2010 March


 News24 gets it wrong.

March 24, 2010

I don’t generally refer to news articles on commercial news sites, even though the good old “biting the hand that feeds IT” is one of my favorite daily reads, and has been for more than 10 years.

This article, however was just a priceless win. The subtleties obviously escaped whichever news24 monger was at the helm that day, and simply googled “london 2012 logo”. That, or he/she was actually enough of a subtle bastard to use TheRegister’s version in the hope that nobody would notice…

Either way, it has absolutely made my day.

Internet, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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 Focus, failures, and sometimes the customer is NOT right.

March 19, 2010

“We began by responding only to customer demand with our specialized service which derailed our in-house product development. It’s an easy trap to fall in as the money early on is very good. However you will eventually need to invest in your own products and core strengths to build a truly unique and profitable business. We are now highly focused, but I wish we’d done it sooner”

Sam Hutchinson, and Josh Adler of Prefix Technologies

Since apparently it’s fashionable to mention previous business failures in blog posts, I thought I’d mention one of my prior failures here, and then tie it up with focus and customer service.

Prefix Technologies took over Creamer Media’s EngineeringNews, and MiningWeekly after my old IIS/ASP based CMS which served them well for 4 years was becoming simply unmaintainable and unscalable and I started the port to move over to a hybrid Linux/Apache/PHP and Microsoft SQL backend as part of the migration.

It was a trying migration. It worked, but I simply didn’t have enough time and energy to continue the final ports of database migration and then adding the additional features they required. Root cause:  Freeside was  a moonlight engagement for me because we didn’t have enough money as a startup to pay everyone (well, apparently everyone but me) — which meant lack of … yeah, you guessed it — focus.

What was even more trying was that my business partner at the time (Hello Robert Budai) screwed me over no end. For example, not paying the company’s taxes, whilst still happily paying himself.

Entrepreneurial Lessons:

  • Never let someone else take care of financial matters and focus purely on technical matters — stay involved.
  • Never trust someone else to have done something important (such as paying taxes) based on pure face value — always confirm for yourself.
  • Don’t try to start a new business by moonlighting — take the knock in salary, take the pain, but at least you will have focus.

All of the above was pretty much the death knell for Freeside’s original CMS, and the company. I was rather relieved that Prefix could take over Creamer Media. For me — it was time for new business, and a new focus. I resigned from my previous job, and bit the bullet with Neology.

I have to agree with Sam and Josh’s views strongly. FOCUS. Don’t deviate.

The thing is, that sometimes existing customers and prospective new ones will throw things at you that causes your eye to waiver from that ever so elusive thing called “focus”. Sometimes you have to say no, even when everyone around you will say “but they’re willing to pay good money”.

That might work in an environment where you’re selling widgets, but it does not work in a high-stress, creative environment where your employees are the single greatest asset your company has.

Sometimes the customer JUST ISN’T right, dammit!

Even when they want to pay you a lot of money. It could be that their demands will so detract from your core business and focus that it may be more damaging than useful to engage. (Yes,  regardless of the damn money).

Strategy, architecture, wellbeing and not compromising your core values  sometimes DO have to come first. (Yes,  regardless of the damn money).

Continually placating and accommodating unreasonable customer demands detract you from your focus, and strategy and will eventually end up costing you more than they’re bringing you. There is a balance to be had. The problem is that identifying this kind of customer, or situation is sometimes not easy.

I’ve started implementing a fairly basic rule which I use to gauge whether I’m entering into one of these situations. And it regards the damn money.

“If it remotely  starts feeling like I’m going to have to slut myself out just to get the business, it needs some reconsideration”.


Business | 1 comment
1 response to “Focus, failures, and sometimes the customer is NOT right.”
  1. Dieter says:

    Hi Roelf

    Great post, I agree with a whole lot of what you wrote. Thanks for sharing!

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 Single Dad, for two weeks…

March 9, 2010

Vincenzia is, and will be  in Reading, London and Paris for next/past  two weeks. I have  suddenly been put on the spot as “single” dad, for the last 9 days, and will be for the next 7 days,  and I must admit I’ve been enjoying it, but I have also been missing the partnership that has defined our relationship and family unit over the course of 13 years.

I’m enjoying some “boyz”  time with my son, where where generally just do “the dirty jobs we like to”, climb on the roof and fix WiFi gear without Mom complaining,  and then going for a backside dump into the leather couches to  eat some biltong, endure a marathon series of “Brainiac”, and otherwise devour  “unhealthy” foods, play PS3  games, play bowls  and generally behave in “manly” fashion.

A single-dad/customer of mine told me that being a single parent is not that hard (his being single not by choice). I agree, from a basic logistic point of view that it is entirely do-able. But there are some serious emotional aspects  that I would just not be able to cope with, if I had to be a single, “entirely responsible for all welfare parent”.

Ruben and I are having a nice time, and all,  but we are seriously missing that “other” half that makes our lives complete. It’s the motherly touch. It’s the attention to detail. It’s the “being able to offload responsibility”  to someone other that just yourself, that simply makes being a complete family unit worthwhile.

It might sound basic, but I  miss the other half of me,  that half that makes sure that we eat decent food, the half that makes sure we don’t do stupid things and the half that makes sure we behave responsibly.

The other half of me that will philosophise over a glass of wine.  Ruben misses the mom that tucks him in (even though I generally do it, and she in turn lets me), and tends the sores, the day’s heartaches and the homework, and the things that “need doing”.

Our Daschies miss the invitational slap on the lap, and the coochie coochie coochie, and the attention that I cannot give ’em.

In the final analysis,  we’d be “OK” without our Mom/Partner/DaschieMinder if some zombies came and ate her brains, or if some absolutely unnatural disaster struck.  We’d “survive”. But honestly,  I can absolutely not fathom the idea of life without her. “OK” is just not “OK”. I cannot replace her.

It  would really, really, really suck. Actually, it would just be downright miserable.

All I can do right now  is to  wait for the next “major release” which is when she comes back on the 14th of Feb. I will be cheering with little flags and ditty’s on the airport apron as the flight lands.

Single Parenthood?

“Single parenthood” is a misnomer. Some people define themselves as “single parents” even thought there is a second parent. That does not necessarily imply  single parenthood. It’s divorcehood, and what it boils down to is contractual differences between two polarized parties.

Divorce or separation with children inevitably results in what I call a continual “merge window”  — and  feeble attempts to “svn up” and merge the “diffs”  of a child from two different sources. The result will always be substandard.  I reckon it’s an extremely difficult  thing for two parents and a child-in-the-middle to attempt to have a “HEAD” version of life…  Of course — it’s not UNdoable. It’s just very difficult.

“svn up -r divorce” is probably the worst thing you could do to the little human that you’ve (against his/her will) brought into this life. But sometimes these are the cards that are dealt, and sometimes this is the way relationships crumble. At least there is still some argument, and at least there is still (generally) two parents involved.

But, absolute, naked, true,  SINGLE parenting, is an absolute loneliness and responsibility that in my view is almost untenable, and takes  a super extraordinary person to deal with… I know a handful of these extraordinary people. People  that against all odds are the people that manage actual, proper, unadulterated, balanced, SINGLE  parenthood.

Here’s a pip to you. I’ve been going 10 days. I have an end, some love and a little flag in sight.

You don’t.

You are god-like.

Parenting | 1 comment
1 response to “Single Dad, for two weeks…”
  1. Vincenzia says:

    I love you so much.



 Cubanate, lost opportunities, and licensing models.

March 8, 2010

About 5 years ago I approached Marc Heal of Cubanate fame to “license” one of his tracks for an upcoming, free game in the spirit of Tribes 2, that I was involved in from a development perspective.

The game was called “Legends”, and was a community and fan driven spiritual successor to the Tribes series after Dynamix was closed down by Vivendi Universal games.

Legends, was based on the then Indie-sourced Tribes engine, redubbed Torque, and released by the ex-Dynamix team under the Garagegames banner.

Marc and I had some discussions around the licensing of his songs, but in the end, I couldn’t really offer him anything else than fame and possibly (mis)fortune for having his music embedded in a completely free game.

I’m glad to see that a few years later, his tracks Industry and Oxyacetylene were released as part of the Gran Turismo series of games.

Cubanate’s music simply has the attitude, and gusto for action games, and would be a perfect fit for any future action games. I’ve not heard of Marc, and Cubanate for many years, but I hope that he has found a niche in sound production and making some commercial money off his great musical talents.

In a (probably overinflated, self-gratuitous) way, I hope that I may have had some influence on making him considering the game and electronic media as a sales avenue for his music.

The sad part is that there is actually very little live, or otherwise staged footage of Cubanate left on the internet. I reckon if Cubanate had ridden the Web2.0 wave a little longer like bands such as Sister Machine Gun, and Nine Inch Nails, they could have continued their awesome industrial electronic hit career. Of course, one can never predict or understand the band’s internal politics and cannot question their personal decisions.

I saw Cubanate live. Once. In South Africa, in Hillbrow, in a derelict broken down building that absolutely suited the crass, industrial nature of Cubanate’s music. It was one of the most awesome experiences in my life.

Long live Cubanate, and one of my favourite tracks:

Other Cubanate tracks to “look” for, in order of priority:

Business, Music | 1 comment
1 response to “Cubanate, lost opportunities, and licensing models.”
  1. Be My Enemy says:

    Phil Barrys (the other half of Cubanate) current project…..

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