Notes from the Road

Thoughts about the world as I travel through it

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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Strategy

I have been involved in strategy for a long time, both inside companies and as a consultant. I have recently joined forces with a small group of strategically minded executives to offer a new kind of consulting. The group is called Interlink Partners, and our focus is on helping tech companies rapidly make changes that will strengthen their business.

We combine strategy, operations, venture and international experience, and we really represent a complete virtual management team.

Marketing with Integrity

Having spent a long time in marketing and strategy, I’ve been often frustrated by the emphasis on “spin”—making things look better than they are. It’s a temporary way to make people feel better, but it doesn’t work as a sustainable strategy for marketing and sales.

This site on Squidoo is dedicated to thinking about this issue—it also links to other business-related resources:

http://www.squidoo.com/marketingwithintegrity

Squidoo is interesting: it’s like a huge forest of bulletin boards, in which anyone can create a topic and host a discussion.

TED and making music accessible

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design—it’s a community and a conference, held in Monterey each year. Their tag line is “ideas worth spreading”, and they publish videos of many of the short (under 20 minute) talks from the conference each year. This one is about music, and shows some work from MIT’s Media Lab that makes music much more accessible to everyone.

More about Web 2.0

I wrote a while ago about Web 2.0, and the connections between people that it enables. I still think that’s perhaps the most important social impact of Web 2.0, and the real difference from a user standpoint. But there’s another angle, which is the development side.

When I moved beyond static web pages I learned about Content Management Systems, which are typically a combination of software systems that allow the separation of the content of a website from its presentation, and indeed from the infrastructure that manages all the content and presentation. This site is built on one of those CMSs – WordPress, and there’s a family of such CMSs, built on four open-source technologies: Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP. Put the four initials together and they spell LAMP.

The new thing I learned is that the structure of these software systems is a really important part of enabling the Web 2.0 experience. One aspect of the way we experience Web 2.0 applications is that they update much faster and look and feel much more like desktop applications. In the old web, most sites would have to repaint most or all of a page every time you clicked. Now with Web 2.0 technologies like Ajax, it’s possible to do a lot of much more dynamic things that improve the sense of fluidity and naturalness in the web experience. Ajax is just one of the new technologies, but it’s important because it allows for the asynchronous updating of parts of a web page. Asynchronous is important because it means you don’t have to wait for every click to be processed before making the next click. Ajax also allows an intelligent application to pre-load parts of the page that you may not yet see, so the experience of updating appears almost instantaneous. When you pan across a Google map, it’s Ajax that gets the new parts of the map in the background. So in summary, the web is evolving along two significant dimensions:

  1. New ways to interact with other people through social networking
  2. New ways to interact with websites through Ajax and other interactive web technologies.

Sales and Marketing MindXchange

I just returned from three interesting days in Tempe, Arizona, at the Frost and Sullivan Sales and Marketing MindXchange. This is a highly interactive event – workshops, facilitated discussions, and a lot of networking.

I was somewhat skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a good thing for several reasons:

  1. The quality of the participants was high. From many different branches of marketing, and many different kinds of businesses, so diverse experiences and challenges.
  2. The interactivity – which meant we could benefit from all the experiences of the different people.
  3. Some great speakers – the two best in my view were Martha Rogers (of 1:1 Marketing fame) and Vincent Cho from Intuit, who gave an excellent presentation on the implications of the new Internet technologies on sales and marketing.

The result of these was good networking. Frost and Sullivan also did a great job of keeping the whole thing informal – no ties (well, hardly any), and a very casual atmosphere throughout.

So if you’re in marketing and are interested in getting a broader picture of what’s going on in a range of different markets – this is not a bad way to do it.

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Technology will let us live forever

Ray Kurtzweil is not only a respected technologist and innovator, he is also known as something of a futurist. His latest book, The Singularity is Near, argues that technology will radically change our experience of living, and will fix a lot of the things that eventually kill us. There’s a summary of some of the main points here.

It occurs to me that there’s a connection to something the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin said many years ago – that there’s educational evolution as well as physical evolution. When we learn new things, we are irrevocably changed. The connection is that Kurtzweil is reminding us that technology, which is the result of knowledge, and therefore inextricably linked to education, evolves faster than we do biologically. Our bodies will be overtaken developmentally by machines. This is unavoidable.

The challenge for all of us is to make the absolute best of this that we can. To be responsible, forward-looking, and to express our care for the future of our world in the way we harness the potential of our technology-rich future.

What is Web 2.0 really?

There are lots of definitions, but I think the most useful aspect of Web 2.0 is the way these technologies connect individuals. I saw a statistic the other day suggesting that 60% of online news content is now published by individuals, rather than networks and portals.

That’s a huge change.

Web 2.0 is based on the realization that even if the answer you want is not online, someone who knows the answer is online. The social networking and folksonomy sites are as much about people as content. Through them you can find out who is thinking what, and decide for yourself who you want to talk to.

When I wanted to learn how to integrate photos with my blog, I didn’t find the answer I wanted on the web – but I found some people who had solved the same problem, and by interacting with their blogs and discussion groups, I found the information I needed. When I finished my work, I let them see it, and we all derived some small pleasure from seeing progress.

So this is why I think Web 2.0 is so interesting – it’s the way it connects people with people, rather than just connecting people with information.

Web 2.0 – Inside the Bubble

I had the chance to attend a panel discussion in London this week – at the Serpentine Gallery, in the inflatable bubble building.

The topic was Web 2.0 – the set of techniques upon which this site is based. The meeting was sponsored by Banner – a UK agency that’s part of the WPP group.

It was interesting because it shows how much the web has changed. We are no longer satisfied by pushing HTML out at our audience – we crave interactivity, and the ability to connect with real people through their web presence.

Banner published a set of pictures on flickr here, and a video on YouTube with a snippet of an observation I made in the discussion here.

Web 2.0 may be important enough to start another Internet bubble – this time funded by advertising and fuelled by consumer and business participation.

Keeping up to date with NetVibes

The world is changing fast, and it’s tough to keep up. www.netvibes.com is one of the great tools I’ve found recently. They let you create a custom home page on the web that contains lots of feeds from the sites that interest you, of course along with the ubiquitous and de rigeur Google search bar.

RSS feeds are the way to keep up with the news – and with NetVibes you can build your own real-time newspaper. There’s lots of information around on what RSS is and how to use it: here’s one from CNET.

You can also use NetVibes to watch your Google Mail.

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