Tag Archives: world wide web

Online shopping – some still don’t smell the coffee

Depressing piece about ‘BestBuy‘ on Forbes online.

Some years ago did some work looking at a bookshop and the unfolding challenge from Amazon.  The book shop has since folded.

This Christmas received a voucher for Amazon at a Kris Kindle party one week before Christmas.  From my smartphone entered the voucher against my account, ordered the books from my Wish List, showed this to the person giving me the voucher, received the books three days later.

Larry Downes gets it right in his piece about Bestbuy.  The consumer just takes these new technologies/ solutions/ buying experiences on board.  The retailer who fails to move with the times just folds.

 

 

Steve Jobs – Biography by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

A man in a hurry who never seems to have been particularly happy.

By any measure of business success he achieved a great deal – built a company (Apple), lost and regained control of Apple (including rescuing Apple), shaped another company (Pixar), developed and commercialised a range of outstanding products.

It was interesting to read the book as someone who has lived through most of the same period.  In a previous role within KPMG I was very involved in the role out of Apple technology across the firm (and the development of specialist software for the platform).  I also recall the subsequent decision to migrate to the Windows platform because of a perceived lack of business applications software for the Apple platform at the time.  And in my current role I have not yet returned to the Apple platform – to date preferring the combination of Microsoft, Google and Android.

Jobs is not portrayed in a particularly attractive light as a person nor as a boss/manager.  His treatment of people falls far below that expected.  Yes he was within his rights to demand focus, attention to detail, brilliant engineering, quality output from his advisors, etc.  But the haranguing of employees and vendors, the tantrums, the rejection of ideas and subsequent relabeling as his own ideas – none of these would warm you towards the man.

I suppose Jobs is an example of the entrepreneur who stays in control.  In many cases we talk about the need to transfer control from the entrepreneur to the professional management team – on the basis that the entrepreneur brings the idea and the energy for the startup but may not have all the skills to see the startup through to full development into an established company.  Perhaps the appointment of Sculley was the attempt to do this.  But it failed and failed badly.  A couple of points here: it can only work if it has the support of the entrepreneur and the timing is also critical.  In Apple’s case it happened too late, it did not have Jobs support )in spite of the initial ‘love-in’ and perhaps Sculley was not the tight person.  The other essential question though is how do you maintain the innovation momentum  when you switch control to the professional management team?  In theory the entrepreneur should have more time to devote to product development, research, etc.  But would this have resulted in the stream of new products from Apple (post Jobs’ return) if he has not been at the top of the organisation?  I don’t think so.

I often distinguish between those who get projects done and those who play a positive role in corporations. Good project managers will do whatever it takes to get the project delivered on time and on budget – including managing scope and user expectations.  Good corporate managers understand the corporate objectives and develop teams of people in this context.  Typically the two types are different.  Project managers have little interest in anything except closing out the project – leaving someone else to pick up the pieces in terms of people who have been sidelined, over stressed, temporarily over praised.  Corporate managers work to a different timetable – seeking to develop the people and move the company toward tis objectives.

Jobs had a vision for Apple and Pixar – and this vision drove him.  And he embodied this vision in many of his products – e.g. Toy Story, iTunes, iPhone.  But the impression I form from Isaacson’s account of Jobs is of someone who was so project focused, delivery focused,  that a lot of what is associated with building corporate culture, developing people was dumped.   And the interesting summary of all of this is that it worked.  Jobs created a company of ‘A players’ and demanded A performance.  He got A performance and refused to accept anything less.   The result – outstanding products and outstanding commercial success.

So what was the genius of Steve Jobs?  A number of thoughts strike me after reading the book and experiencing a number of his products (Pixar and Apple):

  • Hard work and sustained application comes in near the top.  How many times do we read about getting close to product release and deciding to rework something because it was not quite right?  Yes this points to the high standards he set for himself and the team – but also the commitment and willingness to take on the rework to get something right.
  • Jobs was comfortable being surrounded by experts – be that brilliant engineers, designers or marketers.  He never lost sight of the fact that regardless of their individual ability they were all cogs in the wheel – all with a role to play.  He may have had a natural bias towards to design side, but he understood that he needed the best in all areas.  His management style may have been questionable – at the very  least on a human level – by the did not struggle in an environment of brilliant people
  • Tough commercial negotiator – whether dealing with Microsoft, music industry or Disney – and executed a number of his deals from positions of weakness.
  • His own consistent advice to others appears to have been to focus – and he appears to have followed this advice himself.  He was not short on ideas but focused on specific opportunities.
  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  We can all see now that smartphone, digitised music, etc all make sense.  But Jobs saw the opportunity looking forward – he saw the opportunity with the Xerox GUI development at Palo Alto.  Jobs saw the opportunity for innovation through technology.

The Jobs/ Gates rivalry is a recurring theme through the book.  They both built hugely successful companies in the same period.  Isaacson emphasises the basic difference in philosophy being Jobs’ obsession with total control (hardware and software) as against Gates’ willingness to release his software for different platforms.  I think this analysis is an over simplification – Gates was very keen to own the desktop by ensuring it was running his operating system (and today Balmer would like to see mobile phones running a Microsoft operating system).  Jobs is dismissive of Android – in fact seems to see Android as a poor quality rip off of Apple.  I think this case is unproven.

Having read so much comment about the book in the press was wondering whether I would learn anything from the book itself.  Not sure that I fully understood the man himself after reading the book.  Isaacson was determined to paint the picture ‘wars and all’.  He probably did this.  But I think somewhere in this he missed a trick in summarising the man.  I enjoyed reading the biography.  It was a rip roaring life when you look at the ups and downs, the product releases, the deal making, the family life.  And because we have all been touched by his technology it feels relevant.

2011 reflections on IT

Another year has whizzed bye.  Maybe it’s something to do with running your own consulting business, having a very active family and having a curious mind.

So what sticks in my mind in terms of technology – looking back on 2011?

What have I really liked?

I have been very happy with my Android phone – Samsung II.  Great phone, easy to use, great camera, easy integration with lots of social networks etc.  Would be lost without a smartphone.

Have found myself leaning much more towards Twitter than Facebook.  Have really found Twitter useful in terms of work related research, staying in contact with other professionals, developing my own profile.  Notwithstanding this Facebook is a daily platform for me – and has lured me into chess.com.  Typically have one or two chess games on the go (48 hours to move).

I have stuck with FourSquare.  Most of my acquaintances run a mile from FourSquare – why would you want to share your location?  I think this type of location based software has a long way to run.

Have enjoyed listening in to TWIT.TV (Leo Laporte’s This Week in Technology).  I tend to download the podcast and listen to it on one of my walks.  He has had some great guests during the year and some great debates – even last week with regard to restrictions on software copying.

Leo Laporte has got me to sign up to tow of his sponsors: www.Audible.Co.UK and Carbonite.  Audible I sue to download books which I listen to when walking, taking public transport, even at home rather than reading the physical book (nice break for the eyes).  I am using Carbonite to back up my data.

I have implemented encryption using TrueCrypt – seems to work very well.  And seems to be gaining in popularity wherever I go.

And EverNote – what a great application.  Increasingly I find myself using Evernote to capture meeting notes.  And it’s available on my Android phone when I need to access a note.

Finally – Google+.  I definitely like it.  And it looks like it has traction.  But then Google has some influence!  And I should say I have had a great year with Google Apps – has not let me down.  The world needs Google and Microsoft competing – at least you can now shop and compare between the two cloud offerings.

What have been my other observations?

Lots of disillusioned IT teams in corporate world.  Lots of them working with reduced budgets, smaller teams but many of the same challenges.  Many of their users have lots more technology available to them at home or on their phones – real challenges in providing stimulating corporate IT environments to end users.

Understanding the economics of the cloud is challenging.  If I have 100 Offce/ Exchange users does it make sense to sign up to Office 365 (or Google Apps)? Do the price points make sense?  Green field site v. established business.  Many people unconvinced about the economics.  Many people committed to cloud approach.  Debate is vigorous.

Regardless, operating from Ireland, with its current economic challenges, web based technologies are being embraced and lots of entrepreneurs emerging with ideas which exploit these technologies.

 

 

 

 

Friends or not?

Jay Baer just beat me to it.  In his case this article seems to have been inspired by the tragedy of a suicide of an online friend.

I’ve blogged on this topic before – the misuse of the word ‘friend’ by social networks such as facebook.

Friendship takes time and lots more.  They develop out of all sorts of situations but they take time.  The trust in a friendship is not built online.  It requires real socialisation – being with people in different situations.  Some friendships last through rows, disappointments, whatever; other friendships dissolve.  And then retrospectively we questions whether it was in fact a friendship.

Baer touches on another interesting point – the self censorship that we exercise in online communities – because the ‘friends’ are not all friends.  And a downside of this is that the communication does not server to promote/ reinforce friendships as a result.

Initially many of used Facebook got friends and blogging, LinkedIn and even twitter for business.  That has since changed radically - a network of 700m+ people (Facebook) is too big to be ignored for potential business advantage.

Baer says that he is going to make a real effort – even at the cost of less online contributions.  I think he is right.

 

 

 

Another voice for semantics

The Cluetrain Manifesto
Image by Gauravonomics via Flickr

Just been reading the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto.  In his Chapter ‘but how does it taste?’ Rick Levine focuses on the changes in Participation – through blogging, social networks and participation in ecommerce sites (customer reviews etc).  However he references the walls between his Linkedin, Facebook and Phone universes.  I like his demand: ‘We need to be more fanatical in our elimination of conversational friction’.

This very much speaks to the Cluetrain Manifesto – that the Internet is all about conversations.  And effectively Levine is making the point that semantics has a role to play in facilitating this.


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Change of UK government not slowing down data.gov initiative

Interesting to read Shadbolt’s take on the change of government in the UK, in the context of Linked Open Data:

This is another area in which Berners-Lee and Shadbolt are highly influential, having overseen the design and implementation of the UK’s open data portal, data.gov.uk. “The continuity of thinking on open data as we’ve transitioned between governments has been remarkable,” says Shadbolt. “In a parliamentary democracy, it’s very difficult to argue that the public doesn’t have a right to government data,” he adds.
Perhaps the next Irish Government may be able to apply some pressure to increase publication of DATA which belongs to you and me in a format in which we can actually do something useful with it.

Mind you I am reminded of previous discussion about the need for a government CIO and/or CTO in Ireland.


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newspapers using semantic web to be more relevant, more useful

Logo of the British newspaper The Guardian
Image via Wikipedia

This is a good story re developments at The Guardian newspaper in terms of using semantics – can only increase the relevance of the Guardian to a wider group of people – and increase (widely) referencing of journalism prodcued by The Guardian.  As a group they are also making their contribution to the linked open data movement.

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Do you mind google photographing your house?

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More on the privacy debate.

Germany probably leads the world in data protection. Google’s ongoing efforts to photograph all streets and buildings are not going unnoticed. In Germany all homeeowners have the right to opt out of having their home photographed and included in the google maps/site.

This article on the BBC site provides a brief summary of the current situation in Germany.

data management – professional and amateurs

[facebook_ilike] As we upload more videos and photographs from our vacations to our pcs and/or various cloud based services I am reminded of the ever increasing challenges re data. My own perspective has been very much on semantic technologies and solutuions – ways to remove ambiguity in data on the web (and within the enterprise) in order to enable people to leverage the data more effectively and efficiently.

As individuals we are all becoming more knowledgeable and proficient in data management – no choice when it is all digital anyway. And sites such as facebook, google/ picassa, flickr have taught us all to tag photos and/or content. We are learning how to share data, consolidate records, add social content.

When mypix.com contact me suggesting I may want to print and album some photos I am considering this in the context of the thousands of photos I may now take in any year (from a range of devices).

Interesting piece yesterday arising from the recent purchase of 3Par. On a global level the data management challenge and opportunity is racing ahead. And we are seeing valuations emerge which support this.

Influencers and non influencers

Interesting piece this morning by Lucy Kellaway: Replying to customers on Twitter is listening gone mad.

Ms. Kellaway references Starbucks’ efforts to respond to twitter criticism. She includes reference to her own tweet going unanswered (for at least 20+ hours).

I presume those attempting to monitor and respond to social networking comment re their business will be inclined to apply some form of the 80/20 rule – e.g. deal with a criticism that appears particularly damaging, deal with a criticism from a perceived influencer. Not really any different to dealing with other forms of criticism. It seems to be perfectly logical that criticism from a person with a large following may have to be dealt with first.

To the broader question – are corporates wasting management and/or other time in monitoring and attempting to deal with social networking type criticism I think not. And I think they have little choice but to monitor, assess, rate, learn, address.