Banning VOIP Calls Can Kill Innovation

The recent articles & discussions about the moves of LIME & Digicel to block all VOIP traffic on their network is disturbing for a number of reasons. The two biggest reasons are that it stifles consumer choice and creates larger hurdles for budding entrepreneurs (aka kills innovation).

For those not familiar with the way this works, what Digicel & LIME have done is said…you pay me $X per month for access to the internet. Then they go to the services that you use most - YouTube, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, Facebook, Netflix and any other popular services - and begin charging them for YOU to be able to access their site/service in a reliable way. If those services don’t pay them, you - as a consumer - have wasted your money. In other words, they “double dip” - by getting paid on both ends.

This creates a two-tiered internet, where the companies with the most money get the “fast lane” and the smaller upstarts that don’t have a large warchest of cash get the “slow lane”. Let us bring this discussion home to discuss relevant examples. As a co-founder of 10 Pound Pledge - where our customers pay us for an in-home workout & nutrition guide where they can lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks - if our customer base continues to grow at the rate it has been since the launch a few weeks ago, within a short period of time there will be a non-trivial amount of Digicel & LIME subscribers potentially streaming our videos on their phones, tablets or computers. This action by Digicel & LIME today is a warning that they will come to us - a small technology & fitness startup built in Jamaica by Jamaicans - and start to demand payment. If we don’t pay them, then our customers get a bad streaming experience? That prospect is quite frightening and gives us pause.

We are not alone. This could happen to any of our friends across the local technology landscape. A good friend of mine, Gordon Swaby the founder of EduFocal, also has been doing a tremendous job growing usage on EduFocal and will eventually be getting into video. Imagine when students from all across Jamaica are improving their test scores & academic performance by learning through EduFocal on their Digicel & LIME devices and Digicel & LIME turn to Gordon and ask him for payment.

This policy is in effect anti-growth. As you succeed, you get taxed by these large telecoms. That has the potential to be innovation & growth killing.

10 Pound Pledge & EduFocal are just two obvious examples. The same could be said for AgroCentral - run by my friend Jermaine Henry - the up and coming clearing house for prices of fresh produce. In my humble opinion, this has the potential to change how we buy fresh produce in Jamaica. Yet…they are just getting started and should they become as successful as we all want them to, they now have to worry about being taxed by two of the largest telecom providers in Jamaica?

Slippery Slope & Future Implications

This is a very slippery slope and what is to stop these telecoms from going even further. If they get away with this, then what happens if they decide to launch a music service. Immediately, all music streaming services and radio stations - Zip 103, FameFM, Fyah 105, Jamaicans Music, iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and any future aspiring music tech entrepreneur to name just a few - have to start making a payment to the telcos. Think this is far-fetched? I am sure I am not the only one that has been getting SMS messages from Digicel about Loop - the recently launched news company that they seem to be pushing. Will OGNR, The Gleaner, The Observer and others have to start paying Digicel to get “fast lane access” too?

This is a familiar struggle that many countries seem to be dealing with. It seems that many telecoms and media companies can’t resist the urge to double dip. The OUR did a wonderful job introducing competition into the telecoms industry by granting the licenses to the telecoms over the last few decades. It is important for the growth of our economy - to preserve consumer choice and not deter much needed innovation - that they not allow these innovation killing, consumer restricting policies to take hold.

We sympathize with the plight of the telecom companies with WhatsApp recently announcing that they will be rolling out voice call features, and the impact that may have on their voice revenue - but using a sledgehammer to block all VOIP traffic and selectively giving the highest bidders the fastest lanes on the network can’t possibly be the solution.

Today it is VOIP from some services. What is the next stop? Where does it end?

It needs to stop right now. End right here.

We Are All Equally to Blame for the Banking Tax

Many of my esteemed colleagues have weighed in on the latest bank taxes imposed and their potential effects.

I respect their opinions and their intellect, but I would just like to address the elephant in the room. When all is said and done, the responsibility for this bank tax lies with us. The people. The silent majority. To be clear, I hate the idea of piecemeal tax implementation and would much rather the government implement wholesale tax reform. But, as Deika Morrison replied to me and said…it is not likely that any government will actually do this.

Now…don’t get me wrong. I actually agree with Dr. King’s assertion that given the current state of our fiscal house, the bank tax has many benefits. That is, the core problem the government currently faces is that of raising revenue. Many people avoid & evade taxes. So while they can escape the reach of the tax collection agency, they can’t escape things that they have to use on a regular basis - like banking transactions, phone credit, buying gas, etc. So it makes sense to tax those things, because in an ‘elegant’ way it broadens the tax base and costs little the gov’t. All they do is collect bigger checks from the same companies. From an economic & practical point of view…it’s perfect.

As unpleasant as this may be, because those that have been tax compliant do have to bear the burden for those that are not, we are all equally as culpable for the current state of affairs.

Not just those that pay bribes and do blatantly illicit activities, but everybody else that knows that these activities take place and say nothing. You know your neighbor is stealing light/water, yet don’t report them to JPS/NWC. You know that the ‘ridiculously cheap’ phone cases that you are buying from a “reliable” client were imported and escaped duty, yet you just look the other way. You know you shouldn’t speed or drive like a madman, but when you do you “beg a bligh” or “buy the officer a Guinness”. You knew that earning 25% interest from a government bond must have been too good to be true, but the returns were too great. You knew that those generous Air Jamaica ‘buddy passes’ were too sweet to give up, asking a “doctor friend” to write up a prescription for your friend in your name so you can use your gov’t issued health insurance to help them, and when someone was buying goods/services from your company and asked for the “No Receipt” discount in exchange for the business, were all wrong but you went ahead with them either way.

Now please don’t misunderstand me…I am not condemning/judging anyone in particular or pointing fingers. God knows there are times when I have looked the other way, knowing full well that I am benefitting from the State’s demise. But we would all do well to be conscious of the fact that as much as our policymakers have made bad decisions and been corrupt over the years, we are equally culpable because there is no way they are corrupt in 100% secrecy. Someone knows, quite often many people know. No one says anything. Very few hold anyone accountable. It is because everyone knows that they won’t be held accountable why it is perpetuated. Everyone knows, so no one knows.

It is also easy to point fingers at the “corrupt” politicians - when it is the bias inherent in our society towards corruption and “bun informer” mentality that has gotten us into this mess. If we all start rejecting those small infractions, start rebuking people when they litter, reporting known acts of rule-breaking, unethical or corrupt behavior, and generally just put pressure on everybody to behave better and start looking after our country that things will get better.

You can’t expect to be able to stay silent, not put yourself at risk, but have the State operate flawlessly and make only long-term best interest decisions on behalf of your kids.

So before you complain about the bank tax, and any other tax that will have to be imposed on us due to the endemic “revenue leakage” - please keep in mind that as innocent and angellic as you think you are, you are equally to blame for this current predicament as are the politicians.

Oh…and to those politicians, or families and friends of politicians, that claim “disbelief” that people could be so troubled over “just $1” - if it were just $1 the gov’t wouldn’t implement it. It’s not just $1, which is why they have imposed it. They have a large hole to fill and “just $1” won’t fill it. So stop being disingenuous.

For everybody else, you no longer have the luxury of feigning ignorance of your own culpability.

Call to Arms for All Bloggers Product Launch Upcoming

I have a product launch coming up, and would love as much New Media help as I can get.

We will be doing a lot of traditional PR, but I feel like this would be a wikid opportunity for the Caribbean new media scene to support one of their own.

To let me know you are interested, email me at [email protected].

In terms of help, I would love at least 1 article from anyone that runs a blog - with a link to the product page when it launches.

I can get you content or an angle to write up, customized for your audience (if you know what your audience is).

The first easy step you can do for me is to retweet this tweet.

Not only do I need your actual blogging help, but if you can pass along this message to anyone else you know that has a blog, tweets, IGs, anything to do with New/Social Media.

We will have lots of stuff to retweet, post on IG, content for blogs of all types, the whole nine yards. So if you have a blog, a twitter account, an IG account, FB or any other type of “Social Media” account and are interested in helping with the launch, please get in touch at [email protected].

I am trying to pull off a Tim Ferris - 4 Hour Workweek Book launch - where there was so much groundswell from new media that traditional media couldn’t ignore him.

Look forward to any (and all assistance) I can get from you guys.

P.S. This will be a digital fitness product that anyone with a credit card from anywhere can buy - we are going after the “New Years Resolutions” storyline and “losing weight in the New Year”, etc.

Why Currently Listed JJSE Firms Should Look Forward to an Increased Tax Rate

I think it is safe to agree that the 10-year tax incentives for companies that list on the Junior Stock Exchange has been a real incentive. Policymakers did a good job of coming up with a package that is enticing to small businesses that need growth capital.

With the many successful listings we have seen to date, it can be deemed a roaring success.

The issue now is that in this current economic environment, one of the pre-requisites for successfully completing the IMF deal is an Omnibus Tax Incentive Bill, which in the current form will in effect eliminate the tax holiday that junior stock exchange firms enjoy for the first 10 years after they have listed (5 years of no tax, 5 years of half tax).

As can be expected, there has been push back.

The problem is that policymakers and bureacrats can’t be trusted to manage the fiscal affairs of this country properly. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will want a waiver - and there is no sign that they have enough backbone to say no. So, the solution that the IMF is insisting is a flat tax rate across the board, and no incentives, no waivers, no exceptions.

So let us examine the rationality behind why it makes sense for firms that are currently enjoying the tax breaks to give it up.

We have to make a few assumptions:

  1. Let us start with the “worst case” - a firm that lists the day before the bill is made law, therefore they get $0 in tax benefits.
  2. The firm has significant growth prospects, otherwise they wouldn’t need growth equity capital.
  3. The management is not interested in just sucking cash from the company in the early years, but wants to grow the company.
  4. The firm will eventually migrate to the JSE and be a major player in the private sector.

Sample Scenario before Omnibus Bill

  • Revenue before listing was $50M JMD/year.
  • At the end of the 10-year period, the firm is 10X bigger (i.e. $500M/year revenue - inflation adjusted) than when it started
  • The firm is still growing at a reasonable 20%/year
  • The firm has a net profit margin of 15%.
  • Corporate Tax Rate: 25%
  • Taxes paid: $0 for 10-years - due to the wavers.

For the 10-year period after the incentives expire, their Total Tax Bill will be roughly: $584M JMD.

Sample Scenario after Omnibus Bill

  • The same assumptions for the firm’s performance
  • Corporate Tax Rate: 15% (down from 25%)

For the 10-year period after the incentives would have expired, their Total Tax Bill will be roughly: $350.44M JMD.

For a total tax savings of: $233.68M JMD.

The beautiful thing about the latter scenario is this tax rate should (in theory) stay that rate forever - so the longer it stays that low is the more the benefits compound over the long term. If you assume the average life of a listed company in Jamaica - Life of Jamaica, Broilers, etc. - the tax savings over the long term, in aggregate, will likely be huge (assuming that future governments can resist the urge to raise the rate).

Another good thing that removing the tax incentive does is that it will encourage the JJSE listed firms to reinvest all/most of their profits back into the company - rather than taking it out and paying taxes on it. That will likely increase their growth rate, and increase the tax savings when they eventually start to declare a profit and pay taxes on that profit.

I have done up a basic spreadsheet with these scenarios that you can play with.

So in reality, by removing the tax incentive - and encouraging growing companies to keep reinvesting in growth that is actually a better outcome for the long-term health of the economy, and for the shareholders of the company as these numbers show. A lower tax rate is also beneficial to smaller companies before they get to the JJSE stage, so it increases the likelihood that there will be more listings.


Naturally a lot of the benefits depend on the final corporate tax rate. If it is even lower than 15%, say 12.5% then the case looks even more compelling.

It also depends on the self-restraint of future policymakers to not try and raise the low rate and eradicate all the gains.

Depending on how the bill is written - and implemented, it has the potential be a win-win for all involved including those currently paying 0% corporate tax rate.

Thanks to Gordon Swaby for inspiring this post with a FB post today, and for proof-reading it.

Deploying Octopress Blog to an Existing Gh-pages Static Site

The issue I faced was that I have an existing static site hosted on Github via gh-pages. That is just regular HTML/CSS/JS. It works perfectly.

But, I wanted to add an elegant Octopress blog to that same static site - so I can have both my company site & blog hosted on Github’s powerful hosting platform.

This is how I pulled it off.

  • Get the folder of your static site all setup like normal. Get all the pathings right for your /img, /css, /js, etc.
  • Follow all the directions in the Octopress setup and deployment guide.
  • Install the theme you want for Octopress (it is important to do this step before the rest of the steps, because everytime you install a theme it resets your index.html).
  • Follow these instructions about moving your blog index page - make sure to update the Rakefile, per the instructions.
  • Then use these settings in your files:

_config.yml (you can customize all the other settings, but these worked for me)

subscribe_rss: /atom.xml
root: /
permalink: /blog/:year/:month/:day/:title/
source: source
destination: public
category_dir: blog/categories


public_dir      = "public"    # compiled site directory
source_dir      = "source"    # source file directory
blog_index_dir  = 'source/blog'    # directory for your blog's index page (if you put your index in source/blog/index.html, set this to 'source/blog')

Then once that is done, you copy your existing static site (with the exact structure that you setup earlier) into your /octopress/source/ folder - so yours should look similar to mine here.

What you will notice is that now Octopress will publish to /blog (which is a subfolder called ‘blog’ in your ‘source’ folder).

Basically the way Octopress works is that at it’s core, it copies everything from /source/ except for a few exceptions (all folders that start with _, etc.)

If you have any conflicts with your folders (e.g. if you have /img/ and Octopress has /images/) then just copy both if you don’t want have to update your paths in all your HTML files. It’s no big deal.

That’s pretty much it.

Remember that rake preview and rake generate are your friends. Use them religiously.

If you have any issues with styling, then you may need to play around with some of the paths in the various variables in your _config.yml and Rakefile a bit. But you should’t have to, because all of these values worked for me - and I did A LOT of playing around.

Special Note: You should end up with your static site index.html in the root folder of the generated site - you can see the source here and the generated version here - and you should also have an octopress generated index in the /blog/ subfolder - again…the source here and generated version here.

You can always just look at my entire source to see what I did.

Most other setup & deployment instructions apply and work fine (including remembering to include a CNAME file for your custom domain).

Whenever you want to change one of the static sites - i.e. a non-octopress file - then edit/update it locally and use rake deploy when you are done (as opposed to a git push like you would for a normal non-static site hosted on gh-pages).

Remember to backup your entire repo to a source or master branch or some other branch, so you can always revert to it if you mess stuff up.

Good luck and I hope this saves some poor soul from spending weeks trying to figure this out.

Avoiding Market Failure Should Be Your Only Focus

I am assuming that whatever you are working on, whether it is your instrument playing skills, programming chops, or a tech startup, that you want to work on it/do it for a long time. I mean many, many years.

That doesn’t mean that you want to continue working on the same tech startup or you want to continuing hacking away at PHP (only) for the next 30 years. It just means that you want to continue building startups, or programming for the better part of the next 30 years.

Given that, your #1 priority should be avoiding market failure. Paul Graham simplified it to ‘make something people want’. But it is broader than just making. It is, whatever you are doing - e.g. playing the violin, make sure other people are interested in what you are doing (and how you are doing it). Really interested. i.e. follow you on Twitter and jones for every video you post, every mp3 you give away free, every album of photos you release, every product iteration you roll out.

There may not be a direct correlation between the number of people interested in what you do, and the number of customers you have, but once you can get people interested (i.e. consistently avoid market failure) and keep them interested - you have a much higher probability of financial success. By financial success I mean, the ability to earn a living doing what you love - so you can continue doing what you love for a long time (in a sustainable way).

It sounds so simple, but it is very hard. In fact, it is the hardest thing to do - because the market is ruthless. People have seen all manners of things, and their tastes change. They get bored and tired easily. So to build a sustainable following, you have to be sincere and you have to be innovatively unique. It takes a long time, and there are no shortcuts. 

That’s the hard part. That’s the only thing that should matter. So, don’t worry about raising money, using the best/latest technology, running 200 A/B tests looking for that copy that will improve your conversions by 20% or anything else that is inconsequential in the early days. Once you focus on avoiding market failure - that forces you to figure out how you can add value in a way that no one else is doing currently, which will dictate everything else. It will dictate the technology you ultimately use, your marketing plan, the features you implement, the team you build, and the investors you raise money from.

That’s the great thing about helping people build their minimum viable product. The best part is helping them figure out/begin to figure out, where that unique value proposition is. 

Once you avoid market failure - or conversely achieve product/market fit - the market will forgive you for all the other mistakes. They will forgive your servers constantly crashing for the first few months/years, your PR gaffes, your sloppy marketing page copy and even your animated gifs. As if not having to worry about those issues killing you, an added bonus is….once you have done the hard-work on your own….you will have maximum control and maximum leverage. When you want to raise money, it will be on your terms. You can hire the people you want, because you will have the pick of the litter. It won’t be a cakewalk, but in comparison to avoiding market failure it will sure feel like it.

If the market never notices you, and you fail there first….then the upside is you won’t need to worry about all those other problems.

If you liked this, you should follow me on Twitter.

How a $20 MVP Has Made Me $X0,000

For months before I launched 5KMVP, I had been running experiments on Hacker News.

Part of the experiment was to validate my thesis.

Thesis: At some fixed price point, people are willing to invest in building an MVP.

After getting some leads (and projects), over the space of a few months, from HN and talking to many people (from Twitter and HN), a few things jumped out at me.

  1. The $5K price point is perfect for what I want to do. It is high enough to weed out people that would likely not value what I bring to the table. It is low enough to reduce friction to get potential customers to say ‘Yes’. It also provides the perfect jumping off point for larger projects. I tried other price points too, from $3K to $7K to $10K. $5K works best for MVPs.
  2. Fixed budget & timeline work well - leaving variable scope (to be negotiated with the client). Given that this is an MVP, that works well - because the focus should be on the core ‘viable product’ portion of the MVP. So bells & whistles need to be cut.
  3. Targeting customers that know what an MVP is, also helps to improve the quality of clients I interact with. They don’t want a web page that their cousin’s son-in-law’s first cousin can build for them, when s(he) is not fixing computers. They want helping figuring out what is their MVP and how should they build it.
These realizations gave me the confidence to setup a landing page for a service dedicated to building minimum viable products.

The next decision I had to make was….what will my landing page do? Given that I am a Rails dev, will it be a Rails App? I spoke to a few trusted colleagues and got a variety of responses. Some feedback I got was that I should build a minimalist Rails App that handles the entire engagement (i.e. someone fills out a form, and it pushes that form down a funnel and has all these nice features that allow them to pay easily and keep track of the project as it progresses).

I liked the idea at first, but it didn’t quite sit well with the notion of an MVP. What kept playing in a loop in my head is that I needed to validate the $5K MVP idea before devoting any significant development time to building an app for it.

So I bought a theme from Themeforest (roughly $20) and decided to go meta. Make as minimal an MVP as I can, that validates my hypothesis.

I have one call to action button which is a simple ‘mailto:’ button - that launches your email client. Perfect? No…..but it gets the job done. People that want an MVP built, don’t want to have to interact with a fancy system. They just want the quickest and easiest way to get in touch with me. Email is that way.

I worked on the copy, got my portfolio together and just put it together in a day or 2.

Then, I used Github Pages to host it (free) along with Google Apps (also free) and launched.

Tweeted it, posted on HN, and wrote a guest post on Techcrunch.

I am pleased to announce that it has been validated many times over.

I have gotten multiple projects directly from 5KMVP - at least 1 of which is a multiple of a 5KMVP. It is a multi-phase project that is broken up into manageable chunks. 

The best thing about this experiment is that 5KMVP is proof positive of me eating my own dogfood. It is also a “successful” case study, about correctly deciding what your MVP should be based on what your business goals are. 

If you liked this, you should follow me on Twitter.

IE 8 Filter Style + Heroku Rake Asset Pre-Compile Error

If you are getting an error that looks like this:
could not connect to server: Connection refused Is the server running on host "" and accepting TCP/IP connections on port xxxx?
…when pushing your Rails 3.2+ app to Heroku, there could be two problems at play. 
If that is all that you are seeing, then it likely means that Heroku is trying to initialize your app when it does `rake asset:precompile`. The issue is that there is no DB configured in a `non-initialized` state, so Heroku throws a fit. 
To fix that, they have a nice guide here (which basically involves just adding 1 line to your `config/application.rb` file).
However, if you are seeing something like this:
Running: rake assets:precompile
      rake aborted!
      Invalid CSS after "...: alpha(opacity": expected comma, was ":0);"
      (in /tmp/build_1lypjy898u7o0/app/assets/stylesheets/application.css.scss)     (sass):3665
Then it is very likely that you have another issue.
Apparently, the common css style rule that is used to apply an opacity filter to CSS objects in IE8 and below is illegal syntax.
Meaning that: `filter: alpha(opacity:0);` is an illegal CSS rule. As a result of that, SASS throws an error when it’s parser comes across these rules - which causes the entire precompile process to fail.
It is apparently a problem discussed and addressed in Rails before, but given that it is a SASS issue - and also that it involves illegal CSS syntax - the Rails maintainers have decided not to do anything to allow this call (understandably so).
So…the simple fix is to comment out all occurrences of that call in your stylesheets. IE9 allows the regular, `opacity: 0;`, I believe - so you should be fine for all browsers in the future.
An easy way to test this further, locally, is just to create a new git branch and run ‘rake asset:precompile’. You will see the errors it generates locally and you can work your way through it like that.
However, I went through many different solutions and commenting them out - turned out to be the easiest.
Let me know if you come up with any other solutions.
You should follow me on Twitter here.

Wanted for the Caribbean: Digital Craftsmen.

Whenever I think about our regional tech industry, I struggle to understand the disconnect between what other people are doing in the world and what we are doing. There are many exemplary tech companies from all over the world that compete well on the world stage. There are at least two from Australia, many from China, India, and many other countries.

What creates even more confusion on my part is when I look at our other local industries. The Caribbean and Jamaica in particular have many industries that we participate on the world stage in and excel.

From the obvious reggae & dancehall break-out mainstream artistes (The Marley Men, Sean Paul, Shaggy) to less mainstream but with major followings (Mavado, Kartel, Tami Chynn, Jah Cure, Beres Hammond, etc.).

Not to mention our tourism product. That is by definition a global competitor, and we also excel there - with Jamaica being one of the few Caribbean territories to experience an increase in tourist arrivals in the midst of the global recession. What better to test the quality of our product offering than a global recession that hits all tourism markets?

We also have our track & field industry, where we absolutely dominate. Not just on the field, but also off the field with branding, marketing & revenue generation. This despite having a track that isn’t the best in the world - yet we produce the best athletes in the world, in almost every category.

The common thread in all of these cases is that all the participants didn’t have outside help (i.e. help from outside of the region). They all had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and compete in harsh conditions. They all earn USD as their primary revenue stream (in most cases). They speak to a global audience. They are unique & innovative in their own right.

I am constantly marveled by the lyrics that our dancehall artistes come up with. While I don’t condone or support the vast majority of the lyrics, there were 2 lines that jumped out at me yesterday while listening to the radio from Mavado. Now, please don’t interpret my appreciation of the wordsmithness of this phrase as support/endorsement of any intent behind the lines. I just love seeing people innovate in their craft - even if I don’t necessarily agree with their position.

I don’t remember the name of the song (if you know it, please leave it in the comments and I will update my post), but Mavado said this:

I am not a fish/Because I am not afraid of the gully-side.

If you are not Jamaican (or have an interest in Dancehall), and don’t understand the nuance of that line let me break it down for you.

In Jamaica, gay people are called ‘fish’ - colloquially. Mavado refers to himself as ‘gully god’. He is from a ‘ghetto’ in Jamaica called Casava Piece (spelling??). That community is built around one large gully. Hence his name ‘gully god’.

He is reiterating the oft-repeated maxim that many artists say “I don’t hang out with gays” - i.e. no gay people can hang out on the gully-side. So, by extension, if you are gay you should be afraid of the gully side.

He is drawing a parallel to gay people and the culture of homophobia on the gully-side, to literal fish that swim in water and their fear of being washed up on the gully-side where they will be stuck and likely die.

In 2 lines, he captured the essence of Jamaican pop culture, his status in the local dancehall scene, where he grew up, and made a clever pun out of it. This is wordsmanship at its best.

Yes, many Jamaican artistes do crappy work and pirate other people’s lyrics and songs. But many come up with original content. They study their craft, they train, and they innovate.

That is what is missing from our tech scene.

We need to make a conscious effort to invest in our craft, learn about how we can generate revenue from customers all over the world - while still living in Jamaica - and compete on a world stage. After discussing this at length with David Bain & Matthew McNaughton yesterday at an informal meetup, David discusses it here, we have all decided that we are going to make a conscious effort to talk more about ‘Digital Craftsmanship’. Not just to raise awareness, but also to do our part - either through workshops or mentoring or anyway we can. 

We, our industry, get too complacent by aiming for “The first in Jamaica” or “The first in the Caribbean”. Imagine if Merlene Ottey aimed to just be fast in Jamaica - and didn’t compete on the world stage. Imagine if Bob Marley never toured and kept his music to himself and to Trench Town. Imagine if Butch Stewart didn’t pioneer all-inclusive hotels and raise the standards of the Jamaican Tourism product. We wouldn’t have those industries that we take for granted.

In a day and age when you can create any digital product your mind can imagine, when you can live in Australia and run a tech company that competes with Silicon Valley’s best - I challenge the entire tech industry to not try to be a “Silicon Valley in Jamaica” or even a “Silicon Mountain”.

Let people say….first they dominate reggae, tourism and track…now they are dominating tech. 

There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to, our peers have shown us the way. Any reasons you come up with, are just excuses. 

If you are a developer and want to become a digital craftsman, please feel free to reach out to me. I am on that journey myself, and I would be glad to lend a helping hand where I can. 

You can either Tweet @me on Twitter or contact me via the form on my blog.

Empathy for the “Other” Side

People tend to be tribalistic. Whether it is politics, religion, football (Jamaican and American), technology (vim vs TextMate, Ruby vs Java), etc.

It’s very easy to be caught up in your own dogma, but at the very least (I would encourage you to) be reasonable. Before denigrating/slandering/ridiculing someone else because they prefer something different than you, be cognizant of the fact that they may prefer it because of different circumstances than you.

For instance, not because you support Obama means that everyone that supports Romney/Ryan are idiots/stupid/crazy/dumb.

There could be a lot of reasons people support Romney/Ryan.

For starters, they could generally be disenchanted with what Obama has done - or hasn’t. 
  • He promised that the bailouts will jump start the economy and the economic recovery would be more robust than it has been.
  • He has come out in support of gay marriage - there are many that voted for him that are uncomfortable with that, and it could be a deal breaker for them. 
  • He has allowed the Republicans to hold many things hostage - like tackling the deficit in a comprehensive way, and such. In my opinion, he managed that process sub-optimally. 
  • He seems to be quick to spend, and not quick to fix the budget gap. I am not saying that he hasn’t offered any suggestions on how to fix it - but it clearly has not been his priority. I am also not saying that it SHOULD have been his priority, but that could be a perception (especially when Europe is melting down as a result of fiscal issues).
  • He will raise taxes on a bunch of people - both middle class and high income earners. He will offset those higher taxes with more tax credits for middle class - hoping that the net effect will be lower taxes for the middle class - but the fact is, there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to taxes for a lot of people. Keep in mind that ‘middle class’ is up to $250K/year - i.e. small business owners.
  • He has done A LOT more for ‘large corporations’ than he has for small businesses - or rather, the effects of the stuff he has done for small businesses, won’t be felt for another few years.
  • Not to mention the fact that people might not like the idea of being forced to buy health insurance. I do agree that people should be forced, like they are with auto insurance - but not because someone doesn’t want to buy it, means that they are “dumb”. It could be a better financial move for MOST people (especially young people) to not do it. For the vast majority of the people that buy it, they won’t need to consume as much as they pay in premiums. That’s the very basis of the reason that insurance works. So there are many people that think they won’t need it right now - so they shouldn’t be forced to buy it. 
  • There are many people in many industries that will be displaced as a result of Obama’s policies - for instance, many middle class workers in the Oil industry that will be laid off and forced to learn new skills if Obama closes the tax loopholes that they take advantage of. Those people might not want to go through the headache of learning a new trade/skill/profession after 30 years on the job!
There are many reasons that people will support Obama too - that you may not be able to identify with.

The same goes for your local Orange or Green politician, black or white, rich or poor.

Let’s have a little more empathy for the “other” side, and try not to paint with a broad brush.

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