White Rock Got Rocked

2:10 PM –- From The Philter's Fat Lady file, Allen, Texas-based White Rock Networks Inc. is about to shut its doors as the company searches for a buyer. Here's an email sent around this morning by WRN management:
The Board of White Rock Networks decided today to furlough all but a skeleton staff of its U.S. employee team and suspend virtually all operations while it waits to see if its search for an acquirer can be quickly concluded. If not, White Rock will proceed to sell its key assets and wind the company down permanently.

"It gives me and our team no pleasure whatsoever to reach this juncture after nearly seven years of working hard to establish White Rock as one of the long term successful participants in the Metro Optical systems market place," said Lonnie Martin, Founder and CEO of White Rock. "Fundamentally, the Telecom Depression, and all of its residue, took too big and too long a toll on younger entrants like us, and at the end of the day we could not look our investors in the eye a sixth time and convince them that millions more in equity would make our future dramatically better."

White Rock's still-unique architectural approach of a lego-block-like optical transport product family established new bars for price/performance, compactness, low power consumption, and ease of use. Its products are now deployed in the networks of more than 130 U.S.-based ILECs, CLECs, CATVs, wireless, and institutional customers.

Limited Tier 1 TAC support will be provided between the hours of 9A and 5P CDT Monday through Friday excluding holidays until further notice. Our TAC number is 866-WHT-ROCK (866-948-7625).

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

formerwrn 12/5/2012 | 3:34:12 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Anyone knows who to contact to get WRN employment verification? I would appreciate your response.
empl38 12/5/2012 | 3:40:26 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Sent: Wednesday, October 04, 2000 4:32 PM
Subject: banana all gone

I came back from break room with a box of chocolate. All banana magically disappeared within couple of minutes.

The purpose of fruit snack is to keep employee from starving, someone apparently use it as lunch substitute. I would suggest we should cut the fruit into small pieces so more people can eat health snack. And If I spot he or she taking more than his or her fair share of fruit, I will ask he or she to replace me run the Whiterock lake marathon.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:41 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked RJM,

There are certainly some who advocate a hatred of achievement, but that is not what some of us are talking about. Someone who continues to make more money because they are driven to achievment is may have no issues at all.

Someone who expects that some amount of money is going to bring some missing equilibrium to their life is almost certain to be disappointed. It seems that such a person, upon achieving one level that they thought was "it", stays unhappy and sets a new target that they think will do the trick.

Most of the former would do just fine with whatever amount they have because they are comfortable in the pursuit of achievement. At least some of the latter are looking for some amount of money to quench their need for achievement.

I have never liked the American idea of "retirement", e.g. ceasing work or achievement of any type to relax all day. (not to say that this is the only view of retirement)
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:41 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Gosh, I really do know how to spell HARLEY. I've had more finger checks in my last 5 posts than most do in a lifetime :)

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:41 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Shaggy,

I thought that harly owners only spent money on upgrades to get acceptably loud pipes, not HP :)

Seriously, I was speaking more about chrome vs plastic on Harleys. It seems that almost all metric cruiser enthusiasts spend some money trying to squeeze out a few extra HP as well.


rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:40:43 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked re:As you pointed out, some folks with multiple millions in the bank still feel driven to make more. This to me, is a deeper issue...

What's the deeper issue? Choosing work over a life of leisure?
coolhand 12/5/2012 | 3:40:44 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug, Thanks for the clarification - I agree that the amount of money in your investment account does not equal happiness, however - depending on your expectations [key word] once you reach a level of economic security, you can then pursue other "work" that may be more rewarding to you personally. I believe one choses happiness as a journey, not a destination....

As you pointed out, some folks with multiple millions in the bank still feel driven to make more. This to me, is a deeper issue...

At any rate, enjoy each day, as there is no promise of tomorrow for any of us.


shaggy 12/5/2012 | 3:40:46 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Hi Doug,

Enjoy it, it sounds like you know what you're doing for certain.

I might disagree with your interpretation of "finished". A lot of Harley owners I know end up spending another 2-5K on Screamin' eagle accessories to get the motor HP up to acceptable levels :)

VMAx's are scary- fun as hell in a straight line, but the pucker factor in corners wears out the seat pretty quickly.

All in all, the Kawi will probably be a better ride- cetainly much more reliable, and cheaper to fix if it does fail.

have fun.
Lite Rock 12/5/2012 | 3:40:49 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Too much Philosophy without perspective creates a frustrated Monkey.

After all it doesn't matter what the panda thinks, it's all about the Monkey!!


ajo2 12/5/2012 | 3:40:51 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Regarding message 72, Coolhand what are you talking about?

WRN actually did use FPGA's to get into the market. They would not have had a product at all if they had waited on their ASIC's! It is probably true that the focus on cost reduction was misplaced so early in the development, but exactly how did WRN focus too much on technology?

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:55 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Shaggy,

I am set on a cruiser. I've ridden CBRs (in the 80s) one BMW, but never a Ducatti. I realize that you can't flick a cruiser like you can a sport bike or some standards. I have no desire to drag my knees on the pavement.

The MS is the closes handling to a sport bike for a cruiser, and it is fast enough (not as fast as a warrior or VMax, but I don't need to go 140 mph).

My brother rides his fat-boy mostly protected (full face helment, jacket, boots), but he is one of the few Harley riders that I know who did not buy it to make a statement or for the "lifestyle". He's never joined the HOG. He fell in love with the looks.

One thing that Harley does well is ship the bikes "finished". One usually has to do a few modifications to metrics to get them "right". FOr some, however, customizing their bikes is part of the fun.

For me, I just did my homework and the MS was the bike that came out on top for my criteria.
shaggy 12/5/2012 | 3:40:55 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

As others have said, go with what floats yer boat.

MSF is highly recommended, good on your wife for suggesting it.

lots of harly-types do ride ATGATT (all the gear all the time), but the price points are still ridiculous for what is highly massaged 1930's technology. Ducati or BMW will give you the same for less money. :)

If you're into handling, Cruisers are not the best choice. Of course, handling is a realtive term, as I'm coming off CBRs, Ducatis, and now ride a BMW ( older= slower=live longer).

You might also want to consider a sport-touring bike, like the Honda VFR, BMW K1200 GT,
or a yamaha FJR1300. The honda blackbird also fits this mold- bigger, relatively comfy, nimble, with motors that won't quit when it comes to power delivery.

If you are set on cruisers, I agree wholeheartedly- go metric. I would even suggest finding something used. The UJMCs as we call them, are everywhere.

Don't forget proper footwear and riding pants when gear shopping. Ever had a cruiser slide along the pavement with your ankle underneath it? Not good.

Enjoy the ride, as I enjoy your posts here.

"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:40:58 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Good advice. The PhD is only one of a number of things I've considered. My wife tells me I have too many interests. I believe she may be right. I would be more interested in continuing the existing research in group pyschology and authoritarianism, something COMPLETELY unmarketable, except to a pundit. Then again, art history/Arts management is interesting. In the case of arts management, it really amounts to professional fundraising, not something in which I am interested.
I guess it is a bit of existential discontent gnawing at me.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:01 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "Ill" Duce,

I looked into the PhD route (B-School) with a desire to teach. I also have an MBA (from Duke). Due to some good contacts I was able to meet and/or talk with the heads of depertments at three of the top business schools in the country.

The feedback was pretty consistent: Tier 1 schools are not interested in older applicants (I was 45 at the time), regardless of background. Their objective is to produce PhDs that will some day bring fame and recognition to the school (and big donations).

This is the way that they look at it: If you start at 45, you are pushing 50 when you get your PhD. Nobody in the academic world will take your work too seriously until you get tenure 5-10 years later. The odds are that you won't keep working more than 10 years after that, so your chances of winning a Nobel prize are slim. From that perspective alone, you are not a good investment for the school.

Qualifications as a potential teacher are also a non-issue. Ones area of research interest is all that matters. Because the vast majority of PhD candidates are so young, the current research tends to be oriented towards things like Internet commerce or the effect of E-bay on the global economy.

From my experience in selling to carriers, I was interested in research on marketing to the informal organization that exists in large bureaucracies, something that would cross the boundaries between markeing and organizational behavior. Not much interest on their part.

The recomendation was that I look at second and third tier schools who would be more interested in the value that my background would bring to the teaching environment and more willing to let me do research on something that was not "in vogue."

About that time, I got offered the opportunity to teach at the high school level and decided to follow that path.

"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:02 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,
Thanks for the compliment. To say my background is eclectic would be an understatement. My undergraduate and first Master's degree are in the realm of Communications and Instructional Design. In 1991, I was lucky enough to land a job with a consulting firm that provided regulatory strategy to telcos. I was hired chiefly because of my research and writing skills. Osmosis is a wondeful thing and I eventually became familar with networking. I also finshed an MBA.

I then worked for a few vendors in SS7 and optical transport. My job titles never reflected my actual duties. I mainly worked in Marketing and Strategy, but usually got pulled in to fight fires, improve processes or take on a task no one else wanted.I used to call myself "Chief Monkeyboy." (BTW Panda, I've trademarked that so don't even think about appropriating it.)

I know if I had a few million dollars in the bank, I'd probably go to work on a PhD and become a professor. I'm fortunate the State can't make you commit suicide for corrupting the youth anymore.

BTW, I like the mean streak, and there are numerous Harley riders here with full faces lids and armor.
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:03 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I agree with Panda's assessment; whaaat? I also agree that there is definitely a level of religious hypocrisy in Dallas unmatched by any other place I've seen.

On Mototrcycles:
Go with whatever trips your trigger. I myself am looking at Triumph Bonnevilles, having had my share of Harleys and a chopper that almost cost me a marriage. I like the BMW's but there is as much a caste around them as there is around Harleys. Likewise Ducatis, which are beautiful, but troublesome.
fiberous 12/5/2012 | 3:41:04 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mr Jmunn1.

YOU saw a bumch of people leave? Tsk. Tsk.
Sitting in Atlanta where you counting the
Southern Baptiste C&*)))))Q - A.K.A SBC
compadres to be attracted to Alabama?
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:41:04 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked
Uh, the rest of your thoughts may be brilliant....but

Dallas was in SWBT/SBC/AT&T territory along with the rest of Texas. Not BellSouth.

fiberous 12/5/2012 | 3:41:05 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked WR shapped their initial startegy in 1999/2000
time frame and were based in Dallas. Two data
points that the new commers may appreciate
in knowing a bit of the past.

In 99/2000 The fever was CLECs. The RBOCs were a
PDH shop and general intellentia claimed SONET
was the bridge to the future. So, WR focused on
a box that had the highest DS3 ports on SONET mux
with the best power, form, and operational-cost
factor for that market. This was based on a
the idea that co-location was the biggest
challenge for CLECs and that they were SONET
and RBOCs where PDH in the so called un-bundled
hand-off concept.

Dallas was part of Bellsouth territory. BS was
the first RBOC to provide DS3 based peering for
CLECs. Some, like Amber Networks, saw the
mosquito in this and opted for the idea that
peering only deals with data - hence terminating
DS3 and carrying back as Optical-whatever was a
better option for most CLECs.

Crystal Palace on the Highway was a peering

BTW, most interesting to me about Dallas
and Crystal Palace was the blend of devout
religious folks that kept liquor and
pleasure palaces as "men's clubs."

Most of these places would
find many WR execs and Crystal Palace CLECs
enjoying the evening together. The fiber optic
termination in Crystal Palace is really wild.
Do pay a visit!

WR thought south western attitude, glib talk,
smart Richardson folks make IPO.

Sorry to see another one that bites the dust

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:10 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Shaggy,

Looking both to commute (in town) and to take weekend rides, occasionaly two up. I road a bit on dirt bikes and small road bikes (borrowed) when I was younger. It stopped when I had kids. The wife said that since the kids were in the process of leaving, I could kill myself as long as I was well insured and took the MSF course first.

What is important to me is easy handling and enough power to ride 2 up, and of course I have to like the way it looks. I don't want either a crotch rocket or a two wheeled car. It came down to the Honda VTX 1300c or Kawasaki Mean Streak. The Mean Streak is considered to be the easiest to handle of any cruiser above 1000ccs, but its also considered to be a power cruiser.


I only briefely considered a Harley. A full face helment and armored jacket would never fly with the Harley image, so what's the use in spending twice as much for the "lifestyle".
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:10 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Coolhand,

I understand your comments. If you look at my follow on posts, I admitted that my original arguements were not well communicated because we all have different interpretations of the word "content."

I don't discourage ambition or desire for change (what one might call encouraging apathy). What I discourage is the misplaced (IMO) belief that the achievement of some goal (money, power, etc.) will somehow "quench" the desire to achieve and put a person at some sort of inner peace.

IMO, it is the belief that one can QUENCH discontent (by one definition) that leads to frustraton in life. Put one way: to be contented one needs to learn to be be contented with ones discontent :) When one learns this, one can be ambitious and desire change, while at the same time not become frustrated by the belief that one is missing some future achievment that will bring equilibrium to ones life.

Your evaluation of my life needs a few details added. Prior to Chromatis and Ocular...

I spent the firt 13 years of my career frustrated at IBM, most of it discountented :) I left when it became apparent that IBM was getting out of the communications hardware business.

My first startup, NetEdge, ended with me making nothing from my options.. zero..after giving 4-1/2 years of my life. At the time, my net worth was probably less than most peoples monthly credit card balance.

I moved my family to MD and started with Ciena, post IPO. Tellabs announced that they would buy us, and my options were to 100% vest on the aquisition. My plan was to leave post aquisition with several hundred thousand, what was a fortune to me at the time. Within two weeks, AT&T announced they were going to buy non-existent Lucent equipment, and my options went underwater permanently.

Yes, I continued to pursue goals at Chromatis and Ocular, but I never held the illusion that that achievement of those goals would somehow bring a missing equilibrium to my life, and I do not believe that my life is "better" now than it was when I left NetEdge or Ciena. OK, so I admit it was all better than life at IBM :)

There are many who have been succesful who continue to pursue furthur economic and business success without frustration. They get fulfillment out of the process itself. They are not banking on some future day when they will achieve some magic number that will be "enough."

On the flip side, I know plenty of people with $5M, $10M, and even $50M in the bank who do not feel "free" to pursue their goals. They suffer from the illusion that there is some magic number that will take away their desire for more, but it is always the next number.


"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
John Lennon

[email protected] 12/5/2012 | 3:41:11 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I have 2 VLX2020 ADM Sonet Nodes, fully loaded, that I am trying to sell. Ebay is my next destination.
shaggy 12/5/2012 | 3:41:11 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Ah,

Dinally something I can respond to with some knowledge- Motorcycles.


first off, define the type of riding you wish to do- is it long-distance touring, or just plinking around town for an ice cream? Are you a first time rider?

Sort through in that order the type of bike you would be best-suited to ride.

If you just want to putt around, the cruiser would certainly be OK. I would agree with your 19 year-old's assessment of Hardley-Ableson, but from a different perspective, in that they have turned the Marque into a marketing machine whose best performing feature is to rid your wallet of cash.

If you're riding for fun, pick something you like that is reliable, easy and cheap to fix, and doesn't joining a special social caste in order to ride it.

Back on topic, I hope some of the WRN folks will take some time to themselves to decompress and regain a new outlook. Taking a good ride always helps in that area.

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:12 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "Ill" Duce,

Thanks for the post (67). You have a command of language that I envy. What is your background?

On a lighter note regarding housewives and Harleys, I am currently in the market for a new motorcycle. The pressure to conform and by a Harley for a boomers like me is incredible. Harley is marketing more of a sense of belonging versus a product, with those who choose a "Japsickle" being considered outcasts by many.

As my 19 year old son Brad put it like this: "Dad, if you are going through a midlife crisis, buy the Harley. If you just want to ride a motorcycle again, go with the Honda." He recognizes that Harley is marketing the rebel immage to boomers in midlife crisis.

Sorry, Brad, but I'll probably rebell against all of you and go with the (Kawasaki) Mean Streak."


douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:12 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mark,

Regarding cultural forces vs advertising and which is stronger... consider the impacts fo the following (limited to the US):

Decrease in average time people spend interacting socially versus how much time watching TV, playing video, or participating in other forms of online entertainment.

Increasing blur in the line between between advertising and entertainment (product placement, advertisement within video games, etc.).

Does this result in a dramatic shift of power to advertising over other aspects of culture? Or perhaps is the effect indirect, with advertising becoming the dominant determination of culture itself.

No answers, just questions ;)



coolhand 12/5/2012 | 3:41:12 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

Given your success at Chromatis and Ocular - it is "easy" to be "content" - wealth to explore where your heart takes you is a great activity.

However, you wouldn't be in your situation if you hadn't been "Discontent" and done 2 startups in a row. So, the discontent - exercised smartly - brought you to contentment. I admire your volunteering to assist the poor, real fulfillment is found in "living beyond yourself"

Regarding WRN, they had several failings - wrong market target, too much focus on technology - versus customers. They were highly focused on cost down, before penetrating the Bells... They also made a classic mistake in going the ASIC route, versus FPGA's to get into the market.

They thought they could outlive the downturn, and hang on with the OEM agreement with TLAB, however - it didn't work.

Success in a startup can be measured in many ways, the net net is - Did you make any money off the effort.

Just my 0.02

Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:14 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "Ill" Duce,

thx for the explanation; i now understand your position; and i have no strong rebuttal to offer.

the relationship between conformity and team work is obviously strong. and a civilzation is just a huge team I would suggest. so the balance between conformity and constructive / effective dissonance is always going to be tough to find I would assume. perhaps we need cultural checks and balances. we have some codified in law, but perhaps more are required in and outside the law.
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:14 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Sorry about the typos.
The phrase should read "Advertising creates a hole that we believe..."
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:14 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I took no offense to your statement. In the Academy there is a bit of a cultural rift amongst the Social and Natural Sciences, although that rift is even greater between the arts and business, but that is for another discussion.

On conformity and dissonance. On the surface, they seem to be at odds, but if you will indulge me, I will explain. The job of advertising is not creating awareness, or associating the brand with good feelings or the rest of the crap you hear from marketers. It's about creating a undefinable sense of dissonance within a person that drives them to a certain behavior./ In this case, buying the product. We are bombarded with messages telling us our teeth aren't white enough, or we should be driving a Lexus, or chicks will want to have sex with us if we wear a certain body spray. Advertising creates a whole that we believe can only be filled through consumption. Advertising is manipulation. That manipulation also seeks to provide some conformity.
The images we view on the television (our own digital opiate) show us the same types of people over and over. Our news broadcasts are themselves npthing more than advertising of a political nature. Some of it is blatant (NBC), but it is still a form of advertising created to mold and manipulate impressions and perceptions. In the early days of the post-911 era, few people recognized the blatant grab for power by many inthe government. Those that did were afraid to speak out, lest we have another quelling of dissent through violence and law as we did in with both World Wars. Conformity was enforced through advertising and propaganda. Clear Channel was sponsoring their pro-war rallies and moronic congressmen were renaming fried comestibles.
The societal norm in this country is dictated to us through advertsing and the media. Rebellion is always commodified and sold to the masses. Harley Davidsons are a great example. Once the symbol of rebellion and freedom, it is now the symbol of conformists and middle-aged right wingers. Housewives are as likley to be tatooed these days as bikers. When advertisers commodify rebellion, they make its safe for the bourgeoise. In the process, society loses an energy that drives it to evolve.

Which would I rather have?
There is always a level of conformity necessary to a society. In law, and basic rights of the individual. It is the same with dissonance. However, when dissonance is manipulated simply to sell more toothpaste, or mobile phones or chrome rims, rather than for the greter good; it becomes a waste of society's time and energy.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:18 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "Ill" Duce,

Perhaps my choice of words was not optimum. I was asking the question of whether they are trying too much to be like physicists and relying too much on their tools (calculus) and not enough on a language and toolset more optimum for the problem at hand and addressing the concern you raise when you said: "He was steadfast in his belief that the equation was all, and that complex human behavior and interaction could be reduced to a regression of symbols." Maybe game theory and preference tables are some step towards this, but I was alluding to how some biologists and some economic research makes use of simulation (and perhaps they are similar problem domains with reference to your suggestion that evolution and "wealth" have some similarities).

So if you read it as me suggesting the social sciences were not as worthy as other sciences that was not my intent.

On another subject, I am curious about your observation of cultural forces towards conformity and advertising forces towards dissonance. They would seem to be opposing forces, or am I misunderstanding your use of the word dissonance? It they are, which do you think is stronger, and which would you prefer to be stronger?

"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:19 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I'll check it out. I always found it interesting that the French seem to chrun out the most modern philosphers. It may be becuase they value the intellectual discourse, or it may be that they are nation of melancholics. Beaudrillard is one of my favorties along with Sartre, but I think it was Camus who had the greatest influence in my life. Foucault simply confused me and Derrida didn't really apply.
jamesbond 12/5/2012 | 3:41:20 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "III"Duce - PBS was running a series called Consolations of a Philosopher by Alain De Boton and another one called Status Anxiety. He does a very good job exploring ideas you expressed.
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:20 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Well, since no one has weighed in on my question, I'll weigh in on yours:

I wouldn't say that social scientists suffer from envy of any sort. While it seems that all of their theories are debatable, I recall several theories, including quantum mechanics, that are debated amnong physicists. They apply the scientific method but there findings deal with something far more complex than the Universe: humans.

I don't believe Adam Smith decided that man acts selfishly, that was Ayn Rand more recently and a reformed John Calvin in the past. One could actually argue that Smith got his ideas from Darwin, for the theory of evolution bears a striking resemblance to Smith's "Wealth." Oddly, the same people in Kansas who denounce Evolution, believe in the Free Market.
I tried furthering this idea in graduate school, where I got into a bout of idealist fisticuffs with my Macroeconmics professor. He was a Neo-Classicist market-clearer who refused to agree that his equations left out a vital factor, that of human nature and psychology. He did not beleive in greed, or the will to power. He was beyond an empiricist who felt that none of these things had any place in Economics. He was steadfast in his belief that the equation was all, and that complex human behavior and interaction could be reduced to a regression of symbols. I hadn't read Epictetus at the time, but he probably could have helped me argue. Needless to say, I did not get an A in his class.

On contentment:
No one in our society is content because contentment is simply a word that means a million things to a million people. While I would agree that using an original Greek term would be precise, I lack the font.

Why is no one content?
Our society values conformity over all. There is no room for those with different ideas of life and happiness. If you don't subscribe to the status quo personality of "faster horses, younger women, bigger houses and more money" then you must be "sick." In the days when we were ruled by the "four humors" the humor of melancholia was deemed present in those who felt a profound lack of "happiness." It was also felt that the geniuses and artist were ruled by this humor. Check out Durer's engraving of Melancholia and see how the angel is surrounded by scientifc and occult instruments of knowledge. Our society has patholigzd Melancholia. It appeared in the DSM up ntil the 1960's I believe.

We are only allowed to be grief-stricken or sad where appropriate and state-sponsored. And then it has to be very dramatic with flowers and homemade shrines. It is simply not allowed to pursue one's life in a manner that might be a "bummer" to our mostly ignorant, illiterate society.

I could go on about how advertising creates dissonance with a person and also provides the product to soother the dissonance if only temporarily. It's the Hegelian dialectic at work. The again so is the current political climate.

There are always heretics within the bunch, and I'm usually found leading them.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:25 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

Thanks for the compliments and likewise.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that there are paths to a greater personal contentment and inner peace. I don't perceive any disagreement on that, or that the chasing of false measures of contentment is not going to help anyone whose neurosis needs to be addressed in some other way.

I have only argued that discontent can bring what I, and I think a number of others, would view as progress. Who am I to prevent someone from dwelling in their own discontent if it is going to lead to them specializing, working harder, and doing something innovative?

I share your view that the English language is an imperfect tool.

As for Smith, I really fail to see what the controversy is. "Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only," What is incorrect about this observation? (not to mention any number of other observations he made completely unrelated to this point).

As for WR employees: There is a fairly recognizeable and repeated set of emotions that people go through when a company shuts down. Any body who has been through it recognizes it immediately. It is some people's unfortunate job to have an obligation to comment on why the company shutdown, and it is the natural instinct of employees to wonder as well and ask questions (some times in the form of making assertions).

Sure, they should all note the words of Rudyard Kipling:

"If you can dream G and not make dreams your master;
If you can think G and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;"

There are moments in life for grief and consoling (sp?), and then there are moments in life to pick your sorry backside of the matt and be discontent.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:25 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Hi Doug,

I personally don't feel there is a contradiction. Wealth of nations talks about the presence of benovelance. I think people often incorrectly state his theories as saying self-interest in the only reason people act; that is not my interpretation.

That said, clearly modern economists and game theorists have taken up the challenge of understanding the scenario indicated by the quote you provided with much greater rigor - he had to leave them something to do ;-)

Where poets see love, some modern economists see interdependent utility functions. Who is right? Probably both. No single work represents our entire knowledge, and no single language (physics, chemistry, poetry, economics, psycology, .......) seems adequate in capturing all the dimensions of human experience. However, each provides important insights. That they are incomplete does not diminish my enjoyment and respect for them.

Whether social sciences benefit from "physics envy" is unclear to me. There is a certain beauty and utility in simplicity - inadequate even as I might find it at times. There is every possibility that simplicity is the hallmark of genius (and the reward for wading knee deep in to complexity and actually coming to compelling insight).
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:25 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mark,

I see no reason for social scientists to suffer from physics envy. We physical scientists are awfully arrogant and tend to mistake the mathematical accuracy of our models with an understanding of the true nature of things. After all, we are still trying to figure out whether light is a particle or a wave, both, or neither. Wow, are we actually talking about OPTICS on the LR board?

What is great about the scientific method, when it is applied correctly, is that it always allows for the current theory to be displaced if a better one comes along, while accepting that imperfect theories can be very useful. Most of the great inventions that we use today are based on imperfect classical physics that was shown to be a collection of crude and limited approximations in the 20th century... and we still find those crude approximations useful today.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:25 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mark,

I have never had a problem with most of Smiths OBSERVATIONS, such as the one that you listed, and the econonmic theories that he proposed work pretty well (with revisions that have been made over the years). I don't buy some of the more simplistic cause-effect relationships that he proposes, even though I acknowlege that they in most cases lead to useful conclusions.

As an analogy, lets say that I observe that in the winter, when it is cold outside, I seldom get sunburned. In the summer, when it is hot, I get burned a lot. The real reason that I get burned is a somewhat complex combination of the fact that I go outside more in the summer, the impact of the sun is more severe due to the reduced amount of atmosphere that it must travel to to hit me, and other factors.

Now, lets say that I come up with a theory that hot air is what causes my skin to burn in the summer. I decide that whenever it is hot outside, I should not go outside for too long. For MOST people (those who do not spend a lot of time outside at high altitude in the summer), this theory works really well to prevent sunburn. In reality, the hot air was one of the effects of one of the causes of sunburn, which made it heavily corelated to sunburn. Unfortunately, this simplistic theory will never lead to the invention of UV sunblock.

Certainly I don't accuse Smith of being this stupid or his theories this far off base. As I said, however, I do think that he oversimplifies some of the cause-effect relationships, especially with respect to the complex interrelationship between psychology, sociology, and macro economics.

One could rightly argue that this is true of any economic (or scientific) model, whether it be developed by Smith, Keynes, Nash, or Albert Einstein. Models are tools and if they get the job done, why not accept them? Where it DOES matter, to me at least, is where economic models that adequately account for human behavior without an accurate understanding of the real cause-effect relationships are turned around to evaluate individual behavior. The implications may not go both ways.

Regarding self contradiction, some believe that Smith acknowleges a strong role for some sort of altruism in combination with self-love in his work on moral sentiments, but doesn't account much for its effects to the same extent in his economic theory.

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

Others do not see a conflict. I can see both arguements. I personally believe that this is one of many simplifications that he made to make his economic theory less complex, hence more workable.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:26 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mark,

Believe it or not, while I arugue against some of your points, I am also considering them because I respect both your intellect and experience. When I cease to think that I have anything to learn, that will be a sad day.

Once again, trying to find some common ground, here is another way of considering the core issue that we were originally trying to discuss:

Lets assume for a moment that most of us have an unquenchable desire to progress, achieve, and discover. Let's say that no matter how much we achieve, that desire never goes away.

Some people believe that if only they can achieve some goal (money, position, relationship, discovery) then the imbalance that these desires seem to create will go away." The fulfillment, i.e elimination, of the desire becomes their goal. When the desire does not go away, they seek for the next thing that they hope will put their life into equilibrium, but it never happens. This person lives his/her entire life in frustration, seeking to find an equilibrium by quenching a desire that cannot be quenched and in fact is part of who we are.

Another person has the same desires, but realizes that achieving the next goal will not make the desire go away. The "fulfillment/quenching" of their desire to achieve not what they are seeking. They are enjoying the pursuit itself. They celebrate each achievement as a success, but don't expect that that the meeting of that goal will bring equilibrium to their life. They also realize that a failure does not mean that they just missed the "one thing" that might make them happy.

I hate the English language because it is such a blunt instrument (can we have these arguements ing Greek, please?). Humor me for a while let me re-define "contentment" as the understanding, acceptance, an embracing of the fact that achievement of goals cannot and will not get rid of the desire for continued achiement and change, and that to expect it to do so will only lead to frustration.

Perhaps even you, I, Smith, and Nash might agree that this kind of contentment is a good thing because it is simply an acceptance and recognition of reality, I think it even works with the reality defined in "...the Wealth Of Nations", whether I agree with it or not.

Perhaps we can even discuss how this concept applies to the White Rock employees and the passing of their company!

I knew some of the WR people from trade shows, speaking together at conferences, parties, etc. Although I didn't know them well, many of them seemed to be people with whom I would enjoy working. While the business was not a success in terms of achieving either business goals or goals of personal wealth, I hope that they were able, at a personal level, to enjoy the pursuit itself.


douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:27 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked How were TVs invented if there was not discontent? Discontent with ones personal circumstances is one of only many that drive change. Others include curiosity, a desire for discovery, or in some cases like Edison, a really big ego.

Regarding the founding of our country, are you assuming that we should all assume that the revolutionary war was morally justified, or that the invention of the TV and the Internet has made the world a better place?

OK, here is where I think we have some common ground:

1.Discontent can bring about both good and bad.
2.Discontent that manifests itself in apathy results in lack of progress, both personally and in society.
3.At some level, the lack of ability to be happy with what one has when one is ridiculously wealthy, has lots of friends and family that love them, and has no health problems can be considered a sickness.

Agreed? If so, perhaps we can figure out where to draw the line between 2 and 3?

Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:27 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

I think we pretty much agree on all the central issues of what we are debating. We can get in to an argument about whether a nation denying by force franchise to its subjects is moral or not, or about the very pros and cons of TV and Internet if you like - but I don't think that is really essential to the debate, unless you want to assert that all change we have experienced since we were scum in the evolutionary cess pool of life (or any other belief system) has been bad.

On the issue of whether someones happiness in the light of apparent abundance of love and wealth is a sickness I am sure we can find many examples and counter examples and never agree. As an example I might pose from my side of the argument is Andre Agassi. I have no way of knowing simply by observing that he worked past when he needed to whether he did so because he was unhappy or in some way discontent and therefore as you assert he is sick but arguing that issue has never been my point. My point has only been that whether he is sick or not, the approx $60M he collected and redirected to charity has been at least in theory a public good; as is the initiatives of Oprah Winfrey; or of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; as is the availability and reduction in cost of any good or service that you might consider to be good due to the achievement of scale; be it from the discontent of public or private enterprise.

I am confident we both know people who are workaholics, working at the wrong job for money, and unhappy when all indications are that they should not be. But I never sought to dispute that point.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:28 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked RJ,

u r of course welcome to chime in.

i think you capture the complication of the matter well.

discontent is both the seed of inspiration and of suffering. really the only point I was trying to make.
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:28 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

I believe if you read my first post you will see that I stated that discontent is the source of good *and* bad, unhappiness *and* progress. I have not asserted ratios nor that these things can only occur because of discontent. I have only asserted that the posts previous to mine were not examining the upside of discontent. Asserting or infering I have said anything else is I believe a misrepresentation of my posts.

As to wasting engineers time,....well it seems to me that people had no problem giving people a hard to time for simply going through the motions of grief that accompany a shutdown. This I hope would be light relief in comparison. Within the discontent of white rock employees I believe you will find truths - the biggest being that market success and lady luck are related and fickle.

I believe you might be surprised what Mr. Nash and other economists consider a utility function of one type or another.

I am not aware of the inconsistency with Mr. Smith to which you refer, but am happy to be educated. Also, I think we both do his works a disservice by talking about them in the sound bytes that we have.

I have no problems with people questioning assumptions. I find it interesting that we live in a country that was founded on discontent, and yet so many disregard the importance of this emotion. It would be easy to for example make the case that a small tax was a trivial thing to get upset about and cause the death and injury of so many people. But of course, it was more than that; just as somebody wishing they had a house as big as their neighbor is more than that - it is the realization of a) what is possible (always a break through) and b) the judgement by the political economy of one person's worth relative to the other. b) is not as far as I understand discontent.

In the post you made that I responded to, post 46, you said many things two of which were a) that there does not appear to be as much discontentment in places where there are no TVs and b) you would like to hear some opposing views.

On b) I obviously agree that you can have impact on your own discontment by the way you view and appreciate what you have, but as you asked for some opposing views I provided some.

On a) I would simply ask, if this is true, how is it that we ever got to the point of having TVs, or electricity, or running water, or air conditioning, or an abundance of food, or the Internet?
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:28 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "...can you please substantiate the fact that majority of modern economists no longer have any respect or usage for the insights of Adam Smith and John Nash?"

I did not say anything about any modern economists respect for anything. I was speaking regarding MY reactions to your statement that modern economic theory is based on specific cause and effect relationships that you listed:

"...increased standard of living, which drives franchise, which drives liberty, which drives justice, which drives a relative imbalance in wealth, which drives envy..."

My comment was that these are vast over-simplifications of very complex causes-effect relationships - multiple causes driving multiple effects with complex interactions that are not well understood. This was MY obervation.

Of course, I am constantly told that I should not question the ideas of the greats, just as for centuries nobody dared question Aristotlian science because he was so much smarter than everyone else. On that note, many modern economist sound like Aristotle to me, prefering the results of their mental exercises to measurement and observation.

Don't get me wrong. I have respect for many ideas that I disagree with, and there are many economist who I do agree with. Nash would be one of the first to caution of the limits of the applicability of his theories when they are expanded beyond what can be quantified numericly (e.g. envy). Regarding Smith, I have no arguement with selfishness driving overall economic development, only that economic development by neccesity leads to good in all cases, espcecially in the case of a country that is already wealthy. In fact, Smith himself had a problem with consistency between his writings on ethics and virtue with his writings on economics.

Regarding the claim that discontentment brings both good and bad results... one might argue that, in aggregate, discontentment brings about MORE bad than good, and therefore is a bad thing. One might also argue that it brings about more good in aggregate. Why would you assume that it is the latter?

Another question: why do you believe (or do you believe) that discontentment is the ONLY imbalance that can bring about positive change? Can that imbalance be brought about by an act of will driven by, for example, a desire for knowlege or discovery, rather than a feeling of depression because your neighbor has a bigger house?

Sorry for being so sarcastic... well, maybe I'm not. I am trying to get you to question assumptions and provoke some thought. As my students would say, this is starting to make my head hurt, so I'll give it a rest. We should be careful about taking our philisophical discusion to a level that bores the engineers - whoops, too late :)


rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:41:28 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I'll chime in if you guys don't mind. I think contentment is defined as being satisfied or the appeasement of desire. I'd agree with Mark that change, and hence progress, has the seeds of discontent. This would be true even when primarily motivated by discovery or beauty. Why discover more if one is content with their current state of knowledge? Why try to create beautiful things if content with what's already there?

With that said, and unfortunately, there are things in life that cause suffering and won't change. People with chronic pain is just an example. There are more illnesses that many must live with. Sometimes there is no known relief and fighting merely increases the suffering. That's when I think acceptance helps. Not accepting that one is happy with pain or illness, but accepting that one has it, and continued resistance just increases the suffering.
tmc1 12/5/2012 | 3:41:29 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I agree. The Buddhists believe that desire is the root of unhappiness. That desire can be for more worly possessions, a better job or even better weather.

I think it's nearly impossible, though, to extinguish all desire, especially if you're an entrepreneur or at all career-minded. But, I think it is possible to be content with what you have and who you are.

Buddhism is more accurately described as the pursuit of moderation, finding the middle path or way. Most Buddhists believe that ignorance and envy/greed cause unhappiness in the world. Attachment to things is also bad. Compassion and humility is good. Being a perfect Buddhist is almost impossible to achieve and seems almost non-human. Those that always need more wealth, more cars, more boats, etc. will never be satisfied and that is indeed a human sickness.

It sounds like your aunt and uncle found the middle path and achieved balance in their lives. That is something that we should all strive for.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:29 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Mark, I agree with most of your arguement using a traditional view of the definition of contenemtnt. In my definition, however, contentment is not equal to apathy. I can BOTH desire to accomplish more while being happy with what I have already accomplished.

P.S. much of what you stated regarding modern economic theory is BS in terms of proven cause and effect. Reality is much more complicated. For example, one might say that liberty drives a sense of entitlement, which drives envy. Justice has nothing to do with it. Actually, the cause-effect relationships are much more complex than either of these neat little views of the world.

IMO, people CAN be ambitious and passionate for change, yet still not allow situations to dictate their emotional well being (withing limits, of course). Also, I would never claim that someone can or should be "happy" all of the time. I am speaking of a general attitude towards ones situation in life, not ones' reaction to trauma or extremes.

Regarding your concern for the poor...

I know a man living in a small Mayan village in the mountains of Guatemala who seems very happy. He has no running water and no indoor plumbing. He has friends, a healthy family, and enjoys his work growing coffee.

I met a 75 year old woman in rural NC who could not afford to replace her 60 year old tin roof. She was happy, however, because she had good friends who looked after her and never lacked for food or company.

On the other hand, one of my 16 year old son's friends is unhappy because the brand new car that he was given to drive on his birthday does not have leather seats.

Should I try to convince my acquaintances in Guatemala and NC to trade their attitudes for the discontentment of my son's friend? After all, his discontentment will likely drive him to great accumulation of wealth that they will never achieve?

To complete the story...we put on a new roof for the woman in NC, and worked on building a medical clinic for the Mayan village. We were not "content" in one respect with their situation.

I believe that it is possible to achieve a balance: ambition and desire for change, along with a concious decision not to let the fact that your desire for change have not (yet) been fulfilled drive your overall emotional well being. IMO, those who know how to achieve this balance are the ones who get the MOST satisfaction out of achieving their goals.

Can you see my point? Can you offer some better terminology?
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:29 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Hi Doug,

>> P.S. much of what you stated regarding modern economic theory is BS in terms of proven cause and effect <<

I of course respect your right to your personal opinion on the subject, but can you please substantiate the fact that majority of modern economists no longer have any respect or usage for the insights of Adam Smith and John Nash?

>> Regarding your concern for the poor... <<

I am not going to continue a debate about the poor. You clearly have more interaction with them than I do. Not much I could teach you about your life.

>> Can you see my point? Can you offer some better terminology? <<

Can people find balance. Sure. But the point is the following. To focus in on the differences of desire between one human being and another is kind of a narrow focus. If for example we focus we expand of view to the population of all cows and all humans we might find that one population has more of something than the other; that most elements of that population has more of something than the other; and whatever attribute we are observing is on balance an inherent attribute of most elements of that population and therefore an attribute of that population as an aggregate. Arguing about the degrees of expression of that attribute within that population is kind of missing the point - IMO.

The point is we are where we are today because of a confluence of attributes and events (global change, chance discovery of some chemical reaction, etc.).

What we are has good and bad associated. Getting out of balance leads to important change facilitating environments good and bad. An abundance of bandwidth, an abundance of food, a lack of bandwidth, and lack of food.

We can not only observe the negatives of being out of balance, we have to in fairness observe the positives as well.

Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:30 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Doug,

>> I'd love to hear some opposing points of view..<<

OK, I'll take that bait ;-)

This thread makes it sound like being unhappy or discontent is a moral failing.

Ambition is the mother of unhappiness, and it is also the mother of progress. If we were all genetically content, we'd probably still be living in caves or have been wiped out by Neanderthals long ago (instead of possibly the other way round).

It is the dual destiny of our species to concurrently achieve so much and be unhappy with what we have achieved. We are an ambitious species for better and worse (as Socrates/Plato oberserved in "The Republic" those that want more than the simple things of life will soon be looking to other nations to get them).

It is the root of modern economic theory that self-interest (individual and/or group) drives economic behavior. Economic behavior drives the accumulation of wealth, which drives increased standard of living, which drives franchise, which drives liberty, which drives justice, which drives a relative imbalance in wealth, which drives envy, which drives the politics of reentment of achievement, which drives contention for resources, which drives war.........so it drives good and bad (or though this leads to the a discussion of the theory of strong federalism and the weakness of confederacies - but for another time....)

This thread is giving discontent and ambition a bad name.

What about the women that were discontent with their options in life.....

What about the african-americans that were discontent with their options in life....

What about the non land owners that were discontent with their options in life....

What about the dirt poor people in NC, VA, and the third world that are discontent with their options in life - are they discontent enough yet? I hope they are.

Discontent is the enabling emotion of change.
Hatred, envy, a culture of resentment of achievement, and the politics of personal assassination are the path to evil. But discontent constructively engaged is the path to liberty and progress.

Those that act constructively on their discontent are technological innovators, commercial entrepeneurs, social agents of change, defenders of nations, protectors of liberty, expanders of franchise, and accumulators of personal property - the foundation of culture and liberty. So let's cut the discontent with what they have a little slack here ;-) At least those that are using their discontent constructively and civilly.
sfwriter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:30 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "I think that much of what drives "unhappiness" comes from the inability to be content with what one has or has the abiltiy to have, whether it be money, possesions, circumstances, or relationships."

I agree. The Buddhists believe that desire is the root of unhappiness. That desire can be for more worly possessions, a better job or even better weather.

I think it's nearly impossible, though, to extinguish all desire, especially if you're an entrepreneur or at all career-minded. But, I think it is possible to be content with what you have and who you are.

My great aunt and uncle were married for 60 years and my sister once asked what their advice was for a good marriage. My aunt said that they always tried to be content with what they had, even as they tried to strive for more.

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:31 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Hit the enter button by accident on my last post...

Panda, you said "..some people are just born to be miserable." I agree with your observation but would modify it slightly. Some people CHOOSE to be miserable.

I think that much of what drives "unhappiness" comes from the inability to be content with what one has or has the abiltiy to have, whether it be money, possesions, circumstances, or relationships.

This does not mean that a content person doesn't have any desire for more. I think I am a very content person, but I would love to win the lottery and pick up a few tens of millions. I also desperatly want a new motorcycle (looking at a Kawasaki 1600 Mean Streak). I think I would say that contentment is a somewhat concious DECISION to not allow your circumstances to control your emotional well being. I simply refuse to let the lack of things that I want dictate the way that I feel. I look at all that I do have and feel extremely lucky, as I did when I had a lot less than I do now.

There are people who can't seem to make this concious decision, some due partly to their personality, and all partly to the consumer driven culture in the US (since we don't produce much anymore, we depend on discontentment to drive our consumer economy, and the same level of discontentment doesn't seem to exist where people don't have TV). Discontened people, when presented with riches, will seem to find more things that they need to have to be "happy", e.g. more houses, younger wives, etc. Many who have learned to be content with less seem to handle the money well.

note: obviously the ability to make this "choice" has it's limits, such as the lack of food, etc.

For those who think I am out to lunch: I agree that I am not a sociologist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I have also observed dozens of people who became instant multi-millionaires during the bubble. At the other end of the spectrum, I have spent quite a bit of time in the last 5 years in dirt poor areas in rural NC and Va, as well as third world Latin American countries. I also agree with Panda that it is complicated and I am almost certainly over-simplifying things.

I'd love to hear some opposing points of view..

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:31 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Panda, you said "..people are just born to be miserable." I

I think that the "unhappiness" comes from the inability to be content with what one has or has the abiltiy to have, whether it be money, possesions, or relationships.

This does not mean that a content person doesn't have any desire for more. I think I would say that contentment is a somewhat concious decision to not allow your circumstances to controll your emotional well being.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:41:33 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked re: I agree that there is no correlation between money and "happiness."

There is a book on the subject that suggests there may be a correlation, just not in the way most would think. I haven't read it but it's gotten good reviews.

The Price of Privilege

How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy

By Madeline Levine, Ph.D.

sfwriter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:33 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked "ALSO, the whole definition of happiness is all wet, in my opinion."

Well said, Panda. The relationships in life that bring us the greatest joy, often bring us the greatest worry or sorrow as well.

The Western idea that happiness is a state that one can achieve with any regularity is misguided. For most people, life is full of ups and downs, both at work and at home. But in an era where any state of being can be medicated -- and often is -- there's an increasing intolerance for sadness.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:34 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Reminds me of an old joke. A guy buys watermelons for $5, fills up his truck, takes them to market and sells them for $4. He can't figure out why he is loosing money. His conclusion? Get a bigger truck.

There is only ONE measure of BUSINESS success: Can you sell enough of your product at enough margin to cover your fixed expenses and make a profit over the long term.

As far as the arguement that they got farther than others... One company raises $30M, can't sell their product, and goes under. Another company sells just enough product to convince VCs to keep pumping in money, and burns through $200M before going under. Was the second company more of a business "success?"

Regarding success in life.. I have observed in many cases an inverse relationship between business success and a succesful personal life. Not always, but the trend seems to be there. Any differnt observations?

opticalguy 12/5/2012 | 3:41:35 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Let's get back to some of the basic facts:

1) It was positive that White Rock had over 100 direct customers in over 100 different networks. But, small revenue from small inexpensive "lego like" boxes does not help to offset the burn rate of the company.
2) Sales never met quota.
3) Engineering consistently had problems.
There were many traffic outages, damaging the product's reputation and the customer's desire to buy more.
4) Engineering and upper level management were not experienced developing or deploying this type product (where is Positron or Cellworx now??)

Just the facts....

Looks like the deck was stacked against success.

"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:35 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked OG has it right.

Approximately how many units did they deploy? I know they had over 100 customers, but what did the deployment curve look like? Did one customer buy 100 units and the rest of them buy one? Of course I'm thinking in terms of a traditional ADM type form factor.

Will their current customers start selling these things on Ebay?

Does anyone have any insight?
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:36 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I don't get the TBD? That whole post reeks of some kind of feel-good, Zig Ziglary, O Henry-fied crap. Maybe the executives layed golf too much, maybe the engineers didn't play enough. Taking pride in building something that worked yet failed smacks of the same rhetoric spewed by the UAW and many of the Megachurch preachers so beloved in Dallas.

Why is it that the executives get away with alot (especially money) while the workers get little. And then the workers have only "good feelings" about their work.

I'll give you $20 for the IP if you'll throw in some WR golf balls.
optical 12/5/2012 | 3:41:37 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked In regards to the golf comment, I just hate it when people post things that they know nothing about. The only Sr. management guy at WRN that golfed with their CEO and he only did it once every 3 months on a weekend if that. No one can question the work ethic of these guys, trust me, they worked hard. Lonnie Martin and Greg Lowe worked their tails off for this company. The golf comment is just stupid
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:41:38 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked

Why would anybody spring for the IP for more than $20? The major SONET mux deployments already have incumbents and the new wins are in the ROADM space. There is no new business for the product, and the finances are clearly not good enough for Zhone to have picked it up.

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 3:41:38 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked One thing you can say about WRs senior management they were a great group of golfers. Too bad they didn't spend more time in the office and less on the golf course.

Your observation goes beyond WRN: There seems to be a serious inverse correlation between golfing and successful startups.

Come to think of it, didn't LU have it's own course?
Iipoed 12/5/2012 | 3:41:38 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked One thing you can say about WRs senior management they were a great group of golfers. Too bad they didn't spend more time in the office and less on the golf course.
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:41:39 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked bmattson raises in an interesting issue...

who's going to spring for white rock's IP?

tellabs? (do echo boomers talk about optical transport on their myspace pages?)

optical 12/5/2012 | 3:41:40 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Straight Shooter,

In regards to point #2 you are way off. Check the dates that Anrew Knott was on board and his fingerprints were all over the VLX. If he took all the credit (and he did) whenever something went right , he must also take some of the blame. Don't get me wrong, not all the blame is on a single person, but he had the loudest voice (and I mean that literally) on product features and roadmap decisions.
straight shooter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:40 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Optical,

IIRC Knott joined White Rock in May of 2001. The founders, Lonnie Martin, Greg Lowe, Tony Farinholdt, Tony Masella, et. al., first got together in late '99 with first funding in early '00. The product concept and overall roadmap had been in place for at least a year and a half before Knott joined. Yes, he massaged things, and yes, knowing Andrew, I'm sure he took credit for much/all of it, but in leading two early stage startups before and launching numerous products before that, the critical time period which determines 80% of function/feature content comes within the first six months to one year.

Straight Shooter
zwixard 12/5/2012 | 3:41:42 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Has anyone felt their product line, SONET, is a factor? Who thinks SONET has a future?

I turned down an engineering job offer from WRN and choosed Spatial Wireless back in 2001 because of that reason.
straight shooter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:43 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked And point #6 apparently I need to learn how to type also: "Failure in business does equate not failure in life." Or, restated correctly (when not trying to sound like Yoda): "Failure in business does not equate to failure in life."
straight shooter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:43 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked A few points:

1) Sailboat is 95% right. White Rock clearly made marketing mistakes. That in the end was their downfall. A story that is primarily based on repackaging and mix-and-match convenience only goes so far. Very little true innovation leads to little real traction.

2) Focus is 100% right, especially the part about Andrew Knott coming in after the primary market strategy was already set.

3) Red Panda needs to learn how to spell (or at least type). It severely detracts from any point he is trying to make.

4) I did not work for White Rock.

5) None of the above nullifies my original point. By-and-large this was a good group of people. Failure in business does equate not failure in life. In fact failure in business, I have found, has often led to future success in life, both in monetary terms and genuine payback to society.

-Straight Shooter
[email protected] 12/5/2012 | 3:41:43 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Ok, while you all are deciding weather or not White Rock deserves the destiny they received, I have 2x White Rock VLX2020 shelves, fully populated that I would like to sell. I have gently ripped them out of my network and replaced them with Cisco equipment following their collapse. If anyone is interested in this equipment, please let me know. [email protected]
crazyoptics 12/5/2012 | 3:41:48 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Sail,

You disappoint me.
"If they had focused more on bigger players earlier and made strong strategic partnerships earlier (similar to what Meriton and Tropic and ADVA have done successfully) they would have had real volume sales to RBOC accounts by now. And would be alive and kicking."

What I believe is correct about focusing on the bigger players earlier, you seem to lump Meriton and Tropic as two that have had great success with the big guys.
Last I checked, Tropic is barely holding on and Meriton couldn't get a new customer to save their life. Besides, their cash flow is so great that without any orders from BT yet the rest of the company sgould be slimmed down to save itself (Maybe they need to slim down with some of their AVP non-talent-yuck).

Regardless of the precedures that White Rock followed, I wonder if the VCs decision was based on the large retrofit technical problems that White Rock was going through at the end. Wonder if they got a sniff of that catastrophe.

I wana ROCK!........

Not too "Crazy" today.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:41:51 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I agree with Panda (gag) in one sense that you have to sell to the market that exists, not the one that you want to exist. In my career, I learned (the hard way) to avoid companies that first had to explain to the customer that he had a problem before explaining how their product solved it. I want my product to be the one that they desperately want but couldn't find.

That being said, markets change. WR, I believe, had a product that had a future in a market that existed, but things changed. In an efficent environment, the product ideas that don't survive a market change simply die, and those involved move on to something different. That didn't happen here, and the company kept going for years on the hope that the pendulum would swing back again.

A great deal of the probelm, IMO, lies in the VCs. VCs HATE to write off an investment if they see even a slight chance that they might morph the company into something that will survive. In my former life, I consulted for several VCs on portfolio management issues, and I could never get them to take their money out of a company, no matter how bad it was. The reasons are very complex...a story for another time.

White Rock was a victim of having a little bit of success...just enough to allow their investors to fool themselves into pumping in more money, but not enough to sustain a business.

Where I disagree with Panda is this: The time spent at work DOES mean more than simply the product that you produce. I actually enjoyed my work in Telecom (the work itself), both at the succesful and unsuccesful companies. In fact, some of my best years were at a failed startup because it got me out of IBM, I learned a lot, and I got to work with good people (for the most part). Perhaps we only disagree in our wording (I hope so).

When I stopped having fun in Telecom, I left. I still check in on LR once in a while because I still have a lot of friends here.

Doug Green,
Logic and physics teacher, track coach.
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:53 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked He's right. I remember when that building went up. Then again, White Rock wasn't the only one with a building. Metro Optix had one,with some pimpin' furniture and Nespresso machines. I think Santera did as well.

If I was going to blow a bunch of VC money without delivering a product, I'd hire some actors to populate a rental space and send the rest of the dough to an offshore account.

A man can dream can't he?

"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:41:53 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked 1. If you're an engineer, go to Huntsville, it's got a great quality of life. Mountain View is nice, but you'll have to give up the McMansion

2. If you're in marketing, and you're actually an Engineer, my advice is to go back to being an Engineer.

3. It's my recollection that "key personnel" churned in and out like play-doh in the Barber Shop set.

It really doesn't matter who left and when, what matters is that the business plan was faulty. If you change guides, but the map is the same you're still going down the wrong path, and since no one wants to either admit failure or point out the failure of someone else, the company lumbers along the road to perdition. Like so many so-called "business plans" and "strategies" I see, no one is willing to step up and call bullshit on the assumptions.

Most plans don't calculate the risk associated with the venture. Markets are ALWAYS overstated and costs and risks are always DOWNPLAYED. I see it on a daily basis. It's not just in our industry, it's pandemic. Critical assertions and thinking are not valued in our business culture despite what you might read in rags like "Fast Company."

sfwriter 12/5/2012 | 3:41:54 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Anyone else notice the new fifth column? Of the top blogs today, Phil's are the top four. I think he deserves a raise.
jmunn 12/5/2012 | 3:41:54 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked I hope some of the best engineers will be willing to move to new areas of the country and apply to non-startup companies like ADTRAN who's web site shows openings in Huntsville, AL and Mountain View, CA.

I would be interested in a short account of when key personel left and what might have triggered it. I have seen a pattern of highly capable people leaving long before the final outcome.
"Ill" Duce 12/5/2012 | 3:42:02 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Panda is correct.

White Rock is just another example of a company driven by "cool technology" rather than by a true market strategy. So many of these companies are built around a box and an engineer, but they fail to take into account the business.

The words "unique approach" are not part of the vocabulary of any of the RBOCs, especially with regard to CO gear. Metro Optix had a unique appraoch witrh regard to a piggybacked DS3 cable and they were soundly rejected. Huawei wasn't even a player then. Therfore it is not possible to say they had a viable product. The design, aling with the market strategy was wrong. If it wasn't they would still be around.

I also believe there is a fundamental blind spot with many VCs. They don't seem to understand the markets and customers these startups are selling to. They watch the latest presentation pimping the newest fad and they glom on afraid they will miss out. The easy money fuels the proliferation of these poor ideas and strategies. It is left only to the market to cull them.

Way too many of these companies are run by engineers with a plan to build something and then sell the company and retire to their own private island ala Cerent. But Cerent actually produced a product that completely disrupted a market space. Even if they had not been purchased by Cisco, they would have been successful.

Don't get me wrong, engineers have their place, but keep them out of the marketing and the strategy suites. They are too obsessed with what they can build rather than what the market demands.
Focus 12/5/2012 | 3:42:03 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked A lot of truth in the message thread and some things that need a little correction.
1. There was never an offer to buy the company. Had there been, the management would have considered it carefully. It was understood that WRN had little chance to sell to the RBOCs as a stand alone....but WRN did try throughout its existence.
2. Selling to the RBOCs on a standalone basis required $$$$ for OSMINE and this expense had to be considered against the feature needs of getting to a competitive MSPP and broadening the product line. The main platform did receive OSMINE for an earlier SW load but was not reinvested in for later releases due to a lack of traction with the RBOCs.
3. Panda is right, it is depressing to spend numerous years of your life building something and then seeing it fall away. Taking pride in a subset of the overall outcome is just personal justification of the effort.... a natural reaction for those who tried to make this work. The result is still a failure to pay back the stakeholders in total.
4. Andrew did not set the product direction alone. It was set by collective effort, driven by the market and the resources available.

chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 3:42:03 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Oh come on fellas, quit cutting White Rock slack.

How many of you saw the Palace Building they occupied on George Bush Highway in Dallas?

The thing was worthy of Verizon or AT&T.

If White Rock's 'highway image' was one of opulence, then I'm terrified of what their internal accounting sheets show as "normal operating expenses".

White Rock lived the good life, but not the Start Up Independent Vendor life.

I know college kids who treat their credit cards better than this outfit treated their bank account.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 3:42:04 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Panda,

I tend to agree with you re WhiteRock. While I do give kudo's to the technology team for delivering what they said they would and on time (a rare thing in this business); there was a serious flaw in their idea and market approach that in my opinion put them out of business and doomed them from the first day.

They failed to recognize the true ecology of telecom. Even during deregulation, the competitive carriers that sprung into life were only a small fraction of the total market. Their plan focused too much on new players entering the market and trying to co-locate and ignored for too long: MCI, ATT, Sprint and the RBOC's.

Even during the boom times, the traditional carriers were still the dominate market. And once GWB was elected, it was obvious to even the most casual observer that the days of the competitive local access carrier were doomed. It was clear the RBOC lobby would win the day and that telecom competition would largely dissappear. It was clear that the regulatory environment that had fostered competition was going to change and that mergers of big players would be fast tracked through the government. (note, this is not a comment of if this was "good or bad".. only a statement of what the facts are and were).

I think you touched on it when you mentioned their demise was triggered in part by the collapse of the insurgent alternate carriers that were their target market.

Their big fatal mistake was not building for the RBOC market and not actively engaging them. They thought that the competive carriers and small independents would be enough for them. By the time they figured out that it was essential to long prosperity to sell to the major carriers, they were late to the game. They had that OEM deal with Tellabs, but that was a late deal. What they didn't realize was the Tellabs deal was not an exit, at least not at the time they needed it (that was clearly their hope.. that big T would buy them) The platform they designed could be emulated and similar functions put into the native platforms at various big players. This is one of the great lessons of Cerent and it's rise in volume shipments then it's subsequent retraction in market after similar features were incorporated and made better by Fuji et al.

The only chance Whiterock had was to sell out to a big player much sooner in the game. They had the chance to do that and turned down some offers in hopes of bigger things later. By the time they realized the big picture it was too late.

It is of interest to note that their VP in charge of Sales and Marketing in the early days when company was setting strategy was Andrew Knott. He followed a similar path of focusing on the smaller carriers at his previous post: Positron Fiber Systems. He did a similar play at Positron and while Positron sold to RelTec and then Reltec to Marconi, the value recieved was way low considering it was sold off in the boom of late 90's. This was due to Positron missing out on big carrier sales and focusing almost entirely on small CLEC's and independents in Iowa, etc. Positron had great technology, great engineering and operations. IF the strategy at Positron had been more robust in terms of selling into big carriers, I think Positron could have recieved a much larger buyout.

Andrew Knott went on to duplicate his strategy from Positron at Whiterock. Focus on small guys first and hope big guys follow.

I believe you have to focus on small customers to build traction, but not to the exclusion of big carriers. You work big carriers in parallel. Get into the heads of their long term strategists. Help the carriers help you find a big partner to sell to them and to make sure your road map fits their needs. Do deals with small players of course, but not to the level it causes you to loose focus on who really has the pay check.

The big carriers are who drives all the sales that all the OEM's and component players count on to make payroll. Anyone in this industry who does not understand that Ma Bell still has your paycheck in her pocket either directly or indirectly is missing the obvious.

If they had focused more on bigger players earlier and made strong strategic partnerships earlier (similar to what Meriton and Tropic and ADVA have done successfully) they would have had real volume sales to RBOC accounts by now. And would be alive and kicking.

It was entirely predictable that they would fail. They were even warned by several back in the early days of the company. They were told that Ma Bell was and would be the majority of the market for the foreseable future, regardless of the name "Ma" took or how she was dressed up, she was still MA BELL.

If they had focused earlier on the bigger players, even though it was a long sales cycle, their product roadmap would have matched the market needs long term more closely. And if they had partnered earlier with big partners, they would have had a chance.

The Tellabs partnership was too little, too late.

They also had a good chance to go IPO when things were hot.

They failed because they failed to "take the money" when it was available either via a buyout earlier or an IPO. Big ego's thought they could do better by staying independent longer and later get more $$.

This was the essential failure. This thinking led to making wrong hires and wrong decisions on market especially product roadmap, sales strategy, and timing.

this is of course my opinion only. I think I might get spammed for this post. Lots of Whiterock fanatics out there.

At the end of the day, good team. Wrong decisions led them to execute the incorrect strategy exceptionally well.

I lay this at the feet of the leadership at Whiterock.

At the end of the day, Panda is correct. The company failed.

wishing the best to the team that put in all those years and hours. I know there are not many SONET/DWDM/Optical transport jobs available any more in DFW area.

Best of luck

optical 12/5/2012 | 3:42:05 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked red panda, Mr. big time Success, why don't you highlight all of your success for us to see?
wild_thang 12/5/2012 | 3:42:09 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Agreed straight shooter. Panda hasn't got a clue.

Good people and it was a great culture and experience particularly the first couple of years. Many people gained valuable experience and produced something worth being proud of. It didn't sell. So what, so the VC's did not make thier millions. It would not have meant much more to the employees if it had been wildly succesful. I've been on projects that have sold many millions and not been any prouder of what was accomplished from a technical sense. And in the end even on those wildly succesful projects, the market changes and people are canned and the end result is the same.

Get a clue.

Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:42:25 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked >Millions come easy compared to a rich life.

Yes, and we know that folks working at telecom startups are really just in search of quality of life -- and thankful when they get thrown under a truck!
straight shooter 12/5/2012 | 3:42:26 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked My previous post did not refer to success in business, it referred to success in life.

Red Panda when you are on your deathbed you will not say "I wish I made one more million", you will say "I wish I spent more time with my kids" or "I wish I enriched one more life".

Millions come easy compared to a rich life.
straight shooter 12/5/2012 | 3:42:30 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Optical said: "Good product concept, just miserable timing when their product finally came out. To their credit, they hung in there fighting for every revenue dollar that they could. My thoughts go out to all those who have lost their job through this shut down and hope new opportunities come soon for all."

I will second that. Great group of people that should hold their heads high. Remember, in the end life is measured by quality effort and trusting relationships, not revenue dollars and bank account balances.

-Straight Shooter
optical 12/5/2012 | 3:42:31 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Good product concept, just miserable timing when their product finally came out. To their credit, they hung in there fighting for every revenue dollar that they could. My thoughts go out to all those who have lost their job through this shut down and hope new opportunities come soon for all.
wild_thang 12/5/2012 | 3:42:32 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked
Which is basically what I meant by good execution, I guess the other poster missed the point. They had several products (boxes) they built and produced in a timely fashion and they generally met their objectives in terms of features and product family and timely releases. But the market they intended mostly dried up and they tried in vain to adapt and survive. From an engineering point of view they were pretty succesful and innovative.

Anyway, Huawei should not be celebrated for stealing and reverse engineering. IMHO

White Rock was primarily a SONET company. Huawei is primarily an SDH company.

However, they spoke some truth. Lots of companies were created during the bubble to sell to the multiplying number of customers. Once those customers went away, the industry was back to the few customers that were already there. Products like White Rock's (Good, Bad or Indifferent) generally had minimal if any advantage in these old customers. Not enough to make any real traction. So, poof....lots and lots of companies disappeared.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:42:34 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked
White Rock was primarily a SONET company. Huawei is primarily an SDH company.

However, they spoke some truth. Lots of companies were created during the bubble to sell to the multiplying number of customers. Once those customers went away, the industry was back to the few customers that were already there. Products like White Rock's (Good, Bad or Indifferent) generally had minimal if any advantage in these old customers. Not enough to make any real traction. So, poof....lots and lots of companies disappeared.

wild_thang 12/5/2012 | 3:42:35 AM
re: White Rock Got Rocked Well sorry to hear the news for some of my longtime friends on The Rock. Good idea, good execution, bad timing. It was fun while it lasted.

A former WRN'er (#11)
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