Monday Mar 24, 2008

Closed or Open?

Here's an interesting article about Apple's strategy -- How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong. The "everything wrong" bit refers to the trend toward transparency in high tech, whereas Apple is anything but transparent. Yet the company is extremely successful. Imagine that. There has been some good commentary in blogs about the piece, and there are a lot of comments on the article itself. To me the issue is not that complex. Sometimes closed works, sometimes open works. Different companies, different communities, different products, different development strategies, different business models. Not a big deal. Good article, though.

Saturday May 21, 2005

Transparent Launches

I'm not a fan of big corporate product launches. They are too loud. Too restrictive. Too inefficient. Too expensive. And too much based on delivering "messages" no one believes, rather than simply engaging in a mutually beneficial conversation with your customers or communities. I don't see the point. And I've never seen the benefits of a "launch" quantified to justify the expense. Never.

Anyway, I took a crack at this issue back in February, and I've been talking about it internally on the OpenSolaris project for a year. The issue bugs me, and I don't know why, but I'm working it out of my system. Ok, I'm bitter, but beyond that part. Perhaps it's because I see engineers and developers all around me quite effortlessly engaging in transparent activities. Why, then, do we come along and take their work and "launch" it? Seems odd to me. Sun is a remarkably open company, yet we also engage in "the launch" ritual. Most companies do. Thankfully, I'm not really involved in launches anymore, which is good since I suck at them. And people who know me for more than five minutes are quite aware of my view -- dump the launches.

Stephen O'Grady has a really nice one-liner on launches: "Launches are usually designed to talk at someone, not with them" (emphasis added). But Stephen's thoughts on transparency reflect far more than that one-liner, so take a peek at his post and the comments -- especially about Eclipse trying to do a transparent launch, which would represent quite a departure from how the project was born a few years ago (sorry ... I worked on NetBeans at the time).

So, aside from getting feedback from a community, I'd love to see exactly what a transparent launch would look like coming from a public corporation. Although it's a foundation, perhaps Eclipse will give us a clue. I'm looking for the details. Just how do you open all those closed launch processes? And is anyone really interested in seeing all that drama and potentially contributing to it? Or do they just want the release date? Imagine opening the FAQ meetings ... you know when we carefully craft the questions and the answers to magically reflect the current partyline. How about a transparent -- yet embargoed? -- press release process. How would that work when reporters can presumably see inside? What would an open gold/silver/bronze analyst pitch look like? Interested in contributing to a community developed executive keynote? An open field sales competitive briefing pitch? Open pricing discussion? Open branding? Legal? Wow. I'm not sure it's possible to open these functions because they are designed to be closed until a given day when everything is "launched" simultaneously, wrapped nicely in air tight messaging and delivered via some dramatic show at some expensive venue. Opening that process would actually kill it. Wouldn't it? Doesn't the "transparency" sort of cancel out the "launch" in that phrase?

I'm interested in what comes after the launch era because I believe most launches actually reduce the credibility of the project -- despite (and maybe because of) all the buzz and spin. So, what replaces the launch? What innovative activities are we not doing now but could be doing if we killed the launch altogether? And would anyone even notice?

Tuesday Mar 22, 2005

Transparency & Passion



Danese talks open source transparency and passion in this Mad Penguin Q&A -- Danese Cooper: reflections of an open source diva. Really nice piece if you are interested in a summary of her experiences at Sun doing open source. And some stuff from before Sun, too.

I particularly like this graph on transparency from the ACT! 2000 project at Symantec:

What they didn't realize was that we had taken this idea of transparency to heart, and we decided to run ACT! 2000 from an engineering perspective and a design perspective as a massively transparent project. We put everything on the web inside of Symantec. We essentially used open source and extreme programming methods to create ACT! 2000, and we got two-thirds of the way through the project before senior management realized that we had drastically changed the methodology. Of course, they had a fit. But when we shipped it, ACT! 2000 cleared 1500 bugs out of the queue that had been there for years and years, because we had that much extra time! We had pre-validated all of the designs, and developed everything transparently, so everyone knew everything that was happening the whole time. The whole process worked so much better, that I was completely sold on this model.

Cool. I think there's enough evidence from various open source projects these days to demonstrate that transparent development works on multiple levels. But notice Danese says "from an engineering perspective...."  Why just engineering? Imagine running the whole project in a transparent way -- engineering, project management, marketing, branding, legal, PR, sales, business development, service, everything. Is that possible? Just how would you open source the entire process? If the engineers are opening up, the other guys ought to open up, too, don't you think?

Ok. Back to the Q&A. Here we have some Danese thoughts on OpenSolaris:

OpenSolaris I think is going to be interesting. More so than the Open Source community thinks. I was interested in it partially because I was interested in creating change at Sun and it's a huge engine for change. It's so core to the company and there are so many of the company's engineers involved who haven't actually done Open Source before so it's got to change things. Additionally there is a vibrant community, I'm convinced. After watching the pilot project start up and noticing how much non-Sun interest there is in the project. People interested in getting a hold of that code and doing interesting things with it. I think it's going to surprise the Open Source community how much passion there will be in that project. One of the things that the Open Source community misses is that they assume that OpenSolaris is trying for the same kind of community that they have. You know, the Linux people assume that it's going to be like Linux, or that it's trying to kill Linux, and the BSD people assume the community is going to run like BSD. I think that it's going to find its own level and I think the OpenSolaris community will enjoy being involved with it, and whether or not the ideas bleed out into the other operating systems isn't as important as whether or not they can build a vibrant community around that technology and keep it going because they've spent years writing it. It has every bit of as much right as everybody else's work to continue to live. Diversity is a good thing.

Very nice.

Technorati Tags: OpenSolaris | Solaris

Friday Feb 04, 2005

Comments on Marketing Transparency

Some really interesting thoughts here from David Berlind on his personal blog -- Mixed reactions from the PR community on pure transparency. This guy is publishing raw email threads he's having with with PR people? Gezz ... where have I been? My goodness. The marketing world turned upside down. This is just too much fun.

I wonder, though. With all these reporters, engineers, and community types blogging, where does that leave marketing? I've been blogging for about a year and having a ball, and I'm always trying to get more marketing and PR people to blog. My track record on this, however, is really, really bad. Why? I realize that the more progressive PR people are blogging -- Steve's got a pretty big list going and one of Sun's PR agencies, CHEN PR, is blogging -- but is that really changing how marketing does business in high tech? In other words, a more transparent, community-oriented marketing is certainly taking place, but are marketers actually the ones implementing it? Or is it simply happening right under their noses?

I'd love to hear from reporters, analysts, and PR people on this. I've been out of PR for almost two years now, so I'm utterly clueless about how all this works in the world of blogging. Do you guys still use embargoes on stories before launches? If so, why? What about launches, anyway. Why have them? In a world of pervasive communications with company sources blogging, community members blogging, competitors blogging, and press blogging, what's the value of holding your news for one single day -- the day of this strangely-named thing called a "launch." And what about that one little leak that spoils the party? Yuk. I never got it when I did it (and I did a lot of it), and I don't get it now. Especially now! Perhaps we should open source the launch process. Can you imagine a transparent launch? Wow. Now that would be ugly. Probably easier to just do away with the entire exercise altogether.

What do you think? How are we doing with all this here at Sun? Be honest, now. :)

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