Category Archives: Business

Except for all the really bad parts, It’s really not that bad – Vista reconsidered

I just had this memory. Windows Vista reminds me. It reminds me of sharing a flat with an attention-starved actor as I once did in college – constantly running in to the room ‘loook at mee!’ he’d literally shout at you as you were trying to do anything else ‘No, Everybody! paaaay attention to meeeee’

There’s a design principle at work here, at it hit me smack in the face watching this YouTube clip (thanks Kottke) 1 min 52 seconds with Wim Crouwel, a classic Modernist designer speaking on Helvetica:

“… I chose Helvetica because it was the most neutral of the typefaces.
Helvetica was a real step from the 19th century typefaces, we were impressed by it because it was more neutral. And neutralism was a word that we loved. ‘It should be neutral’ It shouldn’t have a meaning in itself, the meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface. And that’s why we loved Helvetica very much”

The design of any functional application is absolutely at it’s best when the app speaks for itself, not about itself.

Neutralism is I think such an important idea many of us need to rediscover in software design. Think Facebook over Myspace. Think everything google does. Think Windows classic view over XP’s garish green and blue, or yech, default Vista.

Why paint up your OS on queasy side of tartyness like the gloss lipstick on a pre-teen pageant queen contestant? Let the content and the applications be the star of the show, this is what we actually want to use our computers for. I didn’t come here just to be gleamed at.

Memo to Vista: let me be impressed by how you empower me not by how many times you can gleam at me. For god’s sake if I have to see another app designed with candy colored buttons that gleam at me… (And I’m looking at you too Mr OSX, you’re no saint yourself you smug bastard)

So the Vista upgrade was making me pretty unhappy at first, but -and this is what I’m trying to get to- gradually I’m making my peace with it. I won’t go back. If you can get past the worst of the antiuser infections, there are a ton of little improvements here and there (and a few giant whopping things, like MS casually tossed in a whole speech recognition service like it was just spare pair of extra socks).

The good news is you can mostly “fix” Vista by turning off some of more of the abrasive UI bits (and the remaining you sort of get acclimatized to).

The bad news is it’s not as easy as just flipping on classic mode in XP. The Vista UI really doesn’t degrade very well to classic mode (navigating folders is especially bad) and you also lose a lot of otherwise good stuff that is in Aero. So you have to hunt and dig around in options (turn Aero to white is a good start), turn off translucency for sure – that’s just a mess.

For Firefox users I highly recommend this extension that restores the “sickly” Vista Firefox look to the wonderful -and very neutralist- theme designed originally by those clever fingers at Radiant Core.

Now I need to go see Helvetica, the movie.

Twittering the whispering revolution

twitter

Twitter is a massive signal. It’s still at least half kludgy, it’s nowhere near end-state but – the idea is going to be big. I’ve been thinking of this signal since in came across strongly in my Dead Media workshop at Lift07. But in just the last few weeks Twitter has so exploded that we really have to start talking about it. Now, Twitter Inc. could just be the first signpost, but the signal itself is a monster.

I don’t know what to call this phenomenon that encompasses “status-casting” the facebook status, twitter, jaiku, what we used to used to the msn messenger handle for (poor msn messenger, once huge in Canada, now all but a dead media…)

When we were talking back at the Dead Media workshop we asked, twitter – what will it kill?

consider this: Will Twitter kill blogging the way sms messages “killed” voice conversations?

And what’s so great about being pervasively bombarded with short cryptic blurblettes from everyone you know what the most random intervals? The reason why, is that twitter is an incredibly lightweight way to suck in the momentary “context” of everyone you know (scratch that, of every geek you know) with only a slight distraction cost. hint: the key is to get twitter onto your gtalk and/or mobile device.

It’s like socially, your field of awareness just grew by 3 sizes.

It’s funny how, while everyone assumes that the killer app is always a richer medium that, oftentimes , it is the lowest bandwidth new media that end up killing. Just as sms, “kills” voice calls and hell, how we’re all still wondering why we don’t have videophones for 30 years now?

Even rss is like this, it’s a medium designed to filter out all nonessential (mostly visual) input down to the essence of the desired signal itself. The river of news. Please, just the facts ‘mam.

This thought ties back to my theory on all media. Media is what we use to leverage our scarce time, physicality and immediate context. Our time, place and capacity for sensory input is finite, but our attention has plasticity. Through media, the more we can compress each signal coming at us (in the traditional definition of the word signal) the more capacity for aggregate attention that we gain.

Now go learn to stop worrying about the fuzziness or the inadequacy of any media to capture all meaning – and learn to appreciate this as media’s greatest enabler.

Significance for the Enterprise? Is just beginning.

Google as an example of the new human enterprise?

An old article by net standards (way back in the year 2006), but nonetheless an interesting article on what it’s like to work for Google as a developer. Does this sound much like how your organization works??

I’m going to talk a little about Google’s software development process. It’s not the whole picture, of course, but it should suffice for today…

From a high level, Google’s process probably does look like chaos to someone from a more traditional software development company. As a newcomer, some of the things that leap out at you include:

– there are managers, sort of, but most of them code at least half-time, making them more like tech leads.

– developers can switch teams and/or projects any time they want, no questions asked; just say the word and the movers will show up the next day to put you in your new office with your new team.

– Google has a philosophy of not ever telling developers what to work on, and they take it pretty seriously.

– developers are strongly encouraged to spend 20% of their time (and I mean their M-F, 8-5 time, not weekends or personal time) working on whatever they want, as long as it’s not their main project.

– there aren’t very many meetings. I’d say an average developer attends perhaps 3 meetings a week, including their 1:1 with their lead.

– it’s quiet. Engineers are quietly focused on their work, as individuals or sometimes in little groups or 2 to 5.

– there aren’t Gantt charts or date-task-owner spreadsheets or any other visible project-management artifacts in evidence, not that I’ve ever seen.

– even during the relatively rare crunch periods, people still go get lunch and dinner, which are (famously) always free and tasty, and they don’t work insane hours unless they want to.

These are generalizations, sure. Old-timers will no doubt have a slightly different view, just as my view of Amazon is slightly biased by having been there in 1998 when it was a pretty crazy place. But I think most Googlers would agree that my generalizations here are pretty accurate.

How could this ever work? I get that question a lot …

First, and arguably most importantly, Google drives behavior through incentives. Engineers working on important projects are, on average, rewarded more than those on less-important projects…”
read more: Good Agile, Bad Agile by Stevey

At Firestoker and with the idea of this organizations like Consulting2.0, an idea we talk about what a flatter, more fluid, more individual-empowered workplace could and should be able to look like. It seems that Google, an organization that breathes innovation in so many ways, may not surprisingly already be leaders in this area.

Any Googlers out there able/willing to comment?

Are we really friends? The trouble with buddy lists in social applications.

The trouble with buddy lists is that we end up collecting friends like baseball cards. Because I’m on your buddy list, it could be because we’re really closely connected, it could be because we met once at a conference two years ago, or it could be because we both tacitly just want to make ourselves seem slightly more important or popular by having a large number of friends next to our name.

Letting users browse each other’s buddy lists is a great way to discover other people on the system you might want to add to your list (one valid use case). But in reality, public buddy lists are pretty terrible at what should be their primary purpose – as a way of giving any understanding of who someone really is or their true set of social relationships/connectedness.

Just by virtue of being public, buddy lists get distorted by social pressures for the following reasons:

1. Pressure to accept buddies. It feels impolite to turn down a buddy request even if you are not truly closely acquainted with somebody.

2. Popularity contest. There can be a bias to maintain a big list to impress others.

3. No granularity. Most social networks don’t have much way of indicating what sort of relationship you have with somebody. Facebook for instance is a little better at this, we met randomly, we are part of the same organization, we are dating etc. but for the most part the connections are binary and not granular. We’re either friends or not – but not, are we a close or a weak tie?

4. It’s socially awkward to take people off. People rarely take people off their lists as the more public your list is, the more awkward that might be.

And don’t forget Sampling bias. For many social networks, the breadth of your buddy list may say more about how much time you spend with other computer nerds, rather than saying anything useful about the quality and breadth of your actual connections to people in the “real” world (the 1st life).

By comparison, this is why subscribing to people by rss is great and why I’m in no rush to make my OPML public. Because it means I can read who I want to read as often as I want to read them, without my actual relationships with these people being distorted by social pressures. And if my interests or connections change over time I can quietly unsubscribe from people without it being a big deal or offending anyone.

So, how could social networking applications solve this buddylist problem? Here’s one idea, maybe not applicable for all networks but one that could work well in a say… an Enterprise 2.0 platform

Keep 2 lists.

Sure, keep an explicit buddy list that you control, but make it private.

And then let for the purpose of being able to broadcast an accurate portrayal of a user’s actual “aboutness”, let the system keep track of a user’s public buddy list implicitly.

Imagine a last.fm type system that reports back to you on the actual number of your interactions with people within the system and the extent to which those interactions are reciprocated.

The system could then easily spit back for the benefit of each individual user statistics on the “aboutness” of everyone in the organization (or at least on their current professional connectedness) like little last.fm-style bar charts of who you work with most closely that you could display on your profile page. Weighted by relevance and always up to date (much unlike any official org chart I’ve ever seen on a corporate intranet).

In fact, throw out the old org chart while you’re at it. What you’ve got now is a practical working map for for modeling the new enterprise.

Also implied by this idea is that if you’re going to appear connected to someone, you’ll actually have work at maintaining that relationship.

Are you ready for this new level of social transparency? You can count me in.

Heading to SanFran March 21-25

Thanks to some friendly suggestion on our behalf, Jevon and I have been offered a spot on the roster at the Under the Radar Conference on the 23rd of March [upcoming.org]. We’ll be showing off the Firestoker project as it currently stands in development (and it’s starting to develop nicely). Secondly, if we can finagle ourselves an invite again, I’m also hoping we’ll make it to the STIRR mixer on the 21st [upcoming]

So I’ll be in the bay area March 21st to 25th, if you are, or will be, down there during that time and would like to meetup, let me know!

UPDATE: Oops! forgot I need to be back on the east coast on the 24th. (thank you Orbitz/AirCanada/United for 24hr ticket cancellation option). I’ll be in the bay area March 21st to the 23rd and a (shall for now be kept secret) East Coast location the 24th and 25th of March.

The GoogleOS Will Have to Wait

because today Google is going after Microsoft’s other cash cow, the office suite. The Inquirer deadpans (you have to love the Inquirer):

A SEARCH ENGINE FIRM called Google has released its first product which could challenge Microsoft in its own manor.

The big idea is to get corporations to subscribe to its online corporate software bundle which includes office software over the interweb.

Google Apps Premier Edition, which was released today, has an online e-mail, calendaring, messaging and talk applications as well as a word processor and a spreadsheet.

Unlike the free version – which has been ignored by the great unwashed public for a while – the Premier Edition has a few bells and whistles that make it more useful for medium and larger sized businesses.

They’re charging $50 for it, which is a bargain considering the full MS desktop office suite costs 10 times that amount. Google’s online suite doesn’t do a lot of things that the desktop one does, but it does do many of the most important things that people might want to do with a document/mail/calendar suite and a bunch of other nifty things besides, by virtue of being web-based. (integration with Gmail/gtalk buddylist and simultaneous online document collaboration is really cool.)

That said, there’s no online-analog yet for PowerPoint. This is a touchy subject, as for better or worse, I’ve seen that PowerPoint is replacing Microsoft Word is the main internal document format for many large organizations.

While I don’t have a copy of it yet myself (Microsoft… anyone?), they tell me the latest version of MS Office(2007) is indeed very nice… For desktop software.

Here’s how we’ll know when the first online or other new office suite has really made it: when there is a price crossover with Microsoft Office. For the time being, some combination of either actual or perceived difference in value between MSOffice and Google’s offering is still allowing Microsoft command a 10x price premium.

How much longer will that last?

Link: Google releases online business software – The Inq

Vista’s DRM mistake, and the decline of Microsoft Windows

vistaMicrosoft introduces Vista to area bloggers, Nov. 2006

“Microsoft Corp. shares fell as much as 2.7 percent on Friday, their biggest drop in nine months, after Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said analysts’ forecasts for fiscal 2008 revenue for Windows Vista were “overly aggressive.” Microsoft shares tumble on CEO comments -CNNMoney

“A new study by Jupiter Research shows that European music executives are becoming increasingly disenchanted with DRM. According to the report… Nearly two-thirds—62 percent—feel that eliminating DRM would boost the popularity of online music sales.” European music execs no fans of DRM either – Ars Technica

“Windows Vista includes an array of “features” that you don’t want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They’ll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won’t do anything useful. In fact, they’re working against you. They’re digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And you don’t get to refuse them.” – DRM in Windows Vista Bruce Schneier

You have to feel sorry for Microsoft. At the time, those dark days of 2002, it really looked like it would go the other way. And by this I mean DRM, and “trusted” computing.

Five years ago Microsoft made a big bet on DRM. Billions were invested in a new OS built from the ground up around DRM.

This bet has turned out to be wrong.

But back then, the content industry could put the toothpaste back in the tube. Napster had been shut down, kazaa was on the run, the DMCA was ascendant, and the new promise of Trusted Computing (a misnomer if there ever was one) seemed to be promising a heavily-managed future of grinding inevitability. This future promised that that the desktop and every edge device would finally be locked down. Media companies would be able to finally, “rightfully” charge for even thinking about consuming their media.

Big It would love Trusted Computing, finally a way to reliably and thoroughly lock down the corporate desktop and properly “manage” the computing activities of all those troublesome “users” they are forced to put up with.

Meanwhile we have Vista, a platform that is designed at it’s very core to be anti-user. With Vista, users are the enemy. A locked down driver model, content “protection” features you can’t turn off, and a philosophy of questioning the user’s actions at every turn. (these features have been hidden for your protection, are you sure you want to do that? are you really really sure?)

But it didn’t turn out that way. Microsoft in lagging so long to introduce Vista, completely missed the boat on the Youtube/Wikinomics revolution. The users won. The open and peer-production model won. It turns out users want to use their computers. Sometimes in fantastic ways you could never have predicted.

2007 will be the year the music industry turns away from failed experiment that was DRM. It will take a few years longer I imagine but the movie industry (still new at digital distribution) will follow as well. Leaving vista high and dry.

In the corporate space the same is happening. Enterprise2.0 and software as a service are putting Big IT back in it’s place. All along Microsoft has been listening to the wrong customer the Big IT departments and not to USERS.

The next big change in corporate productivity is not coming from locking down users. The future of IT is not about preventing what applications users can choose to run and when or what devices they are and aren’t “trusted” to plug into their machine.

Microsoft: If a business can’t trust it’s own people, who can they trust?

I’ll answer the question this far, if a business can’t trust it’s own people, their old operating system isn’t their biggest problem.

No, the next revolution in business productivity comes from empowering *people*, and not Big IT. The next revolution comes from embracing emergent uses of tools and a default status of “openness” not the other way around. Port 80 has set us free [port 80 is used by webbrowsers to access the greater internet and the one loophole left necessarily, grudgingly, open in every corporate firewall].

What will keep Microsoft’s OS division going for now is simply it’s enormous market inertia and an unfortunate lack of breadth in other choices (leading candidates: WinXP, MacOS, Linux). But another 5 years is a long time for Microsoft to try and coast.

Meanwhile those who know, and those who are tied to corporate IT have switched to Mac already. It was the MacBookPro and Apple’s switch to powerful (and finally equivalent/better) x86 hardware that did it. Try going to a tech or blogger conference and every single person sitting comfortably ensconced behind the glowing Apple logo of their MacBooks.

Apple is too a closed platform (more closed on the hardware level than even Vista), but at least it’s a closed platform that puts it’s users needs (for the most part) ahead of the needs of the record industry or any other third parties.

This shift to apple by the world’s bloggers is a signal. Unless Microsoft recovers, big changes are coming.

People once said that AMD chips would never be accepted in the enterprise or accepted to be sold a stalwart Intel-only shop like Dell. They said Apple would never abandon their distinction PowerPC architecture but they did, they went Intel (with a vengeance). Now on x86, apple is just a word away from blowing the OS market wide-open.

What will happen next, and this will be the downfall that DRM started, is that with a word, Mr. Jobs and Mr. Dell will sign one piece of paper. And license Mac OS to Dell. I don’t know when, but it will happen.

And this will be the downfall of the Microsoft hegemony. And if that alone doesn’t do it, are you ready for the GoogleOS?

for the meantime though, you can get started on Mac OS right here.

# Thomas Purves is a software entrepreneur, and long-time Windows users living in Toronto. He, honestly, harbors Microsoft no ill-will and hopes the Vista debacle is only a wake-up call, and that they come roaring back with a truly great and pro-user revision in short order (the Windows2000 to Vista’s WindowsMe). The author would also like to personally thank the Vista team for fixing search and killing off the XP search dog. For this at least, they have his undying gratitude.

# The comments section welcomes your flames here:

More Highlights from Lift07 #2 Colin Henderson

Speaking of Colin Henderson and Bankwatch, another person it was a pleasure to meet at LIFT was Colin Henderson. He gave a great talk titled “Bankers Can be Bloggers Too” (a subject close to my heart) and in fact you can find the presentation on the official lift presentation download page here.

What stuck with me from Colin’s talk is his idea that banks still don’t “get” the internet. They are using it as a commodotized delivery channel, they are barely using it internally. What they don’t seem to get yet is there vulnerability to better community-connected service providers. Are banks going to relegated to low margin commodity wholesale business and every one from community focused credit-unions to disintermediating payment services like paypal or p2p lenders (or Colin: think also of the mobile telco’s) on one hand a) either soaking up the rich magins of having the direct touch with consumers or b) flattening the whole industry by tearing out the cozy credit spreads banks have gotten so comfortable with?

much to think about.

1) are the big banks capable with keeping up with the social web and the coming changes in the consumer landscape?
2) are the big banks capable of embracing enterprise social media on the inside? (most are yet to allow wifi internally, let alone IM or more advanced E20 tools)

Implementing Mass Collaboration in Enterprise

It’s great to hear additional perspectives on the implementation of Enterprise 2.0. We’re at early stages of this movement. Many are those who will tell you they are inspired or many will tell you they can sell you the answer. Which is why it’s great to hear real case studies grounded in results from the field. Here are my notes on Stephane Cheikh’s talk on implementing enterprise collaboration at SITA in Geneva.

How to Get Started
1. engage with a small team that expressed the need
2. document needs
3. choose 2 products, simple is key
4. demo both
5. team use both
6. reconvene for feedback
7. decide on 1 tool
8. rollout

IT or not IT?
– controversial but really, you don’t need them
– power to the user, ASP models
– cons of IT delays, complexity, not meeting user req’s deployment issues, no moderation

[Echo’s other feedback start with pilot projects seems to be a main theme we are hearing]

Engage w/ sm team
Understand pain points
Identify key document process
Innovate around that
Promote – recognize leaders


key lessons:

start small
when you do your demo try to customize as much as possitble user needs (and expected benefits/ what’s in it for me? (the user/audience)
train your users, and train again
use the tools
moderate, maintain the first 4 to 6 weeks (the critical period for them to see value)
make sure managers of teams are using the tools
once started look for other process or users to bring in

It is a full time job for someone to implement enterprise collaboration
you will need:
-patience
-hand holding
-lobbying
-politics
-psycology

Enterprise Collaboration is not [just] a technology but human behavor project
uptake is slow but the reward is high

understand the process of your particular context. understand the current processes no matter how crazy. you are trying to “Pave the mad-cow path”

LIFTconference day 0: Dead Media Workshop

deadmedia

deadmedia

deadmedia0

“McLuhan believed that all media forms are extensions of our senses, bodies, and psyches, in the way that a hammer is an extension of our hand and a book is an extension of our memory and ideas. As such, they intensify one thing in culture while obsolescing something else.” – The Imagination Challenge, pg 130

Today thanks to social media, other new innovations and 2.0 everything, we are at the point of explosion of new media in society. In the spirit of “the medium is the message”, how are/will these new media be transforming the structure of society itself, both in our social sphere as well as change to the nature and environment of work? But instead of just looking at the new media we examine these media through he lens of what they displace. What plethora of old/current media should we now consider “dead”. What are the historical precedents? This is the subject of a workshop I had the fortune to lead for a very bright crew of people on this first day zero of LIFT.

Questions of discussion:
Does Media really die? Some argue that media never dies it just adapts. Or that media just sleeps and waits to be revived later in another form. And I say yes, this is often true, but surely you can think of examples of media that failed to adapt enough and faded away?

And also an intentional aspect of this discussion is to be provocative by intentionally exaggerating what we mean by “dead” and even what we mean by “media”.

Step one, brainstorming “dead” media. inintial list

sheet music
the fax machine
8 tracks
town criers
overhead projectors
letter writing

Cds dvds (optical media)
Newspapers
Usb key
Local storage
Paper money
Gold standard
Stock exchange?
Church
God
Authority of power
Authority of opinion
Journalism
Dress codes – more tribal
Places of media theatre
Places of meeting
Geographic locality
Local(?) content
Paper memos
Secretaries….
traditional Conferences
email

Specific media’s considered by the workshop: 1) blogs, bloglines and information overload? 2) e-paper and rollable connected displays in mobile devices 3) IM and twitter and status broadcasting

tetrad

Taking a mcluhanistic view of media disruption and it’s impact on society and economy:

mcluhan
A tetrad is a means of examining the effects of any technology on society by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. Visually, a tetrad can be depicted as four diamonds forming an X, with the name of a medium in the center. The two diamonds on the left of a tetrad are the Enhancement and Retrieval qualities of the medium, both Figure qualities. The two diamonds on the right of a tetrad are the Obsolescence and Reversal qualities, both Ground qualities.

* Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies or intensifies. For example, radio amplifies news and music via sound.
* Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence. Radio reduces the importance of print and the visual.
* Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost. Radio returns the spoken word to the forefront.
* Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits. Acoustic radio flips into audio-visual tv.

wikipedia

Our McLuhan inspired “Tetra-pack” format for analyzing new media:

tetrad

New Media Example: Instant Messaging and Status Broadcasting (ala, msn header, twitter, facebook status. One example developed from the workshop:

Amplifies
Voice and conversation
Mood expression
Personal context casting
Synchronization
Social Network
Proximity awareness
Distractions, white spam?
Smart objects

Reversal
Multimedia
Geolocality
Full environmental context
Personal bookmarking
Social Presence ubiquity
More detailated/realistic avatars

Retrieves (media revived)
Post it notes
Walkie talky
Passing notes
Short hand
Sign language (codes, emoticons)
Post cards (rather than letters)
Filesharing

Obsolesces (Dead media, what does it kill?)
Email
Blogs to an extent (esp, twitter, status broadcasting)
Phone
Water cooler conversation
Privacy
Physical meeting
distances

Final additions to the list of dead media:

Organization and predictable outcomes
Staying on objectives?
Management
The line between work and private life (for good and bad)
The office
The home
The school
Copyright
Regulation (oh not?)
Paper maps
Traditional Language
Un-dead media
TV

My Other Posts on Dead media:
Email seen only mostly dead. sort of.
Dead Meme Watch? – Knowledge Management
Lars on dead email
Dead Media Watch #2145 – Email
Dead Fiction
Dead Media [the post that started it all]

BarCampBank c’est fantastique

barcampbank
The worlds first full-scale BarCampBank wrapped up on Saturday in Paris. About 60 Parisian Barcamp made it out (and one odd anglophone from Canada). It was great to connect with the French BarCamp crew – thanks for your excellent hospitality! The community in Paris is still a little smaller than Toronto but seems to be growing fast (and we could learn something, attendees here are a little older and of fairly diverse professional backgrounds).

Famous international partners in crime – Chris Messina and Tara Hunt are quite revered over here. It’s quite remarkable half way around the world from the valley to be surrounded by unconference grids and passionate ‘Pinko’ marketing adherents. (ever get the feeling this camp/social-media-community thing is going to be big?)

As for the camp itself, how do we “2.0 the hell out of banking” was indeed an interesting (and ambitious!) topic to take on.

Major topics of interest included p2p and decentralized financing including a few interesting initiatives in france and the US (fundable) along these lines. In addition to entrepreneurial ventures also ideas of fan-sourcing of the financing of record recording (for example) and possibly sharing in license revenues as a result (neat model… what else could it be applied to?).

Microformats and how they could apply to banking and integration/mashability of financial applications.

I talked about enterprise2.0 technologies from internal blogs/wikis to other webtools (like firestoker…) and their ability to flatten bureaucracies and accelerate innovation … but coupled with the special challenges of banks (security, privacy, entrenched attitudes of middle managers). Some good exchange came of this as a few including Federic were able to talk about their experience/difficulties in integrating wiki tools for instance into their financial institutions.

The last session I attended was on online trust and identity. Some interesting ideas here on separating identity from personality and trust (as these things can be independent). Talked about the importance of trust in communities and reputation online and better systems than credit reporting. As far as identity, there could be bank product here. Who better than your bank (alternatives govn’t or post office) to vouch for your identity online. If banks could build a common api, then they could offer service as proxies or valuators trust or identity (they do already through the kludgy system of credit card authorizations). Alternately there’s community models (RapLeaf comes to mind). In this case, I like the idea of “google ranking” community vouching. It’s not just how many people have clicked to vouch for you (a la ebay) but also what is the reputation of those people, and can we make that a factor too. And then pretty soon we are talking about an open currency of reputation and the whuffie etc.

A bientôt mes nouveaux amis!

Weekend links and odds and ends

# This is a travel week, so, be prepared for the flickr onslaught

# Off to BarCampBank this afternoon, which is interesting because – do all things disruptive and 2.0 even matter to such a cozy and naturally highly structured and oligopical as banking? We shall see. On the customer-facing side, I’m curious, but it’s definitely a tough sell. For my part, I’ll starting a conversation about Enterprise 2.0 and what it might mean for financial services and their attendant bureaucracies and internal (in)efficiencies.

# Been meaning to tell you, be sure to check out the wikinomics blog, from the bright people at New Paradigm that brought you… Wikinomics.

# Now I would love to point to the wonderful collaborative, creative and conversational blog that captures the collected daily thought gems of the brilliant team at Beal Institute, but, er wait? where is that public blog again?

#Song of the day, in honour of the fantastic show they gave us in Toronto early this week. (I love the bouncy yet melancholy tennenbaumesque-ness (that’s a word right?) of this tune:


Camera Obscura – hands up baby

Why users use for users (community) not (user) Interfaces

As a longtime product designer, it’s sort of sad because i really hate that people put up with so many bad interfaces out there. But the truth is that the slickest interface -or- or the most usability does not a guaranteed success make. Many sites, many of the most popular sites on the internet are used heavily rather more in spite of their interface than because of it.

Maybe tags, APIs, and Ajax aren’t the silver bullets we’ve been led to believe they are. Fotolog, MySpace, Orkut, YouTube, and Digg have all proven that you can build compelling experiences and huge audiences without heavy reliance on so-called Web 2.0 technologies. Whatever Web 2.0 is, I don’t think its success hinges on Ajax, tags, or APIs.
ponders Kottke on his blog today

“Yeah,” Jevon says “daniel burka waxes on that a lot too. And I agree.” Yep i think there’s nothing wrong with ajax, i like it a lot in the right context (yay for google maps!) but users use don’t use your service for the ajax, they use it to get something done, find information or connect with other people. And not surprisingly (unless the usability is so bad they can’t get it done), what drives attention of the masses is two factors, as old as time:

1) it’s the distribution silly. economies of scale scope and distribution matter – and (sometimes) first-mover advantage. Put a starbucks on every corner, net net, people will drink more starbucks. Put msn as the default start page of all windows default browsers, and surprise surprise millions will actually “use” that dog’s-regurgitated-breakfast of a media outlet.

2) Community. Users use for other users. It’s the strength and relevance of the community that matters. This is just another way of saying the network effect. Or why eBay creates billions in real value every year despite horrible user-atrocities like the “my ebay” page and many other terrible things they’ve done to poor old HTML over the years.

A valuable, well-designed product is a good start, but that is sadly only secondary to the factors above. It’s only useful if it gets in people’s hands (sometimes you have to go out and stick it in their hands) and in today’s “2.0” world, often “value” is entirely contingent on the quality and scale of the community you create around it.

Kotke breaks down a few more reasons specific to his analysis of Fotolog (huh?) overtaking Flickr*.

*Caveat, caveat, at least in the bizarro-world of alexa rankings.

Worst Usability Offenders (an off the top of my head list)

  • Ebay
  • Myspace (OMG)
  • MSN.com
  • Arguably, Craigslist
  • Everything AOL has ever done
  • what’s on your list?

Update: My friend Farhan of Microsoft sets me straight on msn, more in the comments…

Web 2.0 is Crap and Other viable business models in the 21st century

There’s a lot of buzz these days (in certain circles) about web 2.0, some are even calling it a bubble already. Others are saying, no this time it’s real, web 2.0 [or insert meme here] it’s going to change everything. Your business model is a dinosaur. Get on board or get out of the way …now let me tell you about my consulting rates and so forth.

So what do I think they will they look like, the new dominant business models of the 21st century?

I’ll give you a hint, at the core, they’ll look a lot like business models for the nineteenth century. Some things never change. Like the fundamental forces business economics and strategy. Economies of scale. Economies of scope. Network effects, experience curve advantages and the like.

I will grant you, however, that the basic tools of everyday business are changing. For a lot of individuals and businesses, everyday life will change a little, and for the odd few, life will change a lot.

The intent of this blog is to cast a critical eye on Web 2.0 (itself an awkward name for an ill-defined farago of, at best, loosely related ideas of varying merit – but that’s a whole other post ) as well as the related memes from cluetrain, hughtrain, purplecows, long and short tails, attention/intention economies and whatever else gets the blogosphere buzing next week .

Certainly, with each idea like these there tends to be a kernel of genius, but also much that needs to be put into a proper perspective.

We’ll See how it turns out, but the plan for this blog is to be a critic of new ideas within the space of new technology and ‘the internets’ 2.0.

Once a week or so, all strap on a lovely pair of hubris size XL, and take apart one of the internet’s current Big Ideas to it’s constituent pieces, praise the good bits, or just review these memes like a bad movie.

When it comes to the snark-to-noise ratio, will try to keep a reasonable. Sure, maybe a little snark could be needed if it offers entertainment value or, you know, to shamelessly attract attention through controversy. In general though, I’ll try to focus my criticism on the arguments, not the person. The Internet can be a meanspirited enough place already.

So today I officially dip my toe in the conversation. Wish me luck.