The Artistic Way of Programming

12 years back, when I started my formal classes in computer science, the first thing I learnt was “data” means “information”. A few days after that, we started conventional programming, where code and data were treated separately. For example, only data can be passed as the functional arguments. It was difficult for me to digest that “code, which is also information, is not treated as data”. I strongly felt that this will increase complexity of softwares in the long run.

A system does three things – read, transform (processing data), write. In other words – the mathematics (the transform part), and the effect of that in real life (the read/write part). The data transformation is indeed a mathematical concept, and with the help of read and write we make the mathematics (the transform part) useful to the real world. Bringing the “transform” part fully inside mathematical domain has its own benefit of using mathematics without fear (possible errors) for the analysis of the system, making the system more tractable mathematically. The catch is to treat both the elements of transformations, data and functions, equally.

Initially, code used to be bigger than the data, so sending data over the wire was feasible. But with time, data becoming huge, sending code to systems over the wire becomes the need, resting the data on the systems intact. With big data, the need of the hour is to treat the code as data, so that the code can be taken as argument to another meta function on a system having huge data which expects an algorithm for transformations.

Roughly speaking, codes are algorithms, algorithms are mathematical functions, functions are in turn actually look-up tables, i.e. data. Hence with this principle, all codes or functions are data.This is exactly the cornerstone of the functional paradigm. The functional programming is programming with functions, they treat functions and data likewise. Another principle I love, to control complexity, rules should not be complex itself.

Thumb rules rewritten for the functional paradigm:

Read-write and transformations(algorithms) should be separate.
Use immutable variables. Discourage use of reassignment statements.
Discourage side-effects (input/output or changing any variable in-place), every function should ONLY return its expected result.
Use referentially transparent functions (sometimes it is called pure functions) with no side effects, i.e. if x = y, f(x) and f(y) should be same forever.
Unit testing is a must for each function.
One of the main design patterns should be followed is to use expressions instead of instructions, i.e. it should be declarative in nature. Discourage use of loops like for/while – use recursive statements as shown above to calculate sum. Tell computers what needs to be done, not how to do it – it reduces error, especially edge cases.
With the need to control the complexity of the system and the advance design, the design pattern for the functional composition can be made to follow some basic algebraic structures, which in turn becomes more robust.

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Economic Cycles, Stock Market Crashes and the Scary Scenarios

Here we are ready to inaugurate a new president in 2017 and our stock markets are at all-time highs after a huge ‘Trump Bounce’ after the election. Many that study stock market history admit that we are in a need for a pull back as the DOW is almost ready to break 20,000 pts. What does all this mean?

Well, many analysts are suggesting it is very possible we could get a market correction in mid to late 2017 and that it could be 10-20% by the time it is done, the longer this nonsense goes on, and the bigger the bubble builds then the bigger the drop, we are over bought, almost everywhere. Then all that money printed that ended up inflating emerging markets will look for safe haven, coming back here in the short term. As those go one-by-one, that money flies out, because the money is looking for the nicest looking house (for now) in a majorly bad neighborhood, look at the EU, Japan, Middle East, India, and who knows what the hell China’s real numbers are, they have one thing going for them, they own our debt – but that might not be worth much if things go on. All that money coming back to safe haven in the US will cause inflation here, but at what cost?

Cheap loans, another bubble burst and look at the Student Loan issues 35% in default (past 90-days) and cheap car loans is only producing higher repo rates which are hidden by increased sales figures. It’s all lipstick on a big pig, socialism doesn’t work and you can’t have utopia unless you build it, and that takes capitalism which we are crushing into next week for the falsehood of cronyism. But I digress.

If we don’t get a back pedal on the stock market soon, it will all come at once, and 2008 was 8-years ago remember? That wasn’t a recovery that I’d be bragging about – basically we’ve increased regulations, size of government, and cut our military – all very stupid things to do in the present period. We are digging a hole, and I assume when if it starts to fall apart the left will blame capitalism and get their people back into power – and they will just make things worse – this seems to be a repeating problem with humanity doesn’t it? That is what socialists always attempt to do, but it all collapses anyway – Venezuela, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Zimbabwe, hell, how about that Arab Spring a few years ago, still in shambles – Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, who’s next? Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia? Civil unrest, food shortages, people will demand what was promised and take down their governments to get what’s left. Beware the socialist mobs. But I keep digressing.

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Cleveland Has A Better Chance Than Chicago To Return To The World Series

The youth of the Cubs, epitomized by the selection of Kris Bryant as the National League Most Valuable Player, has many people discussing a return to the World Series next year and beyond for the team from Chicago’s North Side. In actuality, it seems that their opponents in this past Fall Classic are more likely than the Cubs to reach it again in 2017.

Several key members of the Cubs are facing free agency, most notably closer Aroldis Chapman and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Postseason pitching hero Jon Lester will return, but veteran battery mate David Ross has retired. The loss of his personal long time catcher, who was brought over from Boston to Chicago primarily at Lester’s request, may cause the left hander to be less effective in 2017.

Cleveland, on the other hand, will be adding a star player to a lineup that managed to somehow win the pennant without him. Outfielder Michael Brantley, the team’s M.V.P. in 2015, will return after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. They will also get back catcher Yan Gomes, who missed much of the season as well. The path to the playoffs promises to be easier for Cleveland next season. Two of the perennial powers that rival the Indians in the American League Central division, Detroit and Chicago, are going to be considerably weaker as they enter rebuilding mode. The Tigers are looking to trade veterans such as Julio Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in hopes of getting top prospects, and the White Sox are marketing ace left hander Chris Sale and center fielder Adam Eaton.

Also weaker are the teams the Indians breezed through in the playoffs, which saw Cleveland win seven of the eight games in the two rounds. Boston, who was swept in three games by Cleveland, will very likely miss the presence of “Big Papi” David Ortiz. The perennial All-star and likely Hall of Fame designated hitter retired after the season.

Toronto, who was dispatched by Cleveland in five games in the Championship Series, will be losing at least one of its key sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Both All-Stars are free agents this winter, and each will command contracts so large that it would be impossible for the Blue Jays to sign the duo.

On the other hand, the Cubs’ most probable playoff opponents are likely going to be stronger. Washington, which finished behind Chicago for most victories last season, is seeking to acquire Sale from the White Sox. That acquisition would strengthen an already formidable starting rotation, anchored by Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Nationals are also on target to sign Fowler away from Chicago. The Dodgers, who came just two games from wresting the pennant from the Cubs, are actively pursuing several power hitters that could push them over Chicago in the playoffs. Milwaukee outfielder and former National League M.V.P Ryan Braun continues to be linked in possible trades with Los Angeles.

While there is no doubt that the Cubs will be the favorites to win the pennant again in 2017, Cleveland might be an even better bet to repeat. After all, they won it last year without two of its best players, both of whom should be healthy in the spring.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Private Jet Detailing And Aircraft Cleaning Entrepreneurs Have Good News

The general aviation sector has been in the doldrums for quite a while. Some blame this on increased FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, much of which occurred after 9-11 to protect airports from potential terrorists, unfortunately these increased security requirements and increased regulations have stifled the general aviation (GA) sector. The economic crashes of 2000 and 2008 didn’t help, although in 2003 the economy was flying high thanks to Bush Tax Cuts and stimulus, then it hit a wall again and didn’t really do well until the run-up just before the 2008 crash.

The GA sector has only slightly recovered since then but not back to its 2003 highs. When Obama got elected he railed against Corporate Jets and Corporate Fat Cats which hurt jet sales and new aircraft sales. Remember when congress went after the Auto Makers for flying their corporate jets to Washington DC to beg for bailouts? Public sentiment against GA was at an all-time low. All of this had hurt aircraft cleaners and jet detailers – it made it tough to make money, but it looks like things are changing and the number of GA Aircraft is increasing. This new Trump Administration is pro-Aviation unlike the Obama Administration. Cutting corporate taxes will also help GA and jet sales. It looks like clear skies ahead for those in the General Aviation services business.

There was a great article in AIN – Aircraft International News – December Edition titled; “UBS Bizjet Index Sees Post-election Surge,” by Chad Trautvetter posted on December 12, 2016 which noted the following facts; The new Trump Administration in the U.S. is widely seen as a positive, with 61 percent of those surveyed expecting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election to ultimately be positive for the business jet market, while 11 percent don’t see a positive impact and 28 percent are uncertain. In fact the article went on to note that there was an increase of between 44-49% increased orders for private jets over last year. Many of those aircraft will be delivered by 2018, and the backlog will increase used aircraft sales and current new inventory. More aircraft certainly means more aircraft to clean and more new aircraft means more corporate detailing customers as well. Meanwhile, along with the fractional jet market, we see jet air-taxi services on the increase as well as Uber style aircraft ride-sharing plans smaller companies can buy into. All of this means the GA sector is ready to take off again and that’s good for business.

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