I am spending a lot of time over this break learning about SharePoint.
So far, I have to say I am very impressed. Microsoft has put together an application that will allow individuals with some data modeling and high-level software design skills the ability to build applications that are web-based with very little effort. This application, to me, just makes sense.
My company set up SharePoint 2003 and I just didn't get it. It seemed like a file-system, but with less usability and multiple annoyances, such as IT departments having drank the Microsoft marketing kool-aid to push it on us. I didn't see what value it really added.
Now I see where Microsoft has been investing in R&D in the last 4 years. The 2007 version is very powerful. I have researched SalesForce.com as well as other application configurator tools. MOSS incorporates many of the features, as well as integrating with Active Directory and Office on the Desktop. Offline capabilities are available. Much of the configuration capabilities are handled through the web browser.
The integration with Outlook 2007 is awesome. Some of the prebuilt workflows include document approvals, with integration as a Task in Outlook, and even notifications using email with workflow integration.
"...Houston is an utterly optimistic place. The surveys, he said, repeatedly show "that area residents remain stubbornly optimistic about their own and the region's future, despite deepening anxieties about the direction in which the country as a whole is heading."
"Hurricane Ike left more than 5.6 million cubic yards of fallen trees, broken branches and dead greenery in Houston, and Mayor Bill White today awarded a $2,500 cash prize to a Rice University employee who suggested founding Houston Farm Corps, a youth-oriented volunteer gardening initiative that would both get rid of the debris and teach kids the value of growing their own food."
all gave very interesting talks with good information.
Jeff spoke about "how we got where we are" in terms of the financial crisis. Here are some bullets from my notes of his talk:
The current crisis is caused by greed, in the negative sense of the word
It is a crisis of conscience
Spoke about "TheFunded.com"... there will be more openness in investing
Businesses will be transformed by the social networking phenomenon
His new company, Dachis corporation, is focused on bringing this to the enterprise
Beyond "buddies", currently we are in the "buddy" phenomenon, facebook, linkedIn ("who are my "buddies")
magnified communication; who should I be working with? how do they do business? business ecosystem of Your Business with Competitors, Customers, Partners, Suppliers, Employees, Stakeholders...
Technology will enable the strengthening of "weak ties"
How many of you have had a long-distant friend find you in the last few months, that you had forgot about? This is the strengthening of "weak ties"
The "Burn rate" mentality needs to go away, people should start companies that meet a market's needs and do it profitably... "basic business model"
Jaime spoke about the "connected generation", or those who are 18-24 right now, and their trends:
Always knowing a computer
Always knowing cell phones
Text messaging and other technologies that are used heavily
Are you considering these people in your strategy?
Have you used any of these sites?
netlog (I had never heard of it, but apparently 30 million in Europe have)
Jones Soda - this is scaring Coke and Pepsi
Bruce's talk was a lot about Benchmark... very interesting, here are a few brief points
Getting money will be harder
Benchmark turned down eBay 2 times before funding, then they gave it only on a 3-2 vote
Benchmark turned down Google on a 1-4 vote
They make money by being "lucky"
The success stories like eBay fund the "unsuccessful" businesses
Overall, I would recommend this event for anyone interested in early stage companies. If you want to learn how this works, and see the people who are risking it all to be the next eBay or Google, this event is for you.
If you haven't heard of rudder, I highly recommend you check it out. This is a local Houston startup that has a unique approach to helping you manage your finances. I saw their presentation at the Rice Alliance event last Thursday and it was impressive. I met some of their team and they were passionate about what they do.
I signed up for an account myself and set up all of my accounts. It took about 5 minutes to do.
In case you are worried about security, they are a full Verisign-verified / https based service. They use your email as an approach to helping you stay up to date with what is going on. If you spend a little more time telling it about your recurring expenses, it will do forward-looking analysis to help you see where your money is going.
There is a lot this site can do to help people... I am bullish on these guys.
If you are looking for a fun book, but with some good computer technology (UNIX :)), and a lot of suspense, you should pick up a copy of The Cuckoo's Egg, by Clifford Stoll. This book is an easy read, comes in paperback, and is loads of fun.
The premise of the book is an everyday I.T. guy tracks an international computer criminal. I won't ruin the end for you...
One last thing, the story is true. This isn't fiction.
Using the cycles of the computer hard drive industry, this book deals with the difficulties many companies face with innovation. Innovation is necessary to survive. However, innovation threatens the internal existing products of a company and its culture, especially innovative companies.
This book is a must read for anyone in technology-related fields. The book is very timely, with the impending bailout of the automobile industry, while silicon valley is still running strong. Will we see any bailouts for Microsoft? Why is Microsoft able to continue to innovate?
The book suggests several strategies for dealing with disruptive technologies, such as the internet was to retailing. Christensen does a great job of setting up a hypothesis and proving it with multiple examples. There is hope for entrenched cultures, but you must act before the little guy, with the "bad product", down the street beats you to the punch.
My wife and I stayed in Houston through Ike. We lost power at about 2 am on Saturday morning. The winds were incredible. We stayed in the lower floor of the house to avoid flying debris coming through the windows. We had some water come through in a few places, but nothing more than a towel could handle. Our house was built in 1939 and held together nicely.
By about 10 am on Saturday, you could go outside but it was windy and raining a lot. We were able to get the dog to use the bathroom a few times as needed. By about 4 PM, I was able to get my generator running I had 5 gallons of gas that I had bought on Friday. I waited in line on Friday for 1.5 hours to get a generator... when we got into the store (a Home Depot about 25 miles from my house), we realized we were probably the 5 or 6 generators away from not getting one.
The generator ran out of fuel at about noon on Sunday. I didn't run it past about 9 or 10 PM at night, since it is very loud and I am sure the neighbors weren't happy. I was able to keep the fridge cool by running it 7 or 8 hours during the day time. I went out on Sunday to buy fuel and couldn't find a single open gas station for about 2 hours. Finally I found one and waited in line 1 hour to buy 5 gallons of gas. I also topped off my tank.
Monday and Tuesday progressively got better. On Monday, there were about 2 stations that had gas. On Tuesday there were 5 or 6. On both days, I spent about 2 hours locating and acquiring fuel for the generator.
My wife and I had food in the fridge and plenty of wine to drink. We didn't go hungry and had water and natural gas the whole time. We were able to cook, take hot showers and see by candle light at night. On Tuesday night the power came on for 15 minutes. Then we heard a huge explosion nearby. A transformer blew up. We had the entire fire department 2 houses down for about 15 minutes. Everything was OK, but there was no power again.
On Wednesday, half of the stations in Houston had gas. I was starting to run out, but I had a good feeling the power was going to be restored. That leads me to now...
The power was just restored 1 hour ago. The generator ran out of fuel about 15 minutes after that. I could have bought more gas, but I had a good feeling things were getting better.
The news out of Galveston is grim. My wife and I considered buying a house there a few years ago. I am glad we didn't. It would have been nerve racking.
The office is still without full power. Hopefully it will be back up tonight. The building took damage, but there are boards now covering the windows that blew out. We are on the 10 floor and I heard the storm was a category 3 (130+ mph winds) there.
My wife and I decided that next time, we will leave. It just wasn't worth it. I have never been as afraid for my life before. I looked out the window int he middle of the storm and couldn't believe the houses were staying standing. I can't imagine what a Cat 5 would have been like. I don't want to.
I hope everyone else fared well. The weather that came this week was a blessing. Typical Houston weather would have been unbearable without power. We were very lucky in many ways with this storm.
Our house has no real damage. The house across the street had a large tree fall on the roof. They are bringing in a crane to remove it and the house is not inhabitable at this time. They will need major repairs.
Lately I have been doing a lot of networking. I have to say, Linked In is a great tool. Here is my public profile if you want to research me, or link to me...
If you aren't using Linked In professionally, then you should. At first, it took some effort to get it going. More and more people began using it, and it has reached critical mass. For instance, I was looking for people with Sharepoint experience. Voila! I searched and found that there are several people out there, only 2 degrees away, that know people I am linked to. I reached out to them... we will see how that goes.
It's a great tool and, IMO, is just now becoming very valuable.
Oh, and as the title of this post says, I just reached 200 contacts...
Another book review... this time, it's a fun book... not intended for professional growth or learning... the book is The Driver, by Alexander Roy.
At first, I had reservations about the book... I opened it on a plane to Chicago and started reading anyway. After 30 minutes, I was enthralled and had to keep reading until I finished it, which was on the plane back the next day.
This is a story of pure determination. Alex, or Polizei, as his friends and admirers call him, is a rally champion. He is willing to sacrifice everything for his dream. He is thorough in his planning and doesn't always play by rules... well for that matter, he never plays by the rules.
He has a web site setup called gumball144, which has all kinds of video clips, pictures and other media for you to enjoy. I would recommend reading the book first...
All I can say is that this book was most excellent and I have to thank my good friend, Michael Stuart, for recommending it to me. I am inspired to go do something like this, now.
Here are a few things I learned from the book (yes, I was still learning things even though it was a fun book :)):
Determination is very powerful
I should widen my scope of reading and not only focus on work-related books
I need to enjoy life a little bit more
We are all capable of amazing things, like driving non-stop for 32 hours
Oh, and if you are really interested, he has a movie coming out soon. It looks interesting...
Ok, I know it's been a while since I posted here, so I am going to drop some 411 on my latest vacation... in Sonoma Valley, CA. Here are some pictures...
Yes, that's me using an iPhone instead of relaxing :/
Here is a picture of John Kelly (left) and me (right) having a glass of wine on his vineyard property just outside of Kenwood, CA. John owns a boutique winery called Westwood. If you are in to Pinot Noir, you should look them up.