Tuesday Nov 28, 2006

Europe and Globalization

Fascinating to see Europe take to globalization even more than the United States and Japan -- Europe Surpasses U.S., Japan in Reaping Gains From World Trade. Some really surprising quotes in this article, too.

Sunday Nov 26, 2006

A Clear Mind

I love this quote from Sin-Yaw Wang -- "Meditation first clears your mind. It then allows you to think on one subject, or to plan on one project. With a clear mind, you don't need to write your thoughts down. You remember them." Very nice. I'm just trying to imagine life without a to-do list. Wonderful.

Monday Oct 23, 2006

Dawkins and God

Is it just me or does Richard Dawkins sound just exactly like what he criticizes?

Saturday Oct 14, 2006

English in India

Here's a fascinating interview about the economic rise of India over the last 30 years -- India and the State of the IT Industry. I love the "snake charmer" story, but what I found most interesting was how S. Ramadorai feels that English in India is a critical component for the knowledge economy there -- enabling better communication with the West and also providing a convenient competitive advantage with respect to China, where English is not as pervasive.

Tuesday Oct 10, 2006

Going Anaerobic

Here is some interesting biology of unconventional competition from David Berlind in his piece covering a presentation from Gartner analysts Ray Valdes and Neil McDonald -- Gartner: Embrace user rebellion or risk the wrath of it:

In the tech industry, unconventional competition could easily arise should organizations chose not to embrace certain communities of users. In particular, Valdes cited the days of Netscape vs. Microsoft when executives for the latter were infamously quoted as saying that they wanted to "suck the oxygen out of the system." Said Valdes, "When you try to cut off the air supply like that, what happens is anaerobic bacteria arise they're the kind that don't need that sustance. Unconventional competitors will arise that don't need oxygen." Netscape was a more traditional company. It had stock holders. It had employees. It had constituencies that it had to serve. It needed oxygen. The same cannot be said of the open source solutions like Firefox that are now challenging Microsoft on a variety of fronts. It raises a good question. With Internet Explorer usage starting to erode, might Microsoft be in different place had it worked harder to embrace the communities of people who went anaerobic?

I just love the image of a community going anaerobic on a company filled with aerobic employees having no idea what's going on because they feel they are not part of the community. The community is something out there, and we are all safe in here. But it doesn't work that way these days. And it's sort of a nice leveling factor, don't you think? The solution, of course, is really quite simple -- let go. Ok, implementing that letting go is somewhat more difficult, but it's necessary from time to time as history demonstrates. I now understand why many people miss these rapid market shifts, though. They have accumulated so much power from their old system that letting go represents losing. So, it's taken away from them anyway. Wild. Not true in all cases, of course, but true enough in many cases. Personally, I love the process. I can think of nothing so liberating. In this world, anyway.

Monday Sep 18, 2006

Competition for Wikipedia

Some buzz out there on The Citizendium Project, which means potentially some competition for Wikipedia. The community model planned for Citizendium will be different from what Wikipedia uses, so it will be really interesting to see how it goes. I don't think anyone has implemented the definitive community model for the generation of content, so new attempts should be welcomed, right?

Wednesday Sep 13, 2006

The Innovators and The Competent

I agree with Nicholas Carr here when he says, "One of the dangers of placing too much emphasis on innovation, I suggest, is that a company can end up devaluing the work of the 'merely competent.' In fact, having highly competent employees is usually every bit as important to a business's success as having highly creative ones." That's good to hear. With all the attention on super smart innovation, it's nice to see that us mere mortals are necessary too. And working within an open community environment like Sun offers us regulars the opportunity to innovate in small -- but important -- ways. And that's what I'm trying to take advantage of. Improving consistently in small ways. Whether that's innovation or not I don't care. It's improvement and that's what counts. And that's what's encouraged.

Friday Sep 08, 2006

Get Special -- FAST

Nice quote from Dr. Marty Nemko in a podcast interview with Dr. Moira Gunn on one of the keys to elongating your career in today's market of rapid change:

You need to become a serial specialist. Today's specialist in technology is going to be obsolete in three to five years. So you have to learn the art of  becoming a specialist again and again and again. Yes, you're right, even if you can write well and speak well and work well on teams, that isn't going to be enough. But I think choosing your one little narrow area of specialty isn't going to be enough either. You have to use resources to get special fast.

This one principle is both terrifying and thrilling. Yes, you will eventually be disrupted in your career by some guy coming along, no question. And those disruptions are occurring faster and faster and coming from multiple directions. But that doesn't mean you can't re-tool and do some disrupting yourself. In other words, things change so rapidly now that there is more opportunity to cycle back around and carve out something new. No one has a lock on power or status or title for very long anymore.

Thursday Sep 07, 2006

Scale China Style

It's really tough to imagine growth rates on a scale that China is going through and driving -- China to lead the broadband world:

The number of broadband subscribers in China is growing at a staggering 79 per cent annually, and will reach 79 million in 2007, consulting firm Ovum predicted in research released today.

Recent estimates from Leichtman Research suggest that the number of broadband connections in the US, currently the world's largest market, is around 51 million.

This is why it's great to be in Asia. I'm living in a large and mature and sophisticated Japanese market, while at the same time in close proximity to massively growing markets such as China. My kid is going to have such a different life growing up than I had. Actually, I'm going to have a different life than I had, too. Somehow I think it's going to be easier on her, though. :)

Sunday Sep 03, 2006

India

Here's a giant article on India's economic growth -- The Next Industrial Giant Is ... India? Fascinating to see the competition between India and China in this article and the very real distinctions between their economic systems. I'm looking forward to spending a great deal of time in both countries in the coming years.

Wednesday Aug 30, 2006

The Power of Linguistics

Here are two excellent conversations with Geoff Nunberg (IT Conversations and NPR) about the rhetoric of the right and how those guys have linguistically positioned the left on a variety of core issues. I love the title of this guy's book -- Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show. That's quite a title, don't you think? I guess it's based on a political ad from a few years ago. Pretty clever.

But listen carefully to Nunberg's view of the importance of delivering messages via a well crafted narrative. It's a must. A narrative ties everything together. See how Clinton and Bush use narrative differently -- and both successfully -- and why the right has been more successful lately. Nunberg says the right has a better story because their story is more easily delivered by more people in the party, not just the leaders or the rhetorically gifted who naturally rise to the top. I can easily see that in this case, although I don't think the left is weak linguistically as Nunberg suggests. It just doesn't make any sense to me since they garner pretty much half of the voting public each time around.

Regardless of what side you are on, these are fascinating issues of how the meaning of words themselves change over time and under the careful guidance of those seeking power. Recognizing the techniques is the only way to fight this process or even to embrace the process depending on your goals. Many of the techniques are brain dead obvious, but many are quite subtle and insidious and easily missed under all the noise. Also, you can use these techniques yourself in any communications plan to sell anything whatsoever -- good or bad, it doesn't matter. Both the good and the bad use the same techniques, after all. Again, depending on what side you are on.

It seems not much has changed in 2,500 years since Aristotle observed and quantified "all the available means of persuasion" in The Rhetoric. I think the book holds up pretty well, and I oftentimes wonder ... what Aristotle would think of discourse today?

Monday Aug 21, 2006

The Success of Linux

Interesting news report here on a panel of Linux luminaries at LinuxWorld San Francisco talking about why Linux has been successful.

Some typical and familiar reasons include the fact that Linux started in Europe, the emergence of the global Internet at that time, the lack of central control and focus on loose coupling, 386 chips, GNU tools, and the natural skill of Linus Torvalds to bring people together in a community environment. Also mentioned -- and probably most interesting -- was Maddog Hall's observation that the success of Linux also had to do marketing. Not marketing in general, but the marketing of Linus himself as the leader of the community. "Here's this nice young man wearing sandals and with a funny accent, as opposed to other people that weren't quite as nice."

Now, I've always viewed Linux as the anti-marketing, so Maddog probably means grass-roots or community marketing where everyone participates, not a central authority way up in the cathedral dictating messages. However, the idea of good guy vs bad guy is a traditional and timeless communications principle. So, I think this is a good example of how you can take a traditional technique and implement it in within a community environment. Whether this strategy was planned or not doesn't matter. Human beings are naturally attracted to stories that have characters, and those characters usually end up in some sort of conflict. This is why you take a novel to the beach and not a briefing book.

Thursday Aug 10, 2006

Legal Transparency

Now, this is pretty cool -- the legal thing. An executive vice president blogger at Sun. And a lawyer, too. Welcome, Mike. I think you'll enjoy blogging in our little community here, and you will offer us all an education as well. I'm looking forward to it. I wrote about one of Microsoft's blogging lawyers a while back. Could this be the start of a trend?

Tuesday Aug 08, 2006

Sad but True

Demir Barlas writes about some cult-like behavior of the blogging community -- What's Wrong With Blogs. It's a pretty sad commentary, too. Although I didn't follow this particular situation, I've certainly seen enough disgusting behavior around the blogosphere to be impressed with this piece. It's perfectly consistent, actually. I've only been slapped around by attack blogs a few times (you need big numbers to really get attacked by the pit bulls), and they've been pretty toothless. But every time I read a piece like this I wonder how I'd react to a full out assault from all directions. I know what my instinct would  be, though ...

The Language of Blogs

Technorati's David Sifry is out with his latest blog statistics report -- State of the Blogosphere, August 2006. Conclusion: There are a lot of blogs out there. Fifty million, actually. English is the top language spoken in blogs, but Japanese is a close second. Chinese is third. The pie gets split up rather finely after that. Many more stats, of course, but those are the ones that work for me.

Monday Jul 31, 2006

Slides

There's no shortage of people out there offering presentation advice -- especially about using slides -- and some of it is really quite good. I'm starting to present a little now, and I can see the challenges.

But the real goal for me is to never use slides under any circumstances. If slides are required for a talk, oh well, no talk. Move on. Not my crowd. Now, that's the goal, but  I'm obviously years away from that. So for now I use slides like everyone else. One note here: when I say "no slides" what I mean is a complete deck of slides illustrating every point with bulleted lists of text and some occasional graphics and corporate branding on each slide so you don't forget where the speaker works. Slides as speaker notes and marketing message delivery systems, basically. Many times a visual is good to have such as a demo or video or some audio or something live to make a point the way only something live can. But the main speech shouldn't be obfuscated with slides, and it shouldn't even take place on stage, either. It should live in the imaginations of the audience where the speaker is carefully and trustfully walking. That's personal. Slides can't go there. That's why I hate slides. I  generally feel that slides detract from presentations even from highly skilled speakers, and I can only think of a few exceptions.

When I see a potentially great speaker messing around with computers and connections and slides and projectors and clickers and pointers on stage, I always wonder why. What a waste. And that's where it all starts for me. With the speaker. Not the content. Very few of those offering presentation advice start with the speaker, but I think it's the most important thing. When I look at a conference schedule, I immediately look for the names of the people presenting, then I look at the content. If I find people I want to see or whose work I'm following, I'm there. If I don't recognize anyone, I look at the content and hope I can meet a great new presenter. Both strategies work out well. I can read the content from multiple sources or get it from conversation in the hallways or at dinner or on some website, but great speakers grab you in the moment and suck you directly into the content with personal stories of their experience with the content. A great speaker generates a physical reaction in your body as your mind expands with possibilities. If there's no direct experience with the content, then why is there a speaker on stage at all? As a former speech writer a few years ago, I felt that this was the most important reason most corporate speeches failed. In most instances, it's obvious.

So, it was nice to see Simon Phipps dumping his (very good) slides for his OSCON keynote recently. I'm sorry I missed it. Simon is one of those guys who is a great speaker. He designs his own slides with significant effort and care. And he uses those slides as effectively as any of the A-list talkers out there. He's got it all, right? No. I've seen Simon present many times over the last six years, and I always walk away thinking how this or that talk would have worked with no slides at all? So, he finally does it, and I'm about six thousand miles away. Oh, well. Next time. My point is that I'm willing to bet that Simon's talk took on an entirely new dimension only possibly by excluding slides and benefiting from the simplicity of one human talking directly to another with nothing distracting either person. Just a hunch ...

Tuesday Jul 25, 2006

Getting the Word Out

David Berlind a couple of weeks ago nicely summarized a recent Rich Green interview -- Rich Green: Sun's green machine? Skim down to the last paragraph and you'll find this observation:

"More importantly, Green is right. Sun has a software stack that is one to be reckoned with, if only Sun can get the word out."

I still hear this quite often, and I generally agree with the statement in most cases. But something bothers me about it and it's this -- what more could we do? I mean this quite sincerely. We now have thousands of bloggers liberated to talk about all kinds of technology, we've opened more code -- both hardware and software -- than we know what to do with (with still more coming), we have that fancy "Share" and "Participation Age" branding campaign going on that fits nicely with all the open stuff we are doing, we send engineers and executives all over the world to participate in industry conferences, we invest millions holding our own conferences, we spend lots of money on marketing at multiple levels, we contribute to open source and standards communities all over the place, we are placing more ads about Sun in tech and business magazines now (especially with all the new products we have lately), and our press and analyst coverage seems to be increasing in volume and quality quite steadily. We are quite literally one of the loudest companies out there. Now, I realize that we have a Chairman and a CEO who are both a bit on the shy side, but we're working on that. But seriously, short of spending five or six hundred million on carpet bombing advertising, what more could we do to get the word out?

Monday Jun 26, 2006

6 Years

Today is my six year anniversary at Sun. Absolutely amazing. And I'm extremely fortunate to be working with such a great group of people during the last two and a half years on OpenSolaris.

Tuesday May 02, 2006

Bruce Sterling

Really great speech by Bruce Sterling on IT Conversations -- The Internet of Things -- from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference a few months ago. Even if you (read: me) don't understand what he's talking about, if you love words you'll love listening to Bruce Sterling. I love when he says ... "I'm very interested in things that can't happen yet. And the Internet of things can not happen yet. It is not emerging tech. It's a vast, slow, terrific thing that is trying to emerge. Web 2.0 is emerging tech. The Internet of things, if it happens at all, will probably take about 30 years to happen because that's how long bar codes took to permeate society, about 30 years." Sterling says that the experts are still debating the proper terminology to even describe some of these concepts, and that's one of the challenges -- language. "When it comes to remote technical eventualities, you don't want to freeze your language too early ... that prejudices people ... because it limits their ability to find and understand the intrinsic advantages of the technology." And then he goes on from there. Up and down and every which way you could imagine. Really nice stuff.

My favorite bit is this though:

It is morally wrong to evade controversies just because you don't want anybody confronting you over what you are doing. There is something very snotty about an author who expects only good reviews for his books, and the author of an emergent technology is in the same boat. If nobody is dismissing you as hype, you are not being loud enough. And if nobody thinks what you are doing is dangerous, you are doing something with no power to change the world. You had better fight it out with words before you fight it out with laws because you'll be in no position to think straight when you suddenly get hauled in front of Congress and confronted for being evil. You need to feed the critics. Don't feed the crazy ones, but a loyal opposition is hugely valuable.

He uttered that sequence with a deadly serious cadence. Powerful.

I saw Sterling a couple of years ago in San Francisco. He's great live. He was talking about singularity or something. The speech then was very similar in style to this one. When I listen to this guy I can't help but think that must of what's being said out there is just bullshit. And Sterling -- who uses really big words to represent complex things I've never heard of a lot of the time -- somehow sounds really profoundly practical. Wild.

Monday May 01, 2006

Japanese Bloggers Leading

David Sifry's State of the Blogosphere, April 2006 Part 2: On Language and Tagging is really interesting because the numbers document that "Japanese and Chinese language blogging has grown significantly" and that the largest percentage of blogs on the blogosphere right now are in Japanese. Sifry notes that "Japanese bloggers appear to write shorter posts more often. This could be a result of blogging from mobile phones, and may be skewing the results, given that we are tracking the total number of posts in this analysis."

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