Wireless not proven safe, banned

Wifi has been banned at Lakehead University in Canada (somewhere) because the dean isn’t convinced it’s safe.

That’s because president Fred Gilbert won’t allow it
until he’s satisfied EMF (electric and magnetic fields) exposure
doesn’t pose a health risk, particularly to young people.

No word on whether they are banning booze, pot, or cigarettes, all proven health hazards.

UPDATE: Okay, Vinnie pointed out a big hazard missing from my list above, it should read “…banning booze, pot, cigarettes, and liberal professors, all proven health hazards. (see post below on Harvard and Larry Summers.)”

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Enterprise Social Software

Stefan Schulz works for Shai Agassi in what is loosely described as a special projects group. I’ve know Stefan for a long time and on one of his recent trips to Palo Alto he took the time to show me a system that his group had built for managing our employee alumni networks. Now what is interesting about this system is that it not intended to manage company alumni networks but rather our employee’s university alumni networks.

At first I  thought that it was  interesting but I couldn’t quite figure out what the value of it to SAP was, however then I had the ah-ah  moment when I started looking at the profiles of the people in the system. There is a lot of detail about not only where you went to school and what you studied, but the areas of research that they worked on or have interest in.

I can’t link to the system because it’s internal only, but I will give you this screenshot of it to give you a sense of what they are doing. Amazingly, they already have 5,087 profiles accumulated, about 16% of our total employee population.

In another corner of our SAP Labs group is a team called “Design Services” and they are working on a bunch of really interesting projects, but one in particular caught my attention. It’s called Harmony and it loosely described as a “Friendster or LinkedIn for enterprises”. I don’t know if this will ever be a product we offer but they are certainly intending to build it into our internal systems because one of the most significant challenges anyone in a large company faces is finding people who have worked on similar things as you, or have a background that is particularly relevant to a project or team.

On a related note, be sure to read this article about the work that SAP is doing in search technology.

I have said many times before that blogs, wikis, search, and social software are the new base platform for enterprise knowledge management. This isn’t an earth shaking prediction, it is rather obvious given the failures of traditional KM solutions, and also reflect a continuation of the trend of consumer technology crossing over into the enterprise.

All of this is exciting for me because it signals attention being devoted to improving the way that people work together – collaborate – as opposed to simply improving the way a business process functions. The easy group forming attributes of blogs and wikis, along with the information retrieval capabilities of good search are force multiplied when you can rapidly bring together people in your company based on project requirements, experience, academic backgrounds, and peer recomendations.

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Meet the new retail, same as the old retail

I had a board of directors meeting last night for KIPP Bayview Academy, which for me is a fun board because it’s smaller than most and has a nice social element to it (everyone is around the same age, no egos, nice people). In one of the crosstalk conversations a comment was made about Zappos.com and all of the women in the room immediately started talking about how great this site is.

What was interesting to observe was that they didn’t talk about any of the features of the site, and selection was only briefly commented on; what really made this a great service was the customer service and the community that they have built around it, the “buyer’s favorites” is an good example of this.

This reminded me that many technology-enabled companies forget that they are ultimately in the customer service business and if they don’t get that right then everything else is academic and suboptimized.

BTW, I asked a random selection of women in my office today if they had heard of this site… not only did every one of them know it, they were all customers. I may look out-of-the-loop for not knowing this site, but we never invested in specialty retail and I’m not a frequent shoe shopper so you’ll have to give me a little lattitude.

PS- a quick search shows that Matt wrote about this a couple of weeks ago.

PPS- and while I’m on Matt’s post, Sand Hill Slave is a great blog on the venture business.

Naming Conventions

I was thinking that the title of Jeremy’s post should be “how to make sure everyone reads your post” but it’s certainly better the way it is now. On a serious note, it is interesting to watch how aggressively PR people have figured out blogs.

I was talking to Mike Masnick a couple of weeks ago and he had a cool new cell phone, told me that vendors are sending them to him in the hopes he’ll write about them. Ross has the same thing happening to him. Hell, I’m just getting free books! My post last week was a thinly veiled attempt to get some free gear… maybe I should start writing about xbox360 games!

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FreeCRM.com is an on-demand, web based CRM provider having a three year
old track record of delivering on-demand CRM and has over 25,000
customers.The unbelievable offer of $14.95 per month is for their
Professional Edition CRM.

Amazingly, they actually do have a free version as well that doesn’t have outlook/blackberry sync and some additional features. It looks like they actually have some nice features on top of being free. Link via CRM Blog.

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SOA/ESA open thread

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the benefits of a pure SOA application framework are. While the technical benefits are important, of equal interest are the actual end-user business benefits for companies investing in this technology. Here’s a short off-the-top-of-my-head start to kick off the discussion.

  1. less disruptive updates and upgrades
  2. new functional components developed quickly and with less risk than previous monolithic application releases. In other words adding a compliance function is less likely to break something somewhere else that is unrelated to the compliance function
  3. greater third party ISV support which translates into comprehensive vertical app development
  4. higher performance environment that better utilizes hardware and network resources
  5. flatter learning curve for users because applications can be broken up and delivered as function streams that directly overlay to their needs as opposed to getting everything in one app

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Podcast pitch

This is a first, I received an email with a podcast pitch for a new investment opportunity:

Wireless ISP, OneVoice Communications, is well on its way to converting Jamaica into the World’s first completely wireless-based nation. Through its wireless Internet service and proprietary booths and kiosks, OneVoice Communications will be able to “bridge the gap” and provide Jamaica with island-wide Internet access that reaches everyone.

OneVoice Communications is currently seeking additional funding and has created the following podcast to explain why OneVoice Communications is a good investment.

You can access the podcast at http://www.misukanisodden.com/clients/OneVoiceElevatorPitchPodcast.mp3

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Evaluating vendors

Andy Hayler has a post on criteria and methods for evaluating vendors and it reminded me of something we used to do (and may still do, I really don’t know) for managing the process of evaluating customer requests for new features. The idea was simple, each customer has 100 votes (I don’t remember what the exact formula was for determing the number of votes you had) they can use, if they have 100 features they would like they could put in 100  feature requests with 1 vote each, however if they had just 2 feature requests and one was critical and the other a nice-to-have they could put the critical request in with 90 votes and the other in with just 10. The point is that you had 100 votes that you could use in a weighted fashion.

An important thing about using a weighting system like this one is that the weights must add up to 100.
The point here is that it forces you to make trade-offs: you can have
an extra functional criteria, but you must reduce the existing weights
to make sure that the weights still add to 100. This gives the
discipline to stop everything being” essential”.

This is a good methodology for evaluating vendors, products, or any purchase for that matter

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It’s too bad that Larry Summers got fired from Harvard, which is essentially what happened. I find the entire episode rather disturbing but couldn’t quite put my finger on why until I read this:

Summers’ intrinsic aptitude comment, like the Mohamed cartoons, exposes the conflict between free inquiry and multiculturalism. Multiculturalism, whether practiced by Islamic fundamentalists or radical feminists, holds as its highest value that no one should be permitted to hurt the feelings of privileged minorities.

and this:

The controversy over Summers’ remarks shows that the multicultural left has a strong dislike of even considering ideas contrary to their world view.

What if Harvard decided to study the differences between men and women when it comes to math and science and comes to the conclusion that there are real differences that explain why women are less prone to enter the field of mathematics or basic sciences, will Summers get his job back and an apology?

This article in the Washington Post highlights an important aspect of this  story that hasn’t been told.

“It says that one group of faculty managed a coup d’etat not only against Summers but against the whole Harvard community,” said Alan M. Dershowitz, longtime law professor at Harvard and a Summers ally. “He is widely supported among students and in the graduate schools.”

According to a poll the Harvard Crimson did on the topic, Summers did enjoy strong support with only 19% of the students polled supporting the decision to resign. In the end, Harvard is the real loser here by allowing a single department to derail the significant transformation of Harvard as a whole.

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