September 2008 Archives

Losing the best (just remember what happened last time)

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The ripple effect (or is that tsunami) of the the current financial crisis is starting to be felt on the shores of the tech industry. Over the last 20 years we have had a number of downturns that have affected technology. Through the 80s and early 00s mini and maxi recessions have hit IT and sometimes the outcomes are good, sometimes they are bad,. 

One of the most detrimental facets of these down-turns has been the loss of some great people from the industry as these smart people reckon that safe work outside our hallowed halls makes more sense than being on the bleeding edge of a cost cutting knife.

Time alone will tell how all this bad news is going to affect us, one way or another there will be an affect. How many banks, businesses or manufacturing industries fail or are forced to merge will cause yet another outflow of talent into the world outside of geekdom.

Sarah Palin - Wow, and it not just the glasses

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Far be it for me, a Brit, to comment on US Politics (we have enough of our own thank you), but this recent report sort of encapsulates how around 50% of the US feels.

'Palin Brushing Up On Foreign Policy At Epcot 

SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 

ORLANDO, FL--Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin sought to silence those who have criticized her lack of foreign affairs experience Tuesday by announcing plans for a weeklong, 10-nation tour of Walt Disney World's Epcot. According to Palin, the trip--her first past Frontierland--will include speaking engagements at Norway's famous Viking ride, sausages at Germany's Kaufhaus, and, time permitting, a fact-finding mission to Future World. "This ambitious trip should finally demonstrate that I am ready to assume the vice presidency, whether by standing in long lines at Morocco's Tangierine Café or by sitting down face-to-face with Mexico's Three Caballeros," Palin announced during a campaign stop outside a Chinese restaurant in Tulsa, OK. "All of our neighbors deserve good diplomacy, from the Universe of Energy down to the French pavilion." Palin also promised a visit to the American Adventure exhibit before returning home, adding that she hoped to learn more about her own nation and the diverse peoples within.''

I would like to thank the Onion for providing on this bad day an item worth reading for just of a bit of levity amongst all the gloom.

Software rots - Do you?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifThings deteriorate over time if you don't do maintenance - even software. One item that needs upkeep is your online identity. Many of us go onto sites -- social networking or otherwise -- and type in details about ourselves (true or not) and there they remain for perpetuity. I just received an update from Plaxo, a site about which I had forgotten - only my details were wrong but also those of some of my connections, including my son Edward, an i-generationer and headhunter now at Amos and Bailey, rather than the previous company cited in his details.

In the future there may be some identity management for the Web where you can be in control of one single version of who you are; until then, do the housekeeping on your on-line registrations. If you don't, that flattering and ever anticipated call from someone trying to recruit you for the job you've always dreamt of, may not come your way. 

 

 

Mutually Assured Collaboration #1

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thumb_white.gifThis week I have decided to pen a few blog entries focussed around the future of collaboration. However before looking to the future it is worth considering a little of life before collaborative technology. 

Those of us who were around prior to the rise of enterprise electronic communications in the workplace in the early 90s will remember life centred around memorandums, forms, letters and of course carbon paper. My first encounter with a facsimile machine (yes 'fax' is an abbreviation) was a heady mixture of funny paper, chemical developer, a transmission time of about three minutes per page and the use of acoustic couplers.

Although all of this was very clunky in terms of the life we lead now, it did mean that prior to any form of content exchange between individuals, internal or external, there was a good chance it would be checked, corrected, approved, filed and (sometimes) actioned.

The slow, bureaucratic nature of workflow and messaging in itself was a check against guesswork, rumour and over-reaction - of course it did not eliminate them. 

Were we better of then? - Not an easy question to answer. An army of clerical and secretarial staff have evaporated over the last 20 years. Self-service is now the watch word, the physical equivalent of Enterprise portals were cupboards full of seldom read manuals, shelves of forms with identifying codes and carefully considered approval cycles. The old ways have now nearly completely disappeared, and that in part is good.

If a slow, paper-based world marked the start of the communications revolution where have we got to? - I will answer that question in my next blog.

If you have memories of the old ways you would like to recount, please post them as comments here.

Follow the money - Honey

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifTechnology has never been a glamour business, attracting few women and recently, less young men. However, advertising is and has always been full of both. There's now a hybrid world - on-line marketing - it's a boom business.

A market that, if the demographic of Adtech a conference and exhibition at Olympia last week is anything to go by, is worked profitably and almost exclusively by attractive, cool, ambitious young men and women. These are the talented folk that bring us on-line advertising, pop-ups and a myriad of exciting offers. They are the peeps who understand database mining, targeted marketing and all the things that early adopters dreamt of. The leader of this pack is of course Google.

 
This morning I was invited on-line to join the Coke Club. Though enured to on-line temptation, I couldn't resist the double entendre. It was my first ever ad click through. Those money honeys' sure know how to turn a old guys head.

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A Mixture of Art and Science

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Collaboration technology was on show this week at the Project and Programme Management exhibition in London. It was good to see that the PM world now includes more risk analysis and benefit management add-ons than just task, time and resource programmes. However, it was clear from talking to delegates is that the Government has fallen out of love with PRINCEII. HMG believed that you could just train people in a methodology and hey presto projects would succeed.


Good project management has always been a subtle mixture of science and art. This was best exemplified at the show by K4Innovations a Project Management Services Company that manages projects from setting up a bank in Moscow to running community projects in Antigua. The key said Kimikawa De Castro, managing principal, is in a rigorous Requirements Definition process - one where people are pushed hard to really think about what is needed. Many projects are initiated too early because of time pressure without the requirements being realistically captured.

 
While a key element of PRINCEII it requires good communications skill from the PM to capture requirements from the stakeholders. A series of books on the soft skills of project management are available from the Maven Training Skills Academy. What was good about the show is the realization that technology and methodology are junior partners in bringing a project home. HMG be advised - It's all about the people Stupid!

The short arm of the law

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thumb_white.gif'Aren't your policeman wonderful', this is a common refrain from tourists to the UK who find out that you can ask a Bobby for directions without being shot. 

The above may be true, however the latest news on police behaviour following the investigation of the secret use of Phorm by BT is alarming. The case has been dropped for what some consider to be spurious reasons according to a report by the BBC.

'BT trialled the Phorm system - which monitors web browsing habits in order to better target ads - without the consent of users last summer. 

Angry users handed over a dossier of evidence to the police following the telco's July annual general meeting.'

With the police concluding no case to answer it may be that the regulators in the EU will come to the aid of the citizenry of Britain.

Its not just any data, its M&S data

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Marks and Spencer knows how to deliver a compelling message, millions of waistbands across Europe will testify to its effectiveness, however its laptops are as compelling as its food and clothing are to thieves.

As reported in Computer Weekly M&S has had to implement an expensive, across the enterprise strategy to demonstrate to the UK Information Commissioner that it now has a locked down data environment on its laptops and furthermore to avoid potentially embarrassing enforcement proceedings after a critical theft.

OK, so that's the Enterprise done, so M&S what about all those partners you share data with how can you ensure they are locked down to your level?

I suspect its about time M&S looked at what's on offer in the collaborative space for secure, partner to partner team sharing such as Notes or Groove. If they already have them then they are not using them properly, if they are not using any then now is the time to start investigating.

If you are not in the UK and are curious for the origin of the title watch and listen to the advert below:


Cross-dressers and Collaboration (with a touch of pink champagne)

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thumb_white.gifYesterday I read on the BBC Website that Ray Davies is hoping a reunion of The Kinks may happen sometime soon. Apart from my favourite track, Waterloo Sunset which is one of the best ever songs about London, The Kinks achieved world chart-topping success with the eponymous Lola

Coincidentally LoLa is the name that IBM has given to its Lotus Leadership Alliance conference. This is a combined event being held in Hollywood (Florida) where select customers and business partners get updates on product development progress since Lotusphere and NDA presentations on what is coming next. 

This is the first event where the new GM of Lotus, Bob Picciano, has been able to strut his stuff to an significant external audience. According to reports he is impressive - but I have heard that before with regard to previous incumbents. 

I am curious to know what proportion of the attendees are from outside of North America, both Business Partners and Customers. These type of events are often quite geo-introverted which can leave the rest of the world feeling a bit left out.

Having said all this, and based on my last post, it is good that IBM is improving is community communications at least with its Lotus brand. It will be interesting to see how the effects of LoLa manifest themselves when we get to Lotusphere in January.

IBM says "Its our ball and we are not playing - so there'

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I wish IBM was in charge of running Formula 1, if it was then Lewis Hamilton would probably be many points ahead of where he is today and heading for motor racing glory.

Following the acrimony surrounding the ratification of OOXML, IBM, like many in motor sport, has decided that the deck is stacked, and therefore it may be time to leave the table in search of a new game. The NY Times documents the big issues here.

Exactly what Microsoft did or did not do during the ISO process has become shrouded in the mists of time and challenges. However what IBM does not do is patently obvious. It has forgotten how to nurture and build real relationships at both micro and macro levels across countries, industries and business sectors. Because of the loss of its influence in many areas IBM is now experiencing being at the nasty end of a marketing leviathan.

With all of this going on I know I should feel a bit of sympathy for IBM, and I do for some individuals, but I have seen what Big Blue can do when it has a mind to.

For a number of years I worked with hardware and software from ICL and I watched IBM squeeze the lifeblood and customers out of this once great company that eventually sold itself to Fujitsu to achieve some sort of survival. Now the biter has been bit.

It is a hard world out there and IBM is no stranger to playing hardball, so crying 'foul' when it suits you will like F1 not always get you the result you think you deserve.



The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway. All postings and code samples are provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confers no rights.

Entering the Beehive - be careful you don't get stung!

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thumb_white.gifOracle are at it again, over a number of years they have tried to become a 'player' in the messaging / collaboration market. Yesterday they announced Beehive, their latest attempt to get a piece of this sweet, sweet market.

Gartner has struck a cautious note with reference to previous attempts that have come and gone from Oracle. However the references to the success of Microsoft's Sharepoint underlines the effect that product is having amongst competitor companies. 

Information Week emphasises the important role security will have as part of the Beehive offering, something all of the commercial collaborative community fully understands. The ability to make inroads into this community will need Oracle to show long term commitment and innovation that others are not already delivering or about to deliver.

Good luck Beehive, however its not going to be easy.

Thanks to Glenn for bringing my attention to Beehive.


The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway. All postings and code samples are provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confers no rights.

Think globally - act locally

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifGlocal is a term not only used as a marketing mantra but is also an in-joke among mathematicians (used where the global structure of an object can be inferred from the local structure). So yesterday I did my arithmetic and put two and two together when the HR director one of a beleaguered investment banks said yesterday. "The country is melting." 

As some of the City number crunchers, previously working on derivative algorithms, will have time on their hands what use can they be put to?  Surely this is the time to put those brains together and collaborate on local projects that have a global impact; for example, working out how to produce cheap Hydrogen.

 

Not 'Rich' = not interested

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thumb_white.gifSo a Yahoo mail account has been hacked, well they are only one or two belonging to the Governor of a US State, potentially the next Vice-President and therefore only a vote / heartbeat away from the Presidency. Ed Brill has linked to this excellent article making the case for considering the potential risks and downsides for externally hosted mail and webmail in particular.

All electronic communications whether they be email or collaborative application based should trigger a number of considerations that should be taken into account when choosing an environment:

  • Trust - is the originator  who they say they are?
  • Security - are the intermediate hosts fully locked down?
  • Privilege - Can the administrators of the system access my content?
  • Compliance - Does information storage meet SOX (or equivalent) regulations?
  • Control - Can I impose an archival regime?
  • Ubiquitous - Is access to content easily achieved outside of the firewall or disconnected from the network and then does it stay in a guaranteed secure environment?
  • Housekeeping - Can corrupted or accidently deleted information be easily recovered?

These and many other similar questions tend to point a considered organisation towards rich clients within proprietary environments as the only way to tick all the boxes.

Recently this sort of approach has been seen to be 'old fashioned' by some, but the hardening that a proprietary system can deliver is far and away more robust than one based on open or de-facto standards.

As for freeware this simple motto to use is 'you get what you pay for', 'nuff said.

Whether you are a small or large company the test needs to be:

How much damage could an individual do if they had improper access to you systems internally or externally hosted?

Dealing with unplanned events

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifThere's nothing worse than unplanned events overtaking a well-planned conference. In Mumbai, last Tuesday a CTO summit was held to look into the effective implementation of core banking technology. On the agenda was risk management, financial frauds, money laundering, data mining and information security. 

The breakout sessions focused on how information technology has enabled sophisticated product development, better market infrastructure and the implementation of reliable techniques for control of risks. I suspect events in the stock markets made for some interesting discussions.

In the aftermath of the financial melt down let's spare a thought for our colleagues who may loose their jobs. More importantly, let's also hope that when the blame-game starts it's not technology that's made the scapegoat again. 

 

Twitter - cleaning up its act

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thumb_white.gifThursday saw the updating of the Twitter UI and some its technology. At a time when Facebook is starting to look like an 'accident in a paint factory', the denizens of Twitter are producing a UI that's clean fresh and usable.

Well done Twitter, its been a long time coming. Facebook take note.

The lights are going out...

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifOr to paraphrase Edward Grey. "The pools are going cold all over Europe." I was fortunate enough to grow up with a swimming pool. It was unheated. It means I can swim in glacial rivers, oceans and ice cold plunge pools.   Most people prefer the warm bath sensation of modern heated pools. However, with the end of "credit bubble" (buying things you don't won't with money you don't have) some people are being forced to turn the heating off - so if you want to tell who has still got dough, stick your toe in their water.

Web 2.0 - Another Bubble?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifIs the Web 2.0 bubble about to burst? An American who lives in the Valley seems to thinks so. All the signs of a looming Web recession are everywhere, he said yesterday, including the US mortgage market meltdown which could hammer online advertising, the liquidity crisis effecting internet business plans and a general slowdown in broadband adoption rates.

However, the optimistic case is the converse. It allows organisations to reduce travel/energy costs by the implementing cool collaboration applications. So choose your Web 2.0 partners well - they may not be around long.

IBM - Moving forwards (in a backwards sort of way)

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thumb_white.gifInformation arrives at unexpected times. Yesterday, at London's venerable Church House, was the first day of the UK Lotus User Group (UKLUG). With an attendance of around 250 (up about 150% from last year), the keynote given by Lotus maven Ed Brill effectively announced Lotus Notes 2010 (or Notes 9 or whatever they decide to call it).  Lotuspshere 2009 may have less to offer with that particular cat clearly out of the bag. I hope they have real goodies to offer.

It became apparent during the day that what has been painful for some has been to the benefit of others. Namely the surge that IBM has put into development around the Lotus brand is due to 850 developers working on the product family wordwide, mostly in China and India, and is probably at the expense of expensive home grown talent in the US. Such is the effect of the global economy.

From a UK perspective the success of yesterday's non-IBM event attracting Business Partners as well as Customers, highlights the paucity in communication between parts of Big Blue and its audience. This is especially true in the now re-energised Lotus brand. UK Business Partners in particular seem to be further and further excluded from the Yellow tent compared to a few years ago causing a break down in the once large, effective and vociferous community.

Additionally recent announcements around IBM's hosting offerings for Domino, actions where direct selling to the SME segment is actively undermining both small partners and Disti's, seems to be heading towards a channel conflict which inevitably ends in tears.

The UKLUG location of Church House and its main assembly room is the home for the General Synod of the Church of England. Off of the room are doors way where Synod members vote on motions, these doors are marked with large Aye's and Nay's. IBM needs to ensure that what remains of its UK partner communion (who believe in its technology) don't walk though the virtual Nay door as a result of the ongoing loss of relationship. 

IBM for one does not need 'schism' around the Lotus Brand. Especially as after many years the team in product development seem to be getting more of it 'right'.

Facebook (Windows in disguise)

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thumb_white.gifDéja vu - where have I seen that before? - Yes, we all get that feeling from time to time and over the last few days my sense of the seeing the past becoming the future is with Facebook. Those of you active Facebook users may have noticed icons appearing on the bottom of the UI - where have I seen that before - yup, Windows 95. Facebook is this progress?


Lehmans - The case against Collaboration v2

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thumb_chapman_pincher.gifIan has expressed the view that collaboration might have helped in the current financial crisis. However, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and, contra wise, knowledge is power -- with regards collaboration, both apply. 

A senior partner in a city firm said to me recently, "I won't share my contacts and knowledge with others as they will either screw up my well-honed relationship by being crass or try to steal them. 

When bonuses and reputation ride on what and who you know, why share the knowledge? The deregulated world is fueled on greed and advantage. How my pigs have you seen sharing the swill bucket?

IBM - Back to the future

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'If a first you don't succeed try, try, try again' could be the corporate motto of International Business Machines. For (I think) the third time IBM is making a determined push to attack the Domino hosting market. 

As pointed out by the estimable Ed Brill GCN.com have posted a story that IBM is going to try to crack this nut once more. 

'The hosted offering will be targeted for organizations with 1,000 to 10,000 employees, and will offer, in addition to the basic Lotus e-mail and calendaring, additional collaboration tools.'

Domino hosting is being carried out today by a number of players but in this incarnation pricing appears to be more aggressive in a market that is looking for cost savings - smart.

The $64,000 question will be if they turn this into a channel offering or if this will appear to cannibalising the services that many partners rely upon. To coin a phrase 'there may be blood'.

Watch this space.

Lehman Bros: The case FOR collaboration

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thumb_white.gifHaving made the case against collaboration yesterday it seems a bit churlish not to look at what effective collaboration could have done to mitigate the large pile of poo that the banking system (and the rest of us) finds itself it in at present.

We all know that when it comes to individuals (especially the middle classes), banks make strenuous efforts to analyse risk. If we look slightly iffy from a financial perspective then wild horses worn't make them lend to us. So why did that not happen in the investment banking sector.

I don't have first hand knowledge so admittedly I am only speculating however I suspect that the 'wise' heads inside banks did not get the warning messages through to the 'rain makers' and the prospect of mega bonuses took the place of sound risk analysis.

We all should hope that the use of the new generation of collaborative portals that have the ability to hook all relevant parts of organisations (banking or otherwise)  together will be become the norm. Access to the right knowledge, know-how and proven experience is extraordinarily hard in large enterprises. Collaborative technology offers the prospect of improved decision making in all types of organisations.

Information coming from un-trusted sources could be filtered and treated as rumour, whereas the same information coming from trusted sources would have a degree of validity. This would allow an overall weighting of content which at present is hard to achieve.

As I said in my last post about training, the 'when and what collaborative technology should be used for' is much more important than the how to use features of the applications. 

If we don't grasp initiative this from the top down then I am afraid history will be revisited and all the technology in the world won't stop the same mistakes being made.



UK Lotus User Group 2008 conference

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifThe UK Lotus User Group 2008 conference is on tomorrow and Friday (18th-19th September)
 
UKLUG is a great opportunity for people who use Lotus software meet each other, find out what's happening with Lotus products and learn from each others' experiences.
 
 
The Venue is Church House, Conference Centre, Westminster, London. Attendance is FREE, Telephone 020 8941 6994       

Lehman Bros: The case against collaboration

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thumb_white.gifTo describe recent events as a disaster would be an understatement, whether for investors, employees or the general public the collateral damage from the past week-ends events will be the subject of many books and dissertations in the future. 

From the perspective of collaborative technology in all its forms we have to consider the communications environment that many have exacerbated the situation. 

I am passionate about the benefits of collaboration and frankly I do not care too much which platform it is delivered upon however its upside can be its achilles heel in some situations.

Banks rely upon a fiction that if you ask for your money right now you would get it. Well it may be true in the normal course of events but if many individuals or organisations ask for thier money at the same time any individual Bank is simply unable to comply. Then the Bank would have to borrow from their peers and if they can't get the money from them for whatever reason they fail - period.

But why do people suddenly want their cash and why can't the banks just borrow from other banks: trust, or rather lack of trust, the moment that goes the fiction evaporates and the slippery slope to failure commences. Sometimes governments intercede but usually the end result remains the same. 

Many of the triggers for the crash in 1929 was panic due to rumour, rumour spread by the technologies of the 20s, telephone, telegraph and teleprinter. I suspect that in 2008 the post-mortem of Lehman's demise will show that the speed of both accurate and inaccurate information via email, on-line forums and other collaborative spaces was a major factor in the destruction of its trust. Rumours start, spread, become 'fact' and then turn into the most effective business poison in the world. There is no remedy and I don't think in the future one can be found.

We cannot un-invent modern collaborative technology  however we have to be charged with its careful use. I have been thinking about training recently and what sort / level we should give. This weekends events make be feel that the training we should give is not on how to use collaborative technology but on the when and what collaborative technology should be used for.

addendum:
I will try to put together a post Lehman Bros: the case for collaboration in the near future.

What a difference a day makes

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifI play in a 'covers band' called Senior Service. We've just come back from a gig at weekend party for a toff bird's 21st. The morning after the night before I walked around the stage clearing up after an excellent Saturday night thrash. I found; 3 Iphones, 2 ipods and 4 digital cameras. I know we are a good act and drive people into a frenzy but dropping that much digital detritus looked more like carelessness than hysteria.

The 'youff' that made up the main throng of the party guests were pretty well-healed - and I say were, because some of them - work or worked for Lehman Brothers  and lost at least two of the items above. On the Sunday morning they were pretty hung-over and not particularly grateful at getting their kit back.

I link these two because of the carelessness that connects them both. Lehman Brothers described itself as "an innovator in global finance, that serves the financial needs of corporations, governments, institutional clients, and high net worth individuals." A lot of this innovation seems to have been done by people seemingly careless with stuff - others or their own.

 

 

Building a real Web 2.0 family

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thumb_white.gifI like Facebook but it feels rather transient. I received an invite over the weekend from a distant cousin (5th and god alone know how many times removed) to a Genealogical website Geni.com.

I knew my Family Tree was traceable back to the 17th century on one branch, now I have at least one other branch that goes back that far. 

I am very lucky that some many of my families records survived the second world war (many of the family were not so lucky). The real point of this all is that as a Web 2.0 implementation Geni is very impressive, nicely intuitive, not too cluttered and easy for a novice to get going.

If you are interested to tracking (not tracing your roots unless they are already in the system), this is a neat implementation.

Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned

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I decided to 'pop in' to the Register last night to check out was was sharpening the knives of that particular bunch of scribblers. The headline story linked back to the embarrassing collapse of of the London Stock Exchange trading systems last week. 

The part I found worth blogging about was the level of vitriol of the post. Yes the Register is often 'arsey' but this seemed both over the top and ill-argued. However don't take my word for it read it (and the comments) and see for yourself.

It was a prime example of what I have termed 'Blog bitching'



Getting the work - life balance right (Is RIM ruining our lives?)

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Jim Balsillie presented the 'Blackberry Lifestlye" at a recent conference as reported by CIO.com, his comments gave me some food for thought.

The RIM vision of a fully convergent mobile device might on the face of it seem attractive however there may be some unforeseen consequences. 

I am no 'Luddite' however we already see many of us constantly scanning our mobile devices for both personal and business content at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places. The danger to physical relationships from an over-burdening access to 'stuff' could go from being theoretical to real.

It is also possible to imagine a situation where (especially here in the EU) network administration disables push delivery of content between certain hours in order to stop enterprise users exceeding strict interpretation of the EU working time directive.

"Key features are the limiting of the maximum length of a working week to 48 hours in 7 days, and a minimum rest period of 11 hours in each 24 hours."

We could end up carrying bricks around for hours per week. Neat.

Bill Gates made me laugh

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thumb_white.gifI really did not 'get' the first Gates - Seinfeld ad that ran recently but the second one does hit the spot. I am starting to see where this is going and I think it will be interesting.

You can take a look at the full version here, Bill is never going to get an Oscar but he is getting better at the 'acting' thing.



Chairman Mao's little red Facebook

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In an interesting coda to yesterday's blog 'the Benefits of lock-in" I have noticed today that Facebook is imposing its new layout on 100,000,000 users. 

Of course this has caused howls of protest but in balance I am with Facebook on this. In the SaaS world one motto could be 'stick to one environment and get it right'

It may seem to be a bit 'Centreist' but everything in our lives has to evolve, sometimes the results thrive, sometimes they die.




Cutting Costs

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gif"Preparing for the next downturn," was the title of a McKinsey report, published last year, I had archived it as possible content for this blog. Realsing it was now passé  I deleted it, though not before taking a quick look. It started of, "In a buoyant economy, the next recession seems far off. But managers who prepare during good times can improve their companies' chances to endure--or thrive in--the eventual downturn."

So what, on entering a downturn, did the article suggest were the things to do?
1) Maintain lower leverage on the balance sheets
2) Control operating costs
3) Diversify product offerings and business geographies

Controlling costs is relevant to this posting as it is an opportunity to show Collaboration technology's ability to reduce cost. There's a recent report by Infoedge on IT trends and spending that might help.

 

The benefits of lock-in (redux)

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* Apologies to those of you who RSSed an unfinished draft of this posting this morning. This was due to a lack of attention on my part *

I was musing during last nights upgrade to iTunes 8 of the benefits of 'lock in'. If your company is using Microsoft Exchange 2003 + Office Outlook 2003 or maybe Lotus Domino 6.x + Lotus Notes 6.x you are lagging 5 years behind the curve. The future for you and your company is lack of access to resources from platform owners, business partners and market skills which in turn will make your environment less supportable, old-fashioned and potentially at more risk of failure.

Of course you could go for a SaaS solution and then be guaranteed to stay current with the rest of the world (or at least your host's world). But in a environment that half the world is on, let's say Google Docs, and Google gets a patch wrong (it happens), then half world looses connectivity all at the same time (some pressure to fix bugs!) or content is screwed up.

Lots of people worry about the mono-culture of Windows and the potential major points of failure it offers, but it is potentially just as true for the new kid on the block, SaaS. 

I suspect there is no 'right' or 'wrong' here just different areas of risk.

The future offers us many exciting new models of operation and capabilities but just like the brave new world of 'Windows' in the early 90s, they all have their drawbacks.

Exterminate!

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thumb_white.gifIt may seem a wild jump to link Daleks with content archival but...

Yesterday my daughter and I spent a few very pleasant hours wandering around the Dr Who Exhibition in Earl Court, London. It was very enjoyable to revisit the Doctors from Hartnell to Tennant alongside some of the brilliant creations of the current series.

I was reminded that the BBC wiped or destroyed many of the original episodes to either free up physical space or re-use media. Their folly is only being partially overcome by the recovery of episodes from off-air recording made by enthusiasts and the finding of old 16 mm copies that turn up now and then from far off corners of the Commonwealth.

It should be remembered that in the case of Doctor Who, a series which is now considered iconic, that 45 (yes 45) years ago it was seen as disposable.

There is a lesson here for all. When creating and managing content it should be:

  • consciously stored in locatable locations
  • moved to current formats as old formats become obsolescent
  • be checked regularly for degradation
  • be catalogued effectively
In 50 years time the contents of our Content may become important!

Oh and the pictures from the exhbition are here http://flickr.com/photos/ianwhite/sets/72157607202682076/

Google to go the way of Microsoft?

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I picked up this interesting post today and in light of yesterday's post about Google 10th Birthday seemed it seemed worth reposting.

Google's stock price fell significantly yesterday with hints of an US Justice Department anti-trust investigation of the Yahoo deal. The article states:

"Even if the Justice Department backs off the Google-Yahoo deal, therefore--or Google fights the case and wins--the increased Justice Department focus will likely lead to:

  • greater scrutiny, especially as Google moves into new businesses
  • more complaints
  • more litigation (and litigation risk)
  • possible reputational backlash

With respect to the Google-Yahoo deal, moreover, Google continues to take a hard line, saying it intends to go ahead with the deal regardless of what the Justice Department does. This could be posturing, but we doubt it. (Puffing out your chest at this stage of the game isn't the best way to win support). More likely, it means that, if challenged, Google intends to litigate."

Where have I heard this before?

Why UK SMEs will not use SaaS Desktop productivity

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thumb_white.gifIt was our monthly meeting yesterday and the usual chatter settled on a discussion around the use of the likes of Google Docs, Zoho, Acrobat and suchlike 

I for one am impressed with the level of capability that is already manifested in these offerings, however Gareth brought me to task with regard to the network infrastructure that is in place in many small UK businesses at present.

"Too many cooks soil our available bandwidth"

That phrase is never going to get into common usage, it's not exactly snappy or memorable, the point being is that most UK SME have (much) less bandwith than I am using at home today. With this low level of basic connectivity and then add to it from four to twenty users with a highly contended up and downstream components, insufficient back-haul and SLA's that make Argos deliveries look reliable and it won't be long before these same businesses realise that our UK infrastrucutre is just not ready for this sea change in operational mode.

"More talk less speed"

There is much industry discussion right now centred around a massive national deployment of fibre. This initiative when it happens is a pre-requisite to get SaaS services broadly accepted in the SME sector.

SaaS offers modern SMEs an a la carte solution model that will be hard to resist, but without the infamous 'information super-highway' that has been long promised but always lagged in delivery true SaaS will remain a promise and not a reality in the UK.

Happy 10th Birthday Google, but will you make it to your 20s

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This weekend was Google's 10th birthday and the first 10 years of its life have been that of a child prodigy. Breaking out from a garage to a massive worldwide corporation can only envied by any of us who have made efforts (successful and unsuccessful) at being entrepreneurs.

The question now to be asked is 'has the the Google-child become too precocious'. From Search to Google Desktop, Youtube to Analytics is it all a bit too much?

Computerworld has published a very interesting article examining the potential pitfalls that Google could be facing over the next few years. The article highlights a number of issues facing Google right now.

"Don't be evil" the company's famous motto may already have been compromised in the deal it did with the Chinese leadership. The question will be as Google heads into its second decade: 

How much more of the Googleness may need be shed to continue the rockeitng success.

Bonkers for conkers

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifA collaborative, competitive game played since boys were boys is conkers. It required, good hand eye co-ordination and some wily construction skills. However, all across Europe and in the US, Chestnut trees are dying. This year the disease has gone, from about 10% of the population in 2006 to nearly every tree I've looked at in the UK and France

It's a sad state of affairs and yet another change in the landscape.  I'll miss the glorious rich brown of the conkers as they split out of their green prickly shells that break open as they fall. On the up side, as there's no sunshine in the UK any more, we won't need the 500,000 or more of these majestic trees for shade.

Attention UK IBM Shops

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In two weeks grab the chance to catch up on the latest technology, tools and techniques that IBM Collaboration has to offer. 

If you are using any Lotus tools, are interested in them or you are a small business interested in the many products IBM is aiming at you then there is a free event waiting for you.

The UK Lotus User Group is holding its annual conference close to Westminster Tube at the Church House Conference centre on the 18th / 19th September.

You can find the Agenda, Speakers, Sessions, Exhibitors and most importantly registration at the following URL: www.uklug.info

Reality Beckons

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifThe phoney war is over - reality begins. Business and project proposals put out before the holiday period that have been festering on people's desks are about to face the tough test of  go/no-go decisions. We'll soon find out how nervous people are out there about the economic climate. I've four such proposals waiting in the slips on collaboration, conversation, communication & cooperation.

  1. Real Time Collaboration (RTC)
  2. Group Decision Support Systems and facilitation tools (GDSS). 
  3. Virtual Team Space (VTS) 
  4. Distributed Project Management (DPM)

I'm itching to see which, if any will come home to roost, or if they don't how I'll not free fall into an impending sense of doom and panic. Only time will tell - I'll let you know in a month..

Lotusphere 2008 (or is that 9) - 12 months on

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thumb_white.gifIt seems strange that it is only twelve months since IBM opened the registration for Lotusphere 2008 and as of yesterday the 2009 event opened for registration. 

In the current global financial meltdown it is good that IBM has held the price with a 0% change to the registration cost. Flight costs especially from Europe are going to make attendance significantly more expensive than last year and that is without food and hotel inflation.

So what can delegates expect when they get there?

For the uninitiated Lotusphere is about much more than Lotus Notes and Domino, all aspects of collaboration are dealt with from strategy and emerging technologies, systems integration through to operations and training. It is a great place to go to be 'sheep dipped' in communications technology both from and IBM and non-IBM persecutive (there are normally 20-50 souls from Microsoft attending).

Lotusphere does not get an appearance from a 'Steve Jobs', the charisma associated with Apple launch events is, on the whole, missing - there have been notable exceptions over the years but its just not that sort of 'do'. 

Lotusphere 2009 is likely to presage a year of consolidation, further integration of all of the core technologies with the Eclipse/Expeditor technology, more integration both inside and outside the the IBM portfolio and further development of products aimed at the SME sector.

It is a shame that Lotusphere does not get the media coverage its deserves for an event that has heralded many innovations over the years.

Whether you love or hate Lotus Notes, compete or partner with IBM, Lotusphere offers something  for everyone. Above all the spirit of the attendees can only be admired, not to mention their capacity to work and party in the space of 5 days.

Mac & Notes 8.5 Beta - first impressions

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thumb_white.gifMy first use of Lotus Notes was back in 1990 with release 2.0. At that time the eight or nine 3.5" disks (I can't remember the exact number) from which it was installed seemed incredibly bloated - so the idea of a 350mb download for the latest full Mac eclipse version would have seemed more than a bit daunting to the Ian of the early 1990s.

I have been using Mac and Lotus Notes since release 6.5, it has been of a bit hit and miss affair and with the UI being a straight port from the Windows client. In this state it seemed more than a bit kludgy and missing opportunities that the OSX UI offered. Lotus Notes 8.5 (Public beta 2) is a massive improvement in the user experience with a contemporary 'Today' like experience which is well overdue. 

From a cold start on my (powerful) MacBook pro it took 1m 40s from start click to user input ready - this, frankly, is not impressive, hopefully the final release will be a bit zippier on start-up.

I only ran into one real problem during my installation which was the 'breaking' of my mail file full text search - which I use a lot - but after deleting and recreating the full text index all was well.

With this version I have yet to experience the random losing of my security credentials, in past versions I was sometimes prompted for re-entry of password on an intermittent basis and this could be very annoying.

All in all my first impression are that it seems like a good release, I now need to look at the new versions of other standard templates to see if they are keeping up with the improved mail experience.

Facebook is promoting promiscuity

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thumb_white.gifFor the past few weeks there has been something about Facebook that has been gnawing at me. I have not been able to put my finger on it until today.

On a regular basis I get messages such as  'Find your target audience' as Facecorp (lets call FBs parent that) tries to persuade me to buy ad space as part of their monetization efforts. 

Today I started realising that I am getting fed ads that simply do not correlate with my profile. Facecorp knows I am in a relationship (and have been for 25 years and 2 days) but keeps targeting singles ads at me.

I like to think I can control my hormones however for the weaker (and more gullible) amongst us it could lead the unwary into life choices they may regret. Being recommended "Boiler repair services" is one thing however the same can not be said for 'finding hot singles'.

I am not moralistic about this, however it could give Facebook a tawdry image if not controlled.

Come on Facecorp you know enough about me to be smarter than this.

The truth is out there, just don't tell anyone ! (well not using the company system)

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We all know that IT often has a privileged access to business decisions long before they are presented internally or externally. 

Computer Weekly is reporting on a Marks and Spencer employee who faces dismissal after 25 years of loyal service for leaking information to a newspaper regarding the reduction of severance pay the company was in the process of implementing.

This is a salutary lesson, he may have felt morally obliged to try to 'head off his employer at the pass' but as an IT professional he obviously has little idea of the level and sophistication of logging available today, not impressive.

These crises of conscience happen across many departments within the corporate environment, HR, Finance and of course IS. It is our duty to remain professional with the possible exception when our employer is undertaking illegal practises. The rule is simple we do not disclose information that is 'Company Confidential'.

Mischief or reporting of activities outside of the law are likely to be communicated from untraceable email addresses and sent from unremarkable IP addresses (or so I am told !).

M&S employees take note!

Facebook is attacking traditional email and collaboration

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With last weeks announcement by Facebook of 100 million active users it seemed like a good time to review the impact of this particular social tsunami on business electronic communications and collaboration.

The Facebook phenomenon is well documented so I won't bore you by examining where its origins lay. Of much more interest is where it is now and where its going to.

eMail
At the moment FB users don't get a '@facebook.com' email address, but for how long? Full 2-way delivery of SMTP email it is a logical extension for the 'internal' messaging environment that is already effectively moving millions of FB users away from traditional messaging platforms. 

It just needs attachments and bang - look out Hotmail and crew.

Collaboration
Putting Groups together whether public, by invitation or private in Facebook is a synch. 

Okay content sharing is almost non-existent other than with social media. It is probable that either through plug-ins or through native Facebook apps this short-coming will be addressed. Then it is not difficult to envisage the 'Y' generation and the businesses they create or join seeing this as a perfectly acceptable way to collaborate on a daily basis.

With a few more features, such as the handling of unstructured content, FB collaborative capability will become unleashed. With this we will start to see new behaviours coming from the next generation of graduates.

Presence awareness and chat
This has been a recent addition to the Facebook portfolio. Again it is quite primitive right now but considering the delta that Facebook has been following for the last couple of years I expect that this will move on dramatically in a short period of time. It is not hard to imagine n-way chats plus video coming along from FB in the near future.

What's holding this back?
Well it's the same set of brakes that is the limiting factor for Google based collaboration. Ownership of data, security, privacy, control and features (I am sure I could think of a few more), the difference being however smart Google is (and it is very smart), Facebook has access to a key emerging demographic in a way that the whole industry envies.

The challenge to Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Google et all is to keep their products relevant and flexible and develop equivalent intuitive UI's that the next generation of prospective CEO, CFO and CIOs will consider to be 'fit for purpose' when they take hold of the reins.

How do you see Facebook's potential for impacting on business collaboration?

Where you bin?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifExplorer 8's InPrivate option can hide your internet audit trail allowing you to conceal the sites you've visited from other (family) users of your computer. However, the authorities will still be able to snoop. What does this tell us about ourselves - that you can run but you can't hide?

The Porn Mode is quoted as being able to 'hide one's illicit browsing history'' but also stated as "preventing computers from tracking your online whereabouts or browsing habits - much-needed information for web sites that deliver targeted advertising". Aren't these mutually incompatible from the principle of self-interest?

 

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinions of the authors and do not represent either of our employer's views in any way. All postings and code samples are provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confer no rights.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian White published on October 22, 2008 11:45 PM.

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