A social network for midsize to large organizations to keep tabs on what’s going on. Email is unstructured, exclusive, and demands action. Intranets require administration, taking away valuable staff time. There has to be a better way.

Chatter. A new way to share and keep tabs on what’s going on. Write as much as you want. The first ‘X’ characters or newline will be the title, anything after that will require a click to see. Add a hashtag (#public is default) and off you go.

Hashtags with recent activity will appear in an ‘Active’ list. Tap to quickly view related posts and either check to keep tabs or swipe away to ignore.

Organize your tabs using cards/screens and swipe between them. Tap a hashtag to see all posts or tap a post to see more details.

DMs, user tagging, and group-only posts need more thought. It might not be in the best interest of Chatter to allow private conversation as it will diminish public chatter. Inclusive, not exclusive, but within the bounds of a trusted organization. Maybe a suggest function to suggest a user to check out a hashtag they might have ignored? A Psst? (too hard to pronounce)

Edit: This post was random notes I jotted down while at a PM retreat. Very soon after, I learned about a fairly new product in market called Slack.


“But Mostly Sunny”

“But Mostly Sunny”, the weather app with attitude.

Today’s forecast for Holland, MI:
Mostly cloudy and cold and miserable.
Sunrise: “If a tree falls in a forest…”

Smartwatch Job Description

The announcement of the Samsung Gear, Samsung’s attempt to one-up Apple in the innovation area IMHO, brought up some interesting questions about the design of a smartwatch. Most notably, what is a smart watch hired to do? What are its limitations and how can it be used best to take advantage of its differences to a smartphone?

To me, the Galaxy Gear seems to me like a typical feature-rich device. The 1.3MP camera is what stood out the most. Is there really a need for an even crappier camera than the one you have on your phone? It’s faced outwards from your wrist, meaning it’s not even for video calls a la Inspector Gadget.

I could go on about my thoughts on the Galaxy Gear, what Samsung should do, what Apple should do, but those are my opinions and not worth much salt. So here’s what I personally want my watch to do. The list is pretty intense so get ready for it.

  1. Tell me when.
    This could be many things. Tell me the time and date. Tell me when I get a call, a message, an @ mention. Tell me when it’s going to rain. Tell me what I’m listening to. Tell me when I should start mosey-ing over to my next meeting. Notifications, short and sweet. Keep individual apps to a minimum.  I don’t need an entire RSS reader on my watch. I’ll do that on my phone/tablet/computer. Keep out the clutter, and only show me what matters to me most, when I need to know about it.
  2. Act on them.
    Let me act on notifications quickly. Input methods would be simple taps and gestures, or voice control. An acknowledge or a remind me later. A quick reply. The Mailbox app’s gestures are really handy for simple action items like archive, delete, or remind me later. That would be perfect for a small touchscreen. Skip to the next song or podcast.

That’s it. The rest are bells and whistles.

* Update: I just noticed that this post was exactly a year from my previous post regarding critics urging Samsung to be a first-mover. How fitting.

Data for the Future (Updated)

I’ve been listening to this episode on The Talk Show on with John Gruber while working on KPIs for my day job and something hit me.

Why smart people make dumb decisions, especially regarding technology and the future.

There is no data for the future. The data that they have doesn’t support decisions for the future either. The data they do have shows how to milk additional revenue or profits from existing sources, but can’t pioneer new sources.

While reading the Auto Blog, I learned that any car that BMW makes needs to make a good business case. There needs to be data showing that a certain product will be successful in order to pursue it. But where is the data for innovation? If there is market data showing a certain product will succeed, it means somebody already did it. Just the fact that you have data means you are already late to the game.

Innovation comes in the lack of data.

Usually, a company will form with a visionary, an inventor, and idealist as the spearhead. They become successful and hire good managers to keep the company well maintained. When the innovator leaves the head position, usually it is filled by one of the managers below. But their entire success is based on maintaining and growing somebody else’s innovation, not on creating new ones. They might have some of the roots if they’ve been there from the start, but managers replace managers and innovation is lost. The organizational structure stifles innovation.

What seems like a better organizational structure is to separate the existing and growing products from the innovators. A team of innovators will pioneer a new product and grow it, hopefully to some degree of success. Some of the team will remain, along with existing managers to help grow the product. The rest of the innovators will create(or acquire) a new team to pioneer new products and then pass them off again. The executive board should have managing experience to grow existing products, but the focus should be on the future, not the past. That requires more innovators on the board, not managers.

Followup: Clay Christensen, How to Pick Managers for Disruptive Growth

One of the most vexing dilemmas that stable corporations face when they seek to rekindle growth by launching new businesses is that their internal schools of experience have offered precious few courses in which managers could have learned how to launch new disruptive businesses.  In many ways, the managers that corporate executives have come to trust the most because they have consistently delivered the needed results in the core businesses cannot be trusted to shepherd the creation of new growth.

Dynamically updated availability of Contacts

Chris Ziegler just posted an idea called the “Universal Status Indicator” which was actually something I always wished for but didn’t really think through.

Since data connected smartphones are becoming more and more ubiquitous, it seems like a logical next step.

Here are some brainstorming ideas.

  • Groups for organizing contacts, as well as specifying how much information you are comfortable sharing.
  • Integration with multiple calendars (Meetings, Vacations, etc)
    -> Share “I’m Busy” versus “I’m in a meeting” versus “In Meeting from 3:00PM to 5:00PM: 1 on 1 with the boss”
    -> Voicemail or email
  • Integration with social media (Latest status update or check-in?)
  • Location sensitive (Exact location / General vicinity or neighborhood / City / State / Country? / None)
    Designated locations (Home, Work, etc)
  • Motion sensitive (Sorry, I’m driving)
  • IM apps integration (Chat with me on Google Talk, etc)
  • Needs to be  a web service where multiple apps and OS’s can post latest status.
  • Needs priority when multiple posts conflict
  • Simplify!
  • Needs to happen automatically, people are lazy and don’t want to update all the time!

The Luxury of Product Development Pacing

Compared to competitor products, each new iPhone and now the iPad seems to be in a league of its own. However, compared to its own products, how do they fare?

For example, the original iPad vs iPhone4. The iPad was announced well after the iPhone 3GS but before any iPhone4 rumors really reared their heads.
Compared to the 3GS, the iPad seems just right. Comparable pixel density, same amount of system memory, upgrade to the processor, a slight bump in storage options.
However comparing it to the iPhone4 feature wise which was released just 3 months later, it seems mediocre at best.  Drastically lower pixel density, half the system memory of a phone 1/3 it’s size, same processor, same storage options, no cameras for video conferencing.

It almost seems as though they made the iPad “good enough” to be a blockbuster, yet not enough to steal the iPhone4’s thunder.

Now we’re hearing the iPad 2 will be released, thinner, lighter, faster, but same screen resolution. The rumors of a higher screen resolution is reserved for the 3rd gen iPad?

I’d like to put more thought into this but its late so I’ll just end this post with a few blurbs.

  • The “nerfed” features of the iPad compared to the iPhone4; a deliberate decision to not release crap (in this case, not yet ready technology) or a strategic ploy to milk the cow longer since there is no competition?
  • Would Apple have released the same iPad if the Galaxy Tab had come first?
  • Would the world have been impressed about the iPad if the iPhone4 (or even glimpses of the retina display) had come first?
  • Seriously, after gazing into the Retina Display, my iPhone 3GS and iPad screen looks like crap in comparison. Fuzzy and pixelated.
  • How much longer can Apple continue its streak of awe-inspiring announcements now twice a year? How much better can it get?


Lazy Programmers

Lazy Programmers is something I decided to do in my free time to keep myself focused. Currently I’m working as a DBA in a data warehouse for a university to pay the bills while my wife finishes her PhD. Working in a data warehouse opened my eyes to new ideas but also brought me to a halt in developing my craft, my programming skills. I hope to keep my brain sharp and my knowledge current by talking about the latest ideas, ideas that pop up in my mind or are found pulsing through the internet. I can also use it as reference to look back to.

Lazy programming is just a philosophy I picked up while working for my first company. I had inherited some code that interfaced with some other code written by the mother-ship based on some loose specifications and needed to make it work. What irked me to no end was that the interface that the mother-ship provided was so lazily put together, that I had to work extra hard just to appease it. Things would break seemingly randomly, with no way to track what caused it. After months of frustration, our team ditched the interface and wrote our own entirely from scratch. When we were finished, all we had to do was tickle the code a little here and that change would propagate through the code like well oiled gears, causing the exact end result that we wanted.

I met a similar situation recently when I imported my assortment of MP3 files gathered over the ages into iTunes. Organizing those into albums with the correct track numbers, artists, etc proved to be a nightmare of repetitive work. I’m too lazy for that. I’d rather write a regex that parses the file path and name to automatically tag them with minimal intervention. However, what prevented me from doing so was that the barriers to entry were too high. iTunes doesn’t support it, the Windows OS does not support scripts that easily edit the iTunes database, and acquiring a Mac just for that purpose was out of my price range.

Reducing this barrier to entry, this “friction” as Jeremy Bowers of more eloquently puts it in his Lazy Programmers Guide, creates opportunities that were once impossible. The tool works for you and enables you to do more cool things with less downtime. Tony Stark in Iron Man seems like the perfect Lazy Programmer. He built himself an entire AI system that helps him build things. Building the tool probably took more work than it saved for his first project. However, once the tool had been built, he could create prototypes and make changes with minimal effort.

This is the type of developer I’d like to be: diligent up front so I can be lazy later, create tools that take care of the busy work so I can focus on the fun work, write code that works for me and not against me.

If my ramblings provide me with a base to organize my thoughts, weed out static, and pursue new horizons, I’ll consider this blog a success. If it connects me to like-minded people who spark new ideas like flint to steel, my mind will be blown away.

Note: This blog is not meant for eloquent writing and polished thoughts. The few pieces that I write that actually are polished will be categorized separately from my daily ramblings which will allow me to publish my thoughts more freely. Regardless of category, all posts are open to criticism, counter-arguments,  and new ideas.