Reflecting on 9/11

9/11 Memorial Service, September 11, 2014

Every year since September 11, 2001 I've mentioned the following people who were victims of the terrorist attacks, in the hope that some of my friends will remember them:

World Trade Center:

  • Vito DeLeo, mechanic at World Trade Center, USA Hockey official
  • John Eichler, retired executive at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, brother of Joan Aiello
  • John Pocher, bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, alumnus of Essex County Chiefs youth hockey program
  • Kalyan Sarkar, Port Authority seismic engineer, father of Kishan Sarkar-- a Rensselaer alumnus

American Airlines Flight 11:

In addition, please remember the 343 members of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), the 23 members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), and the 37 member of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) who made the ultimate sacrifice on that day.

Congratulations Peter on your graduation from Wrightstown Friends Nursery School!

Peter graduated from pre-school today-- Wrightstown Friends Nursery School. This is a great school for young kids that is about all of the things that our sons needed: some independence, some play, some socialization, some learning, and less about drills and skills.

One of the things I'll always remember about this place is the end-of-year picnic with the piñata. A great tradition.

If there had been a piñata at the end of each year of school, maybe I would have stayed on into grad school....

Thirty Years of Macintosh

Jimmy's Drawing of Daddy Working on His Mac

On the 30th anniversary of the launch of Macintosh, I'd like to share a couple of memories with my friends.

The first people I knew who had a Mac in their house were Rob Nardone, Andy Nardone, and their parents. In 1984, the three of us used that Mac to create some primitive graphics that appeared in various places in and around Chatham Township High School.

When I went to RPI, the Mac community was very small and only people who had a bit of a counter-cultural streak had Macs. I convinced the RPI Hockey Team to buy one, with a LaserWriter, for communications purposes.  I spent some time teaching the late Nancy McGrath how to use it.

Martin O'Donnell, the best man at our wedding, had a Macintosh II at RPI when I first met him in about 1988.  I think this was the first Mac with a horizontal desktop case. He has been at least a small part of every one of my business ventures since then.

Guy Kawasaki gave me a huge break and helped me get into Macintosh database consulting in 1989. He gave me some frequent flyer miles so I could afford to come to MacWorld when I was still an RPI student.  At MacWorld I met the other members of the 4th Dimension developer community. I think my RPI classmate Russ Woodbridge was out there with me.

Peter Plaut and his father David are also pretty aware of what I was trying to do back then, at the time that I founded my first company. David's company GCF has been a customer of my companies for about 25 years.

The first Macintosh that I considered truly mine was a Macintosh IIci that my first company CTDATA bought after we got angel funding in 1989.  I later purchased a classic Mac, probably a Macintosh SE, which I still have in an original Mac carrying case in the basement of my house.

Peter Frank, my friend who passed away in 2003, was the person who epitomized bleeding six colors. He was the only person I ever knew well who bought a 20th Anniversary Macintosh.  That was an incredible machine and he deserved it.  (BTW, It's called a 20th Anniversary Macintosh because it was created for the 20th anniversary of Apple, not the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh itself.)

My wife Kathleen and I met when we both worked at J.P. Morgan in 1994.  We were both working for the Emerging Markets business unit, which was the only part of Morgan that used Macs as desktop computers and as part of bond and derivative traders' workstations.

In the past 10 years, Kathleen and I have acquired six Macintosh computers, three iPads, and seven different iPhones.  I don't think our sons Jimmy and Peter have used any other brand of computer, mobile phone, or tablet.

A friend of mine told me this story about a local bike store in Eastern Pennsylvania that we both frequent as customers.

He walked into the store the other day while the owner of the store was discussing the upkeep of his website with the consultant who was maintaining his site.  He could not help but overhear final discussion of aspects of the site that were about to be published.

The consultant and the owner finished their conversation, and the consultant left.  My friend approached the owner and was going to ask about his new bike which is on order.  But before he did, he told the owner that he was curious about how much the website for this high-end bicycle store cost to develop (in round numbers)?

The owner was very forthcoming, "About $1200.00."

This revelation is incredible to me, because the store sells adult-sized road bikes that cost between $1,000 and $8,000.  In other words, the owner of this very successful and profitable store invested less than the average retail cost of one bicycle on his store's web presence.

Doesn't this owner believe that his website can drive sales for him?

Doesn't he see his the appearance and functionality of his site as a reflection on the in-store experience?

Doesn't he know that a site for a successful, high-end bicycle store should contain professional photography, features like dynamic selection of featured items based on season, weather conditions, and temperature?

My company, After6 Services, builds website that are much more expensive than the website we are discussing.  But we deliver value far in excess of what we charge.  The features of our typical customer sites and the stability of our designs are way beyond what passes for a basic site for small and mid-sized businesses.  But we sometimes have a hard time convincing potential customers to establish a reasonable site development and maintenance budget.

The purchase decision made by this successful small businessman show that not everyone shares our view of the value of a small business website.

In Memory of Peter Andreas Frank

Peter Andreas Frank (1967-2003)

August 7, 2013 is the 10th anniversary of death of my friend Peter Andreas Frank.  Here's what I wrote on, a few days after he passed away:

Last Thursday, Peter Andreas Frank died as a result of a brain tumor. I have known Peter for 15 years, and he is one of my best friends. We went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute together.

Peter was in the Krankenhaus Nordwest in Frankfurt, Germany for the last two and one-half months of his life. He was often visited there by his family and friends that live in the Frankfurt region.

Peter's original brain tumor was discovered back in 1993. He outlived everyone's expectations, including the expectations of all of the doctors that consulted on his case. I went to visit him for the last time in May when he was still living in Zurich, Switzerland with his wife, Ramona Morel. At that time, most people familiar with his case thought he would die in late May or early June.

A couple of my more well known friends in social media (especially David Jacobs) are surprised that there haven't been more negative or questioning comments about Jeff Bezos purchase of The Washington Post from The Washington Post Company.  I don't think I am influential enough to get much attention for my views, but I'll state them in case anybody wants to comment.

Perhaps Bezos Shouldn't Be Allowed to Purchase A Media Outlet of Record in This Fashion

It stretches the bounds of credibility to say "Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days" because content distribution policies can be engineered to favor's business model.

If this did not happen, I would be shocked.

Contrast this turn of events with what the Department of Justice wants to do to alter Apple's iTunes business as a result of the Government's victory in a recent anti-trust case.

The Government's interpretation of Apple's business dealings with book publishers turns decades of anti-trust policy on its head.  Rather than promote competition or investigate the possibility that Amazon is guilty of predatory pricing, the Government chose to focus mainly on the consumer benefit of the low prices that is currently offering for e-books and how Apple's deals with publishers gave the publishers some pricing power.

A return to Amazon's previous e-book pricing strategy will perpetuate Amazon's dominant position in the e-book distribution business and disadvantage everyone on the content creation side of the market, including publishers, authors, and service providers to them.

If the value of some of those disadvantaged businesses fall far enough then Bezos can swoop in as he did with The Washington Post, purchase the business at a discount (to the value it might have if it had retained some pricing power), and re-engineer the business model to feed the technically un-afilliated business that Bezos also controls.

It's not hard not to conclude that the Government is picking winners, even if the Department of Justice had no knowledge of Bezos' interest in purchasing the Post.

Update on August 7: Bloomberg points out another possible conflict with public interest that I hadn't even considered. ranks among the biggest spenders among high-technology companies seeking to influence the work of the federal government.

This Purchase Avoids Hard Choices for The Washington Post that Could Have Benefitted American Society

The Washington Post is one of the most prestigious media outlets using the business model that most traditional newspapers adopted on the Internet.  That business model failed to check the revenue losses associated with the progressive switch from physical to electronic distribution of news.

At this point newspapers need to re-evaluate their entire business, including seemingly unrelated issues such as editorial policy.

RPI Alumni Social Action Stream

Friday RPI Alumni Relations launched a page on its website devoted to the RPI Alumni Social Action Stream.  This page pulls together the RPI Alumni action stream from eight social media sites (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, and Flickr).

The Social Action Stream is really well done and has tons of potential.  If Alumni Relations gets aggressive with favoriting alumni posts, this could really become a hub for discovering interesting social media activities among the alumni.

Beyond favoriting alumni posts, my biggest suggestion for improvement is give this page its own subdomain.  It would make a world of difference to the sense that this is a major initiative.

My Site's New Cover Photo

Houston Field House Panorama

The gorgeous panoramic photo of Houston Field House that is the cover photo for my site was shot by fellow RPI alumnus Jeff Wadsworth.  I want everybody to know that this is his photo, I use it with his permission, and I thank him for sharing it with me.

Over the past couple of weeks, Kathleen and I have worked together on relaunching, which is my technology blog that I started in 2003.  We also launched which will be Kathleen's site that will focus on iPhone and iPad applications that are of interest to Pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and other care providers, as well as to the parents of their patients.

These sites are currently sharing a modified version of the Rainier Theme that ships with Movable Type 5

I'm glad to bring Operation Gadget back at this point.  The technologies that I've talked about and evangelized over the years are more relevant than ever.  There is no end of ideas to talk about, ways to make ourselves more productive, and ways to use technology to follow sports and manage our personal fitness.  All of this is in Operation Gadget's wheel house.

I think Kathleen's site will take off quickly.  Although a number of people have staked out the medical apps niche, nobody is dominating the space.  Kathleen has discovered that there is an audience for her writing, and there's no stopping her now.

Although these sites have different audiences, you'll see features from one site end up on the other, where it's appropriate.  I hope you enjoy them.