Category Archives: Opinion

Çingleton

For the past three years my partners in crime and I have been putting on a conference in Montréal called Çingleton. It has been a great success. We’ve enjoyed hosting terrific guests and incredible speakers.

One of our goals with Ç is to nurture into existence something timeless or, at least, relatively long lived. In the industry we work in that’s somewhat uncommon. Fortunes change quickly in the technology business. Languages and frameworks come in and out of fashion. Market share, the statistic that launched a thousand ships, is constantly in flux. In no small part our jobs, as people in the technology business, is to stay abreast of the latest advancements, stay informed about likely future directions and to stay relevant and capable of leveraging the latest tools available to us.

That’s not what Ç is about. There’s a lot of terrific conferences and resources to help you with that. What we wanted Ç to be about was something else. Behind all of those micro decisions there’s a framework of decision making through which your choices are filtered. In various ways each year of Ç we’ve tried to poke at that inner thought process and to coax our speakers into addressing it.

We just posted the talks from Ç 2013. You can watch them here. When you love those go back in time and watch the videos from previous years.

I’d like to thank all of our speakers, from this year and in years past. Ç would not be even half of what it has become without their commitment, generosity, intelligence, wit, charm and, most of all, their capitulation to blackmail.

While I’m at it, Luc, Scott and I are thankful for the hard work put in this year by Scotty at iDeveloper.tv and Dave from Life With Purpose for their work on the videos. Without their contribution we’d not have been able to get the videos up all at once. Scotty and Dave are both involved with NSConference. Take a gander at their speaker lineup. Not half bad!

And a very special thanks to my pal Dan Moren for coming back year after year and being the person who has spent the most time on stage at Ç. Dan is the kind of guy that just don’t quit.

Sen. Franken Quizzes Apple Over Touch ID

US Senator Al Franken has sent an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook regarding the privacy implications of the Touch ID technology introduced in the iPhone 5S.

A couple of years ago Senator Franken demanded answers from Apple over the logging of device locations. At the time there was a lot of push back against Senator Franken, dismissing his concerns as being ill-informed and technologically illiterate. “Location Gate” was a bug. Don’t worry about it. For those of us who know how software works, yeah, it was pretty obvious that what was happening wasn’t what was intended. Honestly? When writing software what happens not being what we intended is the default state.

Given the revelations of how much access the American government has into our online communications Senator Franken doesn’t sound so stupid now, does he?

When your job is to represent the people I’d argue that the best thing you could do is to actually represent the people.

Nobody likes what the NSA has been doing. Apple has just introduced a new device, that’s destined to be incredibly popular, and it’s core feature is identification by what a layman may as well describe as a very personally invasive magic.

Asking questions and getting answers on behalf of the people is the essence of democratic governance.

We nerds may already know the answers but most people don’t. They deserve to know. More over they deserve to have it explained in the most understandable and approachable terms.

Ballmer’s Straitjacket

Steve Ballmer announced today that he will be stepping down as CEO of Microsoft within the next twelve months. This comes a little over a month since Microsoft announced a massive reorganization which was aimed at breaking down old fiefdoms and setting a new course.

To quote the Microsoft press release:

Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor.

No successor has been chosen yet. At least not one they’re willing to announce.

Regardless of how you feel about Ballmer’s ability to lead Microsoft, his ability to have his company adapt to the quickly shifting fulcrum from desktop to mobile, or his ability to address his customers and developers in a respectful manner; this is terrible timing.

Ballmer writes in his farewell memo:

There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.

No. It’s not.

They’ve just completely recreated the company in a pattern that’s totally alien to most organizations of their size. Indeed, the current configuration only seems to work for Apple. Which, arguably, grew into it completely organically. The structure of Apple certainly wasn’t created by fiat a month prior to a CEO hitting the bricks.

The only way that today’s news could have been good for Microsoft is to have announced a successor and to have said that the new structure was determined after long discussions with them. The only story that could be positive is that Ballmer and his successor, whoever they are, have worked closely together and now that the structure has changed there’ll be a year of handing over the reigns.

As it stands? Ballmer has completely shaken up the way that Microsoft has always worked. Now they don’t only need to find a new CEO who believes they can lead Microsoft out of the hole they’ve dug themselves but one who believes that the last decision that Steve Ballmer made, a company wide reorganization, is the way they, as the new leadership, want to run the company.

Microsoft is currently searching for a new CEO who’ll fit the straight jacket Steve Ballmer has left behind.

If you’re going to change leadership I suggest it’s a good idea to let the new leader figure out how to best run things. You don’t see outgoing national leaders being able to appoint the incoming cabinet. That looks like what Ballmer has just done.