30 years online

I started blogging in 2002 and still post a few times a week. It’s more of a journal than a public blog because a) I don’t get a lot of visitors and b) I don’t much care. With 5,000+ posts, “link rot” is always an issue but WordPress has gotten so good it’s pretty easy to manage things. Sifting back and forth through 14 years of posts, one becomes aware of how much has changed, in terms of the tools and services we have for online sharing.


I got my first computer around 1985, about the time local BBS’s (bulletin board systems) started popping up. Wasn’t long before CompuServe, AOL and Prodigy came along and I delighted in the topic forums.

I started blogging before there was a good tool. I used Microsoft FrontPage to create a website where I could post stuff but a few years later (1999) Blogger came along and I was in heaven. I stayed with that for a few years before jumping over to TypePad (a tortuous process) and then, finally, to WordPress.

Social media took off in the early-to-mid ’00s. Friendster, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, tumblr. These days it feels odd (to me) to use the term “social media” because it’s all social. Is there a newspaper, radio station, TV station, magazine that does NOT have an “online presence” (another quaint expression)?

It feels like all of this has happened almost overnight but my little graph tells me it’s been 30 years. How connected will we be in another 30?

Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Amazon: “Smartphones have to be made someplace, and that place is China. In just five years, a company names Xiaomi (which means “little rice” in Mandarin) has grown into the most valuable startup ever, becoming the third largest manufacturer of smartphones, behind only Samsung and Apple. China is now both the world’s largest producer and consumer of a little device that brings the entire globe to its user’s fingertips. How has this changed the Chinese people? How did Xiaomi conquer the worlds’ biggest market” Can the rise of Xiaomi help realize the Chinese Dream, China’s bid to link personal success with national greatness? Clay Shirky, one of the most influential and original thinkers on the internet’s effects on society, spends a year in Shanghai chronicling China’s attempt to become a tech originator–and what it means for the future course of globalization.”

A few excerpts:

The mobile phone is a member of a small class of human inventions, a tool so essential it has become all but invisible, and life without it unimaginable.

There are only three universally personal items that someone will carry with them no matter where they live. The first two are money and keys; the third is the mobile phone, making it the first new invention added to that short list in three thousand years.

The number of mobile phone users crossed 4.5 billion last year, and because of dual accounts, there are now more mobile subscriptions in the world than there are people.

A smartphone is as different from a standard-issue Nokia 1100 as a computer is from a typewriter.

Mobile phones are a funny product, midway between commodity and luxury. They are a commodity in that everyone needs one. They are a luxury in that a phone makes a significant personal statement.

Status is a bigger feature of the iPhone (in China) than in the U.S. Electronics stores display phones running Android with the screen facing out, as usual, but iPhones are often displayed case out, to show off the Apple logo.

Nokia went from being the world’s most important mobile phone company to an also-ran in three years, collapsing into Microsoft’s waiting arms after another three, a generation of dominance undone in half a decade

If you make something that appeals to 5 percent of the Chinese population, you have a potential market the size of France.

Apple Pay

George Kopp and I went to Panera today for lunch and to try out Apple Pay. [The video is vertical because George thought it might get more of the transaction] This took a few extra seconds because I forgot to put my thumb on the Touch ID button. Had I done so it would have automatically used the first credit card in my Passbook app. As it was, I had to tap on my VISA card and then do Touch ID. I’m just not sure how paying for something is going to get easier/faster than this.

UPDATE: I stopped by Walgreen’s for a flu shot and on the way out picked up a bag of cookies to see if I could pay with Apple Pay. And, because nutrition is important to me, I swung by McDonald’s and got some fries. What I found most interesting is at both places, the person behind the counter had obviously never heard of Apple Pay. But when I passed my phone over the scanner, the registers made a happy beep and the transaction just happened. All the counter people did was enter the amount.

I see two possible futures for Apple Pay. (And I think we’ll know in six months) It will either be an unqualified success or it will go the way of the Amazon Phone, Microsoft’s Zune or Google’s Wallet. If it flops it will be because there was insufficient demand; retailers decided they didn’t want it (for reasons good and bad) and refused to make it an option; or some other combination of factors I’m not smart enough to see.

But it won’t be because people started getting their thumbs hacked off to fool TouchID or any other Mission Impossible bullshit.

“The user should have a choice”

That’s the opinion of Phil Atkinson, the head of IT for the company I work for. The choice to which he refers is whether to work on a Mac or a PC.

The subject came up when I noticed a stack of new MacBook Airs in the IT area. “Just wait till next week,” I was told. “We’ll have a bunch more.”

Since the Dawn of Digital Time, the IT gods purchased and deployed no-nonsense PC clones (like the brown lace-up choose your mom made you wear when you were a kid). The deciding factors were cost and ease of maintenance for the network guys.

And then one day employees started bringing their personal computers (always a Mac) to work, rather than endure a life on Windows. I was one of those employees back in 2006. The PC was connected to the network for Outlook and all the rest, but for anything fun or creative, I turned to the Mac.

As others saw what the Mac could do, a few more started showing up. At first it was some of the IT guys who opted for Mac’s and then a couple of senior management types with the juice to get what they wanted.

And just a few years later, there’s that stack of Mac’s with more on the way. What the fuck?

Cloud computing played a part in this evolution. You could do stuff without even being connected to the company network.

The iPhone and the iPad, of course. Employees were buying smart phones and loving them. “Uh, you can keep the BlackBerry, I’m cool.”

Where many (most?) IT departments would have circled the wagons and refused to support anything but those lovely beige H-P’s, our guys understood their role to be one of support, not impediment. If employees want to purchase and use their own hardware, let’s try to find a way to make that work.

Not so very long ago, most raised-on-Windows employees would have been afraid to learn a new operating system. Apple is changing that. Everybody knows how to use a web browser. And most of us are getting pretty familiar with apps.

Microsoft Office? No question, still a big factor. But more for my generation than the new ones.

The workplace is changing. Do I need and office with a desk with a big black phone on it? Or can I get just as much done from home or the coffee shop?

I can’t wait to see what happens next. Whatever it might be, our IT guys are trying to make it easier and more fun.

Why iPad has won the tablet war before it began

This amazing viral video (2 million views in 3 weeks) illustrates why it isn’t the hardware and it isn’t the apps, it’s both and something more. Yes, I’m certain there will be tablets from Microsoft and HP others. But you won’t see this creativity coming from this. If you DO, you can come back here and post a link in the comments and I’ll record a special “I Was Wrong” video.

Social networking slowly taking over email

“According to a new report issued by Gartner, 20% of business users will use social networks as their primary means of business communications by 2014. Gartner says it expects e-mail clients from Microsoft and IBM will soon start integrating with social networking sites, giving users access to their e-mails, contacts and calendars from their favorite social networking platform. What’s more, Gartner says that contact lists, calendars and messaging clients on smartphones will all be capable of connecting with social networking platforms by 2012.” [via networkworld.com]

This is just really hard for Grown-Ups to wrap their heads around. Even more difficult for those that pooh-pooh Twitter as a silly waste of time.

The importance of design at Apple

“…a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

iPad above every player’s locker

Beginning Monday, the 123 back-lit nameplates about the lockers of Nebraska’s varsity football players will be replaced with iPads.

From the story on Huskers.com:

Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne admitted Friday that he didn’t know a lot about iPads, “but the main purpose,” he said, “is for communication, so if Bo (Pelini) or an assistant coach needs to schedule a meeting, everybody can know immediately, whether they’re in the varsity locker room or the walk-on locker room at the Hawks Championship Center.

For compliance reasons, the iPads will be mounted into each player’s locker. The football staff will have the ability to send messages to the players via their iPads. The players will be able to acknowledge and respond, but their messages will be limited to football and academic personnel only.

The new capability will enable the football staff to post events to each player’s iPad calendar, so he will know the times of each practice, conditioning session, academic meeting or position meeting, even if it’s called at the last minute.

What about the capability to access all iPads remotely so they can play the same video at once?

“Wireless can cause a slight delay, but yes, that’s the plan – to get all to play at once when the situation calls for it,” said Chad Chiesa, a Nebraska Athletic Department IT specialist. “With the assistance of a software development firm that specializes in mobile device applications, our hope is to keep everything in sync.”

I’m sure the guys in Cupertino didn’t foresee this particular use of the iPad but they knew in their hearts and smart heads that there would be no end of creative uses. Do you think they pull these down and replace them with the new RIM Blackpads? Or Microsoft’s Slate?

via Uber Husker, Todd Perry

Farewell intranet, I knew thee well

I don’t remember when we began building our company intranet. I think a few of us scribbled on a white board for a bit but we didn’t put a lot of time or money into the project. We just made some web pages and then we made some more and we did our best to keep things organized and useful and, today, we have an ass-load of stuff up there.

Some of it’s pretty important… some of it never really got used… but the time has come to bid a fond farewell to the old intranet. In a couple of weeks we’ll be completing the migration over to SharePoint. I’m using the royal “We” since our IT guys have done all the work. I’m just getting to the dance but I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

If your organization lives in a Microsoft universe (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook)… SharePoint just makes a lot of sense.

Once again, the guys at Commoncraft do a pretty good job of making something pretty complex almost easy to understand.

And yes, I’ll have to be in Windows to play with the other kids but that won’t hurt me. We’ll scrounge up an old PC and I’ll wear some of those latex gloves. I’ll keep you posted on the transition. If you’ve had experience with SharePoint you care to share, hit the comment link below.

UPDATE: Microsoft Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ballmer, answers questions about SharePoint following his keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas.