Rugged and Flexible

No, its not the title of a M4M personal ad, but a concept I’ve been grappling with. As I was about to head out the door this weekend for a North Carolina Equality Conference I thought about grabbing my computer and taking it along. (The MacBook of course…)

As I thought more about it I decided not to. When I think back about my decision it was a mix of a few things that I’d order:

  1. Ruggedness
  2. Flexibility
  3. Distraction

Part of the reason that I bought the MacBook (as opposed to the MacBook Pro) was its size. I wanted the most portable (flexible) option I could have among the Mac collection. I’ve found though, that I’m hesitant to bring it along because I’m afraid of how rugged it is, and it’s nowhere near as portable as a paper notebook.

The element of it being a distraction was really not comparable to the other two.

I know that this is in part a function of cost. If I could get a new laptop with minimal cash cost, and minimal hassle cost (transferring files and settings and such) I’d probably bring it more places, but not many places – at least I don’t think… That’s because of how portable it is – it still feels like an encumbrance.

So terrific – I’ve basically said nothing more than “My laptop is heavier than I thought it was, and I’m afraid to break it”. It’s a tangible thing so that is clear.

I’m interested in the trade-off between rugged and flexible in other spaces too, particularly in social software. I think we’re doing a great job on ruggedness – We’ve got plenty services that people rely on heavily to get “real work” done and they are performant and stable to a more than acceptable degree. But how flexible are they? Flexible can be defined a number of ways – my highest barrier to entry seems to be the space between my brain and the software.

I’ll have an idea that I want to blog about in the car, and it seems to get lost by the time I get to wherever I’m going. And when I am in front of a machine, the cost of opening the blogging tool, whether its local or form-based on the server, seem high enough to allow my fleeting attention time enough to move me onto the next pressing thing.

There is also one of the biggest costs of entry for me which is pretty much embodied in this post. The part of my brain that says that “not perfect” is not good enough when it comes to, well, a lot, but blogging in particular. I’ve had a few ideas for posts in the past that have completely disappeared b/c I didn’t feel like I had the time to craft them “properly”. (Assuredly a mix of both obsession and continuous partial attention deficit disorder 🙂

I was hoping to try a strategy for working some of this out at the conference this weekend. I downloaded TwitterBerry (the BlackBerry twitter client – a must since I don’t have an unlimited txt plan) so I could tweet throughout the day. As it turns out there was a problem with data coverage / EDGE access / DNS access / something that kept me disconnected. Oh well.

So I guess this post is my first attempt to work it out. I’m convinced my WordPress install is rugged, the tools a sufficient for me to enter a post, and they don’t have to be “perfect”. Lets see how all that works out 🙂

Google’s OpenSocial API

From TechCrunch:

What TheyÂ’re Launching

OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google wonÂ’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.

Unlike Facebook, OpenSocial does not have its own markup language (Facebook requires use of FBML for security reasons, but it also makes code unusable outside of Facebook). Instead, developers use normal javascript and html (and can embed Flash elements). The benefit of the Google approach is that developers can use much of their existing front end code and simply tailor it slightly for OpenSocial, so creating applications is even easier than on Facebook.

Languages Die, but not Their Last Words

My friend David Harrison had an article featuring him published in the New York Times today. He does great work to capture samples of languages that are dying off:

David in Australia

In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, K. David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore, said that more than half the languages had no written form and were “vulnerable to loss and being forgotten.” Their loss leaves no dictionary, no text, no record of the accumulated knowledge and history of a vanished culture.

I can’t help but wonder if social tools and their place on the internet will lead to the preservation, or homogenization of language… Perhaps David will have a look at this post and comment 🙂

When are asparagus in season?

If you shop at Whole Foods (at least the Whole Foods in Chapel Hill) then you know the answer to that question and many more so long as they take the form of "When are xxxx in season…"

I love that infographics like this are becoming more common place…

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TED Talk – Jonathan Harris: The Web’s secret stories

"Jonathan Harris wants to make sense of the infinite world on the Web — so he builds dazzling graphic interfaces that help us visualize the data floating around out there. Here he presents "We Feel Fine," a project that scours blogs to collect the planet’s emoti(c)ons, and the "Yahoo! Time Capsule," which preserves images, quotes and thoughts snapped up in 2006. And he premieres "Universe," which presents current events as constellations of words — a tag cloud of our collective consciousness."

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New Laptop

I bought a Mac. (Well technically it’s my second Mac, I owned a Mac Classic II in college).

I was saving for a new computer to replace my Dell desktop and decided that I really wanted to play with OS X and should probably have another laptop instead of custom building a $2,000 desktop that I won’t use to its full power. Since they’re running at 2+ GHz they’re not a bad little machine either – at least I can tell from the 45 min I spend playing with one in the Apple store at Southpoint.

The box is sitting on my kitchen counter.

Its partly an exercise in restraint (I had some work to do tonight [what else is new], and I’m taking next week off, so there is plenty of time to play :-), partly an attempt to get to bed at a reasonable hour (I knew that if I opened it up at 9pm when I got home I’d be up REALLY late and I’m almost certain, based on the 2nd sleep study that I did last week, that I’ve got narcolepsy), and partly an exercise in getting rid of buyers remorse (if I let it sit there for a bit I’ll be confronted with it’s “returnability” and just get over it… I saved the money and can afford it.).

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Enterprise 2.0 – Leveraging community as a competitive weapon

Denise Kalos and Bill Takacs from O’Reilly Media.

"What we know is that people learn first form their peers"

Whats going on in the world:

  • Workforces are distributed
  • There is a huge gap between the baby boomers and Gen-x’ers that will replace them.
  • The attitude toward work-life balance for "Millenials" is different. They will change jobs about 19 times in their career. They are also primarily focused on their personal goals, not their work goals.

Principles most important to the enterprise:

  • "Harnessing collective intelligence"
  • Data is the "next intel inside"
  • Rich user experiences
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Perpetual beta

[Not sure what they mean here about being "important to the enterprise" – they’re not taking questions until the end] [They cleared it up when I asked. These are points Enterprises need to be aware of when they think about implementing web2.0 technologies]

Gave example of company reaching out to communities for product development. Kettle Chips uses their online presence to get new chip flavors.

"If you build it they MAY come, manage it properly and they will engage, thrive and prosper" (Tools can’t by themselves create community.) [They had some tips here, but skipped past them.]

Community maturity model

Informational > Provisional > Communicative > Proactive > Productive > Leveraged

Its all about people. People need:

  • Exposure to things that capture their interest
  • the right resources at the right time
  • a place to find their voice and hear what others are saying
  • a forum to shine and share success
  • to be actively guided to ensure that their energy and efforts align with strategic objectives.

Attract Members, Build Community, Capture Knowledge

Getting lurkers to be participants – the best way is to create controversy.

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Enterprise 2.0 – Ross Mayfield – SocialText

We do a great job at building software to get in people’s way.

There is a power law for participation (reading is easy, but not very engaging, while collaborating and leading are hard, but highly engaging.) We need to find ways to build low cost of entry points for participation in our tools.

"There is not collaboration without a goal" – Eugene Kim.

Discusses wiki usage at call centers. Makes the differentiation between ‘self service’ and ‘community service’.

Discussed 4 scenarios where wikis are used best. (Didn’t catch them while looking up Eugene Kim)

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Enterprise 2.0 – Wikinomics – Don Tapscott,

Suggested the difference between  "closed hierarchy" and "open networked enterprise" in his 1992 book "Paradigm Shift".

Pulled together a research project that looked at the enterprise and its transformation. Discovered that the enterprise is undergoing a fundamental change.

There are 4 divers for this change.

  • Web 2.0 – the interactive web.
  • The "next generation" – children who take technology for granted. As a panel he asked a 20 year old what she would use email for, and she answered "you know for something formal, like sending a thank you note to someone’s parents".
  • The Social Revolution – Sites that have been providing content are being eclipsed by sites that provide content collaboration (e.g. myspace beating out mtv.com). Self organization has been around throughout history and the web empowers that self organization to happen very quickly.
  • The economic revolution – Nobel prize winning economist asked "why does the firm exist?". His answer was because of the transaction cost. The transaction cost was really the cost of collaboration. Over time we’ve gone from physical and financial  resources be critically constrained to knowledge being the constraining resource, and at the same time value is moving from the traditional hierarchy to the self organizing.

Enterprise 2.0 – New business models

Goldcorp – a 50 year old mining company peers, opens and shares his proprietary geological data and opens it up to an online community to find gold. He spent $0.5M in prize money and found $3B in gold. He was successful because he:

  • Peered
  • Was transparent
  • Shared his proprietary data.

7 New business models

  1. Peer Pioneers – Peer services – lending, open source software delivery.
  2. Ideagoras – Idea markets – places to exchange ideas and reward outside of the enterprise.
  3. Prosumers – turning customers into producers.
  4. The next Alexandrians
  5. Open platforms
  6. The global plant floor – (e.g. a peer produced airplane – Boeing collaborates from the ground up to build the 787 with its suppliers.
  7. The wiki workplace – push more and more to collaborative wikis instead of having the direction come top down.

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Enterprise 2.0 – Session – 90% people 10% Technology

Panel session, moderated by Jessica Lipnack – abstract: What if we put as much organizational energy behind culture, behaviors, and values as we do toward bringing in new technology? Hear – and tell – one another what it takes to "release? v2.0 of an enterprise. This session is about the soft stuff – even when we’re talking about technology. Each panelist will speak briefly. Then we’ll open it up to the room to discuss what works.

Jessica starts out the session having everyone in the room introduce themselves. Huge variety of companies represented here. Panelists from Sitescape, VSee, NetAge. Milton Chen (CTO VSee) is presenting remotely through the VSee software – "Why John Chambers may be wrong about tele-presence". Milton studied video conferencing for his PhD at Stanford. One of the components of his work was a study of "smile recognition time" as related to the size of the video. It appears that the effect of the resolution/size of the video flattens out quite quickly.

Tele-presence has value – the claim here is that usually executives overstate the claim that high quality tele-presence is most important. Milton claims that the key is to provide tele-presence in the context of the locations that people typically occupy (e.g. Milton’s messy office).

Tom Witkin from SiteScape talks about ICEcore – a new product for "discovering cool collaboration." … "A personal workspace that’s your ‘on ramp’ to team collaboration." Not sure I got much from the short presentation.

Dan Somers from vc-net. Where is your Chief Collaboration Officer? Usually collaboration practices change by someone going outside of their job role, some times its an exec reacting to things being really really bad.

Dan believes that you can measure anything that you’ll need to measure collaboration at some time, even if its just to justify it to your financial director. "A sound collaboration strategy requires all forms of collaborative technology".

Dan suggests that when you create teams of remote people their natural tendency is to drift apart. This leads to a number of cultural conflicts that might be blamed on the technology or various other misleading causes. "The empowered CCO interfaces with many business areas"

Key points from Dan – (1) Jostle for proper position as CCO (2) establish measurable results, (3) be prepared to spend $5 in training for every $1 of technology

Bill ? – In the early 90’s there was a property casualty insurer who was having some problems. One of their issues was an IT system focused on extracting data from employees. (There was no value seen by the agents, so the data was often sloppy). The one technology that peopl where using we was the "rumor mill" executed over email. The company brought together some of its best underwriters and asked them what they needed to do their jobs. One thing they wanted to know the experiences of people who’ve underwritten certain types of entities before.

This created a new issue of transparency. People did not necessarily want other people knowing what they were doing. They solved this by asking what people were comfortable with making transparent, and show them the value of things being transparent.

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