Thursday, July 04, 2013

 

Douglas Engelbart, Connecting the Dots 2, and Portable Computing Gets Quaint

SRI mousepad mouseI was saddened to hear that Douglas Engelbart passed away. Of course, there was the mouse, but it was the 1968 Mother of All Demos that shows how much we owe to him. As a Steve Jobs fan, I understand why Engelbart has been called "Steve Jobs' Steve Jobs." These were things produced not just for their own sake, but with a larger goal in mind of raising our "collective I.Q." We all wish he'd benefited more personally from his contributions, so much more than a slick business plan.

I picked up this mousepad during a short engagement at SRI. I'm thankful to have experienced a world that would enable and support a person like Engelbart. That I know people who referred to him as just "Doug" is pretty cool.

Connecting the Dots 
A couple of times here, I'd wondered about Valley technology to connect the dots to bolster national security. Of course, now with the NSA Prism program very much in the news, things have ramped up considerably. Working at Hortonworks and being immersed in Big Data, connecting the dots is very much a reality.

Portable
Of course today, my use of the term "portable computing" is just quaint. It has been "mobile" for some time, and with Google Glass, "wearable." My last Blackberry is a Torch, now in the same pile with all the other portable devices I've chronicled here, going down just as Palm did. I'm all in with Apple now, with an iPhone and iPad, and a random sprinkling of iPods.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

 

Apple without Steve Jobs

Even though it was just a couple of years ago that I riffed on Steve Jobs being named CEO of the decade, I'd taken for granted how much of an impact he has had on our lives. Set aside the iPod etc things, and look a little deeper as David Pogue shared in a piece that he wrote in 1998. Without point and click, for example, there would be no Web. Let's ponder that for a moment.

This is my first laptop, a Powerbook 140. I still have it, along with the custom trackball I added. I guess that speaks to my connection to Apple. Come to think of it, driving past Apple buildings regularly makes it hard not to have it pretty embedded.

But the point is that it was during the period that Jobs was not at Apple. But it was still an Apple experience. Opening the small box it came in was complete with the Apple aesthetic. I turned it on and just started working. This was a time not too much past having to load operating systems on your new home computer. This is the way things should be. It is what we expect now.

So, it is possible for Apple to continue to be Apple without him. Likely not the same Apple, but a lasting one. That things later fell off the rails there was a good thing. It was an object lesson for Jobs at the time, and for those there now. Attention needed to prepare for this time.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

 

Social Media: Internet Time?

Has it been already two years since Best Buy posted an "Emerging Media Marketing" position? In a historical moment of what has come to be called "social media," the original posting was sufficiently awkward that Best Buy pulled back and did a nice save by pulling the crowdsourcing card for the position. I voted for the description by new at the time Tweep @zamees who, of course, blogged the episode.

This came to mind as I was reading "A Framework for Social Analytics" by Susan Etlinger at Altimeter Group (copy below). It's a nice piece for helping you to form a mental model around social media. Certainly, a good launching point, along with practical steps. At the time of the Best Buy posting, if you'd asked me what things would look like today, I'd have thought that we'd be further along than we are. You know, the Internet Time thing. But even Etlinger references social media as still emerging. Others also see it as still early. Fast Company's Farhad Manjoo, in "Does Social Media Have A Return On Investment? " echoes the theme that we're not even yet at a point where we can measure well.

I guess this shouldn't be a surprise given that even a more mature area such as SEO is still in ascendancy. A recent Search Engine Land report cites the finding that 31% of responding practitioners are new to SEO as of the last 12 months. That is, they were not practicing SEO with clients 12 months ago.

Don't get me wrong. I've always loved this frontier stuff. I get excited when the authors talk about coaxing out the data and being willing to integrate multiple data sources. I was just surprised that two years had gone by and we are where we are.


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

 

End of The Flip: "We had no clue what we were doing.”

And here we go with an occasional installment on portable computing. Cisco recently announced the end of life for the Flip camera. I didn't get it. I thought it was one of the most Apple things outside of Apple. Pure Digital got it right. What you need and nothing more. I remember pushing video from VCR tapes to digitize. Followed by Firewire connections to transfer the videos. Then this came along. Pop open that USB port and done. Plus, the software was smooth, effortless. Moving and managing content was effortless. When it came time to edit videos, I was back to Adobe Premier, but that was my wants, not a requirement.

I did 5K fun runs with it, even tried out the waterproof case for snorkeling (fail). It was exactly right for what a few years early meant a bag just for equipment on that vacation.

EOL for the Flip. I didn't get it. Neither did New York Times tech writer, David Pogue in his article "The Tragic Death of the Flip." He called out those who attributed the end to the smartphone, those "affluent, East Coast/West Coast, educated, New York Times-reading, Gizmodo-writing Americans." That leaves a pretty big market for all those copy cats to come in and fill the gap that the EOL Flip will leave behind. In Pogue's words, what Cisco ended up saying with the move was "We had no clue what we were doing.”

Work Life

I'm working in the SEO field now. The irony is that I have a lot of visibility into a lot of search-related things, but can't write much about it, just to be on the safe side. However, on something related, I was getting some phantom product postings on one of my entries here, so I turned off the backlinking and they stopped. As you might know, backlinks are one way for search engines to attribute authority to a page and site. This practice of creating spammy backlinks is a known bad practice, recently called out to a broader audience in another New York Times piece.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

 

Portable Computing Installment: Palm Pilot

Today's announcement that Palm has agreed to be acquired by HP reminds me that it's been a while since I've done an installment of my history with portable computing. On the subject of being acquired, it's probably worth remembering that Palm has had a few owners over time, including U.S. Robotics and 3COM. Of course, HP had recently acquired 3COM, providing another one of those Silicon Valley paths crossing things. Also need to stop a moment and reminisce about U.S. Robotics, who was possibly best known at the the time for its modems. With high-speed internet access past 50% for U.S. households, there are generations of children who will not have experienced the hiss and boing-boing of dial ups. I remember the thrill of making my first modem connection. I need a moment.

I decided to join the Palm Pilot cult, and it was kind of like that, in 1997. I'd asked a co-worker at the time about his. I think I asked about how rugged it was. With the tech religious fervor that we've all come to expect, he threw his across the floor, with the battery case cover popping off and batteries flying out and landing under a desk. He put the batteries back in and it started right up.

The demo was good enough for me. There was so much to like, but the desktop synchronization was an example of how things should be designed. Dock it in its cradle, press one button, done.

I held on to that Palm for so long that I'd sometimes pull it out and have people variously wonder what it was or laugh at me for being so retro. Let's see. It provided me with a calendar, contacts, and notes. Anything else I need? Nope.

Later on, I replaced the Pilot with a Tungsten E2, but that was mainly for the nicer display. I still use it today along with a Blackberry. It does what I need.

I've written here about my first smartphone purchase. I really liked the Treo, and it made the most sense given that I already was a Palm person. But I finally went Blackberry to connect to Exchange at work. There were ways to connect the Treo, but the IT policy was Blackberry and it looked like they took measures to prevent non-Blackberry connections. You have to wonder how much that Blackberry lock in to Exchange hurt Palm.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

 

New Face of Leadership: the case for military experience

In the past year or so, I've become a fan of Fortune Magazine. I especially like some pieces that look at the people and story behind the headlines, such as the first-person article on the auto bailout. So, I was particularly taken by the "Battle Tested: from soldier to business leader" cover article recently, complete with full cover photo of one of the people in battle gear.

As you would expect from the title, the article sets out to connect applicability of military training to the skills and abilities needed in business. One of the first questions that came to mind even goes ahead of this: how does military training work for the military?

Most of those profiled in the article are West Point graduates, who upon graduation were Second Lieutenants and were in charge of a platoon. Think about that in business. A twenty-two year old whose first assignment is three to four teams, with each team having about a dozen members. I can't say that I've ever seen anything like that here in Silicon Valley, even during the bursts of growth and hiring. This is not the same as the recent graduate or even drop out who founds and grows a company. This is dropping someone into a fully developed organization and telling them to go run it.

So, how does it work in the military? I can't speak from first-hand experience. But with my father in the military, I do have some understanding of the kinds of behaviors expected. I value and respect what I was taught and what was modeled for me. No question about that. But even without the direct experience, it's easy to see how something like Boot Camp contributes to making this structure work.

But this doesn't get us an closer to the applicability of military training to business. It is this question that I was looking forward to in the Fortune article. More importantly, I was curious about how it works in the technology businesses that are here in Silicon Valley.

Before going any further, let's address one thing: real life and death. Again, no question. Anyone who can live through those experiences, have qualities that serve well in business or anywhere in life. My father in the jungles. A cousin wounded by a sniper. A college buddy showing me massive torso scars and telling me about a year rehabbing from his injuries.

While I remain a Fortune Magazine fan, I was disappointed because I did not get the take away I hoped for. The compelling connection between military experience and business leadership success was not made. Given those profiled, it does not establish the difference between this route to business and anyone from a highly regarded university, some of whom have gone through special programs such as the Pepsi Leadership Program cited. Some of those profiled said they have leadership skills, which is certainly true given that they started out with a staff of 40-50, which grew to upwards to 200 by the time they reached the rank 0f Captain. But is this intrinsically tied to a military grounding or could the same be said of anyone who again went to a good school and worked up to managing large teams?

The roles tended to be in areas that might be more akin to the personnel and lines of work that you could see connected to the military. These included Walmart store management and drilling safety system construction. And they are doing graduate business work. In other words, they will have undergraduate degrees from a strong university and an MBA. This would seem to be a strong combination in its own right for business success.

What about the Silicon Valley connection? There is one attempt, when a former officer now working for Google is asked about leading "eccentric" programmers. The response is that "in his experience Silicon Valley is dubious about any sort of leadership paradigm and skeptical of structure." He adds that those in the military doing interesting things have an "entrepreneurial in mindset." But again, this might be said about others elsewhere, like a dorm room.

I wonder whether this was an assigned story, and the writer was giving it his best shot. But in the writing, he discovered that the proposition is no more than the person being successful in business and just happening to have a military background.

Random Observation

With this posting, I realized that I've spent more time thinking about government and the country than I have for a long time. I was riveted by the proceedings of the Health Care Reform voting. I attribute it to the country's current administration. That "Hope" thing is working, at least for me.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 

Bloom Box and the 408

I recently saw an observation about some Silicon Valley companies being more 408 than 415. This refers to the area codes, with 415 being more on the northern end, into San Francisco, and 408 on the south end toward Santa Clara and San Jose. The implication was that 408 was more Old-School with its roots in semiconductors, with the other end being more Web.

Another implication was that Green Tech was going to come from the 408. All the engineering, time, and investment needed by semiconductors is the same thing needed by Green Tech. No two guys in a dorm room. Nothing calls this difference out more than the Bloom Box in Sunnyvale, which looks like it's having its coming out party tomorrow.

CBS 60 Minutes already had a preview this past weekend. With installations already at Google, FedEx, Walmart, and eBay, the Bloom Box could be a real world changer, especially when you think India, Africa, and other large populations where virtual farming doesn't have much of a following.

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