Embracing the Change

When I first made the decision to take a leave of absence from IBM and go out on my own (before I was laid off), one of my primary motivations was that to stay at IBM I would have to completely change my career path. That path would have moved me away from working primarily on client software (which I’d done since I started at IBM) to working primarily on server software. At the time, this type of work didn’t really appeal to me.

But the truth is there was one motivator behind my final decision:

I didn’t want change.

What are You Shipping in 2011?

As I was putting together What I Shipped in 2010 in response to Seth Godin’s question, I discovered a few things about myself that probably apply to you.

  1. By the end of the year, I’ve forgotten the first three quarters of the year.
  2. A major negative event (or maybe positive) divides your year. In my case, it was very difficult to see things before that event because that event defined my year
  3. If it weren’t for Facebook and Twitter, I’d probably have no record of my year.

Why’s it so important to keep track of the things that you’ve shipped?

Too Many Life Events

The other day I logged into IBM’s benefits system and received the message “You have too many life events.” I knew what the problem was – it couldn’t process both next year’s enrollment and my return from leave of absence (more on that later), but those words really stuck with me.

I’m currently reading the book “When Organizing Isn’t Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life” by Julie Morgenstern. One of the concepts that she talks about in the book is that people can have trouble moving on to new things in their life because the tendency is to hold on to the old and be dragged down by it. It’s not just about stuff – it’s about time, activities, projects and habits.

The internet has really perpetuated this problem. If you were to search for me on Google, you would find references to Microformats, Firefox in the Enterprise, various Firefox Add-Ons like Operator and Activities, OS/2 and more. Because of the internet, I am forever tied to these various projects. What I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a tendency to hold on to everything I’ve ever done and feel guilty that I’m not participating in some of the activities that I started. As a result, I have trouble starting and focusing on new things because I feel like I should be maintaining the old. My hope is to use this post to give a life status and quantify what I’m really working on. First lets start with IBM.

As of November 15, I am officially an IBM employee again. I ended my leave of absence two months early. What basically happened is that IBM found a browser related position for me and the economy tanked. In the interest of my family and my future, I thought it was prudent to return to IBM and get a steady paycheck. I’m continuing some of my work on the side, particularly with Brand Thunder and Minggl as long as it continues to not conflict with my work at IBM. I don’t consider my try at consulting a failure – I learned quite a bit about myself and how I work. I think part of the problem in the beginning was that I had expectations that I could find a way to get paid to continue the work I did before as opposed to creating new work. In the end what I realized is that I need to spend some time learning how to market myself and getting a VERY firm financial foundation before I try again. We’ll see how long that takes. Note that Kaply Consulting will continue, and I’ll be at the Add-on-Con in December not necessarily drumming up business but certainly networking.

Given that my job at IBM really has very little to do with what I’ve done before, I’ve realized that it’s time to SHED some of the old things that I’ve been working on. I have enough going on outside of IBM to keep me busy and I will have very little time inside of IBM to maintain those projects. So without further adieu, the list:

Firefox in the Enterprise – I had always believed that I could help to build some momentum behind creating a better story for using Firefox in the enterprise, but I no longer believe that is the case. While I hope that other people take up this banner, without the support of Mozilla in this effort, I’m not sure anything will ever really come of this. Every year or so there seems to be a slight resurgence, but it never goes anywhere. I know there are some companies out there doing work around this like FrontMotion and Novell, but I really believe that someone needs to come behind this effort and really work to increase Firefox enterprise adoption. I’m just not that person. Obviously I’ve created a lot of information and technology around this subject and I will answer questions, but I have no interest in leading this effort anymore.

CCK Wizard – The CCK Wizard was really my first effort in extension development. When IBM was evaluating what was missing for Firefox enterprise adoption this one came up and I did it. Even though there have been a lot of downloads and people are using it, I’ve always been surprised at how many people simply don’t know about it. It’s a great tool if you need to deploy a customized browser for your organization. The greatest thing about the CCK Wizard is that it started me on a road of learning a great deal about customizing Firefox which helped me in future efforts. That being said, within the next week, I will update the CCK Wizard for Firefox 3 on amo and then I will cease work on it. As it relates closely to the enterprise work, it really doesn’t fit in the scope of what I’m working on. I might at least test it with Firefox 3.1, but I’m not making any commitments to that.

Group Policy Support – One of the other areas that was perceived as lacking in Enteprise Firefox was Group Policy support. I was working with Cesar Oliveira from Seneca College on putting something together, but honestly I just didn’t have the time to put into it. I hope he at least got a good grade from the work he did. This effort gave me even more expertise on tweaking and customizing the browser, but in the end its simply not something that I can invest more time into, so I’m not going to be working on it. This is a really interesting concept, though, and hopefully someone in the future will pick it up.

Rebrand – Most people probably don’t even know about this extension, but it was an interesting side project that still gets downloads. I had a request when I was working on the CCK Wizard to remove Firefox branding so I created a wizard that does this. Note this works without modifying the base Firefox install. I’ve since discovered in my work on the Starpulse Browser and the Huffington Post Browser for Brand Thunder that rebranding is more complicated than just an extension, especially on Mac. However, it is possible to completely rebrand Firefox without rebuilding the source and even get your updates from Mozilla. If this is something you want to do, I recommend you contact Brand Thunder or me. We’ll help you make it happen. I’ll be removing the Rebrand extension from amo in a week or so.

Firefox Microformats – Even though I’ve worked in the Mozilla/Firefox space for quite a while, microformats was really my first substantial contribution outside of my OS/2 work. I was excited to be able to do it, and it branched nicely from my work on Operator. I know it’s being used by the Ubiquity folks and that’s pretty cool. Hopefully other extensions will see it as a way to easily integrate microformats with their extension. What I discovered working on microformats is that I had really gotten away from what it means to work on a project with schedules and deadlines. The support in Firefox 3 was good, but it would have been better if I’d paid more attention to the product side of things. From a future perspective, I will continue to own the microformats code and fix bugs as necessary, but I have no plans to enhance the code.

Operator – Deciding what to do with Operator is difficult. It holds a special place for me because it was the first extension I did that kind of became “mainstream.” It has almost 100,000 downloads and still quite a few users. Microsoft even mentions it being inspirational for their microformats work. That being said, I’m going to do a few fixes for Operator, call it 1.0 and then stop development. My primary motivation for ceasing work on Operator is that I simply reached what feels like a dead end to me. Looking at things like openService and Ubiquity commands, I realize that I kind of architected myself in a corner with regards to adding custom functionality. In addition, Operator was really intended to just be an experiment as to how a microformats UI would work in the browser. Hopefully some day a decision will be made on how to do that and Operator type functionality will simply be a part of the browser. I know people still like Operator and what it represents. And I know it has been used recently by some big companies for some interesting things. I plan to integrate at least some of the key functionality with Activities so my microformats work will certainly not go away completely.

Activities for Firefox – In looking at the stats from amo, this one surprised me. While Operator has been downloaded more, Activities has more daily users and more downloads per week. Originally I had done this extension just to show how easily Microsoft’s new Activities functionality could be done in Firefox. What I’ve learned since then is that this extension combined with extensions to openService creates a much better platform for the future than Operator. As such, this extension will be the one extension that I continue to work on. Hopefully the microformats work in Activities will be enough to satisfy folks. Note that Microsoft has renamed this technology to Accelerators – I’m not sure if I will rename the extension.

OS/2 – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of this one. I’ll continue to do builds as I can, and once I’m in my new office, I’ll setup the build machine to do nightly build again. If there is someone out there that wants to step up and takeover doing official builds, I’d be more than happy to give them the machine to do it with. But I will continue to do this in the foreseeable future.

Dave Ramsey Facebook App – This was basically a learning experience for writing a Facebook application. Enough people have installed it and care about it that this one is staying around.

Everything I’ve worked on (except for the Facebook app) is open source, so if any of this technology interests you, let me know and I’ll show you where the code is.

Look for updates on my SHED progress in the near future, as well as more information about my new job at IBM.