Come Work With ME!

We’re hiring! We’ve got a ton of work to do on an awesome new product and I need help!

What am I looking for? Someone who “gets” working in a startup. You’ve got to understand the pressure involved and time required to launch something and the crazy stupid optimism to believe it will succeed (even if it doesn’t). You’ll be smart, creative and willing to do the right thing even if it seems a little daft at the time.

So, here’s what we’re looking for:

And the best part? We’re right in downtown Savannah above Leopold’s Ice Cream and close to everything happening around the heart of Savannah. We’re fun to work with and are working with some amazing technology. If you’re interested, check out the postings and apply (please)!

I Got a C!

Our CEO came in today and wanted to see me in his office. Now, this doesn’t happen all that often, so I was a little surprised. But, it was good news! Since I’ve been at Music Intelligence Solutions, I’ve been referred to as everything from “Lead Engineer”, to “Lead Technical Architect” to, in rare cases, “CTO”, depending on who I or David (the CEO) was talking to.

Thankfully, all of that title confusion is over, as I’m now officially the CTO of the company!\
I never thought I’d be CTO of anything. The thought never entered my mind until a few years ago when AOL’s CTO left and I e-mailed the COO and asked if he would be replaced. I thought to myself, “Hey, I could be CTO. Wait a minute, I really could be CTO.” And that’s where it started. I had a new goal – be good enough at what I do to some day be CTO of the company. At the time, the goal was to be CTO of AOL, but I’m now glad that didn’t happen. I’m the CTO of the right company at the right time, and it feels pretty damned good.

My job isn’t going to change at all. I’m still lots of other things at the moment – sysadmin, developer, manager, project manager, product manager in a couple cases, etc. But, it’s still a big step to be the CTO of any company, especially one with the potential we have at MIS.

Enough celebrating – I have to get back to work!

We Were on Morning Edition!

We were on Morning Edition today! You can read the transcript or listen to the story on the site. It’s very exciting, and the story’s great too. I think the artist they interviewed has a pretty typical reaction when people first hear about what we do. The comments on the article, too, are fairly typical.\
A lot of people think it’s the “death of art” or “homogenizing the music industry”, what we do. I think that’s silly. There’s so much music out there, and the labels do a horrible job of picking the good stuff. We’re trying to fix the system, not replace the whole thing or remove “art”. We’re trying to bring the music that the labels will never showcase out from the “masses” of mediocre stuff out there. Ours is just one approach, but I think it scales and is less prone to gaming than crowdsourcing or the current label approach of blind hit or miss picks by a very small group of kingmakers. If you really look at how “hits” get made today, it’s pretty disgusting. Art in popular radio is already dead. We’re trying to bring the art back by showcasing the things that should be played, not regurgitating the same old stuff the labels will to be hits with their gigantic marketing budgets.

How I Use Evernote

I mentioned on twitter the other day that I love Evernote and use it to keep my daily to-do list and keep track of what I work on. A couple people said I should write a blog post about it. Since I’m just waiting for my Tylenol PM to kick in, I figured… why not.

If you’ve never heard of it, Evernote is a note-taking app that is accessible from anywhere. They have desktop applications for OS X, Windows and the iPhone and a really nice web interface too. I clip things I’m reading to it all the time to either save for later or because I know I’m going to want to send it to people and might not be able to find it again. I put quotes in it I want to save, put URLs to things, and even jot notes down on the iPhone if I come up with an idea while I’m out. It’s fine for that, but I didn’t become a heavy user of it until I started keeping track of my to-do list. I’d tried implementing GTD (Getting Things Done) several times before, but it never stuck, until now.

Evernote has the idea of notebooks and notes. I have notebooks called Stuff – for everything not work-related that’s not a to-do list, Journal – for all my daily to-do lists, and Work – for work stuff I want to remember.

Here’s how I use it for keeping track of my daily to-do list:

  • I have the desktop application open all the time. It’s never closed unless I’m rebooting, so my to-do list is only ever a couple keystrokes away.
  • Either at night before I leave work, or first thing in the morning, I create a new note in my Journal notebook with the date as the title.
  • Then, I just start creating a list of to-do items I want to get done that day. They’re usually always work-related, but sometimes they’re not (lthis week, one was: “Call doctor about the whole not-being-able-to-breathe thing” – and I did… check!).
  • Then, as I go through the day, I’ll either just check them off if they’re simple, or add details about exactly what I did and approximately how long it took. The details are the important thing, since I can now remember the steps I went through to do something and have much better recall when I need them again.

This sounds really anal, I know, but it’s really helped me concentrate on my productivity, and how much time I spend doing things other than the stuff I really need to get done that day. I also remember more of what I do during the day just by writing it down.\
The to-do items in Evernote are still a little buggy. For example, until recently, you could only add them in the desktop application and you couldn’t mark them complete in the web if iPhone apps. I just checked and you can’t mark them done in the web interface… oh well, nothing’s perfect (and it’s still in beta).

There are some great web apps out there that are all about to-do lists, and I’ve tried most of them (I got the farthest with Remember The Milk). I think Evernote is sticking because I use it for more than just the to-do list, and I can get to it wherever I am.

Passing the Commute

I have a commute now. It’s not long or even unpleasant. I get to see some nice scenery, and it’s only about fifteen minutes. I’ve realized that now I have thirty minutes a day to listen to something I wouldn’t listen to other than the radio or music (which I listen to all day anyway).\
Before I get to the list, I have to say, I love iTunesU. It’s such a great resource for interesting stuff from public broadcasting and universities all over the country, and all for free.\
So, here are a few of the things in the queue for the iPod to listen to for the drive:

  • The Bugle – Hilarious “audio newspaper for a visual world” podcast from John Oliver (from The Daily Show) and Andy Zaltzman. I look forward to this every week.
  • Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams – I’ve heard about this from all corners of the web, so it’s in the queue, and free from iTunesU.
  • Funny People: George Carlin – I just found this one while wandering around… it’s on the list.
  • This American Life
  • TED Talks – TED is amazing, and they’re putting all the talks online for free.\
    Seriously, spend some time wandering around iTunesU and see the amazing amount of content. It’s a ton of fun to wander around and see what’s there and grab stuff.\
    Obviously, now I need a longer commute.

Three Weeks In, A Look Back

I know I’ve been rather quiet since leaving AOL and joining up with Music Intelligence Solutions, but as you can see from Jen’s entries, we’ve been busy. I’ve been going back and forth to Savannah, trying to both get to know the team, the vision and the plans we have for launching, and at the same time, designing architecture, doing training and helping folks get up to speed on scrum and other stuff. It’s been a lot of late night, long conversations, whiteboard sessions (note to self, get a bigger whiteboard), and late-night epiphanies while trying to get to sleep.\
I keep thinking about what I learned over thirteen years, and the people who took their time to mentor me, and the excellent managers I had who showed me how to deal with both pressure and conflict. I keep thinking about one of the first technical meetings I had way back in 1999 about AOL Search. We were just getting started with the project, and I was the front-end guy, and one of the only people involved who knew AOLserver and Tcl. So, there I was in a room with two PhD’s, with them asking me what I wanted the API to look like. Joe Dzikiewicz and Tom Donaldson sat there and asked lots of questions, we drew on the whiteboard, and I was freaked the hell out…\
There are hundreds of people I should thank for helping me over the years. I tried to count up all the people I worked with at AOL, and it’s easily over a hundred and I got close to two before I stopped. But, the person I keep coming back to is Joe. He was one of the first computer scientists who took me under his wing. I don’t have a degree – everything I know about technology is either self-taught or through experience and others helping me out. I’ll never forget an IM Joe sent me while we were working on AOL Search. It went something like:

  • Joe: Hey, things are looking good, but it seems kind of slow. Are you threading the requests?
  • Me: Am I what?
  • Joe: … I’ll call\
    I think I scared him; but, he very patiently explained it to me, and then sent me off to figure out how to implement it.\
    I learned so much from Joe, and from the hundreds of other people I worked with at AOL – from my first manager, Judy Winger, who “saved” me from getting fired from a really stupid e-mail I sent to the wrong manager (well, that manager was the intended target, but…), Priscilla Serling for encouraging me to take the job in Virginia, to Robin Vinopal and Mark Robinson who taught me so much about how to treat the people who work for you, and to Bert Arians and Alan Keister for giving me all the room I needed to try new things. And all the nerds, geeks and smartasses I worked with.\
    It’s only now that I’m gone and have a couple weeks away that I see how lucky I was to work with all the people I did.\
    I’m having a blast at MIS trying to implement all the stuff I learned over the years at AOL, and all the stuff I wanted to try but couldn’t, either because of upper management (I can only say that I learned a whole lot about what not to do from AOL’s upper management over the years) or because I wasn’t in a place to do it. It’s been a lot of fun seeing my new team embrace all the things I’m throwing at them (and I’m throwing a bunch, everything from The Cluetrain to web standards).\
    It’s going to be an adventure, and before I get too far along in it, I have to say “thank you” to everyone I worked with at AOL. Without you, I wouldn’t be here, and I’ll be forever grateful.