Last month, my grandfather turned 103 years old. We celebrated his birthday as many friends and family are doing — from a distance via video conference. He was suitably impressed (and slightly baffled) by the fact that we were all present on screen from different locations around the country — Massachusetts, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Connecticut. This incredible technology, developed in a few short years, joins hundreds of thousands of technical and scientific innovations that have emerged in my grandfather’s lifetime, not least of which are vaccines for terrible diseases (polio, typhoid, TB, measles) that regularly decimated the populations of small rural towns like the one in which my grandfather was born and lives today. We are embracing video conferencing like never before, using it to stay connected in ways that posting on Facebook and emailing can’t help you do. …

Early in my career as an engineering manager, my boss gave me some advice. He said that developers sometimes seem idle, just staring at the wall. In many cases, they were likely waiting for their code to compile and wouldn’t be able to do anything else. But, developers also need this time to compile their thoughts and figure out how to solve intractable problems. Wall time, as he called it, is important for processing complex ideas and being able to move forward with purpose.

I run a fully remote organization of a dozen employees and contractors across the United States and Canada, working from their homes, co-working spaces, libraries, and coffee shops. I’ve worked from home, off and on, for 20 years. In that time, I’ve developed various coping mechanisms that help me get through a workday that often extends from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night (with clients in the UK and Japan and many places in between), and involves hours of back-to-back meetings. As the CEO of a tech startup, each day requires an enormous amount of task switching between projects, hour after hour. …

The Criticality of Adopting AI

If you are reading this post, you may be looking for answers about why adopting AI is so hard or how to do it. Many people have written about these topics. Here are two articles that have been published recently — why it’s hard (Forbes) and how to do it (Harvard Business Review). But dig around and you’ll find plenty of others opining on these issues with greater or lesser depth and clarity.

This article is (mostly) not about those things. It’s about why developing an AI mindset and adopting AI techniques is important to the future success of your business and businesses more generally, especially those participating in larger industry ecosystems. Even if you’re a small company, not a technology company, working in the services sector, or on the periphery of your industry, there are many tools and processes in the AI toolkit that can accelerate your business and not break it, either functionally or philosophically. …

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Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Recently, I was talking with one of my developers and we came around to the subject of gender equity. He said that when he first started working in a tech company a few years ago, they joked that there were “more Daves than women” in the company — literally twice as many. Their company was 12% Daves (4 of them) and 6% Women.

“Ridiculous, right?” he said.

“I mean, you’re the female CEO of a tech company, after all,” he said.

“It’s getting better, isn’t it,” he said.

Thinking about this exchange, two things occurred to me. I appreciated that my colleague was aware of and sensitive to the state of the gender gap — and it inspired me to write this post — but I wondered why he was asking me if the gender gap still existed. Shouldn’t he be just as responsible for tracking and addressing this issue? …

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Photo by Headway on Unsplash

This post is Inspired by a recent blog post on GlowForge, “Strong Opinions Loosely Held Might Be the Worst Idea in Tech

When I first started working in a tech company, one of the things I most liked about being there was the smart, strongly opinionated people who always had something to say… about everything. From the receptionist to the CEO, people voiced off all the time. It made for a lively atmosphere where debate happened at the drop of a hat. Best place to get a burrito? Boca Grande on First Street or…? The right number of digits of precision for calculating a numerical integral? Was it between 4 and 6? Never or always use Haskell? …

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Photo by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

(Originally published on, 4/30/18)

Vera John-Steiner, emeritus linguistics professor, passed away earlier this month. Her obit caught my eye in a scan of the deeper recesses of my news feed, and as I read the notice, I knew why. She was a key editor and collaborator on Mind in Society, the seminal English translation of Lev Vygotsky’s groundbreaking (and still controversial) works in education psychology. Vygotsky upended prevailing notions about how children acquire knowledge by exploring the impact of social interactions on learning. …

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Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash

(Originally published on, 3/26/18)

This Women’s History Month, I’ve learned a lot about the role of women in the workforce. Women were “welcomed” into the workforce during WWII as the male labor supply steeply declined and the war effort expanded and continued. Despite this emergence of a female labor class — who took on some of the jobs previously and exclusively held by men — women were still marginalized.

Fast forward to today. There has been an outpouring of confessional tales of workplace harassment and discrimination as a result of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, shining a light on the injustices that surely no woman has failed to experience. …

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

(Originally published on, 1/1/18)

When my kids were in elementary school, I took an online course on Gamification — the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It was something we were thinking about implementing in one of our products, and I wanted to learn more about it. We could gamify our interface if we wanted to, but did we want to?

As I do with all important decisions, I took it to my kids for their insights.

I described the activity to them as putting “game-like elements” into our software, which would make the work our customers were doing and the goals they were trying to achieve feel more like beating the levels of a game. …


Beth Porter

CEO & Cofounder of Riff Analytics

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