Wasting or burning time with technology

As one of those curious about new applications and how things work I often wonder how much time I burn trying to figure things out.  And how much of our time is now used up by self service type support offerings.  If you want to be at the front (even if not quite the bleeding edge) you accept burning time.

Two recent examples.  My daughter’s Dell Inspiron – the touchpad was not working.  Downloaded the relevant diagnositcs from Dell, ran them, checked that most current drives etc loaded.  Eventually contacted Dell.  There is, unbelievably, a ‘;swithc-off the touchpad’ button right of the F11/F12 key.  Would not have solved this in a month of sundays.  There’s a good hour gone!

Trying to upload photos from my Samsung S-II to Picassa.  Have two accounts on the phone – one goole apps, one g-mail.  Well recognised and reported issue.  Spent, maybe, 30 mins reading the support threads.  Downloaded another tool (Picassa Tool) – provided a workable solution – althoughthe issue is still there.  Another hour gone.  And it continues.

Not to mention the various applications I have researched for my android, downloaded, tested and used or dropped.  No free lunch – you may get the efficiencies but you burn lots of time finding the solutions that really add value.  And none of that includes time spent watching programs such as Leo Laporte’s www.twit.tv, etc., reading blogs, etc.

Lot of time, every week – for how many million people?

 

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Manage or be managed

Important to think through how you want to use these solutions and resources – distraction is not in itself a bad thing. You need to manage the distractions.

instant messaging sites
Image by Will Lion via Flickr

Read Alex Pang’s piece on contemplative computing – courtesy of this article from ReadWriteWeb.  Fits in with much of the discussion taking place across lots of enterprises – is IM, social networking, blogging contributing very much to the business?  Surely IM (now often including video) is just another distraction to people who should be getting on with ‘the task at hand’.

As an individual consultant and researcher I am constantly required to manage the distractions – notwithstanding that were there no distractions there would be no interaction and no work.  The debate reminds me of something about 10 years ago – we should not let the team have internet access because they will waster their time surfing.  We seem to have moved on from this because, thankfully, in many cases the web has become a way fo doing work, communicating, researching, whatever.

I don’t think the answer has changed.  You have to work out what you are trying to do and figure out how to use the available resources.  If you expect to gain from online interaction then you need to recognise that it is a two way street – you will need to be active (or at least be responsive) in order to gain.  When you need to work in a quiet, non distracted mode, you need to make yourself unavailable.

Business has changed.  It’s not just the desk based personnel who are being bombarded by distractions.  Smartphones mean that anyone can be online at any time.  Education in the workplace has not caught up – people need training, awareness and guidance on tools which they can use to assist them in managing the online world rather than being managed by the online world.

 

 

 

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Will poor battery life kill the smartphone?

Battery life (or lack of it) is a real pain in the ….!

Image of Samsung i5700 Galaxy Spica mobile phone
Image via Wikipedia

Having moved some months ago from my very boring but reliable Nokia E71 I am now enjoying my Samsung Galaxy.  That is, I am enjoying it when I have battery life.

Read this interesting piece about all of the things to be done to extend battery life.  Unfortunately much of it relates to making the phone less useful.

And the other key action: remember to plug it in whenever you get a chance e.g. when in bed, when in the office, etc.

Given my dependence on mobile comms I am beginning to think that I may need to carry a boring E71 as backup.

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Thoughts on Web Summit 6

Go maith gan bheith go hiontach.

Web Summit 6 was weak but had its brighter moments – courtesy of Emi Gal, Tariq Krim and Marcus Segal.

Map of the baronies of County Dublin in Irelan...
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I attended today’s 6th Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin.  Paddy Cograve continued his run of sell out conferences – this time with almost 1,000 attendees, on a Friday afternoon in Dublin.  I have now attended 3 of Paddy’s 6 web summits.

I think today was the weakest yet.

Sam Barnett was a weak kick off act – did not provide much insight until he explained how he avoided paying rent in his startup (his landlord was a criminal).  Eamon Leonard offered a fairly laboured comparison between rockbands and startup companies (not sure how Paddy found this so interesting). However Eamon’s delivery style and sense of humour kept people amused. Strange that Jennifer O’Connell should pitch thejournal.ie and then announce she is moving on (hardly the greatest pitch for any business).  Emi Gal (Brainient) was exellent – speaking of personalisation and relevance in video).

The coffee break appeared to be sans coffee – a bit Irish for the price people paid.

Tariq Krim (Jolicloud) and Marcus Segal (Zynga) were excellent.  Microsoft and Techcrunch presenters were not particularly inspiring.

And on the networking front – yes probably had the opportunity to catch up with 6 or 7 people and make one or two new contacts.  The pre and post gatherings offered ample opportunity to meet with various people.

So – will I attend future web summits?  I’m left a little cold after today’s – but to be fair there were a couple of thought provoking presentations and the general atmosphere was decidedly upbeat in comparison to much of what we see in Dublin these days.

 

 

 

 

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Does the end user device matter?

Why not let the end user slect the preferred device in the corporate environment?

Interesting to read of Google’s launch of the ChromeBook.

As corporates migrate their applications to the Cloud can they move away from providing corporate desktops or laptops to the end user?  Provision of these devices and their support is a major corporate expense.  Could we move to a position whereby ‘the expectation is that if you want to work for us you need to manage your own connectivity to the Internet‘?

This position has to major attractions:

  • end users can use whatever device they want to use
  • corporates avoid the cost of supply and maintenance of a fleet of end user devices
  • the end of the ens user support desk as we know it

Many end users are completely frustrated by corporate guidlenes restricting how they can use their device, which applications they can download and install, the fact that their work PC is way below the spec of their home PC fleet.  In many cases we operate Lowest Common Denomionator type thinking – the advanced user is restricted to that the LCD can use.

Corporates struggle to manage end users and struggle to meet their expectations.  And there is a vast range of devices: PCs, laptops, notebooks, phones.

Much of the technology is there to enable this move.  Many of the corporate apps (or the apps required to do your job) can be provided via the cloud.  There are many relevant and effective security solutions.

Who would support end users in this scenario? A combination of the end user, the cloud providers and, to some limited extent, the corporate. It requires a mind set change – it becomes the end user’s responsibility to be able to connect to various applications (whatever device she/he chooses to use).  This drives a different experience for the end users, the corporate and the cloud provider.  But in the long run it will result in corporates investing more time in delivering solutions and less time in providing ‘free’ support.  If you require a car to do your job it is your responsibility to have a car, maintain the car and use it safely for work.  Why not the same with end user computing?  Fleets of company cars are the not the only model.

 

 

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Per Steve Blank now in another bubble

Are we already in another internet bubble?

When you hear about potential multi billion offers for relatively new companies being turned down and when you read about valuations around some of the social networks it is hard not to believe that it’s bubble time again.

Now, perhaps when you’ve just lived through an awful property bubble, as we have in Ireland, you tend to be looking for bubbles.

However I think Steve Blank’s comments are well worth reading and considering.

Last time we had the major internet bubble we had lots of companies with losses.  Now, we may actually have lots fo companies with profits – but how many of them are sustainable?

 

 

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The Shallows – Nicholas Carr

What impact is the internet having on how we think?

I just finished reading Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows – how the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember’.

Carr provides lots of historical and scientific background material – all of which I found relevant and stimulating.  In many respects I found myself identifying closely with Carr’s own experience – wondering what impact my increasing involvement with the online world is having on me.  I am also trying to understand the threats and opportunities for my kids as they grow up in this web centric world.

I suppose the first theme is Carr setting out to substantiate his theory that the mind is impacted by the tools we use.  He refers to its ‘plasticity’.  He quotes a range of authorities (and experimental evidence) to support this.  And I found this conclusive.

He also takes us back as far as Socrates and his concerns as to the impact on the mind of writing down details of events – the potential negative impact on mind/ memory.

I was most struck by the discussion about memory and how the mind commits detail to ‘long term’ memory.  Carr talks about the current processing and the long term storage.  In particular he focused on the importance of focus/ concentration when reading – the impact on the ability of the mind to process and store information being related to this ability to concentrate (and, it would seem, the impact of your immediate surrounds e.g. quite rural v. busy metropolitan). In this context it is interesting to compare the online, hypertext enhanced, web experience with reading a book.  The web experience is immediately more attractive (and vastly more distracting).  Generally the online experience is accompanied by interruptions from social networks, email, instant messaging, text on the side of pages, etc.  Reading a book, as I have just done, in a quiet room, with no online distraction, is quite different.

I would not suggest that reading a book in a quiet room is without distractions.  As a consultant, reading a book such as ‘Shallows’ I find myself inevitably thinking about recent experiences in client situations, current client issues and, more generally, other books/ materials I have read on related subjects.  Carr references some of this in an interesting observation on the difference between computer memory and human memory.  At different stages we recall detail from long terms memory to current memory, associate it/ correlate it with current memory content and eventually, depending on quality of our experience, may restore it in an enhanced way in long term memory.  And we would describe this as a richer memory storage than any we may ‘outsource’ to computer memory.

Carr admits he has not changed much in his own behaviour.  While writing the book he withdrew from much of his online interactivity.  He readily admits to his own ‘withdrawal’ symptoms during this period.  Having completed the book he returned to the web.  He also acknowledges that for many working in this web centric world they have little choice but to participate actively.  However none of this is to undermine his analysis – there is a real need to distinguish between genuinely human thinking and memory and that which is driven/ influenced by search engines, social networks and online content.  Fail to make time for quality, offline, reading/ research/ contemplation at your peril.

I would very much like to see a discussion of Carr’s book incorporated into secondary school education – if there is an appropriate subject/ class in which to discuss it.

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leaving Ecademy

Leaving Ecademy

I have recently left the network, Ecademy.  I did not find it in any way useful

I had been a member of Ecademy for some time.  Foolishly I had loaded a contact list at some point to determine which members of the contact list were also members of Ecademy.   Recently, after a period of inactivity in Ecademy, individuals on that contact list was mailshotted by Ecademy, on my behalf, inviting them to become members.

I do not have the time to determine whether Ecademy was entitled to do this.  It has certainly been a nuisance for all those mailshotted and for me.

Best reference I have come cross is this web post explaining how to delete your Ecademy account.

Web 2.0 not all positive

Web 2.0 is not all about positive developments. Jaron Lanier’s excellent book ‘You are not a gadget’ should be recommended reading for all of us promoting Web 2.0

Photo of Jaron Lanier performing at the Garden...
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Close to finishing Jaron Lanier‘s excellent book: ‘You are not a  gadget’.  For someone like me who promotes social networking and web 2.0 Lanier certainly asks some tough questions.  I will comment in more detail in a later post – but I have to say his criticism of our obsession with the wisdom of crowds and of Wikipedia make a great deal of sense.  When I studied English in High School the cheat guides to the classical texts e.g. Hamlet, Persuasion, etc were Coles’ Notes.  They provided you with bullet proof analysis/ critiques for the texts – but obviated the need for original thinking/ imagination/ creativity.  Likewise Lanier argues that crowds will never produce original thinking on a par with an Einstein.

Today read an interesting piece in the New York Times on Hasbro‘s plans to dumb down a number of their games e.g. Monopoly.  They are making an effort to make the games more attractive through inclusion of some unnecessary technology – dressed up as a way to prevent cheating!  Seems to me cheating was always part of the fun in these board games.  More interestingly they also comment on the fact that younger people’s attention spans are continuing to shrink.  Without doubt this is a serious challenge for all educators.  And Web 2.0 has contributed significantly to the problem.

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Traditional media being used to promote tour holidays

Tour operators are using online advertising but still put great store on the traditional brochure.

I see I am now regularly targeted online for specialist holidays aligned with my sports interests – as detailed in my various online presences.  Was interested to read today’s piece in the Irish Times coinciding with the launching of the tour operators‘ brochures for 2011.  Clearly a great deal of marketing spend still goes into the prep and publication of the annual brochure (and these have been upgraded significantly over the years).

I suppose one of the key points is that whether you provide online or hard copy data to potential customers you still have to do the same spade work: property descriptions, photos, stories, pricing.  So,having completed that, the operators still believe that plenty of hard copy is required by the potential buyers.

Interesting comment about difficulty of tracking back on Google search sourced calls: With all her advertisements, Airey uses different phone numbers so she can track the responses. “The one thing we can’t track is if someone sees or hears our ad, then Googles our website and then calls the number on our site. A huge number of calls come from our website, but the problem is we don’t know how that person got to our website. Sunway has to become a household name, and advertising creates that brand awareness.”

Might be interesting to see whether HeyStaks can establish itself as a platform used by many people researching holidays?  Perhaps it will be of greater service to those researching the non packaged option?

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