The FDA Final Rule for Food Traceability

On November 15, 2022, the FDA dropped the Final Rule on Food Traceability for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). I’ll be writing a few articles on this over the coming days / weeks, but I just wanted to drop a quick note on what my takeaway is on this important piece of regulation.

My first takeaway is that the rule comes with too many exemptions. They must really not want this to happen, because too many businesses are too small, or they don’t handle the right foods, or they don’t perform at the right stage in processing.

The foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL) are the most common culprits for foodbourne illness, but if you want to start at some of the more egregious outbreaks, you would find that food traceability with these exemptions wouldn’t cover them.

Here is a link to the Food Traceability List.

Here is a link to the Final Rule.

Here is a link to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

There is much to say about how Notionovus is playing in the food modernization and food safety arenas, and I hope to be able to demonstrate the progress we are making in the near future.

A Big Thank You to My OLLI Students!

Notionovus Blockchain Class

For those of you visiting this site to view the links I mentioned in my last lecture, here they are:

First of all, if the graphic wasn’t hokey and looked professionally done, I got it from Unsplash or Wikimedia Commons. I tried to credit the origin of each picture from either of these fine sites. The opening splash screen and a few of the early graphics were created in Adobe Spark, so no attribution supplied or needed.

If, on the other hand, the graphic was just a bunch of crudely drawn blocks and arrows and the text was in Comic Sans, then I take full responsibility for creating those messes.

For much of the material and narrative in the class I can’t really site every book or website I read. I can recommend a book that I finished recently, that I really liked:

Will my unicorn play in Peoria?

unicornI qualify for a ton of labels: solopreneur, techpreneur, seniorpreneur, etc. There is one thing I know I will never be. I don’t think anyone will ever accuse me of being a unicorn whisperer. In the tech world, if you happen to have one of those really big ideas, people will sometimes refer to it as a unicorn. That just means its the one-in-a-million idea that breaks through the noise and becomes the business that solves a problem the world didn’t know it had. In the process, its value goes on to exceed $1 billion dollars.

I don’t have a unicorn. I don’t even have a unicorn foal. But I do have an idea that comes from a unique (as far as I can tell) way of looking at things. If anyone is successful at implementing it, I am certain they would have a unicorn on their hands. But that’s the rub, “successful at implementing…”. I dare say that no one has ever developed a unicorn on their own.

At Notionovus, we believe in diverse teams. It’s one of our core values. So, at this stage in my venture, I must build a team. I am looking for people who will understand the huge potential in my business model and recognize my ability to see the idea through. One problem; when I was very young, my Daddy Warbucks was hit by a train while simultaneously being struck by lightning. As a result, I had to be raised by my biological parents. The upside was a life I am happy to have lived. The downside is bootstrapping.

Bootstrapping is the art of reusing paper (most people would throw away because it already has printing on one side) by placing the printed side up in the printer feeder. Bootstrapping is keeping the twist ties from packaging in a corner of your desk drawer because you never know when you are going to need a cable stay and won’t be able to afford the box of fancy plastic ones sold by Office Max. Bootstrapping is what every real lean startup does, because lean wasn’t invented in Silicon Valley. It was invented in post-World War II Japan from the ashes of their devastated industry.

I’ve always wondered why “lean initiatives” cost firms so much money, when all you really need to do is take their money away and bury it someplace they can’t find it. They’ll either quit or go lean. Either way you’ve fixed their problem. But, I digress.

– Back to building my team…
The difficulty is I can only afford to pay my team members the same salary I have been paying myself since we formed our company. I am not at liberty to divulge that exact number, but I can say that if you have any bills to pay, you won’t like it. So what can I offer? Equity. Shares of what might end up being nothing.

We’ve got a few things going for us, so far. We’re smart, we’ve got grit, and the idea is sound. What I know we need now are customer / investors. And that is where Peoria comes in. If we were based out of Austin or Santa Clara or Cambridge, I’m sure I couldn’t walk from one end of a bar to another without accidentally overhearing a snippet of a conversation about middleware. Technology startups thrive in such hotbeds of investment and talent.

I love Peoria. I’ve spent most of my life here, and it has been very good to me. There is little to complain about the climate, the geography or the people of this fine metropolitan area. But I am getting strange reactions from some of the people I am interviewing for the Brave Launch program I have enrolled in. When the true purpose of my firm is revealed to my interviewees, they are often shocked by the scope and the gravity. On several occasions I am told that my idea is “too big for Peoria”.

I hope they’re wrong. I would like nothing more than to have a unicorn spring up in central Illinois. I would love for my idea to transform the lives of hundreds of tech workers in the area. It would be fantastic if people graduating from the information technology programs offered in Peoria, Springfield, Galesburg, Bloomington / Normal, and Champaign didn’t feel like they had to move to Chicago, Minneapolis or Dallas to find work.

Someone in central Illinois needs my help. Someone is currently confronting inter-application integration problems and is staring down the barrel of a dreadful choice: pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix it or let it fester and eat away at their business’ profitability. I represent a third alternative. We have a way of fixing middleware problems for pennies on the dollar for current commercial offerings.

Our first few engagements will be rough. We are looking for Goldilocks problems, so perhaps the problem you identify that may help both of us is too simple or too complicated. Maybe it is too critical to your business or not critical enough. At any rate, Notionovus won’t find the perfect project unless we start looking for it. That search starts now.

The Secret Recipe for Middleware Success

RecipeIt seems like just a few minutes ago, I was talking about the recipe for success, right?

The most successful companies in the Application Integration and Middleware (AIM) space have done what large software consulting firms have done. They go towards the money. Consulting costs money. Middleware requires consulting. The Fortune 500 requires middleware. They have money. It’s a win-win, right?

What this strategy has led to is an industry that fights over the top 5000 companies world wide and ignores the bottom 9,995,000 companies that can’t afford to have their own IT department, let alone hire a team of integration ninjas to come in and build a custom middleware solution to connect their WooCommerce, QuickBooks and Salesforce accounts.

The really expensive bit in the current middleware market is that huge up-front fee. Because middleware deployment is commonly modeled after software consulting and application deployment, middleware consultants use a traditional software development approach. This generally leads to custom deployments and customizations. This approach is not lean.

In the book, Blue Ocean Strategy,

Update on the Verge of Launch

541921main_atlasvcloseup425xI’m in a bit of a quandary. When I left Caterpillar three and a half years ago, I had one thing in mind. Start a business that addresses a huge pain. The recipe for success, right? My huge pain was technology-based. The recipe for success, right? This pain existed in a very large industry. The recipe for success, right?

So my first order of business was solve the problem. And this is the problem. Integrating computer programs together is really expensive. Not just “Not on sale, today” expensive. Not just “Customizing your own car” expensive. But maddeningly-inefficient-beyond-belief expensive.

When a person wants to move data between programs, they “Copy” or “Cut” and then they “Paste”. This is called (derisively by many in the software industry) manual integration. Most of the time, using the clipboard goes well. If you happen to be cutting from a spreadsheet and pasting to a word processor, though there are many different ways this can be done, the results are close to what you expect.

When a person wants to move data in a different direction, say from a word processor to a spreadsheet, or from a graphics editor to a database, things don’t go as smooth as expected. This is because applications have data models. They are built around thinking of data in a specific way.

A word processor thinks about the data you type into it as a letter to someone, or maybe a book or a pamphlet. A spreadsheet thinks about data as information you want to perform a variety of analytic exercises with. A word processor then thinks that when you want to move information from another application you want to make it “visual”. You want to show other people “hey, look what I’m doing with this spreadsheet” or “look what I just drew”.

But a spreadsheet has no idea what to make of that 12 page essay with mixed fonts, styles and graphics that you just pasted into it. Analyze what? So pasting something the wrong way tends to produce unpredictable results, simply because applications don’t think the same way about data.

Now, imagine we are no longer talking about applications like e-mail, spreadsheets and drawing programs. Let’s start talking about the big applications that drive industry. Banking systems, healthcare systems, factory systems, human resource systems and engineering systems are good examples of what I mean by applications. These systems are just as driven by their data models, but the data models for enterprise-level systems are hundreds of times as complex as a pixel editor.

So people accept that integrating enterprise systems is complicated and therefore expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Once the solution has been developed to connect a human resources system with an accounting system, programmers don’t have to pay more to duplicate the solution. They can just install the same solution between the same two applications at another company.

But they don’t. Current practices in the Application Integration and Middleware (AIM) market are to start a business engagement at a new company with a three step process.

  1. Roll up your sleeves.
  2. Pretend like you’ve never seen use cases like this before.
  3. Begin customizing the tar out of everything the company wants to use middleware for.

Now, a lot of industry practitioners are going to say this is balderdash. They’ve never once rolled up their sleeves. I get that. It’s a bit of an embarrassment to hint that the AIM industry loves to customize data models. As a matter of fact, it might be a revelation to some. You see, we don’t do this consciously. We look at customer requirements and our creative juices start flowing.

No two companies behave the same way. So, their use cases will always be different. My recommendation, as a customer, has always been to help us find ways we are similar to other companies with similar use cases. Please. Pretty please, with the least expensive sweetener we can place on top. You see, it isn’t middleware that’s expensive. It’s customization. And if your middleware consultant isn’t showing you ways you can change your own business processes and data models to more accurately reflect industry standards, you can save a lot of money by switching to a consultant who will.

I left Caterpillar because I thought Caterpillar was just doing it wrong. I thought we had no clue what we were doing and we were letting bad actors from the AIM industry steer us into the most expensive way of integrating applications together. After I left, I started talking to people. I started researching integration hairballs and found out the AIM industry does this to everyone. And it’s for a very simple reason. The AIM industry has grown, from its infancy in the 1980s, into an industry just like the automotive or software or hardware industries.

But it has nothing in common with those industries. It needs a totally different business model. And that’s the recipe for success.

What Notionovus Is All About

There are times when people choose a noble goal over a profit motive. These times often follow an occasion of hardship or an epiphany related to lifestyle choices.

To be socially responsible always seems to require us to take it on the chin, to leave some money on the table. So often a social good is pitted in a life or death struggle against maintaining profitability.

I feel that socially responsible causes that fail to embrace, or at least acknowledge the need of business to financially survive score only ephemeral victories. To truly help a cause, the most significant achievement is to link its success to the success of the businesses affected.


What I’ve Been Up To…

Well, it has certainly been a long time since my last update. I’ve been busy, but I keep forgetting to tell my fan(s) about my adventures. In March, I received my M3D 3D printer but didn’t get it in time for Pi day, where I went with my wife to a Raspberry Pi Jam in Columbia, Mo. She was nice enough to snap a picture of me on 3/14/15 9:26:53 holding my Raspberry Pi Projects for the Evil Genius book. I am the new geek overlord.

BPA on Pi Day

By April I had managed to unpack and get to printing and was ready to

IT Professionals, Meet Admiral Stockdale

Admiral James Stockdale
Admiral James Stockdale

This is a repost of an article I wrote and published on LinkedIn.

We’ve all used the terms train wreck, doom, tailspin, and death march to describe runaway software projects. While those involved might feel that a world of responsibility is crushing them, I think that might be a little melodramatic. Let