A Little Ludwig Goes a Long Way

A smattering of opinions on technology, books, business, and culture. Now in its 4th technology iteration.

Goals, Space, edge devices, Watson, and other things I've been thinking about this week

27 July 2021

Setting goals

I used to work with a guy who taught me a simple truth — “If you can’t say what your goal is, you are unlikely to achieve it.”  Simple and obvious and yet so often I forget it and find myself wandering in the weeds.  

I had this hammered home to me in my first real job as a strategy consultant.  We worked with clients who had complex multiyear plans but couldn’t say what their goal was.  Before you even create a strategy, you need to articulate your goal, and it needs to be a believable goal (although with some stretch).  Strategies and plans without clear goals are just exercises in moving papers around.

I had it hammered home to me at Microsoft — the Windows 95 project had clear goals repeated daily by Brad Silverberg and David Cole, and you could rely on everyone pulling the oars in the same way because everyone knew the goal.  The Internet Explorer project had very clear goals, and we were able to get help from all over the company because everyone understood the goal.  A clear simple statement of a goal solves so many issues, you can rely on people to all work towards the goal if they understand what it is and believe in it.  If you don’t have a shared goal across an organization, the organization is going to struggle.

The value of clear goals applies to business, career management, personal life, societal issues.  Noah talks here about urban development and the value of visualization of the goal.  I love this approach, and I love that Noah doesn’t just visualize the goal, but he breaks it down into its key components and talks about how to make progress against each.  I need to use this in the future on projects.

The Space Industry

In the past several weeks it has been very fashionable to bash the space billionaires – “the pinnacle of waste”, “a private playground for the ultra-wealthy, the commons hollowed out and impoverished to make room”, “symbols of the new gilded age”.

And billionaires putting themselves into space is bad PR, not sure why these guys feel the need.  It’s not like we are going to remember them for this — we will remember the firsts like Gagarin and Armstrong, we will sadly remember the tragedies like Columbia and Challenger.  We won’t remember the first rich dudes.

But consider — the entrepreneurship and intense competitiveness of these leaders and their teams has driven down launch prices, has made the US launch industry the best in the world, and the flywheel is just starting.  And give credit to the US Government for embracing private launches and sending business their way.  A privatized competitive launch industry yields benefits everywhere — lower cost NASA/science missions, lower cost defense missions, better GPS systems, new businesses like Starlink, and I am sure more to come.    

Our problem is not that these companies are climbing all over each other to become best in space.  Our problem is that there are insufficient market conditions in other domains to drive the same kind of flywheel.  In green tech, energy, infrastructure, healthcare, housing — we lack ready access to capital, the revenue streams, reward structures, etc.  And so entrepreneurs don’t enter these markets to the same degree.

Managing personal devices

Early in my career I spent an inordinate amount of time installing OSes and device drivers and apps on machines.  Migrating to a new machine was a nightmare, there was so much install state wedged into the machine.  And my personal machines had significant storage and connectivity limitations, and so I had to spent time carefully compressing music and photos, or worrying about what subset of them I carried with me, and where the real authoritative copies were kept.  Man that all sucked.  

High speed networks, high density storage, and the move towards app stores that manage app installs has made life a lot better.  My kids would be aghast at the crap I had to go through as an early personal computer user.  

But there is still a lot of state and config to manage, there is still a lot of room to simplify the world.  I don’t generally need a Windows machine, and am looking forward to trying out Windows 365 for those times I do need a Windows machine.   Warp.dev could be cool too, i would love to have a terminal environment that i can use on any machine with a consistent install of tools, repos, etc.   


What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson?  Everyone I knew who had any software experience at all always felt that Watson was overblown vapor.  Somehow IBM got a major pass from the press and from enterprise customers, and still does to a degree, Just as they do for their “cloud business”.  My first litmus test for technologies is always – how many thoughtful people have pointed me to some project using that technology?  If the answer is “none” then I am dubious about it.  I have never had anyone point me to a sample project hosted on the IBM cloud or on any Watson technology.  


“Every mention of beavers is the prelude to a joke.”   Which is a pity because beavers are totally cool.

Giant Terawatt Laser to fight lightning. Hat tip to Bob.

Iron-Air batteries.