Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hello Vista, Goodbye Longhorn

David Coursey has an excellent piece on this announcement, with good background on the what Vista means in the market today. I disagree slightly with David though since I see Vista as an appropriate name for what they are doing with search and RSS subscriptions. As a higher vantage point enabling you to see the lay of the land, I get what they are after with the name. If they were to focus on the security aspects of the system, they would be lambasted by everyone - especially since there are still bound to be hiccups with security and patches along the way. If they tied the brand to such an issue, it would surely bite them in the ass eventually.

My thought is that it is merely intended to be different than Longhorn which carries too many negative connotations as it is due to the delays and constant scorn heaped on it by the open source and Linux communities. I bet they would have done it sooner, but were still unsure of the release date and did not want to have to change names twice prior to launch to ditch the tainted brand. The timing would seem perfect for them to start building up the hype and get most people's awareness away from the fact that Longhorn even existed. With the money they can put behind it, it should be a successfull plan.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Microsoft vs. Google Employment Suit Shows MS True Colors

So to start, I dont know all the details, but from what I have read over at ZDNet on the story it would seem that Microsoft is getting beat at its old game, and they are not happy about it. CNet also carried a good piece on the story.

While I am sure they believe they have some grounds to file the suit and they have better reasons to ensure that Kai Fu Lee does not share their latest strategic plans, this is really bad press for Microsoft. I know they are really not on the Cluetrain fully, but this is definitely a backwards step down the stairs they started to climb at Gnomedex with their Longhorn/RSS announcement.

As they fight so desperately to hold on to the proprietary world in which they were born, they are missing the bigger opportunity that the Web 2.0 world of openess provides. Can you perhaps imagine what would have happened if MS tried to be good to Kai Fu Lee? Perhaps he would treat them with respect and honor the non-disclosure provisions to the letter - but when you throw out the golden rule and treat someone with disrespect (as I have recently experienced in some of my dealings with a marquee client of my own) - you end up getting what you deserve, not what you want or need.

In putting myself in their shoes, I think I see the true motivation. It would seem that they are trying to use intimidation and threats of future suits via this precendent to prevent the swelling tide of big brains moving from Microsoft to Google from going any further. This will most likely backfire. What they really need to do is fix the problems with their recruiting efforts, get out from the ivory tower they built during the 80's and 90's, and realize that the world outside has changed - particularly in regards to the pursuit of talent nad keeping them engaged. Microsoft is no longer the best place to work in the world of technology for the brightest people - their continuing defiance of the PEOPLE has perhaps hurt them irreparably.

Reflective thoughts on AO Summit Chat

I agree with Steve Borsch in his post about the AlwaysOn Summit 2005 Chat - the biggest problem with the chat is that certain people (perhaps still holding bitterness over the dotcom crash, or perhaps as I suggested in my previous post they are just assholes) were behaving as if they were on the back of a high school bus with a very lenient bus driver. Identity is, more obviously now than ever, the foundation to responsible participation.

Not only did people randomly hit return to clear out the comments on screen and get their screen name to be prominent (which happened to several us of accidentally due to latency issues and command line interpretation by the client), but they were often belligerent and even stooping to making personal attacks on the clothing and hair styles of the speakers. Further, many spent so much time heckling that the good questions from the chatters (not bloggers as AO occasionally referred to us) would quickly disappear from the screen.

Tony and his team are quite sharp, and this certainly was a great experiment with many lessons learned. At the end of the conference, an AOSupport person let us know that they had captured 100 suggestions for improvement next year - I believe key among them being to require login through the AO Network in order to access the chat. This would be fantastic as we could really learn more about the people and what they were saying by checking on their profile. I must admit to feeling slightly embarrassed on the few times I actually posted my URL and often preferred to just say "go to my name dot com" - don't want to be pereceived as a spammer of some sorts.

That said, the overall chat experience for me was pretty good. By putting Insytes and ideas out there, I was able to engage with around a dozen serious (and newly found) comrades - this is in addition to who knows how many more readers and soon to be introduced friends who may have been lurking. More importantly, these ideas were seen by perhaps hundreds of my friends and other influentials in the industry who associated them to me personally. Who knows what will come from this?

Sad to say that I gained more from the chat room than some of the panels who still have tailored their talks to the VC's and slow moving industry execs that have not moved onto the edge of the 5th wave (ie Web 2.0). I for one am glad I did not spend the $2k to attend this year. From what the chatters in the audience shared - many presentations had many empty seats (but I have no confirmations on this). Too much of the information being presented was about things I already know (though you my dear reader and I have probably shared this same problem since 1st grade). There were some very poignant exceptions though, which I hope to organize over the weekend - in particular :

  • David Goldberg, VP and General Manager, Yahoo! Music

  • Marc Canter, Founder and CEO, Broadband Mechanics

  • Mark Fletcher, vice president & general manager, Bloglines at Ask Jeeves

  • Joe Kraus, Cofounder and CEO, JotSpot

  • Ross Mayfield, CEO, Social Text

  • Toni Schneider, VP, Yahoo Developer Network, Yahoo!

  • Doc Searls, Senior Editor, Linux Journal

  • Bob Sutton, Professor, Stanford University

  • Dan Gillmor, Founder, Grassroots Media Inc.

  • Rich Karlgaard, Publisher, Forbes]

  • Allen Morgan, Managing Director, Mayfield

Bottom line - chat could not have been all that bad despite those few detractors - after all, we met like minded people, discovered new ideas and Tony really made us feel as if we were a part of the conference - it really is open and participatory media! Way to go Tony Perkins!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

AlwaysOn is AlwaysCool

So the chatters redeemed themselves mostly over the past 2 days of the AlwaysOn Summit 2005 - some great ideas were shared and some real connections as well. I had only planned to attend a couple of sessions since I am so busy at the moment, but was really drawn by the community to participate more.

The remarkable thing though, was that most everyone behaved themselves in regards to spamming and self promotion. On occasion I was worried that my passion for these ideas may seem overzealous in that regards, but I really tried to stick with the knowledge sharing. Thanks to Tim Sanders for Love is the Killer App who reignited my passion for this way of life. And it is a way of life if you are serious about it - not that it isnt narcissitic in its own way, but at least it is with pure heart and intention - at least for me anyway.

If I get the time (which I probably won't given the workload), I will cull through the chat sessions and pull out some of the more salient points to expand upon further.

Am looking forward to seeing a photo of how the chat screen looked in the room down at Stanford...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Always Going to be Assholes in the World

In reviewing Insytes with some close associates, one of their chief concerns was that people would 'game' the system - to somehow infiltrate it with SpamBots and or other nefarious means. This I believe will not be much of a problem, but it is, as they say, it is certainly an arms race in which we must engage.

The bigger problem, as several friends recognized, is what to do with people who refuse to be responsible community members? What to do with the people who feel like attacking someone personally rather than earnestly discussing the thoughts and contributions on their merits? What to do with people who disregard the community focus and generally accepted standards?

Well, as my experience participating in the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit's backchannel chat last night proves once again, there are always going to be assholes in the world. People who would rather show off, insult others randomly and/or just behave garrishly take particular interest in open discussions where they can retain their anonymity and get attention for such behaviour. Since they personally don't feel responsible for what the anonymous persona says, their inhibitions dont exist and many are even induced by the opportunity to incite angry responses in others.

What this really means is that we just need to deal with assholes by creating community standards that dont tolerate such behaviour, and more importantly, in certain community settings, we unfortunately must do away with anonymous contributions. The challenge is to do so without restricting personal liberties and privacy. To me, it would seem that even with the right community standards in place, even in a system where such behaviour is not tolerated, people will still behave badly. For some people, it is just in their nature...

To be more specific about the inspiration for the post - while participating in the online chat component of the conference last night, I found that msot people did not want to talk about anything of importance related to the discussion. Perhaps 3-5 other users out of some 700 in the auditorium were trying to contribute to the conversation. Another dozen or so were just throwing insults and bravado to get their names up on the screen at the conference. Most people just lurked. Even Jason Calcanis who was on the chat early, ended up lurking for the remainder of the chat (or perhaps he just took off early since the topic matter was askew).

Regardless, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter - will there always be assholes in online communities? how to deal with them? how to differentiate between those wo simply dont know how to argue versus those with negative intentions?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The return of semi-rational exuberance

Was just following up on Marc Canter's post about the new GoingOn Network, which is very much a part of the vision of Insytes - but rather than focus on social and personal interactions, I am more interested in how we build a model of our collective intelligence. Perhaps we can end up working together with them more directly rather than just being another service that easily plugs into their DLA. Only time will tell... more thoughts on this later.

What inspired me to post this now was this piece on MySpace selling to NewsCorp for $580 Million. Echoing Marc's sentiments on this one fully - kudos to them and good luck in dealing with the corporate behemoth. I dont think this is full irrational exuberance yet, but with all this activity going on in upper echelons of uber-wealthy serial entrepreneurs all the way down to bootstrapped folks who are still in college - you can literally feel the energy shift. But the logic of such a hefty price can not be fully justified. To me it sounds like Rupert wanted them bad enough to pay pretty near the price they asked for, if not hitting it dead on. Will be interesting to see how the back story actually evolved. Regardless I want MySpace's attorney's representing Insytes if at all possible.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thoughts on the Model of Attraction

If you are reading this and are not familiar with Thomas Vanderwal as of yet you need to start paying attention to him and his body of work. I have known Thomas since mid 1999 when we met through the local Company of Friends in Washington, D.C. It seems kind of strange that some 6 years later here we are doing very similar work, but on the other hand it makes sense since we are both huge fans of user foucsed information architecture and experience design.

In preparation for speaking to him after his recent talk on the Personal InfoCloud at WebVisions 2005, I finally read most of his body of work which includes the Model of Attraction. We are in relative agreement on the major points he addresses, especially in regards to what he calls our Attraction Receptors, though I do have one additional metaphor which Thomas addresses indirectly.

I believe that in addition to the scent of information attracting and repulsing us, the information needs to taste good to us as we consume it. It must tickle the fancy of our minds by dancing on our own unique palate in order for us to really appreciate and assimilate the knowledge it contains fully. While the presentation must appeal to us visually, and the descriptors/summaries must sound good, it is the tonality, perspective and spine which must taste good.

From qualified research and even more anecdotal evidence, we know that some people require statistical data, others need stories and others are more balanced in order to best absorb knowledge. Further, we know some people want to get right to the point and others want to meander around the edges and get a broader feel for it. Additionally, we have to consider that some people are more emotional, ruled by their hearts and others are more judicious, ruled by their minds and logic. I first encountered this concept in the business world when selling advertising for New Times in Miami, FL. Patrick Flood was our ad director and he loved the numbers. I on the other hand, as you can tell by reading me, am a story lover. Patrick pointed this out to me in regards to reading people and adapting a sales pitch as necessary to get to the sale. I also have read a great deal about this in the works of Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar and Selling Power magazine. This is what I am referring to when I speak of information needing to taste good to our palate in order for us to get the most from it.

If a person does not like the taste of the information, they may simply stop consuming it, regardless of the intrinsic value. This is the brussel sprouts metaphor of knowledge - if you dont like the taste of brussel sprouts, then you wont consume it and you wont get those important nutrients contained inside. Just as if a particular post or article does not taste good and you can not suffer through it, you will not get the most from the valuable insights it offers.

Getting back to the Model of Attraction, I wanted to point out what I believe to be a fundamental error in perspective. As I understand it, Thomas speaks about the Personal InfoCloud following us, being attracted to us, which I only partially feel is true. I see it more as having the Personal InfoCloud available to us, carried around by us rather than seeing it as following us - but this is minute as I can easily concede that either would be correct though I am more fond of thinking as it being something we can carry around with us and access remotely.

He, and other Information Architects in the know, often speak about the need to put the user at the center of our focus and to think about the user's needs. However, in some of Thomas' work I have read and what I have heard in speaking with him, he refers to the information as being attracted to us rather than us being attracted to it. It seems to be me that this approach is information centric rather than user centric. To this end, I contend that the perspective for the Model Of Attraction, and the discussion about it, needs to shift to think of the user as being attracted to the information rather than the other way around.

I contend that the process actually should be thought of in different stages. First, we seek to discover information/knowledge based on our situational needs. Then in scanning through the available choices, we are attracted to certain items more than others based on a multitiude of factors. This includes first and foremost our current situation, then our past experience, levels of trust in the source, visual appeal of presentation and in the act of consuming/reading, how it tastes to us. We are attracted to information, which is the remote object of attention, the information is out there waiting for us to retrieve it and if we so choose to keep it within our Personal InfoCloud. While we do have quite a few ways in which the information now comes to us, rather than us going to get it, I contend that RSS feed aggregators and services like PubSub are merely serving as our agents, retrieving information on our behalf rather than thinking of it as information being attracted to us.

This is a relatively simple semantic argument, because I know Thomas means that the attraction is akin to magnetic attraction meaning that the user and the information become attracted to each other. Yet it is important for us to always think about such matters by being the user looking out rather than the other way around. All too often companies make this mistake with their information architectures and outbound communications. They are so entrenched in their organizational viewpoint, that the communications they create are reflective of how the organization looks at their world not how the world looks at their organization.

I make this argument, because we, as information presenters need to be mindful at all times of wearing the users shoes and not being so focused on the information itself. We must be consistent in order to truly embrace user centered design, and the power of language is one of the most telling and powerful tools in this endeavour. To this end, I contend that with a minor and consistent adjustment in semantics and perspective, that Thomas Vanderwal's Model of Attraction will be a foundational aspect of best practices in information architecture philosophy for many years to come.