Moon's Moon – MoonLITE 2014

Must confess the idea of a British led space mission excites and amuses in equal measures. In an age where Dan Dare has been eclipsed by Wallace and Grommit, British Space Expoloration seems to hark back to a golden age of Eagle comics and kick-start motor bikes.

That said, there’s one planned for 2014, well there might be if it seems a good idea and we can afford it, explains CNET. The idea itself is to give the Moon its very own moon so our lunar chaps can have a chat on their mobiles: “I can’t hear you I’m on the Moon…” comes to mind.

To book your 1st Class ticket, don’t delay: call Baron Drayson for full details and the best seats via the BNSC website.

What is 'International'? rww Top 10

Whilst laudable for thinking beyond the USofA, or even Silicon Valley, readwriteweb’s list of ‘international’ Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008 raises questions about the American geopsyche that are probably best not raise here? Why? Well it’s a good list and my MoT needs doing this morning…Also, I’m parochial and even I’m using 2 of the apps so it must be getting beyond at least one border.

 

Check it out by doing the click thang…

Facebook Republican Army Surrenders

After a concerted tabloid frenzy the supposed leader of the Facebook Republican Army Steve O’Brien has told The Times it’s a big hoax after all.

Well only after Sky News (who also happen to own The Times), had syndicated it to FoxNews. Who it turns out are in turn owned by the company that owns them all too, the News Corporation. All too confusing for a bear of this little brains, but it might explain why they weren’t the MySpace Republican Army, as of course the NewsCorp owns them too.

Makes one wonder though, why the journos didn’t just go onto Facebook and ask a few questions. But I suspect lurid tales of ne’re do wells up to mischief on the family washing machine pays the bills…

Paper, Stone, Scissors, erm hold on…

Following on from my piece on Google’s Open Social – as I was sorting out read and unreads on my RSS feeds I noticed another posting today on Open Social and the rest at by Richard MacManus at Readwriteweb.com – The Distributed Social Networking Puzzle: Putting The Pieces Together.

Richard’s article looks at the nitty gritty of what’s going on with DiSo / Noserub,and the “BigCo’s” Open Social from Google and Facebook’s Connect. He explains why it’s not quite hold your breath time:

There is confusion right now because all the commercial vendors are positioning themselves as open – yet they don’t necessarily connect to each other! […] So the fact that all of the main pieces of the distributed social networking puzzle are still in beta, goes some way to explaining why ordinary people can’t connect many of their profiles just yet.

Of note, the posting is getting a lot of replies and the question of ‘interoperabilty’ vs ‘open’ is coming up time and time again, not to mention the commercial interests at play.

Forrester: Instant Messaging and Virtual Worlds

A recent report from Forrester on Virtual Worlds asks  “Will Unified Communications Make Virtual Worlds Relevant To Business?” and provides a hedged answer of ‘Yes, But It Won’t Be Overnight‘. The backdrop to the report is a joint venture between IBM and Forterra Systems called Babel Bridge. Babel Bridge joins IBM’s unified communications in the form of their instant messager SameTime with Forterra’s 3D immersive world, OLIVE. Here’s how Forterra describe it:

The integrated solution from IBM and Forterra takes group collaboration productivity to a new level, incorporating not only voice, video, and media, but it adds the important element of a sense of presence and digital identity. (source)

Forrester examine this new solution by comparing it to the current status of 3D worlds and point to 3 key headaches for wider adoption:

  • There are few use cases that appeal to business.
  • The experience lacks key elements to make it immersive.
  • The technology is new and prone to failure.

They then argue that only with a ‘collision’ between the Virtual World and Unified Communications will these be overcome. 3DUC will offer:

  • A collaboration hub for the enterprise.
  • An environment for spontaneous collaboration.
  • A stable platform that conforms to IT department guidelines.
  • A “personal touch” to meetings between disparate groups.

For Forterra this delivers the holy grail of internal comms:

This integration builds stronger relationships, creates more engaging, memorable experiences, and enables faster problem solving and decision making, all while eliminating the need to travel.

Wow! But on whether it will do this though,  I’m not convinced. My reasons are this, why do it in 3D? I can see a fun element of the virtual world and creating a 3D workspace, but what is really gained here, what are the real and demonstrable business benefits beyond the novelty factor of pushing an avatar round a 3D world? The only area I’ve seen it work in well is virtual worlds surrounding conference and exhibitions where it achieves for the short while the event runs quite a satisfying level of customer engagement.

In a past life I watched a lot of European Union money ploughed into virtual world working environments (I even recall 3D tractor factories in the late 1990’s), but I could never see the point. It always struck me, and this was my actual experience too, that is was much harder work to traverse an avatar across a virtual than to click for a file or folder in good old 2D. And more to the point, all of Forrester’s points above can be achieved in ‘flat’ worlds such as Cisco WebEx Connect or Microsoft’s SharePoint. If one is having to do this everyday, then quick and easy, point and click, will always beat the extra work of moving an avatar about.

No doubt the technology will move forward, but while Forrester are excited by the possibility of full UC integration with 3D, they do urge caution and point out it’s not quite there yet. A key factor appears to be ‘immersion’, which makes me further wonder what full immersion might be like. Images of Total Recall come to mind and the P K Dick short story the film was taken from, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale. If it gets that immersive then one might ask, how will we know if we’re in the environment or not?

Lapland 'Shopped

An amusing seasonal debacle re the UK’s theme park Lapland. What originated as a minor trading standards story erupted into one of the Sun newspaper’s worst headlines in a long time – Lapland Was Bad For Our Elf

Yikes!

The Daily Mail was in an unusually self-righteous mood, dubbing the park ‘Blunderland

What entertained me most was the aspect that Adobe PhotoShop or similar might play in the fiasco. The photographs promoting the park are shall we say optimistic. Here’s what Lapland’s owner, Victor Mears says about them on his website:

All of the photographs were taken with an inexpensive digital camera – handheld/without a tripod – and the photographer who submitted them apologises for the poor sharpness, exposure and contrast quality whilst granting permission for any viewer of this web page to display the photographs without alteration under any circumstance on any public blog associated with the Lapland New Forest event or Lapland New Forest Ltd only.

Here’s some of the pics from their site:

Not that The Sun or their comrades would ever ‘Shop an image as B3ta.com’s regular contributor The Great Architect wryly observes in a sly poke at the Sun’s rival The Daily Mail:

I guess the question that remains is, who shopped whom?

IBM's virtual desktop, minus Microsoft: will it float?

Following on from my musings yesterday on Forrester’s report on 2.0, it’s noteworthy that today sees a Wall Street Journal article that IBM have announced a whole new virtual desktop, which being  Linux+Notes, means no Microsoft products. Using a Microsoft free, Virtual Linux (et al) Desktop CNET notes, means cost savings of 50% – up to $800 per user. Their only qualm is that data will be stored centrally online, which strikes me as a bit of a red herring as I can’t see any serious corporate storing data without central back-ups.

What struck me here was the fact that this system means the Techs in central can also deploy collaboration software to their users. This package is a mix of Red Hat and Notes Domino and acording to IBM this brings a big plus:

Using Red Hat to host the Notes Domino platform provides the stability of Red Hat using a very strong collaboration suite that should meet any company’s needs. The suite can provide email, team rooms, document storage and very much more. Starting with version 8 it comes with Symphony, a free office suite built by IBM using the OpenOffice core code. 

Will it float? I think this depends on the richnness of the delivery. Central IT and Finance may see benefits in terms of cash and robustness, but can it deliver the sort of 2.0 experience that an increasingly social-media savvy employee base expects? Going on the last time I played with Domino, the answer would seem ‘No’, but that was one hell of a long time ago…

Forrester on 2.0 Uptake: why the vendors might be worried

Over in the FASTForward blog Bill Ives posted a neat and useful review of Forrester’s recent report on 2.0 uptake: Forrester TechRadar For Vendor Strategists: Enterprise Web 2.0 – How Product Strategists Should Approach A Maturing Web 2.0 Market, Q4 2008 by by G. Oliver Young et al. The report is aimed, as it says on the box, at vendor strategists and I thought it made interesting reading in light of the current economic climate.

My first thoughts on reading it, were if we’re stuck in the development of 2.0, but the more I think about this, the more I think the opposite. One of the key questions I keep seeing asked is if the Crunch will hinder or help the uptake of 2.0. Bill rightly distinguishes between Enterprise and Web 2.0 – but here for reasons of laziness conciseness I’ll mostly use them interchangeably. However, I am only talking about 2.0 use in the Enterprise and not so much in the domestic or play environment, even if that inevitable leaks into any work space. So back to the question, is 2.0 being Crunched?

If we look at the report it tells us that they looked at 11 2.0 technologies and found the following (I’ll paste from Bill here):

Significant success: social networks and wikis

Moderate success: blogs, forums, mashups, prediction markets, RSS, widgets

Minimal success: microblogs, podcasts, social bookmarks

Now what’s interesting here is that they’re looking at each technology one by one. Bill would move a couple of categories and I think we could all tweak it here or there. The real issue he says, is this:

“… my major concern is looking at these tools in isolation.”

Bill is absolutely right here and I think this highlights the Achilles’s Heel of the report and why some of the vendor strategists should listen to the alarm bells.

To succeed in an Enterprise environment 2.0 needs to be part of what Forrester dub the “2.0 ecosystem”. It’s no good simply adding a blog and a wiki to an existing corporate environment and expecting it to work. This is like trying to create another type of ecosystem and believing it will work, simply by introducing 2 new applications/organisms into it and expecting them not only to flourish, but to sustain and potentially transform the system too. (At the risk of ending up in Pseuds Corner I reckon that the metaphor of ecosystem in any Enterprise or non biological space is always a poor one and one ripe for Deconstruction.)

OK then, so unlike Web 2.0 tools, Enterprise 2.0 applications work best as an aggregation, as a social network of communication tools within the Enterprise being used by a base of employees, rather than as a set of standalone tools that may or may not be used. This can be best summed up by looking at what happens when say a Wiki is introduced and most people look at it as either so cool, or a complete waste of space, and both primarily for the same reason – it sits as an oddity within the flat plane of a developed 1.0 terrain. Make it seamless so that it doesn’t look like a Wiki but presents an environment that provides a range of wiki-type functions such as easy self-editing, blogs, self posting of desktop filmed video and all backed up by RSS then we’re looking at what becomes ubiquitous rather than an aberration. The transformational and productivity enhancing aspect of this can be seen if we look at say 2 departments, one using this sort of environment and one not and where one can post content immediately and one has to use slow and expensive channels to post content. One has definite and visible productivity advantages and the other only too real costs and delays.

The question for me here, is how do we achieve this and transform working patterns, how does the dragging Achilles Heel sprint into 2.0 business acceleration and transformation? For the record, I think that not only can this can be done, but that we’re seeing this being done in some organisations. The potential productivity gains here are enormous. And the rub is the word potential – currently no one can point to an existing transformation and provide the hard data. What public data we have is often piecemeal, anecdotal and fragmentary. Until this situation changes, rolling out 2.0 in an Enterprise will be incredibly difficult. Sure there will be plenty of instances of companies rolling out this or that 2.0 application, but with few exceptions most business leaders and their operational and technology teams will be very reluctant to take the risks involved. We’re not quite at the stage where one can say: “No one has ever lost their job by buying 2.0.”

So let’s recap, I’ve said that the vendors might be worried and that cracking the 2.0 nut is not going to be done with a ‘tap here’ and a ‘tap there’ from a selection of standalone hammers. For a long while the outlook was a lot rosier than at present and plenty of studies recommended (and could point to case studies of)  the bit by bit approach to rollouts of 2.0. In the current economic climate this is not going to work – it’s either a luxury or both the risks and the costs are too high, thus – ‘IT won’t support it and the Business won’t pay for it…’

But, and it’s a big but, if we look at the bigger picture and more longer-term view, then these arguments start go increasingly out of focus.  And this is where Forrester to my mind misses the point too. Forrester states that:

None of the technologies we examined are likely to be replaced in a wholesale manner in the next five to 10 years.

The productivity gains offered by 2.0 are such that they’ll all be replaced in the next 5 years. This sounds like a contradiction and it probably is- for sure the tools such as blogs for e.g, will still exist and many instances of current usages will remain, but we won’t see these technologies as isolated instances. Polishing my crystal ball and looking through a scanner darkly, I think we’ll see at first more and more instance of the Pownces of this world being eaten up by their larger competitors. This will leave a clearer battleground with fewer competing vendors. It’s then I think, that we’re going to see the real fun begin as the competition shifts from the technologies and the vendors; to the networks, the wares and the platforms. This is going to completely transform the game (and the vendors), mashing up the mashups and reallocating collaboration into areas we can only begin to imagine. The big frenemies who currently own the networks the softwares and the socialities; will have to simultaneously deal not only with competition and collaboration (as some do now), but that the fact to have survived in this brave new world will have meant inventing completely new social technologies that will further transform the way these businesses do business. It’s these ‘known unknowns‘ that intrigue me, all we can say with any certainty is that they’ll transform 2.0 in unforeseen ways, much like SMS did. The difference here will be scale, development and innovation- it’s 2.0 Jim, but not as we know it…

So, if I was a vendor what would I do? I’d hope to survive, hope to get through (or be bought-up at a retirement buyout) and I’d continue to innovate. More than anything I’d ‘widgetise’ as much as I could and make sure that what I supply could be both moved, slotted into and transformed by the next waves of change. One thing for sure… is it’s going to be different.

n.b This Blog expresses entirely my own personal opinions and has no affiliation with any other bodies or organisations that I am a member of.

Pownce pounced

News is that Six Apart have bought up Pownce in order to close it down. Chris Nuttall in the FT cites a Friendfeed commentator stating that Pownce CEO Kevin Rose was spending more time on Twitter than his own product:

“That’s like the CEO of Pepsi being seen drinking Coke, if you can’t stand behind your product, how do you expect us to?”

What’s going to be interesting is how many of these small 2.0 companies get Crunched up by their bigger rivals never to see the light of day again…

Adventures in media