Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

Kudos to Bill Gates

With news of Gates’ planned retirement from Microsoft, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on his extraordinary accomplishments:

  • He founded Microsoft
  • He managed to maintain a majority stake and control over Microsoft.
  • He recruited a team capable of managing Microsoft (in so far as any company of that size and built-in degree of chaos can be managed).
  • He built an organization strong enough to carry on running Microsoft without him.
  • He’s leaving Microsoft so he can spend his time making the world a better place by working on health projects and reforming education (something desperately needed).

While one might credit some of these to being at the right place at the right time, and one might disagree with some of his actions along the way, one can’t help but being impressed by these absolutely remarkable accomplishments.
Given the resources he brings into play with his foundation, and his talents, it’s just possible he’ll make a real difference addressing these problems. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he makes more of a difference than some of the governments who are supposed to be addressing these problems.
I, for one, commend him on his decision, and wish him all success on this venture.

Thinking About Money

I’ve been thinking about money.
Odd isn’t it that we in the technology field have so much to say on everything from technology to politics, but hardly ever talk about money? (at least our own – we’ll talk about a company’s money, especially when they are stupidly losing it).
For all that we tend to make a good living, it’s amazing how many of my friends find themselves struggling financially to various degrees. Is it possible that we’re so busy struggling to keep up with the newest .NET framework features or server technology that we never bother to learn about finance beyond the clich’s (set aside money for retirement, diversify through mutual funds, etc)?
I’ve always been one of the few authors and speakers who has incorporated economics and psychology into my work. I’ve long advocated the blasphemous idea that you should choose a technology based not on what’s new or cool, but based on what is the best economic choice. And we all know (though we don’t necessarily admit it) that many technological choices are actually emotional rather than rational (the pseudo conflict between VB .NET and C# being a classic example).
Anyway, it seems to me that since most people reading this are highly paid professionals, all of us (at least those who’ve been in the business for a couple of decades) should be pretty well off – possibly ready to retire. And I’m quite sure those who are newer to the profession would very much like to be pretty well off within a couple of decades (or sooner, preferably much sooner). But I also know that for most of us it doesn’t work out quite the way we hope. And that got me thinking. Thinking about money.
So I am about to “fork” this blog. I’ve decided that right now, along with continuing the semi-futile fight to stay up to date with the newest technology, I’m going to spend some time learning about money. I know a fair amount, but there’s a lot I don’t know, and I don’t trust any of those financial/investment web sites and books that claim to know “THE SECRET” to instant wealth (or even long term wealth). Instead, I’m going to study the topic, with the same focus that I’ve been known to apply to technological topics.
And I’m inviting you to come along for the ride. The best way to learn something is to teach it, so I’m going to write about the things I learn on a new site www.ThinkingAboutMoney.com. I invite you to join me for the ride.

Thoughts on written communication

The three comments on my previous post, along with some conversations elsewhere, have led me to think a bit on the nature of written communication in the information age.
Consider this comment: “You clearly don’t have any idea of what you are talking about. Unsubscription from the VB5 guy’s blog is in order” and the one that follows: “Surely you can have an opinion without resorting to personal comments.”
Now the interesting thing about the first comment isn’t that the reader disagrees with me – even most Microsoft folks will admit that google is still better on search (Gates implied as much at the D4 – All Things Digital Conference this week). It isn’t even that the reader made personal comments.
It’s that the personal comments were so mild.
It wasn’t too many years ago that virtually every forum or discussion board on the web was not only illiterate, but would frequently degenerate into massive “flame wars” where insults and personal attacks became the order of the day. Frankly, I haven’t noticed too many of those recently. In fact, take a random sampling of any discussion board from slashdot to most blogs and I think you’ll find them remarkably civil – at least compared to earlier days.
Some felt that the reason flame wars took place was the lack of immediate feedback that comes from posting on a discussion board. It’s easier to disregard someone’s feelings if you can’t see their expression while disagreeing with them. This still applies, but now it seems more common for people to respond critically to personal attacks. Perhaps as a result there is a sense that personal attacks reduce your own credibility? (If only that worked with political campaigns).
Another interesting phenomena I’ve seen is especially among younger people – the quality of their writing has improved dramatically. Fifteen years ago when teens showed up on our local BBS discussion boards, most of them could barely string a coherent sentence together (much less spell the words correctly). Today, thanks to Email and IM, teens write all the time, and the results are noticeable. Most may not be great writers, but the overall quality of writing has improved dramatically.
Between increased civility and better writing, participating in NET discussions has, frankly, become much more pleasant than it used to be – at least from my point of view. I’d be interested in hearing if any of you who have been around for a while have noticed this as well?