Who the hell is in charge of hiring here?

Right now the economy is not in turmoil, but it sure doesn’t feel good.

The tech sector is, as you well know, feeling pretty weak right now: Reports out today have indicated that, contrary to some recent hopeful signs, tech has not bottomed out yet.

The Internet sector is of course feeling the effects of this downturn/rightsizing/correction/recession/callitwhatyouwill much more acutely than other tech sectors. Things are ungood.

People working in tech — especially the Internet arena — are feeling the pinch. They are getting laid off, taking on more work (to fill the shoes of those laid off/left and not replaced) and have to sit in their cubes watching the perks dwindle (options worth….worthless, no more free Mountain Dew, no more “take your dog to work day”) and staring up at the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. “Am I next???”

Some will be next. Some will be spared but still fear the sword. Basically, for those let go or left behind, things suck for tech workers these days.

Yes, that’s relative. It sucks today compared to the heady days of about a year and half ago, when options meant something (briefly), when your sandals and nose ring told more about your programming skills than your resume. Yes, things suck today compared to those good old days.

But, still, things are rough. While government and analyst reports say that IT is still a growing industry, tell that to the almost 19,000 workers cut by chipmaker Toshiba today, or those at Chapter 11 flooz.com.

Still tough.

And one of the lessons of this dot.com turned dot.bomb correction (or supply your own adjective) is that good ideas are not enough. There has to be a competent, forward-looking (I hate buzzwords/phrases but this one works for me) staff of individuals/teammates that make it all happen. Sure, ordering a piano onlne may be cool. But don’t give the folks free delivery…..stuff like that.

Which makes this blog’s pet peeve all the more perplexing: The overwhelming incompetence and lack of professionalism displayed by recruiters and tech companies. Maybe this extends into other industries — I think it does, from what others have told me, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this.

What I do have first-hand knowledge of is the summed up in the following three statements:

  1. As indicated above, IT personnel needs still outstrips supply.
  2. I’m an IT worker looking for a job.
  3. Companies/recruiters are unprofessional — they never follow through as they have promised.

I just got off the phone with a recruiter who called me, not the other way around. Spent about 45 minutes with him, giving him background and so on, before he got to the job he had called me for: Visual Basic programmer.

Yes, I know VB, it’s on the resume as that (as a beginner). Why was he calling me? Guess: Did a search on Monster or the Web for Visual Basic, I turned up, he called without doing ANY research — my resume is a (sadly unemployment-wise) non-Microsoft resume. Once we got to this, I said I didn’t think I would work for what he had; he agreed.

We wasted both of our times.

Oh — and here is the favorite part: After the agreement that I wasn’t for this job, he said he’d e-mail me and I should send him my Word resume for future reference.

I will never hear from him.

I have a list of people that I have and not heard from. It’s interesting.

People who promised to get back to me who did not:

  • Hall-Kinion recuiters (sp?) — Many interviews (phone), much work on my part to get a resume to them that they liked; I filled out their standard form promptly as requested. The ironic part of the last item is that their standard form had the following question (I’m quoting from memory): “What don’t you like about recruiters?” I answered: 1) Tech is hard to place people, it’s complicated. Tough for recruiters to understand what I/someone else needs/whats/can do. That’s awkward but understandable. 2) Recruiters promise to get back and they don’t. The recruiter actually pointed this out to me afterwards, saying he “appreciated my candor” in this matter. Yet not enough to get back to me.
  • Vermillion Group (recruiter). Couple of calls, promise to get back.
  • peoplebonus.com — I had two phone interviews — one lengthy — with one of the founders, then went in to talk with this guy and other founder (1/2 day killed for me), they then set me up to have a phone interview with acting CTO (~ one hour) and this person arranged to have me speak on the phone with the leader of the consulting group they had engaged. About 2 hours there. Then nothing. Over one full day of time, plus gas, parking etc. NOTHING. MONTHS AGO. Any questions?
  • Lucas Group: This is the person – Jeremy — who called me for a VB job today. I have yet to hear from him; I doubt I will. (I’ll try to update if I do; if I DO hear from him and DON’T update, my bad). UPDATE TUES. AUG. 28 — Nope, never heard from him. I just in shock….
  • General Employment: I went in there months ago to meet with someone; they said I couldn’t unless I did this or that (uh, I have an appointment). I left. So this one is my mistake (NOT!).
  • truepoints.com — Several phone interviews (~3-4 hours total). Never heard from them. Then I read in the themayreport.com a press release from them that they had a beta site live; I was able to hack into them easily (uh username = “username” password = “password”). I wrote to The May Report about this (they published it); I wrote to truepoints.com about this with further info/comment. No response.
  • Many (more than three) that I don’t have enough data about on hand (one a company in Northbrook; one in Elk Grove Village) or I have just forgotten. Whatever.

People who promised to get back to me and who did:

  • Accuquote.com, Northbrook, IL. They sent a very prompt rejection letter (snail-mail). Kudos.


Does this make sense?

OK, may make sense, but is it professional? And I’m just looking for a RESPONSE WHEN ONE IS PROMISED. Yes, rejection letters are better in that they give closure (and then the persistent ones will stop buggin’ the recruiters etc) and they demonstrate professionalism. But, I’m just looking for people to call when/if they have promised such. What’s wrong with that?

Of course not. And that’s the weird part. Especially for the recruiters. Companies pay these folks to do the dirty work; maybe, say, Motorola doesn’t realize that this or that recruiter is getting people, but pissing off a lot of others. They get pissed at the recruiter AND Motorola.

And the business of IT is business.

Shakeup coming in recruiting? Doubtful. I’ve worked at too many places where the Human Resources department (i.e. in-house recruiter) was a joke.

Doesn’t seem to worry anyone enough to make a difference.

See the sword….

OK, I didn’t want to go here, but now I’ve had two stupid phone calls in the last 20 minutes, so I’m forced.

As I mentioned before about the guy calling me (!) about the VB position, recruiters don’t get it. Yes, it is hard to place people in general — what do they really want/what does the company really want? — but in IT very difficult due to its technical nature. Sure, I can build database-driven Web sites. Oh, here’s a MS ASP job for you…uh, don’t know ASP….etc…

It is hard.


  1. The guy who called me about VB (detailed above). Nothing I have that suggests that I really know VB. Keyword search will find it, sure, and it will also find that I’m a beginner…if you read.
  2. Guy I just called back who had sent me an e-mail: E-mail indictated saw my resume. Please call. OK. Job was for SALES AND MARKETING. Nothing about that in the e-mail. Wasted both of our times (and my resume indicates NO sales or marketing experience/interest/skills). Why was I called.
  3. No clue in general. Too many to detail, but much of what is above. Hone in keywords; talk to them and they don’t know the diffence betwee a static and a dynamic site, Access is a database (yeah, sorta) and what’s the difference between an intranet and the Internet?? *sigh*

Real-time analysis!!!

I have two calls sorta outstanding right now. Let’s see if they come through (I’m an mouthing-off fool) or they don’t (told ya!):

  • Nelsy from Parallel Partners called me about a job I had submitted to online. Few questions; I had more for her. Bottom line, she promised to call back before 5pm today (VERY quick if it happens, as I talked to her about 2pm). She sounded like she was calling from a call center. Interesting. UPDATE: While she did not get back to me by 5pm on this day, an e-mail did follow Tuesday Aug. 27 giving me the blow off. Unusual but good.)
  • I got an e-mail. Called and they promised to call. No names. I don’t care. They won’t. Shit. This is bad for everyone. UPDATE: No, they never got back.

A decade of Linux

Today is the 10th birthday of Linux (the release of the kernel by an obscure Finnish guy named Linus T-something).

Wow. Just had the 20th birthday of the IBM PC — the “desktop breakthrough” — and now this.

And yesterday — Friday, Aug. 24 — marked the release of Microsoft’s next generation OS — Windows XP — to OEMs (release to public still scheduled for Oct. 25, I believe).

OK, where does that leave us? I guess with some OS issues to discuss.

What follows are ruminations mainly on Linux, but the release of WinXP and the anniversary of the IBM PC will also figure as nice counter points.

  • The story of Linux, of course, is really the story of open-source software at its best (collaboration, distribution, high utility with no cost). While I have slammed the open-source movement in the past — and will continue to do so in the future — for being a little too starry-eyed (have to make money somewhere dude….), Linux is the poster child for what open-source software (OSS) can do. Kudos to all.
  • Let’s get one thing straight: Using Linux is not a slap at MS. Using Windows is not a slap at OSS. Many people — especially in OSS — appear to feel that way, but this is inaccurate. Both are tools, and they may or may not have overlapping uses. MS is the “tyrant” right now because they are so big. But — Red Hat has caused some grumblings in the OSS community over the past year. Why? Bascially, because they are the overly dominant Linux vendor. If SuSE or Mandrake had made the same moves Red Hat did, they would be congratulated, not slammed. Let’s keep this in perspective, folks.
  • Linux does compete with Windows on both the server and desktop.

    • Servers: Linux is a very real threat to MS on the server side, for the following reasons: Both run on relatively low-cost Intel boxes; Linux is more stable (it is; get over it…), cheaper (OK, spend $39.95 on a Red Hat disk) and has much better security (in this case, it’s not so much that Linux is good as it is that Windows/IIS is really weak). Linux is also faster for most applications. Downsides to Linux on the server side are many, also, however: Linux is — I don’t care what geeks say — very difficult (relatively) to deploy and tweak. NT/IIS is much easier for novices — and there are a lot of novices out there. And there is still the lingering problem — although it is fast disappearing — of drivers and such for Linux. This is not as much an issue on the server — just need Ethernet drivers etc — as it is on the desktop (printers, video cards, scanners….) — but still an issue. The one major drawback to Linux on the server, and I see this mainly at mid-sized companies, is that this creates a split environment: Need sys admins with both skills or two sets of sys admins. People costs are huge. Pay the MS license and not have to hire another worker. Much better for business. For larger companies, this is less an issue, as they are used to having a desktop help/Web admin staff split (Windows/some Unix flavor). Small companies rely on geeks to do both, who do it willingly. All things said and done, however, Linux will continue to expand on the server. This will hurt MS and UNIX companies, such as Sun. NOTE: One wildcard that I have trouble reconciling: Database server platform. Right now, MS SQL is the best product that MS has; runs only on Windows. As I’ve mentioned, OSS databases are doomed to live on only at small companies that run the database and Web server on the same box (stoopid!). Only Linux options left are DB2 (only the IBM-aligned will do this) or Oracle (many large companies on Oracle, but it costs a fortune). My choice is still Linux Web server (Apache or iPlanet) and MS SQL database. Split platform, yes. But nice option. If I had the money, an all *nix deployement with Oracle database.
    • Desktop: Again, get over it. MS will rule the desktop from at least a few years to come. As mentioned in the Server section, Linux is still too hard to configure (people have trouble with Windows; want to mess with the mess that is a Linux desktop?). And the tools just are not there, which is key. As I have mentioned before — probably several times — one has to use Word and Excel. These a business basics. Until Linux desktops have apps that can read and write these — and work in the same way — forget the desktop for business users, which is the overwhelming use of desktops. Home users? Remember, a lot of homeowners still buy Macs….. The driver problem is still here and more pervasive on the desktop for Linux, but it is getting much better quickly. Except for geeks, I cannot see any individual selecting a Linux desktop for home use unless he has the same at work (and chances of that are almost nill). Just makes no sense. Little software (is there a Linux version of AOL?), different look and feel….no, not going to happen.

  • Let’s hope Linux does not fragment like UNIX did (Solaris, AIX, FreeBSD etc.). I don’t think it will, as there is now a cohesive presence of OSS leaders who will pressure to NOT have this happen, but…who knows?
  • Linux has changed considerably in focus over the last decade. This is normal, but people don’t seem to want to acknowledge this. Yes, they trumpet the inroads they have made — clustering, multiple processors, blah blah — but don’t seem to mention what has been left behind. And it’s always a trade off. When Linux came out, one of the cool things about it was you could put it on a 386. That would be a trick today. First of all, 386s came with what, a 20-80MEG hard drive. Red Hat v7.1 minimum install is much larger than that even for the server (no GUI) version. And the 2.4 kernal (RH v7.1) takes way more memory, which Red Hat at least acknowledges such in its installer program. Most 386s had — tops — 64M RAM (I think mine had FOUR). RH v7.1 wants about 256. Ouch. But as I said, tradeoffs. Much better, more flexible, easier-to-install systems. And memory — HD and RAM — are way cheap today. But realistically, you’ll need a fairly recent Pentium to run Linux at home today. My Pentium Pro box is an old one; to run v7.1, I’d have to add another hard drive and updated BIOS (again, too fucking complicated…). And it’s a Digital box; my guess is that I can’t even get an BIOS update for this fossil. RH v6.2 might be the last installation that takes advantage of old equipment.
  • Linux is a good, solid OS, and that has helped it survive. However, a good product does not guarantee its survival: BE OS, NextStep, Mac OS (pre-10) and so on. Why did Linux survive where others didn’t/are marginalized? I think the masterstroke was the two-fold: 1) The early Linux distros could actually run on relatively cheap and abundant Intel boxes. No, didn’t need a $250,000 Sun box. Just an old 386. 2) This platform was also the platform for The Evil Empire — Microsoft. Made running Linux that much sweeter for geeks. Wipe Windows OS off the box, install Linux and you have a fast, stable server or whatever. How cool is that to a geek? Very.
  • Linux also survived due to the gentle yet firm guidance of Linus and Alan Cox (esp. the former). It keeps the issues low-key and almost folksy, even as Linux becomes a household word. There really has been no deviation from the original intent of Linux: A Unix for the masses, made by the masses, for free and kept open. This has, if anything, gotten better as the years have gone by. Yes, companies charge for Linux now, but that is for service/ease of installation/additional tools. Anyone can still download the Linux tarball and install for free.

That’s a pretty impressive first decade: From a “hobby” toy to an OS that is the flagship for OSS and that runs thousands of important sites — google.com, realaudio.com etc. — not just my home box here……

What will the next ten years bring? Interesting question.

One teaser: Different architecture of computer/OS for databases? Think about it……

What’ll come out of the internet shake-up?

In my last blog, I took a look at what the future may hold for the IT/Web industry.

Yes, a lot of conjecture, a dash of prejudice and all that, but still — I named names, I predicted failure for that which I would like to succeed (PHP, Cold Fusion).

Hell, I predicted I would be an anacronism shortly.

Which leads to a more thorough examination of the human toll this dot.com/bomb/bust/blot will take from this day on.

Interesting issue — yes, I’ve examined the losers and winners in the corporate sense, whose technology will win (in my opinion), but what will this mean for IT/Web workers?

Yes, interesting.

Some thoughts, and this is all slanted toward a IT/WEB point of view. I still think COBOL programmers will be needed in the near future; I’m not even going in that direction here. OK?

In the true American/capitalistic fashion, I will outline what I see in terms of winners and losers. One can substitute, respectively, in demand and less/not in demand for these titles, but get the drift…..


  • Competent techies skilled with the “winner” tools I outlined in my last blog (ASP, Java — not PHP, mySQL and so on) — The more experience in one area these individuals have, the better. The Web world is getting more and more like a real business (good and bad) now, and broad skillsets are nice but what businesses really want is someone who can rock their world in the one area they have advertised for: Java developer, ASP programmer, UNIX sys admin and so on. Anything else is gravy, but must have the goods on the primary job description. The halycon days of the early Web is gone. Get over it. Sorry, I scour Monster etc. every day, and what sticks out to me is the three things employees seem to be looking for in IT: DBAs (see below), MS product adherents (C++, ASP etc), Java. Period.
  • Database administrators (in general) — Look at it this way: The sites that are making money offer products. Listed products are not stored on static pages like journalistic content could be; they are databased. The future of the Web is traditional business (yes, Web-i-fied). While static sites with company info and personal sites will not go away, most traffic — by an overwhelming percentage — will be on dynamic sites. Need a DBA. ‘Nuff said.
  • XML experts — Note that I say experts. Not like some “Cold Fusion expert developers” I’ve dealt with. Like DBA’s, XML geeks will be in increasing demand. It make take about 3-5 years to get to critical mass there, but it is coming.
  • Integration specialists — These are the consultants/FTEs like Don Drake who can leverage whatever tools (Perl and XML a good combo) to port legacy data/databases into a Web-enabled form. This is a very big deal. Similarly, the ability to port one type of “new” system to another “new” system. Real-time updates will become vital, and will require databases and processes to connect dissimilar sources. Difficult but the payoff is high. So it will happen.
  • MBAs — I wish I could say this was untrue, or — at least — say that only the MBAs that “get it” (say, Mary Butler, Bill Swislow) will endure — but I don’t think this is true. What is true? THE WEB IS ABOUT BUSINESS. Look at the “B” in MBA. Doesn’t matter if they get it, doesn’t matter if they care. They know business. Sad, true, necessary, unfortunate. All of the preceeding. Still, the Web is about business. While those who do “get it” may do better — depending on the environment — it really doesn’t matter. If the clueless MBA knows a few buzzwords: CRM, impressions, Oracle, ASP blah blah — that will sell the clueless above. *sigh*
  • Security specialists — No, not there yet. Will be soon. Why? Because the WEB IS ABOUT BUSINESS. Lose a customer and lose money. That is not acceptable to a company (losing customer…who cares? losing money, however…fix!). This will really ripen as more highly-publicized accounts hit the media. Sure, a company can — and will — lose a customer and dollars here and there because of security, but if it is publicized, that’s a nightmare that most companies don’t want to even think about. Costly. As more and more business moves onto the Web, spending $$ for security personnel will increase proportionaly (actually, probably more quickly). I personally think the .NET initiative will fuel a lot of this security upgrade, especially when and if Hailstorm comes to fruition.


  • Those with breadth of skills, not depth — Yes, this includes me. Damn. Fun to chat over a beer or two about experience with Gopher and Archie and Veronica…but does that have any business use? Nope.
  • Open-source isolationists — Yes, there are enormous benefits to using only open-source software. There is at least ONE compelling reason to not use open-source software: Every clueless CEO has heard of Microsoft and knows they have a support network; he has never heard of KDE, Mandrake, NuSphere and so on. The Web is business now (repeat after me, the Web is business now….the Web is business now…). Get it?
  • Innovators — There will be many exceptions to this rule, but for the most part those that innovate outside a large company have one of three futures:

    • Bankruptcy
    • Assimilation into a larger company (with a marketing department..see MS…)
    • Niche market marginallity (is that a word?)

    Sorry to be a pessimist, but that’s life. In the early days a Real Player was cool; now THE WEB IS BUSINESS. Standards.

  • Those that get it but don’t get business — These folks (I count myself among this group) will not be, in Nikita Khrushchev’s words, “crushed” — but I/we/they will be marginalized. Webmonkey.com exists today. No one reads it. Learn that lesson.

Please note that these winners and losers are generalizations. Yes, there will be moronic Java programmers that go hungry and psychology majors heading e-commerce sites for Fortune 100 companies. Whatever. I’ve tried to identify trends, not one-to-one relationships. Do I really have to say that????

And note that I’m not necessarily happy about all this. This is a report/opinion/projection. It’s not a wish list…..

What’s next for the web?

OK, my last two blogs pretty much discussed the “birth” of the computer generation and then dissected its current growing pains.

While it might be difficult for industry members to agree on what changes are currently underway, I don’t think you’ll find many who think that things are not changing dramatically.

Which begs the question, What Next?

What indeed.

While I don’t think the future of the IS/Internet industry is black and white — say, for example, Microsoft will rule all or be crushed beyond recognition — I do think the divide that exists today between beheomoths such as Microsoft and smaller sites like salon.com will continue to grow.

We are heading for a larger division between the haves and have nots. This will force more bankruptcies and more consolidation/amalgamation. As I mentioned in my last blog, this will leave us with fewer cool sites while at the same time giving us more — for example — real-time news channels.

There are other upsides and downsides of this increasingly large division, but that’s a good example.

So what else does this gulf mean?

  • More and more sites will be brick-and-mortor based. For example, Kohl’s department store just now opened a Web site. They rode out the Web/not_to_Web storm sans site, possibly learned from other’s errors, and now they are on the Web. Purchases there can be returned to physical store.
  • Leading from above, there will be more integration of the physical and virtual stores.
  • This does not mean that pure Internet plays, such as Amazon, will not come up/surprise/endure/drive other Web endeavors.

    • There is always room for niche players, for one.
    • Second, there will be a lot of so-called pure Internet plays that are actually backed not by VCs but by brick-and-mortar companies. Example: Orbitz. Has high profile already (heavy TV ads), exists only on the Web…but is actually a product of the joined forces of several major airlines. (Designed to combat the other online reservation sites.)
    • Third, there is always room in the Internet space for another Amazon-type company: A company leveraging the Internet to do what the Internet does best (distributed; low human-interaction; always on; repetative and redundant). I see the potential for one of the many online storage sites to go enterprise and become a Fortune 500 backup solution. It will happen, and only a handful of companies can support this type of infrasturcture (IBM a player?).

  • Big Winners: Established, well-entrenched companies. Look at it this way — one of the reasons for the Y2K scare was because of business’ COBOL programs. Who programs in COBOL now? No one. But businesses have a slew of legacy COBOL programs (accounting etc); still do. While COBOL — from the 1970s, I think — is NOT being used except for maintenaince now, it’s still here. Same for all other well-entrenched systems. Yes, Microsoft upped its licensing fees. You have a $2 million MS installation. You won’t toss that to avoid an extra few thousand in fees. No way. For the same reason, Linux will never really get to the desktop until programs that can read/write MS Office exist. You HAVE to have Word and Excel in business. Period. Need Windows or Mac to run it. So Microsoft will do well in the near future, as will Oracle, Sun, SAP, PeopleSoft and so on. Installed base is huge. Think of it this way: People are VERY reluctant to changing browsers. Think how much easier it is to change browsers than a database installation/apps written against it. Not going to happen quickly, at least.
  • Big Losers: Those without installed bases. Small, cool applications or technologies. They will have some legs, and some may well survive and do a fair amount of business. But for the most part, things outside the mainstream — now that the Internet IS mainstream — will either wither and die or become, like reading webmonkey.com, inconsequential. This, unfortunately, means most open-source products/projects. Don’t believe me? Take open-source databases as an example. All tests and laundry lists of features demonstrate that PostgreSQL is far superior to mySQL. The latter has a wider installed base; I have yet to run across anyone (outside of on the Net) who uses this “better” database. Installed base. No one is going to change, even in this open-source environment. RedHat just picked up PostgreSQL as their bundled database solution (to battle Oracle for smaller companies); this may work, but they still push mySQL over PostgreSQL for average use. Go figger.

Let’s get a bit more specific:


  • Microsoft — Even if the company is broken up (I doubt it) and Linux takes over the desktop (yeah, that’ll happen…), they still have Office, which is the de facto standard of the computer world. And today, the computer world = the business world. May have lower profits, but will still have enormous profits. MS is also very Internet focused. Be afraid. Be very afraid. On the other hand, MS has done — legally or otherwise — a good job of driving standards (MS products..). That’s a Web thing. That’s good. Whether or not it is a good thing that MS is doing it is another thing, but isn’t it nice to send an Excel spreadsheet to whomever and not have to worry if they can view it? OF COURSE they can: MS (and it’s products) are de facto standards. Good. And scary…
  • ASP (Microsoft) — Sites will become more and more dynamic in the near future. Requires both database and scripting tools to deliver this stored data. The scripting tools of choice will come down to two, I believe: Java-based tools (Broadvision, WebLogic) and MS ASP. That pretty much means a good hunk of the pie will go to Microsoft, and it makes sense. Java runs best on UNIX platforms; UNIX platforms are more expensive, Java is slow to deploy and “Java” (Sun) doesn’t make a database. Have to hit Oracle or IBM. With MS ASP, one platform for server and database. And guess what? It’s the same platform that the office uses for Word and Excel. Keeps network admin costs down. And ASP runs on cheap Intel boxes (as does Linux; another story but noted). Compelling. And while I am not sold on the whole ASP/COM/DCOM model, I don’t know enough about it to really make quality comments. Put it this way: It’s a very compelling solution to the non-tech business managers. No NT and UNIX admins; one set of licenses, one kind of boxes and so on. From a company they’ve heard of. (VERY compelling.) And ASP is fast — it’s all native, all the API hooks are there. The one caveat is security: ASP is really a Windows-only solution, and IIS is not a secure Web server. Yes, can put iPlanet on Windows, but that kills some of the native speed advantages and other things like that. Not compelling. MS had — deservedly so, I believe — for security issues with IIS lately; they had better shape up with this or quite a bit will be at risk for Microsoft personally.
  • Oracle — Yes, they have been hurting. But that’s relative. They have just been doing LESS well than before. Still quite fine, thank you. The business world is going more and more Web oriented. Web sites are becoming more and more database dependent (static sites are a thing of the past, and will be anacronisms in the near future). Oracle is the top-end database for business. Do the math. Unless IBM gets really serious with DB2, Oracle will continue to rule. I don’t see much of a threat from Red Hat’s database (PostgreSQL): That’s more of a solution to a problem most of those businesses didn’t really realize they had.
  • Perl — While no one except consultants and O’Reilly publishing makes money from Perl, it will still endure. Its role has changed, from the duct tape that holds the Internet together (Larry Wall) to the pipe that transforms legacy data to current containers (databases), but it is still ubiquitious, fast and unbelievably useful.
  • Apache — This will survive because it has a large installed base and because IT IS FREE. One of the may neat things Netcraft has done is to give a better picture of the servers operating on the Net. Yes, Apache rules. Yet the biggest sites — the ones that you’ve heard of — run something other than Apache. Usually IIS or Netscape. They are more set up for the dynamic, e-commerce type of Web that we have today. I think Apache will survive — one can do a lot with it — but it will always be marginal in this regard. While it may power the

    “majority” of the Internet, that will mean my site and “ilikecrayons.com” — in terms of page views, I believe non-Apache sites already win or will shortly. Apache will NOT be the choice of CNN, Amazon etc. Universities will use it; so will personal users. Ask yourself this: With all the publicity — virtually none negative — and support Apache has, how come v2 still isn’t here? Been a LOOONNNGG time not coming…….
  • Unknown publishing tool — While there will always be a need — increasingly significant — of people who actually know what they are doing on the Web, the introduction of good publishing tools will allow those who don’t know and probably don’t care about TCP/IP, sockets, CSS and so on to publish good material. Did editors/writers in the near past have the knowledge/desire to run printing presses? NO! So why should the same group have to learn “stupid browser tricks” to get the article about fish food on the Web? Vignette promises a solution; it’s not there yet. Allaire’s Spectra is a valient attempt; I don’t see it working. To date, there have been a lot of bad, high-profile Java solutions out there. ADG Dynamo’s is the best; still not there yet. This is hard shit, and is very business-dependent.
  • Unknown killer app — The Web needs a killer app. Yes, had HTML (which defines the Web, not its killer app) and Flash (mainly evil [used improperly] ). XML is not a killer app, it’s an extension. Need that fresh blood. Could be a new publishing system that actually works.
  • Java — Yes, check your prejudices at the door. I just read a report of some report (how official..) that said that in either 2002 or 2003 Java programmers will outnumber MS programmers. C# programmers are not even visible. Java is good; sure, it is flawed, but it can be fixed. And for enterprise projects, has no peer except ASP, which is powered by …. MS programmers ……
  • Database-driven tools/technologies — Yes, XML is there. That’s a given. So is JSP, ASP, CF (to a very moderated degree), PHP (to an almost invisible degree) and so on. This is the hook for the publishing tool. Whichever KILLER publishing tool comes out, its database will both be part of its success and part of the future success of the database.


  • Consultants/consulting companies — Back in the WWW heyday — before March/April 2000 — consultants ruled. Why? Because businesses had desire to get on the Web and no clue as to how to do so (the COBOL or FoxPro pros in IT has no clue what HTML is…). Consultants did. Businesses had money, and — and this is key — consultants had the ability to quickly (relatively….) get a business online at a time when speed was on the essence. Many pluses to being first. Today that is not true at all. And DigitalWorks is almost dead, Xpedior is dead, Scient has merged with iXL (both companies hurting), Razorfish is bleeding…marchFirst/Whitman-Hart/Divine (hahahaha…). Consultants will survive, but in a greatly modified, highly targeted, lower pay way.
  • Open-source technologies — Yes, that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but with few exceptions (Linux, Apache and Perl) this is the handwriting on the wall. One of the reasons MS has such a large number of developers is that they make such good tools (Visual Basic, Visual Studio etc.). Open source is, right now, focused on the technology, and there are, for the most part, no tools. PostgreSQL, a great, fast, stable database, has one tool — a Linux only (! who puts a REAL production database on a Linux box with a GUI installed???) piece of shit called PGACCESS. I never use it; I use command line. MS SQL server’s tools rock. I’m on v7 and there are gaps in the tools, but way way way way more functionality, more intuitive than PGACCESS. PGACCESS looks like something I wrote, and that’s not a good thing (very unstable, as well, another hallmark of geistlingerWare). Let’s examine:

    • PHP — Great language that combines the text-friendly tools (regular expressions) of Perl with the power of UNIX (*NIX, if you want to be a purist) and maintains a very nice balance between combining the scripting language capabilities of Cold Fusion with the N-tier approach of JSP/servlets et al (separate functionality and appearance). Very popular with adult sites and company sites (i.e. small businesses, such as “Hal’s House of Records”) — the latter programmed by a single person who is a geek. Reason for popularity: FREE. Who would pay for this or the Zend engine? No one. Reason for Death: Lack of tools; lack of support (yes, the geek programmed it and it sings. Guy goes to college…who can maintain it? Go with ASP or Cold Fusion).
    • PostgreSQL and mySQL — They will survive — mainly mySQL — to power smaller sites, but one of two fates face them: 1) They offer few tools and improvements in the near future, and they become marginalized. 2) They offer more/better tools and improvements in the near future, and they are forced to charge for them. And they become marginalized.
    • Napster/GNUtella/Bear Share et al — Good tools; they draw the attention of corporate lawyers. Yes, they are screwed. They will endure, but not triumph. They will be eclipsed by software commissioned by corporations. This is good and bad, but get used to it. It is also the future.
    • Remember — just because it’s open-source does NOT mean that it’s evil/excellent (depending on your politics). Cool/slick software is cool and/or slick, but that does not make it necessary, compelling and so on.

  • Cold Fusion — Cold Fusion is the single best language to quickly get a dynamic (database-driven) site up and running with a very low learning curve. If you know HTML, learn some new tags and some SQL and you have a dynamic site. How cool is that? That’s the upside. Lots of downsides:
    • Since it is so easy to learn, the ranks of so-called Cold Fusion programmers is heavily littered with those who 1) Really don’t know programming, 2) Really don’t know SQL. Result? Inefficient pages; slower than it should etc.
    • Companies deploy it on stupid platforms (example: Access and Win98) BECAUSE THEY CAN. When at SOS, I think we had a great solution: CF on Linux (FAST!!!); MS SQL v7 database on NT. Yes, split platforms. Intentionally. Rocked.

    The bottom line is that CF will endure but will, like PHP but in a different way, be marginalized. Still a very good platform, however, and I’ve done both.

  • Generalist Personal — Like me. Fossils. Will still be valuable to those that have (accidently) hired them; VERY few will be hired for their breadth (with lack of depth). Yes, I’m personally screwed. I have to live with that….

While this current State of the Internet/Web is not generous to me, it is realistic, I believe. Again, that’s not good for me, so that’s a somewhat compelling reason to believe me.

Regardless of what I’ve outlined above, things are changing. Whether or not they change the way I’ve outline or not is … well, history will judge (like History will every get its sorry ass over to this page!). This is what I firmly believe and probably have not set down clearly today; I’m certain that at least large chunks of what “I believe” in this entry will seem silly in the very near future.

That’s me.


Let the future come. It’ll be interesting.

What sites will survive/thrive?

Two days ago, I wrote up a blog about the 20th anniversary of the IBM PC, which — to me — really kicked off the PC revolution.

You can disagree (fine…), but that was my thought.

One issue that I wanted to get to that day — but did not — was a different reflection, beyond what the release of the IBM PC meant to the computing world/world in general.

Basically, it was more of a look back at what has changed on a more recent timeline.

I touched on this a bit, when I mentioned that the same thing that happened to the PC is now happening to the Web (going more business — REAL business — oriented).

I guess I wanted to just capture what has been lost and what is in danger of being lost (for better or worse, mind you).

Because the world — and the World Wide Web — is constantly changing. Sometimes for the worst, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the … I just don’t know.

But it changes.

Here are some, I guess, reflections:

The bad/sad news:

  • Remember when Webmonkey was required reading? Who goes there now? Same can be said for the hard-copy Wired magazine. And wired.com tumbled as soon as it was acquired by Lycos — at least to me.
  • Remember when ZDNet was a great Web site for breaking news? Purchased by CNET, it still has good Ziff-Davis commentary, but dramatic cut in the number of sources for tech news — from two to one. Yes, Dan Gilmor at siliconvalley.com is still around, and there are others. But ZDNet and news.com were the big two to me. Now they are the same. Sad.
  • Four words: suck.com word.com — The latter totally gone; the former virtually gone. Very sad.
  • Salon.com will probably die — or become a pale shade of its current self — by year’s end. Are online subscriptions the answer? I don’t think so. (What is? Consolidation and syndication, I think. Not always good, but a sustainable business model.)
  • Slate.com may well continue on forever, because it has Microsoft’s backing, and MS does not want to admit that it failed. Good writing — although uneven — and a perplexingly bad looking site, but it will survive unless MS pulls serious plugs. Not in the near future.
  • Fuckedcompany.com: Required reading today; will not be shortly. There won’t be as many Webvans and Scients (just merged with iXL) and MarchFirsts soon. All will have died/morphed/endured. Then what? There will not be anything to read about.
  • In the same company as fuckedcompany.com will be such sites as ipo.com (all about tech IPOs, of which there are few these days..) and webmergers.com. And other sites in the same vein. In Chicago, themayreport.com may survive — I still don’t know how Ron May makes money — but once this dot-com/dot-bomb churn settles down, he may be in trouble, as well.
  • With the exception of job hunting, the online classified promise never materialized. Yes, marginally easier. Still not there. Why? Most of the efforts to turn off-line classifieds into online classifieds are driven by old-school publishers. This is not working. (See cars.com, where I worked.) More “thinking outside the box” is needed. This is part of the reason for monster.com’s success. It didn’t just organize and post classifieds, it offered tools and personalization.
  • Portals: What can I say? They suck/they help somewhat. They are good for newbies. There is promise there, but right now — to me — it is promise unfulfilled.
  • Jargonwatch: What industry has generated more buzzwords/phrases than the dot-com world? Yes, some of these were around prior to WWW, but here is a small sampling:

    • Think outside the box
    • Paradigm
    • Computer terms for non-computer use: “We’ll talk off-line [i.e. outside the meeting] about this”

  • The death of small but interesting sites. Most are still there, but there is little incentive to go there: want to go to jodi.org and play for 15 minutes or got to cnn.com and read the news? Vast majority of the time, the latter.
  • A lot of the “cool” of these small/experimental sites has disappeared. On the other hand, much of what they pioneered is embedded — more elegantly — in high-profile sites. The bad news is really not the death of the cool, but the death of experimentation. Because the big players won’t stick out their neck to see if “this” will work or not.
  • Writing/editing skills are … uh … missing on most sites. This will boomerang, I predict, as the more tight-ass companies take over more and more of the Web and, thus, its content.

But all is not lost. Much good has come out of this, sometimes almost conflicting with the above.

The good:

  • More news, all the time. cnn.com, msnbc.com, abc.com (cbsnews.com is a late-comer and, to me, inconsequential).
  • monster.com — It did not do it all by itself, but hunting for a job has forever changed thanks to the Internet and sites like monster.com, which — to me — is a best of breed site.
  • You can find damn near anything on the Web. It’s great. Who starred in that movie? What is the size of France? Where can I get a replacement driver for my old printer. Sometimes it takes some skilled digging, but it’s usually there.
  • The Web has changed everything, just not to the degree that was hyped (i.e. promised). A few years ago, who would have really thought a job search could be done throught the Web ONLY (no stamps)? That the village of Smallsville would have a Web site with numbers and e-mails of all village officials? The future is here, and it’s on the Web.

The perplexing:

  • Computers are still too damn hard to use. I’ve been saying this for years; Mitch Kapor (of Lotus 1-2-3) said the same during a celebration of the IBM PC’s 20th anniversary.
  • The Web is still too hard to use. AOL and MSN have tried to address this through proprietary tools; I don’t know if this is the answer. But who the fuck cares what a POP3 server is? And why do I need to enter this in MS Outlook to make it work??? Valid questions.


For those who have not noted it yet, today is the 20th anniversary of the release of the IBM PC.

While this was in no way the first PC — even IBM does not claim this distinction (most give the nod to Altair, a kit-based machine designed by a medical doctor) — it validated the PC. If IBM (whose initials could stand for I‘m a Business Monster) thought the PC was worth building and selling, that meant that business sure as hell should consider the PC a worthwhile — correction — NECESSARY business purchase.

Yes, Altair and the Trash 80’s lead the pack, and the Apple II really set the tone for the personal computer.

But it was the backing of a monolithic company, one dedicated to computing for business, to make business sit up and take notice.

If a couple of long-hairs operating out of a garage somewhere in the near-desert of California (and factor in all the anti-California bias carried by many WASP CEOs) said they needed to get on a computer, how many CEOs would listen?


If IBM announces that it is the age of the PC — that it would help business be productive — well, hell, those same wingtip-footed managers would sit up and take notice.

And they did.

This is one crucial piece of the PC puzzle that many miss: Yes, the Apple II was first; it may have been better than the IBM PC.

But it was only marginally for business. It was for people who thought computer technology was cool.

Does the manager of an asphalt plant think computer technology is cool?


He’s worried about business. But he might be a “techie,” and he might buy a computer for home use, just to mess around.

And he’d buy an Apple II — IF he could afford it.

It was not a computer that you had to have.

When IBM introduced its unit, it targeted to a larger degree businesses. IBM, after all, was a business-oriented company. IBM was business.

And the companies it sold mainframes (down to the puny — yet still highly effective AS/400) to had lots of money to spend.

IBM said PCs would help business.

Businesses listened.

Business bought.

And suddenly the guy at the asphalt plant who wasn’t a techie but may have/may not have been interested in computers came in one morning and found this spanking new machine on his desk.

Attached to it was a note from his boss telling him to learn/use the thing.

And this computer is not an Apple II like he may/may not have at home.

It’s an IBM PC.

Multiply this by thousands, toss in Apple’s consistent idiocy in licensing their OS, add PC clones — due to IBM’s lack of foresight — and you have a revolution that put the IBM-clone PC smack in the middle of all this craziness that we call the personal computer revolution.

That led to the success of the World Wide Web (think Mr. Asphalt and his ilk would be large enough in numbers to connect to the Internet via this protocol unless it was forced upon them)? Learn at work because you have to; use at home because you want to.


And business became — slowly, then quickly — very computer centric.

And IBM clones — no longer the province of IBM, but more the spawn of Microsoft and Intel — were at the very center of that computer-centric world.

And they still are.

Bottom line:

  • One used an Apple because one thought technology was cool and fun. One purchased an Apple for home use.
  • One used an IBM clone because one had to: Work purchased it and you used it there as part of your job. If you purchased a PC for home, you purchased an IBM clone. Why? Because you already knew the software. Even if Apple’s were better/cooler/easier, why add to the learning curve?

People still don’t get it, but the same thing that happened with the PC is happening to the Web.

  • Initially, cool thing to do (Apple flavored)
  • Technically challenging; geeks needed (Apple flavored)
  • New browsers/OSs introduced; bring it to the masses (Apple/IBM flavored)
  • Web levels the playing field: IBM has a Web site; so does Mr. Asphalt. Both have a URL. (Apple flavored)
  • March/April 2000. Dot-com bomb. “non-sustainable business model” is culprit (IBM flavored)
  • 2001 Q1 & Q2: More dot-coms wither on the vine. “Free” services disappear. (IBM flavored)
  • Web consultancies die/take hits as the number of Web sites dwindle. (IBM flavored)
  • While layoffs from dot-coms continue to rise, IT spending/hiring is still strong. Why? Real businesses (not www.myfavoritecars.com) finally see the value of Web-enabling their services or using Web to connect company less-expensively than with legacy systems. (IBM flavored)
  • FUTURE: Some small sites survive; some Internet pure-players (think Amazon) survive and florish; more business is shifted to the Web; much of this Web-based business is not available to average user. TCP/IP yes; available to all like in the old days, no (VERY IBM flavored).

Gross generalizations?


Highly accurate still?


And I could be wrong.

And I doubt it.