What do LinkedIn and Github have in Common

Microsoft has been making some unexpected acquisitions, far outside their core of Windows, Office apps, or even mobile. With the purchase of LinkedIn, and now Github, they’re definitely trying to build a network of technology related services that live outside the traditional Microsoft ecosystem.

Skype was the first of these, and it was killed off in an profitable arrangement with the telcos. But still sort of lives on as a weird collaboration tool. I take that back, Hotmail was a much earlier, external web-based service that was bought, and slowly, over several years, subsumed, until now it’s just a web front end for Outlook, and occasionally used for throwaway emails accounts.

And these sorts of acquisitions have one thing in common, user data. Skype and Hotmail were general end user apps, and have been inadvertently suffocated. But LinkedIn and Github are focused specifically on business users, specifically technology users, and both are the core platforms for gaining access to software developers. I can think of one other platform where someone might go to collect developer information…Stack Overflow.

Whether it’s driven by Nadella or not, I think Microsoft is trying to turn itself into a general IT services company, ala IBM. They know they’re legacy. Windows is dead (or will be once the hardware running the last Windows 7 PC dies) but there will still be a need for the applications run on it for a long time. (Just like IBM 360 mainframes.) But in order to keep developers thinking about Microsoft (so managers keep buying Microsoft support contracts) they need to own the toolchain that developers use.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the main goal of the acquisition is mining data for recruiter purposes. Microsoft alreay has a very close relationship with contract shops, having created the industry to get around full time employment laws in the 1980s, and many big recruiting/contractor firms are (or were) headquartered in the Seattle are and started by Microsoft employees.

Whether Microsoft will be able to capitalize on this is yet to be see. They have a track record of driving away users and rendering the data collection useless (see Hotmail & Skype). But I expect eventually to see recruiter spam through Github soon.

I love a good conspiracy theory. (Ask me about chemtrails and the moon landing sometime.)

Five Stars – What Customer Reviews Tell You About Your Business

I love to read negative reviews. My wife will tell you it’s because I’m a pessimist. I say because it’s where people tell the truth. Maybe I am a pessimist.

Here’s what I think each rating indicates:

*  Anger
** Frustration
***  Apathy
**** Dissatisfaction
***** Attachment


No question, one star reviews are the most damaging. Someone is upset, and they’re here to vent, and will probably bring in their personal problems. I’ve been there. And there’s not much you can do beyond damage control. Either you didn’t deliver at all what was promised, or this is just an angry person.


This is where I always jump to when reading customer reviews (on Amazon for instance.) These people wanted something and are frustrated you didn’t live up to their expectations. Here’s where you can learn what you did wrong and how you can do it better.


Almost never find anything useful. Either it’s someone frustrated being generous or someone content but pessimistic.


This is where I go next after two star reviews. Here, you have people who are generally satisfied, but there is something they didn’t quite like. Often it’s a personal preference, but maybe you’re 90% there. This is where good ideas come from.


Skip this entirely. These reviews are either true believers, or shills. Mind you, I’m not saying you don’t want 5 star reviews, just that they’re not going to tell you anything useful.

Sales and Marketing Software Frustrations

I have some experience with with sales & marketing software, and have done technical consulting for clients around email campaigns and Adwords. I’ve worked on e-commerce and CRM systems too. But that’s not my main focus. I’m a software developer and my specialty is testing & automation.

In the work I’ve done, I’ve been impressed by slick user interfaces and big promises (often illustrated by colorful charts), but I’ve always come away from those engagments frustrated, not just with technical complexity, but with an appreciation for the people who need to use these systems to do their work — which is primarily with people.

For instance, a salesperson who has to change the way he works into Salesforce for forecasting, a writer & SEO expert trying smoothly coordinate her marketing message across blog, social media, email and ad campaigns, or a fulfillment division trying to customize their order & support systems to handle their products that don’t fit a cookie-cutter mold.

I don’t think a single monolithic system that solves all these problems is the right way to go. For one thing, only a huge organization could afford something like this. Also, it’s bound to be as clunky and one-size-fits-all as any other existing system. And it would never get finished.

I think of how software is being made simpler with microservices and adaptive user interfaces. Let the users control their data and shape it the way they need it. Let the software provide the integration. Let domain experts define how they deal with it — the salesperson, the marketer, the writer, the SEO expert, the division manager, the CEO.

I think of how I write automation. First I understand the manual process, and then I try to understand the actual business requirements. Then I try to reconcile them and start with automating the parts that make the most sense, and provide the most value.

Sometimes it’s a combination of automated & manual steps that are more successful than either a fully automated or completely manual approach. And then, if you’re lucky, processes can change to make it even easier to automate once you have the confidence in your software — and the time freed from making it work for you — to think about what’s really important in your business.

I’d love to talk with people in these different roles and hear their frustrations and ideas for how sales & marketing software could be better — or even better, how doing their jobs could be easier — in spite of the software they currently have to use.