Monthly Archives: September 2010

Why reality needs to suck..

Not enough people are trying to change the world.

Reality sucks. Trust me.

You see, reality needs to suck.. for entrepreneurs to have fun fixing things.

People are always trying to pin down and define entrepreneurship. What does in mean to be an entrepreneur? How do we make more of them? Is it a passion for a new business. Working in a garage, living on a credit card? Is it writing 10 business plans a year? Is it luck? Maybe. How about this.. the ideal founder.. yeah, that’s a part of it.

I’m an entrepreneur. What do I think defines an entrepreneur?

I like the idea that entrepreneurship is a disease. I like the idea that you have to be just crazy enough to be a good entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs imagine new realities. That is what real entrepreneurs do. It’s their drug.

They walk around finding things which suck.. until they find something exciting enough to start asking “how might we fix this?”. Then they dream up a solution, sometimes a whole new ecosystem to support a new world they want to live in… and then they start convincing people that their new reality is stable enough to build.

A friend I played underwater hockey with used to say.. “sex is like driving a car: the guy in is charge of the accelerator and the girl is in charge of the breaks”. Things are often much simpler if you know your place.

Good entrepreneurs push the boundaries of the stability of their new realities. They are a bit nuts. This is good. They want to drive faster. Don’t expect them to make spreadsheets about their new worlds, that’s somebody else’s job.

Entrepreneurs are impatient idealist. The idealism part is key.. that’s how they latch on to an idea, commit to it and follow every opportunity which aligns with their new world. Entrepreneurs are able to convince people of the truth.

I was having lunch with Mia’s mom on Friday. I made some comments about religion. She said.. “but Joe, you have your own religion”. I said.. “sure, but it’s my religion, which makes it way cooler”.

When we were starting Frogfoot around the end of 1999… we were not really starting an ISP business. I wanted to live in a world with always-on internet at home and I wanted to play with Linux and cool networking toys. Cisco was expensive and MS solutions were lame, we needed to invent a new world.

When I dreamed up Teraco it was because I was pissed off with how telcos lock customers in with data centers.

When we started talking about TrustFabric in the middle of last year, we were not really starting a software development business. I wanted to live in a world with efficient relationships between businesses and customers. Our current reality of customer service sucks. I hate having to phone a call centre to update something simple. I want more power.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

It’s fine when everybody thinks you’re bit nuts. You are actually just following the recipe and stepping on the right pedal.

Getting there is all the fun.

ps. If you agree with me about the current reality of customer service, go Like this page.

Quick Update

A week without Gluten..

  • My weekly post is on time for a change.
  • Monday, gym, swim, smoothie, dropped Mia with her mom, salad at Crush, walked from Georg’s house to the cable car contour road, salad for supper.
  • Tuesday, gym, TrustFabric company meeting at RCYC, first spinning class in a while, sushi with Georg at Best of Asia (Kloof st), glass of wine at Carlyle’s.
  • I suspect you take less photos of your children if you see them every day.
  • Wednesday, client meeting in Durbanville, lunch with PW in Newlands, house shopping in Oranjezicht, spinning.. I sucked a bit at the music trivia, Miso soup, watched The Runaways at the Labia (kloof).. good movie, tea with Nicky.
  • “Rock ‘n Roll is a blood sport.” — Kim Fowley

  • Thursday, gym, Frogfoot office visit to install a new PSU in my workstation/web-server, Oranjezicht house again, lunch at Carlucci’s with Jonathan.. talked about a new idea, We Love Real Beer at the Biscuit Mill with Jonathan, Andrew and Paul, burger in a bowl at Da Vinci’s and an Asoka visit.. for a few Porn Star Martini’s, a glass of wine at Carlyle’s with Milton and Georg.
  • “The eight day weekend.” — Andrew, about the 4 hour work week

  • Friday, public holiday, watched District 9 again, nap, Naulene dropped Mia off, lupper at Deer Park, watched Star Wars ep1, bath, read, sleep.
  • Saturday, watched Star Wars ep2, gym, swim, Deer Park, Mouille Point sunset picnic.. Sunette’s going away party, supper at Buzz Cafe Kloof st.
  • If you are reading this and you have a personal blog and you have not blogged in the last 2 weeks.. I hope you get a paper cut.. :-P
  • “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get. Entrepreneurs make what they want happen.” — seen on Twitter

  • Sunday, tea, Star Wars ep2, photo processing, gym, swim, 1hour Skype call with Jacques from Santorini using my iPod while Mia was swimming, drove around the Bo Kaap and De Waterkant, Cape Quarter 2 Spar, Waterfront shopping.. I found a “May the force be with you” Star Wars t-shirt, Mia got a new bag and a DVD, watched The Princess Diaries 2, tea with Nicky, bath, read, sleep.
  • “We write to taste life twice.” — Anais Nin

Have a fun week, crazy kids.

My Nokia N900 Review

I picked up a Nokia N900 from the kind people at WOMworld when I was in London two weeks ago. This is my quick review..

Summary: I like it, but I don’t think I’d like to use it on a daily basis. It’s a step in the right direction for Nokia, but it needs some refinement. I used the phone for two days. I would have used it for longer but I stopped because:

  • The battery only lasts one day.
  • The Notes application(s) were not very useful. I need my notes.
  • Calendar syncing was broken, duplicate calendar entries when using iSync and no Bluetooth support.

General (radom) notes:

  • It has Xterm by default, pretty cool, but no SSH by default.
  • You need root access to use ping? Getting root access is pretty easy.
  • I’d like to be able to set the Xterm background to black.
  • 3G modem works well, nice and snappy when using SSH.
  • The device is a bit bulky.
  • Keyboard is ok but I think the E72 allows me to type a bit faster. Spacebar location is a bit weird.
  • The touch screen is ok, but not as responsive as you would expect. It comes with a stylus which worked better than my fingers, but using a stylus in this day and age seems wrong.
  • Tetris (Blocks) was cool.
  • General voice call operation worked fairly well but for some reason the touch screen made the thing have a life of it’s own, somehow it was always doing something I did not want it to do.
  • Firefox on the N900 worked well.

N900 vs E72 vs iPod Touch

In the same week I also used an E72 and a new 4G iPod Touch. When I think about the features I really use.. calendar, notes and making calls.. the E72 is a better phone. It’s just more practical and quicker to navigate.

Comparing the N900 to an iPod Touch may seem a bit strange, but let’s ignore the GSM radio for a moment and think about price and features you would expect in a mobile internet device. To be very honest, the iPod makes the N900 look pretty sad. N900 is 5 times the price of the iPod and the iPod works way better for web browsing, twitter facebook, skype, connecting to wifi networks etc.

I hope MeeGo goes somewhere. Maemo showed promise but it needs a lot of work.

When I was in Boston last month I met a guy who works for Nokia. He was using an iPod Touch which routed through a Nokia N71 using a wifi hotspot on the N71. I thought it was a bit strange. I asked him why we did not just use the N900 but he told me Nokia did not want to give him a more expensive device. I hope the people at Nokia start using their own devices. Eat your own dog food, kids.

Thanks for letting me play with the N900. I’d be keen to play with the new Nokia E7.

Quick Update

A week with Mia in Cape Town..

  • Week of 13-19 Sept. This is the 124rd update.
  • Monday, configured the Nokia N900, gym, swim, Waterfront shopping.. got a Magic Trackpad and a USB charger, braai at Chris’ house with Georg and Kate, tea with Nicky.
  • Jacques is still stuck on a Greek island somewhere.. probably writing something like The Rum Diary. Passports are lame. Little books with stamps and stickers which are easy to steal.. surely we can do better. I suspect the only reason we have passports is to make us think the biometric data is not the primary reference.
  • Only managed to use the N900 for two days before going back to the E72.. but Mia liked Tetris on the N900.
  • Tuesday, tea and Bircher Muesli at Knead, gym, swim, wine tasting at Kalvin Grove with Andy and Julia, while Mia went to Fiona’s house, had a long chat with Pieter from Cederberge wines, I had a chat with somebody from the Cape Wine academy.. could be cool to do another wire courses.
  • Wine tasting notes.. check out: The FMC by Ken Forester.. wooded Chenin, Ratafia by Haute Cabriere, Diesel Pinotage by Beyers Kloof.
  • Wednesday, tea, gym, swim, we went for haircuts at Bianca’s, invited Georg for supper, cooked a broccoli and peanut sauce meal at home with a bottle of Kanu KCB 2006 wooded Chenin.
  • I phoned Andrew to figure out how to make peanut sauce, who was at work so he asked George Jardine.
  • Thursday, made fresh juice, gym, swim, toy shop, another broccoli meal, better peanut sauce.
  • “Never forget these moments.” — A tshirt I spotted.

  • Friday, tea, gym, swim, vitB shot, Kauai salad, aquarium, tea with Nicky.
  • I feel a bit like Andy Dufresne.. I write the gym manager one suggestion card per week.. this week I asked for more seating at the kids pool, wifi upstairs and to calibrate the touch screen of the cardio equipment.
  • Saturday, early Clifton 3rd, extended Deer Park lunch, played with FaceTime on the new iPods, frozen yoghurt at the Waterfront with Nicky and a ride on the Cape Town big wheel, Mia and I raced Nicky home, just after sunset with the roof down, singing along to Killers tunes.
  • I found my underwater camera again, in my beach cooler bag. A bit annoying that it missed the trip to Greece.
  • “Single?” “Yes I am, why do you ask?” — Georg, when the waitress wanted to know if he’d like a single/double G&T.

  • Sunday, added ~2500 photos to Mia’s iPod.. should have gotten the 32GB version, installed Monkey Island i/ii for her (awesome), Bircher Muesli at Knead, gym, swim, photo processing, sunset Beta Beach walk, pizza at Col’caccio Camps Bay with Nicky.
  • I was a little bit frustrated missing Earth Dance this weekend.
  • I now have 5 devices which take photos, this makes photo processing more interesting. Mia seems a bit snap happy with her new iPod.
  • This was a week without a fridge. Not such a big problem it turns out, but you have to go to the shops daily.
  • Tunes of the week: Mia played Chris Chameleon over and over.
  • I think I need to go on a Being Good week or three.
  • “We are defined more by what we like than who we are.”

  • Some people really are saints.

Have a fun week, pirates.

Quick Update

Ola, I’m back in Cape Town..

  • Week of 6-12 Sept. This is the 123rd update.
  • Monday, woke up in Mykonos.. earlier than usual, Greek breakfast, we took a ferry ride to Athens.. business class this time, seems a lot of people were leaving the island.. end of the season, read a Wired mag, got some work done in a harbour coffee shop, back to the same Athens Hotel, a burger at Gazi Collage again with Jacques.
  • “Glows like g&t in a strip club.” — Jacques

  • Wired: seems call stats are showing that people are making shorter and shorter phone calls.. the avg. call has halved to 1.5min and 20% of voicemail is ignored.
  • Tuesday, woke up in Athens, 1h train ride to the airport, processed some photos in the BA lounge.. with a pleasant Greek white wine, airport security took my suntan lotion from my camera bag for the 3rd time, flew to London.. got bumped up to business class, Heathrow express.. got a free upgrade to 1st class, tube was on strike, taxi to Jacques’ house.
  • Pretty awesome to process photos 10km up in the air while sipping some bubbly.
  • “In the era of the free, nobody makes money creating private communities.” — from BABusiness Mag, about social networks and privacy.. the challenge of a business model which does not involve monetising human attention.

  • “Adios Amigo, enjoy paradise.” — A text I sent Jacques, stuck in Greece.

  • Wednesday, played catch-up.. a day with real internet access, a late lunch with Adriana at Le Pain Quotidien in South Kensington.. we talked mostly VRM, had really good conveyor belt sushi with a glass of Kleine Zalze Chenin at Itsu.. tender stem broccoli and peanut satay sauce is a great combo, Tesco shopping at 10pm.. figured I should buy District 9 on Blu-Ray.
  • “How do you explain the ROI of reading to somebody who can’t read?” — Adriana

  • I think I could live in London, for 4 months a year.
  • Thursday, reading and blogging, experienced heavy London rain for the first time, fetched Mia at Sloan Square, got Mia a Snow White dress and a Coraline DVD, took Mia for her first London (mild) curry experience.
  • Tesco’s have the worst shopping trolley design, what muppet gave trolleys 4 swivelling wheels?
  • Friday, Snow White and I did a London tourist day, Tower Bridge exhibition and engine room, Piccadilly Circus to fetch a Nokia N900, National Geographic shop, extended Hamleys visit, London Eye.. Mia got in as under 4, London Sea Life Aquarium.. shared a Ben and Jerry’s, spotted Trey Ratcliff.. doing an HDR photo walk/talk, my camera ran out of battery power.. three weeks on one charge is not bad, but still annoying, a pretty awesome plate of fish and chips with mushy peas and a Moretti beer next to the Themes at sunset.
  • Walking around London with Mia involves a lot of pointing at aeroplanes.
  • Saturday, watched Coraline, battery charging and backups day, introduced Mia to Starbucks for lunch, cab and train to Heathrow, a little duty free shopping spree, chocolates, sunglasses for Mia and me, fragrances for friends, two new iPod Touch’s, watched Kick-Ass on the plane.. good movie.
  • Heathrow is lame.. no public wifi. Boston and Athens airports had free public wifi.
  • Sunday, woke up somewhere above Namibia, Georg fetched us at the airport, had two bottles of bubbly in the form of Buck’s Fizz with some french toast at Deer Park for breakfast, Clifton 4th beach birthday party with Nicky.. hello summer, I think it’s going to be a good season.
  • I was asked if I wanted to go to church. That’s a first.
  • I managed to return from holiday with only a minor photo processing backlog.. but that did not help this post being late.
  • Btw. I have not published any photos on my website in a long time.. but I keep adding photos to Facebook. I need to figure something out.. my workstation has been unreliable as a web server.

Good to be home. Have a fun week, crazy kids.

British Airways and Common Names

Dear British Airways (Executive Club)

We seem to have a big problem about a simple thing: my name.

I go on holiday not to think about this stuff, but it’s been bugging me. I’ll be a good customer and not only point out the problem but also offer a solution. Here is my story.

Cut here
Cut here

My Story

Towards the end of August I book a return flight for my daughter and I from Cape Town to London with British Airways, premium economy, because it was a last minute thing. We get upgraded to Club World (~business class). I think this is the best flight I’ve ever been on.

I need to get to Boston for business so I book a flight with American Airlines.. which sucked. I’ll never do that again. So I’m sitting at Harvard (VRM+CRM) thinking let’s just book all the rest of my flights with BA. So I join the BA Executive Club frequent flyer program. It asks for a name and it seems to only allow 4 digits for a password. No problem. Not very secure. Maybe they think I’m going to try and remember it. I get (yet another) identifier as a username.. a string of digits.

Next, I book 3 flights.. Boston – London, London – Athens, Athens – London. I figure it’s kinda cool how the website used my frequent flyer profile to fill in all the usual personal information for booking a flight. Only snag is, it used my Common Name and not my Formal Name.

At this point I figure I might as well claim the miles from the recent Cape Town – London trip. I enter the ticket number. Nope, it’s not happy because the name in my passport (as used on this flight) and the name I use to sign up for online services is not the same. I get a message back saying “We will notify you if your claim is unsuccessful by email within 7 working days.”

Now my real problems start. I want to fly from Athens to London and the people at the airport are very confused about my Common Name on the ticket and my Formal Name on my passport. Blah, blah, usual lame process, dumb questions, supervisors, confused expressions.. I’m sure you’ve all had similar experiences.

I’m thinking, all I need to do is change my name in the BA website to prevent this in future. Nope. Can’t edit that field using their website, sorry.

I get back to London and I get a nice automated email from BA saying that they can’t match the ticket number with the name on the ticket. YES. FFS! We knew that from the very start. Now, seems they don’t allow me to respond to their email. Awesome.

The email says I should check the details and re-submit my claim or contact their service centre. I SURE AS HELL am not going to even try and phone a call centre to sort this out. I’ll rather give up and fly something else.

I bitch on Twitter, thinking.. let’s give this Social CRM thing a try. BA UK and BA US start following me on Twitter. Nothing more happens.

The Wookie Story

Next, a story about a guy named Wookie. There once was a Debian developer who changed his name to “Wookie”, formally. Yup, that’s a valid name. Nope, you don’t need a surname. It seems if you want to be a BA customer a Surname is required. Weird that governments don’t seem to require surnames but they do.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all drop our surnames. I’m saying.. who are you to tell me what my friends can call me? If I want to be Han Solo that should be cool. I get to choose my Common Name. As long as there is some Formal Name which matches the name in my passport I should be able to fly without confusing anybody right?

Esmeralda: “What is your name?”
Butch: “Butch.”
Esmeralda: “What does it mean?”
Butch: “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.”
— Pulp Fiction

So kids, what did we learn?

  • Never fly with American Airlines.
  • We don’t want more identifiers. We have too many data silos already. In fact I don’t want to worry about updating my data in one more system.
  • You can’t assume my Common Name is my Formal Name. That’s just dumb.
  • Social CRM is pretty lame. Maybe you can detect when somebody is unhappy on Twitter, but you probably can’t really help them in 140 characters. Do you really want to wait until they are unhappy anyway?
  • I figure people don’t mind so much being a number in your system if you allow them to be a smart number. In fact, I’d love to be just a number.. my number, the same number in many systems.
  • This is why we need CRM to work with VRM.

The Solution

The way this should work.. I should control my personal information. I should be able to create a relationship with BA and share my travel profile. I get to choose my Common Name and provide my Formal Name. If I change my information on my side it should reflect in their system. Simple.

ps. I did later dig around the BA website and found a place where I can enter passport details and a Formal Name. I’ve yet to figure out if it uses that for future ticket bookings. I’m not happy that I had to dig around to find it.

UPDATE 2010/09/16: No response from BA. I give up. Maybe I scared them by actually proposing a solution.

Quick Update

Some weeks I wake up and I’m somebody’s dad. Some weeks I wake up and I’m a kid on an adventure…

  • Monday, woke up in Athens.. babies don’t sleep this well, only got out of the hotel at 2pm, no point if the light is bad for photography right?, blogged, found a new hotel, the first one was in an area that looked like Mogadishu at night, train to Piraeus and back.. harbour area, good time to read the travel guide, Greek salad and octopus legs with a Mythos beer, Roman Agora, bought a few tshirts, followed my nose for a while, Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Zappeion Hall, Panathinaiko Stadium, National Gardens, Parliament, a 10 Euro Gin Martini on a rooftop in Gazi, a beer at Gazi Collage again, picked up a fresh orange juice on the way to the hotel.
  • I think I need a Cape Town sticker for my camera bag.. but the official Cape Town tourism branding may look a bit gay.
  • Pet hate: tourists who hang around monuments (inconsiderately) when I want to take photos.
  • Tuesday, pretty useless hotel breakfast, moved to a new hotel, National Archaeological Museum, a late lunch, nap, the 16mm and I went to explore the Ancient Agora, The Acropolis, watched the sunset from the Nike Temple, g&t on the balcony overlooking the Agora and the Pantheon, Jacques arrived late.. he fell off his bike on the way to the airport.. on the highway, we went out for a few drinks.
  • Maybe we should go to NZ for the rugby world cup in Sept 2011.
  • Nice music on the subway in Athens, Dave Brubeck, etc.
  • Wednesday, got up late, Jacques got himself a Fear and Loathing hat and shades, I got myself 3 pairs of sunglasses, lunch, nap, we solved the world’s problems on the roof of our hotel.
  • “Truth seeking is a dangerous business.” — Jacques

  • Lawyer: What about that tattoo on your chest, doesn’t it say “DIE BART DIE”?
    Bob: “No! That’s German…for “Die Bart Die” (Courtroom laughs.)”
    “No one that speaks German can be a bad man.” — Simpsons

  • When I’m not really making phone calls my phone can go about 8 days on a single charge.. Jacques does not even get one day with his iPhone.
  • “Somewhere in the world it’s 5pm” — about opening a beer at 11am.

  • “Ek’s op ‘n pakkie ‘n dag.. Nurofen.” — Jacques about toothache.

  • “Buy then there is blood on the streets.” — Jacques about property investment.

  • Thursday, Jacques’s bag got stolen in a cafe with his passport in it, took a ferry to Mykonos.. Jacques was not happy, so we depleted the ferry’s mini-bar sized Johnnie Red and there was probably a bit more Afrikaans swearing than necessary, two friendly girls took us to their family run hotel, had a swim.
  • “Soos on nou geleer het uit Californication.. floozies is nie die antwoord nie.” — Jacques, about relationships

  • I met a girl who within a day pretty much knew everything about me. To be mysterious or not?.. I think I have more personal information online than anybody I know, but I’d still like to think I’m not giving away the whole story.
  • Did I mention how hot the woman in Athens are, even the Police woman are hot.
  • Street names are a bitch in Greece, often a street has three names.
  • Why did I come to Greece?.. because I enjoyed the Egyptian history lesson or because Mia watched Mamma Mia over and over?
  • Focus. Relax. The two most frequent (opposing) instructions Mia gets from her dad.
  • I really need a travel companion who likes to read travel guides and plan things. Maybe Mia will be into that.
  • Seems Santorini is one of the islands where Atlantis is believed to have been.
  • I think I need to meet a girl for whom I’d like to make compilation CDs again.
  • Mykonos is pure hedonism.
  • Jacques thinks it’s strange that I tell people I’m from Cape Town and not South Africa.
  • Friday, woke up on an island, a nice breakfast overlooking the sea, walked to the closest scooter rental place, hired at 50cc quad bike.. which was not designed to carry 210kg up a hill so Jacques had to walk a few times, cruised around or the right-hand side of the road without a helmet, this country really needs to update their laws to allow 125cc bikes without a license, had lunch next to the beach, walked around the old harbour town, nap, sundowner by the pool, walked to a restaurant close to the hotel and had Moussaka, Jacques kept me awake with a crazy romantic plan to cure me of Naulene.
  • Saturday, had a Red Bull for breakfast.. needed the B vitamins, took the bike to Ornos beach, Mykonos old harbour, had some Swordfish fillet at a small shoreline cafe, took the orange lawnmower over the island to Super Paradise Beach.. which turned out to be a (half) nudist beach, got some rays, crazy sundowner beach party, Cob and garlic mash for supper, figured it was a bad idea to go to Space Dance, g&t’s and some photo processing.
  • Sunday, greek yoghurt with honey, Paradise Beach, a Scuba dive at Paradise Point with an Afrikaans dive instructor from Somerset West, got some rays, Paradise beach party at Tropicana, Jacques convinced some people he was from Texas and I was from California, saw the hottest woman I’ve ever seen (true story), headed back to our local restaurant for supper, g&t’s at the hotel.
  • Seems Jacques is pretty screwed without a passport. He’s taking a longer than planned holiday.
  • My current travelling setup is pretty efficient. I guess I could go without the laptop and the heavy camera, but at least this way I can process my photos while travelling and not end up with a backlog when I get home.
  • The SA dive instructor figures it’s a good idea to hit Thailand (Phi Phi islands) in January.
  • “Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.” — Richard, The Beach.. goodbye Mykonos

  • Next: I’m in London for a week, entertaining Mia.

Have a fun week, crazy kids.