Category Archives: Popular

Posts listed in the Most Popular column

What I believe and how it helps me live with purpose

U.S. flag on the back of a 53' yacht

I was inspired by an article published at the beginning of 2017 by Eve Samples, Opinion and Audience Engagement Editor at the Stuart News. As a columnist, she felt it was important to let her readers know her backstory, at least some of it and to talk about what she thinks and believes. She was inspired by a fellow journalist at the Orlando Sentinel, so I thought why not spread the virus and use this format as a way to relaunch my blog.

I stopped blogging regularly in 2013. At one point I was publishing an article per week. What I came to realize is I miss having a platform to express myself and to connect with others. I believe that creating art and connecting with people are two of the most empowering things humans can do. Maybe it’s not for everyone but it resonates with me and when I stopped writing, stopped connecting, it was like a part of me ceased to exist.

People ask me whether it makes sense to start a blog. With all of the content on the web, how can you possibly be heard? My answer is it doesn’t matter who hears you or who reads it. I believe that the art of writing can unleash creative power within. Seth Godin likens it to Learning to See. We learn by observing the world and interacting with interesting people. The art comes from condensing these learnings into words in an empowering way. Writing is a dance between the writer who leads and the reader who follows. When you first learn to dance you likely won’t be very good at it. So you dance alone, maybe in front of a mirror if you can stand it, to learn how to move and feel the music. Write, publish, repeat…do this with consistency and good things could happen.

In 2007, I started a blog with no readers. My readership grew to over 1,500 by 2011. After I sold my business in Oct of 2013 my writing fell off as I started to concentrate on my role with the new company. After 3+ years, I came to realize that I miss the creative pursuit of writing and connecting with people online at a deeper level than what Facebook and Twitter have to offer.

My Backstory

People are often surprised to learn that I live in the town where I was born. This especially surprises my friends in the start-up and “lifestyle design” community who often leave the nest to live overseas on the cheap to work on their business with only the bare essentials (backpack, laptop, smartphone). I’ve been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world but for me and my family, living in the U.S. and most specifically Stuart, FL checks a lot of boxes for us.

I grew up in West Palm Beach, FL, got an Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Florida and landed my first job at Motorola as a Software Engineer. I hated my first job. Not Motorola specifically, but I hated the commute, hated the cubicles and especially hated the monotony of the 9 to 5.

But I was intrigued by the sales people who would visit Motorola to sell test equipment or the latest software development tools. I was curious about these nomads. They got to travel from place to place and play with technology. I wanted in. So I befriended a rep at a company called IDE based in San Francisco and the next thing I knew I was flying out to Silicon Valley for product training. I spent 5-years there as an Applications Engineer (e.g. “demo dolly”) before becoming a full fledged sales rep and having a territory of my own.

I eventually became the Southeast Regional Sales Manager at Atria Software in Natick, MA. It was at Atria that I got a taste of what it’s like to “IPO”. My stock options actually had some value. After Atria had gone through a couple of acquisitions (most notably from a company that was started by Reed Hastings the founder of Netflix), I decided to start my own company with a co-worker at Atria and an associate of mine at Motorola. In 1997, we landed our first bit of venture funding and we were off to the races. In 1999, we sold that company to a start-up in Sunnyvale, CA called Interwoven. Interwoven went pubic in the midst of the “Dot Com bubble” and once again I witnessed the magic of stock options. However this time I lived through both the euphoric highs and the eventual crash. Amazing how wealth can be fleeting if you aren’t mentally prepared for it.

My wife Nancy and I had our first child about this time. I traveled constantly while at Interwoven and I began to feel that I was missing out on some very important experiences in my son’s life. So we made the decision to look for something close to home. At the end of 2002, I bought a small software company with another investor and started working their full time in 2003. The company developed a management system for the marine industry.

We thought we had found the perfect company…it is based right here in south Florida (no more commuting to Silicon Valley or Boston), it’s software (I am “tech guy”) and it’s in the boating industry. Growing up in South Florida, I love the water, boating, fishing and diving. But what we learned was selling technology in an industry that is completely dependent upon discretionary spending is a tricky tightrope to walk. The boom times are good but the busts can be crippling.

In 2009 we almost went out of business. Everyone at the company took significant pay cuts to keep the doors open. Most of our customers stuck with us too and for both them and our team, I am forever grateful. We emerged out of this dark period much leaner and with a stronger balance sheet. In October of 2013 I sold my business to what was then called My-Villages (now known as MyTaskit). I am still involved in MyTaskit today.

People ask me why I am still involved with the company that I sold. Why haven’t I started something new? You’ve been doing this for 13 years, aren’t you tired of it? My honest answer is I prefer the long game as opposed to trying to manufacturer quick hits. The grass always looks greener elsewhere and I have a lot left to do at MyTaskit. We are not only expanding in the marine industry but looking at other industries that would benefit from the technology we are building. In a nut shell, I still have things I can contribute that adds value and I want to see us reach our goals.

This leads me back to my blog and why I am re-starting it. Outside of MyTaskit, there are other projects that I want to start, people I want to connect with and places that I want to visit. The discipline of writing a blog will help me learn to see and better understand and connect with the world.

For the 2 or 3 people that are still with me, I would like to share some of the principles that I believe. These are the things that I practice and the habits I want to form. These are things I wish I would have known when I got my start in the business world. So maybe this will help someone who has yet to launch their first business or shoot for a big promotion.

I believe connections, relationships and the ability to have a positive impact on someone’s life is our greatest value

We are social beings. When our energy is focused on positively impacting others lives, the value it brings to ourselves is as great or greater than what is received. It can be as simple as smiling more often, being less critical or lending a hand to someone in need. One of my goals in 2017 is to get out of my preprogrammed responses to things I find objectionable. We go through life with these preconceived notions of how the world should be. If a person or event disrupts our concept of what is right, our positive energy shuts off and we close ourselves to growth. I am working to remain open at all times and to never close my heart or mind to any external stimulus.

When confronted with a stressful situation or someone says something that might offend you, remain open and relaxed. Don’t tense up and close. I tend to get frustrated when little things don’t go my way like spilling some milk in the kitchen. How you react to that situation determines whether you decide to that emotion around with you for the rest of the day or simply let it go. As long as you are defining what you like and don’t like, your mind will open and close. When you close up, you could miss a very important opportunity, a chance to learn something new or the ability to develop a new relationship.

I believe you are not your thoughts

This goes against the age old saying “You are what you think”. Actually the saying is correct if we let our thoughts control us. But how do we change? How do we quiet the seemingly endless and random thoughts that pop into our mind? A powerful concept taught by Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul is your thoughts and emotions aren’t really “you”. You are the observer of your thoughts and emotions. The true “you” is your consciousness or the Self. Your thoughts and emotions are simply the object of your consciousness. Said another way, “you” are not what you think.

Most of  the time, our thoughts and emotions seem somewhat random. Different view points and opinions will pop into our mind constantly, often taking varying positions. If you step back and listen to your thoughts, you may find that they can be a bit melodramatic. One day you think “She loves me”, but when she doesn’t call you that night you start thinking “Maybe she really doesn’t love me”. Your thoughts can be all over the place. Where does this come from and more importantly why do we put so much value in them?

Being the observer of our thoughts and emotions is similar to watching a movie. According to Singer, we can get caught up in our thoughts in the same we can be completely captivated by a good movie. We forgot about the passing of time or where we are.

For me, there are a couple of things in 2017 that I am practicing to help quiet my mind and take back control. I have started the practice of a morning ritual to help me get centered after I wake up. It consists of meditation, prayer, and then journaling. I typically meditate 5-10 minutes before I have my morning coffee. In my daily journal, I like to write down what I am grateful for and what I want to accomplish that day. If you wake up feeling stressed, off center or unenthusiastic, try getting yourself into a morning ritual that works for you. It could help you kick start 2017 and the rest of your life.

The other thing I am working on is to not label my random thoughts and emotions with words like “what a stupid idea” or “why can’t I concentrate for more than five minutes?” Instead, when a thought or emotion pops in my mind seemingly out of nowhere, I just label it “thinking” or “thought” and move on. Don’t attach emotional baggage to these seemingly random thoughts, simply let them go. When a negative thought or emotion arrives I try to take a few deep breaths, relax my shoulders and release them.

I believe that anyone can take control of their life and work from anywhere by maximizing the use of technology, global resources and a systematic goal setting process

We can design a life that meets our objectives. While our thoughts may say “I am not smart enough” or “I am stuck in this job or career” remember that these are just random thought streams scrolling across our mind. With a laptop and internet connection, people can build businesses or perform tasks that were almost inconceivable 20-years ago. This freedom to produce and publish our work, along with the ability to communicate and collaborate with virtually anyone on the planet, has given entrepreneurs, artists and technology workers a huge amount of freedom and leverage.

Where I have gotten stuck time and time again, and I sense I am not alone, is on the goal setting part. What do I want to do? How do I want to do it? Why do I want it in the first place? In the book, Start with Why, author Simon Sinek says that your why is the purpose, cause or belief that drives you to do what you do. Your why will strengthen what you do and how you plan to do it. I put in writing my long term vision in these areas: Business/Career, Financial, Health, Personal Development, Spiritual, etc. My 15-year business/career goal looks something like this:

What: I want to help people maximize their potential and grow their businesses through the use of technology and simplified business processes.

Why: I believe I can make the world a better place if I can help people feel energized, fulfilled and intellectually stimulated at work.

Taylor Pearson, the author of The End of Jobs teaches a goal setting method that starts with your long term vision and then works backwards from there. Formulate a vision statement that best characterizes what you want do to or who you want to be in 15 to 25 years in each area of your life (Business, Health, Spiritual, etc). You then start to outline 90-day, weekly and daily goals with milestones and actions to meet those objectives. Using this long term approach bolstered by short term actionable milestones, I believe you can do nearly anything.

To get started, choose to do one thing each day that moves you towards your goal. According Benjamin Hardy, research has found that when people commit to something, their desire to be seen as “consistent” drives them to act according to the commitment they’ve made. Eventually, if your behavior matches your commitment for a long enough period of time (this study argues it takes around 4 months), your attitudes will also change. My commitment is to publish a blog post once per week. As I mentioned earlier, when I consistently did this from 2010-2012, I built an email list of over 1,500 subscribers.

Now that you’ve committed to doing one thing that moves you forward, you now have to “know thy enemy”.

I believe that the biggest enemy to producing anything of value is the Resistance

Avoiding the Resistance or pretending it’s not there is the way people get stuck and stop producing their best work. I fall into this trap consistently, so I have to remind myself that the Resistance is always there and it’s not my friend. For me the Resistance is email or compulsively creating To Do lists and then checking off items on that list that keep me busy but don’t really accomplish my long term goals. I have found that you have to face the hard stuff, things like sitting in front of a blank screen knowing that I have to produce 3,000 words by noon, making a sales call to the prospect that I know could be the largest deal of the year or choosing to take an online SEO course as opposed to watching Monday Night Football.

I believe that “stuff” is stressful

The more things you collect, the more you have to worry about your stuff. In 2010, I had all the markings of a success…big house on the water, a 34 foot boat, a condo in Costa Rica, etc. The dirty little secret is I also amassed sizable debt to collect all my stuff. While I looked successful on the outside, I was letting debt and the stress of keeping up with my stuff consume me. Filling my mind with more to do lists so I can care for my stuff robbed me of creative cycles.

Stuff is actually another form of the Resistance. Said another way, if your brain is worried about taking care of your stuff you don’t have the freedom to nurture new relationships, cultivate new ideas, do good work, travel and spend time friends and family. While I miss waking up in the morning and seeing the St. Lucie River from my bedroom, what I don’t miss are big mortgage payments, large tax bills and the carrying cost that all the stuff brings along with it.

I believe the biggest threat facing the United States is our national debt and our bloated government bureaucracy

On Dec 31st, 2016, the U.S. national debt was just shy of 20 trillion dollars, surpassing our GDP by over a trillion dollars. The U.S. government spends most of the taxes it collects just to pay the interest on this debt and cover Social Security and Medicare. The U.S. is starting to look and act a lot like the Roman Empire as it evolved into a bloated bureaucracy and later faded out of existence. France suffered a similar fate 1715 when it’s trade deficit hit an all time high. Similarly the once powerful Ottoman Empire became swallowed up in debt and was eventually dissolved in 1922.

What’s worse is not only is our government nearly broke but many major banks in the U.S. are insolvent as well. If every borrower in the U.S. decided to withdraw the money they have in say Bank of America, the bank would have to shutdown or the government would need to step in and impose withdraw limits. Look at any financial statement of any major bank. They typically have 10% available cash on hand compared to deposits.

Could we see daily withdraw limits in the U.S? In June of 2015, Greek authorities imposed a withdraw limit of 420 Euros per week to avoid a run on the banks. This a scary reality as Greece is a democratic EU member. We aren’t talking about Venezuela. Could you imagine trying to withdraw your own money from your local bank and the government decides to limit what you can withdraw?

While my viewpoints are more aligned with the Libertarian Party, I am a registered Republican in Martin County, Florida. This is because Florida has closed primaries, meaning only voters registered as a Democrat or a Republican can vote in a primary. I am an advocate for less government, but instead what we have is a bloated and hemorrhaging political system.

The point many people miss is we can become insulated as Americans forgetting that their are numerous opportunities around the global. There are places outside of the U.S. that are superior in terms of cost of living balanced with quality of life, safe investment opportunities, stable banking systems, governments that run a surplus not a deficit. Don’t get me wrong, I love the U.S. and living in Stuart Florida. My wife and I believe that we are in the right place (for now) to raise our teenagers. But we are trying to not limit our thinking to the United States when it comes to where we decide to “write our next chapter” or invest our retirement dollars.

One thing is for sure, the U.S. is a great place to be a consumer. We are a consumer driven society. You can buy anything you want from your computer, phone or tablet, and it will be shipped to your door step possibly that very same day. Amazon plans to use drones to deliver goods to your home and is test marketing this in the U.K. now. But as an investor and a saver, I feel I am being punished by a system that discourages holding cash reserves and offers little options to value investors. Money markets and CDs earn less than 1% (a negative return if you adjust for inflation), the bond market is projected to decline given rising interest rates and the U.S stock market by most accounts is over valued.

For instance, outside of the top 25 companies in the U.S. stock market, most of the remaining 2,500 or so companies have an average cash to debt ratio of 16%. Overseas there are simply better values. These include foreign stocks in companies that in some cases have more cash on hand than the size of their market cap, solvent banking systems in countries with more fiscally stable governments, money market interest rates above 5% and safe places to buy and hold tangible assets like precious metals.

The only way to fix our problems at home is to become a nation of producers again. We must produce more than we consume and export more goods and services than we import. When we get our financial house in order, I believe that other problems facing this country like our dilapidated infrastructure and dwindling environmental ecosystems will improve.

I believe that positive growth can happen when empathetic listening can transcend our political and racial differences

Debating about Trump vs Hillary can add some color to a dinner party, but as it relates to your overall well being and your family’s health, safety and prosperity…who sits in the White House has little impact. This view point is hotly debated among those close to me who love talking about why this guy or that gal is good or bad for our economy or environment. I am amazed at how the political divide in this country has caused people to unfriend their political foes on Facebook or even divide families.

We have got to start talking and making an attempt to try to see the viewpoint of those that we disagree with. One of my heroes is my father’s second cousin, Governor LeRoy Collins. Not only was he a great leader and visionary, he was also an empathetic listener and was willing to risk political advancement to do what’s right. During the Civil Rights movement he helped find a peaceful resolution in Selma, AL when Martin Luther King, Jr and his followers marched in defiance of the Alabama State Troopers. This act of peace was later used against him by his political adversary in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

My hope is that by putting these beliefs in writing, it will hold me accountable and help me live by a set of clear values. If my thinking adjusts over time, I now have a benchmark to gauge my evolution. At the end of the day, what most of us want is a sense of purpose, and to be enthusiastic, happy and peaceful. Those are at least the attributes I seek to achieve and look for our in both friends and colleagues. My hope for this blog is that it will help me see, help me engage with people at a deeper level and hopefully aid others who are seeking to make sense of the world in which we live.

When children grieve

Relationships have certainly changed since I was a kid. I remember being in Jr. High and asking a girl if she would “go with me”. Then you would hang out, hold hands and if you dared you would kiss. Since we didn’t have smartphones, texting wasn’t invented but if it existed I am sure we would have used it. Instead we passed notes. We would fold them into these triangle shaped footballs and shoot them over to our new found loved ones.

Remember “pen pals”? I never had one, but from what I am told people would write to complete strangers matched up by an intermediary somewhere else in the world. Smartphones, Skype and Instagram has changed all that, theoretically bringing us all closer together. Pen pals have morphed into “text pals”. But are we really closer?

Can you have a relationship and not spend much time physically or even face to face with a person? I thought it was impossible until I saw it happen to my 12-year old son. Last summer he met a girl that actually paid attention to him. He saw two girls on a bus during summer camp as they were headed on one of their field trips. The girl he initially talked to gave him the brush off and said something like “what are you looking at”? Her friend smiled at him.

He hated going to this summer camp but this one particular girl would laugh at his jokes and was just patient enough to overcome his anti-social youthfulness. After camp they became instant “text pals”. They would stay in constant communication with each other both through private text messages and on Instagram. They shared photos and feelings on what was happening in their separate lives, but in an odd way they were connected. They had a bond that is hard for a forty-something to comprehend.

It was nearing summer break again this year and my son was adamant that he was not going to return to this one particular camp. Until he received a text from his text pal about the camp, he agreed to go, they decided upon the date and it was settled. At last, they would once again see each other in person and not merely through an electronic medium.

It was Monday night, and my son was texting his friend simple things like “how was your day?”, “so excited about camp”, etc, etc. He would say things like “luv u, as a friend” and she would write back, “LOL ik” (“i know)”. This is how their digital banter would go. Shortly after this exchange my son’s friend had a massive stroke. She was rushed to the hospital where she was moderately stabilized but then sent to a children’s hospital that deals with this type of trauma. She was in a coma, barely hanging on to life.

My son found out from my wife and was obviously sad, but hopeful. Lots of banter went back and forth both in text messages and on Instagram about the condition of his friend. Everyone was providing prayers and hope. My son was called out as someone who didn’t know her because he went to a different school and was one year younger. He was somewhat hurt by this but continued to give his support through this digital means of love and affection.

My son kept his phone in his room that night hoping to get some news. He texted her saying that if you get this and respond I know you are Ok. She died that night on May 22nd. He found out from a classmate at school the next day. He was devastated. He vacillated between crying intensely to being in deep thought about it, to forgetting about it and being a kid again. Then the cycle would start all over again. He had lots of questions for us; how many people do you know who have died? Did you know any one who died when you were a kid? Tough questions and big emotions to rationalize for a 12-year old.

His friend wrote 40 factors about herself on Instagram. One of the things she said is “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”. Tonight my son said solemnly that she won’t get the chance to find out.

How do you help a child who has lost someone special to them? My mom, who is a psychotherapist, is trained in crisis management. She deals with family crisis situations frequently. She said that one of the first things kids think about is “will this happen to me”? It is so rare for a child to die, especially from a stroke. It is so sudden, so unexpected. Children must be comforted, especially at night and given reassurances that they are Ok.

The second thing that helps is having the child express their feelings through art, music and writing. Have them paint or draw a picture depicting a fun experience they had with the person that passed away. If they are capable have them compose a song or write a blog post or poem about memories they have about that person or how they are feeling.

Raising a child is hard. Dealing with trauma or emotional stress makes it even harder. For us, dealing with the situation openly and honestly seems to be the best way to handle the it. When you feel like crying cry, if the child wants to talk be ready to listen. But continue to support them and remind them that they will be Ok.

Brandon and Hazel

Beholden: Lessons learned from Market Samurai and Google

 

Market SamuraiThere are many products that simply wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for an enabling technology or service. I am designing a pivot strategy for @ExumaTech that could revolutionize the way owners of late model cars, trucks, boats and RVs communicate with their dealers. One of the risk factors I’ve identified is the dependence this solution will have on dealer management systems (DMS). If the link between this app and the DMS breaks, no more value to customers.

Being dependent upon another technology is very different than simply providing another interface to an existing product or service, or adding new functionality. There are thousands of products that add a missing feature to popular services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The Twitter “auto-reply” products are a good example. If the giants cough, the enablement technologies can either catch a cold or worse yet become irreparably broken.The legion of Twitter auto-responders are a good example of this. When and if Twitter releases this feature, so much for those products.

There is another class of products like Market Samurai that help people improve efficiencies by coalescing and organizing data from numerous sources and presenting it to the user in a common interface. A good example of this is HootSuite. Like Market Samurai, HootSuite is a great service because it helps us manage our social media activities across multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts. Twitter and Facebook have published APIs in their services to enable companies like HootSuite and thousands to create valuable products. This of course bolsters the value of those services and creates an ecosystem of developers and designers promoting those services.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the giants (Google) coughed and it seriously disrupted the service provided by Market Samurai. Many companies that don’t have an open and honest relationship with their customers and the blogosphere would have hidden from these issues while their customers suffered. Worse yet they could have blamed Google for all of their problems in one simple blog post and then gone silent while they paniked behind closed doors. However Market Samurai did what any company operating in our open socially engaged world would do – they threw the doors open to conversation with their customers, fans and ditracters. That door was left open 24-hours a day through the weekend and into the following week.  Eugene Ware, their CEO, lays it all out on the line here. Bravo!

Adventures in iOS Land – Day 1+

One-calendar-day1My first day digging into Titanium didn’t quite turn out like I had planned. Setting up XCode (once I received by Apple Developer Program credentials) and Titanium Studion was very straight-forward. I am using Xcode 4.2 and Titanium Studio 1.0.7. I also installed the Android SDK. The help and SDK installers seem to have improved since I tried installing Titanium on Windows XP.

Appcelerator has done a great job preparing tutorials and videos in what they call AppU. Three starter videos are provided upon installation: Preparing for Mobile Development, Getting Started with the Development Environment and Sample Projects.

My first project is a business app. I’ve already created the basic prototype using jQuery Mobile. You can find it here. This app will communicate with a .NET XML SOAP web service running on a Windows Server. Since we are developing mobile apps to facilitate business management systems, it is key that the app work with a web service supporting Windows business applications. Given this backdrop, it became apparent that I needed to bone up on SOAP, Javascript and jQuery.

I bought the jQuery Cookbook some time ago, but hadn’t cracked the cover until recently. I started working through the basic examples to get an understanding of jQuery and Javascript basics. You can find the tutorials here. I then started looking specifically at jQuery client side examples using AJAX to communicate with an XML SOAP web service. Here are some that were helpful to me:

Posting XML SOAP Requests with jQuery

Using AJAX with jQuery Mobile

Creating a Javascript Soap Client

Even though I’ve made much less progress that I had hoped, I’ve learned a lot about jQuery and SOAP. On our Windows server I am using a slick testing environment called SoapUI. Blogger Jason Cohen is involved in this project and I’d like to give him a big shout out for not only helping to create a great tool, but for writing some great posts on the business of software.

Windows at work, Mac at home

iMac iPad and iPhoneI resisted the notion of buying a Mac for a long time. I own a business software company. All of our products are built on Microsoft technology. My migration away from Unix-based systems to Windows happened back in the mid-90s when I began to actively seek employment with a company that had business applications (specfically software development business apps) that ran on Windows NT. I didn’t realize that one day, more than 15-years later I would come full cycle and embrace Unix-based operating systems once again. What surprised me is that the transition happened at home.

On nights and weekends I began to dive into what was happening in the open source community. I am an investor in Eldarion, one of the leading Django development companies anywhere and developer of the open source Pinax framework. I used Pinax and Django on our DzineBox website. I maintained this site on an old IBM Thinkpad running Ubuntu. Since DzineBox is written in Django, Ubuntu (or any variant of Linux for that matter) made for an ideal development platform. But it wasn’t until I decided to start focusing on mobile app development that my need for MacOS grew to the point that I finally had to shell out the $1,200 for an iMac.

Now look at me. I am definitely late to the party but with my iMac, iPad and iPhone, I’m like an Apple commercial. I am using the Trackpad with my iMac and really like it so far. Not sure if it’s more effecient than a mouse yet, but it is really intuitive. So far I wouldn’t say that owning a Mac is transforamtional. Some people talk about these Zen like experiences they have when they get their first Mac. However I had the original Macintosh and many of the fundamental concepts are still in place. Furthermore, since I already use the iPad and iPhone, the UI was seemlessly for me. I know some people who only have experience with Windows platforms really struggle with the Mac.

I was using Appcelerator on my Windows XP machine in an attempt to start working with the Android SDK. It took some effort just to get it to work. But after it crashed my machine when I uploaded an update to the Android SDK I said enough. I will give Appcelerator a good college try on the iMac, but if it also proves flaky I am off to XCode and my dreams of building cross platform apps will be dashed (at least for the time being).

Tangled up with Apple iTunes Tech Support

itunesI upgraded my iPhone, iPad and copy of iTunes to the latest version recommended by Apple. The iTunes version is now 10.5. The problem is that a number of my songs were missing. This seems to be a recurring problem when you have an external drive and the link between iTunes and the physical media is broken. I went in and manually fixed about 100 songs.

I noticed that a number of my purcahses didn’t show up either. Again, no worries, iTunes 10.5 has a slick “Downloads” features that allows you to download previous purchases. iTunes had the songs “registered” but the media was missing. So I deleted the songs from iTunes and then redownloaded my music. Everything was going good until I noticed that a purchase I made back in April, Ray LaMontagne’s “Live – Fall 2010 – EP” wasn’t showing up as a purchased item. I have the receipt of purchase in my iTunes purchases history, but it wasn’t showing up.

Here is my email tug of war with Apple on this subject.

Hello Cam,

Thank you for replying to iTunes Store Customer Support. My name is Naresh and I will be taking over this request for Mark.

Cam, I have posted a fresh copy of the purchased playlist "Live - Fall 2010 - EP" to your account. Please follow these steps to download the item with your iPhone:

1) On the Home screen, tap iTunes.

2) At the bottom of the iTunes app screen, tap Downloads. (If you don't see a Downloads option, tap More and then tap Downloads.)

3) Enter your password when prompted.

The playlist should begin downloading. If you lose your Internet connection, iPhone will display a message that says it cannot connect to the iTunes Store. Once you reconnect to the Internet, tap iTunes and then Downloads again, and then tap the blue down arrow icon that appears next to the item to resume the download.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact me for further assistance.

I would be thankful for any opportunity to assist a valued customer like you.

Have a nice day!

Sincerely,

Naresh
iTunes Store/Mac App Store Customer Support

Please note: I work from Sunday to Wednesday & Saturday 7.00 AM to 04:00 PM CST

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you. You may receive an AppleCare survey email; any feedback you provide would be greatly appreciated.

Mark,

My original message was not clear and for that I apologize.

I am not requesting a refund. I would like to restore the songs an iTunes upgrade somehow erased.

Heres what happened. I upgraded to the latest version of iTunes last night. Subsequent to the upgrade all of my purchased music was missing. In order to restore them, I had to delete my purchased songs from iTunes and then go into the iTunes Store and select Purchased from the Quicklinks menu. I then had to re-download my purchases.

Unbeknownst to me the EP, Live 2010, by Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs was missing - that is all four songs. Furthermore, it was not listed in iTunes as a purchase. However I have the receipt to prove I purchased it.

Again I am NOT requesting a refund. I am requesting access to all four songs on this EP so I can download then again and resolve this issue. It's the first time I've had problems with an upgrade losing purchased store items.

Thank you,

Cam
@camcollins

Sent from my iPad

On Oct 18, 2011, at 4:10 AM, iTunes Store <iTunesStoreSupport@apple.com> wrote:

> Dear Cam,
>
> Your request for a refund for "For the Summer (Live)" was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.
>
> You can review the iTunes Store Terms of Sale for more information:
>
> http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/sales.html
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Mark
> iTunes Store Customer Support
> http://www.apple.com/support/itunes/ww/
>
>
> Customer First Name : Cam
> Customer Last Name : Collins
> email : camc@camcollins.wpengine.com
> Web Order # : MGVLJ44SZ1
> Support Subject : I didn't receive this song
> Sub Issue : Incomplete download
> Comments : Apple ID: camc@camcollins.wpengine.com
> Platform : iTunes-iPhone/3.1.3 (2)
> Song Name : For the Summer (Live)
> Comments :
> All of these songs are gone - Not even in Purchased listing in ITunes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
>

Two interesting news items from yesterday…

iphone-3gThis is an email I sent to my company on Thursday, Oct 6th, the day after Steve Jobs passed away. I felt compelled to make it public:

Team,

By now everyone on the planet knows that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. He only resigned six weeks ago from Apple so the world was pretty shocked that he passed away so suddenly. Whether you love or hate Apple, what he deserves credit for is asking Why.

One of his favorite sayings was Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. This statement is plastered on my desktop background. He didn’t come up with this. He first saw this on the back cover of the final edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. (The Whole Earth Catalog was a hip collection of stuff you could buy mail order in the early 70s). He was inspired by this statement because he felt this statement encapsulated two primary beliefs that guided him throughout his life.

1. Stay Hungry — never rest on your laurels, never give up, its about the journey not the destination
2. Stay Foolish — you learn something every day. Never think you know it all or that you have everything figured out. Thats when its over.

To me the iPhone was Apple’s greatest invention. One of Jobs mentors was a guy named Alan Kay. Kay once said People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware and thats what Apple did with the iPhone. They looked at the popular smartphones on the market in those days like BlackBerry, Palm Treo and Motorola Q, and asked: Why have a keyboard? Why is half of the device taken up by something that isn’t really needed for every application?

In other words, software developers were having to work around limitations of the hardware. Why not make the hardware a clean slate, and let the software developer use whatever he or she needs to provide the best user experience for the problem they are trying to solve? Well the rest is history. Now we have a completely different way of interacting with computers in both the smartphone and tablet market.

Here is the video of the unveiling of the iPhone

So what’s the other piece of news? Buried in the headlines of Jobs untimely death and Amanda Knox arriving in Seattle (Seriously? This is news?), there was a little story in the LA Times that a company in India, with the help of the Indian government had just produced a tablet that costs $50 to make. With subsidies from the government they plan to sell them to students and schools for $35 OR LESS. I thought the Kindle Fire was cheap at $199. But $35 for something less functional and smaller than an iPad that starts at $500?

Here is the complete story

So what could all of this mean for us? The revolutionary changes in how people interact with computers from the iPhone to tablets is fundamentally changing how people work. No longer are they tethered to a desktop, monitor and mouse. They are now on the road, in the service yard, on the showroom floor, with something in their hand that is as powerful as the computer on their desktop just a few years ago.

This is an extraordinary time for us because we have the opportunity to now provide products to serve both our current customers and future customers in ways we couldn’t before. In the not too distant future our customers will be able to enter or look-up work orders, enter time, search for parts, accept payments on the move and check out a customer at a mobile register. All of these things are possible by doing what we’ve always done on a new platform.

Those of you that haven’t tried out our new DockMaster in the Cloud platform really must. We haven’t made a formal internal announcement about it yet, because we want to make sure that IT is ready for everyone to start using it. More to come on this. DockMaster in the Cloud is just a start. There are so many things this company can do with the right vision and guts to get out there and do it. So Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish and thank Steve Jobs while you are at it!

Cam

Remembering 9/11 Ten Years Later

As a kid I remember adults talking about where they were and what they were doing the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The same holds true the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Ten years ago today our country was attacked by terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people died in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. Like most people, I remember where I was and what I was doing. However what hit home recently for me was my eleven year old’s recollection of that day. This is what he wrote recently for a class project whereby he was asked to write a news story about an important event in his life.

“It was 9/11/01. Ten days after my birthday. It was the day when the twin towers exploded. When my mom heard the news she fell on her knees crying because my dad was on a plane from Manhattan to Florida. Then she got a call and was happy when she found out my dad was still alive. I would say that was the scariest day of my life!”

I was actually flying from Palm Beach to Laguardia. Someone in the seat across from me had called home from the air phone and was told that there was a terrorist attack in New York. It was right around 9 AM, so there weren’t a lot of details at that time. A couple more people called down to the ground and we began to get sketchy reports about what was happening. Talk started flying around about airplanes crashing into buildings and a couple of us started to wonder if we were safe. Just then, the pilot got on the PA and said “There has been a terrorist attack in New York. We are safe and in control of the aircraft, but this flight is being diverted to Atlanta”.

Hartsfield International was a zoo when we landed. Everyone was heading in the same direction – out! I found a rental car (thankfully) even though I stood in line for two hours. I remember the 8-hour drive home and seeing people on the side of the road waving flags. The way we came together as a country was breath taking. We need to remember 9/11 often. We need to embrace our neighbors like we did that day and the days that followed. Some people will stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing has changed. Others like Scott Heiferman, Co-Founder & CEO of Meetup will start great companies that promote the the connections made post-9/11. What will you do? God bless America!!

Bonnaroo – Peace, Love and Rock & Roll

I am not old enough to remember Woodstock when it happened, but as a kid I was certainly influenced by the artists and amazing music that was created on that farm in upstate New York. So when we got on invitation to attend Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN we were giddy at the prospect of going to the nation’s largest music festival.

Bonnaroo

Our accommodations were certainly over the top. We were part of a package called Total Access, whereby guests are given rock star treatment. We were assigned a Prevost motor coach in one of the only shaded areas on the 700 acre farm that provides the backdrop for Bonnaroo. Our “campsite” included a 24/7 open bar and a buffet serving concert goer favorites like grilled filet mignon topped with portabella mushrooms.

There were over 100 bands performing on five different stages. Furthermore there were various comedians, artists, lectures, food, “merch” (e.g. overpriced t-shirts and stuff), a hair salon, yoga sessions, etc.

Here is a run down of the bands and comedians we saw:

Friday:
Lewis Black and Friends (honestly I thought Hannibal Buress stole the show. Funnier than Lewis in my opinion)
The Decemberists (Best in show for me!)
Ray Lamontagne (overlapped Decemberists – only heard four songs. Packed house. I am a big fan!)
Florence + the Machine (Packed to the gills! Venue was too small. They needed to be on main stage. Awesome)
My Morning Jacket
(eh…)
Arcade Fire (bummed that we actually missed seeing them but heard the show from our motor coach)

Saturday:
The Low Anthem (aside from seeing them play a “saw”, this we could have missed)
Donald Glover and Friends (Donald was awesome, but Bill Bailey was right with him)
Black Uhuru (I am a huge reggae fan and love this band…but it was obvious they didn’t want to be there. The only one into it was lead singer Derek “Duckie” Simpson).
Alison Krauss & Union Station (I bailed on Black Uhuru to catch Alison. Only saw them do five songs. Wish I would have been there from the beginning)
Mumford & Sons (Incredible. Young, passionate and they had a blast. Stay that way lads!!)
The Black Keys (I was bummed that Jack White was no where to be found at Bonnaroo but man am I glad I was introduced to this duet. These two brothers had plenty of energy to fill the void. It was the best straight up rock and roll I heard at Bonnaroo).
Buffalo Springfield feat. Richie Furay, Stephen Still and Neil Young (I went to see Stephen Stills. I didn’t see that Neil Young was there because the awesome Bonnaroo app I was using had … for the rest of the title. I am staring at a greatly aged version of my childhood idle saying “that’s really him isn’t it?”).
Eminem (Great show all the way around even though I am not a real fan. Lights, energy, sound – it was all dialed in. He takes this deal seriously. We were told that he showed up on Thursday to do a complete sound check with his crew and then hung low until Saturday night).

Sunday:
G. Love and Special Sauce (This is the only show we had time for on Sunday since our flight was at 4pm. He was awesome. With both his guitar and harmonic strapped on, G. Love was very engaging – “high fiving” people in the front row and running up the center of a sectioned off area of the crowd. So glad I caught him before we left).

Check out my Bonnaroo Facebook photo album here

The gift economy: Why I became a TWiST Producer

ThisWeekInStartupsWhen I decided to remove the shackles of the corporate cube and begin a career hustling software, my life changed forever. I worked for some great VC-backed companies for the next 13 years and became a denizen of the “friendly skies”, hotels and fast food. In October of 2002 I made a big decision, a decision that was made based upon the needs of my family more than my career aspirations.  I decided to buy a software company with a legacy product in south Florida where I was raised and focus on two things: 1). building a company in a niche industry and 2). spending more time with my family.

For many reasons, not the least of which is the special attention my son needs (A Life of Distraction), the decision to hang up my frequent flier wings was a good one. The impact on my career wasn’t apparent to me at the time, but as I look back at that inflection point I know in my heart it was the right decision. However it didn’t take long for me to become disconnected from the “techniverse”. My connections and knowledge of the industry began to atrophy.

My first blog post was in 2008, but it really wasn’t until Jan of 2010 that I decided to re-engage. I immersed myself in tech blogs and podcasts.  In March of that year I stumbled across Jason Calacanis and This Week in Start-ups (TWiST). My first listen was episode #46 whereby Jason interviewed David Heinemeier-Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37Signals. Jason and David have very different approaches to funding and building start-ups, but the debate was brilliant as their passion and philosphies about business rang through with such clarity.

TWiST has had a profound effect on how I think about business. It helped drive me to co-found a company called DzineBox to build an online communication platform to help home and business owners connect with architects and designers. This lead to the incubation of a couple other socially-driven platforms that have viral characteristics. As for my “day job”, the ideas expressed on TWiST have helped me come up with many market driven changes that are transforming a business founded on a legacy based accounting system into a web and mobile consumer focused application for various recreation industries.

In a nut shell, TWiST has helped to re-energize my entrepreneurial spirit and broaden my thinking. Every episode is a jolt of intellectual energy.

In May of this year I became a TWiST Producer. I wanted to get closer to the action and contribute to the show in some way. Helping to produce the show and interacting with fellow Producers is a huge benefit. When I tell people that I pay a monthly fee to be a part of the so called TWiST List, I get some blank stares. “You mean you pay to work for the show?” or “you give them money and valuable feedback?”. These people completely miss the point about the value I receive in kind by being associated with such a dynamic production like TWiST and the talented people involved in this process. The “backchannel” as we call it of e-mails, discussion board threads and Producer conference calls are of great value to anyone who engages in the process. But at the end of the day it’s all about contribution. Like anything, postive outcomes require participation and engagement.