Aaron Brazell

Tech Predictions for 2009

As we gear up for 2009, there remains many questions about the economy and the growth curve of the technology industry. As a team, we have come up with predictions for 2009. Ray Capece, Venture Files editor for Technosailor.com and I make our predictions.

As always, these are predictions. Last year, we were dangerously accurate with our predictions and would like to think that we have a good understanding of the business and technology marketplace in 2009.

Ray’s Predictions

  1. By now, all VC firms have had the ‘triage’ partners meeting — where they decide, whether existing portfolio companies will 1) receive additional funding, because they’re generating revenue and have the prospect of getting cash-flow positive; 2) be shut down (and recapture any remaining cash); and 3) receive no additional funding, but be left to their own devices (to get funding however they might on their own). In 2000, there were a good many in category #2, since dot.com rounds were in the $10s of millions; now, with social-networking investments averaging around $1M, there will be little cash if any to recover. But I predict there will be many in category #3 (also known as ‘the walking dead,’ since they’re burning their cash, no matter how slowly, till it’s gone.)
  2. Online advertising revenues in 2009 will continue to fall, as inventory outpaces demand. I *don’t* see the $$ flowing from other media to online offsetting this downward trend.
  3. Consumers have discretionary (albeit small) $$$ to spend. In times of bleak economy, they seek distractions (gaming and feel-good entertainment), and will happily pay $0.99 for iFart. The hope for developers in the social networking space will potentially lie with commerce in real and virtual goods. Facebook and the others need to make this extremely easy for third parties, and it will most certainly happen in 2009. (Yes, despite what others are saying about FB’s party line.)
  4. Consolidation always picks up in down times . . . good, small apps facing a difficult fund-raising environment reset their valuations lower, and robust companies with solid funding swoop in to pick up the team and technology on the cheap. It began in the fourth quarter with Pownce and others, will continue throughout 2009.
  5. As an extension to this prediction — we’ll see more Intellectual Property for sale on eBay.
  6. Apple will continue to grow its mobile share as others fumble about. Watch for new BlackBerry Curve to become the defacto standard for ‘button lovers.’

Aaron’s Take: While I agree with most of Ray’s predictions, I’m more bullish on early round VC. Even though we won’t see as much investment as we have, I believe it will still happen and companies that have already been funded will probably continue to receive investment funds, even if on down valuations, as long as they are somewhat viable. The reason is that most funds are long-haul investments of about 10 years.

Aaron’s Predictions

  1. Consolidations will occur en masse this year. Small companies with angel funding or Series A funding will be lumped into bigger conglomerates as the acquisition threshold is low.
  2. Brightkite will be acquired by Facebook, as poignantly pointed out by a commenter over at Read Write Web.
  3. The second Google Android-powered G2 phone will be released to T-Mobile in Q1. As the first one was a proof of concept that had little impact, the second iteration will be an essential release to prove the Android platform. No other carriers will take the platform until the concept is proven, but T-Mobile is already there and will be the victim for the second release.
  4. Twitter will *not* be acquired, but an advertising/partnership business model will emerge in Q2.
  5. Apple will release 3 new products this year. That is it. Their growth will continue upward but will see a decline over growth patterns of previous years.
  6. Net Neutrality will take a massive hit in 2009 with governments and companies looking to defend themselves in a down economy. The result will be regulations that will allow the big telecoms survive. Too big to Fail. Unless it’s the general public.
  7. No clear winner in the “single identity” space. OpenID fades, fbConnect gets fleshed out and adopted by many while Google Friend Connect makes significant inroads with others. An emerging war akin to Bluray vs. HD-DVD emerges between Facebook and Google with the internet world divided evenly among the two. Blogs and social networks will tend toward Facebook while bigger sites and services, possibly including newspaper walled gardens, trending toward Google.

Ray’s Take: Aaron’s crystal ball looks pretty good to me . . . except that, like Jonah in the whale’s belly, Twitter will be devoured.

Aaron Brazell

Words That Must Die in 2009

As this is the end of the year, we are required by some unwritten law to go through certain exercises. Among those are a required “predictions” post, certain holiday-related posts and of course, like last year, a list of words that have been so overused in the past year that we hope they will die a tortured, cruel death in 2009.

  • Change – the buzzword of the 2008 Presidential election. It has become a mantra for utopian-loving citizens everywhere.
  • Meta – Meta is a word to describe descriptive data of descriptive data. Or, better, it is the abstraction of something more well known. It is a catch phrase to describe something as simple as, for instance, one photographer taking a picture of another photographer taking a picture. It is rather difficult to describe because it is so meta.
  • Rock Star – a description of a minor celebrity or demigod, usually in the web space. These are individuals who carry some personal reputation and weight in only their circle but remain relatively unknown “in the real world”. Also describes the blogosphere’s “A List” of top tier bloggers. I, for instance, am a rock star.
  • Cloud – a technology that takes data and operations out of a simple peer to peer concept of client and server, and places it in a massive grid on the internet. Cloud computing is usually powered by Amazon S3 or EC2, Google App Engine or the new Microsoft Azure platform.
  • fail
    Products built “in the cloud” are generally known to buzzword junkies in PR as SaaS (“Software as a Service”).

  • Bailout – By far the biggest word that must die, in word and in deed, is bailout. No explanation necessary as you must be living under a rock if you don’t know what I’m talking about!
  • Ubiquitous – this word tends to revolve in the same orbit as “Cloud”. It is a buzz word often used to describe web services that are always available and tends to apply in the world of mobile. Ubiquitous ensures that everyone can get to everything at any time or any place. And it needs to die.
  • FAIL – This is shortform for the obvious meaning. If something is unsuccessful or stupid on it’s face it is just plain FAIL. Made popular by the Failblog, it has become a common part of geek culture and lingo.

As a bonus, Twitter seems to think “Oh, you know Aaron?” is overused in conjunction with people meeting other random people that know me. :-)

Thanks to everyone who helped me assemble this list!

Additional: Transparency. This has come up in a variety of way. In politics and government circles, the Sunlight Foundation has made a lot of progress (and noise) on the Transparency in government front. In PR, communications people are striving to be “more transparent” online. Regardless of which form of transparency, people need to talk less about it and do more of it. :)

Aaron Brazell

UK Plans to Keep Kids Safe on the Web, Ignores History

2008 is drawing to a close, a new U.S. Presidential Administration is on the threshold of taking power and the UK is seriously looking to the largest age restriction initiative ever undertaken in the history of the internet.

In the UK, there is a such thing as a Culture Secretary who is responsible for the entertainment of British subjects. I kid you not. This is a Cabinet-level position in charge of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. According to the official website, Culture is responsible to “improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries”.

That’s right. Culture has their hand in your family trip to the amusement park, the art museum or a trip to the ballpark.

According to a Daily Telegraph story, they also plan to have their hand in your web-surfing as well. The idea is that Internet Service Providers servicing the UK would be required to provide child-safe surfing opportunities. The trickle down would be that website owners and developers would have to adhere to a “ratings” system, similar to what is in place for motion pictures and video games.

They plan to work closely with the Obama administration to ensure that the standards established are not simply UK-centric, but also US-centric. In essence, the governments are attempting to ramrod a standard down the throats of the western world.

To be fair, there is justification in wanting to see a child-safe portion of the web. We all want what is best for kids, but the truth is that parenting starts at home and does not involve a village. What I would prefer to see is a recommended set of standards that would assist parents in screening and moderating the internet activity of their child.

Also to be fair, history tells us that simply declaring standards for the web does not ensure that such standards are adhered to. A full eight years later, the best commonplace standard for web markup (XHTML 1.0 Transitional if you must know) has yet to be fully adopted. U.S. Government websites are required to be Section 508 Compliant (which is a set of standards to assist in accessibility, particularly for those who are blind or colorblind). Many government sites still do not meet this standard.

Even outside the web, the DTV transition fast approaches, yet it fast approaches again and it is doubtful if it will actually arrive in February as is currently projected. That is because the new standard has not been quickly adopted and the government is forced to extend their deadline.

In the best of scenarios, the web industry self-polices as it always has. In the best situation, we come together and innovated around a widely accepted and understood standard. In the best scenario, the government utilizes the standards and innovations that the web industry itself has created to solve the very real problem of creating a child-safe internet.

But at the end of the day, the Village cannot solve this problem. We can only bring ideas and tools to the table. Nothing we, or the government, do will protect children. Parents have that responsibility and should exercise their roles, instead of passing the buck to someone else.

Aaron Brazell

Happy Holidays!

As a token of my gratitude for all those who have read the posts here, linked to them or participated with us in conversations that are increasingly occurring beyond the walls of this blog, we would like to extend our best holiday greetings to all of you. Feliz navidad y prospero año.

You are a fantastic audience and always thoughtful in your agreements and criticisms. We cannot ask for more. If our stories and content have caused you to stop and think about something in a different way, then agree or disagree, we have done our jobs.

Baltimore Holiday Pub Crawl

guest blogging

The CES Pitch

2009 is rapidly approaching, and as a 10 year veteran of CES I’ve seen it from many different angles. I’ve been there as a tiny underfunded startup using a hotel room to do all demos and I’ve taken center stage in a multi-million dollar booth. I’ve attended as press and I’ve pitched the press. From virtually every perspective, CES is an exhilarating and exhausting process. I love it. With the massive surge in blogger registrations at this year’s show, I’ve also noticed more than usual complaints about the pitching process, so as someone who sits on both sides of the fence, I thought I’d share some observations and suggestions.

“The List”

picture-11Have you seen the press & blogger list at CES? It’s pretty unbelievably large, with 3398 identified members of the media, and there’s no way to get off the list, even if you aren’t coming to the show anymore. So these 3398 people are all getting pitched by the 2700 exhibitors. This means we have a ton of noise, with virtually no signal.

“The Prune”

Any half-decent marketer’s first task with the list was culling it. Got a mobile gadget? Get rid of the home AV bloggers and media. Got a speaker? You can ignore the auto guys. Unfortunately it seems that most companies didn’t do such a great job pruning. For my personal blog, I was surprised to get contacted by PR reps with products that were way out of my typical coverage area. It may seem like a lot of work, but internally we managed to pare down the list by 90% in less than a day, and it was time very well spent.

“The Outreach”
If slicing up the media list is a science, then writing the outreach pitch is absolutely an art. My favorite pitches to receive are (1) short, (2) funny/entertaining, (3) direct & to the point, and (4) contain all the information I need to act on (especially including links!). Considering the hundreds of emails the typical CES media person is receiving, the more the pitch can stand out from the crowd yet still convey the necessary info, the better. The worst pitches I’ve received don’t include URLs for more information, try to be too coy or clever, try to make mountains out of molehills (if you sell CD storage cases, you simply don’t have EXCITING NEWS AT CES this year), or otherwise complicate the process.

“The Followup”

I don’t have as much of a clear rule here. There are times when the follow-up is useful, warranted, and welcome. Others it’s annoying and borderline harassing. My recommendation to all is no more than one follow-up email, and no phone calls unless the individual has made it clear they *want* phone calls. Don’t send 5 reminders, because nobody likes a pest. I do appreciate those who send a quick extra note with their contact info and a reminder of where at CES their booth/demo is, and leave it in my hands to make the decision.

JT and Scoble

“The Meet”

There’s no better way to screw it all up than meeting the blogger/journalist in person, and then asking them some question that utterly reveals you have no idea who they are. I don’t care how you handle it, make a cheat sheet, print something out in the morning, but if you’ve taken the time to ask me to see your demo, you can take the time to be *remotely* familiar with my blog. I don’t expect you to have ready today’s post, but you should know something about me or my style or my content. At the same time, I think bloggers who schedule appointments for demos/briefings should also take the time to read the materials/website for the company/products they plan to see – it’s a two-way street.

“The Close”

Following up after the show is your job, not that of the blogger. If you promised someone a review unit, it’s on your to-do list, not theirs. Also, you should make a point of reading their coverage of the show prior to the follow-up. If they didn’t write about you during the show, don’t be hurt or offended, and by no means should you close the door. Similarly, if you are a blogger and your brief mention of a company hit your “CES recap” post but doesn’t make their Press page, that shouldn’t be unexpected. For both sides to keep in mind: not every demo deserves a blog post from every blogger.

CES is a wacky time of the year for a couple of hundred thousand people. Many of us haven’t slept much since the Thanksgiving Break (or longer for our international visitors). I’d call it controlled chaos, but that implies one can control such a wild beast. That said, it somehow works. Those 96 hours are a magical time of year for me personally, and while I’m already tired of both receiving and giving pitches, I’m still getting revved up for the show. See you in Vegas!

Aaron Brazell

Announcing WordCamp Mid-Atlantic

Mark your calendars for May 16, 2009. This is the date for the first WordCamp Mid-Atlantic, a regional WordCamp organized for WordPress users in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.

We have locked down the venue as University of Baltimore Thumel Business Center, which has also been the facility for a variety of other events – most notably, SocialDevCampEast. It is in proximity to major transportation hubs, including Amtrak.

We are launching the website and information about the event with the announcement that WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, will be attending (and speaking). Subscribe to the RSS feed to stay up to date on speakers and other information you’re going to need and I look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

Update: We’ve announced that Matt Mullenweg and Anil Dash of SixApart will be the Keynotes.

Aaron Brazell

Transit Authority Rejects Openness, Thumbs Nose at Web

Everyday, I travel the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority – usually on the DC area trains, but occasionally on local buses and commuter rails as well. Increasingly, I am frustrated by the ability of the transit system to handle schedules, broken escalators, delays and weather conditions and a myriad of other challenges that should be met handsomely by the mass transit system of the capital city of the United States.

At one time, the Washington Metro system was considered one of the finest in the country but as the region has exploded and ridership increases, the antiquated “single track” systems that does not allow for such things as “Express Trains” (as they have in NYC), the ubiquitous broken escalators (I’m convinced that at any given time, 33% of Metro escalators are out of service) and the pitiful hours of operation (that assumes that the only time people are in the city are work hours) has turned the system into a laughable system. An overqualified system, with underqualified management.

But my unhappiness with the Metro system is not the point of this post, except to highlight the inability of a multi-jurisdictional system to manage itself appropriately. The real segue here is to point to the mismanagement of the WMATA’s technical prowess.

Going Underground
Image by Son of Groucho via Flickr

According to Greater Greater Washington, the WMATA has terminated conversations with Google over a refusal by the internet search giant to pay for data having to do with transit schedules for it’s Google Transit service. Google Transit provides a way for users to map their routes from point A to point B using a combination of driving, mass transit and walking directions.

The premise for the argument is that WMATA is attempting to monetize their own website and data and fears that Google will undermine its own ability to monetize.

As DCist points out, even though WMATA has a new user interface for their site, it performs slowly and schedule information is still tucked away in PDFs.

Time and again, it has been proven that the world operates in an open environment on the web. Open access encourages innovation. It also floats talent to the top. Just ask the Summize guys who, after only a few months of existence as a company operating on the open Twitter API, were acquired by Twitter simply due to their massive talent. Ask the SocialThing guys who, although the API-mashup service itself sucked, were acquired by AOL for the talent-base.

Peter Corbett, of iStrategyLabs who has consulted for the Office of the Chief Technology Office for the District, says that what people don’t realize is that there is realtime data not being exposed anywhere including realtime GPS data for every bus in the city. This data is crucial for real time mapping, something that is not currently done anywhere.

There also seems to be a significant customer outcry against this lack of openness and transparency and one wonders what a massive sit-in protest that ground the Metro Center train station to a halt during the Inauguration would do. Technosailor.com would happily sponsor such an event.

Aaron Brazell

The Dickensian 2008: A Look Back

This year might be the strangest year ever. It roared in with news of Robert Scoble having his Facebook account suspended for utilizing scripts to sync data between Plaxo and Facebook in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. Of course, the year ends with Facebook opening up fbConnect in a way to share that same data with anyone who so chose.

We started 2008 with CNETs Caroline McCarthy reporting that MySpace voters preferred Barack Obama on the left and Ron Paul on the right. As we know now at the end of 2008, there was one group of netroots voters that managed to be successfully heard and we now have a new President-elect. On the other side, the GOP demonstrated their complete ineptitude tapping into the grassroots by marginalizing the candidate that would have fired up their internet base. At least at the end of 2008, there are some pockets of common sense on the right, but those pockets will likely not be heard or heeded.

In the first half of 2008, ridiculous acquisitions, funding rounds and business plays flourished. An example was when job search site, Monster.com acquired San Francisco-based Affinity Labs for $61M. On contrast, companies receiving funding or valuations at the end of 2008, are doing so on devalued terms while other companies are laying off workers and cutting back contract costs in an effort to extend their runways as far as they can into the second half of 2009 or beyond.

In every way, 2008 ends in a Dickensian way, highlighting two sides of a very different coin and leaving investors and entrepreneurs with a scared and tentative look in their eyes.


We made our annual predictions early in the year, and wanted to review those predictions for those keeping track at home.


We said: Since Macworld is right around the corner I don’t think we will see any real new products but rather a grow what they have to meet their projections. This means upgraded iPod Touches, iPhone 2.0, iPhone SDK, upgraded Apple TV, patches to Leopard, improved Cinema Displays and upgraded Macs/Macbooks. The only thing I could see would be integration of their multi-touch technology on laptops (like the rumored sub-notebook).

What actually happened: Apple announced Time Capsule, an iPhone SDK for developing Apps for the iPhone (now available through the iTunes App Store for the iPod Touch and the iPhone 3G), iTunes movie rentals, Apple TV 2, and the now famous Macbook Air.

Accuracy: We accurately projected the iPhone SDK, Upgraded Apple TV, and the Macbook Air with multi-touch. Later in the year, we would see the iPhone 3G, improved cinema displays and the release of the new Macbook/Macbook Pro lines. We consider 100% accuracy here in 2008 with a 50% accuracy for Macworld 2008.


We Said: Let’s face it, Vista blows. It’s slow, doesn’t have any real innovation under the hood and takes more horsepower to run. I predict they will continue forcing it down people’s throats and in revolt people will continue to order machines with XP. On the other side of the coin, the Xbox is rocking and I predict they will announce an integrated Windows Media Center/IPTV version with HD-DVD to compete with the Playstation 3. They have a real opportunity to own the living room since Apple TV has flopped.

What actually happened: Some manufacturers, including Dell, decided that based on actual customer demand and trends (wiping pre-loaded Vista systems and installing Windows XP), computers could be shipped with XP instead. In addition, the Xbox did receive a much-needed face lift (called Xbox Experience) that we talked about here, though it did not go as far as we expected. We did not predict the emergence of Apple TV/Xbox Experience/TiVo challenger Vudu at the beginning of the year.

Accuracy: We consider our predictions to be mostly inline with actual results, but we missed or misjudged several things along the way. We claim a 60% accuracy rating here.

Web 2.0

We Said: Ok, hype over. Game over. Most “Web 2.0” companies will go into the dust bin of history because their marketing strategy or ideas just didn’t pan out. Also, as more companies adopt these technologies into their “œEnterprise 2.0″³ strategy there will be less of a rush to create another social network or AJAX-ified web site unless it has real value. Side note – kill the term Enterprise 2.0. The enterprise hasn’t changed, the apps have just gotten easier to develop.

What actually happened: We feel that this was an overly-generalized prediction. It could have been more specifically Enterprise 2.0, as opposed to Web 2.0. That said, there was an actual push and adoption into the Enterprise space. Most notable of all Enterprise 2.0 companies was Yammer which is build as a standalone Twitter for Enterprise. Yammer won the top award at Techcrunch50.

Accuracy: Though there certainly has been more focus in recent months on utility over “bling” (Ajaxified sites, as we put it), we don’t necessarily believe that corporate Web 2.0 has advanced far beyond “Corporate blogging”, but with Yammer like companies popping up, we’ll claim a 40% accuracy rating.


We Said: Twitter will get bought – it is a cool tool but not a lot money to made behind it. It needs to be part of a bigger whole. They also need better infrastructure because they crash whenever there is a big tech conference. CES will be a big test for them.

What actually happened: Twitter did not get bought, and in fact, took a third round of funding. It may have been their failures of June/July that prevented an acquisition, and there certainly were rumors of a Facebook acquisition of Twitter recently. The company seems to have turned a corner on reliability, and have a business model in mind, even if it hasn’t been outlined. In addition, Twitter development continues to proceed with a release of an all new Twitter API in 2009.

Accuracy: 0% – hands down, we were wrong. The company continues to confound even the experts.


We said: Pownce will die – Twitter won this battle. Game over.

What actually happened: Pownce died.

Accuracy: 100%. ‘Nuff said.


We said: Digg will get bought – After rumors of a sale for the last 18 months, they finally get bought by a media behemoth. Sale price? $300 million.

What actually happened: While Digg did not actually get bought, they are bleeding money as reported by TechCrunch this weekend. According to the TechCrunch, the Microsoft search deal which was supposed to bring in over $100M over three years is clearly not doing that at all.

Accuracy: We want to take some credit for seeing the dark side of Digg, but clearly cannot based on our actual predictions. 0%.


We Said: Yahoo will continue to struggle and have massive layoffs – Yahoo didn’t change much with their executive restructuring and they have really sucked at integrating their products. They are going to get hit with lower stock prices and will have to cut the fat out.

What actually happened: What didn’t happen, might be the more accurate question. We had the Microsoft-Yahoo deal that was on, then off, then on, then off. The forced resignation, by all accounts, of CEO Jerry Yang, the hostile board takeover (“hostile” in the loose sense, not the SEC sense) by Carl Icahn, and the devaluation of Yahoo stock to approximately half of what it opened the year.


As for the predicted Yahoo layoffs… Well, it’s such a bloodbath that sites like this exist to track the chaos.

Accuracy: Can we score a 110%?

HD-DVD vs Bluray

We said: HD-DVD and BluRay will not have a winner, still – This year is just going to continue the fight with hybrid drives getting cheaper so by 2009 the choice will be irrelevant.

What actually happened: Bluray won.

Accuracy: 0%

Google and Wall Street

We Said: Google’s honeymoon with Wall Street will end – With the acquisition of DoubleClick there is more of a chance for Google to fail. Along with it trying to change to many sectors, Healthcare and Energy to name a few, it will need to shore up its core competencies before people start to trash it and the stock will be worth half what it is today.

What actually happened: Everyones honeymoon with Wall Street ended with the collapse of the economy. Google has lost over 60% of it’s value, falling from a Jan 2 open of $685/share to the current trading number of $298/share.

Accuracy: We will claim 75% accuracy on this. We can’t claim 100% because the reason for the value loss is not similar. It’s just the nature of the market at this time.


We Said: They are a necessary evil right now and their beacon debacle will need to be fixed in order for them to go IPO. They will be the new IPO darling as analysts are ready to trash Google.

What actually happened: Facebook did not IPO in 2008, though they had a significant investment from Microsoft at a highly questionable valuation of $15B. Experts like Kara Swisher don’t expect an IPO until 2010. I might add that with the economy the way it is, pre-collapse predictions of 2010 might still be ambitious. I personally doubt Facebook will ever IPO.

Accuracy: 0%

Bringing 2008 In for a Landing

It’s always tricky to really predict a year in advance. With the economy and turbulence in the various sectors and markets, 2009 will be highly tricky to predict. Predict we will do, early in the new year, though so stick around.

Venture Files

Getting Physical

“I love software,” my friend used to say, “But it’s soooo dehumanizing!” Perched 18 feet in the air atop a scissors lift the other day — I resisted the urge to shout, “I’m the king of the world!” — it occurred to me that variety in work not only makes work more enjoyable, it’s essential . . . especially, something physical to contrast and complement time spent at the computer.

Now, I’m not even a developer — most of my work on our social-networking app was wireframing and flowcharting with Adobe CS tools . . . when I wasn’t writing user agreements, business plans, and corporate docs. Still, I remember euphoric moments solving a UX problem, then excitedly assembling dozens of wireframes until 3am. World blocked out, mind starting to numb up, clicking command-O or command-shift-S and forgetting what it was I wanted to do. I can only imagine what it would be like to find oneself having similar brain-farts deep in the weeds of multiply nested subroutines. No wonder coders get cranky!
But my hacker friend gets physical breaks. A lot of his code gets programmed into chips, so he’ll be at the “˜bench’ some days, sticking parts into sockets, occasionally breadboarding things up, soldering.

(An EE and inveterate tinkerer, I love the smell of rosin-core solder in the morning. If I weren’t so afraid of the time-sink it would become, I’d so join HacDC. Have you seen the creativity springing forth around Arduino microcontrollers in the pages of Make? Btw, it’s a bit late, but the kits make great stocking-stuffers!)arduino-serb1

There’s a lot to be said about mixing it up. Adobe actually instituted a program to get their programmers away from the screen for a few days at a time working on physical projects — soldering, even — to refresh weary neurons and foment new thinking. I love the ‘real photoshop’ photo above (hat-tip, Keith Casey). I imagined whoever built it was staring at the interface with bloodshot eyes, got the brilliant idea, and stayed up all night gathering the ingredients, cutting and folding cardboard, and lastly whipping out the camera for the glorious shot. (Turns out, it was actually some agency work — but we’ve all had these moments, when we jump out of our genres, driven by inspiration.

We humans need that variety. Even when we’re doing something we really, really enjoy, it goes stale. Few writers just write. Workout routines become drudgery without variety. Even eating, veritable survival, gets uninteresting when day after day, it’s same-old, same-old.

Which is why I was having the time of my life (well, a good day at work) on a scissors lift, checking out the HVAC in our warehouse space. We build next-generation components . . . but right now I’m supervising the buildout of a clean-room area where some macho processing equipment will be housed. I really enjoyed surfing the web for a used 408V to 380V transformer (50kVA, three-phase, of course). Anyone got one?

My Illustrator skills came in handy, doing electrical, plumbing, and other floorplan drawings. And after unloading boxes of ceiling tiles and HEPA filters arriving from trucks, it’s really comforting to return to the computer. (Even to update my Project file . . . or Sharepoint — I will not let it beat me!) And vice-versa.

One programming friend builds boats. Another does stand-up comedy. Many are great cooks. Tell me: what do you do to mix it up? (Drinking doesn’t count!)

Aaron Brazell

Moving on From Lijit

As the economy continues to spiral downward, and more companies are trying to extend their runways for as long as possible, we are hearing about an increasing number of layoffs. When you’re a contractor, you always sort of have it in the back of your mind that your number could be called at any time.

That time for me is now. Lijit has been my primary client since May and it has been a good run. I came into that role to learn the art of business development and I learned a lot. I can’t say it was my favorite role ever, but it added to my experience and gave me an opportunity to look at the web industry from a different side. No regrets.

Generally, my preference is to run a job or role until I get so good at it that I’m bored. Sometimes, things just don’t fall that way. My role will be changing in the next 45 days with Lijit. I am being offered a restructured contract that will be performance based and will allow me to expand myself back into tech. This is actually good for everyone as that will allow me to get into a role I excel in and can own in an economy where people are being laid off because they are expendable.

It also allows me to stay involved with the Boulder company and continue to extend the number of publishers who recognize the need for upgraded search capability and monetization of search content. At the same time, I can build my own pipeline and diversify enough to survive the next 18 months.

Of course, I am always open to discussions or job offers as well, so feel free to reach out as well at aaron@technosailor.com or 410-608-6620.