Blog, General

New blog: Breast Cancer For

29 Jul , 2008  

 I've started a new blog called Breast Cancer For As many of you know, my wife and I have battled her breast cancer together over the past three years. There have been highs and lows, struggles and victories, and through it all breast cancer is something we battle both together and on our own. If you've been close to someone with breast cancer, you know that even once the cancer is no longer detectable you still live your life changed from that experience.

I decided to blog about the topic, first for my own therapeutic need through writing and sharing, and second to create something that I and other husbands (and their wives and family members) could be a part of while supporting a loved one with breast cancer.

To learn more, check out the initial blog post where I talk more about the reasons behind creating this new blog.

If you or someone you know has had or is living through the breast cancer journey with a spouse, I would appreciate your forwarding a link to

Thank you to everyone who continues to provide love, support, prayers, calls, emails, letters and visits. I hope you'll share my new blog with someone who it might benefit. I surely will be blessed through all who are part of this journey as well.

Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: Demos, Demos, Demos

29 Jul , 2008  

I enjoyed a really great session yesterday with a few of the teams at TechStars in Boulder. The room was filled with two things; passionate entrepreneurs, and people looking to help each other. Four companies presented in rapid succession their 10 minute investment pitches with some time for Q&A.

Part of those pitches were product demos in various forms, so naturally I had to chime in about my experiences demoing products. To help folks out, I said I'd post links to two of my previous posts about demos.

One other thought I'd pass along is that old saying, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice." There's nothing like knowing your story better than anyone else and being able to tell it at the drop of a hat, and tell it well. Being on top of your game comes through in spades to your audience. Then you can deliver your best presentation and deal with the questions and other things that might come up.

Best wishes to everyone at TechStars and keep practicing those pitches!


The Meaning Of Life

27 Jul , 2008  

I had one of the most fantastic weekends I think I've ever had. Our daughterErica and her husband Kory celebrated the birth of their first baby and ourfirst grandson, Jonas. What a miracle to be a part of, celebrating a new life,and another generation in our family.

The delivery went very well, everybody is healthy, and they left the hospitalto go home the next day. Jonas is absolutely beautiful and is such a preciouslittle guy to hold and be around. Mary Ellen and I love him very much and we'reso proud of Kory and Erica.

Join me in welcoming Jonas Lippolis to the world.

Blog, Microsoft, Podcasts

Xobni – Changing How You Use Your Inbox

24 Jul , 2008  

I like to talk about innovate products and Xobni, the plugin for Outlook,definitely fits the bill. I blogged about Xobni on my NWW blog back in Februaryand as you can tellfrom that post, I was and still am excited about Xobni. Unlike most thingsthat get installed on my computer only to be removed a few days or weeks later,the "coolness" of Xobni hasn’t worn off. More importantly the usefulness ofXobni causes me to have it stick around and take up real estate in my Outlookwindow. But Xobni isn’t perfect, either. I see some real challenges to be ableto truly gain the benefits it could bring to email, but we’ll talk about that ina moment.

Here’s a video tour of Xobni. Also check out my podcast interview with Matt Brezina,co-founder of Xobni. I’m starting to do more product reviews and strategy workas part of my Converging Network business, which is a pleasure since I enjoyworking with and assessing new products and trends anyway.

(Contact me if you areinterested in finding out more about my Converging Network product strategyservices.)

Xobni – The Movie


Xobni – Email’s New Connection To People

Now that Xonbi integrates with LinkedIn, I find that I use it a lot more.It’s actually the little features I Xobni I like most. Showing someone’sportrait loaded up on LinkedIn when I click on their email makes the connectionto that person even more real. It makes email just a little more personal. And,if I don’t know them well, it’s easy to go learn about the person from theirLinkedIn profile. (You have a LinkedInprofile with a picture uploaded don’t you? Here’s mine. Letsconnect!)

One of the most useful things about Xobni is knowing the email habits of thepeople I converse and work with regularly. The little bar chart showing thedistribution time of emails received from them throughout the day lets me knowwhen they are more likely to read the emails I send, or take my call. This couldalso be invaluable to a sales person looking to reach clients, though I’m notsure people these days answer phone calls from people they don’t know. (Salespeople tell me virtually no one answers their business phone much any more.)

Xobni – Changing How You Use Email

It’s rare for me to keep a gadget or plugin around for long. Their installedhalf-life is usually about 2 days, or no more than two weeks on my computers. Soyou know Xobni must be delivering something of value, especially given thescreen real estate it takes in Outlook.

Changing how you use email is a double-edged sword, as I’ll talk more aboutin a moment. I find the attachments ("Files Exchanged") section of the Xobniplug-in one if it’s most useful functional features. It can prevent a lot ofsearching for the right email with the right attachment, and you can dig indeeper if you want to see the email or email thread the attachment was a partof.

I haven’t found that I use the "XYZ’s Network" section (where it shows youother people who have been in conversations with you and this person) as much asI thought I would. It’s a great idea, but I just haven’t added that capabilityinto my email use thought patterns for some reason. The "Email Conversations"thread is also something that I don’t use much, mostly because I don’t find theway the threads are presented as being that useful. I’ll say some more aboutthis down below.

Xobni – Kudos For Being A Well Behaved Outlook Plugin

My first rule of all plugin is "be useful". I really don’t need an AdobeAcrobat plugin for Outlook or PowerPoint. Is use the print driver to create pdffiles. Same for screen captures. That’s why I have SnagIt. So, unless there’s areally good reason why this plugin is needed, don’t create them in the firstplace, and certainly don’t install them by default. Xobni definitely meets the"be useful" criteria.

The second rule is "don’t create other problems". How many times does yourOutlook crash because of some funky plugin or software incompatibly. It seemsvirtually guaranteed that if any other software other than Outlook touches yourpst and ost files, you’re doomed for the dreaded "Not Responding" message. Ihave to say that I’ve had relatively few problems with Xobni and Outlook. Notthat its never happened, as I have encountered a few situations where Xobni hadthe files open that Outlook needs in order to start properly. But the problemsand crashes have been very, very few.

Kudos to the Xobni team for figuring out how to do this. They should bottleup whatever they are doing and help all the other software guys figure out howto do the same.

Xobni – The Challenge Of Getting The Benefits

Xobni has two big challenges in my view. First, all of Xobni’scapabilities are constrained by being in an Outlook sidebar plugin. There’slimited screen real estate, and it’s mostly vertical. Networks of people(lists), conversations (lists), viewing email threads, all have to be viewed inthis small area and it does detract from its usability and usefulness. Becauseof this, I don’t use the email threads feature much at all, and the relativelystatic content (time distribution bar graph, email stats, portrait and contactinfo) are the things I look at and use most. It’s a tough row to hoe being in asidebar and Xobni would be much more useful if it was integrated into the emailclient itself. Tell me again why Microsoft hasn’t gobbled up Xobni by now?Hmm.

Xobni also implies multiple user behavior changes to access its benefits. Weuse email clients so frequently everyday, all through the day, that the use casehabits we’ve formed with Outlook are hard very to break. Instead of sorting backand forth between sender and sent date in order to locate what I’m looking for,you have to break that habit and look in the Xobni sidebar for what you mighthunting to find. You have to remember "oh, there’s another way to find the lastversion of that attachment sent to Bob", and go over and use Xobni to do that.On the flip side, being an Outlook sidebar plugin is an advantage over being aseparate application from Outlook all together.

Breaking patterns and habit changes are something every product faces tovarying degrees, but email’s so heavily used that those habits are moredifficult to break.

Xobni – Conclusion: Download It. You’ll Use It.

Download Xobni. I think that title pretty much sums it up.

General, Uncategorized

Virtualization Management Wars

22 Jul , 2008  

If you follow the virtualization market, and I know you probably do, you mayhave come across the very vocal advocate Simon Crosby. Simon is the CitrixVirtualization CTO, and was formerly with XenSource and Intel. I had thepleasure of interviewing Simon on my Network World ConvergingOn Microsoft podcast last week. The Interview is in two parts since eachpart runs around 20+ minutes. Also, here’s a video interview with Simon Crosbyat Interop 2008, courtesy of Network World’s Jon Brodkin.

I’ve changed some of my views about how virtualization will roll out andimpact our industry. A while back I blogged that the hypervisor would become amore important choice than even the operating system. You’d choose yourhypervisor technology and then build your data center around that choice. ButSimon’s all about helping virtualization unfold in a much different way. Hisbelief is that the hypervisor should simply be a feature set, something thatcomes with the server. (I can hear Hoff’s "it’s a feature, not a market"argument reverberating in my head now.) And while I’m sure Simon loves Xen’shypervisor, he’s also happy to see Sun, Oracle and others, build around the Xenhypervisor. He’s even a proponent of Microsoft’s Hyper-V, both because it usesXen’s hypervisor as its reference model (though no open source code from Xen isin Hyper-V), and I’m guessing, it’s a lot easier to beat VMware by letting thembattle it out with Microsoft, rather than take them on by yourself.

The differentiater is to be management tools, and even more so, managementtools that can manage other competitors virtualization technologies. Citrix’sProject Kenhso is all about creating tools that work across virtualizationtechnology boundaries. Now, I understand the argument that IT shops might behesitant to align with just one virtualization technology. After all, what doyou do if you lose by making the wrong virtualization choice? But then againrunning multiple could also bring it’s own headaches. Vendors, particularlyCitrix, must be hearing the call of heterogeneous virtualization ITenvironments.

That strategy hasn’t fully played out yet, but by adding the Microsoft 800lbs. gorilla to the virtualization contest, things are sure to get interesting.So, take a moment and read MikaelRicknas article about Project Kensho, listen to the podcast (part1 and part2) and the video interview with Simon.

Blog, Microsoft

Join The Microsoft Bloggers Network

8 Jul , 2008  

Msbn_logoAre you a security researcher looking into Microsoft vulnerabilities? Do you do pen testing on networks running Microsoft software? (Pretty likely, I’d guess.) Do you blog about it? Or maybe you just blog about your Microsoft experiences, good, bad or indifferent.

If so, you’re invited to join the Microsoft Bloggers Network. It’s great exposure for blogs and gives users an aggregated feed for all blogs in the network. The only rules I have about joining are that you occasionallyblog about Microsoft related topics on your blog, and that you writeyour own content (i.e. you aren’t one of those sites that aggregatesother bloggers’ content verbatim for advertising purposes.) It’s a free community service and helps promote your blog, so why not, join up now!

If you’d like to join, send me an email.


Oil, Energy Independence Day in 10 Years, Drilling, Becoming OPEC 2.0, and Banana Splits

5 Jul , 2008  

Hyrdogen_fuelI was just getting ready to close down the laptop for the evening when Ibegan thinking about how much my views have changed on our nation’s energypolicies. It’s the 4th of July and I enjoyed a banana split to celebrate. (Longtime since I’ve had one of those.) I was in high school during the 70’s oilcrisis and enjoyed those many years of driving 55 mph on the interstate (I’mbeing very facetious here.) I heard on Sirius radio that one of our congressmenproposed bringing back the 55 mph limit. While conservation is a good thing, sois our nation’s (and my personal) sanity and bringing back the 55 mph speed limitis one of those ideas I hope we shoot down with a vengeance. I’m one of the biggestoffenders of conservation when it comes to my Suburban, but I love to drive andI’ve enjoyed having a big vehicle. I hope to change that soon and move to a muchmore efficient vehicle once I decide what to buy. Okala_2I tend to keep cars for quite a while so it’s an important decision, one I don’t want to make too quickly and realize I’ve made a choice that doesn’t work for me. I actually am very concernedabout energy independence, creating green products, and preserving ourenvironment along with building a vibrant economy.It’s one of the reasons I’m an advisor to Sustainable Minds, a company who helps make designing green products easier.

One of the things that I’ve always disliked about politics is the polarizingnature of how each side takes sides, making arguments win-lose when a combinedsolution is really what’s needed. Americans are getting hit below the belt rightnow with the one-two-punch of high gas prices (along with the associated rise infood and other prices) and a struggling economy. Rather than take a sensibleapproach, Obama and McCain are framing the debate as energy alternatives vs.more drilling, turning the argument into yet another polarizing debate.

Apollo_rocketI’m glad Obama is strongly for creating energy alternatives. I would love todrive a hydrogen vehicle if they were available at a reasonable price withsufficient fueling stations available. I believe our nation’s resources shouldbe dedicated to becoming a new economy of alternative energy and greentechnologies. Just like John Kennedy ignited the American engineering spirit of thespace program with his challenge to put a man on the moon before the end of thedecade, we should make a current day challenge of bringing hydrogen cars andfueling stations across the country in less than ten years. Where’s ourgovernment when we need it? Energy_independence_dayIf our government made the same kind of investmentin becoming energy independent that we made to get to the moon, we’d be fuelinga whole new economy of alternative energy businesses that could solve our energyproblems and serve to the rest of the world. I believe in our continuedinvestment in NASA but I’d delay everything we have on the table for the next 10years to redirect that money into celebrating an Energy Independence Day in tenyears or less. How about it Obama — make the challenge: Energy Independence Dayin less than 10 years. We do it, not because it is easy, but because it is hard… remember that kind of inspiration? Let’s get moving, Washington.

I also believe we could use our oil reserves to help fund the creation of ourenergy independence. I flippantly said one day, "Lets drill offshore, sell theoil to China, and use the proceeds to fund the creation of hydrogen cars." Notsuch a crazy idea after all, eh? Oil_crack_3It would be like selling China the oilequivalent of crack. Let them build up their dependence on oil to an evengreater extent, and then sell them our green energy technology and products aseven higher oil prices squeeze their economy and slow growth down the road. I dobelieve we have to drill for more oil using US resources to lessen the impactOPEC has on us. That doesn’t mean we have to drill in Anwar, but parts ofColorado, Wyoming, South/North Dakota, Montana are sitting on sizable oilreserves. Those along with the oil sitting offshore could create at least abalancing factor against the current out of control oil price situation.Letothers buy our expensive oil for a change, or they can buy our alternativeenergy technology instead. With the alternative energy and hydrogen carscreated, the USA would be next generation OPEC 2.0 of alternative energy andoil. In ten years our problem could do a 180 and become our biggest strength.


Outsourced podcast editing – Is it for you?

2 Jul , 2008  

Podcast_editingI was having this conversation with a friend today about working on the things you like to do and have the time to do, and what to do about other tasks you don’t. Recording podcasts? I love to do them and will make the time. Editing them how I like to them put together? Not so much. I dread doing that part of it. Ug.

So, here’s the idea. Anyone out there really enjoy working with Audacity, Audition, Sonar, or whatever digital sound mixing and editing program… how would you like to edit my podcasts as a side project. It would be a great deal for someone like student who wants experience and would like to get their name on the credits for the podcast. (Nice resume fodder too.) Or maybe someone who just plain ol’ likes doing that stuff.

Any-who… If anybody would be interested in doing this as a side project for experience, maybe barter for some work, or just want to do it out of the goodness of their podcast loving heart, drop me a line and lets see if we could work something out.  Email me.Or, if you have a better idea about how to go about getting this done, I’m open to creative ideas (unless you are going to email me just to sell me something. Don’t bother, I’m not buying.)


A place to make technology easier to use

2 Jul , 2008  

Something I’m working on is learning about creating communities. My passion is creating great products, but what really drives this is wanting to make technology easier to use, which is why I enjoy user centered design, customer experience, social networks, etc. I’m trying to figure out how to create a community of those who share this same passion and might want to participate in some way. I’m in the very early stages of working on this.

If you share the same passions, have ideas, or just want to talk, send me an email, IM (AIM: stratmanmashley) or Twitter (mitchellashley) me, so we can start a dialog and exchange of ideas.