Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Value For Money

Given the... ehem... "interesting developments" in the stock market yesterday - I was thinking about one of my favorite movies "Trading Places" starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and (a very young) Jamie Lee Curtis. If you've never seen this 1983 classic - it's well worth the rental.

I'm not going to totally bore you with the details - but the basic plot is that Dan Aykroyd (a successful commodities broker) is set up by the two elderly owners of the brokerage house to see what happens if he loses all his money. At the same time - they take "common scum" (Eddie Murphy) and teach him to become a successful broker - all for a $1 bet.

At the end - Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy meet each other and figure out that their lives were turned upside down for a bet and they set out a plan for revenge (full plot details here).

When they're trying to figure out how to best "solve" the situation they come upon a universal truth:

Murphy: [watches Louis clean his shotgun] You know, you can't just go around and shoot people in the kneecaps with a double-barreled shotgun 'cause you pissed at 'em.

Aykroyd: Why not?

Murphy: 'Cause it's called assault with a deadly weapon, you get 20 years for that sh*t.

Aykroyd: Listen, do you have any better ideas?

Murphy: Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.

So they decide that the best way to get back at them is to wipe them out... by means of insider trading. Oops. Well, the whole insider trading scandals of the late 80's hadn't become public knowledge yet - so it was actually before it's time.

They basically "went short" on FOCJ (Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice) contracts. They started selling future contracts at market opening price ($40) and that lead to a frantic "buy" reaction by the other traders - which drove the price up to $145.

Then the commissioner came on TV to announce that the orange crop estimates would not be affected by the recent storms.

That lead to panic selling. So, the guys started buying shares (to cover the shares they had already sold) as people were unloading them and ever lower ad lower prices - eventually winding up at $26. So, they basically made the spread between what they sold it at ($40-145) and what they paid for it ($130-$26). And, they got rich.

The thing that struck me - was that the markets behave in a "herd" mentality. They just follow the next guy who follows the next guy, and so on. Consumers do the same thing - they hear "doom and gloom" and they respond. And then it just spirals from there.

It can really affect your business ("Gee - really, Bob - thanks for THAT great insight!"). What I mean is that when times are perceived as "tough" - business people start to panic as well. They start cutting prices and giving away services that they never would in a frenzied race to "get the sale" - no matter what.

This just leads them to be more overworked, and now UNDER PAID as well. This benefits no one. Pricing is another thing that goes to hell in a recession. Everyone has a "sale" or "special" or "one-time-only deals."

Instead, business folks should try harder than ever to reach out to both existing customers and new customers and make sure that their product or service is really filling the needs of their customers. I mean, who does that?

No one has called me up and said - "Hey, I know you may be feeling the pinch - how about if we re-structure your payments into a monthly rather than a quarterly basis to help you plan your cash flow better." OR "Are you guys doing OK now that credit is tighter? Is there any way we can help?"

Think about pricing your products and services like a restaurant. Bundle services and software into a "pick 2" menu of stuff they can buy - and then customize to what they want - much like a before dinner drink and a "complimentary" dessert.

It's easy to make sales in an 'up' economy, and if your organization is one that can reach out to customers when times are hard - and keep up and even enhance your value proposition to them (save them time, save them money, help them to get tangible results) - you'll have a customer for life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Joy of Auto

My wife's minivan had 110,000 miles on it - and it was "making noises." I knew that most of the noise came from an exhaust leak that made the van sound somewhat like a Harley (not a bad thing to a guy - but causes concern in the mommy-cool club). So we took it to the dealer (we've had some bad experiences using non-factory mechanics) - and they proceeded to keep the car for 6 (six!) days.

There was no callback, no update, no nothing. Every time we tried to get in touch with our "customer care representative" - all we got was voicemail - and no call back. Same when we tried to call the Service Manager directly.

So last Thursday we drew a line in the sand. We called the Service Manager and left a message saying - we're coming at 1:00pm to pick up our car - period. And we showed up, and of course our "customer care representative" was no where to be found.

In fact, no one could actually FIND our car in the first place. It was "in the system" (a HORRIBLE green screen thing from the 1950's) somewhere begging to get out.

After escalating into DefCon 4 - I was finally able to get the Garage Manager to get his ass out to the garage, get the car. So, he comes in and says - yeah, you have an exhaust leak, but the real problem is "rod rattle."

Yeah, I won't go there - but the recommended action was basically rebuild the engine for $8,000. Oh, and that'll be $75 for diagnosis, please. Yeah, right!

Anyway, we got the car back in all of it's Harley glory - and then our other car (a "hot" Chevy Impala) - started to make power steering noises. Of course! When it rains it pours.

Since we've basically owned Japanese cars - our expectation of when a car goes to "auto heaven" isn't until around 180,000+ miles. But this was an American car - which, apparently, is a whole different story. When my wife pulled into the Dodge service bay and they saw that it had 110,000 miles on it - the first thing they asked was "You want me to get a salesperson for you?"

Yeah, nice.

Needless to say we started to do some research on minivans on the web. I was able to find magazine reviews, price comparisons, crash test ratings, customer reviews, JD Power & Associate quality ratings, NTSB Safety ratings, side-by-side listing grids, get an appraisal of how much our HarleyVan was worth (NOT MUCH!), etc. all in about 2 hours.

On Saturday evening, my I had my wife go to a Toyota dealer on her way out to her scrapbook party - just to have a look at the Sienna and see what she thought (since she was the one that would be driving it the most). Well, when she got there - they REALLY wanted to sell her a big, V8 Sequoia for a "good price."

They kept pressuring her into the Sequoia until she just left them in the dust. She was able to find out that they had a 0% interest promotion going (only until Monday, of course!). So, that meant that we either had to go to another dealer and try to get an '08 (for 0%) or just wait until the car totally exploded and do it then.

So, I set off on Sunday after church with my daughter (my son and wife were off peddling Boy Scout popcorn) and before her softball game - on a search to see what we could see.

It was a "tent sale" (gawd - that is the MOST hideous thing ever invented!) at the other Toyota dealer. I was met by Hamid and we took a look at what they had in stock. After my heart restarted from the sticker shock - we were able to pick out a vehicle and come to terms (so I thought).

After getting the keys to our HarleyVan and some other information - they came back about 25 minutes later and Hamid was replaced by "Lou" (from Florida - but I SWEAR this guy was born in New Jersey) - Hamid's boss. This was the "closer."

Nice. I had all the print outs that showed the SRP (Suggested Retail Price), the Dealer Invoice (what they actually paid Toyota for the car) and what the average price people in that zip code had paid for the car. THAT was the price I was going to pay (plus a little more for a couple of upgrades).

I told him my payment, that I wanted the 0% and how much the trade appraised for online. So "Lou" came back with a payment that was 75% higher than I said I wanted and his math was totally off. I stood up to walk out and "magically" he realized "his error." The final deal we negotiated was about 10% more than I had told him I wanted to spend (but that was really 20% LESS that I could afford) - so we had a deal.

SUCCESS! I had to pick up my wife and son - and did so in the "new car." Then I dropped everyone off at home and went back to "finish the paperwork." Riiiiiiiiiight.

I got back and was handed over to "Maxwell" (the Finance Manager). He's the one that did all the paperwork, etc. Oh, and then in the sales cycle he's the "upseller."

Sure enough - we just sat down and he started into gap insurance, extended warranties, premium package this, and protectant that, and optional pre-paid maintenance, etc. etc. etc. I politely declined most of the stuff, and made it through most of the paperwork without too much other hassles.

Once I was done being upsold, spindled and mutilated - Hamid was back with the keys to my newly washed and prepped car.

It's sort of like going to the dentist for a root canal. You need to do it. You research the procedure. You intellectually know it's going to suck. Then you go through it - and it does basically suck. Then you are done with it - they hit you with a bill that makes you feel bad. Then it takes a few days for the pain to go away.

That's basically where we are now. We took the van back to the dealer today so they could add the couple of things we were promised, and they got us a rental car (for the next "3-5 days"). The folks over at Enterprise took 1/2 hour to come pick us up (about 1 mile from the Toyota dealer) - and then took another 1/2 hour to process us (you'd think we were the first people to ever rent a car!).

Then all they had was a bunch of... wait for it... DODGE MINIVANS and crappy, stripped down ones at that. My wife wanted to just drive something other than a van. There were no convertibles (what she really wants), the PT cruiser but that was going into the shop. She was going to go for a Toyota Carolla (AH!) but I put the kibosh on that.

There was one other car they had... a BMW 325i. I hope she'll be willing to drive her van once we get it back from the dealer...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Apple Poised To Screw Up (AGAIN)

Yesterday Apple killed the end run that one scorned developer did in order to sell his application after it was not allowed in the blessed iTunes App Store.

Alex Sokirynsky, creator of an application called Podcaster was shut down by Apple two weeks after his application was rejected for inclusion in the App Store because it duplicated features in the company's own iTunes software. "Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes," Apple told Sokirynsky.

Yeah, right. So what's the big deal? The big deal is that Apple is about to royally screw themselves. Read on, dear reader, read on...

It seems that Mr. Sokirynsky did an end-run around Apple by selling and allowing people to install his software via the "Ad Hoc" mechanism that Apple created for people to beta test their software with actual users - and for enterprises that wanted to be able to distribute their apps to up to 100 internal folks.

So what Sokirynsky did was to create new "build numbers" of the application to get around the 100 person limit. He charged people $9.99 for the product and then had them send them the device's UDID (unique device identifier) code.

The UDID is needed by the Ad Hoc program to allow the install of the software without going through iTunes and thus bypassing the App Store all together.

Pretty ingenious!

Well, Apple, being the draconian institution it is - caught on and then just yanked his account. Done.

Yeah, good move, Apple! Bravo! That's a terrific way to motivate developers to spend time and money developing software for your platform. With the crepe paper still up at the new Android phone's coming out party - it would seem to me that it would behoove Apple to stop this kind of heavy-handed bullshit and just do what Steve Jobs said he would do at the Spring SDK event - and that's keep out the "bad" programs that crash, do malicious things, are just porn apps, or ones that are illegal or are bandwidth hogs.

Podcaster is none of those things.

And, I'm sure Mr. Sokirynsky is not the only developer hoping to bring cool, actually useful apps to the iPhone rather than just the 1,000 calculators and variations on to-do lists. What about things like other browsers like Firefox or Chrome?

And as Engadget's Ryan Block points out in his blog about this debacle - it all stems from a super restrictive SDK legal agreement:
Besides a few very specific callouts (like the no VoIP on cellular bit), all we've got to go by is one vague, gray, largely unspecific blanket statement: "No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple's Published APIs and built in interpreter(s)."

Basically, that means that you can't build anything that you haven't prescribed in its given tool and feature set. So if the iPhone already has something like, say, a browser (read: mobile Safari), and Google wants to port a mobile version of Chrome for the iPhone, Google's out of luck. And Apple's legal wiggle room is unbelievably broad. Is a Word / Excel editor a code interpreter? Is a BitTorrent client a code interpreter? Should one have to build a complete and fully functional piece of software just to find out?
Now I get the fact that Apple wants to protect the iPhone platform overall - but I agree with Ryan Block when he says:
Now, if you want to do the right thing -- the thing that may ultimately keep you out of some grumpy developer's class-action lawsuit, the thing that will take away Android's biggest consumer appeal right now -- you'll simply stop filtering apps based on content, and only look for the kind of code Steve specifically promised to protect users against in the first place: grossly buggy and broken, malicious, or otherwise evil.
Apple, PLEASE do not mess up this perfect opportunity to dominate mobile communications the way you completely screwed yourself in the OS marketplace! Allow developers to develop cool, meaningful, useful, business applications. You're the cool kid right now - do NOT let it go to your head - or your heart (and marketshare) will suffer - AGAIN.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hang Em' High!

The headlines in today's newspaper were really grim regarding the state of the economy. After Mr. Bush's speech last night - and using words like "...like the Great Depression..." were not, to say the least, comforting.

Everyone knows that the economy is in the toilet - and that the Fed by buying nearly three quarters of a TRILLION dollars worth of crap loans (and crap loan companies) is only a stop gap measure.

The thing that really pisses me off about all of this is the fact that almost a trillion dollars of bad loans were written (at least that we know of SO FAR) - and no one knew about it.

This really stinks to high heaven. This makes the Enron debacle almost seem like it was a high school prank. I mean, where in the hell do you "hide" that much red ink. Was NO ONE watching this?

Yeah, sure, when they were writing the loans they made loads of processing fees, commissions, and tons of money exchanged hands. Maybe it's a case of musical chairs and companies like Lehman and Merrill just got left holding the bag?

I don't think so.

I think there is a case for gross negligence and bad management on the case of all of these companies. You can't simply have a loss of that much money and use the excuse "we didn't realize it was that bad." That simply does not fly - and it's total and complete B.S.

So, while every single American gets to bail out private companies (to the tune of $8,000 for every man, woman and child) to prevent a run on the banks and the loss of homes and retirement accounts for millions of customers - the heads of these companies (and their boards) need to be held accountable for this mess.

Until (and if) that ever happens - this shameful state of affairs puts a tarnish on America and has a worldwide impact that has yet to be felt. Not to mention the fact that now, due to the weak dollar and abundance of questionable loans going up for sale - I predict that the level of foreign investment will skyrocket and whole chunks of the economy will be owned by non-American parties.

Being the capitalist I am - I say bravo for those foreign investors - and to hell with the idiots that ran 100+ year old institutions into the ground. What goes around - ALWAYS comes around.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I just got back from a quick trip to San Francisco for an IDC analyst event. It just so happened that Oracle's OpenWorld conference was taking place at the same time over at Moscone Center - which explains why I had such a difficult time getting a hotel reservation!

Anyway, Servoy's PR expert Brenda Christensen managed to work with Emilie Ingram from IDC to set up a separate meeting at the Palace Hotel (where the IDC event was taking place) with noted analyst Al Hilwa. This is really a hard thing to do - but Mr. Hilwa was in town for the Oracle event and there was a "hole" in his schedule (I think it was for dinner - SORRY, Al!).

It's the first time I've met Mr. Hilwa in person. We've talked on the phone twice when we were briefing him on Servoy 4.0 and more recently on the upcoming Servoy 4.1, and in those conversations things just really "clicked."

He's one of those guys that is just crazy smart. He was an analyst at Gartner in the late 90's and then moved to Senior Product Manager on the SQL Server database team at Microsoft. He has a ton of real world expertise in enterprise computing and the whole application development and product lifecycle management "thing."

He had some really interesting observations, insights and advice for where he sees Servoy in the marketplace and in particular how our go-to-market strategy was particularly interesting. Well, needless to say, that hour absolutely FLEW by! Seriously, it seemed like we had just sat down and it was time for him to bolt off to the next customer meeting (Oracle).

Next, it was off to the IDC event where there were 9 more analysts who specialized in all sorts of industries and market segments. There were also about 90 other people from companies of all sizes who were invited to come and get acquainted with the IDC folks.

What a cool event! It was really cool to talk to some of the other business folks there and understand what business they were in, and talk to (and listen to!) all the other analysts. Talk about a great education... so thanks to Mr. Hilwa, Ms. Ingram and the IDC folks for a great evening.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Unified Contacts - NOW Please

So I've been working with various social media sites for over 2 months now - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Rejaw, Tumblr and I've also been using the hell out of my iPhone (yes, I'm one of those fanboy types who is not having any problems with my phone).

All in all, it's pretty cool. Except for one thing - my profiles. I have profiles on different sites and keeping them up to date can be a pain. It's sort of like keeping track of people when they move, change jobs, or get married and their contact information changes.

I have a copy of their email address and physical address and phone number in my email program, on my phone, and in a Christmas list database. For the contacts that both my wife and I know - she has a copy in her email program, her phone and probably written in her "big black daytimer" as well.

None of these things talk to one another.

What if I update my information? Then I would send out an email to the people I know, update all the social networking sites - and just HOPE that people that I know would even notice that I moved or got a new phone number or a new email address.

And, if you're like me - when you go to a meeting where you meet new people - you carry all your pertinent information on a little 2" x 3" scrap of paper known as a business card. The crappy part is - so does everyone else.

Then, after the event, you get to take those 20 little scraps of paper (sometimes with notes on it - like personal email addresses or a note about the person) and then I get to hand key that information back into my address book. And then find them on LinkedIn. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Rejaw. And Tumblr.

Then I go to the next person - and repeat.

Surly in 2008 - there must be a better way! I'm looking for some digital solution that would allow people to exchange basic contact information with social media sites, and have that data synchronize across my address book to my phone.

It would contain my basic information (like on a Facebook profile) - and allow me to specify what I would share with whom (name and company for strangers, mobile phone for family and selected friends, etc.). Then it would just automatically synch with anyone that has me marked as a friend (or follower or whatever).

I would have just a single place to update my stuff, and I would know that everyone that is linked to me has the most up to date information all the time. And, I would also know that everyone I'm linked TO is up to date as well.

As long as I'm dreaming, I would also put in my preferred method of contact (email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and I would be able to update my profile at any time to remove information (I didn't mean to publish my mobile phone number to everyone) and it would just automatically be removed from everyone's data store as well.

The technology exists. It shouldn't be THAT hard to do. The issue (like any other technology) would come down to one of adoption. Adoption of not just the people with the connections - but to people like handset makers who could build in a "update profile" button on their contact management apps, or software developers of either browsers, social media sites and email programs to all write to and read from a set of specifications.

Yeah, good luck on that! I guess I'll just re-order my business cards now....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm A Misunderstood PC

Ah, I love the smell of desperation in the morning! Now that Microsoft's two new commercials featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates has left people scratching their heads - they're ready for "Phase 2" of the attack.

According to a New York Times article - one of the new ads will have a real Microsoft engineer that looks like John Hodgman (the comedian playing the loser PC guy in the Apple ads) opening up the commercial with "Hello, I'm a PC, and I've been made into a stereotype."

Wow! That's really "edgy!" How "crisp" can you get? There's NO WAY that Apple can come out with an ad that's 10,000 times better just mocking them even more... er, wait.

The problem isn't that Microsoft (and their ad agency the incredibly hip - up until now - Crispin Porter & Bogusky) doesn't have a creative bone in their entire body - it's just that they don't like to be picked on - so they do what they always do - copy someone else's innovation.

It's like high school all over again. You know - the Mac guy is the "cool" kid with the cool friends - and the PC guy is the dweeb who can't get a date. The nerd gets endlessly teased, and maybe even "befriended" by the cool kids as a convenient brunt of their jokes behind his back (boy, that brings back memories!).

The thing that bothers the nerd is the fact that his daddy is really rich, so he can get the latest and greatest of anything he wants at any time - but he still can't buy respect. But he's the only one that doesn't know it.

That's exactly what's happening here. Now, I'm sure that the Microsoft ads will be somewhat entertaining. They will feature real Microsoft employees and also cameos by various entertainment folks: Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra and Pharrell Williams. But will it have the same impact as the Apple ads?

Ummmm... nope. To demonstrate just how "me too" it actually is - Microsoft has set up a separate site LifeWithoutWalls.com and has bought billboards that show how people use Vista in "real life." Well, real life in the rarefied bubble that is Microsoft PR.

If it were REALLY "real life" - there would be shots of people cussing and throwing laptops through windows (no pun intended), against the wall, and out of dorm rooms.

And if copying their ad campaign wasn't enough - Microsoft is now hiring 155 "Windows Gurus" (see - it's NOT the same Apple's "Genius" folks) and is putting them in Circuit City and BestBuy stores to walk around and try to convince people that Vista doesn't suck. For $20-$25 per hour.

According to the recruiting site (www.MSRetailLive.com) Gurus will work full time (including weekends) and need to need to be able to run how-to trainings and workshops, and answer customers' questions, and that they'll need to "innovate, educate, inspire" people according to the job description.

To buy a Vista machine over a Mac. In BestBuy. Riiiiiiight....

Oh, and don't worry - NO ONE will try to corner you for tech support "How do I open a picture my son tried to send me in email..."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

iTunes Genius = 1984

Remember when the Mac first made its debut in 1984? It was that commercial that opened with an Orwellian "overlord" on the screen with all the enslaved subjects being brain-washed into accepting what was said at face value.

Then, from the back, comes a pretty white woman in a running uniform carrying a sledge hammer and being chased by guards - and throws it through the screen and "frees" the captives. The tag line is "On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984."

That is, of course until September 14, 2008 - when Apple brought out iTunes 8.0 and introduced the new "Genius" bar on the right hand side. It's billed as an "assistant."

The idea is to suggest music choices you don't have - based on what you do have. It's a good idea - like a suggestion engine that you see all the time in other sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. The problem is - in order for it to work - you need to agree to upload ALL the information about your music catalog, play lists and downloads to Apple.

Hmmmm. That's a pretty big "opt-in" if you ask me. Right before you decide to take the plunge - here's how Apple describes what you're about to do:
"Genius is able to make play lists and give you great recommendations by periodically sending information about your iTunes library to Apple. This information will only be sent to Apple if you choose to turn on Genius."

"The information sent to Apple includes details about the media in your iTunes library such as track names, play counts, and ratings. This information will be stored with an anonymous Genius ID and not linked to your iTunes Account. When using the iTunes Store or Genius sidebar, Apple will also use your purchase history to give you better recommendations."
Ummm.... yeah. So Apple is now the world's biggest distributor of music, and it will now also have data on millions of people's catalogs - including music that was bought elsewhere and "ripped" from CD's etc.

But it will also get all the other nuggets that are stored along with just what songs you have. It'll also get the ratings, how many times you've played them, what pluralists you've put them in, etc. 

In other words - Apple will have some of the most up-to-date and complete information in the world to predict music trends and to (potentially) capitalize on that knowledge.

Now I haven't turned on the feature myself, yet - but I know people who have. They liken the Genius sidebar to an overzealous used car salesman. There are "buy" buttons all down the thing.

Whatever happened to that cool aesthetic, the subtle sell, providing the user with rankings and gently nudging them toward a sale? Now it says "Top Songs You're Missing" and "Recommendations".

Top songs I'm "missing?" Really? Maybe I think those songs totally blow - and aren't worth the $0.89 or $0.99 asking price. Maybe I ripped those songs from a CD I'd made 5 years ago. Who died and made YOU boss?

Sorry, I digress.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: nice try, Apple. You make some good products (I really do like my iPhone), have some snazzy advertising, and have been terrifically successful in selling music and iPhone applications.

Just get your hand out of my data pocket - and keep your distance, less you start to become like all of the other "greedy" non-Mac companies out there. The only reason people like you is because you're different, not the same as everyone else.

Try to stay that way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Gleam of Chrome

For the past few days - I've made Google's new browser - Chrome the default browser on my system - just to give it a proper test drive.

Ok, so Firefox 3 was eating tons of memory (it even popped into virtual memory on occasion) because I keep a bazillion tabs open in each of 4 or 5 windows. Now, I'm heavily invested in Firefox - it has all the bookmarks, quick links, certain site passwords, etc. all set up - so making the switch for me was a bit difficult.

I decided to take a man pill - and tough it out - and frankly, I'm glad I did.

I'm not one of those users that has 50,000 plug-ins and extensions in my browser - I use my browser to, well, just browse the web. I don't expect it to do my laundry and wash my car - just serve up pages quickly and let me have 1,000,000 tabs open in 5 windows and not slow down or crash.

The interface (or lack thereof) takes a bit of getting used to - it's unlike any browser you've used before. It has a tabbed interface (duh!), but the tabs are above the address bar, not below it. There is no "File", "Edit" menus - and there's not even a "home" button. There are two icons to the right of the address bar that contain all the commands you'll ever use (and keyboard equivalents for everything).

One more thing - there's no title bar (that thing that would normally have the icon and shows the title of the page - with the minimize and maximize buttons on it). NOPE! Not there. Google's intent was to make the browsing experience as stripped down (UI wise) as possible - but still make it powerful.

Each tab is, in effect, it's own browser - so if one page blows up - it doesn't take the whole application down - it just blows that one tab up. Me likkie. The other thing that's interesting - is that because it was built from the ground up to be optimized for browsing - there are some cool, albeit somewhat hidden, features that give you almost too much information about what's going on under the hood.

For example, choosing Developer -> Task Manager (or Shift + Esc) - you can see how much memory every open tab is taking - and how much memory plug-ins (like Flash) are consuming and you can kill any process at any time with the click of a button.

If you're really into code - check out the Element Inspector. Just right click on any object on a page and you'll see the Inspector window come up with the HTML of the page with the selected object highlighted. It will also show you all the CSS information and JavaScript in a collapsible tree view that you can navigate.

There are a ton of other features in there - like when you open a new tab rather than it being blank it shows the 9 most visited sites. Also, when you open a new tab manually - it goes to the far right like you would expect, but when you click on a link in a page and have set it up to open a new window in a new tab - it will open the new tab directly to the right of the selected tab. This really makes it easy to hop back and forth - and is just one example of the neato features that just work.

There are a ton of other features in there - if you're interested you should have a look at the ComputerWorld article by Preston Gralla - he goes into terrific details about how to use them and where they are.

If your idea of what a browser should be is just a browser that's optimized for browsing - and you're on Windows (for now) - then I would highly recommend you check out Chrome.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Public Profile = PUBLIC

In going through all the interesting (and questionable) new business ideas coming out of TechCrunch over the weekend - I stumbled on one of them - iSearch - that, like other sites, will comb the web and allow stalkers of all sorts find out all the information they need about just about anyone.

It's really nothing new - there have been information "aggregators" around for years. They would troll the public sites of local government databases, and sometimes just perform Google (or Yahoo back in the day) searches to put together a "profile" of the person you're trying to stalk locate.

The interesting thing about iSearch is that it allows you to search by not just name and city or state - but also by phone number, or screen name. The site itself isn't "all that" - and it seems that there it's linked in large part to Intelus who appears to be the big aggregator of the information.

On thing I found quite fun - was the fact that it showed basically my LinkedIn profile, including a lot of the people I was connected to - and with a single click - you could get more information on them as well. I think this is just the start. If you leave a big enough digital, public profile - it's just a matter of time (and web services) until anyone will be able to get a full profile of you, your tastes, your music preferences, who your friends are (and their profiles, music tastes, etc).

It's also interesting that according to eWEEK, about 22% of hiring managers look to a person's online profile during the hiring process. When you have basically free access to "people" search engines that will aggregate a bunch of information together on a single person - this will definitely be a trend that is only going to get worse, not better.

The bottom line is that if you have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pownce, Tumblr, Rejaw life - expect it to be aggregated, analyzed and dissected by anyone at any time. For the paranoid of the group - you may want to have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pownce Tumblr, Rejaw "alter ego" where you can "be yourself" and keep your "actual" public profiles clean and fresh as the morning rain.

In the "old days" (even today) - I can pay a little extra extortion fee to the phone company to keep my phone number unlisted. I wonder what we'll have to do to get "unlisted" from sites like iSearch...

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Porn Mode" For Browsers

Ok, ok, so it's really more commonly referred to as "private browsing" or in Chrome it's called "Incognito." The basic concept is that rather than having to dump all your history, cookies, passwords, etc. after visiting a "questionable" site - you could just open a new window and none of the stuff would be saved in the first place.

It's a feature that the Mozilla people had planned for Firefox 3.0 (and 3.1) - but decided to pull. It's also rumored to be in Internet Explorer 8 - and it's already been in Safari since 2005.

People have really been wanting more granular control over their browsing history, temporary Internet files, cookies, passwords, etc. for a long time - even people from Microsoft want it.

Here's a quote from Mary Jo-Foley's "All About Microsoft" blog. She's quoting Nick Davis who posted on a IE blog back in 2006:

“I *hate* clearing my history, because lots of history is useful. What’s that new supplier’s site I went to last week and forgot to bookmark, etc. I hate losing all that info, just to cover up the fact that I, ahem, bought a gift for a loved one.

Selective history. That’s what we need. Or a way to selectively delete browsing history after the fact. I mean, we’re only over 10 years into this whole web browser thing, and we have basically the same feature since v1.”

I would agree with Mr. Davis. Now, maybe it's because he works at Microsoft and can't install another browser - but I mean it's not rocket science to use another brand browser (where you don't have all the stuff you want to keep) as your own personal "private browser" - and then just blow away all that info when you're done... ahem... "buying a gift for a loved one."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Social Media Tech Tools

So, I was bitching about social media sites a while back - and I was bemoaning the fact that since I had a "real job" - it was difficult for me to keep up on all the sites.

Well, I do still hold that opinion, however - I did find a tool that makes updating stuff (at least your "status") a helluva lot easier: ping.fm.

This nifty site (still in beta - but just request a login and in a couple of days they will give you one) - has made life so much easier when trying to post to all those media sites. Basically, it's an aggregation service that will allow you to input all your logins for all the social media sites you're a member of - and then blast your update to them in realtime.

It will also let you post to any single service by adding "@" and then a two letter abbreviation - e.g. Twitter = @tt. Not only will it allow you to do status updates and microblogging - but it will allow you to do full blog posts as well. To post a blog entry to blogger - you would use something like this: @bl This is Cool!^Body of my blog. Ping.fm would then post a new posting to your blogger account with title^posting.

I also ran across some very interesting other stuff when looking at the APIs of LinkedIn (still not public yet) and Twitter.

For LinkedIn there is a webservice widget called "Company Insider" that you can call that will see if there is anyone you know in any company. It's VERY easy to insert into any HTML page.

If you're into Twitter - there is some great documentation on their RESTful API here. Basically, a RESTful API means you can call it with simple URLs. For example - enter this text into a browser (Firefox or IE work best): http://twitter.com/statuses/replies.xml. You will be prompted to enter your username/password (use your Twitter login and password) - and you'll get back an XML string of the last 2 people that posted to you.

You can also get it back in atom, rss, or json formats as well - simply by changing the "xml" in the url to one of the supported formats.

It's basically the same thing for Tumblr, Rejaw, Pownce, Plurk, etc. They all offer a RESTful API that you can get XML or JSON files out of. This means that you can add all of this social media to whatever site you have. In fact, if you develop applications - it's conceivable to create a really cool social networking mashup/dashboard type of application...

Servoy developers - can you hear me now?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Progress - Isn't

Yesterday was a big day in terms of the tech world - with the TechCrunch 50 in day 2, and Apple getting all fresh nanos and an update to iTunes. So, I thought it would be a good time for me to get caught up on my reading and to get "with" the day's happenings.

So I broke out my Adobe Creative Suite 3 (Design Premium) Installer (what the hell committee thought that was a GOOD name?) - and since I know that installing anything Adobe - and especially anything to do with Photoshop - would take forever, I planned accordingly.

For example, I had a separate computer all set up with my social network logins and browsers (including the new Chrome browser that I'm test driving) and I was all set to go. I even "allowed" myself 2 full hours (1 before lunch and one after) to read and get caught up. I even took a full 1 hour lunch (usually I snarf a sandwich at the desk) in between - to give it 3 full hours to do its thing.

I put in the installer CD - accepted all the defaults - and let 'er rip. An hour later, the progress bar was about 1/3 of the way ("Installing common components") - so I left to go to lunch.

I even WALKED to the nearest Whole Foods (about 3/4 of a mile away), ate, stopped in Best Buy, then walked back. The installer was now 2/3 of the way done.

"Great!," I thought to myself; "it will be done in just 3 hours." Well, sort of.

The installer got to 100% (there are two progress bars - just so you REALLY know how far you are) - and then just sat there. The hard drive would twinkle every now and then, but the "Cancel" button was still lit.

So I let it go for another hour. Still, nothing - progress bars at 100%. Then I let it go one MORE hour. Still, nothing.

Then, I get all "Bob Cusick" on it - and hit "Cancel", then just force quit the damn thing. Then, I thought - "Hey, it probably got some of the stuff installed - so let's just try to 'repair' it!".

What a good idea that was... NOT.

This time it took only 3.5 hours to "repair" all the stuff... and it just sat there doing nothing at the end. Again. So, this time I just did a restart - and it looks like everything is there... we'll see.

The whole point of this post is this:
  1. Make your progress bars accurate as to the real progress
  2. If you don't know how long it will take - say so - in text - up front
  3. ALWAYS tell the user, in text, what is happening
  4. Do not make such bloatware that it requires 3+ hours to install - or tell the user it will take 9 days when they choose the option to install that piece
  5. Have the "repair" function actually just repair - NOT blindly re-install

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Only $300 Million? Delicious!

Ok, so I am probably the only person on the planet that hasn't seen the pre-release of Microsoft's new $300 million advertising campaign featuring Jerry Seinfeld.

On the off chance that you haven't seen it - check it out:

The first thing thought I had was "Are you kidding me?" I felt a little dirty, stupid and just plain confused. THIS is supposed to compete with the "I'm a Mac" commercials?

Ok, ok - so maybe I missed something. So, I watched it again. And again.

Nope - I missed nothing from the first view. Then, I thought - hey, this is one of those cool in-house movies that Microsoft always makes for their conferences and stuff. So I searched the Internet for other copies - and much to my dismay, it was the real thing.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I always thought that advertising was supposed to make the person watching the ad want to buy your product or service. I thought it was supposed to strengthen the brand, promote "new" features, while at the same time putting a positive spin on the company doing the ads.

The scariest part of all is - there will be more of them!

You just know that there is a whole series of these things shot and in the can, just waiting to be unleashed. There's been "only" about 700,000 or so views of the video - and already there are people who have made their own scathing, mocking videos in response (I'll bet 50% of them are Mac users!).

I guess the end of the video sums it all up. Jerry says to Bill Gates: "Just wondering, are they ever going to come out with something that will make our computers moist, chewy, like cake, so we can just eat 'em while we're working?" Then Bill Gates shakes his ass - acknowledging Jerry - and then Jerry says "I knew it."

Here's the BIG payoff - the branding - the screen cuts to "The Future," "Delicious" and the Windows logo.

Ching! That was the sound of the $10 million Jerry got for the commercial hitting his bank account. If that's the best that Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Microsoft can do - then I'm DEFINITELY a Mac.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Check, Please!

And... I'm spent.

I've spent the past two weeks preparing for/attending our ServoyWorld 2008 conference in Las Vegas. I just got home on Saturday night, had a "whole day" to recuperate - and now I'm back at the wheel (mostly).

Boy - what a TERRIFIC event it was. I know, I know, I always say that - and it's TRUE.

This year was no exception. The hotel was great, the weather was great, the people were great, the sessions were great, the food was great, the poker tournament was great... well, you get the idea.

I got to catch up with folks that I generally only see once or twice a year - and I also got a chance to meet a ton of new people and unleash ... ummm... I mean introduce them to Servoy and the passionate group of people who make up our staff and our community.

To say I was a bit on the busy side would be an understatement - but I feel like if I didn't make myself available to having a breakfast meeting, then a pre-conference meeting, then attend a session, then have a client meeting, then have lunch meeting, then have another 2 customer meetings, then have a dinner meeting, then have an after-dinner meeting then hang out in the bar until 1:00am - I'm just not doing my job.

Luckily, this week - I did my job. Every day. Really.

There were internal staff meetings, technical briefings, customer meetings, prospect meetings, planning meetings, and even meetings for meetings. The thing that kept me going (besides drinking my body weight in coffee every morning, afternoon and evening) was meeting with all the interesting people.

No matter who the meeting was with, or what the objectives for the meeting were - I learned something new at each and every one of them.

Now, I'm not exactly a person who is short of opinions and I'm rarely at a loss for words... so I apologize to all the people at all those meetings who couldn't get a word in edge-wise. I really did try to have my "listening" hat on (most of the time!) - and I hope my running at the mouth provided some value to you as well.

It was really a fantastic (and exhausting!) time - and if you couldn't make it - you really missed out. Just a quick kudos to Brenda Duncan and Carla Benassi - without you guys, this event would have lasted an hour and been held in the Dennys in Moopark, CA. You guys really did a superb job!

I'll get back on my usual, semi-regular blogging schedule beginning this week. Now if I only had an ice pack, a Bloody Mary and a masseuse...
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