SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for September 7th, 2007

Flickr Stakes Out More Web 2.0 Personality Space

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

Flickr now has Smart Sets.  My reaction was to plot this out in Web 2.0 Personality Space:

Flickr Smart Sets

Bingo!  Looks like this opens Flickr up more to the folks that like interrupted media such as Twitter.  Earlier I had talked about a move by Twitter to expand their Personality Space as well.  It makes so much sense to think about the Web 2.0 as having a Personality Space.  If you want to optimally reach all audiences, you need to cover the space as best you can.  The space is real because it’s based on well understood theories about Learning and Communication Styles.

Fascinating stuff!

Related Articles:

Spock broadens their Web 2.0 Personality Space to give Participators something to do.

Posted in Marketing, strategy, user interface, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Twitter Experienced a Multicore Crisis…

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

From their blog:

During our scheduled maintenance window we experienced some unexpected heavy traffic at 3a PT. We’ve been working throughout the night to resolve the issues and get back to 100% functionality as soon as possible.

Sounds like a Multicore Crisis.  Been a lot of it going around lately!

Related Articles:

 As Paul Harvey says, here is the rest of the story.  Twitter did have a multicore crisis and rearchitected to move past it.

Posted in multicore, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Why Vista? Why Mac? Why Not Web? (Look Out World, Things Like Air Are On Fire)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

I read with some fascination Phil Windley’s Why Vista? post.  Then I had a funny reaction when I read this part of the post:

Since the application windows can float free of the virtual machine–like native windows, you end up with Word 2007 running on your desktop–just like it was natively installed. Parallels calls this “Coherence” while Fusion calls this “Unity.” I described the spooky feeling this gave me the first time it (unexpectedly) happened to me on my blog a few weeks ago.

What he is describing is the ability to run native Windows applications in windows on the Mac OS/X desktop.  The system will even go so far as to pick the right OS and application to run based on a file type.  This only makes sense given that you probably want a preferred app for a particular file type. 

I watched a video on YouTube of this, and he’s right.  This does feel spooky or unnatural.  My first thought was to attribute it to the Uncanny Valley of User Interface Design, a great post from O’Reilly about why Robots that are too human are less believable, and so too with user interfaces.  That instict is right, I think, it does explain why this feels spooky, but let’s take it to the next logical step.

We step in and out of a dozen different applications every day on the web.  They’re done in a plethora of different languages by many different companies.  Google doesn’t look like MySpace which doesn’t look like Facebook which doesn’t look like this blog.  Yet nothing about that feels strange or spooky.  Businesses that love SaaS use applications from a variety of SaaS vendors.  We had several at the last company I was at.  Switching from one to the other felt a heck of a lot less spooky than switching from the old version of Microsoft Office to Office 2007.

The Web is already a polyglot world, and a better place to be in for all that.  It just feels more natural as a user interface paradigm for aggregating a lot of applications and information together.  The desktop world, for all its rich user interface possibilities is too stylized around the smaller visions of Macintosh or Windows.  Those visions are too ossified beneath millions of lines of code and layers of libraries. 

Hmmm.  It’s another reason to prefer the web and ask how much Vista or Mac we really need.  My consumption of desktop apps is down considerably from what it once was.  I compose these blog posts online in WordPress and I do a lot of other document work in Wikis.  I keep telling myself I need to dump Outlook and go for an online alternative, but I haven’t gone there just yet.  I’ve seen up close and personal that some problems I’ve had with presentations could’ve been avoided entirely with a web presentation tool.

Meanwhile, the Web isn’t waiting around on the desktop.  It is a promiscuous thing: the World Wide Web.  It wants to be everywhere all the time.  It is relentless and addictive.  We hate to be without it.  A friend chided me some time ago for my lack of a WiFi presence at my home so he could demonstrate his cool SoonR application.  That’s been fixed since (although at the time, all my machines were online at home via wired connections), but I digress.  The Web does not want to be left out, even when there’s no connection.  Hence we’re seeing the emergence of mechansims that enable web applications to run without connections.  Adobe has AIR.  Google has Gears.  And all the rest.

I love Ryan’s Stewart comment that, “AIR applications have a quick, easy install experience that is closer to the browser’s zero install.”  When was the last time you installed something on your desktop that felt like that?  I just built a new dual core computer (gotta keep up with the Multicore Jones’s ya know) and reinstalling all the software is absolutely the worst aspect of the whole thing.  Ryan talks about a number of other aspects of bringing the web to the desktop, so take a gander.

Microsoft has been promising to turn the file system into a database since 1991 with Cairo.  More recently, it was supposed to be in Vista.  Although Vista took 5 years to develop, the file system didn’t make it in.  The World Wide Web is a database has let us manage and access data far better than the desktop OS file folder metaphors for a long time now.  We have mashup tools like Yahoo Pipes and standards like RSS that beat the heck out of the desktop’s cut and paste.  I mean come on, how many times have you labored to cut and paste information from some one source into your Excel spreadsheet so you could analyze it?  Now granted, I do wish the web browser supported cut and paste as well as the desktop, but we’ll get to that, I’m sure.

Most importantly, we have the innovator’s attention largely focused on the web.  When their hearts and minds are already there, that’s where all the new stuff will be.

Richard McMannus has this as #8 on his great list of 10 Web Trends for the future

Call it the Web Unplugged.  When It’s ready, It will be better, and things like Air will set the World on Fire.

Related Articles:

Patrick Logan makes a couple of pithy comments.  One funny, one dead right about what else is needed: the browser has to get better.  I think the browser issue is holding the web back at least as much as any lack of Open Social Networking.  But we have come a long way.  The old web was like a Green Screen 3270:  Half Duplex!

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Posted in platforms, ria, saas, user interface, Web 2.0 | 7 Comments »

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (or Many Thousands of Visits)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

I woke up this morning and was shocked to discover that my Picture of the Multicore Crisis post has driven visits to the SmoothSpan Blog through the roof.  By 8am we had exceeded our best day’s number by a factor of 5x. 

Ironically, I threw the post up almost as an afterthought.  For me, it just goes to show the importance of reaching people through as many Web 2.0 Styles as you can.

Posted in Marketing, user interface, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Twitter and Fred Thompson Leverage Web 2.0

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

Twitter is building out their world to support more personality types by adding a cool rich media capability called Twitter Blocks.  Following my Web 2.0 Personality Style Matrix, you can see what it means here:

Twitter’s New Digs 

In the world of features that matter versus those that don’t, think of adding features to bring in new Personality Styles as being like opening up new vertical markets for your software.  It’s a biggie!

Eventually, a robust Web 2.0 effort will need to populate all the key areas of the matrix.  It’s fascinating to watch this happen on something like Fred Thompson’s Web 2.0 bid for the Presidency.  Thanks to Web 2.oh..Really? for putting me on to that story.  Here is what Thompson’s campaign looks like on the Matrix:

Campaign 2.0

Some explanation is in order:

–  Fred Talk Radio and Fred Newspaper are clever tools that tell you for the market you live in what the radio stations and phone numbers are or how to send a letter to the appropriate newspaper editor.

–  FredVision is a photo gallery that flashes you photos at a speed you control.  Not quite as good as a Scoble Kyte broadcast, but cool for an old politico.

–  FredManifesto is as close to Kyte as Fred gets:  a 2 minute video of him giving his vision/manifesto.

Wow!  That’s pretty impressive.  Most of the Global 2000 wish they were executing a web strategy so well.

Where is Fred missing out?  All the boxes with question marks and no blue.

Like many politicos, he fears situations where he loses control.  He doesn’t encourage the Participator so much.  My guess is that despite where he lands in the Matrix, things will be so heavily moderated that your opportunity to participate other than on his behalf is totally foreclosed.

Also, the Interrupted piece is not so strong, despite the title of this post.  This is probably again a control issue.  It is extremely hard to make sure everything is buttoned down, scripted, and on message if you are producing content too rapidly.  Fred has no tweets, in other words.  It’s a pity, because a small staff who had gotten sufficiently ahead of things to provide a buffer (renewed every night) like Talk Radio’s time delay could manage a pretty carefully groomed yet very real time channel.  Perhaps it’ll happen once the campaign heats up and there’s more to talk about.  The thing about the Interrupted sector is that it really seems to apply to Extroverts from the Myers Briggs world and it seems to me having such folks in your camp is extremely helpful to any marketing effort, political or otherwise.

Nevertheless, the web campaign appears to be working extremely well.  No doubt we’ll see a lot of antics across all the candidate’s web sites before it’s all over.  I think it’s great.  The Web 2.0 is all about collaboration.  Anything that gets more people involved in the Democratic Process sounds like collaboration to me, and involvement is a good thing no matter who you prefer to vote for.

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Posted in Marketing, strategy, user interface, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments »

What Jobs iApology Reveals, #4

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

I was so impressed with Jobs’ $100 rebate to early iPhone adopters.  It splits the $200 difference with their customers.  There have been many great posts out there on it.  For example, Scoble and a lot of others want an SDK (I’m conflicted on that, but hold the thought).  There is some inevitable hate mail a well, but the post that got me to comment here was Between the Lines.

They say the appology revealed 3 things:

#1 Jobs can’t annoy his flock.  This is also Seth Godin’s “early adopters matter” point.

#2 New customers aren’t as easy to win over.  The message here is that the iPhone wasn’t doing so well and a price cut was needed to stimulate demand.  Hold that thought!

#3 The smartphone market is brutal.  Message being that the phone makers copy any innovation so fast that any advantage is fleeting, the rich get richer, the poor are downtrodden, yada, yada.

Pretty pessimistic, no?

It’s fun to go back to a news item published right after the iPod was introduced.  Hmmm.  Very similar.  Priced too high, top of the market, yada, yada.

I’m not saying the iPhone will take over like the iPod did, it’s too early to tell.  But Apple gets the “meta” thing and these other phone companies don’t.  Scoble and others desire for an SDK would give the iPhone more of the “meta” thing.  But, maybe the web browser is the right thing, or some augmented form of it that doesn’t digress too far.  iPod’s seamless combination with iTunes was a big part of its success, I think.  Perhaps we just haven’t seen the other half of the partnership for the iPhone.  By that I mean the services/SDK/”meta” thing half.  I will also post a rant before too long on the whole Web/Desktop/AIR thing that goes to the idea that maybe the browser is the right SDK, watch for it.

What was this about a #4, then?

Just that #4 might be that Jobs is a shrewd strategist.  Perhaps he had no idea what level of demand or phenom the iPhone would be.  Was it going to be the next iPod or the next Newton?

Without being able to plan in advance, making bets at very low to no margin pricing or building too much inventory to keep costs low is a non-starter.  After the launch, with 20/20 hindsight, it may now be clear that the iPhone is a winner and Apple can do just what Jobs says and “go for it”.

Without knowing a lot of the numbers surrounding the iPhone and its margins, we may never be able to say.  It sure will be a lot of fun if a computer company can shake up the phone companies as much as they have the music companies, won’t it?

Related Articles:

Jobs is Dell as warp speed:  Using the properly to empower customers.

Posted in Marketing, strategy, user interface | 1 Comment »

Is ISV Even The Right Term Any More?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 7, 2007

After reading some of my blog posts as well as others, The Unreasonable Men are asking a very reasonable question:  will it even be ISV’s that inherit the world?  He quotes me as calling Google a search company and argues that perhaps ISV’s don’t have the best position to go after these new Blue Ocean SaaS markets.  This triggered some furious thinking on my part: appologies in advance for the length of this post and the seeming oddness of some of it’s concepts, but they are very important for Business Strategists in the Digital and Web Era.

First let me say that it’s a beautiful thing when a Service becomes so good that we can step away from thinking of them as Software Companies and instead think of companies like Google in terms of the Service they provide.  It means we’re finally getting to the place we need to be.  It means we have electricity instead of steam power.  Just plug it in and it goes.  That, my friends, is the awesome power of SaaS in a nutshell. 

And, we should not forget that our Patron Saint of All Things SaaS, Marc Benioff, has proclaimed that this is The End of Software.  But I want to add a counterpoint that may at first seem argumentative and unreasonable:  

An essential element of the success of companies like Salesforce and Google is that they are innovating with software. 

Yes, they absolutely innovate in other ways too such as business model, but it is important that they innovate with software.  Salesforce pushes multitenancy.  Google is legendary for sophisticated algorithms and their Page Rank leverages emergence, which is powerful “meta” thing magic indeed.

This gets to a pretty deep question about whether SaaS without the first “S” is any more meaningful than SaaS without the last “S” (i.e. just a regular old On-Premise ISV): 

You can’t just take the Same Old Software, add generous helpings of Service, stick it in a data center, and get SaaS.  It has been tried, it was the hosting/ASP model, and it didn’t work.

Whether or not we call them software companies, to innovate with software is to not lose sight of the essential thing that computers and software do differently than other machines:

Not only do they manipulate data, but they can manipulate their manipulations as well in a totally recursive Godel, Escher, and Bach sort of way: what I call the “meta” thing.

A computer isn’t really being used as a computer until it can do the “meta” thing to whatever it is manipulating.  In other words, until you can change the program to do the thing differently.   The Wikipedia gets the “meta” concept astoundingly right.  Endowing a system with the “meta” thing means it can evolve to do new things after it has left the original designer’s hands.

Going back to the electricity vs steam analogy, it is easy to forget electricity and its ubiquity, but it created some amazing new empires because it was endlessly fungible.  Heat.  Light.  Motion.  Communication.  And ultimately, information.  Nothing else like it had existed before.  Computers are the next step above that fungibility.  They can do almost anything if you just master the “meta” thing well enough.

Wow, that sounds so totally weird and irrelevant to the mundane business strategy matters at hand of how to create Blue Ocean strategies and make the big bucks.  And yet it isn’t.  Those who understand the “meta” thing wind up owning platforms, which leads to ownership of entire industries.  A platform is a manifestation of the “meta” thing.  Many, many companies have tried to navigate the binary waters of computing and failed because they didn’t see what it is that computers do.  It’s a function of who is driving the product ship: is it somebody who gets that crazy weird “meta” thing, or is it some other function?

Here is an example:  Music.  Think about the world of music.  Consumer electronics, record companies, yada, yada.   A huge empire.  They wanted to drive the ship.  What a mess!  Nobody understood what a computer could do for music in so many ways.  It changes everything about music.  I can carry every musical experience I’ve ever had in the palm of my hand.  I can download all of that from the web.  I’ve quit using my expensive audiophile CD system. 

How did that happen?  Music took on the incredible fungible metamorphic (that “meta” thing again) qualities that computers are good at.

Who made that happen?  Software guys.  Computer guys.  Apple.  iPod.  Napster.  People who get what computers can do with the “meta” thing.  Yes, Apple is a Software Company, that and an Industrial Design Company, but we digress.

Let’s take the telcos.  They seem to know a thing or two about computer science.  We get things like Erlang out of that world, which is pretty cool.  Erlang definitely does the Godel, Escher, and Bach thing.  But those Erlang guys are not driving the ship.  They just work there.  Like a service function.  Phone guys know switches.  They know lots of 9’s.  But how archaic is their infrastructure?  They’re mired in the old Signalling System 7, even if they use Erlang to implement it.  The last big thing my phone learned to do courtesy of the telcos was touch tone dialing instead of a rotary dial.  A new breed came along in the form of cell phones, that was cool, but they still move at a glacial pace.  Who is fixing it?  Blackberry, Palm, and Apple.  They get computers.  They are basically software companies.

Unreasonable asks, “What about ISP’s?”  The answer is simple by now.  Find the ISP’s that are fundamentally software companies and not just guys that put boxes in cages and cable them up.  BTW, it isn’t clear whether just firing up a bunch of open source to provide services qualifies as the “meta” thing or just the software equivalent of putting boxes in cages.  For a while, it is a differentiator, but then everyone does it. 

You need both Software and Services because otherwise you don’t get the “meta” thing, which will trump your Services (because automation and self-service trump lots of bodies in the back room).  If you can do the “meta” thing, you can steal the heart of the business (and the bulk of the value) from an industry.  Adobe made printers do the “meta” thing when it invented Postscript

So who are the ISV’s that “get” software?  We want to find them, because those guys have a shot at the SaaS Blue Oceans.  Guess what?  These guys are doing utility computing or virtualization (one of the cooler newer Blue Oceans that came about because of a mastery of the “meta” thing).  They’re at software companies like Amazon (EC2/S3) and Google.  The other guys will have to keep plugging their boxes unless they either become software companies or adopt my crazy plan for hosting world domination.  Those that don’t learn to leverage the “meta” thing will get commoditized right out of business, but that’s another story.

Posted in saas, strategy | 7 Comments »

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