Category Archives: Commentary

Oct. 2, 2011 Blumbers

Changing Strategies Not Goals

In all the technological chaos, it is hard for large companies to change strategies and tactics and keep an eye on their goals.

Amazon started selling printed books (content). To sell the books they mailed them. To keep track of everything, they built their own cloud network. Now they sell digital books over their cloud network on their own Kindle devices. This is an excellent example of how a large company can survive by changing the way they do things but not their goal, to sell content.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 25, 2011 Blumbers

HP Way Out

HP has a great tradition and good people. They support a number of projects in communities around the world. I have used all sorts of their products for years. Lately HP leadership has made some decisions that has a lot of people worried. This week Meg Whitman was named CEO of HP. I do not know if this will stabilize the situation.

To avoid these messy transitions, somebody proposed that HP choose CEOs randomly from among its many happy customers. Every time it needs a new CEO, the board could select a random serial number from one of its laptops, tablets or inkjet printers and announce it on the home page of their website. I don’t know if it would be better, but it couldn’t be any worse.

All of this makes me wonder if financier Carl Icahn will show up. Like Martin Blank in the film Grosse Point Blank, if he shows up at your company there’s a reason. If your company has failed to address the needs of customers, investors, employees, or even former employees, Mr. Icahn is the one to call.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 18, 2011 Blumbers

Chip Fans

Intel had a big event in San Francisco last week. They demonstrated tablets to compete with the Apple iPad.  Because the Intel chips run fast, they create heat, which apparently require a small fan on the tablet to cool things off. The chips and fans use a lot of power, which means shorter battery life.

It occurred to me that some smart marketer would turn this negative into a positive. I expect to see tablets with beefed up fans to be used as hair dryers or leaf blowers.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 6, 2011 Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz

On September 6, 2011 Yahoo let go CEO Carol Bartz over a phone call. My first thought? Yahoo is still in business? I thought they had returned to their original business model of selling chocolate milk in a bottle.

Seriously, whatever trouble Yahoo was in, Carol Bartz couldn’t fix it. More chaos in Silicon Valley, and opportunity for someone else.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 4, 2011 Blumbers

Blood Money

I’m not laboring this Labor Day, which I think is the point.

Unfortunately there are millions of people out of work. This current economic collapse is not their fault. This collapse started years ago. Now Warren Buffett and other more responsible wealthy people are finally talking about paying their taxes. They figured out that money is like blood, it works best when it circulates.

In theory, companies exist to solve problems and make money, but they cannot seem to figure out that creating a society with fewer employees means fewer customers. This is creating more problems than it can solve without our help.

If you can’t work, you can vote. Do your research, get active, volunteer.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Aug. 21, 2011 Blumbers

Promises Kept

As I left the Susan Lucas Conwell farewell event in Los Altos, I knew that it was a closing chapter. I had kept my word to the dead.

I promised Jay D. Pinson that I would work with the SVEC to get as many scholarships as possible to the next generation of engineers. I promised Barb Cass that I would help transform SDForum into SVForum. I promised Viki Maki that I would rebuild the STC Silicon Valley chapter website. They are all gone now but I honored their last requests. For years I had worked quietly behind the scenes but at some point you get noticed. The grand poobah stuff of becoming a director, president or fellow was just an inevitable side effect of getting the job done.

Things in Silicon Valley were as chaotic as usual. Fifteen years ago, Apple was near bankruptcy and now it was the most valuable company on the planet. Google bought Motorola to get into making hardware while HP was trying to get out. Facebook was five years old and like any child seemed to have trouble deciding what it wanted to be when it grew up. Oracle’s Larry Ellison had made fun of the cloud and now was preparing to make money with it. Nokia, Microsoft and Intel were struggling to remain relevant in the new mobile world. It was a very uncertain time.

Things were about to get even crazier. That night there was an overflow venture capital pitching event up in Palo Alto. Somebody there would have the next idea that would turn everything else upside down. I got in my car. There would be more chaos up north.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

May 10, 2011 WCA Mobile App Development

On May 10, 2011 in San Jose  at Rhomobile, the WCA Mobile SIG presented “Whither Mobile App Development?” Sarah Allen of Blazing Cloud moderated panelists Adam Blum of Rhomobile, Andre Charland of Nitobi, Jeff Haynie of Appcelerator and Isaac Mosquera of AppMakr. They discussed developing apps for more than one mobile platform using tools like Rhodes, Titanium, PhoneGap, and other web-based cross-platform development frameworks. This write-once strategy makes sense if you remember the dominant mobile platforms five years ago were Palm, Microsoft and Symbian compared to Android and Apple today.

Also on attending were Roberto Araujo of LMGPR, WiFi expert Avril Salter, STC Silicon Valley Media Advisor David Strom and Gabriele Gresta of BrainSpark.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

 

Mar. 27, 2011 Paul Baran

March 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, Paul Baran died from lung cancer at the age of 84. He was a member of the SVEC Hall of Fame, winner of the Marconi Prize and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Born in Grodno, Poland, Baran graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology in 1949 and later his master’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA.

Baran worked for the Rand Corporation in the 1950s developing a command-and-control network that would survive a nuclear attack. He came up with a decentralized system would be held together by scores of small computers. Messages would be broken in small packets and would still get through switching from one surviving node to the next until it was reassembled at the destination. This packet switching was used by the Arpanet and eventually the Internet. The idea of an artificial intelligence network that could withstand anything lives on.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Honoring Viki

I wanted to thank everyone for their response about Viki Maki. Many wanted to know how to honor her. We are working on that. For me personally, that means staying involved with STC.

I had gotten whatever I needed from STC a long time ago. Any recognition I received as a grand poobah was a side effect of helping people find work. Whatever individual achievement we do, the organization must survive to help others.

I remember when STC was near collapse and there were some people who thought it should disappear. They said silly things like it should not exist, that it should be replaced with a Facebook page. They said it in all capital letters. In an ironic twist, they promptly sought leadership positions in an organization they professed not to think was “relevant.” They are wrong. About a lot of things. All the time.

For all the advantages of social networking, nothing beats meeting and working with people in person. The Internet is merely another layer in technical communication not the replacement for all other social interaction. An organization that wants to help people must use all channels. I suppose STC could be run as a social network out of a server in Washington DC, but I think it works better at the local level in the kind of communities that Viki Maki built.

From my viewpoint over the past fifty years, technical communication has gone from a single profession to a set of job skills for essential for any professional. The times change and STC has to change with it. Being the president of a chapter today does not compare with being the president of a chapter even three years ago. The near collapse changed all that. What did not change was the need for people to meet and work together. We must make sure that the organization is there for people to do just that.

In whatever form, I will still support STC. I do it in the memory of people like Viki who wanted to build something that survives them. It is like seeing a friend through an illness or even death. You don’t abandon a friend in need and you certainly don’t make things worse. You work to make things better in spite of the bad news. In this case, the sacrifices of our generation made it possible for a new generation to step forward.

During the collapse, Viki said it was possible that I would be the last president of the Silicon Valley chapter unless we did something to save it and the larger organization. We did it. It was up to us.

Now it’s up to you.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 20, 2010 The New Yorker

On Dec. 20, 2010 The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki wrote “Groupon Clipping” about Internet companies trying remain relevant or part of the next big thing like Google trying to buy Groupon.

Michael Specter wrote “The Doomsday Strain” about scientist Nathan Wolfe’s searching the world for new diseases and cures.

David Owen wrote “The Efficiency Dilemma” about US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and the idea that increasing energy efficiency might mean we just use more energy.

Pankaj Mishra wrote “Staying Power” about Mao Zedong’s rise in China.

Caleb Crain wrote “Tea And Antipathy” about the real Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

June 27, 2010 Blumbers

When a friend is ill or dying, I think it important to stick with them, to the end and beyond. If they have a last request I try to carry it out. It’s one of those agreements that make up the backbone of civilization.

Two years ago my friend Barb died from cancer. She wanted more articles and pictures in the SDForum News. She said that our success would attract other people to cover these events. That is happening. I have kept my word.

In the meantime I have written more articles and taken more photographs than anyone in SDForum history. It is a record of sorts, an achievement that will never be duplicated (in the print version at least).

Sometimes people wonder why I take so many pictures of people. I wish I had taken more pictures of Barb.

http://www.djcline.com/2010/06/25/june-19-2010-housepix/

http://www.djcline.com/2010/06/26/jun-24-2010-sdf-vision-awards-2/

http://www.djcline.com/2010/06/28/jun-24-2010-sdf-vision-awards-3/

http://www.djcline.com/2010/06/29/jun-24-2010-sdf-vision-awards-4/

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Apr. 29, 2010 WCA LBS

On Thursday April 29, 2010 in Santa Clara at Silicon Valley Bank, the Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA) presented “How Does Mobile Device Selection Influence LBS — Business Models, Roadmaps for Development, and End User Choice?” Hugh Fletcher of Verizon Wireless moderated panelists Scott Hotes of WaveMarket, Marc Kleinmaier of Nokia, Patrick Mork of GetJar and Ashu Pande of SiRF Technology.

Early Global Positioning Services (GPS) made it possible for companies like Garmin, Magellan or TomTom to sell standalone Personal Navigation Devices (PND). Today’s advanced GPS integrated into smart phones makes Location Based Services (LBS) applications possible. Now it is spreading from the smart phone market to low-end phones and even non-phone wireless devices like the Apple iPad.

How do you make money with LBS when most of the world uses pre-paid phones? You place ads in the application. Any retailer will pay good money to have their ads in your app if it results in LBS sales.

Any device that knows where you are all the time raises privacy concerns. There is a business opportunity for people who want to opt out of such a system. The principle is similar to Caller ID and Caller ID block. Technology creates a problem and then sells you a solution.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Dec. 27, 2009 Blumbers

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The good news is that this horrible decade is almost over. Considering all that has happened over the past ten years I can safely say I’m ten years older than I ever thought I’d ever be. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck I’ll be here ten years from now. Text from DJCline.com

This year I continued to expand my reach and range. I continue to support the Future Salon, Long Now Foundation, SDForum, Society for Technical Communication, and the Silicon Valley Engineering Council. I have also expanded coverage to organizations like AmBar, ASAP, Astia, CICC, CIDM, CITRIS, CSPA, NASSCOM, San Jose BioCenter, SME, SVCWireless, VSVN and others. There is always something going on somewhere so don’t be surprised if I show up out of the blue to cover it. Text from DJCline.com

In many ways this was the year of the Grand Poobah, where I was recognized for my work with honors like Media Fellow, Associate Fellow, Board Director, etc. With the fancy titles comes the responsibility of encouraging and recognizing the work of others building these communities. Text from DJCline.com

No matter what happens, the future isn’t going away. I aim to be part of it. I hope you will be too.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 4, 2009 Blumbers

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One More Soldier

By DJ Cline

September 11, 2026 3:30 AM

High on a ridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan was one more soldier in one more war. Text from DJCline.com

Captain Don Jin of the Chinese Army was assigned to find and kill the latest villain named Jaca. Many men had been sent to kill him and all had failed. Don’s commanders briefed him in Kabul and gave him a rough direction on where Jaca was last seen. They would keep sending soldiers until Jaca was dead. Text from DJCline.

Don’s approach was very low budget and off the radar. After picking up his regular field gear, he poked around town until he found someone who had the kind of rifle he wanted, sneaked into their compound and stole it. He found a truck, stole it and drove it as far as he could into the mountains. When he ran out of road, he started walking and then climbing. When he arrived at the last known location for Jaca, he started tracking him like an animal. Three weeks later he located what he thought was Jaca’s entourage in a remote village. It was not that difficult. In a poor country, the trash of rich people stands out on a trail. Text from DJCline.

He lay flat on his stomach just below the top of the ridge looking through his rifle’s night scope. In the valley below he saw half a dozen mud brick buildings built by local tribesmen. He looked at the largest building glowing from a fire inside. Don had been waiting for Jaca to step outside and use the latrine for a week. It never happened. Instead women would carry slop buckets out every morning. Don was patient. Jaca would make a mistake. Text from DJCline.

He kind of wished Jaca still smoked. Smokers inevitably stepped outside. He had gotten several targets this way. Don looked around the ridge he was standing on and found dozens of cigarette butts from Americans, Russians, British and possibly Turkish soldiers. They had all been here before him. Since arriving he also found batteries, buttons, wrappers, brass casings and even a bronze arrowhead. He wondered if the whole mountain was simply a pile of trash leftover from earlier battles. People had been fighting here for a very long time. With tensions between China and India so high he wondered if the next soldier on this ridge would have a laser pistol or a bow and arrow. Text from DJCline.

There was movement at the bottom of the valley. A woman carrying a baby was walking up the trail. A guard woke up and stopped her. She held her baby close as it started to cry. Don turned on the rifle microphone and tried to hear the conversation. As near as he could understand it, the woman said she was carrying a son Jaca did not know about. The woman begged to see Jaca. The guard alerted another guard who escorted her to the large building. Text from DJCline.

Listening through the microphone Don heard the consternation of Jaca’s voice at being woken up in the middle of the night. It sounded like the baby was given to Jaca to hold. The woman excused herself to use the latrine. She walked quickly to the latrine and then ran past it and up the hill toward Don. Through the microphone he thought he heard someone shout, “It’s not a baby!” Text from DJCline.

Suddenly the large building exploded, temporarily overwhelming the night scope and hitting the overload cutoff on the microphone. Guards ran out of the other buildings shouting and began shooting in the air. By now the woman was halfway up the hill and had taken off her clothes, wig and makeup. The woman was in fact a very thin man wearing a black commando outfit. As he approached Don the man held up his hands and said, “I am Tapas Kalki of the Indian Intelligence Service. Captain Jin, we need to leave this area immediately.”Text from DJCline.

The guards were beginning to fan out into the flame lit darkness. Both of them were now going to have to outrun some very angry men. How did that this guy already know his name? Te

Next? Pluribus 1

Text from DJCline.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

July 17, 2009 Future Salon Brain Plasticity

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On July 17, 2009 at the SAP campus in Palo Alto, The Future Salon hosted Professor Michael M. Merzenich, Ph.D. co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science. He presented “Why Humans May Be Too Neurologically Limited To Successfully Rule The World”.

To paraphrase from the film “The Graduate”, the future is one word “plasticity”. Merzenich went through the whole development of the brain from birth to old age. He thinks it is important to stay connected to other people and interact with the natural world because that is how we evolved. The brain is incredibly flexible thing that must be used or it will atrophy.

Brain plasticity means you can teach a puppy or old dog new tricks. Actually most of the research was done on rats. Merzenich showed how older drivers could regain their peripheral vision using training software. It makes them more independent and productive.

He also talked about how to make people less productive. Did you know that most of the communication a child gets in a poor family is negative or corrective and in a wealthy family it is positive or supportive? This has enormous impact on whether a child winds up in prison. Detaching and trying to isolate people at risk eventually puts everyone at risk.

Some things are hardwired and difficult to override. He spoke of Sweden’s literacy program where they discovered that dyslexia persisted despite their best efforts in about five percent of the population. They had to make allowances for this disability in their schools. In another example, people with PTSD vividly relive their trauma. Neurologically, it never dissipates. Restitution and treatment for survivors works best, but it is still a major injury that never goes away.

Ultimately, the more positive neural stimulation you get, the more complex tasks you can learn. Get out of your routine. Keep moving. Don’t stay at a job for ten years, it’ll rot your brain.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

June 25, 2009 SDF Visonary Awards 2

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On June 25, 2009, Heidi Roizen hosted the SDForum’s Visonary Awards, given to pioneers leading the way in high technology. Executive Director Susan Lucas-Conwell welcomed San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed who praised this year’s guests and awardees. Forest Baskett of NEA introduced Jim Clark of Silicon Graphics and Netscape. Yogen Dalal of Mayfield Fund introduced Judy Estrin of JLabs. KR Sridhar of Bloom Energy introduced Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems. Tom Wertheimer introduced Kay Klopovitz of USA Network. Here are more pictures of the event.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

June 11, 2009 STC Volunteers

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On Thursday June 11, 2009 the STC Silicon Valley Chapter Council held its annual dinner at Il Postino in Sunnyvale. What started out two years ago as a happy few is now a happy multitude. I literally turned the keys over to President Pat Harvey. The chapter now has experienced leadership and sharp volunteers ready to face whatever challenges the future brings.

Thanks to those who were there at the beginning and worked hard to make this happen. Joanne Grey started the ball rolling. Guy Haas and then the amazing Todd Hawley wrestled with the weirdest website in the world. Pat Harvey knew the rules and kept us on track. Andrea Ames backed our changes. Connie Stewart and Revathi Sampath did their jobs in spite of everything. And of course there is the incredible story of Viki Maki. If you ever need a team and a person to lead it, call Viki.

Viki Maki found great people like Karen Aidi, Jackie Athey, Marcie Gugenheim, Don Hines, Farozan Jivraj, David Katsumoto, Lauren Katzive, Bob Kauten, Gina Luzzi, Greg Martin, John McClements, Meg Miranda, Theresa Stanley, Mary Vue, and Karen White. They are tomorrow’s leadership. I hope they work in every council job, learning what it takes so when the day comes they can step in to the role of president and do what must be done.

I now get to be Immediate Past President, the grandparent who spoils the kids. Since the most recent adventure began, I figure I’ve attended over a hundred meetings and given away a hundred iPods. Last night everyone got LED flashlights and thumb drives in little pirate pouches. On to the next success.

Note to Earnest: The facts are now indisputable and the truth is self-evident. The extraordinary accomplishment is well-earned. Votes have been counted and the verdict is in. Being right has its advantages. Enjoy the rain.

Sitting by the pool, laughing. -DJ

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Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Mar. 29, 2009 Blumbers

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Fellowship of a Thing

I always thought I was a fellow and now I have proof.

Regular readers to this site may know that I am currently president of the STC Silicon Valley Chapter. This month STC headquarters back in Washington D.C. announced that I will become an Associate Fellow. As with anything I do, there is always more than one person involved. Over the next few weeks I will try to publicly thank all the wonderful volunteers I have worked with over the years that made this award possible.

I’ve also written my 100th article for SDForum News. Once again, I could not have done it without the excellent staff and volunteers that bring the latest in emerging technology to my attention. Apparently my business cards will now say Media Fellow. I now have to write about writing about SDForum. :-)

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Commentary – October 30, 2005

Star Trek’s George Takei came out. He has gone where at least some men have gone before, the fabulous frontier. I guess all those K/S books missed the mark.

Civil rights hero Rosa Parks is dead. Her body lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Can you imagine her sitting next to a surprised Strom Thurmond on the way to the pearly gates?

The Bush Administration’s Scooter Libby has been indicted. The rest of the Muppets are shocked.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about peak oil. I am sure that in the 1850s there was a lot of talk about peak whale oil. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick could be interpreted as a story about a greedy pursuit of diminishing offshore source of energy. Then came the oil strike at Titusville. Let me know when we reach peak coal.

There’s so much to worry about it that Sanjay Khanna, author of Only The Paranoid Survive, is writing a new book about the increasing level of anxiety in society. His presentation at the Future Salon was impressive but caused more anxiety. This will explain my camera work of the event, which resembles a security camera at a convenience store. I look forward to his book.

Also on the anxiety list, it is Halloween. There has been a lot of talk about whether it is dangerous for kids getting into the Goth scene. I talked to some experts who said that there many factors contributing to something as terrible as defense attorney Daniel Horowitz’s tragedy. Alone they may mean nothing, together they raise a heavy mascara eyebrow:

  1. Death in the family, violent or even by grisly accident. Did they start dressing up after that incident?
  2. Drug or alcohol abuse, prescription or otherwise.
  3. A history of violence or abuse. Were the police called? Did they assault a police officer?
  4. Inability to sustain long-term relationships. Did the last partner move across state lines to a gated community in the desert?
  5. Violent video games. Do they earn top scores for shooting storm troopers?
  6. Weapons of any kind in the house. If they don’t have them, they can’t use them.
  7. Stunted emotional growth. Are they pushing forty and still walking around like an angry mime on a weeknight at 3:00 AM?
  8. Reactions to being raised in a strict belief system. Are they just doing it as an act of rebellion or is it something else?
  9. Deliberately misconstruing humorous comments. Can’t take a joke.
  10. Secretive behavior. Telling associates not to gossip about them.

On to other business

October’s SDForum Emerging Technology SIG talked about new business opportunities leveraging web APIs. Scott Irwin from El Dorado Ventures moderated the panel. It consisted of Adam Trachtenberg of E-Bay, Chris DiBona of Google APIs, Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services, Robert Goldberg of IdeaLab, Toni Schneider of Yahoo APIs, John Rodkin, CEO of F2 (a new startup using Web APIs). One thing they could agree on was the coming November 8th meeting about Grease Monkey. When all these people agree about something it is worth looking into at SDForum.org

William H. Draper III, Managing Director of Draper Richards, L.P. talked about his experiences in venture capital in India. Draper chose to invest in India over China for its democracy and rule of law. English speaking India had an advantage in developing software. Draper then rounded up the funds and found local partners to run the business. After six years they were able to return 16 times their original investment. Amazing as that was, Draper regrets not investing more in Infosys, which performed even better. He thinks India’s long-term growth depends on new infrastructure funded by an income tax.

If you want to know more about high finance, STC has a workshop in Santa Clara on Saturday November 5, 2005 from 1- 5 PM. called What Technical Communicators Need To Know About Financial Accounting. Marie Highby, co-founder of 2Mules, former STC treasurer and chapter president, will talk about the language of business and how to interact with upper management on a professional level. To register, go to www.stc-siliconvalley.org

DJ Cline Commentary 10-30-05
Copyright 2005 All rights reserved.