Archive for July, 2009

Quotes for Entrepreneurs – July 2009

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

Follow http://www.twitter.com/skmurphy to get them as they are found or wait until the end of the month when they are collected on the blog. Enter your E-mail if you would like Feedburner to deliver new blog posts to your inbox.

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“Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few.”
Robert Heinlein “Notebooks of Lazarus Long”

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“All the evidence of history suggests that man is indeed a rational animal but with a near infinite capacity for folly.”
Robert McNamara

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“Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first call promising.”
Cyril Connolly in “Enemies of Promise

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“Conferences enable face to face conversation among knowledgeable people, fostering serendipity and structure in serious conversations.”
Sean Murphy in “Opportunities for Serious Conversation at DAC 2009

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“A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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“Knowledge comes by taking things apart: analysis. But wisdom comes by putting things together.”
John A. Morrison

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“Some say better late than never; I say better never than late.”
William Bosville

From The Works of Lord Byron: Letters and Journals. Volume 2
William Bosville (1745-1813), called colonel, but really only lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, was a noted bon vivant, whose maxim for life was “Better never than late.” He was famous for his hospitality in Welbeck Street. A friend of Horne Tooke, he dined with him at Wimbledon every Sunday in the spring and autumn.

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“The work of an unknown good man is like a vein of water flowing hidden in the underground, secretly making the ground greener.”
Thomas Carlyle

Also quoted in “Success for a Bootstrapper

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“Number of watchmen required to watch the watchmen watching the watchmen tends to double every 18 months.”
Alan Moore’s Law comment by scalpod in “Intel Describes the Age of Equivalent Scaling

Hat Tip to Christopher Clee in “Moore No More

I think that there is a relationship between Moore’s Law and Alan Moore’s Law and that is automated checking begets quality. I quoted Howard Landman’s old signature in NuSym DeCloaks:

  • Patterson’s Precept: Inexperience coupled with ambition leads to very large designs.
  • Landman’s Law: In any sufficiently large design, if there is a type of error for which you have no automatic way of checking, then the final design will contain at least one error of that type.
  • Landman’s Lemma: All designs are now sufficiently large. See Patterson’s Precept.

Kevin Kelly recently wrote “Was Moore’s Law Inevitable?“  a long essay about Moore’s Law and a family of companion curves for magnetic medium, broadcast media bandwidth etc.. that “demonstrate the effects of scaling down, or working with the small. In this microcosmic realm energy is not very important. We don’t see exponential improvement in efforts to scale up.”

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“If software development were entirely the application of existing knowledge it would be a manufacturing activity and we would automate it.”
Phillip G. Armour “The Learning Edge

Hat Tip Brad Pierce’s “Learning is Not a Comfortable Activity

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“Ability is nothing without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Social Software Speeds Team Decision Making

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

This was originally published as “Impact of Social Media Tools on the Speed of Team Decision Making” in the July 14 DACEzine. I am re-publishing it here as a reminder for the “Tweet, Blog or News: How Do I Stay Current?” Pavilion Panel tomorrow Wednesday July 29, 4:00 – 5:00pm at the Design Automation Conference.

One of the most significant impacts from social media technologies will be to improve the speed and quality of business decisions. Social media tools foster team collaboration and speed a group’s ability to build consensus, solve problems and make decisions. For example, Twitter speeds the delivery of actionable, targeted intelligence to decision makers. Dashboards and social networking tools are great examples of technology complementing and enhancing face-to-face and phone conversations. They allow a team or group to maintain a shared awareness of an evolving project or design issue, enabling faster decisions because there is less time needed to establish and review context.Take Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, delicious and wiki software and contrast them to how design and verification teams communicate.

With social media tools, we can narrowcast information to select groups, sending appropriate information to different sets of recipients. Some of these messages are sent automatically when we add a new connection or register to attend an event. Twitter (or its company private alternatives like yammer) allows you to easily notify a group of a status change or new development. Delicious allows me to share bookmarks easily with others in my “network” and be alerted by them to new and interesting sites. If my team is working in a wiki I can be notified–via e-mail or RSS–when anyone else in the group changes a page, and if I am curious I can query the revision system to show me in detail what was changed.

The various teams involved in a design project (e.g. RTL, verification, layout, timing, etc …) have similar needs — as does the project and its management superstructure as a whole — but use very different tools. We have RTL code to be reviewed, we have check in events and comments, and we have test failures and failing timing paths. All of these can be the focus of a conversation — and a negotiation — whether it is held in a meeting, a conference call, IM chat, or E-Mail.

I think one reason that social networking and social media tools are not more widely adopted in EDA is that the majority of design and verification information is not generated or delivered in a format that can be shared easily. It’s rarely in HTML form, it may be in ASCII as many large log files are, but ASCII does not support links to other relevant information. Often the information is in design files, waveform files, log files, source control databases, and coverage databases, all of which may require special tools and licenses to access.

I think we will see the impact from social media change from a companion technology to a disruptive technology. If we incorporate social media tools into EDA environments, they will change engineering practices for bug-tracking, project status assessments, and related methods for assessing project health. There will be a much better audit trail for every line of code, every test executed, and every check in. These streams of conversations will complement the formal bug report process, providing some structure to what are ad hoc conversations around “is this a real bug” or databases full of bugs that the team may not be committed to taking action on. The healthy back-and-forth between design and verification engineers could be automatically tracked to a check in.

The first order impact would likely be to make team meetings more productive. Team collaboration tools will fundamentally speed up the design team’s ability to build consensus, make decisions, follow up, and solve problems. Everyone could sign up for notifications when a design file changes because on balance it lets folks know when and where work is being done or where the conversation is taking place. The second order impact will be more rapid decision making as less time is required to establish context, either from project history or across projects.

Join us for a more in-depth look at this at the panel discussion, “Tweet, Blog or News: How Do I Stay Current?
Wednesday July 29, 4:00 – 5:00pm Pavilion Panel at Design Automation Conference.

Three Roundtables on Global Teams at Design Automation Conference

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

I blogged about some “Opportunities for Serious Conversation at DAC 2009” and wanted to fill in some details

  • Mon 10:30-11:00 at Synopsys’ Conversation Central “Global Teams and Multi-Firm Collaboration”
  • Tue 10:30-11:00 at Synopsys’ Conversation Central “Global Teams and Multi-Firm Collaboration”
  • Wed 10:30-11:00 at Synopsys’ Conversation Central “Global Teams and Multi-Firm Collaboration”

Format

  1. 1 minute introduction from each person that addresses their experience working in, supporting, or managing global teams. They can also suggest a relevant issue for the group to discuss.
  2. Open discussion on topics suggested plus one or more of the questions below

Here are a list of some questions we may have a chance to cover.

  • If you are managing a global team what are some challenges that it introduces?
    • What steps have you taken to address them?
    • What additional tools, (e.g. Skype, Webex, continuous build servers, …) beyond E-mail and conference calls have you found useful?
  • If you need to get the team in a “synchronous meeting”–e.g. an “all hands”–what times do you normally select from?
    • How often is this required?
  • If you are supported a global team what additional policies or process have you put in place to provide quality service?
  • For EDA Vendors: when you look at the feature roadmap for your tools, have you added or do you contemplate adding features to make them more global team friendly? (Do not need to disclose any NDA or unannounced features).
  • As the design service chain becomes as global as the manufacturing supply chain, are their implications for licensing and support?
    • For EDA Vendors: do you license tools to a customer who permits a supplier to use them on their behalf in another location?
    • If you are a EDA customer, how do you look at this situation?
    • Put a different way, many licensing and support assumption assumed that contractors were co-located: distance collaboration technologies now allow for partners and suppliers to be several time zones away. Does this break any of your assumptions from five or ten years ago?
    • Note: this is not intended to get into a discussion of the merits of outsourcing, I am assuming that many folks around the table are involved in or are managing global teams–or supporting them–and want to allow folks share practical tips and techniques or what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  • If “software is the promise of a relationship” and semiconductor IP is increasingly a subscription to a stream of versions (another relationship) as opposed to a single fixed configuration that’s instantiated and left alone, what new relationships are global teams now requiring for IP.

Please drop by if you are interested in taking part. A number of folks have indicated interest in taking part, I will also be blogging about these conversations as time permits (which may be this week or late August).

Maintaining Perspective on the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Tools for Startups

We had a great Bootstrapper Breakfast® in Sunnyvale this morning. One of the comments from an entrepreneur who was doing his first venture and making good progress was that he hadn’t anticipated how much of an emotional roller coaster doing a startup was with “higher highs and lower lows” than his earlier jobs.

One technique you can use to maintain perspective is the “Morning Pages” approach concept from “The Artist’s Way at Work” Write three pages in longhand first thing in the morning every day. It can be stream of consciousness, a journal, a story, or even “I don’t know what to write” over and over. There are a number of good techniques in the book, but this is the best one to start with. If, like me, your handwriting skills have deteriorated to the point that writing out more than a 3×5 card is both painful and illegible you can use a typewriter or a computer, but do it in a way that it stands out from your regular work location. Write in a coffee shop or at the breakfast table or a place you can associate with this activity distinct from work. You can also do it in the afternoon or late in the day if that’s a “dead spot” but you have to do it in a way that it represents a clear break from work.

The breakfast also allow you to listen to other entrepreneurs describe your same issues, for some reason–at least for me–when I hear someone else describe a problem I am also having I am able to engage my analytic and creative problem solving skills in a way that they are not available during introspection.

Some posts related to the entrepreneurial roller coaster:

1994 List of Net Resources for the EDA User

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

May 11, 1994 I published this “List of Net Resources for the EDA User” in “Radio Free CAD CAE Issue 4

  • gopher kona.ee.pitt.edu 70 for SIGDA Archives
  • e-mail acmhelp@acm.org for ACM (SIGDA parent) membership info
  • ftp ftp.ieee.org for IEEE membership info
  • gopher gopher.ieee.org for IEEE membership info
  • e-mail info.index@ieee.org for IEEE membership info
  • e-mail cfi@cfi.org for Cad Framework Initiative Membership Info
  • e-mail jcooley@world.std.com for a subscription or back-issues to the E-Mail Synopsys User Group
  • ftp ftp.erc.msstate.edu for the Mentor User Group Archives
  • rn alt.cad for a news on general issues in CAD
  • rn comp.cad.cadence for news on Cadence tools
  • rn comp.cad.compass for news on Compass Design Automation tools
  • rn comp.cad.synthesis news on synthesis issues; frequently Synopsys issues are posted here.
  • rn comp.lang.verilog news on verilog as a language
  • rn comp.lang.vhdl news on VHDL as a language
  • rn comp.lsi news on IC issues and CAD, frequently cross-posted to comp.lsi.cad and vice versa.
  • rn comp.lsi.testing news on LSI test issues; also attracts a fair number of “Test, please ignore” posts.
  • rn comp.org.acm Newsgroup for ACM info;
  • rn alt.sys.intergraph Intergraph users news; seems to have obsoleted/superseded comp.sys.intergraph.
  • rn comp.sys.mentor Mentor User Group news;
  • rn ieee.announce announcement from IEEE
  • telnet asic.com 2110 to subscribe to ASIC & EDA Magazine (step by step entry of sub qualification form)
  • e-mail benchmarks@mcnc.org generates a reply outlining the benchmarks available via ftp from MCNC. A summary of the automatic reply message appears in section 4.3.2 of this issues of Radio Free CAD CAE.
  • ftp mcnc.mcnc.org for benchmarks from past IEEE/ACM sponsored conferences.
  • e-mail dilbert-request@internex.net to get on Scott Adams (scottadams@aol.com) Dilbert mailing list. Make the first line of e-mail read: subscribe dilbert_list first-name last-name

Internet protocols were:

  • Net news (rn was a newsreader, kind of like a feed reader today)
  • ftp – file transfer protocol
  • telnet an emulation of a bidirectional teletype, allowing you to login and interact with a remote system via a command line.
  • gopher a text menu alternative to the world wide web, also allowed for searching and backward compatibility with older protocols.
  • E-mail – the only protocol that survives in widespread use today.

The World Wide Web was starting to come onto the scene, but not yet for EE’s, it was particle physics leading the way. DAC in June of 1994 had a DACNET LAN local to conference. There was a local web server that presented pages on Sun workstations at the conference that Steve Evanczuk, Jeff Leader, Bruce Pinsky, Bryan Preas, Kathy Preas, and I worked together to do the first DAC website. So we could see the web coming and see that it would have a big impact on information and software distribution. But the resources on this list was what was actually available and in use in May of 1994.

I thought it would offer an interesting perspective to look back 15 years and see how completely things have changed in some ways, but the information needs haven’t really changed. ESNUG still continues as DeepChip, comp.cad.cadence has become the Cadence on-line community, comp.sys.mentor has become the Mentor on-line community, etc.. Something to consider in looking ahead at the next 15 years

Sign-up for Software Startup Checklist Seminar at Silicon Valley Code Camp

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Events, skmurphy

With Athol Foden‘s encouragement I have submitted the following session (links added) for this year’s Silicon Valley Code Camp:

Software Startup Maturity Checklist

This session is for both aspiring and active entrepreneurs. We will walk through a 36 point checklist that covers Product Development, Customer Development, and Business Operations. You will leave with a better understanding of where you are today and what some logical next steps are for each of these stages:

Primary focus is on bootstrapping, there will also some discussion of what is required for a business to deserve outside investment. If you are thinking about doing a startup or you are underway and looking for a quick diagnostic on what to focus on next, this session will offer practical guidance based on the specifics of your situation.

This session does not require but will build on Athol Foden’s session on “From Code to Complete Product to Brand.”

Follow this link to indicate your interest in attending. It will be based on the Startup Maturity Checklist which is the first module in our “Idea to Revenue” workshop. Code Camp is Saturday October 3 and Sunday October 4 at Foothill College 12345 El Monte Road (Parking Lot 5) Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
As the description indicated, my session is a companion to Athol’s “From Code to Complete Product to Brand” which also looks good:

Before you can go out and market your code, you need to productize it. Whether it is for a small downloadable utility or an enterprise application, software seldom sells itself. Even for Open Source, it has to be packaged, promoted and presented correctly… and that is the start of your branding for the long term. For startups, product and company may both be dependent on this proper execution. This overview session will give you the highlights and a check list to do a proper product packaging and launch. For startups, continue this subject with Sean Murphy’s startup checklist talk

And follow this link to indicate interest in Athol’s.

Update Mon-Sep-2: The “SW Startup Maturity Checklist“  session is set for Sunday 1pm, Oct 4 2009 in Room 5501 at  SV Code Camp.
Register here: Session 201 Sun-Oct-4-2009 Room 5501

The Limits of “I Know It When I See It”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Both engineering and entrepreneurship alternate exploration and verification cycles to develop a solution that satisfies a customer’s need. Both of these rely on the scientific method of “observation, hypothesis formation, prediction, and experimentation” to develop and validate testable theories, engineering solutions, and profitable products. Both require that a new configuration or an opportunity be recognized as distinct and worthy of experimentation/validation efforts and that you understand if you satisfied or failed to satisfy each constraint or requirement.

This is the basis for “I will know it when I see it.”

A key difference between the talented first level contributor and the effective manager, or the talented solo entrepreneur and the effective entrepreneurial CEO, is their ability to delegate. They must be able to orchestrate a shared understanding and common sense of mission around an idea.

Guy Kawasaki makes this point in “The Art of the Start” when he talks about “making meaning” and a team mantra. If you look at Apple’s success, it is because they are able to frame the requirements for a product in a way that everybody on the project can link their activities to the key goals of that product. They don’t have a hundred-page feature list; they do have a mission for their product.

“I will know it when I see it” also applies to engineering a new technology product. A new technology product is born at the intersection of entrepreneurship and engineering.

How do you make the leap from being a solo entrepreneur or a talented engineer to becoming an effective CEO or manager? The move is really one of doing the work, forming a hypothesis and verification, to being able to delegate. There are broadly two kinds of delegation:

  1. The first kind of delegation is the ability to get it out your head in some way that you understand:
    • Can I write a program that does some of this?
    • Can I run a Google search?
    • Can I build a spreadsheet?
    • Can I construct a model of what I am trying to accomplish: e.g. a drawing, an analogy, a simulation or animation?
    • Do I know it well enough to define step by step the process that needs to be followed?
  2. The second kind of delegation is the ability to form a small team and create a shared mission. If I am working on a small team or a medium-sized team, can we have a kind of two-pizza meeting with five or twelve people, and hash things up, run a whiteboard or a flip chart or some shared collaboration environment that we come to a common sense of mission. Once that happens, we get beyond the “let’s go see if the boss is happy with this” to actually acting around the objective.

On the engineering side, “I will know it when I see it” comes in a number of ways. In verification, as a particular detail, we have gotten very good at generating a whole bunch of tests. But, what we haven’t been good at is figuring out, what is the status of the test; are we getting closer or further away, where are we; are we making progress? “I will know it when I see it” is not really a good navigation method. We like to know where we are, and where we want to go. We also need to have at least a theory of a path that connects from where we are to where we want to go. There are three requirements for navigation: we have to know where we are, we have to know where we want to go, and we have to have some idea of a path that connects where we are to where we want to go.

One exciting startup that helps engineers with this particular problem is Achilles Test Systems.

“Achilles solves the problem that was created by the first generation of automation efforts. When trying to validate something, the first step was to generate a huge number of tests. We help with the fall-out of all of these automated tests by analyzing the results. There is the risk, if we apply computing power naively, to overwhelm the team with a mass of detail. Our tools address this issue of analyzing the mass of detail. There is no substitute for detailed root-cause analyses; we are not taking the engineer out of the loop.  We help the engineer visualize what is going on and allow him to focus on the critical issues,” explained Chris Kappler, CEO of Achilles Test Systems.

Achilles goal is augmentation, to free up the engineer to focus on the tasks where he brings distinctive value.  The question is how to alleviate 80 to 95% of the work that doesn’t require expert engineering judgment and analysis and free up the team to focus on the 5-20% that truly benefits from human root cause analysis.

“The first challenge is to prioritize the team’s efforts to where we deploy human expertise against the mass of detail. We run a classifier to categorize the outputs. In a list of a thousand outputs, we want to know: what are some cases are more likely the benefit from human expertise, what are some cases that are less likely; and where should we focus our engineering talent to do some debugging? The second challenge is how we debug or analyze these class or categories of outputs. If we know that we have cases that are similar, can we do root-cause analysis on a couple of them, and then make an inference about the rest of that population. For example we have three populations of problems: we have errors that are red, errors that are blue, and errors that are purple. In the naive process, we might start at one end of the errors, debug all the red ones, make changes to the design or change the approach, and rerun. A better approach may be to pick three or four representatives of red errors, debug them; three or four representatives of blue errors, debug them; three or four representatives of purple errors, debug them; and then rerun and see if we have actually killed the class or did we not get it right,” continued Kappler.

Whether you want to call it exploration and verification, whether you want to call it effective delegation, effective automation, or the need to blend human expertise with automation; this is a problem that engineering teams and startups wrestle with. At SKMurphy, this is a category of problems we have been worried about ever since we formed. We look for solutions that automate the “I will know it when I see it”.

Update Sept 1-2009: I will be giving a talk based on this post at the SFBAY ACM on Wed Sep-16-2009 at 6:30pm. See this page for details.

See also

A Conversation with Ed Lee on the Changing Media Landscape for EDA

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, skmurphy

Ed Lee and I have been talking about the role that bloggers play in the EDA Industry since we put together the Blogging Birds of a Feather at ICCAD in November 2008. In the last week we decided to formalize some of our conversation and blog about it. We wanted to share our current assessment of a complex and evolving situation and invite both comments and further dialog.

From Ed’s perspective, bloggers are a near-unknown entity to the PR people in EDA. Compared to the traditional journalists and publishers, bloggers are perplexing as to their intentions and motives for blogging. What follows is Ed and I ruminating about bloggers and their role in EDA, in light of the gradual disappearance of the old-line journalists, market researchers, and financial analysts covering the industry.

Ed and I have known one another since our VLSI Technology days together in the mid-1980s. He went on to various public relations firms – and worked for EDA clients such as Valid, Mentor, ECAD – and at Cadence before opening his own shop in the early 1990s. Since opening Lee PR, his firm has worked primarily with EDA and IP clients such as Chronologic, Compass, Cooper & Chyan, Epic, IBM EDA, Nassda.

This conversation was originally published in two parts on Ed’s blog “What’s PR Got To Do With It?” with an introduction from his perspective:

I have added hyperlinks to provide more context. Ed and I first talked about some common questions that we have heard from other PR people:

Sean: What’s your perspective on the role blogger community plays in informing potential users about current and new EDA offerings?

Ed: This is the big question. We’re in a period of tumult and transition. The old-line journalists are disappearing and the ones who survive are blogging themselves. What bloggers bring to the EDA industry is perspective and personal opinion that’s informed by their individual focus, interests, and the span of their information gathering. But it seems to me that bloggers are more like newspaper columnists than reporters. Where will the basic reporting come from? What will provide a basis or a context for these bloggers/columnists to wax prolific?

Sean: I see bloggers as more of a blend of columnists and reporters. They often write about product announcements, report their observations and issues. Usually they have a wide set of resources both on-line and in-person. Good blogs take a lot of reading and gathering information. But you are right, good blogging is also good linking and bloggers will link to other bloggers, perhaps who have either firsthand knowledge of events or deep technical knowledge. Because of the links, bloggers are often more transparent on their sources than traditional news sources sometimes are.

Ed: Who are the bloggers?  I see them as a mix of indies,  those employed by  EDA and IP vendors and editors who write for industry publications. As with the industry press,  we need to know the specific focus of each blogger. But now, we have a second need to know: who signs their paycheck. The bloggers seem to me to be very transparent on that count.  So that helps us  understand how to work with a blogger’s area of interest AND consider that blogger’s perspective.

Sean: Most bloggers are industry evangelists. I was surprised at the BoF how many many bloggers had a customer facing role (e.g. marketing or customer support) in their company. Another large segment of bloggers are independent consultants who are looking for more visibility–trying to get better known and find a job. Often blogs are started to provide pointers to other helpful resources, share perspectives, and to learn from others who share a common interest. Some bloggers use their blog as a repository or chronicle of an issue: these can be useful for a community of interest that can leverage proven approaches or explore new ones to solve common problems or issues. Reading about approaches that others have tried is extremely valuable to the community and usually these types of blogs are not written by marketing folks but evangelists or other experts like independent consultants.

Ed: So the next question is: how to work with the bloggers in EDA and IP?  One thing I wrestle with is when does it make sense in time and money to reach out to bloggers for coverage. And how to do it effectively. Do we separate the old-line press from the bloggers? Consider them all part of one group? So we invite them all to one meeting or hold two? For sure, we don’t want to blast press releases to bloggers.

Sean: I think it definitely makes sense to reach out to bloggers who are providing a valuable service to a community you are interested in reaching. This doesn’t necessarily mean the blogs with the highest traffic, especially when you have a niche product; it’s blogs that are read by your prospects. One effective way to reach out to bloggers is to leave well written, informative, and germane comments on their blog. You can include a one or two line signature that links back to your website if people are interested in more information. I agree with you: one of the least effective ways to reach bloggers is to send them press releases.

Ed: So how do these independent bloggers monetize their blogs? What are the incentives and potential conflicts?

Sean: I think most bloggers are building social capital and don’t really have a plan to monetize their blog directly. I do think independent bloggers are often promoting their expertise and want to build influence within their network. Employers or current clients are going to bias the blogger at least as far as self-censorship.

Ed: Clearly, the bloggers will play – if they’re not already – an increasingly influential role. But are they a separate and new community onto themselves? After all, they’ve got their own room at DAC this year. So either DAC isn’t giving them press badges or they want to be seen as a separate and distinct community.

Sean: Brian Bailey has an interesting perspective on what the bloggers may become. He wrote an interesting blog post at the end of March on “Unintended Consequences.

“Will the independent EDA consultants, like myself, be the only source of impartial information about what the EDA companies are up to, and if the claims they make are true? But even consultants rely on the trade press to bring things to our attention. It could also mean a lot more work now for us to keep up with the tool introductions and developments.”

By the way, our first conversation got picked up on Twitter. Take a look at what Paul Lindemann wrote on http://twitter.com/plindemann/statuses/2230457756 — “Promising Ed Lee blog on #pr/#eda – post with @skmurphy on “Bloggers in EDA

Ed: No, I didn’t see that tweet, but thanks for pointing it out. Yeah, that’s my concern. There needs to be basic reporting being done by someone. From that basic reporting, the opinion makers can analyze, comment, criticize, vent. Who’s going to do that basic reporting now? The bloggers? Of course, this dilemma isn’t limited to us. The New York Times is the only newspaper that staffs a full bureau in Iraq. If or when it shuts down, then how do we or any commentators – say on the Huffington Post – get our basic news?

Sean: It may be a matter of function. I agree with you that the basic reporting function may not be the role of the bloggers. However, I agree with Brian Bailey that many good blogs are written by independent consultants. Many of these bloggers blog to promote their expertise. So bloggers don’t blog to provide news, so to speak. For bloggers, their blog content is a way for them to demonstrate their expertise and draw visitors to their site. Just looking at the website traffic for one client, over 30% of the visitors entered on the main blog page, and then more than 80% of blog visitors clicked deeper into the blog or the website pages.

Ed: All well and good, but the question remains: who’s going to report the news, give us context and insight? The vendors can easily distribute all manner of announcements. Will the bloggers pick up the role that Richard Goering used to play at EE Times, and fitfully, at SCDSource? I suspect not. We seem to agree that bloggers are basically columnists, opinion makers for their specific audiences. So they do demonstrate their expertise…but what’s their role in molding industry wide pubic opinion…beyond their specific target audiences?

Sean: So your question may be, are we heading into an era where bloggers will have an increasing role in molding industry opinion? I think Karen Bartleson’s “Standards Game” blog on EDA standards has changed perception of Accellera, and standards efforts in general, as a vital part of our ability to make progress. With her “Ten Commandments of Standards” series I think she has offered some excellent suggestions for how to take part effectively in standards efforts–and how to interpret, by comparison, other developments in the standards arena.

So that’s an anecdote, one data point, I am not sure what it looks like in another two to four years. In the last year we’ve transitioned from about 60 bloggers writing on EDA-related topics to what looks like perhaps 200. A year ago I thought we would get to 500 in three years (2011). Now that may be there next year if this trend continues.

Ed: But of those 200, perhaps a dozen or so are frequent.

Sean: To be honest we are still crunching the numbers. Out of approximately 100 that we have analyzed in some detail, we found at least 50 that posted on average once every two weeks between March and May of this year, and of those 27 who posted once a week on average, and of those about a dozen who posted at least twice a week on average. The final counts may perhaps double in each category. There are about a half dozen “press release aggregation blogs” that merely re-post EDA press releases as blog post, I didn’t include those in my frequency statistics.

Ed: How do we quantify the bloggers’ audience and influence?

Sean: That’s a hard question to answer, the size of audience and influence of each blogger. Most have traffic levels that are in the noise level for tools/websites designed to track mainstream consumer websites.

Ed: Exactly! Example, I was shocked when you said some bloggers got only three comments a month. I simply did not believe you! Until I looked myself. So, any blogger who got three comments a month…Would I be able to sell as an influential opinion maker to client? It’s tough enough to sell the bloggers conceptually right now.

Sean: One calculation that would be useful for your clients would be the posting frequency and amount of original material. Quality of writing is certainly important, as well as expertise. Another model you see in other industries that I don’t yet see in EDA are “link logs” where someone takes the time to find relevant material on other blogs or cites and point it out. Instapundit is certainly one popular example, where probably 75-90% of his content are links and quotes from other blogs but from a very large spectrum of blogs.

Ed: Well, re: frequency, I do see these folks as more or less 1) weekly or more (Bartleson, Goering, McLellan); twice monthly (a lot of them); monthly (Aycinena and several others) and some who haven’t blogged since January.

Sean: But without a “publishing schedule” it’s still useful to assign a frequency.

Ed: I agree re: frequency…but how do we determine eyeballs that see their blogs? I was just saying that that is how I categorize seriousness of blogging intent, since I don’t see statistics on eyeballs. Bartleson is obviously serious. The twice per month folks are also as are the once monthly folks. After that, it gets tough to justify spending client cycles on cultivating them. Having said that, I think its important, maybe imperative that we do so.

Sean: This is a good question. I think it’s complex but doable. The complexity comes from a calculation of incentives. Bloggers don’t have a “news hole” to file in the way that print publication does. Also, I think in the same way that an EDA firm uses application engineers (or technical marketing folks) to support and interact with customers it may make sense to encourage many of them to also start blogging to interact with other “independent” bloggers. That seems to be what Cadence and Mentor have done in the last six months or so, there are dozens of new bloggers at each of those firms posting in their public forums. I also wouldn’t underestimate the impact of open forums like the Verification Guild, where a number of serious technical issues get raised and addressed.

Ed: What’s your take on EDA and IP vendors’ acceptance of bloggers? I think vendors are starting to take note, but there’s still a need to justify the cultivation.

Sean: What’s to justify? Or what’s the alternative?

Ed: I have to justify the influence of each blogger to the client. A blogger with three comments in a month wouldn’t fly because the client would say, not worth my time. Shortsighted? yes. Even the good editors or reporters at second or third tier publications…we tell clients, “ya never know when he or she ends up at Business Week.” Witness Sarah Lacy.

Sean: I think some bloggers with few monthly comments may become more popular…those who have a very serious approach. Comments are not always a proxy for influence. But I do think we will see certain bloggers essentially initiate ad hoc forums with their posts. One of the things that have been holding that back I think has been that the high traffic blogs associated with publications, or what I am assuming are high traffic blogs, have poor comment entry and management systems. McClellan is posting several times a week–I counted more than 60 posts in March, April, and May which works out to daily if you let him take Saturdays and Sundays off–and he normally gets a few comments on many of his entries. But the comment system EDN has is wretched and not designed to encourage participation but to filter spam out. If they would supply his readers with the right infrastructure I think there would be a much larger community there already.

Ed: I know that. But my problem is how to prove that.

Sean: Fair enough. I think it may be something that’s hard to get good numbers on. One of the reasons that you have been able to get good numbers that were independently verified for the publications was that it was at the root of their business model: they used those same numbers to sell advertising. I don’t think we will see that model work except for a handful of bloggers.

Ed: So how do the bloggers get a higher profile among the corporate executives, the ones who authorize marketing cultivation efforts?

Sean: Presence on industry forums and portals such as DAC’s. I can’t figure out how DAC picked the bloggers they highlight on their home page. I think the publications still have huge traffic compared to independent bloggers.

Ed: So how do we get numbers, any numbers? Karen Bartleson’s possibly got the highest number of eyeballs based on her topic and longevity, don’t you think?

Sean: I don’t know what Karen Bartleson’s numbers are. My sense is that Paul McClellan, at least on the “business of EDA” side, may be getting a lot of interest just because he is posting frequently. But when I asked him at the EDP workshop in April in Monterey, he said that EDN doesn’t share any statistics with him. That would be an interesting session, comparing google analytics results.

Ed: So somehow, we need numbers of some sort to figure out influence, and then to justify blogger coverage, right?

Sean: It’s closer to columnist coverage than journalist coverage. I think it’s more important to assess the particular “micro-audience” that a blogger delivers. It could be that group or multi-author blogs will emerge for EDA in the same that they have in other industries. A brand gets established that’s larger than the individual author, in the same way that it matters more that an article appears in EDN than who in particular authors it.

Ed: Agree, more like columnists than reporters. Clients are just now acknowledging that they need to pay attention to bloggers. But they have no problem pitching to a Ron Wilson or a Richard Goering (in his reporter days). Funny thing…the output is often the same. In truth, isn’t the act of blogging just another distribution mechanism? Reporters and editors, analysts and researchers all “blog” now.

Sean: I do think there might be ways to make for more “blogger friendly” interviews/engagements. Maybe it’s somewhat intimidating to vendors because bloggers are part of the unknown right now. However, at some level it’s useful just to point to the independent opinion/evaluation that these blogger bring to the table.

Ed: Still, there’s some legitimacy to figuring out the dynamics of the old-line journalists and the, for lack of a better term, the new line bloggers. It’s like the VHF TV channels..they’ve lost huge numbers. They’re still bigger but the UHF channels have just eaten away at those numbers by the sheer number of new channels out there.

Sean: VHF vs. UHF is a very good analogy.

Ed: So in a way, we have more new choices on UHF but we still watch VHF channels.

Notes

  • Ed and I plan to continue this dialog after DAC and include some assessments of what we saw and what we think learned.
  • It was energizing to compose a blog as a conversation and I am interested in doing this with other folks, please let me know if you would like to take part in a conversational blog post.
  • After we did this I ran across the “Absolute Power” blog that Cary Chin and Darin Hauer also write as a conversation.
  • Richard Fernandez wrote in “Left Brain, Right Brain
    “The major drivers of the democratization of the Internet have not been content providing sites like the Huffington Post, nor extensions of traditional PR activities like “accrediting” bloggers, but architecture; architecture which enables content provision. In this year of the Iranian demonstrations the Nobel Peace prize should be awarded to Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. Time magazine should consider them candidates for the Virtual Men of the Year, and put Time Magazine itself on its obituary pages.”
  • In a July 10 post entitled “Blogging” Paul McLellan wrote:
    “The biggest frustration with blogging like this is that I don’t get much feedback. All sorts of people tell me that they read EDA Graffiti when they meet me. Very few people think to email me or to leave a comment on the blog. Reed has the policy of not letting page-view data outside of the company, and since I’m not an employee I don’t get to see (maybe it’s the same for the internal people outside management, I don’t know). So I don’t know how many people read EDA Graffiti, and I don’t know what type of people read EDA Graffiti. I don’t know which entries get read the most and which get nearly ignored.”

Update July 22: There have been several blog posts about the changing media landscape.

  • Paul McClellan’s July 22 “Who are the EDA Press“  reinforces the value of press/journalists as a sense making mechanism (e.g. what’s really happening, what are the trends and the deeper significance of an event) for an industry in addition to helping its members maintain a shared situational awareness (i.e. “what’s new”)
    • “I’ve been approached by several PR agencies and marketing folk about product announcements, interviews and so on. Individual product announcements are not interesting to me, and I’m assuming you readers wouldn’t want to wade through them all anyway. There are other places for that. But product announcements in aggregate are interesting: What are the new trends? Which new areas are hot? Which new startups are interesting in those areas? What hard problems are getting cracked?
    • “Remember Bill Joy’s law: no matter where you are, the smartest people are somewhere else. You just don’t know what is going to turn out to be important, so you need to look at it all. But it is increasingly difficult to immerse yourself in the stream of raw information that might allow you to spot something. In it’s heyday, when both Richard Goering and Mike Santarini and more were there, not much happened in EDA that you’d miss if you read EEtimes each week. Now, not so much. That’s one reason that, for the time being, I think DAC remains strong. It’s the only place for that kind of serendipity.”
  • Paul’s post also pointed to a September 2007 article by Peggy Aycinena “The Future of EDA Media
  • John Blyler put out two back to back posts

I think Clay Shirky’s July 13 “It’s not An Upgrade It’s an Upheaval”  offers a useful context. He opens with

“The hard truth about the future of journalism is that nobody knows for sure what will happen; the current system is so brittle, and the alternatives are so speculative, that there’s no hope for a simple and orderly transition from State A to State B. Chaos is our lot; the best we can do is identify the various forces at work shaping various possible futures.”

The reason why I am engaged by this topic is that I believe that the fundamental challenge is an entrepreneurial one: we need new business models to support our shared awareness and sense making at both an industry and societal level. I think until you frame the problem in that context, a nostalgic discussion of what’s been lost is really just reminiscing. Shirky’s conclusions are equally pointed:

“Journalism is not a profession — no degree or certification is required to practice it, and training often comes after hiring — and it is increasingly being transformed into an activity, open to all, sometimes done well, sometimes badly, but at a volume that simply cannot be supported by a small group of full-time workers. The journalistic models that will excel in the next few years will rely on new forms of creation, some of which will be done by professionals, some by amateurs, some by crowds, and some by machines.

This will not replace the older forms journalism, but then nothing else will either; both preservation and simple replacement are off the table. The change we’re living through isn’t an upgrade, it’s a upheaval, and it will be decades before anyone can really sort out the value of what’s been lost versus what’s been gained. In the meantime, the changes in self-assembling publics and new models of subsidy will drive journalistic experimentation in ways that surprise us all.”

EDA Bloggers 2009

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, skmurphy

This is an update of my May 28, 2008 post “Bloggers Covering Design Automation” which I have subsequently updated in place approximately every two weeks for the last 13 months. The list was originally about 60 and has grown since then. At the time I started tracking blogs, neither Cadence nor Mentor had started their blogging communities. On July 22, 2008 I added the Cadence blogging community to the list and blogged about “What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011.“There have been enough posts by individual bloggers in these community that it makes sense to break them out.

If you are an EDA blogger there is also an edabloggers Yahoo Group you can sign up for if you want to be notified of events and other developments, it’s been used in the last year to arrange the Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD. There are a number of activities at DAC for bloggers, many are related to the Synopsys Conversation Central.

Some notes on how this list is organized:

  • An alphabetical list was somewhat useful at 60, it’s not very useful now and will be useless at 500, which is where I think we will be in another two years. I am open to suggestions and offers to collaborate.
  • For bloggers using their name (e.g. members of Cadence Blogging Community) I alphabetize by last name (which is at variance with their practice of alphabetizing by first name but generally accepted almost everywhere else). I have also gone back and alphabetized blogs that are a person’s name by last name as well to be consistent
  • For blogs beginning with “The” I sort by next word
  • I will update this entry in place at leas through the end of the year
  • I will leave a blog on the list for up to a year after the last post if there is good content in the archives.

I have not included about half a dozen blogs are are simply press release aggregators. Five companies have blogging communities now: Cadence, Mathworks, Mentor, Synopsys, and Verilab. I have identified bloggers who are a member of each.

  1. David Abercrombie (Mentor Community Blogger)
  2. Absolute Power (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  3. Achilles Test
  4. Adventures in ASIC Digital Design
  5. All About EDA
  6. Tom Anderson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  7. Amdahl’s Law
  8. Anablog
  9. Analog Insights (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  10. Analog Rails News
  11. Jason Andrews (Cadence Community Blogger)
  12. ASIC Digital Arithmetic
  13. ASIC-System On Chip (SoC)-VLSI Design
  14. Ran Avinun (Cadence Community Blogger)
  15. Nigel Bleasdale (Cadence Community Blogger)
  16. Thomas Bollaert (Mentor Community Blogger)
  17. Robin Bornoff (Mentor Community Blogger)
  18. Dave Brady (Mentor Community Blogger)
  19. Matthew Bromley (Cadence Community Blogger)
  20. Steven Brown (Cadence Community Blogger)
  21. Bugs Are Easy
  22. Kiran Bulusu’s Blog
  23. CAD and VLSI
  24. Steven Carlson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  25. Michael Carrell (Cadence Community Blogger)
  26. Manoj Chacko (Cadence Community Blogger)
  27. Kenneth Chang (Cadence Community Blogger)
  28. Chip101
  29. Chips and BS
  30. Chipworks Blog
  31. Karen Chow (Mentor Community Blogger)
  32. Nora Chu (Cadence Community Blogger)
  33. Christopher Clee (Cadence Community Blogger)
  34. Coaching Excellence in IC Design Teams
  35. Cool Verification (Verilab Community Blog)
  36. Kelly Cordell-Morris (Mentor Community Blogger)
  37. Thomas Costas (Cadence Community Blogger)
  38. Oliver Coudert’s Blog
  39. CriticalBlue’s Common Thread
  40. CynCity (Forte Design)
  41. DAC Fan Club
  42. Abhishek Datta (Cadence Community Blogger)
  43. Joe Davis (Mentor Community Blogger)
  44. Amit Dua (Cadence Community Blogger)
  45. Denali Memory Report
  46. Denali News
  47. Rahul Deokar (Cadence Community Blogger)
  48. David Desharnais (Cadence Community Blogger)
  49. Device Native
  50. DFT Digest
  51. Digital Electronics Blog
  52. Digital IC Design
  53. Dominion of Design
  54. Doug’s MATLAB Video Tutorials (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  55. DVClub Verification Blog
  56. Robert Dwyer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  57. EDA Blog
  58. EDA Confidential 2.0
  59. EDA DesignLine
  60. EDA Geek
  61. EDA Graffiti (see also Green Folder)
  62. EDA Tools on Fedora
  63. EDA Thoughts
  64. EDA Weekly
  65. Ed Sperling
  66. Electronic System Virtualization
  67. Eric Bogatin
  68. Jack Erickson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  69. ESL Edge
  70. The Eyes Have It (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  71. Fahrvergnügen (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  72. Simon Favre (Mentor Community Blogger)
  73. Keith Felton (Cadence Community Blogger)
  74. John Ferguson (Mentor Community Blogger)
  75. Five Computers (Verilab Community Blog)
  76. FPGA and DSP from Scratch
  77. FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal
  78. FPGA Blog
  79. FPGA Central
  80. FPGA Gurus
  81. FPGA Simulation
  82. FPGA World (in particular forums)
  83. George Frazier (Cadence Community Blogger)
  84. Jeffrey Flieder (Cadence Community Blogger)
  85. Future of Design (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  86. Gabe on EDA
  87. Dan Gardner (Mentor Community Blogger)
  88. Gary Smith EDA
  89. Ed Goldman (Mentor Community Blogger)
  90. Brad Griffin (Cadence Community Blogger)
  91. Gerald “Jerry” Grzenia Cadence Community Blogger)
  92. Hany El Hak (Cadence Community Blogger)
  93. Diego Hammerschlag (Cadence Community Blogger)
  94. Neil Hand (Cadence Community Blogger)
  95. Harnessing the Electron
  96. harry… the ASIC guy
  97. Bob Hilker (Cadence Community Blogger)
  98. Matthew Hogan (Mentor Community Blogger)
  99. Happy Holden (Mentor Community Blogger)
  100. Chi-Ping Hsu (Cadence Community Blogger)
  101. Joseph Hupcey III (Cadence Community Blogger)
  102. Industry Insights (Richard Goering / Cadence Community Blogger)
  103. IC Design and Verification Journal
  104. IDesignSpec
  105. Inside Protocol Verification
  106. IntelligentDV
  107. John Isaac (Mentor Community Blogger)
  108. Hiroshi Ishikawa (Cadence Community Blogger)
  109. Michael Jacobs (Cadence Community Blogger)
  110. Samir Jafferali (Cadence Community Blogger)
  111. JB’s Circuit
  112. John’s Semi-Blog
  113. Paul Johnston (Mentor Community Blogger)
  114. JTAG
  115. Sutirtha Kabir (Cadence Community Blogger)
  116. Michael Kelly (Cadence Community Blogger)
  117. Ken and Mike on the MATLAB Desktop (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  118. Neyaz Khan (Cadence Community Blogger)
  119. Koby’s Kaos
  120. Trisha Kristof (Cadence Community Blogger)
  121. Don Kurelich (Mentor Community Blogger)
  122. Leibson’s Law
  123. Bambuda Leung (Cadence Community Blogger)
  124. Steven Lewis (Cadence Community Blogger)
  125. Listening Post (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  126. Loren on the Art of MATLAB (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  127. Wilbur Luo (Cadence Community Blogger)
  128. Magic Blue Smoke (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  129. Edward Malloy (Cadence Community Blogger)
  130. Mannerisms
  131. Boris Marovic (Mentor Community Blogger)
  132. Jim Martens (Mentor Community Blogger)
  133. Peter McCrorie (Cadence Community Blogger)
  134. John McGeHee’s Blog
  135. Michael McNamara (Cadence Community Blogger)
  136. Soheil Modirzadeh (Cadence Community Blogger)
  137. Thomas Moore (Cadence Community Blogger)
  138. Nadav’s Tech Adventures (see also C-to-Verilog )
  139. Arvind Narayanan (Mentor Community Blogger)
  140. Daniel Nenni’s Blog
  141. David Neilson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  142. NextGenLog
  143. Ninja ASIC Verification
  144. Numetrics Insights
  145. Oasys Blog
  146. Oh, One More Thing (Verilab Community Blog)
  147. On Cores
  148. On Verification: a Software to Silicon Verification Blog (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  149. Open Electrons
  150. Richard Owen (Cadence Community Blogger)
  151. Pallab’s Place
  152. John Parry (Mentor Community Blogger)
  153. Will Partain Work Blog (Verilab Community Blog)
  154. Bassilios Petrakis (Cadence Community Blogger)
  155. Charles Pfeil (Mentor Community Blogger)
  156. Brad Pierce’s Blog (EDA Category)
  157. John Pierce (Cadence Community Blogger)
  158. PLD DesignLine
  159. Practical Chip design
  160. Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog
  161. Power to the Masses
  162. Matthew Rardon (Cadence Community Blogger)
  163. Reconfigurable Computing
  164. Reconfigurable, Reconshmigurable (see also Impulse Accelerated Technology)
  165. RocketBlog
  166. John “Mickey” Rodriguez (Cadence Community Blogger)
  167. Sharon Rosenberg (Cadence Community Blogger)
  168. Susan Runowicz-Smith (Cadence Community Blogger)
  169. The Sandbox
  170. Michael Sanie
  171. Sanjay Srivastava’s Conversation on Innovation
  172. Robin Sarma (Cadence Community Blogger)
  173. Nazita Saye (Mentor Community Blogger)
  174. Scalable Atomicity
  175. SCDSource
  176. Screaming Circuits
  177. Seth on Simulink (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  178. Arthur Schaldenbrand (Cadence Community Blogger)
  179. Hemant Shah (Cadence Community Blogger)
  180. Adam Sherer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  181. Shrinking Violence
  182. Sigasi’s Blog
  183. Signal Integrity Tips
  184. SKMurphy
  185. The Solar Cell Corner (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  186. Sonics Blog
  187. Specman Verification
  188. Deana Spencer (Cadence Community Blogger)
  189. Sramana Mitra on Strategy
  190. Standards Game (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  191. State of EDA
  192. State of the Media
  193. Michael Stellfox (Cadence Community Blogger)
  194. Steve on Image Processing (Mathworks Community Blogger)
  195. Kari Summers (Cadence Community Blogger)
  196. Esteban Svoboda (Cadence Community Blogger)
  197. System Verification Blog
  198. Taken for Granted
  199. Wei Tan (Cadence Community Blogger)
  200. The Tao of ASICs
  201. Techdoer Times
  202. Team ESL (Cadence Community Blog)
  203. Team FED (Cadence Community Blog)
  204. Team genIES (Cadence Community Blog)
  205. Team Specman (Cadence Community Blog)
  206. Tensilica News
  207. Testbench.in
  208. Helene Thibieroz (Cadence Community Blogger)
  209. Think Verification
  210. Craig Thompson (Cadence Community Blogger)
  211. Thursday’s Child
  212. To USB or Not to USB (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  213. Tommy’s Veriblog (Verilab Community Blogger)
  214. Travelling on the Silicon Road
  215. Trusster
  216. Turning Into Jim
  217. Verification Blog
  218. Verification Guild
  219. Verification is No Simulation
  220. Verification Martial Arts (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  221. Verification Vertigo
  222. Verilab Blog
  223. View From the Top (Synopsys Blogging Community)
  224. VC Corner
  225. VLSI Home Page
  226. Colin Walls (Mentor Community Blogger)
  227. Jason Ware (Cadence Community Blogger)
  228. What’s PR Got To Do With It?
  229. Stacy Whiteman (Cadence Community Blogger)
  230. Alan Whittaker (Cadence Community Blogger)
  231. David Wiens (Mentor Community Blogger)
  232. John Wilkosz (Cadence Community Blogger)
  233. Tawna Wilsey (Cadence Community Blogger)
  234. John Wilson (Mentor Community Blogger)
  235. The Wiretap
  236. Wizards of Electromagnetism
  237. The World is Analog
  238. The Xuropean

If I have overlooked your blog or an EDA related blog that you like, please let me know. I can appreciate that this format is no longer particularly useful (not that it was really useful for only 60 blogs). I am working on some other ways to organize this information but I am also open to suggestions and offers of collaboration.

Founders vs. Employees

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, skmurphy

Abishek Desai wrote an interesting post in April of 2008 “What Happens With People Having No Aim?” that I commented on (it appears that he has changed blogging systems and lost comments from his older posts) and I came across my answer and thought it would make a nice short blog post.

First Mr. Desai’s question

Right now my company has around 50 people on roll. We are doing development in various technologies like .NET, PHP, Facebook Applications etc. We do really interesting development which is good for company and developers.

Now for some reason we thought that our company needs some more structured technical growth and for that we need to scrap one of the holidays in month people enjoy. Right now first and third saturday are holiday here. For training we have to scrap first saturday so that we can get full day for training and at the end we can have monthly event (We do fun event once a month). The moment we announced this there was outburst in the company about scraping one holiday.

People were obviously not happy with the decision which was expected but there was something which was more disappointing. I found that most of them don’t know what they want to do in life. They think that life will just go on like this coding, developing, testing etc. Nobody wanted to be the best in whatever they are doing. They wanted to enjoy the holiday they get just like any other unambitious person.

Please note that I am not criticizing my own team. We have a very strong and dedicated team who are good in whatever they are doing and I really love my team but there is always room for improvement i.e. to become the best. Lack of this quality makes any person so lifeless, at least to me.

This kept me wondering what happens to people having no aim in life ? do they really do something important in life ? or they are just like people wandering around in zombie movies ? I love my team probably that is why I am more disappointed.

Please correct me if I am wrong somewhere, I am sure I am wrong somewhere but I am not able to find it. Regards, Abhishek

I thought this nicely captured the tension between founders/owners whose life is the company and employees, who although they  be quite dedicated, have competing priorities. My answer:

No one wishes they spent more time at the office on their deathbed.

There are many kinds of excellence and accomplishment, not all of them are work related. With 50 people in the firm surely not everyone has the same stake in success as you do. Also, there are limits to how much you can improve in a given period of time. Rest, relaxation, meditation, play, time with friends and family, volunteering, arts and crafts, reading, and many other activities are required to make a well rounded person.

Your employees may have aims that are very different than yours. It seems  a little aggressive to take more of their free time, especially without offering them an option to not attend or paying them more.

If they are not requesting the training I would be suspicious of imposing mandatory Saturday training sessions. If I were in your shoes I would ask folks individually and in small groups what’s holding the firm back, it could be many things that you could fix unrelated to having them work more hours.

See also

Opportunities for Serious Conversation at DAC 2009

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Events, skmurphy

One of the great opportunities that a conference affords is face to face conversation among knowledgeable people. It’s not that technologies for conversation and collaboration at a distance are not effective, but they are more effective if they build on face to face conversations. Conferences allow for both serendipity and structure in serious conversations. At this year’s Design Automation Conference I hope to take part in both.

Here are some of the more structured conversations I am helping to facilitate (drawing on my Irish ancestors’ ability to construct a dry stone fence out of irregular rocks they removed from the soil to be able to farm it).

The Conversation Central effort is the brainchild of Karen Bartleson (see her post on “…goodies at DAC” for more detail). Here is what I proposed to her for my three sessions:

“Global Teams and Multi-Firm Collaboration: Assessing the impact of new business models, new communication and computing paradigms on design and design automation.”

Intended audience: engineering managers and executives, system architects, design methodologists, design automation professionals, and other interested parties. Goal is to discuss changes that have already occurred and assess current trends.

I hope we explore real time information sharing of design status and configuration, shared configuration management, and what this means for business models and design methodology. One of the more interesting developments that’s not really fully appreciated are the real time multi-user PCB design environments that allow many engineers around the world to collaborate on the same design: it’s multi-processing/multi-threading of engineering activity as much as database updates and algorithms. Similar developments are taking place in simulation, verification, FPGA design, library development and verification, etc…

If you are interested in taking part please contact me, I am looking for folks willing to share stories of real practices and real issues. The format is a “kitchen table” discussion that I will facilitate to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate. I plan to blog about the sessions but any attendees are welcome to blog as well. I am still finalizing the details but it looks like we will have some interesting stories from:

  • ClioSoft and the practical use of revision control in multi-site designs.
  • Magma: a view from the top on running a multi-site business supporting global design teams.
  • A Synopsys Lynx user on what flow management has done for multi-site collaboration

The Birds of a Feather session should also prove quite interesting. Here is the description I submitted as a part of the application:

Many design teams use project health as a way to manage trade-offs between development time, cost, and quality. Traditional methods like measure test coverage or measuring design stability are falling short because of fundamental changes that are occurring in electronic design. This session will discuss some of the top trends in design and the impact they have on tracking project health. It will include lightning talks by practitioners and a roundtable discussion by all attendees.

We will have 4-6 “Lightning Talks” that are three slides / three minutes that talk about real issues in managing the total health of a design project. Again still finalizing the details but so far it looks like we will hear from

  • Runtime Design on using information from flow management to assess project health
  • Achilles Test on using information from log files and other data sources to develop a holistic view of project health
  • Mentor Xtreme user on what it means when teams are editing around the clock and you can login anytime to see where the PCB project stands.

Please note that all of these sessions are evolving and while the focus will not change, there may be new or different issues presented at each.

These sessions are open to anyone with a DAC badge. Entrance to Synopsys Conversation Central will be through a separate entrance from their primary booth entrance and will be on a a first come first serve basis. The capacity of the room is ten. The Birds of a Feather room can hold several dozen but please let me know if you plan to attend, or would like to give a lightning talk. We had a great Birds of a Feather on blogging at ICCAD and another one last DAC and I believe that this session highlight another set of emerging issues in an informative way.

Priorities Trump Productivity

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Excerpts from the preface to Brian Tracy‘s “Eat that Frog!” (hat tip to Brad Pierce’s “You Are Never Going to Get Caught Up!

There is never enough time to do everything you have to do.

But the fact is that you are never going to get caught up.

Forget about solving your time management problems by becoming more productive. No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you, no matter how much it is.

You can get control of your time and your life only by changing the way you think, work, and deal with the never-ending river of responsibilities that flows over you each day. You can get control of your tasks and activities only to the degree that you stop doing some things and start spending more time on the few activities that can really make a difference in your life.

This has been a tough one for me to internalize but very true. I have seen it presented as “project driven” where you are working to a list of priorities and ‘interrupt driven” where you are driven by the tyranny of the urgent. I find that about one week in three I “lose the list” and have to consciously re-focus on priorities. Here are some circuit breakers I use to help me manage my priorities:

    • If I am not working to a list at least for the week I know I am going to start to lose effectiveness. If I haven’t crossed something off by the end of the day I make a “list for tomorrow” of two to three key items.
    • Parkinson warned that “Work expands to fill the time available.” I have to crowd out “busy work” by having non-work activities I am looking forward to.
    • I try and read a few good books a month. At least for me a good novel lifts me out of my daily grind long enough to give me a better sense of perspective when I return. Three good books I read in the last month:
      • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (re-read it so I could discuss it with my son for his summer reading assignment).
      • “Better” by Atul Gawande
      • “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon
    • Take a vacation from television (or at least television commercials). Best decision I made in 2008 was to not replace my television when it broke. Weeks turned to months and it has given me a lot more time.
    • Schedule meetings or events to move strategic initiatives forward. We have an internal off-site scheduled for mid-September to review a new product offering that we have been talking about for three years. At least for me,  the need to prepare and take part in a structured review of a project will often create a plan that enables forward progress.

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