Thursday, March 27, 2008

Search - The next frontier

Been thinking more and more about how search is going to be the gateway to all types of information - not just the written/printed word on a web-site somewhere.

I'll be blogging more about this as I get time.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The expert repeater

Went to a meeting tonight for a non-profit group for which Kristen & I are members. We had a very good, kind speaker who is a professional business coach. These are the folks that help you navigate the waters of career progression and help you try to address areas which you need to improve.

One thing brought my appreciation and level of interest & respect to a quick halt. After covering a list of the top 10 behaviors which inhibit career advancement, I noticed a small little footnote eluding to the fact that all 10 behaviors were excerpts from a popular business book.

Don't get me wrong - I have a stack of books - from Frekonomics, to the World is Flat, the Innovators Dilemma, Blink* and most recently "Microtrends" -- but,, I don't intend to read any of these books - make them the basis of my expert business consulting/coaching and go about selling my new found knowledge.

To keep my attention - try to present original thought, feel free to cite your agreement or contrast of opinions - but this form of verbal plagiarism just isn't the type of coaching I seek.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My most exciting post yet ! - Adding a legal disclaimer.

Take a look folks - right there, over on the right hand navigation bar,, down, down-further - below that awesome badge photo of my econo-Glamor-shot... Tada ! - The addition of a legal disclaimer to my personal blog.

It seems as though one of my distant coworkers has drawn a bit of publicity lately. I won't get into any specifics, but the corporate guidance to employees - which might I add has also gained a fair bit of publicity has been that personal blogs which link employees of Cisco back to the company must carry such a disclaimer.

This doesn't bother me a bit. I established in post-#1 why it was I started blogging. Simply, I was encouraged to do so by a colleague who has drawn quite a following in the industry with his insightful comments and public blogging across a variety of subjects.

For the past 18 posts, I've tried to not emphasize my employer in my posts. Given the anonymity concerns of recent events, I don't want it to sound like I'm hiding it. My name really is David Stafford and I am currently a full-time employee of Cisco in their internal IT department with an individual contributor position of IT Architect. I am not a director of the company, I do not have any insight to macro-financial matters, the industry business climate or anything SEC related. It just so happens that I work there. - There - it's been said.

Going forward, I do not want my employer (past, present or future) to be the prime focus of my personal writings. Thought at times it may be impossible to completely decouple the two. As it happens, my work gives me amazing opportunities to come in contact with industry leaders both inside Cisco, among our amazing customers, our vendors and my peers at other companies. I value these business and personal relationships because it's where ideas and innovation are formed, vetted and cultivated over time.

Regarding this blog - If you take offense at something I say, if you think I'm trying to advance a corporate agenda, leak intentionally or accidentally misleading information or if you want to file a lawsuit against me -- please make sure you contact me first for a quick and amiable resolution.

That said - I'll end with the following statement that my sister got to read live on the air at a Detroit Pistons game when I was in middle-school - you'll see how much of an impact legal disclaimers have had on me growing up that I can remember something from nearly 20 years ago ;-) : "This copyrighted telecast is presented by the authority of the Detroit Pistons and the National Basketball Association and is intended solely for the private, non-commercial use of our audience. Any use or reproduction of this telecast without the expressed written consent of PASS sports or the National Basketball Association is strictly prohibited."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pet Peeve #004 : The contextless forward

We've all gotten them, chances are we've even sent a few of them ourselves. But coming in as Dave Stafford's Pet Peeve #004 is 'the contextless forward'.

I received the e-mail mid-day on Saturday. It was sent to one of our VP's, a pair of Sr. directors along with the mailing lists for all the individual-contributor architects - the intro was simply "Interesting..." The e-mail was an Information Week news article about Google's open IT policy whereby which it's being established that employees can buy whatever hardware and software they wish to be more productive.

Why did this make my blood boil ? - Several reasons ranging from general irritation to down-right personal offense. Why did something as simple as an e-mail forward ruin much of my holiday weekend ? - Well, here are a couple reasons for you to think about before sending something similar..
  1. The forward without any specific context leaves me to need to interperet the intent of the forward.

    Am I to be amazed by the incredible internet savvy of the user whom has managed to data-mine such a golden gem out of the bowels of the Internet ?

    Does the forwarder think that we're doing something wrong today and wants to prove that the all knowing, all powerful force that is the Google should show us how to right our wrong direction ?

    Was this benign and merely a fun article that amused the forwarder because of how absurd they found such a reference and wanted us all to laugh along with him ?

  2. The fact that it was sent to the VP and cc-ing the rest of us mere mortals made this appear to be a desperate cry for attention.

    "Hey VP - Promote me,, I have more experience and know more about how to run our IT Client Platform space than that idiot Dave over there"

    "Mr. VP Sir -- I'm a much more progressive thinker than the rest of this lot and would like to demonstrate this by showing you that I read news articles which buck the status-quo"

Whatever the reason, I want to encourage my readers to add a little bit more than "Interesting..." when you forward something.

If I was to have found this and forwarded it to you - let me give you an example of how it would have led off.

"Hi everyone, appologies for the e-mail spam, but this really caught my attention.

As you know here at CompanyX, we've been trying to find the appropriate balance between user choice and IT standards. Seeing as how this type of policy aligns primarily within my technology domain, I thought I'd solicit input from a wider audience.

While we continue to permit an incredibly open envioronment - as you can see below, Google IT has taken it a bit farther. No doubt many of you would find this attrractive - but I'm very curious of how they handle some specific situations.

- How do they address the area of software compliance ? - In the event of a software audit, the auditors come pounding on the door of IT, not the individual end-users to establish that they hold appropriate licenses.

- How do they meet established SOX guidelines ? - Google is public the last I checked, we have controls that we need to monitor to keep within SOX compliance.

- What level of support is provided for those that simply 'don't care' about what Hardware, OS or Application set they use ? - My wife is a great example, she wants a fast laptop, a stable OS and all the familiar MS Office applications that she's used for years. - Sony/Tohsiba/HP/Lenovo - it doesn't matter to her. Windows XP/Vista ? - Couldn't care less.

So keep these realities in mind while you ponder the world that is Google - thanks and happy reading..."

So - that's the context I would have provided. I established why this was important to me, what is prompting me to broaden it's distribution and what types of things I'd like you to think about while you read further.

I'll get over it - heck, it's been over 24 hours already.

For those that want to read more - here's the Information Week article.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pet Peeve #003 : Riderware

Oh-my - this takes things way too far...

What on earth is Apple thinking ? - Every iTunes user is now being 'defaulted' into a 22.7MB download of Safari !?! - Question to those that have accepted it - does it claim default-browser status as well ?

This is a 'one-more-thing' that I could do without.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Inferior Innovation

Today as I was getting ready to shut down and head home for the day, Kristen was exploring a new discussion forum service that we have at work. Based off of Jive forums, this offering has been embraced by several different groups which have desired the ability to add discussion forum capabilities to their traditionally static web-sites.

I had never made a post or reply to these forums before, and never has an information search returned an entry out of one of these forums - so I was seeing it for the first time. Kristen wanted to understand how information was organized, grouped & structured. Being of what I felt was sound technical mind - I tried to explain only to realize that I couldn't figure out what a Forum vs. Category was in the hierarchy. Clicking through the navigation further demonstrated that performance was lacking and that most forums were nothing more than 'seed' posts trying to spur discussion which never came. (Gee, like a few of my blog posts eh ?)

To this point I want to coin the phrase, "Inferior Innovation". Google it, you won't find it elsewhere ;-) Inferior innovation is the use or application of new technology to solve a business problem, which has already been solved. Most often it is the commercial/enterprise implementation of a technology that is free, open-source or more consumer oriented.

Kristen illustrated my point for me. She pulled up eBay's groups interface where she is an active participant in several on-line communities. She was able to quickly navigate to the post/topic she wanted and enjoyed the fact that her identity was cleanly integrated with other eBay information such as rankings. - Again, something missing from the corporate implementation. Knowing the team that has worked very hard and diligently to bring this service to our enterprise, I don't fault the people - but I do find the technology lacking.

So you're reading this and are thinking- great Mr. Smarty; what would you have suggested they use ? - Well, I'm not suggesting that I know all the reasons why Jive may not be better in our environment- but to restore Kristen's faith that discussion forums & communities were important in the enterprise and to demonstrate that other teams in the company have found ways to work around the limitations of this type of implementation - I popped up a browser to a team responsible for piloting new technologies who had implemented a discussion forum on their own - based on phpBB.

Kristen clearly liked it better. She instantly felt like she knew how to use it, it almost felt as though it was what eBay was using all along. Oh - and it's exactly the same technology that powers every other discussion forum we participate in. For me, it's FlyerTalk, myITForum, JungleDisk, and others. - Every one of these is phpBB based.

I can hear the 'but it won't scale' argument coming already, well - maybe scaling-up would be limited to the hundreds of thousands of users which use these consumer facing services - but why scaling out isn't simply the matter of cloning a VM template confuses me.

With the race to Enterprise 2.0 being based off of Web 2.0, too often I find that commercial implementations, geared for the enterprise is an inferior - 'me too'. I've seen it with IM (Lotus Sametime), I've seen it with Wiki's, I've seen it with E-mail (Outlook Web Access), RSS, Blogs, Forums, and the list continues.

If we want to show innovation, why reinvent the platforms which have already become defacato standards ? - Apply those talents not to reinvention, but inventing and truly innovating.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Keeping your feet on the ground & head above the clouds

A colleague at work whom I greatly respect recently showed me a nice cartoon describing the best type of architect. "One who's feet are on the ground and who's head is above the clouds."  I'm unable to find the image to share, but it looked like a Gary Lawson (Far Side). - I'm sure you can imagine it.  I then got an e-mail today from the head of architecture and noticed a banner image of what appeared to be a courthouse with pillars and it reminded me of the constant battle to avoid the perception of "an ivory tower".

For the past 3 years I've functioned as an "IT Architect".  What exactly does that mean ? - To me, the difference between an architect and a technical engineer is that the engineer's expertise lies with answering the question, "How do yo do THAT ?".  No problem is too complicated, no project has too many moving pieces.  The architect on the other hand might not know HOW to do something, but rather they are who you'd ask, "What would happen if we did THAT?"

Why is it then that "architect" is a such coveted title ?  I realized  over the past couple days that I had an extraordinary sense of inadequacy of knowing how to fix a deep technical issue.  I was very interested in learning about the cause/effect & problem/resolution scenarios, but after returning to my day job today - doing "architecture" felt much more natural.

To all those that consider themselves "Engineers" -- and to me, what you consider yourself is what counts, not what your formal title is, I have this to say : If you enjoy your work, if you get pride, satisfaction or or an adrenaline rush solving difficult problems, creating innovative solutions or recognizing that "complexity is just compounded simplicity" (C.Wiggins, 2000) - Don't stop doing what you're great at doing.

I don't want to discourage the architects either.  I love being one (again, because I consider my duties to be consistent with what one does- not because of a title).  I love thinking about the future and how technology will converge, and disaggregate - advance, and decline - face mass adoption and rapid attrition.  The pace of technology change is exhilarating, the impact on our lives astonishing and the benefits to people and their ability to communicate across vast distances awe-inspiring.  Again - the primary emphasis being on "what will happen" vs. "how we will achieve".

Lastly, please don't ever let it be said or implied that architects are 'better' than engineers.  They are just different.  At my company, it has been accepted formally in the HR system that project managers, program managers, engineers, analysts, architects and people managers can all be equivalent in terms of rank/pay/bonus/etc.   I hope everyone is fortunate enough to work in an environment where this parity is equally respected.  Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and your head above the clouds.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The kiosk didn't even wave goodbye.

Along the same train of thought as by post about the Antisocial network, I went to check out of my hotel this morning.  The woman behind the desk looked frightened that I asked her if I could check out and quickly tried to summon help of someone with the expertise necessary.  (I don't think she was an employee but perhaps a friend of one of the staff)

Since I had checked-in using the self-service kiosk, I offered to do the same for check-out. - She quickly looked relieved and off to the kiosk I went.

So there you have it - a 3 day, 2-night stay with absolutely no interaction with a human employee.  It was relatively quick & efficient - but I would have liked being able to answer the question "Was everything with your stay alright ?" - the kiosk didn't ask...and it didn't even wave goodbye.

What do you think ? - Just the way you want it, or would you like the human element to stay involved ?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What is really important in a hotel room.

As I told everyone yesterday, I'm blogging this evening from a hotel while on the road.  I'm staying at a "Hyatt Place" for the first time ever as it was the ONLY place we could find with availability in the area.  The cost is too high, likely because our company doesn't negotiate a corporate discount with this chain - it was $149 a night + tax...

This room is not worth $149, but it does have some nice amenities.  Hyatt has a good brand reputation and I knew coming here that I'd be staying at or above my 'baseline' for a quality hotel which is Hampton Inn.  When I stay at a Hampton Inn in the San Francisco Bay Area - my price is $109. - Am I getting $40 more in 'luxury' here ? - Absolutely not.

This prompts the question - what is really important when it comes to a hotel room ? - Last year I spent close to 100 nights in hotels for business and pleasure, so while I'm sure there are some of you that laugh at anything less than 250, 100 is still a lot to me. It's not always the same place or same chain as last year I stayed in hotels in London, Barcelona, Iceland, Sydney, Hong Kong and of course - the US [Orlando, Las Vegas, San Jose, Yosemite, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC)

So without further delay - Here is Dave's top-10 things to look for when selecting a hotel.
  1. Price - For me, $125 is my target for either business or personal travel; it should afford you everything you NEED and a few nice-to-haves
  2. Clean - As my mate Stuart likes to say, "Avoid the hire-rooms with sticky carpets"; I include 'non-smoking' in my definition of "clean"
  3. Location - I like to sleep and to drop my laptop back off before dinner - a 5 minute commute to work/customer/vacation destination is critical

    So let me interrupt here - if you can get a clean room where you need to be for under $100, quit 'cher whining...

  4. The Bed - King Size mattress, quality soft sheets, a foam pillow; nothing can ruin your 'game' like waking up feeling like a pretzel
  5. Sleep Timer for TV - I actually carry my own universal remote control in my bag because Hampton Inn doesn't properly program their remotes.  Waking up at 3am to turn off the TV also can mess you up.
  6. Thermostatic temperature control - Blowing hot air all night long, or freezing not only messes you up for the night, but causes me to feel miserable for days to come.
  7. FREE Internet access - I'm geting 1.2MB down and up here at the Hyatt, that's about 4x what it was yesterday.  Make it wireless, make it free and ideally - keep those blasted codes out of it. - I also often travel with 2 laptops (Win & Mac) and like to use them both.
  8. The shower needs to be good for,,,, you guessed it - Showers ! -- I would never soak my body in a hotel tub, so please make hotel showers roomy enough to not have a cold/wet plastic curtain blowing in on you and soaking the foor (ick).
  9. The Brekky - Can you believe that a Hyatt Place has NOTHING warm, and a mediocre selection of Otis Spunkmeyer preservative-filled muffins ? - Maybe it's because it's an Amerisuites being remodeled here.  Hampton Inn has never let me down, but Hilton Garden Inn annoys me because it's 'serviced' and I feel compelled to leave a tip.
  10. Last but definitely not least - Loyalty points.  I have collected Hilton points for 7 years and am sitting on a mountain of them. - Ya know what ? - Their rubbish ! - I can barely get a week a decent hotel.  Starwood points (Sheraton properties) on the other hand have a genius offer called 'Cash & Points' - I love it because it lets me pay $50 a night at a $220/night hotel in London along with about the same number of points as I'd earn in 3-4 nights at a cheapie 4-Points by Sheraton.  Too bad they closed their Sunnyvale, CA property :-(
So there you have it - My first Top-10 list and hardly a technical review to be found.  Do you agree with these or when you travel is it all about the fitness room, the free USA today or the minibar ? - Let me know !

Monday, March 17, 2008

Antisocial networking ?

Photo Credit:

Today's blog entry comes to you from a hotel room for the first time.  A colleague and I are going to spend a couple days working with one of our vendors.

On the drive here, we had a chance to talk about the 'Green' impact that technology can have.  One of the ways technology can help is by reducing the need to commute to a traditional work-office setting.  Would you be willing to give up your cube in exchange for telecommuting ?  I spent my first year at my current employer as a full-time telecommuter and would strongly advise others to ensure that you are well established in a position before making such a move.  I was nothing more than the voice at the other end of the phone.  I felt compelled to rush downstairs to heat a can of soup to minimize the chance someone would think I was goofing off by not replying to an e-mail, IM or phone-call quickly enough. 

Even today, and despite having all the technology necessary for me to cut 20 miles a day out of my commute, I love the social environment of being in the office.  The hallway chats, the break room bump-ins to people I don't see often and best of all - the lunchtime field-trips to ChickFilA or a restaurant which forces us to walk by the Apple store - all these give me a reason to want to retain my cube.

I love to retain the option of telecommuting, it's sure handy to be able to take an 8pm call after dinner - or when the "must be present to sign for package" scenario hits.  How about the cable repair man, or 7am call that can be taken without even having brushed my teeth.  For me it's just striking the right balance of 'being Green', 'being Me' and just being part of a professional/social circle.

Telecommuting for the primary benefit of displacing the traditional office 'community' concerns me.  I've read articles about your neighbors being the 'workgroup' of the future.  Rather than lunch runs to ChicFilA or the Apple store, you may just walk down the cul de' sac to Jimmy's for lunch.  How much of the work that gets done today is based on deeper personal relationships than can be accomplished within a 60 minute con-call ?  I believe that elevating Communication to the target state of Collaboration has to be based on more than agendas and meeting minutes.

I'd love to hear what your take is on this topic, but hey - don't feel like you have to leave a comment - gimme a call or stop by my cube when I get back in on Thursday.

"Even Girls can like Dinosaurs"

Spoken by a ~6 year old boy to his sister today in Border's bookstore.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What ? - You're serious ? - That's right, another Instant Messaging service.

Photo credit : jwlphotography

Is everyone clicking refresh on the Facebook main page hoping to be the first to grab their new Instant Messaging app ?  I didn't think so.  Who is begging for yet-another IM client ?  Because of the lack of federation, I already need to load up my MSN, Yahoo, AIM, Meanwhile (for Sametime at Work) accounts into Pidgin and Adium. 

If I was to join a new IM service, it would be a server-side aggregation service.  Thank goodness for Pidgin & Adium, but it's a pain needing to add all my accounts into them to perform client-side aggregation.  Server-side would let me sign in once, merge & prioritize centrally, perform AJAX-based content transformation for use on my mobile phone and ensure security (ideally via OTR or OpenID)

Rather than adding new IM clients & services, can't we move to a plug-in model to existing services ?  Pidgin allows me to insert quotes, see the local time of my remote colleagues, but why not snap in a Facebook plugin ? - While I'm on the plug-in rant, how about a Pidgin plug-in for Flock ?

I could rant for hours about my displeasure that Zuckerberg has decided that IM belongs in Facebook, but I'd rather hear from you.  Am I missing something ?  Is adding IM a 'natural evolution' to the Facebook "platform" - Comments as always are welcome.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Trading Spaces : Cubicle Edition

I've been in the same cubicle at work for the past 5 years.  Over this time I've had several great cubemates in adjacent spaces. - Matt, John, Kathy, Tony, Rob, Bryan - Here's a shout-out to all of you !

With the recent departure of a good colleague and mentor, I've decided to move to one of the most prized assets a cube can have -- a view to the outside by a window.

I could have taken this spot before, it had been vacant - but my colleagues have always made it impossible to have more than a medium-volume shout away.  "Hey Rob", "Hey Kath" and the infamous chair push-back to grab Bryan's attention have been a way of life for 5 years. - So why now ?

It certainly isn't because I'm tired of my good friends, yet - they play an important factor.   I know people claim to have attention deficit disorder (ADD), but I'm as close to clinical as I think you'll find.  In school, I had to lock myself in a room and schedule when I could go for food/drink/bio-breaks in order to force myself to concentrate.  I've unplugged my router if I need to write a paper so that I can go and surf in-between.  Lately my mind has been extraordinarily distracted by all the 'fun' around me. - It's a great environment we have at my work and to not always be part of the discussion - it's hard for me to stay focused.

So here I sit "isolated" all of 10 feet away from my colleagues.  I hope they won't forget me when it comes time for lunch - I'm always happy to drive,, or when Rob gets a new toy to show off - I'm aways interested !.  ...lastly I hope I'm able to deliver on a few things my kind manager has asked of me - a bit sooner than I would have otherwise.

But ya know what - a window to the dark world outside at 9:55pm on a Friday isn't much different than a cubicle wall.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The customer that wasn't right", the Easter Bunny and other fictitious beings

Ever feel like you are the customer that is being ignored ?

Photo credit : anna_I_am

Today I had an opportunity to present at a customer briefing to the director of architecture for a prominent financial services company. My IT colleague and I presented for the better part of an hour while the account sales team for our company listened intently to topics being discussed. It was a great presentation because we were quickly able to identify the commonalities between our two companies - despite having very different lines of business. We intentionally introduced topics which might be provocative in order to see if there was a disagreement and in every case determined that we were united on our positions. We had common issues, common visions and common struggles to find technology and companies which understood us well enough to bring solutions to the table. Why was it that we both felt that our opinions aren't being listened to by our vendors?

Let's rewind 2 years ago to a systems management user-conference... Frustrated that our individual voices weren't being heard, 4 large enterprises collectively drafted a list of product feature & enhancement requests. We revisited the list with the vendor 6 months later and was met by "what list ?". 6 months later, - "Do you still have a copy of that list you can share with us ?" - We gave up, the new product is due this calendar year and nobody is holding their breath.

Wanting to understand this phenomenon deeper, I recently asked the CTO of a small but rapidly growing software company this question: 'How much time do you spend reacting to vs. anticipating customer demand ?' - His answer was that hiring a director of engineering is going to let him focus more of his attention towards anticipating what customers needs are. That was the answer I suppose that I wanted to hear, but it created another question - who then is reacting to customer demand ?

I guess I've become jaded, I feel like only a startup which is barely profitable and that is so dependent on their customers that they are forced to listen will believe that the customer is ever right. When a company gets to the point of having enough resources that losing a major customer is acceptable, and when a customer is viewed as a necessary evil as opposed to your lifeline - they have turned the corner to typical big-company arrogance where they think they know what is best for the rest of us.

Does Apple listen to their customers ? Jobs clearly believes that he knows what's best for all of us, and we line up quickly to receive whatever it is that he's decided for us. Does Microsoft listen to their customers ? - They listen and use that information so that they can do the exact opposite.

There are lots of customers willing to tell your company what it is they want, what they need and what they are willing to pay for. - Take the time to listen, chances are - they are right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are Diamondvilles going to be our new best friend ?

My wife and I had an interesting conversation today spurred by the launch of the new, network sponsored, high-quality streaming media site Hulu. She asked what this meant for the producers & manufacturers of DVD's. Yes, I know that segment is more threatened by streaming movies than television programming of which Hulu is offering both, but since we grew up in a region of Michigan highly dependent on the auto-industry, we're both ultra sensitive about how companies and more importantly employees are going to respond to major paradigm shifts within a given market. From that point on, we chatted about how Blockbuster failed to quickly embrace/acquire/merge with Netflix, and how Netflix needs to quickly respond to the imminent threat posed by AppleTV and the ability to download movies from the iTunes store.

You're probably wondering - why did he paste in a picture from Intel if he's talking about Hulu ? -- The reason I call out Intel is because they are doing exactly what they need to do in order to preempt the industry shift from traditional PC's to more network centric "NetBook" and "NetTop" low cost compute devices. They recognize that the OS's of today are going to need to shift towards the world of compute-cloud and network based operating environments. They aren't going to wait for AMD, Via, Asus or the OLPC-XO to set the standard for what the low cost silicon generation of PC's is going to be.

Combining the low cost chipset/cpu platform with the ever-dropping price of NAND/SSD storage, the ever increasing bandwidth and desire for low-power alternatives should make Diamondville based NetTops a terrific platform for enterprise & consumers alike. Imagine being able to plug in your Microsoft StartKey (powered by Kidaro ?) - it's all possible - hang on tight.

From where I sit, Intel has a diamond in the rough on their hands - lets turn it into some bling !

Read the post that started this & learn more at Engadget

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pet Peeve #002 : The listener of the rude interruptor

I try to be overly considerate not to talk in group settings where there is someone presenting or a clearly established meeting moderator.  I had an incident today that I want to draw attention to so that hopefully others won't cause such a situation themselves and/or for you to tell me how I could of or should have handled the matter.

While I was in the audience of a meeting, the person to my right decided to share personal anecdotes about the topic being discussed.  He was speaking in a normal tone of voice, not a whisper.  I found his volume and timing to both be inappropriate.  I tried to do a quick "yeah, yeah" and noticeably turn my attention back to the meeting moderator - but he continued to talk.

While others started to notice the rude talkers (plural from their perspective, as in he and I) over on that side of the room, I was getting the scowls as well as the talker for being an accomplice - It seemed to me that to others, the listener is just as wrong as the talker.

Should I have more actively 'hushed' the talker ? - Is being a passive listener to a rude interrupter an offense ? - Let me know, comments welcome below...

Best Regards,

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ray Ozzie speaks - let's listen.

Today began with a great headline over at  Om Malik (one of my favorite journalists from his days at Business 2.0) posted an interview he held with Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect who replaced Bill Gates.  Rather than just posting praise or disagreement, I want to challenge people to listen to what was said as well as what was not spoken.

Let's focus in on just 2 key messages from the interview-

The Desktop OS today is not designed for the Internet
Ozzie points out that today we're using a desktop OS which was primarily oriented for running local applications.  The browser is basically the local application in which nearly all Internet content is rendered.  New software development never focuses on building local desktop applications and then giving them extensions for the web - it's web applications built with a web-services interface which traditional applications further down the line may take advantage of.

What wasn't said...
  • The issue is not limited to Windows/Linux/OSX - I'm sorry, they all fail to shift to an Internet-based paradigm.  The fundamental issue is that we do not yet have a true "Internet - desktop operating system". (oh, and I'm pretty sure Cisco holds trademark on IOS, sorry Apple ;-)  The characteristics of an operating system designed for the Internet would be more like a cable set-top box, IP Phone, Cable Modem or any other relatively stateless device which can be centrally managed, updated, upgraded and provisioned.

Cloud computing isn't ready [yet]
In the interview, Ozzie talks about the downtime of services like Hotmail being demonstrable proof of service-computing immaturity- presumably Blackberry was in his mind as well.  They also did a very nice job of articulating the difference between Enterprise (monolithic, although he liked the term 'coupled') and Service Provider markets.  Too often I will hear a vendor say that they are going to lead in the Enterprise and then take to the SP market -- sorry folks, the SP is more than a big enterprise, it's a different business mode demanding a very different technology architecture.

What wasn't said...
  • My colleague Bryan and I have heard the reliability argument several times recently.  I'm a huge fan and subscriber to JungleDisk which leverages back-end storage provided by Amazon S3.  If you want to talk about reliability and lack of uptime guarantees, lets talk about laptop hard drives and USB keyfobs.  If you demand greater uptime guarantees in your personal computing or enterprise computing applications, there's this little concept called "redundancy".  Both my home desktop and work computers have RAID-5 and RAID-10 configurations.  What if I subscribe to JungleDisk/S3 -- and user storage services from Google/Yahoo & yes - even my trusty 16GB USB key-fob for redundancy and backup?  If your device is nothing but an off-line cache of your on-line environment - where's the issue Ray ?

Ozzie said several things that I agree with.  I agree that we're on antiquated operating systems.  I had really hoped that he'd give us a glimpse into what he sees as the future.   I know of one concept which is very close the where I expect things to head.  I agree that cloud compute services are priced TODAY at levels which customers are ready to subscribe and at which profitable businesses will be born.

He also said a few things which I viewed as intentionally vague or misleading.  In what I view as an attempt to not fan the OS-religion flames, he omitted that the Internet-DISablement of the desktop OS is common across all forms (Win/Lnx/OSX).  He introduced FUD around cloud-compute reliability, perhaps because Microsoft is noticeably absent in this market today.  Lastly he questioned the near-term viability of mesh-applications - something whereby which very mature technology like BitTorrent for mesh CDNs already leverage a 'mesh' and it won't be long before IBM's Blue Cloud gets meshed-up with  Amazon's elastic compute services.

There you have it - more words than the original article, but hopefully a perspective which brings context to the randomness and rationale behind the obscure.

Best Regards,

Communities in the cloud

I was watching an incredibly current program on the rise of Web 2.0 late Sunday evening.  "Download: Internet" on The Science Channel hosted by John Heileman.   Between interviews with David Weekly, Shawn Fanning, Mark Zuckerburg, Heileman provided balanced commentary in a consumable fashion suitable to most technophobes.

This show reminded me of a project that my sister-in-law Katie had to do while she was a freshman in college.  A quick search of my 13-year deep 'Sent-Items' e-mail library yielded a presentation that I'd made contributions towards in October 2003.   This was during the era of the RIAA vs. Napster - everyone was abandoning the single index server model in favor of the distributed, P2P network Kazaa. (Predecessor to LimeWire, eMule and BitTorrent).  The question to be answered was "What will bring an end to free-music sharing ?"  Our conclusion was technologically speaking, nothing.

Community + Cloud = Web 3.0 ?
It was a little over 4 years ago that I pontificated about "Trusted Peers".  Today you'd call that your friends on Facebook, your contacts on LinkedIn, or your buddy-list on AIM/MSN/Yahoo/etc.  I think it's appropriate to revisit this concept today because of the rise of cloud computing services and anything that gets abbreviated "aaS"

Without taking a tangent into my positions on disaggregation and virtualization, I believe that cloud computing is the revolution that when paired with what is a ~8 year evolution in social networking will take the web to it's next level of maturity.

Let's take the song-swapping example from above.  My brother has an extensive digital music collection (in addition to thousands of records and CD's).  Today we both store our respective music libraries on our PC's.  - What a STUPID place to store media because it locks that content not only to ourselves, but that one single device.  Everyone I know is moving their media to home media servers or home-NAS devices. - That's great for everyone in your house, but why wall yourself off from the content of your trusted peers (friends & family) ?

Enter the value of the cloud.  What if instead of buying a home NAS server, or more USB hard-drives, my brother and I bought storage on Amazon's S3 storage service ? At a recurring $0.15/GB/month today's hosted services cost quite a bit more than purchasing hard-disk storage outright. (Using today's prices of $0.33/GB) - but there's no cost for backup, electricity, heat/cooling - oh yeah, and it'a available to you everywhere you go (PC, car, work) as well as all of your trusted peers.

I'm sure I'll get more into the value of virtualization towards making this a reality as well as the benefits of disaggregation for content consmers, but for now this should be enough food for thought.

Best Regards,

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shaping the minds of America's youth

Background & History
Both my wife and I are teacher's kids. I've never really thought of teaching as a profession, but I am very excited as it's now a volunteer opportunity and an outlet for me to think and talk about something outside of technology that I realize I like a lot too -- capitalism and entrepreneurship.

Oh my - did I just say that dirty word ? - Will this blog get censored because I dared to utter the term 'capitalism' ? If so, it won't be the first time that people have wanted to tell me how awful I am for appreciating a free-market economy where your rewards are a function of your ideas, ambition and ability to produce. Don't people get a lot of joy consuming the fruits of their labor ?
Junior Achievement
That wasn't my point of this post, so back to to the teaching thing... In high school, my fondest academic memories were of playing the drums in the band (percussionist I prefer) - and a little known/recognized after-school activity called Junior Achievement also known simply as JA.

JA for me was fun because despite being 14/15 years old, I was able to make money during the cold Michigan winters (I caddied on a golf-course every summer from the age of 13) by making and selling coat-hangers as well as hand-warmers and Christmas ornaments. Everything we sold, our team of 12-15 high-schoolers produced ourselves. Weekly, we'd get together or 3-4 hours at night and we'd work as fast and furiously as possible.

I didn't even realize I was learning anything, but we also had 'officers' whom were elected to oversea such aspects as finance, payroll, administrative/secretary duties and of course the President of our company. - All of this was run not by school teachers, but by volunteers from the local General Motors powertrain factory.

I mentioned not too many months ago that I wondered if JA had a presence in the RTP, NC region. Surprisingly, 2 weeks later an e-mail memo at work came out looking for volunteers to sign up to help with Junior Achievement. I couldn't have been more excited and quickly signed up (requesting Middle-School/High-School classes)
The consumer side of capitalism
I just got my e-mail this past week. It's a class of only (13) 6th graders, and rather than making money, it's going to be classroom lessons - but I'm still extremely excited. Where else are kids learning about the importance of balancing a budget, making smart choices as consumers, or risk management and the role of insurance ? I wonder if I'd get in trouble trying to relate by helping them compare the opportunity costs of "Boots with the fur" vs. "Reebok's with the strap" ?

I know I didn't learn about these things from school, fortunately I had parents and older-siblings to learn from. I can only assume that if for even a few of these 13 kids, I may be the only person to ever talk to them as real people about real issues that they'll face. They are only 3 years away from being allowed to drive a car, you think buying a car at 16 years old is easy ? - You think paying for the insurance is cheap ? - or optional !?!

Well kids, I'm really hoping that together we are going to have a lot of fun learning about these topics. Don't expect me to give you or even to know all the answers myself. All I ask from you is that you come with an open mind and to think about how this may not be just another day in school, rather instead may be one of your first days learning some of the applicable realities of life.

Best Regards,

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pet Peeve #001 : "Your Thoughts"

Perhaps my biggest pet-peeve is a forwarded e-mail where the forwarder types "your thoughts ?"

Let me interpret what that means for you the next time you get one:

... I have just typed 'your thoughts' in response to an e-mail that I got.  The reason I am forwarding it to you is because I've decided that my life is too important to actually spend the time necessary to provide my insights on the topic at hand.

...I also want you to notice that I am more special than you.  See, the person that sent me this e-mail didn't think to send it to you because they view me as superior to you.  They wanted to keep this bit of electronic knowledge only amongst those of us that work up here in the upper stratosphere.  I am going to include mere-mortals such as yourself to help remind you of these facts

...Perhaps you may be thinking of replying back to the person that sent this to me or worse-yet those included on the original distribution which I received.  Might I remind you that had they wanted your thoughts they would have asked you directly - in case you are wondering why they didn't - might I remind you of my prior two points.

... Now that you've got the responsibility of reading this e-mail thread, in it's entirety - including the mental parsing and reassembling of quoted text, removal of e-mail signatures, clicking on broken URL's, and the obscure line breaks that result from 7 different e-mail clients being used - perhaps you actually do have some thoughts of your own on the topic.

..What to do with your thoughts now that you may have some ? - You send them back to me, and nobody else but me.  Why only to me ? - Because I fully intend to take the intellect and brain-cycles which you have expended and apply them back in my response to the stratospheric ones to which this e-mail started.  Please send your e-mail response to me quickly so that I may reply back with this information before the e-mail thread takes another tangent.

...Oh - and one more thing - Please DNF else my abuse of your intellect may be noticed by others.

Yes, I'm jaded by the line "your thoughts".

So allow me to pose this whole rant back at you... Your thoughts ?

Best Regards,

Defining your on-line persona

My good friend and colleague encouraged me this week to start blogging.  Since I'm never short on words to verbally say out loud,, why is it that I'm essentially an on-line 'mute' ?

I'm a fan of several blogs and more recently a fan of certain bloggers.  I am most apt to read the blog of someone that leads an interesting life, or one that shares common interests.

I don't keep and never have kept a journal. (...and why does the term 'diary' seem inappropriate for a guy in his early 30's ?)   So I'm not typing this for me - I'm typing it for you.  Who are you ? - What possibly could I talk about that you'd be interested in reading ?  Do you want to agree with me, or prove that I'm wrong ?

Well - Here are some ideas, leave a comment and I'm happy to write a response.

I am a closet-Mac fanboy.  - Seems everyone loves to brag about Mac's, but perhaps you'd like to hear why someone is embarrassed or afraid to admit it .

I never stop thinking about work, but I'd argue that I'm not a workaholic. - I really love my job, I love technology and I really love seeing technology change how people connect and communicate.

I hate "web-tops".  This isn't virtualization, this isn't disaggregation, this isn't solving the problems with personal computing today.

So there we have it.  Dave's first blog post.  If you think there's enough worthless bloggers out there and that I'm destined to become yet another one - then say nothing.  If you think my perspectives could be entertaining, enlightening, insightful, or provocative - The comments link is below.

Best Regards,