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Jamie Thingelstad's personal website

Author: Jamie Thingelstad (page 1 of 170)

I’m really enjoying watching Casey Helbling and the team at Software for Good evolve their mission and business. They just transitioned to a B Corp structure.

We’re celebrating the new year in a big way: Today, the much-anticipated Minnesota Public Benefit Corporation Act went into effect, and Software for Good was one of the first to file as a benefit corporation in the state of Minnesota.

If you are not familiar with a Benefit corporation, Wikipedia of course has a great overview.

The purpose of a benefit corporation includes creating general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. A benefit corporation’s directors and officers operate the business with the same authority as in a traditional corporation but are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on society and the environment. In a traditional corporation shareholders judge the company’s financial performance; with a B-corporation shareholders judge performance based on how a corporation’s goals benefit society and the environment. Shareholders determine whether the corporation has made a material positive impact. Transparency provisions require benefit corporations to publish annual benefit reports of their social and environmental performance using a comprehensive, credible, independent, and transparent third-party standard. In some states the corporation must also submit the reports to the Secretary of State, although the Secretary of State has no governance over the report’s content. Shareholders have a private right of action, called a benefit enforcement proceeding, to enforce the company’s mission when the business has failed to pursue or create general public benefit. Disputes about the material positive impact are decided by the courts.

Allowing a company to pursue things beyond pure profit and shareholder return, without having to be a non-profit, makes a lot of sense. It provides an opportunity for companies to be better citizens.

Creek with Snow

Pretty lucky to have this scene just across the street from our house.

Lego Firetruck

Modern Legos seem so very different than the generic shapes I remember when I was a kid. Did Legos take over the plastic model scene from my childhood? These pieces are so specific to each solution. Very proprietary, in software terms. :-)

Blokus

I got Blokus (Amazon) for Christmas in the brother-in-law swap on the Olson side (thanks Max!). It’s a really fun game. Ultimately best suited for 4 players with a graceful way to play with 2 players. 3 players works but its not a great fit. The strategy of the game is to block other opponents off as they try to lay tiles down on the board. While Go players would probably cringe at the comparison it seems loosely related.

One Smoothie, Two Straws

I finally got Tyler to try a fruit smoothie and he decided he liked it.

A couple of weeks ago I submitted an account deletion request to Facebook, logged off and erased my Facebook cookies. If you’re looking for me there, trying to tag me, or otherwise wondering why I’m not reading your Facebook posts this is why.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at Stages Theater

Today we went and saw Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the Stages Theater in Hopkins. It was a really great show, the best production we’ve seen there. I highly recommend catching it before it ends on Jan 3. The kids loved it and the costumes were great too.

A compelling read on how an objective was achieved, but not really. This part from the end of the article really struck me:

This is our last chess metaphor, then—a metaphor for how we have discarded innovation and creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products. The dreams of creating an artificial intelligence that would engage in an ancient game symbolic of human thought have been abandoned. Instead, every year we have new chess programs, and new versions of old ones, that are all based on the same basic programming concepts for picking a move by searching through millions of possibilities that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.

via The Chess Master and the Computer by Garry Kasparov at The New York Review of Books.

I’d add advertising optimization to the other items our best minds have gone into.

Nearly everything in this Minimum Vacation Policy post from Travis-CI is spot on. I’ve never been a supporter or believer of the unlimited vacation policy. Having managed teams for a long time I know that the majority of people faced with uncertain guidance like “unlimited” just will never take it. The dialogue inside someones head is something like:

Is it really unlimited? Of course not, there is some limit. What is that limit? I don’t know. Well, I better not take any time off.

Even worse I think this type of policy is a punt on the part of the leadership team to not actually specify what the operating practices for the organization are. Oftentimes this is considered “cool” but I think it’s really just shortsighted.

The idea of instituting required vacation each year however is interesting and is probably a very healthy thing. I think you can get much of the same affect by having the leaders in the organization set a good example of taking time away and disconnecting.

Wanted: Dropcam Window Mount

I’ve had a Dropcam now for several months and I really like the device. It is super simple to setup, has a very small and manageable form factor and it is one of those things that “just works”. I have it setup in our house pointing at the garage and alley with 7-day continuous video recording and motion detection. We live in South Minneapolis and garage theft is a common occurrence. The Dropcam keeps an eye 24×7 on activity around our garage and through our alley.

The biggest challenge I had was figuring out where to mount it. It has a really nice metal stand that provides a lot of options, but we have it placed in a bay window and there just wasn’t any place I really had an option to screw the mount into. I finally decided to use some double-stick tape and attach it to the window.

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Once I did this it really struck me how nice it would be if Dropcam made a proper window mount for the camera. The camera itself is relatively light and fairly thin. It is like a small hockey puck that sits in the metal stand. It could easily be set directly onto a window.

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I have to think a lot of Dropcam units end up pointing at the outside through a window. This mount I did works okay, but has some real shortcomings that a proper mount would remove.

Dropcam Window Mount

Here is what I wish I could exchange US currency with Dropcam to have.

  1. A circular mount that attaches to a window with suction cups (probably 4 or 6 suction cups). Imagine something that is shaped like a ring flash and holds the Dropcam in the middle.
  2. The mount should allow a degree of swivel to the Dropcam itself so that it can be mounted directly on the glass, but still allow pointing the Dropcam a number of degrees one way of the other.
  3. A little cable management to route the USB power cable in a way that limits the impact of a tug on the cable on the direction the camera is pointed.
  4. It should shield against ambient light in the room. This is the biggest issue with my mount. Since there is about 1″ of space between the glass and the camera, at night when the lights are turned on in the room a reflection bounces off the glass and into the camera which messes up the picture but more importantly the camera detects it as motion so you get a false positive of motion.

That is easily a $20 to $30 add-on that would be a “no brainer” for many installations.

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