July 2009 Archives

Twitter changes its homepage and its view of itself

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It's taken twitter three years, but at last its changed its homepage.

Twitter homepage.pngThis only appears if you're not logged in, so its mainly the face of twitter for the un-initiated.

What has changed most is the way twitter describes itself.... no longer does it says "What is twitter?"

Followed by a rather clumsily worded explanation (and overly American - co-workers, urr??) that said:

Twitter is a service for friends, family and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one question: What are you doing?

Now the new homepage is more welcoming and clearer - twitter has grown up and evolved so it now understands its role. So it now says:

Share and discover what's happening right now, anywhere in the world

So the status update-style explanation has gone and has been replaced by a view that has been shaped more by the users than the founders of twitter - that's the great thing about success stories on the web their use evolves and is shaped by the audience.

The new explanation is based on sharing, collaborating and participating in online conversations in real time with people who you may or may not know anywhere in the world. That's quite a change from where it was in 2006.  




Muted cheer as rate of IT job decline slows

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Careers in IT have been hit badly by the recession. Employers have shed staff at unprecedented rates, companies have accelerated their plans to move IT offshore, and vacancies for job hunters have been few and far between.

But the end may now be in sight. The latest Computer Weekly/SSL Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends shows that the decline in the IT jobs market may be levelling out.

The number of job vacancies advertised in inner London fell by 1.9% in the last quarter, compared with a 68% fall in the six months to March. And the number of jobs advertised by software houses and consultancies, which represent nearly 60% of the total jobs advertised, fell by 6.1%, compared with 24% in the last quarter of 2008.

However, with Microsoft last week reporting a 17% fall in revenues, it is too early to talk about recovery.
A worsening of the swine flu pandemic in the autumn could set back the economy still further.

Employee absence caused by swine flu could have a disproportionate effect on  small and medium-sized enterprises.

Up to 12% of the workforce is likely to be affected by the H1N1 virus by September, according to government estimates, forcing at least one in eight workers to stay at home.
Smaller organisations are the least prepared for an outbreak which could cost the economy up to £50bn.
The February snow storms proved the business value of working remotely via the internet, but more than half of the UK's SMEs have not yet equipped key staff to do so.

Cloud computing services, such as Google Apps and Office Live, and voice over IP could allow staff to continue working if they cannot make it into the office.

It makes good business sense. Providing employees with remote access to company systems helps businesses to be more efficient and competitive in an increasingly tough environment. But companies need to start planning now, if they, and the economy, are not to be caught off-guard.

Come on twitter sort it out, for all our sakes, and yours!

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I have written a lot of blog posts about twitter and am a massive supporter of the medium as a communication tool, but it seems that twitter itself has forgotten the art of communication.

My colleague Rebecca Thomson has been working very hard to build up her profile in the technology space and has been using twitter effectively to build her online network.

This is something that we have been justly proud of as she demonstrates well how journalists can become much more engaging by being involved and participating in communities rather than just broadcasting stories at them.

All good until her twitter account failed and she lost all her 370-odd followers last week that she had worked hard to get over six months. Several messages to twitter support has led to two automated responses and three posts on the twitter forum thread for this issue has not led to a single response. Rebecca writes:

I'd like to ask Twitter what on earth is going on, and why it's taking so long to fix it. I don't think people would mind if they just let us know, but since I've signed up to the forum thread on this issue I've seen dozens of updates from people in a similar position who are similarly confused. I sent an email to their support desk, and had a hugely unhelpful automated message back saying, amongst other things, "If you want to delete your account, log in and click the 'delete my account' link in your settings page." No, Twitter, I do not want to delete my account. You have deleted it for me. And you won't tell me why. I'd ring your press office, but you don't have one.

This is appalling customer support, particularly as there is no valid reason for Rebecca's account failing, and one which twitter should act quickly to repair.

And as she says several others are reporting similar problems - a sports writer recently complained to us that twitter had deleted all his followers as it bids to clean out the spammers (a good thing, I might add, but it should ensure that this doesn't wipe out genuine users' accounts).  

The biggest problem is that as businesses gear themselves up for using twitter to help it with its external communications, this type of failure and poor customer service will ruin its reputation. If you have a comment on this point in particular then please contact us or leave a comment as Rebecca is writing a feature on the issue and is seeking comment.

A great blog post and resource for women in technology

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This is a great blog post for all those women out there working in technology and looking for resources and blogs that are discussing their issues.

It's written by Rebecca Thomson, who is the main curator of our WITsend blog. Check it and send us suggestions too. 

Minister for innovation defends Digital Britain report and calls for industry partners

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For those you interested in Digital Britain - Pat McFadden, the minister for business, innovation and skills, has penned a stoic defense of the Digital Britain report announced by the Government a few weeks ago and has called on digital and communication industries to be the Government's partners in leading that strategy. 

If you ask me it's a lot of rhetoric about Britain placing itself at the forefront of the Global Digital Economy and not a lot of vision about making us a world leader....that was the problem with the Digital Britain report - it just lacked ambition and was too conservative.

Your views please.....

Clouds against blue skies

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Cloud computing is over head. No longer just on the horizon, exciting analysts and marketing people, but a looming presence.

This can be read as a Microsoft versus Google showdown. We care little for that. It is good that Google, with its cloud-based applications, its browser, and its new operating system, has acted as a catalyst for Microsoft and others.

Microsoft has announced the pricing and service level agreement details for Azure, the hosted processing, data storage and network offering due from the company in November. Also of interest is the browserisation of MS Office.

The company's moves are not without risk. Will Microsoft be able to make money from Azure fast enough to compensate what it will lose in licensed software? Will its role as IT hegemon - at long last - start to crumble? Has it invested in a trend for cloud computing that will disappear in a puff of smoke?

Cloud computing is still not generally cost-effective for large enterprise IT. But it is attractive for small to medium sized organisations, who can get much of their data processing, storage and networking on a pay as you go basis. It also offers the capability to scale up and down in line with changes in the economic environment.

Cambridge-based start ups are among those to benefit from the cloud computing paradigm, which lowers barriers to entry for companies such as the trio we feature in this issue.

And the promise of low-cost, pay per use services cannot but be compelling for large organisation CIOs. The dark side of the cloud is, as ever, security. As ever the solution to that will be found eventually. Virtualisation company VMware has introduced an operating system for the cloud that putatively deals with security concerns, vSphere 4.

For sure, Microsoft's partial entry into the cloud computing market, with Azure and the Windows Live version of Office 2010, will nudge cloud computing into the mainstream of user organisations

In a sense cloud is a species of outsourcing and, like that often controversial practice is an index of a maturing industry.

F1 game winner is a car-game-oholic

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Congrats to Steve Gasson, a software programmer from Kent, who was crowned the winner of ComputerWeekly's F1 racing game with a winning time of 20.37 seconds.

Steve translates user requirements into detailed specifications doing his day job but is a car nut outside of work. He said: 

I've been playing driving games for as long as I can remember, I think I maybe a car-game-oholic if there is such a thing! I was going to say I started out by playing Spyhunter and Outrun on the Commodore 64 but actually I remember playing a text-based driving games before that on an Apple II. (Now showing my age!) The goal of those was to keep the a character e.g the letter A between two other characters probably I characters which represented the edges of the track.

The graphics and controllers may be more fancy these days but the same reactions and skill that was needed back then hasn't really changed. The Computer Weekly game was more like the games of old, so perfect for me, I played it solid for a few evenings and a weekend, it took a while to get a perfect flying lap where the other cars were positioned just right and to hit all the apexes and turbo boosts without spinning off the track.

Steve is a big motorsport fan and F1, so he will hopefully enjoy his well earned prize of Silverstone driving experience. He added:

I'm really looking forward to my Silverstone driving experience, its something I've always wanted to do, but would never have treated myself. I'll be preparing by learning the Silverstone track layout using Ferrari Challenge on the Wii (yes another car game!).

Congrats again Steve and we'll look forward to sharing your photos from your F1 driving experience at Silverstone with the rest of the audience.

In the meantime, you can carry on playing the F1 game until your heart's content - although you can't win the prize.

The Apollo 11 mission's computers were less powerful than today's mobile phones

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It's absolutely amazing that the computers used to guide the Apollo 11 mission to the moon were no more powerful than a pocket calculator or a mobile phone.

The crucial role that the lunar programme played in the development of modern computing should not be under-estimated. Learning from the lunar programme led to the development of safety-critical systems and the practice of software engineering to program those systems.

So it can be said with some confidence that much of this knowledge gleaned from the Apollo 11 lunar programme forms the basis of modern computing.

This is why we have devoted so much energy and space on ComputerWeekly.com to the 40th anniversary of one of man's greatest ever achievements.

Not only can you read about the fascinating technology behind the moon landing but also our special report on Apollo 11 is packed full of interesting information like this interactive timeline and also interesting information from our sister website Flightglobal.com.

Also don't miss your chance to win a fantastic model of the Apollo 11 in our lunar-tic photo quiz.  

Highlights of TechCrunch's Europas

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Well it was interesting night at TechCrunch's Europas in London last night.

It was good fun and as always met some really interesting and innovative people like Divinia from Mind Candy.com, Joe White from Gandi.net, and Wendy Tan White from Moonfruit.

It was also nice to meet Poken UK director Renate, who won the award for the Best European/ Real World Gadget.

This was really pleasing as Inspectagadget produced a video review on Poken earlier this year.  

Also of note in last night's Europas awards was that Huddle, a secure online collaboration tool for shared projects and workspaces, won the Best Enterprise and B2B start-up. Congrats to those guys.

Best mobile application went to SpinVox,another product that has been much talked about this year.

Inspectagadget went along too and has already posted a full list of all winners.

There was a slightly strange incident when one of the presenters of an award spent five minutes gagging and coughing on stage.... funny? No don't think so!

And the jury is out as to whether awards really do work when no one is sitting down and everyone is standing around drinking and chatting and can't hear who has won what!  



Battling the culture... its time for a change in business approach

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Isn't it time that IT departments lost the command and control mentality particularly as we move to a new business paradigm that is more open to collaboration.

I have been to several talks recently that have insisted that organisational change is key to businesses adopting a more collaborative approach and improving its communication through online social networking tools, like Facebook and twitter.

One of the main take-aways from the Corporate Social Networking Forum in London a few weeks ago (8 June) was that cultural change is the biggest obstacle to companies adopting social networking as part of their business.

That command and control culture is of course hard to break when marketing blunders are made on social networking sites like twitter. Rebecca Thomson recently pulled together a top 10 marketing blunders on twitter story, one of which is the howler made my Habitat recently.

Habitat blamed its invidious marketing and promotional tweets using the same hashtags as being used by those protesting in Iran following its elections, on an intern that had been inadequately briefed.

You can imagine that this sort of misuse would easily force a company to go back to its old command and control culture and lockdown external activities to prevent brand damage.

Of course, a shortsighted view such as this would stifle creativity, collaboration and communication. The Habitat example demostrates to me that those who treat social networking without the seriousness it deserves will pay the penalty by invoking poorly thought-out strategies. These run the risk of inflaming online communities and damaging the brand.    

Hidden hazards of cutting costs

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There is a dearth of so-called "low hanging fruit" when it comes to squeezing enterprise IT costs. As our feature on balancing IT costs during the recession indicates, because IT departments were left lean and efficient after the dotcom crash, they have to be very smart about achieving further reductions.
Tools in the cost-cutting box include telecoms and asset management negotiation to get better deals, deferring investment, and increasing investment in virtualization software.
Driving cost out of software licensing requires tough and savvy negotiation strategies, and users are often at a disadvantage against much more experienced suppliers. A protracted refusal by the major software suppliers to reduce licensing costs might result in moves towards open source and software as a service. But a better approach is to increase buyer power by clubbing together more. However, too aggressive an approach to suppliers will just drive some out of business, to the overall detriment of the IT market.
Outsourcing and offshoring always offer the promise of driving out costs, but, as is reported in this issue, pushed too far they can become damaging to the health of IT in business. And so, Lloyds TSB management has expressed concerns internally that the increasing use of offshore IT services is reducing the ability to service business critical systems.
UK companies are, more generally, at risk of creating skills gaps in their IT leadership. Future business IT executives will not have the right skills unless they get exposure to development in the earlier phases of their careers.
Outsourcing and offshoring are valuable tools for business IT, and are a function of sophisticated business markets and globalisation. But, again, there is discernible in some of the developments we, and others, report on decreasing room for manoeuvre, and the necessity to be smarter.
Our feature on IT investment details some approaches that show how the right company with the right plan can still get funding for IT projects despite the recession. An intensified focus on cash flow, a turn to hosted products, and an alertness to the incubation, in this recsssion, of the high-growth companies of the future are in play, according to our roundtable experts.
Running up against limits is not the same as hitting the buffers. But IT does need to get cuter at the edges of what is possible until the economic context changes, and then sustain that.

I need to get back into blogging... now and fast

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I have just realised that I have been completely rubbish when it comes to blogging recently. One post a week ain't good enough. Note to self to blog more and be more consistent.

So apologies for those who have noticed the lack of posts recently. Yeh, I have been really busy, but it just calls for a bit more organisation and I should be able to post regularly again!

Have you entered our awards yet?


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