also about the culture, the zeitgeist of the early .com boom as well as Microsoft, I knew I had to.

I've worked at Xerox PARC and a startup, and I've lived in the Bay Area for many years; I've never been to Seattle nor worked for Microsoft. Does it make me biased then that I liked the early Microsoft/Seattle portions of the book but started losing interest as soon as the book moved to the .com environment of the Peninsula? I would say so, except I've talked to someone else who read the book that is more familiar with Microsoft/Seattle, and she too had the same opinion.

In Seattle the book feels like it's accurately capturing and spinning the culture, from group homes of Microsoft employees to the Cult of Bill, which probably isn't all that different from the Cult of Steve. Once the book moved to the Peninsula, I no longer felt in touch with the story: the characters seemed less and less believable, the Peninsula culture seemed slightly off, and the story just never really went anywhere. I had minor geographical quibbles such as how they seemed to go far out of their way to drive past Xerox PARC or find Starbucks that I can't, but more important was the startup-of-friends experience didn't resemble my startup-of-friends experience -- when we had a startup, and everything was on the line, we ate, slept, and drank the startup, had trouble speaking of anything else because your life entirely was sucked into the effort, and I even dreamed in code; in Microserfs, the startup seems almost incidental to the relationships in the book and it only really there to move the characters around. From what I've seen of other startups, the experience sways more in my direction. I could be wrong, and the book does take place it a time slightly earlier than mine, but I had a strong feeling throughout the book that the Microsoft portion of the book was a closer revelation of software engineering culture, and besides Fry's, Apple, and mystique of PARC, very little else of it felt captured to me. This is one engineer's opinion of course: Philip Greenspun, MIT professor and ousted founder of the ArsDigita startup, left a glowing review of the Microserfs cultural mirror.

I've reviewed mostly the cultural/zeitgeist elements of the book rather than the story, but that's largely because I felt that there really wasn't any story; the book was meant to be about capturing a cultural tableaux. Then again, if it's merely a book about zeitgeist, you could also argue then that reading a 400 page compilation of Wired's Wired/Tired/Expired would make a wonderful read. Thus, I'm conflicted. If it was about story, I'd be terribly disappointed and have to give this book one star. Instead, I give it maybe a three-out-of-five with the caveat that you should end it whenever you like.

Before this disintegrates into dust


dateThis one's a relic. Back in college I participated in a startup called Storefront Media. About the only highlight that came out of this was that we made it onto the frontpage of the Wall Street Journal, above the crease. Granted, the article had almost nothing to do with us, but seeing the name of our company there in the WSJ allowed us to grin and state with certitude, "Why, we were mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal."

I'm posting it here now because, as I was packing my stuff up for an upcoming move, I came across the paper, and the past four years have not been very kind to it as you can tell. I better post it now before I lose all proof of our claim.

paper   article

The era of my current cell phone is nearing an end. The battery isn't doing very well and I'm inspired by all the little camera cellphones. In anticipation of a new cellphone, I thought I'd post a record here of the soon-to-be-old one.

To all of those that have 'accurate' voicemail messages, I highly recommend having a more obtuse message. It cuts down on the voicemail messages (though an awful lot of the ones you do get will start out with, 'Change your cellphone message !@#').

SFM Message

Another Bad Idea


For the amusement of my SFM brethren, I've chosen to blog this ancient entry first. My memory fails the finer details, but I came across these quotes that I had written down. The quotes are spread between a meeting we had at Yank-the-check to help broker a deal with 'Another Bad Idea' and a dinner that we had afterwards at Uno's with ABI.

Most of these quotes fall along complete dork humor, but there came a point where J and I just started having fun with them by throwing out terms an seeing what they would respond. As far as we could tell, the only roll of person E in the meeting was to try and translate all acronyms inaccurately.

"K: ...and we worked on triaging the bacdwidth to minimize the download time..."
"E: What?"
"K: Triage the bandwidth"
"E: Oh, so you don't lose ergonomics"

"Them: What about object-oriented..."
"K: (lecture on OOP vs. Procedural)"
"J: Regardless you would have to change the same amount of code"
"Them: Yeah, object models are overrated."

"J: It's a matter of combinatorics."
"Them: What?"
"J: Combinatorics"
"Them: Oh yeah, combinatorials."

"Us: Storage is cheap, processing isn't."
"Them: Yeah, pre-processing."

"East coast office - is that your bedroom?"

"So does Maya run on the Web server?"

"TCL... Tool Control, no ... Command Language" (inside his bag is Ousterhout TCL book with bookmark on first chapter)

"Yeah, like AMD is interested in sizing software"

"MEMs, micro... microelectronics... that's above nano, right?"

"In the future Jay may be the next Einstein"

"E: but Linux is more secure..."
"Us: Actually, BSD is."
"E: But that' security through obscurity."
"Us: No, BSD is open source."
"E: Right, but the Linux community has more eyeballs so it still security through obscurity."

"E: And D---, a guy without any credentials"

"E: So are we ordering dinner?"
"D: For you, nothing above $2."

"D: So what would you be looking for in a consulting deal?"
"K: I usually get an hourly wage."
"D: So what are we talking about?"
"K: For stuff I barely know, I get about $30 an hour, for stuff I'm an expert in, $70. You judge accordingly."
"D: But you're just consulting on your guy's vision."
"K: I think I'm an expert on that."

"No ice cubes in Sweden"

"So what do you think about Corel? I'm taking a beating on their stock."

"Like Bill Gates says, 'Everyone should have one.'"

"Us: MEMs"
"Them: Memes?"
"Us: No, MEMs"

"I met Linux Torvalds at Internet World. Shorts and sandals."

"J: You could put the test results in Matlab and do analysis on the data."
"K: Yeah, that's actually a good idea. You could run linear regressions, or maybe even quadratic regressins on it."
"D: What?"
"E: Oh yeah, totally, statistics."

"K: I want something that's immediately liquidable... stock options don't buy food."
"D:So, do you want food stamps instead?"