Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

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Tech News24 Jan 2024 01:24 pm

Have you heard? Blogging is dead. It officially died November 30, 2022. RIP.

Not that it wasn’t on its last leg before then, but its officially now dead. If you missed the obit, feel free to adopt this as the official notice.

The consumption of video and the reduction of the attention span of the average person to the length of a tweet had already been a harbinger of the demise of blogs. But ChatGPT has officially killed it.

Why would anyone continue to blog when everything you write will be aggregated into a neural network to be regurgitated later without attribution in a chatbot?

That’s a shame, but as I’ve been putting all my energy into my book, its fine.

I’ll leave up most of my posts from the past, because, well, they’re most likely already in the neural network of every AI model anyway.

Tech News28 Aug 2022 06:40 am

It has been a minute since I’ve devoted the time this blog deserves. Does anyone even read blogs in the TikBookTwitGram world? Does anyone have an attention span longer than 30 seconds? At the end of the day, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is more cathartic than having any illusion of being widely read.

For the last 2 years, I’ve been threatening to write a book. The introduction and first chapter are even mostly complete. I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t made more progress on this, but by starting to share more here, hopefully inspiration for dedicating the time to the book will come.

Motivation for the book comes from seeing so many of the challenges repeated over and over again in building engineering excellence. In my new advisory role seeing even more companies, the truth of common challenges is even more enforced. The book is about much more than that, but here lets focus on a few of the big ones.

In the next few series of posts, I’ll be tackling what I call the impedance mismatch between Engineering teams and the rest of the company. While Sales, Finance, Marketing and even HR all run based on quarterly commitments, measurements, and goals, most often Engineering teams using Agile processes find themselves at odds with other organizations. When those other departments have to commit to quota numbers, marketing qualified leads, accounts receivable collections, etc, for the current quarter and against an annual plan, they don’t understand why Engineering can’t commit and deliver to a quarterly roadmap.

Engineers at an individual level who buy into Agile on the contrary can find themselves at odds with a roadmap planning process – “We’re Agile” can be seen by those outside of Engineering as an excuse to not make commitments. 

The truth is we have learned over the last 50 years of software development that waterfall processes fail again and again. We have learned that it is impossible to know everything up front in a world of rapid change. We have also learned that in technology, speed wins every time. Early to market innovators, those that serve their customers quickly, teams that are responsive to market changes all win.

So, the art in solving this impedance mismatch is to keep the power of Agile, but also be able to stay in step with all the other teams in the company and fit into their quarterly processes. What are some proven ways to do this? We will dive into these in the next few blog posts. 

The short answer is: it requires Product and Engineering to work together seamlessly as one team. They can be in fact different organizations, but they have to have complete alignment and common goals / visions of success.

I’ve built these processes successfully in many companies over my career but have only been able to build the seamless relationship with Product a few times. Often the leaders of these organizations have other agendas than truly partnering with Engineering to build “proud but achievable” roadmaps. Too often, they have dysfunctional behaviors rooted in self promotion or preservation to put the energy into building a sustainable process for product planning.

If you have a great product team or at least a product team that wants to be great, I feel confident you can use these ideas to build a planning process that will build trust with the rest of the company. That trust has to have its root in trust built between Product and Engineering teams. Without that trust foundation, roadmaps will be a continual struggle and frequently disappoint.

Agile Software and Cloud Computing and Effective Software Projects and Tech News24 May 2014 07:15 am

Gordon Moore

Monday, an article was posted on Forbes titled “Why Software Doesn’t Follow Moore’s Law”. This topic has been on my mind some lately as we’ve been working to rollout a new platform with greater scalability, lower maintenance costs, and significantly enhanced capabilities. For engineers that have worked only on the new platform, it is easy to disparage the original platform. Many of them were were not even professional engineers when the original platform was written and they lose sight of how software architectures have changed over the years from the traditional three tier architecture to the lambda architectures of today.

It’s interesting to break this down a bit more. Are engineers smarter today than they were 8-10 years ago? And were those of 10 years ago smarter than those of 20 years past? In my humble estimation no, and one could argue todays graduates know appreciably less about how computers actually work but lets not digress.

What has changed is the way software is constructed. One can argue that modern languages have a major role to play in this, but one can argue also they are an outcome of the changes in architecture. But why has the architectural change occurred?

I believe a significant part of the change in software architecture is attributable to Moore’s law, somewhat in opposition to Mr Maccaba’s article in Forbes this week. Certainly engineers 10 and perhaps 20 years ago understood the advantages of isolation and service oriented architectures. Why didn’t they build systems in this way?

A major reason what that the systems and networks in place really couldn’t support it. Without gigabit networks, fast processors, and super cheap compute, the emphasis was on highly optimized code paths. REST Call? You would have been laughed out of town. Now the opposite is true.

Thus, Moores law has enabled much less efficient architectures to be feasible. Mr Maccaba also asserts this, but missed the point. These new architectures are much more scalable, can be built with fewer dependencies, can be changed independently since they are loosely coupled, and allow previously unobtainable compute goals to be broken down into independent parts and delivered. This is true whether we are talking about large scale web application infrastructure or big data analytics.

By constructing software architectures that take advantage of Moore’s law, we are solving problems that could never be solved before and constructing software systems of higher quality that we can actually deliver in much faster times to market. While certainly not doubling every 18 months, the time to market of new highly scalable solutions is measured in months today instead of years.

At the end of the day, I feel the point Mr Maccaba has missed here is that Moore’s law doesn’t apply to humans. Thus, we leverage Moore’s law to make humans more effective in software engineering through architectures that do deliver significant increases in scalability, quality, and capability.

Everyday Tech and Mobile Computing and Tech News21 Dec 2011 09:47 am

Yesterday, a decision was reached in the Apple/HTC lawsuit in which Apple claimed infringement on 10 patents.  In the sound bite headlines making news yesterday, one could walk away with the impression that Apple emerged victorious and HTC (plus all other android phone manufacturers by proxy) would be severely impacted in their ability to produce smart phones.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  This article shows that out of the 10 patents in question, only 1 patent was upheld.  This patent was extrapolated to cover the feature of having a phone number in an email be clickable to auto dial that number.  Not a show stopper guys.

Not surprisingly, HTC is already testing new phones to workaround this issue.  And, since they can sell existing phone until April, this victory amounts to a huge number of legal hours on both sides with HTC essentially able to continue cranking out great phones.

The gap between open source android capabilities and the proprietary iPhone capabilities has closed.  This ruling is good for competition and thus good for innovation.  Apple is an amazing and innovative company.  So are Google, MotorolaGoogle, HTC, Samsung, et al.  This all bodes well for mobile internet innovation for years to come.

Tech News11 Sep 2011 06:59 am

I remember like it was yesterday.  It was a Tuesday.  We were having our leaders meeting as we did every Tuesday at 9am back then.  I recall Matt walked in a little late and feeling a little irritated as I was preoccupied with the issues of that software project when he says “something’s wrong, have you heard”.  It really didn’t register with any of us at first what had happened. There was a TV on outside our conference room and the first tower was burning.  We stood there in silence, not really understanding, and feeling a little cold and numb.  It was very quiet as more and more of the team started to gather around the TV.  Not knowing what else to do, a few minutes later we went back to our meeting and discussed the things that at the time we thought we important. By the time the meeting was over, the second tower was burning and we knew.  The rest of the day is a blur to me, but I remember I couldn’t wait to get home to see my daughters.

Later that day, we learned of the heroics of the passengers on Flight 93.  In this speech yesterday, President Bush commemorates a new memorial to their heroism in Shanksville Pennsylvania.

America will never forget the attacks of September 11th, 2001.  We must also never forget the words carved in stone in this photo: Freedom isn’t free.  The heroes on Flight 93 serve as an inspiration as we are grateful for their sacrifice.

Mobile Computing and Tech News15 Aug 2011 08:05 pm

Already on a tear by far surpassing Apple in market share for smart phone devices, Google today announces the acquisition of Motorola Mobility. What a software company will do with all these hardware handset assets is interesting, but the strategic move of defending their intellectual property turf by buying 20,000+ patents is shear genius. Nice move Google.

For all those that firmly believe in the power of the bazaar over the cathedral, this is a very important news event!

Tech News30 May 2011 08:29 pm

Wanted to share with everyone a Memorial Day message from my Father to his family and friends…

Today is Memorial Day 2011.  For those veterans who have served and those active duty who still serve, this is a significant and meaningful day.  I fully understand that Memorial Day is not one dimensional, having totally different meanings depending on ones frame of reference.  Some citizens see it as a holiday–a cook out on the grill and a cold beer.  Others see it as a trip to the mall or to the lake.  For me, there has never been any ambiguity associated with this important day.  It is a day to remember all those men and women who wear or who have worn their countries uniform.  It is not so much about war and the attendant tragedy that accompanies it, but about those individuals themselves who were willing to step forward and be a part of this nation’s defense.  At least for me, when looking back, I do not so much remember all of the times, places, and events but instead those dedicated troops who were there to make that experience memorable.

Yes, Memorial Day has always been special, but this one has been extra sweet for.  My son and his family, who are from Austin, Tx., traveled here  where we linked up with my grandson who lives locally spending Saturday afternoon discussing the history of our nation, its wars, and the evolution of our military and its war fighting capabilities.  I discussed in considerable detail my own service and the thirty years spent in various locations around the world.  I placed particular emphasis on the war in Southwest Asia which was the one in which I was personally knowledgeable.  The three grandchildren, who are age 12 to 15, have a good retention ability.  It was obvious that they had a reasonably clear understanding of events as they were presented.  Since so many young people today will never personally serve in uniform, this timing offered a window of opportunity to provide some insight.

On Sunday morning, we traveled one hundreds miles south to my home town of Teague, Tx. to visit the Freestone County Veterans Memorial and my uncle Jimmy, who is 86 years of age.  As if it had all occurred yesterday, Uncle Jimmy described his experiences from WWII.  He spoke of the tremendous public support for the war effort, the individual hardships, rationing, shortages, frequent reassignments, and the ever present danger of injury and death that our determined men faced.  Men such as Uncle Jimmy are an inspiration to me.  I could easily see on the faces of the grandchildren that they had come to understand some of the sacrifices that were common to that era.

And finally, after lunch in Teague with my cousin Bill and his family, we went to the Veterans Memorial.  While not on the scale of those monuments in our nation’s capital, the people who have designed and built the monument obviously had a good understanding of historical events surrounding modern wars and a good feeling for the veterans who fought in those wars.  The monument affords great dignity to veterans of Freestone County.  The grandchildren viewed the wall and the names of veterans past and present who served.  Surrounding the wall is a ring of benches inscribed with the names of veterans and some small bits of historical information about their service.   After viewing the memorial and talking about some of those listed, we crowded around the bench dedicated to Uncle Jimmy, my deceased brother Raymond, and me taking pictures and exchanging final hugs.

And, then, the day was complete.  As we made our ways home, I felt that we had all took from this weekend something special.  While driving along, I remembered the inscription on the family bench–“freedom isn’t free-let freedom ring eternal”.  And, I thought how lucky we are as Americans surrounded by plenty and living in the land of the free.  Let us never forget our blessings.

Leadership and Tech News15 May 2011 08:00 am

This article is fascinating; I just couldn’t stop reading it: I have a lot of respect for Sony, but this is a classic story of the downside of closed systems, blunders that are so easy to make when trying to lock down proprietary systems, and the exact wrong way to respond to the market.  Sony has a huge base of enthusiasts, and instead of engaging them and seeing it as an opportunity, they continue to see it as a battle they must win so they can stick to their predetermined strategy.  A must read.

Tech News01 May 2011 05:24 am

I’ve been using the Touchdown app for the past week and it is working pretty well.  Its also possible to replace the stock Email application according to this post on the XDA forums: .  You need to root your system, then change the permissions for the /system/apps directory with a command that looks similar to:

mount -w -o remount /system

At which point you could rename your old Email files in /system/app and copy in from a USB drive the files attached to the above post.  Nice.

So at the end of the day, it looks like for whatever reason, Acer decided not to include native exchange connection for the A500 Email program.

Everyday Tech and Mobile Computing and Tech News29 Apr 2011 09:51 pm

Super easy to gain root access to your A500.  Here’s the step-by-step guide to rooting your A500 with Honeycomb.

Everyday Tech and Tech News27 Apr 2011 07:09 pm

Acer Iconia A500 connected to camera via USB

Acer Iconia A500 connected to camera via USB

The Acer A500 went on sale Monday and having been researching Honeycomb Android based options for a new tablet, I elected to pick one up $450 at Best Buy which is a heck of a deal on a capable tablet.

No amount of research and reading reviews can tell you what it is really like to use one of these devices and whether it will work for you so I thought I’d share my experiences for those contemplating a similar decision and compare this device / OS with the iPad2.  Lets see where both platforms shine.

Advantage Android:
Open – the platform really is an open book. This has pros and cons as we will get into here. But from hardware to software, the Acer A500 is night and day different from the iPad.  The Iconia has a full USB port, a mini USB port, SD card slot, and hdmi out. Want a file browser? Simply install one from the Android Market and gain access to all your files.  Apple refuses to let iPad users see their files, much less copy things to or from their device.

On vacation and want to copy your camera photos to your iPad2?  Good luck.  (Note: a friend has pointed out you that Apple is happy to sell you a $29 adapter to connect your camera) With the A500, just hook up your camera over USB, or even easier, take the SD card out of your camera and put it in the A500’s SD slot. One look at the photo here shows something we may never see an iPad do – connect directly to a USB device.  I now routinely move files between my Mac and the Andriod tablet via a USB Drive.

Browser – Google has built a great browsing experience into Honeycomb. Flash capable, tabbed, and beautifully done, you really feel it’s a desktop based experience – only better.  It was able to handle all the flash websites I visited, and you can even run Adobe Air applications.  If you think iPad browsing is good, you have to see what Google has done in Honeycomb.

Solid – both the Acer tablet and the Honeycomb OS have been rock solid. Honeycomb 3.0.1 came loaded on the A500 and in 3 days I haven’t really seen one glitch. The whole platform seems very solid. Honeycomb itself is a terrific platform, multitasking, gorgeous interface, and fairly intuitive. I was able to navigate the UI very quickly and understand how to access menus, etc.  In head to head comparison, the A500 also has better wifi range than the iPad2.

Power / Flexibility – If you are a power user or technophile then, it is hard to beat an android device.  You can build or install any app under the sun, and even change the kernel itself.  So far, I haven’t been able to find anything I can’t do with this Honeycomb tablet.  It’s impressive what is possible with an Open platform.  The OS is slick and the multicore device is fast.  And, you don’t need a PC  or a Mac, and no silly iTunes download or activation is required to use the device.  The device can standalone.  But…  with power comes less simplicity.

For example, playing movies on the gorgeous A500 screen – there’s just not a push button way to get movies on the device.  To take a movie with you, you would need to rip a DVD to a m4v or similar movie file format and copy it to your tablet.  Pretty straightforward, but out of reach of many people.  I haven’t found yet a good way to “rent” movies ala iTunes.  Netflix doesn’t yet have a app for the tablet (even though Google TV is also android and it works great there).

Advantage iPad:
iTunes music/movies – The Apple monopoly certainly makes it convienent to play movies on the iPad! You can rent movies and take them on the plane or other places where wifi may not be available.  At $5 a pop its not exactly Redbox.

Exchange email – like iPhone, the iPad has great built in connectivity to Exchange.  Incredibly, the Acer  Iconia Honeycomb OS based tablet doesn’t have a default Exchange connector as a choice for it’s built in Email application.  I found a thirdparty android app called Touchdown that works great, but this omission is silly.  One would have to believe that this is temporary.

Cisco vpn – Seriously Google? Both iPad and iPhone support Cisco VPN.  The Honeycomb tablet supports 4 other types of VPN, but since most of corporate America uses Cisco, you’re pretty much out of luck. There seems to be a way to hack the Android kernel to add this, but seriously Google, this is lame.

Apps – As Steve Jobs will be the first to tell you, there are more Apps for iPhone/iPad.  Still I found an App for everything I was looking for, and equivalent to everything I use on my iPhone: Evernote, Sugarsync, MochaVNC to name a few.  The price of Openness seems to be to have to put up with trashware.  Google doesn’t screen their apps, so you need to be careful.  Still, if something is trashware, it shows up in the comments with even a casual scan.  (if you like the term trashware in this context – feel free to use it.  it seems to fit).

Ease/Simplicity – There’s no two ways around it – the iPad and iPhone are jsut about the easiest to use devices every created.  Toddlers can learn to use them quickly. Hats off to Apple for this.  Of course, if Apple doesn’t want you to do something, like connect your camera and move files to the iPad, then you’re out of luck.  If you are not computer savvy, the iPad is the way to go, no doubt.  This could change as vendors build out more completely packaged Honeycomb based solutions for their tablets.  The Honeycomb OS is certainly capable of it.  I just haven’t seen any thing yet that can rival the simplicity of the iPad.

Toss Up:
Books – I just have to hand it to Amazon – with their cross application support of Kindle and the message of buy your books once and read them on all your devices, you just can’t beat it.

Coexisting with an iPad:
Honeycomb and iOS tablets can coexist, you just need a little creativity. Take facetime for example, it’s an Apple only thing. But free video calling between the devices is easy through other apps such as Fring. It has worked really well in my initial testing.

Cloud Computing and Tech News08 Dec 2010 10:47 am

Bernard 9:20 Marc Benioff has just taken the stage – quite a showman he is. Nice video overview of day 1. Benioff now talking about Microsoft as the evil empire – says they are trying to stop chatter, the sales cloud, and his new socks. Talking now about the Microsoft lawsuit – and Micosoft “protest” outside yesterday. (MS had seqway drivers out front with “Don get Forced” slogans.)

Benioff asks the crowd to help him get this customer back and ask Bernard to come on out…  Its the guy in the MS advertisements – on the trucks and seqways.  “Bernard I’m so sorry…. we want to apologize to you”  “We don’t want you to go back to software, the constant upgrades, waiting for new features…”  Crowd applauds and Bernard says he will come back.  Classic Benioff.

9:38 Benioff now talking about his donation of $100M for a children’s hospital at UCSF. Describing all the investment in a new campus at Mission Bay.  Today is UCSF day at Dreamforce. Working to raise $1.5B for the new hospital. Still waiting for the announcements.

9:52 here we go with the meat of the keynote – “your platform is too proprietary” Benioff wants to open the platform further. Adding Ruby on Rails support. “Ruby is the true language of cloud 2” (talking about speed and agility of using the language). Salesforce buying Heroku!  Wow.

Heroku will be salesforce’s seventh cloud.  Will keep Heroku as an independent team. Heroku founded in 2007 to enable fast deployment/updgrade/delivery of Ruby apps. Fancy d- emo, but no details on how this will integrate with yet.

Eighth cloud announcement: BMC Software – CEO Bob Beauchamp on stage now. Announcing Remdyforce now available on, IT configuration management.

Platform team announcements – “ 2” -going to build a killer product for each market:

appforce – departmental and collaborative applications. looks like a marketing repackaging of what already provides. don’t see anything new here.  Improvements to sharing – new sharing model to be delivered in the Spring. Configurable Visualforce pages, Reduce governor limits by 70% in Spring.

siteforce – integrated cms, point and click editor, prebuilt components, social and mobile built in, 24×7 availability. Killer UI on the new CMS for content creation and publishing.

vmforce – accenture on stage talking about vmforce. Accenture is investing in vmforce – I don’t see anything really new here and the whole thing feels like a little bit of a false start.  With the new acquisition of Heroku, I would be dubious of a large investment in vmforce.

isvforce – packaged apps on the appexchange – more marketecture.  Didn’t see anything new here.

Now have CEO and CIOs on stage from Blackboard, Belkin, Avon, Kelly Services, and Deloitte talking about how the platform has helped them.

that’s a wrap.

Cloud Computing and Tech News07 Dec 2010 11:17 am

Marc Benioff speaking now – 14,000 in attendance at the keynote, 30K registered for conference.  Emphasizing platform and database in the cloud.  Waiting to see where he is going with this, what new announcements he has in his pocket…

Salesforce serves “100,000 customers, running of 1,500 Dell PCs” Marc says. That’s a gross over simplification.  His point is that cloud computing is green because of more efficient use of resources 90% more efficient than traditional hosting.

Talking about salesforce foundation now – asked all non-profits attending to stand up and be recognized – applause.

Broad change in internet usage.  Social networking users surpassed email users last year.  Significant growth in usage via smartphones. Cloud 2 is the shift from easy fast and low cost (Cloud 1) to social and mobile (Cloud 2). Interesting that Marc positions Amazon, Google, and eBay as Cloud 1.

If half a billion people are on facebook, why aren’t we building software that looks like facebook?  Why isn’t enterprise software like facebook?  Focus on 6 clouds: chatter, jigsaw data could,,, along with sales cloud2, service cloud 2.

Major changes in will be annouced tomorow, and appforce to build apps, and site force for sites.

Demoing jigsaw – clean and update your contacts from jigsaw database, can also search for contacts at a opportunity.

CEO of Symantec on stage now. Arguing chatter is more efficient than email, claiming productivity going up. I privately wonder how this can be measured.  Is it just more information overload and more surface level communication without depth? I do get that it is useful to communicate very brief bits of info quickly.

“How do I get my whole company on chatter?” New product announcement – ChatterFree.  Whole company can be on chatter.  Great strategy – obviously trying to be the facebook of business. Admins have to enable it in the organization. Employees can be provisioned automatically or can be invited to join.  Includes chatter on mobile device.  Also, coming by end of year – free for everyone, generally available public site.

Demo of service cloud 2 – screen pop integrated with telephone system, integrated with knowledge base and a call script. Also demoed the availability of the KB via google search. Agent to web visitor chat is included in service cloud 2.  Demoed twitter integration showing how service cloud can monitor tweets and create cases, including photos and location information, and send answer via tweet. huge announcements coming tomorrow – vision of leading platform for cloud 2.0 applications – faster cloud 2 apps, including java. 185K apps today.  Big emphasis on Open – make it open. announcement: claim to have the most scalable cloud database – 25B db xactions through Q311, 200B DB records, 12B custom tables, response times falling to around 275ms.  When they released chatter,  they extended the DB model to include social data model (follow any entity) and recently published a mobile / REST APIs.

Announcing today – “first enterprise database for cloud 2” open to any language / platform.  Full relational db, full text search index, user mgmt, row level security, triggers and stored procs, authentication, APIs.  Elastic, auto-upgrade, auto-backup, auto-disaster recovery. Trusted and secure, SAS 70 Type II certified. demo: view of db instances after login. Create an db, graphical schema editor in nice UI, showing console running a select to show the db is online.  Showing VMForce java code connecting to demoing facebook app querying jobs database and uploading a resume to a open position. facebook app is a php app running on EC2. Demoing android app now pulling job data from Finally, showing recruiting app running on ipad.  Sharing and security of restricts visibility of job applications to relevant departments. Showing collaboration in interview process attached to job application using chatter like social sharing. will be available next year. first 100K records are free. $10/month per 100K records. Benioff promises even more announcements tomorrow. Will I Am and Stevie Wonder tonight.  Gnereal Powell tomorrow?  Wow.

Cloud Computing and Tech News07 Dec 2010 10:52 am

Here waiting for keynote to start…. It is at least double the conference of 2008. I estimate this room can hold 10,000 people. Will be interesting to hear what Benioff announces today.

Tech News05 Dec 2010 11:21 am

I am fascinated by this story released late in November describing a computer work aimed at altering the code in industrial control systems, specifically it seems, the uranium centrifuges running Siemens control software.  The theory continues that the worm was targeted even more specifically to  damage the centrifuges at Natanz, the Iranian enrichment facility.

Another good analysis of this story can be found on this security blog by Bruce Schneier (aka the man on cryptography).  Bruce provides a link to Symantec’s detailed evaluation of the worm.

As you read about this worm, you can’t help but to be impressed with the complexity and sophistication of the software and people behind it.  This was definitely not a one man job – this required the effort of a small team of people with very specific skills – PC vulnerabilities, network communications, coding for industrial programmable logic controllers, and sophisticated story boarding of the entire worm lifecycle. It required all of this, plus very specific knowledge of the centrifuges being targeted along with operational knowledge of how the facilities function.  to top it all off, the worm has sophisticated update and reporting capabilities as well as being able to hide itself from detection.  Really amazing to put this all together in one tidy nuclear-program disabling package.

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