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Keeping the Faith
Level: N/A
Version: FileMaker 16
Category: General
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Steven Blackwell almost always starts a phone call with "greetings and salutations" and often ends with another famous quote, "keep the faith". I've never asked what he means but I'm pretty sure it's not religious. Steven Blackwell loves the FileMaker platform and he likes other people who feel the same as he does. Keeping the faith is just trusting in the FileMaker platform. I'm also pretty sure he didn't start using this quote when he started developing FileMaker solutions. It's just how he sees everything in life. When he believes in something, he gives it his all. I appreciate that about him so much. But, let me introduce you to him first since you may not know him as well as I do.

Keeping the Faith

Security and Server
So, what as Steven done for the FileMaker platform? Many reading this article have no idea his impact on the world of FileMaker so I'm here to tell you how influential he has been over the last 20 years that I've known him. Let's start with FileMaker security. Steven has been responsible for most of the security improvements since FileMaker 7.0 was introduced. To give him the nickname "Mr. Security" would be most appropriate!

In FileMaker 6.0, security was optimistic, meaning the default for new privileges was to have everything available. If a developer missed unchecking an option, the user would have that ability. In FileMaker 7.0, security is pessimistic, such that a new privilege set has no abilities until they are enabled. What a fundamental and important change in the security paradigm. Steven Blackwell was instrumental in convincing FileMaker, Inc. to think differently about security.

In fact, just about every security feature and refinement introduced since FileMaker 7.0 has been touched by Steven. The individual contributions are too many to list here due to the number of changes and span of time but it is no exaggeration how important Steven's role in developing FileMaker security to industry standards. Through emails, phone calls and secret meetings, Steven has promoted better security for the last 20 years and it shows in the FileMaker platform. Just compare security in FileMaker 6.0 and 16.0 to get an idea of the breadth of change.

The Author
Steven has also made numerous and substantial contributions to Server features over the years, as well as Server deployment best practices. His numerous white papers on FileMaker security and server likely out number any other author. Yes, he makes a little money creating these documents but it's never enough to cover his expenses. He does it because he loves the FileMaker platform. That's just the kind of guy Steven is.

Steven also has the one and only book ever published on security. People on Amazon, say "Steven Blackwell is the authority on FileMaker security. A must read!" and "if you are a FileMaker developer, IS/IT/DBA professional responsible for FileMaker databases, or a subject matter expert developing solutions for your workgroup you will definitely want to read cover-to-cover and then have available this book in your FileMaker reference library".

Keeping the Faith

Steven's most recent endeavor is his FileMaker security blog. His blog enables him to distill security information as it becomes available. With nearly one hundred thousand views, it is the most popular blog on FMForums. And, he's up against heavy hitters!

My Friend
The reason I value Steven as a friend so much is his integrity. Lots of people have hidden agendas but not Steven. You might get lost in his southern gentleman veneer, when you first meet him, but if you look deeper, he's as solid as they come. He'll be there when you need him to support you. If you know Steven then you know what I'm talking about. I am honored to call Steven my friend. He'll spend hours of his time helping you for no compensation. They just don't make them like him anymore. I doubt they will ever make someone like him again.

The Early Years

"And while Virginia is the abode, Tennessee is where the heart remains." - Steven Blackwell

Steven grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. Hence his bodacious accent and propensity for "Old No. 7", otherwise known as Jack Daniels. I think is mother or grandmother would give him a shot when he was sick cause anytime a slight cough comes out of my mouth, he prescribes a shot of "ole number seven". I think one time he suggested whiskey for a sprained ankle, lol. I still haven't tried his remedy. Maybe there's something to it!

Steven only hints at his previous career. He's a private man. Just finding out his birthday required years of research. What I do know is he often calls himself the "old advance man". Apparently, back in the day, when he was politically motivated, he would travel ahead and prepare venues for presidents and other dignitaries. Getting more information than that is like squeezing water out of a rock and Steven is definitely a rock.

if you have some early knowledge of Steven Blackwell, feel free to add it in the quotes below for all to enjoy!

An entire book could be written about the stuff that comes out of Steven Blackwell's mouth. I wish I'd had the foresight to write them all down. Luckily, many developers from across the world came up with their favorites. "Greetings and Salutations" almost always begins a phone call with Steven. What comes next is a different experience for every person. For example, Steven is fascinated with my dog Bruno after meeting him once. Every time he calls me, he makes up a new business with Bruno's name in it.
  • "Bruno's Sausage and Biscuit Cart"
  • "Bruno's Flood Control Service"
  • "Bruno's Earthquake Insurance"
Well, you get the idea. Only heard him repeat a company for Bruno a couple times and that's a lot of phone calls. Here's one he pulled out on me the other day that I'd never heard. It made me chuckle so I thought I'd add it here:

"I was born at an early age and it's been downhill ever since."

Here are some quotes directly from his good friend Marc Larochelle over at Productive Computing.
  • "You boys really ought to write a white paper – I’m being serious here"
  • "Marc and Keith are strategic thinkers disguised as FileMaker Developers"
  • "There are too many people in this industry that don’t know what they are doing and they are making both themselves and the FileMaker community along with FMI look bad"
  • "In the famous words of: [insert his favorite recited quotes here]"
  • "I have to leave this place – the humidity is killing me and it’s not even June yet"
  • "I guess this is a sign that I have to retire and go out to California and live with you all"
  • "There is nothing that old #7 and FileMaker database can’t solve."
  • "What did you think of X? – I find that this is X"
I encourage you all to enter your favorite Steven Blackwell quote in the comments section below.


Wim Decorte
Back in the late '90s, as I was learning FileMaker, Steven was already an established force in the community and I was astounded at the amount of time and knowledge he was injecting into the community... For free! And, from a genuine desire to make all of us developers better and so make the platform better. I have been using Steven as a example and have been trying to pay some of that back by participating and hopefully also pay that a little forward.

As we became friends over the years, we discovered a shared passion for baseball and we can always find a particularly fitting Yogi Berra-ism that fits the happenings of that day. Or any other quote of which Steven has a ready library that I find fascinating. My absolute favorite one that has become a bit of a mantra is "It is not what you don't know that will hurt you, it is what you know that isn't so."

Marc Larochelle
It was at the end of Jon Thatcher’s Devcon talk where Jon announced his retirement right before the Q&A. He received a standing ovation. Blackwell approached the mic as if he was going to ask a Q&A question. Instead, and in the usual Steven style, he proceeded to announce a congratulatory speech for Jon that sounded as if was written by a professional speechwriter and delivered by the most eloquent statesman. This of course was cause for another standing ovation for Jon.

Steven has the uncanny knack to both create and deliver a speech on the fly and off the cuff. But it’s not just the speech that’s important. It’s the fact that he carves out time, effort and courage to emphasize these important moments in time. In most cases, his proclamations are to highlight his appreciation for a person and their efforts. Or, sometimes he announces his thoughts on an important milestone or to proclaim a professional warning with a call to arms on a given subject (typically security related).

There will only ever by one Steven Blackwell and I believe every industry needs someone like him. We are appreciative to have Steven in the FileMaker industry with us as a professional colleague and friend.

John Mark Osborne
I first met Steven at ISO headquarters in Livermore, California back in the nineties and remember it vividly to this day. I'm not sure why he was in California but he made it a point to drive out and meet Matt Petrowsky and me at a local Applebees restaurant. I remember thinking, who is this guy with this funny accent. Looking back after so many years, I now realize you can't judge a book by it's cover. Steven has been a trustworthy friend ever since that day. I would love to call him my best friend in the FileMaker industry but that would take away from all the other great friends Steven has made.

List of Accomplishments
  • Only FSA Platinum Member Emeritus
  • Attended Most DevCons
  • Written, spoken and recorded more information about FileMaker security than anyone
  • FileMaker security blog
  • White Papers Galore (Two white papers on general FileMaker security, external authentication, FileMaker Server, EAR, File Access, oAuth, new FileMaker 16 features and probably a few he has forgotten over the years)
  • Only FileMaker Security Book
  • Attended more RSA Conferences that any FileMaker person
  • Added more features to FileMaker security than anyone on the planet (other than the developers themselves)
  • Two time winner of FileMaker Excellence award
  • Certified in every version of FileMaker until he decided he had more important things to do
I'm sure I've missed something so please list any accomplishments below in the comments section.

Just for Fun
Thanks to David Knight at Angel City Data for sharing this fun video poking a little fun at Steven Blackwell.

A whistling woman and a crowing hen never comes to a very good end
Roughly translated, it means be yourself! Of all the people I know in the FileMaker world, Steven is the most genuine. I imagine the way he treats me is the same way he treats everyone, even outside the FileMaker market. Steven has never raised his voice at me or ever been anything but pleasant. It makes me want to be a better person by example.

Steven has threatened on more than one occasion to move out to the left-handed coast and open a sausage and biscuit cart. Part of me hopes he does but another part knows the FileMaker community won't be the same without him. And, it's not just his expertise but his never ending curiosity and comradery that make us all love Mr. Blackwell.

John Mark Osborne

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Linda Cambareri 09/19/2017
  Steven Blackwell, AKA "Sunshine", is the best!
Rick Kalman 09/18/2017
  John Mark, thanks for doing this tribute to Steven Blackwell. I met Steven at Devcon in Palm Desert back in 2000 when I started at FileMaker as the new Technical Liaison "replacing" Darren Terry. I had not even been in the office as my first day on the job was at Devcon. What an fantastic way to start. Ever since then I have been in direct and regular touch with Steven by phone, in person, at the last 17 Devcons, and having meals together. I can think of no other person that has had such a direct, sustained, and enduring impact on the FileMaker Platform. I salute Steven Blackwell.

Rick Kalman

Director of Product Management and Design

FileMaker, Inc.

PS. And friend of Steven Blackwell
Response by:   John Mark Osborne 09/18/2017
Next blog is gonna be about you, Rick! But, seriously... thanks for honoring a truly dedicated man the FileMaker industry wouldn't be the same without.
Claus Lavendt 09/15/2017
  I have a shared passion for FileMaker Server and security with Steven and he has always been very friendly with me. He has even thanked me on behalf of the community for my contributions. And that actually means a lot. When you are trying to contribute and share your knowledge, getting appreciation from him, just makes you want to do even more. I haven't had deep private discussions with him, but we have talked, both in person and in writing, a lot about our shared passion for our platform. I think it is great that you have taken the time to write this post with appreciation of Mr. Security. Such posts are unfortunately rare in this world. Already looking forward to the next DevCon, where I know he'll be there.
Response by:   John Mark Osborne 09/15/2017
How true Claus. I wish there was more outward appreciation fro FileMaker folks who give their time so freely to others. That's one reason I wrote this article. Thanks for chiming in!
Sarah Stickfort 09/06/2017
  I first reached out to Steven with a security question on my Selah Global finances program several years ago and was pleasantly surprised when he not only helped me with that question, but then began to mentor/coach me on many other aspects of my young business, networking, and FileMaker skills. I am a beneficiary of Steven's wealth of knowledge that so many others have also been and I'm indebted to him. The quote he has repeated to me and has stuck in my mind (and ironically he just tweeted) is "In #FileMaker work, as in life, it's not what you don't know that hurts you; it's what you know that isn't so." Thank you Steven!
Response by:   John Mark Osborne 09/07/2017
I noticed you had the same quote as Wim in the article. It's a great quote and worth repeating. Thanks for sharing Sarah!
Michael Bateman 08/29/2017
  Stephen is such a wonderful human being with a wealth of knowledge that he is so willing to share. I always appreciate his contributions to FMDiSC and the entire FileMaker community. Well done John.
Marc Larochelle 08/29/2017
  Awesome article John - nicely done. Like you, I wished I had written all those quotes down so we could publish "Bruno Blackwell's Book of Quotes".

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