Strange Loops Genesis

The name comes from a book by Douglas R. Hofstadter called ‘Godel, Escher and Bach‘. It’s a wonderful book, covering topics such as math, science, music, logic, philosophy and more. In that book, Douglas coins the term strange loop to describe the movement through a hierarchical system where you find yourself back at where you started. He points to occurrences of these strange loops in music ( BachsThe Art of Fugue‘ ), art ( EschersRelativity‘ ) and math ( GodelsIncompleteness Theorem‘ ), among others. It’s really a tremendous book, if somewhat intimidating. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for some deep thinking / reading. His last book, ‘I Am Strange Loop‘ tackles the core concept of a strange loop and how it relates to the properties of our mind and the concept of ‘self’. Deep stuff and thoroughly entertaining.

But what the hell does this have to do with business and technology?

Well, people will tell you that in these times, it’s paramount to a startups survival to focus and hunker down in expense reduction mode, to focus on quality and being profitable. This presentation made the rounds in early October from Sequoia Capital. It’s called “R.I.P. Good Times.” In there, they preach that companies should be intently focused on becoming “cash flow positive.”

The funny thing is that’s how most companies should be run in the first place.

Here at 1530, we’re all huge fans of Eliyahu Goldratts work with the Theory of Constraints, especially the first business novel entitled simply ‘The Goal.‘ In that book, Goldratt makes a case that the goal of any company is to make money. Note that this isn’t the same this as distributing profits to shareholders. Non-profits ( NPOs ) still need to bring in money and have revenue, they just don’t distribute the money to shareholders. In the 30+ years since it’s publication, it’s amazing how many people think the purpose of their company is some long, drawn out mission statement. Something nebulous like ‘become global platform for knitting’ or ‘ease customers pain when dealing with sponges”. Those are all well and good but, at its core, your company should make money. Simple as that. That’s where you start and that’s where you’ll end.

Which is exactly a Strange Loop.

Asking the kinds of questions that lead you back to what’s best for your company financially will help steer you in the right direction.

Another reason we liked Strange Loops is because sometimes, it’s very beneficial to simply burn everything down and start over at the beginning. In a company, it frequently pays off to get rid of waste, refocus and ask yourself “is this what we do best.” Jack Welch did this when he ran GE. He famously dismantled or sold off entire lines of businesses that were not either first or second in their given field. Decisions like these will force you to focus on what you do best and not get allured by some sexy tangent or flavor of the month. Removing excess waste and clutter also has a psychological effect. It frees you to think about the future without worrying too much about some bad decision you made in the past. It allows you to move quicker and faster, without a lot of debt weighing you down.

It allows you to get back to your roots as a company.

Another Strange Loop.

Chicago Semantic Web Meetup

We had a great meetup last night. Paul Gearon of the Mulgara project gave a great talk introducing the Semantic Web. He wanted to give a second talk specifically about Mulgara, but we ended up talking and discussing so much that we ran out of time.

We had quite a diverse group of attendees, ranging from CEOs to graduate students to university professors to consultants.

Some of the topics touched on included:

  • RDF
  • Erlang
  • Semantic Databases
  • Google Andriod
  • Medical Ontologies
  • Getting started w/ RDF & Rails
  • Machine Learning

I was able to snap some pictures of the event. Find them here.

If you have an interest in semantics, I encourage you to sign up with the Meetup group so you can be notified of the next meetings.

Also, thanks to Paul Gearon for a great talk and for providing the pizza / beer!

Chicago Semantic Web November Meetup

I wanted to drop a note to everyone and mention that I’m helping to organize the November meetup of the Chicago Semantic Web Group. It’s going on tomorrow at the ITA at 200 S. Wacker. If you can make it you either need to RSVP right now or drop me an email so I can get you on the security list.

Hope to see some of you there!

Virtual Business Cards

I haven’t had a chance to create official business cards for 1530 yet, in part because I haven’t needed to and in part because we’re still waiting to finalize a logo design. However, in the mean time, I still need a way to give people my contact information when I meet them.

So, introducing my online business card I Met Griffin. That way when people meet me and need my info, I can easily tell them to google “I Met Griffin” and *BOOM* there’s all my info. Easy to remember I think.

I got the idea from seeing at the BIPO Blog.

However, I made several changes / improvements:

  1. Everything is text based, rather than Matts image-based version. I did this so the content can be indexed.
  2. I added the hCard microformat.
  3. Cleaned up the HTML a bit.
  4. Added elementary iPhone support so that if you browse to the page from your iphone, you’ll get page that looks like a tiny business card, without all of the other stuff.

All of the code is licensed under creative commons, as seen at the bottom of the page. You can download the files from the link at the bottom of the page too.

A New Day & Announcements

Well, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my initial Changes post. I’ve been putting off blogging for a bit because I have several new developments to write about. In chronological order they are:

Sept 19th marked my last day at my former employer, TrackAbout. After working there for 2.5 years, I felt it was time to move on and change direction. I loved working at TrackAbout and can honestly say that the company is composed of some of the smartest people, both technical and non-technical, I’ve ever worked with. I’m lucky to have worked with some many great people for such a long time.

As for what I have been doing for the past 2 months, that’s part of the change in direction I just mentioned. After finishing my degree in May and leaving TrackAbout in Sept, I decided it was the right time to attempt my second big life goal:

To start my own company

So, with that, 1530 Technologies, Inc. was officially born in October. We’re a product company, concentrating on sports software for the web. As soon as we have something public consumption, we’ll blog more about the platform & architecture here.

Speaking of this blog, it also had a major overhaul:

  1. First, the blog has been renamed and refocused. Previously, this was a personal blog for Griffin Caprio. As such, there was a lot of random posts on random topics. No more. This is now the company blog of 1530 Technologies, Inc. Since it’s a company blog, it’s no longer the ‘memoirs’ of someone. So, “Memoirs of a Bystander” has become “Strange Loops”. We will go into the name change and the rationale behind it in another post here.
  2. Second, the blog has been the recipient of a HUGE facelift and redesign. The old blog design was nice, but it was too cluttered and too ‘busy’. Throughout the years, I’ve come to appreciate Lean Manufacturing principles and the beauty in simplicity. Lean strives to improve quality and efficiency through the elimination of waste, where waste is defined anything not contributing value to the end product. As such, this blog has be stripped down the bare essentials:

    • The layout has been simplified and tuned by removing any unneeded elements.
    • A previous plethora of categories have been reduced to two: Business and Technology.
    • The header has been reduced to a simple blurb about the blog. No logo and no flashy graphics.
    • A new Google site search box has been added to the side bar to take over primary navigation duties.
    • The side bar has been stripped of all widgets and ‘blog bling’.
    • No more trackbacks and technorati tags. Both have waned in value and just added to the clutter.
    • We’ve also moved to a new commenting system, powered by Disqus. This provides everyone with a better commenting experience by making it easier for us to administer comments as well as use the comments on this blog to contribute to a wider discussion. Unfortunately, this also closes comments on older posts. We think this is fine because older posts tend to collect spam anyway.
  3. I mentioned that there are now only two categories for this blog, Business and Technology. For example, technology posts will cover the technical aspects of what we’re doing at 1530. So expect posts on REST, HTTP, Semantics, Constraints, Programming and Software Development. Business posts will cover the running of 1530 as well as any other business topics we’d like to discuss. Expect posts on running SaaS startups, startups in Chicago, Business Lessons ( Theory of Constraints, Lean, etc.. ) and more. Since this might not interest everyone, we’re providing category specific feeds in addition to the regular full feed. You can find them on the sidebar or below:

    Note: All Existing feeds will remain functional, so only change feeds if you’d like one of the more specific ones.

Two blog posts influenced the overhaul: Minimal and Administrative Debris. I’m such a huge Edward Tufte fan, so the fact that his philosophy meshes nicely with lean principles is a nice plus. Hopefully he’d be proud of the job we did on the blog redesign and who knows, we may strip more out if need be.

Lastly, I wanted to personally thank everyone who has been so supportive of this idea for the past few months. A good support system is essential for something of this magnitude and luckily, I have a great one.