Hate your job? Make the Choice to Quit !!!

I came across this blog post by a fellow career changer on how to change careers gracefully. https://medium.com/architecting-a-life/639961f9210 Grace is something I work on and does not come naturally to me. They called me Caveman in the army. I like to attack problems and problem makers head on. That said I still grapple with choice.


More often than not the biggest problem maker in my life is me. With each opportunity comes a thousand obstacles in my head. I blame this on my near-term pessimistic outlook and years of training as a software guy where you spend a lot of time telling people why things won’t work. That said I’m internally and eternally optimistic for myself, for software, and for humanity, at least in the long run. This makes me good at being on the right side of trends in technology and life. (I took my entire life savings out of the market in 2006 with a net gain and put it back in later gaining another 50% in the process. )

Despite being rewarded for most of the brave moves in my life I still struggle with doubts. Rewind back to 2008 and I was a corporate shill at Microsoft. Despite climbing the ladder for 5 years I found myself unhappier than ever. Everything about what I was doing and where I was going and where the company was going left me less than compelled. Despite the many nagging doubts about leaving my cushy career I started planning. Eventually I was able to walk away from Microsoft and into an acqui-hire situation that saw me wealthier and happier than ever with more freedom than anyone should enjoy.

Alas, even this new job didn’t remain compelling but now I had an even bigger problem. I now required a lot more money to maintain my new standard of living. Money is a trap. It’s often easy to obtain and even easier to spend but what will happen when the money runs out? Your dependence on money is the main reason your trapped in your job but how much misery are you willing to endure to avoid the discomfort of standard of living decrease? Life is too short to be trapped in anything. I can guarantee that you, I, and everyone will look back from our death bed and regret every situation in which we hesitated to be brave.

We live in a time where access to life improving technologies, methodologies, and philosophies has never been greater. So why is everyone so damn miserable?!  I personally think it’s because we’ve become trapped by modern life and we’re so damn busy with it we can’t even see our cage. What is the Matrix? It’s all around you. It’s everything you see and do.

the matrix

Just like Neo I eventually saw my cage.  While I can’t stop bullets I certainly no longer feel trapped. I have the power to change my life and can do anything I want and so can you. All you need to do is make one simple choice. Choose to live with the consequences of leaving your cushy job and happiness is yours. Everything from there is as they say, gravy.

By the way I’m hiring brave developers. 😉

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The (Pending) Mobile Revolution

I haven’t been very public about where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to. The truth is after a few years of doing the SharePoint thing I found myself asking “How am I truly helping people and business?” Nothing I was doing in SharePoint was helping workers. Companies were hiring me to do the same lame stuff over and over again. This was on top of a less than graceful midlife crisis which saw me divorced, broke, and half way across the world with 3 more kids than I started with. I figured while I had the opportunity I would step back, focus on my family, and collect my thoughts.

The first attempt to get back into it was a little venture called SnapWorkSocial. We all saw how social was changing how we communicated and it was only a matter of time before it became ubiquitous in the enterprise. But while I was smart enough to see the coming revolution, I wasn’t resourceful enough to capitalize on it. I ended up building an amazing, easy to use social product that integrated with SharePoint better than anything out there, but just as we were about to release Microsoft decided to make the bold move to buy Yammer. At that point it became very difficult to convince customers to buy anything social for SharePoint that wasn’t Microsoft. With hosting and development costs racking up I decided that it was better to pull the plug than try to swim upstream in that torrent. I wonder how NewsGator is doing 😉

At first I was optimistic that we would find a way to stay relevant, but as weeks gave into months I realized that wasn’t happening. Disgruntled and broke, I looked around for other opportunities, but after being burned a few times you start to get a bit trigger shy. This is when I started experimenting with mobile.

Mobile is amazing. We walk and drive around with all this power in our pocket. Connectivity is nearly ubiquitous now. The average device is now as powerful as the average laptop was 4 years ago with nearly as much resolution. This is why I’m dismayed.

I’m dismayed that even though I have all this power in my pocket it goes unused. Ask yourself, what do you do with your phone? Check email? Browse your company social feed?  A very famous computer scientist once said I hate (devices). It’s all about consuming, not producing and he’s totally right! (I’m looking for the quote)

Why can’t you produce on your device? Is it the form factor? Is it the lack of hardware keyboards/mice? Or is it simply that the apps that are available don’t translate well to productive experiences?

There are great experiences on the phone. With Mailbox I can achieve inbox zero which is a great feeling.  The truth is that mobile isn’t there yet for the productivity worker, but then why are all these workers BYOD’ing? There must be something compelling about it. The truth is I think BYOD at the moment is about 2 things. 1. The consumer in us is impressed with our consumer device experience so much that we understand inherently how it could improve our work experience and 2. We are addicted to control and mobile devices help us stay in control by keeping us informed.

So I can consume well on my mobile, but what about producing? Certainly your company didn’t hire you to be a consumer. It want’s you to produce. The truth is the apps we have available today are not able to make us ‘productive’ producers on our devices. In part 2 I will discuss the barriers to mobile productivity and show how app maturity and worker expectations are overcoming those barriers.


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The future of Windows dev is here?

In a recent post I surmised that based on lots of sorted news about Windows 8 and Office that Microsoft was a paying a lot more than lip service to the HTML5/javascript future of the web. Later I talked about how Silverlight ambiguity was a bad thing for SharePoint online development. In both posts I hinted that this was ultimately a good thing due to potential for better cross-platform compatibility and that while throwing away years of .Net dev sounded horrible, it was ultimately the right thing to do.

Since my last post a few things have changed. Our product company, (hint: SnapWorkSocial), decided to pursue Silverlight over HTML/javascript due to a number of things including a better Office 365 story and I’ve been busy refactoring ever since. During this process I’ve fallen even more in love with Silverlight. If there was ever a beautiful programming language it’s XAML (the core of Silverlight and WPF) and I just love the flexibility and power behind this simple XML based language. Months of dev on SharePoint using ASP.Net/C#/HTML/Javascript have been ported to XAML and improved in just a couple of weeks. It’s sad to think that in a couple of years we’ll have to switch back due to Silverlight deprecation. Or will we?

The techcrunch blog is a fav or mine and I follow it religiously. However, unlike most of their readers I’m not building a startup on the back of some open-source framework. If Microsoft ever get’s mentioned over there it’s usually in a not so flattering light. So imagine my surprise to see this exciting post about Jupiter. It states that Jupiter is not the departure from .Net many imagined, but a way to build HTML compatible apps on Windows, Phone, and presumably Office using the XAML and C# I know and love. I don’t know if it’s true but if it is what a great turn of events!

I guess a lot remains to be seen and those lucky enough to have their golden ticket to the sold-out Build conference will likely get the 1st look. I will be closely monitoring twitter and other channels for any glimmers of hope.

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The SharePoint UX. Was: The Ultimate SharePoint Killer

As promised, I wanted to follow up to my post https://jmikewatson.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/sharepoint-rumors-of-my-demise-have-been-greatly-exaggerated/ about what will kill SharePoint, but then I noticed this blog post http://www.sharepointstories.com/2011/08/is-sharepoint-too.html which seemed to parallel my own thoughts. Here’s what I wrote about UX….

SharePoint is ripe for disruption. It’s a product that while ticks most boxes does so in kind of an ugly way. As an entrepreneur I’ve learned that the new web is less about substance and a lot more about flash. A lot of that flash is based on user experience. Some companies get it. Dropbox, a glorified file backup service, is hugely successful. Why? Because they get user experience. Apple for example, doesn’t always build the most capable devices, but they have mastered the UX on the iPhone then the iPad and in doing so have even surpassed Microsoft in market cap. SharePoint’s UX is well, lacking. Talk to any SharePoint hater and they all cite how difficult it is to use. As a 10 year SharePoint veteran (has it been that long?) even I struggle sometimes to do seemingly simple tasks.

Is it me or is there a theme developing?

1. SharePoint introduced.

2. We become champions.

3. Patiently await more and better features

4. UX remains the same

5. iPhone comes out.

6. We start using iPhone (then iPad)

7. Wow, this is hot. Why can’t SharePoint act like this?

I noted in my SharePoint, now with HTML & Javascript post that Microsoft is likely making investments in cross-platform compatibility due to it’s new love for HTML5/Javascript. I trust this will also improve the SharePoint UX because there are standard ways of doing things in the javascript world that we all know and love. That said, I’ve been let down before.

While a large portion of my own livelihood comes from shoring up Microsoft’s UX I think too much of a bad thing is ultimately bad for business. This would be my guidance if I were in charge.

1. Product managers – No one in the product group listens to you. Why?

2.  Dev team Program Managers – How about leaving the safety of the nest and get out and do what those product managers were supposed to do in the 1st place? Perhaps, working 10-15 years in the same place is bad for the product, no? Perhaps, using the product and even having to implement it for customers might change your perspective a bit.

3. Hire a Steve Jobs type (UX guy with some balls) and put him in charge of the product team. Nothing gets out until it’s perfect.

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Why Silverlight Ambiguity is a Bad thing for Office 365

In my post yesterday on next generation SharePoint speculation, I surmised that Silverlight is beginning to look a lot like Microsoft’s ginger-headed stepchild. (yes, I went there) I’m definitely not the 1st or most pessimistic person to talk about the Silverlight roadmap. Checkout MossyBlog who was originally the Silverlight lead or something important like that. I would be pissed too if I became a Silverlight expert and champion only to see this ambiguity and trepidation arise around the technology.

This all seemed to start around the iPad release. The big news was that it didn’t support flash cause well, flash is a powersucker, crappy technology, and deep down inside I think Steve Jobs would like to buy Adobe and burn it to the ground. That’s great, but what was missed in the news is that no browser plugins were supported on the iPad. That’s because plugin’s suck and Jobs set us all on a path of HTML5 love touting universal device support. Unfortunately, HTML5 is just barely supported by anybody at the moment so it was a bit early to pull the plug-in (see what I did there) but here we are anyways.

It’s still very early but with Windows 8 adopting this brave new HTML world and Office looking like they will do the same one has to wonder what will happen to Silverlight now. I’m a very late adopter of Silverlight. It was way after this all started when I created my 1st real Silverlight project. Here’s why Silverlight is great and why it’s potential demise is a bad thing for SharePoint Online/Office 365.

  • Everyone is scared to build Silverlight apps now – With so much fear out there over the roadmap every would be Silverlight project is now becoming a sandbox solution or some sort of HTML/jQuery monster. This is good in that people will be prepared for the future, but bad in that these projects could have been completed much faster or more feature rich in Silverlight.
  • Silverlight is special. Silverlight runs on the client and with that comes a lot of flexibility. For example, if you are developing for SharePoint Online you will quickly discover a load of limitations with sandboxed solutions and even out of the box web parts. It’s safe to say that we live in a web services world and most developers instantly think web services when they think cross-platform or client/server integration, but web service calls from SharePoint online no worky. However, since Silverlight runs on the client it’s game on for web services.
  • If you deployed a sandbox solution that was used by more than you and your Mom you might have discovered something called points. Points are arbitrary counters of resource utilization. These counters consist of things such as processor utilization and database calls. What is concerning is how ridiculously measly a point is. I was dismayed that even the most simple event handler consumes massive numbers of points a day. By default (if memory serves) your Office 365 site only gets 400 points by default and somewhere around (50,000) to be used by any and all site collections you deploy. I could easily see this getting used up by an application that actually does something useful for a bunch of users. The great news is that when you deploy Silverlight applications they don’t count against your resource allocation.
  • Silverlight dev is well fun. I find Silverlight to be a pleasure to code. That’s because it’s easy to mock up an application in Visual Studio or Expression Blend then extend it out to do something more than look pretty. It’s about the XML or  XAML in this case. Working with XML is just easy and it’s something sorely missed in traditional technologies.

With all that said, it’s not like Silverlight is going to disappear before the next version of Office 365. That means we have a while to worry about it, but who wants to build an application when  they know they will have to refactor it not 2 or 3 years down the line. This is a big problem. Don’t believe me. Go check out the Office 365 marketplace. Known as Microsoft PinPoint to us partners. A quick peruse of the listings reveals a surprising stat. There are few if any real products listed. Most “products” are really just smoke and mirrors for services efforts. Why? Cause it’s unclear how these vendor on-premise solutions can be refactored to work with Office 365. You might even be surprised to know a few vendors have set up listings with no actual products just to gauge interest. It’s certainly unclear how to package and deploy these solutions like an app. The marketplace may become an app store one day, but it will not be this day.

For me own products, we are considering porting them to Silverlight for Office 365 because of the aforementioned advantages with the main disadvantages being lost time and lack of iPad support. We hope Microsoft will do us a solid and keep XAML around for a while. Perhaps not as a plugin deploying, iPad sucking, second-tier technology, but as Microsoft’s best way to deploy HTML5 compatible applications. That would be a great story indeed.

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Next Generation SharePoint, now with HTML and Javascript!

The perennial Microsoft news breaker Mary-Jo Foley has an eye on all things Microsoft and has interpreted through job postings that the next generation of Office will not only support HTML5, but there will be some sort of design application for extending Office applications with HTML5/Javascript probably wysiwyg style. No surprise there. However, a very important bit of perspective here is that Microsoft recently pissed off legions of dotnet developers by announcing that Windows 8 will also support these HTML5/Javascript widgets. One can extrapolate that these widgets will probably run on Windows 8 and Office 15 thereby unifying the developer platform on both. How cool is that!

So now your web parts will be interchangeable between Win8 and SharePoint. What else currently supports Windows and SharePoint. Yep, Silverlight. Based on the recent news that the XAML team was trisected and moved you can kind of see a story developing here. At worst, I would expect Silverlight deprecated. At best, I would expect XAML based applications to build HTML5 compatible apps for Windows and SharePoint. Either way, what we are seeing is a unification of developer stories across Microsoft centered around HTML. Although I’m heavily invested in .Net, I do see this as a positive development all-around. It means that in the future programming will no longer be device specific. My iPhone app will work on my windows 8 device, SharePoint, and presumably, my Windows phone. That’s big news for everyone! This also means that Marc Anderson just became the most powerful man in SharePoint. (like he wasn’t already)

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SharePoint: Rumors of My Demise have been Greatly Exaggerated

A provocative post over on the bamboo solutions company blog suggests that SharePoint is going away. As someone who’s called the end of Microsoft Office and even the end of the Document as we know it I’m obviously an authority on these matters. Let me explain.

I love a good fight and I constantly root for the underdog. I love it when a scrappy up and comer takes out the champ. Many of us do. It’s in our blood. We loved it when Clinton defeated Bush. We loved it when the Red Sox beat the Yankees. We loved it when America sent the Brits packing. We loved it when Lutherism unseated Catholicism. We loved it when Christianity destroyed Rome. You get the point.

In order for SharePoint to die it needs a killer. Someone to take him out and take over and there’s plenty of competition. There’s document management wannabes like box.net. There’s the Google apps platform play.  There’s BI guys. There’s CMS guys. There’s social guys. Look at SharePoint’s wheel of features and you’ll find tens of vendors in that space including 1 or 2 leaders. There’s plenty of competition. Do you see the problem?

While SharePoint may have competition it lacks any serious challenger to its dominance. While I’ll stop short of saying that SharePoint’s eventual replacement isn’t already out there somewhere what I do know is that no technology can stand toe to toe with SharePoint in the ring. SharePoint is just too broad and too powerful as a platform. Few vendors are capable or willing to make the investment necessary to seriously challenge SharePoint and even if they did that would be a 5 to 10 year uphill climb.

Now that I’ve addressed the obvious I do want to say that I agree that SharePoint will die. Eventually, all things do. And in the spirit of the posts that provoked this response I do think (and have heard from other speculators) that SharePoint (the message) may become buried in re-brands such as Office365. That’s fine. Even expected, but SharePoint isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The install base is too large, the feature set too needed, and the price too right.

Update 1 [ Follow up 1, Follow up 2, Follow up 3]

Update 2 [ Marc Anderson has compiled a list of blogs discussing this issue at http://sympmarc.com/2011/08/07/sharepoint-is-going-away-a-compendium-of-content/]

P.S. I plan to write a follow up on Office 365 vs SharePoint and another follow up on who I think will eventually kill SharePoint. Stay tuned.

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