Friday, September 26, 2008

social media makes us smarter

Some people are not open to using social media tools like Facebook, twitter and MySpace for business purposes, because they see them being used for fun. Sure, they are full of silliness as people throw virtual sheep at each other, exchange virtual gifts, play games, take quizzes, and build cluttered profiles of movie trivia and friend lists.

But what do we do with email? We send each other funny cat pictures, pass on articles on the latest Darwin award, plan parties, spread rumors, distribute chain letters, e-cards, videos, and even love letters. I suppose that means we shouldn't be using email for legitimate business purposes because of all the silliness and fluff that abounds .

For that matter, we should quit using the internet entirely! Why, you can find jokes, games, videos, subversive political organizations, dating services, comics, even porn on the internet. Holy cow, with that kind of mess out there, how could we possibly consider using it on the context of work?

Social media tools aren't just toys. They are only tools, and any tool is only as good as what it is used for. As our workforce becomes more distributed and mobile with travel and telecommuting, people will need to put more effort into collaboration or risk losing effectiveness by being too out of touch. There are so many tools available these days, beyond email, and some of them may be just the ticket for getting things done at or away from work.

Besides, that social stuff? It turns out it just makes us smarter.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Google Phone

The new Google phone was just announced and pre-orders are being taken. Already, most of the reviews I see online are bad. Until I read them, it was my opinion that the only mistake made was not releasing the phone at the same time as the iPhone 3G. I might have considered it then, but now it is just too late.

I appreciate this take on why the phone will not be a strong competitor in the market: The user interface. Is the UI important? It is to me, of course, and it is really nice to see others say the same thing. Consistent, intelligent, clean design is where Apple claims victory. It has its problems, sure, but overall, Apple's attention to interface detail is what makes it such a pleasure to hold and to use. Unfortunately, it sounds like that lesson was not learned with Android.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Low-Tech Social Networking

I don't think I've consumed too much of the Web 2.0 social networking Kool-Aid to forget that it's all about the people. If I needed reminding, here's an event that brings it all home: Picklefest 2008. People gathering, working together, and pickling vegetables sans vinegar. May have to plan a field trip to LA this time next year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hard Times require Hard Choices

In a widely distributed post last week, Cringely suggests firing IT managers as a means of coping with economic hard times. On the surface, it sounds like another gripe about bad IT managers who don't know their sql from their html, and in fact, he does say that if a manager can't handle a few simple programming tasks, they should get the boot. I do agree that a manager should be able to describe the work their staff does, though I do not think they should necessarily be able to do any of it. In fact, they should be sorely out of practice because of all the time they spend managing the staff doing the actual work.

The great point though, that I think might get lost by some, is the bigger issue. Crises aren't handled by making small changes. (Firing a manager to save money is a small change.) Crises require BIG change. Systemic change. Doing things differently. And in many cases, the people in charge who are used to doing things one way, could get in the way of making the kinds of changes required to really weather a storm, or, more likely, evolve to survive in a new ecosystem. In that scenario, a few firings may be exactly the kind of cataclysmic upheaval required. But it doesn't have to be. The answer is to stop looking at the symptoms and start looking at the real problems. And then, get on the right path to a solution, which will very likely look a lot different than the way things are currently done and probably require some leaps of faith.

Embrace change or die, that is the message.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eco-Safe Blogging

I discovered a fantastic service today, thanks to Chris Brogan. Eco-Safe takes a blog post or web page and turns it into a PDF which you can download or email to someone. It's admittedly a very bare bones PDF, which keeps none of your formatting, but so easy to use. I added it to the sidebar here; try it out!

One step closer to going paperless.