Why are there not more AWS-scale child businesses being born?

There is a great deal of mythology surrounding the birth and growth of AWS. Tech idustry awe and amazement is mostly justified but generally focuses on weaving together a linear narrative path that was taken that got us where we are:

  1. Internal Problem Identified
  2. Solution Identified and resourced
  3. Aggressive iteration with continual expansion of problem/solution scope such that External stakeholders would see value

These steps are indeed a recipe that an established business could follow to create new high growth businesses but it does not fully explain how Amazon was uniquely in position to make AWS happen. It does not explain why AWS does not happen a lot. More often you see established companies shelving or selling off the fruits of internal innovation without ever capturing its value.

The secret seems to be a willingness to consciously avoid a “great idea – but that is not our business” trap where so many internal innovations go to die. It seems too easy too many times for leadership to do this. Avoid working at such places fellow dreamers and doers.

Inspiration
Amazon Turned a Flaw into Gold with Advanced Problem-Solving – HBR
https://medium.com/@furrier/original-content-the-story-of-aws-and-andy-jassys-trillion-dollar-baby-4e8a35fd7ed

Some Choice Toussaint

allen toussaint at the piano

I have been listening to a lot of Allen Toussaint this week to honor his huge contribution as a musician, composer, producer and one of the great New Orleans pianists. Here are some of the highlights:

Life Love and Faith

This entire album is “desert island” Toussaint

Cast Your Fate to the Wind

I love the understated simplicity of this track.

Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky

 

Toussaint was the last surviving pianist featured on the great 1982 documentary “Piano Players Rarely Play Together“. If you have never seen it, this is New Orleans Piano 101.

My Old Used Record Store Rat Run

I still buy a lot of used vinyl online, mostly out of print jazz, soul and funk online but sometimes I wish I lived nearer to more used record stores. One thing that was great about growing up in Rochester, NY in the 80s was the record stores. These were the cathedrals of my youth. I would spend an entire day making the rounds and come home with several records for less than a tank of gas. The itinerary was something like this:

1. Fantastic Records, Pittsford NY [Now Closed]

A small-ish store in a nondescript plaza but a great well-curated collection. The staff were all musicians or music aficionados and they hand wrote reviews on 3×5 cards throughout the store.  It was particularly gratifying when Steve at the counter said “Good Choice” as he checked me out.

fantastic-records-rochester

 

2. House of Guitars, Greece NY [Still Open!]

An absolutely crazy tangled mess of used and new vinyl, often still in shipping boxes and usually organized by label. You could literally dig around here for truffles all day.

House-of-Guitars-Logo

 

3. Record Archive, Rochester NY [Still Open!]

A terrific record store with a vast used collection. They are still in business so if you are ever up in Rochester – go there. Record Archive were also cult famous for airing so-awful-it’s-awesome local TV commercials.

record-archive-rochester[commercial from the 80s]

 

 

Inspiration:
THE QUEST, THE HUNT, THE SEARCH.

Mancini on Piano Jazz

 

Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini

NPR has posted an archive of a 1985 Piano Jazz episode to commemorate his 91st birthday. It is definitely worth listening to. Marion McPartland plays some particularly tasteful solo renditions of Mancini tunes and there are some interesting facts revealed in the hour-long interview:

  • Mancini always believed that The Pink Panther theme painted a complete “picture without words” and he never permitted lyrics to be set to the song despite many requests. He does mention that if he were to change his mind, it would have been Johnny Mercer he would have wanted but Mercer never asked and Mancini never brought it up.
  • TV theme writing always appealed to Mancini because of the constraints imposed. You had to “say what you needed to say” in under a minute or you failed.
  • In 1958 Victor Feldman had recently emigrated from the UK to LA was originally hired to be a side-line musician for the Peter Gunn nightclub scenes at Mother’s. Essentially he was part of a combo being paid to “mime” the music so the nightclub scenes looked authentic. Mancini heard him playing and offered him a slot in the scoring orchestra. The Feldman vibes sound became a signature part of the Mancini sound.

There is a useful review on Jazz Wax of various Mancini Compilations.

 

Codecademy PostMortem – Great React.js retrospective

I have played with React.js for a while now. One way dataflow, virtual DOM diffing, JavaScript components instead of HTML templates – this all seems to make a lot of sense. The small todo list style prototypes I have built work extremely well, are conceptually easy to grasp and are super fast. My lingering concern has been hidden complexity as one moved into a real world app where components had deeper levels of inter-connectivity. Bonnie Eismann’s article on the Codecademy React buildout has been particularly useful in explaining how the Codecademy team dealt with dataflow across and up the component tree and how their homegrown solution compares to using something like Flux.

You can also watch her talk at React.js Conf here:

Video

TV theme music – newly important

Are Netflix and HBO are rescuing the TV theme song from sad decline? A few years ago it was widely reported that the TV theme song was likely to disappear altogether as hunger for ad slots encroached on once sacred 30-60 second intro/outro time real estate. Today, the theme song is once again a critical storytelling and mood setting piece of creative on many of the most critically acclaimed small screen productions. One of the new greats who has been part of this transformation is Bear McCreary. Battlestar Galactica, Walking Dead and other awesomeness including the S.H.I.E.L.D work here:

Inspiration:
The new age of TV theme music – CNN.com

 

Is the mobile web really dying?

Mobile Web Usage Decline

There are multiple ways to interpret data pointing to relative decline in mobile web usage. There is evidence of massive consolidation around a few key app behaviors vs general web usage on mobile devices but it also seems that evidence of the death of the mobile web is probably exaggerated or at least premature. If app usage of facebook, video, audio and messaging services are stripped out the picture becomes more interesting. As the baseline mobile web experience improves on high traffic sites, the incentive to install “yet another app” for an infrequent yet important use case diminishes. This will be interesting to watch

The decline of the mobile web | chris dixon’s blog.

It is April but this Ain’t Paris

I have always thought Vernon Duke / Yip Harburg’s April in Paris is particularly evocative of a time and place and a fantastic marriage of melody to lyric but I never really gave it’s origin much thought. It turns out Yip Harburg had never been to Paris. He wrote the lyrics at Lindy’s while looking out at the Winter Garden marquis. Here lies further proof that in songwriting “write what you feel” trumps “write what you know”. The song was composed for a 1932 musical revue called Walk a Little Faster that closed quickly. The show closed but the song survived.

Some of my favorite versions:

Instrumental:

Count Basie

 

Monk:

 

Erroll Garner:

 

Vocal:

Frank Sinatra:

Sarah Vaughan:

Inspiration:
A Tune as Parisian as Tin Pan Alley – NYTimes.com