A New Way of Doing Things – There is ALWAYS a better way of doing things

Kaizen – It is at the heart of Toyota’s corporation. Certainly we’ve heard Bob Brisco of Internet Brands tout it, but have we seen him actually spearhead and lead Internet Brands into doing things more effectively and efficiently? Kaizen is about finding ways of doing things faster, smarter, cutting down waste, cutting down costs, all the while maintaining, or improving quality. It has been one of the  reasons for Toyota’s rapid growth in recent years.

It works well when it is done correctly, but when it is done incorrectly, we see shortcomings, such as the Toyota recalls. However, this article is not about Toyota, it is about Internet Brands.
Let me illustrate. An engineering friend of mine sent this YouTube video to me the other week.  My question to you: How long does it take to build a 15 (fifteen) story hotel? Maybe a month? Well, take a look before you continue reading this article.

I sat there in disbelief. The Chinese built a brand new hotel exterior in two days, and completed the exterior four days later! In six days, the Chinese built a brand new, sustainable, fifteen story hotel, with minimal waste, all the while maximizing efficiency in both energy and construction. How? Through using brand new construction techniques and modular, prefabricated designed parts.

Certainly we can make all kinds of implications such as:

  • We should be including time spend fabricating those parts into the total time lapse
  • They had far more human capital available to help do the construction

Truth be told, we would be rationalizing and letting our pride interfere. What matters is the Chinese found a way to construct a brand new hotel with new methodologies that worked and it worked well.

So let me move on here, and please keep this in the back of your mind. I promise it serves a purpose. First of all, my arguments will be basically in response to Mr. Joseph Rosenblum’s Declaration.

Looking at item one, I see Mr. Rosenblum has conveniently left out his education information. Oh it’s true that it says he has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters Degree from Stanford, but let me ask you this question. What is his degree in? Psychology? History? Computer Science? Management Information Systems?

After much digging, his LinkedIn Profile provided the information we needed. Mr. Rosenblum graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Modern Thought and Literature. His Masters degree is also in Modern Thought and Literature.

Just what is Modern Thought and Literature? According to the Stanford website:

Modern Thought and Literature (MTL) is an interdisciplinary graduate program advancing the study of critical issues in the modern world. Since 1971, MTL students have helped to redefine the cutting edge of many interdisciplinary fields and to reshape the ways in which disciplinary scholarship is understood and practiced. MTL graduates are leaders in such fields as American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, and Women’s Studies, as well as disciplines such as English, Cultural Anthropology, and Comparative Literature.

The Program trains students to understand the histories and methods of disciplines and to test their assumptions. We consider how disciplines shape knowledge and, most importantly, how interdisciplinary methods reshape their objects of study. MTL students produce innovative analyses of diverse texts, forms, and practices, including those of literature, history, philosophy, anthropology, law, and science; film, visual arts, popular culture, and performance; and material culture and technology.

Each student constructs a unique and rigorous program of study suited to his or her research. Students have focused on such areas as gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; science, technology, and medicine; media and performance; legal studies; and critical and social theory. Our faculty is drawn from a range of fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as from education, law, and medicine. As serious interdisciplinary study is impossible without a firm understanding of the disciplines under consideration, each student is expected to master the methods of one discipline and to gain a firm foundation in a second field.

Translation: It’s just a design your own major type program that allows you to focus on certain areas, and in likely case for Mr. Rosenblum’s, technology. However note where Stanford’s strengths lie in this program: American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, English, Anthropology, Literature, and Woman’s Studies. These are all humanities type courses. They are not designed to be heavy in the technical area. We of course, do not know what classes or courses Mr. Rosenblum took, however we can infer that while some technical courses may have been taken, there were not the emphasis.

In contrast, let’s meet the hypothetical Mr. John Doe, who graduated from a school with Bachelors of Science in Computer Science Degree and has a Masters in Business Administration. Stack Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Doe for a technical job, and who do you feel is more qualified for technology leadership position?

Personally, at the end of the day, I feel Mr. Doe is more qualified. Why? It’s not because I’m the author of this article, but because Mr. Doe has been through a program with technology in mind and not a program which treats technology as an afterthought. The degree and education Mr. Doe has is far more comprehensive and rigorous  as there is an expectation to understand the theory, concepts and application behind technology.

Yes Mr. Rosenblum has worked twelve years in the computer industry, but that doesn’t mean he’s QUALIFIED to spearhead a project like vBulletin. A person could be working the helpdesk for twelve years and that is still working in the computer industry.

Moving forward to other points, I’m astounded at the broad level of accusations. For example, point ten.

During his two trips to California, I observed Darby involved in several conversations with Internet Brands and Jelsoft employees outside of meetings, and in their offices, discussing the vBulletin software.

The implication here made by the Internet Brands Vice-President of Technology Development is one that is simply astounds me completely. Mr. Darby talking to employees is reason to believe Mr. Darby committed theft of intellectual property? Has Mr. Rosenblum gone mad? Correct me if I’m wrong, but how do you expect anyone to work together to put together a program as complex as vBulletin without talking by verbal or written means? Does Mr. Rosenblum expect telepathy used? TALKING is necessary to communicate, facilitate and execute any given plan. TALKING is part of the job. Paranoid much, Mr. Rosenblum?

Furthermore, on item 13:

On June 19, 2009, Darby quit his job with Jelsoft. Because of Darby’s resignation and his central role with vBulletin software development and implementation, Platniff was NOT able to implement the new features as quickly as it had planned when Darby was on board.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if that does not sound like a temper tantrum, then frankly I don’t know what is. The accusation here is again astounding. Internet Brands pretty said “it is all Kier’s fault vBulletin 4 isn’t what it is and that new features aren’t done.” Mr. Rosenblum of course, is conveniently leaving out one key fact. On November 2, 2009, Bob Brisco himself noted in this blog post on vBulletin.com that the number of vBulletin developers had DOUBLED. Do I hear double speak? You loose one man, but you double entire vBulletin development staff and yet you feature implementation is still slowed completely? Talk about inefficiency! Yes I can hear the critics saying that Kier was the lead developer, however lead developer means you spearhead and coordinate the efforts as well as project the vision. It doesn’t mean you are a better coder. Plus add to the fact there is more talent in the Internet Brands HR pool, one should easily make up for the void Kier left behind with three to four people. Internet Brands hired MORE than four people, with a significant number of them leaving for other opportunities. So it’s safe to say Internet Brands HR hired talented people and that they made it elsewhere. It’s also definitely to safe to say Internet Brands HR did NOT hire incompetent people. If they did, we need to bring out the “EPIC FAIL” stickers.

Let’s look at item 15:

At least 6 of the ideas, concepts and architecture for search engine optimization that were set forth on the “road map” on Exhibit A are currently being utilized in the xenForo bulletin board software

Excuse me Mr. Rosenblum, but exactly what are those “at least six” ideas, concepts and architectural designs? Would you care to share with the class? Your subsequent claims in number 16 are equally as vague as you’ve not detailed what was taken. As far as I’m concerned, you could have claimed “quick reply” and “lightbox galleries” as part of the vBulletin roadmap, all which have since taken root in different web applications as software.

Last but not least, point 17 is one I love personally.

Based upon my involvement in the computer industry for over 13 years (authors note: he’s now touting over thirteen years when in point one, he touted over twelve years. Reputation inflation?), my knowledge of the vBulletin software since 2006, my extensive background in computer programming for 15-20 years, and my review of the source code used in xenforo software, in my opinion, it would have been impossible for a software company of xenforo’s size to develop xenforo from scratch between June 30, 2009 and July 28, 2010 as stated by Darby in paragraphs 6 and 9 in his declaration in support of his motion. It took Jelsoft and VBSI more than 10 (ten) years to develop vBulletin to this point with Darby working on the project. The fact that Darby was able to program and release a bulletin board software program that included certain more advanced features than vBulletin in a mere thirteen months is a clear indication to me that xenforo and its programmers imply copied vBulletin’s code and spent the last year adding to this product the new features that were planned for subsequent versions of vBulletin.

Can I just say wow for a moment? I’m completely in disbelief at some of the broad claims here. So let’s do some dissection.

  • Extensive Background Knowledge for 15-20 Years in Computer Programming – Call me the skeptic, but could someone please clarify his experience in programming? What is this extensive background knowledge? What does it entail? Does it entail 15 to 20 years of simply reading code? Being able to alter code to add in database information? Plus has Mr. Rosenblum ever heard of frameworks?
  • Review of source code of xenForo – Question. When did you review the source code? How did you review the source code? Note Internet Brands launched a lawsuit far way in advanced before xenForo was ever released.

Last but not least, the fact Mr. Darby was unable to program anything under thirteen months and release it to the public. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in Item 13, Mr. Rosenblum acknowledged that Kier that he was an excellent programmer and that because of his resignation, work slowed down significantly. We can safely assume here Mr. Rosenblum just admitted to the world that Kier is an excellent programmer. Yet here, Mr. Rosenblum just told the world that despite Kier being an excellent programmer, he can’t release a brand new forum application in thirteen months because Internet Brands can’t do it.

Let me tell you how they did it Mr. Rosenblum. They did it by using existing packages out there on the net that were open for EVERYONE TO USE including yourself. They chose the best stuff adopted by every community, including your own self proclaimed competitor: WordPress.

  • Framework: Maybe 60,70% of the framework is from Zend. Everything in between is filled in.
  • AJAX/UI: All utilizing JQUERY
  • Editor: Tiny MCE
  • Flash Upload: SWFUpload

What xenforo did was the same as the Chinese. Taking existing techniques, finding ways of improving upon existing packages out there and bring them together. Just like this article. The words itself are out there, but it takes someone to assemble them to make anything meaningful. They were being efficient.

Instead of wrestling with reinventing the wheel, designing brand new editors, new frameworks, they utilized what worked out there in the market and integrated the best parts into xenForo. All the while, Internet Brands was reinventing the wheel, while trying to roll the wheel when it isn’t ready.

Here’s why your items are not as sophisticated as xenForo Mr. Rosenblum: You’re wrestling with ten year old code. Rather than doing what all professional coders have said from day one and that’s to start off from a clean slate, you’ve continued to push forward with this agile methodology. Each time something new is introduced, it breaks something else. Your team is constantly spending time squashing bugs and introducing code to make sure existing functionality do not break. They are, to simply put, being completely inefficient with their time because the path you set forth does not work well given the nature of the beast. They are wrestling with something they should not have to. That clean slate was all that’s needed to give xenForo a significant strategic advantage over Internet Brands. Add new methods of doing things, and you have a killer product.

Sorry Mr. Rosenblum, but to me your logic doesn’t add up. You can say a fifteen story hotel can’t be built in a week, but rather it takes a month. The reality is that the Chinese built a brand new hotel in one week instead of a whole month; the reality is that xenForo was able to build a brand new forum in one year instead of ten.