Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Startups Are Like Mashed Potatoes


Those of us who love mashed potatoes (and as this blog's author, I of course do :)) have inevitably had both good and bad batches of the glorious puffy starch. The common theme, though, in both the good and bad batches, is the mix of ingredients. Good batches are creamy, light, perfectly seasoned, and, depending on personal preference, may have unique spices, or vegetables mixed in. Bad batches, on the other hand, are usually ruined by too much, or too little, of one or more ingredients.

Now, those reading this may wonder when I'm going to get to the comparison of mashed potatoes to startups. Well, to illustrate my point, have a look at this recent blog post by one of the guys at 37signals, a cool and successful 'semi-startup' that focuses on collaboration and development tools.

The author's point is somehow missed in several of the comments, which lambast him for being 'reverse-ageist,' etc. Thankfully, some of the other comments are from folks who understand what he was trying to get at, which ties into my comparison. Any company (but especially a startup) is vulnerable to 'group think,' and it is beneficial to have a group of people from different background/perspectives when you form a team. The more politically correct among us would call this 'diversity,' but I believe it is much more important than any legally-mandated goal. Companies with too many 'young guns' are doomed to failure because of constantly shifting ideas of what to build, whereas companies with too many 'family folks' are usually too stodgy and conservative.

The best companies, and the best mashed potatoes, have a mix of young, ripe ingredients, combined with 'seasoned' components that provide just the right blend that makes the end product perfect for business, and your palate.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Technology and Leadership


I stumbled across the blog of David Jakes (Strength of Weak Ties) today, and found the following entry to be a great read. Warning: it is a little long, but I think the themes that he mentions are very valuable, not just in his workspace of education, but also in the professional world as well. I like David's approach to learning (RSS feeds, 'meatspace' publications, collaboration), and I love this quote from him: "Successful technology coordinators are leaders, and leaders understand that leadership is about relationships. Having relationships with people that understand you, and support you, are required to be truly successful, but this only comes with honoring and understanding them first."

I think that there is so much truth in that, especially in a world where we like to substitute technology for personal relationships. Technology should be about augmenting those relationships, and helping others - tools such as del.icio.us are a great example of this - helping others while also getting your own needs met. In a world full of 'Web 2.0' and 'social networking' sites, I believe it is important to utilize the 'crowdsourcing', or 'hive mind' for the betterment of all. Ok, I know that's a bit idealistic, but keeping toward an ideal, even if never achieved, can steer us in the right direction.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Open Sourcing Eugenia's Mobile Browser Detection Kit


So, my friend Eugenia Loli-Queru, master of many interesting things, has open sourced her Mobile Browser Detection kit. Good stuff - check out her blog for more details. True to form, the community has commented, and an ongoing code review is happening as we speak. I love that immediate feedback you get from the Open Source community. :)

First Step - a.k.a 'Why Am I Doing This?'


So, the journey of a thousand miles always begins with one step... :)

In my case, I finally decided to take the plunge and begin blogging about the things I'm passionate about. I am a self-confessed 'Gadget Freak' who loves to tinker with emerging technology, is passionate about Open Source (and the benefits it can bring to companies who use it correctly), and believes that collaboration is the most important piece of the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon.

When trying to settle upon a name for this new blog, I went through several iterations, but with the help of friends and family, I settled upon MashedPotato Tech, a name I hope invokes the combination of several good ingredients that make a tasty and interesting meal. While I'm doing this mainly to give myself an outlet to capture my thoughts on technology, Open Source, collaboration, and the social aspects of each, I do welcome feedback and a dialog with those who may be reading this.

I hope this is just the beginning of a long and interesting trip through the world of technology...