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.
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?

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.

Trying Twimailer

Edit 08 April 2009 – Twimailer has recently been sold, see here for my impressions as to why this may no longer be a safe service to use.

After a weekend-worth of new followers of my Twitter stream, I’ve decided to try out Twimailer – a service I was made aware of last week by my friend Simon who gave it a fairly good review.

Below is a quick overview (via Vimeo) of what it does, I’ll be trying it out over the next week or so and report back on how useful (or not) it has been.

Twimailer demo from jon on Vimeo.

To date, I’ve been managing my followers by:

  • tagging incoming messages with “is following you on Twitter” in the subject line
  • Intermittently reviewing the folder containing these tagged items, opening each email then opening the followers twitter link in a new tab, and archiving the email so I know it’s been dealt with.
  • I then had to review each twitter page to see if they had a useful and interesting bio, and tweet stream – or if they were a follow-whore who simply sends spammy links.

The problem of late has been that of volume – I’ve had so many new followers that this approach is not scaling – enter Twimailer, which does the review stuff for me and allows a one click follow.

Edit: 25/03/2009 – Sucess! this is one service which has made by Twitter managment one heck of a lot easier. I’d recommend it to all keen Twitter users for managing their follow/follow back notifications.

Painting it Black


You may have noticed a number of avatars turning black since the start of this week, this blackout is only a part of the actions planned during the recent FooCamp to draw attention to New Zealands impending copyright law changes.

I’m going to use this post to bring some of the commentary on the subject together, for more detail – follow the links below:

Stephen Fry even joined the fray blacking out his avatar, changing his bio and posting updates such as this one [image] – once he joined in and linked to a story covering the blackout, that was it for the hosting site… for a few minutes at least, he did apologise… and got some coverage from the NZ media about it (and on Stuff).

Even some NZ businesses and websites have joined the campaign:

And it’s been on the radio:

And the telly:

Just to be clear, I am not advocating stealing copyrighted works, the reason I created this post is that I (personally) believe that S92 has a number of fundamental flaws which require attention now, rather than a retrospective patch up job.

For an interesting perspective on copyright and why some people may feel they should ignore it, check out this article (hat tip @Titine)

Also, an interesting result from some digging around ARPA by Simon Lyall can be found here. Joining the ‘interesting’ articles, is this one which outlines Clare Currans view on S92 even down to the view that “there are significant issues with the controversial Section 92A” and this one from Tony Millett of the LIANZA’s Copyright Taskforce.

Juha has also published an interesting article summising the RIANZ responce to the industry TCF here.

The Social Web at Work – Parachute 2009

Parachute, a New Zealand Christian Music Festival held at Mystery Creek, Hamilton, New Zealand, has recently finished and, while our church had its share of musicians playing at the event, I started receiving a fair number of followers during and after the event – even without attending, or referring to it. It would appear that the power of the social net is such that, by association, newcomers to a community will seek out others to follow and often it’s solely the adjacency to someone they currently follow that you will be selected as a person of potential interest.

One of these people is Vaughn Rivett who took the initiative to create a twitter identity for the event and used it to post information and public service announcements over the weekend. Vaughn has recently published an article on his blog outlining the process and what happened which makes for some interesting reading. I’ve already posted a comment suggesting the inclusion of hash tags for next years event, but click over there and make your own comments as to how he (and the organisers) could embrace the social web to gain even more traction for next year.

Since Vaughn started following me, we’ve had a bit of back and forth starting from an issue I was having posting a comment on one of his other articles, moving on to the fact I own a EEE netbook and resulting in him using some of his business contacts to actually find me a car charger that I was looking for prior to Christmas (and as a result, being able to help some other EEE owners looking for the same). Again, the social web strikes, connecting two people who didn’t know about each other until a few days ago, and resulting in unprompted offers of assistance to solve a problem.

Edit: As I drafted this article up, Vaughn has tweeted out (using a suggested hashtag) a request for retweets to do just this.

Awesome the speed of the web isn’t it?

Your Life on the Internet

The following is a translation from an article published by French Magazine Le Tigre. It has been lovingly translated by one of my work colleagues (who happens to also be French, but now a New Zealand citizen, so he’s mostly okay 🙂 ).

It just goes to show how much information we’re putting out there on the web…

Happy birthday Marc. Today is the 5th December 2008 and you’re turning 29. Marc you don’t know me but never mind I know you very well. Unfortunately you’re Le Tigre’s first Google profile. Simple stuff really: we’re picking up one anonymous person and we’re telling his story thanks to everything this person has left and posted on the Internet, voluntarily or not. Do you mean we’re taking the piss? Not at all! We want to demonstrate the fact that private information posted on the Internet are not private anymore and that is worrying. But be sure that I have no bad intentions and I love meeting people I don’t know. Let me warn you: I am going to tell everything I know, in total contradiction to what we preach at Le Tigre. But this is for a good cause and anyway this is your fault: you just had to be careful.

I was initially sacred to have an issue with my sources. Not because I was missing information but because I had too much. Because of homonyms, there are at least 5 other Marc L on the Copains d’Avant website. But you’re not on this one: it must be a generation thing, at the end of 90s/early 2000, people registered massively on this website and published their education path in order to find friends they had lost (from primary school or college). It was before Facebook. Ah Facebook… But hold on. I met you Dear Marc on Flickr, this massive pictures’ database that allows people to publish photos and share them with friends (a feature Facebook quickly copied). In order to find someone to talk about, I did a search with “voyage” as key-word, hoping to find a good “client”, as journalists say, capable of posting his travels’ photos. I quickly found you: you have to admit you love Flickr where you posted more than 17000 photos in less than 2 years. Obviously there was a good chance for me to find your photos.

So Marc. Nice face, mid-long hair, thin face and big curious eyes. I am talking about the photo taken at the Starbuck’s Cafe in Montreal where you went with Helena and Jose on the 5th August 2008. Looks like you had a good evening as well as a good weekend in Vancouver. I really like this photo album because Jose took the photos and thus I can see you more often. You hired a motorbike, went to the beachfront but you didn’t have a swim, just chilled on the beach. Overall you spent a month in Canada. You were initially alone, at the Central Hotel, in Montreal (see the “around my hotel” photo album). You were there for work. Work? You have been an Architecture assistant in a big architecture firm, LBA, since last September (see your profile on Facebook). The firm has several offices in several cities and you’re supposed to work in the Pessac office, in the Bordeaux region. I guessed that because you often go to the Utopia (cinema/cafe in Bordeaux) and you often go to Arcachon. So in Montreal you were in an office with Steven, Philipp, Peter, working on new building plans, in front of 2 computers, one desktop and one laptop. By zooming the photo we can even see that you had a Packard-Bell laptop and that you used paper sheet as a mousepad. I didn’t say it was interesting, I just said we could see it. On the 21st August, Steven gave you a ride to the airport. Back in France to attend Juliette and Dominique’s wedding then the week after your Lola’s (your niece) baptism in Libourne. Lola is Luc’s sister; Luc often makes funny faces with his glasses.

But let’s talk about you. You’re single and heterosexual (see Facebook). In spring 2008 you had an affair with Claudia R who works at the “Centre culturel franco-autrichien” in Bordeaux (didn’t find it easily though because of the ü character that you have to spell ue in Google). I confirm that she’s a charming woman: small breasts, short hair, nice legs. You give us her parents’ details, Boulebard V in Bordeaux. You played petanque in Arcachon with Lukas T, who’s a colleague of hers. At the end of May, there are only 4 photos of your stay at Claudia’s apartement (looks like you wanted to hide something) and then a more compelling photo a few days later, taken by Claudia herself: we can see her bed and you’re laid down. With your clothes on though. On another one you’re brushing your teeth. It was on the 31st May: 2 days earlier you were at Lukas’ party (nice party where Lukas played piano and sang songs in German as, everyone had a good laugh as you can see in the video on Flick). On the 31st the way you and Claudia hugged each other tells the story. And then on the 22nd June, this time for sure, you’re holding hands at the Cap Ferret where you went for a walk. It’s the last time I’ve heard from Claudia. Please note than I have her work phone number (found the job description on Google and I know she looks after people’s recruitment) so I could give her a call. But even if I could, I won’t dwell on it. Before going out with Claudia, you were with Jennifer (it lasted 2 years at least) who like modern art (you went to Beaubourg together and then you went to see Madonna at Paris Bercy). She was living in Angers before moving to Metz, her cat’s name is Lula and she looks a bit like Claudia. In summer 2006 you went to a camping in Pornic, driving a white Golf Volkswagen. You went to the Atlantic coast, then to Brittany. You had short hair at this time and I have to admit long hair fit you better.

We didn’t talk about music. At the end of the 90s you were playing in a punk band; you were living in Merignac (near Bordeaux). There are still traces on this period on Flickr of course but also on Google archives. You know what? That’s where I found you mobile number: 068336****. I wanted to check out whether this number was still current. I called you, you said “Allo?, I said “Marc?, you said “Who’s that?, I hanged up the phone. Here it is: I have your mobile. This article was saying: “2001 was a great year for the Punks. Looked after by Domino, they performed in front of more than 700 people at the Olympia in Arcachon. It was a great concert”. But it looks like the band split in 2002. We understand why: you went to university in Montpellier (see Facebook, Education) and the others pursued their studies as well… But you see, never give up, because with Michel M, the guitarist, you played together again, on the 19th June 2007 at the Cafe Maritime in Bordeaux. There’s a short video in which I heard you singing, nothing’s great, just OK. And then with Dom, you started playing together again in the streets of Nantes during the music festival in 2008. You had practiced at his girlfriend’s place (Carine T). Dom is Dominique F, he’s finishing his PhD in Bordeaux. The subject is a sociology study of migrants. Funnily enough, I found you had an page on Youtube while searching for information about Dom. And then that you were in Italy early 2008 (till the 27th March when you filmed your comeback in Bordeaux). I have to admit I didn’t find out what you were doing in Rome: you probably went there for work because we can see you live in an apartment with a laptop. You went to a party with Philippe S and sang on Valentine’s Day at the Gep Wine bar.
I cheated twice: to access your personal profile on Facebook I setup a fake profile and I sent you a friend request… You didn’t accept my request at first – unlike Helena C (who’s one of your friend) – and you replied (in English I don’t know why): “Hi Who are you? Regards Marc”. I was about to write a lie (that I was a Facebook fan living in Vancouver and that I loved your photos and all this bullshit) but when I was about to click “Send” Facebook advised me: “If you send a message to Marc L, you allow him to see your profile and friends as well as basic information for a duration of a month”. I thought that the reciprocity should be true and then I didn’t have to send my reply back to you as I had access to your basic profile.

I’m thinking of the year 1998, 10 years ago, when everyone was going on about the power of Internet. I probably would never found anything about Marc L at this time. But nowadays I found everything I wanted. I can imagine what your life is like, your life as a young employee and soon-to-be architect, your love for music and how much you enjoy playing with your mates, your trips, your next girlfriend (I bet she’ll have short hair). But I’m missing one thing: your address. And this is an issue: how can I mail you Le Tigre? I know you live at Avenue F but I’m missing the street number and you’re not in the white pages. However is there a need for me to send you the magazine? In fact I don’t need to; after all you know your life better than anyone else.

Much thanks to Fred (who has a facebook profile but won’t give me permission to link to it, despite it’s ‘private’ status) for taking the 30 minutes out of his life to translate this work.

The Snowball Effect (or, how #GoTech came to be)

This morning an innocuous observation on Twitter sparked what would turn out to be (for me at least) a far-reaching discussion concerning the teaching of Information Technology and its related fields in New Zealand. For background, the statistics referred to by @littlehigh (Paul Reynolds, not the Telecom CEO) come from this NZ Herald article.

The following is something of a synopsis of the conversation to help people get on the same page – the take out on this is to lend YOUR expertise to the conversation and help us do what we, as an industry, can collaborate to entice new blood to join our ranks.

You can follow (the latter part of) this conversation via the tag #GoTech and see how things are progressing over on the GoTech website (thanks again to @SKnightly for setting this up)

The conversation started with a question asking if there was a need to get schools, politicians and the IT sector to get together to address the halving in numbers of IT graduate students over the past four years. Ben Young responded declaring the graduates need to turn into facilitators to make up the numbers and I joined in stating that prospective students need exposure to what else (other than code and screwdrivers) falls under the banner of IT, and asking for exciting stories. In parallel, Paul pretty much said the same thing.

The problem facing IT is the Geek Stereotype reinforces a sense of social awkwardness and places those in IT as outsiders. And, as Nat Torkington pointed out, the next generation is less likely to want to study IT and work for a living when society is pushing finance and real estate as the ‘easy money’ careers of choice. At about this point in the conversation, there were a couple of linking posts which drew in more of the NZ Twitter space and then things really took off.

Graduates are getting (or taking) more options in their education – more bachelor of Commerce students major in Computer Science and also take a business side to their degrees. The next evolution of quaternary production seems to be branching to both a knowledge and an ideas economy. For New Zealand to truly be successful in this space then, the whole education system needs an overhaul – currently, the focus is coming too late in the piece and looks only at Tertiary or Secondary schooling. Kids need to learn and understand programming – and they can be taught from a young age.

A bit of discussion ensued around the teaching of things ITish to primary school aged children, the result of which was – while some schools ‘get’ and embrace this, there is often little scope in the curriculum to provide this education and, teaching becoming what it has, if it’s not on the list it won’t or can’t be taught. Perseverance, patience and volunteering was the suggested approach to solving this immediate issue.

Given the noise this conversation was making in the NZ Twitter space, both Steven Knightly and Brett Roberts chimed in with suggestions of capturing these thoughts and a forum where some traction may be found.

The ‘capture this conversation’ branch subsequently went on to agree on #GoTech as a way to mark future discussions after dismissing words such as ‘Geek’ – After a bit of contention of course 🙂

The ‘what and where should NZ more to in IT’ conversation branch went on to cover such things as if we could or should try and compete against other coding countries, having a local team to implement ideas, outsourcing and/or working as part of a global team, perhaps leveraging New Zealands GMT+12 timezone difference with call centers or out of hours coding / SaaS fixes

And that is about where the conversation ended – we picked up some additional interest and offers of help to discuss and move these ideas along. The current feeling is that we need to address:

  • The audience and influencers (how and who we sell the message to)
  • The approach (current methods are just not working)
    • Getting in touch with schools, universities to visit and talk at career days etc. to highlight that there is more diversity to IT than programming and repair.
    • Anecdotal evidence from a recent graduate was 50% of his class dropped out because the content was boring and they couldn’t see the relevance, or be excited by the prospect of making IT a career.

So, where to from here? Well – the domain is setup, there is a forum currently available until the scope and direction is sorted so, respond there as I don’t want to fragment the discussion too much – so I’ll finish with by quoting the opening post on the GoTech forum from Steven Knightly:

The problem: The topic of the skills shortage in IT, engineering, technology, R&D in New Zealand has been going on for a while now, but is something that people in these industries feel passionately about. Yet the problem persists.  See the latest NZ Herald article ‘IT grads halved over last 4 years’‘.

What been done so far:

  • Some discussions about the issue on Twitter, agreeing that we need to share more real stories and reasons with people
  • The decision to use the #gotech tag to track great stories about real people with great technology careers
  • This domain and a TEMPORARY forum have been set up

Next steps/Discussion: What is the best tool to use for this website?  Sure, some of us can track discussion using #gotech tags in twitter and elsewhere, but not everyone can.  I reckon we need a website to a) allow people to post to directly, b) somehow track twitter and blog posts and aggregate them here.  I propose that this forum is only TEMPORARY, and be replaced by something better with your input.

How should this site be structured? Cool Tech Career Stories, Reasons/Arguments, The Problem, Resources (links for those that want to get into Tech)

How should this campaign roll out?  The campaign: #1 quickly agree how to structure this site, #2 brainstorm Stories & Reasons, #3 Vote for the Top 10 Stories & Reasons, #4 Challenge contributors and others to share that Top 10 with others (especially people borderline interested in tech).

My hat is off to the New Zealand Twitter community for getting behind a potential solution to a looming IT problem. Head over to the site and be part of the solution.

Edit: I do have a capture of all the Tweets which I saw around this subject if anyone thinks it’d be interesting to publish them for the sake of context.

Video: Company Values

This link has been bouncing around the NZ twitter space this morning, it’s very well constructed video of a young company and their employees explaining what it means to be, and work at the company. It reminded me of my early days at an NZ IT start up, and also of the early days at Xtra when it was an ISP… great energy, great people and a desire to do the right thing for the customer – let’s see more NZ companies catch this bug again.

It may be the best 7 minutes you spend all day (values shown in their entirety at the 06:57 mark) – thanks to @benkepes for the heads up on this, I’m enthused once again.

Speaking at the UCB International ‘Online Media’ Forum

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to present to a group of broadcasters at the UCB International On-line Media Forum. My topic was Digital Content, Communities and Conversations – specifically, I looked at the strategies and technology choices available to a new entrant into this space.

Some very good discussion came out of the session and, despite a few interruptions due to the arrival and departure of the Prime Minister, we covered off my initial slide pack and then delved deep into what these guys wanted to know about. The session actually went 90 minutes overtime as the attendees started investigating the options now available to them and postulating on what issues they may run into going forward.
This was a pro-bono presentation for me as I believe in the work the group does (and the initial approach was made to me via a family friend). Nonetheless, I got a lot of value out of the session through exposure to thinking that was markedly different to that I’d previously encountered when discussing this subject. Mostly this was because of the completely clean slate approach they were taking to creating and engaging with communities online.
One issue which received a lot of focus was how, given the need to maintain some absolute truths, a community can steer itself while remaining consistent with what was believed to be the ‘right’ message. While on the surface this may go against the freedom of communities, there is a place for such control when discussing some subjects – especially those of a belief-based nature. My feeling is that, while initially a fair amount of control may be exerted on the conversations in the communities these people create, over time this control will be passed to the group who will self moderate, or take more ‘edgy’ discussion to another corner of the web.
This is something which I believe will play out as the group starts experimenting in the space and I trust that the recommendations I was able to make will be considered and acted upon, rather than blindly rushing into the whole Web 2.0 trend without understanding what the issue is they are trying to address. I’ve seen a whole lot of companies that the ‘Ready, Shoot, Aim’ approach to the long term detriment of their ability to integrate with the 2.0 space.

Guys, I wish you all the best as you venture into the new frontier for your business – share the love

NZ Copyright Act Section 92a

Changes to the copyright act may see people removed from the internet on the basis of 3 ACCUSATIONS of infringement. This clause was reinserted by the government AFTER industry feedback explained how unworkable this would be.

Okay, I’ve been sitting on this for awhile but, while I’m still to angry about the changes to post objectively just yet, I thought I’d link in some other commentaries.

I encourage you all to follow the links, read up on what this could mean to internet users in New Zealand, and to make some noise! (it is election year after all)

Can we believe our eyes?

A friend of mine wrote a post pondering the believability of images now that digital capture tools and manipulation programs are so accessible to whomever wants them. Specifically he raised the question also raised by newsweek in this article. Dale went on to ask the question “what about photos of – say – someone committing a crime? Useless in a court of law?”

I think his concerns were addressed by other commenters, but the question got me to thinking, and that started off what ended up being something of an epic comment of my own, which I’ll repost here to remind me to return to this subject later after a bit more research as it’s quite an interesting issue that Dale has raised.

Continue reading “Can we believe our eyes?”