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Nashville vs Memphis, Silicon Valley vs Anywhere

'support' photo (c) 2006, Vladimer Shioshvili - license: always happens at the Atlanta Lean Startup Circle meetings, the after meeting conversation turned to competing with Silicon Valley for talent and money.

For some reason I was reminded of a conversation I had with influential harmonica player David Harp in 1998 (that actually was his name, strange coincidence).   It was more of rant really.  He listed off a long talented, groundbreaking, and just plain awesome musicians in all genres who moved from Memphis to Nashville over the years.

It was a standard grumpy old man rant about why his town (we were in Memphis, his hometown) had been cheated out of glory.  Then he said one thing that stuck with me, lot these many years.

Memphis produces ten times the musicians that Nashville does, both in quality and quantity.  Nashville produces ten times the infrastructure.  Talent will always move to infrastructure and never the other way around.

I think that sums it up nicely  The infrastructure in both cases consists largely of middle aged specialists.  It is far easier for risk tolerant young people to move to the risk averse specialists, which leads to a few specialized hubs, and a lot of farm team cities.

Aug 12

Written By Steve French


Southern Crafted Candles joins the internet

Southern Crafted CandlesI have been remiss in welcoming Southern Crafted Candles to the internet world.  I completed the site in December, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.  Handmade in Athens Georgia, these candles pack a powerful pop, and are a needed counterpart to the established and decayed empire of Yankee Candle.

Southern Crafted Candles consists of Candle Guru Zach Kitay and capitalist powerhouse Ben Kitay, working together to create a new and powerful candle company

We built the site in WordPress, using an existing template.  WordPress came through for us again.  One of the downsides of a smooth-running project is that the operation is just not that remarkable, which makes these blog posts difficult to write!

Their candle of the month is a lovely hand crafted  Cinnamon Apple Candle, you should get one today!  Go check it out, we’ll be here when you get back, and your house will smell great too!

Mar 12

Written By Steve French


Fix the problem and move on

I recently ate breakfast with a few other local business types (one the head of the best event staffing company in Atlanta) and one of them presented an interesting problem.  He told the story of a former staff member who had made what seemed (to him)  to be an obvious mistake.  He seemed to think that this was caused by an inborn flaw that could never be fixed.  The dilemma, should he have gotten rid of the staffer or worked around the staffer?   The majority of people agreed with the inborn flaw theory, but that he should just work around the flaw.

I thought that the problem was fundamental attribution error, (attributing the problem to the person and not the situation).  He thought that the former staffer possessed no initiative.  My initial thought (from his description of the situation) was that the staffer was confronted with an unclear situation and he had no obvious way to show initiative.

Upon further thought,  in real world situations, there is no way to ever determine which one of us is right, and the best thing to do it just put the solution to the problem in a checklist or manual and move on.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

May 11

Written By Steve French


How to fix problems with Clear Wireless internet service

Power-Tape-Measure_13331-480x360photo © 2010 Emilian Robert Vicol | more info (via: Wylio)
The Problem: You have have Clear Wireless internet service, as well as a wifi network, and you get periodic drops and random slowness.  You contact tech support, and they tell you to make sure that the wifi router and the Clear Wimax receiver are at least two feet apart.  That does make sense, since the two units are fighting for limited parts of the radio spectrum.  You move the two apart, but that does not fix the problem.

The Cause: What the tech support person actually meant by “at least two feet apart”  was “at least twelve feet apart”.

The Solution: Move the Clear Wimax unit twelve feet or more from the wifi router.    I did that and both my upload and download speed quadrupled!  It would have been nice for Clear to tell me that initially, but life is experimentation.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jan 11

Written By Steve French


How to raise your social status

One surprising  claim in David Rock’s book was that evolution hardwired a desire for zero-sum status in our brains.  That is to say, I feel good when I am somehow superior to someone else.  There must be a winner and a loser.  I thought the status claim was a bit dubious.  I’ve never felt like someone is dramatically above or below me in some social pecking order.  If it never applied to me, how can it apply to anyone else?

Now, after reading and listening to an interview with Pete Michaud on niche marketing I’ve come to think the desire for status is  absolutely true; I’ve just defined myself into an obscure niche where I tower an order of magnitude over everyone else and will be forever king

The activities that A) I care about, and B) where I compare more or less directly with others are:

  • Music: specifically bluegrass, specifically bluegrass influenced by 30’s country
  • Programming/WebDev: Specifically Server/html/Css/Photoshop
  • My startup company (hey, I’ve made it to beta, that’s more than most) – and I have the best visual contact manager out there.
  • Politics: specifically libertarian, utilitarian minarchist, practical Constituitionalist, properly informed social Darwinist
  • Trivia: specifically Atlanta, general military history and political thought
  • Economics: specifically the field of law and economics

If you add all those up no one is even close to where I am now, or where I’ll be in the future.  There will always be people who make more money, and for that matter, code better and play music better, but how many of them can hold an informed conversation on the legacy of Eric Hoffer and the history of private currencies in America?  None I would imagine.

So how to raise your social status and self-esteem?  Just be specific and niche it down.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jan 11

Written By Steve French


Atlanta Streetcars, the Beltline, and my own solutions

St. Louis, Missouri Mail Streetcarphoto © 2008 Smithsonian Institution | more info(via: Wylio)Somehow I’ve come across two infuriating Atlanta Transit articles in the past two day.  First was the Pricey streetcar won’t ease traffic articles from the AJC.  The second was Ryan Gravel’s speech on the Beltline at TedX Atlanta.   For more information on the Beltline check out the Wikipedia article.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the worthyness of each venture, but bear in mind, my beloved hometown has no money, and neither venture solves a problem the current Atlanta residents actually have.  The Beltline seeks to change development patterns in the future to make us more European in some of our transit ways (not necessarily a bad thing), and the streetcar would

The city’s grant application said the project’s benefits would outstrip the original investment two and a half times over, largely by raising real estate values along the route.

which for some reason is not called blatant graft.

Large projects always bring to mind Donald Rumsfeld’s adage “If a problem seems insoluble, enlarge it” which was the sort of thinking that got us into the Iraq war.  Urban planning has struck me as rife with that sort of thinking lately.

And now you ask, what you you do to improve life in the city of Atlanta for it’s current residents?  Here are my top picks:

Short Term/Mostly Free

  1. Cap the number of traffic lights at it’s current level.  If new developments need more they can be taken from somewhere else.
  2. Prohibit the use of police officers directing traffic for private office buildings, this slows down intown traffic to an unneccesary crawl in many areas.  The lawyers can wait for the light like anyone else.
  3. Actually enforce jaywalking laws, this slows down traffic and leads to more accidents than one might think

Medium Term / Some Cost

  1. The problem with our current road system is not necessarily the cars, but rather the widths and lengths of the vehicles, which cause the chokepoints.  Solution: move everyone over to smaller vehicles, specifically motorized scooters (max speed 35) and bicycles.   Convert rarely used lanes lanes and sidewalks to bike and scooter only lanes.  Build overpasses over traffic lights  and allow no traffic lights or stop signs on any of these new lanes (see the Dutch experience in safety and taking away traffic signals).    Use these lanes for intown commuter traffic to replace the highways and major surface streets (such as Ponce, Moreland, North, Marietta, Northside, et al.)

Long Term – None!  We’re not that sort of city.

Thoughts anyone?


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Nov 10

Written By Steve French


A wonderful time at Future Media, and Social Network Analysis

I had a wonderful time yesterday at the Startup Showcase at the Georgia Tech Future Media festival.    It was thought provoking on many, many levels.  One of the most insightful moments was when I realized that everyone referred to Stronico as “Social Network Analysis” in contrast to the term I use which is “Personal Network Visualization”.  Both of them mean the same thing, but majority does rule in popular terminology.

Many more thoughts soon.


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Oct 10

Written By Steve French


Exploring the long tail topics of my personal knowledge

Stop and ThinkOne lesson I learned (not from anything specifically said, purely a deduction) from this excellent Mixergy interview with Brian Crane of is to NOT weave  small thoughts into the big picture, but to instead let them be small thoughts. Apparently succeeds by chasing the long tail.  Therefore I am going to keep the “How To Fix” and “Code Sample” series, but keep  the meta blogging about business and network theory to a minimum.

Now that I see all this written out I have the thought that I should finalize the public Stronico sites.  I had tentatively scheduled public sites for about six months from now, but perhaps they should be moved up.  The public sites would be public accessible, read only Stronico accounts,  viewable to all but only updatable by administrators, sort of the wikipedia of social network diagrams.  The first few would be based on either my particular local knowledge or publicly available knowledge.  The first few public sites would:

  • The current Atlanta independent music scene, defined as bands, bookers, clubs, musicians etc and the like.   (present day and adaptable)
  • The East Atlanta small business community, and by East Atlanta I mean more than the Village.  I am defining East Atlanta as East Atlanta (the neighborhood), Ormewood Park, Grant Park, Woodland Heights, and Rebel Forest.
  • The Atlanta Woodworking Community – both craftsmen and vendors
  • The Atlanta Guitar community, i.e.  people who buy, sell, and treasure find musical instruments (defined as those costing over $2,000)
  • The Atlanta graphic design community, both firms and designers
  • The Atlanta Microsoft ecosystem, players, institutions, and firms.
  • The American used Sterling Silver Market,  including merchants, manufactures, wholesalers and museums.
  • The Metro Atlanta convention industry

Should any of these sites get any amount of traffic they could be sponsored by an industry leader like Stomp and Stammer or the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

I realize that this blog post is a poorly written answer to a question that no one asked, that’s most of the internet when you think about it

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: DWRose


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Sep 10

Written By Steve French


The Turner Rule in Marketing and Branding

good timesOver the years I have met many alumni of the Turner Empire (CNN/Turner Broadcasting/Turner Enterprises/WCW/TBS/Braves/Hawks, etc) and most of them have told me some version of the following story.

[Setup – In the early days of CNN and Turner Broadcasting Ted Turner would prowl his office building and drop in unannounced into random meetings.   One day he walked into a meeting where people were planning a cross-channel week-long special on dinosaurs] Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


Startup Atlanta – April Edition

MIT Forum hosted at UM
Last night I attended the StartUp Atlanta April event (on the web at, @StartupAtlanta on Twitter) where 40 or so members of the Startup community mixed, mingled, and listened to 6 presentations by Atlanta Startups.  Mike Shinkel and Jenny Trautman (the organizers) focused this meetup on the Real Estate industry.

I did not see that many familiar faces and fewer people attended than than attended the March Meetup, but the specialization made the people who did attend more involved.  Georgia Tech was nice enough to loan out the Georgia Tech Research Institute facility auditorium.  I enjoyed meeting everyone and Mike Schinkel and his volunteers moved things along well.  It is impossible to overstate how important it is to keep these events running on time.  Daniel from Friendly Human recorded the event for video posterity.

And now, the contestants! We listened to the presentations, and voted via twitter for our favorites, here are mine, recorded here for posterity. I judge startups by the following criteria, on a scale of 1-10 (higher is better).

  1. Problem Solving – It can be a cool product, but does it make anyone’s life easier?
  2. Actual Customers – I am defining the customer as someone with both problems and money.
  3. Simplicity of Pricing – can the fees be described to anyone, do you need more information about the prospect before you can offer a quote?
  4. Chicken and Egg Problem – does the product require a lot of Customer A before Customer B becomes interested, and vice versa? This applies a good bit to middleman/broker type companies like E-Bay.
  5. Remarkability – that is to say, can someone who heard a quick presentation about it describe it to someone the next day, and have it be understood?

Note, I do not judge the passion of the founders, quality of marketing, execution etc. That’s too hard to judge based off of a short presentation. Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


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