Michael C Hogan

Agile Product Development & Innovation Strategy


Vaccination is safe. About as safe as sending a child to school in the United States.

This week, the anti-vaxer movement hit home as I found myself in a conversation with someone who is against vaccines. I did some research so that I could respond to this anti-vaxer’s false claims and hyperbole. In the end, it turns out that getting a child vaccinated is no more risky to that child’s health than being sent to school in the United States. In the state of California, no one is forced to get a vaccine against his or her will, so please choose to vaccinate.

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So you want to start a website?

Step one: pick strong passwords!
Seriously, this is step one. I recommend using different passwords for your web hosting account, website, and email marketing account. If you want to cheat, use the same password for all three. I like to use the “diceware” method (instructions, Wikipedia article). Pick four or more random words. Compress them together like OneTwoThreeFour. Add a number and a punctuation mark in there somewhere. Easy to remember.

Step two: hosting and address
Now that you’ve got your passwords, you’ll need somewhere to put your website and you’ll need an address people can use to get to your website. I like Hostmonster.com for hosting. I once asked them if their basic plan could handle the attention and traffic an x-factor finalist might get and the answer was yes. If you don’t expect to get more attention than an x-factor finalist, Hostmonster is a nice place to start out. The service is $5 per month (paid annually) and includes your first web address. They have real tech support people that are quick to answer the phone. I can’t stress enough that real people answering the phone is the top feature you’re going to want from your web host, especially if you haven’t managed a website before. If you can’t find the web address you want through Hostmonster because all of the .com, .org, .net names have been claimed by other people, then get your address at Namecheap.com (recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation). Namecheap will let you pick from dozens of .something addresses and you can easily use the address you choose with your Hostmonster website.

Other hosting considerations: physical location where the website is stored, email service, limits on bandwidth (how much visitors can pull from your website each month), limits on storage (how large your site can be), and limits on number of visitors who can be at your website at the same time. GoDaddy is a well known web hosting brand, but the CEO shoots elephants for fun, so try Hostmonster.

Step three: making your website
You should almost certainly use WordPress for a basic website or blog. It’s free, almost half the web uses WordPress, and you can manage it from your iPhone. I’ve never had trouble with WordPress on Hostmonster. Getting setup there probably takes 2 hours start to finish.

To get your site looking the way you’d like, you’ll need a WordPress theme. There are many nice free themes. There are also hundreds of quality themes and that cost $50-$150. Not all themes support all WordPress features and some are hard to upgrade, so be a little careful when choosing one. Your priority should be:
1. Mobile friendly (“responsive”)
2. Looks like the vendor is going to keep it up to date for a while
3. Loads really fast
4. Feature support
5. Looks good

You’ll want to run CloudFlare on your site. It’s free and it’ll make it quicker for people who visit. If you get popular, it’ll keep your site from crashing.

You’ll want a WordPress.com account. You’ll need that to activate WordPress JetPack and to be able to edit your site from your iPhone. It’s a little confusing because your blog won’t be at WordPress.com, but you still need an account. JetPack will keep statistics on traffic. It’ll also make it simple to include YouTube videos, etc. in blog posts. Most important, it’ll publish your posts to social networks automatically. Keep post titles short and put hashtags in them if you publish to Twitter.

Here are some advanced ideas worth checking out: 5 Ways to Make Your Site Exponentially Smaller and Faster.

Step four: marketing
No one will visit your website by typing in the address. And, until you’ve got some content that Google cares about, no one will find it in Google. You’re going to need to tell people where to find you!

I can’t stress enough that if attracting visitors is a priority for your web project you’re going to need a lot of content, and it helps a lot if it is written content. Google will judge you based on the quality and value of your writing and how interesting that writing is to other people.

You’ll want a MailChimp account for emailing people. The free level of service supports up to 2000 people and 12,000 emails per month. If you don’t use MailChimp your email address can be blocked as spam. That actually happened to my mom for a while with her art stuff. MailChimp can be setup to automatically send a newsletter to people that pulls posts from WordPress, which is pretty cool.

Other than email, add your website to business cards and use WordPress Jetpack, after you’ve got a WordPress.com account, to auto-publish your website updates to social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and others.

Step five: e-commerce
My experience selling products online is limited, but I’ve done enough of it to know it takes a lot of hard work. Unless you are extremely lucky it’s going to take a long time before people will be seeking out your website to buy anything. If you still want to give it a try, I like Bigcartel.com and Shopify.com for e-commerce. If you’re selling digital downloads or if you need to support a foreign language or currency then other options might be better/necessary. Check out SmartPassiveIncome.com for more information about online sales that sounds really good but that I’ve yet to successfully put into practice.


IE/OR + programming = ?

Recently, on LinkedIn the following question was asked: “IE/OR + programming = ?” My answer: There are at least a few ways to solve this equation. In this post I take a look at three of them: UX Design, infrastructure automation, and Industrial Engineering tool design.

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Can IT be leaner?

Recently, on LinkedIn the following question was asked: “Can IT be leaner?” My answer: Absolutely! In this post I take a look at how Lean (and Agile) concepts are being applied to IT tools and processes.

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Scaling Agile Development Methods

In July I was proud to be invited to speak at Agile Conference Europe. Here is a video of the talk I gave on the key differences between Scrum and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and how the practices SAFe advocates address many of the challenges inherent in scaling a change effort.

I’ve included a written version of my talk below.

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Sorting out sorting

Nine sorting algorithms are explained and compared with animation in this 30-minute YouTube video that’s a year older than I am, but still seems to be current. “Sorting Out Sorting” — Baecker, Ronald M., with the assistance of David Sherman, 30 minute color sound film, Dynamic Graphics Project, University of Toronto, 1981.

Sorting-Algorithms.com is another reference that offers visual comparisons between algorithms, along with links to more detailed information about each one.

After watching these videos, I stumbled upon some sorting algorithms implemented in JavaScript available on GitHub: nzakas/computer-science-in-javascript.


Five ways Friends of Inharrime can improve their nonprofit website #SkillsForChange

Friends of Inharrime, a nonprofit supporting youth education and nutrition in Mozambique, asked the Skills for Change community for five ways to improve their website design.

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Sequoia Time: a tool for solving sequoia-scale problems

In an experiment, I posted a brief reflection on Sequoia Time on hitRECord. Here it is…

Towering nearly one-hundred feet above me, and below an additional two-hundred feet of living wood, grew a single branch larger in diameter than any tree east of the Mississippi River. Even more impressive, the branch’s bearer had seen the surrounding wood arise over a period spanning three millennia. Standing in the shadow of such a giant, I experienced the sequoia as a connective tissue, transcending the traditional boundaries of the human life span and time measured on a human scale.

I imagined time as it might appear from a sequoia’s perspective, a frame of reference I refer to as sequoia time.

Hypothesis: Many of the recurring problems faced by humanity (wars, segregation, bigotry and others) arise due to a combination of the human tendency to accept a given truth only once having experienced it firsthand and a lack of accessible recorded information about the missteps of our ancestors. To overcome these sequoia-scale issues, we must think in sequoia time.

If you have comments, please share them on Twitter — @mch82 #SequoiaTime. For more on Sequoia Time, check out my original essay on Sequoia Time from 2001. It’s a little wordy and academic, but I still think it’s worth a look.


Redirecting web addresses with .htaccess

Here is a tutorial that worked for me:

htaccess 301 redirect tutorial

And here is the key part that I missed on my first couple tries:

Scroll down past all the existing code, leave a line space, then create a new line that follows this example:

redirect 301 /old/old.htm http://www.you.com/new.htm

It’s as easy as that. Save the file, upload it back into your web and test it out by typing in the old address to the page you’ve changed. You should be instantly and seamlessly transported to the new location.

Notes: Be sure not to add “http://www” to the first part of the statement – just put the path from the top level of your site to the page.


Self-Driving Vans, Not High Speed Rail

I awoke this morning to find a number of articles praising an artist’s concept for a national high-speed rail network. This is a bad idea.

Very few rail projects make economic sense. I studied city light rail projects in graduate school and found most installed systems have failed to meet projected ridership or return on investment. Heavy rail systems made money, but much of that was from the sale of land the rail companies acquired through US homesteading programs, which are no longer available. Rail also has a way of building discrimination into our communities as only some portions of the community benefit from convenient routes and others are excluded.

Like other rail projects, high speed rail sounds exciting and futuristic, but the routes would likely be frustrating.

So, what did I recommend in graduate school and what do I recommend today?
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