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Who Will Be Brendan Eich?

April 4, 2014

I hold unpopular opinions.  We all do, though some of us more than others, apparently.  If you look at Brendan Eich, the brief CEO of the Mozilla Project, you see some curious things.  He’s been with Mozilla since the beginning, and was apparently a very respected CTO for quite a while.  But when someone discovered that he’d once donated to the Prop 8 Campaign in California, the word spread virally.  Even with his assurances that he didn’t run a company convergent with his personal opinions, he was out in well under a week.

So that makes me wonder… what have I written on this blog, or on Facebook, or what political sign in my yard will eventually end my career?  I can’t guarantee that it will end that way, obviously.  Tomorrow is different, today is the only thing I can really work.  But still, there’s a trail of yesterday that I have to say is mine.

I’ve often said that having this blog, even as small as it is, will likely stop someone from offering me a job in the future.  There’s a possibility it already happened… and I’m okay with that.  If having an opinion makes me unpopular in some areas, I have to live with that, since having an opinion and being able to voice it is part of what makes this country so great.

But still, it’s chilling to see the comments from people on both sides.  Measured people will show some discomfort across the spectrum of the Internet, and comments will rapidly fill in from one side… less so from another.  Can an opinion so widely held (by somewhere around 50% of the population in most polls) is now a reason for not just exclusion, but for expedient dismissal.

Several years ago, my wife and I were at a tradeshow for her promotional business.  A person came up and asked if we could help him with items for his business, a winery that has a suggestive name and markets innuendo.  I’ve since seen the winery and its promotional items in a lot of places… it would have been a lucrative contract.  But we politely declined the business and referred him elsewhere, because we didn’t feel that our corporate image or brand would support a customer like that.

Now photographers and cake makers are being put out of business for similar reasons.  You can argue that some opinions are worse than others, and I’d agree.  But are things truly at a point where we’ll begin to brand people for a belief?  If so, I mourn for what we were.  And I wonder what will cause them to come for me?

Yea, We’ve All Thought About That…

April 3, 2014

I’ve thought about doing something like this, but I have an over-developed sense of responsibility.  So I wouldn’t.

A Manhattan court stenographer with a drinking problem jeopardized the outcome of more than 30 verdicts by repeatedly typing ‘I hate my job, I hate my job,’ instead of the actual trial dialogue.

Officials are rushing to repair the damage caused by Daniel Kochanski, 43, with 10 cases going through the appeals process potentially able to claim that crucial evidence is missing in their conviction.

Alcoholic Kochanski’s transcripts were an utter mess according to court sources familiar with his case saying, ‘It should have been questions and answers – instead it was gibberish’.

Seriously, we all have our bad days, and it sounds like this guy had quite a few… but to put criminal justice or someone’s life in jeopardy goes a little too far.

Over-Complicating Design

April 1, 2014

I’ve had quite a few conversations in my career on how much a design or process is being over-complicated by people who want to make things flawless.  I’m okay with flawless, provided it hits the schedule.  Of course, there are plenty of process people out there who have long removed me from the Christmas card list because I’ve pretty much made fun of their over-thinking.  While I realize that things have to work, I often wonder if an imagined flaw is really a lack of courage to do something innovative.

Here’s an example I found today, and it’s a great example of the first world versus the rest of the world.

Millions of poor people across the world could be saved from blindness thanks to a new phone app.

Scientists have created a ‘pocket optician’ which allows eye tests to be carried out anywhere on the planet.

The Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK) can be downloaded to a smartphone and used to perform basic eye tests.

A couple years ago, I ran into an organization that was trying to put the equivalent of a hospital into a shipping container to send to remote areas.  The head of the org noted that one of his bigger problems was the cost and size of the equipment.  But part of the solution that we were pursuing in that case was having college students design simpler and less expensive machines that could do a preliminary job like the design above.  While it wouldn’t be a thorough as an item that had gone through years of FDA testing, it would be portable and could screen problems faster, which would enable people in the field to send cases that really needed it to a hospital.

This is an innovation and practice that we need to think about more in any design.  While we certainly don’t want to skimp on a building foundation, we can use simple devices to screen for problems and refer the harder cases to better equipment.  I can see someone’s point that a simple device might miss something, but the lack of our ability to put the complex ones in the presence of people who need it misses a lot more.

Funny… this is an approach that will likely bring more medicine to developing countries and make the population healthier, but will be nearly impossible to use in a place like America or other developed countries where the fear of government and lawsuits will likely cost someone’s life…

Grading on a Healthcare Curve

March 28, 2014

“Mom, I need my dollar for getting an A in my PPACA class.”

“But, honey, you didn’t get an A.  You didn’t even finish the test.”

“Yes, I did, I answered 6 million questions.”

“But, honey, you said you needed to get 7 million right to get an A.”

“No, I didn’t.  I never said that.  Besides, I answered 6 million and all my friends say that’s enough for an A.”

“But if you answered 6 million, honey, how many did you get right?”

“I don’t know, and that doesn’t matter.  All my friends say that 6 million is fine for an A.”

“So, if 7 million is an A, and you answered 6 million, you’d get an 86% (the engineer says it’s roughly 85.71%, and teachers round up generously), and you don’t even know if all the questions were answered correctly.”

“But Ezra and Paulie say that answering all those questions is hard, and that I should get an A!  Besides, if you don’t give me my dollar, I’m sending federal agents with guns after you!”

“Kathleen, you really need to adjust your attitude, you know…”

A Quick Point on History

March 27, 2014

I heard Joe Trippi last night on a news program say something to the effect of: Nobody’s going to start World War Three over Crimea.

I’ve heard this in varying forms a couple times.  If anyone who reads this happens to hear that particular trope again, could you please note that…

  • World War I started as a dispute between Serbia and Montenegro, where the Austrians invaded in retaliation.
  • World War II really started when Germany bloodlessly marched into the Sudatentland claiming it was part of their country all along.
  • If you want to keep going, the Spanish-American War started when the US had to put more resources into an obscure island in the South Pacific because there was internecine fighting.
  • The War of 1812 was mostly about how to fight British-funded privateers who were claiming the Ocean as territory.

Global conflicts never start over global issues, always local ones.

A Reminder on IPOs

March 26, 2014
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I get that public companies are held to very different standards than private ones.  I get that doing an IPO is important, and that the first few days of performance are a big deal.  But really, stop

Shares in King Digital, the games developer behind Candy Crush Saga, have fallen as much as 15% on their debut at the New York Stock Exchange.

The shares were trading at $19.08 each, down from the listing price of $22.50.

King’s flagship game Candy Crush was the most downloaded free app of 2013 and has boosted the firm’s revenue.

But there have been concerns it relies too heavily on the game and doubts over whether it will be able to sustain its popularity and growth over time.

The firm’s portfolio includes more than 180 games, but only a few have been popular with users.

You know what IPOs really do?  They RAISE MONEY for the company to go execute on a strategy.  Once a company goes public, it’s held to a very different set of measures, but the price of the stock is irrelevant to anyone but the shareholders.  The key news in this announcement is that the company has $500M in capital.

If you remember, Facebook was viewed as a disappointing IPO, and the stock has gone up significantly since the IPO.  Google was viewed as a moderate IPO, and it’s through the roof.  So don’t pay attention to the stock price, but pay attention to the capital raised and how it’s being spent.

It’s the Law… Well This Part Is… Maybe Not That Part of This Part…

March 26, 2014

Via Alex Torres at NRO, Politico has a list of the delays the administration has done in the implementation of the PPACA.  There are ten listed, nine of which are essentially within the last nine months.  So it could be said that the administration has essentially been modifying the conditions of the law at will or for political expedience after it became clear that the results of the last election were going to continue with gridlock.

It’s fairly clear that the strategy of the PPACA supporters is to keep the flow going on implementing the law while making the actual acquisition of insurance possible.  After all the problems in the roll-out of the web-based tools, the administration is buying time with that while hoping to see the numbers of people who want insurance via the exchanges to rise.  And after all this spending… it looks like we’re pretty much statistically dead even in terms of people who are insured in America.

I remember getting into a debate a few years back before the act became law.  At one point, I noted that, while unworkable, it would be easier to just offer fully-subsidized insurance options to anyone who could prove that they couldn’t afford to pay.  If only it were that simple… even the Medicaid expansion — essentially fully-subsidized insurance — has broken in several of the states that have chosen to implement it.

So, if the goal as stated was to insure more people, mission catastrophically failed so far.  If the goal is to consolidate the power in the hands of the administrative side of the government, well, wildly successful.  I don’t know that the side winning right now is going to be all that happy about that once the political winds shift and the “wrong” administration is in charge.  And I don’t expect that the more conservative arm outside the administration is ever going to be happy about this mess.

It might be the law, but it’s pretty wild west.  Expect some cattle rustling for a decade.

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