Jan 30

There were many efforts to create portable electronic health record and turn them into personal health record that can be controlled by users.  For example, Waltmart and a few companies are doing this thing called: Dossia.  I have been working on the similar product: https://www.revolutionhealth.com/my-health-portfolio/.  Almost everyone has this grand idea that if we can just store the health record electronically and allow them to transferred between providers and consumers, we will reduce health cost by reducing duplication of lab tests and reducing medical errors.

Sound great in theory.  The problem is how to actually convince consumers and doctors to use it.  What is the incentive for doctors to spend ton of money to put their patients record online?  So that they can easily send their patients’ records to other doctors or their patients… don’t think so.  Will electronic health records save doctor money?  Not with the existing insurance system.  Doctor would get penalize for duplicated tests.  Insurance pay for it.   Medical errors?   Insurance pay for it in case lawsuit.  How about patients?  Won’t they care?  Yes, they care about medical errors but not cost because insurance pay for it.  Furthermore, patients are not going to be able to force their doctor put their records electronically.  Nor will patient want to enter those data in themselves.

So the problem is not able providing a secure platform to store electronic health record.  The problem is that there is no business case for it under the current insurance pay system.  Unless all the insurance companies get together and say all doctors might use electronic health record by some dates in the future or the government mandate it.  We are not going to see wide use of electronic health record anytime soon.

There is another business case for electronic health record that should worth explore.  Providing health assessment, diagnosis and treatment guide based on a person’s health record.  However, how to build a business model on it is another tough problem to solve.  The key is still how you can convince doctors to spend money on it.

Jan 28

If you consider yourself a centrist or independent who don’t want the country go too far left or too far right, donate money for one centrist candidate in Republican party and one centrist candidate for Democrat party.    By supporting both centrist candidates from both party, you help to ensure that centrist candidates have a better chance to win.  So don’t say that you can’t vote on primary because you are independents and you complain later that the candidates from either party suck in the general election.  Start donating money to the centrist candidates and influence the outcome.

Jan 25

A few of guys (developers) I work with recently developed this website on their own and it generates a lot of buzz: politweets. The concept is simple but brilliant! It just listens to twitters and filter out the current presidential candidates’ names and figure out who has the most posts from twitter and rank the candidates accordingly. Here is a website that only takes a couple days to develops and can quickly generate a lot of buzz. It doesn’t have many complicated features. Just one feature but does it really well. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to figure out the requirements, design and write up a lot of tests. Just get it out the door and see if it sticks. If it does, then keep improving it. And it sure does seem it sticks based on the buzz it generates.

Jan 24

I am currently working on a product that have to deal with a lot of SEO issues.  One thing that I learned from working on it is that don’t try to be clever and use some uncommon term for your product name or title.  Even for section title, try to use a term that a user will most likely to search for.  For example, “Community ratings” or “User ratings”?  “User ratings” wins.  “User reviews and ratings” or “User ratings”?  “User reviews and ratings” wins.  Simple rule.   Follow it.  It will save you a lot of headache in the future.

Jan 24

President Bush and the Congress is going to pass a stimulus package containing tax rebate.  Very nice for those who get a tax rebate but it won’t help the economy much.  It might delay the pain.  Like taking a pain killer.  You might feel better in a short term but the disease doesn’t go away.  US economy has fundamental structural problem: huge trade deficit and huge budget deficit from our government.  Our nation as a whole a debtor who depends on foreigners’ money.  Majority of our people also live beyond their mean.  If that doesn’t change, we will have a rude awakening.

Jan 23

Joe wrote an excellent article about this topic: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/FiveWorlds.html. Basically he is saying there is no one single methodology or ways to best develop software. It all depends on what type of software you are developing. He categorized software into 5 different categories:

  1. Shrinkwrap
  2. Internal
  3. Embedded
  4. Games
  5. Throwaway

I have experienced into developing 3 out of 5 (Shrinkwrap, internal and throwaway). I made 4 different categories in my previous post: http://www.industryzero.com/2008/01/22/how-to-make-a-living-as-a-software-developer-in-us/. My categories are from business revenue generating perspective and argue how developers will be able to make a living in US.

Joe’s article is about how to develop software based on the 5 categories. He argues that most of the guru’s methodology only applies well to 2 because that is what most of them get hired for doing. I definitely think there is no silver bullet. It does depend on what you are trying to do. If you are doing some quick and dirty, why waste time to write test first (Test driven methodology). If you are developing a website that is first of a kind, getting it out first and fast will probably be more important than doing it right the first time because you know you are going to make a lot of changes. Your business objective is to generate momentum and generate buzz, and finally get Venture capital funding. If you are developing game (as Joe point out), you will not have chance to release a bug fix version. So getting it right the first time is very important because people will want their money back if you don’t. Or worst, no one will buy it because of its reputation.

Jan 22

Am I crazy for asking this question? Software developers/engineers make ton of money and there are many jobs posting for developer positions everywhere. But if you look at the number, the average salary increase for the past few years for software developer position is just slightly about inflation. That means that it is not as a hot career as it used to be. Remember Automobile workers used to make a lot of money and they never thought the jobs will go away. The question we should ask is that if there is still a very solid business model for software developers.

Let’s look at what type of software engineers are out there.

  1. Web developers for consumer websites (Google, Yahoo, Linkedin, etc)
  2. Developers who develop internal business apps for internal clients. For example, you work as a developers for a Bank, Hospital, Government, non-profit.
  3. Developers who develop commercial products that sold as license copies or Software as service. Examples are Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, etc
  4. Developers who develop open source products

If you are developers of #1, you are facing two issues. First, can your websites actually generate revenue. What is the business model. If the answer is ad, then you are in trouble…. The second question is: Can someone else build the same cool website in other low cost country and target the same audiences as your website does.

If you are developers of #2, your jobs are slowly being moved to low cost countries. There will still be some left in US. But given a choice, companies want to reduce cost. Since your company’s core business is not software and software doesn’t generate revenue for them, there is not any good reason to keep you around.

If you are developers of #3, you will lose job because of #4

If you are developers of #4, who is paying you while you are working on open source product. What is the business model? You can make money either through service support, book sales (you need to write a book), training.

Unless we can see a good business model coming from #1 and #4, there is not going to be a bright future for developers.

Jan 18

Sun is buying MySQL for a billion dollar. One billion dollar seems to be a lot of money. However, I think it is a great move. MySQL is the most widely used open source database. Most of web 2.0 companies use it including the company I work for. By buying MySQL, Sun instantly get a huge customer base which it can start to sell services and hardware. Sun stock price has been beaten down by wall street. Sun has 5 billion in cash reserve and has been profitable the last couple quarters since Dotcom crash. Sun is now one of the biggest open source company around. I think there is a lot of upside on Sun. It seems that very soon people will think Sun is a cool company again.

Jan 16

Well, finally I got World press installed and now I can blog about nothing.