Random Thoughts – Randocity!

How not to run a business (Part 2) — General Don’ts 2

Posted in best practices, business, Employment, free enterprise by commorancy on May 3, 2012

As a second article follow-on to the first part of the series How not to run a business (Pt. 1), I will keep the momentum going. So, without further adieu…

Don’t keep non-producers on the payroll longer than 3 months

Three months is enough time to understand if the person you’ve recently hired can do the job for you. If they are not producing within 3 months, they are either in over their head, they simply don’t understand the job or they don’t really want to do the work. Whatever the problem, performance plans to improve probably won’t help. If you’re a small business, you can’t really afford having non-producers on the payroll for long periods of time. However, for longer term employees, that leads into …

Think twice before letting people go without warning

While I know that it’s common to reduce your payroll burden by letting people go, think twice before you do this. More specifically, don’t do it unless you fully understand the consequences of that change to your business. Letting certain people go can cause short-term damage if that person is entrenched in certain aspects of your business. Basically, make sure that your knowledge base is well spread out. This means, making sure that if you have a software engineer who is the only person who understands a crucial bit of code, that this person does a proper hand-off to another person before they depart. I know that it’s common to let people go without warning to them or to anyone else, but this is the worst way to handle letting people go for many reasons. First, you may lose a brain-trust you didn’t know you had or that your company needed. Second, you’re opening your company up to wrongful termination lawsuits. Both of these can be short term damaging to your business. Third, surprise firings don’t always go over well. You don’t know who is capable of temperamental outbursts and who may show up at your doorstep with a firearm ready to take retaliatory measures. Workplace violence is on the rise, be careful whom you let go and how. In the long term, your business will likely recover, but in the short term your customers may feel the pain. It’s entirely up to you to determine if that pain is worth the hassle of walking people to do the door without warning.

The best plan for non-producers is to give them one chance to step up and begin producing. Explain in very explicit terms what you expect to see in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Set goals and expect improvements. Make it completely clear that this is their only chance to rectify their performance issues or they will be asked to leave. Basically, give the person fair warning in writing, document it, have them sign it, give them a copy and place the original in their personnel file. So, if they choose not to improve their performance issues, you have a documented copy of what you expect and that they failed to meet those expectations. This also means that when you do walk them to the door, this is not a surprise to them. It also gives you the opportunity to hedge your bets and hire someone to be trained by this person. If they refuse to train anyone, explain that it is part of their performance improvement plan and their job. If they choose not to train someone, then explain that they have failed their performance improvement plan and they need to pack their belongings and leave the premises. You can’t make someone do the work, but you can encourage them. If they choose not to work even after you have asked them to, it’s time for them to leave.

Don’t buy email marketing lists and don’t send spam

The quickest way to tank your business on the Internet and give it a bad reputation is by buying lists of people whom you have never met. If your business is important to you, find people who are interested in your services in other ways than by sending spam email. One of the best ways is by using services like D&B to locate companies that might have need of your services. Then, have your sales people cold call them. Note, that while cold calling isn’t always warmly received by many, it is more favorably tolerated than sending email spam. Cold calling is only between you and the called party. Spam, on the other hand, ends up not only between you and the other party, but all parties in between that delivered the email. The recipient may forward the email to other parties which then involve even more people. This is how reputations get ruined. The bottom line is, don’t send email spam and, more specifically, do not buy email lists.

On the other hand, attending trade shows is a great way to initiate interest in your product or service, is a way to collect email addresses and is the primary way to build your email list. Other ways to build your list is by blogging and simply by selling your product on the web.

Don’t acquire companies without fully understanding what they bring to the table

In the start-up phase when there’s lots of capital floating around, it is tempting to bring in what appears to be a good marriage of technologies into your company through acquisition. There are lots of reasons why you should think and rethink any acquiring plan. While you may bring in technologies you don’t otherwise have, it does a lot of other things at the same time. The merging of two companies is a pretty severe culture shock for the company being acquired. Their business methodologies, sales strategies, employment practices, dress code and lots of other subtle culture issues may clash with your current culture. Bringing in a new company can bring with it things your company may not be ready to handle.

Additionally, it well increases the workload for people who may already be overworked. For example, pulling in a whole crew of new staff requires human resources to hire these people in. It requires adding them to payroll and to benefits. It requires IT staff to procure assets like computers, phones, desks, logins, ID cards, etc. The new company will have accounting books that need to be folded into the parent company’s books. There’s all of the duplicated staff that are probably not necessary (finance, IT, operations, marketing… both personnel and management) that will either have to be let go or given alternative positions.

On top of the logistics of simply folding in one company to another, which requires a substantial amount of time and effort from staff, the products themselves also have to be rolled into your current core business that have yet to be determined useful. For example, if your company is primarily a Business to Business seller and you acquire a Business to Consumer company, you need to understand if that marriage works for your present business model. The questions you need to ask yourself… “Am I planning to sell B2C now?” “Can this acquired company’s technology be used in the B2B space?” “Will this new company provide the revenue needed to justify the purchase?” These are all important questions that materially impact whether you should or should not do the deal. Don’t jump into buying a business solely because it appears to be a ‘hot new technology’. The technology itself does not indicate that that product or service is long-term sellable, viable or, more importantly, sellable to your B2B customers and prospects. Yes, having a vision does help here, but remember that Business to Consumer products generally don’t generate near the amount of revenue that Business to Business products do. Also recognize, as in this example, that selling Business to Business is an entirely different beast than selling Business to Consumer. So, this also means learning curves and retraining for those folks tasked to manage both sales models.

Basically, this single section could fill an entire book. There are lots of considerations when contemplating the acquisition of other businesses. Unless you are completely certain that you are gaining something that your company desperately needs, it may be simpler and cheaper to hire people to construct a similar technology without the additional hassles of folding two companies together. In other words, it may take longer and be more costly to fold together both the companies and the technologies than it would have cost to hire engineers and construct a similar technology yourself. Weigh the costs, think about the outcome and determine if acquisition is truly the right choice.

Don’t give away something you can sell

I’ve seen this so many times now that I’ve lost count. Good will is an important aspect of the sales process. It makes the customer feel like the are getting a good deal. I understand this aspect of the sales process. So, discounts, incentives and giveaways are all good methodologies to managing a prospect’s ‘feel good’ aspect of the deal you are proposing. However, remember that you are in business to make money. You’re not in business to give good will gestures, that is unless your company happens to be a charity or non-profit. Assuming that you are a for-profit entity and not managing a charity, you should never give away things you can sell. This is true of not only goods, but services as well. I know it’s easy to think that your professional services team’s or other team’s time is not worth much, but don’t give professional services away for free. Controlling your sales staff, however, is another matter. Don’t allow your sales team to make deals without understanding the deal and someone in management signing off on the deal. Never allow sales persons to make deals without a managerial approval process. When sales people can make deals without approvals, they will make bad deals for your company that you will have to support for years to come.

Worse, giveaways encourage future giveaways. Basically, once you’ve given something to a customer for free, they will expect it for free at subsequent renewals. Don’t set that precedent. Always charge for every line item. Discount it by a small percent, but never discount anything by 100%. Once you agree to any freebie, you are saddled with that freebie for the rest of that customer’s contract with you no matter how much you find out it is really costing you. Believe me, freebies can easily become some of the most costly parts of a business.

Don’t believe everything you hear from prospects or clients

Prospects are good at finagling the best deal possible. One of the most common tactics is to suggest that your direct competitor gave away a service for free that you are selling. They are then expecting you to give them this service for free. So, here’s the common problem with this scenario. First, you are placing 100% trust into what they are saying should you decide to comply. Don’t do this. Check and double check any statements made by prospects when they ask for freebies. Second, when you cannot find that their statement is true, be prepared to take a hard line with them and discount it by only a small percent. Do not give it away for free. If they decline the deal, you may be better off. Don’t do a deal with freebies simply because you need the deal. In the long run, that contract will become unsupportable. Further, any freebie you do agree to will become a permanent never ending freebie. You cannot undo a freebie once done. Take your business seriously and charge for everything. Again, remember that to make money is why you are in business. If you give away any freebies, five years later you will still be giving that freebie to that customer. Don’t believe everything you hear.

Don’t do giveaways, trips and other incentives for the sales team alone

At least, don’t do it without including the rest of the company in the incentives. It’s quite common in many companies for the sales team to be offered trips, giveaways and incentives to close deals (or whomever gets the most deals). So here’s the problem. You’re already paying your sales team commission on deals they’ve closed (and hopefully after the checks have cleared). This is already an incentive. If they close a $1 million deal (or $1 million in deals) and they get 10%, they’ve gotten a $100k check out of that. That’s a lot of money for a sales person in addition to whatever salary you are paying them. Why are you trying to incent them further by flying them to Barbados or by giving them an iPad? It’s their job to keep up the sales. Giving them trips and giveaways sends the wrong message to the rest of your company’s departments who aren’t involved in these incentive programs. It’s also a very exclusionary practice so that most other parts of the company don’t get these incentives. Yet, these other departments work equally hard at their jobs. If you’re planning on offering these types of incentives, involve the entire company, not just your sales team (which, as mentioned, already have incentives in the form of commission).

Don’t plan releases of products or services on company pre-designated holiday weekends

So while this one may not apply to every single business out there, it is a general rule that applies to most businesses. Let’s talk about which businesses to which this doesn’t apply. If you are a consumer product, like an iPad or the latest cell phone, releasing on a holiday weekend is probably a good idea. Unless, however, your product falls into this category (which most businesses do not), do not release your products and services on national holiday weekends. Do it either the weekend before or the weekend after. Why? Nationally respected holiday weekends has nearly everyone out on that holiday. If your service is business to business, for example, no one will be around to review the changes you’re making. So, if your release breaks something crucial to your customers, they won’t know about it until after the holiday. Specifically, it will be too late for them to fix any problems that may have arisen over the weekend. For example, if your release doesn’t work correctly and sends out a bunch of email unintentionally to a list of your customers’ people, this may end up with a lot of angry people on your hands. Your customers won’t find this out until days after the incident occurred.

Out of common courtesy for your customer’s holidays (let alone asking your staff to hang around on a holiday weekend to release), delay releases to weekends that are not holiday weekends. Asking people to give up a holiday weekend (whether customers or employees) is most definitely not good for morale. Additionally, if you do ask employees to give up their holiday weekend, then expect to make up for that weekend through comp time on another weekend later.

By expecting people to give up a holiday weekend without any payback, you are setting your company up for huge morale issues, staff will come to disrespect you and your decisions and the company will become known for these unnecessary practices in the industry. It also means that employees will see that your company doesn’t respect their home family lives. What you do with your employees does get around the industry and can easily make it a challenge when it comes time to hire new qualified staff. Basically, word of mouth gets around quickly and people simply will not look at your company when looking for employment. Small things like these make a huge difference to your staff, especially to prospective employees and recruiters. These are also the types of actions that prevent your company from being placed on lists like Forbes top 100 places to work. Your company must respect the home and family lives of your employees. Forcing people to work company designated holiday weekends is like handing the employees a cookie and then unceremoniously yanking it back moments before they can grab it and quipping, “just kidding”. Don’t do this. Respect your employees more than this.

Don’t use the company to pay your personal bills

Being the CEO, CFO or any other C-level exec doesn’t entitle you to use the company as your own personal bank account. While there is nothing but your own personal moral compass stopping you (and adamant finance employees) from using the company in this way, eventually this information will leak out to the rest of the company. Some things just can’t be kept a secret, especially the longer your business runs and the more personnel changes that happen. So, unless you want your employees to know that you’re paying $6k a month for your house or $3k a month in car payments or $2k a month in child care costs, pay your home expenses from your own personal checking account. Don’t use the accounts payable people to pay your personal bills for you. Note, to those entrepreneurs who don’t understand computers, technology or the internet, yes, there are banks now that have automatic bill pay that you can set up online.

Part 1Chapter Index | Part 3

SOPA: Is it tortious interference?

Posted in fraud, free enterprise, government, legislation by commorancy on January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA take aim at ‘online piracy’.  Of course, the term ‘online piracy’ is defined as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon. How do you define ‘online piracy’?  Well, clearly, taking copyrighted works without the owner’s permission is considered copyright infringement.  We already have laws on the books that protect copyright holders.  For years, these legal mechanisms have worked. Basically, the copyright owner identifies the alleged infringer and takes them to court, then proves the case (in front of a judge) that someone infringed.  So why isn’t this enough?  What changed? The entertainment industry wants more power.

For Hollywood and the music industry, the current legal system is not enough.  Now they want to interfere with businesses’ abilities to continue to do business.  Both the MPAA and the RIAA have tried various mechanisms to gain control over stopping piracy without involving the courts.  The entertainment industry wants direct unfettered access into businesses to force them to stop ‘enabling’ the alleged pirates.  No due process, no courts, no guilt or innocence determination in a court of law.  No, all of this they want outside of the courts.  They want to tell someone to stop doing something without any due diligence or fiduciary responsibility. “Oops, we made a mistake?  My Bad. Tee hee.”

Legalized Tortious Interference

With SOPA, this goes one step further and effectively becomes legalized tortious interference.  So what is tortious interference?  Simply put, it’s when a random third party steps into a two party contract and causes one party in the contract to breach the contract for the other party.  That is, the third party prevents a party in a contract from being able to fulfill their contractual obligations.  How does SOPA do this? It does this by forcing banks or other financial institutions to stop transactions to one of their customers on a third party say alone.  It does this by asking DNS registrars to disable domain names and prevent web sites from functioning without any court determination of guilt or innocence, again, on say alone.

Guilty until proven innocent

Clearly, our legal system and government system is broken.  More than that, our legal system is taking a huge step backwards. Back to a time before the US adopted ‘Innocent until proven guilty’.  Clearly, this mantra means little in the legal system today. With an adoption of SOPA or PIPA, we would always be presumed guilty until proven innocent.  Those in the entertainment industry are severely undermining our legal infrastructure and, if you also happen to be a conspiracy theorist, systematically dismantling it with the help of of the US Congress no less.

Internet Piracy and the end of independent artists

The music and movie industries have yet to prove substantial losses regarding piracy, yet they continue on this legal tirade that attempts to systematically destroy our current legislative system with such overreaching laws as SOPA and PIPA.  So overreaching, in fact, that these acts need no court interaction to remove alleged infringing sites from the internet without any court due process or a trial by peers.  They offer no way to prove innocence easily or to refute any claims alleged.  Simply put, the entertainment industries want to control businesses at a fundamental level outside of the courts.  They simply want to call up GoDaddy and say, “You have a site that is infringing, take it down” and GoDaddy must comply with no questions asked. This is the entertainment industry’s ultimate goal:

  • No legal system involvement
  • Forced compliance
  • No due process
  • No refuting copyright claims allowed
  • Instant removal

Clearly, we don’t want to be here.  No single private industry should have that level of legislated control over any individual or business.  Even law enforcement shouldn’t have that level of control over individuals or businesses without due process.  The entertainment industry, let alone law enforcement should follow due process just like any other individual or business is required to do.  If one industry is given that level of government sanctioned legal control, this country will fall and it will fall hard.

If SOPA or PIPA pass, we will move into a new dark age.  An age without new books, new music or new creative works of any kind (other than those that the music and movie industries want us to see).  The age of independent creative works will end.  The age of creative new web sites will end. Eventually, even Hollywood and the music industry will end because of the negative backlash over the lack of substantial creative content… ultimately leaving no creative works of any kind.  Independent creative people will stop creating because SOPA will have been so completely abused people won’t set up new sites for fear of a SOPA backlash.  Existing businesses will stop doing business with anyone involved in creative works (and let’s hope that includes Hollywood).


Part of the SOPA and the PIPA drafts suggest that ISPs adhere to a browsing blacklist.  That is, ISPs would be required to prevent access to sites that are ‘known pirate’ sites.  This is allegedly to target non-US sites, but it could just as easily target sites within the US.  ISPs are and should be treated as a common carrier.  That is, what is carried over their lines is not their responsibility either in or out.  Requiring ISPs to become filters for the government and the entertainment industries is, again, overreaching.  There is no need for this.  I do understand what the MPAA and RIAA are both trying to do. But, instead of using censorship to block sites, they should simply go after the site directly.  Do not censor everyone else’s view of the Internet because of an suspected problem.  Again, this is simply like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  No, just throw the bathwater out .. meaning, if a site becomes a problem, go after that specific site.  Don’t require ISPs to block access to the site for every subscriber in the US.  Censorship is not an acceptable problem resolution in any form here in the US.  That representatives and senators are even considering this is amazingly chilling.

Chilling effects

Legislation like SOPA is chilling.  It should not ever be passed. This legislation is the wrong legislation at the wrong time and for the wrong industry.  No one industry should wield that level of unregulated power towards any other industry.  The DMCA attempted that level of control but failed to work. SOPA is the next step to come out of the DMCA, but it is far too overreaching. Worse, this type of legislation needs to end before the United States as we know it ceases to exist.  With legislation like SOPA, the US is leading itself to its own demise.  We are, in effect, legislating the US out of existence and SOPA is just one step towards that end.

Consider who the major players are in Hollywood and in the music industry. Most of the players are not even US companies. Again, a conspiracy theorist could have a field day with all of this.

I’m sorry to say that entertainment is the least of this country’s worries, let alone the entertainment industry.  They can fend for themselves.  Boo Hoo, the movie and music industry might have lost 50 cents because someone allegedly downloaded a song or watched a movie online. Show us the numbers!  The entertainment industry already has laws and the court system to back them up with both patent and copyright infringement claims.  There is no need for any further legislation on this front. The US needs to focus its efforts on the economy and keeping this country afloat. The US is not responsible for propping up industries that can’t even properly manage themselves.  Let’s let Hollywood and big music figure out how to manage themselves using the existing laws.

More then that, let’s make these industries first prove substantial losses to piracy before we give them any level of power, let alone this level. Just say ‘No’ to SOPA and PIPA. Write your congressional representatives and ask them to not support this legislation.

Patent Trolls or why software patents should be abolished!

Posted in business, free enterprise, politics by commorancy on May 21, 2011

The patent system was originally designed to provide exclusive rights for invented ideas to inventors. But, there used to be a catch, the idea must lead to a real world tangible device. The patent system was also conceived long before computers existed. So, at the time when the patent system was conceived, it was designed as a way for inventors to retain exclusive control over their ideas for tangible devices without other people stealing or profiting from those ideas.

The patent system is enforced by the legal system. It is sanctioned by governments (specifically in the US, by the US Patent Office – USPTO and the legislative system) to protect said individuals’ patents from use by others who serve to profit from those previously ‘patented’ ideas. So, enforcing a patent involves suing an alleged infringer and then having a court of law rule whether the alleged infringer has, in fact, infringed. It is, then, the burden of proof of the patent holder to prove infringement.  And, of course, it ties up the legal system to resolve this dispute.

Tangible vs Intangible Devices

The patent system was conceived at a time when the ultimate outcome of a patent idea was to produce a tangible physical good. That is, something that ultimately exists in the real world like a pen, a toaster, a drill, a telephone or a light bulb. The patented idea itself is not tangible, but the idea described within the patent should ultimately produce a tangible real world item if actually built. This is why ideas that lead to intangible things were never allowed to be patented and are only allowed to be copyrighted or trademarked.

Fast forward to when the first computers came into existence (30s-60s). Then later, the 70s when the US Patent Office began granting software patents en masse (although, the first software patent was apparently granted in 1966). Software, unfortunately, is not a tangible thing and, for the most part, is simply a set of ideas expressed through a ‘programming language’ with finite constructs. Modern programming languages, specifically, are designed to have limited constructs to produce a structured code. That is, an application that follows a specific set of pre-built rules to basically take data in and present data out (in specific unique ways).  Ultimately, that’s what a program does, take data in, process it and spit data out in a new way.

Software Design Limits

Because modern programming languages have limited constructs from which to build an application and which are further constrained by such limits as application programming interface (API) frameworks, operating system function calls, hardware limitations and other such constraints, writing an application becomes an exercise in compromise. That is, you must compromise programming flexibility for the ease and speed of using someone else’s API framework. Of course, you can write anything you want from scratch if you really want, but most people choose to use pre-existing frameworks to speed the development process.  Using external frameworks also reduce time to completion of a project. At the same time, including third party API systems is not without its share of coding and legal issues. Programmatically speaking, using a third party API opens up your code to security problems and puts implicit trust into that API that it’s ‘doing the right thing’. Clearly, the functionality derived from the external framework may outweigh the security dangers present within the framework. From a legal perspective, you also don’t know what legal traps your application may fall into as a result of using someone else’s API framework. If they used code within the framework that is legally questionable, that will also bring your application into question because you used that framework inside your app (unless, of course, it’s using a SOAP/REST internet framework).

With all that said, embedding frameworks in your app severely constricts your ability to control what your program is doing. Worse, though, if you are using a high level programming language like C, C++, Objective C, C# or any other high level language, you are limited by that programming language’s built-in construct. So, even if you choose to code everything from scratch, it’s very likely you could write code substantially similar to something that someone else has already written. Because high level languages have limited constructs, there are only so many ways to build an application that, for example, extracts data from a database. So, you have to follow the same conventions as everyone else to accomplish this same task.

Software Patents are bad

Because of these limited high level language constructs, there is a high probability that someone writing an application will write code that has already been written hundreds of times before. And note, that’s not an accident. That happens because do()while, for() and while() loops as well as if conditionals area always used in the same way. Worse, you can’t deviate from these language constructs because they are always the same in pretty much any language.  If these constructs didn’t exist, you couldn’t easily make decisions within your code (ie, if X is greater than 3, do this, else do that).

Why are software patents bad? Simply, because languages are written with such limited programming concepts, the probability to reinvent something that has already been invented is far too high. Unlike devising a real world idea where the probability someone could come up with that same exact idea is likely near zero, writing software using language constructs the probability is far higher than 70% that someone could design the same (or substantially similar) code, idea or construct. And. that high probability is strictly because of the limits and constructs imposed by the high level language.

Yet, the USPTO has decided to allow and grant software patents knowing the probabilities of creating substantially similar ideas within the software world is that high. Yes, probabilities should play a part in whether or not to grant patents.


Probability in idea creation is (and should always be considered) how likely someone is to create something substantially similar to someone else. Probability should always be relevant in granting patents. Patents need to be unique and individual. That is, a patent should be granted based on something that multiple people could not devise, guess, build or otherwise conceive accidentally. Because real world tangible items are constrained only by the elements here on Earth, this effectively makes inventions using Earth elements pretty much infinite (at least for all intents and purposes). Because software code uses a much smaller number of constructs that limit and constrain programming efforts, that smaller set increases the chances and the probabilities that someone can create something similar.  In fact, it increases probabilities by orders of magnitudes. I’m sure an expert on statistics and probabilities could even come up with real world probability numbers between element based inventions and software code based inventions. Suffice it to say, even without this analysis, it’s quite clear that it’s far too easy for someone to devise something substantially similar in software without even really trying.

Software patents are bad, revisited

Basically, it’s far too easy for someone to devise something someone else has already conceived using software. On top of this, the USPTO has seen fit to grant software patents that are way too obvious anyway. That is, they’ve granted patents to software ideas that are similarly as common place as cotton, strawberries, a nail and yarn. Worse, because of these completely obvious patents, patent trolls (people who do nothing but patent without the intent of producing anything) game the system and produce completely obvious patents. This action has created a land mine situation for the software industry.  This is especially bad because it’s virtually impossible to search for existing patents before writing software.

So, as a software developer, you never know when you might step on one of these land mines and get a ‘cease and desist’ notification from a patent troll. That is, someone who has patented some tiny little thing that’s completely obvious, yet your application takes advantage of that thing somewhere because you just happened upon one of the easy to build constructs in a language. Yet, patents should only be granted based on an idea that someone cannot easily create by sheer accident. Yet, here we are.

Ideas now patented

Worse, software is not and has never been tangible. That is, software doesn’t and cannot exist in the real world. Yes, software exists on real world devices, but that software itself is just a series of bits in a storage device. It is not real and will never be real or ever see the light of day. That is, software is just an idea. An idea with a structured format. It is not real and will never have a real tangible physical shape, like a toaster. We will never be able to have tactile interaction with software. Hardware, yes, is tactile. Software, no. The software’s running code itself cannot stimulate any of our five senses: not sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.. Someone might argue, well software does produce visual and audible interaction. Yes, the output of the software produces these interactions. That is, the software processes the input data and produces output data. The input and output data has sight and sound interaction. You still aren’t seeing or hearing the software code doing the processing. That’s under the hood and cannot be experienced by our five senses. For this reason, software is strictly an idea, a construct. It is not a tangible good.

Patents are a form of personal law

That is, the owner of the patent now has a legal ‘law’ that they need to personally enforce.  That is, that patent number gives them the right to take anyone to court to enforce their ‘law’ err.. patent.  No entity in government should be allowed to grant personal law.  Especially not for intangible things.  I can understand granting patents on tangible items (a specialty hair clip, a curling iron, a new type of pen, etc).  That makes sense and it’s easy to see infringement as you can see and touch the fake.  It takes effort, time and money to produce such a tangible item. Software patents require nothing.  Just an application to the USPTO, a payment and then wait for it to be granted.  After the patent has been granted, take people to court, win and wait for royalties.  This is wrong.

All software patents should be immediately abolished and invalidated


  • Software patents only serve corporations in money making ventures. Yet, software patents really serve to bog down the legal system with unnecessary actions.
  • Software patents stifle innovation due to ‘land mines’. Many would-be developers steer clear of writing any code for fear of the legal traps.
  • Software patents are granted based on probabilities far too high that someone will produce something similar based on limited high level language constructs
  • Because software language constructs are, by comparison, much smaller in number when compared to Earth elements (when inventing real world ideas), probabilities say it’s too easy to recreate something substantially similar to someone else in software.
  • Software is intangible and cannot expose itself as anything tangible (which goes against the original idea of patents in the first place)
  • Software patents will reach critical mass.  Eventually, the only people left writing code will be large corporations who can afford to defend against legal traps.
  • Software patents are now being granted without regards to obviousness.

As a result, all software patents, past and present, should be immediately invalidated.  If we continue this path of software patents, a critical mass will eventually exist such that writing software will become such a legal landmine that developers will simply stop developing.  I believe we’ve already seen the beginnings of this. Eventually, the only people left who can afford to develop software will be large corporations with deep pockets.  Effectively, software patents will stifle innovation to the point that small developers will no longer be able to legally defend against the Patent Trolls and large corporations seeking to make money off ‘licensing’. The patent system needs to go back to a time when the only patents granted were patents describing tangible physical goods. Patents that do not describe tangible physical goods should be considered ideas and dumped under copyright law only.

Is Obama hostile towards big business?

To answer this question, we need to delve a little deeper. Note, I am neither condoning nor praising Obama’s handling of his regulatory efforts. However, I would like to point out certain corrections that do need to be made.

“The truth is that not even the Franklin Roosevelt administration was as hostile to and ignorant about free enterprise as this [Obama’s] administration is.”
–Steve Forbes.

But, is Obama really hostile towards business? Or, is he making needed corrections? There is a fine line here. This issue also points out a serious problem in politics today. That problem is, you guessed it, money. Without money, the world doesn’t work. Without money, candidates don’t get elected. Without money, businesses don’t sell things and make money. Back up the train.. Businesses make plenty of money without governmental help. The trouble is that businesses want to be able to make laws that enable their businesses to make more money and then have the government be lenient with them when issues arise.

The reality, though, is that like the separation of church and state, the government now needs separation of business and state. The two are oil and water, they don’t mix. Government needs to be able to make law without interference from any party. But, businesses have deep pockets and hefty lawyers. These two elements help elect officials and help sway these same officials into making good on promises they made towards these businesses during the election.

Obama’s corrections

While I don’t agree with every single thing Obama has done, I do agree that change is necessary. The change that he is making is intended to correct the issues that led to the economic downturn. The trouble comes with statements from people like Steve Forbes. Mr. Forbes believes that he is the end-all-be-all-know-it-all when it comes to all-things-business. The trouble is, he doesn’t. Yes, he runs a successful magazine, but that doesn’t make him an authority. That makes him a successful business owner.

Obama is walking that fine line. A fine line that shouldn’t even be necessary. But, there it is. The line that’s there to help Obama help the economy, help spur business and growth and reduce the chances of a repeated failure. At the same time, the line is there to show that government values business, but isn’t there to socialize it. The trouble is, this economic downturn was of our own making. By our, I mean Wall Street. The housing bubble was just that, a bubble. Bubbles eventually burst and this bubble was no exception. It’s not as if analysts and intelligent minded people couldn’t see the handwriting on the wall. When the mortgage interest rates got down to 1% and all of those ARM and specialty loans were being issued like water flowing down the Mississippi, trouble was inevitable. We just didn’t know that banks and insurance companies were tying their financial soundness to these extremely risky loans using credit default swaps.

Until the bubble burst, no one really knew just how deep the rabbit hole went. Then, everything came crashing down and all of the nasty subprime mortgage and credit default swap issues came into view in their all fugly detailed glory. The first evidence of that was Bear Stearns followed by AIG (and the subsequent governmental bailout). I still think they should have let AIG fold, I digress.

Government and Business

It’s high time that government distanced itself from corporate businesses. It’s high time congress made laws to separate government from business (including political support). It’s high time that government stopped being a pawn for corporate businesses. Forbes clearly seems to think that Free Enterprise requires socialism to function. Free Enterprise is not part of and does not need socialism. Free Enterprise means that businesses can do whatever they need to do (within the limits of the laws) to make their business succeed. Clearly, there have not been laws enabled that have dramatically impacted Free Enterprise. The laws that have been enacted have been placed there to prevent corporations from producing risky investment vehicles with a high likelyhood of crashing down again. If businesses are now floundering, it’s not because of laws. It’s because corporations have lost their way and are still expecting handouts. Well, you can keep your hand out, but don’t expect the government to be dropping any coin in it.

Corporations have relied, no… depended on the US Government for handouts. That time needs to end. Subsidies for business need to go away. Businesses need to fend for themselves just like Free Enterprise mandates. If a business can’t make it on its own, then let it fail. I’ll repeat, LET IT FAIL. Failure is also part of Free Enterprise. Businesses that will succeed, will succeed because they produce a good product or service. Businesses that fail, will fail because they don’t produce good products or services.

Lost our way

America, and specifically corporate enterprises, have lost their way. For far too long have big corporations depended on favorable governmental conditions (sounds like a weather report) to help them stay in business. Well, that train has left (and must leave). It should be solely up to you and your business practices alone to make or break your company. It is the quality of your products, services and support that makes people want to buy your products or invest in your company. Nothing has changed about this aspect of Free Enterprise.

We need to go back to a time when quality was the key. When providing a superior product was the answer to getting people to buy things. If that also means deflation, then so be it. Businesses need to find their way by learning how to do more with less. How to manage their staff better and stop over-hiring. At the same time, many of them need to stop under-hiring and also value the employees that they have right now.

The key to keeping your business flowing is by keeping your employees active, productive and happy. Morale is a big problem in companies during any downturn. Once fear sets in over the next reduction in force (RIF), then morale falls to all-time-lows. No, taking the employees on an outing doesn’t boost morale. The way to boost morale is to stop RIFing the staff out the door. Yes, I know it gives a temporary boost to the stock price and makes the shareholders happy, but that’s a temporary fix with limited effects. Once the dust settles, the employees who are left become disgruntled, unhappy and produce less. This is completely backwards thinking. Which is why business has lost its way.

Shareholder value vs quality products

I know, someone’s going to say that it is all about ‘shareholder value’. That may be the way things seem now, but it is wrong. Currently accepted actions that lead to improved shareholder value tend to undercut production, stifle innovation, reduce profit margins and lower productivity. Why would you intentionally do this to your business? So, while these measures may seem to help the stock price, it does nothing to help the company improve its quality of products and services. In fact, in the long run, these actions almost always negatively impact the bottom line. So, the fundamental question is, are you in business to make the shareholders happy or are you in business to sell quality products and services? This fundamental question must be answered.

The true answer to this question also shows that Free Enterprise priorities today are all wrong. It used to be that the customer is #1. Now, shareholders are #1 and customers are #2. This is both wrong and stupid. Until businesses go back to the idea that the customer is #1, corporations will continue to fail and need governmental subsidies. While shareholders are considered #1, there is really no such thing as Free Enterprise when it comes to multi-million dollar corporations… which is why they always need a handout from the government.

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