CIPS CONNECTIONSINTERVIEWS by STEPHEN IBARAKI, FCIPS, I.S.P., ITCP, MVP, DF/NPA, CNP
Internationally Known Authority on the Mac and FileMaker
This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Jesse Feiler.
Jesse is the author of a number of books on Mac OS X, FileMaker, the Web-based enterprise, the Y2K problem, and home offices. His most recent book is "Sams Teach Yourself FileMaker 7 in 24 Hours".
A member of the FileMaker Solutions Alliance, he regularly consults on FileMaker and develops FileMaker solutions for small business, non-profits, art, retail point-of-sale, publishing, marketing, and other markets. He has specialized in “rehabs”—updates to existing FileMaker solutions including FileMaker 7 conversions.
He has worked as a developer and manager for companies such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (monetary policy and bank supervision), Prodigy (early Web browser), Apple (information systems), New York State Department of Health (rabies and lead poisoning), The Johnson Company (office management), and Young & Rubicam (media planning and new product development).
He is Software Director of Philmont Software Mill (www.philmontmill.com).
Q: Jesse, we appreciate you taking the time to do this interview—thank you.
A: My pleasure.
Q: What led you into this field?
A: First of all, we need to define what “this field” is. I always say that everything I do relates to understanding complexity and then organizing it into a coherent form. That applies to writing a book about technology as well as to consulting. So I consider myself an organizer and synthesizer. What led me into this field was curiosity and an innate desire to find the underlying patterns in complexity.
Q: Please share a few of your most surprising or amazing experiences?
A: To me it’s rather surprising that there are so few real surprises in the technology arena. There are major advances, but very rarely do we see something that is truly unexpected. I can remember when I was first starting out being introduced to database technology on mainframes as well as learning about how operating systems worked. It’s only taken two decades, but we now have that power on the desktop. And from here, the sky’s the limit.
Q: Do you have any humorous stories to share?
A: As a consultant, I was struck by the fact that every new project I took on started with a very serious lecture by the client to the effect that I had never worked on a project like this. The legal/media/education/whatever world was unique, I would be told. Nothing approached its idiosyncracies or complexities. It took me a while to learn just to nod and agree quietly. The fact is that every project has a set of unique issues—but while they may be unique (and they often are not), the mere fact of unique issues is not in and of itself unique. That is why so many small businesses turn to consultants to develop solutions. So we agree that no one in the history of the world has ever had the issues that they are confronting, and then take our experience to solve those issues.
Q: Tell us more about “Geek Cruises’ Mac Mania Cruises” to Alaska and the Caribbean.
A: Neil Bauman, at Geek Cruises, has developed a great idea: cruises that incorporate high-end training. The third Mac Mania cruise will be to the Caribbean this fall (www.geekcruises.com).There are the standard ports of call, but during the days at sea there will be seminars led by a variety of people. I’ll be doing two sessions on FileMaker 7, and I’m looking forward to it immensely.
Q: You were the first author of a technical book to be published in both paper and e-book format. Any comments?
A: In the late 1990s, e-books seemed a wonderful opportunity for readers and publishers. A variety of hand-held devices were developed that were very easy to use and to read. In addition, PDF (and other) files for personal computers and a variety of formats for PDAs were developed. Publishers were very leery of electronic versions—largely because of copyright issues and the possibility of pirated versions. I convinced the publisher of “Finding and Fixing Your Y2K Problem” that we should experiment with it—if ever there were a book that had a limited shelf life, that was it. I typeset the book for the paper edition, and I later did the transformation to the Rocket Ebook. It was a great experience, and it was good to see how the technology could evolve. For now, e-books seem to be on hold, but I think they’ll be back. My prediction is that e-books are going to have a major role eventually in newspapers and magazines. People often remark that they like the physical sensation of reading a good book, but I don’t know too many people who like the physical sensation of reading a newspaper—folding the pages, getting ink on your hands, and so forth. And then there’s the issue of taking all those magazines and newspapers to the recycling center! People save books, but they don’t often save newspapers and magazines. Here’s a technology that is mature and just waiting for the right circumstances to reemerge.
Q: Share your work with the Virtual Training Company (www.vtc.com) which publishes your 8-hour video training courses on FileMaker 7, Mac OS X, and AppleScript Studio.
A: VTC produces training videos that provide voice-over narration to accompany onscreen videos and demonstrations. I’ve done three for them now. I enjoy working with the people at VTC, and I’ve settled into a convenient way of creating the videos. Often, they are accompaniments to books that I’ve done. I find that organizing the information for a book helps me get a handle on it, but then when I look at the information from the standpoint of a video, I need to reorganize it. First of all, as in any visual medium, demonstrations and visuals are primary. Also, I’ve found that the examples I use for a book generally need to be modified or even replaced for the video. On the video, I can use color and more detail than I can in the illustrations for a book. All in all, it’s a great opportunity to be able to work both on the printed page and on video.
Q: Give us five tips each on FileMaker and Mac OS.
Aa: 1) With FileMaker 7, everyone is a beginner. The new database paradigm is exciting and powerful.
Ab: 1) (This applies to all operating systems.) If you’re not ready to handle a total crash of your hard disk, get ready today. Start doing regular backups using Backup, iSync, or a third-party product such as Retrospect. (You can also do manual backups by burning files to CDs or DVDs or copying them to removable media.)
Q: What five tips can you share from your most recent book, Sams Teach Yourself FileMaker 7 in 24 Hours?
A: 1) Use script parameters: you’ll reduce the number of scripts in your solution dramatically.
Q: What are the ten most compelling issues facing technology professionals today and in the future? How can they be resolved?
A: 1) Understanding users’ needs. As we have the ability to customize solutions more and more, it’s critical to approach technology from the user’s point of view.
Q: List the 10 best resources for technology and business professionals.
A: 1) The New York Times (Business and Circuits sections particularly).
Q: What future books can we expect from you?
A: There’s a very exciting book in the works. Unfortunately, until it gets just a little bit further along in the development cycle, we can’t talk about it. I can say that it will be something totally different and very exciting.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important trends to watch, and please provide some recommendations?
A: 1) Wireless, wireless, wireless.
Keyboards, Internet, LANs, WiFi. Wireless technology doesn’t just get rid of
the cables: it can let us totally redesign and recreate the places in which we
use computers as well as the shapes of computers themselves.
Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?
A: Desktop and laptop Macintosh computers on a wireless network.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: Q1: As a consultant, how do you charge?
Q2: FileMaker 7 has been a major change. When is the next one due?
Q3: If FileMaker 7 is so different, is it worth converting from earlier versions? Why not start over?
Q4: You say “often.” What sorts of problems arise? What doesn’t convert easily?
Q5: Automatic conversion is designed to make pre-FileMaker 7 solutions work. It cannot add new features. Are there any new features you should consider manually adding?
Q: Do you have any more comments to add?
A: There’s a free 30-day trial of FileMaker at filemaker.com. Try it!
Q: Jesse, thank you again for your time, and consideration in doing this interview.
A: My pleasure.