Sunday, June 28, 2009


Vision vs. Execution? Maybe start with Vision vs. Idea

A recent Sarah Lacy post on TechCrunch treated the question "Is Execution More Important than Vision?" One response was from Dave Morin, asking for a conversation on the subject, which is where I happened on it.

There were some quick posts to the conversation, where the trend seemed to be in favor of Execution. One of those posting in response to Morin, Ben Bloch, had even posted a few days ahead of the Lacy post. His take captured the gist of the other comments: "the idea itself is essentially worthless without quality execution and perseverance."

I took part in the "conversation" by trying to jam into tweet space the relationship among idea, vision, and execution. I was going to leave it at that. But like that song you can't get out of your head, I found myself continuing to stew on it.

I found someone else who looks for the connectedness in things in Bob Warfield who responded to the Lacy posting in "Vision is Strategy. Execution is Tactics" with
One of the things that resonates with me from Warfield's piece--and connects to my first response that Vision is bigger than just an idea--is his view of Vision is Strategy. That is, to frame this up to begin with , it's not Ideas vs. Execution, but really, Vision vs. Ideas.

I'm as guilty as anyone of having ideas and seeing something later that looks connected. At one company a dozen years back, I tried to get some momentum behind making satellite terrain and imagery mapping and visualization available to the public. Another time, I ran into "Why would anyone want to do that on a phone?" And there was getting rebuffed about moving to information delivery on Mosaic with "We won't use shareware."

In each case, we had all the technical ability, but the vision-- the ability flesh out how to make it so required more time, ability, and/or commitment than I/we had. I'd be kidding myself if I thought otherwise. And yes, I'd put in there the articulation of the business case. In this context, by the time you get to Execution, or as Warfield says, Tactics, it is Vision shaping things for you:
I liked this. As an Executor, I've always done best with having a vision to guide me on what to do, particularly when we've come up against the need to make adjustments. It's very much like pulling out a map to check bearings. It also helped to be part of filling out the vision. If Vision can be said to be the "where," then Execution might be the "what," complemented by Culture as the "how," which I'd touched on in an earlier post.

How's that for carrying on the conversation?



Google Ad: good match!

This isn't up there with the pairing of the suitcase ad with a murder news story involving a suitcase, and this doesn't look like an AdSense thing, but it's not bad. It's a great photo, but just unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Portable computing (the second notebook) and the FBI raid

The second notebook I owned was a Mac PowerBook Duo 230. I got it used in 1995, a year past its introduction. To save space, it didn't have a built in floppy drive. It had an external drive, which I needed to do back ups while on the road.

I needed a newer notebook because we were traveling a lot for one of my children who was playing soccer, and I was on deadline for a book. Although it was better than my first one, it still kind of sucked because we were doing page layout along with the writing. Small keyboard, small screen, slow performance. You get the picture.

PowerBook Duo 230

The FBI Raid

Toward the end of that year, I was consulting with Avant! (yes, that is an exclamation mark), putting up a corporate Web presence for them. We were winding down the day when the FBI (windbreakers with the big three yellow letters on the back) and the Santa Clara County Sheriffs came streaming through the hallways. As they swept us up, one of the women went to get her purse. Nope. Leave it. Did we know where the tape back ups were? Say what?

The entire company was pulled into a single meeting room where we were going to be questioned one at a time. I learned there about the trade secrets dispute between Cadence Design Systems and Avant!. (A Forbes article has a rundown of the whole thing, though it incorrectly placed the raid in Fremont, instead of Santa Clara.)

I was settling in for a long session because there were a bunch of us. But the CEO, bless his heart, asked them to put me at the front of the line because I was just a consultant who didn't know anything about this.

The whole thing looked like what I guess a drug bust might look like. The person interrogating me had a sheet with questions that she dutifully read. The main question was whether I knew anything about the source code. This was my first "isn't that interesting" (ITI) moment for the event. Rattling around in my head was that none of these people knew what source code was. I repressed my tendency to make a smart comment (which almost got me in trouble on the Canadian border once) and went with the program.

Which led to the second moment: how any of this is connected to the pictured PowerBook Duo 230. After I was released from the meeting room, I went to pick up this same PowerBook. I was directed to an office where an officer had it open (and sitting precariously on the edge of a desk). Again, we went through the source code questions. Even behaving myself, he wasn't releasing the thing. The scary thing is that there was nothing to prevent them from seizing it and keeping it as part of the raid. When did I do my last back up?

I was bummed, so I decided to whine as only a net citizen could in 1995: by sending email to a bunch of my friends (darn I wish I knew where that email was now). I'd worked at Cadence previously for seven years, so that was my main audience. I got responses right away with the expected "Wow". What I didn't expect was my third moment: a phone call within about two hours of the email from San Jose Mercury News technology writer, Dean Takahasi, for an interview. This kind of thing at the time was unheard of. It's not like Google existed, or even AltaVista. I had to ask, how did he find me and get my number? He said, "You know, it's the Internet."

Later, I was able to work with the Avant! folks to get my Duo back (obviously, it's in the photo). The law enforcement person I picked it up from was one of the first of the more tech inclined people in that line. He seemed to chuckle at the notion of me running around with a dev environment on my wimpy little machine. (I kept his card and turns out he was what he appeared to be.)

My last moments were around my propaganda campaign against Cadence. The Avant!-Cadence dispute was being portrayed as a David and Goliath thing, and a bunch of the reporting favored Avant!. (Does that punctuation look strange?) Earlier that year, the San Jose Mercury News had launched its Web site. The weird thing was that it wasn't posting many of its news stories. They were instead pushing businesses to place ads on their site. I'd been in contact with someone there, so I pitched--and they went for--the idea of posting the Avant! pieces, and we'd link to them from the Avant! site. This could have possibly been the first instance of this happening since, at the time, I don't think there were any other newspapers with a Web site.

I'd since wondered about the ethics of my work with Avant!. As history played out, they really did steal trade secrets. So, I was working for the wrong side of the law. Although I can do a "How was I to know?", and I was doing the right thing by my client, I'll admit that I didn't think about it much.

Joe Costello was the CEO at Cadence while I was there and through this whole episode with Avant!. He's a really good guy and great leader. No bad feelings given that I worked for him two more times since at think3 design and BravoBrava! (darn exclamation mark again).


I was interested in learning more about these Google ads, so I added this section on the left with AdSense. I'm curious about what types of ads appear based on my content. Out of the gate, I'm getting home remodeling related ads. Maybe it's keying off the word "design"?

© Arthur Ignacio Consulting 2009

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Saturday, June 20, 2009


What trumps social networks?

Thomas Friedman (World is Flat) has a way of getting us out of ourselves, away from being the center of the world. He's seeing the excitement about the role of social networks in the current turmoil in Iran--and being as supportive. But earlier this week he added a perspective that's not a buzzkill, but does remind us. In his opinion piece, "For Iranian moderates, online networks replace the mosque, " he just lays it out there:
As a child of tear gas in Berkeley, I'm completely behind the idealism, but I appreciate the reality check.

© Arthur Ignacio Consulting 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009


Culture matters

In a Mercury News article last week about the bidding war between NetApp and EMC for Data Domain, NetApp CMO Jay Kidd called out the better "cultural compatibility" between his company and Data Domain. In a world where "shareholder value" trumps pretty much everything, it was good to see someone calling out culture as a value. I've worked with Jay, so I took the perspective to be more than marketing positioning. I shared with him that I'd also recently seen the influence of cultural differences, and he pointed out that the Wall Street Journal had picked up the topic today.

It might be one of those Venus and Mars differences. As evidenced in the Comments section on the WSJ article, the shareholder value set (Mars) doesn't really get this culture (Venus) stuff, despite language that on the surface says it gets it. The challenge is that culture doesn't readily lend itself to being rendered into numbers to show a better deal. Instead, it manifests itself as the sum of things like the decisions people make, how they go about doing their work, how the leaders lead, and what and who gets rewarded. These play out in terms of how the individuals and teams perform and, ultimately, the company. Of course, if EMC acquiring Data Domain is a defensive move as Jay contends, then culture and performance really don't matter.

© Arthur Ignacio Consulting 2009

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Monday, June 08, 2009


Portable computing - netbooks and next

Portable, solid state memory, instant on. No moving parts so you don't have to worry about drive heads bumping. The year was 1998. It was my NEC MobilePro 750c, on the right below next to my latest portable, an Asus Eee PC 1000HE:

eee PC and mobilpro 750C

The MobilePro display is 640 x 240 256 color LCD touchscreen. Yep, it came with a stylus so you can tap, click, and drag directly on the screen. It also has character recognition software so I could write (handwriting) using the stylus. With the cover closed, you can press an external button to record audio ("Note to self: pick up a gallon of milk."). Weighs in at 1.88 lbs.

It came with Microsoft baby Explorer and Office. Internet connection was a built-in 33 Kbps modem. Kind of interesting to think about if wireless connections were available then.

True: I wrote staff reviews on it while I was on vacation in Maui.

BTW, the Eee PC is nice little machine, too. Prone to fingerprint smudges on the shiny shell, but no downside otherwise. Added the suggested 2G memory upgrade. Easy install.

Site Change

I reworked the info-design site a little. It's been a few years now that I've been essentially blogging instead of anything else on this site (web logging since 1995!). So, I've moved over to a completely blog front end. I have a historical link on the left side.


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