featured, General, Microsoft

This Is The Matrix… On Microsoft Windows

25 May , 2009  

   My editor at Network World Microsoft Subnet, Julie Bort, posted this video parody of the movie The Matrix that pokes fun at Microsoft Windows. No matter if you’re a Linux fan, Mac user or you use Windows regularly, I think everyone will enjoy this video.


featured, General, Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: A Product Manager’s Dream and Nightmare

10 Jan , 2009  

If you create products (or run a business that does), it’s your professional and personal goal to create something everyone wants so badly that products fly off the shelves like Nintendo Wii’s at Christmas (and most of the year, actually). 

There are countless examples of this kind of demand, including the Wii, XBox’s, iPhone, Tickle Me Elmo, and Cabbage Patch Kids to name just a few. Now we’re seeing the online equivalent of customers banging down the virtual doors of our servers and networks to get at products. Rockies world series tickets and Apple’s MobileMe service are examples where servers cratered over the demand by users within a very short time window.

A very recent example is the public-beta of Windows 7, the successor to the much maligned Windows Vista. Microsoft had to shut down their download servers and regroup on Friday as too many requests were coming over the gun walls, causing a bad experience for everyone trying to get new bits.

As a product creator I haven’t (yet) been fortunate to have that kind of success for a product. (But you gotta believe you’ve got that in ya 🙂 ). 

Limited Supply Can Be A Good Thing

In the recent Blackberry Storm SmartPhone product launch, much was made about the Storm being the device to knock the iPhone off the top of the leader board. While the Storm certainly didn’t do that, it was a very successful product launch. It’s no doubt by anyone there would be high demand for the Storm, but Verizon stores had limited supplies of them on hand the day of the product launch. The store I visited at 6am on a Friday morning only had an allotment of 30 Blackberry Storms. All stores only had a limited few phones, and before I left with mine in hand, other Verizon stores were calling the into the store I was in looking for more phones. The warehouse was out by days end.

Certainly Verizon and Blackberry anticipated high demand upon launch of the Storm. But did they purposefully limit the number of units available on day one to help keep demand for the Storm high and in the buying market’s mind? Or were they just being prudent and protecting themselves on the backside from an over supply if the product’s acceptance didn’t live up to the pre-launch hype. The only recent product I’m pretty certain has been purposefully kept in short supply is the Wii. There’s been a shortage of Wii’s (at least a perceived shortage) virtually since the gaming console came out.

It’s A Manufacturing Problem

Then there’s the “RAM factory burned down in Japan” or “manufacturing can’t keep up” situation. Now that’s something no product manager wants to have happen. The customers are there but the product can’t get to the customer due to manufacturing.

There’s a flip side to this dilemma too. At a training course (I think it was a Florida Power and Light Quality course, but I’m not sure) we played something called the “beer game”. No, it wasn’t a drinking game like you’re thinking. It was to show how decisions in the supply chain can run afoul. You come out with the hottest new beer on college campus’ but no one anticipated that outrageous demand you’re seeing. Beer isn’t like CDs, you can’t just stamp out more… it takes time to cook. Long story short, folks in the supply chain start over ordering attempting to raise their position in the queue, and fill demand for beer money that’s been left on the table, and then… demand suddenly drops off, that beer’s not in vogue anymore. Suddenly everyone’s cancelling orders and sitting on more product than they know what to do with. It was a very enlightening scenario, which emphasized the need for systemic thinking.

Note: I always tell clients and friends I coach about blogging and social media to keep it short, three paragraphs or so. With that in mind, I’ll break this up in to more than one post.

To be continued…

featured, General

Journey To The Last Lecture

18 Dec , 2008  

I’d heard through many different paths about Prof. Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture given at Carnegie Mellon, but like so many things I want to do, I just hadn’t gotten around to checking it out. I remember hearing about his lecture on TV, seeing the book The Last Lecture when it came out, hearing others talk about it… even a good friend gave me the book to read but I hadn’t read it.

Tonight, I saw an email sitting in my junk mail folder, which I check every once in a while, and saw an email from Carol Ross’s blog. It was an email saying “Your turn” to share about something you’re grateful for. That’s an easy and a hard question for me because there’s tons of things I’m grateful for, and there are 10x more things I should be grateful for but probably go on blindly not recognizing them.

Anyway, I popped over to Carol’s blog, made a comment on a post and took a quick scan to see what she’d been writing about. For whatever reason, I saw a link referring to a project Carol worked on for a friend who’d passed away a while back. She’d told me about it, so I decided to pop over there and check it out.

At the bottom of the site is a small YouTube video (246×140) and for whatever reason I had a feeling it was Randy Pausch’s talk. It was 1 hour and 16 minutes long, it’s late, and I’m behind on the project I wanted to get done tonight. All good reasons, again, not to watch this video… just like I hadn’t read the book. Not sure what possessed me to take a different path, but I decided to watch a little bit of it. It’s on YouTube, I figured, so I can always go finish watching it if the video’s that good.

Well. I just finished the video 10 minutes ago and it has to have been one of the best talks I’ve ever seen. What caught my attention first is that Randy was a leader in the virtual reality field, something that speaks to that geek and video gamer in me. But more importantly, he was born in 1960, the same year I was born. He went through some of the same childhood experiences I had, like being fascinated watching men walk on the moon on TV in real time as it happened, and experiencing a family “driving” vacation out to Disneyland, something my family did too when I was nine or so. Hearing about his gaming the system to get to ride on the “vomit comet” in order to experience weightlessness set the hook so I had to watch the rest of the lecture.

Today, I had lunch with two friends who I’ve partnered in business with, worked with, worked for and visa versa. During our lunch, one friend, Donald, kept referring to and quoting things he said he’d learned from me over the years. I guess if I squint real hard I can kinda-sorta remember telling him those things, but not really. I told him he was giving me too much credit. I just didn’t remember saying any of that to him, but I did agree with the things he was espousing. Maybe those are things that just came across in observation, I don’t know. Donald’s very observant that way. If I did really help him in the things he said he learned from me, well… then I’m flattered and honored he’d consider them important enough to pick up and use again. What he doesn’t realize is I know I’ve learned 10x from him compared to anything he learned from me. At least that honestly is how it feels to me.

So, in the spirit of sharing what we’re grateful for (back to Carol’s email), I’m grateful for friends and colleagues who I’ve worked with and grown from in the process. I’m grateful for the long but completed path to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture video and I’m grateful for what he shared with me in that lecture.

If you haven’t watched it, here’s my opportunity to pay it forward and share Randy’s talk with you.

featured, General

Recession YTD, Brain Damage Already Done

1 Dec , 2008  

It’s official. We’ve been in a recession since December… of last year. 12 months already. CNN reports that most US recessions last 8-10 months, and global recessions average 16-18 months. Obviously we’re in a global recession, which means somewhere around another 8-12 months, if history is any indication. The tangible impact of a recession are clear; layoffs, unemployment rises, downturn in spending, failed businesses, etc.

Now I’m no economic expert, don’t play one on TV and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I have to ask, what additional deep damage has our federal government done by heralding the coming catastrophic financial, banking and credit crisis. By getting on TV and announcing we’re facing a dire financial situation, Henry Paulson and George Bush perform the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowed theater while not owning a shred of fire fighting equipment.

Just as tangible as the impact of job losses are, economies are just as much about how we perceive them – we often describe this as “confidence in the market”. If we believe the markets are going to be in the tank, they will be. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy. The reverse is true when we’re bullish about the economy – somehow we make our predictions come true. I believe Bush and Paulson have done us all a huge, huge disservice, making things even worse by all their aimless handwaving of warnings and non-specific dark cloud predictions.

The best things Bush and Paulson can do for the economy is to:

  • stop talking
  • stop appearing on TV
  • focus on transitioning to the Obama administration


Today is World AIDS Day 2008

1 Dec , 2008  

Seems like we don’t hear very much about HIV AIDS anymore. Maybe we’re over saturated with news reports, we’re just numb to it, or we thought the problem went away. If you’re like me, you recall hearing we’ve made progress and HIV AIDS isn’t growing as fast as it once was. If you think the HIV AIDS problem has gone away, think again. It might not be the biggest “killer disease” in the US but it is very much a world epidemic scale problem, with AIDS killing 1.5 million in Africa and 340,000 in South-East Asia in 2007. Worldwide there were over 2 million deaths from AIDS.

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day 2008, a day set aside some eight years ago to help continue worldwide awareness of AIDS and the impact it has on countries and people across the world. Part of my business is working the companies and individuals on social media strategies to help them become contributing members of the online world where they can reach and build relationships with customers. My own further exploration into social media caused me to get into doing more things with video. I video tape and post conferences, do online product demos and reviews, and I’ve also dedicated some time to creating video assets for social causes I’m involved in or believe in.

This week I created a video, and posted it on YouTube, about the global impact of AIDS to help increase awareness about the disease. Once the recording project I’m working on is close to wrapping up (in the next few weeks) I’ll recast the video with one of the songs from that CD.

I would appreciate it if you would take a few minutes to watch this 3 minute 35 second video about World AIDS Day 2008 and an organization I support that works with orphan children in Romania and more recently Africa, called Global Hope. You can watch the video here or check out a few of my other original videos I’ve posted on my Converging Network YouTube channel page.

Here’s a link to a document from the Joint United Nations Programme On HIV/AIDS if you would like to see more information about HIV/AIDS statistics across the world.

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Being Thankful, Always Hopeful

27 Nov , 2008  

I love irony, qwirky humor and interesting things that bring a unique twist or different perspective to our world, which you can probably see in many of my blog posts. At my core I’m a very positive, optimistic person and I believe in the possibilities in life. I love people, helping people succeed and seeing the great things that can happen when you combine ideas, people and passion. Is this all some type of blog confession or something? No, stay with me for a minute and you’ll see where we’re going. Lately, we are all bombarded by messages about troubles in our economy, frozen credit markets, home foreclosures, failing banks and businesses, and more hard times ahead. Those are all euphemisms for saying that many people are dealing with some tough financial situations, have been laid off and are looking for work. It effects all of us in IT and technology.

My message this Thanksgiving is to keep our eyes on the prize, be hopeful for the future and thankful for all each of us have been blessed with. Markets, businesses and jobs grow and retract. That’s a natural part of an economy and sometimes that means we might have to tighten our belts, focus harder on doing our best at work, or look for work if you’ve been laid off. But don’t let the messages in the press and on TV be what dominates your thinking. Like the saying, you are what you eat, well… I believe you are what you think. In so many ways you get what you give back… oh, that’s so true. Let those external things get you down and you’ll be down. Be positive about the opportunities and challenges in front of you and guess what, you’ll probably break through them faster than expected.

I’m so thankful for many things this Thanksgiving holiday. But notably as I’m reflecting back now, none of them are really “things”, as in possessions. First and most important in my life is my wife who is doing very well and had some very good news about her health. That’s an amazing gift, as she is to me. Next is the birth of my grandson, Jonas. Yes… I’m too young to have a grandson, at least that’s what I tell myself. Remember about that “thinking positive” thing I was just saying? I love my two kids and enjoy every chance I get to be with them.

I’ve been fortunate with my business, Converging Network LLC, this year. And we are blessed with a wonderfully supportive and vibrant church, BUMC, where I work part time leading the contemporary music ministry while our leader is on sabbatical. I also play at a larger mega-church, SECC, where I’m able to play, grow, and bring back new ideas and experiences to help our church up north. I get to play my guitar nearly every week and I’ve been a part of a new recording recording project this summer and fall. I’m thankful for my wonderfully supportive friends and business partners.

So much of what I’m thankful for aren’t things I’ve sought or earned, like a position in a company or a new car. They are things that have been given to me, most of the times unasked or I couldn’t acquire by asking. They are gifts, blessings, acts of friendship, faith and love. I only hope I’ve been even close in equally giving these things and more to others. And I thank you for following and participating as part of this social community of bloggers, readers, security professionals, etc.  Whether two people or 200,000 see and read what I write, it’s still about sharing ideas, debating them, and moving the ball downfield. I’m very thankful for you too.

So next time you get in front of your computer or pick up the phone, do something for someone else. Do it unsolicited and without expectation of anything in return. Make an unsolicited introduction for someone looking for a job. Write a recommendation on LinkedIn for a friend or co-worker. And most important, let those around you know how important they are in your life, and how thankful you are for them.


Biden is really Walter

23 Nov , 2008  

Joe Biden's kind of been left in the dust as Obama's begun putting together his cabinet team. So, I thought I'd put up this little post to brighten all of our days. One of the funniest comedians I like is a ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. His main puppet is an old crotchety guy named Walter. Walter likes to say it like it is, not holding back much. Kind of like…ah… Joe Biden, and he looks like Biden too!

It's clear that Job Biden and Walter are one in the same. No wonder Biden was so good at mouthing Obama's talking points during the presidential campaign. Also, Biden's pretty good at "rhetorical flourishes", similar to Walter's no-holds-barred, outspoken behavior. Yep, they're one in the same.


May 8, 2009… The Wait Is Over – Star Trek Movie

20 Nov , 2008  

Okay, I'm a totally knock-kneed, bad body odor, greesy haired, pizza eating nerd when it comes to Star Trek. I've been to Star Trek conventions, I watch the shows and have all the movies. When it comes right down to it, I'm really a fan of the classic Star Trek, more so than the other series (though I've watched and enjoyed them too.)

I remember when I watched the original Star Trek TV series on my parent's black and white TV on Friday nights. I was nine. I loved the show but it of course went away, forever I thought at the time. Next I was to rediscover Star Trek around 1975 in syndication while on vacation in Colorado Springs, CO, when we checked into a hotel room and turned on the TV. My brother, who is 5 years younger, thought Star Trek was a scary show and continuously cried unless I changed the channel. I wasn't about to, so I smacked him and made him watch it. After a few minutes he stopped crying and discovered Star Trek wasn't scary but was a cool show. From then on Star Trek was back and something I'd watch on TV and see in the movie theater many years since.

I'm excited about the next movie in the Star Trek which takes us back to earth before James T. Kirk was in the Kirk we knew on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Young Kirk was a renegade, someone who didn't feel like he fit in on earth and who was somehow destined for more. Spock was of two worlds, human and Vulcan, and left his family to make his mark. Both meet up in the Academy and the story takes off from there.

We'll have to see where the story line takes us but just like Batman Begins restarted the whole Batman story by taking us back to its roots, Star Trek looks to do the same for the Star Trek world.

So sit back, enjoy the trailer and cross your fingers it will be a good (hopefully great) movie. You can also visit the site website at www.StarTrekMovie.com.

Star Trek Exclusive spot


Thinking Too Small – Dare To Think Big

19 Nov , 2008  

I had an interesting ah-ha happen this morning. Last night I had emailed my editor because I had blogged about Jerry Yang stepping down as CEO of Yahoo!. I caught the news Monday evening and had blogged about this pretty early in the news cycle so I thought there might be a chance I’d get some “link love” if Network World had something on the home page about Jerry’s news. That’s the kind of story that would usually get some attention on the home page, and being a promoter type of personality, I’m always looking for ways to get ideas, thoughts and stories out. Last night I checked the NWW home page and there was  big picture of Jerry Yang but I didn’t see a link to my blog post in the list under the main story link. Thus, my email to my editor Julie, who is always great about helping get the word out about what I write.

 This morning Julie emailed me back both saying she’d check to see about getting a link to my post about Jerry, and then I had a second email back from her letting me know that I actually was already linked to on the home. The main storyline was a link to MY blog post, not the usual article that might be written by a reporter. Doh on me! And wow for me too! I’ve got the lead article on the NWW home page. Sweet! That’s cool but I’d almost missed it. I’d set my sights too short, only looking below the story to see if my blog post had been linked.

It’s so easy to look short and come up short sometimes in life. I’m realizing how often I look below the storyline for my story (in the proverbial sense) and not shooting for the stars. I should have set having a lead story on the NWW home page as a personal goal for me, and I never had. And that’s only a little goal. There are much, much bigger things I want to create and accomplish (and I’m working on some of those now!) I’d been thinking too small… I had been thinking too small, expecting my post would only ever fall under the main lead article. I hadn’t considered having the lead link a possibility, and it was, as is so much more.

So, note to self: Think big, shoot high and set big and even scary goals. You’ve accomplished great things and you will continue to accomplish great things in the future because you are will to dare and think big.

And a note to Jerry Yang: Thanks for thinking big, shooting high and setting big and even scary goals. You’ve accomplished great things and you will continue to accomplish great things in the future because you dare to think big.

General, Social

Real World Experiences In Product Strategy, Creation and Social Media

18 Nov , 2008  

Social Media – Fad, Fame or a Valuable Pursuit?

Remember the days when having a web site was something every business was supposed to do, but nobody was sure what to do with a web site?

Now, having a social media strategy is in vogue. Every business should have one, at least that’s what “they” say. But social media brings about a whole new set of questions:

  • How do I go about blogging?
  • Corporate blog or personal blog. Which is better and why?
  • Is it my blog or the company’s blog?
  • Should my blog be led by marketing, product managers or individuals?
  • Should I hire a traditional ad agency?
  • Everybody’s suddenly a social media consultant, but are they for real? 
  • Who writes the content? Marketing, engineering, management, or me?
  • How much of a time investment am I committing to?
  • What should I write about and will anybody be listening?
  • How should I involve marketing in my blog?
  • Besides a blog, what about podcasting or sites like Facebook, Digg, Twitter and so many others?
  • How would I know I’m getting any ROI from my social media investment?

Those were all questions I had when I first began blogging as CTO of my network security product company.

MRA_portrait_thumbnail Hi, I’m Mitchell Ashley, founder and principal consultant of Converging Network LLC, technologist, product creator, entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster. I’ve been blogging as a technology executive and product spokesperson in the networking and software industries since 2006. Through those experiences I’ve learned a lot about how social media can benefit businesses, their customers and individual thought leaders. In addition to my own blogs and podcast, I also blog and podcast for Network World where I frequently reach forty, fifty and as many as ninety thousand readers per month.

I’m sure there are lots of smart people out there who can tell you that you need a corporate blog and then go about setting up a blog site for you. Just like that first web site, a blog is pretty useless if you don’t know how to use it,how it can benefit you …and more importantly… how it can benefit your readers. Few have the hands on experience neccesary to help you determine if social media activities like blogging, podcasting and social networkings sites are even for you, can show you how to develop an online persona and a personal voice using social mediums, help you pursue unique areas of personal wisdom that create thought leadership and attract the attention of customers, press and analysts, and setting you on the path to successfully creating an online community of readers.

Converging Network LLC offers packages and personalized programs to help corporate executives, technical leaders, product managers, marketers and individuals gain the many benefits of blogging, podcasting, and social media sites.

Contact Converging Network LLC to learn more about how you can accelerate your social media learning curve and inject new life into your existing social media strategy.