Product Market Fit

The way I think about product/market fit has changed a lot over the years. I view it differently than I used to.

Whiskey Stones

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The Four Types of Core Intellectual Property

If you ask people what their company’s core intellectual property is, my guess is most responses would focus on technical things such as trade secrets, recipes, source code, and algorithms. But I’ve come to believe this definition doesn’t encompass a company’s most valuable intellectual property at all.

blueprint

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What Women Tell Me

Someday I’ll write a companion blog post about what men tell me, but today I want to write about what I’ve learned by listening to women over the last few years.

Why do I care? It’s because women tell me things that men rarely, sometimes never tell me. I failed to notice this for the longest time, but when I started to, I decided to sit up and listen, hard.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying that men don’t care or talk about these types of things. In fact, many of these episodes of sexism came to me through a man’s Twitter post. BUT WOMEN RETWEETED IT TO ME.

Gramophone

I will now present things I have heard only or mostly from women, in many cases without attribution to the original author or the woman who drew this to my attention (because I think that’s the safest thing to do).

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Just Enough Better

What makes a product, project, or application become popular? People talk a lot about attributes such as stickiness, virality, addictive qualities, and gamification.

I don’t pretend to have a universal answer, but many of the successful things I’ve been involved with worked well because they were just enough better for people to care a lot.

mousetrap

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Intent

One of the core teachings of Drucker’s classic “Managing Oneself” is to form hypotheses about what you’ll do well or poorly, and then observe the outcomes. By repeatedly practicing this, you learn what you’re good and bad at.

Compass

At some point I noticed that I sometimes wasn’t certain why I failed or succeeded. As I’ve explored this more deeply in the last few years, I’ve come to see that the biggest factor in my success or failure is often the clarity of my purpose itself.

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Meditation

I’ve been telling more people about the benefits I’ve received from meditation. Meditation has greatly influenced the way I think, behave, and relate to others.

Ripples

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Feelings and Behaviors

It’s a new year and I drew a diagram.

Feelings and Behaviors

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What it's Like

At Velocity/OSCON 2015 in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, the conference committee approached me to ask if I’d be up for doing an Ignite talk. It was rather last-minute and I had only hours to prepare. I said yes and then tried to think of a topic. I turned to Twitter and asked, if you could have me talk for 5 minutes on any topic, what would it be? A couple of people responded that they wanted to know what founding a company was like, so I sat down in the speaker lounge at the RAI and started trying to figure out what it’s like to be a founder/CEO.

You’d think I’d know after three years, but truthfully, it’s still hard to really know what I feel.

Ignite

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Personality Assessments

Over the last couple of years I have increasingly studied and used personality tests for personal and professional uses, both for myself and for others. I’ve seen a variety of benefits, but these assessments are not without drawbacks, and not all assessments are created equal.

different

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Scaling Backend Systems at VividCortex

I wrote a guest post for High Scalability about how we scale our backend systems at VividCortex. It’s heavy on MySQL, sprinkled with a little bit of Redis’s magic pixie dust, and Kafka is also a key part of the architecture.

fern

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The DevOps Identity Crisis

Why DevOps needs a manifesto after all, but may never get one.

brain

This article originally appeared on O’Reilly Radar.

DevOps is everywhere! The growth and mindshare of the movement is remarkable. But if you care deeply about DevOps, you might agree with me when I say that although its moment has “arrived,” DevOps is in serious trouble. The movement is fragmented and weakly defined, and is being usurped by those who care more about short-term opportunities than the long-term viability of DevOps.

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If Eventual Consistency Seems Hard, Wait Till You Try MVCC

This should sound familiar:

One of the great lies about NoSQL databases is that they’re simple. Simplicity done wrong makes things a lot harder and more complicated to develop and operate. Programmers and operations staff end up reimplementing (badly) things the database should do.

Nobody argued this line of reasoning more vigorously than when trying to defend relational databases, especially during the darkest years (ca. 2009-2010), when NoSQL still meant NO SQL DAMMIT, all sorts of NoSQL databases were sprouting, and most of them were massively overhyped. But as valid as those arguments against NoSQL’s “false economy” simplicity were and are, the arguments against relational databases’ complexity hold true, too.

Puzzle

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Why Deployment Freezes Don't Prevent Outages

I have $10 that says you’ve experienced this before: there’s a holiday, trade show, or other important event coming up. Management is worried about the risk of an outage during this all-important time, and restricts deployments from the week prior through the end of the event.

What really happens, of course, is that the system in question becomes booby-trapped with extra risk. As a result, problems are more likely, and when there there is even a slight issue, it has the potential to escalate into a major crisis.

Why does this happen? As usual, there’s no single root cause, but a variety of problems combine to create a brittle, risky situation.

freeze

Assumptions

When managers declare a freeze, they’re not being malicious. They’re doing something that seems to make sense. That’s why it’s important to understand the reasoning.

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The Root Cause Fallacy

Wouldn’t you like to find the root cause of that downtime incident? Many people would. But experience has taught me that there is no such thing as a single root cause. Instead, there’s a chain of interrelated causes, each of which is necessary but none of which is sufficient to cause the overall problem.

Turtles

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On Focus

Focus is perhaps the most important attribute in an organization. In fact, my dictionary defines an organization as “an organized body of people with a particular purpose…” A focused organization recognizes and cleaves to its purpose.

Likewise, the ability to create and sustain focus is perhaps the most valuable skill of the organization’s members, including both individual contributors and leaders.

Rainbokeh

What Is Focus, And Why Is It Hard?

My dictionary says focus is “an act of concentrating.” Consider the root words: concentrate literally means to bring to a common center, to be centered together.

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Time-Series Database Requirements

I’ve had conversations about time-series databases with many people over the last couple of years. I wrote previously about some of the open-source technologies that people commonly use for time-series storage.

Time Series

Because I have my own ideas about what constitutes a good time-series database, and because a few people have asked me to describe my requirements, I have decided to publish my thoughts here. All opinions that follow are my own, and as you read you should mentally add “in my opinion” to every sentence.

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The Goal

Once upon a time I managed several teams of consultants. At a certain stage of the organization’s growth, we wanted to achieve a higher billable-time utilization more easily, and we wanted more structure and process.

Cary Millsap, about whom I have written quite a bit elsewhere on this blog, suggested that I might profit from reading The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. I will let history be the judge of the outcome, but from my perspective, this was revolutionary for me. It is a clear watershed moment in my memory: I lived life one way and saw things through one lens before, and afterwards everything was different.

Horse Race

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How to Tune A Guitar (Or Any Instrument)

Do you know how to tune a guitar? I mean, do you really know how to tune a guitar?

Guitar Closeup

I’ve met very few people who do. Most people pick some notes, crank the tuners, play some chords, and endlessly fidget back and forth until they either get something that doesn’t sound awful to their ears, or they give up. I can’t recall ever seeing a professional musician look like a tuning pro on stage, either. This really ought to be embarrassing to someone who makes music for a career.

There’s a secret to tuning an instrument. Very few people seem to know it. It’s surprisingly simple, it isn’t at all what you might expect, and it makes it easy and quick to tune an instrument accurately without guesswork. However, even though it’s simple and logical, it is difficult and subtle at first, and requires training your ear. This is a neurological, physical, and mental process that takes some time and practice. It does not require “perfect pitch,” however.

In this blog post I’ll explain how it works. There’s a surprising amount of depth to it, which appeals to the nerd in me. If you’re looking for “the short version,” you won’t find it here, because I find the math, physics, and theory of tuning to be fascinating, and I want to share that and not just the quick how-to.

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Immutability, MVCC, and Garbage Collection

Not long ago I attended a talk about Datomic, which focused a lot on database immutability and its benefits. I hope to illustrate why many database designs are much more complicated than Datomic and its ilk. Although Datomic’s design can be presented as advanced, there’s another side to the story, which also holds true for similar databases such as CouchDB. It’s a really difficult problem space, and clean and elegant solutions without nasty edge cases are difficult to design and implement.

Uluru

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Staying Secure Online

This is a public service announcement. Many people I know are not taking important steps necessary to secure their online accounts and devices (computers, cellphones) against malicious people and software. It’s a matter of time before something seriously harmful happens to them.

Lock

This article will urge you to use higher security than popular advice you’ll hear. It really, really, really is necessary to use strong measures to secure your digital life. The technology being used to attack you is very advanced, operates at a large scale, and you probably stand to lose much more than you realize.

However, it’s also much easier than you think to do the basics right.

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