Are we headed for a nuclear winter?

Dennis puts up a good post on the intersection of web 2.0 and the enterprise. O’Reilly actually talked about this in his keynote, that the enterprise is one of the 3 big themes he is focusing on, but I have to say that this segment will be a rude awakening for the 99.9% of companies who have been dealing with individual consumer and business users. Success in the enterprise requires, as Dennis points out, a deft touch when it comes to change management and bringing about change within the power structures that exist.

When it comes to the enterprise there will be a lot of roadkill among startups who thought they had a better mousetrap, which makes it all the more essential to build around you a good team of people who understand those markets but at the same time aren’t just going to say “we need to hire more $300k a year account execs and become a Gartner client”.

And therein lies the real crunch. While onlookers may bemoan the party bills at Web 2.0 events, the real problems for enterprise spend lay elsewhere. When I look at the margins vendors like Oracle make on legacy maintenance, it’s easy to see where fat can be cut and oxygen released for the kinds of innovation that drive value. Or what about the mad dash for governance, risk and compliance consulting projects at premium rates? Then there is the whole problem of delivering value from social networking applications.

[From Are we headed for a nuclear winter? | Irregular Enterprise | ZDNet.com]

Web 2.0 Reflections

So Web 2.0 Expo is wrapping up today and after spending all of Wednesday and Thursday there, I have a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I have a love-hate with big conferences like this. On one hand there isn’t much intimacy or unscripted presentation, but on the other hand it’s very efficient because the 100 people you really want to meet up with are all in one place. Big events are a fact of life in our business and while there are fewer of them than in years past they are nicely balanced out with smaller more focused events. So in the final equation, it just is what it is.

What was web 2.0 about Web 2.0? Not much apparently. The keynotes were big, packaged, and had little, if any at all, audience participation. The panels and presentations were similarly tight and canned with a lot of “I have 5 minutes for questions”. Tim O’Reilly talks a lot about changing the world with web 2.0, how about changing the way a big conference works first?

The Crowdvine network that they put up was limited (was going to reiterate what I said on twitter, lame, but that’s probably unreasonably harsh). Crowdvine actually followed me on twitter when I had an exchange with Dion Hinchcliffe about it, suggesting that I was looking at it wrong, the point of the social network was to connect before the event and that they then want people to shift to face-to-face meetings at the event. What can you say to that… basically Dion and I were wrong to expect more out of it.

The Expo was using a pretty neat Firefox extension called RoamAbout that enabled, well to be honest I’m not sure what it enabled because it’s a firefox extension that I never got around to installing and it looked like yet-another-thing I would have to deal with. The Expo web page called this the “backchannel” but I’m not sure why, and at any rate the page highlighting the service is a great example of an anti-adoption pattern, no information and a download link.

One much needed service they could have provided would be a interactive map of all the power outlets in the conference center. It was actually quite interesting to see small pods of people develop around every power outlet and the anxious expression on someone’s face when they realized that s/he could join a pod because all the outlets were being used.

There was a twitter profile for the Expo but it’s not clear how they were using it and with Twitter in the state that it has been in this week I’m not sure it would be my first choice anyway. I would have liked to use @EventTrack but for some yet unexplained reason Twitter has been blocking the service.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the conference experience is more important than the conference content. We’ve known for years that the most interesting stuff happens in the hallways and that it is the promise of the unscalable hallway experience taken up online that gets people excited. Having said that, I don’t want to be starting from scratch with yet another social network (YASN), I want to take advantage of services I am already using AND enable a degree of data portability in the process.

The exhibit hall was quite active but featured a long list of companies that I had seen before and was dominated by big vendors like Oracle (pitching CRM no less) and Microsoft. Exhibit halls are how these conferences pay the bills but there simply has to be a better way to do them. I don’t know what else to say…

Some of the presentations were very good, I especially liked the session that RockYou did on monetization of widgets. Lot’s of data and real examples, but in the end just “5 minutes for questions”. Also, where are the session presentations online? It appears that there isn’t a slide sharing service where all of the content is available open and free.

I want to also take a second to thank the folks from Blogtropolus for putting on such a great blogger lounge, which rocked in comparison to the conference media center. They were great hosts and offered a robust wireless network as well as a lively lounge for the couple of days I was at the event. I actually met more people I wanted to see in that lounge than anywhere else at the conference.

I’d close by asking Tim O’Reilly a question: You say web 2.0 can change the way businesses interact with customers, employees, and partners, but Web 2.0 Expo is very much like other industry events that go on and as a customer I had very little engagement about what I want or how I want to get it… so the question is, do you you know your customers?

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What I Want From The Next Next Generation of the Web

I was thinking of this today was I head up to the Web 2.0 Expo in SF. Quite often we preoccupy ourselves with answering the simple question “what do I want…” in technical terms, as in more semantic web stuff, interoperable identity, and so on. What if we simply answer the what I want question in the context of the impact we would like to experience. The excerpt linked below is from a post in VentureBlog from 2004:

1. Over the last five to seven years has technology increased or decreased your personal productivity?
2. Increased or decreased your overall quality of life?
3. Strengthened or weakened your interpersonal and family relationships?

[From What I Want From The Next Generation of the Web - VentureBlog]

Answering these questions today I would say “increased, increased, strengthened” and that is indeed something to highlight. While technology is not perfect, it is working and represents an essential component in our collective and individual lives.

Having said that, there is more to do, I can’t help but observe that we have gone through yet another technology generation, web 2.0 now stretching out to the end of the usual 6-7 year tech cycle, and the great brands of the last generation of still successful but not the primary drivers of the next.

Microsoft has an impressive portfolio of services (I’m using Live Search and liking it) but they are reacting to the market, not driving it. Same with Google and Yahoo, and in the enterprise software sector the crickets are chirping. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on incrementalism that received a lot of feedback from people who were feeling much the same way. There is anticipation for something new to emerge that isn’t just a turn of the screw on something else.

So rather than hearing about what new technology and hot company I should be watching at this week’s Web 2 Expo, I want to state the question another way.

  1. I want technology that is pervasive but obscured, in other words I don’t want to have to think about it in order to use it.
  2. I want applications and services that don’t force me into Faustian bargains that require me to give up my privacy in order to benefit from them.
  3. Give me advertising and promotion that has utility for me, that does something productive while at the same time fulfilling the advertising objective.
  4. Give me use-anywhere-any-time.
  5. Most of all, stop talking about what you do and tell me what you will do for me.

What do you want from the next generation of the web?

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AWS Gets Cheaper

Technology is supposed to get cheaper over time, right? In the history of enterprise software and desktop OS when has that been true? AWS is no doubt responding to competitive pressures, which indicates the market is working as it should, and this is a welcome development because anytime your costs drop you add dollars to the bottom line.

We’ve often told you that one of our goals is to drive down costs continuously and to pass those savings on to you. We have been able to reduce our costs for data transfer, so we’re pleased to announce that we’re lowering our pricing for data transfer, effective May 1, 2008. You’ll notice below that we’ve reduced price at every existing usage tier of transfer out, as well as added an additional tier for the heaviest users.

[From Amazon Web Services Developer Connection : Lower Data Transfer Costs]

LED Lighting

I like home LED lighting but only for very specific applications, like counter lighting and for cabinets. The diffusion and color temperature of these lights is odd and they don’t get better as they warm up, like CFLs do. While this development is welcome, the chief business development guy just gave me an excuse to wait 2 years before jumping in. Referring to the high cost of the technology, which they currently offer for $40 for a single screw in bulb, Gibler said:

“They will be half the cost in another two years,” he said.

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House GOP challenges Pelosi for gas price plan

$4 a startling reality, how about $4.39 I paid today in SF. Longtime readers will recall that I started calling for reductions in gasoline and diesel taxes as early as May of 2006.

“Once a nightmare scenario, $4 gasoline is now a very real possibility of becoming a summer staple,” the letter stated. “In some cities, including San Francisco and Chicago, it is already a startling reality.”

[From TheHill.com - House GOP challenges Pelosi for gas price plan]

Bolivian President on Earth Day

Erik Estrada, er I mean Bolivian President Evo Morales wants the UN to scrap capitalism as a way of saving the planet… I guess he believes that a central committee of senior party officials should determine the allocation of resources for the collective good. Oh yeah, that was tried and we got Chernobyl.

Opening a UN forum on the global impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, Mr Morales said that capitalism should be scrapped if the planet is to be saved from the effects of climate change.

“If we want to save our planet earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system,” he said.

[From BBC NEWS | Americas | Leaders warn on biofuels and food]

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Now That is Spin

Today I saw an advertisement for The Gilmartin Group, a San Mateo real estate company, that made my head turn. The voiceover began with:

“Negative media confusion has created a buying opportunity…”

and went on unconvincingly about how this is the best time to buy real estate yada yada yada, you could almost smell the fear coming through the television. I wish I could find that video on youtube so that you too could enjoy it in it’s spectacularly cheesy glory.

At any rate, apparently the troubles in the real estate market are all much ado about nothing and the fault of the media, nothing to see here so move on…

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Q Branch Stumbles

The Aston Martin due to be used by James Bond in the latest film about the secret agent has been crashed into Italy’s Lake Garda.

[From James Bond's Aston Martin crashes into lake - Telegraph]

I just knew it was a mistake to let Q retire, they should have put him in that room with the knights in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the guys who were guarding the cup of Christ and lived for a couple of thousand years, enough to put out at least a few hundred Bond movies without incidents like this happening. It’s a frickin Aston Martin DBS driven into a lake!

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