Hello, I’m Jim Van Fleet

My friends call me @bigfleet.

about me

I make computers do what I want, more or less.

I am looking for full-time employment.

I cofounded PitchBreakfast with Vic Howie.

I cofounded Code for Charlotte with Jill Bjers.

I’ve published a newsletter for Charlotte startups for over two years.

I’ve attended or co-organized every Charlotte Startup Weekend.

recent public projects

Status updating…

found on

contact at


What NoSQL Shouldn’t Do

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What NoSQL Shouldn’t Do: “The idea was that we were ushering in a New Way To Compute Things.  Like all technologists who spend way too much time thinking about this stuff, we thought everyone would immediately see how smart we were, run out and buy one of the CEP based products, and join is in revolutionizing how data is turned into information and used by business folk to make money and pay our salaries.  The only problem is, we forgot 2 things; 1) who would be using our software to do this work, and 2) who would subsequently be using the applications developed by 1.”

Does this sound familiar?

via @kevsmith

I Need a Dollar

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Whiskey is my friend too, but less so recently.

Global Warming: We Can’t Handle the Truth Anymore | the Economist

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Global warming: We can’t handle the truth anymore | The Economist:

“A new Pew Research poll finds 53% of Republicans say there is no solid evidence the earth is warming. Among Tea Party Republicans, 70% say there is no evidence. Key finding: ‘Disbelief in global warming in the GOP is a recent occurrence. Just a few years ago, in 2007, a 62%-majority of Republicans said there is solid evidence of global warming, while less than a third (31%) said there is no solid evidence. Currently, just 38% of Republicans say there is solid evidence the earth is warming, and only 16% say that warming is caused by human activity.’

It’s one thing to hold the position that rising global temperatures are due to natural variation, not human activity. I consider that position wrong and dangerous, but it’s a dispute over the analysis. But it is simply a fact that the planet is getting warmer. That many people who previously knew this have come to un-know it indicates that people are busy at work promoting ignorance.”

Above is entirely from the article. Comments above the horizontal rule are the author’s.

The truth is not partisan. We should follow suit.

(Via @TheEconomist.)

I’m Not

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Since my experiment with 8tracks embedding didn’t go so well, I thought I’d see what this looked like.

Where Are the Rails Infrastructure Support Firms?

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Where are the Rails infrastructure support firms?: “Five years ago, the typical Rails stack was just a couple of pieces: Apache/Mongrel, Rails, and MySQL. While Rails is remarkably similar to its original form even today, the stack around it is dramatically more diverse. We’re deploying to automated infrastructures, using NoSQL databases, messaging systems, queuing systems, and more. With the increased complexity of web applications, I’m surprised we’re not seeing companies dedicated to 24/7 infrastructure support: it doesn’t matter where your app is hosted, they manage it.”

This is an area of great interest to me; I am fascinated by the marketplace. I share my skepticism about the form of the business described herein, but have heard of a company or two in the space. The primary issue I see is drawn from my own experience.

I was the lead developer for an application that grew large on my watch. My recollection of the message coming from presentations in the Rails community at the time was “Learn to be fast when you need to, because you probably won’t need to.” While this may be accurate since most projects are failures, it serves you poorly if you later learn that performance is important to you. It deals with capacity (another critical concept, especially in Rails) not at all. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two equated by the community at large.

So what are the results of this message? Developers are writing applications that can get them into trouble– “design by laptop” has claimed many a deliverable, just that I’m aware of personally. They’re not familiar with operations. Their systems do not count on failure as an outcome. The architecture is poor. Many don’t know that there is a solution. Those that do scratch and claw to find one find that, unlike their development experience so far, tools and systems to increase capacity and performance require a great deal of knowledge to plan for their use. It is a complicated field requiring great study, and some mind-bending. This is the path I’m still walking down, months after leaving that lead developer job to start my own consulting business, and it’s humbling and awe-inspiring all at once.

Part of the issue there is that it can be difficult to find help– as the commenters to that post point out, engineers with this skillset are in-demand among the already in-demand Rails space. Talks on the issue are still rare. I wrote about my love of Chef recently, which includes some exhortations of responsibility on the part of developers, but– let’s get serious– very few are listening to me right now. That’s OK, I’m working on it.

At the end of the day, these issues matter. Knowing what to expect from your operating system, your VM’s, and your architecture is crucial to acceptable response times and uptime when you start getting the traffic that will make your business a success. Shouldn’t our entire community be more interested in ensuring that our applications have an upside? There is no silver bullet for this problem, not even hosting with Engine Yard or Heroku. Shouldn’t we have it as our mission to ensure whoever owns this registration lets it expire?

Full Marks for CollaborateCLT!

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On Nov. 4, my wife Megan and I went to the kickoff meeting for @CollaborateCLT, the latest brainchild of Bridget Sullivan. After cofounding Ignite Charlotte, she pitched a session at BarCamp Charlotte 4 about taking momentum from these “geek-oriented” events into the rest of the year. I have a deep interest in the Charlotte start-up scene, and I couldn’t agree more with her assessment.

As our participants started to arrive, I was impressed by Bridget’s leadership and selection of first activity. Each member of the group went around and described what they did, and then we went around again and described what we might be able to do for the others at the table. I found that I got to know the others at the table much better in a few moments than I’ve been able to at other networking events.

Then we got to the good stuff! We were encouraged to put forth an idea for a start-up company, which we then discussed as a group. Based on our mix of educators, marketers, technical implementors, and general guidance, I think we left with a product that would really have a strong chance of being funded, should the presenter wish to do so. Megan and I were both excited to get a chance to hopefully work on the project, so hopefully the presenter of the original idea will decide it’s worth more effort, and give it a shot!

This is the definition of collaboration. One person’s idea became everyone’s fascination, and many of us presented our own special knowledge of our chosen domains to great effect. The idea became stronger and stronger. It had established a couple of vendors, multiple marketing channels, and the basis for growing the business considerably year over year. I was stoked to write a business plan and get it in front of investors in town!

To bring this sort of energy to a 90 minute get-together was inspiring. I’ll be sure to promote the next meeting. I’d also love to see some collaboration between Bridget and Les Porter who runs CLTLaunch as I think these projects are perfect matches for each other. Work on your idea collaboratively with others interested in helping one on level, practice your presentation skills and get your idea funded at CLTLaunch. It could work!


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