Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

What’s interesting: Learning from Twitter. Dries on Drupal. RHEL 6 finally arrives.

Good reading on the pitfalls faced while startups and open source grow at dizzying rates. And a major new version of Red Hat Linux emerges.

Twitter’s learning experiences about fast growth, new found success and founders working (or rather not working) together. A fascinating account of how co-founders often aren’t good managers, team builders or executives in their own ventures. In most startups, hiring is always a pain point. Underhiring both in experience and quantity can be debilitating.

Yet for all its astonishing growth, Twitter has succeeded in spite of itself — the enviable product of a great idea and lightning-in-a-bottle viral success rather than a disciplined approach to how it’s managed….

What the company needed was simple: people to do all the work. Yet it moved painfully slowly in hiring, with just 110 employees by the end of 2009, even though it had raised $150 million in venture capital by then….

“The mistake I made was definitely underhiring, both in quantity and in experience, in several areas, for a long time,” Mr. Williams says now. He attributes that mistake to the daily distractions of running Twitter and not anticipating how big it would become….

Twitter finally hired a recruiter, as well as people to handle mundane but important big-company tasks like human resources, payroll and ensuring that all of Twitter’s partners use the same blue bird logo….

Twitter’s executives talk about the “Dunbar number” — the maximum number of people, generally believed to be 150, with whom one person can have strong relationships….Each time employees log on to their computers, for instance, they see a photo of a colleague, with clues and a list of the person’s hobbies, and must identify the person. And notes from every meeting are posted for all employees to read.

Read more at NYT.

What Dries Buytaert is thinking about the commercialization of Drupal. Dries talks about the concern that open source projects when commercialized may spur concerns that the spirit of volunteerism could be lost or a volunteer project can be tainted when paid staff is introduced.

When new ground needs to be broken, it’s often volunteer communities that do it. But a full-time, paid infrastructure can be necessary for the preservation and protection of what communities begin. And when new advances are to be made or gaps to be filled in, volunteers rise up within the paid infrastructure. There will always be a place for volunteers, just as there is a place for professionals….

It’s quite common in the software industry that great movements are started by volunteers. While this can work quite well initially, there comes a time when a volunteer-based project becomes a threat to larger, controlled organizations (e.g., MySQL to Oracle, Linux to Microsoft). At that point, if the Open Source organization is to survive and compete, it may have to fortify its position by fostering commercial involvement that helps the project advance and compete. Red Hat is a good example. Without Red Hat, Linux might not have the strong market share it has today. It is also one of the reasons I co-founded Acquia, and why it is important that all Drupal companies contribute back to the project….

The commercialization of a volunteer-driven Open Source project is part of a project’s natural life-cycle. While it can be a significant change, it is a great opportunity. We can reap the benefits of growth, prevent volunteer burn-out and distribute the effort.

Read more on Dries’s blog.

Red Hat finally releases Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) version 6 after more than 3 years. The new version of RHEL boasts of a modern Linux kernel (2.6.32), improved performance, optimized resource management through kernel improvements, RAS, scalability, virtualization, power saving features and ext4 support.

Filesystems: The new default file system, ext4, is faster, more robust, and scales to 16TB. The fourth extended filesystem (ext4) is based on the third extended filesystem (ext3) and features a number of improvements. These include support for larger file systems and larger files, faster and more efficient allocation of disk space, no limit on the number of subdirectories within a directory, faster file system checking, and more robust journaling. The ext4 file system is selected by default and is highly recommended.

Power Management: The tickless kernel feature keeps systems in the idle state longer, resulting in net power savings. Active State Power Management and Aggressive Link Power Management provide enhanced system control, reducing the power consumption of I/O subsystems. Administrators can actively throttle power levels to reduce consumption. Realtime drive access optimization reduces filesystem metadata write overhead.

Stable Application Development and Production Platform: Ruby 1.8.7 is included, and Rails 3 supports dependencies. Updates to the popular web scripting and programming languages PHP (5.3.2), Perl (5.10.1) are also included.

Read more about RHEL 6 here and here.

Dreamfish: An Open Global Work Cooperative Creating Local Jobs

In a recent conversation with Nnenna Nwakanma, one of Africa’s leading open source experts and community lead for Dreamfish, Nnenna shared her experiences, passion and ideas on this exciting on-line community. In her own words, Dreamfish is an open and friendly community which balances software development with human interaction and best of all converts project work into jobs and real income for its members. Here is what Nnenna had to say.

Q. Tell us about your involvement with the African open source community and your experience in growing the local ecosystem.

Nnenna: My passion for openness, I was born with! So my engagement with open source is natural. In 2002, we started the Open Source Task Force for Africa. In less than 100 months, open source in Africa has grown far more than we had initially expected. I have seen the rapid growth from the Task Force to the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA). The community has grown and is no longer spreading by additions but by multiplication. I have learnt that hard work, dedication and good leadership are key to growing any ecosystem.

Q. Tell us more about Dreamfish. How does its mission of building community, using open source and creating jobs resound with local communities.

Nnenna: The Dreamfish story is a unique one. The work cooperative is built on the sheer will of its members. People who rise above their difficulties and challenges and with the help of one another, achieve ideals that even beat their dreams. People who are discovering how their work matters by contributing, who are open and collaborative on ideas, projects, dreams and ambitions. You need to read it here.

I am yet to see someone who is not interested in Dreamfish! Dreamfish is more than creating jobs. It is about building community, communication, friendship, continental ties, global knowledge base, experience sharing and life-long learning. Dreamfish members are being coached in project management, software development, leadership skills, personal management and a whole lot of other skills are monetized, within and outside the Dreamfish platform. Every member who joins gets a friend in not more than 24 hours. Dreamfish is the one place where, every time you sign in to chat, you will find a community team member there to open the door for you. Dreamfish is office, it is work, it is friendship, it is family, it is a life-long school. It accepts our present and inspires our future. Dreamfish is work for all in us that is human. Here is the community’s Humanifesto.

Q. How did you get involved with Dreamfish and how do you plan to grow its community further.

Nnenna: I am a community fish. I was looking for a community that balances software development with human interaction. I was also looking for something that has been missing for some time for me – an interface where an online community translates into project and cash for its members. I also was looking for doing lots more and traveling less. Dreamfish gave me the answers I needed – Community, Collaboration, Global Reach, Learning Opportunity, Humanifesto, and my personal dreams.

As Community Lead, I am working with the wonderful Community Team at Dreamfish. Our objectives now are to build capacity. We expect hundreds of thousands of people in no time. So, now, we want builders and leaders in enabling new open source projects to get started in empowering and human environment. We are expanding our successful Fellows Program to experienced software technologists and designers, who want to mentor open sour projects in Dreamfish and build Dreamfish. Dreamfish is recruiting developers who want to further our mission and teach others to fish.

Q. What is your message to the global community. Why would an Indian developer, a Malaysian student or a Brazilian professional join Dreamfish.

Nnenna: All three can be hired, all three are welcome to hire. But beyond work… you can actually find true friends, share experience and make your dreams come true. When we remove the ‘national’ tag, what we get is students who have learning opportunities, developers who can have enough code-writing to keep their minds challenged on a permanent basis, the professional who can meet and collaborate with others on his and their projects.

Here is what you need to do.

Let me also use this opportunity to invite you to our Global Meetups on Eventbrite. The next meetup is scheduled for July 7, 2010 3PM GMT. We will be covering a very important topic – Communicating Across Cultures. Join in at

Q: How does one join Dreamfish? Do they need to lurk on a mailing list or can they participate right from the start?

Nnenna: That is the interesting part of Dreamfish. You can use Dreamfish for exactly what you want and say ‘no, thank you’ to what you don’t want. You don’t even need to join any mailing list. Feel free to sign up, walk over the chat, create a project, join a project, take a bus tour, make friends.. and if there is something you don’t like about any thing.. well you just change it! Everyone is a leader in Dreamfish. Contributors are all equal owners of the cooperative.

When you arrive, we will be there to open the door, welcome you and support your dreams. That is why we call it Dreamfish!

Thanks, Nnenna. Wish you lots of success. See you on Dreamfish.

At IPDC3 with Dom Sagolla

“Building Teams, Polishing Ideas, Creating Truly Compelling Demos”

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

Dom Sagolla has been a key mover of the iPhoneDevCamp movement since day one. It’s been impressive to have Dom’s energy, enthusiasm and ideas take the iPhoneDevCamp to next level. Throughout the DevCamp, Dom was hard at work, helping folks as well as making progress on his upcoming book. Here are Dom’s responses to some questions I had for him at the camp this year.

  1. The iPhoneDevCamp model offers a winning formula for community collaboration events. It is likely that other technology communities may be able to use this model. What would be your advice to them?

    It’s already begun with things like AndroidDevCamp, PreDevCamp, and now “WinMoDevCamp“.

    My advice is always this: Make the event all about the participants. When you focus on building teams, polishing ideas, and creating truly compelling demonstrations, you are following the model of BarCamp.

  2. A 10 year old developer won applause as the youngest participant at the DevCamp this year. How do you see the camp inspiring kids in school and in general?

    10-year-old Annika has my favorite story this year. Having been dragged along to last year’s event, she made the best of it by reviewing the apps of other participants. This year, she’s created @KidGameReviews and started developing her own games! Annika shows us just how easy it is to get started with iPhone Development. She’s still learning but the growth I’ve witnessed over the past year, in her and in the community, is inspiring.

    iPhone is a lens, through which the problems of computer science may be examined. I hope kids of all ages get a chance to play with Apple’s superb example code just to see what’s possible in a few days’ time.

    Every year we sponsor a few student participants at iPhoneDevCamp, and we will certainly continue that tradition. Perhaps we’ll add to this a new category of “Youngest iPhone Developer”.

  3. Some apps such as Avatar Wall, winner in Coolest iPhone App category, used Twitter to demonstrate their ideas. What do you think is the impact of social networking services such as Twitter on the type of apps being developed?

    Twitter is becoming a communication utility, like other service providers online and in our homes. Seeing the Twitter API in use at iPhoneDevCamp is another sign that social networking is now a fixture in our lives.

    iPhone was launched just when Twitter began to gain prominence two years ago. There has been a complimentary arc of growth for both Apple and Twitter since then, and Twitter was profiled as an “Apple Business“.

    I see the intersection of iPhone and Twitter as a kind of cultural nexus. The best of breed Twitter apps are on the iPhone / Mac platform, and the most virulent iPhone apps integrate well with Twitter and other social media. The two platforms combined create a vortex of attention and zeal that is driving innovation on both ends.

  4. How does a community event like the iPhoneDevCamp that has grown in popularity every year fit into the iPhone developers ecosystem? How does it complement official (e.g. by Apple) and unofficial (e.g. barcamps) activities?

    I like to think of iPhoneDevCamp as a “sister event” to WWDC. Folks go to learn new technologies and talk with Apple engineers at WWDC. Inevitably they are inspired and want to test their knowledge, so we have created iPhoneDevCamp where they can form teams and build things.

    The relationship is complimentary: We do our best to schedule around Apple’s events, and stay in contact with them at an informal level.

    In the BarCamp tradition, we want to be a model for other Open Source communities to band together, find sponsorship, and field events of their own. I think the Satellites program launched for last year’s iPhoneDevCamp, with double the participation this year, pretty clearly shows our commitment to the BarCamp way.

  5. Your writing project “140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form” sounds exciting. Is there going to be a chapter about using Twitter at the iPhoneDevCamp? You mentioned you’d be gathering some source material for the book at the DevCamp. Did you notice anything interesting about how Twitter was being used by the participants (and organizers)? Tell us more.

    140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form

    140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form (flickr:Sagolla)

    I do talk about iPhoneDevCamp in “140 Characters”, yes! Our use of #ipdc3 as a tag this year, as well as a few choice quotes from our performer @BT are profiled:

    iPhoneDevCamp itself formed out of the Twitter community. @Ravenme wrote to @ChrisMessina who posted an inquiry for space, which I picked up because I’d just started following Chris in mid-2007. I replied in public to Chris, he followed me back and the rest is a history of 100% year-on-year growth.

    Twitter accelerates small societies.

    We did an experiment this year, where we made our Satellite broadcast available via iPhone and iPod touch for the first time. Tweeting that link resulted in about 1000 viewers around the world. That’s how I measure reach: How many people are tuned into your message RIGHT NOW?

    I measure impact with action: in the last days of Registration for the camp, we sold out three (3) times. Each time capacity was lifted, we tweeted the Registration link and we were sold out again within hours.

    The Twitter community is voracious for learning and real-life connection. Tapping into that has been critical to the success of iPhoneDevCamp and the iPhone Developer community abroad.

  6. What can we expect at DevCamp 4? Any surprises coming up?

    Next year: iPhone Jam Band! :-D

    Seriously we haven’t talked about plans for next Summer yet. Right now is the time to follow up with all the Satellite communities and see how we can enable more events elsewhere during the year.

    We would be thrilled to work with Yahoo! and all of our sponsors again next year, which we know will be yet again bigger.

Dom Sagolla

Dom Sagolla (flickr:Sagolla)

Dom Sagolla helped create Twitter with Jack Dorsey in 2006 then co-founded iPhoneDevCamp with Raven Zachary in 2007 (just a week after the launch of the original iPhone). After helping Raven and the team create the Obama ’08 iPhone App in 2008, Dom started his own company DollarApp in San Francisco, resulting in two Staff Favorites: Big Words and Math Cards. @Dom’s book “140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form” is the subject of his next iPhone invention, shipping this Fall.

A Conversation with Christopher Allen

iPhoneDevCamp 3

iPhoneDevCamp 3

I have had the pleasure of seeing Christopher Allen in action at the iPhoneDevCamp since its inception in 2007. Chris has been a superb mentor and open source guru for the iPhoneDevCamp hackathon every year. I’ve felt the energy that this DevCamp hackathon has generated from everyone sharing the experience of building applications together. Here are some questions I asked him after this DevCamp’s phenomenal success. Hope you’ll enjoy reading his responses!

IPDC3 Team

IPDC3 Team

  1. What were your expectations from the iPhoneDevCamp this year? Did the camp meet your expectations?

    Last year’s hackathon was a great success, in spite of the SDK being so new we were able to demonstrate over 40 iPhone applications. This year we had 54 apps demonstrated, many of which showed the results of a year’s worth of experience in developing for the SDK. The other big problem last year was the NDA, which prevented sharing — this year I was quite pleased with the number of open source entries, which allows people to learn from others and/or improve. Finally, I really liked the number of designers and non-programmers who participated on teams last year, and I was a little worried that they would be shut out given the popularity of iPhone — yet we continued this year to have a number of teams led by designers and teams made up of programmers new to the iPhone.

  2. Do you see the DevCamp growing, getting smaller, or is it just right?

    I write about group size in my blog at, so I am certain that iPhoneDevCamp will lose something if it grows too big. One thing that could be lost is the ‘amateur’ component that is so valuable — especially given the origin of the word ‘amateur’ is ‘to love’ the lack of amateurs could lead a certain lack of passion. Amateurs also are less likely to fall into traps of “it can’t be done” or “it can’t be profitable” and just make something new happen because they don’t know their limits.

  3. Which applications did you find most intriguing and innovative from the hackathon?

    Quite a few, but I think the Augmented Reality library might see the most use by other application developers. I was also inspired by the father teaching his daughter to make the Bubblo application.

  4. Collaboration, community and coding are core themes of the iPhoneDevCamp hackathon. Can you tell us about a few examples you saw at the DevCamp that demonstrated these themes.

    More completely, the list is Contribution, Sharing, Openness, and a “Can Do” attitude. I started giving out tickets Friday evening and Saturday morning when I saw people coding or showing others their code during “outside hours” when other stuff was going on. I gave tickets out when someone would answer a call for help on code, or an icon, etc. I would ask each team what person outside their team helped them most, and then go find that person to give them a ticket. Finally, I gave few tickets out when I spotted obvious signs of enthusiasm and happiness.

  5. With the iPhone being a tightly controlled platform by Apple, how do you see open source apps fitting in?

    There were a few others at the conference (in particular some of the staff from Yahoo) who have had experience with other Hackathons which were more open source oriented, and they definitely felt a different vibe due to the commercialism of the iPhone. In my own experience with MacHack and the prior iPhoneDevCamp, open source on the iPhone is much more about teaching and learning rather then sharing and contributing to the commons.

  6. What do you see will be the impact of new technologies like HTML5 on the iPhone?

    Clearly 5 years from now you can probably do 90% of the apps today for the iPhone using open technologies like HTML5. In fact, that is the basic premise of the Palm Pre. However, we are not quite there yet, and Microsoft will continue to stall and slow the process of open technologies and we will just have to route around them.

Photo Credit: Christopher Allen

Photo Credit: Christopher Allen

In his own words, Christopher Allen “is an long-time entrepreneur, visionary, and technologist, whose many ventures center on tools and facilitation of online communities. He helped invent SSL and is co-author of the IETF TLS internet-draft, is an investor and advisor to a number of social software and online game companies, and blogs at He is co-author of “iPhone in Action: Introduction to Web and SDK Development”, is the founder of the, the largest iPhone web developer support community, is maintainer of iUI at a popular iPhone Javascript library, and is keynote speaker and co-founder of where he moderates the popular Hackathon Contest.”

iPhoneDevCamp 3 in Silicon Valley this weekend

iPhoneDevCamp 2009

iPhoneDevCamp 2009

The third iPhoneDevCamp begins this weekend July 31 to August 2 at Yahoo!’s campus in Sunnyvale. The organizers of iPhoneDevCamp – Raven Zachary, Dom Sagolla, and Chris Allen are hard at work on finalizing the next edition of a star studded event. Developers and companies will come together to showcase and develop applications for iPhone and iPod touch using both the native SDK and web technologies while having great fun at the same time :-)

What’s on the agenda? Lots of cool stuff. Here’s the link. The event starts on Friday evening with a mixer and concert. Saturday and Sunday are hackathon days when you roll-up-your-sleeves, form your team, brainstorm and write your code. As in previous years, the deadline for project submissions is Sunday 2pm. Each team shows off their project app from 2-5 pm. And then come the awards, applause and appreciation from the DevCamp community, which makes it worth every minute you spent at the camp. So, if you’re in the Bay Area this weekend, drop by the Yahoo! campus and join the party. Remember the event is not free this year – registration is $50 and you can register at the iPhoneDevCamp website.

See you at the DevCamp!

Technology Leaders Welcome US CTO Aneesh Chopra

US CTO Announced

US CTO Announced

Aneesh Chopra is the first US Federal Chief Technology Officer. He’s 37 years old, a Harvard graduate, a successful CTO at the state level, and an American of Indian origin. A crescendo of praise for this new star is rising. But it is also raising up every technology leader’s wish-list for fresh consideration by the top US technology policy and implementation machinery. From big bloggers like Tim O’Reilly to Intel’s Craig Barrett to VC Vinod Khosla, everyone has admiration… and expectations.

Mr. Chopra is reported to understand the power of today’s new trends in the technology ecosystem – collaboration, open content and the Internet. He‘s in a position to make wise choices among competing IT agendas, where both action and vision matter. Let’s hope he applies the best information technologies to the real problems he’s mandated to solve. For the benefit of all of us.

GNUnify 2009: Community Support Matters

GNUnify 2009

GNUnify 2009

I’ve been supporting GNUnify in Pune for many years now. And every year it has been great to see the deep support of local organizations like the Pune Linux Users Group (PLUG), Pune Tech and others.

GNUnify has come a long way. It started off as a small college festival in 2003 and has blossomed into a full-fledged technology conference today that represents the diverse and talented free and open source community of Pune. In an earlier era, while I was organizing LinuxAsia in Delhi, I was happy that I could help Harshad Gune, the key mover behind Gunefy, er… GNUnify, to grow the conference by having key players in the global open source community participate, speak and mentor at GNUnify. I’m proud to have been able to get many of my open source colleagues and friends including David Axmark of MySQL, Brian Behlendorf of Apache, Louis Suarez Potts of OpenOffice, Danese Cooper of OSI, Zaheda Bhorat from Google, Bob Adkins of Technetra, Matt Barker from Ubuntu, Chander Kant of Zmanda, Tony Wasserman of CMU and others to participate locally and help GNUnify grow. In addition, India’s FOSS community poured in their support in the form of speakers, participants, and mentors. That’s why I consider GNUnify to be a serious community contribution to growing open source and collaboration.

This year was another step in the right direction. I was excited when I met with Seth Bindernagel at Mozilla HQ in Mountain View and he agreed that it would be great to pull together a Mozilla Camp at the conference. Seth and his colleague Arun Ranganathan came all the way from California to deliver a fantastic Mozilla Day at the conference. It was also an opportunity for members of Mozilla’s India localization volunteer team to meet, discuss and make things happen for Firefox.

Another project that I was happy to see participate this year was Fedora India. The Fedora Activity Days (FAD) at GNUnify were a high energy effort that pulled together India’s Fedora team. I thank my friends at Red Hat, especially Sankarshan, for making this happen. FAD mentored and inspired developers and students interested in learning and participating more in the Fedora project.

It was also good to see the diversity in the technology program at the conference this year. Other workshops and talks that I thought were well done included Bob’s workshop on “Ruby from Basics” which had more than 70 hands-on participants (wow!), Rajesh’s “Programming with” workshop, Bain’s talk on git, Namita’s talk on ext4 filesystems, Dexter’s talk on WordPress tips and tricks “Blog A Way”, Pradeepto’s “Hello World – the KDE way”, and Navin’s talk on FREEconomics: the economics of free open/source. My talk on “User As Contributor: Best Practices For Growing Open Source User Communities” had lots of interaction on how and where FOSS users can contribute to growing the adoption of open source in their local communities, using local languages and locally relevant applications.

A new session at GNUnify this time was the Frequently Used Entries for Localization (FUEL) session which brought together a small but dedicated group (Rajesh Ranjan, Sandeep Shedmake, Sudhanwa Jogalekar, G. Karunakar) working on accurate translations for Marathi localization.

Another new program at GNUnify this year was “FOSS in Academics“. The session perhaps could have been better organized and better attended, but then this reflected the reality that technology education in India is by and large FOSS ignorant and unaware of many of the changes sweeping through the software world. As the need to provide FOSS-ready talent to the Indian IT industry grows, the urgency to incorporate FOSS in education is expected to follow. Its good to see GNUnify try its hand at FOSS in Academics. It might start a trend!

Tax hike proposal threatens VC interest in Indian IT

India’s finance minister P. Chidambaram has proposed a 35 percent tax on stock options issued by Indian companies. Software and hardware information technology, telecommunications and biotechnology – all high growth industry segments – would be affected.

If Chidambaram’s proposal becomes law, Indian companies will have to pay the tax on all stock options (ESOPs) issued to employees. This could dampen VC investment into India and discourage entrepreneurial activity in software as well as in biotechnology.

However, surprisingly, most Silicon Valley investment firms are optimistic that these short term tax changes won’t make India less attractive for long-term investment. They predict that money will continue to roll into India’s markets.