Showing posts from 2008

Great Panel Discussion!

Thanks to Gwyn Firth Murray, Larry Augustin, and Jeff Luczcz for a very entertaining panel discussion around Open Source at the recent eBig meeting.

I was a bit nervous about how this panel would come together since I was the 'rookie,' whereas Gwyn had worked with Larry and Jeff separately before. However, the commonality of the passion for Open Source brought this panel together nicely and there was an excellent exchange of ideas between and amongst the panel (as well as our audience). I think we had someone in the audience comment on the fact that it seemed like we had all known each other a long time! :)

The areas we covered during the talk were: licensing, community development, and reasons for using Open Source. I think the panel all agreed on good reasons for using Open Source, with all of us giving cogent examples of what the value proposition for using Open Source is (taking advantage of the huge amount of R&D and work that goes into good Open Source projects, lik…

Live, from Pleasanton, CA....

For anyone interested in hearing about Open Source as it applies to companies, I'm going to be part of a panel discussion at eBig (East Bay Innovation Group) in Pleasanton, CA on Monday 11/10/08 titled 'Open Source: How to Make Money and Get Money?'. Given my previous post on the pragmatic aspects of using Open Source, I think this should be an interesting discussion.

It's been a while since I've spoken/participated in a panel, but this one should be a lot of fun. I'll be joined by Open Source luminaries Larry Augustin and Jeff Luszcz, with Gwyn Firth Murray moderating. So, yes, for those following, I'm the least well known of the panelists. :) Hopefully my colleagues on the panel will handle most of the questions around legal/IP, since those that follow my blog will remember that while I recognize the value of understanding licenses around Open Source, I tend to be more focused on the community building/collaboration aspects (not surprisingly, given that…

The Path of a Life in Technology...

Stormy Peters, the new Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, penned an interesting blog post today on how she got started in the computer field.

Reading through it, I was struck by how similar some of the aspects of her beginnings in the industry were to mine. It is kind of scary actually. :) I fell in love with using an Apple IIe in the A/V room of my high school, and found every excuse I could to go down there between classes and at lunch to play with 'peek' and 'poke' (and yes, write everyone's favorite BASIC program which loops the phrase 'I'm awesome' forever). :) The fascination of holding data and programs on a 5 1/4 floppy drive was something I'll never forget. I too 'graduated' to IBM PC's, and wrote some early graphics programs (but, they looked kind of hokey on the 'green screen' monochrome monitors). I was very fortunate, in those early days, to know that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Open Source Pragmatism...

First off, to my few readers, I didn't die... :) I had a very interesting couple of weeks, plus a vacation. The short version of my interesting weeks is that I've left Motorola and taken a job as an Open Source Community Manager at CollabNet, where I'll be working to help build the communities of CollabNet's current and future customers interested in Open Source development practices. When and if I end up doing a corporate blog, I'll post the link here.

Now, on to today's topic - Open Source Pragmatism. I was having a conversation with some new colleagues, and I mentioned that I sometimes get a hard time from hard line Open Source folks about my use of a Macbook Pro. I look at software very pragmatically, and quite frankly, while Ubuntu has done a great job of getting the Linux Desktop to where it is, it still cannot compare (for my needs as a consumer) with OS X. Now, that doesn't mean I don't believe that Open Source (and Linux) have made great s…

Multi-touch Technology on Steroids

If you've ever wondered whether the 'multi-touch' technology present on Apple's iPhone and iPod products would make sense on a larger scale, then take a look at this video from

This technology has been being worked on since at least 2006 by Jeff Han, as a spinoff of an NYU project, and it has been featured on CNN's election coverage, and written up in several places, including this article on Though I'm completely sold on the promise of this technology for vertical applications such as weather and news, I do wonder about the usefulness of this technology in the general purpose computing space.

Wondering about this technology's general usefulness doesn't mean it can't be an excellent niche market tech, but the prospect of most knowledge workers or others who enter a lot of data into their computer using this interface makes me cringe. Some people can get by with just 'haptic' feedback (ala the iPhone's t…

'Old' Tech Still Has a Few Tricks Up Its Sleeve...

I've been a technology/gadget freak almost my entire life, and I remember at an early age being curious about how the technology around me (TV's/Radios/Remote Controlled cars) worked. This of course influenced my career path, and led me to a Computer Science degree. However, I've never lost my love of all forms of technology, especially radio. This love of technology has also intersected with the desire I've developed to volunteer in emergency services/communications roles outside of my normal job (a desire cemented after I lost a colleague and friend on American Airlines flight 11 on 9/11).

Two years ago, I studied for and received my Amateur Radio (Ham) technician class license (K6GWM). At the time, some of my tech friends questioned the decision for me to invest in such 'antiquated' technology. However, experience in emergency situations since that time has taught me time and time again that the saying: 'When all else fails, Amateur Radio' is a…

Open Source and Corporations - Can't We All Just Get Along?

Corporations and the Open Source community seem to have a love/hate relationship most of the time, and I think it stems from several key misunderstandings (mainly on the part of the companies). A lot of companies (though there are notable exceptions, such as IBM) seem to look at Open Source as a source of free (as in beer, not as in speech) code/labor. In other words, management sees that code and those developers as a great way to shortcut the product development process, do it for less, and then 'profit ensues'.

I know that sounds funny to a lot of technology people (like me) who are familiar with and involved in the Open Source community, but that mentality is very real in larger/older companies (especially those in consumer electronics sectors). It doesn't help that marketing and PR grab ahold of the notion of Open Source as a great 'hook' to make their company or product offering sound sexy and appealing. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of corporate e…

Silicon Valley Prognosticators Convention

I recently attended the Churchill Club's annual 'Top 10 Tech Trends' event at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA. I had been looking forward to this night, since I've attended previous club events, but never this one. I wasn't disappointed, as the panel of tech prognosticators that they brought in was informative, entertaining, and had a good mix of opinions.

I'll lay out all of the trends below, and comment on a select few that interested me the most. This was a panel format, with each panelist getting time for two trends that they could put forth as their top thoughts on the future. After each presentation, the panel got to 'vote' ('red' or 'green'), and explain their reasons. An audience poll was also taken after the panelists were finished discussing, and this was recorded as well. The panel was a 'Who's Who' of Silicon Valley tech experts, venture capitalists, and technologists. The panelists for this evening were:

In Search Of...

In today's installment, we go in search of... well, code. This being a technology blog, searching for answers in codes seems like a natural thing to do. :)

In the last year or so, I've become more convinced that detailed, accurate code search technology is critically important to developer productivity, code reuse, and helping to squash pesky bugs on projects/pieces of code that have subtle inter-dependencies. I also believe that, properly implemented, social knowledge management/networking can be applied to further enhance the benefits of accurate code search.

First, let's start off with the major players:

Google (of course)
Koders (now owned by Black Duck Software)

Google does a fairly good job of indexing existing Open Source code from the net, but their interface relies too heavily (in my opinion) on regular expressions, and doesn't provide the flexibility of search targets that Krugle and Koders do. Additionally, Google currently doesn't offer an Enterpris…

Dash Express GPS Software/Traffic Model Updates

As most of you might guess from reading this blog, I'm big on social collaboration and 'crowdsourcing'. I've mentioned Dash Navigation in the past, since I think they epitomize that notion quite well. Gizmodo had a blurb about Dash's first major software/traffic model update today.

Quoting from the article:

"The Dash Express GPS just received its first historic traffic model update using the live Dash data gathered by users. That'll help predict traffic in areas where no Dash or other trusted data sources have been in the last 15 minutes. By end of month, a software update is coming with tweaks in performance, stability and routing."

I for one certainly hope that Dash becomes more successful and ubiquitous, not just for the cool collaborative traffic and their other features, but mainly for the ability to update maps over-the-air. I have a Nissan Murano with a built-in navigation system that works well (for the most part), but on a trip to Reno th…


My colleagues and I have a standing joke when we talk about what makes social networks/collaborations/knowledge management work - it's everyone's favorite radio station, WII FM (What's In It For Me). To be sure, there are some social/crowdsourcing applications out there that people contribute to purely for altruistic reasons, or to share things with their friends. However, the vast majority of attempts to harness the 'group collaborative', or 'hive mind' for business purposes or knowledge management have failed unless there was a clear win in the WII FM department.

Two examples of applications where WII FM makes a huge impact are (social bookmarking), and Dash Navigation (crowd-sourced realtime traffic). In both of these cases, there are clearly benefits to the users of the respective applications, and the participation engendered by that benefit is the main reason the systems produce good data (search and traffic, respectively). It is very r…

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 unde…

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 are a great example of this - he…

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 …