Shipping is a feature. A really important feature. Your product must have it.

In his blog post / book chapter titled The Duct Tape Programmer, Joel Spolsky talks about a type of programmer.

He is the kind of programmer who is hard at work building the future, and making useful things so that people can do stuff. He is the guy you want on your team building go-carts, because he has two favorite tools: duct tape and WD-40. And he will wield them elegantly even as your go-cart is careening down the hill at a mile a minute. This will happen while other programmers are still at the starting line arguing over whether to use titanium or some kind of space-age composite material that Boeing is using in the 787 Dreamliner.

In my experience in both the corporate and the startup world I have seen this type of programmer a lot. And whether you call him “The Duct Tape Programmer” or “Cowboy Coder” he can be both a blessing and a menace to your business. A programmer like that is quick and rash. He will see a solution before anyone else, and will implement a solution before you even realize there is a problem. He will bristle at most structure imposed around him and will work very well in apparent chaos. This type of programmer can be detrimental to a large corporation but is essential to a startup. In fact, this is who you want on your team on day one.

Why? Because:

Shipping is a feature. A really important feature. Your product must have it.

-Joel Spolsky from The Duct Tape Programmer

To put it another way, until you have a product out in the wild and people using it, you don’t have a startup, or a business or a venture. You just have a bunch of people sitting around laptops. you just have a hobby.

Too many times do founders spend so much time designing and creating the perfect product that they actually do forget to ship it and that someone has to actually use it. A good example is the doomed game titled “Duke Nukem Forever.” A game that was decades late, and a huge flop. Yet, the teams that worked on it spend many years writing and rewriting it, adding more and more features and polish. Polish that nobody wanted, their users just wanted a game. Too often do founders lose sight of their user and start designing something that is nice to have but not what the customers want.

In short, release early, release often, get feedback, do it all over again.

Dmitry Grekov is a technology architect with Accenture and a co-founder of Venue Cricket a marketplace for Chicago Event Venues. You can follow him on twitter: @dgrekov.

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Leap Year!

I just wanted to post today. Also, it was like Y2K for some software, which was really strange.

google street view

I found this article browsing through links (as I’m wont to do, often). It’s an interesting view of Google Street View, but also kind of scary. As in, why are all these people dressed in masks?

The Street Views Google Wasn’t Expecting You to See

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Events and Travel in Chicago [Infographic]

Created by Venue Cricket a marketplace for Chicago Event Venues.  You can follow us on twitter @venuecricket.

Chicago Auto Show Inspired Review of 6 Electric Car Startups

Apteracar1.jpgThis article was originally posted on the Venue Cricket blog.

In 2009 CNN Money published a list of 6 hot electric car startups, all of which were due to release a new model by 2012.  In honor of the Chicago Auto Show going on this week, we have decided to do a review of how these startups delivered on their ambitious plans.  In summary 1/6 companies went under, 0/6 companies delivered on time, and 3/6 have gone to market by the present date.  Start up life is hard people!

1. Model: Tesla Model S
Power: Electric only
Range: 160, 230, 300 mile range options
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: Late 2011
Current Status: Deliveries now scheduled to begin in mid 2012.  Customers can currently reserve a car with a $5,000 reservation payment.  The price of the vehicle remains at $57,400 as initially planned.

2. Model: Fisker Karma
Power: Extended-range electric
Range: 32 miles (all electric), 230 miles (gas + battery)
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: Summer, 2010
Current Status: This vehicle was initially scheduled to launch in late 2009.  After several delays, the first deliveries were made in late 2011.  However, pricing was off from initial plans of $88,000, with cheaper models running over $100,000.  A cool fact about this vehicle is that it has a solar paneled roof, which is capable of adding up to five miles per week to the car’s range if the weather is cooperative.  Though not terribly impressive, it is an interesting technology and a good start!

3. Model: Aptera 2e
Power: Electric only (plug-in hybrid version available later)
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: Early 2010
Current Status: Aptera Motors went out of business in December 2011.  That’s too bad because this promised to be quite a unique car.  The vehicle (pictured above) was to have three wheels and would seat two adults.  Although it never made its way to the general public, the 2e did make an appearance in the 2009 Star Treck movie.

4. Model: Bright Idea
Power: Extended-range electric
Range: 40 miles (electric only), 60 miles (gas + battery)
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: 2012
Current Status: Production has been pushed back to 2013.  The company currently faces a lack of funding and is now waiting for the Department of Energy to process their loan application under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.

5. Model: Wheego Whip
Power: Electric only
Range: 40 miles
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: Summer 2010
Current Status: The Wheego Whip finally became available to consumers in April 2011 after numerous delays.  At launch the car’s price was around $30,000 as expected but has since dropped to about $20,000.

6. Model: Coda Sedan
Power: Electric only
Range: 150 and 125 mile range options
Expected sale date as of Nov 2009: Late 2010
Current Status: The vehicle just made its auto show debut in January 2012.  Delivery to consumers will begin in February 2012, with the lowest cost option priced at $37,250.  Better late than never!

Ella Lief is the co-founder of Venue Cricket a marketplace for Chicago Event Venues.  You can follow her on twitter: @venuecricket.
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Cumulus, Nimbus, Amazon and other types of clouds

Cloud computing has become the latest buzz word. Whether you a brand new startup or an established business, you will wonder if Cloud is right for you. The problem is also immensely complicated by the fact the Cloud providers vary in the services they offer and the prices they charge. In this post I will shed some light on the topic.

First a Little History…

The term “Cloud Computing” comes from the cloud shapes used to illustrate the internet in network diagrams. The origins of cloud computing date back to the mid 1990s, when a movement of companies named ASPs (Application Service Providers) or hosted providers created a new kind of application, one that did not require installation on site. Now instead setting up servers and hiring staff, companies could just pay a monthly fee. As time went on, the concept stuck, but the name changed.

In 1999 when Salesforce.com launched, they no longer called themselves an ASP; they called themselves a Software as a Service company (SaaS). Salesforce was great for companies, as it allowed them to pay a per user / per month fee, providing great financial savings over running a CRM server. As the concept caught on, more companies entered the race and more innovation followed. Amazon launched it’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006 and Google developed Gmail and Docs for the enterprise. 2007 saw the introduction of Heroku, and 2008 brought the Google App Engine. All of these services are different in both design and purpose, the specifics of which we will see now.

Types of Clouds

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

This type of cloud service does it’s best to mimic traditional data centers. You are able to provision individual “server” instances. These servers can then be configured with the required operating systems and software. The top vendors in this space are Amazon, Rack Space as well as IBM. The benefit of this solution is the flexibility of the design, which allows you to create very complex systems. But, there is always a trade-off, and in this case it is ease of use. When using an IaaS provider, you need to be knowledgeable in system architecture and data center administration. This is not a problem for large enterprise, but may be an issue for a small start-up with only a few individuals.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

These services take you one step further from to the “metal.” With them you don’t have to worry about the specific servers or software. In many cases the provider will segment the solution into “services” like processing, storage and caching. This is a lot easier to manage for individuals who have a development background and not a hardware background. However, because you are now thinking in terms of pre-configured services, you have less flexibility in design and technology. Providers support specific software stacks and languages and choosing a provider is more likely to lock you into a particular platform, which is not the case with IaaS. Some well known companies in the PaaS field are Heroku, dotCloud, Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine. These services are easier to use and may be cheaper for smaller apps. The pricing however may exceed IaaS solutions for larger applications.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

This type of cloud provider is placed furthest from the “metal.” The provider has built a software system, and you are just customizing it to fit your need. Notable examples include Salesforce.com and Google Apps for Business. You may be able to customize the application to create a product that is more compatible with your needs, but your options will be somewhat limited. On the other hand, your need for technical expertise is also limited, so you are able to do more with fewer technical resources. The pricing on these services tends to be on a per user basis and may become pretty steep. However, this is offset by the fact that you need fewer technical resources to support the solution.

Some final words

There are many types of clouds and cloud providers; there is no one true solution but rather a gamut of options. Which one is right for your business? Well, that depends. Are you a large or a small business? Do you have technical people available? Do they know hardware or software better? How much custom work does your solution need and how much can you leverage what is already built? There are a lot of questions to be answered but asking them is the first step.

Dmitry Grekov is a technology architect with Accenture and a co-founder of Venue Cricket a marketplace for Chicago Event Venues which is a cloud hosted business, hosted on dotCloud. You can follow him on twitter: @dgrekov.

freezer paper stencil

There are a million (okay, only 145,000 hits) results for freezer paper stencils on Google, so this really won’t be a tutorial. Better crafters than me have written better tutorials. Instead, it’s simply going to be a photolog of my process stenciling three shirts.

1. Supplies gathered.

t shirt

fabric paint Continue reading

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Re-discovering the wisdom in the aged machine

I met up a friend in the gorgeous Los Angeles City while he is doing this social experiment of teaching and encouraging people to use an old typewriter in a cafe. He is starting a revolution of bringing the old-school analog machine back to our life. It makes us to think a little bit different about the tools we are using everyday, and how we can enjoy life without all the latest technology and gimmicky gadgets . Here is me featuring in his blog

revisiting yourself ….

Venue Cricket Limited Time Promotion

Reposted from the Venue Cricket blog.  Use Venue Cricket to find a venue for your next Chicago event.

The Venue Cricket Team is supporting the growth of our online marketplace by offering some sweet rewards!  From now until 4/31/12 we’ll be giving away Kindles and Wine.

Venue Cricket Promotion

Chicago Architects Reimagine Neighborhoods

Reposted from the Venue Cricket blog.  Venue Cricket will help you find your next Chicago event venue!

Stop by the Chicago Architecture Foundation at 224 South Michigan Ave and get inspired byChicago Architects Reimagine Neighborhoods. This exhibition puts the city’s leading architects on display as they creatively redesign neighborhoods to modernize the city, bring communities together, and develop industry. Also on display here is the Chicago Model City, pictured below.


Check out these six examples of how Chicago could be, symbolically displayed around the model of Chicago as it now stands:

#1 SuperElevated

John Ronan proposes a plan to modernize the public transportation system. Ronan suggests a suspended monorail, which would be faster and quieter than today’s L. The top of the monorail structure would provide space for walkers, runners, and bikers. The ground level below the monorail would feature a public plaza with street performers and other entertainment.

#2 Roscoe Village

Doug Garofalo and Xavier Vendrell observe that this neighborhood has wide streets but little traffic flow and suggest that the sidewalks be expanded for pedestrians. Smaller streets could be completely cleared from cars, which would be moved to the alleys. Garages could then be converted into businesses or demolished and turned into gardens and green spaces.

#3 The New Neighborly

Today the Near West Side is a dead zone, undeveloped due to a giant parking lot that spoils the neighborhood. Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen want to replace the asphalt with a material that people enjoy standing on. The space could then be used for other purposes and converted into a dense parking area when needed.

#4 Pilsen Textile Incubator

Patricia Saldana Natke wants to use the empty warehouses of this neighborhood to transform it into a center for garment manufacturing and fashion. The plan leverages the skills for textile and fine art that the residents of this community already have to bring new economic life to the area.

#5 Midway Loop

Ross Wimer envisions Midway as a destination for neighborhood residents and visitors, who could eat dinner at the airport as they watch the planes take off. To accomplish this, Wimer wants to make the airport more accessible by connecting it to the L. He also suggests tearing down the wall that stands as a sound and visual barrier and replacing it with a modern building designed to capture sound.

#6 The Peace Train
Jeanne Gang proposes building a youth center at the Addison station. This structure would bring together children and teens from diverse neighborhoods and encourage them to build friendships, participate in activities, and engage in public service. The shape of this center would evoke Wrigley field, which is not inwardly focused like many stadiums but rather spills its energy out into the city.

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