Back on Android (thank God) after the iPhone 5

An extract of this article was published on SemWiki Sep 7, 2013.
curseI was on the fence between an iPhone 5 and a Samsung S3. My friend Dan, the owner, curator, and big blogger on SemiWiki talked me into the iPhone 5. I cursed him daily for 6 months. I’m now back in the Android fold with a Samsung S4 and am much happier because of it.

I hate typing on the phone. When I see people banging away with two thumbs I want give them a swift kick in the pants. Having the phone respond to my voice is important. Siri nefariously understands you on occasion so you don’t totally give up. However, with a voice command more complex than “call Dan mobile” (don’t forget the mobile!) Siri will generally be hopelessly confused.
jumpA couple of weeks ago I was picking up my son at the Dublin BART station. I made the mistake of using Apple maps, as it’s reasonably well integrated with Siri. Shockingly it understood me when I said “navigate to Dublin BART”.  Unfortunately Siri told me that no exit off 580 was required. It told me I had arrived as I was passing the station that is between the East and West bound lanes. I quickly jumped out my window and was able to meet my son on time.

If you don’t use Google Voice you are missing out. You can easily forward your calls to multiple phones, you can block calls, you can get voice-mail transcribed – all sorts of good stuff. However, the iPhone doesn’t enable Google Voice to use your Google Voice number for outgoing calls. My real cell number, which I don’t want exposed, was always used by the iPhone. Now that I’m back in the Android fold, my GV  number is used for outgoing calls, as it should.

I save myself a ton of time by using Google Contacts. It’s well integrated with gmail and Google Voice. Guess what? It’s not integrated with the iPhone. It made me crazy not being able to “call Dan mobile” unless I explicitly added him as a contact on my iPhone. With Android and Google all the syncing between your life on your Windows PC and your life on the phone happens for free. I like MacBooks but they aren’t used at work, so I find them  generally more trouble than they are worth.

If you haven’t checked out Google Now, it’s a treat. Remember, Scott McNealy one of the founders of Sun Microsystems? He famously stated “there is no privacy on the internet, get over it”. Once you accept that fact you’ll appreciate Google Now snooping through your online life, including email. It will tell you when shipments you ordered from Amazon are enroute, if you plane is leaving on time, how far you are from home – in traffic, all sorts of good stuff WITHOUT YOU ASKING.

My next step is to replace my iPad 3. I do like this device, but the fact that the battery lasts all of two days makes me a little nutty. I’m not really a Samsung fan, but the Android goodness may be irresistible.

Getting Gouged by the Dog Sitter

The post is in reference to Heather Smalley, the owner of the pet sitting service For the Love of Dog… and her mother Heidi.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a poor experience with Heather July 27, 2013 – Aug 3, 2013. The words below were also posted to Yelp. If you think she deserves more than 2 stars, please let me know.

If you like a measure of inconsistent responses to queries about your trip and your pets, combined with a little dishonesty, Heather is for you!

Last year we were charged $80/day. In April we we contacted Heather for this year, and she quoted $90/day. Heather opted to send us a new invoice for $120/day 3 days before we left for our trip. We had no choice other than to bite the bullet as there wasn’t time to line up someone else.  During our trip she  sent us yet another invoice, including an additional $30/day. (Now $150/day!)

It’s not all doom and gloom. Heather and Heidi did a very nice job with our dogs and our garden, both last year and this year. We thought we had found a real diamond in the rough (last year) as our garden requires up to 30 minutes/day of watering and attention, and many dog sitters don’t carefully attend to it.  We had surmised it wasn’t a big deal as Heidi was supposed in the house most of the day.

The first alarming data point was when I attempted to confirm the trip, several weeks before we left. It took several days to get a response, and that was simply “I’ll set something up with Heidi”. After hearing nothing for another week we attempted to contact her multiples time via phone, email, facebook, text and got no response. We were panicking as we didn’t know if we should start looking for alternatives. She finally go back to us, via email, the Wednesday before our Sat departure.

We met with Heidi a couple of days before we left, for an overview of garden care. We mentioned that a friend of ours be would dropping by a few times over the course of the week to say hello to the dogs, and asked if there was a best time. Heidi told us she was working full time, and wouldn’t be at the house from 9:30AM -6:30PM  every day! She said not to worry as Heather would drop by mid day.

I emailed Heather telling her we were surprised by this information, and told her we needed to understand that our dogs would not be left unattended for more than 4 hours at a time. They are very large (Great Danes), and can do some real damage when they get upset. Heather didn’t respond to this email until she sent us her new (higher) invoice, well into our trip.

We left Heidi a note with details about house incidentals with a sentence right at the top saying “please email us when you arrive at the house”. We received nothing from Heidi, even after she promised to send us pictures.

Lastly, if being charged $150/day to NOT have someone there most of the time is isn’t galling enough, our dogs don’t require any walking! They are perfectly happy running up the big hill behind our house to investigate the neighbor’s dog. As the water in our hot tub was warmer than when we left, and the Bougainvillea behind the tub was half dead, I can only speculate that quite a lot of hot tubbing was going on while we were away.

Needless to say, we will not be using Heather again.

 

What’s in for Me: Why Should I Bother?

I’m part of a Collaboration 2.0 group which started on linkedin, and was moved over to yammer. One of the rules of the group is that you need to work at a big company and do this stuff for a living. This is a great premise! The owner/moderator is thoughtful and engaged, but the group doesn’t see a lot of traffic.

Why is this?
I believe there are a few reasons. (I’ll of course relate this back to OneStop.)

  1. The feedback loop is not well defined.
  2. The value proposition is not crystal clear.
  3. There isn’t enough in it for me.
  4. Metrics

Feedback Loop:
I’ve posted twice to the group. I thought the posts were insightful and would get a discussion going. No responses. I need feedback! Apparently the “what’s in it for me, let’s use the acronynm WIIFM” quotient wasn’t high enough for people to respond.

Value Prop (WIIFM)
I’m part of a half dozen linkedin groups. The vast majority of the posts are from consultants. The value prop for them (WIIFM) is that they are trying to raise their visibility level, (their web based stock price so to speak) and indirectly line up some work.

I started to get active on linkedin when I thought there was a chance my job would disappear. Would I have reached out otherwise? Probably, but not as aggressively. Would I have joined Collaboration 2.0? Not sure. I would probably have monitored (or lurked) to pull out good ideas.

I initiated my blog when I was up for a promotion to Principal Engineer. I didn’t do it out of the goodness of my heart or that I was inately keen on community contribution.

Organizational Credit
One of the reasons people bother to author OneStop pages is that it’s cool. (WIIFM++) They get their pictures at the top right of the pages they author, and become much more visibile in their area(s) of expertise. Most of their managers are supportive as it’s obvious that this sort of information sharing is of high value add to the company. However, this value add need to be demonstrated through…

Metrics
When you see a couple of hundred hits on your page every month it becomes much easier to make the time. It also become much easier for your manager to support your efforts.

At the upper right of the header for this blog it mentions that “carefully crafted processes to make this work in the enterprise.”. Part of the process is rules of engagement. For most communities there really isn’t enough WIIFM, at least from the start. In many cases participants need to get “organizational credit”, or maybe just a direct push from their managers, to participate.

Salesforce Chatter, the “magic of Facebook and Twitter brought to the enterprise.”

Sub theme: Connecting My Professional and Personal Lives?

Wow, Salesforce.com really has it together! I recently finished Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff and was blown away. These people really understand community and collaboration, and how to leverage it effectively. Marc’s very readable book is organized as a series of 111 plays (as in a football playbook). He catalogs how to build the entire business, but the playbooks on Sales, Marketing,and Technology are especially rich with collaboration examples.

As I was trolling through my morning news I was drawn to the TechCrunch Ten Technologies That Will Rock 2010. Number ten is:

Social CRM: We’ve seen the rise of Twitter and Facebook as social communication tools.  This year, those modes of realtime communication will find their way deeper into the enterprise.  Salesforce.com is set to launch Chatter, it’s realtime stream of enterprise data which interfaces with Twitter and Facebook and turn them into business tools. Startups like Yammer and Bantam Live are also making business more social.

If you are reader of this blog you noticed I started getting excited about  Twitter and Facebook in April of 2007. My enthusiasm quickly waned as most of the social networking tools did not seem very relevant to the enterprise. I got a little tired of reading the “I’m taking my daughter to the dentist” tweets. We’ve been experimenting with a twitter clone, internally, but it hasn’t gotten much traction. (We’ve been able to search it in real time for the last 18 months. :))

One of the more popular features on OneStop (read about OneStop in prior postings) is the Worth a Look section on the homepage. I try to post 3-5 items day, mostly current news items that are related to Sun. Part of my role is the “synergizer” and “consolidator” of interesting stuff. I spend a couple hours a day aborbing news. This ranges from the sources listed in Daily News in my prior post (Reading Recommendations From People You Trust), to Google alerts, to dozens of internal aliases at Sun. This also enables me to ensure that OneStop has the appropriate breadth, and the right products and technologies are covered. My thought is the users (Sun employees, mostly SEs) are busy, don’t have an hour to spend, and find the highlights useful.

Maybe too much background, but yesterday I was posting a Worth a Look item and thought “this is silly, why am I not posting this item to Facebook or Twitter?” so it will get picked up automatically by interested consumers. (Including my wordpress blog at http://mikebriggs.com). The answer of course is that some of the items are not appropriate for outside the Sun firewall.

Will the Semantic Web solve this problem? Will content be consistently tagged with group and access control information, perhaps utilizing SecurID? Some sort of AI needs to be built in, as tagging everything manually is incredibly burdensome.

The lines between our personal and professional lives are blurring, but it still seems necessary to have distinct contexts on both sides of the enterprise firewall. Will Sales Force Chatter help fix this problem?

Disintermediation is the Friend of a Good Website

dis·in·ter·me·di·a·tion [dis-ˌin-tər-ˌmē-dē-ˈā-shən]
According to Wikipedia, disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: “cutting out the middleman”.

This morning I ascended the bully pulpit and gave our team a speech as to why our OneStop pages are an order of magnitude more popular than other pages we produce. (We produce pages for different sites/user communities including the public, partners, and sales people.)

As I’ve written about, prior, people like OneStop because the content is complete, accurate, up to date, and is in a consistent format. Easy enough, right? Not really. The question is, what ingredients are necessary, in the secret sauce, to produce this quality content?

Ownership
The page(s) need to be owned by the content expert, or minimally some who is well versed in the content AND in the needs and expectations of the users. On OneStop we have the person’s name, picture, and country flag on the page. The quality of the page is a direct reflection of the author.

Disintermediation!
Most of the sites our group works with are based on a structured update process. The content creator needs to submit a request with the update. It then goes through a couple of people for approval on correctness and completeness, and then goes to a web person for posting. This process can be time consuming, and often something is lost in translation. On OneStop the owner does the actual posting. The corollary to this rule is that it Needs to be Easy.

The owner needs to be a user
The best pages are the ones that the owner uses every day. This is the only was to get a gut feel for whether the page works. Are the items in the right order? Is it easy to find the highest priority items? Are there bad links? Is response time fast? Is the page always available? Many of the best pages on OneStop are authored by SEs. As SEs talk to customers every day, and use OneStop to look up information to support these customers, they can do an optimal job of creating a page that is useful for other SEs.

Needs to pass the what’s in it for me test

It can be a decent amount of work to maintain a popular OneStop page. Having an author’s name and picture featured prominently on the page gives credit where credit is due. Note that in a intermediated site the content contributor is often invisible.

Working feedback loop

I’m a glutton for feedback. [Particularly positive feedback. :) ] Bloggers are heavily reliant on comments and stats, often via google analytics. Internal content contributors often aren’t so lucky. On OneStop we make a big effort to make as much data as possible easy available. I think of it as positive reinforcement.

Ask the users
On OneStop it is necessary to login, so we know who views, updates, and comments on a page.
In my experience, users love when you reach out to them. It shows you care and want to increase the quality and effectiveness of the page. There is always what I call a gem in the responses, a really good idea that you can readily implement.

As a closing thought, I like to emphasize people over tools and mechanism. It’s not that I don’t like mechanism, I’m a huge google fan (search, gmail, talk, reader, docs, etc.) However, I’d bet dollars to donuts that the developers use almost all the tools – on a daily basis – to do their jobs. See owner needs to be a user above.

Wiki Gardening in the Enterprise

Web heads refer to the term wiki gardening. This is basically controlling the content in your wiki. Wiki gardening is easily manageable for wikis that are internal to an enterprise, but is more challenging for wikis that contain company content that is shared with partners and customers.
Sun has a large and vibrant website for partners, called Sun Partner Advantage Membership Center or Partner Portal. Partners can utilize the Partner Portal for everything from pricing information, to training, to product and program information. “The Portal” , in general, utilizes the walled garden approach. The Sun Partner  team both accepts and solicits content, massages it appropriately, formats, and publishes it. The advantages are obvious. The content is consistent, reasonably up to date, and only the appropriate content is shared.

But wait! There are occasions where more and better resources are available to employees, than partners. This is because publishing content to an internal wiki (yes, I’m referring to OneStop. This is the OneStop Secret Sauce blog after all.) is easier. It’s much faster as there is no process or approval involved, and there are no worries about confidentiality or appropriateness of content. There are no forms or mechanism, it’s basically WYSIWYG and update in place. It enables Self publishing so that the content expert is able to make the changes directly. Nothing is lost in translation, as compared to content making it’s way through the process.

With our PartnerSpace project we hope to offer the best of both worlds. The goal of PartnerSpace is to make appropriate partner ready content that is behind the Sun firewall easily available to partners. The core of PartnerSpace is an easily consumable (by content providers) set of publishing guidelines. These guidelines include:

  1. Publishing Rules, including privacy and confidentiality guidelines.
  2. Content traits, as we need to happily coexist with PartnerWeb.
  3. Style suggestions, for consistency.

Perhaps the most important part of PartnerSpace is the definition of roles. Each wiki page, or family of wiki pages, that are made available to partners has a moderator. Content creators and owners stage a page in a Sun only area, and only when it is scanned and approved by the moderator does it become available to partners.

OneStop for Partners is the first instance of the Partner Space project. We are already seeing interesting phenomenon that we didn’t expect. It turns out that some of the low hanging fruit is content that doesn’t  fit easily into the existing Partner Portal or Sun organizational model. Two examples thus far are the Partner HPC Resource Center and the Solutions area. We are moving aggressively to complete OneStop for Partners with the traditional core of product, technology, and program information.

Technocrat for Partners

The Technocrat is an internal Sun newsletter primarily targeted to customer-facing engineers. The goal is to make them feel plugged in with respect to products, technology and tools. As of June, the Technocrat is available to Sun Partners.

Aren’t newsletters so 90s?
Yes and no. Newsletters certainly don’t offer the virtues of social networking and collaboration. What they do offer is a push mechanism that enables us to highlight current news, what’s working with our tools and communities, and snapshot summaries.

The most popular regular feature in the Technocrat is Interesting Stuff You Might Have Missed. It comprises interesting bits (white papers, feature articles, etc.) from various websites including sun.com and BigAdmin. The majority of items are links to good blog postings.

People are busy and it takes a long time to scan the latest and greatest on web sites, blogs, and wikis. The world is getting there with better search, feed readers, and the Semantic Web, but as of now there really isn’t a great substitute for having a human with similar interests do this for you.

Lightweight is Good
The Technocrat offers a lightweight mechanism to share content. The editorial review is quick; the main rule is that the content be relevant and interesting to customer-facing engineers. If a contributor wants to spend (substantially more) time on a more formalized vehicle, BluePrints, White Papers, or writing a book is the way to go. You can always do a blog posting, but unless you’ve spent the time to acquire an audience, not many people will see it.

Most articles are between 500 and 2000 words. Does anyone remember Jeff Goldblum’s character, Michael Gold, in the 1983 movie  The Big Chill? Michael was a writer for People magazine. He stated that articles were never longer than you could read during the average bathroom stay.

The Brand Means Something
We’ve been publishing the Technocrat for seven years, and internally at Sun it is acknowledged as valuable. If your article is included, there is a good chance people will see it. To receive the Technocrat, you have to subscribe — we don’t spam mailing lists or aliases out of principle. The subscriber base is currently around 2000.

To Come Full Circle
My heart was warmed when I received an email from Trevor Pretty, a Partner SE in New Zealand. He was a Sun employee for years, and was regarded by many as a star. The Subject of the email was Technocrat for partners – Feels like I’ve never left :-). I’m truly excited to be able to provide a mechanism that helps our customer facing engineering community share their considerable knowledge and expertise with our partners.

Crossing the Services Chasm

Sun has a large and vibrant services organization, but historically the communications channel between Services and the Systems Engineering Organization has been somewhat limited. SEs tend to think in terms of products and technologies first, and services second.

It is of course good for Sun, and good for customers, if services are included along with a product or solution sale. Unless the sale is driven by a Professional Services engagement, services attach tends to happen at the end of the process.

So how does this fit with OneStop? Most SEs utilize OneStop to get help gathering information about a product, technology, or solution – and find the links to the appropriate sales tools, communities, etc. As Sun’s roots are as a product company, that’s how people think, and that is where people start the investigative process. It’s not terribly clear to people where to find information about services, for a given product or solution.

As it turns out there is an excellent, but now well known, internal site that maps services to products. Our Eureka moment is that via a web service we are now able to dynamically populate a Services section of each OneStop with the services for that product.

Now, hopefully, the sales teams will be thinking about services earlier in the cycle, as the information will available with no friction.

Search: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff with Information Equity

Search on corporate intranets is difficult, often because algorithms based on page rank don’t work particularly well. In short PageRank is a “vote”, by all the other pages on the Web, about how important a page is. A popular document on the corporate intranet may have very few pages linking to it. Without page rank the search results are ordered largely by frequency of key words, meta data, and currency. This makes it almost impossible to find a given page with a popular or overloaded term in the title such as Solaris 10, Cloud Computing, Identity Management, etc.

SunSpace, Sun’s internal enterprise wiki, with an integrated document repository, is based around the notion of Community Equity. Each person, and each document is assigned an equity value. A document’s Information Equity is mostly based on:

  1. Hits or downloads.
  2. Updates.
  3. Number of different people accessing/updating the page. (very important in a collaborative wiki!)
  4. Currency. The equity decreases over time.

So how does this fit into search … ?

SunSpace search has a 3 tier architecture. The back end is a commercial search engine that indexes the content (wiki pages and uploaded documents) and delivers the search results. We spend a lot of time tuning this engine so that the optimal weighting is given to titles, urls, keywords, and various meta data.

The middle tier is a set of feed readers that monitor all the updates on SunSpace. The feed readers create “stubfiles” for every document that contain all the meta data, which includes equity, tags, creator, and last updated date. The feed readers run continuously and notify the back end whenever a page is created or updated. A big advantage is that new pages and updates are added to the search index immediately, no more waiting days until the crawler finds the new documents.

The front end is where most of the action is. When a user types in a search query it is submitted to the back end and 100 results, in xml format, are returned. The stubfile for each result in then read. The initial results ordering is directly from the back end search engine, but the user is given the option to Sort by Information equity, or Sort by Date. We also display other relevant information such as tag clouds and communities for these 100 results. Each document has a creator, who is generally a primary contributor to the page. We assemble a list of the creators for the results, then credit each creator with the Information equity of the result they created – and display a list sorted by sum of information equity.

A few simple use cases:

  1. Find a new document. I am constantly creating documents on SunSpace, and generally am not careful with the titles. Two hours later when I have forgotten the title and need to forward the URL to a colleague, I simple search for myself, then Sort by Date.
  2. Find a popular document. The second case refers back to the beginning of this article. Let’s say a colleague mentions a cool wiki page on Solaris 10 that’s all the buzz. I’d search for “Solaris 10”, then sort by Information Equity.
  3. Find the expert. I have a big presentation on Cloud Computing, and need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable colleague. I search for Cloud Computing, then refer to the right of the results page for the people with the most Information equity. (for that particular search.)

OneStop, A Trusted Community in Sunspace

I continue to hear that people are confused about the positioning of OneStop verses SunSpace. (for people who haven’t read this blog, OneStop is a managed community within SunSpace.)

Peter Reiser, the architect of SunSpace, recently posted the blog entry Trusted content through facilitated communities. It’s an awesome post, but I’m still struggling a bit with the word “trusted“.

We are finding that the the need for OneStop has increased, rather than decreased. With Communities and wiki sites all over the place, people don’t know where to look. Will a random community page be up to date? Will it be in a useful format? Will it contain the info SEs need? Will it be easy to find, either via browse or search?

I’m not sure the combination of the above = trusted, but I don’t have a better word! Any suggestions appreciated.