Friday, July 18, 2008

Telegraph Media Group moves from MS Office to Google Apps

Jeff Jarvis excerpts the story of how the publisher of the Daily Telegraph migrated to Google Apps. Which is impressive. It also makes a weird sort of sense that the dying newspaper industry is turning to Google to optimize itself.

"If enough people asking the same question creates a viable market place, then we've reached the end-game of a knowledge society."

Jan Chipchase looks at the practice of renting rooms in China during the Olympics.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google Docs now has templates

They're not fantastic, but they're decent. See what you think.


Confused of Calcutta unearths an OSS field manual on sabotage and discovers some familiar-sounding practices.

Project Lore - Better than This Old House

I could see myself spending a lot of time watching this show about how to level up in World of Warcraft. Maybe I'll fire up the Wii and watch it on the TV through the browser. I mean, I don't play WOW, but I don't design clothes either and I still catch Project Runway sometimes.

The street finds its own uses for things, even Windows Server 2008

Slashdot has an article about converting Windows Server 2008 into "the lean, efficient, reliable 'power user' OS that Windows should be," rather than trying to run Vista.

Community managers for startups

ReadWriteWeb asks: Do startup companies need community managers? Short answer: Yes.

Facilitating and managing communities has already become an important job and I believe it will increase in importance. As far as I know, no field or discipline has specifically targeted this sort of job. Technical communication and rhetoric are well suited to do so, but we'll need to get out of the starting gate quickly.

The free software, anti-DRM case against the iPhone

Gina Trapani, who has an iPhone, argues that you shouldn't get one.

Soon GMail and GCal will have offline access

Google Gears is coming to both.

A few thoughts on Google's strategy

As most frequent readers of this blog know, I'm very interested in what Google is doing. That's partially because Google has a big influence on other players in the sector, partly because I use their products extensively, but mostly because while other players have focused on enterprise or consumer sectors, Google has been exploring ways to tap latent markets of small businesses and federations.

One example is Google Docs. As I've argued elsewhere, comparing GDocs with MS Office misses the point: Although MS Office is usable by broad swathes of the public, it is crafted with large companies and enterprises in mind, and that has influenced its features and positioning. Microsoft knows that enterprises have a lot of value locked inside them, like oil fields, and so Microsoft goes to the most promising oil fields to drill. Microsoft doesn't drill eveywhere; that would not be cost effective. In fact, small businesses, sole proprietorships, and casual groups are a bit of a drag on Microsoft: They tend to pirate software like Office, or skirt agreements in other ways (ex: students graduate but still use their student version of Office).

On the other hand, Google has crafted GDocs in a way that does not necessarily work that well in enterprise settings, but that works wonderfully for small businesses, sole proprietorships, and casual groups. And especially in emergent federations of contractors and subcontractors, in coworking, and in similarly dispersed, loose affiliations of workers. That's a latent market, one that Microsoft can't tap and hasn't been eager to recognize up to this point. Metaphorically speaking, whereas Microsoft is looking for oil fields, Google is deploying solar panels to recover low amounts of energy everywhere. And this works mainly because Google has the infrastructure to do that deploying.

All right. Keep that in mind as we turn to Android, the Google-initiated and backed OS for mobile devices. I know I've been talking about Android a lot, and partially that's because since it hasn't been released yet, I'm free to project my hopes and wishes onto it. But there's enough information that we can also do some speculating about strategy.

Analysts have been speculating lately about what market Android is trying to crack. Is it going after the corporate market, competing with RIM and MS Windows Mobile? Or is it going after the consumer market, including Apple's iPhone?

I suggest that, just as with Google Docs, the niche is neither. Google is going to use Android to facilitate latent connections among emergent organizations and organizational forms, such as federations and coworking. It's not focusing on a tightly controlled consumer experience, like the iPhone, or a tightly controlled corporate infrastructure, like the Blackberry or WinMobile devices. It's going to focus on the many small businesses that have to do B2B collaboration, the professionals who have to be increasingly mobile while facilitating face-to-face meetings, the loose collaboration that is increasingly characterizing knowledge work.

A linchpin in this strategy, I think, is going to be Jaiku. For those of you who may not remember, Jaiku is a Finnish startup that emerged as a Twitter competitor before Google bought in fall 2007. Since then it's been closed to new registrations as Google works to scale it. Jaiku is mobile phone centric and includes short messages (like Twitter), feed aggregation (like FriendFeed), and location awareness (like BrightKite). It's being moved onto Google Apps Engine. And we keep hearing about how that move will "soon" be complete. I strongly suspect that the move includes integrating Jaiku and GMail's address list (continuing Google's de facto social network of contacts), Jaiku and OpenSocial, Jaiku and SocialStream, Jaiku and Google Maps.

Like Twitter, FriendFeed, and BrightKite, Jaiku would be good at serving the latent market for loose recombinant organizations, but it will do this in a much more coherent and focused way. And it might or might not launch in October, but it almost certainly will be hyped to coincide with the first release of Android phones from T-Mobile in October. Look for a Jaiku icon on every Android desktop out of the box.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reading :: Here Comes Everybody

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
By Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody has been discussed widely on tech-oriented sites such as BoingBoing, and for good reason. To be honest, if you read BoingBoing, BuzzMachine, and similar sites, you won't find much new here. But Shirky manages to clearly and elegantly summarize the sorts of shifts that are currently occurring in mass organization and organization as social software and hardware bring down the transaction costs of communication.

The book makes a good summary for those who have already been reading these issues; a good reference for those who want to illustrate it; a manifesto of sorts for those who are thinking through these changes; and a tract for those who want to communicate these changes in organization to others. Shirky discusses networked organizational structures, power law, the fail-faster approach, and similar concepts clearly and simply; he reviews tools and projects such as Twitter, Dodgeball, MeetUp, MySpace, Facebook, and Wikipedia as illustrations of his points, not just as neat services; and he levels precise, common-sense criticisms towards successful-on-paper, failures-in-reality efforts such as MoveOn campaigns to email Congresspeople. I'd recommend this book if you're trying to understand social media yourself or if you want to explain it to someone else.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"People [are] starting to put the dreaded @ signs from Twitter in emails!"

That's a reader's report to Gawker:
Has anyone else noticed this trend (or is it a one-person trend piece?) From a reader: "People [are] starting to put the dreaded @ signs from Twitter in emails! Such as @Tricia, how did making that Excel spreadsheet go? and other horrible things of that nature." Has this infected your office as well?
It hasn't yet, but I think it's a brilliant convention to export for the same reason that it makes sense on Twitter: it allows you to set up automated scripts to identify direct addressees within the body of text. It also makes it easier for humans to scan text for direct address.

iPhone is the new PC

ReadWriteWeb discovers that a sufficiently powerful and app-friendly phone has potential to be a true personal computer. Yes, that is why Microsoft, Google, and Apple are flooding the space. Expect iPhone 3.0 to link up to Apple's Bluetooth keyboards and perhaps displays.

Discouraging signs for Brightkite

Brightkite is a relatively new service, still in private beta, that combines Twitter-like microblogging with location-awareness. Up to this point, it's taken that location via user input: you type your address into Brightkite or alternately have it search for the location based on a business name. This is a clunky way to indicate location, which is why I rarely use it. Obviously, getting coordinates directly from a GPS-enabled phone would make the service much more useful.

Unfortunately, Brightkite's iPhone 3G app does not take GPS input. This is a big issue, and I am not sure how Brightkite will recover unless it can pair a GPS-enabled client with another major launch such as the upcoming Android or RIM touchscreen launches.