Category Archives: Humor

My New Venture

I have decided to go into magazine publishing, I am excited to announce the inaugural issue of Wiki People. I am also excited to announce this is a joint venture with the popular People magazine. Here’s a pre-release copy of the fantastic first issue cover, destined to become a collector’s edition.

wikimagaz.jpg

How to Win the Atlassian T-Shirt Competition

Disclaimer: We have not formed a judging committee, I have no idea whether or not I will be on the committee, and the decision could be made by a couple of engineers over a lot of beer in Sydney. These facts do not prevent me from giving you, Dear Reader some valuable insights into this hotly contested competition.

As an employee I am officially disqualified from Atlassian’s T-Shirt competition, which irks me to no end as I would whip everyone’s ass in this competition. Nevertheless, I am compelled to dispense potentially useful information on how you might stand out from the crowd pounding down our doors with spectacular designs and ideas. Here are some possible strategies for you Closet T-Shirt Designers:

Strategy #1: Design something a woman might wear. Being engineers and being men generally, we have a terrible habit of designing things that are questionable when written across a woman’s chest. The original clean, simply designed Confluence T-shirt is one of my favs but as you can see…

watch-this.jpg

This is a risky, breakout strategy as our founders are 28 year-old Australian men and of course, engineers and opinionated at times. But I think the timing is right to do the right thing by women, as Kathy Sierra pointed out a long time ago.

Strategy #2: It’s all about a clever, funny tagline. With this strategy, the design is irrelevant. Take our most coveted JIRA T-shirt. To this day, people love the tagline:

youve_got_issues.jpg

Strategy #3: Get edgy. This is risky as you might go too far. Here’s an example of one of our more recent T-shirts which may have gone too far:

i-like-to-watch.jpg

This one may say something about engineers who spend too much time in front of their monitors, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.

Strategy #4: Make something retro and timeless.
The problem with retro is it is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m not sure there’s anything retro about a 5-year old software company. My favorite example but a really sweet T-shirt is this beauty I got from Ted Leung:

newton.jpg

[Disclosure: I used a Newton for 18 months. I still own it.]

Strategy #5: Sex. That’s right. Sex would be a cheap trick but Hey, stooping to the lowest common denominator works often. Here’s Yelp who in a lot of their branding uses some of the same tricks as American Apparel:

yelp1.jpg

Yelp can get a bit frisky with their marketing of their apparel:

yelp2.jpg

Would this cheap tactic work with a bunch of young engineers in Sydney? You decide.

Highlights of Web 2.0 Summit

highlights-of-web2001-001sm.png
* actually I must admit I didn’t, but Mike Cannon-Brookes did and I was terribly jealous.

Second Life vs. Webex

rabbit.jpg8 A.M. Preparing for the big presentation and teleconference later this morning. Which should I do? Same old Webex? Or might we meet in Second Life, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and I’ll show up in my Rabbit Avatar outfit? Hmm. Tough question.

The customer has likely used Webex before. But in Second Life, I can see the customer, or rather their Avatar, and we can meet some place special to lend atmosphere. Like say, Second Life University if I want an intellectual, thoughtful slant. Or, perhaps we can meet in Amsterdam and go hit some clubs after the meeting. Forget it; that might get weird. If the customer has never been in Second Life, that could be risky.

If you think I’m fruitcake for considering online virtual reality for a business meeting, think again. People are already using Second Life for serious meetings with Skype for voice. Okay, Citigroup and the Pentagon probably aren’t but consider:

- Wells Fargo has launched “Stagecoach Island” inside the virtual world of Second Life, to teach people how to handle their finances
- Professors from the University of Texas, University of Oregon, Michigan State, Ball State, and Vassar are conducting lectures
- $5,000,000 in real money transactions took place within Second Life in January of this year
- On my own foray into the game, I met a couple that in Real Life travels a lot and they use Second Life to meet and socialize when they are thousands of miles apart.

Here’s my Product Comparison of Second Life vs. Web Conferencing for business meetings…

1. Will the meeting be interesting?

Second Life wins hands down. How often do you get to show up looking like a Rabbit with a baseball bat in your hands? Or perhaps a Cow with wings and a top hat? How about everybody on motorcycles? Think of how provoking your first impression might be on the customer?

2. Will you strengthen your relationship with the customer?

Guaranteed with Second Life. Memorable events greatly increase the chance of the client remembering you later. Think of it this way: if you took your client to a costume party in the Lower East Side of New York City at midnight dressed as Batman, would they remember you? Second Life offers you a safer alternative than walking down 8th Avenue ay 2.A.M. dressed up like a total idiot.

3. Will your message get across?

Webex may win for boring Powerpoint presentations. But we all know Web 2.0 Feng Shui says attitude is everything. Second life has attitude, baby. Although I have not found a Powerpoint API for Second Life yet, I bet if you attend some of these lectures, you’ll find a solution. Second Life has a developer community that builds things like animations so you can dance on your head, make rude hand gestures, and do other rather bizarre things.

Running a meeting in virtual reality may be best for weirdos from San Francisco and the New Media Consortium who already do. But just wait.

Here at Atlassian Software, we learned about Second Life because the creator, Linden Lab is a customer of ours here in San Francisco, and they emailed us to tell us how they use our issue tracker software, JIRA. Linden Lab uses JIRA to manage all projects in the company – not just software development but all projects including sales and marketing.

Now that we have visited CEO Philip Rosedale and the creative team behind him, we’re ready to check it out for our next company picnic…

Productivity Tips for Chumps Part 1

If you are one of those people who owns several time management books or who has no email clutter in your in-box, you might want to ignore this article. When you read stories like Steve Pavlina’s “Do it Now” about how he graduated from college in three semesters with a double major in Math and Computer Science with great grades, do you think “I want to be like Steve?”. If so, then Screw. Beat it. Sorry, but this article is for people who put their pants on one leg at a time.

For you normal folks, I have some Productivity Tips gained from years of trying to better myself through time management training…

Tip # 1: People with really, really good time management skills have psychological problems.

Let’s take Steve Pavlina who is clearly world-class at time management. After graduating from college in three semesters, Steve realized he did not have a girl friend and could have devoted more time to relationships. He thinks he needed four or five semesters. Hey Steve, how about five years? In five years I had time to take a year off from college, hitch hike around Europe with a German girl friend named Brigitta, and play guitar in coffee houses. When was I going to get another opportunity to do that again? If I did it now, the bank would foreclose on my house. Living your life should fit somewhere in your life, Steve.

Tip #2
: Very few time management experts are ADD.

The experts tell you: multi-tasking is a sin for serious time management. Start a task; finish it. If anyone tries to interrupt you, well, fuck off, you’re busy. Time management pros says that people who flit from task to task have no focus and poor concentration.

These people, however, do not understand the tremendous advantage of ADD. These people hate Robert Altman films like “The Player”, renowned for over-lapping conversations. These people even consider running for President as a potential career path.

I have never been diagnosed as ADD, but it’s because this problem and about 7,248 other mental conditions had not been identified in 1958 when the world was content to accept these deficiencies as less pressing than say, a nuclear war. Being ADD or wrestling with the personal issues I have, gives me the capability to start 20 tasks before 8 AM and partially thanks to a huge pot of Peet’s coffee. (See upcoming blog “ Why Coffee Increases Your Chances of Winning the Nobel Prize”).

By the time the day ends, I have actually completed many of the 20 tasks I started. The ones I didn’t were either less important or too complicated to get done in a day.

Tip #3: The next time someone recommends a time management course or book, respond simply, “I’ll think about that”, crack open a beer, and put on the RamonesI Wanna be Sedated” at blisteringly high volume.

This will give you the time you need to consider your options. Which is precisely what separates productivity freaks from schlumps like you and me. They do not give themselves the time to consider options. They just do shit. And they do so much shit it is breathtaking. It is impressive in it’s sheer dimension and output.

The rest of us need time to think things over. We find ourselves occasionally staring at the front page of the newspaper in the morning and notice that, before the coffee kicks in, some drool has started to form on our lower lip because our mouth is open. We realize we have been staring at the newspaper for almost three minutes and, aside from one or two headlines, we can’t remember anything.

Time to think is a great respite from life. Cracking open a beer can make the moment a little special. And listening to the Ramones is one way to appreciate that your life may not end suddenly, and that your personal bad habits really are not that bad.

Why Joe Kraus is Cooler than Me

The San Jose Mercury News did a piece on wikis today, and featured Joe Kraus of Jotspot. At Atlassian, we admire Joe and Jot and like the way they evangelize wikis. Interestingly the Mercury News article highlighted five cool things about Joe. Wondering how well I would do if I had to supply this kind of personal information, I realized I would never stack up as cool as Joe. Here’s why…

Cool Thing No. 1

Joe: Would be a pro surfer if he did anything else
Jeffrey: Would be a pro musician if I did anything else

Analysis: Joe gets the edge here because surfers generally look pretty good, have great physiques, and don’t die at a young age from overdoses. Surfers can die getting slammed into a rock at a beach like Mavericks, but that’s cooler than choking on your vomit like Jimi Hendrix did. Although musicians are certainly reegarded as cool, and this is a close call, Joe gets an extra cool point here.

Cool Thing No. 2

Joe: Was seen in his underwear at age 12 by Actress Rachel Hunter
Jeffrey: Has paid $9 to see actresses in their underwear

Analysis: Joe is way cooler here. TV actor, Bryan Cranston, who is the Dad in “Malcolm in the Middle“, taught me to sing “So Much in Love” and sang it with me when we were at a friend actor’s wedding. But, Bryan is nowhere as hot as Rachel Hunter. Plus, I had my clothes on. I pay regularly to see actresses in their underwear at the movies, but that’s lame in comparison.

Cool Thing No. 3

Joe: Blogged that he first met Bill Gates at the urinal
Jeffrey: Larry Ellison has driven to my house and flown my daughter on his private jet

Analysis: Once again, Joe clearly wins. I never met Larry Ellison but he dropped his daughter off at my house a couple of times. My daughter, Brittany is much cooler than Joe or me because Larry flew her and in his private jet to New Zealand for a week on his boat. I, however, have not peed next to him or Bill, and I would probably not even be able to pee, let alone blog about it.

Cool Thing No. 4

Joe: Was a political science major
Jeffrey: Was a music major

Analysis: Whew. I finally am cooler. Political science majors are not complete losers like say, business majors, but music majors are significantly cooler. There are different degrees of coolness in music, but because I went to a jazz conservatory ,Berklee College of Music, for one year, I think I am cooler on this one.

Cool Thing No. 5

Joe: Once played drums in a band called “Where’s Julio”?
Jeffrey: Played in bands named the “Universal Space Choir” and “Bozos on Broadway”

Analysis: I think I get an edge here. I played in a lot of bands, many with cool names I can’t really remember. “Where’s Julio” is cute, but “Universal Space Choir” is out there. “Universal Space Choir” has a certain Stanley-Kubrick-Tibetan-Monk-Zen thing happening. Plus, “Bozos on Broadway” is funny, and had some guys in it that went on to do really well, like my friend Dan Siegel, who has serious chops and has recorded with some heavy dudes. But given this is about the band’s name, I only get a slight edge here.

Final Score: Joe is cooler than me. Hats off to him. His company also is great at PR, which is something we don’t do at Atlassian intentionally.

I am glad Joe did his Mercury News interview before mine because that gives me time to adjust my life and prepare for a cool “Five Things to Know” about me. For example, I think I need to plan on jumping out of a plane (with a parachute). Also I need to call some of my old musician buddies and see if anyone can remember the name of the band…

50,000 Pound Software

My friends at SRA Capital in San Francisco invited me to their Winter Technology Conference last week giving me a hall pass to sneak out of the Atlassian office and check out some public software companies. For those of you in private companies, if you ever wanted to disabuse yourself of the idea of being public, go to a financial conference.

The drill is: companies pitch themselves to investors as a good investment without…

a) sounding like Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling of Enron,
b) saying anything that has not been sanitized to smithereens by their investor relations consultant, internal counsel, law firm, accounting firm, and any other anal-retentive person in the decision hierarchy,
c) making any future statements remotely interesting
d) saying they are a good investment.

This last fact is a bit hilarious. Isn’t the whole point to believe these companies are a great buy?

All this means the presentations can be exceedingly dull. To make it even more boring, two out of three of the following people give these presentations: the CFO, the investor relations person, and the CEO. The CEO has some chance of making the presentation interesting because in theory he or she has the brass balls/ovaries to say something slightly edgy.

But if you were to pick out of a line-up exciting presenters, you probably wouldn’t pick any CFOs. Think about what they do: make numbers add up correctly. Personally I would be incarcerated right now if it were not for some great CFOs like Bill McDonagh (now at Walden Venture Capital) with whom I worked in the past. CFOs are critical guys, but they are not the go-to guys for spine-tingling excitement.

The other weird phenomenon is what the companies and investors focus on. I call this a self-fufilling prophecy. The investors want to know how big the Average Selling Price (ASP) of the software is. The bigger the better, naturally. One thing I noticed that is somewhat new since I last did these presentations is that companies talked about how many deals were over $100K in size. The more the better. This is dysfunctional in my mind because there are ways to make money and produce great margins without huge expensive software. But an endless loop exists with investors wanting this and companies feeding their lust.

Another dysfunctional metric is how many sales people do you have and how many are you hiring. As if huge sales forces were the only answer. Investors are looking for the leverage. Meaning: you spent all this money developing the intellectual property, you can sell it now, so now ram it down the throats of more customers.

I think the opposite is a lot more exciting. Once you understand the power of really good, lightweight software sold at a great value with lower distribution costs, you understand a much more efficient and exciting business model. But people who think this way aren’t real common at investor conferences. Some day I think this will change.

Not everyone was boring. Ali Jenab, CEO of VA Software was great. He is a sharp guy. He had led a compelling turnaround, and he gave the audience a lot of interesting content. His challenge is that VA Software’s media businesses: Slashdot, Freshmeat, and Sourceforge.net are highly distinct and have considerable potential, but their software business doesn’t seem anywhere near as interesting. You can bet that because they are public, with a guy like Ali running the show, there are strategies he cannot talk about that are in the works.

Which brings me back to boring presentations and the herd-mentality about business models. The opportunity exists for public companies to say something really interesting, rather than trudge through the same crap every other company does. Although Sarbanes-Oxley has neutered these guys to some extent, a financial conference pre-Enron collapse was not much different. I have never actually fallen asleep in one, but I need a lot of coffee and Coke.

The real troubling thing is the same-ness to the business models: expensive software requiring expensive sales costs.

But forget it. That’s why I work in a private company like Atlassian that does everything totally counter to these types of companies. And has better performance. ☺

27.2 Billion Blogs Are Not Enough

Certainly not. Why else start a blog? Technorati searches 27.2 billion blogs. Surely the world must be in desperate need of another.

Fact is I only can think of sound reasons for not starting a blog. For starters, one should poke hot needles in their eyes before starting a blog. Why? Because…

1. I need another RSS feed like I need a rabid orangutan swinging a sledgehammer at my teeth. I have too little time to read my New York Times subscription. Long ago I gave up on the time commitment the Economist requires. I am still adapting to the stress and guilt of fifteen saved episodes of Saturday Night Live on Tivo. Right. Another blog.

2. How many of the bloggers out there actually were Journalism or English majors? Who taught these people to write? Surely most of them must own The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, or some other handy reference on grammar and writing. Surely.

3. After you read Paul Graham, Guy Kawasaki, Joel Spolsky or a few other of your favorites, I am sure there must be a good million bloggers with something equally insightful to say. That requires only 1 in every 27,200 is brilliant. Aren’t these reasonable odds?

4. There are lots of easy to remember URLs available, so snap one up, flail away at your blog, and launch http://www.rutebega-wind.com. I think it’s available! Or http://www.dog-poop,com. Damn! It’s gone, but http://www.dog-poop.net or the softer, more introspective, more community-oriented http://www.dog-poop.org is available and can clearly differentiate you.

5. There are no shortage of opinions on the web, and upon deep inner reflection, I realize I need lots of advice from total strangers grazing out there. It adds an element of risk and excitement to take advice over the Internet from people who may have driven their own financial portfolio into burning oblivion, who recently have been released from some maximum security prison, or whose level of medication has reached the point that only blogging can release their demons. These must be people I need. 27.2. billion of them will not begin to satisfy my lust.

Yes, I can think of countless reasons for not starting a blog. Perhaps even 27.2 billion if I had the time to ponder.

So with that, I am here. Howdy.