Innovation? No thanks… we’re busy.

Ben Young wrote an article which appeared in today’s Herald entitled “The 12 Hour Startup“. Essentially, it promoted taking time out of working in your business, to spend time working on your business… and it attracted an interestingly one sided range of responses.

I was so disappointed in the views which were pitched in response, that I felt compelled to try and answer some of the commenters and provide a little balance. My response is copied below:

It’s with some hilarity that I am reading the comments on this article – the vitriol is palatable and the underlying understanding is verging on infinitesimal. There was so much negativity that I felt compelled to post something myself in the interests of balance.
@Ben10
1 – No, a decent IT department will appreciate that Facebook and it’s ilk are part of what Gen Y employees expect to be able to do, it’s where they connect with others and how they gain feedback for issues that they may well be trying to solve for their employer. If you truly believe that full control over what employees do on the web is possible while still retaining employee goodwill, then you may need to realign your naivety.
2 – So, if your company cannot sustain 12 hours a month, how about a quarter – I don’t believe the time frames were prescriptive, feel free to adjust to what suits your business. Your risk tolerance may be too low for significant change – that may suit your business if you are not seeking to change anything, but those who DO change and invest in a culture where change is both welcomed and expected will be better suited to adapt to an increasingly agile market. You may find this article helpful.
3 – Another all too common mistake. You confuse management with leadership. They ARE different things and your hierarchical world view is sadly showing.

@internet biz guy
Again I’d challenge your assertion this is ‘bogus’. Great ideas come from such brainstorming and the medici effect of gathering ideas from a wide range of sources (and levels of employees, to reinforce the counter to @ben10 #3) has been around since the 15th century, far be it for someone *young* to dare to reassert such thinking! As for a bio, I used Google and some other online resources to find out about the author.. surely as an internet biz guy you did the same?

@Derek
A 1:10 ratio of ideas to successful launch is actually quite high, if you’re looking for innovations rather than adjacencies and/or improvements that is. Phil McKinney (innovation lead for a fairly large company) discusses these ratios and strategies at length, if you *are* interested, a good place to start is here

@xavier money
“Employees are by definition not great inventors or entrepreneurs” By whose definition, yours? Are you attracting the right people to your company as employees then? There are very few people who know your products and company capabilities better than your employees and your customers. If you are not prepared to leverage these people as a resource then, well – you may well end up working on the same thing for most of your life. Actual real life entrepreneurs will begin, build and sometimes sell off a large number of businesses in their time. Branson would be a good example of this, a wide range of companies under his tutorship. Steve Jobs would be another who as leveraged adjacencies and diversified, rather than sticking to one idea and focusing on it for a lifetime. I guess peoples measures of success vary.

In the interests of disclosure, I am not *that* young, but I am marginally under 40 – please feel free to use the period of my existence to judge the usefulness of my response if that’s what makes you feel comfortable in your world view.

What I have learned from the experience is there is still a marked lack of confidence in ‘young’ people with ideas, and there is still a lot of traditional thinking out there. It will be interesting to see how the adoption curve plays out for these people.

New Plugins Added

I’ve recently been updating a number of the sites I look after to bring more services to them and make them a little more self administrating.
To this end, I’ve been gravitating toward some of the WordPress articles I’ve seen sitting in my RSS reader as well as those which come through my twitter stream.

One of there articles of note was “24 plugins that I currently use on my blog and why you should use them too” and, while I don’t use all of the plugins Marko uses, it was nice to have some I do use validated by their appearance in Markos list. It was also a new perspective on ‘useful functionality’, many of which I hadn’t previously considered.

To that end, I’ve recently added:

  • CSS Compress – Which essentially removes comments and unnecessary ‘stuff’ from the code which makes up a published page
  • Referrer Detector – Which is designed to use the referrer content in the incoming HTTP connection, and display a relevant greeting to the visitor
  • MaxBlogPress Ping Optimizer – Apparently there’s all sorts of “Really Bad Things(TM)” that can happen if you’re like me and end up re-editing posts after they are published (because of spelling/grammatical mistakes et. al.) which can end up getting your domain blocked by some ping update services.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – This will look at a posts categories, tags, title and content – then try and find other articles you’ve written which may be similar, suggesting them as further reading at the bottom of each article.

So – I’ll be test driving these here on Rob the Geek for a while, if they prove useful then I’ll look to add them to my other sites.

By the way – I’m LOVING the new WordPress 2.7 dashboard – adding new plugins is soo much easier now I don’t need to fire up an FTP client.

The Death of a Blog…

I transitioned my content from the World of Warcraft blog I originally set up back in 2006, back into this site today. I’ve been having issues maintaining the discipline to post regularly in this blog, let alone attempt to maintain another blog devoted to the wonderful World of Warcraft thus, in an effort to simplify my online hosting, I’ve killed off the blog and moved the content. Sorry WoW Blog, we didn’t really seem to hit it off… /mourn

The Doc calls for us to ‘heal thyself’

I’ve been a fan of Doc Searls for quite some time, peaking around the time ‘IT Conversations’ has a regular spot for him and his cohorts. I’ve always found his thinking to be challenging to the norms, yet open in respect to the way “things should be(tm)”. It was no suprise then that this article by the brain behind the keyboard resonated with me.

I, along with what I imagine to be the vast majority of users on the internet, am one of those types that, once a base level of trust is established, will happily click the ‘agree’ button to accept terms. This is especially so in the social networking space as, not only do I assume that the provider has given the thumbs up to the application provider, but my friends have too – given that it’s usually through their participation that I will (need to) accept the new functionality that application X provides. Yes, it’s naiive but it’s user behaviour and the point that Doc Searls makes about changing the way that our online relationships are provided with these social hubs is a powerful one. We tend to have 2 choices with agreements, either accept the terms of the provider, or miss out on the ability to interact with our social web. Making the agreements symetrical rather than asymetrical seems to me to be a good start – of course, the difficulty for the provider then becomes managing the specifics of the symetrical relationship as Digital Natives tend to not care as much as we Digital Immigrants might about our details.

I see this being resolved by a system where a user indicates the useage and control they are willing to exchange, this would allow for a finite number of variations and, based on that, relevant applications may then be offered. How would you structure this agreement?

A new look for the geek…

If you’ve been here in the past year or so and are only just returning, you will probably notice that I’ve started using a new template.

I wanted a change, not only because the ‘other’ header graphic was just, well, offputting, but also because this template suits the evolution of WordPress and the gadgets that I’m starting to use in the side bar (do you like my tag cloud?)

Anyway, just thought I’d drop a quick post to let you know you were still in the right place, and – if you can’t find anything you used to use – please leave me a comment so I can make the function/page/content more apparent in this new look. 🙂

Workplace Blogging – US Military Blogs to get a whole new set of regulations

Ars Technica (via Wired‘s Noah Shachtman) are running this story on a raft of new regulations about to hit the US Military which could see the end to US troops being able to run their own blogs. Basically, bloggers will need to seek a commanders opinion prior to publishing a blog entry to ensure that said entry does not contain any operational security related information (the Military term being OPSEC – see, they make up acronyms like I do!).

“Fair enough” you might think, “it’s important to keep the troops safe and the enemies guessing” but then the article introduces you to the man behind the new regulations, Major Ray Ceralde, who has an (apparently well advertised – i.e. he bangs on about it at any opportunity) pizza theory.

“…Specifically, he’s concerned that an upswing in pie “deliveries to a headquarters [could] be an indicator that a major operation is underway” — and therefore be useful to an enemy…”

Yow, you can’t really argue with that eh? The Ars Technica article covers the issue a lot better than I will here, but what I really want to discuss is the realities of enforcing this. As a rule, information wants to be free, and there’s enough free hosting blog spaces online which, in conjunction with the right anonymizer and proxies to route through, will allow you to post what you want, from where you want. Who, as a commander, is going to take the risk of authorizing a post anyway? From what we’ve seen over the last few days on Digg around the HD-DVD Linux key, it’s nigh impossible to put the geni back in the bottle once the blogosphere has got hold of it. The Digg staff made a good point, they were taking down stories because they were required to, and then – under the pressure of thousands of voices, they’ve stated that hey, there’s not a lot the community owner can do if the community members wants certain information to be available.
More on this later I think… time to go pickup the boys for rugby practice

Can the end-user be trusted?

One of the undeniable truths of backups is you never really respect their worth, until you lose data that you value(d).

Interestingly enough, as more homes become more digital centric, more forensic data recovery services are cropping up to save people from themselves and that accidential, click happy spree that we’ve all enjoyed (until the sickening reliasation hits that we have deleted the ORIGINAL digital photo / video / document that we’ll never be able to recover  (by ourselves)).

Don’t get me wrong, I love that fact that I have 300+GB of digital memories avalible from a central location in my home, and displayable on a number of screens throughout – but I’m ever mindful of the possibility of hardware failure taking them all away in a heartbeat and so I do have a fairly stringent backup procedure in place. One of these measures is via scheduled backups of my machines to my shared network storage, but that only fires when the machine is left on. Another measure is a Windows Home Server, which I am on the Beta programme for (so I don’t really know how much I can discuss without breaching the NDA). If you are interested, the developers are keeping a blog of their progress prior to launch which makes for interesting reading. My point is this – my memories are no longer kept in an analogue format which I can pickup off the bookshelf as I run, screaming like a little girl, while the house burns down around me. My memories are increasingly being helf on fragile pieces of magnitised material, spinning at ridiculous speeds, and – if it wasn’t for the magic of external hard drives and USB connectors, the only copy of these memories would be held in my home. (Note to self, refresh my offsite backup – and say hi to my folks while I’m picking up/returning the external HDD from their place)

So – what’s the solution to this ‘eggs in one basket’ approach?

  • An offsite backup regime like I run (via a USB HDD and infrequent trips to my parents) is fine, but only as long as I remember to do it – and it would really suck if my house burnt down on the night where I was pulling my digital memories backup onto my external HDD, or if that unit also suffered a failure when I needed to restore.
  • Perhaps then a transfer via the network to my parents place? Well – that would work if they had an always on connection, but the initial sync would destroy both of our data caps, and the smarts around historical copies would be hard to implement as well
  • So – what about an online community such as Flicker and/or YouTube where I can upload my stuff? Well – resolution issues aside, if I wanted to share only with a select group – they would need to join that community (who honestly needs yet another identity to remember?) – and, what’s worse – these communities could have the plug pulled at a moments notice (it’s happened before)- and THEN where is your data sitting?

Which brings me back to my original question I posed at the top of this blog (see, I got there eventually) – “Can the end-user be trusted?” My feeling is no, they can’t, or at least I as a sample size of one, who does appreciate the need for backups, form speaking to some of my friends and collegues I can extend this statement to say we (royally, as in ‘most of us’) are bad at doing backups – if we have to think about doing them, then they don’t get done.

So, when the Web 2.0 bust comes along and whole communities of user generated content are lost (as predicted by Laurel in this blog post) there will be crying and gnashing of teeth. And out of the ashes, the phoneix of Web 3.0 will rise blah blah… My question is this – can we as an online community afford to lose this content?, is it an intergral part of the history of how content has grown in the online space?, will any Web 2.0 companies stand up, place their hands on their collective hearts and say “Yes – we believe your content is important, and this is how we plan to protect it should our business model/service fail”

Any takers?? – I’m off to backup my blog database…

I’ve been Social Networking with Laurel Papworth

Wow, and ouch – my brain is full… I’ve just spent the last 2 days with Laurel Papworth, University of Sydney lecturer, and online communities consultant. She’s been over this side of the Tasman to chatting about the opportunities and futures in the online communities space, specifically around the social networking area.

Without sounding too much like a gushing fan-boy (too late?) I must say I was thoroughly impressed with Laurels depth and breadth of knowledge, couple that with her ability to go off on interesting tangents in our discussions (and the fact that she plays WoW), and she fitted right in to the team!

On a personal note, as you may have gathered from the recent flurry of activity on this blog, I’m going to try (once again – I know) to be a little more disciplined with keeping posts rolling over. No one likes a stale site, and to be honest, since I’m using a straight RSS feed to syndicate this content, I’m not entirely sure if anyone is even bothering to visit or subscribe anymore… Sigh, all these little pearls of wisdom may well be decaying out there in the digital ether… it’s all a bit sad really!

But, I can rejoice in the knowledge that ‘Brand Rob’ isn’t subjected to the same scrutiny as most corporate communications, and I can bask in the refreshing reality of being able to express my own opinions and thoughts without adversely affecting my share value. Of course the share price of ‘Brand Rob’ tends to only affect my major stockholder, who initiated her friendly takeover 4 years ago this coming Thursday (awwwww <wink>).