Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

Dreamforce Hackathon turns Greek Tragedy

I’ve been reading the various articles and tweets about the aftermath of the Dreamforce hackathon, and so far it seems to be playing out as a Greek Tragedy
Consider the folks at Upshot. There are two facts that are undeniable – first, that they demonstrated something before the Hackathon, and second, that they should have only been judged based on what new technology they developed during the hackathon. You can argue rules and technicalities, but in my mind they had a moral responsibility to make it very clear to the judges exactly what parts were developed for the hackathon and make sure the judges considered only that in their evaluation. I have found no evidence that they had done so (I certainly did not see that in their demo).
So now, and forever, their company history will be tarnished with the perception that it was founded on deceit, their integrity always in question by customers, investors, vendors and potential employees. Who will trust them? They may find the cost of their million dollar prize to be very high in the long run.
Speaking of trust, nothing is more important to Salesforce. Let’s face it, we all trust them with our data – all sitting unencrypted on multi-tenanted databases. We trust their employees when we grant them login access to diagnose problems. So I trust Marc Benioff when he says there will be an investigation – not because I know him personally (we’ve never met), but he knows that maintaining trust is all important, and that if there was a hint of corruption around this hackathon, it must be exposed and dealt with. I also believe Adam Seligman’s description of the judging – in that he believes that is how things went. But, I also know that sometimes when you’re a vice president, people tell you what they think you want to hear, so he himself may not yet have the whole story.
The real tragedy, and the ones I feel for, is for the developer relations team. I know many of them, and I know how excited and passionate they were about the hackathon, and the prospect of it bringing in more developers to the Salesforce platform. Imagine if you left Dreamforce feeling excited about having pulled off the richest hackathon ever, only to find within hours that everything you did is now suspect, and you have to face not only a PR disaster, but the scrutiny of your top executives – and that this all comes up when you are completely exhausted from Dreamforce and want nothing more than to sleep for a week. What a nightmare.
I don’t know what Salesforce will do, or even what they should do – other than the fact that I hope they don’t choose to just sit quiet and wait for things to just blow over.
But I do encourage anyone reading this to be patient. Those are good people who are doing their best in what have become very trying circumstances. If there was any real corruption, I’m sure it will turn out to be very isolated – I cannot imagine those people involved in a widespread conspiracy as some have suggested. It’s going to take them some time to figure things out and figure out the right thing to do, just as it would any of us in a similar situation. Let’s give it to them.
(Note – For the record, I was part of a team that participated in the hackathon and was not a finalist )

New Course: Career and Survival Strategies for Software Developers

I just released a new course on Pluralsight titled “Career and Survival Strategies for Software Developers”.
What I’ve tried to do is put in one place, all of the “stuff” about being a software developer that we want to know or need to know, that are rarely discussed, or that we’re sometimes afraid to ask about.
You know what I mean – those times in your career that you had no idea what to do – which job offer to accept? What to learn next? Is it time to change jobs? Maybe you ask a friend, or post an anonymous question on a forum. Or more likely, just take a guess and hope for the best.
Or the times when you wonder if you’re the only person who is feeling stressed about keeping up with technology, or the fact that the executive team has been locked in a conference room for three days with bankers coming in and out….
Mostly, it’s all the stuff I really wish someone had told me back when I started out. Hopefully it will save you some grief.
Here’s the official announcement and a better description:

Leaving stealth mode

For the short version of this story, check out http://angel.co/full-circle-crm
Has it really been over a year since I last posted? Wow. The main reason things have gone quiet is because, somewhat to my surprise, I’m doing another startup, and we’ve been in that mysterious state of being known in the industry as “stealth mode”. And now, it’s finally possible (even advisable) to write about what I’ve been up to.
In some ways, it’s a rather “boring” startup. We must forgo the drama of wondering if we can develop a prototype into a real product, if that product will find demand, if we can recruit an executive team and if we can find a business model that works or a way to monetize the business.
We have a great executive team. We have a product (and believe me, I know the difference between a product and a prototype). We have a simple business model – providing a solution to a business problem that companies are willing to pay for. And we have paying customers.
Of course there’s still plenty that needs to be done, but I think we have a pretty good foundation to grow on.
So what do we do? Our team calls it “Moneyball for Marketing” – it runs on Salesforce.com and provides a way for companies to accurately figure out the value of marketing campaigns, understand their sales and marketing funnels, and market to existing customers as easily as to new leads. I’ve been assured by my co-founders (and customer responses) that these are all good things and very exciting.
As a software developer, I’m much more excited by the product itself. It represents the culmination of another unexpected twist in my career. As many reading this know, I’ve spent most of my career as a developer, author and speaker on Microsoft technologies. Well, about 5 years ago, I was called in by a friend to help write some triggers for a Salesforce.com organization. As time went on, I found myself doing more work on the platform, including some larger customizations and applications, to the point where I was actually doing most of my development work in Apex (the underlying language of the Force.com platform). I still do .NET code of course, but now it includes Force.com/.NET integration as well. I find writing Apex to be a uniquely interesting and challenging experience, and (to be perfectly honest) a great deal of fun.
Full Circle CRM Response Management (that’s the name of the product), is one sweet piece of code. I’ll be writing more about that shortly – there’s more to this story. But for now, suffice to say that I’m quite proud of what we’ve built. It’s reliable, scalable and even innovative (and yes, I do consider reliable and scalable to be as important, or more important, than mere innovation).
I invite you to check out the company profile at http://angel.co/full-circle-crm, and visit our website at  fullcirclecrm.com
And stay tuned. I promise my next post won’t take a year.