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My second webinar report today features a free Gartner seminar from Jeffrey Mann, who I knew well in his META Group days as a great application analyst. The topic isn’t “what’s available” but “how do you make decisions”: potentially much more useful.
First, he’s talking about Cloud for absorbing capacity demand peaks: the right definition. But, as he points out: the high-end integration requirements of a portal don’t necessarily suit well to Cloud infrastructure. Security and confidentiality play as issues too.
Compared to my post last week, Gartner’s definition of Cloud matches in most elements but I included easy sign up without long term commitments. This matches the use case for absorbing capacity peaks, but for longer-term critical business functions (running your sales on salesforce.com, for example) most consumers will want some longer term assurance.
Gartner also add to the established model of System (or Infrastructure), Platform and Application as a Service: two further levels. Information (e.g. a Reuter’s feed), and Business Services. The shift in provision focus is from “capacity” to “capability”, and evaluation is outcomes based. I like that.
Jeff “gets nervous” if cost saving is the only reason clients are moving to cloud services; cost reduction may be part of the outcome, but there are hidden costs (e.g. increased network capacity) and many disappointments. “Disconnect price from cost … reconnect price to value.”
And, perhaps closer to the meat of the theme: “Portals … will follow … The greater portal opportunity [for Cloud] lies largely with B2B” – strikingly close to Mark Benioff’s Cloudforce message I was listening to earlier. More on that later.
Early Cloud deployment: look for something that will work with the vanilla service (“out of the box” requirement). And it’s easier to start greenfield than migrating from on-premises services. Complexity (e.g. customisations) mitigate against migration.
Jeff showed a self-assessment chart for issues such as data, compliance, policies and failure remediation – how complex is getting going again after a stop? Even with due diligence, it comes down to trust – usually lower for a pure-cloud solution. Users often prefer to be in control even of functions and processes they are not so good at.
What about best practices? Half a dozen use cases, for example capacity on demand (such as hiring lots of extra staff for a short time, I guess like Christmas postal deliveries) – Jeff calls this “Cloudbursting”. I’ve heard a presentation of this being done around a massive weekly sales promotion that, on its first outing, unexpectedly and grossly overloaded the company’s normal web servers. Cloud to the rescue!
Other use cases include: providing lower-end capabilities to segments of the staff population, such as floor staff in a store; secure extranets in an isolated environment (e.g. in M&A or restructuring when information needs to be kept confidential to a subset of staff but in more than one enterprise); or “splitting the stack”. Jeff proposes a small handful of hard-headed questions to help evaluate whether cost will really be saved (bearing in mind that he asserts that cost saving shouldn’t be the only target for a Cloud move). You must be able to identify where cost savings will come from, they’re not automatic!
And do, first, hold a mirror to your entire company and ask if – culturally – the enterprise is ready to make this kind of change (it’s trust, again, but legal issues such as e-discovery may be highly relevant here). Then be sure you understand why: examples might include flexibility, cost, being more easily current to latest software versions, reduced internal resource requirements, and so on. And you must have defined measures for a pilot to judge whether to move on.
In this, recognise the many constituencies in the business with different needs and expectations: not a new idea, but a useful categorisation of business interests on the chart. Think how to get them involved.
Gartner does expect that in the next few years all organisations will have some level of Cloud service: complete (few), or mixed (most).
In the brief Q&A, the issue of recent high profile outages (e.g. on Office 365 for some customers) was raised. Jeff’s view is to keep it in perspective: compare with internal capability, not with the ideal of zero outage.
I raised a question based on listening to Mark Benioff earlier. That presentation was put out via Facebook, and Benioff was strongly promoting “social technology” as the communication and collaboration platform of the future. As an analyst, Jeff sees very few innovations which totally replace what came before, and believes this will be a case in point. So social technologies are, indeed, very important; but the older platforms won’t go away.
Congratulations for Jeff for going beyond the technology of Cloud, and the (perhaps hyped) potential. This was a good counterbalance to Mark Benioff’s evangelistic case, and confirms that Jeff has lost none of his edge since last time I had the chance to interact with him!
• Cloud Strategies for Portals, Content, & Collaboration Projects, Gartner webinar, 14 Sep 2011, replay (link to be added when available) – in the meantime see Gartner Webinars
• Mark Benioff at Cloudforce London, ITasITis, 14 Sep 2011
Mark Benioff at Cloudforce London 14 Sep 2011Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, IT is business, ITasITis, Social issues, Social media, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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I’ve joined the online Cloudforce webcast to view Mark Benioff’s keynote. I’m not able to stay online for the whole two hours, but this is notes as far as I can go.
Benioff has pitched that a new revolution has happened: the role that social technology plays and the depth of its integration into society as a whole has changed in the last year. Interestingly, the broadcast is via Facebook, not one of the established Web Meeting platforms. No registration. Just “Like” the page to join the broadcast. And Twitter feeds for the speakers linked on the page at the time they’re on stage (not when they’re off). We’ll come back to that point.
In the preliminaries at the point I joined, a key point from the JP Ramaswami: businesses need to value relationships not just customers. And now there is an enormous quantity of real data, cheap to collect, to back up research into online interactions. The emphasis being on learning and understanding what makes relationships really work.
A black screen while the broadcast switches to “Cloudforce London”. And a marketing video, pushing Salesforce Chatter but showcasing (at a headline level) how Salesforce is supporting a host of responsive apps to provide customers of banks, cars, coffee shops and more with immediate useful information. Where’s my nearest ATM? What’s my car’s engine temperature? And so on.
Here’s Benioff. A paean of praise to Thomas Watson, Ken Olson and Michael Dell – guess which one is billed as a speaker? – also Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. But the theme is a new area of innovation, and the mix and impact of social technology into society is (he believes) new.
He cited the Arab Spring, which is certainly the current high profile example: not “hard power” or “soft power” but “social power”. And he asks: is there going to be a “Corporate Spring” with the end of in-enterprise dictatorships in a similar paradigm?
People have to respond. There are now more social network users than email, and very nearly Facebook (and Twiter) *is* the Web. And people use mobile apps (smartphones, iPad) more than web browsers; the laptop is out of date for on-the-move information access. The current Forbes cover headlines: Social Power and the coming Corporate Revolution.
Moving into the message for business, he asks for (1) next generation social profiling for customers: they are, after all, on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else. Then (2) create an employee social network and enable staff to use this information. Returning to this, Benioff talks about creating (a few years back) an internal Facebook-alike which, crucially, is integrated with their main platform. Salesforce Chatter is now available to customers, and is going through a major upgrade, sue in a couple of weeks: presence added to IM, connection to other networks, filters, workflow (approvals). Customer groups (sounds a bit like Google Plus circles) extend the concept to external customers, including file sharing and all sorts of other things; it sounds like some major education will be needed to establish who can share what, and who can commit the company to what.
(3) I intially missed as I had to step out of the room: develop the next generation sales cloud. Benioff highlighted Groupon as a fast growing company; I’m not yet clear whether this means Salesforce is integrating Groupon. And then data.com helping keep up to date as people change their facebook profiles, Twitter handles and so on.
I’d comment, though, that on my first business flight to California – twenty years ago – they were clearly already thinking that way although the information available was less. On my return flight there were some of the same crew as I’d had outbound. I’d swear I was remembered. And although the practical guess is that they’d “just” checked the database, the point is that they had done so. It’s not “just”.
I hade to drop off the broadcast. On return, the webcast is towards the end of an extended case study of Toyota’s new Toyota Friend network which provides easy information about a car’s status, problems, service schedule, and so on – with the dealer able to schedule an appointment and communicate through the network. Not that any of this information hasn’t been available before; what’s added is the integration into a social framework (and, of course, driven by Salesforce).
I’ll see if I can catch up later, and tidy up some of this information – with a link to the recording if possible, but otherwise have a look at the US Dreamforce keynote. Perhaps the key point, if you take Benioff’s point about the rapid and revolutionary integration of social technologies, is that Salesforce is not only preaching the “social enterprise”; it’s becoming one, and the use of Facebook and Twitter explicitly to support this event is part of it.
• Salesforce Chatter
• Keynote from Dreamforce in the US
• Toyota Friend: Salesforce.com and Toyota Form Strategic Alliance to Build ‘Toyota Friend’ …, Toyota US Press Release, 23 May 2011; and Twitter feed (protected for approved members only)
Retrospective: culture and technology after 9/11 11 Sep 2011Posted by Tony Law in Impact of IT, ITasITis, Social issues, Tech Watch.
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Ten years ago I was in Philadelphia, on a week’s visit to company offices there. A routine visit, about to become anything but. Before nine in the morning, I went down to briefly visit a friend in another group: the company’s Communications function. Naturally they kept a continuous eye on the news; and so I near enough saw the events in New York as they occurred. With colleagues in another office in Pittsburgh, we were anxious as news came in from there. And in a city itself iconic in American history, we were anxious for what might happen where we were.
Those events had consequences in business, and changes followed which the technology was just becoming able to support. Of course, top of the issues were the security implications for travelling staff. But it wasn’t just that.
The company was and still is multinational: managers with international and strategic responsibilities travelled as a matter of course. That September, the company’s most senior managers had to get involved with getting people home. There were a lot of staff out of place; and the numbers involved represented a significant and ongoing cost. Well, ITC support for remote collaboration was at a point where it could make much of that travel un-necessary. Travel decreased. And we discovered that we really didn’t need videoconferencing for most remote meetings: almost from then on, the normal method of working was by telephone conference, facilitated by good and increasingly well-structured shared databases. We had online asynchronous discussion, meeting and agenda management, and a culture where information shared beforehand didn’t need to be gone over in meetings. The technology got a kick forward, and the culture changed.
The other immediate learning was that the Internet lived up to its design specification. A big part of the transatlantic telecomms capability passed through the basement of the World Trade Center, apparently; and it was wiped out. Telephoning home was a real problem. But the Internet was designed to cope with major outage; it “anticipates damage and routes round it”. My email home may have gone three quarters of the way backwards round the world: but it got there.
Of course, security has influenced a whole lot of other technology considerations too. Today’s mobile phones (the technology barely existed ten years ago) have an “aeroplane mode” because designers need to avoid even the possibility of interference with increasingly wire-driven aircraft control systems. We have to take laptops out of our hand luggage at airport security – for as much longer as we still carry laptops, that is. People are aware of the potential of online community media (Facebook and so on) for coordinating both malign action and the public responses to it.
And – to spread this note away from technology – we have become more aware of each other in the global community. Donald Rumsfeld, in an early TV response to the disasters, asked “What have we done to make people hate us so much?” and my impression, then, was that it was a serious question. Of course, it rapidly became rhetorical with the implied answer “Nothing, of course.” But we do indeed need to understand where destructive actions like these come from. In the words of a much wiser man: “You can’t redeem what you don’t understand”. We need to listen and learn: from our colleagues, if we are fortunate to work with people from backgrounds not like our own. It’s too easy to create resentment unintentionally.
Technology, particularly today’s exploding social media environment, has the potential to bring people together. As tech people, we can be more aware of this than most. The insight is ours to share.
No links for this post. Purely a personal column. Being in the USA ten years ago was a moving experience and one I don’t regret; my thoughts today have been with many friends and colleagues with whom I was privileged to share the experience.
Did Social help the rioters – or the clear-up? 25 Aug 2011Posted by Tony Law in Social issues, Social media, Technorati.
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I’ve been out of the country, and largely out of contact, from a couple of days or so after the riots in Tottenham, in Hackney (near where we used to live), in Clapham (everyone travels through there!) and elsewhere. So I’m cautious about comments about causes and analysis, because I haven’t followed it.
But one thing appears. Many politicians and the media have been lamenting the role supposedly played by Twitter, Facebook and BBM in encouraging people to join in the “fun” and “free stuff” looting. The PM started this ball rolling in Parliament, though there’s been some more considered comment from some quarters.
But one up to The Guardian. They’ve done the job properly and gone to look at what the data actually tell us. From a database of Twitter traffic over four days they’ve produced some clear initial results. Here’s a sample:
- there was far more Twitter traffic between people trying to stay away from the trouble than bringing people in
- the peak traffic mostly came after key trouble, not before it, suggesting people were trying to communicate what was going on rather than to incite it
- on the other hand, the Hackney trouble was preceded by a lot of traffic reporting stores closing and the build-up of police presence – but not inciting trouble
- the highest Tweet peak was indeed aimed at coordinating people: but it was the day after the last major trouble, and brought people together to clean up
As the Guardian also points out, “… no politician would seek to switch off TV news or demand a newspaper blackout during a riot …”. This preliminary analysis suggests that switching off Twitter (and the other channels) would have been counter productive both in terms of the information being exchanged, and in public relations.
This is a brief summary and the paper promises further, deeper analysis of its database in the days to come. Social media advocates and sceptics alike should follow this for an example of good use of data and an accurate, research-based picture of reality. Watch the space.
The Guardian published these articles in the paper copy 25 August 2011 under the title Networks to stand firm over government calls for censorship. Online they are datelined 24 August.
• Twitter study casts doubts on ministers’ post-riots plan
• Twitter traffic during the riots, with interactive graphic (this may take some time to load/display)
• Riots database of 2.5m tweets reveals complex picture of interaction
More is available through the links in the sidebar to these stories, which have also been secondarily reported in other places.
Tags: Google, schmidt, search
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Yesterday’s Guardian Media section has a spread trailing a lecture to be given to a media audience on Friday, by Eric Schmidt of Google, at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. The MacTaggart Lecture is sponsored by Media Guardian.
Mainly, the article’s an analysis of the interaction between Google (or search more widely) and the content providers, charting the way the relationship has developed.
Google isn’t a content provider and, largely, has been able to move on from the “copyright busting” image promoted by content providers who targetted both its search business and the range of clips from shows posted on YouTube (owned by Google, of course). Content ID helps: Google’s search capability is harnessed to identifying “pirated” material on YouTube, and providers can either have them removed, advertise against them, or capitalise on them in other ways. YouTube viewers are, after all, a self-generating fan club.
In more depth, the article reviews how the definition of “television” has changed: many people, and a lot of popular content, is now viewed online from archive rather than at the time of broadcast. The BBC’s iPlayer, and other channels’ similar services, facilitate this. And if you watch a commercial channel’s online replay, adverts that get interpolated into the stream. TV replay isn’t killing broadcast advertising; it’s facilitating it.
In the words of the article: “Google needs content creators in order to thrive. Good content drives search, and search drives advertising.” The lecture will be streamed live from 18.45 UK time on Friday: see the link below.
• ‘Google needs television industry’ will be message at Edinburgh, Media Guardian, 21 Aug 2011 (the printed copy Google: let’s make profits, not war was published 22 Aug)
• Dr. Eric Schmidt to deliver MacTaggart Lecture, Edinburgh International Television Festival. The list of past speakers is here.
• Relay of lecture, Friday 26 August, 18.45 BST; see http://www.youtube.com/user/mgeitf and click the link for the 2011 lecture (the link here is current, but may change)
• YouTube ContentID
Categorising knowledge: beyond phone numbers. 27 Jul 2011Posted by Tony Law in Cloud, Impact of IT, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Cody Burke, of Basex, blogged recently on “Overload Stories” about problems caused by the process I might call mechanisation of knowledge. Here’s his scenario:
Your cell phone runs out of battery power, and you need to make a call. A friend graciously offers to let you use his phone, but as you attempt to make the call you realize that you have no idea what the actual number is of the person you are trying to reach. Now flash back 15 years and try again. Odds are you would have had much better luck, because you would have had to memorize that number, instead of relying on the contact list in your phone.
Well I’m not sure. Fifteen years ago you’d certainly have had a handful of numbers you remembered, but the rest of those you wanted to have handy would have been in your address book. If you left that behind, you’d have been in exactly the same trouble. And for wider contacts, I had shelf space for a whole row of phone books.
Burke refers to an academic study testing knowledge retention, discussing and updating the concept of “transactive memory”. If I’ve understood it correctly, this is the way that memory operates when the datum being remembered is connected to a working group or shared task (this isn’t quite the impression I got from Burke’s summary ; if the idea catches your attention, follow the link to the original paper).
ITasITis always goes back to the original sources. Sparrow, Liu and Wegner, writing in Science, define transactive memory thus:
In any long term relationship, a team work environment, or other ongoing group, people typically develop a group or transactive memory [my italics], a combination of memory stores held directly by individuals and the memory stores they can access because they know someone who knows that information.
It’s murderously difficult to accurately summarise academic research, but this isn’t quite the impression I got from reading Burke’s summary. What’s interesting is Sparrow et al‘s conclusion: they believe their careful statistically-based investigation provides
preliminary evidence that when people expect information to remain continuously available (such as we expect with Internet access), we are more likely to remember where to find it than we are to remember the details of the item. One could argue that this is an adaptive use of memory – to include the computer and online search engines as an external memory system that can be accessed at will.
Cody Burke is fighting against the concept that we’re becoming internet zombies – as if, somehow, the provision of vast online repository capability removes our human ability to recall. On the contrary, he says: we capitalise on it. There is “a natural (and uniquely) human tendency to learn where information resides and leverage that knowledge to be more effective”.
Or as Sparrow et al put it:
“people forget items they think will be available externally, and remember items they think will not be available … [They] seem better able to remember which computer folder an item has been stored in than the identity of the item itself … We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools … [We] remember less by knowing information than by knowing where the information can be found”.
Two comments. When I was a student (we had computers, but not databases) I had a tutor who used to point to a row of folders on his book-case and say “There’s knowledge I know; and knowledge I know where to find”. Raymond Dwek predated Sparrow et al by some 45 years! And there was always, and still is, a third category: knowledge I know how to find. In the manual age this was the difference between referring to a specific article in a learned journal, and working through a whole range of likely sources to check for relevant information. Today, it’s the difference between a categorised index and a relatively unstructured search. I used Google Scholar to find the Sparrow et al article, by the way – I didn’t know where to find it, but I knew how.
Certainly, these days, we shift the content of those categories. Categorisation, whether it’s a database structure, email folders, or keyword search, expands “knowledge I know where to find” by providing new access routes. Search is about “knowledge I know how to find”. We may now not retain so many actual phone numbers in our heads, and may not even recall our own mobile number (after all, we never call our own phone!) but it’s probably in the address book on our Google account or in iCloud. Information no longer lives in just one place.
And secondly: I don’t speak to a phone number. I speak to a person (or sometimes, to a service). The phone number isn’t information; it’s meta-information (so also, sometimes, is an email address). It’s the means to get to the item you really want, which is the person. And phone numbers were always artificial constructs; we’re gradually doing away with them. On my desk phone, my really-most-frequent contacts are stored by name. On Skype, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, you contact people by their name or some hash of it, or by some identifier they’ve chosen to describe themselves. Not “unable to remember phone numbers”; moving beyond their use!
Human beings are tool-users. In my first IT job I used to teach programming to postgraduate students (and others) and I always emphasised that the computer is a tool; it extends the power of the human brain in the same way that a crane, for example, extends the power of the human arm. We take advantage of new tools and concepts as they arrive; and our modern array of electronic tools are no different. But this research is a good reminder to be aware of how we are developing in our use of these tools, so that those whose responsibility is to develop the tools themselves can effectively support knowledge workers and facilitate their activities.
• Memory in the Age of the Internet – The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same? Cody Burke, Overload Stories, 21 Jul 2011
• Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D.M., Science, 14 July 2011: 1207745; published online [DOI:10.1126/science.1207745]
• Google Effects on Memory: Interview with Betsy Sparrow: Science podcast, 15 Jul 2011
• How sweet to be iCloud, ITasITis, 16 Jun 2011
News International and Analyst Relations 19 Jul 2011Posted by Tony Law in IT marketplace, ITasITis, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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A thoughtful piece by Aditya Chakrabortty in today’s (printed) Guardian newspaper caught my attention because it analyses a feeling I’ve long had about the developing phone hacking scandal. Phone hacking: a classic case of corporate failure? explains succinctly why those at the top may be genuinely ignorant of specific abuses undertaken in their name; but the culture which they engender is nonetheless directly responsible for it. Chakrabortty uses the phrase ethical fade to capture the slide from honest journalism (or policing, or politics) to a culture where results are all that matter and the means are not questioned.
The same edition covers the death of the News of the World reporter who first let the cat out of the bag. A very personal tribute by Nick Davies, the Guardian reporter who pursued the story, shows how ethical fade operates. Sean Hoare was part of it: but recognised, in the end, what was happening.
And a flashback to less than three weeks ago gives a snapshot of the relationship between the various groups now at the heart of the scandal: politics and media together at a Murdoch party.
Charkrabortty’s article widens the discussion. He uses an example from the Ford Motor Company where, rather than recall and fix an identified safety problem with a particular car, they set aside money for lawsuits. They ended up having to do the recall anyway. My own favourite example is the Challenger space disaster: same cause, in that nobody would tell the project leaders what they needed to hear (and this included the inquiry; it was Richard Feynman’s famous minority report which nailed it). We saw it last year in BP, in the Gulf of Mexico, after then-CEO Tony Hayward had told the AGM in so many words that “BP is now a safe company”. Somewhere down the line, the pressure for results drives disastrous mistakes to be made. There’s even a question now whether News Corporation will follow Enron and Lehman down the tubes.
But this is an IT blog. What’s it got to do with us?
The political dimension to the News International crisis is about influence.And about the way people work at influencing the influencers. Well, that activity is a major part of the enterprise IT ecosystem. Unlike some, we don’t hide it: we call it Analyst Relations or AR.
One of the things I learned when managing an enterprise IT insight services portfolio was to look behind the claims of objectivity and independence that all insight services people offer – everyone from Gartner and Forrester to the smaller providers. I remember first encountering AR in the person of an AR professional at a METAmorphosis event (that dates it!): someone who worked for one of the major software companies and whose role, quite openly, was to present that company’s products and strategies in the most positive light. Because the insight companies influence buying decisions, sometimes very strongly: so AR is a crucial element of an IT vendor’s marketing strategy.
As a purchaser, user and advocate of insight services, I needed to know this stuff. You observe that a significant element of the costs of larger and smaller insight events is met by vendors through direct sponsorship, through buying space at the associated expo, by providing speakers, through their attendance fee levels and more. You observe that their Consulting arms do commissioned work for vendors – and in a line of work now where I don’t have a subscription, those reports are valuable sources, but for the providers they’re an income stream. You realise that vendors will try and ensure good outcomes from the lab tests that deliver marketplace assessments such as the well-respected Magic Quadrant, insofar as the process will let them. There’s this whole ecosystem dedicated to influencing the influencers.
Well, by no means am I saying that AR is unethical. In fact, far from it. The point about the current political mess is that we are realising how much has been going on away from the public view. Analyst Relations is an overt process, with colleagues such as Lighthouse and KCG offering training and certification in its activities. No-one pretends it isn’t happening, though I’d guess that a lot of enterprise buyers don’t realise how extensive an activity it is.
But let’s not believe “it couldn’t happen to us” or that we couldn’t undergo ethical fade. In Chakrabortty’s words:
… managers, shareholders and staff [don't] necessarily set out to do bad things. They simply [get] swept along on a culture of hitting targets – and not asking too many questions.
Feynman, in his context, put it succinctly:
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
It’s not just technology where this applies. Reality is hitting the influencing industry now. So read Chakrabortty. Let’s make sure we keep on asking the questions. And for enterprise buyers out there: learn more about your insight provider’s influence ecosystem (InformationSpan has a model for it, if you want to ask!). Read the piece; it’s worth it.
Links (Guardian articles appeared in print 19 July)
• Phone hacking: a classic case of corporate failure? Aditya Chakrabortty, Guardian, 18 Jul 2011
• Sean Hoare knew how destructive the News of the World could be, Nick Davies, Guardian, 18 Jul 2011
• How the phone-hacking scandal unmasked the British power elite, John Harris, Guardian, 18 Jul 2011
• Appendix F – Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle, Richard Feynman, NASA, 1986
• Lighthouse Analyst Relations
• Knowledge Capital Group
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Some time ago, when the Web was first emerging as a transformational force for business, the CIO of our company envisaged a tsunami wave that could overwhelm companies who didn’t recognise the impact of the change. Google didn’t exist then. But a year or two later, as the quantity of information available online exploded, the new effectiveness of their search strategies became part of what made the Web usable.
When the telephone was invented, people thought it would be used to broadcast concerts and church services. But this, and every network technology from then on, has been taken over as a medium for social communication. The Web is no different. Yes, search and online commerce and enterprise operations are all there. But social computing is the big one. And somehow Google has never quite made it in that space; think Open Social, the attempt to create a single transferable identity; or Google Wave, aiming to re-invent email. The “place to be” is Facebook (or, in the professional space, LinkedIn) and Google doesn’t have a stake there.
So the fairly muted announcements of Google Plus, this week, have been greeted mainly with a “wait and see” response from commentators and from the press pundits. Partly because, at the moment, Plus is available only on a limited trial released to those same pundits. And partly because the project – apparently codenamed Emerald Sea – is much wider than what’s been released so far. Google are aiming for a slow feed, this time, rather than a razzmatazz announcement.
From the reviews (I haven’t seen the real product) it does look as if Plus has taken some of the Facebook thinking back to first base. It provides an easy ability to organise your network into different “circles” with a clean visual interface (“Drag people to your circles to follow and share”). Jason Hiner, in TechRepublic, picks on this straight away as a vast improvement over both Facebook and Twitter; not all your feeds need go to all your friends, which makes a lot of sense. And some of your Circles can be two way (mutual follow, like Facebook) while others can be one-way (Twitter).
In the longer term, Hiner sees Plus in a different arena to Facebook or Twitter. He reminds us that Google’s goal is about “making the world’s information accessible and useful”, so social information helps search deliver effective results. Hence Plus will not be a “walled garden” like Facebook, but will need to extend across the Web. He sees it operating across everyone else’s websites: not so much a service you “go to” as one that turns up as an overlay on everything you do. You need to read down the review to find this vision, but it’s worth thinking about.
Read the Google Blog post (and perhaps watch its several embedded videos) alongside Hiner’s review. Envisage the possibilities – for business personal interactions as well as personal personal ones. Gartner have a short more formal note out, which (at the moment at least) is accessible to those with guest accounts on gartner.com. But its recommendations are targetted at other providers in this space, not at consumers. There’s more information in the news articles or Google’s own information. But those who are thinking business might want to look at Zachary Reiss-Davis’s discussion thread in the Forrester Community: his take is that “For B2B marketers, I think you should join it, and experiment with it, simply to see what the new tool is, and how you can potentially use it to collaborate with your your peers and colleagues, as its privacy settings (via circles) are extremely well done.”
And just a footnote. This week’s events in UK journalism have reminded us that the tsunami you don’t see coming can wipe out a major brand overnight. What happened to the News of the World is, in those terms, the same as happened to Lehman Brothers. And it doesn’t have to be through malfeasance. Not seeing the way the world is going can have the same effect. Google seems to have seen the social tsunami coming. Will Plus enable them to ride it?
• The Google+ Project, Google
• Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web, Google Blog, 28 Jun 2011
• Why Google Plus is about to change the Web as we know it, Jason Hiner, Tech Republic, 5 Jul 2011
• Inside Google+ — How the Search Giant Plans to Go Social, Wired Epicenter, 28 Jun 2011; thanks to Euan Semple for this link
• Experimenting with Google+ personally? Want to? Early thoughts? Zachary Reiss-Davis, Forrester Community, 20 Jun 2011
• Google+ Shows Google Has Learned From Previous Social Networking Efforts, Gartner, 1 Jul 2011 (if this link doesn’t work, search for document reference G00214687)
Notes from the consumer cloud 5 Jul 2011Posted by Tony Law in IT marketplace, Managing IT, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati, Uncategorized.
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Catching up after a holiday and a very busy patch, there’s some informative stuff in my inbox which I haven’t had time fully to digest yet but which is worth a mention. I’m hoping some readers might spend time on it and comment, or link to your own posts!
First, Amazon’s Cloud forum in London last month. I registered for this but unfortunately wasn’t able to attend. However, the content’s now up on the Web and there are tracks there for the Cloud newbie, the established developer, and the strategist/architect looking for a guided tour. There are strategic surveys, customer case studies, and discussion of the practical issues like Microsoft licensing (which always comes up). Take a look.
Secondly, the Cloud Leadership Forum hosted by IDC and its parent company IDG. Again, useful strategic material; not all the presentations are on line but some are. A couple of key messages from the opening keynote. First: we move to delivering services, not appplications; I’ve heard this transformation described in exactly these terms from other enterprise IT executives. Secondly: architecture moves beyond the firewall. Leaders have caught on to this; but the challenges of doing it are still leaving others in denial and aiming to host everything in-house (though of course, some sensitive areas will always have to do this). Internal IT, these IDC leaders think, will become brokers for Cloud services. It’s thoroughly disruptive, demanding understanding and exploitation of the public cloud, mobile services, the online social revolution, what they call “big data”, and more. There’s stuff about governance, effectiveness and more. Authoritative, and worth a look.
Then in a related space, another IDC blog note reviews the contribution made by the outgoing US Federal CIO in espousing (not to say pushing) not only cloud, but leverage of employee-owned devices (particularly mobile) and the public application support infrastructure (app stores) that now surrounds them; and for open-ness with data. If US government can do it, what does that say to the reluctant adopters in the enterprise? There’s also Gartner research, at the moment on open access to Guest accounts, under the heading “iPad and Beyond”; there are separate tabs there for “Tablets in Business” and “Enterprise Applications” and featuring Gene Alvarez and Dave Cearley. A chance to catch up on what Gartner are thinking, for those without subscriptions, following their conversion from the anathema position!
• AWS Summit 2011
• Thoughts from the 2011 Cloud Leadership Forum, David Potterton, IDC Financial Insights, 24 Jun 2011
• Cloud Leadership Forum 2011, IDC/IDG Enterprise
• Goodbye to our Nation’s First CIO, Adelaide O’Brien, IDC Government Insights, 16 Jun 2011
• iPad and Beyond, Gartner
LinkedIn IPO goes through the ceiling 20 May 2011Posted by Tony Law in Consumerization, Impact of IT, IT is business, IT marketplace, ITasITis, Social issues, Tech Watch, Technorati.
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Several years ago now, on a Study Tour led by the Leading Edge Forum, I visited LinkedIn in Silicon Valley. Still very much in the startup phase, twenty or more of us were crammed into a small meeting room with the archetypal drinks machine in the corner.
The connectedness of the human community was one of the tech vogues at that time: apparently no two people on the planet are more than six relationships away from each other. LinkedIn explicitly capitalises on the those links between business people. And we also visited Six Apart, at the time a leader among blogging platforms: their story was that Six Apart wasn’t intended to refer to that connectedness; but it worked as an idea anyway.
I’d come across LinkedIn and been sceptical. But hearing the story at first hand, it made sense and I’ve been a LinkedIn user ever since (I’m a First Million member in the UK). Explicitly professional, LinkedIn builds not just on the connectedness of individuals but on the network of trust that’s implicit in personal relationships. LinkedIn holds much of my professional network, and although I’m still only a free-service member I’ve been able to use it for real, useful business – not just finding out about individuals whose names I come across in various contexts, but locating experts in particular topics and making new useful connections; using group memberships to develop both my knowledge and my influence, and so on. It’s a mass-market tool, but explicitly for business use; the genius is in the blend of those two aspects.
If we were unsure about one thing on that visit, it was the financial model. How could something whose primary business was a free service, offered to millions of people and therefore needing substantial infrastructure investment, make money? The founders had their answer and, though it’s taken a long while, they’ve been proved right. Critical mass, built on the free service, enables premium members (paying customers) to research more deeply, develop a wider range of contacts, and undertake some population analyses. It’s become a standard business question: Are you on LinkedIn?
There are other similar services, of course. I’m registered on a couple of them (Plaxo and Naymz) but don’t really see the value in having pretty much the same group of people in my network in more than one place. So I’m a passive member there, but an active one on LinkedIn.
Well, the company finally went public. And the mark-up on the IPO price has been substantial, to the point that commentators are wondering whether this is the start of the next tech-led stock market bubble, and what it might presage for Facebook if/when it follows suite. Maybe it even makes Microsoft’s valuation of Skype less out on a limb.
Good luck to them!
• About LinkedIn
• LinkedIn Corporation prices initial public offering, LinkedIn Press Release, 18 May 2011
• LinkedIn value bubbles up, The Guardian, 19 May 2011
• LinkedIn’s wild ride prompts puzzlement, raises expectations, Computerworld, 19 May 2011
• Here’s my LinkedIn profile