From atoms to bits: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

11 06 2010

A few years ago, I moved from Davisville and Yonge to my current place, and was shocked by the amount of stuff I had accumulated in the 6 years living there. This is a pic from that day, and it only shows a small fraction of our moving bins:


Lots of atoms

Prior to that, my diggings consisted of a very small bachelor unit. Back then I had to often choose between useless things or having some walking space at home. Most of the time, walking space won :-P

My current place is considerably bigger than the previous one, so the accumulation process continued, and – with a pre-schooler around – it just went into overdrive mode. I started dreading the day when I would have to move again.

About a month ago, when a new batch of comic books arrived via mail, it became crystal clear that something had to change. I am basically paying rent for keeping atoms around. Lots of atoms. The next day, I went to TigerDirect and bought the last Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 unit they had. It was very expensive for a scanner – about CAD$ 500, the Adobe Acrobat license accounting for most of it – but it was worth every cent paid. This is the beauty:


Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

The product page at the Fujitsu website summarizes the S1500 features as follows:

Simply put the pages into the automatic feeder and ScanSnap will:

  • Scan both sides of the page
  • Detect the size of the page
  • Detect colour, grayscale or black & white
  • Detect blank pages
  • Detect page orientation
  • Straighten skewed images
  • Create a PDF or JPEG file

All at the speed of 40 images per minute (20 double sided pages).

My first ScanSnap “project” was to digitize all the school material from my MBA days. I did it while watching the NBA playoffs – it actually helped going through those endless time-outs and commercial breaks. The result ended up being better than the original documents, as the content is now searchable (after running Acrobat’s OCR), and I created a Table of Content to facilitate browsing through the materials.

So, in a few scanning sessions, 3 shelves full of binders and books:

Were transformed into a Stanza folder in my iPad, totaling about 1 GB of storage:

In other words, 27 sets of MBA course materials can now easily fit a data DVD or small USB memory key! By my calculations, a 2 TB external drive can store all my VCR tapes, music, photos, books and comics. Maybe it’s time to start looking for a smaller place to live, after all.

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iPad – First impressions

4 04 2010

Yesterday morning, I took my visiting family to Niagara Falls which is oh-so-convenient-ly close to the US border, so of course I *had* to pay a visit to the Apple Store at the Walden Gallery Mall and buy the iPad I had reserved “just in case” :-) . At least that’s the story I tell myself to justify traveling 400 km just to address this totally illogical gadget lust.

I have not had much time to blog or do much else actually over the last 40 days or so, being busy at both work and personal fronts – had a few folks staying with us and others visiting us too. So, this post is going to be a bit rushed, just collecting my first impressions on the most expected iThing of the year. On top of it, I’m typing this on the iPad itself, using the revamped WordPress app, so pardon the clunkness of this post. So, there you go, in bullet point format:

- Overall, huge thumbs up to Apple for adding a new category in the already crowded portable computing landscape. The person sitting beside me at the mall was completely unaware of what the fuss was about at the Apple Store, thinking they were giving away something. When I opened the box, she gasped: “OMG, that’s a gigantic iPhone”! It definitely looks like that, but after a day using it, I can honestly say that it’s much more than that. As biology has repeatedly shown us, small increments in features can sometimes drive major leaps in innovation – stand-up posture and opposable thumbs being just two recent examples. The iPad is not just a big iPhone or iPod Touch, not a laptop without a keyboard, not a crippled netbook, not a fancier Kindle, nor a Mac version of the Tablet PC. It’s in its own category, and will follow its own evolution branch path. Personal Computing speciation just occurred, and we witnessed it first hand. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the iPad will succeed in its current incarnation. But it will influence what others will be doing over the next few years.

- The big positives: the device is fast, the screen is crispy, the layout is gorgeous and it feels good in your hands. Battery life is just unbelievably long. Maps, iBooks, Photos, and the various comics/magazines/newspaper/drawing apps all feel brand new in the big screen. That’s just a glimpse of what’s coming. The iPad is the best portable device to consume content that I have ever used.

- The negatives are well published already: the iPad would greatly benefit from a front-facing camera, multitasking, and more flexibility for applications to share context and objects, including files. All these limitations have one thing in common: they are related to content creation, not consumption. From a market perspective, it makes a lot of sense to target content consumers first, as they represent the vast majority of buyers. I also suspect those limitations are all part of overall Apple strategy to keep us buying the latest and greatest every few years or so. The Cupertino-based brain-trust creates products with enough features to make them desirable, but very rarely offers everything that’s technically feasible in any given release. This way, when an iPad with a camera comes next year, they will sell it in loads again. Furthermore, sometimes we waste too much time thinking about what we don’t have, as opposed to what’s there now for us to enjoy. That’s like being in Paris and complaining about not having a good beach to go to.

That’s it for now!





Felipe Machado and Andrew Keen: Thinking outside the social media echo chamber

7 02 2010

Back in November, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Felipe Machado, multimedia editor for one of the largest newspapers in Brazil, and a former business partner in a short-lived Internet venture in the mid-nineties. The get-together was brokered by Daniel Dystyler, the consummate connector in the Gladwell-esque sense of the word.


Felipe Machado and Daniel Dystyler

Felipe is an accomplished journalist, book author and musician, and I deeply respect his ability to connect the dots between the old and new media. I actually often disagree with him: I tend to analyze the world through a logical framework, and Felipe relies on intuition and passion. That’s exactly why I savour every opportunity to talk to him. If you understand Portuguese, you may want to check his participation in “Manhattan Connection” (Rede Globo, 4th largest TV network in the world), talking about the future of media:

During our lunch conversation, Felipe mentioned Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur”, as a book that broke away from the sameness of social media authors. Coincidentally, I had read an article about that book the day before, so I bit the bait and borrowed the book from the local library the first week I came back from Brazil.

This may come as a surprise to anybody who knows me, but if you work in anything related to new media, social media, Web 2.0 and emerging Internet technologies, I highly recommend you read Keen’s book. Make no mistake: the book deserves all criticism it got – you can start with Lawrence Lessig’s blog post for a particularly heated discussion on the limitations of Keen’s arguments. “The Cult of the Amateur” is ironically a concrete proof that having editors and a publisher behind a book does not necessarily make it any better than, say, a blog post.

The reason I recommend a not-so-good book is this: Andrew Keen represents a large contingent of people in your circle of friends, co-workers, clients and audience – people who hear your social media message and deeply disagree with you. They may well be the vast majority that does not blog, does not use Twitter and couldn’t care less about what you had for dinner last night. They often don’t say it out loud, to not be perceived as luddites, but are not convinced that social media is making things any better, or Web 2.0 is something inevitable.

Those are the folks you should pay attention to. No matter how much you admire the work by Chris Anderson, Clay Shirky, Jeff Howe and others social media luminaries, you are probably just hearing the echo of your own voice there. You need to understand the concerns, the points of view and the anxiety of the Andrew Keens of the world toward the so-called social media revolution. Failing to do that will prevent you from crossing the chasm between early adopters and everybody else.

Reaching out to the members of our social network who are not in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can go a long way for us all to realize that the real world is MUCH BIGGER than Web 2.0 and Social Media (as I learned from Jean-François Barsoum long time ago).





Buying cheap laptops

15 12 2009

Back in October, my wife and I decided to buy a laptop for my mother-in-law – who lives in São Paulo, so that we could have video conversations over Skype. Brazilian customs allow each passenger to bring goods not exceeding USD 500 in total value without incurring any tariffs, so my target price was about CAD 540.

A week before our trip, we found the HP Pavillion laptop below (with Windows 7) on sale for – guess how much – CAD 538.99! Regular price was CAD 649.99.


HP Pavillion G60-538CA

Our plan did not work very well due to some logistic problems, so we brought the laptop back to Canada, and it’s now our secondary home computer, at least for the time being. And since I’m not a Mac, nor a PC, having both at home is actually a good thing. I do run Windows XP on my MacBook using VMWare Fusion, but that feels a bit like trying to fit a foot AND a hand inside a shoe: they go better separately.

How can they make it so cheap?

I guess that, to some extent, you get what you pay for. I have no idea why HP designers decided to have the key with the vertical bar (pipe) and backslash available on both sides of the Pavillion keyboard. All the other computers I had to date, Macs and PCs, had a large left shift key beside the “Z”. I keep typing the backslash every time I try to press the left shift key :-( . Also, the vertical enter key takes a bit to get used to. Just compare the keyboards of the HP Pavillion with the one from the Thinkpad T600 that I use at work:

HP Pavillion keyboard

Thinkpad keyboard

Also, the Conexant Pebble High Definition SmartAudio microphone was unusable with the original driver and configuration. I had to upgrade the driver and change the setting to “2 channel, 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)”. It’s still not great, but Skype no longer requires screaming.

Finally, the DVD drive is very sensitive to scratches in the media. It was not able to read some of my DVDs, even though they ran smoothly on the Mac.

Are there any positives?

Overall, I think it’s been a good purchase considering the cost-benefit ratio.

Windows 7 is pretty good in my opinion. I still find Mac OS X better overall, but the gap is narrowing. My wife has never been a big fan of the MacBook, especially the Finder and the way Mac OS X deals with special characters. Just try to type “bênção” (blessing, in Portuguese) in your Mac. It did not help that I never bothered getting MS-Office for the Mac. NeoOffice is OK, but not a substitute for a commercial suite yet. I also rely a lot on freeware, and having 2 operating systems always running gives you more choices.

HP support was also surprisingly good. Earlier this week, the Pavillion went completely dead. I visited the HP support website and found that they provide support via chat:


HP Canada Support Website

I clicked on the “chat online” link and in a few seconds was already talking to their support rep. In about 5 minutes, everything was solved, with courteous and efficient service. In case you’re having a similar problem, here’s what I did:

  1. Disconnect the AC adapter and remove battery
  2. Press and hold down the power key for 1 minute
  3. Connect the AC Adapter to the notebook
  4. While turning on the laptop keep tapping F10 key… See More
  5. You’ll see the “Windows Resume Loader” screen
  6. Press ENTER to “continue with system resume”
  7. Shutdown the computer properly this time
  8. Put the battery back in
  9. Turn the computer on again

I suspect the problem was not because the battery was faulty, just a loosely connected plug, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

Finally, my son loves the CyberLink YouCam that comes with the Pavillion. It’s like the Mac’s Photo Booth, but by default it’s integrated with your other applications using the webcam. So, you can talk over Skype using all the special video effects like this:

CyberLink YouCam

Calling home on Christmas Day will be much more fun this year!





Kindle in Canada: first impressions

11 12 2009

The Kindle and my first e-book purchase

Despite Farley‘s well-reasoned arguments on why buying the Kindle is a bad idea, the Inspector Gadget within me succumbed to the temptation and ordered the #1 bestselling, most-wished-for, and most gifted item from Amazon. My brain simply stops working and reverts to its basic geek mode when it comes to new electronic toys.

“New”, of course, is relative. Following the well-walked path set by the Chumby, the iPhone, Hulu, Pandora and Google Voice, the Kindle was also off-limits for Canadians until very recently, despite being available in 100 other countries, including Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Albania. I don’t mean any disrespect to those 3 countries, the point here is that we are next door neighbours to Amazon’s headquarters, so it puzzles me why it’s easier to get legal wrinkles solved in other continents than here.

Even when the Kindle finally arrived in Canada, on November 17, it was not fully featured: web browsing and blogs are not available North of the US. Not even the iPhone Kindle app is up for Canuck’s grabs yet, unless one’s willing to be a bit, err, adventurous. But we Canadians can always get the KindleCandle app for 0.99:

While you wait for the Kindle App in Canada...

Ok, end of rant.

A few months from now, when the elusive Apple tablet is finally revealed, I’ll regret this purchase, but for now, I’m actually very pleased with it.

THE GOOD

  • The screen is very readable, much better than I expected. I read about the e-ink a million times, played with the Sony e-reader for a few minutes, but only when you go through several pages on an e-reader you start noticing why it’s better than your laptop screen.
  • Battery life is really good. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the iPhone.
  • It’s much easier to carry and handle than a regular hard-cover. If you are a subway warrior, you know the importance of being able to hold a book and move to the next page using the same hand.
  • The dictionary feature is handy for folks like me, whose English vocabulary came mostly from reading Wolverine and Spider-Man.
  • I could spend days browsing Wikipedia in the Kindle.
  • Amazon finally gave in to a no-hassle PDF support. Competition, we love you.
  • Being able to clip excerpts and annotate your favourite paragraphs change the reading experience. No more dog ears or chicken scratch.
  • Ability to download sample chapters of books for free.
  • Text to speech is a nice touch, but I don’t see myself using it much.

THE BAD

  • The contrast of “e-printed” text and the gray background is not as good as the old black text on white paper.
  • The screen is smaller than it needs to be. That physical keyboard is a waste of real estate.
  • PDF reading is still poor: you can’t zoom in or annotate.
  • Colours, or lack there of. It has that first generation iPod feel.
  • The first 2 books I tried to buy were not available in the Kindle store: “The Wisdom of Crowds” and “The Cult of the Amateur”.

THE DREAM (or: is that what they call the iTablet?)

  • Touch screen, no buttons, gestures
  • Colour
  • Comic book viewing
  • Web 2.0 features: sharing reading lists, recommendations, annotations with my network
  • Bookshelf-like interface
  • Voice recording for commentary/annotations

In summary, I give the Kindle thumbs up for now, at least until the next Apple event, when Farley will I-told-you-so me.





Iomega Screenplay Pro HD Multimedia Drive

11 12 2009

Well, that’s a mouthful. I first saw it at my friend’s Daniel Dystyler apartment last month, and after some research, I decided to bite the bullet and got this from Amazon yesterday:

Iomega Screenplay Pro

It’s no Apple TV, but it does something that I couldn’t find in any of the mainstream multimedia drives: record TV. My PVR is close to capacity, and using a DVD recorder is just too awkward. It’s been only a day with it so far, so take my first impressions with a huge grain of salt. Here’s the just of it:

PROS

  • 1 TB of storage!
  • Plugs into your home network (to do it wirelessly, you need to buy a WiFi Adapter). This means you can easily transfer files and browse photos in your home computers.
  • Composite video input allow you to convert old VCR tapes.
  • According to the user manual, you can play back a movie from a DVD folder just like playing back a DVD disc. I haven’t tested that yet, but if it works, it’s a great feature.

CONS

  • It does not support the H.264 video format used by iPods and the Apple TV.
  • The remote sucks – pardon the language, but there’s no other way to describe it. It’s small, cumbersome and the IR signal is very weak – reminds me of the Apple remote, the one that Steve does not use during his presos.
  • User interface is poorly designed.
  • Can’t record HDTV (but I didn’t find any other product that can do that).

If you’re feeling brave, there’s even a wiki with some advanced hacks you may want to try.





Individually smarter, collectively dumber?

8 12 2009

In my first corporate job back in Brazil, I was part of a large cohort of interns who end up all being hired together. We were young and well-connected, and always on top of everything that was happening in the company, from official stuff to the proverbial grapevine telegraph. Rumour conversations used to start like this: “I’ve heard from 3 different sources that…” My pal Alexandre Guimaraes used to joke that none of us had 3 different sources as we all shared the same connections.

Likewise, I often hear from my Twitter fellows that their RSS feed reader is now abandoned, as most of the interesting online things they find now comes from their tweeps. A quick experiment seems to confirm that trend. Here are the results of a Twitter search for “twitter feed reader“:

Search results for "twitter feed reader"

Search results for "twitter feed reader"

In my recent re-read of The Wisdom of Crowds, the following excerpt called my attention (highlight is mine):

(…) the more influence a group’s members exert on each other, and the more personal contact they have with each other, the less likely it is that the group’s decisions will be wise ones. The more influence we exert on each other, the more likely it is that we will believe the same things and make the same mistakes. That means it’s possible that we could become individually smarter but collectively dumber.

The first time I read that was many years before Twitter even existed, so it didn’t mean much to me. Now I can relate: I do feel that Twitter is making me individually smarter, as I can quickly consume a whole lot of info from news sources, geeks, NBA players, celebrities, friends and others. I find the Twitscoop cloud in TweetDeck a particularly good way to find what’s going on around the globe right now.

Twitscoop cloud

I used to see that cloud as a visualization of our collective intelligence. But perhaps that cloud is actually something much more humbling: the visualization of our own echo chamber, our herd’s brain. By being so intensely connected, we may be losing one of the most basic conditions identified by Surowiecki’s for a crowd to be wise: independence (the other 2 are diversity and decentralization).

Should we all stop using Twitter and Facebook now? Of course not. But maybe we should invest a bit more of our time going after the unusual, the unpopular, the offline, the old and the out-of-fashion. The core is boring, and the fringe is where real innovation and change tend to appear first.





Twilight: New Moon – Interactive Displays in Brazil

7 12 2009

I started writing this post a month ago, but stopped as I did not have access to the Internet while in Brazil, so pardon the taste of yesterday’s news here.

Unlike Bernie, I don’t have a teenager daughter, so I have just a very fuzzy idea about what The Twilight Saga is all about. But it doesn’t take a Roger Ebert or Peter Travers to know that it’s at least as popular in Brazil as it is in Canada and the US: its second installment ranked as the top box office in Brazil this year. Taking the subway in São Paulo 2 weeks before the opening of New Moon, it was hard to miss this eye-catching, vending-machine-like, err, device:

Twilight Interactive Display in São Paulo

Here are some more pictures, in case Twilight is your thing:

The main feature was the embedded camera, that allowed you to take a picture of yourself and edit it to transform yourself into a werewolf or a vampire. Your picture then became part of the gallery for all to see. No, I did not try it, or at least that’s what I claim :-) . It actually looked a lot like a very big version of an iPhone app, except that you could not shake it to start over. You could also watch movie trailers and download an app to your cell via Bluetooth.

The company behind it was a Brazilian “digital interaction agency”, Ginga. I know the explanation above is as clear as mud, so here’s their own video showing how it works:

How effective is this new media outlet? Hard to tell. But they used a 1.0 version of their displays for the first movie of the series, back in December 2008, and Ginga claims the following:

This solution was integrated with the whole digital campaign: website, banners, and a strong community created for the fans in Brazil.

RESULTS

Over 4.5 million people reached by the subway campaign over a month.

One of the top 10 box-offices in 2008 in Brazil.

Over 180,000 content downloads via Bluetooth.

Not too shabby, eh? Here’s the video of their first version (which, by the way, looks much more impressive than the second one):

P.S.: If you see me blogging next time about Hannah Montana, it’s a sign that the end of the world is coming.





My “frugal” Philips headphones

12 08 2009

I blogged before about being an avid podcast listener. In my new job at RBC, my commuting time is longer (about 50 minutes door-to-door), so now I have full 100 minutes to randomly go through my ever-growing list of fluffy stuff. For years I’ve been using Sony Fontopia in-the-ear headphones. While not great, they fit my ears better than the ones that come with the iPhone – which kept falling off all the time. I’m not sure about the precise Fontopia model I had, but it looked like this one:

On Monday though, my 3-year-old decided to play hide and seek with them, and I’m still trying to figure out where they are. I bet that a few years from now I’ll find them inside some old shoes or some jar around the house. After a day suffering of podcasting withdrawal, I paid a visit to the Best Buy store at Yonge and Dundas to get a new pair, and found these Philips in-ear headphones (model SH5910) for CAD$ 9.99:

Call me cheap (or “frugal” as suggested by some friends on Twitter :-) ), but I loved them. They fit my ear canal perfectly – I’m glad I’m not the only one with a wacky ear shape, they have the best isolation I’ve experienced to date, with the exception of those noise cancelling phones that I find eerily quiet, and, well, they are really cheap :-P .

Of course, take this recommendation with a huge grain of salt. First of all, I’ve been wearing them just for a day. Also, I use these phones mostly for podcasts and audio books. At home, I have fairly good Sennheiser wireless headphones to listen to my favourite songs, but for the road I really need something I can fit in my pocket. Finally, the rush hour ride in the Toronto subway is not exactly a home-theatre like environment, so my number one need was good isolation, not pristine sound quality. The fact that I can now listen to podcasts without having to max out the iPhone volume is probably good for my hearing health anyway.





The Apple logo, Annie Hall and the single version of the truth

9 08 2009

CreativeBits published last week a good interview with Rob Janoff, the designer of the Apple logo (thanks to TUAW for the pointer). Over the years, I’ve heard several theories explaining the bitten apple, from the obvious (Eve’s bite on the forbidden fruit representing the lust for knowledge), to the nerdy (a reference to the computer term byte), to the convoluted (like the one below from Wikipedia).

Another explanation exists that the bitten apple pays homage to the mathematician Alan Turing, who committed suicide by eating an apple he had laced with cyanide.

Then you learn directly from the horse’s mouth that all of the above are just BS (his term, not mine). The real explanation turned out to be so much more mundane and simpler:

Anyway, when I explain the real reason why I did the bite it’s kind of a let down. But I’ll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience. It goes across cultures. If anybody ever had an apple he probably bitten into it and that’s what you get.

All the fancy theories about the bitten apple logo and the real reason is that Janoff didn’t want to have people mistaking his stylized apple by a cherry??? “Kind of a let down” is the understatement of the year.

This whole discussion reminds me of this classic scene from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall movie:

The video above is a bit long, so here is a description for the time-starved among you:

In one scene, Allen’s character, standing in a cinema queue with Annie and listening to someone behind him expound on Marshall McLuhan’s work, leaves the line to speak to the camera directly. The man then speaks to the camera in his defense, and Allen resolves the dispute by pulling McLuhan himself from behind a free-standing movie posterboard to tell the man that his interpretation is wrong.

I had a great literature teacher who told me many years ago that what an artist meant when creating his art is important if you are interested in history or passing an exam, but all the possible interpretations by consumers of that art are as legitimate as the one by the author, be her or him a writer, a musician, a painter or a sculptor. The bottom line is that once the art is out to the public, the audience owns its meaning, and that meaning will evolve as time and context keeps building on top of it, regardless of what the author’s original intention was.

Revisiting the Annie Hall scene from that perspective, Allen’s character, McLuhan and the Columbia U professor were all right in their distinct interpretations, and all wrong in assuming that only one was possible.

In the fields of IT and Business Intelligence, we often hear the (terrible) acronym SVOT, or Single Version of the Truth (sometimes referred as “one version of the truth”). While in very technical terms that may make sense – a person cannot have two different places of birth, for example – SVOT in anything above bits and bytes is just an urban myth.

A personal story to illustrate this: my maternal uncle’s place of birth was supposed to be some Japanese city named Keijo, according to old documents from my grandfather. As many of you know, my mother is Japanese, and I always just assumed that my uncle was born in Japan, so I never bothered looking for Keijo in the map. Last month, talking to my sister over Skype, I googled it and found that Keijo is actually the former Japanese name used for Seoul, the capital of South Korea, during the period of Japanese rule! In a few seconds, SVOT just became to me IDWTYART, as in “it depends what truth you are referring to” :-)

Just to bring this post back to its original subject, I want to conclude it with a pictorial representation of SVOT vs. IDWTYART juxtaposing the iconic logo and its corresponding pwned version:





Aunt May 2.0

4 08 2009

A few years ago, during a visit to the Portuguese Language Museum in São Paulo, Brazil, I found that one of my favourite childhood characters, Cebolinha, was getting into blogging:

2004 is typically considered the year that blogs went mainstream, so no surprises there. It’s expected that a cartoon character would just follow the habits of his target demographics.

That notwithstanding, I had a good laugh getting my weekly dose of geeky fix in this sequence of Amazing Spider-Man #599:

So Aunt May is active in both Facebook and Twitter? Is this just a Marvel plot to get more people to follow them in Twitter? One would expect Johnny “Human Torch” Storm to be twittering (see below), but Aunt May, seriously?

If you believe in this comScore report and the referred Reuters blog post from a few months ago, Aunt May could in fact be as likely to be a Twitter user as Johnny Storm:
comScore blog – (…) 18-24 year olds, the traditional social media early adopters, are actually 12 percent less likely than average to visit Twitter (Index of 88). It is the 25-54 year old crowd that is actually driving this trend. More specifically, 45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group, followed by 25-34 year olds, who are 30 percent more likely.

Reuters blog – Twitter may even be catching on among people who have a reached a post-business phase of their lives: Of the 4 million U.S. Twitter users in February, 5.2 percent were 65 or older.

To keep things in perspective, if you Google “Twitter demographics”, you’ll find all kinds of conflicting data, like this one by Quantcast or this other one by Pew Internet & American Life Project, so don’t start placing all your Twitter bets on the older segments of your target audience just yet. But keep in mind that the online landscape keeps changing at a fast pace: if you are still stuck in believing that Social Media is owned by generation Y, maybe it’s time to check if that latest Twitter follower you’ve got is not your grandma taking a break from all the World of Warcraft craziness.





On being off-grid and Byline for your iPhone

26 07 2009

The first 7 weeks after I left IBM were a trip back to my pre-Internet days, as I had problems with both my Twitter account and my Bell Sympatico High-Speed connection at home, and didn’t spend much time in front of a computer at work. Not being connected has its bright side, especially during summer time, so I’m not complaining too much. There’s plenty to do in our non-virtual lives, and an excuse to stay away from the computer is welcome, especially in the sunny days of Toronto’s short summer – by the way, the only reason I’m writing this now is that the weather is pretty bad outside and my golf plans were ruined :-( .

In my case, Bell Sympatico High-Speed was a bit of a misnomer, especially in early July, when I was getting a download speed of 0.25 Mbits per second and learned from Bell that as far as my connection is up, they are charging for service. Last week I switched all my services to Rogers, and so far it’s been good. I’m typically getting very close to 10 Mbits, a 40 times improvement. Just in case, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, as consumers typically don’t have the upper hand in a de-facto ISP duopoly landscape.

In those 7 weeks off-grid, my iPhone became my online lifeline, but while the small screen is good to consume content, it’s less so to create stuff. Going down the Social Technographics ladder led me to discover a great tool for my iPhone, one that I highly recommend: Byline, by Phantom Fish. Here’s what their website says about the app:

Read the latest news from your favorite sites and blogs on your iPhone or iPod Touch, even when you’re offline.
Simply use your free Google Reader account to subscribe to websites you’d like to keep track of. Byline will automatically bring you new content, putting thousands of RSS and Atom feeds at your fingertips.

Stay in sync
When you read an item, it stays read. The same goes for the items you star: Byline will let Google Reader know the next time you have an internet connection.

Browse offline
Even when you have no internet connection, Byline’s offline browsing feature gives you instant access to complete web pages.
Perfect for flights, subway journeys, and (if you’re an iPod Touch owner) those long dry spells between Wi-Fi zones.
Byline will cache the web pages linked to by your notes, starred items, and (optionally) new items. This allows you to save any news item you read and any website you visit for offline browsing.

Here are some screenshots:

The offline capability is great for consuming comics in the subway ride or during those long, boring flights:

Byline is now the most utilized 3rd party app on my iPhone. To save on the meager data plans available in Canada, you may want to turn the “Cache by Wi-Fi Only” on. I typically synch it a few times a day, just before leaving home in the morning and whenever I drop by a coffee shop during the day. If you work close to the CN Tower in Toronto, the Timothy’s store there now offers free Internet for patrons.





Enterprise 2.0: Jennifer Okimoto and Antipatterns

23 06 2009

Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t join the Social Media crowd at the Enterprise 2.0 conference being held in Boston this week. But luckily for those attending, Jennifer Okimoto kindly offered to present the Enterprise 2.0 Antipatterns session, scheduled for this upcoming Thursday. You can take a look at the core slides I used in the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco in SlideShare:

But even if you’ve seen me presenting it before, I highly recommend those attending the E2.0 event to see Jennifer’s take on it. She’s a great story teller, and her director’s cut will likely feel like a new presentation altogether. And if you can’t see her live there, make sure you follow her in Twitter for a daily dose of witty commentary and nuggets of wisdom 2.0.





Fame, Interactive Ads and Online Reputation

23 12 2008

As previously seen at Biznology:

As marketers try to find ways to join the conversation enabled by social media, they face the challenge of scale. The virtual third space is becoming increasingly fragmented, to the point that engaging into every single thread of discussion pertinent to your business is no longer practical. In that scenario, can you meet the expectations of a target audience increasingly craving for individual attention? Can you effectively manage your online reputation?

Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas summarized the extent of the online conversations in the social web nicely in their conversation prism graphic:

The Conversation Prism, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0

Going through the petals of the chart above, it’s evident that the online chatter is much bigger than just Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. And it’s not getting any smaller.

In his best-seller book “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay Shirky pointed out that the web did not completely flatten publishing and broadcasting, as fame gets in the way of the elusive many-to-many communication nirvana:

“The Web makes interactivity technologically possible, but what technology giveth, social factors taketh away. In the case of the famous, any potential interactivity is squashed, because fame isn’t an attitude, and it isn’t technological artifact. Fame is simply an imbalance between inboud and outbound attention, more arrows pointing in than out.”

That imbalance can lead to unmet expectations on both sides: companies being frustrated by trying to join an ever growing number of online social spaces and customers demanding individual attention they can’t possibly get.

To mitigate this issue, some organizations have been relying on interactive or personalized online video ads that provide a middle ground between the one-size-fits-all model of traditional media and the many-sizes-fit-many model described by Chris Anderson in his book “The Long Tail”. Here are four examples:

1. Burger King and the Subservient Chicken

Launched back in 2004, this widely popular website (20 million hits within a week of launching, 14 million unique visitors in the first year) is still online after all these years. Its simplicity was captivating: a man in a chicken costume would perform actions based on what users asked him to do. It was based on pre-recorded footage, and more than three hundred commands were available. Sadly, it no longer reacts when you tell him to get a Big Mac.

2. Ms Dewey

This website was launched two years ago as an experimental interface for Microsoft’s Live Search. If you search for “Tiger Woods”, Ms. Dewey may surprise you by making a comment about professional athletes before showing the results. Behind the scenes, the apparent interactivity is achieved via an algorithm choosing one of 600 video clips that may fit the keywords you entered.

3. Antarctica Beer and the Tatoo Ad

As a friendly warning, know that this ad may be a bit too racy for some audiences. I like it for both the humour and the perfect execution. In the future, expect to see even more sophisticated techniques, mixing custom audio or even images with pre-defined content. You can find a rough translation from Brazilian Portuguese to English for the full video here.

4. MoveOn.org viral video

This blog post was actually drafted before the US elections, but I preferred to not publish it back then, as the intent was to discuss interactive ads, not to favour one candidate or the other. MoveOn.org effectively used this personalized video showing the November 4th election being decided by a single voter, whose name is digitally inserted in newspapers titles and video captions.

Interactive videos of course can only go so far. As the amount of user-generated content skyrockets, better tools will become available to marketers for following conversations, detecting trends and managing your company’s reputation. Two months ago, while in Singapore, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation about COBRA (Corporate Brand and Reputation Analysis), an initiative by IBM Research and IBM Global Business Services, that may be a sign of things to come. If you are interested in knowing more about it, visit this page (in the interest of full disclosure, note that IBM is my employer).

Living in exponential times entails developing exponential listening and conversational abilities, for both companies and individuals alike. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but you certainly can enjoy all the fun along the way.





Podcasts: What’s in your list?

9 12 2008

I’m completely addicted to podcasts. Being able to board a packed subway and still get your daily fix of news or entertainment relief makes the 40-minute commute back and forth feel like a walk in the park. iPods and other MP3 players are so pervasive now, and most of us have no time to watch TV or listen to radio.

My podcast listening pattern mimics my old radio listening habits: I created a playlist with everything that’s recent and let it play continuously. This leads me to keep having senile moments when I can’t for the life of me remember what the source was for my references. I also wanted to tell Andy and the Michaels that I’m now subscribing to Dogear Nation, but my recollection of the shows is all mixed up with Buzz Out Loud and net@nite, so I’d better stay quiet :-P .

An annoying side effect of having the so-called wisdom of crowds surfacing what’s worth talking about is that most of the tech podcasting tend to cover exactly the same things. They all seem to go to Digg, Reddit and Engadget as their main inspiration for news, so I’m getting increasingly more fond of listening to non-news radio shows from BBC,  CBC and NPR. The TED Talks are also top in my list, but I can only consume videos when I manage to get a seat, so there’s a lot to catch up on the video podcast front. Yesterday I listened to Ken Robinson talking about education and creativity. Fantastic talk, if you ask me.

I keep changing my subscriptions, but this is my full current list. Looking at it now, it seems obvious that I need to shrink the techie talks and get more of other stuff urgently there.

  • Best Ads on TV
  • Best of Today
  • Best of YouTube (Ipod video)
  • Boing Boing TV
  • Book Review
  • BusinessWeek — Technology & You
  • Buzz Out Loud
  • CBC Radio:  Ontario This Week
  • CBC Radio: C’est la vie: Word of the Week
  • CBC Radio: Dispatches
  • CBC Radio: Editor’s Choice
  • CBC Radio: Quirks & Quarks Complete Show
  • CBC Radio: Search Engine
  • CBC Radio: Spark
  • CBC Radio: The Best of As It Happens
  • CBC Radio: The Best of Ideas
  • CBC Radio: The Best of Sounds Like Canada
  • CBC Radio: The Best of The Current
  • CBC Radio: Toronto This Week
  • CBC Radio: Words at Large
  • CNET News Daily Podcast
  • CanadExport podcast
  • Cranky Geeks for the iPod Video
  • Digital Planet
  • Dilbert Animated Cartoons
  • Documentaries
  • Dogear Nation Podcast
  • Engadget
  • ExtremeTech.com
  • From Our Own Correspondent
  • Front Page
  • GeekBrief.TV | Video Podcast (iPod)
  • Global News
  • Harlequin Author Spotlight
  • Harvard Business IdeaCast
  • IBM – Powered by PodTech.net
  • IBM DEMOzone:en Accelerating Web 2.0 for Government
  • IBM Innovations Podcasts
  • IBM Institute for Business Value: Insights and Perspectives Podcast
  • IBM News Center – Audio Podcasts – United States
  • IBM Small Business Podcast
  • IBM WebSphere Technical Podcast series on SOA
  • IBM and the Future of. . .
  • IBM developerWorks – Powered by PodTech.net
  • IBM developerWorks podcasts
  • In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg
  • Inside Mac Radio
  • Java News Podcast
  • Learn French by Podcast
  • Learn Spanish with Coffee Break Spanish
  • Mac Tips Daily!
  • MacBreak (iPod video)
  • NPR: 7AM ET News Summary Podcast
  • NPR: 7PM ET News Summary Podcast
  • NPR: Books Podcast
  • NPR: Business Story of the Day Podcast
  • NPR: Environment Podcast
  • NPR: Foreign Dispatch Podcast
  • NPR: Fresh Air Podcast
  • NPR: Health & Science Podcast
  • NPR: It’s All Politics Podcast
  • NPR: Koppel on the News Podcast
  • NPR: Movies Podcast
  • NPR: Pop Culture Podcast
  • NPR: Shuffle Podcast
  • NPR: Story of the Day Podcast
  • NPR: Technology Podcast
  • NPR: Tell Me More Podcast
  • NPR: World Story of the Day Podcast
  • NYT Op-Ed Podcast
  • NYT Tech Talk
  • Nature Podcast
  • New Yorker: Fiction
  • New Yorker: Out Loud
  • NewsPod
  • Nickjr: Diego (VIDEO)
  • Odeo
  • Onion News Network (Video)
  • PCMag Radio
  • PRI’s The World: Technology Podcast from BBC/PRI/WGBH
  • Productivity @ IBM
  • Rough Guides iToors
  • Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American
  • Science Times
  • Sesame Street Podcast
  • Slashdot Review – SDR News
  • Spanish Podcasts for Beginners
  • Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D5 Conference
  • Storynory – Stories For Kids
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • TEDTalks (video)
  • The Economist
  • The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos Video Podcast
  • The Java Posse
  • The Sarah Silverman Program (Video)
  • The Web 2.0 Show
  • The latest news from IBM in the US
  • TimesTalks
  • Tourcaster
  • Travel with Rick Steves
  • Wake Up To Money
  • Walks of a Lifetime
  • Weekend Business
  • Weekend Explorer
  • Wired Science Video Podcast
  • World View
  • net@night
  • this WEEK in TECH – AAC Edition
  • todmaffin.com

If you managed to get to this line of this long post, you may be wondering why the heck I carry Harlequin Author Spotlight, Diego and Sesame Street in my iPhone. I attended Jenny Bullough’s talk at the Canadian Institute Social Media event last week and was curious to see how them are using podcasts to drive revenues. As for Diego and SS, those are life savers when your 2-year old is having a tantrum in a crowded restaurant.

I would love to hear recommendations for good podcasts, as I keep tweaking this list, so please let me know what you’ve been listening lately.





IBM: Building a smarter planet

6 11 2008

Note: most of you probably know, but for full disclosure, I work at IBM.

Update: just added some more meat to the post. Succinct is a quality that I definitely don’t have.

Sam Palmisano is speaking this morning at the Council of Foreign Relations. You can find all about it at today’s edition of the New York Times: “IBM’s Chief Sees Technology Leading a Recovery”.

Andy Piper has just blogged about it, so I’ll try not to just repeat what he said – but I whole-heartedly agree with him.

In our daily, mundane working life at IBM we go through mostly small peaks and valleys, but from time to time we get inspirational moments like this, when it feels good to be part of IBM. Google claims that their mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The smart planet point-of-view tells me that we are paying attention beyond just data. IBM’s reach and breadth positions it uniquely to aim higher than that. We have the potential to be a key enabler of a smarter, sustainable, better world by applying technology and business acumen. Our 3-letter acronym never looked so visionary.

I worked in University research for some time, doing obscure biochemistry work around fireflies, and also on the interactions between ferns and a Brazilian species of moth. When you are deep at work, you keep wondering why you are doing that, and how that is going to change anything in the world. I actually gave up on becoming a scientist mainly because I was not able to see the big picture, and I couldn’t explain to a normal person what my research was all about.

I firmly believe that having an easy to articulate vision is fundamental to keep focus and understand where we all fit in the big picture. A vision does not accomplish anything by itself, but fuels our passion, especially during the dull moments of doubt, like when doing expenses or sitting for hours at airports.

Of course, the actual challenge is to go from vision to realization. In a week where change is in everybody’s mind, the announcement’s timing is impeccable. I hope that a few years from now I can come back to this post and grin, seeing that the promise was fulfilled.

Yes, we can. But “will we?” is the question for all of us to answer.





I’m not a Mac, nor a PC

28 10 2008

I’ve been using a Mac laptop for work since October 2006. Even two years later, every time I go to a work event, internal or external, people ask me how do I like it, and why I do it, as many still link IBM to PCs or Thinkpads. Others just assume that I’m a big Mac/Apple fan, as I also carry an iPhone and sometimes an iPod shuffle.

As some of you know, Apple’s ongoing ad campaign stereotyping Mac and PC users has been fought back by Microsoft’s ads “I’m a PC”, which were ironically made – at least in part – using Macs. All this discussion created an artificial dichotomy between PC people and Mac people. Apparently, you can’t be both, the same way you are either a dog person or a cat person.

When people ask me if I’m a Mac, I wish I could answer in Portuguese, or Spanish, like in “Eu estou Mac”. It’s not a permanent state of mind. The reason I prefer to use a Mac as my work machine is mainly because in an Intel Mac I can run both OS X and MS-Windows, and I can’t do it in a PC.

I really don’t get the fanboyism around Mac products. I do think they are more visually appealing than their PC counterparts, but they are far from perfect. Sometimes I have the impression that some Mac users use it as a way of saying: I’m a Mac, therefore I’m better than you, and just ignore or dismiss a number of Mac annoyances.

My MacBook Pro freezes from time to time, and has poor battery life and wi-fi performance compared to my Thinkpad. It feels uncomfortably hot to actually place on your lap, and it gets cold like ice after a walk outside during winter time. I can’t close the lid without putting the system to sleep. I tried InsomniaX, but the machine was so hot after a while that I was afraid it would damage the screen.

There are things Macs do better but the same can be said of Windows. For example, every time I need to write text in Portuguese, Spanish or French, I switch to Windows. The Mac way of dealing with accents using a standard US keyboard is just cumbersome. To write an “a” with a tilde, as in “São Paulo”, you have to type “Option + n” in Mac OS. In Windows, you just type tilde. No matter how much of a Mac fanboy or fangirl you are, you gotta admit that “Option + n” in not intuitive. The acute accent (as in “passé”) is “Option + e”, and the circumflex (as in “château”) is “Option + i”. That’s ok if you only type them once in a blue moon, but not ok if use them all the time.

Also, there are some freeware or open source programs that are only available in Windows. One of my favourites is the super-useful Bulk Rename Utility, very handy to rename digital photo files and adjust timestamps. Other good utility only available in Windows is IrfanView, with its batch conversion feature, free for non-commerical use. The list goes on and on.

Of course, by the same token, there are lots of utilities only available on the Mac side, like Skitch, a nice tool to annotate screenshots, and, of course, Apple’s Keynote, the best program to create presentations out there. Movie editing is also much easier in the Mac using a combination of iMovie and iMovie HD, compared to Windows Movie Maker.

Finally, there are areas where both sides could do better. As an example, the Mac OS Finder and Windows Explorer could borrow some features from each other, as both come out short in easy of use.

All in all, I slightly favour the Mac, due to the combination of SW & HW integration and overall user experience, but it’s far from being a slam dunk. I still think that the Thinkpad is a better piece of engineering, just not as pretty. The switch to Intel was a major factor in my buying decision, as it basically mean that I don’t need to give up on one in favour of the other.

Of course, I admit I may be the exception, or just a bad Mac user, so please let me know if I’m missing something here, and if there’s any easy way to address the Mac issues I mentioned above. Being a person who likes both cats and dogs, I just can’t see why you have to love or hate Windows or Mac OS X.





Meritocracy, Pauline Ores and the multi-dimensional IT Professional

30 09 2008

Yesterday, I started reading “Crowdsourcing: why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business”, by Jeff Howe. I did not actually buy the book, it was given to me as part of the attendee package at the IBM Social Media event I attended 2 weeks ago at Ogilvy & Mather.

The book has good insights, covering the emerging reputation economy, where, contrary to conventional economics, rewards are often not measurable by dollars but by the desire to contribute to a worthwhile cause or just the “sheer joy of practicing a craft” and get some peer recognition for that. I like this quote in particular:

Crowdsourcing turns on the presumption that we are all creators – artists, scientists, architects, and designers, in any combination or order. It holds the promise to unleash the latent potential of the individual to excel at more than one vocation, and to explore new avenues for creative expression. Indeed, it contains the potential – or alternately, the threat – of rendering the idea of a vocation itself an industrial-age artifact.

Many years ago, I had a manager who told me that he could not give me a good rating in my annual assessment because I had done 3 totally different things that year: started as a Unix Admin, moved to a Performance Engineering role, and ended the year as a developer. According to him, you had to pick one role and stick to it, as nobody could do more than one thing really well. Needless to say, I couldn’t disagree more with the previous argument. It would be ok if he thought that I tried 3 different things and didn’t do particularly well in any or some of them, but saying that nobody can do that, and recommending anybody to be a one-dimensional professional sounds very Fordist to me.

Some people ask me why I blog about apparently non-work related subjects, such as vacation trips, soccer, or Moleskine Art. I wish I could blog even more about things not related to Web 2.0 or social media or conferences. We all have multiple vocations. I know IBMers who are great photographers, parents, writers, cooks, graphic artists, actors, athletes and scientists, and there is no reason for any of us to strangle those vocations to focus solely in our current professional role. In fact, both our careers and our workplace can greatly benefit from being more multi-dimensional. As work becomes more virtual, global and dynamic, and the pace of change accelerates, we all need to be more like Da Vinci and Marco Polo than assembly-line workers.

Furthermore, Web 2.0 and Social Media are leveling the professional playing field. Two quotes by Pauline Ores (who is the IBM personification of Social Media Marketing) during the O&M event caught my attention:

1) In the Social Media world, the most powerful person is the one who shares the most.
2) Control in Social Media is like grabbing water: the stronger you grab, the less you hold. There’s a right way to retain water, but not by being forceful.

Disclaimer: that’s my recollection of what she said, so don’t hold her accountable for the exact words :-)

Not too long ago, knowledge workers had incentives to hold what they knew close to their chest, as a way of keeping their employability. The more they kept to themselves, the more their company and fellow employees would depend on them. This happened because the distribution of information was very inefficient, and the higher up you were in the food chain, the more channels you had to be known by others.

In the YouTube age, where everybody, anybody can broadcast themselves inside and outside of the firewall, the advantage of saying things from a higher hierarchical post had shrunk considerably. According to Howe, a meritocracy is now in place, where the only thing that matters is the quality of the work itself. If you believe you are the Subject Matter Expert in SOA, Internet Marketing, z/OS or Performance Engineering, you need to make evidence of that widely available. An increasing number of people won’t care much if your title says “The know-all see-all tech guru” or “Executive <something>”. If you know it, it should be made evident by the crumb trails you leave behind you. Your knowledge needs to be searchable and discoverable (not sure if those words exist, but you catch my drift).

Sacha Chua
is one of the best examples I see of that trend. I learned a lot from just observing her working habits over the last year or so. Ten years ago, a recent hire direct from University would be years away from being known and respected across the enterprise. By sharing what she knows and what she does to the extreme, she is arguably more influencial than others with many years of job tenure. This is not a generation Y thing, as I see her more as an exception than the rule even among her young cohorts, and there are many boomers and Xers like her at IBM and elsewhere.

The one line summary for this post: If perception is reality, you only know what you share.

Minor update: fixed a typo in the final quote.





On Wi-Fi access, panels and building on your strengths

29 09 2008

Last week, I joined a panel at the Toronto Tech Week, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, with the theme “Online Social Networks Go To Work”. I got there early in the morning to catch Alan Lepofsky, former IBMer and now at SocialText, speaking on the use of wikis for the Enterprise. It was a good session, I enjoyed his casual style, and he mentioned IBM a few times in his session, as he still does in his blog. As the workplace becomes more dynamic, and employee-for-life is becoming a thing of the past, the new HR approach of treating former employees as alumni makes total sense.

Just before Alan’s session, I tried to get a wi-fi connection, so that I could twitter from it live, but this is what I got instead:

No attendee Wi-Fi access, only exhibitor access, and with a steep price tag. I complained last week that the wi-fi access at the Javits Center in New York was spotty, but for a convention facility who claims to be the #1 in Canada, “inviting, inspiring, innovative, incomparable”, they clearly need to do something about Internet connectivity, as one can easily think about 4 “I”s that are not as flattering as those.

I found my own participation in the panel to be quite flat, but in retrospect, I don’t recall any technical panel I attended lately to be memorable. Bernie Michalik, via Twitter, brought my attention to this gem from Dan Lyons (formerly known as Fake Steve Jobs):

Was at the EmTech conference at MIT today and suffered through a panel led by Robert Scoble with four geeks (Facebook, Six Apart, Plaxo, Twine) talking about the future of the Web. No prepared remarks, just totally random conversation. Basically they all just spewed whatever came into their heads, at top speed, interrupting each other and oblivious to the fact that an audience was sitting there, glazing over. A few people got up and asked questions and the geeks did manage to (sort of) address one or two but then they forgot about the questioners and just started rambling again, talking to each other and forgetting about the audience. It was like watching five college kids with ADHD and an eight-ball of coke trying to hold a conversation.

Jeremiah Owyang, from Forrester Research, wrote a comprehensive post on how to moderate conference panels, but I don’t think it’s even a question of better moderation. Asif Khan, a very articulate facilitator, did a fine job on that. What’s really missing in most Web 2.0 panels are two things:

  • Distinct points of view: Frankly, I feel like watching Beavis & Butt-head when I see a panel composed exclusively of evangelists/early adopters/Enterprise 2.0 vendors. Panelist A says “Social Networking/Crowdsourcing/Long Tail/[place your favourite buzz-2.0 jargon here] is the way to the future” and Panelists B, C and D say “cool”. To have a meaningful discussion going you need to have some disagreement there. Put doubters and visionaries/futurists/dreamers face-to-face and then you can uncover real insights.
  • Flattening of the discussion space: Having so-called Subject Matter Experts on stage and an audience attending passively most of the time is the total opposite of the Web 2.0 Architecture of Participation approach. I don’t think anybody can actually claim to be an SME in Web 2.0 or Social Computing. We are all learning, making mistakes and getting it right from time to time. Furthermore, people in the audience may have more interesting things to say than the panelists. But then you have a logistic problem, similar to the fame conundrum described by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody: it’s not practical to have everyone in an audience having its slice of airtime. Ironically, what seems to be missing is exactly a two-oh-ish type of moderation, the enablement of crowd participation by other channels. Allow panelists to state their position briefly prior to the event, then allow potential attendees to get questions in advance. I’ve seen people using post-it stickers, emails, Twitter, SixGroups and Crowdvine for that, but all are kind of cumbersome to use. Google Moderator looks like a promising tool to serve this need. I’d like to try it out the next time I facilitate or participate of a panel.

As usual, the intent of this post is not to throw cheap shots at the MTCC or the Toronto Tech Week organization. They both play fundamental roles in positioning Toronto as a premier destination for large and relevant events, and there’s definitely much more to praise than to criticize in what they are offering Toronto. I have high hopes that the Toronto Tech Week will grow to be a major global event a few years from now. To have a more balanced view of what people thought of the event, check out this Twitter search.

In any case, I’m considering giving priority to standard speaking engagements rather than panel participation in the near future, as the latter is definitely not my forté.





Top Web 2.0 Expo Keynote Videos: Dan Lyons (Fake Steve Jobs)

25 09 2008

Okay, this is the last of my top keynote videos. This talk didn’t have any real insights, but it was very entertaining, so it is good for a Friday post. See the video:








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