September 2003 Archives

Social Software Hyped in Fortune.com

I belong to a number of networking sites and have for a while. First I joined Ryze and even went to some of their functions. Then I tried Linked In, but I have not put much effort into it. My latest find is eliyon networking which boasts: Eliyon automatically and continuously grows its base of 15,758,276 people profiles from corporate and personal websites, government filings, press releases and other sources. It is hugely expensive to subscribe, like $10K.

Today Fortune.com posted an article that explores all these various sites and discusses a new breed of networking applications designed for business: "...new companies like Contact Network, Socialtext, and Spoke Software are generating revenues by selling social-networking software to corporations". I recently had lunch with my colleague Cesar Brea who is the new CEO of Contact Network Corporation. He gave me an impressive demo of the product and it clearly demonstrates it's value immediately.

Jake Ludington's Digital Lifestyle offers a very detailed explanation, with screen shots, of how to record analog LPs onto digital media. I have a large record collection that I have not listened to in years. I want to sell it, but I can't part with such great music. I have to find a way to convert it! I am going to look a little harder for other options, but this one, although labor intensive, sounds good.

A conversation with Tim Sanders, Yahoo��s Chief Solutions Officer postulates a new disease that is physically and mentally debilitating. He defines it as: "NEDS is an acronym for new economy depression syndrome. It��s a mental state that a result of a combination of information overload and frequent interruption resulting in and erosion of personal close relationships. The symptoms are anxiety, fatigue, stress and lower productivity and irritability in a team environment."
Intesting, my coworkers and I used to laugh when we did conference calls or webcasts because we would prefer to meet online, even in the office, rather then physically get together, because we could multitask: listen and do emails, etc. at the same time. In this environment, we all must increase our "bandwidth" so that we can input and output much more quickly with minimum processing time. I'm glad this condition has a name!

Blogs by Iranians

I read Editor: Myself on occasion. Yesterday, Hossein Derakhshan, publsihed a good list of English language weblogs written by Iranian's around the world. It is worth exploring, good writing and points of view.

Good example of networking on the internet

Online Event: What Does It Take to Be a Social Entreprenueur? Sponsored by Ashoka and the Schwab Founation, Monday, September 22 - Sunday, October 5. Using a software platform for discussiondeveloped by the Skoll Foundation

The discussion is described as: What makes a social entrepreneur tick? What support do they need? How can we encourage more to step forward? Join leaders in the field to discuss the latest developments among social entrepreneurs and the challenges and opportunities we face. Kicking off the event is Professor Muhammad Yunus, a social entrepreneur responsible for the global microcredit movement.

My experience with both the organization participating in the event is that they are innovative at building at motivating a community of people to make change happen. I find their use technology and the way they reach out to a community of social entrepreneurs a valuable lesson in building and animating a community.

HOW TO COMPETE WITH THE BIG GUYS

Dave Pollard has summarized an article on how HP competed against IBM and EDS for a very large P&G contract. The original article was in Fast Company. While HP is an extraordinarily large company, so it is probably unfair to say they one against the big guys, the advice provided is good advice for those of us that don't have the kind of extraordinary resouces of these giant companies.

Here is the advice summarized by Dave, with a few of his own additionsThis month's Fast Company has an article on how HP stole the outsourcing contract for P&G's technology systems and data centres away from favoured EDS and IBM. The article pinpoints five tactics that made the difference:

Don't hide your weakness - Be up front about them and defuse them before your competitors can exploit them. Then play up your strengths.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse - The biggest advantage many large corporations have over smaller competitors is the practice they've had presenting to sometimes intimidating executives, and their ability to learn from their mistakes. Every interaction with the customer is a potential learning experience.
Bring out the big guns - Introduce your very top people to the customer, even if you can only do so sparingly. And credentialize yourself further with kudos and referrals from other well-known customers and associates.
Think like your customer - Understand what they're looking for in a synergistic relationship with a business partner, not just a supplier.
Show that you want the deal - When two or more proposals are equally attractive, the one from the hungrier 'we try harder' bidder usually wins.

These tactics are useful advice for any small enterprise trying to go head-to-head with much larger competitors. Here are a few more from my own experience:

Carve out a niche - Every large competitor has competency gaps that can be exploited. Find a small area where you are uniquely qualified, and focus sales efforts on that niche market.
Don't bite off too much - Be selective in the customers and markets you pursue. There is less competition for mid-size customers than the giant ones, and lower expectations and risks as well.
Relationships almost always trump expertise - Your network is everything. Success is a direct function of the amount of time you invest in relationships with the right customers at the highest possible level. If you're local and the big guys are not, emphasize that and exploit it to increase 'face time' with the customer.
Get to the top decision maker - I wrote about this in a previous article.
Ask for the work - This seems obvious, but it's amazing how rarely it's done. At worst, you'll be told that they're still evaluating other suppliers. At best, you'll get the assignment on the spot. And you'll have a better understanding of exactly where you stand.

I've been ebaying

Vist my ebay "About me" page. So I have been posting to this weblog less. Take a look at what I am selling. Mostly cameras and records right now. I am amazed at my eclectic taste. "The Last Poets"; Holly and Joey: "I've got you babe" Pharoah Sanders, Utimate Spinach, etc. I will keep you up to date on how it goes.

 I am impressed by Robin Good’s thinking and his insight into how technology is used in the real world.   This is a good idea for sharing presentations via web conferencing for very little money.

One innovative idea that could help those of you looking for an EASY and AFFORDBALE way to deliver live PowerPoint presentation online with full voice capabilities, just stroke me in full splendor. Professionals and small companies that want to deliver online presentations have faced themselves with a mjor obstacle and dilemma often well hidden by Web conferencing vendors and marketing heads. With most of the SOHO Web conferencing tools, and soecifically with thise that do not utilize an application sharing facility, showing an online Powerpoint presentation has not been as easy as it was initially promised. The problem stands with...
[Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings]

 Plaxo is a great little program that benefits from the network effects of the internet.   Weblogs are influencing adoption and it’s placement in importance on Google searches shows how valuable Google can be.   John Robb writes:

“Here's an example of how weblogs can have influence on corporations.  Plaxo is a start-up with substantial investment capital.  A quick look at Google shows how weblogs are influencing the information flow on the product they sell (both pro and con reviews).  What is the value of a highly ranked review on a product keyword in Google?  A couple years ago, I was talking to PR insiders (off the record) and the consensus estimate was that a positive product mention in the WSJ or NYT would cost $100,000 (what is worth depends on how well the company can monitize it).  Positive mentions in other publications scale down from that.  What is the third and fourth link on a product name in Google worth using this benchmark?  Given that it has a high level of persistance (and that people often use Google as a means to find the company/product site), it could easily be worth $40-$50 k.  Given that, why aren't PR agencies all over webloggers that do product reviews to ensure that the reviewer gets all the relevant information needed to make an objective review?  I guess they are too busy sending out press releases that nobody reads.”
[John Robb's Weblog]

The Groove virtual negotiation table

Michael Helfrich's Radio Weblog has a good post on Social Software and the issue of trust. Apparently negotiations can proceed more smoothly if enabled by collaboration software.

The Virtual Negotiation Table in Southern Asia/New York/Helsinki: Groove was used less than eight weeks ago to broker peace in a nation in southern Asia. During the mid-80's, tension between the majority and the separatists on this island nation erupted into full blown ethnic war, with 10's of thousands of people losing their lives. Leveraged by some very bright folks from the Nobel Peace Laureate, and with the wisdom and guidance of James A. at Groove, a set of "Peace Tools" was developed and deployed to assist in a new round of peace negotiations. "

In an earlier post Michael Helfrich writes about THE POWER OF EVENT SWARMS: We had a lot of success with the use of Groove during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Robert, Josh, and Phil on the Groove Humanitarian Team worked nights and weekends in support of DoD, State Department, USAID, and NGO activities as these organizations worked to avert a major humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

I've been intrigued for some time about technology frameworks, as well as the political/cultural aspects, for facilitating small unit swarming as organizations attack opportunities, tasks, and threats. While small-unit swarming often focuses on the rapid, ad-hoc formation of affinity groups, the discussion usually ends there. Call it "task swarming" if you will.

During Iraqi Freedom, elements of the U.S. government and various NGO's used Groove for Humanitarian Rapid Assessment. After we were done breaking things in an Iraqi city, these folks would come in and assess what was needed to help the people in the city. This was a classic example of task swarming where more than 100 people people from 30 organizations came together within 48 hours and went to work. We saw it many times during the conflict as groups worked to coordinate medical logistics and other humanitarian tasks. Groove worked flawlessly.

Jim Ericson, Line56 writes that companies are shifting their IT spending priorities.

"...saving money requires spending money, the next top choice appears to be business application integration for the purpose of aligning processes and workflows within companies in efficiency drives that hopefully can pay for themselves.

Against the mired backdrop of flattish budgets, integration spending outstrips overall IT spending growth in almost every survey. Aberdeen's 2003 forecast finds application developer tools and enterprise application integration (EAI) spending sandwiched above and below security as top infrastructure priorities for this year. "

Later in the article he says: "Companies have been warming to looser and more selective integration using the Web or other protocols to unify existing applications and also deliver functionality to the personalized desktops of partners and employees. That's where the infrastructure and application vendors have mainly built their footprint and where price pressure has hit the EAI vendors. Further, the idea of assembling relevant bits of applications used in a business process into composite applications has found growing appeal. While such connections might go sight unseen, in enterprise portals this becomes the human-facing side of integration, something every company would like to see more event driven."

This article gives a great deal of insight into how companies are setting their investment agendas.

Taking the Social Temperature of Usenet

 Netscan is the tool that is referred to in this post.   I tried it out last evening and found two great newsgroups on wine and cigars.   Two of my passions.

Sociologist Mark Smith has developed a tool that analyzes the social dynamics of Usenet, helping users find congenial groups whether they're looking for conversation or quick answers.
[Socialtext]

Policy Induced Jobless Recovery

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley writes an article each day on the global economic situation. Yesterday the article was titled Traction, Multipliers, and Leakages, about how the US economy is leaking jobs, especially in highly skilled areas like IT to India, with manufacturing going primarily to China. Mr. Roach calls this a policy induced recovery, not an actual economic recovery, and suggests that it may not continue. The article includes very good analysis to support his position.

Opposition Reaction To The Bush Speech

Oliver Willis posted these quotes from the Democratic candidates:

Because you'll probably have a hard time finding it in most of the media.  The reaction of the night strangely came from the right, as Senator Chuck Hagel said "Our allies are not just going to hand over divisions of troops and money. We have to understand our allies are democracies, too." Amen.

"There are more al-Qaida in Iraq today than there ever were before we invaded Iraq.

"The fact is that we cannot afford to allow Iraq to descend into chaos... and that is the risk the president has now created."

_ Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

"What tonight's speech called for was for the president to demonstrate some courage of his own. Instead, he retreated to the same rhetoric about progress and peace that do not match the reality occurring every day in Iraq. It is a country consumed with chaos, not a shining example of progress in the war against terrorism."

_ Sen. John Edwards

"President Bush's efforts to enlist our allies for help is long overdue. From the start, I've told this president that we could win the war alone, but we won't be able to win the peace alone.

"Now that the president has recognized that he has been going down the wrong path, this administration must begin the process of fully engaging our allies and sharing the burden of building a stable democracy in Iraq."

_ Rep. Dick Gephardt


"I hope his appeal for international support to restore order in Iraq is not too little and too late. ...

"Other nations should contribute troops and money to restore order in Iraq and rebuild its infrastructure. President Bush's request for $87 billion is breathtaking at a time when the Republican tax cuts have pushed the nation toward record deficits."

_ Sen. Bob Graham

"Other than telling the country that this will be expensive, the president did very little to demonstrate he has a true plan. This president must offer more specifics on these and other important questions if he is to build the legitimacy and consent of this nation and our neighbors throughout the world to win the peace in Iraq and win the global war on terror."

_ Sen. John Kerry

[Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid]

Commercializing Open Source Software

Michael J. Karels has written an interesting article on open source and how it is commercialized. Commercialization and truely open source software is getting to be quite a gray area, as is explained:


The use of open source software has become increasingly popular in production environments, as well as in research and software development. One obvious attraction is the low cost of acquisition. Commercial software has a higher initial cost, though it usually has advantages such as support and training. A number of business models designed by users and vendors combine open source and commercial software; they use open source as much as possible, adding commercial software as needed. They may use open source software as a central component of a product or service, but use other components to add value, which can then induce customers to pay for the offering (obviously, it is hard to compete with free software on price).

After a brief overview of the salient differences between open source and commercial software, this article will describe several basic business models in today's marketplace to highlight ways that value is added to open source software and services. For the most part, I will discuss only complete software systems sufficient for some useful purpose, such as network servers, which include an operating system and its associated components, any applications needed for the system's purpose, and necessary local configuration information. Many of the same principles apply to components such as applications and other software packages

 So, I have not read Robin Good before, but he appears to focus on the ideas that I take an active interest in.  This is a good article with lots of links to companies and services that offer real time collaboration.

The Web conferencing, real-time collaboration and live presentation industries, if I can call them so, are fibrillating with new systems, complementary tools, new version releases, upgrades and completely revamped products. There is a lot more to choose from and it is also a lot more difficult for the end-user to make some sense of the growing crowd of new brands, vendors, developers and resellers appearing in this field. The sole ability to test, try out a system and being able to anticipate its shortcomings once implemented in a stable fashion are sometime very hard to...
[Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings]

Bridging Made Easy

Apple Airport will now bridge to a wireless access point made by Buffalo.   I have tried to extend the range of my wireless network around my home but I have hesitated because of the price.  If you can do it with a box that is $130 less than another Airport,  I will be very happy.   I like to use my computer everywhere! 

Wirelessly bridging wireless networks with Wireless Distribution System (wirelessly): WDS is a very simple idea: it allows an access point to act like a port on an Ethernet switch. With this simple idea, Apple, Linksys, Buffalo, and others have finally implemented inexpensive and simple-to-configure bridges. What's better, Apple and Buffalo, to name two, allow their access points to work as APs and bridges simultaneously, which can let you create a cloud of access instead of a little pool. It also reduces costs. In a shocking discovery, which I write about in this article, you can use Buffalo and Apple equipment together in WDS mode. Buffalo's roughly $100 access point (WLA-G54) pairs with Apple's $200-$250 AirPort Extreme Base Station, which has all the gateway features you need. There's even a Windows configuration utility available for it (in beta testing)....
[Wi-Fi Networking News]

New Video of the First Crash Surfaces

 Amazing!

A Rare View of 9/11, Overlooked From the NY Times: "They did not even see the pale fleck of the airplane streak across the corner of the video camera's field of view at 8:46 a.m. But the camera, pointed at the twin towers from the passenger seat of an S.U.V. in Brooklyn near the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, kept rolling when the plane disappeared for an instant and then a silent, billowing cloud of smoke and dust slowly emerged from the north tower, as if it had sprung a mysterious kind of leak." I can't even look at the pictures, just too painful for me, but this will probably be a major development in the next week.
[MetaFilter]

 Micropublishing can create lots of noise, but my experience is that  the quality of writing and insight in most blogs is quite high, so I am enriched by the discussions and many of the points published in this format.   I find all the points of view on the world enthralling.  

In (Weblogs and) The Mass Amateurisation of (Nearly) Everything... [plasticbag.org]Tom Coates has summarized the new potential that the change from the publishing a webpage to the publishing of a weblog involves.

He concludes by saying,

This flexibility of publishing creates a fluid and living form of self-representation, the 'homepage (as a place)' has become the 'weblog(as a person)' that can articulate a voice. And when there are a multiiplicity of voices in space, then the possiblity arises of conversations. And where there is conversation there is the sharing of information. And conversation about what? Well everything from music and movies and animation and medical information. Weblogs are becoming the bridge between the individual and the community in cyberspace - a place where one can self-publicise and self-describe but also learn, debate and engage in community. In other words, weblogs are [...] becoming enmeshed in the very structures of information retrieval, community interaction and media distribution themselves.[underlines mine, Spike Hall]

Lets see if we can find the stuff to translate this potential into higher quality community life for all, not just that of articulate technophiles.

Without working at it hard and well-- its a powerful tool for good or ill --, we could be simply adding to the noise pollution of our increasingly urban, corporate landscape.
[Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog]

The State of the E-Learning Market

            Hard to say when the market for learning content, web content management, and IT consulting will turn around.  But, this is a link to a good article about the state of the market and how it will evolve.

The State of the E-Learning Market : "The e-learning market doldrums mean some providers are gone—merged, acquired or shuttered. You might yet learn to love the shakeout. If nothing else, picking an e-learning vendor is easier because you have fewer choices. More to the point, survivors are "getting back to fundamentals" and addressing customer business problems..."[elearnspace blog]

elearning alert

            I found an interesting blog on elearning, which I have put on my RSS reading list, it is called the elearnspace blog, it’s where I got this reference to an alert on what is happening in the industry.

In this forum, I generally don't detail changes/developments relating to elearning vendors/companies. If you're interested in changes and developments related to elearning and the vendors that participate in the market, click through to elearning alert: "A weekly Friday morning roundup of news and information about companies and products involved in corporate online training and knowledge management. Designed to be a resource for IT decisionmakers, as well as marketing, public relations and advertising managers in e-Learning companies." []

Communities of Practice Documents

In each of the knowledge management implementations that I have participated in, communities of practice were integral to the success of the program.  These communities owned the content and self managed sharing their understanding of a domain.   So, this reference to a site that lists good documentation on the subject is welcome. .

Communities of Practice Documents: "The Community of Practice resources identified below represent some of the finest work available on communities of practice research and development."

[elearnspace blog]    [McGee's Musings]

 I couldn’t agree more with the comments about writing and routing.

Well-formed writing and information routing. The tagging conventions I've been applying for the last four months are really springing to life, now that structured search of my blogis available. For example, my convention has been to write quotations like so: ... [Jon's Radio]


[Blogging Alone]

 This is a good link to a definition of social software.   The author Michael Quinion writes about international English usage.   It is also worthwhile subscribing to Corante: Social Software  if you are interested in the subject.

World Wide Words: Social Software. Here's a pretty decent three-paragraph description of the term "social software", by Michael Quinion, who among other things contributes to the Oxford Dictionary of New Words. [Corante: Social Software]


[Blogging Alone]

 

The Wave magazine took the replicant-or-human test from PK Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (the basis for the film Blade Runner) and administered it to San Francisco's mayoral candidates. The results are highly amusing:

SUBJECT 4: TOM AMMIANO

It's your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react?
Tom Ammiano: I'd look for money.

TW: You've got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do? TA: I'd think this was Blade Runner. That's my reaction.

TW: You're watching television. Suddenly you realize there's a wasp crawling on your arm.
TA: Call 911.

TW: You're in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, Tom, it's crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back, Tom. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't, not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that, Tom?
TA: That's interesting. I don't know. I'm a republican?

TW: Describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind. About your mother.
TA: Tenderness. Yelling.

Link Discuss (Thanks, JeremyT)
[Boing Boing Blog]

Outsourcing IT Services

I am very interested in outsourcing It services to firms in India. I think it provides huge cost advantages and the service providors, in my opinion, are very capable of handling the increased volume from US companies. The following paragraphs were pulled from a summary of a Forrester report that forecast the growth of this segment.

"Forrester found that while most of the executives it surveyed reported their companies didn't spend much on BPO in 2002, 52 percent said they were considering outsourcing and planned to spend at least $1 million on BPO in 2004. They cited human resources, customer resources, customer service procurement and accounting as the most likely processes for outsourcing.

The largest segment in the BPO market will be simple bulk transactions, Forrester said, predicting the segment will grow to $58 billion in 2008. This segment includes simple tasks like credit card or stock trade processing, and Forrester said the segment is the simplest for vendors to master. The firm added that ACS, Fidelity Investments, State Street and Unisys will likely dominate the market.

The second largest segment will be broad shared services, representing $57 billion by 2008, Forrester said. This segment includes finance and administration, indirect procurement and human resources. Noting the segment requires more understanding by employees than simple bulk transactions, Forrester predicted that ACS and Mellon HR Solutions will expand into the HR side of the segment, while big IT systems integrators will battle over finance and accounting.

High-volume vertical processes will represent a significantly smaller segment, at $6 billion in 2008, Forrester said. The firm predicted that vertical processes, including policy administration, claims and loan process applications, will remain a small piece of the segment. It also suggested that offshore IT providers and large U.S. outsourcers, including the likes of Accenture and CSC, will battle for turf in the segment.

The smallest segment will be niche vertical applications, which Forrester predicted would reach $5 billion in 2006, though it also suggested the segment would surge forward after customers become comfortable with outsourcing these tasks, reaching $24 billion in 2008. Niche vertical applications include complex processes like environmental data reporting and chemical process control monitoring, which Forrester said requires deep specialization. The firm pointed to Ingenero and RMSI as among the small BPO vendors that specialize in the area. " Internet News.com

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