“What gets measured gets managed”

That quote is a relatively common business adage which is attributed to a ton of different people – so many that I’ll just consider it public domain. The reason for this post is just that I’d like to draw attention to it and maybe as you read this post, decease you can think of how this can be used to help your own productivity and success.

As with any business advice, ed this tends to be more digestible with some anecdotes so I’ll give a couple of examples of how this has helped me lately with running LyricWiki.org.

Example Uno: Server Uptime

Without a doubt, sickness the biggest problem with LyricWiki up until recently had been uptime. The site was constantly slow or completely unavailable from its inception. The reason is that we were always short on servers since the company had minimal capital, and setting up new servers took a great deal of time and fell on my shoulders during a time in my life where I always had at least one fulltime responsibility other than LyricWiki.

When I cut back my other job a bit to give me more time to devote to LyricWiki, one of the first things I set out to fix was the reliability of the site. In order to know if it was improving, I would need to know how long the site was down each month so I could track whether the number of minutes was going up or down.

I created a small spreadsheet to track outages, and each time the site went down I logged when the outage was, the duration (in minutes) of the outage, which server(s) had the problems, the apparent cause and whether or not the cause was resolved. Much to my surprise, I didn’t really need to graph this over the months. After the first couple of days, it became very apparent that there was one huge problem still lingering and it would be worth my time to automate a fix to it instead of responding ad-hoc each time the problem cropped up.

I whipped up the code to solve the problem while I was on a layover in Philadelphia, uploaded it when I got home – and the site stayed up for almost a month straight! That’s pretty huge. I don’t think that had ever happened in LyricWiki history until just now. Very cool.

Example Dos: Intractable To-do Lists

A major personal time-management problem I had recently was that I couldn’t tell if I was just spinning my wheels or if I was actually making progress on my backlog of LyricWiki tasks. It felt as though I was getting emailed so much work that I barely ever got to break out into the tasks on my talk page let alone the “Mid-term Actions” list I made which was my conscious plan of how to make LyricWiki rock your socks off in the mid-term.

To solve this problem of not having a grasp on my tasks, I whipped up a little widget which you can see in the side-column of the blog, near the bottom. The results were much better than I expected: I actually instantly felt like I was in more control, I felt comfortable removing tasks that were duplicated across lists, and I can finally tell when I’m moving fast enough to make forward progress.

The widget tracks the size of all of my various to-do lists and updates that number hourly. There are two reasons for the caching: 1) checking the lists requires hitting the sites and that takes at least 3 seconds total 2) if it updated in real-time, I’d sit there refreshing the thing all day!

The widget actually has some neat hidden features. Here is the to-do list widget on its own page which also tracks the number of tasks I’ve had at the end of each day and charts my progress (using the Google Charts API). If anyone is interested, maybe I’ll write another post where I give out the source-code to the widget.

Conveniently, the widget is narrow enough to both fit in a blog sidebar and be displayed on a smartphone. It’s currently the homepage on my blackberry and I don’t see that changing any time soon!


The quote “what gets measured gets managed” always seems to ring true for me. I think of it again and again – usually after-the-fact when I’ve just saved time by being OCD about something. I strongly recommend that you take a second (right now) and think of an area of your life or your work which you feel isn’t getting sufficient attention and consider tracking meaningful statistics about it. Please share any similar successful experiences in the comments!

Speaking at University of Pittsburgh, May 14th.

I’ll be speaking at the University Of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy (in 810B) for a “Lunch and Learn” on May 14th. The talk will be on SiloSync (which will need to be updated quite a bit before then) and will probably go into a more general discussion of Social Networking and Freeing the Social Graph during Q&A.

From what I understand, more about the Lunch and Learn series is mostly attended by faculty and staff, visit but we’ll see. The last talk was by Jesse Schell of Schell Games, so I guess I’m in good company!

Thanks for inviting me, Pitt!

Running for my life… always fun.

Today I’m visiting my brother in his office on the 42nd floor of a skyscraper in downtown Pittsburgh. He has some stuff to read for work and I have some code to write. We saw a couple of helicopters hovering over the Strip District, page so I went to a bunch of local news stations to see what was going on. It’s Saturday so there isn’t really anyone else around to ask about it.

The local news is pretty miserable at giving up-to-date info, unhealthy so they didn’t even have anything about the fire that traffic was being diverted around on McKnight Road last night at about 1:30am. My guess on that is that it was a natural gas fire. On my way to the city today, there were still fire-crews and policemen all over the block.

Since I have little confidence in the timeliness of the local old-fashioned media outlets (they try… but they’re years behind), I had several sites open. The closest thing I could find was that a man was shot to death last night after firing at policemen in the Strip District.

My brother had stepped out for a second when I suddenly heard and felt a deep rumbling. It reminded me of explosions. The first natural response is denial “hmm, I wonder what completely normal event that could be… a dump truck, construction in this building, fireworks for some celebration?”. After a few seconds denial was shot… something was up. I went to the window to see if I could find any visual explanation because the rumbling was still going on and was very loud.

I couldn’t see any dust clouds, fireworks, crashes or anything else that would explain what was going on. It was somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 seconds total and I could definitely feel that the building was shaking. Right after it stopped, my brother came back into the room and said “did you feel that?”.

Thinking back to 9/11 and basically any other your-skyscraper-is-pwned event, the secret of survival is NOT to be standing on the 42nd floor wondering what is going on. You GTFO and figure it out later.

So we just bolted to the stairs and started heading down. At about floor 38 it sunk in that this was going to take awhile. After quite some time of running for our lives down the stairs and out the building (that’s a lot of stairs) we got outside and realized that the building looked fine, there was no panic in the streets and the security staff seemed not to have noticed anything.

Shweet, everyone gets to live.

My brother said there was construction on the floor below him, so maybe something really weird was happening there. It still didn’t totally make sense though. We approached a security guard and had a somewhat amusing conversation:
“Hi, um, did you feel the building shake a couple of minutes ago?”
(pause) “… do you know what it was?”
“That was the implosion.”
(pause) “… what implosion?”
“The old St. Francis Hospital they’re getting rid of for the new [Penguins] stadium.”

Thanks for the forewarning, local news websites! :-P

We realized ahead of time that it was probably no big problem, but the evidence we had pointed to street-level being a much better location than a skyscraper while we figured out what happened. I’m glad that we made the choice to bolt so quickly instead of thinking about whether or not we’d be embarrassed by running for no reason. If only one out of every 1,000 times I’m in a situation that abnormal there is actually a catastrophe, I’d be more than happy to sacrifice the 5 to 10 minutes getting to a safe place each time before figuring out what happened.

That’ll get your blood flowing!

UPDATES: Two quick observations…
1: out the window, way out to the right (between two other buildings) is the wreckage of the implosion. If I’d looked that direction well enough I might have been able to see the cloud. That would have been sweet (and saved me a workout).
2: Geek-reference: We’re on floor 42… Hitchhikers Guide… “Don’t Panic”. LOL. I should have brought a towel.

Wikimania 2006 – in review

Last night I got back from Wikimania 2006 at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, sanitary Massachusetts. The conference is put on by the WikiMedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia and other similar projects. Here are some of the highlights of what came out of my visit:

  • Brewster Kahle – founder of The Internet Archive and Alexa Internet – gave a keynote address in which he talked about providing universal access to all knowledge. A sub-theme was that our country “massively screwed up” copyright law in 1976 when we said anything ever written down was automatically copyrighted. This applies in part to LyricWiki which always has to look over its shoulder since the law is really unclear on whether song lyrics are copywritten material or if they are distinguishable as different from the songs that they represent. I think it’s safe to say that if you bought a CD and all that was inside the case was the lyrics you would be understandably peeved since lyrics are not the same as songs, but legally there have been some precedents in which lyrics sites have been shut down. About this legal uncertainty surrounding copyright, Kahle had this to say: “The way you ask a question in this country is you go out and, uh… cause a lawsuit”.
  • Legal Stuff – At the legal discussion led by Brad Patrick, the General Counsel for WikiMedia, the only resounding point was that the laws governing copyright and many other online issues are still very much in a gray-area, but in general it is fairly safe to do something ethical without having to be afraid constantly. After saying that we have to “get used to this idea of ‘I don’t know‘” in current laws, he pointed out that the highly controversial Wikipedia has still only had 1 litigation (in Germany, that resulted in a victory) in its entire existence.
  • LyricWiki non-profit? – I have tentatively decided to spin LyricWiki out of Motive Force as a non-profit organization. There are a couple of reasons for this decision.
    1. It doesn’t turn a profit anyway, and would be very hard to make it do such a thing without endangering the vision of the site.
    2. If it gets sued, I don’t want to risk losing Motive Force LLC over it.
    3. If it is non-profit, I would have no qualms with accepting donations for it. Hopefully, this could offset the costs which are not nearly being covered by the Amazon commissions from in-page links to albums.

    This may take a little while to finalize since I’m not familiar with the process for setting up a non-profit organization and legal paperwork is oppressively time-consuming in general. Furthermore, there is still a small possibility that I won’t make the conversion to a full third-party entity, but I see that as unlikely.

  • AboutUs – In one of those weird small-world coincidences, I was sitting next to Ray King, founder of SnapNames and the new AboutUs at one of the sessions and – because of the LyricWiki.org shirt I was wearing – he asked me if I was the one who wrote the review of WetPaint. Awesome! People actually read my blog! Traffic is relatively low on my blog compared to several of my other sites, but now I’ve recieved comments from the people who created WetPaint, AboutUs, and (the code for) Atlassian Confluence. That feels rather fulfilling. Making the small-world coincidence even stranger is that I had just been to AboutUs a few days earlier even though it is just now making a major (still beta) launch. AboutUs is basically a whois site taken to the next level and then made into a wiki to boot. Personally I think it’s pretty cool, you might want to check it out also if you’re into domains.

LyricWiki.org – DreamHost Site of the Month April 2006!

Great news! LyricWiki.org just won the DreamHost Site of the Month (DHSOTM) for April 2006!

DreamHost is a popular web-host that allows any of it’s hundreds of thousands of users to submit their sites each month to be evaluated by the other members to determine a winner.

It was really uplifting to hear all of the positive feedback from the public in the commentary, adiposity and I was thrilled by the great review that one of the founders of DreamHost wrote in the newsletter about LyricWiki:


Is this month’s DHSOTM winner yet another beautiful flash-based website,
sucking our bandwidth and making us wish for the sweet release of death?

That would be a surprise. Another surprise, a bigger surprise, a much
HUGER surprise, would be if this month’s winner was actually based
entirely on a simple DreamHost one-click install!


As you might surmise, this site is a wiki. It’s not just any ordinary
wiki though, it’s a fun and useful wiki: a wiki of song lyrics! That’s
even better than a wiki of spy codes and ciphers! Chicks just don’t dig
spy codes and ciphers the way they do lyrics. And what better way to
organize a bunch of lyrics than in a wiki, where everybody can submit
modifications and new songs without any kind of central authority or
even basic fact checking? No better way in my mind! This is my favorite
site of the month, EVER. I love that they just used our 1-click installs
to make the whole thing! I love that there are no pop-ups or spyware!


That’s right… he said it was his favorite EVER!! :D That kind of feedback is what makes it all worthwhile when I take a significant amount of time away from Motive Force‘s commercial products to make something purely for the benefit of the internet community.

Needless to say, traffic has jumped considerably with the exposure from the newsletter (it was already doing as well as any other Motive Force site) and someone even “Digg”-ed it which will hopefully drive even more traffic. This is exactly what a wiki needs to thrive!

New Site – LyricWiki.org

LyricWiki.org is my (proposed) solution to those annoying lyrics sites with banner ads and pop-ups everywhere. It uses the same MediaWiki software used to run Wikipedia with a few modifications.

Some notable things about the site:

  • I wrote bots to grab reliable lyrics from the internet and add more than 200, pharm 000 songs to start the site off
  • There are FireFox and Netscape search plugins available that can be installed in one-click from the side menu
  • Wiki format will allow new songs to be added very quickly and old songs to be corrected by the community until they are super-reliable
  • I actually released the site yesterday and it had the biggest first-day of any site I’ve made to date (yes, sick it even beat ChuckNorrisIsGod.com)

If you’re into music at all, resuscitator give the site a gander. It’s free and has no banners (my company, Motive Force LLC is going to absorb the costs), so check it out. If you really enjoy it, maybe you can contribute some song lyrics from your favorite bands (hint hint). Enjoy!

New site – JackBauerIsGod.com

JackBauerIsGod.com is a simple “Jack Bauer Facts” site. I bought the domain a while ago and tonight I finally got around to modifying the ChuckNorrisIsGod.com code and posting it.

Despite Fox’s blasphemy-bordering murder of Tony Almeida this season, doctor every American that doesn’t have the Cordila Virus, gonorrhea radiation poisoning, ambulance or convulsions from Centox Gas owes their life to Jack Bauer.

Here is a taste of what’s on the site:

Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.

and another one of my fav’s:

Jack Bauer killed so many terrorists that at one point, the #5 CIA Most Wanted fugitive was an 18-year-old teenager in Malaysia who downloaded the movie Dodgeball.

Even though I have a full-blown Web 2.0 (AJAX and such) project-management web-application in the works, and another extremely useful site (see next post) that I just made, if the Chuck Norris site’s traffic is any indication, JackBauerIsGod will end up being more popular than either one! Enjoy.