Mario Cardinal

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" – Marcel Proust


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The most useful form of patience is persistence

Covid-19 has no borders and is spreading at lightning speed. In these times of crisis and confinement, patience is essential. The eminent leader of Indian nationalism, Mahatma Gandhi, known for promoting nonviolence compares the act of waiting to a fight: “To lose patience is to lose the battle”. Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, known for “War and Peace” compares patience to a warrior: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time“.

Today, I was reading “3-2-1”, the weekly newsletter from James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. There was an insight connecting patience and persistence which I found very appropriate.

“The most useful form of patience is persistence. Patience implies waiting for things to improve on their own. Persistence implies keeping your head down and continuing to work when things take longer than you expect.” — James Clear

Patience, persistence and positivity are the three keys to living better. It’s the easiest way to reach your goals and succeed! Life is a journey and you cannot rush success. This is true in all areas of our lives, even more so when you are a start-up entrepreneur.

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It has been several months since I provided any status on the progress of To-Do Studio. I know that many of you are eagerly awaiting the Beta version of the product. Your patience will soon be rewarded. Me and my business partner, we keep our heads down and keep working even if there is a pandemic and things take longer than expected. Less than ten weeks to wait. Soon we will announce the Beta program.


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Les soeurs Boulay

I am one of those individuals who love listening music while working at their computers. The music I listen is a happy mix between safe values and new things. Among the new releases of recent months, there is the latest album by Jean-Michel Blais, Bruce Springsteen or Patrick Watson which I often listen to repeatedly. However, the album I listen the most is the latest album by the Boulay sisters.

I knew their first albums but I was not a fan. I appreciate the harmonies of their voice but the texts spoke little to me. So I started listening to the album “La mort des étoiles” with little expectation. I enjoyed the first listening, I listened to a second time, a third, fourth, nth time and as it does not happen very often I was moved.

soeurs-boulayThis album speaks to my soul, elevating me to the point of vertigo. Ecoanxiety – “because there is no other option” -, after #metoo, feminism, all these concerns are reflected in this generous disc crossed by love and beautiful light. Ample and generous, “La mort des étoiles” is carried by fabulous harmonies and neat melodies, gravity, but also lightness, and half of the songs include arrangements of strings.

The Boulay sisters are really my favorite of the year 2020. So much so that I went to see them live tonight at “Théatre de la ville” in the city of Longueuil. And I was not disappointed. A great performance. Listen to their album, go see their show, you will be pleasantly surprised.


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Aim for a market where customers are currently spending money

For those of you who are following my entrepreneurial journey, you know that we are now in the process of programming the first version of our task management software. I have written in the past that every step brings a lot of challenges and that the work is always longer and more difficult than expected. For example, even if we did not finish developing all the basic features, we recently managed to integrate a first implementation. This first integration is an important milestone because it allowed us to evaluate the work done in a real context of use. In return, it also allowed us to quickly discover several things that are wrong and need to be reworked. So, even before we finished all the basic features, we had to reprogram some components.

My close ones, who are unfamiliar with software development, are always surprised at the slow progress and delays caused by the work that often need to be redone. They are afraid that delays will give competitors the chance to improve their products and that we lose our competitive advantage. They are fearful that the task management software market will evolve to now offer the ability for teammates to work in tandem with an automated assistant.

In my opinion, it is a minimal risk. And if this ever happens it will not be dramatic because our implementation will be different. In addition, it will not be the end of our product because, in my opinion, the task management software market is large enough for hundreds of competitors.

I do not want to downplay the importance of having a competitive advantage but, in my opinion, when a startup tries to validate its Product/Market fit, the choice of the market is much more important than anything else.

Remember that, according to our market positioning statement, the To-Do Studio customer is a modern leader searching for a task management software that guides and directs teamwork (throughout the process). Is this a good market for a new entrant? It depends on the amounts currently spent by actual customers.cash-payment

According to analysts, for the year 2019, the worldwide size of the market for task management software is equivalent to 2 billion USD ($ 2,000,000,000). Plus, it’s a growing market. According to Reportlinker, the size of the global task management software market is expected to reach 4.33 billion USD in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 13.7 percent. Another source, Transparency Market Research, estimates that the market will reach 6.68 billion USD in 2026. This is a huge market that is perfect for a new entrant like us. There are many customers already looking for, trying and buying solutions that fulfill a function like the one we plan to offer.

Delays are inherent in software development. We must accept them with serenity. The important thing is to move forward each day, step by step, towards the right target, a market where customers are currently spending money on a similar but less innovative solution than yours.


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Enjoying the journey

It’s been eight (8) months since I left my job to focus all my efforts on developing To-Do Studio. Fortunately for me (and my sanity), I really appreciate my entrepreneurial journey. Having fun to pursue your business project is a necessity for any entrepreneur. This is the only option to persevere in the face of adversity. And adversity, there is. At each stage there are issues that make the work longer and more difficult than expected.

planandrealitiesFor example, recently, the programming of multiple identity support (OAuth 2.0 authentication) was much more complex than we had planned. Since it is very common for an individual to have multiple e-mail addresses, whether for personal needs or work, our service had to provide the ability for users to associate multiple identities to their unique account. This support allows a user to find all the workspaces to which he collaborates, regardless of the identity with which he is known by teammates (personal email or email from the employer). This is important because To-Do Studio wants to provide a global view that includes all facets of your life. We want to avoid multiple ‘sign in’ and ‘sign out’ repeatedly between different accounts. Multiple identities within a single account is a feature not much found in competing products such as email, calendar, to-do list, kanban board, or Excel spreadsheet. One of the reasons for this absence is surely the fact that it is not easy to implement.

With my business partner Erik Renaud, we managed to overcome this complexity by constraining ourselves to complete one goal at a time and setting a measurable goal with a short deadline.

The importance of completing one goal at a time

For several months, my work has come down to front-end programming with the Vue framework and Vuetify design system. It is a long-term job that requires many hours of programming. Every week, I work around fifty hours to advance my entrepreneurial project. Choosing your weekly goal is very important. I make sure I work on only one goal at a time and I do not start working on a new goal until the previous one is completed.

Very rarely, I manage to complete my weekly goal. Fortunately, almost always, I managed to complete this goal in the course of the following week. At some point, in the process of realization, I had to split a goal which proved to be too complex.

Every day, I identify the three (3) important tasks that I must complete. I usually have two tasks related to personal goals such as fitness or taking care of my family and a third task that aims to advance my entrepreneurial To-Do Studio project. Again, I do not start a new task until the previous one is complete.

The importance of setting a measurable goal with a short deadline

touching-the-voidRecently, I was reading the book “Touching the Void” written by Mountaineer Joe Simpson. He recounts the disastrous climb he made with Simon Yates of Siula Grande, a mountain of over 6000 meters in the Peruvian Andes. After reaching the summit, the expedition unfortunately turns into a tragedy when Joe Simpson fractures his right leg after a heavy fall against a wall. This situation is usually fatal for a mountaineer. Thus, during the descent, despite the help of his colleague Yates, unable to brake on such steep walls, Simpson ended up sliding over a cliff and was then suspended in the emptiness above a deep crevice. Seeing no other choice, Yates eventually cut the rope to save his own life, with Simpson falling into the crevasse. The book tells how, at the cost of superhuman efforts, Simpson will still manage to come out alive from the mountain after more than 3 days to crawl to base camp.

One of the important things I remember from the book is that, despite the pain and adversity, Simpson has managed to continue his journey by setting measurable goals with a short deadline. By crawling on the ground, he progresses by fixing a visible objective located less than a hundred meters in front of him, and, each time, giving himself less than 30 minutes to reach this target. Thus, firing with the strength of his arms and uninjured leg, for more than 10 kilometers, target after target, measuring his progress with the clock of his watch, slowly, he moves forward. This allowed him to keep the focus despite the suffering and delirium that inhabited him.

In any case, I cannot compare my entrepreneurial journey to what Simpson experienced. In my case, there is no suffering, no pain and the journey is pure happiness. However, I must recognize a similarity in the importance of setting measurable goals with a short deadline.


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MVP Renewal Day

Today, while processing my email on this beautiful Canada Day, I was happy to find my MVP renewal among the many messages in my inbox.

mvpFor fifteen consecutive years, I am the proud recipient of the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award from Microsoft. MVP status is awarded to credible technology experts who have demonstrated their deep commitment to helping others make the most of their technology, voluntarily sharing their passion and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with the community. While there are more than 100 million technical community members on earth, only a small portion are selected to be recognized as MVPs. Each year, around 2,000 MVPs are honored. They are nominated by Microsoft and other community individuals for this annual award. Candidates are rigorously evaluated for their technical expertise, community leadership, and voluntary community contributions for the previous year. They come from more than 90 countries, speak over 40 different languages, and are awarded in more than 90 Microsoft technologies.

I suspect that I am receiving this award mainly for my outstanding contribution as host of the Visual Studio Talk Show podcast. This French-language podcast, where we discuss software architecture, began in November 2004 (Yes! 15 years ago). With the help of co-host Guy Barrette, we publish a show with a French-spoken technology expert on a monthly basis.

Here is a listing of the podcasts we published lately:

June 5, 2019 0232 – Stephane Lapointe – Gouvernance dans Azure
May 6, 2019 0231 – Laurent Duveau – Vue
April 1, 2019 0230 – Alain Vezina – Le métier du DevOps
March 3, 2019 0229 – Maxime Rouiller – Durables Functions
February 9, 2019 0228 – Etienne Tremblay – Azure Pipelines
January 5, 2019 0227 – Vincent Hubert – IoT
December 9, 2018 0226 – Bernard Fedotoff – SaaS
October 25, 2018 0225 – Frank Boucher – Azure DevTest Labs
October 5, 2018 0224 – Michel Perfetti – Azure DevOps
September 4, 2018 0223 – Fred Harper – Programmer avec le SDK de Fitbit
August 12, 2018 0222 – Eric Coté – React
July 12, 2018 0221 – Mathieu Guindon – Rubberduck VBA
June 4, 2018 0220 – Jérôme Laban – WebAssembly


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Continuous Testing with CI/CD, Rings and Impact Analysis

The key to building quality into a piece of software such as To-Do Studio is making sure we can get fast feedbacks on the impact of changes using a deployment pipeline with continuous testing.

In the last few months, using the Azure Pipelines service, we have worked hard to put this infrastructure in place. It relies on practices such as Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD), deployment rings and impact analysis.

Continuous Integration is about automating build and test processes to make sure the resulting software is in a good state, ideally every time a developer changes code. Continuous Delivery goes one step further by automating a software release, which typically involves packaging the software for deployment in a production-like environment.

Deployment rings were first discussed in Jez Humble’s book. Rings promote a production-first DevOps mindset and limit impact on end users, while gradually deploying and validating changes in production.

Deployment rings are used to advance a software release, built in the initial stage of CI/CD, through a sequence of target users.

We identified four types of users:

  • Ring 0 – Staging : Developers and testers who validate the release before deploying it to real users.
  • Ring 1 – Alpha : Close circle of employees and volunteers who test new features as they become available.
  • Ring 2 – Beta : Early adopters who voluntarily preview releases, considered more stable than the ones in Alpha.
  • Ring 3 – Users : Users who consume the service, after passing through the alpha and beta early adopters.

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Let’s look at how a change goes through the deployment rings.

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  1. A developer commits a change (checkin) to our source code repository.
  2. The checkin triggers a Continuous Integration (CI) build.
  3. The last step of the continuous integration launches a continuous delivery trigger, which automatically starts deployment in the staging environment.
  4. The deployment publishes a new release to the Staging ring. Only the developers and testers are impacted by the change.
  5. The deployment publishes a new release to the Alpha ring. Only the Alpha users are impacted by the change.
  6. The deployment publishes a new release to the Beta ring. Only the Beta users are impacted by the change.
  7. The deployment publishes a new release to the Users ring. At this stage, everyone is affected by the change.
  8. It’s key to realize that the impact (“blast radius”) increases as your change moves through the rings. Exposing the change to the Alpha and the Beta users, is giving two opportunities to validate the change and hotfix critical bugs before a release to everyone.

At each ring, an impact analysis is performed. In case of insufficient quality, the deployment is rejected, and the developers must correct the problems. The process must then start over again. Impact (also called blast radius), is evaluated through observation, testing, analysis of telemetry, and user feedback. We rely primarily on the Application Insights and Azure Monitor services to perform the impact analysis.


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Subscribe to my Newsletter

Since a few months I publish a newsletter for my family and friends. One of the objectives of this newsletter is to share my entrepreneurial journey. It contains the latest news about To-Do Studio, the startup I founded with Erik Renaud. Our company designs and markets a software service that allows leaders to empower others to take initiative. The newsletter is intended to offer a privileged look at the path of a startup company.

newsletterEncouraged by the positive comments I receive, I decided to give access to the newsletter to readers of this blog. That’s why I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter.

Here is the link to subscribe: Destination To-Do Studio

The newsletter is free. It is published every 2 months, 6 times a year. The subscription does not require any obligation on your part. The only information you must provide to register is your email address (it will never be shared with third parties). You can unsubscribe at any time. If you wish to preview the content of the newsletter, I invite you to read the first issue here.

PS. Following registration, if you do not receive quickly a confirmation email, check your Junk Email inbox.