James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Archive for April 2015

Response to “Will There Ever Be Another Red Hat”

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Response to Dan Woods’ Forbes article “Will There Ever Be Another Red Hat”

This is a very nice piece. Although I wouldn’t say “never”. When IBM was riding high it was difficult to foresee the rise of Microsoft, and when Microsoft was riding high Apple was nowhere.

In the piece Dan refers to two of my blog posts about the open source business models. Dan infers that I was saying that open source companies do not need sales and marketing budgets. This is not exactly what I was trying to say. I was not saying that open source companies don’t need sales and marketing budgets. They do. The difference is that you can do a primarily or exclusively inbound sales model. This is much cheaper than an outbound model. You definitely need a marketing budget to create the inbound leads. Having an active community helps generate leads and lowers sales and marketing costs even more.

My main point was to refute the idea that the subscription model is inferior because the lack of an initial license fee hurts – in the proprietary model that license fee pays for the cost of acquiring customers and nothing more. As an example of the proprietary model Qlik is losing $25m-$30m per quarter on $125m revenue because their S&M budget is $75m. They are losing money to gain customers, with the hope that they can make enough services/support/up-sell dollars to make a profit eventually.

There are fundamental differences between the proprietary license fee model and the open source subscription model, and that unless you understand both of them well, you are not in a good position to compare them or criticize either of them (as an analyst was doing at the time).

Open source subscription models can be very successful, but their economics seems to be poorly understood by some. Amazon made $5bn last year renting out servers in the cloud. Google make billions by selling ad for 6c. In-app purchases generate billions 99c at a time. These are new and kinda weird ways to make money. Mobile, Cloud, Big Data, and IoT are changing things quickly and everyone (including analysts) will have to pay attention if they want to keep up.


Written by James

April 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Open-Plan Offices: Silicon Valley is right, your boss is wrong.

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My response to this article: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/silicon-valley-got-it-wrong-the-openplan-office-trend-is-destroying-the-workplace-20150420-1molwh.html

To summarize this person’s critique of open-plan offices:

  • My boss took away cubicles (with no open line of sight) and lined us up against a wall (with no open line of sight).
  • My boss took away cubicles (with little interactivity) and lined us up against a wall (with little interactivity).
  • My boss took away cubicles (with understood rules of interaction) and lined us up against a wall (with no understood rules of interaction, and no guidance).
  • My boss took away cubicles (which encourage personal productivity) and tried to create an open-plan environment (which encourages team productivity), but failed badly.
  • All of this is the fault of open-plan offices (and not my boss).

In my job I could work from home every day, but I don’t, because team productivity is more important than any one person’s productivity. If you interview people about their personal productivity, they rarely think about the big picture, only their personal stuff. I could also have an office if I wanted, but I don’t. Again, open-plan is about team productivity (see every thing ever written about Agile). I do, however, work from home occasionally to give the others a break from my glorious wit.

A productive team creates self-governing rules. In our bullpen, if you leave your phone at your desk and it rings, when you return to your desk your phone will be in a sound-proof box. Sometimes the box will be hidden. Headphones are fine, but audible music is no-no (there are more than sufficient Nerf guns to stop that obtrusive behavior quickly). If a person in your environment is being inconsiderate, it’s not the fault of the environment, it’s the fault of the person. Blaming the environment will not solve the problem.

In a team environment, frictional conversations (the ones that just happen when people are close to each other) are very valuable. In the early 2000’s we tried a purely remote environment, and the results were not great, so when we started Pentaho, we went with a “co-locate and open-plan” approach when possible. To the extent that for the last ten years all of Pentaho’s founders (including CEO, CTO, and Chief Engineer) have never had a closed office.

Open-plan environments are not right for all teams. Any group that regularly needs phone conversations, such as Sales and Support, are not good candidates for open-plan environments. But again, it is not the fault of the environment. If an environment is being implemented wrongly or inappropriately, it is not the fault of the environment, it’s the fault of the implementor.

I’m sorry that the author of this article had a negative experience with an open plan office. But it’s not true that Silicon Valley got it wrong. Your boss got it wrong.

Written by James

April 23, 2015 at 1:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Are individuals born with characteristics that dispose them to enterpreneurship?

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This is my answer to this question on Quora: http://www.quora.com/Are-individuals-born-with-characteristics-that-dispose-them-to-enterpreneurship

I think this is true to a certain extent. I also think that, in many cases, those characteristics align with the traits that come with ADD/ADHD.

Google “entrepreneurs ADHD” and take a look at the results or read this Forbes article for more details: ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower

Some famous entrepreneurs who have acknowledged their ADHD (source: Famous People with ADHD – Adult ADD Center of Maryland)

* Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Galactic etc)
* David Needleman (founder of JetBlue Airlines)
* Alan Meckler (founder of several magazines and companies)
* Paul Orfalea (founder of Kinkcos)
* Charles Schwab (found of Charles Schwab)
* Walt Disney (founder of Walt Disney)

Historical Figures who showed characteristics of ADHD (source: Famous People With ADHD Traits)

* Abraham Lincoln
* Robert F. Kennedy
* John F. Kennedy, who (allegedly) smoked pot to help him focus.
* Benjamin Franklin
* Henry Ford
* Thomas Edison
* Leonardo da Vinci
* Alexander Graham Bell
* Orville and Wilber Wright
* Sir Isaac Newton
* Albert Einstein

As my friend Marten Mickos says, follow your passion and believe in willpower.

But if you have (manageable) ADHD, it might help.

Written by James

April 16, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My thoughts on “Why Women Shouldn’t Code”

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Here is the original article: https://medium.com/@hardaway/why-women-shouldnt-code-82205165e64a

Firstly, the title is attention grabbing nonsense. The article is about why women (girls) should not be forced to learn to code at school.

There are a some good points in the article. In general, today, women are less interested in software careers, and software degrees than men are. That’s a fact.

Companies like to promote from within, but many (male) software engineers make lousy managers and directors. Myself included. So finding good software engineering managers is hard. That’s a fact. Imagine Sheldon Cooper managing a team of 10 Sheldon Coopers. What a nightmare. The best managers I ever had as a software engineer were all women. The others were all men. So I would like to see college and vocational courses just for Engineering Management. That might be a role that attracts more women than men. If so, great.

I don’t agree that women shouldn’t code. I don’t agree that girls should not be required to learn coding at school – and here is why. At school we learn Art, and Music, and History, and Sports. How many of us become professional artists, musicians, historians, or athletes? Almost none of us, but that’s not why we learn them.Learning the about those subject enriches us and gives us context. So much of our world today is driven by and dependent on computers, that a basic understanding of how they are controlled seems, to me, to be more important than knowing who won the Battle of Antietam and when.

If teaching girls to code results in more female software engineers, that’s great, if it doesn’t, that’s ok too, because they know more about the world than they did before.

Written by James

April 15, 2015 at 11:13 pm

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Microsoft’s Open Sourcing of ASP.NET

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Under an Apache License on GitHub.


Seems that RedHat’s Truth Happens video http://www.redhat.com/v/mov/TruthHappens.mov needs another line:

First they ignore you…

Then they laugh at you…

Then they fight you…

Then you win.

And then they realize you had the right idea all along and adopt your practices for themselves.

Written by James

April 12, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized