Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishes for 2007

I wish you and your loved ones a happy, creative, funny, exciting, beautiful 2007 full of joy, laughter, warm moments with friends, great business, love, passion, commitment, co-creation and basically everything you wish for yourself that is also in harmony with the universe.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Fonero on the block

I just configured my FONERA and will be trying out FON in the coming couple of months. Configuration was super smooth and their marketing is really cool. Hope the service turns out to be as valuable as the whole concept is sexy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Selfish business?

Not too productive these days because of an annoying flu, I've been using some of my time to look for interesting sources of inspiration and I think someone like Richard Dawkins is such a source. A long time ago he took part to a TV program aimed at correcting the misinterpretation of the thesis behind his book Selfish Gene. In that TV broadcast Dr Dawkins discusses evolution theory, game theory and the value of cooperative strategies, showing how fundamentally flawed "survival of the fittest" is and how incorrect a statement "nice guys finish last" can be. It seems like an interesting follow-up to yesterday's quote of the day and good food for thought at a time of the year when many of us are thinking about their strategy for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote of the day

"It is our earth, not yours or mine or his. 
We are meant to live on it, helping each other,
not destroying each other.     "
- J. Krishnamurti

Today's quote is by one of my favorite authors and I think it is relevant to superb business quests. From those I had the opportunity to watch closely, I conclude that the forces of creation and meaningful cooperation are far more intense than those of destruction and useless competition.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Telcos: is being an incumbent the shortest path to trouble?

The launch of Jajah in 2006 is probably one of those extremely interesting events in an industry. These days, they seem to be pursuing an objective of acquiring more share of market and consumer attention with their offer for free calls for Christmas. Since I now have some data to crunch on how Jajah's changed my pattern of consumption, I thought it interesting to do the analysis. My conclusions may not be statistically significant, but I guess they will give you more reasons to consider Jajah very seriously.

Jajah_budgetI downloaded data from Jajah (they have this neat service of delivering your traffic in Excel sheets) and also accessed my purchases of Skype Out credits.

Let's start with my Jajah consumption data for February through November 2006:

  • my monthly budget is in the region of 8 €

  • I am placing about 14 calls a month using Jajah

  • the average cost per call was in the region of 0.6 €

During the same period, I continued using Skype a lot for computer to computer calls or for conferences with several people all on Skype and I still bought some credit on Skype although (much )less than before: until now my purchases of Skype Out credits for 2006 are 55 € and I still have about 7 € on my account valid till June 2007, while in 2005 I purchased Skype Out credits worth 85 € and in 2004 credits worth 75 €. So I guess there's been a transfer of part of  my Skype VoIP budget to Jajah, while my overall VoIP budget went up 62% in 2006, with the share of VoIP in my consumption of telco services being over 250% bigger in 2006 than in 2005.

TransferNow making a rough analysis of my yearly budget in connectivity services (telco + ISP, not GSM because I don't have access to my consumption data right now, but I know I dramatically reduced my roaming traffic thanks to Jajah and Skype), I notice the following interesting points:

  • while my consumption of connectivity services and the time I spend online has increased, my yearly budget is now half what it was in 2004

  • the share of my budget that goes to my ISP increased because my ISP is now also offering VoIP telephony and a fixed budget for domestic calls after 18:00

  • the share of my budget that goes to Skype grew much less in 2006 (+12%) than it did in 2005 (+60%)

  • I spent 50% more on Jajah than I did on Skype, which is not that bad for a service that got notice of and tried only in February

So I guess that this confirms many of the trends professionals of the telco business are seeing on the market andit should be good news for Jajah and Skype. It does confirm Jajah's claim of being a killer of roaming and I think this space is interesting to watch because the nature of impacts that the telco industry is going through with the wave of adoption of disruptive web tools is likely to be valid in other industries as well. By nature of impacts I mean that the sources of value are changing from "the privilege of access" to "the imperative of customer experience". Access is no longer the issue; customer experience is more than ever, which makes product and service design all the more essential.
That makes people even more important because they represent competencies that ultimately define the performance of a business. And I think that's quite a quest in business.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are you person of the year?

Time_poy2006Now, that's quite an acknowledgment, coming from traditional media: the web  has shifted the balance of influence it seems, with people taking more power in  their own hands. Mass media is being transformed,   perhaps becoming the media of the masses as claimed over a year ago by Joel de Rosnay. It's quite clear that things are changing and no longer will consumption of information be as it used to be in the early days of mass media. In the recent conference Le Web 3, I was impressed when a top French journalist (Jean-Pierre Elkabach) failed to take control of the interview of one of the French presidential candidate as the organizers gave the floor for questions to the bloggers first. That would have been impossible only a few years back.
This space is getting extremely interesting and as a blogger and tech enthusiast I can only rejoice at the fact that the web is finally recognized as a power to be reckoned with. Also particularly pleased that the reality of the Information Age is made so clear.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Any lessons to be taken or has blogging taken a hit?

"Today, you need transparency and decency to run a business."
Shimon Peres, 12-DEC-2006

A conference also needs transparency and decency. Having some ground rules looks like a good idea. It would probably help achieve a higher level of quality than that reached at Le Web 3. While very unhappy with the wave of Loic-bashing that took place (I don't know the man, but I feel there is a distinction to be made between a person and what that person does), my choice is to examine what happened and try to derive a couple of useful conclusions:

  1. about organizing a conference I tend to agree with most of the ground rules proposed by Tom Morris and also believe ground rules themselves should be questioned on a regular basis;

  2. about the wisdom of crowds, I think this week shows us that crowds can be as furiously crazy as they can be "wise". Collective intelligence does not happen automatically simply because one connects individuals and grants them unprecedented freedom of expression: it takes respect and awareness, both of which ought to start within each one of us. How can I make an intelligent and useful contribution when I don't respect myself and others? How can that contribution be thoughtful when I am not aware that what is speaking is an unbridled ego?

  3. about crisis management, silence is not an option as nicely shown here;

  4. about feedback, it ought to be adequately focused, specific, balanced and solution oriented.
    • Adequately focused means that it does have a clear objective (e.g. "identify strength and weaknesses of a conference" or "improve the way a conference brings value to participants") and not be all over the place sometimes becoming mob lynching  (do I need to provide examples here?);

    • Specific means that feedback is at its best when it focuses on identifiable events, times and effects (e.g. "Sarkozy's speech was a mistake because it did not bring anything useful to the conference and wasted most people's time") rather than being unfocused and general (e.g. "Le Web 3 sucks" - something I read somewhere but do not believe);

    • Balanced means that it contain both points that were particularly good (e.g. "managing to bring together 1000 people from 37 countries was a major achievement") and points that can be improved (e.g. "the subjects discussed could have been better framed and the panels could have been better managed to help derive useful conclusions about issues");

    • Solution oriented means that the ultimate objective of feedback is to improve something or help someone, not to exclude and destroy something or someone, which means that the content of feedback ought to help us generate possible solutions almost immediately (e.g. "when it became obvious the schedule could not be kept I felt unhappy with the presenters claiming we would still be able to go through the schedule by simply eliminating coffee breaks" - drives immediately possible solutions like "amend schedule" and "communicate decently");

Choosing sides and fighting from the trenches is probably not the point and I find it rather impressing that this seems to be the game in many cases. In my experience, when that happens it means that we have probably lost track of the objective, the means are becoming an end, a system becomes a caricature of itself (and ends up collapsing) and decency, clarity and transparency are lost. Can that be avoided or has blogging taken a major hit?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Exciting workshops ahead

Hopefully something creative and positive will come out of the whole Le Web 3 issue. I cannot believe how this matter seems to have become topic #1 on Technorati these days... Anyway, I am now heading off to lovely Luxembourg where I have a few interesting workshops to run and I am particularly happy since I will be using a couple of very effective tools like for example De Bono's hats method.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Web conference hacked: what's next?

The amount of criticism about the way Le Web 3 conference was high-jacked by politicians is stunning. A distinction needs to be made between issues and individuals. I have certainly made quite a few mistakes in this life and will not cast a stone at any one individual; Loic Le Meur has been criticized as a person and in terms of his competence for running a conference like this one. I am not sure that's the point. Actually, I do think we need to distinguish between individuals (with their limitations and personal challenges) and issues.
Perhaps what happened is an opportunity for the community of bloggers to play the game of democracy, "the right to make mistakes and the obligation to correct them" as Shimon Peres said. After all, don't we all carry part of the responsibility for letting such an event in the hands of one, when our true aspiration is one of a peer-to-peer distributed world in which individuals can freely participate? In the economy when markets work it is because no single participant can skew the process. So, acknowledging the following facts:

  1. there must be a reason why 1000 people from 37 countries gathered in Paris these two days

  2. humans need to meet in person aside from having a presence on the web

  3. the community of people involved in collaborative, distributed, social processes is interested in
    • finding out new applications and services,

    • understanding how existing applications affect real life

    • finding their role in the world

    • ...

  4. "the world is pregnant  with a new age" and this community stands to play a role to transform old ways

  5. as the influence of the community of free agents / free participants grows, established players will try to seize the dynamics of the process to their own benefit (see how Elkabach from Europe 1 jumped on the scene to take control of the interview of one of the French politicians on stage - luckily the facilitator that was translation stopped him and took questions from the audience)

perhaps the community of bloggers ought to put together a dynamic self-organizing global forum:

  • built around the essential principles of the Internet (peer-to-peer, distributed, never relying on any one node, inclusive, self-organizing, with minimal central infrastructure used to help route packets, free as in free enterprise, sometimes free as in free beer, open...)

  • organized in streams (and perhaps politics should have a stream of its own with rules for politicians to be there on equal terms with participants), with topics emerging dynamically instead of being built as an agenda of items structured as "Is XYZ dead?" (where XYZ is some familiar topic of the traditional world: media, politics, television, bananas...)

  • focused on objectives (one of which could be a "better world" initiative if the objective emerges from the community of bloggers) to be updated on a regular basis

  • bridging the gap between technologies and applications in this space

  • providing opportunities for people to meet and co-create

  • ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Le Web 3 hacked by French politicians

French politicians invited themselves at Le Web 3, a conference that has nothing to do with politics and certainly needs no lecturing from the French Minister of the Interior about values and rules that we are supposed to be in need of. The web community has been working for the past 30 years building rules, protocols and acceptable practices making the web a space of freedom that needs no patronizing by French politicians!
What's more, I don't think attendants actually paid to get this content and think it is a shame some very interesting bits about the future of television (a most interesting topic... much more than French politics) received such limited focus, that the schedule has been so badly managed and that we basically lost energy and momentum because some bunch of French politicians wanted to do themselves some public relations and build an image of modernity. If they are modern they ought to go for conversations, not top-down broadcasts of official truths and by the way accept questions for the audience, Mr Sarkozy. The audience is also busy and made room in the schedule of the event for your speech; what respect do you show by leaving without taking any questions? How about some more participation of "the masses" in the political process? You might loose some control but everyone will win so much more democracy...
Crucially, we saw the appalling difference between the wisdom and height of views of Shimon Peres and the lowly PR calculations of politicians in-duty and full of ambitions limited by the borders of their nation states. Politics is in bad needs of a major upgrade IMHO.

Shimon Peres offers vision to bloggers at Le Web 3

Shimon Peres paid us a visit today at Le Web 3.
It was great to listen as the Nobel Prize winner developed his vision
of the future of mankind, declaring that "the world is not a mess. It
is pregnant: a new age is coming, marking the end of the stone age".
The experience of having Mr Peres here was just great and I will simply
give you a few of his most striking declarations here, some of which
are pretty radical:

"... we are moving from traditional memory to intellectual
imagination. The world is created through what people discover and
imagine today, not through the memory of past events. Bloggers and the
Internet community has freed the world from the obligation to remember.
Everything that needs to be known is available, recorded online, so now
we can turn the energy of our minds to the future, to imagination and

"I think young people will stop reading newspapers and watching
television. They will use the Internet to access information when and
where they want."

"States, countries, borders and governments don't mean that much
anymore. They made sense when wealth was derived from the land [...]
Past history is written in red ink, in blood [...] Borders do not stop
knowledge from flowing, armies cannot conquer knowledge and governments
cannot control economies [...]Today to be successful a young person
does not need to kill and conquer."

"Wealth is not defined by accumulation of capital, but by penetration.
It's not what a company owns that makes its value, but rather the
potential it holds to imagine, create and bring to life future

"The strength of a country cannot be counted in number of square miles it controls, but rather in number of patents it files."

"Modern economy cannot be run without transparency and decency, since a
company's value is its potential to create wealth, the talents of its

"Economy cannot be measured by bookkeepers. It needs people with sharp eyes who can identify potential."

"I met China's politburo recently. I was stunned by their current
philosophy, which is harmony: harmony between humans, harmony between
man and nature, harmony nation to nation [...] It felt like the time I
spent in a Kibboutz when I was young!"

"Democracy is the right to be different, the right to make mistakes and the obligation to correct them."

"I am an optimist. Optimists and pessimists die the same way, but they live very differently."

"Religions are opium for the people. You can sell opium, but you can't
live on it. Even the Ayatollahs need more than enriched uranium to feed
their children."

Extremely inspiring thoughts that actually brought some fresh air in a
conference that contains more than a fair share of gadgets, egos, masks
and sometimes complete bull-shit (although the content is often very
good). When asked what bloggers could do to help solve the problems of
the Middle-East, Shimon Peres paused and said "that's an interesting
question... Well, you should go there take initiatives, start
companies, build schools, open shops and create wealth... Do it on your
own, not under the flag of any government. People will welcome you with
open arms!"

Quite an invitation!

Rotten Orange

Le Web 3 is a conference about the future of the web, yet its connectivity provided by event sponsor Orange was something that clearly belongs to our (remote) past... Useless and unstable WiFi network, theoretical bandwidth infinitely larger than effective bandwidth when luck struck and we were able to connect... Useless. Which points out the importance of quality control or else a brand gets the opposite effect than the one expected.

Hans Rosling welcomes us to the Real Planet Earth

Perhaps the most amazing presentation given by a university professor I have ever attended and probably also the least dull considering the amount of data Hans Rosling of Karolinska Institutet presented. Having a presentation about the fact based realities of the world we live,which are more often than not in stark contrast with generally accepted "truths", in an event like Le Web 3 was definitely a good idea.

If you are interested in some notes from Hans Rosling's presentation, you can get them at this link, again made with Freedmind. Below are two videos:

  • the first shows a sequence of  Rosling's presentation in which he mocks the generally accepted idea that the world is divided into two sorts of countries (industrialized and under-developed, the first being characterized by small families and big life expectancy and the latter by small families and short life expectancy). The amazing presentation fo his data is done with a software tool developed by a new business called GapMinder (Rosling's family business of sorts);

  • the second is an interview of Rosling and I think it gives you an idea about the style and his exacting demand for a fact based world view. Actually he believes that instead of having international bodies like the UN publish tons of boring data that are only available for a fee, data should be made available freely and presented in a way making it easy for people to analyze it and draw conclusions. Rosling says data should be as free as sidewalks (which means we would need worldwide governance and a global tax system because in Sweden as elsewhere I guess it's taxpayers' money that pays for free sidewalks...)

Le Web 3 - Notes from N. Zenström's interview

Loic Le Meur's interview of Niklas Zenström was a very interesting way to start the conference. The perspectives of this serial entrepreneur are worth listening to. If you are interested in notes, they can be found here in a format generated by Freemind, the cool open-source mind mapping tool I am using. I found Zenström's short comments about his plans for TV ("it's supposed to be stealth" as he said) particularly interesting... What happens when the best aspects of the Internet are combined with the stuff people like about TV? I bet his next venture will be explosive... again.

From Brussels to Le Web 3

I decided to provide an account of my trip to get to Le Web 3 conference in Paris. It's a way for me to have a first try at publishing videos and also a way to show how Jamendo content can be used very easily in Creative Commons By-SA-NC licensed material.


Download 20061211_BQIA_GettingToLeWeb3.wmv

Video sent by alexpapa

Monday, December 11, 2006

Le Web 3

Now at Le Web 3 with some pretty interesting presentations this morning: - an interview of Skype's Zenström with nice insights into how the combination of the best attributes of the Internet and TV can actually transform the business of television - a quick presentation by Google's Lorraine Twohill, who spoke way too fast and gave some great content - a smashing presentation by Hans Rosling, a professor at Karolinska Institutet, who offered a refreshing reality check arguing that our world view is heavily biased and ought to be more fact based. He actually has statistical data showing that Swedish students perform far worse than chimpanzees when it comes to understanding the world, while professors are barely on par with chimpanzees. His presentation contained some excellent stuff I'll post later today in the form of a mindmap + pictures (bandwidth / network performance is appalling at the conference)

Enjoy your day as much as I enjoy mine!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Is a business quest in the wine business pure folly?

A few months ago I wrote a post about the business quest of a couple of friends in Germany in the  incredibly challenging industry of wine. I was lucky to be a witness and sometimes a bit of a facilitator of the process they followed to set-up their business. More than a year after we had our first informal chat about their "wine project", Markus and Claudia already have some nice accomplishments under their belt.
I think the program they launched to offer bonds (whose capital and interests are paid in the form of a share of future wine production) was one of the most fun and original ways to get (limited) finance for investing in a filtering machine (picture posted here). Since my company is the proud owner of a few of those shares, I had the privilege of receiving a nice message telling me what the money had been used for and what use a filtering machine was in their production process.
Last September their second harvest and grape pressing took place and I can tell from their messages they enjoyed every bit of the tough work they did to achieve that.
To them, this business was not a choice considered in front of a BCG strategic matrix after an MBA class, nor was it something they decided to do to become millionaires. They decided to go into wine simply because they love the product, they love their region and they love to share with other people the good products that come out of the land of the beautiful Mosel region. So I guess their recipe for launching this project is the following:

project launch = (love)³

In fact, Markus and Claudia are applying something Steve Jobs suggested to the graduates of Stanford as you will see by watching the video in the previous post: do something you love, live your life, not someone else's life.
Over the past year, they both did an awful lot of work to train and become certified wine producers, to get adequate land, make decisions about density of plants, organise harvesting and production... And there are two areas in which they placed particular focus:

  1. the design of a product that would meet their heartfelt aspiration for allying a fine tradition dating back several generations in their family and meaningful innovation

  2. marketing and communication for their business and for their products.

I did some work with them to help clarify the concept and the key messages. My input was really minimal and the execution is their accomplishment (IMHO execution is worth 80% of the endeavor). To do that in an efficient way, I used a great tool that makes it possible to create concept maps and it's quite powerful. I am attaching an example of a concept map we drafted for the Jostock-Buelhoff winery's communication. Concept maps and mind maps (Freemind is my tool) are actually the two tings that keep my work relatively clean and help me communicate a lot of information to customers in as few pages as possible.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Quest for meaning (II)

Here's one of the most intense and humane speeches I have ever heard. Steve Jobs sharing three great stories from his life and the insights they gave him:

  1. you cannot connect the dots looking forward: only when you look back at past significant events in your life can you see the meaning

  2. when you loose something important, you have not lost much if you still love (what you do): sometimes Life hits you with a brick in the face and that's when you ought not to loose faith because there must be a meaning that you will only grasp afterwards

  3. death is life's best change agent and it's our common destination, something that can make us realize how much stronger what we share is from what sets us apart. "Live every day as though it were your last: if you do that some day you will be right". Jobs' message is: don't waste your life living somebody else's life. I particularly liked his point about how living according to dogma's is living by someone else's (outdated) beliefs


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wanna work together?

This is the latest video campaign from Creative Commons and I think it does a great job at explaining what Creative Commons is all about and the good reasons why CC is a fantastic enabler for anyone interested in freedom, fair use, knowledge sharing, content reuse and unbridled creativity. It takes only 3 minutes. Enjoy.

Man's quests in the information age

Will machines dominate mankind? How will business quests look like in an era of artificial rationality? Yes, I think it is about rationality and not intelligence: machines don't understand nor manipulate concepts, they don't invent, they don't paint and they don't weave relationships... not yet at least. Welcome to the dawn of the information age.

As the latest edition of a man-machine chess game shows, it's increasingly difficult for man to beat machines in the field of pure rationality. Chess master Kramnik lost against Deep Fritz a mighty machine that is capable of calculating 8 to 10 million chessboard combinations per second. Artificial rationality is here to stay and will become more and more present in our lives (if we don't blow the planet before that). The rise of artificial rationality and some day of artificial intelligence, will radically transform our universe. It will either multiply our capabilities or subject us to a terrible form of totalitarianism. Assuming AI multiplies our capabilities, what are the implications in terms of business quests? Machines are already vital in many professions like for instance traders. What is the role of man is such contexts? Could we imagine a world of almost totally automated markets? Perhaps machines will take care of activities that are either repetitive or can be assessed in probabilistic terms and people will specialize in activities requiring intuition, creativity and artistic talent? What if all those activities (writer, artist, singer, painter, sculptor, dancer, actor...) often considered as decadent in conservative societies of the industrial era were to become our main focus in the coming decades? What if the current rise of the social dimension of the web and the adoption of technological enablers for human relationships were only the first steps in the direction? What if a creative class was to rise?

Many science fiction writers imagined future worlds characterized by ubiquitous computing and a permanent contest between humans and machines, sometimes leading to wars (Hyperion, Endymion, Foundation, Robots, Matrix, Legends of Dune) and the rise of post-machine worlds (Dune). Sometimes science fiction describes political systems (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), environmental degradation (The Precipice, Earth) and fictional business quests (Moonrise). I think science fiction is a good source of inspiration aside from being a great way to take some rest.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Launch of France 24

Example of a very interesting campaign done by one of my customers. I wonder what France 24 will look like and what share of audience it will have.

Adopt this banner

Monday, December 4, 2006

Extracting value from content

Looking at the incredible availability of very decent content today, many people claim that we live in an era of abundance, which changes established rules in industries whose business model is based on allowing or denying access to content. I agree with them: access to content is no longer a good way to "extract" value out of the market. Defending an outdated model may be a way to extort money from some people, but I don't think it is a durable way of making money in a way that keeps all participants (customers, intermediaries...) happy.

That being said, while researching Cirque du Soleil (here's a review of a fairly interesting book they are selling), a question came to my mind: in an era of abundance how do they manage to derive value from the content they own? After all, there are quite a few beautiful shows combining great choreography and beautiful music... So what's the big difference? I believe the difference lies in the way Cirque du Soleil creates first and foremost an experience for their customers. Their business is not so much about granting or denying access to content, but rather about creating a unique experience for the audience and extending that experience in the form of clothes, costumes, books, CD and DVD. Looking at the business from the angle of user experience is probably something that content industries ought to do instead of trying desperately to cling to old ways or to force software tools designed to enforce artificial scarcity (DRM for example).

When that shift happens in the thinking of a content dependent company interesting questions arise:

  • what are the contexts in which we want a customer to become exposed to our content?

  • putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer, what are the different steps we will need to follow to experience the content?

  • what do we want the customer to think, feel, say and do before, during and after their exposure to the experience?

  • what are the obstacles and negative aspects of the experience for the customer?

  • how can we extend the experience beyond the contexts we control in a way that preserves its quality and reinforces the positive emotions generated while the customer was in a more controlled context of experience?

  • how does the experience we offer differentiate from existing propositions on the market?

  • what is the potential for profit for each form of customer experience?

  • ...

In fact some of the best tools and techniques I have ever come across for generating meaningful questions pertaining to the target user's experience were developed by a company called Ideo and they are making those methods available in the form of the Ideo Method Cards, which I find just great.