Off the Top: Business Mangement Entries


April 30, 2015

The Humanity of it All

This morning started with my early morning reading and I found Om Malik Interviews Brunello Cucinelli after a more somber stretch of reading.

Om’s interview is a breath of fresh air for me. There is so much in this piece that resonates with understanding not only quality of product, but quality of life and living. There is so much wisdom and understanding the humanity of life and living. Not only are many of our social platforms missing this, but our work and the environments where we live.

There is so much that is fantastic in this piece, but the focus on sane work life and real balance is great to see. Also the focus on ensuring the whole ecosystem is sustainable and thriving is essential. But, the slice of this where Bruello says, “We need a new form of capitalism, a contemporary form of capitalism. I would like to add “humanistic” to that equation” is key. The article mentions “human” 15 times and to me bringing humanity into our work focus and life focus is essential.

There are so many good things in this it may be the best thing I have read in a while, but also highly likely to reread a few times.

Thank you Om



February 16, 2015

Design and Business Leadership Snippets

There have been quite a few pieces lately on the importance of design and design leadership. The importance of design is getting to the true understanding of what the problems are and thinking about solving out from there without preconceptions of solutions, but letting solutions evolve form the need. Different and well fitting solutions often result from this approach, which is real innovtion and not copying someone else’s solutions for your use as innovation approach.

Matt Milan’s “It’s never been more important for design firms to think differently” is the cornerstone for this thinking differently approach and its deep value. I’d add to this is knowing not only the current state of where the various mediums, systems, and devices are sitting, but where they are headed in the next year or two, so to openly plan for adaption and keep the potential integrations as open possibilities.

Brian Zmijewski’s The Design Leadership Gap and Lead by Design are two really good pieces that take a look at the need for strong design leadership.

Kai Brunner’s Is DevOps Driving the Future of UX Design? is a great look at how to mix and have success with design and DevOps. The two prodominant models don’t really work well and how to work to get to a more optimal model.



October 7, 2011

A World without Steve Jobs

The news of the passing of Steve Jobs came as I turned on my iPad arriving at the BWI airport. It caused a gasp from me. Much of the prior 90 minutes were filled talking with my seat mate about the future of technology and our finding ease in using the tools we have today and their near future incarnations and beyond. The conversation kicked off with a question about iPad and differences between iPad and iPad2.

Today, what really struck as I woke today was not as much on what Steve Jobs inspired and shipped, but what didn't ship. I have had some long discussions with folks from Apple about things that got stuck in the Steve Jobs review and how to potentially get a feature or product beyond that hurdle. The attention to detail was stunning as to what the CEO focussed on and how each thing fit in not only the whole stretch of Apple products, but also all the touch points where people experience Apple. On rare occasion something that has been a bit of a clunker shipped from Apple, but mostly it is shipping great products that are well designed, well engineered, and very well built.

Having a leader understand this whole of the ecosystem of experience and making decisions to remove things that could dent that whole of the experience is essential Steve Jobs. One thing in particular sticks out is Apple not shipping is Flash in the iPhone. At the time many other smartphones included a Flash player in their devices, but it was never a good or passable experience, even when it wasn't locking up the device or crashing it. Jobs and Apple took a lot of heat for this decision, but it was geeks that cared about Flash in phone and those who only understand checkboxes when making device selection that were having the lack of understanding. The lack of Flash in iPhone and other iOS based products is one key to their ease of use and uptime, which lead to high user satisfaction of the devices.

American companies in recent years have been competing on price not quality, and therefore have largely been shipping mediocre products. The financial success of WallMart is founded on getting brands to make a cheaper more mediocre product so people own a brand that once mattered, but the product is deeply lacking in the quality they bought for a low price. The Steve Jobs Apple did not give in to shipping junk, their products may cost more than other devices, but once you add similar components to what Apple didn't cut corners on the price is rather close if not much more for the competing products. Jobs turned Apple around from a company that had become focussed on price and mediocrity and returned it to a company that focussed on "Boom" and quality with forward thinking products. Jobs shifted the focus from following to bringing the future to today with quality.

When we consider Pixar, Tim Berners-Lee inventing the web on Steve Jobs' Next Cube computer, changing the music industry with iTunes and iPod, disruptively moving the mobile phone marketplace, and countless other drastic changes one man and his companies made it is tough not to stop for a moment and be thankful and know we have been blessed with one who dreamed of greatness for the world around him and delivered it though passion and flair.

Now it is our turn not to give into mediocrity and accept the merely acceptable, but measure what we do and bring into our world and lives the greatness that should be there.



August 26, 2011

The Steve Jobs Difference

Yesterday's news that Steve Jobs resigned from is position as CEO of Apple hit hard. I, like everybody, knew this day would come but Jobs had many times cheated reality by creating a whole new one out of thin air (apparently thin air is made of hard work, insane attention to detail, knowing what the future looks like, hiring great people who can execute from that vision and have equal attention to detail along with knowing the deep underpinnings of everything they touch to to make something great, and not compromising on the way to making something great) and I had selfishly hoped his health and longevity would dance on some of that magic as well.

I was a fan of Apple products in the mid through late 80s when the Mac and MacBooks were the new and inventive darlings and also options I had to use at work. But, it was not until Jobs returned to Apple and the release of Mac OSX that I paid attention closely nor personally cared. In 2001 I was losing my laptop when I left a work project that loaned me one and was a web project built on UNIX that I went looking for a replacement as a personal computer for me. I went with a Titanium PowerBook from Apple because of Mac OSX as it gave me not only the new Mac OS and classic Mac OS to test with, but OSX is built on UNIX (Darwin, which Jobs' created at Next based on BSD) including access to the command line, and it could have a Windows emulator running to use the tools required when dealing with large organizations. All of this was in a less than one inch Titanium encased laptop, with a lovely screen, and battery that could last a flight across the US.

But, something happened I did not see coming, after a few months I was only using Mac OSX. My purchase choice was based on the capability and need to use all the various operating systems, but my use showed I only used one. Mac OSX was a giant change and revelation for me, I no longer was battling the operating system it just worked, I was able to do my job (that does not include keeping my personal computer functioning properly) and things were much easier to use. I noticed the attention to detail and careful design not only in the operating system and Apple software, but also the hardware. My hardware was lasting like no other manufacturer (my last laptop was 4.5 years old before replacing).

It was after purchasing my PowerBook that I started closely paying attention to Steve Jobs keynote presentations. The keynotes were a blast as Jobs seemed as giddy as we were about the newest things (iPod, iMac with extendable screen, iPhone, iPad, etc.) and at the same time deeply proud that Apple (his baby) was shipping yet another product that dared at greatness and changing the way things are done and the way we live our lives. (Josh Bernoff of Forrester counts 5 game changing innovations in technology as well as how these innovations deeply changed the music, film, telephone, internet, and other related industries). There has been no other single person nor company that has had that much impact.

There is No Other Like Jobs

I have long been accused of being an Apple fan boy, but I'm not so sure that I am that as much as I am a fan of nearly perfect execution of ideas that truly lead and are driven by a goal to ship things that are great. This is very much at the heart of what Steve Jobs has done for Apple. It is not only the vision, but he is the one that pays attention to the details and things that are insanely small and even things that can not be seen, but need to be there.

I have had the fortune of chatting with people at Apple in the cafe, being invited to speak to them, and pulled aside at events by a couple groups at Apple to "chat about some things" that lasted a few hours. These glimpses inside left me in greater awe of not only Apple and its very different and secret way of doing things, but of Jobs himself. I heard stories of Jobs product reviews and the level of detail of things he gets to (wire color inside a laptop, the symmetry of left and right invisible to sight laser drilled holes next to the laptop cameras in MacBook Pros - the right for an on light to show through and the left for balance, yes of something you can not see). But, I also had somebody recount a review he was responsible for the product and it didn't meet Jobs's standards and I watched the person physically recount the pain of that dressing down I imagine he got as he asked for suggestions for alternate paths to get it approved. The explanation and constraints around the feature and functionality were really well reasoned and I could see why it didn't ship. But also I was more in awe of Jobs and the realization of the breadth and depth he not only pays attention to, but the detail and quality that he demands. Not only did Jobs lead a company he checked it line by line as it was part of the vision and passion, but also he has the serious depth of understanding to have a company make things that are great.

The Measure of Things

Yes, not everything Apple ships has been perfect nor great and it would be foolish to say that. But, those teams and people do not last long who do not ship greatness. Apple will and has shipped things that are iterations on their way to something else as well as blown up products for a rebuild from square one (Final Cut Pro is in the midst of this) as well as things that are experiments (Apple TV). But, where Apple has and does stand apart is the expectation of greatness of product and having products that ship.

I have had senior executives of many tech companies as well as non-tech companies sit and ask about what I think is the difference between their company and Apple (I find this odd as I never publicly mentioned any interaction with Apple other than customer until this post).

This questioning has repeatedly come from senior management at Microsoft, whom I really like, but hasn't shipped anything great (perhaps other than Xbox) even though they have always had great things in R&D for years. The answer to Microsoft about the difference comes down to expectations and rewards. At Microsoft employees are reviewed on a sales and marketing model where the top third get really good salary increases and good bonuses, the middle third based on reviews get moderate increases and most years some bonus, and the bottom third has to reapply for their job or find another one. What this model of reward does is have nearly every employee game the system to be the white knight at the end of the day (just before review) sweep in with a great solution. The problem with this approach is the systems are so complicated and complex that they are not integrated nor tested well enough (often this needs many months of planning, if not years) to make a seamless solid product. Then I get asked what the Apple model is, which is really simple: All teams are given the task of making a great product and if the product meets expectations and review of the one with the insanely careful eye as well as does well in the marketplace the whole team is rewarded well, if not the team is reconfigured to better meet expectations (rumors of whole teams being dismissed have not publicly confirmed, but that would never surprise me).

Apple works and is set up as a whole to work together in clusters of people focussed with one driving mission. There is an also a culture of "what would Jobs do" that is more than myth and that matching of vision and expectations really extend broadly and deeply. But, the one thing I fear and have seen in the past year or two in Apple products is a slipping of quality and attention to detail in tiny ways. Not having the Steve Jobs with final insane attention to detail and vision review doesn't catch the things that make a deep difference. There is a lot of magic in Steve Jobs that can not be replaced (I strongly believe everybody has a gift that make them special and the world a much better place for having their gift in it, but Jobs has had this in volume like no other).

More Than Product

In 2005 I was moved by one rather short presentation like I had been at no other time and moved to make change. This was Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford given after his return to Apple after stepping away to battle cancer. The Jobs 2005 Commencement Address - Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. was and still is amazing. It was amazing in the craft of it in writing and delivery, but also the message. I grabbed a copy of this a day or two after I heard about it and listened to it nearly every time I travelled (which was a fair amount then). I continued listening to this about once a month for years and need to return to it.

For all of this and more I wish Steve Jobs deep thanks and wish him peace and comfort moving forward. Steve is the embodiment of of the Apple Think Different mindset and we are all better off for it.



February 10, 2011

January 2011 Books Read

My monthly list of books read is something I have had in mind for a long time. I was inspired by Matt Webb's book list which he was doing for a while years back. Not only is the sharing out with others helpful, but it also helps me finish reading a book.

Books read January 2001 with short summaries.

Shibumi: A Novel by Traviathan
A really good thriller set in Japan and Europe. Not only was the story good, but the details and a good cultural view of Japan during World War II. This book caught and held my attention early and I really enjoyed it.
Halting State by Charles Stross
This thriller set slightly in the future where MMORPGs start intertwingling with life. A bank robbery occurs in the game which starts the whole story rolling. The interplay and storyline between virtual games and physical life interwoven with its pervasive digital layers we depend on today is really well done.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Business Model Generation is a surprise gem in that I had heard very good things about it and a quick skim of it in a bookstore convinced me to pick it up. But, the design, layout, and thoughtful thinking of how it steps through the model for understanding and thinking through business models is nothing short of stellar. The stuffy, staid, and often broken world of business models got tipped on its ear through design and understanding that makes walking through creation of a business model a sane process, but also leads to rethinking existing models for whole organizations or parts. It is a great way to look to see where software and services can have a positive impact when mapping out an organizations model.
Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design by Mike Kuniavsky
Smart Things is a fantastic walk through design considerations and methods for information interfaces for and streams from physical products. This book is very well thought out, well written and augmented with examples and very well produced. Not only is this a great book for designers, but for people working through ideation, iterations, and innovations for improving information use in, from, and with the world of things around us.


October 22, 2010

Nokia to Nip Its Ecosystem?

First off, I admit it I like Nokia and their phones (it may be a bit more than like, actually). But, today's news regarding Nokia further refines development strategy to unify environments for Symbian and MeeGo is troubling, really troubling. Nokia is stating they are moving toward more of an app platform than software. It is a slight nuance in terms, but the app route is building light applications on a platform and not having access to underlying functionality, while software gets to dig deeper and put hooks deeper in the foundations to do what it needs. Simon Judge frames it well in his The End of Symbian for 3rd Party Development.

Killing A Valued Part of the Ecosystem

My love for Nokia is one part of great phone (voice quality is normally great, solidly built, etc.) and the other part is the software third party developers make. Nokia has had a wonderfully open platform for developers to make great software and do inventive things. Many of the cool new things iPhone developers did were done years prior for Nokia phones because it was open and hackable. For a while there was a python kit you could load to hack data and internal phone data, so to build service you wanted. This is nice and good, but my love runs deeper.

When my last Nokia (E61i) died after a few years, its replacement was a Nokia E72. I could have gone to iPhone (I find too many things that really bug me about iPhone to do that and it is still behind functionality I really like in the Nokia). But, the big thing that had me hooked on Nokia were two pieces of 3rd party software. An email application called ProfiMail and a Twitter client called Gravity. Both of these pieces of software are hands down my favorites on any mobile platform (BTW, I loathe the dumbed down Apple mail on iPhone/iPod Touch). But, I also get to use my favorite mobile browser Opera Mobile (in most cases I prefer Opera over Safari on iPhone platform as well). This platform and ecosystem, created the perfect fit for my needs.

Nearly every Nokia user I know (they are hard to find in the US, but most I know are in Europe) all have the same story. It is their favorite 3rd party applications that keep them coming back. Nearly everybody I know loves Gravity and hasn't found another Twitter client they would switch to on any other mobile platform. The Nokia offerings for email and browser are good, but the option to use that best meets your needs is brilliant and always has been, just as the unlocked phone choice rather than a carrier's mangled and crippled offering. If Nokia pulls my ability to choose, then I may choose a phone that doesn't.

Understanding Ecosystems is Important

Many people have trashed Nokia for not having a strong App Store like Apple does for iPhone. Every time I hear this I realize not only do people not understand the smartphone market that has existed for eight years or more prior to iPhone entering the market, but they do not grasp ecosystems. Apple did a smart thing with the App Store for iPhone and it solved a large problem, quality of applications and secondarily created a central place customers could find everything (this really no longer works well as the store doesn't work well at all with the scale it has reached).

While Apple's ecosystem works well, most other mobile platforms had a more distributed ecosystem, where 3rd party developers could build the applications and software, sell it directly from their site or put it in one or many of the mobile application/software stores, like Handango. This ecosystem is distributed hoards of people have been using it and the many applications offered up. When Nokia opened Ovi, which includes an app store with many offerings, many complained it didn't grow and have the mass of applications Apple did. Many applications that are popular for Nokia still are not in Ovi, because a prior ecosystem existed and still exists. That prior ecosystem is central what has made Nokia a solid option.

Most US mobile pundits only started paying attention to mobile when the iPhone arrived. The US has been very very late to the mobile game as a whole and equally good, if not better options for how things are done beyond Apple exist and have existed. I am really hoping this is not the end of one of those much better options (at least for me and many I know).



June 27, 2009

Social Design for the Enterprise Workshop in Washington, DC Area

I am finally bringing workshop to my home base, the Washington, DC area. I am putting on a my “Social Design for the Enterprise” half-day workshop on the afternoon of July 17th at Viget Labs (register from this prior link).

Yes, it is a Friday in the Summer in Washington, DC area. This is the filter to sort out who really wants to improve what they offer and how successful they want their products and solutions to be.

Past Attendees have Said...

“A few hours and a few hundred dollar saved us tens of thousands, if not well into six figures dollars of value through improving our understanding” (Global insurance company intranet director)

From an in-house workshop…
“We are only an hour in, can we stop? We need to get many more people here to hear this as we have been on the wrong path as an organization” (National consumer service provider)

“Can you let us know when you give this again as we need our [big consulting firm] here, they need to hear that this is the path and focus we need” (Fortune 100 company senior manager for collaboration platforms)

“In the last 15 minutes what you walked us through helped us understand a problem we have had for 2 years and a provided manner to think about it in a way we can finally move forward and solve it” (CEO social tool product company)

Is the Workshop Only for Designers?

No, the workshop is aimed at a broad audience. The focus of the workshop gets beyond the tools’ features and functionality to provide understanding of the other elements that make a giant difference in adoption, use, and value derived by people using and the system owners.

The workshop is for user experience designers (information architects, interaction designers, social interaction designers, etc.), developers, product managers, buyers, implementers, and those with social tools running already running.

Not Only for Enterprise

This workshop with address problems for designing social tools for much better adoption in the enterprise (in-house use in business, government, & non-profit), but web facing social tools.

The Workshop will Address…

Designing for social comfort requires understanding how people interact in a non-mediated environment and what realities that we know from that understanding must we include in our design and development for use and adoption of our digital social tools if we want optimal adoption and use.

  • Tools do not need to be constrained by accepting the 1-9-90 myth.
  • Understanding the social build order and how to use that to identify gaps that need design solutions
  • Social comfort as a key component
  • Matrix of Perception to better understanding who the use types are and how deeply the use the tool so to build to their needs and delivering much greater value for them, which leads to improved use and adoption
  • Using the for elements for enterprise social tool success (as well as web facing) to better understand where and how to focus understanding gaps and needs for improvement.
  • Ways user experience design can be implemented to increase adoption, use, and value
  • How social design needs are different from Web 2.0 and what Web 2.0 could improve with this understanding

More info...

For more information and registration to to Viget Lab's Social Design for the Enterprise page.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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March 12, 2009

Catching Up On Personal InfoCloud Blog Posts

Things here are a little quiet as I have been in writing mode as well as pitching new work. I have been blogging work related items over at Personal InfoCloud, but I am likely only going to be posting summaries of those pieces here from now on, rather than the full posts. I am doing this to concentrate work related posts, particularly on a platform that has commenting available. I am still running my own blogging tool here at vanderwal.net I wrote in 2001 and turned off the comments in 2006 after growing tired of dealing comment spam.

The following are recently posted over at Personal InfoCloud

SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools

SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools focusses on the myriad of discussions I have had with clients of mine, potential clients, and others from organizations sharing their views and frustrations with Microsoft SharePoint as a means to bring solid social software into the workplace. This post has been brewing for about two years and is now finally posted.

Optimizing Tagging UI for People & Search

Optimizing Tagging UI for People and Search focuses on the lessons learned and usability research myself and others have done on the various input interfaces for tagging, particularly tagging with using multi-term tags (tags with more than one word). The popular tools have inhibited adoption of tagging with poor tagging interaction design and poor patterns for humans entering tags that make sense to themselves as humans.

LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow)

I have a two part post on LinkedIn's social interaction design. LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 1 of 2 looks at what LinkedIn has done well in the past and had built on top. Many people have expressed the new social interactions on LinkedIn have decreased the value of the service for them.

The second part, LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 2 of 2 looks at the social interaction that has been added to LinkedIn in the last 18 months or so and what lessons have we as users of the service who pay attention to social interaction design have learned. This piece also list ways forward from what is in place currently.



August 28, 2008

Tale of Two Tunnels: Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0

Yesterday I made a few comments in Twitter that prompted a fair amount of questions and requests for more information. The quips I made were about the differences between Web 2.0 (yes, an ambiguous term) and Enterprise 2.0 (equally ambiguous term both for the definition of enterprise and the 2.0 bit). My comments were in response to Bruce Stewart's comment The whole "Enterprise 2.0" schtick is wearing thin, unless you've been monitoring real results. Otherwise you're just pumping technology.. In part I agree, but I am really seeing things still are really early in the emergence cycle and there is still much need for understanding of the social tools and the need for them, as well as how they fit in. There are many that are selling the tools as technologies with great promise. We have seen the magic pill continually pitched and bought through out the history of business tools. (For those new to the game or only been paying attention for the last 15 years, a huge hint, THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL).

Tale of 2 Tunnels

One comment I made yesterday is, "the difference between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 is like the difference building a tunnel through rock and tunnel under water".

That this is getting at is Web 2.0 takes work to build to get through the earth, but once built it can suffer from imperfections and still work well. The tunnel can crack and crumble a little, but still get used with diminished capacity. We can look at Facebook, which has a rather poor interface and still gets used. Twitter is another example of a Web 2.0 solution that has its structural deficiencies and outages, but it still used as well as still loved (their Fail Whale is on a t-shirt now and a badge of pride worn by loyal users).

The Enterprise 2.0 tunnel is built under water. This takes more engineering understanding, but it also requires more fault testing and assurances. A crack or crumbling of a tool inside an organization is not seen kindly and raises doubts around the viability of the tool. The shear volume of users inside an organization using these tools is orders of magnitude less than in the open consumer web world, but faults are more deadly.

The other important factor is perceived fear of the environment. Fewer people (by pure numbers - as the percentages are likely the same, more on this later) are fearful of tunnels through land, they may not have full faith in them, but they know that they will likely make it safely on all of their journeys. The tunnels under water have greater fears as one little crack can cause flooding and drowning quickly. Fears of use of social tools inside an organization is often quite similar, there may be many that are not fearful, but if you spend time talking to people in organizations not using tools (it is the majority at this point) they are fearful of open sharing as that could lead to trouble. People are not comfortable with the concept as they are foreign to it as they are lacking the conceptual models to let them think through it.

Enterprise 2.0 is not Web 2.0

Another statement yesterday that garnered a lot of feedback was, "Web 2.0 does not work well in enterprise, but the approaches and understandings of Web 2.0 modified for enterprise work really well." The web is not enterprise or smaller organizations for that matter. The open consumer web has different scale and needs than inside organizations and through their firewalls. A small percentage of people using the web can get an account on a tool have have appear to be wildly successful correctly claiming 70 million or 100 million people are or have used their tool. But, even 100 million people is a small percentage of people using the web. Looking at real usage and needs for those tools the numbers are really smaller. Most darlings of the Web 2.0 phase have fewer than 10 million users, which is about 5% of the open consumer web users in the United States. On the web a start-up is seen as successful with 500,000 users after a year or two and is likely to have the capability to be self sufficient at that level too. Granted there are many players in the same market niches on the web and the overall usage for link sharing and recommending for Digg, Mixx, or Reddit is much higher across the sum of these tools than in just one of these tools (obviously).

These percentages of adoption and use inside organizations can make executives nervous that their money is not reaching as many employees as they wish. The percentages that can be similar to the web's percentages of high single digit adoption rates to the teens is seen as something that really needs more thinking and consideration.

Enterprise 2.0 is more than just tools (see my Enterprise Social Tools: Components for Success for better understanding) as it also includes interface/interaction design for ease of use, sociality, and encouragement of use. The two biggest factors that are needed inside an organization that can receive less attention on the web are the sociality and encouragement of use.

Understanding sociality is incredibly important inside an organization as people are used to working in groups (often vertical in their hierarchy) that have been dictated to them for use. When the walls are broken down and people are self-finding others with similar interests and working horizontally and diagonally connecting and sharing with others and consuming the collective flows of information their comfortable walls of understanding are gone. A presentation in Copenhagen at Reboot on Freely Seeping Through the Walls of the Garden focussed just on this issue. This fear inside the enterprise is real. Much of the fear is driven by lacking conceptual models and understanding the value they will derive from using the tools and services. People need to know who the other people are that they are sharing with and what their motivations are (to some degree) before they have comfort in sharing themselves.

Encouraging use is also central to increased adoption inside organizations. Many organizations initial believe that Web 2.0 tools will take off and have great adoption inside an organization. But, this is not a "build it and they will come" scenario, even for the younger workers who are believed to love these tools and services and will not stay in a company that does not have them. The reality is the tools need selling their use, value derived from them, the conceptual models around what they do, and easing fears. Adoption rates grow far beyond the teen percentages in organizations that take time guiding people about the use of the tools and services. Those organizations that take the opportunity to continually sell the value and use for these tools they have in place get much higher adoption and continued engagement with the tools than those who do nothing and see what happens.

Gaps in Enterprise Tools

The last related statement was around the gaps in current and traditional enterprise tools. At the fantastic Jive Enterprise UI Summit in Aspen a few weeks ago there was a lot of discussion about enterprise tools, their UI, and ease of use for employees by the incredible collection of people at the event. One of the things that was shown was a killer path of use through a wide encompassing enterprise toolset that was well designed and presented by SAP's Dan Rosenberg who has done an incredible job of putting user experience and thinking through the needed workflows and uses of enterprise tools at the forefront of enterprise software planning. Given the excellent design and incredible amount of user experience thought that went into the tools behind the SAP toolset in the scenario (one of the best I have seen - functioning or blue sky demoed) there are still gaps. Part of this is identifying of gaps comes from traditional business thinking around formal processes and the tools ensure process adherence. But, the reality is the tools are quite often inflexible (I am not talking about SAP tools, but traditional enterprise tools in general), the cost of time and effort is beyond the gain for individuals to document and annotate all decisions and steps along the way. The hurdles to capture information and share it are often too large for capturing one to 10 quick sentences of information that can be retained for one's own benefit or shared with other where it is relevant.

There is another gap in business around the collective intelligence that is needed, which can lead to collaboration. Most businesses and their tools focus on collaboration and set groups, but at the same time wonder why they do not know what their company knows and knowledge is not all being captured. First there is a difference between collective and collaborative activities and the tools and design around and for those different activities is more than a nuance of semantics it is a huge barrier to capturing, sharing, and learning from information that leads to knowledge if it is not understood well. Enterprise has gone through its phases of knowledge management tools, from forms for capturing information, forums for sharing, and up to enterprise content management systems (ECM) that encompass document management, content management, knowledge management, and information harvesting. But, the gaps still exist.

These existing gaps are around conversations not being captured (the walls of the halls have no memory (well today they do not)) and increasingly the ubiquitous communication channel in organizations, e-mail, is being worked around. Quick decisions are not being documented as it is not enough for a document or worth completing a form. As the iterative processes of development, design, and solution engineering are happening at quicker and smaller increments the intelligence behind the decisions is not being captured or shared. This is largely because of the tools.

As has always been the case large enterprise systems are worked around through the use of smaller and more nimble solutions that augment the existing tools. Even in Dan's incredible demo I saw gaps for these tools. The quick tools that can fill these gaps are blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, tagging, Twitter type sharing, Veodia type video sharing, instant messaging, etc. There are many avenues to quickly capture information and understanding and share it. These tools get out of the way and allow what is in someone's head to get digitized and later structured by the individual themselves or other people whom have had the information shared with them in a community space. This turns into flows through streams that can be put into many contexts and needs as well as reused as needed.

Another point Dan stated at the Enterprise UI Summit that is dead on, is organizations are moving out of the vertical structures and moving to the horizontal. This is having a profound effect on the next generation of business tools and processes. This is also an area for Enterprise 2.0 tools as they easily open up the horizontal and diagonal prospects and tie into it the capability for easily understanding who these newly found people are in an organization through looking at their profiles, which eases their fears around sharing and unfamiliar environments as well as their related tasks.

[Comments are open and moderated at Tale of Two Tunnels: Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 :: Personal InfoCloud]



May 30, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 Boston - After Noah: What to do After the Flood (of Information)

I am looking forward to being at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston from June 10 to June 12, 2008. I am going to be presenting on June 10, 2008 at 1pm on After Noah: Making Sense of the Flood (of Information). This presentation looks at what to expect with social bookmarking tools inside an organization as they scale and mature. It also looks at how to manage the growth as well as encourage the growth.

Last year at the same Enterprise 2.0 conference I presented on Bottom-up Tagging (the presentation is found at Slideshare, Bottom-up All the Way Down: How Tags Help Businesses Organize, which has had over 8,800 viewing on Slideshare), which was more of a foundation presentation, but many in the audience were already running social bookmarking services in-house or trying them in some manner. This year my presentation is for those with an understanding of what social bookmarking and folksonomy are and are looking for what to expect and how to manage what is happening or will be coming along. I will be covering how to manage heavy growth as well as how to increase adoption so there is heavy usage to manage.

I look forward to seeing you there. Please say hello, if you get a chance.



May 7, 2008

Enterprise Social Tools: Components for Success

One of the things I continually run across talking with organizations deploying social tools inside their organization is the difficultly getting all the components to mesh. Nearly everybody is having or had a tough time with getting employees and partners to engage with the services, but everybody is finding out it is much more than just the tools that are needed to consider. The tools provide the foundation, but once service types and features are sorted out, it get much tougher. I get frustrated (as do many organizations whom I talk with lately) that social tools and services that make up enterprise 2.0, or whatever people want to call it, are far from the end of the need for getting it right. There is great value in these tools and the cost of the tools is much less than previous generations of enterprise (large organization) offerings.

Social tools require much more than just the tools for their implementation to be successful. Tool selection is tough as no tool is doing everything well and they all are focussing on niche areas. But, as difficult as the tool selection can be, there are three more elements that make up what the a successful deployment of the tools and can be considered part of the tools.

Four Rings of Enterprise Social Tools

Enterprise Social Tool: Components for Success The four elements really have to work together to make for a successful services that people will use and continue to use over time. Yes, I am using a venn diagram for the four rings as it helps point out the overlaps and gaps where the implementations can fall short. The overlaps in the diagram is where the interesting things are happening. A year ago I was running into organizations with self proclaimed success with deployments of social tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, forums, etc.), but as the desire for more than a simple set of blogs (or whichever tool or set of tools was selected) in-house there is a desire for greater use beyond some internal early adopters. This requires paying close attention to the four rings.

Tools

The first ring is rather obvious, it is the tools. The tools come down to functionality and features that are offered, how they are run (OS, rack mount, other software needed, skills needed to keep them running, etc.), how the tools are integrated into the organization (authentication, back-up, etc.), external data services, and the rest of the the usual IT department checklist. The tools get a lot of attention from many analysts and tech evangelists. There is an incredible amount of attention on widgets, feeds, APIs, and elements for user generated contribution. But, the tools do not get you all of the way to a successful implementation. The tools are not a mix and match proposition.

Interface & Ease of Use

One thing that the social software tools from the consumer web have brought is ease of use and simple to understand interfaces. The tools basically get out of the way and bring in more advanced features and functionality as needed. The interface also needs to conform to expectations and understandings inside an organization to handle the flow of interaction. What works for one organization may be difficult for another organization, largely due to the tools and training, and exposure to services outside their organization. Many traditional enterprise tools have been trying to improve the usability and ease of use for their tools over the last 4 to 5 years or so, but those efforts still require massive training and large binders that walk people through the tools. If the people using the tools (not administering the tools need massive amounts of training or large binders for social software the wrong tool has been purchased).

Sociality

Sociality is the area where people manage their sharing of information and their connections to others. Many people make the assumption that social tools focus on everything being shared with everybody, but that is not the reality in organizations. Most organizations have tight boundaries on who can share what with whom, but most of those boundaries get in the way. One of the things I do to help organizations is help them realize what really needs to be private and not shared is often much less than what they regulate. Most people are not really comfortable sharing information with people they do not know, so having comfortable spaces for people to share things is important, but these spaces need to have permeable walls that encourage sharing and opening up when people are sure they are correct with their findings.

Sociality also includes the selective groups people belong to in organizations for project work, research, support, etc. that are normal inside organizations to optimize efficiency. But, where things get really difficult is when groups are working on similar tasks that will benefit from horizontal connections and sharing of information. This horizontal sharing (as well as diagonal sharing) is where the real power of social tools come into play as the vertical channels of traditional organization structures largely serve to make organizations inefficient and lacking intelligence. The real challenge for the tools is the capability to surface the information of relevance from selective groups to other selective groups (or share information more easily out) along the way. Most tools are not to this point yet, largely because customers have not been asking for this (it is a need that comes from use over time) and it can be a difficult problem to solve.

One prime ingredient for social tool use by people is providing a focus on the people using the tools and their needs for managing the information they share and the information from others that flow through the tool. Far too often the tools focus on the value the user generated content has on the system and information, which lacks the focus of why people use the tools over time. People use tools that provide value to them. The personal sociality elements of whom are they following and sharing things with, managing all contributions and activities they personally made in a tool, ease of tracking information they have interest in, and making modifications are all valuable elements for the tools to incorporate. The social tools are not in place just to serve the organization, they must also serve the people using the tools if adoption and long term use important.

Encouraging Use

Encouraging use and engagement with the tools is an area that all organizations find they have a need for at some point and time. Use of these tools and engagement by people in an organization often does not happen easily. Why? Normally, most of the people in the organization do not have a conceptual framework for what the tools do and the value the individuals will derive. The value they people using the tools will derive needs to be brought to the forefront. People also usually need to have it explained that the tools are as simple as they seem. People also need to be reassured that their voice matters and they are encouraged to share what they know (problems, solutions, and observations).

While the egregious actions that happen out on the open web are very rare inside an organization (transparency of who a person is keeps this from happening) there is a need for a community manager and social tool leader. This role highlights how the tools can be used. They are there to help people find value in the tools and provide comfort around understanding how the information is used and how sharing with others is beneficial. Encouraging use takes understanding the tools, interface, sociality, and the organization with its traditions and ways of working.

The Overlaps

The overlaps in the graphic are where things really start to surface with the value and the need for a holistic view. Where two rings over lap the value is easy to see, but where three rings overlap the missing element or element that is deficient is easier to understand its value.

Tools and Interface

Traditional enterprise offerings have focussed on the tools and interface through usability and personalization. But the tools have always been cumbersome and the interfaces are not easy to use. The combination of the tools and interface are the core capabilities that traditionally get considered. The interface is often quite flexible for modification to meet an organizations needs and desires, but the capabilities for the interface need to be there to be flexible. The interface design and interaction needs people who have depth in understanding the broad social and information needs the new tools require, which is going to be different than the consumer web offerings (many of them are not well thought through and do not warrant copying).

Tools and Sociality

Intelligence and business needs are what surface out of the tools capabilities and sociality. Having proper sociality that provides personal tools for managing information flows and sharing with groups as well as everybody as it makes sense to an individual is important. Opening up the sharing as early as possible will help an organization get smarter about itself and within itself. Sociality also include personal use and information management, which far few tools consider. This overlap of tools and sociality is where many tools are needing improvement today.

Interface and Encouraging Use

Good interfaces with easy interaction and general ease of use as well as support for encouraging use are where expanding use of the tools takes place, which in turn improves the return on investment. The ease of use and simple interfaces on combined with guidance that provides conceptual understanding of what these tools do as well as providing understanding that eases fears around using the tools (often people are fearful that what they share will be used against them or their job will go away because they shared what they know, rather than they become more valuable to an organization by sharing as they exhibit expertise). Many people are also unsure of tools that are not overly cumbersome and that get out of the way of putting information in to the tools. This needs explanation and encouragement, which is different than in-depth training sessions.

Sociality and Encouraging Use

The real advantages of social tools come from the combination of getting sociality and encouraging use correct. The sociality component provides the means to interact (or not) as needed. This is provided by the capabilities of the product or products used. This coupled with a person or persons encouraging use that show the value, take away the fears, and provide a common framework for people to think about and use the tools is where social comfort is created. From social comfort people come to rely on the tools and services more as a means to share, connect, and engage with the organization as a whole. The richness of the tools is enabled when these two elements are done well.

The Missing Piece in Overlaps

This section focusses on the graphic and the three-way overlaps (listed by letter: A; B; C; and D). The element missing in the overlap or where that element is deficient is the focus.

Overlap A

This overlap has sociality missing. When the tool, interface, and engagement are solid, but sociality is not done well for an organization there may be strong initial use, but use will often stagnate. This happens because the sharing is not done in a manner that provides comfort or the services are missing a personal management space to hold on to a person's own actions. Tracking one's own actions and the relevant activities of others around the personal actions is essential to engaging socially with the tools, people, and organization. Providing comfortable spaces to work with others is essential. One element of comfort is built from know who the others are whom people are working with, see Elements of Social Software and Selective Sociality and Social Villages (particularly the build order of social software elements) to understand the importance.

Overlap B

This overlap has tools missing, but has sociality, interface, and encouraging use done well. The tools can be deficient as they may not provide needed functionality, features, or may not scale as needed. Often organizations can grow out of a tool as their needs expand or change as people use the tools need more functionality. I have talked with a few organizations that have used tools that provide simple functionality as blogs, wikis, or social bookmarking tools find that as the use of the tools grows the tools do not keep up with the needs. At times the tools have to be heavily modified to provide functionality or additional elements are needed from a different type of tool.

Overlap C

Interface and ease of use is missing, while sociality, tool, and encouraging use are covered well. This is an area where traditional enterprise tools have problems or tools that are built internally often stumble. This scenario often leads to a lot more training or encouraging use. Another downfall is enterprise tools are focussed on having their tools look and interact like consumer social web tools, which often are lacking in solid interaction design and user testing. The use of social tools in-house will often not have broad use of these consumer services so the normal conventions are not understood or are not comfortable. Often the interfaces inside organizations will need to be tested and there many need to be more than one interface and feature set provided for depth of use and match to use perceptions.

Also, what works for one organization, subset of an organization, or reviewer/analyst will not work for others. The understanding of an organization along with user testing and evaluation with a cross section of real people will provide the best understanding of compatibility with interface. Interfaces can also take time to take hold and makes sense. Interfaces that focus on ease of use with more advanced capabilities with in reach, as well as being easily modified for look and interactions that are familiar to an organization can help resolve this.

Overlap D

Encouraging use and providing people to help ease people's engagement is missing in many organizations. This is a task that is often overlooked. The tools, interface, and proper sociality can all be in place, but not having people to help provide a framework to show the value people get from using the tools, easing concerns, giving examples of uses for different roles and needs, and continually showing people success others in an organization have with the social tool offerings is where many organization find they get stuck. The early adopters in an organization may use the tools as will those with some familiarity with the consumer web social services, but that is often a small percentage of an organization.

Summary

All of this is still emergent and early, but these trends and highlights are things I am finding common. The two areas that are toughest to get things right are sociality and encouraging use. Sociality is largely dependent on the tools, finding the limitations in the tools takes a fair amount of testing often to find limitations. Encouraging use is more difficult at the moment as there are relatively few people who understand the tools and the context that organizations bring to the tools, which is quite different from the context of the consumer social web tools. I personally only know of a handful or so of people who really grasp this well enough to be hired. Knowing the "it depends moments" is essential and knowing that use is granular as are the needs of the people in the organization. Often there are more than 10 different use personas if not more that are needed for evaluating tools, interface, sociality, and encouraging use (in some organizations it can be over 20). The tools can be simple, but getting this mix right is not simple, yet.

[Comments are open and moderated at Enterprise Social Tools: Components for Success :: Personal InfoCloud



April 16, 2008

Social Tools for Mergers and Acquisitions

The announcement yesterday of Delta and Northwest airlines merging triggered a couple thoughts. One of the thoughts was sadness as I love the unusually wonderful customer service I get with Northwest, and loathe the now expected poor and often nasty treatment by Delta staff. Northwest does not have all the perks of in seat entertainment, but I will go with great customer service and bags that once in nearly 50 flights did not arrive with me.

But, there is a second thing. It is something that all mergers and large organization changes trigger...

Social Tools Are Great Aids for Change

Stewart Mader brought this to mind again in his post Onboarding: getting your new employees cleared for takeoff, which focusses on using wikis (he works for Atlassian and has been a strong proponent of wikis for years and has a great book on Wiki Patterns) as a means to share and update the information that is needed for transitions and the joining of two organizations.

I really like his write-up and have been pushing the social tools approach for a few years. The wiki is one means of gathering and sharing information. It is a good match with social bookmarking, which allows organizations that are coming together have their people find and tag things in their own context and perspective. This provides finding common objects that exist, but also sharing and learning what things are called from the different perspectives.

Communication Build Common Ground

Communication is a key cornerstone to any organization working with, merging with, or becoming a part of another. Communication needs common ground and social bookmarking that allows for all context and perspectives to be captured is essential to making this a success.

This is something I have presented on and provided advice in the past and really think and have seen that social tools are essentials in these times of transition. It is really rewarding when I see this working as I have been through organization mergers, going public, and major transitions in the days before these tools existed. I can not imaging thinking of transitioning with out these tools and service today. I have talked to many organizations after the fact that wished they had social bookmarking, blogs, and wikis to find and annotate items, provide the means to get messages out efficiently (e-mail is becoming a poor means of sharing valuable information), and working toward common understanding.

One large pain point in mergers and other transitions is the cultural change that brings new terms, new processes, new workflow, and disruption to patterns of understanding that became natural to the people in the organization. The ability to map what something was called and the way it was done to what it is now called and the new processes and flows is essential to success. This is exactly what the social tools provide. Social bookmarking is great for capturing terms, context, and perspectives and providing the ability to refind these new items using prior understanding with low cognitive costs. Blogs help communicate people's understanding as they are going through the process as well as explain the way forward. Wikis help map these individual elements that have been collectively provided and pull them together in one central understanding (while still pointing out to the various individual contributions to hold on to that context) in a collaborative (working together with one common goal) environment.

Increasing Speed and Lowering Cost of Transition

Another attribute of the social tools is the speed and cost at which the information is shared, identified, and aggregated. In the past the large consulting firms and the slow and expensive models for working were have been the common way forward for these times of change. Seeing social tools along with a few smart and nimble experts on solid deployments and social engagement will see similar results in days and a handful of weeks compared to many weeks and months of expensive change management plodding. The key is the people in the organizations know their concerns and needs, while providing them the tools to map their understanding and finding information and objects empowers the individuals while giving them knowledge and the means to share with others. This also helps the individuals grasp that are essential to the success and speed to the change. Most people resent being pushed and prodded into change and new environments, giving them the tools to understand and guide their own change management is incredibly helpful. This decreases the time for transition (for processes and emotionally) while also keeping the costs lower.

[Comments are open and moderated as always in the post at: Social Tools to Efficiently Build Common Ground :: Personal InfoCloud]



April 10, 2008

Denning and Yaholkovsky on Real Collaboration

The latest edition of the Communications of the ACM (Volume 51, Issue 4 - April 2008) includes an article on Getting to "we", which starts off by pointing out the misuse and mis-understanding of the term collaboration as well as the over use of the practice of collaboration when it is not proper for the need. The authors Peter Denning and Peter Yaholkovsky break down the tools needed for various knowledge needs into four categories: 1) Information sharing; 2) Coordination; 3) Cooperation; and Collaboration. The authors define collaboration as:

Collaboration generally means working together synergistically. If your work requires support and agreement of others before you can take action, you are collaborating.

The article continues on to point out that collaboration is often not the first choice of tools we should reach for, as gathering information, understanding, and working through options is really needed in order to get to the stages of agreement. Their article digs deeply into the resolving "messy problems" through proper collaboration methods. To note, the wiki - the usual darling of collaboration - is included in their "cooperation" examples and not Collaboration. Most of the tools many businesses consider in collaboration tools are in the lowest level, which is "information sharing". But, workflow managment falls into the coordination bucket.

This is one of the better breakdowns of tool sets I have seen. The groupings make a lot of sense and their framing of collaboration to take care of the messiest problems is rather good, but most of the tools and services that are considered to be collaborations tools do not even come close to that description or to the capabilities required.

[Comments are open at Denning and Yaholkovsky on Real Collaboration :: Personal InfoCloud]



March 30, 2008

Understanding Collective and Collaborative

I have finally blogged about the different between the two terms of collaborative and collective, which has been something bugging me for some time. Comments there are open, but are moderated (as they always have been). Those who have been to any of my workshops in the past year or so will see familiar information. Hopefully, the post will help those discussing and crafting social tools for the general web (or mobile) or large organizations will read and work to grasp the difference. I have had plenty of academics, researchers, and service developers push me to make this public for far too long so to start getting the misunderstanding around the two terms corrected.



March 23, 2008

Solo Agents Needed

I have a large stack of things to blog and that I should be blogging, but I have been a wee bit piled on with work and bouncing office space. This will be one of a few quick post to get some things out there that really need to be surfaced.

Agent to Solos

I was chatting with Stephanie Booth at SXSWi about the ups and downs of being a solo (freelancer) consultant or other non-developer. One of the struggles is the sales process (selling, negotiating, closing, and getting the money in) and I stated what we really need is an agent for this type of work. Steph has written this up in her blog post, Marketers and Salespeople: Agents for Freelancers.

One of the things I have learned is I really love my book agent, who found the best deal and best environment for me to write my book ("Coming to Terms: Understanding Folksonomy" due out in the late Fall 2008). He negotiated, got the contract, and is dealing with the money side of things (as well as bumps along the way). When I went through that process it was relatively painless (with the exception of dealing with on publishing firm, who I am deeply happy I did not write for, but the pain was mostly not mine (other than the huge delay)). At the time I thought my business life needs this, but the thought faded.

I am finding that much of my time is spent pitching (I rather like pitching), meeting, and working to get to contracts/agreements. When this is done it is doing the actual work (I normally work in sets of brief engagements) and invoicing. This is relatively enjoyable. Getting organizations to pay or going through mediaeval payment paperwork processes is not a joy. The book keeping is not a joy either.

I know these types of services much be around as there are book agents, speaking agents, and agents for other types of work. This is not people trying to connect me with opportunities (if you know of opportunities where I can help I am always willing to engage in that conversation) as the font end marketing and sales leads I have avenues that are finally working well for that who understand what I do and where my service provide strong value for organizations considering social web/computing tools, improving the value their current tools and services provide, or working with vendors to identify the value gaps and greatly improve their products. I need a closer and billing service all working for a percentage of what they close (I know of very few people who will sign with exclusive services).

Go read Steph's piece and leave comments there or drop me an e-mail (see connect above).



February 11, 2008

Challenges as Opportunities for Social Networks and Services

Jeremiah Owyang posts "The Many Challenges of Social Network Sites" that lays out many of the complaints that have risen around social networking sites (and other social computing services). He has a good list of complaints, which all sounded incredibly familiar from the glory days of 1990 to 1992 for IT in the enterprise (tongue firmly planted in cheek). We have been through these similar cycles before, but things are much more connected now, but things also have changed very little (other than many of the faces). His question really needs addressing when dealing with Enterprise 2.0 efforts as these are the things I hear initially when talking with organizations too. Jeremiah asked for responses and the following is what I posted...

Response to Challenges of Social Network/Services

The past year or two, largely with Facebook growing the social networks and social computing tools have grown into the edges of mainstream. Nearly every argument made against these tools and services was laid down against e-mail, rich UI desktops (people spent hours changing the colors and arranging the interfaces), and IM years ago.

Where these tools are "seemingly" not working is mostly attributed to a severe lack of defining the value derived from using the tools. These news tools and services, even more so those of us working around them, need to communicate how to use the tools effectively and efficiently (efficiently is difficult as the many of the tools are difficult to use or the task flows are not as simple as they should be). The conceptual models & frameworks for those of us analyzing the tools have been really poor and missing giant perspectives and frameworks.

One of the biggest problems with many of these tools and services is they have yet to move out of early product mode. The tools and services are working on maturity getting features in the tools that people need and want, working on scaling, and iterating based on early adopters (the first two or three waves of people), which is not necessarily how those who follow will use the tools or need the tools to work.

Simplicity and limited options on top of tools that work easily and provide good derived value for the worklife and . As the tools that were disrupters to work culture in the past learned the focus needs to be on what is getting done and let people do it. Friending people, adding applications, tweaking the interface, etc. are not things that lead to easy monetization. Tools that help people really be social, interact, and get more value in their life (fun, entertainment, connecting with people near in thought, filtering information from the massive flow, and using the information and social connections in context where people need it) from the tools is there things must head. We are building the platforms for this, but we need to also focus on how to improve use of these platforms and have strong vision of what this is and how to get there.

[This is also posted at Challenges as Oppotunities for Social Networks and Services :: Personal InfoCloud with moderated comments turned on.]



Yahoo! Makes Good Call on Microsoft Purchase

The Wall Street Journal article about Yahoo! Rejecting Microsoft Bid (many more stories on TechMeme) was one that restored my faith in Yahoo! (not that it was really lost). I am proud of the Yahoo! board, but not for the reasons most are talking about. Since hearing about the Microsoft bid to take over Yahoo! I thought it was a really poor idea, well horrible idea. I really like Yahoo! and a lot of the things they are doing. I also really do like Microsoft (it is just some of their products that frustrate me to no end), in particular I think the MS Live group has come up with some great ideas out of research and that pleases e to know end. I am a giant fan of Ray Ozzie (oh, where have you gone Ray?).

Merger Would be a Giant Culture Clash

Yes, there are the technology concerns with some of the best open and shared technology development and augmentation coming out of Yahoo!, which is counter to the Microsoft focus on using their own tools (most of the web is built on open tools and Yahoo! helps make that a great platform to develop upon). This is not my big concern.

Where I see a giant problem is the management and employee culture. I know and have known a lot of employees and managers (mid-level and upper-level) at both organizations. Microsoft is a tough business culture with keeping the top percentage of employees and contributers on a project and moving others off to find a spot on other projects. In talking with many Microsoft employees (most were in the top performer group) this is often seen as horribly disruptive to the team when the changes occur. This management model also discourages sharing collectively and building collaboratively, which is also stated as a huge problem. These disruptions and metrics that are counter to strong development for the web and quick iterative cycles (not that Yahoo! seems to iterate quickly other than Flickr and a handful of other products) are quite counter to an open shared development process at Yahoo!. The clash of management cultures on this front, unless Microsoft did the unthinkable and adopted the Yahoo! approach, which could fix a lot of what has been holding Microsoft back (well, from current and former employees perspectives).

Related to the performance of employees the management teams go through similar reviews. But, many employees I have talked with (at conferences, networking events, airports and airplanes (there is always one within 10 seats of me it seams), and chat) have been really frustrated with management changes that can occur after 6 to 9 months. Having a new manager often changes focus and direction, which breaks momentum and continuity. Talking with great people Microsoft has lost over the past couple years, this management change was their biggest reason for leaving. The changes in management also often lead to conflicting measurement goals, which would make a great product or team look as if they were not working up to the standards. This is not management, but business process failure. This is not saying Microsoft has poor managers, quite the opposite in fact as many are some of the best I have run across in the business. But, the structure, processes, and measurement that the top management of Microsoft has established seems to be what has inhibited Microsoft from really top performance. What may work for some parts of Microsoft does not seem to work for other areas (actually, of all the Microsoft employees I have talked with from all across the organization the model does not work outside of sales).

The Yahoo! management has had more than their share of restructuring, but the disruptions this has made to product development and progress have been minimal. The goals, direction, and means to get the job done do not change for the most part (from what I have heard). Employees are flustered, but not demoralized. Yahoo! seems to have much greater continuity and central focus. Their products are well known, well used, and they iterate (over time). Many discussions with Yahoo! employees and managers outside the walls of Yahoo! are more frustrated by the silos and inability to work across the silos, but some the restructuring in the past couple of years has helped move to alleviate these problems. The cross platform team that works to help research, understand, and develop best of class solutions is a great step in this direction (from the perspective of many within Yahoo!). Yahoo! has known what has been holding back its efforts (Panama ate focus and resources) and has taken steps to alleviate the problems and move in a new positive direction. There are many things in Yahoo! that were more transparent two years ago than they are now (part of that may be those talking about things openly have been insanely busy). One of the things that seems to be problematic (from an outsider's perspective) is blinder focus and lack of concurrent development within groups.

Sum of Parts are Not Positive

When looking at the two cultures of the companies they are incredibly polar. One of the first steps in looking at a purchase or merger must be to look at compatibility of the cultures. Sure the products and services look like they may be a good fit by some at Microsoft, but those products and services are built by people with in a culture that propagates an environment to build wonderful things. Breaking that culture (Microsoft repeatedly iterated the vast savings the combination of MS and Y! would make) through integration of polar cultures has the high probability of destroying the value of what you believe will help. In this case a one plus one could equal less than one.

Partnering Not Combining

Yahoo! and Microsoft could have increased value partnering and working together though a Microsoft investment. What and how I do not know, but Microsoft needs positive outcomes and Yahoo! could use some financial boosts. Microsoft could also use a culture change, but that does not seem to be with in their vision as of yet and it is a huge organization to move in a new direction.

Yahoo! could improve its lot with partnerships, be it Microsoft, Ebay, Murdoch, Time Warner (AOL), and Google. I really do not want to see the Yahoo! search engine go away as the competition is good and provides alternatives should something go wrong with a one player or few player marketplace (oligopoly).



February 5, 2008

Social Computing Summit in Miami, Florida in April, 2008

ASIS&T has a new event they are putting on this year, the Social Computing Summit in Miami, Florida on April 10-11, 2008 (a reminder page is up at Yahoo's Upcoming - Social Computing Summit). The event is a single-track event on both days with keynote presentations, panels, and discussion.

The opening keynote is by Nancy Baym. I have been helping assist with organization of the Social Computing Summit and was asked by the other organizers to speak, which I am doing on the second day. The conference is a mix of academic, consumer, and business perspectives across social networking, politics, mobile, developing world, research, enterprise, open social networks (social graph and portable social networks) as well as other subjects. The Summit will be a broad view of the digital social world and the current state of understanding from various leaders in social computing.

There is an open call for posters for the event that closes on February 25, 2008. Please submit as this is looking to be a great event and more perspectives and expertise will only make this event more fantastic.



December 18, 2007

T-Mobile Was Not the Problem with Twitter

Twitter has been having problems with T-Mobile USA customers having the ability to use Twitter's short code to send messages to Twitter (as noted in T-Mobile Shows Ignorance Blocking Twitter. But, as it turns out the problem for being able to use short codes was not T-Mobile, but was the messaging service Twitter uses to handle its messages. This highlights a couple problems with what happened: 1) Messaging service providers need better communication with customers; 2) T-Mobile was not blocking, but assumed it was.

Messaging Services Need to Improve Customer Service

I know quite a few people whose services for mobile access in the United States use messaging services to handle the SMS for them. All of them (about 7 of them, all in confidence) have said they are not fully happy with the service provider, but the options are rather thin. The two biggest complaints are poor communication when problems arise and maintenance (setup, managing, and monitoring) capabilities. The services are mostly companies who have built applications, servers, and network access to ease the sending and receiving SMS text messages to augment existing services. This is a tough market space to work as it constantly is changing and the costs can be high and staying on top of all the changes takes constant watching (policies of carries and settings change relatively often). What is missing seems to be a service that is proactive and works in a more transparent manner (alerts and metrics when errors happen).

T-Mobile Customer Service Still Good, but Management Reacted Oddly

Let me start by saying I was relieved that this problem was not T-Mobile blocking Twitter short codes, as that would have been a strong reason to move from T-Mobile. The last five years and more, I have been extremely impressed with T-Mobile's customer service. When I have a problem they answer the phone quickly or respond to e-mail quickly and immediately start working on solving the problem. I rarely have problems with their service and the odd occasions when there are problems (like getting international data roaming for a fix rate on my mobile that they do not sell) they work hard to get a great solutions and always seem to go the extra mile. This is one company whose customer service I am always quite impressed with how I am treated, the effort that is put in to provide an optimal solution, and the amount of time (relatively short when compared to all other telecom (mobile or landline - including cable)) it tasks from beginning to final resolution. T-Mobile is my measure for nearly all other customer service I receive.

What is really with the T-Mobile responses did not seem to come from Customer Service (who was not aware that there was a problem, which is slightly problematic but often attributed to a limited knowledge management application to handle trouble tickets), but came from T-Mobile management. There were quite a few people who e-mailed and escalated their problems with T-Mobile and received an [paraphrased]it is our right to block services as we see fit policy response from the management. This is quite problematic. One is that they can and will block services without notification. Second, they respond in this manner with out looking into the problem (this is incredibly counter to my experiences and I would not be a fan of T-Mobile were this the usual practice of ignorance and laziness). It seems that T-Mobile USA senior management needs to take a good look at its own practices and start learning how their customer service is done in the trenches and start replicating that as quickly as possible.



December 16, 2007

T-Mobile Shows Ignorance Blocking Twitter

Updated with response in T-Mobile Was Not the Problem with Twitter.

The news of USA T-Mobile Blocking Twitter Short Code (and now understanding of why I have been getting the service unavailable message the past few days) is deeply bothersome on many levels. First is I use Twitter a lot. It is a core communication channel for me. It is a viable outlet during emergencies. Lastly, when traveling and when out Twitter is a great broadcast medium to connect with friends to coordinate meeting and let them know of delays or problems.

These issues while they have great value and essential support, are secondary to a commercial entity blocking a service with out notice. I mostly use mobile Twitter, but the short code is something I use quite often, particularly to direct message when somebody needs a private quick answer. I don't have all of my friend's mobile numbers, but Twitter has decreased my need for them as one SMS (short code) suffices. T-Mobile is getting paid for use of the short code for the SMS traffic just the same as if I used my friend's mobile number for SMS.

Lacking Access to Twitter Short Code is Reason to Dump T-Mobile

The belief that T-Mobile has that is does not have to support any external service they do not have an agreement with is a giant problem for me the customer. I pay T-Mobile for service, if they decide not to provide service I decide to take my business to a company that will provide service. T-Mobile can cower behind its foolish policy statement, but those of us who are month-to-month with them (I own my own mobile device that I really like and I will not sign an agreement that has lock-in) should look at other options and make a decision that is in our best interest. T-Mobile seemingly does not support its customers by providing open transmission of messages/communication (this is why I pay them money, who is on the other end is never important). Lacking an understanding of why they get paid by their customers is a tragic decision.

T-Mobile Wants to Get in the Social Services Game

For months T-Mobile has been advertising for a Director for Community Products on its job board (now looking for a Senior Manager for Community Products), but to play this game T-Mobile must play well with other Community platforms. There is no lock-in as many people already have their own Community/Social platforms they use (Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, etc.). The best way to build community is to embrace other platforms and allow open communication between the services. Rule number one in social software is people hang out and use services where their friends are. The corollary is people will use a service that easily connects with where their friends are (Jaiku gets this and has done well embracing this concept as it can pull in feeds from all platforms (allowing the listener to decide what feeds they want in their feed from the lifestreams from their friend's lives.

T-Mobile must learn this simple concept or they have proven they do not get the game and they will be moved out of the way.



December 7, 2007

Pffft! Social Graph, We Need the Portable Social Network

In reading Alex Rudloff's "Privacy as Currancy" post I had two thoughts reoccur: 1) privacy is a currency back by trust; and 2) Pfffft! Social graph? Where is my Portable Social Network?

I agree with what Alex stated about wanting to move out of Facebook as my trust in them is gone completely (mostly driven by even though they apologized (poorly) Facebook still receives trackings of all your travels on the internet after you opt out, Om Malik's Zuckerberg's Mea Culp, Not Enough, and Brian Oberkirk's Facebook Harder to Shake than the Columbia Record Tape Club (a great read on the hurdles of really getting out of Facebook)). I will likely blog about the relationship between privacy and trust in another post in the not too distant future, as I have been talking about it in recent presentations on Social Software (Going Social and Putting Users First).

The Dire Need for Portable Social Networks

When Alex states:

Beacon had me so freaked out that I walked through what would happen if I simply removed my account (my natural, gut reaction). The fact is, I'd lose contact with a lot of people instantly. There's no easy way for me to take my data out and apply it somewhere else. There is no friend export and there isn't anywhere suitable for me to go.

I think we need portable social networks (or Social Network Portability as it is also known) before we need the social graph. Part of the interest in the social graph (mapping the relationships) is based on Facebook, but Facebook is a really poor interface for this information, it has some of the connections, some of the context, but it is not granular and does not measure strength (strong or weak ties) of relationships on a contextual and/or a preferential interest level. This social graph does little to help us move from one social software service to another other than to show a linkage.

There are strong reasons for wanting and needing the Portable Social Network. One is it makes it easy to drop into a new social software service and try it with social interactions with people whom we are already having social interactions. Whilst this is good it is also really important if something tragic or dire happens with a social software service we are already using, such as it is shut down, it is no longer performing for us, or it has given us a reason to leave through loss of trust. As I noted in the past (Following Friends Across Walled Gardens") leaving social software services is nothing new (even predates people leaving Delphi for Prodigy and Prodigy for AOL, etc.), but we still are not ready for this seemingly natural progression of moving house from one walled off social platform for another.

The Call for Action for Portable Social Network is Now

I am finding many of my friends have put their Facebook account on in hibernation (Facebook calls it &#quot;deactivation") and many have started taking the painful steps of really getting all of their information out of Facebook and planning to never go back. My friends have not sorted out what robust social software platform they will surface on next (many are still using Flickr, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr and/or other options along with their personal blogs), but they would like to hold on to the digital statements of social relationship they made in Facebook and be able to drop those into some other service or platform easily.

One option could a just having a Smart Address Book or as Tim O'Reilly states Address Book 2.0. I believe that this should be a tool/service should have the relationships private and that privacy is controlled by the individual that owns the address book, possibly even accounting for the privacy request of the person whose address is in the address book. But, this is one option of many.

The big thing is we need Portable Social Networks now! This is not a far off in the future need it is a need of today.

[Comments are open on the syndicated post at Pffft! Social Graph, We Need the Portable Social Network :: Personal InfoCloud]



December 4, 2007

Six Apart Sells LiveJournal

Yesterday the news came out that Six Apart sold LiveJournal. It is part sad news as the combining of LiveJournal was a good move when SixApart bought them, but as SixApart has grown their attention and focus has not been on LiveJournal. The upside is this shows SixApart is showing it is maturing and being clear-headed about their capability and focus.

Good Companies Focus

Good companies, particularly start-ups, focus (as much as possible) and it is done so to provide the best product possible. As start-ups grow and more importantly their market segment grows (getting more competitive with larger traditional companies getting involved) the focus must be there to provide a solid product.

It was very clear to the people using LiveJournal as well as people watching that part of the industry that LiveJournal was not getting the attention it needed with updates and improvements that were happening elsewhere. SixApart was aware of this and cares about the community using LiveJournal enough to do what it takes to keep that passionate community happy with the tool. The viable solution to do this was selling it to a company that can provide this solution.

Wins On All Sides

The LiveJournal community should benefit greatly by the sale (as the purchase by SixApart helped initially LiveJournal keep going and additional support of the SixApart team). This also helps SixApart focus on their existing tools of MovableType, TypePad, and Vox (somewhat of a competitor to LiveJournal but with vastly different group of people using the services).

Congratulations to SixApart for the move as it should help all parties.



August 25, 2007

SXSW Interactive Panel Picking Time

As you have heard nearly everywhere else it is SXSW interactive panel picking time [had I not has the worst cold in 2 years you would have heard it here earlier]. Well, this year I am in on two panels in for the picking. Both are subjects I get asked a lot of questions about and have much experience with each. Please go vote.

Bridge Too Far?: Social Web Inside and Through the Corporate Firewall

The "Bridge Too Far" panel in the picker

Many of us love social web tools we use and would love to use them inside the companies where we work as well as have them use them. This panel will look at blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, inside the corporate firewall, through it and outside it. Some companies blog these tools and some beginning to see the value. The panel is made up of four people with a lot of experience walking companies through the process of understanding then embracing the tools and helping them get the best value out of the tools. The panel is:

Career Transitions: From DIY to Working for The Man

"Career Transitions" in the panel picker

You are trying to right size your career and wondering if working for a monster multinational corporation, government, a small start-up, design shop, or a solo freelancer is the way to go? This is the panel will explain the good sides and the dirt with each of the options. The panel has covered it all and is living it all. The panelists are:



August 21, 2007

A Sad Day for Great Customer Service

Today I made a call that was really tough. I canceled my Speakeasy DSL account. A few weeks ago the we upgraded to Verizon FIOS (fiber network) to get much faster internet service for less cost. The switch removed the copper wire coming to the house (although that may not be fully the case due to some law suits brewing against this practice - the copper may have to be put back for free if the case wins or is settled and Verizon is cutting their potential losses making it easy to reconnect).

Giving Up Customer Service

In making this switch I gave up one of my favorite customer service relationships I have ever had, which was with Speakeasy. Every time I have needed to call Speakeasy, which was not often as their service was nearly perfect in the nearly six years I used them, they were polite and were very helpful. In one occasion they suggested an option that would save me money. They also applied the lower rates to my service when the rates dropped. They have acted just like you wish every company would act. They treat you like a valued customer at every turn. They look out for their customers interests, even it if is making less money. For me Speakeasy would win my business if they could compete on a level playing field.

Verizon the Painful

I have had horrible customer service in the past from Verizon, with customer service agents flat out lying (their upper managers later apologized in each case and said it was not normal practice, only to have it happen the next call). But, with getting an oder of magnitude (10x) or faster internet for a third of the price, it was a really tough call. Before we even got the service installed we uncovered Verizon had signed us up for services we did not want and did not have in our signed contract. It has been painful to get that sorted out.

Why go with Verizon? Well, I figured I can put my battle boots on to get what I need (hopefully), which is just what is promised in the contract. I know that every conversation will be a lot of effort and painful, just like they have been the last 14 years and even getting the fiber activity connected proved they have not changed.

Lack of Competition Ensures Low Quality

I have been amazed that much of the rest of the industrialized and post-industrialized world treats its telecom infrastructure as a public good. It is a national interest. The copper wires we have/had are considered belonging to the public. It has been considered a core necessity to have up to date technology infrastructure by many countries, but not the USA. Today the USA is 14th to 25th in broadband availability, use, and average speed compared to other nations across many surveys. The USA is way behind and its model leaving infrastructure in the hands of those with no competition or incentive. In a capitalist market society there needs to be competition, but in telecom there is no market as their is an oligopoly (only a limited few strong players), which is not a market (open competition) in economic terms.

I like the model for DSL, which had many parties buying infrustructure and selling based on service. When DSL started there was largely parity (small companies and large with similar pricing) and competition on services was the difference. Then the courts ruled and still allowed access, but the telecoms created a playing field in their advantage where they could sell services for less by not providing "discounts" to other service providers. The competition then came to be solely paying more for better service (connectivity and customer service). For many paying to be treated by a human was worth the cost.

Today there continues to be no marketplace. But, there is no option for competition on service. The lines are now property of the telecom that laid them and others have to lay their own lines to provide access. This method tears up the road infrastructure and creates un-needed redundancy. The model is broken and is keeping the USA behind other countries. I would gladly pay $10 to $15 more per month for Speakeasy customer service for my fiber connection.

Infrastructure is Competition?

I have chatted with a few CEOs and CIOs who have global businesses. When they look at expanding they look less to the USA than to Europe or Asia. It is not so much the cost of people, as most will pay for good people. But, in the US the poor infrastructure comparatively means they need more buildings and to pay for infrastructure themselves. The big campus is not efficient to many businesses as the technology and tools to connect and collaborate have improved. But, to do this takes infrastructure in a country or region.

My upgrading my connectivity allowed for much smoother video chats and voice chats. I can share large documents more easily. But, my access to the infrastructure is extremely rare in the USA. In the Netherlands similar connectivity is at nearly every doorstep in the top cities, secondary cities, and even tertiary cities. Outside of their city centers many people I talk with there work from home 80 to 90 percent of the time.



August 13, 2007

Open Conversations and Privacy Needs for Business

I thought I would share the latest press bit around this joint, Thomas Vander Wal was quoted in Inc Magazine What's Next: Shout it Out Loud (or in the August 2007 issue beginning on page 69). The article focuses the need and desire for companies to share and be open with more of their data and information. Quite often companies are getting bit by their privacy around what they do (how their source their products/resources, who they donate money to, etc.) and rumors start. It is far more efficient and helpful to be open with that information, as it gets out anyway.

Ironically, in the same paper issue on page 26 there is a an article about When Scandal Knocks..., which includes a story about Jamba Juice and a blog post that inaccurately claimed it had milk in its products, which could have easily been avoided if Jamba Juice had an ingredients listing on its web site.

The Flip Side

There are two flip sides to this. One is the Apple converse, which is a rare example of a company really making a mythic organization out of its privacy. The second is companies really need privacy for some things, but the control of information is often too extreme and is now more harmful than helpful.

Viable Privacy

I have been working on a much longer post looking at the social software/web tools for and in the enterprise. Much of of the extreme openness touted in the new web charge is not a viable reality inside enterprise. There are a myriad of things that need to be private (or still qualify as valid reasons for many). The list include preparations for mergers and acquisitions, securities information dealings (the laws around this are what drive much of the privacy and are out dated), reorganizations (restructuring and layoffs, which organizations that have been open about this have found innovative solutions from the least likely places), personal employee records, as well as contractual reasons (advising or producing products for competitors in the same industry or market segment). Out side of these issues, which normally add up to under 30 to 40% of the whole of the information that flows through an organization, there is a lot of room for openness in-house and to the outside world.

Need for Enterprise Social Tools Grasping Partial Privacy

When we look at the consumer space for social software there are very few consumer tools that grasp social interaction and information sharing on a granular level (Ma.gnolia, Flickr, and the SixApart tools Vox and LiveJournal are the exceptions that always come to mind). But, many of the tools out there that are commonly used as examples of social web tools really fall down when business looks at them and thinks about privacy and selective sociality (small groups). The social web tools all around really need to grow up and improve in this area. As we are seeing the collaboration and social tools evolve to more viable options we start to see their more glaring holes that do not reflect the reality of human social interaction.

Closing the Gap

What we need is for companies to be more open so the marketplace is a more consumer and communicative environment, but we also need our still early social web tools to reflect our social realities that not everything is public and having tools that better fit those needs.

[Cross-posted at Personal InfoCloud: Open Converastions... with comments open on that posting.]



July 14, 2007

Understanding Taxonomy and Folksonmy Together

I deeply appreciate Joshua Porter's link to from his Taxonomies and Tags blog post. This is a discussion I have quite regularly as to the relation and it is in my presentations and workshops and much of my tagging (and social web) training, consulting, and advising focusses on getting smart on understanding the value and downfalls of folksonomy tagging (as well as traditional tagging - remember tagging has been around in commercial products since at least the 1980s). The following is my response in the comments to Josh' post...

Response to Taxonomy and Tags

Josh, thanks for the link. If the world of language were only this simple that this worked consistently. The folksonomy is a killer resource, but it lacks structure, which it crucial to disambiguating terms. There are algorithmic ways of getting close to this end, but they are insanely processor intensive (think days or weeks to churn out this structure). Working from a simple flat taxonomy or faceted system structure can be enabled for a folksonomy to adhere to.
This approach can help augment tags to objects, but it is not great at finding objects by tags as Apple would surface thousands of results and they would need to be narrowed greatly to find what one is seeking.
There was an insanely brilliant tool, RawSugar [(now gone thanks to venture capitalists pulling the plug on a one of a kind product that would be killer in the enterprise market)], that married taxonomy and folksonomy to help derive disambiguation (take appleseed as a tag, to you mean Johnny Appleseed, appleseed as it relates to gardening/farming, cooking, or the anime movie. The folksonomy can help decipher this through co-occurrence of terms, but a smart interface and system is needed to do this. Fortunately the type of system that is needed to do this is something we have, it is a taxonomy. Using a taxonomy will save processor time, and human time through creating an efficient structure.
Recently I have been approached by a small number of companies who implemented social bookmarking tools to develop a folksonomy and found the folksonomy was [initially] far more helpful than they had ever imagined and out paced their taxonomy-based tools by leaps and bounds (mostly because they did not have time or resources to implement an exhaustive taxonomy (I have yet to find an organization that has an exhaustive and emergent taxonomy)). The organizations either let their taxonomist go or did not replace them when they left as they seemed to think they did not need them with the folksonomy running. All was well and good for a while, but as the folksonomy grew the ability to find specific items decreased (it still worked fantastically for people refinding information they had personally tagged). These companies asked, "what tools they would need to start clearing this up?" The answer a person who understands information structure for ease of finding, which is often a taxonomist, and a tool that can aid in information structure, which is often a taxonomy tool.
The folksonomy does many things that are difficult and very costly to do in taxonomies. But taxonomies do things that folksonomies are rather poor at doing. Both need each other.

Complexity Increases as Folksonomies Grow

I am continually finding organizations are thinking the social bookmarking tools and folksonomy are going to be simple and a cure all, but it is much more complicated than that. The social bookmarking tools will really sing for a while, but then things need help and most of the tools out there are not to the point of providing that assistance yet. There are whole toolsets missing for monitoring and analyzing the collective folksonomy. There is also a need for a really good disambiguation tool and approach (particularly now that RawSugar is gone as a viable approach).



July 7, 2007

Yahoo Takes Shot at Own and Customer's Foot

I just got an e-mail that Yahoo Photos is closing September 20, 2007 at 9pm. I have been finding the closing of the site somewhat odd, mostly because the many of the people I know and run across that use Yahoo Photos rely on Yahoo Photos to always be there. They are often infrequent users. They like and love the service because it is relatively easy to use and "will always be there". Many real people I know (you know the 95 percent of the people who do not live their life on the web) visit Yahoo Photos once or twice a year as it is where holiday, travel, or family reunion photos are stored. It would seem that this user base would need more than a year's notice to get valuable notification that their digital heirlooms are going to be gone, toast, destroyed, etc. in a few short months.

It the good will lost through a class action lawsuit against Yahoo! brought by its regular people user base (the core of its business) will not make things better. You know legal action is coming as photos are a valuable part of people's life and memories. Many of the regular people do not check their e-mail regularly as they have more than one or two accounts. Many people I know chose Yahoo Photos over other competitors, because Yahoo had been around longer and understood how to maintain their memories over time. To many Yahoo Photos is not an experiment that would go away.

Yahoo Is Many Things To Many People

I absolutely love Flickr and have never really been a Yahoo Photos user, as I mostly put my own photos on my own servers prior to Flickr. Part of Yahoo's quandary goes back to last a memo last Fall, names the Peanutbutter Manifesto, which was written by Brad Garlinghouse. Garlinghouse railed against the Yahoo multi-headed approach to services. Some services were new and innovative, while others were older and more tradtional. To the novice it would look like they served the same purpose. Yahoo Photos and Flickr do both serve digital photos and provide online photo galleries. Flickr has been providing a good source of ad revenues and Photos has not been as profitable. This seems on the surface to be smart decision, but to the millions more users of Photos than in Flickr this will do little more than bring ill will. Ill will is not something Yahoo can really afford these days.

Innovation and Incorporation of Ideas

Yahoo in the past few years has been buying innovative companies that provide value and unique ways of interacting with people and information on the web. Yahoo has also been innovating in-house with its research labs and now, Brickhouse. Having similar service running allows for one to be innovative and test the waters, while keeping one a safe resource that is familiar to the many who want stability over fresh and innovative. Companies must understand these two groups of people exist and are not fully interchangeable (er, make that they are rarely interchangeable). Innovation takes experimentation and time. Once things are found to work within the groups accepting innovation the work becomes really tough with the integration and use testing with the people who are not change friendly (normally a much larger part of an organization's base).

It would have seemed the smart move to be mindful that Flickr is the innovation platform and Photos is the stable use platform. The two groups of use are needed. Those in the perpetual beta and innovation platform are likely to jump to something new and different if the innovation gets stale. The stable platform users often are surprised and start looking to move when there is too much change. It is a real smart understanding that is needed of who the people are that use, love, and depend on these services. Real smarts are needed to keep these two different communities happy and loyal. When this works well the innovation group is happily the test bed for new helpful tools for the stable platform (which will need beta testing of its people using the service as well).

Irony Run Rampant

While Yahoo is aiming to show it does not grasp the two different use groups of its two photo platforms, nor the loayalty the much larger group has entrusted in Yahoo, many other companies are following the trail Yahoo has put in place by setting up beta programs for their own innovation of products. Google has its labs, but is moving its second generation attempts into its labs. Nearly every large consumer facing web organization has set up labs and/or has been buying small innovative web properties to boost their relevance and ability to build to the future more easily. Most organization outside Yahoo are innovating, testing, and moving solid broadly usable components into their stable large use base products. These other organizations understand loyalty and their customer base. I really thought Yahoo grasped this, with Jerry Yang taking over I had thought a new smart direction was in the works. A Yahoo that snubs its loyal users who believed they placed their prized possessions in the hands of an enduring web property, is new but not innovative and not a lasting property.



June 30, 2007

A Love Ruined - Good Bye Palm

It used to be all love. It started in 1998 just after Christmas. It was a gift under the tree and it brought me wonderful joy. It was the Palm III by Palm. It allowed me to sync all of my address book info, my to do lists, and other "essentials" of a digital portable life. It was relatively easy to write applications for it and extend its usefulness. I learn the graffiti writing in three early mornings of waking-up on the West Coast on East Coast time.

That Palm lasted a few years and I then moved to the HandSpring Visor Deluxe, which had more internal memory, still based on the Palm operating system, and it had four times the memory. The device did most everything I needed. Just like my Palm III the HandSpring was reliable and always ready, it never failed me. I added a camera and some other tools for the plug-in slot and everything always worked.

Mobile Internet & Mobile E-mail

My big advancement was getting a Sidekick (Hiptop) that gave me web, chat, and e-mail all live and all in my pocket. I still kept the Visor as it still served a purpose (address book, notes, e-books). The Sidekick was not a great phone so I kept my Motorola 270C (a really great phone - did not much else). This was a stack of too many devices, particularly when an iPod came into my life.

Treo Moves In

Somewhere in the Spring of 2002 I got a Treo 600, which seemed like a great solution. I replaced my Sidekick, my Motorola, my Visor, and my watch (this was happenstance more than anything else). Things were good for the first 6 to 9 months, but the phone began to crash regularly after that. I had some hardware malfunctions and got a replacement. All was good again for 6 to 9 months then it started crashing when pulling e-mail and the phone rang. The hardware did not last that long on this either. By Fall (18 months after the first 600) the phone was in really poor state and I woke up one morning picked it up and it split (the day before traveling to the Bay Area). By this time the Treo 650 was out and I convinced my mobile provider to let me switch with out penalty. But the same story repeated at 6 to 9 months. After 10 months the keyboard stopped working and I got a replacement. I am 12 months into that replacement and life with this Treo is hell.

Treo Is Toiletware

The relationship with my Treo is so bad I constantly swear I am going to throw it in the toilet, but that would leave me with out a primary phone (I have an old Nokia I enjoy for international service and back-up but don't have many minutes with that carrier). The odd thing is I know quite a few people who used to work at Palm and none of them use a Palm device. All of them have had horrible problems with the Treo and it was their last device with a Palm operating system.

Palm seemed to have lost their love when they added the phone. The Treo is a really poor phone (horrible voice capability), but it also is short on memory and most useful applications were removed from the device as they needed more memory than was available or they crashed the device. Now my Treo is less useful than my Sidekick. It is a slow unreliable device. Palm went from being a company I utterly loved to one I hope dies a quick painful death. Everybody I know that has new devices say they are no better.

What is the Next Step

While I have interest in Blackberry devices, I like the open platform of Nokia and Nokia gets the phone part of the phone really well. The iPhone is interesting, but is missing the open platform, 3G, and proven platfor that Nokia has. I am still making up my mind, but I think the Nokia E61i is what I really want to replaced the horrible state the Treo has left me in.

I want a phone with decent camera, with e-mail, web, WiFi, touch keyboard, and ability to read e-books and docs easily. I want to be able to build and get solid applications that serve the purposes I need and do not crash the device.

Good bye Palm, I loved you deeply for a long time, but you betrayed me with your crap phones and lack of caring. It was not that I fell for another product, you did it to yourself.



June 23, 2007

The Social Enterprise

I am just back from Enterprise 2.0 Conference held in Boston, where I presented Bottom-up All The Way Down: How Tags Help Businesses Organize (thanks to Stowe Boyd for the tantalizing session title), which was liveblog captured by Sandy Kemsley as "Enterprise 2.0: Thomas Vander Wal". I did not catch all of the conference due to some Boston business meetings and connecting with friends and meeting digi-friends whose work I really enjoy face-to-face. The sessions I made it to were good and enlightening and as always the hallway conversations were worth their weight in gold.

Ms. Perceptions and Fear Inside the Corporate Walls

Having not been at true business focussed conference in years (until the past few weeks) I was amazed with how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. I was impressed with the interest and adoption around the social enterprise tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking/folksonomy, etc.). But, the misperceptions (Miss Perceptions) are still around and have grown-up (Ms. Perception) and are now being documented by Forrester and others as being fact, but the questions are seemingly not being asked properly. Around the current social web tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, favoriting, shared rating, open (and partially open collaboration) I have been finding little digital divide across the ages. Initially there is a gap when tools get introduced in the corporate environment. But this age gap very quickly disappears if the incredible value of the tools is made clear for peoples worklife, information workflow, and collaboration, as well as simple instructions (30 second to 3 minute videos) and simply written clear guidelines that outline acceptable use of these tools.

I have been working with technology and its adoption in corporations since the late 80s. The misperception that older people do not get technology, are foreign to the tools, and they will not ever get the technical tools has not changed. It is true that nearly all newer technologies come into the corporation by those just out of school and have relied on these tools in university to work intelligently to get their degree. But, those whom are older do see the value in the tools once they have exposure and see the value to their worklife (getting their job done), particularly if the tools are relatively simple to use and can be adopted with simple instruction (if it needs a 10 to 200 page manual and more than 15 minutes of training to start using the product effectively adoption will be low). Toby Redshaw of Motorola stated on a panel that he found in Motorola (4600 blogs and wikis and 2600 people using social bookmarking) "people of all ages adopt these tools if they understand the value connected to their work". Personally, I have seen this has always been the case in the last 20 years as this is how we got e-mail, messaging, Blackberries, web pages, word processing, digital collaboration tools (the last few rounds and the current ones), etc. in the doors of small to large organizations. I have worked in and with technically forward organizations and ones that are traditionally thought of as slow adopters and found adoption is based on value to work and ease of use and rarely based on age.

This lack of understanding around value added and (as Toby Redshaw reinforced) "competitive advantage" derived from the social tools available today for use in the enterprise is driven by fear. It is a fear of control that is lost from the top-down. But, the advantage to the company from having this information shared and easy found and used for collaboration to improve knowledge, understanding, and efficiency can not be dismissed and needs to be embraced. The competitive advantage is what is gained today, but next month or next quarter it could mean just staying even.

Getting Beyond Fear

But, what really is important is the communication and social enterprise tools are okay and add value, but the fear is overplayed, as a percentage rarely occurs, and handling the scary stuff it relatively easy to handle.

Tagging and Social Bookmarking in Enterprise

In the halls I had many conversations around tagging ranging from old school tagging being painful because the experts needed to tag things (meaning they were not doing the job as expert they were hired to do and their terms were not widely understood) all the way to the social bookmarking tools are not scaling and able to keep up with the complexity, nor need to disambiguate the terms used. But, I was really impressed with the number of organizations that have deployed some social bookmarking effort (officially or under somebody's desk) and found value (often great value).

Toby Redshaw: I though folksonomy was going to be some Bob Dillon touchy-feely hippy taxonomy thing, but it has off the chart value far and above any thing we had expected.

My presentation had 80 to 90 percent of the people there using social bookmarking tools in some manner in their organization or worklife. The non-verbal feed back as I was presenting showed interest in how to make better sense of what was being tagged, how to use it better in their business, how to integrate with their taxonomy, and how to work with the information as the tools scale. The answers to these are longer than the hour I have, they are more complex because it all depends on the tools, how they are set-up and designed, how they are used, and the structures of information inside and outside their organization.



March 1, 2007

The Merlin Show interview with John Vanderslice

Yowza! The Merlin Show interview with John Vanderslice is fantastic. The discussion about changes in old media, marketing, music, DRM, and the state of the music industry is fantastic. John is smart and understands the marketplace and how to make money. How to make good money.

I am completely enjoying The Merlin Show with Marlin Mann. I am not a huge fan of podcast nor video podcasts due to the attention and time they take. I do have a stack of them backlogged that I will get to the day the Internet is gone for good, but Merlin is keeping me drawn in when I can't sit down and chat with him in person.

Love ya Merlin, keep up the killer work!



January 31, 2007

It is Finally IT and Design in Enterprise (and Small Business)

My recent trip to Northern California to speak at the UIE Web App Summit and meetings in the Bay Area triggered some good ideas. One thread of discovery is Enterprise, as well as small and medium sized business, is looking at not only technology for solutions to their needs, but design.

IT Traditions

Traditionally, the CIO or VP IT (and related upper management roles) have focussed on buying technology "solutions" to their information problems. Rarely have the solutions fixed the problems as there is often a "problem with the users" of the systems. We see the technology get blamed, the implementation team get blamed (many do not grasp the solution but only how to install the tools, as that is the type of service that is purchased), and then the "users need more training".

Breaking the Cycle of Blame and Disappointment

This cycle of blame and disappointment in technology is breaking around a few important realizations in the IT world.

Technology is not a Cure All

First, the technology is always over sold in capability and most often needs extensive modification to get working in any environment (the cost of a well implemented system is usually about the same as a built from scratch solution - but who has the resources to do that). Most CIOs and technology managers are not trusting IT sales people or marketing pitches. The common starting point is from the, "your tool can not do what you state" and then discussions can move from there. Occasionally, the tools actually can do what is promised.

Many, decision makers now want to test the product with real people in real situations. Solution providers that are good, understand this and will assist with setting up a demonstration. To help truly assess the product the technical staff in the organization is included in the set-up of the product.

People and Information Needs

Second, the problems are finally being identified in terms of people and information needs. This is a great starting place as it focusses on the problems and the wide variety of personal information workflows that are used efficiently by people. We know that technology solutions that mirror and augment existing workflows are easily adopted and often used successfully. This mirroring workflow also allows for lower training costs (occasionally there is no training needed).

Design with People in Mind

Third, design of the interaction and interface must focus on people and their needs. This is the most promising understanding as it revolves around people and their needs. Design is incredibly important in the success of the tools. Design is not just if it looks pretty (that does help), but how a person is walked through the steps easily and how the tools is easy to interact with for successful outcomes. The lack of good design is largely what has crippled most business tools as most have focussed on appealing to the inner geek of the IT manager. Many IT managers have finally realized that their interface and interaction preferences are not remotely representative of 95 percent of the people who need to or should be using the tools.

It is increasingly understood that designing the interaction and interface is very important. The design task must be done with the focus on the needs of real people who will be using the product. Design is not sprinkling some Web 2.0 magic dust of rounded corners, gradients, and fading yellow highlights, but a much deeper understanding that ease of use and breaking processes into easy steps is essential.

Smile to Many Faces

This understanding that buying a technology solutions is more than buying code to solve a problem, but a step in bringing usable tools in to help people work efficiently with information. This last week I talk to many people in Enterprise and smaller businesses that were the technical managers that were trying to get smarter on design and how they should approach digital information problems. I also heard the decision managers stating they needed better interfaces so the people using the tools could, well use the tools. The technology managers were also coming to grips that their preferences for interfaces did not work with most of the people who need the tools to work.

Technology Companies Go Directly to the Users

I have also been seeing the technology tool makers sitting with their actual people using their tools to drastically improve their tools for ease of use. One President of a technology tool maker explained it as, ":I am tired of getting the blame for making poor tools and losing contracts because the technology decision makers are not connected with the real needs of the people they are buying the tools for." This president was talking to three or four users on problems some of his indirect clients were having with a tool they really needed to work well for them. This guy knows the tech managers traditionally have not bought with the people needing to use the tools in mind and is working to create a great product for those people with wants and needs. He also knows how to sell to the technology managers to get their products in the door, but knows designing for the people using the product is how he stays in the company.



October 27, 2006

Yahoo! Bookmarking and Broken Roadmap

[Update: [This response came from Nathan Arnold an engineer on the Bookmarks/Social Search team

It would seem that either we've under-communicated the roadmap ideas, and you've gotten the wrong impression of what's going on.

No MyWeb user is being forced to use Bookmarks or Del.icio.us just yet. Del.icio.us continues to stand on its own, and MyWeb and Bookmarks continue to share your data. If you save something in Bookmarks, it will be private in MyWeb. If you save something in MyWeb, it will show up in Bookmarks and you can edit it their (bookmarks being private, only you can access it).

The eventual roadmap is to migrate users off MyWeb only when the good social elements of MyWeb have been integrated into the bookmarks product. Until that time, users can continue to use MyWeb as they see fit. When we do shut the switch off to MyWeb, the same features will be available on Bookmarks.

At that time, they will ALSO have the option of migrating content to del.icio.us.

Hope that clears it up...]

I have received a lot of response to one item from yesterday's post, Yahoo! Bookmarks Beta (or Alpha), which looked at the new bookmarking replacement from Yahoo!. The response has been rather harsh and critical of one move, that is pulling the MyWeb 2 content into the Bookmarks Beta. Most IMs and e-mail are from people who are really livid that their social bookmarking content is pulled into a closed system. Had Yahoo been smart and clearly stated they were doing this on the Bookmark Beta page it would not have helped it seems as they took people's information from one context and are breaking that context. Not grasping this essential component has be questioning if Yahoo really has thought this through. Yesterday I focussed on the design and development problems, today I am focussing on the product issues.

Bookmarking Beta

Yahoo! drastically needed to update their Bookmarking tool. It is a tool that is widely used and was really clumsy in today's web works. The ease of use of the new tool and adopting MyWeb 2's saved pages and adding tagging to folders was essential. Bookmarks is a closed system as it always has been, but some elements of sociality are integrated that are seemingly familiar and comfortable for regular people.

Bookmarking Beta has a good overview video highlighting some of the new functionality and possibly helpful help pages (ironically the link for help is broken in Safari and the in Firefox you can get to the help page, but the content is not viewable). The marking and explanation around the new Bookmarking tool is good and is needed.

Breaking Social Bookmarking

Yahoo! moving the the small base of people using MyWeb 2 into Bookmarking Beta was flat out foolish. I thought so yesterday, but there were so many other things that needed addressing I lumped it in with the rest. The livid responses I received about this one made me realize it really needs more focus. Yahoo! never explained or marketed MyWeb 2 well, if at all. It is a rather good tool that did some things really well. One of the things that was quite good was its ability to share and recommend items from your friends and contacts. This was a component that oddly was well ahead of del.icio.us and was in the product before Yahoo! acquired del.icio.us. The potential for great social interactions, recommendations, and interactions was central for most of the people that used MyWeb 2 regularly. For others it was a more friendly interface to a social bookmarking tool than del.icio.us (I will get to this in more depth in a moment).

Moving MyWeb 2 content, which is content with intent to be social into a tool that is not social is really backwards thinking. The strong reactions by people who use the tool prove this out. Connecting those dots to begin with deeply has be questioning if Yahoo! gets what they are doing. It is an old web mistake, a really poor old web mistake.

Shrinking 3 to 2

The stated roadmap for MyWeb 2, Bookmarks, and del.icious has Yahoo! moving three main products into two. Two are similar and one is different. Bookmarks is different as it is not traditionally a social tool (not saying it could not or should not be, if done well). MyWeb 2 and del.icio.us are similar tools in that they are both social bookmarking tools. While they are similar the audiences for both are vastly different and the I am really not sure they will or even should mix.

Yahoo! Innovation and Focus on Regular People

Yahoo! in recent years has bought some incredibly innovative companies. There was a whole lot of questions about integrating products that were innovative into the standard Yahoo! offerings. The first of these companies was Flickr, which was a product that was (and is back to being) incredibly innovative. Flickr was vastly different than Yahoo! Photos and many questioned how Yahoo! would integrate them. What Yahoo! did with Flickr is take some of their innovations and integrate them into their mainstream Photo product. What Yahoo! did that was brilliant was leave Flickr as a its own product and let them innovate and test the waters. The Flickr team has grown and they are back to doing insanely brilliant things. Integrating a Flickr into Photos would not have been good for either product. Photos is aimed at regular people who love the product and it serves them well. Flickr is a different beast as it is very social and it is very emergent and it has a fan base that gets that. Flickr has passionate users that love the new features, functionality, and sociality. It has an interface that meets those passionate fans.

Yahoo! has an incredibly large user base (around 70 million people). Its focus is on regular people and serving their needs really well. It is currently going through upgrades to its interfaces for many products, see the Yahoo! homepage for a sample of the great interfaces that are aimed and working really well for regular people and are seemingly being brought to other products, like Bookmarks. These regular people are not the alpha geeks and followers of the innovative products, they want products that work as they expect and they are comfortable with allowing them to do what they want and need. Yahoo! gets this really well and are marrying the innovation and improved design that will work across browsers for these regular people. Yahoo takes time and care ensuring that the products are as smooth, bug-free, and usable as any product or company out there (possibly better than most). They build real products that real people can use.

Innovation and del.icio.us

The big problem I see, which is far worse than the big mistake of moving MyWeb 2 into Bookmarking Beta, is taking an innovative product like del.icio.us and pushing it mainstream. Currently, del.icio.us has about 1 million users. These users are not the normal Yahoo! regular people users, they are ones that will use and enjoy innovative products. The del.icio.us interface is one that many of the regular people understand or like (I have done a decent amount of user testing around this) as it seems very "geeky" and I have heard comments along the lines of "I never liked DOS". This is fine as many of those that use and passionately love del.icio.us enjoy the interface. The interaction design, like the compound tag terms are really foreign to regular people, who more easily understood the comma separated tags with spaces between real words (as that is how most regular people write a string of terms). It has a completely different base of people using it than regular people.

Yahoo! really needs del.icio.us to keep innovating. Joshua Schacter and his team are doing incredible things and they need to keep trying new things and pushing the envelope. Yahoo! really needs a del.icio.us, just like it needs Flickr to remain a distinct product. I have constantly wondered why del.icio.us never took on Yahoo! branding like Flickr or Upcoming, but of late I had thought it was letting del.icio.us innovate and be free, which makes a lot of sense.

Poisoning the Water

What the Yahoo! roadmap seems to be doing is poisoning the water. Bringing del.icio.us into the mainstream will piss off many of those people who are passionate about del.icio.us and its innovation. There were fears of this with Flickr, but Yahoo! proved that leaving Flickr alone was valuable to the company as a whole. Either Yahoo! does not care about the innovation or the passionate users that help provide feedback on social bookmarking to Yahoo! or they don't get what they have. There are two very different sets of people using Yahoo! products and those using del.icio.us. Mixing the two will more likely alienate the passionate del.icio.us users or not be a product that will work well with regular people. Like Flickr and Photos they are two separate groups of people. Yahoo! needs both groups of people to maintain is regular people using Yahoo! and to keep the innovation going.

What Roadmap?

It really makes no sense to poison del.icio.us by pushing it mainstream. So what roadmap? It seems like Yahoo! should have a self supporting tool with del.icio.us with a revenue neutral product (at least revenue neutral) that is ad supported. It needs that quick moving testing and innovation platform (it also needs them for many other products, like calendaring, address book, file storage, etc.) to keep the pipeline filled with good well tested ideas that work with people who are understanding of emergent systems. These good ideas can then flow into testing for the tools for regular people and see if they work there. Yahoo! needs its social bookmarking advocates that love del.icio.us, they can not afford to lose their eyes, interest, or input.

So where does the social bookmarking tool or features for regular people go? Yahoo! needs its new and improved Bookmarking tool and it needs del.icio.us. Changing del.icio.us to go mainstream would be a monumental screw-up. Bringing more sociality into the regular Bookmarking tool, would be a better option. Yahoo! already screwed up by putting content from a their social bookmarking took into a non-social bookmarking tool. The failures of MyWeb 2 were largely no marketing and no iteration to fix the many rough bits.

New ideas explaining and time. Innovation takes time to become integrated into use by regular people. Innovation and understanding of new constructs and concepts get adopted through reading the manual (FAQ or Help), watching a demonstration, reading about it in their normal media streams, watching friends and co-workers, and recommendations of friends. Yahoo! is beginning to take these steps with Bookmarking Beta, they never did this well for MyWeb 2. Bringing the new tools of sociality into the regular Bookmarking tool with highlighting the need for it (triggering the lightbulb moment) and various means of educating would make sense. The social networking tools should become part of the mainstream. Tying these interactions and relating them to known social constructs in peoples lives for sharing information with some groups and not all is something many regular people get. It takes explaining it in terms that regular people understand. Yahoo! does this explaining very well in many other places, why is it so difficult to grasp for social networking?

One avenue for introducing social bookmarking into the mainstream is sharing bookmarks with Yahoo! Groups that they already belong to. Many people have their bridge club in Groups or their kid's soccer (football) team. They have groups of people that they are comfortable sharing links and other information with already. Limiting the new Bookmarks tool to e-mail and SMS is fine, but it seems like there is a ready audience waiting for a well explained tool that would solve technology problems they already have, which is sharing links and bookmarks with people they already know and trust. Yahoo! really needs to use what they do well in various contexts and various audiences that use it.



August 22, 2006

The Tension of Sharing

In today's culture there is a serious tension between creative types, publishers & owner of rights, and other creative types. Society and culture has traditionally been handed down through generations and each innovation is built upon. Today we are living in a world that is trying to monetize this sharing and handing from one creator to another, which is placing money as a higher value than advancing culture and society. Today in the New York Times the latest iteration of the clamping down is presented in the article, Now the Music Industry Wants Guitarists to Stop Sharing, which is about sharing guitar tabs online.

We Can Advance Culture and Society Faster Today Than Ever Before

This sharing of guitar tabs has always been around, as has sharing most other music insights from one musician to another. This sharing is how nearly all of us have learned, embraced, and improved our skills. Not only do musicians learn this way, just as they always have, but it also how designers learn and share. The web not only made this quicker and easier, but web designers and developers have always been able to peek at the under pinnings of each others markup and design. This sharing helped move the web along more quickly than many technologies and mediums that came before it. The web is built on a creative culture mindset of free sharing. Part of this extension is nearly all creative cultures have advanced in recent years because of the web. Creativity has been democratized and the ability to get from zero to 7 is made very easy. It has been a time of immense innovation and a vast spreading of innovation.

One of the odd things is the corporate culture, which does not move at as fast of a pace (look at the ironic juxtaposition of Microsoft, which enabled innovation and was incredibly innovative, often by using the innovation of others (bought or "borrowed") is not a big corporation that is very slow moving and more reactive than innovative (on a whole, as I do realize there are some incredibly innovative segments inside Microsoft - particularly in the Live area and things that Ray Ozzie touches). It is the corporate culture of those that do not create but try and "own" what is the result of the creative process that are trying to stand in the way of traditional sharing in society and culture. It is ironic that what they spend their time suing to inhibit is what created the items of value they are claiming they are protecting.

Creativity Needs Sharing and It will Find Ways Around Control

There are many ironies in the top-down control industry, in that they are trying to kill what makes them money. The RIAA has tried to kill peer-to-peer sharing, but with the horrible state of radio the best way to learn about new music is to use peer-to-peer services. Recent studies show nearly all of the music on in iTunes and iPods is actually owned by the person using that device. Research around how people find the music they purchase points to open sharing of that music. That is how I do it and many of the others that I know.

Let me illustrate... Recently I ran across a Steely Dan making of Peg video on YouTube, which I really enjoyed. It was about the deep geek side of musicians sharing how they recorded and produced their hit song Peg. They were sharing their secrets, for a small price. But in this instance it was free on YouTube. I doubt that Steely Dan or anybody related to the DVD that this video came from authorized its use. But, because of watching the YouTube segment I bought the Steely Dan Aja DVD. I would have never known about it had I not run across the sample on YouTube. Not only did I buy it but in my circle of friends I know seven others that did the exact same thing, watched it on YouTube and then bought it.

This is a story of free sharing about musicians sharing their craft with others so to improve upon the whole of the craft. This is the thing that the New York Times article highlights as being a problem. But, it is the corporations around creativity that have put a noose around their prospective industries by getting their friends in U.S. Congress to regulate sharing and creativity and make it a crime in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (PDF).

I am finding that much of the music I enjoy is not coming out of the corporations, but the creators and innovators who are connecting with their audience directly. Last evening I watched a video on YouTube that we are interested in picking up. I clicked a little bit on YouTube and discovered The Dualers from London, who I am quite impressed with. The Dualers are a ska/raggae duo/band who do not have backing of a record company, but made it into the pop charts in 2004 and stayed there for a bit. Ska/raggae is a type of music that is out of fashion with the record companies, but still has a large following. It is music that still resonates not too far out in the long tail. YouTube is one of the means that The Dualers promote their works. They have sold over 35,000 CDs, which is atleast $350,000 if they are sold for $10 a pop, which would be much better than a deal a record company could offer them starting out.

How to Ease the Tension?

A large part of fixing the current problem is fixing the laws and getting people in upper management and in control of the media companies organization that litigate rather than adapt. We need to return to embracing creativity and sharing. We need to do this in a manner that creators can make a living, which may include cutting back on the role of the middle men. I see a shift toward media outlets that can innovate, iterate, and help support the creators as well as support the media outlets. The radio industry is in serious trouble in its current iteration and may need to move to a more segmented and broader distribution like XM and/or Yahoo Music and LastFM and MySpace as social means of finding new music and connecting directly with bands/creators.

I have been quite interested in some of the stories about EMI and how they have added value, creativity, and innovation for Gorillaz and even Coldplay. It seems that EMI pays attention to the community and lets the artists connect with their audience, which then helps shape their music and creativity. This sounds like the smart leadership that is needed. I have only heard these stories anecdotally, so I am not sure how much is really done by the community with interest or the artists. But, I can hope.



August 21, 2006

Acceptance of Innovation Takes Time

This past week Boeing cancelled its in plane internet connection services, called Connexion. The service has been in development for six years, but only in limited service for about 18 months. Boeing stated it did not get the acceptance and use of the service it expected. While Boeing was using satellites, which produce solid quality, its competitors are using less expansive and more fickle cellular approaches.

Acceptance Takes Consistency and Ubiquity

If I remember right it was only two or three airline carriers (Luftunsa) that had this service only on some of their planes. The people who I knew who used Boeing's services on airlines loved it, but they were never sure if the plane they were flying on would have access. This lack of consistency lowered the expectations of those who loved the service. These early adopters were reluctant to encourage others as the service may not be available. There are many people that want this type of service and to the level of bullet-proof service Boeing provided.

Air travel (like many others in the service industry) is an industry that is build around habits. Heavy travelers all have very set patterns and even well patterned alternate habits. They have certain airlines they fly (affinity programs encourage this), what airlines they use, hotels, and rental car they depend upon. The big mantra is no surprises and consistency. Packing their travel bags and gear with expectations of that they will need, with a big nod to what will not be needed so it is not packed (lighter travel is better than heavy travel). Depending on internet connection on the plane for many was not consistent and could not planned around.

Be Patient

How would Boeing get to the expected customer base? As a start they should take a lesson from Amazon, which puts innovative ideas in place all the time, but then lets the users catch-up to the tools. With Amazon their early adopters will use and play with their innovations (around which Amazon uses the feedback and iterates the products). Did Amazon announce their gold box? No, they put it out there and tested it and over a couple years it has become a staple that many people use as part of their regular Amazon experience. Amazon is doing similar things with tagging on their product pages and it is growing slowly.

Tagging is another area that is a slow growth. Currently there is less than .5 percent (half of one percent - comprised from Nielsen estimate of 750 Million people on the web and a compiles number of 2 to 4 million people using tagging services, not including blog categories as tagging) of people on the web tagging. Even with all of the hype tagging is still out in the long tail, and is an edge activity. Will tagging hit the next phase of innovation growth and spike in usage, the hockey stick curve, in the near future? It will take patience, consistency, iteration, and much better light bulb moments (quick a ha moments for those not using tagging).

Broadband In Planes Doomed?

It sounds like there are other technologies that are doing similar things to what Boeing was trying, but not as solid. These technologies are less expensive to implement and lower costs for those that fly. Can a poorer technology take off? The VHS (a greatly inferior product to Betamax) took the market.

It seems there is a future for broadband for those companies that can stay for the long run and help build demand and wait for demand to catch-up to innovation.



January 21, 2006

Small Technology Business in 2006 is About Paper

There are a few things that I have found to be rather ironic in running my own company in 2005 and 2006. InfoCloud Solutions, Inc. is a technology/digital information consulting and product development company. The irony is that I have written more checks, bought more stamps, and sent more physical mail in two months than I have in the last five years. The all-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner (only black and white fax and copier work after one year) that I have been trying to get rid of has been used rather often. Faxing in 2005 is just odd to me. Very odd. Most of these faxes have been MoUs or NDAs.

The banking process for business is more secure and formal than for personal consumer banking. The formality also slows things down a little bit.



January 16, 2006

Hindsights for Moving Forward

The follow list of 10 lessons learned in the Guy Kawaskaki Hindsights blog post I have found to be outstanding. Last week I forwarded it to a few friends, but realized everybody could benefit from reading it. I fully embrace the list and by matter of chance I have largely lived this way. It is well worth a read at any age.

The real kick in the butt I got last year was from the Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford University (the audio of the Steve Jobs commencement speech is also available). This speech combined with a death in our family made the time in front of me look much shorter.

The passion for technology and seeing it become more usable so that information can be reusable so that people can actually use it in their lives took focus. This is now my full-time job. We as designers and developers need to look beyond the cool to the useful, the need, and breaking down the barriers for use of information and technology. I have a strong belief that technology can greatly assist us and ease or lives so to give us more freedom. It can also help us make smarter decisions to help others, ourselves, and protect the world around us. It can help us find communities of those with like minds, which helps us feel connected and empowered. But, with these benefits we must also be mindful that the sword of technology is double edged and we must understand how to protect ourselves and society from its properties that are not so beneficial.



October 20, 2005

Focussing and Shingle Hanging

Three trips in the last four weeks has me playing e-mail catch-up. My outbound e-mail is not fully functioning on the road as the provider changed the SMTP port recently I have not updated the settings.

In the same time period I also have left my job and am now consulting and working on my own projects. I am focussing on helping organization better connect with the people who have an interest in their information and media. Building efficient conversations and interaction is the key to successful relationships, be they interpersonal or organization and people. Organizations also need to better understand social networks and providing information that can be used and reused across devices and the Model of Attraction and Local and Personal InfoClouds are just the tools to help provide the framework to think about this as well as making smart decisions regarding Web 2.0. Lastly, the ever present folksonomy will be a focus as well. Along all these lines I am doing research, analyzing, and providing direction and focus to help people and organizations think clearly in these changing times.

I will be posting here a little more often and you can expect more postings over at the Personal InfoCloud. There is much to be investigated and written, which I have not had the time to do in the past. I am also tackling article writing that has been a victim of elusive time. I will also be launching a site for the new company in the near future.

Please send a note with questions or inquiries for services. My time is filling up, but I am always interested in helping others as well as looking for cool projects and difficult problems. I have quite a few people and organizations to keep in touch with and get back in touch with, but if you would like attention more quickly shoot an e-mail to get my attention.



October 5, 2005

Upcoming has gone to Yahoo!

Yahoo gets Upcoming.org. I think this is a great move on Yahoo's part as the tool Upcoming has been building is one of the best event calendar tools on the web. Hopefully it will help replace the event components in Yahoo! calendar and help Yahoo open up their calendar to read in iCal, vCal, RSS, etc. Oh, and spit out the same to use in what ever other tool somebody needs that information.

Congrats to the Upcoming guys for joining a great team.



April 18, 2005

Adobe Buys Macromedia

Adobe buys Macromedia was not the news I wanted to wake up to this morning. My sole issue is competition, as with out these two competing there is little push to advance. This is not a huge surprise, as many rumors the last few years that Macromedia was on the block (most were expecting Microsoft to buy it and then spin out ColdFusion and the application tools to an outside buyer).

If this goes through, we have Dreamweaver/HomeSite as the dominant web development tool (it is making great strides towards standards compliant development and GoLive needs much more work), desktop publishing is Adobe only, market share of image editing and creation (Photoshop and Illustrator) go to Adobe, application development goes to Macromedia with ColdFusion, then we have the tough call with Flash and SVG. Flash is dominant, but SVG is open and Flash lite (for mobile) has really upset many developers as the player is up to the carrier and phone maker to deploy, not the content creator. This last step has really pushed many Flash developers away from Macromedia as they work to focus on mobile. Rumors that Adobe was working on a SVG mobile tool with open deployment had many developers for mobile really excited.

My hope would be for Macromedia customer service and pricing and Adobe Premium Suite with Dreamweaver and Flash thrown in for a well rounded package.



April 15, 2005

Two new Entries at Personal InfoCloud

Over at Personal InfoCloud there are some new postings. Good Bye to the User and Focus of Startups were both posted this week.



March 21, 2005

Outside of the 3rd World, Yahoo Buys Flickr

Once again we are back into living in the third world. It is the first day of Spring and we got a lightning storm and out goes the power. We have this to look forward to until Fall. Well, unless we move.

Once the power came on it was errand time, then time shout congratulations to Flickr and Yahoo!. The news was officially announced, that Yahoo! bought Flickr. The Flickr team is staying intact and in Vancouver. Flickr is one of the kick-ass products on the Web right now and with Yahoo! support it could stay at the forefront.



February 23, 2005

Simple Genius for ProCare

With the arrival of my new Powerbook I was in the middle of preparing for four upcoming talks with illustrations and presentations for them in process I needed to get my works in progress off my TiBook as well as my applications moved over. I went with the ProCare at my local Apple Store, which turned out to be awesome. For just under 100 bucks they moved everything over and kept all the new goodness in place all in 12 hours. It was the longest I have been off my computer (actually more like 20 hours off the machine) in quite some time (things have been a little busy of late). I panicked when I dropped my computer off as the Apple floor person told me they no longer moved applications over, but he was just a little off.

I could not recommend ProCare more for just that service by itself. Somebody in recent weeks called ProCare the frequent flier club for Apple. You can also reserve an Apple Genius up to seven days in advance at any Apple Store. Not only that, but you can reserve a specific Genius. Unfortunately your favorite Genius will not follow you around the globe, but it is still sweet.



February 20, 2005

The Future of Newspapers

A state of the newspaper industry article in today's Washington Post tries to define what people want from newspapers and what people are doing to get information.

Me? I find that newspapers provide decent to great content. Newspapers are losing readers of their print versions, but most people I know are new reading more than one paper, but online. The solutions I see from my vantage are as follows.

Ads

The articles rarely have ads that relate to the stories, foolishly missing ad revenues. The ads that are available are distracting and make for an extremely poor experience for the reader. News sites should ban the improperly targeted inducements that rely on distracting from reading the article, which is the reason the person is on that web page. The person has an interest in the topic. There are monetary opportunities to be had if the news outlets were smart and advertisers were smart.

How? If I am reading an article on the San Francisco Giants I would follow and may pay a little something for an ad targeted to this interest of mine. I like to buying Giants tickets, paraphernalia, a downloadable video of the week's highlights, etc. If I am reading about an airline strike a link to train tickets would be a smart option. A news article about problems in the Middle East could have links to books by the journalist on the subject, other background books or papers, links to charitable organizations that provide support in the region. The reader has shown an interest, why not offer something that will also be of interest?

We know that advertisers want placement in what they consider prime territory, the highly trafficked areas of the site. Often this is when the non-targeted ads appear. This is an opportunity to have non-targeted ads pay a premium, say five to 20 times that of targeted ads. The non-targeted ads have to follow the same non-disruptive guidelines that targeted ads follow. This is about keeping the readers around, without readers selling ads does not make any sense.

Archives

One area the news site are driving me crazy is access to the archives. The news sites that require payment to view articles in the archives are shooting themselves in the foot with this payment method and amount required to cough up to see an article that may or may not be what the person interested is seeking. The archives have the same opportunity to sell related ads, which in my non-professional view, would seem like they would have more value as the person consuming the information has even more of an interest as they are more than a casual reader. Any payment by the person consuming the information should never be more than the price for the whole print version. The articles cost next to nothing to store and the lower the price the more people will be coming across the associated advertising.

Blogging and personal sites often point to news articles. Many of us choose whom we are going to point to based on our reader's access to that information at any point in the future. We may choose a less well written article, but knowing it will be around with out having to pay extortionist rates to see it is what many of us choose. Yes, we are that smart and we are not as dumb as your advertisers are telling you. We, the personal site writers are driving potential ad revenues to you for free, if you open your articles for consumption.

Loyalty

Loyalty to one paper is dead, particularly when there are many options to choose to get our news from. We can choose any news source anywhere in the world. Why would we choose yours? Easy access, good writing, point of view, segment coverage (special interests - local, niche industries, etc), etc. are what drive our decisions.

I often choose to make my news selections to include sources from outside my region and even outside my country. Why? I like the educated writing style that British sources offer. I like other viewpoints that are not too close to the source to be tainted. I like well researched articles. I like non-pandering viewpoints. This is why I shell out the bucks for the Economist, as it is far better writing than any other news weekly in the U.S. and it pays attention to what is happening around the world, which eventually will have an impact to me personally at some point in the future. I don't have patience for mediocrity in journalism and the standards for many news sources have really slipped over the past few years.

News sources should offer diversity of writing style and opinion of one source will attract attention. The dumbing down of writing in the news has actually driven away many of those that are willing to pay to read the print versions. Under educated readers are not going to pay to read, even if it is dumbed down. Yes, the USA Today succeeded in that, but did you really want those readers at the loss of your loyal revenue streams?

Loyalty also requires making the content available easily across devices. Time and information consumption has changed. We may start reading an article in the print edition (even over somebody's shoulder and want to follow-up with it. We should be able to easily find that article online at our desk or from our mobile device. Integration of access across devices is a need not a nicety and it is not that difficult to provide, if some preparation is done with the systems. Many of us will pull RSS feeds from our favorite news sources and flag things for later consumption, but the news sites have not caught on how to best enable that. We may pull feeds at one location, but may have the time and focus to read them at another location, but we may not have the feeds there. Help those of us that are loyal consume your information in a pan-medium and pan-device world that we live in.



January 3, 2004

Mixed Feelings about Apple Store in Bethesda Maryland

Mac Network News is reporting an Apple store coming to Bethesda, Maryland in Montgomery Mall.

I have very mixed feelings about the Apple store coming. While I trek to the Tysons and Clarendon stores in Northern Virginia and would love a store 5 to 10 minutes from my house, I still feel a very close tie to the local Apple resellers. I am a huge fan of the Absolute Mac store as they have an extremely knowledgeable staff, great customer service, and quick turn around times on perfectly done repairs and upgrades (I am willing to make the 20 minute trek to the store on Saturdays -- no late weeknight hours). (Absolute Mac has also been a fantastic resource to the local business community that understands Apple products let them get their job done and not have the computer get in the way.) I am also a customer of Mac Upgrades here in Bethesda and enjoy the ability to drop in on my way home from work or as a walk-in while doing other errands.

The local Apple resellers have provided expertise beyond what the Apple stores have provided and have better turn around on service times. The local stores are also very tied to the local community. The Absolute Mac store has been pushing to start a chapter of the local MUG, Washington Apple Pi, which would be a great meet-and-share for the Maryland Apple fans, while Mac Upgrades is a sponsor of Apple Pi.

All this said, I look forward to the Apple store coming to Montgomery Mall (my guess is it is going in where the Eddie Bauer store just vacated, which is near the official Palm kiosk). The Apple stores do a great job of introducing Apple products to the frustrated uninitiated PC consumers. The Apple stores are great venues to sit and watch new Apple users, be it iPod, iTunes, or Mac computers, come in and rave about their new found joy in digital consumer products and great computing products that actually let them do their job. I don't know how many times I hear customers stating they no longer battle their computer to do their work and are no longer wasting time or a lot of money on support for their PCs. These folks have been hardcore software programmers, business managers, store owners, students, designers, stay-at-home moms, etc. The love affair for Apple product grows from new seeds in Apple stores. The stores also provides hands-on experience to third-party consumer products and a broad array of software and add-ons.

While the Apple stores are great outreach and expansion devices for Apple and its great computing resources for consumers and enterprise buyers, the support and feeding on the Apple community has been performed by the local resellers and authorized repair shops. It would be great to have the Apple store offer repair and other services from Absolute Mac and Mac Upgrades, where applicable. Apple really needs to foster these relationships that have maintained and grown fans of great products for years.



November 30, 2003

Absolute Mac rocks

Absolute Mac has quickly become my favorite favorite Apple store in the region. My dad was in town and had Panther hand during its installation, which would not progress forward nor back. The Apple store wanted to send it out and other locals were not on top of what was needed. Absolute Mac knew what they were doing and it was done and back in my dad's hands overnight.

I picked up 1GB of RAM a week ago for the best non-web price I could find. They also are running a discount on a dual 2Mhz G5, who ever heard of that before. These folks are just flat out fantastic with repairs and sales. Additionally if you purchase a computer from them and get Apple Care they will provide the service at your home or business.



November 21, 2003

Kim Polese Leaving Marimba

Kim Polese is leaving Marimba. In the heyday of Marimba (the days it was "pushing") Kim was the prime woman in Silicon Valley as she was in front of the game. It may be time for her to get back to that as an entrapreneur.



November 14, 2003

NBA does Moneyball

Fans of Moneyball will like the Washington Post story on the NBA wiz kid executive. The focus of the article is the San Antonio Spur's Sam Presti, age 27, who is applying MBA tactics to the NBA. Yes, quantitative analysis to mitigate risk and control cost is behind the NBA version of Moneyball, just as it is in Major League Baseball.



October 26, 2003

Geeks take charge

Steve Lohr, of the New York Times wrote As Silicon Valley Reboots, the Geeks Take Charge. This article hits the pre-tech boom development process and how things are again. The development of solid applications takes passion, intelligence, and personal energy. These things are needed as the road is tough, but worth it for the developers and for the users. Getting the geeks back in the driving seat helps greatly as the business and marketing folks that tried jumping in during the boom seemed to do far more harm than good with their buzzwords and greed, which pushed products to market long before they were ready.

The article highlights some great companies with great products that have survived and blossomed since the boom.



October 5, 2003

Making money from weblogs

Matt provides a great article on making money from weblogs. The article is well written and provides great advice and insight. At this point it does not seem that money from weblogs is a huge amount of money, but it does look like it will pay for hosting and provide extra cash, at the least.



September 1, 2003

Public disclosure of Microsoft usage

In an article from the New York Times regarding software oversight needed because some large companies don't check their own software for vulnerabilities, I ran across the following:

Proposals for government action being discussed by policy makers and computer security experts include strengthening the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division and offering tax incentives to businesses for spending on security. Another proposal would require public companies to disclose potential computer security risks in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

and the double standard for Microsoft

"There's a reason this kind of thing doesn't happen with automobiles," says Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer at Counterpane Internet Security in Cupertino, Calif. "When Firestone produces a tire with a systemic flaw, they're liable. When Microsoft produces an operating system with two systemic flaws per week, they're not liable."

I can just see it now the SEC requiring companies to divulge on their filings that their security threat is using the Microsoft OS. But, this would explain the day or two of lost productivity each quarter. I know of more than a handful of major firms (through friends that work at them) that had whole divisions (200 to 1,000 people) that were knocked off-line or completely out because of the last vulnerabilities. These did not show up in the news and their investors most likely were not informed.

At work I lose two to four hours per week of productivity to software bugs, security vulnerability patching, or operating system issues on the Windows platform we have to use. At home I do similar tasks on a Mac OS X based system and use Linux servers and I have a half an hour per month lost for the same things. Given I do more rigorous work at home and spend about an equal amount of time on the computer at home as I do at work I don't see why folks use Microsoft.



June 15, 2003

Bullfighter from Deloitte Consulting

Saturday's New York Times discusses Deliotte Consulting's Bullfighter a jargon removal tool. This is used to make financial reports and business communication clearer. The application reportedly works much like spell check. The tool even works in PowerPoint, which a well known carrier is the business jargon virus.



June 6, 2003

UPS gets worse

The UPS snafu gets better. Today I tried following up with UPS, twice. I called during lunch to check where UPS though my package was. When they said it was put on a truck in Texas to be shipped to me I complained. They said it was a ground package so it had to be shipped ground and maybe it really was not in Texas. I asked how it would not be in Texas if it scanned three times in Texas (once in Fort Worth, and twice in Mesquite). I asked to speak to the supervisor, but after a wait I got the same person back who said it seemed the package would be out for delivery that afternoon. (It was not and that was the second time I had been lied to by UPS representatives in this mess.) The person asked if I could give my zip code to get a better time estimate. The person appologized as they had to "say the numbers outloud as they typed because the numbers get confused from their brain to their fingers".

I got home after the promissed delivery time this evening and their was no package. I called customer service again. To check on the package (the UPS tracking system on-line provides the exact same information customer service gives you) I called "customer service" again. This time they confirmed that the package was actually in Texas and was put on a truck to get to Maryland. This would take six days to get to me as that was the shipping time from Texas to Maryland for a ground package. I asked if the package could travel the 1300 miles in 13 hours like it had on June 4th. Customer Service said that was not possible for a ground package. I was told repeatedly that six days is the travel time for a package going from Texas to Maryland. When I pointed out the package was in Maryland two days ago and less than 25 miles from the delivery point, the customer service person returned to their script and said the package must have been rerouted because of bad weather or an act of God. I wanted to know what bad weather would cause the package to go from 25 miles from deliver to 1300 miles from delivery and an act of God would have been reported in the paper. At no point did UPS take any responsibility for the package getting mis-routed. I did get told a few times UPS only has the information in their database and they do not know where the package actually is and do not have control over where the package goes. I was told that UPS customer service can not identify a misrouted package only the computer system can identify a misrouted package and the computer did not see anything wrong with the package going to Texas after being 25 miles from the delivery site on the promissed delivery date. I asked the person on the other end of the phone if she saw a problem with a package being 1300 miles after it had been 25 miles from delivery to her. She started reading from the script. I asked her to stop reading the script and asked if calling customer service could correct the missrouted package. She said no customer service could not do that as their system did not show a problem. I pointed out that I was a customer with a problem with UPS service and wanted assistance. The script reading ensued again. I asked her to stop again. She did, I asked if it was customer service that I called as I was not getting any help and I was a customer with a problem. There was a very long silence. She said yes it was customer service very quitely and she appologized that she could not help me. That was a first for UPS, an appology. I asked who I at UPS could help, she said their was no over riding their system and there was nobody in the company that could do anything to help.

Nobody at UPS that I have talked to seems to think there is any problem with a package being very close to the delivery point then 1300 miles away on the delivery day. Very odd and a very sad state for what was a decent company.



June 5, 2003

UPS deserves new dented logo

This is now the third time in one year that UPS has screwed up a package shipment. This one takes the cake (the last one was delivery attempts that were never made). I have been waiting patiently for my Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards and Kuniavsky 's Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research to arrive. I ordered from the wonderful Amazon and took free shipping. This lottery shot caused UPS (they have a dented package for a logo for a reason) to get involved.

It seems that the package was 20 miles or so from delivery to me last night at 11:10 pm. Since the package was in Maryland last night I though an attempt would have been made today. No! Last night the package took a magical trip to Texas. The package is still in Texas. I called UPS and they would not take responsibility for their mistake. They would not appologize until I pointed out that is usually the role of customer service. Not only did UPS' customer service fail horribly, UPS does not seem to have the ability to fix their mistakes. UPS said I had to wait 6 more days as it was a ground shipment. The package made it from Maryland to Texas in about 12 hours and there is no way to get it back (not even on a plane) in less than 6 days. UPS has no idea how the package made it from Maryland to Texas, nor how it made it there so quickly. I suggested a similar miracle should happen to fix their mistake, but UPS stated they do not have the capability to do that.

Why does anybody trust UPS with their packages? Why does anybody trust UPS with their money in the stock market? I bet Enron could even fix their mistakes.

By the way, Amazon bent over backwards appologizing and offering what they could to ensure I would be a repeat customer. Nearly the same thing happened with UPS and me with a Barnes and Noble shipment five years ago. Neither UPS nor B&N would accept responsibility and pointed their finger at the other. I cancelled my shipment. Then I pulled the company account (where I was working) from B&N and put it with Amazon and Fat Brain, until B&N bought Fat Brain. Amazon has yet to let me down with customer service, or anything else for that matter.



May 26, 2003

Views of the future of software

Every now and then I run across something that really gets me thinking and twisting every way I look at the idea. Dave Winer's Who will pay for software, Pt. I and who will pay, Pt. II along with Tim Bray's Business Ignorance and Try then Buy. These four articles look at the state of the software industry. The consensus, go figure, is not too bright unless one is Microsoft.

As Joshua noted the other day I tend to view Microsoft's products dimmly. This is partly because the Microsoft products are rarely the best in their field, and they rarely have ever been the best. Marketing is Microsoft's strength and they have made a bundle and gained prominance not out of having the best product, but through their business skills.

A few years ago I started on a project that put me back in the UNIX environment, which I dreaded at first as much of my work for the two previous years had been on Windows based systems. I relearned to love UNIX and Linux as my develoment skilss had grown greatly. I found UNIX and Linux gave the developer and SysAdmin far better control and I could control security problems far better than I ever could in the Windows world. I left the UNIX-based project to head back into a Windows world about two or three years ago. In doing so I really wanted to have a UNIX based machine to keep up my skills, I was also in need of a laptop as my old laptop was tied to my project.

I made a decision to buy a Mac TiBook and run Mac OS X. This gave me the laptop, the UNIX underpinnings, and a solid interface. I had not used a Mac since 1990 for work after using friends Macs and loving them. I used Mac's as test environments over the past few years, but the instability of the pre-OS X operating systems and the vast difference in interfaces from Windows and no command line kept me away. From the first month I had my Mac I was in love with it, well it was a frustrating love in the way that you find that perfect mate and they just don't suck and never seem to iritate you. I hated to say the Mac was a computer as it did not cause headaches and did not cause problems. Everything I needed to do for side-projects and even work for a Windows environment was dirt simple and just worked.

This love of simplicity and an aim for perfection at Apple has a new mark for me to evaluate everything that Microsoft does. Granted the Windows software on Mac seems to be far better than the Windows OS versions, sometimes seeming to be an order of magnitude better. The Mac OS X seems to offer a very rare balance, in its simiplicity, beauty, ease of use, and control. While not all of Apple's applications are perfect, they are far better than many other offerings out there.

Apple has a flirting love affair with Open Source applications and has been making it very easy to add Linux-based apps and have them take advantage of the OS X interface, with its X11 (still in beta and it just rocks).

After reading the four articles above I have been somewhat worried that the attempts at great software that bubble up may have a tough road ahead, which is a true shame. A behemoth company that creates mediocre software (MS) may be ruining the opportunities for great software to exist, unless we can find solid methods for funding these great things. Mediocre software leads me to fits of swearing and having another human generation on its way into our home in the next few months I do not want these fits of swearing or the limited view of the world that is nothing like those of us that dream of a better world with computing want to see. I want my child to know that they can have beauty, control, and perfectly built software and operating systems that will help them through life and not provide a means of frustration.



March 21, 2003

Now less competion in the tech marketplace

Wall Street Journal reporting Cisco is buying Linksys. In all I think this is a good idea as I like Cisco products and they care about their products. On the other hand the lack of competition in the technical sectors can not be good in the long run. We need options, much like when I got fed up with Windows and switched to Apple (actually Apple provided a better solution and I switched last January and found a much easier and reliable way to do computing, which caused me to question why we put up with inferior products from Microsoft). In the U.S. we were educated to believe competition was good and the evil empire to the East did not allow competition. Now the U.S. government seems complacent to allow, and even encourages (at the FCC) the removal of competion. The lack of competion was un-American. Where is the U.S. now if we are removing competition from the marketplace?



March 14, 2003

Goodbye glasshaus and Wrox

Owen broke the news today that glasshaus books is gone. So is its parent company Wrox books and all the other imprints from this publisher. Matt has very kind words to say about glasshaus and I will concur that they were wonderful to review books for. I looked in to my work bag and found two of my five reference books that travel from home and work are glasshaus (Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation which is a great book to get to understand CSS1, CSS2, and the box model, and Constructing Accessible Web Sites a great reference book on accessibility). I have a few others that I get great use from also, including Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself as an overal inspiration book for redesigns and understanding the use of various pages.

A few years ago I was picking up Wrox books left and right. I have a few ASP, PHP, UML, and XML books (some that have migrated to boxes in the basement as I do not use or prefer that language at the moment. On the whole Wrox and glasshaus had great authors that really communicate well and create books that are very useful as resources and good reads.



January 14, 2003

Understanding Open Source Development to help Public Policy and Management

In First Monday The Institutional Design of Open Source Programming: Implications for Addressing Complex Public Policy and Management Problems by Charles M. Schweik and Andrei Semenov. More simply put, what lessons can be derived from understanding the Open Source distributed methods that will help collaboration on intellectual issues, such as public policy, and understaning collaboration to better solve management issues. The physically distributed model is getting a test in many smaller organizations, including on information architecture non-profit that has recently opened its virtual doors.



January 6, 2003

A peek in to Feynman

Thanks to Mr. Blackblet Jones I have stumbled across Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine over at the Longnow site. This article pull enought snippets about Richard Feynman to get a very good understanding of who he was. Feynman was a great thinker, to me much along the lines of an Alan Turing. Understaning how to approach problems is often the key to solving many problems.



December 11, 2002

Liars want more money to for blank media

IT Buisiness writes, "Media levy hike may force vendors to drop products", which seems to be part of my problem with the proposed increase in price of any medium to false levels that are not set my the market. In a sense the increase is being proposed by folks who are not creative, are finding they are not creating value, they have nothing productive to contribute, and have found a means to slip their overly padded pockets before the consumer again. The reasons given for the increases are the same poor lies about the starving artists. The artists are starving because of the middle men. The liars in this case have added notthing to society and want to force folks to pay their unproductive behinds more money to copy my own content I created or content I bought and would like to have fair use (my own edit of a movie or a mixed CD I can play in my car). The liars want to point fingers at you when they should point fingers at themselves. Every new media was the downfall of a media's industry. The liars cry "poor me" at each and every turn, but they are replaced with folks that learn to take advantage of the medium and create compelling content. The current band of unsuccessful business must bereplaced with a breed that understands how to take advantage of the medium. The liars know their days are numbered in their own jobs, because they are incapable of doing their jobs.



December 5, 2002

Usability is Next to Profitability

Usability is Next to Profitability in Business Week is one of the best visibilty pieces on usability so far. Mabye somebody does care about the user and the bottom line.


November 11, 2002

5 things CIOs cna do for project managers

Builder.com offers 5 things a CIO can do for project managers. This seems to be bacic. I would think having a central data resource would also be essential. How much time have we lost trying to find where a certain data element is stored and who is the owner of that item. Often we can not find the needed element and create our own, only to find out there was a resource, which now needs to be used, then we spend hours and money to rebuild the application.

In the years just before the Web boom, many large organizations created positions to be just this resource and many were called information architects. A Google search on "information architect" and enterprise will find current descriptions and pre-1995 descriptions. Some organizations understand the positive impact this can have and many more should.



May 31, 2002

Sounds like know nothing

A word to the wise, if you want to seem like you know what you are talking about it is ASP (ay - ess - pee) not asp (like the reptile). If somebody is paying big bucks you should at least sound like you know what you are talking about. They did pronouce VB properly, but they were actually talking about VBA (we let that one pass). These were "guys in suits" so they must know what they are talking about. Do you think we should ask for a code review? Thought so.


May 10, 2002

Strategic usability

Strategic usability: Partnering business, engineering and ease of use, by Scott Berkun, is the May article for UIWeb. The article focuses on incorporating ease of use into our business strategy. This step will help insure, or at least keep us on the right track. These steps are helpful when developing, building, or maintaining any information application (Web site, data mining application, knowledge management, information gathering interfaces, data visualization tools, etc).

If your information application is not useable from the perspective of the user, it will not be used. The user is right and there are steps to take to ensure the user is not only the focus along the way, but also involved in the steps. This will keep from wasting time and money on development of an information application that is not used or perceived as unusable. How many times have we started asking users about a product they have (often developed just for them, but not developed with them, the actual users) and they say they don't use it? More painful is having them say they went back to they way they always have done it, because it works.



April 19, 2002

Intelligent gripes about AOL

WSJ's Kara Swisher, in her last Boom Town Exchange, posts readers comments about AOL. Many of the comments are critical, but it is a good look at how users interact with services. Many of these folks writing in have been AOL users for years. Services is important and keeping a broad user group happy is really tough, as you will see if you read.


April 15, 2002

The WSJ's Thomas Weber has an opion I strongly believe in, Record Companies Should Attempt To Compete for Music Fans' Loyalty. I have a strong belief in competition of the marketplace. Media companies have poor business leaders who do not know how to compete and take advantage of changing parameters of their business environment. When VHS came out movie companies complained that it would take away sales. Solid business minds learned not to cry wolf, but to compete. The record companies have failed in the marketplace and learning to take advantage of a changed marketplace.


April 14, 2002

CompUSA no sale

Need to have an example of not thinking through all the steps when building a Web application? Macwhiz tries to buy a monitor with good money, but bad application does not allow it. Having the credit from CompUSA on a CompUSA card and using to buy from CompUSA does not mean a thing. The buyer wanted it delivered to his office (always a logical option), but had his home address listed on the credit card (another logical option). CompUSA needed him to add his office address to the card (another logical option), but does not offer any mechanism to doing so (somebody will get fired).

When building applications there needs to be processes put into place to handle the needed options. Many times this requires a phone call to people trained in customer service. Not understanding processes before building an application or have ALL parties talking while developing an application will save embarrassment.

You should never start building before drawing a blueprint that takes into account all the options and needs. There is too much experience around to really have this happen with out a conscious decision being made (usually up the food chain) that stopped the options from being developed (if this is not the case they have the wrong developers or not enough time to have the processes worked out). These reasons are very close to why I will never buy from Barnes and Noble on line again. Ever.

Opening an application to the Internet opens the application to real people and real people provide a wide variety of aberrations to the planned uses for any application. Not having the time, resources, or approval to build in processes for easily handling these aberrations or spending time developing the application using user centered design/development skills will sink even the best funded applications. The user is always right and the real users must be a part of the development.



April 9, 2002

USC Annenberg School offers a light personal review of the WSJ redesign. Those of us that use the online version of the Journal on a daily basis have noticed a great jump since the redesign began implementation over a month ago. The site is much quicker and the interface is cleaner. The queries now are very quick again and there is a deep pile of data/information to search through.

Snippets: I have noted the redesign more than once... Nihal ElRayess has shared part of the IA perspective on the main WSJ redesign and the WSJ Company Research redesign parts of the project... The Guardian provided its insight in February (a good piece of researched journalism)... It looks like the WSJ redesign began in at least March 2000... The $28 million spent on the Web reworking (hardware, software, visual, and information architecture) is much less than the $232 million spent on a new printer for the WSJ print version or the $21 million for an advertising campaign to tout the new WSJ... The previous version of the WSJ site was a hand rolled CMS and now have been moved into Vignette... Those interested in the overal WSJ plan will like what is inside the presentation of Richard Zannino, Executive Vice President and CFO of Dow Jones & Company.



April 7, 2002

The Beeb notes websites watch and learn using the browser to learn how the site's users interact with the site.


March 30, 2002

Building communities of practice

HBS Working Knowledge offers, Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice, which has some very good insights. [hat tip tpodd]


March 14, 2002


March 7, 2002

The Washington Post writes about the end of free for content. That is of course for the big content producers, but we still have the independents.


February 21, 2002

Business Week's Byte of the Apple column looks at A Great Future in Store for Apple?. I could not agree more. The environment is friendly and the store workers are very helpful and informative. The downside is there are not great sales people. It is almost like they are trained to be host to a show of great greatly functional tools. Apple could be sitting on a gold mine. As I talk to folks about my Mac they say they have heard other raving reviews from other friends of theirs. Most people are tired of the broken way Windows tries to work and want to walk on the other side. One of the downsides of the Apple stores, and I find very few, is there workers/hosts are not also PC people or former PC people. Most times when I am in the stores the folks looking at the Macs are PC people and want to have their conversion questions answered. It is a minor thing, but I would love to see many others as happy as I have been with my duel OS life (moving toward Mac centric).


February 20, 2002

In the Easy 802.11b Wireless for Small Businesses article on O'Reilly Net is a nice tutorial on setting up your Apple Airport. I found my setup of the Airport very straight forward, including encryption and hiding the service as much as possible. It took me less than a half hour from the time I opened the first side of the Airport box to sitting on the sofa next to my wife having full access to the DSL.


February 14, 2002

Joel explains the software development paradox when the technical folks and non-technical folks meet. I am very fortunate that I do not go through this at the moment, as I work for a client that understands the development process. I can not say that about every place I have been, but the developing a prototype in a few weeks that has rough functionality in it is light years from an actual product. The most important part of that next step is getting real data and getting a good understanding of the data and information you are working with as well as knowing what is to be done with said information. This being said is why many of us like using wireframes for interface development and not live GUIs (there are other reasons to use wireframes, but I will address that on another day, possibly real soon).


February 11, 2002

In following the ArsDigita closure, I have found many linking to a diary of a start-up, or how ArsDigita began. The goals and inspiration for the company are a place that many would want to work. Remembering back there seemed to me many places that had high-minded goals, but lost sight when money came in. Philip Greenspun also offers his take, which includes a great insight...
Spending time in the aviation world has given rise to some thoughts about why there are so few plane crashes and so many business failures. The FAA establishes strict guidelines on what training and experience is required before someone can be pilot-in-command in various situations (daytime, nighttime, instrument conditions, single engine, multiengine, turbine, all alone, one passenger, lots of passengers, etc.). The president of United Airlines can't hire his old college buddy and put him behind the yoke of a 747 because he has a good gut feeling that Biff can handle the job. Very seldom is a pilot legally able to get into a situation that is beyond his or her capabilities, training, and experience (JFK, Jr., for example, was flying in instrument meteorological conditions with only a visual flight rules rating; he was legally required to make an immediate U-turn and fly back into the clear). But in the business world the Peter Principle rules: people are promoted until they reach a job at their level of incompetence. Because there are no standards, it really isn't possible to say whether a person is unfit for a business job until and unless you give him or her the job. Afterwards it is tough to admit that you made a mistake and demote or fire the incompetent-at-that-level person.
This is very much a meritocracy mindset, which a lot of us that are in techinical fields hold to be true.


February 8, 2002

A sad day for ArsDigita. Those of you unfamiliar with ArsDigita the firm was founded by Philip Greenspun in 1997 and was a great resource for developers and dreamers of what the Internet could be. [hat tip Joel]


January 6, 2002

After procrastinating for long enough and reading Nick's review in Digital Web I upgraded to Homesite 5. This is what I used to update and validate sections of this site to XHTML. I have been using Homesite for work projects for a few years, but rarely used it for this site or other personal projects (just a quirk) as I usually do my work handcoding with TextPad. Some of the layout of the tools has changed slightly from Homesite 4.5.2 to 5, but it was not a major difference. I really liked the XHTML elements and collapsing the code, which makes finding non-closed tags an easy task.

I have been able to read through all of this month's Digital Web and can say it is a solid issue from end to end. I really enjoyed the interview with Hether Hesketh. I am also a fan of the two business pieces, Managing the client: A fairy tale and Building the Business Game Plan. Both of these business articles I have pointed others to already as they are great insights from experience.



January 5, 2002

Every now and then and obituary showcases what one can do in life. The death of Alfred Heineken is one of those times. Freddy had reach in that the Nigerian Guardian and South China Post, among others, had enough interest to publish obits. Heineken beer and brand are parts of 170 different countries around the world. Heineken owns 110 different breweries in 50 different countries. Freddy said he was "not selling beer, but warmth".

The Heineken site is providing a Condolence Register for people to leave messages. Many of these speak warmly of the man.



January 4, 2002

Digital Web Magazine has its fresh issue out. This month's focus is business, but also includes a solid review of HomeSite 5 and review of Web ReDesign: Workflow That Works, by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler. This is wrapped in my favorite cover to date.


January 1, 2002

Google shares its 10 things they found to be true, which starts off with, "focus on the user and all else will follow". There are many other truths in this list. [hat tip eleganthack and Digital-Web New]


December 6, 2001

In Washtech (the Washington Post's technical section of their paper) has an state of the tech workers story as former dot-com employees go to work for government contracting firms.

A sad note in this article is that the Olympus Group is closing its doors. I have know many folks that worked there and have work with them in a client role and was very impressed with their work and presentation. However their former president, Julie Holdren, has started a new group, Homeland Technology Corp. and I wish her well.



November 1, 2001

UIWeb posts a wonderful article on designers playing the politics game, which also provides excellent project strategies and skills for working with the client.

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