Monday, May 23, 2016

More Investment Is Needed Requiring Some Big Changes

My partner in crime Audrey and I have been struggling her son's depression, and pharmaceutical pill addiction for a couple years now. This is not the type of thing you plan for, and when it happens, your response involves keeping it as quiet as possible when it comes to friends, family, and the public. Nobody wants to be that family, but when you suddenly find out that you are, you find there is no magic fix, you have to work hard to find a solution that works for your situation.

Over the last couple of years, we have moved him from Oregon to Wyoming, back to a different part of Oregon, and then ultimately to California where we live. Last summer we put him into rehab in California, where he soon graduated to a sober living facility. He seemed to be doing well, but then last week he showed up at home, as he had been kicked out of the program. Shortly after settling in he also admitted he was using again, and we all found ourselves back at square one.

What do you do? Can't we afford rehab again? Can't we afford to move him again? And personally, I can't have a junkie living in my house, because I used to be one myself. I was definitely a different breed of junkie then what I am seeing today, but in the years between 1993 and 1997, I was heavily using Heroin, Cocaine, LSD, Ketamine, Mescaline, and most other things I could get my hands on, except I hated speed, and ironically pharmaceuticals. I've been clean for 20 years, there was no way in hell, I was going to live with a junkie.

With no options left, I set out to do for him what I did for myself 20 years ago. We rented a car, loaded up what we needed and headed into the mountains to get him as far away as we could from any pharmaceutical drugs. We live in Los Angeles so we headed into the Sierra Nevada mountains, where we found ourselves in Yosemite, and eventually Nevada. As he detoxed, I set out planning the next six months of recovery for him, using some of the same techniques I applied in my own world, but with more of a 2016 spin.

It is clear we need to make more of an investment in him if we are going to actually get the results we are looking for, and big changes will be necessary. I will be stepping away from my work completely for at least the next six months, probably upwards of a year. It isn't something we can afford, but it is also something we can't afford not to do. I understand that this will have a big impact my business partners, and my clients, but this is the priority.

I will spend the next six month hiking around the west coast, which I know well, some of the same trails I used to find my own sanity 20 years ago. We will be clearing trails, and documenting what we do, and what we see via GoPro, Phantom Drones, and our journals. You can find our story at, where my partner in crime, and his mother, will be publishing photos, videos, and stories from our journey.

There will be no rest for the wicked as they say. I will keep us moving every day with a new place to go, a new challenge, and plenty of work along the way to keep both of us occupied. Until some day, he is strong enough, confident enough, and healthy enough to do it all on his own.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Phone Number Is Becoming Our SSN For Our Digital Self

I got rid of my cell phone number 541-913-2328, which has been my AT&T driven identity since 1999. I'm not doing much traveling this year, so having a $100 / month bill for a thing, that sits in the corner made no sense. Honestly, if feels fucking great not having, but that is another story. Beyond it feeling good, in the wake, I'm noticing how much our phone number is kind of the SSN for our digital identity.

Facebook, Twitter, and all my networks use this as the defining data point of who I am. The platforms which I use to define myself online, almost all use 541-913-2328 as the identifier that I'm real, and not just a bot (wait, am I?). I can't sign up for another phone number with Google Voice or Twilio, without well, an existing, valid phone number. It all feels like the same chicken and egg thing we face around regular forms of identification, well you can't get your drivers license, passport, without two forms of existing ID--wait I need that ID to get other ID, then I can show you!

In the pantheon of data points that are used in the world to identify that a person is a person, and they are the person they claim, I'd say the phone number is now in the top 5. You aren't anyone in a digital sense if you do not have a cellular-equipped device, attached to a nine digit phone number. That data point is key to services like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google. It is how you will message, make payment, and engage with people on a personal, and professional level--acting as a critical data point that helps identify both our physical and digital self.


A Regular Reminder For Me That Tech Is Often No Match For The Politics That Are Already At Play

I started API Evangelist on the premise that the API community while immersed in a debate about the merits of REST and Hypermedia, were ignoring some very important aspects around the business of APIs. Six years later, these business considerations still plague the space, but I'd add a lack of awareness of the industry, organizational, and other political considerations are some of the biggest challenges we face, in addition to existing business concerns.

I am always telling linked data, RESTafarians, and hypermedia practitioners that they need to build more bridges for folks, to get us from the messed up world we have, to the perfectly defined world they envision -- this is what OpenAPI Spec is, in my opinion. You have a wealth of people who would benefit from the solution your vision could bring, but they don't see the world as we do, and have other business and political influences in their local world that prevent them from actually going from A (current solution) to B (the new solution).

We may have the solution ready to go, but how do we get them on the road, moving toward our new vision? It's easier said than done. As believers, we see the destination, and we clearly see the road that gets us there--we've spent every night for years walking back and forth. The problem comes when we try to get the normal folks to set out on this road, and leave the comfort of their existing world. What we are promising is better! it will make your life easier. It will save you time, money, and be more efficient. C'mon!

We are asking the risk-adverse, non-technical person to come out in the cold, walk this new road. We conveniently forget about all the money they have spent on technology to this point. There is little awareness of how much time and energy have been put into what is already known, and even less willingness to truly invest in what is needed to actually to ensure everyone involved will actually get to the designated location. Just c'mon! I know better than the people you surround yourself with. The people who have gotten you where you are at, for better or for worse.

I feel like I spend too much time believing in tech. Tech is just tech. Nobody ever sees it the same. We believe in tech because of our own hard work, people introducing, influencing, mentoring, leading, or not leading, with it. The politics of all these relationships, previous tech investments, and the exposure to technology working, or now working for us, has all gotten us to where we are at. Who are we to think folks will be able to unwind all of that, with a single tech solution that we've crafted? This is why an awareness of existing business and political realities someone faces, and the need to build bridges is so critical.

When I say bridges, I'm not saying a big steel bridge across the Mississippi, I'm talking little footbridge across a creek, or a steel sheet across the road construction hold on the road.  Maybe you'll have to erect some street lights, and install some signage along the way, before people will feel comfortable enough to make the trek, let alone make the commute on a regular basis. This is my regular reminder that tech is often no match for the politics that are already in play and I will need to be more patient, slow down significantly, and find small bite-size projects that will slowly unravel much of the politics that consume the folks I'm targeting. 


Monday, May 2, 2016

Happy To See Unsustainable Free Access To Valuable Tooling Go Away

I was talking my friend Dan Cundiff about Page2RSS shutting down, and the viability of offering up tools like this for us mere mortals to use in our every day work.

If you aren't familiar with what Page2RSS does, it is a simple tool that takes a static website, and turn it into an RSS feed for you. A valuable service for those websites who do not understand the importance of RSS, but unfortunatley is a tool that has gone dark as of today.

Page2RSS is one of those valuable tools, that is more feature, than a actual thing all by itself. These types of tools really don't take much to keep alive and running, something you can scale using AWS or other cloud infrastructure, but only if you have an actual business model, and customers who are willing to pay for it.

The problem is, the tone has been set for the last 10 years, that free is how you do things. A concept that has been led by tech giants like Google, and wave after wave of VC investment--setting an unrealistic expectation that thins should be free. Providers of simple tools like Page2RSS feel that if they are going to compete they will have to be free, even if they can't afford it. Something that then results in consumers of simple tools like Page2RSS thinking things should be free, because if it is not, they'll go find one that is--establishing a very unsustainable cycle.

As the tech giants shutter more of their free services, and VC investment focuses on the enterprise, maybe the bar will be raised to a more realistic place. One where tooling providers can accept micro payments for the tooling and services they provide, and consumers can begin to come back to reality, and realize it takes money to develop and support these valuable tools, making them more willing to cough up some change to pay for the valuable services and tooling they depend on.