October 2006 Archives

Joe Kraus, CEO of JotSpot, is a happy little goblin today:

OK, I can finally blurt it out: JotSpot is now part of Google, and I couldn't be more excited.

As we built the business over the past three years Google consistently attracted our attention. We watched them acquire Writely, and launch Google Groups, Google Spreadsheets and Google Apps for Your Domain. It was pretty apparent that Google shared our vision for how groups of people can create, manage and share information online. Then when we had conversations with people at Google we found ourselves completing each other's sentences. Joining Google allows us to plug into the resources that only a company of Google's scale can offer, like a huge audience, access to world-class data centers and a team of incredibly smart people.

This is a bigger deal from a business user and enterprise standpoint than for the individual user, but those lines are getting blurrier all the time.

While JotSpot's current pre-built application portfolio (calendaring, spreadsheets, text processing) may look redundant for Google, it actually expands Google Apps for Your Domain, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets by adding custom application development on a wiki framework—ideal when virtual teams working on projects together need something that the pre-built Google suite doesn't quite deliver.

It also allows JotSpot to go places it otherwise couldn't, thanks to Google's ad-driven revenue model. JotSpot will now be free.

TechCrunch's take on the deal adds the following forward-looking question about Google's rush to fill out their team productivity and collaboration services suite:

If Jotspot can be integrated as smoothly as so many other Google web applications have been, it will go a long ways towards strengthening Google for the upcoming web collaboration wars. How much longer until a web conferencing company is acquired?

This is yet another deal where Yahoo! was rumored to be a suitor, but Google wound up getting the girl.


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[This has been cross-posted from Global Nerdy, a technology blog I write with Joey deVilla]

There was a man whose tears could cure cancer or any other disease, including the real cause of all diseases – sin. His blood did. His name was Jesus, not Chuck Norris.

If your soul needs healing, the prescription you need is not Chuck Norris' tears, it's Jesus' blood.

An actual quote from Chuck Norris' first column for theocon netrag WorldNetDaily.com.

I'm at a loss for words.

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Jack Davis, the multimillionaire businessman running here in western New York to unseat one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, makes his fellow Democrats a little nervous.

Mr. Davis is prone to overstatement. He has warned about “Red China,” for example, and suggested he would take a bat to anyone who sent his sons sexually explicit e-mail messages like those a congressman sent to young male pages.

He defies liberal orthodoxies. He has said he wants to “seal” the nation’s borders and has held memberships in conservative groups like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

This behavior, apparently, makes Democratic party hacks nervous. As well they should be; the potential success of Davis' candidacy points to a larger victory for populist conservative politics. To the extent that the Democrats are in the game in the red states at all this year, it's largely because they're running right of center candidates in a number of races.

We're seeing Democrats who love guns, who go to church, who want to kick Iran and North Korea where it hurts, who want to play hardball with China. Democratic success in Congress may only lead to intra-party warfare between the rump blue-staters and old-line "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," and their new conservative comrades.


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America's Dumbest Congressmen

525 names short, I think.


Book: Bush Aides Called Evangelicals 'Nuts'

A new book by a former White House official says that President Bush's top political advisors privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as "nuts" and "goofy" while embracing them in public and using their votes to help win elections.

Political operatives not always sincere, often cynical. Treat true believers as useful idiots.

Stop the presses.

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I want to end this post on an optimistic note, so let's concentrate on the biggest advantage Enterprise 2.0 technologies have over email. As I wrote in my initial SMR article, email is a channel technology.  It creates a private conduit between the sender and receiver.  Other parties don't know that the email was sent, and can't consult its contents.   Wikis, del.icio.us, Flickr, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube, on the other hand, are all platform technologies.  They accumulate content over time and make it visible and accessible to all community members.  

Prior to the arrival of Enterprise 2.0 technologies, companies had few effective platforms for sharing knowledge work, and no platforms that fostered emergence.  So the new tools are not direct substitutes for email; instead, they're intended to provide capabilities that email can't.  Will they succeed?  It depends  heavily, I believe, on whether companies and their managers want technology platforms for collaboration.  This desire will be an important factor in solving email's 9X problem.

"9X" refers to just how much improvement a typical user must see to be persuaded to switch from an existing solution to a new one. The early adopters of web 2.0-style work in the enterprise have a much, much lower threshold for this kind of thing. As a consequence, they tend to overestimate the speed with which any new technology will be broadly adopted.

Does that mean the enterprise will always settle for the tools they have, like Outlook and Office? Not necessarily. I believe we're seeing a senior management-level desire for innovation accelerated by collaboration. Think of how P&G is constantly singled out for breaking down the barriers between product groups to help the company deliver new products more quickly, or how Jeff Immelt's GE is as much about innovation as Jack Welch's was about operational excellence. That should provide the support for changes in the technology platforms workers use for collaboration. Whether companies elect to create those platforms soon out of new tools like wikis, blogs, search engines, and tagging, or wait for established enterprise IT vendors like Microsoft, EMC, IBM, Oracle, and SAP to subsume similar features into their existing offerings is an open question, of course.

As McAfee points out in his very next post, large companies don't necessarily make the decisions individual users on the internet might about the appropriate technological solution to a problem:

[Enterprise IT efforts] are not about the users, even though they're often positioned and discussed that way. They're about the enterprise --  what's best for the organization as a whole, what will make it more productive, efficient, analyzable, etc.  

There's no guarantee that what's best for the enterprise will be best for all or most enterprise IT users.  In fact, there's a near guarantee that some people and groups will be worse off after a new enterprise system (ERP, CRM, eProcurement, SCM, etc.) goes in.  They'll get an application that's by definition less tailored to their specific needs than the legacy stovepipe system that's being replaced.  They'll have to learn new screens, transactions, and processes, some of which are going to be less friendly or efficient than the previous ones.  They'll have to go through lots of training that takes them away from their jobs.  And at the end of the day they'll be encouraged (read 'forced') to use an enterprise application that gives them  fewer places to hide and less freedom.


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Google today retired the Writely name and look and feel, replacing it with the cumbersome "Google Docs & Spreadsheets."

Writely users won't notice much in the way of new functionality; Google's main focus has been combining users' lists of their documents and spreadsheets into one view and keying them off their Google account (which also means a single method for sharing documents and spreadsheets with collaborators). The top left corner of your Google pages is starting to get crowded with all the services Google offers: Google, Gmail, Calendar, Photos, Docs & Spreadsheets...

Google bought Writely in March of this year, so this integration took eight months. Pretty speedy. Yahoo!, by comparison, bought Oddpost in July 2004 but it took them until September 2006—over two years—to roll the new Ajax-ified Yahoo! Mail out to the general public. Similarly, other Yahoo! acquisitions like Flickr and del.icio.us still live in splendid isolation from Yahoo!'s other services.

An unfair comparison? Perhaps. Nevertheless, these kinds of comparisons are a big reason why people are saying Yahoo! is quickly losing its edge to Google.


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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

New USA BFFL, Libya, is joining Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, and Thailand in the One Laptop Per Child program.

The government of Libya reached an agreement on Tuesday with One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit United States group developing an inexpensive, educational laptop computer, with the goal of supplying machines to all 1.2 million Libyan schoolchildren by June 2008.

Discussions between the One Laptop project and the Libyan government began as part of work being done by the Monitor Group, an international consulting firm co-founded by the economist Michael E. Porter. It is now helping the Libyans develop a national economic plan.

A million Libyan kids will soon be disappointed to find out they can't play Half-Life 2: Episode One.


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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

In another bamboozling move, MySpace has now blocked Stickam webcam codes. At the end of last week, the team reported that newly-created Stickam widgets wouldn’t work on MySpace, and yesterday I was forwarded an email (thanks James) from Stickam that claimed the widgets had been “blocked” by MySpace. I assumed that they were being affected by some kind of glitch that prevents Flash embeds working properly - something along the lines of the MySpace update that broke many Flash widgets (it was supposedly a reaction to the MySpace hack). As it turns out, there’s something more sinister afoot: today I logged in to MySpace and realized that all links to Stickam are being blocked. If you try to link to Stickam.com anywhere on your profile - either inserting a widget or using a plain old link, it will be removed. Apparently it’s been this way for a few days. Since only links to Stickam.com are affected, it seems that MySpace is intentionally blocking the service.

Never underestimate the potential for greed to cloud the vision: MySpace could indeed be wondering why they should let some third party build a business on the back of their popularity. Of course, the response would be that MySpace's popularity is, at least in part, due to how these widgets add to the MySpace user's experience, allowing them to truly customize their MySpace pages.

On the other hand, never underestimate the potential for fear to cloud the vision, either: MySpace may not actually care about Stickam's widgets from a competitive perspective—they may very well want to play an open game here. They may, however, care very much about what images may be broadcast through these widgets; imagine the headlines when a parent finds out their teenage kid has been flashing their friends. Whose name do you think the media will sieze on: Stickam or MySpace?


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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

Speaking with reporters on the opening day of the CEATEC exhibition in Chiba, Japan, Eric Kim, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, today praised Apple Computer Inc. for successfully integrating computers and consumer electronics with its iPod digital music player and iTunes online store, which use proprietary standards.

However, at the same time, he also called on Japanese consumer electronics makers to adopt open standards centered on Intel's own Viiv platform for PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

Intel's going to have a lot of these "Lost in Translation" moments, where they attempt to serve (and praise) one small customer (Apple) who has been pummelling a lot of their larger customers in the converging consumer electronics business (Everybody Else).

Take, for example, this business of "open standards." If Viiv was really an open standard, then I could mix and match chip suppliers (swapping out Intel for AMD) and operating systems (Ubuntu Linux rather than Windows XP Media Center or Vista). Sure, Viiv is more open than the iPod/iTunes/iTunes Store system, but not so open as to release a company like Sony or Dell from vendor lock-in with Intel and Microsoft.


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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

We're thrilled to have our Mac team in place, and they're just getting started. Watch this blog to keep up with the latest about everything Google is doing to support Mac users.

Google? Mac? Blog? Three words I like individually, together at last.

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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

“If you believe it’s the future of television, it’s clearly worth $1.6 billion,” Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said of YouTube. “If you believe something else, you could write down maybe it’s not worth much at all.”

So says Uncle Fester, and he's right.

I suppose everyone's got a take on Google's purchase of YouTube, so here's mine: $1.6 billion is an insane amount of money for Google to spend on YouTube, the stand-alone business model, but it's a pretty cheap way to buy yourself into the future of entertainment.

Google's core business is putting an audience in touch with the information they want, and slathering the whole experience with ads that are somehow tuned to the individual reader's interests. They're quickly dominating that business with regards to text, but the web sure isn't limited to alphanumeric characters. Since YouTube is beginning to dominate the way people search for, discover, watch, and share video on the internet, it makes sense for Google to bring that network into the fold. As I've said before, the new network looks more like Google than it does ABC, CBS, or NBC.

And while the existing dominant players in video entertainment (the broadcast and cable networks, and their production partners) slowly adopt digital distribution strategies, I suspect smaller independent producers will start to see the large reach, digital word-of-mouth, searchability, and potential for revenue presented by a Google/YouTube-mediated network as an increasingly interesting option.


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[I'm cross-posting this from Global Nerdy, a tech-ish blog I've started with my friend Joey deVilla. Stop by and see how it's coming along.]

IBM warms to social networking | CNET News.com

IBM's collaboration software--namely, its Notes client software, Sametime instant messaging, and Web portal software--will gain capabilities from a project called IBM Community Tools, Rhodin said.

These tools, due out in the "near future," will allow an individual worker to ask a group of colleagues if they know the answer a specific question, he said. Later versions will make use of IBM's Dogear, a social bookmarking system to help different communities share information.

Software vendors, including IBM, Microsoft and Adobe Systems, are cherry picking ideas from the consumer Web to stimulate sales of their corporate software.

I can't think of a better way to squash the benefits of Web 2.0-style lightweight collaboration than to trap those capabilities in heavyweight groupware like Notes, or scatter the features amongst the components of Microsoft's Office suite.

Man questioned and misses flight for speaking Tamil

A 32-year-old man speaking Tamil and some English about a sporting rivalry was questioned at Sea-Tac Airport and missed his flight Saturday because at least one person thought he was suspicious.

Sadly believable, given our current climate of insane fear.

[Sea-Tac spokesman] Parker said the man was cooperative and boarded a later flight to Texas. He told officials that he would not speak in a foreign language on his cell phone at an airport in the future.

It's a bad sign when that graf could just as easily come out of The Onion.

Enterprise Web 2.0 » Where is the Business Value in Enterprise 2.0?

  • For many employees today, collaborative, complex problem solving is the essence of their work. These "tacit" activities—involving the exchange of information, the making of judgments, and a need to draw on multifaceted forms of knowledge in exchanges with coworkers, customers, and suppliers—are increasingly a part of the standard model for companies in the developed world.
  • Employees like managers and salespeople, whose jobs consist primarily of such activities, now make up 25 to 50 percent of the workforce. In insurance companies, tacit interactions now constitute the primary activities of 63 percent of the workforce. The proportion is 60 percent in securities companies, 70 percent in health care, and 45 percent in retailing. Even in utilities, 30 percent of the employees undertake tacit work.
  • Companies have traditionally boosted their productivity by improving the efficiency of transformational activities (like the extraction of raw materials) or of transactions (for instance, the work of the clerks in the accounts-payable function). But, the old strategies for efficiency improvements don't apply to employees whose jobs mostly involve tacit interactions; instead, a company must boost these workers'€™ productivity by making them more effective at what they do.
  • To achieve that goal, companies must alter the way they craft strategies, design organizations, manage talent, and leverage technology.

All of which seems like another way of making the argument for the "digitization, automation, collaboration" path of evolution for enterprise IT (an argument I agree with, incidentally).

The key to unlocking the potential of tacit work are easy-to-use tools that allow for the sharing of data and provide the means for individuals and teams to express their interpretations of that data—transforming it in the process—and sharing once again that work product.

Sounds pretty dry, I know, but when you think of what wikis, blogs, tagging, syndication, and search all do, the concept becomes a much more tangible thing.

AppleInsider | Study reveals Apple still gaining ground in music space

After recently completing its 12th bi-annual teen survey, research and investment firm PiperJaffray said Apple Computer continues to gain share in the digital music player and online music markets, despite the constant emergence of new competitors.

The survey, which polled nearly 1,000 high school students, found that iPod market share grew to 79 percent from 77 percent over the past six months. "Of the students surveyed in the fall 2006 PJC teen survey, we found that 72 percent own an MP3 player and 79 percent specifically own an iPod," analyst Gene Munster wrote in a summary of the survey results.

Have you ever noticed how the rich and famous always get free stuff, despite their obvious ability to buy whatever they want? I suppose it's the same way with marketshare, at least in this case. Apple's dominance of the mobile digital music realm continues, fueled in part by its existing dominance.

Could Apple Become Games Console King?

Some have speculated that the iTV may also be destined to get one of Intel’s Conroe-L processors, which it would need to process the HD content Apple eventually wants to sell over iTunes. Further, according to some, it’s very possible video card drivers could be written so that graphic output data could be sent to a network port instead of the monitor connected to the card. That opens the possibility of using iTV and a wireless controller to remotely play Mac/PC games (*cough* WoW *cough*) in your living room.

Convenient then, that on September 7, 2006, Apple filed a patent application for a handheld electronic device with “multiple touch-sensitive devices.” Sure, the primary application of the patent is likely to layer a touch screen over the iPod’s display, but applications that involve improving gaming control with Apple products is not far-fetched.

All of this basically means that Apple could be on the verge of launching a slimmed down, single-core Mac Mini capable of streaming interactive content from a host computer and capable of storing and playing casual games locally.

MacWorld's not 'til January and already the speculation around Apple's moves in the living room are hitting some high notes. This writer proposes an almost Rube Goldberg-ian sequence of events propelling Apple into the pole position on the converged digital home.

GigaOM: DVD Jon Fairplays Apple

GigaOM サ DVD Jon Fairplays Apple

DRM-buster DVD Jon has a new target in his sights, and it's a big piece of fruit. He has reverse-engineered Apple's Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple's devices. Instead of breaking the DRM (something he's already done), Jon has replicated it, and wants to license the technology to companies that want their content (music, movies, whatever) to play on Apple devices. This may not be good news for iTunes the store, but it could make the iPod even more popular.

Assuming FairPlay doesn't require iTunes to dial home to the iTunes Store to check whether a given machine is authorized (material downloaded from the iTunes store can play on five authorized computers with the iTunes software, and on an unlimited number of iPods), one scenario that Jon's software might allow would be for a movie studio to offer iPod- and (soon) iTV-compatible movies without going through the iTunes Store. They could end-run Apple's demands for relatively simple, uniform pricing, and standard release timing.

That probably would help sell more iPods: access to more software (ie, movies, TV shows, and music) is always a good thing for a platform.

It remains to be seen if this would work as seamlessly as the iPod, iTunes, iTunes Store combination currently does. Would these third-party FairPlay-compatible downloads be purchased and managed within iTunes, or will my library be split amongst multiple clients, all fighting to sync with my iPod? And, of course, Apple's an unwilling participant here; what happens when they change FairPlay with later revisions of iTunes and QuickTime?

As for the potential advantage to other digital music services, it would seem slight. There's not much difference in the libraries they offer, and FairPlay doesn't (yet) support the subscription model for digital music. Unless a store can compete on price (ie, $.50/song) this ability to end-run Apple probably doesn't offer them any kind of lifeline.