Turning Corners

Originally published at The Gimmee Blog

Image by fuzzyjay via Flickr

The Tech Guy

In the realm of 21st-century technical prowess, I’m starting to fall behind. At 50 years old my education is mostly hardware-centric. Got a problem with damned near anything electronic? I’m yer guy. There’s a few pieces of paper around here in nice little frames that say so.

But everything I know about software, I’ve picked up along the way. I designed and developed everything on the Gimmee site, so far, but anyone who works with this stuff professionally can see right away that most of it’s kludged together. Maybe if I had another year to learn php and find my way around the monstrosity that is Drupal CMS… but I didn’t have that time, and I still don’t.

My point is this: At Gimmee, I’m not the tech guy. I’m just filling in for him until he shows up for work.

Fixing Problems

The 1st core concept behind the creation of Gimmee LLC is to fix a problem with internet advertising. Our founding documents allow some lee-way to support other products and services, but Gimmee was my idea and that’s what Gimmee’s 1st release was supposed to do.

Fixing that problem requires a certain amount of timing. The technology has to be capable of fixing the problem, to begin with. There also needs to be a general recognition of the problem by the major folks involved. Since the problem impacts most of us, there has to be a great motivation for the public in general to want the problem fixed.

I think all of that started coming together in 2009. Back in January, I was sick as hell and fighting what we then thought was cancer. But I wasn’t taking the drugs yet and was working hard on the original code for the addon. Right about the time the doctors changed their diagnoses, I hit the wall with my efforts.

I could write the code, but it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. Essentially, all I had done was to create a useless button on the browser toolbar. No matter how I changed the code, it wouldn’t work. A core property of the internet prevented every attempt. I’m not used to trying something, and failing.

Graph of typical Operating System placement on...
Image via Wikipedia

Hacking The Core

Usually, my approach to a problem involves an attitude of ‘anything that can be done, can best be done by me.’ I know, it’s a bit conceited, but it’s worked for 50 years. This time, however, I wanted to know for sure that this couldn’t be done. I hired the best guy in the business to try it from scratch. I can’t tell you his name, but I can tell you that you see his work around the web every day, some of you hundreds of times a week. Like I said, he’s the best there is.

He found the same problems I’d found. And one of them is a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The final conclusion: The Gimmee Browser Addon cannot be developed right now. As it turns out, the internal structure and operation of the internet itself doesn’t allow the fine control that the addon is supposed to offer.

There are ways around this, and we’re not giving up. But hacking the core is seldom, if ever, a great idea. Progress will be slow and deliberate.


There’s a statement that pops into my view every so often, when I’m reading about startups. It’s never made any sense to me until lately. Generally, it goes something like this:

Many startups end up doing something other than what they started out to do.

To which my response has usually been something like: “How can you completely lose control of your own company at such an early stage?” It just didn’t make any sense at all. Still, I accepted it and internalized it without really understanding it.

Right about now, I’m glad that I did. Since beginning this project, contingencies for various disasters have been considered. One of the worst-case scenarios was exactly what we’re going through now: failure of the Premiere product. Something like this could have destroyed us, but we have a ‘Plan B’. We may be turning a corner, but Gimmee will sally forth.

We are canceling the release of the addon, however. Don’t forget it, but don’t look for it any time soon.

(The Gimmee Browser addon was originally conceived around 1994. Back then I didn’t have alot of experience with browser-based internet access, and I just wanted a way to tell the new web what I wanted to see. )

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