All iHeavy Newsletter

Open Insights 58 – Ownership


by Sean Hull

After reading about the Brooklyn Brew Shop in TimeOut New York recently, I decided to take a little trip to Brooklyn to visit their store at the Brooklyn Flea. The Brew Shop folks don’t make beer or that is it’s not what they sell. What they sell are kits to make beer yourself. Their website proclaims that it’s not difficult, saves you money, doesn’t require a lot of space and tastes better than what you find in stores. A ha, I thought, now here are some enthusiasts.

When I met them at their small kiosk at the Brooklyn Flea they were very friendly. I arrived during a long winded discussion about various flavors of beer, and the intricacies of the equipment, racking canes, tubing, thermometers, sanitizers and so on. The gentlemen I spoke with had an air of intensity and excitement about what he was talking about. As though somehow he had discovered something special, something he was excited about, something he knew a lot about, and something he owned.

It occurred to me that this kind of attention to detail, this home-brew, do-it-yourself, self-taught ethos is what built the computer revolution, and continues to this day in areas like open-source software, web startups, and now mobile phone startups. It is that ownership of something, that mastery of it from top to bottom which excites and inspires these folks.

What I also noticed was how much in common these enthusiasts had with the home-brew computer folks and open-source software developers. They are both excited and passionate about what they’re doing, they pay very close attention to details because those details excite them, they have knowledge of each part and each moving piece. Both groups seem somewhat quirky, but in a good way, dedicated, and really willing to go that extra mile when it comes to getting it right. And that boils down to ownership and the result of which is quality.

Now granted there are some downsides to passionate people. They tend to have strong views and opinions, and because of their great knowledge and expertise might disparage contradicting views at times.

None-the-less these are the folks who you want to be web-mechanics, your database gurus, and your systems administrators. These are the consultants you want to trust reviewing your security, and checking your backups. Keep this in mind when reviewing resumes, certifications, degrees, and what big-name companies a candidate has worked for in the past. You might instead ask offhandedly if they build servers in their garage with their spare time, or hack their mobile phone, or tend take things apart to see how they work. These are all great indicators of that ownership of something, that mastery, that do-it-yourself enthusiasm that you find in the best and brightest.

Review: Animal Spirits

by Akerlof & Shiller

Robert Shiller is one of the lone economists who raised a red flag two years ago analyzing the housing market and observing that something was wrong. If that doesn’t get your attention, he’s also the author of the famous “Irrational Exuberance” the famous economics title that hints at his later theme.

Animal Spirits takes a radical step, not for the lay person you and me, but for an economist. He poses the idea that markets are ultimately driven by something above and beyond, or more powerful than the fundamental economic drivers, but rather emotions such as fairness, confidence, stories, at time corruption, and the illusion of money. The new area of behavioral economics has gotten a lot more attention of late, and for good reason. This book is an excellent introductory book on the topic for those of us not schooled in the “dismal science”.

View Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism on Amazon.

All Business Company Services

Success Story – Location Based Nightlife Business

The Business

A location based nightlife and entertainment company built on mobile smartphone platforms.

The Problem

The website was sluggish, and performance of the mobile applications were running slowly.


We worked closely with the CTO and development team, discussed sticking points focusing on relevant areas of application and infrastructure.  We drilled down to the different components of the application, such as the network, cloud hosting (amazon EC2), webservers, load balancers, and backend database.

We identified that the heaviest components were the complex mechanisms and code used to calculate location itself.  Since this was an integral part of the service, users’ mobile devices would use GPS, identify their locations, and search the database for relevant venues and information around them.

Solution Options

We identified two possible solutions, one short term and one long term.

  1. Apply an advanced database indexing strategy which specifically addresses location based information.  By utilizing this technology, we would eliminate and vastly simplify the code being used to search for venues and information based on location.  Being the central component to the application, this would provide a dramatic boost in performance.
  2. Build a completely new and streamlined solution to the location searching functionality, by using square location areas, instead of the more intuitive circular location area.  Since users really just want information about venues around them, they likely don’t have a specific, precise, or mathematical idea of what “around” means.  Therefore a more loose definition can lend itself much better to computer database storage, and subsequent indexing of information.


By implementing the short term plan, and performing further benchmarks, the business was able to release it’s new mobile application on the blackberry carousel store.  They were featured in the carousel store, highlighted as a new business bursting with exciting features and technology.  As a featured application, they received huge spike in volume of ten times their previous average.

With the changes put in place, they sailed through this challenging period smoothly, and with confidence that their application was performing beautifully.

Their long term rollout of the more general high speed solution has been an even greater success, ironing out remaining bottlenecks, and allowing the application to scale and grow rapidly as their mobile user and customer base  expands.