Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher’s Blog Spells Bad News

I found this article today:

While we can use it as another example of what not to say on your blog, it raises a really interesting point.  If you post or publish something that is perceived as objectionable or offensive by others, is the problem theirs or yours?  Asked a different way, what is considered adequate anonymity in postings and content to not warrant this sort of backlash if someone vents frustrations in a semi-public way?  In reading this article, and we cannot go to the source since it was already taken down, the teacher believes she was venting to family and friends about her job.  She did not mention her self, school, or the specific students her comments were describing.  The fact that students were able to connect the blog with this teacher and took offense to the content is why she found her self in trouble with the school board she works (or worked) for.

We know the best types of communications are real communications in social tools.   It is generally accepted that representing your brand or self in a very genuine way is encouraged.  So at where does the line in the sand exist when we change from being real and honest to being belligerent and degrading?  Is it really so different than verbal communication?  Can we expect any sort of privacy when the internet is seemingly never forgetting?  Perhaps email communication, private wall posts on Facebook, or selective use of the teacher’s social network would have been more appropriate avenues for her to vent such frustrations than her publicly available blog.  I can not say for sure, but one thing is clear to me.  When you are charged with the shaping of our youth and take on the noble profession of educator, the public eye will be very critical of all your actions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cloudy Thoughts…

Anyone who has been involved in technology in the last few years has been asked to think about clouds.  Of course, I immediately picture light fluffy pillow-like things that remind me of being a kid and trying to discern recognizable shapes in the clouds overhead on a warm summer day.  Doesn’t everyone?  OK, well… maybe not, but regardless of what you think about cloud there is a good chance your perception might benefit from a little refinement.

Cloud can be both a noun and adjective.  The internet is often referred to as “The Cloud” and functions like a noun, while “cloud architecture” uses cloud as more of an adjective, describing the type of architecture.  Cloud has become a synonym for another term, software as a service (SaaS) in some cases as well.  All of these things can lead to confusion or gaps in perception when having a conversation about this very versatile and potentially helpful architecture.

Cloud architecture basically means an environment that is not dependent upon any single component to function.  The availability is as close to 100% as any system can be.  The definition does not, however, end there.  It also means the environment is scalable in a very rapid way.  You can accommodate rapid growth or expel surplus and this ambiguous and almost organic scalability has become how the architecture has gotten it’s name.  You are computing with a cloud, almost quite literally.  It has no real defined shape and can fill space or be squeezed into a small box.  The advantages for business are quite obvious.  Your cloud can be private, or made part of “The Cloud”, or even shared by multiple tenants.  The services that your cloud provides could be accessed with a browser and/or mobile device, making it behave like the last example of cloud computing I described.

Leveraging applications or services with a web browser and not having to house or support the back-end systems required for that service was call software as a service or SaaS.  This type of delivery often is appealing to users because the same model of rapid growth and reduction in size (and likely cost) that is synonymous with cloud architecture is realized immediately and with every billing cycle.  The idea of moving business systems to “The Cloud” and using them in this commoditized fashion has given IT managers and decision makers a lot to think about.  The costs of leveraging a system that is delivered as a Cloud solution could be very cost effective from an operational stand point, but often comes at the cost of limited extensibility and customization.  The inability to mirror your business processes with the supporting systems can lead to costly wasted efforts or reinventing the processes that make up your business today.

Equally concerning is the exit strategy from Cloud services.  If your business changes dramatically enough, the systems in use today may not make sense any longer.  To migrate from the Cloud solution may be very costly or take so much time that it would seem impossible.

The ultimate message here is not that leveraging cloud technologies is bad or dangerous, but more to be an informed consumer before jumping into the light fluffy stuff.  Be sure the same principals of matching business requirement and planning a system roadmap are applied to selecting Cloud solutions as well.  Understand the benefits and risks of the venture to be sure the best interest of your employees and core business functions are not compromised to just save a few dollars in operating overhead.  The impact to productivity may negate the savings.  The other side of the coin is to also not fill a datacenter with systems that are only being marginally utilized.  Having the flexibility to grow with demands seemingly immediately and having costs always commensurate with usage is extremely agile and appropriate for today’s rapidly changing markets.  Just be sure to know the facts and avoid rain clouds.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Internet Freedom Plan

I found this article here:

To summarize, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will address the world for a second time on this topic to discuss the impact and disruptive change that social media has proven to be.  Citing the events in Egypt and Iran as examples of how a free and open internet will enable and facilitate transformation.  The US has backed the idea of a free internet for some time, and even believes internet freedom to be a basic human right.

Clinton continues to condemn WIkiLeaks’ release of sensitive information, and takes the stance that freedom to act does not mean action without consequence.  She will say, "Our allegiance to the rule of law does not dissipate in cyberspace. Neither does our commitment to protecting civil liberties and human rights," according to the speech excerpts.  There will be no change from the existing policy to support a free internet and the US will continue to speak out against foreign powers that censor the internet or harass bloggers to control content.

This freedom is fundamental.  I can not imagine how different my career, relationships, well… life would be without the social networks I participate in and the media outlets I use. (like my blog)  Having been in messaging and collaboration for almost my whole career, I believe in giving people access to communicative technologies wherever and whenever they want.  The power to communicate with others without distance or time getting in the way is amazing and something I would not take away from anyone.

Social tools have changed the game a little bit because now the communication is made available in the form of feeds that can be tuned into or out of, concatenated or kept discrete, and accessed whenever or wherever you see fit.  This social revolution in the way we communicate has been one of the most interesting and impactful change I have been a part of.  I can not wait to see where we take things next, but as long as we know we have the freedom to innovate and build these technologies, I believe there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Monday, February 14, 2011

IBM’s Watson

I received this email today, and thought I would pass it along.  It had some links of interest if you intend to follow Watson as it competes on Jeopardy.

IBM's Watson

A computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions

Dear Business Partner,

As you may know, a team of IBM mathematicians and computer scientists have worked for the past four years on a new technology, one capable of transforming business and society. This has enormous implications for you as a Business Partner and represents an opportunity to incorporate this exciting technology in new solutions and applications for our mutual clients.

The IBM Researchers set out to accomplish a grand challenge - build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The results are a computing system named Watson which will compete on the U.S.-based TV game show Jeopardy! against the show's two most successful human contestants on February 14, 15 and 16.

Jeopardy! provides the ultimate challenge because the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. Watson's ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, and then rapidly process information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives.

Watson's Question Answering (QA) technology enables the system to analyze massive amounts of data and will help people rapidly find specific answers to complex questions. The technology could be applied to health care for assistance in accurately diagnosing patients, to improving online self-service help desks, providing tourists and citizens with specific information regarding cities, and much more. You may want to learn more about the initiative by watching this introductory video.

Crucial to the project are eight universities that are collaborating with IBM Researchers to advance the QA technology behind the Watson computing system. The Open Advancement of Question Answering Initiative, established in 2008 by IBM and Carnegie Mellon University, aims to provide a foundational architecture and methodology for accelerating collaborative research in automatic question answering.

Win or lose, IBM's Watson represents a big step in shifting the way we look at computers from today's "calculators" to "machines that learn." Watson is a powerful demonstration that the era of learning systems is indeed upon us, where computing will go beyond increased storage, better search and more complex analytics to systems that help humanity reach its greatest potential for human creativity, innovation and ingenuity.

At IBM we look forward to working with you to find creative ways to apply this exciting technology to new business opportunities. Don't hesitate to contact us for more information, or to discuss ways we can apply the technology we've developed in Watson to pivotal issues in your industry.


Jim Corgel                                         Claudia Fan Munce
General Manager                                Managing Director, IBM Venture Capital Group
IBM ISVs and Developer Relations       Vice President, IBM Corporate Strategy

Recent Experience

As many of my friends and family are in the IT world, I am a consultant.  I have been for a number of years, and with the job comes a requirement of travel.  Now I know there are those who think projects are always in great places and they see the sexy side of consulting.  That is not reality.  You can wind up in some rural areas with little to do.  You can read, work, exhaust the puzzles in the paper, but eventually boredom does set it… at least for me.  I love movies, and have a modest collection of favorites.  While taking all 300+ titles with me is not really an option, I can pick a few and bring them for viewing in the hotel or even in transit (unless I am driving, of course) which is great!

So how do I do it?

I found an app on Facebook a while back that was free.  It was iSkysoft’s DVD to iPhone Converter.  This app was simple to use, intuitive, yet powerful enough to enable some trimming and manipulation of the video and audio to achieve a great balance of size:quality for iPhone viewing.  I recently had to change computers, and lost my activation code for this product that I was using twice a month on average.  I contacted customer support immediately upon realizing this misfortune to see if there was anything I could do to improve my situation.  It was a Sunday night, so I did not have any expectations of immediate response, but a support representative reached out to me twice that night.  This deserved some recognition, in my opinion.

Through the communications I have been having with the very helpful representative, Susan, she extended a $10 discount to anyone who stumbles upon this posting for the replacement product Video Converter Ultimate.  Click through the link to find the offer.  (Between you and me, you can click on the trash can icon to remove the distributors’ add on product, making the price only $49 as opposed to $59 direct from iSkysoft.)  Here is the VCU product page.

It is not every day that I experience positive customer service, and I wanted to thank Susan at iSkysoft for making this a memorable experience.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

RE: Social Business

Earlier this week, this article was forwarded to me by a friend on Twitter.

Ben Langhinrichs of Genii Software discusses two elements of responsible social interactions, “The Golden Rule” (treat others the way you want to be treated) and to clean up after your self.  I agree with him that these are important lessons to keep in mind when communicating in the social world, but I want to offer some additional advice on the first lesson in his post.

The first lesson Ben discusses is a no-brainer, and he covers a lot of important points.  I do not think anyone would dispute the fact that “The Golden Rule” should be at least part of the filter used when crafting communications.  In past articles I have written on this topic and when speaking about this in person, I often use the phrase “Don’t put it on the internet if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to know about it.”  While for each of us the figure may not be their grandmother, the point is easily made.  Be respectful in all interactions and you will receive the same in return, typically speaking. 

He also took a moment to emphasize the fact that the internet never forgets.  Thanks to things like Google caching and other syndicating sites that seem to remember everything, you can not simply recant a poor communication.  This leads to many conversations, and while like Ben I don’t intend to point out every example of this gone wrong, I do want to spend a moment discussing how to handle the situation when this does happen.  Obviously, knee-jerk reactions and inflammatory or negative responses can lead to these types of communications that we want to try and avoid.  It is OK to have emotion and charge in your social interactions.  Candid conversations can be some of the most meaningful conversations you have, but can also be dangerous if done without proper thought or discretion.  So should we never have candid conversations??  NO!  Candid and real conversations are very important to making you and/or your organization human and approachable. 

The better way to handle missteps would be to use it as an opportunity to show your character.  Publicly and openly apologize and show how you are correcting your actions.  Make amends with the person/group you offended in the same public forum to show you are able to own up to what you say and do.  The long term benefit of this show of character is without equal.  The chance of avoiding any and all negative or poorly perceived communication all together is not realistic, so the mature thing to do is prepare for the eventuality and have a plan in place ahead of time.  This will go a long way in developing a mature social practice for you and/or your organization.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Great Press…

I wanted to pass along the latest good word about team NouvEON.  The Greater Charlotte Business Journal did this write-up…

Friday, February 04, 2011

LS11 Wrap-Up…

With another Lotusphere in the books, I wanted to say “Thank You” to everyone who helped make this year’s another great conference.  To IBM, Arrow, my colleagues, and every other attendee… Thank You!

For those of you who missed the message… Get Social, Do Business.  While I say this a bit tongue in cheek, I have to admit, I have believed this long before IBM made it the theme of LS11.  Social is…

… a valid way to conduct business.

… a means of increasing transparency.

… a faster way to communicate and pull the talents of those you hired into your organizations faster, and more efficiently.

… NOT just about Facebook or Twitter.

… your ideals, business objectives, and culture just accelerated and expedited.

… a smarter way to engage your customers, partners, and everyone you do business with.

… a different way of thinking, and rewarding the people you interact with.


The heart of the social revolution is people, and the fundamental idea that we are social creatures.  Being social animals means we crave this revolution.  In a session this week, it was relayed to us that Hallmark studied all the occurrences of people gifting the Valentine’s Day gift in the social game Farmville.  The number of those gifts given in the game exceeded the total number of e-Cards given from Hallmark’s website for the whole year.  The delta was quite large too.

Social is mainstream… it is here and now!  Not just a buzzword, but a legitimate way to bring your company and customers, suppliers and distributors, friends and family closer together.

As we look at the trends emerging from this social revolution, it seems that social recognition and social analytics are the two up and coming technologies.  The businesses who are able to analyze their customers patterns and use this information to their advantage will immediately connect to them closer and more pertinent than ever before.  The sales cycles will be shorter, and the resonance of the message being delivered will be more impactful than ever.  This is truly a powerful emerging market in the social era. 

Social gifting or recognition is emerging as an extremely important aspect of the social revolution.  It is the validation from peers, friends, competitors that people are beginning to strive for.  It makes us want to get even “more social” with what we do to continue to gain the recognition and validation.  This shift in culture means the era of people hording their knowledge and trying to be the only expert in a field is coming to an end.  Now the focus is to be counted among the experts and contribute in a meaningful and validated way to the community of SMEs.  The result will be faster product or solution development, growth in technologies and practices at a pace not yet seen, and a truly healthy competitive landscape.

As in years past, there was karaoke at Kimonos, drinks at ESPN, a party at a park (Universal Islands of Adventure… Harry Potter ROCKS!!), run-ins with everyone from The Turtle, to Ed Brill, and too many more to mention by name here… Lotusphere is, and has been a technical conference.  It is not just a social event (pun intended) but it is full of technical know how, futures for the products we have grown to know, love, be frenimies with, and solve business problems with.  We saw Notes Next, Sametime Next, Connections Next, and Quickr Next.  LotusLive is still a strong focus for the brand, RIM/Blackberry is still a strong partnership, and the push to bring enterprise class solutions to the mobile and tablet device community is still going strong.

For me, personally, this was the quietest and least social Lotusphere in the last five years.  It was a nice change of pace, but I am not sure I intend to keep it this low key every year.  Winking smile  Until the next time we all converge on Orlando, take over the Swan and Dolphin, and get even more social… best wishes and many great successes.  I look forward to the great things this coming year will have in store.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Connections Outside the Organization

I was thinking about this yesterday, and after having the discussion, it was suggested to me to bring this up to IBM as an idea to consider.  The issue with taking the wonderful tools provided in Connections is that it is really designed around being deployed as an internal set of tools.  There is not user self-service in the product for things like, password reset, registration or inclusion in the solution, etc. like you find with public social tools.  What if the Connections tool set (Blogs, Wikis, Communities, Files, etc…) were to not utilize just Profiles as the user repository?  What if we could allow Connections to use Facebook, for example, as the user repository.  Trust the FB session, like other FB apps, and have FB allow the users to modify their own user information and keep it up to date on their own.  FB already provides user self-service.  Connections will still control authorization to data, security, all the things we have come to expect from an enterprise class solution from IBM would still be handled in the app.  This would make deploying Connections into an extranet much easier as we would not have to handle the user management, but leverage the user management provided in a public social network.  Just a thought, but I wonder what others in the community think before trying to speak with anyone in a meaningful way about this… let me know!