Below are the hopefully-semi-regular-god-I-hate-blogging musings of the LassoSoft Inc. CEO, Sean Stephens, as a measure of transparency and respect to developers in the LassoSoft community. We want the community to know what is going on behind the wizard's curtain.
I am so frickin' excited about Lasso right now.
It's been a while since I blogged. I'll stop saying that now. But given the restlessness of the world (and the many people trying to repurpose their signs for "the end is near!" by writing in "Lasso" so they read "The End of Lasso is Near"), it's probably time I caught everyone up on all that's been going on.
One of the strangest things in the Lasso community is the lack of a freelancing websites that have "Lasso" listed as a skill. Recently I've had a flurry of requests from Lasso developers looking for small pieces of work to get done - and I am certainly aware that there are Lasso developers out there actively looking for work. I always send them back to LassoTalk - but I rarely see the posts end up there.
As I look to gauge the popularity of Lasso versus other languages, I have realized one of the key performance measures of popularity (or "programming language fashionability") is how obvious or "out there" a given language might be in the New World Order. Lasso has traditionally been a closely guarded secret (even intentionally secretive, in fact, by the old guard and the Inline Curtain), and as a result, the popularity of Lasso out on the web is, well, not obvious.
It's a very big challenge, actually - compared to how prevalent the language is when it comes to actual usage in back-end web systems of the world. It's something we must change.
One of the key discussions brought up at LDC 2012 was the subject of "Documentation". Now "Documentation", as a concept, has a whole bunch of different potential components. Off the top of my head, I can think of the following;
Books on "How-to"
A Reference Manual
Articles and Examples
Videos and Tutorials
These, of course, have different key audiences - including new and past users of Lasso, newbie or pro-am users like myself right up to Captains of Code, like Jono or Ke or Steffan. Everyone needs more documentation.
For those of you who missed LDC 2012 - you sure missed a swell time.
For those of you who were there: thank you again. I didn't get to spend time with each of you personally - but I did get a lot of meaningful time with a number of you. I cherished each conversation, and it has stoked me to persevere and enthused me for the drive forward.
I for one feel that it signifies the official final page in our initial phase of the plan to ensure Lasso becomes one of the most prevalent web languages in use by developers within the next five years. What part of the plan is that? The plan of triaging the many problems within the Lasso world, cleaning up shop and forever ending the skepticism about the possible survival of Lasso.
I know, I know, it's been too long since I've had time to blog. In my defence, I did say at the onset that I hate blogging.
Having said that, the LassoSoft team is throwing itself into high gear in anticipation of the conference in a month. There have been been so many incredible things happening at LassoSoft in the past few months that it is difficult to summarize them all. We are trying to wrap up as many as possible. It's going to be tight and we are busting ourselves in half to produce.
The latest blog instalment is a video that summarises the past year for our wonderful new company LassoSoft Inc. I also give insights into the future and the exciting things still ahead. Drawn mostly from the open webinar session attended by our community on Dec 2, 2011, the vblog also reminds me just how far we have come.
I know better than to write this particular post, especially after selling more copies of Lasso in the last month than since May 2007. Lasso is taking off again.
However, I'm going to write it anyway, if only because of the importance that Lasso developers hear good things about Lasso, to be used as ammunition to attract potential clients. We need to answer the "why Lasso?" in a way the client will understand and appreciate: Security.
"It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key." - Winston Churchhill
Tomorrow will be exactly nine months from the day we announced our purchase of the Lasso intellectual property with the intent of significantly rejuvenating the community and the language of Lasso. Today we had an internal celebration over the many things we have accomplished: from documentation and reference material, to improvements and tweaking of the language itself, to a new website and marketing materials galore.
"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail." - Abraham Maslow
As promised, we spent the last few weeks digging through various systems and code people sent us looking for reasons for backwards compatibility issues from Lasso 8 to Lasso 9. All in all we received tens of thousands of lines of code and went through as much code as possible over the past few weeks. We continue to go through it. The end goal is simple: find out where the issues in backwards compatibility in 9 exist - if they exist - and fix them.
Strategically, this would give us real examples of how the tool of Lasso is being used. Sure, we sell a hammer, and we expect it to be used in a particular way. But what if people use the other end of the hammer to pound in nails? In my opinion, our product should be able to deal with those issues. In my opinion, I should be able to bang in a nail with any side of Lasso I so choose.
But we can't just provide you with a a ball of steel and call it a hammer. We need to know how it gets used in order to improve its design appropriately.
[An explanation for the non-programmer]
In actual fact, the name of this post should be "Why Lasso 9 is better than PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby, Coldfusion, Java, ASP, Lisp, Scheme, Tcl, Smalltalk, BASIC, C, C#, C++ and all other languages combined - including Lasso 8 - for building websites and web applications." However, long titles are bad for SEO.
Lasso'er Pier K. had a great tweet a few days ago about his solution to the question which most of us get asked frequently (I don't care how large a company you are, it never goes away): "What happens if you get hit by a bus?"
Pier's solution was simple: Ride the bus. If you are on the bus, how can you get hit by it?
Our commitment to the Lasso community includes actively polling our most engaged developers (CLDs) to direct our course in development. There has been plenty to do over the last 8 month as we have been putting Humpty Dumpty together again (and still is!), and your direct feedback has been very helpful.
(For those of you who haven't seen it, it can be found here: http://www.lassosoft.com/Lasso-Roadmap)
Since December 1st of last year, I have been struggling with articulating the reason for Lasso's existence. Obviously, I have known there is something at the bottom of it all, some reason to continue. Otherwise, I wouldn't have invested the hundreds of thousands of dollars and much of my remaining hair into the language over the last eight months.
But I haven't quite been able to put my finger on it.
As per usual with blogs - things get extraordinarily busy, one puts ones head down to get things done, time passes, writing momentum wanes, and your blog falls on its face. In my case, this was a function of the many important things we were working on but the lack of things urgent to say. I went on holiday in Ireland for a few weeks, and when I returned, my blog discipline had all leaked out and was replaced by "doing". My apologies for the lag.
Technically, as of a few hours ago, I am on holiday for 12 days (to bonnie Ireland). However, before I disappeared from the working world, I felt it appropriate to complete the circle of licensing discussion and tie up the few loose ends which have been brought forward over the past few weeks.
Based on feedback through various streams, we have made some changes to the pricing models and brought out something new to meet an identified gap.
I had a magnificent conversation the other day (the day before our new site went live) with the original founder of Blueworld, and the man who started it all: Bill Doerfield.
Although I've had his phone number for a while, I felt a little timid to call him. This is the man, who when I was practically still in diapers, owned the company which I started programming with in the late 90's. I was still working as a professional musician (if you can call "a long-hours job where you don't make money" a profession), and stumbled into website development.
I remember him as some sort of larger-than-life lesser god, like a Steve Jobs.
As a CEO, one is regularly called to come back to the goals and values of the shareholders and ensure that you are on track with the vision of the company as a whole. In the Lasso world, unlike many business worlds, I genuinely see developers as shareholders instead of customers. Customers are one-time buyers, who just buy on price. At another level, there are Clients, who have a little more investment in the brand and enough loyalty to at least comment about things before voting with their feet. Above them are Partners, who get a little more emotionally invested, as they stand to lose something. Then there are Shareholders.
I feel the need to be extraordinarily transparent with you all this evening, and so I will be.
The truth is, I hate babies.
In particular, newborns. I takes a real man to admit this, I believe. I mean, a woman comes out with a newborn from the hospital and everyone is always cooing and oogling the thing, and telling the mother how beautiful the child is. People make comments like "wow, she looks just like you", or "she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!".
In the back of my head, I'm thinking "OH GOD! They let it out of the hospital like that?! Without any elective surgery!?"
As we move towards a final release date this week, I am reminded about one of the difficulties in trying to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. Trying to prepare a dozen different dishes with four elements and one oven can be an ordeal: you try to keep certain cooked things hot while hoping that the turkey gets done at the same time. No matter how well you plan the meal, something always gets a little under or over cooked.
We are trying to introduce a whole slew of changes, within a few months of taking over the reins of the Lasso product line. I can't promise every dish, on it's own, will be perfect. But I do certainly have the goal that the overall meal will leave you with a sense of relief and satisfaction. If the carrots are a little undercooked, so be it, we'll put them back in the pot for when you go for second helpings.
It's been a few weeks since my last post. Not exclusively because I am lazy, but also because I have been sick and have been behind the workload wave for a few weeks, with tax audits and other fun experiences.
As we enter the final lap of getting new versions of Lasso live, we have also started tightening up a new pricing metaphor, and thought it would be consistent with LassoSoft's values to share the metaphor with the community and get some feedback before we officially pull the trigger and start selling.
I'll re-iterate, it would be nice if Lasso were free. Unfortunately, components for an alternative business model (i.e. selling IDEs and the like) are not yet in existence. For the Lasso machine to continue and grow, it needs to make money until we get there.
Our goals, as stated some time ago, have many high-level objectives;
- Lower the barrier to entry for developers
- Lower the cost barrier for hosting companies to host websites, thus lowering hosting costs
- Create stable recurring revenue to ensure that LassoSoft is positioned for the future
- Try not abuse developers, but scale pricing for larger corporations
- Create more modern payment options for modern organizations
Someone (Jason) had a great comment on my last blog post, about the confusion between the "end user" and the "developer". It is such an important distinction, I thought I would write something else about it. Understanding my theory here will certainly help the community understand what will be happening with the new marketing initiatives we are working on.
I think it is important, before we finalize pricing internally, to open the can of worms of the "Open Source" discussion and unpack it in front of the community for discussion. Most importantly, I feel it is important that the Lasso community knows what I (Sean Stephens, CEO) am thinking and help me refine any incorrect dogma and challenge my theories meaningfully. I want to make sure we are going the right direction.
"I have no lid upon my head, But if I did
You could look inside and see
What's on my mind"
- Dave Matthews
Our new mission is not to squeeze what is left of the Lasso hard-core community for their last few pennies and run into the wilderness twisting our mustachios and cackling with glee. Our mission is to provide the most reasonable and sustainable business model for the Lasso language so that it might flourish - and hopefully become the most prevalent language in the world. We want Lasso to be one of the "big five" languages left standing for future generations. Any lesser motivation would be an acceptance of mediocrity.
If you have ever drywalled a room, you know how miserable a job it is. First, you have to rough-patch the wall, then you have to apply drywall compound to the wall (spackle). Then you have to wait until it dries, sand it all down, then cycle back and re-apply the compound.
It's not a fun job - you get covered in dust and it dries out your sensitive, lily-white programmer skin.
The single greatest drywall application provider in the world is never able to get the drywall paste out with the first application. So the goal in spackle is to attack as many of the key issues as possible on first pass, and then return to the pass as often as possible.
The same applies to many things - the usual metaphor being wallpaper bubbles. First, push out the big bubbles in the first pass, then cycle back and push out more, etc. until completion.
There is a process, which if followed, saves much hassle and frustration. But it takes time. And right now at the new LassoSoft Inc., we are trying to do 4 years of competitive catchup in as many months.
A recent question on LassoTalk needs answering:
This is a very, very difficult question to answer directly. (I've been trying to find time to blog about it, finally I cleared some time today to do it).
It's been a few weeks since my last post (the reality of having a skeleton crew for the Christmas Holidays), so I thought I would fire out the latest internal goals we have set for ourselves, so people know where we stand with forward momentum.
These goals are not promises. They are dreams with deadlines (and Gantt charts). But we are very new to the workings of LassoSoft, and trying to balance various new skills and talents to achieve new-found lift-off.
Our current plan is simple.
It's been a few days since I've posted - we had a lot of work on our end up to the announcements on Friday which required a lot of attention. In addition, I got a few days from my mother on the weekend (http://www.mamkhulu.org/Board-Members) as she whisked through town (she lives in South Africa, saving orphans and the like, and I only get to see her a few days a year). She is going to commission some of her orphans to make us some 3-D beaded Rhinos (not child labour, but advocacy towards entrepreneurialism and prevention from starvation). Suddenly LassoSoft is in the orphan advocacy business! Now if only we could teach them to code...
I had a great talk with Jason Huck today about the future of LassoSoft. It is clear that his team experienced many of the same issues we experienced with the Inline Curtain - not knowing what was happening makes it very difficult to plan for the future. As he noted, "Plan B" suddenly became the new "Plan A".
I reflect on the culture of product release mystery and how that has affected our last few years - especially as compared to how Apple holds so tightly the cult of new products. I think this is where small organizations get their hair in a knot about product surprises - they want to appear as massive, hyper-successful organizations (like Apple), and they hold all of their cards to their chests so they can release them in a false shower of fanfare and glitter.
God, grant me:
Serenity - to accept the things I cannot change
Courage - to change the things I can, and
Wisdom - to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Neibuhr, theologian, 1934 ~
Everyone is aware of two facts: we need significant change in the pricing models of the Lasso product line, and it's not exceedingly obvious to the whole world what must be changed or what those models should be.
As a new owner, I have a desire to pick at the scab of the past, and uncover what lies beneath, no matter how disgusting. I itch to change everything. I promised change. I intend to challenge everything.
I'm a veritable frickin wannabe Obama.
Another person noted to me today that they hoped that we could get LassoSoft back on track, but were worried about the possibility of our success.
"What can you possibly do differently?" they asked. "You don't have any more experience or knowledge or intelligence than any of the former owners of the Lasso intellectual property."
It's true. We are just another company, determined to make a difference. No less determined than the last, with no fewer hopes and dreams than the last. (A few more resources suddenly, maybe, but that's beside the point).
Today, one of my age-old theories about the fundamental nature of the Lasso programmer came into focus for me. With my title "The Artist Developer" I am not intending to use the word "artist" as in "graphic designer", so let me explain...
Before I explain, let me go back many years to where Treefrog's original owner and my close friend had disappeared into the depths of Japan to lead research team with a robotics company. This caused an instant change to Treefrog in Canada as well - we moved out of the basement and into a "real" office, where we were deluged by Asian developers who wanted a better life in Canada.
This is where I got to spend time with "real" software engineers.
There's always a little glitch to getting things done. In this case, Kyle's plane was delayed for 6 hours, so our bug/priority strategy meeting ran into the wee hours of the morning this evening. Today's blog post is going to be short.
We now have the old lead project manager for the National Immunization Register of a major Australasian country as the person in charge of managing all Lasso-related bug fixes.
Who better to manage bugs? Seriously!
Today it snowed a bit up here in Canada. Jim couldn't find his car, so I sent him a picture of where to find it (yes, the picture on the left is really what's left of Treefrog-Jim's car).
The benefit of Canadian winters is - going outside sucks. There is absolutely nothing to do but sit inside and think about making Lasso better. (And, I will note, act on making it better).
As someone noted, this website/blog runs LEAP™ and Lasso 9. Of course, no matter how stable the Lasso 9 product seems to be, we were still able to blow our content out of the water by over-writing the database while adding a new idea (intended to be released tomorrow) and have to resort to browser caches to find my blog content again. You try writing from the position of transparency, and see if you can find it afterwards.
And so ends day two, the first day. Setting myself up to fail by setting a daily blog precedent. *arrgh*
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." - Douglas Adams
I can appreciate that people have extraordinarily justifiable frustrations. Lasso forms the fabric of many of our businesses - if it doesn't have our backs, we are left in the cold.
For years, I personally, as the first and thus lone tech guy at Treefrog, suffered from extraordinary stress related to server restarts. Rarely did a night or day go by that I wasn't restarting or pushing the power button or trying to figure out why the server was crashing all the time. Especially in the 5.x days, years ago - when we had dozens of servers cranking out TB's of data.
Today was my first day as CEO of LassoSoft Inc.
Today started a new day for the Lasso language - an era of transparency and respect, openness and vision for the future. Today we began the process of change.
I am not here for myself, to be honest. I am here to make sure that anyone who needs to know that I am committed to change sees that I am genuine in my desire to see victory for our Lasso language and begin growth once more.