Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Business interest undermined by top execs' self-interest

I remember being taught at my business school how markets had a sort of superior wisdom and why it made sense to manage in the best interest of shareholders. Aside from the fact that I believe in taking into account more factors than just the financial interest of shareholders, it seems that managing in the best interest of a corporation (that is also the best interest of its owners) is not the main objective of many top management teams. Tom Peters has an interesting post about that on his blog and let me quote something that I found striking:

"Over the last five years, INTERPUBLIC GROUP lost about $2 BILLION—and
the top five execs were collectively paid $107 million. During the same
five years OMNICOM's top five pocketed $111 million—on a profit of $3.2
BILLION."

I believe that the issue of executive pay and performance management are among the hottest topics to be tackled these days. In part the answer lies in proper management of people and talent, which is simply not done today as many HR departments do little more than payroll and low level administrative support. In fact, Tom Peters says that the pay of executive is closely correlated with the size of the organization and not that closely correlated with the business performance of the organization. I guess it is one more argument in favour of breaking the pyramids and bureaucracies and moving towards businesses organized as networks of small interconnected business units, some of those units being potentially one-person companies. Anyhow, this is an extremely interesting topic.



Tuesday, May 30, 2006

EU court blocks data deal with US

The EU's Court of Justice just cancelled a decision taken in 2004 by the Commission to let US authorities keep personal data of passengers traveling to the US. A defeat for the Commission of the EU, the Court’s decision is a relief for supporters of civil liberties: security does not have to be at the expense of personal freedom and privacy.



From Digg:

The Luxembourg court said there was no legal basis for the EU decision to declare US data protection "adequate".

read more | digg story



First was the business model

Over the past couple of months I came across several articles claiming that there are investors today on the market who are more interested in product features than in a company’s business model. That is tragic.


Perhaps this line of reasoning is why we are seeing (again, as it was the case back in 2000) so many initiatives that are merely nice online tools but not businesses. I was really surprised to discover a number of online todo lists and I am not too sure how these guys are actually going to make money. Ditto for a number of online tools aimed at building the so-called “social Internet”.


A company’s business model is of the essence and it’s worth spending time to define and refine it. It’s the core of business sustainability and no company in the world can afford not to be clear about its business model. And because I now have some experience with entrepreneurs, let me add this: pick one and stick to it. Few things are worse in strategy execution than trying to have two or three business models because you can’t make up your mind.





Defining a business model sometimes involves disruptive thinking (not always though). And to do the job of business modelling properly one must take industry practices and economics into account as they are shaped by available technical means of production. InfoTech is a revolution in that respect. Economic phenomena previously considered to be marginal or exceptional are becoming mainstream with the advent of InfoTech; the network effect (or network externalities) is one such example. But that does not mean that the rules of business are radically transformed. As mentioned in an article published just after the downturn of 2000:



“[…]you can't give things away for free and you can't sell things for less than they cost”.


In the same article, a venture capitalist says that what sets apart a successful start-up from a failed one is the business model. There are other factors of course and I personally consider people to be more and more important. Fundamental in fact, which is why, done properly, the HR job will be one of the sexiest areas of the 21st century. And I am not talking about payroll administration but about finding, nurturing and developing talent in human organizations.


At its core a business model shows how an entity is going to be profitable by selling a product or providing a service. So, if the idea is that an individual (the entity) has a cool idea (product or service) with nice features that would be valuable as a component of another business but not as a standalone business, then, at a higher level, that individuals personal business model is that of the inventor, not that of the entrepreneur.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Odd HTML code due to Jajah's Firefox extension?

While working on a post for my blog, I noticed strange lines of HTML code when using the online editor provided by TypePad. Here’s an example of such odd lines:




<div id="jajahYDiv" style="visibility: hidden;">0</div>


<div id="jajahXDiv" style="visibility: hidden;">0</div>


I decided to open a ticket with TypePad and after I got their answer I uninstalled the Jajah extension. Guess what? The funny lines of code had disappeared, except for a few of the posts of my blog. I wonder what may have caused this and obviously I now feel somewhat less confident in the Firefox extension for Jajah. A pitty because it was quite convenient.


The details of my uninstall, with screen shots are available at the link below.







SP32-20060529-192743Here are three screen shots of posts in which I found HTML lines similar to the ones shown above. Please click on the pictures to get a full-size image.


In fact all of the posts I opened and viewed in HTML rather than WYSIWYG format had such strange lines at the very end of the post. Also, I noticed that the WYSIWYG editor showed some pretty strange behaviour: when writing a new post starting to type at the SP32-20060529-192906default location of the cursor I got nothing on the screen other than the cursor moving as though text was being printed; to solve this I had to use the UP arrow and only then would the editor work properly. That behaviour started after I installed the extension and it is not peculiar to TypePad’s editor as I had the same issues on other online platforms.


 


SP32-20060529-193007Now, the third screenshot is the test I am using to show that the abnormal lines of code must be coming from Jajah’s extension. Test is simple:


1. remove the extension


2. close all instances of Firefox


3. restart Firefox, go open the same post on TypePad and read the corresponding HTML code


SP32-20060529-193054


I removed the extension as shown in the following screen shot.


 


 


SP32-20060529-193756The odd lines of HTML are no longer in the code of that post.


 


 


 


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Smart web marketing: an ounce of practice worth more than tons of theory

SP32-20060527-183312As I was reading a piece of news on the site of BBC Newsnight, I noticed a smart marketing trick: the BBC lets you access a specific piece of content under the condition that you as a reader agree to”digg” the article. Suprising and smart method for an established media company.


Digging of course is web-speak; it does not involve any shovels or spades: it merely means that as a reader you somehow “vote” for the article and increase its popularity on a site called Digg that aggregates content from difference sources and allows its users to qualify and comment the articles. Digg is often the source of traffic for a web site as most recommended articles are viewed by Digg’s community and by non-members.





I know there has been quite some coverage lately about the BBC’s strategy for the Information Age. Strategy is necessary and potentially useful but actual implementation of a strategy is really what makes a difference for a company. More often than not implementation is visible through small details in a company’s operations, not fancy top management initiatives.


Oh, and by the way this post was written with BlogJet, a desktop blogging software package I am trying out. It seems a lot easier to use than Ecto, but I have not made up my mind yet. Any ideas?


Co-dependents

Very interesting list of lies posted by Guy Kawasaki. Some of them are just the little lies of everyday life, other are the lies of marketers (and yes, as Seth Goding puts it All Marketers Are Liars - great book by the way) and a last group is made of the lies of venture capitalists. In fact when describing lie number 3 ("you need us more than we need you"), Kawasaki is telling a big truth: the relationship between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who choose to develop their company the Silicon Valley way is one of codependency.




Not a transactional business relationship. Codependency. Perhaps the worst type of relationship between human beings; and that may actually be the reason why so many deals look so bad when one analyzes them from a neutral position. That may also be the reason why we keep hearing some pretty amazing horse-shit these days about how business models don't matter and how venture investors are principally interested in features. That's a huge lie and a dangerous replay of the theories that drove the crazy years 1997 - 2000 (profits are not really important - each customer is worth 7000 $ - cost of acquisition of a customer is 250 $...)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Jamendo at Opensource Day

Jamendo presented at an event devoted to opensource day in Belgium. Here's the account. Jamendo's CEO outlined the trends he and his team are betting on to develop Jamendo and transform the music industry's model by establishing a direct channel between creators of music and their users all over the world:



  1. mass amateurism - today as technical means become widely available at an affordable price, the barrier to production is not access to capital or to the people with privileged access to exclusive infrastructures. It's more about talent than about money as the authors of Funky Business would say.


  2. networks of activists - citizens are taking a number of things in their own hands to promote open access to content and to fight against artificially imposed scarcity of content.


  3. bad guys - established players of the music industry have made a choice to be tought instead of being smart. People react to their violent reaction against open technologies, peer-to-peer networks without discrimination on their legality, user's right to use content they paid for as authorized by law, people's privacy...


  4. business logic - the cost of content today is the result of artificially orchestrated scarcity, not that of free market forces. By building a business model on the assumption that we are now in an economy of abundance of content and scarcity of attention, Jamendo has a solution to address the needs of professional users of music.


This space is moving and I think Laurent and Jamendo are on a very interesting track, if I may say so.









Thursday, May 25, 2006

VoIP substitution

Because I started my professional life in the GSM industry, working from a very central position in a clearing-house, I have been watching the impacts of the web on the telecoms business with a lot of interest. Judging from my own choices as a consumer (and I do not suggest for a minute these reflect general trends, but then again I must be part of some segment of the market so it may not be that insignificant), I would bet that the impact of VoIP on the traditional telephony businesses is one of enormous substitution; here are a few facts:



  1. my telco bill is 80% lower today than it used to be before I started using Skype, while I am definitely spending more time speaking to people on "the phone";


  2. in my business I have been speaking Skype-to-Skype and chatting with customers and prospects instead of placing phone calls. In fact, less than 20% of my calls to prospects, customers and business partners are with a traditional phone (my accountant is not online yet, but I am working on it)


  3. when travelling abroad, I am now using my mobile phone for less than one call out of three, when a few years back there was no choice. In a recent trip to Luxembourg, I placed all my calls using Jajah with a cost advantage over roaming that I assess to be in the region of 85% to 90% (by the way roaming is a rip-off and it's good the Commission of the EU is working on it IMHO)


Today I came across the intetresting account of a study done in Japan that tends to show that Skype increases consumption of telecoms more than it is a substitute for traditional telco services. I agree with the author of the post that this study is probably missing something important. Indeed prospects are getting darker for traditional telco operators who will be under enormous pressure to review their business model and that heralds a big shake-up of the industry.







Quote of the day

"Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation." - Gandhi





Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Plaxo goes VoIP with Jajah

The VoIP space is getting crowded and there will be consolidation with a bloodbath. There are a couple of players I am willing to bet on though and Jajah is certainly one of those. I really like the way these guys are moving and they might just become a most compelling personal communciations center. Next step is to piggy-back on some of Skype's functions like chat and to start addressing the needs of PBX users through tools like Peerio's and we have a big winner.



From Digg:



Plaxo, that company that drove some people nuts with e-mail invitations to its service, is getting on the voice over Internet Protocol bandwagon.

read more | digg story







Jajah's Firefox extension rocks

234x60_07_1
I installed Jajah's firefox extension yesterday and it just rocks. I just love the way these guys are developing their business. The FF extension is a great move adding a lot of convenience for customers. Here's a little account of a user's experience.



  1. there is a little editable box on the toolbar of Firefox where I can enter the number I wish to dialSp3220060524022955


  2. once I enter the number and press "Enter", Jajah opens a small pop-up browser window which I can use to log-in (if that is not already the case) and choose from which phone I want to place my call


  3. then all I have to do is click on the call button and pick-up my receiver


Now, that is good stuff because it's really easy for me to dial whichever number I want without first visiting Jajah's homepage. But that's not the extension's coolest feature...



Sp3220060524021354_2
To me the  coolest feature is that the extension is able to identify phone numbers being displayed on pages I am visiting. These phone numbers appear in white characters on a Jajah-purple background and if I want to call any of those, all I have to do is just click on the number and Jajah does the rest. Mega cool. The picture is an example of a page of a site contiaing phone numbers.















Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Online office

I have been looking into virtual office and other similar solutions over the past few weeks. The landscape of online productivity and organisation tools is getting
pretty crowded. I think we are headed for a consolidation there. There is a couple of providers I believe will survive though.



Groove is one who will survive because it's got great features and big Microsoft behind them. The service is quite good and did not experience any of the bandwidth issues a friend told me he had, but I seriously question their pricing scheme which is per seat: you see in my case I may have to share data with several of my customer's employees for a limited number of days during a business year; I could not imagine bearing the cost of full licences for each of those part-time users... So Groove's pricing is not adequate for me; in fact it's crap and looks like a legacy pricing scheme of a software house of the nineties. Unless I missed something, in whcih case I will have to reformulate: the way they communicate their prices is crap.



I like pragmatic solutions that work well instead of fancy interfaces full of AJAX gadgets. Virtual Office is such a pragmatic and apparently robust solution. It's worth trying out. I really like the way in which they included sunchronization features in their offering, thus allowing me to have data from my Palm on their platform as well as on my PIM. At least, I decided to test the Virtual Office solution seriously because I still have that dream that every morning I open my little shop offering my professional services and that this shop would be accessible all over the world. To be continued...



Monday, May 22, 2006

Marketing matters... a lot

DavinciI was curious. I went to see the movie that is driving many religious institutions berserk. I had tried to read the book and I did not like the author's style (sorry Dan). Well, what's the fuss? The story is interesting, actors are good but not exceptional and the way the movie was shot is decent. No more. Yet, the Da Vinci Code has already made about 200 million Euro in worldwide sales... Interesting marketing case.



I will not discuss the theories developed in the book and the movie as I am not knowledgeable enough, although I have an opinion about these political entities called church hierarchies. All I will say is that there must be something in the background of the collective unconscious mind regarding the way a philosophy of life and its founder were betrayed by power-greedy humans thus triggering a horrendous series of crimes against Life itself. And in saying that I do not mean to judge anyone - not even religious institutions and their political elites... no, really! -, just to bring to memory the victims of dreadful mistakes committed in the name of the faithful to make the world a better place... Perhaps something we should keep in mind as the concept of "infidel" or "un-something" (as in unamerican) is very much in fashion... again, sadly. No, my point here is to deal with this as the interesting marketing case it is:






  1. the strength of word of mouth - a product that does not have superior
    "features" worth mentioning attracts attention to the points of
    breaking a sales record in its industry...


  2. mastership in communication - the producers and makers of the movie were careful to have fairly low key communication and use the outrage of religious authorities to a degree that would not do harm to the business. I mean the coverage these guys got courtesy of the various integrists of established institutions of christianism is just enormous: they got free TV, press and web coverage...


  3. excellent cast of actors whose image fits perfectly not only with the requirements of the characters but also with those of the PR campaign around the film that producers correctly anticipated I am sure


  4. perfectly controlled launch and correct choice of simultaneous launch worldwide, which makes it very difficult for oponents to organize protests country by country. Unless something major hits the world I don't believe the various versions of christian faith can muster the energy to organize demonstrations or opposition initiatives worldwide


It's excellent food for thought for any entrepreneurial initiative and for marketing & sales professionals.



On funding in the US

An interesting post on Guy Kawasaki's blog offering an MP3 of a 2005 conference that dealt  with funding of start-ups. Interesting to hear from the best known US venture investors how they work, what companies they select, what matters and what does not...



Team always key element by the way, which speaks volumes about the importance of talent and group dynamics in start-up contexts. Another thing that was mentioned is that they do not so much care about ticking check boxes as they do care about the understanding the founding team has about the market and the competition.



It's a good source for getting a feel for how US investors work and that might actually be useful to a couple of companies I know. For me it is food for thought regarding the similarities and differences of starting a company in Europe and in the US. The quick version of the story is that I am deeply convinced that the US model of funding does not work as is in Europe and that we have a wonderful thing called family business in Europe that has allowed us to build giants like Hermes and Illy... So why wouldn't it be possible to create an alternative model for developing innovative start-ups? I know there are challenges, you need critical mass, there is competition with US-based ventures... bla, bla, bla. That does not mean we should not try something in that direction aroudn here.



Sunday, May 21, 2006

Yet another beautiful discovery on Jamendo

Just amazing how much good music there is on Jamendo! Here is an album I downloaded today; Rob Costlow is a great musician, or at least I just love his music. Not quite like Yann Tiersen, but the sound of Costlow's piano is deeply moving... I just admire great creators and I think he is one of them.



On top of that, I just love the way he uses the web to promote his creations by dealing directly with his listeners. The web is a method for flooding the system, a fantastic means for messages to emerge from the individual choices of free individuals (versus top-down logic of traditional media)... Anyway, listen to Costlow, pay a visit to his site and support him via Jamendo's donation management system.





Saturday, May 20, 2006

Entrepreneurship & innovation in wine

Sp3220060519115927This is a story of passion. A story of returning to the roots. It is the story of a friend who involved me early on in his project. It's about a talented software engineer who wanted to continue the tradition of making wine in his corner of Germany. But he also wanted something different: the alliance of tradition and innovation.



Well over a year ago, when Markus told me about the project he and his wife Claudia had to start making wine, I was a bit surprised. You see Markus is a successful and respected IT professional, a fromer colleague of mine; he has three kids and he could really just settle down and live a quiet life. But for Markus and Claudia, creation and challenges are important aspects of life. Aside from this more personal side of things, I was also wondering how somebody could enter an industry about which there is considerable press coverage claiming that it is in a difficult period. Not that this would be entirely new to Markus whose family has been making wine for decades. But still, it is a cut-throat business with high volume producers flooding the market and holding key distribution positions. Markus wanted to do something different: achieve top quality, guarantee remarkable customer experience and go direct to eliminate the cost of distribution. To do that Markus and Claudia went through a process of reviewing each step of production and distribution, workign on marketing communications and sales methods... Now, that's quite interesting...



I am always fascinated by innovative entrepreneurial endavours. They don't have to be in high-tech; innovation can happen anywhere and there is no such thing as a low tech business in my opinion; there are conservative and conventional managers, but not low-tech businesses. A product like wine becomes a commodity only when marketers are tired and become rigid in their ways of doing.



Over a year later, the first bottles of Jostock-B├╝lhoff wine are available for sale. The site is up and running and the owners have tons of ideas in stock to make this wine experience a memorable one for customers. I purchased some wine with them this day as I am curious to discover the innovative packaging with the stainless steel cap that allows you to reclose the bottle without risks of leaks. In fact I have been lucky to taste their wines and there is no doubt in my mind about the quality of the product itself.



Interestingly Markus and Claudia have found a way to raise funds to finance the growth of their business. They sell shares of future production, which is a sort of asset backed security scheme, again direct and with no intermediaries. Of course, they are not offering that on a large scale and it is not advertised; the system is reserved for their network of supporters. I decided to buy a few shares and to use part of the wine I will be entitled to under the share scheme for business gifts. Let's say it is my way of spreading the word about this fine project.



Friday, May 19, 2006

Pro-Carbon-Dioxide Ad Sponsored by Exxon. [It's real, not a joke]

That is quite frightening. There is evidence about the effect of carbon dioxide. There is doubt too about the greenhouse effect. In any event, we cannot really afford to mess the climate up because we will not know how to fix it... if we are still around. I find it quite amazing to see Exxon supporting this type of campaign. To me it is yet another proof that the best interest of shareholders is no way to manage human development on the planet.



In my business school there was no debate about the fact that the only way to propperly run a  company was the interest of shareholders; Taking a number of shortcuts in the thinking process, respectable professors were telling us how this was **really** the only (sic!) way to actually run a business. I guess that is what Exxon is doing here. The trouble is that every single living being is a shareholder of the planet and in my humble opinion those shareholders (amongst which is also the next generation of humans) have an absolute priority. It's about Life, an incredible miracle we don't really understand yet. And by the way somebody should tell the Exxon yuppies to get out of their offices and go out there to actually see what Life is all about: carbon dioxide is not Life!



And by the way, somebody posted a great link to the Wikipedia entry for doublespeak, which is more or less what some big corporations engage in... with their shareholders' money.



From Digg:

"The Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced two 60-second television spots focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use. The ads are airing in 14 U.S. cities from May 18 to May 28, 2006."

read more | digg story



Senate Votes to Make English the `National Language' of U.S.

Now was I surprised to read this! I was sure the US had English as their official language. Turns out they did not or at least for some reason they now feel it is important to have officially Englishas their national language. I think this only gives an idea of how open and welcoming America used to be. And it also gives an idea of how tough it intends to become. Nice act of salesmanship on behalf of President Bush though; he said that `English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices." That's probably one of the things I admire most about the US: sales & marketing mastership, including in politics.



From Digg:

The Senate voted to make English the ``national language'' of the U.S. as part of legislation overhauling immigration policy.

read more | digg story



Thursday, May 18, 2006

Download One Thousand Free Music Albums Now!

A pretty radical way of presenting Jamendo. Found on Digg. I personally believe Jamendo is much more than a good way to get rid of the RIAA's inability to reinvent itself and its model for the Information Age.



From www.digg.com

Get rid of the RIAA for good - jamendo is the solution. More than 1000 thousand free CC music albums are available for you now!

Also, jamendo is insanely cool, uses bittorrent for music distribution, ogg for encoding and so on. Be sure to check it out!

read more | digg story



Quote of the day

"When humans act as spokesmen for the gods, mortality becomes more important than morality. Martyrdom corrects this discrepancy, but only for a brief interval. The sorry thing about martyrs is that they are not around to explain what it all meant. Nor do they stay to see the terrible consequences of martyrdom." - The Jesus Incident, Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom

.



Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blue Security Throws In The Towel

"At the end of the day if we continue doing so, within a few days, major websites will go down. I cannot go ahead and rip up the internet to make Blue Security work." - Blue Security's CEO, Eran Reshef



Found this story on Digg today. Really interesting for the following reasons:

1. there are means to fight spam and they seem to hurt big spammers

2. big spammers are powerful enough to wage a war to protect their "business" (and I don't quite understand the business model)

3. the venture capital fund supporting the start-up supported their decision to protect the Internet (so much for greedy capitalists able to do anything to succeed)

4. techies working for spammers seem to be quite competent - question is are they too competent and organized to be just a collection of individuals? If there are organizations generating spam traffic, who are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of such activity? At a time when there is talk about making people pay for outgoing emails and talk about how the government should do (even) more for our security, it's a question worth asking for (still) free citizens

5. a protectionist and xenophobic argument used by Anne P. Mitchel of the Institute for Spam and Public Policy to make a point against Blue Security claiming their practice breaks the law (when a lawyer and former advisor to President Clinton cleared th e model) and I am quoting: ""They don't care because they are sitting in Israel." This type of lines of argumentation sends shivers down my spine because it reminds me of the 1930's when everything alien was suspect (not particularly in the US but in many European countries). Who wants the neo-nazis of any nationality back in power? Unless of course they already are in power in some parts of our world...



Anyway, I just wanted to praise the attitude of Blue Security and their venture investors. I also want to use this "case" as a message to some of my customers who are sometimes anxious about the relevance of letting investors in when in fact they do need the funds to achieve their full potential. It boils down to selecting decent investors (yes there are decent people dealing with money unlike what some cultures lead to believe) and then preparing the negotiation properly.



read more | digg story



Monday, May 15, 2006

The show business of basketball

20060513_alex_spirous1On Saturday I went to see a basketball game. I was invited by a friend who is also a business partner working for Comexis. The game was in Charleroi, where the local team was host to the team holding the second spot in this year's championship. No particular challenge as Charleroi had a terrible year apparently and missed the mark for the play-offs for the first time in 15 years. The game was good fun, although Belgium is not amongst Europe's best places for basketball. Actually I was really impressed by the way the event was managed. Very professionally done. Lots of energy, music, dance... a real show and great fun for the public; the picture is from the show before the game. From a business and marketing standpoint I believe it is actually quite remarkably done. The guys who run the business of the basketball club of Charleroi are definitely offering a great experience to their supporters. And I think it's a very good example of what needs to be done to place customers and their subjective experience at the center of business and marketing strategies. Business is about people and talent.



Wednesday, May 10, 2006

YAGI for Jajah

There was a post on Slashdot this morning about an article of ZDNET with the story of T-mobile rolling-out an enhanced 3-G telephony service from which VoIP and instant messaging are banned.

Jajah_234x60_07
Aside from the fact that this is a looser's strategy and a proof of the dismay in which mobile operators find themselves dealing with Internet technologies this is YAGI (yet-another-good-indication) for Jajah... and of course YABI (I'll let you figure that one out) for Skype. Unless in combining strengths with eBay the latter also shifts from a device-based P2P software for VoIP to something else. The reason I think it's YAGI for Jajah is obvious: Jajah is (not only) about VoIP or at least, they do not require a mobile (or fixed) operator's authorisation to establish a call between two parties by bridging two calls they initiate from their infrastructure.



By the way, during my last trips to Luxembourg, I used Jajah for most of my calls. I am working through the complicated pricing schemes and roaming agreements between mobile operators to assess the savings (I wonder how commercial companies are allowed to have such complexity in their price lists)... Using the extra cool feature of doanloading the history of calls in Excel format that is available on Jajah, I expect to be able to assess the monetary value of savings achieved. What I can say is that the quality of sound was just excellent. So if I can get good service at a lower price, the whole deal bcomes a no-brainer even if it asks of me as a user to slightly change my education about how to place a call.



Friday, May 5, 2006

Attention stolen by invasive advertising

20060305_iphoto_digital_1Important ethical issues are surfacing in many areas of contemporary life as a result of the practical implications of the growing deployment of information technologies. While I certainly feel excited about all the amazing things that can be achieved thanks to infotech in the Information Age, I also believe all citizens have an individual responsibility that cannot be delegated to decide consciously what they are willing to allow.



I came across a very interesting article providing several practical examples of an individual's experience in a world of intensive usage of infotech for advertising purposes. The article tells the story of a 40 year old lady called Marie, who would ceasselesly be prompted by "intelligent" and interactive advertising systems while simply wandering in the street. From messages pushed on her mobile to customized ads generated by a system that would identify her as Marie, the story seems apocalyptic to me. In a world of abundance of content, where each one of us deals with a
surplus of information of questionable quality, these advertising
practiceswould be tantamount to stealing attention unbeknownst to people. I believe this is not a good business practice and not a desirable phenomenon to have in the Information
Age; I would like the next generation to have a choice about the degree
of privacy individual persons will want in their lives. It is a matter
of choice for individuals. Actually perhaps for the first time in history the expression "paying attention" is so true... perhaps attention is money. That is one of the reasons why I also became
very interested in AttentionTrust over the past few weeks; a friend
told me about the initiative and yesterday I decided to register as a
supporter and to comply with its principles.



Here's a link to the story of Marie (in French):






In fact, this story reminds me of stuff we were taught at my Business School about marketing, regulations and ethical aspects; we were told about the respect of private life, the customer's right to refuse any and all advertising content, the ban on subliminal advertising and many other points regarding the delicate balance between free choice and marketing manipulation. And I think that the lessons from the fiasco of tobacco advertising should also be taken both in terms of the negative impact of ads that invited people to start smoking



The article also reminded me of the world depicted by David Brin in Earth a great book I mentioned a couple of months ago. A world in which privacy would no longer be possible unless one would decide to buy it from companies specializing in shielding people from the intrusions of advertising and other eavesdropping methods. It sends chills down my spine...



Hence my question: what can a citizen and a business professional like me do today to help avert this Minority Report-like nightmare?



Thursday, May 4, 2006

Marketing evolution

Yesterday I came across an interesting post in Steve Rubel's Micro Persuasion blog, claiming  that traditional marketers now start showing some noticeable interest in what they call "emerging channels"... that is both excellent news and not so excellent news (and I will tell you why very soon).



With information technology pervading all aspects of life in this early stage of the Information Age, the practices of marketing are in rapid evolution. Marketing strategies and tactics have been a central topic for me over the past few months and I think it is one area in which I can serve my personal mission: Business Quests in the Information Age. That is one of the reasons why I am creating a new category in this blog, which called "Marketing & Marketing x.o"... I personally don't care whether we call this "Marketing 2.0" as is fashionable these days with the "2.0" branding of just about everything (I was thinking of starting to sell ToiletPaper 2.0, because it just might work splendidly); therefore "Marketing x.0" is my way of refering to new practices in marketing and I will be particularly interested in strategies and tactics that make sense for start-ups and high-growth companies.



So, if you come across interesting marketing practices as a consumer, in your work or while navigating on the web, I am interested in your story. And yes, you can include aspects often not considered as marketing like headhunting, politics, social movements or recruitment practices...



Jamendo over 1000 albums

Special_1000Congratulations Jamendo!



The platform now has over 1000 albums of open music managed under Creative Commons licenses available for listening. The flow of albums is increasing at a very significant pace and I think this is only a start.



Jamendo enhancements

Logoenmauriz02_1Cool new features implemented by Jamendo leveraging more of the power of social interaction on the service. This enhanced version of Jamendo gives members improved functionalities for interaction and provides some pretty cool views of the tags making it possible to identify other members with similar tagging patterns for example. I tried some of these new features and found them really nice. Jamendo needs to work on ease of use of interfaces to make it easier for members to use the many nice features without getting lost in the number of options and clickable areas on the various pages. What I really like about the team of Jamendo is their ability to keep progressing.



Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Grandma's test on Jajah

Some time ago I wrote a couple of posts about Jajah and why I thought (and I am still of that opinion) that it is one of the coolest and most promising launches I have ever seen. Today, I would like to focus a bit on something I believe every tech entrepreneur should never loose sight of: ease of use. And again, Jajah is a fantastic example of an elegant alliance of simplicity and functionality; their web interface is the zen of usability and I hope they manage to keep it that way as they go about adding functionality to the service. There is a post on their blog which tells you about a real Grandma' using Jajah and I think this is one of the very best tests of usability for a tech company (especially one addressing the retail market, especially in countries with aging populations).



Groove

Yesterday I spent a little over an hour trying out an online virtual office called Groove. It is actually amazing, featuring a number of interesting tools, from useful stuff like a file system, a calendar, a chat system or a document review tool, to lighter tools like a chess application. I was able to set up my workspace in no time and to invite another participant to join. This online tool is still a bit slow for document reviews and I am not sure I like the way it duplicates documents when several users are chancing the same document at the same time; in fact it would be OK if there was a way to run a comparison between documents and achieve a controlled merge of documents... I am sure Groove will improve and I personally believe this is a killer for opensource office productivity software, especially since Groove is now part of Microsoft and I expect it to be closely linked to the Live approach of Microsoft in their Office 2007 suite. And my take is that the combination of desktop based software with an online workspace is a much stronger proposition for business users (possibly also for private users)  than 100% online office productivity suites like the one expected from Sun and Google.



From a business standpoint, I am curious to see how the opensource community is going to respond to Groove.