I set a goal five years ago to blog regularly about my day job running a software company. I setup the Startup Lessons category and managed a handful of posts that year before things stalled. Since then, most of my Startup Lessons have been about related books or riffs on interesting posts.
So after a lengthy hiatus, I’ve decided to reboot Startup Lessons. My (new) goal is to write at least one post a month sharing what I’ve learned running a business over the past 15 years.
The United States Post Office (USPS) has been in the news recently, and not necessarily for the right reasons. They’re asking for $89 billion dollars as part of the pandemic bailout packages coming out of Congress to remain solvent. President Trump’s opinion is that they need to fix their operations, starting by charging more to deliver packages (specifically singling out Amazon deliveries). There have been other opinions as well, but you know things have jumped the shark when John Oliver dedicates an entire segment to the topic.
It should surprise no one that I have an opinion on how to fix the post office, too. For whatever reason, it’s something I’ve thought about for quite some time. And while I can’t describe my solution as eloquently or deliver it in the same manner as John Oliver, I’m going to lay it out anyway. Here goes.
Having a good local environment is important for doing development work, especially web development. It both saves time and makes deployment to production environments easier.
I’ve used WampServer in the past for local development. It’s served me well, but it seems to have stagnated since I upgraded to version 3.0. I had looked into switching to Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) over a year ago, but it felt like it needed to mature, which it has. So, in this post, I am going to outline the steps I took to transition my local development environment from WampServer to WSL.
The time has come. It’s time for the ‘gig economy’ companies and others exploiting employment regulations and independent contractors to step up to the plate. They need to face the facts, admit the truth, and reclassify these workers as employees. It’s time to do the right thing.
I wrote a similar article, What’s Bad for the Hive, a couple of months back. Little did I know back then that the world would change so dramatically since then. I’m going to do my best to keep this rant short, so you may want to refer back to that post first for a little background before wading into this one.
As with just about everyone, I’ve been unsettled, stressed, and concerned about the news of the Coronavirus over recent weeks, days, and hours. While I have my opinions on the virus and how events are being handled, they are just that – opinions, which I’m not going to share here. I will keep those to myself since I am neither an epidemiologist, scientist, or statistician, and I definitely did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
What I’ve found interesting is how the crisis has been handled by our government leaders, at all levels. Leaders aren’t made during good times, they are forged during times of crisis. These are my observations and lessons learned.
Philosophically speaking, I favor capitalism over other economic systems. The free market is a beautiful thing. When operating as it should, consumers are free to choose the companies and people they want to do business with. Those entities that provide the most value to consumers are rewarded, and those that don’t go out of business.
I also favor smaller government, particularly at the federal level. When the government regulates marketplaces, they alter the playing field. Their actions can significantly disrupt a market and determine the winners, even when not intended. When this happens, consumers are usually the ones who lose.
Unfortunately, my philosophical views don’t always work out for the best. There is a dark side to capitalism. There are times when unchecked capitalism is not in the public interest. In extreme scenarios, it can bring harm to the public. It can concentrate wealth among the rich through the exploitation and transfer of wealth from the public domain.
No, this isn’t a book review about gambling. although it tends to be the way most companies price their product, especially when the product is software. Why is that?
Pricing a software product is a difficult, challenging task. The problem is that the cost of software doesn’t lie in making another copy. The marginal cost to make an additional unit is effectively zero. The internet has eliminated the cost of distributing it. So if production and distribution are free, what makes software so expensive?
It’s the cost of the people required to develop, market, and sell it. These elements add up quickly and can get very expensive.
In Don’t Just Roll the Dice, Neil Davidson addresses the difficulties pricing software. And as the subtitle states, it is a ‘usefully short guide to software pricing,’ with the operative words being short and software.
If you’ve been following my latest business book reviews, you’ll notice they’ve been mostly of the storytelling type. They include The Energy Bus, The Go-Giver Leader, and Get A Grip. I like business books written in this style. They’re much easier to read than business books written like academic textbooks. They’re more entertaining, obviously. Best of all, when they’re written well, I learn from them.
Most business books tend to be dry and boring. An author introduces a framework or set of concepts. These are explored in detail. Theoretical examples of how to apply them are given. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a business book in this format that is well written and reads easily. For the most part though, these books are a slog and take me a long time to read.
The business books I like are those that weave the framework or concepts into a story. They are easier to read and entertain at the same time. While I may not be able to apply or use the concepts presented, more often than not, I read through this style of business book faster. It feels a lot less like work and is way more enjoyable.