Re: The History of Tech

In Robert Brook”s ever delightful daily newsletter (you should really subscribe – it’s comforting like having some cookies with your favorite aunt or grandma – or, despite suffering through getting up at 4am in the morning, that serene feeling of fishing on a quiet, dusky lake in the early morning) he quotes Dave Winer:

I wonder if Google employs any historians to advise them on strategies tried in the past and how they turned out.

To which I replied, to Robert: hardly anyone tracks the year-to-year history of technology and strategies therein. I find it incredibly annoying. (Part of the problem is that in the past decade, the thing to cover became the web [Google, Facebook, etc.] instead of software itself.) As Dave points out, this results in countless incidents of buffoonery and is the basis for much of the power (older) tech analysts and executives have: since no one documents this history, they have stronger, history-based intuitions about what will work and not work. 

For those who are into that whole “reading books” thing:

  • In Search of Stupidity is one of the few books on tech history (I read the first edition – there’s been updates).
  • The Business of Software – the first 1/3 or so is mostly just the history of the software industry. One forgets how dominate IBM was and what a massive disruptor Microsoft was.
  • While Accidental Empires isn’t purely software focused, it’s a damn good history of the tech industry up to around 1990.
If you read those three books, or so, you’ll get that same Winer feeling that things just go in infinite loops, turtles all the way down and all that, in the tech world…and, it’ll make you appreciate how damn hard it is to have true, revolutionary successes & shifts like PCs (!), open source, the web, smartphones/tablets…and how easy & common it is to try the same dumb shit over and over.

Smart Lock-in

iPhone, Samsung, Dell VenuePro

To read most of the coverage from afar, Microsoft did an excellent job of messaging that 2012 could be a big year for WindowsPhone 7. As one piece puts it:

There’s a curious thing happening in the smartphone space at this year’s CES. Two Windows Phone devices — the HTC Titan II and the Nokia Lumia 900 — are the most hyped, talked-about phones at the show. Yeah, that’s right: Windows Phones.

From what I can tell, I’m one of the few people who’s used two WP7 phones over the past year: a Samsung Focus (sent to me by Microsoft for reviewing while I was RedMonk) and a Dell VenuePro (my current “work phone”). They’re both beyond just fine: they’re good phones in hardware and operating system. The core problem they have is a lack of apps, specifically, the apps I already use and like in iOS-land.

Anchored by Apps

There are, it should be said, lots of apps for WP7 (30,000+ back in August…but, compare that to 500,000+ in iOS-land). The problem is that they don’t have the apps I want to use, specifically, all those iOS apps I’ve spent money on over the years. As Ed pointed out to me awhile ago, the annoying catch here is that, even if the pay apps I wanted were in WP7…I’d have to pay for them again. And, with estimates of 60 apps downloaded per iOS device, that’s a lot of apps people need to take with them. Of course, this is just the case when you switch between Windows and Mac (or Mac and Windows): a license for Office or Creative Suite in Windows won’t translate from Windows to Mac.

Thankfully, most mobile apps are cheap – much cheaper than desktop Office ($119) or Creative Suite (from $280 to $1,500, or so). In reality, I make enough money that I’d pay for the apps twice. But, they don’t always exist in the first place. Indeed, many of the apps I depend on in iOS land aren’t (or weren’t last time I looked) available in WP7-land: Flipboard (hands down my most used app), EchoFon, even an official tumblr app.

Ooogling WP7 phones at CES

For WP7 to be successful, Microsoft needs to ride all of those app authors to create WP7 versions of their apps. The same is true for Windows 8 – where, at least, Microsoft already has one of the world’s most important “apps,” Office (important as in “the [army|company|etc.] runs off [PowerPoint|Excel]”). App vendors like Evernote have a good track record of going balls out here, and I’ve seen a handful of apps developed for WP7 that are more than just quick ports: they take advantage of the tiles, integrating into the sharing functionality through-out the phone, and so on. It’s got to be tough for an app vendor, though: supporting iOS, Android, and WP7 is a hefty bought to sign up for.

HTML5 is good for who exactly?

Arguably, “HTML5 fixes this,” but I’d argue that each platform vendor (Apple, Google, Microsoft) is just barely incented to make HTML5 as good as their native app frameworks. What we’re discussing here is a major point of customer lock-in, thus, a major element of any mobile/tablet strategy. Each of these “post-PC” platforms (iOS, Android, WP7, and Windows 8) needs to differentiate on the entire platform experience – HTML5, really, takes away the ability of any OS to be different. If I can simply take all my “apps” (written in HTML5 so that they’re really web apps or web apps that I download a la Tiddlywiki to my mobile “desktop”) with me when I go…there’s little reason to stick to one mobile platform: I just skip around to the one that has the beast hardware and network. (Imagine if you actually selected a device because of the carrier’s QoS!)

Don’t get me wrong: as a user, I’d love my apps to be cross-platform and achieve that HTML5 nirvana existed and I could just take my apps with me from platform to platform. But that’d make these “smart phones” into “dumb phones,” which is definitely not anything the mobile platform creators are looking to do. On the other hand, I’d suggest that the cross-platform dreams of HTML5 suite just about everyone else’s interests: the app makers would be available on everyone’s devices, the handset makers would avoid this whole app lock-in problem, and the carriers could differentiate on service instead of platform exclusiveness. Historically, the platform providers tend to win out because they’re willing to play the long game of locking users into awesomeness, while the other parties go for quick wins quarter to quarter. We’ll see if it pans out differently this time.

The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Post Roll-up

The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Citizen Journalism Panel

I know all you folks love blogging about blogging. So here’s some blogging about blogging about blogging: a list of all my posts about the conference I went to today, The Blogging Enterprise:

As typographic/semantic note: I used square brackets to surround my own comments and thoughts. Most everything else in the real time notes posts are quotes or summaries of what people said, or an explanation thereof.

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Shel Israel

Shel Israel at The Blogging Enterprise

BMC’s earnings call is (did) happening at the same time, so I’m only 1/4 listed to the first 2/3 of the ending key-note here at the conference, by Shel Israel.

But, I have to say, it’s looking like Naked Conversations will actually have some new content in it, and not just be a re-hashing of what we’ve been reading on the web over the past year (excluding, of course, the chapters they’ve been posting ;>).

Character Blogs, The Jack Theory

“If markets are conversations. And blogs are the power tool of that, how are you gonna pull off having a conversation with a moos?”

Shel says character blogs won’t/don’t work. Someone in the audience suggests that Jack could pull one off. Another person shouts out that he could do a podcast ’cause he has a recognizable voice. Moore suggests that it’d be too much Jack, and we’d get sick of it. Others, and Moore, suggest that a blog isn’t really the right form, but a website, even with just comments, would do great.

People don’t want to interact with a fictional character, they want to talk to genuine people about how the company is doing, how it does what it does, and insider info about it’s product. [You can use blogs to help your customer feel smarter, and know that you’re the one who helped them feel smarter. BAAM!]

No Fear

“Overall [blogging] isn’t as dangerous as it seems.” Less than 100 people (probably) have been fired world-wide for blogging.

We’re also reminded of the product management angle of blogs: you can invite people to check out your stuff, bloggers or no, and it’ll generate input.

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: This Shit Takes Time

A re-occuring theme is (complaining about) how long blogging takes. People bring that up time-and-time again. Shel Israel says that it’s talking directly to/with your customers, so it’s worth it.

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Blogging To #1 – Positioning Your Company As The Thought Leader

People: Joel Greenberg, GSD&M (moderator); Charles Bess, Fellow,
EDS; John Moore, Principal, Brand Autopsy; Scott Rehling, Producer,
The University of Texas Longhorn Football Vlog; Todd Watson, On Demand
Business, IBM.

(As a side note: there’s a screen behind the panel. The moderator’s
intro usually contains some slides; then the screen usually contains
the names of all the panelists and their URLs. That’s pretty damn
nice, compared to other panel discussions I’ve been at recently [e.g., Lone Star Software Symposium] that just have little paper “name-plates.”)

Blogging from the Middle

Watson: People in the middle of the corporation, like IBM, can now
get their voice out there, showing off the thought-leadership that a
company has previously locked up.

But, we can’t give you a specific instance where we gained
business. It’s still too fuzzy.

Rehling: again, using blogs as a real-time feed of what’s
going on…and not allowing yourself to be sound-bited.

Moore: people are starved for more info.

What About the Company That Doesn’t Have Anything to Say?

…or “why does Procter and Gamble need to blog about Jiff?”

Moore: if your product/service is selling, you have something to say.

And, if your product is a commodity, by starting a conversation up,
you have the chance to move it out of a straight commodity into
something special. This, would, of course, just be old wine marketing
in new media bottles.

Internal Marching-Vision

Watson: internally, you need everyone marching to the same
beat. Whether it’s public or internal, you can use podcasts, blogs,
etc. to accomplish this. IBM is doing this.

How is Blogging Different…?

Moore: the mind-set of blogging always puts you in a mind-set of
“how can I be collaborating [linking & commenting] with this, or
find stuff to collab with?” He used to do the old xerox articles thing
to distribute, but now it’s the hyper-version of that. Ye Olde the
more links you make, the more links you get, aka, “the
information you get is equal to the information you give.”

Is Blogging Vocation or Avocation

Watson: it takes a lot of time to do it. PR people have been
managing the public image of a company for 50 years, spending a lot of
time doing it. And blogging will probably be the same: part of
someone’s job, not just “stolen” time.

Moore: I’m a one guy shop where people pay me for my ideas, so what
better place than a blog for that. But, you can’t go dark for very
long or people assume you’re gone and forget about you.


Bess: EDS’s started off as a group blog. “Definitely a way to get
diversity of perspective.” [Probably, just an easy way to keep the
frequency of a blog up instead of getting the One Post Bloggers.]

Q & A

Rubel: “How much to give away [on your blog] and how much to you
[keep to sell]?”

Moore: “The more you give the more you get.” But, I still “keep
some things in my back-pocket” to sell.

Rehling: we have a built-in audience enough that we can just give
away snippets of Mack Brown & Longhorn videos, and people will pay
for more.

“Wild Ducks”, or, Control

Watson: I thought I was one of the wild ducks, so I was surprised
when they asked me to blog. But, I’ve been able to hold back posts
like “Sun and Google Sittin’ in A Tree,” so there’s a degree of
self-editing that you need to have.

Moore: if we trust people in stores to do the right thing, why is
it different online. [Cause on-line, everyone in the world can
find and see it, while in stores, it’s isolated to the geography. This
is why investigative journalism exists: to get hidden camera video of
employees and companies wider exposure.]

Bess: we probably self-censor more that we should. My blog posts go
through corp. communications folks, and they haven’t censored anything
yet, so maybe we’re not pushing the envelope enough…

…as always, “don’t be stupid.”

Has IBM Ever Asked You to Blog About Something?

Watson: not yet, but I expect the day will come. “I’m partially,
whether I like it or not, a spokesman for the company…. To the credit of the communications people: no one has ever [censored] me.” And an exciting new phrase, “Have you heard about our Genetic Identity? Let me try to net it out.”

Bess: I’ve been asked, and I just do it if it’s interesting to

Final Comments

Rehling: In my industry, entertainment, we’re learning that we can make money from this.

Moore: blogs help small business look bigger, they can make them
get bigger.

Notes, or, “There was trouble at the
lab with the running and the exploding and the crying
when the monkeys stole the glasses off my head. Wh-ha ha.”

Dr. John Frink

Dude, Moore is all into playing the mad-scientist role. He wears a
white lab-coat and flares open his eyes all the time and talks

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: PR & Blogs – Anticipating & Managing The Blogstorm

Panel: Shel Israel, author of Naked Conversations; Ellen Simonetti,
author of Diary of a Flight Attendant and former Delta Airlines Flight
Attendant; John Slafsky, Partner, Wilson Sonsini. I didn’t catch the
moderator’s name.

Slafsky: Blogs are the Next Email for Lawyers

[Internal Blogging|External Blogging] Policies

Simonetti: Delta, of course, had no blogging or internet policy.

Slafsky: it’s, of course, good to come up with a policy, but, it’s
not going to be a cure-all. You can’t anticipate everything, so you
need abstract things.

Shel recalls an earlier quote from Slafsky: “you shouldn’t do
anything stupid.” And you’ve got the Scoble (from podcasts I’ve heard)
point that if you’re going to publicly blog about a company, make
sure you know the goals and culture of that company.

Controlling the Corporate Voice

Slafsky: “The short answer is that lawyers are cringing.”
Esp. those that work with/for public companies.

What Exec Has the Time for Blogging

Schwartz is cited as an example. Slafsky says that McNealy is
prohibited from blogging; his style of communicating doesn’t match.

When it comes to walking the delicate line of what to make public
and what to keep secret, Shel suggests that any C-level person already
knows that extremely well, so it’s not an issue of needing a lawyer
looking over their shoulder.

What Could Kryptonite Have Done Better?

Shel: The first company hit by bad blogging PR. A Kryptonite PR person
said they were working “around the clock” trying to figure out what to
do. There wasn’t an understanding, perhaps in anyone’s heard,
Kryptonite and otherwise, of what you’d do.

Blogger Arms Race

A MSFT PR fire-fighter said he used to have 10 days to respond to a
PR-crisis, but now he has 4 hours. There’s mention of using your own
bloggers to respond: a sort of blogger arms race.

How Could “The Bloggers” be Negatively Effected

Salfsy: the 1st amendment issues do a lot of shielding. But, there
will probably be some big liability cases very soon.

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Kick-Starting The Blogging Enterprise Panel

Legal Stuff from John Slafsky

No law about blogs. So we’re trying to map existing law.

Things to Worry About

Trade secrets, product launches, roadmaps, revenue estimates,
defamation, employment law issues (getting fired for blogging),
copyright and patent law (like posting about Secure RSS), and
Securities regulation issues.

“People should not be blogging about the stock price, personal
matters, launch date of next release of product.”

On Blogging Policies

Probably not great as shields against liability. The blog author(s)
is still at risk[, as with all actions in a legalistic society.]

Todd Watson talk about Legal Issue with IBM Blogging

Engaging the legal freak-outers: they just need an explanation of
what’s happening.

Blogging guidelines.

Used a wiki to have internal conversations about the public
blogging strategy with legal, corp. communications, and the blogging


[What if turns out your blogging employees aren’t very good at
blogging? They don’t have domain knowledge, writing skills, or they
don’t have the “common sense” needed to know what to and what
not to blog.]

Using Blogs As Product Management Input. [The idea is that you’ve
flattened the input channels out so that you can drink from the
fire-hose of your customer’s comments. Assuming your customers have
enough passion about your stuff to spend time/energy to post.]

Q & A: Are Blogs Here to Stay?

Here to stay until the next things comes along. The business card
of the future. Here to stay. Train’s leaving the stations.

And here’s more detail from Shel.

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The Blogging Enterprise, 2005: Steve Rubel

Here’s some brief notes from Steve Rubel‘s opening talk. Most of it was intro’ish stuff, so I just typed up the novel stuff:

Blogs can level the playing field for small companies — the
black-hole effect in marketing sphere — meaning that large companies
need to worry about them stealing attention. [And that large companies
can seem more like small companies.]

The old, CEO/execs can use a blog to get their message out instead
of being sound-bited. Mark Cuban was used, of course, as an example.

[Use your blog to promote and discuss the lifestyle/Godin-story your
company/product exists in.]

Shel Israel has a more detailed write-up.

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Going to The Blogging Enterprise 2005

Thanks to BMC (in particular, the VP of BMC Performance Manager, Israel Gat), I’ll be going to The Blogging Enterprise on Nov. 2nd, here in Austin.

It’s a day long event packed with several interesting speakers and panels, including fellow BMC’er Mike Smith, who owns/runs

And I’ll get a free copy of
Naked Conversations
to boot.

So, hopefully we’ll see and talk with some of you there ;>

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