To Be or To Do? A Life Question.

This anecdote resonated with me. From a USAF Colonel, the core of this story and thinking is a timeless question: to be or to do?

Having been in the IT industry for 29 years – and have always wanted to write software. Cut code. Create things. Do real things.

For the last 20 years, my job has largely relied on being someone rather than doing. Now is the time to get into the doing. Creation. Making things.

Therefore, I am now a professional full-stack C#/JavaScript developer in the Microsoft ecosystem. The seven years of Microsoft armed me with many skills, technical contacts and experience that is too rich to throw away.

Long story short: after leaving Microsoft, taking 6 months off – the world of software development beckons.

My current CV is here.

The Desire to Create. Genetically Expressed by The Feep

Honey laded Bee hives are very heavy.

An apiarist, or beekeeper, places dozens of bee hives, usually clustered on standard shipping palettes, near nectar laden sources. In Australia, this tends to be in the bush – near flowering Eucalypts. The resulting honey has a slightly smoky taste: but is the best in the world. Around 1980, my Dad started a small cash sideline of Beekeeping to supplement the wheat/sheep farming that the Eyre Peninsula property had sustained over 4 generations.

Country South Australia is a perfect location – especially on the fringes of a large reserve. You can place your hives on private property (with permission) and let the bees traverse into the reserve gathering the nectar. I see it as reaping from the government, albeit without damage (and in the case of plants, a benefit as the bees pollinate the trees).

The trouble with bush locations is that they are remote, unpaved and not accessible by normal palette lifting devices. In warehouses, weighed down forklifts shuttle around isles of concrete. In the bush, the isles are sandy loam or clay – and the shelves are very very tall native Australian trees.

My Dad purchased an old forklift and used this around the sheds for a time lifting and moving the heavy palettes of hives. This forklift did not travel well. You could not load or unload it from a truck; and the wheelbase and design were distinctly urban. Indoors. Definitely not for bush use.

Land rovers, on the other hand, were designed for off-road use. Four wheel drive; rugged, simple & when purchased second hand – cheap. Another benefit of a Land rover is that you can put the thing into neutral, attach it to a tow bar and go anywhere. Once in the bush – they were in their element.

Land Rovers, as built by Leyland, did not come with frontend palette loading equipment.

So, in a flash of brilliance, my Dad took the lifting part of the forklift & attached it to the front of a Land Rover. The Land Rover’s engine & radiator was slightly repositioned to permit the hydraulics to fit in the engine compartment. Extra counter-balanced weights were added to the rear of the Land Rover. The petrol tank was also moved.

What was born was the Feep. (short of Forklift Jeep)

The Feep

The above is the Feep. As I recall, and this is some 30 years ago now, the first coat of paint (John Deere green) was complete by my Dad. The accenting (John Deere) yellow & the name – as you can see on the vertical forklift saying “FEEP” was painted by myself.

To my knowledge, this is the word’s only Forklift Jeep – created by my Dad to help him lift & load heavy bee hives palettes in bushland.

The genetics of innovation & creation have passed down to another generation. Maybe not as practical as a Feep, but they are there.

On this topic, more to come in coming weeks.

My Geek Origin Story

As Microsoft TechEd 2011 is fast approaching & Delic8genius has made a call-out to the Australian community “What is your Geek Origin Story

So, it’s time for me to document My Geek Origin Story

My first geek obsession started with cats. Or, as we now call them, kittehs. Quiet companions on the Autistic scale, kittehs added their warm furry friendliness to my pursuits – and were always more accommodating than humans. Therefore, I classify kittehs as a key moment in my geek origins.
Along with kittehs in this photo are the collection of Airfix and Revell models. The history of World War 2, and the making of model aeroplanes was a rather unique pursuit in the middle of rural Eyre Peninsula. But I loved it. Oh, that and LEGO.

After being introduced to an Apple ][, on loan to our school from Angle Park Computing Centre, by a prescient Maths & Science Teacher: Mr Peter Stewart,  I was hooked. From this early access, I also played with a TI programmable calculator and CP/M based Osborne 1.

My Dad, sensing my inability to become the 5th generation owner of the farm, purchased a TRS-80 Model I. Oh wow, the fun I had with that computer was amazing.

I owe Mr Peter Stewart and my Dad a great debt.

Note on Angle Park Computer Centre: many South Australian Geeks of my generation began thanks to Angle Park Computer Centre. Stilgherrian, Frank Falco, Simon Hackett and David Newell to name four. Being a country kid, we relied on loaners.

More cats: this time Bindi; with our/my first Macintosh: a 128K Macintosh. One of the first in South Australia: so first, it only came with a 110V power board!

Thanks to Tim Kleemann from Random Access (later owner of Next Byte) – this Macintosh opened the door on a career & a love of Apple.

Taken sometime in 1984 or 1985, this is me at my Macintosh. A harbinger of the next 13 years in the IT industry.
Random Access, Adelaide. 1987. This is me at my desk, working away at some Macintosh things. Thanks to Tim Kleemann, Trevor Starke & Adrian van den Bok – and many others – I worked here happily doing Mac things.

Japan & New Zealand

Church in Christchurch
Atomic Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

Having visited Christchurch, South Island New Zealand many times; and Japan at least 4 times – I can clearly state they are some of the greatest places in the world to visit. The people are friendly; the sights and experiences are extraordinary. The places are relatively safe.

One would think.

In both instances, they live on the edge of the “Pacific Rim of Fire”, the edge of the Pacific tectonic plate that rings Western America around to New Zealand: the ‘shaky isles’

It is with much inner turmoil and sadness to see both places crumble and sucumb to devestation.

This only makes me want to revisit when the time is right, to show support. That their choice to live in a shaky place is not a ghetto nor a place to be shunned.

Vale Chris Gulker

Chris gulker

In the middle of 1996, I was driving Chris Gulker and Bahman Dara – fellow Apple employees – to their hotel after just visiting the new Fairfax Chullora printing plant.

Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on very large presses, collators and distribution systems – Fairfax were having difficulty in keeping colour consistent in their advertisements. For instance, a green tinged advertisement for meat at Coles would not generate sales. The CMYK to newsprint is a tricky business.

It was not the colour problem that Chris Gulker mentioned. It was the rise of the Internet – and the impact the internet would have on the printing presses. At this time, Avril’s The Definitive Christian Slater web site was getting reasonable page visits. Using the for-work of Chris, and Dave Winer, I embraced Frontier for the Fairfax@Atlanta web site.

Chris’ comments, and followup discussion when I visited 1 Infinite Loop (as an Adobe employee in late 1998) definitely changed my outlook on the world. The internet was, and has, become king. Later Chris joined Adobe.

Late in October, Chris died after a long battle with brain cancer.

Even though my interactions with Chris were intermittent – they were impactful. This is the mark of a good life. Vale, Chris.

You are being watched.


Only the paranoid survive. Even the paranoid have enemies. And the list of paranoid quotes goes on.

Within the last 18 hours, I’ve had two experiences with twitter that are worth sharing. If only for twitter bragging rights.

Firstly, whilst ABC1’s Media Watch was shown last night – what I considered a long “advertorial” piece about tablet devices and their impending saviour status for newsprint. I tweeted:

Someone should #mediawatch#mediawatch for 15 minutes of "Apple iPad" advertisement. NOT F***KING HAPPY MARK SCOTT

Within an hour, the host of Media Watch, Jonathan Holmes, responded:

@NickHodge ah! U work for Microsoft! Wondered why u were SO upset!

Oops, sprung. Well almost. My twitter bio is clear about my employer. As I had already responded to the iPad shills, I responded similarly to Jonathan. The ABC must be above spruiking products; it is a part of their editorial policy. I will admit that my tweet is tainted with the perspective of my present employer: for sure; no-one is truly independent from their source of income. But I do expect all commercial organisations: including Microsoft, to be treated equally in terms of publicity on our ABC.

A thankyou, Jonathan, for being concerned about your show and looking at “the stream of conversation.” This shows you care.

Second incident. Only a few hours later, in response to Tony Abbott appearing on ABC TV’s Q and A: a promising TV show that has fallen below my expectations. Tony, in response to a questions on Catholisism mentioned that another leader, Kristina Keneally – the NSW Premier, being not so harangued about her faith. My tweet:

ooh, @KKeneally is at least a serious Catholic as @TonyAbbottMHR ..#opusdei !!!

Very early this morning, 5:47am Sydney time, the Premier responded:

@NickHodge hi Nick this is an old and false rumour. I’ve never been a member of opus dei. My area of interest is feminist theology. Cheers

Oops, sprung again. My response to her was a public, hopefully graceful mea culpa. I doubt that I would vote ALP in the next State election – but that fact that Ms Keneally took time out to respond to mine – and other questions on twitter shows a level of care. And she spelt rumours correctly.

So, two famous people responded to my rather cheeky, specious and snarky tweets. In both cases, apart from the individual tweets these people do not know me. Nor the somewhat satirical/childish nature of my tweets.

In the context of “social media” for organisations – can personally responding to individual tweets like mine scale? Whilst NSW has 6 million residents, only 4000 follow her on twitter. If twitter goes mainstream like Facebook, one could expect a Premier of NSW to have up to 2 million followers (30% of Australians are on Facebook) . No one, magical person can respond to them all.

Here at Microsoft in Australia, a few product groups have been experimenting with social media monitoring tools. Watching the conversations, and responding where appropriate in a formal way. This also involves an escalation process for response to queries that include PR, Customer Service and Evangelism. I know of other organisations doing similar for their products and services – Internode, for instance.

So, be careful out there. You are being watched. And if your comment is not satirical, hopefully responded to. Personally.