Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm WORKING Here, People!

First of all - many thanks to all of you who have emailed and called and IM'd and social media'd me about the fact that you miss the regular updates to Bob's World! It's nice to know that people actually read this thing. :-)

And, I do apologize for being a total slacker for the last couple of weeks... BUT - since I've restarted Clickware I've been switching hats so often that I'm getting tennis elbow.

That's one thing that I totally forgot about - when you're (re)starting a venture YOU are where the buck stops. Literally. As in: "If you don't do some work/promotion/billing/marketing/sales/support/follow up today - you won't get paid tomorrow."

I got spoiled when I was working for Servoy I had a terrific staff who all kicked-ass and were experts in their own fields. This allowed me the luxury of actually running the US Operations and update the social media, blogs, talk to analysts, write articles, do product plans, explore new concepts, make videos, etc.

Now, I still need to do all of those things - but I have to do all the other functions as well... and frankly, with that whole "there's only 24 hours in a day" thing, it's tough to do. If it were up to me - I would officially make each day at least 36 hours long - so at least I could get caught up in the span of a couple of weeks.

But, alas, I can't alter the space/time continuum - so I started to take my own advice. You see, I wrote a white paper a while ago called "How To Get Stuff Done" (you can get it here) - and you know, it really does help!

There are so many things that "should" be done - but very few that "need" to be done. I'm finding if I just start with those things that need to be done (and not all the "fun" projects that tend to suck time like a 5 year old drinking chocolate milk) - and then also apply the appropriate "filter" - I can actually get things OFF my "to do" list.

This blog is one of the things that I "should" do - but also one I "need" to do as well. I'll try to keep it updated a few times a week... so DO check back - and please DO keep those cards, letters, emails and comments coming!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Future: Less IS More

After taking this week "off" from my social media commitments - I jumped back (literally) into the "stream" of the social collective this morning.

Now, those of you who know me know that I'm not the most "social" person out there - and that at the beginning of this wave of social media - I was skeptical (at best). But after being "out of the loop" for a week - I found that I actually missed the time-sucking, endless noise filtering and discovery of hidden gems in my social networks.


Just due to the sheer number of posts and the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and the fact that I actually need to do "work" as well - I'm finding that the thing I long for is not *less* information - but information that is categorized in the way that's important to me.

For example, I have limited my followings on Twitter to people that say stuff that I find interesting. Now, I'm only following 76 people - but damn Spanky - some of those folks Tweet in real time. Some of the time it's interesting, and some of the time it's just plain annoying to have (literally) 100+ tweets by ONE person a day.

Even if I could process 7,600 tweets per day (100 tweets * 76 people) - there's no way I actually could. I mean, seriously, can you process 500 of ANYTHING in a single day?

That's just one outlet - Twitter. Then there's Facebook. I have a fair number of friends - a lot of whom are really interesting people - and I make every effort to read their status updates and sometimes the links and videos they post. And, more times than not, they have great things to day.

Then there's the "real time" communications - instant messaging via AIM, GoogleTalk, MSN (yeah, I know!), ICQ, and Skype... these generally are the communications that take the place of a phone call. I typically have 3-20 conversations a day (some are really short) to ping friends, colleagues and customers.

Then, there's Skype, my land line phone and my mobile phone. Oh, and then I check my Gmail, email, SMS, and voicemail.

Then, I read blogs and articles, write blogs and articles - and then I check my snail mail.

Ummmm... yeah.

So this past week I entered my time capsule and have only answered phone calls, "traditional" email and voicemail ( ok, ok, so I did a few IM sessions as well) - and I found out that I really felt out of touch. Yeah, I know - it surprised me as well!

So I started looking around for some stuff to help me to collapse all these information streams so I don't lose (what's left) of my mind. Now before I get 1,000 comments, tweets, IM's, emails, voice mails, status updates - I know that there are a great number of tools that will help me manage the Twitter feed.

That's not the problem.

I need something that will help unify all the streams and then help me to put them in context. To help me keep track of my customer's outgoing and incoming communications, my friend's outgoing and incoming communications, my colleagues' outgoing and incoming communications. That way, I have a context in which I can interact.

One of the services I use is called - it helps me to update all my various social networks in one fell swoop. I use Twitterfeed for the same thing for the incoming Tweets. I use RSS readers for blog updates. I use FriendFeed to try to aggregate the social stuff.

The killer app of the future is NOT going to be another way to stream your thoughts or your content. The killer app of the future is one that will coordinate and help you manage all the stuff you're consuming and creating - by author, by group, by relationship type, by content type, by time frame. It will allow you to set a preferred communication channel for each of these contacts and then when you blast your own content - it will reach out and communicate to the masses - but also in a personalized way to the selected contacts you've indicated in the way(s) those contacts prefers to be contacted in.

The future is LESS, not more. Less programs to manage stream of outgoing and incoming communications, less time spent sifting through 12 different types of communications, less hassles in knowing how to communicate effectively with those you need to communicate with.

Yeah, I've seen the future - and less IS more.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Credit Card Entrepreneur

Conventional wisdom would suggest that and economic depression (we're way beyond recession here, folks) is the worst time to start a business.

I, for one, would strongly disagree. And so would FedEx. And Burger King. And IBM. And about two dozen more "household names" that were all founded during economic downturns. I think that now is a terrific time to start a business (or expand the one you already have).

Why? Well, we're at a unique place in history.

Any "normal" economic downturn forces businesses and people to do one thing that they normally don't do: examine where they are going and stop doing the things that are stupid and waste time and money. They "get back to the basics" and focus on things that are important to them.

For individuals - it too often also means that they've grabbed their seat cushion because the "unlikely event of a water landing" has happened to them in terms of their career. They have to focus on the skills that they have that are not only "marketable" or "hireable" but that will actually add value to whomever will toss them money so they can live.

For businesses (the ones that are not stuck in an ostrich pose with their heads in the ground and asses in the air) - it also represents a prime opportunity for them to examine the same thing - where do they add value to THEIR customers? Do they? If not - then it's time to join the ranks of the deadpooled companies and stop doing whatever it is they're doing.

This renewed focus on adding value, and I would argue, just STOPPING all the "activity" that seems to consume our lives - can gently lead people to view things in different, radical, potentially life-changing ways. In the "downtime" of waiting in the unemployment line or waiting for the site to load - there can be moments of clarity that can lead to great things - in terms of monetary success as well as lifestyle adjustments.

In this way - recessions, depressions, wars, and other catastrophic events are the same. They cause people and companies to focus.

But of course focus isn't enough. If you focus long enough, hard enough, and you put yourself in the place of others (either the poor schmoe who's out of work or the poor schmoe who is left to do 8 people's work and not get a raise for the next 3 years) - that's where the intersection of needs, wants, desires, opportunity and desperation collide into "the idea."

But, of course, the "idea" isn't enough in and of itself. There's that whole pesky implementation "thing." That's where the technological advances of the modern age really come into play.

Never before in history have we had the ability to start an international business where we don't have to stock product, don't have to have a shipping department, don't need to buy computers or software, and don't need to hire people to answer phones in order to make money selling stuff.

All we need is a credit card and the the unique knowledge that we possess on how to add value to someone, somewhere.

All the other functions of what it would take to start a "real" business can be purchased, rented, and consumed via a single computer, a browser, and Internet access.

The barriers to entry in the "new" business world - the "utility" parts needed to run a business - have already been virtualized (or are getting there). You can rent hardware, software, have companies handle your phones, faxes, shipping, warehousing, product creation, order processing, payment processing, order fulfillment, customer service, technical support, marketing, promotions and advertising.

The thing that hasn't (and can't) be virtualized - is the VALUE that you bring to the table and the RELATIONSHIPS you have with friends, customers, colleagues and fellow business owners. Everyone is in the same boat in these times. Everyone has a certain skill set, business process knowledge and/or a set of experiences that are unique to them.

There's never been a better time to figure out the value you can add - and then come up with a plan on how to share that value with the people that need it. People will pay you for the value you add - even in a down economy.

The key is to get focused... and get started!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Facetweet - Will Facebook Kill Twitter?

Well - as seen on numerous blogs around the world today - it's finally come out that Facebook really DID try to buy Twitter last fall. There had been rumors all over the place that Mark and team was vying to snap up the microblogging site - and roll it into their own offering.

So after the negotiations had come to an unfruitful end (from Facebook's perspective) - they took a play out of the Gates handbook for business 101 - and just decided to build their own microblog format. I say good for them!

Now I don't know Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter personally, and I don't have any inside information as to what they have in the works - but it just seems to me that if someone like Mark Zuckerberg and team come to you and want to buy your brand (for an "undisclosed sum" - read: HUGE cash) - then unless you have a really, really, really good plan to monetize your platform - you should just sell the damn thing.

I mean, really! So, you invented the space of microblogging. Bully for you! It's still not really caught on to the mainstream yet - and your own site's features are so anemic that a whole industry and dozens of others have stepped into the ecosystem to siphon off users from your site (read: less eyeballs for ads)...

So, you have a super simple site - which is a good thing. You have a medium that lots of tech folks (and PR folks) use as sort of a "live AP" feed - also good.

But... ummm... the idea and the tech behind it are... well... just NOT that hard to re-create. The barrier of entry to create another service just like yours is, well, trivial. Just look at all the Twitter-like, me-too spin offs that have come about.

Yeah, you have first-mover advantage, but the Facebook people have a little think called "150 million registered users." Oh, and a valuation that's backed by the largest software company in the world - Microsoft. Oh, and some really, really smart people.... AND... a really robust infrastructure.... AND... did I mention 150 million registered users?

I think it's a good thing that Facebook will put in a microblogging feature - I think that people will use it and that it will really be a welcomed addition to their service. In a way - it's already there. You can see the status updates of your friends, get a "live feed" of what others are doing... so it just makes sense that if you could "broadcast" your status to anyone... you're done.

So - Twitter - unless you're going to announce something (and soon) - I'm afraid you'll be relegated to the MySpace bid of "cool idea, first-mover advantage" slow death. The difference is - you didn't sell out for $850 (while the getting was good).

I hope I'm wrong. Maybe all the people who are addicted to Twitter will continue to tweet forever. I'm sure that people who have used the service for a long time will continue to use it. However, all the "new" people who are just discovering social media (both individuals and businesses) - they WILL sign up for Facebook.

And when they do - they will have a new option to "broadcast" their stuff to anyone on the Internet - as well as to "subscribe" to other feeds. All in the CONTEXT of their friends, customers and other relationships.

OR - they could choose to go to yet another source, start cross posting (or do what I do - and use the EXCELLENT to do it for me) and reading two sets of feeds.

Ummmm... yeah. In-context feeds all in one aggregated place with the largest social network on the planet - or a spartan interface in scrolling format.

My money's on Facebook to win and Twitter to place.

Monday, March 02, 2009

IE Round 2? Has the Giant Awakened?

Ok, ok, so as much as I (and everyone else) bitches about Microsoft - I think they've had another "Ah, the Internet!" moment.

I was reading Mary-Jo Foley's EXCELLENT blog entry on Microsoft's "Cloud OS" (code name: Red Dog) and at the same time read in ComputerWorld about how Microsoft was bringing the (almost) full "power" of SQL Server to the cloud... when all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks: somebody, somewhere, (or everybody everywhere) told Microsoft that they were missing the boat.

And here's the "best" part: they actually listened.

It sort of reminded me of when Bill Gates (rest his Microsoft soul) finally "got" that the browser was the wave of the future. Back in 1995 Bill bought the rights to Spyglass - the raw underbelly HTML rendering engine that powered the then-numero-uno Netscape "browser."

Once he assembled Spyglass into "the collective" and renamed it "Internet Explorer" - he proceeded to write an internal memo - a manifesto, if you wish, about the Internet - wherein he basically said - '...NOW I see it. This 'Internet' thing is going to be huge. Let's buy the biggest player - make up our own crap (screw the "standards") and give it away for free. We'll kill those Netscape ass**les yet!" (well, he DIDN'T SAY THAT - but that's my take on the gist of it)

So, they proceeded to kick the browser market's a**, and eventually forced Netscape out of business (only to be revived in the Mozilla project and Firefox).

Get ready for IE round 2.

So, Microsoft is going to port a lot of the functionality of MS SQL Sever into "the cloud." They're coming up with their own OS - Azure (code name: Red Dog), they've got Ray Ozzie and the whole "Mesh" thing going on...

Yeah, the 1.0 version will suck and it will take them 2-3 years to get the version to where it's actually usable.... but still, I think they've basically "got the plot" on the fact that they can't rely on the Windows OS and Office to fill the company coffers forever.

I'll bet you it's all Bill's idea! He has nothing better to do now - and I mean - how many cocktail receptions can you go to in order GIVE AWAY your children's inheritance? To be fair - Bill Gates didn't get to be the richest man in America so many times by being stupid (or by being "nice").

My personal opinion is that he has daily calls with Steve Ballmer - and Steve has become his puppet master. Meantime, back at the Bat Cave, Bill has been the ultimate puppet master: pulling the heartstrings of charity and overall worldwide "do-gooder" while secretly slipping into his "evil" black spandex "Internet War" suit at night.

He probably has that golden bust that Batman had with the big red button - and he pushes it to open the bookcase where there are pole he slides down into the "Bad Cave" to call his head henchman (Ballmer) to plan how to overtake all the other "losers" in the whole Internet game (Amazon, Google, Zoho, et al).

OR - he really doesn't give a crap. He has enough money to last his lifetime and, as long as the stock stays above... well... ZERO... has nothing to lose... except the thrill of an "evil" opponent and the dream of world domination...

But that's just "crazy talk"....
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