Convofy, it forgot the way enterprises work

As you might have read in the last few days convofy has launched for the public and techcrunch puts it in the same league as Yammer and Podio. However it isn’t in the same league and that might be the result of that Convofy didn’t think of how an enterprise internally would work. Since the biggest threat to a new service in an enterprise is not the price, nor the functionality, it is the IT department, the business prevention unit

The IT department is reluctant to any change in the IT application landscape. Their goal is to make sure everything is up and running and everything is stable and the easiest way to do that is by making sure there aren’t too much changes.

So why would this hinder Convofy? Convofy comes by default with only an Adobe Air client (which makes sense in a way since they are partially funded by Adobe) and the downside of the Adobe Air client is that you have to install Air on your computer. That is exactly where the IT department comes in, since some of these IT departments block any installation of any application (even simple plugins can be blocked).

So, if you aim at enterprises, make sure you don’t have to deal with the IT department or other business prevention units upfront. What you have to do upfront is making sure adoption of the solution isn’t an issue. Otherwise you know for sure you’ll end up first in long meetings and workshops go determine what the value could be for the organisation (and that is even the best case scenario).

Therefore focussing on (desktop)clients on any platform should be secondary for most (wannabe) enterprise services, focus on a decent (and rich) web client that can be reached easily by just using a browser and an Internet connection. That is the easiest way to bypass and business prevention unit such as the IT department.

Make sure adoption is not an issue, since if there is a decent adoption grade the reason why a change is needed is clear. It isn’t then about something new of which we don’t know what the value can be, it is then a (fully) business adopted solution that has proven value and (just) needs to be integrated in the it landscape to increase this value.

Meetings, there is a better way

This year I already have had over 170 meetings. Of course I have met a lot of interesting people thanks to these meetings and some meetings helped in getting things done. However in general it is a big time sink in my calendar and it is limiting me (and probably you) in getting real things done. Meetings are not something that get things done, in best case they prepare you for getting some things done.

That is my main reason to quit with most meetings. I want to get things done, I need to ship things (read this book about shipping things) as in creating things, publishing things, getting things done, my time is better spend then being unproductive in a room for most of my day.

There has to a better way

I have thought that numerous times after 10 hours of back to back meeting and telephone conferences. This many meetings makes me having a very inflexible schedule resulting in the simple fact that people sometimes have to wait for a few weeks before we can meet and it takes me days to finish up things since meetings get in between. During the many meetings I had, I have come up with some changes that makes meetings better, at least it makes meetings better for me. It will also be better for you, since you won’t have to be annoyed by completely overbooked calendar.

My way,the better way

First of all the number of pre booked meetings I had was ridiculous, sometimes the next week was already completely booked before the current week had to start. So therefore, I start with eliminating a big chunk of those pre booked meetings. Second of all, I will be more restrictive in accepting certain meeting invites in general. Not resulting in being unavailable for everybody who would like to meet, but make me more flexibility to have the opportunity to catch up with everybody while I still will be able to ship things.

As I said I will not eliminate all of those meetings. The meetings that still will be there are the obvious ones:

  1. Project work: If we collaborate together in a project and our meeting will help this project to become a success then there is no reason not to meet, unless it will become a time sink in which we never get things done.
  2. Absence and transfers: If you have to travel for a while we could agree on scheduling something upfront. Since I prefer to use my time useful by doing meetings in a different way, I assume you would like to not waste your time either by only traveling or waiting.
  3. Time and location: We could meet if there are any other dependencies on time and / or location.

Though there are also meeting types that are likely to be cancelled by default:

  1. Update meetings; these provide very little value and can be done as well via other, more efficient channels. If you have a hard time in transforming these kind of meetings, let me know, I will help you to get you your valuable time back by doing these meetings different.
  2. Meetings from people with who I spend some time on a regular basis in the same building / room (yes that includes colleagues). Feel free to walk by if you want to talk, though we are not likely to schedule something upfront. For the simple reason we probably see eachother anyway on a very regular basis.
  3. Meetings without any explanation upfront or where the explanation doesn’t provide me with enough information why I should attend to add any value. Rather obvious to cancel these ones, isn’t it.
  4. The ‘you have to help me’-meetings that are only benefiting you. Meetings should benefit all of those attending, not only you. I don’t mind to meetup to share my line of think or my knowledge on certain topics, however there has to be more than just one way traffic (in the end). I don’t mind bringing things at all, however there has to be some return some day.

The better way, so you will do conference calls?

No, conference calls aren’t a better way, same goes for meetings via office communicator, web meetings or whatever else tool you want to use to get people in a meeting while they are on different locations. These are just another way of doing meetings and I will treat them likewise. Especially the FYI conference calls(‘just dial in, it might be interesting’) are time wasters. If the added value is unclear, don’t expect me to dial in or to be present in any way.

The criteria I use to decide if the meeting is worth attending / accepting

Make sure there is some kind of agenda and a clear goal. If the goal and the way I could add value to the meeting (or how I could get value out of the meeting) is unclear, don’t expect me to attend.

Regarding conference calls, or any other meeting type that require me to be in a place with not so much background noise: I will schedule two blocks of 4 hours in my calendar which I will be spending in a quite silent place. If you want to have a call on a short notice try these blocks, otherwise it might take some time.

If you organise a meeting and for some reason you cancel the meeting, don’t expect me to follow up. Same goes if you say that you want to meet up, but don’t follow up, neither will I.

Meetings don’t have to be 1 hour, nor 15 or 30 minutes. If 10 minutes is what we need, we use 10 minutes, if 38 minutes is the time we need, that is fine. We don’t have to schedule 60 minutes if the meeting doesn’t take 60 minutes. Nor do we have to extend the meeting to 60 meetings if we are already finished after 24 minutes.

In case you decide to be late for our meeting, I might wait 10 minutes, however if you organized the meeting, I might not wait so long. If you think this meeting is important, then you are on time. If you are not on time, it isn’t important. If you just don’t show up, the chance on a second meeting is quite small unless there are good reasons.

It mights be obvious, but since meetings have a start and an end time it does mean it that it ends on the proposed time (or earlier as mentioned before).

If there is no direct urgency to schedule something upfront in our calendars: we just don’t.

If you see me sitting somewhere and want to get some tea or juice and catch up or ask a question: just do it, I don’t mind to catch on an ad hoc basis, the thing I do mind is scheduling these kind of things upfront and make my calendar feel like a straitjacket.

Shipping is what matters

Meetings are not important, shipping things is what matter to me (and should matter to you, unless your job is doing meetings…). If I need a meeting to ship things, I will not hesitate a moment to be there or even to schedule it, for all other things: meetings are overrated and often not needed. Too many people see meetings as work, while it isn’t.

Sitting in a tree with a group of people would not be considered as work, however when we are sitting in chairs around a table in an office, we suddenly think of it as work?

The applauding (social media) douchebag theory

Especially in social media there a lot of so called experts making profound statements which are just hot air. Statements as:

  • Maximise breakthrough by leveraging influencers
  • Identify relevant and compelling hooks for the audience, create content around the hooks and integrate it into their social repertoires
  • Harness social currency to drive buzz
  • Expose new and relevant communities to the brand by providing assets to encourage brand evangelism
  • Ignite the existing community and attract new members by amplifying the experience with relevant and engaging content

Ok, these statement are from What The Fuck Is My Social Media Strategy, though it is still sad those are real life examples I have seen.

The theory

However there is a bit of theory around these statements I would like to call it the applauding douchebag theory. This theory is based on the observation that as soon as such a statement (as the before mentioned) is published, it often takes less than 30 minutes before another douchebag starts applauding this statement, most often referenced by this douchebag as an outstanding, awesome, great or epic, statement. As soon as the first applauding douchebag has arrived all the following comments will be from applauding douchebags containing the same hollow phrases while they are trying to outrank everybody who commented before by providing hollower compliments.

This results in a self-sustained group of douchebags (or self proclaimed experts) who have almost a day job in making hollow statements and applauding to others with hollow phrases in order to get the same applause in return to have their self proclaimed expert status confirmed for themselves.

Why are you supposed to get rich from your product?

HP launches a 3D printer, not something that is really spectacular, it is just new hardware. However it will change some business models for companies that make products and charge for them. Companies such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, Tupperware and many others should rethink the way they are making money. Can they still charge for their products? Are they still in the position to have a big revenue stream? Why are they supposed to get rich from their product? Or as James Murpy stated about the music industry: “Why are bands supposed to get rich? Plumbers don’t get rich, why do bands have to get rich?”

When it is easy to make a copy of a product and copies are abundant, the original product becomes worthless (literally). This is the point Kevin Kelly makes in his post Better than free: when copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Change in business model

With HP launching a 3D printer it is just a matter of time till you can download your 3D models of the latest Nike shoe and can print your own matching pair. Of course, this edition of the printer prints plastic objects only. However in the very near future those printers can create output based on all kind of fabrics.

What will your business model be when your products all of the sudden become printable commodities without hardly any difference in quality with regard to the original?

Cinema does not add value compared to DVD (they claim)

The UK’s biggest cinema chains are set to boycott Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, due out on 5 March, because of a dispute with Disney over the release window.

According to the Guardian last Thursday.  It is awkward behavior of some cinema chains, since they are in the experience business, not in the consumption business. Watching a movie in the cinema is an experience, watching a DVD on my couch is consumption. If cinemas are afraid to loose money due to an earlier DVD release they should not block the movie which result in an income of zero euro (or pound), they should rethink how they could add value.

Added value

If the bottom line was that people online visit cinemas to watch a movie as early as possible (cinemas) than cinemas are right, it would hurt their business. On the other hand, how many people have a real home cinema, how many people can watch 3D at home? Cinemas are an experience, it is fun to be there. The screen is bigger, the sound is better and the popcorn is of better quality.

If the cinemas could be replaced by DVDs than eventually they would be replaced by DVDs, no matter how many movies cinemas would boycot. However cinemas still offer an unique experience, so they really shouldn’t be that afraid.

Nobody cares about browsers

A lot of people seemed to be shocked that Google is advertising for their browser, Chrome. Even in the small town I live in (Spijkenisse) there is a multitude of bill boards which are promoting Google Chrome. However this is the only way to gain market share in a market in which people don’t care about your product. People use the ‘Internet-thing’ that is pre installed on their desktop and why would they switch, since the browser experience will be the same.

Proper Internet

A friend of mine helped his mom switching to Firefox (about six years ago). He made it simple for her by putting two icons on her desktop one named ‘Proper Internet’  (launching the Firefox web browser) and the other one was named ‘Internet’ (launching Internet Explorer for sites that couldn’t be rendered properly in Firefox). He didn’t do this because his mother wanted to change, but because he loved Firefox so much. His mother did not care, she had Proper Internet and Internet en she even did not notice the difference.

It is almost like buying a new car. Most people buy a new car because they have to and some because they want to. Some of the buyers care a lot about brand others care more about color or certain functionality and others don’t care at all, as long as it helps them to go from location A to location B and it is not too expensive. Most people care in the same way about browsers and most people don’t care at all. So if you don’t tell the no-carers that there is a different browser that could enhance their experience (Chrome is all about speed), they won’t switch, since what they have is good enough (every browser they have is free, renders 98% of the websites correct, renders 100% of the websites good enough and helps them in visiting the things they want).

What is a browser?

If you want to build market share you either build a very good product and trust word of mouth marketing, however if you have plenty of cash (as Google has) you can do a bit extra and involve more traditional media such as billboards and traditional advertisting in papers. And in a world where hardly anybody knows what a browser is, word of mouth is not so effective.

I wonder how Google will solve this issue with Chrome OS, since operating systems are becoming the same kind of commodity as browsers already are. They’ll figure out, don’t you think?

It is not information overload, it is information gluttony

Clay Shirky said once that it wasn’t information overload, but filter failure. Although he is right, I think there is even an bigger issue than just failing filters. It is the endless need of people nowadays to consume more data. Since we have the tools to select, to store and archive all the data we want, we just do that. I don’t how many people I talked with last year about the enormous pile of links, webpages, pdfs and other documents they were planning to read. When they ran into something: swoosh…. adding it to readitlater, instapaper, web2pdf or any other service you could think of to store it and to read it later (mainly: not reading it all anymore).

Gluttony

However, with the endless (free) opportunity to store things and the ease of use to add articles to a read it later list, people are killing their information consumption. Since there is no limit on RSS feeds in for example Google Reader, people tend to add as many feeds as they ran into. Adding them is free and easy, so why not add them. However they are complaining at the same time that they still have 1000+ items unread in Google Reader.

While they add the content themselves, it seems they blame the content producers for writing too much content to read. It is like blaming McDonalds for fulfulling your order of 10 BigMacs and you are so stuffed you can only eat 8. McDonalds is just doing the thing you’d ask them to do, content creators are just doing the same. If you hadn’t been so greedy, you were not suffering of 1000+ unread items in your RSS reader or in a huge (virtual pile) of documents.

Put yourself on a diet

So put yourself on a diet, don’t be greedy. Every feed that has more than 15 unread items in your RSS reader isn’t worth reading, if you’d really care enough about the content of that feed less items would be unread. So remove those feeds, don’t be afraid that you’ll miss the content, you are missing it already because you are not reading it. If something is on your read it later list for more than 48 hours, remove it, if it was really interesting, you’d read in the mean time. If you only read in the weekend, remove all the unread items on Sundays, if the content was interesting you’d read them already.

If things are important they will come to you.  There is no need for digital packratting. Although there are no costs for it, you sure pay a price by cluttering your information flow.

Your incentive for less information overload

If you have a hard time in selecting what things you should put on your read-it-later list, create this simple rule: put 1 cent in a jar for every item your set away for later reading and put 5 cents in the jar for every item you put away but didn’t read. Put 10 cent in a jar for every RSS feed you add to your RSS reader and put 1 cent in the jar for every item in a RSS feed you did not read after 48 hours.

After a year: get the money out of the jar and give it to charity; at least somebody will then benefit from your greediness.

If you are not in Google, you don’t exist

What will happen if you don’t popup in search engine results in about five years? When you’re a consultant, will you still be hired by a company, or will the company have an immediate lack of trust since you are not in the result set, so you might have something to hide. Will you, when you need a loan at a bank, don’t get this loan because you aren’t traceable online?

Is not having an identity online or leaving traces online the biggest mistake you can make? Privacy matters, not having any presence online could be great for your privacy, however it could be a disaster for the way other people will see you. What if you are not findable in a search engine, than you have done a good job protecting your privacy (nobody sees any data related to you), however you did a poor job at making sure people are able to get to know you. They might even think that you are hiding something, since it seems you don’t have a(n online) history.

Russians

The Russians knew that Pravda contained state propaganda so they used other sources to get to the bottom of some news. We all know that resumes are also just propaganda, telling the best things about a specific person that are suitable for a specific job. People like to verify that, they want to know more than just the standard lines on a resume. No they don’t need to know your social security number, so you don’t have to put that online. However they want to know who you are and what you really did. And these might be the same things as you mention in a resume, however people like to check it at a source that is independent (from their perspective). And with everything searchable nowadays, it gives us a weird feeling when you don’t show up in the search results. Somebody who isn’t findable has something to hide, or could be a secret agent or isn’t even a real person.

Footprint is a necessity

Leave some digital footprint, make yourself findable, you might need it in the near future when you want to use a service or need a job.

Why Chrome OS (and Google phones) could fail

Google is a great company or as they state it: “we are not evil”.  However not being evil isn’t enough in the current marketplace. You have to be more than not evil, you have to be helpful and if  there is one thing Google isn’t, than it is being helpful. Of course Google offers tons of useful services that saves people hours of time a day and saves companies tons of savings on infrastructure. However the one thing Google doesn’t have, is real old-fashioned customer support.

No support

Yes Google has quite some groups in which their employees help their customers. However there is hardly a telephone  number I could call to have some support for weird Google Docs problems. Or when my Adsense account was disabled 2 or 3 years ago, I received a simple, non personal e-mail, stating that that my account was disabled because I was ‘misusing Adsense’. I could send a reply, if I wanted, but in their e-mail they already stated that they could not guarantee somebody would read of even more, answer my e-mail. Not quite a service…. On the other hand I can accept this to a certain level since these are free webservices and most free webservices don’t offer service.

However things are different when you offer an operating system or a phone. People expect that there is some kind of customer support instead of just a dodgy Google groups with somebody who is claiming to be an engineer at Google. You are used to calling a number going to a shop and talk with a real person and get your problem solved. However there is no phone number you can call when you have problems with your nice new Nexus, and there probably will be no phonenumber and callcenter you can call when you have troubles with your Chrome OS.

Lack of customer service might result in failure

If you look at the market, especially the OS one, you notice that every big operating system has a company that is providing these services. Google has it owns take on it. While Google often disrupts markets by having its own take on certain matter, this take will not bring them very var. Customer expect a certain level of service and attention and Google is not going to change this game, even not with technology solutions such as Chrome OS and the Nexus. Even worse for Google: these products can become failures due the lack of customer service.

On the other hand, maybe this is just the opportunity for an independent third party to offer paid customer service for Chrome OS and the Nexus, with a phonenumber, with shops, but most important with real people and a certain level of service attention for the customer.

Stealing page views is like stealing water from the sea

Valeria Maltoni posted an interesting blog today and she prefers that people do not copy her content I only copy some quotes. You can read her complete article on her site.

In the past few months, many (Posterous blogs) have clipped entire posts off my blog and reposted them to their Posterous account, then tweeted that. Folks, make no mistake, that is the equivalent to scraping. It’s content theft. I don’t care if you think it’s not. It doesn’t change the facts.

I have to agree, yes it is content theft if the author doesn’t allow sharing. However it also a fact of life and a great way to build reputation. Or as Michael Arrington puts it:

For our part, we throw a party when someone “steals” our content and links back to us. High fives all around the office. At least there’s some small nod in our direction. And the aggregators like TechMeme can figure out who broke the news. Page views are lost, but reputation is gained.

(…)

My advice to readers is just this – get ready for it, because you’ll be reading McDonalds five times a day in the near future. My advice to content creators is more subtle. Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die. Or just give up on making money doing what you do. If you write for passion, not dollars, you’ll still have fun. Even if everything you write is immediately ripped off without attribution, and the search engines don’t give you the attention they used to. You may have to continue your hobby in the evening and get a real job, of course. But everyone has to face reality sometimes.

Forget fair and unfair, right and wrong. This is simply happening. The disruptors are getting disrupted, and everyone has to adapt to it or face the consequences. Hand crafted content is dead. Long live fast food content, it’s here to stay.

And I agree with Arrington on this part: you can gain reputation by getting copied. If you get attribution: great, reputation is gained and people will directly know it is ‘your’ content. If you get no attribution, well tough luck, but people will figure out that you wrote it anyway, via for example TechMeme as Arrington mentions.

Being copied is a fact of life

It is just a fact of life that people are copying others to get attention, to provide attention to others, or to try to get famous with other people’s content. You shouldn’t care. The reason I write is that I would like other people to read my thoughts, not to lock up my posts in safe where nobody can read it. Eventually if your articles are good enough you will get copied and if you are lucky you will get some credits for the content. If not: well tough luck, more people read your content although they don’t know you wrote it.

It happens, as it already did thousands of year ago when story tellers copied each other’s stories. If people copy your content there is the option that you will gain reputation and if you don’t gain in reputation and you don’t get any credits for it, well nothing lost, it are just bytes on another page of the Web. Nothing to really worry about it just requires a change in business model (as usual).