Apr 28 2011

Random Thoughts April 2011

Google Buzz is more Safe for Work (SFW) than Facebook in the sense that it looks like a a typical GMail account and the URL to access it also resemble GMail’s URL. Employers don’t typically block personal email access but do block networking sites. Its so easy to switch between Google Buzz and GMail.

Gutenberg died broke, his problem was that when he invented the printing press he printed the Bible. Ben Bernanke learned that lesson and instead of printing religious tomes he prints cold hard cash.

Between easy and hard, you’ll see a lot less competition if you go for what is difficult and you’ll see a lot more adoption if you make easy what was once hard.

First they seized crack warez sites and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a cracker. Then they came for the torret sites and I didn’t speak out because I don’t pirate content. Then they came for offshore online gambling sites and I didn’t speak out because I don’t play poker. The they came for my blog and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Reading about the recent Dropbox security issue and I realized that I have more valuable and personal information in the cloud than in my home. I have family pictures, calendar events for contacts, tax documents, inner most personal writings and journal entries, and much more on Google Docs, Dropbox, Yahoo Mail, and whatever other cloud service I use. Yet police agencies do not require a warrant to access that information but they do to come into my home and conduct a search. The search warrant is now obsolete. Google and other online services has made the search warrant obsolete.

It was recently reported that the US State Department is developing a mobile phone panic button, probably in the form of an app, for pro-democracy activists in foreign countries to erase a phone’s contents when they have are detained by the secret police. At the same time, the US Department of Justice and California’s Supreme Court have upheld the right of police to search the contents of a detained person without being arrested or having a warrant. Police are using digital equipment that can read all of the data in a phone in minutes at the point that police has stopped someone. Welcome to the future of pre-crime proactive policing.


Dec 29 2010

Threadless

I recently received the Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World’s Most Inspiring Online Design Community book. I’ve never submitted a design or voted for a design on Threadless but I wear shirts and I’ve always been a fan of their products. The book was in my wishlist and someone in my family bought the book for me as a gift. The book is full of great designs which have been used on Threadless shirts over the past ten years. While reading about how Threadless started and the company culture one thread, pun intended, stood out. The community is the key to the success at Threadless. Threadless started out in a thread post in an online design forum where designers submitted designs for review and the best one was printed. As a business model, it seems very straight forward, but you can’t stress enough how important the community is to the company. As a classically trained software engineer, I approach everything from the aspect of technical specifications and software requirements so when I see a site like Threadless I think of the software features, like voting, commenting, etc. But reading this book I realized that Threadless is not a technology solution, but a living community. Fostering communities trumps technology. As engineers, we often quote and misunderstand the saying, “If you build it they will come” to mean technology focused website. At least, this was Google’s mistake with Google Wave, they built a great technology but no one came. I now believe that what the saying is referring to is not technology, but community.

Here are some other things I learned from the book. Threadless included free stickers with every order. Stickers have been used for years to spread word of mouth, and it pre-dates viral marketing. Stickers are a physical real world viral marketing vehicle. Everyone that has been to a developer conference has seen a conference speakers’ Mac Book Pro full of web 2.0 logos and stickers.

Networking is really important. For Threadless, this meant sharing office space with fellow designers and developers. Creating shared experiences builds community. Participating in events is fostering community. Provide the tools and means for the community to spread the company message and brand. Jeff Howe, who is credited with coining the term crowdsourcing, said the following in an essay in the book. “It takes a special company to understand that their ego – their creativity, their brilliance, their ideas- are welcome, but not necessary.  What’s necessary is the room in which the party takes place.”

Threadless

Threadless Designs

Here is my favorite quote from the book. “Jacob and I also began teaching a course at the Art Institute of Chicago.  That made us feel a little better about dropping out of school.”


Aug 19 2009

Technology and Politics

Politicians say the darndest things, especially when it comes to technology. Here are some technology related quotes made famous my our elected officials and civil servants.

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
– Al Gore/Vice President of the United States

Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got…an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.
– Ted Stevens/Alaska Senator

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
– Ted Stevens/Alaska Senator

Internet != Big Truck

Internet != Big Truck

As broadband deployment and more importantly if you look at the megabyte per second how much information can we get though the pipeline is going to be so important as new and new software technologies are introduced what you are going to see is huge change from how applications are architected with skip logic to video and much more human ways of interacting with these applications rather than binary or COBOL ways to interacting with those applications.
– Vivek Kundra/United States Chief Information Officer