Goodbye Jeffrey

Friends,

Last night Jeffrey passed away. As readers of his blog, you know about his zest for life. He had a passion for living and did it with reckless abandon. He gave so much of himself – to his family, to his friends, to his work – all because he loved his life and what he did.

We feel blessed to have shared his life and received his love. He has changed us in so many ways – helping us to love more deeply, be fearless and take risks. He was inspirational.

Jeffrey loved blogging and he loved reading your responses even more. He was awed by the comments people posted to his cancer blogging. He felt the love that reached out to him in every word you all wrote. Going in to his surgeries, he read the postings you wrote and it gave him strength.

Let’s give him strength again. I know that somehow, he will see your comments on this blog.

Tonight, drink a martini for Jeffrey – grey goose gibson, straight up with a twist. It’ll make him smile.

Love, Jessy, Brittany and Mac

Neil Young Uses JIRA: The LincVolt Project

Although I rarely re-blog Atlassian news, I can’t help myself this time. This deserves more exposure. Why? Three compelling reasons:

1. The LincVolt project is the coolest clean technology car project. Its mission is to get a 1959 Lincoln Continental to try to break a 100 mile-per-gallon barrier. This car weighs 2.5 tons. I would be satisfied just sitting in a ’59 Lincoln, let alone getting 100 mpg. This is simply a fantastic, ambitious project using a gorgeous battleship of a car.

2. The car runs Atlassian JIRA, our bug and issue tracker, right on the console. Yes, folks, you can create your issues and track them while you drive. The geographically-dispersed development team relies on JIRA to track their project.

3. Neil Young owns the car and uses JIRA. This is a personal project of Neil’s to inspire people by creating a clean automobile propulsion technology. I am flabbergasted the guy uses JIRA. I am a long-time fan, I have been to several of his Bridge School concerts and I’m practically a neighbor of Neil’s, but the fact that he is using JIRA is awesome.

Check this video out of the LincVolt project…

One last reason I love this project: it trumps my wife’s Toyota Prius, which I think she would leave me for. Prius owners are so smug, but this car is THE BOMB.

I have been known to play “Pink Cadillac” but now in homage to Neil, I need to write a tune about a wicked-cool ’59 Lincoln.

The Musicians of Atlassian

One of the great things here at Atlassian is we have some wonderful musicians. Here’s a window into this side of Atlassian life.

Matt Ryall, Soren Harner, and Jed Wesley-Smith playing

Matt Ryall, Soren Harner, and Jed Wesley-Smith playing in Sydney

Soren Harner runs all our software development. He also runs marathons. Somehow he finds time to be an incredible guitarist and what really pisses me off is he has a voice that makes women rip their clothes off. I have not actually seen women do this. I have, however, seen women consider it. Soren also makes playing music seem so natural and easy. He is one of those guys who knows 325 songs and can start singing one standing on his head. Or perhaps under pressure, with a gun held to his head for example (and with a woman ripping her clothes off). You get the point: this guy is talented.

We have considered shipping Soren MP3s with some of our new product releases, but you know the famous Software Company Problem: not enough time to do all the new feature requests. So his fans must wait. I am one of those fans.

Boots Wang

Boots Wang

Boots Wang is in Technical Sales and is clearly the coolest musician at Atlassian. Being cool might be easy to do around a bunch of nerdy engineers who clip their nails at their desk in Sydney, but it’s not so easy to do in San Francisco. Boots wears hats you wish you owned. Boots name is even cool. Boots is in bands with cool names: “Nobody Beats” was one. Boots reeks Cool-dom, Coolness, Coolio-Feng-Shui.

To make matters even more cool, she is a drummer. When I went to music school, all the women played flutes or sang arias and danced in the moonlight. They were pussies. Boots, however, throws down. She hits stuff. She is our only drummer, and I bow down to Her Wicked, Bitchin’ Coolness.

Matt Ryall

Matt Ryall

Matt Ryall is a Confluence developer and a guitarist. Matt plays acoustic mostly and is the kind of guy who sings folks songs to women to get his way with them. I suspect he is extremely successful. You know: an Emo-kind-of-guy. The kind of guy that writes poems.

Matt is also one of those people who has natural musical abilities. My guess is he never practices. But somehow he whips out some John Mayer song and sounds great. He also lends me his guitar when I am in Sydney, which is terrific of him. Natural software engineer, natural musician.

Jed Wesley-Smith and me

Jed Wesley-Smith and me

Jed Wesley-Smith is a JIRA developer and a bass player. You non-musicians may not realize how essential it is to have a bass player. I can’t tell you how many bands are searching for bass players. That’s because only weird people play bass. Bass players are famous for lacking social skills. The bass is the Supreme Understated Instrument. It’s takes a certain Zen quality. Type-A, ADD, Hyper-active people like me cannot play bass. Mellow Dudes play bass, and Jed is an extremely mellow guy.

Jed is also a phenomenal musican. While some of us have played professionally, Jed has played concerts where people scream and dance until they have heart attacks or over-dose on something. Jed is also one of those rare white guys who can spell FUNK. Jed is a seriously funky player. Playing music with Jed is a pure joy.

Taras Naumenko

Taras Naumenko

Taras Naumenko is on the Customer Service team in San Francisco. He’s in another league from the rest of us musicians because he not only went to music school, but he plays Classical guitar. The rest of play music to drink by. Taras plays serious shit. Taras, however, is full of surprises.

One day we were jamming in the office, and Taras starts playing “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now I bet Yo-Yo Ma never played that. How many classical musicians play music from a band that shoots heroin? Anyway, Taras taught it to me, so he’s a real Stand-up Guy.



Morgan Friberg

Morgan Friberg

Morgan Friberg is on our marketing team in S.F. and is the one Real Professional musician in the company. Morgan gigs regularly. In fact, his band, Arcadio has a website, they record regularly, and they even have Arcadio beer cozies, for Godssake. Morgan also plays multiple instruments: guitar, mandolin, ukele, and I suspect more.

Some day I’m going to come to work, and Morgan won’t be there because he was discovered and he hit the Big Time. I will buy every CD. I will even jump in the mosh pit.

Most of us Atlassian musicians are mere mortals. Then there is Jay Simons. Jay runs our marketing. He runs marathons. He does triathalons. He races in serious bike races for laughs. Jay does everything Full-Tilt. He is a spectacular piano player and has an incredible voice. In Jay’s case I am certain women rip their clothes off when he sings. Men might, for that matter. Jay is so talented, his dog is talented. Jay is also very funny and almost as funny as me.

Jay Simons

Jay Simons

If software ceased to exist as a profession, some of us could go be professional musicians. But we would be end up playing in bars where people drink too much and have fights. Jay, on the other hand, would be playing cocktail piano at the fanciest hotel in town, dressed in a tuxedo, sipping a martini while women ripped their clothes off. Jay is Pro all the way.

For those musicians out there with some Software Chops, you might want to someday consider joining Atlassian. We need a bass player in S.F. badly, a drummer in Sydney, horn players, perhaps a great conga player… Oh, you get the point.

Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley II: Survival Tips from a Hardened Cancer Dude

Although I have a reasonable excuse for not blogging since March, my Kids have become my conscience telling me to update people. Facebook and Twitter are for updates, so instead, here are my ways of surviving the ordeal of cancer.

Originally I blogged because I joined Atlassian. My Inner Writer Nerd also wanted to come out. Then I crossed the line from business topics with my Cancer 2.0: the Killer App blog. No surprise, a lot more people read this. Two lessons: 1) Speak from the Heart and it’s way more interesting. 2) Business colleagues accept one crossing the line from business to something as starkly personal as cancer.

I am on leave from Atlassian, so writing about work is less likely. My focus needs to be elsewhere. So Dear Readers, I am Leaning into It, and will write about personal matters.

How do I survive this Cancer Thing? What would I say to a Cancer support group, which I don’t go to it because I find them depressing? Here are my Seven Survival Tips.

#1: Focus

I have one focus: Get Healthy. Whip Cancer’s Sorry Ass. Everything that follows here is in service of this one Big Goal.

What is difficult about focus? For one, I love my work. I even lurve it, as Woody Allen said. When I had cancer in 2004, I re-evaluated my entire life. I realized that I live here in Silicon Valley and work in technology for a reason: I love it.

My cancer, however, is not a mild or known variation. My cancer is an aggressive, unknown (4 cases ever) beast that grows tumors in my kidney region and attaches to valuable stuff. I have lost one kidney already.

Time to focus, buddy. Taking a leave from Atlassian sucks. I am honored to work in such a special place, and letting go is not fun. But now a singular focus is critical: Health.

#2: Focus on Short-term Goals

I focus on getting through short-term wins or “gates” in the treatment. My 2004 treatment lasted 10 months. This one will be shorter, but when you add up my chemo, surgery, radiation, and the possibility of the treatment changing anytime, long-term goals feel elusive.

An example is chemo treatments. Each one is an accomplishment. I focus on the reward of eventually eating like a Pig, going out, enjoying life, once the toxic crap dissipates.

Now my short-term goal is getting ready for surgery. Nothing else matters. Screw radiation; that’s down the road. I am working out every day to be in shape for surgery.

Remember the precept of good project management: never have a task longer than two weeks? If you an Atlassian-type or engineer, think about some Agile Development principles. Two week goals are great things. Chemo cycles tend to be three unfortunately!. Think short-term; otherwise, the disease is more debilitating mentally.

#3: Don’t Look Like a Patient

“It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look”, goes the Billy Crystal line. If I look good, I feel more invincible. I absolutely hate looking like a patient. Even in the hospital, I wear jeans and t-shirt rather than Their Goddamned Pajamas.

At one point chemo drove my weight down to 175 pounds. I’m 6’ 1” and can easily carry 190, and started chemo at 200 pounds. What did I do? I shaved my head, put on some nice clothes, got out my sunglasses and took this photo for an internal Atlassian blog.

Photo-5

Although I felt like shit, and could not wait to eat a meal, Ben Speakman, one of our developers at Atlassian commented back that I looked “Badass”.

Look like the healthy person you want to be. Be the change you seek.

#4: Follow Your Heart

Yes, my heart is in my work, but I can’t have that right now. My heart is also in my music, my art, reading, hanging with my family. I give these pursuits as much space as treatment allows.

I might call this “Re-Balancing” meaning: if you cannot pursue work, what pursuits can you fit in between hospital time, chemo infusions, treatments, countless doctors? For me, it meant making a project of my music and art. I finally set up a new iMac with all my art, photos, music, movies, and installed Protools for recording. I bought myself a keyboard, and transformed my home office into a real music room. Follow you heart.

#5: Exercise

No matter how feeble you are, get your Sorry Ass to a gym, go for a walk, anything to fight it. I started with a 12×8 centimeter tumor planted on my Psoas muscle. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t sit in a chair. Every day I was taking 160 mg Morphine, 900 mg Neuronton, and 50-60 Oxycodone/Percoet…

pills

Once my tumor shrank from the chemo, I worked off the morphine. Then I started walking. Now I have zero pain and run at least 2 miles almost every day. I am on a Mission for God, and the God is My Health. Working out helps me mentally get through the agony of chemo, and I am certain, prepares me better for surgery.

#6: Live

That’s right: live. As a cancer patient, you are closer to death. It is trying to kill you. With some cancers, perhaps death is a long way off. With mine this time, the docs gave me a few months if I was not treated aggressively.

So I aim to live during this pain-in-the-ass treatment. Living, to me, means enjoying things you might now ordinarily do as a beaten-down patient. In 2004 during chemo, I flew my son to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park. I was told not to be in large public places while my immune system was weak. Sorry pal, I had to live while I could, and it was a trip my son will never forget.

During chemo this time, I played guitar at a local Stanford University Relay for Life. Here’s one of the tunes I played…

I love playing outdoors, and witnesses will tell you I was rather loud. Live, Baby.

#7: Be Positive

This could easily be my first tip, but I already blogged about the mental game in 2007, and recently when my cancer returned. Also, I am a natural optimist, so I really don’t do anything, I just am this way.

I also cannot say this to a patient after options have run out. I have had frightening diagnoses, but not that tough. I do know that every medical professional with whom I have discussed the power of positive thinking, strongly advocates it.

Focus on the positive. Tell cancer to “Piss off”

Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley

Enso, a symbol of Zen Buddhism

Enso, a symbol of Zen Buddhism

My cancer returned Monday. In not exactly a subtle way. I have two tumors, one of which is 11×8 centimeters. They are messing with my left psoas muscle which explains all the back and leg pain I have been having.

Being the occasional idiot I am about ignoring pain, I waited too long to get medication. Now I am on an intense mixture: the morphine is the platform, the percocet dulls the spikes, and the neurontin is nothing less than a bomb going off, so thankfully it’s reserved for sleep, something I have not had for weeks.

This is my life. I am living with cancer, I have had three major operations — here comes #4, I have had a frightening amount of chemo, and I lost a year of my life right before joining Atlassian. I can struggle or I can embrace it. Those of you who know me understand I have only one option. Not because I consciously choose. I am just innately positive.

Lean into it. A shrink once gave me this wonderful Zen advice about facing challenges and problems: they aren’t going away, so you can choose to fight them or embrace them. Embracing them means finding the positive, and turning the badness into goodness. Cancer is an opportunity.

I sincerely believe cancer has been more positive than negative. Thanks to my first battle, I had time to focus on my son, who was struggling with teenage issues, and help him make a remarkable turnaround to a focused young man. It was in him, but I learned how to be a better parent thanks to cancer.

I learned how much love there is in this world. All you have to do is get in touch with it, and it’s everywhere. Even out here in the social-2.0-blogging-weird-o-sphere, the connections can humble you. People may be conversing in Seemingly Strange Ways like Twitter, but there are humans behind those electronic bits and the messages and meaning can lift my spirits. That was the lesson I learned about blogging about cancer and seeing the love come back. My blog inspired people, and the Awesome Karma came back inspiring me through a major surgery.

A friend reminded me: I have a blueprint for this journey. Getting the news Monday about the two tumors sucked. I was upset to say the least. I love my life. Four years ago, I married the most Incredible Woman on the Earth, I bought a new house, and I met this incredible little company called Atlassian. I just love my work. I love living here in California. I am the luckiest guy in the world. My blueprint starts with reminding myself that I do all these things — the ritual Sunday night family dinner, the sandwiches my daughter Brittany brings me while I am sitting here waiting for surgery… the list is long — because I love them. And yes, it includes the work I love.

The first priority on the blueprint is of course getting the right treatment and recovering. But the blueprint includes trying to work when you can. I called a customer Tuesday morning, just 20 hours after getting the news. Willie Doyle had read my blog and wanted to share their agile development story. I love talking to customers and learning what they’re doing. The point is: cancer is not going to stop me from learning new, cool things like this.

Surely I will have to cycle down and let things go during surgery. Right now my biggest challenge is managing this intense concoction of drugs so I can still do the little things I love: like blogging.

Awhile ago I chose to write about personal things in this blog, and not just talk about software, business, Atlassian, and the expected. That’s also part of my blueprint: people have complex, interesting dimensions, and sharing these opens up opportunities.

A Different Kind of Software Company: What Matters: Three Lessons

Getting in touch with my Inner Jazz

Getting in touch with my Inner Jazz

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Vinnie Mirchandani, fellow Enterprise Irregular was gracious to invite me to guest blog reflecting on Atlassian hitting a new milestone: $100 million in all-time sales since inception. It’s not about the milestone, as reaching 14,706 customers as of today is more fulfilling. It’s about creating a different kind of software company.

Vinnie asked me what’s been fun about the journey, and truthfully I failed and wrote this more serious, reflective post. I was able to scrounge up this photo from our last Christmas party which has become a mini-tradition where our San Francisco team enjoys great live jazz, sushi, and a few too many martinis. `

At Atlassian, we talk about creating something different. Not for the sake of it. Because we’re never convinced norms should be accepted. Even our own could change. At the risk of simplification, these are my Three Deep Lessons I have internalized over 3.5 years in this company.

1. Open Up Your Company.

Why do software companies hide prices? Why must I call a sales person to get them? Why must I fill out an order form to get a goddamned PDF of half-baked content? Why don’t more companies treat customers with respect and develop trust through openness? Sounds straightforward, but this is the cat-and-mouse game that enterprise software companies persist in.

We think open pricing, open license terms, open bug and issue tracking of our products, and licensing our source code are what people, like us, want. We ask ourselves: would we buy this crap? How do you want to be treated? That’s a good test for how transparent you are.

2. Affordable Prices

Mike Cannon-Brookes pounds on the table regularly about the price of entry. He is always trying to figure out how to make it easy for the next developer, the next IT manager, the next knowledge worker to not hesitate. Once we have a product we would use, then we have a fist fight over keeping the prices low. The low price principle was more striking when I met these two guys…

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar


… as they were, let’s say, frugal Aussies. They had that shining spirit from Down Under which is an authentic Aussie practicality that was refreshingly unconventional in Silicon Valley. Funny thing is: even though the founders are no longer quite so frugal, our prices have rarely changed. Keep your prices low, Mister Software Man.

3. Anal-Retentive Analytics and Metrics

Scott Farquhar is our Super Metrics Warrior. Scott got us measuring Net Promoter Score (still running around 52%). Scott pounds on the table for so much detail and facts about the business, people leave the room dizzy and frustrated because they are starting to realize what they don’t know.

We don’t have the systems and analytics yet to measure up to some great large companies, but for a $40 million/year business with 185 employees, we’ve pretty damn good. We analyze the shit out of everything. We are constantly writing queries and dashboards on our internal Confluence wiki. This is our form of Lighting Business Intelligence, without any traditional BI software overhead. It’s also one of the hidden gems in our wiki.

Every team has a dashboard, but more important, every team is pissed their dashboard isn’t better. Continually unhappy with the gaps in our data, and searching for that Last Shaker of Metrics, we are on a Forced March for more data. This is a Mission from God I am still learning.

I could rant on about what we think a different kind of software company should be, because we’re still not there. We’re trying though.

RELATED POSTS

Susan Scrupski, another of the Enterprise Irregular clan, covered this milestone and trumped everyone with a video of Mike and Scott from Sydney.

Tech Nation Australia also interviewed Mike on the milestone.

Lessons from the Obama Campaign for the Software Business

Yesterday at the 15th Annual Stanford University Accel Symposium, I heard an energizing talk with Chris Hughes, Facebook, and Architect of Obama’s Digital Campaign Strategies, and Matthew Barzun, National Finance Team for Obama and Former Chief Strategy Officer, CNET Networks, Inc. on “Technology Priorities: Lessons from the Campaign”.

Three powerful lessons leapt from the stage that certainly any software company trying to do something different should understand. These apply to any company who cares about their customer community and focuses on growing a large business.

Scale and Focus

Traditional software counts on hunting down customers and finding those willing to pay the large price tag. Kind of like traditional political fund raising where fund raisers seek big-heeled donors for the $5,000/plate dinner.

The Obama campaign’s New School thinking concentrated on creating scale and community. Instead of only mining a list for the 1-in-5 donor with the big bucks, they started asking 25 people to go out and each find 25 more to pay $25 to show up at an event. The first time they tried this, they sold every ticket. So they tried it again, and next thing they knew: 1,800-person venue sold out.

Thinking how to scale from a smaller list of initial supporters (Obama challenge) was very different than thinking how to divide-and-conquer the large list of potential donors (Clinton early advantage). Matthew said it required concentrating on metrics that really matter – a mantra within the campaign, lowering the barriers to entry for donors and supporters, while having high expectations for the ultimate outcome. Aside from this concentration on large scale, they were relentlessly focused on immediate outcomes: they had to win Iowa; there was nothing after Iowa. Matthew represented this new thinking…
3-principles-obama-campaign

Farming vs. Hunting

The campaign compared their marketing strategy to Seth Goding’s Farming and Hunting analogy. The new school campaign focused on farming a community versus only game hunting (Yes, they did both: about half small donors; half large.). The idea was to spread word-of-mouth, build a bigger community using the existing base of early passionate supporters.

The trick was multiplying the base versus the traditional 1-in-5 division game of hunting. Build the community through networking. Get 25 supporters to rally another for a small entry fee. This is how Matthew illustrates some of the early results…

farming-vs-hunting

Once the Obama campaign got this farming working, the multiplier trumped any notion of relying on the traditional approach.

Values Matter

Communities thrive on trust and respect. If you are serious about building a community of supporters or customers, start with asking how to treat people. Here’s the Obama Campaign Code they handed out for the Iowa caucuses: three simple values:

    Respect
    Empower
    Include

At one caucus the Clinton people showed up with 13 supporters, which on a Cold Day in Hell in Iowa is a good showing. The Obama supporters on the other side of the room numbered 68. But the Clinton group was below the 15 count needed to participate. The doors to the caucus closed at a specific time, meaning no more participants. The Clinton team was potentially without a quorum.

Then after the rules allowed, in walk two more Clinton supporters, giving Clinton a quorum. This was against the rules. What did the Obama supporters say? Let them in. Include them. They deserve to be here. The spirit in the room was immediately more inclusive.

Software companies (all companies frankly) would do well to start by treating their customers with respect, treating them well, and concentrating on inclusion. A couple values we think apply to software companies is treating customers equally and fairly regardless of their company’s size or the size of their orders, and opening up information about your company (pricing, licensing, source code, bugs) so you build trust.

Applying new school marketing thinking and concentrating on scale, inclusion, and low barriers made a whopping 100% difference to what Obama raised. What would it do for your business, Mister Software Man?