The Choice

I was nearing a nervous breakdown.  My business, A Mountain Top, was losing steam despite the extra effort I was putting into it in a vain attempt to gain altitude.  I hadn’t taken a day off in almost two years and the recent arrival of my second daughter was making sleep a precious commodity.

It wasn’t working.

On top of all of that, I was unable to shake a growing realization that I was in the wrong business.  My efforts to build a small consulting company around my favorite web technologies wasn’t producing the results I was aiming for and a new opportunity lay at my feet, the opportunity to start the first company solely focused on the little known (at the time) JavaScript library, jQuery.

I was faced with a choice.

It is a familiar choice, one we all face many times in our life.  Do I act, or do I sit.  Do I accept my current reality or summon the courage to change it.  Do I cling to the status quo or do I dare to dream that it could be different.

I had to choose.

Either decision was a choice.  Inaction is a choice but as you get to know me better, you’ll see that I’m a sucker for adventure.  I took two weeks off over the holidays to clear my head, re-engage with my family and allow myself the mental space to make a decision that I knew I could stand upon.

I chose to jump.

Taking this leap was one of the biggest choices I’ve personally had to make in my life.  However, I am eternally grateful that the foundation of appendTo and that my current circumstances are based off of a conscious choice.  Knowing that fate has not dealt me a short hand nor am I the victim of external forces such as market conditions or bad customers is empowering; it helps me to temper the inevitable peaks and valleys of being an entrepreneur.

We all face choices every day. Choosing to make an intentional choice takes courage, but makes all the difference.  What are you going to choose?

Why does the software community matter?

Since the beginning of appendTo, we’ve constantly said we support the community. I view that supportive posture as one of the keys to the success we’ve seen so far, but we’ve done little to explain why. I was graciously given the opportunity to talk a little bit about this prior to the keynote this week at the devLink Technical Conference and I wanted to re-post the transcript of what I said here on my blog.

This is a subject I am passionate about and see as a key pillar in appendTo fulfilling its purpose as a business.  I’m excited to share more of this perspective publicly.

Are you a fan of supporting community? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Good Morning devLink!

As CEO of appendTo, I have the privilege of attending many different tech conferences all over the world. Last year was my first year at devLink and I was completely blown away. Every conference I went to last year spent a lot of time talking about community, but devLink lived it in a way that has no equal. What I realized is that John and the rest of the devLink team do this because they love this community and want to do what they can to make it better. Believe me. It shows. So, when John asked if appendTo wanted to sponsor devLink this year, we jumped at the chance to lend our support.

I’d like to share two quick things with you this morning as we all gather to kick off devLink this year.

The first point I’d like to share is why the software development community is special and why it is so important.

Economically, software developers are quickly becoming a scarce resource. We constantly hear that good developers are hard to find, but the people that say that obviously don’t know about this conference.

Seriously though, the statistics show that 70,000 software developer jobs each year go unfilled as companies transition to rely more and more on the tools and frameworks we build to make their businesses run. That translates into a great opportunity for every single person in this room but presents challenges for the world around us.

These statistics look grim but represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what software developers are capable of. They think the size of the pie is fixed. They don’t realize the power of Open Source and that sharing knowledge is far better than hiding it. They don’t understand that what we call our Developer community is one of the best organized grass-roots organizations in existence today. We spread an incredible amount of knowledge about our craft faster than any other group of people before us.

This ability to organize, to share and improve our craft is our super power. It is how we will face the challenges of the future and win. It is how we can each do our part to make the world a better place. That’s what our community is and why appendTo and I am honored to be a part of it.

As a member of this community, the second thing I’d like to do is challenge each and every one of you this week. I’d like you to join me and everyone else in this room in making our community a little bit better while you’re here at devLink.

If you’re an attendee, thank the speaker of each presentation you attend for the blood sweat and tears they invested to put their presentation together. A simple thank you can make that Speaker’s day and will help show them that the late nights preparing and practicing their talks was worth it.

Speakers, thank the attendees for coming to your talk to listen. They have a lot of choices this week and saw something special in the work you did to prepare your material.

Finally, thank the conference organizers for all of the work that goes into putting on an event like this. The work involved in putting together an event of this size takes an army of people volunteering their time to invest in each and everyone one of you.

Our community will be as strong as we make it. By attending this event, you are joining with thousands of other software developers across the world in helping to create a better world for us all.

Thank you!

5 reasons a CEO should champion Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design (RWD) has gained popularity of late as a technique for implementing the HTML & CSS code of your website in such a way as to provide the same functionality to Desktop, Tablet and Mobile browsers from the same URL. Several large web properties have gone responsive, including the Boston Globe, Starbucks, BBC News, Disney and Time Magazine.

While RWD is primarily a technical technique mainly for designers and developers, the impact on your web strategy cannot be underestimated. With the explosion of so many new devices, RWD stands alone as the best technique to address the complicated technical landscape that a website or application must build towards.

As a CEO with a technical background and experience working on large RWD implementations (My company, appendTo implemented Time.com), I wanted to share some of my perspective on why RWD is not just another strategy to address mobile.

How can RWD address the technical risks of building and maintaining a web property in today’s environment? We give you five ways that RWD is best suited to the job:

RWD forces developers to write better code

Every pixel, bit and byte counts on your website. Using RWD forces your developers to focus on the details and in my experience, the product is better in the end. Cleaner, more concise code has many benefits including page speed, usability and a positive SEO impact.

RWD improves the ROI of your developer’s time

If you’re investing in a Desktop site, Mobile site and various Mobile Apps, you can reach all of those technical audiences with a single RWD website. By focusing your developer’s time onto a single codebase that reaches multiple platforms, you’ll see a greater return on the value of your website or web application.

RWD future-proofs you against new devices

New devices show up on the market all of the time with new screen sizes and new functionality. If the RWD technique is implemented correctly, users with new devices will be able to get value from your site even when you didn’t plan for them to visit.

Google favors sites that are implemented with RWD

Google recommends implementing your website using RWD techniques because it solves several issues related to duplicate content when the search engine crawls your site. This reduces the potential for mistakes when listing your site in the search engines and can help improve your rankings.

RWD increases site Usability, which makes your users happier

Happier users return to your site more often. You’ll never hear the user of a website or web application implemented with RWD complain about your lack of a mobile site. Even if your analytics show very little traffic from mobile or tablet computers, you’ll likely see an uptick from these devices after you launch a RWD enabled site.

As you can see, implementing your website or web application with RWD isn’t just about making sure you check the box for mobile visitors, its an entire strategy for taking your project to the next level by improving Usability, producing a better product and improving your SEO.

Question: Are you planning on leveraging RWD in your web strategy in 2013? Let us know in the comments below!