Andrew Canion

Thoughts on technology, business and productivity.

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Part 1: My Business Philosophy

This is the first of a three-part series focused on explaining my business philosophy.

On my home page I call out my personal business philosophy:

Andrew’s business philosophy is built upon the value of mutual respect, the skill to leverage process for continuous improvement, and the ability to ultimately achieve self-actualisation.

Mutual Respect

To make progress in this world we need teamwork and co-operation. High performing teams are built around trust and respect for one another.

Even in a competitive environment there can be mutual respect. If you are beaten by a better performer, there is value in recognising their success and then using that as motivation to improve your own performance. Winners should stay humble and respect the competition that may not have succeeded this time, but might get the better of them next time around. Staying humble helps build respect.

Managerial respect

If a manager wants to get the most out of their employees, I believe they need to demonstrate respect and understanding for those they are asking to undertake the work. Acting with respect will build trust in leadership. Without trust it is difficult to achieve anything great. Time and and focus will be lost to people questioning what ulterior motives are in play, what forces might be working against them, and how to move into a position to win. More time is spent focused on self-preservation than on achieving team success. In such an environment it is unlikely that the team will be high-performing.

A manager who respects their employees is likely to create a team with better camaraderie, better stability and a desire to deliver great outcomes.

Employee respect

Employees need to understand that their managers may be seeing the situation from a different vantage point. After climbing the organisational tree, the view from that altitude often looks very different. Much like a general might take to an elevated vantage point to survey the field, a manager may have a perspective on things that can’t be perceived at ground level.

An employee needs to appreciate and understand that the manager is likely to be balancing multiple competing pressures, and have respect for that challenge confronting their manager. This respect through understanding will help both parties.

Respectful reciprocity

A manager and an employee; co-workers and colleagues; buyers and sellers; all of these relationships rely on mutual respect to operate effectively. Each is a participant in a process chain. Mutual respect is about working to make the life of others a little easier, and a little better. This establishes a positive reciprocal relationship. If somebody is respectful towards me it is likely I will treat them with respect in return. Everybody enjoys a better experience.

I believe that demonstrating respect for colleagues is the foundation for all other elements of business. If you don’t treat others with respect, it’s unlikely you will go far. Others aren’t likely to be willing to go out of the way to provide help and support if you haven’t been respectful on the way through. Nobody gets to wherever they are alone. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Acting with respect offers a chance for others to stand on ours.

The Business of Glengarry Glen Ross

I love the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. I’ve never seen the stage play, but the movie seems to be a faithful translation and its actors are all top shelf, so I’m willing to accept it as canonical1.

Despite the dated nature of the film’s setting, much continues to ring true about the circumstances in which the protagonists find themselves. Desperate times, leading to desperate measures, with each character dealing with the same adversity in their own varied ways.

This could be considered an accurate reflection of the human condition when people are put within an organisational structure that is essentially a manufactured construct with appointed ‘leaders’ and abstracted hierarchy. Each person has their own motivation and varying degrees to which they will go to get what they want. At some point, teamwork will collapse as individuals strive to assert themselves and ‘win’, putting self before team. It becomes a case of the prisoner’s dilemma.

Besides the deep conflict that propel the movie, there are some other scenes that also neatly capture smaller elements of working life. When I’m talking to somebody on the phone to schedule a meeting, I’m sometimes ever so tempted to pause and say, “Oh Grace, would you mind checking my schedule”, just to proffer the illusion that it’s more than just me and BusyCal managing the load.

Alec Baldwin’s performance as the slick sales consultant rings true, and as much as it is a comedic moment, the enjoyment is almost excruciating given the truth behind the message. It is one that sticks with me and even does help from time to time in reality. That lesson, “A. B. C. – Always Be Closing”. Sometimes this forms part of my internal monologue when I’m talking to people!

The Glengarry Leads

Ultimately, what everybody in the movie wants is possession of the Glengarry leads. The good leads. In my work, I also want the Glengarry leads. I want introductions to the firms that are going to understand what my offer is, sign up, and work in a positive way through to conclusion.

It would be great for management to dish out some of those good leads. Don’t hold them back, share them out! This is where I think reality diverges from the plot of the movie. More often than not, I think reality is that management doesn’t actually have any Glengarry leads. They might have a nice stack of cards that look like they’re going to be great leads but if you were to examine them there may be a good chance they are more Glen Ross than Glengarry. Really, the promise of the Glengarry leads is simply a motivational method to drive sales of whatever dreck does exist. “Deal with what we’ve got, and then you will get something better”, is a fairly basic motivational ploy.

The problem is that better doesn’t necessarily exist; at least not in the hands of management. If you really want the Glengarry leads, you’d best go out and find them yourself.


  1. Despite the addition of the non-theatrical Alec Baldwin scene. 

Internet Services Worth Paying For

On the Internet there is a weird user expectation that everything should be free. Over the past couple of years I’ve been bucking this trend and have determined that spending a bit of money on what is both a hobby and an integral part of my existence in our modern, connected world is something I’m willing to throw a bit of money towards.

I don’t want to be the product; I want to be the customer. Paying money for a service to avoid my usage being a vector to sell advertising is a trade-off I am happy to make.

The other nice thing about paying for services is that it facilitates access to genuinely useful customer support. As a paying customer companies tend to care a little more about ensuring satisfaction. Having problems solved by a system administrator instead of wasting my own time futzing about can make a subscription worthwhile. I value my time, and where money can buy time, I’m in.

I thought I’d take a quick audit and look at the areas online where I am willingly paying money in favour of a free option.

Ciao Google

The biggest change was a move away from many Google services. While Google offers its GSuite as a paid option (and a pretty good one at that), I elected to go a different route.

I’ve always preferred native apps and have never loved the Gmail web interface. As a free service it’s fine but if I’m paying real money I don’t want to be spending it on something I don’t enjoy using.

If I were an Android user, the Google situation might be more compelling. On iOS, however, there always seems to be a little friction between what Google wants and what Apple is prepared to give.

So I bid adieu to Google, and took my business elsewhere.

My Paid Providers

  • Mail & Calendars: Fastmail. I evaluated Office 365, GSuite and Zoho when making the choice. I only wanted really good email and calendars; I didn’t need online storage, office applications, and other bolt-on services. I like that Fastmail is an Australian firm and that it has a focus on standards compliance.
  • Domain registration: Zuver. The little brother of VentraIP. It is a great no-frills option, and they were having a product sale when I signed up.
  • Web hosting: VentraIP. Another Australian company that offers great support service. Their servers are fast and I am provided a web hosting solution that is perfect for my needs.
  • Personal finance: YNAB. Our family is in the best financial position of all time thanks largely to YNAB. No arguments about money in our home! The cost of this service is a pittance compared with the value (both monetary and stress relief) it has delivered.
  • Password security: 1Password for Families. The best security is not even knowing your own passwords. I am totally willing to pay to ensure all my online accounts (plus credit card details, etc.) are unique, random and locked down. It’s peace of mind.
  • Entertainment: Netflix and Spotify. I’m hardly a special snowflake here, right? Broadcast media is dead to me.
  • Photo Storage: iCloud 50Gb. Apple has me over a barrel here. Despite maintaining local backups, the ubiquity of photos being available to all my devices is too good not to take up.

Bits and Bobs

I also pay for a few other subscription apps and online services but I don’t consider them to be part of my “infrastructure” so am not going to list them all here.

The Customer is the One Who Pays

Money makes the world go around. It pays employee wages, funds infrastructure acquisition and incentivises the implementation of new ideas. I’d rather be a direct customer paying my own way, and helping companies do good work than rely on the largesse of search and banner advertising to underwrite my online activity.

While I pay the bills, I call the shots. This is true in all business, and online services shouldn’t be seen any differently.

DNS Drama

The internet relies on DNS servers that do the dirty work of translating human readable domain names to something that makes sense to a device on a network, which is where you see four sequences of numbers separated by a period.

I have been updating my homepage at andrewcanion.com such that it displays the three latest blog posts I have published by leveraging the RSS feed generated by WordPress. RSS feeds provide a method for other sites and services to subscribe to the work of the site offering the feed. Each new entry is included in the RSS feed, and for my homepage, I grab the latest three entries for prominent display.

What should have worked, didn’t

I had assumed that this would all work well until I stumbled across a strange problem. My site would only occasionally load and display the article entries contained within the feed. Other times the articles would not display, instead pausing in a state of permanent loading. I tried the site across a number of devices, and a number of browsers to eliminate a problem existing at the device level. As they all exhibited the same issue I presumed the problem must be occurring at a deeper level of the network.

I examined the source code of my site and it appeared to be fine. I checked to make sure the Yahoo API that grabbed the RSS feed and translated it for use on my home page was still active, and it was.

Next I tried connecting to the site through a VPN, which makes it appear that my point of origin was somewhere other than through my own internet connection. When using a VPN the site loaded every time. This was great to discover, as it moved me another step closer to the identifying the problem.

That problem had to be related to my ISP (or in the new nomenclature of Australia’s NBN, my RSP). Somehow, that provider must have been causing a problem because when I routed around them with the VPN (on any device) my site loaded completely. Yet when I visited the site on any of my devices that didn’t connect through the VPN there was a problem.

My theory is that my RSP is aggressively caching content to attempt to reduce global bandwidth consumption and that this is preventing my RSS feed from updating correctly. If my caching theory isn’t correct, then it must be some other shenanigans they are up to at the network level, no doubt to reduce their bandwidth bill.

Applying the fix

To resolve the problem I needed to reduce my reliance on my provider’s infrastructure. That meant transitioning to a different DNS provider rather than using the default, which is the DNS server of my RSP. I chose to connect to OpenDNS. Basically this means I have traded in the internet lookup tables that came with my broadband subscription in favour of an offering from a third party whose primary business it is to provide good DNS. Through the nature of their product and their business model they are incentivised to provide excellent DNS services. It is their core business. For my RSP, however, the provision of DNS services is a necessary sideline and their key driver is not to deliver excellent routing, but rather to use it as a point of leverage to reduce their own bandwidth costs to improve the profitability of their company.

As soon as I switched to OpenDNS my site loaded perfectly in every browser, on every device. My detective work had paid off and my willingness to not accept the defaults has improved the situation.

The only potential downside I was worried about was that OpenDNS might be a little slower to resolve sites simply because the distance to their server might be further than the default DNS server. I needn’t have worried though, because if anything, I think it might be a little bit faster.

The lesson

Companies all share an incentive to maximise profitability. How they go about achieving this can vary greatly depending on their product and their business model. My internet provider only needs to provide a service that is ‘good enough’ for the majority of normal customers that want to browse the web and check Facebook. If they can deliver that to satisfaction and save some money on the back-end with caching and other network tricks, they’ll do it, even if it creates some edge-case problems.

I’m an edge-case and I wanted excellent DNS services. To get these I had to go to a company that is incentivised to provide quality DNS management. For them, only by delivering on that promise can the business generate revenue and grow its own profitability.

The character of Lester Freeman sums this up in this slightly NSFW scene from The Wire.

Follow the money.

Mindfulness Meditation

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions but at the beginning of this year I decided to try incorporating mindfulness meditation into my life. This was an idea brought about by a feeling that I was living life in a semi-permanent state of anxiety; feeling the pressure of the now and the next thing to be done that was sneaking up behind that. I figured that some mindful meditation might offer a way in which I could carve out some time to intentionally slow myself down and try to alleviate some of that perceived stress.

To facilitate the practice of meditation, I found Headspace. After enjoying the free trial I subscribed to an annual plan. Since my purchase, I’ve also discovered (but haven’t tried) a free, Australian equivalent, Smiling Mind.

As somebody who had never traversed the path of mindfulness and meditation, I had no idea what to do, how to do it, nor what to expect from it. The great thing about Headspace is that it assumes this is the case for its new users. The app provides a helpful introductory course that helps guide one into the technique and its potential benefits.

For the first few months, I was intentional about carving out 10-15 minutes each day for the exercise. Within a couple of weeks I found it had a positive impact on my state of mind, and each day I looked forward to the time where I could intentionally sit and do nothing. However, life being what it is, after about five months I found I was going days without meditating, and the habit that had been forming once again dissipated.

In the last few weeks, I’ve made another conscious effort to undertake a session of meditation each day and once again I am enjoying the benefits it confers. Now, heading towards the end of August, my total meditation time recorded in the Headspace app is at about 1,000 minutes1 which equates to a bit less than 17 hours.

In these days of hyper-connectivity and a constant barrage of (often self-inflicted) interruptions, we are lacking quality time for ourselves. It’s hard to ‘unplug’ from the world. In response, taking a few minutes out of each day to dedicate to my own peace of mind seems a sensible investment. The greater sense of calm I feel after a mindfulness meditation session helps with focus thereafter and so the time ‘lost’ to the meditation activity is quickly made up through increased productivity. Plus, nobody is so important that they can’t be incommunicado for 15 minutes, especially me!


  1. although some of those minutes belong to my kid who enjoyed listening to a session as he fell asleep at night. 

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