Australian entrepreneur with FanFooty (alive) and Tinfinger (dead) on his CV. Working on new projects, podcasting weekly at the Coaches Box, and trying not to let microblogging take over this blog.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here comes another year, not like the last one

Halfway through a six-pack, trying to code drunk on NYE and feeling like livestreamblogging ben barren style, with a sliver of Cameron Reilly chutzpah, a bit of Duncan Riley determination, and hopefully some William Pramana credibility.

2006 has been a good year in some respects, shitty in others. Family issues haven't gone well (nothing to do with me though). Startup issues haven't overwhelmed us, which I suppose should be seen as a win as the bodies start piling up (cf RawSugar). Tinfinger's burn rate hasn't got above a smoulder all year, which can be seen as a problem, but all it does in retrospect is delay our shot until '07. The opportunity is still there, perhaps even more so. Amazingly, no one launched anything that remotely resembled what we plan Tinfinger to be, despite my early blog entries which laid much of our plans out in full.

I remain confident that Tinfinger is still a proposition worth working on, because I see that the work we have put in will pay off eventually. It's a piece of piss to build a social network site, since it's just a bunch of forms and an empty database. Social network platforms are the new CMSs, it's stupid to even try making a new one. You could buy one off Scriptlance for $100 or less. That includes social news, which is just a social networks where you can enter in new URLs. The value, the distinctiveness, of most startups comes from having your own database - not AP's, not Reuters' - and having your own distinctive algorithms. For cash-strapped startups who can't pay Lexis-Nexis or whoever to rent databases, there are ways around this, you can use copyright law to your advantage to make a base from which you then develop your own unique flavour.

The key, assuming you don't have any sugar daddies (which if you're not in the Valley is almost guaranteed) is to keep the burn rate low as you grow. I can only now see that we have got our systems to the point where we actually need more iron, better connectivity, more capacity.

Tinfinger is perhaps more ambitious than is strictly healthy for two dudes. Tony's always looking for the quick fix, the more efficient method, the get rich quick scheme. I have faith, possibly misguided, in the virtue of hard work for its own sake, because I think it will teach us lessons that we need to learn to succeed. We are reinventing some wheels, but it gives us an appreciation for how valuable those wheels are. It's kind of the difference between reading a car manual or having built your own car from parts. Wait, where am I going with this again?

Oh yes, we're getting the engines warmed up for some sort of chequered flag jobby. A few burnouts to heat the tyres up and we should be cooking with gas. Hmm, creating analogies whilst intoxicated is like skinning a rabbit with your fruit salad, or something.

The Carlton Draught cans are lining up before me in a maroon wall. That was a simile, those are safer. I think.

The point of this post, if there was one, which there isn't, so this sentence peters out into nothing. Not even a verb!

Oh wait, yes, that was the point. Tinfinger is supposed to be about people. It seems to me that many of the other Web 2.0 sites are based on technology... no, I lost this train of thought too. Bugger.

In the words of Geordi LaForge: "We lost a lotta good people." Vale Vera.

Bah, now I'm getting maudlin. Happy thoughts! Sunshine and lightness! Who knows, who knows. Not me at the moment, that's for sure.

I used to be a better writer than this. Before I opened my first beer of the evening. When is it that a journalist-turned-programmer is supposed to have his best years? Is it in his early 20s, like physicists? Or in his 40s like poets?

Now the fireworks start. Sounds like gunfire in Iraq. For five minutes, I can pretend I'm in Baghdad or the Gaza strip waiting for the mortars to hit.

I suppose it's not liveblogging if I only post this at the stroke of new year's, but ah, wtf.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Withnail & I: The Sequel

It appears I may have been a bit hasty in my last post. Tony and I have been working hard for the last week or so and things became a bit heated for a while, but we're currently still business partners. In better news, Tinfinger may be close to something like a launch pretty soon. More news presently.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tinfinger down to one

A sad event today. Tony Tran has decided to leave Fansports Committee, which is the company he and I started under which we developed FanFooty and Tinfinger. I am sorry to see him go, and wish him well in the future. We finished it on a handshake, no hard feelings. For the moment I'll be continuing on alone, though in a different form.

UPDATE: Turns out I was wrong.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Australia's answer to Udell: who?

Commenting on journalist-cum-coder Jon Udell joining Microsoft, Frank Arrigo of Microsoft Australia asks:

It got me thinking - who is the Australian John Udell? ----- Mark Jones ? Paul Montgomery ? Phil Sim ?

Does such a person exist?

Does it matter?

Any suggestions?? Especially since I am also looking for someone with a passion for technology and also a desire to change the world ?

The short answer is that there is no one who qualifies. To be an Australian Jon Udell, you would have to not only be a respected practicing journalist with a long and decorated career, you would also have to be a successful author of software products, have launched your own successful Web site/s, have the solid credentials to be paid as a consultant to other companies, and have a reputation for evangelism for pioneering technologies. In Udell's words, an "alpha geek".

Australian technology journos, on the large, are not actually geeks. They may be prosumers of technology, but when it comes to knowledge and history of code or engineering, the vast majority haven't progressed much further than BASIC on their Commodore 64s, if that. That's not a knock, since journalists are trained to be generalists, and many journalists working in IT would much rather be reporting for general news desks. There are a number of Aussie IT journos who have cut code for a living, perhaps most notably Eric Wilson. I'm sure there must be other examples I don't know about, but none have reached Udell levels.

To answer another of Frank's questions: it does matter, because we need a Udell clone out here to help transition the IT journo community as the industry evolves (or devolves). Over the last five years or so, IT publications in Australia have shed most non-essential permanent staff and now rely on those ex-employees as freelancers to fill out their pages. It has got to the point where some publishers find it hard to replace their permanent staff because the freelancers enjoy their unstructured lifestyle so much. There have been some rumblings of journalists realising this situation can't last, as in the launch of Hydrapinion, but I think before this cycle finishes there will be some more radical ventures that challenge the economic structure of the industry. I'm involved in discussions for some of them so I can't say too much, but suffice it to say that I think local IT journalists are too smart not to eventually figure out that Web 2.0 is not a threat to their livelihood, but an opportunity which they are the best equipped to exploit. The Beer Files is a step in the right direction, but someone can do better than Stan Beer and Stuart Corner have at creating a new economic model for professionalism in local new media.

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