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 · Antarctica
 · · Technology (4 fragments)
 · · 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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