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 · Antarctica
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 · · War Stories (2 fragments)

Nice Christmas · Good year-end here at work. They won’t let me name names be­cause that will screw up the carefully-crafted press re­leas­es for the new year, but in these dy­ing days of 2003: First, we signed and launched a supply-chain de­ploy­ment at a big home-hardware com­pa­ny down East. Plus, even bet­ter, we signed up a part­ner­ship with a re­al­ly re­al­ly in­ter­est­ing solution-provider fo­cus­ing on the the US Feds — smart peo­ple. Plus, best of al­l, we’ve nailed down an OEM-flavored deal with a ter­rif­ic procurement-management com­pa­ny and our guys are work­ing on like dozens of their ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and prospects — that’s a fiendish­ly com­pet­i­tive space and bring­ing a bet­ter us­er in­ter­face to mar­ket is go­ing to work out very nice­ly for us and them. There’s nev­er been an easy soft­ware star­tup, but when the wheels are grip­ping, it’s pret­ty damn ex­cit­ing.
 
Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown · We moved Antarc­ti­ca from funky fash­ion­able Yale­town to smack in the mid­dle of Vancouver’s down­town core. We got more space, bet­ter space, es­caped our bubble-era lease, saved big buck­s, so the move was a no-brainer. The down­town ex­pe­ri­ence is way dif­fer­en­t; among oth­er things we have front-row seats at a hot flash­point in the cof­fee cul­ture wars. Plus, I fi­nal­ly got a pic­ture that shows how Van­cou­ver re­al­ly look­s ...
 
Software Patents from the Inside · There has been much lamen­ta­tion and gnash­ing of teeth in re­cent times about the evils of soft­ware patents. There is wild con­tro­ver­sy about whether the whole idea is fa­tal­ly flawed—for ex­am­ple, Dave Win­er has ar­gued that soft­ware patents are bad eco­nomics and (in the U.S. con­tex­t) con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly un­sound. Fur­ther, there is a widely-held be­lief that the US PTO has been too un­crit­i­cal, and in­suf­fi­cient­ly at­tuned to pri­or art, in is­su­ing such patents. Here’s a con­fes­sion: I cur­rent­ly have two soft­ware patents in the US PTO pipeline, and did some work on them last week. Here­with some nar­ra­tive of what the pro­cess is like from the in­sid­e, with com­men­tary on the broad­er is­sues ...
 
Business Ignorance · This is the first of a two-parter on the in­for­ma­tion land­scape out there in the re­al world, driv­en by some strat­e­gy think­ing we've been do­ing about our prod­uct and how to sell it. In this part, I sur­vey the “Business Intelligence” land­scape (it's bad). In Part 2, the ques­tion is: how to get peo­ple to try new tech­nol­o­gy in tough times? (Warn­ing: kind of cor­po­rate, but I think a lot of peo­ple are fac­ing the same is­sues.) ...
 
Trying Technology Painlessly · This is Part 2 of an Antarctica-biz-strategy piece I'm run­ning here be­cause I think these is­sues are pret­ty ubiq­ui­tous; Part 1 is about Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence, so called. This piece talks about how tough it is to sell soft­ware these days, and why, and a mar­ket­ing idea we've cooked up to try to re­move the risk from buy­ing soft­ware, which I think ought to work well be­yond our patch of tur­f. (Warn­ing: kind of cor­po­rate, but I think a lot of peo­ple are fac­ing the same is­sues.) ...
 
Which? · We put up a nice lit­tle Visu­al Net ap­pli­ca­tion a cou­ple of weeks ago that's kind of un­usu­al for us and with a bit more fun fac­tor than your typ­i­cal en­ter­prise soft­ware de­ploy­men­t. Here's a teaser: Twelfth-century lay monks prob­a­bly built parts of this mag­nif­i­cent stone ed­i­fice, in­cor­po­rat­ing a pre­his­toric mono­lith now set in a wal­l. Other fea­tures are a gran­ite fire­place in the lounge and a gran­ite pil­lar sup­port­ing a beam in the din­ing room. Con­tem­plate these and more while drink­ing one of three ales drawn straight from the cask: Prince­town Dart­moor IPA or Jail Ale, or Sharp's Will's Re­solve. ...
 
Enterprise Software Wreckage · I'm in the busi­ness of try­ing to sell en­ter­prise soft­ware, and while we're do­ing a lot bet­ter than the av­er­age com­pa­ny that was found­ed in 1999 (hey, we're still here!) it's a tough slog out there. One of the rea­sons is the fact that CEOs and CIOs ev­ery­where are suf­fer­ing from se­vere bruis­es and burnt fin­gers as a re­sult of boom-time soft­ware pur­chas­es. From these guys' point of view, there is some­thing se­ri­ous­ly wrong, and these guys are the cus­tomer­s, and the cus­tomer is al­ways right ...
 
D.I. Ratio and the Ratio Family · There has been a flur­ry of ver­biage re­cent­ly on the re­design of the Macro­me­dia Home Page. Among oth­er things, I ob­served that some­one had crit­i­cized it on the grounds of hav­ing a lousy "data-ink ratio". I think the crit­i­cism is in­ter­est­ing, and the no­tion of the data-ink ra­tio is worth a deep­er look. (Warn­ing: lengthy and quite graphics-heavy) ...
 
Mapping the Penalties of Failure · Below is a pic­ture of of a map that hangs in my of­fice; it shows an area in the Balka­ns and was cre­at­ed around 1790. I bought it in a dusty lit­tle book­store in Juneau Alaska, but that's an­oth­er sto­ry. It's in­scribed in French, Pol­ish, and Turk­ish (writ­ten pre-reform in Ara­bic scrip­t). Like many maps it's very beau­ti­ful, but it's more than a lit­tle weird, and car­ries an im­por­tant lesson ...
 
Search Lives! · As of to­day, Google is the pre­mier play­er in the world of search. Is the game over? I re­al­ly doubt it; Google's big in­no­va­tion - rank­ing pages by the de­gree to which they're point­ed at - is clev­er, and it's hard to im­ple­ment ef­fi­cient­ly, but it's not that orig­i­nal; aca­dem­ic ci­ta­tion anal­y­sis has used this tech­nique for a long time. So I think we'll see new search play­ers com­ing along and grab­bing mar­ket share away from Google based on one in­no­va­tion or an­oth­er. Ob­vi­ous­ly, I'm prej­u­diced, but I think that the area ob­vi­ous­ly cry­ing out for in­no­va­tion is the us­er in­ter­face; I am tired of see­ing Re­sults 1-20 of about 2382923452 ...
 
Off to See the DoD · I'm spend­ing the next cou­ple of days at Fort Mon­roe, VA, at­tend­ing (and ad­dress­ing) a ses­sion run by the Cen­ter for Army Les­sons Learned on knowl­edge tech­nol­o­gy. The US Mil­i­tary has as much in­for­ma­tion, and more com­put­er­s, and as many net­work­s, as any oth­er or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world. I think they think they're not get­ting enough mileage out of what they have; I'm in­clined to cut them some slack be­cause of the sheer scale of the prob­lems they're ad­dress­ing. I do think, though, that prob­lems of this scale aren't go­ing to be ad­dressed prop­er­ly with­out bet­ter us­er in­ter­faces, which is why I'm vis­it­ing ...
 
Edward Tufte · This gen­tle­man has a Web site, but he is fa­mous for his very beau­ti­ful and in­flu­en­tial book­s; three of them as of this writ­ing, vis­i­ble at the web site. At Antarc­ti­ca we claim Tufte as a ma­jor in­flu­ence, and we usu­al­ly (I think) live up to that claim pret­ty well. Tufte's think­ing has in­flu­enced mine as much as that of any oth­er liv­ing hu­man be­ing ...
 
Software Development is Like the National League · A brain­storm­ing ses­sion this af­ter­noon around a bunch of new fea­tures we've been pour­ing in for the retail-front-end mod­ules of Visu­al Net. More or less the whole com­pa­ny ei­ther in the room or on the phone. Progress was made, in a Na­tion­al League rather than Amer­i­can League sort of way ...
 
Information Visualization Lives! · I was talk­ing about our company's prospects to some­one the oth­er day and they said "Information Visu­al­iza­tion com­pa­nies have gen­er­al­ly not done well, why are you different?" I couldn't be­lieve my ears; the world's sin­gle most market-successful soft­ware project is Mi­crosoft Win­dows, which is in large part an in­for­ma­tion vi­su­al­iza­tion ap­pli­ca­tion. As I'm sure ev­ery­one is aware, there aren't re­al­ly any lit­tle buff fold­ers or waste­bas­kets on your hard drive - it's all an (im­mense­ly suc­cess­ful) vi­su­al metaphor ...
 
How to Price Server Software? · You will have no­ticed, if you're think­ing about buy­ing some server-side soft­ware, that it can be re­al­ly hard to get a straight an­swer from the sales­per­son on how much it's go­ing to cost. Antarc­ti­ca is no dif­fer­en­t, but I'm pret­ty well con­vinced that this is the right way to be­have ...
 
If Your Hard Drive Has a GUI, Why Doesn't Your KM App? · DM Re­view asked for an ar­ti­cle on vi­su­al­iza­tion, which I was hap­py to write. Check it out here.
 
Why Antarctica? · His­to­ry In 1989, I co-founded a com­pa­ny called Open Text which still ex­ists; we were orig­i­nal­ly a search com­pa­ny that got in­to gen­er­al­ized con­tent man­age­men­t. We even­tu­al­ly achieved suc­cess by beat­ing our com­peti­tors to the Web and mak­ing pret­ty good use of the Web to build front end­s. We sold a lot of Web-front-ended data-intensive ap­pli­ca­tions and made quite a bit of mon­ey and our cus­tomers got good ROI ...
 
How to Sell Software · I've been en­gaged, more or less con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1989, in try­ing to sell soft­ware. It's tough, be­cause soft­ware is so weird - just a bunch of bit­s, you can make as many copies as you want for free - and yet so ex­pen­sive. Mi­crosoft knows how to sell soft­ware but most cus­tomers don't like the ex­pe­ri­ence and are be­ing care­ful to avoid get­ting in­to oth­er re­la­tion­ships like the one they have with Mi­crosoft ...
 
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