Saturday, December 13, 2008

SpringSource In My Step


Since the news is starting to leak out, I'll make it official.

I'm honored to say that I've joined SpringSource as VP of Product Management.

Having left JBoss / Red Hat about 10 months ago for a little "Purposeful Risk-Taking", I've been able to lose 25 pounds, reconnect with family and friends, work at and then close down a social web startup, and help a great colleague and friend spin off some of the technology called SocialPass.

Over that time, I worked in an advisory role with a handful of companies including SpringSource, which gave me the chance to get to know Rod Johnson, Peter Cooper-Ellis, Adrian Colyer, Mark Brewer, Greg Schott, Herb Cunitz, Mitch Ferguson and some of the others at SpringSource. They really have a great team!

Having been in the middleware business for about a decade, I did a lot of homework on SpringSource. I discussed SpringSource’s opportunity with Peter Fenton (Benchmark), Kevin Efrusy (Accel) and Rob Bearden, of course. I talked with a variety of SpringSource customers, prospects, and partners and was simply amazed at how many applications are running on SpringSource technologies.

My assessment: If SpringSource stays true to what it stands for, executes well, and focuses on delivering real customer value, then we have a great opportunity ahead of us.

Bottom-line: I’m excited to join the SpringSource team and help them execute on their vision of delivering customer value by simplifying the development, deployment, and support of enterprise Java and Web applications.

It's great to have an added SpringSource in my step right before the holidays.
:-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Founder Factory

I spent this past Thursday at the Founder Factory event in Philly; hosted by the MAC Alliance and Philly Startup Leaders. The well-attended event was held at the World Cafe Live (a pretty cool venue) and highlighted local entrepreneurs, advisors, and investors.

A great mix of perspectives was provided by folks like Josh Kopelman, Steve Goodman, Gil Beyda, Lucinda Holt, and Bob Bickel who shared war stories on their most successful and not so successful experiences.

I especially liked the three Fishbowl sessions focused on DuckDuckGo, DropCard, and GoBYO.com. Basically, the founders of these young companies gave a 5-10 minute overview of the business to the audience and panel of experts. They then ended with a handful of questions for the panel in order to get their thoughts on their business idea, ways to scale their business and/or drive revenue, etc. Lots of great questions, dialog and ideas ensued. Will these businesses succeed? Only time will tell. Kudos to the founders for having the courage to open themselves (and their business babies) to the constructive criticism that these sessions are designed to provide.

Click here for Twitter coverage of the event

Click here for an official recap of the event by Blake Jennelle

I was excited to see the entrepreneurial spirit of Philly alive and well, and I look forward to more of these types of events in the future.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Transfer of Confidence

I learned very early in my career that the key to a successful sales process is:
Transfer of Confidence

Nobody likes feeling foolish. And when purchasing a strategic software solution, people are putting their reputations on the line. So, focusing on making them feel comfortable and confident that they are making the right decision is paramount.

This Transfer of Confidence technique applies much more widely than software sales, however. What is at the heart of the Treasury's rescue package strategy? Transfer of confidence.

To illustrate my point even further...what do you see when you look at the picture below of Barack Obama's first press conference since becoming President Elect?
I see a Transfer of Confidence. Rather than speak at the podium alone, Barack Obama chose to surround himself with his very smart and capable team. His implicit message? The quest for Change will be difficult, but we are not alone in this quest. We will succeed.

Transfer of Confidence is a powerful concept. It is not a gimmick to be toyed with. For it to work properly, you need to use it truthfully and wisely.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Don't Let The Sun [Microsystems] Go Down On Me

I got to thinking about Sun Microsystems after reading a Motley Fool article entitled "Meet the New Sun, Better Than the Old Sun":
"Sun Microsystems ain't what it used to be. Once a premier purveyor of enterprise-class Unix servers with a little bit of software on the side, the new Sun relies on virtualization-friendly blade servers, storage arrays, and open-source software. And that's probably a good thing... Big-iron server sales are dropping like hot potatoes. Sun's workstations haven't been much of factor for years."

I broached the above topic with a buddy of mine and we pondered ways that Sun could change their downward slide. Sun does indeed have an arsenal of hardware and software assets, but how long will it realistically take them to right the ship? Or do they need to be acquired in order to start heading in the right financial direction?

With that said...
what do you think of Apple as Sun's savior?

My initial reaction to this was...Apple's brand is all about shiny, elegant, and easy to use hardware and software objects, so how much of Sun's offerings would be worthy of the Apple brand? Let's assume the virtualization-friendly blade servers, storage arrays, and open-source software that Motley Fool mentioned above are worthy, how would such a move help Apple?

It would help Apple in its fight with Microsoft...on many fronts.

Part of Microsoft's strength has historically come from the sheer number of developers it has creating applications that target its platforms. I still crack up every time I watch the classic "Developers, Developers, Developers" Steve Ballmer video.

BUT...have you noticed the sea change that has happened over the past two years? I see nothing but oceans of Mac laptops at all the developer events going on. Apple has become the new cool for developers.

And if Apple, by acquiring Sun, was to inject some of its MOJO into Java...well that could inflict further pain on Microsoft. Moreover, an acquisition of Sun would position Apple nicely in the emerging cloud-platform market (see Microsoft's Azure Services Platform for where they're headed).

I, like many, would love to see the Sun rise again somehow. In these trying financial times, can they do it on their own, or do they need someone like Apple to get them through the difficult times?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Ain't Over 'til It's Over

Last night I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

by Yogi Berra

How many business deals have you lived through that you thought were signed, sealed, and delivered only to have the deal implode at the 11th hour?

Rather than hit my head against that same wall of pain over and over, I use Yogi's quote as a reminder to work every project, every deal all the way through the finish line. While some deals may still implode, at least it won't be because I took my eye off the ball before the last out was made.

Speaking of last out...the reminder for this post came from last night's World Series game. I am a long-suffering Phillies fan, and the fightin' Phils were looking to close out the Tampa Rays in the 5th game of the World Series. They were up 2 - 0 early on, but after 6 innings of cold, miserable driving rain, the game was
finally postponed in the 6th inning, tied at 2 - 2.

As of this writing, they're looking to finish the game tonight. Weather outlook? Cold, possible showers....and snow flurries.
Aarrgghh! The baseball gods are clearly pissed off about something.

Maybe I'll ask Yogi to put in a good word with the baseball gods, while I continue to root my team on: Let's Go Phillies!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sumo or Judo: What's Your Strategy?

Rather than take on bigger competitors head to head using a Sumo technique...

...I find it infinitely better to use distinctive competence as the leverage for a classic Judo move that flips the competition on its head.

Distinctive competence is the unique and valuable strength that sets you apart from the competition, and Judo is all about using leverage, speed, and agility to your advantage. Combining the two gives you the best shot at winning.

I use this Sumo vs. Judo analogy all the time. In my opinion, the Judo guy in blue is having far more fun than the small, scrawny [and likely frustrated] guy in the Sumo picture at the the top.

UPDATE: For Sumo enthusiasts...yes, I realize that Sumo is much more than brute force and requires leverage and speed like Judo. My business point lies within the memorable pictures above. A picture is worth a thousand words of detailed explanation. Which fight would you rather be in? :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Free Tribes Casebook

In support of his new book, Tribes, Seth Godin launched the accompanying FREE Tribes Casebook (I am a coauthor) which contains over 200 pages of great examples of Tribes.

My article, ROBLOX Virtual Playworld, can be found in the Tribes Casebook on pages 85 - 87.

Click here to Download the FREE TribesCasebook.pdf

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed contributing to it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Half Full

With the current financial crisis (and its collateral damage), it is indeed trying times for many these days.

What do I do to get through tough times?
Simple. I go for MAXIMUM COMFORT by wearing my favorite "Half Full" shirt, by Life is Good.

Half Full - Life is Good T-ShirtI find that simply wearing this shirt lifts my mood and the mood of others around me.

So if life is getting you a little down...take a deep breath and think "Half Full!"

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Is Inbound Marketing? A Great Path To 0 and 100!

Interesting question being asked on the HubSpot blog:
What Does Inbound Marketing Mean To You?

"Some use the term digital marketing, some online marketing, and still others -- particularly ourselves -- inbound marketing.
What do you make of these terms?
What does inbound marketing mean to you?"


Before I answer the question, let me list 2 key questions marketers are (or should be) asking themselves:
  1. How do I enable prospects and customers to find and interact with the unique value I have to offer?
  2. How do I convert those interested prospects into paying customers?

Related questions from the CEO / Business Owner would be:
  1. How do I reduce the costs of acquiring customers...to 0?
  2. How do I increase conversion rates...to 100%?
0 and 100 represent nirvana of course.

Inbound Marketing (which leverages the power and reach of the Internet) represents a modern approach to adjusting the dials/knobs that have an impact on answering these questions.

For example, increasing your number of website visitors and increasing the rate at which those visitors take your specific call to action (buy, download, etc.)... drives your costs towards 0...and conversion rates towards 100%.

So, with that said, my answer to "What Is Inbound Marketing?" is:

A Great Path To 0 and 100!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Meme(me)



From John:
1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture.
3. Post that picture with NO editing.
4. Post these instructions with your picture.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lawson Software CEO Did Not Just Say That, Did He?

I just stumbled across a PRECIOUS interview by ZDNet of Harry Debes, Lawson Software CEO, who claims:

Debes is clearly not a fan of Saas or cloud-computing:
"This on-demand, SaaS phenomenon is something I've lived through three times in my career now. The first time, it was called 'service bureaux'. The second time, it was 'application service providers', and now it's called 'SaaS'. But it's pretty much the same thing, and my prediction is that it'll go the same way as the other two have gone: nowhere."

"People are stupid. History has shown it repeats itself, and people make the same mistakes."

"The success of Salesforce.com, in my opinion, has to do with their product being good, not because it's SaaS."


Debes looked closely at the SaaS model, but found issues:
"as we did the maths, we realised we could get killed. It was going to take us seven to 10 years before we made any money. That's nonsense. So we reversed our plans."

"because all your costs are up front and your revenue is over a five-year period, the more you sell, the more you lose. You don't break even till the four-and-a-half-year mark, but here's a bigger problem: there's no guarantee that that customer is still going to be yours in four years' time."


Customers find the SaaS business case straightforward, so why don't you like it:
"Getting signed up as a SaaS customer is fast, but getting out is just as fast, whereas traditional software is like cocaine - you're hooked. It's too difficult and expensive to switch providers once you've invested in one. If it were easier to jump ship, a lot of people would've hit the eject button on SAP a long time ago."

"It isn't about locking people in. People lock themselves in....The cost of moving is too high...When the sunk costs have been fully depreciated, customers effectively run the software for free, thereafter. Whereas, if they went to Salesforce.com, it'd cost them a million a year because they're paying for ongoing licensing and maintenance."

One word comes to mind after reading this interview: Wow!


UPDATE ON SEP 30 2008:

Savio Rodrigues of InfoWorld Open Sources and IBM fame picked up on my post with his own take on Harry Debes' comments:
"Lawson's CEO refuses to give in to peer pressure"

Savio makes a good point that choosing SaaS as a model is a non-trivial business decision and should NOT be driven by peer pressure, market buzz, etc. Savio also states that "Hopefully we'll arrive at a solution to SaaS as a component of the overall software market."

I agree 100% that SaaS is a component of the overall software market (i.e. it's NOT a panacea).

My issue with Debes' comments above is how he states his case for why SaaS makes no sense for Lawson. He talks little about customers needs or value. He actually seems antagonsistic towards customers...he calls them stupid....and seems giddy at the prospect of locking them into a solution.

I get the math Savio, but unlike you...I do not extend kudos to Mr. Debes for what he said above.

Debes could have simply stated that using an expensive enterprise sales model to sell SaaS solutions is a recipe for disaster...from Lawson's perspective.

Companies like Salesforce.com and SugarCRM have a more cost effective sales model....out of necessity. If they had a fleet of enterprise sales reps, they would be out of business.

SocialPass In Action - TicketMaster Demo

Over the past few months, the Ringside Networks development team created a really cool piece of technology called SocialPass. SocialPass provides a very simple way for website owners and website developers to embed social capabilities within their existing website.

The video below provides a brief overview of SocialPass and then demonstrates how visitors to TicketMaster.com, for example, can use SocialPass to socially engage their their friends via email, Facebook, and Twitter in order to attend a concert together.


Bottom-line: The social web offers the opportunity to directly energize the people who care most about your unique value. And encouraging these people to spread the word with their trusted friends can yield powerful results.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Social Web Power Quote: Hyundai

Eric D’Ablaing of Hyundai states:

"We need to think about giving the users
the ability to connect with one another,
which is the real interactivity of using the Web.
This will allow
brands to be the connection point
between two or more parties

and not just a connection point to the brand."


Businesses that enable their website visitors to actively engage in social activities around their content (ex. ask friends to go to a concert with them, help them decide what to buy, take advantage of a compelling "deal of the day", or share recipes and compare tastes) stand to learn a lot about who their brand advocates and superconnectors are.

The social web offers the opportunity to energize the people who care most about your unique value. Enabling [and encouraging] these people to spread the word with their trusted friends can yield powerful results.

Source of Hyundai Quote:
Measuring the Influence of SocialMedia, Digital Influence Group

Monday, September 22, 2008

Social Web Power Quotes: Hasbro and Jupiter Research

Anne Marie Kroisi of Hasbro states:

"I think it will just be a natural way for
the next generation of purchasers to
share with their peers
, share product reviews,
share ideas, talk to people."


Marketing professionals focused on consumers at retail and brand websites are beginning to understand that social influence plays a big part in both consumer brand sentiment and online [and offline] sales.

Ms. Kroisi's quote really takes shape when paired with the following statistic from Jupiter Research:

"Social network users are
3 times more likely
to trust peer opinions
over advertising when making purchasing decisions"


So while acquiring website visitors via Google or Yahoo search ads is the norm today, it appears acquiring targeted visitors based on people and their relationships can be much more powerful...if done properly.

Enabling your website visitors to leverage the power of the social web directly on your website is one way to encourage people to interact with their friends around your unique content and brand.

Source of Hasbro Quote:
TNS Media Intelligence Report

Source of Jupiter Research Quote:
Measuring the Influence of SocialMedia, Digital Influence Group

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Social Web Power Quote: BabyCenter

Tina Sharkey of BabyCenter states:

"A brand is not what a company says about its product.
It’s what a friend tells a friend."

Social destination sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, and FriendFeed are enabling connected consumers to shape brands...with or without official brand involvement.

Many brands are realizing they need to understand how to participate in the Groundswell, as Forrester describes it. I agree with Forrester that it is important for brands to spend time on the social destination sites and engage consumers in whatever way is appropriate.

I also believe that it is critical for brands to figure out how to make their own websites social. I am not necessarily talking about adding Forums and Blogs to the website. If that makes sense for the brands, then they should do that.

I am talking about socializing the actual web pages and content that consumers interact with directly. Facilitating friend-to-friend connections and conversations around specific website content helps consumers get valuable input from friends...which directly impacts brand value.

Source of Quote:
TNS Media Intelligence Report

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is Lehman Failure Equivalent to Katrina's Levees?

Wall Street was mauled today by the news that Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy, Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch, and AIG stock price off 60% on financial market fears.

While I am inherently an optimistic guy, I can't help but equate Lehman to one of the first levees to break during Katrina. After the first couple of levees broke, there was a disastrous domino effect that remains fresh in people's minds today.

So, I am hopeful that the AIG levee is somehow bolstered by the Fed this week. If AIG is spared, what other AIG's are out there that we need to worry about? Hint: look at the companies heavily into Lehman and Merrill and some of the other heavily distressed financials.

If AIG falls this week, then we really may have a Katrina effect on our hands.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Red Hat Acquires Qumranet: Tactical or Strategic?

I just saw the news that Red Hat acquired Qumranet for $107M:
"The acquisition includes Qumranet's virtualization solutions, including its KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) platform and SolidICE offering, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which together present a comprehensive virtualization platform for enterprise customers."

While the price seems a little high, this is not a surprising move since Red Hat leverages libvirt as its pluggable hypervisor layer that supports Xen, KVM, and other virtualization technologies. This move now gives Red Hat much more control over KVM, offsetting their relative lack of control over Xen, for instance.

This announcement begs the following question, however:

Is this a strategic or tactical move by Red Hat?

My initial reaction is that while virtualization is arguably a strategic capability, this move by Red Hat feels very tactical and inward-facing (i.e. garner more control over KVM). And while the SolidICE appears to be really cool desktop virtualization technology, I fear it will get lost within what has been a very confusing Red Hat desktop strategy.

OK, so if I don't consider this move strategic, then what kind of strategic move would I advise Red Hat to make?

Red Hat is strong on the server with both RHEL and JBoss/Metamatrix, but they are generally weak in management of that stack. Yes, they have Red Hat Network, JBoss Operations Network, and other technologies, but their management story is incomplete and tactical in execution.

A strategic move would be for Red Hat to acquire both Virtual Iron and Hyperic.

This would give them impressive management capabilities....across virtualization, networks, storage, middleware, databases, etc.

Would my suggestion cost Red Hat more than $107M? Of course it would. But it would establish Red Hat as a real player in the management software market in a way that complements their leadership positions in the server operating system and middleware markets.

Those are my 2 cents. I'd love to hear from you if you disagree or have other strategic suggestions for Red Hat.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Google Reader In Action

In response to my "10 Tips for Listening and Sharing on the Web" article, I received many requests from people who wanted more details on how to get started with Google Reader. Some people were having problems subscribing to certain RSS feeds. They asked me to create a video that shows how to get started with Google Reader in 5 minutes or less.

So, by popular request, click on the image below to go to my Google Reader In Action video:

Google Reader In Action
The video above was recorded using Jing, "the always-ready [FREE] program that instantly captures and shares images and video…from your computer to anywhere." It's made by TechSmith, the same people who created SnagIt, Camtasia Studio, and Screencast.com.

NOTE: This was my first official recording using Jing, so let me know what you think.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Genie In The Bottle

Interesting Harvard Business Publishing article entitled "What Apple Knows That Facebook Doesn't". Umair Haque wrote the article and contends that markets, networks, and communities "are strategic weapons of shock and awe". And his thinking on platforms is that "the most useful way to think about platforms today is simply as markets."

The article contends that Apple's iPhone 3G platform is not about a platform to be manipulated, but rather a market to be made. The iPhone's App Store is at the heart of that statement; it's the genie in the bottle with potential for great magic. Apple and its partners are able to bring products to market in a way that provides value to consumers.

On the other hand, Umair thinks Facebook has effectively let its genie OUT of the bottle by focusing on making Facebook a platform instead of a market. "If advertisers are subsidizing apps for people, Facebook's market will always be distorted - because advertisers need consumers more than consumers need advertisers today."

This implies that Facebook partners (ex. app developers) are limited in how they can participate in a way that truly provides value to consumers. Moreover Facebook appears to be trying to put the genie BACK IN the bottle by identifying and highlighting great applications; this move could cause a negative backlash by app developers and Facebook users if not handled properly.

If Facebook spent some significant time thinking about how they can extend the reach of their platform so that it provides value to lots of websites (not just Facebook.com) and visitors to those websites (not just Facebook users), then that could be a powerful genie. Facebook Connect is a step in that direction, but it still feels too much "platform" and not enough "market".

I do not want to imply that platforms are unimportant; you just need to structure them properly so the market potential is optimal. Google, for instance, has built a platform (i.e. Indexing and Search) upon which an Adwords ecosystem flourishes.

On a related note, this platform vs. market thinking got me thinking about open source business models. In Matt Asay's "Sifting open-source wheat from the chaff", he rightly points out that paid-for support of open source technologies "is not a compelling enough argument for most would-be buyers".

While open source technology and support can provide the basis for a core platform and business, it is the commercial, differentiated offerings built on top of and around that core that drives the enduring market opportunity for customers, vendors, partners, etc. Easy to say, but in may cases hard to do, since it requires a delicate balance.

As Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat states: "If the open-source movement, now in its second decade, is to realize its promise for vendors and investors, more of its purveyors will need to get the message soon."

Bottom-line: Thinking in terms of platforms and markets helps ensure business plans are designed to keep the proverbial genie in the bottle...the results of which can be quite magical. A bottle without a genie...is just a bottle.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Professor ROBLOX: Class In Session

KidsLike.info has been reviewing various systems designed to teach kids programming, such as Scratch, Alice, Greenfoot, Python, and Java. As I've mentioned previously, Randy Pausch helped launch the Alice project as a way to "pay it forward and shape the lives of lots of future programmers.

ROBLOX offers the same potential as Alice and KidsLike.info agrees. Further, they left a comment on one of my ROBLOX-related posts asking if I could post some of my son's code in order to help other young people understand what ROBLOX code actually looks like. Great idea! I brainstormed with my son and he offered up the following short snippet of code that shows how he makes it easy to explode things within the ROBLOX world:

-- Scripts for creating, placing, and exploding bombs.

bin = script.Parent
local player = bin.Parent.Parent

-- Create a bomb where you clicked. Keep a reference to it so you can explode it later.
function onButton1Down(mouse)
mouse.Icon = "rbxasset://textures\\GunWaitCursor.png"
if (player.Character.Head.Position - mouse.Hit.p).magnitude < 50 then
local P = Instance.new("Part")
P.Name = "Bomb"
P.Size = Vector3.new(1,1,1)
P.Anchored = true
P.Position = mouse.Hit.p
P.BrickColor = BrickColor.new(26)
P.Parent = player.Character

mouse.Icon = "rbxasset://textures\\GunCursor.png"
end
end

-- When you press q, explode all the bombs you created and watch all the stuff explode!
function onKeyDown(key)
key = string.lower(key)

if key == "q" then
local g = player.Character:children()
for i = 1,#g do
if g[i].Name == "Bomb" then
local a = Instance.new("Explosion")
a.Parent = game.Workspace
a.Position = g[i].Position
wait(0.1)
g[i]:Remove()
end
end
end
end

-- Bomb tool selected. Hook in my own function for ButtonDown and KeyDown.
function onSelected(mouse)
print("Action Tool Selected")
mouse.Icon = "rbxasset://textures\\GunCursor.png"
mouse.Button1Down:connect(function() onButton1Down(mouse) end)

mouse.KeyDown:connect(onKeyDown)
end

bin.Selected:connect(onSelected)

ROBLOX is an event-based system that leverages Lua as the programming language. In the code snippet above, my son overrides the default events (i.e. onButtonDown, onKeyDown, etc.) and plugs in his own EXPLOSIVE extensions.

The code above essentially enables you to click anywhere to plant bombs wherever you want them, and then press the 'q' key to invoke your mayhem.

Good fun...good fun. :-)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who's the BOSS? JBoss ESB and Drools, of course!

InfoWorld recently awarded the Best of Open Source Software Awards 2008 (aka the 2008 InfoWorld Bossies).

Last year, JBoss garnered awards for JBoss Seam and JBoss Rules (aka Drools).

This year, JBoss continues its winning tradition.

JBoss Drools wins for the second year in a row, achieving top honors as the Best Business Rule Management System:
" is a worthy rival to leading enterprise competitors Blaze Advisor and JRules, but is available free under the Apache open source license. It combines a very fast runtime engine, a full-featured rule repository, excellent Eclipse-based developer tools, and support for Excel-based decision tables, allowing rules to be written and maintained by business analysts. The developer group is large, and the project moves fast. Drools even has one feature the market leaders lack: the capability to import rules from almost any other BRMS."


JBoss ESB garners an impressive victory as the Best Enterprise Service Bus:
"Part of the JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform that combines process orchestration supporting BPEL and jBPM, security and registry services, and the Drools rules engine, bolsters integration and service mediation with transformation and content-based routing, business rules and policy management, and both service- and human-based workflow. There's room for improvement in areas like adapters and change management, and some of the SOA suite's functionality currently requires third-party add-ons. But JBoss is already busy on improvements."

Kudos to the JBoss ESB and JBoss Drools communities for showing who's the BOSS!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Do Blog Post Titles Matter?

I am conducting an [arguably unscientific] experiment to see how subtle title changes can greatly affect how much attention a blog post receives. While my experiment is still in process, I've actually seen enough to share my results.

On Tuesday July 22, I posted an article entitled:
"Product Management Tips for Listening and Sharing"

On Saturday August 1, I posted the same article using the title:
"10 Tips for Listening and Sharing on the Web"

The content of the posts were identical except for how I formatted the 10 bullets. In the first, I used regular bullets and in the second I used numbered bullets.

While the "10 Tips..." post has only been out for a couple of days, it has already generated 5 times the number of readers as the original post. This is impressive since I really tried to stack the deck against it. For example, I posted it on Saturday morning (weekends get the lowest number of readers), whereas the original post went out on a Tuesday (which typically generates the highest readership).

So, why the big difference?

Read 7 Reasons Why Numbered Blog Post Titles Work for some of the rationale.

I agree that numbered titles are more appealing. I also think the original title appealed to a more specific audience (i.e. product managers) whereas the "10 Tips..." title appeals to anyone interested in listening and sharing on the web.

Bottom-line: Titles do matter! So, if you're going to spend time creating a blog post or writing an article, devote a few extra cycles on creating a title that will grab the attention your effort deserves.


Interested In More Blogging Tips?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Friend Jon: The Flip-Flopper

My buddy Jon Maron posted his first article on his new blog. He's declared to the world that he's a flip-flopper and proud of it!

I encourage you to read Jon's "I am a flip-flopper". It's timely (due to the current presidential race) and timeless (people change their minds every day).

Above image licensed under the free Creative Commons Attribution License.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

10 Tips for Listening and Sharing on the Web

In my recent article Product Managers: Chief ***holes or Value Creators?, I stated: For both proprietary and commercial open source software, the Product Manager needs to focus on creating a product that people will actually buy! And to do that, the Product Manager needs to listen to the market in order to understand their Buyers and Users.

So how can a Product Manager (or any business owner for that matter) be as efficient and effective as possible listening to the market? And how can they easily share the information they gather with other stakeholders interested in learning and understanding?

Below is a list of FREE tools/websites/tips I currently use for Listening and Sharing as part of my daily routine. Please note that RSS Feeds are at the heart of my system. If you are new to RSS, please read: Google Reader Help Center: What is a feed? What does it mean to subscribe? Also note that these tools do not replace but add information (in an automated, scalable manner) that complements my usual face to face/phone/email conversations with customers, prospects, partners, coworkers, etc.

1. Key Websites: Start off by creating a list of the best sources of online information (news, articles, opinions, blogs, online communities, industry analyst sites) for your product's industry, buyers, users, key influencers, etc. If you are drawing a complete blank, start with Alltop, which attempts to collect "all the top" stories across the web. Be sure to ask others (including some of your customers) what sites they read. Try to make a NICE BIG LIST and always keep your eyes and ears open for new sites to add to your list. You can always trim the noise and useless sources of information later. Be sure to include any public forums or online communities (ex. Facebook Groups) that are engaging in discussions related to your areas of interest.

2. Google Reader: Subscribe to as many of your Key Websites as possible using an RSS Feed Reader. I use Google Reader which is free and easy. Any good reader will do. If you don't already use an RSS Reader (ex. you subscribe to email alerts instead), then I strongly suggest you move this task out of Email and use RSS Feeds instead! Why? Because email is an inflexible closed system that is already likely overloaded; whereas RSS Feeds are designed to enable you to more easily GATHER, ORGANIZE and SHARE articles that you find useful with others. More details below on how I use Google Reader.

3. Google News and Blog Search: Your list of Key Websites is not enough. You need to identify the key terms for your area of focus and setup RSS Feeds from Google News and Google Blog Search (and any other useful search sites; such as Technorati) for the various search criteria that you want to track. You will likely setup multiple feeds across your search criteria (ex. your product, your competitors products, key industry terms, etc.). This is not an exact science, so it's OK to tweak your terms and recreate your feeds until you get a good flow of information going!

4. Delicious Social Bookmarking: While you can use the organization and favoriting features built into Google Reader, I prefer to use Delicious to store and organize my bookmarks. Click here to learn about Delicious and Social Bookmarking. The Delicious Toolbar Buttons (Bookmarklets) make the process of creating bookmarks easy. I use tags to help me organize my bookmarks. For example, look at my Ringside Networks Delicious page to see my favorite articles, and click on the "Recommended" tag to see how it displays only those articles tagged as "Recommended". If you don't like Delicious, Magnolia is another social bookmarking site worth considering. More details below on how I use Delicious.

5. Small and Shareable Links: Sometimes you want to share a link to an article that has a really long URL. I use TinyURL for turning long URLs into teeny-tiny URLs. So, http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/blogs/productmarketing becomes http://tinyurl.com/2vzwqp. Be sure to setup the TinyURL Toolbar Button which makes creating a TinyURL just one click away. NOTE: I use TinyURL when I need a short URL and don't mind obfuscating (hiding) the original URL. I tend NOT to use TinyURL when I want/need to use the real links (ex. when referring to pages on my company website, I want to keep track of other sites that link to pages on my website).

6. Social Media Firehose: The Social Media Firehose leverages Yahoo Pipes to tap into what people are saying and sharing across the realm of Social Media (ex. Flickr, Twitter, Friendfeed, Digg, etc.). It's as simple as plugging in your search terms, any sites you want excluded from the search, and clicking Run Pipe. After the search runs, simply add it as a feed to your reader in order to track the conversations happening on the Social Web. For those interested in just searching Twitter conversations, Summize (now Twitter Search) is a good tool for doing just that.

7. Forums and Online Communities: If your company offers a User Forum or if you are aware of any independent forums focused on your area of interest, then you may want to subscribe to a feed focused on the the topic areas you are interested in. For example, the Ringside Networks forums are at http://forums.ringsidenetworks.org/ and I tune into the User Forums rather than the Developer Forums. When I was at JBoss, I also subscribed to the User Forums.

8. Social Following and Aggregation: If you have a handful of key people whose commentary you like to follow closely AND who use Friendfeed to aggregate their blogs, twitters, and other social activities, then you should create an account on Friendfeed and follow them. You can also subscribe to your Friendfeed feed within your reader, if you want.

9. Website and Content Analytics: Inbound Marketing (where you help yourself "get found" by people learning about and shopping in your industry) is an important process for small to midsize companies to understand. Since CONTENT is the fuel for the Inbound Marketing machine, it is critical for Product Managers and Product Marketers to understand who's viewing the content on their website, how they are finding the content, how often they are viewing, etc. Why? Because if you're going to spend time creating content, you should use tools to measure how successful / useful that content actually is. At JBoss, we used Eloqua and SalesForce.com as key components of our "marketing machine". We're a much smaller company at Ringside Networks, so I use Google Analytics to analyze website traffic, and I've been considering HubSpot to help me get fancier with improved search engine optimization, etc. HubSpot also offers two FREE tools worth mentioning: Website Grader and Press Release Grader. Both provide a nice summary of what's working and what can be improved. Finally, SEO Pro's Link Checker is a useful free tool that analyzes who is linking to your pages. Just plug in your link and after a little while it will list all of the places that link is referenced.

10. Private Wiki / Intranet: For the files and information that can not be stored publicly, leverage your corporate intranet or create a protected section off of your wiki. My main point here is for you to MOVE THE FILES AND INFORMATION THAT EXIST ONLY ON YOUR LAPTOP INTO AN ACCESSIBLE PLACE! Why? Because people get hit by busses. People leave companies. Other people could benefit from information you have...if it wasn't locked up on your laptop. Yes, you will need to keep some information private and on your laptop. For all of the other useful information, give it wings and make it free! At JBoss and Red Hat, I stored most of my useful yet private information on our Private Wiki (behind our firewall). NOTE: You can still leverage Social Bookmarking for links to files that are on your Intranet. Just remember that only fellow employees who have access will be able to view the documents; all others will get an error accessing the link.

So that's my list of tools and websites use for listening and sharing. Since Google Reader and Delicious are tools that I use day in and day out, let me go into a little more detail on how I use these important tools.

How do I use Google Reader?
Let's start with a screenshot of my Google Reader at this very moment:

On the left, you will see that I have my Feeds organized into Folders (ex. Analysts, Product Management, Marketing, Ringside Networks, etc., etc.). This helps me organize the flow of information and enables me to keep on top of the more important folders (ex. keep their unread counts near zero).

So while I'm drinking my morning coffee, I read through they key areas and do a quick triage on the other folders to see if anything else is worth spending time on. If I want to flag an article for followup, I click on the Star in Google Reader, which adds it into the Starred Items list. I use this list as a lightweight way to keep track of links that I'd like to chew on for a while (ex. articles I may refer to in one of my future blog posts).

UPDATED: In response to requests for a "how-to" video, I posted "Google Reader In Action" which shows how to get started with Google Reader in less than 5 minutes. The video walks you through subscribing to search results on Google News, Google Blogs, and the Social Media Firehose.

How do I use Delicious?
Whenever I come across a web page or article worth bookmarking and sharing, I use the Delicious Toolbar Buttons to save a link to the article. I usually specify a one or two sentence description as well as one or or more tags.

More interestingly, I use Delicious to automagically populate the Recommended Reading section of the Ringside Networks Social Business web page.

How does this work? I leverage the Delicious Linkrolls feature to show just the articles with the the Delicious "Recommended" tag within a specially formatted list. I also use this feature to keep track of notable mentions of Ringside Networks by the media. See the Ringside Networks Media Coverage section of the Ringside News page as well as the Delicious "RingsideBuzz" tag to see how this works.

What About Online Talking?
The list above is focused on online Listening and Sharing. I intentionally did not cover tools for online Talking (ex. Blogs, Wikis, Forums, IRC, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) since I believe people should get good at Listening and Sharing before making the leap to Talking. If you just can't wait to get started Talking, then I suggest you create a blog and post to it on at least a weekly basis. Also post comments in response to other people's blogs and articles, as well as answer questions on Forums.

UPDATED: For a good overview of why you should blog and how to go about it, read Gopal Shenoy's "Five reasons why I blog and my eight blogging recommendations".

How Are You Listening and Sharing?
Are you using any of the tools I mentioned above? If so, how are they working out for you? If not, what are you using? I'm always looking for tools that help me work smarter, so if you have any goodies, please share.

References
For your convenience, here is a list of the various tools and websites that I mentioned above:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Social Web Example: ROBLOX Virtual Playworld

In prior posts, I provided a definition of social web as well as how household-name businesses such as Jeep and Nike are embracing the social web in order to more closely engage their respective communities of passion.

In this post, I'd like to focus my attention on the intersection of the social web and online virtual worlds. While I find the recent news about 3D virtual worlds interesting, the highlighted examples such as Vivaty, Google’s Lively project, and the Electric Sheep Co.’s WebFlock feel a little empty and unremarkable from a "meaningful interactions" perspective.

I consider ROBLOX Virtual Playworld a much better example to explore. Why? Because it is an online destination that not only satisfies kids' social and entertainment needs but also addresses their hunger for creativity and learning.

To get a better feel for what ROBLOX is all about, just view the following video which illustrates ROBLOX in action:

Click here to view this video on YouTube.

ROBLOX enables 100's of thousands of kids to interact and play within virtual worlds while learning design, engineering, science and programming. I find the educational aspects so remarkable that I wrote a post earlier this year stating that ROBLOX was grooming our future open source developers.

Since that post, my son has spent countless hours designing, building, and scripting his own customized virtual worlds. For example, he created a very popular Baseball Stadium where you can almost smell the grass on the field while having fun throwing, fielding, and hitting the baseball. It is a modern stadium complete with hot dog stands and a giant blimp hovering over it.
He spends a lot of time using the ROBLOX Studio development environment PROGRAMMING the behavior of the elements/objects within his worlds. For example, he creates complex 3D behaviors within the world by calling mathematical functions that enable the bat, for example, to swing at a wide variety of angles rather than just back and forth. He also adjusts the impact on the ball so that it bounces off at varying speeds.

He leverages the "social" features of the site (beyond the Forum, Wiki, and Blog) including "friending" other people on the site, sending email-like messages to each other in order to ask and answer questions, chatting online while playing within a particular world, voting for "favorite places", etc.

Using my 7 Key Attributes of Social Web Applications, I think ROBLOX scores pretty well. Every user has an Identity; the information is not rich likely due to the fact that we are dealing with kids so onlineprovacy is important. Their Reputations are based on how they conduct themselves online as well as the quality of the places and/or scripts they create. They don't offer much in the way of Presence. People can strike up Relationships with eachother, but not nearly as robust as what you get on sites like Facebook. You can't really Group your friends as far as I can tell. Conversations happen via Forums, chat, and their built in email/messaging system. And Sharing happens all the time since people can share objects, scripts, places, etc.

ROBLOX Business Model
Standard membership in ROBLOX is free and provides the ability for kids to receive an avatar, play within the worlds, as well as design, build, and save a single place of their own. ROBLOX also offers Builders Club which is a premium service that gives kids the ability to create and manage multiple places. It also enables players to earn ROBLOX currency (called "ROBUX") which can be used to purchase premium items in the ROBLOX catalog that enable much greater customization of avatars and interactive creations. I like the fact that ROBLOX offers a free way for kids to get started and then charges extra for increased value.

Bottom-line: ROBLOX provides a great example of how combining the social web and online virtual worlds provides value beyond entertainment and social interactions. As they say on their website, ROBLOX believes "in the theory that kids learn best by making things - by engaging in the creative and complex process of imagining, designing, and constructing. Provide them with a safe and nurturing place to build, give them the requisite tools, and let them play."

NOTE: ROBLOX has a great web page for parents who want to learn more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

i-legions Commits Brand Suicide?

I stumbled across an article by Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet that illustrates the art of brand suicide in this day and age of the social web:

‘Branded community’ leads to trademark morass

Basically, Jennifer received a cease and desist letter from i-legions claiming that her use of the phrase "branded community" constitutes trademark infringement. Denise Howell of ZDNet commented on this issue and provided a good link regarding Trademarks.

Legalese aside, what makes this situation precious is the irony involved.

i-legions is "The only company whose Branded Communities® generate real revenue as they enhance user interaction with your brand".

The letter from i-legions was specifically in response to an article entitled "Enterprise communities: build or join?" which highlights Mzinga, a provider of online communities and social networks for businesses. One could say they help companies build "branded communities".

That means...Mzinga...is....a competitor. Aha, now I get it!

So rather than compete on the value of their solution, i-legions' recipe for social web success is to legally govern what people can and can't say. Do I have that right? Well, that makes perfect sense since i-legions, after all, is "The only company whose Branded Communities® generate real revenue...".

So, while i-legions positions themselves as social web leaders and brand experts, I hope their advice to their prospective customers regarding this issue is to "do as I say and not as I do".

SIDE NOTE
Trademark infringement is an important issue to understand, and I am on record regarding the importance of protecting trademarks. See my What Do You Stand For? post regarding the Hibernate trademark.

This i-legions situation, however, is not about infringing on an established product name, company logo, etc. Instead it appears focused on someone's ill-informed desire to govern the "descriptive fair use of words in the English language" (i.e. not trademark infringement)...especially by [or in reference to] their competitors.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Goodbye Randy Pausch

Last August 2007, Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. His doctors estimated that he had 3 to 6 months to live.

After almost a year, the sad day has finally come. WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh reported this morning that:

CMU Professor Randy Pausch Has Died

Carnegie Mellon posted "An Enduring Legacy: Randy Pausch Inspired Millions" that summarizes Randy's life and legacy.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled "Randy Pausch: Find and Follow Your Passion" that described the key lessons that resonated with me after reading Randy's book (The Last Lecture) and viewing the various YouTube videos of his speeches and interviews; read my article for links to his book and YouTube videos.

I am among millions of people who have been inspired by Randy's story over the past year or so.

In his 6 minute commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon this past May, he described the importance of Finding and Following Your Passion:


In reference to his terminal condition, he stated:
"We don't beat the grim reaper by living longer. You beat the reaper by living well and living fully. For the reaper will come for all of us. The question is what do we do between the time we're born and the time he shows up. Because when he shows up, it's too late to do all the things you always wanted to get around to..."

To make his point more urgently and succinctly, he uses a cliche (he likes cliches):
"It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not."

Goodbye Randy Pausch and Thank You for sharing and preserving your life lessons for all to continue to enjoy long into the future.

You will be missed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wrapping My Head Around Microsoft Live Mesh

In late April, I started seeing interesting articles regarding Microsoft's Live Mesh that were stating that Microsoft "is bringing its developers onto the Internet in an interesting new way" with Live Mesh. My gut was telling me that this was important stuff, but I did not have the time to dig in.

In May, my gut started rumbling again after Matt Asay (whom I'm a big fan of) posted "Where did Microsoft's ambition go?". The key parts of his post that stuck with me were:
"Microsoft does need ambition on the web....makes me think the company has too much cash to be able to see a future where it's largely irrelevant, awash in tablets but a nonentity on the web that stitches them together."

No offense Matt, but based on my experience over the past two decades, one should never, ever count Microsoft out. Ever. Remember OS/2, remember Netware, remember Netscape?

Since I've been spending the better part of this year focused on the Social Web, I left myself a todo to spend some time figuring out Live Mesh, especially after reading the "Full text of Ray Ozzie Mesh Memo". The quote that stuck with me was:
"Community on the web once meant “group communications”, largely through rudimentary tools such as email, IM and IRC, message boards and newsgroups. Today, the action has shifted toward using composite communications tools and platforms that mash together content, applications and commerce, all within the context of group interaction. These social platforms are altering the way we connect and coordinate, establish identity and affinities, and build reputation."

That quote showed me that Microsoft (or at least Ray Ozzie) gets it! So, if Microsoft is able to execute on this vision, they will resurrect themselves once again.

Anyhow, over the weekend I finally spent time on my todo. I came across a very informative video by Ori Amiga from Microsoft that really helped me understand Microsoft's Live Mesh strategy and MOE (the Mesh Operating Environment). In the hour-long "Programming the Mesh" video, Ori shows a number of demos covering the native Mesh feeds, applications using Mesh, a Silverlight client that supports working on and offline, a custom Facebook application that syncs Facebook photos with Live Mesh, a Mac client that sends photos to Live Mesh, and LINQ queries over Mesh objects.

Pretty...cool...stuff.

I also read an article by Steve Gillmor on TechCrunchIT , where he stated that Microsoft Live Mesh is "essentially a rewrite of Notes replication over open protocols with FeedSync combined with an atomization of social media primitives into a new platform on which to build applications that are identity rather than hardware or native OS-centric. Today, we see Live Mesh as about virtualizing files from the containing device over a Web hub, but at a deeper level, the Mesh is as much an information router as a bit traffic cop. How to act on the data becomes more strategic than the underlying job of moving things around to follow the user."

It is great to see that Microsoft realizes the importance of weaving basic social primitives into the experience of the users of their platforms. You can be sure that I will be following the progress of Live Mesh as it continues its rollout over the coming quarters.

Bottom-line: I just knew when I joined Ringside Networks that we were at the center of something pretty big. Folks like Google and Facebook get it...and what I've seen of Live Mesh, I believe Microsoft gets it as well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Product Managers: Chief Assholes or Value Creators?

I was interviewed recently regarding the similarities and differences of the role of Product Management within proprietary software, commercial open source software, and community open source software settings. We actually used the Pragmatic Marketing Framework - which I know and love - to guide the discussion.

While there are indeed some differences between proprietary and open source models (which I'll cover in a future post), the Product Management fundamentals are pretty much the same. Moreover, the main point that I made was:

For both proprietary and commercial open source software, the Product Manager needs to focus on creating a product that people will actually buy! Plain and simple.

I actually have a quote I use as an internal mantra that helps ensure I stay focused on creating valuable products that solve real customer problems:

"Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one..."

My point here is that a Product Manager needs to check their OPINIONS at the door. Any Product Manager that starts off a feature discussion with "in my humble opinion" runs the risk of being...you guessed it...the Chief Asshole.

While some may strive [and deserve] that lofty title, I'd rather be known as a Value Creator who focuses on solving problems and driving real value for my customers, partners, community, company, coworkers, and investors.

Moreover, since the Product Manager communicates with a wide range of people - both internally and externally - it is important his/her decisions are based on well founded information.
Above is an ugly diagram that I've used over the past decade to illustrate the various conversations a Product Manager has to handle over the course of a product's lifecycle. So, the Product Manager has the opportunity to make a BIG [positive or negative] impact on the success of a company.

Another one of my favorite internal dialog quotes comes from Jerry Seinfeld:

"Who are these people??!!"

For any new product offering, one of the first places I focus is on understanding and documenting the Buyer Personas. After all, how the heck are you going to create real value for customers if you don't know who's buying? User personas, while not the same, are also useful to understand. UPDATED: Here's a good article covering the difference between the two: "Buyer Personas And User Personas"

Understanding who these people are provides a solid foundation for the Product Manager to more effectively gain insight into market and customer needs so s/he can integrate, translate, and communicate this information - in a variety of different forms - to the various stakeholders involved in the product lifecycle.

While Product Managers must maintain positive working relationships with all stakeholders, I feel the relationship between the Development Manager and the Product Manager is most important since this is where the critical translation of the "what and why" into the "how and when" occurs.

While a bit scary, the closer a Product Manager and Development Manager can come to a Vulcan Mind Meld, the better.

So in closing, don't be a Chief Asshole. Be a Value Creator instead. Why? Because it's much more fun when you actually create products that 1) solve real problems, and 2) people are willing to pay for!

Want to learn more about the role of Product Management?
I suggest you read the following FREE e-book from Pragmatic Marketing:
The Strategic Role of Product Management: How a market-driven focus leads companies to build products people want to buy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Consumerization of Software: Social Web Maturing Before Our Very Eyes

Fueled by our use of Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, iTunes, Twitter, YouTube, etc., the consumerization of software has been a growing movement over the past few years. The benefit of this wave is software that is more engaging and intuitive. No expensive training required.

Most of these next-generation websites and applications sit at the heart of the Social Web, and whether corporate IT likes it or not, many employees are using these consumer technologies during work hours.

Having spent many years in the enterprise software space, I realize that corporate IT prefers MATURE technologies. So, let's take a look at two examples (Twitter and Facebook) of how things are maturing within the Social Web Landscape.

Twitter
Just scour through Twitter to see how people/workers have been using it to communicate their whereabouts, thoughts, opinions, among other things. You also don't have to look very hard to read about Twitter's repeated issues with scalability and downtime. The issues have happened often enough that some have moved away from Twitter to Friendfeed; choice is good.

Believe it or not, I am happy to see the issues with Twitter's scalability and the resulting uproar from the consumers. Why? Because it is useful for people to be reminded that anything on the web that becomes popular so fast has to deal with scaling issues that can derail it. So plan for it and be ready to deal with it.

Moreover, I believe the public airing of the dirty laundry helps drive things more quickly towards improvement; which in turn helps the overall market mature more quickly. Finally, Twitter's move to acquire Summize is just another proof point of how quickly this market is maturing.

Facebook
Another potential saga worth watching is Facebook's rollout of its latest round of [pretty extensive] changes to the Facebook Platform. Let me draw your eye to an interesting thread on the Facebook Platform Developer Forum.

The Facebook Platform team posted "We're Launching the New Profile Design to Users Very Soon":
"This is a quick heads up that we're going to start opening the new profile design to selected users. We're finalizing all the code, and the profile will be available to users you can see as soon as 24 hours from now, though it might take a few days before you see any of your users on the new site as they decide to opt in. So get your applications ready!"

Just look at some of the responses:
  • "We would appreciate it if you are able to make the new profile design at http://www.new.facebook.com/ fully functional and let us test our apps for a few days before opening it up to users. You and all of us risk alienating users if you open up the current new design to users already, and they start seeing broken features, both from you and from our apps, right?"
  • "Facebook should consider itself as an operating system. We are the app designers. Right now, the operating system designers are doing a poor and unprofessional job at releasing new functionality. In the end, it is the users who will be hurt....Are you listening, Facebook?"
  • "I don't think Facebook could have handled this transition any worse. Every time I have looked into doing some work to move our apps to new API, I have run into issues/bugs and have just given up. Facebook needs to: 1. Get their stuff together and working. 2. Once they have the functionality working and more importantly documented properly, so all the Facebook API libraries can be upgraded (not just PHP), then they need to give the developers 1 month to upgrade and test their apps. The 1 month time should only start after they have a good beta in working condition.... 3. And only then they should start opening up the new system to the users, and that too in phases. Hopefully someone in Facebook is going to wakeup and realize this is a major mess as of now."
I point out the above not to hang Facebook out to dry, but to state the fact that I am happy to see this type of open dialog on such an important topic. It shows me that while Facebook can be handling its new rollout better, some of the developers targeting the Facebook Platform 1) care about their users, and 2) understand what is required from a mature platform.

Conclusion
While I've focused on examples of consumerized software within a less-than-mature light, Corporate IT skeptics also need to understand and appreciate the sheer number of members being served every minute of every day on platforms like Facebook. Frankly it is mind-numbingly impressive. Furthermore, I'd argue that Facebook is a great example of Web 2.0 and SOA in action; this is not tinker-toy software. But that's a blog for another day.

Bottom-line: The consumerization of software is well underway, and it is fascinating to watch as the Social Web matures before our very eyes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

OFF TOPIC: Roller Coasters and Billy Joel with Liza

My daughter Liza turned 17 this week and she got her driver's license on her birthday. I'm both very excited and a little freaked out. She can't be 17 already, can she?

In order to properly celebrate the momentous occasion, I flipped her the car keys yesterday morning and we headed out for a father/daughter day.

The weather was a perfect 85 and Sunny as Liza drove us to Hershey PA for a day of roller coasters at HersheyPark and a night of Billy Joel at HersheyPark Stadium. This marks my fourth Billy Joel concert over the years...but was Liza's first chance to see him in action.

After arriving at HersheyPark, we quickly headed over to check out the brand new roller coaster: Fahrenheit. While Fahrenheit is a good new coaster, our favorite of the day was easily Storm Runner which launches you from 0 to 72 mph in 2 seconds....what a rush!


We rode all the major rides during the day and grabbed a bite to eat...and some yummy funnel cake...before walking over to HersheyPark Stadium for the concert. We couldn't wait for the show to start...especially after hearing him warm up earlier in the afternoon.

I have to admit, it is pretty cool (and a little strange) having a daughter who likes Billy Joel as much as I do. I mean, the dude is 59 years old and hasn't made a new album in over 15 years. BUT his songs are CLASSICS, so that helps explain how he is able to bridge the generation gap.

Before the concert started, we debated what song he would open up with. I figured it had to be an upbeat song...so maybe "We Didn't Start The Fire" or "Only The Good Die Young". Liza thought he'd start with "Miami 2017" (aka "Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway"), which is one of my favorites...but a bit obscure for the average fan...so maybe not.

Anyhow, Liza was dead on; Billy Joel kicked off the concert with Miami 2017, followed quickly by the amazing "Angry Young Man"...how do his fingers move so fast on the piano???

Liza almost passed out when Billy Joel started playing her favorite: "Don't Ask Me Why"


Ever the performer, Billy Joel rattled off a range of hits as well as a few of his obscure classics (for the true fans in the audience). His encore ended, as expected, with the classic "Piano Man". There is simply NOTHING like listening to a stadium full of people singing this song...it just leaves you with goose bumps. Very cool!

Alas, all great days must come to an end. So at 11:30pm, we headed out on our 2 hour drive home. We reminisced about the great thrill rides we enjoyed during the day....but mostly we just turned up the volume on the car stereo and listened to more Billy Joel songs the whole way home.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Randy Pausch: Find and Follow Your Passion

I read a book entitled "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. Randy is a Professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. And he is also battling pancreatic cancer; last August 2007 he was diagnosed with 3 - 6 months to live.

Randy covers a range of different accomplishments in his book, but he has found a way to "pay it forward" on a grand scale by pioneering the Alice project, which is free educational software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment. Alice looks really cool and reminds me of my "The Future of Open Source" post, where I described how Roblox (a 3D world not dissimilar to Alice) is grooming our next generation of developers.

Anyhow, this book struck a chord with me on a variety of fronts. Since my father-in-law died of pancreatic cancer and my own father died from brain cancer, I can relate to what Randy's family is going through.

Randy is only a few years older than me, so I just chuckle at how some of his childhood dreams and travels feel so familiar to me. For example, Randy's sport was football, mine was baseball. While neither of us made it to the big leagues, we both had coaches who taught us the importance of learning the fundamentals; a lesson that can be applied to almost every aspect of life.

The following "Last Lecture" presentation was given at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007. The Last Lecture series asks professors to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. Ironic given the fact that Randy is actually facing his own demise. Anyhow, this inspirational presentation by Randy Pausch offers a nice summary of what's covered in his book:


As if the above presentation was not enough, this past May 2008 (9 months after his diagnosis) Randy gave a 6 minute commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon that is absolutely worth watching. His key point of inspiration to the audience:

Find and Follow Your Passion

Passion does not come from things or money. It comes from things that fuel you from the inside. Passion is grounded in people and what they think of you. Achieving your goals is not easy, so use your passion and the help of people who respect you to break through the "brick walls" that you encounter along the way.

For your convenience, below are a series of links to Randy Pausch videos starting with his Last Lecture in September, his interview with Diane Sawyer in April, and his Carnegie Mellon commencement speech in May.

Randy Pausch - The Last Lecture Presentation on September 18, 2007
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo

Randy Pausch - Part 1 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZbOQqtDAW0

Randy Pausch - Part 2 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDIf4D4SQFo

Randy Pausch - Part 3 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O8FvH_k2k4

Randy Pausch - Part 4 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2HWTrDTsv0

Randy Pausch - Part 5 of April 2008 Interview with Diane Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSx-AB4JhvQ

Randy Pausch - CMU Commencement Speech on May 18,2008
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcYv5x6gZTA