Monday, July 28, 2008

In Minnesota - Film at 11

Those of you who follow my Twitter stream already know about the excruciatingly long road trip I took from Oklahoma to Minnesota on yesterday. It's all because of a friend who's sick with Myelofibrosis and is hoping to get into a experimental drug treatment program at the Mayo Clinic. It seems that, at the moment, they are on the leading edge of research and treatment of this unique and fairly rare disorder.

The drive up was pretty very long (12 hours total with many detours and a hearing a lot of 'recalculating' from 'Edna', our GPS unit) but fairly uneventful. I was hoping to get a lot of cool pictures since we were going through three states but the coolest thing I got was a bit of an odd picture of a cloud after passing through one of the hardest rainstorms I'd ever been in as we drove through Iowa.

I'm saying Iowa and Minnesota...not to exciting places.

We're only on day one of six that we'll be here and I'm already wishing for the advanced and hip lifestyle of Oklahoma. Yeah, really, it's that bad.

Anyway, it's 7:00am and we're getting ready to head to the Mayo Clinic for the first round of testing. This testing phase will last the duration of the week and will determine if they are eligible for the program or not. We don't know what to expect and we're not even sure how long we'll be here, though we were told to plan for six days.

While I'm here, I'm hoping to get some good content though. I'll update both this blog and my twitter feed with pictures, audio, and video, and I'm trying to setup an interview with both the head of IT at the Mayo Clinic and a few of the researchers at their cancer institute. I'll also post a few pics and videos of the cool stuff I find as I explore the area later this week - assuming there is cool stuff in this area.

So don't expect a lot of tech related posting this week. It's all going to be trip related unless something major comes up like Hilliary Clinton executes a hit on Barack Obama, Dick Cheney goes 'hunting' again, or Steve Jobs finally discloses he definitely doesn't have cancer because he is, as we all already know, a clone of the real Steve Jobs who died in the late 1990's.

OK, I'm not serious about the Steve Jobs thing. Not totally.
The Hillary thing though? I could totally see that happening.

Enjoy your day folks!
I'll be up to my ears and slathered in Mayo all day.
Isn't that a great image to start your workweek with?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Twitter: On life support, but pulling through

A few weeks ago, we discussed the technical woes of social networking site Twitter and what, at the time, looked like it's slow but impending death from the numerous and growing technical issues they seemed to be suffering coupled with their seeming inability to fix them. It was, indeed, a sad tale because is one of those services that you really hope doesn't go away. They've built a great concept service; one that, if they can get it to work reliably, could really change the world.

So it's nice to see that the team is not just sitting idly by sipping lattes and burning through cash while Twitter crashes around them. Evan, Biz, and the engineering team have been hard at work squashing bugs and it looks like Twitter is becoming better for it.

I don't see the Fail Whale as much these days as I used to and, with the exception of not having the ability to page through tweets pas the last 20 or so and the massive follower count problem from yesterday, the service seems to be stable and well on the mend. Twitter might just pull through after all and that prognosis is looking better and better all the time as new team members are being brought on and big problems are being solved. The clueless developers I wrote about in my last post have either been fired or gotten a clue because they seem to be kicking ass right now.

Keep up the good work guys.
Your users aren't going anywhere.
We're here right behind you all the way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to set up the perfect home office

For the last two months I've been doing an experiment to see how self-disciplined I can be. I've eschewed the chains of going into an office every day and have been working mostly from home. I've got what I consider the perfect home office setup, have gotten the tech I need in line and configured, scheduled time with friends and family so that they know that even though I'm 'home' I'm not 'available' anytime they want to drop by, and have done my very best to create a great office work experience to my home office. And I've learned something; something I never really believed before:

First: working from home is hard work.

As a geek, choosing, buying, and configuring the technology for my home office was a breeze. That took me all of two days. But creating an 'experience' that let me feel productive was a bit trickier. I'm still tweaking that a bit.

Here's what I've learned so far that's helped me create a great business experience right in my own home:

1. Start with your work area. I'm not interested in the home office deduction so I setup my work area in a small area of my family room. There, I found a nice desk that was big enough to fit all my stuff but not so big that it encroached on the room space. Because I'm cheap, I looked at a few used ones but none of them looked 'right' so I ended up buying a basic black desk from a local office supply shop for about $250. It's big enough to fit everything I need to work with (laptop, files, pads, paper, etc) but small enough where it's not the focal point of the entire room

Next, I wanted a comfortable chair. I looked at some of the office supply stores but they were a bit pricey. While I want to be comfortable during the long hours spent at the computer, I also know comfort doesn't have to cost $500. After looking around, I chose the basic executive chair from Walmart for about$129. It's nice, comfortable, and goes nicely with my 'office' color scheme. Sure, it probably won't last more than six months but it's all I need right now.

2. Get your tech right. I have a friend who's a graphics artist and she is always on the go. But it's not productive work. She's either going to Kinko's or running to the office supply store to send a fax, or trying to determine if that phone call coming in on her home phone is business or personal. I'm astounded at how much time she wastes just shuffling stuff around when a few extra minutes of consideration could have saved her tons of time.

First, I can't emphasize this enough, get a separate business number so you know that an incoming call is business or not. I use my cell phone exclusively so I solved this problem by buying a SkypeIn number from Skype and then forwarding that number to my cell phone. Now, when I see a call come in with the caller ID of 0123456789 I know it's a business call because I know that's the caller ID Skype gives to forwarding calls. Granted, I could have, and probably should, get a real world phone line, but then I have to ask why? This works just as well and is a bit cheaper.

Skype also provides our geographically spread out team with IM and voice/video conferencing capabilities so there's often no need for face to face meetings when a quick IM or video/voice call would do. Skype is reliable, efficient, and just the right fit for us all.

Next, I've changed my mobile phone plan to reflect more how I work. Most of my phone calls are made from my home office and I have high speed Internet, a wireless router, and a Blackberry Curve capable of being used as a WiFi phone. So I called T-Mobile and subscribed to their HotSpot @Home service which lets me route my phone calls over my router when I'm within range. The benefit? Crystal clear reception with no dropped calls and no minutes taken from my wireless plan when I'm at my house. Last month, I used 120 of my 1000 wireless minutes. Yet I actually was on the phone far more than the 1000 minutes of my plan. But, because these calls went over my router, I wasn't charged for them. Thank you T-Mobile!

Now, let's talk PC. Unless you just like big, bulky, boxes, or you need the raw power that only a desktop PC can give you, there is no reason not to equip your office with a laptop only. I bought a slightly dated Acer laptop for under $1000 and it's serving me well. Best part is, if I want to go work at the park for the day, I can close the lid, slip it in its case, and take my work anywhere. And, because I subscribe to Blackberry Internet Service on my Blackberry, I can simply plug in my phone to my laptop and use my phone as a high-speed modem to access the Internet from anywhere.

Next, let's discuss email. It was the simplest problem to solve of all. Nearly every hosting provider allows you POP3 access to your email and some even allow IMAP. But, I've found, reliability is an absolute must when you're not in the same office with people and can't just walk into the next office and talk to them. So we're moving our email over to Google Apps hosted email for domains. Using that, we can keep our same email addresses we have now, but move away from the fragile infrastructure our hosting provider runs and onto a fully pimped out mail system. We have access to our email via POP3 and IMAP and can even have our own branded version of GMail as webmail to our domain. All of this hotness is free from the fine folks at Google.

Faxing. There's not a huge market for fax services anymore but there are a lot of solutions out there from running to the corner library or copy store to running your own fax machine. I hate interrupting my workflow just to run out to fax something and I loathe the idea of getting a phone line just for the one or twice a month fax. So I subscribe to a service called eFax which allows me to send and receive faxes via the Internet. I get my own fax number which then delivers to my email account and I can simply attached documents, pictures, etc, to an email and send them to eFax for immediate outbound faxing. It's cheap. It's affordable. It works.

For product demonstrations, trainings, and walk throughs, we use a combination of two web conferencing platforms: DimDim and WebEx. Because of stability and costs, I've found need for both of these platforms. More often than not, we use DimDim for internal trainings and meetings and WebEx for product demos, trainings, and other customer facing interactions. In fact, we're doing a major product training on July 25th and are using WebEx exclusively. While WebEx does cost (DimDim is free) there are simply a few things that the service offers that we can't live without. It's worth the extra money.

Using a combination of the right technology and a bit of self-discipline, I've found that I can be just as effective as when I was face to face every day and, sometimes, even more so. Gone are the constant 'knock knock' interruptions, the trying to concentrate while people in the hall have a discussion better had in private offices, and, perhaps most importantly, it's helped me become a cost cutter. Instead of providing me with an office, services, and all the trappings of the CEO suite, my company can now focus on passing those savings onto our customers. I, for my hand in it, am having just as good an experience as if the company was providing the amenities with the added bonus of working from home!

3. Make sure your friends and family understand the difference. It can be a big adjustment for friends and family to accept that, even though you're sitting at home, you're still at work. My advice is to set regular hours and stick to them. Don't accept personal calls during those hours. Let them go to voicemail. If they really need to talk to you they'll leave a voicemail and you can decide to call them back or not. Trust me, people get to the point a lot quicker in voicemail than a live phone call. Ten minutes of ambling conversation can be reduced to a minute or less of voicemail and you get the same information in a better format.

That's it! Running a home office has been one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. I still do have to do face to faces every now and then but those time wasting meetings are almost a thing of the past.

It really is the best of both worlds.
Oh, and the total cost for running my 'office' from home? About $300 per month.
Try doing that in a traditional office.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Source: Medicine's Killer App

A few months ago, my company was contacted by a small medical clinic in the northwest asking for us to provide a quote for services. I could tell that the physician emailing me wasn't terribly tech savvy so I went through our expanded interview process to allow me to adequately determine what they really need from what they thought they really needed.

What I learned from our assessments astounded and saddened me.
But it also brought home to me the importance of open source in the medical field.

This provider, a small provider by any means, had very simple needs. She needed an electronic medical records (EMR) package that would allow her to store her patient data, lab results, do some cross referencing, go through encounters, etc. Standard fare for most EMR products and definitely specifications that our product, OpenEMR, was built around.

In the end, we quoted this client $22,000. That price included customization, configuration, staging, and deployment within her clinic. It also included a full day of training for her small staff to get everyone comfortable with the new system and work all the kinks that always pop up when users get their hands on the system.

Personally, I though this price was fair and I was a little taken aback when I got a call from the client telling me there was a problem and she needed to discuss the price with me. I was prepared for an argument that they were a small clinic and couldn't afford $22k or some other nonsense.

What she actually told me left me speechless.

She told me that, only a few weeks before we came in, another, well known, EMR vendor had bid on their deployment. The vendor had flown someone in to 'assess their needs' and charged them $1000 per day for a three day assessment. That's right, they charged them for the privilege of going in and getting information they would need to submit a price quote!

But it gets worse.

The vendor, who I'm not going to name but really should, then submitted a one page project outline with a $150,000 price tag attached! Now, for those of you who don't already know this, not every doctor makes a million dollars a year. Most struggle with costs just like every other business and a small office like this client definitely could not afford to pay $150k for an EMR solution. But the problem was they also couldn't afford not to pay $150k if they couldn't find something cheaper.

Thank God we came along.

Now, you might be wondering to yourself why am I telling you what looks like a 'let's pat Anthony and OpenEMR HQ on the back' post. But this is anything but that. I'm telling you this because I believe that this situation drives home how important open source software is to the medical community and why we need, if anything, more of it within that community.

Not too long ago, my client wouldn't have had the option of telling this vendor to take their one page and shove it. Their options would have been between four or five equally pricey proprietary pieces of crap that met most of their needs but not all from a vendor who really didn't care at all if it met any of their needs at all.

Open source allowed her to fearlessly tell this vendor no and walk away without having the nagging feeling that she'd made the wrong decision and knowing that, while she might be able to resist them for a while, she was eventually going to have to pull out her checkbook and write a $150,000 check.

We often hear a lot about disruptive technology. In my opinion, open source is the single most disruptive technology ever invented. For better or worse, it's forcing these greedy vendors to come down to reality. Customers are no longer backed into a corner with no options but to succumb to some grinning salesperson with a sleazy smile. They might not have a lot of options yet. But they do have options. In every industry.

Medicine is, I believe, the last great mountain that open source must conquer. Because it's such a specialized field, there's a lot of interest in it, and a lot of money to be made selling open source products and services within the field, but not nearly as much software as there needs to be.

That's changing though. Smart developers all over the world are walking away from the proprietary world and applying their expertise in areas where they can make a real difference. Open source, as I've said many times before, levels the playing field where a 3 person practice can compete and be as effective as a 20 person one and a $30,000 piece of software can compete with a $150,000 one.

I'm excited to see the changes and I'm excited that OpenEMR HQ is a small part of the huge opportunity to change the world that open source offers.

Now, it's time to get back to work.
I've got a few $150,000 contracts to kill.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why I hate Apple Computer

It's official: I hate Apple Computer. Don't get me wrong, I love their products, but their business modal is one that would make even Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer gasp. In fact, it's so consumer unfriendly and so greedy that I might never buy another Apple product again.

Anyone who's ever lusted after a piece of Apple hardware knows one thing: you pay a premium to own Apple products and, once you own one of their products, they own you because it's all built in a very walled-garden sort of way. Apple has built and loves to live in a very proprietary universe.

Then, about a year ago, along came a company called PsyStar. PsyStar was, and as far as I know, still is, the first and only company to build a Mac clone. It did everything that a Mac could do (including running the Mac operating system and all Mac software) but came in cheaper and with a more open architecture than Apples own Mac products. It was an exciting development because, finally, you could get your Mac fix without having to pay the Apple tax.

We all knew it wouldn't last though.
Apple is too greedy and selfish to allow, you know, competition or anything...

This week, it was announced that Apple Computer has formally launched a lawsuit (click to read the complaint) against PsyStar claiming that the company has no right to sell its Mac clones preloaded with OS X. Their further claiming that every PsyStar Open Computer and OpenServ is running an illegally modified version of the operating system so every time PsyStar sold a system, they not only broke Apple's EULA but also infringed on their intellectual property.

Apple is demanding that PsyStar stop selling the computers and recall every single system they've sold since April. Oh, and just to make things nastier, Apple claims that PsyStar sold the systems in an attempt to damage Apple (yeah, they claim the PsyStar machines are inferior - and, to some extend, they are).

In case you haven't figured it out yet, this all boils down to money. Apple saw what happened to the PC market as IBM PC clones came to market and drove profit margins down to near zero. And they know that the same thing will happen if they allow a Mac clone maker to survive. After all, why share the market when you can simply own and monopolize it. Microsoft...errr...Apple has built an entire business on market monopolies and it looks like their ready to pull out the big guns to defend that monopoly.

Ahh, where is the Department of Justice when you need them.
Oh, yeah, they're still in Redmond...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Issues with Blogger

As some of you might already know if you follow my Twitter feed, I registered a custom domain for this blog over the weekend. I think the *.blogspot.com syntax looks bad and makes a blogs address hard to remember. So on Saturday night, I went to my registrar and signed up for cajuntechie.com. Yep, real original, I know.

Anyway, I'm used to things with GoDaddy happening fast so I was sort of surprised when I tried to go to the domain in the morning and it simply wasn't there. I called up GoDaddy and they told me that the instructions Google had given me to redirect the domain to my Blogger account were wrong and that I should do it another way.

So they changed things.
Today is Tuesday and still no cajuntechie.com

I called GoDaddy again today rather perturbed at what seemed like ineptitude and was told that the problem doesn't lie on their side but rather with a misconfiguration within Blogger that I needed to address. I should email Blogger support they said.

Yeah, that'll work.
Let's just go email Google for help
I probably would have had a better shot at getting help if I'd emailed Howard Hughes.

The upshot of this post is, here we are 4 days later with my domain not working. I have to say that GoDaddy was on top of this and even called me about the problem earlier today. But, come on Google, can't you offer a little higher level of support to your bastard Blogger customers?

Now, I realize most of you will say "why don't you just rent web space and point your domain there" and that's a good point. But it's irrelevant. Google offers a service to the public and they have the responsibility to make it work the way they say it is. Yes, my Blogger account will be gone from there shortly when I get around to setting up webspace and Wordpress. But I'm busy and don't want to mess with all the nasties right now.

So Google, I know you're busy 'doing no evil' and all that, but do you think you could maybe consider that bad customer support is doing evil?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Unwinding can be theraputic...

Yesterday, I was invited to help celebrate a youth agencies 20th anniversary. Being a beautiful Friday afternoon coupled with very little pending work made it impossible to say no.

And, boy, am I glad I didn't say no!

We spent the afternoon playing volleyball then chess, and eating way too much food. And I met some of the most amazing young men you could imagine. Smart, loving, and focused, some of these guys are going to go to the top one day. And I can't wait to see it.

The picture above is of a heated volleyball game in mid serve. Things got tough but everybody had a great time. And, I have to say, though I arrived home physically exhausted from nearly 5 hours of volleyball, I felt more relaxed than I have in month.

I think I could get used to this. Maybe I should touch base with Penelope Trunk.

VOLLEY!!!!!

More Monday!

--
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let's end the backroom deals and shed light on our Congress!

One would think that in a representative republic like the United States, our elected officials would embrace every opportunity to communicate with us. Reaching out to us on television and radio is fine, but it's hardly what one could call two-way communication. With the growing public acceptance of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we should be able to expect a new level of interaction with those elected to represent us. These tools allow us to interact with our lawmakers in real-time and allow them to keep us informed on what's happening in our government in a very 'at the moment' sort of way.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees these government changing technologies in a good way. While many representatives such as Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) are embracing services like Twitter, others, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, would rather us not know too much about what goes on in the hallowed halls of our Congress. In fact, Congress is currently debating whether to relax standing rules that prohibit or severely limit members use of social tools like Twitter or blogs, or Qik video broadcasting without prior approval of the content by House leadership. Any guess where Speaker Pelosi falls on this issue?

It's no secret that Pelosi isn't a friend to the concept of open democracy. But her opposition to removing restrictions that prevent Congress from effectively communicating with the public is yet another sign of the Nazi'ish, authoritarian, House that Pelosi likes to run.

Speaker Pelosi, and those who favor keeping the rules in place, say that, in many matters, discretion is a must. What would happen, after all, if Rep. Culberson were to broadcast some "super secret" vote or meeting over his Qik channel or post it to his YouTube channel? While I agree that the results of doing such things in certain situations could be damaging, I'm wondering if Speaker Pelosi has forgotten a very important fact:

These are the people we've elected to run our whole country on our behalf. They're not 5 year olds running around with a video camera filming mommy in the shower.

If we can't trust them not to film or broadcast sensitive material, how in hell can we trust them with our welfare? Holy crap, these people have the power to authorize the use of nukes but they can't discern when is a bad time to use a video camera?

The reason, of course, for Pelosi and her ilk's opposition to loosening these restrictions is that they don't want people like Rep. Culberson to do what he has stated he wants to do: create a truly transparent government where Congress can't hide in the shadows where there are no television cameras or reporters and backroom deals can be cut without the public finding out until it's too late to stop them.

Thankfully, brave men and women in Congress and ordinary citizens tired of the secrecy are standing up for Congress's right to communicate with the American people. Rep. Culberson is drafting a letter as I write this to encourage the leadership to relax these restrictions and there's even been a petition started (not by Congress) that seeks to encourage Pelosi and her Congressional SS Guard to "Let our Congress Tweet".

This is not going to be easy folks. Congress has a long history of secret deals and things done in the shadows. It's only gotten worse since Nancy Pelosi has taken power as Speaker. Let's get behind our freedom fighters in Congress and sign the Let our Congress Tweet petition (you can do it via, what else, a tweet), and let's call on our officials to offer our support for freedom. There's also the non-profit Sunlight Foundation which works to free government officials from such oppression and win them the right to blog and to participate in social media conversations.

It's not going to change overnight.
But, as soul singer Sam Cooke once sang, change is gonna come.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Can Twitter be Saved?

I have to admit, the magic is gone. For nearly a year, I was addicted to a very cool web service called Twitter. It was, and still is, one of the coolest ideas around: let you update your friends, family, and others of whatever you're doing at the moment by text message, IM, or the web. Unfortunately, as cool of an idea as it is, the service is also a testament to what not to do when designing a software service.

The service has experienced so much downtime in the last year that it's gotten to be more of a shock when I go to the site and it is fully available than when it isn't. While it's not usually the whole service that's down (that has happened) there is usually some kind of failure somewhere in the system that prevents users from enjoying the full Twitter experience. Last month it was the Replies tab that was disabled, this month it's seeing your timeline past the last 25 tweets. The Twitter team, through its blog, is always aware of the issues happening in the service but the repeated nature and length of the downtime seem to indicate that they either don't have the resources to fix the problems (they just got a ton of VC money, so that's not it) or they have fairly inept software developers.

I used to make excuses for Twitter. I used to tell people that developing software for massively scalable systems was really hard and that we should give Twitter a break. But, as a software developer myself, I know how hard developing that technology is and it's not nearly so hard that a small team of good developers armed with the right tools couldn't fix it in a few months much less nearly a year. MySpace did it, Facebook did it, and even Google, who's public consumption ranks orders of magnitudes higher than that of Twitter, has done it. I'm left to believe that, the reason the problems aren't fixed are because the developers are simply not qualified to fix them. It's a huge step from being a good developer to being a good developer of a massive system such as Twitter where several variables are out of your direct control. Such systems present an enormously larger problem and the issues aren't those that can be solved by 'average' or even 'good' web developers.

I also think Twitter has largely built its house on a foundation of sand by choosing Ruby-on-Rails (RoR) as its foundational development language. While Ruby is a beautiful language with a lot of positive advantages, its relative newness means a lot of general envelope pushing, a lack of experienced developers, and the lack of a lot of the niceties other, more mature (or more developed) languages have built in. Personally, I think the smart guys who run Twitter made a very stupid mistake by building it on RoR.

So, what do I believe could fix Twitter? I don't really think it would take a whole lot. But it would take a commitment by Twitter to scrap almost everything they've done and redesign from the ground up.

First, they need to abandon RoR and go for something more stable like C# or even Java. Personally, I prefer C# as it feels more modern than Java and offers a little more stability and ease of use. But either way, C# or Java, Twitter has to move away from RoR. Everywhere.

Next, they need to redesign their message queue. This is probably the most important part of Twitter (as it routes messages around the system) and it's broken. It doesn't work reliably and there's a lot of inefficiency They need to rethink the design of the queue with millions of users in mind and make it better and more robust. The current queue simply isn't cutting it.

Twitter also needs to open its mind to other technology. While I'm not a Microsoft fanboy, I've seen some impressively massive setups of SQL Server and Windows Server 2003. One thing Microsoft does very well is scalability. Twitter might want to consider, even with the additional cost, buying some non-open source Microsoft love.

Lastly, and this is probably going to be the most painful of all, I think Twitter needs to replace its developers. I'm not saying they're bad developers. But they have proven to be very 'wall gardened' developers, not thinking far outside the RoR box for the solutions they need. When your service is in crisis and facing mass user defection, you don't debate language ideology or evil vs good companies. You find technologies that will save your service and you use it. Twitter developers have utterly failed on this point and I think it's time to bring in some new blood.

Do I think Twitter can be saved? Yes. But I think it's going to take some massive overhauls and more work than many developers have ever done in their lives.

Is Twitter up to the challenge?
I'm just not too sure.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Can good software change the world?

When I founded OpenEMR HQ, our mission was pretty simple: "Help drive down the cost of American health care by providing software solutions to streamline medical practices". That might sound like a lofty goal, but it's something that we don't only say as some high-flying corporate feel-good statement but something that we really believe. I believe good software can make a difference in organizations. It can lower costs, increase efficiency, decrease errors, and generally make a business better.

This fact was brought home to me and one of our sales guys during a recent pitch meeting with a potential new client. As we went over OpenEMR's features and benefits, I saw the light go on in his eyes. By the middle of the pitch he was nodding along as we made our points and, by the end, he had moved his chair up to sit right next to us so he could better understand our pitch.

At the end of the meeting, he came up to me and said something I'll not soon forget: "Anthony," he said, "if I use your software I can reduce my cost by about $30,000 a year. Do you know what that is going to mean for my patients' costs?" For a moment, I admit, I didn't fully understand. But as he continued talking I began to see how our software could not only save him money but help him be a better and more effective doctor. It could provide him with the tools he needs to better diagnose his patients, find trends within his diagnoses, and ferret out information that, had he been using paper based records, would have been impossible to spot.

Yes, it drove down his costs. But it also made him more valuable to his patients.

I've seen this happen time and time again. Not just in medicine but in fields like science, education, engineering, and service businesses. Good software can give a business that extra edge it needs to win and bad software can kill that very same business. It's more than just price. In fact, with open source software, the price means literally nothing. It's more about the agility that the software offers the business or organization. It's about the increased quality in operations.

Fortune 500 organizations have long embraced software as crucial to their bottom line and competitive advantage. Unfortunately, until now, much of that software was, because of its cost, confined to big companies and huge organizations. Open source has changed that. Using our company as an example, a physician can run an EMR package that offers them the exact same features that a $75,000 package from companies like Oracle, WebMD, Lytec, etc would but at a price tags of less than $10,000. It levels the playing field. Now, the battle becomes over the quality of care and not who has the better technology.

I'm seeing the same trends in the non-profit sector too: huge packages that used to be for the 'big boys' are now facing open source competition that brings the same software to the little guy. More efficiency. Less cost. More liquid income to support their overall objectives. That is what open source software offers.

I think we're just beginning to see what open source can do in the service world. Every day, talented developers are writing software that is knocking barriers down. Everyone will be on the same level soon and then, the winner will be determined by who is the best and not who has the best toys. That's not a bad thing at all.

As for my little company, we are pursuing our mission with a vengeance. We're forging community partnerships that will further that mission and we really believe that we can effect our society in a positive and real way.

All because of software.
All because of good software.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Do people really care about what you have to say?

The other day I was at lunch with a few friends who are about as far removed from the tech world as one can get when, somehow, the subject of blogging came up. One of my friends who I've known for a number of years asked if I would still blog if I knew people didn't read my words.

"After all," he said, "how do you know that people really care what you have to say?"

I pondered that point for a minute because I think it's something that every single person who has the gut wrenching need to sit at a keyboard and chronicle the secret and intimate happenings of their lives for the entertainment of others has to face: what happens if people simply don't care? Why, after all, would one invest the emotional energy that it takes to create a personal blog if nobody is going to read it?

I can't answer for other bloggers but I blog for a number of reasons. Mostly, I do it because I love writing. It's something I have been obsessed with since I was five years old and writing stories about epic battles between alien invaders and robots. It continued through my teen years when I fell in love with J.R.R Tolkien and D.H. Lawrence.

Throughout college I wrote nearly every day and, even though very few of my words ever saw the light of day, I continued to write with the passion and vigor of a well worn veteran. I cared about every word and I carefully crafted each piece I wrote with the same care I would if it were going to appear in The New York Times.

Time marched on. I finished college and moved into my chosen field. But my love of writing never waned and, no matter how much I tried to avoid it, I always found myself back with pen in hand. It was like an addiction. I explored different styles: personal journalling, fiction, biographical, it didn't matter. I wrote. It was burning within me and had to come out. It didn't matter if I was good or not or if anyone else ever read my words.

I wrote.

Then I discovered blogging and, suddenly, I had a way to get my words before others and allow them to stand on their own and be judged. Again, I felt the excitement and passion rise as I wrote about everything from tech to family and put it out before a potential crowd of millions. It was intoxicating. It was exciting. I felt alive.

Funny thing is that I still feel that passion every time I write a post for you to read. I feel it now as I sit in a coffee shop anxiously waiting to meet with someone who could change my life. I'm filled with nervousness but compelled to write; to reach out.

So to answer my friends question: yes, I would blog even if nobody read my words. I don't do it for others. I do it to satisfy the burning hunger I feel deep within.

But I'm always glad to have some company along the way.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Welcome

Welcome to my Tumblog. Since I killed my old tech blog and started PolitiPoint I've longed for a place I could post thoughts and share things that weren't related to politics. This blog will be that place.

Wondering what to expect? It's pretty simple: expect anything. I'm not going to limit what kinds of things I write or post here. You might get pictures in one post, video in another, audio in still another, followed in rapid succession by a bunch of text posts. And subjects might range from tech, to politics, to sex, to social media, and beyond.

Get the picture?
Expect anything.

Again, welcome to my Mindstream.
God help you all.