Monthly Archives: August 2007

Cancer 2.0: the Killer App

Watercolor, August 2004, of Bing Gardens at Stanford Hospital I drew during one of my in-patient chemo treatments.

Soon I’ll be going in for surgery for a re-occurrence of my cancer. I have a 2 centimeter tumor where my left kidney used to be.

I’m a cancer survivor. The year before I joined Atlassian I battled cancer for a year. It started with surgery to remove my left kidney, when they discovered a nasty tumor attached to various important things. They removed part of it. My initial stunning prognosis was 3-5 years to live.

My cancer was eventually diagnosed as an unknown cancer: sarcomatoid carcinoma. Which means it looks and acts like sarcoma [very rare bone, tissue cancer] but it may be a rare carcinoma [organ based], which means, “we have no idea.” This was exhilarating news: no statistics meant I was a data set of one, and any prognosis was bullshit.

Chemo for 4 months followed. Which was a lot of laughs. Because they didn’t know what I had, they experimented with different regimens. I had the pleasure of having Cisplatin amongst other drugs. Cisplatin is as bad as chemo gets. Chemo assaults the faster growing cells attempting to kill them. Your hair and your stomach lining are fast growing, so they can be killed by some chemo.

Side affects vary, but nausea is popular. A common cycle for chemo is once every 3 weeks. The reason is you need 3 weeks to recover from the bombing your system takes. I would lose 10 pounds in the first 5 days when I tried to eat a scone for breakfast or have a bite of a sandwich at lunch. Dinner was impossible. Smelling food was disgusting. Then on about the 6th day I would stroll down to this local French bistro and wolf down a steak and have a martini. Your taste buds get assaulted, so good wine was a waste on me. Then I would return to the clinic with my 10 pounds back.

One of the regimens required 3 days in the hospital because I had to be hydrated so my remaining kidney survived. I would gain 10 pounds of water weight in eight hours; Boy, was I attractive. They gave me a PICC line which is a tube inserted into the back of your bicep and then threaded close to your heart where the blood flow is strong. The reason is grim: the chemo is so toxic, it will burn your veins unless there’s good blood flow. Having a toxic warning to the nurses on my door was also a lot of laughs. God forbid they spilled the chemo on themselves.

Eventually my MRIs showed only modest shrinkage in my tumor, so I was sent to the largest cancer hospital in the world, MD Anderson in Houston, where a specialized team removed the remaining tumor. That surgery went extremely well as the contingent plans for a graft on my aorta and some other things-down-there-you-need never were invoked.

I was cancer free. That was a very wonderful moment after all the crap I had been through.

I then underwent 3 more months of chemo to make sure there were no bad guys hiding out. At least now I could count the weeks. December 18, 2004 was a Wonderful Day: my last treatment. I could eat on Christmas day.

The day I got my (wrong) prognosis of a few years left to live, I faced the biggest challenge of my life: not cancer, but what to tell my children? I got a copy of Lance Armstrong’s book and I remember setting it down on the table in front of Brittany and Mac and telling them the one difference between Lance and me is that I didn’t have to win the Tour de France. I only had to beat cancer.

Cancer never broke my positive attitude. Sure, for a few hours or a day I would be an emotional wreck. But I had an uber focus. I worked out almost every day. Chemo made me feeble compared to my old self but I was relentless about exercise.

I discovered I was an excellent surgery patient. I could withstand a lot of pain. I would be walking all over the hospital after surgery. I ran 2 miles 11 days after an 8 hour surgery. Slowly. I asked my surgeon when I could start lifting weights and he thought I was out of my mind. During my 3-day in-patient chemos, I asked Stanford Hospital if they had a gym. They looked at me like I was nuts: “Mr. Walker, this is a hospital.” They did get me a treadmill so I could run in my room while the chemicals dripped into me. I was on a mission. Get the fuck out of my way, thank you very much.

Prior to my second surgery, they had to stop chemo for several weeks, so I had full strength. I used this opportunity to bike the famous “loop” near Stanford University and my home. I biked every single day focused on going to Texas, getting through the surgery, and getting out of there as fast as possible.

At MD Anderson in Houston I snuck out of the hospital on the 4th night and went to my hotel across the street because I hate hospital beds. The nurses on my ward were really pissed. But they let me get on a plane home 5 days after a 4-hour surgery.

So where does that leave me now?

In preparation for this upcoming surgery, I’ll be working out every single day. I’ll be leaving work at a reasonable hour. I need to point my Type-A personality at Atlassian at something more important right now.

This re-occurrence is nowhere near as brutal as what I went through three years ago. Will I have to go through this again in 3 years? Perhaps. The way I look at it: I will certainly live 5 more years, based on currently available data. Will I live 15 more? I didn’t know the answer to that question one year ago, so nothing has really changed. In fact the behavior of the cancer is better known now: it seems to stay local.

I read fellow Atlassian Chris’ incredible blog the day before my MRI that detected this current tumor. These problems make you face your mortality. Everything gets put into play, up for grabs. Jump ball.

I have the same attitude from three years. I am Cancer Dude and I am going to kick it’s ass. Here’s my secret cancer-fighting outfit… 🙂

BarCamp Block Needs VC-Supplied Beer


I’ll be attending BarCamp Block this Saturday in Palo Alto whether or not HP opens its Garage as Robert Scoble requested. This is a great marketing and community relations opportunity for HP, and literally sitting on their doorstep. Besides it would give BarCamp the right hard core engineering vibe.

What is BarCamp?

Almost two years ago, a group of 6 San Francisco geeks in 7 days, using blogs, wikis and IRC slapped together a weekend conference with wifi, food and amazing presentations in Palo Alto, California. This was a different kind of conference, though. There were no superstar keynote speakers. There were no pre-programmed agendas. There was a brilliant agenda filled with content by and for the attendees. More than 200 people showed up and people watched remotely from all over the world. This event was BarCamp.

If HP opens their Garage, then all we need is beer. I can think of a bunch of VCs with swank offices right in downtown Palo Alto that could sponsor and serve lots of beer and food, if they were so inclined: Technology Crossover Ventures, Advanced Technology Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Trident Capital and my friend Fred Harman at Oak Investment Partners. C’mon guys, this is the pulse. Put your finger on it. Support your community of entrepreneurs.

Scoble is predicting a huge turnout. Sounds like a great opportunity for the right VCs. 🙂

And thanks to Ross and Socialtext for offering up their offices for this.

What is Enterprise 2.0?

I love it when someone does a useful, instructive job explaining terms we take for granted here in technology. Lee Lefever nailed “Wikis in Plain English” with his video. Scott Gavin explains the potentially trendy term Enterprise 2.0 simply. Although Andrew McAfee is without doubt the authoritative author on the subject of Enterprise 2.0, Scott hit the basics.

Scott even said it was “social software within the firewall” which was refreshing to see with all the blather that everything must be hosted. The fact is most enterprises want something as vital as the content on a wiki behind the firewall. Not all surely, but the lion’s share.

What still leaves me wanting about everyone’s definition of Enterprise 2.0 is that it misses an important point: Enterprise 2.0 is just another natural evolution towards lighter weight software. Doesn’t matter if it hosted, behind the firewall, social or not. Companies embraced the open source movement and software-as-a-service because they were fed up with traditional enterprise software. Lightweight software is just another movement serving this same frustration and need.

Lightweight software serves a gap in the enterprise which Jonathan Nolen articulated in an interview:

“We think there’s a huge middle ground between open source and enterprise software that hasn’t been addressed—lightweight software,” Nolen said.

This movement to lighter weight software is broader than the typical definitions of Enterprise 2.0 software. It’s about customers wanting easy to use, practical, easy to install (or hosted) software that is far less expensive and that does not entail an arduous, painful purchasing process. It’s should be simple, straightforward and easy to buy. In fact, it’s not about sales in our opinion at Atlassian.

This is why some of us believe that Enterprise 2.0 is not just about social software. It’s about a fundamental shift in the complexity and cost of software.

Why Atlassian Acquired Cenqua

cenqua_feature.jpgYesterday we announced the acquisition on Cenqua. I have already received nice, congratulatory notes from friends at Johns Hopkins University, British Telecom, and Accenture who already use Cenqua products. Here’s why we made this move:

  • Developer tools are 60% of our business. Confluence and the 2.0 market are hot and exciting, our Confluence license sales are growing at a faster clip than any of our other products, yet JIRA and our developer tools are a great business.
  • We want to build on our strengths. JIRA, our issue tracker and project management tool, is our strongest brand, and already occupies a solid position in the developer tools market. The Cenqua products are a great way to build on this.
  • The new products are highly complementary. On a scale of one to ten, the strategic fit is a ten. All three Cenqua products — Fisheye, Crucible, and Clover — allow us to create interesting new features and capabilities for developers through the combination of products.
  • The Cenqua team. The hardest assets to get in the software business are great engineers and product. The Cenqua team is flat out one of the best engineering teams we’ve seen. And they are an excellent complement to our culture.

What are the benefits now to customers?

  • For openers, Cenqua’s 2,000 customers receive improved global support and resources. The Cenqua engineering team gets freed up to concentrate on developing new features by leveraging Atlassian’s team.
  • The overlap in customers means we can simplify things for customers and give them the stability of a 100-person software company located in three cities around the world.
  • We can start to give our developer community new and interesting features. JIRA is about project management and workflow and adding Crucible code review to it would be a natural at some point. Already we have a plugin so you can click on Fisheye within JIRA and see the commits made against an issue. But there’s a lot more we can do to strengthen the combination of dev tools without forcing customers into a tightly integrated suite that is cumbersome. Our long standing philosophy remains: let people pick the individual lightweight tools they favor.
  • Simpler pricing. Atlassian believes strongly in great products at attractive prices, so we have already lined up the Cenqua products to mirror our simplified, low pricing.

What does this mean to Confluence and our wiki business? It means we are passionate about both collaboration and developer tools. We think a diversified software business is a stronger business. We have big plans for the wiki business too, but that’s another blog…