Brad Feld

Month: October 2005

When I was a child, I had a fleeting glimpse of my future.  My mother used to tell me to “pay attention” as my brain wandered off to something else. Little did I know that – according to Dave and Seth – I was training for my current gig

My training went so well that when Amy says, “Brad, have you been listening to me?” I can repeat back the last few sentences that she’d said. This continues to be one of my favorite marital party tricks.

18 Miles of Books

Oct 03, 2005
Category Books

I love books (I know, hard to tell).  Yesterday, before we saw Serenity, Amy and I ended up in the Strand Book Store at 828 Broadway (and 12th).  It was unbelievably great – 18 miles of books, lots of old stuff – some dusty, some yellowy, but all delightfully full of paper.  And – most remarkably – there wasn’t a chair or a latte in sight.  Just like your father’s bookstore used to be.

Amy and I saw Serenity yesterday, along with $10m worth of other people.  We loved it.  This morning, while I was running over the Brooklyn Bridge with Matt Blumberg, I asked him what he thought of it (he saw it yesterday also).  He was unambiguous – he didn’t like it.  I probed a little, found out he hadn’t seen the TV series (amazing show, but cancelled after a dozen episodes or so) and it was clear that he didn’t understand a lot of the movie.

It’s a fantastic movie.  However, I’m going to guess that you have to at least be familiar with the backstory to get it.  And – like other movies that evolved out of TV shows (e.g. The X-Files) I’ll bet that you have to love and have befriended the characters already to understand all the jokes, bantering, and double entredres.  If you haven’t seen the TV show, but want to see the movie, spend some time on the Firefly Wiki getting up to speed (c’mon – you’ve got to love a TV show that has its own wiki.)  Or – try the fan blog if you want to keep up real time with the chatter.  Or – go hardcore and watch the TV show Firefly on DVD in four days like Amy and I did.

Yes – Joss Whedon is a genius.  Jayne caused me to fall out of my chair when he said – referring to River – “she’s starting to damage my calm.”

On August 4th, Greg Reinacker – NewsGator founder and CTO – announced NewsGator Enterprise Server and stated that it would ship in Q3.  On Friday night, September 30, at 7:28pm (Mountain Time) Greg sent out an email stating “FYI – build 3202 was declared “gold” at 7:13pm tonight.” 

In my first company, we had an enormous amount of scrutiny on releases as we shipped them all the time.  Since we wrote custom software, we often updated our customers’ systems and – as a result – were releasing software for clients as frequently as daily (although typically we tried to stay on an approximately once a month cycle.)  Since we usually had more than 20 active clients at a time, we could have a half a dozen releases in any given week.

For a while, we’d say things like “we’ll release it on Tuesday.”  We eventually figured out that this meant (at least to the person working on the software) “I can work on this up until 11:59:59pm on Tuesday, at which point the client will be asleep anyway, so I can let it slip until Wednesday morning and finish it up then early before the client gets to work.”  You can imagine what this devolved into. 

We eventually started specifying date / time pairs for releases – it was ok to release something on 9/30 @ 11:59pm (or 9/30 @ 12:01pm).  9/31 @ 12:01am didn’t work, although I’m sure someone tried.

So – 9/30 @ 7:28pm counts for Q3.  Congrats NewsGator. 

At dinner last night with Scott Moody (the founder of Throw – which was acquired by Excite in 1998), we began talking about the difference on the web between groups and individuals.  While we slurped down our intensely spicy Vietnamese soup, Scott suggested that much of the current generation of web software has a conceptual design flaw – namely that it has been created for individuals (one) rather than groups (many) even though it is used by many (and the great utility of most of the software is when it is used by many).

We batted the idea around for a while as the plates of food covered with fire came and went.  Amy and I have been struggling with this problem as we’ve tried to collaborate on a few things recently using new web-based software and haven’t been able to get everything “just right” (ask Amy about organizing “our” photos).  When I reflect on the challenges, it comes back to the notion that the software we are using is really designed to be used by a single user (vs. a group of users).  There is no concept of workflow, no shared storage, no intra-process communication, and no notion of shared conflicts that need to be resolved.

When I first started designing PC-based custom database applications in the 1980’s, we used to differentiate between “single-user” and “multi-user” mode, as data sharing issues were different (non-existent) in single-user mode and you could do performance optimization that you couldn’t do in multi-user mode.  As hardware became faster and the database software built in more levels of abstraction, this distinction disappeared.  However, we had long since shifted our designs to multi-user mode in almost all cases as it was the general case (where single-user mode was simply multi-user model with #users=1).

It seems like the same issue applies here.  There are some specific cases where multi-user design has been embedded in the app (wiki’s immediately come to mind), but many of the current web apps are decidedly single-user or – even if they support “multiple-users” – clearly have a single-user feel to them making their design suboptimal for a group of more than one users.

So – is many a special case for one or is one a special case for many?  All Lisp programmers know the answer – do you?

Parental Advisory

Oct 01, 2005
Category Random

Bob Gentry – the CFO at Finali (now Convergys) – suggested that this reminded him of me.


Thanks Bob – after Amy saw this she suggested that I start using this as my email footer.

Most of the customer support stories I read on the web are about lousy experiences.  Tonight – I had an awesome one.

After dinner, Amy treated me to 30 minutes at Best Buy in Soho to buy a Verizon Wireless EVDO Card for my October Life Dinner gift.  The folks at Best Buy did a good job even though they ended up setting me up for the wrong version of the service.  My laptop doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive, so I had to download the software from the Internet.

My first attempt failed as the Verizon web site didn’t recognize my cell phone number.  I called customer support, worked through the phone tree, and immediately got to a guy who seemed to know what he was talking about.  He gave me a special magic code to download the software and then asked if he could stay on the phone until everything was up and running.  I downloaded the software and then walked through the installation step by step.  When I got to the end, things worked, but they seemed very slow (much slower than my expectation).  It turns out that the Best Buy folks set me up with the wrong service plan.  Mr. Good Support told me he could transfer me to an account rep to get me on the right plan.

Two minutes later I was talking to Ms. Very Nice Southern Accent who looked up my account, made the change (while keeping me on the same payment plan), walked me through resetting my EVDO card, and confirmed that I was all set to go.

For once, an awesome experience.  Thanks Verizon people.