On leaving California, Adobe and What’s Next

3 years, 2 months and 7 days ago, we touched down in the San Francisco bay area, having decided to move out from the Boston area. My son was almost 18 months old when we arrived here. Before we decided to move, I was traveling from Boston to the bay area more than I wanted, but less than I needed to. It simply wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I really liked working at Adobe though and didn’t want to leave to find something new in the boston area.

Now, fast forward to today. Being in the bay area has been great. We love the weather, and when working in high tech, there simply is nothing like being in the epicenter of it all. We’ve made some amazing friends. But the draw of our roots, and being closer to immediate family made my wife and I realize that we just weren’t at home in Silicon Valley. Shortly after I returned to Adobe, (after a year at Palm – which was a great learning experience. I never would have learned what I now know about mobile any other way), my wife and I had a good set of conversations about where we wanted to be as a family. We decided at that point that it was time to start working to head back east, to the Boston area. Now I had no idea how long this would take. The economy was still in dire straits. People were losing jobs, not finding new ones.

I also knew that while I was really enjoying my time back at Adobe and being part of the Creative Suite team, that this unfortunately meant I would leave Adobe once again. Even if Adobe was willing to consider having me work from Boston, that wasn’t going to be the right thing. If Adobe would consider it, I didn’t think it was the best for the product team I was on, and nor for me and my family. That would simply get us back to where we were three years ago.

So here we were in late September 2009. I had a major milestone coming up, the Adobe MAX designer and developer conference, and I needed to stay focused on that. But the week after MAX, Adobe was on shutdown and I started to poke around a bit. One my earliest phone calls was with a former colleague who noted that in his experience, most people are either east coast or west coast, and that’s hard to change. I think that’s true. Of course having gone to school in the midwest, I think there are probably a few more geographic regions that define people, but the core concept is sound. Some people can make the change to just about anywhere, but for many folks, historical roots define who a person is. For my wife and I, we are east coasters, plain and simple. More on that later though.

During that same week, in mid October, after just a few phone calls to reconnect with former colleagues and connections in the Boston area, I talked with Phil Costa who I worked side by side with for years, at Allaire, Macromedia and Adobe. I have enormous respect for Phil. He was now at a company called Bullhorn, that makes hosted software for the recruiting and staffing industry. Simply put, if the company was keeping Phil intrigued, then I knew it must be interesting. That initial call then turned into an opportunity to join the Bullhorn team in a product marketing capacity and I readily accepted.

There were a number of things that I immediately found compelling about Bullhorn. First they are a SaaS company. Having worked on desktop or server software for a long time, moving to an environment that allowed ongoing iteration and improvement really seemed exciting. Now of course that also brings a whole slew of new challenges. Adam Berrey, who I worked with at Allaire and Macromedia, recently had a great post on this. Secondly, Bullhorn is creating software for an industry that really cares about the benefits that the software delivers first and foremost. Technology and the associated battles about which technology is best, Mac vs Windows, HTML 5 vs. Flash, iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. etc, at times while a lot of fun, and always interesting can also be frustrating. So much of the battle these days in the developer segment seems to based on providing ammo or fodder for whichever camp a developer identifies with. At times, to me, that seems like it was getting away from the true benefit of technology, making it easier or faster to do something that would be very hard to do without great software.

As I met the Bullhorn team I was impressed by where the company was headed and their emphasis on and approach toward maintaining a great culture. I know that working there will be a lot of fun, especially in an environment that was much smaller than anything I’d been involved with in more than 10 years. I know I’ll learn a ton, help the company grow and have a lot of fun doing it.

Our lives right now are mired in a sea of moving details, but its also a very exciting time. While I have many mixed feelings about leaving Adobe again, and will miss all the great people that I’ve now had two chances to work with, I’m excited for all the cool stuff that the company is working on. There will be some great stuff coming out for designers and developers down the road. That’s for sure.

I’m also very excited about joining Bullhorn. And I’m very excited to touch down in Boston, be close to immediate family and reconnect with old friends, many of whom we’ve know for 20 years now or more. Plus I’ll have to put on some heavy sweaters. Perhaps I’ll need to put all them of on at once. Living in California makes you soft when it comes to dealing with weather. I will miss the mild climate here that’s for sure.

So that’s the big news. As I’ve shared this with people many people have asked me to send along updated contact information. That seems a bit of an odd request to me, as the primary way I stay connected is online. Yeah, some folks still send holiday cards, but thats about the only thing anyone needs a physical address for. Things like email address aren’t changing of course, and I’ll keep my cell phone the same for the foreseeable future. So if you and I are LinkedIn or connected via Facebook, you already have my email address. If we’re not connected there, but you want to be, feel free to send me an invite for whichever network you think makes sense. Note that I tend to use LinkedIn for professional stuff, and Facebook for friends and family. (If you are interested you can read more about how I use social networks.) Plus you can always follow me on Twitter too.

Yup. Big changes. I’ve loved living in California. As the Baz Luhrmann song goes “live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” I don’t think living here makes people soft, (except when it comes to weather), but the sentiment in the song is right on. Living in different places helps you grow and rounds out who you are. It helps you understand more and experience different cultures. Living in a different place, in my opinion, is always a good thing. Living in a different place helps you know more about you and your relationships with others. And it always helps you head towards home.

One more thing. Adobe is looking for someone to replace me. Bullhorn has a number of open positions too. So if you are looking or know great people looking for a new job please let me know.

Whats in my toolbox?

Recently, Kevin Hoyt had a great post about how he gets things done. I was very surprised at how much what he outlines mirrors how I work.

So rather then rehash that, I thought it would be interesting to quickly highlight the things that I use every day and a bit at how I use them.

On my Mac

I have Apple Mail, iCal, Tweetdeck, Adium, Things, and Firefox open pretty much all the time. Firefox always has a tab open for Gmail, and a few other tabs either to internal sites, or to links that I’m getting from twitter or facebook. I usually have Evernote running, as well as some combination of Powerpoint, Excel and Word. I also tend to have the AIR based company directory open much of the time.

The one thing that I also have started to really rely on is Dropbox. Recently its versioning capabilities really saved me from having to redo a few hours or work on a document I was working on.

On my iPhone

I really miss the multitasking I had when I worked at Palm on webOS. I spend a bunch of time on a train most days, so I tend to use email, calendar, Safari, Tweetdeck and Facebook. I rotate through that list, starting up and shutting down each of those apps as I work through all in the information inputs that start my morning, or help me wind down my business day. I aslo tend to check the Linkedin mobile app every few days more than anything because I just find it interesting to see professional updates and connections from the folks I’m connected to.

I also use ESPN scorecenter, which was particularly handy during the baseball playoffs, I use Things on the iPhone to ensure that I’m capturing all the things I need to do. (Now I just wish it would make me actually do all of them) The fact that Things syncs with my Mac is great. I just wish it would sync in the background, via the cloud, and not have to require me to manually do it via bonjour network.

I use the Caltrain schedule app a bunch to refine travel times. I can’t imagine not having Yelp or Tripit. I don’t use them that much, but when I need them, they are there and work great. I love the fact that Dropbox syncs to my phone, and use that every now and then. Same for Evernote.

I’m guessing if you are still reading this that there haven’t been any surprises yet. Here’s one that I don’t see a lot of people talking about. I’ve found that I use the Comcast mobile app more than I ever expected, mostly to check voicemails, forward home phone to a cell phone, or to look to see who called. Its amazingly useful. I also check TV listings periodically on it. It has this notion of a universal inbox, with email, voice mail, etc, but since I don’t use Comcast email, thats just a feature that gets in the way. But overall, its a very useful app. I’m really looking forward to the day when I’ll be able to set my DVR via the app. Hey Comcast, I hope you are working on that. If not, please start.

I also use the camera on my iPhone to take pictures of my son bunch. That’s not surprising, but what I find myself surprised by is how often I try to capture video. I love being able to take quick videos and share them with grandparents. Its finally become easy enough for me to do that I actually do it.

I also want to mention Shazam. I’m surprised how often I tag a song I haven’t heard before just to know who it’s by and what it’s called.

The one app I’m looking forward to is lala. I uploaded all my music to lala.com and now I can hear virtually any song I own on any computer as well as easily and inexpensively buy new ones. Having that on my phone would mean I’d never have to think about syncing a subset of songs to my phone unless I was going on a plane.

So that’s it. I’m probably forgetting a few things, but this covers it for the mostpart. What’s in your toolbox?

Craigslist, Catharsis and Negotiation

The past few days we’ve been cleaning up our house and removing things that we no longer use, or need. Much has been donated to Goodwill, but I’ve also sold a number of things on Craigslist.

So thats my first area to address in this post – Craigslist. Whenever I’ve gone through a period of cleanout in the past I’ve turned to Craigslist. And I’m doing it again. I’m simply amazed by the speed I can sell something on Craigslist. Sometimes it is literally minutes. Maybe I price things for value, or maybe some of these things are just in demand, and people are always looking for a deal. In general, most things I post move extremely quickly. Not all things sell, but most do.

But this gets me wondering. Why? I think part of it is about the fact that other folks are always looking for ways to save money and Craigslist, ebay and similar sites help people achieve that. But I also think there are two factors with Craigslist in making this work.

First is the site itself. The UI is stuck in the 1990s. It hasn’t really changed since then as far as I can tell. But thats what make it works. It’s easy to post, easy to browse, and easy to contact the seller via the way people still communicate online – email. (Not sure when that will be replaced by twitter or facebook status though). Once someone contacts the seller, you are then communicating directly, no need to go back to the site, etc. So at that point, you now have a relationship with that person. Plus when a deal is achieved the sellers usually meet. Maybe this is all well understood by lots of people, but I’m simply amazed at how the direct connections instantly create trust. It works incredibly well.

Now what I also have found interesting is that people don’t really seem to negotiate on most things. The experience really is designed for back and forth bartering. But most people find what they want, believe they are getting value and are willing to pay cash for it. I’m shocked by the lack of negotiation. Maybe I’m pricing my items too cheaply though. I tend to think I’ve priced them fairly and people are just happy they can find what they want at a price that seems fair to them.

Lastly, I simply love the cathartic nature of getting rid of something. I especially like it when I sell something quickly on Craigslist. My life becomes just a bit more uncluttered, and I have some extra cash in my pocket. I view it as free money. I did very little, gave up very little (something I no longer needed or wanted) and my wallet is a bit heavier. I find it oddly enjoyable.

Maybe I just need less stuff. I’m sure I could I find someone on Craigslist to buy it.

Vote for Adobe sessions at SXSW

If you are planning on attending SXSW on March 12-16 in Austin, TX, and want to learn more about a wide range of Adobe technologies, then you can vote to help get these sessions included.  Even if you aren’t attending, you can still vote.

I’ve included all the sessions (at least I think I have, if something is missing please let me know) that cover Adobe topics below. The voting process is easy. Just go to the links below and click the “Thumbs Up” button.

And feel free to share with others in case they want to vote.  Here’s a quick link to this page http://bit.ly/i9j5x

Using Google Voice to get voice mail transcripts

I’m pretty sure that this has been covered elsewhere.   In fact I decided to do this from reading a post somewhere, so I know its been covered elsewhere,  but now I can’t find it.  Since I’ve seen a few folks asking about how to use Google Voice, I figured I’d document how I use it here.  Basically, I prefer to get text messages and/or emails of my voice mail to my cell phone, so I can read messages without having to call a number and press a whole range of keys to hear everything correctly, write down a number, etc.   Here’s what I do.

  1. First, you need to have a Google Voice account.  If you don’t, I think Google is gradually dolling them out at google.com/voice
  2. You should setup your Google Voice account so it recognizes your cell phone, or whatever phone you are using for this.
  3. Then you will need to use the codes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_forwarding to setup your phone to forward missed and busy calls to your Google Voice number.
  4. You use the codes by dialing the following, for example, from your cell phone *61* 1234567890# where 1234567890 is your Google Voice number.   This would set up your cell phone to forward missed calls to your google voice number.
  5. You may want to consider doing the same thing by using the right *code from the wikipedia page above to also send busy calls to Google Voice.  Note that I’m not sure these codes work for everyone.  It may depend where you are and who your cell carrier is.
  6. Then set Google Voice to use “Do Not Disturb” as this basically sends all calls to your google voice number right to email.  Do this by clicking on “Settings” and then checking “Do Not Disturb” and then “Save Changes”
  7. Be sure you have also selected “Transcribe Voice Mails”
  8. In the “Notifications” settings for google voice, you can enable transcripts of messages to be sent to an email address, a mobile phone via SMS, or both.

And that’s it.  Be sure to record your  Google Voice voice mail as that’s what people will hear, not your voice mail that you probably setup earlier for your cell phone.

It works great for me.  So if you have read this far, I hope you found this helpful.

Social Networking Policy

For a while, I would accept anyone’s invitation to be part of my network on LinkedIn, or as a friend on Facebook.

But as I approached and have now surpassed 500 connections on LinkedIn, and 200 on Facebook I realized that I needed to set some sort of policy to keep these networks useful.  I got to the point where it started to make sense to decline invitations to connect. I’m definitely not bragging that I know a lot of people, in fact its the other way I around – that I want to get the most out of social networks. Simply, I want to ensure that I’m connected with people I know and trust.   I’ve adopted the following policy, and I’m sure I’ll tweak it over time.  Here it is for now….

I use LinkedIn to track and keep up to date on professional contacts.  I think LinkedIn is great, and love the ability to not only track the people you know, but to to connect with others.  So to make LinkedIn really useful I feel I have to know you well enough to trust you.  If I’m going to broker a conversation or connection for you or someone you know, to someone I know, then I want to be confident that it will be a good use of everyone’s time.   Now, how do I gauge if I trust you enough to make good use of the networking capabilities of LinkedIn?   For the most part, if I’ve worked with you, (either as employees at the same company, or as a partner) and have  been in at least one meeting or phone call with you, then I’ll either invite you to join my network, or accept your invitation if you send me one.  That’s a broad definition of trust, but for now, it seems to work.

Basically, I have to know who you are when you invite me to connect.    If I don’t know you, and you invite me to connect, then I’ll send you what I think is a polite response letting you know that I’m trying to keep my LinkedIn contacts only to people I actually know.   Its not that I don’t like you, or don’t trust you, but I just don’t know you.  So if you have a good reason for wanting to connect, let me know and we can trade emails or have a phone call to get to know each other.   Then I’ll add you to my network on Linked In.

I’m not as big a fan of Facebook as most of the other people I know.  I’m not sure why, but I just haven’t really gravitated to it as much as other people seem to.  For me, Facebook is great for connecting with friends and family in a wide range of ways.  Most people communicate on Facebook differently than LinkedIn, so I feel its best to use it differently.   If you are a friend of mine, or somehow, even loosely, related to me, then I’ll connect with you on Facebook.  Now I have a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years are connected to me in Facebook, and many of those people I would also consider friends too.  And I’m connected to lots of those people in both LinkedIn and Facebook.

If you send me an invitation to connect on Facebook, and I don’t recognize your name, (I’m usually really good with remembering names), then I’ll most likely politely decline your invitation, even if we have lots of mutual friends.  I know, Facebook probably even suggested we become friends, because we know lots of the same people.  But I need to know you to be your friend.   Maybe we’ll get to know each other at some point, and then we can be friends.  I hope you don’t mind.

When I first joined Twitter, in March 2007, way before a lot of people, I joined because many of the people I worked with were on it.  But I really didn’t use it, or get it.  Then I decided to give it a try in early 2008 or so, and while I don’t tweet much, and still don’t, Twitter has been my indispensible source for news, trends etc.    If you want to follow on me on Twitter, feel free, I’m happy to have you as a connection.  I’ll check out your profile, and if you seem to be posting items that I’m interested in, I’ll follow you back.

Now there are a ton more social networks out there, (Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)  and while I have accounts on most of them, I don’t seem to find any of them super useful right now.  So if you have another social network that you think I should join, please let me know which one and why.

And if you happen to be reading this and have some opinions or feedback on my thoughts above, or have a policy of your own, either written or not,  please feel free to let me know.

Blog History and Evolution

How’s that for an all encompassing title.  Well its not really about the history and evolution of blogs, but more about the history and evolution of my blog.

It’s time for me to get back to periodically blogging.  As part of this I moved my blog from blogger to wordpress, but had a few problems doing that.   First the import from blogger to wordpress didn’t really work.  And when I tired to update my feedburner feed, it seems that my feedbruner account was so old that I couldn’t find the right credentials to update my feed in feedburner.  So I’m starting all over here…

If you are looking for anything on my ancient now defunct blog, you can find it at  http://jonathanwall.blogspot.com/.