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Diary Of A Madman

The rantings and raves of a Madman in the globally connected digital world.. join me in a journey into the wireless ethernet...

  • thank you & goodbye...

    thank you to the thousands & thousands of you that followed, read, commented and emailed me on this blog. I had a blast and enjoyed scribbling my musings and thoughts down, and with the comments and emails - most of you did too - so thank you.

    I have long since moved on from here, and was only prompted when some one asked me about a post I had written on here from back in 2008, that I never did sign off...

    I still write / blog / rant over at http://medium.com/@madmansdiary or http://madmans-diary.tumblr.com/ 

    So thank you all... be seeing you!

    /the madman 

  • The Enterprise Social Fabric: Putting next-generation collaboration to work

    IT’S A DIGITAL LIFE
    People in the 21st Century increasingly perceive themselves and each other through their
    “digital selves.” The digital self, which can be made up of avatars, blogs, profiles, posts,
    tweets, videos, images, statuses, likes, check-ins, badges—and much more—communicates,
    transacts, and interacts with others in a “social fabric” of digital existence and coexistence
    that connects and unites people around the globe.
    While some may denigrate the digital social life and its activities as a waste of time or
    unproductive, there’s no denying that the global social fabric has relevance and effect in the
    real world. It has helped bring down dictatorships and elect a U.S. president. Millions of
    people rely on it to seek or change employment. And the digital economy generates real
    wealth—representing a significant and growing proportion of many nations’ GDP and giving
    rise to its own digital currency, known as “bitcoins.”


    ENTERPRISE SOCIAL FABRIC

    Businesses have typically been interested in digital and social networks as an external
    channel for driving marketing objectives—to interact with and influence prospects and
    customers, promote products, and build their brands. Increasingly, however, companies are
    exploring the ways digital social spaces and conventions can be used internally, to create an
    “enterprise social fabric” that helps organizations unleash collaboration and innovation,
    sharpen competitive insight, and realize new efficiencies.
    A vibrant enterprise social fabric can generate new ideas and make new connections among
    people, applications, and tools. The digital work space can enable collaboration across
    departmental and functional silos, geographic distances, different languages and cultures,
    and even the barriers of traditional organizational hierarchies.
    Social tools also provide individuals with new ways to organize and keep track of their own
    ideas and organize content in more contextual ways to manage today’s information and
    communication overload.


    CAPTURING INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE
    In addition to realtime collaboration, the enterprise social fabric provides a way to share
    knowledge over time. For example, social networks provide a way to capture experience and
    know-how and make it accessible to others, so that it’s not lost when an individual retires or
    changes jobs.
    Today’s cost-efficient digital workspaces, information management, storage, and virtual
    technologies also make it practical to capture and keep all of the thinking and processes
    that go into an effort—not just the end product. Sketches, brainstorming, conversations,
    emails—the ideas and decisions that went into a design, a strategy, a product
    breakthrough—all can be saved and made available to future teams. A marketing team of
    the future, for example, could examine all of the artifacts surrounding a company’s
    successful and iconic campaign, executed years before. They could look at how the team
    approached the project, developed ideas, and executed them. They could also see ideas,
    designs, and copy that were not used for possible re-consideration or inspiration.


    WHERE DO YOU START ?

    It’s a simple enough process to join the 800 million users on Facebook and start your own
    interest group—or to direct employees to begin writing blogs and tweeting. It is, however, a
    common misconception that all a company needs to do to create a viable enterprise social
    fabric is “plug in” to Twitter or Facebook, or create a YouTube channel of video assets.
    There are risks to using third-party public infrastructure to build the enterprise social fabric,
    store corporate assets, and share corporate IP. But even more importantly, organizations
    need to realize that achieving real business objectives, such as faster time-to-market and
    more motivated and productive employees, requires a well-designed social strategy that
    encompasses people, technologies, and corporate policies and procedures.

     

    Want to read the full article then click  here

  • <404 Sorry, The Blog that you requested could not be found >

    As a follow on to my previous blog post around Searching - and the value of digging around those search logs - I wanted to highlight an additional search on returned pages - especially those pages that highlight a 404 or 4xx page!

    404/4xx pages are synonymous with a failed or broken web experience. You travel through a website of your choice or link from a friend etc... You're immersed within a cornucopia of brand experiences (well, I would hope so) you notice an additional link that has caught your attention or an image that sparks something, ignites a further delve or journey into your websites experience....

    {BANG}

    <404 Sorry, the page YOU have requested cannot be found>


    Gutted...

    Betrayed...

    Let down...

    Frustrated...

    Experience has abruptly come to a bitter and somewhat awkward end...

     

     

    But what is being done to rectify this break in confidence and trust? Is your web team looking at the web logs & search logs to understand what people were looking for, what they clicked/touched/said.. on, what they were expecting, what they were hoping to see or feel??

     

    Also what has your design team done to at least cover the 4xx error with a continued experience that draws a smile (no matter how wryly) or shows that your brand understands that from time to time an old bookmark, aging link on referral site may just be that, old.


    We all know that the web moves at a breakneck pace and MySpace today maybe Facebook tomorrow and landing page from a bygone campaign using TinyURL has moved to the land of web2.0... We're all human and capable of missing something...

     

    So while you agonize over the pixel size, font style, color pallet and immersive HD imagery, add some time to think about the user that may stumble, no matter how or where from - into your web universe, to a page that may not have been created yet, in a section that your team has not even worked out the business for - or maybe simply arrived there through the power of subliminal advertising and one persons typo has given you the opportunity to rectify and allow yourself a second chance.

    No point in blaming the end user, as you have no idea if it was their fault or not (your logs however will) so give them the benefit of the doubt that it was your fault and you will remedy the situation by giving them a cheeky smile and OPTIONS!!

    Allow them to search your site directly from the 4xx error page, or add in some dynamic features that your site is (im)famous for, help and guide them back onto a more reliable and  wondrous experience that you have spent the time to curate over the months and years.

    While they are doing that - have your team as part of their daily/weekly/bi-weekly clean up of logs to recover and retrieve what has been going on and if you do have broken links, expired content, poor affiliate tags or whatever that you put a plan of action together to fix that. Or look at some of the query strings and searches that people have been doing on your site and wonder why x% of people are looking, searching or hunting for this on your website? Could this be an additional opportunity to expand a product range, introduce an extended product/service/skill or whatever...

    Use any opportunity and excuse to improve your website and your visitors will thank you for it, and you never know - you may find some gold (or Justin)  in them there logs...

    http://patterntap.com/sites/default/files/patterns/10534543634ef1d6658a965.png

     

  • {Follow Up} Why Entertainment Industry still has Digital all wrong - Midem 2012

    Thanks to all of you that have emailed me regarding my post, I do enjoy the emails that I receive from around the world - and there were a number of questions posed that I decided to add as a supplement Blog post to the original post from yesterday...

    First off, questions around the iTunes image that was posted...

    I used to live in the UK and probably spent a fair amount of UK ££££ on the iTunes store over there - I had a different email address and as such used to flip back and forth between my UK & US iTunes account where sometimes I wanted to download a specific UK only release, and as such I used to be able to do this. OK, I still can - but since Apple released iTunes Match and 'Purchased' - linkes your MAC address to your account, and as I did, download any older purchases from my UK account effectively "LOCKS" your MAC address to your email address for 90 Days - so for 3 months I could not redownload or use my MacBook Air for iTunes Match (until today that is!)

    Now here is the other issue, as you may recall, file formats from Google Music proved to be a slight issue, with iTunes even having the iTunes format causes an issue, as iTunes Match will not allow ANY of my UK purchased music to be added to my Match account. This may have been an early blip, and as I write just now, my library is being indexed and has 60% UK purchased music on it, so perhaps I'll have more information by the time I'm finished this post.

    This is again one of the issues that Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Rhapsody etc... face is that in our ever shrinking global marketplace, Geo Locating IP stores, is that consumers of digital content, may have already purchased and owned content from Asia, Europe, Australasia & North America etc... and their digital collections will vary from store to store depending on availability - so to stop or prevent other countries content from being stored / managed or shared is quite frankly wrong. The consumer is not tied to regional or territory constraints, therefore why should an entertainment reseller or cloud storage company decide if you can or can not access YOUR content from their servers. I think we will see more cases like this as the Entertainment industry still tries to hold on to its 90 year old release format for movies and its 50 year old recording industry format. 

    With the last few remaining big box retailers of Entertainment products about to vanish into the history books, and stores such as Wal*Mart, Target, Best Buy reducing their store footprint and in some cases removing physical Entertainment products completely - digital become more and more relevant to the end user - but the consumption and cost will play a big part in what happens next - as well as ability to transfer, move, share, play and use the content - the industry is not ready for that change...

    Some people also didn't realize that Spotify, had a device limit even on the Premium subscription - actually Spotify and Daniel Ek negotiated a worse deal in 2008 that we did in 2005, 2006 & 2008 - where like Apple we had 5 devices linked to an account (crazy, I know, I have 6 devices around me now that I have to leave one off being associated to my account) Spotify could only mange 3. Daniel was faced with mounting criticism form within the industry that subscription model just doesn't work - users don't understand the "library" concept nature, hate the re-sync of the device every 30 days - DRM directive from labels - (concerned of course that they will run off with 15Gb of music on their iPhone for one monthly payment)  else they lose access to all the tracks and artists hate the $0.001 per stream of their tracks! So when Spotify launched over here in the US, Rhapsody & Napster already had a subscription plan that wasn't setting the world on fire nor setting any real revenue goals that could be sustained. Spotify was greeted with, well muted response, but still managed to get a number of subscribers on their service (albeit on a trial basis) and 2012 will start to see teh tru value and number of consumers that "can't do without" their music subscription.

    Finally a point that was raised from one of my readers in the UK was around Netflix and how does the service match the US, as I mentioned content and quality of content in my blog!

    I think any Netflix or Love Film user in UK will find that once you move into an "all you can eat" model for a low monthly fee, the studios are not keen to deliver their prize content to these services. As per the above with record labels and Spotify, teh movie studios already have deals in place with the massive TV/Cable/Satellite companies on how their movies are rotated and shared around. So there will be a limit to the number of titles that are available for instant / on demand streaming - as ABC or CBS may have the broadcast rights to show 'x' number of titles from Warners for Q1 2012 - therefore Netflix etc.. will need to "take down" that content (depending on the deals stuck) in order to be compliant with the TV broadcasters, as they will see this as competitive and harmful for their advertisers as they will not be able to sell the ad space as easily if the title is freely available to all 24million Netflix subscribers. 

    In the end it is sometimes easier, just to avoid sending the titles that are in constant heavy rotation between the television networks, and therefore have less Quality AAA titles on these services. So now you move into the scenario I described in my blog, where a family, couple or individual has Netflix, VuDu, Amazon, iTunes and is looking to stream a movie for the evening (notice I said stream, rather than "PURCHASE") and after endless searches and flicking between services can not find the specific movie that they'd like to see - a simpel search into Google returns a list of services that seem to have the movie of their choice. From outset it looks like a "nice" website, looks professional and requires a few clicks and now the movie file is downloading... (just an added point, when doing research on this back in 2009, we found that over 70% deleted their "illegal" movie after watching it, to free up space, or that they wouldn't need to watch it again, and if they did they could just download it again)

    Here is where SOPA/PIPA etc... will kick in and have the site shut down, however as I mentioned, another 20 sites will still have the file as its mirrored and available. The other element is the consumer habit of streaming movies rather than owning them -  there has been a long debate around the differences between music buying and movie renting - i wont go into it in detail, but you are more likely to listen to an album or song multiple times than watch the same move more than twice in one year (once at the cinema, and once on another medium) and thats why there has always been the ongoing issue between the two industries.

    CONTENT...CONTENT...CONTENT... by making your content available and searchable, the modern day 21st Century consumer wants instant gratification - an with the web, someone, somewhere will be able to deliver that content. But don't think that the average consumer hasn't tried to find it through all legal means necessary (again the same survey showed that over 95% looked for their content on legal sites before vanishing into the mirky world of illegal downloading)

    So the debate WILL continue, revenues will continue to fluctuate (but still in decline for physical media) and digital will not deliver the revenue gap - until the traditional "physical" models are broken and embrace a true digital media strategy that accepts a more consumption based model - then I'll still be writing these blogs for years to come... 

  • Why Entertainment Industry still has Digital all wrong - Midem 2012

    With Midem  only two weeks away, the South of France will again, be a stage for the music industry to work itself into a frenzy to figure out the best route forward into discovering how to rescue itself from the brink of its own self-importance/ destruction. I’ve attended, spoke & networked through many of these events in the past, and looking at the list of attendees I’m not sure that there will be much success in pushing forward any new ideas or initiatives. So while, I have been asked to attend again this year, at the moment, I will not be in Cannes for the weeklong extravaganza, I’ll certainly comment on the proceedings…

     

    Since I first attended the event where digital was really an emerging format – we had the DRM fights and battles back in those days – where we had Microsoft and their WMA DRM and Apple’s AAC Fair Play – the mere mention of delivering MP3’s to the masses was cause for us to be ejected from the building by any of the labels.

     

    Back then, if you were downloading music, you were indeed classed as a “potential pirate of copyright material, and should be treated as such” strong words from one the worlds biggest record labels…

     

    Many years later – well we’re at the same juxtaposition where we, the consumers, may have won the battle and rights to have an open format, free of digital rights management (MP3), so we were free to use the content that we have purchased anyway that we wanted to. However rather than Peer2Peer services that exchange millions of tracks a day (as well as being used by record labels to legally “leak” their artists new release) we are seeing the advent of the new “cloud” sharing services – both legal and illegal.

     

    I wrote a blog piece on this back in 2009 where Governments, lobbyists, labels and ISPs were trying to figure out how to stem this “disease” where copyrighted material was being distributed on a global epidemic scale across the P2P networks. This was easy for ISPs to block the P2P traffic going through their networks, and could be opened up easily for legitimate use by companies and consumers – by simply adding a disclaimer or T&Cs that stipulate “that by opening the P2P ports on your gateway you will abide to…….. “

    ISPs were not interested in doing this, would take $$$ to enable some automated scripts on their BSS/OSS – and then their would be the throttling of data where ISPs like to show how much data is crossing their networks in order to raise prices to both business and consumers in order to keep up with the bandwidth requests.

    Also and more importantly, using P2P and in particular Bit Torrent, both Twitter and Facebook use Bit Torrent to distribute content to their main server farms and thus speed up their appearance of real time. However, back in the day when we were discussing the ability for ISPs to block the protocol Twitter and Facebook were not even invented –so that door is closed for now. File formats from torrents were also discussed, as a way to enable or block the traffic and potential illegal files.

     

    Fast forward to 2012, and even today we hear more from Governments, labels, lobbyists etc.. where SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and extension to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) where the rule of thumb to block IPs that a company claims to infringe their copyright(s) – this is happening now in Holland where BREIN (Dutch acronym for “Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands”) are censoring domains and IPs against the Pirate Bay, but legislation, like SOPA, actually opens the door for continued web monitoring & censorship. I’ll keep the in’s and outs of SOPA / BREIN for another blog – I digress…back to the “digital” Entertainment industry…

     

    As both a practitioner and consumer of digital media and entertainment, I’ve seen both sides of the coin (or dollar) where I’ve worked with companies to help the monetization of their content, how to ignite and realize their long tail, defining the best customer experience online and offline. Through to an “early adopter” and consumer of all things digital, I had a better insight into what worked, what didn’t and what the triggers were for people to hit illegal downloading sites.

     

    So recent developments from Amazon, Google, Apple et al with their cloud services and Spotify finally launching in the US (although having been a Spotify subscriber since 2008, it was about time) however there are still some fundamental issues that remain from an end consumer experience, that in essence, isn’t really the fault of Google, Netflix… but actually the music and movie companies that are providing their content. So lets have a look at the issues faced by consumers and why this is one of the reasons to drive people to illegal sites for their content – either on purpose or through search…

     

    First off the newly launched Apple Match, $24.99 per year and have your music in the “cloud” – a few teething issues with versioning showed up early on where Apple’s method was to store, say Coldplay’s Mylo Xloto and attribute user IDs to the file, which made sense as one file is all that is required to distribute to millions. However, if you had a different version of Mylo Xloto for example, lets say you purchased a Japanese CD version that had different mixes, but you ripped the CD as Mylo Xloto, the version that Apple would deliver would be the standard US release. It’s all about metadata and leaving that up to the end user to be aware of how to attribute or add the correct metadata. Which isn’t going to be that great an experience based on research that we did back in 2006, where there were a lot of iPods and MP3 players that were ripped offline, and had no more information that Artist and Album – even the tracks would be missing – so identifying these from end users libraries is going to be a challenge.


     

    Google music indexes your catalogue and at least uploads your material and ripped tracks. However there are issues with DRM. Which makes me think that they are not fully matching and indexing against previously stored material. The screenshot below shows issues with older Apple DRM files, that I decided NOT to pay the additional 29c to upgrade.

     

     

    However from a user experience I am now missing over 200 of my previously purchased tracks – assuming 99c per track – that’s over $200 in purchased music that is not available to me on the new cloud services. Google does state that it can not support all file formats, but we have to assume that the are not storing your actual files, and as such should be running a different service that is a mix of user generated content against their existing streaming library?


     

    Finally each of the services from iTunes to Netflix to Spotify all lock and handcuff you to a set number of devices. After working on 4 various music sites and negotiating the deals with the labels, I know that this is a stipulation from the labels and studios themselves that want to limit the number of devices to an account. Why? Well you can thank Napster and college campuses for this as one ID would allow multiple users (sometimes hundreds) to log in and access the content that was available against that one ID. The premise from the studios and labels, again is that YOU are potential criminals and will be treated as such – where they think that by using, say Spotify, 20 friends all pay 50c each per month and all use the service rather than what the labels want – which is that if 20 of you want to access the music then they expect $10 each therefore $200 revenue than just the $10 that they would be getting.


    The argument here, is that the Napster issue was before iPhone, iPad, Android etc…so the number of connected devices was limited back then – fast forward to today, and at the last count – in my home alone we have over 25 web connected devices that, in essence can connect to all the above mentioned services, that I pay for, to stream all the content that I have purchased – BUT… that is the issue, that while households have expanded their digital devices and connect more and more to the web for content – the music industry, movie studios and TV networks have not moved an inch towards this, as they see this as detrimental to their business models – they have no cohesive digital business models and rely solely on the rights management that the music industry imposed back in 2003, almost 10 years ago – which is no longer workable or valid.

     

    And its with this mistrust that we see Netflix and their mediocre digital streaming library not expand to what consumers are after – so the average consumer will search for a specific title, not on Netflix, they try iTunes, not there either – I’ll search Google – and before you know it, they are all aboard the Pirate Bay and the MPAA now come knocking on their door for illegal downloading of content – so we come full circle again, and this my friends is where SOPA comes into play – because Mr & Mrs Jones’ family can not find Pinocchio to watch on “family movie night” dad searches and finds it on a linked site that links back to Pirate Bay – and lo and behold the family movie night is complete and MPAA has a pending lawsuit against the Jones’

     

    What SOPA does not realize that while Pirate Bay may be the initial vehicle for illegal content, by closing the door on that, 20 more will pop up and from that 200 affiliate sites will connect to it and then 2,000,000 more will share and link – trying to plug those gaps is a nigh on impossible task – unless you control the global internet, or you guard and control the American firewall – which if SOPA, BREIN etc.. are trying in essence to do – why? Because of lobbyists and payments from the industry to politicians to enforce these acts, without having ANY understanding of the root cause or issues faced.

     

    So will this be discussed at Midem? Of course not, agendas will be set and new ideas that the industry will either adopt and buy (Last.fm anyone) or destroy… I’ve seen many great ideas vanish because it didn’t fit into the industry’s view of acceptable business models. The few of us at Midem that have always tried to change the belief and ideas that the Entertainment industry must embrace and explore new digital business models are always faced with criticism, skepticism and big dollop of fear, that if any of these “crazy” new ideas get out there their industry will be destroyed… as if its not on its knees just now, you only need to look at poor old EMI and the destructive path that Guy Hands took it – I heavily and publicly criticized Guy for his direction and strategy and that he was not embracing the future – welllook what happened there…

    Content is still very much King, and while the digital content is probably more like the Queen, to make way for findability, searchability and discoverability with relevant metadata, tagging and relationships to help you discover and unearth more of a deeper entertainment experience – the lack of quality and availability is what’s really hurting the digital content space today – add to that the device limiting chains of a bygone ghost and you can start to see just why the digital business models of today – don’t really work all that well for anyone!

  • 2012 Search: Who will find you & how?

    In 2011 Google did the unthinkable or for a lot of people, the “about time” by dropping their all new Panda algorithm that would change the old school way that it had spidered and indexed sites previously. This in part was a pre-cursor for Google+ and more social results, but more importantly to weed out and drop the spam and poor content that seemed to endlessly end up in your search results.

    For the traditional Google end user, business as usual really, apart from some small inclusions from social sites that were now “near time” , for businesses this was the beginning of the end of their traditional SEO strategy and something that they would indeed need to sort out and think smarter around how their products, services and content was now going to be displayed to the Google global audience. 

    The ‘Farmer’ update to Panda then just added another layer (or kick) to the already confuddled businesses and the SEO market suddenly looked out of touch as they tried to react and work with their clients to help them through Google’s new search rules and algorithms.

    I have met a number of SEO “gurus” over the years, who quite frankly were not gurus, and some of their techniques, strategies and implementations were exactly what Google were cracking down on, and with mobility taking a firm grip on 2011 – Google needed to act to end these charlatans and poor content from rising above the crowd because of some hacks and tricks to fool Google into raising its ranking higher than it should be. 

    What is fundamental throughout all of this, is what I’ve been saying and discussing with clients for many many years, create great compelling and accurate content that is multi-dimensional in context and depth. Ensure that whomever is writing your HTML code understands the need for clean and concise code and never forget the ‘holy grail’ which is the metadata structures, accuracy and semantic nature of the content as we start to see and understand how end users are now “asking” for rather than searching using Siri and a few other voice related services that are trying to compete alongside Apple’s still Beta Siri. Lets not forget some others such as Amazon’s Flow where rather than typing or saying  - you point and shoot. This is the additional layer where your product images need to be clear, concise and have multiple angles (as well as user generated) that will allow  not only Flow, but some of the others from Bing, Google etc… can better identify those sneakers that you saw someone wear down at The Embarcadero.

    Microsoft & Yahoo combine forces with their search technologies and online ad marketing machines to attempt to plug the gaps that Panda has created, but with some added advantages that AOL continue to fail and flounder in the online world, but combining the old web guard of Microsoft, Yahoo & AOL may have some insights that Google may miss while pushing their new initiatives forward.

    After Facebook dumped Microsoft’s Ad Network in order to server up their own ads there was some criticism from the Facebook user groups that Zuckerberg & Co were playing the $$$ over quality content as most of the ads seemed to be somewhat sleazy and the ads were actually not that relevant to the end user and in a lot of cases just judging by the ad revenue thus far from Facebook, its merely a blip on the radar. However what it does give Facebook is mapping web connection points in a social environment to gain at least some decent insights into what works and sticks from a social perspective, we will see how Open Graph pans out in 2012 as it moves out of Beta. Unlike Facebook, Google+ doesn’t require you to be logged in while you search theinterweb galaxy – but I’m sure in 2012 Google will ‘encourage’ you to stay logged in that will enable additional data mining and connections between, circles, content, searches and browsing that will allow it to even better understand how social works in a content search & share perspective.

    But… as always everyone’s goal is the same – that anyone that is looking, searching or asking for something wants to have their query returned quickly with a greater degree of accuracy and enough top level information at the point where they can make their next decision point simply and easy without having to scroll through multiple pages or have to re-type, re-say or re-shoot your search. Mobility and the device will be the major factor in 2012, and judging by the web traffic in the US over the 2011 holiday period – the audience is definitely now there, but looking at the mobile experience especially search – companies are failing and missing the bigger (or should that be smaller) picture and how important mobile is now to their potential audience.

    Time to go back to the drawing board and map out how to create a truly omni-channel and seamless experience for your audience and more importantly how do people find your ‘stuff’ from both inside your site and through the mainstream search engines – how does your company fair? 

     
  • 2011 Review & 2012 Road Ahead

    2011 ended pretty much as it began, and at the same lightening speed... seems to be true what your parents and grand parents tell you, that the older you get the quicker the time passes, and this year seemed to go particularly fast, well in this bloggers opinion at least!

    2011 saw a number of key events, and one of those was the inevitable passing of Steve Jobs. While we all hoped for a different outcome and for Steve and his vision to remain with us for a good few years more, it was not to be the case and we lost one of the worlds most innovative leaders and ran two of the most influential and important companies of the 20th & 21st Century - Apple & Pixar.

    He will be sadly missed not only from others within the tech world, but the consumers of Apple products all over the world, taking his vision, perfectionism and ideas and having people like Jony Ive & Co being able to design and deliver those into consumer products that just worked - yes I'm one of those Apple Fan Boys, but watching Steve take his ideas and vision into the world whether we wanted the product or not was great tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit that I can relate to after working with the Virgin family for 15 years.

    As Time magazine declared as their Person of the Year - "The Protester" was another key player on the worlds stage this year. From what we saw out of the Arab Spring, Anonymous & Lulz Sec, Occupy, London Riots - technology was at the core of all these movements and with the cry from help from Iran & Egypt citizens for their voice to be heard, to the destruction of Sony and others through the hands of both the "ethical hacker" and the normal "criminal hacker" to the management of people, resources and locations for the Occupy / 99% movements around the world, to the banal and ridiculous senseless destruction from the London Riots - showed the world that Social really was global and in the hands of millions - the web is the most powerful 'weapon' on the planet today. 

    The worrying element of this, is that now some clueless congressman would like to be able to surpress and  control the world wide web, not unlike the Great Firewall of China - where there should be more control and censorship as well as the all American classic, LIABILITY! Where someone has to be responsible if I continue to vent my frustrations and battle with RIM, that Twitter, Facebook, Path or whomever should be held liable and accountable for my freedom and expression of speech. This is dangerous and potentially harmful for companies such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter etc... where we could very well end up with a complex set up of off shoot companies and the clobally connected social fabric, will be separated by server farms in strategic geo locations and end up with Twitter Inc. & Twitter s.a.r.l. to be able to manage and protect the movement of tweets and accounts in order to get around the legislators - but rest assured there will be away around the deep packet inspections, but to the general public at large, who are oblivious to the proposed act, will be unaware that they are being monitored in more detail to understand how and where they are going through the world wide web - 2012 will see this bubble up to a higher degree of debate and expect to see more Anonymous "action" or Occupy style "protests" as this ugly and controversial topic hits the US Congress on 1/24 - and I can assure my avid readers that I will be raising the volume against the bill & the Republican idiots on Capitol Hill.

     While, my blog output in 2011 was higher than 2010 - I only managed 9 posts last year - and covered a range of topics, or as a lot of my readers will know - my ranting about the world or tech around us - or worse the "trolls" that blight the world of innovation and evolution for their own monetary gain, and nothing else but making a buck!

    As we ended 2011, the amount of data and information that we send around the world exploded into the almost unfathomable dimensions - but still with all this data floating about, the security, reliability and trustworthiness of who has your data is still a big issue and again during 2012 - I will be exploring and exploiting where these loop holes are, WHO is selling YOUR data to who - and even worse how much of that information can then be exploited and  to a degree that I could be YOU! all from simple data mining and acquisition of customer data...

    So we start 2012 really where we started 2011 - on the cusp of another massive push forward in data and freedom of information - however 2012 will start to see the collapse of some of the new "cloud" players in the market as they have been easily accessed and exploited that there is a danger within organizations of "cloud" as a dirty word and I'd expect a push back from a lot of companies.

    Social will aslo take a knock - after the, lets face it, stupid and ridiculous IPO from LinkedIn, Groupon we will see these companies and the appetite for "social" gimmicks recede and concentrate back on the fundamentals of business -" what is its purpose and what is its value" - rather than "it's social and has hundreds of millions of users" that never washed with me, and I'd expect this to me more relevant in 2012 as Facebook tries to kick its IPO off - but with normal hype - i'm sure it will be the same idiots that valued LinkedIn & Groupon.

    Economy will also play a major role in investing and tech led innovation - will the EuroZone survive, will Greece be kicked out - can Italy, with "Super Mario" bring the country back - and worse for us here in USA - we have an Election year - and this can only be bad as we are led to believe that Barack Obama has failed the American people with his economic policy, or that the obstructive Republican dominated house - opposed and impeached each and every bill that Obama tried to push through on the basis that they could run their 2012 Campaign as "Democrats Failed America"?

     

    Happy New Year everyone - its going to be another bumpy ride...  

    Epilogue

    Finally on a happier note - August did see the release of the West Memphis Three - a story and cause that is close to my heart ad have written about it here before - were released after almost 20 years of wrongful imprisonment. There were tears that day - tears of joy that Damien, Jason & Jessie were free men, tears of anger and frustration of the prejudice and injustice that these three boys had to endure for almost 20 years - free at last, but at a price! 


  • Innovate..Evolve..or become irrelevant (Baby Boomers vs Gen X)

    The world is a very different place than what it was 20 years ago!
    Nice opening statement from the ‘school of the bloody obvious’ isn’t it?
    Well you would think so, 20 years ago back in 1991 we were a very different breed, we had a taster of technology that would eventually help revolutionize our way of life, supported through wire-free networks and blistering fast connection speeds that we could only ever say “wouldn’t it be awesome if we could….{insert your own wow factor comment from ‘91}” 
    Funnily enough, those of us that were playing with technology and felt frustrated at the speed of progress on our own quest for the next evolution, had most of those ‘wishes’ granted!!

    So what now?

    For those of us that were twenty something’s back in ‘91 - are we now content that what we wanted to see is here, and that apart from a few tweaks were content on our envisioned digital world? Content that the twenty something’s of 2011 are now doing the same as we once did twenty years ago, where THEY have a greater insight and vision into ‘what’s next’?

    I would imagine that our twenty something millennial is blogging, tweeting and venting their frustration and exploring their innovative insights to a global audience - where the smart companies that are being run by our generation (Gen X) are listening, engaging and crowd-sourcing the next idea and collaborating with others to evolve either their aging company or entrepreneurial spirit by setting up their own business…

    But what of the companies that are “STUCK” those companies that survived or came through the industrial revolution and WWII to have the baby-boomers running their Fortune 500 companies that only ever wished for wealth and stability over irrational evolution of their company, brushing off ‘trends’ that they assumed as ‘fads’ passing blips that had no real impact on the fundamental business ideals of their company? Those companies would be blinded or better yet blinkered to the digital revolution that we saw in ‘91 and now a digital evolution in ‘11

    Companies such as… Kodak, Polaroid, Movie, Music industry’s (hell the entire entertainment industry), etc…where we hear these companies do nothing but complain about the value and worth of their products and output, the devaluation of their most precious commodity (to the baby-boomers at least at the helm) their stock price and the old support structure of that industrial age - the unions!

    Try and evolve your company that has grown up with unions at its core and you will find these are the companies that struggle to keep pace with all things digital and automated that both Gen X & Millennials feel are frustrating in the extreme and decide, where possible, to move our dollars elsewhere to where we may find solace and comfort that another company gets it!!! Now I’m not having a go at unions, as I understand their need to run their “protection racket” to get their members the best deal possible against the greedy corporations, but companies in the 21st Century that value their employees contribution and work on creating an agile and focused business that keeps up with change and embraces it - have no need for unions in their organization and I’m sure those same employees would rather push themselves and learn, train and educate themselves (via their employer) rather that fight change and ask their union to step in and protect that very same job that they’ve had for the last 20-30 years!!

    So times have changed, we are starting to see a clear out of CEOs & CxOs that have milked and bled their companies to the point that their retirement fund and shareholder stock price is healthy enough for them to now step aside and ‘let new blood’ takeover. Enter GenX to take the companies into this brave new world - but looking at some of these companies, bloated and stagnant that actually have run their course and as such missed so many opportunities to innovate or evolve that they are on the brink of death - Kodak were that trusted brand name for a good 50 years and sniffed at Polaroid and their instant image that degraded over the years, unlike their products that lasted and with negatives could be reproduced - they also worked with movie industry with their reel production - their list goes on of a “rock solid” company that came out all guns blazing of the industrial revolution with technology and devices that helped revolutionize the citizens of the modern world - managed, run and captured in its stock / company valuation - but in 2011 what or where does Kodak go to, that doesn’t see them as a late adopter or goliath chasing a final throw of the dice in a last ditch attempt to stay relative and relevant in today’s digital age? If their business is focused on the science & production of photography (wether moving or still) then what or where does it take this digital evolution and fully adopt and embrace it that it is relevant to the millennials that see them as a relic and throwback to their parents & grandparents generation.

    As a “consultant” we’re often asked to come in and ‘help’ companies through transformational change - how and where can we guide and help them become the company that they once were - but there needs to be support and understanding through the entire business from the very top to the core heart of the organization (including those Unions) that the company actually may look or be the same company it was even 3 years ago - albeit the name (which in some cases may need to disappear as well), as it instills a vision of a product or service that they are moving away from to become a viable entity again. Shareholders (the ones that are left) may protest but Capitalism is a ruthless animal that will consume itself in order to keep the dollar hungry beast fed.

    More than ever in the last decade we are seeing ‘traditional’ companies vanish for good as the people that are expected to help sustain the growth of the company simply milk the value from the name and move on (warning there for HP) so the options are somewhat more clear now than ever before…

    Innovate: push the envelope, invest in R&D, think and act smarter; 
    Evolve: don’t rest on past success, look out beyond today and embrace where the world is heading and make yourself relevant

    …or Die: it is inevitable that if you can’t and don’t do the first two points, then the animal will consume you, your company will die and no one will blink as they move onto the next company to sink its fangs into the rich dollar feast - history often does repeat itself with frightening regularity…

  • RIM's "fruity" battle for survival - BlackBerry or Mango

    ** UPDATE - While writing this post RIM & BlackBerry were in the midst of a 3 day blackout due to some connectivity errors at the mothership & users are about to fall off the party wagon (at last!!) ***

    I’ll be totally honest, I have NEVER liked BlackBerry. I hated their devices, hated their OS and just generally watching some of the “business elite” glued to their teeny tiny 2” screen and frantically scrolling their tiny rollerball, was simply a lip curling experience.

    These were the types that also poured scorn on the iPhone as nothing more than a toy and not a “business device” 
    What of course they mean by business device is that they could sync email, calendar….(help me out here what other reasonable purpose did the BlackBerry actually have) oh yes the ability to forward calendar invites with comments (granted there are a few times that I wish my iPhone could do that, but rarely) IT had to also support with the BlackBerry mail server, exchange servers to serve up Outlook just wasn’t good enough!!!

    So then enter Google & Android and RIM were feeling shaky at this point (their previous domination by blowing out Nokia and sitting pretty) suddenly there were options beyond the growing “cult” of iPhone and some of the Google powered handsets were indeed powerful and nicely designed. Nokia’s downfall was that it sat on it’s laurels while others attempted to innovate. Symbian vs Microsoft was the key motivation that allowed RIM to slip in the backdoor and dominate.

    Now the tables have turned… iOS & Android are not really slugging it out as we saw previously with Symbian, but instead each growing and taking market share from a bloated and fat RIM. However those very same “Corporate IT” discussions with procurement teams are just as valid, only this time the issue lies with lack of understanding or control over iOS devices, lack of trust & security around Android and lack of patience with BlackBerry has allowed an open window (no pun intended) for Microsoft and their very tasty Windows Phone 7 (Mango) that has the Microsoft security and connectivity, group policies that the Enterprise and Corporate require and demand and a selection of sleek and sexy devices that equal Google and are not that far from Apple.

    The final piece of this mobility jigsaw is whether Nokia will come back for a final blowout with RIM as Nokia’s final strategy is indeed WP7 & Mango!!

    So will the tables be turned, and Nokia & RIM swap dominant places? Maybe not as dominant as Nokia was in the 90’s & early ’00s but RIM has shown time and time again that it is stuck in innovation hell and the foundations are crumbling around it’s ears…

    One thing for sure though, is that Apple & iPhone have a solid future for the next few years, but can Microsoft & Nokia shock us all and pull themselves back into play with Mango and be the FanBoys of the Corporate world again - based on current sentiments - I’d say that the future is looking rather fruity!!

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lt1apchdYE1qb2d4go1_500.png

     


     

  • Losing patience with patent trolls...

    I like to think that I/ we innovate and instigate new thinking and evolution on the present, the here and now, the what is already there. Only by doing this, by pushing yourself and your thinking forward will we ever evolve. Compare this first mobile phones vs iPhone 5 - without pushing ourselves time and time again would we ever be where we are today!

    For others, however, an idea or "bathroom idea" that they have a lightbulb moment while in quiet contemplation (come on admit it, we all have them!) they are NOT the foundation of innovation, that still does not stop them from scribbling down on some clean fresh paper an "idea" then off to the Patent office who'll stamp it for a fee and there it remains in limbo until others continue their innovation curve to the point that it reaches utopia for the bathroom idealist - here we have the Patent Troll!

    We normally call these type of technical voyeurs as TROLLS, as all they do is "troll" around other companies products, software, ideas and filed patents for any infringements that they can bully other companies and individuals by cease & desist orders or worse filing injunctions to bleed others from patent infringements.

    Now if these companies were purveyors of innovation in technology, where something that they spent years creating, perfecting and releasing to the world, be that software, hardware, middleware or whatever'ware, and company X blatently ripped of their product(s), then yes I agree that there is room for patent infringements and the litigation that ensues.

    However, this falls flat when outside the controlling wall of the US - look at the recent, and blatent multiple disregard for anything to do with patents, copyright or any IP infringement or respect at all for a companies heritage and history.

    The Top 3 countries around the world that hold no regard to Patents, IP or copyright infringement (according to a global study by ICC) are 1) China, 2) Russia and 3) India, probably no surprise, that Brazil is growing fast at #4.

    As you would imagine #1 in Patent protection is... USA, of which 87% of their legal battles are internally within the US with other US companies, and rarely go after those in China, Russia or India, due to a number of reasons, but a lack luster approach to the fundamentals of infringement, so why spend money on expensive legal teams, that in the end, will have no real resolution or financial gain or outcome. You can imagine the reaction of the Chinese company that created the fake Apple stores and products to any writ or even warded damages.

    Back in the heyday of digital music, we all remember the blatant ALLOFMP3.com that ripped millions of songs from CDs (probably illegal copies) and sold them for half the price that other music stores sold them at. Numerous cease and desist cases came and went, and Russian government, turned a blind eye, until pressure from US government on trade agreements between US and Russia as well as Russia's inclusion to the World Trade Organization, forced the company to close it website. RIAA (the same company that took American citizens to court for filesharing and fined millions of $) dropped their case against the Russian company (after being told that never would a single dime be paid to RIAA) Even today ALLOFMP3 is still trading, under a different name, using iTunes technology and no one is chasing them down...

    So, onto Patents,and the Trolls, such as Intellectual Ventures and Lodsys LLC. that acquire, purchase and bid on Patents for the sole purpose of suing others that may have some kind of tenuous patent right. Looking at some of the patents that Lodsys actually hold, they do cross the line into the complete ridiculous, such as an idea on how you could capture data on customers - was granted a Patent, even though Lodsys don't actually make or create anything! The recent Lodsys vs Adidas is a perfect example of where US Patent Law is so wrong and oppressive.

    Any company in this faceless digital age wants to know what they are doing online meets the needs of it customers, potential customers and anyway they can gain an insight into this, the better they can refine their products, offers or most importantly the online experience. Adidas used the well known ForeSee, to capture data from their users. Tried and trusted method you may think, although the templates are fairly ubiquitous, its the Marketing team that look for specific areas that they are looking to address, possibly from their web analytics or feedback from their customers. So this is why my back goes up when Lodsys, then not only "attack" Adidas, Best Buy, Sams Club etc... but they attack them for using a software application that has been written by ForeSee. Is it really the retailers that are at fault here? They have in good faith signed a deal with ForeSee to use their application to gain better insight of their customers. Lodsys does NOT own a patent on companies understanding their customers better, it just common knowledge and good business practice. Heck I'm gaining insight from my blogs by comments, feedback and traffic analysis - but because I'm not using a "form factor" that Lodsys says it owns (BUT NEVER DESIGNED OR BUILT) but on a few pieces of paper decided that this is the best way to capture data... 

    Perhaps I'm being too harsh on Lodsys, and I'm willing to go head to head with its founder, Daniel Abelow, to discuss the true meaning of "innovation" and "invention" of which they have none of in both cases. But I also lay blame squarely at the doorstep of the US Patent office for not only issuing the patents in the first place, by allowing more patents to be approved where they are nothing more than an idea or "bathroom thought". Now "just an idea" from a company like EMC, Apple, Microsoft, Google et al is absolutely fine in context as they companies ARE innovators, developers, manufacturers and we can make correlations to its products or services. For Abelow however he was smart enough to file a patent for something that is simple business sense, US Patent office was stupid enough to grant it.

    Now here we are in a no win situation where my company (EMC) along with others including Apple, Microsoft, Cisco & HP combined forces known as the "Rockstars" to bid on old patents to protect themselves from patent trolls like Lodsys and Intellectual Ventures to not only protect themselves from these insane litigations, but also their employees. So as we all continue to push forward innovation and invent new and interesting ways to consume, interact and deliver data and information - we are not at the mercy of the "bathroom idealist" that thinks they can make a quick buck on the back of a broken and perverse system that allows this type of bullying. 

    As with all blog writers, I had this drafted back in June / July after reading the initial case of Adidas vs Lodsys - since then President Obama has promised reform in the Patent world, and especially in the US - where the only real winners are lawyers and the trolls. The companies that invest billions in R&D, their employees and partnerships are the real victims here - and its such a shame that even now, I have friends that are making a living in developing for iOS, Android, RIM & Windows Phone - that are also now receiving legal bullying letters from Lodsys due to, in some cases, "in app purchase" If only Abelow was smart enough to actually conceive what the App store was going to be and develop it, along with the possibilities that this would produce from small entrepreneurial start ups and my friends that can make a reasonable living from developing apps such as Angry Birds then we may have an ounce of respect for him.

    As we stand on the true next significant change in our industry with cloud / virtualization and with mobility now delivering what we predicted and hoped for all those years ago... the only thing that is stopping us from really moving forward is the ghosts of patents past. Let's hope that Congress can pass the bill that outlaws and reforms patents based on tangible outcomes rather than whimsical ideology else we are doomed to be stuck in patent wars that will only ever amount to nothing but talk and litigation...

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